This page is meant in great part for those who do not know me very well (or not at all) and/or have little idea what the Wikimedia Foundation is, and for those who wish to know what the job of a board member encompasses.
I suspect most of those involved in Foundation issues will learn little of it… though one never knows :-)
You will find below several paragraphs intended to inform you
- Wikimedia Foundation: Reminder of what the Wikimedia Foundation is…
- My “curriculum vitae”. It is quite plain. This is a copy of my description on Wikimedia Foundation. The benefit of it is essentially that it has been translated in several languages. You may also find more about Anthere/Florence as a person (personal details, pictures,…)
- Looking on the past... and on the future: Reminder of my past year candidacy plus some personal rant on risks that the WMF might be facing etc... Skip if you are allergic to such writings.
- Open discussion: please add your comments here
- 1 What is all that business around the Foundation ?
- 2 Who is Florence Nibart-Devouard?
- 3 Looking on the past... and on the future
- 4 Open discussion
- 5 Book burning
- 6 Hésitation ?
What is all that business around the Foundation ?
Once upon a time...
Once upon a time, an american entrepreneur was blessed with a great idea:building a free encyclopedia. History is unclear whether light came upon him alone, or if it was the result of brainstorming session over a set of beers … but the result is here. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (over 1 000 000 great articles in many languages) is now amongst the “big things”.
At first, life was easy (wasn’t it ?) . All editors spoke one common language. There was one unique project. A simple wiki software . There was one editor in chief, on whom evil thoughts could focus, Larry (). The project could be hosted on one single server and the owner of bomis.com had a lot of free time to reinstall it as often as he wished to. And bandwidth costs could be paid with coins.
Then many editors came, and they saw it was good, so they joined and took part in its creation.
Then, life became more difficult. With more editors came more articles (). With more articles came more readers. With more readers came more bandwith needs. Worse, editors started speaking different languages and having weird ideas, such as starting more projects, requesting new features ). And along with all this came the need for more servers, more bandwidth, came legal issues (who own what…or may I use this logo...), … and came the need for the big M word, Money.
In short, the desire came for a non profit organisation : the Wikimedia Foundation Inc. The name sounds a bit pompous, one may use WMF as a shortcut. That's okay...
So… the now beloved benevolent dictator (formerly known as American entrepreneur) created () the WMF, a non profit organisation dedicated to supporting the creation of free content on wikis (Foundation main page).
As a legal frame, the WFM required a board of directors… Jimbo was naturally its president, and soon appointed Tim and Michael. Later, the president saw that the board should have two editors representatives and he asked the editors to organise elections. This is how Angela Beesley and myself got elected by editors in June 2004 for one year.
If you are one of those people loving to spend a dusty afternoon in an antic, see Retro for more on the Golden Age.
A couple of good (or less good) questions
Still... two years after its announcement... many questions are still ongoing...
- what are exactly the goals of the Foundation?
- what are the means used to reach these goals?
- is the Foundation involved in political activism?
- are all editors members by default of the Foundation?
- can the WMF force editorial decisions over projects?
- what are the relationships between the WMF and French and German local chapters?
- why are Tim and Michael part of the board?
- who are the best people to be board members amongst editors?
- Who is paid by the WMF?
- Is the budget in the red?
- Will the board *finally* sign that deal with Google?
- please add to the list…
Will I answer all those questions ?
Well no… unless you ask me to give my opinion :-) But those are generally good questions. Some have answers in Wikimedia Quarto...
The fact is some of those questions have different answers according to people, and I do not agree with all of those answers.
Official mission statement
- The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is an international non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content, and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge. Wikimedia relies on public donations to meet its goal of providing free knowledge to every person in the world.
A couple of uncontroversial answers (for basics)
What are the goals of the WMF : supporting the development of our collective dream, via the legal means with which it is empowered, ie
- ability to manage money legally (with a bank account, a credit card, etc.)
- ability to collect member fees (when we have members….) – tax deductible now !
- ability to receive donations, grants, prizes money and more.
