Grants talk:PEG/WM EE/Continuing office rental

Active discussions

On behalf of Wikimedia Eesti I invite You to participate in the discussion to clarify and ameliorate present grant request! --Misosoof (talk) 20:34, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

Evaluation by the GACEdit

GAC Members who read the grant request without commentsEdit

GAC Members who approve this grant requestEdit

GAC Members who oppose this grant requestEdit

GAC Members who abstain from voting/commentEdit

  1. I will abstain from voting and commenting this particular application, but I reserve the right to comment some general principles that have been risen in this discussion. The reason for abstaining is that although I am no longer connected to WMEE in any way (I am not a member, I am not on their mailing list, I do not even meet any members on regular basis), I have been a board member for a couple of years and I'm not sure everybody would understand my disconnection. --Oop (talk) 12:10, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
  2. There are a number of aspects of this grant request that make me uneasy with it being handed to the GAC; I don't think we're in a solid place to evaluate it. I'm not at all uncomfortable with funding WMEE further and suspect that with this amount it's probably a good grant to hand out, but with WMEE already having rented the office and looking to transition to FDC grants in the next cycle, I feel like the outcome of this request should probably be decided by WMF grants staff. Though not intimately familiar with real estate prices in Tartu, this doesn't look at all out of line - but for an eight month office rental while transitioning to FDC funding that doesn't cost very much, I feel like Asaf or Alex making a further discretionary judgment on the remainder of the rental is a better idea than enough GAC members getting familiar enough with the local situation for us to make the call. Kevin (talk) 03:44, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
  3. As Kevin states, it's a small amount, it should be decided on by A-team itself (Asaf/Alex) MADe (talk) 09:34, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

DiscussionEdit

Dear Misosoof, than you for this grant request. Funding long time office rental is not so usual for Project and Event Grants Program. Only in specific situations PEG can be used for long time (more than 6 months) staff fee and office rent. Let us ask you a few questions in order better to understand your specific situation. How many hours do you work per week as a staff and what kind of work you are usually do? Except for board meetings, what kind of necessity did you have for the work-space lately? --MikyM (talk) 22:08, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

Dear MikyM, we thank You for such a swift comment to our grant proposal and also for Your well-grounded question!
As we signed the contract on the 11th of April 2014 (i.e. 2 weeks ago), we are still going through the installation process and have not been able to use the office with full efficiency. Therefore I can, unfortunately, speak only in speculative manner and cannot present factual numbers. Nevertheless, I hope that my reply will be helpful.
  • It seems that a longer description is in order to explain, why this proposal is presented in the Project and Event Grants Program. Wikimedia Eesti is going through a development stage, which includes 1) professionalization process and 2)transformation to funding through Funds Dissemination Committee. Professionalization process resulted in recruitment of 2 employees, but as there were 70 applicants for the offered vacancies, it was possible to stay in contact with a number of them and recruit some of them as voluntary project leads. Hired employees and a number of new volunteers increased our need for an office to the extent, that it seemed unreasonable and inefficient to continue without one. We have tried to find external funding for the office for 4 months now, but without any success. We have also scouted for good, but cheap office spaces and current office is an unexpected result of this search (see Grant proposal for further information).
We got an advance from the Grants team of Wikimedia Foundation and an approval to go before the Grants Advisory Committee with this request, due to the fact that we are planning the transformation to the FDC funding in the next round. We are well aware, that PEG program is not a suitable place for such office rental proposals (which is also one of the reasons for leaving it out from our 2014 grant proposal), but despite of this fact, an exceptional office offer has brought about reconsiderations and present grant proposal, with a plan to continue office rental through FDC funding (if the present grant request will be approved).
  • To answer Your question about working hours of staff: Wikimedia Eesti has 2 staff members. Board assistant is working half-time, i.e. 20 general working hours per week. Project writer has a contract for 30 general working hours per week, but the actual working time usually surpasses it. We also have temporary contracts for our education program: 1) full-time contract (i.e. 40 general working hours per week) with the trainer and half-time contract (i.e. 20 general working hours per week) with the coordinator. In total at least 110 hours of work per week needs to be done somewhere. Of course, some of it does not require the office, but in general a remarkable amount of work can be done more efficiently in the office space.
I can give an example from my personal experience. I am a masters student in philosophy, as well as father of 3 children (the smallest of them being 1,5 months old). These 2 factors result in impediments for productive work in available public and private spaces: 1) when working in library, I find myself, now and then, reading and writing philosophy, instead of doing the intended and necessary work for my employer (i.e. Wikimedia Eesti), 2) at home, I find myself being rather a father, than a project writer. This results in working during the night hours, which is not healthy and sometimes not as effective as daytime working (especially if you have to make queries for additional information). I have already profited from the quiet office space and working there really seems more productive and therefore beneficial for Wikimedia Eesti. Unfortunately, as stated already before, at the moment I cannot give any measurable numbers depicting the effectiveness of the office use.
  • To answer Your question about work we do: The job functions of the employees are listed on our meta page already linked. Certainly, all of the enlisted activities can be done without office (and have been done in past 6 months), but many of them do need a quiet space for working. Exempli gratia project writing presumes extensive familiarization process with the supporting documentation of the program or application round. It is much better to work through this kind of documentation (especially complex ones, like for projects of European Union funding - working on one at the moment) in a tranquil space.
  • As a continuation to the previous response, I will finally address Your question about the necessity for the office: I will answer this question with 3 examples: 1) accounting documentation and grant reporting, 2) project meetings, 3) digitization project.
Firstly, it is advisable to gather all accounting documentation in one space - i.e. office. Last few weeks (1,5 months) I have tried to acquaint myself with the accounting documentation of our 2013 grant which needs to be reported on. Unfortunately, the documents are dispersed between accountant and one board member (treasurer) and not all of them are digitized. This means that I do not have complete access to the documents needed for reporting and I cannot help them in the digitization process. Of course this situation is a result of some problems in internal communication, which also needs to be resolved. But on the other hand, having all the accounting documentation on the shelve of the office would speed up the digitization process of the documents, as well as make the reporting much more easier.
Secondly, we are running several wide-scope projects (education program, civic education program, cultural heritage program etc.) as well as smaller ones (Wiki Loves Earth, article competitions) that need some coordination. Sending e-mails and having skype calls does not always suffice - sometimes it is much more effective to discuss things face-to-face. Depending on the number of the participants of the meeting, it may be quite hard to find a suitable meeting space without an office, which has also resulted in a need to spend some money for renting the rooms for meetings. Having an own office is evidently much more cost-effective. As it is also noted in our grant proposal, in the present office it is possible to use common meeting room for free, which is an important advantage (we do not depend solely on the size of our office).
Thirdly, we have a volunteer in our digitizing program, who is dependent upon the scanner of the Estonian Literary Museum. There have been several problems with this dependency (maintenances, scanner has been occupied by others etc.) and, as we already have a scanner and software to do the job, it would be better to use a corner in the office for the digitization. We think it would help us proceed with our digitization program in a much more reasonable pace.
I apologize for the extent of the explanations, but I really hope that You will find these helpful! We will be available for possible further questions, specifications and explanations!
--Misosoof (talk) 01:05, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

