Dear Wikimedia Foundation,
My name is Chitu Okoli. I am a professor in information systems (MIS) at
Concordia University in Montréal, and I've been very interested in Wikipedia
for a while. (I am also a light Wikipedian, User:cokoli, since March this
year. In addtion, I've been listening in on foundation-l for a little while
I am currently working on a couple of research projects involving Wikipedia.
Two specific projects involve:
1. Obtaining a scholarly evaluation of the quality of its articles by
comparing Wikipedia articles with those of other encyclopedias; and
2. Mapping the sociological networks of Wikipedians among each other in
their wiki activities, and the effects of these networks on their individual
and group performance in Wikipedia.
I want to apply for grant funding to support my research, and I would love
to arrange this in a way that would translate into free computer equipment
for Wikipedia. For this, I would only need the Wikimedia Foundation's
organizational support and some technical cooperation. I hope it could be a
win-win situation where I could receive assistance for my research (and the
satisfaction of contributing tangibly to what I believe is a worthy cause),
and the Foundation could hopefully get some valuable resources.
I'd like to work together with you to see what options could work best for
mutual benefit. Specifically, let me quote my faculty's grant coordinator,
as he explains quite well the boundaries of what mind be possible:
Also, with regards to buying and sending equipment to Wikipedia, you
should be okay doing that. However, the university may request that the
equipment be returned to the university at the end of the research project
i.e. 3 years from the starting date. So, Wikipedia could use the server
for 3 years, which would obviously help them by saving them the money in
the short term to purchase the equipment and in 3 years from now you may
request from the university that the equipment be donated, sold at a
discount, returned, etc. This would have to be negotiated between
yourself and the Associate Dean and Dean of the business school.
I would suggest first that you contact Wikipedia to ask them to give you a
list of the server equipment that they need to buy, but tell them that the
value cannot exceed say $6000 CDN for example. I say $6,000 because you
may get a maximum of $15,000/yr for 3 years, which you would need to hire
RAs, buy yourself a laptop to travel with, etc. In return, they would
have to send you a letter of support indicating that they will be helping
you to collect the data you need via surveys, etc.
How I would like the Wikimedia foundation to assist me is in two main ways:
1. If my research program seems interesting to you, and/or if you believe
the Foundation could benefit from the equipment that the grant(s) could
provide, please write me an official letter of support indicating that you
are willing to offer me necessary assistance in carrying out my research. I
am certainly NOT asking for financial assistance--rather, I'm trying to help
provide some. (Besides, after listening in on the fundraising banner
discussion, Wikimedia Foundation is the last place I'd go asking for money
:-) Such a letter of support in and of itself would be a great act of
"support" for me--it would be very helpful in helping me obtain a research
grant to continue my research.
2. As far as what actual "support" I would need, for much of my research, I
don't need anyone from the Wikipedia Foundation to actually do anything for
me--I am already working off the Wikipedia database dumps, and the
Wikitech-l provides pretty good technical support. (Thanks Timwi and Brion
Vibber for helping my research assistant, Claudio.)
However, some of the further research I might need to do could need
substantial help from the Wikimedia Foundation. One particular idea I have
in mind would be to conduct a survey of Wikipedians to figure out who they
are, and why they do what they do. I have in mind something very much along
the lines of the "Hacker Survey" that Boston Consulting Group conducted on
SourceForge developers, through the support of the Open Source Developers
Network. (The results are available in PDF at
.) I think the Foundation
could benefit from a similar survey, to better understand who Wikipedians
are. However, if I were to help conduct this survey (I am a social scientist
with special training in conducting accurate surveys), I would need special
access to Wikipedians beyond what a database dump could provide. This is
just an example to show the kind of "support" I would need that could be
mutually beneficial. And of course, I'm trying to get funds from outside to
sponsor this (e.g. I apply for a grant to pay the Foundation for developer
time to help create the surveys).
To be explicit, what I hope to offer the Wikimedia Foundation (subject to
grant award) would be:
1. Free hardware for about three years or so (depending on the grant terms).
2. Consulting/developer fees for specific projects that might require more
time by board members and developers.
Please post your thoughts and comments on this. I'd like you to help make
this a proposal that could help both me and the Wikimedia Foundation.
Chitu Okoli, PhD
Assistant Professor in Management Information Systems
John Molson School of Business
Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
Phone: +1 (514) 848-2424 x2967