EMWCon Spring 2016/Panel Discussion Day 1

Panel Discussion Day 1
Towards a "MediaWiki Foundation"

Presenter     Cindy Cicalese, Anja Ebersbach, Mark Hershberger, Chris Koerner, Yaron Koren
Event Enterprise MediaWiki Conference (EMWCon) Spring 2016
Date and time Wednesday 25 May 2016, 16:00 - 17:30
Reference Yaron's slides (Video)


Herschberger Ideas come together that the MWStake organization is a 501(c)(6) - an affiliation of commercial people working on a similar project. Their common interest is to keep MediaWiki alive, viable and useful. This plan should be crowdsourced.
Koren When we “use MediaWiki”, what kind of software are we using?
  1. Software maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation (core MediaWiki, Vector skinn, VisualEditor, etc.)
  2. Software maintained by other orgs (like Hallo Welt's BlueSpice)
  3. Software maintained by individuals (like Semantic Forms)
  4. Custom, internal software

Let's focus on #3: the “unfunded” software. It consists of hundreds of extensions, skins, etc. Many are highly used. And many are also precarious, with a very low "bus number".

Even in the best case, if no one leaves the project, a low bus number reduces confidence in the software, and thus reduces usage.

How do we make “unfunded” software more stable? My proposal is to fund it through an "Enterprise MediaWiki Foundation" whose main goal is to funnel money from the users of the "unfunded" software to its developers.

How would it work? You must pay annually to be a member, and your "vote" on how to spend all the money is directly proportional to your investment. (Essentially, everyone decides how their own money is spent.)

Why should organizations join, and pay? Three main reasons:

  1. To keep the software going
  2. To increase confidence in the software
  3. To have a say in future development

This "pay to play" model is, as far as I know, the standard one used for open-source software foundations.

To my opinion, the best idea is to splice of the core MediaWiki into its own organization and let all developers join that organization. If is a logic solution, it probably not feasible to assume that the foundation will agree on.

On the other hand: how many people have to be hit by a bus for the MediaWiki project to go down?

Herschberger Why hire developers?
Koren To make it more stable. It is a pooling of resources.
Cicalese Mitre Corp has open-sourced a suite of extensions. It still maintains them. Amongst other things, the feedback from various users drive further development. Meaning, there may be situations in which it is harder for organizations to contribute money than to contribute resources.
Herschberger I would welcome to get people together to discuss this with MWStake.
Ebersbach Hallo Welt is a community of users and developers. Now, according to this proposal, would they have to pay the money, or get the money? Probably a mix of both.
Herschberger This idea in general will only work when it is as simple as possible. Simplicity is the key word.
Cicalese MediaWiki will exist as long as Wikipedia does, but it may not follow a roadmap that is compatible with the needs of other users and user groups. It would be great to have an organization to steward these interests.
Miller How do you make sure that the money goes to the right persons?
Woudsma In addition to that, you can never be sure to get it to the right persons if you don't have all stakeholders around the table. Hoe can we find all the involved enterprises and where are the developers? We need to empower all stakeholders.
Herschberger The answer may lie in the legal structure of the organization. MWStake has such a structure in place.
Koerner Two years ago at a SMWCon a group of attendees decided to get organized. Herschberger gave a talk about What we're doing and how you can get involved. This lead to the setup of the MWStake user group as a separate chapter in the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Foundation does not have money to support this effort.

MWStake held a survey to identify the user base and recognize their existence. The survey resulted in a wishlist of software enhancements with eventually, a Top 10 list.

Herschberger If those requirements don't benefit the foundation, they will never be funded.
Rundlett Likes to continue the discussion about tax exemptions with either 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6).
Koren The tax structure is a separate thing. Further discussion is necessary, nut there are more relevant issues to talk about now. We need some sort of classification of the level of ambition, the interest and the amount of influence in the roadmap.
Woudsma So if we try to put the money flow aside for a moment, can an enterprise stakeholder community be influential enough to change the roadmap of the foundation, or at least influence that roadmap, and if that not works: align their ow roadmap with the foundation's? Is their a mutual benefit or are we completely on our own?
Herschberger Let your strong voice be heard and try to influence the WMF roadmap.
Cicalese That is primarily acceptable for extensions that only are used by third party users. The foundation doesn't care about this, because it is out of scope. Therefore, not of interest to their donors.

For the core MediaWiki software and possibly, for those extensions that are used and maintained by the foundation, they have more influence to change the software in their way. At this moment, the foundation doesn't seem to care about third party usage.

Jones It shouldn't be too hard to delineate this from the Wikimedia Foundation?
Ebersbach The establishment of a foundation is a lot of work. How can we assume that the WMF will work with us? Can we try to set up some sort of a contract?
Koerner You have to acknowledge that there is a risk involved for the Foundation: when the enterprises are able to fund work on their extensions, this may pull valuable resources away from the volunteer base of developers upon which the foundation now is depending.

The Foundation also has a concern about branding. When products are funded by enterprises, and maybe even hosted and made available through alternative websites, will they still keep the WMF brand?

It would certainly help if there was a clear roadmap for all MediaWiki software and its essential, supporting extensions.

Cicalese A good advice is to participate in WMF events and subscribe to WMF mailing lists. It is essential to stay in the loop and to know what is going on.
Herschberger How do we organize this? Can we set up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Foundation?
Sulzer The MOU could be used to describe the internal workings of the relationship between the Foundation and the organized enterprises. The point is that the Foundation has to be alerted that this is relevant, and that the enterprise stakeholder community is a capable partner.

Is there an easy task package to show our capability? Maybe something from the Survey's Top 10 list?

Cicalese Well, in the Phabricator is a task for "improving extension management". Somebody who would take this on, backed out and currently this task is unattended. And apparently, my name is now on it. Is this a project that we can do together, right now?
Sulzer Let's just fund this with small contributions. Quoting the book The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, do this and make a change!
Knipel To add to that: the MediaWiki NYC chapter is happy to sponsor a fiscally deductable status to this project.
Jones Do you have numbers and data about the development and use of extensions? This would help in keeping oversight and prioritize resources.
Herschberger We have some.
Cicalese Basically, we have two sources of information, although not flawless and neither complete:
  1. The WikiApiary and
  2. The numbers on "extensiondistributor" and "composer".
Sulzer I have been looking for a MWF-certified set of extensions. It would be nice to have information about extensions in some sort of rating, to find out what works and provide user feedback.
Koerner Great idea. It would also help the Foundation and all users around it. Let's think about a solution to gather feedback and ratings.
Miller Another non-profit organization?
Herschberger I will be happy to include this effort in the program of work for MWStake. And there is absolutely no purpose in going for profit on this.
Alquier Is there s way to add data from protected wikis in the WikiApiary?
Cicalese There is now a special form for that. See Add a website.
Ebersbach As a final remark: let us not try to slay the dragon alone. We need to work together.
Koren I have to stress the importance of funding. Think of the bus number: some extensions are close to extinction.
Cicalese I hope that we find formal support for this idea. Not only from the people attending this conference, but the enterprises behind them.
Koerner For a lot of things, we cannot solve it right now. It will take time.

Please go to the MWStake page and drop your name. Get involved. Make sure that we have all the information we need to be able to reach out to you.

Herschberger MWStake has already a relation with the Wikimedia Foundation. I Suggest that the MWStake organization is used to bootstrap this effort, noting that Koren may have concerns that this is not the core business of the MWStake.