The request is purely administrative, and I understand WM EE needs a conducive place to conduct their organizational work and meetings. Does the lessor provide discounts for an extended lease? -- Roel (talk) 23:37, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

Dear Roel, we appreciate Your understanding and thank You for Your interesting question!
As to the knowledge of Wikimedia Eesti, the lessor does not provide discounts for an extended lease. We have seized the opportunity, because it is an extremely good price for office rental in the region and there seems to be no good reasons for the lessor to make such discounts (as I have already mentioned: there were several other organizations interested in the rental and probably with this price the office does not stay vacant for long). Also the office is rented straight from the owner and there is no brokerage to avoid.
At the moment we have a termless contract with a possibility to withdraw with months notice, which is very suitable for us in a situation, where we might not find funding to continue the rental. Although, we are doing our best to find the necessary funds.
We can inquire into possible discounts if we will get an annual funding from Funds Dissemination Committee, but even a contract with 1-year term may not be subject for rent discount.
--Misosoof (talk) 01:54, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

QuestionEdit

What is WMEE's contingency plan if this grant request is not funded? Craig Franklin (talk) 00:44, 25 April 2014 (UTC).

Dear Craig Franklin, we thank You for this important question!
Wikimedia Eesti is extremely thankful to Wikimedia Foundation for providing us with an advance to profit from the offer and to start with the office rental. But this complaisance demands responsibility from our part! Evidently this advance will have a remarkable effect only if Wikimedia Eesti can find solutions to continue with the office rental.
We do hope that we will get support from Grants Advisory Committee and we can continue the rental with the specific grant from Wikimedia Foundation. Nevertheless, as already pointed out before, this kind of request falls out of the general framework of the PEG program. There is a possibility for exceptional decisions (especially in the transformation process from GAC to FDC), but one should not rely only on that possibility.
I will present some possible funding plans for our office rental besides the present grant proposal:
  1. Wikimedia Eesti will continue its attempts to find local non-restricted funding for administrative costs. We have not been successful during the past months, but there is always a possibility that we might get lucky. There are still some applications pending.
  2. Wikimedia Eesti will meet with the mayor of the city of Tartu (where we reside) to discuss the future of Tartupedia project. We will inquire into the possibility of the city of Tartu funding our office rental.
  3. Wikimedia Eesti is planning to write some more projects in the next month and we are inquiring into the possibility to add office rental to the budget.
  4. As a final mean, Wikimedia Eesti has a reserve fund accumulated from the membership fees and donations over 3 years, which can cover the funding gaps of office rental. So far we have been able to keep our reserve funds intact and we would like to continue that way, as we find that these are not sufficient to cope with extraordinary situations. (This is also the reason why we approached Wikimedia Foundation for the advance. We think that their extraordinary intervention supports the sustainability of the organization and we are, once more, really grateful for that.)
I hope that You find this response useful! We will be available for any further explications, if needed!
--Misosoof (talk) 01:32, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

Tony1 comments and questionsEdit

I have a number of problems with this application.

