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What's the vision of the candidates on promoting sister projects? I'm currently working on the Dutch wikiversity and sometimes I'm a little bit jealous on the attention wikipedia gets. In my opinion (the Dutch) Wikimedia could/ should put more energy in the sisterprojects. I'm curious whether the candidates also see this challenge and I would like to hear about their ideas to put sisterprojects in the spotlight. Timboliu (talk) 05:51, 29 April 2013 (UTC)
Potentials of Wikimedia projects other than Wikipedia and Commons are far from being explored. I think that projects like Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikinews and Wikiversity have potentials for great global impact (note that I am not counting here technical projects, like MediaWiki and Wikidata are, because they are qualitatively different; as well as Wikivoyage, which is a very young as a Wikimedia project).
I can imagine that Wiktionary and Wikidata could change the linguistic picture of the world, that Wikinews could become the most important news source in the world and that Wikiversity could build real-world network of free universities. (One of my dreams was to take a big unused building from the government and create there real-world Wikiversity.)Elected or not, I think that WMF should boldly explore possibilities which other projects are capable to create. That means that it should work on Internet and software issues, but not to be shy to take a real-world action if Wikimedia community and free access to knowledge would benefit from it.
I think there are three aspects of support to focus on:
- Starting (and ending) new projects: I am very pleased that both WikiData and WikiVoyage were started as new projects last year, ending our years-long hold on starting new projects. However, we are still lacking an effective, clear process with criteria for starting -- and closing -- new projects. There are many reasons to start or end a project: we may want to expand into a new area of free knowledge, or a project might be better off being hosted independently or by a different organization, or the community may decide a project simply is not successful. Making a stronger process for this is something the Board can lead, with the aid of the meta community.
- New feature support: All of the sister projects need custom features, and to share in the wealth of extensions and innovations that have been developed recently. The latter is a core engineering need; leaders of any language Wikipedia or sister project need to have a central place where they can find new features (like article feedback, or pending changes) that they can request be deployed for their project. For custom features, we also need a pipeline in the other direction, where projects can make their needs and requests known. These requests are currently sent through Bugzilla, but I don’t know of a place where cross-project requests can be discussed or prioritized by the non-developer community. For instance, it's interesting that there are two Wikimania submissions this year on Wikiversity, both of which talk about needed features; there should be a good central place to convey these ideas. This process should be supported by WMF engineering, though filling these requests is not something WMF can do alone; the help of the volunteer and chapter-supported developer community is also needed.
- Outreach and publicity: our smaller projects also suffer from lack of public recognition and outreach support. Again, this is something I think that is ideally suited for the larger community of volunteers, chapters and thematic organizations to work on, with the support of grants; it is not something the WMF can or should do alone.
- provide advice on how to strengthen all projects
- convincing stakeholders to know the importance of these projects
- provide training on a variety of projects to facilitate the growth
Most human knowledge is specialized: not currently covered by Wikipedia, and suited to a different interface and data model. So we must support sister projects, or make it possible to include specialized portals in Wikipedia. (for an example of the latter, note how German Wikipedia has incorporated species data directly into WP rather than contributing to Wikispecies)
As a community, we should welcome new types of knowledge, and should help them find a place in our constellation of projects: as a new sister project, or as editors with their own focus and standards, within an existing project.As a Foundation, the WMF should encourage innovative ideas about making new types of knowledge free. And for the sister projects we have adopted, we should support regular conceptual and feature development, to help curate and share that knowledge. [Whether those features continue to be used on a distinct sister project, or get wrapped into Wikipedia or some other combined project, is a separate matter.]
My own admittedly limited experience with other projects makes me wonder how much overlap there is among editor populations. Promoting other projects could conceivably be done from higher-up, if you like, but I've always felt that the best promotion is sideways, by editors active in one community infecting editors in another, if you pardon the metaphor--and that's not something that can be mandated. As I'm learning more about the organization, I do wonder what can be done to lessen the gap between the Foundation and the corps of editors in all our projects. If, say, the Foundation (I use that term broadly and loosely) had a good idea of which editors were active in which projects, and by "active" I mean as key players, then they could more easily reach out to those editors in order to promote sideways cooperation. For instance, if a certain weakness is spotted in Wiktionary, it would be very useful if the word gets out to the linguists active on the Wikipedias, some of whom may have never heard of Wiktionary. As a sidenote, I recently taught an upper-level linguistics class and found that Wiktionary is quite good, better than I expected, so now I'm plugging it to all those students. The best advertisement is still word of mouth.I see a role here for chapters and thorgs (thematic organizations) as well, as a conduit in two directions--to and from the Foundation and to and from editors. I think it's at those intermediate levels that the most fruitful pollination can take place, since that's where one is most likely to find experienced editors who know more than one project, and that's where questions (about technical problems and needs, for instance) can meet answers, or where questions can be sharpened up and then passed on to the Foundation. So there again, a close(r) relationship between Foundation and editors provides a better chance of success.
My view of the editor engagement program is that it needs to extensively co-ordinate with existing editor pools to create welcome environments for new users. Sister projects represent low hanging fruits, with tighter communities, desperate need for new editorship and often less well formed rules (one of the most off-putting aspects of English Wikipedia is it's slew of policies).
Wikidata is an interesting first step here, and I would love to see more international teams working on new features and tools for the sister projects.
Another aspect in serious need of attention is technical support; significant development resources are devoted to Wikipedia and Commons, with sister projects left somewhat out in the cold. That's fairly natural, Wikipedia is the biggest project by a long stretch. But I think it would be appropriate for the Foundation to focus at least some effort on improving the sister projects. Otherwise we see a vicious circle of specialist wikis that struggle to attract editorship due to lacking tools.
To me, the smaller projects have much potential. And with the new models of affilitation, I think the solution lies with members of the community empowering themselves to seek local solutions. I don't think the WMF has the one perfect solution, so while it can offer support, I think the solution lies within the community members.
There have been some interesting developments recently that are encouraging for this issue. The Individual Engagement Grants team that I am part of funded ideas that are dedicated to non-WP/Commons projects (notably "Elaborate Wikisource strategic vision"). When we re-open the strategic planning process, I would like for us to put the different Projects "on the table" and for each to have an identified place in the next plan's gloals. This then gives them the justification and the right to receive specific attention to meet those goals.
