How will you vote or propose changes on the board about the foundation reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from flights (meetings, chapter traveling grants, and Wikimania) and hardware, and using renewable energy (directly or via certificates)? -- Jeandré, 2011-05-15t18:41z
While face-to-face meetings are important, we also have to face the reality of 1. increasing fuel and transportation costs, 2. the increasing and urgent need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, 3. and the rapidly developing online technology, Reducing face-to-face meetings will mean clearly delineating issues so that Board members will know what they are called upon to decide. This may require improving our mechanisms for publishing the record of issues as they develop as well as the responses of Trustees. We can also pursue the development of online video conferencing for these meetings.
Well, it took me some real time to find out what I could say about it. I did not imagine that the Foundation could produce so much greenhouse gas emission and I would have said it is rather an individual issue than a general problem. However I happen to have read an interesting piece of news about accepting a grant ($18.000 for 18 people, that is $1.000 per person just for the flights...)  for an Ibero-American Wikimedia Summit when you also have a Wikimania in Israel less than two months later. I wonder why this event was not grouped in Wikimania (ensuring then that it will meet a great success) and now I understand much better your question, I was being too naive... So indeed traveling should be used when really necessary using when it is not, as others have suggested, other technical means to communicate. One cannot help but wonder if there is also a need to spend some good time around and visit some countries aside from discussing Foundation issues, I hope I am wrong and that this is not the main objective of such meetings.
Being aware of the environment is a process, not a checklist we can fill in. Artifices like certificates are little more than a method to "feel good" environmentalism, and not a real solution.
What I see as right approach is to make sure that we answer two simple questions when we make a decision: what is the environmental impact of that decision, and is there a reasonable way to mitigate it?
In my experience with any collaborative group effort, it is essential to have some face-to-face interaction first and occasionally, especially when the group is international or otherwise diverse. After that, I've found virtual interactions, from email to calls to video, quite effective even on complex issues. So I'd believe less travel might be feasible, but I have no experience yet with the particular needs of this Board.
The board and staff jointly should continue to investigate ways to make the central server systems more energy-efficient.
I agree with most answers here, that certificates would just be window-dressing, since we are not in the business of raising money in order to give grants to worthy green initiatives.
This seems like a typical discussion to have with our community and not just amongst the board members. I am willing to follow the community opinion on this topic within reasonable ranges.
If you insist to know my personal opinion, I think that the environment is not our core mission. Our core mission is about knowledge and making that available to everyone on this planet. Our impact is not in fighting greenhouse gasses, our strength lies in knowledge and content.
We should however do whatever is reasonable to mitigate any negative impact our actions have on others, including environmental distortion. However, please realize that our efficiency is much better than any of the other top-10 websites. We have much less staff flying around the world, we have smaller offices etc. What is reasonable? Reasonable is to have more online meetings where efficiency is comparable; reasonable is buying recycled printing paper, reasonable is taking the train instead of the plane when comparable time and costs.
We could buy certificates, but that would go at a cost - less other activities or more donation banner time.
I've never liked RECs - it has always struck me as a lazy, and largely ineffective, way of becoming "green". I don't subscribe the current political fads and policies (which are mostly about politics, not ecology), instead I prefer an approach termed "everything begins at home", where we make pro-active actions to reduce our carbon footprint. I think this should apply to the foundation as well.
There are a number of ways to address this. The first is technology. I am not completely versed in the specifics of the foundation's tech infrastructure (this is something I have to look into), however, tentatively I can say: A lot of research has been done (by Google, Facebook, etc.) into radical and reduced emission data centre technology. There is no way we can go as far as billion dollar companies, but it is worth looking at different approaches to reduce our footprint (perhaps even to the level of partnerships to take advantages of that tech).
The second way is the staff footprint; encouraging digital meeting rather than face-to-face is a no-brainer (after all, we are an online project). I have ample experience in virtual team-working (from my career as a programmer) and there are some fresh ideas I could bring to bear on that problem.
I'm no eco-warrior. But I think it does us good to be concerned about the planet - it is good PR to do so, it will reduce costs, is in keeping with our founding ideals and it leads by example.
The aim of Wikimania is to be a presencial meeting to allow knowing phisically another wikimedians so the flights are neccessary, the energy that the servers uses may be the minimal, so the monitor may be turn on only if neccessary. A minimal gas emission for meeting targets of the foundation is always necessary
I'm a Plant Ecologist as a formation, and I worked as a researcher in Environmental Sciences for some time (namely on desertification). This makes me very aware of the risks associated to global warming, but at the same time I'm convinced that at this moment there is no wonder solution for the issue. My personal believing is that a good start could be trying to limitate our individual energy consumption, especially by eliminating unnecessary waste of it (simple gestures as switching the LEDs of out TVs off). Also, we should have to use web-based communications instead of travel, unless it is not strictly necessary. This approach directly reflects into less a necessity of energy production, and in the reduction of individual carbon footprints. As people caring for the future generations (why bother to write an encyclopedia, if we were not?), Wikimedians should have to apply energetic deflation to their lives, thus improving our impact on the planet and positively reflecting this approach on Wikimedia reputation.
We should work towards efficient data centres. Being mindful of the resources needed for our hosting is an achievable goal. I am convinced that outreach and face time are important, even essential. As we grow as an organisation, travel will increase in absolute numbers. As we operate on a limited budget, it will remain relatively limited.
With regard to greenhouse gas emissions, I believe the Foundation should respect the law and ethics, just like any other organization. But this is not the Foundation's purpose, vision or strategy. Therefore, dealing with these matters falls outside the Board's competences. The Board's role is to choose an executive director. I am fully confident that it will do a good job in all the aspects of day-to-day management, including making sure that these factors are considered.
While there isn't a perfect alternative to face-to-face meetings, today's video conferencing technology is very much evolved, and people can have group voice chats from just about everywhere. This could save quite a bit of travel for the board and for WMF staff. I'm not deluding myself that it can replace all of it or anything close to that. As for hardware's greenhouse emissions, I cannot recommend much more than using new hardware that conforms to greener standards. I don't think that buying RECs or otherwise directly investing donator money in offsetting greenhouse emissions is a recommended use of our donors' money. We should be saving our own operational costs, and in the process saving greenhouse emissions. I find that sufficient in our case. Harel 19:07, 15 May 2011 (UTC)
As a Board member I would have a duty to ensure that donors' money is spent as promised to them, and in line with the Foundation's Bylaws (see in particular Article II). I'm not sure that spending money on RECs or other means of off-setting environmental impact, though proposed with good intentions, falls under these restrictions. That said, reducing energy use and other environmental impacts can often be done at the same or lower cost than the original effort, and clearly looking at these is something we should do in the Foundation, Chapters and the wider movement.
In relation to two of your particular questions, I don’t have a good answer for the first one, while I have some answer for the second one.
Wikimedia movement wants to be global and flying is necessary for a global movement. Traveling this way is far at least 20 years. However, I suppose that there are some options here, but I am sure that none of them is substantial.
In relation to hardware, AFAIK, the most serious issue is (or will be for sure) about the energy consumed by data centers. In that case, WMF could choose data centers which use more renewable energy.
My general answer is that there are many ways to reduce pollution. From the position of local contribution, WMF and chapters should, for example, reduce printing as much as it is possible; have efficient cooling and heating systems etc. From the position of entities which are giving money for various chapter and community projects, they should make the list of requirements for reducing pollution. (Of course, it should be reasonable: in many parts of the world there are no reasonable options to do something cleaner.)
At some point of time -- however, I have no idea when it could be -- WMF should employ a person (likely, an ecologist) who would care about all details related to reducing pollution generated by WMF, chapters and movement itself.
I would also ask you and people well introduced in those issues to start the project (page on Meta), make a group [or not] and make proposals for making WMF and the rest of the movement “greener”. I am sure that your proposal would be carefully considered no matter if I am elected or not.
(This is basically the same answer I've given previously, but my position has not significantly changed.)
I encourage being mindful of environmental impact without being wasteful in other ways in attempts to meet this goal. But mainly I see avoiding environmental waste as aligned with avoiding other types of waste: we want to purchase efficient hardware because wasting power is expensive, we don't want to take unnecessary trips because travel is expensive and wastes time.
However, the value of face-to-face meeting, even for an online-based organization, is too great to forgo it completely: avoiding wastefulness doesn't mean eliminating costs. Most WMF business already takes place via IRC, wikis, and email, but the higher bandwidth of face-to-face interaction and the different kind of interaction it enables is something I think we should continue. The venues have largely been chosen with other considerations in mind: where the offices are, which chapter is willing to host a meeting, how it meets other goals such as outreach or meeting other stakeholders. For a global organization, yes, some people will travel a long way.
(There are small measures we can take such as avoiding unnecessary printing, and purchasing from environmentally responsible suppliers, and I hope that we will do that. But all of it is nearly insignificant in comparison to air travel.)
Our projects are digital: they replace printed paper material for thousands and millions of people, need no shipping, require no replacement or disposal. Perhaps the greenest thing we could do is encourage more people to use them.
First of all, I should say that face-to-face meetings can't be replaced by online meetings, and that they are truly important for an organization of volunteers like ours. So I don't think is realistic or even wise to propose a drastically cut-off of travels and on-site meetings.
This said, I agree with the importance of reducing our carbon footprint by means of:
Using low impact datacenters.
Promoting hardware recycling.
Limiting printings to the strictly necessary.
Establishing partnerships with specialized environmental agencies to find common strategies to reduce our carbon footprint.
The Foundation should set a standard of sustainability that can scale up further. We make an effort to limit expected travel, but travel is where we could make the greatest impact here. Since the community depends on effective remote communication and collaboration, I hope to see the WMF invest more in tools to make remote collaboration posible, for both large and small meetings. For hardware, I would like to see the WMF follow the model of our EvoSwitch partnership to set up carbon-neutral hosting (and identify more hosts willing to donate bandwidth to the projects) for all infrastructure.
The Foundation is very careful on its spendings and by doing so we take very a lot of care of being not wasteful and not harm the environment. We don't need a board resolution for that. A board resolution in this case would change nothing and is only good for PR, and that PR is not worth the CO2 that would be used to produce it. Our mission is to collect human knowledge and to deliver that knowledge to the humanity. I believe that with knowledge people can make better decision. So we are helping people making better decision. Also in relation to the environment. This is the best we can do and we shale concentrate on this. If people want to donate to CO2 reduction, they can do this in a far more direct and effective way. Donate money to WMF so that WMF can by certificates is an utterly ineffective methode. It is a waste of resources and is contraproductive to our mission and the mission of the environmental organizations.
No ads, please! I am not even sure if we should accept corporate donations, as anything that moves away from being user-supported will deflect us from our mission. From my past background in Public Relations, I have to say that good public relations is 99 percent good human relations. Our best advertisement is to give our visitors, contributors, and editors a superior experience. In that context, I think there is a lot we can do to make the pages more accessible and professionally attractive. To this end, I am firmly dedicated.
I am fiercely opposed to ads here, or even during TV programs... but it would be far worse here since TV programs are mainly meant for entertainment and that our projects are about knowledge... Well, your numbers about the PR were a real (unpleasant) surprise to me. I had read some userpages of Spanish users complaining about the heavy cost of the WMF staff but well there seems to be many financial issues that need some closer glance and some rethinking. I cannot tell you if the number of the employees is normal or not though it seems a number really high to me, if there were some reports about the roles and what is done I could make a better judgment about the situation. However this situation does not really surprise me at all, Wikimedia seems to be suffering the same illness many other organizations have; some fighting against Cancer or some other caritative works have nearly 50% of their spending that does not go to their initial/main objective. I think this should be the role of the Board to check that everything is fine and it should answer about this and prove us that such spending is necessary with reports and sound data. On the other hand I have witnessed many very active employees of the Foundation doing a great job so I cannot tell more without substantial data.
I do not and will never support any form of paid advertisement.
I honestly don't know if the current PR efforts (including the way fundraising banners are handled) is optimal. Certainly, the resources spent there seem out of proportion with reality, and would bear reexamining.
As for the size of the staff, I don't think it's reasonable to make size objectives. I have a really hard time imagining how we could meaningfully employ hundreds of people, and I can think of much better things to do with a budget that to pay for administrative overhead. I think expansion of the good work we do is best looked at from the perspective of helping and supporting groups in the trenches than trying to do everything ourselves.
No ads ever, on standard pages of wiki projects. It goes against our central tenets, and would lose us readers as well as editors.
For fundraising, we need a banner and slogan that gets noticed, but appeals to rather than annoys the people it's aimed at. I'm dubious that a PR company is the best judge of that, in this case. Why not tailor banner for editor vs reader based on login or not?
Staffing level should always be determined by need rather than growth, but open to new jobs that would significantly enable new initiatives.
I have no intention whatsoever to support paid advertizements on Wikimedia websites unless there is a clear mandate from the community to do so.
Putting ads on our websites would cause serious damage to our communities and we can't afford that. Being the only ad-free top-10 website is currently a good selling point.
