Wikimedia Chapters Association/Meetings/2013-32



The future of WCA projects. How can we perpetuate them?


  • P building, floor "3", room PQ304. Polytechnic University, Hongkong.
  1. Opening by the Chair and welcome to new members
  2. A personal statement by the Deputy Chair on Failure
  3. Announcement of the Chair
  4. Mission questions
  5. Activities to support chapters and exchange knowledge
  6. Finding a new name
  7. Closing


there will be no dial in this time


On the telecon
  1. WMxx Signature
On Etherpad
  1. WMxx Signature





Rough version of minutes on Etherpad, just after the session

WCA Council meeting @ Wikimania Hongkong Council members, please sit in the front rows :) Please help us take notes on the etherpad:


  • Welcome
  • A personal statement by the Deputy Chair about the Failure of the WCA (Ziko)
  • Statement by Wikimedia France (Pierre-Selim)
  • Statement by Chair (Markus)
  • Discussions

Council Members attending (14)

  • WMAT: Manuel Schneider
  • WMAU: Charles Gregory
  • WMCH: Charles Andres
  • WMDE: Markus Glaser
  • WMEE: Raul Veede
  • WMFR: Pierre-Selim Huard
  • WMHK: Rover Wong (substituting Deryck Chan)
  • WMIT: Lorenzo Losa
  • WMIL: Itzik Edri
  • WMNL: Ziko van Dijk
  • WMPL: Michał Buczyński
  • WMUA: Andriy Bondarenko
  • WMUS-DC: Kirill Lokshin
  • WMZA: David Richfield


  • WMCZ: Marek Blahuš
  • WMSK (not yet chapter): Matej Grochal
  • WMF: Asaf Bartov
  • WMPH: Eugene Villar
  • AffCom: Bence Damokos
  • WMTW: Ted Chien, Liang-Chih ShangKuan
  • AffCom and WMPH: Josh Lim
  • WMNL Ad Huikeshoven
  • WMPL: Tomasz Ganicz (President)





WCA Council meeting: formal part of org. seminar. In tradition of meetings where WCA matters are discussed and decisions are reached. Some interesting developments since yesterday. Presentation of the agenda. Please leave discussion points (i.e. not questions of understanding) until end.

Statement by deputy chair


State of the council Statement is written: can be pasted later. True.

Statement by WMFR


(14h38) Christophe: WMFR is leaving the WCA. WMFR considers the current structure untenable. Too few people get involved in it, it will not ___??? Instead, WMFR will support volunteers in individual worthwhile efforts for the benefit of the movement. Calls on other chapters to leave the WCA and support volunteers directly. WMFR says it wants to support directly people wanting to support on the international basis and the structure.

Statement by Chair


Markus does not see how he can lead the WCA to success in its current state.

Statement Deputy Chair


Dear friends of free knowledge, I would like to make a personal statement. I apologize in advance, usually I do not write and read my speeches, but this one is difficult for me.

It is more than one full year ago that our WCA has been established in Washington, and that Fae (Ashley van Haeften) and I have been chosen Council Chair and Deputy Chair. We all dreamt of a powerful association, with resources to support the chapters, and Council Members serving as a transmission belt collecting the thougths and emotions of our entire movement. But look around now - measured by our reasonable expectations, our investment in time and energy has proven to be a genuine failure.

I would like to tell you a story about Johnny. Johnny does not exist, he is a fictional Council Member. I don't say that all Council Members are like Johnny, or that most of them always behaved like Johnny. Though, tragically, Johnny's story is also the very story of the WCA. It began in the weeks after the meeting in Berlin, April 2012. I had talked in Tomer Ashur to become the leader of a committee to set up the new Association. Tomer, the chair of Wikimedia Israel, is one of the finest Wikimedians I have ever met, but when he came and asked me to take over one task, writing the standing orders, I had to say sorry. Sorry, Tomer, but I am already the chair of Wikimedia Nederland and probably won't have time for this task. It turned out that everybody let him down.

