What's up with the midyear Wales sightings on Wikipedia?

UPDATED: Fundraising banners appear ... but then disappear

(Update below: Mystery solved.)

So I'm on Wikipedia a short time ago and noticed that the Jimmy Wales banners were back atop every article, which can mean only one thing: It's time for Wikipedia's annual fundraising drive. Here's a picture:


The banners linked to a message from Wales - dated today -- that explains the fundraiser and provides a mechanism for those who are so inclined to donate.

This has been standard operating procedure for Wikipedia over the years, with the temporary omnipresence of the Wales pictures providing for a range of reactions, not all positive, including from Wales himself, and even experimentation with different banners featuring other Wikipedians offering their own appeals. Like I said, it's SOP.

Only this morning two things were odd about seeing the banners and reading the message from Wales.

First is the fact that Wikipedia normally launches its fundraising drive in mid-November, not mid-June.

And the second is the fact that those prominent fundraising banners - on every page - suddenly vanished, replaced by a thin strip reminding everyone of the upcoming Wiknics this weekend.  (If I hadn't grabbed the screen capture you see above, I might be doubting that I saw what I saw.)

I'm not sure what happened, but if experience in my own business is any guide, my guess would be that someone preparing for the fall fundraising campaign hit the publish button prematurely.  On the other hand, I suppose it's conceivable that Wikipedia is moving to twice-a-year fundraising.

I've got messages in to the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia.

(Update: Here’s a reply, left by Wales in comments below, that I felt was worth moving up here, too. Very interesting:  

“It's actually very simple.  What you are seeing is occasional A/B testing throughout the year.  We want to work harder to optimize the fund raiser -- we've improved it a lot over the past two years -- so that we can minimize the annoyance for people.

“You'd be surprised at the difference that apparently minor changes to the presentation makes to the donation rates.  What color background of the photo, for example!  Last year we found (for reasons we don't understand!) that photos with greenery in the background performed much better than those without.

“We will be testing live during the campaign in November/December of course, but through the year we are testing ideas.  I'm not personally involved in the details, so I can't really tell you what is being tested at the moment, but you get the idea.”)

Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent buzzblog items. And, if you’d like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here’s where to sign up. You can follow me on Twitter here and on Google+ here.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022