Nov 19 15:01:26 <cary> Good evening/morning everyone
Nov 19 15:01:28 <cary> and welcome to office hours
Nov 19 15:01:34 * werdna waves
Nov 19 15:01:46 <cary> Today's Guest is Véronique Kessler
Nov 19 15:01:56 <cary> Wikimedia Foundation's CFO
Nov 19 15:02:12 <cary> Hi veroniquekessler
Nov 19 15:02:24 <ashyrokova> Hi Veronique!
Nov 19 15:02:26 <ashyrokova> :)
Nov 19 15:02:26 <veroniquekessler> Hello everyone
Nov 19 15:02:37 <cary> Please keep idle conversation in #wikimedia-office-talk
Nov 19 15:02:42 <Bodnotbod> I guess we have to do "QUESTION:" before asking one, Cary?
Nov 19 15:02:49 <cary> If you have questions for Veronique, please preface it with QUESTION:
Nov 19 15:02:58 <Bodnotbod> Hee hee
Nov 19 15:03:07 <Mike_lifeguard> Bodnotbod is psychic :)
Nov 19 15:03:18 <cary> In case anyone is interested, CFO is Chief Financial Officer
Nov 19 15:03:46 <cary> QUESTION: Veronique, what do you do?
Nov 19 15:04:05 <cary> (It's CFOO, by the way, my mistake)
Nov 19 15:04:12 <cary> Chief Financial and Operations Officer
Nov 19 15:04:22 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: Can Veronique tell us how the last month has gone; what's been exciting, what has she found most interesting... what's been going on basically?
Nov 19 15:04:30 <Mike_lifeguard> cary: That's over two times as fancy!
Nov 19 15:04:43 <veroniquekessler> I make sure that all the financial records are correct, that we have money in the bank and keep track of our overall financial wellbeing
Nov 19 15:05:16 <veroniquekessler> This last month has been very busy completing our audit of the 2008-09 year. It went well and we received a "clean" audit opinion.
Nov 19 15:05:46 <mnemonic1> hi veronique
Nov 19 15:05:54 <veroniquekessler> Now we are waiting to see how the fundraiser will go as that will affect our budget.
Nov 19 15:05:57 <geniice> QUESTION:What steps areyou taking to make sure any fonation money in legaly risky juristictions (the UK say) leaves fast?
Nov 19 15:05:58 <Mike_lifeguard> QUESTION: How do you decide how much reserve to keep vs how much to spend? Are those decisions flexible after they've been made?
Nov 19 15:06:04 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: what is an "audit opinion"?
Nov 19 15:06:08 <cary> okay...
Nov 19 15:06:32 <cary> I'll start queueing questions for Veronique
Nov 19 15:06:54 <veroniquekessler> Re the reserve. This is flexible-nonprofits have various levels from not much to a couple of years. Right now, we have less than 1 year's expenses. We will look at this some more after the strategic plan.
Nov 19 15:07:09 <cary> <geniice> QUESTION:What steps areyou taking to make sure any donation money in legally risky jurisdictions (the UK say) leaves fast?
Nov 19 15:07:41 <Mike_lifeguard> geniice (or maybe veroniquekessler): Why is the UK "risky"?
Nov 19 15:07:56 <veroniquekessler> Most donations that come in other currencies come into our Paypal account and we move the non-US currency into US dollars monthly.
Nov 19 15:08:13 <geniice> Mike_lifeguard massively expensive lible cases and claims of universal juristiction
Nov 19 15:08:38 <mnemonic1> Mike_lifeguard, the issue is that UK's jurisdictional framework is broad, and so a plaintiff in the UK might try to litigate against funds raised in the UK
Nov 19 15:08:46 <veroniquekessler> An audit opinion is what the auditors have to say about your financial statements. A clean opinion means that you reported things fairly and they don't have concerns.
Nov 19 15:10:04 <Bodnotbod> This is not a question but an "uh?"... I don't think the UK is risky. We're, um, pretty much a stable economy. Sheesh.
