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Those who serve: Wikimedia Foundation

Last night I donated $10 to the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that created, refines, hosts and administers Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikisource and the rest of their Wikis. I’ll probably give another $20 in the next few months. I had been meaning to give them a few bucks for quite awhile, but I go long periods of time without using any of the Wikis and then suddenly I will use them a bunch.

I have found the Wikis to be great resources for edutainment, tracking down information for artistic projects where I don’t need 100% accuracy and preliminary research on more sustained projects where I later will dig into more robust primary and secondary sources. I have used Wikisource quite a bit when I wanted the text of Emily Dickinson poems. I use Wikipedia to read the synopses of episodes of a TV show that I want to understand so I stay attuned to current culture (basically so I can get the jokes). Sometimes I will end up watching the TV show, but most of the time I won’t, because I would rather read. When writing a completely inappropriate piece for Secret Heart, an art show that used the history of Chopin’s heart as an entry into the Eastern European experience of WWII, I spent time following associative trails through Wikipedia.

Now I don’t think the Wikimedia Foundation or Wikipedia are perfect. There are plenty of problems with the Wikis, and too many young students use it as their only source versus a starting source when doing research. If you dig hard enough in any organization created by humans, you going to find problems. I am sure there is shit, but I don’t feel like stirring it up. I will leave that to those of my faithful and faithless followers who enjoy shit stirring. Despite the inevitable shit, I think Wikimedia Foundation provides a wonderful service that should be financially supported by those of us who use it and can afford to give a few bucks.

Until recently, I couldn’t contribute much in the way of money to causes and projects that I support, because I have been very poor most of my life. But despite having a just barely more than minimum wage job (it is strategic, believe it or not), due to my partner having a well paying job, I easily can afford to send $10 to the Wikimedia Foundation. Because I use it, sometimes heavily, and because I understand that “free” resources like Wikipedia still cost money, I made a small donation.

As I have gotten older, I am more and more inclined to be annoyed by how much those with means free load. Most Americans can find the money to pay for cable, a wasteland of mediocre programming but somehow can’t send $5 or $10 once a year to the Wikimedia Foundation. If every middle class parent whose child who ever used Wikipedia for school work they got credit for donated a measly five bucks (the cost of a fancy coffee), the Wikimedia Foundation would be well on their way to making their $46.1 million fundraising goal. According to their fundraising banner, which I now cannot get to because I clicked the X after making my donation, if only 3% of the 450 millions different monthly visitors gave just $30 bucks they would make their goal.

My plan is to be part of that 3%. Though not all in one lump sum due to the aforementioned minimum wage job. My challenge to my faithful and faithless readers, if you use Wikipedia, if you appreciate what it does in this world, as imperfect as it may be, then take the time to make a donation. $5 to $30, that is what I ask of you. And if you do make a donation and decide to fill out their survey, tell ’em Bishop Bishop sent you!

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