Wikimedia Foundation elections/Board elections/2007/Candidates/Eloquence/questions

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Thanks to everyone who voted for me! If you need to contact me, please use User talk:Eloquence.

2007 board elections
Organization



Please also review User:Eloquence/CV for an older summary of my work throughout different wiki projects, User:Eloquence/Platform 2006 for my election platform from last year, and User:Eloquence/9 months for a summary of my work and experience as Board member.

Hi -

feel free to ask anything here. I speak English and German.--Eloquence 10:08, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Hallo!

Fragen könnt ihr mir hier stellen. Ich spreche Englisch und Deutsch.--Eloquence 10:08, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Business dev., GHGs.[edit]

  1. What are your thoughts on the foundation's hiring of a business developer?
  2. How would you vote on the board about the foundation reducing or offsetting anthropogenic greenhouse gases, e.g. power used by hardware, flights, etc.?

Thanks. -- Jeandré, 2007-06-17t10:15z ()

Removed question about ads per User:Eloquence/Platform_2006#Scalability. -- Jeandré, 2007-06-17t10:21z
Some background: Vishal Patal had interned for the Foundation before he was hired to work for us part-time on business development and grants. Hiring him does not indicate that business development is suddenly an especially high priority; it does indicate that we (and specifically, Carolyn Doran, who supervised him in her role as COO) were happy with Vishal's work performance so far and did want to give him a longer term role in the organization.
I've been working closely with Vishal since he was hired. He is a talented and enthusiastic man who is thinking creatively about new sources of revenue for the Foundation. Business development agreements concluded so far include brand licensing agreements and data feed agreements. We have tried to shift these from fixed rate agreements to revenue sharing. I believe organizational sustainability requires multiple independent sources of revenue, and these types of deals help to establish additional ones. (The overall proportion of our revenues from these agreements may hover at 10-20% for a while.) Vishal and I have also been working on processing the backlog of grants ideas that has been largely untouched since Danny's resignation as grants coordinator, and I am trying to get Vishal to spend a reasonable amount of his time on grants and more traditional non-profit fundraising ideas. It is quite likely that we will want to hire additional professionals from these fields in the future.
As for becoming carbon neutral or more energy efficient, I think the Board should only set policy in such matters, i.e. define certain ends, and leave it up to operational staff to implement them. The policy goal of becoming as energy efficient as reasonably possible is one I can fully support, as it is also in line with simple long term financial interests. The policy goal of becoming explicitly carbon neutral using a mechanism such as offsets is more tricky; it would be good for interested community members to feed data to the Board about the actual usefulness of different programs. I would, in any case, support asking operational staff to evaluate the goal of becoming carbon neutral, without necessarily prescribing this outcome before we know for sure that it is attainable.--Eloquence 15:31, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Chapters[edit]

Currently, there are several national Wikimedia chapters. The U.S., in particular, does not have a chapter, and many other places where Wikipedia and related projects are popular do not have any organizational structure to help them collaborate on projects that are outside the scope of editing articles. What are your thoughts about the future of the chapters, and the future of regional organization of local Wikimedians? What do you think the Board can do to stimulate more out-of-wiki community participation to help us all reach the Foundation's goals? -- IlyaHaykinson 10:29, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

As anachronistic as it may seem sometimes, our civilization is still split into many nation states with independent legal systems, which are also highly correlated with certain differences in cultural expression, language, and so forth. Chapters allow us to network and organize the Wikimedia community within any given region, using the appropriate and prevalent cultural and legal norms. That said, chapters also represent bureaucratic and administrative overhead which, I do believe, should be minimized if at all possible.
The current chapter structure strikes me as a good balance. Chapters are not set up in a top-down process, rather, the Foundation assists local communities when they start becoming interested in setting up their own organization. To this end, the Foundation under the present Board has hired a part-time Chapter Coordinater, Delphine Ménard, who is working together with volunteers to provide said assistance (and to also make sure that chapter activities are not conflicting with Foundation activities, or with those of other chapters).
On the other hand, I think that the Wikimedia organization network as a whole, and the chapter structures in particular, need to be exposed more visibly to the global community in our wiki projects. Unless we explain clearly the work that the existing structures are doing, our users will not get excited about starting their own chapters. So we need to start showcasing some of the most impressive chapter work, such as Wikipedia Academy, the various DVD projects, the experiments to bring Wikipedians into schools, and so forth.
I think there may also be a new type of organization, not necessarily called a chapter, that will be used to conduct programs in certain regions of the world. For example, we might want to establish an organization in Namibia to work together with SchoolNet Namibia in bringing Wikipedia content to kids in those schools. Such an organization would have the benefit of being eligible to receive aid from developed countries, and could carry on projects on the ground. It would also have to be created in a slightly more top-down fashion, at least initially.
With regard to a United States chapter (or even several ones), I can see some use for it in the long run. Primarily, it would reduce the internal tension within the Foundation of being both a US-based organization, and one which is meant to serve the whole planet. Let me put it this way: if a significant number of contributors in the United States starts asking for the creation of a US chapter, I will very seriously consider their arguments, and it is quite possible that I will support such an endeavor eventually.--Eloquence 18:21, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Change[edit]

Hi Erik,

What is the top 3 things you want to have changed in the current strategy of the foundation? Thanks, Effeietsanders 10:50, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

As Board member, the best way to answer this question is probably to list the three things that have frustrated me the most when proposing strategies or policies:
  • Right now, I am the only Board member with a strong personal involvement in wiki technology (I am the CTO of another non-profit and a MediaWiki developer). As I mention in my brief summary of my work in the last 9 months, I recently co-facilitated a meeting in Vancouver to bring together thought leaders in technology and education in order to define the key deliverables for a next-generation MediaWiki platform. This was, however, not done as trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation, and I've had little success convincing my fellow Board members about specific, similar initiatives. Partially, this is certainly because of more pressing issues dominating recent Board meetings; however, partially, I believe that the remaining Board simply does not believe open source technology to be as important to our core mission as I do. I will be meeting with a number of organizations in California (Internet Archive, Mozilla, Wikia, perhaps Google) in July, and I hope that I will be able to get some serious commitments to improve the technologies relevant to us. If re-elected, I will attend some of these meetings as trustee of WMF.
  • I still think we can do a lot better when it comes to openness and participation. I do not consider either to be dogma, but every transaction of the organization should be judged on a case-by-case basis. Right now, too many things, especially business transactions, are still "closed by default". They should not necessarily be "open by default", but in every agreement that involves an external partner, we should at least ask them if they would have a problem with us releasing detailed information about the agreement to the public, rather than simply assuming it. With regard to participation, the Board has long recognized that many of our current committees are not functional. I proposed specific changes to the committee system at the last 3 Board meetings and have also drafted a resolution to implement such changes; once again, these proposals have not yet received full attention due to other priorities. One proposal I did manage to find approval for is the creation of a new staff position of "Volunteer Coordination", which I described and announced. We recently hired Cary Bass to fill this position.
  • In general, now that the Board has identified candidates for the role of Executive Director and Legal Coordinator, I hope we can focus on long term strategy, i.e. the development of a 3-year-vision for the Foundation. Where do we see individual projects like Wikinews, Wikiversity, or Wikibooks going? What types of external partnerships should we pursue? What is our sustainability plan? The Board has, generally, been too focused on short term action in the last 6 months; this needs to change ASAP.
I have already identified other priorities, but those are largely agreed upon. It is the above changes that I think will require more advocacy on my part.--Eloquence 09:26, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Added Value[edit]

Hi Erik,

What kind of value do you add to the current set of boardmembers (In your case only reviewing the other boardmembers, not yourself :P ) in the area of Legal, Financial, Accounting etc expertise? Thanks, Effeietsanders 10:50, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Legal: I am not a lawyer, nor have I studied law. I do, by now, have a broad understanding of the legal issues relevant to us, especially licensing issues, and have advised other organizations (including, for example, the Encyclopedia of Life) on the latter. I have worked closely with Lawrence Lessig, Richard Stallman, and other representatives of their respective organizations on issues such as license compatibility and the distinction between free and non-free licenses (I co-initiated the Definition of Free Cultural Works, which I pushed to version 1.0 during my tenure as Board member). I drafted, together with Kat Walsh, the current licensing policy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Accounting: I am not an accountant. I have attended a two year school of economics and trade as part of my formal education, but U.S. law, practice and terminology are different from Germany, so that I have not been able to operationalize much of my knowledge in this area. I have abstained on some of the related Board resolutions and am not a member of the audit committee.
Financial: My primary interest in this area is to ensure that the WMF programs receive sufficient funding. I have been working on a detailed fundraising strategy, parts of which I presented at the most recent Board meeting. I have done significant research on fundraising practices during the United States 2004 presidential election as part of the research for my book, Die heimliche Medienrevolution, and have a particular interest in the intersection between technology and non-profit fundraising practices. I have been tasked by the current Board to work with our staff on identifying key improvements needed to the fundraising system we are using.
Etc: Which etc are you interested in?--Eloquence 09:36, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Licensing policy[edit]

You write in your statement that one of the board's accomplishments were "a project-wide, clear and consistent licensing policy". Could you please elaborate in which way this has helped Wikimedia projects and the foundation? My view may be skewed but my impression has been so far that this policy has caused a lot of headaches because it's not very clear (a lot of steps and details are missing) and it's not really consistent (it doesn't take into account the legal and cultural differences within the projects). There's been a lot of reaction to the policy and there are a lot of open questions which apparently don't really get the time of day by the board or a dedicated board member that they deserve. I don't have to drag everything out here but I'm sure you're aware of it, considering that you were a main impetus behind this policy. In the interest of the voters I would really appreciate it in which way you consider this policy clear, consistent and in the best interest of the foundation. sebmol ? 12:52, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I will start with the assumption that it in our interest to maximize the amount of freely licensed, educational content available. A similar assumption is also made in our mission statement, which makes no reference to non-free content. Under this assumption, we need to be careful about the incentives to contribute materials under a free license. I will give you a practical example. Before the new licensing policy, the English Wikinews permitted photo essays to be uploaded under a CC-BY-ND (no derivatives) license. This meant that these photos could not have been used as background images in a YouTube video, for example, as the license defines such use as a derivative work. Originally, this practice was intended to incentivize people from the outside to contribute free photos. However, as soon as implemented, regular community members started to also upload photos under CC-BY-ND.
In other words, suddenly, the incentive system was messed up: Where previously, all community members had to make their photos freely available, as soon as some photos were allowed to be non-free, the incentive for members to contribute free materials was reduced. "If they can upload non-free materials, why can't I?"
This same pattern can be found in virtually all projects where the distinction between free and non-free licenses had become blurred. In those communities, there were fewer reasons for a new community member to give away their work for the whole world to modify, share, and even use commercially. They did not feel like they were part of a movement committed to this idea of giving content away. Perhaps that's because, effectively, that commitment just wasn't strong enough.
The licensing policy is designed to create a sharp distinction between free and non-free materials. Non-free materials are still permitted in limited circumstances under fair use or a similar "exemption doctrine", but they must be treated very differently in policy from freely licensed materials. And I do not agree that the policy does not take into effect cultural or legal difference. That is exactly why each language community is permitted to develop its own exemption doctrine policy, in accordance with local law and standards. But the overarching principle of a clear distinction between free and non-free must still apply.
The only real problem with the policy is that it was put into place too late, causing unnecessary disruption in those communities which had begun to deviate from its underlying principles. I had already advocated for such a policy to be put into place months before I joined the Board, however. While there may still be some tweaks in future revisions of the licensing policy, I think the next step is practical advocacy: getting more people to understand the benefits of free culture and free licensing.--Eloquence 08:59, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Checkuser policy[edit]

What is your opinion of the privacy policy, particularly relating to checkusering of adminship candidates? Majorly (talk) 13:24, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I believe that checkusering adminship candidates without their consent is unacceptable. If they consent, it is for an individual project community to decide on its own whether it wants to ask new adminship candidates to undergo a checkuser test or not. I'd rather they didn't, but I do not believe it would be wise for the Board of Trustees to interfere in project policy on that level.--Eloquence 09:43, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Sister Projects[edit]

What is your opinion on some of the projects that are not as well-known as Wikipedia? Would you favour a situation where attempts are made to nurture these projects rather than almost-solely concentrate on the one that has the highest profile? This question is of particular relevance to you because it is my opinion that since becoming a board member you have neglected Wikinews which you were instrumental in the setting up of, and have not answered questions given to you regarding issues around this project. --Brian McNeil / talk 14:43, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I have spent about 20 hours per week of volunteer time on average on Board & WMF issues. As a result, I have not been able to volunteer in any single project community as much as I wanted to. In the last 6 months, the Board has had to compensate for the absence of an Executive Director; as a result, many issues did not receive the attention they deserve. Among them is a genuine strategic plan for all projects (including, for that matter, Wikipedia). I have personally focused on what I consider to be the single most important technical change in the history of wikis: quality assurance technology. I have worked closely with Philipp Birken on the coordination of the FlaggedRevs development project, which will allow users to assign definable tags to article revisions, and to configure article view settings based on these tags. This will also be relevant to Wikinews.
The other steps that I considered important in nurturing smaller projects include the mission statement, and the licensing policy. Both of these steps help to define the core values of the Foundation, which enables us to now focus on the values which are specific to each project. The Wikimedia brand survey I recently set up is also designed to gather information about ways to improve the perception and recognition of our smaller projects. One of the next steps towards giving more attention to individual projects is the decision to set up a retreat together with the Advisory Board at Wikimania 2007, where long term strategy will be discussed.--Eloquence 09:53, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Core issues[edit]

