ED Report to the Board of Trustees, January 2009
My Current Priorities
1. World Economic Forum at Davos
2. Annual fundraising campaign wrap-up
3. January board meeting
4. Stanton Usability project starts up
5. Bits and pieces: normal fundraising activities, grant proposal development, strategic plan, etc.
This Past Month
January Board Meeting
On January 9-11, the Board of Trustees met at the Wikimedia Foundation office in San Francisco. Agenda items included: a recap of the success of the online fundraiser; a financial update recapping the basics of the 2008-09 annual plan and informing the Board that the organization is on track to meet its targets; an overview of the proposed plan for achieving resolution on the license migration issue; a walk-through of changes to the Form 990, coming next year; presentation of a resolution requiring people bound by the Conflict of Interest policy to update their statements annually; presentation of a resolution to approve the establishment of a new Citibank account in France; a general discussion of the time and travel commitment for board members; presentation of resolutions to recognize Wikimedia NYC as Wikimedia's first sub-national chapter, and to recognize Wiki UK Limited as a chapter; presentation of the minutes of the October board meeting and the November IRC board meeting; a discussion of the collaborative strategy development process requested of Sue by the Board; a review of the role of the Ombudsman commission and the appointment of new members; an evaluation and revamp of Wikimedia Board-created committees; an update on the status of the hiring of the Chief Program Officer; an executive session; a wide-ranging conversation with a potential new Advisory Board member; an update on the activity of the Nominating Committee, and a presentation of comScore Media Metrix data. The minutes of the January 9-11 Board of Trustees meeting are expected to be released within a month or two.
World Economic Forum
From January 27 to February 1, Jimmy Wales and Sue Gardner attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The main goals of the trip were to present a proposal to a potential funder, increase awareness of Wikipedia as a charity among WEF attendees, and actively move forward relationships with a few key major donor prospects. Sue was also able to meet briefly in Zurich with Board members of the Swiss chapter. It was a successful trip, with all major goals met, and is fully documented in a report to the Board of Trustees, distributed to foundation-l on February 3. For further details, please see that report.
On January 21, Erik Moeller and Mike Godwin published a proposal for Wikimedia projects to migrate from the GFDL to CC-BY-SA, in order to achieve greater legal compatibility with existing free educational content, and to simplify and clarify the obligations of re-users. The proposal invites all Wikimedia project contributors who have made at least 10 edits prior to January 12, 2009, to participate in the decision of whether to migrate. The vote will be made through an implementation of the Board election software, and will be securely administered by a third party. The proposal is here http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Licensing_update. The vote is planned to be held before April.
Collaborative Strategy Development Process
Earlier in 2008, Michael Snow had asked Sue to begin designing a heavily community-consultative process for development of a three-to-five-year strategic plan for Wikimedia. The goals of the strategy development process: 1) To develop a better shared understanding inside Wikimedia regarding where we're collectively headed, and 2) To enable us to communicate our goals more clearly to external stakeholders, partners and the general public, so they can join us in helping reach them. This would be a highly unusual, volunteer-centric process, which would pose unique challenges, and create unique opportunities to innovate. At the Board meeting in January, Sue presented an early-stage draft proposal. The Board endorsed the work done thus far, and asked Sue to continue evolving the plan, including beginning to work through timing and resourcing.
Fundraising & Grants
During January, the Wikimedia Foundation wrapped up its annual giving campaign for 2008-09: the most successful and ambitious fundraiser in Wikimedia's history, with donations more than double the previous year.
Between the launch of the campaign on November 4, 2008 and its conclusion on January 9, 2009, a total of 139,124 people contributed USD 4,967,759.77. This is particularly notable because of the current very difficult global economic climate, and is testimony to the dedication and passion of Wikimedia's many supporters. The Wikimedia Foundation is enormously grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of the fundraiser.