If you care about sister projects, please vote for community members who have actively contributed to sister projects. Too often candidates say they support the sister projects, but don't do anything to support sister projects once elected.
I would like the sister projects to be included in all levels of WMF reporting (monthly, quarterly and annual), and strategies developed for how sister projects can be used to assist the WMF reach their strategic goals of increasing participation and quality.
Software engineering resources should be dedicated to improving the sister projects, including Product Manager roles.Mobile apps for each of the sister projects should be established and/or existing volunteer created apps should be reviewed and funded.
Hi. As of now, some budget is dedicated to MediaWiki development, in order to add some new features and to improve the existing ones. On which extensions would you prefer this budget to be spent ? For example, some groups need tool improvements, such as stewards who are sometimes forgotten by the board but play an essential role in coordination between project. What's your opinion on this ? Thanks. -- Quentinv57 (talk) 06:40, 5 May 2013 (UTC)
I am a steward and -- although I am not one of those who are actively involved in the War on Spam -- I feel well how important is that issue. I think, also, that we desperately need new software features in MediaWiki to be attractive to the new generations.
From sporadic talks with various people from WMF last few years, I know that money is not the most important issue in relation to various development (not just software-related) initiatives. Most importantly, it's about organizational capabilities.
Because of that, Wikidata is the important example how those issues could be handled: chapters willing to provide logistic support to various software initiatives should take the initiative. And that's not just good from WMF's perspective, but from the perspective of the movement's health: we have to (it's a must, not just a nice idea!) to build diverse and failsafe network, movement. Said so, it is necessary to establish if it's better that WMF leads steward-related software development or it's quite fine to leave it to an interested chapter.Speaking generally, I think that WMF and the community should have an open channel to discuss software needs of the community, including the most vitally important parts of it. It could be a good idea to establish a committee which would take another part of defunct Special projects committee, related to the software development. If we go a step lower, I think that it's good idea to open discussion about creation of such body and/or methods for efficient communication between WMF and the community.
- stewards is very important to re-development of Wikimedia and its projects, in my opinion the right way here is to ensure access to new stewards and the seniors are all tooled
- The key thing is to create the habit of visiting the Wikimedia community to eliminate the performance of this growing industry
We can delegate some of the decisions about "where should money for features be spent" to the communities we support, giving each one a small budget. This question of how we collaborate on priorities and goals is something the Board should consider. This would improve transparency about how decisions are made, and empower each community to reach internal agreement about what they need most.We can also consider new ways to support small-feature development for core communities: a bounty board for open problems, a new grants initiative for technical projects, or a team of generalists that only work on such things.
By-the-by, what's been funny is how much resistance there is to change, until we get used to it. The new notification system, for instance, was announced on the English Wikipedia though very few were aware of it (a matter of finding better outlets for such announcements), and it quickly became heavily criticized. I too miss the old orange bar where one click led to all the diffs. I imagine we'll get used to it very soon. Same with WikiLove, which is deemed silly by many of the older editors, but which apparently seems to be popular enough. In both cases, though, it seemed to me that the Foundation could have done a better job announcing those changes and asking for input; I'm just not convinced that they are always able to reach a wide enough group of editors. And the editors (me included) seem to think that the Foundation ought to send every editor a hand-written letter. In other words, there's a bit of a gap between the community and the Foundation, and I believe it behooves the Foundation to attempt to improve. Lately I've seen more such efforts on the English Wikipedia and that's been good to see. As for me, I don't have many brilliant suggestions at this moment on how to improve communication, but if elected that's one of the things I want to make a priority for myself.
- A technical committee, similar to our existing wide range of committees, which will help drive technology strategy for the movement. This could be as simple as a think tank, or have more direct control in setting work/budgets.
- More work to build links between the community the development teams. Some of the cool things we could do include:
- FInding ways for technical teams to conduct their work even more publicly; particularly spec and iteration stages, where community members could be brought into the brainstorming process.
- Centralise development/feedback away from the project wikis (perhaps onto meta)
- Encourage volunteer teams to build tools, features and plugins - with project management support from the Foundation
The WMF initiative to merge all user accounts will save stewards a lot of time if it is implemented well, or cause the stewards enormous headaches if it the implementation is botched. I pray that it goes well.
After the 'big user account merge' happens, I believe the WMF should start working on allowing Wikimedia accounts to be created more quickly using OpenID (and other similar systems) and allow Wikimedia accounts to be publicly linked to those identity management systems, thereby allowing people to have their Wiki identity linked to their other identities (facebook, twitter, etc).Longer term, I believe Semantic MediaWiki and Distributed MediaWiki are going to be necessary, and WMF should play a part in ensuring they are production ready.
Presently, no one is tasked with increasing the percentage of material reviewed to be of high or very high quality by 25 percent, under the 2015 strategic plan. At the medicine project, one of our main strategic goals is the recruitment of professional and scholarly associations, and individual subject experts to help with reviewing and building our medical content, and we would very much appreciate having someone on staff who understands, and can perhaps help us to achieve, our shared strategic goal of improving the quality of our articles, images, definitions, etc. Do you believe the Foundation needs to devote resources to the improvement of the quality of our content? --Anthonyhcole (talk) 06:52, 11 May 2013 (UTC)
I think that Wikimedia didn't explore possibilities for systemic cooperation with scientific institutions. There are various kinds of scientific institutions and a number of them are clearly "on our side", being fully aware of free content. So, if communication with more traditional scientific institutions could be painful, we can make fruitful cooperation with those which have better understanding of contemporary trends.
One significant part of Strategic Planning process is missing. I suppose that the idea of SP was to create the most general framework, but collaborative creation of a strategic plan without collaborative creation of operational plans (wherever it's possible, and in this case it is possible) -- doesn't have a lot of sense. The deadend of this part of SP is lack of editors' involvement in creation of operational plan (if there was an operational plan for this segment at all).In other words, as the first step, I think that WMF should initiate discussion about the needs of the projects, like your own is. I suppose that it would lead into a permanent staff position, which would care about cooperation between editors and scientific institutions. But I think that much better options (which could include the mentioned one) could be found in an open discussion between WMF and relevant editors.
