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Product Platform Strategy
What is a Product Platform Strategy?
A Product Strategy clarifies the goals and direction of a Product. It creates focus. A strategy answers the questions: “What do we hope to accomplish?”, “How will we get there?” and “Who will we serve?”. In a world of limited resources we must have guidelines for decision making and a clear direction that Wikimedia Foundation product and technology teams move towards. Strategy helps us pull together. It helps us clarify what we are and aren’t doing, and why.
The word “Platform” can mean many different things. In this case we are using “Product Platform” to signify that the product-the software experience that the free knowledge flows through-we all work on and use is first and foremost a platform. It is a system where value is exchanged between multiple independent people and groups. Volunteer communities create content and experiences on the platform, people all over the world consume the content and some of those people become creators. This is a virtuous cycle that we call the “Product Flywheel”, and it happens on the product platform.
Global population trends
Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. As we consider the next 10 years and how to reach the goal of becoming the essential infrastructure of free knowledge, we must look at global population trends.
In looking at how projected future population growth is changing and how this will impact our ability to achieve our mission, we see a strong argument for focusing on growth in emerging markets. Currently there are ~7.3B people in the world. ~3.5B of them have internet access; ~1.5B know of Wikipedia, we receive visits from ~1.7B unique devices/month, and over ~290K registered editors contribute to Wikipedia alone. If we break these numbers down by regions in which Wikimedia projects are established and known, vs where the movement is emerging we can see that the impact of Wikipedia is largely experienced by people in Europe, United States, Canada and Japan. 80% of the people who know Wikipedia are in those established regions-Europe, United States, Canada and Japan. According to the World Bank, by 2030 populations in emerging regions will grow and established regions will shrink. If by 2030, people around the world used Wikipedia at the same rate that people in established markets do today, we could have more than 4 billion readers and a million editors-this is a significant impact!
In addition to reaching more people, Knowledge Equity also calls upon us to focus on knowledge across the globe. If we are truly going to represent the sum of all knowledge, everybody on the planet needs to be able to participate. Imagine what good we could do with a platform that reaches 4 billion people around the world who believe in, and contribute to, free knowledge.
The Product Platform Strategy was created under the umbrella of the Movement Strategy. The Movement Strategy tells us: By 2030, Wikimedia will become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge, and anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us. We, the Wikimedia contributors, communities, and organizations, will advance our world by collecting knowledge that fully represents human diversity, and by building the services and structures that enable others to do the same. We will carry on our mission of developing content as we have done in the past, and we will go further.
- Knowledge as a service: To serve our users, we will become a platform that serves open knowledge to the world across interfaces and communities. We will build tools for allies and partners to organize and exchange free knowledge beyond Wikimedia. Our infrastructure will enable us and others to collect and use different forms of free, trusted knowledge.
- Knowledge equity: As a social movement, we will focus our efforts on the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege. We will welcome people from every background to build strong and diverse communities. We will break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge.
In this context we developed a Product Platform Strategy that will focus WMF product development efforts to support this direction. This strategy will:
Deliver products that enable anyone who wants to join us to do so. This includes supporting current participants in the movement as well as newcomers. Both must be considered. The initial focus is on contributors in emerging markets, not consumers. Delivers technology that is reusable, scalable and extensible to serve as the infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge. This includes the technical support and growth of current wiki projects, third party integrations and re-use and modernizing the tech stack to ensure our future.
In the creation of this strategy we had many inputs--the mission, Movement Strategy, volunteers, global population growth, technical trends, various WMF teams’ work, the list goes on. We would love broader feedback on the Product Platform Strategy from you. As you read through the Product Platform Strategy, you might ask, “aren’t we already doing this?” Many of us are doing work that is aligned with this strategy already. We see the articulation of this Product Platform Strategy as a tool for focus, creating open dialogue and getting alignment. It is the next evolution of Product Strategy.
How will we reach the 2030 goal? We have created a three step plan to meet the opportunity that we’ve described.
- Step 1 - Systems of empowerment - is to make our creation and curation experiences more usable and welcoming for new contributors in emerging markets and provide movement organizers with the tools to recruit new community members.
- Step 2 - Amplify the impact of our content - is to focus on the experience of the content. We will work together with volunteers around the world to create innovative diverse experiences that better serve the needs of new knowledge consumers.
- Step 3 - Globalize the flywheel - we will ensure our content is accessible on all digital platforms and knowledge creators and institutions can utilize our ecosystem.
Systems of Empowerment
The first step is to focus on Systems of Empowerment. As a social movement and a technological platform we will become the infrastructure of free knowledge by making it possible for a diverse group of people to join our movement and by enabling them to work with us to build the tools, processes and practices they want and need. This collaboration will only be possible through more inclusive and accessible product experiences and technologies.
We will scale by building systems that are inclusive, equitable and extensible. By making our experiences, software and systems more accessible to all contributors we enable more people to join the movement and collaborate at scale, globally.
