On 1 Mar 2016, at 2:00 AM, Jimmy Wales <jimmywales(a)wikia-inc.com> wrote:
On 2/29/16 6:46 AM, Chris Sherlock wrote:
Unfortunately though, the WMF very much did have
that were positioning the WMF into building a search engine. In fact,
it was a grand idea. But one that was done in secret. James was not
wrong, and he wasn’t lying. You may not have been aware of it at the
time, but there were indeed confidential documents that showed that
someone was developing an internal search engine.
There are a lot of confusions here and I think you've not been very
precise, so let me work through this slowly. Apologies for the tedium
but I'm sure you'll agree there has been too much that has been too vague.
Not at all, I apologise for any confusion I may have brought to bare here.
First, before we start, let's clarify some
terminology. There is "an
internal search engine" which we have now, have had for many years.
There was and is a project to improve it - this is part of what the
Knight grant is all about, and I think it's great. It's also not
controversial. The controversial part is "search engine" in the sense
of a Google-competitor. It's important to recognize that using the term
'search engine' as a standalone can lead to misconceptions.
Drat. Autocorrect’ed by my iPad. That *should* have read “Internet”, not “internal”.
FWIW, I don’t think anyone is opposed to a better search engine. I’m rather impressed you
had built one back in the day :-) In fact, I don’t think anyone is opposed to a search
engine that indexes the wider Internet, taylored to the WMF’s purposes. I think even
Google would find this a total non-issue. In fact, if it was truly open, they could just
use it as a source of index data. Google knows just how hard it is to develop a search
engine, it’s taken them years and years and a LOT of expertise, and they have to bypass
bad actors and goodness only knows what else.
Second, I am now aware that a former employee was
advocating for the
idea of building a direct competitor to Google. His presentation about
this was shared under rather extreme "cloak and dagger" with PGP
encryption, etc. This idea did not get traction, and never rose to
being something presented to the board for approval. As far as I
understand it, some of the dramatic language did survive here and there,
but if you read it independently you'd not really interpret it that way.
Yeah, I’ve read those emails on this mailing list. Its very… odd.
I was very harsh in a reply to a blogpost by Lila on the 16th , and frankly I regret
the degree of hostility in that comment - I read it now and cringe a little. Nevertheless
my conclusions stand. If the dramatic language in the Knight Foundation document is the
language that talks about being a transparent Internet search engine by Wikimedia, then
that document was very badly put together.
If the grant application that was put to the Knight Foundation had specific language that
talked about Internet search, then it appears that we may have inadvertently misled the
Knight Foundation. There’s no real way of putting it I’m afraid - that’s just sheer
Is what I’m saying is the truth, then I do hope someone has gotten in contact with the
Knight Foundation to clarify the application? Surely if they are giving us money though,
it’s on the proviso that we do what we say we will do? Part of what we were telling them
was that we want to make an amazing transparent Internet search engine, one that does away
with the opaque and potentially damaging search algorithms of proprietary search engines -
and we made it worse by stating that Google could be a risk due to interference and wasted
effort working on the same thing?
Forgive me for harping on about this, but that document *did* give the *very strong*
impression to almost everyone, including I’d hazard the Knight Foundation, that we were
applying for a grant into searching the wider Internet. Whilst I’m not exactly a fan of
the global media, that was their take on the matter also - the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation was one of the first to pick this up, and they are (despite being a
state-funded institution) quite a reliable and reasonably neutral source of news.
If you could please advise then why we added dramatic language that gave an impression we
were building something we aren’t to the Knight Foundation, who then funded the first
tranche, then I’d appreciate it.
If you could clarify that if this is an accurate summation of a big problem in that grant
application, to a big and well respected grant funder, then what has the WMF done to reach
out to the Knight Foundation to clarify what they were actually funding?
James had gotten, from somewhere, the idea that there
really was a
secret project to build a Google-competing search engine. We had a
discussion where I told him that wasn't right. We had further
discussions at the board level of what it means, and eventually James
himself made the motion to approve the Knight grant, and voted in favor
Yes, well as much as I respect James (and I think from my previous emails that’s
abundantly clear) he made a big mistake in approving the grant given what he suspected.
interests of transparency, could you please release these
emails? They sound innocuous enough, it would be nice to be able to
verify this and read the email discussion you and James had.
I'd like to do that. I'm starting a private conversation with James
that I hope will be productive.
Thank you Jimmy! This is great news. I really appreciate you doing this.
Under Fl. St.
§ 617.0808(1)  James is not allowed to possess any
such email records.
I think you are badly misreading that. I think the point is that he's
not allowed to withhold "records" (which probably meant paperwork at the
time the statue was written), not that he's not allowed to keep copies.
I've never heard of the idea that a board member has to delete all
their old board email archives!
Actually, that’s precisely what it says, though of course I am not a lawyer, the language
is refreshingly unambiguous.
(g) Any director removed from office shall turn over
to the board of directors within 72 hours any and all records of the corporation in his or
(h) If a director who is removed does not relinquish his or her office or turn over
records as required under this section, the circuit court in the county where the
corporation’s principal office is located may summarily order the director to relinquish
his or her office and turn over corporate records upon application of any member.
It might be nice if WMF legal counsel could clarify this. A bit off topic though I guess.
Anyway, the issue is probably just about finding a
in a mountain of correspondence.
Oh, agreed! I was just pointing out that James probably does have a copy of the emails,
Appreciate you responding so quickly Jimmy. I’d really appreciate you clearing up these
other questions. Sorry to all if I’m hitting my post limit, I’m trying hard to ensure that
I don’t spam everyone unnecessarily!