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By Alex Stinson, Mange01, Phoebe and Tilman Bayer

Foundation's five-year plan materializes

Last week, the minutes for two past meetings of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees were published:

Mostly due to the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, only four board members were physically present at the April meeting. The "Strategy Project Update" from that meeting describes a preliminary version of the 2010–15 strategic plan that the Foundation is developing, based on the "Strategic Planning" process started last July (see also the Signpost article about the process by its program manager, Eugene Eric Kim/User:Eekim). The Foundation's Executive Director, Sue Gardner,

"provided the Board with a list of milestones the Foundation's hopes to achieve over the next five years. Milestones were divided into short-term (12–18 months), medium-term (18–36 months), and long-term (36–60 months). Short-term milestones included such items as building a second data center; providing funding for face-to-face meetings of volunteers; creating systems for communications with readers, editors and donors, including investment in staff facilitation of translations; and launching on-the-ground teams to grow number of editors and accelerate editors' self-organization in India and Brazil. Medium-term milestones included such items as building caching centers to better support Asia and Latin America; and building capacity to support chapter organizational development and chapter fundraising. Long-term milestones included such items as developing features to enable Wikimedians to communicate and connect, in order to facilitate collaboration and production of quality content."

Of the short-term milestones, the plans to open Foundation offices in Brazil and India (see brief Signpost coverage) and to set up a second datacenter in the U.S. (see brief Signpost coverage) have subsequently already been mentioned in public by Gardner.

Based on the plan, Sue Gardner projected the Wikimedia Foundation's staff to grow to as many as 200 full-time equivalents by 2015, with annual spending reaching $40 million. She announced that the Foundation intends to rely mainly on community giving as its primary funding source (a term encompassing smaller donations such as those in the yearly fundraisers, as opposed to large benefactions or major grants). Based on the current growth rate, Wikimedia is estimated to have 59 chapters worldwide by 2015.

A set of statements by the Board including an endorsement of the general direction of the plan was approved by all trustees except two of the three community-elected members (Sj opposed it, while Mindspillage is noted as "absention" [sic] in the minutes). The board will review the final version of the 2010-2015 plan in its fall meeting.

Swedish university course

One of the main buildings at the Mid-Sweden University
In late 2009, what was probably the world's first university-level course solely devoted to wikis and Wikipedia was presented by Mid-Sweden University, in cooperation with the Swedish chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation. This class will also be offered in June–August 2010. The course Wikipedia – authoring, reliability and technology is an Internet-based distance course within the subject of Informatics. It deals with questions including how can students, teachers, librarians and journalists use and relate to Wikipedia, criticisms of Wikipedia, and research on Wikipedia as a phenomenon. The language of instruction is Swedish, but the course is open to anyone with a high-school grade in a Nordic language. The coordinating teacher is User:Mange01. See Press release August 30, 2009 and an English translation of the syllabus for more information.

Wikimedia Washington DC reaches out to the Smithsonian

DC Wikimedians with SI New Media staff at the National Museum of the American Indian

On June 26, 2010, DC area Wikimedians met with representatives from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of the American Indian. The Wikimedians offered ideas for future collaborations between the Smithsonian and the community. The reception was overwhelmingly supportive. The SI staff is looking forward to future development of Smithsonian-related content and the support of Smithsonian staff and volunteers at workshops about using Wikipedia. The Wikipedians look forward to the use of Smithsonian space and materials for article writing, and other editing activities. The DC editors have started organizing their materials in much the same way as User:Witty lama's work with the British Museum at a Smithsonian Institution page at the Galleries, Libraries Archives and Museums outreach page. Smithsonian employees are now exploring several options for collaboration.


