I'd like to say a few words regarding our brand new
For those who missed the fun, many contributors have
been working in the past few weeks on our first global
This is the english version, but 5 versions are
and several others are near completion and hopefully
will be done in the next few days/weeks : Ar: De: Es:
Fi: It: and Sv:
The newsletter idea was several times mentionned last
summer on meta. In particular, Angela and I thought it
could be sent to members of the Foundation.
A few weeks ago Jimbo also mentionned he would like to
find a way to better communicate his thoughts and
points of view to the whole community. He pointed out
that his communication was limited by the language
I then suggested we do a quarterly letter to inform
people of Jimbo and the board thoughts and activities,
as well as report what has been going on in the global
Improving the communication within the community and
increasing the visibility of the Foundation activity
to contributors, to readers and to donators is very
important. I think this newsletter is one of those
steps in this direction.
We also wished that this first quaterly letter
coincide both with the 1.000.000 Wikipedia articles
announcement and the 1st trimester of activity of
Angela and I. But the problem was very very short
delays !!! And naturally a huge amount of work to
provide. Not only huge, but definitly requiring a lot
I asked Sj if he could be the coordinator of the
newsletter. I was sure he would do a very good job and
I knew he would love it ;-)
I am extremely glad I did ask him, and he accepted,
because I think Sj made a wonderful job and I would
really like to issue a special thank you note to him
for making this dream come true. I think he has been
devoting many hours on it, with optimism and cheerful
mood. A hand of iron in velvet gloves. I hope he is
very proud because he should be :-)
This newsletter has been set up in an incredible short
time (resulting in a few overlappings between writing
and translating, sorry about that).
Its great design was made by Villy, who probably also
dedicated a month wikipedia-time on it. Dozens of
different people have been contributing to its
content; dozen of editors from many different
languages have been contributing to its translation.
We had a very nice and interesting interview from
Ward. Many editors also helped proofreading, typo
correcting, frame fixing etc... May they all be
5 versions are currently final, and have been
transferred to the wikimediafoundation website and
will be advertised on the local projects.
There is still some work on them to do. More editors
are still working on the other versions and I guess we
will end up withabout 10 fully translated versions
which is really great. Next steps will be to have all
of them adequately set on the foundation website, made
visible on projects, and slowly to work on a pdf or
In all cases, I hope all those who worked on it had
pleasure to do so, and feel proud of the result. I
really thank all of you; it gave me a very warm
feeling to see we could so well and so quickly build
up such a common project (of course, I should not feel
surprised by this, but... still... even after nearly 3
years on wikipedia, I am still regularly amazed :-)).
I think it was an important thing to do, and among
other reasons, I think it was a great way to have
editors from many languages working together on a
common global project. I also hope it will help
smaller projects to feel more involved and drain more
people to get interested in meta activities.
There are some flaws in the letter naturally, I hope
readers will forgive us. There will be some feedback
both on the letter or on its editorial organisation,
or on the content itself to provide. Please do not
hesitate to give us your feedback. Perhaps on
so we can have an even better letter in 3 months.
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>> Thank you for your support. I would like to again
>invite all interested
>> parties (especially developers, but also writers,
>photographers etc.) to
>> add themselves on the above page, so that we can
>together move this
>> project forward after MediaWiki 1.3 has reached a
>stable state. As the
>> above proposal states, I hope that we can also
>implement single sign-on in
>> one fell swoop with the Commons itself, which would
>be one important step
>> to bring the individual Wikimedia projects closer
>>I am still willing to help and aid in this project.
>>However, as things
>>look now, the only help I can offer you is to
>>discontinue any plans I
>>myself have in this direction until you are ready.
>>One time there was just the English Wikipedia, then
>>were made. I have the feeling that I'm like someone
>>wanting to set
>>up another language and getting the answer that it's
>a >good idea, but
>>that in half a year there will be a new software with
>>and the possibility to have an interface adaptable to
>>I just wait for that.
>>It's not that I don't like your plans. I do. And when
>>comes, I'll join in. For now I'll just count my
>>losses. And wonder
>>why you might succeed and I do not. Is it because you
>>developer and I'm not? Because your plans are grand
>>down-to-earth? Because I'm not brazen enough? Anyway,
>André. Pause réflexion. Un vrai leader évite de
>perpétuellement marcher sur les pieds des autres. Il
>leur laisse de la place pour s'exprimer, parfois même
>il s'efface pour laisser les autres s'occuper d'un
>projet qui leur tient à coeur. Il évite de créer des
>rancoeurs :-) Enfin, juste ma triste opinion. ant
C'est bien de voir que tout au moins quelqu'un se souvient de la liste
correcte pour discuter ces sujets. Est-ce que tous les autres oublient
parce que en ce moment Jimbo ne reçoit pas les messages de cette liste-ci ?