- ability to spend money according to the project goals (purchase of servers, domain names reservation, bandwidth bills etc. these costs being the largest ones by far !)
- ownership of the servers, the logos, the trademarks, but not of the content !
The second set of goals is potentially more controversial, but I strongly stand by them :
- financial support to various activities (such as wikimania meeting, travel costs for public relation events, publishing of leaflets, participation to travel costs of developers for a developer meeting etc…)
- support for distributation of knowledge all over the world (publishing of cd rom, wikireaders…), in particular to reach areas where information does not circulate easily
- to make partnership with those who share our goals
And finally, more fluttery, but very important :
- to guarantee that our common goal and our core values (neutrality, openness, love for others and genuine concerns for the diversity of opinions) will be preserved, despite the risks our projects face
- to act as a central entity, to give birth to associated local branches, which will have a certain degree of independance but will have to respect our common goals and principles
All this… while never forgetting we are a very diverse mix, trying to respect these differences, trying not to interfere or be implicated in every day management of each project, but should aim at maintaining the integrity of the whole. It should remember that our projects are built first by editors, not by the board, that anyone can have an impact on the Foundation activity (and not only the board members nor its officers). I think the board is first here to make some decisions inspired by editors' input. The board may have its own ideas, but it should be here in great part here to make it possible that good ideas from anyone become possible.
Who is Florence Nibart-Devouard?
This is my official "CV" here....
Florence Nibart-Devouard currently serves as the Contributing User Representive to the Board and is the vice-chair of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Florence was born in Versailles (France). She grew up in Grenoble, and has been living since then in several French cities, as well as Antwerpen in Belgium and Tempe in Arizona (USA).
She is a engineer in Agronomy (ENSAIA) and also holds a DEA in Genetics and biotechnologies (INPL). She has been working in public research, first in flower plant genetic improvement, and second in microbiology to study the feasability of polluted soil bioremediation. She is currently employed in a french firm, to conceive decision-making tools in sustainable agriculture. She joined the Wikipedia adventure in February 2002 and is known as a contributor under the pseudonym Anthere.
Florence is 36, and live in Clermont Ferrand with her husband Bertrand and her two children, Anne-Gaëlle aged seven and William eight.
All right... but who am I really ?
Retrospective : I discovered Wikipedia somewhere in january or february 2002, but stayed anonymous for quite a while... When I finally created a user page, here is what I wrote on it : When I discovered Wikipedia a few months ago, I felt I was brought back in the past, when Internet was still very much in the hands of whoever had the chance to be connected. How exhilarating it was ! These past years ......
As an editor, these are examples of what I did.
- my favorite and major contributions to articles are here. Most of my contribs are in ecology and agriculture; but I wandered a bit on political or religious issues as well. When I find a bit of time to edit, I mostly take care of w:en:ecoregion related articles.
- I contributed to a certain number of images and logos, most being visible here and there.
- I contribute quite a lot on meta, where I wrote several articles, such as m:uncivility, help set up and maintain the m:Wikipedia Embassy, entirely reorganised the m:Main Page, maintain m:Goings-on, fixed broken policies, and take care of m:steward duties.
- I participated in setting numerous policies on fr:, and help the mediation committee start on en:
- I also led several press releases, participated to several meetings to present Wikipedia and answered many interviews .
During this past year though... I have been editing only few articles; most of my contributions have been related to board activities, which are far less visible overall. I tried to summarize those activities here.
Aside from all this, I have a day job, two adorable children and a rather big garden to take care off.
Looking on the past... and on the future
One year later, I feel I worked in all the directions I stood for. I wish to continue doing so, as a year is very short for sustainable impact. My values have not changed much and most of what I wrote last year is still valid.
I believe great things stand in front of us, but I also fear risks in great part due to our rapid growth.
