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WMF releases quarterly reports, annual plans

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By Resident Mario

WMF releases quarterly report, drafts annual plan

The quarterly report Foundation "scorecard", an integral new part of new self-assessment efforts.
Annual plan expenditure comparisons for 2015–16, set against the 2014–15 figures; figures are in millions of USD. The largest change in relative terms is in the communications department, which doubled its stake from 2% to 4% of the overall budget, following through with prevailing themes at the Foundation regarding the need for closer community integration and making sure "the story" is told correctly.

The Wikimedia Foundation recently switched to a quarterly report structure to better align reporting with the generally quarterly planning and goal-setting processes. This week's publication of a January–March 2015 quarterly report marks the second such report to be released since a switch was made earlier this year from an older monthly to a new quarterly internal reporting structure. The change was made to better align the contents of these reports with the Foundation's generally quarterly goal-setting processes, and in March the Signpost covered the contents of the first such report, as well as some of the reasoning behind the reformatting. These reports are still reasonably new in structure and remain a work in progress; in an email to the foundation-l mailing list, senior operations analyst Tilman Bayer and chief operating officer Terence Gilbey spoke of some of the changes and new features introduced into this second report.

The principal change has been the creation and organization of a new departmental "scorecard"; this is a new organizational assessment system spearheaded by recently hired chief operating officer Terence Gilbey as a part of an effort to increase the rigor of the metrics the Foundation uses to keep track of its progress—a major theme in last month's publication of the mammoth State of the WMF report. The scorecard is typified by a system of goals drafted at the beginning of a reporting period that are either met (successes) or "missed" (failures) over the course of quarter. The first quarter saw 130 objectives split across 32 teams, with a roughly even distribution of successes (52%; 67) and misses (48%; 63). At this month's metrics and activities meeting, Gilbey, new leader of the meetings in the stead of now-departed vice president of engineering Erik Möller, somewhat clarified the vision behind the scorecard: the hope is for about 75% of goals to result in successes, while a 100% success means that the team is probably not setting goals aggressively enough. He attempted to mollify concerns from a member of the audience about what use a binary pass/fail departmental assessment system could serve in the organization, stating that many of the teams which missed their objectives "came very close" and that further refinements in the system remain under consideration.

In related news, the Wikimedia Foundation this week also published a draft version of its 2015–2016 annual plan. The first Foundation annual plan appeared in 2008, and the Foundation has been openly publishing its annual plans, with various changes in format, ever since then. Last year's annual plan drew criticism for indigestibility: as the Signpost reported at the time, the plan was published and reviewed via the annual plan grants process, an awkward arrangement given that the process's stated mission is reviewing grant proposals to the Wikimedia Foundation by far smaller affiliated national chapters, not those of the organization itself.

In contrast to last year's 22,000-word proposal, this year's plan—now again released independently of the FDC—clocks in at just 3,600 words. Thus, although the plan does provide current data on WMF projections about its activities and budgets for the coming year, in contrast with last year's report it provides little in the way of explanation of its intent. Indeed, in the "background and context" section, the report outlines its new format. A SWOT-style "Risks" section will be prepared as a separate document, one that, alarmingly, only "may be released" in a public version (our italics). The plan says nothing more about the Foundation's progress against its current year's plan: instead it is meant to serve as "a 12 month high-level overview of organizational priorities as guided by the 2015 Call to Action and a forward-looking spend forecast ... it re-aligns organizational focus around communities and technical deliverables."

What to make of the new format? The WMF is currently in the process of overhauling the way it measures itself (hence the report's secondary focus on "key performance indicators", to be defined), and as part of that it has been attempting to re-align its reporting periods against its assessment periods and to cut procedural waste and duplication. This year's annual plan, then, is a plan only in the fiscal sense: it provides board-approved numbers on how the Foundation plans to spend its money, but little else besides. Organizational intent is to be read elsewhere: in the Foundation's quarterly reports, and in particular, in this year's publication of the enormous State of the Wiki report. Though the plan is up for community review, there is little (though not nothing) for the community to review here, as much of the action takes place elsewhere.

