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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

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News about the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees and staff.

Luis Villa: “I wanted to be an Internet lawyer”

Around legal circles, the Wikimedia Foundation is often seen as a curiosity. With a fraction of the staff of other top ten websites, the Foundation arguably does more with less. The core of this complex apparatus consists of two indispensable parts − a strong volunteer community and an equally dedicated legal staff.

Luis Villa

As deputy general counsel, Luis Villa is at the forefront of this eclectic mix that combines traditional legal counsel with community advocacy that stretches across 700+ communities. With a year under his belt at the Wikimedia Foundation, he feels that he’s doing what he always wanted to do. “Out of law school I told someone at my summer job that I wanted to be an Internet lawyer,” says Villa. “He basically said there’s no such thing, but now I have that job!”

Luis’ interest in law and technology go as far back as high school, recalling the United States vs. Microsoft court proceedings as a moment that ignited a curiosity in him for politics and technology. Embracing his passions, he pursued a degree in Political Science and Computer Science at Duke University. “When I started studying computer science and political science in 1996, those were two separate things,” Villa explains. “I was interested in political philosophy and I was interested in computers and I didn’t really think the two had much overlap.” It wasn’t until he read Lawrence Lessig’sCode and other Laws of Cyberspace” that he realized how much overlap there was between the two.

His first job was in quality assurance for Ximian, scoping out bugs and figuring out why things were crashing. While at Ximain he worked extensively on the GNOME open source project doing quality assurance − eventually becoming a board member. He went on to work at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society as a “geek in residence” at Harvard. After a comprehensive search into a variety of institutions with a strong intellectual law faculty, he enrolled at Columbia Law School, graduating in 2009. Before working at a law firm, he spent a year at Mozilla, leading the project to revise the Mozilla Public License. Luis later joined Greenberg Traurig, participating heavily in the Google Oracle lawsuit. While at Greenberg he became an outside counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. With a background well tailored to the Foundation’s goals and needs, Luis eventually made the decision to join the Foundation full-time as deputy general counsel.

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Katherine Maher joins the Wikimedia Foundation as Chief Communications Officer

Katherine Maher

We’re happy to announce that Katherine Maher has joined the Wikimedia Foundation as Chief Communications Officer. She officially stepped into her new role as head of WMF communications on April 14, reporting to the Executive Director.

In her role as CCO, Katherine will work to ensure fast, easy information flow about Wikimedia in multiple languages, both internally within the movement and outside of it. She’ll also work to provide vital communications support to WMF’s various departments and programs, as well as the broader Wikimedia movement.

Katherine comes to us from Washington D.C., where she was most recently Advocacy Director for Access, a global digital rights organization. At Access, she was responsible for media and communications, including communications between the organization and its 350,000 members. She handled urgent global threats to digital rights and participated in the organization’s strategic planning. In addition, she was deeply involved with the production of RightsCon—a conference series convening key stakeholders and influential voices on the issue of preserving a free and open internet that supports digital rights and free expression.

Katherine’s experiences advocating for the rights of ordinary internet users and engaging with a large global community make her an exceptional fit for this new role. We are thrilled to have her aboard.

Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation

Taking the stage: How we entered the Brussels Bubble

Big Fat Brussels Meeting April 2013. 1st meeting of EU-Policy Working group

Spring’s here again and we’re calling everyone to a strategy meet-up in Brussels! Join us in constructing our strategies and charming our way into EU policy-makers hearts and minds! Wikimedians along with all Free Knowledge enthusiasts are invited to help figure out our next steps in Europe. Prior knowledge about the Wikiverse or the intricate advocacy system is not necessary – diverse points of view produce better results!

Grouping the activists

At the first first Big Fat Brussels Meeting we discussed the inadequateness of the current copyright framework and focused on making some defining organizational decisions. As a result, a contact person in Brussels was implemented to monitor the EU, provide political intelligence, serve as a go-to point on EU issues within the Wikiverse and build up a network with other locally active organizations.

