How would you define the leadership role of the board of trustees?Edit
How would you define the leadership role of the board of trustees? Alan.ca 05:38, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
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.
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.
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.)
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 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.
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.
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.
Have you reviewed the movement roles initiative and what are your thoughts on this subject?Edit
Have you reviewed the movement roles initiative and what are your thoughts on this subject? Alan.ca 06:58, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Which demographic groups do you believe are viable targets for growth as factual article content contributors to Wikipedia?Edit
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)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?Edit
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)
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.
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.)
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.
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).
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.
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.
What is your opinion with regard to the Foundation's emphasis on the Global South and it opening offices there?Edit
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you think that WMF should have financial insurance or an endowment fund?Edit
Do you think that WMF should have financial insurance or an endowment fund? Abbasjnr 06:02, 11 May 2011 (UTC)
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Do you hold any position either outside Wikimedia or within (such as ChapCom) that may pose a threat to conflict of interest?Edit
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 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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Languages based Wikipedia versus countries based chaptersEdit
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)
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.
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.
(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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Articulation of the voice of the communities of editorsEdit
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Funding of the chapters' activities.Edit
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Cathedral or the Bazaar?Edit
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 awfull). 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.
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.
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.
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.Edit
How will you vote or propose changes on the board about the foundation reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from flights (meetings, chapter traveling grants, and Wikimania) and hardware, and using renewable energy (directly or via certificates)? -- Jeandré, 2011-05-15t18:41z
The Foundation should set a standard of sustainability that can scale up further. We make an effort to limit expected travel, but travel is where we could make the greatest impact here. Since the community depends on effective remote communication and collaboration, I hope to see the WMF invest more in tools to make remote collaboration posible, for both large and small meetings. For hardware, I would like to see the WMF follow the model of our EvoSwitch partnership to set up carbon-neutral hosting (and identify more hosts willing to donate bandwidth to the projects) for all infrastructure.
The Foundation is very careful on its spendings and by doing so we take very a lot of care of being not wasteful and not harm the environment. We don't need a board resolution for that. A board resolution in this case would change nothing and is only good for PR, and that PR is not worth the CO2 that would be used to produce it. Our mission is to collect human knowledge and to deliver that knowledge to the humanity. I believe that with knowledge people can make better decision. So we are helping people making better decision. Also in relation to the environment. This is the best we can do and we shale concentrate on this. If people want to donate to CO2 reduction, they can do this in a far more direct and effective way. Donate money to WMF so that WMF can by certificates is an utterly ineffective methode. It is a waste of resources and is contraproductive to our mission and the mission of the environmental organizations.
(This is basically the same answer I've given previously, but my position has not significantly changed.)
I encourage being mindful of environmental impact without being wasteful in other ways in attempts to meet this goal. But mainly I see avoiding environmental waste as aligned with avoiding other types of waste: we want to purchase efficient hardware because wasting power is expensive, we don't want to take unnecessary trips because travel is expensive and wastes time.
However, the value of face-to-face meeting, even for an online-based organization, is too great to forgo it completely: avoiding wastefulness doesn't mean eliminating costs. Most WMF business already takes place via IRC, wikis, and email, but the higher bandwidth of face-to-face interaction and the different kind of interaction it enables is something I think we should continue. The venues have largely been chosen with other considerations in mind: where the offices are, which chapter is willing to host a meeting, how it meets other goals such as outreach or meeting other stakeholders. For a global organization, yes, some people will travel a long way.
(There are small measures we can take such as avoiding unnecessary printing, and purchasing from environmentally responsible suppliers, and I hope that we will do that. But all of it is nearly insignificant in comparison to air travel.)
Our projects are digital: they replace printed paper material for thousands and millions of people, need no shipping, require no replacement or disposal. Perhaps the greenest thing we could do is encourage more people to use them.
In relation to two of your particular questions, I don’t have a good answer for the first one, while I have some
answer for the second one.
Wikimedia movement wants to be global and flying is necessary for a global movement. Traveling this way is far at least 20 years. However, I suppose that there are some options here, but I am sure that none of them is substantial.
In relation to hardware, AFAIK, the most serious issue is (or will be for sure) about the energy consumed by data centers. In that case, WMF could choose data centers which use more renewable energy.
My general answer is that there are many ways to reduce pollution. From the position of local contribution, WMF and chapters should, for example, reduce printing as much as it is possible; have efficient cooling and heating systems etc. From the position of entities which are giving money for various chapter and community projects, they should make the list of requirements for reducing pollution. (Of course, it should be reasonable: in many parts of the world there are no reasonable options to do something cleaner.)
At some point of time -- however, I have no idea when it could be -- WMF should employ a person (likely, an ecologist) who would care about all details related to reducing pollution generated by WMF, chapters and movement itself.
I would also ask you and people well introduced in those issues to start the project (page on Meta), make a group [or not] and make proposals for making WMF and the rest of the movement “greener”. I am sure that your proposal would be carefully considered no matter if I am elected or not.
This seems like a typical discussion to have with our community and not just amongst the board members. I am willing to follow the community opinion on this topic within reasonable ranges.
If you insist to know my personal opinion, I think that the environment is not our core mission. Our core mission is about knowledge and making that available to everyone on this planet. Our impact is not in fighting greenhouse gasses, our strength lies in knowledge and content.
We should however do whatever is reasonable to mitigate any negative impact our actions have on others, including environmental distortion. However, please realize that our efficiency is much better than any of the other top-10 websites. We have much less staff flying around the world, we have smaller offices etc. What is reasonable? Reasonable is to have more online meetings where efficiency is comparable; reasonable is buying recycled printing paper, reasonable is taking the train instead of the plane when comparable time and costs.
We could buy certificates, but that would go at a cost - less other activities or more donation banner time.
While there isn't a perfect alternative to face-to-face meetings, today's video conferencing technology is very much evolved, and people can have group voice chats from just about everywhere. This could save quite a bit of travel for the board and for WMF staff. I'm not deluding myself that it can replace all of it or anything close to that. As for hardware's greenhouse emissions, I cannot recommend much more than using new hardware that conforms to greener standards. I don't think that buying RECs or otherwise directly investing donator money in offsetting greenhouse emissions is a recommended use of our donors' money. We should be saving our own operational costs, and in the process saving greenhouse emissions. I find that sufficient in our case. Harel
19:07, 15 May 2011 (UTC)
As a Board member I would have a duty to ensure that donors' money is spent as promised to them, and in line with the Foundation's Bylaws (see in particular Article II). I'm not sure that spending money on RECs or other means of off-setting environmental impact, though proposed with good intentions, falls under these restrictions. That said, reducing energy use and other environmental impacts can often be done at the same or lower cost than the original effort, and clearly looking at these is something we should do in the Foundation, Chapters and the wider movement.
First of all, I should say that face-to-face meetings can't be replaced by online meetings, and that they are truly important for an organization of volunteers like ours. So I don't think is realistic or even wise to propose a drastically cut-off of travels and on-site meetings.
This said, I agree with the importance of reducing our carbon footprint by means of:
- Using low impact datacenters.
- Promoting hardware recycling.
- Limiting printings to the strictly necessary.
- Establishing partnerships with specialized environmental agencies to find common strategies to reduce our carbon footprint.
Ads and fundraising.Edit
How will you vote or propose changes on the board about paid ads on Wikimedia sites? Will you keep the foundation's 2009 fundraiser promise of staying "Ad-free forever"?
- support ads
- flash/banners/graphics in skin whitespace or at bottom
- company logos in site notices
- prominent text ads
- company names in site notices
- text ads in skin whitespace or at bottom
- opt out
- opt in
- maybe support ads
- only for a huge amount of money
- only during budget emergencies
- only if editors support it
- ad-free forever
How will you vote or propose changes on the board about banners as huge as those of the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 fundraisers?
How will you vote or propose changes on the board about things like hiring a PR company? If you do support hiring a PR company, what do you think of paying them a quarter of a million US$?
Should the foundation expand its employees to hundreds, and have a continuously larger budget? -- Jeandré, 2011-05-15t18:46z
- PR company project info: , . -- Jeandré, 2011-05-16t12:05z
We should always be ad-free.