  1. There's the "moral hazard" of this conga-line of pressure. Asaf appears to have acted in good faith when faced with both positive lobbying ("it's a great deal, we'll lose it if we wait") and negative. This is passed on to GAC members, who now feel redundant in reviewing what seems to be a fait accompli now that you've moved into this office. (It's rather like the WMDE application earlier this year for conference assistance we were asked to comment on after it had been approved) Perhaps we will in turn be passing on the pressure to the FDC.

    This slippery slope is why I feel the GAC should never accept retrospective applications; this appears to be a form of retrospective pressure.

  2. The nature of the request—to start the ball rolling, to endorse, as it were, an expansionary trajectory that is entangled with the employment of four staff (2.75 FTE, is it?)—suggests that an FDC-like mini-audit of the chapter's track-record, budgeting, and planning, is required. A board of four volunteers is served by a half-time assistant; and there's a 0.75 FTE to write grant applications and reports and for fundraising (with only minor hopes of getting the city council to help you out with rented premises). Just secondary schooling is enough for both of those employees. There's a full-time "trainer" for the education program, and a half-time "coordinator", although they're not listed on the chapter's site or at Meta (the piped link here promises a "complete list"). I note that a GAC-reviewed application for €42,155 for March–December this year has already been approved. Last year it was €31,927, with two grants prior to that. Are we becoming over-leveraged?
  3. You mention reserves. How much money is in them?
  4. This is for an Estonian population of just 1.3 million, of whom 69.8% are native Estonian-speakers. One in four Estonians is a native Russian-speaker, yet the chapter seems to be a Russian-language-free zone; however, it's a chapter, not a thematic organisation, so I wonder why it doesn't serve the WMF's Russian projects too. I know there's a history of difficult politics behind this, and I sympathise; but thorg or chapter, a decision should be made before applying to the FDC, or questions will need to be asked about the geographical as opposed to linguistic model as the basis for the entity's status.
  5. The Estonian Wikipedia has 100,000 articles, but half of the human edits are made by just 17 people, et.WP's article on itself says. There are 465 "active" editors in April, according to en.WP's article on et.WP, but the WMF's stats page says 129 active and 24 very active in February. I'm confused. et.WP is the primary WMF site you serve, right?
  6. I see rather fragmentary arguments for the benefit of an office. The need for "a tranquil space" doesn't fit with a busy office housing multiple employees. Points made above on this page about distractions are probably not good strategy. I'm unsure about your comment that "at the moment I cannot give any measurable numbers depicting the effectiveness of the office use". The people who create the basis for the funding in the first place are 80,000 regular volunteer editors – many working at a professional level – who largely work at home, and occasionally in libraries. They manage very well.
  7. "Sending e-mails and having skype calls does not always suffice - sometimes it is much more effective to discuss things face-to-face." – It's an argument we hear a lot. Editors closely collaborate online, via skype, and via email, to produce intensive, high-level articles from disparate parts of the world; they very rarely phone each other, let alone meet face-to-face. I'm also thinking of people in disparate parts of Estonia, with whom the chapter should be involving closely if possible, with whom online communication is the obvious way forward.

I'm being tough on you, and when I see your annual reports you look more creative and productive than some other chapters that serve language-populations 20 times your size. (By the way, there's no report for last year.) The simple truth is that you've managed this with no rented office. I'm unconvinced that starting one now as a permanent feature for an affiliate of a quintessentially online organisation isn't going to foster the kind of multiplied bureaucratic overheads that eat up so much donors' funding elsewhere. If it's more convenient for you, no problem if you respond with interleaved comments. Tony (talk) 14:18, 26 April 2014 (UTC)


First responses to Tony
Dear Tony,
We thank You for Your extensive feedback to our grant proposal and for pointing to some oversights, project problems and fundamental questionables of our project in Your reply! We have to note, that Your contribution in the work of Grants Advisory Committee is remarkable and thankworthy!
I will try to answer Your remarks in the order they were presented.


