To start with, here is a brief summary of our financial state at the end of 2004:
In 2004, our global revenues were US$150,000, while expenses reached about US$123,000 dollars. The full bank history for 2004 is available on the Foundation Website. The most striking financial trend for 2004 was the amazing growth of our needs. In just one year, our server farm grew from 3 servers to 50! Naturally, this meant increasing costs throughout the year, to purchase new equipment and to support bandwidth requirements.
A budget meeting was held in early 2005, to estimate our growing needs. Following this estimate, a successful fundraising drive was held in February, yielding over US$90,000 dollars.
Other revenues included grants and sponsorship. Our most recent grant was from the Lounsbery Foundation. An important issue with regard to grants and donations is that the Wikimedia Foundation has finally been classified as a public charity, and granted tax exempt status by the IRS. This will certainly offer new incentives to potential grantors. During the first months of 2005, an IRC meeting was held on grant issues, and we considered looking for a Grants Manager for the Foundation. Later in the quarter, Wikimania, the first international meeting organised by and for Wikipedians (taking place in August), was granted its first sponsorship, from Gurunet.
With our existing funds, we purchased some technical equipment in January. Numerous hosting proposals this quarter allowed us to purchase less hardware than expected. The donor of the first set of French squids donated three more, soon to be hosted by Lost Oasis for free; other propositions are currently being studied (see Wikimedia partners and hosts). In particular, discussions are ongoing with Google, but no agreement has been reached. The general trend is to multiply our partners, insuring independence; while making agreements that are technically relevant.
A new expense is salary. Since early 2005, the Foundation has been employing two part-time developers, Chad Perrin and Brion Vibber. The board has also decided to hire a person full-time to do secretary work, such as physical paper work, sending out packages, purchase of tech parts, phone calls. The position will be local to Florida. Discussions are ongoing about hiring other people but no decision has been taken at that point.
Finally, the legal organisation of the Foundation has been strengthened in the past few weeks, with the creation of a page to coordinate discussions of legal issues.
See also this recent list of open questions to the board.
In order to help the Wikimedia Foundation move forward, current and future legal issues regarding the Foundation are being centralized. This is being done to preserve the memory of useful internal and external links to solved problems and resources. Discussion and information are being gathered on the meta-wiki's legal page. This page is also the place to gather all legal material that the Foundation or local chapters might need to make requests of outside lawyers.
The Foundation's typical legal needs releate to copyright, trademarks, marketing, donations, taxes, and laws of associations and partnership. Legal issues must be considered both for common law countries and for civil law countries.
Creative Commons unveils new license for wikis
By Michael Snow (21 march)
Last Thursday, Creative Commons introduced a beta version of its new license designed specifically for wikis, in conjunction with Lawrence Lessig's introduction of a wiki to help draft an updated version of one of his books.
As Lessig explained it, with the new license (given the designation of CC-Wiki), "rather than requiring attribution back to the copyright holder, [the license would] require attribution back to either the copyright holder or a designated entity." The designated entity would presumably be whatever organization controlled the wiki. Lessig characterized it as a newly branded version of the attribution/share-alike (CC-by-sa) license, rather than being an entirely new license.
Lessig is also using a wiki to coordinate updates to his book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, originally published in 2000. The wiki for the book, powered by JotSpot, will use the new CC-Wiki license, although the published version will not be under a Creative Commons license - Lessig told BusinessWeek that he wasn't able to get his publisher, Basic Books, to agree to such a license.
The new CC-wiki license could have implications for Wikipedia, as for quite some time there have been periodic complaints that the GNU Free Documentation License is difficult to comply with, and incompatible with the popular Creative Commons licenses. In an attempt to reduce the burden of license compliance on those who reuse Wikipedia content, Wikipedia's copyright notice encourages mirror sites to focus on providing a link back to the Wikipedia article. English Wikipedian Ram-Man spent some time this quarter systematically asking people to multi-license their contributions, usually under the GFDL and one of the Creative Commons licenses.
However, Lessig's project received a cool reception from some corners. Angela called the decision to use proprietary software from JotSpot to host Lessig's wiki a bizarre choice. Others, including Jamesday, criticized the CC-Wiki license itself, particularly over the effect of group attribution on the rights of individual authors. The license is still in "beta", and there has yet been no serious discussion about implementing such a license for Wikipedia content.
Summary on collaboration
We worked out a number of collaborations with other organisations in the first quarter, and are discussing many more. Belnet is providing free hosting and 22U of rackspace. This agreement has been signed recently.
Kennisnet is collaborating with Wikimedia in many ways; both by sponsoring software research and development, and by offering local hosting and the use of their servers. (For more information on Kennisnet collaborations, see Kennisnet, pg 7.)
