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July 14, 2012

Wikimania 2012 tackles diversity issues

Wikimania 2012 tackles diversity issues – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikimania 2012 tackles diversity issues

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mary Gardiner gave the keynote speech at Wikimania 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Image: Andrew Bennetts.

Jimmy Wales addresses attendees of Wikimania 2012 at the Library of Congress.
Image: User:Deror Avi.

Chinese language contributor Shang Zhang meets Jimmy Wales at the Library of Congress.
Image: User:Shujenchang.

Community leaders at the Wikimania 2012 conference, which is largely attended by Wikipedians and volunteers from other Wikimedia Foundation projects, focused attention on diversity within the projects and specifically on the inclusion of women, people who come from developing countries, and those people who, while not tech geeks, are potential contributors.

Wikipedia is the fifth top web site visited on the internet, according to Wales.

Mary Gardiner, co-founder of the Ada Initiative, delivered the opening address, where she encouraged conference participants to think about how they could be more inclusive, especially toward women, in their work. She is the first woman ever to give an opening address at a Wikimania conference. The conferences have been held annually since 2005.

Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, echoed the theme of diversity in his remarks during his annual State of the Wiki address and expanded on Africa and including more people who are not technically savvy.

Participants from 87 countries gathered in Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University, Washington, D.C. for the opening session on Thursday morning.

Mary Gardiner focused on the lack of gender diversity within the Wikipedia community. She said reader and editor surveys have shown that while over one third of the readers of Wikipedia are women, the number of women who are editors is around 10 to 15 percent in the English Wikipedia and as low as 8.5 percent for all Wikipedias. “As a project of social change, even if it’s not an activist project, the Wikipedia community has a responsibility both to its mission and to the people out there in the world to always be on a journey toward diversity — to increase the size of the umbrella of the world”, Gardiner said.

The Ada Initiative, co-founded by Gardiner, encourages women’s involvement in open source projects like Wikipedia, open-source software, and open government. Prior to the conference, the Ada Initiative sponsored an AdaCamp where women shared their experiences across these projects. Gardiner, who is a graduate student in Computational Linguistics, delivered the keynote, entitled “Fostering diversity: not a boring chore, a critical opportunity.”

Gardiner said Wikipedia should not only increase diversity because it would be good for the community to have more voices, but also the community should reach out with sincerity and both engage and hear women’s voices and be open to change from their contributions.

Jimmy Wales recommended Wikipedians “reexamine [their] premises.” As an example, he asked them to consider article topics that other audiences who are not currently being served well could find meaningful. He became involved in a deletion debate about whether Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was worthy of an article. He contrasted this topic choice with the large number of obscure pages about Linux and asked the audience to consider why important fashion events could be of interest to a different audience with other interests. He said if Wikipedia is not providing content for this audience, they will go elsewhere to create and read that content.

Gardiner also said when women or another subculture focus on their identity it can actually create a stronger Wikipedian identity. “The more you encourage people retain parts of their identity that are important to them, in my case as a woman, the more you enhance their other identity as a Wikipedian… You can encourage both identities by allowing minorities to acknowledge and embrace that they are a member of a minority.” Wikipedia has encouraged the development of subcultures through the creation of chapters, portals, and even individualized user boxes.

Jimmy Wales, on a personal note, announced that he and his partner had named their daughter Ada after Ada Lovelace, who Gardiner had explained to the audience is considered the first software programmer and was an inspiration for the Ada Initiative. Gardiner credits her fellow Ada Initiative co-founder Valerie Aurora, executive director, for naming the organization after Lovelace.

Wales devoted a large portion of his speech to Wikipedia’s footprint in Africa. Wikipedia is currently offered in 285 languages and of African languages, Yorùbá, Swahili, and Afrikaans are the largest. Wales described how in a one month period in 2011 Yorùbá jumped to first in the number of articles. Yorùbá Wikipedia User:Demmy created a bot that added 15,000 articles to the language in one month and his activity doubled the number of active editors to about four. Wales presented the second annual “Jimbo Award” to User:Demmy for his contribution to the Yorùbá language version of Wikipedia.

Wales said the Wikimedia Foundation’s mobile initiative would be an important part of bringing people from developing countries to Wikipedia and would even offer new editing tools for the community worldwide.

New software is in development that could also expand the number of editors of Wikipedia. Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, announced that Wikimedia Foundation is currently testing its Visual Editor Software that she says will make it as easy to edit Wikipedia as it is to update the status on a person’s Facebook account. “Editing is unnecessarily difficult,” Gardner said. “We’re using an older technology. And it’s an open-source environment and developers of that kind of software are not typically dedicated to design and usability issues” but to solving technical problems.

