Where can I find information about the Foundation?
Current information about the Foundation can be found in this quartely newsletter, on the dedicated mailing list (), on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki (), and at the Foundation's website (). The Foundation website was in very active development in the early fall : most major pages were basically set up and most of these pages were translated into 10 languages. There are currently 38 editors, who are native speakers of a variety of languages, registered on the Foundation's website. The website is currently in a rather dormant phase, though.
Board activities are recorded on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki (), and on the Wikimedia Foundation's site (). Communication takes place via email, as well as, through the foundation-l mailing list, which is open to the public and publicly archived. Members of the board also frequent the #Wikimedia IRC channel on freenode ().
How does the Board communicate ?
The general address, board(at)wikimedia.org, can also be used for any request. However, please be aware that this mail address is no longer a private one. All mails are redirected to a ticket system, OTRS (), and may be answered either by a board member or by a few trusted editors. The OTRS also hosts the address for information about the German local chapter, as well, as the address for requests for information lists in English and German.
Finally, Jimbo, Angela, and Anthere, being fearless explorers, all have started blogs. Angela’s blog is the richest one () in terms of information on Wikipedia. Please read it, if you want information on the latest wikipedia features or anything related to wikisearch; Jimbo () took the opportunity to talk about free software (also in english), while Anthere ( in french) decided to use her blog to express free opinions and focused on increasing Wikimedia projects visibility in the french-speaking world (in hope in particular of reaching out to the African world where french is widely spoken).
Does the Board record or publish their activities anywhere?
There have been several meetings of board members over the fall.
The board also had the opportunity to meet in real life on a few occasions: in Rotterdam in November, the day following the Wikipedian meeting; and in New York City, before the OSI meeting. Several topics were discussed, including plans for upcoming meetings, whether the Wikimedia Foundation should get involved in political advocacy, how local chapters could be more involved in WMF activity, and free discussion of what the board could become in the future. All these topics were easier to discuss in real life in a youth hostel lounge than on irc or by mail.
Life with the board
Michael and Tim were not very active this trimester, although Michael helped with the financial considerations after the last fundraiser.
The past months have been very busy for Angela, Jimbo and Anthere, with many neat wikipedian meetings (see the Meetings report), and interviews with newspapers, websites and radio stations for all board members. Wikipedia is becoming famous now, and our project raises a lot of interest.
Jimbo and Angela spent 2 weeks at the BBC (see the special report on this) while Anthere was moving into a new house, with plenty of room and a garden but no phone line and no internet for several weeks. Anthere was able to keep in touch and active thanks to her workplace internet connection, and random visits to the local university computer lab, but had no opportunity to satisfy her true wikipediholism or to access IRC.
Anthere appreciated support during her forced vacation, and suggests to all wikiholics use of the  sent by snail mail by Ryo and notafish.
How can I become a member of the Foundation?
Several decisions were taken with regards to membership (). The board's vision of membership changed, after thoughts and discussions with editors.
Initially, it was imagined that much of the income supporting the project would come from subscribing membership fees, hence initial thoughts set membership fees rather high (about 100 dollars). However, some board members and many editors were not favorable to such a high amount, and soon it became clear that most Foundation income could come from other sources. Additional discussions led to subscribing membership fees being set at 36 dollars (non-editors) and 12 dollars (reduced).
Additionaly, further discussions with Jamesday and Kate changed the volunteer membership status from being automatic for editors, to being an opt-in procedure.
The technical development of a membership system will be overseen by Tim Starling in the coming weeks.
Are developers currently being paid?
In July 2004, the Wikimedia developers were polled about the feasibility of a bounty system for development tasks, leading the board to try out a system of payment and other rewards for developers who choose to work on particular tasks. We suggested a four month trial run before stepping back and evaluating.
In the past 3 months the board has proposed one task, related to the membership system development (a task which is of primary interest to the Foundation itself, so unlikely to be controversial). More than 2 months after the proposal, Tim Starling made an offer, which was accepted in late November. The feature will be developed against a certain amount of money at the end of 2004 or in early 2005.
No other proposition has been made by the board; one suggestion was offered by a developer, but has been discarded.
This suggests that the prospective of being paid per task is not strongly motivating our developer team. Details of the trial run are available at . All Wikimedia contributors will be encouraged to evaluate it when it is over.
