Hello all! (Apologies for cross-posting!)
I’m pleased to announce the second round of Wikimedia DC Book Grants, a
pilot program in which we help provide editors with resources they need to
improve Wikimedia projects. If you live in the United States and actively
edit Wikimedia projects, you are eligible; you do not have to be a member
of WMDC or edit English projects.
Applications are open for one week, from today through Monday, April 4. We
expect to let people know by April 10 whether or not their grant request
has been funded.
More information is available on the Wikimedia DC website .
Apply for a grant here: https://podio.com/webforms/14722557/986696
Vice President, Wikimedia District of Columbia
Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
William Beutler ): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
organizations and affiliates.
I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff  (beyond
even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
any other movement org.
I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
within that organization.
2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
different directions -- at every level.
3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
them to do.
My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
(sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
offices, and other human endeavors.  This is very specifically
because it makes organizational units more manageable and
understandable for those who work there.
b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.
More on these points below.
== Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
A "MediaWiki Foundation"  has been proposed a few times and I
suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
projects to list.
Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.
Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
create a proving ground for experimental technology.
Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
== The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==
It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
achieving impact at unprecedented scale.
LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
worth quoting in full :
I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
nonprofits like ours.
As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
(called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
World, Brazil, and India).
The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
fundraise on our own).
Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.
So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.
The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
helping that mission.
Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
of the overall Wikimedia mission.
I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
WMF into independent organizations.
== A "Movement Association"? ==
A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.
When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
(through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
another organization for failing to do so.
Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
motivated to help grow it?
== Where to go from here? ==
There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
"development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
(WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
for trial and error.
Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
involved in the process? And so on.
The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
-- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
organizations than what we have today.
== Notes ==
 Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
(Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.
Improved accuracy is like motherhood and apple pie — I trust no one will be
opposed to the goal.
However the initial proposal to achieve that goal needs a fair amount of
*Clarify scope* – the page WikiProject_Accuracy is in the English
Wikipedia, so implicitly, the initial scope is the English Wikipedia. I
note that page has a scope section with no content as yet. However, I think
taking on the entire English Wikipedia is biting off too much initially.
Projects such as this work best if started as a pilot project. While
someone may envision this eventually applying to all languages and treat
English as the pilot, there is no way in which a project who scope is over
5 million articles can meaningfully be described as a pilot. Consider a
much more limited scope pilot. For example all articles within the purview
of wiki project medicine might be a good start, primarily because of the
importance of that subject matter and partly because of the strong
initiatives of editors in that area.
*Clarify ownership* – the seal of approval appears to be granted by a group
called the Project Accuracy's Editorial Review Board (PAERB). Are these WMF
employees? Editors who meet some criteria? Who establishes the criteria?
*Clarify mechanics* – unless there is a fundamental change to the way
Wikipedia works, it will be meaningless to slap a seal of approval on any
particular article, as that article could change literally seconds later. I
see two possible options although there may be more. The first and most
likely option is that the seal of approval appears on the article itself
but is actually a permanent link to a reviewed version. This concept has
been discussed by wiki project medicine I believe. A second option is to
add the seal to the article but then invoke pending changes protection. It
would probably have to be a new level of protection allowing only qualified
editors, either members of the PAERB, or vetted by the PAERB to make
changes. The second option will require a whole new level of bureaucracy.
*Eventual scope* – the current Wikiproject Accuracy page suggests that RAAFA
is a level beyond GA & FA. I don’t think anyone reasonably expects that all
articles in the English Wikipedia will eventually become FA, so that
implies that it is unreasonable to assume that all, or even any
meaningfully significant proportion of all articles reach the level of
RAAFA. Is it intended to limit this to some subset such as vital articles?
this is just a friendly reminder about the deadline for submitting
posters, discussions and trainings for Wikimania 2016.
You have time until March 30, so if you haven't yet uploaded your
proposal it is time to hurry up!
The page is always the same:
Wikimania Programme Committee
The Reading team's Q4 goals for 2015-16 are posted on Media Wiki:
We arrived at these goals by taking the results of the Q4 brainstorming
<https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Reading/Quarterly_planning/Q4> and matching
them against our strategy, speed and strengths.
Below is a summary of what we aim to do in the April-June Quarter with more
context than what you see on our goals page. You will notice a lot of
cross-platform migration. That is no accident: we learn faster by
launching on one platform and then migrating the idea to others. The goals
are broken out by team or strategic theme.
*Community Tech: Community Wishlist items*
Ship features and fixes related to three wishes in the Wishlist Survey top
*Infrastructure: two-factor authentication*The infrastructure team will
enable two-factor authentication
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-factor_authentication> via AuthManager
on the Wikimedia cluster. The goal here is to add another layer of
security for accounts with important privileges.
