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Wikimedia Foundation fundraising report, Montreal to host 2017 Wikimania

Sample banner from the report: the "keep Wikipedia online and ad-free" wording, much criticized last year, seems here to stay.
The Foundation has continued to perform exhaustive A/B testing of fundraising messages (1,320 fundraising banners tested in 2014), experimenting with different font sizes, designs and wordings. Judging by the sample banners shown in the report, the "keep Wikipedia online and ad-free" wording, much criticized last year (see March 2015 Signpost op-ed), seems here to stay.

The Foundation has also surveyed users to assess the perceived intrusiveness of fundraising banners of different sizes as well as users' sentiment towards Wikipedia, and has expanded its email campaign: "Readers submit their email address for future communications when they make a donation and a year later the fundraising team sends an annual reminder to donate." The Foundation sent 5,710,299 such emails, resulting in a total of $8,310,107 raised from 370,205 donations, a 90% increase over 2013–2014.

Major gifts exceeding $1,000 have grown, representing a total of $10,700,000 from 1,397 donations. In 2014, the Wikimedia Foundation also received the largest single gift in its history, "a $5 million unrestricted donation from an anonymous donor that will support $1 million worth of expenses per year, for the next five years".

Donations by continent: North America and Europe dominate.
Social media mentions of the fundraising campaigns have been largely positive or neutral, according to the report, which says that out of 29,457 mentions on Twitter, for example, where the #keepitfree hashtag is used to publicise Wikimedia fundraising campaigns, 44% were positive, 49% were neutral, and 7% were negative.

The report concludes with a reminder that readership is in decline, especially in a number of key fundraising countries, with the rise in mobile readership unable to make up for the rather greater loss in desktop pageviews. In the United States for example, total pageviews are expected to be down by 5% this December compared to December 2014. Another aspect of the widespread shift from desktop to mobile is that mobile readers are generally less likely to donate than desktop readers. AK

Montreal was selected for Wikimania 2017

Wikimania steering committee selects Montreal to host 2017 iteration of conference

The Wikimania Steering Committee's plans for future Wikimanias—the annual conference of the Wikimedia community[1]—have been revealed in an apparent leak by Leung Chung-ming (春卷柯南) to the Wikimedia-l mailing list.

According to Google Documents linked to on the mailing list, Wikimania locations will now be determined based on a three-year rotation. Starting in the first year with Western, Northern, and Southern Europe—specifically excluding Eastern Europe—the second year will feature the United States/Canada, and the third year's conference will be somewhere in the rest of the world. Without apparent irony, the committee implies that fewer areas of the world will now be "ignored" by Wikimania.[2]

The first two, and possibly three, locations have already been determined: Italy, Canada, and South Asia.

First, Wikimania 2016 will be held in Esino Lario, a small village in the Italian Alps. This selection, made last year through the now-deprecated bidding process, was not uncontroversial.

Wikimania 2017: Montreal

Second, the Steering Committee plans to bring Wikimania to Montreal, Canada, in 2017—a choice that appears to have been made by last August without public consultation, transparent planning, or announcement to other potential bidding teams, even though they were "happy to endorse" the location as far back as their August 2015 meeting.

The Montreal team will be led by Marc-André Pelletier (Coren), a former member of the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee. The draft announcement does not note that he is also a current employee of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The draft announcement says that the committee reviewed several options and talked with "several" community members. These evidently did not include planned bidders Perth, who have been preparing a bid since at least as late as September 19, or Manila, who have long planned to revive their failed 2016 bid for 2017. Josh Lim (Sky Harbor), an organizer for the latter, wrote to Wikimedia-l that "I am at a loss for words as to how to express my utter disappointment at how this process seems to have been rammed through without any sort of consultation taking place whatsoever, despite assurances made to the contrary ... my faith in the entire Wikimania process at this point is visibly shaken."

Wikimania 2018: South Asia?

Last, the Steering Committee appears to be planning for a Wikimania 2018 in South Asia. Deror Avi—the representative remaining on the Steering Committee from Wikimania 2011 in Haifa, Israel—writes that there are "keen" individuals from South Asia who would like to host the conference, and James Forrester, the chair of the Steering Committee and a Wikimedia Foundation employee, appears ready to select the region in a comment dated August 18. Ellie Young, the Foundation's events manager, is not.

Bidding process changes

A somewhat less controversial change may lie in the move away from the old bidding process. As the Steering Committee notes in a draft message:

The existing bidding process has developed over time. It has become unwieldy and hard work for the community and staff. It demands that people pour a huge amount of effort into building local teams, contracts and institutional relationships only for rejected bids' work to be left unused. A lot of pressure is put on volunteers to try to work on logistics rather than dream about what would make a great programme for our communities. Each year, the jury has to decide on a venue based on what is presented by each group divisively, rather than what we as a community could come together and build.

The process is too short-term, setting out venue[s] much less than two years ahead (often only just more than twelve months in advance). This greatly increases expenses when other similar conferences plan locations out many years ahead. This makes it impossible for us to be strategic about location, prevents us from arranging co-location with like-minded conferences, and it means that some areas of the world are ignored when they could provide great Wikimanias.

