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《经济学人》:维基百科集资 Wikipedia's Fund-raising

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Wikipedia’s fund-raising


Free but not easy


The online encyclopedia needs its users’ money and volunteers’ time. Gaining the first is the easier task


MANY mocked, but the money rolled in. For the last few weeks of 2010 Jimmy Wales fixed his piercing gaze on Wikipedia users, imploring them from banner ads to help “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” pay its bills for this year. The founder’s plea worked. Wikipedia reached its target of $16m in just 50 days (compared with $8.7m in 67 days at the end of 2009).

很多人嗤之以鼻,但是维基百科的筹款确实滚滚而来。在2010年最后几周里,维基百科创始人吉米-威尔士(Jimmy Wales)眼光独到,瞄准了维基百科的用户们,用网页上的横幅广告恳求他们向“任何人都能编辑的免费百科”伸出援手,为网站支付当年的费用。他的恳求成功了。维基百科在50天内就实现了集资1600万美元的目标(与之对比,2009年末在67天内筹到870万美元)。

This month those pleading banners will return—but with many sets of eyes. Backing up the earnest Mr Wales in the attempt to raise $25m by the year-end will be Brandon Harris, a long-haired programmer wearing a full-sleeved T-shirt and a surly expression, who says he quit his job building “some crappy thing that’s designed to steal money from some kid who doesn’t know it” to work with Wikipedia. 400m unique users every month make it the world’s fifth-biggest website, according to Alexa, an internet research company. It also has a good claim to be the world’s most important provider of non-entertainment content.

本月,那些筹款横幅广告又要回归了-这次关注的人却更多了。支持诚恳的威尔士完成到年底筹得2500万美元的目标的是程序员布兰登•哈里斯(Brandon Harris),哈里斯一头长发,身着一件大T恤,一副胸有成竹的表情。他称他上一份工作是做出“一些没用的东西”专门去骗不明真相的孩子的钱,辞职后他加入维基百科。互联网研究公司Alexa称每个月都有4亿用户访问并成就了这个世界第五大网站,同时它也是世界上最重要的非娱乐性信息的提供者。

Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit company that runs the online encyclopedia, has devoted much effort towards finding a way around its reliance on its founder. The banner featuring Mr Harris was the first to outperform the one with Mr Wales, and more successes have followed. Though Wikimedia received $3.6m from a charity, the Stanton Foundation, it wants to raise money from large numbers of happy users rather than big donors who might want some clout for their cash.

负责维基百科运营的维基媒体基金(Wikimedia Foundation)是一家非盈利公司,它竭尽全力寻找其他途径以不再全部依赖于创建者威尔士的身上。哈里斯的标语是第一个胜过威尔士的,更多的还会接踵而来。尽管维基百科从慈善机构Stanton Foundation获得360万美元的捐款,但是它仍然希望从大量快乐的用户、而不是那些大的捐赠者那里筹资,因为后者想用金钱交换某种影响力。

Wikipedia has just 78 full-time staff (due to reach 117 in 2012) and 370 servers, against some 60,000 for Facebook and over 1m for Google. Unlike other internet giants, its content comes from unpaid editors. It spends 44% of its income on technology (including programmers); other administration costs make up just under a quarter. Fund-raising takes up 8% of the budget. It accepts no advertising.


Raising time


But raising cash to keep Wikipedia running is an easier task than getting people to donate time. Month-on-month article growth in the English Wikipedia was as high as 5% in 2006 but has stayed stubbornly at 1% for the past two years. Worse, Wikipedia fears that without remedial steps, the number of active editors will decline to below 80,000 by the middle of next year (in March, the figure was 90,000).


Editors are a scarce and hardy breed. They must understand the site’s policies, gain authority among other Wikipedians so that their decisions stick, and be able to write in the cumbersome code required by Wikipedia’s software. Moreover, says Barry Newstead, Wikimedia’s chief global development officer, 90% of users outside Wikipedia’s “core community” aren’t even aware that they can edit the encyclopedia. Users seem to ignore the plentiful invitations to get involved: “We’re furniture in the living room,” he says plaintively.

编辑是稀有坚韧物种。他们必须了解网站政策,在其他维基使用者中获得权威,这样他们撰写的词条才能被保留,还得会用维基百科软件要求的复杂代码进行编写。此外,维基百科全球发展官巴里•纽斯蒂德(Barry Newstead)说,维基百科非“核心群体”成员的用户占全体用户的90%,这部分人甚至不晓得他们可以编写百科。用户们似乎忽视了网站发出大量的邀请他们参与信息:“我们就是客厅来的家具,纯摆设,”他无奈地表示。

Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, says she wants to break down the “psychological barrier” between reading and editing, so that improving an article feels like a natural extension of reading it. Attracting people dedicated (and thick-skinned) enough to fend off special interests and trolls (internet hooligans) is tough. So Wikipedia is trying to make its editors’ lives simpler and more attractive. One move is to try to cut the number of discouraging automated messages warning editors of style breaches and other peccadillos.

