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The Internet The Almighty Buck

Wikipedia On the Brink? Or Crying Wolf? 380

netbuzz writes "Might Wikipedia 'disappear' three or four months from now absent a major infusion of cash donations? The suggestion has been made by Florence Devouard, chairwoman of the Wikimedia Foundation. And while her spokesperson has since backpedaled off that dire prediction, there can be little doubt that the encyclopedia anyone can edit could use a few more benefactors to go along with all those editors."
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Wikipedia On the Brink? Or Crying Wolf?

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  • I really doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Saturday February 10, 2007 @12:53PM (#17963416) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia is the "Great Library of Alexandria" of our time. And like open source, it will only die when enough people lose interest of it. And that flame is
    far from going out or being stomped out by political or social interests.

    Didn't the wikimedia foundation used to provide a way for anyone to download the entire 25GB+ database for wikipedia? So anyone could pick up with it. Even if
    that's not still the case, the torch would likely be passed onto someone else.

    After all, look how long defunct operating systems last.
    • Wikipedia is the "Great Library of Alexandria" of our time.

      If wiki is destroyed and only one article can be saved for scholars of the future, then I hope its this one. [wikipedia.org]
    • by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:00PM (#17963482) Homepage Journal
      Most open source software doesn't really require money to develop, just people time. Wikipedia requires not just people with time, but bandwidth. Oodles and oodles of bandwidth.

      Perhaps it needs a P2P-based hosting system to serve up its content. That would be quite the task, though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        Bandwidth is cheap as dirt. Even a small handful of paid employees would quickly outstrip bandwidth costs. Is that really their main expense?
        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by suso ( 153703 ) *
          Bandwidth is cheap as dirt.

          Eh hem. You wanna bet? Don't let those dime-a-dozen hosting companies that advertise terabytes of bandwidth for a few dollars a month fool you.
        • by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:34PM (#17963728) Homepage Journal
          I found a copy of their 2005 Q4 budget [wikimedia.org]. Multiply that by four, and you have a rough approximation of how much it costs to run Wikimedia.

          It looks like hardware is their single largest expense, at $190,000. Personnel takes a distant second place at $33,000. Bandwidth (well, hosting) takes third, at $24,000.

          Also, a note at the bottom:

          So far this is little more than a minimal budget, meaning a budget designed to pretty much just keep the foundation going. What is not included are special projects (content and/or software). Please include ideas for that on the talk page. --Daniel Mayer 22:39, 18 September 2005 (UTC)
        • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:42PM (#17963792) Homepage Journal
          Bandwidth is cheap as dirt.

          So you have experience with very popular web sites, do you? When you need high performance consistent bandwidth it is not cheap. I worked on a popular site whose bill was in the tens of thousands of dollars a month. Wikipedia is extremely fast so you can bet they're paying top dollar.
        • Bandwidth is NOT cheap. I don't get how people keep pushing this myth. Even if you buy gobs of bandwidth from a provider (10GB/s+), you're still going to end up paying tens of thousands of dollars a month.

          Call Cogent up and ask how much it is for a 10GB/sec connection. Even from a "cheap" provider such as them, you're going to be paying in the low five figures for monthly bandwidth. This doesn't take into account your edge equipment that you'll need to push that bandwidth.

          • Note: 10GB/sec should have been 10Gb/sec (as in Gigabit). I was in a rush.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Iron Condor ( 964856 )

            Call Cogent up and ask how much it is for a 10GB/sec connection.

            Whoa there -- either we're living in entirely different worlds or there's a real ambiguity in the term "bandwidth" here. Where I come from, BW was never measured in "per second" or any such thing. A number like "GB/s" would have been called "throughput". When we used the term "bandwidth" it meant something like the aggregate amount of data shipped in or out over the course of a month. In essence the integral over the number you're quoting.

            I've never dealt with a company that put limits on the amount of

        • So the $3 million the ISP I work for pays for bandwith for only 15,000 customers is cheap?
      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:47PM (#17964308) Journal

        Perhaps it needs a P2P-based hosting system to serve up its content. That would be quite the task, though.