  1. ^ The Wikimedia Conference, usually held in Berlin each year, is principally for affiliate organizations.
  2. ^ The specific quote in the new process announcement says that the current bidding process "means that some areas of the world are ignored when they could provide great Wikimanias."
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Great news on the fundraising but only 4 days to announce and accept nominations for the WMF board? That's not how it's done. It should have been two weeks or two months. Liz Read! Talk! 21:40, 3 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Agreed. As for the fundraising success, it's striking that annual revenue has increased exactly fivefold in the space of five years: from $15.1 million in 2009/2010 to $75.5 million in 2014/2015. All along, donors are told that the money is needed to keep Wikipedia online and ad-free, even though less and less of the money collected is actually used to cover the costs of keeping Wikipedia online. Andreas JN466 22:09, 3 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Well, having worked for some non-profits, an organization that relies on fundraising to meet all expenses and obligations can be very precarious and it is difficult to make long-term plans when you don't even know if you will meet your fundraising target a year from now. I hope that the surplus funds are being kept in a reserve account in case there is a catastrophic event or next year doesn't meet its fundraising goal. Liz Read! Talk! 16:28, 6 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Not exactly, Liz. Expenditure has risen as well, from $10 million in 2009–2010 to $56 million in 2014–2015, mostly as a result of the vast staff expansion. However, cash reserves have risen in line with expenditure [1]; in fact, the rising expenditure has been used to justify ever greater reserves. In other words, the tens of millions in cash reserves have been defended with the argument that it is "just one year's expenses", omitting to mention that expenses have also increased tenfold since 2008–2009.
In my view, the public needs to understand where all the money is going – and needs to understand that the donations drive is not about saving Wikipedia from blinking out of existence or having to host ads to survive, as the "keep Wikipedia online and ad-free another year" wording seems to imply, but about the fact that the Foundation has increased in staff size by a factor of 25 since 2007 and more and more money is needed to maintain that bulk. And donors have a right to know in my opinion what those Foundation staff are doing, and how it benefits the public. It shouldn't just be a blank cheque that increases every year thanks to bigger banners telling people money is needed again to "keep Wikipedia online". Andreas JN466 17:38, 7 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]


