Wikimedia Foundation Report, October 2009

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

  • Covering: October 2009
  • Prepared by: Sue Gardner, Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation
  • Prepared for: Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees



Milestones from October

1. Work begins on Multimedia Usability Project
2. Strategic Planning Task Forces Launch
3. Office move to 149 New Montgomery Street
4. Technology Staff and All Staff Meetings

Key Priorities for November

1. (Ongoing) Chief Development Officer and Chief Technical Officer recruitment
2. Kickoff of 2009 Annual Giving Campaign
3. Launch of Public Outreach Resources "Bookshelf" Project
4. Multimedia Workshop in Paris
5. First Board of Trustees meeting in new office

This Past Month


Key Program Metrics


Reach of all Wikimedia Foundation sites:

345 million unique visitors (rank #5)
+24.3% (1 year ago) / +5.7% (1 month ago)
Source: comScore Media Metrics

Pages served:

11.6 billion
+8.8% (1 year ago) / +1.9% (1 month ago)

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

+1.9% (1 year ago) / +3.4% (1 month ago)

Source: October 2009 Report Card <>

Key Financial Metrics

Operating revenue year to date: USD 2.4MM vs. plan of USD 1.7MM [1]
Operating expenses year to date: USD 2.2MM vs. plan of USD 3.5 million [2]
Unrestricted cash on hand as of November 11: USD 5.4MM

[1] Unanticipated early grant funding

[2] Delays in some large purchases

Strategic Planning Project


With the preliminary exploration and research phase wrapped up, the Strategic Planning team spent October transitioning into a deep dive exploration of critical, strategic questions.

In September, more than 3,000 people from inside and outside of the Wikimedia movement applied to participate in Wikimedia's strategic planning project. In October, the Task Force selection committee reviewed all 3,000 applications, and put together 14 task forces, each comprised of between four and eight members. Each of the Task Forces is exploring a specific topic, with the goal of eventually making two to four thoughtful recommendations aimed at 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 other content areas; 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.

The task forces are expected to finalize their recommendations by January 12. Meanwhile, all discussions are happening publicly on the strategy wiki, and everyone is invited to participate. The strategy wiki increased from 600 editors in September to 780 in October:

Other important strategy URLs:





Hiring has begun for the Code Maintenance Engineer position on the core engineering team, responsible for reviewing, integrating and deploying code, and advancing the overall MediaWiki development architecture.

LiquidThreads, a complete overhaul of MediaWiki's discussion functionality, has been made available through a dedicated Wikimedia Labs site. The big picture here is that traditional wiki discussion require complex and atypical user interaction that make them difficult for new users to understand, and their lack of internal structure makes it harder to search or display them systematically.

Thanks to hard work by contract developer Andrew Garrett based on the initial code from David McCabe, LiquidThreads is now maturing to a point to become useful for specific discussion spaces in the Wikimedia universe:

Wikimedia set up a part-time contract with Siebrand Mazeland to support the further growth and development of, a third party project used for the localization of MediaWiki and other open source projects. Thanks to and its large community of volunteers, MediaWiki is one of the most actively localized software packages available:

Tomasz Finc made XML snapshots of Wikipedia data available through's Public Data Sets service, which will make it easier for researchers and community members to perform computationally expensive analysis:

Some of the fruits of Michael Dale's labor on improving Wikimedia's rich media support can now be tested. This work is sponsored by Kaltura. The new features include easier search and embedding of media files, a new video player, and reliable uploading and transcoding of videos through the Firefogg extension for Mozilla Firefox:

The language support of the new mobile gateway ( has dramatically increased, in large part thanks to the community, and thanks to volunteer Derk-Jan Hartman, additional devices are now supported:

Former Wikimedia Foundation CTO Brion Vibber attended the SVG Open conference and gave a presentation on the use of the open vector graphics format in Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. Brion also learned about recent development in supporting SVG through Flash, and discussed the possibility of using this as a fallback mechanism in Wikimedia's projects.



During October, usage of the usability beta interface has doubled, with roughly 300,000 users trying the beta, and 235,000 of them sticking with it. The retention rate is highest in English (between 83 and 95%), with retention lagging in German (70%) and Japanese (60%). Beta survey analysis has started revealing the causes for low retention rate for certain language wikis. The full beta analysis is close to be completed and will be publicly available in November. The English Wikinews project voted to adopt the new interface early:

The usability team conducted its second round of user tests in early October. The testing was conducted by Bolt Peters and featured eight participants in San Francisco, California. The goal was to evaluate whether the Beta program has successfully reduced barriers to participation. The study confirmed the positive impact of some of our changes, while also highlighting remaining user experience issues, particularly around complex mark-up and edit preview. A full report on the usability study by Parul Vora including the videos of the study is available at the Usability, Experience, and Progress Study page in the usability wiki:,_Experience,_and_Progress_Study

To better support the usability work with data, we deployed the first use of click-tracking on the edit toolbar, which will tell us which buttons in the UI are being clicked, and which aren't:

In October, Guillaume Paumier joined the usability team as Product Manager of the Ford multimedia usability initiative, aimed at making it easier to upload files to Wikimedia Commons. Guillaume has been an active Wikimedia contributor since 2005, and served as a board member of the French chapter from 2007 to 2009. He also coordinated the all- chapters meeting in Berlin for the German chapter last April. Guillaume has a master's degree in nanotechnology from Institut national des Sciences appliquées and a PhD in microsystems for life sciences from Université Paul Sabatier, both in Toulouse, France. Guillaume will be working remotely as a consultant until his visa to work in the United States is approved. In his first weeks on the job, Guillaume conducted a user survey of Commons contributors. The goal was to collect basic data about how and why people use Commons. The survey was available from all Wikimedia websites for logged-in users, in twenty languages, and received over 25,000 responses. Its findings: Even among users who have accounts in Wikimedia projects, Wikimedia Commons is not very well known. 25% of respondents say they are not familiar with Commons, and only 37% participate in it. Those who participate say their purpose is to illustrate Wikipedia articles, or articles on other Wikimedia projects. Only 50% of participants had uploaded more than 10 media files to Commons. A detailed analysis of the survey is underway:

Other Program Activities


In October, Pete Forsyth joined the Wikimedia Foundation as Wikimedia's first Public Outreach Officer. Pete will support Frank Schulenburg, the Head of Public Outreach, in all the Foundation's public outreach activities, including development of educational outreach materials (Bookshelf Project), development of outreach- related grant proposals and the communication of volunteer-led outreach activities to a global audience. Pete's first priority will be to help Frank develop a proposal for a grant aimed at working with universities and other educational institutions, with the goal of improving article quality.

Frank attended the Wikipedia Academy on October 14 and 15, in Bergen, Norway: the first-ever Norwegian Wikipedia Academy. This was the third Wikipedia Academy of 2009. There have already been successful Academies this year in Tel Aviv, Israel and Bethesda, United States. There will be one more Academy this year, in Stockholm, Sweden, in November.

Also in October, Frank launched the new outreach wiki ( ). This wiki aims at serving as a knowledge collective and collaboration space, to be used by both the outreach team and Wikimedia editors who are interested in supporting outreach. The wiki currently hosts the planning and design documents for the Bookshelf Project and the “best practices documentation” project. Its audience is not new contributors: its purpose is to be a home for documentation and discussion of outreach activities aimed at bringing in new contributors.

In October, Marlita Kahn, who runs the Bookshelf project, completed the project's strategic development plan, design document, wiki content, draft project schedule, and volunteer recruitment strategy. She also began the hiring process for the project's writer and visual designer. Because there are obvious linkages and interdependencies between the bookshelf and usability projects, Marlita also began coordination meetings with the usability team.

Cary Bass attended the WikiSym conference in Orlando, Florida, where he met with researchers . He also met with Wikimedian and longtime Wikimania planner Phoebe Ayers to discuss the bidding process for Wikimania 2011. Cary also staged IRC office hours with Mike Godwin and Kul Wadhwa, initiated the fundraising translations for the fundraiser and assisted and advised the English Wikipedia arbitration committee on several user-related matters.



In October, Moka Pantages was hired as the Foundation's first Communications Officer. Moka most recently worked with the Seoul Broadcasting Services (one of the top 4 radio/TV broadcasters in South Korea) in program and community development. She holds a Masters of Art Degree from Yonsei University. Previously, Moka held positions at PR firms Porter Novelli and Ruder Finn, and the Black Leadership Council. She also did an internship with the United States Senate.

Throughout October, the communications department worked in conjunction with the fundraising team and with Fenton Communications, to create marketing materials for the Annual Giving Campaign, including development of messaging and collateral (fundraising appeal letter, banner copy, usability study and improvements to main donation landing page). The team also worked with Fenton Communications to develop a draft social media and public relations strategy, and QA/FAQ for the campaign, as well as a plan to carry 'credibility' focused initiatives through 2010, including updated plans for a WMF video, story-telling publication, and speaking/media initiatives.

Major coverage during October revolved around the following stories:

1. OpenMoko's WikiReader takes center stage (late October) Tech and IT media around the world responded to OpenMoko's release of the handheld WikiReader device through October. Most coverage applauded the idea of a WikiReader-type device; some criticized aspects of its interface, and its lack of live realtime access to Wikipedia.

2. Google tweaks Custom Search for Wikipedia (October 26) In late October Google announced improvements to Google Custom Search, including better customized search functions for Wikipedia. The new search function was developed with deep community feedback and support, using Wikipedia's open-API to provide improved results.

Also in October, the Huffington Post named Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner one of its ten media “game changers” of 2009. “Drawing on the Wikimedia Foundation's mission of bringing free knowledge to everybody, executive director Gardner is overseeing a strategic plan to broaden access to Wikipedia’s vast storehouse of information. Her battle plan: making Wikipedia easier to use and available to more people worldwide,” says the Huffington Post. Huffington Post readers will now vote for their top game changer out of the ten nominees, and the winner will be announced in November.