I am proud to announce that Wikipedia is featured in an article of liberation.fr, one of the major french news media (paper and web). The article is listed on liberation main page, so we can expect some good feedback (visitors) for the site. I mention it because this is our FIRST front page article in a major media, and hopefully, the first of a long list now. This is a stone for french speaking people.
There are a couple of rather inexact points in the article, but nothing problematic.
The most curious is probably that there is no link to the encyclopedia itself... I hope people will spontaneously look in google ;-)
Many thanks to Yann who made it possible in keeping in touch with the author of the article.
Aside from this point, I am yet to be connected to the real/virtual world with a phone and internet connexion.
Meanwhile, I try to organise my new home, clean the old one, and planted some rose bushes yesterday. I also highjacked an university old computer for 2 hours, it broke after 45 mn, I had to switch to an even older computer, on which the only navigator was netscape 4.5. For those who wonder, no, it is not possible to edit wikipedia with Netscape 4.5. And no, installing new software on collective computers is not allowed either.
I am currently fully realising how addictive Wikipedia can be. I try to make it easier in reading private mails (thank you for those keeping me up to date with current Wikipedia gossip, more is welcome ;-)) and updating my blog (for those who read french, please see http://anthere.shaihome.net for opinions on the political goal of Wikipedia).
I think my next thoughts will be oriented toward what French call "fracture num�rique", ie, the great gap currently widening between those who have access to the net versus those who do not (or have a very limited net access). We might think about what we are *currently* doing : we are certainly improving the amount and quality of information of those who already have access to information. But we are not bringing information to those who do not really have access to information.
I miss you all :-(
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I would like to open up the issue of the WMF getting involved in political
matters, such as copyrights and patents. This has so far been mostly
theoretical, but the rapid growth of our organization allows us to
contemplate it, and maybe get our feet wet in a few example cases. I'm
looking a couple of years into the future here, in part so we can come up
with a good strategy, but also to open up minds and demolish taboos.
There are two primary risks I see with any political activity of the WMF:
1) The Board may be too small to make representative decisions on its own,
so we need a validation process to figure out which issues we can and
which ones we cannot become involved in.
2) Advocacy is, by definition, never NPOV, so it cannot happen within the
context of our content-based projects. A certain extent of alienation is
inevitable with any position the WMF takes, political or not, but it is of
key importance that this does not affect the perception or the reality of
There is one risk which I am sure people will bring up, which is that "We
don't have the resources to do this! We should stick to what we can do!"
Without wanting to sound too dismissive, that objection is raised to
virtually every new activity we define. It is valid in the sense that we
shouldn't start anything which we cannot properly finish. But as new
projects and new activities attract people from within the community, they
also attract newcomers, who can cross over into other projects.
In cases where there are strong and experienced groups working on an
issue, such as software patents, it will often be unwise to start a new
one, though we may often be able to assist in many ways.
I consider wise political decision-making of key importance for the future
survival and prosperity of our organization and our projects. We are
creating a gigantic, global community here, which will increasingly not
just be Wikipedia, but "the Wikimedia community". This group identity,
which we will build and strengthen in the coming years, is of immense
political value, for activism, for its technological superiority to most
traditional organizations, and for issue-centric fundraising.
We have a great chance to make a world-wide difference, and to change
society for the better by engaging in smart advocacy and lobbyism. We need
to proceed carefully, of course, and we can use a few agreeable test cases
to do that.
== What we can do ==
As I said, any political advocacy has to happen outside the context of our
individual wiki projects, whose neutrality is inviolable. But there are
- press releases by the Wikimedia Foundation
- the Wikimedia newsletter
- the Foundation website
- a to-be-created email list (wikiaction?)
- websites which we create for specific campaigns
- endorsement of a petition or initiative
- real political lobbyism, AKA "employing professionals to engage in goal-
oriented discourse with democratically elected representatives"
- legal action, defense funds
== Issues which concern us ==
The WMF should stay out of general political issues, I think - we should
seek out those which have a demonstrable impact on our work, and which are
agreeable to the largest number of people. Here are a few examples:
* Software patents. Various open source leaders have just endorsed the
www.nosoftwarepatents.com initiative, and I can easily see the WMF being
one of the supporting organizations. Why does the issue matter so much?