We should improve how we target our fundraising banners so that they are not presented continuously to our active users, and so they are less huge than those used this past year.
The question of staff size is worth its own question. The WMF should scale how well it works with and through the community in line with any other staff growth -- in order to grow quickly, if that is necessary, we would need to improve our capacity to better channel the energies of the smart, talented, motivated people already driving our movement and the projects forward. The heart of our projects is their ability to catalyze hundreds of thousands of people to do tremendous work together; if we try to grow as a centralized foundation without this balance, we may work against our heart, even if that growth lets us realize some short-term goals more quickly. And as you point out, any benefits gained through expansion of permanent Foundation staff add to our annual upkeep costs, while benefits gained through strengthening and expanding the community are more sustainable.
Q1: I don't see any necessity on put adds, so 3. Q2 and Q3: We had gained a lot of experiences and professionalism in fundraising in the last years. Our staff work out the yearly campaign and I am fully in trust of their ability, which they showed in the last years. So currently I don't see necessity here either to change or to request external resources. Q4: As I already said in another question the reason why we grew is not because we want to be big, but because of the expectations from the community and because of need. We cannot let an employee work 60 hours a week because this inhuman, inmoral and illegal. This said, I believe in a few years we will reach a point where our organization is well set and well organized, and our chapters will professionalize and take more and more responsibilities regionally.
The first time I answered this question I was more ambivalent about ads: not something I thought of as the best option, but something I'd be willing to consider. I've gotten gradually less receptive to the idea of advertising as I become less and less convinced it would ever be necessary to save the project. (And there is a philosophical aspect: if we cannot get enough financial support from public donations to continue operating, perhaps we should
fail and be replaced by something better.) I think advertising distorts the information environment in ways that are subtle and insidious, and even people who think they are too smart and too media-literate to be influenced by advertising are still shown to be influenced by it. Almost no source of information is free from it. And once it is there, you may try to forget that it exists, not treat it as a factor, but you can't really; you have to second-guess your decisions, wondering if you really decided something because it was the best option or because you're thinking about keeping advertising.
As for the banners: the board has very little input into the fundraising specifics at all; they are the work of the staff along with the community volunteers; I think this proper and will not propose changes to this. Aside from the idea that we should have a fundraiser and that it is OK to use the site for it, I believe this is an area where the board should not often be intervening directly; where board members give feedback, it should be with the same level of authority as any other community members. (This is a difficult area for any board member to get used to, I think: learning when it is and is not proper to request changes from the staff. Especially for the community-elected members. Sometimes being mindful of good practice does mean letting the office do things that you doubt are going to work, or that you would have done differently! We should be able to step in if things are really going contrary to our mission and values, but there also must be mutual trust between the staff leadership and the board.)
Similarly, I leave the question of hiring a PR company entirely up to the Executive Director, whose responsibility it is to use staff or contractors as necessary to achieve the organization's goals. (We should not hire a company who is known to engage in unethical practices, or one who will not respect our wishes--but this is a consideration for any company, not just fundraising.) If the money used to hire the company was spent wastefully, that's something to take up with the ED. I think spending on fundraising should be as efficient as possible and should not be an excessive proportion of the budget, but that doesn't mean spending as little as possible. If spending $10K means getting $1M that we wouldn't get otherwise, and spending $250K means getting $10M that we wouldn't get otherwise, we should spend $250K. (For a $20M organization, this is still a quite reasonable amount--whereas we shouldn't be one of those organizations that spends $10M on raising funds to get $11M back.)
As for staff expansion: I don't know about "hundreds", but I think the current plan for over 100 is reasonable. (Actually, it has taken me a long time to conceive of the idea.) Is this the optimal size for the organization? I don't know. (When I first joined the board, we had about 3 employees.) Maybe it's the wrong size. But the idea is reasonable. I can think of plenty of areas where having more full-time staff would be a great help, particularly in the technical areas.
We don’t need ads, and it is highly likely that, if elected, I wouldn’t be in situation to consider ads as an option during this mandate.
However, if we are talking generally, I can imagine the situation when alternative sources of money could be needed. However, again, in non-catastrophic scenarios, such situation would be visible at least year or two before the necessity to implement it. That means that there would be enough time to describe the situation to the community and ask it for approval.
Banners: While I hope -- but I am not sure -- that similar amount of money could be achieved with smaller banners, I am sure that those banners could be more innovative and not so irritating.
PR company: As someone who is well introduced in what PR companies are doing, I know that hiring a PR company is waste of money in the case of WMF. We don’t need to defend ourselves from negative PR -- as negative PR against Wikimedia brings much more negative publicity to a person/organization which does it (cf. Sanger’s negative campaign) -- and everything else is just about regular work with media + Wikimedia has enormous reservoir of creativity inside of the community. Hiring a person for ~$100k for a year instead of company for $250k for a quarter would be much more wiser solution.
WMF employees and budget: Personally, I am in favor of having larger number of smaller organizations than having one big. When one small crashes, other organizations could survive. That issue is partially covered by chapter model, where chapters are basically independent organizations. And chapters are taking their parts of responsibility (cf. my answer on the question Funding of the chapters’ activities). And I would like to see more examples of that type.
It should be also noted that WMF’s growth is limited by the nature of its goals. WMF could have three digits number of employees, but I am sure that it would never have a need to have four digits number of employees, no matter how much money it generates. But, in any case, that’s related to the specific needs and I have to say that I don’t have precise picture of WMF's or community's needs for number of WMF's (and chapters’) employees.
I have no intention whatsoever to support paid advertizements on Wikimedia websites unless there is a clear mandate from the community to do so.
Putting ads on our websites would cause serious damage to our communities and we can't afford that. Being the only ad-free top-10 website is currently a good selling point.
For the other question (PR company, staffing) I think that we should always keep the effectivity in mind: does an extra staff member help or replace community? I remember the times where there were only a few staff members, and at that time I would probably have found the idea of 70 staff members ridiculous. Right now I cannot imagine us going to hundreds either, but I can't exclude the possibility when there are very good reasons. I do prefer other scaling methods in general though, through chapters, other partner groups, enabling volunteers etc. The same for the PR company: do they add that much value, are they really necessary? I don't dismiss the idea out of hand, but would definitely ask critical questions when presented such amounts of money allocated to market research.
These are four different questions, let me answer the first two and I suggest you split the other two away. I wrote in my statement that I want our project to remain ad-free, unless this becomes the very last way to finance the operation of our projects (in other words, without ads they will have to shut down). I think it's a simple principle that everyone can understand. As for the huge banners of the last fundraisers, it was just one of the things that I didn't like too much about both fundraisers, but I don't think they are some fatal mistake that mustn't repeat. There were more important issues about community involvement with the fundraiser, and about localization of the fundraising slogans, that I find more deserving of critique.
Well, to answer your 3rd and 4th questions: $250K for a PR company sounds like a lot, and it's difficult for me, from my current position, to gauge the justification for this expense - what we gained from this PR company and how much the competition would have cost us. It would be reckless for me to criticize this decision without more comprehensive background information.
As for the foundation growing to (many) hundreds of employees, I don't think this is going to happen in the foreseeable future or that it's a welcome phenomenon. There is a certain level beyond which it doesn't make much sense to expand. We're not a for-profit organization that would normally seek to expand thus grow its profits. I'm not in a position to assess how much the current employees are overworked. If we start seeing employees (of the WMF, of WMDE?) reinventing the same projects and programs again and again that were already tried in different guises, we'll know we're treading water and that growth potential has been exhausted.
- Option 3, "ad-free forever", except that Option 2 part 2 ("maybe but only in emergencies") should also be considered. Thankfully we are very far from being in an budget emergency, and the most important part of being a Board member is ensuring that we don't ever reach one.
- I think we should make the fundraising impact as small as possible whilst raising the needed funds and getting the right message across, but no smaller. Of course, the exact details of fundraising are an executive rather than non-executive function, and so are run by the Foundation staff (not the Board) with the input of the community, and I would press for ever more community involvement to ensure that this is addressed. (Disclaimer: I helped out a very little with this year's fundraiser, mostly in a "technical" capacity of how to make templates work.)