维基媒体基金会执行董事苏珊•加德纳(Sue Gardner)表示她想打破横亘在阅读和编辑之间的“心理障碍”,读者参与编辑完善一篇文章就像是阅读后自然而然的拓展活动了。吸引住人们,让他们足够热诚(足够厚脸皮),避免有人心怀不轨,也要小心网络流氓,这绝非易事。因此维基百科正在努力让编辑活动更简单更有趣。措施之一是减少针对风格不符和瑕疵的警告信息,这类自动生成的信息容易打击编辑的士气。

Another change, due by the end of 2012, will make editing a lot easier, and more like using popular blogging software. But the Wikinauts are steering clear of the bandwidth-hungry features favoured by other content-rich websites. The aim is that a humble user visiting the site from a cheap mobile phone in Africa will find loading a page just as quick and simple as a rich-world user with a powerful computer and a broadband connection.


By the end of this year, Wikimedia will have opened an office in India, its first outside the United States. Branching out to the far side of the world (rather than opening an office in somewhere comfortable like Europe) is meant to signal the foundation’s global ambitions. India is a sensible choice for an outfit with limited resources: a large, English-speaking Wikipedia community already exists there. Indians are the fifth-largest donors and rank sixth among most-active editors. The encyclopedia has two dozen versions in Indian languages. But even the largest of these, Hindi, has only 100,000 articles (against over 3.8m for English). 300m Hindi speakers mean plenty of scope for growth. India alone is expected to triple the number of its internet users to nearly 300m by 2014. The push should provide useful know-how for expansion under way in two other big growth areas: Brazil and the Arab-speaking world.


Despite rosy forecasts for emerging-market growth, Wikipedia still faces two big obstacles. It is good that so many people in the developing world now access the encyclopedia from mobile phones, but such devices are ill-suited to editing. In deferential cultures and those with little experience of public participation, Wikipedia has also had particular trouble explaining that every single user has the right (and indeed the duty) to edit an article if he thinks he can improve it.


One solution is partnerships with universities. Wikipedia works with three institutions in the western Indian town of Pune, an education hub. Students are assigned a theme—corporate social responsibility, for example—and must write articles for course credit. They are happy to gain a wider readership than just their professors, while Wikipedia gets an enthusiastic batch of new recruits. Articles created through these partnerships range from topics as broad as “output (economics)” to an arcane entry on a 1985 committee on Indian monetary policy.


The aim is to encourage the indigenous creation of information and to lessen reliance on imports from outside. The university focus also helps Wikipedia inch closer to meeting one of its diversity targets—increasing the share of women editors from 9% in 2011 to 25% by 2015.


Wikipedia has suffered in the past from ill-informed criticism from outside, and complacency on the inside. Signs now are that both are diminishing. The idea that an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit can provide high-quality content is increasingly established. Wikipedia entries are rarely perfect, but their flaws are always open to instant remedy; that is a big plus. The outfit also seems to be moving away from its dependence on the charismatic Mr Wales, and from its over-reliance on a narrow caste of Anglophone enthusiasts. Wikipedia’s survival and expansion are also encouraging signs for those that worry the internet is in danger of becoming too commercial and closed off. Wikipedia is not just collating knowledge: it is making news too.


重点单词   查看全部解释    
solution [sə'lu:ʃən]


n. 解答,解决办法,溶解,溶液

charity ['tʃæriti]


n. 慈善,慈善机关(团体), 仁慈,宽厚

signal ['signl]


n. 信号,标志
v. (发信号)通知、表示<

indigenous [in'didʒinəs]


adj. 本地的,土生土长的,天生的

humble ['hʌmbl]


adj. 卑下的,谦逊的,粗陋的
vt. 使

remedy ['remidi]


n. 药物,治疗法,补救
vt. 治疗,补救,

administration [ə'streiʃən]


n. 行政,管理,行政部门

executive [ig'zekjutiv]


adj. 行政的,决策的,经营的,[计算机]执行指令

caste [kɑ:st]


n. 印度的世袭阶级,(排他的)社会团体

core [kɔ:]


n. 果心,核心,要点
vt. 挖去果核


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