[Foundation-l] Attempt at a compromise (Re: Advertising)

Tom Holden thomas.holden at gmail.com
Fri Dec 29 18:46:34 UTC 2006

I think it is worth remembering that both sides of this discussion
ultimately want the same thing, namely for the WMF's assorted projects
to retain the independence (both financial and otherwise) they need
for their continued success. One side has maybe been guilty of
threatening to throw their toys out of the pram, but the other side
has equally damaged their position by adopting a rather patronising

Proposing that "editors who don't like it just leave" is never a valid
solution. There will always be people with differing opinions to the
Foundation, and it is vital for the continued success of the project
that these people feel there is a forum where their views will be
seriously considered. We will always need every editor we can get. The
gradual reform of WMF's political structure from (benevolent)
dictatorship to democracy is obviously a key part of this process.

Now having Virgin's name and logo on every page is certainly not the
end of the world. Wall Street bankers are not yet rubbing their hands
together with glee. That said it does represent a significant change
in the WMF's fund-raising strategy. Whether or not Virgin hoped to
benefit from their donation, the fact is that the message both
increases brand awareness and gives the brand positive connotations.
Contrary to the repeated dogmatic assertions of some on this list,
like it or not this is effectively advertising. (Think of the last few
Honda adds say. Not a purchasable product in sight...) Rightly or
wrongly, I like many others feel this should have had more public
discussion a significant time before the event.

It is important to remember that people's objections to advertising go
a long way beyond just "they're annoying" or "they're the tools of the
capitalist scum". There is a real risk of them introducing biases and
distortionary pressures which would severely damage the credibility of
the WMF's projects. Furthermore, it is always dangerous for a site to
mix its factual content with advertising, as one can easily be
mistaken for the other. I'm sure you could all think of many further
arguments, which, broadly, is why WMF has shied away from advertising
in the past.

Certainly though it is only polite to thank our donors. However, it is
just as important we thank Paul from Michigan who gave $2 as it is we
thank Virgin who gave $200,000 (or however much it was). The way WMF
has traditionally done this is by posting a thank you notice along
with a link to a list of donors. I do not see any reason why this is
not as adequate for Virgin as it is for Paul from Michigan. If I was
to give an ordinary (non-matching) donation of $200,000 would I get a
day long thank you notice?

In future I propose that matched donation days be advertised by
something like the following:
"All donations today will be matched by a
(corporate/charity/individual) third party sponsor. The WMF offers
them and all its other donors its sincerest thanks."

I really do not believe this would have any significant impact on our
ability to attract matching donors, and it would certainly have spared
us the past few days of arguments here and elsewhere.

As for further funding ideas, I still think our best bet is to
continue on towards becoming a devolved, democratic, membership based
organization. I would much rather give a regular donation to a UK
charity in exchange for the benefits and rights of membership, than a
one off donation to an organization that will spend the money without
the guarantees of a written constitution and full democratic
accountability, and I am sure many would agree with me.

Yours in peace,

Tom Holden

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