To establish our thematic focus, we mapped relevant issues (kudos to Anna Lena Schiller) and ran them in a community survey. The final step was to write out – as a group of European Wikimedia Chapters – a Statement of Intent, which was afterwards approved by the respective boards. This was done in London at the Wikimedia UK offices and will perhaps one day be considered the founding document of the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU. The whole process can be regarded as an effort to define our goals, as well as define those who will help achieve it.

Activating the group

The Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU monitored and analyzed exciting topics like net neutrality and data protection for their possible effects on Wikimedia projects. We were also challenged to appear on stage on a few occasions: We drafted model answers for the European Commission copyright consultation, requested a study on the “economic benefits of the public domain and open licensing to the European economy” and tried to save (+here) the Collective Rights Management Directive in a last minute attempt.
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Insight into Wikimedia Germany – Impressions of a FDC member

A session  from   FDC site visit  to WMDE.

I had the first opportunity to learn about Wikimedia chapters when I participated in the Wikimedia conference in 2011, representing the newly formed Wikimedia India chapter. While  presentations and interactions were useful, the visit to Wikimedia Deutschland (WMDE)  chapter office was very helpful, as I had the chance to meet the staff and learn about the chapter’s various activities. After that, as a member  of the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) from 2012, I had the opportunity to learn even more about chapters. Though the initial FDC framework and process was the result of extensive deliberations of FDC Advisory  group supported  by consultants from Bridgespan, some of the gaps became apparent after the first round of FDC deliberations. My major concern was that the process/framework  did not account for the diverse attributes of chapters and relied on impersonal wiki pages for discussions, even when substantive funds are at stake.

When the opportunity to visit WMDE came up, I signed up immediately, as it  gave me the opportunity to meet with the chapter’s leadership and stakeholders in person  - allowing me to better understand their plans and the challenges they face. I, Mike Peel, another FDC Member along with WMF staff team of Anasuya, Garfield and Frank visited WMDE during  Feb 5-7,  2014 in Berlin.

In this report, I would like to highlight my impressions on the chapter programs and their evolution as well as share thoughts on WMDE chapter performance and areas for improvement.

Chapter Structure and Infrastructure

Pavel explaining the  WMDE Events for the year marked on wall calendar

Pavel informed us that the chapter had recently moved into their new facility. He  took us for  a tour of the facility, highlighting the thought process behind the design which allows flexible use of space and also meets the requirements of various stakeholders. The chapter has about 64 full time and part time staff (equivalent to 45 FTE). They are organized into four program teams and one operational/admin team. Each team has appropriate workspaces and computing infrastructure. There was a good number of small meeting rooms and a large conference room. The facility also includes an event room which can accommodate up to 99 participants. The room is used at least two days a week for various chapter programs and its partners. A large calendar on the event room wall has  the details of programs that have been planned till the end of the year, leaving no doubt about the effective use of infrastructure. The event room is designed in such a way that part of it can be used as workspace if required by putting up partitions.

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Wikimedia Highlights, January 2014

Information For versions in other languages, please check the wiki version of this report, or add your own translation there!

Highlights from the Wikimedia Foundation Report and the Wikimedia engineering report for January 2014, with a selection of other important events from the Wikimedia movement

Wikimedia Foundation highlights

New community-centered trademark policy

After a seven-month long community consultation, the Foundation’s legal team concluded work on the new trademark policy. The community discussion, which had more words than The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, resulted in a policy that is unconventional in how it provides liberal use of the Wikimedia marks, while maintaining legal protection. The final policy was approved by the Board of Trustees on February 1, effective immediately.

