back to article Jimbo Welshes on pledge to stop fundraising

The Wikimedia Foundation won’t honour a promise made by Jimmy Wales to halt its aggressive fundraising drive, even though it reached its fundraising target last week. The ‘December Sprint’ is the WMF’s big annual fundraiser, and this year the foundation set a target of $25m. (The site costs $2m to run). On December 2nd, Wales …

Anonymous Coward

Honesty and transparency are important watchwords

It's disappointing when a company gives a misleading impression - whether it's Virgin refusing apparently standard prices to existing customers, RNLI fundraising then keeping a massive cash pot (http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/rnlis-income-reached-174m-2012/finance/article/1190649), or Wikipedia suggesting they'll do something then seeming to back-pedal on that assurance.

Personally, Wikipedia won't care about me, because I haven't donated, although I'd probably be more inclined to if the demands for support were less invasive. Virgin may not care because they have an effective monopoly on some of the premium services in my area. And RNLI doesn't care now because the company I worked for that was maintaining their site long since went bust while their capital reserves have soared.

Naturally, the RNLI should have other priorities than a fancy website, it just seemed that putting aside around 15% of income with substantial reserves already seemed less than forthright to those being asked to donate whatever they can to help run the service. Virgin it's a question of corporate integrity (and treating your existing customers fairly), and Wikipedia, like the RNLI, it's about being open and honest. If you want us to feel good about donating, don't make us feel bullied into handing over money to you, don't make us feel like we're not getting what we should in return, and don't put yourself in the same boat as many politicians by appearing to promise one thing then doing another.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't understand why they haven't yet succeeded in collecting enough cash to just being able to live on the interest? It's extremely annoying that they continue to beg and beg while the great majority involved to not get a dime.

It would be a fun exercise (or article) to do a bit of calculation based on their current wealth, and see how far a yearly return on investment in the form of dividends of around 3% would take them in terms of financing the infrastructure.

In fact, I could even imagine that some CDN:s might charitably sponsor wikipedia to off load the traffic to their own infrastructure.

Well, I'll follow this series with great interest. Good work!

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WMF Financials

"I don't understand why they haven't yet succeeded in collecting enough cash to just being able to live on the interest?"

It's not hard to figure out what they have and where their income comes from. In the US, 501(c)(3) organizations are required to file public financials. A Form 990. There is some lag on filing though.

For FY 2014, WMF had $78m income ($77.4 in contributions). $26m in salaries, and $77.8m in net assets on 6/30/15. Operating costs where $52.5m.

Their 2015 990 isn't available yet, but a June 2016 audit from KPMG is. Income increased to $81.8m. Salaries to $31.7m. And assets increased to $91.7m. Expenses increased to $65.9m.

So based on that number, assuming an average of 3% over all their assets they would have income of about a 1/2 month of expenses.

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Re: WMF Financials

$5m is property, plant and equipment, which is things they need to run their operations, such as computer equipment. That will depreciate and have maintenance / insurance costs associated with it, rather than have a return on investment.

$2m is prepaid expenses and other current assets, which is things like hosting fees and insurance paid for future periods. Again, you don't get a return on investment on that.

The actual return on their $73m of cash and investments is $0.4m and they made a loss of $1.3m on the foreign currency markets.

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Re: WMF Financials

Er.. If their salaries are a $31.7m, what are the $65.9m in expenses for?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WMF Financials

Sounds to me that it is being run more like a company than a non-profit. If we assume 3% on 70 mUSD, that would be 2.1 MUSD per year and that should be more than enough to fund the entire project considering modern technologies such as p2p, bandwidth network donation from CDN providers, moving from silicon valley or wherever they are based etc.

Just imagine what 2.1 MUSD would buy you in terms of property and employees in eastern europe for instance. Running a big web site is well within reach of the technological competency that resides there.

So this is a clear for profit play in disguise of a non-profit and noble motives.

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Anonymous Coward

Speaking of Wikipedia, Andrew you must do something about the picture of you there as you look like you've just come back from a night out with Will Self pre-1998. Surely you have something more flattering in the album to replace it with ?

PS Yes the in your face begging letters on there is really getting on peoples tits.

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"the in your face begging letters on there is really getting on peoples tits."

I just had to go check and see if my adblocker was blocking them. It wasn't, so it must have been the adblocker in my brain filtering them out. I swear I did not notice they were asking for money again, I just didn't consciously notice.

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Anonymous Coward

"movement strategy" definition

Inevitably a process of moving funds from the donations into the bank accounts of the favoured few.

It's a winning formula all the way, free content provided by crowd sourcing, free software provided by open source, free moderation provided by ego, free beer to the fundraisers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "movement strategy" definition

Could it be "movement" of "donations" from "employees" of "wholly unrelated" "gray economy enterprises" to a "perfectly innocent foundation" for the "modest compensation" of its "officers"? Pure genius.

Oh, nevermind, I was thinking of Walter White. Not a harmless geeky white guy who selflessly devotes his life to education.

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Re: "movement strategy" definition

I thought they were planning on gold plating the bathrooms where most of the movement takes place.

