Wikimedia Foundation Report, November 2009

ED Report to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, November 2009

  • Covering: November 2009
  • Prepared for: Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees

Milestones from November edit

  1. Kick-off of 2009 Annual Giving Campaign
  2. Multimedia Usability Meeting in Paris
  3. Board meeting in San Francisco
  4. Second usability study published
  5. New hire: Neil Kandalgaonkar (software developer)

Key Priorities for December edit

  1. Annual Giving Campaign
  2. Wikimania 2010 planning meeting
  3. CTO search continues

Data and Trends edit

Reach of all Wikimedia Foundation sites:

346 million unique visitors (rank #5)
+23.1% (1 year ago) / +0.4% (1 month ago)
Source: comScore Media Metrics

Pages served:

11.3 billion
+7.7% (1 year ago) / -2.8% (1 month ago)

Active number of editors (5+ edits/month): 96,521

+4.0% (1 year ago) / +0.1% (1 month ago)

Source: November 2009 Report Card <>

Financials edit

Operating revenue year to date: USD 3.7MM vs. plan of USD 3.93 MM
Operating expenses year to date: USD 3.0MM vs. plan of USD 4.1 million

2009 Annual Giving Campaign Launches edit

On November 11, the Wikimedia Foundation kicked off its 2009 Annual Giving Campaign under the theme “Wikipedia Forever”, with a campaign goal of USD 7.5 million in individual donations (including individual gifts received year-to-date), out of our budget of USD 10.4 million. This is the sixth WMF fundraising campaign.

The Wikimedia Foundation was supported by Fenton Communications and Sea Change Strategies in the development of messaging for the campaign. After some initial rapid iteration of messaging in response to both fundraising results and community feedback, daily results began to outperform previous fundraisers on November 17, and by November 27, the cumulative total exceeded the success of previous fundraisers. The full progression of the fundraiser relative to previous ones can be followed here:

For the purpose of this fundraiser, several important changes were implemented:

  • The Wikimedia Foundation now offers “white label” credit card processing. While we still use PayPal to process credit card information, this can now be done without leaving the Wikimedia Foundation website. This change is meant to address potential confusion and fear associated with making payments through a separate website.
  • International Wikimedia chapters are more deeply integrated into our annual campaign than ever before. An IP address lookup determines the country-of-origin of potential donors, and gives them relevant chapter information on the donation landing page. Revenue sharing agreements are in place with all participating chapters.
  • The tracking infrastructure for comparing the success of individual banners, landing pages, and payment gateways has been and continues to be significantly improved. Tracking data is publicly shared at <>.
  • In spite of some hiccups with the first banners, the browser testing process was significantly improved compared with previous years.
  • As a result of the communications support and improved tracking, we could test more messages more quickly than ever before.
  • For the first time, mobile giving was added as an option for US-based donors.

Press release about the campaign:

Strategic Planning Project edit

The strategy project is almost halfway through: it started in July 2009 and will conclude in July 2010. In October, 14 task forces were created covering the following areas: increasing reach and participation in China, India, and Arabic-speaking countries; stimulating development of smaller “local language” Wikipedias; increasing Wikimedia project readership among the five billion people who don't currently have internet access; improving quality; expanding into additional content areas beyond what Wikimedia currently offers; increasing participation, particularly from high-potential under- represented groups; fostering a healthy, productive editing community; determining what organizational structures are required to support the Wikimedia movement and how they should intersect; ensuring financial sustainability; identifying the partnerships that are most critical to advancing Wikimedia's mission; identifying the ideal technology infrastructure, and ways to increase usability and foster technical innovation; and developing recommendations for strategically supporting high-priority advocacy.

Throughout November, the task forces began their discussions, designed to culminate in recommendations in January. The strategy project is the first group using the LiquidThreads extension for these types of conversations, and its usage has helped drive the further evolution of the tool. The strategy wiki has had over 150 unique contributors to its LiquidThreads discussions, and has averaged over 25 posts/day. In the process of driving towards recommendations, the Task Forces are synthesizing and generating a lot of their own research. Much of this research is being captured in the form of “Wikimedia-pedia”, an encyclopedia about Wikimedia. By the end of the process, the Foundation not only expects to have a five-year strategic plan, but also a well-organized body of knowledge about the Wikimedia universe. This will serve as a collective snapshot of what Wikimedia knows about itself, as well as open, ongoing questions.

