Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts by Jay Walsh

Ten years of sharing and learning (WMF 2012-13 Annual Report)

The Foundation’s 2012-13 Annual Report.

Today we’re pleased to release the latest annual report from the Wikimedia Foundation. The 2012-13 Annual Report celebrates “Ten years of sharing and learning,” and marks the decade milestone of the Foundation with over 20 quotes and insights we heard from within the movement over the course of the most recent fiscal year.

The Foundation’s annual report is published both as a PDF for digital reading, a wiki, and as a printed document. You can access other copies of the Foundation’s reports (now in its sixth year of publication) on the WMF wiki.

We hope you enjoy this year’s report, and we encourage you to share it widely within the Wikimedia movement.

Jay Walsh (for Communications)


A farewell letter from Jay Walsh, Communications Director

Dear Wikimedia friends,

Staff portrait of Jay Walsh

I recently stepped down from my role as Senior Director, Communications at the Wikimedia Foundation. That was simultaneously a scary and exhilarating decision. I started working with the Wikimedia Foundation in January 2008, when, under Sue Gardner’s leadership, a handful of folks moved from St. Petersburg, Florida to the neighborhood we now call home in SoMa, San Francisco. This very blog was one of the first big projects I wanted to put into place, and I’m thrilled to see it has grown so much since then – over 1300 posts in dozens of languages, with contributions from members of our movement far and wide.

It’s been an incredible ride! From crazy press confusion and/or elation around our quirky medley of legal, free speech, technological, editorial issues and complexities, to the joys and triumphs of year after year of awe-inspiring fundraising, to launching incredible new features and products. We at the Foundation, and everyone in our movement, are at the helm of something unique and powerful. A one-of-a-kind non-profit, a truly mission-driven organization, powered by tens of thousands of passionate volunteers from every corner of the planet.

At the Foundation we all get to work on something(s) that will impact hundreds of millions of lives. It is such an incredible brand, and a seemingly (but we know it’s not!) impossible and crazy idea. It is wonderfully bigger than us all. It’s as big for us as it is for a 13 year old kid lost in some three hour scholastic kumite between Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds, hydrophobicity, ferromolybdenum, and Ep. 62 of BSG.

For many readers, our projects appear kind of static, but for those of us at the Foundation, we know different. They are made of, and exude, pure energy. It’s enriched uranium for humanity’s education. It’s what can make being part of all things Wikimedia simultaneously insane and awesome, but when we step back a few miles and take it all in, there’s nothing but amazement. Please keep remembering to step well back when trying to understand and fathom the greatness of it all.

Ten years of supporting free knowledge

Ten years ago today, on June 20, 2003, Jimmy Wales announced the founding of the Wikimedia Foundation. He entrusted the new nonprofit with the operation of Wikipedia, launched two and a half years prior.

Wales recalled the early days of Wikipedia and marveled that it has grown to be such an important and ubiquitous source of free information for the world. “It is hard to imagine that in 2003, Wikipedia was still running on just two servers – which I used to administer myself in the beginning,” said Wales, who noted that he founded the Wikimedia Foundation because he believed Wikipedia would need the support of a stable and trusted institutional base for years to come.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s second Board of Trustees (photo taken at Wikimania 2006). From left to right: Tim Shell, Florence Nibart-Devouard, Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, Michael Davis, Angela Beesley

“Ten years later, the Foundation continues to fulfill that role, thanks to the trust of our millions of donors, the hard work of its staff, the thoughtful oversight enacted by my fellow Board of Trustees members and last but not least the many thousands of volunteers who not only manage and build our projects, but also take an active part in the governance of the Foundation,” Wales said.

Those two early servers, which belonged to Jimmy Wales’ company at the time, have now grown to more than 800 servers operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. They are the backbone of the free knowledge projects that serve over half a billion readers each month, with 21 billion monthly pageviews. The Foundation also provides the legal basis for projects, defending them against legal threats and protecting the trademarks that have come to represent the global community’s work.

The name “Wikimedia” had been suggested earlier in 2003 by Wikipedia editor Sheldon Rampton for an endeavour that would “use Wiki-style rules to enable public participation in the creation and editing of all kinds of media: encyclopedias and other reference works, current news, books, fiction, music, video etc.”

