How would you define the leadership role of the board of trustees? Alan.ca 05:38, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
The leadership role of the trustees consists in filling the responsibilities outlined in the Board Manual. Its first responsibility is the financial and
legal stability of the Foundation. Next, it facilitates the development and direction of general policies. It is also responsible for maintaining and promoting the philosophy of consensus on which Wikipedia is based.
I am sorry to say that I currently fail to grasp what is precisely the role of the Board of Trustees, I think that there is a nearly general passivity that contrasts with the overactivity of the Chapcom for instance, which I fear may be wishing to gain more power to overrule the Board in some way... So I am sorry to say that there is no leadership... I guess that alike the Chapcom/Chapters, which wondered what is a Chapter or what it should be in Gdansk (Wikimania 2010), much remains to be clarified about the precise role and powers of the Board. Well, I think that first it should be at the top of the pyramid and that no Wikimedia structure should be independent from them (there should be some kind of interconnexion at all the levels...) and that it should provide periodic information about what it is doing (roles, tasks and projects) and ensure that all the connected structures do the same, especially about their projects, achievements and how they manage their funds. But except for a few (Sj and Arne) I haven't noticed much participation from the current Board members in the Movement Roles but maybe there is more information somewhere else...
I have read some other people answers and I do not think it should be this passive but instead act as the driving force behind everything. It should control that everything is OK, (I like the "expert" thing though I am not really sure it works... we should have a think tank there...) especially that the funds are used in decent ways, with some benevolent attitude and take sanctions if things go wrong.
It should also be committed to listen and answer the concerns or the questions of the community and not be some kind of autistic structure, make sure the projects work fine, provide some advices and help to existing structures in order to improve them and at the same time try to find ways and solutions to expand the projects where they are not well implanted yet.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
The Trustees are the navigators
of our projects.
There is no question that the staff and volunteers can (and do) handle the day to day operations: the servers are up, the work is getting done. What the board must do is look ahead for the shoals that threaten, and set the direction we will sail towards today to reach our objectives five, ten, and fifty years from now.
I hope to have the opportunity to learn in practice what that role could best be. But since I am not an expert in finance, law, or management, I hope there will be scope for helping shape open responsiveness to the varied communities, policy on content and shape of overall efforts, and especially directions for continued success and enhancement into the future.
The Board of Trustees is entrusted with making certain decisions within the Wikimedia Foundation. However, I do not think that means that this board should sit in their meetings and take decisions. I would like to see more involvement in decision making processed of community members and other movement organizations (ie, chapters) than currently is the case. This does not mean that the role of the trustees decreases, but it does mean it changes - for some topics from a purely decision making body to a body that also participates in public discussions and process that input into decisions.
At the same time, the board also has a leadership role within the Editing Community - not always decisionmaking, but sometimes by sending a signal it can have impact. A good example is the recent (and currently displayed in sitenotices) call for openness and collaboration.
The board are custodians. They are there to uphold the ideals, advocate (both on and off project) and act as role models. The aim is to take a wider view of the whole foundation, take account of the views of the community, and help guide it successfully from one year to the next.
The leadership role of the Board of trustees should be helping communities through day-to-day interaction, in order to acknowledge their needs and motivate them to accomplish their objetives.
I don’t believe in any other leadership form than the one which is built on consensus. In this respect, I feel that the function of Board of Trustees’ should have to be hearing to and harmonizing all the different voices in Wikimedia. The Board should have to elicit discussion, integrating cultures, stimulate the creation of new projects with community’s collaboration, and once done, let them to go and flourish autonomously.
At the same time, the Board has to be enough imaginative and strategic to build and maintain a vision for WMF’s direction in the forthcoming years. In this respect, I feel that the most important imperative is linked to find a way to ensure future economic sustainability of Wikimedia activities.
De board is where the buck stops. It is where policies that are necessary for the functioning of the WMF can be bindingly decided. A good example is BLP, it is not only a best practice, it is also a defence against litigation. With 270+ Wikipedias it cannot be left to each community to decide differently.
The board is about strategy, how to invest our resources, how to ensure our future health. How to engage the rest of the world.
I believe free knowledge is a new approach that does not fit in the classical “leader and followers” paradigm. From my point of view, being a board member is no big deal, just like being a project administrator. I would like to help put in place mechanisms that unleash the community’s creativity, enthusiasm and impetus. I believe hierarchic leadership is an obsolete system at which for-profit companies will always be far better than us. We should go for shared leadership.
I take the name 'trustee' at face value. The trustees should act as a kind of think-tank that can examine strategic and other high-level issues seriously and in depth, and be small enough to reach decisions yet big enough to be varied and heterogeneous. Trustees should be able to communicate out to the community, and be familiar and friendly faces in an organization that is sometimes too unwieldy to understand. They should be dedicated, experienced, talented, imaginative and trustworthy individuals. They needn't be leaders in the political sense of the word (I hope the board doesn't have too much internal politics, that would be disappointing), yet have the charisma and eloquence to motivate the entire movement.
The Board itself has a clear, relatively narrow leadership role: its job is to oversee the Foundation, and steer it in the right way. Harel's answer (above) puts that part of it well. However, I think that the community-elected Trustees have additional responsibilities to lead (and of course listen to) the movement community – where we have particularly difficult issues with which to deal, the Board as a body has a place, but the individual Trustees have much more of one. Examples of this happening well include the concerns about controversial content, and the future of the movement and the bodies within it (Chapters vs. “Associations” etc.). Both of these were community issues that the Board took up to find a solution (though they are not yet solved), and are part of the Board's leadership within the wider movement.
Ideally, the goal of the Board of trustees should be to limit itself on facilitation of movement processes. However, it requires movement stabilization and we are not so close to that point.
In the mean time, during the process of movement stabilization Board should have more active role, leading the movement to the safe harbor. That process includes necessity of supporting bold ideas, while taking count on dynamics of all Wikimedian groups.
Summarized: Board should strive to more passive role when the movement becomes stable. In the mean time, it has to actively work on making movement stable.
The first role is the standard oversight and governance role that any nonprofit board would have; not exciting but necessary. This board has a particular role. I see the main role as long-term stewardship of the mission and values of the organization. Most of the what the board does is in the background: keeping track of the major decisions and challenges that are facing the organization, thinking in terms of broad strategy and long-term effects.
(But I can't really do much better than to link to the board manual
, which I recommend for those interested in the board and its functions.)
The Foundation should try to shorten the distance with the community and empower editors and groups. It should facilitate the means to help the community to reach global decisions on the projects, such as simplifying and standardizing some basic policies.
Also, the Board of Trustees should build and sustain a permanent relation of dialogue and discussion with chapters, helping them to reach productive links with the outside world, facilitating interchange between them and considering the chapters’ feedback for their own discussions and decisions.
On the other hand, the Board is not meant to lead the community, but primarily and specifically WMF as an organization. In this sense, I think that many times there are worries and criticism coming from the community that are not correctly addressed or perhaps even notified, by the staff. It is part of the Board’s responsibility, in my opinion, to ensure that relation between the Movement (the project’s communities and organized groups) and WMF staff is both ways fluent.
I dont believe, however, in “them vs. us” schemes. I believe most of this things happen because the Board is not representative enough of the variety of people our Movement encompasses. It is mostly responsibility of the Board to prevent that “us vs. them” feeling from arising.
The board leads the foundation in guiding its future plans, resource allocation, and use and protection of our brand. The board is responsible for guiding the foundation in a direction that realizes our vision, strengthening current projects and facilitating future ones. The foundation has been entrusted with the stewardship of the Wikimedia brands, and the infrastructure which we all use to collaborate to create the projects. So the primary responsibility of the board is in leading the foundation to grow in a way that
- supports our editing community and other movement partners,
- stewards current and future resources, both the energy and ingenuity of our creators and other community members, and direct financial donations,
- makes our name and work synonymous with the principles we wish to engender in the world - collaboration, transparency, freedom.
The board has a secondary responsibility to make or approve certain global decisions affecting all projects, or to ensure that this role is addressed by other entities in our movement. (Ex: BLP and controversial content discussions.) This is a holdover from the earlier days of Wikimedia, and as we mature this responsibility should be mostly delegated to community bodies that can lead the development of the projects, and project policies, independent of this Foundation-governance role.
The board of trustees should enable every good idea, it should turn negative influences into a positive drive. It should care about every single wish, so that the society can look forward to a prosperous future. Its members should contribute to a peaceful world, where every single person is willing to share knowledge.
Since my boyfriend is a gardner and I often work with him in the weekends in our garden I like to use the following analogy: I think that the role of the board is that of a gardner. The gardner is not the one in the garden, who flossoms or fruits. The plants do this. There are very different plants in a garden. Some grow faster, some grow more aggressive, some like shadows, some like sunlight. All these plants are good, they all bring flowers and fruits, but the gardner is there to take care that all these plants meet their needs. He must take care that the more fast growing plants don't suffocate the slower growing ones, the ones who need more room don't take the sunlights of other plants. Without the garden the gardner is useless, without the gardner the garden grow wild. I believe this is the role of the board, to take care that every aspect of our community, every trait of our movement, get their room, so that we grow as a whole, and fulfill our mission to the humanity. The example of the Openness resolution is such a case. We had always, from the very beginning, inside of our community people, who cared for the openness, for the welcoming aspect of our movement and our projects. Who tried to help new comers, who tried to mediate in conflicts. But this aspect of our community is often also the more quieter, more try to avoid conflict part of our community. The Opennness resolution is not to say, we must now be open and everything else is bad, it is to give this aspect and part of our movement more room to develop, to give them the support they need to express themselves. This is why the board of trustees is there.
Have you reviewed the movement roles initiative and what are your thoughts on this subject? Alan.ca 06:58, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
When we focus on the purpose of Wikipedia, to organize and present information, it becomes important to ask how these interest groups help or hinder that purpose. We should look carefully at any development that distracts people from contributing to Wikipedia. If an organization becomes top-heavy with structure, it can miss its core purpose.
Indeed I have reviewed most of the things that happened there since much is/was at stake for the stateless languages, with a particular emphasis on the Partner Organization project. Much to my surprise I have not seen a real implication of the Trustees except Arne Klempert and to a greater extent Samuel Klein (very active in the Partner Organization concept), that is 2 out of 10 people or 20%; this is a very limited participation of the people which should probably act as leaders or at least emphasize the importance of the Movement Roles being there... On the contrary the people from Chapcom and some Chapters seemed to be really active there, trying probably to defend their status and privileges or even gain more power through Fundraising (I hope there won’t be any problems afterwards with the money...). I am very pessimistic about the involvement of people, which I think are mainly interested by money, power/prestige and sex and sometimes the three of them, though in the case of the Board (or the Chapcom) I think power/prestige is the main motor right now...
I think that solutions are generally being "investigated" in order to act as some sort of patches to respond to current problems instead of building/defining a sounder framework and assigning a clear role to each actor, while the communities seem to have succeeded in creating structures and roles to respond to the basic anarchical trends, the upper structures seem to work in some kind of erratic way which seem to be antagonistic in some ways. They also seem to act as clans or oligarchies, which choose their allegiance, that is pro-board or pro-Chapters and intervene mainly because of their specific interests, really apart from the community needs. I sincerely hope I am wrong...
I really wish solutions to be found some day soon but I am afraid it will take an enormous amount of time and then other issues will be urging at that moment and probably will not be attended when needed...
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
It's a relatively reasonable approach to help alleviate part of the currently existing confusion. Certainly, setting out to organize which entities hold which roles within the movement is a necessary process given the current lack of structure. I do think it's too little and that it's trying to tackle the problem from the wrong end. We shouldn't be trying to fit roles to the existing model, but provide a future-proof framework
and create the mechanism and roles to fit that
It's akin to trying to divvy up government responsibilities between ministries before writing the constitution setting out how the government is to work and what its responsibilities are.
I am involved in some level in this process myself and it might therefore not come as a surprise that I find it a particular important process. In the five years I have spent as a board member of Wikimedia Nederland, I have encountered numerous occasions where the roles of organizations within Wikimedia were unclear, and sometimes internal fights came into existence over it. We are being ineffective and inefficient because we don't agree on who is supposed to be doing what. I have definitely my own opinions on the movement roles (including the importance of chapters and other organizations in scaling up the movement world wide, contrary to a centralized single organization model), but in the end I think most important is that practically all stakeholders can agree to the outcome. Any outcome that might be perfectly designed but is not supported by the vast majority of all involved organizations and volunteers is not going to be successful. Our organizational structure as a movement is (and should be) too dependent on the motivation of many volunteers for that.
I fully approve of the scope and aims of the initiative, self-critique can only ever be constructive! In particular the analysis of the current "players" has highlighted some major problems with organisational structure; stemming from the organic growth of the foundation over the years. The proposed re-structuring
seems sensible, more logical and (crucially) more transparent.
In addition I like this idea of creating more diverse groups of contributors, such as so called "thematic chapters". This ties in with my thoughts below on the demographic of industry professionals, a prime target for such an initiative as many already have associations who could become partners.
One area I think the task force needs to focus on is national chapters and their roles/responsibilities. In general I support the idea of leaving chapters to focus on initiatives of their own free will. However, within Wikimedia UK, I get the feeling that people are a little unsure as to the role of a formal chapter structure, how it fits into the larger foundation, and exactly what they can be responsible for :) Simple clarification of these issues would set a lot of minds at rest.
I like the idea of creating "thematic chapters", but without requiring any university degree or nothing specific. Anybody who wants to contribute should be able to do it. The diversity of editors will grow the projects and find the neutral point of view. The chapter model actually existing can be improved, the proposal of groups of wikimedians is also viable and must be analized and improved.
Yes, I had a read on the document and I have a grasp of the initiative, but I don't specifically know all the ongoing processes. What I feel very important is the fact that after some time of explosive growth, it is widely felt the need of discussing and sharing common rules for ensuring a better functioning of the movement. What I see particularly important in the process is that rules are shared among the highest possible number of persons and different cultures/chapters. This wuill be a long and painful process, but in the end will deliver the best of results.
For me the Wikimedia *movement* is much broader then what is considered in this project. The movement describes the organisations and roles that spawned off from the Foundation. They are very tightly connected and largely under control of the Foundation.
Projects like translatewiki.net
are obviously part of the movement and as obviously a separate entity. Visibility is given to Audit, Nominating and Election, but where is GLAM. The name is wrong, it usurps something I find profound. It limits our reach and I would like this effort to be truly about the Wikimedia movement.
Yes, I have. I think I am the only group participant
who has posted his answers to the initial questions
on Meta. I created a working group that analyzed the current situation and suggested far-reaching changes
. I believe movement roles has two weaknesses that should be overcome. On the one hand, we should involve the community instead of just listening to it. On the other hand, the necessary changes are so numerous and complex that we should not wait until the end of the process, but rather implement gradually and constantly those for which a consensus has been struck.
Yes, I followed the overall trend of the discussion, though I'll admit I didn't read every word on the subject. At the very beginning I was a little skeptical, thinking this will just be an ineffective attempt to document the existing complex relations in the WMF-Chapters-Community holy triangle, but thankfully my skepticism was relieved, especially during ChapConf11 in Berlin, when I understood that this is not so much about documenting the present, as thinking about novel ways for new parties to join the movement - especially new ways for wikimedians to group together that are not the formal, one-country-per-chapter model, and for existing parties outside the movement to become affiliated with the movement in various ways. I really think that the chapter model is not the only viable option, and if groups of wikimedians want to organize themselves differently and for different purposes (Wikimedians in Education? Wikimedian students at UCLA?? Vegetarian Wikimedians?!?) then we must encourage this. The MR process seems to go forward rather slowly. I'm on its mailing list and didn't see too much traffic there, and I'll admit I missed out the last IRC session.