Nov 19 15:10:22 <werdna> --> #wikimedia-office-chat
Nov 19 15:10:28 <werdna> um, #wikimedia-office-talk
Nov 19 15:10:33 <cary> I'm going to voice mnemonic1 (Mike Godwin) since he's also answering questions
Nov 19 15:10:43 <Mike_lifeguard> Bodnotbod: Did you read their responses? It is *legal* risk, not economic.
Nov 19 15:11:28 * werdna wonders if there are more questions?
Nov 19 15:11:34 <cary> I think mpeel has one
Nov 19 15:11:50 <mpeel> cary: no, I'm just a passive listener here.
Nov 19 15:12:23 <Jamesofur|class> QUESTION: you may not be able to answer it but do you have a personal goal for how long of a reserve to have? beyond more is better? :)
Nov 19 15:12:42 <cary> very good question, James
Nov 19 15:12:52 <GerardM-> QUESTION to what extend is there a struggle between spending the money because that is what it is there for and having reserves for a "rainy day"?
Nov 19 15:13:34 <Mike_lifeguard> QUESTION: If the reserve money is somewhat flexible, can it be used to purchase servers on short notice when we discover they're needed? For example, it seems our media storage servers are too full because usage projections were incorrect - more capacity is needed & sooner would be better than later. Does that amount of flexibility exist? (whether it should actually be exercised is a separate question)
Nov 19 15:13:40 <veroniquekessler> Good question. It is tricky, because as a non-profit, you can get to a point where folks may not want to donate if they think you have a lot of money. Since we are growing and a relatively young organization, about 1 year's reserve is reasonable to me.
Nov 19 15:15:01 <veroniquekessler> Yes, struggles about what is the right amount. After the fundraiser is over, we will think more about what is the right amount. But, we do always want to retain some flexibility so if a server is needed suddenly, we are in a position to buy it.
Nov 19 15:15:20 <werdna> hi wittylama
Nov 19 15:15:23 <Amgine> QUESTION: There is constantly discussion of an endowment. What would a WMF endowment look like? How would it be funded? As an endowment would be a different form of fundraising, would it entail a separate fundraising drive?
Nov 19 15:16:10 <cary> Mike_lifeguard and GerardM- I believe Veronique caught both of your questions in that last answer
Nov 19 15:17:18 <peteforsyth> veronique, if we need a server in a pinch, can't we just plug Mike in in the server room? He's hella smart.
Nov 19 15:17:21 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: Veronique, do you look at the Strategy Wiki at all? Any thoughts on what's going on there?
Nov 19 15:17:44 * peteforsyth dons dunce cap
Nov 19 15:18:00 <veroniquekessler> This is actually one of the questions that the Financial Sustainability Task Force (which I am heading) is looking at. Should we have an endowment? If so, how much? And also, how would it be funded? WOuld it be a separate campaign? Probably, yes it would be a separate campaign. I think we need to get a better picture of what size we want to be and what we would need to operate each year and then decide how and if an endowment
Nov 19 15:18:00 <veroniquekessler> plays into that. We are a somewhat young organization to be thinking of an endowment.
Nov 19 15:18:27 <veroniquekessler> Bodnotbod-just answered your question as part of the endowment question.
Nov 19 15:18:40 <Mike_lifeguard> Indeed she did - and you said she was IRC-challenged :P
Nov 19 15:18:53 <cary> shhh...that was before she was on channel, Mike
Nov 19 15:18:54 <veroniquekessler> To Pete :)
Nov 19 15:19:03 <Bodnotbod> Indeed you did. And I was silly, because I'd seen your name on the wiki! I feel very silly now.
Nov 19 15:19:07 <veroniquekessler> I'm having fun :)
Nov 19 15:19:21 <veroniquekessler> No worries. There is so much info out there!
Nov 19 15:20:22 <Mike_lifeguard> QUESTION: Given there is so much information out there, do you think it makes sense to continually open new wikis for every new initiative? Or does it make sense to maximize use of pre-existing infrastructure where possible (for example, having the bookshelf project on Wikibooks, or the strategy project on Meta)
Nov 19 15:20:50 <Amgine> QUESTION: The WMF budgets have historically been dominated by a dramatic growth curve demanding equally dramatic expenditures on hardware. As growth is currently plateaued, how are budgets reapportioning?
