News and notes
Advancement department to be created at the Foundation, milestone fixes
More changes at the Foundation: VP of strategic partnerships and creation of Advancement department
Incoming VP of strategic partnerships, Kourosh Karimkhany.
Current chief revenue officer and future chief advancement officer Lisa Gruwell, to whom Karimkhany will report.
March saw a number of high-level hirings and executive reorganizations in the Wikimedia Foundation. First there was the departure of chief talent and technology officer Gayle Karen Young and simultaneous onboarding of chief operating officer and interim CTCO Terry Gilbey. Gilbey, serving in a newly created executive position, is now in charge of the combined Finance, Administration, and Human Resources, formerly three separate entities. A week later there was the onboarding of technology evangelist and author Guy Kawasaki as the latest member of the Board of Trustees. Then, on March 27, the WMF announced the hiring of Kourosh Karimkhany in another newly created role, as VP of strategic partnerships, and another newly restructured Advancement department. In a post on the WM blog, Lisa Gruwell, currently chief revenue officer, stated that Karimkhany "will initiate, maintain, and grow strategic relationships and partnerships that advance the Wikimedia mission, support the community, and increase access to knowledge globally ... Kourosh joins us in this senior leadership role to craft a partnership strategy and create long-term value for Wikimedia projects through partnerships, projects, and relationships."
Before joining the WMF, Karimkhany was head of corporate development at Conde Nast; in that role he served a leadership role in the team behind the company's acquisitions of Wired.com, Ars Technica, and Reddit. Prior to serving as a "digital media executive", first as a senior producer at Yahoo! News, Karimkhany had functioned as a Silicon Valley–based technology journalist reporting for Bloomberg, Reuters, and Wired.com. Speaking of the role he will play in his capacity of managing Advancement, Gruwell states that "Kourosh will oversee the Wikimedia Foundation’s partnership strategy ... the partnerships group will help us identify the strategic initiatives we must take on at the WMF and increase our ability to support the movement and mission." A new organizational scheme remains to be drafted: according to a complimentary just-released WMF partnerships FAQ (whose existence reflects the scale of the change), Karimkhany will "work with Lisa [Gruwell] and the executive team to build a partnerships plan [that] will inform planning for the 2015–16 fiscal year, and will be the basis for Kourosh’s team building." The Fundraising team will be joined under the new "partnerships" team under Gruwell's purview, and Karimkhany will report directly to her in her newly retitled position as chief advancement officer. The combined team will be retitled the "Advancement department"; the Wikipedia Zero team will now report to Karimkhany. Though he started on March 30, as of the time of writing Karimkhany has not yet joined the Foundation's staff and contractors page—nor has outgoing Gayle Karen Young left it.
In the context of last week's release of the State of the WMF 2015 report, covered by the Signpost, Karimkhany will occupy an important position at the head of two pressing concerns for the WMF. In his capacity as the new lead of the Wikipedia Zero team he is tasked with addressing the Zero program's penetration concerns: the team admitted in last week's report that "our own data on pageviews by language version show roughly 90% usage in English throughout South Asia, indicating the program is actually reaching more privileged segments of society ... making Wikipedia free of data charges is not driving usage in underserved segments." This challenge is significant enough that in executive director Lila Tretikov's mailing list hiring announcement, the customary welcome from the community was eventually buried by a drawn-out and conscientious discussion on the existential merits of the program.
One of the questions asked in the FAQ is whether or not Karimkhany, working closely with the fundraising team, will be "focused primarily on revenue". The FAQ answers that "the new role is focused on creating value for the Wikimedia movement ... value can be understood in many different ways. We believe that it can be about relationships with people, relationships with organizations, or in some cases, additional financial resources." Asked about the role that the re-organization will play, in this month's metrics meeting, Gruwell stated that the reorganization will be an "expansion of scope" for her, but that the work of the fundraising team will remain as its own initiative. In being tasked with "creating value", Karimkhany and his new team plan to increase the WMF's initiative and organizational prominence in a time when the WMF sees itself as being in an "identity crisis"—and hopefully, by doing so, to help address ongoing concerns from Fundraising as to how structural changes in readership will affect the Foundation's ability to raise adequate funding. R
Major changes in the article counts for the Wikimedia projects were observed last week after a maintenance script was run to recount the articles on most Wikimedia content-wikis (all language editions of Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and so forth, but excluding Wikibooks). Sixty-five wikis have fallen below milestones tracked at the Wikimedia News Meta page, and three increased to new milestones. Among these wikis, the largest absolute changes were a decrease of 281,624 articles in the English Wikisource (a 27% drop) and an increase of 4421 entries in the Persian Wiktionary (an 8% rise). The most extreme relative changes were a 98% decrease in Sindhi Wikinews articles (749 to 13), and a 23% increase in Bengali Wiktionary entries (920 to 1134). These changes are not the result of any particular recent bug fix; rather, they are reflective of many bugs related to article counting that have existed over the years, as well as other changes made to the MediaWiki software, which collectively have caused the "live" article counts to get out of sync with their true values. Periodic running of the same maintenance script on the 29th day of each month should ensure that the counts are more accurate from now on.
