Amical Wikimedia/Mail13

from	Joan Goma <>
to	Joan Goma <>
date	Sun, Jun 13, 2010 at 11:15 PM
subject	Re: About Wikimedia CAT local chapter candidacy

Dear Ting,

The Wikimedia CAT local chapter candidacy hereby asks you to communicate to the Board the following allegations to the ruling handed down by the Chapters Committee, as well as our thoughts on the “chapter” concept, laid out at the end of this text.

To Wikimedia Fountation Board of truestees.

Allegations to the ruling handed down by the Chapters Committee.

To begin with, we wish to thank the ChapCom for admitting that our proposal has a great deal of support from the Catalan community, that it is comprehensive and detailed and that our by-laws comply with most of the requirements set for chapters.

We regret that it believes that our by-laws focus on one language and one culture and that this is considered one of the reasons that full compliance does not exist. The other reason they put forward is that our chapter overlaps other chapters' geographical scope.

We believe that none of these two arguments is valid, since they are not laid out in the written regulations for chapters.

With regards to the priority given to the Catalan language and culture:

1.- When the ChapCom reviewed our by-laws, the only comments left on their talk page were about whether it was appropriate or not for the preamble to state that the Catalan Wikipedia was the first to have articles after the English one. The author of the first article in a language other than English was precisely one of the members of our candidacy. They said nothing about the fact that the by-laws mention Catalan specifically.[1]

2.- Our association is following the same path as Wikimedia Italy or Wikimedia France.[2][3] After stating their commitment to universal knowledge, both associations rightly focus their contributions to their own language and culture. It is natural for the Catalan community and its representing association to act in the same fashion.

3.- Wikimedia CAT members believe that there is but one sole mankind, and that there exist no first- or second-rate languages and cultures. Therefore, we are committed to spreading knowledge for mankind as a whole and not just one culture or the other. We are a culture and belong to a culture, and this is the common factor which links and brings together the members of Wikimedia CAT, but we never discriminate against others based on their faith, beliefs, nationality, etc. We are proving this day after day. If someone believes that our by-laws do not state this clearly enough, we will be more than pleased to improve them.

With regards to the overlap:

1.- At the request of the Chapters Committee, we contacted WM France and Wikimedia Italy, offering to cooperate with them in all domains and for all purposes. None of these chapters has opposed our activities.[4][5] We invite all Wikimedian associations to act freely on our territories for the advancement and promotion of the international Wikimedian movement.

2.- As the representing association of Catalan-speaking Wikimedians, we will continue to act and work within our territories. If this reality is formally recognised, we can have honest and open cooperation through Chapter meetings and the inter-Chapter cooperation mechanisms. Without said recognition, cooperation will become much harder.

3.- The document “Requirements for future chapters"[6] states that Chapters are entities requiring a legal base. The requirement set clearly is to have a legal base allowing them to act throughout their entire geographical scope, not that this legal base must match the geographical scope, and even less that there must be only one legal base. Therefore, we understand the requirement for us to establish a legal base guaranteeing we can work in the entire region. This base exists, which is proven by the fact that we are currently operating with it.

We have understood from the beginning that there is an unwritten rule of prejudice in favour of a geopolitical-state concept aiming to impose political borders on Chapters. We believe that in some cases this concept can be very appropriate, but in other cases it can be a big mistake (we will explain why later on). We designed our proposal taking into account this prejudice, such that it could find a place even within this system:

“The creation of the Wikimedia Local Chapter operating on Catalan-speaking territories and based in Andorra, named Wikimedia CAT, authorised to carry out its activities in the Catalan-speaking areas of France and Italy jointly with WM-FR and WM-IT, in accordance with the will to cooperate stated officially by these Local Chapters, and authorised to carry out its activities in the Catalan-speaking areas of Spain.”

This proposal fits perfectly in the same one chapter-one country scheme followed by most existing chapters:

1.- We actually have Andorran members allowing us to incorporate the Chapter, and Andorran law allows foreigners to be members of Andorran associations. It is unacceptable that, when it comes to determining whether a critical mass exists, there is a discrimination on the basis of nationality if they wish to associate and law allows them to do so.

2.- Chapter regulations allow people to become members of chapters in other countries in accordance with their cultural and language affinities.

3.- The name Wikimedia CAT can be used, pursuant to the regulations that, in the event that law does not allow for an association to bear the name Wikimedia “Country name” (as is the case with Andorra), another name can be used.

We must state that we have analysed in depth the scheme used by Catalan non-profit entities and both schemes are used. Some of them act separately in the Spanish, Andorran, French and Italian areas, such as the Red Cross. Others operate in the Catalan area, such as UBUNTU.[7] It seems that old organisations whose activities have no relationship with culture and language and which depend on state subsidies prefer to get organised by states, whereas younger organisations whose activities are based on culture, language, knowledge and especially free knowledge, and which depend essentially on volunteer work, are organised in accordance with the cultural and linguistic scope.

That is why we ask for the Wikimedia CAT chapter to be recognised as proposed and, if necessary, to open a negotiation process to define the details of the Chapter contract to ensure that overlapping territories will not be a problem, but an advantage.

Some thoughts on the chapter concept.

In addition to defending our cause, we would like to help improve the global Wikimedian movement. That is why we would like to contribute our thoughts about the current status of both national and subnational Chapters.

Wikimedia projects aim to spread knowledge, and this is done in different languages. That is why projects are organised by language.

Local chapters strive to promote the projects carrying out activities on the streets which cannot be carried out on-line. Activities on the streets are subject to certain laws and cost money. That is why it is logical for Local Chapters to be based in a jurisdiction allowing them to work within the law, sign agreements and manage financial resources.

