Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard

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Welcome to the Board of Trustees' noticeboard. This is a message board for discussing issues related to Wikimedia Foundation governance and policies, and related Board work. Please post new messages at the bottom of the page and sign them.
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February Board meeting updateEdit

Hi all, in the last week of February, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees had our regular meeting for Q3 (January – March) of the Foundation’s fiscal year. We will have more detail about what transpired at the meeting once the minutes have been prepared and we have approved them, but we wanted to quickly release this brief update on some key topics and decisions:

  • We have created a new Board committee, the Community Affairs Committee, to dedicate resources to providing greater and more sustained strategic support for the Foundation’s community-facing work. For more detail, you can review the Community Affairs Committee Charter. Among other things, we hope that the Community Affairs Committee will help focus the Board's involvement in the movement strategy implementation discussions as well as other aspects of community-facing work.
  • As part of the CEO/Executive Director transition process, we have created a Board Transition Committee and an executive Transition Team. The Transition Committee will oversee the transition process and focus on the search for the next CEO. The Transition Team will support the Transition Committee and steward the management of the Foundation during the CEO/ED transition period.

On behalf of the Board,
Raystorm (talk) 15:10, 10 March 2021 (UTC)

I'm glad to see the addition:

The Foundation shall also provide the Board of Trustees with notice for information only, on a quarterly basis, for any donations (or cumulative donations from an individual donor or entities controlled by an individual donor-controlled) that exceed $100,000 USD or equivalent value.

I very much hope the anti-harassment article never needs to be invoked... How could an employee ever feel forced to inappropriate interactions with a donor? The sentence «The Wikimedia Foundation employees, contractors, and interns have the right to refuse to interact with any donor, potential donor, or supporter» goes much beyond the scope of a "gift policy", though.

While the general direction here seems good, it's probably necessary to reverse some other damage performed around 2016, going back to earlier versions. The amounts can be changed, of course, but the previous structure was superior in that:

  • it was clear who was responsible for what, while now we're completely clueless every time there's (rumor of) a gift (is it real, is it fake? is it going to be reported, but maybe in a few years from now when the minutes of a meeting are finally published? or was it approved by one of hundreds of employees? how to find out, other than by asking every single person?);
  • there was an obvious path to transparency for the biggest gifts, in that they at least were supposed to end up being mentioned in the minutes of a board meeting, which used to be published regularly;
  • and both the preceding points joined to make it possible to have decent feedback and conversations when useful, without burdening anyone with reams of bureaucracy.

And no, "doing the absolute minimum required by law" is not an option for a Foundation which supposedly exists to promote free knowledge by means of open collaboration. Nemo 23:06, 30 March 2021 (UTC)

Open Letter from Arbcoms to the Board of TrusteesEdit

Dear Board of Trustees,

This is an open letter from arbitrators and arbitration committees from across the Wikimedia movement.

We have followed closely the process of the creation of the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC). We know that many small communities do not have a basic set of rules, so it's hard for new editors to have a good sense of what is allowed and what not. Additionally, we encourage the creation of basic rules of conduct for all wikis to ensure that nobody gets treated poorly. Editors in our communities wish to have an environment conducive to creating high quality content. We do not want to see editors discriminated against based on opinion, culture, sexuality, etc. Editors should be judged by their editing. In our experience, the global community and our projects will generally endorse rules that ensure no individual is a victim of discrimination or hounding.

However, we are concerned about the enforcement of the UCoC and concerned about how that enforcement will be viewed on our projects. The lack of formal consultation with projects before the board approved the UCoC means it risks being seen as imposed by the Wikimedia Foundation from above, rather than being seen as a legitimate community endeavor. Several of our projects have seen major damage and harm done when the communities have come into conflict with the Wikimedia Foundation (for instance dewiki with SUPERPROTECT and enwiki with FRAMGATE). We do not want that to happen with the Universal Code of Conduct as that could undermine the benefits it has to offer for projects without well-developed policies, systems, and experience for dealing with editor behavior. Recent changes to the timeline to allow for more consultation and discussion are a positive step.

