Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement


News about the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees and staff.

Launching an Unconventional Trademark Policy for Open Collaboration

The Wikipedia puzzle globe and wordmark.

On February 1, 2014, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved an unconventional new trademark policy. The new policy is uniquely permissive, was developed in a massive online collaboration among the Wikimedia community, and contains cutting-edge information design principles to make it user-friendly.  Just like the content on the Wikimedia sites, the new trademark policy is licensed under a free license, so everyone is free to build upon it when crafting their own trademark policies. In short, it is the perfect fit for Wikimedia’s collaborative projects.

Unlike the legal policies of other companies that are drafted by lawyers in a vacuum (if not simply copied from other websites), this trademark policy was developed through a seven-month long consultation with the Wikimedia community to address its particular needs. This unique process distinguishes Wikimedia from virtually every other top website.

We began by asking the community how they would like to change our 2009 trademark policy. Using their suggestions and other concerns, we prepared a draft policy that we posted on a wiki for online discussion and editing. According to the page’s revision history, the draft policy was edited 138 times in the course of the remaining consultation. While the policy itself has only about 4,000 words, the consultations around the policy resulted in a discussion of 52,000 words. That’s more words than in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

Here are some of the major changes.


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)


Introduction to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees

This post is available in 4 languages: English 7% • Português 100%正體中文 7%日本の 7%


Board of Trustees panel at Wikimania 2013 (from left, outgoing chair Kat Walsh, Patricio Lorente, Bishakha Datta, Jan-Bart de Vreede, Jimmy Wales, Phoebe Ayers, María Sefidari, Samuel Klein, Alice Wiegand. Missing are Stu West and Ana Toni.)


This is the first post in a series where the members of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees will explore ideas, opinions and write about Wikimedia movement issues that are on their mind. Since this is the kickoff post for this series, I want to try to answer the question of how the Board functions and what it does, and how this relates to leadership in the Wikimedia movement.

What is the Board?

Before I was elected to the Board, I was a long-time Wikipedian and Wikimedia community member. As a community member I always thought that the WMF Board of Trustees was a little mysterious: what did they do, and why? How did the Board work? Would their decisions affect my work as an editor? The Board of Trustees is the final governance authority for the Wikimedia Foundation, but what does that mean? This post will try to answer some of those questions.

It’s worth starting at the beginning, with what the Board is and how it’s composed. The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees is a ten member body, with five seats elected by community members or selected by Wikimedia chapters, four seats appointed by the existing Board members and one reserved for Wikimedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales. This is a complex arrangement, but it has benefits. Having a majority of seats elected or selected by the community increases accountability to the editing community and ensures that several trustees have direct first-hand knowledge of the projects. Reserving seats for appointed members also means that the Board can recruit expertise that it needs in governance, finance or other areas. This complex selection process also means that the Board is quite diverse. The current Board comes from eight countries (with no three of us in the same timezone). Half of us are native English speakers. We are evenly divided between men and women and have a range of ages, governance expertise and Wikimedia movement experience. All of the trustees are volunteers; in our day jobs, we work in and lead open education projects, libraries, universities, tech start-ups, nonprofits and city government. Note that this broad diversity is quite unusual for a large nonprofit; often boards of major charities are made up mainly of large donors, who have an interest in seeing their money spent well. Our board, in contrast, is directly representative of the people who use and build the Wikimedia projects.

What this means is that although the Board does not have a role in making day-to-day decisions for the projects or the Foundation — we are not involved with the kinds of policy and procedural decisions that are made every day on Wikipedia and at the Foundation — we do tend to be interested in these decisions. Individual Board members often follow and participate in community discussions, but this is not required for trustees, nor does it always mean the Board as a whole is considering an issue. One thing that is often surprising to community members as well as new trustees is how limited the Board’s involvement is in Wikimedia issues. While important trends in the projects – such as declining editorship, or successful outreach efforts – influence what direction is given to the Executive Director and how priorities are weighted for the annual plan, the Board is not involved in hands-on development of solutions. The Board also does not act as a dispute arbitrator, an editorial decision-maker for the projects, or a hands-on manager for the Foundation. This means that the Board does not take a formal position on most project, Foundation or movement issues — or even on most of the issues that individual trustees think are important, because the Board can only speak as a ten-person body.


