News and notes
WMF enacts reforms at Wikimania; main page redesign; 4 millionth article milestone
WMF enacts reforms
During Wikimania (July 12–15), the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) board finalized and enacted long-discussed reforms of the movement's financial structures, and considered procedures for creating new ways for Wikimedians to organize themselves into offline communities. The board moved on the controversial image filter issue, approved the 2012–13 annual plan, and issued a statement on the wikitravel proposal. It also appointed the two new chapter-selected trustees and elected the four office-bearers.
The board finalized the overall framework of the new Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC). The FDC will recommend funding for operational expenses and bundled specific projects to "eligible" entities that apply to it – largely, chapters that have satisfied significantly tighter requirements for governance and transparency, and the foundation itself. Expected to start in October 2012, the FDC will usher in a completely new financial structure for the chapters. Applications for the first round of funding must be submitted by October 1, 2012. Applicants that do not meet the FDC's criteria will be able to apply to the foundation's Grant Advisory Committee.
The FDC will be volunteer-run and entirely WMF board-appointed until mid-2013. Community members interested in serving either as one of the seven initial voting FDC members (membership criteria) or as the ombudsperson – who will look as disagreements over the FDC's work – can file (self-) nominations on Meta. According to the committee's charter, the FDC will have four voting members appointed by the WMF's board of trustees and five selected by a community vote to be held simultaneously with elections for the three WMF community-selected trustees (due next in mid 2013).
The board approved the WMF's annual plan for the 2012–13 fiscal year (beginning July 2012). The budget involves both the foundation's own core spending as well as about US$11.4M for the FDC, and overall amounts to $42M. The WMF's own operational core spending plans will increase by nearly 7.5%, from $28.3M in 2011–12 to $30.4M in 2012–13. The overall revenue amounts to $46M, including $4M rainy-day reserves to safeguard running of the projects and other WMF core tasks in case of unexpectedly low donation revenues over time.
- Movement roles
The WMF board considered the long-running reform debate on Wikimedia movement roles, affecting how communities can organize themselves on the ground in affiliation with the WMF. At the Berlin conference in March 2012, the board established four new options for affiliation that are now open to offline communities beyond the traditional national chapter model.
Alongside the national chapters, which will be the main recipients of FDC funds and involve formal issues related to national legal frameworks, there will be three new options for structural affiliation with the movement. Communities will be able to set up user groups such as meetups at a more informal level, requiring no incorporation but allowed limited WMF trademark privileges. Secondly, new thematic organizations will be able to promote free content by focusing on particular topics or in languages that cross borders. In a third innovation, so called movement partner organizations that are working in line with Wikimedia’s goals but are not part of the movement, such as Creative Commons, can also apply for recognition. Subnational chapters such as those already established in NYC and Washington DC will continue and their model can be expanded beyond the US.
The Chapters Committee, to be turned into the Affiliations Committee (AffCom), was directed in Berlin to work out a new framework to handle the recognition processes of new entities up until WMF board approval. While draft proposals to concretize the committee's conduct and model requirements for the new participation models were published by the Chapters Committee in June, the WMF board did not vote on the AffCom charter during its July meeting.
Community-elected WMF trustee Samuel Klein told the Signpost that the board is working on a resolution approving the new framework and that the issue seems uncontroversial. The board is expected to finally approve the Affiliations Committee charter within the next weeks. Wikimedia chapters are working to adapt to the new organizational environment by setting up a new entity to promote their interests, called Chapters Association (see also this week's Signpost Special report).
- Controversial content
In May 2011 the board passed a major resolution on how to handle controversial content. The board asked the WMF staff to create and implement a personal image-hiding feature for all visitors of WMF sites. The initiative followed the so-called Harris report on controversial content (previous Signpost coverage), and the subsequent movement-wide poll on how to design a tool that would meet the requirements set by the board (previous Signpost coverage). The issue sparked considerable global controversy for months, including open revolt by the German Wikipedia (Signpost coverage in September and October 2011).
At Wikimania the board formally acknowledged the divisiveness of the filter, rescinding its request for the development of the filter mechanism while reaffirming the general principles it had espoused concerning controversial content. WMF staff are no longer directed to develop and implement such a tool, although they may re-engage with the communities to work out a more consensual solution within the preserved general framework of the May 2011 resolution. An updated Q&A reflecting the modification will be developed and Jimmy Wales has started a new conversation exploring what, he told the Signpost, could be a "simpler and more straightforward low-impact solution."
- Travel guide proposal
The board published a statement on the travel guide proposal, which has been under community discussion on Meta since April 2012. The community proposal aims to create a new project that would provide free travel-guide content by re-unifying, under the umbrella of the WMF, volunteers of external projects such as WikiTravel and Wikivoyage. The board would like to see continuing community deliberations via the ongoing RfC for at least the next six weeks, with the hope of a consensual conclusion. If a decision in favor is reached, the WMF would be prepared to commit limited technical assistance.
- Personnel changes and board minutes
The tenure of the two chapter-selected board members, Phoebe Ayers and Arne Klempert, ended with the July board meeting. They were replaced by the newly appointed chapter-selected trustees Alice Wiegand, former vice-chair of Wikimedia Germany, and Patricio Lorente, former president of the Argentinian chapter. (Of the 10 board seats, the chapters select two board members and the communities three on a staggered two-year basis; the next election for community-elected trustees will be in 2013).
The board selected its office-bearers: Kat Walsh, one of the three community-elected trustees, succeeded Ting Chen as chair; Ting Chen will not run for re-election as trustee in 2013. Two "expert" trustees Jan-Bart de Vreede and Stu West were reconfirmed in their offices as vice-chairman and treasurer, while the outgoing Phoebe Ayers was succeeded as secretary by Bishakha Datta, the "expert" trustee from Mumbai.
The minutes of board meetings between March and June 2012 were published, covering issues such as the Berlin conference meeting and deliberations on the WMF's budget for 2012–13.
- Main page redesign competition: The English Wikipedia community is currently discussing a redesign of the main page, sparked by the report "On the ugliness of Wikipedia" in the American magazine The Atlantic. Displaying a screen-shot of part of Wikipedia's main page and subtitled "It might be time for a makeover", the report quoted foundation executive director Sue Gardner as referring to Wikipedia's "awkward charm", and as saying that its just-rolled-out-of-bed-looking interface sends a clear message to users "that the site has better things to do than obsess about its appearance". In response to the ensuing debate, a proposal outlining a competition for redesigning the content section has been launched. The contest is being discussed and is open for submissions.
- Four million articles: The English Wikipedia reached the momentous four-million mark on July 13. Mohammed Farag crossed the milestone by publishing the article Izbat Al Burj, about a city in Egypt (see related Wikimedia Blog coverage).
- WikiGrail editing contest ends: The first annual WikiGrail contest announced its winner on July 10. The contest among editors involved in Christianity-related projects took place between March 1 and June 30 and was run by Lionelt. Toa Nidhiki05, representing the WikiProject Christian music, won by contributing to 17 good articles, one featured list, and nine "did you knows" (DYK)s.
- Gibraltar to become first Wikipedia city: Gibraltar will be turned into the world's first Wikipedia city, providing widespread plaques with QR codes which visitors can scan to link directly to the related Wikipedia article in their own language. Steve Virgin reports in the WMF's blog how volunteers in Gibraltar worked with those who created the MonmouthpediA with the support of Wikimedia UK, turning Monmouth in Wales into the first Wikipedia town.
- University of Neuchâtel GLAM: Wkimedia CH, the Swiss chapter, will work with the University of Neuchâtel to digitize and upload images of 30,000 dried, pressed specimens of Swiss plants stored in the university's herbarium. The WMF's blog reports that Ludovic Péron has been commissioned to photograph the plates through to the end of 2012.
- iOS App for Wikipedia: A new iOS App for Wikipedia, called Wikiweb, has been developed by Friends of the Web. It shows the interconnection of Wikipedia articles, in any of 45 languages. A Gizmodo review called it "beautiful" and "buggy".