Dear Maryana, Jeff, and all,

Allow me to raise a couple of points with respect to the interview published yesterday in the San Francisco Examiner, titled "What does the CEO who oversees Wikipedia do? We ask her."

I'll quote the relevant passages.

1. "[Q:] You said there’s hundreds of thousands of volunteer editors. So how many people get paid and are professional editors of Wikipedia? [A:] Wikipedia is written by volunteers, unpaid people helping the rest of us make sure that we find information on the internet that is accurate and verified and cited and sourced. There are employees of the Wikimedia Foundation that provide support to these communities and volunteers, but the volunteers themselves are not paid staff."

This is a good statement inasmuch as it makes clear that Wikipedia is written and curated by volunteers, countering the widespread but erroneous assumption that the WMF's paid staff plays an active role in this. On the other hand, that point had already been made, and given that this appears to have been a direct question about how many paid and professional editors of Wikipedia there are, the article would have benefited from a mention of the thousands of editors who are paid by individuals and organisations (other than the WMF). There are over 5,000 Wikipedia editors who openly disclose being paid:

To these must be added an unknown number of additional paid editors who operate without disclosure, or use a different method of disclosure than the one searched for by this URL. Could this be added to the article, and mentioned in future interviews where this question is asked?

2. "[A:] ... We have roughly 600 people scattered across over 40 countries and every region of the world. ..."

The article would have given a more accurate impression if it had mentioned that well over half of these are based in the US. Could this info be added, and included in future interviews?

3. "[Q:] Why does Wikipedia have banners on its website asking people to give money? [A:] They’re a small invitation for folks who find value in Wikipedia to chip in and ensure that this can remain as it is: An enterprise that doesn’t rely on selling you anything with ads. I’m not incentivizing you to stay longer than you need to stay."

The WMF has never asked for money to ensure that things "can remain" as they are, or to avoid having to put up ads. It has asked for money to enable exponential growth of the Wikimedia Foundation – whose salary costs have increased tenfold over the past decade[1] – and to accumulate vast reserves, which have increased by an even greater factor over that time period. Last year alone, the Foundation's assets and the Wikimedia Endowment together grew by about $90 million dollars, a surplus that is almost the equivalent of one full year's expenses.[2] Seen in this context, I find the answer given paints a misleading picture, especially given a prior sentence saying that "her 600-employee organization humbly raises funds to keep operating ..." – as though there were an acute need for donations to keep the WMF going. 

I'd love to see the WMF communicate more openly and transparently about the growth of its organisation and the additional things it is doing, or planning to do, with its additional funds, and to see more detailed media reporting on Wikimedia's financial growth. The WMF pattern of growth is really markedly different from that of other donor-funded organisations that have a more or less stable budget – there is a story here that is being missed.


For sources see the PDFs linked in the table shown here:
[2] See the following articles: