One of the crucial inspirations and sources of strength behind my decision, earlier this year, to trade corporate employment for trying to make a living as an artist, was a growing awareness of the spirit of mutual support and cooperation infectiously spreading through Internet communities.
More and more collaborative, knowledge sharing, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding initiatives are starting up and succeeding, with small individual contributions from people around the world, at getting the most remarkable things done.
For example, a recently launched Strike Debt project Rolling Jubilee aims to buy up people’s outstanding charged-off loans for pennies on the dollar and … forgive them. For every $1 you contribute, they will wipe out $20 of some random stranger’s unmanageable debt. Only American strangers, of course, but I still pitched in. Crowdsourcing good will just feels right.
Wikipedia, of course, is a fantastic resource created through volunteer collaboration that we often take for granted. I use it most often as a bibliography of first-stop sources for any new topic. Given that googling anything results in an avalanche of noise that still needs to be sifted to extract relevant signal, the external references section at the bottom of Wikipedia articles functions as a curated list of links, hand-picked by others out of the noise.
With the quality and accuracy matching and often surpassing that of commercially produced encyclopaedias, Wikipedia is an indispensable resource that is not only free, but also advertising-free, and aims to stay that way. A non-profit undertaking, intending to remain objective and independent of advertising revenue, they are currently running their annual campaign for donations.
I donated this morning, and found the thank-you letter very personable and well-written in getting to the heart of what makes Wikipedia awesome and worth supporting, so I thought I’d share it here:“Dear Natalie, Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful! It’s easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I’m really glad you didn’t. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills — people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world. People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it’s not perfect, they know it’s written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody’s PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that’s not true. We aim to tell the truth, and we can do that because of you. The fact that you fund the site keeps us independent and able to deliver what you need and want from Wikipedia. Exactly as it should be. You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who’s teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who’s just discovered Carl Sagan.
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