- Hiring external resources
- It is easy to take a hardline position on hiring in external resources, whether for PR or other services. The Foundation already has a practice of hiring a mixture of permanent staff for long-term roles and contractors for shorter-term ones. However, in some cases agencies can make more sense than having a contractor - for example, if you want to draw on an agency's wide range of skills from a dozen different people for a month and then stop using them, and of course hiring an agency with a proven track record can be faster than trying to hire the right one-person contractor. US$250,000 is a good deal of money, but I'm not sufficiently close to the details of the case you highlight to judge whether it was a wise expenditure of money.
- In general, I am sceptical of whether we will need quite as many staff as some project that we do, but we should not have political concepts of the "right" number of staff - we should instead discuss each position or function as they come up. Sometimes people worry that we are replacing volunteers with staff, and removing the early stepping-stones that people can take to move from just working on the wikis to working with the wider movement organisation. I would look to make sure that we give the community as many opportunities as possible to serve.
I think our projects should remain ads free. And we should find the banners' sizes that best fit with a succesful fundraising. I don't think big banners are needed for a good campaign, but this is only opinion: there are better ways to test the appropiate size and shape.
Regarding the size of WMF, I prefer a small team of specialists and external consultants when needed rather than a big paid organization. But, again, I'm not saying we reached our limit. For some time, perhaps the staff will still growing, because, as I said, WMF is still young and expanding.
The key is planning the future with caution, carefully avoid hiring people for tasks that can be developed in a voluntary basis and empowering local communities rather than hiring consultants to work in the field.
MediaWiki and Wikimedia Foundation development to non-Wikipedia projectsEdit
Bugzilla.wikimedia.org have tons of bug reports and feature requests to MediaWiki software backlogged. Some of then are particular to non-Wikipedia projects, such the ones at oldwikisource:Wikisource:Wishlist. Unfortunately the lack of attention for those projects is foundable in more moments, such in the time of publishing the Wikimedia Strategic Plan. In your view, what the Board can do to help those projects (both in advertising and development)? At the time of Wikimedia brand survey some suggested that non-Wikipedia projects needs to found an organization to adopt them, allowing Wikimedia to discontinues support to then. Do you agree or those projects are only in lack of a major attention or even to the creation of local chapter-like groups? Lugusto • ※ 23:12, 15 May 2011 (UTC)
Sister projects such as Wikisource -- which has the potential to become the main multilingual repository for millions of classics and public documents, used by classicists and historians the world over -- represent our greatest opportunity to grow and to expand our circle of contributing groups. The WMF should see them as a way to engage more people in our work, which they are, and should take their needs as seriously as we take those of Wikipedia.
Fixing bugs in the latter serves more people now, but fixing fundamental bugs in the smaller projects may serve more people in the long run, by attracting them to our projects, giving them a reason to contribute (or to move their bespoke content management solutions onto a Wikimedia project), and attracting future readers who are looking for knowledge beyond encyclopedia entries.
While sister projects didn't get mentioned by name in some of the strategic planning, innovative work to find ways to support sister projects is supported broadly under our goal to support more community innovation. We should give them even more explicit attention than this.
As I had already said in two other question, we have constantly demands and expectations from the projects and the communities. But our resources are limited, if we don't want to get into the Cathedral. At the moment our focus on tech development is definitively on support more participation, and thus support for feature desires from smaller projects fall back. I understand the frustration of these communities and it looks like the easiest way is to have an organization dedicated for these projects. But this is only a seemingly most easy way. If we have a new organization, it must at first build up itself, it must raise fund to do the work it is supposed to do. All these are not so easy. And I really doubt that our small projects would have the capacity to do all these. In the past I had always advocated for our small projects, for example on my trip to Nairobie I spoke with an NGO about how they can use Wikiversity to document their experiences. Or on the chapters conference this spring in Berlin I suggested that the chapters can work together, and make connections for school classes of different part of the world to write a Wikibook together: How my world looks like, or something like that. I think that our different projects have great potential, but we must be more resourceful and more innovative to dig those potentials out. And a great deal of that don't really need the help from the Foundation.
One difficult aspect of the board role is prioritizing. Even with the resources that we have, we still cannot do everything at once. The strategy process was meant to identify those areas that should be the greatest priorities going forward in a way that had broad consensus. The Foundation's resources are mostly being put toward the goals identified there; the executive director is evaluated based on progress toward them, and the budget drawn up to support them. One avenue for more organized support of the projects that are getting less attention may be through chapter-like groups; if you have seen the Movement Roles group, you have seen that there is a lot of support for groups that are based on common interest rather than common geography.
We're planning to devote a lot of resources to technical improvements in the coming years, including staff to help make it easier for volunteers to contribute to MediaWiki, but there are still more requests than can reasonably be fulfilled by staff. But the main way the projects not currently part of the highest-priority group can be advanced is the way that most of the work on the projects has always been done: through groups of volunteers taking the initiative to work on what is most important to them.
I think that MediaWiki is a separate good from other Wikimedia projects. Thus, it should be autonomous enough to get its own funding and its own development rules.
WMF should guarantee the core of development, as well as its own needs. Besides that, future MediaWiki autonomous governing body should broadly define how much money is needed for developing and/or implementation of specific extensions and other kinds of enhancements.
Such model would allow anyone to search for funds independently of current WMF’s priorities and to get extensions implemented. That includes, for example, deal between, let’s say, Wikisource community and Wikimedia France (but any non-Wikimedia organization, too) to do fundraising for Wikisource-related extensions.
I have always found it a bit tricky to fully focus on one project (Wikipedia). Having been involved with Wikimedia Nederlands board for five years, I have experiences however how hard it is to get anyone outside Wikimedia enthusiast for a non-Wikipedia project. I do know that various chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation have made efforts to help the non-Wikipedia projects, but not as much as to help Wikipedia.
We should be honest to ourselves, and realize that other Wikimedia projects will likely never be as successful as Wikipedia is nowadays. At the same time, a website providing learning materials (wikibooks, or even wikiversity) can be much more effective in reaching our goals than an encyclopedia, if they are embraced by the educational community. The problem we encounter here is that a) the software is not made for creating modern (audiovisual) learning materials, b) there is no critical mass of material or community to make it work, and c) it requires more dedication to write a book than to write an article in Wikipedia - it is harder to enter the community effectively.
Some of these factors are outside our reach, some are within. A potentially great way of accomplishing this promotion would be some kind of meta-organization promoting Wikibooks (the Wikibooks Association, anyone?) in an affiliated groups style. They could probably work more effectively and dedicated on the promotion of such project in alignment with the Foundation than the Foundation all by itself. But this would have to come from and be supported by the relevant communities.
This is a painful and controversial issue that has been with us for a few years now. The non-Wikipedia projects fail to gain the success and the visibility (and hence, the Foundation's attention) of Wikipedia. Which is here the cause and which is the effect is a matter of personal taste. I personally think that not all non-Wikipedia projects have the same chances for success - some like Wikisource and Wikibooks are better suited for the wiki platform, whereas others like Wikinews or Wikiquote have IMHO a smaller potential for success. I certainly wouldn't want to see these projects somehow leave the foundation and go looking for other organizations to support them. Perhaps the WMF has to introduce organizational changes in its own structure to cater for these projects - perhaps a small department devoted to them.