Danny Wool in his candidate statement says: "International expansion and partnerships may be more exciting, but the role of a Board is to focus on the core issues..." . What do you make of that? --Steven Fruitsmaak (Reply) 14:58, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I believe that international expansion and partnerships are among the core issues the Board should focus on.--Eloquence 09:54, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Communication with communities[edit]

Smaller communities in my experience can have problem drawing attention of the Board to important community issues where Board input is really necessary. Do you recognise such needs are currently left unanswered, and what could change to let the Board process such requests?--Steven Fruitsmaak (Reply) 15:07, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

The Board cannot scale infinitely. I would rather try to design a system of appeal that communities can use to resolve disputes that really are happening on a meta-project level. A "Meta Arbitration Committee" has been proposed for this purpose, an idea which I believe has very real merit. Such a Meta ArbCom could then also delegate issues to the Board or the Executive Director when truly necessary.--Eloquence 09:55, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
I'm not talking about ArbCom, you totally misunderstood. I'm asking you: "How can communities reach the Board?" If we have a proposal we want the Board to discuss, who should we contact, and how do you propose we contact them? What can be changed so that they actually listen? And what is your take on User:Kate saying about the sister projects: "I would expect that all of them could be transferred to other organisations who would be a lot more dedicated to them than the primarily Wikipedia-oriented Foundation is." ? --Steven Fruitsmaak (Reply) 11:43, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
No, I did not misunderstand. There are different types of community communications to the Board happening right now. For instance, we are contacted regularly because a certain project is alleged to not be in compliance with some core policy of the WMF, be it free content licensing, neutrality, or anything else. For these types of communications, a community appeal process that transcends individual project communities could be a good, scalable filter to pass through requests to the Board if they cannot be otherwise dealt with. At present, these types of requests are served the least efficiently.
For proposals and suggestions, the best place to post is foundation-l, which is read by all Board members. There is also internal-l, which is read by trusted volunteers who are part of chapter Boards, Foundation committees and other organizational workgroups. For project proposals, there is a defined process. Lastly, it is of course possible to contact Board members individually.-Eloquence 11:50, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Well, your final suggestion seems to be the problem. But I really want to understand what you and others consider Board-level decisions versus community problems that the Board doesn't have time for. For example, Michael Snow suggested that the Board can't waste it's time dealing with Wikinews' request to get en.wikinews email addresses for their original reporters. Agree or not?--Steven Fruitsmaak (Reply) 00:54, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
I think it's part of the larger accreditation issue, with the associated legal complexity and course of action I outlined below. I don't think dealing with it as a matter of policy is a waste of time. Of course, the practical work of approving email addresses is not done on the Board-level, but by staff and volunteers who actually implement the policy. BTW, you wrote to Michael that you emailed me several times about this. I cannot find any email from you on this issue. Can you help me find the email somehow?--Eloquence 03:20, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
I never emailed you, User:Thunderhead has. --Steven Fruitsmaak (Reply) 12:49, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Foundation Growth[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation is growing at much faster rate now than ever before. We are trying to establish ourselves as a stable, mature, international non-profit organization. What type of organizational and management skills can you offer that will benefit the foundation?

Also, our advisory board (http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Advisory_Board) is filled with experienced and competent professionals. The foundation can benefit greatly from their expertise and knowledge in various fields. Currently, their involvement in the foundation seems limited, how can you change the system to utilize their expertise? Do you think the advisory board should have more influence on decision-making? Vpatel 15:15, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I have been a member of our projects since December 2001 and have watched Wikipedia grow from a small community with thousands of articles into a vast, international network of volunteers, one of several projects operated by an international non-profit organization. I have helped with organizational issues as soon as the Foundation was set up. Having served in several functions including, now, on the Board of Trustees, I believe I have a deep understanding of the challenges we face, the philosophical principles we try to abide by, and the direction we want to go. My "wiki-CV" from 2001 to 2006 can be found at User:Eloquence/CV. My professional background is that of a technologist; if re-elected, my strategic focus will likely be on issues of software development, open source policy, partnership with research institutions, and so forth.
The Advisory Board consults directly with the Board of Trustees through a private mailing list; this is the most scalable way to make use of their competence while respecting their almost always limited availability. In addition, individual Advisory Board members have been invited in the past to join relevant workgroups (Mako Hill on the Election Committee, Trevor has offered to help with brand strategy, and so on). While I do believe we should consult with them more frequently, I think the general setup is fine as it is. The Foundation and members of the Advisory Board will come together for the first time at a retreat at Wikimania 2007.--Eloquence 10:10, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Office evolution[edit]

In what way do you forsee the office (and staff) evolving under your tenure as a board member, should you be elected? i.e. would you be in favor of expansion, contraction, status quo, more interns, new positions, less, what? Swatjester 15:27, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

The first priority have been a new Executive Director and a new Legal Coordinator. Staff planning happens under the supervision of the ED; the Board should only decide the ends, not the means by which to achieve them. I do expect that our staff will expand significantly in the next 2 years, in roughly the following order of priority: administrative/accounting, fundraising and grants, software development and ICT administration, project management, legal (I expect we will need additional in-house counsel at some point, even with a full-time Legal Coordinator), press (though I hope we can rely on volunteer coordination as much as possible).--Eloquence 10:17, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Multilinguism[edit]

Hi Erik,

As I see that you did not write your candidate statement in German too, although that is your native language, I wonder what your view is on the multilinguism of the Wikimedia Organization (so broader as just the Foundation) and her communities. Further, is there any specific reason why you did not write your candidate statement in German too? Thanks, Effeietsanders 18:55, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Due to the new requirement for endorsements, it was important to put up a candidate statement quickly, and I chose English to reach the most people. That said, I just provided my own German translation.
I strongly believe that multilingualism in Wikimedia projects needs more software support. To this end, I wrote specifications and have acquired independent funding for Multilingual MediaWiki, which is under development by Charles Pritchard. The current implementation can be found at mw.visc.us, and I hope to review the first release candidate this week. This software will allow wikis like Commons and Meta to support multiple languages natively, i.e. without templates or hacks; see the specifications for details.
Another project I have conceived and acquired funding for is LiquidThreads. The first milestone of the project was at first independently developed by David McCabe for the Google Summer of Code 2006, but there is now a commitment from Wikia.com and the Commonwealth of Learning to fund its continued development over the next few months. David has been working hard under my supervision (this is work I am doing outside WMF as a contractor for COL), and the current code can be found in SVN and is installable. LQT is relevant to multilingualism, as it allows comments to be structured. Potentially, one of the future structure attributes would be language, so you could have truly multilingual discussion threads on a single wiki.
Last but not least, as CTO of Open Progress, I am supervising the development of OmegaWiki, which is a multilingual, structured wiki for ontology, lexicology and terminology. OmegaWiki has recently reached a milestone of 250,000 expressions in many languages. We have a project proposal that would make it possible for media in Wikimedia Commons (and other MediaWiki installations) to be tagged using OmegaWiki concept identifiers, allowing them to be searched in all languages. We are still in the process of exploring potential sources of funding for this proposal. This would be a massive improvement, as currently, most category names are English. We have many other ideas for using OmegaWiki as a language tool in Wikimedia projects. Of course, OW is a fully open source MediaWiki extension.
My friends and colleagues Gerard Meijssen and Kim Bruning have done additional work to integrate MediaWiki with Omega-T (no direct relation with OmegaWiki, yet), a computer-assisted translation tool. This would allow translators to make use of translation memories. A future project that Sj and I have been investigating is a system for managing translation tasks and assigning them. This could help to streamline many translation processes in Wikimedia.
As you can see, my focus is on technology; I believe that for our community to become more networked across languages, it is essential that the right tools exist. Policy alone will only create bureaucracy. That said, as a Board member, I have worked with Gerard and other members of the language subcommittee on language policy issues (such tasks are typically delegated to me by the Board at present), such as the split of the Belarussian Wikipedia. I support most of the recent policy recommendations of the language subcommittee, especially the creation of a Meta ArbCom for negotiating policy issues that transcend a single project/language.
Do you have more specific questions? Supporting all Wikimedia languages is of great importance to me.--Eloquence 23:38, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Reading your respons, one question does pop up. Do you think that the Board of Trustees should deal with issues as the creation of new language Wikipediae, Wikisources etc, or should that ideally be delegated to executive staff? Effeietsanders 23:42, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Both Board and Staff have already been largely removed from the process to make it more scalable, except for a) the Board being given some time to object to any language that is not currently used in the Wikimedia universe, b) paid devs sometimes (not always) doing the actual language setup. That is, after all, why the language subcommittee (made of volunteers) and the Wikimedia Incubator have been set up. I think the process is fine, for the most part; it is likely that the Executive Director will act as a filter on a) in the future. Aside from the process, however, I do (once again) believe that technical improvements are needed to make it easier for new language communities to bootstrap their user interface, their namespaces, and so on. Some of this is already in the pipeline but not getting the needed attention due to the tech staff, as usual, being overworked.--Eloquence 23:59, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Chapter 2[edit]

Hi Erik,

Are you member of the German Wikimedia-Chapter? Thanks, Effeietsanders 19:13, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I was at the founding meeting of the German chapter and entered my name into the membership roster at that time. I have, however, not been active in the chapter, except when coordinating Foundation-level matters with them.--Eloquence 09:58, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
do you pay an annual membership contribution or not? --83.215.194.249 09:34, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Religious Picture Ban – Muhammed (Islam) versus Bahá'u'lláh (Baha'i)[edit]

Islam is a religion which don't want to see/show pictures or images of the founder Muhammed. Baha'i is a religion which don't want to see/show pictures of the founder Bahá'u'lláh. Wikipedia in most languages show respect for Islam and don't show Muhammed. But Wikipedia in most languages show a picture of Bahá'u'lláh. Wikipedia show more respect for the picture ban in islam than it show for the picture ban in Baha'i. What do you think is the cause for this and do you think that Wikipedia shall treat religions equal? Caspiax

I think Wikipedia should treat all religions equally, i.e., without censorship. I support making the principle of "Wikipedia is not censored" (except where legally required) a Foundation-level value, similar to free licensing and applicable to all projects, but beyond such a general principle, this is not a Board-level issue.--Eloquence 09:57, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Board Minutes, Transparency, and Confidentiality[edit]

Dereliction of duty in previous term as Board member. In your candidate statement, the first qualification you mention was that you served as the Executive Secretary for the Board these past nine months. As you know, one of the responsibilities of the Secretary is to take minutes of the various Wikimedia Foundation Board meetings and post them so the community knows what is going on. Prior to your becoming Secretary, Angela studiously took minutes and posted them for the community to see. Since you became Secretary, however, the important activity of minutes-taking has been severely lacking. For the WMF meetings in January and March of this year (each of which the WMF spent thousands of dollars on travel and lodging for, I might add), however, no minutes have been posted. How can you explain this dereliction of duty, and can you promise that, if re-elected, you would fulfill your duty? --Cyde Weys 05:56, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

As you will notice on the page you linked to, the Board decided long before I joined to keep minutes confidential. When I became E.S., I immediately asked whether this was necessary. The Board decided to keep the policy in place. The truth is that minutes contain highly confidential information: a meeting with a company under NDA, discussions with donors who prefer not to be named, meeting candidates for the Executive Director position, etc. : Posting such minutes would require heavily censoring them first. I would like nothing more than to post them, since they take quite a lot of effort to maintain, and without any public record, it is a thankless activity (not to mention being accused of "dereliction of duty"!).
What we agreed to do instead of posting the full minutes, is to be especially careful that any action taken is turned into a proper resolution, which can then be publicly logged. For individual resolutions which are confidential, the link would point to BoardWiki instead of the WMF wiki. In addition to the public resolution log, we also agreed to post public reports about important meetings. The responsibility for writing these reports would usually rest with the host or someone else who attended the meeting. However, the person assigned to write reports has not always done so in the past. If these reports are important to you, I suggest you contact the Board Chair and ask her to make sure a report is written after each meeting.--Eloquence 08:39, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't see anywhere on the linked page that says Board meeting minutes are confidential. I believe there should be more transparency and accountancy and - whilst some things may be covered by an NDA - most business should be available for people to see. --Brian McNeil / talk 10:11, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
It does say it now. And making most decisions available for people to see is exactly the reason most resolutions are published.--Eloquence 10:19, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
It says it now because you edited it. --Brian McNeil / talk 11:24, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I made the current practice explicit, which was in place before I joined the Board, as you can see on the page (there are no publicly available minutes for 2006). That is what I referred to in my reply to Cyde.--Eloquence 21:36, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

