back to article Wikimedia Foundation bins community-elected trustee

The Wikimedia Foundation has ousted a community-elected board trustee, whose seat now lies empty. At the same time, it has also appointed two hand-picked trustees for two other vacant spots: a former Google executive with a controversial record and a Mountain View CFO. These are just two changes that were announced quietly over …

  1. pewpie

    Just keeping the little man out of the true picture at Wikipeedja.. Can't have them knowing too much from the inside eh, you fucking crooks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps you missed the part about there being three community-elected trustees, and they intend replacing the one that's going with another community-elected member.

      1. h4rm0ny

        >>"and they intend replacing the one that's going with another community-elected member."

        I read it more as "and they intend replacing the one that caused trouble."

        Also, I'm a little confused as to the set up here as it reads as though the appointees who voted him off, were actually just members of the same board he was elected to. If this is so, then they're really set up so that the majority can vote out the members that they object to, then something is seriously wrong. It would be like the Tories getting a majority and deciding to vote Labour and the Lib Dems out of Parliament.

        And it seems a majority of the board are appointees who get in there by selection rather than voting. If this is the case, then the community elected representatives don't actually have any possibility of pushing through any decisions regardless of the mandate given them by the community, because the community representatives are a minority on the board? Essentially, the community is allowed to pick representatives to be sent (although this one has been sent back as unacceptable), but they don't actually have real power. Can someone confirm my reading of this is correct, please?

        1. JN

          You're correct.

          First, the candidates the community votes for are only ever recommendations; even the successful candidates in the community votes are appointees (= community recommendations accepted by the sitting board members, at their discretion), rather than being directly elected to the board (which would give them a different legal standing according to the law of Florida, where the Foundation was originally set up).

          And according to the board rules, the majority can at any time dismiss any board member, for cause or without cause (something which hitherto had not happened).

          You can find more information in the current mailing list threads related to this:

          As someone has mentioned there recently, the conflict of interest policy for board members is very strange, too. Board members are assumed not to have a conflict of interest as long as their ownership in a company is less than 10%. So, for example, you could own 9% of Google, and this would not rise to the level of a conflict of interest on any board business related to Google. (However, if you had an 11% investment in your kid's window cleaning business, that would.)

          The Geshuri business also casts a bad light on board proceedings because Jimmy Wales for example has recently said he had some awareness of the lawsuit, while Dariusz Jemielniak, another community-selected board member (who voted against Heilman's dismissal) said he only found out about Geshuri's involvement in the scandal after the appointment. So it seems that Wales did not share the information with Jemielniak. There was a general lack of due diligence.

          1. Gregory Kohs

            "a general lack of due diligence"

            JN points out a general lack of due diligence by the Wikimedia Foundation board. Let's remember, this is the trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation. They're the organization that appointed a two-time felon to its Chief Operating Officer position.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward



      At what level of crime are we talking about?

      Using volunteer work to write, review and edit a ad-free and free to use site with free software open for anyone to use and change all funded by donations to create a highly useful and easily referenced (as in find the information not using references to it in research documents) 1st source of information?

      I'll reserve judgement of the direction of wikimedia for when or if it is known that they will be moving to a private enterprise.

      There are three posts for publicly elected representatives, I get the feeling that if the trustee was fired for no reason the other two representatives would be making noises by now, even if it's out of a sense of self preservation. There are an awful lot of reasons why they'd want him out without wanting to make it public.

      1. Gregory Kohs

        Re: Erm..?

        "I get the feeling that if the trustee was fired for no reason the other two representatives would be making noises by now..."

        Um, two-thirds of the community-recommended trustees voted against pushing Heilman off the board. If too loud of "noises" are made, where do you think the other community reps will be headed?

  2. Dan Wilkie

    I felt guilty about not choosing to donate in their last few funding drives since their hosting costs must be so huge. I don't really feel guilty anymore...

    1. VinceH

      After the business with David Slater, they'll never get a penny off me. There's no need to feel guilty about it - just do your best to avoid using Wikipedia if at all possible.

      1. h4rm0ny

        >>"After the business with David Slater, they'll never get a penny off me. There's no need to feel guilty about it - just do your best to avoid using Wikipedia if at all possible."

        Yes. I used to give Wikipedia fairly generous donations during their fund-raising drives. I stopped with the David Slater / Monkie Selfie debacle. I once unwisely read their faux-neutral self-congratulatory page on the case where they affect objectivity. You can practically see the dewy beads of self-righteousness squeezing through your monitor by osmosis.

        I felt better about stopping contributing when I learned that they meet their hosting costs with just a small fraction of the donations and that most of it is going on salaries and pet projects.

