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Candidate's statement: I've seen the project take off, and have been involved in it (and Usenet, and various other community-based projects) for many years. Reading several of the meeting notes, I believe I can contribute to the kinds of discussions involved in management of the project.

Ideas:

  • Establish an endowment for the foundation to provide a financial cushion from fundraising efforts
  • Seek out sources of funding that don't require us to fundamentally change our no-advertisements, open nature
  • The board should continue to be conservative in official day-to-day action on the wiki, reluctant to act except when it is necessary for the good of the project
  • Be skeptical about accepting new recurring costs and "hard" infrastructure without a strong justification, in order to make certain that the project remains solvent, noncorrupt, and flexible
  • Explore ways to present the data we have so far in more formats than the web (e.g. TTS, mobile devices, etc), for the benefit of humanity
  • Take great care to avoid risks that may place the project in legal jeopardy
  • Continue efforts to reunify Encyclopedia Libre and the Spanish Wikipedia, as well as encourage/establish outreaches for projects in different languages, to work more closely with other language Wikis to try to prevent similar problems, ensure legal compliance, and share ideas on policy

Any questions you might have are welcome below (feel free to use the question template provided in the HTML)


Question 1Edit

  • Question: What do you do in real lifeTM?
  • Answer: I am a systems administrator and also do MRI-based psychology research at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Discussion and further comments...:

Question 2Edit

  • Question: What personal/professional experience would you bring to the board, if elected?
  • Answer: I've worked in the technology sector, as a programmer and sysadmin, for my entire professional career (and considerably before, in other jobs). As a seasoned programmer (who's written their own wiki) and systems administrator (who at one point managed a set of systems implementing a site with millions of hits a day), I understand all the technology issues involved in running Wikipedia. Working in academia, I know a bit about how grants work and how to apply for them, and while I'm not a lawyer, I may have absorbed a bit of awareness of legal issues from dating someone who was in law school and from having a number of lawyers in my family (incl my father). This obviously would not suggest that I would be reluctant to consult a lawyer on these issues -- quite the opposite. As a Usenet moderator, former head of some support groups at NoWonder (Linux and OS/2 teams), and having been involved in the Mozilla project (among other things, I wrote the original Mozilla Project FAQ and was involved in other parts of community-building activities -- you'll find me listed in about:credits in Mozilla/Firefox), I have long experience with the internet and opensource community.
  • Discussion and further comments...:

Question 2.1Edit

Why is it that you never participated to MediaWiki ? Do you know the developers ?

  • I've worked a bit on the mediawiki sources and guts in local installs for my workplace and volunteer projects I've been involved with. I appreciate how modifiable it is, and have done some local mods, but I am reluctant to get too involved in development, or become an actual developer, because I don't like PHP very much. I am not in close contact with any mediawiki developers. --Improv 02:42, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Question 3Edit

  • Question: What do you see as the role of a board member?
  • Answer: The board has two roles. The primary role is to manage corporate/financial (external) matters of the Wikimedia Foundation (and thus Wikipedia). The secondary role is to deal with any internal issues that should require the attention of the board, from managing/approving volunteers for sensitive tasks to acting as oversight as needed for decisionmaking power originally devolved from Jimbo's role.
  • Discussion and further comments...:

Question 4Edit

  • Question: Do you have any personal aspirations you would like to pursue through a tenure on the board?
  • Answer: There are plenty of "it would be cool" kinds of things, such as pushing forward with efforts to make available data from Wikipedia in interesting new ways. I don't presently know how feasable my ideas would be, or if there are already people working on them, so I'd probably want to settle into the role of a board member before I would want to commit to anything.
  • Discussion and further comments...:


Question 6Edit

  • Question: Could you explain your views on the GFDL, Free/Open Source Software, and the association of both with the Wikimedia Foundation and it's projects?
  • Answer: It is unfortunate that the plethora of licenses exists (or indeed that people would claim ownership of ideas), but as that is a legal reality for our society, we must deal with it. The GFDL (and its cousins) aim to provide us a breathing space much like if information were not considered ownable, and is thus good for the world. Free/Opensource software provides users with programs available with roughly the same intent. Free/Opensource software should be strongly preferred by the project, because it keeps essential freedoms for projects of our sort (such as the right to fork) and because it prevents reliance on closed (burdened-license) software to use content. Producing open content is the largest social goal of the project, and this should be more broadly interpreted than simply making it available through means connected to the Foundation. Mediawiki, integrated software, and the databases it talks to should be, barring a very good reason otherwise, based on software that is in alignment with the Free/Opensource community, for these reasons.
  • Discussion and further comments...:

Question 7Edit

  • Question: How could an endowment be funded? Any endowment worth setting up would have to be fairly substantial, and wouldn't it be more productive to plow this money into machines, bandwidth and software now rather than a hypothetical later, assuming there is even a later?
  • Answer: It could be earmarked in donations. When I first brought the idea up with JWales on IRC some time back, I said I'd put $1000 for such a fund, when it's established. That still holds, and we might find some financial sources being more interested in donating towards an endowment than towards day-to-day, because in the long run, endowments lead to safety. I think we have to think long-term for the foundation.

Question 7.1Edit

  • Question: So just donations? You aren't considering advertisements at all? While we are on the topic, what are your views regarding the Wikimedia Foundation and policy regarding advertisements on Wikimedia Foundation-sponsored projects?
  • Answer: I personally believe advertisements are harmful to society, and, more importantly, they're considered repugnant by the wikipedia (and by extension, foundation projects) community. I don't believe they should have a place in our community.
  • Further comments:

Question 7.2Edit

  • Question: You said that you would "seek out sources of funding that don't require us to fundamentally change our no-advertisements, open nature" what sources are you refering to?
  • Answer: This is a two-part statement, first that we should reject sources of funding that endanger our principles (or, less ideally, guard our interactions with them in order to protect those principles, being sure never to become dependent on them to the extent that they could use withdrawl as leverage to push us), and second, that we should find ways to improve our efficiency in finding new (appropriate) funding sources. If I recall correctly, Danny mentioned that we're not doing all we can (due to lack of personnel) to get all the funding sources we might. Hiring or otherwise finding people to aid the Grants committee in that task is a priority. I believe that an endowment fund, as mentioned earlier, will be an eventual necessity along these lines, given that the foundation's projects are beginning to achieve a prominence that they will begin to attract those that would profit from (and in many cases distract) the work of the community.

Somewhat related, I sometimes wonder if it's a problem for the right to fork, something philosophically important to the community, that the foundation has grown so large. The right to fork was recently highly visible in the Linux world when the XFree86 group was replaced by what is now the X.org group due to licensing changes. While I don't believe such changes are presently likely with the foundation, it is important that we strive both for the easiest time for those who would want to try to fork (providing frequent, high-quality dumps) and that we take great care who we deal with, financially and otherwise, in order to minimise the chances that such a divide would ever be necessary, because with the infrastructure and naming issues involved, the cost of forking is incredibly high despite our open licenses and the project is too important (especially at the breadth/depth/quality we've built towards over the years) for us to treat issues like losing our vision lightly. --Improv 23:14, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Question 8Edit

  • Question. -- Jeandré, 2006-08-05t10:24z
  • Question included: When Angela resigned, she wrote that "the collaborative consensus-based nature Wikimedia had before the start of this year continues to deteriorate and it's no longer an environment I can work effectively in." I'd appreciate the candidates thoughts on how the board can return to a being more collaborative and consensus-based. -- Jeandré, 2006-08-05t10:19z
  • Answer: I don't have enough context to know what Angela was talking about there. I believe a certain amount of central control makes sense, and that a certain amount of consensus-based control makes sense, depending on the circumstances. I believe that wikipedia still has the "stone soup" mentality at heart where it counts, and that that's important to keep. Without more context, it'd be hard to comment further.
  • Discussion and further comments...:

Chapter/boardEdit

What do you think of the relationship ? Do you see the relation as a federation type or a branch type ? (without or with legal ties). Do you think that chapters should have an authorization to use brand name and logo for deals (such as a DVD publishing) or should the Foundation handle this from a legal perspective ? What is your position in term of membership (should the Foundation have members or not ?). Anthere

PS: would you mind discussing these topics on meta with all editors rather than on the english wikipedia only ?