For the other question (PR company, staffing) I think that we should always keep the effectivity in mind: does an extra staff member help or replace community? I remember the times where there were only a few staff members, and at that time I would probably have found the idea of 70 staff members ridiculous. Right now I cannot imagine us going to hundreds either, but I can't exclude the possibility when there are very good reasons. I do prefer other scaling methods in general though, through chapters, other partner groups, enabling volunteers etc. The same for the PR company: do they add that much value, are they really necessary? I don't dismiss the idea out of hand, but would definitely ask critical questions when presented such amounts of money allocated to market research.
Ad-free forever, naturally. This is not only my view, but the view of the larger community as well and I do not think it is something that will change for a long time.
The fundraising banners caused some disgruntlement at the time because of their size. On the other hand to enable us to avoid running ads we do need to do significant fundraising. I think it would be worthwhile doing a proper study into whether a very large banner had an appreciable affect on donations, or whether we could use a smaller one. There is, somewhere, a balance between the disruptiveness of the fundraising and reaching our targets.
PR, again, needs looking into as that is an extra-ordinary amount ot be spending (I need to look into the financials in more depth because I am not aware of the exact outline of how that was spent). As it is, this issue is a general annoyance of mine - large charities/companies spending significant portions of cash on "branding" and PR. In my experience very little of it is value for money, and a more scaled down approach can achieve exactly the same end. We should be exploring different approaches, those more in keeping with our ideals and goals. That may include/require a modest sum spent on consultancy.
As I discussed in another of the questions; we should be expanding (staff and technology) where it is sensibly needed to work on expanding our aims/ideals. That might mean we end up being somewhat inefficient, and long term we must streamline spending. But, it seems reasonable to work with inefficient but radical growth in the short term. WMF, as with all organisations, has a "life cycle" akin to a person - to my mind we are reaching the cusp of adult hood and have a few more teenage years yet to get through till maturity fully sets in. Now is the time to use our momentum to establish the foundation fully, and in a few years we can work to rationalise spending.
I feel that turning the current model of WMF operations from ad-free to commercial would damage to the basis the very same substance its projects. Always talking from my professional standpoint of digital media expert, I think that the greatest asset of WMF is not its servers or funds, but the willingness of contributors to wrap around a common, higher scope, e.g. the education of all the humanity. Whenever WMF would become another commercial project, it would lose its volunteers at the speed of light, because they would not feel anymore to be a part of something. At the same moment, before answering to the question about whether the WMF should have to hire a PR company, I would like to have the answer to the question "What for?". If the PR company would have the scope of setting up a campaign for rising up the level of donations, it should have to be carefully assessed the desired level of ROI, and the confidence interval of it (e.g. are we spending 250k and have an expected ROI of 2,5 millions? Yes, sure we should have to spend this money, but I would like to see how solid the ROI assessment is). We always have to remember that the Foundation is managing donors' funds, and any action has therefore to be carefully evaluated. All and all, my opinion is that we should have to remain ad-free...forever is a bold word, but for sure it is appropriate. The same approach should have to be applied to the number of WMF employees, whose number should have to be proportioned to the dimension of the work to be performed.
I am not going to beat a dead horse. As long as we can keep our show on the road there will be no adverts. When this situation changes, it will be important to consider the changed situation. As a trustee I will be entrusted to do this carefully.
My opposition to unwanted advertising is not irrational. There are two reasons for it. First, I believe it diverts the reader's attention and therefore is detrimental to the project's goals. Second, I think it creates needs that not all readers will be able to satisfy, which in turn creates anxiety. Therefore, the price paid by readers far exceeds any sum this could bring into our coffers.
Fundraising campaign banners lack the latter problem but do have the former. Therefore, in my candidacy I suggest working to establish an offline fundraising network and promoting recurrent donations. I would only agree with displaying advertisements if readers have opted in beforehand. I submitted an idea in this regard to the strategic plan, which still has not been discussed enough.
With regard to employees or the hiring of external providers, whether for PR or any other purpose, it is very clear. First, I think it should only be done to carry out necessary tasks that volunteers do not want to do. Second, we should be thrifty and always get a good result from each cent spent.
That said, if we get good value for our money and each employee performs tasks that are crucial but cannot be done by volunteers, then I hope we need a lot of them.
These are four different questions, let me answer the first two and I suggest you split the other two away. I wrote in my statement that I want our project to remain ad-free, unless this becomes the very last way to finance the operation of our projects (in other words, without ads they will have to shut down). I think it's a simple principle that everyone can understand. As for the huge banners of the last fundraisers, it was just one of the things that I didn't like too much about both fundraisers, but I don't think they are some fatal mistake that mustn't repeat. There were more important issues about community involvement with the fundraiser, and about localization of the fundraising slogans, that I find more deserving of critique.
Well, to answer your 3rd and 4th questions: $250K for a PR company sounds like a lot, and it's difficult for me, from my current position, to gauge the justification for this expense - what we gained from this PR company and how much the competition would have cost us. It would be reckless for me to criticize this decision without more comprehensive background information.
As for the foundation growing to (many) hundreds of employees, I don't think this is going to happen in the foreseeable future or that it's a welcome phenomenon. There is a certain level beyond which it doesn't make much sense to expand. We're not a for-profit organization that would normally seek to expand thus grow its profits. I'm not in a position to assess how much the current employees are overworked. If we start seeing employees (of the WMF, of WMDE?) reinventing the same projects and programs again and again that were already tried in different guises, we'll know we're treading water and that growth potential has been exhausted.
Option 3, "ad-free forever", except that Option 2 part 2 ("maybe but only in emergencies") should also be considered. Thankfully we are very far from being in an budget emergency, and the most important part of being a Board member is ensuring that we don't ever reach one.
I think we should make the fundraising impact as small as possible whilst raising the needed funds and getting the right message across, but no smaller. Of course, the exact details of fundraising are an executive rather than non-executive function, and so are run by the Foundation staff (not the Board) with the input of the community, and I would press for ever more community involvement to ensure that this is addressed. (Disclaimer: I helped out a very little with this year's fundraiser, mostly in a "technical" capacity of how to make templates work.)
Hiring external resources
It is easy to take a hardline position on hiring in external resources, whether for PR or other services. The Foundation already has a practice of hiring a mixture of permanent staff for long-term roles and contractors for shorter-term ones. However, in some cases agencies can make more sense than having a contractor - for example, if you want to draw on an agency's wide range of skills from a dozen different people for a month and then stop using them, and of course hiring an agency with a proven track record can be faster than trying to hire the right one-person contractor. US$250,000 is a good deal of money, but I'm not sufficiently close to the details of the case you highlight to judge whether it was a wise expenditure of money.
In general, I am sceptical of whether we will need quite as many staff as some project that we do, but we should not have political concepts of the "right" number of staff - we should instead discuss each position or function as they come up. Sometimes people worry that we are replacing volunteers with staff, and removing the early stepping-stones that people can take to move from just working on the wikis to working with the wider movement organisation. I would look to make sure that we give the community as many opportunities as possible to serve.
Ads: We don’t need ads, and it is highly likely that, if elected, I wouldn’t be in situation to consider ads as an option during this mandate.
However, if we are talking generally, I can imagine the situation when alternative sources of money could be needed. However, again, in non-catastrophic scenarios, such situation would be visible at least year or two before the necessity to implement it. That means that there would be enough time to describe the situation to the community and ask it for approval.
Banners: While I hope -- but I am not sure -- that similar amount of money could be achieved with smaller banners, I am sure that those banners could be more innovative and not so irritating.
PR company: As someone who is well introduced in what PR companies are doing, I know that hiring a PR company is waste of money in the case of WMF. We don’t need to defend ourselves from negative PR -- as negative PR against Wikimedia brings much more negative publicity to a person/organization which does it (cf. Sanger’s negative campaign) -- and everything else is just about regular work with media + Wikimedia has enormous reservoir of creativity inside of the community. Hiring a person for ~$100k for a year instead of company for $250k for a quarter would be much more wiser solution.
WMF employees and budget: Personally, I am in favor of having larger number of smaller organizations than having one big. When one small crashes, other organizations could survive. That issue is partially covered by chapter model, where chapters are basically independent organizations. And chapters are taking their parts of responsibility (cf. my answer on the question Funding of the chapters’ activities). And I would like to see more examples of that type.
It should be also noted that WMF’s growth is limited by the nature of its goals. WMF could have three digits number of employees, but I am sure that it would never have a need to have four digits number of employees, no matter how much money it generates. But, in any case, that’s related to the specific needs and I have to say that I don’t have precise picture of WMF's or community's needs for number of WMF's (and chapters’) employees.
The first time I answered this question I was more ambivalent about ads: not something I thought of as the best option, but something I'd be willing to consider. I've gotten gradually less receptive to the idea of advertising as I become less and less convinced it would ever be necessary to save the project. (And there is a philosophical aspect: if we cannot get enough financial support from public donations to continue operating, perhaps we should fail and be replaced by something better.) I think advertising distorts the information environment in ways that are subtle and insidious, and even people who think they are too smart and too media-literate to be influenced by advertising are still shown to be influenced by it. Almost no source of information is free from it. And once it is there, you may try to forget that it exists, not treat it as a factor, but you can't really; you have to second-guess your decisions, wondering if you really decided something because it was the best option or because you're thinking about keeping advertising.
As for the banners: the board has very little input into the fundraising specifics at all; they are the work of the staff along with the community volunteers; I think this proper and will not propose changes to this. Aside from the idea that we should have a fundraiser and that it is OK to use the site for it, I believe this is an area where the board should not often be intervening directly; where board members give feedback, it should be with the same level of authority as any other community members. (This is a difficult area for any board member to get used to, I think: learning when it is and is not proper to request changes from the staff. Especially for the community-elected members. Sometimes being mindful of good practice does mean letting the office do things that you doubt are going to work, or that you would have done differently! We should be able to step in if things are really going contrary to our mission and values, but there also must be mutual trust between the staff leadership and the board.)
Similarly, I leave the question of hiring a PR company entirely up to the Executive Director, whose responsibility it is to use staff or contractors as necessary to achieve the organization's goals. (We should not hire a company who is known to engage in unethical practices, or one who will not respect our wishes--but this is a consideration for any company, not just fundraising.) If the money used to hire the company was spent wastefully, that's something to take up with the ED. I think spending on fundraising should be as efficient as possible and should not be an excessive proportion of the budget, but that doesn't mean spending as little as possible. If spending $10K means getting $1M that we wouldn't get otherwise, and spending $250K means getting $10M that we wouldn't get otherwise, we should spend $250K. (For a $20M organization, this is still a quite reasonable amount--whereas we shouldn't be one of those organizations that spends $10M on raising funds to get $11M back.)
As for staff expansion: I don't know about "hundreds", but I think the current plan for over 100 is reasonable. (Actually, it has taken me a long time to conceive of the idea.) Is this the optimal size for the organization? I don't know. (When I first joined the board, we had about 3 employees.) Maybe it's the wrong size. But the idea is reasonable. I can think of plenty of areas where having more full-time staff would be a great help, particularly in the technical areas.
I think our projects should remain ads free. And we should find the banners' sizes that best fit with a succesful fundraising. I don't think big banners are needed for a good campaign, but this is only opinion: there are better ways to test the appropiate size and shape.
Regarding the size of WMF, I prefer a small team of specialists and external consultants when needed rather than a big paid organization. But, again, I'm not saying we reached our limit. For some time, perhaps the staff will still growing, because, as I said, WMF is still young and expanding.
The key is planning the future with caution, carefully avoid hiring people for tasks that can be developed in a voluntary basis and empowering local communities rather than hiring consultants to work in the field.
We should improve how we target our fundraising banners so that they are not presented continuously to our active users, and so they are less huge than those used this past year.
The question of staff size is worth its own question. The WMF should scale how well it works with and through the community in line with any other staff growth -- in order to grow quickly, if that is necessary, we would need to improve our capacity to better channel the energies of the smart, talented, motivated people already driving our movement and the projects forward. The heart of our projects is their ability to catalyze hundreds of thousands of people to do tremendous work together; if we try to grow as a centralized foundation without this balance, we may work against our heart, even if that growth lets us realize some short-term goals more quickly. And as you point out, any benefits gained through expansion of permanent Foundation staff add to our annual upkeep costs, while benefits gained through strengthening and expanding the community are more sustainable.
Q1: I don't see any necessity on put adds, so 3. Q2 and Q3: We had gained a lot of experiences and professionalism in fundraising in the last years. Our staff work out the yearly campaign and I am fully in trust of their ability, which they showed in the last years. So currently I don't see necessity here either to change or to request external resources. Q4: As I already said in another question the reason why we grew is not because we want to be big, but because of the expectations from the community and because of need. We cannot let an employee work 60 hours a week because this inhuman, inmoral and illegal. This said, I believe in a few years we will reach a point where our organization is well set and well organized, and our chapters will professionalize and take more and more responsibilities regionally.