For more on the topic, see also the Founder's letter.
What is going on with domain names?
Jason at Bomis has the full list of domain names () that are currently registered to the Foundation. Some domains in other countries are owned by other people; for instance GerardM looks after a few .nl domain names. The french domain name www.wikipedia.fr was taken over by a cybersquatter in fall 2004. The french wikipedians have decided not to do anything on the matter for now and the cybersquatter gently redirected the domain to wikipedia itself. However, the russian domain name www.wikipedia.ru is unfortunately being used to make cash by its cybersquatter.
Over the next trimester, decisions regarding which domains to take will be made. Many editors would wish that the domain of all projects be bought in their country; however, the cost of buying so many names is too high for that solution to be really sustainable. We hope that registration of the trademarks will help alleviate this issue.
Privacy on Wikimedia projects
As requested by several editors, a long due privacy statement is currently under development and should be finalized and translated during the first trimester of 2005. Please do not hesitate to comment ().
Anthere was involved in the creation of the French chapter, Wikimédia France (see the special report on this) and is now part of its board. There are now two local chapters, each based on a very different legal construction, which emphasize the diversity of options for chapters. The French chapter is a legal representation of Wikimedia Foundation Inc in France. The French and the German chapters have in common that they are chapters legally based on a country, rather than based on a language (however, both wish to expand their activity beyond the borders of their respective countries).
Several other projects have discussed creation of local chapters in the past few months, most notably the Dutch and Italian wikipedias. Some editors are interested in the creation of chapters based on languages rather than nations, or even a European chapter.
Wikimedia Foundation Inc, and political involvement
Over the fall, there have been discussions over the political involvement of the Foundation and of its local branch Wikimedia France. The board would like to indicate that it does not wish Wikimedia Foundation Inc to support activism generally, and in particular activism not directly related to our activity. Any involvement, such as signature of a petition, should be carefully assessed and be done only with very large support of the community.
The future of the board
During the fall, the board has been discussion both the involvment of local chapter boards and the future of the wikimedia board itself. With regards to local chapters, the board is open to any discussion or proposals with the chapters members themselves. Please be reactive on this matter.
With regards to the board itself, Anthere, Angela and Jimbo agree the current situation is hardly sustainable. The board activity is essentially taken care of by three people, and requires strong implication of other wikipedians to be managed. It was suggested that the board size, or at least the number of active members be increased.
Angela and Jimbo at the BBC
During November 2004, Angela and Jimmy worked for the BBC in London for two weeks.
Everyone had a fine time, and it seemed to go over well, as they have been invited
to come back at some unspecified date in the future. Some of the BBC employees
came to the London assignation held during those weeks. Angela describes their
experience elsewhere in the newsletter (see Endnotes, pg. 8).
Lost Oasis and hosting
Wikimedia has standing offers of free hosting from a webhost in France, Lost Oasis where three new squids have recently been set up.
There were other offers of free hosting, as well, particularly while making contingency plans for the first Florida hurricane, in late August.
Much to our disappointment, the release by Mandrakesoft of a bilingual snapshot of the French and English Wikipedia, with an upcoming version of Mandrake Linux, has been delayed.
The intensive work to tag images and lists in preparation for these publications, long overdue, has provided quality improvement to the Wikipedia projects involved. Please help this effort at .
Fall meetings of Wikipedians
- Berlin, November (details)
- Rotterdam, November (details)
- London, November
- Tokyo, November 8 and Nagoya, November 10
- Bolzano1, 27 November (it: and de:).
- Taipei1, 4 December
- New York meeting, December 12 (details)
- Berlin1, 27-29 December (details)
- Beijing (details)
Wikimania 2005: The First International Wikimedia Conference1 () is being planned for all users of Wikimedia projects, from 4-8 August 2005.
- 1 For more information about these events, see International notes.
Daniel Mayer is the Chief Financial Officer. He is responsible for finances, with the oversight of Michael Davis. In particular, he is in charge of establishing our budget and balancing our books.
Donations and fundraising
A two-week fundraiser in September 2004 raised 60,000 USD, slightly more than the $50k goal. Around 10% of these contributions were made directly to the German chapter. These funds have sustained the project through the fall.
Contributions from January through August averaged 200 USD per day.
