Wikipedia; The Best Holiday Season Present to the World

Holiday present selection is always a stressful activity, but this year I came across the best Holiday season present anybody can give to anybody.

It is no secret that the Martin & Ottaway blog often refers to the usefulness of Wikipedia and as a company we are a heavy-duty Wikipedia user. On one project related to shipboard environmental management funded by the National Fisheries and Wildlife Foundation, part of the funding was dedicated to updating the entries on the subject we were dealing with on Wikipedia.

To think that this staggeringly large resource started very small in 2001 with the much-maligned idea that it is possible to collect truth in a cooperative open architecture space and today is almost universally accepted as the greatest level of truth that can be reliably found on the internet (or for that matter anywhere on and off the internet) is almost beyond belief.

As late as 2005, librarians and academics were arguing that Wikipedia was at best a dubious resource and at worst a failed attempt at displacing “real” information such as Encyclopedias and learned articles.

It took a while for the tide to change but recently I read an article at Inside Higher Education that notes that professors incorporate Wikipedia-editing assignments into coursework to enhance their students’ digital literacy skills while broadening their own roles in society.

All of that is amazing, but here is the most amazing thing: It is highly unlikely that any one investment has ever benefitted humanity as efficiently as Wikipedia. Possible efficiency competitors such a pasteurization, or penicillin come to mind, but while the initial cost of the invention may have been modest and the benefit to humanity has been huge, one still has to pasteurize and provide the medicine to everybody who needs it and that costs money.

On the other hand, Wikipedia is there for free for everybody at every moment (assuming there is at least slow internet access, but in my travels, there are very few places where some level of internet does not exist).

Recently the world population is reported to have reached 8 billion souls. Meanwhile Wikipedia has a budget of about $170M per year (plus countless dedicated volunteers). Therefore, at the cost of 2 cents per Earthling per year the world has free access to a massive chunk of all human knowledge in about 300 different languages.

Remarkably, to a massive extent, that $170M yearly budget is funded by small donations in the range of $20, with only a few large corporate and philanthropic donations.

Martin & Ottaway provides significant financial support to Wikipedia (much more than $20 per year and much less than the Ford Foundation) and was invited to a reception for donors and had an absolutely delightful time chatting with Wikipedia staff and supporters.

It was a motley crew in the best sense of the word, but each and every one was committed to forever improving this incredible resource. The spirit carried us along and we added another $1000 to our donations so far this year. One thousand dollars is neither a truly small amount nor a truly large amount since its value is somewhere between a really fancy date and not enough money to buy a car, but at 2 cents per human it directly and unequivocally keeps 50,000 people in random locations around the world in touch with the best version of the truth that exists. In effect, for $1000 per year anybody can be the virtual owner of a super high-quality newspaper with a circulation of 50,000 people!

Hopefully this Holiday season you will give your loved ones a truly meaningful Holiday present; ownership of an excellent newspaper with a circulation of your choosing.

And it becomes so easy to choose the proper present. Cousin Joe gets a little local fish wrapper with a circulation of 1000. Your dedicated and super honest local mechanic gets a decent paper with a circulation of 5000, and once your local mailman collects all his donations on his route, he may well be a publishing tycoon with a circulation of 100,000 readers.

Who can think of a better Holiday gift than enabling your loved one to spread truth all around the world?

And let’s hope that some of those readers live in Russia and based on their access to the truth in 2023 will band together to put an end Putin’s career.


Best wishes from Martin & Ottaway for the Holidays and 2023 to all our friends around the world!