Wikimania is an international event and past conferences have been held in Frankfurt, Germany; Boston, USA; Taipei, Taiwan; Alexandria, Egypt; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Gdańsk, Poland; and Haifa, Israel. Next year’s Wikimania is to be held in Hong Kong, China.

The main conference has attracted over 1,000 participants and will be open through July 14.



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January 18, 2012

Wikinews interviews Sue Gardner on Wikipedia blackout

Wikinews interviews Sue Gardner on Wikipedia blackout

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Image: Ralf Roletschek.

Preparations at the Wikimedia Foundation for the blackout.
Image: Victor Grigas.

Today, the English version of Wikipedia is taking part in a 24-hour ‘blackout’ to protest two proposed U.S. anti-piracy laws, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act. The protest mirrors similar actions from other websites including Reddit and Boing Boing. The White House stated on Saturday that they “will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet”.

In the midst of the Wikipedia blackout, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation Sue Gardner answered some questions posed by Wikinews’ Tom Morris about the effectiveness of, and background to, the blackout.

Wikinews waves Left.pngTom MorrisWikinews waves Right.png Do you think the blackout is going to actually be effective?

Wikinews waves Left.pngSue GardnerWikinews waves Right.png Yes. In my opinion, the blackout has two main goals—to raise awareness about the dangers of SOPA and PIPA, and to encourage readers to contact their elected representatives and give their views. The first has already been accomplished: there are already more than 4,000 stories in Google News about the blackout, and it was a trending topic on Twitter almost immediately. So we know we’ve been effective in raising awareness. What remains to be seen how many people will contact their elected officials.

Wikinews waves Left.pngTMWikinews waves Right.png What do you say to people who have decided to leave the editing community as a result of the blackout?

Wikinews waves Left.pngGardnerWikinews waves Right.png I hope nobody stops editing Wikipedia because of the blackout. I watched the community decision-making process unfold on the English Wikipedia, and I thought it was a good one. People first started talking about SOPA more than a month ago. Jimmy started the straw poll in mid-December. Over 1,800 English Wikipedians from many different countries participated in the discussion over the last three days. As the admins who closed it noted, this is by far the largest-ever number of participants in a community discussion on English Wikipedia, and the overwhelming majority of them supported action. So I would hope that anybody who opposes the blackout would also agree that the decision-making process was a good one, and would therefore be okay to accept it, however reluctantly.

Wikinews waves Left.pngTMWikinews waves Right.png How much technical planning went into the blackout before the community consensus was decided on Monday night?

Wikinews waves Left.pngGardnerWikinews waves Right.png Last Thursday Geoff Brigham [Ed: Wikimedia’s legal counsel] asked engineering to do an internal assessment of the technical implementation requirements, because the community discussions at that point were suggesting there would likely be some kind of action. Engineering did an initial assessment based on e.g. the Italian blackout, implications for search engines, etc., and then a lot of work happened over the weekend. The bulk of initial development and testing happened on a sprint on Martin Luther King Day, a public holiday in the United States, and the final launch development and testing sprint happened on Tuesday.

Wikinews waves Left.pngTMWikinews waves Right.png Does the fact that this is affecting only English Wikipedia and not the sister projects and other language projects concern the Foundation?

Wikinews waves Left.pngGardnerWikinews waves Right.png No. My understanding is that the English Wikipedia is the only project and language-version enacting a blackout, but that several other projects and language versions are putting up supportive banners, with the Italian Wkipedians doing a clickthrough informational interstitial. The German Wikipedia decided to put up banners even before consensus was reached on the English Wikipedia, and the Arabic Wikipedia, Italian Wikipedia and Commons later made the same decision. (There may be others, that I don’t know about.) I think that’s fine: each project and each language has different circumstances that argue for different types of action, or for no action. There is no one right answer that fits everybody.

Wikinews waves Left.pngTMWikinews waves Right.png Some have said that the lack of participation by opponents of SOPA in the commercial sector (sites of the size of Twitter, Facebook, Google etc.) is going to hamper the effectiveness of the blackout – is this a concern?

Wikinews waves Left.pngGardnerWikinews waves Right.png No. I don’t think anybody ever expected the big commercial sites to black out: most aren’t in a position to participate in something like this even if they wanted to. For example, they might have shareholders to answer to, participation might cost them significant revenue, or it could break contractual agreements (such as a commitment to maintain a certain level of uptime, or some other service delivery). Most sites are constrained by various commercial considerations: that makes Wikipedia’s participation particularly powerful and important.

Wikinews waves Left.pngTMWikinews waves Right.png Given both the Italian shutdown and the SOPA blackout, is the Foundation going to come up with a policy or set of conditions which limit when these kind of things happen? There are plenty in the community who support the SOPA actions but are concerned that this will set a bad precedent.

