People like to focus on the excess growth of management roles within the foundation and call it "cancer", but all large organizations have some possible waste within them. It might just be one of the many costs of doing business and pursuing what are in reality some very ambitious and perhaps worthwhile goals. And building a long-term endowment only looks like the prudent thing to do, since the results of fundraising can be quite volatile and uncertain.
This is something they should work on. But as every club that get successful and was open (I attended many Wiki/Wikipedia meetups 20y ago) it gets more restricted and close to keep the masses out. What a shame.
"Trying to edit something" is a bad idea these days - the content is far too developed for that. Instead, post on the talk page with a description of your suggested edit, wait for people to object/complain/discuss, refine the text on talk if needed, then edit. It's pretty indistinguishable from a "pull request" workflow on github.
Yes, I know that a lot of novice-focused content advises people to edit directly. That's fine for fixing typos and bad grammer, not for substantive work.
Neither is true for Wikipedia. There are no clear owners for each article so the editors are more or less hidden in the shadows (from the readers and casual contributors, at least), instead of being front-and-center of an article and explicitly taking responsibilities. It is also very unclear why they get to “own” the article like a GitHub repository; are they the initial author? Major contributors that took the baton from the original author? In many cases they are, but Wikipedia does not make that relation clear, so the editors look like self-appointed to an outside eye, which is why people have issues with gate-keeping (not the gate-keeping itself).
Making things worse, an “outside” contributor also has no chance but to work with those (seemingly) self-proclaimed maintainers; only one article can be under an entry on Wikipedia, your own modified copy has no chance competing with the original, even if you managed to make other people aware of it and agree it’s objectively better. That’s competitive imbalance, another trait of undesired gate-keeping.
I’m not saying what the Wikipedia community is doing is wrong. But if that’s how they want to do things, they need to fix Wikipedia to reflect what they want the process to work. The current system is broken.
Wikipedia recommends doing things, not talking.
Articles are also graded, I don't know what article GP is talking about but I'd say anything below "good article" is fair game.
That's absolutely not how it's been presented for the last couple decades, though.
Second if this is the way to go - and I don't agree  - the UI should reflect this workflow and not propose a different one that mostly fails.
[Edit] PRs also assume some kind of owner and committer relationship, which might be right for open source projects but is not the case of Wikipedia - even if many editors on Wikipedia consider the content "their own".
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiWikiWeb - "Cunningham's idea was to make WikiWikiWeb's pages quickly editable by its users, [...] . The usefulness of Wiki is in the freedom, simplicity, and power it offers."
 Wrote a quite successfull wiki 20y ago called SnipSnap, the engine of which started Atlassian Confluence, and did several years of research in using Wikis back then.
They do, particularly in educational contexts - getting students interested in Wiki projects and having them write review articles with good sources as "homework" that can then be posted to Wikipedia. But supporting that takes money as well!
Also, I know companies or celebrities who pay for their Wikipedia pages. You can find this service in 5 minutes by googling.
"Profit-seeking and mindless consumption" can be a motto for the current WMF.
For the smaller ones, that is warranted - for example, the Croatian Wikipedia is infamous for its bias towards nationalist positions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatian_Wikipedia), something that's only made worse by the aftermath of the Balkan wars decades ago... as a half-Croat myself, I can only say: let's keep it at "the situation is complex and sucks all around, Wikipedia is just one symptom of a much deeper problem".
For bigger projects such as English and German Wikipedia, sheer numbers make outright disinformation spreading much more difficult - there the problem is different: what you see is usually factually correct and neutral-ish, but there is a widespread consensus that Wikipedia editors skew towards white, male and somewhat privileged (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia#Coverage_of_topics_a...).
Personally, I trust scientific and pop culture related articles in most if not all versions of Wikipedia - but keep a healthy skepticism for everything political, since there it is the hardest to judge completeness and accuracy of any subject.
Money won't change that.
Example 2, there was two mass shooting in March:
In the Boulder shooting, all victims where white and the shooter was targeting white people but they don't mention any of that.
In the Atlanta shootings, the article goes out of its way to mention 6 of 8 victims where asian (asian-hate narrative). In reality, many spa owners are asian.
Theres is definitely a bias in their editing.
Where can I learn about this?
Roughly, English Wikipedia hit its editor peak around 2007 and has been very slowly declining since then. Various people argue about various causes. Theories I've heard include wikipedia becoming too rule heavy, to community just not scaling past that point, to the internet being a lot more interesting now then it was in 2007 so more distractions, community being mean/troll-filled now, everyone using mobile phones which are crap for writing long form content, all the easy to write articles are written, etc (Probably missed some).
It's probably less satisfying to change the wording in one sentence in an article about an Australian cheese than it is to write that article. So fewer people care.
I could be wrong but today it seems that most editor efforts in the English Wikipedia goes towards news, politics and media. It would not surprise me if those have a natural lower retention rate than other form of articles.
On the other hand, the grown amount of content means there is proportionately more content to maintain—which might take even more effort and attention to detail than writing new content.
That, as well as the reputation and pervasiveness of links to Wikipedia, together make it more vulnerable to and a more compelling target for instances of blatant or stealthy misinformation, censorship and vandalism.
On that topic, I suspect a resource that tracks change histories for sensitive Wikipedia articles, aggregating and correlating changes by IPs and usernames along with some smart NLP analysis on text contents of the diffs, could end up being insightful.
 Many of us know a certain date coming up, publicly remembering which starting this year is already punishable by a prison sentence in Hong Kong. Maintaining the article covering this one is hopefully taken care of for now as it is pretty conspicuous—but for how long, and how many lesser known articles are there…
It's a very sharp peak. What happened in 2007?
Having 10% of new editors stick around seems amazingly high.
Has anyone done the same for post 2015?
People donating to wikipedia only want wikipedia, they are unaware of the other stuff wikimedia does.
Those projects would crash and burn though, because frankly, no one cares about them. Stuff like wikidata and SPARQL endpoints are an academic curiosity with no real value.
The semantic web won't happen, articles do and will.
In addition to that, the whole deletion first and no primary information attitude makes sentences like "ecosystem of free knowledge" laughable.
On the contrary, Wikipedia itself has a lot of reliance on the other projects. For example, Wikidata solves the problem of interlinking Wikipedia languages and other projects when they're hosting content about the same real-world entity. In fact, this was Wikidata's MVP - the reason it got funded in the first place. It then took off from there.
Wikimedia Commons is a similar story - in addition to the obvious languages issue, there are a lot of concerns about media (such as licensing. enhancement etc.) that really are best addressed in a dedicated venue, with its own committed contributors. This has been very beneficial to Wikipedia itself.
Wikidata isn't just used for interlanguage linking. Its also used to keep infoboxes synced across different languages, and a way to easily query that data (Depends a bit on the language, english wikipedia isn't fully on board with the system, but its been a big boon to smaller languages).
As a result, people can update these "facts" independently of language, keeping them altogether more up to date, and it allows the data to be queried independently (via https://query.wikidata.org - try some of the example queries (button top left) if you haven't, the level of power SPARQL gives for querying this type of data set really is very cool).
Part of Wikimedia's mission is to spread knowledge. Allowing querying of factual data with a query language like sparql helps advance that goal by letting people use extract the knowledge for new purposes.
Like I said, gross overengineering.
"You can save cents and seconds of time updating knowledge boxes, by spending millions and hours developing federated SPARQL query capabilities!"
And since the data happened to be there anyways, we added an RDF export feature, and threw that into a BlazeGraph DB so that people could do SPARQL queries if they want. The (not really federated) SPARQL queries have basically nothing to do with the central-place-to-store-facts that are used in multiple places, feature, but it was pretty cheap to do once everything was in a central place.
Edit: And thank you for some insight into the back end of wikipedia - I did not know multiple languages was such a big push and it is such a sensible direction . Keep up the good work and keep pestering me for cash each year.
There's a very old architecture doc from 2012: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Manual:MediaWiki_architecture its kind of outdated and missing a lot of the newer pieces.
p.s. I used to work for the Wikimedia foundation about 1.5 years ago, but don't anymore. Prior to working there I was a volunteer for the FOSS project, and in theory I still am but I honestly don't do much anymore. My opinions are my own and don't represent WMF or anyone else.
How often is numerical (which is the only knowledge you can really automate this way) knowledge updated? How often is said knowledge dependent on cultural idiosyncracies? How much effort is the code maintenance of the specialised editing system? How much effort is maintainance of the centralised infrastructure. How much effort is it really to change the data in multiple places, given that enough eyes every bug is shallow? What are the oppirtunity costs of not being able to properly distribute and share articles because they are suddenly tied to a very specific codebase? How much infrastructure cost do I have because I can't get volunteers to host my data?
Overengineering solving the wrong problems at it's finest, no wonder the software has stayed this bad for decades now.
Numerical knowledge is not the only knowledge that is stored there.
I'm going to go with update rate of often. It has a higher edit rate than english wikipedia does.
> How often is said knowledge dependent on cultural idiosyncracies?
Sometimes that is true, other times it isn't. The system is used where it makes sense, and not used where it doesn't.
> How much effort is the code maintenance of the specialised editing system? How much effort is maintainance of the centralised infrastructure.
There is certainly some. I wouldn't say its dominating, but it certainly exists. There is plenty of centralized infrastructure for other things too.
Prior to the introduction of wikidata, more complex fragile systems existed to try and keep things in sync in a more manual fashion. They also had a cost.
> How much effort is it really to change the data in multiple places, given that enough eyes every bug is shallow?
A lot. And we don't have that many eyes in lots of languages. There's a lot after all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:SiteMatrix
> What are the oppirtunity costs of not being able to properly distribute and share articles because they are suddenly tied to a very specific codebase
Not sure what this has to do with it. Articles are written in a custom markup language. That's already tying it to a specific code base quite heavily. The wikidata dependency is pretty trivial, and there are open apis to get info out of wikidata, and regularly made dumps of all the data in wikidata if you want to copy it. If that's not good enough, just copy the rendered version instead of the source.
> How much infrastructure cost do I have because I can't get volunteers to host my data
I'm not sure what you're talking about. Wikipedia was never hosted in some magical peer-to-peer fashion on volunteer web servers, nor is there any situation where it is likely to be hosted that way. The goals of (near) instant update time, as well as some central quality control and user blocking, makes distributed hosting pretty impossible.
Everything wrong with wikipedia summed up in one paragraph, nice!
But disagreing with wikipedia's goals as a product is very different from a claim that the solution intended to meet those product goals is over-engineered.
How are centralization, real time editing, and user blocking properties toward the above goal?
You probably know full well that network effects are prohibiting any other collaborative knowledge base from from ever croping up again.
All big companies link against wikipedia because the network effect, all funding and donations go to wikipedia due to the network effect, all editors spend their time on wikipedia due to the network effect.
Wikipedia is eating it's own childen, and if we ever want to get something better, it either needs to grow up and start acting like a responsible adult (which we know it won't because at it's core is the failed web equivalent of the stanford prison expetiment), or die and make space for a new genration of tools.
And if you have some magically technical solution that is much better and much easier, then please share it. And don't just complain that everybody else is doing everything wrong.
If you just optimise for today, you will die tomorrow.
Gradual improvements won't get you out of a local peak when that local peak is swallowed by rising tides.
If your organisation isn't doing things that look pointless today but in a principled way, I don't think it has great prospects of long-term survival.
Heck, even the wiki concept itself started out as this long-shot experiment nobody at the time expected to be successful.
The semantic web is "tomorrow technology" for 20 years now.