During the following decade, Wikipedia was joined by several sister projects to realize parts of the vision of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. The Foundation continues to work on creating a richer Wikimedia experience beyond text, making use of the web’s expanding possibilities. It has also taken on the challenge of sustaining and increasing editor participation, with projects such as the VisualEditor, the most complex software development project undertaken by the Foundation so far, which is already being live-tested on numerous language versions of Wikipedia, and slated for a full rollout next month.

As part of its commitment to increase access to free knowledge, the Wikimedia Foundation has launched Wikipedia Zero, a program to convince telecommunications operators to waive data charges to Wikipedia for the billions of people around the world whose primary opportunity to access the internet is via a mobile device. Keeping up with the mobile revolution on the internet, the Foundation has upgraded Wikipedia’s interface for mobile users, including introducing a “Nearby” feature and starting to enable contributions from mobile devices.

Wikimedia Foundation staff (September 2012)

Erik Möller, a volunteer Wikipedian in Germany in 2003, and today the Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, highlighted the importance of this programmatic work. “Today, the Wikimedia Foundation is well positioned to modernize the user experience and the infrastructure supporting our projects, while dedicating all its efforts to the public, working transparently, and releasing code as open source,” said Möller. “This wouldn’t be possible if Jimmy hadn’t laid the foundation 10 years ago to dedicate the operation of Wikipedia and our other projects to a non-profit organization, supported by a community of donors.”

The Foundation works with a global network of chapters, affiliates and volunteers in achieving its mission. Several grants programs exist to support smaller projects by individuals and groups. Last year saw the launch of the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC), entrusted with reviewing larger funding requests from movement organizations and giving recommendations on the most effective use of donation money to achieve the movement’s goals. The FDC is volunteer-driven, and two of its seats are currently up for election by the community, as are three seats of the Board of Trustees. If you are an eligible Wikimedian, don’t forget to cast your vote until June 22!

As for Wales, who could have made Wikipedia a commercial venture and monetized the site’s content with advertising, the decision to safeguard the future of the Wikimedia projects with a non-profit couldn’t have been wiser. “Wikipedia is something special. I like to compare it to a temple for the mind: A place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others,” he said.

“The Wikimedia Foundation is here to preserve and nurture that place, and make sure that Wikipedia remains a shining example of openness and freedom, a public good that is part of many people’s daily life around the globe.”

Jay Walsh
Senior Director, Communications

Wikimedia UK and Wikimedia Foundation announce the release of Compass Partnership report

Today the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK  are announcing the release of the final report and recommendations regarding the governance of the Wikimedia UK chapter. The report was completed by Compass Partnership, consultants in non-profit management based in the UK. The report was commissioned jointly by the Foundation and Wikimedia UK in October 2012 following important Wikimedia community discussions about potential conflicts of interest arising from a series of wiki outreach projects.

The Foundation and Wikimedia UK saw the potentially damaging effect of these matters and we ordered this review and report. We both expect the highest standards of governance, and this report is an effort to chart a strong course for Wikimedia UK and also thoughtful and valuable counsel for any organization in our movement to consider.

The report discusses important conclusions based on discussions with and materials provided by all of the major stakeholders. The aim of the report is not to lay blame, rather it seeks to determine if pre-existing policies and practices around conflicts of interest and governance were sufficient. Through this report we also aim to lay the groundwork for better and stronger governance for Wikimedia UK in the future and for its development as a chapter in our movement. We also believe the report may benefit the wider community of Wikimedia affiliated organizations by providing an example of best practices around governance and decision-making as applied to a chapter.

With a clear list of recommendations and timeline for their implementation, Wikimedia UK is now in a position to improve and expand its policies and procedures, related not just to the  management of conflict of interest but also its management structure. The chapter will be discussing the findings with the community and begin their implementation at their forthcoming Trustee meeting in February.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported this process over the past three months, including the authors of the report, Compass Partnership, the staff and trustees of WMUK and the Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia community members who shared their insights and feedback about the whole process.

