Spare a thought for your free content provider this Xmas

Wikipedia, Firefox - now we're being asked to pay for stuff that's 'free'. If the connection between using a product and paying for it is finally to be restored I say bring it on…

It's that time of year when we all need to think about our fellow men and women and give a little. I'm not talking about Christmas. I'm talking about Wikipedia.

For the last few weeks a big banner pops up at the top of Wikipedia pages saying:

"We are a small non-profit that runs the #5 website in the world. We have only 150 staff to serve 450 million users and have costs like any other site… If everyone reading this gave £5 our fundraiser would be done within an hour… "

It goes on. It's Jimmy Wales' regular (how many years has it been going?) request - going cap in hand to the people who use Wikipedia. I donated last year. And as a result I got a personal email too asking me for cash this year. Some people are suggesting that actually Wikipedia is awash with cash and sure doesn't need more. But I'd already ponied up my £10 this year by then.

Next, the Firefox browser. A similar message: "Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, is a non-profit and we rely on donations and grants. If everyone reading this gave $3, we would only have to fundraise 1 day a year. Donate today."

And then I read a random piece on Voice of San Diego a 'member-based news organisation'.

At the end of the piece: Value investigative reporting? Support it. Donate Now.

In fact there are requests to donate all over the site.

I guess people have worked out that this approach works for Wikipedia, so why not try it? I've banged on and on about people being dumb for accepting free stuff just because it's free without considering the consequences when it comes to the quality of the product.

But now we're being asked to pay for the 'free' stuff anyway. There's some interesting stuff here about psychology and people.

If you provide a service for free and aren't directly reliant on your customers/users, well you don't have to do what they might want and you don't have to be that bothered about quality either.

If you work for free - how does that make you feel about yourself after the warm glow of 'doing something for the good of humankind' or whatever has worn off?

I have no idea, but maybe these are early signs that finally people might be realising the VC cash won't last forever and good will won't either. If the essential connection between using a product and paying for it is finally to be restored I say bring it on… as soon as possible.

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