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[dupe] Wikimedia Foundation's runaway spending growth (wikipedia.org)
150 points by hk__2 on Oct 8, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments



See extensive discussion on HN (1054 points, 406 comments) of this issue back in May.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14287235


Thank you; I looked up that post’s title on HN before posting it but got no result.


I am the author of the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has Cancer". The previous discussion led to a version of my essay that was published with my permission in the Wikipedia Signpost. That version was dumbed-down a bit by the signpost editors, In particular they removed most of the references that document that my claims are factual. This version is the version I keep updated as errors are found.

For the record, I prefer that this thread have the same title as my essay. The current title misses several important aspects of my essay, such as transparency and the dependency on revenues always increasing.


> The modern Wikipedia hosts 11–12 times as many pages as it did in 2005, but the WMF is spending 33 times as much on hosting...

Wikipedia also keeps "revision history" and a "talk" section for each page. Those original pages created before 2005 can still be modified, potentially adding to the overall cost. Breaking news stories can cause massive amounts of churn which I imagine has increased with the site's popularity [1]. So really 11x pages = 33x higher hosting costs doesn't seem unrealistic considering how much metadata is associated with each page. That's not to say there isn't a problem, but "page count" might not be the best metric. I wonder what average number of revisions per page looks like over the last 12 years.

[1] https://xtools.wmflabs.org/articleinfo/en.wikipedia.org/Talk...


Since 2005, hosting has gotten much cheaper, and techniques for storing extremely large amounts of data have gotten much more efficient. But as far as I know, MediaWiki is no better positioned to begin taking advantage of those facts. It's still a PHP app accompanied by a huge, vertically scaling MySQL. There's no telling what might work better for Wikipedia, but there's plenty of avenues for experimentation. Maybe revision history could be more effectively stored in Amazon S3-like storage, instead of MySQL. Maybe not, but there's many such possible optimizations I doubt have ever seriously been considered.


I think the savings would be in having an efficient core with lots of caching, similar to the Stackoverflow architecture.

Push as much off to the CDN as possible, and dynamically reduce the cache time as edit velocity increases on a page (with cache time increasing again as edits fall off).


You can do even better than that with something read-mostly like Wikipedia.

Have a bunch of caches (or a cache hierarchy) which request pages on first use and then cache them indefinitely. Then when a page actually changes, you push notify all the caches to immediately evict that page.


Sounds error-prone if the notification ever fails to reach some subset of the caches. A long expiration time (e.g. several hours) is probably almost as good, but also "self-healing".


Giving out the wrong page for several hours is obviously better than giving out the wrong page forever, but it's still broken.

Better would be to re-request the page after several hours and compare it to the cached copy. Then if they're different, update the cache, but also generate an alert to notify the administrator that something "impossible" happened and there is a bug somewhere that needs to be fixed.


You're right, page count is not the best metric. Instead you can just look up the hosting costs in their yearly report and find out it's a pittance compared to all their other spending and declining in relation.


Could you link me to that?


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/43/Wikim...

Page 3. In 2016 they spent $2M in hosting vs. e.g. $2.2M in "travel and conferences" and $3.6M in "donations processing expenses".


Well, shit. That’s horrendous, half of the money is just going to salaries.


Given that the entire point of WMF is that they pay people to do stuff, it would be alarming if salary wasn’t their largest expense. Why would anyone donate if not to pay for them to work on stuff?


Most of what they do is host the work of others, who are not paid. It seems more than a little obscene that a corps 300 employees are splitting 31 million, for the task of overseeing a 2mil hosting operation.

They spend more on processing donations than hosting. They give away about 5x as much as they do on hosting. What value are these people adding beyond the cost of hosting the repository built by people who are not paid?


I mean, that's what the complaint is about. People think when they donate it's to ensure the Wikipedia keeps running and is maintained. In reality most of that money is feeding an insatiable beast that has very little to do with "running Wikipedia".


> Most of what they do is host the work of others, who are not paid.

Have you actually read their annual report lately? I don't follow what they do at this point, but the last time I checked many of their contributors were paid.


