This isn't directly related to the board meeting, but I want to pause
for a moment to share some ideas. Not all of them are mine, quite a bit
of this is directly from the chapters.
The Swedish chapter had the idea to declare 2009 The Year of the
Picture, to put a concerted effort into adding images to the Wikimedia
Commons, along with using more illustrations in Wikipedia and elsewhere.
I think this is absolutely a great idea. Making better use of visual
material in our projects also fits in with the ongoing effort to improve
I applaud the efforts of all the chapters in this area, and I encourage
anyone who can to join in. You may recall that the German chapter
recently secured the release of a large number of images from their
federal archive, and several other chapters are also working on free
image collection projects. Hopefully our April meetings of chapter
representatives, in conjunction with the board, will be an opportunity
to develop more ideas and strategies. And of course, you don't even need
to have a recognized chapter to get a group together and organize photo
expeditions, as for example some of the people in the now-approved New
York chapter have done.
Commons is obviously an important part of any such efforts, as our
repository for freely licensed media. Now because Commons is a project
in itself, there has always been some tension around how separate and
independent it should be from the other projects. Should it be
considered to have its own community? (Yes, says Brianna, otherwise it
would be no different from Photobucket.) How much should it take
direction from the other projects in order to serve their needs? For
that matter, should the other projects occasionally take direction from
Commons as its participants do things like screen for copyright issues?
Just how broad of a scope does Commons have?
Our mission, fundamentally, is educational. That may sometimes be a
limitation, where media that doesn't have serious educational potential
should be avoided as a distraction, or things that detract from
education can be edited out. However, the needs of education may be
broad indeed, so I'd say that the scope of Commons could be broader -
actually, maybe I should say deeper instead. Along those lines, I'll
share some comments I made in an internal discussion on the subject.
Speaking primarily from my experience working with images, I find it
really restrictive to think of Commons as limited to those images
actually needed for Wikipedia. I think perhaps we should approach it
from the perspective of what a project like Wikibooks could use -
Wikibooks not as it is, but as it could be.
The actual art of matching illustrations to text requires having not
just one passably suitable picture, but choosing the best for your
particular purpose out of a range of similar options. It also is not a
matter of taking the one platonically perfect picture and dropping it in
every conceivable place, though given what's currently available that's
often what we end up doing. To find a good illustration when you want
one ultimately demands a vast library of images, many of which might
never be used otherwise because nobody has called for the particular
combination of features they provide.
I deal with this regularly in a professional capacity, this is what
stock photography firms are built on, and I can assure you that there is
no adequate freely licensed stock photography resource in the world.
Commons is the best there is, and it is barely usable, and then only
sporadically. Maybe some people imagine we have too many pictures of
people's cats and dogs, since those are popular subjects, but I'll say
we don't have nearly enough even of that - and in particular we don't
have enough variety. Suppose I wanted a picture of a dog and a cat
together, a fairly mundane subject, for which I did at least find a
category with 27 files at
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Cats_and_dogs. I suppose
that's a start, but at a glance there's no way that provides enough
options for what I might want, especially if I was particular about how
they're posed or what breed they are.
There are no doubt bigger gaps in our library, and arguably more
important ones. But mostly we need to get more pictures and figure out
ways to use them.
The resulting work will be welcome at Wikibooks. But I'm unclear
why you can't have someone getting paid to write content on a
Wikimedia wiki? One of our bureaucrats Whiteknight is currently
doing this as part of his employment for the Perl Foundation:
While there could conceivably be problems in doing so, we
couldn't find any in this case. I'd be interested whether that
would also be true of having John write about using Wikipedia in
an educational context. I suppose if the WMF is paying him then
they could be considered a publisher instead of a service
provider, however I would think that can be easily taken care of
in the contract, no?
----Erik Möller wronte:----
The guide won't be directly developed on a Wikimedia wiki to
icky paying-for-content situation, but once it's ready we'll
it widely and hope it'll find a home on Wikibooks or elsewhere
future development. For those who want to get a first glimpse
the scenes, John is working on at it at <howto.pediapress.com>.
happy to collaborate, but it's his baby and he'll build it
The pontic wikipedia (which has been approved but it hasn't been created
yet) is running elections to vote its admins and bureaucrats. This is done
as a preparation for our creation, in order to be ready for the moment when
we can finally start for real.
Everyone who would like to vote is welcome to do so.
The vote page is
I was recently made aware of this organization: http://www.okfn.org/ with
their blog at http://blog.okfn.org/
Have any of you had anything to do with them?
Lennart Guldbrandsson, chair of Wikimedia Sverige and press contact for
Swedish Wikipedia // ordförande för Wikimedia Sverige och presskontakt för
> "Wikia has been doing intensive work on the usability front and making
> the code available to public, so I look forward to collaborating with
> the Wikia technical and product teams to exchange ideas and learn from
> their work."
> There is a certain amount of logic in working with one of the biggest
> non-WMF MediaWiki users on this project.
It would appear that nobody is concerned about giving the landlord a
leg up on ITS for-profit competitors by supplying them in particular
with a ready feed of intellectual capital in the form of the friendly
Stanton-funded developers? Lucky for Wikia, Inc.! I mean, assume
good faith all you want, but if I were a biotech firm trying to
develop a synthetic blood plasma, boy would I love to have the Red
Cross' top research scientists parked in my meeting rooms every day.
