Wikimedia Foundation Report, September 2009

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

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


Milestones from September[edit]

  1. Recruitment begins for Chief Technical Officer and Chief Development Officer
  2. 2009 Fundraiser planning begins
  3. Strategy project launches Call For Participation
  4. Usability team expanded
  5. Bookshelf project for public outreach resources launched

Key Priorities for October[edit]

1. Begin interviewing Chief Technical Officer candidates
2. Planning for 2009 Fundraiser continues (launches November)
3. Strategy Project task forces kick off
4. Semi-annual All Staff Meeting October 21-23
5. Office moves to 149 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco

This Past Month[edit]

Key Program Metrics[edit]

Reach of all Wikimedia Foundation sites:

326 million unique visitors (rank #5)
+19.8% (1 year ago) / +6% (1 month ago)
Source: comScore Media Metrics

Pages served:

11.4 billion
+11.7% (1 year ago) / +5.1% (1 month ago)

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

+2.3% (1 year ago) / -2.5% (one month ago)

Source: September 2009 Report Card <>

Key Financial Metrics[edit]

Operating revenue year to date: USD 1.1MM vs. plan of USD 1.1MM
Operating expenses year to date: USD 1.6MM vs plan of USD 2.6MM.
Unrestricted cash on hand as of October 22 was USD 6.0MM.

Strategic Planning Process[edit]

September marked the formal launch of the strategy planning process. In mid-September, a Call for Participation from Jimmy Wales and Michael Snow appeared at the top of all Wikimedia sites, encouraging people to volunteer to participate in strategy development task forces, which will be responsible for digging deeper into the key questions facing Wikimedia. The key questions include how to grow readership and participation in geographies where Wikimedia projects are under-performing (e.g., China, India, the Arabic-speaking countries); how to make Wikimedia project material available to the five billion people who don't yet have access to the internet; how to convert readers into participants and improve the diversity and general health of the Wikimedia movement, and how to enable Wikimedia, as a social and political movement, to best shape and influence public perception and public policy, internationally.

The Call for Participation resulted in almost 3,000 applications from a wide variety of people, including active project participants and readers from many projects and languages. A selection committee carefully reviewed all applications, and in October will begin to populate the task forces with the applicants who seem most appropriate. Almost 30% of applicants committed to volunteering over 10 hours a week, indicating a strong desire to help and engage in this process.

Meanwhile, in September, overall engagement on the strategy wiki continued to grow. The strategy wiki now contains almost 6,000 pages of content in more than 50 languages. Over 600 people have contributed to the wiki.

Also in September, the Bridgespan Group continued to add data and analysis to the strategy wiki in support of the task forces, and also conducted a number of in-depth interviews with Wikimedia Foundation Board members, Advisory Board members, staff, other supporters and experts. Thus far, interviewees have included Board members Ting Chen, Samuel Klein and Jimmy Wales, Advisory Board members Angela Beesley Starling, Ward Cunningham, Clay Shirky, Achal Prabhala, Florence Nibart-Devouard, Teemu Leinonen, Benjamin Mako Hill, Roger McNamee, Melissa Hagemann, Mitch Kapor, Neeru Khosla, Wayne Mackintosh and Ethan Zuckerman. Other interviews were conducted with Ed Chi, researcher at Palo Alto Research Center, Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University law professor and researcher, Rima Kupryte, from eIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries), Andrew Lih, author of The Wikipedia Revolution, Mike Linksvayer, Vice President of Creative Commons, Misiek Piskorski, Harvard Business School professor and researcher, Jennifer Riggs, former Chief Program Officer for the Wikimedia Foundation, Joseph Reagle, researcher into open source communities, Matt Thompson, Online Community Manager at the Knight Foundation and Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States. The following staff have also been interviewed: Mike Godwin,General Counsel, Véronique Kessler, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Rand Montoya, Head of Community Giving, Frank Schulenburg, Head of Public Outreach, Brion Vibber, Chief Technical Officer, Tim Starling, software developer, Kul Wadhwa, Head of Business Development, Jay Walsh, Head of Communications, Erik Zachte, Data Analyst, and Sue Gardner, Executive Director. All interview notes can be found here:



In September, Brion Vibber announced he will be leaving the Wikimedia Foundation in October to take a role as open-microblogging developer with StatusNet. Brion has agreed to stay with the Wikimedia Foundation one day per week until the end of 2009, and he will continue to be involved with Wikimedia as a volunteer developer in future. He will also help to recruit his successor.

