[Wikimedia-l] compromise?

James Salsman jsalsman at gmail.com
Thu Jan 3 08:08:05 UTC 2013

On Wed, 2 Jan 2013 2:54 PM, Leslie Carr <lcarr at wikimedia.org> wrote:
>On Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 2:50 PM, cyrano <cyrano.fawkes at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'm proud of people like Leslie who work for less money than other
>> opportunities but for a cause. They stand for their beliefs and their
>> values, I strongly respect that.

I certainly do, too. I'm happy to volunteer for no pay, so I doubt
anyone can possibly question that. However, underpaying for labor in a
high demand market is a huge risk to the timely success of Foundation
projects. The "cons" comments on Glassdoor.com from both satisfied and
unsatisfied Foundation employees explain several reasons why.

>> Yet the money of the donations, which is given for a universal cause, is
>> paying an incredibly tiny subset of humanity with very expensive standards
>> of life. I think that's something pertinent to consider given the topic.

Don't forget where the money is coming from. 89% of donors visit
Wikipedia several times per week and 40% of them visit at least once a
day,[1] but only a third have ever edited.[2] 88% of them have a
college degree,[3] and more than three quarters work in skilled
professions.[4] Their worldwide median income is about USD $75,000 and
more than 5% make over $200,000 per year.[5] Does that sound like the
kind of people who would want to risk losing talent because their
donations were limited to a fundraising goal set based on the
blatantly false assertion that we aren't able to raise enough money to
pay market rate?

Donors' primary concern for the future, far more than any other
concerns across all ages, income and education levels and gender, is
that volunteers will lose interest causing Wikipedia to become out of
date.[6] Sadly, that is exactly the problem we are having.[7] Of all
the strategic goals, the number of active editors is the only one not
being met.[8] But the Education Program, the most promising in
training editors inside the world's colleges and universities, doesn't
even have the staff to make sure that their article talk page
templates are correctly dated. Someone seriously asked me in private
email whether that means they're simply slacking off. No, it does not.
Those templates were corrected by staff if they were added with the
wrong date back when the Education Program was much smaller, but its
staffing levels has fallen far behind the numbers of articles or
students participating in it.

The Foundation has shown it has the political will to take action to
protect the Legal and Office Actions staff from the considerable
overhead that SOPA/PIPA would have caused had it become law. Does the
Foundation have the will to protect volunteer editors from the
deleterious effects of income inequality? Is there any other political
action which would truly or more closely be in the interest of our
volunteer editors, about a fifth of whom work in or near poverty to
contribute to Foundation projects? Given how popular the SOPA/PIPA
action was, do we have any reason to believe than editors and the
public would not overwhelmingly support such an action in support of
income equality? I intend to find out.

>... it would be irresponsible of us to try to keep up with the
> average Tech company, as James Salsman had suggested.

Leslie, the most frequent cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is
unanticipated medical expenses. If one of your family members faced
such unanticipated expenses, and you realized you could save them from
bankruptcy and perhaps even save their life by leaving the Foundation
and taking a job at market rate, would that not tend to sway your
idealism? Since any of your colleagues could face the same
circumstances, is it therefore not irresponsible instead to fail to
meet or exceed the local market rate for technical labor?

By the way, less than 10% of the volunteer-contributed appeal
messaging submissions from the 2010 fundraiser have ever been tested,
and those that were form a lognormal distribution suggesting that we
could be raising about 2.5 times as much as the best performing banner
from December, if the appeal statement in its third sentence were
replaced with the best performing result of multivariate testing of
those alternate appeal statements. All of the foreign language testing
from this and previous years shows that the best performance in
English produces the best performance in other languages, usually by
about the same margin. Therefore, performing a multivariate test to
optimize the banners and then translating the top performing resulting
messages would not place any more of a burden on translators than
using A/B testing to derive a much more poorly performing local
optimum and then translating that.

James Salsman

[1] http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:2010_Donor_survey_report_excerpts.pdf&page=8
[2] http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:2010_Donor_survey_report_excerpts.pdf&page=9
[3] http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:2010_Donor_survey_report_excerpts.pdf&page=3
[4] http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:2010_Donor_survey_report_excerpts.pdf&page=4
[5] http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:2010_Donor_survey_report_excerpts.pdf&page=5
[6] http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:2010FR_Donor_survey_report.pdf&page=41
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:New_English_Wikipedia_editors,_2001_to_September_2012.png
[8] http://reportcard.wmflabs.org/graphs/active_editors_target

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