News and notes
WMF revenues for 2003–04 to 2010–11 (planned). Blue = increase in cash reserves
Plans for major expansions of the WMF
The Wikimedia Foundation's 2010–11 annual plan has been approved by the Board and was publicly posted on June 29. The plan draws from the year-long strategic planning project that ran from July 2009 to July 2010, and "is markedly more ambitious than in previous years, [as] justified by the quality of data and analysis and discussion that underpin the new strategy."
This year, the Foundation is aiming to spend as much money as it raises (projected to be $20.4 million), in contrast with previous years, when it has always run a surplus. The graph shows both the secure financial position of the organization, and the significant rise in its expenditure, which has virtually doubled annually over the past two years.
As detailed in the plan, the Foundation plans to add 44 new positions to its staff within the next year (currently, it employs around 40 people). These new positions are discussed at length, among other topics, in the "Questions and answers" for the plan.
The votes on the Board resolution approving the plan mirrored those of the Board's approval of a preliminary version of the 2010–15 plan back in April (see last week's "News and notes"): All trustees voted in favor except two of the three community-elected members – Mindspillage abstained, and Sj opposed, arguing "that we should define crisply why a larger Foundation is important to the Projects, grow smoothly rather than surge and taper off, and prepare specifically for the internal and cultural stresses that can accompany rapid change, before doubling in a year".
In a discussion on Phoebe Ayer's blog involving several staff and Board members, Board member Jan-Bart demonstrated awareness for such concerns: "both Sue and the board share the understanding that we have a very ambitious annual plan for 2010–2011, but that we should continue to monitor all the aspects that influence this plan (questions such as: are we able to hire the right people?, are we not growing too fast?, are we not losing touch within the office with some of our roots?, are we able to raise enough funds? etc.)."
As The Signpost reported last month, the Wikimedia Foundation's Community Department has been formed to combine Fundraising, Reader relations, Public outreach and volunteer coordination under the incoming Chief Community Officer Zack Exley. The Department has now announced that it "will be hiring for a series of key positions". Specific job descriptions are not yet available, but informal applications are already invited from:
- Current Wikimedia community contributors,
- Insightful observers of Wikimedia and other collaborative communities,
- People with specialty skill sets (e.g. statistics, ethnography, and probably a lot other things we've never thought of),
- People belonging to language communities of new and growing Wikipedias and other Wikimedia projects,
- People with insight into reaching groups currently underrepresented in Wikimedia contributor communities.
Authored by Exley, the invitation seems to aim at recruiting for analytical work: candidates should be "creative non-linear thinkers" who "have their own opinions and theories on various problems and opportunities facing Wikimedia and other online communities" and are "equally strong dealing with qualitative and quantitative knowledge".
Apparently as a test of candidates' familiarity with Wikimedia projects (or their ability to gain it quickly), the form asks applicants to "describe the process in which users are approved to become administrators on [the] English Wikipedia".
Also last week, it was announced that two members of the fundraising team (which is part of the Community Department) will be leaving the Foundation: Rand Montoya, Head of Community Giving since July 2008, will leave on September 30 (), and Anya Shyrokova, Stewardship Associate, will leave at the end of July to take up graduate studies ().
USENIX award for MediaWiki software
At the USENIX association's recent Annual Technical Conference in Boston, USA, the MediaWiki software and the Wikimedia Foundation were the recipients of the STUG (Software Tools User Group) award. The announcement said:
||[We] know that this wonderful piece of code did not just appear. The ideas behind them were not new, but a few people had to come forward to implement a wiki that could underlie a real scalable, worldwide service. That service was MediaWiki. It took a community to collaborate, putting in many many hours of work to make the idea great and make it lasting. We recognize Magnus Manske, Lee Crocker, Brion Vibber, and Tim Starling as the major contributors to MediaWiki, but we all realize that their work has been refined and improved by many others. MediaWiki is a wonderful example of a software tool that changed our world.
Discussions about a possible mandatory recall process for administrators have been going on for some time – one possibility that received majority support in a November 2009 poll was made into a policy proposal that then failed to gain consensus in a March 2010 RfC.
A focal point for the debate was recently provided when an administrator, Herostratus, voluntarily submitted to a recall process in the form of an RFA. The result of the RFA was unsuccessful, and led to Herostratus's resignation from adminship. The recall process was initiated when he posted a survey on his talk page soliciting input with respect to users' complaints. Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/Herostratus 2 was opened by the candidate once his criteria for initiating recall (mostly taken from this sample process) were satisfied. This RFA was a significant event, with discussion ranging over many noticeboards (, ), including "Some philosophical thoughts" from Jimbo. At one point, the recall RFA was closed as "out of process"; however, the closure was reverted three hours later with the comment "if this is to be closed, dubious reasons should not be used" ().
Opposition to Herostratus centered around what were perceived as disparaging comments about living people on an AFD debate and for inappropriate humor. Supporters pointed out that his use of the admin tools themselves was exemplary; but the idea that administrators should follow a higher level of decorum carried the RFA through and the final tally was 78/48/21, a ratio at which a standard RFA would have probably failed. Herostratus then requested removal of his admin rights at meta "under a cloud". In his final statement on the matter, Herostratus stated: "The system worked and worked fine, notwithstanding that I don't agree with the result."
- On his blog, User:Witty lama (Liam Wyatt) looked back at his month-long stay at the British Museum as "Wikipedian in residence" (see previous story). He will present results of the stay at Wikimania.
- In a post titled Skillshare – The Slightly Different Open Content Event on the Foundation's blog, an organizer of a conference that gathered more than 150 Wikipedians in Germany last month described the event. She noted its novel funding model – while the German, Austrian and Swiss Wikimedia chapters offered some financial means, "local businesses and associations contributed the bulk of the funds." A separate organization (Skillshare e.V.) was set up to organize the event.
- Wikimania 2010 begins this week in Gdańsk, Poland; see the special story in this week's Signpost.