Values/2016 discussion/Transcripts/J

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1 == preliminaries ==
2 3: What happens to the values not included in the final set? Why four or five?
3 F: In addition to getting clarity on the values, it’s also about recalibration.
4 N: We’re only discussing the values, not the guiding principles. Another reason for having discussions is also to reconnect with the values themselves
5 1: Fun historical fact: when we first decided on our vision statement, the last part of our vision “that’s our commitment” was discussed along with “that’s what we’re doing”. I like having that bit of separation there in the frame.
6 3: Transparency: check on power; easier access to information, or even access at all
7 1: People need not to have obstacles in their way, and transparency is a way to enable that
8 3: transparency also enables agency; it makes it more of an “us” thing, rather than “the folks in San Francisco”
9 1: now I really want a Wikipedia t-shirt that says “it’s an ‘us’ thing”
10 2: it increases our potential to be an inclusive organization and movement. If anybody has access to the inner workings of the organization, then even people who aren’t necessarily in a privileged circle have access. They’re on a more equal footing.
11 3: the implicit invitation in the fact that it’s out there
12 2: when we throw up additional barriers (e.g. 20 levels of policy before you figure out how to use the template to edit your talk page, etc.) that goes against transparency.
13 If we’re putting up roadblocks, there’s there for a reason, and maybe we need to investigate why. Keeping an eye out when these things break down and see what we can improve.
14 F: “shadow side of transparency”. At some point it starts working against itself.
15 3: We’re a discursive culture; our movement is based on discourse. By having a lot of public and available discussions, that itself embodies something about us. We can and sometimes do dig them up and say “we did this, we said this”. Sometimes this is used as a weapon, but it’s usually a good thing. It helps us know where we came from.
16 2: reminds me of the more general issue of “the law”. Law is so complicated that we have 1000s of years of accumulated cruft, so much that we have lawyers assigned to you when you get into a legal dispute. Crazy thought, maybe sometimes we need a wiki defender’s office. Do we need specialists? Is it a problem that we do?
17 3: dark side of that: this climate of radical transparency and public transparency, and never forgetting wiki, is one where certain types of personality flourish, and others don’t. This does create an atmosphere not comfortable for some people, and maybe we need to address that. It challenges inclusivity and participation in that regard. Another issue is negative feedback on what you’ve shared transparently. Not everyone flourishes on negative feedback. Has turned some of our leadership into recluse. Anything you say can and sometimes will be used against you. Decreases engagement. It requires a lot of discipline to engage.
18 == your three values ==
19 === 1 ===
20 * Collaboration -- People work together to build things -- we should concentrate on making sure that people are able to do so effectively, and that communications between people are productive and aim towards working/building things. It’s ideal that when people interact, they don’t conflict except where it will produce better materials (reflecting actual conflicts in ideas in documentation of ideas, for instance!)
21 1: We’ve always been in a collaborative environment. It’s how we do things. But communication between people is the primary medium for: getting stuff done, not getting stuff done, and deterioration into conflict. Ties in with things like inclusivity. High-energy conversations (e.g. foundation-l) can be a huge turnoff. Kicking people off doesn’t solve the problem. People shouldn’t be horrible to each other: it’s nice, and it creates a more productive environment.
22 1: It’s important, when we construct environment, to think about how people are going to communicate in them. We monitor the servers to check if loads are too high and are going to catch fire; we also need to monitor communities to make sure they don’t catch fire. When building products (e.g. Flow etC.) we need to be careful about how people are going to feel when they get in there, whether they’re going to get the support the need. Its super important to keep in mind. We’re about collaboration, and yet we know that there are all those pain points that people have to face.
23 F: Duty, responsibility to monitor the health of our community
24 1: As the people providing the space for people to collaborate, it’s our responsibility to make sure it’s  a healthy place
25 3: +1. Problem: very few people dare to go there, to touch that issue. Part of it is prejudice (that’s content, community governance, taboo for the foundation); I think that’s not true; we’re not just providing the technology; communities may need help in research, in seeing the effect of policies. This is sometimes too formidable a task for volunteers to take on. Our communities respond well to facts and data. It doesn’t have to be a mad power grab. We can help the communities help themselves to address such issues.
26 * Service -- WMF works (with others) to build tools for people to work together to build things: we concentrate on multipliers / agency / tools / whatever has to be made to make other things possible. Leads to us concentrating on some areas while leaving other work to the broader community. Means that prioritization of work should have at least some relation to what people want/need to work with.
27 1: Important to remember that we’re not building the end goal. We’re building the tools and space to enable people to do that. “We” the WMf aren’t the same as “We” the community building stuff. When we’re making decisions about leadership, and how we do things, we always need to take that into account. Similar to “servant-leadership”
28 3: Great talk that Yuvi gave in Berkeley: how our principles led to the creation of tools he was demonstrating: Quarry and PAWS
29 He shows how our values lead to the need of tools like Quarry. And how we learned emergent things from doing that, e.g. the need to fork queries, and now people who don’t know SQL can run queries for their (small) wiki by just changing a few things. Likewise for PAWS, just getting to the point where you can contribute on MediaWiki is difficult. Democratizing programming. Beautiful demonstration of our values in action. Speaks to participation, inclusion, service. And now we’re enabling tons of community innovation.
