I've been holding up release of this report, waiting on comScore data.
It's still pending, so I will just re-release with it, once it's
available. Enjoy :-)
Report to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
Covering: July 2009
Prepared by: Sue Gardner, Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation
Prepared for: Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
MILESTONES FROM JULY
1. Hiring concluded for the Strategic Planning Project
2. New fiscal year begins
3. First Wikipedia Academy in the United States
KEY PRIORITIES FOR AUGUST
1. Prepare for and attend Wikimania 2009 and associated Board
of Trustees meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina
2. Beta roll-out of first usability improvements
4. Begin planning process to seek funding for new data center
5. Meetings with donor prospects
THIS PAST MONTH
STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS
During July, two members of the Wikimedia Advisory Board, Wayne
Mackintosh and Benjamin Mako Hill, separately visited the office to
share their expertise and help influence the strategy planning
project. Discussions included possibilities for community support
structures, outreach and partnership models as well as sharing of
learnings from the free software and open source movements. Several
proposals based on these conversations will be posted to the strategic
planning project pages. Thomas de Souza Buckup, a Brazilian
Wikimedian, also visited the office of the Wikimedia Foundation, and
held meetings with staff.
Eugene Eric Kim and Philippe Beaudette joined the Wikimedia Foundation
staff to fill the Project Manager and Facilitator positions for the
Foundation's collaborative strategy development project.
Eugene was announced as the Project Manager for the strategy project.
Eugene is principal and co-founder of Blue Oxen Associates
<http://blueoxen.com/>, a San Francisco-based socially-conscious
consulting firm that focuses on understanding and improving how people
collaborate. He's worked at all levels of the collaborative process,
from strategy development to facilitation. His past clients have
included People for the American Way, NASA, the Institute for
International Education, Socialtext, and the Sierra Club. Eugene is
also a long-time member of the Wiki community. He is the co-author of
PurpleWiki, he spoke at the first Wikimania conference in Frankfurt,
he was a keynote speaker at WikiSym 2006, and he was one of the
instigators of the first RecentChangesCamp.
Philippe Beaudette joined the Wikimeda Foundation as Facilitator for
the strategy project. Philippe is a trusted member of the Wikimedia
volunteer community. He's a three-year member of the Board of
Trustees Election Committee, a two-year trusted administrator for the
English Wikipedia, and has twice been granted temporary administrator
status for meta for election-related activities. He has also been a
volunteer for OTRS, and has helped the Wikimedia Foundation in the
development of a grant proposal. Outside Wikimedia, Philippe has a
background in American electoral politics, where he has worked as
Deputy Campaign Manager, Operations Manager and Technology Director on
a number of state and federal campaigns, as well as for the non-profit
Progressive Alliance Foundation. He has also worked as a technology
consultant in the for-profit sector in the United States, Italy and
the United Kingdom.
The strategy project also intended to hire a Research Analyst and
interviewed a number of candidates, but has since reconsidered that
role, and will rededicate those resources to other work in the
project. That may possibly include efforts to bring in external
expertise of various kinds, and/or to bring in the perspectives of
Eugene and Philippe started working on the strategic planning process
in mid July. They've been working closely with Bridgespan and senior
Foundation staff on the details of the process. They've also been
holding weekly brown bag discussions and IRC office hours. Finally,
they launched the strategic planning Wiki
<http://strategy.wikimedia.org/>, and they're encouraging people to
submit proposals for what they think the movement should be working on
over the next five years. The Bridgespan Group worked throughout July
to build the fact base <http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fact_base>
for the strategic planning process, supported by individual
Wikimedians and Wikimedia Foundation staff.
MediaWiki contract developer Andrew Garrett worked on modernizing the
LiquidThreads discussion forum extension and solicited feedback from
users and the Usability Initiative team on the user interface. The
Foundation hopes to start deploying LiquidThreads in some isolated
areas in the next couple of months to get real-world usage feedback;
in the long term this should help clear up many of the usability
problems with the current discussion page system. Related tech blog
The technology team received a large amount of feedback on Wikipedia's
new mobile interface which left beta at the end of June, and mobile
developer Hampton Catlin incorporated bugfixes and improvements
throughout the month.
A new 'wmf-deployment' branch was created for MediaWiki which allows
us to more cleanly track the specific version of the software running
on Wikimedia's servers.