So you aren't running on a platform of transparency and accountability for the Board? You don't think the community has a right to know what's going on with our elected Board members? If some confidential discussions take place, you can simply not include them in the publicly-released minutes. But that's no excuse at all to not release all minutes. And as Brian McNeil has pointed out, this supposed emphasis on confidentiality was just made up by you. Your phrasing "As you will notice on the page you linked to" is utterly disingenuous and misleading, because you know damn well that that "notice" wasn't on the page when I first linked to it, because you only added it to the page after I linked to it!! --Cyde Weys 14:19, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes, one could release heavily censored versions of minutes, but I consider the triple approach of public community reports, public resolutions, and private minutes to be more responsible and practical. This allows me to take minutes without regard for any later censoring, recording every detail I consider important, rather than disincentivizing me to record less, not more. In essence, the assumption under which a person writes a document influences how they write it. In terms of corporate governance and accountability, a triple system seems preferable, allowing for a detailed record that can be reviewed by the authorities, resolutions of non-confidential actions that are reviewed by all, and community reports and explanations that are posted to the relevant mailing lists.
And once again, this confidentiality policy was not "made up by me" but was in place when I joined the Board. My reference to the wikimedia:Meetings page was to the minutes for 2006, which, as you can clearly see, have not been released to the public. Minutes of the January and August meetings were recorded by Tim Shell and are published only on BoardWiki. If you wish the Board to change its policy on minutes, this is a decision the whole Board has to make, not an individual Board member. Personally, I think the community would be much better served by more detailed and more consistent community reports after each meeting.--Eloquence 22:36, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

For the record, I agree with Erik that we agreed for minutes to be confidential by default. I actually did not supported that decision, but eh, I was in a minority ;-) For this reason, i try to regularly provide some reports on Foundation-l, sometimes after a meeting, other times on a specific issue. I could not really do that for the march meeting, due to me missing half of the meeting being stuck in a snow storm. I am sorry of that, doubly because I would have appreciated a report as well ;-) I started a report from the last meeting on wikimedia foundation website soon after the board meeting, and I completed it already twice. You may find it here: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Meetings/June_1-3%2C_2007. I am trying little by little to provide the report on the wiki site rather than the list, as it makes it much easier to find back, correct and improve.

I actually agree with you that the meeting/reporting system is not so satisfactory right now. We still need to work on it and improve communication. For example, I really wished that we do an annual report at the end of year 2006. This is normally the role of the ED to make sure that this be done. Well, it was never provided. Too much to do. I'll try my best to have something this year.

However, I must state that Erik has made huge improvement in the minute reporting system since he joined; Prior to him, minutes were taken by Tim, and were quite "raw". When Erik became secretary, I had to complain that minutes were provided very late, sometimes not complete and not fully neutral. This is no more the case, minutes are now very precise, concise, neutral and the delay is very satisfactory (within one or two weeks). Besides, he refined the reporting system, to include the resolutions, which makes it something much more satisfactory from an audit perspective I think. I guess the next step is to refine the public reporting now.

(Hmmm, should I discuss business really ? well, I could not help :-)) Anthere

I would like to see the resolution to make the minutes private including who voted for and against please. From a simple search I am unable to find it. Tawker 00:09, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Don't you find a chilling lack of transparency in all of this? How is the community supposed to trust the Board when the Board has a habit of voting to make all of its meetings "confidential", and then not saying much about them? We, the community, through our donations, are paying tens of thousands of dollars per Board meeting for travel and lodging — don't you think we deserve to know what work is getting done?! --Cyde Weys 01:08, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Please re-read my responses, your hyperbole is in complete contradiction with the actual facts.--Eloquence 01:10, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
So the fact that they were made confidential wasn't made public (till now)? Voice-of-All 19:23, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't think there's ever been any public discussion about the matter before now. The minutes from 2006 onwards were simply put on the BoardWiki instead of FoundationWiki. When I joined the Board, that was the established practice.---Eloquence 02:22, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
This concerns me, Where is the board vote on this? —— Eagle101 Need help? 02:58, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
To my knowledge, no resolution on this was ever written (nor would it need to be -- not every procedural issue needs to be voted on). It was, however, confirmed as being the current practice when I joined the Board, on our Board mailing list. It could be useful to describe this practice as part of a general recordkeeping and transparency policy, especially if we want to ensure that the kind of triple reporting system that I described above is actually used, i.e. that reports are written. For instance, we could have a policy that if no dedicated public report is written, the minutes will serve as the public report -- that would incentivize the report creation.--Eloquence 02:22, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
It seems to me that this whole mess could have been avoided if the decision to make minutes confidential had been made public immediately -- which is to say, there needs to be better reporting, even if minutes are confidential. This also seems like a bit of a case study in how board decisions modulate public support. None of this seems to be Eloqunce's fault, particularly; I'm just posting on this page for the sake of discussion flow. (I've also made the heading for this section more general; I've preserved Cyde's original heading below it.) Tlogmer 08:34, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

What are "free" works?[edit]

Hi Erik,

  1. What is your opinion on the fact that the WMF has based its licensing policy on a definition of free cultural works that is not controlled by the WMF itself but by some external group? Doesn't that make it harder to adapt it, if that should ever become necessary?
  2. How should, in your opinion, requests for clarifications from the community regarding said licensing policy and/or the definition of free cultural works or their impact on the Wikimedia projects be handled?
  1. Trick question: would you consider Image:Empire State Building3 Dec.2005.jpg or Image:HH Polizeihauptmeister MZ.jpg "free" works? They are properly licensed CC-BY-2.0 and CC-BY-SA-2.5, respectively... (please look at the images before looking at the hint :-)

Cheers, Lupo 10:29, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

1) Updating the definition would require updating the licensing policy anyway. Since the definition is CC-BY, it can be forked by WMF if necessary. The definition was initiated by myself and Mako Hill, who is a member of our Advisory Board, so I do not consider it completely distant to the WMF. The authoring process is open and democratic.
2) I suggest to start collecting such questions on licensing policy questions and to submit them to the Board when a significant number of questions and issues have been collected. This makes processing easier. We have already drafted an amendment to the licensing policy for some minor clarifications regarding moral rights.
3) The licensing policy only makes reference to the licenses section of the Definition of Free Cultural Works. The definition of individual "works" is more strict, and I think it's acceptable that we cannot ensure that all media in Wikimedia projects are free of any legal restrictions whatsoever. However, when a work can reasonably be completely free without reducing the information value, we should strive to make it so.--Eloquence 10:35, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for your answers. I don't quite agree with 1 and 2, but that's ok. :-)
  • On 1: With all due respect: while you are currently on the WMF board, that will not always be the case. Hence it's IMO irrelevant whether you had a hand in that freedomdefined.org definition. It's just an external definition. (As an aside, "forking" the definition wouldn't be necessary: the text is copyrighted, but the ideas expresssed are neither novel nor copyrightable, IMO. The WMF could just write it's own text defining what it considered free enough to be hosted.)
  • On 2: I'm not convinced that will be sufficient. I think the WMF will need to take greater responsibility for clearly defining the basic boundaries of what content may be hosted on the WMF servers at all, copyright-wise. That doesn't mean micromanagement (the WMF quite wisely has kept out of all licensing disputes on the projects), but the Leitplanken must be defined. The licensing policy was a first step in the right direction, but there's more to be done. The WMF should see it as part of its business to clearly communicate these basic requirements, and that includes explaining them, if questions arise. (A bit tough without a legal office at the WMF, I guess...) Note that such "open communications" does not mean that the board need be involved in each query. But there should be a way to get official guidance on core subjects related to licensing without having to wait for weeks.
  • On 3: I agree, but if the intent of the licensing policy is to ignore possibly existing additional restrictions beyond copyrights (which is, AFAIK, also the current practice of the projects), that should be made clearer. The policy could state for instance explicitly that while there may be freely licensed works that are not free for any purpose due to requirements imposed by non-copyright legislation, it only applied and considered copyrights.
Anyway, thanks again. Good luck! Lupo 08:02, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
  • 1) My point does not regard organizational control, but an overlap of ideas and philosophy. Beyond Mako and myself, the moderators of the definition include Angela Beesley, Mia Garlick of Creative Commons, and Elizabeth Stark of freeculture.org. The Wikimedia Foundation and any other organizational entity exists to serve the free culture movement, not the other way around. I deliberately placed it outside any of the dominating organizations within that movement, to make it something that is fully community-owned. I would really be curious to understand where you see the risks with that approach. And yes, facts cannot be copyrighted. The free licensing only simplifies forking and re-use.
  • 2) In addition to the licensing policy, I do agree that there is a need for the community to obtain answers to some of the trickier questions in international copyright law and case law. Where does freedom of panorama end? Which jurisdiction is relevant for which resource? What is the threshold of creativity beyond which something becomes copyrightable? What relevance do the "no photo" rules in museums have to us? To which extent are non-free logos and brands permissible in a larger, freely licensed image? And so forth.
If the Wikimedia Foundation directly instructs editors to act in one way or another, it might increase its own liability if its interpretations are not held up in court. This risk might lead it to give very conservative recommendations which are, however, not necessarily in the best interest of our community. Having a less formal group that is instigated by the Foundation, but not controlled by it, to give legal advice might be the way to go. This is compounded by the fact that the Foundation can simply not afford to hire counsel to deal with the immense legal complexity of these issues on an international scale. So we will have to rely on pro-bono help.
This is exactly the reason why we are hiring a Legal Coordinator whose responsibilities will include building and managing this network. We have recently met a candidate for this position and I am positive that we will make progress soon. That being said, whichever strategy we choose must minimize the liability of the Foundation for the actions of its contributors.
  • 3) Well, it is called a licensing policy, not a general content policy. It could be considered a building block of such a general content policy, which would help users to recognize the boundaries of its applicability. But we need to be careful: Board-level policymaking does not scale well beyond certain basic parameters. So whatever guidelines and rules we define on that level are probably going to be relatively broad and deliberately open to interpretation.--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
Just a quick comment on (2): that's what I meant by "micromanagement". Experience has shown that the communities can handle most of these questions pretty well for themselves. (Except maybe for the house rules/"no photo" rules at venues and museums.) By Leitplanken, I meant more fundamental issues. Notice that the FOP discussion at the Commons stalled only because someone questioned whether U.S. law was relevant. That's a fundamental issue the foundation should be clear about: does everything we host need to be legal to be published in the U.S.? If yes, what exceptions allows the WMF all the same, and for which projects? And if no, it would be beneficial to also explain why. (And yes, the WMF would need legal counsel to hash this one out, and it would probably need to explore several avenues, figure out how adventurous or innovative it wants to be, and consider the needs of non-English projects. AFAIK, the board is already aware of this issue and will consider considering it :-) Lupo 10:21, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
On (3): There should be a way to get the "official interpretation", though. Not necessarily through the board, that's not really the board's job, but somewhere, there should be someone who'd be able, willing, and tasked to explain WMF resolutions if their intent is not clear or if they're being misunderstood. Lupo 10:21, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't consider it micromanagement to provide advice in a more organized fashion. Indeed, we've tried to do this before with the "juriwiki-l" legal advice mailing list which is, I believe, mostly dormant. But yes, there is a difference between those issues where only advice is needed, and those where some decisive intervention may be required. Regarding "official interpretation" -- I've proposed batch inquiries to the Board as a way to ask questions about the LP for now. Do you have any other suggestions?--Eloquence 23:29, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

I don't understand the point of the new licensing policy. The point of Wikipedia is to build an encylopdia that is free--accessible to everyone, but still quality. Everyone goes on and on about the quality or potential quality--Wikipedia can be good as Britannica--how many times is that Nature study linked to? This new policy is seeming to create a different encyclopedia--free, sure, we'll give it to anyone and everyone, but we're going to be freedom snobs--we won't use anything in our encyclopedia that's not 100% free, even when we don't need 100%. We're not going to convince anyone to stop copyrighting international symbols. Money and flags--half of those images are being loaded up with incorrect tags. Or the ISA (International Symbol of Access)--sure, it's only copyrighted to keep people from using it to mean something else, so it stays a symbol of access, but we want permission to tear it up and deface it just in order to use it? Why? What makes this important, necessary or even relevant to Wikipedia and images? Miss Mondegreen talk  12:00, June 27 2007 (UTC)

