[Foundation-l] Wikia leasing office space to WMF

Andrew Whitworth wknight8111 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 23 19:55:50 UTC 2009

On Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 2:37 PM, Gregory Kohs <thekohser at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

I don't mean to be pugilistic here, but...so? A blog isn't really a
publicly accessible forum, even if some people choose to open theirs
as such. Also, which members of the press are you forwarding the
traffic to?

> 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'm not sure it matters, the deal with Wikia provides an interesting
opporty for a number of reasons, not just the bottom-line financial
ones. Wikia has been doing a lot of work with MediaWiki, especially
concerning usuability. Also, there is a location issue that's worth
considering too. Close proximity to the WMF headquarters, an
as-good-as-best cost, and an opportunity to work near other engineers
on a similar project is quite a good package deal that isn't really
worth second-guessing. Even if the next 10 closest bidders all matched
or beat that same price when given a second chance, they probably
could not have matched the other benefits of the Wikia offer.

> 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.

It's like when companies hire new people, they like people with
significant experience in the same industry. It's not nepotism to say
that you want to work with, and to work near, people who are doing
similar work as what you are doing. It's also not nepotism if you
aren't showing undo favoritism: Wikia matched the best offer and
brings additional value to the deal in a number of other ways that I
doubt could be matched by any of the other bidders.

> 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.

It's fishy that the WMF choose a bid that was equal to the best bid
financially, and had additional non-financial value as well? That's
not fishy, that's good business. Fishy would be if the WMF choose to
accept Wikia's bid if it was not equal to the lowest bid on the table
(and even then, it might still make sense considering the added value
of the Wikia bid). That Wikia may be struggling financially is not
surprising in this economy either, so I don't know why you even bring
that up.

--Andrew Whitworth

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