The fix calls into question many of the milestones the Signpost itself has reported over the past few years, most of which were sourced from this list. Though the most pervasive such change in recent memory, it is not the first time that recounting has significantly shifted the measured size of a Wikimedia project: for instance, when the Spanish Wikipedia became the seventh project to pass the million-article milestone in 2013, the precise "millionth article" could not be determined; this was because the milestone arose from a change in the way pages were counted, causing the project to immediately jump from approximately 990,000 to 1.017 million articles. More details on the recent changes will be forthcoming in a future report. D, R
- Call for election committee volunteers: The Board of Trustees this week released an initial call for candidates to sit on the election committee. The trustees are "the ultimate corporate authority" of the Foundation, and to support the election to the Board's three community-elected seats—which last took place in August 2013—the Board sets up a volunteer election committee, an independent body tasked with planning voting criteria, checking candidacies, drafting organizational documents, and auditing votes. These volunteers will also be on call for this year's separately held Funds Dissemination Committee election. The call for candidates is coming soon and the Board hopes to have some coordinator candidates sitting by April 10, the prospective first meeting date. The deadline for volunteers is April 17. Board member Alice Wiegard is this year's Board liaison. Interested and eligible parties are directed to email James Alexander of Community and Legal Advocacy with "a small summary of why you think you would be able to help out with this process." R
- Wikimania 2015: The Wikimania 2015 team have released a pair of small updates about the work going into the preparations for the yearly conference, the largest of its kind, to be held this year in Mexico City. The first, titled "Quick stats about our volunteers", speaks of the workload (more than 40% of volunteers dedicate 40 hours or more of work per week) and age range (from 67 to, with parental permission, 16) of the volunteers. The second, titled "Sleepless nights", speaks of the workload of the coordinators: "We have rearranged our schedules and priorities to meet in unorthodox places and times to make Wikimania possible."
- Wikimania scholarship awards and rejections have been sent out, occasioning complaints at the way they were handled: those who received awards were given notice a full day before those who were rejected. Individuals who did not receive a scholarship were left to stare at emails and social media notifications from those who did, wondering whether they should have received an email or not. Stuart Prior, chair of the Wikimania Scholarship Committee, wrote on Facebook that "Phase 2 applicants that have been granted a scholarship will have received an email asking them to accept or decline by 14th April. Once that process has been gone through the Foundation will be able to notify anyone that didn't pass phase 2." Wikimania is scheduled to take place on July 15–19 this year. R, E
An informational video highlighting the share-a-fact feature introduced this week.
- Share-a-fact: The WMF's mobile development team this week unveiled the "share-a-fact" feature: users can highlight text in an article, and then, via a "share" button, create an attractive info card useful for sharing with others. The feature, just made available on the official Wikipedia Android app, is in the process of being ported over to iOS. R
- Small "Wikitriathlon" held in Finland: Wikimedia Suomi, the Finnish Wikimedia chapter posted a blog post about "a new-kind-of editathon event": a "wikitriathlon". The event was held at the Kiasma, a contemporary art museum in Helsinki; it consisted of writing, editing, and then adding links to articles. With a certain amount of cheek it was declared that "everybody was awarded the 'first prize'". R
- February Board minutes: The minutes for the February 6–7 board of trustees meeting were posted this week. Topics under discussion included strategic planning and this year's annual plan, board composition and the candidate search, engineering practices, and a continuing conversation on the possibility and organization of a long-term endowment. Aside from confirming the addition of technology evangelist Guy Kawasaki to the Board (the result of a tendered candidate search), the trustees have as yet approved no resolutions that are unrelated to the procedural confirmation of Board meeting minutes this year. R
- New administrators: We welcome a new English Wikipedia administrator, Jakec. R
- New Wikipedian in residence: Martin Poulter is this week's newest GLAM fellow. Poulter, a member of Wikimedia UK, will be attached to the Bodleian Libraries of Oxford University from April 2015 to March 2016. R
- Monthly metrics and activities meeting: The monthly metrics and activities was on April 8.R
- Adrianne: Wikipedian Adrianne Wadewitz, who tragically died last year while rock climbing, was honored on the English Wikipedia's main page on the first anniversary of her death with Fanny Bullock Workman. Workman was a mountaineer and rock climber; Adam Cuerden wrote in his featured article nomination that this "was one of the last articles being worked on by Adrianne Wadewitz before her untimely death ... we'd like to raise this up in her memory." E