Tomasz Finc began pursuing several sources for offsite backups and
mirrors of data dumps and images. The Wikimedia Foundation now has a
private offsite mirror hosted by eBart Consulting in Europe. Data
dumps are running smoothly overall, with some new development
occurring to restore availability of full-history dumps of
Brion Vibber, Fred Vassard, Erik Moeller, Ariel Glenn, Trevor Parscal,
Naoko Komura, and Parul Vora attended the OSCON open-source conference
in San Jose, California, a massive multi-track conference bringing
together leaders in the open source community. The conference was
widely regarded as helpful to establish contacts with new and
established open source projects, and to review the state of
technologies such as distributed version control, user interface
paradigms in open source software, authentication systems, caching and
database technologies, etc.
Brion attended an Open Educational Research Search Discovery workshop
at the Berkman Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he assessed a
variety of possibilities with exposing license and other metadata from
the sites, and using data from other sites to aid in sharing of
educational media. Related blog post:
At the end of July, Ariel Glenn attended the Open Translation Tools
Conference in Amsterdam to coordinate work with developers working on
relevant translation systems. Related blog post:
TECHNOLOGY INCIDENT SUMMARY
There was a small number of unrelated site incidents in July that
resulted in outages and downtime, documented in Wikimedia's technical
- brief downtime on the English Wikipedia
- brief outage in our European data centers
- scheduled downtime due to router reboot
Additionally, the technology team investigated significant issues
related to media storage due to erratic behavior of the storage
servers, which were resolved after brief interruption of media upload
capability. A more systematic rearchitecting of the media storage and
serving architecture is still in order.
The first set of the usability features was deployed to Wikipedia and
all other Wikimedia projects across all languages on July 1st as a
user interface option. This first release focuses on a simplified
navigation and cleaned-up basic layout, an improved editing toolbar
with more obvious access to key formatting tools and a built-in help
system, and a redesigned interface to MediaWiki's built-in search.
Further information about this release can be found here:
The release was deployed initially as a user preference so that we can
start collecting feedback from a small set of users. About one
thousand users changed their setting to use the new interface in the
first few weeks, and they provided valuable feedback so that we can
address critical software issues. The support for right-to-left
languages was the most difficult problem to resolve, however a
solution was in place by the end of July.
The team worked on the launch plan of the new feature as an easily
accessible “Beta” option for all users, and staged the opt-in and
opt-out path by prototyping them. The development for the next
release called “Babaco”  has started. The planned main features of
the next release are a table of contents integrated into the editing
interface to help users navigate long pages (a common problem
encountered during user tests), and pop-up dialog boxes to help users
easily insert links and tables.
On July 13, the project brought in Blair Lewis to help with tech
hiring. Blair has been an in-house staffing consultant for Google,
the San Francisco Health Plan, and SurfaceInk.
On July 31, Nimish Gautam joined the usability team as a Software
Developer. Nimish recently worked at Yahoo as Software Developer and
Localization Coordinator for the Trip Planner for Yahoo! Travel. Prior
to Yahoo, Nimish worked on linguistic analytical software for
text-to-text translation research for the United Nations and the
government at Carnegie-Mellon University. Nimish holds a master's
degree in language technologies from Carnegie-Mellon University and a
bachelor's degree in Networking/Cognitive Science with highest honor,
from Georgia Tech.
Preparation work for the Ford multimedia usability project has begun,
and the search for a new software developer has started.
OTHER PROGRAM ACTIVITIES
The first Wikipedia Academy in the United States with the US
government agency National Institutes of Health (NHI) was conducted on
July 16. About 100 NIH employees received live presentations and
training on Wikimedia mission and culture, as well as editing skills.
The event was live-streamed to the entire NIH staff of over 350,000.
Frank Schulenburg, a team of six volunteer experts, Jennifer Riggs,
and a team of local volunteers planned and implemented the event. The
expert volunteers worked for several months to create welcoming spaces
and to support sustained participation of the NIH health scientists
and educators. A summary of the event is available on Wikipedia at
Frank Schulenburg has also been focusing on building Wikimedia
volunteer capacity by launching the Best Practices series on Meta, at
July, Kathrin Jansen began volunteering in the San Francisco office
and remotely, to assist other volunteers in documenting their
experiences with a variety of public outreach models and activities.
Currently there are best practice articles in building content
partnerships with cultural institutions, giving a Wikipedia
presentation, setting up a Wikipedia booth at a third-party event,
assigning Wikipedia articles as coursework to students and using
Wikibooks in the classroom.
Cary Bass embarked on planning and activities to improve the customer
service system to better serve users of the Wikimedia projects. Two
administrator volunteers on the Open Ticket Response System (OTRS)
helped him to gather statistics for analysis on response rate, ticket
closure and customer satisfaction. Cary also presented a workshop on
OTRS and customer service for about 20 attendees at the New York Wiki
conference where Jimmy Wales and other speakers focused on biographies
of living persons (BLPs) and other customer service issues.