Nov 19 15:21:36 <peteforsyth> ooh Amgine, ++ on that question.
Nov 19 15:22:06 <veroniquekessler> I do post the financials and 990 publicly and let foundation-l know that I am available. However, I do want to be more community facing, hence the beginning of office hours.
Nov 19 15:22:34 <cary> Mike_lifeguard, hey, probably not a question for Veronique :)
Nov 19 15:23:05 <cary> Mike_lifeguard, that's more for the CTO when we hire him.
Nov 19 15:23:15 <dphelps> r her
Nov 19 15:23:19 <dphelps> *or her
Nov 19 15:23:28 <Mike_lifeguard> Hi, dphelps :)
Nov 19 15:23:30 <cary> <Amgine> QUESTION: The WMF budgets have historically been dominated by a dramatic growth curve demanding equally dramatic expenditures on hardware. As growth is currently plateaued, how are budgets reapportioning?
Nov 19 15:23:33 <ashyrokova> hi bgong!
Nov 19 15:23:35 <Mike_lifeguard> cary: That's fair :)
Nov 19 15:24:21 * peteforsyth is glad to see many WMF staff here
Nov 19 15:24:25 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: What's the feeling like in the WMF office? Are you all settled? Do you get on? Motivated?
Nov 19 15:24:36 <werdna> good question!
Nov 19 15:25:10 <peteforsyth> Bodnotbod: Kul is always making fun of me. But it will all change when I move to SF and have the opportunity to embarrass him at basketball.
Nov 19 15:25:22 <cary> I believe that veronique is working on Amgine's question
Nov 19 15:25:25 <mnemonic1> we just had a board meeting here, and i think the board was impressed by how well our larger staff gets along and how motivated everyone is
Nov 19 15:25:26 <Bodnotbod> lol
Nov 19 15:25:41 <veroniquekessler> When I first came, we needed to ramp up spending on everything. Going forward, while we will still need to spend strongly in hardware, we also need to spend related to other programmatic activities and to continue to support spending towards fundraising.
Nov 19 15:25:46 <cary> mnemonic1 is close enough to smell.
Nov 19 15:26:43 <mnemonic1> i apparently smell like blue diamond almonds
Nov 19 15:26:44 <Amgine> FOLLOW-ON QUESTION: Is there anywhere to get more precise information about budget reapportionment?
Nov 19 15:27:00 <Amgine> Mmmmm, blue diamond...
Nov 19 15:27:21 <Bodnotbod> I would just say, from my own perspective... I'm just an editor that loves the project... and I really like it when the WMF grows because it's a project I believe in. I take great interest in people coming and going.
Nov 19 15:27:52 <veroniquekessler> There should be information in the 2009-10 plan document on Foundation that shows how spending was projected for 2008-09 versus how we are spending in 2009-10.
Nov 19 15:29:02 <Bodnotbod> Thanks Pyb... more reading for me.
Nov 19 15:29:47 <geniice> QUESTION: how do you plan to react if you see wastefull spending?
Nov 19 15:29:55 <Amgine> QUESTION: Diversified funding streams is a buzz-phrase: excluding the strategy task force work, what are the current actions to diversify WMF's funding streams?
Nov 19 15:30:39 <veroniquekessler> Well, we have a process in the organization for approving spending, so there shouldn't be wasteful spending.
Nov 19 15:31:39 <mnemonic1> Amgine, i can tell you that one way we have diversified has been to develop limited partnerships involving use of our trademarks and branding -- partnerships that normally increase the channels by which wikimedia content can become available. these commercial partnerships supplement the charitable donations that are the main source of our finding
Nov 19 15:31:41 <mnemonic1> er, funding
Nov 19 15:32:26 <Amgine> <grin> Thanks!
Nov 19 15:32:31 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: In terms of money... you're very confident about the next 5 years? (I think I may have asked a similar question, but I get worried).
Nov 19 15:32:34 <veroniquekessler> We are a non-profit so generally, the main source of revenue for a non-profit is and will be donations. Right now, less than 1% of users donate, so, one way to diversify is to reach more people and have a larger cross section of donations. We also have opportunities to earn revenue through mission-friendly deals such as what Kul did with Orange. If we had an endowment, we would earn income on it and that could be another source of
Nov 19 15:32:34 <veroniquekessler> income.
