Talk:Requests for comment/MediaWiki Foundation

Jump to navigation Jump to search

But how[edit]

  • MediaWiki releases are not done by volunteers currently
  • Where would the new Foundation get money and workers?
  • Who would decide what it does?


Ways of meeting donor's needs[edit]

It seems to me that the donors should be in the driver's seat about what the Foundation's money goes toward. They could either earmark donations for a specific project or direct that the money be spent wherever it is needed most. Of course, fungibility of funds can sometimes defeat the purpose of these earmarks; for example, suppose $100,000 in general funding was going to go toward Project X, and then a donor gave $100,000, designating it for project X. Then Foundation could then shift the $100,000 in general funding out of project X, achieving the same effect as if the donor had given the money to the general fund.

By the way, why must it be a nonprofit? Why not set it up as a for-profit entity, and consider the donors as customers who receive software development services in return for their money? My guess is that most customers will be interested in specific projects, rather than in giving money to the general fund. This might be a more efficient way of doing things, since the advantages of nonprofits tend to be illusory. Leucosticte (talk) 23:14, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

You seem to have confused yourself there ;-) . The assignment of USD 100,000 to a certain project would help when WMF would otherwise allocate none. Now a better way might be to promote a project is by offering up to USD 100,000 for project X based on equal assignment by WMF from the general fund. Working for profit introduces taxes and many other expenses - which would end up monetizing all the assets. 20:06, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

Alternative - in-house WMF department[edit]

I wonder if an entity within WMF would be more appropriate and realistic. Utilizing the existing operations structure would be far easier. Perhaps setup something like FDC to oversee priorities and funds.

My hunch is WMF would be far more likely to sign off on something they retain a sense of sign-off on for the sake of maintaining the WMF projects than having to deal with an independent entity that would have the legal right to go rogue one day and not do what's in the best interest of the WMF projects. I recognize to some extent that's the point, but looking down a 5 year road of possibilities, is that something we'd ever want to happen? My feeling is no and allowing WMF to maintain some level of authority in the development of MediaWiki is in our collective best interests. From project management, fundraising, usability, system resources and paid developer support perspective.

Summary: Instead of a dedicated MW Foundation, I would instead propose a MediaWiki department or collective (insert your favorite term here). --Varnent (talk) 23:21, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

Thank you for posting the alternative section. I wonder if this RFC should be re-titled to be a bit more generic (e.g., "Focused MediaWiki development" or something). Then you'd have == MediaWiki Foundation ==, == MediaWiki department ==, and maybe some other sections. Any thoughts on this? --MZMcBride (talk) 00:05, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
I would support that change. --Varnent (talk) 20:00, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

Broadly scoped[edit]

I see this RFC as a general statement about the ever-more apparent juxtaposition of the Mediawiki software and it's implementation at Wikimedia sites. We as the community need to learn how to balance the needs of the WMF (as an implementation of the software) with the need to have development of the software itself.

I agree with the statement that "there are few developers contributing to MediaWiki whose ability to take on large MediaWiki development projects is not either biased towards what is in their employer's interests or restricted in how much time can be spent on those projects." That is some good insight.


  1. Where would funding come from?
    • Would this compete with the WikiMedia Foundation (WMF) ?
  2. How would this proposed organization interact with the "core" developers (paid staff and WMF contractors)?
  3. How is this different than large local chapters? (I'm thinking of Wikimedia Deutschland.)
  4. Who would provide the infrastructure for the release management? Where would the hardware come from?

-Daniel Renfro talk/email 00:45, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Ad-hoc notes from WMF Tech Days meeting[edit]

We discussed this idea a bit at WMF tech days. Some notes on etherpad: I've encouraged folks to get involved in the discussion on this RFC page. brion

Volunteer "Sign-Up Sheet"[edit]

US-based pro bono lawyer / paperwork guy[edit]

If this idea—of making the MediaWiki development group a separate entity—ever gets widespread approval, I volunteer to handle legal/paperwork tasks, especially: (a.) preparing and submitting the documents needed for it to become a nonprofit organiztion in the United States; or (b.) arranging for a suitable fiscal sponsor to support the group. I'd feel most comfortable setting it up in Massachusetts, in the United States, since that's where I am a licensed attorney. But other US states would probably be fine, too. By the way, to repeat what has been said elsewhere: this hypothetical group really, probably shouldn't be called a "Foundation"—at least not under US law, at least not yet. Magic Sands (talk)

