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Finance debate drags on as editor survey finds Wikipedia too bureaucratic

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By Jan eissfeldt

Preparations under way for new funding arrangements

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Plans for the long-awaited volunteer-run Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) are now being debated on Meta. The FDC will represent a historic change in the financial arrangements of the Wikimedia movement, by advising the foundation on how a significant proportion of the movement’s funding is allocated.

Executive director Sue Gardner's recommendations to the board on how to structure the new body and its activities are due by June 30. In April, Gardner set up an advisory group to facilitate the process and to work with Bridgespan on these tasks; Bridgespan are the non-profit consultants who supported Wikimedia’s development of the Strategic Planning document in 2009–10.

The first FDC concept draft was published on May 4. This took into account the basic design principles already established, and interviews at the Berlin conference and elsewhere. Under the draft, the FDC will advise on the distribution of a defined portion of the funds exclusive of what is (i) required to keep the projects operational (the "core"), or (ii) transferred into the WMF’s "rainy-day funds" for future safeguarding of the core.

In other developments, the scope of eligibility has been more clearly defined to exclude individuals and groups that are not officially recognized by the WMF board; and along with recognized chapters and partner organizations, parts of the WMF’s own programs will need to go through the FDC process.

Grant requests by applicants who do not meet these criteria will continue to be handled by the volunteer-reviewers of the Grant Advisory Committee (GAC), which has apparently not yet managed to sort out fundamental aspects of its structure and procedure, such as how to replace its own membership. This scenario has dragged on since September 2011, and no solution has yet been reached, despite the recent WMF resolution on standards and practices of Wikimedia committees.

At this early stage, the community can provide input to the process on Meta, where Bridgespan have prepared questions on the shape and the overall process of the FDC.

Editor survey results

Question: "Please pick three changes that you believe will make it easier for you to contribute." (n = 6176)

Findings published by the WMF's research team indicate that new editors favor simpler rules and improvements in the interface on the English Wikipedia, while seasoned contributors care about better social behavior.

46 percent of new login-account editors (from one to nine edits) see the complex rule books of Wikipedia as an issue making it harder for them to contribute. This proportion falls to 44 percent of users (10–100 edits), and 34 percent of "highly prolific" Wikipedians (> 5000 edits).

59 percent of highly prolific editors felt that social problems on wiki are important, falling to 53 percent for editors with > 1000 edits, and only 22 percent of users with fewer than 100 edits.

This third release of results from the editor survey conducted in December 2011 also finds that roughly 60 percent of editors started as anonymous contributors before setting up a user account to track their own edit history, create a personal watch list, or start new articles. While some mature wikis such as the German Wikipedia allow users without a login account to create new articles, the English Wikipedia does not, but only 39 percent of English Wikipedia users cited this as a negative part of its culture, compared with the 54 percent average for all Wikipedias.

Personal "lack of time" is quoted by 59 percent of users as a reason for the decline of on-wiki activity, mainly by "active" editors (> 100 edits). These days Wikipedia competes for the spare time of its active volunteers not only with offline activities such as reading (44 percent) or school or academic work (34 percent), but online systems such as Facebook and Twitter that were not around in the early days. 23 percent of respondents pointed to these newer activities.

The detailed findings of the second editor survey can be found at the survey's opening.

In brief

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  • "59 percent of highly prolific editors felt that social problems on wiki are important, falling to 53 percent for editors with > 1000 edits, and only 22 percent of users with fewer than 100 edits." — My take on this is that the feisty backstage Wikipedia culture is apparently not the thing causing the decline in rate of editor retention. Carrite (talk) 01:58, 15 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Hmm. Possibly. I took a different read on that, tho, which was that the very-low-count (new) editors simply hadn't yet had their first experience with a Wikipedia "editorial flamewar" (as good a term as any). When that (inevitably) occurs, it either drives them off or doesn't (the retention issue) — but among those who stay, the majority come to see it as a real problem. And even among us sufficiently thick-skinned, the longer we're here, the more likely we are to be bothered by it. -- FeRD_NYC (talk) 12:33, 15 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Yeah, I've been here a while and the unpleasantries do take their toll. Regards, RJH (talk) 20:58, 15 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Definitely agree with FeRD and RJH Smallbones (talk) 22:04, 15 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Or one could say that no matter how thick your skin is, given enough flamewars -- editorial or otherwise -- it will get to you eventually. -- llywrch (talk) 17:32, 16 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Hmm, maybe we need a "flame retardant" barnstar? Regards, RJH (talk) 19:19, 17 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]


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