After one year, Individual Engagement Grants demonstrate potential for impact

Projects from the first round of IEGs

One year after Individual Engagement Grants program was launched in January 2013, the Foundation’s Learning & Evaluation team completed an impact assessment of the projects funded in the first round. One of the projects, The Wikipedia Library, generated $279,000 worth in donations from commercial research database providers, enabling Wikipedia editors to use high quality sources for free. At a grant cost of only $7,500, this represents a 37x return on investment. Another project, on generating publicity in China for Wikipedia, gained 10,000 followers for a new Wikipedia account on social networking site Weibo (25% of whom are women). Applications for the first round of 2014 start in March.

Multimedia vision for 2016, and request for comment on MP4 video

Video explaining the multimedia vision for 2016 ((slides)

The Foundation’s recently formed Multimedia team presented a multimedia vision for 2016. It is a scenario describing possible new tools for collaborating on multimedia on Commons, Wikipedia and other projects. The team invited community feedback on these ideas.

Separately, the multimedia team started a request for comment (RfC) on whether to support video files in the MP4 format on Wikimedia sites, in addition to the existing software support for the free formats Ogg Theora and WebM. Currently, only about 0.2% of the around 20 million files on Commons are videos, and it is assumed that MP4 support would make uploading and viewing videos much easier for many users, especially on some mobile devices that cannot play videos in the existing free formats. However, MP4 is a proprietary format covered by patents. Most users in the RfC preferred not to support MP4, maintaining the current practice of only using free formats.

New search engine

A new search infrastructure is being rolled out out to all Wikimedia wikis. It is based on the existing open-source software “Elasticsearch”, instead of the “Lucene-search” software that was written especially for MediaWiki. “Lucene-search” has worked well on Wikimedia sites for around 8 years, but developed some technical problems in 2013. The new search system for MediaWiki is called “CirrusSearch“. Its search results will reflect page updates much quicker than the old system. The text of templates in an article will now be found too, and some new search options were added. CirrusSearch is first becoming available as an optional Beta feature (see the timeline).

Data and Trends

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Wikimedia Foundation Report, January 2014

Information You are more than welcome to edit the wiki version of this report for the purposes of usefulness, presentation, etc., and to add translations of the “Highlights” excerpts.

Data and Trends

2013 traffic trends (presentation slides)

Global unique visitors for December:

490 million (-7.98% compared with November; +3.73% compared with the previous year)
(comScore data for all Wikimedia Foundation projects; comScore will release January data later in February)

Page requests for January:

20.678 billion (+13.2% compared with December; -7.0% compared with the previous year)
(Server log data, all Wikimedia Foundation content projects including mobile access, but excluding Wikidata and the Wikipedia main portal page.)

Active Registered Editors for December 2013 (>= 5 mainspace edits/month, excluding bots):

75,441 (+0.99% compared with November / -2.72% compared with the previous year)
(Database data, all Wikimedia Foundation projects.)

Report Card (integrating various statistical data and trends about WMF projects):

http://reportcard.wmflabs.org/

(Definitions)

Financials

Wikimedia Foundation YTD Revenue and Expenses vs Plan as of December 31, 2013

Wikimedia Foundation YTD Expenses by Functions as of December 31, 2013

(Financial information is only available through December 2013 at the time of this report.)

All financial information presented is for the Month-To-Date and Year-To-Date December 31, 2013.

Revenue 34,750,758
Expenses:
 Engineering Group 7,818,380
 Fundraising Group 2,267,144
 Grantmaking Group 838,068
 Programs Group 866,479
 Grants 1,289,803
 Governance Group 377,413
 Legal/Community Advocacy/Communications Group 1,752,003
 Finance/HR/Admin Group 3,566,318
Total Expenses 18,775,608
Total surplus (15,975,150)
in US dollars
  • Revenue for the month of December is $20.14MM versus plan of $19.61MM, approximately $535K or 3% over plan.
  • Year-to-date revenue is $34.75MM versus plan of $36.32MM, approximately $1.57MM or 4% under plan.
  • Expenses for the month of December is $3.65MM versus plan of $4.43MM, approximately $778K or 18% under plan, primarily due to lower personnel expenses, capital expenses, internet hosting, payment processing fees, and travel expenses partially offset by higher outside contract services.
  • Year-to-date expenses is $18.78MM versus plan of $22.86MM, approximately $4.08MM or 18% under plan, primarily due to lower personnel expenses, capital expenses, internet hosting, legal fees, payment processing fees, staff development expenses, and travel expenses partially offset by higher outside contract services and recruiting fees.
  • Cash position is $55.34MM as of December 31, 2013.