MediaWiki is an excellent piece of software, one which I use at work in several forms. That does not mean it is perfect for every use, and it clearly does not serve projects other than Wikipedia as well as those communities would like it to. I think the "sister projects" are very valuable and that the Foundation should try to devote resources to them to help them flourish, but I cannot make promises that if elected everyone on (say) Wikispecies would get their every wish in the next year. Life is full of compromises, and though we have sided a little too often with Wikipedia before, we should keep trying to work on a path that serves all our communities
a bit of bread and butter stuff: minutes of 7 meetings (2009-2011) are missing right now. thus, it doesn't look like the current practice - regardless of approval-delays and the BGC results - meet the pretty impressive Transparency is king-lecture (noted: by wmf staff) in Berlin last march.
after all: the board has to keep accurate records of all Foundation meetings anyway, the signpost (among others) has started to mention these delays once more and we don't need a board + extras-version (properly working committees should (and in fact often do) publish reports of their activity anyway).
therefore, i would like to know: how you intend to improve this situation to ensure transparency - in time - and a sounder communicative practice of the board (regarding this aspect) in the future? thx & regards --Jan eissfeldt 01:05, 21 May 2011 (UTC)
Recent minutes are sometimes not approved until the next in-person meeting of the Board. This is often too slow, and at least a basic understanding of what transpired at a meeting is essential to transparency. We have started to publish a detailed agenda for Board meetings to address this, and should work to further speed up the resolution process.
One way to improve transparency would be to publish a minimal update to the meeting agenda immediately after each meeting, noting any explicit actions taken at the meeting. It is usually the wording of the narrative and the context for more elaborate decisions that takes some work and voting, to effectively represent the conversation -- the list of explicit actions would be no more than a few lines, and could be reviewed at each meeting as a point of final business.
Hello Jan. As board chair I take responsibility also for the work of board officers, so it is part of my responsibility to take care that the board minutes would be published in a timingly manner. This includes all board minutes since August 2010, when I took the chair's position. For the three minutes that are missing since that time. The February 22nd minutes is already approved and should already be published. I will take care that this will be done in the coming days. The March 25th and 26th minutes is currently in board approving process. The April 8th minute would be followed sometime in the next weeks. The "IRC meeting" last June and Mai was a little unfortunate. They were not IRC meetings. The board had experimented a little with Skype calls. But the connection was disastrous, so there are technical difficulties to collect the minutes. Since I took the chair's position I switched our meetings back to the IRC channel.
There are a few reasons minutes are sometimes delayed--for example, some are being held because things discussed in them need to be finalized--for example, notice of a resolution appointing certain people to a committee pending their acceptance should be held until they accept, or a resolution that we will approach some other organization regarding a partnership will be held until someone has actually sent the letter. Some are held because of disagreement about how a discussion is described that needs to be resolved. And finally, minutes are not published until approved, and sometimes the vote is left as an agenda item for the next meeting, along with other administrative tasks, and when they are voted on between meetings some of us occasionally file away the email and forget that there is a vote ongoing to approve them (I say, slightly guiltily).
(The minutes, incidentally, are taken by Sue's assistant, so that all of us may participate, and the secretary isn't left trying so hard to scrawl down notes that he does not have a chance to think of what he would like to say!)
I may imagine three main reasons for not publishing minutes: (1) nobody has enough time to do that; (2) some information from the meeting are better to stay unpublished for some time because of tactical reasons; (3) some information from the meeting are better to stay unpublished because long-term reasons.
The first reason is not a valid one. If nobody from the Board has enough time, then Board should have technical support from staff.
The second reason is valid, but missing minutes and notes from 2009 are not in that category, obviously.
Because of that, if something would be really damaging for WMF and Wikimedia movement if published (on short or long term), it would be good to have a body which would have access to all Board's minutes. It could be an informal group, like the group of chairpersons of chapters or it could be elected Supervisory Board based on some principle (let's say: 6 from the community and 4 from the chapters).
The other way for dealing with it, but not mutually exclusive with the first one, is to create position of the Information Commissioner (or a body for that), which would process requests for information from the community. For example, if Board thinks that some information is really confidential and Information Commissioner agrees with that, person which wants to know it would have to sign NDA if she or he wants to know it.
I would first like to know the exact cause of these delays. In general I agree that openness here is good, and that minutes should be published yesterday rather than tomorrow. But without knowing the reasons, I cannot suggest a solution.
I think Millosh answered the question quite well. Based on my experience with Wikimedia Israel's board, it's easy and very desirable to strive to make transparency king at all times, while the mundane reality of things is that some matters like finances and human resources are sensitive in the long term. A group of people such as the board should have some way to also, sometimes
converse non-publicly, even if the default should be for its discussions to be made fully public. It's often difficult to get people to speak honestly and candidly when everything is 100% transparent. Board meeting minutes should reflect a summary of the discussion made, not necessarily every single word said by everyone.
Having said all that, I think that the main reason for minutes not being published is that sometimes there's no scribe taking notes in real time, or anyone with enough time to turn those notes into publishable minutes. After a certain time elapses, all is forgotten about and the minutes never get published. For this, the board should have a secretary (from among the WMF staff?) not only coordinating and facilitating the board meetings, but responsible for publishing the minutes in a timely fashion.
Also, I don't think there should be some supervisory committee like Millosh suggested. Either we trust the board or not. If the board is not trusted something more drastic should be done about it. The supervisory board seems to me to imply that we don't trust the board, and to create unnecessary bureaucratic overhead and theatrical drama.
I think that there is probably a need for some staffing to support the Board itself, including in the drafting, circulating, correction and publishing of minutes, resolutions and other material. It is clearly not good enough to be so far behind in these matters, and we should urgently ensure that it at least does not get worse. For Board meetings that are from 2009, however, there is probably nothing we can now do, as the Board members' memories will not be enough to write the minutes from scratch.
Who defines project scope: project consensus or board vote?Edit
Assume a project 100% obeys US law and has an educational/artistic purpose. How should the project's scope be defined? Should the consensus of project members define the project's scope, or should scope be defined by popular vote of the ten individuals who sit on the board? (To those candidates seeking re-election who were actually sitting on the board in May '10 when this issue arose, a followup: how did you actually stand, advocate, and vote on this issue when it arose?) Alecmconroy 22:45, 23 May 2011 (UTC)
Projects are created with a certain scope through public discussion -- and at that point they are accepted as new projects by the Board. Scope should be determined by a consensus of project members, prospective members, and other interested people in a public discussion. If a project chooses to violate a fundamental principle of the projects, the Board could challenge that change -- and if a scope discussion is locking out prospective contributors (say a group with a vested interest in one sort of scope tries to exclude people who wouldn't want to contribute to a project defined in that way), then the Board should be able to ensure open participation.
But any direct intervention by the Board in project scope definition should be only as a last resort. This might happen in an emergency, or if public discussion and facilitation fails, but in the former case the urgency of any 'emergency' should be evident, and in the latter the failure of that public discussion should be clear to all.
At first for your last question to the actual board members, I made a long answer in my talk page
. I will not copy it here because it is really long. I believe that at first the projects should have a clear definition of its scope. Second that that scope should be defined by the community. And third that scope should be in accordance to our mission
. It is the obligation of the board to revoke or correct the scope if it works against or endangers our mission. It is also the duty of the board to give guidances to the projects if there are problems or dangers. A very good example of this is the BLP resolution from the board. Wrong and unreferenced BLPs impose a danger to our projects and our movement. The board issued the resolution to give the community a guidance and to emphasize the problem so that the community is aware of it. Another example is the newly issued Openness resolution. Harsch treatings of newcomers empose a danger of our projects, community and movement. The board issued the resolution to acknowledge those part of the community that had constantly worked on the openness and friendliness and give them a stronger backup.
There isn't one answer to this question. The first group to define the scope of a project are those who found it--the proposer and those who support the proposal. WMF doesn't create content projects out of nowhere; they first come from proposals by groups of people who want to build them. A successful proposal is first discussed and reshaped and then approved by the board; the board can nudge the discussion one way or another, or point out some aspect that is an absolute no.
I can only assume that you're talking about Commons here, as that's the only such decision that I can think of. I expressed some of my position on my [mailing list post]. But I'll make the issue more general: I think projects should be able to go along with the scope that was approved in its initial proposal, and to develop its own policies, except where those policies and practices conflict with the Foundation's mission and values. Where to draw that line is difficult. Most project self-govern well the vast majority of the time; it's the only way the projects survive at all. It's not because there is no oversight, but because the people who are most actively building that project share the same idea of how best to align with that mission and put it into practice, and are able to do so effectively. For anything to succeed, it must have the project communities behind it making it succeed; if the project communities aren't invested in making something happen, it doesn't happen.
