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Quick note:

  • Everyone is welcome to add comments or questions, or start a discussion about the recommendations, here on the talk page. Feel free to talk with each other rather than just with/to me.
  • Please don't alter the substance of the page itself, but if you want to add links or fix up wiki-syntax, or similar non-substance changes, I'd be grateful. I'm on a pretty short timeline to get this completed, so help is welcome :-) [1]
  • Erik, Frank, Anasuya and others who are working on this with me from the WMF, please feel free to edit boldly. If I disagree with what you write, I'll revert and/or we can discuss.

Thanks, Sue Gardner (talk) 13:59, 6 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

[1] (I'm targeting to wrap this up by about 14 October.)

Organizing the discussion on Narrowing Focus[edit]

In the interest of promoting a fuller discussion regarding the points raised in this proposal, below please find pages for your use. Feel free to add other topics as needed, or reorganize this discussion some other way. Djembayz (talk) 02:14, 7 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Implications for other movement players[edit]

This discussion can be found at: Narrowing Focus: Implications for other movement players

Wikimania support[edit]

This discussion can be found at: Narrowing Focus: Wikimania support

Fellowships program[edit]

This discussion can be found at: Narrowing Focus: Fellowships program

May I ask, why you are making a mess? You moved half the discussions from the userspace. The title you chose in the mainspace won't make much sense without all this context. "Narrowing focus" could mean anything and it won't be relevant enough to reside under that title after these decisions have been made. The rest of the discussion will be here and it would be tedious to jump between the two. Theo10011 (talk) 17:43, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks for trying to organize the discussion, Djembayz! But while things are super active I do think having separate subpages makes things hard to follow, especially as many comments are touching on all three areas. Maybe move the discussions back for now and refactor later? -- phoebe | talk 17:30, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Regular wiki talk page resumes here[edit]

(Responses below are whatever you decide to type, like a regular wiki talk page)

Thank you for putting this up on-wiki[edit]

We need happy, healthy technology and employees out at the Foundation mothership for Wikipedia to be a sustainable operation. It is good that SF appears to be recognizing this in time, before burning everyone out. It's important for people putting together outreach/movement activities to be able to stay informed on the engineering, business, and organizational aspects of the Foundation. Please keep us posted out here in the community. Maintaining organized channels of communication like this is very helpful.

The question of "on the ground" operations is an important one. Although knowledge is widely spread, information channels for open content are much more highly centralized in the US than many people realize. The open content held in DC/NYC is key for making Wikipedia a credible source. DC/NYC is a complicated place, having both major national repositories for open content and lawmaking authority for the US Internet. Without a full-time person on the ground in DC/NYC, who serves as a central point of communication with the Foundation, DC will continue to have a bunch of volunteers producing uneven results in our spare time ... Eventually we will be forced to deal with this situation, and adopt a more professional approach. To put it another way, would you really want to run this sort of operation in Germany without having somebody in Berlin? :)

Resisting the temptation to address Wikimania, one final thing:

I would strongly urge that first priority be improving the communications abilities on site between editors. Clunky, hand coded encyclopedia article that's a labor of love-- charming and credible! Flame wars and dirty laundry in public-- it's so turn-of-the-[21st]-century. This is 2012.

(Will stop here. The difficulties of creating a productive community dialogue using wiki-pages and e-mail are precisely why better engineering for communications is so important.) Djembayz (talk) 01:47, 7 October 2012 (UTC)Reply


I didn't read most of this section, but I definitely agree with the title that it was (and is) wonderful of you to put this on-wiki in draft form. I'm very appreciative of this and I respect your decision to do so deeply. --MZMcBride (talk) 03:57, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply


Could you say anything about the GLAM activities. --Goldzahn (talk) 01:53, 8 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Historically GLAM has been lead by chapters rather than the WMF, and if the WMF is narrowing its focus that is unlikely to change. WereSpielChequers (talk) 16:51, 13 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Actually no, there is and has been only one source of direct funding for GLAM. Chapters used their own revenues from fundraising and grants from WMF for previous GLAM activities. Since chapter fundraising is almost gone, and FDC replaces it, it should be a concern in the new narrowed focus. Theo10011 (talk) 17:53, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
It is true that the WMF never saw GLAM as something they should be, or wanted to be, directly involved in. The exceptions are my fellowship, Lori Philips' fellowship, and grant funding for specific events. So, given that future fellowships are apparently being removed and so are events being funded by the WMF, it looks like even those avenues are closed. Wittylama (talk) 02:48, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Let me say[edit]

the momentum is brilliantly thought. It creates allowance, it invites people - thats the main substance of this paper. congrats --Angel54 5 (talk) 19:30, 8 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Help re the WCA would be appreciated[edit]

Hey folks -- I am about to start writing a section that will make reference to the WCA. If anyone can point me towards basic information about the WCA, that would be really helpful. (I will look myself, and I'm sure I can rustle it up, but if anyone can save me some time searching, that would be even better :-).)

I'm looking for basic information such as 1) when the notion of the WCA was first floated and first agreed to, 2) a mandate or mission statement for the WCA, and 3) any timeline for how long it's expected to take until the WCA is up-and-running.

Thanks in advance if anyone can point me to useful URLs :-) Sue Gardner (talk) 21:22, 11 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

this one can help for the generality, and this one for the latest news. Unfortunately for the point three we have to ask to a medium or anyone connected with the deep cosmos ...--Charles Andrès (WMCH) 21:43, 11 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Global North/Global South terminology[edit]

I really, really hate the Global North/Global South terminology. It has always read as racist to me (and I've only ever read it in the context of Wikimedia-related writings). It's basically code for "poor and/or dark people", as any relation to the words north or south is completely lost in the actual geographic composition of both terms. And of course it doesn't help that "south" refers to a direction while "South" (with a capital S) refers to "the southern states of the U.S." (NOAD)

Any move away from this problematic language would be much appreciated. --MZMcBride (talk) 04:06, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

got a suggestion for replacement terminology? "developing world"? [perhaps gives the wrong connotations?] -- phoebe | talk 19:41, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Something that is quantifiable. If "developing world" is used, then a clear definition of what this means should be used. Would it be the same definition the UN? The extreme confusion for what this term means causes a lot of resentment because there are cases where countries are included by the WMF that under other more standard organiziational definitions used by NGOs it would not. (India and Brazil are two cases that spring to mind where not always included by NGO definitions but are by WMF.) --LauraHale (talk) 20:14, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
We are way beyond "wrong connotations" at this point. It has been more than 2 years of objections, you can find enough community members complaining and calling that terminology racist. I can provide the first dozen example on Meta itself, followed by Global South and solicit the same people to express their objection. It's been complained about enough, and we are still here, suggesting we move away from that terminology like its for the first time. Theo10011 (talk) 20:58, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I'm not trying to defend it! I'm asking if folks have better ideas for terms that we could use instead. -- phoebe | talk 22:38, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
If the issue is that some nations have lower levels of engagement with Wikipedia etc, why not refer to them that way as the "lesser engaged nations" (LENs). I see no point in trying to characterise them in term of geography, income, skin colour, or any other criteria which has nothing to do with the issue? I absolutely hate the "Global South" terminology speaking as someone resident in the southern part of the globe. Kerry Raymond (talk) 01:43, 13 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
What about en:Newly industrialized country? Or, since we excluded China, we can say newly industrialized democratic countries. Is that an English term? By the way, we have a chapter in Taiwan and Hongkong. Both are dead, since the Wikmania 2007. --Goldzahn (talk) 14:26, 13 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Kerry Raymond, That's a good suggestion, but I think engagement is a result not the criteria they chose for designation. I don't think the distinction being made here is engagement alone, in case of LENs, there might be hundreds of Lesser engaged countries who aren't in the 'Global South', it is possible that certain countries in Europe might have lower levels of engagement than South america, which might disprove the use of this terminology. Glodzahn, again industrialization might have no correlation to this distinction. The level of industrialization isn't a constant factor, even in developed world industrialization isn't the only mark of development. If we still use that terminology and exclude China, it falls apart. There are also many situations in the MENA region where "newly industrialized democratic countries" might be a stretch. It's not like there weren't alternative suggestions, I can recall Developing countries, third world, developing economies, Less economically developed countries (LEDCs), even some swahili word that Abbas and Asaf chose 2 years ago at a meeting strictly to replace this terminology.BIM, or BINMENA or SOAMENAIN. There would be no shortage of alternatives, but something has to be decided once and for all, so we can all agree to move on. Theo10011 (talk) 08:39, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
+1, apart from the people who are the presumed beneficiaries objecting on multiple occasions to the use of the term, it also has always come across as a trendy management buzzword designed to make Sue and the Board (and to be honest, everyone else from the Foundation who I've seen use the term looked slightly embarrassed) look like they're at the forefront of the latest paradigm-shifting value-adding mission critical bleeding edge of management philosophy learnings. I don't know enough about the internal workings of the WMF to be sure, but in my professional experience such language is not typically used in organisations that are well managed and well run. Craig Franklin (talk) 13:00, 14 October 2012 (UTC).Reply

Partially fixed up in this edit. Someone else needs to fix the three remaining instances of "Global South." --MZMcBride (talk) 00:36, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

I'm not saying I love the term Global South, but I think it's important to remember that this is a letter from Sue to the Board. Obviously she's been okay with people contributing, but as she says in the hatnote, it's not meant to be a collaborative process where we decide what terminology is appropriate. That's a term that the Board understands, and is a part of the shared language currently used to describe WMF programs. I wouldn't personally try to use this doc to decide that it's not kosher to use such a term. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 06:57, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
We have several times as part of Iberocoop proposed the use of "developing nations" which is the most used terminology refering to those countries, including not only ONU but other organizations composed by them. It brings a dynamic idea (moving towards development, and in fact some nations of the Southern Cone has already surpassed some development index of European nations considered developed) instead of an static idea where everything that was a colony in the XVIII and XIX centuries are underdeveloped.
In any case, I agree with the idea of working with "less engaged countries". I don't the WMF is working in developing nations just for charity, it is because there are people not using Wikipedia and the other projects. Yes, it is usually correlated but if there is a developed country where the usage rate is really low, probably the WMF will do something to revert that. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 13:04, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hey Steven, it is rude to tell us that Global South is "a term that the Board understands". It is like excusing a politician for using the N-word when "we all know what it means" and "it is part of the language he uses". This might not be a collaborative work, but in many occasions we, the community, all have spoken against the usage of the "Global South" label, yet the WMF does not seem to care about it. --Maor X (talk) 22:32, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Steven: Yes, I agree. And Sue may ultimately revert me. That said, this issue has come up on a number of occasions. In this very section, a former Board member has suggested that the language is less-than-ideal. As I said in my edit summary, the perfect is the enemy of the good here. Is "developing world" a great term? No, not really. Is it better than "Global South"? Yes. And the primary way of deprecating the use of the term "Global South" is to stop using it in new and future writings. Continuing to perpetuate what we know to be wrong is a bad idea. --MZMcBride (talk) 14:57, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
It isn't ideal, but at the same time Steven's also right -- I think for this document in particular it's important to be very precise about what initiatives are changing. In general: we need a short term to refer to the following concept -- "those places with enough baseline infrastructure and connectivity that there is a large pool of potential Wikipedia readers and editors, and yet the Wikipedia editions in the languages most spoken in those regions are underdeveloped [by a variety of metrics, including article/native speaker counts and quality]". If that term is going to be developing world, that's fine, but I think we should be aware that it will still be a shorthand and term of art in our particular context, and using a term that is already heavily laden with meaning in general use could be confusing. So it's worth some thought. -- phoebe | talk 17:16, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Hmm, as a non-native English speaker coming from a former Warsaw-pact block (and originating from CENTRAL Europe, mind you, Eastern Europe is elsewhere ;) I've always considered the "Global South" term as a much politer way of describing what was often called "developing countries". Of course, it should be the ones coming from the countries covered by these terms, who should have the right to accept or reject such phrasing, but "developing nations" and "developing countries" do have the colonial aftertaste and convey a clear message, that there is a direction to follow and they are way behind. Pundit (talk) 13:37, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Indeed. It's also largely used in an economic context, which isn't necessarily relevant for us (that's what I meant by "wrong connotations" above). -- phoebe | talk 17:22, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Well, as a non-native English speaker coming from one of the countries considered "developing", "less engaged" and probably now being considered a newcomer and the fundraiser of the "axis of Evil" if George Bush was the president of the USA, I have to say that honestly, the term "Global South" has always been considered very offensive to us. It sounds like the opposite of the "Global South" is cleaner, whiter, better developed and with less social disparity than in our countries..which we know is not always the case. It sounds rude to us. And racist, yes. --Maor X (talk) 22:27, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
This is good to know. What term would you find better suiting? Pundit (talk) 08:09, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I don't know if you know Mafalda. There is a great strip where Libertad turns a map of the world upside down. After being asked why she did that, she says "The North up is a psychological trick created for those that are over us to make us believe that we are still down them. The bad thing is that while we are still believing we are down them, we will be down them" (sorry for the bad translation) That was in the 1970s; we are in the 2010s and we are still discussing this.
As we have said, the most used term for the so-called Global South, including organizations that are from GS countries, is "developing countries/nations". I don't think it is necessary to replace all instances where GS appears, after all is the official name that this policy has in the context of the WMF, but it would be a great idea to start phasing this out introducing the proposed new terminology. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 15:15, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
My thoughts exactly! "developing countries" sounds better and more adapted to reality without sounding oppresive/racist. After all, our countries are developing, no? --Maor X (talk) 18:54, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Well, my intuitions were exactly opposite. When you describe a country as "developing", other countries are implicitly considered to be "developed". This metaphor assumes that there is a direction to which all countries are going, and that some are behind. "Global South" on the other hand assumes that "South" is different than "North", and that some countries in the actual North belong to the "global" South. I lack the sensitivity to see if being called South may be oppressive/racist, I know that many nations in Europe avoid "Eastern" connotation, but you should keep in mind that "Global South" is a term coined specifically to avoid the colonial mentality conveyed in the "developing countries" terminology. I hope we can have something better all together... Pundit (talk) 20:39, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi, that is an interesting discussion. I believe it would be more productive if we improve the Wikipedia article North–South divide regarding this term. Coming from a global south country, I must tell I don't like very much this term depending on the tone it's used, but I don't know at the moment a good substitute. I was used to use "developing country", but after discussing with a colleague about this term while visiting US, she asked me "Developing towards what? To this model of the so called developed country? Look at this". It also doesn't make much sense for me to refer to some countries as developed (maybe in a too idealistic view of what a developed nation could be :), so I don't know what is best at the moment. Maybe "Ex-colonies"? But that also would sound like as regretting from our suffering from the past. --Ezalvarenga (talk) 22:02, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Erratum: not "our suffering", but, at least in my country, of native populations almost extint. I am mostly decendent from European refugees from a period where living here, as incredible it can sound nowadays, was easier (or less difficult) than in the old continent - well, not that things aren't developing towards a scenario we will have more migration to some developing economies of the global south. ;) --Ezalvarenga (talk) 01:50, 20 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
"Ex colonies" is inadequate, because there are countries of the Global South which have never been colonized per se. In some respects Russia or China can qualify as "developing", or "Global South", but they are not suffering from postcolonial problems mainly. "Global South" is definitely better than "developing" (toward the shiny ideal set by the West?) or "second/third world" (blatantly pejorative). Clearly, creating any such arbitrary divisions is symbolically oppressive. Yet, if we need to focus our efforts on some countries, we need to have some terms and criteria. If there are well-sourced better terms, let's use them, but otherwise let's stick to what has developed as the least offending and yet clear phrase. Pundit (talk) 11:21, 21 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Suggestions for improvement[edit]

