[Wikimedia-l] Wikimedia (Foundation) endowment

Dan Rosenthal swatjester at gmail.com
Mon Mar 18 15:59:51 UTC 2013

Nathan hit on something that I was thinking about, while reading Darius and
Nemo's comments.  (some snipping below)

"We should also consider how having an endowment might affect the
democratic nature of the WMF....  This is the flipside of making the
organization dependent on the annual fundraiser..... If at some point the
WMF loses the confidence,
interest or support of the greater community of readers, then the
organization will suffer as a result. But as an endowment becomes
larger, the influence of the community decreases and the independence
of management increases."

This is definitely a risk, and one that needs to be addressed. In our
current state I think if we had an endowment magically appear today,  the
combination of board, staff, and community could be counted on to provide
enough oversight that while there may be policy disputes, the vision and
fundamental shape of the WMF are generally similar to what they are now. We
could reasonably count on that to stay the same in the near future. But as
that timeline grows further into the future, that assumption becomes more
shaky, especially when you reach the point in time where the majority of
staff/board/users have turned over from the present generation to the next;
losing that institutional memory.  We've seen how contentious questions
involving the community's relationship with the WMF can be.  If the
endowment can be structured in such a way that it guarantees perpetual
community oversight of the WMF's implementation of the movement's vision,
this is a good thing. But if not, it risks the organization slowly drifting
into something different, without the leverage of the fundraiser to bring
it back.

Dan Rosenthal

On Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 4:52 PM, David Gerard <dgerard at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 18 March 2013 13:39, Thomas Morton <morton.thomas at googlemail.com>
> wrote:
> > Just having a backup is only 1/10th of the problem though, if that.
> > If Wikimedia Commons, for example, where to disappear in a cloud of smoke
> > overnight what would it take to turn one of those backups into a properly
> > functioning replacement?
> > Open knowledge data is only useful when it's accessible :)
> Yes, that's the precise thing I'm saying needs proper testing :-)
> My threat model here is if WMF vanishes one day, say it's hit by a
> meteor (including legal meteors).
> - d.
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