MediaWiki and Wikimedia Foundation development to non-Wikipedia projects
Bugzilla.wikimedia.org have tons of bug reports and feature requests to MediaWiki software backlogged. Some of then are particular to non-Wikipedia projects, such the ones at oldwikisource:Wikisource:Wishlist. Unfortunately the lack of attention for those projects is foundable in more moments, such in the time of publishing the Wikimedia Strategic Plan. In your view, what the Board can do to help those projects (both in advertising and development)? At the time of Wikimedia brand survey some suggested that non-Wikipedia projects needs to found an organization to adopt them, allowing Wikimedia to discontinues support to then. Do you agree or those projects are only in lack of a major attention or even to the creation of local chapter-like groups? Lugusto • ※ 23:12, 15 May 2011 (UTC)
Considering the deteriorating economic situation, I think the Foundation will be facing diminishing, not greater, resources. A good principle to follow is stick to your core mission and what you are really good at. As others have mentioned, with limited resources, the Trustees have to be very good at setting priorities.
There is always a little bit of unease when a software project is cared for and financed by (one of) its primary users. The entity doing the financing rightfully expect that its priorities will be taken care of, but the wider community must not be forgotten in the deal.
This is a very real problem in the case of Mediawiki because the core developers and gatekeepers are developers for the Wikipedias first and foremost. I think that relationship is a little too close to be comfortable now, and the software development should be "spun off" to a separate nonprofit (that, I expect, the Foundation will want to continue contributing to — as one of its users).
I have always found it a bit tricky to fully focus on one project (Wikipedia). Having been involved with Wikimedia Nederlands board for five years, I have experiences however how hard it is to get anyone outside Wikimedia enthusiast for a non-Wikipedia project. I do know that various chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation have made efforts to help the non-Wikipedia projects, but not as much as to help Wikipedia.
We should be honest to ourselves, and realize that other Wikimedia projects will likely never be as successful as Wikipedia is nowadays. At the same time, a website providing learning materials (wikibooks, or even wikiversity) can be much more effective in reaching our goals than an encyclopedia, if they are embraced by the educational community. The problem we encounter here is that a) the software is not made for creating modern (audiovisual) learning materials, b) there is no critical mass of material or community to make it work, and c) it requires more dedication to write a book than to write an article in Wikipedia - it is harder to enter the community effectively.
Some of these factors are outside our reach, some are within. A potentially great way of accomplishing this promotion would be some kind of meta-organization promoting Wikibooks (the Wikibooks Association, anyone?) in an affiliated groups style. They could probably work more effectively and dedicated on the promotion of such project in alignment with the Foundation than the Foundation all by itself. But this would have to come from and be supported by the relevant communities.
I think we are reaching the stage now when we can focus on the other projects more directly and intently. And we should. For example; a lot of people credit Wikipedia with being a good, neutral source of current events as they happen. Personally I am very proud of that. On the other hand that is not really in keeping with our mission - and current events is one of the most complex and disrupted area of the project. It would be awesome for Wikinews to take over that role. There are some great, well sourced essays on WP that would make an awesome start to a Wikibook. And so on. Now is the time, as we move to expand our reach, to promote those projects harder. As to the bug reports - that is an issue I believe is being partially addressed with this years hires :) Continuing that trend seems sensible.
The Mediawiki is a separate project. It allows running several wikis and it's open code and free licensed. If any user has a question, why couldn't do it? If an user needs a plugin, the development team may solve the request. The system must be open.
Leaving alone projects is always something painful, especially for the persons which have devoted time and effort to build them up. But on the other side, I would like to reverse the question, based on the simple management assumption that not everything that is feasible should have to be implemented. If it is indeed true that developing new projects is a way to expand Wikimedia reach and capabilities, on the other side it should have to be considered that Foundation has limited human and financial resources as any other organisational entity in the world. Therefore, and in order to help not to develop backlogs, it should have to be carefully and responsably assessed at the appopriate level whether opening a new project is worth or not; and if it is, whether it is the right time to launch it. As a community, we should have to be aware about the necessity of investing disproportionately on projects, so not to compromise the growth of the potentially most "urgent" and "lively" projects with the launch of new ones. It requires a sound planning approach, and a rigorous decision-making process.
The one thing I am known for is my campaign for equal footing for all languages. The Latin script is overly represented in our projects. Any project. Yes, other projects will benefit from more attention. My track record is clear. I campaigned for the creation of Commons, I am involved in GLAM, I argued for the creation of the Sanskrit Wikisource. The choices made have always been to enhance what is already big. It is much harder to find support for what has potential.
I have personally promoted several sister projects through partnerships with administrations, universities and other organizations. We at the Catalan-speaking projects widened the strategic plan and devoted a section of it to sister projects. Several Wikisource strategic objectives have already been met.
In my candidacy, I explicitly suggest investing in developing technologies specifically for these projects. I think we still need to understand the factors that will determine their success, including taking advantage of a synergy with Wikipedia.
I do not think we can ensure these projects will be successful just by paying more attention and providing more technical tools to them.
I think offline support is essential to some of them (e.g., through chapters o other organizations). Personally, I would throw all my weight behind an attempt to create a solid group that wants to establish a themed chapter to promote some of these projects.
This is a painful and controversial issue that has been with us for a few years now. The non-Wikipedia projects fail to gain the success and the visibility (and hence, the Foundation's attention) of Wikipedia. Which is here the cause and which is the effect is a matter of personal taste. I personally think that not all non-Wikipedia projects have the same chances for success - some like Wikisource and Wikibooks are better suited for the wiki platform, whereas others like Wikinews or Wikiquote have IMHO a smaller potential for success. I certainly wouldn't want to see these projects somehow leave the foundation and go looking for other organizations to support them. Perhaps the WMF has to introduce organizational changes in its own structure to cater for these projects - perhaps a small department devoted to them.
MediaWiki is an excellent piece of software, one which I use at work in several forms. That does not mean it is perfect for every use, and it clearly does not serve projects other than Wikipedia as well as those communities would like it to. I think the "sister projects" are very valuable and that the Foundation should try to devote resources to them to help them flourish, but I cannot make promises that if elected everyone on (say) Wikispecies would get their every wish in the next year. Life is full of compromises, and though we have sided a little too often with Wikipedia before, we should keep trying to work on a path that serves all our communities
I think that MediaWiki is a separate good from other Wikimedia projects. Thus, it should be autonomous enough to get its own funding and its own development rules.
WMF should guarantee the core of development, as well as its own needs. Besides that, future MediaWiki autonomous governing body should broadly define how much money is needed for developing and/or implementation of specific extensions and other kinds of enhancements.
Such model would allow anyone to search for funds independently of current WMF’s priorities and to get extensions implemented. That includes, for example, deal between, let’s say, Wikisource community and Wikimedia France (but any non-Wikimedia organization, too) to do fundraising for Wikisource-related extensions.
One difficult aspect of the board role is prioritizing. Even with the resources that we have, we still cannot do everything at once. The strategy process was meant to identify those areas that should be the greatest priorities going forward in a way that had broad consensus. The Foundation's resources are mostly being put toward the goals identified there; the executive director is evaluated based on progress toward them, and the budget drawn up to support them. One avenue for more organized support of the projects that are getting less attention may be through chapter-like groups; if you have seen the Movement Roles group, you have seen that there is a lot of support for groups that are based on common interest rather than common geography. We're planning to devote a lot of resources to technical improvements in the coming years, including staff to help make it easier for volunteers to contribute to MediaWiki, but there are still more requests than can reasonably be fulfilled by staff. But the main way the projects not currently part of the highest-priority group can be advanced is the way that most of the work on the projects has always been done: through groups of volunteers taking the initiative to work on what is most important to them.
Sister projects such as Wikisource -- which has the potential to become the main multilingual repository for millions of classics and public documents, used by classicists and historians the world over -- represent our greatest opportunity to grow and to expand our circle of contributing groups. The WMF should see them as a way to engage more people in our work, which they are, and should take their needs as seriously as we take those of Wikipedia.
Fixing bugs in the latter serves more people now, but fixing fundamental bugs in the smaller projects may serve more people in the long run, by attracting them to our projects, giving them a reason to contribute (or to move their bespoke content management solutions onto a Wikimedia project), and attracting future readers who are looking for knowledge beyond encyclopedia entries.
While sister projects didn't get mentioned by name in some of the strategic planning, innovative work to find ways to support sister projects is supported broadly under our goal to support more community innovation. We should give them even more explicit attention than this.
As I had already said in two other question, we have constantly demands and expectations from the projects and the communities. But our resources are limited, if we don't want to get into the Cathedral. At the moment our focus on tech development is definitively on support more participation, and thus support for feature desires from smaller projects fall back. I understand the frustration of these communities and it looks like the easiest way is to have an organization dedicated for these projects. But this is only a seemingly most easy way. If we have a new organization, it must at first build up itself, it must raise fund to do the work it is supposed to do. All these are not so easy. And I really doubt that our small projects would have the capacity to do all these. In the past I had always advocated for our small projects, for example on my trip to Nairobie I spoke with an NGO about how they can use Wikiversity to document their experiences. Or on the chapters conference this spring in Berlin I suggested that the chapters can work together, and make connections for school classes of different part of the world to write a Wikibook together: How my world looks like, or something like that. I think that our different projects have great potential, but we must be more resourceful and more innovative to dig those potentials out. And a great deal of that don't really need the help from the Foundation.
a bit of bread and butter stuff: minutes of 7 meetings (2009-2011) are missing right now. thus, it doesn't look like the current practice - regardless of approval-delays and the BGC results - meet the pretty impressive Transparency is king-lecture (noted: by wmf staff) in Berlin last march.
after all: the board has to keep accurate records of all Foundation meetings anyway, the signpost (among others) has started to mention these delays once more and we don't need a board + extras-version (properly working committees should (and in fact often do) publish reports of their activity anyway).
therefore, i would like to know: how you intend to improve this situation to ensure transparency - in time - and a sounder communicative practice of the board (regarding this aspect) in the future? thx & regards --Jan eissfeldt 01:05, 21 May 2011 (UTC)
I am not familiar with all the details of this problem. In connection with what I had to say about meeting travel, it becomes more important to carefully delineate and developing the issues way before the meeting. In this way, Trustees not only have their minds made up before the meeting but are familiar with the positions that different Trustees have. Much of the discussion can take place online. This facilitates greatly taking and publishing the minutes. In fact, much of the work entailed can be done before the meeting starts. This all requires publishing issues as they develop and keeping clear records of those issues.
Well, I am sorry to say that this is a nearly general flaw of the upper structures of the Wikimedia. It is not limited to the Board unfortunately, I am still waiting to know who were the candidates chosen by the Chapcom/Chapters to be their Trustee in the Board, which were the criteria that made Phoebe a better candidate than Gerard for instance or if the fact of being monolingual is not a problem when being chosen by multilingual structures. Indeed much transparency is needed in the Board and everywhere, and minutes and reports must be made public on a periodic basis.
Transparency is indeed important, but I would be very surprised if the delays in publishing minutes are caused by anything but happenstance rather than an attempt to hide anything. Have you asked the current secretary why those minutes have not yet been published?
That said, the importance of transparency isn't so much in the formalities of what is on the public board record so much as what takes place behind the scenes and internally to the staff. I'm more troubled by how opaque the office is than poorly filed paperwork.
I would first like to know the exact cause of these delays. In general I agree that openness here is good, and that minutes should be published yesterday rather than tomorrow. But without knowing the reasons, I cannot suggest a solution.
I have an intense dislike of make work. While transparency has its place, I do not relish the culture associated with it; long on words, long on arse covering and short on effectiveness. Mind you, transparency is not the same as good explanation of and outreach for new developments.
I believe that publishing the minutes of Board meetings (apart from personal data and details on ongoing negotiations that should be kept confidential) is the minimum we should demand in terms of transparency and openness towards the community.
I think this should not only bear upon the Board, but also committees that influence the movement (such as the ChapCom, the Grant Advisory Committee) and other committees that may be established, as well as Chapters and other groups.
My own experience says that, in practice, this works best if the secretary is not a member, which allows him to focus on this task. In fact, the Bylaws provide for the appointment of a secretary who is not a Board member.
I think Millosh answered the question quite well. Based on my experience with Wikimedia Israel's board, it's easy and very desirable to strive to make transparency king at all times, while the mundane reality of things is that some matters like finances and human resources are sensitive in the long term. A group of people such as the board should have some way to also, sometimes converse non-publicly, even if the default should be for its discussions to be made fully public. It's often difficult to get people to speak honestly and candidly when everything is 100% transparent. Board meeting minutes should reflect a summary of the discussion made, not necessarily every single word said by everyone.
Having said all that, I think that the main reason for minutes not being published is that sometimes there's no scribe taking notes in real time, or anyone with enough time to turn those notes into publishable minutes. After a certain time elapses, all is forgotten about and the minutes never get published. For this, the board should have a secretary (from among the WMF staff?) not only coordinating and facilitating the board meetings, but responsible for publishing the minutes in a timely fashion.
Also, I don't think there should be some supervisory committee like Millosh suggested. Either we trust the board or not. If the board is not trusted something more drastic should be done about it. The supervisory board seems to me to imply that we don't trust the board, and to create unnecessary bureaucratic overhead and theatrical drama.
I think that there is probably a need for some staffing to support the Board itself, including in the drafting, circulating, correction and publishing of minutes, resolutions and other material. It is clearly not good enough to be so far behind in these matters, and we should urgently ensure that it at least does not get worse. For Board meetings that are from 2009, however, there is probably nothing we can now do, as the Board members' memories will not be enough to write the minutes from scratch.
