[Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

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[Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Fæ
ISSUE

Jimmy Wales has never declared a conflict of interest or loyalty when
acting as a WMF trustee. He is co-founder of Wikia Inc, set up in
2004, a commercial company that often benefits from new MediaWiki
developments, and clearly he benefits financially from resulting
profitability of Wikia. The original vision for Wikia was as a
"Google-killer" open search engine, so it would seem highly prudent
for Jimmy to have declared a conflict of interest and avoided WMF
board discussions and votes in relation to new development projects
around open Knowledge Engines / Search Engines.

I welcome some feedback as to whether the general perception of
Wikimedians is that WMF trustees should be seen to do more to declare
and manage their potential conflicts of interest, and whether Jimmy
Wales is perceived to have a conflict of loyalties when steering the
WMF board member in areas which overlap with Wikia Inc.'s marketing
strategy, and that they might otherwise fund commercially.

BACKGROUND

With regard to his potential conflict of loyalties when serving as a
voting unelected trustee on the WMF board, Jimmy Wales has stated:
"I did not have any conflict of loyalties during that process.
Spending a reasonable portion of our IT budget on an ambitious project
to improve search and discovery, and to conduct research and community
consultation on that, is a great idea for Wikipedia and for the
broader Wikimedia movement and I strongly support it."[1]

Most recently Jimmy Wales has been arguing the case against
introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services, with an
obvious reuser of MediaWiki code improvements and WMF supported open
project data being Wikia Inc.[2]

There is no record in the WMF board minutes for 2015 of Jimmy Wales
having ever declared a conflict of interest or loyalty for Wikia Inc
or for any other reason, nor of any other trustee doing so. In order
to comply with standard company law, these are expected on the
standing agenda for board meetings, and it is worrying for a
Foundation with control of $100m assets to never have a trustee or
director ever declare an interest as a reason to abstain from a vote
or discussion.[3]

Jimmy does not appear to see there may be a public perception of
conflict of interest or loyalties[6] when he is involved in steering
the WMF strategy for prioritizing new developments that are likely to
benefit Wikia Inc. The Knowledge Engine / Search Engine project was
discussed by the board during 2015 and Jimmy has been a public
advocate of the project since it was publicly leaked. The overlap of
what is thought to have been the original proposal to the Knight
Foundation with Jimmy Wales' original vision for wikia.com, being
"Search Wikia", described as a "Google-killer search engine", is an
obvious concern. Jimmy Wales: "Obsession: Currently, it’s wikia.com.
It is meant to take on Google by creating a search engine where all
the editorial decisions are made by the general public and all the
software is open."[5]

Nine years later Jimmy is promoting the same ideas but with the WMF
investing charitable donated funds to support a development that will
benefit Wikia, rather than it being commercially funded while using
much of the same rhetoric, such as the importance of transparency.[4]

Links
1. https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082678.html
2. https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082721.html
3. https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Meetings
4. Search Wikia interview
http://searchengineland.com/qa-with-jimmy-wales-on-search-wikia-10171
5. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/magazine/18wwln-domains-t.html
6. Company directors and trustees are expected to declare both
"conflicts of interest", normally interpreted as having a direct or
indirect financial interest, and "conflicts of loyalty" where their
non-financial interests may be seen to potentially influence their
judgement as a board member. There may be no demonstrable conflict for
this to be an issue, it only needs to be potentially be seen to be an
issue by others, in order to require a declaration.
7. "Take advantage of Wikia's custom research solutions to achieve
campaign objectives, including brand lift studies, target audience
insights, and more!", "Reach the right audience with the right message
using Wikia's multitude of targeting opportunities, including
demographic, psychographic, geographic, contextual, genre, devices,
conquesting, and more!" http://www.wikia.com/mediakit

Fae
--
[hidden email] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fae

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Todd Allen
Fae,

Your second citation didn't at all match what I recall Jimmy saying on the
subject, so I went and read it. Even the specific email you cite is not, in
any way, "...arguing the case against
introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services...". Some quotes
from the email you cited:

"...my general view is 100% in agreement with him on the core issue - where
commercial re-users are getting enormous value from our work, they should
be paying for the engineering resources required for their support."

"...I come down firmly on the side of being careful about falling into a
trap of doing lots of expensive work for commercial re-users without having
them pay."

