The Wikimedia Foundation’s executive director, Leila Tretikov, has resigned after less than two years in the post.
A decade ago the foundation employed just three people and operated on a budget of $3m – which is the operating cost of the site today. But aggressive funding drives initiated by a previous executive director saw the cash pile reach $100m, and it now employs hundreds of staff.
Tretikov was brought in for her professional software management expertise; half of the foundation’s 300+ staff are engineers. She was previously CEO of open source enterprise software company SugarCRM.
It’s the latest and most prominent of a series of executive and key community resignations, which have plunged the non-profit firm into turmoil. Staff have described a culture of fear, and in a confidential staff survey, only 10 per cent of staff indicated that they had confidence in the senior leadership, while seven per cent agreed that they were kept informed, and senior management had communicated a vision that motivated them.
The crisis precedes the controversial and secretive grant from the Knight Foundation to explore building a search engine. As this timeline indicates, WMF has endured a succession of high profile departures. Its No.2, Erik Moelle,r resigned last April, saying the organisation was in “crisis”.
Community paper Wikipedia Signpost has a lot of background here.
WMF founder Jimmy Wales described characterisations of the Knight project as a search engine as “trolling” (yes, he means us) but this is undermined by staff admissions that it is.
Wikimedia’s greatest challenge is grappling with the nature of the project itself, which has to date been able to rely on voluntary labour, despite a steady overall decline in active editors. The flood of cash to the foundation changed the political economy of Wikipedia, creating a nomenklatura of paid staff. Some people have done very nicely out of Wikipedia – just not the people who write and edit the content.
Supporters have called for Wikipedia to unionise, and pay its best content contributors.
With so much cash around, the only wonder is that it’s taken so long. As we predicted years ago, it's class war. ®