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Wikimedia Foundation Report, May 2008

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ED Report to the Board May 2008

  • Prepared by: Sue Gardner, Executive Director
  • Prepared for: Wikimedia Board of Trustees

My Current Priorities[edit]

1. Finalizing 2008-09 annual plan
2. Finalizing new fundraising hires
3. Ongoing major donor solicitation and stewardship
4. Planning for all-staff meeting and fall Funders' briefing
5. Bits and pieces (Wikimania planning, June 21 board meeting preparation, finalizing of various policies)

What Happened in May[edit]

Development of the 2008-09 Annual Plan[edit]

Much of May was spent developing the Wikimedia Foundation's 08-09 annual plan, which includes development of the 08-09 budget, revenue targets, goals, and hiring projections. The 2008-09 fiscal year begins July 1, 2008.

The 08-09 annual plan will be released to the board in mid-June, for approval at the June 21 IRC board meeting. Following approval, the plan will be released to the staff and community. However, we are now in a position to release some information about our current financial state. (Please note that since the current fiscal year has not yet ended, this information is projections only. It is also, obviously, unaudited.)

  • The approved budget for 07-08 was USD $4.6 million. Because FY 07-08 has not yet ended, we don't yet know how much we will actually spend. However, as of April 30, 3008, we had spent $2.5 million, and the total spending for the year is projected to be about $2.9 million. By contrast, in 06-07, the Foundation spent $2.1 million; in 05-06 it spent $800K; in 04-05 it spent $200K. In general, spending has increased each year, as the projects and organization have grown.
  • The 07-08 budget was constructed with very little historical information, and was really a series of 'best guesses.' As it turned out, underspending in some areas was cancelled out by overspending in other areas, which resulted in a total underspend of $1.7 million. If you factor out the technology budget underspend of $1.7 million, the actuals will probably turn out to have been within 1% of budget.
  • The biggest departmental underspend was in the technology budget (-$1,673). We attribute this underspending to general conservatism and caution on the part of the tech team, a desire to defer equipment purchases while various donations and sponsorship deals were under negotiation, and delays in hiring.
  • Other projected large variances in 07-08 include: the legal department will overspend by about 100K. This is because we spent an unanticipated $50K strengthening our employment and labor law compliance and researching various regulatory issues, and because basic trademark work turned out to be more expensive than had been estimated. The “programs” (mission) budget will underspend by roughly $100K due to deferred hiring. The Finance and Administration department overspent by about 60K, due mainly to consultant and recruiter fees, including higher-than-budgeted audit costs. And the board will underspend by roughly $60K, due in part to its having held only two face-to-face meetings (not counting Wikimania) in 07-08, rather than the projected three. There were other variances, but these are the largest.

Here is how the 08-09 annual plan was constructed: In planning spending, we started with 07-08 historical spending information. We modified those numbers in consultation with the staff and the board, adjusting for increased costs due to anticipated project growth and other changes, and adjusting for underspending in the prior year. We then approved new spending in key areas, consistent with our strategic goals. Also this year, for the first time in the Foundation's history, we have set revenue targets for business development and fundraising. The business development targets were set by Kul in consultation with Véronique; the fundraising targets were set by Sue, Erik and Véronique. The annual plan will be released to the public as soon as it is approved by the board.


[At this time, the monthly report only covers work by paid staff and contractors, and a lot of technology work is done by volunteers. A good way to track key technical changes is to read the Wikipedia Signpost's weekly “B.R.I.O.N.” report: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost ]

A long-awaited feature, Single User Login, is now available to all Wikimedia account holders. It allows participation in all Wikimedia projects and languages using a single account. In order to benefit from it, existing users need to merge their accounts. In the future, all new accounts will be part of the system by default.

Another long-awaited feature, FlaggedRevs, also known as "stable versions," has been deployed on the German Wikipedia. In the configuration used on the German Wikipedia, edits by new and unregistered users have to be reviewed by longer time registered users before becoming the default version shown to readers who are not logged in. The feature is highly configurable, and the experiences collected in the German test should help to inform other project communities interested in deploying this functionality. You can see live data on the usage of the feature on the German Wikipedia here: http://tools.wikimedia.de/~aka/cgi-bin/reviewcnt.cgi?lang=english

Consolidation of past fundraising data in a new system, CiviCRM 2.0, is progressing. This will make donor data much more accessible and useful, and provide us with much needed functionality for tracking donor relationships.

A simple but clever anti-spam solution was deployed on all wikis which blocked a significant number of dumb spam-bots.

A new MediaWiki feature allows any MediaWiki installation to access Wikimedia Commons content as if it was locally uploaded.