30 1: service, agency, more building,
31 3: and then turtles all the way up
32 * Incrementalism (comprehensiveness & eventualism) -- Large total work space, we expect to tackle it bit by bit… but aim towards comprehensiveness in the end. Flip side: can’t do everything at once. In combination with other values, means it’s important to provide support (service) for other people to (collaboratively) work on (participate in) things that aren’t super-prioritized in the core. Requires small investments in many things as well as large investments in some things.
33 1: Two conflicting ideas: we want to cover EVERYTHING. Not “a slice of human knowledge”, but ALL of it, for EVERYONE. We’re not going to have it in another 15 years, there’ll always be new stuff to add (new info, not well covered, different media types, etc.). In cobination with the other issues of wanting to provide a service that provides agency to do stuff, we need to look at this issue of comprehensiveness. In addition to the “big things” we’re working on, there are also 1000s of things we’re working on. Lots of things that need attention. But once you’ve done that, you’ve enabled agency for someone to do something. The actual details can wait until later; what’s important for us as a service provider is to provide the tools to do that. We want people to have enough support that they can go in and work on stuff. Example: language incubator, sign language; it’s wonky but it works. Sometimes it’s the technical support, other times it’s “here’s how you put your community together”. It’s great when we can say “here are the tools you need to go work”.
34 1: Notion that where we know tools are missing, we need to make a little work to make sure work can happen. Service culture. It’s not necessary for us to do something, but it’s necessary for something to happen. Example: grant system.
35 F: recognizing the enormity of what we’re trying to achieve, and the best way to approach that is to enable others to help us achieve that.
36 3: +1. The most bang for the buck. E.g. batch upload: we encouraged people (EU chapters) to work on this, but then we dragged our feet when came the time to do the little work we needed to do to deploy etc.
37 1: Tool labs, etc. Requires less of centralized time. Gadgets and user scripts: the less centralization is required to make something happen, the more likely it is that it’ll actually happen. The more we can leverage people’s ability to do niche things
38 3: (obligatory links: 1. "Is Wikipedia Done?" -- ; 2. All Human Knowledge -- )
39 === 2 ===
40 Inclusivity - always consider how to bring the widest possible set of stakeholders and perspectives into any decision-making process; consider the impacts of decisions on the widest possible set of people; acknowledge that our mission explicitly acknowledges that all of humanity are not just our potential audience, but also our potential collaborators.
41 2: Trying to push my own thinking about inclusivity in our movement. Radical and utopian mission statement. Worldwide collaboration in the creation of knowledge artifacts that are available, and potentially contributed by, every single human being. There is no “they” in there. How is that reflected in our processes? Who could potentially be affected? There’s no real useful or true boundary to our community if we respect our mission statement.
42 2: It’s not just about the WMF being inclusive. The WMF also needs to push back against other stakeholders in our movement who want to do things that would result in a decrease in inclusivity.
43 F: utopian aspect of all-inclusiveness; and also conscientiousness: it forces us to think about potential impact of our actions on a group so large.
44 1: I connected with the notion of “there is no “them””. Humans tend to think in terms of us vs them terms.
45 N:
46 3: our values imply many ventures outside our comfort zone. Being inclusive means e.g. to find a way for the visually impaired to contribute, and dyslexic people, and people with degrees of mental illness. And including more of the world’s knowledge than what is verifiable using Western “reliable sources”. Or that notability criteria rely on Western sources. And I’m not even talking about oral knowledge (different epistemologies). There is a lot of work ahead of us, and it is included in inclusivity.
47 F: honor the richness of the human condition, and its diversity.
48 Stewardship (yes, I know this is a guiding principle): our primary purpose and responsibility is to protect, grow, and disseminate our shared cultural heritage. Before we are creators, leaders, champions, or innovators, we are stewards.
49 2: How the foundation decides what to work on. New opportunity to think of ourselves as stewards before anything else. Before we’re a company, a “thought leader” in free culture, etc., we’re stewards of these knowledge resources. That is and should be our primary role. Any of our decisions should be considered from the POV of our stewardship of those resources.
50 F: A sense of duty?
51 2: Specify the duties we need to fulfill in order to be good stewards. If we start from that point, it puts us on a reasonable path. We didn’t write the encyclopedia, but we need to make sure we don’t screw it up, and we should be doing things to ensure its success.
52 2: I’ve always thought of the Wikimedia Foundation as a service organization that is there to support the community in creating good stuff. Related issues: looking at everything else through that lens changes how we look at shared power, agency, priorities, how we work on things, etc.
53 2: (paraphrased) I’m great at my job, but sometimes I feel that the best use of my time is to support other people at the foundation because they do amazing things.