I may imagine three main reasons for not publishing minutes: (1) nobody has enough time to do that; (2) some information from the meeting are better to stay unpublished for some time because of tactical reasons; (3) some information from the meeting are better to stay unpublished because long-term reasons.
The first reason is not a valid one. If nobody from the Board has enough time, then Board should have technical support from staff.
The second reason is valid, but missing minutes and notes from 2009 are not in that category, obviously.
Because of that, if something would be really damaging for WMF and Wikimedia movement if published (on short or long term), it would be good to have a body which would have access to all Board's minutes. It could be an informal group, like the group of chairpersons of chapters or it could be elected Supervisory Board based on some principle (let's say: 6 from the community and 4 from the chapters).
The other way for dealing with it, but not mutually exclusive with the first one, is to create position of the Information Commissioner (or a body for that), which would process requests for information from the community. For example, if Board thinks that some information is really confidential and Information Commissioner agrees with that, person which wants to know it would have to sign NDA if she or he wants to know it.
There are a few reasons minutes are sometimes delayed--for example, some are being held because things discussed in them need to be finalized--for example, notice of a resolution appointing certain people to a committee pending their acceptance should be held until they accept, or a resolution that we will approach some other organization regarding a partnership will be held until someone has actually sent the letter. Some are held because of disagreement about how a discussion is described that needs to be resolved. And finally, minutes are not published until approved, and sometimes the vote is left as an agenda item for the next meeting, along with other administrative tasks, and when they are voted on between meetings some of us occasionally file away the email and forget that there is a vote ongoing to approve them (I say, slightly guiltily). (The minutes, incidentally, are taken by Sue's assistant, so that all of us may participate, and the secretary isn't left trying so hard to scrawl down notes that he does not have a chance to think of what he would like to say!)
Recent minutes are sometimes not approved until the next in-person meeting of the Board. This is often too slow, and at least a basic understanding of what transpired at a meeting is essential to transparency. We have started to publish a detailed agenda for Board meetings to address this, and should work to further speed up the resolution process. One way to improve transparency would be to publish a minimal update to the meeting agenda immediately after each meeting, noting any explicit actions taken at the meeting. It is usually the wording of the narrative and the context for more elaborate decisions that takes some work and voting, to effectively represent the conversation -- the list of explicit actions would be no more than a few lines, and could be reviewed at each meeting as a point of final business.
Hello Jan. As board chair I take responsibility also for the work of board officers, so it is part of my responsibility to take care that the board minutes would be published in a timingly manner. This includes all board minutes since August 2010, when I took the chair's position. For the three minutes that are missing since that time. The February 22nd minutes is already approved and should already be published. I will take care that this will be done in the coming days. The March 25th and 26th minutes is currently in board approving process. The April 8th minute would be followed sometime in the next weeks. The "IRC meeting" last June and Mai was a little unfortunate. They were not IRC meetings. The board had experimented a little with Skype calls. But the connection was disastrous, so there are technical difficulties to collect the minutes. Since I took the chair's position I switched our meetings back to the IRC channel.
Who defines project scope: project consensus or board vote?
Assume a project 100% obeys US law and has an educational/artistic purpose. How should the project's scope be defined? Should the consensus of project members define the project's scope, or should scope be defined by popular vote of the ten individuals who sit on the board? (To those candidates seeking re-election who were actually sitting on the board in May '10 when this issue arose, a followup: how did you actually stand, advocate, and vote on this issue when it arose?) Alecmconroy 22:45, 23 May 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Harel Cain: while the project workers pretty much take care of the defining the project's scope, if it is licensed under Wikimedia, the Board has the responsibility of protecting the Foundations's interests.
I don't think you're asking the right question; or at least your question is loaded the wrong way. Strictly speaking, the community of users working on a project define its scope (by virtue of what they are doing). The Foundation and, by extension, its trustees decide whether a project is compatible with its fundamental objectives. A project whose scope drifts away from what is acceptable needs to either correct course, or find hosting elsewhere.
Just as the board would (correctly) decline to host a new project that is detrimental to its objectives, it also cannot allow one to become detrimental.
Many people mentioned it already, so it will not be a surprise when I state this is a tough question. The question has several sides which should be considered. First of all, in practice the community will be the biggest decision maker in the real scope of a project. The board and foundation can define whatever they want, but if the whole community decides to work on only a part of that, that is what happens.
However, it would be naive to say all this lies with the community - that would simply not be true. The way the Foundation puts its focus on a scope and how resources are being spent definitely has an influence on how a project develops. Especially when it comes to technical support. This should happen as much as possible in collaboration between the Wikimedia Foundation and the communities.
There is also the issue of the Foundation taking decisions on what is explicitly not allowed - limiting the scope of projects by force. In some situations, this is totally reasonable - you already mentioned the most important ones in your caveats: when it comes to legal compliance and the mission of the Foundation. Other reasons could include when a small community is taking a project hostage and doesn't allow others to join - this would violate important principles Wikimedia honors.
In general, my view is that the community should largely be responsible for defining the scope of a project. They have, and should continue to have, a high level of autonomy supported by the foundation. In cases where a project diverges so widely from the aims or ideals of the foundation then the board should step in to advocate those ideals and ensure they are followed. A power that should be used in a limited, "gentleman's agreement", form. Having read the questioners talk page for further detail - on this specific issue I think that it was not something necessarily for the board to try and impose. It is out of scope for the board to say to Commons "you will not have these types of images". If commons were flooded with low quality or poor pornographic images then, perhaps, there is scope for them to make a recommendation to the community to focus on the policies and approach to pornography. But the ultimate decision really rests with the community.
I am a firm believer in consensus and think that conflicts only arise when dialog has failed.
For example, if the community wants to broaden a project's scope to the extent that it requires a server capacity and bandwidth the Foundation cannot afford, the Board should not strive to change this scope. Instead, it should dialogue with the community to seek extra sources of funding together and to keep the scope within feasible limits for as long as these sources have not been found.
There are two things missing. On the one hand, a body that sheds light on possible problems between projects and starts a dialog when gridlock occurs and no-one deals with it. On the other hand, we need more dialog between the Board and the community. I think this lack of dialog is due to the fact that the community is not organized enough to take part in the decision-making process and making its voice heard in the Board.
I believe these two issues can be solved with a Project Council and a committee whose task would be to promote such a dialog. This is what I have proposed to the Roles Movement.
Regarding my oppinion on may 2010 discussion about images on Commons it can be found here: 
This question is phrased in such theoretical terms that it's difficult to give a real answer. Naturally the project members define its actual scope by their very work. However the board has the fiduciary and legal obligation to make sure that the projects abide by the principles of the organization, that money (and effort and time and energy) is spent in a thoughtful and responsible manner, and that the law is indeed kept.
"Community consensus" is a difficult concept when you're talking about a new project. Do you look for consensus only within the group of people that want to start the project? If so, you are likely to end up with a quite insular view of what to create. However, if you ask the whole of the movement community, many of the people commenting will be shaping a project in which they are unlikely to ever take part. I think that there is certainly a role for the Board in mediating on behalf of the wider community between these two extremes of defining what "community consensus" is, but as much as possible this should be an on-wiki, community task.
In the sense of institutional protection of free speech, US stand very high. While this is true, I will appreciate the facts that WMF is US-based organization, as well as that servers are there.
Having that in mind, and having in mind that the scopes of Wikimedia projects are well defined, I see no reason for any unilateral Board action which tends to deal with content and project scopes. While I think that Board should keep integrity of Wikimedia projects, any decision not essential for infrastructure existence mustn't be made if significant portion of community disagree with it.
While there were decisions essential to infrastructure existence, there were no such situations where significant part of the community disagreed with a viable decision of any Board member. That includes the fact that Jimmy's reaction was far from essential, as well as very bitter taste of the initial nonsenses said by some of other Board members. (To be fair, they apologized a week or so after.)
To summarize this part: I can imagine the situation when Board members have to take their part of responsibility by making unpopular decisions. However, through the existence of Wikimedia Foundation such situation didn't happen. Out of emergency situations Board must not do anything against community will.
Speaking about my personal positioning related to that situation, it was very clear. When I saw that Commons community was openly thinking about abandoning Commons, I went there to support them to stay and fight against Jimmy's unreasonable actions.
I want to add one personal note here: May 2010 events were the trigger for my candidature. Last two elections (2010 elections for chapters seats and 2009 community elections) I had been candidate just up to the moment when I saw that enough good Wikimedians became candidates. Being a Board member is responsibility which doesn't fit perfectly with my personal life expectations. If elected, I know that I will have to change some of them. (I am highly involved Wikimedian and I don't need to become a Board member to fulfill my Wikimedian aspirations.) However, except Kat, I don't see any other strong candidate who has plans to guarantee integrity of the community in situations like May 2010 incident was. (Saying so, I may be wrong in relation to my perception of "strong candidate" -- elections will show am I right or not; I may be wrong about positions of other strong candidates, but I would like to see their explicit opinions before I change the last sentence.)
There isn't one answer to this question. The first group to define the scope of a project are those who found it--the proposer and those who support the proposal. WMF doesn't create content projects out of nowhere; they first come from proposals by groups of people who want to build them. A successful proposal is first discussed and reshaped and then approved by the board; the board can nudge the discussion one way or another, or point out some aspect that is an absolute no.
I can only assume that you're talking about Commons here, as that's the only such decision that I can think of. I expressed some of my position on my mailing list post. But I'll make the issue more general: I think projects should be able to go along with the scope that was approved in its initial proposal, and to develop its own policies, except where those policies and practices conflict with the Foundation's mission and values. Where to draw that line is difficult. Most project self-govern well the vast majority of the time; it's the only way the projects survive at all. It's not because there is no oversight, but because the people who are most actively building that project share the same idea of how best to align with that mission and put it into practice, and are able to do so effectively. For anything to succeed, it must have the project communities behind it making it succeed; if the project communities aren't invested in making something happen, it doesn't happen.
The board must be able to influence policies and practices that are not aligned with Wikimedia's purpose. Usually the way the board should do this is as minimally as possible: talking about goals and philosophies rather than specific details of implementation, letting the editors themselves determine how best to achieve those goals.
Projects are created with a certain scope through public discussion -- and at that point they are accepted as new projects by the Board. Scope should be determined by a consensus of project members, prospective members, and other interested people in a public discussion. If a project chooses to violate a fundamental principle of the projects, the Board could challenge that change -- and if a scope discussion is locking out prospective contributors (say a group with a vested interest in one sort of scope tries to exclude people who wouldn't want to contribute to a project defined in that way), then the Board should be able to ensure open participation. But any direct intervention by the Board in project scope definition should be only as a last resort. This might happen in an emergency, or if public discussion and facilitation fails, but in the former case the urgency of any 'emergency' should be evident, and in the latter the failure of that public discussion should be clear to all.
At first for your last question to the actual board members, I made a long answer in my talk page. I will not copy it here because it is really long. I believe that at first the projects should have a clear definition of its scope. Second that that scope should be defined by the community. And third that scope should be in accordance to our mission. It is the obligation of the board to revoke or correct the scope if it works against or endangers our mission. It is also the duty of the board to give guidances to the projects if there are problems or dangers. A very good example of this is the BLP resolution from the board. Wrong and unreferenced BLPs impose a danger to our projects and our movement. The board issued the resolution to give the community a guidance and to emphasize the problem so that the community is aware of it. Another example is the newly issued Openness resolution. Harsch treatings of newcomers empose a danger of our projects, community and movement. The board issued the resolution to acknowledge those part of the community that had constantly worked on the openness and friendliness and give them a stronger backup.
Currently, some members of the board are unelected but still have a full vote on the board. If you are elected, will you support a move to an all-elected board, or do you think it's important to retain the voting-but-unelected aspect in the future? Alecmconroy 22:45, 23 May 2011 (UTC)
Changing this configuration requires more experience than I have right now. While I am open to all sides in this discussion, my pre-disposition is to have as much of the board elected as possible. Maybe find some other ways of bringing needed expertise aboard.
Right now I feel somewhat safer with some people (generally experts) not belonging to the community, they cannot (or at least should not) have partisan, biased views when confronting some issues. I would not obviously say the same if there really were equal chances for all the "community" candidates and if a big part of the editors were aware of the upper structures and interested in them. The fact is that you have some kind of "personalities" already known and/or involved in the movement that stand much better chances to be elected than some of us, nearly anonymous candidates (in my case I may be a bit known but unpopular for many...) even if we can be devoted editors. I would say there are some kinds of clans, mainly pro-Board or pro-Chapters and some people left in between and I do not want clans to rule since I think we should all work together with transparency and honesty; so these three options are not sufficient for me... However I think some changes should happen because I deem that the Board is way too passive now and then I also advocate, like Gomà, for a change in the seats, but from 3 to 4 for the community however if possible without restrictions because of the belonging of people, because I think it could be very complicated and would seem unfair to some valuable people engaged in Chapters activities.
Without offering an opinion on any of the currently appointed board members, I have no opposition to the principle. Having the right expertise, or combination of backgrounds, on the board is important to make sure we don't end up with self-selected blinders, and elections will often create a board of "good generalists" but rarely with an optimal mix of skills.