You can read the review findings here and the chronology of the events here

Questions and answers regarding the report are posted here. A community discussion page on Meta wiki has also been created.

Wikimedia Foundation’s 2011-12 Annual Report

WMF 2011-2012 Annual Report

Today we’re excited to launch the Wikimedia Foundation’s latest Annual Report. This year marks the fifth edition of our Annual Report, which focuses on the achievements and core work of the preceding fiscal year (2011-12), and gives us a chance to recognize the amazing contributions of our volunteers and the generous support of our donors. You can read both the PDF and wiki versions. We welcome your comments on the discussion page.

This year’s report is quite different from our previous efforts. Instead of a multi-page book format, this year we created a folding, vertical brochure (when it’s printed). It’s considerably shorter in terms of text and we hope it will help make for a quicker and more impactful read.

We’re currently in the midst of a translation effort that will result in another 12 language editions to be released in the coming weeks. If you have an account on Meta-Wiki and you’re interested in helping with the review of these translations and other community translation efforts, please sign up. We will be posting this new project for translation shortly.

Our thanks to the many folks who contributed to this annual effort. A particular thank you to David Peters (Exbrook) for his work on the report’s design, and to those photographers and illustrators whose work we featured.

We’re looking forward to another amazing year in the Wikimedia movement!

Jay Walsh, Senior Director, Communications

Joint statement from Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK

Over the past six months, a Wikimedia UK trustee led two Wikipedia-related projects, Monmouthpedia and Gibraltarpedia, in a way that seemed to some observers to blur his roles as a Wikimedia UK trustee, a paid consultant for the projects’ government partners, and an editor of the English Wikipedia. This raised questions in the Wikimedia community about whether a trustee was able to balance appropriately the interests of his clients with his responsibilities to Wikimedia UK, the values and editorial policies of Wikipedia, and whether any conflict of interest that arose as a result was effectively managed.

To better understand the facts and details of these allegations and to ensure that governance arrangements commensurate with the standing of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia UK and the worldwide Wikimedia movement, Wikimedia UK’s trustees and the Wikimedia Foundation will jointly appoint an independent expert advisor to objectively review both Wikimedia UK’s governance arrangements and its handling of the conflict of interest.

The review will consider Wikimedia UK’s current governance arrangements, current internal policies, such as the Trustee Code of Conduct, the Nolan Committee Requirements, the Conflicts of Interest policy, the Representing Wikimedia UK policy, any other relevant policies of Wikimedia UK, and best ethical practices.

Considering specifically the conflict of interest, we will ask the expert advisor to identify any gaps between how the conflict of interest situation within Wikimedia UK would ideally have been handled and how it actually was handled, and to recommend how situations such as this should be managed in the future. The review will also touch on any activities that may have blurred work as a paid consultant with work as a Wikipedia editor, but recommendations for changes to Wikipedia’s policies and practices will be outside its scope: we leave the broader topic of reviewing Wikipedia’s editorial policies to the community.

Once the review is completed, it will be reviewed by both the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK and then published.

At the same time, Wikimedia UK has agreed with the Wikimedia Foundation that the Foundation shall process payments for the United Kingdom during this year’s fundraiser.

Wikimedia UK has the benefit of legal and professional advice to assist in understanding and handling conflicts of interests. The goal of both organizations in carrying out this review, and Wikimedia UK’s in deciding to absent itself from the 2012 fundraising campaign as a payment processor, is to demonstrate that we mutually recognize the importance of handling conflicts well beyond simple requirements of the law. We understand our responsibilities to you: the members of Wikimedia UK and the Wikimedia movement, its donors, editors, and readers.

Wikimedia Foundation’s Sue Gardner named to World’s Most Powerful Women list by Forbes

Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Garner in San Francisco.

We are very excited to share the news that Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner was named to the Worlds 100 Most Powerful Women list by Forbes Magazine yesterday. Citing her role in transforming the Wikimedia Foundation from a small non-profit into a thriving organization with over 120 employees, a complex technical product roadmap and a consistently rising pool of revenue from a global donor-base, Forbes lists Sue in the company of her technology peers, as well as significant political figures, philanthropists, media magnates, leaders of aid organizations and celebrities.

