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New Monetization Effort II
I'd like to open this discussion back up. We have an opportunity to bring significant development resources online here at Wikitravel. Our lead tech IB-Dick and I have already written over in the Pub about timeouts and the need for some site downtime to relieve some caching issues, as well as providing the infrastructure for a Wiki software update down the road. Revisiting the booking tool is something these dev resources will be dedicated to as well, and I want to bring them up to speed on what we have discussed with the community so far.--IBobi 19:48, 6 June 2011 (EDT)
The comments and suggestions posted on the original discussion thread are very much appreciated. While we cannot accommodate everything that’s been said (certainly, not pursuing advertising is not an option for us), we want to remain as sensitive as possible to both the Wikitravel community of dedicated contributors and moderators, and to the vast majority of the site’s users, who come here to view and utilize WT’s unique and indispensable content. To that end, I'm hoping to soon have a clearer idea of who our booking engine partner will be and how close the existing mockup will be to the look of the tool. We are looking forward to the value this tool will add for the site’s users, and want to ensure the community that this new feature will be hideable and will interfere with neither the print version (for those who must make use of WT offline) nor with the work of the moderator/contributor who wishes to continue to view the site without advertising.--IBobi 17:59, 9 June 2011 (EDT)
Our next step will be determining who will see/use the first “beta” version of the tool, and for how long before we go live. This is a time period where we will rely on the WT community to let us know what seems to be working, what doesn’t, and how we can add even more value to the site by enhancing the tool in future versions – i.e. what have you always wanted a booking tool to do that we can implement for Wikitravel’s users? What booking features are uniquely suited to the enviably dynamic nature of Wikitravel content? We will be looking to release a beta version of the booking tool in the next 30 days.--IBobi 17:27, 15 June 2011 (EDT)
I'm not that active on Wikitravel anymore, neither is a large portion of the other "old timers" here, hence i suspect the lack of response. For my part, this is mainly due to my own personal perception that Internet Brands have grossly mismanaged the acquisition of Wikitravel. I can't remember any time where talks and promises about focus and resources have been followed up by actual improvements, and since the servers are managed by Internet Brands we don't have the option of doing anything ourselves.
With the exception of some well curated guides, for a large part, Wikitravel has steadily drifted towards being a giant link farm for hotel owners in the past years time. Social content depend on passionate curators to patrol and refine the content added, and IBs (mis)management have alienated the core users who made Wikitravel work. For some, because working for free to drive a company, which they have to part in, profits, just doesn't fly. For others (like myself) because company that benefits from my work has shown no appreciation for my dedication - rather the opposite actually. I realize that from across the table, Wikitravel may not generate the expected ROI, but that is not really my concern.
The fact that Internet Brands, whose main business is web 2.0 and social content, seems to believe that if you just supply the server and pay for the traffic cost, that everything just runs itself, boggles my imagination and shrieks of utter incompetence. The core of this business model should be retaining the curators, because if they disappear, as its happening on Wikitravel and many other IB owned sites, growth stagnates, the good content gets diluted by spamming, which will soon lead to less traffic, less profits, further need for monetization, and there is your perpetual circle.
I care about the idea that is Wikitravel, I just don't care about wikitravel that much any more, but best of luck to you. My best advice would be that you don't upgrade the wiki software "down the road", few of us believe its ever going to happen, but introduce the booking tool along with the newest mediawiki version. Something for something, not something for nothing. sertmann 19:16, 16 June 2011 (EDT)
I certainly hope there is no intent to add the booking tool to the main section of the article. By community consensus, all ads, all non-user-generated content, are restricted to the right sidebar.
To be brief and direct: going ahead with putting said tool in the main article space would very likely kill several other language versions (whose contributors have a hard time following these English-language discussions), and potentially cause a fork of the English version that would remove virtually all contributors here and kill the site. --PeterTalk 03:45, 17 June 2011 (EDT)
Is it really an ad if it's just listing available prices and not tailored to any specific provider? LtPowers 13:49, 17 June 2011 (EDT)
Thank you Sertmann, Peter, and LtPowers. I really appreciate your points of view and your tremendous knowledge of the site, and I know that despite your professed resignation at how WT runs today, I know that the work and passion that you have dedicated to the project says otherwise.