  • Be upfront about support for non-Wikipedia projects (Wikiversity, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, etc.)
    • Not just these, but Commons and Wikinews. Also, how much support non-English versions of Wikipedia will get. At times, there is an appearance that WMF exists to promote English Wikipedia. It is an idea fostered and nurtured inside the wider English Wikipedia community, and it can lead to community splits where other projects feel isolated and alone. An affirmation of equality of some of these projects to the most visible ones would be great. --LauraHale (talk) 20:16, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
      • +1 Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 09:52, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
        • +1 I don't think the larger communities intentionally foster this idea; it's something that supermajorities always need to be aware of when planning for the future of a broad network including smaller groups. SJ talk  19:43, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
        • Strong +1. It baffles me how non-wikipedia projects are ignored by every agenda I've seen in all these years. ("universal access to universal knowledge" is not covered by an English enclyclopedia...) Commons is storing 14 mln files, Wikisource is steady in his improvement/growth, other projects as Wikiquote has found their direction (and market/niche)... They all did without official support from WMF, but I see this as a mistake. What if they had some developer/assistance dedicated to solve minor and major issues? I feel the opposite about Sue regarding sister projects: I feel there should be much more attention and focus, an active engagement from WMF towards those communities. I believe it would be a clever investment of human resources, and a sound one. --Aubrey (talk) 13:20, 21 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
        • Absolutely.--Ymblanter (talk) 14:32, 21 October 2012 (UTC)Reply


Speaking generally, I think some narrowing of focus may be appropriate. However, Sue, I would be interested in hearing how you weigh the benefits versus the downside risk. Eliminating some of these efforts seems likely to eliminate channels of communication between WMF and editors, and also likely to eliminate sources of goodwill for WMF such as the goodwill that has been generated from the Teahouse project or the DR project.

Furthermore, I'm not sure that even if you eliminated all of the fellows and their associated support staff that the total amount of money would be enough to make a significant difference in the budget for engineering. I would bet that you can get college students to work for minimum wage for fellowships, and I doubt that you could get an experienced software engineer who has a family to feed to do the same, so I don't think this will be a 1:1 tradeoff of FTEs.

I would find it helpful to have a table listing the financial costs and tangible and intangible benefits from each program that you're proposing to cut, and a specific program that will benefit from the resources that were redirected. "Engineering" can mean lots of things. I have never been able to get clear answers on how the Visual Editor is doing, what its costs are, and why it's taking so long, so I would be reluctant to take money out of Fellowships and put it into "Engineering" or the Visual Editor without specifying what exactly WMF and the community will get in exchange for these sorts of tradeoffs.

Thanks, --Pine 07:18, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Pine,
a partial answer to your questions can be found in the "2011-12 Spending (Projected)" section on the 2012-2013 Annual Plan (p.58, p.59). This has a breakdown of expenses on a team/project level, e.g. it lists the budget for the Visual Editor. (Note that the 2011-12 numbers there were just projections dating from before the fiscal year was finalized, but they should not differ too much from the final numbers.)
If you are interested in how the development of the Visual Editor is progressing, and what the technical challenges are, there are worse starting points than the monthly Foundation reports and Engineering reports (last issue), the project pages on Mediawiki.org (mw:VisualEditor, mw:Parsoid), and this FAQ.
Regards, Tbayer (WMF) (talk) 16:24, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi TBayer,

It looks like some of the information that I've been wanting is at [[1]]. Thanks for that.

Those slides leave me with a lot of questions.

What is WMF getting in exchange for increasing those budget line-items in engineering? Concrete increases in costs should correspond with more, different, or faster changes to concrete deliverables.
The over $1 million cost for grants and fellowships seems large and vague. It would be helpful to have a breakdown of those costs.

I am reluctant to support adding money or shifting FTEs around without accountability for the funding and FTEs. In other words, I prefer outcome-based budgeting to input-based budgeting. So far, what I'm seeing is an input-based budget and I'm not getting the sense that there's much accountability for outcomes.

For example, speaking of accountability, I believe that WMF lowered its targets for active editors. So instead of holding departments accountable for the failure to meet the targets, the targets were lowered. Also, you may remember the Signpost op-ed awhile back that discussed partly finished and abandoned engineering projects. Between what I'm seeing in what looks like an input-based budget, and my understanding that WMF lowered its goals instead of holding anyone accountable for failure to meet those goals, this isn't giving me a lot of faith that resources are being wisely spent and that people are held accountable for the results. I'm not suggesting that Sue should create a culture of fear in the organization, but moving targets doesn't give me a lot of faith that there's accountability, and an input-based budget likewise doesn't give me a lot of faith that there's a lot of accountability. Accountability can be in lots of forms, like promoting successful people and rewarding them with bonuses or vacation time, and removing people who are involved in significant or repeated failures to meet goals. In high performing organizations there are high expectations along with support to meet those expectations. Repeating what I said above, I'm reluctant to support adding money or shifting FTEs around without specific promised outcomes and accountability for meeting those outcomes. Maybe such accountability does exist in the organization, but I'm not seeing it. There are some high performing individuals in WMF but I'm not sensing that the organization as a whole is fostering a culture of performance and outcome-based management. Before adding lots of money to engineering or shifting FTEs away from the Fellowship program which has demonstrated concrete benefits, I'd like to see a culture shift toward accountability, outcomes, and performance.

--Pine 17:25, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Pine. I think you have some good points. But I also think it's complex. When I was on the board and had conversations about accountability, one of the questions that I (personally) had is how to balance organizational goal-setting and accomplishment with the fact that many of our goals are really really hard, deeply nebulous, and filled with unclarity about how to achieve them. I'm not talking about promising software and not delivering it, or promising a completed fellowship and not completing it; that's one kind of accountability. But accountability for goals like "recruit and retain more editors" is different: I think if any of us knew for sure how to do such a thing it would be a lot easier to do it. But it's not, as brownhairedgirl eloquently points out, just a matter of software -- or just a matter of culture -- or something that any one person is likely to be able to move the needle on. So I am not sure -- again, personally speaking -- that our core goals are ones where we can hold people or departments to account for not meeting specific numbers when we don't really have any idea of what's possible. Consequently, the focus on experiments seems good -- as a way, simultaneously with building best-guess new software etc -- as a way of getting at things that might work. Do you have thoughts on this? -- phoebe | talk 19:37, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
also, while I actually largely agree with you about the fellowships, I think (just to hopefully clarify) in this context "focus" isn't just money, but also the administrative overhead: supervision, etc that any given project takes. The WMF has a lot of things on its plate at the moment. -- phoebe | talk 19:39, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I beg to differ, it won't be the first time I've read how complicated and nebulous the issues are - Without referring to anyone on the board in particular, I've heard some version of this with reference to the filter, then chapter fundraising, about controversial content, movement roles, editor retention and so on. Some board members constantly feel pulled and it shows, so they either remain silent or argue both sides. The board constantly being conflicted doesn't provide confidence to the community. Theo10011 (talk) 21:38, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
You beg to differ with what, exactly? I'm not sure what you're referring to here. Additionally, please don't read into what I write a statement about how the board feels; these are questions that I personally have had. -- phoebe | talk 22:41, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I realize that this might get acrimonious if I reply like I want to, so I'm going to avoid commenting further. Please disregard my comment and any future ones, and take my opinions to be based on none of your statements - past or present. Theo10011 (talk) 08:44, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Phoebe, "Recruit and retain more editors", if that's a goal for WMF, is one place where the statistics show major problems for many years. Just as corporate boards and executives are often responsible for growing sales and market share, the WMF board and executives are responsible for recruiting and editor retention if WMF decides that it wants to pursue this goal, which it has said that it does. In the private sector, sales executives who don't meet their goals can find themselves out of work. The executives are being paid by the shareholders to achieve their sales goals, not to make excuses for why something can't be done. They are not being paid to lead the company into declining sales. If they can't figure it out or they can't execute then they're in the wrong job. In the case of WMF, I have only been around for about a year, but it appears to me that this problem of declining editor populations has been going on for many years, and the failure to deal with it aggressively and comprehensively long before now (although I haven't read annual reports from prior years, but whatever changes were made they seem to have been ineffective) would not be easily excused if WMF was a private company. I give Sue credit for making some changes in the past year or so that are designed to deal with the problem of the declining editor base, but I think the organization as a whole could use a stronger sense of crisis and urgency on this issue. Just as huge declines in sales are crises for private companies and deserve consideration of a change of CEO if the current CEO doesn't fix the problem in a timely manner, I hope that there is a sense of crisis in the organization about the decline in the editor population and that there are further aggressive efforts in the works to deal with it. I've given some ideas elsewhere on this talk page, and it sounds like Steven and his group are working on some ideas also. I would like to see more sense of urgency and a sense of crisis through the whole organization about this issue. Ultimately, the board and the Executive Director are responsible for these goals, and they should be accountable if they don't execute. In the private sector "market conditions" or "societal changes" are not excuses that will help the stock price of a company if it has declining sales, and the Board and the CEO are accountable to the shareholders if they can't fix a situation regardless of external circumstances. I would like to see a "no excuses" mentality in WMF regarding the editor numbers. The statistics have been problematic for years and there's really no excuse for letting them decline year after year. One way that I sense that WMF doesn't have much sense of urgency about these numbers is that I see the statistics being passed through fairly quickly during the monthly WMF staff meetings. That alone is a big red flag that the organization is more resigned than determined. I would like to see that tone of resignation addressed aggressively throughout the organization, and I hope that the Board and Sue will show leadership here. --Pine 03:13, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Pine, agreed that looking for solid metrics make sense. Somewhere in this metric we need to address the fact that we need certain specific kinds of editors, above and beyond sheer numbers. Crowdsourcing routine tasks like vandal-fighting and text transcription requires numbers ... improving quality of specialized articles, or increasing non-English language content, isn't necessarily going to take a huge increase in numbers, and is more a matter of attracting editors from specific communities with the necessary expertise. This is going to require experimentation: when you are fishing in a new pond, you don't always know in advance what kind of fish will bite. Improving the editing experience and site communications by focusing on engineering for a while could be exactly what does the trick, and helps us get the kinds of new editors we need. We need to get out to the folks who are subject experts but are more into the graphics/Mac/interactivity approach rather than text-based coding. The new tools at New Pages Patrol look like a step in the right direction ... Djembayz (talk) 02:23, 22 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Lack of MENA chapters[edit]

Wikipedia suggests that if we include Israel in the list of MENA countries, then the assumption of us not having any chapters in that region is false — though, of course, I do see the general point behind that sentence. odder (talk) 08:36, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Good point. To clarify, we actually renamed the project earlier this year to be the "Arabic Language Initiative" with a sole focus on the Arabic Wikipedia. Jwild (talk) 19:13, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
"In MENA...there are indications that suggest there may never be a chapter." I would like to see this rephrased. Perhaps more detail would be appropriate? (i.e. phrase it as the challenges to having a chapter) Otherwise, to an outsider, it provides no actionable information; and I suspect that insiders could take it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jodi.a.schneider (talk)


As I read what I believe are still unfinished recommendations, I can't help to wonder what are you planning on raising the money for then. WMF has been increasing the budget targets annually at a very fast rate, and yet you are cutting the majority of activities WMF is known for, some of which have the highest visibility level of all activities. For Example - you cancelled Global Catalyst/development whatever in 3 of the largest geographies in the world, to make grants to "partners" (I have a lot more to say about the subject and the abandonment but I'll refrain), you suggest cutting the fellowship program (which never went beyond 20 individuals in all its existence, and probably costed less than half a million or so, in total), then you are suggesting to cut international events and move the scholarship program away and cut most events like Hackathon(which have been low impact/visibility but it was a start). What interaction and spending is left that community can expect from WMF? We passed the level of "keep the light on" a couple of years ago when the budget was 4-5 million, now its ten times the budget.