Wikinews waves Left.pngGardnerWikinews waves Right.png Yeah, I empathize with those people and to a certain extent I share that concern. The Wikimedia movement does not have a lot of experience with advocacy, and probably mistakes will get made. At this time the Wikimedia Foundation doesn’t have any plans to develop policy governing protests or advocacy work. But, I think it probably does make sense for the Foundation to create venues for these discussions so people can share thinking and expertise. So for example, we may create a mailing list dedicated to advocacy/lobbying. And there is some good thinking starting to happen [on the project-wide protests page on Meta].


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January 17, 2012

Wikipedia, Reddit in \’blackout\’ against SOPA, PROTECT IP laws

Wikipedia, Reddit in ‘blackout’ against SOPA, PROTECT IP laws

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Jimmy Wales has strongly advocated for the blackout
Image: Wikimedia Israel.

Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Image: Ralf Roletschek.

The English version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia will go offline for 24 hours in protest against American anti-piracy laws, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The blackout will start at midnight EST (05:00 UTC) on Wednesday. The action was confirmed on Monday night with three Wikipedia administrators closing one of the most commented on policy discussions in the history of Wikipedia. According to the Wikipedia page where the issue was debated, 479 users supported a blackout only for users in the United States (with other readers seeing a banner instead), while 591 supported a global blackout.

Users who visit the site during the blackout will see a message which asks them to email their Representatives and Senators. A number of other websites are also taking part, including the social media site Reddit, the Boing Boing blog, and the sites owned by Cheezburger Network. Google also announced that they would have a link on their homepage opposing SOPA and PIPA.

Supporters of the blackout claim that the proposed laws would pose “an existential threat to Wikipedia”, and that a shutdown would be a “graphic method of driving home the point”. Opponents instead argue that the blackout threatens Wikipedia’s neutrality (one opponent wrote that “[a]ny action of this sort from Wikipedia’s side will undermine the public’s perception of Wikipedia as a politically neutral website”) and that it risks becoming involved in politics. Other opponents claimed that “SOPA does not directly endanger Wikipedia”.

In a public statement, Sue Gardner, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, responded to the charge made by opponents of the blackout: “In making this decision, Wikipedians will be criticized for seeming to abandon neutrality to take a political position. That’s a real, legitimate issue… although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not”.

The co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, instead took to the microblogging service Twitter to express his views on the blackout, telling students to “do [their] homework early” to avoid not being able to access the site. Wales also said: “This is going to be wow. I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!”

Wales also told reporters that those supporting the laws “have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy”, but that the drafted legislation “is so over broad and so badly written that it’s going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don’t have anything to do with stopping piracy”.

Chris Dodd from the Motion Picture Association of America, which supports SOPA/PIPA, released a statement accusing “some technology business interests” of attempting to pull “stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging”. Dodd went on to claim that the blackout actions are “irresponsible”, “dangerous” and “a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services”.



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October 20, 2010

Wikimedia Foundation announces departure of general counsel Mike Godwin

Wikimedia Foundation announces departure of general counsel Mike Godwin

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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The Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization which administers online collaborative websites including Wikipedia and Wikinews, announced yesterday that its general counsel Mike Godwin will leave his position this Friday. The author of Cyber Rights: Defending Free speech in the Digital Age, Godwin is a former fellow at the Yale Center for Internet Studies and staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has served as chief lawyer for the Wikimedia Foundation since July 2007.

Mike Godwin in 2010
Image: Photographed by Lane Hartwell (http://fetching.net/) on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation Sue Gardner announced the news in a public email. She wrote, “Hi folks, I want to let you know that as of this Friday, October 22, 2010, Mike Godwin will be leaving his role as General Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. Mike’s transition out of the role will be a fairly lengthy one: he will continue to be available to the Wikimedia Foundation to provide information and advice for several months to come.”

Cquote1.svg The Wikimedia Foundation believes Mike has always acted in what he believes to be the Wikimedia Foundation’s best interests. Cquote2.svg

—Sue Gardner

Gardner stated in a “Q and A” below the text of her email that Godwin was leaving the organization due to “a confidential personnel issue”, and explained that the foundation would not elaborate upon this due to privacy concerns. Gardner noted, “The Wikimedia Foundation believes Mike has always acted in what he believes to be the Wikimedia Foundation’s best interests.”

Godwin has focused his legal career in the areas of free speech and Internet law. In an article regarding his 1999 selection as a fellow at the Yale Center for Internet Studies, The Hartford Courant characterized Godwin as “a noted cyberspace lawyer and civil libertarian”.

