News and notes
Fundraisers start for Wikipedia and Citizendium; controversial content and leadership
Unofficial "technical testing" start of fundraiser already breaks donation records
See last week's Signpost for a full background report on the annual fundraiser: "November 15 launch, emphasis on banner optimization and community involvement"
A screenshot of one of the fundraising banners featuring Jimmy Wales (as used during testing last month)
Despite being labeled as mere "technical testing" (see also this week's Tech report) before the official launch on November 15, the initial days of the Wikimedia fundraiser since November 12 have already seen a new record for the most revenue on a single day, with $517,938.57 coming in from 18,246 donations on Saturday 13th.
The fundraising "SM [social media] team" collected numerous supportive messages from donors on Twitter on their WikiContribute feed. On the other hand, it appears that the increased use of graphical banners featuring a personal appeal from Jimmy Wales (which had proven to be the most effective during testing, to the point that at least initially none of the community-submitted text banners will be used) was found too intrusive by many readers – staff member Deniz Gultekin acknowledged that "the banners are big, but they are effective", while SM team volunteer fetchcomms reported "seeing a lot of ... 'no-Jimmy-appeals-please' sentiment on Twitter" and pointed out that feedback was welcome on the design of other, upcoming graphic banners. Some readers reacted humorously to finding Wales looking at them from the top of Wikipedia pages, one juxtaposing a banner with the article Scopophobia, another interpreting a banner as "Jimmy Wales, Undead Scourge of Wikipedia".
For logged-in users on the English Wikipedia and Commons, a gadget to suppress the display of the fundraiser banner is available under Special:Preferences.
Liam Wyatt (User:Witty lama) has posted several photos from his visit to the Foundation's offices in San Francisco last week, some of them showing the fundraising team at work during the first day. The fundraiser was officially announced in a November 14 blog post by the Foundation's Community Department ("2010 Contribution Campaign launched") and a November 15 press release from its Global Development Department ("Seventh Annual Campaign to Support Wikipedia Kicks Off").
Following the discovery of Citizendium's dire financial situation by its newly appointed "Management Council" (see last week's Signpost: "Citizendium's finances running low"), the possibility of the Wikimedia Foundation throwing the wiki a lifeline has been brought up on the Foundation's mailing list. User:Geni suggested that the Foundation provide temporary support to Citizendium, in the form of "[an] offer to host Citizendium on our servers at no cost for a period of 1 (one) year offering a level of support equivalent to our smaller projects." Citizendium, which aims to become "the world's most trusted encyclopedia and knowledge base," was created in 2006 by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, and went public on March 25, 2007. More recently, Sanger has been involved in several controversial conflicts with the Wikimedia Foundation, most notably accusing Commons of "knowingly distributing child pornography". Following his planned resignation from his post as editor-in-chief, the project's new leadership discovered and published details about its financial situation, most detailedly in a November 12 "Message to the Citizendium Community", which among other expenses noted Internet hosting costs including $750/month for servers "with significantly more processing power than we need", and expressed the intention "to move to a more reasonably provisioned configuration."
On Foundation-l, the proposal has been garnering some opposition but also tentative to enthusiastic support, assuming that the Foundation has the technical capacities; one editor offers his advice: "In business I have found that the most successful companies are those that reach out, build relationships with, and where possible help others that are compatible."
On the Citizendium forums, the new Managing Editor (who happens to be a member of the Wikimedia Foundation's Research Committee) noted the suggestion with caution: "I think we should be attentive to that discussion, while continuing to explore other options". The Chief Constable added that "regardless of whether we have financial issues, having a healthy relationship with wikipedia is a good thing", to which other members of the Management and Editorial Councils agreed, one of them saying that "the antagonism that has been occasionally voiced is very strange to me". A tech staff member cautioned not to "get too excited about this": "Having briefly worked with some of the WMF people responsible for their systems, I think the probability of them allowing CZ to run our modified [ MediaWiki ] code on their systems is pretty low (near zero). They have too many problems of their own to take on ours". And in a comment to the Signpost on Twitter, Larry Sanger rejected the idea outright – "we aren't THAT desperate", later clarifying that he was speaking only for himself, but that "I wouldn't touch [Wikipedia]'s nest of vipers with a ten-foot pole".
In the meantime, Citizendium gained some breathing space through an internal fundraising drive that was started on November 10 ("We are in urgent and serious need of funds to pay for hosting our servers"). The drive, though hampered by the lack of an incorporated entity (donations have to be collected on the private account of a member of the Management Council and are not tax-deductible), collected $1,882 from 22 donors by November 14, among them Sanger with $250.
Controversial content and Wikimedia leadership
Sue Gardner in September 2010
At the Board of Trustees meeting last month, the study on controversial content was presented and discussed, but its recommendations (Signpost coverage) were not immediately adopted, with the Board forming a workgroup instead.
The minutes for the meeting haven't been published yet, but Board member Phoebe Ayers posted an update last week, summarizing the three hours of the meeting that had been devoted to the topic, laying out further steps and inviting more community participation regarding the recommendations, e.g. by summarizing earlier discussions. On the same day, the Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner published a posting on her personal blog that started out from the same issue (noting that "we’re the only major site that doesn’t treat controversial material –e.g., sexually-explicit imagery, violent imagery, culturally offensive imagery– differently from everything else") and went on to identify "nine patterns that work" in making change at Wikimedia (the first pattern being "The person/people leading the change didn’t wait for it to happen naturally – they stepped up and took responsibility for making it happen"). She based these on an examination of three earlier cases of "successful change at Wikimedia": the Board's statement on BLPs in 2009, the Foundation's strategy project, and the license migration concluded in 2009.