In all this time the budget has more than tripled, there are more staff now than ever before, who would be working less or in less visible things(which might as well mean the same in this context). The new focus areas, like engineering, I would also like to point out,has received the same, if not more criticism from the community - especially large over-arching changes like the filter, smaller projects and everything in between - it is still a leap to consider that the community wants more spending on those kinds of things, more spending and more teams like AFT etc., this doesn't count that majority of the engineering work you are suggesting as priority wouldn't be visible to prob. largest majority of Wikipedians. I have little idea what is being included under Editor engagement, the same team has gone through enough titles and name changes that its getting hard to follow(some amalgamation of community and strategy dept. I suppose). It includes 2-3 fellowships projects at the same time as some engineering projects. It seems more like a collection of research, and data, and some ongoing development - there are mixed results, but its hard to tell what exactly is going on since they do most of the analysis and research themselves.

My recommendation - At some point, you would have to separate your focus in two areas - What the encyclopedia(and the sister sites) need and what the organization needs to run as a website. The direction you are choosing is focusing on your own organization, which seems like bloat at this point, not even considering how these ventures went in the past. The development for the encyclopedia has been lacking, it needs a lot more help- access to journals, better sourcing, better bots/tools, toolserver, stats.grok.se, lesser kittens and bunnies perhaps, but there is a lot of smaller development needed than large site-wide changes which have been the priority. This isn't even touching on the situation with the sister sites - commons, wikisource, etc. - all of them have been more than overdue for development than Wikipedia. Site-wide changes have rarely been the focus for sister sites which is ironic since it might even be welcomed by the community at this point, unlike wikipedia. Back to the organization- A majority of startups can and do maintain higher efficiency in operations for less than a tenth of the last year's budget. Things under "Mobile access" are less visible to the largest majority of your donor and user base, smartphone access might make most of that spending redundant. "Mobile Engineering" isn't usually such a large focus for an entire organization the size of WMF, it is certainly important but not to this point. So, are things like the Visual editor or the much celebrated FDC, both of which would not be known to the majority of your user base till they are ready and even then might generate more problems. I have more to say about the analysis and implications thereof, there are a lot of misinterpretations that I would like to comment on, but since I run the risk of being ignored already, I'll stop here. Regards. Theo10011 (talk) 10:05, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Please go ahead with your ideas, Theo! I find the feedback you provided above very interesting and inspiring (though I do not have the time to comment on it just now). odder (talk) 11:18, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks Odder, but I have a tendency to run up a wall of text. I can create a detailed feedback page with specific suggestion and ideas separately, but it would be helpful to know that it would be read by Sue and might actually make a difference first. Regards. Theo10011 (talk) 16:13, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
In my view, Sue Gardner proposes just minor changes. The catalyst projects will go on: "we converted the India project into a grant to the Centre For Internet and Society. Oona Castro, the project lead for Brazil, is currently researching potential partners for us there". No one is missing the fellowships program and in times of the Internet, no one needs international events. No organizational development support for chapters is OK, since this is what Wikimedia Chapters Association will do. By the way, do you remember the new skin (Vector) a few years ago? Nice, but that was no big push. You are right, in my view, since Wales started a Wiki 2001 nothing really new happened. Even WikiData won´t change much, since Wikilinks and new Infoboxes are minor changes. But there are things that would make a difference. For example, we could change Wiktionary into something like en:Google Translate. We would need many translations, which is possible with collaboration. Or think about Apples en:Siri (software). What if people could edit Wikipedia by voice? On a phone? We could ask people to send in audio files, for example, saying "edit", "show preview", in hundreds of languages and thousand of voices. -- 15:08, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Anon, I believe your impression of "minor changes" differs from most others. Perhaps there is a lot of context that you may be missing, like the head of Global development at WMF along with the India operations head, leaving a couple of months ago. The fellowships were just getting off the ground with not a lot of spending, with only a dozen or more fellows in total (which is perhaps the tiniest fraction of a percent of our user base). The International events too, started taking off in the last couple of years which weren't as common before, things like GLAM camp, conferences, meetings. The proposed WCA and FDC are still just that, proposed organization that have no track record, no plan yet, that were proposed in the last 6 months. If you look within that context it certainly sets the precedent that the majority of the focus areas are being removed when the budget actually went from 5 million to around 38 million USD. It leaves a giant gaping hole in between on what actually the budget would be spent on, because the 4 focus areas listed can in no way absorb this much revenue, forget efficiently or within reason. It's just......bizarre...to abandon every other activity the community has come to know, at the same time. And focus on mostly low visible options and behind-the-scene engineering and tech spending that again would not be known to most of the community.Theo10011 (talk) 17:57, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I don´t think "behind-the-scene engineering and tech spending" would bring us one more editor. Maybe mobile will help, but as you already said, only in countries with no smartphones.
What I would like to see is what I found at en:Product life-cycle management (marketing). In many countries Wikimedia is still at the "Market introduction stage" (maybe that is wrong, because in those countries readers use English Wikipedia) but in the western countries Wikipedia is at the "Saturation and decline stage". Wikipedia suggests in en:Extending product life cycles: Price reductions, Repackaging and redesigning, Launch in new markets, Promotion, Direct Selling. I think what is happening with mediwiki at the moment is: Repackaging and redesigning and launch in new markets. Maybe "price reduction" means that it will be easier (= cheaper) to edit. Improving mediawiki to version 1.1 is OK, but we are a community, a software and we have millions of Wikipedia, Wiktionary, etc. articles and Commons pictures. We should look what could be done with our content, our software and our community as well and we need a community update too. In my view, most international community activities don´t update the community and grants are better than hiring consultants. By the way, my suggestions would update mediawiki to version 2.0. And I don´t have any confidence in WCA and FDC. WMDE has some experience with grants and my impression is that what the community wants and the community needs are different. Well, the first is bottom up and the second top down. I think, we should use both strategies. At the moment FDC portal/Proposals is just bottom-up - top down is missing. For example foundation could start something like en:Best practice. -- 23:24, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply


Interesting proposal, I do think it is helpful for the WMF to rethink what its core role is. The WMF should indeed rethink its 17 tasks it has set for itself, and review whether the 13 that are not touched in this proposal and the 4 that are do make sense in the context of the WMF and cut the ones that don't. In doing saw, it would be important to remember that "innovation" is one of the strategic priorities, and that grantmaking is a fairly new activity that was in a large way the child of the circumstances (with reorganizing the flows of money inside the movement and the need to give a new name to the revenue share arrangements of the past), it is a brave move to make it the second pillar of only two pillars of the WMF. The WMF is more than an engineering org. that gives out the excess money it has, or at least should be more (and the strengthening of some of the non-core elements in the last year, like the LCA or the shop, were imho steps in the right direction of being a global leader of a big community and movement; while perhaps the US education and GLAM programmes and maybe even the catalysts less so [but again, the latter were explicitly included in the strategic plan]).

From the gains mentioned from the restructuring, it seems that the biggest problem at the moment are the strain on Finance&Admin, HR, and the executive managers (and a secondary problem of not being able to provide engineering resources for programme work). I wonder if better results could be achieved with strengthening the admin departments instead of cutting out all the ones that are not receiving enough support. As suggested elsewhere, perhaps the addition of events coordinators, more HR and finance staff, and widening the executive managers tier, might alleviate some of the constraints.

I feel that the solution to the vision of "providing free access to everyone" and the mission in empowering everyone to create and collect the knowledge is not a simple IT-problem; nor am I totally convinced that for the high priority engineering projects to succeed all is needed are less distractions in the programme department (it seems the editor experiments programme is currently costing more than the perhaps #1 visual editor, which suggests to me that if the VE project lacked manpower it would have been easy to allocate more to it internally).

The bigger focus on grants is an easy proposition and it is easy to market (the success of all grantees, and in this case technically all movement organisations can be traced back to the WMF being a good grant giver; while any failure or non-success would be the fault of a "third party"). This approach could certainly help the strain on admin, but would not provide any solution to the secondary problem of not having access to engineering (if there is a legit, solvable problem that depends on engineering resources and access, outsourcing the problem without those resources and access would unlikely to yield results).

In conclusion, I think that cutting and reevaluating existing programmes is a good idea, but I would not be entirely comfortable with the WMF redefining itself as an engineering+grants organisation (although the current proposal does leave a few programmes untouched, like the education programme, the LCA, or the shop, for instance) as it has the potential to misunderstand the role of the foundation, and is likely to lead to it receiving and accumulating less and less community goodwill as it moves forward. –Bence (talk) 19:52, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Great post, Bence. I agree with the majority of things you said, your observations are introspective and astute.Theo10011 (talk) 17:35, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

I have started wondering if this effect of low visibility is indeed the goal, instead of a side-effect. Considering this would axe a lot of community facing programs, and cut back on the ones that do remain, also considering the last year WMF and some of these programs have had, this thought seems more credible. This would scale back on WMF exposure with activities that do generate community interaction, and allow it to work on areas that would be away from community's purview. Theo10011 (talk) 17:35, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Editor retention[edit]

Hi Sue

I support the narrowing of focus, and was please to see that editor retention is a priority. However, I was surprised to see your proposed path to that goal:

"Our best path to significantly increasing number-of-editors is clearly through usability and interaction improvements to the site itself, since that type of change touches all editors and prospective editors, rather than just a subset."

Do you have any evidence for that assertion? The technical interface has improved in several ways since I started editing on en.wiki in early 2006, yet editor retention levels have fallen, along with the number of edits and the number of active editors.

I am concerned that the foundation appears to be directing its energies towards something which is relatively easy for it to fix, but which does not appear to me to account for the decline. As far as I can, the biggest problems are social rather than technical.

Interface improvements are welcome, but they alone do not explain the accelerating decline of en.wikipedia. That decline cannot be measured solely by the number of active editors or the number of edits; it also needs to consider the much steeper decline in the community processes. en:WP:RFA is broken, so the flow of new admins is down to a trickle, and one result is big backlog of closures of decision-making processes such as en:WP:CFD (see en:WP:CFD/W), en:WP:TFD, en:WP:RFC etc. It is now quite common for decision-making discussions to remain open for a month after they should have closed, a situation which frustrates and demoralises editors who try to participate in the collaborative processes.

Closure delays do not alone explain the rapidly-declining participation in those processes, but in the last 6 yeas I have seen participation at individual CFD and AFD processes fall from an average of ten or more editors to only 2 or 3 at CFD, and about 4 at AFD. (I have done no systematic analysis study, but I am confident that a more rigorous study would demonstrate such a decline).

I am even more concerned about the decline in WikiProjects. There are a dozen or so WikiProjects which I have regularly interacted over the years, and all of them now have talk pages which are almost inactive (See e.g. en:WT:IE, en:WT:UKPC, en:WT:UKPOLITICS; discussion is at a trickle compared with 4 years ago). The same pattern is evident at the many other projects I visit to notify them of community processes, and the Signpost report on WikIProject Biography notes that "the number of members is nearing 800, but the newsletter, collaborations, and many of the subprojects have lapsed into inactivity".

These forums for collaboration may have individual problems of structural, personality, scope or culture; but collectively, they are all either fading or dying. And collectively, these forums are essential. Unless we made a radical change to a curated mode (like the failing Citizendium), collaboration is the way we uphold core principles such as en:WP:V, en:WP:NOR, and en:WP:NPOV. Without active collaboration, issues around those principles go unresolved, and the quality of content degrades rapidly both through neglect and through leaving processes open to capture by small groups of agenda-pushers. (Whether the aim to promote a POV or a product or a client, it's much easier to succeed when only one or two other editors are present).

In the last few months, I have seen a rapid acceleration of the long-term decline of these collaborative processes, and I don't see how that can be attributed to technical issues. Technologies such as LiquidThreads might help, but their absence cannot explain the extent to which participation has fallen from its peak.