He does say that there would be some caveats and it would be something to
step lightly on, but I don't think it could be any clearer that he does
want commercial reusers to pay for WMF services in at least some cases.

I'm all for discussion and identification of potential conflicts of
interest. But if you're going to accuse someone of that, you really do need
to make sure you've got your facts straight. Misrepresenting someone, or
some things they said, will not get anyone to take you seriously.

Todd

On Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 12:47 PM, Fæ <[hidden email]> wrote:

> ISSUE
>
> Jimmy Wales has never declared a conflict of interest or loyalty when
> acting as a WMF trustee. He is co-founder of Wikia Inc, set up in
> 2004, a commercial company that often benefits from new MediaWiki
> developments, and clearly he benefits financially from resulting
> profitability of Wikia. The original vision for Wikia was as a
> "Google-killer" open search engine, so it would seem highly prudent
> for Jimmy to have declared a conflict of interest and avoided WMF
> board discussions and votes in relation to new development projects
> around open Knowledge Engines / Search Engines.
>
> I welcome some feedback as to whether the general perception of
> Wikimedians is that WMF trustees should be seen to do more to declare
> and manage their potential conflicts of interest, and whether Jimmy
> Wales is perceived to have a conflict of loyalties when steering the
> WMF board member in areas which overlap with Wikia Inc.'s marketing
> strategy, and that they might otherwise fund commercially.
>
> BACKGROUND
>
> With regard to his potential conflict of loyalties when serving as a
> voting unelected trustee on the WMF board, Jimmy Wales has stated:
> "I did not have any conflict of loyalties during that process.
> Spending a reasonable portion of our IT budget on an ambitious project
> to improve search and discovery, and to conduct research and community
> consultation on that, is a great idea for Wikipedia and for the
> broader Wikimedia movement and I strongly support it."[1]
>
> Most recently Jimmy Wales has been arguing the case against
> introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services, with an
> obvious reuser of MediaWiki code improvements and WMF supported open
> project data being Wikia Inc.[2]
>
> There is no record in the WMF board minutes for 2015 of Jimmy Wales
> having ever declared a conflict of interest or loyalty for Wikia Inc
> or for any other reason, nor of any other trustee doing so. In order
> to comply with standard company law, these are expected on the
> standing agenda for board meetings, and it is worrying for a
> Foundation with control of $100m assets to never have a trustee or
> director ever declare an interest as a reason to abstain from a vote
> or discussion.[3]
>
> Jimmy does not appear to see there may be a public perception of
> conflict of interest or loyalties[6] when he is involved in steering
> the WMF strategy for prioritizing new developments that are likely to
> benefit Wikia Inc. The Knowledge Engine / Search Engine project was
> discussed by the board during 2015 and Jimmy has been a public
> advocate of the project since it was publicly leaked. The overlap of
> what is thought to have been the original proposal to the Knight
> Foundation with Jimmy Wales' original vision for wikia.com, being
> "Search Wikia", described as a "Google-killer search engine", is an
> obvious concern. Jimmy Wales: "Obsession: Currently, it’s wikia.com.
> It is meant to take on Google by creating a search engine where all
> the editorial decisions are made by the general public and all the
> software is open."[5]
>
> Nine years later Jimmy is promoting the same ideas but with the WMF
> investing charitable donated funds to support a development that will
> benefit Wikia, rather than it being commercially funded while using
> much of the same rhetoric, such as the importance of transparency.[4]
>
> Links
> 1.
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082678.html
> 2.
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082721.html
> 3. https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Meetings
> 4. Search Wikia interview
> http://searchengineland.com/qa-with-jimmy-wales-on-search-wikia-10171
> 5. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/magazine/18wwln-domains-t.html
> 6. Company directors and trustees are expected to declare both
> "conflicts of interest", normally interpreted as having a direct or
> indirect financial interest, and "conflicts of loyalty" where their
> non-financial interests may be seen to potentially influence their
> judgement as a board member. There may be no demonstrable conflict for
> this to be an issue, it only needs to be potentially be seen to be an
> issue by others, in order to require a declaration.
> 7. "Take advantage of Wikia's custom research solutions to achieve
> campaign objectives, including brand lift studies, target audience
> insights, and more!", "Reach the right audience with the right message
> using Wikia's multitude of targeting opportunities, including
> demographic, psychographic, geographic, contextual, genre, devices,
> conquesting, and more!" http://www.wikia.com/mediakit
>
> Fae
> --
> [hidden email] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fae
>
> _______________________________________________
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> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Fæ
Todd, putting the caveats before the main thrust of Jimmy Wales'
email, is a strange way of reading it. I read the email the obvious
way, and I encourage others to read the original for themselves,
rather than relying on cherry-picked quotes towards the end.

