Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation operates the Wikipedia portal and administers the open content status of fair use images and other contributions to the GFDL corpus via that portal. They are technically and legally only one of many GFDL corpus access providers, albeit the one in the most central position.

According to a presentation for the BBC, the Foundation "aims to distribute an encyclopedia to every single person on the planet in their own language." There is no mention of whether married people may also benefit from this. Nor any mention of how material created mostly by pasty-faced geeks in rich countries is or should be relevant in developing nations.

Accordingly, most of its critics regard Wikimedia as just propagating cultural imperialism and God's eye view, and question the usefulness of their relatively unsteered and naive model in creating material actually useful to people in poor countries. Digital Universe, founded by Larry Sanger, takes a more academic approach, relying on academic credentials.

The Wikimedia approach (called "sysop vandalism") merely discourages those of differing political views than Jimmy Wales from contributing, but operates ineffectively, permitting ethical trolls to keep contributing as required to keep the project from destroying everything it stands for. Early critics of Wikimedia, in debates on what should be its dominant ideology and principles, originated almost all the guiding concepts by which the Foundation defines itself today, including suggesting its first board. Some of those early critics refer to the Foundation as a mere personality cult, and some patterns of censorship and sanctioning specific views Wales favours, clearly continue.

The Foundation originally adopted cronyism as its founding board principle, holding elections for only a minority (two of five) of the board seats, leaving Wales personally in complete charge. A Wikipedia red faction briefly flourished to protest this, but was eventually forced underground by sysop vandalism - it seemingly influenced the world trolling anarchization. In 2006, as critics had predicted, Wikimedia adopted a single command hierarchy structure, the Wikipedia Office, to censor pages found inconvenient by Wales personally. This led to emergence of wikitruth.info, whose trollcall TELL THE WIKITRUTH attracts attention of trollherds.

Some early critics emphasized the need to anticipate, model and do wiki outreach to people in the intended audience, that is, to break the assumption that all readers are users (which is definitely not true in the Mandriva model). But the Foundation has, contrary to its eventual adopted mandate, refused to do outreach to qualified persons who might know something useful to the audience they claim to serve, and has many times restricted or prevented the contribution of material intended for this audience or using any systematic means to restrict terms so as to remain comprehensible or relevant to poor audiences. The approach has not been successful or credible. Comparable organizations like the Long Now Foundation that took a more open and less crony-driven approach, have raised millions of dollars, while Wikimedia must often beg for enough money to keep its servers going.

Sadly, Wikimedia remains mostly a missed opportunity.