Wikimedia Foundation Report, December 2009

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

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

Milestones from December[edit]

  1. Annual Giving Campaign continues: record number of donations
  2. New hires: Priyanka Dhanda, Guillaume Paumier in San Francisco
  3. Meeting with Wikimania 2010 Organizers

Key Priorities for January[edit]

  1. Begin Interviews for Chief Development Officer
  2. Wikipedia Roundtable in NYC
  3. Prepare for February Board of Trustees Meeting

Data and Trends[edit]

Reach of all Wikimedia Foundation sites:

347 million unique visitors (rank #5)
+27% (1 year ago) / +0% (1 month ago)
Source: comScore Media Metrics

Pages served:

10.4 billion
+0% (1 year ago) / -9.2% (1 month ago)

Active number of editors (5+ edits/month):

+3.8% (1 year ago) / -0.4% (1 month ago)

Source: December 2009 Report Card <>


Operating revenue year to date: USD 10.5MM vs. plan of USD 7.MM [1]
Operating expenses year to date: USD 3.7MM vs. plan of USD 4.7MM
Unrestricted cash on hand as of January 28: USD 12.2MM

[1] Year to date revenue is equal to annual plan for the fiscal year

Strategic Planning Project[edit]

December was a whirlwind month for the strategic planning process. It was crunch-time for the Task Forces, which picked up its activity significantly. The average number of LiquidThreads posts per day jumped from 25 to 30, and we picked up another 50 active contributors. More importantly, that discussion continued to also result in synthesis, with many new Wikimedia-pages that summarized Task Force work. Ten of the 14 Task Forces look like they will produce quality recommendations. With so much of the energy devoted to the Task Forces, growth in overall participants slowed. We expect to attract a slew of new participants in January and February once the Task Force work is done.

In the meantime, the project team (including The Bridgespan Group) devoted much of its energy to developing a snapshot of the five-year priorities that seem to be emerging from this process. The work that we're doing to develop that synthesis is regularly integrated into the wiki so as to inform the community at large. By the time the synthesis is ready to present at the February board meeting, the community should have a good preview as to what will be said there.



Significant time of the technology team in December was spent in support of the fundraiser, including improvements to our new credit card processing gateway, message performance tracking, banner and landing page development and testing, geographic targeting, real-time statistics, and more.

On December 16, the Wikimedia Foundation hired Priyanka Dhanda as Code Maintenance Engineer. Priyanka joins us from SourceForge Inc., where she worked since 2002 as a software developer and also was involved in operations, working on most pieces of the infrastructure, and integrating third party software with the SourceForge platform (including MediaWiki). Priyanka holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Toledo, Ohio, and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering from the Pondicherry Engineering College in India.

Relevant tech blog post:

Original opening:

Hampton Catlin announced a community process for developing mobile Wikipedia homepages in new languages:


On December 15 the usability team presented the progress of the project, how the usability beta has been received, and upcoming milestones to Liz Allison from the Stanton Foundation. The feedback from Liz Allison was positive and she praised the Wikipedia Usability Initiative as a “model” project.

A total of 442,000 users tried the usability beta by the end of December, an increase of 50,000 users that month. A total of 350,000 users continue using the usability beta. Monthly retention rates per language show an upward trend. Languages with relatively low retention rate, such as German, Polish, and Japanese also started showing an upward trend. However, the retention rate of Japanese and Korean are still in the sixties, which requires further analysis for solutions.

The usability team continued working on the design and development work for the next releases. The software foundation for editing is being overhauled and subjected to extensive cross-browser testing. This will increase precision of the new editor table of contents, and allow for future development such as collapsing ("folding") of complex syntax to simplify the interface for new editors.

The new dialogues for links and tables have been re-designed based on findings from our second usability study. A tutorial has been published to allow translators to develop language-specific icons. Language specific icons for English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portugese and Polish are scheduled be integrated in the upcoming release in January.

Guillaume Paumier, the Product Manager for the Ford Multimedia Usability Initiative, finalized his relocation to San Francisco after obtaining a United States work visa. He arrived San Francisco from Toulouse, France, early December. Guillaume joined the usability team in the San Francisco office on December 11.

Test were prepared for the the multimedia search and insertion tool developed by Michael Dale, the "Add Media Wizard". The tool enables users to find related multimedia files from Wikimedia Commons and other media repositories and allows users to edit names of the file and caption, and crop the image.

Other Program Activities[edit]

During December, Frank Schulenburg and Pete Forsyth continued reaching out to U.S. Universities as part of a pilot project to improve the quality of Wikipedia articles in a particular subject area. They started to evaluate and document the outcome and presented their preliminary findings to a potential funder. Based on feedback from faculty members, they created documents that explain the process of working collaboratively on Wikipedia (e.g. Evolution of an article). They established and began executing a basic framework for sustaining the relationships established at various universities.

Marlita and Frank participated in a kick-off meeting with the Bookshelf Project vendors and conducted a Production Survey among the chapters in order to get a better picture about the chapters' experiences with print production. The Bookshelf writer conducted a series of interviews with community members from various language Wikipedias to inform the content design and writing. The development schedule was expanded and vetted. We worked with Common Craft on the video script about NPOV and Verifiability.

Cary wrapped up the task force on biographies of living people on Meta, and worked with User: Keegan on a reboot. Cary continued to work with contractors to develop proposal for Compassionate Communications course for English Wikipedia functionaries and OTRS agents. He also organized and taught a workshop for new staff members to orient them to the community and wiki-markup, and inducted the Wikimania 2011 Jury.


December was a busy month for the entire organization and especially Communications, with energy focused on supporting the creative direction and publicity around the Annual Giving Campaign. Considerable energy was invested in the final steps of the 08/09 Annual Report, working with outside designers on digital prep and pre-press for a renewed look for the report.