Thanks,
Fae

On 28 February 2016 at 20:17, Todd Allen <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Fae,
>
> Your second citation didn't at all match what I recall Jimmy saying on the
> subject, so I went and read it. Even the specific email you cite is not, in
> any way, "...arguing the case against
> introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services...". Some quotes
> from the email you cited:
>
> "...my general view is 100% in agreement with him on the core issue - where
> commercial re-users are getting enormous value from our work, they should
> be paying for the engineering resources required for their support."
>
> "...I come down firmly on the side of being careful about falling into a
> trap of doing lots of expensive work for commercial re-users without having
> them pay."
>
> He does say that there would be some caveats and it would be something to
> step lightly on, but I don't think it could be any clearer that he does
> want commercial reusers to pay for WMF services in at least some cases.
>
> I'm all for discussion and identification of potential conflicts of
> interest. But if you're going to accuse someone of that, you really do need
> to make sure you've got your facts straight. Misrepresenting someone, or
> some things they said, will not get anyone to take you seriously.
>
> Todd
>
> On Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 12:47 PM, Fæ <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> ISSUE
>>
>> Jimmy Wales has never declared a conflict of interest or loyalty when
>> acting as a WMF trustee. He is co-founder of Wikia Inc, set up in
>> 2004, a commercial company that often benefits from new MediaWiki
>> developments, and clearly he benefits financially from resulting
>> profitability of Wikia. The original vision for Wikia was as a
>> "Google-killer" open search engine, so it would seem highly prudent
>> for Jimmy to have declared a conflict of interest and avoided WMF
>> board discussions and votes in relation to new development projects
>> around open Knowledge Engines / Search Engines.
>>
>> I welcome some feedback as to whether the general perception of
>> Wikimedians is that WMF trustees should be seen to do more to declare
>> and manage their potential conflicts of interest, and whether Jimmy
>> Wales is perceived to have a conflict of loyalties when steering the
>> WMF board member in areas which overlap with Wikia Inc.'s marketing
>> strategy, and that they might otherwise fund commercially.
>>
>> BACKGROUND
>>
>> With regard to his potential conflict of loyalties when serving as a
>> voting unelected trustee on the WMF board, Jimmy Wales has stated:
>> "I did not have any conflict of loyalties during that process.
>> Spending a reasonable portion of our IT budget on an ambitious project
>> to improve search and discovery, and to conduct research and community
>> consultation on that, is a great idea for Wikipedia and for the
>> broader Wikimedia movement and I strongly support it."[1]
>>
>> Most recently Jimmy Wales has been arguing the case against
>> introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services, with an
>> obvious reuser of MediaWiki code improvements and WMF supported open
>> project data being Wikia Inc.[2]
>>
>> There is no record in the WMF board minutes for 2015 of Jimmy Wales
>> having ever declared a conflict of interest or loyalty for Wikia Inc
>> or for any other reason, nor of any other trustee doing so. In order
>> to comply with standard company law, these are expected on the
>> standing agenda for board meetings, and it is worrying for a
>> Foundation with control of $100m assets to never have a trustee or
>> director ever declare an interest as a reason to abstain from a vote
>> or discussion.[3]
>>
>> Jimmy does not appear to see there may be a public perception of
>> conflict of interest or loyalties[6] when he is involved in steering
>> the WMF strategy for prioritizing new developments that are likely to
>> benefit Wikia Inc. The Knowledge Engine / Search Engine project was
>> discussed by the board during 2015 and Jimmy has been a public
>> advocate of the project since it was publicly leaked. The overlap of
>> what is thought to have been the original proposal to the Knight
>> Foundation with Jimmy Wales' original vision for wikia.com, being
>> "Search Wikia", described as a "Google-killer search engine", is an
>> obvious concern. Jimmy Wales: "Obsession: Currently, it’s wikia.com.
>> It is meant to take on Google by creating a search engine where all
>> the editorial decisions are made by the general public and all the
>> software is open."[5]
>>
>> Nine years later Jimmy is promoting the same ideas but with the WMF
>> investing charitable donated funds to support a development that will
>> benefit Wikia, rather than it being commercially funded while using
>> much of the same rhetoric, such as the importance of transparency.[4]
>>
>> Links
>> 1.
>> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082678.html
>> 2.
>> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082721.html
>> 3. https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Meetings
>> 4. Search Wikia interview
>> http://searchengineland.com/qa-with-jimmy-wales-on-search-wikia-10171
>> 5. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/magazine/18wwln-domains-t.html
>> 6. Company directors and trustees are expected to declare both
>> "conflicts of interest", normally interpreted as having a direct or
>> indirect financial interest, and "conflicts of loyalty" where their
>> non-financial interests may be seen to potentially influence their
>> judgement as a board member. There may be no demonstrable conflict for
>> this to be an issue, it only needs to be potentially be seen to be an
>> issue by others, in order to require a declaration.
>> 7. "Take advantage of Wikia's custom research solutions to achieve
>> campaign objectives, including brand lift studies, target audience
>> insights, and more!", "Reach the right audience with the right message
>> using Wikia's multitude of targeting opportunities, including
>> demographic, psychographic, geographic, contextual, genre, devices,
>> conquesting, and more!" http://www.wikia.com/mediakit
>>
>> Fae

