On 1 Mar 2016, at 11:12 AM, Kevin Smith
I think some people aren't realizing the difference between the leaked
presentation (which outlined a general search engine) and the actual grant.
The former was just an idea, while the latter is official. By my reading,
the grant clearly is NOT for a general internet search engine, although it
(unfortunately) did retain a bit of the language from earlier documents.
With the greatest of respect, I'm not sure how could come to the conclusion that
general Internet search was not a core component of the Knowledge Engine.
I'm just going to quote directly from the Grant application here :
Knowledge Engine By Wikipedia will democratize the
discovery of media, news and information—it will make the Internet's most relevant
information more accessible and openly curated, and it will create an open data engine
that's completely free of commercial interests. Our new site will be the Internet’s
first transparent search engine, and the first one that carries the reputation of
Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation.
So to reiterate the words that make it hard for the WMF to deny that they were pitching
for an Internet search engine:
Our new site will be the Internet's first
transparent search engine, and the first one that carries the reputation of Wikipedia and
the Wikimedia Foundation.
For context, this is the answer to the grant application question "Opportunity: What
is the overall challenge being addressed? What is the proposed approach? And what evidence
is there that this approach will work?"
The grant application also states that one challenge that could disrupt the project is:
Third-party influence or interference. Google, Yahoo
or another big commercial search engine could suddenly devote resources to a similar
project, which could reduce the success of the project. This is the biggest challenge, and
an external one.
It truly strains credibility that an internal search engine merely indexing internal sites
could be threatened by either Google or Yahoo devoting resources equal to or greater than
the grant money allocated to this project, just to index Wikimedia properties. Similarly,
it makes no sense to me how you can "democratize the discovery of media, news, and
information" to "make the Internet's most relevant information more
accessible and openly curated" without pulling that information from...the Internet!
And of course, to risk repeating myself, the next line states that "our new site will
be the Internet's first transparent search engine".
You can tell me the scope was intended to be only for Wikimedia projects, but that
isn't what is said in that grant application. That document as it stands literally
states that it is to be an Internet search engine. No, I correct myself. It says it is to
be THE Internet's search engine.
So when you say than there is confusion between the internal presentation and the official
external grant application, I must respectfully disagree with you. There is no such
confusion. The two parts of the application I have quoted cover almost a third of the
grant application and I'd argue are the key parts of the application.
If fully one third of the grant application seem to be ambiguous or even flat wrong - and
key parts at that! - then it's not just "unfortunate" that a "bit"
of the language of the presentation remained in the grant application accidentally.
That's sheer downright incompetence. Lila signed off on this document, and it was
reviewed by others. I don't know who vetted and drafted this, but the buck stops with
Lila, and she has never acknowledged her part in the language and scope of this
application aside from once stating in a Discovery team meeting  that:
How do we explain the story now? The original idea was
a broader concept. Never a crawler. We abandoned some ideas during the ideation phase, but
we haven’t been clear what/when we abandoned.
I mean, we have here an admission from Lila that it is unclear to the wider community and
even WMF staff what they have and haven't abandoned! Why have they assumed that the
Knight Foundation would take anything from that grant application that most of us here,
the Press, and interested members of the general public would not conclude from merely
reading the document?
There has been some handwaving going on from a variety of different parties that "oh,
it's just a Grant application, these things are very high level and vague, it
doesn't really matter what we write in it lets just put the broadest possible
objectives and vision for this thing and we'll deal the scope later on after we've
been given the grant money".
Others may not think this is not a concern. I do though, and I'm very concerned that
we are making grant applications and not really disclosing our full intentions, and we are
not making it clear what are the corresponding scope limitations. Before someone objects,
it's even worse when I have asked about the first challenge that could threaten the
project and the response  is, in part:
Why is Google mentioned? Because they are the
undisputed giants of search. If they wanted to dedicated even a small amount of their
resources to creating a “Wikisearch” or “Free Knowledge Search” they could do so with
ease. This is a risk because the foundation could invest both money and time into
improving our search capabilities in an attempt to better surface Wikimedia content, only
to be upended by those with more fiscal, staff, and technical resources. When submitting
grants you have to be honest about stuff like this so that the grantor doesn’t get
surprised down the road.
Please do understand that grant language is not the
same as technical writing. The knight foundation is not a technical organization. The
grant, again written my many authors over a substantial period of time, is written to
entice and explain simply how we might use the funds.
This is very, very worrying. The explanation given in that comment is given in no more
than three sentences, yet if it is a clearer and more accurate reflection of the stated
threat than that given in the original document! I mean, we aren't talking about
paragraphs of written, turgid prose written by someone like myself on internal Wikimedia
mailing lists. It's a pithy, well written and rather excellent explanation on the
apparent threat to the project.
And this comment that grant writing isn't like technical writing... Well yes and no.
More yes than no. But grant applications - especially ones that are applying for millions
of dollars in funds for charitable endeavours - must be clear and not ambiguous about the
purpose(s) of the funding.
Nobody can say that the Knight Foundation grant application was clear.
So... I think I've made myself clear now. We can and do understand the differences
between those two documents. I don't think anyone is terrible confused by them.