Yes. (Indeed, I was interviewed as part of the process a few times.) I think that there is space within the movement for the creation of non-local organisations of Wikimedians (e.g. Blind Wikimedians), but that the Chapter model works well for the geographical-scope bodies, and that fundraising and use of the official names and marks should be reserved for formal membership organisations that work as Chapters. I'm aware that this does not suit all situations but that means we should find locally-suitable options that best fit the wider expectations of the community and movement. I'm happy to discuss this at length, but don't want to take up readers' time here – ask me on my talk page if you're interested.
Yes, I am introduced in the movement roles initiative from its beginning. A couple of persons wanted to propose me inside of this group at the beginning of the process, but I had (and I have) full trust that that group is able to make relevant conclusions related to the ongoing movement issues.
And in that sense I was completely right. I have to say that I am even positively surprised. Their conclusions on many of our existing issues and problems are thoughtful and I think that those conclusions are the right way how to deal with issues connected to them.
However, their conclusions are limited on existing problems, while having in mind that movement is changing; including the fact that their conclusions will change the movement, too.
From loosely organized large group of volunteers, Wikimedia movement has become organized and it is becoming more and more structured. That process is bringing new issues and new problems. Some of them are not visible, some of them are and some of them already exist.
It is very likely that they haven’t addressed them because of the size of the job which they have. So, when time comes, I would expect from them to try to address as many as possible issues which are likely to- be created.
I think it's a much more complicated issue than it may at first look like! The movement is many people and many groups, each with their own conception of what it should be. (I'm not sure what this question is asking--about the process itself, or the necessity for the process, or something else?)
This isn't an area where a small group can simply hand down its vision; it's something that has to develop as the groups involved become more organized and get a better sense of what they are best placed to do and what their ideal relationship to the Wikimedia movement is. I think it's already made progress in that people are sitting down with each other in good faith and trying to resolve the questions; regardless of what the structure ends up becoming, the ability to do this is the important part.
Yes, I am aware of it and I was indeed invited to be part of the Movement Roles working group, though unfortunately in that moment I hadn’t enough time to accept. I believe it is a very important initiative, and it is also very important it was a Board member -and one of the two proposed by Wikimedia chapters- who proposed it. And I believe it is important because it looks to address punctual problems and “grey zones” that had been chronically left over, bringing many times unneccessary uncertainty or ad hoc solutions about very important processes having to do with chapter recognition, transparency or flow of the money. I believe that one of the more advanced discussions so far is the one on what they call “new models”, what means implementing ways to recognize and empower organized groups of wikimedians that are already there but do not fit into the definition of a chapter.
The biggest drawback of the Movement Roles process, in my opinion, has to do with two systemic problems. First, the discussions sound perhaps too abstract and too specific for people that are just worried about the way the Foundation is spending and are not experts in the institutional, organizational side of our Movement. Second, the Movement Roles group has yet to find a way to expand the important debates they are having beyond the limited set of people who are able to contribute so elaborate ideas in English.
Improving our understanding of the roles in the Wikimedia movement is a necessary step in scaling up our current work. If we want more people in the world to share in our vision and work with us to realize it, we need to expand our view of who we are, and our ability to delegate responsibility to local and topical groups wherever that is appropriate. Defining the needed roles in our movement, and what current groups are actively supporting it, will help sharpen our understanding of how we can better serve our mission and the world.
At the moment some important responsibilities, such as identifying the best new initiatives to support financially, fall by default to the Foundation and to those few Chapters which have participaetd significantly in direct fundraising. As the impact of the funds we raise becomes comparable to the impact of the direct work of our editors, finding the right way to balance and prioritize this support becomes important.
Other important responsibilities, such as ensuring that our global community is equally engaged in cross-project decision-making, whether or not they read and write English, have fallen by the wayside without any single group claiming them.
Additionally, we need to recognize the many smaller independent groups whose work is essential to our mission, but get little visibility or thanks - they may need support just as much as formal organizations with paid public-relations staff.
The movement role is an extremely complex and difficult topic that the board is currently working on. Actually it is a topic that the board was working on since I joined the board three years ago, and it takes a great deal of the current board work. It is not only who can put the name Wikimedia on its tag and who cannot, it is also not only how much tiers of different organizational associates we want to have and why, by which criteria. More importantly it is about who can/should/must do which work best and how to encourage them to do these works, how to distribute resources inside of our movements, what is a "fair" distibution of those resources between the very different organizations inside of our movement. I won't comment the current stand of the process because it is still in work. I think that the current work process itself reflects a few goods and bads that I would like to point out. The good side is that it is an open process, the discussions, the current preliminary results are all public and everyone is welcomed to give her or his input and reflections. This is not only good for a transparency reason, but also again reflects the open, including and welcoming side of our movement. The not so good side is although the board, the workgroup and the Foundation had encouraged many times for participation the actual participation is still quite low. Although it is such an important issue, that will actually have impact on a lot of volunteers later. This is something that we had faced since the beginning of our projects, and got worse with the grow of our community: How to reach all those volunteers and get their input, so that not only those who are most vocal are heard, but also the very big silent majority. This is certainly an issue that the board and the Foundation must work further on.
Which demographic groups do you believe are viable targets for growth as factual article content contributors to Wikipedia? Alan.ca 06:58, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
I think there is a huge pool of talent among writers, journalists, editors, scientists, and members of the academe, and experts in their fields. A big factor in presenting knowledge is organization, and these folks know all about that. If the experts feel welcome and their contributions are fairly treated, they can promote consensus greatly in the area of organization. Nothing promotes contributions and learning more than giving users a framework for navigating a subject. That's what the experts are really good at.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
I think the primary content weakness right now is geographical
. Despite our efforts to date (and there is no question that a lot of people worked very hard in that direction), we are suffering from a systemic bias that is difficult to avoid: people who contribute to our projects are people who (a) are minimally computer savvy, (b) have affordable access to Internet, and (c) have sufficient comfort and resources to be able to devote leisure time to volunteer to our projects. In practice, that means that only a minority of the World can currently contribute and that Asia and Africa are vastly
Opening towards India is a good move, but we should be looking at what more we can do to help preserve the culture and knowledge of non-European societies. Things like hiring editors in underrepresented cultures to help contribute, or providing access to Internet to small isolated communities or linguistic groups.
There are two quite distinct considerations here, both important to pursue.
The first is which groups of potential editors are most likely to join, contribute, and stay active. That is obviously young people; they are reachable by social media and by classes or clubs. Also the many computer-literate retired, who have a lifetime's experience and probably 10-15 productive years -- that's longer than anyone has yet been a wikimedia editor, so don't throw stones!
The second consideration is which groups we most want to draw in for their unique knowledge, such as underrepresented regions or cultural and domain experts (who need not be official -- I don't have a PhD myself, or any formal credentials in mountain photography). Under-represented groups could perhaps be enabled thru small grants both to help them directly, or to interested visiting or local aides. Domain experts could be recruited thru interest groups in professional societies. Interested but non-computer-savvy or time-limited folks with valuable knowledge or skills (cultural, humanities, translation, etc) could perhaps be drawn in by a buddy system that paired them with an enthusiastic young person who knows or learns the editing technologies and policies.
There are too many groups to mention only a few. But one big group we are missing out on throughout all demographics is the group of people which is not as technical - which is not able to use current interfaces. This is not just a matter of software, but also of culture (long pieces of explanatory text; many choices and options) We are making progress on that, but at the same time we have a long way to go. I do not believe in betting on one single horse, but would like to try many different approaches at once - as a movement. That doesn't mean the Foundation should focus on all, but for example chapters should be able to see which groups they can best relate to in their specific situation, and try to involve them.
The obvious answer here is academia, and a lot of work (both on-wiki, within chapters and, I believe, at foundation level) has already gone into bringing academics in as editors. What has happened so far is great, the next step is to keep pushing forward with these initiatives.
Beyond that I think a very important and under-utilised demographic are industry professionals (particularly engineering and technology); my main article contribution to Wikipedia relates to my profession, en:digital forensics, previously a little expanded topic. I know of a few others who have been able to contribute successfully to articles about their small-focused professions.
I think that this demographic can be over looked as an asset because the various industrial associations are not always readily accessible (exceptions perhaps being the IEEE etc.). Efforts to bring more professionals into the editing group would be highly beneficial, improving coverage of our non-academic technical topics and bringing practical perspective to academic material.
Anyone who has anything to contribute in our projects should be able to do. There isn't need for a university degree to edit in the projects. For that they are the veriafibility policy to ensure that the information is true. Students, workers, retired, etc should be welcome in Wikimedia
I feel that usability and user experience are the main problems which prevent Wikimedia projects to be improved both quantitatively and qualitatively. The necessity to be more than minimally computer-savvy to be an editor currently cuts out most of the elderly potential contributors, which are not digitally-native. In my opinion, this results in a big loss, since people like retired experts, which have both time and knowledge to be prolific and high-quality contributors, are highly disadvantaged. Even more importantly, disabled persons are cut out by the complexity of Wiki editing commands, while for example the development of a vocal interface for allowing impaired persons to write in a simple way would be highly desirable. Also in this case, and leaving away all the important moral considerations associated to this, we are cutting out another target of people which have the time, the motivation and often the preparation to contribute. Last but not least, in order to allow Wiki to really become an inclusive tool where all the cultures are represented, I feel we should have to make a strong effort toward further development of Wiki projects on mobile platforms, which are often the only connection tool for culturally important, whilst technologically less served areas.
I will be a board member of the Wikimedia Foundation when elected. I have been championing providing technical equality among all our languages. Removing the impairments of MediaWiki for people who are not into English, the Latin script is primary. Getting these people on a level playing field is what needs doing before this question moves up as a priority. The board should ensure emancipation of all our languages, all our editors and all our readers.
I think the problem lies in finding the techniques that help us target these groups and the changes required to encourage them to cooperate in Wikipedia. Statistics show that the average Wikipedian is a childless, single young man living in a rich country. The first step should consist of finding out what we can do to attract women, pensioners, married people, people with children and those living in poor countries. I have personally contributed to various experiences to attract new contributors from among schools and university students, pensioners and immigrants in Barcelona. I have a couple of clues but I do not have the solution. I suggest trying different options until we find the practices and changes that yield the best result.
With regard to minority languages, I think the will of editor communities should be respected when it comes to promoting their projects. I will support them wholeheartedly regardless of the way in which they choose to organize themselves: by leveraging infrastructure provided by Chapters, by organizing informal groups or by creating specific chapters to promote projects in their own languages.
You're looking for growth and for "factual article content", so that implies groups where Wikimedia penetration is still low, yet there exist the potential for educated and intellectual editors to join. I would think the first group should be higher-education students in developing countries, where internet usage is low. Such students will probably have the computer savvy, the motivation, the curiousness and the level of education necessary for that growth, especially in the smaller languages. I'm a little more skeptical about our realistic chances for growth with other groups such as the elderly (all over the world), unless the technical hurdle is massively reduced. Moreover, I don't think that Wikimedia alone can bridge universal gaps in internet participation, in education, in literacy and in usage of leisure time (which is deeply related to level of income) that are deep-seated and have many objective reasons. Because of this, we should look for the low-hanging fruits, as your question indicated indeed.
I think the Strategy wiki and related work captured this very well – we need to reach out better to women; non-majority ethnicities, cultures, religions etc. in each country; "high" cultural institutions and academics; and most broadly the "Global South". The hardest of these is clearly the last, but I have faith that the pace in technology and economic growth means that reaching these people is not something we can think of theoretically – soon millions more will be reading and editing no matter what we do, and we need to prepare for them, and serve them as well as we can. Clearly we should continue to attract new, young editors to Wikimedia projects (who have historically made up the bulk of our community), and we should be careful that we don’t damage their experience in improving it for others.
In brief: Presently, our focus should be on young generations: those who are now in high school and the first years of university.
We are running a very long run on the movement-wide scale. Consequences of our strategic actions today will be visible in a couple of years. Consequences of those consequences and new actions will be seen in a decade. So, now we have to think about the future distant 5, 10 or 20 years. But, we have to prioritize them according to the present issues.
Our immediate goal is to increase number of editors. While keeping in mind that our present actions will be visible in a couple of years, we should think about gradual influx of the targeted group.
If we are going to target active experts, if they have free time, the zenith of our present action will likely be inside of their next life change. (Just after a couple of iterations we’ll get sustainable number of some group.)
If we are looking for retired experts, if they are familiar with computers, after a couple of years some of them won’t be able to contribute anymore because of any health-related reason.
So, the logical path is to target younger generations and familiarize them with Wikimedia movement, including Wikipedia itself.
However, that’s just about immediate goal. When we stabilize influx of younger generations, we should start to work on other demographic groups. Retired experts seem as good idea for the next target. However, it should be analyzed better.
(Note that I am not talking here about institutional cooperation between WMF, chapters and universities and other academic institutions. The answer is strictly related to the demographic groups which should be targeted.)
All of them. Proportionally, we need the least help with young white male college-educated Americans, of course, but every group is a viable target--some are more notably missing. Right now we're focusing effort a few different areas, mostly where we think putting in a small amount of additional effort will make a large amount of difference.
One is the "global south"--but the areas that are rapidly advancing, rather than the poorest areas. The areas where our coverage is still worst aren't easily fixed--in areas where most people don't have access to computers, for example, there are few editors and few articles on local knowledge, but outreach there would be a lot of effort for little impact. In the countries we're focusing on, there are plenty of people who are educated, technically literate, and have access to computers, but still tremendous numbers who don't have the same advantages.
In wealthy countries most people are able to use Wikipedia, get information that is relevant to their needs in a language they are fluent in, and contribute the knowledge they have, and we can make specific efforts to try to figure out why people who are able to become contributors don't. Notably, we have a much smaller proportion of women than we might expect based on internet users in general, for example. It's a diverse group with diverse interests, but it is at least easy to identify. Similarly, Wikimedians tend to be younger than the average internet user. Figuring out how to encourage people from groups that are easy to identify as underrepresented isn't simply to increase participation of people from these groups, but rather identifying the things we could do in general to be welcoming to people with a wider variety of personalities and skills.
Many has been said about minority languages, and I completely agree it is a central topic to center our efforts on. During my years as President of Wikimedia Argentina I had the opportunity to work with the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI), and we had a series of meetings with Quechua, Mapudungun and Guaraní-speaking members of Argentina’s indigenous population. I believe we have to reach out to this people, and get to know their challenges and their obstacles to contribute, which many times are harder and more “to the bone” that the kind of problems that can be imagined in the distance. Yet, I believe in order to expand our reach towards minority languages and groups we must rely on our community as much as possible, and do not consider hiring too much external consultants as an optimal solution, because the existing experiences have brought us some extra problems having to do with legitimacy and distrust from the community. In fact, I’d priorize institutional partnerships over in-house consultants.
The second thing I want to say about this topic is that one thing are minority languages and other one, though they can and tend to overlap, are under-represented groups. There is the gender gap discussion, of course, though I believe it deserves a separate discussion. I’m mostly thinking about countries with millions of potential contributors whose relative presence in the projects (in the form of editors) is remarkably low. And this happens among the biggest Wikipedias, too: Mexican Wikipedians are less than those from Argentina or Spain, while Mexico has almost three times as much inhabitants. We should, priorizing working with and within the community, find ways to increase readership and contributions in this kind of geographies.