WMF Board publicly rolls out its updated governance handbook

In keeping with the Wikimedia Foundation’s commitment to transparency, the Board of Trustees is publishing its updated Board Handbook to allow our community to follow and understand better the workings and procedures of the Board and to learn more about how the Wikimedia Foundation is governed. The Handbook was created at the suggestion of the Board Governance Committee. It reflects many months of hard work, thoughtful input, and collaboration by the Board and the legal team of the Wikimedia Foundation. Already, the Handbook is becoming an essential resource for Board members as they carry out their governance duties.

We believe that it is our responsibility – to our volunteers, donors, users, movement organizations, supporters, and the general public – to be a model of good governance. We hope that the Handbook will be useful not only for us but to anyone interested in best practices in nonprofit governance, and may serve as a model document for organizations in our movement and elsewhere.

Boards of organizations who are interested to adopt portions of this Handbook should consider the specific needs of their organization. Because of the history of the Wikimedia Foundation’s incorporation, the Handbook was written specifically with US and Florida law in mind. [1] Local laws and practices in other jurisdictions may vary. Also some concepts in the Handbook may not be appropriate for smaller associations or institutions with different purposes and mandates.

The Handbook nevertheless incorporates many broadly applicable governance best practices and may serve as a useful resource for the community generally. The Handbook contains a wealth of information, as well as links to relevant documents, concerning the Board’s role, structure, and operating procedures. It describes the legal requirements imposed on the Wikimedia Foundation by Florida and US federal law and its own articles of incorporation and bylaws. The Handbook discusses the Wikimedia Foundation’s values, policies, and role within the Wikimedia community, all of which serve to inform and guide the Board as it carries out its duty to oversee the Foundation and ensure that it achieves its mission. The Handbook also identifies key documents relating to Board procedures, such as past Board resolutions. The vast majority of the documents referenced in the Handbook are public and available for the community to review. The Handbook is distributed under the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 free license.


Sue Gardner to receive first Knight Innovation Award

Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner

The Wikimedia Foundation is delighted to share the news that Sue Gardner will receive the first Knight Innovation Award from the Knight Foundation, in conjunction with City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism and its Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

“Sue’s extraordinary vision for Internet freedom and openness has helped guide the rapidly changing world of journalism into the digital age,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation. “Her outstanding accomplishments, first as a journalist and then as leader of the Wikimedia Foundation, have set a firm footing for the future of media.”

Sue began her career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After her time as a reporter, journalist and producer, she became the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation in 2007, utilizing her insight while overseeing a period of extraordinary growth both in the readership of Wikipedia – now the fifth most visited website in the world – and in donations made to the Wikimedia Foundation. In recognition of her bold international leadership in media and universal Internet access, Sue will receive a $25,000 award and will grant another $25,000 to a startup of her choice in support of innovation and entrepreneurship in news and information.

Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, said, “We are committed to supporting new models for sustainable journalism and to incorporating technology developments as our industry transforms. Sue’s work clearly demonstrates her alignment with these goals. We are delighted to honor her for her brave and creative actions and accomplishments.”

The Wikimedia Foundation would like to thank Knight Foundation for publicly recognizing Sue’s leadership and dedication throughout her career. Sue is set to receive her award and speak on innovation today, Dec. 16, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Tilman Bayer
Movement Communications

Wikimedia Highlights, November 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 November 2013, with a selection of other important events from the Wikimedia movement

Wikimedia Foundation highlights

Duration of edit-a-thons: 91% lasted less than 8 hours

New support material for program organizers: Evaluation report about edit-a-thons, and a pattern library

A new report about edit-a-thons includes data from 46 events between February 2012 and October 2013. It starts a series of seven reports about the most common types of programs executed by Wikimedia program leaders around the world, authored by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Program Evaluation and Design team. This is the first time that such an analysis compares the outcomes of a specific program to its costs. Among the many findings of this report is that edit-a-thons with a small budget can be as productive as events with a large budget.

In the new learning pattern library on Meta, Wikimedians can share what they learn about organizing activities like edit-a-thons, GLAM collaborations, gender gap outreach, or Wiki Loves Monuments. Each pattern includes a description of a common problem, and instructions for solving it.

Screenshot of the new Beta Features preferences page

“Beta Features” option allows users to test upcoming software changes

A new “Beta Features” section has been added to the user preferences menu, allowing logged-in editors to test upcoming software changes and give feedback to the developers, before these features become available for everyone.