Highlights

New community-centered trademark policy

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Board service: Every board needs a bit of maintenance

This post is available in 6 languages:
English 100% • Deutsch 7% • Español 100% • Français 100% •Português 7%Bahasa Indonesia 100%

English

Alice Wiegand

For all the differences among the 40 regional organizations (chapters) and one thematic organization in the Wikimedia movement, there is one feature that is found at all the registered Wikimedia organizations: a volunteer-based supervision and control committee. For the Wikimedia Foundation, it is the Board of Trustees, at Wikimedia France, it is the Conseil d’administration, with Wikimedia Germany, it is the Präsidium, and of course there are a number of other different names. For simplicity, here I use the term “board” for all these bodies.

Enable the board to do its job

We often take for granted that a committee composed of individuals with different expectations, experiences and knowledge can find its way into its tasks just by itself. That it manages them well and effectively, always acting and communicating openly and professionally. But can that really always be assumed? Is it not in fact extremely difficult to come together as a group to figure out individual strengths and weaknesses, and build up trust? Two things that I think are essential for functional boards: a) the ability and willingness to delegate and b) the ability and willingness to accept and promote different positions and constructive confrontation within the board. Both are only possible if the committee has agreed on basic internal rules and procedures and if it accepts that it needs to evolve constantly as a body.

A board needs to keep pace with the organization’s development, to fulfill its oversight obligations at each stage of development of the organization, and at the same time support the organization, promote its development and frame its strategic direction. If the entire board deals with the question of how to become or how to remain able to work, it is running in circles, and tasks are not carried out. What could be more appropriate than to entrust a smaller group with these issues, thereby relieving the entire body immensely?

BGC – a committee in the background

Since 2010 there is such a group in the board of the Wikimedia Foundation: the Board Governance Committee (BGC), whose chairman I have been since joining the Board in 2012. Why am I doing this kind of work? I actually find it fun to deal with policies and the development of processes. I believe that it is generally helpful to have a resource for looking things up, a resource that is understandable for everyone, and I know that the Board of Trustees has not yet reached its own ideal conception of a board. And to this, I can and I want to make a contribution. Even though we publish our annual agenda and the minutes of our meetings on Meta, our work is naturally more in the background and is only known to few people.

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Wikimedia Highlights, December 2013

Information For versions in other languages, please check the wiki version of this report, or add your own translation there!

Highlights from the Wikimedia Foundation Report and the Wikimedia engineering report for December 2013, with a selection of other important events from the Wikimedia movement

Wikimedia Foundation highlights

The new “editing Wikipedia” brochure

New brochure explains how to edit Wikipedia

The Education Program team completed work on an entirely new version of the Welcome to Wikipedia brochure (now titled “Editing Wikipedia“). It is also available for translation into other languages.

“Drafts” feature provides a gentler start for Wikipedia articles

In December, the new Draft namespace was launched on the English Wikipedia, as requested by the local community. It gives all users (registered or anonymous) the option to start new articles as a draft, instead of publishing them immediately (which can carry the risk that the new article is nominated for deletion before it can be improved). Drafts are marked by a “Draft:” in the page title, and are not visible to search engines.

Paul Kikuba is leading an IEG project to set up a Wikipedia center in the village of Mbazzi, Uganda

Recipients of Annual Plan Grants (FDC) and Individual Engagements Grants (IEG) announced

In December, 11 Wikimedia organizations were awarded annual plan grants totaling $4.4M, following the recommendations of the volunteer-run Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) in the first round of requests for 2013/2014. The approved amount was lower than the overall requested amount of US$5.94M, affirming the FDC’s guidance to the organizations to be thoughtful about growth.

