Voting has already started in the annual election for the Arbitration Committee. Arbitrators perform among the most important and prominent roles on the English Wikipedia, and all eligible editors are urged to consider voting. Just over a day after going live, nearly 300 have cast their vote. Last year more than 850 editors had voted by the close, and the year before nearly 1,000 had done so.
A public page displays who has voted when (most recently in the case of voters who've changed their votes), and is a convenient way for editors to verify that their vote has been registered in the system. Voters' choices are confidential. After voting, an editor may change their choices any time before the close of voting on Saturday 10 at 23:59 UTC, but will need to start again from scratch, because previous votes will not be displayed and submission of a new ballot page will override all previous votes by that editor. For this reason, voters should consider keeping a private record of their vote.
Voters are reminded that there can be last-minute technical logjams, and are asked to vote at least an hour before the close—that is, by Saturday December 10 at 23:00 UTC (11 pm). On the east coast of North America the equivalent "safe margin" time is Saturday 18:00 (6 pm), and on the west coast Saturday 15:00 (3 pm). On the east coast of Australia this is 10 am Sunday December 11, and on the west coast 6 am Sunday.
The technical side of ACE2011 has run smoothly, except for a minor glitch in which it was discovered that editors who are blocked on any of the WMFs projects were blocked from voting; this problem was promptly fixed by the election administrators. (Only editors blocked from the English Wikipedia are unable to vote).
Since last week's Signpost report, Chase me ladies, I'm the Cavalry, whose term had not been due to finish until the end of 2012, unexpectedly stepped down from the committee to avoid any potential conflict of interest arising from his new full-time position as the Office and Development Manager for Wikimedia UK. In his announcement, he wrote, "This is a permanent role based in London. As there is a potential conflict of interest between the two roles, especially with regard to Arbitration cases and ban appeals that involve UK Chapter members, the Wikimedia UK Board have asked me to step down in order to maintain complete transparency. I agree with their position. It is therefore with great regret that I am announcing my intention to stand down as an arbitrator on 31 December 2011."
An RfC was launched to allow a quick decision on whether Chase me's seat should be filled in the current election, which resulted 22–13 in favour of filling the vacancy at the election—in other words, to expand the maximum number of vacancies to be filled from seven to eight seats. In closing the RfC, the three election admins, Happy-melon, Tznkai, and Skomorokh, said, "we are unanimous in concluding that both past precedent and a rough majority of contributors to this RfC support the conclusion that Chase Me's seat will be filled in this election. Given that, the second section of the RfC indicates clear support that the extra arbitrator will sit for one year, ending when Chase Me's seat would originally have expired. This is also in line with the past precedent from the 2009 and 2010 elections."
News from the fundraising front
This year's Fundraiser launch is off to a stirring start, with a record total of 1.2 million dollars in the first 24 hours alone, shattering the previous record of $790,853.48. An even greater accomplishment is the amount of support, with donations coming from 65,000 people in 150 countries, compared to the previous record of 26,082 donors on December 31, 2010. As of the time of writing, the Fundraiser has raised nearly US$7 million, an amount that was not reached for 25 days last year.
The annual fundraiser is the Wikimedia Foundation's biggest single source of income, and has been growing with the project since early efforts from 2004. As with previous years, the event kicked off with Jimbo Wales' "personal appeal", which consistently received the highest feedback in previous drives, and has done again this year; interestingly, using a green background in the banner increased contributions.
A message from Wikimedia Foundation Senior Designer Brandon Harris was added later this week, and has performed similarly to Wales' appeal (see "In the news" for reaction from around the 'net). The fundraisers are currently in the process of adding community appeals, with which they intend to start "highlighting stories from many different Wikimedians to help raise our budget". Editors are invited to sign up and help draft appeals towards the continuation of the Fundraiser.
Wyatt also demonstrated translatewiki.net to the members of the "let's tweet in Arabic" group Taghreedat who are attempting to localise the Twitter interface for Arabic.
He also made a presentation to librarians from the "Education City" to demonstrate how to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool, and also with the ictQATAR's digitization and business incubation teams to discuss ways free-culture can also be used in a commercial setting.
Google Knol closes down: It has been announced that Google Knol, a publicly contributed reference site of the same type as Wikipedia, will close its doors on April 2012. Knol was originally launched in 2007, and follows a more open format than Wikipedia, with articles, called "knols", ranging from encyclopedic entries to how-to, opinion essays, cooking instructions and sales listings. The project is currently being transferred to the Wordpress-based Annotum.
New administrators: No administrators were promoted this week; despite this, what had looked like the first month without a new administrator since October 2002 may yet be averted, as there are five open nominations with favourable levels of support at the time of writing.