Offsets are wonderful, but not practical for a donor-supported foundation, as that is not what donors expect to be done with their money. I maintain the highest level of commitment to the environment, and would push the staff to find practical ways to reduce the environmental impact of the Foundation. I do not believe, however, that it is the role of the Board of Trustees to force a policy from the top down in such a bottom-up community driven project.
Jeandré, as I am passionate about sustainability, permaculture and the environment and the perpetuity of our natural systems and not only their preservation but the reinstatement initiatives of wild nature throughout our World, your question is close to my heart. I don't have a car and I ride my bike or take public transport or walk where I need to go, to live my values. Transferring this to the board, in certain situations telecommuting does not have the richness required to establish relationships where body language and interpersonal intimacy is required. Though, telecommunting and associated techniques are to be embraced wherever appropriate, travel should only be engaged in situations of absolute necessity. I stated in my release to Signpost that I move for a common financial accountancy and reporting model throughout the Foundation and Projects to move towards triple bottom line & lifecycle costing through all reporting of the Community and proposals for development, resource allocation and importantly, purchasing, etc. This includes triple bottom line impact statements on the necessity of travel and includes a lifecycle costing which subsumes greenhouse gas emissions. This would also necessitate retrofitting assets contained on the asset register currently in place where they are unsound, as well as a strategic aligning with all eco-friendly and sustainable technologies and processes in future. A register of preferred partnerships that require the reputable endorsement of strategic partnerships and relationships focusing on their triple bottom line statements and lifecycle costing for their core business and initiatives is The Bible. You are only green if your mates are green. Moreover, I advocate and endorse a sustainable implementation model for the abovementioned to be integrated with the Strategic Planning initiatives.B9 hummingbird hovering 15:42, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I'd like to pursue innovative ways to reduce WMF's environmental footprint that are both ACTUALLY capable of being implemented, and within our mission. For instance, we have a small budget. Things like buying offsets or paying for expensive equipment are not smart uses of that limited income for such a small organization. What if we tried something like "green featured articles" for a period of time, presenting articles on green technologies to the world? What if we were to hold a Wikipedia Academy with environmental organizations to try and help empower them and improve our content at the same time? Or extend our efforts to support more digitzation onto Wikisource and reduce the amount of paper usage worldwide? Our mission as a foundation has us bringing knowledge to the world. That knowledge certainly ought to include how to offset emissions and reduce environmental footprint on a personal and corporate level. By spreading that knowledge around the world, we can have a much greater impact than simply shelling out cash for marginal gains (with negligible aggregate effect). That being said -- I support looking into ways we can enhance the ability to telecommute to meetings when possible, or to find more environmentally friendly locations to host our events. If we can cut down on redundancies and minimize unnecessary travel, not only will that help cut down on our carbon impact but it may help save money as well. We should be an inspiration to other organizations in our environmental efforts. If our datacenter facilities are (as I understand it) so efficient, we should be more aggressive at publicizing that information, to try and get other like-minded organizations to take these steps as well. Again, by using our global reach to present more environmentally friendly alternative solutions, we are satisfying our organizational mission as well as minimizing the cost to us, and achieving far greater results than we could by purchasing an offset or a more expensive cooling fan, or the like.
I've said it multiple times in the past - we're running hundred or thousand times smaller datacenter facilities (respectively, hundred or thousand times smaller power and cooling costs) than other websites with similar reach, we support all the massive remote collaboration. The organization is extremely efficient at its core mission, but to properly understand it and immerse into it, volunteers, staff, board, all need high bandwidth communication channels, attainable in online meetings. This organization is very special in how the negative impact is extremely negligible, compared to all the positive impact, and I think this is what we should be doing - stay being on the pinnacle of efficiency, on the pinnacle of large scale collaboration, and our leadership in these two areas will outshine any 'green' declarations we could ever be able to make, seriously.
This is a subject that I will have to study first. I would prefer to invest in making our code, our procedures more efficient. That reduces our costs and has a real impact on our ability to operate. As our software becomes more efficient, it will benefit all the MediaWiki installations that are out there.
Who knows what the Board might consider, but I absolutely favor organizations that address issues relating to their environmental impact. The WMF decided to hold a board meeting in Berlin, which is quite far from the point of "least cumulative distance" that could have been achieved for at least the mandatory attendees. The additional jet fuel and hotel services consumption is something to consider, with melting polar ice threatening San Francisco. A short-haul Boeing 737 flight burns about 200 pounds of fuel per passenger. A trans-continental flight, plus a trans-Atlantic leg to Berlin, likely burns at least 400 pounds per passenger. Round trip = 800 pounds of fuel. I hope each of the US-based attendees feel comfortable that their burning of 800 pounds of jet fuel (about 114 gallons) in order to attend the conference in Berlin (a conference that, as far as I can tell, had zero "dial-in" conferencing options offered) was justified.
I get the impression that there is a corporate culture afoot at the Wikimedia Foundation that stifles attempts to optimize meetings and conferences in ways that might be more economical and environmentally friendly, with innovations such as Skype and video-teleconferencing. My sense is that even more "interesting" and "exotic" places are chosen instead. I suspect it's part of the corporate culture to get the "backwater" taste of St. Petersburg out of everyone's mouth, to select all of these far-flung, non-English-speaking locales for a Board that consists mostly of North Americans who speak English, and who are funded mostly by U.S. dollars.
Here's a 100-gallon aquarium. Imagine it full of jet fuel, then setting a match to it, sucking oxygen out of the air, and replacing it with carbon-laden molecules. That's what each of the North American board members did to enable travel to Berlin to hold their meeting in their chosen location.
That is an interesting question, indeed. I certainly think that some of these meetings do not have to be always held personally if there exist other possible and unexpensive ways of communication. Apart from this, I strongly believe that we have to be a reference in this issue. The world is facing the consequences of financial crisis and, in this sense, it would be practical not to forget our responsibility as a non-profit organization committed with knowledge. Wikimedia community is a virtual community working at home along the year. Wikimania's yearly meeting is a small price to pay for improving this community. If on the one hand I feel that international meetings are important in promoting this project, on the other I am a declared defender of taking profit of technology as much as we can. This means that we can hold virtual conferences at an agreed and convenient time for the members of the Board. Having worked as an ArbCom member for a whole year, enabled me to be in a continuing task of a solid and organized duty with other partners from different and remote countries. This obviously required a planification (IRC chats, videoconferences, e-mail list, etc). Planning is important. I am quite open-minded concerning alternative purposes.
I would listen sympathetically to any practical suggestions and support initiatives that did not use donor money to purposes contrary or external to our mission. In my personal life I have regularly commuted by bicycle for distances of about 20 miles daily (over 30 km). That is to say 20 miles in the morning, and the same back in the afternoon. So I definitely have done my part, though I admit that I too have a carbon footprint. Even when I was not able to go by bike, I used rail commuting, which is AIUI better than busses. I also exclusively use washable cotton shopping bags, instead of plastic ones. However, there is a difference between acting responsibly and grandstanding. And thus I think the Board should take heed of suggestions that are workable and don't detract from our mission, but should avoid mere gesturing for gestures sake.
I encourage being mindful of environmental impact without being wasteful in other ways in attempts to meet this goal. But mainly I see avoiding environmental waste as aligned with avoiding other types of waste: we want to purchase efficient hardware because wasting power is expensive, we don't want to take unnecessary trips because travel is expensive.
However, the value of face-to-face meeting, even for an online-based organization, is too great to forgo it completely: avoiding wastefulness doesn't mean eliminating costs. Most WMF business already takes place via IRC, wikis, and email, but the higher bandwidth of face-to-face interaction and the different kind of interaction it enables is something I think we should continue. The venues have largely been chosen with other considerations in mind: where the offices are, which chapter is willing to host a meeting, how it meets other goals such as outreach or meeting other stakeholders. For a global organization, yes, some people will travel a long way.
(There are measures we can take such as avoiding unnecessary printing, and purchasing from environmentally responsible suppliers, and I hope that we will do that. One thing I do not support is purchasing carbon offsets, which I think are at best ineffective, for a variety of reasons.)
Our projects are digital: they replace printed paper material for thousands and millions of people, need no shipping, require no replacement or disposal. Perhaps the greenest thing we could do is encourage more people to use them.
With all due respect, I do not regard greenhouse gas emissions to be a serious issue confronting the Board of Directors. I'm sure we're all in favour of more energy efficient servers and the like, but considering the relatively minimal impact of what is, after all, at heart a series of websites, I would be inclined to place economic considerations ahead of making a show of "green" awareness.
Currently I don't see the Foundation's offsets as a danger to the environment. There are both negative and positive points to keep in mind. Firstly, by looking at the number of visits our projects receive per month, imagine if we converted that number into pages of paper. Looking at this fact we are actually doing the environment a huge favour. Keeping this in mind, a few flights a year isn't a big price to pay. Another important factor to remember is, face-to-face meetings are very important for an organization such as the WMF. It doesn't matter how hard one tries to communicate electronically, it can never be as effective as a face-to-face meeting. Looking our bandwidth usage, our offsets are pretty low, it could be far higher. I conclude that, overall, the Foundation is doing the environment a great favour, despite the amount of flights each year.
Green is my most favorite color. I'm still "greenie" to answer this question, but the products like Wikipedia and the others (Wikibooks, Wikiversity, etc) are greener than paper factories product. It's all better to save the world, but there is still a worse thing. My homeland is always green, because there is no modern factories such as the pollution resources.
The Foundation should set a standard of sustainability that can scale up a few more orders of magnitude. There are already plans in place to limit the amount of expected travel; since the community depends on effective remote communication and collaboration, investing in tools to make this possible for large and small meetings would be a lasting improvement. For hardware, I would like to see WMF build on the model of the EvoSwitch partnership to set up carbon-neutral hosting (and identify hosts willing to donate bandwidth to the projects) for all infrastructure.
I think the first preference should be to reduce the Foundation's actual environmental impact, especially in the area of travel. It spent more than three hundred thousand dollars on travel in fiscal 2008 (an increase for more than forty thousand dollars over the previous year), which strikes me as an absolutely enormous sum. Without seeing a breakdown and being more familiar with the organization's day-to-day operations, I cannot say with certainty that the amount is unjustified, but I would certainly want to take a careful and thorough look at this category of spending, for reasons of both fiscal and social responsibility. With that done, I would be prepared to support some sort of offset program, provided that there was significant evidence that the program in question was a good one. I believe that the carbon offset industry is a largely unregulated one, and it behooves anybody looking to buy such credits to carefully investigate claims made by the seller. And, in any event, buying a carbon offset is never as sound an approach as actually reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.
Well, I'm personally used to telephon-conferences an conferences by internet-chat, but anyway - I think, it will be necessary for the Board to meet personally. This meetings should be held only, if really necessary.
My answer to this question had not changed since last year. At first we are a green organization. We offer knowledge, and knowledge is the best way to understand why green, knowledge is the best way to know how to be green. We offer our content in the most green way that is possible: mostly online, in a way that neighther destroy forests nor substancially produce CO2. Our policy in travel and in other things is always very responsible. We are a non-profit organization. Our money are donated by our users, supporters and community who want to see us do our job efficiently. It is in our basical interest to cut travel cost, power cost etc. Naturally, we are also an international organization, and it is necessary for us to keep in contact with our community. Thus sometimes it is inavoidable for us to travel internationally. I for myself can say that in the past I had always traveled in awareness of green. If possible I had always traveled by train, for example to the Berlin board meeting in April or to the EU Chapters Intellectual Properties Lobbying meeting in Brussels. I never traveled with car. On the other hand. Our mission and goal is not to be green. Our goal and mission is free knowledge. We use the money that are donated to us for this goal and for this mission. So, if there is a real conflict between the two, I vote for our mission and our goal. I will repeat the example I used for last year: If it can help us cut cost, e.g. travel cost, cost for electricity, I am with it. If it is a costly extravagancy, e.g. super efficient hardware but costs double or trippel than less efficient ones, I am against it.
Once triple bottom line reporting and life-cycle costing and impact statements are in place, then and only then Jeandré, if our Community support it, let's approach reputable, sustainable 'advertising' that is sensitive to its context and does not obstruct readability. Models of advertising would only ever be implemented after a process of deep consultation with the Community and for the express purpose of leading the Foundation and Projects to financial independence or as a contingency in a budgetary emergency. I hold that advertising, if it is ever implemented, is for an express purpose and bound by a limited tenure: advertising is never to be standard business.B9 hummingbird hovering 15:51, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Short answer first, then I'll explain more: I do not want ads until we absolutely need them -- if we were facing a situation where we would have to cease operations otherwise, that would certainly cause me to re-evaluate.
One thing that I sometimes think about when the ad question comes up is this: "If Wikimedia were to suddenly become ad supported, what would be the effect on our ability to form strategic partnerships with other like-minded organizations." Every time I ask myself that question, I find it extremely difficult to conclude that it would help. First, advertising will turn off a large number of our users. There are significant portions of our users who simply do not want to see ads on Wikipedia, and will find other sites to visit if we were to implement them. It compromises our neutrality, and that has a shattering effect on our credibility -- and public perceptions of our credibility are critical to our success. They hurt us on usability -- just another thing to go wrong, taking up screen real estate, confusing users about what is our content and what belongs to the advertiser, etc. It would massively expand the size and scope of the foundation with the revenues it would bring in, meaning a rapid growth in hiring that we may not be prepared for (nor do we know that is necessary yet after doubling in size already). As I mentioned before, it will hurt our chances for partnerships. There are organizations, especially in the free culture community and many governmental organizations, who will find themselves restricted either administratively or ideologically from working with us if we use ads.
On the plus side, they have the potential to bring us a lot of money that could be used for good. We could have 50 man teams doing usability studies, offices full of developers and teams bringing knowledge to the world. We could make huge differences in developing countries and help educate generations of workers to build infrastructure and change lives. These are lofty goals, not to be dismissed lightly.
When balanced against each other, I do not believe that the ads are a suitable or feasible solution for us. The harm that they will likely cause to the project and our goals outweigh the considerable good that they would enable. In the long run, they are just a means to an end - financial empowerment for the foundation to perform its mission. We will be better off finding other ways and other revenue streams to achieve that end.
Talking about ads is like talking about doomsday scenarios - you never want it to happen, but still it is an intellectual exercise, allowing to understand way better who you are and why you are here :) Ads have one very important flaw, that contradicts with very core of what we are doing - they are not neutral. Of course, there are plenty other topics, where we can have neutrality at stake, but in this case sacrifice would shatter our basis way more.
On the other hand, if all volunteers wanted to make much greater impact on the world (ship offline Wikipedias? establish more projects? support translations? support other organizations?), it would be certainly a job for WMF to consider such shift - as our job is to facilitate people in their quest of spreading knowledge. For now we are not seeing such signals, but eventually shifts in minds of our community can happen.
And again, if it is doomsday, sure unpopular decisions have to be made, but on the other hand, we really don't want to see it happening, and this is why we're trying to build mature and sustainable organization to do the work, where volunteerism does not scale.
Probably 1.6 and 1.8, but let's not trivialize this important matter. With all due seriousness, the Wikimedia Foundation has an opportunity to change the lives of many, many people who are desperately struggling in life, in ways that we who engage in "edit wars" and "indefinite blocks" can't even imagine. So, while the Board and this community tut-tut about whether there ever should be advertising on this epic project's pages, just remember that while we debate, we're flushing millions of dollars -- dollars that could have helped people who really, honestly need them -- down the drain. Are Wikimedians this selfish, that the principle of anti-commercialism is more important than the fate of a young girl in a Third World country who would be meaningfully changed by a dozen LifeStraws and a paperback encyclopedia in her language? Why is everyone inclined to think so small, so selfishly? Advertising could default to "not shown", and it would be seen only by registered users who opt in as an expression of their willingness and eagerness to support the Wikimedia Foundation in this way. I suppose even if 10% of registered users elected to do this, it would still be a multi-million dollar opportunity for the Foundation -- and imagine the goodwill if half this revenue went to the Foundation, but the other half went to build a specific new school in sub-Saharan Africa?
Paid ads on Wikimedia projects? I do not contemplate this possibilty as feasible right now. I am definitely opposite to this idea because it goes against the immediate principles of this non-profit organization. I must recognise that I am quite meticulous in not admitting any kind of ads. I have been dealing closely with this issue since 2007. Furthermore, we have discussed this topic more than once in several meetings along the last two years. There is a general sense of unanimity among administrators on the Spanish and Catalan wikipedia projects. On the Spanish wikipedia, for example, we have strict rules as for avoiding entreprises to promote their goods and services through WP. Perhaps in the future things may be different. However, from a present-day perspective, it must be our last option.
My vote is "Other". Ads in any contact with Wikimedia content directly served by Wikimedia servers is simply not on. Not now, not in any realistic timeframe for the future.
I am happy to discuss the pragmatic logic for this any time any place, but most of the relevant arguments have been presented by others. Personally I have no ideological objection to commercialism, but I do have a very high personal annoyance factor for any ads in web content, no matter how modest they are, and even if not animated, but just quietly occupying space on my screen.
This comes from having always had very low-end hardware for use, because of my financial situation, and I can well imagine that people in developing countries trying to access Wikimedia can hardly have it better than I do. That is enough for the matter to be quite open and shut for me.
However there is an interesting concept called Click-to-donate which might be profitably added to the ways that people do support us, even though the engine driving it is adverts. The essential thing with it is of course, that it would be completely external and not in any shape or form interspersed with actual encyclopaedic or other content hosted by Wikimedia.
To embellish on my answer in terms of opt-in against Click-to-donate, I think opt-in suffers from the fact that you are accepting an "annoyance factor" in order to further a goal you support; whereas in the case of Click-to-Donate, you choose when you want to "feel good fuzzy feelings" about helping the finances of the foundation, many times when you would not have the financial wherewithal to help. If the advertisers know their beans, they would in my view chose to be presented to the potential customer, not as an annoyance - even if consented to - but as a feel-good thing chosen deliberately and ever felt so warm and fuzzy about, as being that much better a person to even look at adverts, just so that wikipedia could be upkept.
I propose no changes on this subject at the board level. Which is to say: without overwhelming community support for it I'm not in favor of advertising on the projects. I'm not fundamentally opposed to advertising, and I think the question is worth considering, but I don't currently come out in favor of it.
I know we are potentially leaving millions upon millions of dollars on the table, and that good things could be done with that money; I don't think "nonprofit" has to be synonymous with "small budget" or mean unbusinesslike management. On the other hand, if we got $100 million tomorrow, I don't think we would be ready for it. The organization can only scale up so fast. Right now we have enough money coming in to accomplish almost everything we're ready to handle.
Ignoring the legal and accounting implications of advertising, philosophically I think we ought to be publicly-supported. One reason is that if we cannot get public support in the form of donations, that tells me that we're failing to be valuable enough to them that they think we ought to be supported (an idea I've heard from other nonprofit leaders). For another, it makes a statement to the world that we don't have advertisements: it reinforces the idea that we're trying not to be influenced by advertising and commercial considerations over other goals.
The other question is how much ads would really help us: what if we ran ads, and editors and readers flocked to an ad-free fork? The value of the work that people are putting in to the projects, voluntarily, for whichever reasons they choose to participate, is staggering: it's possible that ad money could leave us no better off. Certainly the nature of the project's development would be very different if volunteer editors left and were replaced by hired staff.
I have no opposition to opt-in though I think the effects would be so small as to be not worth it. I also would rather see ads than, say, the project shutting down. But I don't think we will be forced into that choice.
The only way I would ever consider refraining from vigorously opposing any proposal to seek commercial advertising revenue, would be in the event of an imminent financial collapse of the Foundation. Once you accept corporate largess in exchange for allowing them to showcase their lies (in my experience, approximately ninety percent of advertising is an attempt to persuade people, through various forms of deception, to harm their own interests, so that others will be enriched at their expense), you become dependent on them for financial sustenance, as it were. That lifeline can then be withdrawn at will, and the threat of so doing, hanging over the an institution's head like the proverbial sword of Damocles, can be used to transform that institution into a marionette for biased corporate interests. I do not want to see Wikipedia, for example, risk being reduced to the online reference equivalent of FAUX News.
To summarize my opinion, there are more negative points than positive points in implementing paid advertising on the Wikimedia projects. Nobody likes ads, so adding them to the Foundation's projects could scare many users away. The Foundation's main goal is to provide the world with knowledge free of charge. Some of our current partners would change their opinion of the Foundation if we implemented ads.
As soon as we permitted ads, we would no longer neutral, and that is one of the Five Pillars of Wikipedia. So by doing this, we would not only create problems between us and our partners, but we would also break one of our own policies. Thinking on the positive side, we could make large sums of money. So technically we should decide which route would have the greatest positive effect in the long term.
I thought of a solution that would be less damaging. We could say that, once someone registers an account, the ads would be removed whilst the user was logged in. This would also have the effect of more registered users. The problem still remains; we would be breaking our own policy. We would still lose some users, but less than in the original scenario. We should only implement ads if it is financially essential. I believe that the board shouldn't make the decision, the community should, because it would mainly affect them. So from the above statement, I would go with 2.3, and 2.2 in case of an emergancy.
Ads would detract from the utility of the projects, and they would feed a spiral of dependence on advertising revenue. The WMF is already experiencing a similar spiral: it is taking in significantly more money than is needed for basic maintenance of the projects, but has not begun to set up an endowment to insure against a financial crisis. We must not wake up day to find that we are pressed for resources and must pursue 'last resort' measures - we can make certain this does not happen. This should be a top priority before taking on new initiatives and recurring costs. As a Trustee, I would work to ensure that we are never pressured into adopting ads.
