Questions for the Q&A with Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

Questions for the members of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation Inc. to be answered during Q&A session

  1. Current strategy document is for the period 2012-2015. In the recently published Annual Plan 2014-2015 a strategy process for the next period was abandoned. Can you elaborate on strategy planning for the movement? And for the WMF?
    Our m:mission and m:vision aren't changing, but our 2010-2015 strategy was not an effective strategic document. A new WMF strategy is being developed now and will continue through early 2015, developed primarily by staff with 1-2 months of public input and discussion. It will be narrowly focused on the WMF's strategy and role, and will include clear articulation of what the WMF will not do (including things that are essential to our movement but that are not part of the Foundation's role). Movement strategy will need to find a new way forward; the WMF is not planning on driving a process for that in the next year but could support one. The dozens of topical and regional strategies that now exist should find a way to coexist with one another and inform such a collective strategy for the shared strategy to have meaning. Sj (talk)
  2. Net neutrality
    Can you elaborate the Board's position on net neutrality: Do you think Wikipedia can get preferential treatment just because it is not commercial? Is Wikimedia involved in the project, which provides Wikipedia access in Zambia?
    Access to knowledge should be a universal human right. If our concept of net neutrality limits that access, we should rethink what we mean by 'net neutrality'. Yes, we are being included in work - we're not actively involved, but organizers asked whether they could include Wikimedia content as part of that project, and we said what we say to all reusers: we encouraged them to do so.
  3. What does the Board expect they'll be working on in the next year (apart from The Same as Every Year: Taking Over The World)?
    Supporting our new ED in getting up to speed, and shaping the Foundation and its work; focusing on the WMF strategy and technical opportunities.
  4. Should there be more clear lines about the extent of the communities authority vs the foundations authority (eg how independent should communities be in deciding how their communities are configured). Does the wikimedia movement need a formal "constitution" describing the role and authority of various groups in our movement.
  5. Has Wikinews a future?
    News on wikis definitely has a future. Every newsroom editor in the world knows that Wikipedia articles about breaking news are usually the top hit and reference for many people for breaking information. Whether wikinews as currently conceived has a future depends on whether it can be flexible and change with the times, how well the sister projects are integrated together, whether meaningful partnerships can be built. Sj (talk)
  6. (Follow-up question) Wikinews have had very little support from the Foundation; bug requests have been waiting to be fixed for years; Wikipedia bugs get much more attention. Can sister projects hope for more assistance from the Foundation in the future, or should they fork away?
    A list of prioritized bug requests that are significant to Wikinews and have been waiting would help answer this question. (There are many more WP bugs for instance.) Sister projects should either be better integrated, in visibility and feature development and visibility, or they should be supported in spinning up their own small support teams [whether that requires a fork or not]. Sj (talk)
  7. (Follow-up question) The WMF (and its committees) has often refused chapters' requests for funding for huge staff increases. Why does the Foundation want to increase their staff by 25% next year? Doesn't it indicate different standards toward the chapters and the Foundation?
    Staff increases with clear scalable impact can be a good investment. Technology is a classical place for global platforms to invest; the WMF has been strongly supportive of WMDE building out a team focused on software for instance. Most of our staff and most of our staff increase is in tech, to help our technical focus blossom. Sj (talk)
  8. Which threats against the future of Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects are so important that the board should worry about them?
    Partial list: the threat analysis in each year's Annual Plan. For instance - fast evolution in how knowledge is formed and read, shifts to video /3D /augmented reality as a medium, lack of new blood and young contributors, cultural community shifts that reject new contributions, development of knowledge-hampering law... Sj (talk)
  9. What is (are) your vision(s) of where our movement will be in 10 years?
    Offering simple ways for everyone in the world to contribute something that they know, using any input channel, in a way that is permanently preserved. Maintaining an archival record of most collections of cultural works. Providing the underlying material that is recombined into the most popular texts and course materials. Maintaining the largest public translation dictionary, parallel corpus, and archive of the world's smaller languages in use. Providing space and tools for anyone with a knowledge-organizing idea to build and categorize it. ... Sj (talk)
  10. What is the role of the Foundation in settling disputes between communities, such as in the example of the URAA case where images for non-US countries were deleted by Commons Admins, and other communities felt (and demonstrated) that sufficient work was done in ensuring that licensing was "sufficiently" free?