        I'm not convinced it would. FreeNet already exists, but isn't widely used. It should be possible to modify the mediawiki code so that, rather than storing the new version in a DB, it creates a new FreeNet resource containing the new page. If you find Wikipedia useful, run the FreeNet client on your machine and donate some bandwidth and a few hundred megs of disk space to storing part of it.

        Thus far, FreeNet hasn't really had a killer application (well, not a legal one, anyway). This could well be it.

        • You're reading my (and probably thousands of others') mind!

          Its a beautiful fit. It would give FreeNet a huge boost, and its not pr0n, or war3z, or t3rrorism, or any of the usual criticisms of FreeNet.
    • by ZachPruckowski ( 918562 ) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:10PM (#17963554)
      Downloads of all the Wikimedia Projects [wikimedia.org]. You need to do a lot of DB work (XML -> SQL conversion, importing, rebuilding tables, etc.)

      The issue is simply that massive servers are not cheap. Wikimedia is already at 100+ servers, and they are barely getting by. They could spend half a million on servers and still have a wish-list. And bandwidth isn't cheap. They get a charity discount, and a bulk discount, but it's still gigabytes and gigabytes a day.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vidarh ( 309115 )
        For $400k/year I can lease 100 dual core dual CPU Woodcrest based servers with 2GB RAM and a couple of hundre GB storage each including 300 terabytes of monthly transfer. For $290K/year I'd get 100 dual core, single CPU Woodcrest based servers including about 250 terabytes of monthly transfer. That's a commercial rate without shopping around and without negotiating any sponsorships or anything.

        A page on the Wikimedia foundations page indicates around 200 terabytes a month, but is marked as outdated - I ha

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zorglub1234 ( 794962 ) *
      Didn't the wikimedia foundation used to provide a way for anyone to download the entire 25GB+ database for wikipedia?

      http://download.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org] is what you are looking for; you can get monthly database dumps for all the wikis, containing XML files with the articles (or other meta-data, depending on what you are looking for).

      Zorglub

    • by MrAnnoyanceToYou ( 654053 ) <dylan.dylanbrams@com> on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:20PM (#17963606) Homepage Journal
      Noone RTFA. The foundation's not in trouble, that was taken out of context. They have four months of cash reserves, which is good for a project that uses that much bandwidth. Good for them. Next time they have a funding goal I'll donate, if I'm employed at the time.
      • Noone RTFA

        Surprised? ;)

        They have four months of cash reserves

        That's fantastic for such a busy site living off donations. To me it implies they can be around for a very long time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PlugNik ( 1031210 )
      The main guy behind Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales) was asked about finances a coupla weeks back in an interview: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg1932 5896.300-interview-knowledge-to-the-people.html [newscientist.com]

      Q:How does Wikipedia manage financially?
      A: It doesn't cost that much to run. Last year we spent around $1.5 million, and the year before that $750,000. The vast majority comes from public donations of between $50 to $100. Most costs go on expanding expensive physical hardware, the servers that host the site
      • Internet Archive seems to get their funding from
        1. Donations (They seem to get a lot of federal donations/grats as well from places like the Library of Congress and the National Science Foundation)
        2. They sell thier technology for backup arhival purposed, ie, you can pay them to have them do a more complete backup of your site on a more regular basis.

        Gets me thinking, I wonder if Wikipedia could sell something, though I don't know what... My ideas.
        1. A personalized page you own, (problem is corpertions and
    • by limecat4eva ( 1055464 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:05PM (#17963972)
      How can you consider it the "Great Library of Alexandria" when its administrators ban on sight (with no warning) anyone that happens to have a username in non-Western script? It happened to me last year and left me with a great feeling of disgust, not to mention I lost my edit history and couldn't even login thereafter for 48 hours. And a little research shows [google.com] that even though it's not sanctioned policy (does such a thing exist?) on English Wikipedia, there are enough rogue admins who enforce it as if it were policy—again, without warning or explanation—to turn off a lot of would-be contributors.

      If you want to force people to have usernames in English, TELL THEM instead of banning them and then forbidding logins from that IP like a common vandal. IMO, no website so hostile to the outside world can be considered a "Great Library" of any sort.
      • by j-pimp ( 177072 )

        If you want to force people to have usernames in English, TELL THEM instead of banning them and then forbidding logins from that IP like a common vandal. IMO, no website so hostile to the outside world can be considered a "Great Library" of any sort.