At the current rate of expenditure on bandwidth and machinery, that is only enough to keep the site up and growing for four months. The next fundraising drive is planned to start early February 2005. An open meeting to discuss how else we could support the project's long-term growth is planned to take place before then (end of january 2005).
The approved budget for Q4 (which was generous; total expenses for the quarter have only come to a little over $50k, thanks in part to a few in-kind donations) can be seen here: .
The next formal budget review, including a detailed breakdown of donations since the last fundraiser, will be available in January.
One grant was obtained rather unexpectedly this fall, when the Beck Foundation suggested they would be interested in supporting a Wikijunior project. They would like to give Wikimedia a 10,000 USD grant to produce content for short encyclopedia-style children's books on specific subjects. The current plan is to create content for 48-page print books on Geography, Animals, and Astronomy. See Wikijunior and the associated Wikibooks projects for more detail as well as the special report in the project section of this letter.
In January 2005, we were granted $40,000 by the Lounsbery Foundation. Our grant application specified we would spend this in the following way 1) to cover our daily operations, 2)to enable us to launch our new Wikispecies project, and 3)to continue to improve our existing projects.
Thank you very much for the trust offered by both Foundations.
There was also an important meeting with the Open Society Institute Information Project in New York during December. They invited the Wikimedia board to come join them for part of their yearly board meeting, and are interested in helping Wikipedia expand into key languages and into the developing world. No specifics were decided on, but ideas for specific projects to develop better Arabic-language content or to increase the audience of contributors from African countries would be particularly welcome.
Most of the below report has been written by James Day; the part on the Paris machines is largely from David Monniaux.
Information about our servers may be found any time at Wikimedia servers.
Developer activity falls into two main areas: server maintenance and development of the MediaWiki software, which is also used for many non-Wikimedia applications. Most developers (though not all, by their choice) are listed here. One may show appreciation of their dedication by thank you notes or financial support. Thank you !
Until now, all developers have been working for free, but that may change in the future to support our amazing growth.
Installation of Squid caches in France
The cluster near Paris.Our servers are the three in the middle:
(from top to bottom: bleuenn, chloe, ennael.)
On December 18, 2004, 3 donated servers were installed at a colocation facility in Aubervilliers, a suburb of Paris, France They are named bleuenn, chloe, ennael by donor request. For the technically-minded, the machines are HP sa1100 1U servers with 640 MiB of RAM, 20 GB ATA hard disks, and 600 MHz Celeron processors.
The machines are to be equipped with Squid caching software. They will be a testbed for the technique of adding Web caches nearer to users in order to reduce latency. Typically, users in France on DSL Internet connections can connect to these machines with a 30 ms latency, while they connect to the main cluster of Wikimedia servers in Florida in about 140 ms. The idea is that users from parts of Europe will use the Squid caches in France, to reduce by 1/10 second, access delays both for multimedia content for all users and for page content for anonymous users. Logged-in users will not profit as much, since pages are generated specifically for them and, thus, are not cached across users. If a page is not in a Squid cache, or a page is for a logged in user, the Apache web servers must take 1/5 to 3 or more seconds plus database time to make the page. Database time is about 1/20 second for simple things but can be many seconds for categories or even 100 seconds for a very big watchlist.
The Squid caches were activated in early January 2005, and some experiment period ensued. As of January 31, the machines cache English, French and multimedia content for Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The system is still somewhat experimental, and it is expected that caching performance could be increased with some tuning. The installation of similar caching clusters in other countries is being considered.
Installation of more servers in Florida
In mid-October, two more dual Opteron database slave servers, with 6 drives in RAID 0 and 4GB of RAM, plus five 3GHz/1GB RAM Apache servers were ordered. Delays, due to compatibility problems, which the vendor had to resolve before shipping the database servers, left the site short of database power; until early December, the search function had to be turned off, at times.
In November 2004, five Web servers, four with high RAM (working memory) capacity used for Memcached or Squid caching, experienced failures. This resulted in very slow Wikis, at times.