The commitment to a high standard of freedom dates back to the earliest beginnings of Wikipedia. When Jimmy Wales started Nupedia, Wikipedia's predecessor, the following was an explicit part of the mission statement:
What does it mean to say the encyclopedia is "open content"? This means that anyone can use content taken from Nupedia articles for all purposes, both for-profit or non-profit, so long as Nupedia is credited as the source and so long as the distributor of the information does not attempt to restrict others from distributing the same information. Nupedia will be "open content" in the same way that Linux and the Open Directory Project (dmoz.com) are "open source." [1]
As the encyclopedia was built -- first Nupedia, then Wikipedia -- it became clear that there were particular materials that could be useful to illustrate an encyclopedia, but which we would hardly ever be able to obtain under a free license: historical photographs, album covers, logos, and so on. But the understanding of "free" in Wikipedia (and then its sister projects) was, from the beginning, "free as in speech" not, "free as in beer." This is why the word "free" is translated to "libre" and not "gratis" in French, for example.
So, in that respect, I strongly challenge your first assertion. The point of Wikipedia was not just to build an encyclopedia that is "accessible to everyone". It was specifically inspired by GNU/Linux and the movement for open source & free software. The current licensing policy inherits that inspiration. It is based on a Definition of Free Cultural Works that is similar in nature to the Free Software Definition.
Why is that important? Why shouldn't we just be "accessible to everyone"? Quite simply, because only if we guarantee the highest possible standard of freedom, others will be able to make new educational uses of our content: like PediaPress (print on demand), PediaX (a beefed up AJAX powered mirror), DBPedia (data extracted from Wikipedia articles), Wikipress (edited, printed books), or the SOS Children Wikipedia selection. Our images and sound files in particular are hosted on Wikimedia Commons, which has the potential to become the largest archive of freely reusable media.
Now, that doesn't mean that we cannot allow any non-free content at all. Indeed, I have strongly supported the kind of fair use exemptions you describe from the very beginning. I have personally intervened in quite a few cases where I have felt that people were putting ideology above reason. If we label resources used under the fair use doctrine of US copyright law and similar local doctrines clearly as such, third parties will be able to filter them.
But we are walking a thin line here. If we permit too much non-free material, we mess up the incentive system of contributing free content. People will be less inclined to give their material free under very liberal conditions if others aren't required to. And we may be choosing a non-free resource where, with reasonable effort, we could have acquired a free one.
In a situation where many projects had inconsistent policies on this, we tried to develop a licensing policy that defines a reasonable middle ground. It allows each project to develop an "Exemption Doctrine Policy" -- a policy such as the Non-free content policy of en.wp -- which takes into account exactly the kind of situations you describe. Money, flags, logos etc. can all be permitted under an EDP.
Specifically with regard to logos and other "identifying works", it is also my personal belief that the same principles of freedom that apply to works in general are not always desirable or needed for them. For instance, Wikimedia's own logos are copyrighted and trademarked, and we do not allow any corporation to pass off its own products as being "Wikipedia", "Wikinews", "Wikisource" etc. By doing so, we do not deny anyone an important freedom: they can still make full educational use of our content. Indeed, it could be argued that we protect the rights and the integrity of our communities.
So I've been thinking about developing a set of guidelines specifically for these types of "identifying works". Surely, we cannot reasonably expect anyone to change the license of their logo if even we ourselves do not adopt a completely free license for them. But I think a license which permits certain types of commentary and non-commercial reuse would be acceptable in these cases. Indeed, it's been generally my impression that the free culture / open source movement has not really figured out a consistent philosophy to deal with trademark issues -- compare the Mozilla/Debian dispute, which led to Firefox being renamed to "Iceweasel" in the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. I don't think that kind of infighting helps anyone. So more analysis and consensus is clearly required at least in this area.--Eloquence 06:10, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikinews Accreditation[edit]

Wikinews allows users to gain press credentials through a simple community vote, and allows users to keep the credentials, even when users have been inactive for over a year (although an Inactive Policy has been proposed). Do you feel that there needs to be a stricter policy as to who can get accredidation, and the activity of accredited users? Also, there has been some debate on Wikinews regarding Wikimedia Commons users requesting accredidation on Wikinews to take photos. Do you think Commons needs to set up a seperate accredidation process? Thunderhead 18:43, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

I honestly don't think that either of these are issues of non-profit Board governance; if you repost on my Wikinews talk page, I will reply there.--Eloquence 21:56, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Done, Eloquence. Thunderhead 01:13, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
The Wikinews accreditation policy is set by the board, via approval. So, how can Wikinews accreditation issues not be issues of WMF Board? Brian Wikinews / Talk 04:51, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
This is, as far as I know, the only part of Wikimedia where users are given credentials to act in the real world... If anything could reflect poorly on the Foundation it would be misuse of such a system, and if trusted users from Wikinews want to talk to the Board about it I would think that it would be a serious issue. Even more so since people are coming from other projects like Commons, other language Wikinews projects etc. to ask for press passes. There have been many attempts to improve the process, but without collaboration with the Board or some staff member, there will continue to be fruitless attempts like the Press Corps, Scheduled attendance for Wikinews or Commons etc. But yet again your answer is that the Board cannot be involved with community issues like this. --Steven Fruitsmaak (Reply) 14:44, 20 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Accreditation from Wikinews is not something to be dismissed to a side-discussion as casually as this. We sent a reporter to the G8 conference, and I - personally - had to provide a letter vouching for this contributor. I asked on your talk, and that of Jimbo. Was I not clear enough about what we were doing? The template and passes for accredited reporters say they don't represent the Foundation, or even the wiki, just the community. However, are any organisations which choose to recognise these credentials not going to assume they represent the Foundation? More than likely the reporter is "That guy from Wikipedia", that being the best-known project.
I'd have to say I suspect that most of the other candidates probably don't know that Wikinews issues press passes, so to not make it as if I am specifically targeting you I will ask them all to look at this discussion and comment. --Brian McNeil / talk 20:56, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

The current Wikinews accreditation policy is a bit odd. There is no reference to it in any Board meeting minutes (including confidential ones), nor was any resolution passed on it. The Board has never, to my knowledge, explicitly approved it, and even the policy itself only makes reference to "implicit" approval. I believe the intent here is to provide some level of oversight (through direct consultation) to guarantee that sane policies are used for outside representation, while staying out of the accreditation process itself and not directly delegating rights of representation.

The Wikimedia Foundation considers itself to be a provider of an interactive computer service, rather than a publisher. This is what provides us the liability protection of 47 USC § 230 ("Section 230"). Preserving this legal status is not just something we consider important or useful. It may be the single most important factor for the future survival of the Wikimedia Foundation. At the same time, accreditation processes are often designed to expect exactly the opposite: that the reporter works for an organization or company that edits and approves the content before it is published (which is the tipping point where Section 230 no longer applies). This creates a tension.

You may expect me to promise you whatever you deem necessary to help the Wikinews project. I will not promise you that, because it would be irresponsible to do so. I want to get a full legal opinion with regard to our current practice (the "implicit approval" of project-level policies) and potential new practices such as office-level approval of reporters to officially represent Wikinews. Perhaps there are sane and scalable practices that we can implement ourselves without significant risk. If so, I am all for it.

If it turns out to be legally ill-advisable to go beyond a pure community process, then there may still be other options to explore. I have been generally toying with the idea of separate non-profits which are authorized to use the Wikimedia brands to improve Wikimedia project content. These could be the Wikimedia chapters, but it could also be an entirely new network of organizations. Bootstrapping a non-profit dedicated to improving Wikinews content, while not hosting the actual website, and which is authorized to use the brand for purposes such as press passes, might be a reasonable course of action.

But these things take time. You wanted me to find a "creative" solution to issue some letter of authorization within a period of days. You left me a message on 27 May and told me on June 1 that I was too late. I'm sorry, but your expectations are very unrealistic here, given the workload of the Board, the requirement to act as a group, and the necessity of legal analysis preceding any kind of official act in this matter. We will carefully consider the issue in due time, I promise you that. Anyone who promises more must either be much more deeply knowledgeable about the legal issues than I am, or irresponsible.--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Non-membership organization[edit]

Last December, the Wikimedia Foundation revised its bylaws to change itself from a membership organization to a non-membership organization. In a membership organization, the trustees are directly responsible to the membership; in a non-membership organization, the trustees are ultimately responsible only to one another (and indirectly to donors, who presumably will not donate if they feel the trustees are not being responsible). Do you feel that the Foundation, constituted as it is as a non-membership organization, provides sufficient structural checks and balances to ensure that the trustees observe their fiduciary responsibilities appropriately? Would a return to a membership structure, with the ability of members to bring policy proposals themselves at the annual meeting or by other methods, to remove board members by appropriate vote, and to sue the Foundation under certain conditions limit the ability of the Trustees to do what they need to do? If you do support a return to a membership structure, how would you determine who the voting members are? Kelly Martin 21:36, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

The Foundation was never a membership organization in practice; there were never any members. Florida Statutes, s. 671.0601 states for non-profit corporations that, "A corporation shall keep a membership book containing, in alphabetical order, the name and address of each member. The corporation shall also keep records in accordance with s. 617.1601." The Wikimedia Foundation never kept such a membership roster. A bit of history: The establishment of a proper registration system for members was discussed by the then-Board (I believe around 2003-2004), and a technical implementation tied into user preferences proposed to a developer, to keep the legally required membership roster. But this system was never implemented. I believe the discussions with the developer stalled due to privacy concerns about keeping the personal data about members in the same database as the content.
Bringing the bylaws in line with corporate practice had been identified as a high priority by our legal counsel, Brad Patrick. At the Board meeting in November, the entire Board was pretty much ready to scrap all references to membership without much further discussion. I insisted, however, that we have a proper discussion about the issue, and made the case for a membership system as it had been made before on several community mailing lists. We then debated the pros and cons of such a system.
The key negatives we identified were the following:
  • Disclosure of identity to others. We do not want to limit participation in WMF activities to those who are willing to disclose their identity to other members.
  • Hostile takeover. Given the power of members to elect or recall the Board, the risk then arises of large numbers of people being affiliated with some entity (economic, political or religious) to attempt to restructure the organization to their liking.
  • Unnecessary hierarchy. It is possible that legal membership would negatively impact the social dynamics of the project when members and non-members are treated differently.
  • Administrative overhead. WMF is simply not presently in an organizational position to effectively manage thousands of membership registration.
  • Questionable benefits. We can have most of the benefits of a membership system without legally encoding it in our bylaws.
(From my summary of the bylaws revision.)
I was convinced by the hostile takeover argument. Nobody, including the main advocates for a membership system, has demonstrated that there are sufficient legal safeguards that could be put into place to prevent a very deliberate takeover atttempt. Since Wikipedia is, economically, worth billions of dollars, the incentive for such attempts would be quite high.
The idea of embedding chapters into a membership system, as Michael Snow suggested, is interesting and one that I think merits debate. The issue I'd be interested in here is whether this could make the chapters liable for content on the hosted projects; right now, they are strictly separate entities. I also think the above negatives should be fully examined under such a scenario. We have discussed the idea of a "chapter representative" on the Board before, and this might be a good solution for now. This will be discussed again before the next Board expansion, provided the current plans remain in place after the election.--Eloquence 21:51, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Headquarters location[edit]

From time to time there has been discussion about whether the Foundation's current headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the United States, is the best location for the office. Do you think that the Foundation should continue to be headquartered in and operate out of Florida, or would you support a move to another location? If you think a move is appropriate, where would you move the Foundation to, and why? Kelly Martin 21:36, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

The issue has been discussed at the last Board meeting, where we met with candidates for the Executive Director and Legal Coordinator position. The current Board is largely in agreement that the location of WMF in Florida is a historical accident and should be reconsidered; however, this should be done under the guidance of a new Executive Director, and only after more critical short-term priorities are addressed. (We had a brief discussion about potential locations; I personally favor Boston/Cambridge, due to the vibrant free culture community already present there.)--Eloquence 21:53, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Would you consider moving it out of the US? Or just to a better place in the US than st. pete? Swatjester 14:30, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
I do believe the location should be very carefully considered, including community input, and we should not rule out anything at this point. As always, it's a matter of cost/benefit. Moving to another country would likely mean leaving a significant number of current staff members behind. It would also entail hiring staff familiar with local legal, accounting, and hiring practices. Our primary hosting facility is in Tampa, Florida and would either have to be moved, or we would have to leave technical operations behind (in which case we would be potentially found liable in two different jurisdictions). Moreover, any other country would have its own unique legal situation. The US has reasonable laws and precedents protecting providers of Internet services from liability; this is certainly not the case for many European jurisdictions, for instance. For some countries, there'd be language issues -- if English is not widely spoken at least as a second language by our core staff, it becomes more difficult to work with people internationally.
That said, if there are compelling reasons to move to another country, there will never be a better opportunity than now, as we are still small enough to be able to build up a new operation from scratch. For an international organization which has access to a vast talent pool of contributors, immigration law is a pretty big factor to consider, for instance. While non-profits are treated preferentially in the H-1B visa process, it's still not trivial to get people permission to work in the US. The cultural attractiveness of the location to potential employees also has to be considered.
As I said, my personal bias is in favor of Boston/Cambridge, which I think is probably one of the most culturally attractive locations in the US given the kind of employees we're looking for. The academic community there might help with immigration processes (research institutions are highly privileged), not to mention the combined brainpower they'd be able to offer to help with lots of issues. But that's just my opinion, and I'd love to hear what other people think. We had a very detailed analysis process before deciding the location of Wikimania 2007, resulting in a matrix of all bids with their respective characteristics. Surely, the location of WMF headquarters deserves at least as much attention from our international community.--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
Why would the Boston area be an improvement from the Foundation's current office location? How would the significantly higher cost of living and higher cost of business in that area impact the Foundation? What differences in corporate governance and legal standing would be required by the shift in home states? What benefits would offset the costs and difficulties of the move itself? What kind of employees can that region offer than the current location cannot? Have you considered the sharp increases in salary it would require to attract qualified candidates in that job market? Vassyana 14:44, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
As I noted above, there needs to be a community process to answer these and other questions for any location we might wish to consider. This is not the time, nor the place, to go into much more detail about any single one of them.--Eloquence 02:26, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Licences[edit]

Have you read the GFDL? What do you think of the current draft of the GSFDL?Geni 21:41, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes. I like the reasoning behind the GSFDL and think it addresses several of the deficits of the GFDL. However, even with the license registration clause, it is still a bit cumbersome for rich media. I also generally believe that the free/libre culture movement should strive to minimize licenses of roughly the same type, e.g., there should be one dominating copyleft license, one dominating attribution license, and so on. Trying to be too specific about the needs of a particular type of work ("documentation", "software", "science", "images", etc.) tends to lead to unnecessary friction.
From that perspective, I actually prefer the CC-BY-SA, since it is currently the dominant generic copyleft license and reasonably sane. It has a simplified attribution clause for highly collaborative works (one can designate an entity for attribution) and has been adapted to several jurisdictions. I share some concerns about the moral rights clause in the ported 3.0 licenses, and believe WMF needs to legally analyze this issue and make recommendations to CC for changes if necessary. Beyond that, I think migrating to CC-BY-SA may be the best long term solution for WMF.--Eloquence 22:15, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Professional?[edit]

By nature and design, wiki communities are an amateur, unstable amalgam of widely differing perspectives and agendas. There is no individual or collective responsibility and no competence test for participation. Yet, the board of the ever-expanding and legally constituted foundation that runs one of the world’s top websites, needs to be highly professionally, highly competent, collectively coherent and responsible. It must have business savvy, and be willing to make hard-nosed and even unpopular decisions. In your opinion:

  1. Is the current board, vision and structure fit for that purpose?
  2. Are you? (Would you be a competent candidate for a board in any non-profit venture?)