The board must be able to influence policies and practices that are not aligned with Wikimedia's purpose. Usually the way the board should do this is as minimally as possible: talking about goals and philosophies rather than specific details of implementation, letting the editors themselves determine how best to achieve those goals.
In the sense of institutional protection of free speech, US stand very high. While this is true, I will appreciate the facts that WMF is US-based organization, as well as that servers are there.
Having that in mind, and having in mind that the scopes of Wikimedia projects are well defined, I see no reason for any unilateral Board action which tends to deal with content and project scopes. While I think that Board should keep integrity of Wikimedia projects, any decision not essential for infrastructure existence mustn't be made if significant portion of community disagree with it.
While there were decisions essential to infrastructure existence, there were no such situations where significant part of the community disagreed with a viable decision of any Board member. That includes the fact that Jimmy's reaction was far from essential, as well as very bitter taste of the initial nonsenses said by some of other Board members. (To be fair, they apologized a week or so after.)
To summarize this part: I can imagine the situation when Board members have to take their part of responsibility by making unpopular decisions. However, through the existence of Wikimedia Foundation such situation didn't happen. Out of emergency situations Board must not do anything against community will.
Speaking about my personal positioning related to that situation, it was very clear. When I saw that Commons community was openly thinking about abandoning Commons, I went there to support them to stay and fight against Jimmy's unreasonable actions.
I want to add one personal note here: May 2010 events were the trigger for my candidature. Last two elections (2010 elections for chapters seats and 2009 community elections) I had been candidate just up to the moment when I saw that enough good Wikimedians became candidates. Being a Board member is responsibility which doesn't fit perfectly with my personal life expectations. If elected, I know that I will have to change some of them. (I am highly involved Wikimedian and I don't need to become a Board member to fulfill my Wikimedian aspirations.) However, except Kat, I don't see any other strong candidate who has plans to guarantee integrity of the community in situations like May 2010 incident was. (Saying so, I may be wrong in relation to my perception of "strong candidate" -- elections will show am I right or not; I may be wrong about positions of other strong candidates, but I would like to see their explicit opinions before I change the last sentence.)
Many people mentioned it already, so it will not be a surprise when I state this is a tough question. The question has several sides which should be considered. First of all, in practice the community will be the biggest decision maker in the real scope of a project. The board and foundation can define whatever they want, but if the whole community decides to work on only a part of that, that is what happens.
However, it would be naive to say all this lies with the community - that would simply not be true. The way the Foundation puts its focus on a scope and how resources are being spent definitely has an influence on how a project develops. Especially when it comes to technical support. This should happen as much as possible in collaboration between the Wikimedia Foundation and the communities.
There is also the issue of the Foundation taking decisions on what is explicitly not allowed - limiting the scope of projects by force. In some situations, this is totally reasonable - you already mentioned the most important ones in your caveats: when it comes to legal compliance and the mission of the Foundation. Other reasons could include when a small community is taking a project hostage and doesn't allow others to join - this would violate important principles Wikimedia honors.
This question is phrased in such theoretical terms that it's difficult to give a real answer. Naturally the project members define its actual scope by their very work. However the board has the fiduciary and legal obligation to make sure that the projects abide by the principles of the organization, that money (and effort and time and energy) is spent in a thoughtful and responsible manner, and that the law is indeed kept.
"Community consensus" is a difficult concept when you're talking about a new project. Do you look for consensus only within the group of people that want to start the project? If so, you are likely to end up with a quite insular view of what to create. However, if you ask the whole of the movement community, many of the people commenting will be shaping a project in which they are unlikely to ever take part. I think that there is certainly a role for the Board in mediating on behalf of the wider community between these two extremes of defining what "community consensus" is, but as much as possible this should be an on-wiki, community task.
Unelected but Voting Members of the BoardEdit
Currently, some members of the board are unelected but still have a full vote on the board. If you are elected, will you support a move to an all-elected board, or do you think it's important to retain the voting-but-unelected aspect in the future? Alecmconroy 22:45, 23 May 2011 (UTC)
Having a diversity of views and experience on the Board, not limited to active community members, is important. Chapter seats can address some of this, but the process used to find our latest Trustee (Bishakha) involving a global search process and external recruiters to supplement community suggestions, filtered up many more potential Trustees. Our appointed Trustees contribute much to the Board's work.
The challenge we currently face is finding a way to regularly renew the pool of good candidates for those appointed seats, and to enable the community to help identify the best possible Trustees from the world at large. We also need a better way to ensure new blood and new ideas on the Board. Since the Nominating Committee was disbanded, we no longer have a process for identifying potential appointed Trustees, unless a missing need is identified first. (This is different from our other [s]election cycles, which identify great potential candidates each year even when the incumbents turn out to be the best.)
I support finding ways to get Board-like expertise from groups other than Trustees, starting by making our Advisory Board more effective and more engaged in Foundation decision making. And I would support having a higher % of elected Trustees on the Board -- as this year's candidate pool suggests, we have a wealth of talented and hard-working community members willing to help govern the Foundation.
The nominated board members add skills into the board that the board will not get if it is purely elected, and they add values into the board that the board will not get if it is purely elected. So I will keep the status quo.
I was part of the group that decided on the current structure, so it is perhaps natural that I still support it! I think it's valuable for us to have board members who come bringing outside expertise, and that we should continue to do so. The community elections identify people who are trusted to uphold the ideals of the project, but that group doesn't always contain the skills and expertise needed. Part of the job of the community representatives is to identify others who are able to bring useful knowledge and experience to all of the board's decisions.
(We had a Nominating Committee, made up of community members, as a required part of the process for appointing non-elected board members; they were to help identify and research candidates for these seats. The committee was ultimately not a very effective solution, but input from community members is still valued in filling these expertise seats.)
Personally, I would like to see experts from the community, organized inside of professional groups/committees to delegate expert seats inside of the Board. I think that we have diverse enough community to build expert environment within it.
At the other side, I think that expert members of the Board are and were serving well, mostly.
It should be also noted that Board requires expert seats and that it is not likely to have all needed experts elected inside of the group of 10 Board members. Our community tends to elect people with tech background (or at least with well above average tech literacy), which means that we will always have deficit of elected people from other areas. So, without any better solution, selecting expert members looks like a valid option.
If elected, I would open discussion inside of the Board to start with building professional Wikimedian groups one by one. If such groups start to function, Board would be able to replace expert seats with delegates of relevant professional groups one by one.
The size and membership of the Board is a sensitive, extensively discussed and complicated issue. I like the idea that there is a balance between different selection methods for board members. This leads ideally to a mix of skills, background and experience. A board should be more than the sum of its members.
That being said, I am not persuaded that we currently have the perfect mix. I would not be all for a total revolution and have a fully directly elected board, but an actual majority of elected board members (including the chapter selected seats) would have my support. But this would not be my first priority. I would be definitely in favor of allowing the board (and community!) to indicate missing skills and backgrounds through a nomination committee which could be mitigated through board-selected board members.
I would like however this nomination process to become more transparent. I regret the removal of the nominating committee from the bylaws
This is the kind of question you have to sit on the board to really form your opinion about. From the outside, the proportion of voting non-elected trustees seems high. Perhaps too high? Maybe, I'm not sure. As long as all board members are truly dedicated to the mission of the foundation, they can be elected by the community, by the chapters, or recruited for their expertise - the exact proportion is really something negotiable and I think the importance of that proportion might be exaggerated for no good reason.
I think that as much as possible the Board should be drawn from the movement community - whether as an editor, a member of a Chapter, a developer, or one of the many other ways in which people can be a part of our work. However, ultimately the Board needs some very specific skills in finance, law, cross-cultural working, and management of charities, and just having staff advising on this isn't enough. Appointing a minority of the Board based on their skills is a good way of achieving this balance between being a core part of the movement acting in the community's name, and making sure that the Board is able to undertake its duties.
I think the approach of "bringing specialist to the Board" is reasonable when talking about small organizations. Since the Board has at its disposal a full staff of specialists to ask for advice, I don't see the need of "Board appointed Board members". I will propose to reduce the number of non elected members changing the current proportion of members of the Board.
