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WMF enacts reforms at Wikimania; main page redesign; 4 millionth article milestone

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By Jan eissfeldt and Rcsprinter123

WMF enacts reforms

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During Wikimania (July 12–15), the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) board finalized and enacted long-discussed reforms of the movement's financial structures, and considered procedures for creating new ways for Wikimedians to organize themselves into offline communities. The board moved on the controversial image filter issue, approved the 2012–13 annual plan, and issued a statement on the wikitravel proposal. It also appointed the two new chapter-selected trustees and elected the four office-bearers.


The board finalized the overall framework of the new Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC). The FDC will recommend funding for operational expenses and bundled specific projects to "eligible" entities that apply to it – largely, chapters that have satisfied significantly tighter requirements for governance and transparency, and the foundation itself. Expected to start in October 2012, the FDC will usher in a completely new financial structure for the chapters. Applications for the first round of funding must be submitted by October 1, 2012. Applicants that do not meet the FDC's criteria will be able to apply to the foundation's Grant Advisory Committee.

The FDC will be volunteer-run and entirely WMF board-appointed until mid-2013. Community members interested in serving either as one of the seven initial voting FDC members (membership criteria) or as the ombudsperson – who will look as disagreements over the FDC's work – can file (self-) nominations on Meta. According to the committee's charter, the FDC will have four voting members appointed by the WMF's board of trustees and five selected by a community vote to be held simultaneously with elections for the three WMF community-selected trustees (due next in mid 2013).

The board approved the WMF's annual plan for the 2012–13 fiscal year (beginning July 2012). The budget involves both the foundation's own core spending as well as about US$11.4M for the FDC, and overall amounts to $42M. The WMF's own operational core spending plans will increase by nearly 7.5%, from $28.3M in 2011–12 to $30.4M in 2012–13. The overall revenue amounts to $46M, including $4M rainy-day reserves to safeguard running of the projects and other WMF core tasks in case of unexpectedly low donation revenues over time.

Movement roles

The WMF board considered the long-running reform debate on Wikimedia movement roles, affecting how communities can organize themselves on the ground in affiliation with the WMF. At the Berlin conference in March 2012, the board established four new options for affiliation that are now open to offline communities beyond the traditional national chapter model.

Proposed logo of Wikimedia CAT, applicant for recognition as a thematic organization and promoting Wikimedia's mission in the Catalan language.

Alongside the national chapters, which will be the main recipients of FDC funds and involve formal issues related to national legal frameworks, there will be three new options for structural affiliation with the movement. Communities will be able to set up user groups such as meetups at a more informal level, requiring no incorporation but allowed limited WMF trademark privileges. Secondly, new thematic organizations will be able to promote free content by focusing on particular topics or in languages that cross borders. In a third innovation, so called movement partner organizations that are working in line with Wikimedia’s goals but are not part of the movement, such as Creative Commons, can also apply for recognition. Subnational chapters such as those already established in NYC and Washington DC will continue and their model can be expanded beyond the US.

The Chapters Committee, to be turned into the Affiliations Committee (AffCom), was directed in Berlin to work out a new framework to handle the recognition processes of new entities up until WMF board approval. While draft proposals to concretize the committee's conduct and model requirements for the new participation models were published by the Chapters Committee in June, the WMF board did not vote on the AffCom charter during its July meeting.

Community-elected WMF trustee Samuel Klein told the Signpost that the board is working on a resolution approving the new framework and that the issue seems uncontroversial. The board is expected to finally approve the Affiliations Committee charter within the next weeks. Wikimedia chapters are working to adapt to the new organizational environment by setting up a new entity to promote their interests, called Chapters Association (see also this week's Signpost Special report).

Controversial content

In May 2011 the board passed a major resolution on how to handle controversial content. The board asked the WMF staff to create and implement a personal image-hiding feature for all visitors of WMF sites. The initiative followed the so-called Harris report on controversial content (previous Signpost coverage), and the subsequent movement-wide poll on how to design a tool that would meet the requirements set by the board (previous Signpost coverage). The issue sparked considerable global controversy for months, including open revolt by the German Wikipedia (Signpost coverage in September and October 2011).

At Wikimania the board formally acknowledged the divisiveness of the filter, rescinding its request for the development of the filter mechanism while reaffirming the general principles it had espoused concerning controversial content. WMF staff are no longer directed to develop and implement such a tool, although they may re-engage with the communities to work out a more consensual solution within the preserved general framework of the May 2011 resolution. An updated Q&A reflecting the modification will be developed and Jimmy Wales has started a new conversation exploring what, he told the Signpost, could be a "simpler and more straightforward low-impact solution."

Travel guide proposal

The board published a statement on the travel guide proposal, which has been under community discussion on Meta since April 2012. The community proposal aims to create a new project that would provide free travel-guide content by re-unifying, under the umbrella of the WMF, volunteers of external projects such as WikiTravel and Wikivoyage. The board would like to see continuing community deliberations via the ongoing RfC for at least the next six weeks, with the hope of a consensual conclusion. If a decision in favor is reached, the WMF would be prepared to commit limited technical assistance.

Personnel changes and board minutes
New chapter-selected trustee, Alice Wiegand
New chapter-selected trustee, Patricio Lorente

The tenure of the two chapter-selected board members, Phoebe Ayers and Arne Klempert, ended with the July board meeting. They were replaced by the newly appointed chapter-selected trustees Alice Wiegand, former vice-chair of Wikimedia Germany, and Patricio Lorente, former president of the Argentinian chapter. (Of the 10 board seats, the chapters select two board members and the communities three on a staggered two-year basis; the next election for community-elected trustees will be in 2013).

