Wikinews interviews Florence Devouard, chair of the Wikimedia Foundation
Monday, December 18, 2006
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Florence Devouard has been a contributor to the French Wikipedia since 2002. In October, 2006, she was nominated to be the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, which manages and hosts several popular wikis, including Wikipedia, a multilingual, collaboratively-written, free encyclopedia. She is also a member of the Wikimedia Foundation's Communications Committee, and is one of four community representatives to the board.
Wikinews: What were you thinking when Jimmy nominated you to become the new Chair?
Florence Devouard: It was not really a surprise. It had been discussed already for a while, so I had time to collect my thoughts already as to what I intended to do as a chair, thoughts I gave on the Foundation mailing list a few days later. When Jimbo nominated me chair, my thoughts were mostly oriented toward the desire that the change happens smoothly, with no wrong perception of the community or in the press. The fact I became chair is first the sign the organisation is maturing.
This said, it is *difficult* to become the chair after Jimbo. Not internally, as all board members were in agreement and happy with the switch. Jimbo is also very helpful. The main difficulty is rather due to the perception from outside parties that Jimbo still is the chair, or if they are informed he is no more, with their belief he is still in charge anyway. It will take time :-)
WN: What do you consider your greatest achievement on the Wikimedia projects themselves?
FD: Very difficult to say. I was probably an average editor on the French and English wikipedia. My achievement is probably rather in my involvement in community building. When I joined Wikipedia, the project was essentially monolingual, and it took a lot of dedication to really make it multilingual, with recognition of the importance of cultural diversity. As an admin on several projects, steward for over 3 years now, meta-oriented person, I was hopefully one of these "glue people" who helped to develop the global side of our projects.
WN: When did you first join the Wikimedia projects?
FD: February 2002 as an anonymous on the English wikipedia. I later created my pseudonyme, Anthere, and joined the embryo of French community (less than 10 people) in may 2002.
WN: What is your view on the annual 'pranking' of Wikipedia on April 1st?
FD: I... never participated to the annual pranking of the English Wikipedia on April 1st? However, I was more than once the author of "jokes" which were sometimes appreciated, sometimes not so much appreciated.... I especially loved changing the logo. I created false articles. And did some moves I will not publicly revealed as not so proud of them. But overall, I like fun; the fun may stay within reasonable limits of course, and April joke did not always...
WN: Wikimedia Commons recently reached 1 million files. What is your impression of this?
FD: Fabulous job ! I receive more and more phone calls of people willing to use an image from the Commons, which is for me a good measure of this site success. On another note, this project is specifically dear to my heart, because it is one where all languages mix. It is the true Babel Tower (which Wikipedia is not), where people work together, sometimes not sharing even one language. The current state is fabulous. And there is much left to do.
WN: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be, and why?
FD: I often sign "ant", mostly because of a wiki I participated to several years ago, where providing a real name was mandatory; I cheated, and called myself AntHere. The ant is a social insect. The ant is very industrious. The ant is never alone, it dies if alone. The ant lives with others in an anthill. And the head of the anthill is a Queen :-) (the Queen essentially being a mother actually).
So, Anthere or AntHere is just THE word.
WN: Considering past donations, and the rate we are going at now, do you think we will meet our goal by the deadiline of our current fundraiser?
FD: That is a very good question. I do not know. I can only hope, because the more money we'll make, the more we'll be able to make the suitable investments for the future of the projects. According to our Executive Director, Brad Patrick, our basic operations right now, cost around 75 000 dollars per month. This does not count the investments in hardware, which should be around $1,670,000 before June, nor the additional costs in terms of hosting, and bandwidth, due to the ever growing traffic. Add to this the much delayed need to hire more staff and project specific expenses. An insufficient fundraiser at this point would mean we'll have to organise a new one in the next few months; However, we are currently exploring other ways to collect money, now possible thanks to the completed audit. So let's be optimistic.
WN: Wikinews gives people credentials (excuse my spelling) which allow us to report in the field. I, myself am not accredited, but what's your view on this?
FD: I understood this was extremely helpful to approach candidates for interviews and participate to special events. I trust the Wikinews community to be careful in giving these credentials.
WN: If you were explaining Wikipedia to someone who has never heard of Wikipedia (I know, impossible), what would you say?
FD: In the shortest way, an encyclopedia, which aims to bring knowledge to the largest number of people on Earth. Which means 1) lower the financial barrier to access (it's free of charge), 2) lower the linguistic barrier (we work in over 200 languages), 3) lower the barrier of use (it is under a free licence which allow anyone to reuse the content). On top, an oddity, it is a collective work, with open access and multiauthoring.
- She and Erik Moeller were both elected Member Representatives according to the foundation bylaws at the time. In December 2006, the bylaws were amended and the Board was expanded by two seats. Those two seats will be filled by elected community representatives in elections next summer; the interim appointments to those seats are Oscar van Dillen and Kat Walsh.