I think the notion of paid advertising is sufficiently anathematic to the Foundation's purpose that I can say that I would virtually never support it. I would support cutting back staffing levels, putting off hardware upgrades, and all manner of other things before I would support the adoption of advertising. You can put me as close to option 3 as a reasonable man can be, I think.
Well, I think this would be like "ringing the end of the idea of wikipedia". I personally would first ask the Community, while showing them the real facts and asking them for their opinion. If the Community would agree (but I think, they dont't!) - why not. But this would never be my own choice.
In a time of a theatening bankruptcy I would ask the Community (and I think most users wouldn't be disturbed by it) if a special Button in the left frame named "supported by" (or so) would be tolerable, where all persons or even business companies were listed which support wiki.
But that is really a good question - where to cut down the expenses in such a hard time? ... just one answer "where it's least aching" (according to the opinion of the Community).
The Board of Trustees has recently released its 2009-2010 Annual Plan regarding finances and other such matters. Quoting from that report, "In 2009-10, the Wikimedia Foundation will increase revenues by 43% compared with 2008-09, for a total of $10.6 million." Do you feel that raising that much money is feasible, and if so, how can the Foundation accomplish it? NuclearWarfare 21:51, 19 July 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely. $10.6 million, in all honestly, is not that much money. It's the capital improvement budget for a medium sized church. The foundation will have to step up in direct marketing for fundraising (i.e. email, direct mail) if it hopes to raise this kind of money. I have experience from both a non-profit and 2 political campaigns in this area, and look forward to leveraging my experiences to help the Foundation in the future.
I uphold the professionalization of funding capture in the Community with the budgeting for remunerated tenures. These roles are excellent initiatives to ensure revenue is secured in our constrained global economic climate. If anything, the Global Fiscal Crunch (if it exists) necessitates creative engagement and pointed focus of our Community with activities directed through the lens of the remunerated tenures. As stated to Signpost, these fundraising skills should be captured in the Community and there should be programs of community capacity building where grant application writing and benefactors are prospected and groomed throughout the Community. Making all Community members aware of a bequest as part of their last will and testament should flow into Communications' directives. Moreover, hardcopies of WikiBooks and Wikiversity syllabus and other Project resources should be made available throughout our World where there is currently minimal access to the Internet. We should actively engage a sense of ownership of the Projects in all of our Earth's Children, to empower them and to equalize our Global Community and to commandeer children into the sustainable growth and support of the Wikimedia Projects.B9 hummingbird hovering 16:02, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes, this is certainly feasible. A 43% increase in revenue coming to $10.6 million is far more feasible for us than an organization with a $400 million budget. We could achieve that with one nice big grant. The Foundation has been quite proactive about pursuing new partnerships and opportunities over the past year, and I think it is entirely possible that we reach that goal. As a board member, I hope to help expand these opportunities. As I mentioned in my candidate statement, I've been working to help build relationships and opportunities with like-minded organizations. I intend to continue this work as a board member, to achieve growth in accordance with our mission. More grants equals more programming, and more opportunities for us to bring knowledge to the world.
Yes, it is feasible. We're not in big parent organization, fixing guaranteed and immutable budgets, so we can raise more, we can raise less, we have to base operational decisions on that too. Still, when it comes to fundraising, one has to understand, that we have huge audience, and only minor part in it gets who we are - a non-profit, a charity, everyone else thinks we're yet another dot-com house with huge staff. Fundraisers are not just trying to grab money from our visitors, fundraising is way more concentrating on making people understand us, and believe in us. So if we see it not as monetary goal, but as a mind-share goal, we sure want it to be much higher. There are also other sources of revenues - foundations will give us, because we can prove how great the impact can be. Commercial organizations will give us, because their customers want us. Decline in trust, in mind-share or in impact are nothing we should aim for - though of course, any of that may happen (as well as people simply having less money to share).
When you consider that in addition to the funding raised through the fundraiser large extra amounts have been raised, it demonstrates that the money is there. I would like to see more money raised outside of the Anglo-American world; ideally we would raise 50% of our revenues elsewhere.
Yes, it is feasible. No, it is not necessary or prudent at this time. According to the most recent released Form 990, the Wikimedia Foundation spends only 31.6% of its incoming revenues on the "program services" that are the reason-for-being of any non-profit charity. More credible charities like Doctors Without Borders and the United Way and the Red Cross spend 80% to 100% of their revenues on program services. The Wikimedia Foundation lacks credibility in my eyes, because it is squirreling away excess capital into a bank account, and simply expanding staff for the sake of expanding a personnel empire that cyclically feeds back a sense of "legitimacy" for those who have spawned the empire. I believe it was two years ago, the WMF needed to spend only $900,000 on server and bandwidth technology in order to keep the projects running. We should be choking on our own vomit when we see it forwarded that the WMF needs over $10 million to safely operate and assure its future security. Voters who are sickened by these facts are welcome to vote for me, to send a message to the bloated Foundation.
Even if this increment does not fit with my expectations, there are two things which we must not ignore: 1) WMF is growing all the time. New users are joining this project daily. As a result of the global interest that WM has awaken in people, more software and hardware are required. This obviously demands more investments. Change is unavoidable. Three years ago we were a relatively small community and now we have doubled our resources and we are receiving more attention from the Media.
The fun thing about fundraising for the WMF (and though I use the word "fun" in a figurative sense, I am not joking one bit) is that as regards the future, pretty much *anything* is plausible. As a charitable organization, WMF is deep in uncharted territory.
There is simply no precedent for doing things with the scope and influence on the whole of humanity that our work has in the long term. And again I emphasize that if you think I am overstating the case, or engaging in hyperbole due to some inherent feature of my own personality, I stress this is not the case.
It is a cold hard fact that encompassing the whole of human knowledge and disseminating it without restriction has never been done. Never. Even the massive Chinese effort at knowledge aggregation that held the record on that aspect before us, was strictly "Imperial Eyes Only" (which, parenthetically is why much of that work is lost – no backup copies – and should be an object lesson to our project as we go forward).
This cannot help but have a vast impact on our potential ability to raise funds. I do believe we haven't even scratched the surface of what sources of support will in time head our way, but of course it is all predicated on us not losing our way, and demonstrating that we can remain steadfast with our mission. The best way to ensure continuing and ever expanding support is just to keep our eyes on what we are really about here, and never losing sight of it. We need to make sure that any growth will not tilt us in one direction or another, away from what our core mission is, that is all that is needed to ensure people will consider us worthy of support.
Yes, I think that raising this money is feasible. We have become increasingly effective at fundraising and grantwriting; I think what we are taking in now is a sustainable level into the future, and I expect this number to increase as we become more experienced and learn what strategies are most effective. The number seems large, but imagine if every adult, reasonably well-off user gave the amount they'd spend on a cup of fancy coffee: we'd have more money than we knew what to do with. Over the past few years we've become more effective at reaching and cultivating relationships with donors both small and large, and devoted more resources to analyzing results. We also finally have the resources and expertise to write grants as well as monitor progress on delivering the expected results. Finally, we have enough resources to support and manage relationships with commercial partners who will pay for services (such as mobile feeds and trademark licensing). with this combination, I think we will be able to meet this target. However, if we are not, we are able to scale back on planned spending; it will mean some hoped-for goals will be accomplished more slowly but will not be harmful to the future of Wikimedia. 2) We can cope with this situation without forgetting, however, that economy is facing hard times worldwide. Perhaps, I would lower the quantity of the planned donations. How would I achieve this goal? For instance, in the Catalan wikipedia project we are discussing with other cultural entities about the possibility of joining forces and work side by side. The purpose is promising. I would suggest entering into agreements and long-term negotiations with other projects as one possible solution.
We are in the midst of a global recession. A 43 percent increase in fund raising during the 2009-10 period is almost certainly not a plausible goal, alas. Charitable donations of all kind are at something of a historical nadir here in the USA, and I suspect similar conditions prevail around most of the industrialized world. Such an ambitious target is, I fear, sorely in need of revision. A ten percent increase would, in my view, constitute a substantial success, given the dreadful financial climate that prevails at present.
Yes, anything is possible, if we work effectively together. By creating more partnerships and reaching out to under-represented geographical regions it would be more attainable. As I have mentioned in my candidate statement, by expanding to Africa I think that we could get a large amount of fresh financial support. Africa not only has large industries, it also has Wikimedia users who could donate. Another important factor to consider is, we are currently in a global recession, and users may cut back their spending on non-essentials, such as donations. Last year, we would not have reached our fund-raising goal if Jimbo didn't make that last minute appeal, so what would make this year any different?
Yes, it is feasible, but it is not a sure thing - we may fall far short of that.
We should not rely on always being able to raise so much money. There will be a year when we come up short.
We should recognize public goodwill and participation as the most important resource we can cultivate.
We should know what we need the funds for and put them to good use.
As to ways to raise more funds : we have only received contributions from a small portion of the billion readers who enjoy Wikimedia and use it daily. We need to show our audience that they share ownership of this collaboration, and can work through the Projects to make their own dreams a reality. Non-editors need ways to participate over time. Editors struggling with a limitation of the site or community need ways to express these limitations as challenges to overcome, and to help realize the solutions needed. When people see how their support can make an impact on the problems that they care about, they will have reason to donate time and money to the Foundation.
Outreach to potential supporters and grantors, and the organization of community projects and needs, should be encouraged at the chapter and individual level.
As I mentioned in my candidate statement, I am very concerned by this figure. The WMF had trouble making its fundraising goal during last year's campaign (remember the last minute appeal from Jimbo?) and on its face this seems extraordinarily optimistic. In the previous question many of the candidates, including me, have expressed resistance to the idea of paid advertising, but I can think of no surer way to drive the WMF towards accepting such advertising than through overoptimistic revenue projections that then become structurally part of the budget in such a way that either paid advertising or serious disruption to operations is inevitable. I cannot state categorically at this point that the projection is an unreasonable one, but I would not be an easy sell to convince me otherwise.
Well, I'm not a Board-member, yet, so I didn't have to work with that. It sounds realistic. If You glance at the statistics ist's most important to motivate the normal user to make a Donation for wiki to survive. But anyway, when You are are a "non-profit"-organisation, You have to work with the money You have, and not with the money "You hope to get"!!!
To be honestly. When I ran for the election last year I didn't think that we would be able to collect so much money. When last year we set the goal of 6M I doubted that it is achievable. I am happy that I am wrong. I think our gaol this year is again very ambigious and I hope that we will arrive it. I know that in the financial planning the Foundation has a fallback plan. There are certain projects that are scheduled after this year's donation campaign, and can be reduced if we don't arrive our goal.
The Board of Trustees has recently released its 2009-2010 Annual Plan regarding finances and other such matters. Quoting from that report, "We plan core operational spending of $8.1 million (up 53% from 2008-09), and additional spending of $1.3 million on non-recurring priority projects. Total planned spending in 2009-10 will be $9.4 million." Do you feel that increasing spending by about 50% is wise? Please elaborate. NuclearWarfare 21:53, 19 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I believe it is. Spending should be dictated first by the goals of the project and second by realistic assessment of fundraising capabilities. If we believe that we can raise the money, and I believe that we can, than it is reasonable to plan to spend that money.
NuclearWarfare (biting nick btw), honestly I need coaching to really comprehend the Annual Plan, Financial Statement and Form 990. Though I have experience with such documentation, the process flows and the real hidden and obscured things to query are still unknowns to me. I will investigate tools to empower my comprehension of them. When I was reading through the Q & A (which forms an engaged Executive Summary) prior to reading the Annual Plan and other financials, I felt full confidence in the mindful decisions the Board has endorsed and sealed. The Plan itself is high-level intelligible to me but I would like the capacity to interrogate and critically penetrate it further. I am actively working on upskilling myself. Spending money wisely to ensure the integrity and sustainability of the Foundation and Projects is sagely sound even in this constrained financial climate. As an aside, I considerer the engaged, planned contingency and risk management evident in the StageGates, excellent budgetary discipline. B9 hummingbird hovering 16:09, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
The question is meaningless without knowing what the spending is on. If the spending is in line with our mission, and is supported by our income, and the focus is on efficient ways that we can fulfill our goals, what would be unwise about it? If the intent of the question was to worry about whether we will be spending too much money, this is a forward looking annual plan, that can be reevaluated by the staff and board as needed. If our revenues decrease in the future, we can adjust spending down. We can defer purchases of hardware as much as possible, delay plans for expansion and growth, implement a spending freeze -- all of these are ways we can compensate if we have budgetary problems. However, you should also look at the benefit we get from the increased spending. Increases in programming and outreach both fulfill our goal (which it is the board's responsibility as trustees to ensure that we do) and increase our visibility and credibility with our partners, and spur greater grants and more income streams for us. In short, by spending money on programming, we'll be both performing our mission and working towards ensuring future financial stability for the foundation. That's the wise road to take.
This question can be split into multiple ones - Should we do more work? Is it worth the costs? Can we raise resources needed for that? If you answer yes to all of those three questions (and, we did), the spending increase is wise. This is quite agile organization, and we may reduce some of our activities, depending on project or fundraising effectiveness. Do note, there are simply mandatory spending increases, and lots of areas where people crave for more attention. Now, if we're able to be better, we should try that, that is certainly wise too.
I feel that additional spending is necessary. We have projects that are disfunctional because of technical issues. There is a lot of work that would help us realise our aim. In the amount of money to be raised there is also the question what amount of money can we absorb. The projected growth is ambitious, but so are our ambitions.
As I mentioned above, according to the most recent released Form 990, the Wikimedia Foundation spends only 31.6% of its incoming revenues on the "program services" that are the reason-for-being of any non-profit charity. More credible charities like Doctors Without Borders and the United Way and the Red Cross spend 80% to 100% of their revenues on program services. A huge portion of the revenues (alluded to by another fellow Board candidate) are being squirreled away into a savings bank account, ostensibly for some amorphous "rainy day" sometime in the future. As far as I know, this money is not even earmarked for an official "endowment" fund. A savings account in a bank is not what today's donors want their money going toward. The Wikimedia Foundation needs to address this lack of credibility in their spending ratios before we ever support or endorse an increase in such lopsided spending priorities.
As I have already said above, new times require new measures. If saving is important, having a good administration is essential. If we are growing that fast it is evident that more money investments may be needed with the coming of the years. I will not talk about cyphers because it is something that has been treated before by other fellow candidates. On the contrary, I will focus on alternative ways of management. More transparence would be desirable. If there were a considerable reduction in donations, we always have the chance of lessening some of our doings. By way of illustration, the Enciclopèdia Catalana is written in Catalan, a language spoken just by 7 million people, and they have an annual revenue of more than 60 M€. All in all, I believe that budgets are growing at a quite logical rate if we bear in mind some factors that have been quoted out in previous paragraphs.
I think the two words "Please elaborate." betray that you want us to be as students, with you as professor. Sadly Wikimedia Foundation business is more important than any feeling of mastery over another in terms of who is teaching whom, and who is quizzing whom.
If I can be allowed to just ignore that you said anything at all besides - "Do you feel that increasing spending by about 50% is wise?" - because that is the only bit that isn't rhetorically overburdened, I will reply: "Well, at least that is a straight out question that can be precisely parsed, without checking to see what is linked to. Not sure if I want to bear the burden of hitting the statement in it too hard, since there might be all kind of chips flying asunder. I would focus on the fact that the underlying problem that allows this form of rhetoric is that much of the documentation of both staff and board of trustees activities is something that is geared towards satisfying legal requirements, not the requirements of informing the rank and file contributors." - and follow with - "Nothing at all wrong with the spending in any form, but of course it could be communicated in a much more digestable form for the people who actually pay the bills."
Yes, I do. I am thrilled with the results of the fundraisers and grants, and think we should take advantage of those opportunities it allows. Much of the money spent now has more returns year after year: more hardware, improvements to the software, outreach efforts -- the sooner we do them the more long-term impact it can have.
I think this level of fundraising is sustainable. Wikimedia is still a rapidly changing organization and big changes are to be expected; had spending been stable for 50 years and then suddenly a big change, I would think it more unusual. But we've massively increased our income in order to be able to fund the things we want to spend on; if we could have done so sooner we would have.
I think the answer to the previous question covers much of the rest of the answer to this one.
No, I don't think such a level of increased expenditures would constitute a wise course at this time. The next couple of years, at least, are almost certain to be lean times, in so far as fund raising is concerned. Overly optimistic projections for increased revenue should be scaled back, and new planned expenditures similarly reduced in scope, in light of the financial climate we face with regard to the reality of a global economic recession.
One of my fellow candidates has noted how only 31.6 percent* of Foundation expenditures are directed towards the actual "program services." I find it very difficult to understand how that can be considered reasonable by any person, and would like to see that percentage doubled (at least), primarily at the expense of non-"program services."
Please note: In actuality, out $3,207,599 in total expenditures (as reported in 2008: please see that year's Form 990) $2,128,862 were spent on "program services," which is well over sixty percent of the total. Thus that 31.6 percent figure, which I made the error of citing, is not very useful, and certainly not as damning as I'd been led to believe. I've chosen to leave my original remarks intact, so as to call attention to the decidedly questionable relevance of that 31.6 percent figure being cited by one of my fellow candidates.
In reference to my previous answer, anything is possible if we work effectively together. As Rosenthal had mentioned, without knowing what the spending is on, the question is meaningless. I agree that this additional spending would be a good idea if it is with in the Foundation's scope. We should once again remember that we are in a global recession. The recession could keep on for any amount of time. If we do reach the expected amount of income, I would rather suggest investing that money. The global situation could even get worse and then we would a least have some ground underneath our feet.
I have three major concerns with the spending projections.
First, I can't recall any public discussion about the priorities behind these changes, the implications for the projects (since they have implications for everything from content to community governance), or whether there were other key issues being left out. As a Board member, I would make facilitating that type of discussion about impact and opportunity costs part of every major new project.
Second, these projections are growing faster than the projected fundraising increase, and most of the increases are permanent - they are recurring costs for staff and infrastructure. If they global economy were to tank further next year, this would put the Foundation in the position of being overcommitted with nothing in the bank. We should be basing permanent increases on projections more than a year out.
Third, there is no plan at all for an endowment or long-term financial insurance, and only a brief assessment of what to do in case of a significant shortfall. As a community, we have talked about an endowment for years, and now have the funds and public interest to begin one. And yet, we continue to put off planning for the future.
The Foundation should be planning to offset new costs in the future through partnerships, distribution of work, and improved effectiveness of community efforts. In particular, it should identify a set of core services that must be maintained no matter what (including hardware, bandwidth, dumps and backups), and work to minimize the recurring costs related to them.
This goes hand in hand with your previous question, which I suspect was your intention. Overoptimistic revenue projections are dangerous in themselves, but they don't become deadly until you start basing your spending plans around them. Ideally, I would like to see as close to a one year lag as possible between revenue and expenditure levels (at least at this stage of the organization's growth), such that money is not budgeted to be spent until we have some track record indicating that we can raise it. As with the last question, I'm not in a position to make any categorical statements, but I share what I interpret to be your concern on the matter.
Well, I'm not a Board-member, yet, so I didn't have to work with that. It sounds realistic. If You glance at the statistics ist's most important to motivate the normal user to make a Donation for wiki to survive. But anyway, when You are are a "non-profit"-organisation, You have to work with the money You have, and not with the money "You hope to get"!
Yes, it is. Actually, if we have the resources, we can use double, trippel or ten fold of that. The following are just a few of the points that are urgently needed to be done: We need a redundant fall back data base center, as soon as possible. We need to further improve our software. We need to further develop our software for mobile use. We need resources to facilitate and help organizational growths in areas where we are weak at the moment. We need resources to increase support of the community we already have in areas where we are now strong. We need more resources to globally secure our brand (just as an example of how urgently this is, a chinese company had tried to or had already registered the Chinese Name of Wikipedia 维基百科). We need more resources to protect our content from being stolen by companies who don't care at all about free content or copy right. This list can go on for a long while. So, yes, we definitely need more money. The most important thing is that the increase in our budget would result in better community and project benefit.
Warofdreams thank you. If editors are being paid or given kickbacks from Third Parties extraneous to the Community to progress certain articles, well that is an arrangement of which we may not be directly privy unless it is discoverable through intuitive engagement of reporting, for example. If paid editing is within the auspice of the Community, then I uphold the necessity for the process driver to focus the completion of a Triple Bottom Line impact statement and Lifecycle Costing as part of the process. This process subsumes a declaration of conflict of interests, risk management statement particularly in the social and financial aspect of the triune. If articles have been iterated through the services of a paid editor, this should be clearly evident and benefactor clearly identified and branded and the reading community, our audience, made aware of this. Audit trails and smoke signals: rigorous transparency is the key to integrity. Administrators or any editor with special privileges in the Community should not be paid as a golden rule: this should be the sole preserve of the bread & butter editor.B9 hummingbird hovering 16:14, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I do not believe that paid editing will be achieved en masse without sacrificing NPOV. While it "could" be done, and possibly has already been done, it has been on a small scale that I do not believe is representative of what would occur in a larger-scale environment. However, that being said, I do not believe that it is the board's decision to make. This is a community level decision, and while the board has an interest in ensuring that our projects maintain credibility, the implementation of that belongs to the community and the staff.
In plenty of fields, where intellectual property is primary value (including technology), being paid by one company and volunteering on another project even off working hours can still be seen as a paid contribution (there exist 24/7 IP agreements, etc). There is a line of 'paid editing', that traverses domains of having a job and being a volunteer, doing such activities during spare hours at work or of course, having it as primary cash-bringing job activity. These different levels of paid contributions can have way different pressures on the rest of community and either improve or distort the balance of overall project.