    2. Gregory Kohs

      Their hosting costs comprise about 6% of all the money that they take in each year. Every penny given to the Wikimedia Foundation beyond the first $3 million or $4 million is simply going to expand out an already bloated staffing empire.

  3. knarf

    Who owns Wiki, Who own the copyright

    Who owns the copyright if its freely updated by the "man in the street" , can some just come along and port it to a free wiki ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who owns Wiki, Who own the copyright

      It is the free wiki which helped spawn most of what's out there and is owned by the man in the street under GNU public licenses. Wikimedia only copyright their branding images.

      You're allowed to download and set up your own wiki without putting a single penny (or cent) into wikimedia's coffers. Fun project if you'd like to give it a go.


  4. Turtle

    What The Internet Does Best.

    The internet seems to corrupt everything it touches. And although I know that that's not literally true, it's true so often, that you'd not be far wrong assuming that it's true all the time. And the more altruistic something seems to be on the surface, the more likely that it's been co-opted by venal and pecuniary interests and actors in bad faith.

    As the comedienne Lily Tomlin said, "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up."

    It's not really very funny, though.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: What The Internet Does Best.

      This pre-dates the internet.

      See Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy. He wasn't the first to state it - but he did give it a cool name.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: What The Internet Does Best.

      So what corruption are we on about here?

      Wikimedia is free and ad free to the end user without any data slurping. - Can't see the corruption there...

      The money it's received in donations is being used to develop the project further and providing hosting for it's free sites and free downloads with their free support pages. - Nope not yet...

      Volunteer work is peer reviewed and the proceeds of which provided to the public. Nothing there...

      Some of the money is used to pay it's board of directors, the amount of which is publicised. - Bum, thought I almost found the corruption...

      There is disagreement between volunteers and paid staff on how things are run. You get two people in a room and there would be disagreements. - So another miss...

      You can look at most corporations and corruption is rife, but GNU projects tend to be altruistic with the odd "personality" mixing up the mood rather than finding ways to syphon funds.

      1. Gregory Kohs

        Re: What The Internet Does Best.

        Dewix doesn't see any corruption here, but then again, he has no idea about the difference between its and it's -- something we're taught when we're about 10 year old.

        Maybe he should read about the Stanton Foundation's funding of a Belfer Center paid writer, with payroll passed through the Wikimedia Foundation. (Hint for the clueless: the director of the Stanton Foundation is married to the director of the Belfer Center, so by laundering the $50,000 transaction through the Wikimedia Foundation, the hope was that nobody would discover that the Mrs. was granting money to the Mr.)

      2. Turtle

        @Dewix Re: What The Internet Does Best.

        Your post brought to mind the phrase "There is none so blind as he who will not see."

    3. Ashley_Pomeroy

      Re: What The Internet Does Best.

      "The internet seems to corrupt everything it touches" - I think it's the other way around. Internet and IT industries tend to attract the kind of people who are likely to be corrupt. It's like the banking sector but the employees are younger and there are fewer regulations.

      Wikipedia is a bit of a throwback to the idealistic days when the only people on the internet were college students, their lecturers, engineers, and government types; the emphasis on boards and committees reeks of that era. Except that it has modern elements. The business model is a variation of Buzzfeed - masses of unpaid people creating the content, a small core of high-ups earning the nickels, except that the money comes from donations rather than adverts. It's the kind of thing a sociopath might devise.

  5. MyffyW Silver badge

    @pewpie careful dear, your reasoned dissent will be compared to climbing the Reichstag dressed as Spiderman.

    It's only a matter of time before our Wikipedia is flogged off to the highest bidder.

  6. sunnysander

    Where is the integrity?

    Is just everything going to hell these days because of money and greed or would that just my one-side view of the community?

    1. et tu, brute?

      Your view, my view, and I think the view of millions of others...

      ...just not enough (yet) to start a revolution, as it is millions against the billions...

  7. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    Wait a minute...

    "the foundation has been able to create a burgeoning class of paid foundation employees, whose salaries swallow most of its estimated $55m annual expenses.

    So all those popups on Wikipedia the last few months saying "if everybody gave just $3 this fundraiser would be over in an hour" were for paying salaries? Wow, that puts a whole different spin on things. I thought it was used for things like servers, bandwidth, and trips to tropical islands.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Wait a minute...

      Apparently so. To be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with some salaries being paid for full-time administrators. But when $2.5m covers operational costs like hosting and they're bringing in $250m, that's a pretty alarming ratio for an organization that makes its money off the backs of unpaid volunteers.

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