Wikimania 2007: “Wikimedia Board Plenary Session”

Discussion notes: “Wikimedia Board Plenary Session”
Present: Frieda, Erik Moller, Jimmy Wales, Florence, Kat Walsh, Jean-Bart.

Normally 7 board members, 4 elected and 3 appointed.
Florence / Anthere joined in 2002 on EN and FR. Joined board in 2004. Chairperson.
Kat – Law student, US based, free culture.
Erik – from Berlin, Germany. Was journalist & writer. Concerned about managing potential of volunteers to do what they think is necessary. Most tech-focussed member.
Frieda – Italian, joined 2002, in 2005 was one the founders of the Italian Wikimedia chapter. Was elected a few weeks ago.

Q: Are you happy with the mix of non-elected and elected board members?
A: Most happy with having some appointed people. Erik would prefer all members to be elected.

Q: Print on demand. Any more details? Will we be able to get PDFs for free?
A: Want to make available to other wiki installations. Don’t want to get into specific details, want to avoid a vapor-ware situation. Working with a German company for this. [More info and some source code was released recently, several weeks after this session].

Q: How should people address the board? How do people communicate with the board?
A: “I dunno.” :-) Join the mailing lists, join the local chapters. Need the community members to push things to make them happen, because the board gets so overloaded. There are many things they would like to do, but they are only 7 people. Post-script: Contact: Cary Bass: User name: Bastique, has been hired by the foundation to be the volunteer co-ordinator.

Q: What do you think are some of the highest priority items?

  • Frieda: More communication.
  • Erik: Organising volunteers and co-ordination volunteers.
  • Jimmy: Building infrastructure of the organisation, organisational structure, to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Kat: Organisational structure, less crises.
  • Jean-Bart: Lowering the barriers to entry.
  • Ant/Florence: Usability, explaining our values.

Wikimania 2007 talk: “The Sharing Economy”

Talk by Joi Ito – “The Sharing Economy”.

Wants to have the .wiki TLD. Interested in the blogging revolution. Creative commons licenses.

We are very difficult as an audience! Very varied level of knowledge. Audience will argue back.

The Internet: “The Stupid Network” – David Isenberg (used in a paper); “Small pieces loosely joined” – David Weineberger (used in a book).

Internet created by small teams connecting together. When the Internet fails, it’s usually because of large companies and governments. The innovation is best when it is small pieces. Free software works because the cost of failure is very low – this allows ideas that would normally not be tried in large companies. E.g. Google was most exciting when it was small, and most innovative when it was small.

Professional versus Amateur:

  • The era of the professional had a large barrier to entry… We began to associate professional = good. Professionals are paid.
  • Amateur derives from the word “to love” – doing something because you love it. In English the perception is that amateur = low quality. There is a mismatch here.

Economists – think the more money you have, the happier you are. Utility function. The idea that you are trying to earn as much money as possible. People in the financial business associate intelligence with money. Yet often people are motivated more by factors that don’t have anything to do with money.

Also there is a difference between pleasure and happiness:


  • Drugs
  • Gambling
  • Winning lotto
  • Good weather

You can buy pleasure. We adjust to and quickly get used to pleasure.


  • More than enough is too much.
  • Comes from compassion – giving and receiving love.

You cannot buy happiness.

Amateurs make decisions based on happiness. Professionals maybe more based on pleasure.


  • Hollywood oversimplifies (Shock! Horror!). Pirates sometimes are not stealing; they are in fact fans that are addressing a need that is not being made (e.g localisations that don’t exist; movies which they simply cannot buy in their region).

There is a culture gap:

  • Remix – combining pre-existing material in new and interesting ways
  • E.g. the grey album (black album + the white album)
  • We are currently stifling free speech of remixing video.

Unregulated uses of things, like books – things can currently do:

  • Read
  • Sell
  • Sleep on a book
  • Burn a book
  • Fair use (tiny little grey zone)

Mostly only people who were copying a book and selling it were triggering copyright law.
Most uses of books are free, and unregulated.
Most regulated uses were commercial.

There is a big difference when we go from analogue to digital. Suddenly we are triggering copyright law all the time, because with digital material things get copied ALL the time, and indeed NEED to be copied to work. E.g. a DVD is copied into memory to be displayed; a web site’s pages are copied over the network and into memory when it is displayed in your browser. In the digital world, copies are EVERYWHERE and are REQUIRED for it to work.

