On Sat, Jan 9, 2016 at 3:48 AM, Michael Snow <wikipe...@frontier.com> wrote:

> While it depends on the purpose of the grant, for the deliverables
> identified in the original post it seems clear that the most natural costs
> to pay would be salaries in software engineering, broadly speaking. As to
> the comment about how the grant amount aligns with the size and salary cost
> of this particular team - in the grantmaking world, it is entirely normal
> to make awards that pay for only fractions of people's salaries. Let's say
> you pay for 5% of X's salary and 10% of Y's salary, and as part of the
> agreement those people are then expected to spend the corresponding
> percentage of their time dedicated to working on the grant project. I'm
> sure that the Discovery team has more things to work on than just this one
> project, but the reason the Foundation would accept this grant is
> presumably that it overlaps enough with what the organization wants to do
> anyway.



This is confusing. If you look at the Discovery FAQ[1], it says,


------
*"Knowledge Engine" (KE) was an early term used to describe a number of
initiatives that related to search and discovery of content. It was/is not
a product and instead was meant to easily reference what the Discovery team
was focusing on. We've since stopped using the term as it caused confusion.*
------


So the Knowledge Engine is what the Discovery team is all about. The two
terms are described as practically synonymous in the FAQ: the Knowledge
Engine term (now deprecated) was a shorthand way of referring to the
Discovery team's work. From that, it doesn't sound like the Discovery team
has anything else to work on than that.

The Knight Foundation (KF) grant first announced by the Knight Foundation
in September last year[1], and announced by the WMF only a few days ago,
used the same language:


------
*To advance new models for finding information by supporting stage one
development of the Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia, a system for discovering
reliable and trustworthy public information on the Internet.*
------


To me at least this means that the KF grant was indeed intended to fund the
Discovery team's work, something which the $250,000 named can clearly only
do in part, given the amount of personnel involved. The rest of the funding
thus must claim a share of the Foundation's own resources.

There is an interesting post by "Eagle" on Wikipediocracy,[3] which I
suspect may go some way towards explaining the wider technological
background of the Knowledge Engine effort and the strategic decisions
underlying it:


------
*Today, a fork is possible because the Mediawiki software is open source
and all of the database has been licensed by the contributors. We do not
know if the Knowledge Engine software will be open source or how the
Knowledge Engine database will be licensed. *

*This is a very interesting trend. A large base of volunteers have gathered
a lot of the world's knowledge. The original model, created by Messrs.
Wales and Sanger, is that the collection should be delivered in the form of
an encyclopedia. *

*Then, IBM's Watson, Apple's Siri, and Microsoft Cortana came forward and
created proprietary natural language systems to use Wikipedia (plus other
data sources) to provide access to general knowledge in [a] way far more
attractive than a text encyclopedia. *

*The question becomes would a fork away from the WMF be possible once
Wikipedia shifts away from a Mediawiki based "encyclopedia?" Even if the
entire Wikipedia community shifted to working on the fo[r]k, would the user
interface of the Knowledge Engine keep the user traffic (and the Google
juice) with the WMF after the shift? *

*Conversely, if the world of information seekers is shifting away from a
text encyclopedia model to access information, does anyone seriously
believe that the WMF technical staff (even if enhanced by the Knight
Foundation grant) can compete with the best that IBM, Apple and Microsoft
will continue to develop? *


*This is a very serious problem that Mr. Wales, Lila, Doc James and seven
others can not solve by themselves locked into a secret sound-proof
chamber.*
------


While I am pretty sure that any Knowledge Engine software developed by the
Wikimedia Foundation will be open source (if I am wrong on this, please put
me right!), and am not proposing to initiate a discussion about forking
here, some of what Eagle says about the wider technological background
feels like it might be very relevant to the motivations underlying the
Knowledge Engine (or "Discovery") project.

People looking up Wikipedia on their smartphone in the pub will indeed not
read a long encyclopedia article. They just want a snippet of information.
But does that mean that, given developments like the Knowledge Graph, Siri,
Watson etc., the writing is on the wall for Wikipedia's -- presently at
least -- immensely popular and much-loved encyclopedia format?

I don't understand what happened between the first announcement of the
grant by the KF in September, and the renewed announcement of it now. What
the KF says in its January 6, 2016, announcement[4] has morphed somewhat
from the earlier announcement of 12 months' support for a Knowledge Engine
project designed to enable the public to discover "reliable and trustworthy
public information on the internet."

What the KF is now talking about is funding


------
*exploratory research and prototyping to improve how people find and engage
with knowledge on Wikimedia projects. Knight’s support will fund six months
of investigation around search and browsing on the projects, with the
ultimate goal of building better experiences to help people discover
knowledge*
------


Is this "exploratory research" -- now shortened from twelve to six months
-- what the Wikimedia Foundation pitched for?

Or was the pitch for the more ambitious plans described in the "Discovery
Year 0-1-2" presentation[5]  and the Discovery FAQ?[1]

What further stages are envisaged?

Jimmy Wales said on his user talk page yesterday[6] that, in his opinion,
and pending confirmation that there are no contractual reasons standing in
the way of this, the grant letter should be published on Meta, and that "it
would be best to clear the air around that completely as soon as possible."

For once, I agree with him. To clear the air completely, the grant
application documentation should be made public as well.

Please draw the public and the community into your confidence on this, and
work with the community rather than in isolation from it.

Andreas

[1] https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Discovery/FAQ
[2] http://www.knightfoundation.org/grants/201551260/
[3] http://wikipediocracy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=169310#p169310
[4]
http://www.knightfoundation.org/blogs/knightblog/2016/1/6/exploring-how-people-discover-knowledge-wikipedia-and-its-sister-projects/
[5] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Discovery_Year_0-1-2.pdf
[6]
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Jimbo_Wales&diff=698861097&oldid=698860874
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