The Foundation might face several types of risks :
I do not expect it will be a problem in the near future. Many love our project and are eager to help us. Most of our resources may be found in donations (as a reminder, our last fundraising was a huge success, the amount gathered being larger than what we expected for a shorter time span). Other resources will come from partners, which we will have to choose carefully. I generally do not support use of advertisment. I do not think we need it while so many editors and organisations want to help us. Advertisment would essentially upset editors. My main worry in the short time is more related to internal organisation, which I am confident can be improved.
I support building a strong and diverse network of partnerships rather than getting involved with one big partner. This will secure our independance. Developers team otherwise is likely the best advice on what should be done.
This area is increasingly a problem. We receive every month, many complaints, most of them being without basis, others being unfortunately real issues (often copyright violations). However all requests must be handled. Till now, all have been managed amiably, but obviously, one day we will have to face more difficult times, and we should prepare ourselves for this. The creation of the legal team and the rebirth of a legal list go in that direction. Additionaly, many legal issues are rising up, related by bylaws, local chapters, trademarks, licensing issues, or contract agreements. It is my belief we should organise ourselves better to handle all this.
These are imho very important.
The Foundation may be in danger with a too autocratic behavior
The Foundation is still very fragile. Its board members should at the same time be able to take decisions, answer requests and wishes from editors... while avoiding authoritarian behavior on projects and volunteers. In a certain way, it must work under the community control... but realistically, it can't be fully a democracy.
The Foundation might be endangered by an unsufficient representativity of languages and projects
After one year on the board, I can gladly see that our internal functioning is now much more egalitarian than it was before (see on this matter). However, external perception of our project (in particular by media) is still very much focusing on the english speaking side. I hope that all together, we'll try to promote even more our project as a multilingual one, and that by the mean of our representant and our actions, we'll be able to show our diversity.
While we have chosen not to expand the board for these elections, we hope to find ways to better represent all projects and languages, possibly by the mean of a Wikicouncil, which role could be to improve transmission of information, or to take certain internal decisions currently taking care of by the board (or by no one...)
WMF may be endangered if its mission gets too political
I oppose the use of WMF as a political advocacy organisation as I think the Foundation may be in danger if we try to use it as a political tool. If we get too involved in certain political battles, we could lose in two ways. First externally, lose a certain aura of neutrality, which allow donators for example, to feel confortable with the idea of giving us money. Second, internally, we risk losing contributors in disagreement with the political goals pursued. This does not mean we should not make partnership with other organisations, but should be careful not to be tinted by very biaised partners, nor to make partnerships dedicated to a certain political goal different from our main, commonly approved goals.
The Foundation might be endangered if its organisation is too centralized, or focus on a limited number of people
Board members, and in particuler Jimbo, can become bottlenecks. This should be avoided. This requires at the same time delegation between board members, and delegation to officers, to trusted editors as well as board members of local chapters.
The Foundation should not become a cabal
It is sometimes necessary to discuss somes issues privately (by mail, on discussion lists or closes wikis); however, this must not become systematic. The board may only win in ensuring transparency as much as possible. This will avoid worries by editors, doubts from donors and allow every one to see how he could participate. The board should be careful to empower many people.
Thoughts on CliquesAndCommunities -- Bad Things about Cliques is a text I wrote several months ago
A clique is a group of people unfriendly to newcomers and outsiders. ... Toward newcomers or neutral outsiders, it will appear that the community is full of conspiracies, decisions are taken behind closed doors... In wiki communities with a closed clique, newcomers or neutral outsiders may become shadowy participants, little involved in community building, as they feel their opinions won't be listened to. They may quietly go on about their own business. They may also leave silently one day...
The Foundation may be endangered by drop in motivation by volunteers
Wikipedia is now amongst the top 50-100 websites most visited in the world. This success relies nearly entirely on volunteers. We should be extremely careful to see what motivates them... What are these reasons why thousand of volunteers spend hours on our projects, rather than taking care properly of their jobs, their families, friends or gardens.
- pur altruisme
- personal satisfaction, happiness in seeing a fabulous project being created by thousand of hands
- creating FREE and FREE content
- joy in collaborating, in being able to communicate with very diverse persons (in particular in meta and commons)
- the pleasure of gaining new friends, sex partners or even lovers - wikipedia IS a social club :-)
- the satisfaction of seeing one's work quality being recognised by others (featured articles)
- thank yous (wikithanks, barnstar or just thank you notes)
- power (getting our sysop degree !)
