One of our frequently banned users is making a variety of legal and
financial accusations that I wanted to respond to early and firmly
lest any of these things take root in any way shape or form as
reflective of reality in any way.
1. First, the Wikimedia Foundation is currently in full compliance
and more with all legal requirements for filings, etc. It is my
intention that we remain so, and that indeed, we are proactive about
doing whatever is necessary to go above and beyond what is required of
us in terms of organizational transparency, etc.
I am always eager to hear suggestions for improvement in this regard.
2. Second, there are no plans of any kind to release a 'for-profit'
version of the Wikipedia, for the separate benefit of me or Bomis or
any other company that I own, control, work for, etc. We *will* be
working to release Wikipedia on CD-ROM, in paper format, etc., but
these will be projects *of the foundation*, carried out with perfect
consistency with our nonprofit mission.
Such efforts will necessarily and properly involve the work of
for-profit publishers, but of course any contracts entered into will
be to the benefit of the Wikimedia Foundation.
3. There are no current plans for salaries for anyone. In the
future, I do intend that as we grow, we will become a large
organization patterned after the National Geographic Society, the
International Red Cross, and so on. This will eventually necessitate
employees, etc. But for now, any suggestion that I am personally
trying to get money from Wikipedia is beyond ludicrous.
It is commonly thought that I'm a wealthy person, but I'm not really.
I'm a very committed person who drives a 4 year old Hyundai and lives
in an ordinary middle-class American home in an ordinary neighborhood,
while spending far more in the last 5 years on my dream of a free
encyclopedia than I have on my own salary, none of which, of course,
is derived from Wikipedia in any way.
I do this because it matters to me. There are lots of ways to spend
money in life, some frivolous, some meaningful. To me, doing
something meaningful is the best reward.
4. As of June 1, 2004, I am resigning as CEO of Bomis, and my partner
Tim Shell will take over that role. This is primarily to reflect the
reality of the situation, which is that I spend virtually all my time
on Wikipedia and non-Bomis work. But it is also in part to further
emphasize and underscore the fact that the two are unrelated. Bomis's
ongoing provision of free hosting for the Wikimedia Foundation as a
gesture of appreciation of "giving back" to the free software
community whose software has helped us to do so much is not going to
change. But that ongoing gift is the only relationship between Bomis
and Wikipedia, period.
5. One troll has suggested that the Wikimedia Foundation needs to
disclose something about it's relationship to Bomis. This is a
classic propaganda technique: to demand the disclosure of some shadowy
secrets, with ominous overtones, when there is actually nothing to
disclose. I am happy to answer any questions that anyone has about
it, but there's not much to say.
While I was a futures and options trader, I founded Bomis partly as a
sideline hobby. It was eventually successful enough for me to retire
from trading and do it full time. The company rode through the
dot-com boom with good times and bad, and has always prospered enough
to provide me with a decent living.
I eventually became consumed with the passion to create a free and
freely licensed encyclopedia, and started to spend money on it. In
the early days, I thought of it as a possible business venture like
RedHat. Nupedia was an expensive failure, Wikipedia was a big
But through that process, it became apparent that in order for
Wikipedia to achieve it's full potential it needed to be owned by a
non-profit organization. I promised then to give it all away to the
non-profit organization, and I did. I did so fully and completely and
with no regrets. My reward will be a Nobel Peace Prize, ha ha.
Why has Bomis funded Wikipedia? Because my partners in Bomis shared
my vision and let me do it. Bomis had servers, technical employees,
etc., and was the original owner of Nupedia/Wikipedia. The transition
was natural and spontaneous, and that's where things are today.
6. I have said before that although there are no plans for it at the
current time, and no need for it, it would please me greatly to have
the Wikimedia Foundation grow into a large enough organization that it
would be sensible for me to accept a salary for running it. If and
when that time comes, of course my compensation will be decided
according to the standard practices for charitable organizations, i.e.
through a vote of the other members of the Board of Directors, and in
accordance with the advice of an independent outside compensation
In short, if anyone has *any* questions or concerns about legal or
financial matters, I ask you to please write to me privately and
express those concerns openly and honestly, so that I can resolve
anything of this sort to everyone's satisfaction. If, after you've
talked with me privately, you find that you have any remaining issues
that you don't feel I've addressed, then by all means I encourage you
to go public with your complaints.
That's my biggest problem, really, with what this troll is doing.
He's issuing a lot of lies (anonymously of course) and insinuations,
attempting to make a public stink, rather than honestly and simply
raising the issues with me in an appropriate manner. I don't actually
fear any actual legal action, because in order to file a legal action,
he or she would have to reveal his or her true identity, which would
then enable us to finally take legal action to permanently ban them
from the website, as well as providing an opportunity for me to file a
libel claim against him.
Anyhow, really, I wanted to say all this because I want you you all to
know my keen interest in openness, transparency, fairness, etc. I
want to do whatever I need to do to make sure that the Wikimedia
Foundation is looked to as a shining example of how a nonprofit should
be run, with tight attention paid to expenses, good stewardship of
donor money, etc.