“Wikipedia Experts Call for No Donations”?

Read me first: “Wikipedia Experts Call for No Donations to Wikipedia”.

For one thing, the title of the aforementioned article should be singular as in “expert.” Secondly, this expert has an agenda. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as annoyed by Wikipedia’s annual fundraiser as anybody. I’d much rather deal with advertisements on Wikipedia than having to read another personal response to the financial crisis every time I navigate to a Wikipedia article. What’s become abundantly clear this past month is that founder Jimmy Wales, Executive Director Sue Gardner, and a large community of fervent editors aren’t going to let that happen any time soon.

Yesterday PR Newswire broadcast a press release from WikiExperts.us, which was written up later in the DigitalTrends blog. The post, “Analysts advise Wikipedia to stop asking for donations” that brought the issue into the blogosphere fails to bring light to the issue that its information is largely influenced by a single figurehead. As the founder of WikiExperts, Alex Konanykhin claims that this year’s Wikipedia fundraiser might be a “personal ego trip” on the part of Jimmy Wales. WikiExperts COO David Barberiis is also quoted in the release and listed as the contact on the press release. The news release also claims that “Anonymity in submission regularly results in libel and disinformation,” citing the Siegenthaler incident as its primary concern. Apart from the EssJay controversy, there have been few other major incidents in past years to draw such negative press. Vandalism is surprisingly well controlled by volunteer editors.

Considering the confusion surrounding “Wiki” with the recent WikiLeaks controversy, let’s be clear; WikiExperts is not affiliated with Wikimedia, Wikipedia, or Wikileaks. Wiki is a software, folks.

While examples of political bias on Wikipedia are not unheard of, mostly having to do with prominent individuals, there’s little evidence of uses of the collaboratively editable encyclopedia for financial gain. Let’s take a step back for a minute and consider the consequences of Wikipedia as an advertising zone. Just this past summer, BP purchased the search term ‘oil spill’ on Google and in an attempt to protect its company image.

Are the opponents to advertisements on Wikipedia afraid that corporations will hold sway on the encyclopedia’s content?

To advertise or not to advertise, that’s the question, and it’s been a big one for years. For hardcore Wikipedians, it’s not a question at all. In this wide view, taking advertising monies would compromise the free and open nature of the encyclopedia project.

The article that followed PR Newswire on DigitalTrends.com received a backlash from Wales himself, up in arms about a few details in the reporter’s story. He failed to take offense that the article reveals Sue Gardner’s annual 6 figure salary, and while the journalist falsely lists her as the head of fundraising, Wikipedia is a non-profit, right? The blog has seen a host of comments in the past day that make this issue out to be a conspiracy.

The main argument persists: should Wikipedia remain ad-free, as their mission statement stands, or take a move capitalist approach? As the project grows in size and scope, the issue also generates heat with the public, users, occasional visitors, and hardcore editors alike who are taking extreme stances on opposite sides of the stream.

Wikipedia’s own page on Advertisements, a sprawling epic, states that “there is a long history on this issue,” linking to half a dozen other pages. the argument will go on, and perhaps more pages will be authored before the WIkipedia community reaches consensus. This, however, is just as much a contentious issue as Steven Colbert’s elephants, Siegenthaler’snon-involvement in the Kennedy assassination, Maurice Jarre’s obituary, or EssJay’s PhDs.