[Foundation-l] About transparency

Fred Bauder fredbaud at fairpoint.net
Sat Dec 29 18:33:23 UTC 2007

For example, I assume it is not the case that
>> the board has the power to introduce adds without any consultation?
>> Derrick Farnell
> It is a good question.
> Probably best to mention right now that the WMF board has not decided to
>  add advertisements :-)
> But, I think the Wikimedia Foundation staff has technically the power to
>  introduce ads.  Then the Wikimedia Foundation board has the power to
> request that ads be removed. If the board decides not to remove the ads
> placed, the community has the power to elect new members in may, and
> then vote the ads to be removed. Or the community can decide to shame so
>  much the board members that they will resign in disgust and be replaced
>  by new community members, who can then vote the ads to be removed.
> "Power" is a complex notion. It is different if approached from a legal
> perspective, from a technical perspective or from an ethical
> perspective.
> I am against putting advertisements on the articles. This has been my
> position since 2002, when I joined the projects. I will never agree to
> this.
> Now, it may be, this year, or next year perhaps, that we will realize
> that in spite of our efforts, only relying on altruistic gifts will not
> be sufficient. I do not know if you realize, but our current revenue is
> quite significantly below what we will need this year. And in front of
> such a situation, we probably have three paths (other paths exist, but
> require investments, additional human resources or will take too much
> time).
> Path 1 is diet. As in "serious diet". Diet will mean that the websites
> which have been working very smoothly for the past 18 months or so, will
>  not work so well. Sluggish, perhaps even down sometimes. A sluggish
> site  will automatically lose audience, which will lighten the pressure.
> Diet will also mean losing some staff. I am not quite sure which one we
> can really afford losing right now.
> Path 2 is business deals. Such as advertisements. If ads on articles is
> too controversial, perhaps a consensus position will be to put ads on
> the search pages.
> Path 3 is relying on big donors. But big donors have a serious drawback,
>  which is called "loss of independence". There is no mystery, when a
> donor give you 25% of your annual revenue, it is quite expected that
> they will try to influence you. Perhaps will it be light, or perhaps
> will it be much heavier. Perhaps big thank yous on the website, perhaps
> pushing so that the board accepts as its treasurer someone of big donnor
>  staff, perhaps asking for exclusive use of our trademarks, perhaps
> asking that "annoying" board members be removed from the board, perhaps
> suggesting certain partnerships rather than others. Loss of independance
>  would be a terrible thing to happen. Much more dangerous than
> advertisement actually, because it may not be reversible at all.
> I am not *presenting* you with a *decision* of non-radical transparency.
> I am telling you that we can not provide radical transparency anymore.
> As for the good old regular transparency, I wish there was more
> willingness to provide it.
> Ant

The problem is the slippery slope one. It is assumed that if there is
advertising we would go whole hog. A limited program could raise enough
money, but not overdo it. For example, the Foundation could accept
advertising from selected non-profits and charities.


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