Having the ability for the board to add to its numbers by appointment when it needs to do so is invaluable flexibility, though I'd expect that filling all four seats should be rare.
The size and membership of the Board is a sensitive, extensively discussed and complicated issue. I like the idea that there is a balance between different selection methods for board members. This leads ideally to a mix of skills, background and experience. A board should be more than the sum of its members.
That being said, I am not persuaded that we currently have the perfect mix. I would not be all for a total revolution and have a fully directly elected board, but an actual majority of elected board members (including the chapter selected seats) would have my support. But this would not be my first priority. I would be definitely in favor of allowing the board (and community!) to indicate missing skills and backgrounds through a nomination committee which could be mitigated through board-selected board members.
Those members are there to bring specific skills/ideas important to the board; we do need people with those skills. Getting those from the community isn't a trivial process. If a legitimate proposal to have the same skillset come from within the community could be put together I would at least consider it. Another benefit is that the board then has members from outside the community, that is a good thing IMO.
I believe these members can be relevant, since they enrich the Board with people whose points of view and expertise go beyond those of the editor community.
But I think the editor community should have the peace of mind of knowing that most members have been chosen directly by editors, which is not the case right now.
I also believe that Chapter-elected members should be seen as an opportunity to provide some of this expertise; therefore, there is no need to have as many Board-elected members as now.
That is why I support changing its make-up. Right now we have 3 community-elected members + the founder + 2 Chapter-elected members + 4 Board-elected members. I am in favor of changing this to 5 community-elected members + the founder + 2 members elected by Chapters and other groups + 2 Board-elected members.
I also support making the election of the two latter groups wholly transparent, so that the reasons and the process by which they are elected are clear.
This is the kind of question you have to sit on the board to really form your opinion about. From the outside, the proportion of voting non-elected trustees seems high. Perhaps too high? Maybe, I'm not sure. As long as all board members are truly dedicated to the mission of the foundation, they can be elected by the community, by the chapters, or recruited for their expertise - the exact proportion is really something negotiable and I think the importance of that proportion might be exaggerated for no good reason.
I think that as much as possible the Board should be drawn from the movement community - whether as an editor, a member of a Chapter, a developer, or one of the many other ways in which people can be a part of our work. However, ultimately the Board needs some very specific skills in finance, law, cross-cultural working, and management of charities, and just having staff advising on this isn't enough. Appointing a minority of the Board based on their skills is a good way of achieving this balance between being a core part of the movement acting in the community's name, and making sure that the Board is able to undertake its duties.
Personally, I would like to see experts from the community, organized inside of professional groups/committees to delegate expert seats inside of the Board. I think that we have diverse enough community to build expert environment within it.
At the other side, I think that expert members of the Board are and were serving well, mostly.
It should be also noted that Board requires expert seats and that it is not likely to have all needed experts elected inside of the group of 10 Board members. Our community tends to elect people with tech background (or at least with well above average tech literacy), which means that we will always have deficit of elected people from other areas. So, without any better solution, selecting expert members looks like a valid option.
If elected, I would open discussion inside of the Board to start with building professional Wikimedian groups one by one. If such groups start to function, Board would be able to replace expert seats with delegates of relevant professional groups one by one.
I was part of the group that decided on the current structure, so it is perhaps natural that I still support it! I think it's valuable for us to have board members who come bringing outside expertise, and that we should continue to do so. The community elections identify people who are trusted to uphold the ideals of the project, but that group doesn't always contain the skills and expertise needed. Part of the job of the community representatives is to identify others who are able to bring useful knowledge and experience to all of the board's decisions. (We had a Nominating Committee, made up of community members, as a required part of the process for appointing non-elected board members; they were to help identify and research candidates for these seats. The committee was ultimately not a very effective solution, but input from community members is still valued in filling these expertise seats.)
I think the approach of "bringing specialist to the Board" is reasonable when talking about small organizations. Since the Board has at its disposal a full staff of specialists to ask for advice, I don't see the need of "Board appointed Board members". I will propose to reduce the number of non elected members changing the current proportion of members of the Board.
Having a diversity of views and experience on the Board, not limited to active community members, is important. Chapter seats can address some of this, but the process used to find our latest Trustee (Bishakha) involving a global search process and external recruiters to supplement community suggestions, filtered up many more potential Trustees. Our appointed Trustees contribute much to the Board's work.
The challenge we currently face is finding a way to regularly renew the pool of good candidates for those appointed seats, and to enable the community to help identify the best possible Trustees from the world at large. We also need a better way to ensure new blood and new ideas on the Board. Since the Nominating Committee was disbanded, we no longer have a process for identifying potential appointed Trustees, unless a missing need is identified first. (This is different from our other [s]election cycles, which identify great potential candidates each year even when the incumbents turn out to be the best.)
I support finding ways to get Board-like expertise from groups other than Trustees, starting by making our Advisory Board more effective and more engaged in Foundation decision making. And I would support having a higher % of elected Trustees on the Board -- as this year's candidate pool suggests, we have a wealth of talented and hard-working community members willing to help govern the Foundation.
The nominated board members add skills into the board that the board will not get if it is purely elected, and they add values into the board that the board will not get if it is purely elected. So I will keep the status quo.
Well, first of all I would like to thank you because I did not know anything about Bitcoins and it seems something interesting to me. Then I do not see any sound reason not to accept it since it seems to be working even if it has not reached yet a worldwide visible expansion and/or acceptation. I would daresay that every donation is great and welcome, whether it is time and energy (many editors give so much...) or money even if it is virtual.
I do not feel this is a question that should be answered on a board level. The board could set criteria which should be evaluated, but the staff should, in communication with the community, make the decision which methods to use exactly. Criteria could include how secure they are, how solid their actual value is (as in services that can be rendered from them) and how big the potential is (are there many people willing to donate/pay such electronic currency, or would the effort required to set up the reception outweigh the advantages).
Not really something I have an opinion on; I don't think Bitcoins are a workable/viable currency, and I don't believe they will ever become so. It's not really a board decision - if the fundraiser staff decide it is a good asset to collect, and it can be done so with no overhead, then fine.
I believe we should be open to the possibility of using new currencies, including issuing our own currency. But we should be careful to avoid being tooled as a way of advertising.
With regard to the bitcoin, I think it is an interesting mathematical exercise, but from an economic point of view I see the same pros and cons as the gold standard, but with added technical risks. Personally, I find schemes like time banks much more interesting.
As long as these bitcoins can be easily converted into a currency we can use for our expenses at a (very) reasonable fee, I don't see any particular problem. However, what would we gain from it? I still don't see how the gains will be bigger than the bother.
I am neither against nor in favour of donations in any particular form, including Bitcoin, donations in kind, and other forms, as long as the Foundation can use them usefully. The role of the Board in this question would be to review whether this is a sensible financial choice for the Foundation to make, but the original decision is the role of the staff of the Foundation, not the Board.
Yes. Because we should and because we can. Bitcoins are money guaranteed by Internet users and we should support such initiatives. As EFF feels comfortable to accept bitcoin donations, I see no reason why WMF wouldn't feel comfortable, too. (Note, as of 2011-06-02 EFF doesn't accept donations in bitcoins. If there are serious legal issues behind their decision, I think that we should follow them.)
In general, this sort of thing isn't a decision the board would make; it's up to the staff, who handle most of the fundraising operations. (We don't generally accept donations of commodities below a given minimum value because of the work involved in handling them.) Bitcoin is interesting in that many of its supporters are also among the people most likely to want to support Wikimedia, so it may be worth making a special request that the staff look into it. (Out of curiosity I asked someone at FSF, which already takes Bitcoin, if it had been any trouble; it was mostly simple, but a few issues came up that may present barriers--acknowledging contributions for tax purposes is difficult, for example. Many similar decisions that seem simple actually come with many more practical considerations than are visible on the surface; payment processing is definitely one of these!)
I think we should facilitate things to our donors. Any means to receive donations with a reasonable standard of security (both legal and technical) should be considered. (Note: I don't know if Bitcoins fullfills this requirements)
No. As a board member it is my duty to take care that the Foundation works and works good. It is my duty to take care that the Foundation avoid any unnecessary risks, especially those that has nothing to do with our mission. Bitcoins is not official, it has inherent failures of risks and it is totally unnecessary for us to take part in such experiments. So, a definitive and clear No.
Do you agree with the possibility of being two or more chapters at the same territory? Which advantages or problems do you think that could have? How would you solve an hypothetical ovelap between chapters? --Millars 16:35, 28 May 2011 (UTC)
Well, I am really glad to have such an interesting question, which is normal since the Spanish Chapter and its members are so concerned about what will happen with the Catalans. I have no problem with overlapping (but well most of you knew this...). We have overlapping people in many Chapters (I mean people who belong to two or three chapters) so why not have overlapping Chapters or structures. Similar organizations can coexist in the same space and it implies more freedom to choose (I mean we have many bakers in our cities, many supermarkets or caritative organizations... and then we choose according to diverse factors: taste, proximity, mood...) and I think it could even prove better to have them since they could generate outstanding collaboration and sharing different visions of things that could be helpful and complementary, obviously if each of them treat the other with respect and does not deem to be superior because they represent a larger territory, they are more efficient and so on... From what I heard you did a great job in the Valencian country as a member of Wikimedia Spain while collaborating with Amical (the Catalan pirate Chapter for those who do not know the name...). Wikipedias in my opinion are too concerned about themselves and hardly exchange informations with one another except for translations (I wish for example I had more information about Georgia...), I had the opportunity to organize a Wikimeeting (Viquitrobada) in Perpinyà involving people from different wikipedias and I think that the results were quite positive and gave birth to some potential collaborations, new projects and wish to improve the "native" wikipedia. So I do not see any overlapping problems as long as nobody wants to keep a territory for themselves (or are trying to overleap others) because they represent the state; everyone should be free to act where they please with respect of the existing structures (structuration could really become too oppressive if it went on this way and would damage some parts of the projects... especially the smallest ones...) and if what they do is good it is good for the movement. Exclusivity would be a problem, especially when wanting to force people to belong to a place where they do not feel at ease or when hampering/banning initiatives of other groups. If we can create positive environments that suit people and then tell them to collaborate on an equal ground and respecting their organization (be it big or small), we can reach wonderful and better results for the sake of the movement.
I don't just think it's possible, I believe it's necessary. In very large territories, or in states where there are clear subcultures, having chapters for subgroups is the natural fit. Sub-state areas and cultures may need to talk with different governments, might have cultural constraints that do not apply to the whole state (or not have constraints that do), or might not even be able to be effective in the same language as the state as a whole.
Obviously, you don't want to have competing chapters — so the federation model seems to be the "natural" fit.
I am all for involving as many people in Wikimedia as possible, and offering people the model they feel most comfortable with. However, for chapters we have clear definitions, and geographical scope is one of them - overlap would not be very helpful in executing their tasks and mainly lead to lots of confusion to non-Wikimedians. I would much rather see us leaving the path of only working through chapters, and also offer explicitely other models to enable volunteers to help Wikimedia fulfilling its mission. So in this hypothetical situation, the national organization would probably be the chapter, and the other one (trans- or subnational) would be a "group" of Wikimedians which we still have to find a descriptive name for.
I think ideally each territory or sensible country level organisation should have the "full" chapter setup (tax status, organising the fund raising). Below that umbrella could be other chapters; either in their own full form or simply as a subsidiary organisation (funded by the umbrella).
I don't think we should foster too readily the idea of multiple chapters in the same country; imagine a situation with Wikimedia UK, Wikimedia Wales and Wikimedia Britain - the scope of who is responsible for what area would be hard to nail down. And there would likely be a big fight over who gets to organise the fund raising :) However, a situation where Wikimedia UK parents such organisations as Wikimedia Wales, Wikimedia British Culture etc. could work well. ]
In a situation where the aim is nationalist driven (i.e. "you're not the proper chapter, we are!") then this is a case to be handled, sensitively, on a case-by-case basis. I simply would not like to commit to any general solution.
This all depends on getting more participation in chapters. Currently Wikimedia UK has a couple of hundred members, many of whom are largely inactive.
A chapter is a legal entity and one of its activities is raising money. This is done most effectively on a national level. When communities organise themselves on a subnational level, they can be funded by the chapter. As this is very much the other part what chapters are there for, this is the way I prefer this to be done.
It is very hard to find people to establish a Chapter. Therefore, it is quite unlikely more than one will be created. But if there are volunteers who are able to do a good job and the editor communities of the Wikipedia and sister projects active in the languages and territories where they wish to operate give their consent, I would not oppose that.
It is not a question of pros and cons. In my opinion, free knowledge simply does not fit in with monopoly or exclusivity.
Fear of problems is reminiscent of the logic used in for-profit activities. Just like anyone who works in the field of free knowledge for free, Chapters will always have more work pending than what they are able to do. Having more Chapters working in the same territory is just like having more editors writing on the same Wikipedia language edition: the more, the merrier.
Regarding to Spain there are in fact two organizations operating as chapters and overlapping. They have very different organizational structure and working style but when dealing with activities to promote Wikipedia and sister projects the only problem for coordination is the fact that one of them is not still recognized as chapter.