At what point does tomorrow technology become yesterdays vaporware to you?
Piling onto the glorified garbage dump (just follow the isA edges of any concept you'll see what I mean) is a strawman metric.
It's not that easy to work with, but there aren't any good alternatives in my case. Freebase died. DBpedia doesn't compare. Domain-specific databases don't have the data I'm looking for (or it's woefully incomplete and/or hard to link to external entities) because it straddles multiple domains, not to mention they're usually not free. I for one am very thankful for Wikidata existing and seeing good activity.
My work on wikipedia articles is for the benefit of my fellow humans, not to allow some organisation to start implying that everyone has a moral obligation to give them money. That was never part of the deal when I contributed my work.
Disgusting?!! They ask for money. They don't sell your data, which is what most sites/apps you use do. They don't abuse their position, as an important information source. Disgusting compared to what?
Meanwhile, Wikipedia has some of the most accessible financial information of any comparably sized organisation on the planet. This is why the get so much heat. The financials are easily understandable, which means a financially literate journalist or commentator can understand what's going on and take a cheap swipe in under a minute.
You can literally understand wikimedia's finances better in 10 minutes than you could after weeks of studying any other non profit, publicly listed company, NGO or government organisation. There is no attempt to hide any controversial element... Asset accumulation, clearly and deliberately highlighted. Expense growth, ditto.
That is a very peculiar attitude to have.
The editors who provided all that value will get $0.
It's like buying an album where $9.92 goes to the label and yet the label still complains about freeloaders depriving the poor musicians of income if they don't pay the $10.
That is not to say that those who make certain amount of quality edits shouldn't receive something for it, or even be hired in to be on staff editors (potentially there are these kinds of positions within Wikimedia and I just don't know about it).
Comparing the practice of asking consumers for an optional donation once in a while, without any access restriction to the content, versus being (legally) forced to buy the album (also taking into account streaming here) where the funds go mostly to the label doesn't make any sense.
This will make it more financially tenuous, not more.
Added to which, once the insitution is addicted to money it becomes that much easier to corrupt.
And the organization will grow? (More people)
How can one stop such things, generally, in an organization? (If it was large enough already)
This is the very source of the complaint though. People want to donate to fund the thing they actually use, not a bunch of other arbitrary projects they don’t care about.
I mean take a look at the donation page under “Where your donation goes”.
It does technically mention a “wide variety of projects” but the whole thing is written to make you feel like you are donating to the encyclopedia that is barely scraping by. And it certainly doesn’t mention anything about an endowment.
First off, how much of this is going to wikipedia editors and how much is going to other stuff? Honest question, I tried looking and I couldn't figure out which grants actually get approved.
Secondly, the number of editors peaked in 2007, as far as I know. Why does the money spent on grants and awards keep going up if the number of editors keeps going down?
I see this argument often associated with Mozilla as well and I cannot put into words just how much I disagree.
They've both made a product that's immensely useful to me, to the point where I don't even second guess donating to these projects on a semi-regular basis (like once or twice a year, usually in the range of $50-$100 per donation, equivalent to what I pay to certain services for a yearly subscription). What they do with that money is completely not my concern. I've donated money, it's up to them to decide what to do with it. I trust them to make that decision because they've already made a product that I rely on quite frequently.
I couldn't care less if they use it to support an existing successful product (Wikipedia or Firefox), throw it into some other fringe thing that has a tiny chance of turning into another immensely useful product to me, fund advocacy projects, fellowships, CEO salaries... it doesn't matter. I trust the team behind it so I throw money at it.
It was asking for keeping the Wikipedia we use operational for a long time to come. No mention of educating the world or 'broader development goals'.
A Wikipedia that is created by volunteers (including the hundreds of language versions) for free, managed and promoted by sometimes high paid employees with expansion ambitions.
Are they risking the future of the Wikipedia we like and use today by the costly ambitions and the costly organization required to realize the big ambitions?!? Are they overstreching their means?!
The begging for money banners only talk about keeping it operational. Not about 'sister projects' or other ambitions, they do not ask money for those!
(not to mention that some of the banners condemn being commercial, saying 'it would be a great loss', exactly what Wikimedia LLC aspires to do)
"Imagine a world where every single person on the planet can freely share in the sum of human knowledge: this is our commitment." They could hardly be any clearer about it. And even if your goal is to keep Wikipedia thriving, you need these sister projects.
Sharing knowledge is a well understood long lasting profile, education is not.
Also the 'need' for sister projects is an unfunded claim, a mere opinion. Actually the "bring you unlimited access to reliable information" that is explicitly mentioned in fundraisers already thrives for long without sister projects.
So what is educating people, if not sharing knowledge?
> Different things with different requirements, a different (related) activity.
That's one way of looking at it. Another is: Just different words for the same thing.
Allowing access to information is essential part of the education but is not the education itself!
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Chek out its home page, top left corner! ; ))
If they have big ambitions, want to be more than 'mere' sharers of information that is fine, having huge organizations with high paid managers and PR campaigns for the education of the world and the future or whatever big words they pick, it is fine. But then please communicate that when begging for money to keep "Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia" running.
They should not misinform us....
That said, I think we are all getting tired of 501c3's begging for money when they seem to be doing fantastic on paper.
I once heard that St. Judes Childrens hospital has 20 years of funding in the bank, and that's taking into account of new procedures, and inflation.
Cars for Kids has one house in the Sierra foothills that benefits children. (This was true around 5 years ago when I looked into the nonprofit.)
My point is the charities we all know through endless advertising/begging might not need money.
ISTM that the only viable solution is federation, where multiple, independent, small, tightly-knit organizations cooperate on the shared goal of hosting content, media, etc. on real-world entities and topics. But, ironically enough, Wikidata and other Wikimedia projects are the closest thing we have to something that might actually enable this development! (The former in its de-facto role as a semantically-enhanced "web directory" of entity identifiers; the latter via the "right to fork" that's inherent in all free-content licenses.)
And perhaps more to the point, Wikipedia has legal personality in the UK, so one assumes the above applies.
But really it would be pointless: I'm not going to tell Wikipedia what their strategy should be when I donate. So even if you do, they can put my donation to whatever purpose it is that yours precluded.
However, often restricted donations result in people spending money on things that don't matter, because it might be earmarked for something that isn't needed. Even if not, it can distort priorities in ways that people earmarking the donations aren't aware of.
Its the sort of thing, where the bureaucracy of it clearly isn't worth it for small donations.
According to WMF's financial statement, there was about 4 million of such restricted donations in the 2018-2019 year.
Godspeed to them in this endeavor. I think this is not the time to become absolute purists in the choice of tech overlords. The tech world is being controlled by less than a handful of trillion-dollar monopolists that crush anything that stands in their way. A few hundred million in this war is a drop in the ocean.
Yes, power corrupts, and money is power. Yes, left to their own devices, people in NGOs will maximize revenues and expand their employee empires - just like those in the for-profit sector. What matters is the strategic goals and their execution by the leadership, and there is nothing - absolutely nothing - to indicate that WMF went astray from its stated mission.
I cannot but feel this is another pissing contest like the open source world experienced, where everybody and their brother started their own distributions/forks to virtue signal their true commitment to the open source goals. This led to a massive fragmentation of the scene, the few companies that tried to use the model, like Redhat and Ubuntu, were exposed as deviationists from the party line; meanwhile big tech ate the world and put every man, woman and child on the planet in invisible jails.
The assumption that operating as a non-profit implies an entity should stop asking its audience for help advancing the mission, or that it should pay its necessary staff less than competitive wages...please.
Give wikipedia more so they can take on the MUCH more well-endowed and entirely opaque private capital taking over nearly every other information outlet in the US and often around the world.
It's less obvious what would cause Wikipedia's money to dry up, but in light of Mozilla's example the only part of this I disagree with is the article's negative angle on the endowment. Creating an endowment like that is exactly what Mozilla should have done.
I think Mozilla did some good or at least had the right intentions with some of their sideprojects and think they should keep trying.
On the other hand I have to contain myself from insulting their current CEO in this context given she made her wage shoot up whilst their marketshare was shrinking so much, laid of so many from the servo team among many others which i think could have been very important for firefox's future whilst at the same time running projects like giving half a million to artists to look into the potential intersection of AI and racism if I understood it well.
I wonder it's a project by one their new board members the addition of which i don't exactly see the point of either.
I don't think they should keep themselves busy with this kind of stuff but if they do fine...
If they keep themselves busy with this kind of stuff they should try to make an impact but if they want to analyse and highlight fine.
If they want to analyse and highlight i feel like they should give this money to researchers or a study or so.
But then they give the money to some bloody artists.
If it works i'd like em to fix world hunger with a painting next.
And what's worse....
They do it whilst they're laying of the staff of the ship they're sinking.
Hi, let me introduce you to this weird newfangled language called Rust... /s
More importantly though, we have other Rusts. Rust has half a dozen competitors and essentially nobody thinks that making a robust new systems programming language is an unachievable goal. Firefox is the only non-profit browser engine we have and most people consider it an impossible undertaking to develop a new one from scratch at this stage. Indeed, Microsoft recently tried before conceding defeat and switching Edge over to Chromium's Blink.
We got some of it: the Rust language and Quantum. I would say the only two good things that Mozilla did in the last 10 years.
Finally, in 2020, the Servo and Rust team got the recognition they deserved, they got laid off...
It is almost like the old joke with the rower, where on a boat race, a team of eight people rowing and one steering beats a team with one person rowing and 8 steering. The losing team change its structure, now with a complex hierarchy but still a single rower, who eventually gets fired.
I have donated to Wikipedia several times and feel violated now. They might have not lied outright but acting as if you’re a poor Non profit when you are most definitely not poor is outrageous. I don’t know if Jimmy Wales is part of this entire charade but this is exactly what you expect to happen when you employ a CEO who charges north of half a mill to run a non profit - their intention is to just increase their coffers with no clear plan on WHAT they are going to use it.
There might have been a time when the banner was genuine and a donation from the user was needed to plan their budget a year in the future, but if they’re showing the same banner now after making hundreds of millions (and if this article is accurate, willfully hiding it as much as legally possible) they’re disgusting. I feel less disgust interacting with entities like apple and google, at the least their intentions seem far more honest than this bs.
I don't think its fair to call this willful hiding. I mean, they've written blog posts about this subject - https://diff.wikimedia.org/2016/01/14/wikipedia-15-foundatio... you don't write blog posts about things you're trying to hide.
Disclaimer: used to work for them, don't anymore.
The banner IS genuine.
Non-profit funding IS scarce.
Funding streams are fickle and Wikipedia has none of the monopolistic advantages that keep Apple and Google and FB and MSFT owners vastly vastly richer than any Wikipedia staff will ever be.
By volunteering you ARE doing something so much more valuable than any post to any for profit social media platform, INCLUDING this one.
The reason you think "intentions" are "honest"? Advertising.
Please revisit your assumptions.
Best wishes, sincerely. Cheers.
> “This Thursday Wikipedia really needs you. This is the 10th appeal we’ve shown you. 98% of our readers don’t give; they look the other way … We ask you, humbly, don’t scroll away.”
You think "really needs you" IS genuine?
And what does "volunteering" have to do with the question being raised in the article or by the OP you are responding to?
To inform this conversation a bit, the biggest driver of salaries is the market cost of domain expertise and leadership. Wikimedia's salaries are pegged to a basket average of leading US non-profits, but (particularly for more experienced staff) dramatically below market rates for technology organizations.