Seven of the international Wikimedia chapters participated in the campaign, committing to apply 50% of monies received towards priorities agreed-upon by both organizations. Wikimedia Österreich (Austria) will contribute USD 6,271; Wikimedia Deutschland (Germany) will contribute USD 189,486; Wikimédia France will contribute USD 40,252; Wikimedia Hungary will contribute USD 184; Wikimedia Israel will contribute USD 947; Wikimedia Nederland will contribute USD 10,879. Wikimedia CH (Switzerland) has already contributed USD 29,173, and Wikimedia Italia, which did not participate in the fundraiser, has contributed USD 4,550. (Please note that with the exception of the figures attributed to Wikimedia CH and Wikimedia Italia, the amounts listed here are inexact, due to fluctuating exchange rates and other variables.)
In the month of January, the Wikimedia Foundation received 15,033 donations smaller than USD 10,000, totalling approximately USD 546,434.55. We also received major gifts totalling USD 50,000.
In January, the Mozilla Foundation awarded a grant of USD 100,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation to help coordinate improvements to the development of Ogg Theora and related open video technologies. Mozilla and Wikimedia share a strong commitment to open standards. Version 3.1 of the Mozilla Firefox web browser will include built-in support to play audio and video in the open source Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora formats, in which all Wikipedia audio and video is stored. The USD 100,000 grant will be used to support the work of long-time contributors to the Ogg Theora/Vorbis codebase and related tools, such as libraries for network seeking. The improvements will be made over the next six months.
In January, the Wikimedia Foundation launched a weekly “Restricted Gifts” meeting bringing together the staff members who work on mission-related projects that need funding, with the staff members whose jobs are to secure funding. The meeting's purpose is to create an avenue for frequent communication, in order to enable the revenue-generating staff to speak authoritatively with external parties about Wikimedia's goals and priorities, and also to provide feedback to their colleagues from potential funders.
Outreach & Programs
In January, Sue continued pre-interviewing candidates for the position of Chief Program Officer. She also invited Board member Kat Walsh and Board Chair Michael Snow to participate in the hiring interviews, scheduled for February.
In January, Frank Schulenburg began developing the concept of a Wikimedia “bookshelf”: a repository of reference materials designed to 1) create awareness of the Wikimedia projects and provide basic information about them, 2) invite people to contribute to the projects, including information designed to overcome common objections to participation, and 3) provide information about how to edit the Wikimedia projects, including tip sheets, how-to's, an annotated “anatomy of an article,” policy summaries, etc. Some of the material will be aimed at particular audiences such as schools. Working with Jay and others, including a variety of external contractors, Frank will design and develop the “bookshelf” in English over the coming year. When complete, it is intended to serve as core instructional materials, to be translated, adapted and used for multiple purposes by Wikimedia chapters, individual volunteers, and partner organizations such as schools.
Frank also created a set of help pages for the PediaPress book extension, marking the first time the Wikimedia Foundation has provided educational support for the release of a new MediaWiki software feature. He began developing a Wikipedia Academy brochure. He prepared a set of priority questions to be answered from the (UNU-Merit) Wikimedia General Survey of Contributors and Readers, began exploring the German "Mentorenproject" and began gathering information about best practices in the German “Wiwiwiki” project.
Also in January, John Broughton’s book “Wikipedia: The Missing Manual” was released for free on the English language Wikipedia, enabling Wikipedia users around the world to read and edit it. John first contributed to Wikipedia in August 2005: he is author of the Editor’s index to Wikipedia, a comprehensive list of reference pages and links to useful information and tools for Wikipedia editors. “Wikipedia: The Missing Manual” teaches new users how to contribute to Wikipedia and gives practical advice on how to collaborate with others to improve the free encyclopedia’s content. The book was published by O’Reilly in January 2008 and can now be found on Wikipedia’s help pages. The Wikimedia Foundation is grateful to John and to O'Reilly for this great gift to Wikipedia users.
On January 2, Naoko Komura began work for the Wikimedia Foundation managing the Stanton usability project. The goal of the project is to measurably increase the usability of Wikipedia for new contributors by improving the underlying software on the basis of user behavioral studies, thereby reducing barriers to participation. Naoko had worked for Wikimedia for the prior three months as a contractor shepherding two important projects: the Wikimedia General Survey of Readers and Contributors, which was successfully launched and received tens of thousands of responses in late 2008, and the Wikimania 2008 postmortem. Prior to joining Wikimedia, Naoko has worked as a Senior Program Manager and Project Manager for Yahoo! Mail, Postini, and Cygnus Solutions. She has an MA in International Development Policy from Stanford University and an MS in Economics from Kobe University in Japan. Naoko is a native speaker of Japanese.
