Wikimedia Foundation

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= The Foundation running the infrastructure of the Wikipedia

Status Report 2008

"In the past nine months, Wikimedia's core staff has grown to 21 and includes six programmers, an in-house general counsel, heads of communications, accounting and business development, and three fundraisers to meet its projected budget of $2.9 million for 2007-08.

So far, so good. Gardner and her team have secured an average of $35 from about 45,000 online contributors for a total of $1.5 million through a Web-based pledge drive, along with an annual donation of $1 million for the next three years from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Other donors include Vinod and Neeru Khosla, Sun Microsystems' founding chief executive officer and his wife, who gave $500,000, and the Stanton Foundation, which gave $262,000.

Gardner also has instituted a code of conduct for employees of the foundation, outlined a travel and reimbursement policy - Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was accused this spring of improperly handling foundation funds, though he and the foundation categorically denied the claims - and introduced criminal background checks for prospective employees. The foundation made headlines last year after news broke that Carolyn Bothwell Doran, its former chief operating officer, was convicted of theft, drunken driving and fleeing the scene of an automobile accident before she was hired.

"Sue Gardner has really been key in professionalizing the Wikimedia Foundation," Wales told The Chronicle. "Before Sue, we operated as a community club. Now we operate as a community club with sound management." (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/24/MNIJ12ETP4.DTL)


Discussion

Florence Devouard, chairwoman, rejects transparency at the organizational level:

"I think the last paragraph is interesting. Indeed, what some of you are asking is radical transparency at the organization level. And radical transparency is not really suitable for us, in most part because we are in the eye-storm of the media interest and that any scandal (or non-scandal actually) is likely to raise the interest of a journalist, and likely to spread at light-speed all over the planet.

Why should we care ? Collectively, we are likely to mostly care because of our economical system. We essentially rely on the goodwill of donators, and donators are heavily sensitive to public displays of disagreements, fights, errors, misestimates, major screw-ups.

Some of us also care for personal reasons. Either because public displays of screw-ups will damage their public image and possibly their income.

And perhaps should we also care because of a possible impact on the way the quality of our products is perceived. But frankly, I do not believe this impact is significant. People can see if a product is valuable or not and will not necessarily care so much about the background story.

Since I became chair, the board did some mistakes of appreciation. More than one. I can stand up for all the mistakes of appreciation I made. I am not ashamed of what we did. We were not perfect, far from it. I do not think anyone could have been perfect. The mistakes made may come from various reasons. None of us are professionals. We are all dispersed around the world, which makes it more difficult to communicate, share opinions, simply see what is really going on in the office or imagine what is going on in the head of a staff and board member. Mistakes were also done because of lack of funds and because of insufficient human resources, putting us on the verge of our own physical abilities. For example, we are looking for a treasurer. Can we reasonably appoint someone most of us have never met ? Likely not, but the next time we will try to all meet together is february. Which means delaying any appointment till then at least. Should we prefer to wait till february or should we prefer to appoint someone some of us never met ?

Other mistakes, and these ones are much more difficult to forgive, were made because of conflicts of interest.

I trust that most of you would generally agree that mistakes were understandable, given the circonstances, IF you were fully informed of the details.

Unfortunately, some of those mistakes are not, and will not, be discussed publicly. And the main reason is not that we fear your criticism, but is that we fear the consequences of a public display of these mistakes, and do not necessarily want someone to be made a scapegoat.


However, in the recent weeks, my belief is that, we have seen

- a tendency to make things more and more private (to avoid information leaking), eg, restricting access to our internal list or creating an even more private list.

- a tendency to shut down requests and criticism, whether on this list or even on private lists, in an attempt to canalize the nature of information being made available

- a tendency to craft "authorized" messaging, accompanied with severe criticism against trusted members deviating from this authorized messages

Not all ideas in these three tendencies are wrong. Standardization may be a good idea in some circonstances and facilitate daily operations. Privacy to discuss sensitive matters is obviously a good idea. And speaking with a unique voice rather than a cloud of voices is strengthening.

But I would advise going too far on that path. It is not healthy generally, it is frustrating many good contributors. In an environmental situation which is very unstable with competitors, a rather decentralized, flexible system, with plenty of opportunities to jump in the system, is usually considered the best solution." (http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2007-December/036559.html)