(same asked of all candidates)--Doc glasgow 14:43, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

I feel your introduction is valid, but also incomplete. The Board of Trustees of a 501(c)(3) organization is the ultimate corporate authority that guides and controls it. Aside from ensuring financial sustainability and good business practices, and acting within the best interest of the organization, it also needs to protect and express the core values upon which that organization was founded, the mission enshrined in its bylaws which it seeks to accomplish.
Encyclopædia Britannica was first published in the 18th century. What will Wikipedia and its sister projects look like in 10, 20, 50 years? I do believe that the most active members of our community have a deep understanding of and commitment to a certain set of core values. And while our philosophies are often very different, there are at least certain patterns that we see emerge again and again. Our core values must be protected, our shared philosophies respected, our diversity represented through our mechanism of governance.
This is why I have always insisted that the majority of the Board of Trustees should be made of (preferably elected) members of the community. It was partially my insistence that led to this principle being written into the Foundation Bylaws. But wait -- "majority of"? Well, there are still the appointed members of the Board. Currently, three Board members have that status: Jimmy Wales, Michael Davis, and Jan-Bart de Vreede. You may want to take a minute to read Michael's and Jan-Bart's bios, if you haven't already. Both have brought their professional background to the governance of WMF, and both have been very active and helpful.
I would like to see our Board expanded to nine members. Jimmy has indicated that he would not mind his status to be that of an elected member at some point, which would mean that we could have 4 appointed members in compliance with the present bylaws. This allows us to bring seasoned professionals from outside our project communities on board, to assist in matters such as fundraising, financial oversight, governance policy, and so forth.
That does not mean that these same skills should not also be present in elected Board members. But the community will, probably, typically focus less on these skills and more on the content of their platforms, their conduct and standing in the community, their cultural and intellectual background, the principles they espouse, and so forth. These factors, on the other hand, will be less important for appointed Board members from outside the community. And this is exactly what I see reflected in the existing Wikimedia Board of Trustees.
So, to finally answer your two questions: Yes, the current Board, vision, and structure is fit for the purposes of governing the WMF, including the subset of governance which you identify, though it would benefit from an expansion. Among the current elected members, I do believe that I have the most directly relevant professional background, since managing and developing wiki technology for another non-profit (Stichting Open Progress), which I co-founded, is my actual profession right now.
Would I be competent for a Board in any non-profit venture? No, because I do not consider Board members to be faceless functionaries. They should actually understand the organization they are serving, at least on a basic level, and of course I do not understand every non-profit on the planet. I would be able to serve in basic administrative functions of a Board member and Executive Secretary, but that should not be reason enough for anyone to appoint or elect me (or, for that matter, any other candidate for any mission-driven non-profit Board).--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Chapters[edit]

Taking into account the growing importance of Wikimedia chapters in furthering our common goals on the one hand and the impact the decisions made by the Wikimedia Foundation have on the work (if not existence) of the Wikimedia Chapters on the other hand: What do you think about the idea of giving the chapters a formal say in WMF's decision making process? What do you think especially about a) letting the chapters appoint one or more board members (beside the ones elected by the community) and/or b) changing the WMF back to a membership organization (with the chapters as members)? Do you have any other ideas to achieve more checks and balances between Foundation and chapters? On top of that, would you care to elaborate on your vision about the current and future role of the Wikimedia chapters? Thanks in advance, Arne (akl) 15:40, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Delphine taught me to always preface the usage of "We" with a definition, so I shall do so in this case at least: There is a "We" that transcends the organizatonal boundaries of the Wikimedia Foundation or the chapters. This is the group of people who believe in advancing the cause of free educational content, created collaboratively, shared globally, for the public good. More specifically, it is those who wish to do so in large part through the Wikimedia projects.
The Foundation and the chapters are simply administrative tools that help us to achieve these goals. I believe the current elections give "us" -- the global Wikimedia community -- the possibility to vote for Board candidates who are likely to make the best use of any and all administrative tools and processes in order to advance the free knowledge movement, the coordination with chapters being among those processes.
That being said, I do believe that the successful networking with the chapters is absolutely essential for advancing our mission successfully. For that reason, I do not rule out the idea of an elected or appointed chapter representative on the Board (provided there is negligible risk of additional attachment of liability to the chapter being so represented). But it also strikes me as somewhat strange: Why not a representative for free licenses, or one for encyclopedia distribution, or one for content quality?
Is it not, perhaps, preferable to simply let the global community (whether members of chapters or not) decide, through these and future elections, what our chapter strategy should be? Right now, we have the former head of the Dutch chapter on the Board, and this current Board hired Delphine to work for us as part-time chapter coordinator. The Board has worked with the chapters during the Frankfurt retreat, approved the creation of new chapters, debated extensively issues such as trademark licensing, and so forth. Are chapters being neglected? Perhaps -- but if so, then probably no more so than any other issue that fell through the cracks in recent months due to the well known operational issues.
So, before agreeing to a chapter rep., or a new membership system, I would like to understand what the problem is that is to be solved. I am wary of creating complexity in our administrative structures where not needed. In the short term at least, I'd like to focus on other issues. For instance, right now, you are the only person actually employed by a chapter. Most chapters do not have the money flow necessary for that.
But the Foundation could potentially embed chapters much more deeply into its fundraising processes. This would require better shared planning of programs and activitities and reporting about them. Donors want to know what they are giving towards, so we should make this fully transparent. At the same time, we also always need to give priority to necessary expenses over optional ones. There is also the potential of grants given to the chapters by the Foundation for specific programs, or at least seed funding to bootstrap their operations.
With an eye towards long term sustainability of the chapters through their own independent sources of revenue, it's not clear to me which of these strategies is best. This is why I think it would make sense to have a "money meeting" between the chapters and the Foundation before the next major fundraiser.
Role of chapters -- well, you know that I could talk for hours about what chapters could do. :-) But you've done me one better and actually piloted projects in many of the key areas: the DVD partnership, going into schools and teaching young people how to use Wikipedia, the Academy, the PR materials and press/publicity work, the project which you recently posted about on internal-l, the T-Online donation, and so forth. For the most part, I think this also defines the scope of the "ideal" chapter, although we should of course scale it up massively until world domination is secure. ;-)
I think the extent to which we want chapters to be directly involved in creating content needs to be discussed some more. Personally, I tend to be in favor of it, since they are legally separate from the hosting and therefore should not be liable for any content not created under their direct supervision. There are two primary ways in which chapters could work on content: a) through grants and partnerships, b) by providing physical spaces for volunteers to come together. b) then relates to the idea of the "Volunteer Media Center" we discussed last year. I think the chapters might be in an ideal position to be bootstrapped to become such certified, regional centers of activity for the global free culture community.
Let's continue those discussions in the coming months, one way or another. I apologize for the lack of attention I've been able to give any of those ideas since January. When I joined the Board, I assumed I'd be able to focus fully on strategic issues like this. Unfortunately, the Foundation got bogged down in operational issues, as you're well aware, which are only now being resolved. But, in spite of the drama, we did get quite a bit of important work done, which I think is reason to remain optimistic about the future.--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Project policy involvement[edit]

What are your views on board involvement in writing and implementing policy for the various projects, especially in controversial areas where it appears that community consensus will be difficult to establish, such as on the "attack sites" [2] and biography of living people (BLP) [3] issues? Cla68 15:51, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

This is not the role of the Board of Trustees. That is not to say that there doesn't need to be an officially sanctioned decision-making process for such disputes. If you look at my candidate statement, you will notice that I emphasize the creation of a mission and vision statement as key achievements. Why is that so important? Because it is Foundation-sanctioned, enforcable policy and, moreover, it is the first step to defining similar mission statements or charters for each project.
In other words, I do believe there needs to be a Wikipedia charter, a Wikinews charter, a Wikisource charter, and so forth, to define the key characteristics of these projects which are shared among all languages. The process for developing these charters needs to be highly participatory, and the statements should not go into too much detail. They should be properly voted upon by the respective project communities. The WMF should merely instigate this process and definite its basic parameters.
In order to then resolve disputes like the ones you point to, there needs to be one final component: something like a meta arbitration committee, an elected body that people can appeal to in order to mediate in disputes that transcend the boundaries of a single language and touch upon the core values of a project. This meta arbcom could then deliberate whether current practice in the community follows the agreed upon charter, or whether the charter may need revision, and make a decision, with a final appeals process to the Foundation's Board of Trustees.
There are other ways to approach this problem. This specific solution is the one which appears the most coherent to me right now. But what is absolutely clear is that the Board cannot scale to mediate or decide in such issues on a day-to-day basis. I would not consider it to be the role of the Foundation's employees either, except where legally necessary.--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

What if[edit]

What would you do/recommend when elected and faced with 40% budget deficit? Absolwent 18:47, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Your hypothetical scenario could apply to an organization with $100 million in the bank, or one which is about to close shop. So the first step is to get all the facts: What are our savings? Why have we spent more than we are taking in? How long can we continue to operate? If the financial sustainability of the organization is indeed in danger, there are of course obvious steps that can be taken: public appeal, diversificiation of revenue sources, reduction of operations, and getting Jimmy to whip out his rolodex and make a few phone calls. ;-) Which steps are appropriate would really depend on the specifics of the situation.--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Cash & users[edit]

We need money and people. We have lost users (for a while) after this event. Nobody expected it, but... the same was in 2006. Do you want to talk about money (with these wealthy guys) and what's your opinion about that event ;)? Przykuta 11:54, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

We're interpreting the same graphs differently. Participation rates seem to generally peak in the winter months and there's plenty of fluctuation, but growth still appears linear in most editions. I think the challenge is to reach beyond the "Wikipedia demographic" of computer savvy users who can master the depths of wiki syntax, and make our technology accessible to all those who have knowledge to contribute. In terms of retention, we also need to reduce burn-out; I believe the Revision Tagging extension will help with that, as people will have to worry less about what the "revision of the moment" looks like, and can focus on improving an article through a series of milestones. In general, anything that increases Wikipedia's credibility will help our community thrive. See also my reply to Arne above about the role of chapters in community-building.
As for the Slashdot story, Florence was misquoted; the financial situation of WMF is quite reasonable (the last fundraiser was our most succesful one ever), though we will have to hold another fundraiser soon. The good news is that we've diversified our revenue streams significantly; there is now considerable monthly revenue from data-feed and trademark agreements. There's still lots of work to do in this area, of course, but the situation is not gloomy at all.--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Impending failure[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation at a corporate level is soaked in its own drama and if conditions don't improve soon, it will crash and burn. I want the newly elected trustees to act as catalystic mediators to simply and peacefully transform drama into productivity and then success for the foundation. How do you plan on doing this? Signed, your friendly neighborhood MessedRocker. 06:05, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

I think you are a bit out of date. The Foundation has just gone through a dramatic period of operational and structural changes. For instance, we have just concluded the search for a new (Interim) Executive Director and will make an announcement in this regard in the next few days. While nobody is perfect (in particular, some processes were simply dragged out for too long), I think the Board has remained remarkably coherent and harmonious even through difficult times, more so than I expected in fact. Which specific ongoing wiki-drama are you referring to and what is a "catalystic mediator"?--Eloquence 08:30, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Some questions for existing board members[edit]

  1. Since the departure of Brad Patrick, both Brad and the Foundation have been remarkably silent regarding the state of the WMF office and the reasons for Brad’s departure. Did the Foundation sign an anti-defamation agreement with Brad? If so, does it prevent the Foundation from providing a factual account of the situation that led to Brad’s resignation? Did you vote in favor of or otherwise support this agreement?
  2. While I realize that travel expenses are a necessary part of conducting the affairs of the Foundation, some individuals in the community are concerned about the appropriateness of some travel expenses incurred by board members. Would you be willing to share a list of the trips you’ve taken at the Foundation’s expense, and the rationale and total cost of each trip?
  3. Concerning travel, many corporations adopt a travel policy to define acceptable and unacceptable expenses. At the board retreat last fall, a “reimbursement policy” was one of the items determined to be necessary, yet no such policy has been forthcoming. Do you support the adoption of such a policy by the Foundation?
  4. Have you incurred any travel expenses that would be in violation of the typical limits of such a policy, e.g. first-class airfare, meal expenses in excess of $50 a day, or reimbursement of expenses other than transport, food, and lodging?
  5. The Foundation does not make the votes of individual board members on matters before the board public. Do you believe it is wise for votes to be kept secret in this regard? Would you be willing to share your own voting record for the time you have been on the board?
  6. The board has stated that “involvement of board members in executive issues” is a major obstacle in recruiting an Executive Director. Do you agree with this statement? Do you believe that you personally have been involved in executive issues that are outside the board’s legitimate purview?
  7. The Foundation’s most recently issued financial statement covered the period ending June 30, 2006. Do you believe that more frequent financial statements should be issued? If so, what steps have you taken as a board member to move towards more frequent reporting?
  8. A major role of the board is oversight. Can you describe your oversight activities? How frequently have you visited the major operational sites (e.g. the Florida data center and the St. Petersburg office)?

