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Comment: Re:I don't think you know what that word means (Score 1) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48510233) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?
The circle goes like this:

Hey, we got 40% more money than last year. We can expand our staff by 40%!

Shit, we are paying out 40% more than last year. We need a bigger reserve! Let's up our fundraising!

Hey, we got 40% more money than last year. We can expand our staff by 40%!

Shit, we are paying out 40% more than last year. We need a bigger reserve! Let's up our fundraising!

Hey, we got 40% more money than last year. We can expand our staff by 40%!

Etc.

Or simply look at this graph. The reserve they shoot for is a function of the spending, and the spending is a function of how much money they have.

They still want to "scale up" much more. And they can *always* justify that they need a bigger reserve next year than this year by spending more in this year. So it's always just "prudent and sensible" to ask for more money than last year, whether the money was spent sensibly or not.

I don't think anyone minds if they spend more, if there is a commensurate benefit to the end user, such as enhanced quality and reliability, and readers are told honestly what their donations are supposed to fund. But 1. product quality has been lacking, and 2. none of this is about "keeping Wikipedia online and ad-free" as the banner implies. The more they spend on paid staff, the smaller the proportion of their budget concerned with that actually becomes.

Just for a laugh, listen to Jimmy Wales speaking in 2005 about hosting, server and bandwidth costs. (Yes, articles are longer today, page views are 15 times higher than in 2005, but on the other hand bandwidth has become cheaper and there are economies of scale.)

+ - Is a "Wikipedia for news" feasible?-> 5

Submitted by Larry Sanger
Larry Sanger (936381) writes "Online news has become ridiculously confusing. Interesting bits are scattered among repetitive articles, clickbait, and other noise. Besides, there's so much interesting news, but we just don't have time for it all. Automated tools help a little, but give us only an unreliable selection; we still feel like we're missing out. Y'know, back in the 1990s, we used to have a similar problem about general knowledge. Locating answers to basic questions through the noise of the Internet was hit-and-miss and took time. So we organized knowledge with Wikipedia ("the encyclopedia that Slashdot built"). Hey, why don't we do something similar for the news? Is it possible to make a Wikipedia for news, pooling the efforts of newshounds everywhere? Could such a community cut through the noise and help get us caught up more quickly and efficiently? As co-founder of Wikipedia, I'm coming down on the "yes" side. I have recently announced an open content, collaborative news project, Infobitt (be gentle, Slashdot! We are still in early stages!), and my argument for the affirmative position is made both briefly and at length."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:mirrors? (Score 1) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48509273) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?
These already exist. Wikiwand is one, and there are many other less sophisticated mirrors that do not make much of an impact, as they have poor Google rankings. It's partly why the Wikimedia Foundation feels it has to expand and professionalise its software engineering effort: the Wikipedia interface looks very dated today, and as Wikipedia content is free, anyone can host it. And if anyone does it better than the Wikimedia Foundation itself, it's conceivable that readers will flock elsewhere, leaving the Foundation in the lurch. The fact that Google includes data from Wikipedia in its Knowledge Graph (the information panel on the right that appears when you Google a word) is already having an impact on Wikipedia pageviews.

Comment: Re:Not only that... (Score 1) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48509195) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?
Wikipedia has a significant problem with content related to this part of the world. Read How pro-fascist ideologues are rewriting Croatia's history. There are similar problems in Indonesia – see Don’t Trust Wikipedia on Indonesia – and in South Africa: The political economy of wikiality: a South African inquiry into knowledge.

It's all got to do with why people contribute to Wikipedia.

Comment: Re:Not sure there's a problem... (Score 1) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48509059) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?
What upsets me – and other volunteers – most is the "keep Wikipedia online and ad-free for another year" punchline in these banners. It's emotional manipulation, because it makes people think that Wikipedia is *lacking* funds to keep Wikipedia online and ad-free for another year. That's ludicrously false, and it's not how a charity championing transparency should behave. It seems to me they're simply follow their Darwinian A/B testing and always plump for the banner that gets in more money per hour.

Apart from that, there is the issue of how the money is actually spent, and whether the spending has a tangible benefit for the end user. That's another big issue in its own right. There are weaknesses there too (see also this edit by Jimmy Wales – look for the words "miserable cost/benefit ratio"), but it's a separate issue from the banner wording.

Comment: Re:Not sure there's a problem... (Score 2) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48508777) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?
First of all, a lot of money has been mis-spent. Sue Gardner herself voiced her qualms about this shortly before she left the Foundation, warning of the potential for log-rolling and corruption and spending money without benefit to the end user. In one case I have knowledge of, the entire board of a national Wikimedia organisation was flown into a city and put up in hotels for a "community consultation" where exactly one (1) community member turned up. That was $5,000 of donors' money gone right there, for nothing (although the board members all got a city stay out of it).