The simplest way to increase factual contributions is to provide a sandbox where anyone can share verifiable information, without arguing about notability. Everyone in the world has something to teach, at the very least about their block, their town, and their hobbies. We currently lose most contributors because they feel they have nothing to share, at least without what seems to them hours of research and careful revision. Returning to the origins of the wiki - providing a fast way to share things in bits and pieces - will bring contributions from every demographic.
By creative circle: academics, archivists, and data collectors all have access to working creative/publishing channels which could start including Wikipedia, Wikisource and other sister projects in their process. Developing a friendly social relationship, and on-wiki policies friendly to that sort of automatic regular contribution, could lead to new streams of factual knowledge being shared on our projects by default.
Reporters of local events (people currently contributing to local wikis, or to other websites about their communities) also present a balanced global network -- most small towns even in remote areas have people who have broadcast knowledge to the world at one point, as reporters or essayists. Again, finding a social and practical way to help them share that knowledge on our projects without being attacked or ridiculed or having their contributions erased, would engage them. (This is one case where an effective sandbox would help. "not erasing" contributions does not mean that they end up by default in current Wikipedia articles, for instance.)
The simple answer is all. "When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers." Confucius, The Analects, Chapter VII
. What he mean is that we can learn from everyone, even those whom we think they are not so smart as we are. As a movement, whose dedication is to collect all educational knowledge of the humanity, I do believe that everyone can contribute, even if a lot is already written in our projects.
This said, statistics show that the demographics of our contributors are very inballanced distributed, also the content of our projects tend to have an unballanced geographical distribution. So to promote the underrepresented people in our projects like women, or elder people, and people from geographical areas with lower participation is an important task of the board and the Foundation. In January this year I went to Nairobi to help promote our volunteers there. When we visited the Kenyatta University Professor Njoroge led us through the meeting hall of the University. On the wall there was a painting of an old woman and Professor Njoroge told us that she was once a great chief. I remember this incident very well because it showed me vividly how little we know about the world, even though we collected so much about it. We have an article about the Whitehall Building in New York but we don't know anything about a great female chief in Kenya. I think there is our blind spot and there is our oppotunity.
As a trustee for the Wikimedia Foundation, what do you believe is the largest internal challenge for staff and the board that you would seek to address? Alan.ca 06:58, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
I am very interested in improving the user experience in both readability and usability. We need to address literacy issues. Much of the content, including the help pages, is too difficult for the average reader (as most other content on the Web is). The average reader in the U.S. (and most other industrialized countries) is an adult of limited reading ability. The average reads at the 9th-grade level. That means that half of U.S. adults reads below that level. One third reads below the 6th-grade level.
Since the average page on Wikipedia is written at the 13th-grade level, we are missing a huge portion of our potential readership. Many of the Meta pages are written at the 16th-grade level, which only five percent of the public can read. Another issue is usability, which addresses how easy it is to learn and navigate the system. Simple Wikipedia is one solution to these problems, and there are other solutions. Getting more people involved means giving them an easy way to learn about what the organization is all about and how to participate.
Well, I think that Gomà has said it all and much better than I would have done. The link between communities and the upper structure should never be broken nor stretched too far from where it takes its origin, the communities of editors.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
There are two big challenges right now:
(a) make the Movement notice we're not in 2003 anymore. We're the fourth to eight biggest website in the world (depending on how you're counting or who you ask), and we're without question the biggest and most read source of culture and knowledge in the world — yet we don't even have an Acceptable use policy.
(b) Support the projects! "We don't involve ourselves in the day-to-day operations" is the wrong answer when a project or its community looks to the Foundation for help. Neutrality is an editorial policy, not a suicide pact that says the board must not take "sides" or support a position when it's necessary to our ultimate objectives.
As a new candidate, I plead ignorance so far about internal issues. But "communication" has the sound of a likely answer.
Communication. One simple word, but oh so hard to tackle. It is about sharing information between organizations, it is about understanding each others' needs, it is about understanding feelings, it is about aligning values and priorities and abou
t creating an open and encouraging environment. We are working with so many different cultures, types of people, languages and even time zones that communication is really hard. But still it is one of the most important improvements we can make. Many people are working hard on it - and it is hard to explain how exactly I would try to help with that, but I would definitely try to bring my experience from being involved in chapters to the table (which communicate again very differently and also have a lot to learn).
Not to sound like a broken record but.. "communication" - with the community. The foundation and the board needs to be more accessible to the community. I know the editor pool can be awkward or annoying in clamouring for things, so they help improving too :) But at the moment very few people "get" how the foundation operates, how they might help out or how they might get help from the foundation. It is like this mysterious black box that occasionally appears to do something... for example, quite often editors express the view that actual input from a legal professional would be helpful in making a decision - but finding out how to get that input has proven difficult. Another example, there is a distinct disconnect between the developers/ops people and the community. Stronger ties there would make things much nicer.
The challenge must be to try to Reduce the withdrawal of editors on the differents projects. Furthermore, wikimedia should be a pleasant working environment. This can be reverted into more tactical challenges such as helping to a new editors, increasing the transparency and all strategies to stimule the contributions.
I feel that communication toward external audience, e.g. the building and spreading of a solid Wikimedia Foundation brand, is the most critical issue to be addressed. A proper communications plan will allow to attract new and qualified editors and financial contributions. Institutional communications will improve our perception among the international political bodies and NGOs, so that our mission could be substained and new partnerships developed.
Traditionally we have concentrated on the English language Wikipedia. The motivation was that as it is the biggest and baddest project, However, as we are tackling the issues that prevent languages like Hindi and Malayalam to do well, the growth potential is elsewhere. The notion that other languages, even projects are worthy of attention is the biggest internal problem.
Bringing out the stories what the WMF, the office is working on is very much a concern I try to deal with. I tell those stories that are relevant in my eyes on my blog
I think it is earning and keeping the editor community’s trust. We are right in the middle of an internationalization process rife with new chapters, new groups and new offices in other countries. We are also growing rapidly and revamping and reorganizing ourselves. Our community consists mainly of volunteers but there is a small number of people who get paid for their work.
All this creates and will probably continue to create even more tension. I believe that we should hold high the movement’s values if we want to face this challenge successfully. We should be accountable to editor communities in their own languages and make sure Chapters are also accountable. We should put in place mechanisms that allow editor communities to participate effectively and directly in decisions affecting them. We should be austere and efficient.
I'm not sure what exactly you mean by "internal challenge" as opposed to just any challenge. So I'll assume you don't mean challenges such as the somewhat alarming results of the editor trends survey, which would perhaps be an external challenge. The biggest internal challenge, then, would be to reduce the level of community distrust towards paid staff (bridging the staff-community gap) and also the level of distrust between chapters and the community (a theme I presented about in Wikimania 2010). This can be broken into more tactical challenges such as increasing effective communication and personal familiarity, having even higher transparency (though I think we're quite transparent already), and recruiting even more from within the community.
Harel puts it well – most challenges for the Foundation are actually challenges for the Wikmedia movement, and I don't think there are many things that the Foundation should worry about but everyone else can ignore. However, the tension between the staff and the community is very real and of course something about which I worry, and though some of it is a matter of communication like Lodewijk says, a lot of it is what is done (or not done). That said, recruiting only from within the community is not the best route – because we won't always have qualified and available people, but also because hiring someone from the community takes them away from the pool of people who are volunteers, which is what we're about at the core. The Foundation serves the movement, and though you can volunteer in a personal capacity, it's never quite the same relationship.
All persons employed by WMF on positions visible to the community have to think as they are members of a global movement, not a Bay Area NPO. Some of them are thinking so, some others are not. Being employed by WMF on a community-visible position means that you have to have enough of general and intercultural knowledge to be able to have conversation with members of the community which won’t be understood as insult or surreal joke. As a Board member, I would insist that at least staff members visible to the community would have to pass a kind of education in general and intercultural knowledge.
Issues not strictly connected to the relation between the staff and community are matter of Executive Director and Board members shouldn’t interfere particularly, but just inside of the evaluation of ED’s work.
I think one of the main challenges is communication--not just in the sense of making sure everyone knows what is going on and gets appropriate messages, but in making sure that misunderstandings don't happen. There are several places where groups have become frustrated with each other, for example, because one party didn't know about something that the other party did. Some legal restriction that one party thinks is obvious and the other doesn't know about, some communication that only went to one mailing list and not all of them, some policy that exists on a page most people don't know about. The larger the organization gets the more coordination is a problem.
One area where I have been assisting and hope to continue is on clarifying some of our legal policies so that it is clear what the Foundation's legal office is doing and what it cannot do, and so that users and editors understand their rights and responsibilities. There are many things that exist only in places that are hard to find or have never been set down explicitly all in one document. (We have recently hired a new general counsel who is looking at these with fresh eyes, and I've devoted some time to helping with this process.)
I believe the biggest “gap” we face as a Movement is, perhaps, the one between WMF and the projects’ communities, and specifically the one having to do between independent editors and the WMF staff. Similar things happen when WMF staff deals with chapters as if they were subordinate entities, when they are not. And, more important, chapters have members who can associate and control them. WMF does not, that is why when we speak about accountability the staff seems to look “down” while the projects’ communities, the chapters’ and other groups’ are actually looking at them.
I’m not new in the Movement and I know this happens, and you only have to read the projects’ Village Pumps to know this is a very extensive feeling. And it’s not trolls who spread it -most times, the people who complain the most about the way WMF deals with the community are die-hard, long term Wikipedians who just feel there is an enormous bureaucratic organization on top of them with an ever-growing number of employees, many of which don’t even know our communities’ dynamics, attempting to “lead” their commitment and efforts.
I think the Movement Roles process is an important step, if not about these particular worries, towards addressing many problems of this kind. But, certainly, it is far from being enough.
The biggest internal challenge for the WMF is evolving into a truly global organization. We currently have strong biases towards English, the United States, and Europe, in that order; this precludes roughly half of humanity from engaging in much of our work and discussions. If we want the idea of Wikimedia to represent the preservation and sharing of all knowledge, we need to invest in supporting real-time multilingual discussions, and in grappling with issues of free access to knowledge throughout the world.
The biggest WMF-community challenge is effectively sharing what is working well in our projects and what is not, so that we can amplify the good in a way that is respectful to all contributions. We have done some tremendous things, rarely accomplished in distributed communities; and need to focus on what we have gotten right. Too often we manage to dwell on things we have gotten wrong, without moving the essential work forward.
The biggest internal challenge that affects our readers, is forging a shared identity that most people can rejoice in, one that welcomes participation and respects what every group has to offer. At present most newcomers are rejected in various ways, if unintentionally; current communities implicitly start to develop a sense of ownership of the project which parallels the ownership of individual articles by authors.
Currently one of the biggest challenge internally for the Foundation is to keep us efficient while we growed so fast in the recent years. The reason why we grow is not because we want to grow, but because of the expectations from the community. The community expect the Foundation to work, to make better software, to have a fall out data server somewhere else, to support their work, to better communicate what the Foundation is doing, etc. I must say that the expectation is very high and I know Foundation employees who work very hard, so hard that I faer for them. This is the reason we we grow. We grow so that we can do more things. While we grow, there comes a dynamic inside of the organization. If you have a team of say five person, or even ten person, you can still work everything very informal and everyone can switch in and do the job of another, if the other person falls out. If you have a team of 70 persons this is no more impossible, you necessarily have to put up management layers and formalities. This changes how people work. This is why big comapnies and governments tend to have heavy bureaucracy. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are less efficient, there are also very efficient big companies and governments, but the transit phase is a very critical one. This is the phase when the organization shift from one modus to the other. We are growing, and we must keep us efficient, we must even make us more efficient, and that is the current internal challenge.
What is your opinion with regard to the Foundation's emphasis on the Global South and it opening offices there? [Note: Global South = India, Brazil, North Africa & Middle East] Abbasjnr 05:58, 11 May 2011 (UTC)
I am not familiar with what the purpose of this is. I do agree that Wikipedia is Euro-centric (and Anglo-centric?) and we have to be careful how to promote our mission in other countries. Perhaps the best way is to work through local chapters.
I am not really at ease with generic wording like "Global south", I would daresay it is a somewhat western expression... Even if the problems of Internet/knowledge access are obviously more important in the southern hemisphere it can also have very dual aspects elsewhere. That is, even if Australia could seem to be out of the "problematic" sphere, I am sure the access is more limited in the Aboriginal communities than it is for the rest of the Australians; I think many other native cultures meet similar problems even in some of the most developed countries. And well, I have hard trouble with this expression in trying to put together very diverse cultures, religions and languages; the wording itself seems to imply similar problems and then similar solutions while I think that the solutions may be very different accordingly to the local cultures and even if it is good to help the natives, we should not impose our "solutions" or our western ways, just try to talk, exchange views, opinions and try to merge our mutual knowledge to bring possible solutions. Yes, I think it is a good thing to open offices in the less-privileged countries but well I think that before doing this, a lot of talk must be made with the native editors in order to define how/where this office should be and how it should work so it will be accepted/integrated easily by the local population. I would imagine it at some kind of very open place (and not a strict bureaucratic structure and staff) that could offer free access to Internet, some formation to teachers and some other professionals and provide a certain mobility of its staff to reach the communities in schools and so on... but well it depends a lot on the local cultures, the structure of the country and many factors that make it difficult to have a general model suited for everyone. The opinion of the native inhabitants is what matters most, they know their place better than anyone else. PD: Sorry if I took a really long time to answer this question... It is a really important question, the answer was not easy for me and well my time is few right now...
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
It's necessary, but not sufficient. Participation from the vast majority of the world's population is at the heart of our fundamental
reason to exist ("All the knowledge"), and yet only a tiny minority have the resources to contribute.
A presence there is good, but we need to back this up with resources: access to Internet, outreach, training.
The emphasis is definitely very appropriate and important. Opening offices seems an odd way to start, but I'd like to find out more about alternative possibilities and about local opinions, which may well vary among this diverse set of regions.
Opening offices should never happen for the sake of opening offices, just like hiring staff should never happen for that sake alone. Currently, it is still very unclear to me what the office would be doing, and I am following the developments critically. Most important criterium for me is that developments like this catalyze volunteer development, and do not take over tasks from volunteers. Developing existing volunteer structures, grant models or stimulating chapters to be created and grow would for me get preference over setting up professional infrastructures directly from the foundation. If it needs feet on the ground to make that possible, then that might be a good reason. At the very least an office should never interfere with or slow down such developments.
"Expansion" into these areas is important. On Wikipedia we face several problems relating to this region, which includes a number of contentious topics and problematic issues (Middle East, Palestine/Israel
, Islam and India/Pakistan
). We have problems of systematic bias, editors from disparate cultures unable to participate effectively, and a disproportionate number of problematic nationalist editors.
Efforts to encourage participation would be highly beneficial. As a specific example; there tends to be a lot of muddled (largely good faith) editing from India to pseudo-religious family genealogies, religious BLP's and other historical topics. Adequately organising and sorting through this is beyond most of our Western editors.
Expanding participation will help to counter systematic bias. Areas of the WMF tend to have Western (particularly US/UK) viewpoints. Going back to my example, some Indian viewpoints of the events of British occupation are radically different from those currently presented in articles. We do a relatively good, although somewhat Westernized, job of covering those views, but it does tend to be a magnet for tenditious nationalist editing. These are just examples, the whole region is covered in such issues.
Educating people about the goals and ideals of the Wikimedia movement and bringing in a wider array of editors and viewpoints is always
good, it is exactly what the board exists for; identifying "global" problems in the community and helping to put initiatives in motion to address/fix them. I'd go so far to say that making the WMF community more global is the key issue which to be addressed in our future development.
