[Foundation-l] bylaws (second call)

Lars Aronsson lars at aronsson.se
Mon Aug 21 22:26:27 UTC 2006

On August 17, Anthony wrote:

> I didn't originally respond to the comment by Lars because I 
> think it is so far off the mark.  Jimmy Wales is not Bill Gates, 
> Andrew Carnegie, or Alfred Nobel.  His company, Bomis, provided 
> the start-up costs for Wikipedia, perhaps on the order of a 
> million dollars, but Jimbo didn't leave Wikimedia with the money 
> to sustain itself for any significant period of time.  It's the 
> broad base of donors from all over the world that keep Wikimedia 
> running financially,

I agree, and every analogy has its limits.  Still I think there is 
an important resemblance if you care to look beyond the money.  
The ideas that built the fortunes of Nobel, Carnegie, and Gates 
are surprisingly simple.  Let's mix these chemicals and see if we 
can make a safer explosive, let's see if we can produce steel in 
the U.S. rather than importing it, let's see if we can market 
microcomputer software in a box as if it were a product.  The 
results were fortunes in both senses of the word: luck and money. 
Jimbo's fortune (luck) is that he (and Larry Sanger) stumbled upon 
the wiki concept when they were trying to build a free 
encyclopedia.  Just like those other guys, this new fortune needs 
a home so it can live on, and that home is the foundation.

I guess the money needed to run the Wikimedia Foundation is 
similar to the money needed to pay the Nobel Foundation committees 
for nominating the winners.  This is a lot less than the prize 
money, which in turn is only a fraction of the annual interest 
from the amount they have in the bank.  Wikipedia has no need (so 
far) for that really big money.  And that's our real fortune!

> Wikimedia doesn't fit the stereotypical foundation nor the 
> stereotypical membership association.  I'd like to see it move 
> closer to a membership association.  I'm really not sure whether 
> or not there's any chance the board is going to give up their 
> seemingly absolute power and allow that to happen.

And as I tried say, I'm beginning to think that this would best be 
done by organizing the community separate from the foundation.  
Think of it as a national chapter that is global rather than 
national.  Or maybe a union of all local chapters.  The German 
chapter now has 250 members, the Italian 55, the Polish 44 [1].  
Let's have one in every country or state.  Let them all form a 
union.  Let that union have talks with the Wikimedia Foundation.  
That should bring some bargaining power.  But sitting around 
waiting for the foundation to organize individual community 
members is leading nowhere.

No, I don't want to advocate mutany against the foundation.  I 
think local chapters are a good thing, and more of them is better.  
The degree to which they are able to speak for their members 
(against the foundation?) remains to be seen.  Of course you risk 
that the Texas chapter will refuse to cooperate with the 
Massachusetts chapter.

[1] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_chapters

  Lars Aronsson (lars at aronsson.se)
  Aronsson Datateknik - http://aronsson.se

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