I could write lots about the failings in the social processes, and I have my own ideas for fixes. But my overriding concern is that if the social processes of en.wiki decline further, we will be in a position where no level of technical improvement can stop the fall. It would be great to see the foundation placing a much higher priority on reviewing the collapse of the community, and guiding it towards a more sustainable social model. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) 11:54, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Good thoughts. The fellowships are one way of addressing some of these issues, and one reason why I would like to keep funding for fellowships in some form. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about how you'd address these issues. --Pine 17:31, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Speaking mostly for myself, as a Wikipedian and someone who works in WMF on the engineering side of things: the key word in the sentence BrownHairedGirl quotes is our. There are a few key reasons why this is the best lever for the Foundation:
  1. Software has a lot more influence on social process than most people in the community like to admit. We could easily change things in a radical way with small tweaks. Even programs that seem to be about social process, like the Dispute Resolution fellowship or the Teahouse, require changes to the software to succeed. Two examples of things that can impact social processes: we could completely change how reverts work, and we could implement simple tools for reinvigorating WikiProjects. For very good reasons, the Foundation likes to avoid the pattern where software architects get to have sweeping power over how technology shapes process in the community. But that doesn't mean that the two issues are actually separate, and that we don't care about how technology aids better process in the community. We can and should be using better software to invite people to participate in important parts of the community, and teach them how.
  2. Two, if we admitted that social breakdown is a much bigger threat to the project than bad software, how exactly would the Foundation fix that without touching software? I think it's pretty clear the community needs to own reform of social process, and the Foundation should take responsibility for the technology side of things. It's an area that is traditionally very much part of our remit, and which we're much better equipped to do.
I know my statements are not the same thing as proof of an ability to impact editor retention with data. I'm happy to go into examples on that too, but I thought it was important to explain why we think technology is our best bet at the Foundation. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 19:17, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Chipping in in my volunteer role: as someone within Engineering, I disagree. Now: I agree that technology can scale to a better degree than societal changes or process improvements, but that's not the same as societal changes not scaling. Take, for example, Peter Coombe's help documentation. He documented some best practises, proved they worked, built some templates, and now other people are picking up the strain. We're replacing the "contact us" page, based at least in part on his work. The Teahouse - created by fellows, implemented by fellows, adopted by the arabic wikipedia already. If we help improve best practises, and spread the news wide enough, Wikipedians will adopt them on their own. It's happening already. Ironholds (talk) 23:36, 13 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
The idea that there is clear separation between social change projects and technological innovation is still not really supported, even if a particular project may lean one way or the other. Both projects you cite required, at minimum, some resources from non-Fellow design staff in order to succeed. In the case of Teahouse, significant design work and the help of two engineers in their volunteer time was required. There are other examples, like Lennart's ACIP project, where fellowships required significant input from WMF engineers. The point in the main document, that we are ultimately a website and that fellowship projects have in fact asked for time from WMF engineering and product development staff, still stands. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 19:44, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Steven, I agree with you to a certain extent that social change projects and tech innovation are often most successful when paired up together. But, the ACIP doesn't feel like a particularly useful example here either - its an edge case as fellowships go, and one that wasn't really envisioned as a social change project from the start as I understand it. It was a technical project (before my time at WMF, but I at least can't imagine how it was thought of as anything but a technical project). We've shifted practice a fair amount in what kind of projects fellowships support since that time. Agreed that Teahouse is a slightly better example of what you're arguing, except that there is nothing those WMF engineers did that is specific to WMF engineering. The bit of software that makes the Teahouse what it beyond the significant social organizing it took to make that project real came from gadgets and templates...things that any volunteer can make. Pete's Help page designs were inspired by the work that WMF designers have done, but he did all the actual design work and implementation himself. This use of resources is on a pretty different scale technically than something like the account creation work that your team is doing and that requires more robust integration with MediaWiki code, deploy cycles, etc. Anyone can copy a template or an approach and replicate success around the movement (that's how the template testing experiments you and Maryana did as fellows spread into other languages, right?) I really value the work that the Tech team does, and think software scales in some amazing ways and since we're a website we need to invest in those ways, and that requires tradeoffs, and in this case one tradeoff is funding a fellowships program. But I don't think the message we should be trying to send in this conversation is that community members working on social change issues can't have impact on editor retention without WMF engineers, or that there aren't ways that the community without engineering can replicate social change successes. A message like that might be discouraging to any chapters, grantees, or community leaders feeling inspired to take up the social change charge.Siko (talk) 01:15, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
We don't need editors or retention, we need content. Content doesn't mythically grow at an exponential rate but has an ideal or a cap. Editor retention is an excuse to push fringe causes that take away from the core mission. Cut the staff, trim the flack from the pedia and other projects, and make something respectable. Anything else is just pointless politics. Ottava Rima (talk) 19:20, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi BrownHairedgirl, I disagree with some of your assertions. While I understand where they are coming from and what the goal is, I believe it is not possible to manage the social aspect or the decline of a community. Communities by definition, are a self-organizing group of individuals who self-identify with something in common. It is not possible to engineer them, or fix for a lack of a better word. Any attempt to make large changes to this group has, is and will be meant with resistance within the community, there are enough examples to point to when actions taken by WMF have elicited that. While it may be possible to ameliorate some of the decline, the problems you are suggesting aren't technical, neither are they very social, they would be closer to procedural and workload related. The examples you are using are pretty specific, and limited to English Wikipedia, perhaps that's too specific for the larger goals, perhaps not. There are also two opinions to some of those specific examples you use, for example, LiquidThread is pretty old at this point, you can find 2 dozen admins on Meta alone who have nothing but disdain for it from their experience. I'm not sure how receptive the larger community would be to direct changes, I suppose there is a fine line to walk here between serving and leading. There is also something to be said for better tools, and better workflow management. WMF also cant define the terms of an RfA, or fix the majority of the decision making processes at work here by closing RfC. They also have to take a separate position and say the community is self-governing and independent, I'm not sure what you are arguing for would sit well with that principle. I believe, our community might be showing its age at this point, its pretty set in its way by this point, its not as receptive to new members, and activity is declining, but that's what we got. Ottava, well said. Theo10011 (talk) 22:50, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Brown-Haired Girl and Pine. I've just read your comments, and the ones following them, and I'm going to reply here quickly. (There's a lot that's interesting on this page, but I don't have time to reply to all of it -- certainly not today.) But for your bit here: first, what Steven wrote is true, and essentially represents my view. Basically: changes to the site affect massive numbers of people, which means that even fairly minor tweaks to the interface/design can have an influence that is disproportionately large relative to their cost. It is also true that technology changes are never pure technology -- they always have social impacts, and in our case are often designed specifically to result in social impacts. But beyond that I want to acknowledge that yes: the social question is a serious one. This is personally my most serious reservation about shutting down the fellowships program: the fellows have done (are doing) tough deep community work, much of it purely (or primarily) social in nature.

I have wondered if this is a place where the chapters could reasonably take up a larger role. Because 1) the social work is dependent on deep knowledge of the specific culture of a given project, and 2) one constraint of the WMF fellowships program has been that we can only work with fellows who are able to communicate in English. That's not a constraint that affects most of the chapters, so I have wondered if they could usefully be involved in commissioning this deep community "social" work, instead of, or in addition to, the Wikimedia Foundation. In the meantime Pine you're quite right: this is the most serious downside of shutting down the fellowships program. I'd be happy to hear more from both of you, and others, on this point. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 22:06, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Sue,
I'm not sure how receptive a community like ENWP would be to a chapter-sponsored fellow because there are multiple chapters that participate in the same language wiki, and different chapters may have different priorities, different or competing ideas, different degrees of acceptance by the wider community on that wiki, and other issues. In the absence of a thorough explanation for how the WMF money that's currently going to WMF Fellowships can reasonably be expected to deliver a comparable or better return for investment in WMF Engineering, I think the money for Fellowships should stay where it is. Let me take this opportunity to express appreciation to WMF for choosing some worthwhile projects for Fellowships and selecting some capable, motivated Wikipedians as Fellows.
I'd like to return to Brownhairedgirl's comment, "The technical interface has improved in several ways since I started editing on en.wiki in early 2006, yet editor retention levels have fallen, along with the number of edits and the number of active editors." While I agree with you that technical changes to the site have social effects, I agree with Brownhairedgirl that the evidence seems to suggest that an unfriendly UI and other technical problems weren't obstacles to editor growth in prior years. If there were technical fixes to retain editors in some of the less complicated tasks on Wikipedia, I would like to think that Steven's Editor Engagements team would have found those fixes by now; see Editor engagement experiments/Results. I think that the VE will be a much bigger and welcome change, and I'd hope to see positive results, but I agree with Bornhairedgirl that there are on-wiki social problems that may affect editor retention, and for this reason also, I'm reluctant to take resources away from Fellowships which address some of those problems.
Besides technical and on-wiki social issues, there is a third category of change that's happened in the past few years which I would call "societal changes". Social networks like FB and Twitter consume a lot more of society's time, Youtube and similar sites have become more interactive and have an ever larger diversity of offerings, the increasing availability of high bandwidth internet connections makes streaming videos more practical and widespread, and there is a big shift to mobile devices. To the Foundation's credit, my understanding is that WMF is investing resources in making Wikipedia more accessible and editable on mobile devices. But I think WMF may need to start thinking of FB, Twitter, WoW and other social games, and online streaming media as competitors for the time of current and potential editors, and should assertively compete against them for the attention and interactive engagement of these internet users. We don't want to turn everyone into an editor, but we need to identify and convert users who have high potential to be good editors into editors, and keep their time and attention on WP when they could be playing WoW, watching and commenting on Youtube, or doing whatever they do on their phones when they're bored. I'm not sure if the way to compete with these alternatives is through primarily technical changes like a new editing UI, gamification (although I believe that some of our current editors are strongly opposed to gamification), addressing on-wiki social problems as mentioned by Brownhairedgirl, or doing more marketing to Wikipedia readers in an effort to convert them into editors. In the absence of analytical evidence to support any one of these, I think that attempting a combination of the above may be the best approach.
--Pine 09:33, 13 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Here's an idea regarding having fellowships in multiple languages. How about taking the same money that's currently budgeted for fellowships, and while keeping that money budgeted for fellowships, have the FDC decide what fellowships will be funded? --Pine 10:10, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Pine, I think there is already some alternative like that. It's a matter of designation at this point, you can call it a grant instead of a fellowship, and realize FDC and GAC can already provide grants to replace Fellowships, to fund projects and research or whatever. There was a case earlier when one of the first fellows was announced as a grant recipient and later changed to a fellowship(or maybe the other way round). But it's not the same thing in my opinion. The traditional idea of having fellows, is to either reward/recognize community members for exemplary work, or fund their project for the common goal. It should be as much about recognition as it is about supporting a person or project. It might just be my feeling on this, but moving to just a grant making exercise like a bank loan application, would just make it degrading and lose all its value. WMF should be the one to recognize someone as a fellow if they don't want to do that, it would just maim the process. Regards. Theo10011 (talk) 18:15, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
That's an interesting perspective about recognition you raise, Theo, and one that I don't think we explicitly called out in the past around fellowships. I do think there is something to the idea of recognizing the potential for good work to achieve common goals, basically recognizing community leadership to work in these areas. But its not just WMF who should do this, at its best that is an exercise that the movement as a whole should be going through (chapters, volunteers, + WMF) to make sure we're recognizing leadership and innovative approaches to solving community problems widely, in multiple languages, etc. Personally, I think there may be a grants model that could actively encourage the continuation of fellowship-like work on on-wiki social issues, in multiple languages, but it doesn't naturally happen in the current grants model we have. My hope is that if WMF shuts down fellowships, we will think carefully about ways to accomplish more of this kind of work via grant-making. I imagine that a good grant-making process of individual grants would not feel like a bank loan application at all, but should instead feel like endorsing volunteers, a community-led committee, and the WMF grant-making approvers are all working together in a lightweight grantee support system to select for the very best potential approaches. Social innovation is likely to come from within the community, and I agree with Ironholds that it also scales via social propagation within the community, not just via software. I can't imagine Teahouse or Dispute Resolution work that fellows have done making half as much impact had it been approached as a software problem rather than an issue the community wanted to work on in partnership with fellows first and foremost. And so as a movement we should all be looking for the best way to support that. Siko (talk) 17:48, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Siko, it's really comforting to know you share the same opinion on what fellowships should be. You have to consider the point-of-view that there is just one entity with money in this entire "movement" scenario, all other organizations are solely dependent on WMF funds, that includes the chapters, the FDC, GAC whatever. I have no idea how any other chapter can start awarding fellowships without WMF approval or WMF indirectly paying for it. Then, there is the other implication, chapters are really small organization, most with zero staff and no ability to grant-make or award fellowships, this would place a burden on them to develop the infrastructure WMF built in the last year and then any chapter would to follow suit would have to invest in the redundant system to keep it up - that is a massive waste of resources. Not to mention, such a scenario would open up doors to more backlash for WMF, there could be instances of impropriety, nepotism and so on. And honestly, I don't think a chapter should be awarding fellowships, they are small local organizations with different skill sets, recognition for fellows should be done by the main central organization that should carry some recognition along with it.
Also to quickly clarify- I was referring to the earlier fellowship process before you took over, when the line between grant recipient and fellow was blurry, secondly, as far as the bank loan application analogy goes, the fact that so few grants are applied for and less than half the budgeted money gets spent is proof that its not an easy process, I've heard first hand how draining and sometimes degrading the experience has been. Now there are 30 members on the GAC, a grant can be delayed or stopped by any one of 30 individuals on top of Asaf and the rest of the staff. I really don't think it will get better. I hope I'm wrong. Theo10011 (talk) 18:07, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Pine: regarding "If there were technical fixes to retain editors in some of the less complicated tasks on Wikipedia, I would like to think that Steven's Editor Engagements team would have found those fixes by now; see Editor engagement experiments/Results."... our team has only been complete since July, when we hired our second engineer. Since then, we've completed 5-6 large scale experiments depending on how you slice it (experiment is a pretty vague unit). We've found a few things, but as for the notion that we've exhausted the realm of possibilities, we have an internal idea backlog of more than 45 possible things to try. And that's just what our team has been able to think of. When you look at the requests sitting in Bugzilla or generated by editors via the Strategy project, the list of possibilities is almost endless for technical enhancements to aid editors. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 17:37, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
OK, but is there evidence that adding resources to Engineering is a comparable or better return on investment than investing in Fellowships in terms of editor recruitment or retention? I'm not seeing that the evidence going back to 2006 supports this. I'm sure that Engineering can help with editor recruitment or retention, but I don't know that there's much evidence about where the balance should be between Fellowships and Engineering. I suppose WMF could experiment with what Sue is proposing, see what happens, and then review the evidence at some later date to consider sponsoring Fellowships again. But I have a hard time believing that the $1 million or so that goes to Fellowships would be enough to make a significant difference in Engineering's budget. I could find this proposal a lot more convincing if there were concrete proposals being made regarding what will be done with the money. "Engineering" is too nebulous. I wouldn't spend $1 million more on a budget unless I knew what I was likely to get for that investment. At least on these pages, I'm not seeing how that $1 million will be used and how it's likely to be better used in Engineering than in Fellowships. --Pine 21:22, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Yeah, I think you're right about "Engineering" sounding too vague or even slightly misleading. Part of it is because the Engineering department proper is half things that are not on the table for refocusing, like Ops and Platform which keep the sites up. And the editor engagement parts of "Engineering" also include non-engineers, like designers and product managers. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 21:51, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks Steven. I'm moving the comment that I had put here to a separate subsection since it's starting to move away from the original subject of this thread which is editor retention. --Pine 02:38, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Quick way to narrow focus and save money[edit]

