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Quarterly Reports

 

Administration

Where can I find information about the Foundation?

Current information about the Foundation can be found in this newsletter, on the dedicated mailing list [1], on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki [2], and at the Foundation's website [3] (in progress).

How many people make up the Board of Wikimedia?

There are five members, including Jimmy Wales, the founder and chair of Wikimedia. Angela Beesley, secretary, and Florence Devouard (Anthère), vice chair, are the two elected representatives. Michael Davis is the Board's treasurer and works on Wikimedia's financial matters (see Finance). The fifth member is Tim Shell, who participates actively in the English Wikipedia, and is often found on the #wikimedia IRC channel.

What are the official positions and committees?

Daniel Mayer (Mav) is the Chief Financial Officer. He is responsible for finances, with the oversight of Michael Davis. In particular, he is in charge of establishing our budget [4] and balancing our books [5].

Tim Starling is the Developer Liaison, the primary contact between our Board and our community of developers. Developer activity falls into two main areas: server maintenance and development of the MediaWiki software, which is also used for many non-Wikimedia applications.

Tim Starling is setting up a Developer Committee [6]. This committee will be made up of the most active developers and, among other things, will help formalize a method for reaching development decisions, such as the direction of future development, the definition of necessary purchases, and the processing of technical requests.

There are no other official committees, but there are important groups that are much like committees, which form naturally, particularly relating to grants and public relations. For example, Danny Wool has been coordinating a number of grant applications. For other potential committees, see [7].

How does the Board communicate among its members?

Board activities are recorded on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki [8], and will in the future be on the Wikimedia Foundation's site [9]. Communication takes place via email, as well as, through the foundation-l mailing list, which is open to the public and publicly archived. Members of the board also frequent the #Wikimedia IRC channel on freenode [10], where they can be reached for a quick response. While three Board members -- the quorum required for a proper Board meeting -- are frequently present on IRC at the same time, such times are not generally official meetings.

There have been a few active meetings of board members over the summer. On July 4, 2004, Jimmy, Angela and Anthère met in Paris (summary: [11]).

Later that month, there was a meeting to discuss the creation of an official foundation website at www.wikimediafoundation.org; many took part in the discussion, including Angela, Anthère, Daniel Mayer and Tim Starling (summary and results: [12]).

There was also a quick ad-hoc meeting on September 5 about the creation of a database for a tentative Wikispecies project, to let its enthusiasts discuss what they want it to become. Four of the board members convened for around 20 minutes to discuss this (summary: [13]).

Do Jimmy Wales, Tim Shell and Michael Davis dominate Board decisions?

Important Board discussion in Paris

To date, Tim and Michael have played a minimal part in board discussion and decisions, and there is no plan to change this. In order to ensure that the community voice is real, Jimmy has pledged, as a matter of convention, never to vote against Angela and Anthère, unless he feels that it is an issue of an absolutely fundamental change of direction for the project -- which is not likely to happen, since the three of them share the essential values of the community and the project. So as a practical matter, power is in the hands of the two democratically elected board members on most issues, and Jimmy defers to that.

How many board decisions are made by vote?

We prefer to discuss things, find proposals that we can all agree on, make compromises to accommodate each other, where necessary, and reach agreement. All informal votes taken, so far, have been unanimous.

Does the Board record or publish their activities anywhere?

Most of the time, we discuss things on #Wikimedia IRC channel on freenode. On this channel, everyone is free to not only follow board deliberation, but also to participate to the discussions and help us to make decisions. Logs of planned IRC meetings, such as the one regarding the Foundation website, are published on Meta and the Foundation wiki, along with summaries of other meetings. However we also meet on private channels and exchange private mails, as well. It's important for us to be able to speak freely, to think out loud, so to speak, without people taking our speculative comments and thoughts as being new policy or set-in-stone decisions. We hope that our activities are sufficiently visible through this newsletter, board meeting minutes, official announcements on the mailing lists and the Wikimedia website.

How can I become a member of the Foundation?

Anyone who is interested in supporting the activities of the Foundation and has contributed under a user name to any Wikimedia project is a Volunteer Active Member of the Foundation. Starting this year, it will also be possible to become a Contributing Active Member by paying membership dues.

Discussions in July regarding membership dues led to the following proposal:

Becoming a Contributing Active Member will cost 60 USD (or the equivalent), and does not require being an editor of a Wikimedia project. Volunteer Active Members may become Contributing Active Members for 6 USD, but are encouraged to pay the normal fee if they can. Members can choose how they wish a portion of their fee to be used (for instance, "30 dollars should be used only for hardware purchases").