For example Millars from WM ES (Approved chapter) and several people from WM CAT (not yet approved) are cooperating in organizing Wiki Loves Monuments in Europe but they were not allowed to attend Wikimedia Conference 2011 where WLM topics where disused because they were not a chapter.
I answered elsewhere on these question pages that I'm in favor of accepting as many affiliated groups as we can, in diverse formats and organized along different themes, either geographical or not (Organization of Geologists on Wikipedia?). I'm not enamored with the one formal chapter representing one political country principle. It doesn't always make sense, and there's also no clear 1:1 mapping with projects in many many cases. If other groups want to organize themselves differently for whatever reasons, I think we should embrace that. Sure, there's lots of potential for overlap, controversy and misunderstandings which we'll have to sort out. But in most situations, for most co-operations and activities, only one of the groups potentially involved will be really enthusiastic while the others remain passive. This will solve at least those cases. And all we should really care about is enthusiasm and people on the ground doing cool stuff, not titles, territories, turf wars and formalities.
In a limited sense, yes - I think that a federal model of chapters would be a good one for some situations. This would involve a number of chapters that don't overlap in the same country or area (like the EU or Middle East) with a "top level" representative body. In some cases this top-level body might be a real chapter, with members, tax-exempt status, etc. (e.g. a Wikimedia United States), in others it might just represent the interests of a group of chapters and be mostly a name for lobbying (e.g. a Wikimedia Europe).
I also think that it would be great to have formally-recognised non-geographic community groups, like "Association of Blind Wikimedians", who could work together, lobby the Foundation and the wider movement community on their interests (e.g. special needs from the MediaWiki software, or looking to set up a new project). However, in my mind these bodies would not be formal organisations with money-raising aims, but instead more informal, wiki-like community groups for people to help each other.
However, I do not think that two chapters should compete with each other, trying to do the same things in the same territory. So, in answer to your question, no: I think the potential problems are too large. For example, we would be competing with ourselves for attention, as well as every other non-profit and online group, which means wasted effort. If two overlapping chapters get into a disagreement (e.g. over whether to engage with another charity) it wouldn't serve the community, the movement, or our readers/etc. well, which should always be our first thought. If we end up having federal chapters, we will need to make sure that there are strong and agreed boundaries for how each organisation works so that we do not run into these problems.
Most importantly, this question is for discussion between chapters and WMF, as the number of Wikimedians organized inside of chapters has become significant enough.
That issue has been already partially addressed inside of the Movement roles initiative. The New group models addresses needs of various Wikimedian groups which wouldn’t get chapter-level recognition under current rules.
At the other side, my personal opinion is that we should care about three issues: (1) number of Wikimedians organized inside of particular organization; (2) representation of smaller cultures and (3) cooperation between Wikimedia entities.
So, hypothetically, if we have two organizations which cover Tokyo metro area, which cooperates regularly between themselves, I see no reason not to recognize both. Both organizations have potential to have more members than some of our smaller chapters. (That includes [Wikimedia] Serbia, which has a bit more than half of Tokyo inhabitants. However, Tokyo is completely urbanized, with much better transport and much better Internet penetration.)
At the other side, chapters from small countries have to have their own voice for matters which they care, no matter how many Wikimedian organizations exist in larger countries.
By my opinion, except necessity of cooperation and representation of small populations, everything else should be left on initiatives of particular Wikimedian groups. I don’t think that we should stop them from being formally incorporated into Wikimedia movement.
I don't think that two geography-based chapters should cover the same area unless one is a "parent" of the others--for example, I could see a "Wikimedia USA" forming mainly to coordinate the activities of chapters based in US states or regions. The idea of chapters and what they do is closely enough tied to being based in a specific place that I think it would create confusion to have two overlap. (How would fundraising be split up? Who should manage relationships with local institutions?) I do think that other groups could form that are based around things other than borders, but the relationship would be different; for offline activities they should coordinate with the chapter based in that geographical area, if one existed. (For example, a Welsh-language association and Wikimedia UK talking between themselves and agreeing on how to work with a class in a Welsh language school.)
Overlapping Chapters is not a good idea: it will bring more problems than solutions. Of course, we can think on different kind of organizations and affiliated groups, for example, language based associations, as long as they have a more specific agenda than Chapters: in this case, promoting one particular Wikipedia. And eventually, they can work together with Chapters or at least, in a coordinated way (if Chapters exist in the areas where that language is spoken). In my opinion, this is the main challenge of the Movement Roles initiative, and has to do with the need of building a cooperation framework rather than a competitive one.
We should recognize the work of as many affiliated groups as we can. We should also build a global culture of collaboration - so if there are multiple groups working in the same country or region, they should be expected to work together, and not to detract from one another's efforts. (For an example of what an unfriendly overlap of region/mission can look like in practice, see the history of w:Smile Train and Operation Smile.) So we should be flexible in finding better ways to recognize active groups as the number of groups grows and as we start to have multiple groups working next to one another. I'd like to see us start investing more energy in recognizing groups that aren't bound to geography at all, but are defined by a shared focus: the Partnership Organizations recommended as a new model by the Movement Roles group. I support the formation of multiple chapters in a single country, as we have today with Wikimedia Hong Kong and Wikimedia Macau, or in the case of Wikimedia NYC and a potential future Wikimedia DC. And I suspect we will need to find a way to have national entities in countries that already have multiple regional chapters. Whether we call all of these groups Chapters or some other name, we should be sure to give all of them the tools they need to be successful in supporting the work of our movement.
When I joined the board three years ago our policy is that in one territory there should be only one chapter. The reason for this policy is to avoid chapters compete with each other for resources. With our current chapters funding agreement, by which every chapter can get share from our annual fundraiser as far as they meet certain criterias the problem of resource competition would only be bigger, as soon as we have chapters with overlapping territories. The current board want us to be more open, to all kind of organizations, this is also the reason for setting up the Movement Roles Workgroup. But this also means that we will have to distribute our resources in another way. This is a very complicated process with not only the Foundation and the chapters involved. And it is certainly not something that the board can alone decide or work out. As the workgroup is still working on all these issues, I would like to encourage everyone to actively take part in their discussion.
Are you in favor of minorized or stateless languages Chapters, e.g. an Occitan, Catalan, Breton, Esperanto or Welsh Chapter?
What do you think of having Esperanto serve as lingua franca in the WMF in order to avoid the hegemony of a big and statal language which happens to be identified for good or worse with some countries and cultures?
My answer is in my previous response. Different languages in the same country deserve their own chapters. We have to talk about how to implement this. Esperanto is not a living language in the sense of being widely used on a day-by-day basis. It is through daily use that a language develops and becomes useful. The issue of English as a lingua franca becomes more irrelevant as we pursue the goal of having all languages mirror one another on Wikipedia. This will happen with the promotion and development of machine translations and the progress of the Babel and Babylon projects. The important goal will be to have all texts available immediately in all languages. Some day we will also have multi-lingual audio versions of the pages available on-the-run.
Well, obviously I am a stark defender of the fact that each wikipedia should have their Chapter if they are well organized and have done good work so far not just for the sake that you have a state. So as you know, I dearly hope that the Occitans, the Esperantists, the Bretons, the Basques, the Tibetans, the Welsh and all the others will make their voice heard to be treated on an equal ground with the larger Wikipedias and have similar upper organizations and not informal groups that could range from "well-organized groups to three friends drinking a beer and eating peanuts in a bar" to caricature the comments of a Board Member. I also see in many answers, especially from the prominent people of the Board or Chapcom, that they seem to show now (that is after many years of discussions, debates and diverse campaigns) some "interest" in the Partner Organizations and are willing to find solutions. May I remind them that, except Jimmy Wales and then Samuel Klein (some months later...), the other members of the Board did not even have the courtesy to reply to Joan Gomà's survey (http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_CAT/en/Survey), then again if there exists the concept of Partner Organization, it is thanks to Amical and Gomà's (who coined the name) work, and Samuel Klein's efforts otherwise this issue would never have been contemplated and I am not sure that most of the Movement Roles actors are this eager to find a decent solution (I think that POs will be some second grade organizations..., much inferior to Chapters) any time soon... fundraising (money, money, money!) is the true interesting topic nowadays! About Esperanto, well it could be an interesting experiment. I was really surprised to see that I could understand most of what Arno Lagrange said in Perpinyà but then I know many Romance languages. My work on the Wikiccionari has made me realize that it is much easier to learn than English because of the simplification of its morphology for instance. So if the Board was willing to give it a try, it could be a fair opportunity for all of those who do not have English as their first language (native speakers tend to forget we do not have their proficiency and can speak too fast or make little effort in pronunciation, so please think about us...). To tell you the truth I am growing more and more interested in Esperanto (and to other languages too I did not know much at first) and I hope they can form a sound group/Chapter to make the language known and appreciated worldwide.
It's not clears that "chapters" are the proper vehicles for associations of editors drawn along non-geographical lines; or at least not chapters as they currently work.
I'm entirely in favor of some sort of representative structure for any group that is cohesive enough to self-identify. Having an "official" entity to champion minority languages or cultures, for instance, can only be a good thing in the long run, even if chapters aren't the right tool for the task.
As for using Esperanto as a lingua franca, I don't think that this is a realistic option. It would reduce the number of people being able to contribute meaningfully to the Foundation's work. This is definitely a case where practical considerations must win over the idealistic principle: you want to be as inclusive as possible and, in today's world, this means English.
Similarly to my statement the question above, I am all for enabling the Esperantean Wikimedians to do their work as effective as possible. I am however unsure if "chapters" are the right model for that, considering the lack of geographical scope. I could (depending on purpose, participation, viability and resources) support such a group as a non-chapter group, within a similar model as described before. But lets not create confusion in terminology and call it a 'chapter'. The same goes for other stateless languages. As for the lingua franca question, which is a totally different one, I think we should consider which of the languages enables most people to participate. In my experience, this would be English, but I am open for suggestions supported by research to alter that opinion.
On the first question; I think it is a good idea. Because it would be useful to bring in culture and content from those languages to our projects. My initial suggestion would be for these groups to come under the auspices (where sensible) of a parent chapter. For example; a welsh language chapter could easily be formed under the umbrella of Wikimedia UK, giving it access to resources and a wider base of volunteers, but keeping a sense of identity and purpose of its own. Esperanto is a no go in my mind. Too many people speak a decent level of English, to the point it has become the natural default for communicating. Adopting a new language, one less widely known, would likely kill participation in meta level organisation.
With regard to Esperanto, I think working together with existing organizations from all over the world is essential if we want to promote projects in this language. None of the existing chapters is able to do this at the moment. Therefore, it would make plenty of sense to establish a chapter that operates at a global level and interacts with all these organizations. I am not sure the Esperanto editor community is mature enough to take this step right now, but it can count on my wholehearted support from the moment it is.
With regard to other stateless languages, I do not think a "one size fits all" approach is the way to go. Editors working with these languages may want to work within informal groups, without having to go through all the paperwork required to establish a legal entity; or they may be willing to reach an agreement with existing chapters to share their infrastructure and get some coverage for their work; or they may even prefer to create their very own chapters. All these approaches (or others that may arise) can count on my unreserved support, provided that they are well-researched and supported by an enthusiastic group, and that the project editor community agrees.
This is how I see Esperanto's current status:
There are far more English than Esperanto speakers in the world. Therefore, the marginal benefit of learning Esperanto for any given person is much smaller than that of learning English. On the other hand, Esperanto is much easier to learn than English. Thus, the global effort needed for all the people in the world who still do not speak English to learn this language is much greater than the global effort required for all those who do not speak Esperanto to learn it. This leads to a typical situation where the classical economic dynamics result in a local optimum that is much worse than the global optimum. Nevertheless, I think Esperanto has a chance in the world of free knowledge, since we do not write Wikipedia to make money, nor do we learn languages purely for practical reasons. We do it because we like to, even if we are not sure we will get a chance to use them. I believe one of the problems the WMF should solve is promoting the editing of Wikipedia among speakers of all languages and, as of now, most of them speak no English or Esperanto.
The main issue with using Esperanto within the WMF is the same as in any other innovative project. It will meet the frontal opposition of all those who speak English and only the timid support of those who speak neither English nor Esperanto. The latter, moreover, will be unable to express this because English is needed to make your voice heard.
With innovation in mind, I support conducting experiments where the members of different language communities start working together on common issues while using Esperanto some of the time. I have actually suggested trying this in a Wikimania 2011 Language Workshop.
Yes, see what I answered in the previous question - I related to such other forms of chapters or affiliated groups there. As for Esperanto, it's a noble idea but totally impractical as long as English is well known by many and Esperanto is well known by very few.
I've already touched on this in my candidate statement and other answers, but yes, I think we should have Associations that cover people wherever they are, alongside the Chapters. I note BTW that Wikimedia UK already covers Welsh-languages speakers there (the vast majority), if all they want is a Chapter - but of course, that's the point, it's the focussed Association that people want and which I think we should grant them.
There are two reasons for organization of language/cultural based Wikimedia organization: (1) better ‘‘territorial’’ organizational potentials than country-level organization and (2) representation of particular language and culture.
In the first case, I am in favor of creating Wikimedia chapters (however, cf. my answer on previous question: it should be discussed within chapters, first).