To your immediate question, the short answer is I think the WMF's role should be supporting those who build quality content. That means many things: doing research into large-scale article evaluation; building tools for new and experienced editors; and supporting individuals and on-the-ground groups like Wiki Project Med who need grants and materials to do outreach. The WMF does these things now, though there is room for debate over, say, the role of the education project, or how to liaise with the community, or how much to devote to research. And I would be very interested in your project's ideas on ways that it could be supported more by staff; Wiki Project Med is doing fantastic work.To your larger question though, I think that on the WMF side the urgent priorities of increasing participation and technical infrastructure have taken precedence over the quality priority, perhaps out of an assumption that building the editor base and infrastructure of the projects will in time (as it has done so far) lead to quality content. This is probably a fair assumption, but I also think it's important that we keep track of all five strategic priorities. Before asking the WMF to devote major resources to new projects, as a trustee I'd want to review our current capacity and where we are with editor recruitment; however, this year as we look towards a new strategic planning cycle is an ideal time to both assess where we are on all of the priorities, and to spend serious time thinking about how to support each priority in future. And, as a trustee I would ask for a regular assessment of our performance against all of the priorities.
- Wikimedia as an axis of Wikipedia and other projects just to prepare various academic departments,
- every person has a responsibility to ensure that the world is comprised of specialized expertise for academically manner,
- Each department that will be created is going to come and plan a strategy to help the community,
- Seek not to take Wikipedia editing industry is growing rapidly so it is important that we preparing and making lasting mechanism to be tool to assist generation to generation,
- More importantly attract specialists in the medical community to be part of Wikimedia,
- We have to decide now to use existing studies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,
- Supporting various researchers that the participants to achieve all these goals we expect,
- support research and researchers into new areas from which will help expanding Wikimedia community.
This coordination should include identifying quality standards where they exist, encouraging them where they do not, and including them in our internal report cards and research. Some projects have detailed quality assessment projects (e.g., Wikipedia:Version_1.0_Editorial_Team/Assessment), which deserve publicity across our communities.The WMF should also support the development of tools that help reviewers work more effectively.
Outreach, globally, is best done by people on the ground - which means affiliates. I'd like to see the Foundation focus on providing support (monetary, of course, but also logistical and academic) for the bootstrapping and ongoing work of affiliate orgs. Eventually those models should be self-sustaining, with a globally agreed approach to outreach.
We need some good key performance indicators (KPI's) for content; it's our most important aim and I feel like we don't give it much attention. People often say "wikipedia is a work in progress", and it makes me sad that the way they say it implies that this means most of Wikipedia is poor quality and that is OK. Projects like Med and Milhist have had great success in organising editors and focusing them on improvement tasks - but this represents only a small portion of the topic areas on Wikipedia. We are strong in these areas, but weak in many many others.We need to find ways to achieve the critical mass of interested editors needed for these sorts of groups to form within other topic areas. Great content comes from the community, and we need to support that body in every way possible. Does that require dedicated staff? Not staff to involve themselves in community/volunteer processes (it would be a bad thing, in my view, if that work fell on staff as they would then be relied on too heavily - making the system centrally weak). But, yes, we need staff to develop outreach programmes, to liase directly with affiliates and to bootstrap new groups within the movement.
[p.s. I've modified my original answer in response to a clarification of the question left by its author (Anthonyhcole) on my talkpage]
In answer to your specific question - I think that the WMF does have a role to play in helping improve the quality of content, but not directly... I think that thematic coordination (e.g. Wikiproject Military History or Wikiproject Molecular Biology) is the perfectly placed vehicle for supporting quality content and therefore I believe that the WMF should investigate how to support the capacity development and stability of these organisations. The advent of "thematic groups" as a mode of formal affiliation with the Wikimedia movement is an interesting and welcome step - and I suspect that it is through this model quality can be best targeted. In terms of facilitating direct access between world experts and key Wikimedians I believe the "Wikipedian in Residence" model that I pioneered is also particularly useful. It would be very interesting to see the WMF help develop a system whereby a Wikiproject/thematic group could commission a quality audit from experts, or gain accreditation from recognised authorities for particular content at a certain time. Imagine if we could have the technical and procedural systems in place to be able to say that (for example) a particular revision number of a Feature Topic on "Malaria" was formally "approved" by the World Health Organisation. That would be very powerful.
What major issue(s) do you think the Foundation should focus on over the next 10 years? 126.96.36.199 04:03, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Over the next ten years, I think the biggest challenges for the WMF, and the areas it should focus on, will be:
- encouraging community leadership: both on the projects and within our many organizations (including the WMF). We must get better at providing clear paths to leadership, opening up governance, and encouraging and recognizing new leaders; and there must be meaningful paths for volunteer participation in the work of the WMF.
- recruiting and retaining editors for all of the projects: we must stabilize our editorial base and make sure that new editors feel both welcome and excited to be a part of the Wikimedia projects.
- maintaining the visibility of free knowledge in all spheres: education, the law, government, the technical world. This means everything from supporting a free and open internet to supporting sane copyright law. The Wikimedia projects depend on a technical and legal ecosystem that is often threatened; we can and should lead the world in demonstrating the importance of free knowledge.
- long-term financial planning: we have no problem raising the money we need, but we currently plan for the short term, and we are a long-term knowledge project. Our technical and financial planning should reflect a view towards being around for the next ten years and more.
- increasing and maintaining information quality: for example, I often think that, with 4 million articles, we are just now getting started on "phase 2" on the English Wikipedia -- that is, keeping those articles up to date and making them all high quality. This can seem impossible; like any long-term editor, I've watched articles I've worked on go through IP-address churn, and not always come out better than when I left off with them a few years ago. And I see our quality backlogs slowly growing, and I know that system isn't sustainable either. I think the next period of growth for all of our projects will require innovative quality maintenence tools and mechanisms -- tools that I don't think we've thought of or developed yet.
- Defend the basis of its existence since its inception in 2003,
- Carrying out its program of work and see what has been put in place and has not been implemented,
- Seeking new ways to monitor the system, and community participation in all Wikimedia projects,
- Check how to be a special department headed by considering academic achievement,
- Invest a lot of energy in a region that does not know the importance of Wikimedia projects especially in the continents of Africa and Asia,
- Put the best way to resolve conflicts between WMF and other organizations, but also by users,
- WMF and watch how the current will be the bridge between them and all other stakeholders in the creative sector companies and all other disciplines,
- Shorten the time of the establishment of a chapter in the country and encourage countries that are not yet supporting Wikimedia
- WMF to support individual users who spend a lot of time to develop the personalities of the Wikimedia worldwide
The Foundation should facilitate the community's work, and focus on long-term planning. This includes expanding who is part of the community, and working with global groups to increase acceptance and recognition of Wikimedia projects, throughout the world.