Accepting Bitcoin donationsEdit
Are you in favor of the Wikimedia Foundation accepting monetary donations in the form of Bitcoins? --Cyde Weys 21:01, 26 May 2011 (UTC)
This is too specific to be a Board decision, but I see no reason why we would not allow Bitcoin donations. –SJ talk
03:54, 27 May 2011 (UTC)
No. As a board member it is my duty to take care that the Foundation works and works good. It is my duty to take care that the Foundation avoid any unnecessary risks, especially those that has nothing to do with our mission. Bitcoins is not official, it has inherent failures of risks and it is totally unnecessary for us to take part in such experiments. So, a definitive and clear No.
In general, this sort of thing isn't a decision the board would make; it's up to the staff, who handle most of the fundraising operations. (We don't generally accept donations of commodities below a given minimum value because of the work involved in handling them.) Bitcoin is interesting in that many of its supporters are also among the people most likely to want to support Wikimedia, so it may be worth making a special request that the staff look into it. (Out of curiosity I asked someone at FSF, which already takes Bitcoin, if it had been any trouble; it was mostly simple, but a few issues came up that may present barriers--acknowledging contributions for tax purposes is difficult, for example. Many similar decisions that seem simple actually come with many more practical considerations than are visible on the surface; payment processing is definitely one of these!)
Yes. Because we should and because we can. Bitcoins are money guaranteed by Internet users and we should support such initiatives. As EFF feels comfortable to accept bitcoin donations, I see no reason why WMF wouldn't feel comfortable, too. (Note, as of 2011-06-02 EFF doesn't accept donations in bitcoins
. If there are serious legal issues behind their decision, I think that we should follow them.)
I do not feel this is a question that should be answered on a board level. The board could set criteria which should be evaluated, but the staff should, in communication with the community, make the decision which methods to use exactly. Criteria could include how secure they are, how solid their actual value is (as in services that can be rendered from them) and how big the potential is (are there many people willing to donate/pay such electronic currency, or would the effort required to set up the reception outweigh the advantages).
As long as these bitcoins can be easily converted into a currency we can use for our expenses at a (very) reasonable fee, I don't see any particular problem. However, what would we gain from it? I still don't see how the gains will be bigger than the bother.
I am neither against nor in favour of donations in any particular form, including Bitcoin, donations in kind, and other forms, as long as the Foundation can use them usefully. The role of the Board in this question would be to review whether this is a sensible financial choice for the Foundation to make, but the original decision is the role of the staff of the Foundation, not the Board.
More chapters at the same territory?Edit
Do you agree with the possibility of being two or more chapters at the same territory? Which advantages or problems do you think that could have? How would you solve an hypothetical ovelap between chapters? --Millars 16:35, 28 May 2011 (UTC)
We should recognize the work of as many affiliated groups as we can. We should also build a global culture of collaboration - so if there are multiple groups working in the same country or region, they should be expected to work together, and not to detract from one another's efforts. (For an example of what an unfriendly overlap of region/mission can look like in practice, see the history of w:Smile Train
and Operation Smile.)
So we should be flexible in finding better ways to recognize active groups as the number of groups grows and as we start to have multiple groups working next to one another. I'd like to see us start investing more energy in recognizing groups that aren't bound to geography at all, but are defined by a shared focus: the Partnership Organizations recommended as a new model
by the Movement Roles group. I support the formation of multiple chapters in a single country, as we have today with Wikimedia Hong Kong and Wikimedia Macau, or in the case of Wikimedia NYC and a potential future Wikimedia DC. And I suspect we will need to find a way to have national entities in countries that already have multiple regional chapters. Whether we call all of these groups Chapters or some other name, we should be sure to give all of them the tools they need to be successful in supporting the work of our movement.
When I joined the board three years ago our policy is that in one territory there should be only one chapter. The reason for this policy is to avoid chapters compete with each other for resources. With our current chapters funding agreement, by which every chapter can get share from our annual fundraiser as far as they meet certain criterias the problem of resource competition would only be bigger, as soon as we have chapters with overlapping territories. The current board want us to be more open, to all kind of organizations, this is also the reason for setting up the Movement Roles Workgroup. But this also means that we will have to distribute our resources in another way. This is a very complicated process with not only the Foundation and the chapters involved. And it is certainly not something that the board can alone decide or work out. As the workgroup is still working on all these issues, I would like to encourage everyone to actively take part in their discussion.
I don't think that two geography-based chapters should cover the same area unless one is a "parent" of the others--for example, I could see a "Wikimedia USA" forming mainly to coordinate the activities of chapters based in US states or regions. The idea of chapters and what they do is closely enough tied to being based in a specific place that I think it would create confusion to have two overlap. (How would fundraising be split up? Who should manage relationships with local institutions?) I do think that other groups could form that are based around things other than borders, but the relationship would be different; for offline activities they should coordinate with the chapter based in that geographical area, if one existed. (For example, a Welsh-language association and Wikimedia UK talking between themselves and agreeing on how to work with a class in a Welsh language school.)
Most importantly, this question is for discussion between chapters and WMF, as the number of Wikimedians organized inside of chapters has become significant enough.
That issue has been already partially addressed inside of the Movement roles initiative. The New group models addresses needs of various Wikimedian groups which wouldn’t get chapter-level recognition under current rules.
At the other side, my personal opinion is that we should care about three issues: (1) number of Wikimedians organized inside of particular organization; (2) representation of smaller cultures and (3) cooperation between Wikimedia entities.
So, hypothetically, if we have two organizations which cover Tokyo metro area, which cooperates regularly between themselves, I see no reason not to recognize both. Both organizations have potential to have more members than some of our smaller chapters. (That includes [Wikimedia] Serbia, which has a bit more than half of Tokyo inhabitants. However, Tokyo is completely urbanized, with much better transport and much better Internet penetration.)
At the other side, chapters from small countries have to have their own voice for matters which they care, no matter how many Wikimedian organizations exist in larger countries.
By my opinion, except necessity of cooperation and representation of small populations, everything else should be left on initiatives of particular Wikimedian groups. I don’t think that we should stop them from being formally incorporated into Wikimedia movement.
I am all for involving as many people in Wikimedia as possible, and offering people the model they feel most comfortable with. However, for chapters we have clear definitions, and geographical scope is one of them - overlap would not be very helpful in executing their tasks and mainly lead to lots of confusion to non-Wikimedians. I would much rather see us leaving the path of only working through chapters, and also offer explicitely other models to enable volunteers to help Wikimedia fulfilling its mission. So in this hypothetical situation, the national organization would probably be the chapter, and the other one (trans- or subnational) would be a "group" of Wikimedians which we still have to find a descriptive name for.
I answered elsewhere on these question pages that I'm in favor of accepting as many affiliated groups as we can, in diverse formats and organized along different themes, either geographical or not (Organization of Geologists on Wikipedia?). I'm not enamored with the one formal chapter representing one political country principle. It doesn't always make sense, and there's also no clear 1:1 mapping with projects in many many cases. If other groups want to organize themselves differently for whatever reasons, I think we should embrace that. Sure, there's lots of potential for overlap, controversy and misunderstandings which we'll have to sort out. But in most situations, for most co-operations and activities, only one of the groups potentially involved will be really enthusiastic while the others remain passive. This will solve at least those cases. And all we should really care about is enthusiasm and people on the ground doing cool stuff, not titles, territories, turf wars and formalities.
In a limited sense, yes - I think that a federal model of chapters would be a good one for some situations. This would involve a number of chapters that don't overlap in the same country or area (like the EU or Middle East) with a "top level" representative body. In some cases this top-level body might be a real chapter, with members, tax-exempt status, etc. (e.g. a Wikimedia United States), in others it might just represent the interests of a group of chapters and be mostly a name for lobbying (e.g. a Wikimedia Europe).
I also think that it would be great to have formally-recognised non-geographic community groups, like "Association of Blind Wikimedians", who could work together, lobby the Foundation and the wider movement community on their interests (e.g. special needs from the MediaWiki software, or looking to set up a new project). However, in my mind these bodies would not be formal organisations with money-raising aims, but instead more informal, wiki-like community groups for people to help each other.