1) I can understand the perspective of seeing this application as a retrospective one (and I am acquainted to Your position about retrospective grant proposals from other discussion pages), but in fact it is not. Certainly no one can argue, that moving into the office is a fait accompli, but nevertheless there is an opportunity to move back out, in the case where Wikimedia Eesti will not find necessary funding for staying (t)here.
We appreciate the decision of Asaf Bartov to give us the advance for seizing the opportunity. We also believe that he acted on good faith, but his decision was also based on the information given. Lobbying or no lobbying, but this renting opportunity is of good value. Also the feeling of being trusted that this decision has built in our chapter is invaluable!
This also means that Wikimedia Eesti does not want to let down the trust put in us, which means: a) we are making the most out of the office time provided to us with the advance, b) we are making efforts to secure funding for continued office rental (see answer to Craig Franklin). For us it seems, that the pressure is on us and not on the GAC.
The decision to give us the advance was based on an operative exchange of information with the grants team and before making the decision, Asaf Bartov made sure, that there will be no penalties related to the termination of contract. In this exchange of letters it was stressed, that our project of office rental will get an advance only due to unique timing constraints, but it needs to go before the GAC for consultation.
This feeling of being redundant can be most certainly understood and is also indirectly exhibited by the previous question of Craig Franklin, but, in fact, GAC contribution to the evaluation of our office rental proposal is welcome, highly expected and highly appreciated, as there may be problems related to the rental of this office that Wikimedia Eesti has simply overlooked.
As a remark I would like to add, that there is no real need to be worried about passing the pressure on to the Funds Dissemination Committee, as in the end they only make funding decisions and do not prescribe where the cuts should be made. In the case of “non-restricted” FDC funding, it will be always the decision of Wikimedia Eesti, whether it is efficient to continue with office rental, or not.
2) The nature of this request is not “to start the ball rolling”. It is rather a question of keeping the ball rolling. In other words, current request is not about extensification, but about intensification, i.e. increasing the efficiency of the chapter. During the expansion process we have taken responsibilities that need to be answered and, in order to avoid burnout, the level of internal coordination and administration needs to be improved. One of the possibilities for that is renting a physical office.
I have to admit, that current grant proposal is entangled with professionalization process (it is 2,7 FTE at the moment, but the education project contracts ending in the end of June. There may be new educational projects for the next academic year, which also include project-related employees). But if we already have employees (which costs a lot to a chapter, due to social and income taxes), it would be nice to create a good conditions for their work, as to support their effectiveness. I thank You for pointing out the lapsus related to the staff descriptions in our grant proposal! I hope You find the fix satisfactory!
In reply to some points of Your sarcastic mini-audit, I would like to add, that 1) You have forgotten the fact that this year we have reduced the WMF funding to our chapter under 60% of all chapter costs, which means that the external funding has significantly increased and we are not completely on the payroll of Wikimedia Foundation, 2) the budget lines for education project were suggested by the Ministry of Education and Science and if one wants to achieve results in short amount of time (the duration of pilot project is 7 months), hiring employees is a good and recognized option, 3) as any donor, the City of Tartu prefers to invest into visible activities and not administration - covering the administration costs of non-profits / non-governmental organizations is a well-known problem.
3) Wikimedia Eesti has meager reserves of €618 (= 3 months of office rental) for free use. Lack of reserves is one of the major weaknesses of the organization and a threat to our sustainability. We are working on the possibilities to increase the reserves. All the contracts with the employees have been signed in a way, that there can be no possible penalties for Wikimedia Eesti, that will exceed targeted funding. This also means, that we have no termless contracts with employees.
4) I do not believe that this point is substantially related this grant discussion. Nevertheless, we thank You for Your concern. It is true, that the aim of Wikimedia Eesti is to endorse Estonian Wikipedia (the only official language in the Republic of Estonia), but we also support Võro Wikipedia (minor Fenno-Ugric language on the territory of Estonia), as well as contributions to the Russian Wikipedia.
We have to admit, that we have not been too successful in engaging Russian speaking part of population in our activities. Also the interest of cooperation from local authorities from Russian speaking regions has been low. We planned an article competition of Ida-Viru county (the county with the highest number of Russian speaking population in Estonia) in 2013, but it was cancelled due to the lack of interest. We have also tried a joint project with Викимедиа РУ, but without any remarkable success.
As we have many projects to handle at the moment, we are not pushing for the inclusion of Russian speaking community, but will be more than happy to seize a good opportunity, when it comes. For the time being, we put our trust in Викимедиа РУ for the development of Russian Wikipedia.
5) This remark also does not seem really related to the grant proposal. I think it would be nice to have these kind of questions discussed elsewhere and not on a discussion page of a specific grant proposal.