- fame (ever get your own article on vfd ?)
- money (poll : do you know how many people actually receive money in relation to activity on the projects ?
Hmmm... could we damage that by mistake ?
Risks... but also many big positive points
However, I believe great things stand in front of us, because we are a community united by a common goal. Larry Wall best put it :
- Most of you are familiar with the virtues of a programmer. There are three, of course: laziness, impatience, and hubris. These are virtues of passion. They are not, however, virtues of community. The virtues of community sound like their opposites: diligence, patience, and humility. They're not really opposites, because you can do them all at the same time. It's another matter of perspective. These are the virtues that have brought us this far. These are the virtues that will carry our community into the future, if we do not abandon them.
- Larry Wall, the founder of Perl 
Please add your comments or questions here.
Salut ! Ta candidature est traduite en catalan, allemand, italien, néerlandais, polonais et espagnol. A quand la version française ? Je ferai volontiers la version espéranto mais de préférence à partir du français. --Arno Lagrange ✉ 07:35, 11 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Dans les jours à venir. J'ai depuis une semaine un gros rhume dégénéré en bronchite et je suis épuisée. J'essaye de le faire dès que l'urgent est évacué. Amicalement Anthere 10:00, 11 Jun 2005 (UTC)
- hmmmm. I meant to 1) apology to all english editors from the United Kingdom for having used the wrong term to describe their country and 2) I meant a little bit of humour... as French often criticise british people for being quite lucky warm toward building Europe... but were amongst the noisiest to plain reject the proposal of constitution. In short, it was just meant to criticize my own people :-) Anthere
Do you have any potential conflicts of interest? For example, any ties to Yahoo, Google, Microsoft or other potential competitors or donors? 22.214.171.124 08:00, 29 Jun 2005 (UTC)
- I have no conflict of interest with any potential donors, with any potential competitors. I have no conflict of interest with the current board members, nor the future board members. I have no conflict of interest with any of the officers either. I am married to a french teacher/researcher who does not contribute to any wikimedia project. I work for a firm which does decision making software for most part, and is extremely unlikely to ever give any servers to us (www.quantix.fr). As far as I know, only one of my co-worker is aware of my voluntary activity. Amongst my indirect customers are firms like Aventis, Bayer, Syngenta, Limagrain... which are not involved in any way with knowledge building :-) Anthere
Qui que tu soit! j'ai voté pour! 126.96.36.199 22:14, 4 Jul 2005 (UTC)
How do you feel about people who destroy information, simply because the rules allow them to do that. How do plan to make WikiMedia serve it's aims rather than as a crutch for it's members.--JIrate 13:01, 29 Jun 2005 (UTC)
 is something I wrote about 1 year and a half ago. As for the second question, I am not sure I understand it. But if I understand it... I'd say I intend to spent a lot of my energy, as a board member OR NOT, to take care of increasing content provided by africans and help distribute it. I am currently trying to prepare a talk on the matter at Wikimedia and contacting many editors who we hope to sponsor to have them come to Frankfurt and explain how they intend to help content building and distribution in Africa. I also closely follow the production of the french/english/portuguese DVD. Does that answer your question ? Anthere
Tu écris dans ta «profession de foi» :
Les points sur lesquels je me concentrerais Si tu as la volonté d'être élue -ce qui est légitime -, pourquoi employer le conditionnel, et non le futur : Les points sur lesquels je me concentrerai
N'étant pas électeur,car ne contribuant que depuis la mi-mai, je suis à peu près objectif dans ma remarque...Bonne chance. Adamantane 188.8.131.52 20:50, 29 Jun 2005 (UTC)
- sans doute parce que cela n'est pas moi qui ait écrit la version française :-))))) (à peine croyable, mais vrai). Anthere 17:03, 30 Jun 2005 (UTC)