However, I do not think that two chapters should compete with each other, trying to do the same things in the same territory. So, in answer to your question, no: I think the potential problems are too large. For example, we would be competing with ourselves for attention, as well as every other non-profit and online group, which means wasted effort. If two overlapping chapters get into a disagreement (e.g. over whether to engage with another charity) it wouldn't serve the community, the movement, or our readers/etc. well, which should always be our first thought. If we end up having federal chapters, we will need to make sure that there are strong and agreed boundaries for how each organisation works so that we do not run into these problems.
Stateless languages chapters / EsperantoEdit
Are you in favor of minorized or stateless languages Chapters, e.g. an Occitan, Catalan, Breton, Esperanto or Welsh Chapter?
What do you think of having Esperanto serve as lingua franca in the WMF in order to avoid the hegemony of a big and statal language which happens to be identified for good or worse with some countries and cultures?
--Lembeye 13:29, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
Recognizing groups that support minor or stateless languages is a good idea, and important to our mission. They can often gather support and membership from people who would not be interested in working with a geographically-defined group.
That's why I have pushed for the recognition of Partner Organizations supporting our movement, in a particular language or culture. A formally incorporated Wikimedia Esperanto group would be excellent to see, as the Esperantists were among the first active Wikipedians. They could help raise questions about lingua francas similar to yours above. However, I don't think that anything but a major living language would work as a lingua franca for the Foundation.
Instead I think we should move towards having a small set of core languages, in which all business is conducted. It will slightly increase the cost of communication -- as any change in our lingua franca must -- but it will increase rather than decrease the number of people who natively speak a "language of the Foundation".
As to the first question, I think my answer to the last question above fit also here and I will not repeat it here again. What I think is important is really that everyone who is interested in this topic actively take part in the work of the workgroup. As to the second question, it is simply a question of how doable it is to introduce Esperanto as a lingua franca in Wikimedia movement. Is it doable to force hundreds or thousands of people to at first master Esperanto before they are allowed to take part in discussions on Meta or on Foundation-l? I said in my candidate statement that for me I would search solutions in a pragmatic (and thus unideological) and most possibly simple way. It doesn't looks like a simple solution with Esperanto, so no support from me.
There are two reasons for organization of language/cultural based Wikimedia organization: (1) better ‘‘territorial’’ organizational potentials than country-level organization and (2) representation of particular language and culture.
In the first case, I am in favor of creating Wikimedia chapters (however, cf. my answer on previous question: it should be discussed within chapters, first).
In the second case, it is better to organize “partner organization” as defined inside of the New group models. The point is simple: a lot of members of smaller cultures are now scattered through their countries or even throughout the world (like Roma people are). The best way to represent themselves is to create a national or international organization which would cooperate with relevant chapters and WMF.
Lingua franca emerges as a product of complex social relations at regional and/or international level. English is lingua franca of the contemporary world and it is not possible to change that fact by decree. If it matters to you, it is likely that in ~20 years we won’t need lingua franca anymore, as machine translators will be much more useful.
Similarly to my statement the question above, I am all for enabling the Esperantean Wikimedians to do their work as effective as possible. I am however unsure if "chapters" are the right model for that, considering the lack of geographical scope. I could (depending on purpose, participation, viability and resources) support such a group as a non-chapter group, within a similar model as described before. But lets not create confusion in terminology and call it a 'chapter'. The same goes for other stateless languages.
As for the lingua franca question, which is a totally different one, I think we should consider which of the languages enables most people to participate. In my experience, this would be English, but I am open for suggestions supported by research to alter that opinion.
Yes, see what I answered in the previous question - I related to such other forms of chapters or affiliated groups there. As for Esperanto, it's a noble idea but totally impractical as long as English is well known by many and Esperanto is well known by very few.
I've already touched on this in my candidate statement and other answers, but yes, I think we should have Associations that cover people wherever they are, alongside the Chapters. I note BTW that Wikimedia UK already covers Welsh-languages speakers there (the vast majority), if all they want is a Chapter - but of course, that's the point, it's the focussed Association that people want and which I think we should grant them.
In which way you think, can you help to realize gender justice in wikipedia projects and support participation of women as authors also in the wikipedia projects? Belladonna2 12:45, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
The current participation of women on the projects is quite low, compared to some globally popular and participatory sites. A few things we should do to address this:
- Actively recruit from knowledge-gathering communities that are predominantly female. Librarians and teachers (especially grade-school and high-school teachers), in most parts of the world, fit the bill.
- Find community leaders elsewhere online who have tackled this issue successfully -- since we are not alone -- and invite them to spend a few months working with our communities to find better solutions for ourselves. (the leaders of quora and metafilter come to mind.)
- Improve the friendliness of our communities. Enforce "no personal attacks" and "be nice to newbies" as essential standards of our communities. Find ways to honor people who maintain a friendly environment, the way we do people who keep out spammers and vandals (whom we honor as admins).
- In particular, do not allow insulting gendered comments on the projects. While I can't recall seeing such comments made towards men, I have certainly seen them made towards women. Many women I know refuse to admit their gender on the projects because of that minority of contributors who are actively hostile towards women.
I answered a similar question from Gerard a few days ago, here is my answer: Well, I have no THE solution for this problem. Personally I believe on a constant and small evolution, which means that everyone of us should work on this. Let's say every 10 current active Wikimedian start to recruit one female volunteer to join us, then we will have an increase of our gender ballance by let's say 10%. But that means that everyone of us must work on this. I cannot command other people and say hey do this. What I can do is do it myself. Maybe I can recruit one this year, that would be ok, maybe two, that would be good, and maybe three, that would be marvellous. And I hope that there will be people follow this example.
I think the main way to encourage more women to participate is to become more welcoming to everyone. The active editing community is a little different in several ways from the general population—a little nerdier, a little more more stubborn, a little more thick-skinned, a little more comfortable with complicated interfaces—and it seems true that a larger proportion of men than women meet the personality profile of the people currently contributing. But I don't want to focus on gender specifically, as I think that is focusing on the wrong problem and will find the wrong solutions. Instead of wondering how to be welcoming to women in particular—which is a little bit alienating to those women who are already here and who already feel welcome; aren't we women too?—how do we reach all of the people who don't feel that Wikimedia projects are welcoming to them by being more inclusive of different working and interacting styles?
This is one of the problems of our community about which I was talking years ago. In 2007 I made a small research
, including a couple of interviews with female Wikimedians. Results were obvious: Our editor culture is hostile and women usually hesitate to participate in conflicts. At the other side, we have much better percentage of women in organizational structures. While it is problem to find a female editor, it is not a problem to find a female organizer of some event, not even a female chair of a chapter.
Conclusions are obvious, too. Yes, there are methods how to increase women participation in Wikimedia projects. One is a long-term, the other could be implemented quickly (let’s say, in one year we could have different picture).
The long term method is working on transformation of projects into more welcoming place.
The short term method is systemic work on involving more women in organizational issue and other non-editing tasks inside of the movement.
While that’s the most serious unequal representation globally, we have numerous similar problems of that type. The second most visible is extremely low representation of African American population: ~12% of US population, ~20% of IT workforce, ~25% of US Twitter users, but no one on Wikimania (less than, let’s say, 2%; if we say that there were ~50 Americans).
Because of that, we have to actively search for patterns common in underrepresentation cases, as well as for generalized and particular methods for increasing participation of underrepresented groups.
This is a serious problem but no easy solutions exist. I personally think both our cumbersome technology and the community practices are at blame. The solutions that come to mind are what other people suggested - improve the community atmosphere, recruit editors from well-targeted groups, discuss and bring this issue to the front. There's a whole mailing list devoted to it, and still I haven't seen any surprise solutions. Like with other under-represented demographic groups, we need to be realistic on what could be judged as success. Women are absent in many places on the net, we alone cannot completely revert this broad trend.