The vast majority of people who write Wikipedia articles are unpaid. We are all volunteers, writing with our own time. In fact, paid editing must be disclosed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Paid-contribution_di....


Unless they’re one of the 300 employees splitting that salary, winning awards, or under the ~3mil of specialist services....

If the latter, then they still account for a fraction of the budget.

Bull. Shit. An operation which could be run for about 5 mil is running an order of magnitude higher for no discernible change in service.


Half of expenses being wages and salaries isn't clearly out of line and is probably fairly typical for a lot of non-profits. Also, if you look at what the senior people are being paid, it doesn't really seem particularly excessive--low six figures.


Having office space in SF seems to be...unnecessary? Can someone explain the need for this expense?

Operating Leases

The Foundation has a seven-year noncancelable operating lease for its San Francisco location. The lease expires on September 30, 2017.

Minimum rent payments under operating leases are recognized on a straight-line basis over the term of the lease including any periods of free rent. Rental expense for operating leases for the years ended June 30, 2016 and 2015 was $1,341,844 and $1,291,452, respectively.

Future minimum lease payments under noncancelable operating leases as of June 30, 2016 are as follows:

Year ending June 30:

2017 $ 1,306,986 2018 329,565

Total minimum lease payments $ 1,636,551


There's a difference between a nonprofit and a charity.


There seems to be an obscene amount of profit compared to expenditures related to the actual site. Charity hardly even enters it; looking at those financials, nooooo one will accuse them of charity, barring their award activities of course.


Your comment mentioned salary specifically, not profit. Nobody should accuse mediawiki of charity because that's not what they claim to be. They are simply a company whose stated goal is not to make a profit. In that case it makes sense their salaries are high if we assume a positive correlation between salary and work completed.


I worked for Wikimedia from 2012 to 2016. During that time I successfully agitated for the creation of a dedicated performance team, which I led for its first two years. During that time, we cut median page load time by over 40% ( http://observer.com/2015/08/how-wikipedia-upped-its-page-loa...), and brought median page save time down from over 6 seconds to 800ms.

My salary was in the 100k to 150k range. That is not a princely sum for software developers in the Bay Area, but it is a lot of money, especially when you consider that it came primarily from donations of $50 or less that donors could have spent elsewhere, on other causes. I was humbled by that fact and made a point of reflecting on it daily to make sure I was doing my best to maximize value for donors and users.


"Sounds like cancer doesn't it"

Causes me to immediately stop listening and start doubting everything you said and claim, questioning your motive.

It is an emotional appeal. Which 1) insults my intelligence, thinking I'm stupid an unaware enough to fall for that. And one or more of the following 2) you're too stupid or poor at arguing that you don't know you're doing it 3) the facts don't support your side so you try to rile up the ignorant and gulliabl to win 4) you don't care about argument / have other motives like fame, clicks, distraction from other issues.


The original title to that essay when it was published was : Wikipedia has cancer. Hence that sentence.

Now that sentence does not make any sense. Author must have forgotten it when he changed the title


I am the author of the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has Cancer". For the record, I would prefer that this thread have the same title as my essay. The replacement title("Wikimedia Foundation's runaway spending growth") only tells part of the story. My essay is not only about spending, but also on the lack of transparency, the dependence on revenues increasing exponentially with no plans for dealing with a downturn, the spectacularly poor quality of the software that we are spending millions on, and the deceptive banners asking for donations. Please restore the original title.


It's not an emotional appeal, it's simultaneously a rhetorical device and a pretty neat analogy.


I don't like X, and it is growing = cancer, is the full depth of the analogy. Pretty weak. Unlike cancer, we wouldn't want to eliminate 100% of expenses. Unlike cancer, expenses are necessary for survival. Unlike cancer, it's possible expenses should be growing faster, to fuel growth or whatever - this is the argument that needs to be made. Calling something cancer this loosely, is very close to the annoyance of invoking Hitler so quickly.

"I don't know about all dem der hosting costs you speak of, but I sure as hell don't like that cancer"


>I don't like X, and it is growing unabated like cancer

I think this is much more closer to the actual point he's making.