We reached an agreement to provide a live feed of our public data to Answers.com. Brion Vibber is currently working with them to make this happen. Ask Jeeves (a search engine) and Opera (a web browser company) are interested in such a feed as well, and Amazon.com has expressed some interest, but no agreements have been reached with any of them.
We have also reached some collaborations with content owners, who have provided their content for reuse in the project. The European Environment Agency has agreed to license their General Multilingual Environmental Thesaurus (GEMET) so that it may be included in Wiktionary; Voice of America agreed to make the 5000 terms of its Pronunciation Guide available for use in Wikipedia; and the original publishers of the Whole Earth Catalog agreed to make the content of the first 5 years of Whole Earth Catalogs available for use in Wikisource and (in updated, wikified form) in Wikibooks.
Another dozen hosting offers, both large and small, are under discussion. Some are tentative, some want "co-marketing opportunities," etc. Right now, we are telling most of them that we are interested but that we will not be technically ready for a few months; so we should talk now to plan ahead but are unlikely to announce anything soon. We must first organise the deals recently concluded, and take time to think and organise, rather than proceeding in haste.
Top rank sales for Directmedia DVD of German Wikipedia
After the successful distribution of the German Wikipedia on CD, the German publishing company Directmedia has released a DVD edition. The DVD is based on a snapshot of the wiki from March 3, which was quickly reviewed to remove potential copyright violations, vandalism and templates which are only useful in the online version of Wikipedia. Structured bibliographic information about key people, a new feature added for the CD distribution, was also added for more people.
The DVD contains 203,000 articles and thousands of images. It includes software for browsing the content with a fast full text search and features for annotations, bookmarks and so on. The DVD is shipped with software for running on Windows, MacOS and Linux; although the latter is still new and under heavy development.
The DVD was the best-selling software product at Amazon Germany the day after it was announced. Two days later, the 10,000 copies made for the release had sold out and a new set were ordered from the factory. These will be delivered within the next few weeks.
The DVD also contains data packages for Tomeraider and Mobipocket, allowing it to be installed on PDAs, as well as a "bonus CD-ROM." This CD is a bootable LAMPPIX-CD containing an Apache server, a MySQL database and Mediawiki. This runs a Mediawiki installation directly from the CD-ROM, which you can boot from in order to have access to over 200,000 articles from your web browser.
The DVD's ISBN is 3-89853-020-5; it can be ordered for 9.90 Euros from every book shop in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. For each DVD sold, one euro is donated to Wikimedia Deutschland. Both the DVD and the CD-ROM are available for free as ISO images, via P2P networks and on several FTP servers, encouraging sharing and broader distribution.
An increasing part of the Board's activity is related to public relations. Jimmy Wales is travelling or offline more frequently, due to invitations to talks all over the world. A quick view of his schedule is probably the best summary of this. Other presentations have taken Angela and Anthere offline for days at a time (most recently at PixelAche for Anthere and A Decade of Web Design for Angela). For more on these conferences, interviews and press reports, see Press (pg. 6) and International (pg. 7).
Effort has recently been put into improving the public collection of presentation materials. Anthere crafted a leaflet in French with Notafish for the TIC21 meeting in January 2005. Elian later released a collection of leaflets to be translated for the Fosdem meeting.
The full collection of current material may be found in three collections, for presentations, promotion, and leaflets. Most of this information may now be found in English, German, French and Dutch. Please add to these in other languages.
The first fund drive of 2005 was held from Friday, February 18, 2005, to Tuesday, March 1, 2005.
Last December, the Lounsbery Foundation granted the Foundation 40,000 USD for hardware expenses in the first quarter of 2005. This grant, added to the money generated in the drive, allowed the foundation to purchase up to 75,000 USD worth of hardware.
20,000 USD were set aside for additional hardware and/or to pay for development projects. This is also the first quarter where the full cost of hosting is being charged to the foundation; 16,000 USD was allocated for this. The extra 20,000 USD over the fundraiser goal was put into a reserve fund.
The foundation now has two employees: a part-time hardware assistant and one full-time developer under contract. The 8,000 USD for the developer is being provided by official mirror contracts. The 1,500 USD for the hardware assistant has been allocated from the budget.
Other budgeted items: 5,000 USD for travel, 500 USD for domain names, 2,500 USD for office expenses, 500 USD for fundraising and promotion, and 1,000 USD for miscellaneous expenses
Wikimedia Deutschland was the only chapter with its own financial report to issue; for details, see Chapters, page 5.
501(c)(3) status granted to Wikimedia Foundation
After many months of waiting, the Wikimedia Foundation has been officially classified as a public charity and granted 501(c)(3) (tax exempt) status by the IRS. Donations to the Foundation are now tax deductible in the United States. The Foundation is now qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers, or gifts. The effective date of the exemption is June 20, 2003 (the date on which the Foundation was created), and the status is fully retroactive. If you have donated to the Foundation in the past, those donations may be claimed as tax deductions.