He is noted for writing “Godwin’s Law“, an Internet maxim which states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

Godwin became the first attorney to join the Electronic Frontier Foundation after its formation in 1990. In a 2007 interview with The New York Times, Godwin commented on the issue of defamation online, “The fear of defamation on the Internet is very strong. We’re going to be riding that social panic for a little bit.” He described his role at the Wikimedia Foundation, “Part of my job is to prevent restrictive rules from being put in place that prevent people from participating in massively democratic participatory media. And then let the new norms settle.” He acknowledged he empathized with others that had been criticized on the Internet, “Look, I have been smeared online. I know how bad it feels. It hurts. If democracy were comfortable, everybody would have it.”



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June 29, 2010

Wikimedia Foundation addresses controversial content conflict

Wikimedia Foundation addresses controversial content conflict

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Executive Director (pictured in 2007)
Image: Paula Wilson.

The Wikimedia Foundation has taken action in response to last month’s image controversy on their Commons project, requesting Executive Director Sue Gardner to examine the issue, and communicating with the wider community about their concerns.

Ms Gardner has hired fellow journalist and former broadcasting executive Robert Harris to carry out this study. Ms Gardner and Mr Harris worked together for seventeen years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In early May Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales deleted scores of images which were targeted as possible pornography, despite community resistance to the campaign. Wales eventually surrendered his rights to delete files, but the controversy over the perceived censorship caused many long-term contributors to rethink their involvement – some have curtailed the time they invest in the site while others have left the project entirely.

Commons Administrator Adam Cuerden expressed his frustration over the deletions when he spoke to Wikinews last month. “He [Wales] basically lied to us from the start. First, by acting as if this was for legal reasons. Second, by pretending he was listening to us, right up to his art deletion.” The community irritation led to current efforts to draft a policy regarding sexual content for the site which hosts millions of openly-licensed media.

The Foundation’s response is a measured one, according to Foundation Board of Trustees member Jan-Bart de Vreede. “The board thinks that this is an important issue,” he told Wikinews yesterday, “we realise that there are many point of view on this. The one thing we don’t want to do is draw hasty conclusions. We have therefore asked Sue to do more research into the matter. Our aim would be to get a complete picture of all the aspects and then see if we need next steps. If there are to be next steps, we will take these together with the community.”



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September 2, 2009

Wikimania 2009 held in Buenos Aires

Wikimania 2009 held in Buenos Aires – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikimania 2009 held in Buenos Aires

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Logo Wikimanía Buenos Aires.jpg

After three days of presentations, discussion and general community interactions, the fifth annual Wikimedia conference, Wikimania, has completed, and attendeess are returning home. Wikimania 2009 — held in Buenos Aires, Argentina — was the first Wikimania held in the southern hemisphere as well as the first in a Spanish-speaking country.

Over 80 presentations, panels and workshops were held over the three day conference. Among the many topics presented were presentations on the Wikimedia Communities, how Wikimedia and related projects operate within Latin America, and the technology which relates to Wikimedia and free content. There were also panels on Wikipedia’s Growing Pains, Wikimedia chapters, and Semantic MediaWiki. Many presentation offered simultaneous live audio translation into English and Spanish.

Richard Stallman presented the opening keynote titled “Before, after, and around Wikipedia”. In his keynote, he discussed what he calls the four freedoms. He also addressed what he perceives to be the issues with Wikipedia, and particularly with the Spanish Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikimedia, also presented his annual report on the The State of the Wiki.

In her keynote, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Sue Gardner addressed a number of the concerns within the Wikimedia Foundation. Among these concerns, she noted that Wikimedia sites currently underperform in Asia. According to a comScore report, approximately 16% of Internet users in Asia use Wikipedia compared with the approximately 1/3 world average.

Gardner also said to help address that issue, the Foundation has been working with the Chinese government to help open lines of communication. To assist the development of Wikimedia sites in India, representatives of the Wikimedia Foundation visited India this year to conduct media interviews assist in holding a Wikipedia academy. They also discussed was to help the development of an Indian chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Starting August 25 and continuing throughout Wikimania, the MediaWiki developers were hard at work in the basement of the Centro Cultural General San Martín at the Wikimania Codeathon. Wikimedia developer Brion Vibber presented the highlights of the Codeathon in a presentation on the third day. Among the new features and changes are support for jQuery, allowing improved AJAX support, an overhaul of the maintenance scripts, new upload features including upload via url, several image editing functions, LiquidTreads and new AJAX editing helpers. Other features now under development are new maps support, an eventual migration to a database based configuration system, as well as a new system that allows for much quicker updates for translated MediaWiki messages.



