Some of your points have merit as there are many areas in which we can and should improve.
However, I must respectfully note that your comments here serve only to divide a already
fractured community even further. As a Californian, I disagree with your assertions of
nepotism and favoritism most vehemently.
Since you live in Pennsylvania, you may not be aware of this but rents in California tend
to be fairly exorbitant. San Francisco is no exception. Office space has always been at a
premium. When looking at bids, I assume that our hard working staff took many factors into
consideration, as price is one out of many important items. One major factor would be the
working dynamic and utilization. Wikia and Wikimedia, although different types of
corporations, utilize the same software for similar purposes. This means that the Wikia
office space would be usable by Foundation staff, as it would already be designed for
those working with wikis. With another landlord, the Foundation might need to reconfigure
the space, which costs time and money. Also, Wikia staff would be competent enough to
assist with problems and capable of making changes. Another landlord might be difficult to
reach or unable to work with staff to alleviate problems. Also they might not be
able to understand what staff would need and be difficult to work with. The real cost is
never just the sticker price, its all the hidden surprises. Renting from a similar
organization eliminates these hidden surprises and makes for a smooth transition.
You also make the assertion of nepotism and impropriety. I fail to see why this is
improper. Big whoop, Jimbo owns Wikia. Everybody knows it and it has never been hidden. He
isn't going to profit from a simple subletting deal. Wikia has bills too and I assume
has to pay rent. This makes the transfer of money moot, as money goes into private coffers
all the time to keep nonprofits going. There is nothing wrong with this agreement, and it
in no way means that Wikia and Wikimedia are joined.
My final point is that you have made these allegations without access to Board and staff
documents. You therefore do not have the whole picture and have no standing to criticize
those who do. This attempt to create division has no place and distracts us from the
From: Gregory Kohs <thekohser(a)gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 11:37:37 AM
Subject: [Foundation-l] Wikia leasing office space to WMF
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"
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.
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