It’s that time of the year when it is time for me to support what I use and encourage you to do the same.
Of all the “business models” in our culture today, I think that the donation/subscription model is one of the most pure and direct. Nothing says “I appreciate the work you do” more than a donation of cash. It is also the most difficult to sustain.
During our day-to-day surfing, it is easy to fall into the mindset that many of the sites and services we use on the internet are free when, in fact, they are either struggling financially, or are kept afloat through advertising revenues or business models that tie them closely to commercial organizations and objectives. The business of taking care of the business subsidizes the free and I have (at best) an uneasy relationship with that. As I wrote last year:
They need money to keep doing the work they do; work that is generally free from commercial interests, which is something that is harder to come by on the web these days, especially in education where the VC money is calling the shots on so many “innovations” revolutionizing education. Personally, I would rather pay transparently up front than have what I see as valuable become commodified and commercialized.
Last year, I supported Wikipedia, Mozilla, Creative Commons and the work of Audrey Watters, and if you are looking for a place to start your own annual contribution campaign, those are all worthy organizations doing, what I believe is important work. This year, I am making donations to these four organizations.
- The Internet Archive. Like Wikipedia, the Internet Archive has a mission to provide universal access to all knowledge. It is the digital historian of not only the web, but our collective culture, archiving long forgotten films, music, books and other items that commercial publishers have given up on long ago. They are a rock amongst the digital ephemera, arching the web and providing free hosting to anyone who wants to add to the collection. Plus they host a large collection of open educational resources. Last month there was a fire in their scanning centre which did a considerable amount of damage, making the need to donate this year even more important.
- Bad Science Watch. This year I got involved with a contentious issue within our k-12 school district. For the past 3 years, there has been a very small group of people in the district who believe WiFi poses a health risk to students. They had managed to convince our school district officials to put a moratorium on wi-fi installations in schools in our district. I launched a website opposing this view (and did probably more research on this issue than I did for my Masters thesis). An important research document for me was their investigation of anti-wifi activism in Canada, and my donation is a way of thanking them for helping with the fight. I am happy to say that earlier this month, the school district overturned the wi-fi moratorium by a 5-4 margin.
- MediaSmarts. A non-profit here in Canada dedicated to developing media and digital literacy resources for parents and teachers (one of the big reasons I got involved in the above wi-fi fight). As my kids get older and venture out on the web more and more, I have continually come back to this site for information and resources to help empower them to take control of their digital world. Their daily newsletter is one of the few I read everyday. If you are in the US, a similar organization exists in Common Sense Media.
- OpenMedia is one of the organization here in Canada working hard to protect the open internet, advocating for universal access, fighting internet censorship and (as they state in their principles) keeping the “an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create, and innovate.” They have also been at the forefront of the fight to protect privacy. Their work only grows more in importance everyday.
If I want to have an internet that works the way I want it to, it takes money. And I recognize that I am in the privileged financial position to be able to help a bit to make that vision continue. So, I donate, and I write this blog post to perhap, spur you to do the same and support the organizations that you use that are free and doing work you want to see continue.