[Wikipedia-l] Phase III name change to MediaWiki and separate press releases

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Aug 9 08:28:29 UTC 2003

Erik Moeller wrote:

>>No.  We aren't '''going''' non-profit; we always have been.  What
>>exactly does saying that we are going non-profit accomplish?
>We can take donations. And this is the most essential and important part
>of our press release. It's not like we need the publicity -- we need the
>money. That's no platitude, it is a simple truth: we cannot grow if we  
>cannot afford to expand our servers. The biggest danger to Wikipedia/ 
>Wikimedia at present is that large numbers of good contributors will be  
>scared away by continued blackouts and system slowness. Fixing this is our  
>*top* priority. That is why we must emphasize that Wikimedia is now able  
>to take tax-deductible donations, but we have to package it nicely and put  
>most of the donation info on a dedicated page.
Being registered as a "non-profit" organization is not what makes it 
possible to take donations.  Any organization with a bank account can do 
that.  Freely given donations with no obligation to deliver a product 
are capital in nature, and as such are not taxable income of the 
organization.  Only business and investment income would be taxable. 
 Given that expenses are bound to exceed business income, taxes are not 
a realistic worry.

The tax deductibility is only meningful for those people liable for US 
income taxes.  Most donations to a foreign charitable organization are 
not taxable here in Canada.  Are you saying that they are deductible in 
Germany?  Even for the US the tax benefit to all but the biggest donors 
is much bigger than the hype.  Unless a person is itemizing deductions 
(which most often means is paying big mortgage interest) there will be 
no benefit at all to the charitable deduction.  Tax deductibility of 
charitable donations and nice packages are little more that hype and fluff.

Maybe we do "need the money", but your only guessing.  We all know that 
it was not long ago that Jimmy added the second machine, and that there 
is already talk of needing a further hard drive.  I can also extrapolate 
from that that demand in the forseeable future is likely to grow 
exponentially.  But that's not the same as knowing the need.  For that 
we need a budget and a business plan that will be as open to discussion 
as any Wikipedia article.  

The biggest danger to Wikimedia is not that we will lose big 
contributors, but that we will lose our way.  My "top" priority is not 
in fixing the system slowness, important as that may be.  My "top" 
priority is in uncompromisingly maintaining the philosophical principles 
that Wikipedia was based on.  Sometimes I even get to feeling that it is 
my ONLY reason for supporting the current benevolent dictatorship.  My 
confidence that a more democratic organization would safeguard those 
principles and be fiscally responsible is very low.

>Therein lies the true art of publicity -- get people to give you money  
>while still keeping them interested. Granted, the non-profit part is not  
>very appealing as a headline. Nor is the 300K milestone, though. "Yawn,
>Wikipedia has another X articles milestone. Dump it." That's really  
>getting old fast.
Let's not confuse art and artifice.  The world of publicity is not 
exactly the most trustworthy.  It should be used sparingly.  Wikipedia's 
progress thus far has been with amazingly little publicity.  There is 
much significance to that; maybe it just makes us more trustworthy. :-)

Perhaps you're right about the X articles milestone.  It can be a yawner.

>Beyond that, we have to make people familiar with Wikimedia itself, to put
>that organization in the foreground instead of Wikipedia, to the benefit
>of our sister projects. Wikimedia is still unknown to virtually everyone  
>except Wikipedia insiders. Everyone who reads our press release must get  
>that name hammered into their brain. Wikimedia must be as well-known as  
>McDonald's, as popular as Google, as erotic as Lucy Liu in a black thong,  
>with an oiled body glistening in the heat, flashing a smile at you as she  
>turns her luscious body away ... er, sorry, got carried away there.
This made me think of the Charles Schulz Lucy who also flashed a smile 
as she turned her body away along with the football that Charlie Brown 
was about to kick.

I feel no need to bring Wikimedia so quickly to the forefront.  Let's 
let it find its own level of importance.  I interpret Wikimedia as a 
kind of holding corporation for the various projects.  A person wanting 
to give to Wikipedia would be advised to issue his check to Wikimedia, 
but our bank would be advised of the various project names to ensure 
that any reasonably recognizable check would go to the right account. 
 Many of our contributors may be interested only in one project.  That's 
fine.  As much as we may welcome participation in our corporate 
structure, we aren't about to force them into it.

>As for the other projects, aside from server problems, an influx of new
>people has never been a problem for Wikipedia, so it will not be a problem
>for these projects either. Don't be afraid of being popular.
I'm not afraid of popularity, only of how popularity changes people and 
their organizations.


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