On 2/29/16 6:46 AM, Chris Sherlock wrote:
> Unfortunately though, the WMF very much did have internal documents
> that were positioning the WMF into building a search engine. In fact,
> it was a grand idea. But one that was done in secret. James was not
> wrong, and he wasn’t lying. You may not have been aware of it at the
> time, but there were indeed confidential documents that showed that
> someone was developing an internal search engine.

There are a lot of confusions here and I think you've not been very
precise, so let me work through this slowly.  Apologies for the tedium
but I'm sure you'll agree there has been too much that has been too vague.

First, before we start, let's clarify some terminology.  There is "an
internal search engine" which we have now, have had for many years.[1]
There was and is a project to improve it - this is part of what the
Knight grant is all about, and I think it's great.  It's also not
controversial.  The controversial part is "search engine" in the sense
of a Google-competitor.  It's important to recognize that using the term
'search engine' as a standalone can lead to misconceptions.

Second, I am now aware that a former employee was advocating for the
idea of building a direct competitor to Google. His presentation about
this was shared under rather extreme "cloak and dagger" with PGP
encryption, etc.  This idea did not get traction, and never rose to
being something presented to the board for approval.  As far as I
understand it, some of the dramatic language did survive here and there,
but if you read it independently you'd not really interpret it that way.

Third, and this is really really really important: NO ONE was ever
actually "developing" a Google killing search engine.  It got no further
than a brainstorming idea - and I hope that we do NOT end up out of all
of this that staff feel constrained from even brainstorming bold ideas.
 That no development work ever happened has been confirmed by developers.

James had gotten, from somewhere, the idea that there really was a
secret project to build a Google-competing search engine.  We had a
discussion where I told him that wasn't right.  We had further
discussions at the board level of what it means, and eventually James
himself made the motion to approve the Knight grant, and voted in favor
of it.


[1] Fun historical fact, I wrote the first in-house search engine for
Wikipedia, before that the software essentially looked linearly through
files for a keyword, which broke down completely very quickly.

> In the interests of transparency, could you please release these
> emails? They sound innocuous enough, it would be nice to be able to
> verify this and read the email discussion you and James had.

I'd like to do that.  I'm starting a private conversation with James
that I hope will be productive.

> Under Fl. St. § 617.0808(1) [2] James is not allowed to possess any
> such email records.

I think you are badly misreading that.  I think the point is that he's
not allowed to withhold "records" (which probably meant paperwork at the
time the statue was written), not that he's not allowed to keep copies.
 I've never heard of the idea that a board member has to delete all
their old board email archives!

Anyway, the issue is probably just about finding a particular discussion
in a mountain of correspondence.



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