I really do not understand what is the intended aim of this question and the purpose of mixing up the numbers from different sources and different times. The number 17 from the article on Estonian Wikipedia dates from the year 2010, as well as the number of 100 000 articles dates from the 25th of August 2012. The article in English Wikipedia and WMF’s stats page use different sources of information. Estonian Wikipedia is the main WMF site we serve, as well as Wikimedia Commons, where our activities have produced a number of quality and featured pictures.
I presume, that You propose, that there is not a real point in supporting local chapters of such small communities, as they do not produce huge quantities of articles. It is true, that the policy of Wikimedia Foundation is not to fund the non-viable Wikipedias, but Estonian Wikipedia is so far considered a viable one.
Mark Twain has said “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable”. One can also state, that at the moment Estonian Wikipedia has 123 177 pages, which marks a growth of nearly 25% in just 1,5 years. There are 128 active editors per million speakers, which is 6 times more than in English Wikipedia (21 active editors per million speakers respectively) and which ranks Estonian Wikipedia to the 17th place in the world … et cetera ad infinitum
As I already said - this is not the right place for such discussion.
6) I can thoroughly understand, that the subjective argument given above (see my response to MikyM) is not Your cup of tea. Nor is it mine, actually. I will try to develop a more objective account.
Fundamentally, the reason for needing an office is related to the need to increase the effectiveness of the chapter. The office increases the effectiveness on: 1) administrative level, 2) coordinational level and 3) operational level.
Firstly, administration becomes much easier in the office, as the documents are gathered and stored in one place, the distribution of administration related tasks becomes much easier, as everyone has access and is in a position to provide virtual access to the necessary documentation. Accessibility results in a more fluent distribution of information, which translates into effectivity. At the moment we are spending too much time in Wikimedia Eesti on writing e-mails, to confirm facts, that could be accessed operatively.
Secondly, coordination is easier when working together. Every project needs meet-ups now and then for synchronizing and for relieving the tensions created by online miscommunication. As to our experience meet-ups also have a motivational effect and boost the level of activity of volunteers. We are implementing several online instruments for good communication and coordination in our chapter, including Skype calls and Google Drive documentation (which enables editing a document with multiple users at the same time). We do have interactive spreadsheets for projects, where executed and future activities and responsible persons are clearly marked. But that does not substitute the need for meetings, to guarantee that all the members of the team are on the same page and to guarantee a good progress of the project.
Thirdly, office favours an increase of the operational level of workers, as it is designed for getting things done. The point of my subjective example was, that in other locations there may be several external factors, that prevent one from working, while in the office one is usually confronted mainly with internal distractions. The office is meant for locking yourself out from the external world and it can be done even when the digitizer is working on the 1000 page book next to you. Digitizer does not need your help, but your child does. And your thesis. Especially after you have walked in to your supervisor in the library. In this sense, an office is a tranquil place, even if it is frequented by 2.7 employees.
I do not claim that Wikimedia Eesti cannot manage without an office. We have managed and will manage. With have effective grant agreements and contracts, which we plan to fulfil. The real question is, whether we could be more effective with an office than without one. And what is the fair price tag of this increase in effectiveness. In Wikimedia Eesti we believe that current office offer is of good value and the investment to be done corresponds well to the increased administrative, coordinative and operational capacity of the chapter.
I will discuss Your example of voluntary community under the next point.
7) I have already presented some arguments of the value of physical meetings in previous point. I would like to continue with the example of voluntary community, which manages without any need for an office, nor physical meetings. I would like to point out, that these people, who I highly value, have no deadlines and are working just for contentment. There is no difference, if an article reaches a quality or featured level in 2 months or 5 years. It is the process, that is important for the participants.
In an organization, however, You are pushed by several deadlines and project goals, which need to be met in a specific timeframe. You just do not need to manage, but manage in time, which makes a huge difference. Usually, when You need something to be done quickly, You meet with people. Face-to-face. This is a recognized practice in public, private and not-for-profit sector. It is also interesting to note, that enterprises, which are directed towards effectiveness, are investing a remarkable amount of their resources into offices - maybe having an office is not just a way of wasting money and maybe it may even have some beneficial or effective outcomes?
As to reaching out to people in disparate parts of Estonia - online communication is as obvious way forward, that even Wikimedia Eesti has tried it. And although we have not been as successful as we would like to be, we are continuing online communication in the future. Nevertheless, we are thinking of other possibilities for outreach, and having a physical presence in the cityscape increases the options for this. We are not happy with the size of Wikipedia community in Estonia and we would like to try out complementary ways of increasing reach and participation. Having an office increases the possibility and our capacity to organize low-cost workshops and outreach events.