There will be no obligation to pay dues; adding to and benefiting from projects will always be free. Contributing money is nothing more than an additional way of helping the project. The full membership proposal may be found on Meta at [14]; other questions about membership are answered in the Membership FAQ. See also [15].

Is Wikipedia planning to have ads?

Wikimedia does not plan to allow advertising on Wikipedia or any of its sister projects in the foreseeable future. We believe that suitable grants and donations from the public will provide for a secure future, without the need for advertisements. There are others ways, as well, to gather money, such a grants, prizes, gifts from our mirrors, donations of hardware etc... Running ads would likely raise money, but it would possibly lower other sources of revenues, in particular, donations, as well as, possibly upset some editors.

I hear developers are being paid now. Is it true?

In July 2004, the Wikimedia developers were polled about the feasibility of a bounty system for development tasks. The motivation for this was to improve the guidance of development in certain directions (for instance, by offering payment for developing certain software features). The results of the poll can be found at [16].

Working closely with the Developer Committee, we will be trying out a system of payment and other rewards for developers who choose to work on particular tasks. This will be a four-month trial run, after which we will step back and evaluate whether it was successful.

The proposed system allows for anyone to request new features, and for any developer to propose their own terms for filling a feature request. The developer committee will advise the Board about the feasibility and usefulness of requests and offers, and the Board will make the final decisions to accept or refuse offers for requested work.

Details of the trial run are available at [17]. All Wikimedia contributors will be encouraged to evaluate it when it is over.

Collaboration


Discussions with potential collaborators have become more frequent this year. External projects interested in working with Wikimedia projects include Project Gutenberg (Wikisource), OpenTextBook and Free High School Science Texts (Wikibooks), and Open-Media (the newly-started Wikimedia Commons). On July 1, a group of German Wikipedians and the Brockhaus new media group met, to get to know one another. At the end of August, Jimmy and Angela met with members of the BBC new media division to talk about Wikipedia, opening the possibility of collaboration with them.

Some partnerships have already been realized. The first was in May of this year, when Wikipedia joined Yahoo's content acquisition program. Through this program, Wikipedia is now directly updating Yahoo's directory with a data feed of its new pages [18]. This helps them ensure up-to-date search results of Wikipedia's content; it also helps improve the visibility of Wikipedia content. Through this program, we receive clickthrough statistics from Yahoo!; in May, clickthrough traffic was around 500,000 visits; in June it jumped to over 2 million, almost a quarter of our visits that month; it has been slightly under 2 million visits/month since then. Partnerships with other content distributors have yielded the most physical results: over 40,000 static snapshots of Wikipedia content will be distributed on CD and DVD by the end of the year.

Polyphemus moth white bkgrn.jpg
Distribution

Directmedia CD

By the end of September, the German company Directmedia Publishing [DMP] [19] will put out a CD-ROM of the German Wikipedia. It will contain a partly cleaned up snapshot from September 1, and will contain an ISO-image and the SQL-dump. 30,000 CD-ROMs will be sent by DMP to registered customers, for free. Another 10,000 CD-ROMs will be given to book shops as freebies, or to sell for not more than 5€.

Directmedia Publishing have published some 180 electronic books in the last 10 years focusing on social sciences, lexicons, and image collections.

Mandrakesoft DVD

Mandrakesoft (producer of their own flavor of Linux) will release a DVD containing a bilingual snapshot of the French and English Wikipedia, with an upcoming version of Mandrake Linux. Mandrakesoft has produced one of the most popular and user-friendly Linux distributions for many years.

The intensive work to tag images and lists in preparation for these publications, long overdue, has provided quality improvement to the Wikipedia projects involved. The image-tagging effort on the English encyclopedia, which involves classifying 50,000 untagged images, is ongoing; please help this effort at [20].

Other Offers and Invitations

Wikimedia has standing offers of free hosting from a webhost in France, where three new squids have recently been set up. There were other offers of free hosting as well, particularly while making contingency plans for the first Florida hurricane, in late August.

Finance

Donations

1180 individual PayPal donations have been made to the Foundation between the start of the year and 31 August, yielding US$46,600 (non-U.S. Currencies converted using current exchange rates), a daily average of $190. Over half that amount ($29,800) was collected in July and August mostly during an unofficial donation drive only on the English Wikipedia.

