The ideal Wikimedia board of trustees

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Revisiting in early 2012


Brainstorming alternative arrangements for an ideal Board, for the WMF or any other pan-Wikimedia body. Moved from Grants talk:Annual/Draft

Stu, I have to disagree with you in the strongest possible terms that the Board of Trustees is representative or can be said to represent the community in any meaningful way. What you are arguing for is called virtual representation, where a token handful of individuals from the "community" are consulted, and their views are taken to represent the entire community (this can also be extrapolated to the recent Po Sciences debacle, where "community consultation" seems to have consisted of talking to a single (if well respected) member of the community). I don't know if you're a student of history, but last time "virtual representation" was seriously argued for, it didn't work out all that well. I also take issue with the very idea that the Board of Trustees is "elected/appointed by the global community " - 30% are directly elected, 20% are elected on a very limited franchise, and the rest are all appointed. I think it's a very creative interpretation to argue that Jimmy's seat is a community seat, given that only he may sit in it and it's appointed on a formal basis by the rest of the Trustees. Craig Franklin 11:07, 5 January 2012 (UTC).[reply]

Craig, I understand your perspective. But know that the Board also gets bombarded with other equally strong points of view that it has to play a community-wide leadership role. Mostly that POV is that someone has to be a leader, because we need someone responsible for thinking globally and movement-wide about some issues (e.g. legal stuff, movement wide organizational structure, cross-project issues outside narrow scope of stewards). Here's a question for you: who do you think should play that role? If not the Board of Trustees, then who? Jimmy used to be the God-King and play that role, which IIRC wasn't particularly popular.Stu 19:49, 5 January 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Stu, if I were given the power to completely restructure the way that the way that the movement was governed, I would add enough community-elected seats to the Board of Trustees (possibly separated into two tranches to provide electoral feedback more than once every two years) to make direct community elected seats the majority. I would also deliberately make the position of Executive Director and Chair of the Board of Trustees weak so as to disperse decision making authority as widely as possible. Having "god-kings" or all-powerful leaders tends not to work out in the long run, if only because we're all fallible and an error or mistake by a powerful leader type has much more serious consequences than an error or mistake by a leader constrained by powerful checks and balances.

Discussion from 2002-2003


Add the names of any people you would like to see on the ideal Wikimedia board of trustees, providing governance, steering clear of threats, finding funding, and generally calming people down.

These should be cool, exciting, interesting, influential people that could contribute to the Wikipedia project's future, and attract funding that we need to implement the grander visions of this project. There should be agreement among us on who qualifies - a consensus.

See board of trustees for the less dreamy, but more practical, version...Because it would be novel to have a board with people who actually have time to deal with Wikipedia.



The following is a blue-sky list of issues the board must feel comfortable addressing as a group, if not individually. not oppressed in divisuals who know what they are doin and how to type Add new issues here - ones with broad agreement go to Wikipedia board manual also.

  1. encyclopedia
    1. ontology including the board's own process
    2. research including recruiting editors who can be trusted to decide what research actually is.
    3. issues of how knowledge is portrayed and dangers of its use, e.g. is this going to be good enough to help people make these?
    4. uses, and whose uses count, e.g. hundred millionth user, billionth user, terrorism (yes scientists have had reports censored due to risk of it being used by terrorists - and that risk is worth in a global medium)
  2. free content
    1. copyright issues, etc.
    2. multilingual & multinational points of view - translation, filtering
    3. different ethical points of view - religions, w:feminism, w:culture bias
  3. collaborative WikiWiki free software (the Web, collaborative projects, open source)
    1. power deriving from technology - and our own w:infrastructure bias
    2. generally approve development ideology, to the degree they can understand it, which won't be much, for some board members.
  4. community and etiquette - how we manage contributors as people
    1. protocols for consensus editing - avoiding edit wars and etc. - perhaps they should appoint an editor for this, the role Larry Sanger used to play
    2. sysop duties and powers and discipline, also see IP Death Squad
    3. protocols for excluding so-called 'vandals' and 'trolls' and 'pests' in ways that are hard to call 'unfair'
    4. means of enabling 'peaceful dissent' that doesn't imply cleanup effort
  5. funding and the lack thereof - people who can do a lot on a little