There were no major press announcements in December.

Major coverage during December

1. United Kingdom Blackmail case (December 2) Mostly European media tackled a UK story about a senior judge's decision to seek the name of a Wikipedia editor from the Wikimedia Foundation. Most stories focussed on the precedent of the decision - the first time a judge ordered revelation of information from Wikipedia - rather than the specific details of the case. The Foundation wasn't widely quoted, and most coverage was neutral about the decision.

2. Continued coverage of Wall Street Journal editor decline story (early December) Mostly blog spill-over through December highlighting the Ortega research from the November WSJ story. Of note were blogs that cited the recent Foundation post on the topic and provided a more sober perspective on the data and the urgent claims.

3. Wikimedia shatters fundraising record (mid to late December) Although this year's annual fundraising campaign garnered less media attention overall than last year, news of the ultimate fundraising goal achievement broke through readwriteweb before the end of 2009. Less coverage of the milestone overall, even though more funds were generated in a shorter period of time. Light reporting overall during the Christmas/NY break makes coverage difficult at year-end.

Other worthwhile reads:

Blog posts through December, 2009

Media interviews and interaction through December, 2009

Communications campaign update, December 2009 Communications campaign consultants Fenton/SeaChange were most active during December/November - focussing on support to the community giving team, monitoring metrics and performance, and providing counsel to foundation staff. Fenton also assisted with a draft of the end of fundraiser press release and began work on placement of stories in high profile publications, including the Chronicle of Philanthropy (pitch ongoing).

Fenton worked with the communications team to finalize a list of five major items/goals to tackle during Q1/Q2 of 2010 - items focussed on helping the Foundation simplify and improve our basic story-telling tactics, with an aim to better fundraising, public outreach, and strategic communications and relationship building.

During December, the Wikimedia Foundation participated in interviews with Anniston Star (Anniston, Alaska, USA); Inc Magazine (New York, New York, USA); Wall Street Journal (New York, New York, USA); CBC Radio (Toronto, Ontario, Canada); Financial Times (London, United Kingdom); St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida, USA).

Fundraising, Grants, & Partnerships[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation received 185,958 donations in December, totaling approximately USD $6,513,743. Year-to-date, the Foundation has raised USD 8,305,921 in individual donations, 11% above its annual goal of USD 7,500,000. Including revenue from restricted and unrestricted gifts the Wikimedia Foundation has raised USD 9,855,921, 6% above the goal of USD 9,297,000.

December was the most successful month ever for the Wikimedia Foundation's fundraising team. With the support and direction of Rand Montoya, the community giving team and countless volunteers, the campaign finished ten days ahead of schedule on January 5, thanks in large part to the overwhelming generosity of our amazing donors. Over 230,000 people around the world showed their support for the projects and mission of the Wikimedia community. Rand attributes the success of the fundraiser to a solid communications campaign, the implementation of new payment methods for donations and the unprecedented amount of volunteer support.

Once again the users of our projects responded positively to the personal appeal by Jimmy Wales. His letter was widely read and distributed on the Internet. On its first full day of activation, the appeal letter raised USD 430,000. This record-breaking day for Wikimedia fundraising was the Foundation's biggest single day in donations, with the help of over 13,000 supporters. Other communications highlights included the “I couldn’t ignore that banner at the top of the site anymore…I use Wikipedia far too often to ignore the need!” and the “My amount is little, but my support is sincere” site notices created from donor quotes and selected with help fromour partners at Fenton Communications.

As a transparent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation shares data about which messages resonate with donors with the public. Tracking data was available in real-time, and additional reports can be found here:

During January the fundraising team will continue to wrap up the fundraiser. As we compile the donations, we will gain a better idea of what new trends have emerged and will begin to refine the process and ideas for next year's campaign.

On December 3, Wikimedia had an open house event at its new San Francisco office. Wikimedia friends and supporters joined a reception with music (thanks to Pandora's Tom Conrad), donated wine, and Wikipedia displays and posters.

Finance and Administration[edit]

With the support of the Strategic Plan's Financial Sustainability task force, Veronique Kessler completed a draft recommendation for the strategy team and Board of Trustees. Veronique also began working on the Foundations 2008-2009 990 Tax Form which Veronique hopes to have completed and reviewed by the audit team at KPMG by mid February.

Daniel Phelps and Veronique identified a set of benchmarks related to workplace flexibility and non-salary compensation/benefits. These benchmarks will be reviewed by the Foundation's employee Compensation Committee which is slated to begin its work reviewing the Foundation's benefits and compensation in early January. The employee Compensation Committee will make recommendations to the Foundation's management team to determine ways the Foundation can structure compensation/benefits to strengthen the organization's ability to recruit and retain skilled employees. Over the past several months, Daniel and Veronique have also been researching 403b retirement savings benefits to be implemented in March or April of 2010.

The hiring process for the Office IT Manager position continued through December.


In December, the Legal Department began pursuing registration of Russian (Cyrillic) trademarks for Wikipedia. The Foundation succeeded in getting the case brought against Wikimedia by Gary Null in New York dismissed. Mike Godwin attended a Wikimedia-Google-co-sponsored event for Washington policymakers. The Foundation was sued by a fringe Republican candidate in Illinois, USA – Mike expects the case to re resolved quickly in the Foundation's favor. Mike investigated and initiated action against a trademark infringer,


The Wikimedia Foundation facilitated meetings with Marcin Cieslak and Grzegorz Lucjan from the Wikimania 2010 planning team. These meetings focused on conference finances/sponsorships, public/community outreach, scholarships, programs, venue logistics, press/media, and other areas where Foundation staff can provide support and guidance to the local team. The management and operational aspects of Wikimania are under the control and development of the local planning team, with the support and collaboration of the Wikimedia Foundation.