Requests last October (red) and actual grants (green) in millions of US dollars (percentages of the original request are in parentheses). The foundation's $4.5M request, granted in full, is excluded for easier scaling.
How US$8.4M in donors' funds is being spent: first reports in
Late last year, the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) awarded $8.4 million in donors' money to 11 Wikimedia entities, including the Wikimedia Foundation and 10 nationally defined chapters. Under this arrangement, these organisations are required to issue quarterly reports on how far they have progressed towards their declared programmatic and financial goals. The FDC has announced that all 11 completed and submitted their reports by the 1 April deadline; FDC staff have responded to each report and made broad comments about the body of reports.
The staff made several basic points about the chapter reports. Low volunteer participation is a general problem, and where chapters employ staff, how to establish an effective balance between them and volunteers "in leading, coordinating and implementing activities" is an open question. FDC staff were encouraged by chapters' development of "a diverse set of funding partners [and] opportunities for collaboration and learning across the movement and with other allied organisations". Staff were pleased with progress on building and sustaining successful GLAM partnerships, and with new phases in education activities, "including primary and secondary schools as well as universities. These activities seem to be generating excitement and gaining momentum."
Suggestions for improvement
After reviewing the reports, the staff have published suggestions related to issues they found in most or all of the reports:
Transparency and "learning": Some entities were not sufficiently open about the challenges they face, or about communicating what they are learning to the movement as a whole.
Spending: Some reports of programs or spending were inconsistent with the written proposals on which the Committee based its decision to recommend funding. Some reports provided insufficient financial information for the FDC to determine spending rates. For reports that did contain sufficient information, spending was on average only 14% of the grant, for the first 25% of the 12-month duration of the funding (19% on staffing; 10% on non-staffing costs). The staff therefore "expect to see a significant increase in programmatic spending in future quarters". The Signpost notes that this may be a signal to future applicants for FDC funding that early internal planning on the timing of expenditure over the 12-month period would be an advantage.
Growth: By implication, the staff were not entirely satisfied with the concrete information provided, and pointed to Wikimedia France's report as an example of good reporting.
Metrics: Lack of solid data on growth was reflected in staff dissatisfaction with metrics more broadly in the reports: "We ask FDC entities to report in depth on metrics so we may all better understand and quantify progress." It is now clear that the staff are encouraging entities to express indicators in both quantitative (numerical) and convincing qualitative terms, starting with big-picture visions, expectations, and planning, as a foundation for deriving and interpreting specific quanta. Metrics should be couched within explanations of unique contexts, if appropriate.
Specific praise and criticism
Wikimedia Germany—by far the largest non-WMF recipient of funds in Round 1 ($1.8M) and with more than 40 employees—came in for staunch criticism of the insufficient detail and metrics it provided for most activities. FDC staff pointed out that the chapter also faces challenges in managing the relationship between its volunteer and staff roles. Wikimedia Austria drew criticism for providing no "concrete metrics" and for failing to "show staff expenses separately in their financial report", although the chapter was praised for achieving its fundraising certification ("a significant accomplishment"), and for its progress in forging institutional partnerships. The Hungarian chapter received a back-handed compliment—that its report included "some metrics". Wikimedia Sweden was told that "in future reports, we hope WMSE will deepen its metrics and tie them more closely to the objectives of each program."
WMUK was upbraided for providing no correspondence between its 37 "programs" and budget line-items, and for failing to report on related metrics that appeared in the original funding proposal. Low volunteer participation in events, microgrant programs, and institutional framework was noted.
Wikimedia France was singled out for praise regarding its metrics and the openness with which it reported its successes and failures: the report "is filled with examples of sharing 'what worked' and 'what didn’t work', and we believe their challenges will help other entities avoid similar problems". On the other hand, the staff expressed surprise and regret that Wikimedia Netherlands "seems reluctant to share lessons learned about challenges or activities that did not work". Sweden was praised for its "admirable approach to sharing learning in its report".
Interestingly enough, the Foundation itself is eligible for FDC funding, and was awarded more than $4.5M in Round 1. FDC staff noted that "the WMF does not provide details about its expenses by program area", and that the numbers in its report indicate "a risk of a significant underspend". The WMF has dropped the technical distinction between core and non-core activities (no doubt greeted with relief by entities who found these categories problematic).
PRISM prompts Foundation response
Emails to the Wikimedia-l mailing list this week regarding Edward Snowden's recent revelations on the United States' PRISM program have drawn a response from the Wikimedia Foundation.
PRISM is a recently revealed electronic surveillance program initiated by the United States National Security Agency under the Patriot Act of 2001. According to its Wikipedia article, PRISM collects data from "email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice over IP conversations, file transfers, login notifications and social networking details". The program was first exposed by Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian newspaper.
One of the more obvious implications for the Wikimedia movement involves its servers, all of which are located in the US. As Liam Wyattasked, "Does [this fact] now compromise our mission either in a technical, privacy or an ethical sense?" With the internal discussion ongoing, the WMF's legal team stated that:
[W]e have not been approached to participate in PRISM, and we have never received or honored an NSA or FISA subpoena or order. If we were to be approached in the future, we would reject participation in any PRISM-type program to the maximum extent possible and challenge in court any such demand, since this sort of program, as described in the press, contradicts our core values of a free Internet and open, neutral access to knowledge.
The interest from the public in Wikipedia's related articles can be measured with Henrik'spage view stats tool. National Security Agency and related redirects have seen some of the starkest jumps, soaring from about 1,250 views per day to a maximum of over 31,000. The Patriot Act went from 3,000 per day to 14,000 or more. Glenn Greenwald's article has been receiving 5000–10,000 additional views per day, while the article on the individual responsible for releasing the information (Edward Snowden) has received more than half a million views since its creation on 8 June. Also worthy of note is the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which portrays a dystopian world with all-seeing government surveillance overseen, with a large bump from 8,000 to more than 20,000 views per day. This increase in interest has been mirrored by the book's sales, which have surged by 7000% on Amazon.com alone.
The PRISM program has collected a large amount of online data from at least nine prominent companies.
UK chapter board elections: Four new trustees have been elected to Wikimedia UK, the national organization devoted to promoting the Wikimedia movement in the United Kingdom.
Wikisource gets attention: A recent post on the WMF's blog focused on Wikisource, the Wikimedia sister project devoted to hosting free textual content.
Foundation report: The WMF's monthly report for May 2013 has been published on Meta, the coordinating website for the Wikimedia movement.