Thank You for noting the missing activity report for 2013. We are still waiting for the English translation of the financial report. As a result of Your comment, however, I have transferred the report to the meta-page.
As a last remark, I would like to add, that we do not like the idea of eating up the money trusted to us by the donors with an administrative overhead. But we are very interested in delivering the results these donors are expecting us to deliver. As You pointed out, the numbers related to Estonian Wikipedia are not too convincing for everyone. We would like to improve that, and in our view having an office is a small step forward on that path.
We thank You for Your kind attention and extensive contribution towards ameliorating our grant request and discussing the state of our chapter! We will be available for further questions and comments!
Best wishes,
--Misosoof (talk) 00:25, 27 April 2014 (UTC)


Rejoinder—not necessarily requiring further comments from Misosoof:

  1. "Certainly no one can argue, that moving into the office is a fait accompli – well, it is a fait accompli, since you've moved in. The crux is that it makes it harder subsequently to say no. That's what I mean by retrospective pressure.
  2. "sarcastic mini-audit". Not at all sarcastic; and what I wrote above was not the mini-audit I had in mind. "covering the administration costs of non-profits / non-governmental organizations is a well-known problem" – that's one thing that worries me, amplified by a rented office. In my view, the added value beyond working without a rented office needs to be quantified in rather more solid terms, which is hard to do. "as any donor, the City of Tartu prefers to invest into visible activities and not administration" – yes, I'm afraid that this preference includes the WMF, so you need to streamline and minimise administrative processes and maximise actual activities – it's the cost of doing business. I'm slightly disturbed by the spectre of boxes and boxes of admin papers you hint at (you might encourage receipts etc to be scanned and emailed to you – surely the WMF accepts scanned, signed receipts ...). Sorting, storing, and accessing bits of paper is a great time-waster, and we are essentially an online gig.
  3. N/A
  4. The linguistic purpose of the organisation needs to be discussed at an early point if we're ploughing money into it. Well done for your attempts to interest Russian-speaking Estonians; but success is unlikely if you have no Russian text or Russian-speakers among the board or staff. I don't mind this one bit, and in fact I'd be much more comfortable with a thorg that has a linguistic purpose, directed at your two related Fenno-Ugraic languages (Estonian and Võro). But if you remain a chapter, I think you'll need to embrace the quarter of the population that is native Russian-speakers, in which case formal collaborative arrangements with the Russian chapter would be beneficial, despite the lacklustre joint project you had with them. You won't find the Canadian chapter ignoring the French-speakers, who number more than 20% of the population, no matter what the historical resentments are.
  5. The purpose of my comments about the et. editing community and the population size of the language groups was to judge your activity levels and resourcing in relation to them (you're asking for fundamental infrastructure). In particular, I'd like to feel comfortable that cultural production is occurring in proportion – article improvement, translations from other WPs perhaps, and uploads of relevant images to Commons (more specific than "a number of quality and featured pictures"). But you're right, this does seem to be expanding beyond what GAC reviews are intended to be; I'd rather have opinions from other members now.
  6. It's better framed now. What is the mode and quality of the internet connection: I'm talking specifically about ping, jitter, and download and upload rates. (These qualities can easily be measured online for free.)
  7. Yes, deadlines are more characteristic of what you'd expect from employees, although volunteer editors sometimes have deadlines too. My limited experience of volunteer board and ordinary chapter members is that they do next to zero: it's a big problem, and bureaucratising is usually a problematic solution. But one thing in your favour, like the Catalan-language thorg, is that you're strongly motivated by matters of linguistic and cultural identity after a very difficult 20th century; it suggests an inherent cohesion and purpose we see lacking in many WMF chapters. Tony (talk) 04:01, 27 April 2014 (UTC)


Second responses to Tony
Dear Tony,
We kindly thank You for Your further contribution to the present discussion! Although further additions from our part are not required, I will take the liberty to add some more comments.
1) We do regret the psychological pression that the decision to give us advance from the grants team of WMFhas created in GAC. Nevertheless, hopefully, it will not eliminate a possibility of an objective evaluation of the proposal by the GAC. I would like to repeat, that there is no need to feel redundant - current discussion is valuable to Wikimedia Eesti and probably also to Wikimedia Foundation.
2) Thank You for Your specification. If that was not the mini-audit and You do mean a serious audit, I have to agree. In every transformation process an audit is in order, as well as in the case of remarkable growth in the organization. I will discuss this point with the board of Wikimedia Eesti. Thank You for the remark!
What we are directing at with the office rental is building up an infrastructure which increases the efficiency of a small chapter. We hope, that the decision to increase the administrative costs through professionalization (which is much more costly than office rental and in the core of the issue here - we thank You for Your input to our 2013 grant proposal discussion, dealing with this question) and office rental (current grant proposal), will ultimately result in increased Wikimedia content, supported by a wider and more efficient local community. We also hope that this investment in our administration will make it possible for us to introduce more of local and EU funding to the Wikimedia movement, and the decrease of the proportion of WMF funding in our annual budget is a sign, that this approach may be working. In other words we suggest, that this present investment of Wikimedia Foundation in our chapter (i.e. support for professionalization and office rental) will significantly increase our capacity to contribute to the movement goals on a local level.