There are cohabitation rules on the street. There are many valid rules which are not always compatible. For example, one can drive on the right side or the left side, and any of the two systems is perfectly good, but we must all agree and drive on the same side if we do not want traffic to become chaotic. Even in an extremely careful society where people drove with great care and respect towards the others, this would be problematic. The same happens with languages: you can make activities and promote projects in any language, but unless all chapter members share a common language, the chapter will be chaotic. Even in an extremely careful chapter with a deep respect for languages and cohabitation, located right in the heart of the Alpes, difference of languages and slow comunications due to this is their worst headache.[8]

Therefore, it seems natural to analyse the match rate between the language/project map and the political map. All cases occur: 1-1, 1-N, N-1 and N-M.

1-1 situations (one language, one country) are perfectly tweaked, with chapters matching countries and projects at the same time. Nevertheless, in some cases it might be more appropriate to create several chapters, such as in very large countries where people would work better in smaller areas.

In 1-N cases (one language, N countries), the countries are very large, their legal systems are very different, their borders are difficult to cross or they have different currencies. A one chapter-one country can be a good solution, but it might be better to create a grouping of chapters by project. Since they share the same language, there are many things they would like to do jointly: publishing a manual or advertising material, presentation material, interviews with the press and other media whose scope extends beyond one country.

In N-1 cases (N languages in one same country), creating various subnational chapters can be a solution, but it is not an absolute need. They may share one language and/or they may agree to work together and find a way of solving linguistic and cultural barriers, but they should not be forced to do so. The chapters' mission is to promote projects, not to bring societies together. The ideal configuration would be that which in each case makes it easier to focus activities on promoting the projects, and nobody knows how to do that better than the members making the proposal. Even if, like in the previous case, several subnational chapters are created, some sort of chapter grouping should be envisioned to coordinate their relationship with the national political administrations.

N-M cases is where the need to make chapters more flexible becomes more patent.

The Catalan case is possibly the first one to achieve sufficient critical mass to propose the creation of a chapter, but if the Wikimedian movement grows, there will be other cases of languages spread across several countries and which are not “the” language of any or some of the countries where they are spoken. In the case of Europe, it is the case that they may have a common language but also a common currency, there are no borders between their respective countries and their legal systems are very similar. It makes no sense for Wikimedia to separate people from different countries who are working together, joined by Wikipedia.

In these cases, the most logical step is to create chapters with a well-defined geographical scope but which do not have to restrict themselves to a country and which can overlap with one another. There should also be chapter groupings to coordinate their relationships with public administrations covering territories, whether different chapters overlap or not. More specifically, all European chapters' relations with the European Union should be coordinated.

All this complexity would vanish, while respecting the chapter concept with a few simple tweaks. The following would be required to become a chapter:

1.- Having a critical mass of Wikimedian and non-Wikimedian members ensuring the Chapter will survive and its activities will be feasible.

2.- Defining a scope of action and creating a non-profit organisation which can operate in a territory pursuant to its laws.

3.- Being trusted by the editors of the projects in the languages with which they wish to work.

Thus, chapters operating in one same language should be coordinated in order to create synergy, and also chapters operating in one same country or in the European Union, for the purposes of lobbying, research projects or training financed at the European level.

Any possible overlap problems are easily solved with transparency. If chapters operating in one same territory clearly inform potential partners of possibilities for cooperation, everyone will be able to choose with which chapter they feel more at ease.

On the other hand, we think it is clear that having a chapter is becoming an increasingly important tool for promoting the projects. Projects promoted by one or more chapters benefit from having a team of people promoting them on the streets, which can also:

1.- Identify with the Wikimedian movement by using the Wikimedia Foundation logos.

2.- Appear in the Foundation website contact sections.

3.- Access information on the internal wiki.

4.- Attend chapter meetings.

5.- Share experience on good practices with other chapters.

6.- Accessing Foundation funds to finance their projects.

7.- Taking part in fundraising campaigns.

8.- Taking part in the selection of the Chapter-nominated Foundation Board Members

Therefore, projects which are not promoted by any chapter will be clearly handicapped. Free knowledge has given a new momentum to minority languages; since it is free, nobody can discriminate against them by stopping people from writing in those languages. Knowledge being offered for free removes market discrimination, which plays against languages with few readers. It would now be an historic error for Wikimedia to discriminate against people who have these languages as mother tongues, depriving them of these tools to promote their projects or forcing them to join Chapters where they will not feel at ease.

In all likelihood, this problem has not been debated yet because there has only been one case which has grown to achieve sufficient critical mass to form a chapter. The Andorran solution we have proposed for the Catalan case may be a makeshift solution. But, for as long as a comprehensive valid solution is not provided for everyone, we request an immediate resolution for our case so that we can operate with the Andorran solution.

If the Board decides to study the possibility of tweaking and improving the definition of the chapter concept, we would like to take part in the process by contributing our ideas. We remain at your disposal to discuss this on whatever medium you wish: IRC, wiki, mailing lists or presentially at Wikimania, where we are expecting a large Catalan delegation.


[2] Bylaws Wikimedia Itàlia "Articolo 3 - Finalità e attività. ...In particolare Wikimedia Italia si dà come obiettivo di promuovere e sostenere, direttamente o indirettamente, gli sviluppi, i trasferimenti, le traduzioni in lingua italiana dei progetti della Wikimedia Foundation, Inc..."

[3] Bylaws Wikimedia France “2.1 Pour contribuer activement à la diffusion, à l'amélioration et à l'avancement du savoir et de la culture, WIKIMÉDIA FRANCE a pour objet le développement d'encyclopédies, de recueil de citations, de livres éducatifs et d'autres compilations de documents, d'information et de diverses bases de données informatives, notamment en langue française...”