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Angel

Thanks for the warning, El Reg!

I was educating myself about Limulus (horseshoe crabs) this weekend, and Wackypedia isn't a terrible place to start. They had GIMME MONEY ads that were three times the length of my mobile screen! My thumb was cramping from all the scrolling to reach actual content. WTF?

Thankfully, I also educate myself at The Reg (not a terrible place to start) and had heard about the gobs of excess cash that Wackypedia is rolling in. Therefore, I had been immunized against their "Time is running oooouut, save us save us save us!" messages. Many thanks, folks!

Horseshoe crabs are also fascinating animals, and something like the fourth oldest species on the planet.

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LDS
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"you'd know that The Register is a satirical rag"

[source needed]

No Jimbo, you can't use your own "personal research".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: [source needed]

What about all those articles about DevOPS and IoT? Satire, for sure.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "you'd know that The Register is a satirical rag"

Well according to Andrew's Wikipedia page (fuck off I won't donate) he was actually computer correspondent for Private Eye so it must be true.

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LDS
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Re: [source needed]

Not that Wikpedia has its satirical pages too... especially when it comes to some company/products pages... but not only. I wonder sometimes if they "contribute" enough so the pages aren't touched...

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Re: [source needed]

>> I wonder sometimes if they "contribute" enough so the pages aren't touched... <<

Wonder no longer -- enjoy the five-part series on WMF donors getting to edit their own Wikipedia articles to just how they want them: http://wikipediocracy.com/2014/03/10/the-thin-bright-line/

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Re: "you'd know that The Register is a satirical rag"

Informative and knowledgeable articles dressed up in an entertaining skin - yes

Occasional lewdness and NSFW warnings - yes

Carefully selected eye-catching photos (originally) unconnected with the article - yes

Running gags and themes such as Playmobil, Paris etc - yes

Slightly skewed phraseology with more-often-than-necessary innuendos - yes

Persistent attacks on pomposity - with an edge of self-righteous pomposity - yes

Acidic commentary softened with artifical tongue-in-cheek barbs supposed to sound self-deprecating - yes

I could go on but KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

Hang on - Free??? Oh, fuck. Then how do I cancel my subscription??!!

Scrub all the above.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "you'd know that The Register is a satirical rag"

"I could go on but KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK"

You seem to have omitted to mention DevoPs in your list.

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Angel

Perhaps...

Perhaps some of the vast extra sums raised could be spent on buying-up one of the traditional print encyclopaedias that he put out of business and re-issuing it on-line as an updated, properly authored, more trustworthy version of Wikipedia?

Just sayin'

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Perhaps...

"the traditional print encyclopaedias that he put out of business "

Their time was up long before Wikipedia was fashionable. Don't you remember Encarta?

OK fair enough, maybe not many people do remember Encarta, and maybe time wasn't actually totally up for all of the former print encyclopedias: although Encarta is long gone you can still read about Encarta in the online Britannica:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Encarta

"updated, properly authored, more trustworthy version"

Encarta supposedly had that too (derived initiall from Funk+Wagnall's).

Maybe Britannica still does?

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Re: Perhaps...

I actually still have an Encarta '98 cd lying around somewhere.

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Re: Perhaps...

I too have Encarta. I put on here for general reference even if it's not current.

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FAIL

Why?

While there are questions that the Wikimedia Foundation need to answer regarding their fund-raising and expenditure, I'm always puzzled by The Register's constant fretting about the plight of unpaid Wikipedians. The facts are;

A/ There is no demand from Wikipedians that they be paid.

B/ Many worry that the introduction of a financial incentive to editing will bring many problems with it.

C/ No Wikipedians are forced to work for Wikipedia. If they feel under-valued and deserved paid, then they are entirely free to cease editing.

D/ What business of The Register is it how Wikipedians spend their free time?

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Re: Why?

The issue here, is that the board of Wikipedia are claiming poverty and begging for money. But the board are cash rich (They need $2 Million to run the site, ask for $25 Million, then carry on asking for money when they reach their obscene target).

As the there doesn't seem to be anyone keeping the board under control and the people who do the real work are unpaid, It's up to people like the press to highlight the financial disparity.

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Silver badge

Re: Why?

It's perfectly possible to exploit people without them being aware that that is what's happening. How many of those doing work for Wikipedia for nothing, on the basis that's it's a charitable organisation, are aware of exactly how big a cash pile the organisation is sitting on? They're giving their time to what they believe is a charitable, knowledge sharing organisation, not Jimbo's massive yacht fund.

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Bronze badge

Re: Why?

Wikipedia is like Google. Seemingly great, with an undercurrent of insidious awfulness. If this is the future of human knowledge, the future fucking sucks.

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Silver badge

Re: Why?

The time Wikipedians spend contributing, and the amount of money Wikimedia has are not related issues.

Say Wikimedia had billions and Jimbo was rolling around in heaps of gold, that would not change how I contribute to Wikipedia. That is because I do not believe editors should be paid because that introduces a conflict of interest to the compiling of knowledge. It isn't a conflict of interest that can't be overcome, but I believe it is one is far better avoiding entirely.