As I outlined in my own presentation, I'm an inclusivist by nature, and in my opinion WMF wouldn't have any reason to exist if it hadn't the bold mission to touch and include any culture in the world.
On the other side, and owed to the careful management we have to apply to our funds, opening offices is a task which requires a careful consideration and planning, and cannot be done just for the sake of it. I find very desirable to have offices in GS territories when these become "glocal" organizations, where as "glocal" I mean something which is defined globally in terms of approach and engagement rules, while the shape and direction to assume is defined locally. This allows to maintain coherence about the overall Wiki vision, while adapting operations and tactical rules to local reality. I also feel that GS countries can be an important engine of growth in terms of quality and quantity of editors, and the overall balancing of the projects. In this respect, I especially think about the contribution that GS contributors, eventually holding a Western formation, can give by acting as "cultural interpreters" between the presently most represented cultures and their own.
The "global south" represents not only an area where we are under represented, topically it represents an area where all our Wikipedias do not provide enough coverage. By building a presence, by stimulating people in the global south to participate in our communities, we become truly global and we become more whole as a result.
I participated in defining the strategic plan and agree that these are the world regions that offer the best perspectives for future growth. The most statistically relevant factor determining the submission of content to Wikipedia is gross domestic product. Therefore, the regions with the best growth outlook are those we should prioritize. We should also take China into account, if existing barriers ever come down.
With regard to the establishment of offices and chapters in these regions, let me say working jointly with the local editor community is crucial. We should not impose chapter models that may work well in Germany or Poland, but rather adapt to the characteristics of each area. Likewise, opening an office is useful when local editors see it as a means of supporting their work.
As I wrote in other answers, I think there's potential for growth in the Global South and we should definitely strive to tap that growth. I think the Foundation has made considerable progress in this direction, but there's something about the DNA of the organization that remains very American and not as international as one might hope for. Perhaps a more diverse board could help here. Despite my positive opinion of the GS emphasis, I think we need to be realistic about it - as I already said, Wikimedia alone will never be able to overcome deep-seated differences between the developed world and the developing world. Our expectations need to be realistic, and our emphasis within the GS should be on populations like high school and high education students which offer the most potential. As for an office, there's no single place where to open a GS office. This has to be considered carefully on the financial side.
As mentioned in my candidate statement, I think this is a really tough point. Lodewijk is quite right that we should do this because it serves the movement's needs – which I think it does, and well – but it is worth considering what other routes could have been taken. I think putting in a Chapter in a top-down manner rather than an Office would be a mistake – it needs to be something from and of the community.
First, Global South is not the best term. Much better is “developing countries”. If a country has top 10% GDP per capita for almost a half of century, like the case is with UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, that country is not inside of the developing ones anymore. At the other side, I don’t think that we are able to do anything in Sudan, which needs drinking water, food and electricity, first. So, I would refer to developing countries as those which have almost enough computers per capita, but not enough beer (or, if you prefer, not enough McDonald’s restaurants) per capita.
I would say that the emphasis on developing countries is very a good one, but just if it is inside of the strategy which covers other countries as well. For example, I would like to see a chapter in Japan and much better penetration of Wikimedia projects in South Korea. That doesn’t require so high involvement as foundational work in developing countries, but that will bring strong and rich organizations in our family much faster.
Speaking for developing countries themselves, I think that our duty is to expand our work there. Those countries need Wikimedia projects knowledge more than others: more developed countries already have enough libraries, while less developed countries need many other things before.
That should be done in cooperation with other organization with compatible goals, like OLPC project is.
I see this as a test project: will this really be effective, and what can we learn from it? Our mission is truly to provide material to everyone, but we are much more successful in some areas than others. In the Global South, the resources available are less than in places like the US, and Wikimedia can make even more of an impact. But to do that effectively, we much have a thriving community of people there who are working with us, encouraging local projects and knowing how to engage the local community.
We can't have offices everywhere we'd like to do that, so we've tried to focus efforts on places where it may take just a small bit of focused effort to really ignite the local communities' success.
I have some reservations on this topic. I come from the “Global South” and have a good level of knowledge about my particular region, that is Latin America, and I am also in contact with other “Global Southeneners” from other parts of the world. First of all, I find this whole concept patronizing and condescending. It has to do with an idea of the poor “South” being rescued by the “North”. Financial resources don’t equal to know-how, and this is crucial in my opinion.
I believe the Foundation can be of much help without the need to open offices in the “Global South”, for they tend to replace, be it consciously or not, many of the communities’ roles. I believe Wikimedia Foundation should focus its efforts in developing and strenghtening regional cooperation networks instead of exporting its model, driven mostly by American or Canadian English-speaking experts, to other parts of the world.
Just to be clear: I agree on the emphasis, I don’t believe the current approach is the most viable one. People from the community tend to see the Foundation as a bureaucratic organization willing to establish branches and increase its influence rather than as an accessory organization that is there to empower them and provide them the resources they are needing.
Countering systemic bias on the projects and in our community is essential if we hope to cover all facets of knowledge. It is good that we are focusing on countering ths bias in our current strategy, since those unrepresented are not here to speak up for themselves. The emphasis specifically on the global south and on female editors reflects the most glaring gaps in our assessment of current participants.
I don't know whether opening offices will turn out to be the best way to proceed. I don't think anyone does - it is an experiment. The current plan is for offices in India and Brazil to support rather than conflict with any young or developing chapters. These offices may be temporary, and they may not start a trend. This trial is a first in a few ways for the WMF - our first attempt to open a local office, and the first initiative (in Brazil) to be carried out primarily in a language other than English or PHP. I look forward to seeing how both develop, and hope they will be models of transparency as they grow.
I think this is a major emphasis, no area should be excluded. It needs attention and efforts. Such endeavors must be carefully examined, it needs an accurate implementation in these cultures. For instance sometimes a campaign against corruption and censorship is not inevitable, the cultural differences are there. Nevertheless there are always individuals, which are committed to an international and open minded world.
This is a question that again implies with a lot of other questions. For example there is again the movement role in it, what does an Indian office mean for an Indian chapter? There is again the question about which demographic group is viable for growth, There is openness in the play in the sense of new inexperienced users from new geographical regions pull in and are confronted by the values of the existing community, which may be new for them. And there is controversial content issues here like if we open an office in an area are our employees there vulnarable because of certain content in our projects that are considered as insult in that area. That are chances but there are also serious risks and potential for conflicts. It is a new field for us and we are taking risks in doing so. In my opinion there are a few reasons for us to take those risks here. The places where we are going are still having weak financial basis to support a chapter, and although in some of them they do have a vivid civil society, these civil organizations tend to be very differently organized as we know in Europe or North America. In some of these areas the civil society is still building. Having an office there is important for us to learn from the locals, is important for us to recruite and organize the volunteers there, to give them an organizational support, but not to import one that is alien to them. It is important to help their own chapters to take up. I think these all are good reasons for us to take the risk. And naturally, we are Wikimedians, "Be Bold" is one of our pillars.
Do you think that WMF should have financial insurance or an endowment fund? Abbasjnr 06:02, 11 May 2011 (UTC)
I am all in favor of expanding revenue and ensuring against troubled times. We should get the best advice available on how to do this. As to whether an endowment or insurance would be the best way to do this, I would have to study more.
I am really far from being an expert in this theme, especially about the financial insurance. Nonetheless I think than an endowment could be helpful just in case, if there is a sharp decline in fundraising, a big problem with the computers or something else unforeseeable. I am not sure but I think I have read something about a decline of editors and/or readers so the Foundation should be prepared for the worst scenarios. If readers decline then fundraising will probably fall down too. Gomà's opinion however has struck me, he seemed to imply that there is a problem in the managing of funds, so along with the endowment a better management could be needed too.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
I have insufficient understanding of finances to see whether there is a need that would be filled with financial insurance or if there are better alternatives to explore; I therefore have no opinion on that matter.
I presume that by "endowment fund" you mean funds set aside to give financial support to editors? In which case, I think that's a necessary part of any serious attempt to increase our coverage of non-European cultures. Especially in nations where the standard of living is low, being able to volunteer time and effort to our projects is a luxury most people could not afford without help. Helping with reaching inexpensive access to Internet (or the needed computers to use it), or perhaps even direct subsidies to editors need to be examined if we are serious about holding all the world's knowledge.
If you mean a financial instrument whose investment income serves to finance operations, then my understanding is that this would require accumulation of capital many orders of magnitude above what we could currently set aside with the current financial model, and I'm not sure diverting a significant fraction of our financing for many years would be wise at this juncture: I can think of a number of things of much greater impact that could be done with those funds.
An endowment seems inappropriate for this type of grassroots, in-the-moment, non-establishment organization (unless someone gifts us no-strings with one). But I do think it prudent to build up a reserve fund. I'd want it to be lean, invested to earn a return, and capped at enough to squeak thru a temporary crisis.
Reading the other answers to this question, I see very different interpretations. I understand your question to be about financial long term stability of the Wikimedia Foundation. Long term stability is important, and I would find it helpful to have some financial backing in the long term like an endowment fund (A large sum of money, which you can use the revenue (interest) of to run your organization). Right now, I would not consider it very legitimate to set up such fund from the donations we are receiving to run our organization on an annual basis. However, if we would be able to get a restricted donation to set up such an endowment fund, which we would otherwise not get at all, I would of course be all for it. I am however not enough involved in the fundraising and financials to be able to estimate correctly how large the odds would be for such hypothetical situation.
At this stage, no. Our current finances are $20m revenue per year with $13m annual reserve
- that is, theoretically, a lot of money. However, all of the $20m is readily earmarked for spending. I don't see how it would be possible to create a successful endowment fund without either severely impacting spending or finding a way to dramatically
increase fundraising. Given the current financial climate an endowment fund is not the right way to go, for the moment at least.
Financial insurance might be worthwhile at some point, however I wouldn't want to comment specifically in support/opposition to such an idea without considering the various options in more depth. Our finances do have a significant element of risk given that they come primarily from fund raising - which can be fickle. This year we need about 30% growth in donations to achieve targets and the current board has approved a brilliant plan for expansion in the foundations' spending and operations (in line with the 5 year strategy).
I feel this is the right
approach for now. Long term we need to look at stabilising finances and ensuring long term financial security of the project. In the near term (at least the next half decade) we need radical and inventive investment to continue pushing our growth, increasing our coverage and securing our technical
stability. Many of the WMF projects are at the stage of early adulthood and we need to push hard to get them to maturity. Once we begin to focus on financial stability that opportunity for investment is lost, at least for a few years.
As all the finance-related issues, I see risk and opportunities into having or having not such a tool. Personally, I don't feel comfortable to build a part more or less consistent of our financial capability on potentially fluctuating financial tools. I feel that ensuring financial stability is one of the most important issues to be addressed, but I would apply to it a two-folded strategy: a) ensuring that people care about Wikipedia, so to maintain a constant flux of donations/contributions. This is gained only by maintaining the Wikimedia identity as a no-profit, independent foundation. b) setting up a 5-years plan (as a start) aimed to set aside a part of yearly revenue as a security fund, not to be used or touched for other scopes if not ensuring Wikimedia financial stability.
When you want to stabilise finances, it implies that we are at a level of spending and achievement where we can relax. A level where we can hover. This is a premise I do not agree with. Yes, there is a need for stability in our funding but we are not ready for reserves that will have us coast for years. There is too much unfinished business.
The present budget is in the vicinity of $20 M. Nevertheless, not all expenses are equally important. Only $1.8 M are necessary to pay the hosting expenses that are crucial for the project. The bank balance goes up and down during the year, from an $8 M low to an $24 M high. Therefore, it seems viable to create a capitalization fund that guarantees costs that are essential to the project’s survival.
A few months ago I asked why we don't have a single cent in financial income, given that these reserves existed. No answer was given.
If I am chosen, I shall do my best to make sure the Foundation’s reserves are managed efficiently and they generate a revenue stream. I shall also make a proposal to gradually build a reserve equivalent to somewhere around two years’ budget. This reserve would guarantee seamless operations without depending on annual variations in revenue, and could also generate financial revenue that would double up as a endowment fund and guarantee expenses that are essential to running Wikipedia.
These are two different questions. Financial insurance is something for money people to consider - it depends on how expensive the insurance is and the terms of the insurance policy. As for endowment fund, I'm not sure I understand how this is basically different from the grant program which is now being grown into something more useful and with a higher budget.
Yes, we should definitely aim for the "Foundation" part of the WMF's name to be more than a word, but now is too soon. Our scope and scale are still changing rapidly and trying to do very long-term financial planning does not make sense. However, financial stability is a hugely important goal for the movement as a whole, and I think we should start to look at this over the next few years.
If I understood it well, financial insurance and endowment fund are connected to the financial support which WMF could give to non-employee Wikimedians. So, I’ll give a general answer related to my statement that WMF should do it.
At this point of time WMF and chapters have around $20M yearly budget. If we say that we have ~100k active contributors, every active contributor could get $200 -- if we don’t do anything else. That’s big money, but not enough, just in countries with very low living standards. So, we need to find a way how to do that more efficiently.
I think that the best way at the moment is to support on various ways small non-profit entrepreneurship around Wikimedia movement needs. Such initiatives employ their creators, as well as they have potential to employ more Wikimedians.
The best example for that is Translatewiki. It was born inside of Wikimedia movement, but it now serves other organizations, as well (for example, KDE).
If elected, one of my first tasks would be to organize infrastructure for systemic work on financial and other support to innovative Wikimedians, which are willing to build their own business around Wikimedia movement.
(As it is about financial sustainability of WMF, too, I would say that I would like to see WMF financially safe, but I am far from being an expert in this field. As a Board member, I would likely depend on Stu West's opinions toward such issues.)
First of all, in actual board discussion, this sort of question is where I am most likely to want to hear the opinions of those with more financial and operating experience before deciding on a position myself; it's not my area of expertise.
I'm not sure that now is the right time to begin seeking funds for an endowment, but now is probably the time to start thinking seriously about what size we would want and how to achieve it. Attempting to raise money for it would require a separate fundraising approach--basically, attempting to solicit major donors to contribute specifically to an endowment fund. We are still growing fairly rapidly and planning out possible future budgets.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "financial insurance". Wikimedia keeps a cushion of operating funds in reserve in case of financial emergency, to give us time to seek other ways of raising funds or scale down operations in case of an unexpected financial shock. (Currently at the low point, just before the fundraiser, we have about 6 months' budget in reserve; one topic of discussion is whether and how it would make sense to increase that.)
(Unlike many projects, we don't require an endowment to ensure that the work will be around for the long term; instead we make it possible for someone with the available resources to take everything we have and start over. If we for some reason ran out of money, the project wouldn't die out.)
Finantial stability is always important, although I think we are still a very young organization growing at a high rate. I find is too early to focus on these kind of finantial tools.
Yes, absolutely. The only question is when. We ran a major fundraising campaign on the promise of preserving the projects FOREVER - we cannot now say that we are too young to consider an endowment. And as the popularity of Wikimedia projects grows, it is no longer true that 'anyone' could easily set up a mirror of the projects and serve our significant daily traffic if the Foundation were to disappear.
An endowment should at least support specific core services - hardware infrastructure, bandwidth, and critical support. At present, that could be supported by a $100M endowment. This would not replace our regular fundraising or cover most of our budget, but would serve as a pillar of support that all Projects could rely on for decades to come.