Then in Washington, July 2012, the Council elected Ashley and me. Still, the Association needed a secretary-general for the executive position. Tomer volunteered, and so did two other fine people. But to Johnny, Tomer and the others were just not good enough. Tomer, he said, accomplished nothing, and the two others Johnny talked about as if they were the most stupid and most evil persons in world history.

Then, the Council in Washington came up with an ambitious plan and schedule to establish the Association soon as a legal body and hire a secretary-general. Two committees were established to support Fae, the Council Chair. Who, by the way, has never candidated to do so, but his love for the chapters made him accept the challenge.

Fae had to understand soon that he could not expect any help from those committees, and arranged a great proposal to gather resources from the chapters (mostly the big chapters). Why establishing a new legal body, if for example his British chapter could let us use its bank account? (In the WMF grant process, this is nowadys called a 'fiscal sponsor', by the way.) Also, the WCA does not have to hire somebody itself - a chapter can do that.

When the Council in October voted on Fae's proposal, suddenly Johnny raised his voice in contempt and voted "no". Didn't the Council decide otherwise in Washington? And can we trust the big chapters at all? Why not simply establish the WCA as a legal body as planned, it just takes a couple of days. Obviously, Johnny had no idea about establishing a legal body, and, of course, Johnny created with his "no" a lot of work for others, not for himself.

Then, in February 2013, the WMF board of trustees ultimately lost faith in the WCA. It announced that it will not give money for a WCA employee; instead, the WCA should show some useful practical work, not waste its time with discussions on legal framework.

Johnny, who by the way has always hated the WMF, suddenly cried out: What a great idea, the WCA should indeed have done that long ago. Not politics, but hard work will make a difference for the chapters.

At that time, I had already together with Fae scheduled a WCA meeting in London, which proved to be especially useful right then. Some Council members, and two WMF board members, invested their time to talk some things out and set up new initiatives: the WCA Action teams.

By now, you have already figured out what Johnny kept doing: behave like a submarine. Staying invisible most of the time, then resurface, fire a torpedo, and dive again.

In the board of Wikimedia Nederland, we earlier discussed about the future of the WCA. Aren't we flogging a dead horse? Won't the chapters remain in this vicious circle? Who will support the supporters?

In July the Council Members nearly unanimously voted to introduce substitutes, to allow someone else represent a chapter in a meeting. For me, this answered the questions the Dutch board provided me with. Substitutes at meetings meant even less commitment, even less continuity. How nice for Johnny who already went to the Wikimedia Conference without attending the WCA meeting.

Please explain this to me: who should take the WCA serious, if even Johnny doesn't? Those questions kept coming to me.

I don't want to go on with my fictional Johnny, but let me use him for a final summary:

  1. Johnny does not elect volunteers from outside the Council, like Tomer, as he thinks little of them.
  2. The big chapters, those with the resources, want to dominate the movement and cannot be trusted, says Johnny.
  3. Johnny does not contribute to make the WMF believing in the potential of the WCA.

So tell me, where is the power for the WCA supposed to come from?

I don't want to end this speech in the same bitterness with which I started writing it on Wednesday's early morning. Of course, when you are pointing with your finger at others, three fingers of the same hand point to yourself.

Without claiming to be a practising Christian, I allow myself to read for you a quote from the Bible. "Feeding the multitude", Luke 9, 12-17.

Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. [English Standard Version]

Friends of free knowledge, I already used this quote two years ago in my anniversary speech for Dutch Wikipedia, as it tells us the power of sharing. The man from Nazareth didn't want to say that the five thousand people didn't like the fishburgers. He meant: Give, and it will be given to you, and you shall have a fine Wikimania.

Thank you very much.

Announcement by Chair


Markus & Ziko resign from being chair and deputy chair. They see no future in it. Effective now. What is important is that Markus took the task as chair because he believes that chapters need a space to work together. Even if we don't have the structure, please think in the ongoing discussion on how to preserve the projects and the people who were involved (e.g. chapter peer review). Technically not leading any more, but will continue to moderate unless otherwise requested.

Open for discussion


Charles: proposes to remove the charter of the WCA. Keep the organisation but without the bureaucracy.