--
[hidden email] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fae

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Fæ
Sorry, let me back peddle on that sentence, Todd is correct.  Dropping that
paragraph from my email does not stop the issue of perceived conflict of
interest and Wikia from being a valid concern worth open discussion.

Fae
On 28 Feb 2016 20:23, "Fæ" <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Todd, putting the caveats before the main thrust of Jimmy Wales'
> email, is a strange way of reading it. I read the email the obvious
> way, and I encourage others to read the original for themselves,
> rather than relying on cherry-picked quotes towards the end.
>
> Thanks,
> Fae
>
> On 28 February 2016 at 20:17, Todd Allen <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Fae,
> >
> > Your second citation didn't at all match what I recall Jimmy saying on
> the
> > subject, so I went and read it. Even the specific email you cite is not,
> in
> > any way, "...arguing the case against
> > introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services...". Some
> quotes
> > from the email you cited:
> >
> > "...my general view is 100% in agreement with him on the core issue -
> where
> > commercial re-users are getting enormous value from our work, they should
> > be paying for the engineering resources required for their support."
> >
> > "...I come down firmly on the side of being careful about falling into a
> > trap of doing lots of expensive work for commercial re-users without
> having
> > them pay."
> >
> > He does say that there would be some caveats and it would be something to
> > step lightly on, but I don't think it could be any clearer that he does
> > want commercial reusers to pay for WMF services in at least some cases.
> >
> > I'm all for discussion and identification of potential conflicts of
> > interest. But if you're going to accuse someone of that, you really do
> need
> > to make sure you've got your facts straight. Misrepresenting someone, or
> > some things they said, will not get anyone to take you seriously.
> >
> > Todd
> >
> > On Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 12:47 PM, Fæ <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> >> ISSUE
> >>
> >> Jimmy Wales has never declared a conflict of interest or loyalty when
> >> acting as a WMF trustee. He is co-founder of Wikia Inc, set up in
> >> 2004, a commercial company that often benefits from new MediaWiki
> >> developments, and clearly he benefits financially from resulting
> >> profitability of Wikia. The original vision for Wikia was as a
> >> "Google-killer" open search engine, so it would seem highly prudent
> >> for Jimmy to have declared a conflict of interest and avoided WMF
> >> board discussions and votes in relation to new development projects
> >> around open Knowledge Engines / Search Engines.
> >>
> >> I welcome some feedback as to whether the general perception of
> >> Wikimedians is that WMF trustees should be seen to do more to declare
> >> and manage their potential conflicts of interest, and whether Jimmy
> >> Wales is perceived to have a conflict of loyalties when steering the
> >> WMF board member in areas which overlap with Wikia Inc.'s marketing
> >> strategy, and that they might otherwise fund commercially.
> >>
> >> BACKGROUND
> >>
> >> With regard to his potential conflict of loyalties when serving as a
> >> voting unelected trustee on the WMF board, Jimmy Wales has stated:
> >> "I did not have any conflict of loyalties during that process.
> >> Spending a reasonable portion of our IT budget on an ambitious project
> >> to improve search and discovery, and to conduct research and community
> >> consultation on that, is a great idea for Wikipedia and for the
> >> broader Wikimedia movement and I strongly support it."[1]
> >>
> >> Most recently Jimmy Wales has been arguing the case against
> >> introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services, with an
> >> obvious reuser of MediaWiki code improvements and WMF supported open
