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Advisory Board/Meeting Outcomes 2008

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July 15th 2008



This document was written by Christine Aliouche, who facilitated a meeting among the Board of Trustees, the Advisory Board, and the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, on July 15, 2008, in Alexandria, Egypt. At the meeting, attendees developed their thinking about how best to support three of the Foundation's strategic goals for 08-09. This document is intended to provide a record of that discussion. It will be further elaborated over time:

  1. It will be released to the Board, Advisory Board and ED, so that they can further flesh out their ideas and provide additional information.
  2. It will be released to the Wikimedia community. The intent is that people can then use this document to stimulate their own thinking; to start discussions; and to help them make decisions about where they want to put their own energy. They will also be free to keep the document itself alive, by further elaborating upon and refining it.



The combined group of Advisory Board members (5 out of 20), most of the Board of Trustees, and the Foundation’s Executive Director met in Alexandria, Egypt on July 15th just prior to Wikimania 2008. The purpose of the meeting was to provide a briefing to all invitees as to each group’s strategic goals and organizational development progress over the past year. An overview of the Foundation’s organizational development process of was given, as was an overview of the Board of Trustees restructuring. The Advisory Board was then invited to discuss and help set direction for future development.

The bulk of the agenda was spent developing attendees' collective thinking about three key Wikimedia Foundation goals. The output of that conversation is laid out below.


  1. Achieve organizational maturity
    (for example, fill skills gaps, institute quarterly financial reporting, generate regular statistics, etc.)
  2. Achieve financial sustainability
    (for example, reach or exceed revenue targets, live within the budget, etc.)
  3. Encourage and broaden participation
    (for example,stage Wikipedia Academies, teach underrepresented groups -such as older people or women- to edit, make MediaWiki easier to use, encourage friendliness in the projects, etc.)
  4. Increase quality and credibility
    (for example, teach academics and other knowledgeable people to edit, encourage content owners to donate good material under a free license, encourage quality-improving projects)
  5. Disseminate Wikimedia content in off-wiki forms
    (for example, partner with other organizations to publish Wikimedia DVDs, books, USB sticks, etc.)



The group was asked to discuss how the Wikimedia Foundation could best approach the goal of increasing both quality and credibility.

Aspects of quality:

  • Readability and understandability (good writing)
  • Accuracy and correctness, reliability
  • Depth, thoroughness
  • Relevance, appropriateness, suitability of subject matter
  • Absence of typos and other small mistakes (broken links, etc.)
  • Scope, range, breadth
  • Balance and fairness
  • Usability, user-friendliness
  • Currency, freshness, up-to-date
  • Authority (as measured, for example, by citations/attributions)
  • Consistency of style, layout, etc.
  • Meeting user expectations in general, throughout the user experience

Proposed approaches to nurturing quality (technical)

Improve the usability of the interface for both readers and editors

Publicly and visibly label quality (for example, “rate this article” widget, FlaggedRevs, etc.)

Launch a large, ambitious project to fundamentally overhaul the interface to make it more usable (i.e., WYSIWYG or similar). This would be an enormous undertaking and would be expensive.

Simplify and improve discussion sections; make it easier for editors to talk constructively about articles.

Enable automated 'readability' scoring, as in word-processing programs, and publish the results visibly on the article. Or, use readability scores to populate 'to do' lists for editors who want to edit for readability, aiming to take difficult articles and make them more easily understandable.

Create 'suggestion' widgets: “If you enjoyed reading about <the history of solidarity> you might also be interested in articles about <Poland>, <Lech Walesa> and <the fall of communism>.”

Each project / language version should be asked to provide feedback on its technical requirements in support of quality. There should be a systematic way to ensure that feedback is collected and evaluated.

Proposed approaches to nurturing quality (social):

Create an “adopt-an-expert” program designed to match up Wikimedians with non-wiki-editing experts in various fields. The idea is that there are many people with expertise in particular areas, who for whatever reason do not intend to become wiki editors. (For example, they might be too busy, or unwilling to expose themselves to the collaborative process, or too tech-averse.) Those people could be paired up with willing editors, who would solicit their feedback and implement their recommended changes to articles.

Create templates and FAQs designed to offer encouragement, guidelines and support for people who own quality content, and who may want to contribute it under a free license to the Wikimedia projects. Offer an understandable clear-language explanation of free licenses and their implications. Match up owners of content who are willing to free it up, with Wikimedians who are willing to help process it (for example, by uploading it, labelling it, etc.).

Develop a “volunteer match”-style database which captures volunteer skill sets and areas of interest, and which could pave the way to connecting volunteers with tasks that suit their interests and abilities. For example, volunteers who like taking photos could be connected with Commons photo solicitation events; volunteers who like to edit for readability could be connected with articles that are considered high quality but abstruse; volunteers who like to speak in public could be asked to participate in outreach events.

Work more closely with schools. For example, ask an art school professor to make 'adding illustrations to Wikipedia' a class assignment; ask language schools for help with language issues.

Encourage researchers to conduct studies into the quality level of the Wikimedia projects. Make it easy for them by providing more timely dumps, etc.

Focus PR efforts on emphasizing the high quality of the projects, and highlight studies that demonstrate it. Collect and republish positive quotes from credible experts.

Create contests designed to focus volunteer energy on improving quality in particular areas.

Assess the impact of FlaggedRevs thus far. Capture how it is being used. Encourage useful adoptions.

Make it easier to add sources to Wikipedia. Encourage the adding of sources.