You cannot run something at the technical and social scale and complexity of Wikimedia without exceptionally talented people, and you can't compete for talent without some degree of competitive salary. Although Wikimedia employees leave a lot on the table in order to work for a mission-driven non-profit (comparative compensation but zero upside equity), it isn't sustainable (or arguably ethical) to ask people to work for significantly less than the value of their labor.
IMHO, the Wikimedia ecosystem organizations could (and perhaps should) be significantly better resourced than they currently are in order to serve the mission of the organization. Currently most of the funding goes into servicing the existing infrastructure, much of which is dominated by the scale of the largest, largely European-language, Wikipedias.
To truly serve the world free knowledge, and serve it well, Wikimedia would need to continue to invest in increasing its global competences, often in regions/languages/markets where operations are more challenging, with commensurate cost. That would mean scaling up that expertise, whether language engineering or legal. All that costs money, which is why so much of the world is so poorly served by businesses with ROI models.
Fortunately, that's not Wikimedia, and will never be. And hopefully, it will also never be the case that some loud people on the internet dissuade the projects, movement, and organization from investing in the necessary capacity to sustain the remarkable good it does for so many hundreds of millions of people and hundreds of millions yet to come.
What is not ethical is to create the impression that you struggle to have enough money to keep Wikipedia up and running, when in fact you are three or four times richer than just five years ago, and are building a $100M endowment in half the time anticipated.
What is not ethical is not to correct that mistaken impression – that you often struggle to have enough money to keep Wikipedia up and running – when you are asked directly, on TV, whether it is true that you often struggle to have enough money to keep Wikipedia up and running:
Global plans for knowledge equity are well and good. But then you (or now, your successors) should TELL readers about these plans when asking them for money. Instead, under your watch the WMF has scared people – including millions in third-world countries like India, where it takes 200,000 people donating the recommended $2 to pay just one year of your annual compensation – into thinking that Wikipedia is about to go under, or may have to raise a paywall.
Telling prospective donors about your plans for global expansion, including the plans for machine-translated Wikidata-based articles in hundreds of languages via the new Wikifunctions project, the building of regional hubs, etc., has several objective advantages, over and above just being a simple question of honesty.
Among these advantages are:
1. People can decide whether or not you are the right organization for the job, and the best organization to support for this.
2. People can compare actual progress made to the rhetoric, and demand to see results for their money. How much money is stockpiled, used to fund WMF salaries rising to even greater levels, and how much actually finds its way to Africa, India, etc.? How much free content is created? Is the work cost-effective?
Raising funds by pretending you are struggling to have enough money to keep Wikipedia up and running relieves you of that scrutiny and accountability – because then the mere continued existence of Wikipedia will appear to have justified the money demands, and the money donations.
Avoiding scrutiny and accountability is a slippery slope. It is not good for an organization. You don't just want cheerleaders.
Moreover, consistently pretending to be poor also makes you vulnerable (deservedly so!) to backlashes like this one:
This Twitter thread, with 1.6K Likes and nearing 1K re-tweets at the time of writing, describes your banners as "deceitful", "manipulative", designed to "guilt people into donating money they would've otherwise spent elsewhere." The author goes on to describe your fundraising practices as "predatory, misleading, malicious and downright evil," saying you've been "preying on poorer folks from less well-off countries" to give you money you absolutely didn't need.
When people learn about the actual state of WMF finances they feel fooled, had. You can see this from the comments of past donors here on this very page. Why do that to them? The German fundraising banners (the only ones authored by a local chapter rather than the WMF, I believe) don't pretend there is an emergency. Germans still donate millions each year, because people love Wikipedia. Why overegg the WMF banners in this way, when volunteers have told you, year after year, that they feel disgusted and ashamed by them?
This is my view of the ethics of the situation. I have a question about transparency, too. As mentioned in the article, last year the WMF had an underspend because of the pandemic and put $8.7M of this unspent money into a Tides Advocacy fund: the "Knowledge Equity Fund".
Last December, a volunteer expressed disbelief that such a substantial amount of donors' money had been secretly transferred to an unaffiliated outside organization ( https://lists.wikimedia.org/hyperkitty/list/wikimedia-l@list... ).
The WMF had promised in its 2019/2020 financials FAQ to provide further information on this fund by the end of 2020. Then it promised the information would be made available in early 2021 ( https://lists.wikimedia.org/hyperkitty/list/wikimedia-l@list... ). Then it promised it would share details in May 2021 ( https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Wikimedia_... ). These repeated promises have all remained unfulfilled.
It is now June. Almost a year has passed since this money disappeared from the WMF accounts. As far as I am aware, still no one outside of the WMF and the Tides Foundation knows what has happened to those $8.7M.
Whatever this is – even if there is nothing whatsoever improper about the fund, and full details describing exactly what has happened with donors' money will in due course appear – it falls short of the standards of transparency the WMF and its spokespersons have often claimed to uphold.
I agree that there were some problems with the fundraising messaging in India. It's an example of where the initial message testing worked, but when it went to a full campaign, the press ran with stories that were misleading and alarmist. In fact, WMF staff then worked extensively with the communities in India and did a significant amount of press, including television interviews, to clarify the purpose of the fundraiser and dispel concerns.
You continue to push for messaging that you personally believe to be more truthful to your belief about how fundraising works. Okay. That's fair, and you are entirely welcome to continue to do that. However, years of research and focus groups and testing has continuously demonstrated that the primary reason people donate to Wikipedia isn't a fear it will go away, nor is it a strategic interest in the future. The overwhelming reason is gratitude that it exists, and the opportunity to have contribute in their own way.
Would I personally respond to a message about mission and strategy? Yes, I would. But most people do not. Instead, millions of people find the donation banners acceptable and even inspirational -- far more so than messages about product and feature improvements. So despite the loyal opposition of you and others, I'm fairly certain that the WMF will continue to fundraise with messages that work on the level of what people care the most about, which is what Wikipedia means to them in their own lives.
Moving on, the WMF has been entirely clear that $4.2m of that $8.7m is going to affiliates for this year's APG funding. I would have wanted to get information about the $4.5m set aside for knowledge equity out the door faster, but I am no longer at the organization, so cannot speak to your concerns.
> I'm fairly certain that the WMF will continue to fundraise with messages that work on the level of what people care the most about, which is what Wikipedia means to them in their own lives.
Those two are obviously contradictory. WMF's messaging is clearly, blatantly aimed at presenting the Foundation as having a problem staying afloat. If you didn't think the primary reason people donate to Wikipedia was a fear of it going away, you wouldn't be pushing messaging that is designed to cause people to have precisely that fear.
Quite frankly, your messaging reads like typical corporate doublespeak, and does nothing but further make me lose trust in the foundation.
The implication is that for them, the sense of urgency was precisely the reason they donated. They believed they were helping "a friend in need". That's what made them feel good. Being used, not so much.
Still: Do you recall what you said in response to Trevor Noah, when he asked you, "The downside of it means you often struggle to have enough money to keep Wikipedia up and running. So ... is that true and how does it affect you?"? Would you mind sharing it here?
People who donate to Wikipedia are indeed generally motivated by gratitude. They would feel this gratitude whether the banners evoke a sense of financial emergency or not. The Germans (the only ones, I believe, who do their own banner wordings rather than translating the WMF's) have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve adequate results without evoking this sort of threat.
Now to evoke such an illusory sense of threat to Wikipedia's independence in Latin America in the middle of a pandemic, when the WMF was already nearly $50M ahead of its overall year goal with three months to spare, seems unconscionable to me, whatever the focus groups say.
Do you not think that people reading this exchange will find your attitude towards readers disrespectful and exploitative? Are you not saying, in so many words, that they're not capable of understanding what you would: that they, unlike you, need to be manipulated?
You appear to be saying that as long as readers, donors, don't know they've been tricked, but rather feel inspired, enriched by having given, everyone's needs have been served: theirs to feel good about themselves, yours (the WMF's) to have more money.
This may all be true: but it's manipulative. The idea that this sort of thinking should guide the management of such a widely used source of information as Wikipedia, which purports to be about informing people about reality, is unpalatable.
First, it's a fallacy that executive rates for nonprofits should be set by the market based on others. Who would say their nonprofit CEO is in the bottom half? Nobody, or they wouldn't want that person to be CEO. Therefore, everybody reevaluates and pushes salaries up, up, up to the sky ... exactly like they do in for-profit businesses, an endless cycle of greed. Would you have done the job for $200K? If so, you should have. If not, you shouldn't have been at Wikimedia. It's really that simple. Interestingly, the techies do work for significantly less than market rates but the suits don't. You are (or were) very well paid.
As for the fundraising, the messages are self-evident and dishonest to the point they're arguably fraudulent. Like Jimmy Wales using the term "bankruptcy" when he said well, we'd never want that. Sure - it's like a mobster saying "it'd be shame if..." then denying the threat. Both of you know exactly what those messages were meant to and did imply. Stop gaslighting.
I'm sure the WMF will continue to fundraise because, let's face it, that's all the organization actually does. They fundraise and nothing else. Wikipedia is 100% volunteers. Have you even edited anything on Wikipedia? You were/are the PR person before your higher role.
As for the final piece, moving on... no. Absolutely not. Wikimedia exists to make money. You're/they're working on a project right now to charge Google, Amazon, Facebook and the rest (who, oh yeah, are colluding to support Wikipedia as a single-source of truth ... which is exactly a long-term goal. of the CFR - but I'm sure that's a total coincidence). This is a fundraising organization, barely tied to Wikipedia.
Wikimedia exists to pull in money. Nothing else. The messaging is questionable enough I believe it should be investigated by various consumer agencies. At most, 1/3rd of the money raised goes to support what people know of as Wikipedia - those are Lisa's numbers. I doubt the figure is even that high.
People: Wikipedia's server costs are about $2.5M per year. That's it. Figure admin fees about 3x that, $10M per year give or take. The rest ... you can sit until you're blue in the face wondering where the money goes because they're not saying.
Sadly, the banner has only gotten bigger and more dire over the years.
You need some perspective.
Is that wrong ? Far from reality? Help them (and readers like me) get a clear understanding.
OKAY, it is an ugly accusation considering "don’t know what it takes to run a globally available top site", but why? How much does it cost to run a Wiki like site on that high traffic using some modified form of mediawiki platform?
I am just trying to get a clearer understanding than attacking / siding anyone
Or hosting all the images? Or paying developers, devops, managers? Like sure, some middle manager may be unnecessary but a big company will have inefficiencies. Also, it is a good decision to not stop accepting funds once a monthly quota is reached since donations are fickle. An article like this may suddenly cause an outage in donations, they have to have reserves for such cases.
When someone goes to Wikipedia and feels "this was awesome; I want to support this... and OMG, they say they might fail if they don't get money from people like me!" it is absolutely unethical to take their money and spend it on Wikidata, a product this user might have no clue exists and may or may not care at all about. Maybe Wikidata is a great thing, but then the pitch should be "we are glad you enjoyed Wikipedia! don't worry: Wikipedia is safe, as we have more than enough money to fund it! however, we have other projects we think might make a similarly positive impact on the world... maybe you would want to donate to one of them?".
I think this article rubs me the wrong way because it leans a little heavily on vagueness to take you from the facts to how you should feel about them. Some volunteers are not amused? How many? A majority? A vocal few? "Wikipedians who have made hundreds of thousands of edits may well feel someone else is enjoying the fruit of their labor." Well, do they or don't they? Did you ask them?