It is therefore vital that projects with more sophisticated governing systems, like ours, be formally involved in the next step of the UCoC process. We note the recent call for a new committee to draft the second phase. At least one person with experience as an arbitrator, or similar experience dealing with complex and difficult behavior issues, should be added as a member of the drafting committee, and at least one additional person with this experience, or experience as a Steward, should be added as an advisor.

We understand that individual projects cannot be given a veto over the implementation of the UCoC. However, we hope that you understand that individual projects must feel committed to whatever enforcement mechanisms arise. Without this sense of investment and partnership the UCoC will ultimately fail. Mere consultation is insufficient. A formal process for ratifying the UCoC enforcement system is necessary.

The UCoC must also be a living document. The community is changing and evolving and so has universal behavior. We know that this is a different document than if it had been created 10 years ago, and we feel that universal norms will be different in 10 years. A way to amend the Universal Code of Conduct must be added, and this amendment process should build on lessons learned to date to ensure that communities and individuals have a chance for meaningful input before any amendment is adopted.

Wikipedia and other projects are only possible because of the hard work of editors at communities to create and maintain the incredible store of knowledge available. This path is longer, but hasty decisions and decisions that lack legitimacy in the eyes of the volunteers they effect could cause real damage to our communities and the work we do. In the words of the Wikimedia Foundation values, "Collaboration is not always easy. Sometimes we struggle. Working together is hard, but it’s worth it. We do it because it makes us stronger." We ask you to be stronger together with us.


Signing members of the cswiki-arbcomEdit

Signing on behalf of the dewiki-arbcomEdit

For the enwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the frwiki-arbcomEdit

For the plwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the ruwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the ukwiki-arbcomEdit

Signing members of the pswiki-arbcomEdit

Hello ArbComs,
The Board’s Community Affairs Committee (CAC in short) highly appreciates your letter, which is a great example of global collaboration. Composing the text, encouraging the creation of basic rules of conduct for all wikis, and recognizing that users should be protected from discrimination and hounding, is an excellent step towards the upcoming global functionary meeting.The Board is naturally following on all UCoC developments, and more specifically, the CAC is very interested in the coming meeting and following more closely.
The committee will carefully study both your letter, with its three constructive proposals, and any additional outcomes from the coming functionary meeting, in advance of our own next meeting, so we can discuss it at our first opportunity. We hope to respond more substantively after that next meeting, which takes place the week after yours. On behalf of the CAC, Shani (WMF) (talk) 22:50, 30 March 2021 (UTC)
Adding to Shani's excellent response, with a more personal touch: It is refreshing and really great to receive a constructive, thoughtful letter, with a sensible proposed path. Thank you. The analysis and the overall proposed direction make perfect sense to me, and both CAC and the Board will definitely look into details. Pundit (talk) 06:47, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
Speaking for myself, I appreciate the comments provided here by Pundit and Shani (WMF). Best, Barkeep49 (talk) 16:19, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
I fully agree with Barkeep. Best regards, Luke081515 18:01, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
Hello ArbComs,
Following up on the CAC's initial response, I wanted to let you know that the CAC has read and thought about your open letter, as well as studied what came out of the functionary meeting that was recently held. Maggie, in her briefing to us about that meeting, remarked on how constructive the contributions from attendees were.
Regarding your 3 asks:
1) We agreed with you and with Foundation staff that you are important to the UCoC process and should be included in the drafting committee. We appreciate those of you who volunteered and are happy to see you involved.
2) Staff will be working with the stakeholders on whether and how to host a vote about the UCoC enforcement outline;we agree that a formal process of ratification of this enforcement outline is important.
3) Foundation staff will also be working with various stakeholders, including the new drafting committee, to formalize our commitment to having the UCoC be periodically reviewable (and amendable during those reviews).
Thank you again for all the time and effort you have put into this matter, and for your extremely useful thoughts. Best, Shani (WMF) (talk) 20:27, 28 April 2021 (UTC)

The Global Council, the CEO transition, and the global Wikimedia ambassadorEdit

During Katherine Maher's term as WMF ED/CEO, she has taken on a lot of the responsibilities of basically being a "global ambassador" for the Wikimedia movement: giving speeches, doing interviews, and explaining what Wikimedia is to the broader world. While she has done an excellent job at this, I think it would be worthwhile to reconsider whether this should be part of the WMF ED/CEO role long-term. There are two problems:

  • This ambassador role takes away from the work of actually managing the Foundation, which is an extraordinarily tasking job in its own right, and quite important.
  • We end up having the public "face" of the global, volunteer-oriented movement being a Silicon Valley executive, which is I would guess is quite bad for conveying who we are, and probably adds a fair bit of incongruity to our public image.

