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Why do people contribute to Wikipedia?

By Andreas Kolbe

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The other day, a contributor to question-and-answer site Quora asked: “Why did people create huge, comprehensive websites like Wikipedia for free?”

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, a frequent and well-loved commenter on Quora (as well as an investor in the site), left a short reply that had no difficulty establishing itself as the most popular answer: “Because it’s awesome.” It was an astute piece of cheerleading from Wales – and it worked. His one-liner received over 1,800 upvotes.

Wikipedia is funded by donations from the public (nearly $50 million in the last accounting year, an almost ten-fold increase over takings five years ago), and much of its PR work relies on feel-good messages. Wales has made a living from supplying them. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement: Wales makes a good income from his speaking fees – typically over $70,000 per event, according to the New York Times

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