I'll even admit that my initial reaction to this article was why do they need more of my money? But I gave $10 last year (basically nothing for my current income), and I'll do the same this year. Don't give so much money that you get bent out of shape about where it goes. If everyone gave an amount that meant relatively little to them, they would be in great shape. That's also basically what the donation banners say, too, but the article doesn't mention that.
You'll note that (eg) Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, The Economist and Al Jazeera are all considered "reliable" (green), while Fox News is yellow (OK except for politics).
Better than any other site where the pov is decided by who has the most money
What will happen when Wikimedia is gone?
There's a reason there's such a relentless smear campaign against it. Instead of turning our backs we have to think of ways we can support Wikipedia and protect it from shills with deep pockets. If you have any ideas on how this can be done more effectively try bringing them up! Anyone can sign up and participate. That's Wikipedia's strength and weakness.
Have you actually looked at where most of the donations come from? They come from DEEP POCKETS.
In 2019, Google made $2 million contribution to the Wikimedia Endowment and another $1.1 million to the Wikimedia Foundation:
Amazon, Google.org, Musk Foundation, George Soros, Facebook all donating $2 million+
Look at who their benefactors were in 2019 apart from 7 "Major benefactors" who were anonymous:
Wikipedia folks have done the exact opposite to "protect neutrality" and "bastions of free information". They openly block any edits of articles even when the said article is slandering someone as long as it fits the political narrative. And if one simply looked at their co-founder and other admin's twitter feed, one would realize that they don't care about "neutrality".
 And the rent for the swanky office is another million and a half per year, because it's not their money after all...
My opinion is that basically no-one needs to have an income above a couple of times median in the country they're in [it's hard to normalise across countries]. Just because CEOs, etc., think they're worth $millions doesn't mean that charitable organisations should adopt that model.
You're panhandling effectively, you beg people to give money but you already have it, you're only distributing it to wealthy people instead of favouring the aims of your charity.
Sure, pay your staff for a median income in your/their country; much higher in a poor or developing country is fine. But I don't donate to any charity that thinks one person needs to be paid >£120k (that's >4x median graduate wage in UK). Some people are awesome at what they do, but they're using the same proportion of their lives to do it as the people who are awesome and getting paid a pittance, it's wrong to beg people and then fritter it away on luxuries for a limited set of staff.
If a person wants to beg for money for themselves then they can, "I have an income of >$500,000 per year and work $days a week for $charity, please pay me money", sure, but don't hide that support of someone's ludicrously income (compared to ordinary people, not SV programmers) by fronting it through a charity.
There's no such thing as a large organization where there is no waste. Even very lean for profit organizations have to deal with the problem. The best you can do is to keep an eye out for cases where there is waste and fix it as soon as possible.
Bottom line, if you don't like it then don't give. Period!
I think people wouldn't feel off about this if the fundraisers presented themselves as such. When you see them asking for donations, it is typically worded in a way it says "no one donates! if you don't we are on the brink of going bankrupt and shutting down the site! stop, don't scroll away!" and I think if they are sitting on a pile of cash (however noble their intentions are) some people might feel off about how they are being manipulated. Because that is not what they are asking the money for, at this moment. It is disingenuous to make it seem like they are asking for donations for covering the immediate day to day operations. Yes, it probably allows them to gather more donations that way but some people are not comfortable with being a target of manipulative ads. Immediate gains vs. poisoning the well situation here.
The wrong part is that this is not disclosed anywhere discoverable. While they toned down how blatant their claims were, as the article shows, their banners still create the impression that they're struggling to just barely stay alive, not building an endowment.
I've looked into Wikimedia's finances before and completely missed the endowment.
Take a look at https://wikimediafoundation.org/about/annualreport/2020-annu... - I see no mention of money going from Wikimedia to the Endowment. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/f/f7/Wikim... mentions it in passing among other examples of their project work.
Disclaimer: Used to work for wikimedia, once upon a time, don't anymore.
Wikipedia's fundraising strongly implies that they need your $3 to keep the site online.
WMF has $400M which would be enough to keep the site online for up to 40 years with no further donations.
Thus, their fundraising is misleading and deceptive. I bet 9 in 10 donators won't donate if they knew WMF has $400 million in the bank -- isn't it morally wrong if you paint a deceptive picture of your finances?
The majority of Wikimedia's money goes to software development, not keeping the lights on. I think there are definitely reasonable criticisms that could be made about WMF's priorities and efficiencies (Not to mention how its situation is conveyed in the fundraising campaign), but I struggle to see a world where WMF spends the absolute bare minimum to keep the lights on, with no further funding to new software development, and Wikipedia is still a success.
Disclaimer: used to work there, don't anymore.
The majority of the money goes to grants (because they don't even know what to do with it internally), followed by fundraising and brand building ("advancement" and "communications") which has the largest staff numbers.
Then lawyers, and technology staff and contractors are a distant fourth...
> a world where WMF spends the absolute bare minimum to keep the lights on, with no further funding to new software development, and Wikipedia is still a success
I 'member back in 2005-2008 that was the state of the world. WMF paid Brion Vibber and the bandwidth bills and Brion kept the lights on. It was the most successful time for Wikipedia with massive growth and recognition.
2005-2008 was extraordinary from this standpoint, no question. A reminder of what a small group can accomplish with a vision that brings together a community ready to rewrite the world, from the ground up if need be.
Users have tried asking for clarification. Multiple times: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Guy_Macon/Wikipedia_has_C...
Which isn't to say nobody has ever asked, im sure someone has at some point, just that's not supported by your link.
The page itself is a starting point. If you want the meat of the community discussion, here's direct links:
* The original "Signpost" op-ed, a curated meta newspaper of which the user-page is merely a constantly-updated copy of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2...
* Requests to the WMF for clarifcation:
etc, etc, etc. You get the point.
This is a huge rabbit hole and I didn't want to be accused of "Gish galloping" by linking all this at the top.
That's even more of a problem if you do not support such scheme to extort money from the working classes.
They are still a long way from being independent from donors given their growth in projects, paid contributors (employees) and therefore expenses.
If you don’t agree with their governance or even specific ways they spend their money, stop donating, it is not like they are forcing you. You can even write an article an share it but don’t try to take shortcut like I feel it is done here. Money is a necessary ressource to survive, and if an entity have a lot of capital or spend plenty on projects or useful human ressources doesn’t imply evilness.
 : https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/endowment.asp
Where? This thread is the first time I remember reading about this, and I've seen a lot of Wikipedia beg-nags. They moved from outrageously deceptive messages that strongly implied that the lights would go out without my donation and that the donations were used to keep Wikipedia alive "for another year" , to slightly more vague "keep Wikipedia online and growing"  banners.
Never did I see those banners mention an endowment.
Wikipedia Has Cancer (2017) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21699011
Wikipedia doesn't need your money (2012) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4946912
I know it's from 2018 and maybe something changed, but: they took $115M. They paid $90M in costs, including $38M in salaries and <$1.7M to officers. Look at Part IX. You have all expenses listed. If you run any company ever, you know it adds up pretty quickly. Like other benefits to employees are $5M, pension plan is $1M, and payroll tax is $2M. They had $138M in assets, but only $64M invested in public stocks, and they took $2M from it, which is like 0.03% indicating they held some treasury bonds. So in absolute numbers, it seems big, but when you analyze it, it looks normal.
Imagine you just hire a techy support staff. Let's assume you only need 50 people, each making $100k to operate a global website in all timezones. That's probably like $140k total costs per employee (healthcare, benefits, payroll, all sorts of taxes). You need 50*140k=$7M/yr. Assume you buy AT&T stock with 6% dividend. You need $120M of assets to get $7M. There is no safety here, and also my calculation doesn't include maybe like 5% increase in costs per year.
I often wonder how could I create a fully self-sustainable non-profit: the one, that doesn't require begging for money and wasting time every year. Instead, the one that could operate independently. To make this happen, you pretty much have to invest the money very, very well, and diversify to the point where the yield is low, yet high enough to hire staff etc. (an example of sustainable donation is present in the Thorp's "A man of all markets" wrt. his endowment to UCI math department) For this you must have a pile of money, if you do the math, and it'd make perfect sense for Wikipedia.
Unless they shrink, lay people off and optimize, they'll need $2B to be fully self-sufficient and sustainable. Otherwise, the fundraiser will need to bring $100M/yr at least.
This part is disingenuous and bordering on malicious. The linked email (https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2013-March...) has so much more nuance, and in typical fashion a single number from it is taken completely out of context to push a certain narrative. It is also an estimate from almost a decade ago.
Wikimedia's finances are audited and published every year. Here's the latest one from 2019-2020 - https://wikimediafoundation.org/about/annualreport/2020-annu.... They had $120M in donations and $9M in other revenue for the year. Expenses were $112M. That isn't even close to the buffer that the article implies. The foundation's total current assets (~$160M) would keep their sites running for <2 years, and maybe a few more with major operational cuts. Why on earth shouldn't they fundraise more?
I stopped donating because of this - definitely want to contribute to keeping Wikipedia online, I don’t necessarily want to give my money to a larger foundation running all kinds of other projects and wielding that cash as a political tool.
Chief Community Officer
Chief Talent and Culture Officer
Chief Global Development Officer
Chief Creative Officer
Chief Communications Officer
Chief Revenue Officer
VP of Strategic Partnerships
55 million USD in annual salary expenses seems a bit high, even more so for a non-profit. I have seen startup unicorns spend less on salaries. I think there really needs to be some scrutiny into how funding is being spent.
Looking at the list of execs there I really have to question what role they play and how their compensation is justified. It's not just their individual salary either. At their level they have entire organizational hierarchies working under them and the collective salaries can add up. What precisely are they contributing to the movement?
I can't imagine the kind of things Wikipedia needs to do that needs such roles. These guys should be focusing on product and tech primarily. They have a solid product which hasn't changed in years and a strong brand. They have a singularly unique and special thing in this world and need to protect it as sacred. They need to focus on maintaining and scaling this system for eternity instead of experimenting and branching offshoots into community engagement, strategic partnerships, ambassadoring and all that crap.
Sure, some of these positions sound a bit surprising. But, having checked just the last one, it existed only for a part of 2016. So, eh, what's your point again?
Obviously there’s a debate to be had about what and how much Wikipedia should engage in other ventures but even for their core work a lot of these roles seem pretty reasonable...
The ones that made it through were specifically the ones that embraced and prepared for change, by running parallel long-shot projects and branched out from doing whatever they were doing before.
However, this seems like excessive marketing for an organization that does not produce a physical product (unlike Funk & Wagnal's).
I have seen less online criticism of WikiPedia accuracy of late; perhaps this is the result of the marketing dollars. If true, it is good, but it could likely be done with marketing efforts a fraction of the size.
I understand that it isn't much for an executive, but then that stuns me even more.
Edit: median US salary is around $70k. This executive's pay is over 5x median income. Those who say it's not a lot are disconnected from the way that most people in the country and the world live.
I don't understand anything about US IT salaries anymore.
In reality, the number of developers making $500K is relatively small. Even in California, the median developer compensation is a fraction of that. FAANG companies can have admission rates that are more selective than Ivy League universities, and they don’t even hire in most cities in the US.
This causes a lot of compensation confusion and anxiety for young people who grow up reading HN comments and snarky Reddit posts when their first job offers don’t come anywhere near the $300K to $500K range that they read about online. It also causes a lot of grief for developers who think they’re overworked and underpaid because it seems like everyone on HN casually acts like $500K is the going rate for being able to spin up a React project.
Are they really that talented, or are they just good at whiteboarding algorithm questions that they almost never actually use on the job?
