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Sue Gardner to leave WMF; German-language Wikipedians spearhead another effort to close Wikinews

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By Tony1 and The ed17

Executive director Sue Gardner will leave the Wikimedia Foundation

Sue Gardner in 2010

On Wednesday 27 March, Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation since December 2007, announced that she plans to leave the position when a successor is recruited. Ranked as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine, and one of only two women running a top-10 internet player, Sue Gardner is widely associated with the rise of the Wikimedia movement as a major custodian of human knowledge and cultural products.

Shortly after her announcement, Foundation board deputy chair Jan-Bart de Vreede wrote: "As a board member I will forever be grateful that she was willing to bet on a small organization with a lot of potential [and built on that potential] to make it one of the most powerful examples in the space of open knowledge and learning." Gardner's departure will not be immediate: the recruitment and transition are expected to take some six months, and she says she will be fully engaged in the job until a new person is in place.

Under her leadership, the WMF has undergone fundamental changes. In 2007, it spent only $3.5 million. By 2012, this had risen to an annual $22.3 million, the year in which a five-country fundraiser netted $25 million in just nine days. Over the same period, the Foundation has expanded beyond a simple server-supporting organization, funding programs from education to GLAM opportunities. The WMF itself was transplanted from St. Petersburg, Florida to San Francisco and has expanded from fewer than 10 employees to 160—of these, 100 have arrived over the past two years.

The ex-CBC producer cites two reasons for her decision. "First, the movement and the Wikimedia Foundation are in a strong place now. ... If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't feel okay to leave. In that sense, my leaving is a vote of confidence in our Board and executive team and staff." Her second reason may give the movement pause: "although we’re in good shape, ... the same isn’t true for the internet itself. Increasingly, I’m finding myself uncomfortable about how the internet’s developing, who’s influencing its development, and who is not." She says, "Wikipedia has experienced censorship at the hands of industry groups and governments", and that increasingly we are "seeing important decisions made by unaccountable non-transparent corporate players, a shift from the open web to mobile walled gardens".

When I joined, the Foundation was tiny and not yet able to reliably support the projects. Today it's healthy, thriving, and a competent partner to the global network of Wikimedia volunteers

 — Sue Gardner

Gardner warns that while many organisations and individuals advocate for the public interest online ("what’s good for ordinary people"), other interests are more numerous and powerful. "I want that to change. And that’s what I want to do next."

This is driving her towards a new role—"one very much aligned with Wikimedia values and informed by my experiences here, and with the purpose of amplifying the voices of people advocating for the free and open internet." While Gardner has not yet decided the exact trajectory of her next career phase, she "feels strongly that this is what I need to do."

"Until then, nothing changes. The Wikimedia Foundation has lots of work to do, and you can expect me to focus fully on it until we have a new Executive Director in place."

The Foundation board, which will be ultimately responsible for appointing the new executive director, has established a transition team consisting of board member Jan-Bart de Vreede (who will chair the team); chair of the board and community-elected trustee Kat Walsh; chapter-selected trustee Alice Wiegand (also a member of the HR Committee); Sue Gardner; her deputy, Erik Moeller; WMF General Counsel Geoff Brigham; and Chief Talent and Culture Officer, Gayle Karen Young. An outside recruitment firm will be engaged to assist in the task.

Jan-Bart de Vreede says the team will meet informally over the next few weeks, and will conduct its first first physical meeting in mid-April in Milan as part of the Wikimedia Conference, after which he will release a status report. Members of the movement are welcome to attend office hours on Saturday 30 March at 18:00 UTC, and Jan-Bart de Vreede can also talk about the matter on the list. He will set up corresponding pages on Meta over the next few days and community members are strongly encouraged to share their views there in due course.

The Signpost invites its readers' views on what talents should be looked for in a new executive director on the talk page, on Facebook, or through tweeting @wikisignpost.

Wikinews debate

Wikinews logo

German-language Wikipedians are in the vanguard of an effort to close down Wikimedia sister project Wikinews, the latest in a series of closure movements over the past few years.

The current discussion, which is currently being debated on Meta—the coordinating website for the Wikimedia movement—began from a discussion on the talk page of the Signpost's German-language cousin, the Kurier, which has been published since 2003; its motto is "not necessarily neutral [and] not encyclopedic". The newsletter recently ran a story on the future of Wikiversity, the site that is "devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university." In comments on the talk page, discussion quickly turned to Wikinews; a day later, the debate moved to Meta.

