Management changes continue: Erik Möller to leave Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation's vice president of product and strategy, Erik Möller, will leave the WMF on April 30. Executive director Lila Tretikov announced his resignation on the Wikimedia-l mailing list on April 13, thanking him for shepherding her through the past year as executive director. Möller's tenure of seven years has been marked both by immense growth in the size and scope of WMF, as well as by controversies that at times have put him at odds with the community—most notably the "superprotect" issue in 2014.
Möller joined WMF as a staff member in 2008 after spending time as a MediaWiki developer and WMF trustee. In his departing comments on the mailing list, he recalled the "many hats" he has worn while a WMF staffer, and listed his work with universities, the building of VisualEditor, and the fact that "we don't shy away from complex issues" such as diversity, community health, SOPA, and the NSA lawsuit as cherished achievements."
But it's time. As the leadership team begins to coalesce under Lila, I want to open up space for the organization to learn and explore anew—and I’d like to rediscover for myself what it means to tackle challenges outside of my areas of comfort and familiarity.
Möller's departure comes amid several changes in the WMF's leadership structure, including the promotion of Luis Villa to senior director of community engagement, and the arrivals of Terry Gilbey as chief operating officer and Kourosh Karimkhany as VP of strategic partnerships.
Möller told the Signpost that as Wikimedia moves in new directions, he hopes the dynamics of how it works will continue: "Site experience changes have always been the most contentious, going back to when I was a volunteer [developer]; I know I've been a persistent troublemaker in that regard, ... We can ease the tensions by improving process, delivery and engagement—and I'm confident the team under Lila will do that. But there will always be areas and moments of conflict, and I personally think that's okay. It's one of the ways we all figure stuff out."
Möller said his best memories are of Wikimanias: "it's been amazing to have this opportunity to be in touch with the community once a year. At Wikimania 2006 in Boston, it was a privilege to introduce the Definition of Free Cultural Works together with Mako Hill, which we later adopted to underpin our Licensing Policy. It was great fun to stay at Mako's place, and there I got to spend some time with Aaron Swartz, who I had met on IRC years before, and was just as brilliant as everyone says."
"Wikimania 2007 in Taiwan to me is still the best Wikimania ever. ... So much space for conversation with delightful people, such a dedicated volunteer team, and what an amazing country to visit. It was also Sue Gardner's introduction to the community, which was lovely to be part of."
Möller is still to make a final decision on whether to take a gap year: "it's an important new point in my own life". He looks back fondly at his WMF work: "It was never easy, not for a moment—you always feel the weight of what you're responsible for, the intense scrutiny that you're going to get, the ways people will judge you personally or professionally. When things get heated, sometimes you need to be able to just detach. It can be all-consuming—it's not been rare for me to be at the office till midnight wrapping up on some issue or other."
"We've had many debates over the years over things big and small. I worked pretty closely with Mike Godwin and lots of other people on the migration from GFDL to CC-BY-SA, for example, and the amount of discussion on mailing lists and wikis about that alone fills volumes (or feels that way). Again, it was tough—but also rewarding." GP, T
Annual plan grants bids up for community review
Applications in the latest round of biannual annual plan grants (APG) process are now up for community review. APGs are allocated to support the overall annual plans of eligible Wikimedia affiliates to achieve mission objectives; the APG scheme takes up the largest proportion of grantmaking resources. There are six applications:
CIS-A2K: The Centre for Internet and Society is a Bangalore-based Indian NGO concerned with technological advocacy and multidisciplinary research in Internet and society. It is involved with Wikimedia India via the Access to Knowledge (A2K) program, a long-standing project ongoing since 2011, organized and funded in collaboration with the Foundation. They are asking for just over US$200,000 to fund the continuation of "qualitative and quantitative growth of 12 Wikimedia projects across 9 Indian languages and associated communities, in addition to providing need based support to other Indic communities".
Wikimedia Armenia: The chapter's proposal asks for slightly more than $120,000, a total that, compared to last year's disbursement of just under $100,000, is just in range of the Funds Dissemination Committee's recommended 20% maximum year-on-year bump. The budget covers two part-time staff hires (0.5 full-time equivalent each) and will cover several educational programs, a Wiki Loves Monuments initiative, and a yearly Wikicamp that last year led to the creation of 6,000 Wikipedia articles, the proofreading of 2,000 Wikisource pages, 6,600 entries in Wiktionary, and 500 files on Commons. 300 articles were also created in Western Armenian: "One of the goals of WMAM this year is the establishment and development of the Western Armenian Wikipedians' community, [to improve] article quality in Western Armenian, as well as find possible ways to open [a] Western Armenian Wikipedia."
Wikimedia France: As one of the largest affiliates, WMFR has set out a proposal for just over $670,000 in funding. The organization outlined their plan in terms of "six axes": training sessions, especially an iteration of the increasingly popular (in chapters) "training the trainers" program to facilitate community-to-community outreach; regional development through the financing of local projects and partnerships with "local authorities", for instance by creating more contributor spaces across France and facilitating photographic work; general public engagement through engagement with local and national fairs and competitions and work to be done on developing the organization's media coverage; international practical action to support the production of content related to the global south; and work on the organization's "quality policy" and communication with donors and the public.
