On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 9:56 PM, Leila Zia <le...@wikimedia.org> wrote:

> I saw that banner and I want to do all I can to help you not use it even if
> it performs 20% better. I put my story in p.s. so it's easier to skip for
> whoever chooses to skip. This is a true story. :-\

On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 10:58 PM, Pete Forsyth <petefors...@gmail.com> wrote:

> I agree, that banner does not reflect the values of this movement. Pure and
> simple; it's not a grey area, and not worth my time to discuss for the 97th
> time.
> Personally, I long ago gave up participating in these discussions, for the
> most part -- because the same valid points get made over and over again,
> and the same *AWFUL* errors are made year after year in the fund-raising
> campaign.
> Leila's post here is heartening, and I'm glad that somebody has the energy
> to articulate the concerns so well. I, myself, do not; I have simply lost
> faith in the integrity of the Wikimedia Foundation's fund-raising
> operation. I am, honestly, ashamed to tell people that I used to work in
> the fund-raising department there (though I believe the work we did was
> valuable).
> I recently heard from a high-ranking executive at a software company. She
> told me that she had given money to the Wikimedia Foundation, and then
> looked into the WMF's budget, and the messages in the campaign she had
> responded to. The word she used to describe her feeling was "mortified."
> She had considered asking for her money back, but had decided against it.
> Fortunately, she was sophisticated enough not apply her negative feelings
> to Wikipedia, but rather to the Wikimedia Foundation. But can the WMF
> afford to assume that will always be the case?

I endorse what Leila and Pete said above. My responses to the black banner
differ in details from Leila's, but the overall impression is the same: it
is fear-inducing, as though someone or something has been murdered, or is
about to be. Looking at the black banner, my eyes are first drawn to the
highlighted sentence, and then the one following it, about "keeping
Wikipedia online and ad-free."

Of course the banner "works". But it works for the wrong reasons. (The same
could be said for the #keepitfree hashtag on Twitter.) It's the result of
purely Darwinian A/B testing run amok, untempered by reason and conscience.
As Pete Forsyth has said: that process is broken. It seems not unlike the
process by which the yellow press come up with its headlines, designed to
pander to the basest, most primal instincts.

I will reiterate here that, according to the recent fundraising report[1],
the Foundation took $75.5 million in 2014/2015, exactly five times what it
had taken five years prior, in 2009-2010 ($15.1 million). Most
organisations would see such revenue growth not as evidence of a looming
financial crisis calling for desperate appeals for more cash, but as an
amazing, stunning success.

Credibility, once lost, is hard to regain. So far, you have lost it only
for a number of individuals, like that software executive Pete mentioned in
his post. But that number is increasing, and as your bank balance grows and
your appeals become more desperate-sounding, there will come a tipping

If you are going to ask people this December to donate money "to keep
Wikipedia online and ad-free" (something that in the narrow sense costs the
WMF no more than $3 million p.a.), when in reality you are shooting for $70
million to $100 million, including several million dollars for an endowment
and several million more for further staff expansion, you risk doing
catastrophic damage to the Foundation's future fundraising ability.

Would you like that to be your legacy?

[1] See graphic in Signpost report:

> p.s. Here is the story:
> I open my laptop at 5:30am to check few definitions on Wikipedia for an
> upcoming early morning meeting. The room is dark and the only source of
> light is my laptop, I go to Wikipedia and I see that banner
> <
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fundraising#/media/File:Sept2015BannerEx.png
> >.
> I'm still sleepy, and probably my mind is not functioning the way it
> normally does, nevertheless, here is what comes to my mind: I have a sudden
> feeling of fear. I see a very black background, and I think someone very
> important has died. I look a bit more, and I see some red colors, then I
> think something in the order of SOPA has happened. I'm getting quite
> nervous. I look at the text, but it's too long for me to parse it at that
> moment with the thoughts I have in the background. I look more at the
> background, I see some orange colors, some yellow colors, and a little
> human circled, I first think that whole color combination is a flame (red,
> orange, yellow, and the semi shape of a flame), then I think someone is
> jailed/executed. My eyes finally manage to see the right-hand-side of the
> page, and I see there are dollar signs and numbers. I sigh in relief, and
> then I get really upset (though I manage to pass that stage soon). Now, if
> I was not involved in the movement, I'm not sure if I would pay or not
> (maybe I would) seeing that banner, but because I'm in the Movement, I got
> really sad seeing myself going through that experience because I know more.
> I also acknowledge that different people have different backgrounds and
> experiences in life. What I see as a sign of death and war, may not be a
> signal for many other people (though the color black is almost universally
> used for signalling death), and I acknowledge that you cannot accommodate
> everyone. But please be aware, some people get really scared seeing this
> kind of banner.
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