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March 14, 2008

Jimmy Wales accused of editing Wikipedia for donations

Jimmy Wales accused of editing Wikipedia for donations

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Friday, March 14, 2008 File:P1030255.jpg

Jimmy Wales at a Wikimania event in 2007.
Image: EvgenyGenkin.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been accused of editing pages in the encyclopedia in return for a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation. In an article published Tuesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that former Novell computer scientist Jeff Merkey alleged Wales had made edits to his article on his behalf, in exchange for a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation. The news hit the website Slashdot later Tuesday, where the incident was dubbed “DonorGate”.

According to The Daily Telegraph, Merkey claims that he was told by Wales in 2006 that the Wikipedia article about him could be made more favorable in exchange for a donation. Merkey made a donation of US$5,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation, and Wales made edits to the Wikipedia article about Merkey around the same time. Merkey published his claims on a public Wikimedia mailing list and sent a statement to The Associated Press.

Cquote1.svg Of course I would never offer, nor accept any offer, whereby a donation would buy someone special editorial treatment in the encyclopedia. Cquote2.svg

Jimmy Wales

In a response Wales called Merkey’s statements “nonsense”, saying “Of course I would never offer, nor accept any offer, whereby a donation would buy someone special editorial treatment in the encyclopedia. I do routinely assist people with WP:BLP issues, and I do courtesies for many people. Donations have no bearing on that at all.” WP:BLP refers to Wikipedia’s policy regarding biographies of living persons on the encyclopedia.

After deleting the Wikipedia article about Merkey in 2006, Wales wrote to Wikipedia editors he had done so “because of the unpleasantness of it” and requested that they “be extra careful here to be courteous and assume good faith”. After erasing the article, Wales placed the article under protection with editing access limited to established users. Merkey ceased his $5,000.00 per year payments to the Wikimedia Foundation after reviewing what he called “evidence of diversion and mismanagement of the charities funds by Wales and the Wikimedia Board of Trustees”.

Cquote1.svg The Wikimedia Foundation, its staff and board members, and the users of Wikipedia itself hold the core principles of ‘no conflict of interest’ in the highest regard. Cquote2.svg

Jay Walsh, Wikimedia Foundation

In a statement responding to a post about the incident on the site Techtree.com, Wikimedia Foundation’s Head of Communications Jay Walsh addressed the Foundation’s principles regarding conflict of interest: “The Wikimedia Foundation (the Foundation which operates and maintains Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects) has never solicited or accepted donations for the purposes of making edits or offering protection to Wikipedia articles. Nor has Jimmy Wales ever solicited or accepted donations for the Foundation in this capacity. These allegations are completely false. … Jimmy has been unfailingly ethical and frugal in the use of all Foundation funds. The Wikimedia Foundation, its staff and board members, and the users of Wikipedia itself hold the core principles of ‘no conflict of interest’ in the highest regard.”

After leaving Novell amidst allegations of misappropriation of trade secrets, Merkey was sued by his former employer. He filed a harassment lawsuit against organizations including the website Slashdot in 2005. Merkey filed a suit against Delta Air Lines and Natural Selection Foods in 2006, claiming his son had become sick from E. coli contaminated spinach.

Merkey is banned from editing Wikipedia due to a ruling by Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee. The Wikipedia Signpost, Wikipedia’s community-written and community-edited newspaper, reported that a Wikipedia user account used by Merkey was blocked in October 2005 for “Personal attacks, legal threats, harassment, disruption”. Merkey was later allowed to come back to edit Wikipedia in May 2007 under a different account. As the result of a ruling by Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committe in a July 2007 arbitration case, Merkey and two users who had harassed him on Wikipedia were banned from editing the encyclopedia for one year.

Last week Jimmy Wales faced accusations by former Wikimedia Foundation executive Danny Wool that he misused the non-profit organization‘s funds, and attempted to expense a visit to a Moscow massage parlor and high-priced bottles of wine. In an interview with CNET TV, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner described Wool as “a disgruntled former employee” and called his claims “a whole bunch of unsubstantiated rumors and gossip”. Wales’s former girlfriend, journalist Rachel Marsden, recently leaked purported instant message transcripts with Wales, which implied Wales had used his influence to change the article about Marsden on Wikipedia. Wales ended his relationship with Marsden and made a public statement to that effect on Wikipedia, and in response Marsden opened an auction for some of Wales’s clothing on eBay.