These companies that spend $300K or more on their developers aren’t keen on keeping under-performers around, either.
The idea that you can bluff your way into a FAANG job by memorizing enough LeetCode problems yet by somehow remaining an under qualified programmer is a myth.
I've heard this comparison before, but I'm not sure how meaningful it is because the Ivies charge an application fee. There isn't much cost to applying to FAANG and hoping for the best.
They're too high, though not high enough.
We've become the new priesthood. People who complain that sacrificing one calf to us each year would do well to be reminded that we're not demanding one child per year.
I am from Brazil, mentioned in the article. I see wages of 60k USD year as a dream job (by the way, if you need a C or Lua dev, and don't want me to relocate to an expensive place to live, I am for hire, for that price tag, I really need it. I currently make around 11k USD year)
I do think that the sky high salaries are ridiculous compared to societal contributions of, say, a nurse or a teacher. But I also like very much that I get them for doing a job that I still do with a small on my face.
I got into this line of work because it's fun. It's still fun. If I didn't get paid I'd do it for free, although "it" would be lime green hobby projects rather than the productive and tasteful work people employ me to do.
Personally I recently quit my high paying industry job and moved to an engineering heavy PhD position (HPC), because I enjoy solving complex problems.
Huh, this is interesting, maybe in some areas of America? But broadly speaking... Outside of America, no. Take a look at even senior dev salaries in Canada.
They're equivalent to master's of social work positions, oftentimes less. Having had education and work experience in both social work and computer science, I can tell you that if you want a stable, low-stress job that requires an "easy" degree, that MSW degree will serve you far better.
Not to mention that remote work is still rare. So that 90k senior AI research job, requiring a Phd at the Autodesk office in Toronto is... not great. Most computer scientists I know are happy with being middle class and just really enjoy the subject matter. Maybe this is rare in your area of the world?
I am a software engineer who used to live in the Bay Area but now live in Europe. In my country, my family is living off of a salary of 30000 (Euros, or about 36k USD). (This is my wife's salary, I'm not currently working). Our income officially puts us below the poverty line, so we pay 0% in income taxes.
With this 30k, about 50% goes to housing, about 1/6 goes to special needs schooling for one of my two children (they both need it, but the younger one's school is currently free), and the remaining 1/3 is for food and bills and misc. expenses.
We own a small, fuel efficient car that my wife drives while I bike or take public transportation. Our entire apartment runs on an average of 250W (servers, laptops, cell phones, electric stove) because everything is energy efficient. (LED lighting, double-pane windows, good applicances) We pay 10 euros a month for gigabit internet, 200+ channels, and unlimited calling to 150+ countries.
We live comfortably in a large (100 m^2) four bedroom apartment in a safe neighborhood (working class, but nice). We eat well, we can afford to go to restaurants occasionally, and even take the occasional vacation.
While we're not currently saving any money, because we have money saved up, we're not living hand to mouth, even though "technically" we are.
If we wanted to return to San Francisco, the budget would look something like this:
* 60k Schooling for both kids
* 60k Four bedroom apartment or split home
* 30k Food, car, bills
Of course, this only makes your point even stronger.
I live in Canada. I earn much less than USD $375K/yr. But can we agree that I am very connected with how people live in other parts of the world?
Good. Now let me tell you that were my employer to ask me to move my family to the US, ANYWHERE in the US, I would want way more than $375,000/yr to duplicate the lifestyle we have now.
That’s just how it works when you move from a place with a safety net to one where losing your job could mean certain death.
And in my family’s case, I am not exaggerating: My partner is a cancer survivor. What would we have done if we were living in the US? Hire lawyers to fight with insurance companies for her treatment? What if I was laid off and lost my benefits right when she was diagnosed?
Were I to live in the US, I would want to be stinking, immorally rich. It’s the only way to insure yourself against disaster.
She'd go on Medicaid. Anyway, quit watching so much TV. It's just propaganda.
But I don’t watch TV. I do things like read HN. Where I recall an essay on the front page a few years back where a wealthy tech founder cashed out and then tried to buy health insurance for their family.
Despite being wealthy, they reported that basically, it was impossible to get insurance that met their needs. They did not say “no problem, the whole family got medicaid.”
Now tell me: How many people in the US had medical bankruptcies last year? How about the year before? Or the year before that?
I’ll let you tell me, since you believe that I only watch propaganda on television, and you believe you have all the answers. What are these medical bankruptcies, if medicaid solves all problems?
Is all this propaganda spread by smug Canadians to boost immigration? I think not, but if you’re prepared to cite some numbers showing that nobody ever loses their home because of cancer or some other major health problem, I’ll gladly read what you share.
Even if they were paid ten times less (or a hundred times less, for execs making millions per year), there'd be lines of people a mile long willing to take their place, and probably do their job just as well if not even better.
Corporate boards and investors are deluding themselves that they need to pay astronomical rates to get people who can do these jobs.
It won't seem so sky-high once your universe also has $4k per month one-bedroom apartments and $2M single-family homes.
Why do they deserve that much compensation exactly?
The people who to my mind deserve high compensation are people who are risking their lives to help people, such as firefighters (who are often sadly volunteers and don't get paid anything), front line nurses and doctors, teachers in inner city schools or third world countries, Peace Corps volunteers, etc.
People whose job it is to hobnob with other high-paid execs over expensive lunches and give orders should be at the bottom of the pay ladder, not at the top.
Edit: I think that Salaries are for Top Executive only. There are 450  in Wikimedia. In the case 55M isn't that much.
A sense of purpose alone won't let you lodge in cities with high cost of living.
If anything, I dare say running a non-profit usually requires a lot more skills, especially people skills and passion than a tech job.
I'm not sure how it is in the US but in Europe there is this sense of entitlement when you talk to people that because you work at a non-profit you should work for free. If I give my valuable time to contribute to the world at large, I expect to be able to have decent living conditions.
Oh come on! What talent do they need that a million much lower paid people don't have?
Same line used in defense of corporate board hiring practices, and as in that case, stated without evidence to support the claim.
100k was maybe "sky high" 20 years ago. 100k in most large cities is not. When your modest house costs $800k USD, a car costs 30k, auto insurance is $1600 a year, groceries are 10k a year (looking at you, Toronto), just how in the hell is 100k "sky high"?
$80k was a decent salary in a mid-size city 15 years ago.
Just because six figures seems like a lot of money to you doesn't mean it's a lot of money.
Upper class income only seem lackluster compared to the perverse 0.1% incomes and the housing bubble.
You know how many people live in Iowa?
I'm also a Principal SWE and my salary is well below $200k, though there are years with bonuses, etc.. that I reach $200k
Wikimedia is a global foundation, so they don't have to live in the US even.
They could have easily hired someone from a country with a much lower cost of living.
If Wikipedia(1) is semi-accurate, no (ZERO) major European county surpasses this. Not even Switzerland which clocks in at 70k EUR. And that's average, the mean is even lower due to skew by those making top money.
And slap 20-25% VAT on top.
That money is really not that much, a generalist MD would make that for eg.
To be considered sky high in my book you need to be actually rich - able to afford luxuries such as own a luxury home, driving a premium car, be able to rent a yacht for a vacation - you need to be making >150k for your income to be noteworthy, otherwise you're just doing well off - higher middle class.
Sorry but there's nothing sky high about earning 80k EUR per year and living in London, Zurich, Oslo, Amsterdam, Munich, etc. you barely stand out, especially if you socialise with other college educated workers, you're probably the norm or below it for career people.
PS: Data is for Germany.
> Also from the diagram, 75% of the population are earning less than 10,400 EUR while 25% are earning more than 10,400 EUR.
If 25% of the city is making more money than you you are not rich by any definition.
I have friends living in Munich, friend is a SW engineer, makes 75k, his wife has her own business so I'm not sure how much she makes, they are very much middle class lifestyle and can't afford to live in the wealthy areas.
Sorry to burst your bubble but you're not rich if you make 80k/year, you're just (maybe upper) middle class, even in EU.
Edit: Also it's completely unclear to me how this point relates to your initial gross misrepresentation of compensation in western Europe.
OP suggested that 100k$/year not being noteworthy is a uniquely SV/US thing - it is not. Any place worth living in Europe will take that much to live comfortably (note. 100k USD = 80k EUR)
Upper middle class maybe. People in the upper class don't need to work.
Sky high is at least top 1%. Maybe top 5% in high income areas.
In Eastern Europe you begin to approach this at 80k.
But rent is getting crazy here, a 60 sqm apartment will cost you 1300+ utility.
For example here  you can see some reliable statistics for France, see page 2 (it's in French but the plots are easy to understand). The median salary (annual before taxes) when starting is 35k€, and roughly increases by 1800€/year. So it only reaches 40k€ after 3 years. It reaches 50k€ after 8 years only.
Also all engineers have Masters in continental Europe. You can't be an engineer without one. It's nothing special.
But Italy and Spain aren't really what I would consider Western Europe, they are the less developed parts and I admit I have no experience with France and know nobody who works there.
Yeah, well, you're American, right?
You really are living up to it in many ways.
That is the figure for "programmers and software development professionals", anyway.
How did you get these costs? You can get a French Chateau with that much money. https://www.prestigeproperty.co.uk/french-chateau-for-sale-2...
I paid $340k for this house 13 years ago. I thought that was far too expensive but I didn't have a choice.
I would guess that they co-evolved in a vicious cycle of inflation. But I know very little of economics.
At entry level you typically manage a two-pizzas sized team in one fairly limited domain. "Have this desk and a bunch of people, figure out how to run a worldwide wiki" would be a typical senior manager/director assignment (a.k.a. middle management).
If we set aside an argument about IT salaries fairness, I think people at Wikimedia deserve some thanks for taking a salary cut to undeniably make a difference on the world.
I guess there's a chance that executive compensation went up significantly after 2018, but nothing I saw looks out of place for an organization as large as Wikipedia. ~300k for a San Fransisco-based CEO and an average salary of ~120k for all employees employees seems fairly reasonable to me.
The annual real median personal income in the US in 2019 was $35,977, how can anyone think that $120k isn't a lot? Why should people around the world donate their hard earned money so that some employees in America can have Silicon Valley salaries?
wikipedia SHOULD be paying competitve salaries so that their best and brightest don't leave to join tire-fire companies like Facebook. I don't know why you think someone working at Wikipedia shouldn't be paid a competitive salary if they work there; if not they will go work for Facebook and the world slowly loses out on an incredible resource while companies like FB get stronger because of misaligned thinking.
You are disparaging a CEO for making 350k/year for one of the highest trafficked sites in the world. For perspective, Zuckerberg's net worth places him at an effective salary of 3B/year (his current net worth divided by his age), nearly 10,000x of the guy you are saying is getting paid too much and potentially driving employees away from.
If your problem is the median personal income you don't solve that by trying to reduce the CEO of wikipedia's salary. Focus on that - it's your kind of attitude (why should a burger flipper get paid $15/hr) that is actually suppressing wages in this country.
This is a good question. Why shouldn't Wikipedia hire developers from 3rd world countries? It sure shows donation banners there. And there isn't anything magical about US developers and anything special about building sites for millions of people. Expertise is there, often used by US companies, salaries are not.
> You are disparaging a CEO for making 350k/year for one of the highest trafficked sites in the world
The root of the question is: what determines compensation at companies? FAANG and SV startups are able to offer huge salaries not because they are "the highest trafficked sites in the world". It's because they rake in billions of dollars in revenue, by monetizing their users, and/or because they are VC-funded. If that wasn't the case, their employees' -- and certainly their executives' -- salaries would not be this high.