The group was asked to discuss how the Wikimedia Foundation could best encourage broader participation in the projects. Later this year, the Foundation expects to identify four target groups for increased participation; that will happen after the results of the UNU-Merit general survey are released in the fall. Therefore, for the purposes of this discussion, four provisional “straw men” target groups were identified: people aged 55+, older women, Arabic speakers, and subject-matter experts. Many of these strategies could be adapted for general use.

55 + Community:

Create “lifelong learning events” to tap into and encourage sharing of knowledge.

Develop specialized press and general articles.

Today's older people are less tech savvy and less used to interacting online. Usability improvements will be particularly useful for this demographic group.

Provide mentoring programs (for example, “adopt-an-older-person”). For older people particularly, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction and personal relationships.

Participate in seminars focusing on 3rd age. Go to where older people are, and recruit them there. Contact retiree clubs (for example Lions), and work with organizations for retired people (AARP, newsletter article, etc.)

Create demographically-targeted tutorials that are very market specific. Utilize older people as presenters, trainers, recruiters. Use training examples that are familiar to older people.

Utilize project based recruitment.

Document experiences both successful and unsuccessful. The chapters do a lot of outreach: ask them to postmortem their experiences and share them with the Foundation and each other.

Utilize surveys. Don't make assumptions about older people's motivations, interests and aptitudes: ask them.

Offer train-the-trainer programs to teach the target audience to teach others. This will scale.

Focus on older people who already have computers and are connected to, and active on, the internet. Focus on the subset of internet-active older people who will be receptive to becoming editors, rather than those who will not.

Older Women:

(Most of the ideas for the 55+ community are also useful for the reaching the older women target group as well. Additionally though, there are these.)

Have Jimmy appear on Oprah's TV show, or Ellen Degeneres. Older women are generally underrepresented where Wikimedia tends to get media coverage (for example, Slashdot); try to counteract that by going where older women are.

Start a “Teach your Mother to Edit” day, encouraging Wikimedia's young geeky participants to actively try to recruit older women they know personally.

Focus on groups most able to contribute (for example women with grown children).

Stress and reinforce the social values of the Wikimedia community relative to many other online communities - namely friendliness, welcoming nature, openness, civility, etc.

Arabic Speakers:

Utilize press outreach. Particularly post-Wikimania, there should be media energy that Wikimedia can capitalize on.

Seed or nurture the creation of a chapter or chapters in the Arab world. Support chapter creation by offering planning and kick-off resources, for example, legal research, administrative support, etc.

Organize a mini-conference focused on a language (for example Arabic-language Wikimedia conference).

Utilize the site notice to put out a call for participants in particular areas (for example, Arabic-language speakers).

Informally survey people here at Wikimania 2008 about their attitudes and motivations, why they participate.

Partner with Arabic nonprofits who share our goals but who are more expert in location-specific or culture-specific issues.

Encourage and fund “community infrastructure documents” - FAQs, templates, the documentation and sharing of knowledge.

Draw on the expatriate community for help. People may be particularly inclined to support the culture they came from.

Managing cultural controversies (means what exactly?)

Distinguish between secular versus religious educational traditions.

Subject Matter Experts:

Please note that one group group questioned why this category might be considered a priority. Given that the projects are deeply rooted in a credentials-neutral ethos, specific outreach to academics or other subject-matter experts is seen by some as counter to Wikimedia values.

Contact other conferences and propose participation.

Provide changes in software to favor experts, or to include or acknowledge them in particular ways (for example, “this article is endorsed by X, an expert in the field”).

Start by ?? on non-wp projects (for example Wi commons)

Develop a survey to find out how they may want to contribute (critique, review, use as a teaching tool, etc.)

Establish “campus ambassadors”.

Share experiences from other universities/experts, etc.

Connect to thought leaders.

“Adopt-an-expert” program. As outlined above under quality.

Work more closely with schools (for example,class assignments, etc.). As outlined above under quality.



The group was asked to discuss how the Wikimedia Foundation could best encourage the dissemination of Wikimedia content into off-wiki forms. Several areas were discussed, including mobile.

Mobile (Pros/Opportunities)

Growth of handsets greater than PCs (billion + per year).

Unlike computers, all handsets have connectivity.

Operators could move quickly due to their scale.

Mobile operators tend to be younger demographically.

Mobile operators also tend to have financial resources.

Need killer app??

People will probably never use mobile phones to edit the projects; it is too difficult. However, most phones have camera capability. It would be interesting to create an easy-phone-photo-upload capability, so that people could easily send camera-phone pictures to Commons.

Wikimedia has a good mobile interface: it is just not well-known.

Rapidly changing (?? technology, sector, etc.)

There is potential for specialized input for easy editing. It is possible we could create a simplified interface for easy, simple editing.

Mobile (Cons/Threats)

There is limited editing interface capability.

There is also limited multimedia real estate.

There is a lack of recognition that it is different from large-screen internet, and needs a simpler, easier-to-use interface designed for a small screen.

There are no open standards.

The cost of data connectivity may self-select the wealthy.

Ad-supported mirrors may take market share.



This document is intended to be a useful tool for the Wikimedia Foundation, the chapters, and individual volunteers. The Wikimedia Foundation is grateful to its advisory board for its support in helping develop our thinking.

  1. Angela will release the document to the advisory board (on wiki), and ask people to further elaborate and refine their thinking. It would be great if people added citations, facts, data, and support of various kinds for their proposals. They should be bold, and directly edit the article page itself. There is no need to sign edits: it is more important to end up with a readable, understandable document, than with a detailed and accurate record of who said what. Advisory board members who did not attend the meeting should be particularly encouraged to contribute at this point.
  2. The document should then be moved to meta, and we should invite the chapters and individual volunteers into the conversation (same terms as above). People should be encouraged to turn any of these ideas into reality, and use whatever from this is useful to them.