I think our communities so far managed to handle self-regulation quite well, and allowing them to do that further is quite possible. Of course, WMF should follow and understand the situation and balance, and have arguments for both sides ready, but definitely, nobody wants to destroy our current active editor world, just to watch power-gaming by cash-based shops. I wouldn't support outright ban on paid editing, but having way more elaborate code of conduct in such cases would be welcome, as well as decent conflict of interest declarations. Once conflicts of interest are way better handled, there'd be way more space for better collaboration and communication.
Even though it can be seen as project decision, organization gets to deal with interested parties (they do call office, they do write emails), so of course, organization should take part in disclosing such needs and discuss them with editing community.
Paid editing is happening. So by condemning it you run it underground. It is best when it is required that people have to indicate what payments they receive to do what. This allows for an analysis for a bias that is entered. I have been involved in editing for money, the intent and the procedures involved were known to the people that needed to be aware of this.
Most agitators who weigh in on either side of this issue don't quite understand how small the market actually is. The volume of "formal" contracted paid editing is extremely small, as evidenced by the Reward Board, where simple requests for content-for-pay go unheeded all the time. More pernicious within Wikimedia projects are the thousands of casual "spammy" links that help to juice the marketability of outside sites run by self-promoters.
I happen to be an experienced paid editor of content. When I was under contract with a person or corporation to write a new article about said person or corporation, I had very little interest in presenting an "advocacy" position on their behalf. Rather, success is measured in durability within Wikipedia, so my highest priority was...
How do I write (and publish) this article in such a way that it passes WP:NPOV, WP:V, WP:RS, etc., while simultaneously NOT DRAWING THE ATTENTION of paid editing critics?
Once I mastered this technique, the articles that resulted were bland, not puff pieces, quite encyclopedic, and 100% durable -- with surprisingly little follow-up maintenance, plus lasting appreciation of my clients.
That's why I believe paid editing critics are prone to frame such workers as "paid shills" and other likewise pejorative terms. In order to rally the mob, critics of paid editing demonize the paid editing effort -- because it is potentially, in fact, so non-sinister in its undetectability. My paid content was and remains virtually indistinguishable from the other content found on Wikipedia, except for the fact that, perhaps, it is of a higher encyclopedic and "neutral" quality than some other new articles might be.
Again, it is something I do not contemplate right now. I know it is quite difficult to avoid people asking if we are paid for working here because it is a job like any other in life. Nevertheless, we are volunteers. I personally took this as a hobby at the very beginning. Then, I felt that I was doing something which must be useful for other people. For example, I have written eleven featured articles in two different languages. I did it because I liked it and that is the point we must not miss in the way. There is no better payment that someone sends you a message saying that you helped him/her in school by writing a good article. Therefore, offering payment to the editors is risky and undesirable. Apart from this, there are many editors who nowadays invest their time in the Wikimedia projects. That means that all of them should be paid for doing what they do? I think it should be the opposite. Maybe, some unpaid editors would leave the project. I repeat, priority must be given to the contents, not to the editors.
Very useful ways of paying for instance localisation are unproblematic. Editing content for money is something that is best approached through a veil of ignorance, such that those paying don't know what precise content they are paying to get editing done on.
That is to say, somebody wants content to be added in some language that has huge obstacles to overcome in terms of technical or other resources not being abundant, that is something very laudable, as long as they have absolutely no wishes as to what the slant will be with that content added.
When we enter the domain of editing to present a "side", huge klaxons should ring, and anyone who knows what wikipedia is about, shouldn't stand aside, no matter how hard the people promoting it would present their efforts as just being about "presenting things as neutrally as possible". The concommitant risks are just too high.
I don't think this is the board's role to decide, though I'll give some comments on it. The main problem with paid editing is that it introduces bias (on top of whatever bias you began with); it's not just the money itself but the fact that the relationship between the editor and the subject is different, leading to a conflict of interest. Can you engage honestly with other community members having a different perspective when you're acting as a proxy for a party that has a great interest in presenting a particular view? It is possible, but it would require near superhuman impartiality.
In practical terms, I think there is no way to know in most cases the amount of paid editing that goes on; should the projects act more harshly toward those who have been honest (or foolish) enough to be open about it? I don't know, and it's not the board's decision to make. Decisions like this should be made by the community of editors. The WMF role should be to insist that neutrality remain a core principle of the projects; how the editing community chooses to implement that is a task separate from WMF.
I can see a limited role for paid projects sponsored by WMF, but very limited—it changes the community dynamics when paid people and unpaid people are working side-by-side (there is plenty of literature on this) and anything that reduces the motivation of volunteers should be handled with extreme caution. Experiments in prizes or bounties such as the Greenspun illustration project have been disappointing. I can see offering money for work that volunteers aren't motivated to do in the first place, or niche projects, but these are probably better done at a local level by chapters.
If an article is good, I don't care whether someone got paid to write it. If an article is garbage, it likewise doesn't interest me that the person who wrote it, did so for free. I'm interested in quality. Concern over motives strikes me as quaint. I have never been paid to write and/or edit an article, but I still write and/or edit articles for reasons that are less than entirely altruistic; I focus on articles that are of interest to yours truly. How is that objectively different from focusing on articles that are of interest to a client? With that said, I do believe that when a person rises above the level of an editor, and becomes an admin, or otherwise a formal cog within the bureaucracy at any of the WikiMedia Foundation's projects, it would then constitute a conflict of interest for such a person to continue to write and/or edit articles on behalf of paying clients. I am in favour of the WMF Board of Trustees enacting a formal policy to that effect, and seeing to it that such a policy would be vigorously enforced.
Yes, these contributions should be handled just like any other contribution. We might get knowledge added to our projects never had before, and current knowledge could be improved. But we should also remember that paying people to contribute to any of the Wikimedia projects will result in a conflict of interest. The Wikimedia community should decide on this subject, not the Foundation. I suggest that we should only pay experts who contribute knowledge that no other editor has, because Wikimedia is all about volunteering, to create a world of free knowledge.
It's all about situations and conditions. Everyone who really needs money, they really hope it. Everyone who is really rich, they need charity for better life. I'm the man on the category in the second sentence on this statement.
Dealing with conflicts of interest and keeping them from imposing a systemic bias on the projects is an important topic, but it is a community decision. The WMF mission does not say much about the mechanisms used to help people develop and disseminate educational material, and individual community projects have tried variations on the theme of sponsorship, bounties, and content-specific grants, all of which skirt the boundaries of paid editing. The Foundation does not have a role beyond ensuring that its core principles are supported by the projects, and that individual communities remain empowered to make these decisions for themselves. This implies a possible mediating role as well: If a grantor (such as Beck or Greenspun) wishes to sponsor a contest or bounty system to encourage contribution to a specific community, the Foundation should be willing to serve as a financial intermediary, but only if the project has the support of that community.
First, I don't think that this is properly a Foundation-level decision. I would much rather see this resolved at the community level. Second, in a pseudonymous community any restriction on paid editing is nigh on impossible to enforce, as is virtually any other type of editing under a conflict-of-interest. In fact, I don't see any reason to treat paid editing any differently from other editing under a conflict-of-interest: best practice is, if you're going to do it, make sure you're upholding core content policies, and if material you add becomes contentious step away and let non-conflicted editors deal with it. But, in summary, unless we're going to completely revamp our approach to anonymity and pseudonymity, any effective restriction on paid editing - especially one set out from the Foundation - is a non-starter.
If some individual or some organization pay someone to edit Wikimedia projects, we have no possibility to prevent them to do so, and in most cases we probably would not be able to find out that this is done under payment. The community had until now controled the quality of the content that are contributed to our project, paid or volunteered. The community had done a great work here and I don't see the reason why the Foundation should change this.
Right now the Foundation (at the very basic level) does the following: (1) hosts all websites; (2) helps to develop the software; (3) raises money to pay for hosting; (4) organizes Wikimania. How do you see this list, say, three or five years from now? Renata3 00:36, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Renata3, I would like further clarity regarding this question to fully comprehend your intention. That said, I interpret your question to be asking for additional areas of growth and/or consolidation of programs of the Foundation and Projects. I value the integrity of keeping these activities in house as we do them, and are seen to do them, well. I would like though to reinforce a model of financial independence for the Foundation as I have intimated elsewhere. So as not to compromise the NFP nature of the Foundation, I recommend we establish a committee to investigate the establishment of a Benevolent Society or Bequest that specifically feeds financial injections into the Foundation, Projects and specific programmes and leaves the Community to focus upon other activities.B9 hummingbird hovering 16:24, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
The list is already significantly larger than that. The foundation, in addition to supporting the website and wikis, also participates in offline actions. For instance, last week I helped participate in a Wikipedia Academy event at the National Institutes of Health, to encourage more medical experts and scientists to improve our coverage of medical articles. It was an outstanding event, and our projects will be much stronger for it. So, the Foundation does programming things like that. They also provide legal support for the projects through the general counsel (Mike Godwin), as well as communications management through Jay Walsh, both activities I've been honored with the privilege of assisting with. These are things that in the implementation of the foundation's core mission, I do not see changing. Things like software development, Wikimania organization, hosting etc., all will still be there in five years, though certainly with evolving technology and a growing organization they may be presented differently.
I'd classify foundation activities in other way - it supports communication, legal and technology needs of collaborative communities, and lets the world to know about it.
Fundraising is not primary foundation goal, and Wikimania is just one way to provide better volunteer communication. So yes, technology includes both infrastructure/platform (which can still improve into many directions - reliability, performance, processing power for new features), as well as actual software changes (infinite development paths :).
Then we have few more areas, internal communication (ranging from mailing lists to chapters to meetings), and as well, external communication (or outreach) - besides sustaining and growing our communities, we definitely want to have the product used everywhere. And one more area, is mixture of multiple ones - technology, internal, external communication, with a flavor of legal - is what can we do to nurture the overall quality of content (and perception of quality as well).
Our major vehicle to achieve anything we want or dream of is by having the world understand what we do and why we do it (it is what makes us special), and I think in next five years we'll see foundation and chapters being key in that role.
I do not envisage substantial changes. Apart from the basic categorizations you have wisely proposed, I think that making decisions is also among the main duties of the Board of Trustees. However, since technology evolves too fast, we may consider the fact of introducing new contents in alternative ways of production. On the other hand, printed materials have been largely discussed within the Hispanic community as one possible solution to people who lack of enough resources.
(4) Wikimania is not run by Foundation. (3) Unsurprisingly fundraising is going to remain Foundation business. (2) This is a field of activity relating to Wikimedia, which has significantly evolved with time passing. I see that evolution continuing, in ever surprising directions. Being by nature surprising, these developements are not ones I can anticipate, but of course they will bear to be carefully scrutinized. Historically a significant decision not to claim ownership of the MediaWiki software for the Foundation was taken very narrowly (not many people know just how narrowly). It is natural that the Foundation would perpetually have a strong interest in ensuring that questions of licencing, format encumbrance and/or functionality of software favor the Foundations mission being accomplished. That will stay a constant, and should guide all decisions. As long as the needs and limitations stemming from that mission are taken into accord, the question of who precisely administers the developement work of software is a secondary one. (1) Wikimedia only hosts the "production" websites and only the majority of those. It is conceivable (though not near term at all likely) that at some stage with the coming of the GRID, much hosting shall be more distributed. We should never turn away free hosting which is offered, if the evaluation is made that the hosting is reasonably stable and can not be used as leverage in any way. The mere "display" of Wikimedia content is increasingly going to be worked by semantic search engine etc. like powerset.com, Answers.com and Wolfram(pipe)Alpha. -- Cimon Avaro 07:19, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
That is a very basic level and I don't know that I would agree with your categorization, so it's hard to answer this question. You didn't include one that I consider important enough to be in the basic category, which is making strategic decisions. On one level it doesn't seem like much, but as it turns out the answers to "who are we?" and "what do we do?" are not easy to agree upon. I think that's going to continue to be important in the next several years, which is part of the reason for the strategic planning process. It also maintains the organizational infrastructure -- legal, accounting, etc. -- which I'm not sure you count under another category or not.
To try to answer the question in the spirit that you asked it, I think figuring out how we reach people beyond the website will be a large category. Already we've been figuring out how we can get onto mobile devices, DVDs, and other ways that don't require reliable internet access; if we're serious about reaching more people, especially people not well-served by currently available materials, that should be part of it. The implementation may end up being largely by partners of the WMF but forming and managing those relationships still should be a major category of thinking and planning.
However, I think the basic structure will not change much.
I would like to see only one addition to this list; outreach. Currently the foundation does support outreach via the Wikimedia Chapters; I would like to see this as a higher priority on the Foundation's to-do list. The chapters are far more important than some might think. As I mentioned in my Signpost interview, people doesn't always want to go to the trouble of donating over the internet. Having a local chapter would not only simplify the donating process, but it would also improve communication between the Wikimedians of that region.
Let me look five years out, as that is a good timeframe for reflection. I agree with Domas that the Foundation has a role supporting the projects with communication, a legal entity, technology and facilitation, somewhat different from your proposed list. It also shares development of long-term planning with the community.
Legal support : The WMF provides a non-profit framework for accepting donations and responding to legal challenges. It engages in global agreements such as grants and partnerships on behalf of the projects. It owns and maintains physical infrastructure.
In five years, I hope to see the establishment of additional safeguards on top of the protection provided by the Foundation, from an endowment to long-term partnerships with international bodies.
Communication : the WMF communicates the mission of the projects, makes materials available for local PR, and amplifies the work of smaller projects so that it becomes better known. It also organizes internal communication about the Foundation's work
In five years, I hope to see the local communication networks of chapters expanding to cover most regions and languages of the world; a thriving community of public speakers and event planners for Wikimedia, helping to organize events at every university and conference about global knowledge; a network of wiki clubs for students of all ages who want to help contribute their research, news, photography, scanning and proofreading, and translation efforts to make human knowledge more accessible.
All of the above should serve to take on some of the role of today's press releases and publicity efforts. I hope to see a stronger focus by the WMF on communicating what it does directly, and facilitating conversations and feedback around that.
Technology: The WMF today supports Wikimedia hosting, MediaWiki development, new features for individual Wikimedia projects, and maintains the primary data center used to store, update, backup, and provide dumps and snapshots of the Projects.
In five years, I hope to see the WMF supporting an independent MediaWiki foundation or technical body, as that platform already has a life of its own equal in scope almost to Wikimedia; a more redundant hosting model the majority of which is not primarily paid for by the Foundation and hosted in a single data center; a widely distributed dump, backup, and research network with active Wikimedia Project archives at major libraries around the world; and more active effort put into expanding and enriching the technical community, with full-scale testbeds for independent groups to test the impact of new code on a large wiki, active classification and review of extensions, and ways to visualize major competing priorities so they are recognized even when they don't yet have a place in the official roadmap.
Facilitation: The WMF today serves as a facilitator for large-scale community work, prioritizatio and planning, from technical coordination to mission building to communication and outreach.
In five years, I would like to see this sort of facilitation supported more explicitly within the communities, and made part of the process of becoming an effective community. Today there is no obvious place or style guide for smaller projects to organize their list of needs and potential data and community partners. Unless someone can guide a new tool or collaboration from beginning to end, obviously good but large-scale ideas can sit without serious attention for years at a time. (e.g., designing tools and interfaces to support the structured-data needs of a major Project such as Wiktionary)
(As an aside, as others have noted, the Foundation does not run Wikimania; it provides significant support for it, but it also supports many other regional events, as a way to improve outreach and communication. I expect the number of such events will continue to grow, and their organization to slowly become more independent.)
I'm afraid that I have to reject the premise of the question, as I think your list of what the Foundation does is far narrower than the actual list, which includes (to throw a few random items that you missed on there) dealing with all legal issues related to its projects, setting out the objects of the projects, managing the OTRS teams, etc. But, in any event, I don't see any major change in the WMF's role in the next three to five years.
Actually, already today the Foundation do more than on that list. For example the Foundation do Wikipedia Academy in areas without chapter or where chapters are not yet strong enough to organize Wikipedia Academy. What the Foundation also started is the Bookshelve project and the small community founding to support our existing communities. How the list should look like in five years, that is exactly what the Strategic Planning is for. In my personal opinion in five years hosting of our projects is still our most priority task. The fall out of our server in the last month shows that we have still technical problems. And a redundant fall back database server farm is becoming more and more emergent. So this field is by far not done. Developing our software should also still be have high priority. The software technique is evolving and we must keep moving. The user interface of our software is already more than seven years old. Meanwhile new technologies emerged. With the usability project is here not done. I am happy to see that the Foundation had meanwhile taken the initiative and would like to see it to keep going on here. Fundraising is not our core mission, but it is vital for us to keep the Foundation working to serve our projects. I see in anyway support to community and projects take more prominant role. What we started with the Bookshelve project, Wikipedia Academy and Community founding is not the end of what the Foundation would do, but the start. We can do milliards of things. But what we would do, and where we would put our focus to spend our money, this would be decided and developed by the Strategic Planning.
What has each of you done to organize, develop or promote a national chapter in your country of residence? US based candidates should read "national" as a relevant portion of the country. Eclecticology 18:07, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Since I joined Wikipedia, I have lived in 4 different cities in three different US States, and I'll be moving again next year, most likely to another state. So I unfortunately have not been able to focus my efforts on joining a local Wiki organization.
Eclecticology, not a bloodly lot I tell you. I have been focused on editing. Didn't you notice? *heheheheh* I was invited to the inaugural meeting of the Australian Chapter but I did not really appreciate what it was or what it meant or its function and purpose. In my naivette, I envisioned it as a social networking activity and though I contemplated going, I got all hesitant and didn't attend. I am going to repair my ignorance and seek to establish a relationship with my Chapter, the Australian Chapter, forthwith. Thank you for the chastening.
I have been developing the Washington D.C. area chapter, and have helped to coordinate some of the D.C. area Wikimeetings, which we're now up to our 8th meeting. After some attempts to set it up as it's own organization, the D.C. area Wikimedians have generally expressed the opinion that a formal chapter with organized activity (in the vein of the NY chapter, for instance) is not really our "thing". We're much more of a social group, and many of us are already active in the NYC chapter. I've spoken with John Broughton as well as some of the DC Wikimedians, about the feasibility of forming a broader Northeastern U.S. chapter, that would include the entire region from D.C. and Northern Virginia, up to Boston. I'll be continuing to explore that concept at the next D.C. area chapter. As far as chapter-like activities, I've met with educational organizations and museums in the area to replicate the successes that other chapters (such as WM DE) have had in acquiring free content for the foundation, and have been largely successful so far.
I participated in a tiny meeting (3h of train ride from our capital) where few relatively fresh community members were talking about establishing a chapter. Me and another old-timer noted that to form a chapter, one has to have plans what to do first, then talk about raising money, and not vice versa. So, effectively, we 'delayed' the initiative, until there's more volunteerism around non-editing activities. Of course, it was sad to see lack of real activities happening, but so it goes.
I have, though, talked a lot to media, parliament committees and party leaders, local student groups and activists about Wikimedia and collaboration at large (I had pro-bono PR company assisting with some of higher-profile activities).
So, I ended up doing plenty of chapter-like activities here, though I didn't see a chapter as mandatory vehicle at that time - and I'd believe it is better to have no chapter and plenty of volunteers, rather than failing chapter damping down activities.
I have done nothing to support an official Wikimedia chapter in my area. However, I was moved to action by my disappointment with various unethical practices that permeate the Internet, and frequently the Wikimedia Foundation itself. So, I rallied a group of four founding trustees, and we established the Internet Review Corporation, a Florida non-profit. We now publish the weekly blog called Akahele, and it probably does as much to call attention to the need for improvements at the Wikimedia Foundation as any chapter organization might. I'm very proud of Akahele's output thus far, and I invite any interested Wikimedians to contribute by way of comments on existing blog posts, or writing your own post which we will make every effort to publish if it is in line with our mission.
I have been involved with more than one local chapter here in Spain. Even if we regrettably have not formalized one yet, it is true that this aim is alive and expecting to find its moment. You know, I am quite optimistic in this sense. I believe that we will have one national chapter if people keep on working on it. Furthermore, on the Catalan Wikipedia project, there have been many discussions about creating a local chapter for Catalan-speaking territories. We have entered into negotiations with neighbor chapters such as Wikimedia France and Wikimedia Italy. Following this line, positive results have been achieved as to cooperate one with each other. Agreements in this area are still under discussion but we are trying to do our best in order to surpass the present conditions. For instance, we are now evaluating the results of the Associació d’Amics de la Viquipèdia, a non-profit organization that aim to promote Wikimedia projects where Catalan is spoken as a first or second language. This is just the beginning but the premises over which we are working are very promising.
I for a long time resisted acting in any way at all. Despite urgings from neighbouring region chapters activists that a Finnish Chapter should be organized "to support" the activities of the chapter in a neighbouring country. My objection to forcibly organizing such a chapter was entirely based on the perceived need to have the requisite critical mass. Now that there seems to be at least a credible possibility that a Finnish chapter will be a real organisation with a number of members sufficient to support a real functioning chapter - rather than an auxiliary body for some other countries chapter, or a mere playground of a handful of people who like to play big fish in a little pond - I have (dragging my heels <j/k>) consented to help them in every way, including joining the Board of Directors of the nascent chapter, and doing a sizeable amount of work in helping translate the bylaws of the chapter into an english version that can help admission by chapcom and the Foundation as a whole. As I said to the person who wanted a chapter to support the one they were involved with, I prefer the role of a facilitator, rather than one who forcibly drives things which don't have a solid foundation to build upon.