Because a project like MediaWiki, the software which we use, can be made
effectively illegal through them. We don't necessarily need to oppose
patentability of software per se, but we should seek an exemption for open
source software at the very least. This is one matter where we should
clearly work with the groups that are there, rather than creating a new
* Copyright terms. Pretty much everyone who's not a corporation or works
for one agrees that our current copyright terms are ridiculous. Hence, it
would be relatively easy to build an effective movement to reduce them.
Most works are protected for 70 years after the death of the author, which
means that if I died tomorrow, anything which I have created which is not
explicitly licensed will only be available for use by Wikimedia projects
by 2074. Worse, these terms get extended on a regular basis, because
there's not yet a strong lobby against them.
The potential benefits of even a short reduction in terms for Wikimedia
are enormous. Thousands of works - encyclopedias, photos, non-fiction
books, and so forth - would suddenly become available to us. A significant
reduction, say to a fixed 15 years term, could lead to an unprecedented
cultural renaissance as millions of works become available for free
sharing by all of humanity. This is absolutely in line with our mission.
I would estimate the overall cost of an effective global campaign to be
about $50,000 at least. What we could do fairly soon is endorse existing
initiatives and groups who are working on this, but unlike for the
software patent issue, I don't see any single one out there which is doing
* Copyrights on government-produced materials. As most of you will be
aware, content created by employees of the federal government of the
United States in their official capacity is automatically put in the
public domain. Few other governments have similar rules - and those which
do tend to use "non-commercial only" licenses.
Changing these rules should not be too hard, as there are clear advantages
for any government which does this. For instance, right now, many of our
Wikipedia background articles on the political situation in certain
countries come directly from the US State Department. This is not good in
terms of NPOV, and other countries have a strategic interest to have their
positions represented in works like Wikipedia - which can then try to
build a neutral picture from a large assortment of public domain sources.
Another example: voanews.com is a US government news site, and thus public
domain. Wikinews could use its articles, essentially publishing US
government propaganda (if it is accepted by the community as reasonably
neutral). If Wikinews becomes important, other countries will have an
interest in counterbalancing this influence.
Let me make this crystal clear: It's the current situation - just a
handful of countries putting their materials into the PD - which leads to
POV. The more countries put there materials in the public domain or under
a truly free license, the more neutral material we can create on that
* Specific copyright issues. One example would be the copyrightability of
reproductions of images which are in the public domain. So far, courts
have ruled in our favor on this issue, but many corporations are
interested in changing this. That would allow corporations, in an unholy
alliance with museums, to effectively put public domain works into a
proprietary state: Photos have to be licensed, and museums don't allow you
to take your own unless you comply with some kind of agreement. Some
museums already try to do that, though they all know that they're
currently on shaky legal ground.
Another example is art which is permanently exposed to the public. One
example would be the wrapping of the Reichstag building in Berlin by the
Bulgarian artist Christo. A German high court has ruled that, because this
art installation was temporary, the artist would hold commercial rights on
photographs of the wrapped Reichstag! Such precedents are very dangerous
to us, and we should fight them on every level.
* Censorship. This is of course a very broad issue, but it clearly
concerns us quite directly. It is also, interestingly enough, an issue
where we can open up new sources of funding. For example, the United
States government has funded organizations which fight against censorship
under totalitarian regimes which it opposes. We should be very careful
with using the "C-word", and try to be cooperative if at all possible. But
NPOV is not negotiable, and if a wiki project cannot operate as a neutral
one, then we should work to change the laws to make that possible.
* The Digital Divide. There are quite a few things we can do which
directly relate to our wiki projects in order to bridge the Digital
Divide. One idea I like is refurbishing used PCs with Linux and putting a
Wikimedia Content Reader application on them. We could try to create a
decentralized, voluntary distribution network for such refurbished
machines. We can also run fundraising campaigns specifically to distribute
print editions, or to buy and distribute specialized small, cheap devices
which are likely to become mainstream in the near future. For developing
countries, solar or curb power would be good.
== How to proceed ==
With all this future talk, is there anything we can do right now? I
believe so. There are existing initiatives working on the issues I just
mentioned, and on others which concern them. We should catalog them, and
can support them prominently on the Foundation Website, and we can endorse
their petitions, campaigns and open letters.
I think there needs to be a process for political activity of any kind
which is similar to the procedure for creating new projects:
proposal => discussion => poll / consensus => board approval => action
The Board could handle issues which require quick actions: laws which are
about to be passed, initiatives by other groups, lawsuits, and so forth.