Law + Technology = DRM.

Amazon is saying things like “let’s charge per page or per view”.

Now people are saying, “let’s charge second hand book stores”. It’s a creeping form of greed. Companies are not about happiness, they are about money.

There are also people who want “no rights reserved”

Creative commons is in between these two ends of the spectrum.

Creative commons = “Open source for content”. It’s also a “user interface for copyright”.

CC non-commercial no-derivatives is NOT a free license – how can you say it’s free when there are so many restrictions and regulations? – can take this into court – has a legal code. Can add metadata to material to indicate the license restrictions.

With the Internet, want it to be open – it’s GOOD that your enemies and people you don’t agree with can use the Internet – it makes it a much more interesting place and a more useful thing.

Ensemble. The importance of diversity. How a few negative comments can damage group cohesion. How to get different people with very different backgrounds to work together. A sense of unity and shared purpose. A lot of this ensemble gets lost in mailing lists and IRC and the minutia of day-to-day remote stuff – it’s why conferences and get-together are so valuable.

People who work in an online community care about the rules WAY more than people in companies. Most employees will never read their company rules, or comment on them. Studies have found that paradoxically, places with more rules tend to have happier people (because people know where they stand and what’s acceptable). (Personal comment: There has a be a limit to rules otherwise, like the real legal system, ordinary people will need specialists / lawyers to navigate all the rules. E.g. I’m personal slightly doubtful that more rules and guidelines would be constructive for the English Wikipedia).

Wikimania 2007 talk: “Visual identity and Visual Consistency of the Wikipedias”

Talk: “Visual identity and Visual Consistency of the Wikipedias” by Guillaume Paumier. Link to talk’s page.

Wikimedia names and brands.


  • One colour per project (e.g. wikibooks one colour for all languages that wikibooks supports)
  • Official name and localised motto and transcription.

Choosing good logos:

  • Good message
  • Good graphic quality
  • Fitting in the visual identity of the organisation. Pertaining to each other, yet unique.

Stats on other wikis:

  • Around 85% of wikis are like the Wikipedia’s visual identity.
  • In 74% of installations only the logo is different.
  • The default is MediaWiki skin is Monobook, so most MediaWiki wikis look like Wikimedia sites, because it’s the default.

Want a different visual identity for Wikimedia wikis. Want to change the default layout.
Showed some proposed mock-ups for skins, as a starting point for discussions.

Designing a new skin is a challenge. The skin currently is rather overloaded / cluttered – has many links, disclaimers, interwiki links. Want to simplify the UI. Only 4.6% of visitors are editors, and most of the links are relevant to editors. Want perhaps to have a way of switching between viewing and editing mode.

Question of usability. Site needs to work well for everyone. Clean and simple UI, with easy discoverability.

  • Nav bar between the projects.
  • More visible links
  • Thematic consistency
  • Pull down JavaScript menu for actions.

Q & A afterwards:
Q: Why no pull-down menus currently?
A: Client compatibility issues, what happens if JavaScript is not enabled.

Idea of maybe having a small Wikimedia logo on the Nav Bar, to establish that these sites under the Wikimedia umbrella.

Q: How to proceed?
A: Some usability testing by a uni / college could be useful.

Add an experimental non-default test skin. Would be okay to add this to MediaWiki core.

Wikimania 2007 talk: “Wikia”

“Wikia” talk, intro by Angela, some from Gil, majority from Jimmy Wales.

  • Wikipedia = non-profit reference material.
  • Wikia = Approaching very different material (e.g. gaming wikis; Wikis on really complicated & convoluted shows like “Lost”; POV / personal perspectives). For-profit.

I.e. A magazine focussed wiki instead of neutral reference-focussed wiki.

  • Licensing terms
  • Content censorship
  • Let the communities decide

Why would you use Wikia?

  • No installation or maintenance
  • Stable and reliable hosting
  • Large communities so you are not alone.
  • Single-sign-on.
  • New features. (Details?)

Gil – background is eBay.

  • ArmchairGM.
  • User pages – have pictures.
  • German Wikipedia has concept of “people I trust, and people I don’t”.
  • Can add friends, can track activity of friends and foes.
  • Can see the Geo-Location of other users.