Christophe: Stepping back exactly for this reason: Discussion was regarding removing the charter. Will now leave the room, leave WCA to continue. Manuel's question was? Michał: What chance do we have that people will get involved and do anything if we scrap WCA? Haven't seen anyone getting things done. WMFR's proposal?

Christophe: WCA was there to secure resources, but WMF letter ensured that WCA would not get resources. We need resources and staff, so WMFR will find a way to provide resources, and asks that chapters that can do it, do the same.

Manuel: We don't need the WCA as an institution. This is what we discussed in London: we understood that we spent too much time on bureaucracy: asked now "what is the WCA?" Don't need a bank account or a secretary, because we have the resources to do it. Why is this not already being done?

Charles: There is a way between. WCA was not listening to other people. London, they said they will reconcentrate, but ?? just want to get rid of that. Just remove all that. (clarify please whoever understood better)

Osmar: Don't see the point of keeping WCA as an institution: chapters are already linked. WMArgentina is already working on projects with other chapters, so if we are already linked, why have a WCA?

Kirill: The programs we are running now are good, but association with the WCA is negative, so rather dissolve the WCA and continue the programs. Gabriel (WMCH) believe in the necessity of an international organisation. Wanted to go to London, couldn't. The current charter doesn't work for an international org. Good idea to scrap the charter; get things going. Then rewrite the charter in a way that is more appropriate. We are a federation of national organisations, and the charter should reflect this. Keep the organisation with a more loose and flexible framework. Charles (AU): Proposal to treat WCA as "user group"

Gabriel: WMCH proposing infrastructure like web servers to others. If we have WCA which provides a certain security for services provided by another charter - probably better? Josh Lim (WMPH): Not member of WCA. Could we use the Iberocoop model as a model for WCA? Representatives of chapters in Iberocoop work well despite their model which is more flexible than WCA. The idea that chapters should come together is very important: we're fighting over whether the model works while we could be doing more important things. As an observer,, should we throw it out? Tomasz Ganicz (WMPL): If we are about to get rid of the current WCA, Go back a few steps back and put on the paper what WCA should do and what people with what resources should deliver. If we have no resources as a group of chapters, then WCA has no reason for existance. Without an exact definition of our goals, the WCA has no reason to exist. The foundation has stopped the process, because there was a request for salaries for people whose function was not clear. We need to come back and define it clearly. WMCH will continue working what they are doing right now supporting chapters. And they will leave too if the WCA will be discussing its goals.

Osmar: don't know whether Iberocoop model will work in future, but has worked till this moment: we have focused on programs. Will now have to discuss whether we need a charter or an organisation.

Ziko: Heard the word "bureaucracy". What bureaucracy? There was a charter with a very flexible structure, that was never the problem. The charter was heavily influenced by Sebastian Moleski, by the way, another great Wikimedian to whom the whole movement owes a lot. But of course, you might recall what Johnny said about him, and you might recall that Johnny spoke also with a French accent. The problem was Johnny, and Johnny was appointed by the chapter boards. A chapter board should not complain about the WCA until it is ready to question also its own decisions. With or without a WCA, this problem must be solved.

Nicole: Most important: concentrate on the goals, not structure, umbrella, but what are our goals. More developed chapters have a responsibility to support those less developed. Good proposal by Christophe to continue actions that have been started. Those chapters that can dedicate staff and resources should continue, but in the current state of the WCA, with no FDC funds, for example, it's important for chapters that can to support this.

Manuel: Talking about chapters picking up tasks, but this is already being done. If we had not brought up the topic of structures we would not be discussing it now??? (Please clarify) Chapters are already doing work, so what is the WCA then? It's a group that you can join with a single email. Deadlines are not a problem: if you want to get things done you need project plans and deadlines. So WCA is just a name. He does not see the problem.

Charles: There is bureaucracy. If you want to participate you need to fulfil your duties. this is bureaucracy. You need to write a letter to get things done.

Lorenzo: Now we have almost no structure. Council composed of people who were appointed by chapters. Continuing to remove structure doesn't lead us to success (?)

Gabriel: We are talking about paperwork, not bureaucracy. Bureaucracy means having 20 secretaries, this is paperwork. Charter also includes things that are scaring chapters off, are we going to vote on it or?