*New Readers (was: "reach new users in the global south")*
*Web: decrease load time and cost for low-resource environments on mobile*This
will be accomplished through lazy loading
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazy_loading> of images, and cutting default
html size. This is in beta mobile channel by the end of this quarter and
we plan to measure results and roll out to all users over the course of Q4.
*Make a better encyclopedia experience*
*Web: hovercards*Specifically, enable hovercards
<https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Beta_Features/Hovercards> as default for
logged-out desktop users on more than one wiki (this one is dependent on
community approval). Hovercards represent a faster way of browsing
Wikipedia that most readers prefer (as indicated by this survey
It has been in beta for more than a year and the mobile version was
recently launched to all users on our Android app. This is not as simple
as turning on a switch, there are several improvements that will have to be
made. One reason we are launching this is to clean up our beta site before
picking up any new work. This is arguably "New Readers" as well, due to the
performance gains from loading fewer pages.
A community initiated proposal is being discussed to enable this on English
Wikipedia. Please chime in!
*Android: launch the feed*This quarter, the iOS team launched a feed on the
app home screen and it looks great and early results suggest users are
responding well to it. The goal is to drive user retention by giving
readers a reason to open up Wikipedia even if they don't have a specific
query in mind. The Android team will also be implementing backend services
to support the feed across platforms.
*iOS: Universal links*"Universal Links" (aka deep links) provide convenient
re-entry to the app from links and OS search, but do not advertise or
promote the app. This is something that is already live on Android and
partially supported on iOS. It allows users who prefer the app to open it
from links or an OS query, since that is how most users get to Wikipedia.
*A Community of Readers (interactive Wikipedia)*
This is the third pillar that came out of our strategy process. No active
development work is planned here. Future direction for this part of our
strategy is currently being explored via a community consultation here:
Your feedback or questions are welcome.
Since 2 years, Wikimédia France provides its "APG" proposal in advance on meta, even if some parts are still in progress and other require improvements.
You'll find our proposal for the 2015-2016 Round 2 here:
Our staff and volunteers are still working on the document. However, we publish it in advance to allow your feedback and proofread.
If you want to help on these topics: you can fix minor errors, let us know if you noticed mistake(s), ask for clarification or suggest improvement(s).
We'll do our best to implement your feedbacks and improve the proposal before the deadline, which is Friday 1st April.
Moreover, if you have any questions about our programs for next year, please, ask :)
Thanks to anyone who will help us to improve our proposal.
www.wikimedia.fr | Twitter: @Wikimedia_Fr
Mob. +33 6 61 15 13 12 | emeric.vallespi(a)wikimedia.fr
We seek community input on a proposed WikiProject called "WikiProject Accuracy" conceptualized by Ms. Betty Wills (User:Atsme). Following a recent discussion with Betty, I decided to bring it here for community input because of the possible controversy that may arise from establishing a WikiProject like this.
The primary goals of WikiProject Accuracy are to:
*Increase quality of Wikipedia articles
*Increase reliability of Wikipedia articles
*Promote/improve collaboration among experienced editors
*Promote existing editors retention
Betty's ideas are to form a team of Project Accuracy Coordinators to oversee the project, help establish criteria and minimum qualifications for fact-check teams, help with the project's page design and tasks and to form additional teams comprising appointed representatives from other project teams to help coordinate and organize a list of articles for review, and who will serve as members of Project Accuracy's Editorial Review Board (PAERB). The PAERB will be responsible for review and approval of articles nominated to bear the "reviewed and approved for accuracy" seal in the top right corner of the article. The ideas also aim to support the WMF's "Reach" campaign and help establish or re-establish credibility in Wikipedia articles that carry the RAAFA seal as a trusted source worthy of citing at all levels of academia, government, research, etc.
This seem like a unique approach to improving the quality of articles on Wikipedia and increasing reliability of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia. The idea to bring experienced editors together to serve in the editorial board of the project sounds like a great way to benefit from the specialized skills of all participants.
However, an editor (User:Smallbones) raised a concern on whether this is in line with the spirit of Wikipedia which permit anyone to freely edit its content at all levels. User:Smallbones said " An Editorial Review Board sounds like a very interesting idea and could be fun. But actually I think it could easily violate Wikipedia rules, such as forming some sort of exclusive club that others couldn't join without an invitation. If it's just another rating scheme (that anybody can participate in whenever they want)"
I respect Smallbones concerns but I don't see a major problem with the idea of establishing an Editorial Review Board (ERB) comprising of trusted and experienced editors as board members. From the look of things, WikiProject Accuracy is likely to generate controversy among Wikipedians. The controversy will centered on whether this idea is against the vision of Wikipedia or not. Thus, we seek broader community input on this proposed project.
Manager, Wikipedia Education Program Nigeria.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld from Glo Mobile.