When your company makes billions of dollars a year, and you can make the case to your board that you can increase or maintain that number, that's when your salary becomes high -- when the tradeoff to shareholder value between paying you a lot of money and the company making a lot of money tips your way. You don't just automatically get a high salary for running (or working in) a large company, if that company does not make this much money.
The WMF is a nonprofit. It does not make any money aside from donations. When running its donation campaigns, it does so from the perspective of keeping internet knowledge alive, rather than saying "we think it's important to keep ourselves in the top 10% worldwide salary bracket". It's absoluetly fair to say that they need to raise a certain amount of money in order to keep the foundation going, and in order to maintain and develop it. But saying that it's "insane" to argue that a nonprofit should not be able to compete against a multi-billion dollar organization salary-wise is... strange?
Most of the world's companies, startups or otherwise, in fact can't afford SV salaries, and so they look elsewhere -- there are many, many great developers, executives, and other folks around the world (and in the US, outside of SV) who work for less than FAANG salaries. This doesn't meant they aren't well-compensated, it just means that maybe they don't live in SV, and that yes, it's possible that FAANG will poach some of them. That's just something you have to live with when you don't make infinite amounts of money, like 99% of the world's companies.
> For perspective, Zuckerberg's net worth places him at an effective salary of 3B/year ...
For perspective, Facebook's revenue was about $85B last year. Using the world's fifth-richest person, who heads a fortune 150 company that is the F in the only five-lettered FAANG acronym that's frequently used as the barometer for high salaries, "for perspective", is also strange. The only perspective that Zuckerberg's salary offers is "what does the top 0.1% of the top 0.1% make?"
> it's your kind of attitude (why should a burger flipper get paid $15/hr) that is actually suppressing wages in this country
It's disingenuous at best to connect a nonprofit's executive staff making large salaries with raising the minimum wage. In fact, that's precisely the discrepancy that is making folks talk about the salaries at WMF: the foundation is soliciting donations from the folks making $15/h in order to pay its CEO $300k+ a year.
So let's say I start a company selling cars. I decide to sell my cars for $1. It's a terrible business model, and I don't make much money. So according to you, because my company makes no money, I should be allowed to pay my staff way under market. This doesn't make sense to me, despite being obviously illegal.
The amount of money you paid for labor is decided by a market. Just because I have a horrible business model of giving away cars for free does not entitle to me to underpay for labor. And conversely, if I am a good engineer working for Wikipedia, and FB offers me a much better paying job, I will probably jump ship to FB. Employee retention is a problem for any company.
Now I'm not saying Wikipedia is completely justified in paying the exact same pay grade as FAANG, but it's ridiculous to me that there are so many tears about an executive member of Wikipedia making the same amount of money as a middle manager at Facebook. We are not even comparing directors, we are comparing rank & file to the CEO of another company and people still have a problem with it.
>It's disingenuous at best to connect a nonprofit's executive staff making large salaries with raising the minimum wage
I don't see how the argument is different. I don't think engineers working at Wikipedia should make 300k because they work at Wikipedia. I don't think cashiers working at McDonalds should make $15/hr because they work at McDonalds. You are removing the value of their work simply based on where you think their social status should be,
The better analogy here is GoldBurger, which is a very successful burger chain that sells gold-plated $200 burgers and pays its employees $100/hr. Would it then be reasonable for my local mom-and-pop burger joint, where the most expensive burger costs $5, to compete with GoldBurger on salary? Would the cashiers making only $20/hr at my local joint be paid "way under market" just because GoldBurger exists?
The fact that GoldBurger exists and can create very well-paying jobs for its cashiers doesn't mean that suddenly the entire base of the market rises up to match it. It just means that, all else being equal, it's entirely possible that potential employees will go with GoldBurger rather than my local joint, if given the choice, and the local joint will have to hire other folks. If every burger joint was like GoldBurger, my local joint would be in trouble. But that doesn't tend to be the case, and it isn't the case in the tech world, either.
The average programmer salary in Sweden is $50 000. Why should I donate to people who earn more than twice my salary?
Good programmers in Germany do not work for €50.000. I'm based in Iceland and do contract work for German companies, and I assure you none of the people I work with are even close to €50.000. Perhaps because they're not average but good.
Here in Iceland €50.000 might possibly get you a recent graduate. Myself, I wouldn't hire a programmer at that low pay though, graduate or not. A couple of my friends (good programmers, not "average") who have moved to Sweden and Denmark get similar salaries to what they got up here in Iceland.
Higher salary gets you talented people.
If one look for reasons not to donate, they can always be found by thousands.
I find it beautiful that there is such a site as Wikipedia, that is free and open, and I am happy to contribute a tiny bit to it.
It’s the fact that they are begging for donations while hoarding $300M in cash, and only 5% of your donation goes towards Wikipedia itself. The rest is on the hands of a foundation for them to use at will.
We are feeling tricked because it’s about 5% efficient right now.
They're paying two to three times as much as they would have to pay anywhere else. That's not a "small" inefficiency, it's a pretty huge one.
Your attitude creates a race to the bottom.
It's not about a race to the bottom, it's the vast differences in pay in the same society. If the median real salary is $35 000, why should a 25 year old web developer make 3X that? Some software engineers act like what they do is so much more important and difficult than what everyone else do, it's a bit disturbing. Of course, people in finance are even worse.
Another one is that the companies that we work for make insane profits despite the sky high compensation.
In isolation, without major legislation that depresses those profits too, it at least makes more sense to share the spoils with the shareholders and the employees than with the shareholders alone.
I didn’t think it would happen at the time, but compensation saw a significant jump in the years after the compensation cartel (Apple, Google, Intuit etc.) was broken up.
I guess that's at the core of the discussion. Wikipedia isn't seen by many as yet another tech company there to make insane profits.
Software and finance are high-leverage jobs where improvements are instantaneously rolled out to large sections of humanity all at once and the potential change isn't incremental, it's epoch-defining.
I don't see how you could afford all the things you mentioned on an average SWE salary in Europe. I have a very much above average SWE salary, and don't seem to be in any danger of getting a house and two cars anytime soon. I rent and don't have any cars, actually.
Healthcare is free, for the bare essentials. I pay a crazy amount per year for (private) healthcare, because the standard, mandatory insurance covers just about nothing of what I actually need. Consider that every month, I pay into the government healthcare system a lump sum which is approximately equivalent to the median salary in my country. This doesn't buy me any benefits - I get the same minimal coverage as everyone else. Socialism at its finest.
I'd be OK with it if the money actually went towards worthy causes. That is not the case, however - I am pretty sure most of the healthcare budget goes towards funding an antiquated, insanely oversized bureaucratic system. There's a whole social class of bureaucrats on the government payroll, who do pretty much nothing at all - you won't find them in the office after 3PM - who collect a meager but secure salary for their utter lack of effort and general uselessness.
More and more, I am jaded by the illusion of a "fairer" society in the EU, which often ends up being just a case of "everyone is guaranteed to get the same low-quality treatment".
The reason Wikipedia is amazing is the user generated content and community moderation/admin.
It's also worth noting that many of Wikimedia's staff are remote. I think more of the engineers are based in Europe than in the US and salaries are scaled somewhat based on the cost of living in each employees city/region. Wikimedia salary is almost certainly lower than the big tech companies but still pretty good for a non-profit and the benefits provided are very good if not quite up to the google level of luxury.
Disclosure: I work for the Wikimedia Foundation as a software engineer, however, I don't really know much about the financial details.
Disclaimer: This is just my personal opinion / observation and not representative of my employer.
It’s like you walked into this discussion without reading any of it. That is precisely the issue - less than 10% of the budget goes towards operating Wikipedia, and they’re still begging for money.
Paying for legal staff who defend lawsuits and advocate for legal reforms that matter is part of "operating Wikipedia."
Paying SREs to be on-call for incident response, plus routine upgrades of servers and racking new hardware is all part of "operating Wikipedia."
Absolutely essential parts of operating Wikipedia certainly account for a lot more than 10% of the budget. Sure there is a lot of overhead and I'm sure some expenditures are non-essential. I just can't agree with your assessment. The overhead and excesses are quite certainly nowhere near 90%.
Well, managing a company with over a hundred million a year in revenue, for one.
What is CEO of Twitter doing that CEO of Wikipedia isn't? Why dont we have a discussion of their salaries?
Both are working a job. Enployees are not donating, donors are
The CEO of Wikimedia needs to hire and manage maybe 50 people, of whom about 5 need executive pay. I have no idea why Wikimedia needs 500 staff, if they could build the site with a team of 20 or so.
It looks like a gravy train, and it quacks like a gravy train.
You cannot possibly be serious, assigning twitter CEO some super demanding nebulous task of 'looking for new opportunities' but somehow downgrading Wikipedia one to that of a middle-manager.
Both websites have a massive audience, both have new intiatives and the ones by wikipedia are actually productive. Both have to deal with attempts at censorship, inappropriate content, and both have to find a place in the rapidly shifting techbology landscape.
This judgement 'if it's charity work then it's easy' comes across as dishonest and presumptios.
The Wikimedia execs are obviously not being paid to boost the bottom line; it's fat enough already. Wikipedia has never failed to cover it's costs. It doesn't need whizz-kids; it needs a few competent managers to make sure things don't completely fall apart.
All the pointless side-projects just mean there's too much money washing around. Those side-projects could end up torpedoeing the main deal. Wikimedia makes enough in a year to set-up an endowment that would guarantee Wikipedia forever. Provided they prune the management tree - not so much because of salary costs, but because all those execs need projects, to prove they're not overpaid.
It's nothing to do with "charity work". It's about maintaining mature code, taking care of the editor community (they're not much cop at that), and buying server racks. You don't need scores of leet execs for that - you just need a handful of competent and responsible administrators.
It is your personal judgement, and I violently disagree: if they stagnate, they will either wither and die. FAANGs of this world will eat them, for example by taking snippets from wikipedia and giving nothing back.
It is charity work to spread knowledge, and it has never been as important as it is in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. Do you seriously think that there is nothing to improve, the pinnacle of creation is text format with links? You cannot imagine a more interactive alternative to learn?
Now it's possible that both of us are wrong, and the truth of the matter is something else entirely.
However they are not a public service, and they run their charity in accordance with their vision. If they want to document every dead language and give each poor kid a laptop, people like myself support them, and you don't have to.
Your cost-cutting/management bloat critique comes across as a standardised copy paste of critique you might encounter on "department of highways" or similar public service. It appears to be based off prejudice and assumptions. Not only don't you have that level on knowledge, no-one without a crystal ball could know for sure.
Wikimedia doesn't need to recruit top engineering talent; it's now a maintenance project, and it's open-source. Wikipedia content is created by volunteers, and significant editorial decisions are made by admins, who are usually volunteers. These volunteers mainly manage themselves. Most editors have never communicated with a staffer.
This "Tides Trust" is not a proper destination for donor's money. No donor thinks their money will be spent on some random project dreamed up by Tides Trust.
And it seems pretty irregular to me to treat a donation to the Tides Trust as "expenditure". The correct name for that money is "profit".
Like, this claim of "if everyone donated $2..." (or whatever this year's amount is) means they need more than a hundred thousand donations to pay this guy. And then the site is still at zero, getting nothing, that only pays one person at a "non profit".
I'm all for fair compensation but if you dedicate yourself to running a non-profit, getting rich on people's donations (98% of whose money you took earning less than you) is a weird kind of definition of fair.