- Long-term planning
- Financial - We should develop long-term investing, a community of recurring donors, and an endowment.
- Society's vision - We should build a network of partners and supporters that sustain and expand our work. Wikimedia should be part of global discussions about how we develop laws and social norms around sharing knowledge. And the WMF should ensure that this happens: through partnerships, and through recommending thoughtful community members to represent our ideas in forums around the world. Our goals for access to knowledge should be part of every major plan for global development. (At present these plans tend to discuss 'education' but do not think about the generative effects of free reuse or collaborative development.)
- Movement strategy - We need a shared map of where all of our projects and communities are heading. This means a strategy that includes both the WMF's goals and those of all of our projects, which is continuously updated. The WMF should lead the development of such a map.
- Community empowerment: Major Wikimedia initiatives should be developed in collaboration with the community -- each one an opportunity to expand who we invite into our technical and content communities, and to update our goals and priorities. Some of these will be driven by the WMF, some by individuals, some by other entities. The WMF should help to coordinate all of these efforts, keep them in line with a shared roadmap and vision, and channel support to projects that need it.
- Channeling funds to local projects: We should be implementing the best available tools for crowdsourcing technical help, funds, and other resources, within our community, for specific projects. We should become better at supporting individual projects, and not simply large chapters.
- A strong MediaWiki community: We should focus on building a strong network of MediaWiki developers, and supporting work on it as a general tool. It should work to support new developers, through training and publicity. Hiring out of the volunteer community should be balanced by expanding that community. We should actively cultivate new communities of mobile developers, and those working on other new platforms, giving them recognition for their work and space to lead.
- Support for new types of knowledge: We should become an incubator for new knowledge-projects of all kinds: including many types of knowledge not currently covered by our projects. We should learn how to spin off projects that would do better on their own, and how to adopt other projects, with minimal overhead. And in our role as grantmaker we should become a source of support for free knowledge projects that further our mission, regardless of where they are currently hosted.
Broadly my view is that the Foundation should become leaner, and more tightly focused on technology and core support, rather than outreach and advocacy. A long term strategy should be to evolve the affiliates model into a lean, centrally supported system of loosely integrated local (both geographically and topically) groups - and it is to these that the task of outreach and content generation should fall. This model is elegant in that it incorporates extensive community support, helping bridge some of the gap that seems to be growing between the Foundation and some areas of the community.
I'd like to see a well-defined strategy for this model, along with documentation and procedures for quickly bootstrapping, supporting and promoting new affiliates.
Aside from this one of the key focuses of the Foundation over the next decade should be securing its long term position. I think that the board and senior staff should, with community support, work on codifying the guiding principles in some form. We can help this guide the movement and affiliates in the coming years by creating a broad guiding concept, similar to the five pillars.
There are other long term considerations too:
- Finding ways to ensure financial security over the longer term
- Creating a guiding strategy for the long term (multi-decade) to help ensure the Wikis will still be here in 100 years!
Over the short to mid term the Foundation needs to build more professional links to the communities. I feel that there is opposition from within the movement to some of the things the Foundation is doing, and some communication issues (in both directions). These need to be ironed out so that we're all actively pulling in the same direction.
- One of the major issues we face has to do with the concept of a free internet. Threats are multiplying, and we need to be on top of that. Many of us were very surprised by what happened in France (France!) recently, for example. And there are even more recent cases. We also have copyright laws that are undermining the projects, for example Commons, which has to adhere to a highly restrictive CL (which impacts those projects which do not have Fair Use and heavily depend on Commons for files). Thanks to Wikipedia, the WMF is in a unique position to take action against these threats, which in the end are a symptom of a larger problem. The Board will need to make this a priority for the Executive Director(s), which in turn will apply resources (legal, financial, human) to strategize how to best protect our interests, and in a larger scale, the internet, within our capabilities (there is a limitation on engaging on lobbying, as defined by the US, that could make the WMF lose its non-profit status, so we need to be careful).
- Another major issue is to continue to diversify and increase our editor base: we need to empower local volunteers to aid us in this. Catalyst programs are fine, but we need the support of on-the-ground volunteers to achieve this. Perhaps it would be worth to examine what the WMF could do to aid this with human/financial resources.
- Ten years ago, there were no such things as tablets or smartphones. Ten years from now, who knows what new cool gadgets will be available. Whatever the platform, we want users to be able to access and edit Wikimedia projects easily. It makes sense to continue to focus our efforts on the Engineering team, so they can keep making the reading and editing experience simpler and easier, and keep making the projects available throughout the world (like with the Wikipedia Zero project). And from reading, to editing, of course. The translation tool on Meta is an example of how a technological tool helps volunteers. In due time, the Visual Editor will be another.
- I think we are on the right track empowering volunteers. We need to continue doing so. The IEG, AffCom, FDC, these are all volunteer-run committees that support the decision-making of the WMF. They are all pretty new (even if AffCom was previously ChapCom), and we need to keep building on them and on the idea behind it. The new models of affiliation (thematic orgs and user groups, in the future movement partners -without forgetting the chapters, of course, which are maturing and in some cases vis a vis with the WMF) will develop and hopefully thrive, create cooperation networks like Iberocoop, and become strong allies supporting the WMF vision. We need to give them time and resources to develop, mature and thrive.
- Growing and enabling the contributing community. No matter what hppens, the projects go nowhere without an active contributing community; ultimately the Foundation must be working to enable and encourage that. This is multifaceted: it means developing tools that make it easier to bring people in, it means reaching out to comunities that are underrepresented, it means studying the social trends of the projects and figuring out how those interact with people's ability to contribute.
- Connecting with related communities. We've started over the past few years really building connections to other groups with common goals, figuring out how to work with each other--other free knowledge organizations, academics and cultural institutions, scientists and researchers. We have mny, many common goals, and if we can figure out more ways to work with each other, and make working with each other part of our regular ways of achieving what we set out to achieve, all of us are stronger.