1# Zoellen meets Trent reznor


  • w:Jello Biafra, free speech advocate and spoken word artist; "Don't hate the media. Become the media." Provide some populist and punk sensibility to a possibly overly-academic board.
  • w:Rosemary Coombe, York University professor, author of The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties: Authorship, Appropriation and the Law, expert on IP and globalization (Canada) [1]
  • w:Donna Dickenson, is the John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics, and the Birmingham University (UK) Centre of Global Ethics' first Director. She was Leverhulme Reader in Medical Ethics and Law and Head of the Medical Ethics Unit at London’s Imperial College School of Medicine. Donna’s interests include the practical application of ethics to stem cells and tissue research, reproductive and psychiatric ethics, and feminist theory. Publications include Risk and Luck in Medical Ethics (Polity Press, 2002), Ethical Issues in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (ed.) Cambridge University Press, 2001)' The Cambridge Medical Ethics Workbook (with Michael Parker, CUP, 2001), Property, Women and Politics (Polity Press 1997)and In Two Minds: Case Studies in Psychiatric Ethics (with Prof. Bill Fulford, Oxford University Press 2000).
  • w:Rusty Foster, founder of kuro5hin, community-driven discussion website (US)
  • w:John Taylor Gatto, critic of mass education and promoter of w:homeschooling and w:unschooling (US)
  • w:Paul Glover, noted guru of revenue models and creator of Ithaca Hours
  • w:Jane Goodall, chimpanzee researcher, expert on gestural communication and emotional expression in primates, to provide some anti-language bias too.
  • w:David Ray Griffin, an author, former professor, and 9/11 researcher. Most well known for his exposé The New Pearl Harbor.
  • w:Jürgen Habermas, a staunch believer in liberty, communication and communities without mastery over others. A european and a rational left-winger, nice balance for Jimbo.
  • w:Carla Hayden, president-elect, American Libraries Association (US) [2]
  • w:Douglas Hofstadter, Pulitzer-Prize winning academic/author with particular interest in translation issues, mind, creativity, consciousness, and self-reference. (US)
  • w:Dale Hoiberg, top editor and senior VP of Encyclopaedia Britannica (US)
  • w:Jane Jacobs, former free-speech hero and current writer and urban guru. Advocated free speech for radicals in the face of the McCarthy crowd.
  • w:Bill Joy, VP Research of Sun Microsystems and noted nanotechnology relinquishment advocate, who may add a note of anti-progress bias to what would otherwise likely end up a very tech-happy knowledge-positive board without the capacity to critically examine the negative impacts of information technology or artificial intelligence
  • w:Lawrence Lessig, U.S. Constitutional scholar, Internet law expert, author of Code and The Future of Ideas, founder of Creative Commons project (US) and popular blogger
  • Yong Liu, advocate of free speech and free culture,guest editor of China Digital Times
  • w:Henry Liu, founder of the w:gang8 list and w:creditary economics guru - would be a great economics editor.
  • w:James Love, usually the PublicCitizen representative to tech entities
  • w:Carol Moore, feminist, anarchist and secession advocate
  • w:John Naughton - UK journalist & academic, author of a book on the history of the net; advocate of Open Source
  • w:Bruce Perens -- on W3C's patent policy board, Free Software Community spokesperson.
  • w:John Pozzi - founder of w:Global Resource Bank - quite popular with budding economists
  • User:Larry Sanger, earliest Wikipedia ontologist
  • w:Sunir Shah, founder, editor, noted martinet, and programmer of en:MeatballWiki, devoted to online communities, especially Wikis (Canada)
  • w:Penny Silva, director, w:Oxford English Dictionary (South Africa)
    • or other people from the OED [3]
  • w:Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU Project and Free Software Foundation (US)
  • w:Starhawk, noted consensus decison making guru of the anti-globalization movement
  • w:Linus Torvalds -- arguably the most successful cat-herder ever.
  • w:Tu Wei-Ming -- one of the w:Boston Confucians, a "New Confucianism" group, and one of the foremost scholars on this tradition working in the Western world - he may be helpful in getting us unbanned in China!
  • User:Brion VIBBER, where would we be without him?
  • w:Jimbo Wales, our founder - vast experience of managing Wikipedia to draw on (US)
  • w:Larry Wall, creator of Perl programming language and community (US)
  • w:Jonathan Zittrain, faculty co-director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, founder of Chilling Effects [4] (US) [5]
  • w:Noam Chomsky professor of linguistics at the MIT, creator of the w:Generative grammar and Free and rational thinker
  • w:Margaret Atwood, novelist, poet, literary critic and one of the world's best-selling authors. She could easily provide a unique perspective on various issues. (Canada)
  • w:David Suzuki, geneticist who has attained prominence as a science broadcaster and an environmental activist. One of the top 10 in w:The Greatest Canadian. (Canada)

Unlikely to accept, or to be accepted