The board selected its office-bearers: Kat Walsh, one of the three community-elected trustees, succeeded Ting Chen as chair; Ting Chen will not run for re-election as trustee in 2013. Two "expert" trustees Jan-Bart de Vreede and Stu West were reconfirmed in their offices as vice-chairman and treasurer, while the outgoing Phoebe Ayers was succeeded as secretary by Bishakha Datta, the "expert" trustee from Mumbai.

The minutes of board meetings between March and June 2012 were published, covering issues such as the Berlin conference meeting and deliberations on the WMF's budget for 2012–13.

In brief

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re: Wikiweb, I just wish someone would design an app meant for editing Wikipedia. It's an absolute pain on my iPad, and I shudder to think what it must be like on a smartphone. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 11:46, 17 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]

I believe that the devs are currently developing just that. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 11:57, 17 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
It's almost completely impossible on an iPhone- there's no easy way to scroll the editing window down, and it tends to scroll back to the top at the slightest mis-touch. --PresN 14:44, 17 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Trying to edit on my ipod touch is a joke, but I still try. Dan653 (talk) 17:54, 17 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Also RE: Wikiweb, according to the website linked above, the app was developed and released by Friends Of The Web, not Apple. ​—DoRD (talk)​ 12:39, 17 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Hi, thanks for the comment. I've corrected this. There was confusion over "released" when it is currently in the Apple Store. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 13:22, 17 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Hasn't Gibraltar been the subject of nationalist edit wars between English and Spanish editors? Not that that would cause problems with the QR codes, but is there a connection? (talk) 18:43, 17 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • It's quite interesting how it is proposed to turn Wikipedia into a social media mesh. Obviously the foundation should review the Wikipedia principles and take into mind that Wikipedia is an encyclopedy. If the Mediawiki would be turned into some kind of Facebook 2.0 I fear that more serious writers are out than new readers in. --Matthiasb (talk) 05:45, 18 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]

That Atlantic article about the "Ugliness of Wikipedia" has been comprehensively trashed in its comments section as a load of cobblers and its author as an ignorant sensationalist. "Empirical truth" indeed!. It's particularly amusing given how ugly Atlantic is. Why it should have "sparked" anything is rather tragic. Leave this site as it is, rather than tinkering. It works fine. Ericoides (talk) 05:59, 18 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Is Sue Gardner single-handedly out to ruin to the reputation of Wikipedia? First she practically spearheads an effort that ends up getting to think the Wikipedia is sexist and exclusive towards women, even though it turned out not to be true. Now she's talking about the "ugliness" of Wikipedia as if it were a God-given truth. Wikipedia's style is quite nice looking and acceptable, why is she pandering to some obscure viewpoint about its looks that could give Wikipedia another black eye? She should resign. She doesn't understand Wikipedia deeply enough. As if to prove that comment, she says in the same article that, "Our top goal [at Wikipedia] is to increase the number of people who edit". NO! No it's not! Our top goal is to build a great encyclopedia. Jason Quinn (talk) 17:39, 18 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
While Wikimedia (not Wikipedia) tends to follow the strategic plan quite closely. 3 out of 5 goals in that plan are getting more people to edit/keeping existing people editing (Even the improve quality goal is very much framed in terms of more editors). Hence foundation seems to be very pre-occupied with editor retension goals. (Personally I think this comes across a lot in which things the paid devs focus on). Bawolff (talk) 19:15, 18 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I followed, and partly participated in, the discussion on the development of the Strategic Plan. Already back then I saw indications that convince me the WMF is simply too large and has become a bureaucracy focused on self-preservation. The idea that revenue could decrease is no longer a viable option for WMF. This is why the emphasis on growth and expansion is so strong. It is also why the notion that "editor decline" has been caused by the maturation of the Encyclopedia itself has been understudied, if not ignored. The WMF has to find things to do otherwise there's no future projects with which to lure donors. Items like the WYSISYG editor and the AFT tools are pushed so hard because they satisfy donors like the Stanton Foundation, which explains the lack of community involvement and the lack of proper response to AFT feedback: it doesn't matter if they are good or bad ideas now, it only matters that they are implemented. I can easily see Ms. Gardner having slides for prospective donor presentations bemoaning the "ugly" design of Wikipedia and how it will require X dollars of donations to research a new one. Common sense has left the building in the way WMF interacts with the Encyclopedia a long time ago. The almighty dollar and political correctness typical of large bureaucracies, as with the WMF comments that there was a "sexist" "anti-female" editor environment that later turned into a red herring, drives much of the thinking now. The idea that our interface is somehow exclusive of new editors has become the poster boy of the last few years. The funny thing is that I'm not opposed to the ideas and sometimes think they should be tried (like with the WYSIWYG editor). It's just that I prefer the process think of them as experiments worth testing rather than foregone improvements. It's the WMF attitude and unilateral approach I am complaining against. Jason Quinn (talk) 22:19, 18 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I don't edit much anymore. But I still read a bit, and WP has really declined as far as reading goes. Stephen Gough is in the news, so I went to check out the article. It received a few edits because of recent media attention, but basically WP doesn't have enough editors anymore to keep the article up to date. The see saw of inclusiveness vs. quality has slowly decreased both. Still, I love that little thing that pops up when I hover over a reference number. All is not lost, maybe. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) 04:51, 19 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
With regards to "As if to prove that comment, she says in the same article that, "Our top goal [at Wikipedia] is to increase the number of people who edit". NO! No it's not! Our top goal is to build a great encyclopedia.", I'd imagine her first thought is that without enough editors, the overarching goal of a better encyclopedia can't be obtained. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 08:42, 23 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • How to solve WP's ugly problem tomorrow: make the Cologne Blue skin the default. You're welcome. Carrite (talk) 15:54, 23 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]


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