- Having a more active role in the free knowledge ecosystem. We've figured out that we are a powerful and influential voice, when we speak up for free knowledge. That said, we can't do blackouts all the time, maybe not even more than once. But we spent a long time building up our credibility as a project promoting the ideals we believe are important; we should figure out how we can most effectively use our resources to speak up more directly for them, without compromising our core focus.
- Using our resources to empower others doing our work. One focus we've had over the past few years is grantmaking. Wikimedia gets a lot of resources because of its visibility. But not everything we want to accomplish, that's within our mission to accomplish, can or should be located within the boundaries of the Foundation. We can do better at figuring out where we can let others who have more trouble getting the resources achieve those goals by giving them what they need to do so.
Here are just four key trends that I think will continue and become increasingly important. This is not a comprehensive list of trends, and it is not a prioritied list of things the WMF should do first, but it's something:
- Mobile (and touch/augmented reality) will continue to grow - and dominate the way that large proportions of the globe accesses digital information (particularly in the developing world). Wikipedia Zero is an excellent project to address this trend but it doesn't help increase editorship, only readership. There is the real possibility that we have a "two speed internet" - those who create content and those who only read/see content.
- Legal and structural threats to the Open Web. This is actually the issue that Sue Gardner identified in her message announcing her leaving her role as Executive Director. The stakes are increasingly high for control over the internet as a place where "the people" have control. There are increasing trends to make "walled gardens" online (like Apple's iOS) and to control the way content is delivered (e.g. laws like SOPA etc.) How we as a movement chose to deal with this has not been fully determined. On the one had we are clear that we are neutral and not a political advocacy group, but on the other hand, delivering free access to knowledge to everyone is an inherently political activity (in some countries more than others).
- Community demographics changes will become an increasingly important are to monitor. We need to simultaneously become more open to new members of the community - and the different needs and perspectives they bring (especially from countries that are currently not well represented) - but we also need to stay true to our culture and "the wiki-way". More people for the sake of it is not a good goal, but equally we cannot design our processes so that we only listen to people we already agree with.
- More money and more capacity is both a good and a risky thing. It is fair to assume that we will be able to continue to increase the size of the organisation in financial terms for several more years. Even under the current system of fundraising we are obtaining our increasing annual budgets in decreasing amounts of time. This means we can do more things each year but also means we have the increasing risk of losing our way. I would advocate that we aggressively delegate responsibilities to the most local competent group. Doing this helps to ensure diversity and organisational flexibility.
We need to build strong affiliates (including chapters), and that starts with nurturing the small affiliates. I believe the practical approach is to establish 'core' funding for all of our affiliates based on their needs and maturity.More at User:John_Vandenberg/WMF_BoT_candidature_notes#Right_to_fork_and_long_term_planning
Communication and activity level
My concern is about communication, and engagement level. For example - Kat, you've made ~6 edits on Meta this year, and a bit over 12 the last. Your mailing list stats aren't any better, while you've been a trustee for around 6 years, there is a big drop-off 2 years ago (and understandably people become busy, but then why seek re-election). Those stats alone might not mean much about substance, but they do clearly display the engagement level with the community that elected you. Trustee especially community elected ones, should value direct conversations - Considering all the unpopular decisions in the last few years, do you think your level of activity and communication will be a problem? The same question I'd frame to everyone is, how will you make sure you are in touch with the community especially when unpopular decisions are brought up? Will you just ignore the majority of the voices and do what you think is right? I'm trying to ask if there is a mechanism or a way, to keep yourself in-check in these situations and not lose sight of what the community wants completely. A strong-handed "I always know best" approach displayed by a few board members is worrying. Theo10011 (talk) 03:30, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
In relation to the community, my answer is known and clear. As a Board member, I'd have to do my best to keep organization healthy. However, my mandate would come from the community and I'd be politically responsible to the community. If the community and Board would be in confrontation and the long list of possible solutions wouldn't help, my responsibility would be to resign.
But the role of a trustee is also to make decisions on behalf of the whole system -- decisions that will affect all of the editors of all of the projects (not just those who speak up on wikimedia-l), and all of the readers (not just the ones we meet), and all of the donors (not just the ones who leave messages). There will never be perfect consensus or agreement among all these interests, so while every decision has to take many points of view into account, trustees also have to realize that most decisions will make someone unhappy, and will sometimes be very unpopular indeed. Being unpopular doesn't necessarily mean that decision is bad -- but only if the reasoning behind the decision, the process, and the outcome can hold up to scrutiny.My ideal for Wikimedia governance is one where anyone from the community feels they can participate in governance discussions: where the process, problems to be solved, and ways to get involved are transparent. We sometimes achieve this, but not always. The trick for the Board, I think, is to try to make sure that the problems, the logic and the sense of the discussion behind a decision are communicated, to make that an open process when possible, and to always be willing and answer questions. Speaking personally, I'm not afraid to stand behind my decisions, including the unpopular ones; I'm also not afraid to change my mind -- and change course -- when I'm convinced by good arguments that I made a bad decision. And though I don't always live up to my own ideals of open process, I do try, and am always willing to talk.
The Board should not (does not) ignore public input; and we regularly consider topics that were proposed on Meta or by community groups. All community members are welcome to participate in governance threads, and should know that their input is valued and considered. And elected Trustees are responsible as well to the community that elected them, so they should always be available to respond to questions and suggestions.With regard to unpopular decisions, controversial topics are an opportunity to learn from one another. Individual decisions may be unpopular - as phoebe says, that doesn't mean they are wrong, sometimes there is no popular decision. But the discussion that goes into them, and the willingness to keep an open mind and correct decisions that turn out to be wrong - is the most important part of that process. Part of the role of every Trustee, and particular the elected Trustees, is to facilitate these discussions and help improve communication, between the WMF, chapters, Projects, and other parts of our community.
More interesting, for the nonce, is your question "Will you just ignore the majority of the voices and do what you think is right". It's never smart to ignore the majority, but it's also not smart to ignore the minority. I've closed a number of Requests for Comment on Wikipedia, besides a ton of Article for Deletion discussions, where the idea is that the closing admin doesn't count votes but rather weighs arguments pro and con, and the head count is only one of many factors. (I learned this a long time ago when I studied the work of Frans van Eemeren
As to controversial decisions.. It's worth saying that to some extent the board is elected with community support to make decisions. Furthermore, decisions that are unpopular with some often create vocal outrage on the mailing lists (which is always disappointing to see) that, whilst loud, doesn't represent the view of the majority! Any board member should not be afraid of sticking to a decision that they have weighed as correct just because they get shouted at.