In such cases, there could be a post-approval process to validate the
Board's actions, but they should generally only be taken if there's
Within the next 6 months or so, I would like to start one such initiative
on the software patent issue, i.e. take an official Foundation position on
the matter and support the organizations, especially in Europe, working on
it. We can move forward here one issue at a time, without overstretching
our energy and resources.
>>I would like to open up the issue of the WMF getting involved in political
>>matters, such as copyrights and patents.
>This has the potential to disqualify the Wikimedia Foundation from
>501(c)3 status which would mean, not only, that we need to pay tax,
>but also that we would then be severely restricted in the choice of
>grant applications open to us.
>According to http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=120703,00.html
>: "no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a
>substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence
>legislation (commonly known as lobbying)."
>If the Foundation were to have any such involvement, we would need to
>be very careful that our activities were aimed at educating people
>about these issues as opposed to encouraging people to lobby about
For a little more information on this, I should mention that the
restriction in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code ("no
substantial part of the activities" of the organization may be aimed at
"attempting to influence legislation") does not contain an exception for
legislation that is somehow related to the organization's purpose. And
even efforts to educate people can be interpreted as "grassroots
lobbying" under IRS rulings and disqualify an organization from
501(c)(3) status. In particular, efforts at voter education that
coincide with election campaigns tend to come under scrutiny for this;
perhaps more so, in fact, than similar efforts that coincide with the
consideration of specific legislation.
How is it, then, that we see general nonprofit organizations getting
involved in politics? One option is to create a separate organization
under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code for political
activity. This second organization can still be exempt from taxation
itself, but significantly, donations to it are not tax-deductible. The
alternative is for the organization to elect to be subject to section
501(h) of the Internal Revenue Code, which replaces the "no substantial
part" restriction with specific limitations on the organization's
The basic requirement with a 501(c)(4) lobbying affiliate is that the
two organizations "be separately incorporated and keep records adequate
to show that tax deductible contributions are not used to pay for
lobbying." (Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Washington, 461
U.S. 540.) Whether additional restrictions apply to the relationship
between the two organizations is not always certain, either in IRS
regulations or in terms of the U.S. Constitution. For the sake of
simplicity-don't laugh-I've left out political organizations under
section 527, which are somewhat similar in concept, but less likely to
be affiliated with a specific 501(c)(3) organization and have different
IRS reporting requirements.
Section 501(h) creates a different set of restrictions, and requires the
organization to report its political expenditures to the IRS regularly.
The IRS publication cited by Angela discusses the 501(h) option briefly.
The exact expenditure limitations are based on a percentage of overall
expenditures and capped at $1 million overall. However, "grassroots
lobbying", which is what I guess we might focus on most, is subject to a
lower scale and cap.
In either case, the effort needed for the Wikimedia Foundation to get
involved in any substantial kind of political activity would add
considerable complexity to financial and accounting matters. I'm not
sure if our financial procedures are in a state to support this kind of
change, although certainly they need to get there, regardless of how
politically active we become. However, the Foundation's mission as I
understand it is education and the dissemination of information, and I
think any political activity should be incidental to that mission.
I have been thinking for several days about how to comment Erik mail.
Just as Erik, and many others, I see Wikipedia as having a very important political role, just as the encyclopedia of Diderot and D'Alembert had.
Of course, bringing information to those who do not have access to information, to fight ignorance, obscurantism, superstition, manipulation, propaganda, give
people the tools to create their own opinion, to give them facts so as to defend their opinions, to allow them to make informed decisions, is political.
But this goes further.
Showing that we can work on a global project without being stopped by language issues is also political.
So is the fact of proving we can have thousand of people working constructively together with models oscillating between consensus and participative democracy.
So is the fact to demonstrate teaching is not an art restricted to experts, but that all of us have little bits of knowledge we can offer to the others. We are all worth something when it comes to teaching through Wikipedia.
Allowing people not to only rely on official TV and radio network for their information feed is also political.
So is to push people to read critically rather than blindly.
Showing that we can work together on the net in spite of disagreements leading to wars in real life is also political. We do not deny we have disagreements, we just learn to recognise we do not agree, and we learn to handle the differences.
And building a system which defense relies on letting doors open rather than building walls is indeed a very political act.
These are just examples, but there is no doubt in my mind we could change the world in more ways than just in providing knowledge.
All this to say that we do politics each time we click on the edit link. And I think there is more power in working on the projects so that they expand and improve, than in any signature at the bottom of a petition.
However, we do it gently. It is discreet. It is like a slow wave attacking a sand castle.
We prove things can happen and we show they are good.
This is more important than political advocacy or lobbying. We can change the things for better just by focusing on what we are doing *now*. And we can also just discuss with other people making things change.