        Is it possible that these rouge admins want you contributing to wikipedia in your language? Granted, they have a funny way of going about it. I do remember the good Captain Wales has addressed concern of there being wikipedia articles in other languages.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          So instead of asking you politely, they just forcibly ban you when they see you trying contribute? Gee, that's welcoming.

          FWIW, I was contributing in English, not moonspeak. It was my username that was in Japanese (and nothing impolite, either).
          • by j-pimp ( 177072 )

            So instead of asking you politely, they just forcibly ban you when they see you trying contribute? Gee, that's welcoming.

            FWIW, I was contributing in English, not moonspeak. It was my username that was in Japanese (and nothing impolite, either).

            I'm not defending their methods. They went about the issue the wrong way. I'm just kind of curious for the reasons behind this.
          • Forgot the rômaji? (Score:3, Informative)

            by tepples ( 727027 )

            So instead of asking you politely, they just forcibly ban you when they see you trying contribute?

            They did ask you politely. The signup page [wikipedia.org] links to the article Wikipedia:Username [wikipedia.org], which gives the romanization policy adopted by the English Wikipedia.

            I was contributing in English, not moonspeak. It was my username that was in Japanese (and nothing impolite, either).

            Was it properly romanized [wikipedia.org]?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Stone Rhino ( 532581 )
        I'm an administrator on wikipedia. Non-latin text usernames are inappropriate because they may not show up properly, and while that's an annoyance in an article, for usernames it can mean a lack of accountability by not being able to recognize the name. The IP block was inappropriate and shouldn't have been made. The username block was intended to force you to pick a new one, and the blocking message includes instructions on how to request a change of username and keep your contributions attached.
    • Just because someone else picks it up doesn't mean they'll have the resources to keep it running with the current popularity. If the wikimedia foundation can't get enough donations to keep it running (assuming the claim in the article is true), then how will anyone else?

      No, wikipedia won't "die," but it could certainly lose a significant amount of momentum.

      -matthew
       
  • Ad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by in2mind ( 988476 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @12:59PM (#17963466) Homepage
    If things were really that bad, wouild it hurt to have a tiny adsense ad?

    • To hell with AdSense (seriously).

      What more direct way of advertising can I have as a merchant/manufacturer/whatever than picking the exact entries I want my ad displayed in?

      I know I'd certainly run some ads there.

      - Roach
    • Re:Ad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:28PM (#17963670) Homepage

      This has been discussed recently [slashdot.org]. Many, many wikipedians seem to feel that ads would violate their trust, because they'd been assured in the past that it would never happen. I can see how they feel. It's one thing to donate your efforts to something that's purely noncommercial, GFDL-licensed, and has no ads. But if the rules of the game changed, you could really feel that your labor had been used under false pretenses. Therefore, it sounds like putting in ads would definitely cause WP to be forked.

      Personally, I don't think a fork would necessarily be a bad thing. WP built the perfect setup for the initial stages of creating a large, low-quality encyclopedia. What they're utterly failing to do at this point is to move beyond that. Moving beyond that stage and finding creative ways to make it into a high quality encyclopedia would require experimenting with the rules, and since nobody knows for sure what rules would work, it would probably require some competition. Right now, that competition can't happen, because WP is in a sort of metastable state, where it's not practical to start up an alternative. Look at the situation Citizendium is in: they haven't even been able to attract enough money and interest to make their fork available to the public for reading without signing up for an account. The problem is that everyone knows that if they edit the WP article on Harry Truman, the whole world will see it immediately; that was always the egoboo that made WP work, and any startup project that tries to compete will not have it. On the other hand, if WP itself was to fork, then people wouldn't be able to sit around in their current rut on WP, running every article through an endless cycle of edits that never lifts its quality beyond a certain level.