Nov 19 15:32:40 <peteforsyth> geniice: From my perspective as a new staff member, internal procedures for approving expenditures are pretty rigorous, and involve several people..they make more sense than those at other companies I've worked for. My early impression is that there's lots of diligence in both design and execution of those systems.
Nov 19 15:33:56 <mnemonic1> our development team works to diversify our charitable fundraising so that we can seek larger donations from foundations and wealthy individuals as well as relying on grassroots fundraising of the sort that is the focus of the fundraising drive
Nov 19 15:34:15 <veroniquekessler> Am I very confident about the next 5 years? Ask me after the fundraiser! What I mean, is that we have grown a lot and have had successful fundraising campaigns, but, we don't have that much history. I never like to count my chickens before they hatch.
Nov 19 15:34:43 <Bodnotbod> Eeek! That's a bit scary :o)
Nov 19 15:35:20 <veroniquekessler> No, no, I didn't intend that! I think we can sustain ourselves and the key is figuring out what level that will be.
Nov 19 15:35:49 <Amgine> QUESTION: What are the next three issues on your list of things to tackle?
Nov 19 15:37:32 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: Do you think that Wikipedia and the other projects need more social features to keep them going? Better ways for people to communicate?
Nov 19 15:37:45 <Amgine> VeroniqueKessler: Yes, in your day to day work, what are the next three things...
Nov 19 15:38:34 <mnemonic1> Bodnotbod, I think that's a great question, but I don't think (say) adding more social features to MediaWiki is anybody's focus right now
Nov 19 15:39:15 <mnemonic1> in China, the encyclopedia Baidu has more social features, but it is not clear that the features are improving the encyclopedia itself
Nov 19 15:39:26 <veroniquekessler> So we are beginning work on the Form 990, the required US tax return for 501c3 organizations such as WMF, working on the Financial Task Force to provide recommendations by January and working on internal procedure documentation.
Nov 19 15:39:47 <Bodnotbod> mnemoincl... that's not what Sue Gardner thinks... it's not what the creator, Thingy Ward thinks either.
Nov 19 15:39:52 <mnemonic1> Hudong, by contrast, seems to be more focused on encyclopedic content, although it has more social features too, or so i understand
Nov 19 15:40:21 <GerardM-> mnemonic1 we do know that many of our projects are perceived as hostile, this prevents US from doing better ... social functions are one way that may help
Nov 19 15:40:37 <geniice> Hudong has more articles than en. But aparently more copyvios
Nov 19 15:40:48 <mnemonic1> Bodnotbod, i'm not against social features.
Nov 19 15:41:01 <Amgine> Nice! Thanks VeroniqueKessler!
Nov 19 15:41:28 <veroniquekessler> You are welcome!
Nov 19 15:42:01 <mnemonic1> Gerard, I agree that many projects are perceived as hostile, particularly to new users. some of that is cultural (Wikipedia culture, not American culture in particular)
Nov 19 15:42:35 <Mike_lifeguard> QUESTION: Can you let us know how the search for larger donations goes? We haven't heard of any news on that front in quite some time. We still have a staff member devoted to that endeavour, right?
Nov 19 15:42:59 <mnemonic1> Bodnotbod, are you saying that Sue and Ward think Baidu's social features are improving Baidu as an encyclopedia? if so, I haven't heard that from either of them.
Nov 19 15:43:32 <werdna> Mike_lifeguard: that would be Sara
Nov 19 15:43:55 <Bodnotbod> Mnem, I couldn't tell you about Baidu... I know nothing about it.
Nov 19 15:44:07 <veroniquekessler> Yes, we have Sara Crouse who works with the large Foundations (we did receive $300K from the Ford Foundation a couple of months ago and also the $500K portion of the potential $2MM Omidyar grant)-then we have Rebecca Handler who works with gifts over $10K.
