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Finally, a new CTO; trustee joins Quora; copyright upgrade impending

Victoria Coleman, the new chief technology officer, will be vital to the Foundation's performance

The Wikimedia Foundation has hired Victoria Coleman to serve as its chief technology officer (CTO). (blog post; press release; email list announcement). The CTO role, widely seen as vital to an organization for which technology has always been the central focus, has been vacant since Danese Cooper left the organization in July 2011. Several former and current WMF staff, however, noted that various others have played the role of CTO in the interim, to some degree, without adopting the formal title. According to the announcement, Coleman "will be responsible for setting the vision and strategy for technology and operations behind the Wikimedia projects, in cooperation with the global communities of volunteer contributors, users, and researchers."

Coleman’s resume includes roles with Technicolor, Harman, Yahoo, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Intel, and SRI International. She also worked on security-related projects, including authoring a report on creation of a legal framework for the safety of programmable electronic systems procurement in the UK, and the establishment of a cybersecurity research center in the US.

Executive director Katherine Maher said in the announcement: "Victoria brings the right combination of deep technical knowledge, operational expertise, and the steady hand that is needed in this unique role."

One message from an email list participant, inquiring into Coleman’s perspective on a user privacy issue that may intersect with her past work, prompted an extended response from Maher. Maher emphasized the importance of having a diversity of backgrounds represented among staff, and the value of Coleman’s security experience in the government IT sector.

Coleman will take up the role on November 7. PF

Foundation trustee to join Quora as finance officer

WMF trustee Kelly Battles

Foundation trustee Kelly Battles announced that she has taken a position as chief financial officer (CFO) for Quora. The announcement, which addresses the possibility of a legal conflict of interest arising from the new position, appears to be Battles' first public communication since her brief introductory statement on joining the Board of Trustees in January 2016. Battles was Bracket Computing’s CFO when she assumed the unpaid WMF Board position.

Quora, a for-profit company, runs a question-and-answer website that has drawn frequent comparisons to Wikipedia since its launch in 2010 (past Signpost coverage). Quora co-founder Adam D'Angelo noted the influence of Wikipedia on the site's design in a TechCrunch article, and computer scientist Seb Paquet addressed the connection in the popular article "Why Quora is not Wikipedia" for Quora Review, both in 2011. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales describes himself as “an advisor to and (very small) investor in Quora,” and has answered some 864 questions on the site. Quora itself features many questions and answers related to the connections between the two sites.

Some discussion about the potential for COI in Battles’ new role ensued on the email list.PF

Editorial note: Wiki Strategies, the company owned by editor Pete Forsyth, advised the Quora team prior to the site’s 2010 launch.

The WMF seeks input on whether to update the Wikimedia Terms of Use to specify version 4.0 of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license (CC BY-SA) (an upgrade from version 3.0 of the same license); the consultation runs to November 8. The change would be the first since the WMF's move in 2009 from the old GNU FDL that had been in use since Wikipedia launched. The 2009 change was spearheaded by deputy director Erik Möller and trustee Kat Walsh. At the time, some European Wikimedians objected to the legal interaction with their own copyright codes; this may be prompting some expressions of caution about the current proposal.

For the 4.0 version, released in 2013, Creative Commons prioritized creating a “more global license,” consulting with hundreds of volunteers around the world to improve the fit with various legal jurisdictions, and to simplify and translate the legal code and the simpler “deeds,” or summaries for non-lawyers, into many languages. In addition, the 4.0 version for the first time presents a unified CC BY-SA license for various legal jurisdictions, rather than separate “ported” versions designed specifically for each country’s laws.

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Two changes noted in the discussions to date are database rights and the process whereby reusers who violate the license can correct their actions within a 30-day window. Database rights have been assuming ever-greater online importance, with significant implications for the way societies deal with the ongoing explosion in structured information. While most jurisdictions still lack database copyright law—in which compiling a database apparently confers copyright, whether online or in hard copy—uploaders in jurisdictions that do have database copyright law must satisfy both the local law and the provisions of the Creative Commons license. For this reason, the WMF's adoption of the new version is planned to present a waiver of potential database rights, which, according to that link target on Meta Wiki, gives permission to use material that is ineligible for copyright protection, but is eligible for protection as part of a database. The proposal intends "that the rights in Wikimedia content are internationally consistent and consistent with Wikipedia's past rights in contributions under version 3.0 of the license." Wikidata, however, will not be transitioning to a new license under the proposal; it has used, and will continue to use, the CC0 public domain dedication rather than CC BY-SA. T

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In the "prompted an extended response from Maher". I can't seem to find any actual answer to the question asked, so I will ask it again here (paraphrased from the mailing list question):

It is well documented that Coleman's former government employers worked to introduce and/or keep open security vulnerabilities in a wide range of systems and software. Can we please have a clear statement that if she knows about or finds out about any vulnerabilities and vectors that can be used to attack MediaWiki she will share them with our developers so that they can be fixed? --Guy Macon (talk) 13:04, 4 November 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Hi @Guy Macon:, I thought I was clear: "We will work closely together in defending and strengthening the privacy and security of our platforms for our users." But I'll get more explicit: Failing to disclose and address a vulnerability/vector in any part of our platform would be unacceptable, whether it was for the purpose of facilitating exploitation or otherwise. The WMF security team addresses critical vulnerabilities as soon as they are identified, regardless of who identifies them. It is at the discretion of the security team to determine whether the exploit is critical and should be addressed before disclosure, or whether it can be safely disclosed and addressed. The security and integrity of our systems, and the security and privacy of Wikimedia's users, are paramount. Katherine (WMF) (talk) 00:19, 5 November 2016 (UTC)[reply]
That's good enough for me. Thanks for the clarification. --Guy Macon (talk) 06:21, 5 November 2016 (UTC)[reply]


Will be missed. Peter Damian (talk) 10:16, 5 November 2016 (UTC)[reply]

We need a strong an critical press. Andreas provided a great service to the movement during his time here. Sad to see him moving on. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 17:12, 5 November 2016 (UTC)[reply]


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