That is not to say that Wikimedia having billions, and Jimbo rolling in gold, is not an issue that needs looked at. But it does not change what I said above.

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Flame

Re: Why?

Techno-Utopianism is the big issue. To justify the time and money you people contribute to Wikipedia, you have to believe there's value in it, that it's possible to create a sole repository of objective knowledge through the magic of the internet. Which, if you all believe that, is one more reason to doubt the value of your works.

Wikipedia's critics see it as a system to be gamed by marketers, propagandists, censors, trolls, et al - like search engines and social media. At best, it contains some informative articles plagued by amateur research and editing. Increasingly amateur, I would say. Even so, it has displaced other sources to become a near-monopoly on "factual" information online. To call it a public service is the epitome of hypocrisy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

"it has displaced other sources to become a near-monopoly on "factual" information online."

How is it anything close to monopoly? It is an easy (and thus popular) starting point, which is often (but not always) well referenced. Other sources are readily available for those who need more or different. E.g. Britannica's still around and online and free - so why don't more people use it in preference to Wikipedia?

Fwiw I'm the AC who posted the link to read about Encarta in Britannica. Pointing to Wikipedia to read about Encarta was another possibility but seemed a bit self-referential, See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-referential_humor.

"To call it a public service is the epitome of hypocrisy."

See above.

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"Wales invariably attributes the Khmer Rouge quote to this reporter. Each time, no one seems able to explain politely to the co-founder that he’s misattributed it, as you can see here."

Wouldn't be a proper Wikipedia page without at least one misattributed quote.

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"Wouldn't be a proper Wikipedia page without at least one misattributed quote." - Abraham Lincoln

FTFY

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That link goes to an article with the khymer rouge thing right in the sub-headline. And Andrew's byline is on it. So how is Wales mis-attributing it? Am I missing something?

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Big John

From the linked article:

> "It's the Khmer Rouge in diapers," observes one regular Register reader, which seems as good a description as any to us.

C.

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Re: Big John

From what was actually said by Jimbo;

"Andrew Orlowski once trumpted a claim that Wikipedia was "Khmer Rouge in diapers""

Now trumpted isn't actually a word, but I'd say he meant "trumpeted", meaning "To sound or proclaim loudly." That is not attributing the claim to Orlowski. It is saying he repeated and amplified a claim in one of his own articles, in this case from a reader from a comments section.

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Re: Big John

Who writes the 'sub-headlines' of articles the Journalist or an Editor?

I know the later is the norm for Newspapers but for on-line I suspect it may vary.

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Re: Big John

That's from 2004 or earlier. What does that make Wikipedia now, "the Khmer Rouge in college"?

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Re: Big John

Not yet. That's what the "new and improved" fund raiser is for. College fees.

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Unhappy

I got sucked and not in a good way.

I gave $10 some 2 or 3 years ago. This time I was tripping on my painkiller meds and was hit by the guilt trip and dropped $3 (cup of coffee and since I don't drink coffee.....). After reading all the info here I shall never give anything to WMF again.

I wonder if Mr Wales will ever learn to not push the fundraising envelope too far? He will end up with no donations, no wikipages and no volunteers to edit said pages. You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can.......well you know the rest.

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Re > learn to not push the fundraising envelope too far? He will end up with no donations,

The first rule of Internet business is that there's another one born every minute, another volunteer, another donor, another...

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uBlock

en.wikipedia.org###frbanner-main

en.wikipedia.org###frbanner-nag

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Re: uBlock

The banner is actually called "nag"????!!!!!

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Re: uBlock or No Script

I use Wikipedia and I have contributed in the past. I may well do so in the future but that is my choice. It is not perfect but I am better off through its availability than I would be by its absence. I did get annoyed but the nagging banners etc but it took all of 15 seconds to fix.

I run NoScript on my Firefox based browser, Palemoon. You need to mark wikipedia.org as untrusted during the month of December and the nags disappear. I haven't noticed any ill effects. Come January the block will be removed.

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Joke

Update to mockery

Jimbo.

This has been updated to

Jimbo, of Wales of Cash for Khmer Rouge.

<Okay - troll icon is probably more appropriate, but who knows, This could be blamed on Andrew>

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Bronze badge

As expected from "Khmer Rouge in diapers".

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Smoke and Mirrors...

So, Wales makes a statement and El Reg prints it. Then comes back with "you didn't verify with the Foundation".... WTF? The rest of his statement via the jpg is pure weasel words. This is either a nice con job or he's smoking something that I don't want to try.

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Bronze badge

Jimmy (Wales) Welshes...

I see what you did there.

I gave $10 a few years back. Never again. I have been avoiding using wikipedia for some time.

His begging emails suck.

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Re: Jimmy (Wales) Welshes...

Apparently there are alternatives, for example:

http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/top-7-alternatives-to-wikipedia/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: /top-7-alternatives-to-wikipedia/

http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/top-7-alternatives-to-wikipedia/

Last updated in 2007? Maybe they could use some kind of way for users to provide updates to content.

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Bronze badge

ABS (power$) = ABS (corrupt$)

Oops, sorry for the syntax error. Feel free to send cash.

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