Five 3GHz/3GB RAM servers were ordered in early December. Four of the December machines will provide Squid and Memcached service as improved replacements for the failing machines, until they are repaired. One machine with SATA drives in RAID 0 will be used as a testbed to see how much load such less costly database servers might be able to handle, as well as providing another option for a backup-only database slave also running Apache. These machines are equipped with a new option for a remote power and server health monitoring board at $60 extra cost. This option was taken for this order, to allow a comparison of the effectiveness of this monitoring board with a remote power strip and more limited monitoring tools. Remote power and health reporting helps to reduce the need for colocation facility labor, which can sometimes involve costs and/or delays.
A further order of one master database server, to permit a split of the database servers into two sets of a master and pair of slaves, with each set holding about half of the project activity, as well as, five more Apaches is planned for the end of the quarter or the first days of the next quarter. This order will use the remainder of the US$50,000 from the last fundraising drive. The database server split will allow the halving of the amount of disk writing each set must do, leaving more capacity for the disk reads needed to serve user requests. This split is intended to happen in about three months, after the new master has proved its reliability during several months of service as a database slave.
Increased traffic and connectivity
Traffic grew during the third quarter from about 400-500 requests per second at the start to about 800 per second at the end. In the early fourth quarter that rose further to often exceeding 900 requests per second with daily peak traffic hours in the 1,000 to 1,100 requests per second range, then steadied at about 900 and slowly rose, due to the end of the back to school surge, slower than desired response times or both (. Bandwidth use grew from averaging about 32 megabits per second at the start of the quarter to about 43 megabits per second at the end. Typical daily highs are about 65-75 megabits per second and sometimes briefly hit the 100 megabits per second limit of a single outgoing ethernet connection. Dual 100 megabit connections were temporarily used and a gigabit fiber connection has been arranged at the Florida colocation and the required parts ordered.
There are nine active Wikimedia projects:
Memorial Wiki is currently only a 9/11 memorial of 200 pages and not a project proper.
New projects policy
Due to the multiplication of new projects and controversy over the creation of wikispecies, a procedure for starting new projects has been set at New project policy. Wikinews was the first new project to follow that procedure, which requires an extensive description of the project (and its translation in several languages), an approving poll by the community and a final approval by the board of Wikimedia Foundation.
There were a few major news events this fall: the 1 million-article press release, which was picked up around the world in over ten languages; the press release about the German Directmedia CD, which
was picked up widely in Germany; and the launching of Wikinews, which was heavily reported by reporters and bloggers in many languages (see In the Media, pg. 7).
During this trimester, it was noticed several of the larger wikipedias aside the english one were beginning to have important media coverage. For example, the French wikipedia was the subject of several very good articles, among which one in Liberation (), and a very critical one in Charlie Hebdo (). On november 27th, Anthere participated in a radio interview at radio BFM (see ). Another radio interview by Yann :  in january.
For quotes from articles about us, see "In the Media", pg. 6.
Angela also participated in a radio interview at BBC Radio4 interview. Her report :
On November 17, I did my first ever radio interview for Wikipedia. It was for BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme. I didn't realise it was going to be live when I first agreed to do it, but it turned out less terrifying than I imagined it might be. It was recorded at the BBC Suffolk studio in Ipswich since the BBC Essex ones, which are closer to me, were fully booked out at that time. I was invited to wait in the "Green Room" when I arrived, which wasn't as impressive as it sounds; it was a room with some sofas, drinking water, and a collection of press clippings about BBC Radio Suffolk. Shortly before the recording was due to begin, I was taken into a small studio and given some headphones where I could hear both the programme and the editor in Manchester talking to me. I was left alone in the studio during the recording.
Bamber Gascoigne started by giving a potted history of the encyclopedia, and then a recording was played of a family searching for facts in traditional encyclopedia compared to using the web. Michael Schmidt, an English professor at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, then talked about how his students were nowadays more likely to use computers rather than books for their research. The presenter, Liz Barclay, asked me to distil how Wikipedia works and I explained how the site is editable by any visitor, and how vandalism is quickly discovered and reverted. Bamber was at a studio in London and talked about his HistoryWorld site. Bamber and Michael both felt that Wikipedia articles should be "arrested" at some point to prevent editing, but I suggested that instead of locking them permanently, a version marked as stable could be given to users who wanted that, whilst still allowing editing to happen on the live article. This section of the programme lasted just under 20 minutes and concluded with Bamber saying "the idea that encyclopedias printed are reliable is nonsense".
Listen to the programme.