Nov 19 15:44:51 <mnemonic1> Bodnotbod, my comment was about Baidu
Nov 19 15:45:29 <mnemonic1> we just recently had a visit from Haidong Pan of Hudong, and we talked about Hudong and Baidu and their respective rankings in the PRC. they're pretty close.
Nov 19 15:45:30 <GerardM-> The GLAM relations that are being build can double Commons, are we able to facilitate this, even have staff working on this ?
Nov 19 15:45:47 <GerardM-> ... maybe even triple when we do well !!
Nov 19 15:46:13 <cary> GerardM-, that's not a Veronique question
Nov 19 15:46:23 <cary> This is more toward Erik Moller
Nov 19 15:46:24 <geniice> it's hard to compete when you keep getting blocked
Nov 19 15:46:35 <GerardM-> It is as we need reserves for that
Nov 19 15:46:43 <GerardM-> I am sure that we know what Commons costs
Nov 19 15:47:02 <geniice> QUESTION if the WMF did go into fincial melt down at what stage do you think the community would find out?
Nov 19 15:47:13 <cary> geniice, the day before.
Nov 19 15:47:37 <mnemonic1> geniice, we'd probably host another immediate fundraiser well before any sudden meltdown
Nov 19 15:47:43 <werdna> financial melt-down? That implies running into a brick wall.
Nov 19 15:47:57 <geniice> werdna or a state of denial
Nov 19 15:48:10 <Bodnotbod> Ouch! geniice :o) Just don't go there :o)
Nov 19 15:48:20 <werdna> What seems more likely is a drop in income, and a corresponding reduction in "mission-positive but non-essential" spending.
Nov 19 15:49:02 <Bodnotbod> I think if it entirely imploded we'd still have an archive.
Nov 19 15:49:29 <Bodnotbod> Google would buy us.
Nov 19 15:49:36 <werdna> ??
Nov 19 15:50:01 <mnemonic1> GerardM-, although you are correct to say it costs money to run Wikimedia Commons, we don't break out Wikimedia Commons serving content as a separate budget item
Nov 19 15:50:02 <geniice> actualy answers.com are probably in the best position but that wasn't why I asked the question
Nov 19 15:50:27 <cary> geniice, the community would know about any financial meltdown probably the same time as the foundation would.
Nov 19 15:50:42 <cary> Sometimes we're frighteningly too transparent
Nov 19 15:50:46 <mnemonic1> we have an operations budget that funds Wikipedia, Commons, and Wiktionary collectively
Nov 19 15:51:06 <cary> It scares me because I've never worked for an organization in my life that was this open about the books
Nov 19 15:51:14 <veroniquekessler> Me neither!
Nov 19 15:51:18 <mnemonic1> the nice thing about having a good financial team is that we have plenty of advance warning if there's a looming fundraising problem.
Nov 19 15:51:26 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: I'm quite excited about "The Bookshelf Project". Do you know anything about that? Are you involved at all?
Nov 19 15:51:42 <GerardM-> mnemonic1: given that Commons is a different beast and will require different services it is not necessarily prudent not to have such numbers
Nov 19 15:51:59 <mnemonic1> thanks for the advice, GerardM-
Nov 19 15:52:36 <veroniquekessler> I am not involved with the Bookshelf project other than it was an important initiative for us to fund.
Nov 19 15:52:41 <werdna> GerardM-: that is taken care of by the operations people who, considering growth projections for all projects, determine an operations budget
Nov 19 15:53:03 <Bodnotbod> That's OK veronique... I just wondered.
Nov 19 15:53:46 <GerardM-> werdna ... multichill stopped his uploads because of a lack of disc space ...
Nov 19 15:54:05 <werdna> GerardM-: yes, but that's an operations issue, not a CFOO issue.
Nov 19 15:54:09 <cary> Hey guys
Nov 19 15:54:14 <cary> #wikimedia-office-talk
Nov 19 15:54:21 <Mike_lifeguard> GerardM-: That's why I asked if there was sufficient flexibility in the budget to allocate resources to that if ops folks decided it would be prudent to do so.