Worthy of particular attention is the last section of the report: an appendix on the Foundation's newly restructured engineering department. Engineering—or things that are to be construed as engineering under the aegis of the "product" department—makes up the bulk of the WMF's expenditure; there is good reason for this, since surveys again and again show that stakeholders believe this should be at the core of the Foundation's purpose. Vice-president of product and strategy and extremely long-time Wikipedian Erik Möller, retired from the Foundation last month—a move that was soon followed by a public email to the mailing lists by executive director Lila Tretikov regarding high-level reorganizations in the WMF, principally a restructuring of the engineering team (and the re-merging of product into the engineering department). R

Brief notes

Historical snapshot: Jimmy Wales speaks on internet censorship in China at the 2012 Wikimania
Wikipedia's struggle for relevancy in the increasingly media-saturated market (and the difficulty which the roll-out of Foundation-developed technical initiatives like Media Viewer and VisualEditor, meant to address these shortfalls, have had in the past) are a (even the) principal focus behind the Foundation's currently ongoing efforts to re-invent itself (for more information see last month's letter to the mailing list by Lila Tretikov and the publication of the State of the Wiki report). This is likewise not the first effort to bemoan Wikipedia's visual interface in the hopes of offering a better alternative: as the Signpost reported at the time, another similar effort, called Wikiwand, received strong press late last year. R
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  • While I like WMF stuff to be open, I understand why there may be reticence to committing to publish a SWOT analysis. The potential for existential, or at least very costly, threats, means that publication could potentially fall foul of the equivalent of WP:BEANS. All the best: Rich Farmbrough22:02, 29 May 2015 (UTC).

Wikipedia's "outdated" look

Maybe I'm a minority of one, but I find these constant complaints about Wikipedia's interface as evidence of missing the entire point of what this website is attempting to accomplish.

I'm not defending the interface unreservedly -- there are things I don't like about it, & the fonts that Raureif are using are attractive. But when I look at various suggested "improvements", I end up wondering if they will really improve how every article will look, or just certain ones. And I wonder if all of those shiny bells & whistles come at the cost of using only certain versions of certain browsers & add-ons (e.g., specific versions & releases of Java, Flash, Javascript, etc.) leaving the rest of us with a blank page that tells us we need to upgrade something in our computer we shouldn't really need to. So when all is said & done, the interface works, & it really is the least worst possible interface. It allows a lot of people who have been donating our time, money, & effort at building Wikipedia to do the job without being distracted about whether the software on our computers is good enough. We can focus on getting the facts & citations right without worrying if the picture selected for the article is edgy enough. (Or whatever is the current fad in graphic design right now.)

And that's the point of Wikipedia -- we're creating the content. We're translating the names, dates, facts & opinions from its current print form into a digital form that our readers can build with. Or as one article the folks at Raureif linked to put it, if someone stumbles upon Wikipedia and thinks "Urgh, it's so ugly!" that person wasn't using it. He was looking at it. This doesn't mean people shouldn't experiment with the interface, & try to make it better; they just need to keep two things in mind before they talk about "improving" it. The first is that they shouldn't have their panties bunched up for Wikipedians not caring about the interface as much as they do; again, we're creating content, God dammit. Second, if they come up with a truly better interface that allows people to better extract the information, they should be prepared to share it with the community that built Wikipedia for the same price they paid for the content; no one is forcing them to use what we've given them for free, God dammit. -- llywrch (talk) 07:29, 30 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]

You will enjoy this essay, which is linked from Wikipedia:Unsolicited redesigns. I remember one proponent of an inadequate redesign talking about how ordinary Internet users are "design-starved" ... um, no - David Gerard (talk) 09:19, 30 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]
David, did you happen to follow the sole link in my comment, & from which I drew a close paraphrase? -- llywrch (talk) 17:24, 30 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Well ... I was correct you'd enjoy it! *cough* - David Gerard (talk) 16:26, 1 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Wikipedia:2015 main page redesign proposal/draft/Guy Macon --Guy Macon (talk) 09:52, 31 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Guy, your suggestion (linked) has stripped the overcrowded main page design of all of its redundant and low-value nonsense. All it needs is a modern visual design, preferably based on mouse-hovering as long as accessibility is not an issue with that. Then we'd be taken seriously. --Tony1 (talk) 15:34, 31 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Low-bandwidth access is for the mobile site. The regular site needs to be as full-featured as possible in a modern web setting, and so this is the wrong direction to be going in as a flagship. The point is possibly moot: the community long ago demonstrated an incapacity for making design choices, for one, and, colloquially, traffic is more and more being led away from the (terrible, terrible) main page these days. ResMar 15:48, 31 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]


"Engineering makes up the bulk of the WMF's expenditure; there is good reason for this, since surveys again and again show that stakeholders believe this should be at the core of the Foundation's purpose."

Well, here's my view on the subject. In a word, Wikimedia's biggest issues are social, and these can't be solved with technical solutions. --NaBUru38 (talk) 01:20, 2 June 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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