And PAYING me for the privilege, to boot? That's just gravy.
It sounds to me that the (reasonable) criteria that ranked proximity
to WMF and cognate activities as high as, or higher than, monthly
rental rate rather "wired" this contract to Wikia, Inc. from the
get-go. Kudos for putting on the dutiful show of obtaining 12
separate bids, but the outside world is seeing this for what it is --
a show of equanimity to gloss over a pre-determined outcome.
As for Master Bimmler's concerns about the "fear" imposed by mention
of the media watching, it's only natural for someone who has recently
and historically been censored for asking pertinent questions, to want
some sort of "back up" to assure him he is not living in a digital
version of a Kafkaesque nightmare. If your team would stop censoring
"WP:BADTHOUGHTS", maybe there wouldn't be such a rush to the media?
...the Wikimedia Foundation gives credit to "the Stanton Foundation".
It's my learning that "the Stanton Foundation" is a small non-profit
located in Jackon, Michigan. However, "The Ruth and Frank Stanton
Fund" is a large foundation (about $28 million in holdings, in 2007)
that has made the high-profile donations in the past that are
associated with the legacy of CBS head, Frank Stanton.
There are other places on the web where it seems that the Ruth and
Frank Stanton Fund has been described as "the Stanton Foundation",
namely surrounding their $3 million donation to a Boston animal
shelter. Does anybody have a good explanation for what is happening
here? Is the "Fund" being miscalled as a "Foundation", and it's just
a simple mistake? Or, has the Ruth and Frank Stanton Fund split off
or reorganized at some point since their 2007 filing of the Form 990,
as the "Stanton Foundation"?
Thomas Dalton says:
Given that the WMF will have had substantial communications with them
for some time before getting the money, I think it's highly unlikely
WMF would get their name wrong. What gives you the idea that the
Stanton Foundation is a small Michigan non-profit?
For these reasons:
I consider a foundation with about $400K in holdings a "small" one.
I'm waiting to hear back from Holtz Rubenstein Reminick (preparers of
the Form 990 for the Ruth and Frank Stanton Fund), but I'll bet they
have no affiliation with any "Stanton Foundation". I'm predicting
this is a repeated error of the "shorthand" nature, being made by both
the press and even benefactors. Nothing egregious, but it's just that
because there *is* another real "Stanton Foundation", this is
confusing. You know, "the sum of human knowledge" type of stuff that
is important to me.
I was very surprised to read on the Wikimedia blog a post from Naoko Komura,
the WMF program manager heading up the Wikipedia Usability Initiative,
funded by the Stanton Foundation.
To quote Komura,
"On the space front, we had outgrown our current space in the South of
Market area of San Francisco, and we were in search of space specifically
for this project. I am happy to announce that Wikia has agreed to sublease
two of their conference rooms to the Wikimedia Foundation for the project
duration (Jan'09-Mar'10). Daniel [Phelps] collected a dozen bids for the
space in SOMA, and Wikia matched the best offer."
I submitted a comment to the blog, but over seven hours later, it is still
not published, and there is a history of my questions to that blog being
ignored or censored. So, I'm going to ask here, and I'll also advise the
list moderators that this message is being copied to members of the press.
Could we have more detail, please, on the note that "Wikia matched the best
offer"? Were the other ten higher bidders also given the opportunity to
match the best offer? Why was Wikia chosen on a "second and adjusted offer"
basis, rather than choosing the good-faith firm that submitted the lowest
offer initially? Was the first low bidder given the chance to further
discount their rate? If so, what was their response? If not, why not?
I have to agree with Steven Walling's comment on the blog. He said, "I find
the idea of the Foundation working that closely with Wikia, literally and
figuratively, discomforting. We already have enough people confused about
the difference between the two organizations, and to be honest, this feels
Actually, it's not nepotism. And, there are no uniform laws regarding
nepotism. It's potentially worse. Self-dealing, which is what this really
smacks of, is covered in case law, judicial opinions, and some statutes.
I have been assured in countless places that "Wikia and the Wikimedia
Foundation are complete separate organizations" and that there were "no
business relationships" between the members of a past WMF Board that was 60%
comprised of Wikia employees/owners. Considering the past Wikia/Wikipedia
fiasco of Ryan "Essjay" Jordan, I would have thought the WMF would be
hyper-sensitive to working in concert yet again with their neighbor down the
We know Wikia was recently laying off workers in the economic downturn.
Presumably, Wikia now has excess office space per employee. WMF gets a
grant, presumably funded by tax-deductible dollars. Expending that grant on
office space is served up to an ostensibly "open" and "fair" competitive
search among 12 candidate landlords. A lowest bid is received. However, a
bidder who happens to have strong personnel ties to the Board of WMF and the
Advisory Board of WMF, is given the opportunity to match the lowest bid,
which they do, since they have empty office space doing them no good empty.
Net result: Tax-advantaged dollars will be transferred to a for-profit
corporation with an "inside track" to the decision-making body of the
It strikes me as fishy, to use a gentle word.