UninvitedCompany 21:23, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

1) Ultimately, there were many things coming together which made the professional relationship not work as well as it could have, and it would be in neither party's interest, nor in the interest of the community, to spread out these reasons and interpretations in public. (Compare the question above about minimizing drama and being productive.) That being said, there is no signed nondisparagement agreement between both parties.
2) I'm not going to dig up all the details for you, but this is a rough list from memory. The following trips were fully covered: 4 Board meetings (2 in Florida, 2 in the Netherlands) and a Board retreat in Frankfurt. This included hotel and (coach) travel expenses as well as Wi-Fi and most dinners. In addition to that I traveled to an Open Educational Resources Conference in Houston, the meeting of the Encyclopedia of Life in DC, a meeting with UNESCO in Paris, and the Access-to-Knowledge Conference 2007 at Yale. These trips were covered by the respective institutions that set up the meetings/conferences, though WMF did advance flight and/or hotel expenses in two cases. I sent reports about all trips I took on my own to private and/or public mailing lists.
3) Yes, and I helped with the drafting of both a reimbursement and a travel policy; these policies have now gone through several generations of drafting and review to ensure that they follow best corporate practice, and will likely be finalized at or before the next Board meeting. As of this time, the Board abides by careful reporting of all intended travel expenses before they are incurred; I would argue that individual Board members actually have been traveling too little to further the interests of WMF in discussions with chapters, other organizations and potential partners.
4) No unusual expenses. The WMF is subsidizing desktopless VoIP telephony equipment for Board members up to EUR 250 per person, but these devices (a Nokia N800 tablet in my case) will be returned to WMF once a Board member's term is completed.
5) For a Board that truly focuses on strategic, long-term planning, making voting records public is something I'd have much less of a problem with than for the decisions of the past few months. Since the Board effectively was a working Board in the interim period without an ED, disclosing the identity of Board members for every single vote (esp. hiring decisions) would have disincentivized decisions which are likely to be unpopular or called into question later during discussions such as this one, which does not necessarily make for good governance. But I would like the Board to have a good discussion about its public and private recordkeeping practices at the next meeting.
6) The Board acted in an executive capacity during the absence of an Executive Director; that is to be expected and perfectly reasonable. That is not to say that it could not have acted more efficiently. My main criticisms are: 1) Search for a new (interim) ED was dragged out for too long (I did my best to push it and agreed to any reasonable solution that we considered) , 2) Assigning Board members to individual staff members was a bad idea (I objected and recommended assigning Board members to areas of responsibilities instead, but was overruled), 3) Communication with staff about the situation was not sufficiently clear and unambiguous. Beyond that, however, the Board has also had very detailed discussions about its governance model. This includes, but is not limited to: a) discussions with Advisory Board members, b) discussions with our ED Search Firm, c) internal Board debate about boundaries of responsibilities, d) Florence's proposal adopt the Carver Policy Governance Model [4]. By now, I feel that we have a reasonable agreement on the key parameters of governance as we go forward.
7) Our current reporting goals follow the recommendations given here. We hired a Chief Operating Officer whose responsibilities include submitting monthly financial statements to the Board, unfortunately, progress on establishing the necessary accounting practices has been rather slow (an additional accountant is now assisting with this). I have reviewed all the data presented to the Board, but have not been active in the workgroups focusing on these issues.
Update - the Board has just received draft financial statements from July 2006 to June 18, 2007 which I will now review.
8) In terms of general oversight practices, we have been working towards implementing the recommendations of our auditors, which are also roughly in line with the implications of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for non-profits described on boardsource.org. In terms of my personal involvement, I will say that the lines between management and oversight have certainly become blurred during the time we've operated without an ED. I have been involved with most major business development or grant-related transactions of WMF during that time, but not with the amount of distance that the Board will be able to maintain once we finalize the decision to hire an ED. I have visited the St. Petersburg office twice as part of our Board meetings and the Amsterdam data-center (SARA) once; I have not yet visited the Tampa co-location facility yet.--Eloquence 03:33, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Article validation[edit]

What do you think of the idea of stable versions, article validation, and WP: 1.0? For example, see w:Wikipedia:Flagged revisions. Do you think the board has any role in this or do you feel it is a strictly local issue? Thanks. Voice-of-All 05:49, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Enabling flagged revisions, depending on the configuration, could be the single most significant functional change in the history of Wikimedia projects. So enabling it on any living project certainly needs to proceed with at least a basic understanding on the Board-level what is going on. I have kept the Board informed about the progress of development and am currently the Board "point-man" on the issue. The launch plan which I have proposed will allow for a staged deployment, with multiple feedback phases, and community processes to determine the best configuration in any given wiki.
I have some very specific thoughts on the original German proposal, which I've documented at User:Eloquence/WikiQA.--Eloquence 02:31, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Executive director[edit]

I'm asking this question of the other two existing Board members too.

To what factors do you attribute the failure of the Board to this date to hire an executive director? It is now more than a year since Brad Patrick was hired as interim executive director, and just shy of five months since Phillips Oppenheim was engaged to help find a candidate. --bainer (talk) 08:26, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

We've just hired Sue Gardner as a consultant and special advisor to the Board. Sue is not the Executive Director at this point, but this is partially due to immigration law: since she is Canadian, she is, for the time being, limited in what kind of work she can do in the United States. This has its upsides, as we can gradually build the professional relationship and explore what level we want to take it to.--Eloquence 06:39, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Ridings[edit]

There is currently a lot of candidates for this election. Not only is that hard on the translators (I assume), its hard on the voters, as honestly, I don't want to read 17 odd candidate statements, let alone their question pages (and I have not done that). Most people will get votes because they're well known in whatever project they come from, or they're already quite well known on the foundation side. Do you think dividing up the board into sections would be a good idea to reduce the number of candidates per section. For example, there could be 1 position for someone running for wikipedia, 1 candidate from say commons and wiktionary, and 1 candidate representing everyone else (or something like that). Thoughts? Bawolff 23:56, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

That's kind of a radical cure for a rather simple problem, one that could have many unforeseen consequences (e.g. you might not get a highly qualified candidate simply because they are spread too thinly across the projects; also, it would be very hard to figure out a fair and scalable formula). Rather, I think it would make sense to try to tabulate positions on different issues, so that people who want to know where all the candidates stand on matters related to Wikinews can quickly look that up, for example.--Eloquence 03:01, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

The past 9 months[edit]

  • What are you proudest about from your last 9 months on the board?
  • What is your biggest regret from the past 9 months?

-- Cimon Avaro 00:29, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

I'll pick two things I'm proud of, if I may, but I'll keep the first one short, and I only deserve half the credit. I think the licensing policy is a lasting, incredibly important commitment to free culture, and I'm very happy to have co-authored it.
I'm also quite pleased about the progress with Encyclopedia of Life. I initiated the contact and we built an institutional relationship, after I had randomly heard about it through a grant administrator from another organization at a separate conference. It's an amazingly ambitious project that could have a huge global impact. And I received very positive feedback about assisting them in the development of a licensing policy (I hope they will announce it soon).
My biggest regret is how things played out with Brad and Danny, including the aftermath. It was perhaps unavoidable, but I think the Board could have handled it more gracefully (I will not go into specifics) and more quickly picked up the pieces and moved on. I tried my best, but in retrospect, I should have shown more leadership.--Eloquence 03:13, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
Thank you. Excellent responses. Good luck with your campaign. (If you do get in, I don't envy your job at all.) I still remain neutral on whether you are among the three best people to hold teh position from those available, but despite the rifts, the foundation is still standing, 9 months on. -- Cimon Avaro 10:08, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Usability[edit]

Most Wikipedia users are technically inclined, but usability studies have turned up serious problems for non-geeks, and many of these problemsd remain uncorrected.

Have you read these usability studies? Do you consider them to be important? Would you commission more such studies? How would you implement their results?

Here's an example from just a couple months ago: a journalist working for a major newspaper thought that "there's no way to tell who wrote the entry or how many people contributed to it" until one of his readers corrected him -- he works for the media! How many regular people know how to check an article's contributors?
 If i might be permitted to opine for a second: the fact that you can view the revisions of an article should be obvious from the design of the webpage, but it's not: "history" is a terrible, non-obvious name for the function.

Put yourself in your parents' shoes: you're reading a page about Thailand that you found through Google, and you see a square that says "history". You click the square expecting to read about the history of Thailand and suddenly you're faced with a long, mysterious list of nonsensical words and numbers. You click the back button.
 Aaron Swartz gave one of the best summaries of the issue that I've seen:

"The page design the site uses encourages specific actions by making some links clear and prominent. Software functions like categories make certain kinds of features possible. The formatting codes used for things like infoboxes and links determine how easy it is for newcomers to edit those pieces of the site.

All of these things are political choices, not technical ones. It's not like there's a right answer that's obvious to any intelligent programmer. And these choices can have huge effects on the community.

...

One presentation was by a usability expert who told us about a study done on how hard people found it to add a photo to a Wikipedia page. The discussion after the presentation turned into a debate over whether Wikipedia should be easy to to use. Some...questioned whether confused users should be allowed to edit the site at all -- were their contributions even valuable?

As a programmer, I have a great deal of respect for the members of my trade. But with all due respect, are these really decisions that the programmers should be making?"

How would you solve this problem?

Tlogmer 00:14, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

I was part of the discussion Aaron referred to above (at Wikimania Hacking Days 06), and I've read the usability study that was presented there. Aaron's summary is very one-sided. While the study is very methodologically sound, it's also clear that many of the recommendations made were not based on a thorough understanding of the software and how it is currently used. That's fine, that is why they are called "suggestions", to be fodder for debate among the developers.
I do agree, to an extent, that the final decision should not be made by developers alone. It would be equally unwise to simply let the usability experts decide. In a mature organization, you have people with broader responsbilities, such as product managers, who ideally will be able to see both sides of the story. But this isn't really our problem right now: even if the Board itself had decided that the identified problems need to be fixed, it would still not be done today. Why? Because we have two full-time developers who also have to help keep our website alive. Which happens to be pretty damn big. :-)
So, our first priority is to increase our internal dev staff so that the countless known issues can be more systematically worked through. I don't think we should be paying for usability research at all -- it's almost certain that, with proper networking, we can get many similar studies done for free. But we should refine our internal development cycle to ensure that the research that is taking place, or has taken place, is given due weight.--Eloquence 02:54, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
As I said elsewhere, the number of official software developers does not seem like the main problem here: if we have clear program specifications, we can start an open source project to improve the software and maybe hire a programmer or two to get it started. In principle the board could post first draft specifications for comment and encourage software contributors to join the discussion once they start work on the software. Dan(pedia) 21:48, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Recruiting expertise[edit]

Danny Wool has proposed replacing the current board with "a professional board consisting of captains of industry and academia" -- presumbaly, web leaders and information academics, etc. Do you agree? What do you think Wikipedia can learn from, for example, professional writers of paper encyclopedias like Britannica? How should the foundation best recruit their advice and put it into practice? Tlogmer 00:14, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

I disagree. The Board should not be replaced; it should be configured in such a way that we try to find the strongest individuals for the appointed and the elected seats. I voted in support of appointing Jan-Bart de Vreede to the Board. Jan-Bart is a product manager at Kennisnet, a leading Dutch public organization for ICT in education, which has also supported the WMF for a long time. But it wasn't a "you helped us, so you get to join the Board" deal at all. We considered several other candidates for this seat, and the reason Jan-Bart was appointed in the end is that he seemed the most enthusiastic and passionate about actually doing work. Not to mention that Kennisnet actually gets wikis -- for instance, they created a Dutch encyclopedia for kids, by kids.
Jan-Bart has not disappointed us: he put in countless hours and has been as active, if not more so, as the elected Board members, bringing his professional expertise and his good humor to all matters ahead of us.
The Bylaws require that the majority of the Board comes from the community, allowing for a minority of appointed members. The current Board is supportive of an expansion to 9 members; if that does happen (majorities might shift after the election), and if I am re-elected, I will strive to ensure that we will carefully select people who bring vision, passion, and professional experience to the Board which we need. But I will strongly oppose any attempts to replace the Board with some self-perpetuating system of anointed functionaries.--Eloquence 02:11, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Cost[edit]