The technology team worked on Flagged Revisions testing configurations for the English Wikipedia, these configurations are now live and receiving testing and feedback on http://

Supported by a general software update, the Technology team also rolled out Localisation Update which will keep user interface translations up to date with daily changes from TranslateWiki. This is expected to accelerate localisation activity by ensuring updates are consistent even if software upgrades are delayed.

The technology team began a decommissioning process for old servers which are no longer under warranty and are more expensive to run than the newer and more energy-efficient replacement servers. The Foundation hopes to make the retired servers available to other non- profit organizations that could use the hardware.

Tomasz Finc began working on an arrangement to make the full-text data dumps available in Amazon's Public Data Sets for EC2 users. These will be kept up to date over time, and will be available alongside existing processed data sets from Freebase.

The ProofreadPage extension used by Wikisource received an update which includes improved indexing of scanned pages.


One full-time software developer consultant, two part-time software developer consultants, and one part-time interface design consultant joined the Usability team in September. Adam Miller joined the Usability team as a full-time software development consultant bringing strong front-end web development skills. Adam was recently with the Babarian Group as a lead web developer and led overhauling of Red Bull1's 1000+ web properties including internationalization of the sites. Yaron Koren, MediaWiki volunteer developer and the creator of the Semantic Forms, joined the team as part-time consultant. Yaron will work on a first specification for an XML schema to describe template structures, allowing for automated form UI generation and form-based data entry. He will also work on a first proof-of-concept implementation of form-based data-entry for MediaWiki based on this XML schema. Ryan Lane, a long-time MediaWiki development volunteer, joined the team as a part- time system administrator consultant. Ryan contributed various MediaWiki extensions, such as LDAP authentication, smooth gallery and others. Ryan is a full-time employee of Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center, but his work schedule allows him to work on the usability project on Fridays.

Hannes Tank, the former designer intern of the usability team rejoined the team as a part-time interface design consultant. Hannes is a graduate student of the Muthesius Academy of Arts in Kiel, Germany. He worked on redesign of Wikipedia as a school project in 2008. As of September 12th, over 173,000 visitors and editors tried out the beta and 134,000 people continued using the beta. The average beta retention rate was roughly 77% and the retention rate for English Wikipedia was 82%. The next step is to analyze the survey data to identify language specific usability issues. More details about the beta status is found at the WMF blog on this topic.

The second usability release, Babaco, was released to production on September 30th. The major features of this release are; 1) Navigable Table of Contents, which allows editors to jump to the start of each section in the article, 2) Dialogues for inserting internal and external links, and 3) Find and Replace feature. These features are available in user preferences. More details about Babaco release can be found in the tech blog post.

Planning continued on the second usability study. The focus of the second round study will be the evaluation of all user interface changes made so far. The study size is eight participants in total and the study will be conducted at a research facility in San Francisco in early October. For the multimedia usability project funded by the Ford Foundation, we received good numbers of applications for the product management position and three promising candidates were interviewed. The interviews for Product Manager has been concluded and the background check has started. As for the applications to the software development position, the screening is taking place and interviews will be scheduled in October.

Other Program Activities[edit]

Sue announced the departure of Jennifer Riggs as the Foundation's Chief Program Officer. Sue and the Foundation's staff thanked Jennifer for her contributions. During her term with the Foundation Jennifer helped the Wikimedia improve in some important ways. She helped Frank, Cary, and Jay structure their work, and she supported the staging of the U.S. National Institute of Health's Wikipedia Academy, managed the chapters grants process, and represented Wikimedia at the GLAM-Wiki conference in Australia. Over the next few months, Sue will review and refine the CPO job description, and begin recruitment.