RePS : have you ever discussed Foundation matter with board members other than Jimbo ?

  1. I am concerned about liability and what legally constitutes a local presence, and from what I understand, having chapters being as legally independent as possible limits the likelihood of the foundation being liable for them or for them being liable for the foundation. When it comes to the logo, this may also tie into how real that separation is -- I'd want to consult a lawyer on this to minimise legal risk in all directions. I believe the foundation should establish public guidelines on logo use and conditionally publically grant usage for narrow uses (e.g. saying "based on wikipedia" with logo included nonprominently"), requiring consultation/permission for anything outside of those constraints. People should feel comfortable using community data (and the community name) in circumstances where it clearly won't result in problems for us, and consultation would dissuade a lot of cool stuff. It may take a bit of work to iron out the conditions of public usage though.
  2. As for membership, it depends on what membership means -- if we're talking about the kind of membership that everyone on any project will expect/want to be in on, that's unnecessary and will probably hurt the community, especially if payment for membership is involved. If we're talking about a more limited term to indicate involvement in foundation affairs, that might be acceptable, although the term "member" is probably a poor choice in that case, and I'm not certain what the point is in formal designation. I'm open to discussion on this point, but for now I don't see any positive purpose membership would serve, and I see a lot of negatives.
  3. I've made another board questions page for meta, as per your suggestion Done. Hopefully this won't bother people too much who lack Meta accounts.
  4. I've talked a little bit with Danny and others at the conference and at a past meetup. I attended the presentations at Wikimania on the foundation, but don't know as much as I'd like to at this point. That's something I imagine I'd familiarise myself with quickly if I were elected though. Being 28 and having served on committees at various jobs I've had (and in academia), I'm no stranger to the kinds of things that happen there, from power struggles to productive collaboration. I consider myself a cynic, pragmatic idealist, in that I'm not so rosy-eyed to think that people cease to be human, for better and for worse, when they're in situations of power and conflict. I'm pragmatic in that I won't stick with ideals when they don't work (although I'll try to stay close to them, and won't give them up without really good reason), and I'm idealistic in that I believe there are important philosophical goals and principles at stake, and that these need careful tending to prevent them from falling prey to self-interest, foreign influences, or too much spirit of gravity. With this degree of openness and the traditions of our project, the foundation is entering new ground in institutional governance. Continuing that without giving up either open fluidity or failing to excess idealism is a challenge for the foundation that I would want to take part in. I've also started reading the foundation-l list in the last few days.
    1. The question was "with other board members than Jimbo". I can not say the answer "with Danny and others" is really much what should be expected. Sigh. That calls another question. What do you think a board member position is in front of Jimbo ? And essentially, how do you perceive your own involvment in the Foundation ?
      • I feel the answer was a bit better than a simple "no", at least for the spirit of the question, but it is true that I am not much of an insider on foundation issues at the present. I am striving to change this with my following of issues on the public list, and am willing to dig in further to the extent needed to be effective. With regards to Jimbo, I trust his judgement on community-guiding/defining (within-project) issues, but have little knowledge at this point on the more business-related issues that the board faces. I have considerable respect for him, but I would always use my own judgement as part of the board -- on foundation issues I would not be shy to disagree or discuss/argue issues with him if I disagreed and I felt it was important. It's important to weigh his long involvement with the project accordingly, but board members must have the ability to disagree when appropriate.