Open Source Language Summit in Pune, India

Together with Red Hat, the Wikimedia Foundation’s language engineering team organized the fall 2013 Open Source Language Summit in Pune, India. It was also attended by members of the VisualEditor and Mobile teams. Session topics included:

  • improving the support for fonts (in particular in Indic languages)
  • input methods for entering characters that are not available on a user’s keyboard
  • the Language Coverage Matrix Dashboard, which displays how a language is supported on Wikimedia projects
  • a prototype for a user interface for translating Wikipedia articles and other content

OAuth extension makes it easier to use third-party editing tools

All Wikimedia wikis now support OAuth, an open standard that allows users to authorize third-party software tools to carry out actions on the wiki on their behalf, without handing over their user password. Among the first tools that use this new feature is “CropTool“, which allows users to crop images on Wikimedia Commons.

  • A visualization of the interaction between a third-party tool (left), the wiki and the user under the OAuth protocol
  • OAuth-metrics-20131107.pdf
  • OAuth-metrics-20131107.pdf
  • OAuth-metrics-20131107.pdf

Data and Trends

Global unique visitors for October:

530 million (+4.86% compared with September; +8.62% compared with the previous year)
(comScore data for all Wikimedia Foundation projects; comScore will release November data later in December)


Wikimedia Foundation Report, November 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.


Data and Trends

Global unique visitors for October:

530 million (+4.86% compared with September; +8.62% compared with the previous year)
(comScore data for all Wikimedia Foundation projects; comScore will release November data later in December)

Page requests for November:

19.039 billion (+1.2% compared with October; -6.4% compared with the previous year)
(Server log data, all Wikimedia Foundation projects including mobile access. Note: the numbers previously reported for the months of July to October 2013 have been corrected.)

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

75,964 (-0.99% compared with September / -3.83% compared with the previous year)
(Database data, all Wikimedia Foundation projects.)

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



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

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

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

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

Revenue $11,646,366
Engineering Group $5,379,535
Fundraising Group $1,097,830
Grantmaking Group $556,471
Programs Group $573,291
Grants $857,473
Governance Group $221,061
Legal/Community Advocacy/Communications Group $1,058,063
Finance/HR/Admin Group $2,490,383
Total Expenses $12,234,107
Total deficit ($587,741)
  • Revenue for the month of October is $3.78MM versus plan of $4.91MM, approximately $1.13MM or 23% under plan.
  • Year-to-date revenue is $11.65MM versus plan of $7.88MM, approximately $3.77MM or 48% over plan.
  • Expenses for the month of October is $2.84MM versus plan of $3.52MM, approximately $680K or 19% under plan, primarily due to lower personnel expenses, capital expenses, internet hosting, legal fees, payment processing fees, and travel expenses partially offset by higher grants and recruiting expenses.
  • Year-to-date expenses is $12.23MM versus plan of $14.70MM, approximately $2.47MM or 17% under plan, primarily due to lower personnel expenses, capital expenses, internet hosting, legal fees, grants, staff development expenses, and travel expenses partially offset by higher payment processing fees.
  • Cash position is $38.61MM as of October 31, 2013.


Duration of edit-a-thons: 91% lasted less than 8 hours

New support material for program organizers: Evaluation report about edit-a-thons, and a pattern library


Developing Distributedly, Part 2: Best Practices for Staying in Sync

Staying in sync on a globally distributed team spread across timezones takes a lot more than using the right tools!

In part 1, we discussed the various tools the distributed mobile web engineering team at the Wikimedia Foundation uses to stay synchronized. While the tools are critical to our success, it takes a lot more to ensure that we can successfully work together despite the geographic distances between us. Our development procedures and team norms are the glue that holds it all together.

As with the tools we discussed previously, the practices and norms I’ll discuss below are by no means unique to—or only useful for—distributed teams.


When you can’t just walk across the office or poke your head over the cubicle wall to sync up with a teammate, regular, structured moments for real-time, intra-team communication become critical. The mobile web team is a scrum-inspired agile team. As such, we use regular stand-ups, planning meetings, showcases and retrospectives to have some real-time, focused conversation with one another. Because we hold these meetings at a regular cadence and consider them critical touch points for the entire team, we think of them as rituals rather than regular meetings.

The WMF Mobile Apps engineering team holding a stand-up meeting with remote participation.

The stand-ups in particular are excellent for synchronization. Unlike traditional Scrum, we do not hold stand-up meetings every single day; rather, we do ours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We use this time to let everyone know what we’ve been working on, make commitments about what we will be working on, alert the team if there’s anything blocking us from getting our work done and quickly triage any bugs that have been reported since we last met. While we can always look in Mingle (our project management tool, see part 1) to see who is working on what and when, these brief meetings make it easier to raise issues and communicate about where further collaboration between teammates may be valuable.