What's the disadvantage to calling it that? Leucosticte (talk) 12:58, 14 September 2012 (UTC)
Hi, "Leucosticte". Well, okay, no permanent harm would come from calling it a "Foundation," and in fact it could even ultimately be called a "Foundation" in name, while still operating differently than a genuine "private foundation" under US law. But here's the thing, status under US law encompasses two different categories of organizations: so-called "public charities" and so-called "private foundations," with different rules for each. In case the MediaWiki development group doesn't aim to be a true "private foundation" in this sense, I thought it helpful to avoid future confusion by suggesting we break the habit now, of calling this hypothetical entity a "Foundation" (furthermore, as was mentioned elsewhere, its name is totally an open question at this point anyway).
All right, to summarize: the group would be not be weaker in any tangible way, for being called a "Foundation," so don't worry about that...however I do want to steer us in a direction which I believe avoids confusion, in case the group never actually desires to be a "private foundation" in the legal sense. Magic Sands (talk)
WMF is considered a public charity, incidentally. Probably people want to call it a foundation out of a desire to imitate WMF. If it had been called the Wikimedia Association, the current proposal would probably call for naming this organization the MediaWiki Association.
Also, terms such as "society," "association," "foundation," "league," "alliance," "union," "institute," etc. all have different connotations. "Foundation" has a lot of gravitas, and in my mind it also tends to imply an organization that receives most of its funds from big donors. "Society" sounds somewhat exclusive. "League" sounds communistic. "Alliance" sounds radical. "Union" sounds like an activist organization. "Institute" sounds like a think tank. "Association" is pretty generic. Oh, another option: "Fund"! That definitely stresses a desire for people to donate. Leucosticte (talk) 23:07, 14 September 2012 (UTC)


The problem statement isn't useful, imo.

  • COI: MediaWiki software has an extended body of users and contributors, however the WMF has goals which conflict with the natural development of the CMS to the detriment of some users and contributors.
  • COI: MediaWiki software development cannot be directly financially supported. (That is, donors may only support the WMF when they may wish to support only MediaWiki development.)

- Amgine (talk) 16:59, 22 September 2012 (UTC)

Harnessing for-profit sector participation[edit]

What about the potential for for-profit entities to contribute more to the open-source MediaWiki codebase? E.g. if a corporate client asks for a freelance MediaWiki developer to write an extension, the developer could require as a condition of the contract that he be allowed to also release it into the GPL and distribute it via He could explain to the client that it will benefit the client to do this, because then the community can assist with translations, adding more features, fixing bugs, etc.

What about projects like Wikia; might they not make more of an effort to contribute to the main codebase, to the MediaWiki developer community, and to the documentation at rather than forking in such a different direction? Jimbo is interested in helping Wikipedia and in making money off of Wikia; devoting resources to MediaWiki development can assist both of those goals. There are probably other wiki-entrepreneurs in a similar position, who can benefit from closer involvement with and participation in this community. How can we encourage this?

Also, does the WMF have to be so Wikipedia-, Wikiquote-, etc. centric in its priorities for MediaWiki? Is there any way that the WMF can benefit from improving the software in ways that don't have much (or perhaps any) direct impact on the WMF wikis, but are helpful to non-WMF wikis? Maybe it would encourage more involvement in WMF's software development by those involved in those non-WMF projects, so it could indirectly benefit WMF. Leucosticte (talk) 16:17, 29 September 2012 (UTC)


I haven't pulled out the time to update this page yet. Feel free to update at will. I'm bad at writing prose. Working on this page would require a day I could spend working on it while thinking about the topic. And right now I still have a lot of work hours to do.

Meanwhile I finally ended up curiously reading Valve's employee handbook when yet another post I read mentioned it.

The section on "Anarchy" I wrote was mostly just a throwaway idea. Just something written to acknowledge it as a possibility while my real interest at the time lied with community / donor prioritization. Though reading the Valve handbook makes me kind of like a third idea that lies in between Anarchy and Community / Donor prioritization. Not exactly like Valve, but something perhaps inspired by the way Valve does it and adapted to our use-case. Especially the parts that make Valve's model look like a development community. Then again that could be entirely separate or secondary to the current idea of a MediaWiki Foundation/Department/etc...

