Sloan Foundation's $3 million grant to fund Wikipedia power struggle
Jimmy Wales remains frustrated that he hasn't profited from the creation of Wikipedia, former confidants tell me. And even though the world's most complete list of sexually active popes is now run by a nonprofit, the Wikimedia Foundation, Wales is still trying to figure out how to commercialize Wikipedia on the side, with the help of private-equity firm Elevation Partners. Now comes a spanner in the works: The foundation has won a $3 million donation from the Sloan Foundation. Wales does not appear anywhere in the press release announcing the deal. The grant will be doled out at the rate of $1 million a year, meaning Wales, for the first time, has a powerful outside watchdog. The Sloan Foundation won't look kindly on attempts to have their monies fund ways to line Wales's pockets — or put Elevation Partners investors like Roger McNamee or Marc Bodnick on the Wikimedia board. The full release:
*Sloan Foundation to support Wikipedia's quality and growth initiatives*
''Institutional support of $3 million to Wikimedia Foundation over three years will support organizational growth and technical innovation''
March 25, 2008, New York/San Francisco - The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation today announced it is awarding $3 million of support to the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization which operates the world's largest and most popular encyclopedia, Wikipedia. The money will support Wikimedia's organizational development and help to increase the quality of its content and the reach of its services.
"We are extremely grateful for this support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation," said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "Wikipedia and its sister projects have an enormous global impact, but the organization behind them has been operating on a shoestring: unable to pursue partnerships, execute projects, or even to effectively fundraise. This institutional support from Sloan will enable us to make progress on some key goals: increasing quality, broadening participation, and distributing free knowledge to people without Internet connectivity."
"We are delighted to support the Wikimedia Foundation and to help develop its organizational capacity and improve the quality of its flagship, Wikipedia," said Doron Weber, Sloan Program Director for Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge. "As the largest encyclopedia in human history and one of the top ten web sites in the world, Wikipedia represents a quantum leap in collecting human knowledge from diverse sources, organizing it without commercial or other bias, and making it freely available to people everywhere."
The funding will be received over three years, at 1 million dollars per year.
It comes at a critical time in the history of the Wikimedia Foundation, which has just relocated to San Francisco and upped its staff from 10 to 15. One of the projects which will be supported with the Sloan grant is a software feature called Flagged Revisions, which will allow experienced editors to publicly and visibly grade the quality status of articles — in effect, functioning as a kind of "nutrition labeling" for Wikipedia content. In coming years, Wikimedia also plans to significantly expand outreach events such as Wikipedia Academy, designed to increase Wikipedia's quality by teaching academics, older people, and other targeted groups how to contribute. Another goal is the distribution of educational content from Wikipedia and its sister projects in non-web-based formats such as DVDs and books, to reach people who are not online.
The Wikimedia projects are written, edited and maintained by a global community of thousands of volunteers. The Wikimedia Foundation, founded in 2003, has a staff of 15, and provides organizational support for the projects. It plans to grow its staff to 25 by 2010.