The Golden Nica that Wikipedia won

Awards

In May, the Prix Ars Electronica awarded Wikipedia their Golden Nica for Digital Communities, an award which came with a 10,000 Euro grant with no strings attached [21].

Grants

Many grants were considered for application during the summer of 2004, and many hours were devoted to an NEH grant [22] for projects in the humanities which looked promising. Histories of Wikimedia were summarized, a detailed description and budget were written for the proposed humanities project, and biographies of contributors interested in staffing the project were gathered. The application was not sent in, in the end, for lack of sufficient time. However, the text about Wikimedia which was produced, and the experience gained in writing about specific projects, will be used again in upcoming applications.

Purchases

Donations from July and August plus money raised in late December (during and immediately following a major server crash and downtime) was used to purchase over $60,000 worth of new hardware (see [23] and [24]).

Technical Development
Technical Dev.png

It has been an exciting year so far on the technical side. We started with three servers in California and an Alexa rank of 900 [25]. In February the site moved to Florida and nine new servers. Three more servers from a May order entered service in early June and a fourth, the fast database server Ariel, followed at the end of the month. After each upgrade, the number of people using the site rose to fill the available capacity of the new servers. As of the start of September, eight more web servers from an August order are in service, and search and file servers are awaiting installation.

As of September, Wikipedia.org routinely ranks consistently in the top 500 English language sites in Alexa's rankings [26], and is steadily increasing its reach. In June we saw almost a million edits. So far we have managed to avoid the really slow performance we saw at the end of 2003; thanks to those whose donations have made it possible to keep up.

May saw the introduction of version 1.3 of the MediaWiki software, with improved templates, categories, a new site skin and improved language support. Edit conflict handling improved significantly. MediaWiki version 1.4, due in a few months, will include better database load balancing, assorted speed improvements, preliminary support for PostgreSQL as a database engine and tools to help with article reviewing.

Entering service soon will be the first hardware outside the United States, a three server Squid cache set in Paris, serving pages to those in parts of Europe, so many viewers there will not need to wait for most pages to come from Florida. Once we have that cache working well, we expect to do the same in other places, as offers of hosting allow.

The new developer committee illustrates the international nature of the technical team, with members from six countries, and will be working to keep up with the continued growth of the projects.

Projects


Balcony.png
There are six active Wikimedia projects:
  • Wikipedia (1 million articles in 100 languages, 150,000 images, 25,000 contributors, 800,000 visits/day)
  • Wiktionary (70,000 articles in 20 languages, 500 contributors, 800 visits/day)
  • Wikibooks (5,000 modules in 250 books and 15 languages, 300 contributors)
  • Wikiquote (2,500 articles in 6 languages, 100 contributors)
  • Wikisource (4,000 pages in 30 languages, 100 contributors)
  • Meta (1500 articles in 30 languages, 1,000 contributors)

There are a few other projects either newly-created or waiting for further development:

  • Memorial Wiki - currently a 9/11 memorial; ~200 pages.
  • Wikicommons - set up in September, to jumpstart a long-awaited project to keep shared media such as images and sound files in a single language-independent repository
  • Wikispecies - set up in September, while the contributors work out what they want the project to be, and how they want to store species data.


Community


Summer meetings of Wikipedians

On the occasion of Jimmy Wales's trip to Europe, many meetings took place, notably in London, Berlin, Paris, and Genova. More details are available at [27].

Other events

There were some great photo opportunities at the Prix Ars Electronica awards ceremony in Manhattan in May, when Danny received the Golden Nica award for Digital Communities, on behalf of everyone. At the end of the summer, in the first week of September, there was the big Ars Electronica Festival, which many European Wikipedians attended; Jimmy showed up for that and gave a presentation there.

On August 31, Angela and Jimmy visited the BBC in London. They met during the day with a group including some H2G2 staff, to present Wikipedia to them and discuss wikis in general. Later that evening, they held a public presentation on the same theme.

Public Relations


There was a major press release issued this spring, commemorating the 500,000th Wikipedia article (counting all languages together), which was picked up by many local and online news publications. Another is being released this month, commemorating the one millionth article [28].

In May and June, following our winning of the community awards from both the Prix Ars Electronica and the Webby Awards, there were a number of popular articles about Wikipedia, most famously an interview with Jimmy on Slashdot [29].

For quotes from articles about us, see "In the Press", pg. 6.

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