As Forbes writes, the Wikimedia Foundation “pre- and post-Sue Gardner are two completely different organizations. When she arrived at Wikimedia [Foundation], the nonprofit behind Wikipedia, in 2007, the organization had under 10 employees and was raising less than $3 million dollars annually. In 2011, Wikimedia’s number of donors had increased ten times over, raising $23 million.”

Everyone who works at the Wikimedia Foundation is proud that Sue’s leadership and dedication to the Wikimedia movement over the past five years has been recognized so publicly, but as she would remind us, power in the Wikimedia community doesn’t rest in one person. The success of the Wikimedia projects is shared by the hundreds of thousands of contributors from all over the world who have made Wikipedia the 5th largest web property and a household name.

Jay Walsh, Head of Communications

Recent events with Russian Wikipedia

On Tuesday, July 10, the Russian Wikipedia community made a decision to blackout their project for 24 hours to protest a piece of legislation before the Russian Duma. The legislation, which has since been passed (although with important amendments) could threaten the mission of the Wikimedia projects in Russia – to spread free knowledge globally. Websites that publish facts or deemed to be inappropriate could be blacklisted and blocked from operating in Russia.

Wikimedia Russia blogged (in Russian and English) about the blackout this week.
The volunteers of the Russian Wikipedia undertook this initiative independently from other language projects and from the Wikimedia Foundation, however many in the Wikimedia movement recognize that this legislation is similar to other bills being proposed or passed around the world that could hinder free speech and produce situations where governments could censor information. Non-censorship and freedom of speech are core values of the Wikimedia movement and the Wikimedia Foundation.

The efforts of the Russian Wikipedia blackout on July 10 appear to have made a difference in the ultimate shape of this legislation. Although our projects are not spaces designed for political advocacy, Wikimedians around the world take the issue of freedom of speech in their nations, and especially on our projects, very seriously. Our projects are built on the core values of neutral point of view, non-censorship, and openness, and we continue to urge lawmakers around the world to better understand the role of the free and open web.

Open Education Week starts on Monday, March 5th

The first annual Open Education Week will take place next week from March 5-10, both online and in locally hosted events around the world. Open Education Week is organized by the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which is a community of more than 250 universities and organizations worldwide. Creative Commons, one of the major supporters of OER week, is the organization behind the free copyleft license that helps make Wikipedia a truly free and shareable project.

The purpose of Open Education Week is to raise awareness of the open education movement, which is dedicated to sharing, reducing barriers, and increasing access to education, through free and open access to educational platforms, tools and resources. As OCWC Executive Director Mary Lou Forward said in a press release, “the vision of the open education movement is to create a world in which the desire to learn is fully met by the opportunity to do so.”

As the largest free educational resource on the Internet, Wikipedia in its hundreds of language variants and its sister projects like Wikibooks and Wikiversity, play a central role in the growth and expansion of open education. This week we also salute the thousands of volunteers who have invested enormous amounts of time and energy in the creation of free teaching resources on the Internet.

Events include more than 40 webinars on open education topics, as well as offline events such as local workshops. Throughout the week, there will also be an ongoing discussion via blog posts, tweets, and postings. Anyone can participate in Open Education Week events free of cost. Visit for more information and event schedules.

Jay Walsh
Head of Communications

Wikimedia Foundation voted #1 Global NGO by the Global Journal

Today the Global Journal, a Geneva-based publication focusing on issues facing global businesses, NGOs, and public sector workers announced that the Wikimedia Foundation was at the very top of their list of the 100 best NGOs.

The Journal pointed out that the Foundation is “changing the world with an idea: to create a public space where all people can freely join to collaborate, share and communicate all of our collective knowledge.” The Journal also recognized WMF’s collaborative roots and our movement’s belief that information is a non-profit commodity. Among other global NGOs nominated in the list: Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, Creative Commons, and Habitat for Humanity.

Our thanks to the Global Journal for recognizing the Foundation, but especially for recognizing the work of our 100,000-strong global, volunteer community.

Jay Walsh, Communications