Anyone who advocates advertising on Wikipedia is a drooling moron.

I used to be a big fan of ads on Wikipedia. I changed my mind a while ago, and had my opinion confirmed by what Google did to TVTropes just a couple of months ago.

I wonder what gay and lesbian employees of Google think of this. I haven’t heard one breathe a peep over the fact that any TVTropes page with the slightest gayness is behind a filter. Censorship, it’s insidious.

But! That’s okay! You’ve all got mortgages.


Wikipedia having ads would be the worst possible move for the mission: “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.”

No advertiser in existence would stand for that in practice.

17 thoughts on “Anyone who advocates advertising on Wikipedia is a drooling moron.”

  1. This might interest you as well:

    It’s not clear if what he did was within the Adsense rules or not, but what is clear is just how horribly restrictive those rules are:
    “If you disclose site data then you are in breach… If your subscribers are clicking on adverts and not buying, then you are in breach… If you are an Adsense account holder and you hear of another Adsense account holder who is breaking the rules then you must report them to Adsense, otherwise you too are guilty by association and will have your account disabled.”

    I too used to be moderately in favour of some minimal Google adverts on Wikipedia (even if I knew it would never happen). This and the TV Tropes debacle have convinced me otherwise.

  2. As, nowadays, one of the Tvtropes site admins, it’s quite possible we over-reacted and put some things behind a wall that we didn’t actually need to, in panic. We’re going round and putting back pages about LGBT themes, for instance.

    And Google did, eventually, say, “oops, shutting you down like that was in error, you’re supposed to get warnings, sorry”. However, I’m not sure I actually believe that. It felt to me like “you’re a well-known site with good publicity and this is making us look bad”. I believe this is, actually, their normal mode of operation; if they get a complaint they yank the ads and you have to beg to be allowed back.

    Also, Google refuse to define what content they consider acceptable for adsense, in typical censorship style. Their official guidance just says vague and broad things that imply that everything a Puritan would consider unacceptable to show to small children is barred; unofficial and thus deniable word is that the de facto

  3. (Cont., I hit submit by mistake) de facto standard is much less stringent, but obviously that could change at any time at Google’s whim.

    I think it would be a mistake for any site to rely on adwords revenue that can avoid it. For that matter, relying on Google at all seems risky, given the nigh-impossibility of reaching a human there. Even if you pay them for service.

  4. Without ads Wikipedias are by the people paid for by the people. This model makes for much more involved communities. You give a contribution because you care.. whether it is money or content contributions

    This is imho as strong a reason to stay free of adverts as any.

    The flip side is that the amount of money that could be made allows for the realisation of things we now do not have the money for. I have a big shopping list

  5. I’m not sure that’s true Gerard. There are plenty of ad-supported wikis which have communities as strong or stronger than the Wikimedia ones – TVTropes being a prime example. People mainly care about sharing their knowledge and contributing to a free resource. Of course the Wikimedia community would be devastated by any introduction of advertising *now*.

    The money IS very tempting (we could probably have developed WYSIWYG editing – I’m sure that would broaden the community more than adverts would narrow it). However the restrictions on our content that ads would introduce are just unacceptable.

  6. If Wikipedia ever was to get ads it would have to be an in house system. At least we’re big enough to do that, and have people use it. That way we would have a lot more control over it, and also get more money from it.

  7. Um… I *don’t* support ads on wikipedia but your reasoning is teh dumb.

    If you wanted advertisment on wikipedia you just classify pages into totally everyone friendly, NSFW and v. dodgy and parcel up advertising accordingly.

    Honestly, you’re arguing a position I agree with but doing it with a very silly argument indeed. Plenty of sites with very diverse content attract advertising revenue. Fucksakes 4chan has advertising.

    Also your amazing “OMFG what if this happened to us” knock down counter example was, in fact, 13 days of lost ad revenue.

    I really hope there’s a stronger argument against advertising than this one because if this is the best argument against you’ve changed my mind and I’m now in favour.

  8. @Richard – 4chan has porn ads. Even the ads are NSFW.

    TVTropes had to bend itself out of shape to satisfy its ad funders, who refused to specify their criteria. I can only conclude you didn’t read or didn’t understand.

    You are likely unfamiliar with the viciously anti-censorship position of the Wikimedia communities, and the strong awareness of how mere classification tends to turn into censorship, with TVTropes being a prime example.

    You need to reason above Slashdot level to comment here, please. Fortunately, the Wikimedia community is thinking sufficiently above that level.

  9. @David — I guess if there are people who believe that classifying something is censorship then yes, you will have a problem getting advertising. You may be better getting different people.

  10. TVTropes is a clusterfuck anyway. It used to be good until Fast Eddie went on a power trip and started handing out decrees by fiat, including on things such as “subjectives”. Very unpopular decrees, especially the decision to rename the Crowning Moment of Awesome article, which had already been adopted by non-tropers.

    Obviously, the management there don’t know how to run a wiki. One of the cardinal rules of a wiki is that you can’t run it like a dictatorship as it’s too dependent on its editors, so they need to be part of the decision making process. Jimbo understands that, and any power he does choose to exercise normally follows the wishes of the community.

  11. Coming late to this, but I don’t see how anyone can reasonably describe what happened to TVTropes as ‘censorship’. They’ve just placed certain articles behind a click-through filter; they’re still accessible to everybody. They can keep hosting the content and keep getting the ads. What’s the problem?

    IMO, Wikipedia should be doing more to imitate TVTropes; their rate of growth shows they’re clearly doing a much better job of attracting contributors, and getting them to stick around, than we are. We need to be asking ‘what’s TVTropes doing right that Wikipedia isn’t?’

  12. On a related note, in mid-2008 RationalWiki had an AdSense account. Our account was pulled, because (as I recall) the Church of Scientology complained about a couple of our articles.

    I wish I had the link to the thread discussing this, but it’s somewhere buried in the Saloon Bar. If you want to know more, Mr. Gerard, you should ask Trent.

    TVTropes attracts more newcomers than Wikipedia simply because of the nature of the site. Articles consist of one or two paragraphs describing something, followed by a list. Also, to contribute you can simply add examples to said lists. That’s literally all there is to it.

    As opposed to Wikipedia, where enthusiastically contributing to articles requires navigating complex rules of engagement with other editors and, at times, an unsympathetic bureaucracy. This unfortunately swiftly kills any enthusiasm.

  13. Why can’t Wikipedia sign contracts for very specific, extremely conservative ads on some pages that help defer some of the costs of running the site? Or, do some sexually explicit pages contaminate every page?

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