Thanks Samuel and James for the constructive approach in your messages.

I know that I have said this before, but there's a huge problem with 
accountability here. We have money to become a great platform and we have staff 
to do it, but there's no way to go forward, and that problem is seen clearly at 
every opportunity: migrating to Discourse because we don't have "good enough" 
discussing software, not having centralized templates or the completely broken 
wishlist survey (where only 1/4 of the projects voted by the community are 
done, and some of them in a sub-optimal and non-usable way).

James points out the integration of data from OurWorldInData. This is so 
impressive and useful that is hard to think how the WMF can't afford to expend 
staff time (or give 1.000 USD to someone) to do that. Instead, Wiki Project Med 
has to ask for it outside. The Basque Wikimedians User Group is funding this 
effort, and is doing it with its own funds. Do you know how we get these funds? 
Well, sometimes they call us for a lecture somewhere about free knowledge, 
copyright or whatever, and the money they usually give the speaker goes to a 
fund. Whenever we have a good amount of money there (like 1.000USD), we invest 
in free knowledge projects. So, at the end of the day, is volunteer's time, 
expressed as money, and re-invested in things that will make our experience 
better. Of course, we are happy to help with this project, but the question is 
why the WMF, with 400.000.000 USD a year, can't afford to do this. And the 
answer is that no one cares, and those who should care about that are not 

Indeed, there's quite a big group of workers thinking in design, and they work 
to do some things, like the new Vector (but not only, they have a bunch of 
projects open). But every time they get a critic about the approach by a 
volunteer, there's an attack to the volunteer. Let's take some examples: here's 
a Phab ticket ( with a proposal to 
build a Main Page that will easily be copied by every project. You can read the 
answers and the attitude towards the proposal. Or this one, when they decided 
to move the interwiki links to the bottom of the main page because they didn't 
think that Main Pages where relevant 
( Or here, when a bug report is 
closed because someone thinks that breaking things is not a bug:

And I could continue, but the reality shows us that sub-optimal solutions are 
our way of finishing projects. The same teams that are moving things around in 
the Vector-2022, for example, decided to break the PDF creator (still has many 
issues) and decided that creating books wasn't relevant, so they broke it on 
purpose. No one cares, and if you do, you shouldn't: no one is going to fix it. 
No accountability. The same team has decided that hiding our sister projects 
from the main page, something that goes against the Strategic Direction, is a 
good idea at all ( And there we are, 
some volunteers, trying to make any sense of all of this, and trying to point 
that the Strategic Direction is something that should be granted at every 
decision. But, again, if there's no accountability, then every team will make 
what they think is better, they won't accept any proposal from volunteers, and 
our years-long strategy discussions will be a completely loss of time and 
donor's money, because no one is implementing what it was decided there.

Things are broken, and we could still be here discussing about that for ages. 
We have money and staff to fix this. Who is going to fix it? This is the great 



From: Samuel Klein <>
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2022 1:42 AM
To: Wikimedia Mailing List <>
Subject: [Wikimedia-l] Re: what do we do with all this opportunity?

James! Thanks for this case in point.

The free knowledge ecosystem includes hundreds of  thousands of devs around the 
world. Most don't think to collaborate with us or through our codebases, most 
who do bounce off of current systems, and those who stay still have a hard time 
getting code reviewed or fit into a roadmap, or small grants.

But W also have more genuine, unqualified goodwill than any technical project I 
know.  Few doors for technical collaboration or future-creation would be closed 
if we only learn how to ask and welcome the result.

So instead of asking "which tools should we try to test + implement, if we can 
figure out how to configure it" or "which of these independent proposals seems 
worthy of a one-time grant" (like any startup or website or grantor out there, 
limited by the time of the few people setting it up), we should Be Bolder.
Sketch in broad strokes what we need and want to see, commit to working 
together to make it so, look for partners who want to collaborate with us in 
making the best ecosystem on the planet. E.g.

 — what open graph database will scale to support general knowledge graphs 10 
and 100x our current size? The whole planet needs one. Whatever we migrate to 
next should be<> a community that joins us to reach that goal.

 — what discourse tools can support our wide ranging and intense discussions, 
constantly tested by our active (once rare, but increasingly possible and 
important in a networked world) collabs and consensus-building across language 

There are So. Many. Other areas where the ecosystem of open tools is scattered, 
loving, and small, and focus by and with us could elevate the possible into the 
 — embedded annotation, like Hypothesis
 — simultaneous editing, like Etherpad
 — embedded synchronous discussion, like IRC or Brave Talk
 — content translation flows
 — visualizations w embedded data, like OWID
 — media editing, like videowiki
 — format conversion + transcoding
 — working with file formats of existing and emerging fields of knowledge-worl
 — book creation
 — course creation
 — script creation
 — data reconciliation, like OpenRefine

Most of these ideas have approaches (open tickets in Phab) with some depth, 
with internal and external champions, and with potentially modest 
implementations that could be distributed if that ever became a burden. But 
these opportunities are sitting unresolved because a) they don't fall under the 
goals of any existing initiatives, and b) we've built anti-infrastructure: a 
system that makes contribution from the edges hard or risky. Lots of tickets 
opened by people offering to do the work note that they want some sort of 
confirmation that the result could be adopted or implemented, before they 
commit months of effort to it.

Our internal models for priority and focus need to consider the broader picture 
of the technical ecosystem we could empower and uplift, and need to register 
the value of working with and committing to other entire networks (including 
having many times more people solving these issues alongside us). Otherwise we 
are not providing the infrastructure needed by our own editing networks, not to 
mention the rest of th free knowledge ecosystem.


On Sat., Jun. 18, 2022, 6:37 p.m. James Heilman, 
<<>> wrote:
I have not found getting funding from the WMF for projects easy. VideoWiki for 
example has mostly been funded by WikiProjectMed / personally funded. Our first 
grant application since fully taking on the effort was 
and our programmer working on the project has thus moved on. Our experience has 
been similar regarding our collaboration with Our World in Data. We have gotten 
the interactive graphs working on our own 
site<> and offered to work on doing 
the same for Wikipedia (plus making them multilingual). Jumping through hoops 
to meet WMF requirements will; however, cost about 1,000 USD. WikiProjectMed 
has never received funding from the WMF and as a much much smaller NGO cannot 
cover these programming expenses for the movement.


On Sat, Jun 18, 2022 at 3:49 PM Samuel Klein 
<<>> wrote:
We face the paradox<> of 
choice<>, the lull of peace, and the 
fog of distributed bureaucracy.
~ With great possibility comes disfocus. (and a few things with focus!)
~ With no clear challenge or adversary, we've become comfortable fussing over 
small changes... Even as the world moves on to new frontiers and companies race 
to enclose derivatives of our work. This peace is coming to an end.
~ Our central overhead costs are quite high. So high^ that it seems to baffle 
everyone involved, each believing the bureaucracy must be caused by some other 
part of the system, outside of their or their org's control.

Our projects are already a global standard for multimodal collaboration at 
scale, we should embrace that and rise to meet it.  Building some of the 
world's best free, mulitilingual, accessible tools for is within our remit, 
experience, and budget.
  [Discourse raised a total of $20M over its lifetime. we could support + spin 
out free-knowledge free-software layers like that every year.]

Let's practice working together, focusing on a few things each year that can 
change not only our projects but the world, honoring existing work and 
aggressively shedding anything we are doing that others are alreay doing almost 
as well.


^ Up to 10-to-1 in some areas, plus delays of years inserted into otherwise 
continuous processes.  This ratio can slip into the negative if one includes 
opportunity cost, or funded work that displaces or drives out comparable 
voluntary work; or that demands thousands of hours of input for little result.
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