I have pushed for the creation of an endowment plan, and it is something currently being discussed by the Board.
In the past we saw several struggles in the financial industry. I don't think that the Wikimedia Foundation should be part of such a system. As long as there is a positive drive in it, an endowment fund will be given by the community, the fortune will never end. Nevertheless thoughts about an official endowment fund are not wrong, we should consider them.
This is yet another question that has no simple yes and no answer. There are reasons for an endowmend and reasons against it. There are risks in both way. For me reasons against an endowment includes we have a stable income and there is no sign of worry on it. Personally I don't like the idea of waking up in the morning, hear in the news that the inflation rate in US has increased to 5% or exchange rate between Euro and Dollar fluctuated by 10% or a major earth quake hit Whereever and get worried. And personally I like the idea that every year we ask our user for their support and get the confirmation that our work is meaningful. These are among others reasons for me against an endowment. Reasons for an endowment is also obvious, the relative safety of having a reserve, no more worry every December about if we really get enough donation, to be independant, etc. This is a question that need careful consideration and a good strategy. It certainly still need more discussion and planning.
Do you hold any position either outside Wikimedia or within (such as ChapCom) that may pose a threat to conflict of interest? Abbasjnr 06:19, 11 May 2011 (UTC)
I have no conflicts of interests either inside Wikipedia or out.
No, I am just an average editor, some kind of John Doe, though a vehement one... I do not belong to any Chapters nor any other organization linked to the Wikimedia, nor is any member of my family; and I must frankly tell you that I wonder why some people belong to two or three Chapters at once... I can also ensure you that, unlike what happens now with some people, I will be the only member of my family within the Wikimedia organization. The only affiliation I had once was as a member of the Catalan organization Amical but I left after they had to suffer what I deemed was an aggressive move in order to "reply" freely, action which has brought me diverse blocks on the projects. Otherwise, in the real world I am a teacher in highschool, a husband and a father.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
I am an Arbitrator on the English Wikipedia, a position I am set to hold until the end of 2011. If necessary, I can resign that seat if I am elected, although it does not seem to me that it would tend to conflict.
I hold no position outside of Wikimedia that is likely to pose a conflict of interest.
Inside Wikimedia I have so far acted only as an editor and contributor. Outside of Wikimedia I am a research scientist and university professor, a practitioner of open software and open-source publication and highly collaborative research, a contributor to several international groups such as wwPDB Validation Task Force committees and the RNA Ontoogy Consortium, and a member or officer in several professional scientific societies - some of this is relevant, but I see no opportunity for COI.
I am of course active on many of our content projects; in several of them with some extra rights - I do not consider that a conflict of interest since the Board has no direct editorial say in the projects and should not have that either. Besides that, I am an active voting member of the Chapters Committee and I am involved in the Movement Roles process. I would not continue as a voting member of the Chapters Committee (but do not exclude that I might continue as an observer) since the board usually follows its advice, and I would be advising myself then. I do not consider the movement roles to be comparable, since involving board members in such discussions is only a good thing (and many others too!). I am a regular member (no longer in any board) in three chapters at this moment and active in working groups in Wikimedia Nederland, and don't see any conflict of interest there at this moment.
No. I sit on a couple of company boards in an advisory role, which are unlikely to ever come into contact with WMF; if that ever came to be the case I would disclose the COI and take whichever action is deemed appropriate. (resignation, recusal etc.).
No, I am sysop on Spanish Wikipedia and Commons, outside Wikimedia I am a computation teacher
I don't currently hold any conflicting position into Wikimedia or outside.
Conflict of interest implies a point of view where positions are by necessity opposing. The Wikimedia Foundation is in my view key to a movement. There are organisations where I am involved in that are part of the Wikimedia Movement. They are in my opinion an asset and not a liability.
I am the president of the Amical Viquipèdia
association, which aims to become the Wikimedia CAT
chapter. I see no conflict of interest as long as the association has entered into no contract with the WMF. I would refrain from participating in any vote concerning its status as a chapter or the signing of a fundraising contract (or any other type of contract) with it. I shall resign from my position as the president of the association at the very moment that the Wikimedia CAT chapter is approved.
I'm a board member and secretary of Wikimedia Israel, a position I'll have to quit if I get elected to the board.
Yes. Within Wikimedia, I'm a high-privileged user on the English Wikipedia (OverSight and CheckUser), tools which I do not think it appropriate for a Trustee to have, as it blurs the line between volunteer editor and the fiduciary responsibility of the Board too much. If I were elected, I would resign those rights. I am also an ordinary member of Wikimedia Nederland, but I don't think I would need to resign from that. Outwith Wikimedia, I work for the British Government, which might conceivably pose a conflict of interest, but as far as I know nothing of this sort has ever arisen. Obviously, were any such conflict arise, I would absent myself from such discussions and decisions of the Board.
I am a Board member of Wikimedia Serbia and I would resign from that position if elected to the WMF Board.
I am a non-voting member of ChapCom and I don’t see that as a conflict of interest, as Board members are participating in ChapCom’s discussions.
I am a LangCom member and that could be treated as a conflict of interest. I would need input from others Wikimedians (especially from other LangCom members) regarding that issue because I haven’t finished my job there. It is likely that I would switch to the non-voting position.
I am a steward, which also could be treated as a conflict of interest. Besides the rule that I would lose permissions if I am inactive, there are opposite examples of handling steward permissions by Board members: While Angela, Anthere, Oscar and Sj handled their permissions very well, Jimmy didn’t. If I wouldn’t be able to handle steward permissions normally, I should resign.
I don’t see my other positions and permissions inside of Wikimedia movement (RCom, admin and bureaucrat on various projects) as conflict of interest, but I am open to talk about it with the community.
I have three paid positions. None of them would be too relevant to my position inside of WMF Board:
- I am the main tech person of one very small theater tickets reseller from Belgrade (http://www.pozorista.com/ -- I didn't create that crap of CMS :) ). The position is absolutely irrelevant to my Wikimedia involvement.
- I am responsible for development in the local archiving/press clipping company (http://arhiv.rs/). The relations between WMF and that company exist and more than a year ago we've started backup of public Wikimedia content there. However, we didn't finish that task yet because of some routing problems and lack of time, mostly from my side. Except local archiving capabilities (which is a donation), I don't see that that company is able to fulfill any other WMF need.
- I am the main admin of a company which maintains servers for a number of clients (http://delsystems.net/). The company has no interests in fields related to Wikimedia.
As Ting said, I suppose that I would have to write COI questionnaire every year.
The completely other issue is what I am able to bring to WMF thanks to my contacts made during the work on my paid positions.
(I am doing a lot of things. Feel free to ask me on my talk page
if you are interested in my particular activity and I'll clarify it here.)
No; I am careful to avoid conflicts both in my professional life and within the projects--actually, I resigned from a few positions and took much less active roles in others when I was elected, to avoid creating confusion between when I was acting in the role of a board member and when I wasn't. (Though I don't think a committee membership such as ChapCom is necessarily a conflict.)
Actually, I am the President of Wikimedia Argentina, but I will immediately resign if I am elected.
I’m also a public leader of Creative Commons Argentina, though I don’t see a conflict of interest there; on the contrary, I think strenghtening ties with CC and other organizations that work on copyright and legal issues can be of great help, especially when the communities have to deal with borderline cases where it is difficult to tell if including a particular text or a particular photo will be going against someone’s rights over it.
I am a Board observer on ChapCom, and part of the Movement Roles working group.
I served as a steward for 5 years, but stepped down this year to focus on foundation governance work.
Outside of Wikimedia, I am the Director of Outreach at One Laptop per Child, and help our partner countries contribute to and use free knowledge projects in their schools. For instance, we have distributed offline snapshots of Wikipedia in the local language, Wikijunior texts, and Commons galleries to 2 million children and teachers; Peru produced some curriculum guides
for OLPC schools that involved Wikipedia research. I note this on my conflict of interest statement
to the Foundation each year. It might conceivably pose a conflict of interest, in which case I would recuse myself from any relevant discussions. Nothing of the sort has come up.
No. Inside of Wikimedia I am bureaucrat and admin on zh-wp. I make failure yes, but I never misused any position I have. Outside of Wikimedia I am an employee of IBM and that's it. I filled in my Conflict of interest questionnaire every year correctly.
Wikipedia is based on languages but chapters are based on countries. What do you think of this dual structure? If it where up to you, what changes would you do?
Would you agree on the creation of Chapters based on criteria other than countries? For example thematic ones, territories covering more than one country, sub national ones, coordinating chapters? --Mafoso 13:09, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
I think the current structure is fine and see no conflict between country-based chapters and languages. I think it may be time, however, to consider the formation of chapters on the basis of other things besides countries.
First of all, I would like to insist that I am not against state Chapters. However I think they are really adapted for big languages that would have a lot of trouble in order to create associations with too extent a territory to cover. So in my opinion it is somewhat logical to have a Mexican or Chilean Chapter, an Australian, UK chapter or a French and Wikimedia Quebec for instance or even smaller parts of them if the territory is too wide...
I understand very well the initial situation in which the current statal scheme was adopted even if it was in sheer contradiction with the existing Wikipedias (many people seem to think, even if they do not voice it, that giving some structure to minorized languages will be helping the "bad separatists" that will shatter our, oh so perfect!, societies...). Some other candidates (especially members of some Chapters or the Chapcom) seem to deem this situation logical even though I do not see why. I guess that state borderlines are logical... It might be “logical” or actually practical to divide big languages according to the states where they are spoken. However I do not understand why this condition should be an impediment to the creation of other/new Chapters. Everything can be modified/improved in the Wikipedia, so why should some constraints stay when it is obvious it is unfair and detrimental to many wikipedias which become thus inferior to the dominant ones. If we stick to the current scheme many Chapters will fall under the hegemony of the (biggest) languages, which will be so numerously important in some structures like the Chapcom, namely English, Spanish or French; thus we will create a new version of the G8 or the unfair representations of the European Union... The legal anchorage usually happens to be a part of a country not the country in itself, it is always possible to have two closely related legal entities in different parts of a same state. If it is true for many entities, why shouldn't it be so for the Wikimedia organizations. The real problem is scope, which is in fact very different from legal anchorage, and some Chapters may deem they own the whole territory of their state, even if they do not have members, nor are doing anything, there. Diverse solutions need to be found, and they should provide flexibility, in order not to deny any opportunity for the wikipedians to create new structures, if they are sound enough and have proved efficient, which will help the Wikipedias and knowledge grow everywhere.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
I think limiting chapters to national boundaries is, at best, silly and outdated. Any
definable community should be allowed and encouraged
to form chapters if it will help the projects. Often, a geographical entity makes "natural" sense as a community that could use a chapter, but it should not be a requirement.
It does make legal and economic sense to also encourage state-level chapters: donations are best handled by an organism that has legal existence as a non-profit. This means smaller chapters might be encouraged to federate at the national level to help with that aspect.
Content projects are language based for very good, practical reasons, I don't think there is any disagreement about that. Just imagine an "American English", "British English", "Indian English", "Australian English" Wikipedia etc. The same is for chapters - they are along national boundaries for very good practical reasons. This ranges from legal reasons (bylaws, legal standing) to more cultural (caring about similar things) and practical (Press tends to be organized nationally, but also grant systems etc). Having a chapter system along national borders is our best chance of making sure in the long run that everybody can join a chapter if they would like to, that every press request can be led to a chapter etc. and to make Wikimedia scale.
At the same time, I am all for international cooperation. I have been involved with two international chapters meetings, have been one of the driving forces behind the chapter reports system to let chapters communicate with each other, have been driving the green paper cooperation in Europe and am currently one of the leading figures in the European Wiki Loves Monuments cooperation amongst more than 10 countries. I do think that for the chapter model, we should stick to the national boundaries, but I do not think that groups of Wikimedians should feel any pressure to limit themselves to that model - groups can be created along any line of common identity, and should be able to get tools to evolve themselves in a useful and cooperative way as much as possible. There is no need to get the word "chapter" for that.
Finally, I am thrilled to see any developments in chapters that form sub-national organizational structures. Currently this is as far as my knowledge goes still quite limited, but there is much potential there!
Geographical-based chapters have a number of advantages. The members are in the same country allowing in-person meeting (one of the key ideas behind chapters). They allow the group to have a specific focus on improving content and participation from that country. Finally (and I will be expanding on this in you finance question) it makes sense from a funding and fundraising perspective.
"Chapters" is an idea that is constantly developing. Countries were the logical starting point because they are a logical division. As I mentioned in another answer (r.e. the roles project), thematic chapters are a natural development of the system, one I strongly support.
There are obvious issues with wider scale geographical-chapters, for example, where a region-chapter covers an area with pre-existing country-level chapters. One solution here might be to encourage chapters to formally group together and share resources (a really bad example might be how the European Union works). This has the benefits of sharing knowledge, without the downside of treading on people's toes.
In general chapters should be broad in scope. There is little point in having an "astrophysics" chapter, because that is best handled in the form of WikiProjects or the equivalent working groups. But a "physics" chapter (especially one with ties into the academic community) could work well.
I feel that the present organization based on the direct link of chapters to countries is not easily changed, since it is, out of my knowledge, the only way to ensure their existence as legal entities.
Out of this need, I feel that the best thing to manage the issue is applying self-organisation, which is the criterium around which all the social web (and namely the Wikimedia projects) is based. In my opinion, and it is supported by my daily working experience, it is not possible to build up a community by including it into a box and expecting it to function. Communities are by definition groups of people which are grouping around an interest, and once they met, they will strive to pursue this interest with a might which is proportional to the strenght of it, without external regulation. This will allow the general interest to be fulfilled much more efficiently than if people would have been externally organized.
Both projects and chapters are organised in a way that makes sense. Commons is not English by definition and so is Meta. Wikipedias, Wiktionaries are. Chapters are among other things a vehicle to raise funding. Organising meetings, running projects is limited by funding but in essence they can be freely organised. Organising them in the context of a chapter ensures funding. The only place where this obvious logic breaks down is in the USA.
There often is a "one country, one language" correspondence that prevents this discrepancy. Nevertheless, when this is not the case, I believe the current scheme is particularly detrimental to certain projects, especially those working with minority languages that are not official in any country.
I think that both the editor community and the volunteers who want to establish a chapter should always reach an agreement on the best possible way to promote their projects.
That said, I believe we should create coordinating bodies that bring together all the chapters using the same language, and others that gather all the chapters active in the same country.
I am in favor of granting an opportunity to create other types of chapters, provided that they undergo a trial period to prove that they are viable and not just illusory. I would also make this a requirement for country-based chapters.
As I wrote in reply to the movement roles question, I'm all for the self-organization of more groups of Wikimedians, not necessarily by the criterion of a country, which sometimes doesn't make much logical sense. Even when it does, it seems perfectly natural and a welcome phenomenon for Wikimedians to organize themselves according to other themes, even other geographical ones. These groups don't necessarily have to be formal, registered NGOs with all the bureaucracy imposed by country law - sometimes that's needed, oftentimes it might not be needed. While I might fail to see the benefit in some organizing around some themes, if people want it and it strengthens their Wikimedian involvement and commitment - then why not?
Admittedly, we might run into turf wars and cases of speaking in multiple voices here, I'm not deluding myself. But I think in many cases only one of the groups potentially involved in some project will be really excited and driven by it, and the others will remain more remote and reserved, so at least in these cases the turf wars might be avoided. Still, it will take a lot of coordination, patience and open-mindedness from all groups involved in "overlapping" areas.