One grant meeting was held on IRC in February, with about 10 people in attendance. As a direct result, a UNESCO IFAP grant was pursued, unsuccessfully, to support the initial development of a universal dictionary.
Shortly thereafter, a similar proposal won a 5000 EUR grant for software development from Kennisnet, a Dutch educational organisation (for a full report on the grant and its effects, see Kennisnet and Wikimedia, pg. 7).
Wikimania supported by GuruNet
Bob Rosenschein of GuruNet agreed to be a primary sponsor of Wikimania for an amount of 30,000 EUR. He is a very enthusiastic supporter of Wikimedia's charitable goals, and his company is prospering in part due to reuse of Wikipedia content.
Socialtext, a corporate wiki development company, agreed to sponsor the conference for 5000 EUR; and other sponsorships were being discussed as of the end of March.
January and February saw a number of slowdowns and, on one occasion, a complete shutdown of Wikimedia sites. These were due to a variety of reasons. Many individual servers broke; 10 machines in the main cluster were fixed in the first quarter alone; and traffic continues to rise. The colocation facility had a massive power failure in February, leading to two days of downtime and read-only availability. As of the start of Q2, almost all servers are back in action, and the cluster is looking healthy.
Developers have recently started a LiveJournal as a way to communicate about servers issues with the community. That's one more feed for your preferred RSS aggregator.
There were two major power outages in the first quarter. The first outage, around February 21st, was due to a double power failure: two different power supplies to our cluster were switched off at the same time, when some of the internal switches in our colocation facility failed. Some databases were corrupted by the sudden loss of power; the surviving database had not been completely up-to-date with the most current server, and it took almost two days for developers to recover all data. In the meantime, the site was restored to read-only mode after a few hours.
The second outage took place on March 16th due to a human error: one of the master database's hard disks filled up, preventing slaves from being updated. At this point the data cluster had not fully recovered from the previous outage, and there was less than full redundancy among the database slaves. By the time space was made on the disk, the most up-to-date slave was already many hours behind. It took over eight hours of read-only time for the databases to be resynchronized.
Caches installed near Paris
Report from David Monniaux.
In December 2004, servers donated to the Wikimedia Foundation were installed at the Telecity facility located in Aubervilliers on the outskirts of Paris, France. The network access is donated by French provider Lost Oasis. In January, the software setup was completed; however, various problems then had to be ironed out.
As of April 1, 2005, those machines cache content in English and French, as well as all multimedia content (images, sounds...), for users located in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switerland, and the United Kingdom (daily stats per country). The caches work as follows: if they hold the requested page in their local memory, they serve it directly; otherwise, they forward the request to the main Florida servers, and memorizes the answer while passing it to the browser of the Wikipedia user. Typically, for text content, 80% of accesses are cached (that is, they are served directly); the proportion climbs to 90-95% for image accesses. Due to the current way that the Mediawiki software works, content is cached much more efficiently for anonymous users: essentially, all text pages have to be requested from Florida for logged-in users.
The interest of such caches is twofold:
The Paris caches serve as a production experiment and test bed for future cache developments, which are currently being studied. We may, for instance, change the caching software in order to reduce the load on the caches (currently, with all the countries they serve, the machines are loaded 80-95%; the machines are, however, quite outdated), and see how we may improve efficiency and cache rates (it appears that the caches do not perform as efficiently as they should by fetching data from each other).
Release of MediaWiki 1.4
MediaWiki 1.4 became stable on March 20th, although the Wikimedia farm had been using 1.4 betas since December 2004. This means that most bugs have been fixed and developers are free to work full-time on the next release. MediaWiki 1.5 will use an improved database schema, which should greatly enhance performance. There is also some interesting new code to improve page caching: pages served to anonymous users and to logged-in users will look the same, something which is not the case in 1.4.
Blocking of open proxies
Since March 28th, Wikipedia has been automatically blocking edits coming from open proxies. The feature is still in testing; details are being worked out on the Meta-wiki.
Jimmy Wales asks for more developers at FOSDEM
As the opening speaker at the FOSDEM 2005 conference in Brussels, Jimmy Wales appealed to the development community for support with the technical side of running Wikipedia. Analyses of these remarks were published in several places last week.
Statistics on the projects
There are currently nine active Wikimedia projects. "Language count" below refers to the number of languages with at least five articles.
EasyTimeline charts are collected for each Wikipedia language, and listed together with the script code. This may serve as a source of inspiration to help learn the syntax. This can also help find real gems on other Wikipedias that deserve to be translated. While starting a timeline from scratch is not trivial, expanding, correcting or translating an existing chart is indeed "easy."
Wikipedia is more popular than...