[Foundation-l] Wikia leasing office space to WMF

Brian Brian.Mingus at colorado.edu
Fri Jan 23 19:53:59 UTC 2009

I'm glad someone is concerned about this issue. Wikia has always smacked of
"they wouldn't let us show ads on Wikipedia, so here is the for-profit
branch of Wikipedia with ads." There are potential conflicts of interest at
nearly every level of the Wikia/Wikipedia relationship.

On Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 12:37 PM, Gregory Kohs <thekohser at gmail.com> wrote:

> I was very surprised to read on the Wikimedia blog a post from Naoko
> Komura,
> the WMF program manager heading up the Wikipedia Usability Initiative,
> funded by the Stanton Foundation.
> Post:
> http://blog.wikimedia.org/2009/01/21/a-note-on-the-wikipedia-usability-initiative/
> To quote Komura,
> "On the space front, we had outgrown our current space in the South of
> Market area of San Francisco, and we were in search of space specifically
> for this project. I am happy to announce that Wikia has agreed to sublease
> two of their conference rooms to the Wikimedia Foundation for the project
> duration (Jan'09-Mar'10). Daniel [Phelps] collected a dozen bids for the
> space in SOMA, and Wikia matched the best offer."
> I submitted a comment to the blog, but over seven hours later, it is still
> not published, and there is a history of my questions to that blog being
> ignored or censored.  So, I'm going to ask here, and I'll also advise the
> list moderators that this message is being copied to members of the press.
> Could we have more detail, please, on the note that "Wikia matched the best
> offer"?  Were the other ten higher bidders also given the opportunity to
> match the best offer?  Why was Wikia chosen on a "second and adjusted
> offer"
> basis, rather than choosing the good-faith firm that submitted the lowest
> offer initially?  Was the first low bidder given the chance to further
> discount their rate?  If so, what was their response?  If not, why not?
> I have to agree with Steven Walling's comment on the blog.  He said, "I
> find
> the idea of the Foundation working that closely with Wikia, literally and
> figuratively, discomforting. We already have enough people confused about
> the difference between the two organizations, and to be honest, this feels
> like nepotism."
> Actually, it's not nepotism.  And, there are no uniform laws regarding
> nepotism.  It's potentially worse.  Self-dealing, which is what this really
> smacks of, is covered in case law, judicial opinions, and some statutes.
> I have been assured in countless places that "Wikia and the Wikimedia
> Foundation are complete separate organizations" and that there were "no
> business relationships" between the members of a past WMF Board that was
> 60%
> comprised of Wikia employees/owners. Considering the past Wikia/Wikipedia
> fiasco of Ryan "Essjay" Jordan, I would have thought the WMF would be
> hyper-sensitive to working in concert yet again with their neighbor down
> the
> street.
> In summary:
> We know Wikia was recently laying off workers in the economic downturn.
> Presumably, Wikia now has excess office space per employee.  WMF gets a
> grant, presumably funded by tax-deductible dollars.  Expending that grant
> on
> office space is served up to an ostensibly "open" and "fair" competitive
> search among 12 candidate landlords.  A lowest bid is received.  However, a
> bidder who happens to have strong personnel ties to the Board of WMF and
> the
> Advisory Board of WMF, is given the opportunity to match the lowest bid,
> which they do, since they have empty office space doing them no good empty.
> Net result:  Tax-advantaged dollars will be transferred to a for-profit
> corporation with an "inside track" to the decision-making body of the
> non-profit organization.
> It strikes me as fishy, to use a gentle word.
> --
> Gregory Kohs
> Cell: 302.463.1354
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