Also I'm not sure that condescending the author when they've actually put a lot of effort into sighting their claims and spelt out what their point is clearly and coherently, is necessary.


I am the author of the essay "Wikipedia has Cancer". I did put a lot of effort into documenting my claims, and I would encourage anyone interested in clicking on the links in the essay. In particular, I have documented what others have said about Wikipedia financials, and some of those pages are rather good.

Whether you agree with me or not, I would ask everyone to keep an eye out for any factual errors so that I can correct them.


Your article is informative and thought-provoking, only the analogy to cancer is a bit hyperbolic and unnecessary.


I guess there are different ways to read it. You could say the same of anything you don't like that grows at a superlinear rate. Given our tendency to not like things, and the tendency of things to grow at a superlinear rate, the analogy is non-specific, and hardly neat.

For me, it echoes the tendency of every angry child on the internet to call things they don't like "cancer." Edginess of this kind does not speak to me.


It's also an insult to people with actual cancer.


Why is that? People with deadly viruses aren't insulted that we call malevolent programs computer viruses. Equating my laptop with a human would be insulting, but I don't think that was done here.


Because real cancer kills people. Wikimedia spending more money is not going to result in anyone actually dying. Calling it a cancer trivializes the pain and suffering of people with actual cancer and their families.


I am the author of the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has Cancer". For the record, I am myself a cancer survivor, and I have received multiple emails from other Wikipedians who have cancer saying that they have no problem with my essay title.


I've been very fortunate never to have had cancer, and to only ever know one person who did. But she'd dead now so I can't ask her for her opinion.

I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree about this.


I wish that the WMF spent some of their mountain of cash on programmer time on security reviews of the extensions in the Mediawiki ecosystem. Instead, it feels like it's mainly just me in my free time, as part of my efforts for the nonprofit wiki farm, miraheze.org. The WMF does a great job on any code used on or produced for WMF servers, but for the other extensions listed on mediawiki.org, it's a smorgasbord of XSS and SQLI. A lot of those are git hosted by the WMF too, so don't use the hosting location as any indication of security.


~$160K/month for hosting for a site that big[1] is pretty damn good. I'm sure they're getting a lot of favors and discounts to get there.

[1] - http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Rankings

I've worked with a bunch of sites farther down that list that are spending an order of magnitude more than that.


I've worked with a bunch of sites farther down that list that are spending an order of magnitude more than that.

If the site was repeatedly down or slow people would complain even more. Wikipedia is truly global and that adds to costs.


I'd be happy to work with them and help dramatically lower their costs by using my network...


> If we do these things now, in a few short years we could be in a position to do everything we are doing now, while living off of the endowment interest, and would have no need for further fundraising. Or we could keep fundraising, using the donations to do many new and useful things, knowing that whatever we do there is a guaranteed income stream from the endowment that will keep the servers running indefinitely.

This is probably the best point in the entire essay, if they reduced spending funding would essentially become obsolete. Kind of clashes with the begging banners which have made me donate to WMF the last couple of years.



Do you not know what flirting is? He was obviously joking.


> He was obviously joking.

As was Animats.


I miss gawker.


Gawker somehow managed to be worse than the daily mail.


I had no idea that he was also the owned of wikia. Quite disappointed.


Didn't he establish Wikia after he donated Wikipedia to non-profit? I see nothing bad in Wales making few bucks form Wikia after what he helped to create. The Wikipedia spending problem is a different story.


In itself, no. But there was a lot of issues and conflict in relation to how the creation of Wikia affected policy, and suddenly a lot of things that had a "home" on Wikipedia were now being pushed to Wikia for a variety of reasons, some valid, and some a lot less so.


Can you share more details or resources? I would like to learn more about this.


Why?


The numbers are alarming, but the argument needs to be more persuasive.

For a proposal like this, I would expect to see a breakdown of where the money has gone and realistic projections of futures expenses. Simply providing alarmist statements based upon linear extrapolations (after being adjusted for inflation alone) then proposing an even more alarmist buyout (when the only thing of tangible value is the domain name) is not enough when proposing potentially crippling changes to funding.