Wikinews has had a controversial history within the Wikimedia movement. Various language versions have been proposed for closure over the last several years, including in 2011, in 2012—where the English-language Wikinews was contentiously kept open—and in 2013. Additionally, several individuals have argued that Wikipedia covers recent news better than Wikinews—essentially stating that it beats its sister project at its own mission—including the Nieman Journalism Lab in 2010.

The English-language Wikinews has seen perhaps the greatest amount of controversy despite its small number of editors. A Signpost report documenting a fork of Wikinews in 2011 put the number at just two dozen active editors, not all of whom published articles. This number is most likely not aided by the project's editorial atmosphere, which has been described as "hostile". The fork, named OpenGlobe, was a direct result of this and Wikinews' complicated publishing process; it took nine of Wikinews' two dozen editors. Over time, OpenGlobe lost editors due to real life issues, leading to its end in August of last year.

Today, the English Wikinews still ranks as among the top language Wikinews sites. The report card reveals that the site has just 17 active editors, with four being "highly active", correlating to five or more and 100 or more edits per month, respectively. The number of new articles per month, a key barometer in a news-geared site, has slowly declined from a high of over 400 in April 2005 to below 50 today.

In contrast, the Russian Wikinews has seen recent success, with over 250 new articles being created in January 2013. However, the Russian and French Wikinews sites are the only ones with over 100 articles created in a single month in 2013; the Serbian Wikinews may also fall in this category, but the report card does not cover it.

The Meta debate has included many of these arguments and has a statistical analysis of all active or semi-active Wikinews projects. In a related discussion, Liliana stated:

Those in support of Wikinews, such as odder, have focused on a perceived lack of Wikimedia Foundation support for Wikinews:

Still, as Gestumblindi says in the Meta debate, "A small random selection of (mostly) retold news is not a news site." Should the various-language Wikinews sites be closed? The Signpost encourages our readers to post their thoughts on the talk page.

In brief

The Blockhaus d'Éperlecques in 2010.
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Sue Gardner leaving

Sue Gardner has done a lot of great work from what I have read over the years.

I think this comment of hers merits a lot of thought: "a shift from the open web to mobile walled gardens". It is happening on Wikipedia too. The main problem in my opinion is the walled garden at Meta-Wiki.

Please move Meta-Wiki to the Wikimedia Commons. The Commons is the place far more people go to and watchlist. --Timeshifter (talk) 04:11, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

that's an interesting definition of walled garden. Significantly different from mine (not making any comment for or against moving meta, just saying that seems to be totally unrelated to a "walled gatden") Bawolff (talk) 04:22, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I linked to the root definition of walled garden. There is a link at the top of that article to the technology definition: walled garden (technology). I was intrigued by the root definition combined with the technology definition. --Timeshifter (talk) 05:09, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Mobile has been my concern the past year, especially since I have seen how frustrating it is to edit Wikipedia on an iPad or Android phone. When I read "Walled-garden" I thought immediately of iOS and my next thought was of the late Steve Jobs and his decision to move production from the US to Asia and how the early ideals of the internet seem to be lost. Jane (talk) 08:09, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I think the Wikimedia board and technical staff need to fix so many things. People have been complaining for years about some technical problems, but some of them never seem to get solved. Every little hindrance makes Wikipedia more of a walled garden. People have many places they can go edit nowadays besides Wikipedia. The number of active editors on English Wikipedia has been declining since 2007. So has the total number of edits each month by all editors (with some exceptions). --Timeshifter (talk) 10:04, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
p.s. Sue has done a wonderful job bringing the wmf to where it is today. Thank you sue for all you have done over the years. Bawolff (talk) 04:22, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I am looking forward to hearing about next steps, best wishes! FYI, the article's link to is no longer active and I believe should point to — Preceding unsigned comment added by Grantbow (talkcontribs) 15:57, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]