Some ideas in the area of self-directed employees:

  • Even without structure and without a profit motivation there still is incentive to work on the "right" projects. The organization, department, whatever would be community funded so not prioritizing things useful to the community would mean no funding. So there's still incentive.
  • Valve builds big projects. And those necessitate even temporary groups of people. But for MW smaller things like fixing lots of bugs are still useful. And many projects we might want done can be done by one member on the project — even if they consult other people during the process. So focusing around team interactions the way Valve does might not be the best option. Some thing to do with interaction with the community would be better. We would also want to support people working remotely rather than working in one office like Valve.
  • Having things promoting community interaction with the "entity" would be useful.
    • For one, some way to list project ideas in a dynamic way. Posted both by employees and by the community. And commented, voted, and vaguely prioritized by the community. Not as a way to strictly define the priorities of the entity. But rather as a way to help the employees know what direction to move in.
    • Another might be to encourage employees to post about what they are working on somewhere. Like a short blog, micro-blog, etc... — either dedicated or part of their own blog — on ones daily work (in my case I'd probably call it a "MediaWiki Diary / Nikki" and put it on my website). Then we'd have a page where we encourage employees to post a link to this blog, blog category, micro-blogging account, etc... so that people in the community
      • For the benefit of the community it would probably be nice to setup something that given the feed links for each of these it would aggregate all the posts together.

Daniel Friesen (Dantman) (talk) 01:33, 8 November 2012 (UTC)

Prospective size of Foundation[edit] has a prominent donation page displayed when you download the application. The donation page does a refresh to start the file download, so the donation page is displayed while the download completes.

I thought it might be interesting to compare The Document Foundation (TDF) with a prospective MediaWiki Foundation. This mailing list post says that LibreOffice got 2 million downloads in September 2012. Their donations in September, October and November 2012 were 3,035 EUR, 8,817 EUR and 34,939 EUR. Supposing the download rate was about constant in that period, and the surge in donations was due to more prominent placement of the donation page, then that would imply a maximum revenue of about 0.0175 EUR per download.

Analysis of the access logs between April 28 and July 7 implies that we are currently getting around 672,000 downloads per month. Assuming an equivalent amount of revenue per download, we would expect about $15,500 monthly revenue, or $185,000 annually. So if this model is correct, and WMF continues to completely subsidise hosting expenses, you might just about be able to hire two people full time.

It might be possible, even useful. The main barrier would be to convince the WMF to allow the new foundation to collect donations on

Convincing the WMF to do that would probably be easier than convincing them to hand over to an organisation doing commercial support. Commercial support might bring in more revenue, but it makes the relationship with the WMF much more fraught. -- Tim Starling (talk) 04:38, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Complete side topic, but what full-time salary estimate were you using for those 1-2 full-time developers? It's not really related but things like what salary me and other devs make has been something I've been thinking a lot of lately. Daniel Friesen (Dantman) (talk) 09:55, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $90,530 was the median in 2010, which is more or less what I was thinking. So whether $185,000 will buy you one or two developers depends on overheads, seniority and how well you are able to motivate developers with non-financial rewards. -- Tim Starling (talk) 01:38, 9 September 2013 (UTC)
On a different more relevant topic related to commercial support. What are the US laws like on simple not for profits vs. tax-exempt charities? Reading the laws up here in Canada being a NFP and being tax-exempt are separate. Whether you're tax-exempt or not the a NFP company has bylaws and is accountable to it's members and those bylaws. A separate law on charities covers being tax-exempt alone. Daniel Friesen (Dantman) (talk) 09:55, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
It sounds pretty similar to the US. Tax exemption law is in Internal Revenue Code (26 USC 501-530) and is separate to corporate governance. -- Tim Starling (talk) 01:38, 9 September 2013 (UTC)

MediaWiki Cooperation[edit]

There is a (prospective) user group that has a very similar scope: MediaWiki Cooperation. We are about formally request recognition based on this proposal: Groups/Proposals/MediaWiki Cooperation. I suggest we might want to join forces :) --Mglaser (talk) 21:53, 10 September 2014 (UTC)