Out of curiosity, and with the concerns raised above about travel and other expenses, are you willing to give an estimate of how much money is being spent in these areas per board member. Are you are above or below the average? —— Eagle101 Need help? 03:04, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

See my response to UninvitedCompany above. I am at average (attended all meetings), since all my extraordinary trips were reimbursed by other organizations.--Eloquence 01:49, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't seen an estimate... How much money is average? Would you be willing to demonstrate that you have been frugal with funding, perhaps showing those records? Thanks :) —— Eagle101 Need help? 03:16, 26 June 2007 (UTC) (note this post is not from my normal pc, and I won't be able to get back to you for a few days after this post)
The Board meeting trips I took were arranged by WMF's travel agent, so I had no influence on the cost. Flight costs to the Netherlands are usually below $500 (last one was $600); the flights to Florida are about $1000. But this is from Berlin, and other Board members of course have to fly different routes at different costs. We usually all stay at the same hotel, for instance, in Amsterdam we stayed at the Radisson for EUR 239 per night.--Eloquence 03:37, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
So the total cost was.... (for your 9 months, how much have the foundation had to pay?) —— Eagle101 Need help? 03:43, 26 June 2007 (UTC) I've got about 10 more minutes on this machine O.o
I don't keep a running total; the above numbers give you the ballpark. You could ask Carolyn, she might be able to get it out of the accounts. But I suspect she has better things to do.
I have another question about accountability for you. Provided that the accusations that have been made (never against me, to my knowledge, so I find it a bit curious that you are selectively quizzing me) remain, as they are, utterly unsubstantiated, who will be held accountable for making these accusations, and how? What will be the appropriate reaction for calling into question, without reason, the good faith actions of volunteer community members who have put countless hours of their personal time into serving the Foundation, at no compensation? How do we deal, dear Eagle, with those who poison the well?--Eloquence 03:57, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
Sorry for picking you, I have not gotten around to the others, I was wondering more of a ball park figure then anything else. As far as the accusations I don't think I accused you of anything. I'm sorry if I came across that way. Accountability is not a bad thing is it? Cheers! —— Eagle101 Need help? 05:14, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
Actually could I ask you a another question, what is the total amount of money that the board has spend on itself? I'm curious how much of foundation money is going to pay for the (needed) costs of allowing our board to meet. ;) As far as trusting the board, thats why open communication and oversight is a needed thing. Right now who is the board answerable to? As far as I know, the state, and um... itself. It would be nice if the board were willing to release more information on the day to day operations, to satisfy the curiosity that some of us have. Just simple things like, Down to 3 candidates for Executive director. Paid 50,000 this month for servers. Does anyone on the board have an idea of the current amount of money that the wikimedia foundation has on hand right now? How much are we going through a month, where is that money going? Just simple things would be nice, "spent 70,000 dollars, 30% on staff, 5% on boardmember's expenses, and the other 65% on servers. I don't know the real numbers, but this kind of data would be nice. If its already available, where may I look? Now I must give this computer up, bye, and thanks for hearing me out :) —— Eagle101 Need help? 05:25, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
What you are looking for are the financial statements. For the period up to June 30, 2006, these are available. [5] We've just received drafts for the statements up to June 2007, and will release them once they have been fully reviewed. Now, the financial statements do not key travel expenses to Board vs. non-Board -- you simply have a broad category like "transportation" or "lodging" for a given month. It's also not clear that the distinction would make a lot of sense, as 1-2 staff members are usually also present at Board meetings. To give you a rough idea what the expenses were in January (which was also the time of the Rotterdam Board meeting) -- that month, we spent $8,829.72 on lodging and $5,393.46 on transportation, according to the current draft FS. Our financial statements are independently audited, which includes review for inappropriate expenses.
I do agree with you that community review is useful and needed. I also strongly believe that strategic meetings with leaders of the free culture movement and potential funders are absolutely essential to the future of the organization, and exactly the kind of Board travel that should be funded without question. So I have absolutely no problem spending $10K on a single Board member if that results in grant opportunities of $5M, or in other ways advances our mission significantly. For instance, I've always wanted to meet with the folks working on Schoolnet Namibia, who are using Wikipedia content right now in African schools, to understand their methods and find out how we could best help them. Again, I think such a meeting is 100% in the interest of WMF. We should absolutely not get bogged down in bean counting exercises when we can spend the time actually helping people & furthering our mission.
The best method to guard against improper travel expenses is to ask for reports to be published about every major meeting, at least in a confidential forum like internal-l. I've sent reports about all non-Board meetings I attended to internal-l and/or foundation-l, even though the expenses were covered by other organizations. For the Board meetings, my responsibility was to keep minutes; the public reports were delegated to others, but not always written. I regret that, but there's not much I can do about it except for being more insistent in the future.--Eloquence 07:14, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Appropriate conduct for Board members[edit]

Recently, in a non-Mediawiki forum, you made the following comments: "Cyde's and Kelly's arguments are on the same level: they are driven by blind hostility, not thoughtful analysis." [6] Do you believe that responding to criticism of your credentials and conduct as a member of the Board with personal attacks such as these is appropriate for a member of the Board of Trustees? Kelly Martin 00:46, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

q.e.d.--Eloquence 01:11, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
I'd be careful with this sort of response, as your "q.e.d." suggests to me that you feel your response on Kelly's blog is proven accurate? I'm not sure you'd want that conversation to be brought over to this question page...especially since I don't think either your or her points of view are really that self-evident to the rest of us.
I think it's a legitimate question, though. Kelly's off-site comments are her own, and while they don't strike me as purposeful attacks on anyway (I accept the "strongly worded critiques" at face value) there are many other websites, forums and blogs out there which would be happy to attack you or others in this election.
So, if I may, let me expand on this question. What do you view as appropriate conduct for board members participating in external forums, blogs, etc., of public, semi-public or private natures? By external, I refer to sites not owned, operated or related to Wikimedia. Some of these sites can get quite volatile, and even personal, directing attacks at the Foundation, any of its projects, or individual contributors. I know much discussion has been had on En.Wikipedia about Wikipedia's linking to such sites, but regulating contributor behavior outside the projects is a very tricky area most don't want to approach. I'm not even approaching it here, except for obliquely: I'm talking about "self-regulation," or what standard do you think board members should hold themselves to. --InkSplotch 16:06, 28 June 2007 (UTC)
To me, the fundamental problem is that there's been an awful lot of well-poisoning and rumor-mongering during this election, more so than during any in the past. Not just about me, but also about other candidates and sitting Board members. Unfortunately, far too many people seem to enjoy the occasional bit of wiki drama, rather than challenging not just candidates and Board members, but also those who spread unsubstantiated claims. So, for me, the choice is between ignoring such claims (which, in this case, I probably should have done), and trying to respond to them rationally. In the latter case, what usually happens is a "bait and switch" game like this: "Erik, you're horrible because you did not keep minutes!" "But I did." "You're horrible because you did not make them public." "They weren't public before I even joined the Board, and this was not my sole decision to make. But I have always supported a triple reporting of public reports, public resolutions, and confidential minutes." "You're clearly opposed to any kind of transparency! The Board needs to be accountable!" "Uh, what? Did you read anything I just wrote, and why are you so hostile?" "You're being rude now! Do you really think that's appropriate for a Board member?"
Notice that no matter how many statements you correct, the game will just go on and on. The best thing to do, really, is that as soon as you notice that the other person is baiting you in this way, you just ignore them. The intention, after all, is not to have a debate, but to throw as much mud as you can and hope that some of it sticks. And frankly, at this point it's not for me to do anything at all. It is for you to do so. It is for you to decide whether you want an election to be decided by hostile rhetoric and wiki drama, or by actual substantive, reasoned discourse. If you are interested in more of the latter, let me know.--Eloquence 16:37, 28 June 2007 (UTC)
I am, indeed, all for rational discourse. I'm not naive to believe that discourse will always remain calm and quiet, but at least on this site there's certain ground rules (so to speak) everyone must abide by. Taking these discussions off-site, to blogs or forums, can put you on much more uneven footing. It seems to me, it's not entirely prudent to attempt such defenses off-site at all, so I'd love to hear you expand on that part. How do you feel board members should conduct themselves off-site?
On the other hand, I've read the discussions above with Cyde, and the off-site discussion with Kelly. I appreciate you're feelings here...but I'm not sure I understand you're handling of things. You've labeled both as attacks, you've publicly conjectured on motives ("seething hatred" sticks in my mind), you appear to have responded by flinging as much mud back as you can. I'm not sure you're intending it, but it's my view from the peanut gallery. Perhaps you're still trying to find a middle ground between 'ignoring it' and 'rational discourse', but if you can step back and look at it from outside yourself, does it seem the best way for a candidate to be responding?
I hope you don't feel this is any further sort of attack, I'm trying to be as constructive as I can. I'm just not seeing things entirely from your point of view...I think Kelly's blog is blunt, 100% opinion, but not meant to fling mud or actually attack in bad faith. And I think Cyde, while a bit hysterical, also feels strongly about what he's arguing about. But mainly, I think your perspective, and Kelly & Cydes are currently so different you're actually talking past each other and seeing an impossible impasse to cross. For all this, however, it is your actions most people will focus on...not theirs. --InkSplotch 17:56, 28 June 2007 (UTC)
We'll have to agree to disagree here on the substance of what is being responded to. I think my characterization of it is entirely accurate, and I'll leave it at that. But I do concur that it is perhaps best to simply leave these kinds of off-site claims alone, and to focus on commenting in a forum such as this one.--Eloquence 18:02, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikiquote & copyright[edit]

What's your stance regarding Wikiquote and copyrights? As it is, most wikiquotes depend and use extensively fair use, which is contrary to the philosophy of most other projects. What are your views on this? Should wikiquotes move to only free content? Should resolution on fair use have a special exemption for wikiquote? Should fair use be removed from Wikiquote after deadline for the resolution? drini [es:] [commons:] 16:06, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

I think the guidelines that were developed for the de.wikiquote reform are generally reasonable: limit fair use to a small number of short quotes, and make sure that fair use quotes are fully attributed. Beyond that, the challenge is enforcement; even with the reform recommendations in place, people have approached me with concerns that the project is not in compliance. To avoid another situation like with fr.wikiquote.org (which was essentially rebooted), we need to have more discussion and review of the copyright policy of the different Wikiquote editions.
That said, the licensing policy allows each project to develop its own "exemption doctrine policy" exactly because the needs of different projects are different. So, there is nothing in the current LP that would require Wikiquote to eliminate all its fair use quotations.--Eloquence 07:23, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

IRC Debate[edit]

Hi, as this seems to get closer to the time that the elections are to start, I thought it would be best to go ahead and attempt to get the unofficial IRC debate a time and a place. By the time analysis on the talk page, the best time for the debate appears to be 1800 UTC, to 1900 UTC. As it would be best for this debate to occur before the elections, June 27 was chosen as the day. I know that this is short notice, but the whole unofficial debate thing was on a very short notice to start with. I hope that you are able to attend. Again the time is 18:00 UTC, June 27, 2007, it will be held at ##wikimedia-debate. Please do note that this debate is unofficial, and you are not required to attend. —— Eagle101 Need help? 20:37, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the reminder. For anyone else reading this, my responses can be found in the transcript.--Eloquence 07:24, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Donors and scope[edit]