  • Fantastic that one of the most vocal supporters of an ongoing proposal of dubious importance (rather minor if one looks e.g. at the number of supporters compared to other similar proposals in the same area) also decides, as Signpost author, to write on it about the matter. :) --Nemo 22:32, 28 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • Actually, I'm the one who decided to cover and write about it, and the topic idea was sent to me by by a different person. We agreed that Tony wouldn't even copyedit the piece off-wiki, so that any changes he made would be transparent. Tony is listed as an author because he wrote the bulk of the Gardner story. :-) Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 22:36, 28 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
      • It's still IMHO a COI that the editorial board (or however one may call it in English) as a whole has, and that should have added some additional care to the selection of the topic. I don't see any compelling reason to include this piece of information. How many open proposed closures with more supporters are there right now? 3 out of 4 open, as far as I can see. How many of the m:Proposals_for_closing_projects#Closed_proposals you covered? None? --Nemo 12:20, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
        • I disagree, and I apologize for deciding that the possible closure of the Amharic Wikiquote, Old English Wikibooks, and Uzbek Wikibooks were not worth main stories. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 12:35, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
          • What are the criteria for such decision? What about the now-closed ones? --Nemo 19:36, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
            • There are no defined criteria; it varies from week to week based on the developments we have available to cover, and what we have covered recently. With little we wanted to cover this week, I chose to cover Wikinews and wrote up a good portion of the story seen here ... and then Sue Gardner announced that she would leave the WMF in roughly six months. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 19:59, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I think WikiNews could work for Wikicomunity as a central of what is going on just like signpost which includes news from other sister project but is held inside wikipedia. I'm not sure if meta is the right place to such information but wikinews could be used perfectly (IMHO) to this missicn: A central mission of what is going on inside wiki comuunity in all projects. About arguments I read here, I agree that news don't grow over time such kind of fails about the wiki process. Regards!OTAVIO1981 (talk) 16:15, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Serbian Wikinews

Signpost journalistic standards on display

Wonderful! It is fantastic to see that the Signpost bothered for non-neutral reporting, where verifiability is not even on the agenda. Well, despite one or two of the contributors to the signpost obvious vendetta against the project (because they could never get their work published on Wikinews because they wouldn't know neutral and verifiable if it reached over and bit them in the ass), it is extremely highly unlikely that the Foundation will close the project. Let's see the Signpost editors try to meet Wikinews standards for reporting in their next update. (hint: it will never happen.) --LauraHale (talk) 01:54, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Hello! I would like to point you to the post above, where I clearly delineated who wrote the Wikinews story (me) and how we dealt with the COI issue. I'm sure you realize that the Signpost is not going to avoid a topic simply because one of its reporters has a COI. That's why we have multiple writers. As for the rest of your statement, if you have specific and substantive issues with this article, I encourage you to raise them. Please note, though, that we do not have the same standards as Wikinews, so I can't address that. Last, I would love to have our readers weigh in here. We appreciate reader feedback and we do try to take it into account in future editions. Regards, Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 02:10, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
It may be useful to add separate bylines for each section. Resolute 04:30, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for the feedback. We are debating about putting parenthetical notes after author names in cases of COI—both real or percieved—via email, actually, so that we can keep the current format while addressing the concerns raised there. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 12:35, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Just to make it very clear

To Nemo and Laura Hale, yes, I did suggest specifying the authorships, but this might have been lost in the hefty last-minute job of editing that was left to Ed, who like other Signpost journalists is exceptionally busy at the moment. Now that I've returned from a brief trip, with very bad connectivity, I'll do what I'd always intended: declare that I had nothing to do with the WN story; this was on purpose, since to have been involved would have breached our standards of neutrality and played into the hands of those who are keen to see bad faith. Sorry, we have to disappoint you on this occasion. But it's good to see that you both read the story. I haven't yet read it myself, and will soon. It was rather generous of Ed to put my name first: he did most of the work for this week's "News and notes". Tony (talk) 12:40, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

FWIW, I did some copyediting on this piece while Tony was unavailable. While that sort of thing doesn't warrant a byline, it does warrant attention to possible COI issues.
If there is something incorrect in the piece, or some viewpoint that has been left out, this is the opportunity to articulate it.
Neotarf (talk) 16:46, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Lack of support