Notchair: We could vote on this if you would like.

Kirill: Agrees with bureaucracy reduction. Will agree that we've reduced bureacracy, but perception is that WCA is bureaucratic, and we can't fix that perception.

Andrei: We spoke about goals of organisation. We could never formulate something better than what we already have: to promote cooperation and accountability etc. Most interesting goal (not realised) is exchange between chapters of experience on projects (e.g. article or photo competition) Problem is that we don't have enough volunteers who can coordinate this exchange# WMDE someone: The WMF has declined to support the chapters so the chapters have to support themselves.

Manuel: Don't see where this claim of "too much bureaucracy" comes from. Don't see what we can't do that we could do with the WCA if the bureaucracy wasn't there. These discussions are exactly the problem: by having these discussions, we are not doing things.

Christophe: That was my whole point. Didn't say anything about the [?] Leaving because WCA name injures programs, so step back. If things were going well, we wouldn't be having this discussion. We should support the volunteers, don't want to spend energy and time on governance and structure; rather support programs. Will not spend any more time on it.

Manuel: What was preventing you from doing this?

Christophe: Name change was last week programs. [?] Talking about the time spent discussing name changing, but not talking about other projects where others were involved. Where was WMFR actually helping?

Christophe: did little for many reasons

Itzik: Which projects are we running under WCA right now? e.g. Peer review: Why do we need a council to run these projects?

Manuel: Everyone can just voluntary do this -< did not work during the past years. If you don't like the council, let's change it. Everyone else picking up jobs has not worked, that is why we have a WCA. Michał: WMPL: We are friends and our goal is to cooperate. Why we are here, and why we invested our personal time, our money , our resources, to dig through mailing lists etc. We are here maybe from politeness, good will, maybe myopia. One year ago, WMPL was relaxed about what was going on in Washington. Not happy about talks about job titles, etc. Wanted to do what Tomasz was talking about, but the meeting went otherwise. Supported by everyone except a few people. Now it's not so suprprising that there's so much tension and fighing about the charter that so many chapters happily voted for. Person made a bad bargain, and now afterwards realises that they made a mistake and are a bit angry. This is fortunately not a bad black market: this is the Wikimedia movement, so we can still do something good with that. Why Manuel can be angry: in the London meetings and in Milan and before, people who were very invested in WCA realised we had to change things. That's why ] groups were cfreated, why we have a research page on meta, and why everyone is invited to come; but who came? Question: why do we have this discussion when we can work on meta with no organisation? Before WCA things weren';t working so well. People come and go in Meta, and things don't work so well. Didn't make so many conferences. Some involvements back and forthe between PL and DE. Even with neighborying countries, there ws not enough contact, so maybe as an organisation we could address this with money, staff, resources etc. Regarding the WCA and the charter. Not very involved in the charter and the name, although spent many hours on the WCA research on meta. Should cooperate as chapters, but should have lightweight structure. Maybe one chapter one vote so that small chapters don't feel isolated. We can decide what we want to scrap, what we want to keep. Make it more open to people from chapters. give ourselves the chance.