Also in December, the selection of seven projects for the second round of Individual Engagements grants (IEG) was announced. They focus on activities from outreach to tool-building, all aimed at connecting and supporting the community.

Successful year-end online fundraising campaign

The WMF fundraising team ran the year-end online fundraising campaign in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Roughly $18.7 million USD was raised from more than one million donors in December. During the two weeks when the campaign ran at full capacity, the team created and tested approximately 250 different banners. Banners will be run in other countries and languages throughout 2014.

Data and Trends

Global unique visitors for November:

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Wikimedia Foundation Report, December 2013

Information You are more than welcome to edit the wiki version of this report for the purposes of usefulness, presentation, etc., and to add translations of the “Highlights” excerpts.

Contents

Data and Trends

Global unique visitors for November:

533 million (+9.95% compared with October; +0.42% compared with the previous year)
(comScore data for all Wikimedia Foundation projects; comScore will release December data later in January)

Page requests for December:

18.270 billion (-4.0% compared with November; -9.4% compared with the previous year)
(Server log data, all Wikimedia Foundation projects including mobile access)

Active Registered Editors for November 2013 (>= 5 mainspace edits/month, excluding bots):

74,803 (-1.33% compared with October / -4.88% compared with the previous year)
(Database data, all Wikimedia Foundation projects.)

Report Card (integrating various statistical data and trends about WMF projects):

http://reportcard.wmflabs.org/

(Definitions)

Financials

Wikimedia Foundation YTD Revenue and Expenses vs Plan as of November 30, 2013

Wikimedia Foundation YTD Expenses by Functions as of November 30, 2013

(Financial information is only available through November 2013 at the time of this report.)

All financial information presented is for the Month-To-Date and Year-To-Date November 30, 2013.

Revenue 14,609,876
Expenses:
Engineering Group 6,589,458
Fundraising Group 1,439,053
Grantmaking Group 720,055
Programs Group 723,516
Grants 950,624
Governance Group 302,012
Legal/Community Advocacy/Communications Group 1,367,697
Finance/HR/Admin Group 3,029,513
Total Expenses 15,121,928
Total deficit (512,052)
in US dollars
  • Revenue for the month of November is $2.96MM versus plan of $8.83MM, approximately $5.87MM or 66% under plan.
  • Year-to-date revenue is $14.61MM versus plan of $16.71MM, approximately $2.1MM or 13% under plan.
  • Expenses for the month of November is $2.89MM versus plan of $3.73MM, approximately $844K or 23% under plan, primarily due to lower personnel expenses, capital expenses, internet hosting, payment processing fees, and travel expenses partially offset by higher outside contract services and recruiting expenses.
  • Year-to-date expenses is $15.12MM versus plan of $18.43MM, approximately $3.31MM or 18% under plan, primarily due to lower personnel expenses, capital expenses, internet hosting, legal fees, payment processing fees, staff development expenses, and travel expenses partially offset by higher outside contract services and recruiting fees.
  • Cash position is $38.8MM as of November 30, 2013.

Highlights

The new “editing Wikipedia” brochure

New brochure explains how to edit Wikipedia

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Frank Schulenburg named executive director of Wiki Education Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation and the Wiki Education Foundation released a joint announcement today with the news that Frank Schulenburg was named the first executive director of the Wiki Education Foundation. Frank, formerly the senior director of programs at the Wikimedia Foundation, will begin this role next week.

More information about the announcement of Frank’s move can be found in this Q&A document.

The Wiki Education Foundation is a new organization that supports professors and institutions in the United States and Canada as they participate in the Wikipedia Education Program.

Carlos Monterrey, Communications Associate for the Wikimedia Foundation