I have been to most of the meetings of the New York chapter, and some events—I have also offered help and advice on the organizational side, though I may have to let the chapter's leadership speak to whether or not it has been of any use! (And as a member of the WMF board, I was very much in favor of approving the chapter, and subnational entities in general.) The Washington, DC area has a semi-active local meetup group, but no one has really made significant moves toward chapter formation rather than social events; however, as there is significant overlap in attendees and relatively easy travel, we may become part of the NY group. Several of us assisted with the recent Wikipedia Academy at the National Institutes of Health and we hope to do followup with them and other similar events in the future.
Unfortunately, I have not yet done anything to create a local chapter. Currently it is geographically very difficult for me to create a chapter, because I am located in Upington. The only meet-up held in South Africa was in Cape Town during January 2006. Being about 800 kilometres (500 mi) from Cape Town creates some difficulties in creating a chapter. Next year I am moving to Stellenbosch, so it will be easier for me to create a South African chapter. I believe that chapters are of vital importance, so it is very high on my to-do list.
I founded the Boston Wikipedia meetup group, which has met regularly for the past 4 years. We tend to take part in fun social outreach events that engage the local community and remind them that Wikipedia makes the Internet not suck: we have run local campus and library events to promote Wikipedia and draw in new participants, and provided guest speakers for local library, law, and business classes. We have organized a few large local talks and events, and planned and staffed Wikimania 2006. The idea of a New England chapter comes up regularly, but we have not yet needed the formal structure or non-profit status. We have developed a broad base of support for Wikimedia projects with regional universities, student free culture groups, and non-profit advisors; and have been able to find sponsors and hosts for our projects around Boston.
Very little. I "attended" an organizational meeting for Wikimedia Canada on Skype, but shortly after that I took a break from all things Wikimedia for a couple of months, and I haven't really delved back into it. I am still on the mailing list, though, and I'm following the discussions there. I may yet get back involved, if I see doing so as useful.
I am not directly involved in the creation, organization and running of chapters. In the last year I was the board representative in the ChapCom and had in this function worked on chapters matters. I am in contact with several board members of diverse chapters, especially with the german, the netherland, the israel, the taiwanese and hongkongnese chapter. I know that a Macau chapter is in creation, but is not yet recognized by the Fundation. In the last week there is a community driven discussion and movement to create a chinese chapter. I am in the discussion forum of this movement. Mostly I am answering their questions about the position and policy of the Foundation and give them advices. And I have volunteered as a contact person to the ChapCom and the Foundation. Given the situation in China and the law demandment there it would be a very difficult process. I am not sure if a volunteers organization that is created according to chinese law can be recognized according to our current demands. It is also in the light of this event that it is extremely important for me to see that we create rules and demands that handle organizations or entities that are not full chapters, but very closedly related community societies to the Foundation.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 is the relevant law in this case, as the Wikimedia servers are based in the United States. The act prohibits a number of interactions over the internet with children under 13, and it effectively means that people under 13 can not edit Wikipedia, and certainly can not have a user page. Beyond that, I believe community consensus should be the deciding factor on this issue, although I hope no age restrictions ever occur, as I believe that everyone has something to add.
Juliancolton, I do not really understand the nature of your question in truth. All age restrictions would be legally determined by legislature. The Foundation could not run counter or implement conventions that contravene legislation. That said, any person regardless of age may edit anonymously. Given the nature of some of the material held by the Projects, for example the 'educational audiovisual' I have referred to elsewhere, I uphold that it should only be accessible to people of lawful adulthood and concealed from those who do not have a committed account. I though, favour the supported uptake of usernames and honestly if an editor is honourable why they would not wish to establish a face with the Community is a mystery to me. I do uphold a supported foray of Projects into schools, particularly through Wikiversity curriculum and syllabus to help children learn how to learn, learn how to research and learn how to determine quality and reputable sources from the questionable and those with covert agenda, employing the Projects as the substance of their endeavour. In sum, I am not Ageist.
On a foundation level, age restrictions are a legal concern and thus fall under the General Counsel and Executive Director, not the board. On a community level, so long as any restrictions or rules required by the General Counsel are followed, they ought to be decided by the individual communities. Personally, I am in support of age restrictions for any flag or position involving sensitive or private data, or those that involve implied representation of the foundation (such as OTRS or the Communications Committee). This is not a concern since many of these positions require identification to the staff. For things like administrators, or positions created by the community not involving the above, I don't see the need. But as I have mentioned above, the decision is not within the purview of the board.
There are legal reasons for some (especially when it comes to accessing private data, but even then, in certain cases exceptions could be made, if legalese allows it).
I don't see other reasons for age restrictions - there're lots of other factors contributing to maturity or sanity, and merits are way easier to judge in wiki-environments.
I can't imagine myself more enthusiastic about changing the world than at my teens - and I would never want to suggest that we should turn our backs to exactly that kind of participant, and I would always have preferred mentorship instead of bans. Gladly, I had amazing mentors in my past :-)
The Foundation should adhere to every letter of the law regarding age requirements for formal participation within the Foundation's board, staff, or volunteer system. Likewise, I assume that the Foundation must abide the various laws pertaining to how websites collect information about youngsters and distribute information to minors, such as COPPA and COPA. I defer to Mike Godwin, Wikimedia Foundation attorney, on these matters. At the community level, it is very important not to imagine that even precocious youth have the social and emotional development needed to thrive in a healthy way among adult strangers, just because they can proficiently edit wiki markup narratives about manga and video games. However, as long as the communities embrace this cancerous "anonymous editing, at all costs" policy, there is not much we can do about taking care around juveniles, in the way we might in the non-digital world.
I have a clear position regarding age restrictions at a foundation level. Since there are many administrative tasks that have to be carried out by adults – as stipulated by law – there seems necessary to have a control on it. There are also other trusted charges such as that of being a checkuser. Access to privileged data requires a legal frame of guarantee that usually adults must endeavor. However, when talking about age restrictions at a community level, I am more comprehensive. For example, on the Spanish Wikipedia we have excellent administrators and bureaucrats who have not reached "legal" adulthood yet. Most of them are teenagers who have demonstrated that they are fully capacitated to mediate during a conflict of interests between other users and even take part at the Arbitration Committee.
Laws are one thing, and have their field of application. But if a 10 year old has a bright idea about what the Foundation should do about some issue, and comes to the Board of Trustees with it; the Board would frankly be idiotic to not take it on board. Personally I have interacted quite healthily amongst adults from about the age of 8-9 onwards, happily having moved in circles where the adults around me haven't had any problems with accepting me as their equal or giving my insights fair consideration. Specifically I remember being present at the founding meeting of the first commercial radio station in Finland, being just barely over 18 years old, but still through the soundness of my thinking, perhaps affecting the way the company was structured in some ways, large or small. So having been there myself, I would certainly try to approach ideas as ideas, and not the messenger bringing them forth, or their seniority or lack of same. I think anyone who knows the first thing about how our communities operate, appreciates how egalitarian and blind to the factors that normally structure hierarchical layering in human society wikimedian communities are. Age is no exception. I think that is all that need be said.
At a Foundation level, I support restrictions on certain positions, as I think people with access to privileged data and other such information need to be able to enter into agreements as adults and be held to consequences as adults. I have nothing against exceptionally precocious minors (particularly as I once was one myself!), but as there are very few restrictions on what they can do I don't see it as a problem. On a community level, my opinion here doesn't matter; it's up to the communities. (Though my personal opinion is that for most activity, going by claimed identity rather than observed behavior is pointless. On the internet, no one can tell for sure how old you are, but everyone can tell who is acting childish...)
I don't view age as a relevant consideration, other than with respect to a narrow handful of specific legal issues (I believe, for instance, that it would be unlawful, here in the USA, for a member of the WikiMedia Foundation Board of Directors to be less than 18 years of age).
I believe that we shouldn't judge someone based on their age, rather on their abilities. At the community level you can have someone who is only 15 years old, but who is an administrator for the English Wikipedia. Looking at the Foundation, specifically at the Board of Trustees, there has to be a legal age restriction. I appreciate that, for legal reasons, the board cannot accept trustees aged under 18 years. Perhaps This question is particularly important to me, because some people might think that I am not capable of doing what someone in his forties could do. I think that I am a perfect example that one should not discriminate against age.
I support allowing people to participate according to the merit of their work - their ability, maturity, and interest - and not their age. Within the Foundation, there are legal reasons for certain age restrictions. But aside from these I do not see a reason for them - we have much better ways to identify good contributors. At a community level, communities can set their own policies. But the best contributors to the projects have always included some who are quite young and some who are quite old.
At the Foundation level, I'm all about age restrictions. Obviously Trustees are required by law to be eighteen, and I think that any position that involves the disclosure of a real life identity should require somebody able to accept the consequences of their actions (not merely from a moral/maturity perspective, which is not perfectly correlated with age, but from a legal perspective, which is). At the community level, as long as we're functioning pseudonymously, any age restrictions are going to be pointless. If I were to design the Wikimedia projects all over again I would probably require confirmed identities and proof of adulthood for positions of on-wiki trust, for the same reasons of accountability as I would for Foundation-level ones, but at this point that's obviously a non-starter.
I'm sure, that many people under the age of 18 years could do a good in the board, but because of practical reasons (for instance avoiding juridical problems), I think Board Members should be of full age in their homecountry an the USA.
I don't see any necessity to constrain age of participants either on the Foundation or on the community level that goes beyond the requirements of law. Especially on the community level I would advocate against any restriction.
What would you say if: 1) this Foundation could make a non-commercial deal with Google for, say $15 million a year to sustain itself and its goals, 2) make a deal with some of the world's micro-financing corporations in order to further the $100 dollar-laptop idea? - Art Unbound 20:07, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I believe that the first idea is not necessary at this time. I believe that the second idea goes beyond the core competencies of the organization, and is best left to the groups who can specialize in laptop distribution.
Art Unbound, if Creative Commons have as yet been unable to define “non-commercial” I would require more substantive context to make an informed opinion as to what “non-commercial deal” constitutes. I personally favour the synchronicity of Google and Firefox as conduits of my iteration of Projects and favour strategic alliances and partnerships with collectives and communities of shared values and like minds.
Sternberg, thank you very much for your answer. What if our partnerships, that I favour alike with you, would be favourable to our partners in two or three years while letting Wikimedia down, and now I mean that it would prove impossible for us to keep up with voluntary action only? Would you agree with some sort of sponsorship? - Art Unbound 01:39, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
Art Unbound: please call me Beauford. I wholeheartedly support the $100 dollar-laptop idea personally, the intentionality of global equalization is close to my heart. That said, the $100 dollar-laptop is not a core mandate of the Foundation. The Community could feed resources into those laptops, I'd be there downloading data. Looking at this in a different light, it might even be more appropriate to link the fundraising initiative engaging ownership in children of the Projects, outlined in my Platform: a $100 laptop may be less expensive than print hard copies. If that was the nature of the partnership and strategic alliance then I'd be there shaking hands. Only of course after clear disclosures as a matter of necessary are qualified and quantified, as we would require deep consultation with the Community on the partnering and all contingencies.
There is not enough data to answer these questions. For instance, in question 1, what are we giving up for this deal? Google will not simply give us $15 million dollars and ask nothing in return. And even ignoring the contractual give-and-take, what are the hidden costs? Do we want to be associated with Google? From my time on OTRS, I can say we have floods of emails from people who don't understand that Wikimedia does not control Google's search process - they just assume that we do because we are at the top of many results. Would a deal with them further these misconceptions? What would be the end cost to our volunteer staff in man-hours spent combating that? So you can see there are many issues in this question that need further information to decide (and the ones I raised were just the first few that came to mind in about 30 seconds of thought.) Similarly while you describe a situation where we "gain" in the first example, (at least monetarily) the second is a mirror image. What would these micro-financing corporations want in return from us? They are for-profits, how do they make a return on our investment? How do we vet them? What are the tax implications of associating with for-profit organizations like that? Who safeguards that the money actually furthers the idea? Does this fit in line with our mission? Are there more effective ways we could achieve the goal? What are the PR implications? As you can see, there are too many questions to answer with not enough information provided. This is why negotiations on strategic partnerships are often a long, drawn-out process -- this is to ensure that all of these (or as many as possible) questions are answered. My experience in building these partnerships will allow me to consider these questions as a trustee, and raise them. I will ask the tough questions, to ensure that we're doing the responsible thing for our mission and not simply jumping into a deal without considering the long-term consequences.
Thank you for your answer, Rosenthal. You raise the questions that I meant to raise. Strategic partnerships is what I'm talking about, and tough questions is what I think are needed. On the other hand, what we have to offer must not be underestimated and has a price and value, do you agree with that? - Art Unbound 21:28, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
As stated in Foundation gift policy, the Foundation intends to operate as a publicly supported charity under Internal Revenue Service regulations, and financial support should come from a diversity of sources.
Diversity of income is very much needed for long-term organization sustainability - we, as organization, definitely want and have to remain independent. It may be much easier for us to absorb bigger grants in future, but now we have to make sure, that our ideals are preserved in longer than one or two year timeframe.
As for other projects and partnerships - we have to stay on our path, and if there are partnerships that makes us stronger on it - of course we should consider it. We have to be perfect citizen of open content environment, and if there are other like-minded organizations, of course we should help each other, or at least not build walls and borders in between.
Thank you very much for your answers, Mituzas. I think you have answered my question of longer-term sustainability. Now I have one further question to you: how would you retain independence of Wikimedia/Wikipedia with your policy? - Art Unbound 21:28, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
I am a candidate for the board of the WMF. As such I will consider what will best achieve our aims, what helps our communities and what is strategic in the medium to long term. Fifteen million Euro is a lot of money to absorb and I would hesitate to grow too fast. At the same time there are plenty of projects that would benefit both the WMF and the OLPC if the money was available.
Thank you, and I appreciate your answer. You hesitate to grow too fast, what would you do if WMF does not meet the budget 2010? - Art Unbound 01:39, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
A question like this almost certainly cannot be answered intelligently without more details. What would a "non-commercial deal" with Google look like, if $15 million were on the line? To be "non-commercial", wouldn't that constitute an outright gift from Google? Are there strings attached?
You see, an organization will qualify as publicly supported if it passes the one-third support test, which means that it normally receives at least one-third of its total support from governmental units, from contributions made directly or indirectly by the general public, or from a combination of these sources. An organization will be considered as "normally" meeting the one-third support test for its current tax year and the next tax year if, for the four tax years immediately before the current tax year, the organization meets the one-third support test on an aggregate basis.
So, I think you can immediately see the complex tax-status implications of a $15 million gift from any organization, Google or not.
Thank you, Kohs, and yes, I mean an outright gift from Google to us. I mean that Google has profited so much for the past four years - by Google Earth, by all of our geographic information that Google has implemented to their profit, that they are due some to our organization, and enough to keep us alive and kicking. Is that worth something from us or isn't it? That's my question. - Art Unbound 01:39, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
I think that I cannot give you a detailed answer without having access to the terms of such contract agreements. Nevertheless, if I am elected member of the Board I will obviously try to do the best for the purpuses of this Foundation. Of course I believe that having support not only from Google but from other organizations can really help Wikimedia to achieve some of its goals (the laptop idea also being included within this criterion). I would search that support in diversity since I am aware that there is more than one company that would like to enter into partnership agreements with Wikimedia.
All in all, it would depend on the situation and before signing any contract we must be completely sure that it is the best option for us and that we can eventually take profit from it.
Thank you Góngora, my question to you is the same as to Kohs above. Would you agree to compromise with Google, if they are willing not to interfere with our internal policy and still guarantee our long-term goals? - Art Unbound 01:39, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
Dear Art Unbound, in response to your query, I would agree to "compromise" with Google only under the following conditions: apart from the two you have mentioned, our goals have to remain our priority. Partnerships can be good for us. In Spanish we have an expression for this which states that "la unión hace la fuerza" (union makes strength). Our internal policy, our goals - not only those that you depicted as "long-term" - and still our independence cannot be in danger. By having a compromise with Google, or with any other association, we must make sure that we do not lose anything. That's why a perusal of the terms and conditions is something over which we must keep our eye on. Therefore, the only result I contemplate as feasible is the one which guarantees that we can enforce - and improve - what we have been doing until now. If these requirements are not fulfilled, then we cannot accept any compromise.
Firstly, even if it was a perfectly straight up donation without any strings attached, at the size of 15 million dollars it would be pretty obvious that coming as it did from a single source whose continued support could never be relied upon, a huge balance of that donation would have to be saved for the future, rather than spent immediately, hand to mouth. A 15 million dollar donation would be a golden opportunity to establish a solid endowment to ensure stability of resources for our foundation.
However your phrasing above is very ambiguous, using for instance the word "deal".
"Deal" usually implies strings attached in some form or another. If there were strings attached with the money, I would yank the strings *hard* to see what was at the other end of them. If there was anything that could, with the most evil interpretation possible, be considered in any circumstance contrary to our mission, or even orthogonal to it, my absolute red-line would be to demand that that string be cut, or we would not take the money.
Now, if on the gripping hand the strings would be attached in such a way that they would only anchor us better in what our stated mission is, naturally such a deal should be embraced with kisses and hugs; and what I said above about it being an opportunity for establishing an endowment would then kick in.
As to your second point, WMF making deals with corporations to further programs that are outside its own mission. That does to me strike a very dangerous note. We need to remain focused on our core mission, and let other actors further the other benevolent goals that can be furthered in the field of developing a global information infrastructure. We do share common aims, but getting too far entangled risks us losing focus. Co-operate, surely; but act in proxy for them, noo-ot quite so sure.
The first would depend rather heavily on the actual terms involved, and what our overall budget looked like. In the current case it would form such a large part that we probably would not accept it—not because we couldn't use the money, but because having that much, and that large a proportion from one source, would be imprudent.
(It is in contemplating a situation like this and what we would do about it that the Gift Policy was written and has been revised at various points: much easier to make the decision about independence and good practices when you're not staring at a large pile of money.)
As for #2, I think it depends on the details. In general we are interested in partnering with organizations that can help with outreach and distribution, but we would focus on content rather than on the hardware itself—the other aspects are better done by organizations that specialize in it and have the relevant knowledge about what works and what doesn't.
With all due respect, I'm not sure I understand your question. Is "non-commercial deal" a euphemism for a charitable donation, or does it hold some other meaning? I'd love to see cheap laptops & wireless internet access for, well, everyone on Earth, but I don't really see the WMF as playing a major role in so massive an endeavour. Such a huge undertaking is outside the scope of the Foundation.
Thank you for your answer, O'Keeffe. What I mean, is that Wikipedia and Wikimedia as a whole, has given a massive support to worldwide knowledge. All of our efforts have been free. But, spreading it is not free. We're at the brink of our efforts. Can we accept offers to further spread our knowledge by commercial means, or can we not? - Art Unbound 01:39, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
Let me just say that I do not think the WikiMedia Foundation should become involved in commercialism of any kind. I don't think its practical, and I don't think its otherwise a good idea. I think our mission essentially pertains to making the vast storehouse of human knowledge available online. Enabling an ever-broadening segment of the human population to access that information, while certainly a goal to be desired, is also a goal best left for others to accomplish. Its much as if a group dedicated to eradicating Guinea Worm Disease in Africa, were asked if it would also support efforts to combat methamphetamine abuse in North America. While doubtless those who favour the former would also like to see progress with regard to the latter, those are simply not two projects that it makes sense for the same group to address.
The question isn't very clear to me. Firstly, why would Google just give us $15 million? What is the catch? People don't just give money away without receiving something for it, and you said it was a deal, not a donation. This makes it sound like we would give something to them for saying thank you. I also don't support the last idea so much, because even though the $100 Laptop Idea is also about spreading knowledge, its not perfectly in our scope. I would rather put all my energy into the Foundation's goals, not another charity's goals.
Wikimedia should avoid commercial exploitation, and should be wary about hidden costs and expectations in accepting large "no strings attached" donations. If such partnerships come with restrictions, the cost of accepting them might be too high. However, if donations are truly without restrictions, large donations can go into an endowment so that they reduce, rather than increase, dependency on a single donor. In the case of a commercial donor also in the field of making the world's knowledge available to everyone, we should doublecheck the hidden risks and implications of such an agreement. As for your second point, why would microfinance groups in particular be interested in a partnership? And why would Wikimedia want a partner to further another organization's project? I think the '$100 laptop' is a wonderful effort to improve global education — I've worked on the project for years — but it is quite different from the Foundation's work, and your suggestion seems inappropriate. At any rate, I would recuse myself from decisions involving that particular project, because of my connection to it.
That's a very difficult question to answer without seeing details of these deals. I'd be leery of the Google one for the same reason as I oppose advertising: once we become reliant on a single source of revenue, it's very easy to become beholden to that source, and I'd much rather be beholden to our readers and community members and granting agencies functioning in the public interest than to a private corporation, even one with an avowedly non-evil corporate culture. As for the $100 laptops, I think we'd need to look carefully at what risk we were assuming and to what extent it would be part of our core purpose. I'd be pleased to elaborate on either or both given more details.
Thank you for your thoughtful answer, Smith. You are very scary to become dependant of one donor, and so am I. But, Google is already very dependant of us, and they will very much want to become less dependant of our power.
I think that the Board of Trustees need to be very aware of the power they have, and make good use of it. They can be distrustful of their power and get scared, or they can get too proud and blow the whole thing up in two years. Also they can blow the chances that they have in reality, if they are too cautious. This is not a question for you, but for all candidates. So, thank you so much for the opportunity you gave me here. - Art Unbound 01:39, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
I think the question is very unrealistic and highly hypothetical, but nontheless a good question.