  • We did, but the timing of the news and the lateness of the already late Signpost made waiting for responses impossible. We will include any responses in a follow-up story. Gamaliel (talk) 02:19, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • A point of note: while the draft announcement itself did not mention my dual roles (as a community member and as a WMF staffer), the comments on the document mention that it needs to be made explicit (as you'd expect from a draft). That said, the Wikimania organization is definitely not made with my Staff hat on, and I very much doubt that my role in operations is considered and asset in event planning.  :-) Some may recall that I was organizing Montreal's bid for 2011, so my continued interest in hosting the community in my hometown should come as no surprise to anyone. — Coren (talk) 23:37, 3 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Wikimania 2017 in my city?? Now I no longer have an excuse not to attend!! :D  · Salvidrim! ·  00:48, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • "with the rise in mobile readership unable to make up for the rather greater loss in desktop pageviews" ie. mobile makes us dumber. -- GreenC 01:19, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Would have been nice if the committee and WMF had kept Meta informed, the place where every previous bid process had taken place up 2016 to on the changes. m:Wikimania_2017 as for being a good choice we now have London, Mexico, Italy and Motreal I see Europe, North America, Europe, North America the last time it was outside of that was Hong Kong in 2013. For the record I have spent the last 3 months working a bid following that process so has a number of other people. Gnangarra 01:39, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Having Wikimania in West/North/South Europe and U.S./Canada two thirds of the time? Really? If you really want to spread the conference around, it should rotate through all the six continents – including Oceania where its never been before, and now won't be until at least 2021, or 2024, or three years later, or three after that, etc., under the proposed system. Seems like the system is more about keeping Wikimania locations inline with the "Donations by continent" image in the top story, rather than ignoring less of the world. - Evad37 [talk] 02:20, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • While acknowledging Gnangarra's good work, the decision is well-thought-through from the perspective of costs and carbon footprint. Next, we could change the allocation of travel subsidies to give greater favour to the global south and diversity. Tony (talk) 04:05, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Ignoring the efforts so far... in fixing the schedule like this it ignores other windows of opportunity, with the A$ compared to US$ 2/3rds of what it was at its peak, Perth on the end of mining boom, an over supply of accommodation, the economics that excluded Australia previously have altered dramatically but for how long. Even more concerning is the loss of community choice and input in the process the level of BIAS this will foster in wider community by ensuring that contributors outside of the NA & Europe are treated as second class with little relevance to collecting the sum of all knowledge. Gnangarra 04:19, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
last year not one Australian got a scholarship and I doubt that's about to change. They may as well close the door and say 'give up now, you're not part of our community'. Total absence of communication and allowing people to proceed along with deals that have no hope of succeeding thus damaging credibility and possible future projects is just typical of how some at the WMF have been operating these days.
Also ... Montreal? Wtf? I've been there and I hope that whoever is making the decision factors in the social hatred and frequent deliberate small scale fraud targeted at English speakers there. Most unfriendly city I've ever been to and no plans to go back. Then again this is what happens when a secret closed shop decides the event without input from the community. Orderinchaos 08:30, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I am indeed the person who shared those documents to the Wikimedia-I list (I'll be glad if the Signpost can give credits to me). I have to emphasize that they are just drafts, and I'm still waiting a reply from someone who works with the Foundation. In the original mail I never confirm that Montreal will held Wikimania 2017. Also, personally I don't feel that this year's bid process will be forfeited, though there's possibility that the bid process will be abolished for further Wikimanias. --Spring Roll Conan ( Talk · Contributions ) 04:35, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • I boldly added your name to the story. From those documents, however, it's pretty clear that the current plan is to discard the old bid process and give Wikimania 2017 to Montreal. While I don't disagree with the former, it is highly unfortunate IMHO that this was all conducted behind closed doors. (this is my volunteer opinion, if that wasn't already clear) Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 07:29, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Speaking on behalf of the Manila bid team for Wikimania 2016/2017, please note that we are currently discussing a plan of action regarding our current bid, and that at this point the bid team was seriously taken aback by this leak/future announcement. As I said in my e-mail (and it would be great if the Signpost could link me to it, please! :P), my faith in the process is visibly shaken, and so is the faith of the rest of our team in said process. --Sky Harbor (talk) 13:51, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • Rather than be prescriptive about regions it would be good if we could be prescriptive about rotation and visas. I think you could cover both with two rules:
  1. Each location to be no closer than a longhaul flight from the previous one and a medium haul flight from the one before.
  2. Wikimania will sometimes be in countries where visas are difficult for many wikimedians. But not two years in a row. ϢereSpielChequers 19:34, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I'm very disappointed. The old process certainly had its problems, but this new system is clearly far worse. I've followed the Wikimania bidding process out of interest for a long time, and I was a witness to the creation of the Wikimania Committee. The impression of myself and others at the time was that it was just there to keep things running smoothly, particularly with assisting the jury, and I had no problem with that. It was not created to take control of the entire process, and nor should a body with no serious transparency or community mandate do so.
  • I've noted that poor communication is a recurring theme when it comes to Wikimania bidding and related activities. I have repeatedly pointed out cases where communication from those leading the process was poor or problematic (examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), and I believe others have too. Then there's the Esino Lario related chain of events, in which I was told one thing by the WMF while they told the Signpost something else, among many many other issues. From my perspective, this incident is clearly just the highlight of a long catalogue of failures when it comes to communication with the community.
  • There now seems to be an emerging talking point from some parties that it was some kind of secret that Manilla and Perth were planning to bid again, in order to explain the decision to give Wikimania to Montreal. I do not accept this at all. It was known by a large segment of the community that these bids were in progress (including by WMF employees), and it appears that both bids contacted the WMF at least once about their plans, with Manilla in fact receiving encouragement by the WMF to bid again after their previous failure. There is no excuse for the Wikimania Committee not to have known, but even if there was, the bid teams deserve no criticism for following instructions left to them on Meta in which nobody had bothered to spend five minutes updating.
  • I happen to be friends with people involved in both of the discarded bids, and I've witnessed the negative consequences of the Wikimania Committee's actions, to which I'm sure there will be many more. They are angry about how they have been treated, and have every right to be. A serious and unconditional apology to both bid teams by the Wikimania Committee would mitigate, though unfortunately far from resolve, this incident. As of yet, one has not been forthcoming. Sadly, this seems to be reflective of the path in which Wikimania has been put on. A path where Wikimania ceases to be a serious community conference, perhaps to be become a WMF showroom event instead, and as a result, ceases to command any respect from the volunteers which make Wikimedia projects what they are today. I don't think it is fair to write off the merits of a Montreal Wikimania at this point, even if like Orderinchaos (talk · contribs), I have my reservations, but there can be no doubt that Wikimania 2017 is off to a very poor start. I personally have very little faith in Wikimania-related processes any more. CT Cooper · talk 21:04, 5 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • Personally? I wouldn't have minded if the process was changed, just that...they should have told us earlier. (It would have been easier for the Manila team to just restart the bid as most of the suppliers we contacted are ready on short notice.) If the Wikimania steering committee was planning to change the process all along, then Ellie shouldn't have told us (via Josh) to bid again. And certainly, they should have told the community before Bali and Perth put their respective bids as well. And if they want a consultation with the community regarding the proposed changes, it should have started much earlier, and certainly not next month. And certainly not when (as it seems) the key decisions have been voted on to be pursued. ---Tito Pao (talk) 01:24, 6 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Fundraising emails

"Readers submit their email address for future communications when they make a donation..."
This reader/editor strongly objects (and has done so explicitly by e-mail for the last few years) to receiving unsolicited e-mails in response to a donation. Even if it's from WMF, it's still spam. I hope there is an option to not provide an e-mail address and/or to opt out at the time of donation (not by unsubscribing after you send me unwanted e-mails) of future e-mails (other than a receipt for the donation), otherwise I shall simply not donate next time. Mitch Ames (talk) 07:36, 4 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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