I touch on this in my answer to question 2 – I think language-based Associations (or something similar) might be a good fit, but I think the model of a Chapter relating to a single legal geographic area in which they can collect funds and act as a group is best. For large countries like India or the United States I think a federal chapter system with "sub-national chapters" makes sense. For geopolitical areas, there may be some scope for "supra-national chapters" – the suggested Wikimedia EU – to lobby on that scale, but I don't see that as a true Chapter with members and local activities. I'm very happy for groups to form around languages or other themes if they are interested, but we should not confuse groups with Chapters.
(1) If we want to gather and make knowledge for the good of all humanity, the projects mustn’t have national borders. (2) If we want to find money for those projects, we have to have entities recognized by national authorities as there are [still] no other legal possibilities for gathering generally accepted payment items (for the future see Bitcoin
, but also possible problems
). (3) Until significant portions of humans starts to live just in cyberspace, if we want to have real-world impact, we need organizations which functions on particular territories. (4) If we want to have better reach inside of particular populations, we need broadly or specifically defined thematic organizations.
We are natives of (1) and I have nothing to add there.
The easiest way to achieve (2) and (3) together is to make a number of territorial organizations. The logical step for one movement which tends to be international is to make national level organizations. But, it is not the only option, as well as it doesn’t have to be the best possible one. Sub-national and cross-national organizations could make similar things or something similar (cf. “Partner organizations” inside of the New group models of the Movement roles project).
The fourth need could be fulfilled in two ways: (1) by making separate organizations (again, cf. “Partner organizations”); and (2) by making thematic networks through territorial organizations -- depending on how we treat territorial organizations.
In relation to “Partner organizations” model, I would add there that such organizations should have as more as possible similarities with chapters. For example, such organizations should be able to participate in electing chapter representatives to the Board.
Finally, I would say that we should stay open for all possibilities and that we shouldn’t stick with just one model.
I think that both make sense for the purposes they serve. If we all spoke a common language, we'd only have one language project so we could all get everyone's perspective; instead, we split up by language because there's no practical way to combine the projects... yet. (And even that we try to combine as much as possible, which speakers of various regional dialects on the same project.) Chapters, meanwhile, are intended to be legal entities bound to some geographical region, to do things in the local community that require a group of people to meet in person and work offline--things like workshops, meetings with GLAMs in their country, partnerships with local schools.
Currently the national (or subnational) chapter is the only kind of group there is recognized officially by WMF, but I think most of the participants in the discussion agree that there should be some way to recognize groups who form around something other than geographic boundaries. But what that should look like is a hard question and the Movement Roles discussion could use input there.
I don’t like that “versus” thing. Wikipedias are language based projects and chapters are our main way of organizing wikimedians on a territory no matter in which project they are editing. We can’t reasonable compare them.
When talking about countries I support the idea of either national and (in special cases) coordinated subnational chapters. Of course, we should find the ways to recognize other kinds of organized groups of wikimedians and set up basic policies of cooperation between them and the chapters. This is part of the Movement Roles challenge.
Nevertheless, any organization based on linguistic criteria won’t qualify as a chapter in the current sense, because it wouldn’t operate within the territory of a certain state nor would it focus on promoting all of the Wikimedia projects, as chapters do. Chapters are here to help doing PR, GLAM, to obtain further resources, further readers and further editors for our projects.
They do not represent the projects. They need to be registered organizations to fulfill their role, and they mostly deal with private or public institutions within the jurisdiction of a certain state. That is why they are country-based. It is a legal thing, but also one of effectiveness. This does not collide with Wikipedia having versions in different languages. Chapters support all of them, and not exclusively Wikipedia, though they are logically most suited to interact with those in their countries’ languages.
National chapters are important for legal and financial reasons. I support subnational chapters, which should be able to federate into national groups where appropriate. Chapters are not intended to support individual projects, but the movement as a whole.
Other movement partners are also important - particularly those based on individual languages (say, a francophile organization, or one supporting small languages worldwide) and types of knowledge (say, an organization of Classicists and primary-source enthusiasts).
I strongly support the idea of recognizing a class of Partner Organizations that is more flexibly defined than Chapters, and are not geographically exclusive. These would also be non-profits aligned with the Wikimedia mission, but could be based around a language or culture or a field of knowledge, or could include 'coordinating groups'. This is something being proposed through movement roles discussions.
I also propose that we recognize the smaller groups supporting the individual projects - all organized groups should be able to form Wikimedia Associations with minimal bureaucracy and overhead. These would not need to be incorporated as legal entities; it would be enough to recognize them and publicize their projects, efforts, and open membership policies.
The reason why chapters are bound to countries is mainly because they need to be legal entities. And this is only possible if they are based at some geographical place. The purpose of chapters are also not to take care for one or a few particular projects, their purposes are to reach out and do public works, and support our volunteers in the geographical regions they are based. Where it is meaningful chapters do work very tightly together, for example the chapters in the European Union. We do have subnational chapters. New York City is an example for it, Hongkong and Macao too. Where to have subnational chapters and where not depends on very different conditions and the organizations of the volunteers who organized the chapters. At the moment we do have a blind spot on organizations or entities that work transnational on projects or on certain topics, or organizations that decided not to be a legal entity. This is, among others, one of the reasons to initiate the movement role workgroup. The proposals the workgroup had worked out so far looks very promising.
The majority of candidates in this election are also members of chapters. In addition, last year chapters elect two members of the board.
What concrete measures would you take to ensure that the board clearly acts to represent the interests of the WMF and it projects in case of conflict of interests with the chapters? --Mafoso 13:27, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
This is a very interesting question! I agree with Kat Walsh that we want Trustees to have many interests beside those of the chapters they belong to. Without those interests, they would not have much to contribute. It is also naive to believe that board trustees do not have these interests. It is a matter of trust for the Trustees become familiar with the issues that affect the Foundation. The interests of the Foundation are exactly what the Trustees are elected to discuss and decide.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
I don't think that anyone should hold a community seat on the foundation board if they are involved in the steering or direction of a chapter, but I see no inherent conflict of interest with being a member
of a chapter.
After all, anyone willing to serve as a Trustee is someone who holds the projects dear and is most likely to be involved in other aspects of the wider community.
I am very glad to see that so many people from the chapters take the Wikimedia Foundation at heart. It shows once again how much overlap there is between the communities and the chapters.
I do have to correct a possible misunderstanding here though. Whatever your background, once you are on the board of the Wikimedia Foundation, you are no longer allowed to be in the board of any chapter. Also, you would be a board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, and should act in the best interest of the goals of this foundation - which gladly overlap a lot with those of the chapters. The community selects three people directly and two more via the chapters (depending on your definition of community) on a board of ten. It is good to see that there is no Great Divide between "chapters" and "the rest" when the chapters selected one of their two seats to be someone without any chapter background (resp. Michael Snow and Phoebe Ayers).
I don't think there are any specific measures to be taken to tackle the risk you see - these measures are already in place, both legally and in the bylaws (art.IV.3.C). The best prevention of any conflict of interest however is still common sense and keeping an eye out for each other. Openness and communication are good methods to support that.
Well the chapters are the community. I don't really see any major issues here - obviously board members would resign any active role in chapters (directorship etc.) to avoid an actual conflict of interest. And if an issue came up with a specific chapter those involved in the chapter would recuse.
I feel that in order to deserve the appellative, a Trustee should have to represent no other interests than the ones which he/she's entitled to. In my opinion, while serving as a Trustee, anybody has to forget about his nationality, heritage, country of provenience or any other characterizing aspect. Only this way he/she can represent the whole global community to the Board and be trustable in terms of dedication to pursue Foundation's mission.
Being a member of a chapter where there is a chapter indicates involvement. I am a member of the Dutch chapter and I am a member of my local library. Do not read too much into it. What newspaper I do or do not read may be more relevant.
We have a conflict of interest policy
that reads as follows:
"A Covered Transaction also includes any other transaction in which there may be an actual or perceived conflict of interest, including any transaction in which the interests of a Covered Person may be seen as competing or at odds with the interests of the Foundation."
A specific measure would be making this applicable to any decision on contracts with chapters, the approval of new chapters, new models that may compete against chapters or chapter watchdog mechanisms. It would be applicable to Board Members who are also members of a Chapter or the relatives of a Chapter's board members.
The problem with having many members who are affiliated with chapters is that the number of Board Members who are able to make this type of decisions will be significantly reduced.
I would suggest two specific measures for future elections: A) increasing the ratio of community-chosen members to chapter-chosen members from 3/2 to 5/2; and B) limiting the number of Board Members who may be affiliated with chapters (e.g., to two members), such that, once the chapter-affiliated member quota has been filled, the remaining chapter-affiliated candidates become ineligible.
I think your question is great, though it leaves out the third corner of the triangle - the community of editors that the community seats on the board should, at some level, represent.
I think the fact that many candidates come from chapters is a built-in bias - these are the people who are already involved and interested in real-world offline organization and activity for Wikimedia causes, running for the WMF board is just their way of trying to make their impact on the movement bigger and more global. It doesn't mean they think all wisdom is with the chapters and all evil is with the Foundation. Far from it, at least in my case.
I trust that just as people can sometimes see the conflicting interests and characteristics of the communities and their "local" chapters (see my my talk about this issue from WM2010
), so they can also see the conflicting issues between the WMF and the chapters, and be able to tackle the issue from all sides.
The reason for Chapter-elected Trustees was originally given as locating expertise that the wider community and the Foundation might miss. However, the current mix is unsatisfactory. Certainly the duties of being a member of the Foundation's Board are the same wherever you have come from – Board members are there to represent their conscience, they are not "representatives" in the pure sense, and certainly the Chapter-elected Trustees shouldn't (and don't, to my knowledge) bias their decisions in the interests of their electors.
That’s a legitimate concern. Community members should elect Board members which fit to their interests. If you think that members of chapters are not able to represent your interests the best, you should vote for candidate[s] who are not members of chapters.
I am a member of one chapter (and member of its Board, as well), but the most important parts of my Wikimedian work are not related to my chapter. They are related to the content, Language committee
’s tasks. And I think that it is well visible.
Well, I'm not officially a chapter member at the moment (though I expect I will be a member of both WM-NYC when it starts taking members and WM-DC when it becomes an official chapter).
Firstly, while the chapter-selected board members are selected by the chapters, they're not solely representing the chapters' interests (similarly, the community-elected members are not solely representing the interests of the editing community). This is the reason for requiring that board members not also be chapter board members--no one can be expected to make their first priority be both at once. All of the board members, regardless of which seat they occupy, are expected to keep the whole movement in mind. Those who have experience in chapters are able to bring that knowledge to discussions, but all of the board's decisions are made considering everyone who will be affected. The chapter-selected seats exist because the chapters may have worked with people who would be valuable board members even though they haven't come to the attention of the wider community.
The restriction on serving on both boards at once is enough. Otherwise, I don't think any more formal restriction is needed--after all, chapter membership isn't the only competing interest someone may have; all of us have our own personal affiliations and issues as well. If someone was elected who was not capable of engaging with the board honestly and objectively for any reason, we would have to work to resolve that issue, but so far it has never happened.
I don’t see a problem there. I think what we have to discuss, in fact, are Board-appointed Board members. Chapters are part of the Wikimedia community. They have members, and those members are overwhelmingly people who are active contributors to Wikimedia projects. Most of them, for instance, are Wikipedians or Commoners on their own. Any Wikipedian, or Wikiquotian, or whatever Wikimedian, can join a chapter and participate in its discussions, projects and decisions. Chapters are open and member-driven organizations, Wikimedia Foundation is not. And it is good for Wikimedia Foundation to count on its Board with people coming from member-driven, open organizations such as chapters, which many times act as an informal link between the projects’ communities and Wikimedia Foundation. This does not exclude other kind of Wikimedia organizations to be able to participate in the selection of Board members in the future, in any case that is a Movement Roles Initiative debate I’d support. And this does not exclude the projects’ communities from directly electing board members. In fact, I’d like the number of community-appointed Board members to rise.
Chapters are part of the community, and many highly active editors are at least members of a Chapter, if there is one in their region. So it is natural for many of those interested in Foundation governance to be at least members of a Chapter.
That said, I would like to see more highly committeed editors and community facilitators, not involved in wiki or Chapter politics, engaging in Foundation governance and oversight. One reason Chapter-agnostic editors do not candidate to be on the Board is that they do not see how it is relevant to their work on the projects
There are thousands of talented, motivated people who devote a dozen hours to the projects every week, who are not involved in Chapters. A sign of balance would be having more such people engaged in future community elections and selections - perhaps slightly increasing the number of community-appointed Trustees.
Two short ideas:
- develop a small handbook for prospective Trustees, to complement the Board manual, to highlight why one might become a Trustee. (unlike the manual, make it short and available in all major languages!)
- make more noise about membership on Foundation committees and working groups, so that those interested in governance can get involved with a smaller initial investment of time.
A common misunderstanding is that the chapter nominated board members represent the interests of the chapters. This is wrong. The chapters nominate board members in accordance to the need of the board, to help the board to face talents that the board need. They are on the board not to represent the interest of the chapters, they are only responsible for the Foundation, and they only handle to ensure that the Foundation will fulfill its mission. Phoebe for example is one of the trustees that is nominated by the chapters, and she is not related to any chapters. And she is a very good trustee, both in her speaking to the libraries as well as in her work on the board, for example by leading the controversial content workgroup. Why the name board of trustees, in whose trust? The trustees are there not to represent interests of anyone. They are entrusted to ensure that the Foundation will fulfill its mission. That is why they are named trustees. Every board member sign a document in which she or he declares their possible conflict of interest and everyone sign a document in which they declare that they are only responsible to the Foundation, no other organizations.
Do you think that communities should have the opportunity have its say directly to WMF? How should be articulated as his voice?
In particular do you think that communities should have the last word on decisions regarding the chapters like: approval, accountability, activities?
How do you think should act in the event of a conflict between a chapter and the community of its mother project? --Mafoso 13:27, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
It is important to set up procedural methods for solving these conflicts before they happen. This means clearly delineating the responsibilities and limits of different bodies. It also means designating some method or third party to mitigate and resolve the conflict. The dispute-resolution body may be a good answer.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
Those are three very
- The community does have a say: elected members of the board. That said, the board should always keep an ear to the ground and listen to the community.
- The problem with giving the communities last word on any decision process is that "the community" is undefinable and impossibly vague. Whoever shows up to discuss that issue at the time? (self-selected and biased). Everyone that could be affected by the decision? (impossible to reach timely consensus). What's left is elected representatives.
- If a community is dissatisfied with what it sees its chapter doing, then they need to involve themselves in that chapter and elect new members to represent them.
Thanks a lot for this question. I have been bugged by this very topic for a long time (although not related to chapters, but rather to many other decisions with a more direct impact on the communities) and have in the past suggested options to handle this.
I think that involvement and ownership by the community is important - the community should be involved in major decisions by the Wikimedia Foundation. For example, I found it striking that the bylaws were changed by the board in 2010 without even consulting the community at all. The change was relatively minor (the duration of the appointed board members' terms) but this is in my opinion a more principle point.
I would like us to strive for a situation where important and non-urgent topics are also put forth to the community. I know that foundation-l is not the best forum for this, so we would probably have to come up with another mechanism. In the past I have suggested a 'Volunteer Council', which might be one of these mechanisms. I am not totally sold to that specific mechanism, and open for any other methods to involve the active volunteers directly or indirectly into the decision making process other than having a vote once every two years.
Whether this should also mean that they have a vote or not on every topic (direct democracy) is something to be considered - but I do not think this would be a wise direction for most decisions. However, if the board goes against any consensus, it better has very good reasons to do so.