When discussing the issue of administrative costs, one has to also consider the economico-social background. Due to the period of Soviet occupation, Estonia is still short of being a welfare society. The tradition of voluntary work is not rooted here. This results in the need of certain level of professionalization in the organization to get the things done. We are positive, that Estonian Wikimedia community enriches the whole movement. We would like to increase the impact of our activity, but we have been captured in circulus vitiosus - to be more effective we need to achieve a higher level of voluntary contribution and in order to achieve this higher level of voluntary contribution, we have to be more efficient in our activities. Investment in professionalization is already helping us out of this limbo. Presumably the office rental will add to the process. We cannot experiment further with the essays to push the voluntary board members to the last limit. We have already lost one very active voluntary board member due to burnout and in our chapter one is a big number.
In Wikimedia Eesti we have a practice of scanning the receipts and making them available in Dropbox (e-mailing takes up too much time and it is much easier to have an open access to all documents). Nevertheless, sometimes the scanning process takes up incredible amounts of time, when You are dealing with voluntary board members. Instead of having the possibility to take the receipts from the office shelve, scanning them, uploading them to Dropbox accountancy folder and filling in the gaps and calculating the totals in the reports in one hour myself, I have been waiting for 1,5 months for some documents to reach me (not even mentioning the time spent on sending reminder e-mails or making telephone calls). Certainly, the voluntary board member has had other important tasks to attend to, but this kind of communication failures result in delayed reports.What I am trying to say is, that in case of centralized administration there would have been no need to bother the concerned board member with such insignificant problem in the first place and the necessary additions to the report could have been done in a significantly shorter time period.
3) No further additions.
4) We look forward to the joint programs with Викимедиа РУ in the future. But first, there is a need to increase the efficiency of our chapter, including the scope and proficiency of our outreach activities.
I would like to turn Your attention to the fact, that the example of Wikimedia Canada does not apply in our situation. French is one of the official languages of Canada, as well as due to the Charter of the French Language, it is the official language of the province of Quebec. Russian is not an official language of Estonia and all the citizens of Estonia are required to have a certain level of connaissance of Estonian (in case of Canada the 20% You mentioned is the number of only French speaking population). Making Russian language related activities a prerequisite to Wikimedia Eesti for being a chapter seems nearly as absurd as making Arabic-related activities necessary for Wikimédia France and Turkish-related activities obligatory for Wikimedia Deutschland. We really do believe, that we have to find ways to profit from the presence of big language and cultural groups on the territory of activity of the chapters, but we also believe, that suggesting, that a form of a thorg is more suitable for Wikimedia Eesti than being a chapter, is flawed at its core.
5) It would be very kind of You to elaborate the numbers Wikimedia Eesti ought to aim for in participating and editing levels onthe discussion page of our chapterõs meta page. We are going through a strategy process at the moment and this kind of input could be of important value for us!
As to more specific numbers related to Commons: in the end of the year 2013 there were 75 featured pictures from Estonian users, which was 1,3% of all the featured pictures (5702 at that time), which is not bad for a community that supposedly does not deserve a chapter and WMF funding.
We have also drawn our attention to the need of creating articles for good pictures and also to making pictures (and illustrations - we have an illustration project running) for good articles. We have implemented the inclusion of pictures in articles as a measure of success for our photo-related projects.
6) We do regret not being able to draw a detailed picture, but we are happy of being able to provide a nearly satisfactory frame.
As to Internet in our office - we have broadband connection with the following qualities from todayõs measurement: packet loss 0%, ping 35ms, jitter 17ms (pingtest.net, server in Riga), ping 13ms, download speed 42.28Mbps, upload speed 21,21Mbps (speedtest.net, server in Tartu). This is certainly sufficient for our needs.
7) I do appreciate the input that voluntary chapter members and board members give to Wikimedia Eesti, as well as the Wikimedia movement, as quintessentially voluntary movement, is an incredible example of what volunteering can achieve - the results are really remarkable. On the other hand, I do see the importance of professionalization at some points and I do think that it has been extremely useful for Wikimedia Eesti, especially in terms of effectivity and productivity, which I would prefer to the term bureaucratising You have used.
We do share Your opinion that the interest in linguistic and cultural identity is important in Estonia and also is a solid base for a number of our activities, as well as to the community of Estonian Wikipedia. Nevertheless, we oppose the opinion that we should be restructured into thorg. We think that the form of a chapter is a suitable form for Wikimedia Eesti, even if we are sometimes motivated by the questions of linguistic and cultural identity.
We thank You once more for Your extensive input and will be available for any further comments! We would also like to encourage other members of Grants Advisory Committee to provide their opinion on the discussed or so far overlooked problems of our grant proposal, as well as on our chapter issues (although for the latter the chapter talk page is a more suitable place, I think).
Best regards,
--Misosoof (talk) 15:26, 27 April 2014 (UTC)