Let me start with the good question part. I think the core of this question is a Gretchen-question to every trustee: "Now tell me, how do you take sustainability?" Only highly hypothetical, that a company like Google comes to us with such an approach. I would say this approach is not sustainable for us and would turn it down. The reason is that we are an organization that in the current year running with a budget of about 6M and in the next year planned to run with a budget between 9 and 10M. The approach would not only exceed our planned budget by more than two to 1,5 fold, and I am not sure if we can absorb such an expansion in the short time, but also change our financial basis from mostly small donation to dependant to a single big business. This is in my opinion not sustainable and thus not viable.
Now I come to the part of unrealistic. I would not rule out that it is possible that we get a 15M donation. Most probably as a unique donation from an individual fan. If the condition of such a donation is without problem. I don't see why we should not accept it. For example we can use it to build up the redundant database center I referred a few times now. This would be invested in our infrastructure. It is direly needed and would not influence our long time planning and sustainability. And it would be a rare a unique event.
A donation from an organization or a business deal is very very unprobable in this scale and in this amount. For example for 2007/2008 we failed both our goal for big donation as well as for business. You see, it is not so that the people are standing in row. Normally we go to the charity foundations and applicate for donations from them. It takes often months or even years from the first contact until the proposal is on the board for approve. The same is with business. During this time both the partner as well as we would evaluate the deal, how it passes into each other's strategy. On our side both the staff as well as the board are very aware of the topic sustainability. None of us would just accept a deal just because it would bring us a lot of money. This is the reason why I say that it is a very unrealistic scenario.
I have no issues with what happened. There were no reliable sources for the addition of said information at the time. Issues such as this should be handled on a case by case basis by Jimbo Wales and the WMF legal team. I have full confidence that Jimbo Wales puts openness at the top of his priority list, as he has shown repeatedly over time.
Mblumber, the 'B9' in my username denotes how important the discipline and value of benevolent compassion and kindness are in my worldview and lived and living spirituality. This was a specific situation with specific constraints. I endorse how Wikipedia adminstrated the media blackout (in line with blogging sites of note and other media sources) through "trusted" Administrators, though I affirm that my knowledge of the actual handling and parameters of the situation is cursory. The way Wikipedia embraced the David Rohde censorship situation and mediablackout request is, in my humble opinion, an example of sound censorship. I would value our Community taking stock of this happening and institute a protocol for future eventuations so response is not reactive and ad hoc, but appropriately finessed and responsive.
The result was a good one, and the issue is certainly complex. I have been privately critical of the principle behind the decision and would not have made the same choice, but I cannot fault Jimmy for making that choice. I think it sets a dangerous precedent for situations where precedents should not be set. As Jimmy correctly said, we were able to do it this time, but what about next time? Jimmy does not believe that it would be as easy to do next time, and I agree. Lets say we were to try, and fail. The PR implications of such a move would be disastrous, leading to a loss of credibility in the foundation as an accurate knowledge bringing organization. It's not a transparent action, and non-transparent actions always lead to friction within the community And let's also consider that whatever lengths we go to to keep the information secret, one slip from a third-party news source and all is for naught. Those are my criticisms. With all that being said, actions taken to protect human life should not be subject to "monday-morning quarterbacking." Having such a critical decision placed in front of you is an enormous burden. I should know, as a infantryman in Iraq, I was placed in situations many times where I had to make life-or-death decisions. I'm extremely sympathetic to the difficulties of such decisions and I do not wish to second-guess anyone who has had to make them. While I may not agree with the reasoning behind the decision, I can't fault someone 'ex post facto' for having made such a difficult and frankly emotional choice. That is not a fair thing to do, and I have enormous respect for Jimmy for confronting the implications of what would happen should this situation occur again in the future.
It was crisis management, and however it was done, in final result, human life was saved. When crisis comes, tough decisions and sacrifices have to be made. Of course, we have to stay alert and avoid slippery slopes, but having community or staff able to do sensible decisions, based on internal or external guidelines is something what should be done. Strict policies can't really handle such situations - common sense can, and where needed, organization has to be able to take decisions.
I am not familiar with this situation. In my opinion the board of the WMF does not concern itself that much with individual cases. I am equally sure that there are cases in other projects that are as relevant that do not get the same attention.
I believe the Rohde case revealed that Jimmy Wales (as he himself has admitted) is not fully prepared to handle the wide array of possible conflicts of interest that may arise when real lives are impacted by what's published on Wikimedia reference sites. I certainly think that the Board should consult with experts in news journalism, ethics, mass communication, and privacy, in order to formulate some more hard-line rules that should govern future cases. In any event, the Board should be shielded from these sorts of one-off episodes. When Wales was approached by the New York Times, it was not for him or OTRS to resolve -- it should have been immediately deferred to the Foundation's Executive Director and/or Deputy Director. Staff handle operational decisions, especially the life and death ones, not Board members. When Board members act on their own, charity trustees could find themselves personally liable for breach of their charitable trust. As a rule, trustees should never by-pass the Executive Director's organizational channels in dealing officially with outside agents or entities. Whatever the case, the Board ought to develop a more mature "emergency plan" than lamenting that there's no way to reach out and say, "Dude, stop and think about this."
That's an interesting question. My answer is clear: I am against censorship of any kind except when there are lives in danger. What Jimmy Wales did was quite ethical and reasonable given the circumstances. It is pretty obvious that many people will disagree with how the situation was handled at the very beginning. On the Spanish wikipedia he have been discussing this topic so far at the Café. Here is when two principles come against one to each other. On the one hand, who decides what content should be censored and what information can be added? I have read that many people thought of the idea as being imprecise. On the other hand, I am not aware of many cases as the one that we are now commenting on. Perhaps, it is just an isolated and particular case where free information was sacrificed for the sake of life. However, if we are to face something similar in the future - and I am sure we will - it is not something that we can always control. Even if policy were "watertight" in this case, there are several things that require common sense, this being not an exception.
While not a direct answer to your question, there are two salient points to note. Firstly, that the world at large, including the media themselves, appear to hold Wikimedia/Wikipedia to a higher standard than 40 top-rated mediahouses. To me this clear fact is little short of astounding.
Secondly, Jimbo was very very very lucky, that he didn't get called on the issue while it was on-going. If there had been critical and incisive analysis of what the situation really was, by people with the appropriate standing, while it was still ongoing, the drama would have been potentially devastating.
Specifically I am dissapointed that some of my fellow candidates have not payed attention with sufficient closeness to the discussions on the mailing lists, or disingenuously have decided to ignore the fact that it was clearly demonstrated on those self-same mailing lists, that in fact, there was a source that at least presumptively should have been considered reliable, that *did* report the matter, and was removed from the page in question.
So it is inaccurate in the absolute to claim that content policies were followed.
As to the decision itself, I can only raise my hat to Jimbo for his courage to take it, because I think he can only have been aware that in taking it, he was smoking away much of his authority, as regards the future decisions that are made. I will assume that Jimbo *did* act to the best of his understanding, with imperfect knowledge of what the real facts on the ground were; and what consequences really were at stake. I have no problem stipulating that at all.
In the future what should be considered most vigilantly is that once it has been shown that people in Wikimedia can be compromised in this fashion, "investigative reporters" will try their darnedest to test how and by which means it can be compromised. How heavy do the "stakes" have to be, for Wikimedia to lie supine.
I'm not sure if I agree with it in every detail as I was not involved, but I agree with it in general. There was a bit of an easy out in this case: there were no reliable sources reporting on the incident. Future cases may not have that aspect to hang on—so I think situations like this should be handled on a case-by-case basis; truly exceptional cases are rare enough that this is possible. But I think that in cases like Rohde's, where what Wikipedia does may affect whether someone lives or dies, it is best to err on the side of caution. No article is so important that it needs to exist right now; if being sure means waiting it out until the right choice is clear I think that should happen. What happens in the short term is often unimportant compared to getting it right on the long term.
I do not agree with with how the David Rohde case was handled. I can understand why it was done, and sympathize with the motive to aid in a sincere effort to protect the lives of Mr. Rohde, and that of his translator, Mr. Ludin, but I never-the-less oppose a deliberate policy to conceal the facts at Wikipedia, or at any of the other Foundation projects. I believe that Wikipedia is what it claims to be ie., an encyclopedia, and that an encyclopedia can not be used as an instrument for the deliberate concealment of factual knowledge, and long remain an encyclopedia in any meaningful sense.
"There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world." --Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, 3rd President of the United States (1801-1809)
Furthermore, I am bothered by the notion that through assisting Mr. Rohde and Mr. Ludin, Wikipedia was, in effect, working to undermine the Taliban. I do not believe that any project associated with the WikiMedia Foundation should be in the business of deliberately aiding or undermining per se, the interests of various global, national, regional, and local political factions (including nation-states, private organizations deemed to be criminal and/or terrorist in nature, etc.) Through its role in the David Rohde affair, Wikipedia (and by extension, the Foundation as a whole) has essentially allied itself with the Anglo-American Globalist elite, and against the transnational Islamist insurgency which is presently arrayed against that elite. While I know that sounds dramatic, it is objectively accurate, and I do not think that is a course we should have embarked upon.
In the article to which I link below, New York University professor Joseph M. Reagle writes "the idea of a pure openness...is a naïve one."
I strongly disagree with the way that the situation was handled. Most people will not say something like this in a candidate statement, especially when it involves the co-founder of Wikipedia. Please do not get me wrong, I am not on a mission to attack Jimmy Wales. I believe strongly that Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and that we should stick to that. Why are some people allowed to decide what content should be censored and others not? Some people have stated that the source was unreliable, but I disagree to differ. It was published by the Pajhwok Afghan News agency, the largest news service in Afghanistan. Why would that be an unreliable source?
In this case, there are some details that could have been done better, I agree with the way it was handled in general. As there were no reliable sources reporting on the event, and this is generally grounds for not publishing novel information, this makes the resolution more clear than it might have been. In situations where Wikipedia can affect someone's life or livelihood, one must consider whether a piece of novel information demands to be added now, or whether it can wait. These decisions are not for the Board to make. It is important for community members to be able to assess unusual cases as they come, and decide how to respod without being bound by strict policy requirements.
I certainly believe that there are cases in which it makes sense for the WMF to suppress information (especially information which, as in this case, didn't meet our core content policies anyway, as Kat and Samuel have mentioned). The WMF should take its cues in this regard from the better elements of the journalistic profession, of which the New York Times must still, despite the assorted criticisms against it, be considered a part. I do share Greg's concern about who the WMF's point-person on this was; this was an executive function, and so having handled by WMF staff makes more sense than having it handled by a trustee.
I was not involved in this case, so I could just judge the case by "second-hand-informations" and I think, that wouldn't be very helpful. But generally in a case of kidnapping one should do everything possible to help the victims - that is a matter of humanity.
I remember this event. And I remember that on one of our board meetings Jimmy mentioned it. I agree with how this is handled. I think this is a very unique event and by no means is an example for future cases. It had influence on two person and their lives. I think we had handled this responsible. We had helped to save two lives with as little impact as possible.
The Wikimedia Foundation hosts explicit media depicting various sexual activity. This area is growing steadily, and now contains examples across a wide spectrum, from bog standard nudity, through various fetishistic media, to full sexual activity including 'cum shots' and penetration. Other large commercial sites, such as Google Images, and Flickr, carry similar material, however the practice seems to be to use a 'safe search' option to allow browsers to 'opt in' to view such material. It remains an open question as to the desirability and utility of explicit freely licensed material on a project with no child safety measures or options. From my perspective, this is an area where the WMF can provide sensible leadership, direction and ultimately software development / support - do you agree? For disclosure's sake, I should add that I've made some proposals for the management of sexual content both on the english wikipedia, and on wikimedia commons, which have been very strongly rejected. This has led me to feel that some positions are rather entrenched as points of principle above pragmatism. I further believe that this is an area with the potential to cause great harm to the project's utility and reputation, hence would welcome foundation input :-) Privatemusings 00:29, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
This is not an issue for the Board of Trustees, it is an issue for the communities, in my opinion. While I oppose censorship of any kind, I do not oppose a feature that allows users to "turn off" content, but I prefer to leave the issue to the community at large.
Privatemusings, how glorious. I was not privy to our Community’s cache being so broad. Educational resources, whether pornography and/or art, that inform sexual practice and give rise to pleasure are to be prized. We should ensure that there are safeguards, but legislatures, proprieties and social mores differ. I uphold the exploration of technology as a safeguard if it provides for the integrity of our children’s knowledge and innocence but not a censure of lawful adult activity which is consensual. We need to affirm that the viewer always needs to be informed where possible of the nature of the content. I have affirmed elsewhere I do uphold a committed login as prerequisite for accessibility of explicit content as determined by a committee of our Community constituted by 'reasonable' seasoned editors under advisement.
Issues of acceptable content standards in a particular community should be determined by that particular community. Legal issues relating to the display are the realm of the general counsel. As far as filters and the like, I actually am in favor of the idea of a safe-search option; though I am not certain whether or not the usability program has reviewed that option or not. So if the question is whether the board can provide what you are asking for, I would say probably not. The WMF employees may; however I am not in a position to speak for them.
Though better media tagging in general could allow better content repositories in multiple senses, we should discourage shocking juxtapositions, and always try to place information where appropriate. Though inclusion of various content is usually subject to community guidelines, it would be community action to use any implemented tagging or filtering measures.
Wikipedia and other projects by itself are not that shocking, and one has to research and dig to get into problematic material - so this may seem bigger issue only after considerable time investment into it.
On the other hand, I believe that in lots of adult topics, Wikipedia can be way milder and neutral, than most of other internet media around. There're always at least 5 entries of adult topics in our top-100 most visited articles, and we rank highest on search engines for lots of adult keywords. Once we look at that context, information we carry is needed, educational and way better than the surrounding environment. Being compendiums of knowledge, our projects do great job, and instead of running away from the audience interest, we should just always try to do better job on how we structure our information or media.
Something what can be shocking juxtaposition in one case, can be something needed and useful in another - and balancing at that is one of many issues we have to solve.
I do not oppose to have some sort of "safe for work" indication on Commons, I strongly oppose the same on Wikipedia. At the same time this is an issue raised several times without much success it does not have the same priority as gaining material from GLAM and growing the community of restorationists. The big issue for Commons is finding images in the first place; as it is Commons is useless to people who do not speak English. These issues are high on my agenda. If you want to develop something that helps Commons be "safe for work", scratch your itch and see if Brion accepts your code. When he does I may consider it.
Of course, you are correct, Privatemusings. There is great potential for harm to the project's legal safety and its grant-winning abilities with the kind of unfettered garbage that is increasingly populating the site. Fortunately, the Board would have in me an agent for change, such that this sort of content might be better managed and not be so "in your face", with no regard to the age or national laws of the browser.
Voters may not realize, but the founder of the Wikimedia Foundation has a privately-held company that as recently as January 2008 hosted online a web menagerie of freely-licensed images of innocent children juxtaposed with depraved images of children being mercilessly spanked until purple, along with photos of various sexual-enhancement toys. I led an urgent campaign that challenged this Spanking Art Wikia wiki. The founder of the Wikimedia Foundation became quite ruffled under the collar, irritated that we had not "made a complaint through the proper channels".
Imagine, sexually-charged images of deviant abuse against children, and the man hosting it on his company's servers was more upset that the complaints against his site weren't filed properly. So, you see, this is going to be quite an uphill battle.
Being consistent with my previous answer, I do not perceive a real problem regarding this issue. Sexual content can be instructive depending on the usage we want to give it. Even if it should be accepted as something natural and normal, it is true that there must be a mechanism of control. To start with, a balance is important. However, this applies not only to sexual contents but also to everything else in general. Excessess should be avoided (e.g.: abuse against children, unnecessary pornographic galleries, irrelevant links to pornographic websites where no additional textual information is to be found, etc). In other words, an article and/or a category about sex is likely to have related images. Again, I do not see something we should really take care about if we find it in its right place. For that purpose we already have a system of categorization.
Anyone who thinks there is added utility to content advisory tagged versions of our content, or other of the various forms that have been perennially floated, with a snowballs chance in hell of being implemented on our projects; are welcome to implement them on their own finances, and see how much of a demographic there really is clamouring for such options in the display of content. I think that is just about as much of a reply that the question merits.
First of all, I think that it's not only legitimate but important to have articles on sexual topics, given the dearth of sources that attempt to be neutral and objective on them. I'd much rather a preteen who wanted to know about sex came to Wikimedia projects than a porn site, to satisfy his or her curiosity.
Ideally, all of the images on the site will be very clinical in nature, showing the essentials of what is in the article while being as otherwise boring as humanly possible. (Is a plain nude penis inherently "unsafe"? I don't think so, but you may.)
I think our basic duty as WMF is to insist that all images are legal to display in the US, and that ultimately it must come down to the users themselves to monitor their children. (We also have articles on crimes and atrocities that also may be too much for young children; there is little argument that we should include content about genocides and death camps, but children should probably not see them until they are mature enough to handle it!)
I do believe that individual users should be able to choose what they see and don't see, but I worry about tagging content ourselves; in addition to being inherently non-neutral (as an example, my mother stopped me from seeing violence on TV, but not sex), many methods make it easier for others to censor us, such as governments and ISPs. The best way to handle this may be to make it easy for others to develop third-party tools that are user-customizable, and to distribute their own lists of allowed and disallowed content.
While I am not familiar with sexually explicit depictions on other Foundation projects, I believe that there presently exists a severe over-representation of human sexuality-themed material at Wikipedia. And as the questioner suggests, this is not helpful in the creation of a serious and well-regarded encyclopedia. I'm just going to come right out and say what I suspect many people already know, which is that even in the year 2009, the internet is disproportionately populated by youthful and/or socially maladjusted males who, due to their lack of experience in the world of adult sexual behavior, are often rather preoccupied with the topic. This is particularly true within the relatively minuscule subset of internet users who choose to become involved in the somewhat esoteric practice of editing Wikipedia. As a married father, with all that is implied by such a status, I believe Wikipedia, and quite probably the Foundation's other projects, are sorely in need of some adult supervision. It is time we told the kiddies & other (unwilling) chronic celibates "No, you can't post a photograph of a human penis engaged in the act of ejaculation to an article at this site. No, we don't need several hundred (if not over a thousand) articles detailing the lives and times of pornographic actors & actresses. This is an encyclopedia, and if you wish to peruse such material, I suggest you find a porn site."
With that said, I do believe that some photos depicting human nudity (including genitalia) have a valid, medical or otherwise educational, scientific, or artistic purpose at this site. Articles on some sexually transmitted diseases, or on human childbirth, are two very good examples of where this would tend to be the case. Yet I find it almost impossible to imagine how photographic depictions of "cum shots" and "penetration" could ever be permitted to find a home at this site.
This is an interesting and rather important question. As a recent changes patroller I frequently come across pornographic and nudity related contributions, but it is mostly vandalism. The Foundation does not have the time or manpower to deal with these problems. Creating a software option such as SafeSearch would not only cost a lot, it would also put a much greater workload on our servers. The English Wikipedia does have options to hide these images, all a user needs to do is to register an account. By doing a little research I've learned that if you do not look for offensive images, it is unlikely that you will stumble across them. This blog substantiates that claim.
I am merely stating there are already precautionary measures in place. Personally, I really don't like to see all the articles about porn-stars on the English Wikipedia — but I realise that the consensus there is for no censorship, and therefore I abide by the views of the community. People constantly complain about the offensive images, but what is an article about breasts without a photo of a breast? A diagram cannot convey the same information as a photograph; by removing the image, one also removes educational content.
This is something for individual projects to decide, not the Board. I oppose censorship and support respect for readers and for the subjects of photos. While we should not restrict contributions that comply with the legal requirements of the projects, we should also allow readers to choose what they want to see. (Though in general, Wikipedia articles are balanced and not at all titillating.)
I hear your desire to have a version of Wikipedia or other projects that you consider child-friendly. If there is concerted interest from community members in a children's encyclopedia, the Board should enable the creation such a project. There have been limited attempts to start a Wikikids project, and another dozen people might help it take off. Every project has community-determined criteria for article and image selection; this one would presumably reflect the goals of editors explicitly writing for children.
If an outside group were to develop a tool to let users determine what articles they see, using the existing categories, individual projects could choose to implement it. This is, again, not something for the Foundation to decide.
Generally speaking, as with most content issues, this should be resolved at the community level. I agree with Kevin that sexualized images are currently overrepresented, and I agree with Kat that the priority should be on clinical images. As a Wikipedia community member, I support making it easier for readers to avoid displaying controversial images on their screens (I'm typing this from a public library with a lot of people around, so you can imagine how pleased I'd be to inadvertantly find a highly sexualized image on my screen) through collapsable boxes and the like (not that you asked, but this is also my preferred approach to non-sexual images that are offensive to large swaths of people, such as depictions of Muhammad). I'm not convinced that this is an issue meriting the Board's attention, however.
First of all I my position to this point had not changed since last year. I think content in Wikimedia projects should be educational, nothing more and nothing less. I think the communities of our major projects are meanwhile good enough to decide what is in scope and what not. This as overall principle.
In most part of the world even pure educational content has some restriction of age, sometimes even per law. I think the Foundation should take this into account and give the community the possibility to act in accordance with the local laws if they decide to. From this point of view my suggestion is the following:
The foundation should develop the MediaWiki software so that some content that are tagged with an age restriction would not be shown immediately if one comes to such an article. Only if the user confirms that he is above the age limit the content would be revealed. I believe this suggestion was already made by Erik a few years ago and I think we should do it.