Often, conversations about blockers and problem areas start during the stand-up and continue between the interested parties after the meeting has concluded. The meeting is kept short, time-boxed at 15 minutes, so there is little overhead; the meeting stays focused and we communicate just enough to keep us all moving forward.

The other rituals provide a great way for us to stay in the loop, bond with one another and allow the team tremendous influence over the product and our process. While their primary purposes are not about day-to-day synchronization like the stand ups, the other rituals are essential for reinforcing our self-organizing team. Particularly since we are distributed, these rituals are sacred, as they are the primary moments when we all know we can work together in real time.


Wikimedia Foundation is looking for a Vice President of Engineering

Developing and maintaining the code and infrastructure that enable the global Wikimedia volunteer community to contribute to Wikipedia and our other projects is at the heart of the Wikimedia Foundation’s work. In the past 2.5 years, I’ve led our combined Engineering and Product department. We’ve done lots of hiring and grown the department from roughly 35 to 100+ people during that time period. We have many projects underway which we hope will dramatically improve the experience of our contributors and our readers, including VisualEditor, Flow (a new discussion system), and new reader and contribution features for mobile users.

About a year ago, I announced that we needed to start thinking about dividing the responsibilities of the VP of Engineering and VP of Product into two separate leadership roles (closely collaborating on a day-to-day basis), at which point I’d focus on the VP Product part of my current role. The Director-level roles referenced in that announcement now exist—we’ve since hired a Director of User Experience and a Director of Analytics. Now it’s time for us to search for a VP of Engineering to complete the change. We’re partnering in this search with Julie Locke from Vantage Partners, an executive search firm.

We’re looking for someone who shares some fundamental beliefs with us:

  • that working in partnership with a global community of open source developers, and in close dialog with our users, is the best way to achieve lasting and positive changes to our technology;
  • that teams do their best work when they’re inspired and empowered to do good work, not because they’re “managed” to do it;
  • that it’s the job of management to create the conditions for teams and individuals to succeed, by equipping them with resources, mentoring and supporting them in their adoption of effective processes for self-organization;
  • that highly iterative development (“release early, release often”) delivers the most value to our readers and our community;
  • that hiring for diversity—of geography, gender, culture, skills, etc.—leads to more successful and effective teams.

Ideally, you’ve put these beliefs into practice in the real world, in a context where you’ve delivered open source technology to users with short delivery/deployment cycles, where you’ve supported operation of a high traffic site reaching millions of users, and where you’ve held leadership responsibilities in service of multiple, diverse, interdependent teams. You’re passionate about open source, and above all, you’re excited by the Wikimedia vision: a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Wikimedia has great technical challenges ahead: continually modernizing our user experience, decoupling monolithic aspects of our architecture, and supporting the greatest innovations our community comes up with. We’re looking for a collaborative, brilliant and effective leader who can help us tackle these challenges. If that describes you, take a look at the full job description, and apply today.

Erik Moeller
Vice President of Engineering and Product Development, Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation sends cease and desist letter to WikiPR

On October 21, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) issued a statement from Sue Gardner, our executive director, condemning the black hat practice of paid advocacy editing and sockpuppeting on Wikipedia. The statement followed widespread press coverage of an investigation undertaken by Wikipedia’s volunteer editor community into more than 300 sockpuppet accounts that were alleged to belong to a public relations firm. In Gardner’s statement, she noted that the “Wikimedia Foundation is closely monitoring this ongoing investigation and we are currently assessing all the options at our disposal.”

To assist in the assessment, the WMF retained Cooley LLP to review and investigate allegations that a company named Wiki-PR has been engaging in paid advocacy editing, in contravention of the Wikimedia Foundation’s website Terms of Use. While the WMF and Cooley were investigating this question, the Wikimedia community banned Wiki-PR and anyone receiving financial benefits from Wiki-PR from editing until certain conditions were met.

Today, Cooley LLP, on behalf of the WMF, sent the cease and desist letter below to the CEO of Wiki-PR, demanding that Wiki-PR “cease and desist from further editing the Wikipedia website unless and until [they] have fully complied with the terms and conditions outlined by the Wikimedia Community.”

We will continue to closely monitor this situation and provide further updates in the coming weeks.

Matthew Roth
Spokesperson, Wikimedia Foundation