[WikiEN-l] Foundation audit

Tim Starling tstarling at wikimedia.org
Mon Feb 11 08:27:28 UTC 2008

gwern0 at gmail.com wrote:
> So, the audit was released a little while ago (if you missed it, the
> important thing is at
> <http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Image:Wikimedia_2007_fs.pdf>). I'm
> a little surprised at the general silence here - did I just miss the
> threads or something?
> Anyway, I read through it carefully and found it of great interest. A
> number of points stuck out at me in particular:
> # Isn't it interesting how much Google stock was donated? On top of
> what I hear were previous donations? Some of the Googlers must like us.
> # Wow, that's quite a bit to spend on salaries. And I think the amount
> is only going to go way up, what with Erik Moeller abruptly going from
> non-paid to paid status, and all the other hires. It strikes me as odd
> to see employee expenses rising past equipment and hosting costs, but I
> suppose that just marks me as being a product of the old days where the
> mission of the Foundation was seen as keeping the servers running (and
> not whatever else the Foundation does these days).

Are you saying the tech team should have spent a bit less time on 
performance optimisation? Because hardware spending is cool but staff 
spending isn't?

> # I must be misunderstanding something, but does this really mean what
> it seems to me on the face of it:
> "Note C - Contingencies In the normal course of business, the
> Organization receives various threats of litigation on a regular basis.
> In the opinion of management, the outcome of the pending lawsuits will
> not materially affect present operations or the financial stability of
> the Organization."
> That the reason current lawsuits don't matter is because there is
> nothing put aside for them? Seems kind of reckless.

No, the current lawsuits don't matter because potential damages are small. 
Therefore the present cash reserves are enough. That's how I read it anyway.

> # As usual, relationships with Wikia are concerningly close and
> ambiguous:
> "The Organization shares hosting and bandwidth costs with Wikia, Inc.,
> a for-profit company founded by the same founder as Wikimedia
> Foundation, Inc. Included in accounts receivable at June 30, 2007 is
> $6,000 due from Wikia, Inc. for these costs. The Organization received
> some donated office space from Wikia Inc. during the year ended June
> 30, 2006 valued at $6,000. No donation of the office space occurred in
> 2007. Through June 30, 2007, two members of the Organization's board of
> directors also serve as employees, officers, or directors of Wikia,
> Inc."
> They share staff, WP favors Wikia in well-known ways, and so on - and
> people are surprised when the public perception is that WP is the
> non-profit branch of Wikia, or vice versa? I'm also troubled by the
> sharing of costs bit - why is Wikia using WMF resources (presumably why
> they are paying WMF) and isn't it awfully convenient how the two
> amounts cancel out? Small potatoes, but still.

There are no shared staff anymore, and no shared costs. The audit tells 
you about the recent history of Wikimedia, not the present.

Historically, Jimmy Wales, Bomis and Wikia have supported Wikipedia. 
Initially, Wikipedia was just a UseMod instance running on one of Bomis's 
web servers. Wikipedians should be eternally grateful for the support 
Jimmy and his companies have provided for Wikipedia.

As time went by, Wikimedia developed the means to become fully independent 
from these entities. Bomis wound down its operations and changed 
ownership. Wikia moved from Florida to California, taking its staff, and 
eventually its servers, with it. The Board (which was historically 
dominated by Jimmy) began to leave the day-to-day running of the 
organisation to paid management staff.

Public perception has lagged behind these changes, because Jimmy is a 
press magnet and his name in press reports is invariably prefixed by 
"Wikipedia founder", whether they are about Wikipedia or Wikia.

It seems rather contradictory to me that you complain about an increase in 
staffing costs, and then in the next breath, about the fact that 
historically, costs were kept down by donations from Jimmy, Bomis and Wikia.

-- Tim Starling

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