This is really three questions in one. I will deal with them in-brief, but if you wanted to split them up (or ask me directly) I can expand.
- The community should have a say in the high-level direction of the Foundation; and the best way is this one - through community elected members of the board. In addition the communities have quite a lot of autonomous control over their home-wiki's, which limits the power of the foundation to impose drastic changes without community agreement. This is a useful natural limitation.
- The chapters are the community. And any part of that community can come here to meta and help contribute to the whole process of creating and approving chapters. I'd support looking at ways to get more people involved in this sort of "behind the scenes" stuff.
- Difficult to answer, and depends a lot on the circumstances. But it would probably be a matter for the wiki community, chapter and chapters committee to resolve, the boards' purpose isn't to get involved in resolving such conflict. Of course, I would expect the board to keep a close interest in such issues and consider ways of mitigating conflict within the foundation.
The communities have the emails list, the meta page. The members of the boards often are active on wikimedia projects and must interact between the comunity and the WMF.
All the editors who contributes to the project are the community, another problem is that Meta and emails list are in English and not all the communities members write and read that language very well
As much as I can understand, there are many organizations which bring the communities' voice to the Board, and are taken in due consideration. As stated in another question, however, I feel we should have to distinguish between the community opinions about any initiatives that have no possible legal consequences, and the ones that possibly have. In this respect, I feel that only the persons/organizations which bring the legal responsibility are entitled to take a decision. Regarding the way of acting in case of a contrast, I feel that everything should have to be composed as anything else in Wiki, by discussion and mutual consensus...
In my blogging, my championing of causes I learned that the notion of one "community of editors" is largely a fallacy. I will ask Wikia to support the Chinese and Serbian script converters. I will promote web fonts for the languages for India but also for Lingala or Romanian. I am involved in GLAM and while it does impact our projects, it is not high on the agenda of the "community of editors". What is important is having an understanding of how choices impact the health of our projects, our communities, impact our ability to reach out to our public. This is where in my opinion the board is active.
I think the main obstacle for solving this is the fact that editor communities are not very organized, and only a small percentage of their members make their voices heard. Another problem is that decisions are made in English, a language many people do not understand.
My proposals are:
- establishing a council made up of members chosen by the various language projects;
- creating a committee that supervises chapter activities;
- and having all the members of this committee and the ChapCom chosen by the communities in elections similar to those held to choose Board Members.
I suggest that all these committees must consult the relevant editor community prior to recommending any decision to the Board, and work actively to understand the opinion of each project's most active participants and communicate it to the Board.
- The community is the member of the triangle that has the least organized voice and thus its voice is often not heard the way it should be. This is the job of the community elected seats on the board, to represent what they feel and believe what would be the position and concerns of the community (it's very difficult to actually "poll" the community because of its diversity and size, so they have to form their opinion based on their background and familiarity with community issues).
- Community-chapter relations are a tough issue. We often see conflictual relations there - a lot of mutual suspicion and distrust. A lot of it has to do with chapter people moving away from being active on the projects, so that the editors on the projects perceive them as having foreign motives. Again, see my talk from WM2010 on this. There's also no 1:1 mapping between projects and chapters - for example, what's the relation between WM Austria and the German Wikipedia? I really think chapters need to "return" their main activists to the projects, and make sure they have the kind of people who are respected and known there. Having more varied groups, not only per-country chapters, might help.
- Again, I don't think every chapter even has a "mother project". Chapters must - under all circumstances! - refrain from making any kind of editorial/content-related commitments or agreements with 3rd parties or any kind of other exterior interference which directly affects the contents of the project. They must be perceived as a way to extend the online hobby of being a Wikimedian to the offline world, only for the benefit of the movement, its broad mission and the projects. Nothing really beyond that, and never self-serving.
Several other candidates have identified this as three separate and very different questions, with which I agree:
- This election is one of the ways in which the community has a say, along with the huge amounts of discussion that happen on-wiki, on mailing lists, in the excellent Strategy work, and the hundreds of other ways that the community gets involved. That said, I do not agree in direct-democracy for all but the most important decisions (like the GFDL to CC-BY-SA re-licensing). We elect the Trustees to oversee the Foundation, not just to be human telegraphs to pass on the message. If you do not trust someone's judgement on the items that you care about for the Foundation, do not vote for them.
- Yes, communities should control Chapters – but, importantly, the community of people who have chosen to get involved in that Chapter, which we should through membership.
- Clearly wiki communities and Chapter communities do not always align (not just the English language projects, but those in Spanish, Chinese, French and many others). Getting involved in your local Chapter is the best way to ensure that they act together – for Chapters as on-wiki, "decisions are made by those who turn up", so be bold and get involved if you don't agree.
First of all, although it could be said that many chapters originated from particular Wikipedia, that’s not the rule even for the English Wikipedia and “corresponding” chapters. Although I am an editor of English Wikipedia, I have no intention to choose Board members of Wikimedia Australia
At the other side, Wikimedia Germany and especially Wikimedia Italy and Wikimedia Spain would have numerous “mother projects”, including Spanish Wikipedia, which is far from being “mother project” just to WM ES.
As a member of Chapters committee, I can guarantee that the first thing which we are asking people who want to create chapters is about their relation with the community or communities of editors. We are always very clear that Wikimedia chapter has to have substantial influence of Wikimedia editors.
At the others side, I think that both WMF and chapters are accountable to the community. Community elects three Board members and any chapter which would have heavy problems with community -- would have problem with WMF and Chapters committee as well.
But, the end of political process is not at elections. Ideally, all members of community should actively participate in decision-making processes of Wikimedia entities. Strategic Planning is one of the institutionalized processes, but posting email on foundation-l, talking privately with Board or some committee member is also the part of that process. Active participation in Wikimedia bodies (committees, workgroups etc.) is also the part of political process. Making personal or group initiatives, too.
In other words, there are plenty of ways how to express your own concerns or ideas. From my personal experience, I can say that Wikimedia movement and especially WMF Board are very responsive to good ideas and valid concerns.
As we don’t have institution for handling conflicts between a chapter and project community which is the biggest base for it, I can say that it could be solved by raising issues at relevant places -- publicly, let’s say on Meta or at foundation-l -- privately, let’s say to a WMF Board member to whom particular person or group trusts the most.
I have to add one more clarification. Your particular question is about chapters, but the general one is about the voice of community. My position is that any
significant change in WMF and projects behavior, focus or anything other which could be considered as significant
-- requires community-wide referendum. If elected, I would require to hear clear and binding
voice of community for any significant change.
I think the communities can and do have avenues to have a say directly to WMF. There are several avenues available currently--mailing lists, several wikis including the strategy and outreach wikis, and IRC office hours, for some. One main problem is that there are so many different venues available, it's hard for anyone to know which is the best to use, or to keep track of the many different discussions happening. It would become overwhelming quickly if everyone individually brought their concerns directly to WMF; many issues that get attention are first discussed and written down by groups of people who get together to analyze the problem and write something down. Part of the reason for having community elections is to elect community members who are informed about community issues and are able to keep those concerns in mind when making decisions within the Foundation.
I don't think the project communities should have the last word with the chapters. The chapters are independent organizations (not controlled by WMF, either, except through the terms of the chapters agreement). But the stated mission of any chapter should include the goal of working together with others in the Wikimedia movement for our shared goals, and having a poor relationship with the project community means that they will have a hard time doing that.
I would hope that chapters would believe that they should resolve any conflicts with the projects its activities overlap with; a chapter that has lost the support of the communities associated with it is not going to be successful. The chapter and the communities should share goals and want to resolve conflicts, or something has gone terribly wrong. Particularly for projects that involves actions on the project itself--content partnerships, for example. But it's fairly rare that a project community will have a unanimous position on any issue that comes up for debate, though; it is likely that no matter what happens there will be some group who is unhappy with the chapter's activities.
I believe the Foundation should not act as if it were the collective consciousness of the editing community, but to provide to all of those segmented communities the place, the tools and some basic rules to enable community discussion and decision-making on key strategic topics. For instance, I believe the way the license change was discussed and voted throughout the Wikimedia projects is a good precedent that was not necessarily taken into account for other kind of decisions. I rescue the strategic planning process as an abstract idea, but in practice it did only work for a limited subset of English-speaking contributors: even today, there is no Spanish translation of “our” strategic goals, just to mention my native language. The Foundation should work on developing effective internationalization policies to tackle these kind of inequalities. But internationalization does not mean establishing offices here or there or hiring external consultants (and, I may add, English-speaking American-formed consultants).
In sum, I think the Foundation should work towards establishing mechanisms that enable people from different backgrounds, with different languages, to discuss ‘’and decide’’ on equal foot. To do this, it is clear it should avoid by all means any patronizing attitude, even if guided by good will.
Community members need a stronger voice in many aspects of running the projects. The Board and Foundation often would like to rely on community decisions, and to hear a clear community voice, on topics where there is little mechanism for reaching community consensus. For this, we need something like a Community Council to organize cross-project decisions. This body should include representatives of every Project and major language. Lodewijk's original idea of a Volunteer Council
is one way to proceed there.
The community should get to determine our global activities - our strategic planning process should remain an open and public collaboration, to identify the most important and best ideas. And our grant allocations to projects should similarly be informed by community decisions.
And community groups and members should look after the accountability of all Wikimedia work. That is why we emphasize transparency - to allow this sort of direct participation.
Chapters are not directly representative of projects, so they should not be tied to a specific project; nor should they have any special control over a project. However they should remain open and accountable to their members, and for the effectiveness of their efforts. We may need a dispute resolution body
that can resolve cross-project disputes, which could include disputes projects and chapters. To my knowledge this has not been an issue to date.
The community of editors has always the possibility to raise their voice, on meta, on foundation-l, on strategy wiki, by contacting the staff or individual board members directly. Our strategic planning was a very good example how the seemingly impossible was done by the community. I must also say that while we have one community, this community is very diverse and has a lot of different voices, it is colorful and sometimes has very conflicting opinions expressed. There is no one voice from the community, and there is no representatives from the community that can speak for the whole community. While our root is inside of the community, the Foundation and its chapters themselves have to work efficiently. The ChapCom is a committee that recruits from the community. The ChapCom itself had in the past accumulated a lot of knowledge about different judical systems and organizations. The overwhelming majority of our community members don't have these knowledge, they don't need to. We cannot everyone be the supercomputer that knows everything perfectly. We rely on each other. So the mechanism with the ChapComs examing the chapter to be, make recommendations to the board and the board approves the chapters is a good working way. And chapters are themselves part of the community. Your question implies this is not so, but that is actually not correct. Most chapter members are themselves very active project participants. They are part of the community. Also those chapter members, who don't directly work in projects, are community members in the way that they do their job to support the community. We have all different views, and sometimes part of the community disagree with other parts of the community. This happens all day on the projects. Chapters have themselves the difficulty that they are legal entities and as such they are more vulnerable to the judisdictions in which they are founded. This means they have to mitigate certain risks and they have obligations to fulfill. Things that a single project participant not necessarily have to face. What I want to say here is that there are different reasons for conflicts, and the best way to resolve them is to build up a mutual understanding for the reasons of the conflicts.
What do you think of the current funding model for chapters? What improvements would you propose?
Do you think chapters should receive funding? a) Equal for all; b) According to the number of members (and therefore theirs potential to support and promote the projects); c) According to the activities done / proposed to reward active chapters; d) money to promote specifically smaller or weak projects (positive discrimination); e) according to local fundraising.;... --Mafoso 13:27, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
The current 50% solution is a solution that represents a lot of time, labor, and pain. The Board is in a very good position to identify the problems and correct them. Financial issues of the chapters are extremely complex. I am looking forward to contributing to this process.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
I think that the primary source of funding for a chapter needs to be local fundraising. In general, and beyond the initial bootstrap help when setting the chapter up, the Foundation should only fund specific projects on merit and not the chapters themselves.
It is nice to hear that chapters are such a popular topic in these questions. The relevance for the Wikimedia Foundation in this specific question is mainly "how do reach our goals most effectively" when answering this question. Although I have no set in stone opinion about the exact financing model, I do think that chapters are a very effective way of making Wikimedia activities (and therefore reaching our goals) scale throughout the world in a way that the Wikimedia Foundation alone never could. I also have the idea that where chapters get involved in local fundraising in a professional way, the collected funds increase relatively more because of better understanding of local needs and culture. That does not necessarily mean this is the best in every single country.
How money should be distributed is a question with many different facets and is something we will probably be discussing about for the years to come. Is it fair that chapters in rich countries get to spend more than those in poor countries? Or those that provide effort and help to make the fundraising a big success versus those that don't have the means to do so? How would spending abroad influence the fundraiser of next year (i.e., how does the local donor want the money to be spent - is transferring much money abroad a Good Idea or a Bad Idea)? There is no simple answer to the question unfortunately, except that it is a discussion we need to have, and that should not be decided by the Wikimedia Foundation alone.
I like how WM-UK is set up (it seems that other chapters follow the same process). The chapter receives "kickstart" funding from the foundation to get going. Then once established they are self-supporting from a) membership fees and b) fundraising. I approve of chapters taking over country-level fundraising, so long as the chapter is able to do it effectively, in line with wider WMF guide/approach and are able to spend it wisely.
This ideal system, of course, won't work for some countries and non-geographical chapters. In that case the funding should be proportionate to their needs, dividing the money up "per head" rarely works and dividing it equally would be unfair to some (and wasteful).
I feel that funds should have to be allocated in order to start-up a new chapter, especially in the ones based in disadvantaged countries (see the Global South ones); outside of this, they should have to be used in order to pursue the wider Foundation mission, without entering in the local funds management. Coherently to this, local chapters should have to be responsible for their own fundrising, based on the concept that the higher the quality and the level of activity of a single chapter is, the more is foreseeable a high number of donors. In this respect, WMF should have to perform intervention in favour of local chapters only in well defined emergency situations (e.g. a particularly bad year in fundrising despite the dimension and the quality of the chapter, or an unpredictable event like a fire destroying the servers).
As chapters establish themselves, get organised they are supported by the WMF in their fundraising. This can be in and of itself be so successful that there is too much money to spend. As a consequence there is room for chapters to expand activities rapidly and establish their part of the Wikimedia movement.
Chapters being autonomous allows many home grown approaches and projects. Having the chapters learn from each other binds them and allows for shared projects. Lack of money and chapters is not really a worry.
I believe that the current system, in which 50% of collected funds stay in the country where they have been collected, does not allow for the best possible use of donations. Donors are not giving money to the WMF or the Chapters, but to support projects through
the WMF and the Chapters.
I think we should create a mechanism that allows funds to be collected through chapters or organizations that offer donors the best possible conditions (such as tax breaks) and achieve the best result possible (e.g., by addressing donors in their own languages). Then, funds should be redistributed and allocated to the countries, groups and activities with the most potential for promoting the projects. All of this should be done while developing the activities of those chapters and local organizations that are most successful in collecting money in situ. I already made a proposal in this regard in the roles movement working group.
I think the WMF should work together with the Chapters and other groups to open an offline fundraising channel to supplement the yearly campaign.
This is a very complicated question that cannot be fully addressed here, so I'll just offer some guidelines. I believe:
- Chapters are best positioned to raise funds within their own geography, either in the annual fundraiser or outside of it
- Chapters need money to fund their activities. The more money they have, the more they could potentially achieve. However, this is not directly proportional. Some excellent programs require almost no money. Some mediocre programs spend a lot of money with little return on investment.