Wikimedia Italy: The bid is for $166,680. The theme is structural: the organization aims to recruit "new volunteers and a re-organization of volunteers' activities on a geographical basis through the introduction of national and local coordinators for the main programs." A reorganization of the staff is forthcoming, with attention to Wikimedia Italy's brand awareness and "diversification of funding" (not unlike the recently begun efforts of the Wikimedia Foundation itself). An educational project is to be launched nationally, a partnership with the OpenStreetMap Foundation is being organized, and more "structured" cooperation with Wikidata are planned. Metrics of note for the organization are: "a more efficient structure, an increased users' involvement, a greater visibility of WMIT's activities among general public and cultural institutions, the systematic introduction of need assessments and indicators." The organization has published a lengthy 102-page annual plan.
Wikimedia Norway: The application is for some $260,000, presenting a threefold plan. First there is the organization's GLAM program, which aims to increase institutional sharing of cultural data to Wikipedia and to Commons. Particular efforts on this front will go towards interactions between institutions and volunteers and staff, the establishment of a Wikipedia Library, a Wikipedian-in-residence, and making inroads outside the capital, Oslo. Second is a Gender Gap Project, recently launched in collaboration with several university libraries and made possible in part by external funding from partnering non-profit institutions. And there is an Academic Wikipedia Program to cooperate with academic institutions to attract new editors among their students and enhance familiarity with Wikipedia in the Norwegian academic and research communities. Three Norwegian university institutions are experimenting with Wikipedia editing at the moment, and the chapter is seeking co-operation with the Norwegian Research Council.
Wikimedia South Africa: Asking for just under $100,000, WMZA is an APG newcomer. The chapter's focus is linguistic, aiming "to support a vibrant multilingual and multicultural content community that generates and disseminates content that is used, and [undertaken] by the local and global community. With 11 official languages, South Africans are well-placed to contribute not only to the English and Afrikaans Wikipedias, but to smaller Wikipedias." Programs are split into three categories. The first is community outreach, focusing on the language projects and outreach efforts like the JoburgpediA project. The second is institutional outreach going out to a variety of South African non-governmental organizations, as well as an intent to "engage" "government entities" in Kiwix, an open-source offline resource project (for more on Kiwix see recent blog posts). The last category is "international collaboration", covering platform support for editors and "awareness of [the] Wikimedia movement", a topic of common interest both to chapter organizations and the Wikimedia Foundation as of late.
WMF office move: A discussion occurred on the WM mailing list on the topic of the Foundation's current home city, San Francisco, and the prospects of a potential move. The WMF moved there from St. Petersburg, Florida in 2007, and its current location is cited by many as being an important element of the Foundation's talent attraction and retention abilities—yet San Francisco is also often cited as the most expensive US city. To mitigate this cost burden both on the Foundation itself and on the public non-profit salaried staff, the WMF solicits and encourages a remote workforce: on this topic Steven Walling said that "I wouldn't be surprised if close to half of staff are based remotely." Garfield Byrd, chief of finance and administration, wrote that "at this point, WMF is not planning on moving out of the San Francisco market area ... the advantages of having good access to [the] talented people and organizations WMF interacts with far outweigh any advantages to moving to a lower cost location outside of the San Francisco market area." Executive director Lila Tretikov stated that: R
As a matter of strategy we should be leveraging our open-source roots more as we grow. This means distributed, loosely-coupled teams ... we are working on some structures that will allow teams to either be entirely distributed or mostly co-located, consistent with what we know about best outcomes. ... before we worry about growth and costs we need to worry about effectiveness, but we are thinking about this.
RfC on steward rights renewal: A request for comment was made on the meta-wiki proposing a clarification in the annual re-confirmation of stewards after their initial election. Stewards have the highest level of user-rights in the movement—full access to all user-rights and user-right assignment privileges on all wikis—and are the core of the projects' emergency response and small-wiki response teams. As of publication time the proposal looked unlikely to pass. R
Arizona rocks: One of the mentions made in the Wiki Education Foundation's monthly report for February was a meeting with members of the University of Arizona "Geo Club", a graduate school group for students studying the geological sciences. Students and the administrator of the widely cited American Mineralogist Crystal Structure Database created and improved several articles on topics in mineralogy, such as kovdorskite and lanthanite. In a Wiki-Edu blog post, outreach manager Samantha Erickson asked that students be bolder: "The GeoClub is one of the first student groups to participate in the high-achieving student clubs program, and they’ve been an enthusiastic group interested in seeing the impact they are making on Wikipedia ... we still have slots available for the spring term and would love to hear from you!" R
Wikipedia iOS app updated: The official Wikipedia iOS app just received a major update. A feature of interest is the ability to create "fact cards", a feature that was also (first) recently rolled out in the Android Wikipedia application. R