I think getting WMF *directly* involved in political matters could possibly endanger our model, damage our image of neutrality, hence hurt our ability to raise funds for example or lead to censorship from some people currently ready to help our content to be widely available.
It could damage our non profit status, hence again our ability to raise funds.
It could upset some participants as well.
Some of the examples you cite Erik, do not seem to me to be problematicin the least, I think we could very well pursue some issues.
For example, fundraising meant to get used PCs with Linux and putting a Wikimedia Content Reader application on them does not appear to me to belong to political activism proper, and are very interesting ideas which several people have started to explore. I do not see how they could be problematic in any sense, and I would totally welcome a proposal from you for such a project in the coming months.
Other examples do appear much more potentially problematic to me, in particular quick actions for laws and such, which could be post validated.
I would say that anything controversial should not be quickly decided and post approved, but on the contrary, be met with much much care and slow building consensus.
Generally, I would recommand that we watch our steps. And generally, I think that it is neither Wikimedia Foundation, nor the local associations roles to get directly involved in political lobbyism, though some exceptions could naturally be considered ;-)
What is above reflects *my* opinion on political involvement.
The board discussed this topic on last sunday, and Angela will come with notes upon what our collective opinion and suggestions are, later in the week.
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I am very sad that I have to report this, but Node is deleting stub articles
in the Yiddish wikipedia. This happens to be a language that I can read, so I
know what the text says. Yes, they are stubbish, but they are the beginnings
of articles, and at least there is some activity. I do not know why Node has
decided to delete those articles, as there is no explanation. It doesnt matter
if it is a stub about Reb Elimelech of Lizensk or Brittaney Spears (both of
which he deleted by the way).
To Node, I am asking you to stop dealing with languages you do not know. Let
the smaller language Wikipedias grow naturally, without interference from
I would say there are things we can do to our
direct benefits, and less costly.
Regarding copyright, yes, perhaps many Wikimedians
do have concerns about strong copyright protections
like the lenths of protection, copyright for
non-creative aspects of database, anti-circumvention
prohibition, and potential expansion of indirect
infringements are discussed on mailinglists and on
But copyleft licenses and their likes (such as
CreativeCommons Public Licenses, not all of which are
copyleft) enable us to deal with that strong protection.
It is more directly to our benefit to promote GFDL,
and we do not have to influence any legislation to do that.
Also, it is very beneficial for us to help FSF to revise
the GFDL so that we have more flexibility regarding its
requirements, though I know English wikipedia interprets
it rather liberally, and not having serious problems.
As a sidenote, regarding the length of copyright protection,
I am not sure if the shortening of the protection period
would result in an immediate release of currently protected
works into the public domain. When I see the legal texts
and relevant court cases, it is often decided that legal
changes do not affect the already copyrighted works
unless it is beneficial to the authors and other copyright
holders (But I know mostly about Japanese stuff, so it may
be different for other countries).
We can also try to solve digital divide without lobbying.
We can promote and distribute our free content. How about
a promotional team who can talk to potential users about
our content and answer questions they might have, introduce
them whom they should talk to for technical, legal, and
In an article on Slyck.com ( http://www.slyck.com/news.php?story=609 ),
the author improperly refers to infoAnarchy as a "Wikipedia". The
relevant excerpt reads:
> InfoAnarchy.org has been involved with the P2P community for a
> considerable amount of time - about the same as Zeropaid and Slyck.
> Like P2Pnet.net, InfoAnarchy.org contains an impressive amount of
> original content written by owner Erik Möller. One of its major
> accomplishments is an extensive Wikipedia
> <http://www.infoanarchy.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page> containing a
> wealth of P2P and file-sharing information. Members of the site
> maintain the Wikipedia. All InfoAnarchy.org needs is more frequent
> news updates to make this a leading P2P news site.
I've already sent an email to Slyck in a public relations capacity, so
we don't need to flood them with more. However, I think it would be
helpful if Erik would also contact them, since he runs infoAnarchy, to
help make sure this kind of confusion doesn't get perpetuated. Because
Wikipedia is easily the largest and most recognizable wiki, we need to
be vigilant against people misusing the Wikipedia name if we intend to
protect our trademarks.
It is quite important to give the option for people to block a name in
all other projects. This is important for people to be able to have a
global identity. Forcing people to do this by hand is silly.
No one else can be [[User:Jimbo Wales]] in any language or project,
for obvious reasons. But I am not special. Everyone deserves to be
able to create and maintain a global identity.
It should be the default in all *new* cases where there is no
conflict, and it should be sought (socially and peacefully) in all old