> >> project data being Wikia Inc.[2]
> >>
> >> There is no record in the WMF board minutes for 2015 of Jimmy Wales
> >> having ever declared a conflict of interest or loyalty for Wikia Inc
> >> or for any other reason, nor of any other trustee doing so. In order
> >> to comply with standard company law, these are expected on the
> >> standing agenda for board meetings, and it is worrying for a
> >> Foundation with control of $100m assets to never have a trustee or
> >> director ever declare an interest as a reason to abstain from a vote
> >> or discussion.[3]
> >>
> >> Jimmy does not appear to see there may be a public perception of
> >> conflict of interest or loyalties[6] when he is involved in steering
> >> the WMF strategy for prioritizing new developments that are likely to
> >> benefit Wikia Inc. The Knowledge Engine / Search Engine project was
> >> discussed by the board during 2015 and Jimmy has been a public
> >> advocate of the project since it was publicly leaked. The overlap of
> >> what is thought to have been the original proposal to the Knight
> >> Foundation with Jimmy Wales' original vision for wikia.com, being
> >> "Search Wikia", described as a "Google-killer search engine", is an
> >> obvious concern. Jimmy Wales: "Obsession: Currently, it’s wikia.com.
> >> It is meant to take on Google by creating a search engine where all
> >> the editorial decisions are made by the general public and all the
> >> software is open."[5]
> >>
> >> Nine years later Jimmy is promoting the same ideas but with the WMF
> >> investing charitable donated funds to support a development that will
> >> benefit Wikia, rather than it being commercially funded while using
> >> much of the same rhetoric, such as the importance of transparency.[4]
> >>
> >> Links
> >> 1.
> >>
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082678.html
> >> 2.
> >>
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082721.html
> >> 3. https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Meetings
> >> 4. Search Wikia interview
> >> http://searchengineland.com/qa-with-jimmy-wales-on-search-wikia-10171
> >> 5. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/magazine/18wwln-domains-t.html
> >> 6. Company directors and trustees are expected to declare both
> >> "conflicts of interest", normally interpreted as having a direct or
> >> indirect financial interest, and "conflicts of loyalty" where their
> >> non-financial interests may be seen to potentially influence their
> >> judgement as a board member. There may be no demonstrable conflict for
> >> this to be an issue, it only needs to be potentially be seen to be an
> >> issue by others, in order to require a declaration.
> >> 7. "Take advantage of Wikia's custom research solutions to achieve
> >> campaign objectives, including brand lift studies, target audience
> >> insights, and more!", "Reach the right audience with the right message
> >> using Wikia's multitude of targeting opportunities, including
> >> demographic, psychographic, geographic, contextual, genre, devices,
> >> conquesting, and more!" http://www.wikia.com/mediakit
> >>
> >> Fae
>
> --
> [hidden email] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fae
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Gergő Tisza
In reply to this post by Fæ
On Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 11:47 AM, Fæ <[hidden email]> wrote:

> The original vision for Wikia was as a "Google-killer" open search

engine, so it would seem highly prudent for Jimmy to have declared

a conflict of interest and avoided WMF board discussions and votes

in relation to new development projects around open Knowledge

Engines / Search Engines.
>

Um, what? The vision for Wikia (then called Wikicities) was a wiki hosting
provider for small communities. See e.g. [1]. (And also, I suppose, to
capture the ad money that could not be captured on Wikipedia, and put it
into MediaWiki development. Today the contributions to MediaWiki from Wikia
are dwarfed by those from Wikimedia but that wasn't always so.)

