Earn Money by Contributing to Wikipedia?

1:31 pm PHT

In an announcement that’s sure to raise a whole lot of questions, the Wikimedia Foundation (the organization that handles Wikipedia as well as other free-content websites like Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, and Wikiquote) has resolved that it has received a $20,000 grant from Philip Greenspun, an Internet entrepreneur, to create various free-licensed illustrations for use on Wikipedia and other websites.

This illustration project is unprecedented because Wikipedia has never paid content-creators for their contributions to Wikipedia and its sister sites. (Well, the senior developers of the MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia are paid for maintaining and improving the code base.) Now, this project, with its main page at the Meta-Wiki website, is set to pay illustrators around $40 per illustration, more or less depending on the quality and utility of the particular work.

The grant brings up some interesting questions. Wikipedia grew on the backs of thousands upon thousands of mostly altruistic people who wish nothing more than to contribute to “the sum of all human knowledge.” According to Alexa, Wikipedia is now the eighth most visited website in the world as of November 2007, and the largest non-profit website in the world. Paying some contributors for their work is sure to raise the hackles of quite a lot of those volunteers who may well want to demand a piece of the pie as well. On the other hand, writers are aplenty, while good illustrators (not photographers, mind) are quite hard to find (ahem, ahem). Additionally, the $20,000 grant is specifically earmarked by the donor for this purpose, and the Wikimedia Foundation cannot channel the funds for other causes, such as paying for web hosting costs, though the Foundation could have declined the offer to maintain good standing with the volunteer community.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. I really like it because creating illustrations is my forte in Wikipedia and is what I am most well-known for in the Filipino Wikipedia community. So earning some moolah for something I already enjoy doing is a huge positive. Then again, this illustration project is really quite problematic for the reasons I already mentioned above. Right now I’m inclined to support this project for greedy reasons. Oh, I will still contribute illustrations regardless of the money-dangling situation, but it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to get me some cash.  :D

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