Wikipedia is an interesting tech phenomenon, perhaps the most interesting of the last 5 years or so. What started as just another wiki with rather ambitious goals actually ended up succeeding, becoming one of the largest and most popular sites on the internet. I never liked Wikipedia simply because anyone could edit it, which I saw as a negative rather than a positive. Of course, now that they have migrated to an “all submissions considered” model it has become far more reliable. There are still problems of course, such as the inconsistency in what kinds of sources to accept, people “owning” articles and denying constructive edits and all sorts of bias and opinion passed off as fact. This is getting better what with the feedback system on some articles but it still isn’t as good as it could be.
One of the most annoying aspects is that the English Wikipedia is USA centric. This isn’t surprising considering most submitters are probably American, but given most English speakers are not it would be nice if the wiki entries were more neutral. I would imagine this is a similar problem for the Spanish and French language Wikipedia’s. I also find it somewhat sad that many Wikipedia articles simply copy the text verbatim from other sources with a reference, meaning the original authors’ site is no longer a main source for information. I’m sure such a trend will only have negative consequences. Also of note is the problem of new users who join trying to contribute to issues they care about only to be accused of being meatpuppets and essentially driven away from the community or refusing contributions from experts. Is it any wonder they are losing contributors? Not to mention ridiculous and inconsistent notability guidelines for a project attempting to be ” A Repository of All Human Knowledge”.
Of course, now it is that time of year again for Jimmy Wales and co to personally ask for money to financially support Wikipedia. Despite having a firm no ads policy this appeal is advertised via a removable banner which cannot easily be removed, ignores the users preferences to ignore it, and changes often enough to use up quite a bit of bandwidth. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost to run the ads for so long offset the cost of any donations they receive. Of course for those of you who like the banner, you can now have it on every page you visit.
The biggest problem I would have with donating any money to Wikipedia at the moment, aside from the fact I don’t think enough policing and cleaning up is going on is the lack of transparency. Where is Wikipedia’s budget and needs? Why do they need as much as they do? The appeal doesn’t really give any reasons why Wikipedia actually needs money. The server costs per year are not going to be that much, certainly not enough to warrant receiving several hundred thousand dollars each year in funding. How do we know this money is not going to fund the lavish lifestyles of the Wikipedia staff? Jimmy Wales already makes quite a bit of money through Wikia, how much of that goes back into Wikipedia? Last year Google ended up giving 2 million to Wikipedia, why have they gone through that already? Where are the records showing how it was spent?
I would like to support Wikipedia but it simply doesn’t make sense until there is more transparency and until they put the costs towards quality control. If I was on the fence about donating, the constant begging certainly wouldn’t make me lean towards donating. I use Wikipedia frequently but I can’t be motivated to donate or contribute with the many problems that still exist. Wikipedia needs an overhaul to ensure their money is being properly spent and that people contributions are not simply being deleted or caught up in edit wars, that new users are welcomed and that some level of consistency is enforced.