Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Money, money, money

Lots of people chip in lots of free labor to Wikipedia. Okay, it's not really labor, just a nice hobby for people who like to tap keyboards. Still, nobody's getting paid, or at least nobody's paying me. There are a few salaried employees of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the encyclopedia and related sites. There are also for-profit sites that scoop up Wikipedia content and repackage it with ads sprinkled in, like

And then there's Wikia, the for-profit operation set up by god-king Jimbo Wales and his queen consort Angela Beesley. Their idea was, frankly, to cash in on Wikipedia. The company hosts specialized mini-Wikipedias for a cut of their advertising revenue. Wikia has attracted a lot of venture capital from investors hoping for the next big Internet thing.

Wikia has also spawned predictable complaints about Jimbo and Angela and their nefarious cabal living off the hard work of unpaid Wikipedia drudges. Seth Finkelstein, prominent Wikipedia basher, has been particularly vocal about this evil and awful and not nice exploitation. (I had originally written "injustice", but Seth tells me that he likes the e-word better.) As an unpaid peon, I really don't mind Jimbo making a buck from Wikipedia's reputation. Wikia is a separate operation from the encyclopedia, though it undoubtedly exists only because Wikipedia has been so successful. But and others are already selling the deathless prose I've splattered on WP, and I'm not seeing any of those pennies, either.

So sleep is not being lost, at least at my house. If Wikipedia ever becomes a job like my real work as an actuary, then I'll expect a check. But for now WP is still fun, something I want to do and don't have to do. So I'll continue to do...without the money. And I don't plan to invest in Wikia, either.


Seth Finkelstein said...

"Seth Finkelstein, prominent Wikipedia basher, has been particularly vocal about this evil and awful and not nice injustice."

Somebody reads me! :-)

Note, minor correction, "injustice" is not a word I'd use - I tend to terms like "exploitation" :-)

By the way, Wikia has been a very good investment so far, with the angel investors making better than a five times return, on paper (of course, that's not real until they cash out, but it is an interesting data-point on digital-sharecropping).

Casey Abell said...

Hey, I'm easy. I'll change it to "exploitation." As for any return on Wikia, nobody can say. Is the site really worth $70 million? That would make the "five times" return on the $14 million of venture capital.

I dunno, maybe somebody would pay $70 million for the site. On the Internet nobody knows if your site is a dog. As you say, any valuation is pure paper at this point.