The upcoming Global Council is specifically intended to be "representative of the Movement in its role and composition". I think it would be fitting if a new role were created, appointed by the Global Council (perhaps specifically from its own membership, perhaps not), to be the "face" of the movement. This would allow our public identity to be closer to the communities,

The reason I'm bringing this up now is that, if this is to be done, it has nearer-term implications for the CEO Transition Team's search. In such a case, I would recommend that the Transition team not specifically look for a charismatic figure who can effectively present Wikimedia's mission to the public (having experience as a "key spokesperson", per the current prospectus), or at least not particularly prioritize those abilities. --Yair rand (talk) 19:06, 12 April 2021 (UTC)

Thanks, @Yair rand:. Acknowledging receipt of your note. The Transition Committee is already considering this. Best Shani (WMF) (talk) 20:01, 28 April 2021 (UTC)

When will we have a legitimate board again?Edit

The only legitimacy of the board derives from the elections by the community, and those have been postponed for far too long now. So the current board has a significant diminished legitimacy, thus must not decide anything really important, until the next proper legitimisation has been done, i.e. the next election has been done. When will this process finally be started? There is really no excuse for this any longer, as Covid-19 is no real excuse for an online grassroots organisation at all. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) Hold the election 07:08, 14 April 2021 (UTC)

Thanks, @Sänger:. Please see Quim's note below. This is a high priority for the board and WMF staff and we are working on resolving it. Best, Shani (WMF) (talk) 20:05, 28 April 2021 (UTC)
More then overdue, the only legitimacy of the board derives from the elections by the community, the board has no other legitimacy. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) Hold the election 20:11, 28 April 2021 (UTC)
Soon. I agree with you that elective legitimacy relies on proper process. It was delayed not to obfuscate things, but because of the heavy overload of the pandemic on the staff, and the community - and arguably running elections at suboptimal time would also lead to poor legitimacy. In any case, we're on a good track. Pundit (talk) 06:53, 29 April 2021 (UTC)

Resolution about the upcoming Board electionsEdit

The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees met last week to decide on a plan for the 2021 Board elections. The Board Governance Committee created this proposal, based on the Call for Feedback about Community Board Seats. Please check the related announcement for details. Qgil-WMF (talk) 18:18, 21 April 2021 (UTC)

Guidelines to prevent legal and illegal actionEdit

Noble members of the Board of Trustees, I would like to draw attention to a serious safety issue for volunteer editors. In User talk:AKeton (WMF)#Legal guidelines and intervention the AKeton (WMF), Jrogers (WMF) and JSutherland (WMF) did not answer the direct question about the existence of fundamental guidelines that editor/users should follow to prevent biographers, companies, etc. from threatening editors/users by legal or even illegal means as well as to access WMF's "Defense of Contributors" program if this should occur. I mean objective guidelines, obviously.

Silence from WMF's legal repesentanets must mean that these guidelines do not exist, and I think it is critical that they be created immediately. In addition, of course the silence of WMF's highest legal representatives is a personal protection for them, but it puts all editors at risk; it would be more appropriate to say that there are no such guidelines, so that measures could be taken --Felipe da Fonseca (talk) 11:45, 5 May 2021 (UTC)

Noble members of the Board of Trustees: I would like to let you know that I have just received a reply from Jrogers (WMF) (diff), who informed me that there are no general guidelines. Despite his reasons, I am particularly against this policy and would like to, if possible, discuss the topic, best, --Felipe da Fonseca (talk) 18:25, 6 May 2021 (UTC).