Cut staff down to tech people and move out of San Fransisco. It would return us to the core mission and also save a lot of money. Additionally, capping any paychecks at 100k per year would be a good start to not overpaying people. The focus will be narrowed back to where it should be once most of the cronyism and fluff is removed. Ottava Rima (talk) 19:18, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Ya, that's never going to happen. Theo10011 (talk) 21:07, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I believe you are right - which shows that the original Wikimedia concept was hijacked. It is no coincidence that the bloat in Wikimedia corresponds directly with the loss of the top content contributors (which is very different from the amount of users). Having a well written and well informed encyclopedia is directly at odds with the free culture ideology and the bloat of staff and users clinging to Wikimedia for ideological purposes. When 2/3rds of the active users are overridden by the Foundation and a tiny minority of users that do very little to contribute the content (i.e. what happened with the image filter that was overwhelmingly demanded by the users here and an ethical obligation), there is an obvious and clear problem. Ottava Rima (talk) 23:58, 12 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
The paychecks thing is never going to happen, I agree, because it will pretty much cause an exodus of quality staff from the Foundation and make sure that anyone in a senior position is a second-rate candidate who couldn't make decent money elsewhere. With that said, I do wonder how much money could be saved on moving a lot of the engineering and tech staff out of very expensive real estate in San Francisco. You could keep a "front office" there for public engagement purposes, but it doesn't really matter where programmers and the like are. You could probably get quality facilities for a lot less in rent just by moving off of the San Francisco Peninsula, while still having those teams nearby. I would like to see a cost/benefit analysis of continuing to base staff in SF given the current operating conditions, to see if it still makes sense to pay some of the highest (on average) rates in North America. Craig Franklin (talk) 13:08, 14 October 2012 (UTC).Reply
"quality staff from the Foundation" I would say that I would be fine if we had 5 monkies who spent all day operating the servers. We don't need "quality staff" that costs that amount. With the glut in the IT field, you can find a lot of tech based people willing to work for 40k a year, and they aren't in San Fransisco but parts of the country that are more representative of the standard population and are much cheaper to live in (say, Florida, where our servers conveniently are!). If staff thinks they are too qualified to work here for 40k a year, then ship them out. They have the wrong mindset. Instead, this is a cash cow payout to ideologues. That is not what donations should be used for. Ottava Rima (talk) 13:35, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
To clarify I was referring to moving out of SF, but I think it applies to the paycheck too, neither of those things are going to happen. The discussion about why choosing SF as the base of operations has happened a few times before in multiple places, even in an IRC meeting where Americans did question why such an expensive location was chosen when there are so many alternatives(I think it was in regard to some SOPA type discussion). The excuse ranged from the available hiring pool and culture of SF, to proximity to Google and FB, I didn't find most of them credible. There is an argument to be made that proximity to top 10 for-profit internet properties actually screws up the internal culture, especially since WMF is a non-profit with much smaller pocket than most of them. Theo10011 (talk) 18:23, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Theo, I think it is simple enough to say that San Fransisco is representative of the ideological center they want to attach themselves too and is indicative of every problem the Foundation has. Take a vote with staff - anyone who wants to stay in San Fran gets immediately fired. That would purge the trouble makers. Ottava Rima (talk) 19:08, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
You realise that the Foundation has more staff than just developers? Also, I don't know about SF, but $40k where I am would get you a freshly graduated code monkey with no experience, but not much else. Also, by way of comparison, $40k is about the entry salary for a new data entry person or telephone answerer in the (non-profit) organisation I work in. It's nice to think that people would be motivated enough to work for the Foundation that they'd accept payment in stale bread and dirty water, but it's not going to happen. Craig Franklin (talk) 08:28, 15 October 2012 (UTC).Reply
"You realise that the Foundation has more staff than just developers?" Which is the number one problem. Ms. Gardner wont ever be able to fix Wikimedia until she starts firing people, and there is a whole page of people who should be instantly canned. It is embarrassing. You can start with the legal department that ruins our reputation, wastes our money, and gives the most horrendous advice that will destroy us. We might as well have hired pyromaniacs to handle our "fire prevention" department. By the way, I am part of two non-profit organizations and neither pays. There is one paid position in all of Maryland, and he is an individual that is paid very little and only to deal with sending out emails, communications, and the rest which is necessary to organizing volunteers because it isn't an online group. Real charity groups don't pay staff. Only those who are set up to allow for a few staff to steal from donation funding do. This isn't a business. The staff doesn't deserve payment. Ottava Rima (talk) 19:08, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
And PS, I contributed far more to Wikipedia than all of the WMF staff combined for the same amount of time. I received no funding. There are many like me who left because they didn't want to fill the pockets of a bunch of people who are doing whatever they can to ruin our original purpose. Ottava Rima (talk) 19:09, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Just a point of clarification here, Ottava, for those who many not know - you didn't leave (at least not your main project, en.wp), you were banned. Thought a heads up might save some people from engaging in an endless and fruitless debate. Nathan T 15:18, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

I dont think so - those proposals are written in a direction to correct this imbalance. Show me one single charity who has no paid stuff. If that stuff does a good job then it should not be treated like that - if it really does the contrary than u r right. But those general dumps are not necessary...--Angel54 5 (talk) 21:25, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Nice straw man. I said trim staff, not no staff. But there are many non-profits that don't receive any pay. They are called charities and charity foundations. The United States is full of them. I know of many therapeutic riding groups that would have 20 volunteers or so. They do all the work, take donations for food, etc., to upkeep horses. None of them are paid, and they are rarely reimbursed for gasoline expenses. Horses are quite expensive. There are probably 3 dozen such organizations in the area I live in. See, when people in the United States work for non-profits, most of them don't expect money. Only the corrupt turn it into a piggy bank. Ottava Rima (talk) 03:56, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
So, you think it would be responsible (or even possible) to operate a multi-million dollar foundation without any legal protection in place. That is all I need to know to know that there is no longer any point continuing to respond to this discussion. Craig Franklin (talk) 11:25, 16 October 2012 (UTC).Reply
Legal protection? Everyone has "legal protection." We have our protection that spells it out clearly - if the Foundation only operates servers, it is immune. The political bs is the only reason why we need lawyers. We don't need the politics, and we don't need this atrocious lawyers that are only jeopardizing our donations. And multi-million dollar? This is a free encyclopedia run by volunteers. We shouldn't have any of that money. We are scamming people to promote outrageous political causes. It is absolutely sickening. As someone who actually provided content that helps the reputation of this place, I am outright offended. Ottava Rima (talk) 16:15, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Wikimania and other events[edit]

Flourishing #Editors in North?[edit]

In my view all the actions proposed here are a great fit with the 2010-15 strategy plan, with one exception. I'd love to see some clarification/disambiguation here:

One of the big learnings of the 2010-15 strategy plan is that Wikipedia has flourished fairly easily in the Global North (# of readers, # of editors), but has struggled in the Global South.

It seems to me that it would be useful not to conflate what are two issues: Falling Editor numbers in the North, and struggling in the Global South. Both are important. I'm a returned editor, and new to current policy, so there are things that I don't know about the mechanisms that currently exist. But it seems to me that it is not only internal engineering efforts that have the potential for better interfaces - and engagement. Community-led projects that have *high impact* potential for interface improvement and editor recruitment and retention would be worthy of support.
It may be that a technology/interface engagement opportunity is trying to come in from the non-technie or semi-techie community. If so, there needs to be a door open. [personal interest declared, but my point still stands, I think] Open Research (talk) 04:36, 13 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

We flourish in areas that have food and the luxury to surf on the internet all day. We fail in areas where people are struggling to survive. It isn't really a coincidence, and shouldn't be an area of concern. We aren't the Peace Corps. Ottava Rima (talk) 13:38, 14 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

In the realm of internet knowledge spreading, we kinda are Jztinfinity (talk) 01:53, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Indeed. Thanks for the comment, Open Research, I agree - many great interface or proces improvements (most!) will come from the community, including readers and reusers and people around the world who may or may not write mediawiki code; we shouldn't imagine most will come from current core devs. I think some of the larger tech improvements underway this year are aimed at making the lifecycle of idea sharing and realization easier for all of those groups, so you are not alone in thinking this way. SJ talk 

Global Ed Program[edit]

Hi Sue, I'm curious. With WMF wanting to narrow focus, why is the Global Ed program getting new FTEs as shown on https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Job_openings? I'd be interested to know why WMF would be growing Global Ed FTEs when the US/CAN Ed programs have been proposed for separation from WMF. I thought that WMF wanted to shrink its education portfolio and move outreach programs to grant-funded projects instead of internally-run projects. Can you or someone in WMF explain what's happening here? Thanks, --Pine 05:41, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Pine, we're moving from away from running programs on the ground. However, this doesn't mean that we would stop providing general support (data tracking and analytics, sharing of learnings, instructional materials, program support, etc.) With education programs in now 21 countries, there's a great need when it comes to best practices / lessons learnt (we don't want people to reinvent the wheel). The position you're referring to will be strongly focused on building systems that enable quality at scale across countries. Please let me know if you need more information. Thanks --Frank Schulenburg (talk) 17:28, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I see. Thanks Frank. --Pine 20:34, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Ok. Let me say it in my terms: there is a huge difference between from above and from the basis. Lets make an equation (politics, sry for that): America always thinks, their system is the best of the world. They try to communicate this to states like the Iraq, Afghanistan and so on and are wondering, why theres so much hostility against that good proposals. But there might be a difference of former other structures (such as clans or ethnological forms) that are hindering this progress. If u dont think in such terms, u will never get something "off the ground". Trying to teach "western methods" wont be that easy, cause all that new customers think: Fab, but not really my system - we have other rules here. Means to get something "off the ground" u have to understand the underlying rules and be prepared that those rules (who will be felt as an oppression) will be neglected...--Angel54 5 (talk) 21:00, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Angel54 5, that's exactly the perspective the Global Ed team has as well. The programs are run and directed by local volunteers or chapters; we provide instead a means to share learnings across countries. Let me give you an example: We learned through India that copyright violations were a huge problem among students. We shared this information widely, and the volunteers from the Czech Republic who are running an education program there realized they would have similar issues and adjusted their plans accordingly. In no way do we dictate any specifics of how the program should be run in the Czech Republic or anywhere else; the local volunteers are the experts. Instead, we provided information about best practices from other programs, and the local people running the programs use this information to craft their own programs. There is no one blueprint of how to run a program; every region is different. But if we share information across all regions, people starting programs will have a wide variety of information to help them determine what will work best for their region. -- LiAnna Davis (WMF) (talk) 21:14, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Fine, than India wasnt really a mistake, but a learning platform. If u concentrate on that role of a good communicator much more will be transported across countries.--Angel54 5 (talk) 21:34, 15 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Angel54 5, from my perspective there were some serious mistakes made in India, but the Global Ed team did the responsible thing by learning from the failures. I would say that overall the IEP pilot was a significant failure, although I give the WMF credit for trying to learn from it. You can read a Signpost report on the subject at en:Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2011-11-07/Special report. WMF reports are available at en:Wikipedia:India Education Program/Analysis/Quantitative Analysis and en:Wikipedia:India Education Program/Analysis/Independent Report from Tory Read. --Pine 16:39, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Pine, ok I did read those articles. I was in the theme longer as u might think: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Peteforsyth#I_try. And yes ok, it was a fault. But the fault was the underlying assumption, that u can stop editors decline with such a program. U know, u can take a horse to a lake, but u cant force it to drink.--Angel54 5 (talk) 17:10, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

"Engineering", "core", and "non-core"[edit]