      • Re:WP Fork (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Apple Acolyte ( 517892 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:53PM (#17963884)

        Personally, I don't think a fork would necessarily be a bad thing. WP built the perfect setup for the initial stages of creating a large, low-quality encyclopedia. What they're utterly failing to do at this point is to move beyond that. Moving beyond that stage and finding creative ways to make it into a high quality encyclopedia would require experimenting with the rules, and since nobody knows for sure what rules would work, it would probably require some competition.
        Terrific post. We should be thinking about a fork to Wikipedia because there has to be a competing content model out there that's superior. A model with a superior form of moderation, particularly for controversial subjects. Perhaps, in the case of controversies, more than one version has to be marked authoritative, and then viewers will have to choose which version to believe. And what about a model that offers more user accountability? As it stands, Wikipedia is valuable as a very convenient source for most any type of information, but there must be ways to ensure a higher standard of quality for said information. I'd love to have a greater feeling of trust when I browse articles. Let's hope the Internet community's allegiance to it does not prevent the concept from maturing and improving in the future.
      • by mlinksva ( 1755 )
        While I think ads should be used throughout the site to "fully fund free knowledge" the foundation could easily fund itself simply by selling access to the search page [gondwanaland.com], just like Mozilla does with Firefox's search box.
      • by sbaker ( 47485 ) *
        You can't sell advertising on Wikipedia - hundreds of thousands of contributors have added information on the premise that it's all free and advert free. The community would never stand for it.

        What Wikipedia needs is some rich benefactors. We know from all kinds of press coverage that a bunch of people with a lot of personal wealth use Wikipedia regularly - the sorts of donations that those people would make would put Wikipedia onto a sound financial footing. But it's hard to predict if or when that mig
    • No, please don't pollute Wikipedia with spam. Anything but that. There are already other websites that republish Wikipedia plastered with ads, and it's a very sad vision of the future. I really wish there were more popular support public grants to a few select sites like Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg. I've never made it to the library of Congress, I'll probably never see an NEA-sponsored exhibition in New York, but this would be such a simple and cheap way to pour out information for billions of peopl
    • Part of the problem is that adding advertising to an existing site usually angers many regulars. And for an open wiki the initial reaction might be, "They're trying to make money of off other people's contributions!"

      That's why I made it clear right from the start of DocForge [docforge.com] that we plan on using advertising to support the wiki. All revenue will go to paying the bills and eventually anything extra will go to paying editors and writers. We'll also clearly mark advertisements and never have them within art
  • Fixed it (Score:5, Funny)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Saturday February 10, 2007 @12:59PM (#17963468) Homepage Journal
    I went and edited the "Wikimedia Bank Account" entry to say "The Wikimedia Foundation has a jillion gazillion dollars." That should take care of the problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2007 @12:59PM (#17963472)
    Out of self interest if nothing else. Lots of time when I log onto Google I'm really interested in wikipedia. Based on the order that the hits come back, clearly Google understands that.
  • Why would they need money.. the site's Free!
  • Correct me if my memory fails me but just recently they managed to raise a million dollars. How much more before the cash donation is considered 'major'? Perhaps the business model is wrong? Depending on how things are set up, a million only pays a years' worth of salary for 25 people. Would distributed hosting by volunteers be a way out?
  • Whatever happened to that?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:30PM (#17963694)
      I think the offer wasn't quite "no strings". It is not that I am 100% there were actually any strings - but rather google wouldn't or couldn't guarantee a few things.

      Yahoo offered servers as part of the asia cluster and said "have them - you can use them as you wish" and the wikimedia foundation said thanks - and they are happily in use. So the precedent of using such help as been set - I presume that google weren't offering something quite as simple.

      The wikimedia foundation were being wined and dined by a few tech suitors a year or so ago - but I think the heat has went out of any relationships due to the very uncompromising stance (e.g. china situation) that wikimedia takes (compared to all the $$ merchants who happily censor their Chinese content as the PRC desires) - no content compromises, no independence compromises and no advertising compromises - that is not what the tech companies want to hear.
  • by webrunner ( 108849 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:24PM (#17963634) Homepage Journal
    I heard the number of donations tripled in the last six months.
  • Its assets? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:25PM (#17963642)
    While the article claims Wiki's assets are valuable, I doubt that. Anyone that could buy it and host the files could simply d/l the files and build their infrastructure. So, Wiki's probably worth exactly the resale value of its servers; plus perhaps a little for the url. Since it is essentially duplicatable by anyone with server space to host it there is no value to the intangibles, i.e. the content. Adding to the risk is that all the people who edit and submit today because it is a free, non-ad supported service may decide not to support it if it is bought by someone.
    • Re:Its assets? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by arose ( 644256 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:47PM (#17963824)