Search Wikia was a (short-lived and thoroughly unsuccessful) experiment to
create a community of search engine developers and come up with an
open-source, transparent, community-curated Google-competitor. Which was a
nice idea, if unrealistic, and IMO more likely to end up in a new
Wikipedia-style thing than anything profitable to Wikia, given that there
was no lock-in. I'm not even sure if Wikia the company was involved in it
in any significant way, apart from providing the wiki used for discussion
and creating some media attention.


[1] http://www.sptimes.com/2005/04/04/Technology/Global_villages_conve.shtml
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Jimmy Wales-4
In reply to this post by Fæ
I've been advised by more than one community member not to engage
further on this, but I need to correct what I see as a potentially
dangerous falsehood.

On 2/28/16 11:47 AM, Fæ wrote:
> ISSUE
>
> Jimmy Wales has never declared a conflict of interest or loyalty when
> acting as a WMF trustee.

This is absolutely 100% false.  I have always declared, formally and in
writing, my role at Wikia.  I have additionally worked to make sure that
all board members know about it, and I have on multiple occasions
recused myself from votes where there could be a perceived or actual
conflict of interest.

In the current case, the board has not voted on anything like having a
general purpose search engine.  That I tried to build an open source
search engine several years ago would not, in my view, have any bearing
on the decision not to do that, and if we were voting on doing something
like that, I would vote no - I think it's not possible with our
resources and therefore our limited resources are better used on
sensible things.

Additionally, as others have pointed out, Wikia is moving away from
Mediawiki.  So even the idea that me thinking that Mediawiki should be
improved as a dastardly conspiracy doesn't really seem very persuasive.

> Most recently Jimmy Wales has been arguing the case against
> introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services, with an
> obvious reuser of MediaWiki code improvements and WMF supported open
> project data being Wikia Inc.[2]

You'd be more persuasive smearing me if you bothered to read what I
wrote.  I support introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF
services, in those cases where it makes sense to do so.  I listed some
objections to that idea which I think are worthy of consideration, but I
come down on balance that the idea, in principle, is a good one.

I won't be engaging further with this kind of nonsense.  There are
really important and interesting conversations that are happening here.

--Jimbo



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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Fæ
In reply to this post by Fæ
After an offlist correspondence with Gergő, we agree it is quite hard
to get to grips with the beginnings of Wikia unless you lived through
it and casual interviews may be confusing.[1] This remains a tangent
to the issue of whether ownership of Wikia is seen in the public eye
as a conflict of interest or loyalty for Jimmy Wales.

Based on that discussion, a second issue that may muddy the waters is
that some may interpret "Conflict of Interest" in the same way as it
is interpreted on Wikipedia.[2] Keep in mind that companies and
charities read this narrowly in a legal sense as having a demonstrated
financial benefit from your actions as a board member, and that the
concept of conflict of loyalty extends this to relationships that may
make it harder for a trustee/director to be seen as capable of making
decisions that are not unduly influenced by those relationships.[3]
Ownership of Wikia is a relationship where loyalty will be perceived
by the public as questionable, and there may be indirect financial
gains, even though there is no traceable direct benefit.

Links:
1. Wikia early press releases: http://www.wikia.com/Press/2005;
archive of search.wikia
https://web.archive.org/web/20080516180103/http://www.search.wikia.com
- thanks to Gergő for suggesting these sources
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_interest

Fae

On 28 February 2016 at 19:47, Fæ <[hidden email]> wrote:

> ISSUE
>
> Jimmy Wales has never declared a conflict of interest or loyalty when
> acting as a WMF trustee. He is co-founder of Wikia Inc, set up in
> 2004, a commercial company that often benefits from new MediaWiki
> developments, and clearly he benefits financially from resulting
> profitability of Wikia. The original vision for Wikia was as a
> "Google-killer" open search engine, so it would seem highly prudent
> for Jimmy to have declared a conflict of interest and avoided WMF
> board discussions and votes in relation to new development projects
> around open Knowledge Engines / Search Engines.
>
> I welcome some feedback as to whether the general perception of
> Wikimedians is that WMF trustees should be seen to do more to declare
> and manage their potential conflicts of interest, and whether Jimmy
> Wales is perceived to have a conflict of loyalties when steering the
> WMF board member in areas which overlap with Wikia Inc.'s marketing
> strategy, and that they might otherwise fund commercially.
>
> BACKGROUND
>
> With regard to his potential conflict of loyalties when serving as a
> voting unelected trustee on the WMF board, Jimmy Wales has stated:
> "I did not have any conflict of loyalties during that process.
> Spending a reasonable portion of our IT budget on an ambitious project
> to improve search and discovery, and to conduct research and community
> consultation on that, is a great idea for Wikipedia and for the
> broader Wikimedia movement and I strongly support it."[1]
>
> Most recently Jimmy Wales has been arguing the case against
> introducing charges for commercial reusers of WMF services, with an
> obvious reuser of MediaWiki code improvements and WMF supported open
> project data being Wikia Inc.[2]
>
> There is no record in the WMF board minutes for 2015 of Jimmy Wales
> having ever declared a conflict of interest or loyalty for Wikia Inc
> or for any other reason, nor of any other trustee doing so. In order
> to comply with standard company law, these are expected on the
> standing agenda for board meetings, and it is worrying for a
> Foundation with control of $100m assets to never have a trustee or
> director ever declare an interest as a reason to abstain from a vote
> or discussion.[3]
>
> Jimmy does not appear to see there may be a public perception of
> conflict of interest or loyalties[6] when he is involved in steering
> the WMF strategy for prioritizing new developments that are likely to
> benefit Wikia Inc. The Knowledge Engine / Search Engine project was
> discussed by the board during 2015 and Jimmy has been a public
> advocate of the project since it was publicly leaked. The overlap of
> what is thought to have been the original proposal to the Knight
> Foundation with Jimmy Wales' original vision for wikia.com, being
> "Search Wikia", described as a "Google-killer search engine", is an
> obvious concern. Jimmy Wales: "Obsession: Currently, it’s wikia.com.
> It is meant to take on Google by creating a search engine where all
> the editorial decisions are made by the general public and all the
> software is open."[5]
>
> Nine years later Jimmy is promoting the same ideas but with the WMF
> investing charitable donated funds to support a development that will
> benefit Wikia, rather than it being commercially funded while using
> much of the same rhetoric, such as the importance of transparency.[4]
>
> Links
> 1. https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082678.html
> 2. https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082721.html
> 3. https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Meetings
> 4. Search Wikia interview
> http://searchengineland.com/qa-with-jimmy-wales-on-search-wikia-10171
> 5. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/magazine/18wwln-domains-t.html
> 6. Company directors and trustees are expected to declare both
> "conflicts of interest", normally interpreted as having a direct or
> indirect financial interest, and "conflicts of loyalty" where their
> non-financial interests may be seen to potentially influence their
> judgement as a board member. There may be no demonstrable conflict for
> this to be an issue, it only needs to be potentially be seen to be an
> issue by others, in order to require a declaration.
> 7. "Take advantage of Wikia's custom research solutions to achieve
> campaign objectives, including brand lift studies, target audience
> insights, and more!", "Reach the right audience with the right message
> using Wikia's multitude of targeting opportunities, including
> demographic, psychographic, geographic, contextual, genre, devices,
> conquesting, and more!" http://www.wikia.com/mediakit
>
> Fae
--
[hidden email] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fae

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Jimmy Wales' potential conflict of loyalties for Wikia Inc. versus WMF

Nathan Awrich
On Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 5:35 AM, Fæ <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> Ownership of Wikia is a relationship where loyalty will be perceived
> by the public as questionable, and there may be indirect financial
> gains, even though there is no traceable direct benefit.
>
>
Fae,

Is there any evidence that this is broadly the case? Are there press
articles, blogs or other sources to support the claim that ownership of
Wikia is seen by the public as leading to divided loyalty? Given what has
been said about the diverging use of MediaWiki from Wikia and the WMF, can
you point to any specific instances where Board-level decisions may present
an opportunity for financial gain for Jimmy or a concern for divided
loyalty?

Are you bringing this up now because you believe that these conflicts are
relevant in some way to the issues causing upheaval in the WMF in recent
months? If so, can you describe how they are related and what role you
think these conflicts have played?  I understand you believe that Jimmy has
written negatively about you in private; do you think this has influenced
your perception of these conflicts or your decision to raise them
repeatedly?
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