Wikimedia Foundation Report, August 2009

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ED Report to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, August 2009

  • Covering: August 2009
  • Prepared by: Sue Gardner, Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation
  • Prepared for: Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees


Milestones from August[edit]

  1. Engagement of recruiters to fill new positions and vacancies: Chief Development Officer, vacant Board “expertise” seat, and Chief Technical Officer
  2. Wikimania 2009: scholarships finalization, staff attendance and presentation preparations, preparations for board meeting
  3. Soft-launch of the Strategic Planning Project

Key Priorities for September[edit]

  1. Strategic Development Process
  2. Communications Campaign Kick-off
  3. Finalization of Office Move details
  4. Meetings with donor prospects

This Past Month[edit]


In August 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation sites held steady as the fifth most-popular web property in the world with 307 million global unique visitors, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Wikimania Buenos Aires[edit]

The fifth annual Wikimedia conference, Wikimania 2009, took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina from August 26 to 28. The conference hosted more than 500 Wikimedians and supporters from around the world. Talks and workshops gave attendees new insights into the Wikimedia projects, other free knowledge efforts, and the challenges and opportunities facing the movement.

Wikimania 2009 was attended by 57 Wikimedians on scholarships funded by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, Wikimedia Germany, the Open Society Institute and the Wikimedia Foundation. The dollar value of those scholarships totalled approximately USD 100,000. This represented huge growth from Wikimania 2008 in Alexandria, which a total of nine people attended via scholarships, funded by OSI and totalling USD 10,000. More on the scholarships process later in this report.

Twenty Wikimedia Foundation staff traveled to Buenos Aires to participate at Wikimania. Staff who attended were: Brion Vibber, Cary Bass, Erik Moeller, Erik Zachte, Eugene Eric Kim, Frank Schulenburg, James Owen, Jay Walsh, Jennifer Riggs, Kul Takanao Wadhwa, Mark Bersgma, Naoko Komura, Nimish Gautam, Philippe Beaudette, Rand Montoya, Rob Halsell, Sara Crouse, Sue Gardner, Tim Starling and Tomasz Finc. Staff participated in the conference as workers (e.g., supporting the Board meeting and press conference), as panelists, workshop leaders and speakers, and as participants. At the close of the conference, Sue gave a keynote talk on the Wikimedia Foundation: The Year in Review and The Year Ahead. In it, she focused on some of the challenges facing Wikimedia, including flagging participation trends and a need for more openness and friendliness to new people, and pointed to the strategy project as a way for all Wikimedians to participate in charting our course for the next five years.

The following presentations were given by Foundation staff members (see links for videos and, in most cases, slides):

  • The Year in Review and the Year Ahead - Sue Gardner

  • NIH Wikipedia Academy 2009 - Frank Schulenburg and Jay Walsh:

  • Wikimedia Technical Infrastructure - Rob Halsell

  • Scaling Up the Wikimedia Movement - Erik Moeller

  • What can Wikimedia learn from the Red Cross? - Jennifer Riggs

  • Wikimedia in Numbers - Erik Zachte

  • Collaborative Video on Wikipedia - Michael Dale

  • Wikipedia Usability Initiative - Naoko Komura

  • Documenting best practices in public outreach - Frank Schulenburg

The Wikimedia tech community organized a separate "codeathon" running in parallel to the main event. See the summary provided by Brion Vibber here:

Related blog post by Domas:

Note the generally excellent video coverage of Wikimania 2009, thanks to the local team, who received some help from the Wikimedia tech community to get the videos to Commons. Additional videos can be found here:

The Wikimedia Foundation expresses its heartfelt appreciation to the local planning team, and everyone else who helped make Wikimania 2009 such a successful and enjoyable event.

Strategic Planning Process[edit]

In August, the Strategic Planning Project soft-launched with a Call For Proposals asking Wikimedians to develop and share proposals aimed at helping the movement better achieve its goals. Since then, over 350 proposals were submitted on the strategy wiki, all of which have been categorized and many of which have been actively discussed and revised. Eugene, Philippe and three members of the Bridgespan Group attended Wikimania, where they participated in the conference, made several presentations to the Board of Trustees, supported Jimmy in development of his keynote talk, staged a strategy lunch with Wikimedians, and interviewed Advisory Board members and other key stakeholders such as donors and researchers. Following Wikimania, the number of registered users and edits on the strategy wiki skyrocketed, and the wiki has seen significantly increased activity.