The board of trustees should issue a resolution in the form like the BPL resolution that announces the feature and call for the responsibility of the community to use this feature in accordance with the community consensus.
I think that the relationship functions as a bicameral collective. The one house is the community, based on the internet, while the other is the chapters, based locally. The community on the internet sets the guidelines and policies for their projects, while the chapters provide feedback to the foundation itself from their regions. I think both provide valuable input, and I think that the local chapters are an indispensable resource for the foundation.
As I understand it, each Chapter has a unique charter and mandate that requires submission to both its own polities for sealing and to the Foundation auspice for endorsement and probity. I would envision the relationship to be deep and interpenetrating and yet respectful of cultural and differing priorities and one of community capacity building and support particularly in engendering an ownership of Wikimedia Projects in Chapter constituencies, outreach, relationship building in Wikmedians and prospecting and developing relationships with cultural institutions and I would hope one of mutual fundraising support. The Chapter-Foundation should be a continuum of deep consultation as per the intentionality of my Platform.
I've spoken with people who have been recently involved in the chapter development process, and I would say that it is in much better shape than it has in the past. I feel that the restructuring of the board was a major step, yet it has only been incrementally implemented. A more democratic method of getting chapter seats filled is needed, and this is something I pledge to work on. Another thing I pledge to work on is finding ways to assist fledgling chapters-in-development at a much earlier stage in the process than they currently are. Right now, we expect chapters to do most of the drafting work themselves, and only then does the foundation step in. I think this is too late and creates a significant barrier to chapter development, and the foundation should be engaging chapters-in-development earlier in this process. The chapters are one of our most important, even critical resources for spreading our message, and empowering our goals. As a trustee, I will ensure that the chapters continue to play a leading role in acquiring new content, fundraising, programming, localization, and communication. I welcome any suggestions you (or others) may have on the matter.
This is long process, that we have nudged for quite a while. First of all, there should be clear expectations set both ways, in multiple areas - and that can be assisted by clear and openly developed chapter agreement, clear business development, fundraising guidelines, trademark use, public relations work, etc. For the long-term this has to be as clear as possible.
Some of that is there now, but in very much intermediate shape. Chapters and foundation have to be in partnership relations, and partnerships are supposed to be useful to both sides. Last chapters meeting allowed to progress way ahead, setting better communication standards both for staff and chapters - and everyone realized, that it is all the same crowd of highly motivated people.
There has been transition for single 'chapters coordinator' to multiple 'area points of contacts' on foundation side that has been quite brave - though some would say that is less focus on chapter issues, it also brought core staff people closer to partnering organizations.
I think current chapter-foundation relationship is very much work in progress, but we're seeing good results, and we're seeing mistakes or frustrations - most of which are simply resource issues, not some evil plan against each other. Foundation though is in position where responsibility is mandatory - emails should be answered, problems analyzed and assistance, where needed, provided. I'd like to see more and more of chapter-to-chapter work being done, bypassing foundation - being in control of everything doesn't really scale at any organization.
I am extremely happy about appointment of Arne to the Board - after being ED of a major chapter he will bring great experience on the topic.
The Foundation needs to improve itself on the areas of responsibility, ethics, professionalism, and excellence in best practices. Once that has shown visible signs of improvement, then the relationship with chapters ought to be carefully addressed. I would support any chapter-driven efforts to help the Foundation improve itself on the aforementioned characteristics.
The current relationship between both chapters and WMF is going on the right way. Nevertheless, there is always a place for improving the balance. I do not want to repeat again the same statement but I do believe that chapters are in most cases what helps our community to go beyond its limits. Concerning chapters and their achievements, outreach has been, and still is, one success.
Some people may have different opinions in relation with chapters and I respect them. However, we cannot generalize under the same label whatever the chapters mean for the profit of the Foundation. For instance, French and Italian chapters were doing quite well in the last months. As far as I know, the attempt of creating a Catalan chapter also seeks to help Wikimedia to go ahead with its aims. There have been interesting meetings in Madrid and Barcelona where people involved with the project have looked into the legal frame for the future creation and existence of local chapters. I strongly believe that this is a very promising future for us. Chapters are not Wikimedia but they really carry on a hard and gentle duty in areas such as educational outreach, Wikimedia projects in schools, partnerships with local cultural institutions, etc. Apart from that, they get people more involved with free knowledge.
Therefore, in this sense I am a dialogue defender. Chapters are trustworthy and the Foundation should work side by side, not separately.
No, frankly I couldn't elaborate either a) or b). As I understand it, each chapter is its own animal, and there is no one-size fits all model for their relationship with the foundation. As to changes in a situation that is quite naturally in a huge flux all the time? Gimme a break. There is very little that can be directed by will in these matters. It is more like riding the proverbial tiger. Each matter has to be tackled. Just no way at all to make the tiger go where you want it to go; just have to keep on top of it.
I see the current relationship as one that is still figuring out what it is. One thing that came out of the recent meeting in Berlin is that different chapters have very different ideas of what they are and what their goals are, in addition to very different levels of organizational maturity. I think that's perfectly fine; I don't think that all chapters need to be structured in the same way or have the same goals. However, it makes any strategy for figuring out what the relationship between WMF and the chapters should be much more difficult.
I see the chapters as being the best points of contact for the geographical communities they're based in, doing the sorts of things that a fairly small central organization simply cannot scale up to do, and who already have the relationships with people and groups in their areas (or can more easily maintain them). They can also be effective advocates for issues that are specific to their areas. Holding in-person events, petitioning local governments, meeting with local institutions such as universities and museums—all of these I see as activities that are more natural for chapters.
WMF faces a challenge in handling these relationships. Mostly it is and should continue to be hands-off, only intervening where there is a serious problem (or where the chapter asks for assistance). Issues where one chapter's activities may have an impact on WMF and other chapters, such as trademark licensing, global fundraising, or interactions with international institutions and media, are more difficult, and there the relationship must be more hands-on.
Otherwise WMF should be cheering from the sidelines, giving assistance where needed and providing a general direction and scope, while the individual chapters take on local projects that merit their attention.
As I have said in a few of my previous questions; chapters play a very important role in the Wikimedia Foundation. The Foundation should support the chapters, especially during the early phases, because without support a chapter could easily die off. We should also encourage people from all over the world to start chapters, especially in areas such as Africa. The chapters are gathering speed in Africa, but currently only in the north. I have already mentioned that, next year, I plan to start a chapter in South Africa. The Foundation should not put unnecessary pressure on newly found chapters. They are not able to deal with too many responsibilities in the early stages. I believe that the Foundation should give the chapters a framework. Maybe the Foundation should also write an annual assessment for each chapter on ways to improve.
The relationship between the Chapters and the Foundation should be one of family, not one of opposition and tension. The future of the projects depends as much on the strength, diversity, and successful independence of the Chapters as it does on the stability and effectiveness of the Foundation.
In general, I think it's important that the WMF not give chapters more responsibility or authority than they have demonstrated that they are competent to discharge. Inevitably, the relationship between the WMF and its chapters is going to shift and evolve as chapters become more established, and the differences between chapters means that no two will ever have precisely the same relationship with the WMF, which is generally a positive thing (letting a hundred flowers bloom, and so on). I think the two major challenges to the Foundation in the management of its relationship to chapters right now are i. making sure sufficient support is given to allow chapters to establish themselves and pursue their objectives, and ii. refraining from overburdening chapters with responsibility or overendowing them with authority under whose weight they could collapse.
Both need each other - the foundation needs national representatives and the national chapters need a worldwide organisation. It's just normal that there had been, are and will be differences like in any organization. One important step is a clear splitting of the competences (this splitting can be different from chapter to chapter and change according to the productive power of a chapter in the future - good treaties make good friends).
I think that the relationship between the Foundation and the chapters is currently good, but it could be improved, it could be excellent. In the past, especially during the last fund raising and after that before the Berlin meeting I would say that the relation is quite stressful. But the Berlin meeting had changed that, this alone justifies for me the more cost of flight, travel and CO2 emission of hold the board meeting in Berlin.
I would not say that the Foundation cannot exist without the chapters. But without the chapters we would be far away from what we can do now. I am very happy to see the chapters really coming into action in the last year, that they begin to do outreach works that the Foundation would not able to do (even with more resource). The recent EU Chip meeting is a very good example for this.
I know that at some points there are still mistrust between the chapters and the Foundation. I am ok with difference in opinion, but I think we must strengthen our effort to eliminate mistrust. And here we must do that, what we also advocate in our projects: Assume good will. The Foundation and the chapters are not competing for donation, business parter, community, board member, what ever. I think we should always keep in mind about this, we should always communicate and talk with each other as often as we can.
On the EU Chip meeting Lizzy brought the recent issue of the newspaper of german chapter Wikimedium with her. As I read that famouse sentence from Brianna on the cover page (what the Red Cross is for health - the wikimedia movement wants to be for free knowledge) I got goose bumps. We should keep that spark on and should never allow it to extinct again.
What is your reaction to the announcement of the creation of the Wikipedia usability initiative sponsored by the Stanton Foundation and the Commons usability project sponsored by the Ford Foundation ? Teofilo 10:11, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
I love refinement and innovation especially when beautiful and practical: Vector/Acai is all of these. I value the tropical fruit naming of the series, using nature as a paradigm is very sweet! *hehehehhe* I happened upon the Usability Initiative through a serendipitous bout of intuitive googling after seeing a picture of a wild boar. I enabled Vector yesterday. I played around with the new skin and tools and am very pleased. Some of them are very useful for me. I am sure the Community will embrace them with strong appreciation. I am working more on Wikiversity at the moment, I wish the enhancements were evident there. I pray for the day when we have symbiotic interfaces/skin that learn, intuit and adapt to our usage patterns and styles of editing and reinvent themselves to assist and support our editing style and recommend learnings and foreground skill-enhancement opportunities. Thank you for your question by the way Teofilo because through it I came upon the Wikimedia Tech Blog. I am thankful to both the Ford Foundation and the Stanton Foundation and the people involved in these initiatives. I have not as yet had a lot of personal iteration of Commons, though I have been very pleased with the evergrowing cache. I am pleased that Commons is getting some loving attention to improve workflow and interface. When these refinements are rolled-out to the Projects I am confident they will support the retention of new editors and enlighten the quill in the cap of the seasoned.
They are a talented, driven, and motivated team, and my reaction is "Great!" Given the amount of correspondence that we receive to OTRS about usability on Wikimedia projects, I think the creation of the initiative is welcome indeed. I've spoken with Naoko about the initiative and between the Stanton and Ford projects, I'm confident that they will be able to make tangible improvements for us.
Amount of work that can be done in this field is infinite. Though these issues are and should be priority, bringing in other organizations to such efforts is great example how our priorities can be seen positively by other organizations. The topic of usability improvements can be discussed forever (once I was flying together with our Advisory Board member Teemu, and we were discussing it whole long-haul flight :) - but there will be pretty much universal agreement, that it is useful. So, my reaction is somewhat like "Yepeee!". The organization though should show, that it can lead and execute such project properly, so that friendly organizations become even friendlier, and our interface even more usable.
I have been involved in achieving improved usability through the UNIWIKI tools. The current project is doing great things but it is focused on the English Wikipedia. As a consquence it can not consider itself with the things that are major issues for the other projects and languages. Having said this, it is great to have this project because the majority of the issues raised are relevant for all languages and projects.
First off, the "Stanton Foundation" may not have given anything to the Wikimedia Foundation. The "Stanton Foundation" is a very small non-profit headquartered in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan. Rather, what you may be talking about is the "Ruth and Frank Stanton Fund", and the fact that the Wikimedia Foundation itself may have botched the correct name in its press release about the gift speaks volumes about how a more professional and accurate grade of staffing may be needed at the WMF. Not more staff; better staff. Seriously, someone gives you $890,000, and then you ambiguously attribute the generosity to a completely unrelated organization? Then, you spend a large portion of the money by paying rent to your founding Board member's privately-held company? If this is not a criminal act, it is certainly outrageous!
My reaction to these announcements would be to take a look at how a smaller sum, such as the $20,000 Philip Greenspun gift, was managed and spent. In that case, a generous donor gave $20,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation to improve drawings and images that might educate readers. The Foundation handed over management of the gift to a volunteer who had little experience in managing grant money. The WMF, as usual, just crowdsourced it and "hoped for the best". Well, only twenty final images were created and paid for, and less than 5% of the money was spent on what it was supposed to be spent on, after eighteen months' time. This is a debacle! And I seem to be the only candidate who's even aware of, much less vocally upset by, this disaster.
My call would be "NO MORE LARGE GIFTS TO THE WMF UNTIL IT GETS ITS ACT TOGETHER".
It is good news, indeed. I support the initiative as I think it can help WMF to improve its materials. A perusal of the terms and agreements is essential. And, from a personal point of view, I sorely think that "what does not kill you, makes you stronger". Therefore, this sponsorship is priceless.
As yet, the project is only in its swaddling stages, so it would be unreasonable to expect too much from it, but the concept behind it is awesome, and way overdue. The issue that brought this forth is something many of us have decried for a long time now. One (as an individual wikimedian) can only hope that there will be a long term commitment and appropriate follow through on the feedback it will hopefully generate.
As I have used the Acai interface, it still needs much work, but my hopes are genuinely raised that in time it will reap great benefits in terms of lowering the barrier of entry. If it doesn't, the money will have been ill spent. What it needs is loads of feedback and an extended period of honing the interface so that it will deliver the promise we can all see.
I am not yet convinced that the particular project will deliver, but certainly it is in an area that needs to be addressed, if not by this precise initiative, then by some other. We absolutely *must* make wikimedian projects intuitive to address as newcomer editors, again. No matter what the cost.
I am very happy to see this; particularly that other respected organizations place enough value on this work that they are supporting it. There is a lot of work that can be done here to make big improvements in all the projects, and being able to support dedicated people doing it full-time will have a great impact.
To me this is a very good sign. This is just another sign that people is starting to get respect for foundations such as us. There is always room for both expanding and improving at the Foundation. We should be grateful for every bit of help that we get from the outside. One should never say no to help with improving, unless there is a good reason not to such as COI.
It is wonderful to see attention being given to usability. I was quite surprised and a bit disappointed that the work was not fostered through the active community usability enthusiasts who had done related work in the past, or who had proposed large-scale projects on their own (without funding). I am not certain that these particular projects, with dedicated staff and limited community engagement, will realize the sorts of dramatic improvements that will utterly change the barriers to entry of using Wikipedia and Commons - as there is much to be done, but it is good for this class of projects to have more visibility and an outlet for experimentation. It would be useful to see whether community-driven experimentation in [re]design has increased or decreased over the same time period - one might think that a similar pool of resources could inspire and support work by hundreds of talented community creators, eager to add one of these top-100 websites to their portfolio.
I'll admit that you've exposed a gap in my knowledge here, as I had never heard of this initiative. Improving the usability of WMF projects is obviously a good thing, and candidates better informed than I am seem to think that this initiative will do that.
Look back on my statement for last year's election. "Support development of the MediaWiki software for enhanced usability" is on the first place of my statement. I was extremely happy to be able to approve the Usability Project on my second board meeting. I think the usability project should not be a unique event. We should keep it going on. The technique is developing, we must keep us with the movement.
A - It's fine with me.
I have a feeling that very few people are actually reading these candidate responses. Therefore, in a measure to test how important are these privacy concerns, I offer the following experiment. If you are reading this response, you are now eligible to win one of three $10 prizes. All you need to do to claim the prize is go to this page, watch the embedded video, and at the 4:45-4:51 mark, please discover where the Wikipedia page ranks on the Google search. Send your correct numeric answer to ResearchBiz(at)gmail.com, along with your name, and an e-mail address where you are able to receive a PayPal payment, or a mailing address where you are able to receive a check drawn on a US bank. This experiment will close at 11:59 PM Eastern time, August 3, 2009. My answer to the above question, meanwhile, is "C". Update: The experimental contest yielded 5 unique click-throughs to the contest page, over about four days. Only 2 people submitted their answer to the contest question (both correctly -- Wikipedia ranked #14 on a Google search compared to MyWikiBiz ranking #1). So, Joshua Zelinsky and Erno Similä will be receiving their $10 payments from MyWikiBiz, and the remaining $10 prize will remain unpaid, since hardly anyone is even reading these candidate responses to community questions.
I would be quite shocked if any candidate plumped for A or B. Such violations of policy should of course be removed with "extreme prejudice". So colour me as close to C as any reasonable candidate could be, while recognizing that the phrasing of "C" is not perhaps the precise one that I might have used. Specifically since the policy has been passed, it should not in the first instance fall on the Board to _enforce_ the policy. Only in a dramatic failure of the normal avenues of seeking enforcement, should it be necessary for the Board to be the "axeman" in matters of this sort.
Quite frankly, I think that 99% of people will have no idea what it means (and don't care), and the 1% who do can will know enough to not misunderstand it. I do like the point you make about focusing on the terms agreed by the licensor, I am curious as to what you plan to implement this is. I think that licensing is an issue that should be continually looked at, as no option will ever prove to be completely satisfactory to all parties.
Legalese, for the majority of the community and even our information Community is somewhat obtuse and nonintuive, an opaque technical language of the privileged. I champion a clear statement of intention and summary of the change evident in the page to which you make mention. In addition, I hold that an 'and' solution to your query is in order. I opine that there should be a "human-readable summary", following the resplendent lead (how's that for a plug) and accessible terminology of Creative Commons and in addition, there should be clarity identifying licensing terms binding historical contributions. All text (in particular) published before June 15th, 2009 was released under the GFDL solely. (As an aside Teofino, shouldn't there be a clear demarcation in our Projects' edit histories outlining license transition?) The GFDL alone was increasingly cumbersome and problematic as it necessitated the printing of the entire license and a hard listing of all contributors to be distributed with the printed work and if there had been an inordinate amount of contributors (and many Wikimedia Feature article contributor lists are a cast-of-thousands at minimum) it becomes quite ecologically and spatially burdensome for print media. Moreover, to my limited understanding, this license did not allow for commerical fair-use. My understanding is the partnership of CC-BY-SA and GFDL v1.3 as of June 15th, 2009 is to progress a refined license of share-alike that give appropriate attribution (which is refined by providing a link to the page in digital communication or listing the URL in non-digital) and also provides for commercial fair-use subject to attribution and and share-alike of the treasury of our creative commons. That said, the map is not the territory: a summary of intention and content does not convey the finesse of the documents in total and interested parties either tendering to, or drawing upon our common treasury, should endeavour to be fully informed. Hence, no in answer to your question: I hold there is minimal possibility that Wikimedia Foundation would be considered the sole licensor and copyright owner of content upon summary investigation by an interested party.B9 hummingbird hovering 15:37, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I think the change to CC-BY-SA makes things easier for people to both use and understand our terms. It is difficult sometimes for someone trained to read legally to scale it back and read like a lay person, so I do empathize with people who find them obtuse and difficult to understand. This is a problem with (almost) all terms of service though, and our updates have gone some ways towards fixing that. What they do not say, and I think this is very clear, is that we own content. We do not, and I believe that to be very clear.
I am happy with the move from GFDL to CC-by-sa. It makes it easier to share information with other projects and, this is in line with what we aim to do. When people understand the WMF to be the licensor to the content then practically that makes sense. As a re-user you do not want to deal with the thousands of individual people who can stake a claim. When we focus on the original license and consequently leave it at this license as some would have it, we would not have been able to move towards the CC-by-sa. As the original license explicitly allowed for moving towards a later version of the license, it is clear to me that sufficient attention is given to the original license.
It's another one of those infamous "wall of words" that just leaves 99% of readers with their eyes spinning, struggling to find a hyperlink that will take them away from the page. There's a lot of puffy language all over Wikimedia properties, advising users and re-users how to "legally" make use of this "free culture" detritus. The thing is, most people see "free", and they think that means "free" as in the sign you might attach to an old bookshelf that you leave by the curb, hoping that someone will haul it off and put it to better use, relieving you of the civic duty to properly dispose of the unwanted material, at your own cost. We sort of have yet to see a really monumental court case that better defines the limits and expectations of these free licenses, where a solution of due remedy has not already been offered to the supposedly offending party. Until then, this rather strikes me as a big show of trying to come up with as many puffy-sounding legal terms and explanations that will somehow turn the dog poo of most freely-licensed content into something worth money to someone. I have had personal experience on the English Wikipedia with an administrator copying and plagiarizing my freely-licensed content, erasing the original attribution to me, then covering up his tracks through Admin "delete" buttons. He was not reprimanded in any visible way. When I asked the co-founder of Wikipedia to restore the deleted attributed edits, he responded that he "might as well restore all of it I suppose". Thus, I am admittedly jaded regarding the vision of the Wikimedia Foundation being a principled defender of free licenses and proper attribution. As always in life, you really do get what you pay for.
When something like this changes it is usually to make things easier/better. However, I understand your point. A "layperson", in legal jargon, does not have to be necessarily aware of Wikimedia policy. On the other hand, this happens like in many other institutions that have their own rules who everyone must, or at least should, follow. Therefore, here is when people coming from "outside" the project assume some responsibility on the subject. As a member of the Board, I will try to keep things as "plain" and understandable as possible without missing formality. Bear in mind that sometimes a brief explanation prevents from having a "loophole". Finally, we should never consider Wikimedia nor its supported projects as the exclusive licensors of whatever is being done for promoting free knowledge. After all, we are a community of users who aim to provide what is better for the project's growth.