Asaf: (WMF) Not speaking for the Foundation. The official response will come from the board. What was missing in the discussion so far: gratitude and appreciation for the people who have been trying to make it work. Frustrating, thankless work, and deserves appreciation all the more. Intrigued but not surprised that the conversation has focused so far on recriminations and blame, and on differing perceptions (e.g. on bureaucracy). What goals on WCA are still relevant? what can we still do? This is the constituency that can make things happen or not. Suprprised that we're not discussing what we still can do: this is not the best use of our time in this rare and expensive opportunity where we are all in one room. Discussing the charter can be done on meta. As a former chapter board member and a chapter activist, was sympathetic from the start. Will now share comments (refrained until now) Not the Foundation's response. Saw the WCA as the combination of an wikipedian, democratic instinct coupled with a Wilsonian dream of a league of chapters that would give equal representation, do conflict resolution etc, but this dream was damaging to the goals of the WCA because it helped some main actors overlook the basic facts: a lot of the chapters still do not have the attention, will, interest, to participate in global movement-wide policy or planning. Some might have the time or interest, but were not convinced. Not accusing, but observing that some people were left behind on the initial pitch for the WCA: what would this do for us in "Ruritania"? Some people were left behind: either didn't sign up, or signned up without clarity on what it would achieve. Wikipedia: decisions made by those who show up, and some just don't care enough to get involved unless directly asked. We see this daily on Wikipedia. The other fact that was overlooked was that the total sum of energy behind the WCA was obvious to me that there were no more than maybe 10 people with actual drive to do the kind of things that the WCA said they would do. The structure of delegates, and the appearance of a "truly global" movement got in the way of noticing that this was something that very few people really cared about. Everyone outside could be fooled into believeing that "the WCA" would do all kinds of things. Some members also believed that the small chapters wouldn't really have to contribute much. Even the big chapters (e.g. WMDE) had few people who would contribute heavily. People were fooled into believing that the WCA had a lot more volunteer energy than it really had. In Berlin in 2012, we spent the better part of that conference talking about points in the charter. Some enjoyed this, many thought it was a necessary evil, and many were checked out: didn't find it useful at all. Didn't say anything, not my place, but wished you spent more time thinking about what we should do. This is what we do: we'll correct typos in discussions that we completely disagree with! "My heart bleeds for this": To see the amount of goodwill and time that was sunk into what I consider a misguided direction. Rather continue the good work planned by the WCA. Was asked at CEE in Belgrade in late 2012 "what was WMF think of WCA?" Answer was: "We are observing it with careful optimism" or something. "We think it would be wonderful if it does what it sets out to do. Can't say we're convinced it will happen." the amount of chpaters that are actually on board is smaller than meets the eye. Most chapters don't really want peer review, but they don't want it: wouldn't do anything to make it happen. Some of these things just aren't as exciting as WLM! WLM happens on an almost military scale of coordination of trooops around the planet, including Antarctica, because people want to do it. There are enough people to do it, even without a chapter, or without a WLM fiscal setup, they make it work because they want it to work. We should focus on what we want to achieve; look at our human resources

Markus: We could go on discussing this and wrap it in half an hour Three ways to continue:

  1. keep WCA, but no structure
  2. set up a committee that replaces WCA and anyone can join
  3. chapters take over individual projects that WCA has started.
  4. Keep calm and carry on.

Comment: WMFR will continue its programs, and commit staff to the programs of the WCA, whatever the decision. James Hare: Will not comment on WCA. Will ask audience what current programs are worth continuing. About 6 or 7 initiatives. Most important are:

  • Peer review
  • Chapters manual (handbook)
  • Chapters exchange
  • WCA journal (information about world of chapters)

You can do these things without a structure. Open line of communication (in this case the software) that makes it possible to do this. Chapters mailing list etc. can make it possible to pursue these projects without WCA.

Gabriel: WMCH made a formal proposal to dissolve the charter. Will we get to the vote?

Ziko: Suggest that - without voting - we consider the WCA to be "sleeping". The Council will not meet, no-one can speak in the name of the WCA, but anyone can do good things with these initiatives on Meta or elsewhere.

Gabriel: WMCH believes in having a name and a structure, but that we should dissolve the charter as that would resolve some problems that people have. WMCH will continue to provide services.

Markus: If we do this, will this automatically lead to dissolution of WCA? If you want to vote, OK.

Ziko: We have no chair to offically close the meeting. If we just walk away, it will happen what I said earlier. The initiatives are on Meta, everyone can go in with them anyway.

Gabriel: if the assembly votes to stop the meeting this will be done.

Asaf: WCH wants the WCA to exist, but wants the WCA to remove the charter, which is one problem with the current org. Berlin agreement was the state prior to charter. Voting suggestions:

  1. Abolish WCA, yes or no?
  2. Abolish charter, yes or no?
  3. [third option is status quo, no vote?]

Manuel: What should be in the list of initiatives is to have a framework of chapter people meeting regularly to discuss progress etc. Call it what you will, but let a group exist that will bring people from chapters together regularly to talk.

