Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Board's blog post - September

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This note reflects my personal opinion and might not represent the view of the entire board :)

I am a volunteer. I volunteer for something incredibly special, something that 30 years from now people will either say “That was quite something, whatever happened?” or they will say “I cannot believe it started in such a simple way, and has grown to become a worldwide resource, free for everyone."

Truth is, we are at a crossroads, and unfortunately have been for quite some time. Blaming each other for being there does not make much sense, as it would probably result in us spending more time at that crossroads. If you want me to take part of the blame, I will.

Other internet projects (not limiting ourselves to websites) are passing us by left and right, and none of them have the non-profit goals that we have. In fact, some of them, with more commercial propositions, are actively undermining us.

When we started our search for a new Executive Director, we set out to find someone with a strong executive product background and solid hands-on experience. After years of building up the organization from scratch, Sue made it clear that we needed an expertise different from her own in order to take us all to the next level.

We found Lila, and she is exactly what we need: someone to look at our special thing with a different view. We are unique in many ways, but not unique enough to ignore basic trends and global developments in how people use the internet and seek knowledge. We have to get better at software development, roll-out, and user adoption. And Lila is helping us do exactly that. (a discussion on process ideas has been started here: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Community_Engagement_(Product)/Process_ideas )

But at the same time, change works both ways. There is no point in getting better at the development of software if the roll-out of these new features is going to be partial.

We talk often about “the community” (although in reality we have a lot of different communities, with different characteristics). One thing is clear to me: we need to grow that community - not just in numbers, but also in maturity in welcoming newcomers, accepting change (sometimes for the sake of others), dealing with non-productive discussions, and quickly scaling successful new initiatives.

On Wikimedia-l and in some other places I hear a lot from the few and the angry. There is an argument I hear a lot: “We are the community, without us the projects would be nothing. We are the ones who got us here.” That is true, to a degree. But at the same time… we don’t want to be here…. We want to be much further along the road.

We want to attract new editors. They don’t have to become heavy editors, they could even contribute once in a while, as long as we get lots of them. We have to make it easy enough for anyone to contribute so that people once again feel that “anyone can edit.”

We want to have our information everywhere. Not just on your browser, or integrated in your operating system and phone (as they are now), but everywhere. While 500 million readers a month may sound like a lot, it’s a fraction of whom we need to reach.

We need to move faster than ever before. This means we need to be tolerant of things we may not like and let experimentation happen. We also need to remove things we are attached to that don’t have wide adoption.

We need to act as one community, not 1,000. This means we cannot enact the wishes of a few hundred, but have to build processes that support the successes of millions.

All of this is going to require change, change that might not be acceptable to some of you. I hope that all of you will be a part of this next step in our evolution. But I understand that if you decide to take a wiki-break, that might be the way things have to be. Even so, you have to let the Foundation do its work and allow us all to take that next step when needed. I can only hope that your break is temporary, and that you will return when the time is right.

There is one thing will never change, and that is our commitment to providing free knowledge to everyone in the world. And while software development is a part of this, we have a lot of areas in which we also need to make progress -- and these are the areas where we look to you to take the lead. I am looking forward to working with you, the individual volunteers, and all our movement organizations in order to grow our successes.

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