To quote Alison Wheeler: "We've found that a number of people have this incorrect idea that Wikipedia can drive traffic to their (commercial operation) Web site. It can't, or rather it won't as when we find such SEO / spam linkages we take action to remove them. Wikipedia is a free and open Encyclopedia, not a tool to support commerce."
In the interest of full disclosure: in our opinion, Alison Wheeler has been a particularly aggressive Wikipedia administrator in her repeated efforts to obstruct MyWikiBiz.com and otherwise sully our reputation.
But, still trying to be fair, let's look at the two main points that Alison made.
First, she says that "Wikipedia [can't] drive traffic" to a commercial web site. This is because, according to Alison, Wikipedia's administrators are so vigilant and adept at removing outbound links from Wikipedia that go to for-profit sites.
There's this neat little tool called "Search web links" on Wikipedia that lets you count up all of the external links that reside comfy and cozy within Wikipedia. Now, if Wikipedia admins were doing a really good job, we shouldn't see very many outbound links to sites whose primary purpose is to sell products or ads.
Then, why do we find...
- 18,800+ outbound links to Amazon.com
- 2,600+ outbound links to GlobalSecurity.org -- a for-profit reference site whose owner has been blocked from editing Wikipedia
- 3,000+ outbound links to Wikia.com -- a for-profit community site paid for by venture capital and Google ads, which happens to be run by Jimmy Wales and a board member of the Wikimedia Foundation
- 700+ outbound links to Ebay.com
- 400+ outbound links to Barnesandnoble.com
- 400+ outbound links to CDbaby.com
- 200+ outbound links to CDuniverse.com
- Nearly 50 outbound links to Walmart.com -- just in case the world's largest retailer needs a little more help marketing their brand
Does anyone else see the hypocrisy and futility of Alison Wheeler's first comment?
Wait, there's more. Second, she says that "Wikipedia is... not a tool to support commerce."
Why is that, Alison? Would we say that "Wikipedia is not a tool to support education"? Of course not, because hundreds of thousands, if not millions of students regularly use it as a basic primer on any academic topic under the sun.
Would we say that "Wikipedia is not a tool to support medicine"? Again, of course not, because hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people suffering from various ailments probably turn to Wikipedia as a first-line source of remedy and cure.
Would we say that "Wikipedia is not a tool to support religion"? Of course not, once again, because many people who are exploring their own faith or those of friends, neighbors, or enemies, likely get plenty of factual information from this tool called Wikipedia.
So, why in the wide, wide world of sports would Alison say "Wikipedia is not a tool to support commerce"? Why is commerce the big exception? We have already seen that Wikipedia is a search engine optimization machine. We can further imagine that countless transactions each day are first initiated by some information obtained at Wikipedia -- such as the business owner who is looking at different brands of 4-ton trucks to buy, and finds this page in Wikipedia. Or, more directly, some transactions are spawned by any of these thousands of outbound external links that I mentioned above. (For heaven's sake, if we imagine that each outbound link gets an average of 3 clicks per day, and that 1% of those clicks end up in a sales transaction, then Amazon.com alone is making $2,058,600 a year off of Wikipedia, if the average sale is $10.)
Why, then, do we see this abundantly stubborn yet naive reaction to "commerce and Wikipedia" from administrators like Alison Wheeler? In her defense, nobody wants to see Wikipedia go the way of Usenet, rendered useless by unsolicited spam and advertising. Yet, there has to be some consideration that many Wikipedians are having trouble suppressing feelings that they are pissed off at "the business world", as it appears to be co-opting their volunteer/knowledge utopia. Their quasi-academic "club" is being mercilessly exploited, in their minds. To that, I make the following declaration:
Ninety percent of the companies that are striving for space within Wikipedia are not looking to ADVERTISE on Wikipedia, they're looking to be RECOGNIZED. While the former is a scary thought, there's no real harm in the latter.