The MediaWiki write API is being tested on test.wikipedia.org.

Further tests have been conducted on the PediaPress PDF generator code. For scalability reasons, portions of the code are now being rewritten by PediaPress.

Backups of internal office data have been much improved, including the use of the "Time Machine" application on Macs to sync backups to the fileserver.


On May 23 and 24, Foundation staff and board members attended the chapters meeting in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The staff was represented by Sue, Erik, Delphine and Kul, with Florence, Jan-Bart and Frieda attending from the board. Discussion topics included communications, fundraising and business development: outcomes will be reported elsewhere by the participants. Many thanks to Lodewijk and the Dutch chapter for their initiative and hospitality.

Kul used the trip to meet with several potential and current European business partners, and will follow up in the coming weeks.

Frank Schulenburg, who coordinates public outreach efforts for the Foundation, has published his first report. It included the results of a survey of older (50+) German Wikipedians, naming as barriers to participation “a lack of self-confidence, lack of person contact people, and an atmosphere of conflict and stress.” It also detailed the staging of lectures and workshops teaching senior citizen internet tutors about Wikipedia, and the development and release of an online course entitled “Wikipedia in internet cafes for older people” Frank's full report is available here: http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2008-May/043486.html.

Major media interviews given by staff and community members in the month of May include The Courier-Post (New Jersey, U.S.); the Canadian Press news agency; the Globe & Mail newspaper; The Age (Australia); the Toronto Star; Newsweek magazine; National Public Radio; PR Week magazine; the Washington Post; the San Francisco Chronicle. Media contacts are now starting to be tracked on http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Press_room/Media_Contact_2008 by Jay.

On May 3 and 4, six Wikimedia Foundation employees and 17 community members staffed a booth at Maker Faire, a California-based O'Reilly event that celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, science, tech and the do-it-yourself (DIY) community. Jay estimates our booth was visited by about 5,000 people (two of whom are major donors to the Foundation).

On May 28 and 29, Sue, Erik and Véronique staged hiring interviews for the Head of Community Giving and Head of Major Gifts fundraising roles.We had terrific applicants, and the successful candidates will be announced in June. Also in May, Sue, Erik and Véronique, with the support of an external consulting firm, developed a “community giving” strategic plan, focused on online fundraising. This plan will be given to the new Head of Community Giving.

Sue, Erik, Jay Walsh and Sara Crouse developed a draft BHAG (business jargon for a 'big hairy audacious goal') for the Wikimedia Foundation. It's designed to be a succinct, big-picture, easy-to-understand statement that we can use to explain, in a very simple way, where we're going and what we're trying to do. It's also deliberately audacious, i.e., not necessarily attainable: it's a stretch goal. The draft goal, which will be further developed and discussed over the next few months, is this: To increase Wikimedia's educational reach to one-third of the planet's population by 2020, and to motivate every 10th reader to become an active participant.

Sue and Erik had good introductory meetings with colleagues at likedminded organizations including EFF, Zero Divide, the Participatory Culture Foundation (the organization behind Miro Miro_(software), the free open-source video player), the NonProfit Finance Fund and the Shuttleworth Foundation. Erik spoke at NetSquared, a conference aimed at advancing international social change using social networks and social web tools, and also gave a presentation at a Creative Commons Salon.

Mike attended the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in New Haven, Connecticut and met with the Ford Foundation in New York. He developed a draft privacy policy. Mike & Erik continued to negotiate the release of the FDL 1.3 with the Free Software Foundation. Mike brought onboard a legal intern, Shun-ling Chen, who has been helping with many ongoing issues.

An ergonomics consultant assessed and fine-tuned staff's individual work setups. We did a first brainstorming exercise to identify issues with our office space. We have also engaged a planning firm (an eco-friendly husband-and-wife team called Because We Can) to help us better utilize the space.

In Coming Weeks[edit]

  • The 2008-09 annual plan will be finalized, then approved by the board.
  • The 2007-08 fiscal year will close, and work will begin finalizing the financial statements and preparing for the annual audit. The audit committee, led by board treasurer Stu West, has now set its 2008-09 calendar.
  • The new fundraising team will be announced.
  • Single User Login and FlaggedRevs, two key technologies, will be improved further, and a procedure for wider deployment of FlaggedRevs will be announced.
  • There will be an all-staff meeting at the office in San Francisco on June 26 and 27. Its purpose will be to deliver people's 08-09 budgets, and develop 08-09 goals. It will be the first time that all non-San Francisco-based employees Delphine, Mark, Tim, Rob and Frank) will have a chance to meet with their new San Francisco colleagues, including the new fundraising team.