On the subject of what's meant by "Engineering" and "core", I like how Sue is breaking apart core and non-core, but I would put feature development into the non-core box, and I might put editor retention R&D and Global Ed into the non-core box also. I think these are areas that, strictly speaking, aren't necessary for the sites to function and could go through the FDC for funding. My idea of "core" is confined to minimalist legal protections and server operations, and the necessary administrative and fundraising operations to support those functions; I would call everything else "non-core" and be content with having it go through the FDC for funding. So, in my view, Fellowships would be non-core and subject to FDC funding, and so would feature development and editor retention R&D. In this way I think that I'm defining "core" more narrowly than Sue does, and I give greater discretion to FDC, but I think that this narrower definition for WMF "core" expenses also allows WMF to achieve some of the "narrowing focus" goal by shifting more responsibilities to the FDC, and some engineering functions would be core and some would be non-core. --Pine 02:19, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Editor retention is a farce. We need reader retention and only reader retention. We are based on providing a service, and that isn't a myspace type community. We also don't need to "evolve" because our product was quite usable 5 years ago. We don't need any true legal function because if we were just operating servers then there is nothing to worry about. None of the areas are core. They are excuses to hand out money to friends while the people who actually contributed to the product leave in disgust. Ottava Rima (talk) 03:59, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Sure, in middle-ages all was better</irony>. No evolution means no existence in these times, crashing down towards the size of a pea, think about what u r writing...--Angel54 5 (talk) 16:56, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
If you are going to insult someone, please use proper grammar, spelling, and make sense. Ottava Rima (talk) 01:15, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I generally agree with Angel54 5. There is plenty of knowledge in the world that isn't found on the pages of Wikipedia in English and probably not in other languages either. English language Wikipedia continues to need quality improvement in many areas and I imagine that the same is true for Wikipedia in other languages. People are constantly contributing media to Commons and my understanding is that Commons needs some significant copyright cleanup. More good-faith editors are needed to deal with disputes between other editors. Wikinews could use more contributors. There is lots of translation work to be done. So I would say that we definitely need volunteers, and the more good-faith competent volunteers we can get the better off we will be. On the staff side, we need legal protections against frivolous lawsuits, we need people to run the servers, we need software developers and QA people, we need analytics people to help WMF and the contributor community understand where we're doing well and where we need improvement, and we need fundraising and administrative staff to support the rest of these functions. I may have some constructive criticism of WMF, but the Project needs them and I think the vast majority of people who work for WMF are sincere at wanting to do a good job. I may not always agree with some of the staff about what constitutes "a good job" and I might do some things differently than how WMF currently does them, but I don't get the impression that WMF is willfully irresponsible with donors' money, and for such a small group of people I think the WMF staff deserve credit for their contribution to the Internet and humanity at large. --Pine 16:58, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Quality improvements? Really? It is the political atmosphere that chased out the content contributors. The people who talk about "editor retention" don't want quality. They want quantity. There is a huge difference. The disputes are not between experts who are doing a great job. The disputes are between experts and people who are there only because Wikimedia wants empty bodies to puff up their numbers. Larry Sanger warned that such a thing would happen and he was right. I contributed some of the top content on Wikipedia and have done far, far more than those on this page pontificating on the subject. It is downright disrespectful for you to say the things you say. Ottava Rima (talk) 01:15, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Removing the 'movement' from Wikimedia[edit]

While I generally agree with the idea that the WMF should "focus", it feels like much of the proposals here are "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". Outsourcing/stepping away from the catalyst program seems like an unequivocally good idea both financially and organisationally. However, dropping a) fellowships, b) events and c) organisational development is, in one swoop, dropping all of the programs that are overtly helping the existing community. Therefore, what is left are only projects that are focusing on potential editors. While everyone would agree that having a focus on - even prioritising - new editors is important, why does this have to come at the expense of supporting the community that's already here? If these three projects get dropped (fellowships, events, O.D.) then I'm not sure if there will be anything the WMF does that is specifically responding to existing community needs, and any benefits that the existing community receives will be as nice by-product of a project to support new users (e.g. the visual editor, the new page feed or the global education program).

a) Fellowships
Of course, I am a former fellow, so I'm biased in this, but I genuinely feel that this is the only way for innovative projects that are proposed "bottom-up" to get any support from the WMF. Without this program, the only projects that get supported (technical or otherwise) will be "top-down" ideas that are invented and carried out from the WMF office. That doesn't mean that those ideas aren't good ones - they are - but this is so incredibly limiting in terms of what the community needs and can offer. The original point of the program was, if I recall correctly, to be able to support community members who were willing and able to do greatly needed tasks if only they could have a bit of financial support. In that context the benefit-to-cost ratio is huge! Even more so if you factor in the goodwill that this program generates among the community for the WMF's efforts. At the very least the program could be considered a "supported grant to an individual".

b) Events
This is less problematic in the sense that it's a "scaling back" rather than "complete removal". Also, it does indeed make sense to partner with other organisations that are running events, when possible. However, wouldn't it decrease the net-effort to the Wikimedia movement if there was a permanent events-support person/people at Wikimedia, rather than simply dropping the task from WMF staff altogether? By dropping it, it simply means that either the likely quality of events would decrease (due to lack of institutional learning and handover of best-practices) or the cost would increase due to the need to hire more external commercial support. But by having a permanent "events support" person/people it means they can focus on facilitating chapters/community to run effective events without reinventing the wheel. Simply dropping the requirement that existing WMF staff must help on events might make a simpler jobs page, but isn't necessarily the most efficient way of achieving the task. An example is Wikimania scholarships - surely it would be cheaper and more efficient to have it done properly in-house rather than outsource the task to a new person each year?

c) Organisational Development
This is the one that surprises and saddens me the most. It feels like the WMF has been trying to find ways to "cut out" the Chapters for many years, that the WMF seems them as a WMF-liability rather than a movement-asset, and this is simply formalising it. If this understanding were true, surely the best way to make sure the Chapters are an unequivocal asset is to support their organisational development?! Equally, surely the best way to make sure that there are an increasing number of scandals and controversies (and general intra-community angst) is to cut any programs that might actually help. It's my interpretation of events that the Chapters Association is effectively the Chapters feeling the need to "unionise" in order to have their cries for assistance and recognition heard. It didn't have to end up this way. Yes, there's lots of yelling and shouting in the mean time, but that's how organisations (like people) mature - they don't go from "birth" to "capable adult" in one simple step. The nascent organisational development program (e.g. Sebastian's attempt) was a good idea and should be supported. And, if it needs any further justification, it can seen as a way to decrease the medium-to-long term exposure of the WMF to Chapter-originated problems and increase their ability to take over non-core WMF tasks!

Hi Liam, I'll try to respond here. As usual, you have good ideas, and I hope you don't mind encouragement to refactor them.
  • Catalyst: Outsourcing/stepping away from the catalyst program seems like an unequivocally good idea both financially and organisationally
I agree in part, though some central facilitation of catalysis is needed. Just as with events, and in similar texture.
  • Fellowships: The original point of the program was, if I recall correctly, to be able to support community members who were willing and able to do greatly needed tasks if only they could have a bit of financial support
This seems like an excellent thing to continue. But do you think it is right for all such support to be granted in fairly sizeable chunks to a couple dozen people who are then set aside from the rest of the communities? Is that the best way to support all of the work going on in a bottom-up fashion? Is it necessary to fly people to a new city and separate them from the rest of their lives? I'm honestly curious since you are a former fellow; I still wonder about the medium-term side effects of creating a volunteer elite. Is there a way to do this without that stratification? I do think that grants to individuals, to support them in doing greatly needed tasks, is something that should be continued and even massively multiplexed.
Hi SJ. I think the difference here elucidated by when you say "fly people to a new city" - as a fellow I did not move to San Francisco. I traveled for events, but didn't have to "separate from the rest of my life"... and that's one of the problems with a centralised and all-or-nothing staffing system. My primary recommendation from my fellowship was that the WMF support an ongoing position of "GLAM fellow" that would be a different person every 6-12 months so that the responsibilities and training could be shared, which over time would build up a cohort of talented people. This recommendation was rejected. Wittylama (talk) 04:07, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi SJ. I'll echo Liam's sentiments here. I'm technically not an official fellow, but in all senses of my position I can be considered equivalent. I did not leave home, but just travel for events. I think Liam defined the fellowship program perfectly, and that the value is in providing support for an individual who can do much in a year if provided the resources and time. I also see a high need in maintaining a GLAM fellow type of position, but know that the reality is that this need will fall to other or new organizations to fulfill in the future.HstryQT (talk) 13:36, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Events: It does indeed make sense to partner with other organisations that are running events, when possible. However, wouldn't it decrease the net-effort to the Wikimedia movement if there was a permanent events-support person/people at Wikimedia, rather than simply dropping the task from WMF staff altogether?
We are a movement that holds and organizes and attends knowledge-creation events in dozens of countries and languages, a tiny fraction of which are even visible within the WMF itself. The idea that those events the WMF might claim or support are the most important is suspect, in my view. And if we are going to spend movement funds on ensuring events are a success, I'd like to see those fund go into training a global network of dozens of people in dozens of countries who all have developed good personal networks and relevant skills. I see disadvantages to centralizing that skillset within the WMF staff. That said, I do think some core event mavens and a shared event-organizer network who love Wiki style hacks and collabs, will (continue to) be useful.
Mozilla is leading the way here, and has an excellent model we might follow. Over the past summer they had hundreds of events organized around the world, supported by a small dedicated staff and a very large and activated (and well supported) community network. It seems to be working for them in terms of both publicity and contribution.
  • Organisational development: Surely the best way to make sure the Chapters are an unequivocal asset is to support their organisational development?! Equally, surely the best way to make sure that there are an increasing number of scandals and controversies (and general intra-community angst) is to cut any programs that might actually help."
Which programs are you thinking of that 'might actually help'? I think you are misinterpreting this item: to me, it does not seem to be about decreasing the amount of movement-wide support for organizational development, but about shifting its center of coordination -- outside of the WMF. That may or may not be the right way to proceed - I think there should be both WMF-run and non-WMF-run capacity building programs. But you are misinterpreting where this idea comes from. Some people feel that chapters do not desire to be "helped" by a WMF-run program, and want to learn and grow and develop on their own. Others feel that defining organizational development as something "offered by" the WMF creates a relationship of hierarchy between WMF and chapters which is not ideally suited for a coalition of mature, independent chapters.
If ten years from now we want a future network in which this sort of development takes place and is coordinated and organized at all points in the network, not by the WMF, how do we get there from here?
If you don't think we want to move toward that kind of distributed-org-development world, what would you like to see in its place?
SJ talk  20:52, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

From out here in Australia, and even as a former WMF fellow, I feel like the only way that the existing community can get any support is by begging for scraps off the WMF's table, and hoping that a side-benefit of a WMF project will be something close enough to what the community actually wanted. Grants are great, and it's good to see that's considered important enough to keep, but if the only way of supporting the community is to give them money then that will simply result in the already large (and often external) organisations being perpetually advantaged because they're the best grant-writers.

tl;dr - Simply giving people money does not, by itself, build the capacity of the community. Dropping all projects that support the existing community and replacing them with only an enlarged grants program will mean the removal of anything that might be considered to be a "movement" about Wikimedia. That's the fastest way to becoming "merely" a well known charity organisation with its volunteers and donors rather than something where unaffiliated volunteers feel inspired and empowered to meet with their local parliaments, universities and museums on behalf of "the movement". Wittylama (talk) 06:52, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Of course money does not directly build community capacity. Do you think that most of our movement's work happens outside the realm of both grants and all of the programs above? If so, perhaps we should be looking for ways to more expressly create a sense of identity and affiliation among our movement and its volunteers that is not gated through a Foundation or Chapter, or mediated through someone who has been formally honored and recognized for their work. SJ talk  20:52, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Agreed that 'more modes of informal affiliation' is not a bad thing, but broader point (and the thrust of the admittedly hyperbolic title) is that if the WMF removes these three programs, and only replaces them with "more grants" then will there be any programs that are community-initiated or focused on the existing community? Wittylama (talk) 04:32, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Wikimedia is not a "movement." To make it into one is to not be Wikimedia. It was a Foundation set up to organize the operation of servers. The rest was added by a small minority that consistently gets in the way of the actual producers of content and the majority of contributors who are disgusted by a lot of the behavior. Just look at the edit filter, where only 1/3 was against it yet we still could not get it. We are not a "charity organization." We are a non-profit. Ottava Rima (talk) 16:17, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Ummm.... no. Wittylama (talk) 04:07, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Um, no? You just disqualified yourself from being taken serious. Unlike you, I produced actual quality content. You are the perfect example of everything that was wrong with Wikimedia, Wikipedia, and the whole culture that has latched on. You aren't the real producer but you have latched on, built your own niche, and do whatever you can to gain more control. If Ms. Gardner was serious about fixing Wikimedia, I would suggest first banning anyone who dares to promote the "movement." It is a poison. It is no coincidence that the rise in GLAM has coincided with the loss of the content contributors and a degradation of the whole project. Ottava Rima (talk) 03:29, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I never knew that GLAM was so influential as to be responsible for the "degradation of the whole project" - I'm flattered that anyone would think that our efforts at promoting collaboration with the cultural sector had such a big impact. Similarly, I never knew that I was so bad that I've actually become "the perfect example of everything that was wrong with Wikimedia". That's really quite an impressive achievement. Wittylama (talk) 00:22, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Influential? No. Disgusting to people who were serious about building an encyclopedia? Yes. Your own userpage on en.wiki is indicative of the problem. You hype up minor achievements, put up flashy symbols, and use it to gain points in the "movement." That is not how you build an encyclopedia. That is how you myspace. The movement is myspacing. It is a social network. I blame you and those just like you for the real problems threatening Wikipedia. We don't need more people. We need a good product, and that was destroyed in 2010 when those like yourself hammered the last nail into the place by pushing ridiculous fringe projects like GLAM. And "collaborating with the cultural sector"? Really? I worked in archives and museums for a living, and there were thousands involved with digitizing. They didn't need some amateur group of kids who put forth meaningless pictures of the same statue or other nonsense. You don't help anything by flooding the internet with subpar products or things that are trivial. I came to work on this website because there was a huge problem in my expertise area. People like you who contributed very little but felt a need to gain some kind of social status did whatever they could to make sure that the encyclopedia was not fixed. Content experts left because they did not want to associate with such myspace related nonsense. This isn't a forum. This isn't a social network. If you want a real product, you need a level of professionalism. Ottava Rima (talk) 01:02, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
@wittylama. In general I suppose ur view. But: If chapters (No.3) did the utmost possible to support the communities, then u were right. But from my point of view they didnt. What would u do - try to wear the coat of WMF - if chapters dont do for what they were created? How would u act, seeing that some people are more hindering community-development than furthering it? That Chapters Counsel is a project to protect the interest of the chapters against WMF. And I know what would happen, if chapters get free influence: another secretary here, another function there, another project that has nothing to do with wikipedia. For what are donors given - for expanding organizations? Cutting back here and there is generally "healthy". To focus means also, to think about where the money goes, and thats a good thing in my opinion.--Angel54 5 (talk) 17:38, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

I missed ya Liam! Wow man, this hits the nail on the head on most counts. Good points through-out. Regards. Theo10011 (talk) 18:21, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
+1. Couldn't agree more with Liam. Abbasjnr (talk) 09:27, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
+1. Totally agree. --Aubrey (talk) 09:19, 22 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Comment by Tony1[edit]

May I disconnect from my role in the Signpost's coverage of residents, fellows, and other chapter projects—stories we cover because they make good copy for readers and often emphasise the rich intercultural dynamics of the WMF movement. Because after careful thought I've formed a personal view that offline activities tend to be expensive for the returns we get compared with online activities.