In late November, the strategy team launched a new feature on the strategy wiki called, "Question of the week," which features a slice of data collected by Bridgespan along with a provocative strategic question. This is essentially a large-scale version of the exercise Bridgespan led the Wikimedia Foundation board through at its meeting in early November. Additionally, Bridgespan has continued to aggressively identify and interview key external voices to help inform the overall process. As of the end of November, 26 interviews had been posted on the strategy wiki, including ones with Advisory Board members Angela Beesley Starling and Mitch Kapor, board members Ting Chen and Samuel Klein, experts Ed Chi and Rima Kupryte, and staff members Sue Gardner and Frank Schulenburg. The interviews can be found here:

Themes extracted from them have been collected here:

Board Meeting in San Francisco edit

On November 13-15, the Board of Trustees met in San Francisco. This was the first Board meeting in the new Wikimedia Foundation offices. Its agenda included an update from the Audit Committee, a walkthrough of some major donor case studies, review of an update to the bylaws, an update on the strategy plan, an update on the advisory board, and an update on the board seat vacancy appointment process. Summary by Board chair Michael Snow:

Technology edit

Core edit

Significant staff effort was directed toward support of the Annual Giving Campaign. Hardware purchases and deployments were also in full swing, with purchases of new media storage servers, transcoding servers for video, a new mobile server, a new server for PDF generation, a new payment server. Large orders for new Squid servers, database servers, and application servers will follow. (New purchases also necessitate new investments in space, racks, networking equipment, etc.) Code review for MediaWiki 1.16 continued.

Usability Initiative edit

The report of the second usability study was published by Parul Vora via WMF's blog [1] on November 18th. The study confirmed that changes are progressing in the right direction - towards greater ease of use for novice users. The majority of such users interviewed in this study showed less intimidation, completed tasks faster and with greater ease, and employed the tools and features we have implemented without instruction and with success. By the end of November the usability beta was visited and tested by close to 380,000 users. The beta has been drawing roughly 100,000 users every month, and close to 300,000 users have kept the beta enabled by the end of November. The beta program was adopted relatively well by the beta users of English Wikipedia (83% retention rate), and in other English language projects such as the English Wikinews (95% retention rate). Spanish and Portuguese Wikipedia beta users have the second highest retention rate at 81%. German, Russian, Chinese, French and Italian Wikipedia beta users are retained in the range between 70% and 79%. Retention rate for Polish and Japanese was relatively low, with 65% and 60% respectively. Analysis on browser dependency and language specific issues are described in the WMF blog. [2]

Multimedia Usability edit

From November 6 to 8, a group of about thirty people met in Paris to discuss how to improve the processes and technologies for contributing multimedia to Wikimedia projects. It was the first meeting of its kind, sponsored and organized by one of Wikimedia’s chapter organizations, Wikimedia France, in partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation. [3]. Outcomes of the meeting included a demo of editable video subtitling on Wikimedia Commons, and a first test deployment of the GlobalUsage extension that shows usage of multimedia files across Wikimedia's sites.

Neil Kandalgaonkar [4] joined the multi-media usability team as a software developer. Neil brings the breadth of experience in software engineering from major social networking web sites such as Flickr and Neil oversaw improving payment system and performance of FlickrMail interface at Flickr, integrated into Yahoo properties and helped expand the team. Prior to Yahoo!, Neil was with Google and his main responsibility was to enable Google Checkout system for non-US markets. Neil holds Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Concordia University, in Montreal, Canada. The visa application process has started so that Neil can join the team in San Francisco.

Other Program Activities edit

During November, Frank Schulenburg and Pete Forsyth embarked upon the development of a model for how to systematically improve articles of a specific topic areas on Wikipedia. They met with professors of several U.S. universities (Harvard University, the University of Georgia, the University of Syracuse, George Washington University, Tufts University) seeking input to help them plan a large quality- improvement initiative that is intended to start in 2010. In preparation for this initiative, Frank worked with the best practices documentation team on the "Assigning Wikipedia articles as coursework to students" pages on the outreach wiki.