      While the article claims Wiki's assets are valuable, I doubt that.
      And your wrong, wikipedia.org is one of the most visited domains on the internet, usualy you just can't buy that sort of exposure.
    • by dubl-u ( 51156 ) *
      So, Wiki's probably worth exactly the resale value of its servers; plus perhaps a little for the url. Since it is essentially duplicatable by anyone with server space to host it there is no value to the intangibles, i.e. the content.

      Bzzzt! I gather you don't do much work in the VC-funded web world.

      Wikipedia has massive traffic, massive inbound linking, a massive community, and a well-known brand. Those are huge intangible assets in the sale of any online property. If you compare other recent sales on those
  • ...then why do you have a spokesperson?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 )

      Old adage: you have to spend money in order to get people to give you the money that they made.

      It's punchier in the original Klingon, I grant you.

  • This is really, really ridiculous. Every consider asking Jimbo [wikipedia.org] directly? And not relying on networkworld.com for gossip about money issues with the WMF? I mean, the foundation is really unabashed to talk about anything and everything about the organization.
  • Perhaps the real problem is that we treat the Internet as if it should not cost money. It does cost money, but it's made artificially bad manners to say so. Money regularly goes to bandwidth providers, but that generally doesn't reimburse content providers. Content providers are taxed for having done the service they provide. When you get a web site, you say how much volume you want to support and you pay rather than are paid for the volume of traffic. Your content users are often outright irate at the i

    • We already pay for our internet connections. So do websites. How exactly does that make the internet "free"? And people can send donations to Wikipedia if they want. Your argument is a thinly disgused false dicotomy between capitalism and soviet-style central planning. As for reimburusing content providers, that will just lead to a proliferation of domain squatting and search spaming sites. Just because I visit a site doesn't mean I want to support it.
    • It's like any other resource - you buy material (bandwidth for your site, and disk space), build a product (web site), then resell it. If you choose to give it away rather than selling it, that's your choice. If you can't find the demand to pay for your product, then maybe you need to consider altering your business model or product.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The original model of the Internet included the hint that micropayments would closely follow as a way for web server providers to get paid.

      Crap. The 'original model of the Internet' didn't incude the web at all and when the web originated it was as a tool for governments and academics with no 'hint that micropayments would closely follow'.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by NetSettler ( 460623 ) *

        Crap. The 'original model of the Internet' didn't incude the web at all and when the web originated it was as a tool for governments and academics with no 'hint that micropayments would closely follow'.

        The unnecessary bile in your remark notwithstanding, this is a reasonable terminological clarification to make, but it doesn't falsify my point.

        Btw, on that terminlogy issue, just as an aside: I was using the term Internet in the modern usage, as the thing that was born around 1994 with the birth of the

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sbaker ( 47485 ) *
      I'm a big fan of paying for the things I use. If I don't pay for it, yet still insist on using it then it's going to get funded by sponsors or advertisers or governments or....people who I don't want having control over my information.

      So a reasonable micropayment for absolutely every web page I visit would be a welcome change for me. However, there had better not be any advertising or other hidden 'control' on the sites I visit if that's the case.

      Direct payments is a very efficient way to fund these thing
  • by Dynamoo ( 527749 ) *
    Why not carry ads? Most high traffic sites are ad supported. Google AdSense [google.com] is almost a no-brainer as Google handles the contextualising and geotargetting. In other words, AdSense could deliver highly targetted and relevant advertising which is hardly a bad thing.

    Heck, Google aren't the only ad supplier on the block. I guess Wikipedia could pretty much name its own terms.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Why not carry ads?

      Maybe because in general companies don't like it when the competition can edit their ads :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by troll -1 ( 956834 )
      Why not carry ads? Most high traffic sites are ad supported. Google AdSense [google.com] is almost a no-brainer as Google handles the contextualising and geotargetting.

