On the very specific topic of donor funding going to help commercial
re-users, we've had some interesting but inconclusive board discussions
about this topic.  Despite that he takes every opportunity to attack me,
and surely it will disappoint him to know, but my general view is 100%
in agreement with him on the core issue - where commercial re-users are
getting enormous value from our work, they should be paying for the
engineering resources required for their support.

Here are two push-backs on the idea that I do think are deserving of
serious consideration:

1. Part of our core mission as a community is free access - will a "pay
for service" model for APIs for commercial re-users alienate a
significant portion of the community?  Does requiring some to pay while
others get it free raise questions similar to those around "net neutrality"?

As a historical footnote, there was a deal many years ago with
Answers.com to give them access to an API which they used to present our
content alongside many other resources.  They paid for that - not a huge
amount, but it was meaningful back in those days.  I don't recall this
being particularly controversial.

2. In many cases it may be too simplistic to simply say "a company is
benefiting, so they should pay".  The point is that *we* also benefit,
from increased readership for example, from our work making it to end
users as technology changes and as the way people get information
changes.  There is certainly a situation where setting too high a price
would simply push commercial re-users to not use our content at all, so
sensible pricing would be key.  And with real serious ongoing analysis,
the right price could still be "free" even if we in principle charge.


For me, despite those being real concerns, I come down firmly on the
side of being careful about falling into a trap of doing lots of
expensive work for commercial re-users without having them pay.  I don't
actually think we do a lot of that right now.  What I'd like to see is
more of it, and I'm pretty agnostic about whether that's in the form of
"self-financing cottage industries" or a "separate for-profit arm" or
within the current engineering organization.  I can see arguments for
any of those.

On 2/28/16 8:02 AM, Andreas Kolbe wrote:
> On Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 3:24 PM, Dariusz Jemielniak <dar...@alk.edu.pl>
> wrote:
> We COULD outsource most of our tech (I'm not supporting this, I'm just
>> giving perspective).
> One thing I've been wondering about of late is how much donor-funded the
> work the WMF is doing that is primarily designed to support commercial
> re-users.
> The other day, I read an Engineering report on the Wikimedia blog that
> spoke of the Wikipedia Zero team doing "side project" work for Amazon
> Kindle and Google Play.
> I was thinking, Why are donors paying for that? – especially at a time when
> the Foundation worries about being able to sustain fundraising growth.
> Wikimedia content is worth billions. Wikidata in particular has huge
> potential value for commercial re-users.[1] So have the link-ups between
> Wikipedia and Amazon, Google, Bing etc.
> It's clear that even in 2008, the Foundation was inundated with "multiple
> product-specific pitches" from Google.[2] I imagine the breadth and number
> of these pitches from Silicon Valley companies can only have increased
> since then.
> Sure, Wikimedia is committed to using its donated funds to make content
> freely available under an open licence, but does that mean donors should
> also be paying for programming work that is primarily designed to support
> commercial re-users?
> That work could be done by self-financing cottage industries built up by
> Wikimedians, working for profit, or even a for-profit arm of the
> Foundation. All the Foundation would have to do would be to provide basic
> documentation; the rest could be left to the open market.
> The astonishing thing to me is that there seems to be very little or no
> publicity and transparency from the WMF about developments in this area.
> For instance, I was unable to find any WMF communication about Wikipedia
> Smart Lookup being integrated in the Amazon Kindle (something Amazon
> announced in 2014),[3] even though WMF teams clearly have done programming
> work on this. You'd have thought having Wikipedia search embedded in a
> major product like the Kindle is a big thing, worthy of a community-facing
> announcement?
> In short, I think the WMF should collate and publicise more information
> about commercial re-use applications, and be transparent about the work
> it's doing to support such re-use. Maybe there is another "transparency
> gap" here.[4]
> And if there is any work that the Foundation is currently doing that
> primarily benefits commercial re-users, then I think it should stop doing
> that for free (= at donors' expense), and allow for-profit contractors to
> spring up and pitch for that work. That would allow the non-profit
> foundation to focus on user-facing improvements.
> Andreas
> [1]
> http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/02/25/wikidata_turns_the_world_into_a_database/
> [2] See Sue Gardner's email quoted on the last two pages of
> http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/sandberg.pdf
> [3]
> http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/forums/kindleqna/ref=cs_hc_k_m_oldest?ie=UTF8&forumID=Fx1FI6JDSFEQQ7V&cdThread=Tx27IU7Z5IQJV2J&cdSort=oldest
> [4]
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wikimedia_Foundation_transparency_gap#Transparency_about_donor-funded_work_supporting_commercial_re-users
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