The end-state of this work will look like...
- improved usability for newcomers
- more collaborative and accessible product development practices
- more structured and connected content
- a more modular and re-usable codebase
- more repeatable processes
- removal of social and technical obstacles that will impede future growth and diversity
Systems of Empowerment come in three flavors: human systems, technical systems and support systems:
- Human systems are the capabilities our platform needs to optimize or enable which directly involve our human network. This could include both training and technical solutions to support people and the work they’re trying to accomplish. Examples include supporting organizers by building a campaigns system, creating a mentorship system, enabling a global human translation resource, and a more transparent human-in-the-loop Artificial Intelligence system.
- Technical systems are the interfaces, building blocks and support systems that will enable internal and community developers, volunteers, affiliates, GLAMs, and 3rd party reusers around the world to more easily participate in and create knowledge experiences, leading to the growth of the Global Free Knowledge Ecosystem. We will focus on reusability, scalability, and extensibility. Examples include rethinking templates, API development and management, structured content, and common user interface components.
- Support systems are the connective tissue between human and technical systems. This includes the processes for development and the standards for creation. Building the technology alone is not sufficient. We must ensure that the systems are well understood, discoverable and accessible. Examples include documentation, enhanced Toolhub to become a central support system, and a design system allowing anyone in the movement to create a professional looking interface that is recognizable as Wikimedia.
We must build these systems with and not for our partner communities. This means we must evolve our capability for collaboration in order to co-design the solutions that will be most relevant and important to the communities we partner with. And finally, as a large organization there is a risk that if we coordinate across the org to focus on particular emerging wikis we may overwhelm the community we’re trying to serve. We must therefore design our engagement to prevent this kind of negative downstream consequence.
Amplify the Impact of Content
Second, we collaborate with contributors around the planet to create innovative diverse experiences that better serve the needs of new knowledge consumers, especially in emerging markets and with youth.
Comprehensive, relevant and timely content is the core value delivered to consumers and to partners. Our communities and contributors create this value through the systems and processes enabled by the platform. But while our content is currently the best available, it is not as inclusive, relevant, compelling, or globally trustworthy as it could be. We must strive to improve the relevance and scope of the content we have now to ensure that our limitations don’t scale as our corpus of content grows over time. And, to ensure that our the way content is consumed is as broadly inclusive as possible.
“Hold on... the WMF doesn’t do content, the volunteers do content.”
Exactly. Volunteers generate the content but they are limited by the systems, formats, and content vision enabled on the current platform. Our content is currently:
- Inflexible: the monolithic page structure limits content discovery and inhibits reuse
- Static: people around the world, and youth of the world in particular, want and expect more dynamic forms of content--how do we meet them where they are?
- Text-heavy: while text-based content allows high performance across a wide range of platforms it is not accessible for all types of knowledge consumers
- Highly variable: the variability in trustworthiness from one article to another impacts credibility and reputation over time - we can do more to support volunteers to ensure content integrity
- Inaccessible: the content we have is inaccessible to more than half the world’s population, including those with learning differences and disabilities
Examples of this work include video content, structured content: making content more portable, searchable, snackable and reusable, Storytelling with Data: data-storytelling system and components, and Wikipedia in the classroom.
Globalize the Flywheel
Third, we ensure our content is accessible on all digital platforms and knowledge creators and institutions can utilize our ecosystem.
Currently our product flywheel is defined in terms of the cycle of awareness, consumption, creation and curation which happen on our web projects, particularly Wikipedia. There is some degree of interaction with the larger global, digital information ecosystem but it is not well understood or supported. How might we scale and democratize this flywheel? How can we meet new consumers and contributors where they are? How might we utilize other platforms to achieve our vision of a world in which everyone can share in the sum of free knowledge? How do we get knowledge that is not currently available on our platform to be on there?
The “essential infrastructure of free knowledge” can be defined as globalizing our products and systems as a global flywheel--the cycle of value creation, curation and consumption on a global scale, across many organizations , communities and people--with the Wikimedia Foundation providing the socio-technical infrastructure to enable it to thrive. How will we expand our ability to promote free knowledge from the current ecosystem to an expanded, global ecosystem over the next 9 years?
Examples of work that would fall under this step include Wikimedia Enterprise, expanded content partnerships, Wikidata and further enabling of content off-platform.
We will take a 70/20/10% approach--focusing the majority of our work (70%) on systems of empowerment for contributors in emerging regions, the next 20% on pulling forwards aspects of content experience and 10% on moving us into the global flywheel. As we move forward in time, the projects and products we invest in will change as we move through the plan. For example, as we improve the new editor experience and learn more about how we might incorporate video into the ecosystem, we might migrate to focus on the consumer experience. As we build out the structured content ecosystem we might focus more energy on engaging with external partners.
This approach enables us to ensure both the growth and sustainability of the movement and existing projects, as well as move us towards a future where the world’s free knowledge exists in a connected ecosystem.