If people want to get rich, maybe they should go and fix Jenkins pipelines for some adtech company where everyone's clear on what the goal is.
After looking, I realized that I made more than them at my previous job just being an engineer.
90%+ of the cash goes to fund the other foundations’ programmes, that’s the core of the issue.
I trust the founders. I don't trust new leadership. That's not specific to Wikimedia.
If people feel that they were somehow tricked into their donation, they have instructions on how to request a refund.
It's an interesting thought experiment to consider if Wikipedia didn't exist what would change in the way we learn about and discuss things, especially in these days of fake news etc. Britannica is 75$ per year.
(Some of) the execs are manipulating people to donate, many of the donors wouldn't have donated, had they known that there was enough money already for Wikipedia.
> If people feel that they were somehow tricked into their donation
Problem is, they are unaware about having been tricked.
They generally don't know about this discussion at HN.
They're not raising money on their vision for the future though. Their fundraising ads imply that if you don't donate then Wikipedia.org will go offline
Instead of complaining when a top shelf global organization get paid a reasonable wage in California for the scope of their work maybe focus on how we can redistribute incomes more appropriately.
Also - I am obviously against wasted resources or overly bloated organization or corruption but nothing in this report seems to point anything of that nature.
Not at all would have my vote. I would donate for that.
I don't think I agree with you at all here, given that I grew up wanting the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Wikipedia refuses to offer it... seemingly in no small part because the founder of it makes money off of Wikia.
But, I believe regardless: if someone goes to an encyclopedia and is told "this encyclopedia needs your help: it is going to run out of money unless you donate to it", and you take that money to do something that isn't to improve that encyclopedia, that is absolutely unethical, no matter how useful it might be on its own.
> Wiktionary indirectly supports translation work that benefits Wikipedia
This alone might be somewhat fair (though I find it hard to believe, honestly); but, I still challenge whether someone who comes to the website and is shown the current banner would believe their money isn't being flitted away on things that don't benefit the resource they were using, even if it might be "more ethical" to provide better translations.
At some point in the last 10 years Wikipedia managed to purge as much content as it could about fiction because this was Wikia's turf. There was just an order from above and overzealous mods willing to do the work, even when the content wasn't readily available.
Now the content is in a website that's closed, slow as hell, littered with ads, tracking and autoplaying video.
Maybe Wikia should be the one footing the whole bill for Wikipedia, instead of Wikipedia spending 12% of donation money on fundraisers.
> Please don't comment on whether someone read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."
What exactly are you basing this on?
They budgeted $5M for "data centre expenses". We cannot know for sure how much it would really cost if WMF only focused on running their website. But $10M doesn't sound implausible to me.
Wikimedia has one project I’m slightly interested in, and spends most of their money on other projects that I’m completely uninterested in, and would personally consider to be largely a useless waste of time. They aggressively fundraise with a message that implies their single product that everybody cares about is financially imperilled. In reality, if they’d been run responsibly, the one valuable thing they produce could have already been financially secured for decades into the future.
I really just don’t care about what they spend most of their money on, I think they’re deceitful in the way that they fundraise, and all I hope is when all of their side projects eventually fail, that their core product survives in some form.
You don’t have to put it in air quotes like you’re making some sort of point. Calling everything they fund a “project” is the language Wikimedia use in their budgets and governance documentation.
If you were actually having trouble thinking of a single project they operate other than Wikipedia, then perhaps you might also have some questions about what they do with 90% of their revenue.
Thank you for the link. I was unaware.
But don’t worry. I’m sure you really were just “quoting [me]”.
PS: I work for cloud computing company and have insight on how much costs increase with scale.
edit: fixed typos.
It does not significantly use cloud services, and as you can see by the picture of their racks, they use standard 1 RU pizzaboxes. Their workload is highly scalable horizontally, and doesn't even need much in the way of expensive "enterprise" hardware such a SAN arrays: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Wi...
If you buy beige box rackmount hardware with basic compute and CPU, it's pretty easy to spend less than $250K per rack, and the hardware can be kept for 5+ years. That's about 50K per rack per year. Double that for opex, and assume twenty racks distributed across a a handful of sites for capacity and availability. That's just $2M per annum.
Keep in mind they're a high-profile charity, so they get discounts and tax breaks.
(I'm not saying that's all there is to Wikipedia! There's software development, management, finance, etc... I'm just saying that the infrastructure alone is probably less than you think.)
PS: English Wikipedia gets about 250M page views per day, which is only about 3,000 per second. If they used an efficient language instead of PHP, that's well within the capability of a single modern server! There have been comments along these lines made in other forums, and the response was that it would cost more to rewrite the software than the maintain the hardware required for PHP. I don't remember the numbers, but I vaguely remember tens of millions for a rewrite, a high risk of breaking issues, and a significantly lower hardware cost.
They do host their own private "cloud", mostly used for research and project development.
> English Wikipedia gets about 250M page views per day, which is only about 3,000 per second. If they used an efficient language instead of PHP, that's well within the capability of a single modern server!
Nitpicking, page views from outside users are not supposed to hit PHP at all - those requests should be served by their caching layer. But yes, you're correct that they're relying on quite a bit of legacy tech from their early days, not just PHP but MariaDB as well even though many enterprises would now rely on Postgres wrt. these use cases. I suppose that they could rewrite the stuff piecemeal, and recent developments in PHP itself would make it easier. (Some things have been rewritten already, notably the wikitext parser. That's clearly one thing where you would want to avoid breakage at all costs, but they did get it done.)
Postgres is great and all, but there’s really nothing wrong with relying on MariaDB or MySQL for what Wikipedia is doing.
The new parser is being rewritten in php in order to be integrated with the rest of the php code.
This type of comment betrays a complete lack of knowledge about how large scale internet systems operate (which is something I've worked on for the last 10+ years) and comes across as incredibly naive. I can immediately point out huge flaws in your thinking:
* You're assuming that traffic is constant through the day (that you can divide daily traffic rate to get a sense of daily peak; or, in other words, you provision for mean usage, not peak)
* You're ignoring the problems of unpredictable hotspots (single articles suddenly becoming orders of magnitude more popular than the median in relatively unpredictable and spikey ways; think World Cup final or major earthquake)
* You're not reserving any safety margins for unexpected traffic growth, so you'd likely run into cascading failures
* You're assuming that the entirety of Wikipedia can be held in ram. Including all the history and such. Or, if not, that a single server has enough drives that spindle capacity won't be a problem.
* You're not even considering networking/bandwidth costs. How many network cards would your server need?
* You're ignoring any problems with replication/redundancy (e.g., no backups?) so your site would be a nightmare in reliability terms. Of course, once you do that, you'll need to reason about consistency problems.
I think your logical fallacy is that you're thinking that because your can't understand something (that running Wikipedia could cost so much), it must mean that the thing you can't understand isn't true. Instead, I'd suggest that you'd get further by focusing on discovering the limits of your understanding and genuinely asking yourself: "How could it be that it costs so much? What may I be missing?"
Also, don't assume I'm speaking from a position of ignorance here, I know more than a little about how Wikipedia works. I've perused the source, played with the database dumps, etc...
I find comments like yours amusing, because I hear similar things in the industry all the time! People like you are not wrong, it's just that correct knowledge is very rapidly outdated in this industry. It's shocking what exponential growth really means! As a random example, I once had an engineer going on and on about their "powerful" email server that cost them six figures. I pointed out that it was slower than the Blackberry phone it was synchronising the email to. (No, really!)
You really underestimate the spec of a modern, 2021 era server!
You really are.
You can buy, right now, for "normal" money, a server with two 64-core AMD EPYC CPUs. That's 128 cores that are the fastest individually of pretty much any server CPU. This platform provides 256 hardware threads. Right there, you're looking at something like 12 requests per second per thread. As long as you can serve them in under 85 milliseconds each on average, that's plenty!
That server can have something like 4 TB of memory in it. The entire Wikipedia database is just 5.6 TB uncompressed.
Yes, you really can fit most of Wikipedia in memory!
Bandwidth? Mellanox makes 200 Gbps Ethernet cards. They're dual port, so that's 400 Gbps. That's enough to handle the bandwidth of a decent sized regional telecommunications company through a single box. I should know, I've seen the network diagram of mine, and they have only 100 Gbps inter-city links!
Spindles!? Are you kidding me? There are gaming PCs being built right now with 2 TB NVMe drives in them that can individually put out 7 GB/s and 1M IOPS! Who the hell puts servers on spinning rust in this day and age? That lone, single NVMe drive is putting out 56 Gbps by itself. Throw in a smidge of caching, and it could saturate those aforementioned 2x200 Gbps ports.
So no, I would not put the entirety of Wikipedia on just one server, that would be silly.
I would put it on two.
Okay, maybe three, for redundancy. Just in case.
This is incorrect. Many of the numbers you throw out ignore that in order to serve its content a server must do some work, which requires both CPU time and memory. Assuming you were able to eliminate hard drives and fit everything into RAM, you still have the problem that to serve requests and do that work you need RAM.
>That server can have something like 4 TB of memory in it. The entire Wikipedia database is just 5.6 TB uncompressed.
>Yes, you really can fit most of Wikipedia in memory!
This is incorrect. According to Wikimedia, the entire uncompressed size of Wikipedia is 19TB as of 2019, and the site has grown since.
Talking specifically about hard drives:
> Spindles!? Are you kidding me? There are gaming PCs being built right now with 2 TB NVMe drives in them that can individually put out 7 GB/s and 1M IOPS! Who the hell puts servers on spinning rust in this day and age? That lone, single NVMe drive is putting out 56 Gbps by itself. Throw in a smidge of caching, and it could saturate those aforementioned 2x200 Gbps ports.
Firstly, gaming PCs are almost always ahead of the curve when it comes to performance on everything.
Secondly, to your question about who puts servers on spinning rust -- Pretty much everyone. Backblaze even releases HDD reliability ratings based on what they observe in terms of the spinning platter drives.
Also, your 2TB NVMe drive is going to cap out at around a quarter of what the large-spindle raid controller can, and you can have a few of those in each system if you want. Sure, a PCIe 4.0 NVMe drive is going to get you 7.88GB/s in your motherboard slot but a PCIe 4.0 raid controller can have four times that bandwidth available to it.
But for argument's sake let's say you decided to swap out your raid controller for a PCIe 4.0 card that does NVMe and has onboard raid (these don't exist for purchase yet that I can find at my usual suppliers but I imagine they're coming). Now you have a size problem. The largest current best available SSDs are Sabrent's 8TB PCIe 3.0 drives. This will cut the performance considerably but is probably the sweet spot for size & speed. You need 4 of them just to host current Wikipedia, limiting any growth, and certainly without factoring in any other parts of the system that may take away from the operation.
For comparison's sake to the 2TB NVMe drive in your example, my old homelab can hit 5 GB/s on five spindles that I bought in ~ 2011-12 and they're all old and cheap, not enterprise-grade gear.
> So no, I would not put the entirety of Wikipedia on just one server, that would be silly.
> I would put it on two.
> Okay, maybe three, for redundancy. Just in case.
Then you have issues of bandwidth by having so few connections, as well as the poor user experience of trying to visit a site that exists and is served in only three places (hopefully around the globe). It's also bad for reliability because if any one site loses its connection suddenly your 200GB/s traffic is pushed onto the other servers. If you want a sense for how reliability engineering works you should look at how Netflix does testing and why they've managed to withstand regional AWS outages despite being hosted on AWS.
Wikimedia lays out their system set up pretty well on their own page.