Frank also attended the Multimedia Usability Project Meeting in Paris and led documentation of the cooperation between Wikimedia and the German Federal Archives:

Marlita Kahn interviewed potential vendors, reviewed their proposals and then hired the Bookshelf core vendor team. She confirmed the Bookshelf relationship with Common Craft regarding video production, built the draft schedule and developed a more detailed budget. Marlita also recruited volunteers from the Wikipedia community to act as advisers for the Bookshelf materials. Marlita prepared for the December 1 kick off meeting with the entire Bookshelf team.

Cary Bass opened up the call for invitation to join the Wikimania 2011 Jury and gave ongoing support to the 2009 Annual Fundraiser. Cary also moderated office hours for Rand Montoya, Naoko Komura and Veronique Kessler.

Communications edit

The communications team with the assistance of contractors Fenton Communications and Sea Change focused on finalizing the first round of the annual giving campaign messages, drafting the campaign press release, offering strategy and counsel on next-steps following the delayed start of the campaign, and offering strategies to shift lesser performing messages through the first week of the campaign. The team has been actively involved in developing later stage messaging as well, providing the fundraising team with a sufficient supply of messages to test varied concepts through November and December.

Major coverage during November revolved around the following stories 1. ComScore/WMF announcement draws coverage (Novmber 4) Modest, largely positive coverage of the comScore/WMF partnership announcement in early November. Most outlets re-posted press coverage, several bloggers and microbloggers highlighted the data points revealed by comScore, namely the visit time length data in countries like Colombia.

2. German ex-convicts attempt to sue WMF (November 10) Lawyers, representing two German men released on parole after serving time in prison for killing a German actor in 1990, attempted to have their clients' names removed from Wikipedia. The German language Wikipedia complied with the request, and the English language version did not. This received considerable attention from American media, most of whom criticized German privacy law, or used the story to highlight the difficulty of applying national law to an international medium.

3. WMF Announces 2009 Annual Giving Campaign (November 10) Launch of the Wikimedia Foundation's 2009 annual giving campaign received some coverage.

4. Craig Newmark joins WMF Advisory Board (November 13) News of Craig Newmark's appointment to the WMF Advisory Board received highly favorable mentions in mostly online news outlets. Shortly afterwards, Craig hailed Wikipedia in the Newsweek story "Unknown in 1999, Indispensable today," which received wide coverage in social media.

5. Webby Awards name Wikipedia's launch one of “the top 10 Internet moments of the decade” (November 19) The Webbys named Wikipedia's launch as one of the top ten Internet moments of the decade, which received considerable coverage. CBC.CA in Canada, the Associate Press, ABC (US), and dozens of blogs highlighted the story.

6. Sue Gardner: Huffington Post readers' 'media game changer of the year' (November 19) Sue Gardner was chosen by Huffington Post readers as 'Media Game Changer of the Year,' a story which drew considerable attention from online blogs, microblogs, and media outlets. More than 1.7 million votes were cast in 10 categories over a period of three months, with Sue emerging victorious over competitors Tina Brown, Katie Couric, Tim Westergren of Pandora and Alberto Ibarguen of the Knight Foundation.

7. Wall Street Journal claims 'volunteers logging off' (November 23) A front-page story in the November 13 Wall Street Journal ignited a firestorm of alarmist coverage, much of it wrongly claiming that Wikipedia's editors were declining in number. The article said that English Wikipedia suffered a net loss of 49,000 editors during the first three months of 2009, analysis attributed to researcher Felipe Ortega. In actual fact, editing peaked in late 2007, declined slightly, and has remained stable since. A follow-up blog post by Erik Moeller and Erik Zachte challenging the general tone of media coverage received good blog pickup.

Other worthwhile coverage/reads

Blog posts through Nov, 2009

Media interviews and interaction through Nov, 2009

In November, the Wikimedia Foundation put out three press releases.