Asked of all candidiates: Okay, I'm not naive so yeah, it follows that large donors will probably get some pull when policies, direction and the scope of the foundation get decided, but what's your take on it all? How far do we bend to satisfy our donors, and to what extent are ideals of the foundation non-negotiable? In five years say, would you expect the foundation to still exist in the same legal fashion as now and assert ownership over the assets it currently has? Steve block 20:44, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Actually, there has not been a single instance so far that I know of where donors got "pull when policies, direction and the scope of the foundation got decided." In fact, the Foundation has rejected hosting offers or "donations" that came with strings attached. In general, our financial support so far has come mostly from small donations, which has also helped to keep us independent.
For any donation, I really only consider some form of recognition acceptable, preferably on the Foundation website and, in some cases, through a press release. Otherwise I don't really view it as a donation anymore, but as a business agreement. So the interesting question would probably be what kinds of business agreements are (un)acceptable. For any deal, I think the important question to consider is: Does it serve the interests of the Foundation beyond financial support alone? For example, I don't mind agreeing to integrate a commercial service if it is actually well-liked by the community and genuinely useful, especially if at least parts of the technology are open source. I do not believe, on the other hand, that giving an external entity any kind of control over our project content, or access to personally identifiable data, would serve our interests.
As for your last question, I do expect the Foundation will exist in its present form in 5 years, with more internal organization to facilitate community participation (more staff, streamlined committees and workgroups, possibly some kind of council or meta-committee). Beyond brand ownership, our main assets right now are hardware. I think it may make sense for us to explore a hosting agreement with other large technical non-profits like Mozilla or the Internet Archive -- these have similar needs, they are also working in the public interest, so perhaps we can work towards creating a meta non-profit "grid".
But let's not jump quickly into a seemingly innocuous hosting offer by any large Internet for-profit. Wikipedia and its sister projects are, in essence, a new kind of library, a gigantic knowledge base that is accessible to everyone. What information people read and write tells us a lot about them. With full access to the logs, a company could build fairly detailed profiles of our readership, and at least some of these profiles could be tied to personally identifiable information. Correlate that with the other information such a company might collect, and it gets scary. This is just one of many areas where it helps to have someone with a solid technical understanding on the Board who can point out subtle risks.--Eloquence 08:04, 28 June 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for a detailed response. However, with regards to your assertion that "there has not been a single instance so far that I know of where donors got 'pull when policies, direction and the scope of the foundation got decided', I'd refer to Wikipedia:Tools/1-Click Answers, and the Answers press release which stated "Wikipedia will create a Tools page on its English-language site to promote useful tools that access Wikipedia, and 1-Click Answers, Wikipedia Edition, will receive charter placement on that page. " [7]. I'm not criticising that move, but I think that quote provides a basis for my question. Steve block 15:32, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
As per the above, I consider the Answers.com deal a business agreement, not a donation. With regard to the terms of the agreement, I found them objectionable, and was quite vocal about it at the time. This has to do with the fact that 1) Answers.com One-Click Answers is a proprietary tool covered by software patents, and I am reluctant to promote proprietary software, 2) Answers.com later sued another company to enforce said patents (the lawsuit was eventually dropped), 3) I was doubtful that this deal would ever have generated much revenue, given the nature of the tool. That being said, my answer above with regard to business agreements is generally applicable in such circumstances. I would also like to add that Answers.com, in general, has been one of our strongest business partners and supporters, and the circumstances around this specific deal were rather unfortunate.--Eloquence 15:45, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
Thanks again for your response. Sorry I wasn't clear enough in my original question, I guess in my head I equated anything that sees the foundation get money as a donation, I never thought of it as a business deal. 84.92.54.229 17:51, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

What do you do when faced with a difficult decision to take ?[edit]

I saw in the recent irc debate the following question. Would you support releasing the state of the foundation's finances quarterly? Why or why not.. Of course, making such a decision is a matter of board-level policy. Now, the job of the board is also oversight. So, let's imagine the hypothesis that the board made a policy for quarterly release, the staff was asked to provide the statements according to the policy... and in spite of this, the report does not come. As board, you are embarassed. First because the policy is not respected. Second because the community is complaining. And third because, with no financial statements, there is no oversight possible. Please imagine you are facing this situation, reminded the staff once, then twice, then three times, and still no report.

What do you do ?

I don't have to imagine. ;-)
In seriousness, any such situation, hypothetical or not, can have a multitude of causes. Our organization at present is quite simply very understaffed, and by hiring Sue Gardner, I do believe we now have a good chance to get a realistic assessment of the short term hiring priorities for the organization. It will be the responsibility of our Executive Director to make all hiring and firing decisions, and to assess the performance of staff working under them. The Board then focuses its attention on the ED, not on other staff members, and reviews his or her performance in the same manner. If Board decisions are repeatedly not implemented, and no reasonable justifications are provided, it is the Board's responsibility to act and replace the ED.--Eloquence 08:11, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Committees[edit]

The committee system has been around for roughly a year and a half now, not counting previous initiatives. Several of the committees are now dormant and some never got off the ground. Some, conversely, have done fairly well.

I know this is a long-standing and groan-inducing topic of debate, but what is your view on the committee system? Do you have ideas for reviving the current committee system or making it more functional? Do you think there is a place in the Foundation, in theory at least, for community-based committees to do some of the day-to-day work or oversee certain areas? Who should the committees report to, ideally? Are there new committees that should be formed, or old ones to be reworked?

Sorry about posting my question(s) so late! Note: I know you addressed this question a bit under "change" and in some other answers; I'm wondering if you have additional thoughts. -- phoebe 00:26, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikimedia-committees-draft.png
Hello Phoebe,
reforming the structure of the committees was one of the agenda items most important to me during my tenure as Board member. It was pushed off the agenda a couple of times, but at least we do have a principal agreement where we want to go and have made some progress in that direction.
To answer your question, there is definitely a place for community based committees and workgroups, but many of the current structures are not working. I pointed out my concerns about these structures as soon as they were set up, in January 2006. [8] Generally, these concerns are still valid: there is a lack of transparent processes for people to participate in Wikimedia Foundation organizational work, and a lack of reporting of the activities of these committees (if any). Things have improved a bit with a reduced usage of closed small wikis and mailing lists and more activity on the central Internal Wiki. Also, Sandy's Communication Projects Group is an example of an open committee/group which supports a closed one.
In addition to more reporting and transparency (and I won't exempt the Board from this -- we've not always reported our own work in a disciplined manner), there are some other reform steps that need to be taken. Firstly, the committees should work for the Executive Director, not for the Board. This ensures quicker delegation and response. Secondly, we need to distinguish groups that face consistently the same type of problem (setting up a chapter, dealing with a copyright infringement complaint), and those that deal with a very large, diverse set of ever-changing problems. In the former case, standing committees are an appropriate tool; in the latter case, they are probably not.
Allow me to elaborate. The Special projects committee is meant to pursue grants, partnerships, and strategic agreements. Its members are highly respected Wikimedians with diverse skills. Yet, would they be the right people to negotiate a partnership for Wikinews, Wikisource, Wiktionary? All our projects have very specific needs and require very specific talents from those who would seek ways to support them. So, any "special project" needs a "special group" of people (I hope that doesn't sound too awful ;-).
In the chart you see to the right, you will see this reflected. There is a new committee called the "Volunteer Committee", whose job it is to identify community members to work on a particular problem. The VolCom then creates workgroups (represented as W1, W2) dedicated to solving these problems. Unlike committees, workgroups are transient. They do a job ("pursue Wikinews partnership"), report their milestones, and dissolve. The VolCom (together with the ED) can supervise this process as it happens. The head of the VolCom would be, logically, the Volunteer Coordinator, a position that I drafted with this future setup in mind. They would also respond to community ideas for new workgroups, and get approval from the ED if necessary to put these into practice.
You will notice that the "Tech Committee" exists unchanged in the chart to the right; this is because I believe that day-to-day technical incident response is working fairly efficiently right now. The committee as such has no relevance in practice; tools like IRC (including all kinds of cool monitoring bots), BugZilla and the tech wikis are used here to great effect. Not all is peachy, of course, but I think this has more to do with a lack of staff support to respond to community wishes (our paid tech team consists of only 4 people!), and a lack of internal project management.
In the area of communications, one of the major reform steps that I am waiting for is the Asterisk based Voice over IP setup. With VoIP, we can potentially distribute incoming phone calls to volunteers (probably after a staff member has picked up the call), so that we can deal with phone inquiries in the same way we deal with e-mails (cf. OTRS). The developer who has been contracted to work on the FlaggedRevs stable version project, Jörg Baach, has also helped to develop such a "peer-to-peer helpdesk system", called Directionless Inquiries. This is not necessarily the solution, but I think the general idea is worth looking into.
One idea was to generalize the ComCom into a "Response Committee", and to set up more dynamic workgroups for things like community press releases. But I think the "Closed + Open" committee approach Sandy has adopted may also work, so this part of the chart is probably obsolete. The general idea is quite simple really: streamline the process of identifying volunteers for particular tasks, improve reporting and supervision, and build more stable groups for tasks where accrued experience and commitment is more important than a dynamically changing diversity of talent.
To close, let me add that these structural ideas are just an outline, and the final setup will have to be developed by operational staff in line with their day-to-day work experience. Formally, the Board would likely only pass a resolution adopting some more general principles and aims, and changing some of the present committee structures which it created.--Eloquence 12:56, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I should also add, that with regard to specific kinds of activities -- namely, those which promote Wikimedia projects and content to other organizations and to the general public -- I consider the Wikimedia Outreach proposal to be still worth discussing.--Eloquence 13:12, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I guess that would be a "yes" to having additional thoughts ;) thanks for the reply. To clarify from the diagram -- are tech, chapters, communications (response), volunteers, and audits the only standing committees you envision having? Then would there be ad-hoc committees for things like specific SPC projects (or not)? thx, -- phoebe 18:37, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
No, they are the only ones. The diagram is meant to describe different working principles, rather than an "ideal Wikimedia organizational chart". On the other hand, I think we should be careful not to create standing committees unless we do really, effectively, keep dealing with the same people & the same types of problems very frequently.
One area where we will likely need both a standing committee and specific workgroups is legal work. There will be specific analyses that are done by a workgroup, but also the more day-to-day work of handling copyright infringements and license compliance. It's with this view in mind that we decided to advertise the position of a "Legal Coordinator" (rather than GC), who will also be asked to reach out to legal experts internationally to obtain (preferably pro bono) help on a variety of issues. Effectively, the Legal Coordinator could act as a kind of specialized Volunteer Coordinator.
For "Special Projects", I think they can be completely done by ad hoc workgroups. Their very nature, in my opinion, makes a standing committee problematic. But I may be wrong -- the main point is to be flexible about organizational structure, rather than falling into any particular, rigid model.--Eloquence 01:40, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

Free resources[edit]

Wikipedia, being one of the ten most visited sites in internet, has some negotiation power. I believe we should be able to use this power in order to increase both the freedom and quality of the encyclopedia. In example, the board could contact copyright holders of promotional images (places, objects, models, singers, bands, etc), and convince them to release their items under a free license. I have been doing this myself, but I believe the Board could have better chances than a single person, a WikiProject or even a Wikipedia project. What do you think, do you think this could be a priority? And good luck! -- ReyBrujo 18:35, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

I agree with your underlying premise: We can start using our influence very systematically to acquire freely licensed content. The WMF can and should play a coordinating role in this process. For instance, a dedicated Wikimedia Outreach project under the WMF umbrella could have the liberation of content as one of its objectives. For more high level discussions, I believe we may eventually need a staff-level position like "Content Partnership Coordinator".
Board members should focus on high impact activities and strategic thinking. As an individual Board member, one project I've tried to personally pursue is to get the BBC to release some clips from its documentaries under a free license. Not the whole films, just small snippets, such as a bird in flight, that could be added to the relevant Wikipedia articles. The file description page could contain info (no advertising) about the source of the work, which effectively might lead people to buy DVDs of the documentary the clip originated from. So both sides win. I've only exchanged a couple emails with them so far, but hope to continue this thread.--Eloquence 01:47, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the reply. Wikimedia Outreach sounds like a good idea! I have created en:Wikipedia:WikiProject Free images, an attempt to centralize discussion about requests in en.wiki, which counts with community support but it is still just beginning. I have contacted some groups, photographs and even a record company, yet I believe things would go much faster if there were some "official" way of doing this, someone who could say "I am contacting you on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation" or, at least, a press release which editors can fall back to, like "I am a Wikipedia editor, and contact you regarding a press release issued by Wikimedia Foundation requesting free images" or similar. Thanks again. -- ReyBrujo 21:44, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikinews and building on an unexpected publicity opportunity[edit]

As I would hope you have seen, Wikinews has made a splash in the news as the original non-blog source for the story of a prank edit to w:Chris Benoit's Wikipedia page. Our Alexa rating has skyrocketed, Google news has hundreds of articles that mention - or cite - us. I had planned to sponsor a Writing Contest on Wikinews following these elections - but this seems like too good an opportunity to miss. I've asked a few people to contribute to the prize pot, but most of our local contributors don't have the spare cash.

  • First question, should we do things like this - we've had other competitions in the past and the daily article count has gone up significantly.
  • Second, are you prepared to put your money where our projects are and donate to the prize fund?
  • Third, if you are prepared to donate to the prize pot would you also be prepared to help out as a judge? I feel the impartial position the board should strive to take day to day would be welcome in defining rules and judging a competition.

—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Brianmc (talk)

"Attack site" link bans[edit]

On English Wikipedia, there has been some controversy about whether it is, or ought to be, the policy that linking to so-called "attack sites" against Wikipedia and Wikipedians is to be banned. Some administrators have (overzealously, in some others' opinions) removed links to criticism sites from such places as talk pages, evidence pages for ArbCom cases, and even in a few cases from actual articles where they were being used as a source. I wrote an essay on this issue. What is your opinion? Dtobias 04:00, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

"9 Months" and the Internal Wiki[edit]

You say that the internal wiki has created (or modified) a process for adding new members to the site. Some Wikimedians may be unhappy with an "internal wiki" or any of the other private wikis hosted on Wikimedia servers, including "office", "advisory" and "board", as well as the other private wikis. What is your standpoint on having all of these private wikis on Wikimedia servers? Thunderhead 23:42, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

How will you deal with this...[edit]

Whenever I can not find the specific answer to a question in an article I turn to Wikipedia help. In many instances, however, the reply is devoid of thought or knowledge and merely a student's guess to fill blank space on the page as if to say: "Here is my guess. I've done my job. You have received my authoritative response."