As to the licencing; I personally would be happy if we could at a later date, as the dust has hopefully settled about the transition, see if the guardian of the GFDL might not be persuadable to relinquish his wish that the old content remain licenced both GFDL and CC-BY-SA, since the provisions that are the only significant divergences between the licences are nearly universally not relevant to any of our content. As it stands nothing in the migration clauses specifically *requires* such multiple licencing but is simply done to honour a wish by Mr. Stallman, so if by gentle persuasion, he could see his way to releasing us from that "honour system" compliance, nothing else should stand in the way of simply going all out CC-BY-SA.
A more significant issue for our future is the fact that the "flavor" of CC-BY-SA as a compromise we have chosen is the "un-ported" one, which does not specify a country-specific jurisdictional tinkered wording.
The Creative Commons movement has recognized recently that it needs to accommodate the great variety of IP-laws in different jurisdictions, and consequently has worked very commendably in localising the licence to work well in the various legal domains. It would in my view be a very useful thing for our re-users if we followed suit; later if not sooner.
The above affects mostly our re-users; but there is a much thornier issue of what content that is previously published under a CC-BY-SA licence from a sole author can be added to our projects. I do *not* hold the view that we should place any hurdles on adding such content, if it is at all possible to let any such valuable content to be used by us. I know that whoever is chosen in this election will have to confront this issue squarely, so personally I would be very interested to know how the incumbent trustees feel about this issue. Do they agree that sole author CC-BY-SA from outside should be let in, or not. It is to be noted that since such would be previously published, nothing in the Terms of Service can retroactively bind those sole authors rights under the licences broadest possible interpretation. My understanding is the the current wording of the TOS does not preclude such content, but the issue is of course that the wordings of future revisions of the Terms Of Service (at least in my view), should guard against any restrictions that would preclude such content use.
A- Are you comfortable with the prospect that the Wikimedia chapters might be able to appoint members on the Wikimedia Foundation's board of trustees, while they have no community-elected members on their own board, or no requirement to do so ?
B- Do you think the German chapter's decision to act outside of consensus, by not consulting Wikimedia Commons' community before starting to upload the Bundesarchiv pictures, was a good decision ?
C- Do Wikimedia chapters have a "right" to override community procedures or decisions ?
A) Yes, provided that the Foundation and not the chapter actually runs the election.
B) I am not familiar with this incident. I will get back to you by tomorrow.
C) No, but they are not entirely powerless. I view the community on the internet as the policy and guideline setters for their projects, and the chapters as the policy and guideline feedback for the project as a whole, including the foundation. So while the chapters cant overturn NPOV rules, they can provide feedback to the community on issues of all sorts, that should certainly be taken in to account.
A. The Chapters are entitled to exercise their unique charter and mandate. If a Charter chooses the modality of appointment rather than election, that is the determination of their constituency. I respect this, their right to exercise cultural difference. However, the WMF Board of Trustees is determined by voting. The constituency of the Trustees is the wider Community and I champion voting to determine the general membership of that Board. As an aside, as there are few female candidates this year, if I am elected I am going to table a campaign to promote appropriate gender representation and diversity on the Board. In answer to your question as it is a cultural matter my personal opinion is irrespective and inappropriate: I am neither comfortable nor uncomfortable with this. I champion being respectful to the cultures and constituencies in question wherever possible and reasonable. B9 hummingbird hovering 17:09, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
B. Teofino, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I noticed in my cursory research, your footprint on the discussion page in Commons. I understand that you are passionately opposed to a computer bot adding images in-suite, that is, the adding of images in an automated fashion. I understand you would have preferred that humans upload the images in full knowledge of their content. You are offended by the Nazi propaganda inherent and evident in the material yes? Being French and as Germany occupied France, it is close to your heart and a sensitive issue yes? Process was not followed in that Commons consensus was not secured by the German Chapter prior to uploading the archive of the Bundesarchiv pictures. This impropriety and disregard rubbed salt into your wound. I feel for you Teofino. This is a complex and sensitive matter. I hold that processes wherever possible should be followed if they are meaningful and sensible. I also hold that they should be ignored or changed if they are counterproductive and obstructive. We must not censor historical information uploaded on Commons. Alternatively, we must filter the access to the sensitive information held in Commons from minors and those without committed accounts if it is of a sensitive nature. I do not know whether the images are sensitive. I do not favour censorship, only the protection of youthful innocence. Even better Teofino, start a campaign to critique the images in a dispassionate and informative fashion. That is productive. B9 hummingbird hovering 17:09, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
C. Wikimedia Chapters have their governance and the Projects determine their rules according to policy and culture. That said, it is not a matter of rights it is a matter of appropriateness, respect and courtesy. We need to foreground deep consultation in our Community not proscription.B9 hummingbird hovering 17:32, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
A. Yes. B. Yes, and I disagree with the conclusion that they acted outside of consensus, or that the Commons community has the authority to tell a WMF Chapter that they cannot upload images. C. No, but keep in mind that chapters are typically members of the community (both as an entity and as individual members).
Wikimedia chapters are supposed to represent Wikimedia communities from around the world. Of course, there have to be better procedures and guidelines in place for both staff and chapters committee to establish a baseline for chapters, with requirements for transparency and community involvement. Definitely, we should not welcome autocratic organizations to the chapter family, and passing the value test must be a must. Such organizations are welcome to appoint members to Board of Trustees, in order to widen the participation, and involve other kinds of contributors, not just editors, into setting the path for future work.
Be bold. If one has something to contribute and it doesn't violate project principles, why should they ask for permission? Thats why we have 'edit' button all around! I don't really get the point of this question, is there something I'm really missing? Did WMDE do something against project rules or guidelines?
Wikimedia chapters do not have any direct authority over Wikimedia Foundation projects. Wikimedia chapters are there to unite volunteers and like-minded individuals, and go into wider scopes of contribution.
B - The upload of the Bundesarchiv material provides important material to Commons and it established the groundwork for partnering with GLAM. Good relations with GLAM are essential to us. I do not understand why the Commons community wneeded to be consulted as it is very much what in line with what Commons is about. il
C - For legal reasons chapters do not have influence on projects in the first place. When chapters claim the right to override project procedures they assume responsibility and this may lead to making them successfully a party in litigation. Practically chapters may represent the largest organist group of project volunteers and therefore it is not strange when they have more influence then others.
A. I don't know enough about the chapters to reasonably comment; but, my impression is that there are too few external, unaffiliated professionals on the WMF Board right now, and I don't exactly see how letting Wikimedia chapters of "groupies" add even more embedded personnel onto the Board is going to help us. We need to be moving in the direction of the Board being comprised of business leaders from the professional fields of media, publishing, education, and communication, not nerds (self-admitted one, here) who enjoy geeking out on Wikipedia.
B. Aren't the German chapter members also Wikimedians? If they acted outside of consensus, then the other non-chapter Wikimedians should be able to address that problem, if it is even a problem. Until the Wikimedia Foundation establishes more coherent policies to address inappropriate activity on the projects, it's truly "mob rule" out on the projects. So, we can't complain about some incident or another involving a German chapter whose members are all (presumably) Wikimedians in good standing.
C. See my answer to "B." As long as the standing form of policy is governed by "mob rule", then chapters have the "right" to attempt to override community procedures or decisions, because they are as much a part of the community mob as the next guy is.
A. Yes. I think of the idea as being really good for our purposes. Chapters are, and should be, part of our community. They do valuable things for the project's growth and profit. They promote Wikimedia contents everywhere (which obviously guarantees a better outreach), so they must have a place in our Board.
B. I partially disagree with you regarding this question. Anyway, the result was quite favourable and we did not lose anything by incorporating such a valuable material in Commons.
C. No. They cannot do that. However, their opinions and/or suggestions, if needed, are always welcome.
(A): Comfortable, yes. But I am also very concernedly watchful as to what the fruits of that mechanism are. The issue is ever how we get good trustees, and specifically trustees that represent the various interests of the Foundation&Communities in a healthy and balanced way. I do think there are serious issues with the balance of representation currently, but I don't see any a priori reason why the chapters might not be wise enough to realize this too, and consequently act to redress the balance, to the best of their understanding.
(B): I'll have to get back to you on that. Like other candidates I don't quite understand what the problem could imaginably be. I shall study the issue though, to see if there really is something we are all missing.
(C): Absolutely not. Perish the thought. Though I would have to say that the chapters do have their own bylaws to follow (and laws for that matter), and following those is not something that community decisions can prevent either.
A. For a chapter to be a chapter, it must have been vetted by the Chapters Committee, who evaluates it based on several criteria including whether there are members who are active contributors to the projects;so yes, I am comfortable with this. I don't think it is necessary that a chapter have community-elected members on its own board, though if their is a serious problem with the governance of a chapter, it should be brought to the attention of the Chapters Committee who may make a recommendationon whether to revoke its status.
B. This is somewhat fact-specific and I don't know the details. In general I can't think of a reason why they would have to get consensus to upload pictures, as long as those pictures were generally within Commons' scope; no one has to ask before uploading media and I don't think a case should be different because it is connected to a chapter project. If for some reason the pictures don't belong on Commons and the general Commons community opposes the project, that would be a different matter.
C. No, not in general. Chapters' activities ought to be either separate from or in line with community procedures on the projects; chapters have no special authority over the projects. Chapter members, of course, have the same right to act as community members as anyone else does; perhaps it is unavoidable that people active and visible in a chapter with also be active and visible on a project, and thus sway opinion their way.
Yes, because as I’ve said, the chapters play an extremely important role in the Foundation. They should have the right to decide on some of the trustees.
I don’t see the action as wrong. I personally just love good communication, so I would’ve liked to see the German chapter inform Commons. The content they got is making a great contribution to Commons, so I don’t really see any reasons to be unhappy.
The chapters’ acts like messengers of the Foundation. They should help to improve communication between Wikimedia users and be on the lookout for support for the Foundation. They are not in charge of the Foundation.
A - Chapters are an important part of our global community structure, sharing the Foundation's mission to further the projects. Your point about community representation is valid; there should be more discussion about how chapters can ensure they are representing their communities, and the mechanism for selecting the chapter Board seats is still being worked out. But I am comfortable with having that group having input into the composition of the Board - this is one way for smaller communities and Chapters to have a voice.
B - This is a general question for any community members -- can they simply start a new process on a wiki? Being bold is imnportant; it has nothing to do with the contributors being part of a Chapter-supported project. And similarly, the other community members should respond and contribute help or criticism as they would with any new active contribution.
C - Chapters have no special authority over the projects. They are community bodies that help organize editors and other contributors. Any group taking on an organized project will have the strength of momentum and participation.
A. The most charitable thing that can be said about the decision to allot two WMF Board seats to chapter representatives is that it was premature. Chapters need to be held to a high standard of governance before they're given a privileged position in WMF governance.
B. I don't see any problem with this. Like Gerard and Domas, I don't see why this is something that should require advance consensus, but like Ad I'd be quite willing to re-examine the question if I'm missing some important context.
C. No. I get the sense that I'm missing a relevant piece of background here, though.
A- There are two possible ways handling this future problem - (1) the Foundation makes an official decision what kind of election it acknowledges in the chapters (2) the Foundation decides, that the procedure of the election in the local chapters is up to them. (3) In special cases (the chapters have to proceed in accordance to their local laws) the chapter can make exeption, why not? B- There is a clear definition of what can be uploaded. So the chapter did not (as far as I know) override these definitions.
C- No, but in a case of necessity (maybe because of nationals laws or other compulsory reasons) a consensus must be found. And in general the suggestions of the local chapter must be take serious by the board.
A Yes. Chapters are an important part of our community. Community is not only the editors, community is also the developers of MediaWiki software, the users of our content, people that do propaganda for us, people that contact Museums and Bundesarchive to propagate our mission, people that support us with their donation, etc. As I stated above. Without the chapters the Foundation would be far away from the outreach that we achieve today. I very definitively wilcome the chapters appointed board members, they are valuable assets on the board. And the process that the chapters had developed to appoint these board members is a very good one.
B Not consulting the commons community is not the same as act outside of the consensus. And the commons community is not the adminship of the commons project, but also the contributors of all the other projects that use the media files that are collected on the commons project. But we have at least one project that is initiated from a chapter to upload content on the commons that run bad, resulting in heavy stress between the project and the commons community and temporary blocking of the project. I had made suggestions on the village pump to avoid such problems in the future by consulting the commons before the project start. I hope that both the commons as well as our partners outside of our projects and the chapters learn lessons from such incidents and avoid such unhappiness in the future.
C No. They have neither right nor possibility to do that.
Board-level restrictions of private information disclosure
At least one user is currently facing a high-profile litigation, with the situation of Derek Coatzee and the National Portrait Gallery. What are your thoughts on the disclosure of private information, of Wikimedia users, e.g. Checkuser information? In your opinion, under what threshold should local Checkusers or the Foundation "give up" such information, such as IP information? In particular, I want to know: Would you be willing to set a binding Board-level directive that such things may only be done if legally obligated, such as via subpoena? rootology (T) 13:02, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
I would replace the current haphazard, irresponsible, volunteer-driven practices and policies in this regard, with carefully-crafted, responsible, staff-driven practices and policies. The Wikimedia Foundation must adhere to all the relevant laws of the State of California, and the United States federal code. In cases of goodwill or public relations benefits, it may also be beneficial to honor the spirit of laws in areas outside of the United States. For example, in the case of the National Portrait Gallery theft of protected content, I think the Wikimedia Foundation botched the opportunity to mildly rebuke Mr. Coatzee, and then begin working in harmony with the Gallery's wishes. In this way, all laws would have been respected, rather than tested in a silly "free culture" pissing contest. Remember, we are talking about the same Wikimedia Foundation that has actively tried to suppress information about the street address of its headquarters location. If the WMF is going to talk the talk about "public information wanting to be free", then they need to walk the walk, even on Stillman Street.
This is wrong on so many levels I have a serious difficulty even beginning to rebut the "statement of question". Honestly, stand for election yourself, if you have a point of view, don't try to insinuate "facts" which are really just your own fantasies in the form of "questions". Honestly, subpoenas are a very specific national type of legal instrument, and there are clearly jurisdictions which have no equivalent of subpoenas at all. So there is a very clear cultural/jurisdictional bias evident in the whole framing of this enquiry, and really any fairminded reader would not take it at face value, purely because of that.
There are policies regarding private information. Checkuser information should only be released if required so by law. I believe that the Checkusers from the Foundation would have the integrity to follow these policies to the letter.
What will you do about the WMF mishandling its funding?
The Wikimedia Foundation spends only 31.6% of its incoming revenues on the "program services" that are the reason-for-being of any non-profit charity, as seen here on the WMF's form 990. What will you do to fix this? What will you be willing to do, to force disclosure of what went wrong, and clean up shop to correct the actions and behaviors of those responsible? rootology (T) 13:20, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
The Foundation is not mishandling its funding. There is an expression, "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics". I believe that this statistic is rather misleading, because it a) does not take into account the other necessary funding, and b) compares revenue to expenses instead of expenses to expenses.
Start ups (which this still is) always have poor rates of "program services". This will change in time.
rootology, I am confident in that there was no impropriety in budgeting. I uphold the importance of the professionalization of remunerated tenures to maximize fundraising in our constrained economic climate. I also uphold the community outreach evident in the expenditure which was not tied to any particular Project.
This question presumes that the WMF is mishandling its funds. I do not believe that to be the case, and I echo comments by others that our internal structure and cost distribution differ drastically than other non-profits, making categorizations like this inappropriate to compare to others. In regards to any financial reforms, I have addressed this in previous questions.
First of all, Wikimedia Foundation has quite high capital-expenditures that show up as depreciation rather than loss of net assets (though I'd have to resort to Treasurer for proper confirmations how we manage our funds) - so the 'expenses' may look lower. Do note, WMF was buying servers at increasing rates over previous years, so depreciation from years before was not that visible on balance sheet.
Second, we had bigger fundraisers, that would happen in the middle of financial year, so the actual increased spending, correlating to increase fundraising, is being shifted to next year. Also, as the organization is still growing, financial control has yet to achieve such a level, where spending in a financial year will be equal to fundraising in a financial year - it requires very very precise execution of both fields, and simply cannot be happening with such agile organization as ours .
It is very unfortunate, that we have people bringing up such a number, and building claims and theories at that, especially when terms like "mishandled", "correct the actions and behaviors of those responsible", "what went wrong", etc. It is even more unfortunate, that some people manage to use that as an argument constantly, without really explaining what those numbers are nor what they mean.
Do note, this organization still has nearly 50% in tech-spending alone, to make better features, ensure better operational stability, better performance, more capacity, more space for uploads, etc. 50% alone is much higher than 31%, and there're quite a few other 'program' areas.
It would be much much better to discuss our organizational spending if this question would not cast mark of malice. All I can suggest for now is reading financial reports more attentively, and if any questions arise, feel free to contact either staff or board.
Given what we do at what budget, it is amazing that we do this well. In my appreciation we do extremely well on an extremely low budget. So I will attempt to understand this as much as I need to and I will approach it first and foremost with appreciation for the job that is being done.
I am happy to see that the editor asking this question realizes that we can and should demand a "clean shop" at the Wikimedia Foundation. Most of the juiced-up boosters of Wikipedia and its Foundation fail to even recognize this simple fact. The major force of change that I would bring to the Board would be my absence of gullibility that seems to afflict too many of the current Board and Executive Staff personnel, as well as most of the Board candidates.
In 2007, the Staff projected a need for $2,573,000 for "Technology". Then, in 2008, the Staff explained that they only needed to spend $900,000 on Technology -- a variance of $1.67 million, or missing the mark by 65%! Of course, the Staff will defend this by saying, "Well, you should be happy that we saved so much money!" But, overall, no money was saved. Some of the money went to overages in the Legal department. Most of the rest was stuffed into a savings account at the bank. It is unethical to persuade donors that $2.6 million is needed for "Technology", but then stuff over $1 million of those raised funds into a bank. That was not the intention of the donors who thought they were paying for servers and bandwidth. Would they have donated so much money if the stated need had been, "our savings account at the bank"? Doubtful! Any Staff and/or Board that would approve (with a smile!) such a deviation from projected budget should be seriously questioned.
I could similarly talk about how one of the first expenditures from the Ruth and Frank Stanton Fund grant was to write a series of rent checks to Wikia, Inc. (the privately-held company co-founded by the founder of the Wikimedia Foundation), but I have illuminated that fiasco elsewhere. I'll merely say, once again, any Staff and/or Board that would approve (with a smile!) such an arrangement that can only be perceived as self-dealing should be seriously questioned.
As for the Ford Foundation grant that I've seen upheld here by other candidates, that's interesting company to be keeping.
First of all, suggesting that the WMF is "mishandling" its funding goes against good faith. In my opinion, the question should be focused on if there is a place for improving what it has been done up to now. Assuming that current Board members have handled funds with a high grade of responsibility is only the first step. I do believe this to be the case, so my response deals with what improvements can be done within our possibilities. That is our mission and that should/must be our commitment.
I half-expected this question to continue and ask whether I've stopped beating my wife yet. To be a little clearer: you frame the question as something needing to be fixed, but I think this is not an accurate presentation. I'm not going to "fix it" because I do not think it is broken: I think we are handling funds responsibly.
The way spending is reported on the form 990 makes assumptions that don't fit Wikimedia's model very well. Unlike many charities, the overwhelming majority of our donations and program services do not pass through the offices. They are donations of time and activity, represented by hundreds of thousands of man-hours, and they do not show up on the form. In reality, almost all of the resources donated to Wikimedia, in the form of work on the projects, go directly to "program services". But because they are provided directly from users to readers without first passing through the offices, Wikimedia does not account for them in filings. The Foundation's activity is mainly that which is best handled by a central office rather than volunteers, and overwhelmingly that tends to be "overhead". These costs either provide the infrastructure for the rest to exist, or extend and improve the work that is being done.
Perhaps a better measure of our responsibility in handling funds would be the trust other organizations have shown in us by giving us large grants to support our work. The Stanton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, and Sloan Foundation thus far (and there are others in the pipeline) have decided that Wikimedia is responsible enough that we would use their donated resources wisely; if you don't trust me to be an impartial spokesperson, perhaps you will trust them.
It is not meaningfully a question of what percentage of the Foundation's income is spent on Program Services, but rather a question of what percentage of the Foundation's expenditures are directed towards Program Services. I would encourage you to read my answer to Question Four. I believe this issue is addressed there, particularly with regard to the second section of my answer.
I really don’t believe anything went wrong or that there is anything to be fixed. This figure changes from year to year, depending on the purchasing of new hardware, improving of software ect. As I’ve also mentioned in one of my answers, we shouldn’t always just spend money, we should also invest. This is particularly important in financial times such as these. I believe that the members of the board have the correct judgement when it comes to the budget. No one should judge their actions.
How to read a 990: The bottom of page 5 gives you a sense of how resources are being allocated. Any revenue not listed there was saved. Out of $3.2M in expenses, 67% were for explicit program services. Over $3M was saved over the course of the year, a nice change, since for a time the Foundation had barely 3 months' operating expenses in the bank. Unfortunately that trend seems temporary, according to the budget for the coming year. You should be glad to see our Foundation saving its funds, since we don't have particularly clear emergency plans for what to do when we run short (see: the lack of endowment, minimal dump mirrors), nor a specific agenda for where money should be spent to best support the Projects (see: the lack of a starting point, from either the community or the Foundation, for the current strategic planning).
The total overhead on the $6.5M in contributions was roughly 17% ($1.1M), which can be broken into 3% for explicit fundraising costs, 5% for accounting, legal, registration, and recruiting; and 9% for management and other costs. This isn't bad for a traditional non-profit - a common rule of thumb is to keep that number below 15%.
