What's wikipedia worth today?
Status: it's complicated
The call for donations grinds many people's gear. It's obnoxious, and hides the real Wikipedia financial situation. Between the truth manipulation, ChatGPT parsing, and the drastic editor rules that make contributing hard, finding reasons to help is daunting.
But we have been spoiled by it. It seems so natural to have it at our disposal. Like if it has always been there. Like if having an entry point to a vast array of human knowledge was not extraordinary.
Do we really want to?
It's spam season again, and Wikipedia made sure you saw a big guilt-tripping banner when you reached for it.
Annoyed by this recurrent campaign, it's logical to find many reasons not to support the encyclopedia.
First, they don't seem to need it. They have a lot of budget. They had for a long time. I was a contractant for the Wikimedia foundation 15 years ago or so, and they had the money, even at the time. In fact, one administrator even went on to say:
The Wikimedia Foundation is rolling in cash
Plus the cash is not just used for the main project, it’s also used for plenty of side projects you may not be interested in.
And then there is the army of Wikipedia pedantic contributors that makes it very hard to write or edit articles. I wrote a few. It's a battle, and a thankless one.
Finally, with ChatGPT gorging itself on the wiki's content, it feels like financing the success of commercial ventures.
Donating to Wikipedia, or rather, the Wikimedia foundation, is a hard sell.
Recalibrating our baseline
It's easy to forget the amazing life we live in and take it for granted. Easy to reach for Python or Sqlite like it's perfectly natural to have such amazing software for free, not remembering the millions of hours of work, and frankly, the sheer queue of miracles, that had to stack up for it to happen.
It's easy not appreciate peace, tap water and the fact most of us can read this article because we went to school.
And it's easy to click on a Wikipedia link (or ask our new LLM BFF) to check something, not realizing how bonkers it is that humanity has such a tool.
Yes, Wikipedia has flaws. What project that has any impact doesn't?
But it is still, to me, akin to a little 8th wonder, still the modern version of the Alexandria Library, and I feel incredibly lucky to live in a world where it exists.
I buy phones made by slavers, use software published by spying corporations and purchase goods from companies that corrupt governments.
How could I complain that a project that has shown again and again benefits for our species, running on a concept that defies all odds, has quirks, and money?
So this time again, I went for it.
And I invite you to do so as well.
Not because it's the right thing to do. Not for moral reasons, for being a good person, or showing others that we are.
Just because maybe you feel that gratitude as well. Or maybe you also had a little smile when you discovered that the spermophilus is a small squirrel. And kept it in mind for the next time the teacher ask your kids to do a presentation on a topic of their choice.
Giving a little is a click away.
I'm thinking about doing those articles once in a while to highlight the good things we have in our tech lives. It makes for a good day.