But heck, what would you expect from me? I'm someone who believes academics and medical specialists shouldn't be flying around the globe emitting huge amounts of carbon attending semi-holidays conferences when they have Skype audio and video—and in many cases institutional vid-conferencing facilities—for delivering formal papers + Q&As. And am I the only one who's waking up to the rapid move towards online teaching in an internationalising university marketplace? Who needs lecture theatres in the brave new world?

The WMF is quintessentially constructed around the online; that is its distinctive and unifying feature, and its competitive global edge. We should be interested in chapters and face-to-face costs only insofar as they add value to foundation sites. I remain to be convinced that the growing enthusiasm for funding face-to-face activities represents good value for those sites. This is especially the case when offline activities involve physical offices, significant paid bureaucratic overheads, and large travel, accommodation, and day-rate costs. That's all so last century, drawing on the old industrial model rather than the opportunities of the post-industrial information-based environment we're supposed to be leading.

This blog post, by one among us, contains a few valuable insights. For example: "82 percent of those who had heard about a Chapter in their nation weren’t members. In other words, when faced with another opportunity to contribute to The Mission™ 82 percent of Wikipedians ... said 'no, thank you'." OK ... most people devoted to the WMF mission vote with their html fingers.

I support the gist of what Sue Gardner is saying: that bigger bangs for donors' bucks will come from a narrower focus by the WMF. There is so much to be done just online—technically, socially, interculturally, and in terms of collaboration with institutions—and there'll never be enough money to do it all.

I'm not proposing the abolition of offline activity (Wiki Loves Monuments is just great, although it was disappointing to see some chapters fluff it). But the more the chapters conceive themselves as offline, the more they expose the clunkiness of organising on the basis of nation-state identities. For example, Russia, Canada, Australia, and the US are demographic nightmares for meetup/offline-based chapter activities, although some densely populated and/or poorly internet-connected countries show more compelling prospects. This has never been properly thought through. Tony (talk) 12:14, 20 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Tony. Insightful commentary. I must point out however, that what you are opposing above isn't remotely addressed within the confines of this document. Your main argument seems to stem from delineating and probably prioritizing online activities vs. offline ones, you go so far as to equate all offline activities with chapter activities. The majority of these changes have absolutely nothing to do with the chapters, if fellowships are removed, chapters won't be affected in the slightest. If work in developing markets is handed out to "partner organizations", it won't affect the chapters. The only possible change, might be some indirect effect from scaling down event spending and Wikimania scholarships, and I really think that non-chapter community members have more to lose even there than any chapter, the FDC will be there to grant them whatever funds they might need for internal operations. There is a lot that happens offline that barely involves the chapters, in fact the majority of meetups - past and present, have had little to do with chapters than anything else. Regardless, the main point of this document wasn't to cut off chapter support in any way - that happened earlier. It doesn't exactly delineate and prioritize online activities over offline ones either, what is actually being done is removing some internal programs that had nothing to do with the chapters but had more of an outside interaction with the community - the work in developing markets for example, or cutting the fellowship program, aren't exclusively offline activities - IEP performance didn't exactly rest on the shoulders of offline activities, its when the two worlds collided was when we had problems (the work being done on the ground and the community online), the fellowship program too, had several fellows who worked remotely, primarily online rather than within the office.
And lastly, I assure you, you are not the first one to suggest we prioritize and ask for things like teleconferences in lieu of actual travel. It won't be hard to think of a dozen instances off the top of my head, just in the last year, when rather expensive travel was authorized for the most trivial of reasons. I might have heard of some of those things because those programs had an element of outside interaction at some point, this move removes that loophole of any community oversight with a closed internal development process. Will you even come to know how much travel will be authorized for what reason after this change? hypothetically, a jet could be chartered tomorrow for the most trivial of reasons, by removing all elements of interaction, you'll just have to take the word that these new focus areas will be dealt with efficiently. There is a lot to be said about inefficiency as well, the last Wikimania cost nearly a quarter of a million to fly the staff across the same country and put them up in hotel rooms - this is more than the cost of some of the last few Wikimanias including scholarships in some cases. The travel budget if you would compare in the budget documents, has only ballooned in the last couple of years, with the current budget expanding even further, do you expect that to go down? or suddenly become efficient when it wasn't 2 years ago? It's not that I think repriotizing isn't a good idea, its that I really don't like the alternatives being chosen, given the history of spending and oversight in the last few years - they don't inspire confidence. Regards. Theo10011 (talk) 22:45, 24 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Strategic plan (5 year?)[edit]

This myopic focus also nullifies the entire process of the strategic plan, the final 5 year plan, and makes it all seem like a ruse. A plan that took months to prepare, research, multiple consultants and hundreds of community members took a lot of time to reach final consensus, this document would over-rule most of it, just after the half way mark in the 5 year plan. Everything was abandoned and now this document is picking and choosing, where was the consensus? where is the deliberation now, all of this seems to be turning into a one sided process more and more. Even as discussions and objections are being listed here, the main page is being edited as if this is all just noise and background music to edit through. There is little interaction and answers here from anyone at WMF, just constant edits to the documents like this doesn't matter, just like the strategic plan or anything else. Theo10011 (talk) 17:49, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Theo, I'm not sure what is one-sided here; you are combining a number of thoughts in that comment. The changes suggested here alter the short-term goals for this year, but not the long-term goals over the course of 5 years. And this seems to me to be one round of self-reflection that will inform the development of future strategic plans. It's not an answer, it is an attempt to rethink current interpretation and understanding. The half-way mark is a good time to be reflective; it would be even better to reflect with such subtlety more often - every year, or continuously.
I'm still thinking about the implications of, and possible alternatives to, this proposed narrowing of focus. But we should not be afraid to think of quite different ways of going about our work : neither the communities and their policies, nor the WMF and other organizations. There are other pages to discuss how the communities should be flexible in rethinking major sets of policies; this is a space for the WMF's reflection. And I am glad to see this set of ideas thrown out there and think we are lucky to have a team that is comfortable having this conversation here, in public -- including the drafting and brainstorming process.
As to designing future strategies, I suggest we should move towards a less centralized and more continuous strategy process, which pulls together analyses and alternative ideas at least once a year -- and clearly delineates strategies for each major subset of the movement - for each Project, for the WMF, for individual chapters and regional blocs, and for other interest groups: from language clusters to content types. I'll write more about that this weekend. SJ talk  20:59, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Consider the dissenting voices on this page, how many of them are being engaged by the staff? the document in the mean-time keeps getting edited like this conversation doesnt matter. It does indeed seem one-sided to me, if most of these narrowed focus were to be put up to vote or some deliberation process, this would be rejected by the community. I think there is already some realization of that, and that is why this process is turning one-sided. My point was the plan for 5 years was developed with consensus and outside expertise together with access for the community, it took a lot of people, how can it be over-ruled so easily for a process that has absolutely no consensus building exercise behind it? This doesn't seem like brainstorming in particular, it seems the mind has been made up before this document started and this is the process of drafting it publicly. A right start would have been taking a start with brainstorming, saying "we care considering some changes to the plans" give us your ideas, feedback first *before* we start drafting. I don't think chapter and regional bloc, are relevant entities anymore - there is just one entity with access and control of the funds anymore - for chapters, community, editors, groups, all of them. WE can't keep using the same excuses as before, "maybe a chapter can fill in", they don't have the funding, they don't have a staff or any infrastructure, it would have to come only from WMF. There isn't remotely any healthy amount of interaction going on here. I am concerned about the future strategy development too if that's how things are going to be, WMF does the research and evaluation and makes up its own mind, several times community member point out flaws and misinterpretations, but if WMF would do its own research and take large course-corrective measures on its own, there isn't a lot for anyone else to do; keep complaining I suppose, but you see enough of that on this page, that doesn't seem to be concerning anyone. Theo10011 (talk) 10:48, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I do not really like many point of Sue's proposal, but I think I do not have any issues with the 5-year plan. The plan was made as the result of a broad discussion in the community, in which I participated and I guess you did as well. Every reasonable person understands that the five-year plan can only be implemented if there is feedback from the community, and depending on this feedback, the plan can be amended, accelerated, slowed down, or - even - terminated. This is exactly what happens now and here. There is a proposal to slow down some directions and amend others. We are now broadly discussing this proposal. I do not have issues with the structure - though I do have issues with the proposal itself.--Ymblanter (talk) 20:25, 21 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
In a sense I do consider this an RfC--or more precisely, a vote of confidence. Considering that this is at meta, which only a few know about, I can just imagine what would be the feeling if it were discussed at the projects. The Foundation has in the past admitted it was wrong by withdrawing proposals, though seldom as conspicuously as it did for the implementation of their censorship proposal. Perhaps they could do better by consulting first & openly, before the final draft stage, where it always sounds like a definitive proposal about to go to the Board. The staff still do not realize that their only purpose is to facilitate the work of the volunteers. Even something like getting global acceptance for the work of the volunteers does not depend on them--it depends on the quality of our work.DGG (talk) 00:39, 22 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
The point to be made here is, that this interaction, this process of feedback is merely one-sided, or so appears to be. As I stated earlier, the drafting of the main document happened as if the comments on this page were just random noise, they didn't accelerate, slow-down, or change direction. Even now, there is little interaction from the individuals drafting the document, this already seems finished in a lot of ways, and only awaiting the board stamp of approval. If that is not the case, it was certainly the impression it generated as opposed to the earlier exercise of calm, weighted consideration and a two-way process that the 5 year plan seems to have been. Theo10011 (talk) 22:58, 24 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

And yes[edit]

the focus should be to develop touchable software. Kids nowadays dont like an approach which means u have to learn how to program stuff at first - this has to be more intuitive. I found that teahouse medium should be preferred as a platform. In general it would lower the bar to participate - would be a good thing. If I -as an author have to think about how to push my article in the format I wish, Im wasting time, that could be used to write more content.--Angel54 5 (talk) 23:02, 16 October 2012 (UTC). As an example: in most software u can push pictures to the position wanted. Try in wikipedia...--Angel54 5 (talk) 23:05, 16 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Capturing the spirit of the Fellowship program[edit]

I was disappointed to hear that the Fellowship program was losing funding. I had hoped to start a Fellowship this October, and it's a disappointment to see that avenue closed, for many reasons. I know there are editors in this community with incredible passion, knowledge, and excitement about Wikipedia, and the Fellowship program has been a way to nurture them and to leverage their impact. Fellowships are a direct line of support from the WMF to community-organized, community-driven, and community-maintained projects. I understand the constraints of The WMFs annual and strategic plans, but I still believe the Fellowship program has many qualities worth capturing and keeping alive in some form: 1) Fellowships have a track record of producing successful projects like the Teahouse; 2) Fellowships are platforms for creativity and innovation; 3) Fellowships are committed to demonstrating results and making data-based recommendations; 4) Fellowships have been instrumental to understanding editor decline; 5) Fellowships build good will between the WMF and the community; 6) Fellowships are one of the only channels for the WMF to directly connection with and support individual editors; 7) Fellowships provide a pipeline of trusted and knowledgeable Wikipedians to contribute to the Foundation's efforts; and 8) Fellowships partner with and complement other WMF initiatives. In all, the Fellowship program has been an impactful, flexible laboratory of creativity which has connected the WMF with some of the community's best and most passionate people. I do think we should strongly consider how we can capture the spirit of the Fellowship program through some form of direct outreach and funding to dynamic and talented individuals, like the Fellows we have had the great fortune of having thus far. Ocaasi (talk) 17:46, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

+1. I was surprised to read the Fellowship program going down, I thought it had been pretty successful for such a young initiative. :( I do get the non-negligible resources it takes up, but an aspect like research perhaps could be maintained. I cannot help it, it just falls so nicely with the educational aim of the movement (making knowledge available etc etc). Even if it is not core-WMF work. :) Raystorm (talk) 13:14, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
I agree with Ocaasi (I feel the same disappointment because I was planning to propose a Fellowship project myself, so there is a bit of personal disappointment, of course).
I feel that keeping the Fellowhip Program open would be a way to let the community express itself, propose original and innovative ideas and focused projects. I do believe that some of them had an impact (GLAMs, anyone?), and will have for years. I also understand that my idea of the Movement is getting more distant from Sue's visione everyday: I believe the Movement to be deeply international and diverse, I believe sister projects are deeply important and potential, I believe Wikimania is a awesome occasion to become a WikiMedian, I believe that money should be much better distributed that centralized, I believe that no one, neither the Chapters nor the Foundation, is really entitled to get the money. No one really deserve the donations we get as Wikimedia. We did not earn them. They are for Wikipedia, and wikipedia is a commons, and is common-produced. If we could distribute the money to all the editors around the globe, as a reward, we should do it.. It's impossible, so it's OK, but, still, I hope you get the idea the "we are not entitled". And we should be aware of that. --Aubrey (talk) 14:21, 21 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Community Advocacy project[edit]

At the bottom of the text there is the phrase "Community Advocacy project". Is that this page: Legal and Community Advocacy? I guess, it is not. At Legal and Community Advocacy/LCA Announcement there is the announcement of a new "Legal and Community Advocacy Department". I think, the second page should be added in the text as wikilink. --Goldzahn (talk) 08:25, 18 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

the wrong direction[edit]

I think everyone agrees that the main problem that the WMF has had in the past year, as far as the community is concerned, is the lack of understanding of the community.
So what does the Foundation propose: it proposes to end those things which contribute to its contact with the community. of them are the few things which keep the foundation in contact with the community.

