A personal appeal to Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales: Just get advertising already
Here's to you, Wikipedia, settler of barroom bets, supplier of obscure facts, primary source of 80 percent of papers written for freshman comp. You are our favorite way to waste time on our smartphones, the first thing that comes up when we type "coprophagia" into Google; indeed, you're the very pavement of this information superhighway we're on. We love you. We don't know what we'd do without you. But you, Wikipedia, should know better than anybody: The internet is free. So please stop asking us for money now.
It's becoming a Christmas tradition for Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to take to a banner ad above all Wikipedia entries begging people for donations -- this week, he stepped up the shrillness of his rallying cry by adding the word "Urgent" to his appeal. With a fundraising goal of $16 million (he's about halfway there), Wales will keep the banner up until he reaches that mark, to the end of keeping the site -- the fifth most popular website in the entire world -- free of advertising. And that's a noble goal.
Well, kind of.
We all know advertising is lame and stupid. And these days, it's more prevalent than ever, a constant barrage of loud noises and flashing lights competing for our attention on the television, on the computer, on the radio and even just driving down the street, all toward to goal of cajoling us into convincing us we need products. But that's the trade-off. We demand to be entertained for free, and we pay for it with a portion of our attention.
To be certain, web-based advertising can be incredibly annoying -- some sites are so stuffed with pop-ups, streaming video and noises they're hardly worth using, and nobody wants to see Wikipedia become that. Here's what's great, though: It doesn't have to.