Related news

  • “Wikipedia founder embroiled in affair and financial allegations” — Wikinews, March 5, 2008
  • “Microsoft offers to pay blogger to ‘correct’ Wikipedia article” — Wikinews, January 24, 2007
  • “Wikinews investigates Wikipedia usage by U.S. Senate staff members” — Wikinews, February 7, 2006
  • Congressional staff actions prompt Wikipedia investigation” — Wikinews, January 30, 2006

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March 5, 2008

Wikipedia founder embroiled in affair and financial allegations

Wikipedia founder embroiled in affair and financial allegations

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The implosion of a relationship between Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and journalist Rachel Marsden has resulted in controversy and international headlines. Associated Press and ABC News have also reported on questionable activity by Wales involving Wikimedia Foundation expenses. The Wikimedia Foundation is a donor-supported non-profit organization which runs Wikipedia.

Rachel Marsden in 2008.
Image: poppyott (Chris).

Marsden had contacted Wales two years ago about concerns she had over the article about her on Wikipedia, and Wales determined the article was not compliant with Wikipedia’s standards. The tech blog Valleywag revealed Wales had a personal relationship with Marsden, and posted supposed transcripts of their instant message conversations on its site, www.valleywag.com. Wales and Marsden met in February, and The Times reported that “An apparent transcript of their conversations before that meeting suggests that, although Mr Wales had withdrawn from the editing process, he was still influencing the editors.” The Times quoted Wales from the chat logs as having stated to Marsden “The truth is of course a much worse conflict of interest than that; but that will do.” — in reference to his conflict of interest regarding Marsden’s article on Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales in 2005.
Image: Andrew Lih.

Wales posted a public statement on Saturday on Wikipedia addressing the matter, and stated that his relationship with Marsden was over: “First, while I find it hard to imagine that anyone really cares about my sex life, the facts are: I am separated from my wife. I considered myself single at the time of my one meeting with Rachel Marsden on Feb. 9, 2008 … I am no longer involved with Rachel Marsden. Gossipy stories suggesting that I have been in a relationship with her ‘since last fall’ are completely false … I care deeply about the integrity of Wikipedia, and take very seriously my responsibilities as a member of the board and as a member of the Wikipedia community. I would never knowingly do anything to compromise that trust.” With regard to the conflict of interest in Marsden’s article, Wales had acknowledged to a team of Wikipedia editors in February 2008 that he and Marsden “became friends … and that we would be meeting about that,” and stated “I recused myself from any further official action with respect to her biography.”

On Sunday, The Canadian Press reported that Marsden had posted photos of herself on Ebay, and was selling items that Wales had left at her New York City apartment. In her Ebay posting, Marsden stated: “Hi, my name is Rachel and my (now ex-) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me via an announcement on Wikipedia … It was such a classy move that I was inspired to do something equally classy myself, so I’m selling a couple of items of clothing he left behind, here in my NYC apartment, on eBay. Jimbo was supposed to come visit me in a couple of weeks and pick up some of his stuff, but obviously that won’t be happening now.” Marsden told The Canadian Press “It didn’t really help matters that Jimmy chose to announce the breakup to the entire world via Wikipedia (which apparently now is an online encyclopedia that doubles as a personal soapbox?) rather than to me directly (which he did much later, in an instant message discussion).”

Cquote1.svg I care deeply about the integrity of Wikipedia, and take very seriously my responsibilities as a member of the board and as a member of the Wikipedia community. I would never knowingly do anything to compromise that trust. Cquote2.svg

—Jimmy Wales

Marsden placed a t-shirt and sweater which she said were left at her apartment by Wales up on Ebay, and started the bidding for each at ninety-nine cents, with the auctions set to end on March 12. By Monday, bidding on the t-shirt had reached US$300, and by Tuesday the highest bid had reached $12,200. In an email to The Globe and Mail, Marsden stated “My only focus right now, to be really honest, is on my career and finding a way to get back into print, TV, or radio here in NYC,” she wrote. “All of this other personal stuff is just an unfortunate distraction.”

Jay Walsh, the Wikimedia Foundation’s head of communications, told the San Jose Mercury News that Wales’ actions in relaying Marsden’s concerns about her Wikipedia article to a team of trusted editors was within his “routine” role. When asked by the San Jose Mercury News if Wales’ actions regarding the Marsden article could compromise his role with the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia, Walsh responded “No, absolutely not.”

On Tuesday, ABC News carried a story by Wired News reporter Megan McCarthy regarding allegations of “excessive spending” by Wales, and Associated Press also reported on questions involving Wikimedia Foundation expenses. McCarthy reported that former Wikimedia executive Danny Wool, who had left the foundation last year, criticized Wales’ use of Wikimedia Foundation expenses in a blog post. Wool stated that Wales had tried to expense $300 bottles of wine, a $1,300 dinner for four at a Florida steakhouse, and visits to Moscow massage parlors to the foundation, and that the foundation rescinded Wales’ corporate credit card in 2006. Wool also stated that Wales paid the foundation $7,000, after being short $30,000 on receipts for expenses.