Could you technically host wikipedia on your own systems? Sure, lots of people do, go visit Reddit's r/datahoarders and I'm sure you can find more than a few who have their own local copies. Could you actually replace production wikipedia on the Internet with the setup you describe? No, you cannot.
I also suspect you haven't costed out the server setup you describe, as it seems incongruous to say that they spend too much while advocating replacing their entire server stack with cutting edge hardware (and will they need to do so annually in order to keep up?).
Who cares if Blackblaze -- a backup company -- uses hard drives? Of course they do! They're not hosting Wikipedia though. My point was by using current-generation COTS hardware, it is entirely possible to host a huge website on a single box. It is. It really is. This is not about what other people generally do. This is about what is possible!
You keep getting bogged down by the practicalities of real-world site management. For the sake of argument, if I were to engineer a serious solution for this problem, I would be looking at hardware more like what Cloudflare uses for their edge cache boxes. They did the legwork to find the sweet spot for price/performance. This is typically a single-socket server with a 48-core AMD EPYC processor and 100 Gbps Ethernet. This CPU model is much cheaper than the 64-core flagship, but has the same amount of cache. (They're made from the same 8-core chiplets, but with 2 cores fused of due to defects.)
In these servers I would use PCI-e quad port NVMe adapters, as you said. The capacity requirements aren't as high as you think either, because the content can be sharded. The 5.6 TB number is for english Wikipedia, not all of Wikipedia + Wikimedia as a whole! So those 4x 8 TB cards are more than sufficient. Heck, even 4x 2 TB is enough for a while. The trick here is to apply some sort of lightweight compression on the text. That 5.6 TB compresses down to just 100 GB! In practice, you could easily get better than 3:1 ratios even with a very fast compressor set to "light" compression.
Then I would distribute these servers around the globe, with about 3 per location. One for english, with the other two for all the other languages. Each server would have a local, read-only replica of the language-specific databases with asynchronous streaming from the master copy.
I'd distribute this to about 5 regional locations, and nominate one server per language as the "write master" where updates occur. So for each language you'd have 1x read/write and 4x read-only. These would be at different locations, so for example German wikipedia would have the read/write replica in Germany. English would be at some US east-coast location. Etc...
Then you'd need some boxes for nonproduction test, dev, etc...
All of the remote edge servers would be load balanced using a DNS-based method, with no local load balancers. The servers' 100 Gbps ports would be directly connected to the peering routers, the same way Cloudflare and the like does it. This would add up to 1.5 TBps of traffic that you really could physically serve (5 x 3 x 100 Gbps).
Overall, the entire platform could be handled by something like 20-25 servers. That's it.
Now, I tell a small lie: Wikipedia hosts only the text! WikiMedia has the pictures, which don't compress well and requie much more disk space. This is best served with technology similar to AWS S3, which can be replicated with open source software and some boxes packed with hard drives. But again, you're probably overestimating the capacity required, and underestimating how much you can pack into a server these days.
Just to reiterate: the above is predicated upon having an efficient codebase, and Wikipedia isn't currently efficient enough to make this possible. It would take a rewrite of the code to achieve this, and that would cost more than their current hardware, so it doesn't make financial sense. Most web sites are in a similar situation, which is perhaps why your perspective is skewed: Your expectations of software performance capability might be off by a few orders of magnitude!
Hm, since Wikipedia dumps are public, has anybody tried? Moving wikipedia itself might be a large endeavor, but seeing some submissions on HN I think a very dedicated dev or two could possibly manage a rewrite to have a proof of concept.
For any attempt at porting over MW, you will need to re-implement the whole parse/include stuff... and that is a lot of work, even for a proper team.
MediaWiki repository size is about 1.4 GB and according to phploc it has closer to a million lines of PHP code. Sounds like fools errand to rewrite it.
The wiki staff themselves admitted that the current parser is inefficient, partly because of PHP, partly because the underlying grammar was not designed to be efficient, and partly because the parser itself was built up over time and wasn't easy to optimise.
My approach was to write the parser and a matching "markdown inspired" format at the same time, optimised for speed. Just a handful of small tweaks to the syntax were all that was required to largely eliminate backtracking and achieve a nearly linear parsing time in most cases. If I remember correctly, I had it down to about 1-5ms for a typical 64 KB page, and then HTML generation was another 5-10ms depending on various factors.
What a lot of people are missing here is that Wikis are not at all like typical "ERP" applications. The latter sometimes requires dozens of API calls and thousands of database queries to generate just one kilobyte of output HTML. Wiki is very linear, with a single 1-100KB blob of text as input, a matching 1-100KB blob of HTML as output. It all boils down to the parsing and HTML generation efficiency, nothing else matters!
You can parse grammar on save and make an optimized compiled format where static content is already resolved. Next step is to substitute semi-static content (like author name) to a runtime format, this last format can handle dynamic data substitution like current date & time, but probably going to be rare that any substitution is needed for the runtime format (how much truly dynamic data does a wiki have?), most of the time just print it with readfile or similar. Only difficult part here is cache invalidation for the runtime format (I know, it is one of the three difficult things you can do in programming).
3000 request/second in PHP is not hard, especially if you plan for it.
This is why it amuses me that people seem to think that Wikipedia "requires" tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure to host. It doesn't require it. It's just that some things are better/easier with more kit, such as maintenance.
Even for a well-informed person who understands that's not how Wikipedia works, your comment does no favors for the people who are already walking around with the idea in their head that it does, nor does it help the people who have to correct this (too frequently) mistaken belief. And after ruling out that that's what you meant, it's not clear what your comments did mean.
Whether or not its 10x better service, I don't know, but they are definitely doing more now then back then. There's been lots of software development since 2011 (Some good, some not so much). Even just site speed and stability has improved significantly since 2011.
And it's probably questionable if all side ventures are needed or if they could/should have sticked to the core project and developt it with little money.
As mentioned further down: Do you really need 40 fundraiser positions?
It seems they currently (2019-2020) are responsible for 12% of the expenses , but I can't find any information as to which percentage of the donations they're responsible for. I wonder if there's a more transparent report for that.
Looking at their donor numbers , it suggests that most of the fundraising is still coming from the long tail, from regular people donating online. They only seem to have 17 "major benefactors" and even if we multiply the smallest amount for that tier (50k) by 10x, that still only accounts for 7% of the donations.
According to their 2019 data, the average donation seems to be $15, which suggests Jimbo banner is way more important than the fundraisers.
Of course my assumption might be completely incorrect.
EN Wikipedia has always been where the lion share of attention was focused on (With wikidata and commons coming in second. The other projects get very little love).
Well, side ventures which burn money would explain factor 10, but yeah...
On big thing that changes as a site grows, and as it reaches more places internationally, is that it attracts more attacks. Stopping that costs lot.
Money is a funny thing, in Denmark about $320 million is spent on Covid testing a month.
So from January to July that would be the equivalent of Wikipedia funding for 20 years.
I'd definitely want an analysis on the server costs. Compared to ten years ago you can get vastly better servers per dollar and about ten times the bandwidth per dollar.
Here's the OG version by Jimmy Wales: "The sum of all human knowledge available to every person in the world."
Here's what it currently looks like: "Empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally." https://wikimediafoundation.org/about/mission/
Which one is more inspiring on all counts?
The management probably don't see themselves as caretakers of incredibly valuable resource that needs to be preserved. Which is probably what 90% of the rest of humanity want them to be.
The first version is about centralizing all informations so it can be consumed. It's the traditional view of knowledge dissemination, scaled to the whole world instantaneously. The second version is about giving people the tool to produce knowledge so it can be shared with the whole world. Just like the printing press spread authoring power from a select few people who bothered to write everything, to anyone with enough money to buy a machine, Wikipedia is giving the power to share knowledge from those who had the right curriculum to anyone with a bit of motivation.
This is the revolution that Internet and the Web promised (not just allow everyone to watch and listen, but give everyone a voice), and I'm glad Wikipedia is doing it. If it takes more money to fulfill that mission then it's totally worth it.
The 2nd is mature, focused, grounded in reality and is actually what wikimedia does.
So yeah #2 100%. But then again I'm not 12.
I guess now we have to fight over what 10 years ago means.
Please do not bring disingenuous arguments in 'exposing' suspected disingenuity, it is counterproductive.
1/ Ŕunnign a website requires constant change just to stay still. Technologies change, usage changes and user needs change. There is need for experimenting, dealing with drama, and getting funded.
2/ WMF cost per user is very reasonable for the amount of usage.
If WMF would run as a subscriber based service, it would cost just $0.5 per month/per user (rough estimate). Total expenses:$112M, 330,000 active users editing site. >800 million monthly unique devices (en-wiki alone).
> But keeping Wikipedia online is a task that the WMF could comfortably manage on $10 million a year
This part is disingenuous and bordering on malicious. The linked email (https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2013-March...)
He has editorialized the word "comfortably" and he should have discussed how the estimate might have changed since 2013, but overall I don't see why you think it's a disingenuous relating of the original email. I don't see any relevant nuance in the email that would significantly change my view of the estimate. However, I haven't gone through the preceding emails at all
> 43% Direct support to communities
> The Wikimedia projects exist thanks to volunteer communities around the world that create and maintain them. We strengthen these communities through grants, programs, events, trainings, partnerships, tools to augment contributor capacity, and support for the legal defense of editors.
My wife's friend just came to stay with us. He worked for the Wikimedia foundation for a long time and we were just talking about this. From what he said, after engineering expenses, legal expenses are the highest category. What he said happens is, say, the government of India finds editors with IP addresses in India, contributing to a page with a map not showing Kashmir as a part of India, and either arrests or sues those people, and Wikimedia Foundation tries to do all they can to provide legal defense for these people.
Ironically, this guy's biggest complaint and the reason he left Wikimedia is they don't pay enough for engineering. They're still fighting a propaganda war with all of the world's governments to provide accurate information, and that is a labor-intensive war being waged by true believers and volunteers. For instance, they block all IP blocks allocated to US legislative offices from editing any pages because of how consistently Congressional staffers were vandalizing pages and posting misinformation, but surely these people have learned of the existence of VPNs and working remotely. They clearly need better automated detection and moderation system, but to develop and deploy such systems, now they're competing with Facebook and Google for labor, but paying 1/3 of what Facebook and Google pay.
Apparently, people think the answer is they should just move to Vietnam or wherever labor rates are lowest.
Look, I don't doubt overseas developers are just as talented as anyone else, but history has inertia. There's a reason Silicon Valley firms are located in a place with university professors and professional mentors who invented much of the modern OS and Internet. I also don't doubt athletic talent is evenly spread around the world, but nonetheless South America and Europe dominate football, the US dominates baseball and basketball, Kenya dominates distance running. If you want to put together the best basketball team you possibly can, you go to Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago. You don't look around the world for the cheapest labor rates and go there.
This kind of nonsense is exactly why I left the nonprofit world so long ago. The public all believe labor should subsist at the bare minimum living wage of the cheapest possible place to live, and no money whatsoever should be spent on fundraising.
Just understand when you take this position, if the nonprofit is involved in anything that governments and for-profits might also be interested, say, influencing how and what information gets disseminated to the entire world and for what purpose, the non-profit trying to minimize cost at all cost is going to lose to the governments and for-profits every single time.
This is disingenuous, moving to pretty much any European city would be enough. Asking people to donate to an organization that pays people 10x of what you make while pretending that they are in dire need of money is just gross.
There are thousands of editors who deal with vandalism. WM doesn't need to develop new vandalism-detection software.