Composition of the boardEdit

What is your opinion on how the board should be constituted ? Do you think it should exclusively be composed of editors of our projects ? If so, rather elected or appointed ? Do you think we should have some people external to our community ? In those listed in the past two months on Foundation -l, can you list those you think would be great board members and those who might reveal dangerous for our dream ? Do you have names to suggest for board expansion ?

  • I feel that the primary concern for the board is to find people who share our vision fully and are unlikely to divert the project for other purposes, and that in the large scale, so long as members are willing to put in the work and share that vision, and that things are proceeding in a satisfactory way, we will have succeeded, whether by appointment or by election. That said, I am somewhat skeptical of having people who are not active, long-term editors on the board, and extremely skeptical of giving board seats to those who provide large donations. I am concerned that the foundation will eventually come to a corporate mentality, and believe we should actively strive against that. As for people listed in the past two months on Foundation-l, are you talking about people posting there, or people who are discussed in some fashion? I alternatively could discuss the others running in this election if desired (I am always honest but diplomatic -- I would hopefully not offend anyone by doing so if that's what you're asking me to do). I don't fully understand the first part of the question, although I'm keen to answer it if you can clarify it. As for board expansion, I am unsure if the current size or composition of the board is leading to difficulty -- there has been criticism that there is too little discussion of proposals recently, but I'm not in a position to judge that, not being privy to the private lists/wiki. If true, it's a problem, and restoring good discussion should be a priority. If, once I knew the situation, expansion seems to make sense, then adding another one or two members might make sense. As for names, If I were elected, I would suggest (no offense meant to others not mentioned) that Oscar would make an excellent appointment to the board given his background and experience.

CopyrightEdit

Do you think the Foundation should be a publisher ? If not, do you think it should control what is publish, through the authorization (or not) of use of our brands ? Do you know of one project currently trying to be edited and in conflict with the Foundation on that matter ?

  • Branding is not that important -- the content is quite valuable regardless of branding. That said, we have a uniquely deep understanding of our content and the processes that go into it, and until stable versions are done, it might be more difficult for a third party that's not also part of the community to publish based off of community data. Publishing is a good idea and should happen widely -- provided legal issues are handled with care, I don't see why the foundation shouldn't make arrangements to publish. I believe that we should probably not do things such as grant exclusive use of our brand to publish in any given language to a third party (exclusive licenses are bad for society), and I'm inclined to think that things like "based on Wikipedia" should not be considered taboo when other groups (or user groups) publish community content as well, provided it is not done in a confusing way. As I understand, the German Wikipedia has published one of their snapshots as part of a community project. I don't know if this has caused conflict with the foundation.

MoneyEdit

What should be the business plan of the Foundation ? How would you suggest it earns money ?

  • The foundation is similar in some ways to a university -- it should not be a profit-seeking entity in its own right, nor should it be thinking too much beyond sustainability and growth for new projects. We should be careful with expenses, continue to accept donations as needed, and seek more lasting ways to provide what we need, financially, to continue. I believe we need to establish an endowment and find ways to grow it up to a level that can support us and give us more leeway in what we financially get involved in.

Threat and forcesEdit

Can you cite 3 forces of the Foundation ? Can you cite the main 3 threats for our projects as of today ?

  • I presume you're asking my opinion of the three greatest strengths of the community and the three largest threats facing it. I believe the the greatest strengths we have are
    1. The enormous diversity we have in our editors, which helps us with the wide variety of tasks and foci the individual projects have, and provides the foundation content and people willing to get involved
    2. A mission that appeals to donors and volunteers, because it's clearly so important and helpful for humanity
    3. Traditions of openness that tie to the opensource community and related movements
  • I believe the greatest threats we see are
    1. Growth of a corporate (non-ideals-based) mentality in doing what must be done in managing business affairs
    2. Lawsuit. Any significant downtime for the project due to an injunction or similar would be devastating, and a lost lawsuit could be financially crippling
    3. Chaos caused if anything should happen to Jimbo. Right now the board and the individual projects depend a lot on Jimbo as a focus and spokesperson.