54 Determination - both in the sense of a willingness to come to and commit to decisions (“firmness of purpose”), and in how those decisions are arrived at (“the process of establishing something exactly, based on research”)
55 2: We have a lot of half measures at the foundation. There are a lot of good reasons for that, but it comes out making me feel like we lack a bit of backbone. We also tend to make decisions and pursue things for reasons that aren’t always clear and that aren’t always well determined. It’s important for us to always think about the decision process, and how we determined what to do. How we assess the state of something, and how we decide to act on it.
56 F: Clarity? A way to achieve clarity, and a clarity of purpose.
57 N: intellectual honesty
58 2: I’m always impressed at the brilliance, and creativity of the people in this organization. And at the same time that doesn’t always bubble up through the decisions that we make as an organization.
59 3: +1
60 === 3 ===
61 ; shared power
62 : the Foundation was created by a community of volunteers, to serve and represent it on matters suitable for a formal organization.  As such, the role it should play is that of a servant-leader, always serving the community that created it.  This does not mean blindly fulfilling every request from the community; appropriate triage, balancing, and prioritization are necessary for efficient and accountable use of resources.  WMF should also help the community see more clearly things the community may be myopic about (e.g. the needs and interests of people outside the community, such as readers and prospective partners).  But it must avoid the bureaucratic trap of becoming more invested in its own existence and perpetuation than in the best interests of the movement.  Sharing power is key to accomplishing this, i.e. to checking the organization's natural centripetal momentum.
63 There’s an opposing force; all organizations self-perpetuate and aggregate power. This is natural but we need to combat that, and one way to do that is to share power. It also accomplishes agency; genuine collaboration (not just publishing with a “comment period”). Truly sharing power means truly relinquishing power over the outcome. Truly embracing the fact that we are partners. Of course some things are not appropriate to share power.
64 F: Curious about agency
65 3: talking about agency by community members. When you genuinely share power, you are inviting people to co-own the outcome and the process. Here are the parameters of the thing we’re planning, or the problem we’re solving, and this group is empowered to make a proposal, or a decision, within those parameters. For example, the FDc is a good example of sharing power. Even though they don’t ‘’decide’’, they write a formal recommendation to the board, and so far the board has always approved those recommendations. It’s an example of us doing the right thing. We decoupled fundraising from funds dissemination, and we provided a shared-power way to do funds dissemination. We’ve done that in several occasions.
66 3: Agency itself has benefits; you become more engaged, there’s more stewardship, more socialization.
67 Double thumbs up from 1.
68 ; accountability
69 : demonstrating outcomes and results of decisions and planning is key to justifying the continued allocation of resources (not just funds, but volunteer time and trust).  Communicating publicly, often, and straightforwardly (including about obstacles, late deliveries, etc.) is a key element of full accountability.
70 3: when we’re not accountable, we lose volunteer time and trust. One aspect that we’re routinely failing at is communicating what, why, etc. we’ve done things. Why we’ve done it, what are the next steps, etc. There are good examples of this at the WMF, we should all be doing it like this.
71 F: a way to establish and maintain trust?
72 3: the more accountable you show yourself to be, the more you share power, and you reduce mistrust and scrutiny. Self-reinforcing . Trust is a movement- or org-wide resource. When one team “spends” trust, it affects us all. Trust is a shared resource.
73 2: One area where we fail a lot : we don’t publicly communicate and acknowledge failure very well, or at all. It’s hard. I wouldn’t like to be the one doing it, but that kind of honest communication is critical. If you don’t do it, you do more damage than if you had ripped the band-aid off.
74 ; transparency
75 : see notes above
76 == why are those good things? do they enable other good things? are they intrinsically good? ==
77 F: Why is it so important to provide service and to enable others?
78 3: We do peer production, peer collaboration. The Foundation is a central piece in this peer network. The justification for a central piece in a network is that ir offers additional value that others cannot. We need to do things that enable other peers. Use our heft to solve the problems that individual peers and initiatives don’t tend to do. And also, beyond the ethical considerations, in practical terms: the biggest ROI for us is enabling others. Almost immeasurable to introduce something like Quarry, or gadget. The amount of innovation and added value.
79 F: ethical and moral aspects?
80 3: Trust. They promote and justify trust, and trust is absolutely essential for us. The reason we succeed where others (e.g. Knol) fail, is that the community did feel agency, the “us” thing.
81 F: Valuing the community. Why is it valuable?
82 3: It’s the first source of value. The reason we’re here is the peer production done by this community. It’s literally the reason any of this has value. Volunteer work that precedes and exceeds the foundation.
83 == feedback on the session ==
84 2: Happy and motivated to hear we have this vision of the important of service.
85 1: +1. Felt a great agreement here, great to hear. I hope a lot of people have also thought deeply about this. I hope we can find ways to make sure these core value that we’re thinking about are driving the decisions that we make.
86 3: Using these will be the key. I wasn’t surprised by anything I heard, but I was delighted to share these thoughts with you all. I also got some practice in articulating these thoughts (not just my own) and that was valuable. It’s a privilege to work with you folks.
87 3: +1. Thank you for your service
88 3: Also appreciate the facilitation and the scribe