People contribute for 2 reasons:

  • Social activity, make friends, etc.
  • Care passionately about the topic at hand.

Showed the Wikia WYSIWYG editor (Personal comment: I think the momentum on this has been lost because of the delay in releasing the source code externally; rather the momentum now seems to be behind FCKEditor).

Open or closed? Future of search:

  • Free access – search engine project – announced Dec 2006.
  • A lot of confusion about this.
  • How things are rated and ranked is proprietary. Considers Google to be a problem, since search has to be trusted. Building the stack (AKA the LAMP stack), and break out the similar requirements for search.

Open source search:

  • Public algorithms for ranking (i.e. the maths that lead to those results)
  • Make a crawl of the web publicly available.
  • Bought “grub”, a web crawler.

Search advertising is a proprietary biz model. There will be ads. Wants mechanisms to prevent Google-bombing. (Why? Large-scale distributed google-bombing is kind of rare, although SEO techniques for messing with keywords are painfully common…)

Opposed to Google’s yielding to the Great firewall of China to censor content.

Wikimania 2007 talk: “WikiHow case study”

“Challenges in a growing wiki : The wikiHow case study” by Jack Herrick (Wikihow founder). Link to talk’s page.

Things people do on the Internet, top 3, in decreasing order:

  • Research buying things
  • Read the news
  • Find out how to do things

Get good feedback from people using their site (showed some feedback messages).

Wikihow started Jan 15 2005 (Wikipedia was Jan 15 2001). By the end of May had:

  • 700 articles
  • 13 active editors

Travis is the engineer.

First article – “how to ride the elevator”. :-)

Jan 2006:

  • 9000 articles
  • 162 active editors.
  • Quality standards rising.

Jan 2007:

  • 15000 articles
  • 250 active editors
  • Existing admins redefine who should become an admin

June 2007:

  • 20000 articles
  • 522 active editors
  • 40 admins

Things want to improve in wikihow

  • more languages
  • more articles. Don’t have red links so much.

Doing okay on:

  • traffic
  • Equality on gender participation
  • Hand patrol every edit.

Wikihow works towards making editing wiki editing easier. Have tried to solve the licensing of uploaded images. Built a tool/extension that links into flickr. Shows the acceptably licensed images based on a search term, and with a click will upload these to Wikihow, and add all the right licensing information. Have written the extension for this. Would like to see this extension or something like it enabled on Wikimedia Commons. (Q: Is this extension in SVN? Update: thanks to Tgr – Yes, it’s the ImportFreeImages extension ).
Also use templates for entering information.

For-profit wikis: Good or evil?

  • Have advertising, which is the biz model & how they pay for everything.
  • Registered users = No ads
  • Anon users = Get ads, but they are minimal
  • This blended approach seems to work okay.

This is how Silicon Valley views user-generated content: Showed Evan P’s crowd sourcing slide.

Showed the wikihow biz philosophy:

  • A community service 1st, and a biz second.
  • Let go.
  • Go slow.
  • Build community.
  • Share it.

Other things:

  • Will try hiring someone for the German wikihow site, because it’s not growing organically. This is a seeding process.
  • Trying to create a for-profit company focussed on a public good.
  • If their biz model works, then it will be a good example for other wikis.
  • Wikihow is forkable. Right to fork both the source code ad the content of the wiki. Thinks this changes behaviour in a very positive way.
  • Have modified MediaWiki quite heavily. Source code available.
  • Have not faced any lawsuits yet, Lawyers have told them there are no problems until get much bigger. (e.g.: 10 times larger).
  • Q: do you feel any pressure to share profits? A: There are sites that pay people to create content currently. However does not think that paying volunteers will wreck the whole concept of wiki content creation. Totally different dynamic between work (I’m working on this to get my points to make a buck), versus “I am creating this for fun and for good”.
  • Interwiki linking is there, but it hardly every gets used.
  • Want to get a WSYIWIG editor happening. Thinks the Wikipedia is too hard to edit. E.g. only 10% of folks can figure out wiki syntax. But 100% of the people should be able to contribute. E.g. The WYSIWYG stuff from Wikia or FCKeditor. Will try both of these and see how they work.
  • Suggested license for starting a wiki: CC-BY-SA. Used a difference Creative Commons license and has sometimes slightly regretted this (used the non-commercial CC license?).