In the second case, it is better to organize “partner organization” as defined inside of the New group models. The point is simple: a lot of members of smaller cultures are now scattered through their countries or even throughout the world (like Roma people are). The best way to represent themselves is to create a national or international organization which would cooperate with relevant chapters and WMF.
Lingua franca emerges as a product of complex social relations at regional and/or international level. English is lingua franca of the contemporary world and it is not possible to change that fact by decree. If it matters to you, it is likely that in ~20 years we won’t need lingua franca anymore, as machine translators will be much more useful.
As I've already said before, I don't agree with the idea of language based Chapters, though I think we can promote a different kind of affiliation for particular groups. Regarding the Esperanto question, I don't think it could become a lingua franca just because we'd like to, but if the community of Esperanto speakers increase both in number and participation in Meta and the Chapters, or if local Esperanto associations and groups around the world help us to spread the projects and/or start new Chapters, I would be ok with promoting the use of Esperanto as working language, among others, of Wikimedia.
Recognizing groups that support minor or stateless languages is a good idea, and important to our mission. They can often gather support and membership from people who would not be interested in working with a geographically-defined group.
That's why I have pushed for the recognition of Partner Organizations supporting our movement, in a particular language or culture. A formally incorporated Wikimedia Esperanto group would be excellent to see, as the Esperantists were among the first active Wikipedians. They could help raise questions about lingua francas similar to yours above. However, I don't think that anything but a major living language would work as a lingua franca for the Foundation.
Instead I think we should move towards having a small set of core languages, in which all business is conducted. It will slightly increase the cost of communication -- as any change in our lingua franca must -- but it will increase rather than decrease the number of people who natively speak a "language of the Foundation".
As to the first question, I think my answer to the last question above fit also here and I will not repeat it here again. What I think is important is really that everyone who is interested in this topic actively take part in the work of the workgroup. As to the second question, it is simply a question of how doable it is to introduce Esperanto as a lingua franca in Wikimedia movement. Is it doable to force hundreds or thousands of people to at first master Esperanto before they are allowed to take part in discussions on Meta or on Foundation-l? I said in my candidate statement that for me I would search solutions in a pragmatic (and thus unideological) and most possibly simple way. It doesn't looks like a simple solution with Esperanto, so no support from me.
I think that any improvement of general readability and usability will attract more women. As it is now, the Wiki world is very masculine and oriented towards computer technology. The interface for contributing to Wikipedia and editing is still primitive. Instructions and procedures are often inscrutable and obscure. Editors are sometimes blunt and insensitive. Whatever can be done to make the Wiki experience more sensual, emotional, attractive, tolerant, caring, accessible, helpful, inclusive, civil, respectful, and pleasing will attract many more users, and not just women. The style of our pages now is often stark, dense, difficult to read, and forbidding. There needs to be much more support of color, illustrations, charts, photos, blurbs, examples, sidebars, and all the other things required to draw people into reading the text. Adding video and audio will also go a long way in addressing this imbalance. Providing an attractive and easy-to-use interface will only enhance the integrity of the content.
This surely is a crucial aspect of the Wikipedias, the lack of women or girls participating here, and I have been concerned about it for a while. I am afraid that the balance will not reach equilibrium before women will be given similar opportunities and equal rights and salaries in our societies, but Wikipedia can probably help in this aspect. Well, I am not sure that the ideas that occurred to me a moment ago could foster interest but who knows...
We could probably initiate thematic sessions or highlights on specific dates (in order to celebrate events) and, for let's say one or two weeks, related to milestone historical moments o events such as: the suffragettes, women within the civil rights movements, the birth and evolution of feminism, Science and women (with Marie Curie for instance) and some similar themes that could be catchy and attract more reading and contributions from women, and hope that they will get somewhat "addicted" to the Wikiworld and will work on other fields eventually.
Furthermore if the editing process could be made easier and the environment more friendly we could reach more editors regardless of their gender and that would be a great improvement.
It's not clear what you mean by "gender justice". There is a disparity right now between the number of men and women contributing to our projects, certainly, but I don't think that it is caused by unjust treatment of women.
Much can be done to make our projects more attractive to women; and we're not faring so bad already — everything else being equal. That said, this is just a symptom of a more general selection bias on who our contributors are, and every move designed to widen our editor base is a step in the right direction.
I prefer to focus on the more general problem: the underrepresentation of many groups in society, of which women is only one. In many languages minorities are underrepresented, elderly people are underrepresented etc. There are different suggestions of what causes this, but in general I think that the more friendly and usable environment is a very good strategy ahead - both technical and social. Not because it is a perfect solution, but because it is good for everybody. What I think we should be careful of, is focusing so much on creating balance that we are actually getting less people (gender balance can also be reached by getting rid of some men). That would be counterproductive to our mission - gathering and spreading knowledge. I don't have perfect solutions for the underrepresentation issues, but am happy to support in any way I can. Setting the right example is of course a good begin, but creating a clear atmosphere where people are helpful to each other through messaging and communication and by allocating the necessary means to make that also technically possible would be an important way.
This is not a simple problem to address. The first thing I want to say is that we already have pretty good figures compared to most internet communities. Practically speaking it is going to be impossible, on our own, to attain 50/50 gender split on Wikimedia projects, but we can do our best to get as many editors as possible on-board.
But, rather than a specific problem (i.e. low female participation) this is part of a wider issue; where the vast bulk of our volunteer editor pool comes from a specific arena (white, middle class, male, 20-40). So the first thing to do is to expand participation in general. This will help make the community a little more diverse and encouraging to others.
The only real way to do this is outreach; by making it a focus of the chapters to try and bring in participants. It is somewhat outside of the board's scope to organise these things, but I suggest that going as a speaker to various meet ups, groups etc. might work. Imagine running a workshop for the Women's Institute, for example. Or running an after-school class at your local school. These are all outreach ideas we need to explore.
At translatewiki we introduced gender support for the MediaWiki software. We are waiting for the implementation of the namespaces that allow for male and female users. In many languages it allows to address people politely. Being polite, being nice is where it starts.
I fail to see what is meant by "gender justice". With regard to the participation of women, I think that first we should find out exactly where we stand, since the available data do not reflect our reality faithfully. I also believe that part of the difference in the participation of men and women on Wikipedia lies in the fact that our present society still discriminates women, who have less spare time than men to spend on activities such as writing on Wikipedia. Finally, I think the number of people who actually participate on Wikipedia is much lower than the potential number; this is our big problem. Personally, I am very interested in studying and understanding the causes which make the proportion of women too low even after accounting for the first two factors. This is mainly because I am convinced that these are the same factors that make the amount of participating men so low. This should be studied by applying the scientific method: comparing projects with different situations, trying certain changes and checking whether general participation (both men and women) improves.
I think this task falls on the shoulders of the entire community, and as a Board member I can promote this by encouraging the community to be innovative, to research this phenomenon scientifically and to dare to make experiments to look for improvements.
It is often said that the community is not friendly enough. In my own experience (and although I cannot state it with absolute certainty due to the lack of irrefutable proof), I think this is a very important factor, but by no means the most important one. Most Wikipedia users seldom interact with the others. The barrier holding back the participation of both men and, to a slightly greater extent, women is that Wikipedia is built to be read, not to be written. It is very difficult to find out what still needs to be done, how to do it properly and what you have to do. For example, I conducted an experiment with six people who had never edited Wikipedia before, asking them to create an article for which there was a red link on the page they were reading. Only one of them was able to do so. When you hover over a red link, a message appears saying that "page does not exist". If it said "click here to create the article" instead, the number of participants would certainly increase. We need to start working systematically to identify these barriers and tear them down one by one.
This is a serious problem but no easy solutions exist. I personally think both our cumbersome technology and the community practices are at blame. The solutions that come to mind are what other people suggested - improve the community atmosphere, recruit editors from well-targeted groups, discuss and bring this issue to the front. There's a whole mailing list devoted to it, and still I haven't seen any surprise solutions. Like with other under-represented demographic groups, we need to be realistic on what could be judged as success. Women are absent in many places on the net, we alone cannot completely revert this broad trend.
I don't think that there is a perfect solution to this - if there was, I hope we would have found it by now. However, I think the atmosphere on the projects, where despite our focus on community we can be quite combative (especially for new users), the very complex "help" documentation on some projects that just highlights how many policies there are to learn, the relatively high technical barriers to entry, and the lack of software support for more social aspects of use (following each others' activity, for example) all play a role, and are things that I know the Foundation is already looking at addressing. Clearly this is and should remain a priority - trying to attract lots of new editors without fixing the problems that drive them away is not a good use of our time, and we certainly need to address the imbalances in our community.
This is one of the problems of our community about which I was talking years ago. In 2007 I made a small research, including a couple of interviews with female Wikimedians. Results were obvious: Our editor culture is hostile and women usually hesitate to participate in conflicts. At the other side, we have much better percentage of women in organizational structures. While it is problem to find a female editor, it is not a problem to find a female organizer of some event, not even a female chair of a chapter.
Conclusions are obvious, too. Yes, there are methods how to increase women participation in Wikimedia projects. One is a long-term, the other could be implemented quickly (let’s say, in one year we could have different picture).
The long term method is working on transformation of projects into more welcoming place.
The short term method is systemic work on involving more women in organizational issue and other non-editing tasks inside of the movement.
While that’s the most serious unequal representation globally, we have numerous similar problems of that type. The second most visible is extremely low representation of African American population: ~12% of US population, ~20% of IT workforce, ~25% of US Twitter users, but no one on Wikimania (less than, let’s say, 2%; if we say that there were ~50 Americans).
Because of that, we have to actively search for patterns common in underrepresentation cases, as well as for generalized and particular methods for increasing participation of underrepresented groups.
I think the main way to encourage more women to participate is to become more welcoming to everyone. The active editing community is a little different in several ways from the general population—a little nerdier, a little more more stubborn, a little more thick-skinned, a little more comfortable with complicated interfaces—and it seems true that a larger proportion of men than women meet the personality profile of the people currently contributing. But I don't want to focus on gender specifically, as I think that is focusing on the wrong problem and will find the wrong solutions. Instead of wondering how to be welcoming to women in particular—which is a little bit alienating to those women who are already here and who already feel welcome; aren't we women too?—how do we reach all of the people who don't feel that Wikimedia projects are welcoming to them by being more inclusive of different working and interacting styles?
The current participation of women on the projects is quite low, compared to some globally popular and participatory sites. A few things we should do to address this:
Actively recruit from knowledge-gathering communities that are predominantly female. Librarians and teachers (especially grade-school and high-school teachers), in most parts of the world, fit the bill.
Find community leaders elsewhere online who have tackled this issue successfully -- since we are not alone -- and invite them to spend a few months working with our communities to find better solutions for ourselves. (the leaders of quora and metafilter come to mind.)
Improve the friendliness of our communities. Enforce "no personal attacks" and "be nice to newbies" as essential standards of our communities. Find ways to honor people who maintain a friendly environment, the way we do people who keep out spammers and vandals (whom we honor as admins).
In particular, do not allow insulting gendered comments on the projects. While I can't recall seeing such comments made towards men, I have certainly seen them made towards women. Many women I know refuse to admit their gender on the projects because of that minority of contributors who are actively hostile towards women.
I answered a similar question from Gerard a few days ago, here is my answer: Well, I have no THE solution for this problem. Personally I believe on a constant and small evolution, which means that everyone of us should work on this. Let's say every 10 current active Wikimedian start to recruit one female volunteer to join us, then we will have an increase of our gender ballance by let's say 10%. But that means that everyone of us must work on this. I cannot command other people and say hey do this. What I can do is do it myself. Maybe I can recruit one this year, that would be ok, maybe two, that would be good, and maybe three, that would be marvellous. And I hope that there will be people follow this example.
Wiki markup is hard to learn for the uninitiated, talk pages are poorly organized compared to modern internet forums, and features like MathML have been in testing for literally years without any substantial progress. Surely the board don't do programming, but you oversee the development, right? So do you/how do you plan to accelerate technical development of software related to Wiki projects? --Netheril96 04:55, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
A focus on developing an easy-to-use Windows-type interface will go a long way in addressing these problems and increasing the user base. The benefits are obvious and it is not rocket science. I am sure it has been addressed and tried already. We have to find out why it is dead-centered and get it going again. As mentioned in my previous answer, there is need to make it easier to include photos, illustrations, charts, etc. as well as audio and video. I regard these technical issues as paramount.
I think that the technical aspects of evolution have been poorly attended to in the past, and the usability initiative was surprisingly ineffective in retrospect; though much good did come of it, I'm surprised that so little concrete improvements made it to the actual projects.
This probably means more resources and focus towards the development process; it may also mean strategic partnerships with organisms having a more mature understanding of usability than we — as "native net geeks" — can muster.
You are totally right: the board does not do programming. Nor does the board provide direct oversight of the technical developments - that task would be much more safe in the hands of Danese Cooper (CTO) and Brion Vibber (Lead Software Architect). The board does set general strategies which can be translated into practice by the staff. I have been worried about the delays sometimes in the technical development in the past myself, so I know how you are feeling. I would love to see this improve, but the solutions will most likely have to come from within the MediaWiki development community. When setting out these general lines, it should be considered whether adding additional developers will actually provide a solution (and not just replace active volunteers). Investing more sounds like an easy solution, but investing effectively is the most important thing.