      The simple answer is neutrality. Wikipedia entries are supposed to be written from a neutral point of view. It might be difficult to convey a NPOV if you're running ads selling the product your writing about.

      Also, with google ads you might have a situation where an article is critical of a product yet keywords place an ad for the same
    • Why not carry ads? Most high traffic sites are ad supported

      most high traffic sites are commercial.

      most have the good sense to be selective about advertising.

      think of the problems if articles on pharmaceuticals are bound to adds for prescription or OTC drugs. the potential for abuse is altogether bad enough in the mainstream press. it is intolerable in an encyclopedia.

  • Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by matt me ( 850665 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:58PM (#17963920)
    Most of the bandwidth requirement comes from people visiting articles to read, rather than edit. if wikipedia were to encourage/redirect users to any of the hundreds of sites that mirror the wikipedia content (eg reference.com encylopedia.info they all sound like that), but which included edit links to wikipedia.org , and bandwidth requirements would *drop*.

    All google could buy wikpiedia./
  • Is it worth it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by imunfair ( 877689 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:59PM (#17963930) Homepage
    I donate to open source projects - but I've never donated to wikipedia. Mostly I base it on how much I'm interested in/use an item/project, and I rarely visit wikipedia - and usually when I do there are other similar google results where I can get the same information, wikipedia just has a slightly cleaner aggregation of it.

    That said, the amount of money they need to run is massive - it seems like for the same amount of donations you could fund tons of smaller and arguably more important open source projects. Paying 100 devs $50,000 a year.. or even 50 devs $100,000 a year. That amount of money will buy you a lot of skill and creativity. Give a good project manager 10 devs @ $100,000 a year and I wager within a year or two you could produce an entire open source graphics engine that would rival DX10, just as an example. (Yes, I know about OpenGL, this is just an example) Five projects the size/importance of a graphics engine seems like a far better use of the money than a site aggregating data.
    • Re:Is it worth it? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pilkul ( 667659 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @03:32PM (#17964614)

      Wait, a game engine is more valuable to you than a vast free easily-accessible encyclopedia? Your priorities are remarkably short-sighted. Do you have any idea the kind of subtle impact Wikipedia is having on society and the economy as a whole? Anyone is capable of quickly getting the basic facts, with usually reasonable reliability, on just about any topic. It's an advance in information dissemination comparable to the creation of the first paper encyclopedia in the 18th century.

      I rarely visit wikipedia - and usually when I do there are other similar google results where I can get the same information, wikipedia just has a slightly cleaner aggregation of it.

      This doesn't correspond at all to my experience. But I imagine you only search for computer-related topics.

  • by Air-conditioned cowh ( 552882 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:15PM (#17964060)
    How about instead of discouraging enterprises from creating or editing articles about themselves, provide a space where they can, that is clearly labeled as advertising space.

    Let them create their own articles with editing restricted to the enterprise and trusted editors who can help them make it believable (i.e. point out and correct silly amounts of bias etc.).

    They get to write their own article in an encyclopedic fashion, it shows up quite high on Google, Wikipedia gets paid.

    A psuedo-encyclopedia advert may be an interesting concept.

    Has this already been done somewhere? I'm sure I read something like this before on Slashdot though it could be deja-vu
  • Wales for profit? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JeffSh ( 71237 ) <jeffslashdot.m0m0@org> on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:17PM (#17964076)
    Wales is a business man, not a do-gooder. His for-profit wikia.com venture stands ready to replace wikipedia, and with all Wikipedia content under a GFDL license, he has the legal right to do so.

    i don't want to be a conspiracy theorist, but everything seems to be falling into place for a commercial takeover of the wikimedia foundation. Wikimedia bankruptcy, recent pushes on Wikipedia to remove all not-for-free content, etc. they figure it's time to cash in.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So can anyone else. All that will happen is the project will fork. Some might follow JW - but many people would not be happy with ads, and many not happy with him - thus I doubt he would have very much worh much. The brand is in "Wikipedia" - wikia is something nobody in the "real" world has heard of.

