Remember several posts ago when I discussed how much I enjoyed Louis CK’s experiment with his new stand-up… selling something for a low price with no copy write restrictions? I loved this because it gave us the consumer choice. I love choice. I had the option to take Louis CK’s stand-up and post it all over every torrent site online, but I didn’t just because he gave me the option to do so (while politely asking me not to). This freedom provided me with respect for Louis CK and a desire to fund his art. I’ve even heard that people who have posted his stand-up online added a disclaimer asking you to buy it yourself. (Which doesn’t make much sense but still, that is more tact than you typically see from someone uploading torrents.)
Well, yesterday Aaron Klein posted a tweet and corresponding blog post that created some considerable buzz on the interwebs.
“Aaron Klein@AaronKlein Dear Wikipedia, stop begging for handouts. A single ad + Amazon affiliate links = swimming in money. Capitalism won, try it.”
I have to admit, I saw this tweet and I immediately did not like it. After reading the blog post I better understood where Klein was coming from. In his view donations should be reserved for people who need money; charitable organizations, men and women with start-up projects (like those you see on Kickstarter), people without the means to create enough revenue to accomplish their goal in any way other than donations, or “handouts.” I agree with him to a point. Non-profit companies like TOM’s shoes and Hot Bread Kitchen are awesome because they have a sustainable business model that does not require donations. And because Wikipedia is such a popular website, it could easily create a high revenue itself using an ad role of some sort.
But I like yummy bread and I like cute supportive shoes. I don’t like sidebar ads on facebook, I don’t like promoted tweets, I don’t like ads being forced upon me in my free version or Words with Friends (I disliked that so much I finally paid for the real version). I understand as a free service ads are something that I will deal with and I should instead be thankful these ads are keeping these programs free for me to use. But a few months ago after completely ignoring the donation banner for months, I decided to donate to Wikipedia. I thought to myself, I rather see a donation banner than an ad for bridesmaid dresses that I accidentally click and takes me to some crappy website. I also realized that I greatly appreciated the fact that Wikipedia had given me a choice. (I could donate, or continue to use Wikipedia for free with the risk that it will start publishing ads.) I also had the choice of deciding how much money to donate ($10) and the choice of disabling the Wikipedia banner from my wikipage altogether if it bothered me.
I like choice. Yes, I still use facebook and twitter, and I would still use Wikipedia tomorrow if it started publishing ads. And maybe Wikipedia is being silly trying to raise donations when they could make a killing off of advertisements. But I really appreciate the choice the company gave me to make a donation. I look at that “donation” as more of a thank-you payment for the service Wikipedia has provided me with for years and a thank you for putting the consumer first. Just like I had the ability to download Louis CK’s stand-up from a torrent site, I had the choice to use Wikipedia for free forever without ads. And because I had that choice I actually took the time to make a donation.