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Sat Dec 20 19:13:09 CAT 2014

Donations fuel Wikipedia engine

TJ Strydom | 23 July, 2013 01:01
A reporter's laptop shows the Wikipedia blacked out opening page in Brussels
A reporter's laptop shows Wikipedia
Image by: YVES HERMAN / REUTERS

"Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!"

This is how the e-mail starts.

I have just donated R100 to Wikipedia, or rather via Wikipedia.

I paid with my credit card and had a choice of preselected amounts from R25 to R1000. If you want, you can enter your own amount.

"It's easy to ignore our fund-raising banners, and I'm really glad you didn't.

"This is how Wikipedia pays its bills - people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world."

The e-mail is from Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that runs Wikipedia.

Admittedly I didn't go onto the world's largest "encyclopaedia" with the idea of donating money. Who does? I was there to settle an argument - who had scored the most Test rugby tries in his career.

That's the secret to Wikipedia's popularity. It is quick - ''wiki" is a Hawaiian word meaning "quick" or "fast".

It is the No 5 website in the world and has about half a billion readers, says Gardner. It contains more than 4.2 million English language articles. The Germans have been the second-most active content creators, boasting nearly 1.6 million articles. But nearly every language is represented, from Afrikaans (with more than 20000) to Zulu (still starting up, with less than 1000 entries).

And it's free. According to Gardner, my donation isn't just covering my costs.

"The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for a kid in Bangalore who is teaching herself computer programming, or a novelist researching 1850s Britain."

Founder Jimmy Wales calls Wikipedia "a temple for the mind". And like most religious groupings, it relies heavily on volunteerism and donations.

"Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong in Wikipedia," says Wales.

Well, no advertising apart from the banner that clicks through to the donation page.

Disclaimer: Wikipedia was used to compile this article.

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