      The key to wikipedia is not the content - as you correctly point out it is all licensed to enable copying - they key is the regular editors. Maybe a couple thousand up to 10,000 editors - they hold the real
  • It would seem that allowing a small unintrusive advertisement on each wikipedia page would help cover costs.
    Why don't they do this?
  • by James Walsh ( 1062488 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @04:26PM (#17965046)
    Anyone familiar with public broadcasting should be familiar with this sort of "your silence is killing us" appeal. So they have only four months operating revenue on hand? Many small businesses have only short-term reserves for operational purposes. Many charities support next quarter's activities with this quarter's donations. Even PBS continues to struggle with a desire to fund operations from endowment proceeds when charitable donors don't seem to find the charity worthy of endowment funding. Wikimedia Foundation can get in line with thousands of other charitable solicitors who believe their cause is worthy of big money. Until that money comes in, there's plenty Wikimedia Foundation can do to cut expenses, which have skyrocketed in recent months. First, they can cut payroll, which has grown exponentially in the past year. It could cut expenses such as the recent hiring of a head-hunter firm to select the foundation's next well-paid executive director. That's an odd approach -- wikis are good for writing dubious biographies but apparently the community that is entrusted with the responsibility of compiling "all the world's knowledge" is not qualified to select from among itself a qualified executive director. Then the Foundation could look at its travel budget. Wikimedia Foundation supposedly thrives on volunteer contributions, but some volunteers get more perks than others, including subsidized vacations at Wikipedia's many off-line community-building events. The problem in the travel budget is that Wikimedia Foundation leaders - especially Jimmy Wales - claim the Wikipedia community "knows each other" through online personas. They don't. Wikipedia writers know only the slice of other contributors' personas they choose to reveal. That's not enough to create the critical mass of a community, so contributors, with the Foundation's blessing, created several other venues where core members could conspire outside the collaborative, all-edits-are-preserved, know-them-by-their-work constraints of Wikipedia. And this sort of international community-building, outside the low-cost online venue, is costly. The Foundation has footed much of the bill for building an offline community using donors' cash. Even if the Wikimedia Foundation were to fold, which might not be a bad thing, Wikipedia content and development of MediaWiki software would survive. Wikipedia has been forked by hundreds of other sites. If wikis work, as the founders of WF claim, they can work elsewhere. Chances are, if the Foundation folds, the first company to benefit will be Wikia, Inc. -- founded by Wikimedia Foundation board members -- and which offers free hosting to almost any wiki that can demonstrate public interest. Hosting by a for-profit company would be a more honest approach. Instead of presenting the project as "undoubtably (sic) good" as Jimbo Wales presents wikipedia, it could be presented as would be any other enterprise -- an effort of its principles to advance their social standing (profit) while advancing their individual ideals (in Wales' case, libertarian objectivism of the Ann Rand variety).
  • Dump MediaWiki (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @06:34PM (#17966390) Homepage
    MediaWiki is a slow lumbering beast. I ran a wikipedia mirror with MediaWiki on a PIII 900 and it was virtually unusable. Just doing a simple redirect to the new server took seconds before I cut out the wiki initialization stuff that was happening prior to the 301 redirect.

    Cubia [dawnofthegeeks.com] is a lightweight wikipedia mirror hosted on a GoDaddy account. The pages are all split up between 256 tables using the first 2 characters of the md5 encoding of the page title to decide which table the page goes into.

    Cubia on the PIII 900 is very responsive.

    When costs go up generally it's a good idea to reconsider what your software is doing that requires so many resources. The whole wikipedia thing could probably be greatly simplified to cut down on bandwidth and computing power required if they just dumped MediaWiki and went with a custom streamlined front end.
  • by brassman ( 112558 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @09:54PM (#17967914) Homepage
    The New Yorker magazine is currently selling an 80GB USB disk that holds the complete run of the magazine, as a more convenient alternative to swapping CDs or even DVDs. (Much of it remains available for conventional use as an external drive.)

    At 25GB for all of Wikipedia, this looks like a natural fund raiser. I'd be willing to pony up a premium over the cost of the empty drive plus the content, as a contribution to the site.

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