    Sometimes the WMF can help here, sometimes it cannot. A better solution for resolving community disputes is needed, probably not run by the Foundation. But as in other such questions, the Foundation can support and provide training for people involved with any such solution. Sj (talk)
  11. In 2012 WMF gave CIS a 2 year grant in India. Despite most of its projects being a failure and having a disruptive effect on the community, the board took an unprecedented step of passing a resolution to make them eligible for FDC funding. No doubt that opened CIS to FDC scrutiny, however did the board at all ask for a report on program activity by CIS in 2 years before deciding to pass a resolution making them eligible for FDC funding?
    We did get a program report (which is public). Making CIS eligible for FDC funding was not a 'gift' to them, but the opposite: it was a way to ensure that their programs were subject to the same scrutiny as other large grants in our movement. Their funding via the FDC has been declining under that scrutiny.
  12. Will wikipedia (specifically the English Wikipedia) change its views regarding "banned" or "blocked" editors who are not allowed to return to the wiki due to silly and generally outrageous reasons even though they were overall "good" wikipedians before they were blocked or banned? (please don't mention a "resolution by the arbcom", that is the problem, not the solution)
    A good question, but no special insight here and this is too operational for the Foundation's governing body to consider.
  13. I'm quite interested in the fundraising situation in the United Kingdom with the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK, specifically the board's decision to not renew Wikimedia UK's fundraising agreement, and the loss of approximately $500,000 (at current exchange rates) of Gift Aid funding (a UK Government incentive, explained at Will the Wikimedia Foundation be renewing the fundraising agreement with Wikimedia UK, or will they form an overseas subsidiary in the UK to enable the collection of Gift Aid receipts. Does the board agree that the loss of such a significant sum is regrettable, that its collection must be investigated as a priority, and that such a sum could create significant benefits to the movement around the world.
  14. Last year the WMF Board passed what is facetiously known as the Pricasso Resolution/Amendment. To date only 2 images have been deleted from Commons due to this resolution, whilst numerous other images have been kept. Both images deleted are of Jimmy Wales. Part of that resolution states: "Treating any person who has a complaint about how they are portrayed in our projects with patience, kindness, and respect, and encouraging others to do the same." The other day, the WMF published notices that they had received from Google under the "right to be forgotten" program. Included in these notices was an image which was hosted on English Wikipedia (not linking to it here so as to not increase the poor guys Streisand Effect). The article the image was uploaded for was deleted (likely a vanity article), but the image, oddly, remained. Wikipedia is a massive bureaucracy, and the person in question may well not have known how to go about getting the image deleted.
    The WMF's opposition to the EU laws that requires Google to remove some items from its search results in the EU is well known. My question is as follows:
    • 1) Do you think the WMF should have considered the Streisand effect as it relates to this image before it dumped the Google requests into the public domain, which has ended up being reported widely in the media? Can you please also comment on whether that action complies with the Pricasso Resolution; in particular being kind and respectful towards people with complaints about images of themselves.
    • 2) An editor on English Wikipedia placed that image on the "Right to be forgotten" article and then began a discussion on Jimmy Wales' English Wikipedia talk page with a section entitled "Right to remember". He stated: "The photo was up for deletion on Wikipedia. I've put it in the Right to be forgotten article. It should also be moved to Commons and put in a new (?) Category:Right to be forgotten. Perhaps all the other articles should be put in a Wikipedia category, or maybe a List of articles subject to "right to be forgotten" requests. Please remind me if I forget." Jimmy Wales retorted on the actions of this editor: "This strikes me as POINT-y and cruel". Could you please comment on whether the Board agrees with Jimmy's comments and whether the actions of the editor are inline with the Pricasso Resolution.
    • 3) What can the WMF board do so in that future people such as the person who filed a "Request to be forgotten" with Google are afforded the same "patience, kindness, and respect" that the Board extended, and expected the community to extend, to Jimmy Wales in relation to the Pricasso video.

Jan-Bart de Vreede: Hi All, while we managed to tackle some of these questions during the Q&A we did not get to all of them. At the end of Wikimania we will close this page and move all the questions to the board noticeboard ( and answer those that we can give answers to. Also: if you are at Wikimania feel free to approach us and ask us anything!

Jan-Bart de Vreede: Hi, this question list is now closed. I am copying questions that were not answered to the board noticeboard ( Please post any additional questions there in the future, although SJ has done a good job at answering most of them!)