Jimmy Wales Sees All

Jimmy Wales Sees All

Filed under "In the Media"
Published Dec 01, 2010 at 11:58PM EST by AJ Mazur.

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Wikipedia Fundraiser Campaign

Over the past years, Wikipedia has seemed to transcend into the realm of public media, if anything based on the necessity of donations to keep it running. NPR has their on-air donation drives and PBS runs fund raising telethons, but the specific mediums in which they operate don’t allow the listener or viewer to skip such pleas for donation. If you use Google Chrome, you may opt in to voluntarily see the donation banner wherever you go but even then it is obtrusive at best. Wikipedia has chosen not to make viewing the donation page as a requirement to use the site, and this in combination with the banner says a lot about how we utilize and perceive the internet.

Banner ads have developed into an art form in and of itself. What messages could you express in a 1000px by 200px box at the top of a website? You can sell a product if you like. Possibly alert people to your fancy blog. If you have the technical know-how, you can make a seizure-inducing GIF animation or a Flash version of Wack-a-mole that may inadvertently crash some browsers. The Wiki founder Jimmy Wales chose to ask for donations and display his stubbly facial hair.

It’s quite simple; it doesn’t follow you around the screen, there are no disco light GIFs, Jimmy doesn’t talk to you, he just stares at you with puppy eyes. This banner also allows you to do something that most would consider absolute blasphemy in which you may close the ad and just go on with your day. Some people would probably be thrilled with the ability to punch their radio and skip all of the donation jargon on NPR. Skipping donation pleas is simply a service that Wikipedia offers. Targeted donation drives simply do not receive money from every single person they appeal to and we as internet users have an innate hatred for banner ads, Wikipedia understands this. You aren’t going to donate money this time around? Nah, don’t worry about it, if you could next time though that would be cool.

Campaign Success

Clearly, this new low pressure strategy is working. On this chart shown below, we can see some of catchphrases previously associated with banner ad donation drive attempts. When you look at the donation pleas from 2008 and 2009, the attempt at guilt tripping the readers is more than obvious--but to an extent, it did work.

Click to enlarge

Also keep in mind Wikipedia’s non-profit status and how it receives most of it’s operating costs from donations. For the sake of comparison: Wikipedia, as the 7th most visited site on the internet, had a 2008-2009 operating cost around $6 million. In comparison, microblogging service Twitter is the 10th most visited website and had an operating cost of $25 million in 2009. Even though this year’s donation goal is set at $16 million, Wikipedia’s operational budget is still in shadow of other comparable hubsites that are far better funded.


In the context of internet memes, this campaign’s impact on audience awareness can be arguably measured by the number of user-generated parodies. As many derivative artworks do, unrelated remixes of “Please Read: A Personal Appeal from Jimmy Wales” will always remind the viewer of the original instance, which may serve beneficial to their fund-raising efforts.

Photoshopped parodies of Jimmy Wales’ banner have begun to surface and other sites are launching their own banners from 4chan all the way down to the Facebook game app Cow Clicker. Like most good advertising parodies, there is a formula to be followed. For example:

iPod advert

Solid color background, silhouetted person, but the iPod remains white, text is of a specific font and may contain an “iX” of some degree. The key to making a proper X Founder Y banner is really in the picture of the subject and in the site making the appeal. Now view the Cow Clicker ad.

Cow Clicker advert

Not only is the founders face on a cow, but what possible appeal could be made in regards to clicking cows? Are we clicking them so hard that they have begun to tip over en masse? Are cows now endangered? Oh, wait, Cowthulhu is involved. Alright, this might actually be more serious than we initially thought. Moving on.

Jimmy Wales Is Watching You Wiki

Admittedly, there is an element of absurdity in the parody ads. Imagine this:

You walk into the Wikipedia library, you sit down to enjoy a book and sitting across from you is Jimmy. He isn’t saying anything, just looking square at you, evaluating, suggesting, and judging. You ask him kindly to leave you be and he complies without a word, but you can still feel his presence tugging at your soul as you study. He remains somewhere in the library and you know damn well he’s here to stay.

To support your library and feel slightly more comfortable about Jimmy staring you down, make a donation. For more information on the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, he’s right behind you.

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