Last week's launch of the annual Wikimedia Fundraiser had a rocky start. Originally scheduled to begin on Monday, November 9, the first sitenotice banners were put up across the global projects on Tuesday evening (PST), only to be taken down again in the early hours of Wednesday due to technical problems. Modified versions of the controversial banners were subsequently restored on Thursday evening, but only to Wikipedia projects.
The Tuesday start had been delayed because of technical issues, including problems with the new in-house credit card processing mechanism. (All previous fundraisers have used PayPal for credit card processing.)
The campaign began with the "WIKIPEDIA FOREVER" banner displayed as a sitenotice on all projects. The banner had previously been criticized on Meta (see previous article), and after launch it immediately drew more controversy and complaints from Wikimedians, who felt that the campaign's problems included:
Other controversies included the campaign's other messages, and whether the community should have been further consulted. In addition, some people objected to the amount of money being paid to the public relations company Fenton Communications to work on the Foundation's messaging. The current drive marks the beginning of an 11-month, $250,000 contract with Fenton to work on improving the Foundation's public relations and public image.
There was discussion on both the English Wikipedia and English Wikinews about removing the banners due to community displeasure with them; as a result of this, at noon (UTC) on Wednesday, English Wikipedia administrator RockMFRhid the central sitenotice on the English Wikipedia by altering Wikipedia's global CSS file. Durova awarded RockMFR a barnstar for this, which was signed by over 20 editors.
After two hours Möller himself disabled the sitenotices across all projects. This was due to technical mistakes in the banner code, which resulted in the banner links being unclickable in Internet Explorer, and blanking the entire page when dismissed. Users of custom CSS for underline links were also affected, as the banner code was overriding their settings. Möller said, "This is unacceptable and inexcusable, and I apologize on behalf of WMF for the bad start."
By Thursday morning, several fixes and modifications had been made by the Foundation fundraising team. Thursday's relaunch, to Wikipedia projects only, used four banners as sitenotices with the uppercase text changed to sentence case:
"Wikipedia Forever" (33%)
"Knowledge Forever, Ad-Free Forever, Wikipedia Forever" (33%)
"For your great, great, great, great granddaughter" (16%)
"For your great, great, great, great grandson" (16%)
The grandson / granddaughter slogans were discontinued during the first day. According to Head of Community Giving Rand Montoya, they were removed as they did not perform as well as the others. The remaining two slogans then received equal time.
Technical fixes were implemented for various browser compatibility problems and issues with the credit card form. Additionally, the landing pages for international chapters have been improved. Issues with geolocation, used to display the correct local chapter and appropriate currency, caused a good deal of difficulty in the first few days of the campaign; as of Tuesday geolocation was working. An issue with protecting the anonymity of donors was also addressed.
After all it's given me I thought I'd give something back.
This table shows the statistics for the first five days of the fundraiser, along with the equivalent data for the past two years. Donations to international chapters are excluded from these totals; although 50% of chapter revenue will be reinvested in the Foundation. Figures have been rounded to the nearest dollar.
A live feed of donor comments can be viewed here, and an overview of donations here.
Fundraiser 2009 statistics in comparison to previous fundraisers
First, a few comments on the theme "Wikipedia Forever", and why we chose it for this year's campaign. "Wikipedia Forever" is meant to represent both a present and future commitment from the Wikimedia Foundation to preserve, protect, and support Wikipedia for the long run, and to appeal to the public to support us in doing so. Yes, it's an emotional appeal, not a literal message. It's our kick-off message, not our only message. It will be followed by other messages later in the campaign which will re-connect to the same theme.
Our fundraising messages have, historically, always caused significant unhappiness among the editor community. However, we also acknowledge that the early, all-caps, "WIKIPEDIA FOREVER" banner was too in-your-face for many Wikipedians, and that even the current "Wikipedia Forever" theme, as part of a larger set of banners, still raises concerns. Please be assured that we're listening. Again, the "Wikipedia Forever" theme is only the kick-off of the campaign, not the entire campaign. We've already eliminated all-caps from all our banners, and we've pulled up some of our later-stage banners into the first phase. This represents a change in response to the feedback we've received from you.
The guiding principle of our campaign is data. As we're gathering the first full reports about the success of the banners we're currently running, we'll be able to make a better decision, going forward, about which ones to continue to run. This is the primary driver of the campaign.
Möller also noted that at least some community-developed banners will be used, though it takes time to test new banners. He also addressed some of the criticisms of the campaign, and announced that customised banners for non-Wikipedia projects will be rolling out next week.
Early on 17 November (UTC), the banners were adjusted again and "Wikipedia Forever" was reduced to a 20% frequency. More traditional thermometer-style banners are now being shown, with the slogans "Wikipedia. Ad-free Forever" and "Wikipedia Is Powered by People Like You." A slogan from last year "Wikipedia is there when you need it — now it needs you" is also being used. Non-English Wikipedias are featuring "Wikipedia Forever" and two thermometer banners, one about the number of articles and one about the number of users. According to Montoya, the fundraising team will constantly test the effectiveness of different banners against each other and adjust the messages as the fundraiser progresses.
There are two current pages on Meta for feedback about the fundraiser: