News and notes
First chickens come home to roost for FDC funding applicants; WMF board discusses governance issues and scope of programs
FDC staff publish initial judgements on applications
The first round of the Wikimedia Foundation's new financial arrangements has proceeded as planned, with the publication of scores and feedback by Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) staff on applications for funding by 11 entities—10 chapters, independent membership organisations supporting the WMF's mission in different countries, and the foundation itself. The results are preliminary assessments that will soon be put to the FDC's seven voting members and two non-voting board representatives. The FDC in turn will send its recommendations to the board of trustees on 15 November, which will announce its decision by 15 December. Funding applications have been on-wiki since 1 October, and the talk pages of applications were open for community comment and discussion from 2 to 22 October, though apart from queries by FDC staff, there was little activity.
A total of US$10.4M was requested in round 1—almost the entire FDC budget for the first two six-monthly rounds. Figure 1 shows the requests. Wikimedia Deutschland, by far the largest chapter, topped the nation-based requests with $1.8M, followed by Wikimedia France at $1.0M, and Wikimedia UK at $0.9M.
Fig. 1—Funding requests in millions of US dollars (the foundation's $4.5M bid is excluded for better scaling).
A key part of the foundation's new financial arrangements involves the encouragement of good governance and transparency in the chapters, which are authorised to use the WMF's trademarks and to an increasing extent share responsibility for upholding the foundation's international reputation. The scores and accompanying feedback for round 1 are the first taste of just how this might play out as the FDC process evolves. The three staff members—Meera, a consultant at the Bridgespan Group, which is assisting in the setting up of the FDC; Anasuya Sengupta, director of global learning and grantmaking for the WMF; and Winifred Olliff, grants administrator for the WMF—provided this information for 13 criteria (labelled A–M). Their scores were based on a 1–5 Likert-scale: the minimum score of 1 indicated "weak or no alignment with the criterion"; 3 indicated "moderate alignment"; and the maximum of 5 indicated "strong alignment". Figure 2 below shows the average score given for each of the 13 criteria. The graph spans the minimum to maximum scores, and the bars are colour-coded for the five dimensions:
- the potential for impact against the WMF's strategic priorities (blue);
- the ability to execute the plan (red);
- the efficiency with which the funds are likely to be used (yellow);
- the quality of the proposed measures of success (green);
- the potential to bring benefits to the Wikimedia movement (purple).
Fig. 2—Average scores handed out by the staff for each criterion, grouped by colour into the five dimensions. Poor, moderate, and strong alignments are marked by the dotted red lines.
- Impact (A, B, and C; blue)
Not surprisingly, criterion A gained a relatively high average score of 4.0, since it primarily measures the lip-service paid to the movement's global targets in the application form. A good case for B is more challenging to make, at it involves the potential to fulfil the targets; predictably, this scored a lower average of 3.6. Criterion C is a judgement of likely impact on the ground, which is harder to convincingly argue. C had an average of 3.4, approaching the "moderate" threshold. Germany and the WMF itself each received the best scores for the three impact criteria: 5, 5, and 4 respectively. Also highly rated on likely impact were Argentina, the Netherlands, and Austria.
- Ability to execute (D, E, and F; red)
Criterion D mainly concerns the human resources, skills, and capacity, and E the entity's record of achievement. These both scored an average of 3.3, with two entities marked down for their past records by comparison with their current capacities: Sweden ("a track record of success in many initiatives ... , but new initiatives are on the table which are more uncertain"), and the foundation more obviously, with a 5 for current capacity, and only 3 for past record ("WMF and the programs in question are well staffed with diverse capabilities", but "These initiatives have had mixed results."). Poor scorers were Australia (2 for both criteria, with concerns about challenges in hiring staff and a lack of clear indicators of past project performance) and Switzerland ("Significant concerns about entity's ability to execute on a plan of this magnitude, given staff and volunteer capacity").
On the whole, the leadership of the entities was rated slightly better, at 3.5—midway between moderate and strong. But there were two outliers: there was a complaint that the board of Wikimedia France "has communicated challenges around leadership and governance which may affect the entity's ability to execute successfully on the plan in the short term." And for Australia, stability of leadership "over the past few years" was an issue, as was the response "through the beginning of the FDC process". Leadership in Austria and the UK was rated in "moderate" alignment (3), and for the rest, moderate to high (4).
- Efficiency of funding (G and H; yellow)
In terms of whether the funding request was reasonable given the proposed initiatives (G), "some initiatives are likely to be over- or under-budgeted" for seven entities (including the foundation and Germany), and for France, with a 2, the judgement was: "significant over- or under-budgeting, and/or has not thoroughly accounted for costs". On track-records of using funds efficiently, Australia was hammered for "underspending and financial conservatism", and Hungary for underspending "because of lack of execution and because of overestimation of costs."
- Benchmarks for success (I, J, and K; green)
This drew the lowest average scores, with moderate or less than moderate alignment. France, Israel, Hungary, and Australia scored poorly. The benchmarking assessments may be a wake-up message for chapters to examine their procedures for benchmarking, with complaints about lack of detail common in the assessments. Curiously, one chapter scored higher on having a "feasible" plan to track the proposed metrics (K) than in having "a plan to track the proposed metrics" (J).
- Benefits for the broader movement (L and M; purple)
The entities were ranked a disappointing average of 3.3 for criterion L (ability to replicate the plan elsewhere in the movement), suggesting that this aspect needs more attention when plans are conceived. In a criterion rather subtly distinct from this, criterion M, the potential of plans to bring benefits to the movement, gained an average of almost 4; the foundation scored a 5, and 4s were handed out for all but two of the remaining 10 entities.
Fig. 3—The Signpost
has produced this graph to show the total scores of the entities (in parentheses, x-axis labels), though this measure should be interpreted cautiously since it reduces all 13 criteria to a level weighting. The colour-coding by dimension is the same as in Fig. 2.
The queries by the three FDC-related staff members on application talk pages, and the scores and feedback provided to the FDC, suggest that insufficient detail was provided by some of the entities for some criteria. The staff have flagged the ability to execute plans, the efficiency of spending, and measures of success as areas that need the greatest improvement by applicants. The FDC will consider the staff input when it meets to decide on what to recommend to the board of trustees on 15 November.
WMF board meeting
Between 24 and 27 October, the WMF board of trustees met in San Francisco for a retreat and several meetings to discuss the foundation's programmatic scope and to decide on a number of governance issues.
The board approved the legal fees assistance program, which the community supported in a RfC process in September. The program is designed to safeguard editors threatened legally by third parties due to fulfilling their Wikimedia community governance roles such as adminship or ArbCom membership.
The trustees approved resolutions concerning the conduct of two board committees. The audit committee was reformed to reflect the reforms of WIkimedia's financial structure, and the human resources committee charter was approved, after the board voted through the language committee's framework pre-meeting on 16 October. The changes to the institutional frameworks have been accompanied by new office appointments across board committees.
Matt Halprin, who has served since 2009 as one of the four board-appointed trustees, will not stand for re-appointment at the end of his current term in December 2012. He has driven governance reforms such as the board governance committee, organizing the annual evaluation of trustee performance and the board's working procedures, and making the voting of trustees on board resolutions publicly transparent.
The board also looked at the proposals by Sue Gardner, the foundation's executive director, to strengthen the focus of the WMF and put more resources into core projects such as the visual editor, tackling the switch from desktop to mobile devices among readers and editors, and editor retention.
Matt Halprin at WMF board session, Berlin, March 2012
- Independent WMUK review: On 31 October, WMUK announced in its blog the appointment of the independent governance reviewer, Mike Hudson. According to the terms of reference, the governance review will be financed by the WMF and results are set to be published by 31 January.
- Chapters association secretary-general vote: The vote on Meta for whether to hire a secretary-general before finalising the location of the Wikimedia Chapters Association—the entity the chapters are planning to create to improve and coordinate their efforts—will close on 30 October. The proposal by the chair, Ashley Van Haeften of WMUK, is to accept an offer by Wikimedia Deutschland to finance a consultant to help recruit a secretary-general by the end the year. The motion on the secretary-general's role—applied for in July by the departing German chapter's chair, whose term ends 25 November—was supported by five and opposed by nine of the 21 participating organisations at the time of publishing.
- Wikipedia Zero: The WMF blog reports that mobile visits from Orange Niger and Orange Kenya—two companies that joined the Zero initiative in July—have increased 77 and 88 percent, respectively, over the last four months. This is set against country-wide mobile visits of 6.5 and -7.4% in Niger and Kenya, respectively, over the same time period.
- English Wikipedia:
- New 'articles for ...' page: An articles for deletion-style page, "Articles for Improvement", is now active. From its introduction, AfI is intended to be a place where "Wikipedians discuss how to improve articles of low quality on Wikipedia. Articles listed are normally discussed for at least seven days, although they may remain listed as long as improvement have been achieved and consensus of improvement is reached." The page was opened after a short discussion on the Village Pump.
- Civility: The widely publicized civility enforcement request for comment has entered a new phase.
- Contacting Wikipedia made easier: The contact us page, which received much attention after the Philip Roth controversy (see previous Signpost coverage: "Philip Roth's open letter to Wikipedia"), has been redesigned.
- Requests for Adminship: Writ Keeper obtained adminship rights this week. This marks the first new administrator since August (see previous Signpost coverage: "Is the Requests for adminship process 'broken'?")
- Milestones: The Indonesian Wikipedia has reached 200,000 articles after a bot added thousands of articles about schools in Indonesia. According to the relevant Wikipedia article, Indonesia is the "fourth most populous nation in the world ... [and] the number of people [in Indonesia] who speak Indonesian fluently is fast approaching 100%, making Indonesian ... one of the most widely spoken languages in the world."