VisionEdit

Can you cite the current three main projects/agreements/priorities of the board ?

If you had to decide which are the 5 most important tasks for the board to accomplish in the time of your term, which ones would they be ? (be practical)

Anthere

  • I understand that Wikiversity is a current major project, that the bylaws and board-related business practices are presently under review, and that determining the degree of centrality on Jimbo are all presently issues that are floating around.

As of right now, only three tasks come to mind:

  1. Establish an endowment fund
  2. For all major projects, ask for an emissary to the board, retrieving information as needed for the board, reporting on interactions with relevant national laws, and translating (or arranging translation) issues the board must handle to the language most commonly used by the board
  3. Better define its role and aims

Question to candidate: EthicsEdit

Hello Improv,

A question for you.

In a recent wikiEN-I en posting (8/19/2006), Jimmy Wales wrote:

"Most of us do care passionately about the ethics of what we are doing, and how it affects people. Indeed, for most of us, it is part of the very fabric of the reasons we participate. We are human beings, trying to do something good, not automatons puking out soulless "content" [...] we are good, we are ethical, we are trying to produce something important in

the world that matters to the world, and we want to do it the right way."

  1. Are you in agreement with that statement?
  2. If you do, what would you do as a board member to bring that understanding to life in our project?

≈ jossi ≈ 01:39, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

I agree with the statement (although I would probably not phrase it quite that way -- "we are good" is a bit too saccharine for me) -- it looks much like the content of some things I've written here and elsewhere. I don't think the board has a great effect on this though -- apart from not poisoning the communities it provides for (by providing the enabling technology, namely the servers), it has a pretty small role in guiding the culture of the wikis on which all of this is important. We should, of course, be wary of poisoning the communities, and take care to keep our ideals the primary guide for our behaviour at the foundation level, but there is little more active that the board can do to advance this end on Wikipedia. Jimbo has a number of different roles he takes, including that of board member, PR Face, project founder, and occasionally en autocrat. That statement is, as I understand it, primarily a philosophical observation from the project founder. My perspectives are apparent through browsing my contribution history as well as blog posts. --Improv 04:20, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

Questions from DijxtraEdit

Hello, these are generic questions I decided to submit to every candidate. If you already answered the question in your application, skip it. If you consider any question to be to private for you to answer, feel free to state that and accept my apology for being to intrusive. I also ask you to pardon my English since spellcheckers don't check grammar :-) Here are the questions:

1. Privacy policy of Wikimedia Foundation projects states that: "It is the policy of Wikimedia that personally identifiable data collected in the server logs, or through records in the database via the CheckUser feature, may be released by the system administrators or users with CheckUser access, in the following situations: 1. In response to a valid subpoena or other compulsory request from law enforcement" If such subpoena occurs, would you agree that Wikimedia Foundation complies ASAP or would you request Foundation to dispute that subpoena in court, like Google did in January this year? Let me remind you that the second option requires money to be spent.

2. What is your opinion of WP:OFFICE? Do you think that:

  • It is very good solution to bureaucratisation of Wikipedia, allowing a swift action in cases which need such action. We should widen the circle of people who have the power to use WP:OFFICE.
  • It is very good solution to bureaucratisation of Wikipedia, allowing a swift action in cases which need such action. (And only Danny should use WP:OFFICE privilege)
  • I don't like the thing, but we need it so we don't get sued.
  • Community is above any user and we should think of WP:OFFICE as temporary measure until we find a way for the whole community to act swiftly in cases of libel accusations.
  • We should move our servers to jurisdiction which makes it hard for people to sue us for libel.

3. Have you ever been on a paylist of anybody/any organization/any firm connected to any current member of the board? Please understand this question in the broadest sense possible.