See the list of proposals here:

The Bridgespan Group released an early summary of its fact base research, here:

It includes data and analysis in the following areas:

  • Data and analysis of Wikimedia project participants: by segment, past growth trends, future growth trends, drivers of participation, attracting new participants and retaining existing ones.
  • Data and analysis of Wikimedia project readers: who is currently using Wikimedia and why; barriers that exist in accessing Wikimedia projects and understanding why people who have access to Wikimedia projects choose not to use them
  • Regional and language version data and analysis covering East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa,Southeast Asia and Europe.
  • Data and analysis about Wikimedia project content: what is the content landscape in which it operates, sources of content by type and category, relevant trends in content and content sourcing (e.g. digital textbooks), current penetration by category, sources of existing content, initiatives currently underway or planned, options for expanding content scope, potential partnerships and alliances (content institutions, educational institutions, libraries, online encyclopedias), resource requirements and funding availability, benefits and/or risks
  • Data and analysis about Wikimedia project quality: what is the quality landscape in which Wikimedia operates, quality criteria (e.g. accurate, credible, complete, neutral), audience/stakeholder expectations (including online context), changes/trends over time, Wikimedia's perceived versus actual quality, key challenges (e.g., translations), comparisons to relevant benchmarks. What quality control/assurance initiatives are already in place, or are being tested by Wikimedia and the community, what approaches to quality control/assurance could Wikimedia consider to improve actual and perceived quality, what is the potential impact of these quality control/assurance approaches, and where are the most salient intersections between content and quality.

In September, the strategy project team will launch a formal Call for Participation to engage a broader audience.


In August, Brion Vibber, Chief Technical Officer since 2005 and first employee of the Wikimedia Foundation, announced his decision to shift his focus towards software architecture, creating a vacancy in the Chief Technical Officer role, which will be re-defined into a senior management role. A new CTO is hoped to be placed before the end of the year, and the Wikimedia Foundation will be supported by the Walker Talent Group on a pro-bono basis in the search process.

A mobile wrapper application for the iPhone was launched and made available for free through the iTunes store. We're focusing most of our attention on the browser-based mobile gateway, but this is an additional method to provide quick access to Wikipedia.

Initial test sites were set up for the proposed FlaggedRevs English Wikipedia configuration, and for the ReaderFeedback extension which allows rating scores to be assigned to pages by readers. The ReaderFeedback tool was also deployed on the newly created Strategic Planning wiki to support the systematic assessment of community proposals.

The Wikimedia Foundation continues to support the CiviCRM development community, not only through funding and project-managing open source development work critical to Wikimedia's own fundraising needs, but also by helping to put together local meetups and by sharing experiences with other non-profits. In August, another CiviCRM meetup took place, with space provided by Wikia:

Mozilla Theora Development Work Concluded[edit]

In January, the Wikimedia Foundation received a grant of $100,000 from Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox web browser, to improve the technological foundations of open video standards for the web. The grant was passed through to contractors doing this development work, with minimal administrative overhead. In the course of the grant, contractor Timothy Terriberry developed a much improved Theora encoder. These improvements made Theora more competitive with proprietary codecs.

Contractor Viktor Gal maintained the liboggplay library making performance, stability and security enhancements necessary for using the library in the Firefox browser. Contractor Conrad Parker worked on security, and seeking performance enhancements to the base Ogg libraries. These developments contributed to the successful launch of Firefox 3.5 that included Og Theora video support via the HTML5 standard.

Usability Initiative[edit]

The first usability release, Acai, was made available through user preferences on July 1st. A set of enhancements was deployed to Acai and it was enabled as the beta release from “Try Beta” link on the top of every Wikimedia page on August 6th. Enhancements were; 1) proper right-to-left language support, 2) integration of special characters in the toolbar, and 3) warning message for unsaved edits. As of August 31st, over 100,000 people tried out the beta and 75% people continued using the beta. Lifehacker and Mashable bloggers picked up the beta and wrote positive reviews. The Mashable blog post was tweeted 191 times.

Design refinement and development work for the next release, Babaco, made good progress, and the prototypes of new features, navigable table of contents and dialogues for links and tables are staged on the usability prototype environment.

Calls for proposals for the second round usability study started. Twelve usability study firms were contacted for proposals. Five usability study firms responded and submitted their proposals. Among all the proposals submitted, Bolt Peters, the usability study firm which conducted the first usability study, was the most compelling in terms of quality and price.

The quarterly report for the period from April to June was compiled and submitted to the Stanton Foundation. The report included the achieved milestones, perceived project issues, changes from initial proposal, project spending, and reallocation of budget. The total expenditure for the second quarter of the project, from April 1st to June 30th, was $131,719 out of the allocated budget of $176,266, or 74% of the budgeted figure. The under-spending is primarily a result of the open software development position.

Also in August, the Ford multimedia usability project began recruiting a Product Manager and Software Developer. Job openings were posted on the Wikimedia Foundation's job board and various major job boards such as LinkedIn, Craigslist, etc. We reached out to active community members at Wikimania to recruit volunteers.

Wikimédia France offered to fund a multimedia workshop to brainstorm ideas for improving Wikimedia Commons from a technical and program perspective. Coordination of the programs and the invitation list was coordinated with the French Chapter. The workshop is scheduled early November in Paris, France.

Initial discussion of the usability study for the multimedia usability project has started and a few usability firms were reached out for ideas and quotes.