The Wikimedia Foundation approved 21 funding requests from 11
chapters, in the pilot year of the chapters funding request process.
Reporting instructions were developed for this pilot year with a focus
on sharing lessons learned with other chapters and individual
Wikimedians interested in pursuing mission activities. Initial
financial processing procedures were also developed to support this
new kind of spending. Submitted chapter grant proposals can be found
Major coverage during July revolved around the following stories:
1. The New York Times wrote about the ethics of Rorschach test
interpretation information being available on Wikipedia, kicking off
coverage from other news organizations. Most coverage leaned towards
neutral, with some journalists noting the information has been
available for years in libraries and from other sources.
2. Wikimedia staff and volunteers held the first-ever US-based
Wikipedia Academy, resulting in very positive coverage from the
Washington Post and Wired.com
, as well as a number of government and
health sector media outlets.
3. Media paid attention to controversy over the inclusion of public
domain images on Wikimedia Commons from the National Portrait
Gallery's website. The NPG asserts that the digitizations of these
images are protected by copyright law. The Wikimedia Foundation's
response can be found here:
Other worthwhile reads:
During July, the Wikimedia Foundation participated in interviews with
WCBS AM (New York City, USA); the New York Times (New York City, USA);
USA Today (Boston, Massachusetts, USA); Computer World (Farmingham,
Massachusetts, USA); the Guardian (London, UK); the Daily Mail
(London, UK); Wired (San Francisco, California, USA); Wall Street
Journal (Los Angeles, California; USA); IT News Australia (Sydney,
Australia); National Post (Toronto, Canada); Federal News Radio, 1500
AM (Washington DC, USA); Washington Post (Washington DC, USA); CNN
Money (New York City, USA); American Medical News (Chicago, Illinois,
USA); BioTechniques (New York City, USA); Government Executive
Magazine (Washington DC, USA); IT Pro (London, UK); WCBS New York (New
York City, USA); Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts, USA).
During July, the Wikimedia Foundation released 3 press releases.
“Wikimedia Foundation receives Ford Foundation grant to grow Wikimedia
Commons, a free educational media repository”
“United States National Institute of Health (NHI) and Wikimedia
Foundation Collaborate to Improve Online Health Information”
“¡Viva Wikimanía! ¡Buenos Aires los espera! / Buenos Aires awaits
FUNDRAISING, GRANTS, & PARTNERSHIPS
As per the above, the Wikimedia Foundation officially announced that
it has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to
improve the usability of Wikimedia Commons. This is also the first
time a full grant proposal has been published alongside a press
release as part of Wikimedia's commitment to organizational
transparency. We're very grateful to the Ford Foundation for this
During July, the Wikimedia Foundation received 775 donations, with a
combined total value of USD 100,014. July is the beginning of the
Wikimedia Foundation's fiscal year; this year's fundraising target is
The community giving team made progress with the Chapters Fundraising
Agreement, mobile giving application, and the fundraising survey. They
plan to finalize these projects in time for the Annual Fundraiser,
which will kick off in late fall 2009.
In addition to her normal fundraising activities, Rebecca Handler
began leading development of a proposal for the funding of a new data
centre. The Wikimedia Foundation aspires to open a new, fully
redundant data centre in either California or the Washington DC area:
Rebecca is leading activities designed to secure funding for it.
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION
Veronique Kessler began planning with KPMG (the Wikimedia Foundation's
audit firm) towards the audit of the Wikimedia Foundation's 2008-09
Veronique also finalized the process for managing payment of grants to
chapters and individual Wikimedians.
Daniel Phelps continued leading the search for the Wikimedia
Foundation's new office space. Daniel consulted with other staff to
create criteria for the new space, and led several site visits,
ultimately narrowing down prospects from several dozen to four. Daniel
hopes to have a lease signed for the new space in August or September.
Mike Godwin completed a first draft of the revised trademark policy.
The new draft policy is designed to define to chapters and others what
they can and can't do with WMF trademarks and resolving long-standing
ambiguities about what the chapters need to ask permission for use of
trademarks. The policy is adapted from the latest iteration of the
Mozilla trademark policy (version 2.0), with appropriate adjustments.
Although the document is still in the drafting phase, the goal is to
answer trademark questions for Chapters and others in ways that
resolve most questions before they arise.
Communications coach John Plank staged a series of workshops aimed at
helping Wikimedia staff improve their presentation skills. Those
workshops were attended by Brion, Tomasz, Cary, Daniel, Veronique,
Naoko, Jennifer, Rand, Sara, Rebecca, Jay, Frank, Sue and Erik.
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