Other worthwhile reads:

Blog posts through Oct, 2009:

Media activity through Oct, 2009:

During October, the Wikimedia Foundation participated in interviews with the Bali Times (Bali, Indonesia); Washington Post (Washington, DC, USA); Huffington Post (New York, New York, USA); Associated Press (Philadelphia, PA, USA).

Fundraising, Grants & Partnerships


In October, the Wikimedia Foundation publicly posted its Chief Development Officer position. The Wikimedia Foundation is seeking an innovative development professional with a strong understanding of internet and traditional fundraising methods, to grow and diversify fundraising capacity. The search is being conducted by m/Oppenheim Associates: inquiries, nominations and résumés may be directed in confidence to: Lisa Grossman at lisag(at)

The Wikimedia Foundation received 1,044 donations in October, totaling approximately USD $54,642. Year-to-date, the Foundation has raised USD 521,93 in donations, 7% of its annual goal of USD 7,500,000. This puts it slightly ahead of plan. In October, the Foundation also raised USD 1,050,000 of restricted and unrestricted grants, bringing the total fundraising related revenue for the year to USD 2,067,905, 29% of the USD 9,297,000 goal.

Included in that total is a grant of USD 550,000 from the Stanton Foundation, to support the “bookshelf” project, hardware purchases, and initiatives designed to improve quality. This is the third major grant for Wikimedia from the Stanton Foundation: we are very grateful for its support.

In October, Rand Montoya continued to prepare for the 2009 Annual Campaign. (See Communications notes above.) In addition, Rand soft- launched the mobile giving campaign ( ) with a link on our mobile application encouraging people to text WIKI to 25383 to give $10 to Wikipedia via their mobile phone. With no real attempts to publicize it, this new feature is currently generating about $150 a day. Testing was underway on Wikimedia's new credit card processing gateway, which is expected to increaes donations from users unfamiliar with PayPal.

In October, Development Associate Anya Shyrokova was promoted to Stewardship Associate. In her new role, she will be manage and cultivate $500 to $10,000 donors. To replace her, Megan Hernandez has been hired as Development Associate. Megan recently graduated from the University of California San Diego with a degree in Human Development and a minor in Spanish Literature. She comes to Wikimedia with work experiences from the American Cancer Society and Mundo De Ninos Children's Shelter in Peru.

Rebecca Handler secured an unrestricted donation of USD 25,000 from the Harnisch Foundation, and worked on fundraising for the new data center.

Business Development


Kul Wadhwa oversaw the first product launches of Wikipedia in Orange in France, Spain and Poland, and the launch of Wikimedia on mobile in France. Kul is now assessing multiple initiatives and/or proposals for projects in Africa.

Kul and Tomasz Finc worked with memory device maker Kingston Technologies and offline reader developers Wikipock to create a new low-cost offline USB Wikipedia reader device. With the assistance of staff in the technology department Kul gathered and assessed technical and user feedback, discussed issues with community developers and assessed previous community initiatives in the offline reader space. Kul also created a cross-department working group, which is working with outside parties to develop an improved version that they hope will be ready for a retail test product launch by the first quarter of 2010.

Finance & Administration


On October 15, the Wikimedia Foundation officially moved into its new office located at 149 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA. Special thanks went to Daniel Phelps for organizing and managing the move, and to Steve Kent, Rob Halsell, and Fred Vassard for ensuring the office server and other equipment were fully functional in the new space.

Semi-Annual All Staff Meeting, Technology Meeting


Twice a year, the Wikimedia Foundation brings all staff to San Francisco for its semi-annual all-staff meeting. The second 2009 meeting took place in October. At it, staff received coaching in giving and receiving feedback constructively, from facilitators from the Center for Creative Leadership, a global non-profit organization offering leadership training. The CCL facilitators also carried out exercises (the FIRO-B and change style indicator) aimed at helping staff better understand and better communicate with each other. Also, the technical team met for two days prior to the all-staff meeting, discussing operations planning, the software development roadmap, code deployment and review, and other issues.

Other Activities


Sara Crouse represented Wikimedia at a conference hosted by Lettera27 (which supports WikiAfrica) at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy. The conference's focus was on reach and dissemination of knowledge - particularly on mobile platforms - in African countries. In attendance were representatives from NGOs in Africa, scholars and researchers, and innovators in the field of mobile technology. The relationships developed at this conference will help advance potential future partnerships in the region, and are proving to be valuable to the Strategic Planning process.

Sue Gardner attended the Sloan Foundation's 75th Anniversary event in New York City. The Sloan Foundation is Wikimedia's largest benefactor and an early supporter. Economists, luminaries, and foundation representatives participated in the event. Wikimedia is featured in a documentary and book about the Sloan Foundation, which were released for the occasion.