Reading/Strategy/Kickoff

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Kindly note that this page is kept for archival purposes. The work on the 2015 strategy process is now done.

2015 Outcome[edit]

Initial outcome of the Reading Strategy: Reading/Strategy/2016-2017 plan

The Reading department met Wednesday, August 5, 2015 to kickoff its strategy process. We are seeking feedback as we move forward.

About[edit]

In April 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation reorganized its product and engineering disciplines around audience "verticals" (departments) – Discovery (search), Editing, and Reading. The mission of the Reading department of Wikimedia Engineering is to build exceptional learning and reading experiences for the sum of all knowledge. As the Reading department formed, it became evident that the department needed an explicit strategy to service the hundreds of millions of users – and maybe someday billions of users – who frequent the Wikimedia projects. A strategy provides guidance for both short and long-term activities and decision making. We are working on incorporating community feedback into the process, as well as incorporating voices of our readers.

Below is a set of questions that will help us move forward with our strategy process. Later, we will conduct reader surveys that help us fill the gaps on some numbers and assumptions.

Today, user traffic to Wikimedia properties is spread across several defined types of access:

  • Desktop web browser access: the most popular form of access. 65 to 70% of pageviews.
  • Mobile web browser access: a popular form of access, which is trending up and expected to be more popular than desktop access within the next couple years. 30-35% of pageviews.
  • Apps access: Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, and Firefox OS apps, with most traffic concentrated on Android and iOS. 1-3% of pageviews via the Android and iOS apps.
  • API access: there's a vibrant ecosystem of apps, robots, artificial intelligence, and other screen-scraping technology accessing Wikimedia sites, although we haven't fully classified and quantified this type of traffic routinely (although we are working on it).

For high level access statistics, see http://reportcard.wmflabs.org/ and refer to a 2014 analysis on mobile trends. One question that arises when developing Wikimedia technology is whether it's possible to gauge the effectiveness of a given feature. The short answer is that we have the technical means through our event logging technology and a number of queryable databases. Wikimedia engineering and product strategy is increasingly being informed by more and better use of data, in alignment with the Privacy Policy.

There are several major socioeconomic trends shaping the way Wikimedia projects are accessed. One includes the economic rise of a number of regions. Wealthier consumers tend to have greater access to technology to read projects like Wikipedia. Another involves the rise of low-cost smartphones, also lowering barriers to access. Wikimedia has acknowledged these sorts of trends in part through initiatives like Wikipedia Zero, where cellular data charges are waived for cellular subscribers in emerging communities accessing Wikipedia mobile websites and apps (approximately 70-100 million pageviews per month). And there are numerous additional socioeconomic, technological, and geopolitical trends that are sure to further shape the world in which Wikimedia operates.

The focus of the input we are requesting is around reading and consumption of openly licensed content facilitated by Wikimedia technology. To learn more about the two other major audience verticals, refer to the Editing and Discovery sites.

Feedback[edit]

Right now we are looking for answers to the following three questions. Please provide your feedback on the discussion page by Tuesday, September 8, 2015.

Please see the notes below for further context about these three questions. A review of the current state strategy below may be helpful in generating feedback about a potential strategic position for the future.

Horizon for achieving winning aspiration: 2 to 5 years

  1. Please help the WMF Reading department complete the following sentence: We aspire for a movement where, in 2 to 5 years, readers...
  2. Where should WMF Reading department focus in order to fulfill the aspiration from #1?
    • In which demographics and user segments?
    • On which distribution channel(s) and technological platforms?
    • What types of product categories and services?
    • Across which geographies?
  3. What approach should WMF Reading pursue to achieve success in the focus areas from #2, in order to deliver on its mission in a way that distinguishes the user experience in a meaningful way?


Notes from the kickoff meeting[edit]

This process will take several months. See the timeline.

The process will use the Playing to Win framework introduced by A.G. Lafley (for a summary see this article or this webinar). Reading is the first Wikimedia department to try this process in 2015, but there is a management discussion later on for looking at strategy setting process more broadly (e.g., in other audience verticals). We will engage with Editing (head: Trevor Parscal) and Discovery (head: Wes Moran) as stakeholders in the Reading strategy. We plan to share our learnings about this process with the organization.

Wikimedia projects - and especially Wikipedia - have clearly been quite successful, and there's a way of describing the reading-oriented strategy to date to set context for future strategy setting.

When we talk about "value" we really mean delivering on the mission, and not money. Certainly, we need to fund the mission, though, and we need to be cognizant of sustainable funding when determining strategy as well.