However. The board should actively display the capacity to question their decisions in light of objection. Hopefully criticism can be anticipated and mitigated before that stage, but we live in an imperfect world. When some or all of the community raises objections that should generate dialogue both within the board, and with the community. In some cases those objections may not change the decision, in others it may be factored in. Either way the board should be seen engaging with the affected sections of the community, and responding to the issues raised. Certainly I think there should be deeper engagement by the board with the community, and I would aim to lead by example in that area - I am always accessible to anyone who wants to talk! And that will never change.Without a specific example, though, it's impossible to give my idea of how it should have been addressed.
It may well happen that different communities will be at odds between themselves or with the WMF, and a decision has to be made or a window of opportunity will be lost. In that regard, I would hope the Board would make a decision based on all available information, that they truly felt it was the best possible one and would advance the mission. A board paralyzed by indecision or by fear of being unpopular wouldn't be desirable. In ocassion, decisions may be unpopular, granted. The board can and will make mistakes, since no system is infallible or perfect. I would want the Board to explain how and why a particular decision was made, and if shown incorrect, to learn from it and improve its processes where needed, so it can reduce its fallability next time. And I would like community members to assume good faith and remain approachable as well, so we can keep improving our communication possibilities (communication goes both ways, after all).
I would like to see the Board initiate more focused discussions or asking questions (on Meta, or wherever applicable) in advance of issues becoming controversial and requiring major action. Equally, I would like to see the board publish draft statements to seek comment before actually passing resolutions that then have to be clarified. I would also like to see methods introduced for the community to formally petition the board to discuss a topic.As for me personally, I have been steadily involved in many mailing-lists for many years now. For example, I can honestly say I've read every single email to Foundation-l (now Wikimedia-l) since at least 2007, and through my GLAM work have been fortunate enough to attend Wikimeetups (and therefore meet the local communities in many, many countries. Of course my direct involvement has increased or decreased depending on real-world factors but I have been watching, listening, podcasting, blogging, editing, debating and researching (my thesis was about Wikipedia too), and plan to continue for many years still!
The only board member who has done a good job of engaging with the community is user:Sj, who will be my role model should I be elected.
I think we need to change the structure of the board of trustees so that all positions are community elected, and are term limited. See User:John_Vandenberg/WMF_BoT_candidature_notes#Board_of_Trustees for details.
I would like all proposed resolutions to be drafted on meta with community involved.I will try very hard to remain in touch with the community, but I will also do what I think is right in order to effectively carry out the responsibilities of being a Board of Trustees member. Whenever my vote goes against the opinion of a sizable cohort of the community, I will do my best to communicate my rationale.
Distance to the community
What is your view on the current distance between the Wikimedia Foundation and the editing community? How (if at all) would you like to change that in the next 2 year: what would be a realistic goal and what would you personally do to accomplish that. For candidates that have occupied a board seat in the past: why did you not do this already / were you unsuccessful at this in your previous term? Effeietsanders (talk) 15:59, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
While I wouldn't say that there is bad faith on the side of Board and top management, while it is possible to see positive trends from their side, I don't think that they put enough effort to solve the issue more systemically. I still see that WMF is struggling between the mentality of an Bay Area NPO and the lead organization of the global movement. Fortunately, present situation is significantly better than it was a couple of years ago.
There are a couple of very realistic goals which could be achieved during the next two years:
- Promoting the culture of the global movement among the staff. Even it's about of San Francisco, from time to time the provincial mentality is striking. WMF's employees should be the persons of the world and it's not so hard to learn it.
- Promoting active and responsible approach in dealing with the community. Those in position of power are more responsible for their actions and WMF's staff is constantly in such position (this is not related just to WMF staff; the same applies to all volunteers in the committees, for example). Passive decision-making process is not enough when it comes to handling the issues of one global movement.
- Board members, regular volunteers, highly involved volunteers (members of the committees etc.) and staff should have as equal treatment as it is possible during the conferences, as it's the most visible inequality. I understand that it's not so easy to achieve, but it would be possible if it would become one of the priorities. We don't suffer from a lack of creativity and I know personally a couple of very good organizers from within the movement.
- On the community side, WMF should promote mutual understanding. Everybody can be upset because of personal issues, everybody can have a bad day; who does can be wrong, but it is extremely important that that person actually does. That especially applies to staff, which job is volunteers' hobby.
- Promoting more active and less fearful approach on all movement levels. Significant part of the problem inside of the movement comes due to the instinctive passivity.
There will always be distance: the WMF is often working on different things from the editing community, and we rely on each other for different things (the editing community relies on the WMF to keep up the servers, deal with lawsuits, etc.; and the WMF relies on the editing community to maintain the projects). But I think when we talk about distance between communities what we're really worried about is losing the value system that holds all of Wikimedia together. The WMF and the editing community shares core values -- openness, free information, meritocracy -- and we must continue to share these values, not just as a philosophical matter but also as a practical part of how we work. I am always worried that we are in danger of losing our most important values (through becoming too "corporate" or focusing on the wrong things) and I think this is always something to watch for.Personally, as a Board member, I tried and would continue to try to model good behavior, consistent with our values. I tried to report out and internally, to be open, and to recognize good ideas. For the next two years, I think some practical ideas include: strengthening WMF staff training in how the rest of Wikimedia works, especially for new folks (and vice versa, sharing what the WMF does with the rest of Wikimedia); spending serious energy improving our RfC/beta testing process so that it is easier to iteratively develop software & features with the community (rather than in opposition to it); centralizing discussion and making multilingual commenting easier so that it is simpler for all of our community members to participate in RfCs and decisions; supporting community leaders and leadership, both with tools and processes (such as building the steward tools mentioned above, but also recognizing great outreach efforts). None of this is something the Board can do alone, but trustees can advocate for these changes.