I don't think that there is a perfect solution to this - if there was, I hope we would have found it by now. However, I think the atmosphere on the projects, where despite our focus on community we can be quite combative (especially for new users), the very complex "help" documentation on some projects that just highlights how many policies there are to learn, the relatively high technical barriers to entry, and the lack of software support for more social aspects of use (following each others' activity, for example) all play a role, and are things that I know the Foundation is already looking at addressing. Clearly this is and should remain a priority - trying to attract lots of new editors without fixing the problems that drive them away is not a good use of our time, and we certainly need to address the imbalances in our community.
Wiki markup is hard to learn for the uninitiated, talk pages are poorly organized compared to modern internet forums, and features like MathML have been in testing for literally years without any substantial progress. Surely the board don't do programming, but you oversee the development, right? So do you/how do you plan to accelerate technical development of software related to Wiki projects? --Netheril96 04:55, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
I see this as the top priority for the Foundation in the coming year. (Whereas making our projects more welcoming to new contributors is more of a priority for the Projects and current community.)
Along with making more regular releases, and getting some advice here from Papa Ward
, we should start giving out more technical grants and recognition to small projects implementing great ideas. And we should open up the process of doing large-scale testing, so that developers who care about MathML (for instance) can help verify when it is ready for wider implementation. I believe that the Wikimedia Labs project lined up for later this year aims to address these issues.
I am myself a software developer by profession and I often compare the software development as done by the tech department of the WMF with my daily job. At first I want to say that as a developer of the WMF you will face challenges that you will not face in a company. At first you have no defined customer. The feedback you get from the users is very diverse, it can range from applaus to cursations. In most companies who develop software as a consumer good the developers themselves are shielded away by the different layers of supports so that they themselves wouldn't directly get the feedback, but only a distilled feedback. By WMF you get that everyday you open the mailing list. Because of this our tech staff tend to work very carefully and cautiously. Let's take the usability project. The actuall result of the development was far more than what was deployed on our projects because of various objections. And the initial reaction even on those features that was deployed (which is really not much) was not nice (although with the time there are a change in attitude, so the initial reation may be too one sided). This is one side of the story where I understand why our development tend to be so slow and cautious. The other side is what I said in the question about the internal challenge. I believe that we have still a lot of potential to improve ourselves and to make ourselves more efficient. The Usability Project was the first dedicated software development project the WMF ever did, and so there are certainly a lot of things went wrong, or from which we could learn. But slowly, we are in year two after our first project now, we should have gain experience and do things more and more professional. We should slowly have a routined rollout regime fro example. For example the board just approved and published the Controversial Content resolution. And in this resolution is also a request of new software features. And I think that the Foundation should gain the experience on how to develop such a feature, how to test it, communicate it to the community and finally roleout it. These are things were we can improve ourselves.
We do not oversee development directly enough to give a direct answer to that question! The WMF budget is allocated based on the goals outlined in the strategic plan. Currently, increasing participation is a major goal, and so technical spending toward initiatives that will help with that is a priority; WMF is seeking to hire more developers to work on features that will make for a better user experience for new users, as well as people who can be better liaisons between the staff development team and the volunteers working on MediaWiki. Several of these projects haven't been in the core technology focus, so they've been left to progress slowly while other things got the bulk of the available resources; we hope that adding more resources will allow more of these projects to get active attention.
Yes, good editing experience is one of the crucial things in attracting new editors, which we need desperately. Back to 2007, I was trying to encourage adoption of WYSIWYG editor by patching MediaWiki
to be able to use FCKEditor.
According to my knowledge, sensible WYSIWYG implementation is possible just after creation of new Parser and Brion is finally working on it.
While I have no data to make precise conclusion about the reasons why we still need this, although WMF has enough money for that for years, I would repeat my position that it is obviously that priorities would be different if we have at least an autonomous body which cares about MediaWiki development. Building one big centralized organization is the right way to disaster -- sooner or later --, as well as programmers should be fully responsible for MediaWiki development. WMF is not managing MediaWiki development well and it is not because WMF has bad managers, but because much more organizational power is needed to keep focus on very different goals, like MediaWiki development is compared to expanding Wikimedia network globally.
At a recent talk I gave at Google R&D department in Tel Aviv, some people suggested Google's help with tackling some of our bigger challenges. So bringing in free existing or not-yet-existing 3rd party solutions (not necessarily Google's!) could speed things up. I think we should concentrate on in house development of just a few big projects. The most important ones would probably be the WYSIWYG editor and a phpBB-(bulletin board)-like talk page. Perhaps liquid threads is mature enough.
This is something that I think is vital to the movement, and something the Board can have more direct influence over than other concerns like community attitude (which are also very important). As someone with a technical background I would hope to get more involved in way that the Technical Department interacts with the wider movement. We seem to have moved from a "deploy early, deploy often" agile methodology we used to have to a much slower waterfall method, and I don't think that the community had much opportunity to discuss whether this was a good idea - it may make stability better, but certainly makes new features much slower to come online, if ever. On the first of your questions, there is some really exciting work led by Brion Vibber on a new parser that may lead to a much easier editing experience with w:WYSIWYG
editors and less technical demands on our users, and I would hope to get involved in promoting that work and making sure it's a success.
How big is our mission?Edit
Suppose a future project wants to collect "every existing photograph that was taken in the year 1890". Barring concerns of legality or resource-use, is this goal philosophically consistent with the WMF's mission and scope? Alecmconroy 06:33, 1 June 2011 (UTC) The year 1890 was chosen arbitrarily, to avoid copyright or BLP issues
I will try to frame this question with two examples and then answer it as of my personal opinion. The first example is a landfill. Both in the developped world as well as in the developping world landfill is a huge problem. In the developped world people produce so much waste that we don't know where to go with all of them. In the developping country landfills can be a vast environmental and health problem. But ask an archaeologist. A landfill from an ancient city is an unvaluable treasure for him. Every bit of waste he found there will be documented and carefully collected and curated. And every bit of waste can tell him something about the life of the region and epoche. So every bit of landfill can turn out to be valuable, at some circumstances. The other example is the data generated by the modern scientific instruments like the LHC or the Cassini probe. If LHC is running it produces so many data per second that no one, not even the most powerful computing network would be able to analyse them all in detail. So what people do is that an automatical software will go and filter out the most "trivial" results. One every million datasets is considered to be valuable enough to be processed further. From these selected data there are further sophisticated evaluation processes so that from the billions of collisions that LHC had produced hetherto there are maybe a dozen that were actually used for publications. The two examples are for me the two extreme aspects of this question: Everything, even waste, can be valuable, and if the data quantity is too big, the scientific society used to filter those out, which is considered as "not remarkable, trivial", to keep the processable quantities in a manageable way. I would advocate for the "Doctrine of Mean": I think if come to this, we should work out a set of metrics to determine if a photograph is notable enough. The threshold of notability can be set very low, but it should limite the collected images in a manageable ways. If you want it digital, my answer is a denial of such a project as you proposed in the frame of WMF. But I think the idea is valuable enough for us to pick up some of it and integrate it into our projects.
On the long run, I see no reason why such project wouldn't be accepted if there are people who are interested in it and if we have enough resources. If we are willing to keep live community around Wikimedia projects, we have to find new tasks for us.
While it couldn't be said that Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia) would be finished ever -- as there will be always new events, new discoveries, new important people etc. -- we are about to finish the core of encyclopedia, at least in the case of the English language edition. That's one of the reasons for lowering number of editors.
At the other side, we need to gather the ideas and prioritize them. Some of the ideas could and should be implemented now, some should wait for some time, some others should wait longer. But, that doesn't mean that we should wait for another five years to get one more content project.
I'm not sure if it's really the board's task to ultimately decide on this, but a few criteria to help us choose: is there any cultural gain in doing so? Is there a community of editors/volunteers who find it important? Is it technically feasible? How will it help humanity and spread knowledge? To answer your specific example, I find it a bit absurd and of rather limited value.
New projects like this are clearly more a question for the community than the Board. That said, I think the important criteria are captured a bit in Proposals for new projects
- you need a solid idea, a community behind it, and it needs to fit with our overall goals of adding to the access to educational and useful information for people. I'm not sure that a mere photography library in itself (without a core reason around which to cohere) would meet these tests - especially on the community front.