On January 21, Naoko announced that, following a rigorous search process, the new usability team will be housed at the offices of Wikia, Inc. Wikimedia will pay market rent to sublease two Wikia conference rooms, two blocks from the Wikimedia Foundation. The deciding factors were proximity to the Wikimedia office, and readiness of the space for immediate use. This will have the added benefit of bringing Wikimedia's usability team into contact with Wikia developers, who have been doing intensive work on Mediawiki usability. Wikia, Inc. was co-founded by Wikimedia Foundation board member Jimmy Wales: Jimmy was not involved in the decision to sublease from Wikia.
Naoko also posted three usability team job openings on the Wikimedia Foundation website: an interaction designer, a senior software developer, and a software developer. All will be located in San Francisco, and are contract positions from February 15, 2009 to April 16, 2010.
In January, Brion Vibber posted a job advertisement on the Wikimedia Foundation website, seeking a full-time system administrator to help monitor, maintain, and document the 400+ Linux/Unix servers that operate Wikipedia and its sister projects. This position will be based at our San Francisco headquarters, but will work closely with our remote staff and volunteers. A full-time system administrator will let us be more responsive to site issues when they happen, and more importantly be more proactive about planning for and averting problems before they affect the folks back home.
The AbuseFilter extension ( http://mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:AbuseFilter ) by Andrew Garrett, a Wikimedia contractor, was enabled for testing on test.wikipedia.org. It allows privileged users to set specific controls on user activity and create automated reactions for certain behaviours. It can potentially be used to handle many tasks that are currently performed by bots, and to improve detection of problematic activity. A study last year indicated that a particular filter, if applied in August 2007, would have blocked 60% of all page-move vandalism on English Wikipedia over the subsequent year, with just five false positives (0.6%).
The Drafts extension by Trevor Parscal ( http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:Drafts ) was enabled for testing on test.wikipedia.org. It automatically saves draft copies of pages the user is working on to the server in regular intervals, to allow edit recovery in case of browser or system crashes.
In October, the technical team rolled out the “wiki to print” feature enabling users to generate PDF files, OpenDocument word processor files, and on-demand printed books in one of our smaller sister projects, Wikibooks. In January, wiki-to-print was enabled on the German Wikipedia. Readers can now compile a wiki-book from any number of Wikipedia articles, download a PDF or OpenDocument version, or order a printed version from our technology partner, PediaPress.
On January 2, the Wikimedia Foundation issued a press release announcing the successful conclusion of its annual giving campaign.
On January 13, the Wikimedia Foundation issued a press release announcing the appointment of Roger McNamee to the Foundation's Advisory Board. Roger McNamee is Managing Director and Co-Founder of Elevation Partners, which invests in media and consumer technology companies. He is a long-term San Francisco Bay Area resident, a professional musician, and a prominent Wikipedia supporter.
During the month of January, the Wikimedia Foundation and its representatives had contact with the following media outlets: the Reuters TV program “Davos Today;” BBC Radio; the German-language Swiss daily paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung; the New York Times; the LA Times; Italian news magazine Panorama; SWR Radio in Baden Baden, Germany; CBC Radio in Toronto, Canada; Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia; Dutch portal OneMoreThing.nl; Green 960 AM Radio in San Francisco, California; technology news site TG Daily; New Delhi magazine SPAN; news/blog site The Huffington Post; the weekly IT publication Network World; the Las Vegas Sun; KFOG, an FM rock radio station in San Francisco, California; the Dutch daily newspaper Nederlands Dagblad; the Associated Press, and the Canadian daily newspaper the Globe and Mail.
Finance & Administration
In January, the Wikimedia Foundation enriched its employee health insurance coverage by providing more comprehensive health and dental coverage and adding vision coverage, while lowering the cost of the plan. The Wikimedia Foundation also expanded its business insurance, while lowering costs. And, we negotiated a reduction in Paypal fees, including for amounts received during the online fundraiser.
In Coming Weeks
- Mid-year financial statements will be released
- Chief Program Officer hiring interviews will take place