[Foundation-l] Wikimedia Foundation switching to Google Apps?

Robert S. Horning robert_horning at netzero.net
Tue Oct 26 01:59:29 UTC 2010

On 10/25/2010 06:22 PM, MZMcBride wrote:
> Has the decision to use Google Apps been finalized? If so, who made the
> final decision?
> What are the benefits of using Google Apps for the Wikimedia Foundation?

One thing I will say to the benefit of Google Apps is that they allow 
long-distance collaborative content development that seems to work 
better than a wiki for some things.  Particularly the spreadsheets and 
the document processor is quite useful and something that would be nice 
if we could adapt that to at least some of the content development on 
Wikimedia projects.  I really don't know of a "free" alternative to 
these applications, even though the MediaWiki software at least in 
theory does display the same information as a final product.  It is the 
methods of putting the content in that I think Google does better, and 
in particular how that input can be done collaboratively.

I don't think it would be too difficult to build a peer-to-peer 
application instead of something that goes through a server to 
accomplish nearly the same thing, but it would take some significant 
software development effort to get that to happen.  Google Apps is 
available and written, therefore it is hard to ignore.

> Is there a concern about using closed source software when there are
> comparable open source alternatives?
Give a good example if you are going to suggest that there are 
alternatives.  Open Office, while some excellent "open source" tools, 
aren't comparable.  What else are you suggesting?

I'm merely ignorant about this, so please tell me if there really is 
something else "out there" that does pretty much what Google Apps do.
> Is there a concern that this will bring Google and the Wikimedia Foundation
> closer together? After a $2 million grant, I imagine some people looking in
> from the outside have their concerns about a takeover.
> MZMcBride
In terms of a "takeover", I think if there was some significant concern 
about the management of the WMF, that there would be a fork or something 
else happen within the community where any "takeover" attempts would be 
dismissed.  The "right to fork" is something integral to all open source 
projects, and tends to be a good check on anybody that gets too big of a 
head.  While I'm not 100% happy with everything the WMF does, they are 
better than a typical non-profit organization and do a fairly decent job 
of generally managing the projects.  I've been asked to get involved 
with a fork of Wikimedia projects in the past, and my response has been 
to wait it out over those issues that were of concern.  At least to wait 
until there was a very serious concern where forking several projects 
would have widespread appeal and that the bulk of the community would 
come over to the fork.  Setting up a complimentatry organizaiton to the 
WMF would not be easy to accomplish and IMHO would have to include the 
support of several chapters if that were to happen too.

Google isn't going to be "taking over" the WMF nor is any other group 
going to do that.  The community wouldn't put up with it.

-- Robert Horning
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