Proposal talk:Show ads to unregistered users and encourage them to create an account (and contribute?) to go ad-free

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One comment: If a minimum number of edits were part of the deal, this may encourage ill-considered edits or even vandalism to meet a threshold. One way to get around this would be to require that edits not be reverted, but many early contributors to Wikipedia make well-meaning edits that are reverted. This could raise the bar unnecessarily. --Wbstr 00:24, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

  • Perhaps there could be a time-tiered approach. An unregistered user could register and this would make the ads go away for a week. During that week the new user would have the opportunity to make edits and a certain number of those edits would have to remain unreverted. I don't know what you would do about people who just made up a new name each week - maybe require an email address so that it would be easier just to edit than to contantly generate new email addresses? Then you could have a requirement to make a certain number of contributions each month to avoid the ads. Then when a certain number of "lifetime" edits had been made the site would, from then on, always appear as ad-free. Also, if someone had contributed a certain amount of money to the Wikipedia through Paypal or whatever during the funding drives, they would also see the site ad-free regardless of whether they ever made any edits. That amount could certainly be pretty low, given that online ads only generate .003 or something cents per each page view, $10 dollars would pretty much cover most people's lifetime usage. Saudade7 00:56, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

The other way around

I would actually like it the other way around if adds are to be considered. Keep Wikipedia free of adds, but allow user to turn them on if they like to support the project in this way. --Dafer45 01:11, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

I don't think that's going to work: who wants to advertise on a site where ads are opt-in? The average user isn't going to turn them on and the dedicated editors who enable them are a minority. - Simeon 01:38, 9 January 2010 (UTC)
Good point. Didn't think of it from the adverticers side.
Actually, lots of people. Both wikiHow (.com) and AboutUs (.org) are wikis sustained financially by advertising that can be turned off by logged in users. Steven Walling 02:28, 9 January 2010 (UTC)
But that's turning ads off, Dafer45 proposed to optionally turn ads on. - Simeon 02:51, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Editorial independence

The proposal does not have a plan for maintaining editorial independence. This always has been, always will be, a major problem with the idea of running ads on Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation already runs the risk of being biased with respect to itself, its board members and their commercial interests, all of which may be - and have been - covered in Wikipedia articles. We should not add even more opportunities for a conflict of interest for the Foundation, and the editors, and that is exactly what advertisements would do.

This may sound theoretical and pedantic. It is not. In newspapers, it is a well-known and indeed self-evident truth that companies do not like to run ads next to material critical of themselves. (OK, except for companies like RyanAir - but that's because much of the negative publicity is actually generated intentionally by themselves.)

Rewards can become counter-incentives

This should be handled very carefully. This article by Alfie Kohn -- backed by significant quantitative research -- discusses surprising ways that rewards can act as dis-incentives:

"About two dozen studies from the field of social psychology conclusively show that people who expect to receive a reward do not perform as well as those who expect nothing. This result, which holds for all sorts of rewards, people and tasks, is most dramatic when creativity is involved.
...
Rewards undermine interest. Loving what you do is a more powerful motivator than money or any other goody. No surprise there. What is surprising is that goodies actually undermine personal motivation. The more an executive gets employees to think about what they will earn for doing their jobs well, the less interested they will be in what they are doing. Edward Deci, a University of Rochester psychologist, did pioneering studies on this effect in the early 1970's; his findings have been corroborated many times since then. "

Right now people contribute to wikipedia for organic, healthy reasons -- giving back to a community, marginal utility of seeing others build on your work, the drive to share our story that goes back to Homer and the oral history. There's a danger instead that contributing will be seen as a way to get around the ads, or as a commodity fungible with money. --Mrflip 14:54, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

I think this is an important point. Cass Sunstein in Infotopia has brought up the idea that in a collaborative knowledge production system like this, the product is only as good as its contributors. For whatever reason and by whatever happy chance, Wikipedia has developed a remarkably effective community of contributors with an incentive structure that does not include ad avoidance. If the set of people who contribute changes significantly because of new incentives to contribute, it would be important to watch for changes in the quality of contributions. I'm not offering an alternative to ads or donations for funding, but this is a factor to consider. --Wbstr 18:29, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

If ads are carried I'm less bothered about the idea of turning them off by logging in than I am about turning them off in response to the user meeting a threshold of contributions. The latter idea feels wrong to me, since it will encourage "any old" contribution, rather than motivated, well thought out ones. --schmoller 9 January 2010

Some people who have donated to Wikipedia would feel betrayed.

Wikipedia recently ran banner ads asking for donations using the slogans "Knowledge Forever, Ad Free Forever, Wikipedia Forever" (the irony was noted, but I felt it was a good campaign)

Now, although many will have interpreted these slogans as aspirations rather than promises, there will be a significant (and vocal) minority who would feel significantly betrayed if Wikipedia were to start running advertising anytime soon (and from some peoples' POV, ever).

To quote from Jimmy's recent Thank You

You have created the largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled: 14 million encyclopedia articles in 270 languages, still growing and getting better every day. You have supported, funded and protected it.

Advertising doesn’t pay for Wikipedia. You do. Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website on earth – 340 million people last month – and we run our servers and pay our lean staff entirely with donations.

Your donations keep Wikipedia free to use and free of ads. Your donations keep spreading free access to knowledge all across the earth.

Just saying.