> For a proposal like this, I would expect to see a breakdown of where the money has gone and realistic projections of futures expenses

The Foundation’s financial statements are online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Guy_Macon/Wikipedia_has_C...


I am the author of the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has Cancer". I have included links to all of the financials that I could find in my essay, and I have repeatedly asked for more transparency regarding how the money has been spent.

Just to take one example, Sue Gardner, Wikimedia Foundation executive director from 2007 to 2014, received $100,000 pay rise and was secretly kept on as a "special advisor" after we were all told that she stepped down in 2014. This was kept secret for years, until it turned up buried in a required financial disclosure.

I also would like a breakdown of where the money has gone and realistic projections of futures expenses. What you see is my best effort to provide that. If anyone has more information, I will be glad to add it to my essay.


I knew a guy who was a software engineer for Wikipedia back in uni. At least back then (around 2011 or so) they were flying him and other software engineers working for them to conferences across the world to Europe. Not only that but the guy booked the tickets on a premium airline business class. He said that everyone did that. You'd think working for a non profit you'd be looking at discount airline economy class tickets.


I worked at the Wikimedia Foundation from 2012 to 2016. The Foundation did fly me across the world several times, either to attend professional conferences like FOSDEM or (more commonly) to participate in events hosted by a local chapter, like a community hackathon. I never flew anything but coach. I can recall one occasion when a colleague was able to get a free upgrade by using his frequent flyer miles. I am not aware of the WMF ever paying for business class for one of its employees.

This sort of comment is really pernicious. If you bring up such an accusation, you should really be prepared to back it up.


Unfortunately I can't back it up since I'm not the person in question, nor am I willing to drag this person into the spotlight since he's a good guy who doesn't deserve it.

It's possible that they'd already cut down on the spending by the time you joined. After checking back when I would have seen the case I mentioned, it was in fact 2010 and not 2011.

Also is it possible that the foundation has different practices in different countries? I was in Australia at the time for reference.

Out of curiosity, how common were these local community hackathons? Even flying economy it seems a bit excessive to be flying people across the world for that...


It is also possible that " the guy you knew who was a software engineer for Wikipedia back in uni." was flat out lying to you to show off.


I am the author of the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has Cancer". I have recently had extensive private correspondence with several current and former Wikimedia foundation software developers. The developers are not living lavishly. They are doing about as well financially as developers in other industries. In addition, the developers are not doing a poor job. Every problem with the software that the WMF has released was caused by bad management decisions, mostly by managers who no longer work there.


It is not a lot of money when you consider the amount of value it generates in terms of fostering relationships between volunteer developers and providing assistance to interested first-time participants who later go on to make meaningful contributions to the MediaWiki software stack.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the most recent hackathon, and some of the things that came out of it: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Hackathon_2017/Repo...


Travel for business is usually not fun, especially if you have to do it more than a few times a year. And economy class is getting worse every day. I totally understand if they let people fly business class.


Sorry, but I fully disagree. There's nothing wrong with economy class. It's a bit tight space wise, sure, but you can easily chill out with movies for the day. Non-profits shouldn't be splurging out on things like this.


Non-profit doesn't mean non-comfortable.

I'm not even a tall person, but economy is tight enough that my whole body hurts 1 hour into a ride. It's impossible for me to find a sleep position and watching last year's mediocre movies isn't a plus to me.

For a rare trip, I can deal with it to save money. But for frequent trips, I could see myself being quite pissed off if I had to take business trips regularly and sit in economy each time.


I mean it's not like attending conferences and hackathon if critical to the job of a Wikimedia engineer. I'd get it if you were being flown out for some mission critical job that couldn't be accomplished remotely or by someone local, but imo if you're being flown out by a non profit for something like the things I mentioned upgrading to a more comfortable class should be paid for by you, not the organisation.


For non-execs, economy is pretty much the standard at most organizations these days. Not necessarily some "steerage minus" deal but definitely not business unless you can get upgraded on your own. I do travel enough to get a slightly better version of economy but I don't get many upgrades to full business.