Thank you for your time, Dijxtra 20:27, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Answers:

  1. I generally would prefer to talk to a lawyer about even theoretical issues like this before answering on what foundation policy should be with regards to law. If disputing the subpoena puts the foundation in significant legal risk, I would prefer not to fight subpoenas, and with users who have few or no positive edits, I would similarly hope not to waste any time/effort on things of that sort. For normal cases, I'd want to talk to a lawyer about degrees of cost and likely frequency of these sorts of issues. If the foundation ends up with a legal presence in other countries where the consequences may be quite severe for political expression (e.g. China), I would be more inclined to fight subpoena than otherwise, but again, it all depends on advice we get from legal counsel.
  2. As for WP:OFFICE, I don't see it as being an evil. Occasionally experienced admins stick their neck out and bypass process when things get ridiculous. When enough fuss happens in these cases, broader discussion is often warranted (or at least a good, polite-but-firm explanation). WP:OFFICE deals with an even harsher reality than doing what's best for the project -- what'll keep us on the right side of the law (and related concerns). Provided the person or people doing the job do so correctly, there's no issue. I've met Danny a few times, and he seems like a good, trustworthy guy to me who's generally level-headed. Because of how WP:OFFICE works, we might not see some of what he does (e.g. usage of oversight). This is a bit dangerous -- while Danny's a good guy, if the wrong people were appointed to his post, it could be very bad for the encyclopedia. I would prefer all oversight actions be visible to *some* other group of people, perhaps with a legal relationship with the foundation (I'm kind of steering this question to be more about oversight than WP:OFFICE, hopefully that's kosher), at the very least all board members and perhaps also a "review committee". Back strictly to WP:OFFICE, I worry that its scope may tend to overapplication, e.g. if someone is very upset about matters that are nontheless factual. It does come down to trust, and mechanisms that help build it. I have the first, but I see none of the second.
  3. I have never been, to my knowledge, connected to any current board member through any means financial. Because some people are interested in this kind of thing anyway, you may see my resumé here.

US chapterEdit

Hi Improv, what do you think of the function of a chapter? Do you think it would be good or bad to set up a US-chapter or part-of-the-US-chapter (like Pennsylvania-chapter, or Eastcoast-chapter) Effeietsanders 13:46, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

  • I see no harm in having chapters at whatever scope makes sense (in the sense of having meetings at a frequency that attracts people). This might even make sense for some cities that are particularly geeky. The most important limiting factor, as I see it, is the frequency of people who can organise such things. Chapters put users in touch and organise them for various purposes, be it social gatherings or something more. I would note though that Pennsylvania itself is probably not a great chapter size, because PA is kind of empty in the middle -- I don't think too many Pittsburghers would want to drive to Philly or vice versa with any frequency, and with the distances and effort involved in arranging such a thing, it would make sense to pull in a few surrounding areas outside of PA that would be equidistant from wherever the meetings would take place. Chapters in general are a good (or at least neutral) thing. --Improv 17:10, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
But whatdo you think of the *function* of a chapter? What are chapters doing atm in your view, what should they be doing? You talk only about meetups. That is not really what i am care about :) So please, could you explain that a little bit more in depth? Effeietsanders 17:47, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
A chapter can be about anything the members want it to be about, from organising meetups, discussion of issues, getting local media to run stories, possibly even to write new software or play with hardware to provide access to Wikipedia/Wiktionary/etc data. To me, chapter is a very open-ended term, with very little additional content than "group". Does it mean something different to you? If so, we can talk about it if you let me know what you have in mind. --Improv 19:30, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

9/11 WikipediaEdit

Hi, Improv. In light of the four discussions listed below, what course of action would you take with regard to the 9/11 Wikipedia if you were elected to the board?

Looking forward to your response. Thanks. Andreyi 17:36, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

My inclination would be to push for its closure, because it falls outside of the scope of the Wikimedia project as I understand it, and in my opinion it should never have been created under our umbrella. Moving it to Wikia or some other locale may be ok -- the dumps should probably be available for a good amount of time to facilitate that. --Improv 02:27, 14 September 2006 (UTC)