About the process[edit]

Conventionally, strategy setting tends to center around debate and runs the risk of data being cherry picked to support positions. In contrast, the approach that we will be using allows people to propose strategic positions, reverse engineer the necessary conditions by asking "what would have to be true for the plan to work?", constructing tests by which those necessary conditions will be validated, and then, based on validation, choose a strategy.

The process is based on the following five questions:

  1. What is our future winning aspiration? This is defining the expected outcome.
  2. Where will we play? This is about defining target segments, channels, products, geographies, and unit's position in the value chain, as well as ruling out places to play.
  3. How will we win? This is about defining the tangible things we'll need to do to achieve our goals.
  4. What capabilities must we have? This is about defining the underlying competencies we need to succeed and identifying existing strengths that can be leveraged.
  5. What management systems do we need? This is largely about defining the sorts of metrics systems we'll need to track success.

The process is an iterative "cascade". The answer to question 1 begs question 2. And the answer(s) to question 2 must be logically consistent with the answer to question 1. And so on and so forth through question 5. In practice, as answers are generated for each of the five levels of the cascade, the previous question-answer set needs to be revisited to ensure consistency.

This process can be used at different levels of an organization: an organization itself, departmental, and so on.

Current state strategy[edit]

To set context for this future-oriented strategy setting process, here's the current state strategy.

Winning aspiration[edit]
  • Promote learning from open knowledge
    • Create more engaging interfaces to Wikipedia
    • Find more articles and go deeper into topics
    • Support different types of content (photos, media, graphs)
  • Make content freely available outside Wikipedia (APIs)
  • Attract potential editors and donors
  • Achieve goals without upsetting community
  • Protect content creators (legal)
Where we play[edit]
  • Product: most visible project: online version of encyclopedia (reference category)
  • Customer segment: online information seekers
  • Geography: everybody in the world
    • However, North American in network architecture and UX/feature bias (n.b., some network architecture hosted outside of North America)
  • Channel: primary channels of online consumption
    • Desktop web
    • Mobile web
    • Apps
    • Syndication
    • Dumps
How has this succeeded?[edit]
  • Free, good product, with many languages and popular channels (slow follower in adopting new channels)
  • Scalable operation (mass market, not heavily personalized, community content creation, efficient distribution model)
  • Strong search engine placement
  • Neutral point of view and generally established trust (community edited, non-profit)
  • Permissive (CC BY-SA & GFDL) content licensing (external use)
  • Fundraising predominantly based on small donor model
What capabilities have enabled success?[edit]
  • Low cost, high quality content generation
    • A remarkable community
    • Anti-vandalism and quality control
  • Efficient and cost effective distribution
    • MediaWiki + caching
    • Operations/site-up
    • API/Dumps
    • Tech community (free/libre, open source software)
  • Online fundraising
  • Legal protection of editors
What management systems have been necessary?[edit]
  • Fundraising management
  • Community engagement
  • Multi-jurisdictional legal capabilities
  • Technical operations management
  • Software development

Broad vision[edit]

From a presentation by WMF Executive Director Lila Tretikov, here is the broad vision for the future.

From Wikipedia and sister projects to an open Source library of all Knowledge

A knowledge engine where users, institutions, and computers around the world contribute and discover knowledge on Wikimedia every day, on every platform, in their own language.

What does this mean for Reading? It will need to get specific.

From the same presentation by Lila, there's a note about a performance gap that needs to be addressed to arrive at the future state, and the high level way to address this gap is to strengthen capabilities, focus resources, and innovate new solutions. This Reading strategy setting process is a systematic means of getting more specific.

Call to action FY 2015-2016[edit]

From the same presentation by Lila, here's the FY 2015-2016 call to action. The Reading strategy process is partially about addressing some of the bullet points, while setting the stage for how Reading will operate in the future.

Strengthen Technology & Execution[edit]
  • We will define our commitments - and deliver on-time and on-budget.
  • We will make our decisions based on data.
  • We will improve our process for community input and allocate dedicated technical resources to community requests.
  • We will update legacy architectures and deliver mobile-ready infrastructure and services to support structured data, user security, and a simplified user experience.
Focus on Community & Knowledge[edit]
  • We will integrate across community engagement functions to improve communication and results.
  • We will create a central, multilingual hub for community support.
  • We will have a working plan to support emerging users and communities.
  • We will improve our measures of community health and content quality, and fund effective community and content initiatives.
Experimentation & New Knowledge[edit]
  • We will integrate, consolidate, and pause or stop stalled initiatives.
  • We will create spaces for future community-led innovations and new knowledge creation.
  • We will facilitate and support new models and structures for knowledge curation.
  • We will strengthen partnerships with organizations that use or contribute free content, or are aligned with the WMF in the free-knowledge movement.