By that same token though, we wouldn't be fitting offices with ergonomic chairs and standing desks - regular furniture is good enough and it's a lot cheaper.

Really, if you're spending a lot of time in $place, be it an office, a plane, a house - whatever, you want it to be as comfortable as possible. Business class gets cheaper the more you use it, and even then for a business with revenue well into the tens of millions the price difference on a single airfare is negligible. You might pay a few hundred extra on a ticket, but in return, you get a happier and more comfortable employee.


This was talking about international flights. The difference is much, much more than a few hundred bucks. If you’re buying an international economy ticket from the US for $1500, the business class seat on that same flight will often cost $6,000 - $9,000. The price difference is massive.


That's true, but it still doesn't offset the other benefits of not spending hundreds of hours each year crammed into economy if you're a regular flyer. Not to mention the discounts and other little benefits you start to get when you rack up more mileage.

It's in the same basket as every other 'quality of life' improvement a business could make like nice desks, social events, fancy coffee machines, free food etc. If it fits into their budget, and offers a benefit to their employees that makes them more productive and more inclined to stay - then I'd say it's money well spent.


Why? Why would you expect a software engineer working for a nonprofit to look at discount airline economy class tickers?


As an academic who travels a fair amount, I try to pick the cheapest available flight (within reason), and I've certainly never even considered flying business class. I think flying business class is permitted under certain conditions if there's still money in our travel budget, but it wouldn't feel like a good way to use taxpayer money. I think I would feel the same way working for a nonprofit funded by donations.


> but it wouldn't feel like a good way to use taxpayer money

Thanks. Curious, because this comes up on HN now and then: Do you make your research public? I understand this might not just be in your hands though.


I do publish in paywalled journals but all my papers are freely available as preprints from arxiv. Also, all software is open source.


Hey, thanks!


Because they're spending funds donated by people who were sold on the idea that Wikipedia was desperate for cash? If its own employees aren't trying to do simple things to save cash here and there I'm certainly not inspired to send money their way.


I mean, maybe it's just the culture I am used to, but I would expect everyone/anyone to be looking at discount airline economy class tickets by default.


Why? You're working. You may well be traveling on your own time. I travel within guidelines but that doesn't mean traveling in the cheapest possible way even if it's more painful than it has to be.


I'm not arguing for cheapest way possible no matter how painful, just that I am used to a cost-conscious approach by default that starts at the cheap options and works upward and that's what I would tend to expect in this scenario.


You specifically referred to discount airlines which in my limited experience with them are mostly pretty awful to start with.


Wikipedia is also a bit cagey about whether their overall traffic is growing or not.

Specifically, Google's changes to how they display Wikipedia derived info have driven traffic down. Links that used to go to Wikipedia often now link to Google's own sites with copies of the data.

https://searchengineland.com/wikipedia-confirms-they-are-ste...


What do you mean by "a bit cagey"? The Foundation is pretty open with its data. https://analytics.wikimedia.org/ and https://stats.wikimedia.org/ are good starting points.


I was referring to this: http://www.businessinsider.com/wikipedias-jimmy-wales-slams-...

Both of your links seem to confirm declining page views.


Since Wikipedia doesn't derive any income from direct traffic, it is actually a good thing for Google and others to host copies of the data, so long as they comply with the Creative Commons licensing requirements. This reduces the cost for Wikipedia to spread knowledge.


I'm skeptical about that. Wikipedia has used traffic in the past to solicit donations. Over time, it's also increasingly less obvious that Google's content came from Wikipedia. So it reduces overall awareness of Wikipedia as an entity.

It also questions what the money is for. As far as I can tell, Wikipedia doesn't pay for good content, those contributors are unpaid.

The money is largely for the site and underpinnings. And we just established that views are being drawn away from that...


Isn't it as much a matter of what the community gets out of the spending that the Wikimedia foundation does? It seems like the problem is that the spending seems divorced from the community of content creators, such that it's hard to see how the spending has made Wikipedia better.