Nov 19 15:54:52 <Mike_lifeguard> GerardM-: The answer was "Yes." -- since that hasn't happened (AFAIK) that must mean they haven't made that decision
Nov 19 15:54:54 <mnemonic1> Mike_lifeguard, I think Veronique answered your question before GerardM- got here
Nov 19 15:55:10 <Mike_lifeguard> Yeah, I thought so, couldn't remember
Nov 19 15:55:19 <Bodnotbod> QUESTION: Do you get to see Jimmy Wales much? Or has he gone into Wikia mode now?
Nov 19 15:55:35 <werdna> we're really scrounging for questions now
Nov 19 15:55:37 <brianmc> QUESTION: At Wikimania 2009 there was talk of small amounts of funding for sister projects to engage in various goal-related projects. Has this taken place? Are there examples of this being used?
Nov 19 15:55:43 <brianmc> sorry, 2008
Nov 19 15:56:03 <werdna> note that office hours end in four minutes
Nov 19 15:56:03 <veroniquekessler> He was here the other day.
Nov 19 15:56:13 <werdna> so if you have anything especially pressing, ask it now
Nov 19 15:56:16 <mnemonic1> Jimmy was in just this week when we met with Haidong Pan of Hudong
Nov 19 15:56:28 <werdna> he drops in when he has something to do
Nov 19 15:56:59 <Mike_lifeguard> brianmc: last I heard was that had essentially been scrapped since we have no infrastructure to do it. They want it to be done through chapters, and our chapter system is ... imperfect, shall we say
Nov 19 15:57:05 <veroniquekessler> We do have the grant-making allocation in our budget this year. Many have applied and received grants for goal-related projects.
Nov 19 15:57:31 <Bodnotbod> I agree we're scrabbling Werdna... but it has been lovely to chat with Veronique. And many thanks to her.
Nov 19 15:57:50 <veroniquekessler> I'm happy to be here.
Nov 19 15:57:54 <Mike_lifeguard> veroniquekessler: Is there a page with info on that? That'd be 180 degrees from my most recent information from you and Sue -- unless I misunderstood, which is possible :)
Nov 19 15:58:14 <Amgine> Question: Does anyone have a link to more information - like how to apply for a grant - about the grant-making allocation?
Nov 19 15:58:19 <werdna> 2 minutes. Any parting blows questions?
Nov 19 15:58:21 <marlita> bodnotbod: please get in touch with me about the Bookshelf - would love your help email@example.com
Nov 19 15:58:43 <cary> Let me respond to the grant question
Nov 19 15:58:55 <cary> That was something under the heading of CPO
Nov 19 15:58:59 <wittylama> question: the chapter grant process is an interesting idea, will it expand in the future to be targeted towards the administrative development of chapters (rather than for mainly project funding) so the chapters can begin to take some of the admin load off the WMF?
Nov 19 15:59:38 <cary> For the time being, until we hire a replacement for Jennifer, Questions along that line can be directed to Erik Moller
Nov 19 16:00:31 <Bodnotbod> Marlita, I've added you to my gmail contacts list but I doubt I'll find you again. I'm busy on strat right now. Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov 19 16:00:40 <cary> wittylama, since Veronique is not directly involved with grant-makling, that's a question best asked of Erik Moeller
Nov 19 16:00:41 <cary> Okay
Nov 19 16:00:45 <werdna> cary: shall we wrap up?
Nov 19 16:00:47 <cary> it's 4:00
Nov 19 16:00:47 <cary> yep
Nov 19 16:01:09 <cary> Thank everyone!
Nov 19 16:01:10 <cary> thank you veroniquekessler
Nov 19 16:01:13 <Bodnotbod> Wouldn't mind wrapping up and drinking.... glug glug glug...
Nov 19 16:01:17 <cary> thanks dphelps and mnemonic1 for helping with the questions
Nov 19 16:01:22 <werdna> thanks veroniquekessler
Nov 19 16:01:24 <Mike_lifeguard> Thanks for spending time with us, veroniquekessler :)
Nov 19 16:01:30 <Mike_lifeguard> we feel loved now
Nov 19 16:01:32 <cary> Thanks to werdna for helping with moderation
Nov 19 16:01:35 <veroniquekessler> See you next time :)
Nov 19 16:01:37 <Bodnotbod> Thanks for chatting Veronique