[Wikimedia-l] The new narrowed focus by WMF

Theo10011 de10011 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 18 20:36:25 UTC 2012

On Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 7:47 PM, Nathan <nawrich at gmail.com> wrote:

> Other than the fellowships, which I'll come back to in a moment, I
> think Sue's new course for the WMF makes a lot of sense. The WMF has
> been the subject of a lot of valid criticism in the last few years
> around its goals, spending and achievements. Despite soaring budgets
> and an FTE trend to delight any bureaucrat, measurable positive
> impacts have been few and far between. Glamorous international efforts
> and experiments in organizational management might please their
> respective stakeholders and beneficiaries, but they have had
> questionable benefit for what is supposed to be the WMF's core
> mission. Perhaps in an attempt to be all things in this "movement",
> the WMF has lagged at being what it truly ought to be - an effective,
> innovative manager for an ecosystem of web-based knowledge references.
> There's no margin in ignoring the fact that steadily dropping editor
> involvement is a serious challenge for the future of Wikimedia. We
> don't really understand what's causing this drop, and we're suffering
> from a lack of ideas on how to solve it. There's a place for
> small-bore efforts like training small groups of people on how to use
> our projects, but they are too low impact for a big scale problem. Yet
> I haven't seen big efforts at innovating solutions.  Beyond Vector and
> the abuse filter, what attempts have been made to solve the big
> problems? Or even to understand them? Why can Reddit and other
> massive userbase sites keep their community and continue to grow,
> while Wikimedia can't? Is it that we're too hard to use? Too much has
> already been done? Are the communities not open enough? Too bound by
> rules and standards and a conservative ethic of interaction? This is
> where I think fellowships are useful and should continue; they are an
> opportunity to incubate innovative solutions and improvements to the
> problems we face, and to generate insight into what those problems
> are. I don't have the answers, and I don't think Wikimedia does
> either. Narrowing the organizational focus to more tightly concentrate
> on these issues sounds like a great idea; keeping on as it has been
> sounds like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list
> Wikimedia-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l

I disagree with your interpretation, but it still deserves to be said. The
talk page has mostly resounding opposition. You are basing a lot of your
interpretation that WMF has been the subject of a lot of criticism in the
past, and this move might help ameliorate some of the tension. I actually
don't recall the fellowship program, presence in the developing world or
Wikimania itself, as being subject of criticisms being directed at WMF. The
education program is still there, as is the "community advocacy"
department, and mostly the same structure that brought you fine ideas like
the filter and took away chapter fundraising, so are the initiatives that
brought us tools like the AFT and Wikilove/Moodbar. It's highly debatable
if any of the area WMF was criticized on, is removed in this move. It is
arguably also abandoning duties and expenses it was able to maintain once
at a budget of $6-8 million, at the current level of $40 Million. If you
look at this in context, first the chapter fundraising ability was taken
away so there is just one source of funding, then decisions are being taken
to shut down programs which would be absolute in this scenario.

I have no idea how properties like reddit still maintain and keep growing.
Perhaps, it's because they are not emaciated bodies anemic for constant
fresh blood, as WMF seems to have been convinced Wikipedia is. Perhaps,
it's also because one is a social website that creates memes and posts
funny pictures that their members find and the other is an Encyclopedia,
with rules, citations, and all the serious stuff that might require more of
a commitment. Not everyone likes to edit an encyclopedia, fewer still do it
well, maybe comparing our community with Facebook and reddit is the

As far as "Movement" goes, that's what we actually raise money in the name
of, we don't ask to support "an effective, innovative manager of an
ecosystem of web-based knowledge references". Movement, I suppose was hard
to characterize, in different context it could mean different things, it
could be organizing an event on one end of the world one day, doing
something like WLM the next or opposing something like SOPA the day after,
all the while running the largest, online encyclopedia. Something was
needed to bind those common threads, I suppose Movement was the word they
chose, I don't like it any more than you do, but it fits. There just
doesn't seem to be a lot tying all this together, more and more threads are
being cut and manipulated.

Last point about fundraising, It was perhaps worth striving to achieve a
distant abstract goal that will not be met in the near future like "End
world hunger" or "No bombs, No wars", as far as those go, perhaps
"Gathering the sum of all human knowledge" is in that same distant vein,
not likely to be achieved any time soon or perhaps ever. It might become a
bit harder if the larger goal was to be specified, instead of "Support our
community", "Support our editors" Jimmy would be asking this year to "help
support our FDC grants program and mobile development for the year", for
those who know, it should affect the perception at least. The most sanguine
of disposition from community members about fundraising should consider,
that WMF is actually suggesting to do less while raising more money.


(*partially borrowed from something MzMcbride said in a similar context.)

More information about the Wikimedia-l mailing list