A couple of comments in generalEdit

  • Tony1: "The Estonian Wikipedia has 100,000 articles, but half of the human edits are made by just 17 people, et.WP's article on itself says. There are 465 "active" editors in April, according to en.WP's article on et.WP, but the WMF's stats page says 129 active and 24 very active in February."
I suspect this is a statistical confusion, brought on by methodological discrepancies. Tools for measuring the activity use varying definitions of "active" and "very active". It would be best if we could set a uniform definition and methodology that would be accepted both by GAC (and other WMF-affiliated committees) and major Wikipedias. We need comparable statistics - and this concerns many other areas, too. --Oop (talk) 13:26, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
That is correct, and we will be making this clearer in the revised guidelines we are working on right now for PEG proposals, i.e. we will spell out this inconsistency in terminology and explicitly state that the measures we at Grantmaking are looking at are the "stats.wikimedia.org" measures of Active (>5 edits/month) and Very Active (>100/month), rather than the "Mediawiki" measure (Active meaning >=1 edit per month), which is what the wikis themselves tell you in Special:Statistics. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 01:05, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Tony1: "One in four Estonians is a native Russian-speaker, yet the chapter seems to be a Russian-language-free zone; however, it's a chapter, not a thematic organisation, so I wonder why it doesn't serve the WMF's Russian projects too. I know there's a history of difficult politics behind this, and I sympathise; but thorg or chapter, a decision should be made before applying to the FDC, or questions will need to be asked about the geographical as opposed to linguistic model as the basis for the entity's status. [---] The linguistic purpose of the organisation needs to be discussed at an early point if we're ploughing money into it. Well done for your attempts to interest Russian-speaking Estonians; but success is unlikely if you have no Russian text or Russian-speakers among the board or staff. I don't mind this one bit, and in fact I'd be much more comfortable with a thorg that has a linguistic purpose, directed at your two related Fenno-Ugraic languages (Estonian and Võro). But if you remain a chapter, I think you'll need to embrace the quarter of the population that is native Russian-speakers, in which case formal collaborative arrangements with the Russian chapter would be beneficial, despite the lacklustre joint project you had with them. You won't find the Canadian chapter ignoring the French-speakers, who number more than 20% of the population, no matter what the historical resentments are."
First of all: if WMF is (or its committees are) going to introduce a policy demanding that every chapter has to include all relevant ethnic or linguistic minorities of their area in the board and run projects in those languages, this has to be officially stated as such and applied equally everywhere. A funding body cannot invent principles that would be applied randomly. Also, all such demands should be announced early, so that the applicants can take them into account before they submit their applications. By this rule, there should be Spanish projects run by WMUS-DC, Turkish by WMDE, Arabic by WMFR, Polish by WMUK, Romanian by WMIT, Tatar by WMRU, Hungarian by WMSE, German by WMHU... depending on where we draw the statistical line (20%? 10%? 1%?). --Oop (talk) 13:26, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
To be clear: there is no such demand, nor is there going to be one. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 01:05, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Just to be clear, too: no one is "demanding" anything, and I don't know, Asaf, how you can confidently predict what the situation might be down the track. I'm putting the point that WMEE is much better suited as a thorg than a chapter, since it is based not on coverage of a whole country, but of one language – one that is the first language of not much more than 60% of the population. I've heard no arguments to the contrary. Tony (talk) 02:29, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Secondly, we have to consider the actual demographics of Wikipedians in Estonia. Most native Russian-speakers amongst them are active on Russian Wikipedia, a minority on English Wikipedia. Most native Estonian-speakers are active on Estonian or English Wikipedia. There is a little overlap, but most of local Russians do not feel confident enough to write in Estonian, and vice versa. As far as I know, there is just one Russian in WMEE. His Estonian is not perfect, but pretty much okay. Some people speak Russian, but mostly only well enough to translate from Russian, not into it. I think I was one of the best Russian-speakers in WMEE, and while I'm currently working a lot on Russian connections outside Wikipedia, I am not able to give an interview in Russian or write for a Russian newspaper. So, there is just not enough practical capacity in Estonian Wikimedian community to do much in Russian without devoting significant resources on engaging new people, translating all the documents, etc. We may like it or dislike it, but that's what we have. The best that could be done in current situation would be minor projects to cover local Russian culture in Estonian Wikipedia. This would be at least a little push to connect the two communities that mostly do not even share a common media (most of Estonians do not read local Russian newspapers, and vice versa). But then again, even this would not be possible without cooperation of the local Russians themselves - and while I have tried to initiate that for years, this would need several people working on that alone, living in mostly Russian-speaking areas, ready to do a lot of organizatory work and step up in local Russian media. As far as I know, there are no such people in WMEE nor in Estonian Wikimedia community. --Oop (talk) 13:26, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Thirdly, this concerns the whole problematics of relatively small chapters in nation states. We have chapters in very different demographic and linguistic situations. For any chapters in English-speaking countries it would probably not be good if they didn't do anything on English Wikipedia at all, but if there would be a such hypothetical chapter devoted entirely to projects in other languages (possibly minority languages or in joint projects with the Wikimedia communities in Global South), it would not be a disaster for anyone. Chapters in countries are mostly moniolinguistic in languages that are not used elsewhere are in a radically different situation. If Estonian chapter does not work on Estonian Wikipedia, Ukrainian chapter on uk.wp, Hungarian chapter on hu.wp etc, then nobody else will, either. They are the only ones. This means that while running projects concerning other languages - especially those that are not indigenous to the area, spoken in other major countries and having their own large Wikimedia communities - would be good in many Wikimedian aspects and important for the local societies, they would not be priorities for the chapters wishing to use their meager resources effectively. --Oop (talk) 13:26, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
All in all, I entirely recognize the importance of projects about and in cooperation with non-indigenous ethnic and linguistic minorities, and I have personally invested a lot of time, energy and even money in this kind of work. Still, I have to admit that initiating even a single persistent and sustainable line of projects in that area would take so much effort that it would hardly be efficient use of money donated for Wikipedia. Amongst other reasons, the results would be much more significant outside Wikimedia, for the local society, than in our online projects. If there would be a good chance to get alternative funding and active cooperation by other entities in the third sector, the opportunities should be definitely used. But it would not be very wise to demand that the main resources should be used for that. --Oop (talk) 13:26, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Thank you. I think Tony was right to wonder whether and how this sector of Estonian society is (or is not) served by WMEE currently, but I think your answers all make sense, and would encourage WMEE not to contort itself into loops to create the impression of more thorough support or collaboration with Russian speakers in Estonia. Such support and such collaboration should happen (or not) organically, as WMEE resources becomes such where it would be an obvious opportunity to act on (e.g. conceivably, following an influx of some Estonian native Russian speakers as members of WMEE). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 01:05, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

Comment from WMFEdit

Thank you Tony and Misosoof for your efforts to clarify the need for an office for WM Estonia. We hope other GAC members will also participate in the discussion. In the meantime, we want to express that we recognize approving grants under the condition of "please approve now or we lose the opportunity" is a slippery slope. We agree that having the GAC approve grants retroactivly is not best practice and we will remain vigilant regarding these types of requests. In the case of this proposal, we had complete confidence in WM Estonia's good faith, based on their excellent track record and scrupulous reporting. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:26, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

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