For Wikimedia, which has many possible alternatives for some expenses, from in-kind donations to skilled volunteer development and management of projects, you might come up with better ways to direct funds - and I think that investing directly in community and volunteer development rather than in short-term contracts, and devising better ways to delegate work to the community, is better practice and a more sure long-term solution in many cases*. But that is a matter of planning and prioritization, not mishandling.
(* look at the meager amount spent on software development - one area where we have a good process for coordinating widely distributed expert contributions. And we wouldn't be having this discussion at all if the most complex, variegated, and labor-intensive part of the projects weren't an entirely voluntary endeavor)
I'm going to cautiously agree with the other candidates in saying that this may be an apples to orangutans comparison. First, exactly what constitutes "program spending" is not an objectively-determined classification, and second, Wikimedia's programs are likely cheaper to deliver than the programs of other non-profits of similar size, but its overheads might not be. As indicated by my responses to other questions, both here and to the English Wikipedia Signpost, I'm very much committed to focusing the WMF's resources on its core mission at the expense of more peripheral endeavors, but I'm not sure that I'm prepared to pledge fire, brimstone, and reform on the basis of the 31.6% figure.
Your question implied a mistake of the present board, but I dont't think, there was any. But You are right the accurate planning of the costs is most important. - At the end of the year, You can just look, what went wrong in order to prevent the same mistake in the next year.
The number 31.6% is misleading. Take the financial year 2007/2008 the spending of "Program", "Wikimania" and "Technology" totals more than 50% of the annual spending. There are also spending from the "Board", "Legal" and "Office of ED" that have direct effect on our projects. So the total amount would be more than at least 55%. Just because the salery of the tech staff are not included in "Program services" does not mean that they didn't do anything for our programs and projects. I think we must distinct between what according to the law and formular is "Program services" and what are really used in benefit for our projects, community and mission. Nevertheless, the board has the duty to control the spending of the Foundation, it MUST keep an eye on the efficiency of the spending. It is not a surprise that while the Annual plan of 2009/2010 was discussed on the board the question "How much of the increased plan goes to the benefit of the projects" came, and this not only by one trustee.
Could you please elaborate how you see the position in the Wikimedia Foundation of the Board of Trustees compared with the Staff positions? Which areas should in your view be covered by Board policies, which areas deserve extra attention? Some examples of areas (feel free to pick others in your answer; these examples are just for understanding the question): "spending oversight", "technical infrastructure", "non-Wikimedia partnership organizations", "fundraising", "business partnerships", "Community positions appointments" (stewards, ombudsmen), "strategy discussions with XX" (XX=chapters, communities, mailinglist...), "press profile determination" etc. Effeietsanders 07:14, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
Boards should not micromanage, that invariably leads to disaster. Everything belongs in the hands of the staff except for the direction of the organization, the appointment of the most senior staff, and final approvals of budgets, appointments, and legal policies, which should be controlled by the board, although with the ability to delegate if they so choose. The trustees would ideally help in fundraising under the direction of the staff, something I expect to participate in frequently. I look forward to working with the staff of the Wikimedia Foundation in all of these ways.
Everything you mentioned is in some way both the responsibility of both the Board and the Staff, but in different ways. The board provides oversight, high-level strategy, direct fundraising support, and broad level policy. The staff provides implementation, operational strategy, direct fundraising operation, operational policy, and implements decisions of the board. This "high-level/low-level" split exists in nearly everything that the WMF does, with both staff and board participating jointly in the areas you mention.
In most of areas, staff executes, board sets strategic direction and guidelines and oversees the execution. :) Expanding on the question may lead to very verbose walls of text, and I'll try to stress some of the points:
When it comes to detailed areas, there're always things cooking in the organization - execution of active projects has to be in board attention, major issues/events/controversies have to be discussed at board level, and of course, every discussion can end up with multiple outcomes - resolution needed or staff should be encouraged to develop better policies, etc.
Community positions and bodies need board recognition only when those positions directly deal with organization issues, or transfer certain powers from organization to community - so it is a bit of an exception for certain topic to be taken away from staff execution.
Board is of course key participant in the strategy development process - especially as facilitator - and though actual discussion can be handled by staff, it is board which will be waiting for final outcome - and should be most interested in both progress and results.
Board simply does not have capacity to generate all the useful policies - so far they originated from staff and community - and that should be the way to continue.
Given that I have a platform, better support for the other languages, partnerships with educational organisations and with GLAM, I will be looking for action in the direction I desire in the activities of the office. This is implicit in the fact that board members are elected and bring their values with them to the job. As such board members can be expected to direct the office in particular directions. By being explicit about this, you can expect changes in the direction indicated by a candidated because it is the right thing to do :) or because a board member is able to nudge the WMF in the direction that is his platform. In my opinion it should be clear what a board member stands for and it should be equally clear that board member should be judaged on his performance at a next election.
For the Board: ethics, strategy, vision. For the Staff: implementation of ethical "best practices", tactical execution of the Board-mandated strategy, and upholding the Board's vision for the organization. This is really simple, folks -- the proper dynamic between Board and Staff has been academically and professionally outlined for decades. You merely have to take the time to learn and take heed.
Both the Board and the staff work together, even though they do so at different levels of competence. The ultimate authority is the Board. However, the staff executes what it has been agreed and decided within the meetings that are held in the Board.
The Board usually makes suggestions on what has to be changed to achieve better results. On the other hand, the staff, which is composed by employees, works accordingly with the Board. Apart from this, each Board member does not have a fixed position, they contribute in different areas of interest (on chapters, fundraising, software development, technical infrastructure, outreach, etc.). By way of illustration, the staff commonly looks for "partnerships" with other institutions and/or companies. The Board may show its approval or refusal concerning the choices and the circumstances. Regarding "fundraising", most responsibility relies on the Board, which is in charge of writing the policies.
As a final remark, I believe in the community. Thus, I think that duties and responsibilities should, at least, be more balanced. The Board has to be there to suggest, listen and propose new ideas. We should never forget that we are volunteers working for the same cause and whose aim is to improve our possibilities of outreach and success. Even if there exists a hierarchical division of obligations and activities, we do not work alone. Again, will of dialogue is essential for development.
On the general issue of relations between Staff & Board, it should be clear that single members directing the Staff should be a very strict no-no. If there are things that I as a person felt very strongly about, and could not find support for my views within the Board of Trustees so that it would act as a body, together, behind a decision/compromise; I would take my private view and express it to the community to see if there was widespread support for it there. That would be the strongest action I would take individually, if there wasn't support for my stance within the Board. I would never presume to direct the staff as an individual Board Member, let me repeat that, to make it crystal clear.
The only exception to this would be cases where it has been specifically designated that a staff member reports directly to a single member of the board of trustees, but in general my personal inclination is that these kinds of organisational kludges should be deprecated, and Staff and Board both working as separate teams, which keep their own end up. In general the "chain of command" for the staff should usually terminate at the Executive Director.
In terms of which *areas* of policy should be the province of Staff or Board; my view is very strongly that there is no area of policy that would not be in the final instance decided by the Board of Trustees, with regard to the bigger picture. And on the logically contra-positive, no issue of detail that should in the normal course of things have to be brought to be decided by the Board of Trustees. On the latter point though, since of course, the Board of Trustees *does* have the final word, when it does act as a body (rather than as individual members), in very very exceptional circumstances, the Board can clarify *any* issue, when it is considered vital enough for the Foundation.
It's not a question of areas so much as roles. Basically, all of these I think should be attended to by both board and staff.
So "spending oversight": the ultimate authority for this goes to the board, and we set general goals for the budget, and approve the final document. But most of the detail goes to the staff, who plan out individual items and keep up with the ongoing expenses. The money-handling policies are written or at least approved by the board and carried out by staff.
Similarly business partnerships: the board sets the general rules; nothing that requires influence over content, nothing too philosophically incompatible, etc. The staff search for partners and evaluate partnership offers; only questionable cases are referred back to the board.
I could go on for each area that you've named but I think the idea should be clear. The board role is more big-picture, philosophical, structural: what is the general strategy and big-picture plan? What policies and structures should be put in place so regular operations go correctly without need for micromanagement? Which goals should be prioritized for the coming year? The staff takes those structures and uses them to handle operations: which companies should we seek partnerships with? How should we handle the press? What should our hardware setup look like? These are differences of type of involvement rather than area of involvement.
The board is the part of the Foundation that sets the goals annually. The staff then executes creative plans by working towards these goals. I could almost say that the staff does what the board wants to be done. The board also tells the staff what they are doing wrong and how they could improve. I want to board to give more attention to outreach and partnerships. I’ve said in many of my answers that I believe outreach is of the utmost importance. Secondly I want the Foundation to form more partnerships with organizations that could help improve the quality and quantity of the information presented on both different Wikipedias, WikiCommons, etc.
The board oversees all work of the Foundation; this is is a matter of role, rather than areas of focus. The Board advises on general goals, ensures that basic rules are followed (regarding the independence of the projects and content development, the shared mission and core principles), and approves specific new Foundation initiatives.
A good Board avoids micromanaging any details of its foundation's work. In our case, the Board is looking after both the Foundation's interests as a non-profit and the underlying mission and work of the communities which the Foundation exists to support. So part of the Board's focus that needs extra attention is helping the community develop a voice to clearly express needs, obstacles, and priorities. And that means, among other things, helping to ensure that community groups and chapters are free to contribute to the areas you mention in their own ways.
Regarding appointing community positions, I see that as a historical artefact -- the Board should not be doing more than holding a rarely-exercised veto power over community selection of community positions (such as stewards and ombudsmen). It is essential for the communities, chapters and contributors to be empowered to directly support the work of the Projects and set up their own positions and bodies as they see fit.
As an aside, I disagree with Kat's framing above of the volunteer editing and other that goes into the Projects as being donations 'to the Foundation'. That is not the point at all. Those are volunteers working directly on the Projects, not through any intermediary, and rarely knowing about the Foundation at all -- this openness and capacity for direct action is the brilliance of our current system. One area that needs attention is strengthening the separation of Project and foundation work, so that both can be most effective.
In general, board policies should touch on all major areas of the Foundation, and the implementation and enforcement of those policies should be a staff matter. I agree with others' comments that it's less a question of which areas the Board should involve itself with, and more a question of at what level the Board should be involved in a given area. I will add only that I am probably less committed than most candidates to an ironclad separation of the Board from lower level matters; in my experience, boards occasionally need to delve deep into specifics to properly exercise their oversight role of staff. I'd be pleased to answer any more specific question that you may have on this subject.
Larger non-profit-organizations (like the foundation) normally need employees for several reasons. The staff (employed) an the board (volunteers) will harmoniously work together, like in any other larger "non-profit-organization" - why not?. The duty of the full-time employees is the support of the foundations tasks. They are necessary especially in fields which are for example characterized by extensive continuous daily work, or special knowledge. In regular conferences the staff and the board should coordinate their work and planning. I myself (as board-member in other non-profit-organizations) have hardly ever experienced greater problems in coordination and working together. The employed staff of the foundation counts about 20 persons - a small number, so I'm looking forward to working together with them, cause I expect a good "team-work".
The board is the highest oversight and controlling organ of the foundation. The staff is the executing body. The board say what is important, what is less important, what is not important. It says what we should do, what we shouldn't do. The staff acts according to the board decision. I don't think a board member should directly tell a staff member to do this or that, this would only confuse the staff, is very inefficient and uncoordinated. Let me take some of your examples above and elaborate what it means in the daily board-staff-relation. "Spending oversight": The board oversights the total spending of the Foundation. It approves the annual plan and the annual report of the Foundation. It approves big business contracts and major donations. It asks questions if something is not clear. But it doesn't ask what every staff member had spent on their travel or what they did every day. This is the duty of the ED or the CFO or the head of the departments. "Technical infrastructure": the board say that technical infrastructure is vital for us, so the staff dedicate this as the biggest batch of our spending. The board say a redundant database server farm is important for us, so the staff works to get donation for this project and set it on the priority list. But the board doesn't say fix this defect or make that configuration. Individual board members are involved in different aspects of the Foundation work too according to their ability and interest. Some of them help do fund raising, some of them help do audit, some of them are connections with the chapters, others work on different committees. Everyone of us have his or her role, but we are also a team, right?
How might the WMF best support events (including Wikimania and regional events) and outreach (Wikipedia Academies, partnerships, classes, etc.)? What should the role of the Foundation & Board be towards events and outreach? phoebe 19:46, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I think it is the role of the community and the staff to organize outreach and events, and it is among the duties of the trustees to go, to do anything the organizers ask of them while they are there, and to help with the setup or planning when asked. As a trustee I'd be excited to take part in outreach in any way I am asked. Let me know what I can do!
WMF can support events with knowhow, human resources, connections and financial backing (sorry for boiler plate answer!). There're two major categories here - events for our volunteer communities, and events that try to spread out either read-only or read-write participation outside of our communities. I consider volunteer and chapter events as priority over general outreach projects (like academies), but of course, spreading our word is very important mission for foundation.
Good ideas should not be discarded, and if we can make huge impact in efficient ways, we should be willing to undertake that costs, of course - if we can afford that.
In certain ways, outreach is a luxury - instead of concentrating on how to create better environment for current community, we try to break borders and bring it to someone who either hasn't been interested in projects yet, or just didn't have abilities. Still, our mission is spreading the knowledge, so both WMF staff and board should always consider outreach as one of major activities.
As the Wikimedia Foundation is part of a movement, events and outreach are very much instruments to build relations, partnerships. Wikimania in its delivery is about reaching out there were we may gain strength. There are two opposing things at work, it is easy to gain where there is momentum versus the effect of outreach where we are weak seems to be little. The WMF needs to be mindful of this and analyse what it is that inhibits us where we are weak. When there are clear solvable issues like missing language support technology we fix this with priority. It should be a deliberate act of the board to strenghthen our global reach. Where we have strength in our community, our chapters the foundation should support initiatives. Where we are weak it can work on initiatives that grow a new community or chapter.
This is largely a question for the Wikimedia Foundation staff, not its board members. Partnerships and outreach should be motivated by a self-awareness from the Wikimedia side, that there is extensive work to be done to transform the Wikimedia properties into something more accountable, more professional. Any interactions with external ventures should be bounded by the goal of improvement in these two areas: accountability and professionalism.
I will try to give you a brief but clarifying answer. To start with, there are two kinds of meetings, the ones that are organized by local volunteers and the others which are prepared at a major level and usually involve attendance from more than one different community. Concerning the former, it has almost nothing to do - at least directly - with the Board. As an active member of two struggling communities, I have organized several meetings in Spain and attended many others within the area.
Secondly, we have the annual meeting known as Wikimania. There is too much work there from volunteers. However, I am quite optimistic in the sense that the Foundation will always be there supporting these initiatives. Indeed, this is how it currently works.
Finally, I will definitely rely our outreach on chapters. I have been defending this point of view since the very beginning because I believe that they are powerful organizations that operate locally for the WMF's sake and profit. Thus, special attention should be given to chapters and their many valuable duties. The real problem seems to be how can we get people involved with our "cause" in those places where we do not have a chapter yet. This is the situation of many Latin American countries - excepting Argentina, which has its own chapter. As far as I remember, there were plans for those isolated chapters to spread their outreach to neighbor countries. This can be accomplished by promoting the Foundation over there or by delivering printed materials in places where no internet connection is cheap and/or possible. Here is where I think that the Foundation can improve its outreach working side by side with chapters. Partnerships are also one chance we have to strengthen our outreach. For instance, chapters can find and propose partnerships with cultural institutions from the countries or areas where they are currently working. Nevertheless, I do not want to repeat myself regarding this issue, because I have already talked about it in previous answers. To achieve all this we must have a good planning and be opened to new ideas, since richness relies mainly on diversity and on the ability of discussing what may be better for the communities working under the label of WMF.
For the most part, "hands off". The foundation can give support in the form of funds on a very limited basis, when there isn't a chapter (or the like) that can fund it, or the chapter can not support it on its own. Even after that, the foundation staff should be timely in making available any ancillary material that can be useful in such circumstances, such as translated flyers, authorized (in whatever fashion) business cards and any good offices only the foundation and its staff can provide. I cannot envision many occasions where such involvement should be escalated to the Board of Trustees level. Mostly this is the prime field of work for the staff. The one part where the Board of Trustees would/could/should (and has been) be active is in terms of participation in such events. I don't think it is any secret that any local meeting that has a board member in attendance, has benefited therefrom. Likewise it is hard to figure that board members who have attended local meetings, have come from them, not gaining from the exchange of views and experience.
There are some things that should be part of the central strategy: events that reach a broad audience or that are important to some broad goal. Some partnerships should also: things that will affect more than a local area but rather have a broader scope that is better managed by WMF than a local group.
The rest should be, and must be, mostly local/regional, in order to reach a lot of people. I think WMF's role in this should be providing as much support as local groups need to get things going until they are ready to do it on their own, and then participating where it is reasonable.
Part of the support should be financial; I think some of the WMF's micro-grants to local groups would do well to go toward events like this. Part of it is help and planning: providing materials for workshops, or pointers to other groups who have done it successfully, providing some staff support and advice. And part is moral support: recognizing people publicly and privately for their efforts.
I have said in many times before, outreach is very important for the Foundation. I would like to see not only the Board to make decisions regarding events, but also the community. The staff, community and local chapters could then work together in organising the giving event. I would prefer the board members to participate in events — such as Wikimania. As my one fellow candidates said, we should not discard good ideas from the community. Being a board member I would do everything in my power to make such an event possible. The reason I feel so strongly about this is, there has not yet been such an event in Africa. It is one of my goals to improve the geographical coverage of the Foundation, and I believe one could do this via events. Community members should just remember that the finances is limited.
Events and outreach are the sort of widespread efforts that are best handled by local communities and projects. There are still many active contributors to the projects who have the impression that only the Foundation can run events or organize outreach -- and others who start interesting programs in their area but don't think to share their ideas and materials more widely.
The WMF can best provide encouragement, seed resources, and delegation of important projects in this area to community groups that have done such work successfully. This is currently being done to some degree, but not in a particularly visible way, and could use more publicity among contributors. Some specific examples:
The WMF and its Board members receive invitations to speak and present at conferences and shows. Other general invitations to speak come into public email queues. At the moment these are usually handled by staff and Board members when in English, and by a closed group of community members otherwise; and there is no place to record notes about an event, nor a standard process for publishing one's slides or the project ideas generated. All of this could be handled more generally by a community project to find and develop great speakers, identify and attend events, and maintain great current flyers, handouts, and visuals. (I looked for a modern Press kit the other day in vain.)
Active efforts to counter systemic bias, seeking groups to run events and outreach in underrepresented parts of the world are important . The WMF and the Advisory Board have personal relationships with many Wikimedia supporters from around the world, who might be available to attend or support regional events. Bringing notable local Wikipedia contributors and supporters to those events would help strengthen local awareness of Wikipedia.
Supporting university clubs working on free knowledge -- from free culture projects to Wikimedia to OpenStreetMap -- would help connect passionate students and professors in a meaningful way. The organizational work for this needs to come from the community, but these groups should be eligible to receive WMF support, from boxes of swag to basic help with publicity.
I do not believe that events like Wikimania are within the WMF's core mandate, and I reject the notion that we are part of some kind of "wiki movement". Meetups and local/regional conferences are best organized at the sub-WMF level. Even where the WMF is directly involved in organizing events, I do not see much role for the Board except in an oversight capacity. Events and outreach are not a major part of my plans as a trustee.
I don't want to change usual procedures of the foundation, but in general, the foundation can (like other internationally organized federations) support, assist and help the local organizations. So the procedure is easy - local organizations tell the foundation, what they intend to do and ask for help in certain fields. And the foundation tells them if it will support the project and case of agreeing in what way it can assist/help.
The Responsibility of the organization of wikimania might be given (after an international announcement) to a national chapters which applied for it an be supported by the foundation in the way described above.
We have Wikimania as our central annual conference, and we have also regional conferences in different regions and counturies of the world, for example this year we had regional conference in Belgrad, for the first time in Japan. In December there would be a chinese conference in Macao. In all these events our volunteers had invested a lot of work, time, wit. As far as I know all regional conferences and meetings until now were organized by the volunteers themselves. In the past we had Wikimanias in different forms of organization. We had Wikimanias that were mostly organized by the volunteers, we had Wikimanias where the staff were more involved in the organization. I don't expect this to change a lot. That is, by Wikimania, where the community has the resource, we will further rely on the community, where the community need help, the Foundation would help. By the regional events the main work would be done by the volunteers. I know that our community has that ability. I would not rule out that in some cases the Foundation could help with small amount of resources.
I am very sure that in the future the Foundation would enlarge its outreach programs. This is the reason why the Foundation has a Head of Public Outreach now. Where we have a strong chapter, I would expect the chapters working with the Foundation hand in hand to do the outreach program. Indeed, a lot of our current outreach programs are developed by the chapters, and this shows again how valuable our chapters are for us. In regions where our chapters are weak, or where we don't have chapters yet, the Foundation would be the driving force for outreach programs. We organized one Wikipedia Academy in reagions without chapters each year in the last three years. I would like to see that we make Wikipedia Academies more sustainable. In the past we organized an Academy, then we left. I would like to see the Academy more like a seed. If you plant a sead, you must also care for it afterwards and not just leave it alone. I am looking forward to see that we develop some strategies here. I am also looking forward that our Strategic Planning would give us some impulses and new ideas in the field outreach.
Classes and partners are until now mostly a field of chapters. Again and again we see how little we would achieve without our chapters.
As a board member I am always glad to help where I can and when I am asked. I know that every current board member are willing and glad to work on these things.