In September, the Foundation hired Marlita Kahn as project manager for the Bookshelf Project. Marlita comes to Wikimedia from Design Media, where, as Senior Project Manager, she created and guided the product design and content development for a large number of customers. Among her projects were a product set targeted to educators and general public for California State Capitol Museum that won the International Web Page Award (2002), "Concepts of Biology", a high school biology full year multimedia curriculum product and a 3D stereoscopic film commemorating the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire using historic imagery and original 3D animation, script and surround sound that won the Silver and Bronze Telly Awards (2007). Prior to her work at Design Media, Marlita worked as a Managing Director for the Internet Archive, the non-profit digital library founded in 1996 by internet entrepreneur and activist Brewster Kahle. She managed the Archive from start-up and led the development of its five-year strategic plan. Marlita is fluent in Spanish and holds a Master's Degree in English Literature from the University of California at Berkeley.

With the hiring of Marlita, the Foundation launches its Bookshelf Project which aims to create a core set of awareness/engagement/ training high-quality resources that can be used to recruit new and diverse participation. When complete, the bookshelf is intended to serve as a core set of instructional materials, to be translated, adapted and used for multiple purposes by volunteers, chapters, and educational institutions such as schools and universities.

Also in September, Frank embarked upon exploring new ways of affiliating with the Wikimedia movement by developing the "WikiPods" concept <>. WikiPods are groups of Wikimedia fans and enthusiasts working together in local teams (your campus, your town, etc) to help advocate, promote, enrich and otherwise improve Wikipedia or other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Also in September, Kathrin Jansen, Volunteer Project Lead of the Best Practices series on Meta, and her team focused on a step-by-step instruction on how to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool, which is available at .

And, Frank launched an informal speaker series aimed at providing a space for staff to learn, talk and brainstorm together. The first guest speaker, scheduled for early October, will be Danny Horn from Wikia, talking about Wikia's WYSIWYG feature. Future speakers will include Ed Chi, researcher at PARC, and Jack Herrick, founder of WikiHow.

Also in September, Cary Bass launched the first IRC “office hours.” IRC office hours are weekly meetings on the Freenode IRC channel #wikimedia-office, at a standard set time, with one "special guest" from the Foundation staff at each meeting, aimed at providing a opportunity for volunteers to engage casually with staff members in real time. The first guest was Executive Director Sue Gardner, followed by Rand Montoya, Head of Community Giving.


Major coverage during September revolved around the following stories:

1. Wikimania follow up, coverage in Argentina (Early Sept) Numerous Spanish publications, most based in Argentina, published long- lead stories that were developed during Wikimania in Buenos Aires. Many included interviews with Jimmy Wales and Richard Stallman.

• More Flagged Revs coverage in Time + much follow up (September 28) Coverage of Flagged Revs and Ed Chi's research into stagnating participation on Wikimedia projects continued in September with several stories by journalist Farhad Manjoo and others. The stories named Wikipedia as one of the “sites we can't live without,” and expressed concerns about growing behind-the-scenes bureaucratization and community dysfunction. Follow-up coverage (including an U.S. National Public Radio story and others) echoed those same themes.

3. Polanski article causes mainstream media stir (September 30) Media attention around director Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland spilled into the film-maker's Wikipedia article later in September, focusing on discussion among editors about how to best incorporate the arrest into the Polanski article. Some inaccurate coverage suggesting the page 'lock' is due to charges the director faces.

Other worthwhile reads:

During September, the Wikimedia Foundation participated in interviews with (San Francisco, California, USA); Technology Review (Cambridge Massachusetts, USA); San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, California, USA); Agence France Presse (Oakland, California, USA); Business Week (New York City, New York, USA); BBC Television (New York City, New York, USA); Al Jazeera (New York City, New York, USA); New Jersey Law Journal (Newark, New Jersey, USA); Queen's University Journal (Kingston, Ontario, Canada); Time Magazine (San Francisco, California, USA); New York Post (New York City, New York, USA); Slate magazine (New York City, New York, USA), and the Canadian Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada).