These three examples, along with the controversial content study and the usability project, had already been mentioned some days earlier by Ting Chen, the Foundation's Chair, in a blog post titled "'Leadership is ...", where he saw them as reactions to changes both in the Wikimedia projects themselves and in the outside world, such as that "almost all governments, western free ones as more restrictive ones, are changing their laissez faire politic to the Internet and imposing more rigid policies for the web". He interpreted the controversial content discussion as "a result of our strategic planning (development and adaption in the nonwestern cultures) and the response of the changes in public policy and in our responsibility".
The posting was the first of several ones that Ting Chen wrote on occasion of attending a four-day intensive course at the Harvard Business School on "Governing for Nonprofit Excellence - Critical Issues for Board Leadership". The others were titled "Vision, Mission, Strategy" (interpreting the controversial content discussion in terms of the Foundation's mission statement), "Theory of Change" (considering various measures of change and success in the case of Wikimedia), and "Scale Up" (concluding that "the course was a good investment for the Foundation" – according to the HBS website, the course fee is $3,900).
- Women in Wikipedia: In a recent blog post, titled "Unlocking the Clubhouse: Five ways to encourage women to edit Wikipedia," the Wikimedia Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner summarized the lack of female participation in Wikipedia and in Silicon Valley culture in general, and offered advice on improving it. Gardner, who began her career in public broadcasting ("a very female-friendly environment"), points out several prominent statistics: Only 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women, as are less than 2% of Free Software developers and a decreasing percentage of Silicon Valley professionals. Sue Gardner quoted advice from "Unlocking the Clubhouse", a 2001 book on the topic written by academics Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher and published by the MIT press, summarizing it in 5 key points.
- Foundation report for September: The Wikimedia Foundation's monthly report for September 2010 has been published. Apart from many activities already reported in the Signpost at the time, it mentions efforts to make WMF sites better accessible to mobile users, the first projects of Community Fellow Steven Walling (one "supporting the Board in thinking about harassment policies", and another about activities to celebrate the upcoming 10th anniversary of Wikipedia), and an invited brown bag presentation by Special Agents from the San Francisco FBI Field Office, Cybersecurity Division, at the WMF office. The reports for April, May and June are still to be published.
- New projects founded: Last week, several new wikis were welcomed to the family of Wikimedia projects: the Gagauz Wikipedia (langcom/Bug 25569), the Venetian Wikisource (langcom/Bug 25696), the Breton Wikisource (langcom/Bug 25743), the Limburgish Wikibooks (langcom/Bug 25773), the Esperanto Wikinews (langcom/Bug 25774), the Swedish Wikiversity (langcom/Bug 25904) and the Palatinate German Wikipedia (langcom/Bug 25871). The Nauruan Wikibooks (Bug:25737) and the Plattdüütsch Wikibooks (Bug:25853) were closed. Another new Foundation wiki was started at ten.wikipedia.org, to coordinate activities for the upcoming tenth anniversary of Wikipedia, with some content being transferred there from the Outreach wiki.
- IRC Office hours: The logs for the November 10 IRC meeting with Sue Gardner and Erik Möller have been published. Topics discussed in the meeting include the long term impact of the fundraiser campaign and the "many small donations" model, the fair use policy (Möller remarked that "many sites permitting user uploads have significantly expanded and challenged the boundaries of fair use – in a [context] of commercial sites with advertising, and no immediate educational application"), project readership and participation (comparisons were drawn against the New York Times), the size of the Wikipedia staff (Gardner: "the strategy plan calls for 188 FTEs total", Möller: "as a comparison, Mozilla Corporation has 250+ staff") and future hiring plans.
PediaPress book in hardcover
- PediaPress: The printed books that can be generated out of Wikipedia articles and ordered from PediaPress via the "Create a book" link in the sidebar are now also available in hardcover and in color, as announced on the Foundation blog and by the company itself. The announcements triggered a debate on Foundation-l on the nature and justification of the partnership between Wikimedia and PediaPress, reaching 71 postings at the time of writing, the last one containing some corrections and clarifications on the topic from the Foundation's Deputy Director Erik Möller.
- GLAM-WIKI and the National Portrait Gallery: After a draft had been published earlier, Wikimedia UK announced the full schedule for the GLAM-WIKI conference on November 26/27 in London, highlighting several sessions. As mentioned in last week's "News and notes", a presentation by a representative of the National Portrait Gallery, titled "Wikipedia and the National Portrait Gallery – A bad first date?", is among the most anticipated, due to well-known legal issues (see Signpost coverage: "UK public gallery threatens Wikimedian" and the article National Portrait Gallery copyright conflicts). Liam Wyatt (User:Witty lama) blogged some thoughts about it in advance of the conference: "Probably [it was these issues] more than anything else that has drawn the Wikiverse’s attention to working with the cultural sector. Just like it was the Seigenthaler incident that kickstarted efforts to improve Wikipedia’s handling of biographies of living people, I believe that the NPG case has given us Wikimedians the impetus to think about how we interact with the cultural sector."
- Page view spikes: The 115th anniversary of Röntgen's discovery of X-rays on November 8 (celebrated by Google with a Doodle linking to search results for the term) coincided with around 1.25 million additional readers for the article.
Also last week, a remarkable peak in the page views for the article on the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy was discovered and discussed by User:West.andrew.g (a vandalism researcher at the University of Pennsylvania). On March 9, the article had received 5.4 million hits, reaching 1474 hits per second in the peak hour, leading to the conjecture that it might have been a DDOS attack – which however went unnoticed at the time (the average hits per second rate during March 2010 was around 4500). West.andrew.g listed the highest hourly hit rates received by an article in the timespan from January 1 through August 1 2010 – excluding the main page – as follows, together with related events: