Wikimedia Conference joins representatives of chapters and the Foundation in Berlin
Group photo of participants
The Wikimedia Conference 2011 was held in Berlin from March 25 to 27. It consisted of the annual Chapters Meeting, to which representatives from all Wikimedia chapters had been invited, as well as a two-day meeting of the Wikimedia Board of Trustees.
The schedule of the Chapters meeting lists about 19 sessions, most of them aided by professional facilitators and documented in notes of varying degrees of detail. Chapter representatives were sharing their experiences about topics that are common to chapters (example: Professionalization: the first employee), and presented a short overview of their chapter in two "State of chapters" sessions (notes for Part I).
At the conference, it was proposed that Wikipedia should apply for UNESCO World Heritage status.
The conference was accompanied by a meeting of the "Movement Roles" workgroup, which, in a process re-started last year, has been trying to sort out the sometimes difficult relationship between the Foundation and the chapters, also encompassing other groups within the Wikimedia movement.
In the run-up to the conference, the Foundation's Deputy Director Erik Möller had warned that questions like "How do chapters earn legitimacy in the eyes of the communities they serve and the donors who support them?" and "What's the impact of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars on a chapter's role relative to the community?" need to be answered to avert an impending "crisis of legitimacy", where "the very existence of chapters [is] increasingly being questioned due to a lack of perceived community benefit, community and donor accountability and transparency, community participation, or community-relevant program work". Last week, "personal opinions" by Sue Gardner in response to questions posed by the facilitator for the Movement roles project were published. She warned of the so-far hypothetical case that "a chapter [could] set for itself goals that were fundamentally out of alignment with the goals of the Wikimedia movement. To pick a ridiculous example: let's say that a chapter decided its energy would be better put towards housing homeless people". In such a situation, it would become apparent that "there is no mechanism or body in the Wikimedia movement with clear responsibility for overseeing the activities or practices of international chapters"; this presents a "quite serious risk to the movement":
||Most Wikimedia chapters are run by volunteers, and most of those volunteers are young. Meanwhile, the Wikipedia brand is world-famous and extremely valuable, and hundreds of millions of people – who could potentially be monetized – visit Wikipedia monthly. The Wikimedia movement chooses for ideological reasons not to fully exploit the financial potential of its brand and its readership, but that potential nonetheless exists, and is very attractive to people who would like to exploit it. The financial opportunity represented by the Wikimedia movement, combined with the inexperience of chapters’ boards, makes chapters very vulnerable.
Gardner criticized the current financial arrangements within the Wikimedia movement, arguing that a chapter's financial success depends mostly not on the value of its own activities, but on external factors such as "the reputation and impact of Wikipedia in" its geographical area, and that the agreements entitling a chapter to 50% of the fundraiser revenues they process hinder the flow of donations from rich countries to poorer countries with a huge potential, a transfer which is necessary to realize the goal to "create a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all human knowledge."
In addition, Sue Gardner took exception to a lack of transparency in some chapters:
||Some [chapters] don’t publish activity reports or share information, they don’t participate in movement-wide discussions such as the strategy project and the Movement Roles project, and they don’t comply with the requirements of chapter agreements and fundraising agreements that they willingly signed. This past winter, a chapter board member told me his chapter has no obligation to report lack of compliance to the Wikimedia Foundation: that “if you wish to enforce the contract, it is up to you to monitor it.” That kind of talk baffles me.
(At the time of writing, most chapters appear to have not yet submitted an English-language activity report since the beginning of the year, with the Dutch, Indian, Swedish, Hungarian, French – see below – and Italian chapters among the exceptions.)
At the chapters meeting, such questions were the topic of a session of the movement roles working group, and a session about accountability and legitimacy. According to the notes, representatives from the German and Polish chapters reported good experiences with full transparency (with the exception of matters such as staff salaries): "We don't have anything to hide. Be sure that you spend your money wisely." However, "WMDE has had a pretty rough year with their community. At one point there was an attempt to basically demote the Board. If there is a lesson learned, it is that the Board didn't communicate efficiently. Put simply: There are people out there to get you. Transparency is a difficult learning process". The Indonesian chapter, whose funding initially included other donors such as private companies, recalled "disappointment ... that the WMF wanted to know what we did with all of the money, although they only gave roughly half of it", and issued separate reports for separate donors. The Swedish and Australian chapters reported good experiences with communicating over their blogs. The French chapter recalled difficulties with the different audiences in French and English, but found a good solution to inform the latter one: "The one place that is most read is the Signpost. So we connect with the Signpost, if we want to spread things."
The chapters meeting was reportedly funded with €50,000 from Wikimedia Germany and a few other chapters.
Wikimedia Foundation publishes 2009–10 annual report
Wikimedia Foundation Annual Report 2009-2010, cover and back (Web resolution PDF)
The Wikimedia Foundation have published the annual report for 2009–2010. It is available as a PDF or on Meta-Wiki as a text article.
In an "introductory photo-essay", four double-page images illustrate the Foundation's vision statement ("Imagine a world ...", slightly modifying "can freely share in the sum of all knowledge" to "is given free access to ..."), selected after an earlier search for such images.
The report includes discussion of the production of the strategic plan (see previous Signpost coverage). The report also notes the importance of the GLAM collaborations, highlighting the work with the British Museum, illustrated with the example of Hoxne Hoard, a Featured Article on a significant find of Roman gold and silver found in Suffolk that is displayed in the British Museum ("if details are of interest to the British Museum, they are also important to Wikipedians").
As "case studies", the report documents the Wikimedia Usability Initiative, a small grant to the Wikimedia Czech Republic chapter which enabled them to photograph everyday life in the country, the significant donation of images of former Dutch colonies from the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Public Policy Initiative in the United States (see previous Signpost coverage).
In the design notes, the Foundation's Head of Communications Jay Walsh encouraged reuse and translation and explained that "this year we opted for a journalistic style treatment and voice for the report", working with writer David Weir on the "overall narrative", and with design firm Exbrook, which also designed the previous annual report and other WMF publications. The report will see a print run of 1000 copies. Walsh said that "we are releasing a bit later than preferred, but as we pull resources together for future design projects in the coming year we're poised for a 2011 'anniversary' year report to be released by November 2011." (The annual reports cover the Foundation's fiscal year from June to July. The 2007–2008 report, the first of its kind, was released in November 2008 – Signpost coverage -, the 2008–2009 report came out in January 2010.)
- Wikimedia South Africa: At its Berlin meeting last week, the Wikimedia Board of Trustees approved the founding of the South African Wikimedia chapter.
- GLAM Ambassadors: In a posting on his personal blog, Liam Wyatt (User:Witty lama, currently holding a year-long fellowship from the Foundation to work on GLAM partnerships, i.e. relations with cultural institutions), outlined the "concept of the 'Wikimedia GLAM Ambassador'": "There are two central purposes to the idea of a Wikimedia GLAM Ambassador: For Wikimedians it is a way for people to volunteer to represent our movement in an in-real-life capacity in their own city. For GLAMs it is to provide an appropriate local contact for when a GLAM asks 'who do you call when you want to work with Wikipedia?'." (On the Outreach wiki, some thoughts had been spent on how GLAM Ambassadors would fit into a hierarchy including other ambassadors types such as the "Campus Ambassadors" and "Online Ambassadors" introduced last year by the Foundation's Public Policy Initiative, and real-name requirements were discussed.) Witty lama also announced Barcelona-based Àlex Hinojo (User:Kippelboy) as "Wikimedia's first official GLAM Ambassador". Kippelboy has started an (English-language) blog documenting his activities: "The GLAM-WIKI Experience".
Signing of an agreement between Wikimedia France and the city of Toulouse in October, by the chapter's president Adrienne Alix and the city's mayor Pierre Cohen
- Wikimedia France report: The French Wikimedia chapter has published an English-language report for July to December 2010. Among many other activities covered previously in the Signpost, such as cultural partnerships with the French National Library and the city of Toulouse, it states the chapters fundraiser results (€241,171 in November, €227,422 in December, and €22,775 in January), and lists some events for which the chapter helped Wikimedians to get a photographer's accreditation, with links to the resulting photos on Commons.
- Spanish Wikipedia overtakes Japanese Wikipedia: Reaching 740,000 articles, the Spanish Wikipedia overtook the Japanese Wikipedia as the sixth largest Wikipedia by article count last week. A blog posting rejected the assumption that this event might have to do with the recent earthquake in Japan, pointing out that the daily growth of the Japanese Wikipedia did not appear to have decreased significantly and that the overtaking had been predicted even before March 11, the day of the disaster; the difference in the growth rates of the two projects has existed for many months. The preceding two ranks in the table of Wikipedias by article count have reversed again since the Signpost reported in October that Polish Wikipedians were congratulating their Italian counterparts on overtaking them; the Polish Wikipedia is now again the fourth largest. The number of articles is somewhat controversial as a measure for a Wikipedia version's success, but is for example used for one of the five targets for 2015 in the Wikimedia Foundation's strategic plan: "Increase the number of Wikipedia articles we offer to 50 million", from currently over 18 million.