[Foundation-l] toward the future

Anthere anthere9 at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 27 23:02:53 UTC 2006

Dear all,

A little bit of history first :-)
When Wikipedia was created, it was supported by a
for-profit company. It was a wikipedia.com, not a
wikipedia.org. The project was small enough that it
was not so difficult to sustain it. But it became
increasingly difficult.
The Wikimedia Foundation was created in 2003 by Jimbo,
to provide a technical, financial and legal
infrastructure to our projects. It was a BIG step. It
was a deliberate move to ensure the knowledge and
wisdom of all peoples would be garanteed a nurturing
environnement to flourish for the benefits of

I was an editor at that time, I remember very well
raising questions about the bylaws of that
yet-to-be-born Foundation, and I now realise I never
really said "thank you" to Jimbo for making that first
step to allow the child to grow up. So, thank you

Today, we have reached a new step. From the baby
Foundation, where nothing existed but Jimbo's vision,
a few servers, a few domain names, growing projects
and five fresh new board members, we have evolved into
something else. The WMF owns hundred of servers, to
operate among others a website ranking amongst the 10
most visited websites in the world, many domain names,
some trademarks. We went from a few thousand dollars
revenue to over a milion dollars revenue. The
Wikimedia family also features 7 chapters. And the
world loves us (including those trying to buy usn or
those inviting us in court).

In fall 2005, we started feeling the organisation of
WMF was no more scaling to accomodate our fantastic
growth and subsequents needs. It started getting very
frustrating. We initiated a slow and sometimes painful
process which resulted in the creation of the
committees in spring 2006, continued with the addition
of an executive director and more staff to help manage
daily operations, and the decision to organise that
board retreat.

The goal of last week retreat was to discuss the
foundations of our ever growing multicultural,
multilinguistic, collaboration-based, organisation. It
was also meant to clarify the organisation mission,
identify strategic goals short and medium terms,
priorities and to make decisions of certain actions.

It is actually strange to see it compared to
Wikimania. It was so different. It was a small group
used to interact everyday on irc and mailing lists.
Not 400 people, most unknown. It was to discuss the
organisation itself. We discussed, we had dialogues, a
lot of brainstorming, made decisions (which is SO
satisfactory), a lot of body contacts (for once), some
screamed, some cried, many laughed... we tried to
lower the barriers of our inhibitions to try to "get
somewhere" together. It was nothing like Wikimania. 

The dialogue revealed a very very strong consensus in
favor of reorganisation, and I am happy to say that
though we could only partially explore the field of
actions, we have in hand a very significant and useful
outcome to work upon.

The board retreat was closed by a board meeting. And
as Erik announced, during that meeting, we reshuffled
people roles. Upon Jimbo's suggestion, the board
unanimously decided that I be the chair of Wikimedia
Foundation board of trustees, Michael Davis will stay
our treasurer, Erik has agreed to be the executive
secretary, Tim the vice-chair. Jimbo will assume the
title of Chairman Emeritus of the Foundation.

This is another big step. I thank Jimbo for proposing
it, as well as thank my fellow board members for their
supportive stance. It was not an easy step to make; I
am sure you will be able to realise that. But it is a
step we collectively agreed upon, because we think the
organisation has to move on. For the best. We may
fail. Perhaps. Hopefully not :-)
But please give us time, have faith and help us.

I'd like to very shortly explain what I intend to
focus on as the new chair. My primary task will be to
(re ?)-organise the board activity (meeting, agenda,
reporting, interaction with other bodies) to ensure
the board makes its *best* to fullfil its mission
according to our commun vision.

I also intend to give much attention to the
reorganisation plan (expansion of the board,
populating the advisory board, new bylaws, new
executive director by next summer, clarification of
Foundation/chapters relationships, improvement of
committees etc...).
Not everything will be fixed before the end of my
serving term on the board (july 07) but I'll try my

Last, I wish to celebrate our biggest strength,
pointed out by most, if not all, board retreat
participants: people. More particularly, thank you to
editors, committee members, developers, chapter
members, officers, staff, for giving their time,
skills and energy, not only to create content, but
also to help create a sustainable infrastructure for
our projects.

More to come...

Florence Devouard
Chair of Wikimedia Foundation board of Trustees.

<side note>"chair", not "chairperson", nor
"chairwoman" and anyone saying "chairman" will risk
being crushed by an ant</sidenote>

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