Markus: If we abolish the WCA, we can create something else, either a committe, or distribute the work back to chapters. Raul (from Estonia): Two reasons to have these orgs: if we have only 2-way conversations, 3rd parties won't know, so have central discussion. If there is no structrure, people can do something, but often they don't If we agree on duties, maybe more will be done than if you don't agree first. If we abolish the charter, that what kind of regulation will we have? e.g. voting and meeting system?

Markus: in that case no need for voting or regulation.



Should we abolish the WCA?

3 in favour
6 against
2 abstained

Checking coucil members. Number present: 11

Voting #2


Should we abolish the charter?

4 in favour
3 against
4 abstained

So no clear vote to remove charter: majority of voting members, not majority of members present.

Gabriel wants to propose a different (standard) charter under Swiss law: more open, less requirement for quorum etc.

Manuel: Maybe solution is to replace the current charter with a mission statement.

Markus: Need to vote on new chair and deputy chair.

Jens: Problem that the charter solves is legitimacy, but the problem is activity. No problem with bureaucracy if it creates legitimacy, but that is not a problem now, maybe in a few years. Outside stakeholders live in this world which doesn't share our culture of open collaboration. If everyone in the organisation says we need to throw out the bureaucracy, we can return to the matter later.

Tomasz WMPL: we have not checked on a chapter basis, only they chapters can decide to abolish the charter.

Tomasz WMPL: Chapters should decide what to do.

Jens: This project needs a committment.

Gabriel: can propose standard charter

Asaf: then you're asking people to vote on a charter for an organisation that they don't care about

Jens: Mission statement could be enough. Expected worse today. If you feel legitimate, go for it!

Manuel: may I suggest we vote, we still have the charter. The vote did not pass. As we have charter, we need to follow it, so let's vote whether the chair and council will work on mission statement which will replace the charter?

Raul: we don't need a vote for people to vote.

Manuel: Agrees. But we need to have vote to fix the unhappy assembly. Wants to avoid leaving the room and not doing anything.

Raul: We could need two groups of people, 1) for the creation of the charter, 2) chair who would work with them

Markus: I would advise not to leave the room with the statement that we are working on a new charter. The movement is not taking us seriously. We are percived to be working on our internal structures all the time. Both chairs resigned and then the solution is to rework charter, this is a death blow. The chapters will now abolish the WCA, Markus is convinced.

Asaf: WMF staff cares about the work done by the WCA, not the structure or whether it exists. They care about peer review, etc. The work is done under the label of WCA, but not by WCA: it's done by people. WMF is happy to collaborate, support, fund activities and programs. Reluctant to fund structure preceeding work, but now that the work is happening,

Andriy (WMUA): What work could be done by the WCA that could not be done by individual chapters?

Asaf: Not for foundation to decide. Can't think of anything that can't be done by individual chapters, except as a sort of "labour union for chapters". This was an issue after the Haifa letter (no more payment processing chapters) to address perceived risk which is not an issue any more (financial arrangements now work). WCA has not had that kind of conversation with WMF as speaking for chapters. Public conversations on Wikimedia lists have improved since then, so that obviates the one need for WCA as WCA as opposed to work by individual chapters.

name? Do some of us hae a concrete proposition to making addition to current charter? If no, continue working with current charter.

Markus (former chair): wants to wrap up the session. Focus on how to perpetuate the projects we're working on instead of the organisation.

Someone should propose a resolution to elect a new chair.

Markus: Discussion now is not moderated. Use mailing lists wikimedia-l for further discussion.

Manuel: Saturday was a good proposal.

Suggestions for topics moving forward


anyone interested in talking about these? -- so... no?

  • what _goals_ of WCA are still worthwhile? Of those, which are realistic? Which require consensus?
  • How to work toward these goals _given_ the experience of [non-]participation in WCA?
  • How to allocate efforts between staff and volunteers?
  • What are the lessons learnt of the failure of the WCA?
  • Can the Iberocoop be used as a model for the WCA?
  • WMCH: Charles' proposal: scrapping a charter which is not working well, keeping the organization. They believe the current charter is not working well. Introduce much more loose and flexible framework but keep working.

Circa 48 people present