Wikipedia Advertising Proposal Revision 2.0: Let the users decide (and "I shouldn't have used the word unconscionable–my bad."

Wow… that Wikipedia post that I wrote in five minutes before running out to dinner sure did get a huge response. Funny how that happens in blogging isn’t it? You can spend two days on a post and it goes by without one comment or link, and you do a throw away post and it gets 100 comments, 600+ diggs, and dozens of inboundlinks.

Anyway, I made one mistake in the post in saying that I found it unconscionable that wikipedia doesn’t put ads on their pages. I was talking about from my perspective, which we all know is that of an rabid entrepreneur. I should have said that in a better way and I’m sorry if it came across like was saying that Jimbo or anyone at Wikipedia was anything less than a saint (or even worse, a bad person).

I think the world of wikipedia, Jimbo, wikipedians, and the folks who are building the project. Heck, I’m so impressed that I went to all seven days of Wikimania and learned more from those seven days than I did at the last five $4,000 conference I attended ($20,000 in conference tickets vs. $150 for wikimania… hmmm?). I need to be a little more clear when I blog, I know that. I’m super blunt and when I speaking in front of folks they get to see me smile when I say something blunt, but on a blog you don’t get to see that–I’m still learning about this whole blogging thing. 🙂

Now, there were many folks who lashed me for even bringing up the topic which I thought was unfair. I mean, if you’re part of the wikipedia project should you be open to healthy debate right? You don’t have to get so personal! Some folks said that I would put ads on the Grand Canyon if given the chance–I wouldn’t. Would I put a small sign in a park that said “We thank Sony for their donation for free concerts in the park?” You bet I would!

It’s all about balance and choice. I suggest one ad. One ad is the minimum you can do right? I didn’t say two or three–I said one.

So, how about this as a suggestion:

Wikipedia put up one Google Adsense leaderboard and there is a large link under it that says “Turn off advertising” and users could select if they donated to Wikipedia with their eyeballs or with a cash donation. Heck, you could even have a selection when you first load the site: I’d like to support the wikipedia by having one, two, or three ads per page.”

So, to be clear:

1. I love the wikipedia and I’m sorry if I insulted anyone with the “unconscionable” word–that was a mistake.
2. I don’t think we should put Coca-Cola’s logo around the frame of the Mona Lise or sell our suit jackets to a sponsor (although, if someone out there gives $100,000 to the scholarship program I’m working on for disadvantaged kids I’ll wear your jacket/logo every day–everyone has a price!).
3. I think giving users the option of ads or no-ads in an upfront way means USERS get to choose–not the pro-advertising or anti-advertising camps. If users get to chose who are we to make the decision for them?
4. I will personally volunteer my time (if it helps) to negotiate a deal for Wikipedia with a number of ad partners including AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, Adsense, John Battelle’s Federated Media, etc. to rotate the ad units so that Wikipedia is never beholden to any one party (i.e. if someone complains about something we remove them from rotation).

What do you guys think: should users get to decide for themselves if they see ads on Wikipedia?