  1. The fellowship program, justified as conserving resources though it consumes a very trivial amount of them. I have a rule for when a central organization is over-reaching--when it refuses to do things on the excuse of lack of money when the money is not actually the issue. These fellowships are among the very few feedback mechanisms that bring the concerns of volunteers into the central foundation. They have to be sure not had much of an effect--the reason is that there have been too few of them. To reduce them is exactly what I meant by my heading: the wrong direction.
  2. The Wikimania and other meetings. For a world-wide extremely diverse program, multiple face to face meetings are an essential bond,especially for those not in Europe and the US. The one effort the Foundation did this past year in meeting the community was to send almost all the staff to Wikimania, though it would have been even better had they been more interested in listening to the volunteers than in presenting their own agenda. We need more such meetings, specialized and diversely located. We need many more scholarships for volunteers. Again, it's not only the money: the purpose is to do more of the work internally rather than in groups with the community. The possibilities of damaging the activities of the volunteers it regards as "a small cost". Exactly what I meant by heading in the wrong direction. DGG (talk) 05:32, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Unfortunately, the lack of understanding of the community is not a just "last year problem" - if you recruit people, who are highly efficent and qualified, but were never part of the community, it's hard to expect that they will understand community concerns.--Victoria (talk) 12:05, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

" is the lack of understanding of the community" I and others have expressed the opposite. We blame the "community." The community, as I described, is organized myspacing. It has supplanted those who had the talent and skill necessary to build an encyclopedia with numbers. Numbers resulted in giving power, money, or status to a few individuals while those with talent and skill were chased off because they were threats or competition. All of the great contributors are gone and there was a large exodus in 2010. It happened with the increase in Foundation staff, the spread of ideology, the creation of GLAM, Wikipedian in Residence, and the college Wikipedians, and other features that are "community." We created the content yet our hard labor is used to benefit a few individuals who did not. That is not the spirit of CC-BY or GFDL. Ottava Rima (talk) 15:06, 19 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

There is no free knowledge without a free internet[edit]

What is "core", and what is "non-core" in the Wikimedia movement?

In general, I think that the idea to concentrate on core activities is a reasonable approach. You get bogged down in details easily.

On the other hand, this all sounds very much like advice you are likely to get from a business consultancy, dropping all of Wikimedia's commitment to its values. After all, there is no free knowledge without a free internet, so I'm not quite sure how you could possibly separate these two items.

What's more, I think every organisation needs at least a bit of a think tank in order to provide for a solid basis for its long-term activities. Experts and community members should both get involved.

And then, I wonder what has become of Movement roles? In hindsight, you might say that it all looks like just another kind of outsourcing programme for "non-core" activities. And what has become of the Wikimedia movement? We are at risk of losing a lot of precious opportunities here.

What will remain of the WMF in the end? It should be more than just a computing centre running its websites, and a bureau in the Bay Area.--Aschmidt (talk) 11:50, 21 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Under that philosophy, there is no "free knowledge" without experts willing to give it away, and experts wont give it away when people profit off of their hard work without producing anything worth while or in general. Free means free, which means that no one should be making money. Which means all of the fringe jobs that have nothing to do with the encyclopedia are making it not free. That especially includes "think tank" people. I can tell you that I created a significant portion of the legitimate encyclopedia content and I don't want my work as one of the reasons why people who don't produce any of the content make any money, get any publicity, or have any connection here. My work was written for the readers, not for ideologues to profit. Ottava Rima (talk) 12:20, 21 October 2012 (UTC)Reply


A lot of the discussions on this page are quibbling with particular things that Sue is proposing, which is perhaps not surprising. I hope that the ideas on the page are read by Sue, the staff and the board, and that they're not put off by the trolling. But I think there's merit with the basic idea of what Sue is talking about, although the devil is always in the detail for these sort of things.

For a while now, I've felt like the Foundation is an organisation that is trying to do far too many things, and doing most of them poorly. There was no way to spin the IEP as anything other than a colossal failure, and from what I hear about the place the Arabic and Brazilian programmes aren't doing much better. We still don't have a visual editor. The proportion of female editors continues to decline, even faster than the rate of total editors (and the best that can be said about that is that we're not bleeding as badly as we were a year ago... but we're still losing a lot of blood). There seems to be a blackout somewhere or other on a weekly basis now, and cultural collaborations are still decidedly patchy, with huge holes in global coverage. Lets be honest, things aren't good.

Which is why I think a narrowing of the focus onto the main areas that Sue has proposed is a good thing. Concentrating resources on critical projects like the Visual Editor, projects that realistically speaking, only the Foundation can execute, makes good sense. Not directing resources to projects and initiatives that are failing, and that can conceivably be picked up by someone else, also makes good sense. The one quibble I'd have is the disbanding of the fellowships programme, which I think has done valuable and useful work - once the engineering problems are solved I think the next problem that's going to inhibit growth will be community problems, something which the fellows have done excellent work on solving, I feel. But overall, I think the idea has merit and is worth exploring. Craig Franklin (talk) 07:17, 22 October 2012 (UTC).Reply

Hi Craig, while I agree the India Education Program pilot failed, I invite you to take a look at the reports from the Cairo Pilot and Brazil Pilot, as you seem to have heard bad information about these programs. In short, both programs' small pilots were successful, and we are moving into the next phase of the pilot in both countries right now, with 20 classes currently working in the Egypt program and 8 classes currently working in the Brazil program. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. -- LiAnna Davis (WMF) (talk) 16:07, 22 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi LiAnna, the impression I got was from talking to people (including WMF people) earlier this year at the Berlin conference, as well as things I've heard back through the Wikimania grapevine. I've had a brief look at those two reports, and I'm not greatly persuaded that things are going great, the Cairo pilot for instance, seems to have had some modest success in the translation sphere, but has had trouble retaining student interest otherwise ("some students who originally signed up to do it have dropped out from the project", "(the professor) is not being super involved in the process", "Only two students made edits", "One of assistants said that most students lost their enthusiasm", etc. There seems to have been a lot of good survey feedback, but not a great deal of measurable content created. Finally, you'll have to excuse my cynicism, but the Foundation swore blind that the IEP programme was doing great until it became impossible to deny that it wasn't, while it's getting better at this, I think there is still a cultural imperative in the office not to admit when things aren't going great, even if doing so would save time, money, and effort.
With that said, this comment is not meant to be a slight upon yourself or anyone working on these projects; outreach is hard, especially when you're trying to build a structure from scratch, and even a failure can be valuable if you learn from it. I'm sure that everyone involved is doing their best, working hard, and is genuinely committed to achieving the goals of the programme. My original point was that Sue is correct to concentrate on critical issues in the technology sphere at the moment, rather than on projects like these with untested results. Craig Franklin (talk) 01:29, 24 October 2012 (UTC).Reply
I think we're in total agreement, and I think the difference here is in our definition of success. The goal of the Cairo Pilot was simple: to explore the proof of concept on a small, manageable scale. There were a lot of things nobody knew, including the incredibly dedicated Arabic Wikipedians in Egypt who got the program going. Would classes doing translations work? What types of professors in the Egyptian higher education system are most likely to do well? How could an existing community of 600 active (of those, only around 70 very active) editors on the Arabic Wikipedia support an influx of newbies? Success in our eyes is determining the answers to these questions. I'd like to hope that those passages you point out show that our team is willing to critically evaluate our own work. Did everything go smoothly? Of course not; as you say, outreach is hard! But have we taken the time to learn from our small pilot? And the most important question, did the Arabic Wikipedia move in a positive direction during the small pilot? Yes and yes. The majority of classes we're working with this term in Egypt are language classes, because (as you pointed out) we found the translation model to be the most effective. But we are also encouraging professors who participated in the first term and whose students contributed good original work to return, and we're all very interested to see the results from this term, which should have more than twice as many students participating. -- LiAnna Davis (WMF) (talk) 05:23, 24 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

A few last minute thoughts[edit]

My apologies, Sue, for popping these onto the page so late in the process; I'll understand entirely if you don't have the opportunity to consider these thoughts, since the Board meeting starts in less than 48 hours. I also apologize for how these concepts are all over the map; as the saying goes, I didn't have time to make them more concise.

  • Grantmaking and Affiliations/Thematic Organizations: I'm pretty sure that the average Wikimedian, when hearing about the concept of affiliations, thought it referred to formalizing relationships with existing organizations with which the WMF had some degree of common ground: Creative Commons, institutions in the GLAM sector, and so on. Those who thought much about thematic organizations didn't really envision a whole new infrastructure that was essentially "Chapters Without Borders". Very few people imagined that this would motivate (and apparently require) Wikimedians to go out and found independent charitable/non–profit organizations for the purpose of affecting content and processes on WMF projects, such as Wikimedia Medicine; or devolution of WMF activities to independent groups such as the United States and Canada Education program. The charitable/non–profit infrastructure required to support such thematic organizations and affiliations will bleed donor dollars into activities that do not bring any inherent value to the movement. Further, there's considerable concern that these organizations may well operate without the support of, or in fact face opposition from, the WMF projects that they wish to work with. The USCEP proposal is meeting considerable resistance on English Wikipedia for several reasons, including those I've already mentioned.
  • Engineering as the primary focus of all core activities: Yes, we all know that the underlying software is important, and that tools and gadgets do make a difference. Visual Editor is appropriately an Engineering product. However, products like article feedback tools and Wikilove and most of the E3 projects, while based on software, are primarily social engineering, not technical engineering; they aim to change social behaviour as opposed to improving the technical interface. Some of these projects need to move out of the Engineering Department; since they're community focused, stick them in some kind of community department and then resource them properly with qualified engineering staff. Also, every product needs an Oliver. You should have at least half a dozen staffers who've got what it takes to interface between the product developers and the product users. Most importantly, don't invest in any products that will add a workload to an already–overburdened editor corps.

    There may be the beginning of some recognition on the part of the Engineering department that they're not connecting well with their customers (i.e., the readers and editors), based on some recent communication from the department. On the other hand, there's discussion going on over on the Mediawikiwiki about making some pretty major changes to user preferences, with (as best I can tell) only developers involved. They face a big challenge because they're servicing over 700 WMF projects in hundreds of languages; nonetheless, there's lots of room for them to make improvements.

  • Fellowships: My first thought was "you're kidding, right?" Okay, so don't hire them as contractors, give them grants or something. We need MORE of them — focusing on non–English/non–Wikipedia projects too. In fact, hire a big pile of researchers and experimenters. Pull the money out of the FDC pool if necessary. At this point, at least 15% of staff should be dedicated to program/project/product evaluation and experimentation. The greatest threat to the existence of the WMF is the deterioration of community health. That's not being a research institute, that's making sure that you'll still have a viable product on the market five years from now. You've ranked editor engagement as one of your four high priorities: walk the talk by supporting projects that almost always directly relate to it.
  • Global South/Catalyst projects: These projects have not succeeded, bluntly put, despite very significant investment. I don't see any rationale that would lead me to believe that contracting out to a non-WMF entity with essentially the same objectives is any more likely to accomplish the goals. If there is not significant documented achievement within a year, it's time to cut this loose.

Again, apologies for being a day late and a dollar short. I hope you'll take these comments in the spirit intended, which is that we share the goal of continuing the development of a healthy, productive, and useful WMF family of projects. Risker (talk) 06:01, 26 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

I don't know if Sue saw this or not, the board meeting might have already been over for a few days, but I just want to say Thank you for those thoughts. I agree with most of your opinions, they are specific on points others might have overlooked. I am concerned about the development of Thematic organizations and User groups too, most of those affiliation models are half-baked and not everyone expected or even envisioned Wikiprojects to seek that kind of affiliation. I expected GLAM as a thematic org maybe, perhaps even Arbcom, ComCom, as a user group or something similar - this can set a bad precedent, not to mention this would put a lot of undue burden and responsibility on AffCom. The idea that some of these organizations can exist even in the face of community opposition is a matter of serious concern, given how independent, and off-hand WMF has been in the past, there's not a lot of recourse to stop or correct anything. If this persists, the playing field won't be leveled anymore, so either everyone weaponizes or no-one. Theo10011 (talk) 11:40, 31 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
Belated note: we did see this at the time. Thank you, Risker. SJ talk  21:42, 24 December 2012 (UTC)Reply