Wool told EPICENTER that “There were occasions where he used [the Wikimedia Foundation] for personal advancement under the guide [sic] of the mission. And, as someone who was in there for the mission part of it, I found that rather distressful.” Wool commented in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle: “Originally, it was carelessness … But as things developed, it became more apparent and obvious that he was taking advantage of the foundation credit card. It was almost like his personal piggy bank.”

Florence Devouard in 2006.
Image: Gus Freedman/Wikimedia Foundation.

Cquote1.svg Jimmy has never used Wikimedia money to subsidize his personal expenditures. Indeed, he has consistently put the foundation’s interests ahead of his own. Cquote2.svg

—Sue Gardner

In an instant message exchange with Associated Press, Wales denied that the Wikimedia Foundation had taken away his corporate credit card, and asserted that he had made the decision to stop expensing business travel for the foundation. Wales highlighted a statement by the foundation’s executive director Sue Gardner: “Jimmy has never used Wikimedia money to subsidize his personal expenditures. Indeed, he has consistently put the foundation’s interests ahead of his own.” In an email to Associated Press, Brad Patrick, a former attorney for the Wikimedia Foundation, stated “Danny seems interested in blogging his way straight to a lawsuit”.

Florence Devouard, who chairs the Wikimedia Foundation, told Associated Press that Wales had been “slow in submitting receipts,” and that the foundation had rejected Wales’ expense at the Florida steakhouse. Devouard told fellow foundation board members in a private email that she had convinced Associated Press that “the money story was a no story,” and told Wales “I find (it) tiring to see how you are constantly trying to rewrite the past. Get a grip!” Wales told Associated Press: “The board, the current executive director, the previous executive director, and independent auditors have reviewed our books and publicly agree that all of my expenses were appropriate and fully accounted for.”

Media reports speculated on how the controversy would end up being represented in Wikipedia itself. On Wednesday, the St. Petersburg Times wrote: “Wales’ Wikipedia page said only this about Marsden: ‘Wales had a brief relationship with Canadian journalist Rachel Marsden.'” An article in The Australian surmised: “History will decide whether Mr Wales broke his own principles, but before that happens there may well be a Wikipedia page devoted to the controversy.”



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January 9, 2008

Will Wikimedia \”run on Sun\”?

Will Wikimedia “run on Sun”? – Wikinews, the free news source

Will Wikimedia “run on Sun”?

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
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An internal Wikimedia communiqué was leaked over the weekend. Like many e-mails, the document is a chain of forwards, replies, and attachments. The attached Portable Document Format (PDF) file was from a PowerPoint presentation, entitled “Wikimedia Foundation: Past, Present, and Future”. The presentation is watermarked confidential, do not distribute, and details the Foundation’s recent financial, technical, and traffic history, outlines near-term forecasts for all three, and makes suggestions for slightly longer horizons as well. By itself the document led to several inter-connected news stories.

Wikimedia Foundation approaches donors

Sun Microsystems Logo.svg

Sue Gardner was, in part, hired to find innovative routes to secure funding for the Foundation. What is interesting in this case is who she approached, and with whom.

This presentation was used during a meeting with Sun Microsystems. Sun has long been a supporter of Wikimedia, and has previously offered hardware and financial support. A loan of a Niagara machine allowed performance testing, which showed that hardware and software setup was not suitable for the Wikimedia environment which existed at the time, but both Wikimedia’s environment and Sun’s hardware and software have changed since those tests.

Elevation Partners logo.jpg

Gardner’s delegation included Roger McNamee, a technology financier with Elevation Partners among other connections to Silicon Valley’s investors and visionaries.

The document does not explain the details of the meeting, but mentions donation proposals for short term and long term. “In general, I don’t want to have a conversation with the media (even friendly media!) about meetings we have with other organizations, until and unless there is something worth talking about,” Ms Gardner replied to an e-mail inquiry regarding the presentation.

Mediawiki technology

The software which underpins the Foundation’s projects is constantly being developed, both from within and from third parties. Mediawiki is an open source software package, one with a significant share in its market; efforts to add functionality often have their own development projects and timelines. The presentation outlined some of these efforts and their respective timelines.

  • Wiki-to-print is currently in testing, and is expected to deploy February to March, 2008
  • Flagged revisions is currently in testing, and is expected to deploy before June, 2008
  • Collaborative video editing is currently in testing, and is expected to deploy initially perhaps in October 2008

Other technologies were also shown in the presentation, but these specific examples show some of the types of projects and their ambitious initial completion dates.