Secondly, some of the work done for that money has been incompetent. The VisualEditor, announced as "epically important" by Jimmy Wales, was a case in point. It was years late and so buggy and incomplete that the community switched the thing off, overriding the Foundation. It is my suspicion that this is partly a result of giving too many management and tech jobs to Wikipedia insiders selected on the basis of their enthusiasm for the Wikipedia ideal rather than their qualifications or expertise. Otherwise it's really hard to explain why jobs were done so badly. And that they were done badly is a fact that was acknowledged by Jimmy Wales, who said that Lila Tretikov was specifically hired to stop these sorts of failures and bring their house in order. And she may well do so.

But what to me is morally wrong about the banners is that they create the impression the Foundation is struggling financially to keep Wikipedia online without ads. And that's simply not the case. Wales used to boast how little it cost to keep Wikipedia online. In 2005, he said,

"So, we’re doing around 1.4 billion page views monthly. So, it’s really gotten to be a huge thing. And everything is managed by the volunteers and the total monthly cost for our bandwidth is about 5,000 dollars, and that’s essentially our main cost. We could actually do without the employee We actually hired Brion [Vibber] because he was working part-time for two years and full-time at Wikipedia so we actually hired him so he could get a life and go to the movies sometimes.”

Today, the Wikimedia Foundation attracts 21 billion page views a month – i.e. 15 times as much – but even 15 times the $5,000 a month Wales mentioned then would only be $75,000 a month, or $900,000 a year; and that's without allowing for economies of scale, and the fact that bandwidth has become cheaper since 2005. Yes, they have more images these days and so forth, but keeping Wikipedia online simply isn't their major expense, and a fraction of the money they have in hand.

By all means say that Wikipedia is ad-free and relies on donations – that's perfectly true – but don't imply that donations are needed to keep Wikipedia online and ad-free for another year, making everyone think that if not enough money comes in they'll have to pull the plug, or there will be ads by the end of next year. And that's a mainstream criticism within the Wikimedia movement. Just look at the Wikimedia mailing list discussion [gossamer-threads.com]. The person speaking there is this guy [wikipedia.org], a veteran volunteer, GLAMWiki coordinator and former vice-president of Wikimedia Australia.

Comment: Re:Spending too much, reserves good, SW improves c (Score 1) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48508377) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?

> Wikimedia spending has increased by 1,000 percent in the course of a few years.

That could be a problem.

> Jimmy Wales counters complaints by saying the Foundation are merely prudent in ensuring they always have a reserve equal to one year's spending

Yes, a one year reserve on the low end of normal. You don't want Wikipedia to disappear when something bad happens, and SHIT HAPPENS. It's a top 10 web site, meaning it's in the big leagues with Google, Microsoft etc., except it's nonprofit. They may have to deal with stuff like Google is dealing with in Europe - disputes with multiple governments on the other side. You don't want Wikipedia to go bankrupt when some government or some company somewhere doe something stupid that costs the foundation $5 million to deal with and repair the damage.

> nothing to do with generating and curating Wikipedia content, a task that is handled entirely by the unpaid volunteer base.'

False. A large chunk of the budget is developing software for "generating and curating Wikipedia content". It's disingenuous to claim that developing tools for generating and curating content "have nothing to do" with generating and curating content.

That's a fair point – I meant it in the sense of actually researching and writing the text that appears in Wikipedia. And I did say "most" of these budget increases had nothing to do with that. For example, they are not using money from donations to have medical experts check the thousands of medical articles in Wikipedia for accuracy: that to me would be active content curation. Those tasks are left to volunteers, or, in one or two cases like the Cancer Research UK initiative, people funded by others.

What I do think is reprehensible is raising the spectre of ads in the fundraising banners. By all means say that Wikipedia is ad-free and relies on donations – that's perfectly true – but don't imply that donations are needed to keep Wikipedia online and ad-free for another year, making everyone think that if not enough money comes in they'll have to pull the plug, or there will be ads by the end of next year. And that's a mainstream criticism within the Wikimedia movement. Just look at the Wikimedia mailing list discussion. The person speaking there is this guy, a veteran volunteer, GLAMWiki coordinator and former vice-president of Wikimedia Australia.

Comment: Re:Spending too much, reserves good, SW improves c (Score 1) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48507939) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?
I think you may find that some or all of the Wiki Loves Monuments tools were written by people outside the Wikimedia Foundation. Have a look at this page and its edit history. (WMF staffers typically have a "(WMF)" at the end of their user name.) Similarly this page. Many of the most useful software components remain volunteer-contributed.

Comment: Re: It is working for them, though... (Score 1) 274

by Andreas Kolbe (#48507675) Attached to: A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand?
Have a look How pranks, hoaxes and manipulation undermine the reliability of Wikipedia. Technical info is certainly not immune when it comes to these problems with reliability. Even worse, an incredible number of people accept stuff in Wikipedia without questioning it, to the extent that it gets repeated by sources deemed authoritative. Here is Wikipedia re-writing history, and here is a journalist who discovered she had accidentally started a Wikipedia hoax when she saw a journalist from The New Yorker quote a joke on Twitter as fact – a joke which she had entered in Wikipedia five years earlier for fun, as a stoned sophomore.

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