You have things like the comments system, Flow or Structured Discussions, which is a step back from the current system and yet still has money being spent on it.


The financial statements linked in this rant don't support this sort of of panic...

The WMF's assets increased by $20,000,000 over the last year, up to reserves of now $90,000,000.

I'm not in a position to judge the effectiveness of their spending, but this completely antiquated paragraph about the waterfall model of software engineering makes me doubt the author's judgement.


I am the author of the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has Cancer".

No, you are missing the point. I did not imply that Waterfall if better than Agile (I have managed several Agile projects and really like it when it is done correctly). What my point is is that the WMF is failing to do things that Agile requires -- things that have been around so long that Waterfall required them. Nothing about Agile allows you to build software in secret with no input from the people who will be expected to use it and then throw it over the wall.

It would again stress that this is not the fault of the developers. Their management forbids them from talking to the ordinary Wikipedia editors who will use the software.


IMO a lot of these expenses are because they have the money. I am sure they could cut xx% of their staff plus travel expenses and the average user wouldn't notice it. Eventually they might have to do it, but Wikipedia is unique and it's a shame if it wasn't funded by (especially by) those making tens of billions online.


I am the author of the Wikipedia Essay "Wikipedia has Cancer". For the record, I would prefer that this thread have that title (it was recently changed to "Wikimedia Foundation's runaway spending growth".

I would also note that focusing on hosting costs pretty much ignores the point of my essay, which is the exponential growth of spending and the dependence on future exponential growth in revenue.


What would happen if Wikimedia switched to the content to primarly use IPFS to distribute the content to reduce bandwidth costs?


I try to alleviate as much bandwidth to Wikipedia as I can by using the Google cache version whenever I can. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.


You could probably save time by just estimating your bandwidth costs - which are probably tiny - and donating 10x that to the foundation.


Don't do that. Your time is more valuable than the artificial micro-cent the wikimedia foundation will save.


Why is using the Google Cache version not as equally productive as using the main Wikipedia content?


It might be equivalent, even faster, but that was not the problem he suggested he was solving for.


To summarise, you suggest it's a waste of time, I ask how is it a waste of time to click on one version of a link over another, you suggest there's no difference in efficiency. The point I'm making is, GP is no worse off for using the Google Cache version. They might miss out on a few edits made after the page was cached, but in the grand scheme of things that's unlikely to matter.


Isn't that what kills most charities that don't starve?


Wikipedia isn't a charity, it's a non profit. Their financials look fine, they have over a year's budget in reserves. Not seeing the issue at all here.


The issue is that the organization and spending have grown, but the mission hasn't, and they're not obviously doing better or more than they were a decade ago, except for a list of failed projects like Knowledge Engine that appear to be badly managed internal efforts that had little hope of succeeding.

And all this is against a backdrop of continuing to present themselves as a scrappy do-gooder surviving on fundraising and volunteer efforts.

The threat Macon identifies is that the bottom will drop out of the exponential growth in revenue and spending, leaving them no option but to sell out to Google, Facebook, or another party that will simply buy and monetize them, destroying the basic value that Wikipedia does still offer.

I don't know how worried to be, but I was genuinely shocked to find out how much money they take in and how many staff they have, without fundamentally being much different than I remember from a decade ago.


the project that i'd like to see is a beta area where the notability requirements are relaxed, with some sort of semi-automated process for promotion, with the ultimate goal of covering a much larger corpus

wikipedia is great for mainstream stuff, but even technologies with vibrant communities often lack a wikipedia page. and i'm sure the problem extends well past tech


There's a site that tries to do that exact thing called Everipedia, but they have been frequently lambasted in the press for being wrong in their articles. I assume you can't relax notability while at the same time selecting for accuracy. Still though, they are getting pretty decent traffic, and I like their site design. Valiant effort, not that great execution.


Everipedia is a blatant copy cat site run by a guy who doesn't let anyone correct the BS on the article on him on his site.

See https://www.reddit.com/r/wikipedia/comments/74ba05/slug/dnxd...