1. In the board level, it is really a personal choice of board members, they can be step away from the community to think hybridly, or get into the community to bring back the opinion from the community, I think we need both to develop healthly.2. I I think why we feel WMF is out of touch, may due to quite a part of work are transfer to the staffs. A number of staff really get involved into the community and serve us for a long time, which is incredible. But in a number of area, our staffs seems come and go very quickly, seems changing all the time. Although this may be "normal" for a "Charity in the US" (at least I was told), but these constant changes, always come with communication backlogs & problems, make us feel more and more apart. I think we need to also stablized the HR in WMF, as well as we need some role like a community receptionist, whom is the community familiar with, to deal with situation when the community members need help from the staff.
What I find most interesting about this distance, is that it is not a lack of regard or respect; but a disconnect in worldview. For instance, in some circumstances the community feels the WMF makes decisions without community input; while WMF staff feel that their work is beholden to the community and will be scrapped if the community does not like it. Similar problems, at smaller scales, can be seen in the distance between some individual chapters and related editing communities; and between the WMF and chapters.
In my time on the Board I have tried to publish as much as I can about our work, and advocated for staff liaisons focused on providing this sort of support; each community and affiliate could use a community member focused on this as well. I have voted against proposals that I thought widened this gap, and fought as much as I could within the Board to avoid sudden changes in the Foundation's positions. I have not always succeeded in part because I am seen as an extreme voice on these issues; even though within the spectrum of positions in the rest of the community I do not think my positions are particularly extreme.
The WMF is planning to hire 2 people in such roles over the coming year. Together we should also clarify the role of community and WMF in decision making in different situations. Some decisions are made entirely by the community, others by the WMF, others require collaboration and joint approval. Other ways to address this problem over the next two years include
- making community groups part of the planning process for decisions that affect them, not simply part of feedback after the fact (this is a feature shared by the 'good examples' to date)
- supporting and empowering community decision-making, by investing in better collaboration tools
- investing significantly in multilingual communication, so that non-English speaking communities can be part of these conversations.
*Of course Jimmy Wales is not really our boss, or anyone's boss. He also hasn't written as many articles as I or ErrantX have.
The specifics of your answer are difficult to address: measuring a metaphorical distance is a hard enough thing already. The ultimate goal is easy, as far as I'm concerned: that the Board help editors write better articles (dictionary definitions, software, courses, etc), and that editors feel that the Board, which makes such important decisions that affect the long and the short term, is not a stranger to them. Our Strategic Plan, the way I see it, mandates an improved relationship since participation and quality can be directly affected by it. What I'm interested in right now is what kinds of things I'll hear from editors on Wikipedia and other projects, what it is that they want done. That is what matters for me in this process.
More than anything I'd like to start to encourage a new culture, or viewpoint. The Foundation should be serving the needs and requirements of the community, and so the community should be more deeply involved with strategising. I'd like to see a corporate culture where everyone is accessible to community members with constructive views and input. I'd like to see the Foundation employ staff to pester community members with known interests to give their views.I would come to the board as a long term English Wikipedia editor, with numerous friends within the movement. I have a decent list of written articles, wide participation in community policy discussions and a passion for free culture. The point being that I have deep ties to the community, and so would be able to bring the board a taste of the current culture, and the community a taste of the board!
(I also think chapters have helped a lot here too: local organisations formed by volunteers and editors who in some cases acted as mediators or facilitators or just plain explained what the WMF was going to do in the next few years. So while there is a distance, there has been progress as well.)What would I change? Nowadays, it takes some effort to keep on top of what is going on in the movement. A discussion started on some page on Meta is moved to another page on Meta and then jumps to the Wikimedia-l mailing list. Or a discussion on WikiResearch-l is forwarded to Wikimedia-l and then continued on Meta. It's very difficult to follow all the existing mailing lists (scratch that, it's impossible, you need to choose). We need to be able to keep conversations in one place so they are easier to follow (and translate). Maybe we need to lay a heavier emphasis on the use of Meta. Perhaps that would help the WMF be more approachable. I think the irc office hours help, much more than mailing lists at any rate, and are more interactive and fun, but I realise it's difficult for one or two staff members to answer questions of dozens of Wikimedians simultaneously. Regarding enhancing communication between WMF and project communities in languages other than English, I favor broadening the scope of the "community liaisons" the Foundation is hiring right now, so that they focus not only on technical issues but are able to provide a two-way communication link between the Foundation and the different communities, by both translating or making known the relevant news and discussions Foundation-wise, and transmitting to the staff any significant worries or proposals they could receive or detect in their home wikis.
A lot of the breakdown in communication stems from, in my opinion, the anonymous nature of online communication. It's a bit like road rage: it's much easier to get angry at the car in front of you if you cannot see the driver's face. Once you are seeing an actual human it is far harder to be angry. So, I think that the best way to break down the barriers is to find methods to increasingly humanise the WMF and the Board.For the "one realistic thing": I would like for the agenda for each Board meeting to be published in advance - and the issues on the agenda clearly described - with the proactive soliciting of comments in advance of the meeting from relevant parts of the community. Ideally this will result in an outcome where no one is genuinely surprised when the WMF makes a decision on an issue. Individuals might not like the result of a decision, but for individuals who are making every effort to follow what is happening, we need to make sure that they are at least not surprised that the decision is being made. A reduction of "surprises" and an increase of "humanisation" should help reduce the present distance between the editing community and WMF.
The agenda of board meetings should be open for community participation.
The board should champion a process of defining 'core' funding for all affiliates.Please see User:John_Vandenberg/WMF BoT candidature notes.
Network of chapters (affiliates)
The statement of purpose of the Wikimedia Foundation reads:
The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.
In coordination with a network of chapters and individual volunteers, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.
(for the ease of conversation I will replace 'chapters' with 'affiliate organizations')
Could you please explain how you see this (...) coordination with a network of [affiliate organizations] and individual volunteers (...) two years from now? Will that be on equal footing, will all have their very specific roles (which?), will the role of the Wikimedia Foundation (and with that its budget & staff size) increase/decrease because of expanding/reducing task packages? Should that be (if so: how) that different in 5 or 10 years? Effeietsanders (talk) 16:05, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
We have also started delegating part of donor communications and relations, and microgrants, to affiliates where they have the capacity to manage them. I expect this to accelerate as we reach a critical mass of groups who have done these things successfully and can share their experiences.Finally, I hope to see much of the currently-centralized outreach programs the WMF manages, particularly to expand awareness and engagement of communities in places with little infrastructure or community support, to be picked up by regional umbrella groups such as Iberocoop or (one day) Wikimedia Asia or WALRUS. These are tasks which are best handled by groups with strong regional connections, and the WMF should shift to providing background support and global promotion of that work, rather than coordinating it directly.