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I must say this comment by Sue Gardner was not quite what I expected to read:

"Based on the plan, Sue Gardner projected the Wikimedia Foundation's staff to grow to as many as 200 full-time equivalents by 2015, with annual spending reaching $40 million"

My view is that the basis of contributions to Wikipedia and other projects come from volunteers, and that the staff on Wikimedia Foundation, some 35 persons, are there to maintain servers, fund-raising for servers, legal stuff and some more. Expanding the staff by a factor of almost 10 in five years seems to change the nature of how we work in a way I don't like, seems like the law of the ever expanding bureaucracy. I don't think I will give money for such an expansion and I think it will be a hard sell. We built this with volunteers, no need to change course dramatically now. Ulflarsen (talk) 11:10, 1 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

I am hoping that funding goes to hiring University Outreach and WP:GLAM coordinators, that is where we need to get support for Wikimedia and Wikipedia to gain more reputation in the scholarly community. Sadads (talk) 16:30, 1 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Note that the article describes only the state of 2010-15strategy plan as it was made quasi-official back in April. As indicated in the article, the contents of the plan are still in flux and the final official version will come out in the fall. The current numbers given on the strategy wiki (strategy:Strategic Plan/Role of the WMF - page seems to have been authored largely by the Bridgespan consultants) are 188 employees by 2015, with a $51M budget in 2014-15.
There is an interesting discussion on what this expansion would mean on phoebe's blog, with several board and staff members (current and former, e.g. Brion) weighing in.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 17:50, 1 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Regardless, increasing Foundation headcount from 35 to 188 is very much a surprise to those of us who've been around for a while & helped to take Wikipedia from obscurity to one of the top ten websites in terms of page views when there were less than a dozen Foundation staffers. And I believe the problem lies in, to use Ulflarsen's words, the "and some more" area. Beyond IT support, legal support, community outreach & coordination, fund-raising, & the inevitable office administrators, I can't think of any need for more Foundation personnel -- & substantial parts of those areas are handled by volunteers as it is. Now if some of the money were to find its way to those of us who contribute the actual content that people read, now that would be a different discussion. -- llywrch (talk) 19:26, 1 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

I read through what seems to be the main strategy documents and there are a lot of good stuff there, recommended reading. We have challenges in reaching out, gender and nationality of readers and contributors is very unevenly distributed, and some of the underlying problems (difficult to contribute, partnerships with large organisations, like states, companies etc + better infrastructure; servers and such) can only be fixed by WM Foundation.

But, in one of the documents there is this statement which somehow seems to be a vital part of the foundation for the resulting proposal of drastically expanding the staff of the WMF:

"How will we achieve this vision? We believe there is a virtuous circle between between a growing participation in our movement and the quality and reach of our content. These three elements are inextricably tied. Without a healthy and diverse community of participants, the quality of our content will suffer. Without high-quality, multilingual content, we will not be able to reach broader audiences. We believe that investing in any one of these elements will have a positive effect on the others. Or, put another way, reach drives participation, which drives quality, which in turn drives reach."

Even though it states that the three "are inextricably tied", focus seems to be on reach, and to build reach, we need to build up WMF. I may have got this wrong, but all the same volunteers started to participate long before there were reach. When I got into this in June 2004 the English language Wikipedia was some 250K articles, while the Norwegian was about 5K - still I contributed, because I saw the need - and of course because it's fun, and I could.

A $50M budget and 180 staff is in one way really not that much, one could argue that just with what we contribute in the Nordic countries that money should be handed out from our state coffers, Wikipedia is what the pupils/students, journalists etc use. But the thing is the volunteers. We got were we are today with a massive amount of volunteers, this and our non-commercial goal of spreading knowledge set us apart from the other big five (Google, Facebook, Yahoo & Microsoft). I am not against some more staff at WMF, but I think volunteers are essential, and that we should be able to recruit ten times as many as we have today, given two factors: Purpose & easier editing. If you are a professional and your respected community leader - who ever it is, says Wikipedia is good & needed, then you have purpose, and if you don't get turned off by trying to edit, then I think we can achieve a lot. So - Why & How. Ulflarsen (talk) 15:42, 2 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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