Revolution of 2016/Transparency
Commercial reuse of WMF built applications
In short, I think the WMF should collate and publicise more information about commercial re-use applications, and be transparent about the work it's doing to support such re-use. Maybe there is another "transparency gap" here.
On the very specific topic of donor funding going to help commercial re-users, we've had some interesting but inconclusive board discussions about this topic.
For me, despite those being real concerns, I come down firmly on the side of being careful about falling into a trap of doing lots of expensive work for commercial re-users without having them pay. I don't actually think we do a lot of that right now. What I'd like to see is more of it, and I'm pretty agnostic about whether that's in the form of "self-financing cottage industries" or a "separate for-profit arm" or within the current engineering organization. I can see arguments for any of those.
I think the first step is for the Foundation to be more open and transparent about what work it is actually doing for commercial re-users, and to announce such work proactively to both donors and the community. There should be a dedicated space where such information is collected and available to the public. Major developments should be announced on the Wikimedia blog.
What originally triggered my curiosity was this: I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the Kindle offered a Wikipedia look-up function. I couldn't recall -- and cannot find -- any corresponding WMF announcement. So, how did this happen?
Google Play certainly contains a lot of Wikipedia content, and it's a commercial service. I also recently was pointed to this 2008 email from Sue Gardner, released as a court exhibit in the same antitrust case Arnnon Geshuri was involved in. Sue said, in part:
I don't recall any such business deal or umbrella agreement ever having been announced publicly. So, what happened, and has it impacted in any way what people at WMF have been working on since?
I believe that if the WMF does enter into business agreements with companies like Google or Amazon, or does work designed to enhance their product, then the community and the donating public should be told.
I'm sure you appreciate that it's very hard for me as a non-staff member to gauge what's going on, but there were enough breadcrumbs here for me to feel it was worth asking the question.
I'm curious about Andreas's other point. Does the WMF have any formal or informal agreements with for-profits that aren't yet on the public record? I realise this is probably a question for the board or chiefs.
There's editing and there's imposing policy. I can see that WMF, obviously, can't take on an editorial oversight role (and the entailed responsibility) because it can't possibly vet every edit.
But it seems to me they can impose editorial and other behavioural *policy* on the projects. Yet, even in the case of BLP, they just urged the projects to behave responsibly and left it up to the projects to take it or leave it.
Not that I want them meddling in projects' policies much. I'm just worried they're unnecessarily constraining themselves. Others have implied this inaction on project policy is in order to safeguard their protections under the Communications Decency Act but nothing in that, to my non-expert eye, stops them from imposing editorial and behavioural policy.
If it's just a position they've adopted for philosophical reasons, that's fine. But I'd like to know what is at the heart of the WMF's practice here.