Kaltura collaborative video

Kaltura's Beta logo from . Credit Kaltura

Some of these technologies are joint ventures with commercial entities, such as the “Kaltura widget”extension designed to support collaborative video on the Mediawiki platform. The code for this project is promised to be open sourced, and the main page of the Kaltura site has a link to sourceforge, but the http://sourceforge.net/projects/kaltura/ cvs is currently empty though it is marked to be GPL. An inquiry into the current output of the extension finds it is embeding a flash object into the output. The special page allowing video editing was not operational after creating a user account (8 Jan 2008). The Wikimedia Foundation is expected to release an announcement regarding this project on January 14, however the current Kaltura extension, which requires proprietary flash and Kaltura’s proprietary server, won’t be used on Wikimedia sites.

“The Wikimedia Foundation is strongly committed to open source, open formats, sustainability, and privacy,” said Brion Vibber, Wikimedia Foundations Chief Technical Officer. “We’re excited to see Kaltura working towards making their collaborative video editing system open source and more compatible with the open world, and look forward to further work in that area. The initial version of Kaltura’s extension for MediaWiki is an early demonstration, and will not be used on Wikimedia’s web sites.”

An enthusiastic version of what was intended to be a joint announcement appeared for a time on the Kaltura website. At 13:29 on January 8, the page read, “The Wikimedia Foundation, and Kaltura, Inc. announced on _____ that the companies have joined forces to bring rich-media collaboration to Wikipedia. With the launch of this joint venture, users have been invited to test new functionality that will enable Wikipedia articles to include collaboratively created video, audio, animations, and slideshows as well as text and images. You are invited to experiment with this functionality at this Wiki, as well as at wikiducator.org/____.

Flagged revisions

The WikiQA external test site logo.

Other projects have been initiated from within the Wikimedia communities. The Flagged Revisions extension developed from the German Wikipedia community’s desire to have an approved version of an article being the default view, with registered editors able to choose whether to see the default view or the most recent revision. The code is primarily developed and maintained by Aaron Schulz and Joerg Baach on Wikimedia’s SVN server. Quality.wikimedia.org and the external site wikixp.org/qa are involved in testing the extension and the concept implementation.

Flagged revisions allow the community to display versions of an article which have not been vandalised and do not contain misinformation. It is a part of several efforts to improve the quality of Wikipedia articles, spearheaded by the German Wikipedia. The German model is two-tiered, with a subset of users being able to select a “sighted version” or a “validated version”. The former have been examined primarily for vandalism and simple accuracy, while the latter would involve an in-depth review of the article’s content and quality.

The initial 1.0 release of the extension was in the first half of 2007, and it continues under active development as testing at the beta stages goes forward. Community models for its implementation have not yet been finalized, and they would be needed for every project and language.

Forecasts and financials

Screen capture of slide #16.

In addition to discussing technical forecasts, future expenditures were given general forecasts and a breakdown of salary growth were presented based on pre-audit details.

Costs between June 2007 and June 2008 were predicted to double, from US$2,650,000 to US$5,700,000 (normalized). The largest growth is expected in salaries as the Foundation undergoes re-organization and fills long-vacant positions, tripling the 2007 payroll.

Florence Nibart-Devouard, current Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, expressed pleasure at discovering the projections. “We have not [had] a complete financial picture for some time. It was requested of Carolyn while she was employed with us[, and] it was one of the priorities for Sue Gardner to give quarterly updates, but these did not happen yet because there is so much to do,” she said during a phone interview on 7 Jan. “… The board did not request these projections, but I think it should be a good idea if they were informed of them. Especially when we prepare next year’s budget, in April or May.”

The Foundation’s Chief Operations Officer, Carolyn Doran, resigned in July 2007. Although Ms Gardner was hired in July, Board member Michael Davis, former treasurer, provided financial information to the board through much of 2007.

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January 8, 2008

Jay Walsh named Wikimedia Foundation Head of Communications

Jay Walsh named Wikimedia Foundation Head of Communications

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
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Recently of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), where he worked in media and public relations, Mr. Jay Walsh was announced as the replacement for Sandy Ordonez as the communications officer for the Wikimedia Foundation on an internal mailing list on Tuesday, 8 January.

“I’m extremely grateful for [Sandy Ordonez’s] hard work and excellent judgement,” said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation, in her announcement. Ordonez managed the WMF’s public and media relations from January 2007, and will stay on in Florida until the end of the month when the Tampa office is closed.

“The goal is to give Jay a fairly long handover time. So until the end of January, please continue to work directly with Sandy, while she helps Jay get oriented,” added Gardner.

Walsh is fresh from a position as Manager, Public Relations at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Previous communications positions include working for Indian and Northern Affairs, Government of Canada; Health Canada, Government of Canada; and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. His academics include Concordia and Mount Allison universities.

Walsh will be based out of the new offices in San Francisco, California when they open on the January 15.


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