Erik, thank you for framing this discussion, I think your "Resilience,
Focus, Accountability" formula hits on some of the most important ways in
which the Wikimedia Foundation has failed.  I share the concerns of Sydney
and Gerard however, and would like to ask some questions about how a real
Federation might emerge.

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM, Erik Moeller <> wrote:
> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
> no clear accountability to the movement.

I think this is the first thing.  For the same reason, we should not expect
or even allow the Wikimedia Foundation to take the lead in any federating
that takes place.

To briefly argue about the source of authority for making financial
decisions about the Wikimedia movement: a generous majority of donor money
comes from people like us on this list, who donate less than $100, and
roughly the same proportion of these donors (75%) imagine that they are
donating directly to Wikipedia.[1, 2]  The historical events which led to
the Foundation taking the money and deciding how it should be spent is
quite arbitrary, and the insular structure of its Board of Trustees is also
an accident waiting to be corrected.[3]

It seems clear that the Wikimedian contributors have both an ethical and a
legal claim over these funds, and over the supporting organizations, the
endowment, and so on.

Let's give Wikimedia resources back to the contributors, and follow their
lead on how to allocate.  Surprises are fun!

Demographic bias among the contributors, towards anglophone regions or
other power and population centers, is certainly a problem, but it would be
paternalistic for the WMF to assume that it can do a better job creating a
space for global social justice than the Wikimedians themselves might do.
In fact, given the WMF's own position in North America, and the Silicon
Valley bias of its Board, that would a case of the fox guarding the

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM, Erik Moeller <> wrote:
>    == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==

This is actually a deeply disturbing precedent that has affected me
personally.  Others on this thread have mentioned it already, but the WIki
Education Foundation is *specifically* not chartered to serve a global
audience, they only deal with the United States and Canada.[4]  Having just
finished a month of working as a developer with the Community Engagement
team--one of the few months of developer time ever conceded to this
department--I feel confident repeating the common knowledge that the
remnants of the Education Program which remain at the Wikimedia Foundation
are shamefully underfunded, and now in freefall with the loss of Anna Koval
and Floor Koudijs.  I have to think this is all a direct consequence of
outsourcing the North American, English wing of the program, and that the
resources have followed.  As wonderful and caring as the Wiki Education
staff are as individuals and as an organization, and even with Sage Ross
making the most generous contributions of his personal time to help with
internationalization, I ask how the Wiki Education Foundation will ever
fill the gap left by the WMF's Education Program, if its charter does not
allow it to do so?

Likewise, if we carve off MediaWiki software development into its own
clubhouse, they will inevitably look for funding from the biggest funded
users of the software, which are governments and corporations.  Bite the
hands that feed you?  They'll have no choice but to modify their mission to
accommodate the wishes of their donors.

Again, I would oppose the current WMF leadership making any of these
difficult decisions.  My faith would be much more in the capacity for a
broad alliance of Wikimedia project contributors to constructively engage
with your recommendations.  Of course WMF staff and Board members past and
present would probably be invited to this table, but as equals and
individuals, not as the holders of the purse strings.

-Adam Wight
This letter represents my personal views and not necessarily those of my
employer, the Wikimedia Foundation.


On Sat, Mar 19, 2016 at 7:41 AM, rupert THURNER <>

> On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 3:22 AM, Erik Moeller <> wrote:
> <cut>
> > the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> > organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> > organizations and affiliates.
> <cut>
> > I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
> >
> > 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> > independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> > within that organization.
> >
> > 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> > a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> > different directions -- at every level.
> >
> > 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> > to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> > them to do.
> >
> > My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> > processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> > true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> > and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> > like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
> >
> > a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> > organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> > (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> > for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> > offices, and other human endeavors.  [3][4] This is very specifically
> > because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> > understandable for those who work there.
> >
> > b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> > from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> > spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
> >
> > c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> > responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> > that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> > GLAM work.
> <cut>
> > == Where to go from here? ==
> >
> > There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> > fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> > transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> > "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> > (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> > those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> > offices?
> >
> > An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> > painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> > for trial and error.
> >
> > Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> > to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> > publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> > idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> > of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> > involved in the process? And so on.
> that all sounds quite reasonable. also what erik writes about
> organisations is to be expected. at the end it all boils down to
> money. spending all money available and wanting more money never has
> been a problem. if there is dissent it was always about who has the
> say what the money is spent on, and where it is spent. i am convinced
> if we get the responsibilities right, the dissent will stop, and the
> output will be better.
> sizing organizations and distributing responsibilities on a global
> scale seems to be a very difficult task, close to the soviet empire's
> task to plan its next 5 years. one could argue to resolve it via
> setting a financial targets, just as multinational companies do. two
> simple long term key performance indicators might already do the trick
> for the wikimedia movement: first "maximum 50% of the money is spent
> on persons whose life depend financially on the movement", which is
> employees, or long term contracting persons, organizations,
> foundations, enterprises. and second, "50% of the money stays in the
> country where it is donated." the rest will auto-organize, and
> auto-change. finding intelligent spending for the rest of the 50%
> should not be a too difficult task, there is sufficient universities
> and students around the world who would be happy to compete for this
> money. the success, means and outcome will change over time, in areas
> and ways nobody can predict today. the 50% are a made up number, a
> little bit influenced by public spending of 40% - 50% in many
> industrialized countries nowadays. it seems people accept such a
> ratio.
> whatever the target is, getting acceptance is not simple. currently
> the WMF at the same time controls the domain and with it money inflow.
> at the same time WMF spends 90% of the total money, preferably to its
> own employees. "growth" is such a natural target, no matter in what
> area that WMF tries to even increase this percentage. from a WMF
> perspective it is not bad at all. unfortunately it causes eternal
> struggle, and damages the movements progress. without it wants to do
> so, the WMF violates its custodian obligations. to me the most natural
> split therefor seems to separate "domain ownership" (ownership, some
> legal protection, set key performance indicators, maybe
> operations/infrastructure, maybe fundraising), and the rest. leave all
> processes, budgets, affiliates untouched for a couple of years.
> to come back to eriks first step, decide if a split makes sense: yes,
> i am for it. the challenge i personally hope is addressed: get
> continuously new persons, new ideas, new content, new software
> implementations into the movement, from all over the world. WMF will
> never win the competition for talent and ideas in silicon valley only
> against the likes of facebook or baby facebooks. so we need to go
> where others are not, and have a hard time to go. people will follow
> money, and ideals.
> best,
> rupert
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