Of course Wikinews – as most other Wikimedia projects do – lacks of support by the foundation. But worse: they do not just only not give support but indeed the WMF does not have any idea how to promote Wikinews, Wikibooks or Wikiversity. For instance, about ten months ago we asked, after the question was discussed in the German wikinews pressroom, how the foundation sees the legal circumstances concerning a change the configuration for the German Wikinews so that if an image is not available locall< the fall-back source was first the German Wikipedia and only after that Commons. There are images like logos or freedom of panorama works which are legal within the U.S. and Germany but can't be uploaded to the Commons for other reasons. The last news from Frisco was they'll tell us within ten days. That was ten months ago. Another thing was when I requested a feature like the gadget which helps to include citations, three years ago or so, just a short time after the Cite drop down was implemented here in the English Wikipedia. It is just boring to copy and paste title, URL and date from the source you're using while a smart browser widget similar to the since Firefox 3.0 not continued add-on WPCITE.xpi could save work and time. I don't have a clue how to code such a gadget but I think a professional could finish this within half an hour if so long at all. I never heard from the so-called "usability initiative". And like this, most of the Wikmedia projects other than Wikipedia do need just some little tricks to dealing better with the fact that MediaWiki wasn't developped for writing a newspaper or a book but we're don't get anything. We don't know where to ask, who to ask and still if we ask we wait for answers months and years. As a German Wikinews editor for five years and sysop for three years I know that Wikinews is serious business. But does the foundation know as well? --Matthiasb (talk) 22:02, 29 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Should never have split from wikipedia

If I remember my history correctly, wikinews was formed as topics currently in the news received lots of attention from editors here. So it was decided to fork this off to its own site. I always though this was a problematic fork for a number of reasons: it created a divide between wikipedia editors and wikinews editors, separate log ins enhanced this split you could not easily go from editing a history article to a current event. This split created specialist journalist editors as opposed to the generalists on wikipedia. The other big problem was visibility, as the news site didn't have the domain name the outside would simply didn't find the site, the domain name was the most valuable asset and we threw that away. There are numerous examples of current event articles receiving lots of edits here, and for some stories wikipedia can be the best source there is, so the concept of a wiki-news articles can work, but it needs to be part of a bigger pool of editors on a high visibility site. I'd propose creating a [[News:]] namespace here and merging the site back in.--Salix (talk): 13:24, 30 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Benefits of Wikinews

I've read in this page that Wikinews is useless. Well, we can discuss about which of the current Wikinews edition is good or bad, and how they can be improved. But I strongly believe that it's a very relevant format and should be strengthened.

Having actual journalists who cover events, search for news and do interviews would be amazing, and I hope that we eventually do that. Doing just rehashes of press agancy pieces isn't so great, I agree. But Wikinews can get much better articles than that, even without professionals.

Most of current news articles have the format "somebody said something". Once a news company has journalists, it's cheap, their journalists put a microphone in front of people, ask them questions, and publish the answers. News isn't just that: it requires to describe the context in a historic perspective, compare opinions of different people, etc. We can do that. I've done that with a few articles on motorsport this past March. The news could be written in two sentences, but I wrote several paragraphs about the rest of the story. It takes quite a bit more effort, but it's worth it.

One of the arguments is that the wiki format is meant for things that grow over time, whereas news are finished once they are released. That's true. But I disagree that news are useless after a few hours or days. News articles are useful to see how people thought back then. So, the news about a politician getting elected president will describe the political context at that time. A Wikipedia article would be rewritten over and over, so when you read the latest version, you have a different perspective. It's good to have the original one too. --NaBUru38 (talk) 19:22, 30 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Wikinews is a failed project

Wikinews cannot cover even major news stories to any depth, and its hostile environment means that very, very few editors work on it.

The only reason it still exists is because Wikimedia lacks any real way to shut down vanity projects, which can mobilise a few supporters to "snowball" polls before anyone else can come in. The project itself has to be notified - which seems fair enough, except that no other projects have to be, so the votes are skewed to the few people that actually put up with the site.

Wikinews should have died years ago. Adam Cuerden (talk) 22:46, 31 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

  • Wikinews' coverage of some stories has been both exceptional and significant in my experience, certainly enough so to preclude considering the project a failure.   — C M B J   09:47, 2 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Wikimedia Armenia

as far as I can see Wikimedia Armenia is the 39th chapter and not the 40th, as Wikimedia Kenya was disapproved some months ago. Regards, --Jcornelius (talk) 22:48, 28 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Ach, that's my mistake; I thought that they had yet to add Armenia to Meta, but now I see that it is simply not listed under "Composition of chapters" yet. Thank you for the note. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 23:01, 28 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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