  1. “Wikimedia Foundation Appoints Craig Newmark to its Advisory Board” 13 November 2009: founder to share customer service and public service experience in support of Wikipedia.
  2. “Sixth Annual Campaign to Protect Wikipedia Kicks Off” 10 November 2009: Wikimedia Foundation invites readers, editors and contributors to show support and help raise over $7.5 million.
  3. “Wikimedia and comScore partner to improve understanding of the reach and impact of free knowledge on the Web” 3 November 2009: Digital market intelligence leader expands Wikimedia’s global user research horizon.

During November, the Wikimedia Foundation participated in interviews with the Associated Press (New York, New York, USA); Heise (Germany); the New York Times (New York, New York, USA); San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California, USA); The Aquinian (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada); the Canadian University Press (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada); the Fredericton Daily Gleaner newspaper (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada); CBC Radio New Brunswick Afternoon Show (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada); CBC Radio Ideas (Toronto, Canada); VentureBeat (San Francisco, California, USA); Poynter Online (St. Petersburg, Florida, USA); (Washington DC, USA); Sunday Mirror (London, United Kingdom); CNN (Atlanta, Georgia, USA); WGN Radio (Chicago, Illinois, USA); the Wall Street Journal (Chicago, Illinois, USA); Nikkei (Tokyo, Japan); the Financial Times (San Francisco, California, USA); Diamond Publishing (Tokyo, Japan); NHK (Tokyo, Japan); New York One News (New York, New York); Bloomberg (Atlanta, Georgia, USA); Spanish Wire Press (San Francisco, California, USA); and the Associated Press (Washington DC, USA).

Fundraising, Grants, & Partnerships edit

The Wikimedia Foundation received 36,794 donations in November, totaling approximately USD 1,270,246. Year-to-date, the Foundation has raised USD 1,792,177 in donations, 24% of its annual goal of USD 7,500,000. This puts it slightly ahead of plan. Including revenue from restricted and unrestricted gifts the foundation has raised USD 3,342,177, 36% of the USD 9,297,000 goal.

Finance and Administration edit

In November, the Audit Committee and Board of Trustees approved the Foundation's 2008-09 audited financial statements. The statements are accessible on the Foundation's wiki at

In November, Veronique Kessler created for the Audit Committee an analysis of major risks facing the Wikimedia movement. It assesses major internal and external risks threatening the continued success of Wikimedia, including the following: serious decline in participation; a failure of the movement to evolve structurally; a lack of innovation (technical and otherwise); the risk of scandal; the inability of poor people to contribute to Wikipieda due to lack of leisure time, creating a context in which rich people write an encyclopedia for poor people; erosion of the Wikimedia readership by competitors; a shift in the policy landscape that doesn't favour Wikipedia; a plateauing of donations; decline in core editing community, and a destruction of our core legal protections. The full analysis is available here:

Other Activities edit

Erik Zachte attended a Wikipedia Academy in Stockholm, Sweden. This was the second Wikipedia Academy hosted by the Swedish Chapter. During his visit to Sweden, Erik also gave a presentation at the FSCONS conference in Gotenburg.

Jay Walsh was invited by the organizers of the first-ever Wikiconference Japan (WCJ 2009) to be their keynote speaker. This was the first official gathering of Wikimedians in Japan, with a specific focus on discussing the work of Japanese Wikimedians across all projects, and inviting academics and enthusiasts in the Foundation's projects to discuss research, theories, and ideas for new projects and initiatives. The full-day seminar, held at the Department of Engineering, at the Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo, on November 22 brought in over 300 attendees, almost double the original number planned for by the organizers. Major media attended the event, in the form of Nikkei business on-line and NHK, the national public broadcaster.

On November 12, Sue Gardner was the inaugural speaker for Google's women's speaker series.

On November 18, Sue gave the Dalton Camp memorial lecture at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, in which she argued that – contrary to the conventional wisdom and to what we're often told by the media – we are actually experiencing a golden age of information. The volume of information available is greater than ever before, censorship is less prevalent and less effective, and information is cheap and easy to get. The lecture was later broadcast on the CBC Radio program Ideas, and is available here:

References edit