To specifically answer the question; affiliate organisations have a key role within the movement. I talked to Lane Raspberry yesterday, and we discussed this exact issue - where the chapters have important geographical links, the new thematic organisations have key ties to professional bodies/groups. Both types of affiliate are strongly placed to conduct outreach and education in a way the Foundation simply cannot manage. So in the future I see the role of these groups growing stronger and stronger, with deeper community support and funding.
This is why I am tentatively in favour of the FDC; although I have specific criticisms of the current model, it is nice to see that body beginning to include the Foundation in its funding decisions. This helps promote the idea that the Foundation and Chapters have a somewhat equal footing in the field of outreach.
How this growth in importance directly affects the Foundation I don't know. But I don't think it really affects the staffing :) Unlike the chapters, the Foundation has a key role in hosting, developing and supporting the Wikimedia wikis. This core role is very important.So in summary; I see a greatly increased importance for affiliate organisations in conducting outreach, with the Foundation tightening its focus on the technology and support aspects of Wikimedia.
The WMF should support all affiliates, providing them will advice and templates, assisting them meet financial and reporting requirements. Lots of carrots.
The WMF should work with affiliates produce a 'Wikimedia' annual report, and maybe quarterly updates too, encompassing the work of all affiliates. We need to increase the sense that 'we are all working on the mission together, under the same brand.'
The management of the 'brand' needs to be overhauled to put the community ahead of 'the Wikimedia Foundation assets'.Please see User:John_Vandenberg/WMF BoT candidature notes.
2012-2013 Annual Plan, Narrowing Focus, and Fundraising
In May 2012, the Foundation's Fundraising team indicated they were concerned that fundraising in 2012 might not substantially increase, possibly because of a misinterpretation of measurements which showed a seven-fold increase over the best performing appeal from the December 2011 results. In July 2012, the Board adopted the 2012-2013 Annual Plan which included a substantially slowed rate of growth amounting to over $10 million less than the historical rate of growth would have provided, and stating that they had "reflected on the ... rate of growth, and how that impacts our ability to focus on the movement's mission. Therefore ... the Executive Director should present options for adjusting the annual plan, potentially reducing or eliminating lower-priority programs and capabilities." In October 2013, the Executive Director presented such recommendations for "Narrowing Focus" and the Board accepted them.
The Board's July resolution adopting the 2012-2013 Annual Plan stated that, "If, during the year, management anticipates the annual reserve at each quarter-end will differ materially from the plan, the Board directs management to consult the Board Treasurer promptly." In 2010 the Board had passed a resolution which stated that, "Fundraising activities in the Wikimedia movement should generally be directed at achieving the highest possible overall financial support for the Wikimedia movement, in terms of both financial totals and the number of individuals making contributions."
Actual fundraising in December 2013 far exceeded the diminished expectations, and was proceeding in line with the historical rate of growth before it was halted after only nine full days, less than a day before it would have exceeded the diminished goal. What, if anything, would you have preferred to have happened differently during the 2012 fundraising projections, annual plan adoption, and fundraising processes? And what corrective action, if any, would you recommend? A4BQ (talk) 03:15, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
- to pay a respect to the Wikimedia Foundation rules,
- a truly identification to public of users,
- a royal of every one representing the Wikimedia to the public,
- to show an example of being royal to our contribution to public,
- to come closer in free discussion of the non community of Wikimedia,
- to accept the rights of each other,
- to obey on the rules regarding the rights of your neighbor,
- to accept that challenge might be faces,and
- the problems must be solved
When you do strategic planning, or prepare a budget, or something similar, sometimes you need to update it before the period it applies to is through. Not because something has gone wrong, but simply because the context has changed or you have achieved your goals before schedule, and you are flexible enough to adapt it to the new circumstances.
Narrowing the focus, on the other hand, makes sense, even if there will never be 100% agreement on which programs to support and which to let go. I was sad to see some go, but through the Grants program (GAC, IEG, FDC, Participation Support... and let's not forget the affiliates and their capabilities) there is the potential to resurrect some of them in a new form.
We need to ensure we dont betray the financial donors by raising money that we don't use effectively and transparently.
We need to ensure we dont betray the content contributors by raising money that we don't use to further our mission in accordance with our values.
Too much money, if distributed unfairly or inappropriately, will destroy us.
I agree that Wikimedia Foundation needs to narrow focus, and it needs to nurture the affiliates to take on the areas that the Wikimedia Foundation is discontinuing.The community needs to define 'core' funding for all our affiliates, allocate money to establish affiliates where they are needed, and determine the size of the pool available to the 'Funds Dissemination Committee'.
Should the Foundation raise an endowment? If so, how large? Large enough to sustain operations at current levels from investment income alone without the need for additional fundraising? A4BQ (talk) 12:08, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
Currently there is an advocacy proposal pending which has received only support but has stalled because nobody has asked the community for comments. Does the Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline imply that it is the Foundation's responsibility to create such an RFC? Ideally, about how many times per year would you prefer that the Foundation request comments from the community concerning various advocacy actions? A4BQ (talk) 19:10, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
As it happens, this particular RfC is up and running (started by Samuel Klein--whether he did so privately or was wearing his Trustee shirt, I don't know); it's not exactly causing a drain on the servers yet but it's there. It's worth noting, looking at the list of still-open RfCs, that they don't attract that much attention on Meta, that not all of them seem to be a Meta-matter, that it might be a good idea to set some boundaries on how long they ought to run, and that someone needs to go down the list to close a bunch of them (this one hasn't been commented on in over a year, and three are still open from 2009). On the English Wikipedia we have a couple of editors who hound the admins to take care of overdue RfCs (are there time limits on Meta for RfCs?) and that needs to be done here as well. It's all fine and dandy to support community involvement and all, and RfCs are a great tool to do what with, but if they're not dealt with properly there is little point to them.
'Core site operations only' initially, so we no longer use "the servers are burning" fundraising messages.
A larger endowment should be considered after we've guaranteed the survival of the content.See User:John_Vandenberg/WMF_BoT_candidature_notes#Right_to_fork_and_long_term_planning for more.