- Some chapters' budget grew astronomically year over year because of various circumstances related to the annual fundraiser.
- Some chapters could have a hard time correctly using all that money that they all of the sudden have (instead of just spending it without good cause, or piling it up).
- Some chapters have very low budgets because of various circumstances related to the annual fundraiser.
- Hence, there should be some way to give these poor chapters some more money, and perhaps, in some cases, the source for that money might be from those chapters that cannot use all their money to good cause. Chapters don't need to be penalized for growing too rich. But if they're too rich and they don't have anything to do with all that money, better give it back to the movement.
- Grants are a wonderful way to allocate more money for those poorer chapters and make sure they make good use of it.
- Certainly funding doesn't have to be equal for all (chapters vary greatly in size and scope) or based on number of members (which is a statistic that doesn't say much, very country-dependent and quite meaningless).
I think what we've currently got as the main model – each Chapter raises money locally as part of a global campaign, and then shares some of that with the Foundation – is quite good. There are still concerns about how to fundraise locally and distribute globally, but I think we are moving towards a sensible compromise with money flowing not just to the Foundation, but also between Chapters as grants or for global activities, like sponsoring travel for some needy attendees to Wikimania. I also think that the model that Wikimedia UK v2, Wikimedia India and others(?) have adopted, with seed funding from the Foundation to help get started, seems to have worked quite well as a way of helping to get the ball rolling, and is something we might want to do on a larger scale so that more of our community are represented not just in this election but also in the Chapter-elected Board elections.
Funding chapters is complex issue, mostly because there are chapters on various levels of development.
There are chapters which are able to fund not just their own activities, but activities of other participants inside of Wikimedia movement. For example, last couple of days I was on Language committee meeting funded by Wikimedia Germany. In March Wikimedia France covered costs for all chapters which were not able to fund their participation on Chapters meeting. AFAIK, some other chapters have more money than they are able to spend, some other have enough money. Such chapters, no matter of their size or activities don’t need more funding, obviously.
The third group of chapters have idea what they should do and they need just money. Some other chapters need know-how before getting money (cf. the event which should be held in September: Wikimedia Management Congress; while I am not in the organization of the congress, I am responsible just for the idea :) ).
So, we need to have active approach to the funding issue. I am not an expert in this area, but it is obvious that there is no straight-forward solution.
This is a really difficult question, because the chapters are very different from each other. But it always makes me sad to see the money question take up so much of everyone's time and effort and goodwill.
Some chapters are set up to do their own fundraising well: they have members who are able and willing to raise funds, while some are not, but have good ideas for local programs. If a chapter does not have the capacity to do a lot of fundraising but has a well-reasoned plan for what to do with money, the mission is best helped by giving it to them. I was happy to see the WMF begin its chapter and community grants program and think chapters shouldn't hesitate to take advantage of it.
The unique advantage the chapters have are their local knowledge and ability to coordinate offline activities. Where a chapter can do its own fundraising, it may be good for reducing overhead and having an independent source of funding. But I think that chapters that don't have the personnel or who are in areas that are not wealthy should take advantage of funding available through WMF. The office has the capability to raise funds, and has an advantage in doing it centrally--but the chapters have an advantage in connecting to local communities and institutions.
I believe it is important for the Foundation to support chapters, as they are the formal way in which many PR, GLAM and partnership initiatives are effectively executed. Not all chapters are able to participate in the global fundraising campaign, though, and even if they can not all of them do collect the same amount of funds. This is a very tough question that is being addressed within the Movement Roles working group.
Chapters are in a good position to raise funds in their respective geographies, for both cultural and legal reasons. They should be able to collect money to develop their different initiatives, and to decide as independent organizations they are which is the best way to allocate that funds. Still, the general consensus is that the Foundation acts and will continue acting as a global “income redistributor” among groups. I believe finding a point of equilibrium between these two realities is difficult but ultimately crucial, for smaller or “poorer” groups may just need to be empowered --and this includes financial empowerment-- to develop their projects.
I think the grants mechanism is a good one for achieving this goal, and I am thinking about Foundation grants but also about chapters giving grants when possible. And I find the constitution of a Grant Advisory Committee on the Foundation side is a very important step for making this process more transparent and inclusive, extending grants not only to established chapters but also to informal working groups or other kinds of Wikimedia-related organizations. This highlights accountability as a key challenge to deal with, at all levels.
In the future, I imagine larger chapters supporting themselves primarily via fundraising, and projects and smaller chapters supporting themselves primarily via grants (from other chapters or from the WMF).
I think the recent discussion about this around the fundraising agreement has been good. Supporting a network of chapters is part of our mission, and the WMF should help chapters with their fundraising efforts where possible - including multi-year infrastructure grants as needed. Chapters and the Foundation should both fundraise towards their own proposed plans and initiatives.
Chapters and the WMF should work together to develop global priorities for allocating surplus funds raised, influenced by our movement-wide strategic plan. If there is a shortfall of funding across the movement, we should similarly work together to prioritize existing projects. Project-based grants could work in both scenarios. The current community-focused Grant Advisory Committee
is a step in the right direction.
There is a saying in German: Beim Geld hört die Freundschaft auf (friendship ends at money). The conflict about funding is one of (if not THE) most sad conflict I have ever experienced in my Wikimedia life. Everyone who followed this process know that there is a long and painful evolution to get us there where we are now. And everyone who is following or taking part in the movement role workgroup know that we are not at the end of the way. Because it is an ongoing process, I will not comment the current state. The overall goal, where we want to get to, is that the funds are distributed according to the work and to the need and to our strategic focuses, and that more accountability and transparency would be shown by all parties that are involved in the process.
What do you think about future of Wikimedia: Are we becoming the Cathedral, or we are still the Bazaar? Which of following values is more important for you: freedom, quality, professionalism, spontaneity? Przykuta 18:37, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
This brings up two fundamental issues within Wikipedia/Wikimedia. One is how to combine the need for consensus with the need for excellence, expertise, and quality information. It is the problem of how content is created and edited. The other is the conflict between the techie builders of the structure (media) and the content creators (pedia). The Board will continue to address those conflicts as they all involve the user experience directly and with final results.
Marc-André Pelletier (Coren
We're an increasingly well organized Bazaar.
If I had to place a strict ordering on the values you set out, I'd say quality, professionalism, and spontaneity. I'm not sure where I'd fit "freedom" in that list since it's not immediately clear which meaning you place on it.
For those who don't know the concept: See Wikipedia about the Cathedral and the Bazaar.
Wikimedia is a complex organization/movement, which is currently a hybrid of Cathedrals and Bazaars (don't try to draw such a building, it looks awful). Some of these Cathedrals try to be a Bazaar, but don't succeed very well. Some Cathedrals are hidden in a Bazaar and vice versa. Many people feel more comfortable in a well visited Cathedral - it gives a clear overview of who is responsible, it is less noisy and people usually behave respectful. That doesn't mean it is the more effective model in all cases.
Whatever choice we make as an organization, we should always reach for the long term effectiveness. In some cases that can mean freedom (free environment might attract more editors and volunteers), and in some cases a focus on quality (which gives a good image to the outside world, and might attract a different kind of editors). I prefer a combination of the two personally - give people enough freedom to do their thing, but stimulate them to focus on quality where possible.
Professionalism is a tough one, because it is only good when used appropriately. When used to support volunteers it can be very valuable, but when used to replace them it can also be very destructive. Without professionalism in the right places (adminsitration, fundraising, legal) there wouldn't be any room left for freedom or spntaneity.
So overall, I think that at all points we should strive for a healthy mix of all characteristics - which I would like to add one more: friendly atmosphere.
Sorry, I thought I had answered this! I think the answer (rather glibly) is "both". I mean, clearly we follow the Bazaar model, but to certain readers we more represent a Cathedral.
Rightly, a lot of work goes into making sure that the internals of Wikipedia (to take an example) are kept out of the way of readers. The unfortunate result of this is that a lot of people have no idea that they could be part of the project - their only clue, really, being the "talk" and "edit" buttons. Even those who understand the concept of the Wiki might only vaguely know a page can be edited, but not the processes involved. It's not part of the question... but I think we can do a lot of work (both in outreach, UI design and on-wiki policy changes) to improve understanding of how this system works and open everyone up to the bazaar.
freedom, quality, professionalism, spontaneity
; I am not sure I understand the interest in listing the importance of these things... they are distinct and important in their own right. We need to have quality, professional content. Freedom (of content and expression) is important to maintaining a good encyclopaedia. None of those things should be (or should need to be) sacrificed over any of the others. However I would argue "spontaneity" is "most important", because without it the other three are not so easy to accomplish :)
I think that it's like a bazar and must continue being that. We must organize the bazar and doint it more clean.
I feel that Wikimedians are a mixture of all these characters, where quality is in my opinion the most important one. Without quality, indeed, freedom and spontaneity are only chaos generators and no positive and durable objective can be achieved. As I see it, professionalism is a condition in which creative characters, like freedom and spontaneity, are disciplined under the overarching imperative of quality. On the other side, professionalism without passion (passion=freedom+spontaneity) can probably produce results, but it is something which is scarcely viable for a collaborative organization as Wikimedia is. Summing up what I feel, and taking an image out of "The pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett, I could say that we are a bunch of passionate Bazaar operators, that from time to time go to the Cathedral just to be sure about the direction to maintain.
Our communities are very much a bazaar. We do what we like within certain confines. As long as it fits things find a place and as we talk about a movement we find people move into related, associated projects even outside the WMF.
Our software development is building this structure where our communities come to worship. When developers are hooked into developing for the WMF, the projects they used to be involved with lose their momentum, wither and die. The reasons for this are often quite clear but what I do not see / know is appreciation for this fact.
I am not sure I have understood the analogy correctly. I am concerned that we may move towards a more hierarchical organization, with the WMF and the Chapters at the top and editor communities at the bottom. For me, this would be a big mistake.
I am going to work to devise mechanisms that favor the preservation of a community of editors who enjoy creating this work with a great deal of freedom, with quality-generating consensus mechanisms and in such as way that the WMF, the Chapters and other organizations cater to this community and these projects.
I think professional staff working for the WMF, the Chapters and other groups should be limited to crucial tasks volunteers do not want to do. For me, professional staff is the cement that binds the bricks of a wall together. But we, the volunteers, should be the bricks themselves.
With regard to spontaneity and innovation, I am concerned by what appears to be a wave of conservatism sweeping through the community. I do not know if a community like ours would be able to bring into being a project that seems impossible at first sight and is seen as a very bad idea by most people. I fear our community would not able to start Wikipedia up if it had to do so today.
I will strive for a consensus on innovation, while keeping in mind that most innovative projects seem (and many of them are) bad ideas. I will do my best to ensure the WMF makes an effort to promote the brainstorming of innovative projects and actively helps start them up.
Can I choose a different list of traits? Can we be welcoming (but not facebook), fair (but not an experiment in internet government), inviting to all, fond of knowledge and education, appreciative of quality, and even I dare say elitist (but not aloof)? Is that a cathedral? A bazaar? Neither. It's Wikimedia as it should be.
We in the Wikimedia movement are very much the Bazaar, but some of our stalls are quite Cathedral-like. I think that the movement is large enough for both forms to exist, and we shouldn’t be wedded to one exclusively – we should use what works.
In terms of your values list, I think their importance (from highest to quite-high) is quality, spontaneity, freedom, and then professionalism, but there are lots of other values I think we embrace too, like transparency and openness - with each other, and to the outside world. Most importantly, I contribute because I think we are making the world a better place, one edit at a time – and being passionate and caring are a huge part of that.
Although I have some serious disagreements with Jimmy, he is the most responsible person why Wikimedia is not the Cathedral, but the Bazaar. He did enough of right moves at the right times because of which we have community-driven participatory-democratic movement not comparable with any other free software or free culture movement. Even the process of Linux kernel development, which Eric Raymond compares with Bazaar, is authoritarian in comparison with Wikimedia movement. So, I am free to say that we are deeply inside of safe waters of Bazaar.
By affinity and from your choices, I would choose probably combination of freedom and professionalism (actually, professionalism in the sense of responsibility; not in the sense of payed positions). But, I don’t think that those choices are mutually exclusive. We can do everything just if we want.
Considering that the Cathedral is described in Raymond's book as being an extremely insular, uncommunicative group, who didn't show any signs of life until the next release, I think we're nowhere near that. (Actually, it's always fun to explain how Wikimedia is organized to people who have come from other organizations--nearly any other organization--and watch their eyes bug out when they realized just how much the office doesn't
I don't think I can compare those values. On any given issue, some might come into conflict and I may weigh them differently depending on what the outcome would be. In some cases, I think it's a conflict between maximizing one in the short term and maximizing another in the long term. (And for another: I don't know what you mean by them. To me, "professionalism" involves keeping your accounts in order and complying with relevant law to avoid jeopardizing the organization's ability to exist, which I think is quite important, and being able to work through disagreements with civility. Someone else's definition might be different and not include equal respect for volunteers' expertise. Naturally, I think that my own definitions of the terms make it hard to balance them because they are all important.)
I'll pull one out as being particularly important to me--I do think freedom is so strongly underappreciated in most places that one big distinction between Wikimedia and many other projects is respect for it. Freedom isn't something that's easily measurable, and most of the time the difference between a choice that increases freedom and decreases it isn't something you notice; in fact, you often only notice long after you've given it away. With the other three values, it's much easier to reverse a wrong decision and start going in the right direction, or to try something out that may not work.
In this metaphore, our projects are all Bazaars (and should stay like that, even when trying to be the cleanest and best organized Bazaars), and we are trying to build a sort of umbrella above them that is more like a Cathedral. But this Cathedral is to give shelter and feed the projects, not to convert them in what they are not. They should still being Bazaars.
The strength of the projects lies in being excellent bazaars - public discussion, simple and fast editing, open participation. As an editing community, we have shifted somewhat towards a cathedral model -- where policy creep and disinterest in new contributors creates an in-crowd, who know how to contribute and who prevent others from doing so. Becoming an admin was once no big deal, but a cathedral mentality has developed around this process on some larger projects.
We need to remain open and friendly, to fight this unconscious tendency. We are all working towards quality - this is one of the measures of a successful project. But freedom and spontaneity and openness - the wiki way - should take priority over any single view of what quality means. Being joyfully open to new contributions and participation is an essential quality of its own.
I think there are certain aspects of a cathedral, in fact it seeems to be more a bazaar. It is a well organized bazaar, which knows hierarchies. In its core it should contribute to a happy world, then the question about the cathedral or the bazaar will be obsolete.
At first, what do you mean with "Wikimedia"? If you mean the movement, our movement have a lot of aspects. It is not easy to put the whole diversity into one or two aspects. But I believe in the heart the movement is a Bazaar, and will be a Bazaar also for the future. If you mean the Foundation? I would say neither of both. The Foundation is an organization with clear responsibilities and structures. But it is also quite inprobable that it will ever grow out to a Cathedral. There are many reasons for it, the limit of growth itself is one, and our strategy is another one. The values you named are all important, for the Foundation, for the chapters, for the projects. I won't put one above the other. In total I am more of a way in the middle, and not for radical approaches. Freedom is important, but I don't see us in the role of radical freedom soldiers; quality is important, but I don't want overemphasize quality while sacrifice our other values; professionalism in organization is important, and in projects is important too, but I don't want our organizations become technocratic entities or our projects become unwelcoming to inexperienced newbies; spontaneity is important, as it is one of our five pillars, but we also need planning, need strategy and our mission and value, we cannot abondone these just for fun or for the sake of spontaneity.