What do you mean? I went to that thread and came out more confused than enlightened. And ya, I know they get stuff wrong from the news, I already said that in my original post, I wasn't trying to shill for them, I made that pretty clear.


> but even technologies with vibrant communities often lack a wikipedia page

Do you mind mentioning some of them?


Real quick search but, for example, linkerd does not have a page and fluentd is little more than a stub. There is separately a list of Linux Foundation projects and one can argue that they don't need their own page.

But it does point out that there's a lot of inconsistency about the quality and depth of articles. Lots of articles are pretty good but then I'll hit some important tech topic that has a pretty bad entry. Things like biographies are also wildly uneven depending upon how currently well-known a person is.


If the topic is notable enough to have a Wikipedia article, anyone is free to go ahead and improve the article.

The Wikimedia Foundation doesn't write articles or decide what topics to include; the Wikipedia community does that, at no cost to the Wikimedia Foundation. Anyone who wants to contribute can join the community at any time.

Also keep in mind that Wikipedia does not allow original research, so if a topic doesn't have much reliable third party coverage, then the article wouldn't be able to include a lot of details.


I'm curious what you mean by "the mission hasn't grown". In the last 10 years Wikipedia has become perhaps the go-to resource for ready reference, information on breaking news, Google search results on a given subject, etc. They've grown quite a bit in that time. But the mission hasn't changed? What direction would you see them take?


Those have all been true for more than a decade, since Wales was bragging on TED that they only had one employee and everything was volunteer driven. The scale of the operation has grown, with some necessity, but the mission is the same and doesn't require exponential growth in dollars.


Wikimedia had expanded in that time, adding projects like wikibooks, and similar properties. It's also become a target for parties that want to manipulate it, but has been surprisingly resilient to that.

I'm not sure if that all requires this level of growth, but its use and importance have grown exponentially. I can't think of many places that deserve those funds more, really.


I am the author of the Wikipedia essay "Wikipedia has Cancer".

Re: "It's also become a target for parties that want to manipulate it, but has been surprisingly resilient to that" not a penny of the budget deals with parties that want to manipulate Wikipedia. That is dealt with by unpaid volunteers like me. --~~~~


Which of those things doesn’t fall under the umbrella of making the sum of all human knowledge accessible to anyone for free?


> The issue is that the organization and spending have grown, but the mission hasn't

The same is true for Google. Are they negligent for not running the whole thing out of a Starbucks?


Google is a for-profit entity designed to maximize revenue and returns for shareholders. It's an absurd comparison.

You mention that the WMF has a year's budget in reserve. For a non-profit, this is generally considered a bad thing except in certain forms like building an endowment, because hoarding cash is just a way for a non-profit to actually profit and keep it. The previous ED of wikimedia actually called this out as a problem because they don't have the governance structure to prevent "log-rolling, self-dealing, and other corrupt practices".


How is it any different? Increasing their spending either helps them meet their goals faster or it doesn’t. There is zero difference between for-profits and non-profits in this regard.


They were meeting their goals a decade ago with one part-time tech and a budget only 3% of what it is today. How has exponential growth in revenue and spending improved or sped up goal-meeting? It's kept a lot of wikipedians employed building features no one wants (or outright rejects), but it hasn't furthered the goal of collecting the world's knowledge, which is still almost entirely driven by the entirely voluntary editorial staff using the same tools they had a decade ago.


> Their financials look fine, they have over a year's budget in reserves.

I think the question is if they actually need a $65mil operating budget -- or one that's growing 15%+ per year.

Especially since they're giving away a sixth of their budget in awards and grants! At that point, they're taking on a secondary role as a financial institution funding projects in addition to their primary one. If they cut this, they'd need only $55 million and would have almost two years of reserve.

(We can also talk about if salary creeping up from a third to half the budget over the last ~5 years is appropriate. But that's a smaller issue.)



How are salaries nothing? Those don't even seem that extreme compared to what someone with that skill set might make elsewhere in the private sector.


Wikipedia should be replaced by an AI generated encyclopedia. This is the one and only answer.




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