I tend to agree with LtPowers's sentiment on the booking tool. One of the reasons we feel confident in placing the booking engine in the center column is that it is not an "ad" in the banner or AdSense sense. Also, it is as much of a tool for WT's users as it is anything. Yes it will generate some revenue (we hope), but it will, again, only even be visible to those who wish to see it, it will not interfere with the print version, and it will only be used by those Wikitravelers who would like help lining up air and hotel reservations through a top-tier worldwide travel bureau that they would otherwise visit directly anyway. The exact branding of the tool is still under discussion, but there will be no question that this is a tool for users, and in no way does it endorse any specific company represented within the actual content of Wikitravel. It will be separate from content, easily identifiable as "not content," invisible when not wanted or needed, and a useful addition for the Wikitraveler when desired.
I am concerned about this sentiment that WT is becoming a "link farm" for hotel owners, or that putting a booking tool in the center column of the site is somehow going to kill the non-english versions of the site and then the site as a whole. I would like to hear why you feel this way. Being new to Wikitravel, I have tried to acclimate and learn as much as I could; one of the things I have learned in reading so much of what has been discussed over the past 5 years is that dire predictions of the sky falling have never been met with actual disaster. I recently re-read page after page of discussion of when the site was first sold by Evan and Maj to IB, when Evan was trying so desperately to reassure the WT community that no, this was not the end of WT but just a new beginning. I encourage those participating in today's discussions to consider this a beginning as well, rather than a portent of dire consequences to come. The WT site, the WT project is flourishing as never before. The booking engine and the resources to address bugs and feature requests are signs of forward momentum that have not been seen in some time.
As the new community manager for Wikitravel, I cannot change what has happened before I arrived here. And I need your help to best address what needs to be done going forward. I am posting here for two purposes. One is to inform about changes that are already planned; the other is to learn what you, the WT community of content writers and curators, need from IB and how I can best facilitate it. For my part, I have discovered the Top Bugs and Road Map pages, and intend to rely on such locations to guide me as a liaison between the WT community and the technical crew here at IB who can implement them; I have neither the specific Wikitravel knowledge to know what needs to be done (yet) nor the technical skill to implement it. I will do my best to be the necessary bridge between those halves of WT, and I ask your help and patience toward that end.--IBobi 19:52, 20 June 2011 (EDT)
You can debate the semantics all you like, but the effect will be the perception of dramatically increased commercialization of the site. That, and the continued and heightened perception that IB will make changes to this site without community consensus.
From my perspective, there have been real disasters, most visibly on the non-English language versions. It rather seems to me that the Spanish language version, which was once one of our most promising, died directly because of the introduction of ads, and it may have been in the death of various other smaller language vesions. Our German and Italian versions died because of the sale to IB without consulting the community (the fact that Wikivoyage  has been successful, and preserved existing WT content on a fork, prevented this from being a complete disaster). Our other language versions are very fragile due to their small regular contributor base, and because they have trouble following everything that goes on here. As far as our flagship English version goes, we have lost enormously talented and productive members because of IB's mismanagement and abuse. It is impossible to quantify the amount of potential casual contributors we have lost due to unfinished bugs, the lack of progress on site development, and perceived commercialization. (And thank goodness that this did not lead to Wikitravel being taken off Wikimedia's interwiki map, as that would have really hurt our PageRank.) Our site has stagnated. From IB's perspective, these things may not seem a disaster, but to me, and presumably to others who have volunteered literally thousands of hours over the years in the pursuit of building an excellent site without financial compensation, this does seem disastrous.
Whether you choose to believe it or not, there is a tipping point at which the primary contributor base will fork the site—regardless of the fact that that would be an obviously sub-optimal outcome—both to escape the use of their hard work for profit-seeking by derelict site hosts, and to reclaim the ability to improve the site architecture.
I have been active on more or less a daily basis for over four years, and have had extensive experience working with contributors both casual and immensely dedicated, both in English and in a dozen other languages, and I think I have a good idea of where the barometer stands. Take that for what you will, as obviously the community has no real control over what IB does with the site. --PeterTalk 17:55, 21 June 2011 (EDT)
I still concur with previous comments that a mock-up of this proposal would help a lot; right now, everyone has their own concept of what this would look like and they probably don't all match. However, I would also say that putting some resources into site development and upgrades before jumping right into monetization efforts would do a lot for goodwill. It looks bad when, after years of being virtually ignored, the first thing that gets presented to us is another way for IB to make money. LtPowers 22:05, 21 June 2011 (EDT)
I think I will stop contributing to and patrolling new edits on Wikitravel completely if anything monetization-related will appear in the central column by default for a newcoming user anywhere except in the end of any of the existing community content. Even if my contribution to the site is not anything close to the top contributors above, that are my 2 cents. --DenisYurkin 01:52, 22 June 2011 (EDT)