During September, Jay continued working on the communications campaign with Fenton Communications. Fenton spent much of August and early September undertaking a research phase with staff and stakeholders, during which they spoke with Board members, Advisory Board members, and members of the staff, as well as Wikimedia volunteers and readers. Through this work, the team developed a first draft of messaging tactics that will inform both the annual giving campaign and Wikimedia's general communications activities. Through the rest of September, the Fenton team worked with Jay and Rand on carrying out notes and refining concepts for presentation in October, prior to the November fundraiser launch.

Fundraising, Grants & Partnerships[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation received 1,020 donations in September totaling approximately USD 48,503. Year-to-date, the Foundation has raised USD 467,369 in fundraising related revenue, 7% of the annual goal of USD 7,500,000.

In September, recruiting firm m/Oppenheim interviewed Sue, the fundraising team and other staff, several Board and Advisory Board members, as well as some key donors and stakeholders, in order to develop the job description for the new Chief Development Officer, and create an initial list of about 30 potential candidates and connectors. The job is expected to be posted in October, and the position is open until filled: it will likely come to fruition in December 2009.

Also in September, Development Associate Anya Shyrokova was promoted to the new position of Stewardship Associate, handling the needs of under-$500 donors, as well as cultivating and stewarding $500 to $10K donors. Her former position, focused on managing Wikimedia's open source donor database and handling donor and prospect research and tracking, was posted on the Wikimedia Foundation website: the search for her replacement is expected to wrap up in October.

Rand Montoya continued working towards the 2009 Annual Fundraiser, planned to launch in November. He also launched new functionality allowing people in the United States to donate via mobile phone, which will be integrated into Wikipedia's mobile gateway. See for more information.

Rebecca Handler traveled to New York City to meet with donors and prospects prior to the launch of the annual campaign. During her trip, Rebecca represented the Wikimedia Foundation at a dinner hosted by Queen Rania and a number of other influential women. During September, Rebecca also continued meeting with prospective donors to secure funding for a new data center.

Finance & Administration[edit]

In September, the Wikimedia Foundation announced it had successfully concluded its search for new office space, and that it would be moving to 149 New Montgomery Street on October 16. The move was approved as part of the 2009-10 annual plan, and in August Office Manager Daniel Phelps had begun leading a highly collaborative staff search process. In mid-September, the Foundation formally selected 149 New Montgomery Street as its new location, and Daniel spent the remainder of the month finalizing lease terms, overseeing construction, and planning towards the move. Daniel also announced in September that, although the Wikimedia Foundation had originally tried to keep its initial San Francisco address private in order to protect the staff from stalkers and gawkers, it had since rethought that practice. Going forward, the Wikimedia Foundation will openly publish its physical location.

Bill Gong and Veronique Kessler spent much of their month working with the external audit firm KPMG to review the Foundation's financial records and statements in preparation for their public release. The fieldwork portion of the audit was completed in September, and the final audit report is expected to be released in November.

At the request of the Audit Committee and with the support of other staff, Veronique began development of an analysis of key risks facing the Wikimedia projects, including in the areas of financial and organizational sustainability, technology, reputation, community, and the external environment. The preliminary draft suggests that the most significant and/or likeliest risks facing Wikimedia include stagnation of participation in the Wikimedia projects, a lack of technical innovation, failure of the Wikimedia movement to develop sustainable and essential organizational structures to support its work, a lack of participation in developing countries, editorial scandal damaging Wikipedia's reputation, competitor sites eroding our readership, a plateauing of donations, and risk of a fundamental shift to our legal context (e.g., transformative change to the U.S. Communications Decency Act). Once the 2008-09 audited financial statements are approved by the Audit Committee, Veronique will present to it the most important risks facing us, and the Wikimedia Foundation's current mitigation strategy for each one.


In September, the Wikimedia Foundation won a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (URDP) claim, winning the rights to two domains based on variant spellings of Wikipedia. Mike Godwin also initiated responses to two defamation lawsuits brought against Wikipedia in the United States, and investigated possible responses to a court order imposed on the Foundation in Germany. Additionally, Mike offered assistance to Wikimedia Italia in their legal dispute by offering to provide evidence to an Italian court that Wikimedia Italia is not a division or agent of the Wikimedia Foundation.