The are where this falls to the board is in hiring more developers. This, I think, is important (and something actually being done right now). The Mediawiki infrastructure is good... but has limitations. There are a lot of outstanding issues that need developers to massage them.
Ideally we could do with some more interface specialists.
The community needs to be connected with the developers in a much stronger way so as to feedback what is needed. As a programmer myself, with experience of managing big software projects, I believe I have unique insight that would help. One of the biggest problems is that non-programmers sometimes have a difficult job communicating their needs in a way that makes sense to the programmer (with knowledge of the internal architecture) and vice versa. There are lots of ways we can encourage the community to express development needs properly.
I fully agree and believe that investing in technological developments that make editing easier and automate routine tasks should be a priority for the WMF. I have already stated this in my presentation.
BTW, I mainly write articles on mathematics, and had to buy privative software to be able to write formulas with a certain ease. This is a pity, and not everybody can afford this.
At a recent talk I gave at Google R&D department in Tel Aviv, some people suggested Google's help with tackling some of our bigger challenges. So bringing in free existing or not-yet-existing 3rd party solutions (not necessarily Google's!) could speed things up. I think we should concentrate on in house development of just a few big projects. The most important ones would probably be the WYSIWYG editor and a phpBB-(bulletin board)-like talk page. Perhaps liquid threads is mature enough.
This is something that I think is vital to the movement, and something the Board can have more direct influence over than other concerns like community attitude (which are also very important). As someone with a technical background I would hope to get more involved in way that the Technical Department interacts with the wider movement. We seem to have moved from a "deploy early, deploy often" agile methodology we used to have to a much slower waterfall method, and I don't think that the community had much opportunity to discuss whether this was a good idea - it may make stability better, but certainly makes new features much slower to come online, if ever. On the first of your questions, there is some really exciting work led by Brion Vibber on a new parser that may lead to a much easier editing experience with w:WYSIWYG editors and less technical demands on our users, and I would hope to get involved in promoting that work and making sure it's a success.
Yes, good editing experience is one of the crucial things in attracting new editors, which we need desperately. Back to 2007, I was trying to encourage adoption of WYSIWYG editor by patching MediaWiki to be able to use FCKEditor.
According to my knowledge, sensible WYSIWYG implementation is possible just after creation of new Parser and Brion is finally working on it.
While I have no data to make precise conclusion about the reasons why we still need this, although WMF has enough money for that for years, I would repeat my position that it is obviously that priorities would be different if we have at least an autonomous body which cares about MediaWiki development. Building one big centralized organization is the right way to disaster -- sooner or later --, as well as programmers should be fully responsible for MediaWiki development. WMF is not managing MediaWiki development well and it is not because WMF has bad managers, but because much more organizational power is needed to keep focus on very different goals, like MediaWiki development is compared to expanding Wikimedia network globally.
We do not oversee development directly enough to give a direct answer to that question! The WMF budget is allocated based on the goals outlined in the strategic plan. Currently, increasing participation is a major goal, and so technical spending toward initiatives that will help with that is a priority; WMF is seeking to hire more developers to work on features that will make for a better user experience for new users, as well as people who can be better liaisons between the staff development team and the volunteers working on MediaWiki. Several of these projects haven't been in the core technology focus, so they've been left to progress slowly while other things got the bulk of the available resources; we hope that adding more resources will allow more of these projects to get active attention.
I see this as the top priority for the Foundation in the coming year. (Whereas making our projects more welcoming to new contributors is more of a priority for the Projects and current community.)
Along with making more regular releases, and getting some advice here from Papa Ward, we should start giving out more technical grants and recognition to small projects implementing great ideas. And we should open up the process of doing large-scale testing, so that developers who care about MathML (for instance) can help verify when it is ready for wider implementation. I believe that the Wikimedia Labs project lined up for later this year aims to address these issues.
I am myself a software developer by profession and I often compare the software development as done by the tech department of the WMF with my daily job. At first I want to say that as a developer of the WMF you will face challenges that you will not face in a company. At first you have no defined customer. The feedback you get from the users is very diverse, it can range from applaus to cursations. In most companies who develop software as a consumer good the developers themselves are shielded away by the different layers of supports so that they themselves wouldn't directly get the feedback, but only a distilled feedback. By WMF you get that everyday you open the mailing list. Because of this our tech staff tend to work very carefully and cautiously. Let's take the usability project. The actuall result of the development was far more than what was deployed on our projects because of various objections. And the initial reaction even on those features that was deployed (which is really not much) was not nice (although with the time there are a change in attitude, so the initial reation may be too one sided). This is one side of the story where I understand why our development tend to be so slow and cautious. The other side is what I said in the question about the internal challenge. I believe that we have still a lot of potential to improve ourselves and to make ourselves more efficient. The Usability Project was the first dedicated software development project the WMF ever did, and so there are certainly a lot of things went wrong, or from which we could learn. But slowly, we are in year two after our first project now, we should have gain experience and do things more and more professional. We should slowly have a routined rollout regime fro example. For example the board just approved and published the Controversial Content resolution. And in this resolution is also a request of new software features. And I think that the Foundation should gain the experience on how to develop such a feature, how to test it, communicate it to the community and finally roleout it. These are things were we can improve ourselves.
Suppose a future project wants to collect "every existing photograph that was taken in the year 1890". Barring concerns of legality or resource-use, is this goal philosophically consistent with the WMF's mission and scope? Alecmconroy 06:33, 1 June 2011 (UTC) The year 1890 was chosen arbitrarily, to avoid copyright or BLP issues
As I stated in a previous answer, I suspect that resources will become more scarce in the coming years. So, it is necessary to cherish and allocate them most carefully. This means concentrating more on our core values, our core mission, and what we are most succesful at: running a public encyclopedia.
I can appreciate where some can say that this decision is unrelated to the board — and that is true to a point — but one of the important duties that the board does have is to make sure that we are working towards our mission. We already have an immensely ambitious goal, and dissipating our (ultimately finite) resources by going far outside our initial vision runs the very real risk of diluting what we have too much to be truly effective at any of it.
Is preserving all of X (regardless of what X is) a laudable goal? Probably; and museums, libraries, archives and other similar institutions have this as their objectives. Is it something we want to do? Almost certainly not.
This sounds very much like the traditional debate which happens all the time in the global communities over whether something is "encyclopedic" or not, whether something belongs in a dictionary etc. The question to answer here is whether the material is "free" and whether it is "educational". I would prefer to give the global community a lot of freedom to determine their own definitions and directions within those limitations. However, personally I would like to add another requirement for a new project, and that is that it has to be "viable" - there has to be enough potential community to make it actually work. In that respect, your specific definition doesn't sound broad enough for a whole new Wikimedia project "Wikiphotos1890" - but maybe you mean as a project within Wikimedia Commons. In the latter case, it would be up to the Wikimedia Commons community to decide whether this falls within their scope. Now that is all about process and who gets to decide what. My personal opinion would be that a complete collection of all photos of such a year (1890 is still old enough to be interesting) could be of educational value. It could be a resource to identify techniques, and most photos' content would likely be educational too in some respect (clothes, people, landscapes). At the same time however I do think that as an organization, I would probably rather see our priorities elsewhere, and not in a narrow scope project like this if content collection is the only goal.
If someone charismatic and hardworking turned up tomorrow and said "I'm collecting all of the photo's in 1890" can you run a project to host them - my response would be to support doing so. But I think this isn't really the question you're asking, because it is my view that any photographs from 1890 have historical, cultural and educational value. And, as such, Commons would be a perfectly fine place to host such a project.
What you really seem to be asking is where the limit of "educational" falls. In my view we are here to collect information of value; i.e. things that could be educational. There is some dispute (even right now on foundation-l) over whether the choice of that word to describe the mission is limiting or lacks ambition. My view is that the word is very carefully chosen.
At root it is all about value; is the information being collected of value - to whom and how much? For example I would love to see an "Open Data" project to collect all sorts of statistics (Coca Cola Sale's figures, Voter turnouts, Rail tickets sold in Alabama). That information has little short term value, but in 150, 200, 1000 years it will be an amazing record of this stage of humanity. It will be educational. Same applies to those photographs, or large swathes of other data.
But do we need to collect everything ever created in Paint? Or the thousands of photographs of penises (although that might have research uses!). At some stage resources are limited and we have to make a value judgement "well we have a decent representative sample of Paint/Penis images from this period, we don't need any more for now".
If someone can make a legitimate argument that the information they propose to collect has educational value, even if that is not for some time, then we should support them. But by specifically not saying "information" it allows us to be slightly more selective and avoids us being seen as a place to dump every random piece of crap :)
(on a side note: currently we only really collect structured data - I'd love to see things open up to record unstructured data, such as my "Open Data" idea)
I'm not sure if it's really the board's task to ultimately decide on this, but a few criteria to help us choose: is there any cultural gain in doing so? Is there a community of editors/volunteers who find it important? Is it technically feasible? How will it help humanity and spread knowledge? To answer your specific example, I find it a bit absurd and of rather limited value.
New projects like this are clearly more a question for the community than the Board. That said, I think the important criteria are captured a bit in Proposals for new projects - you need a solid idea, a community behind it, and it needs to fit with our overall goals of adding to the access to educational and useful information for people. I'm not sure that a mere photography library in itself (without a core reason around which to cohere) would meet these tests - especially on the community front.
On the long run, I see no reason why such project wouldn't be accepted if there are people who are interested in it and if we have enough resources. If we are willing to keep live community around Wikimedia projects, we have to find new tasks for us.
While it couldn't be said that Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia) would be finished ever -- as there will be always new events, new discoveries, new important people etc. -- we are about to finish the core of encyclopedia, at least in the case of the English language edition. That's one of the reasons for lowering number of editors.
At the other side, we need to gather the ideas and prioritize them. Some of the ideas could and should be implemented now, some should wait for some time, some others should wait longer. But, that doesn't mean that we should wait for another five years to get one more content project.
I don't see an inconsistency, but it seems like it would be a somewhat narrow and arbitrary focus for a whole separate project! I usually think that if you can do something within an existing project without conflicting too much, it's better to do it there and not duplicate effort, so I'd say that such a thing would make more sense as a subcollection of Commons. (With some pages on other projects, such as Wikipedia articles and Wikisource documents, to tie it all together.)
Yes, that is definitely within our scope. As would be projects such as geograph.co.uk.
The project you suggest would need its photographs to be organized and categorized and described, which would be more than half the value of the project as a whole. In a similar way, geograph.co.uk's fantastic efforts, if seen as a collection of images with no context, might not be very valuable to human knowledge, but in context are of tremendous value and an inspiration to society-wide projects to document themselves.
Whether this should be the start and end of a single project about "the world in photos in 1890", or part of a project that does this for every year, or a very active portal within a larger photo-repository project, is a separate question. [You specifically asked not to consider resource issues, so let's assume these projects will not be so large as to be unmanageable.]
I will try to frame this question with two examples and then answer it as of my personal opinion. The first example is a landfill. Both in the developped world as well as in the developping world landfill is a huge problem. In the developped world people produce so much waste that we don't know where to go with all of them. In the developping country landfills can be a vast environmental and health problem. But ask an archaeologist. A landfill from an ancient city is an unvaluable treasure for him. Every bit of waste he found there will be documented and carefully collected and curated. And every bit of waste can tell him something about the life of the region and epoche. So every bit of landfill can turn out to be valuable, at some circumstances. The other example is the data generated by the modern scientific instruments like the LHC or the Cassini probe. If LHC is running it produces so many data per second that no one, not even the most powerful computing network would be able to analyse them all in detail. So what people do is that an automatical software will go and filter out the most "trivial" results. One every million datasets is considered to be valuable enough to be processed further. From these selected data there are further sophisticated evaluation processes so that from the billions of collisions that LHC had produced hetherto there are maybe a dozen that were actually used for publications. The two examples are for me the two extreme aspects of this question: Everything, even waste, can be valuable, and if the data quantity is too big, the scientific society used to filter those out, which is considered as "not remarkable, trivial", to keep the processable quantities in a manageable way. I would advocate for the "Doctrine of Mean": I think if come to this, we should work out a set of metrics to determine if a photograph is notable enough. The threshold of notability can be set very low, but it should limite the collected images in a manageable ways. If you want it digital, my answer is a denial of such a project as you proposed in the frame of WMF. But I think the idea is valuable enough for us to pick up some of it and integrate it into our projects.
The Incubator makes it harder to grow up projects
La incubadora de Wikimedia dificulta la colaboración; muchos proyectos en un mismo wiki hacen muy difícil seguir el desarrollo del proyecto al compartir los cambios recientes con muchos proyectos distintos. Yo francamente recomiendo que todos los nuevos proyectos a pasarse a wikis independientes(Wikia?) hasta que sean lo suficientemente grandes para tener su wiki en Wikimedia. ¿Qué planean hacer para mejorar la situación de los nuevos proyectos en la incubadora? --Fajro 17:47, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
Pido disculpas por escribir en Inglés. (If someone would be willing to provide a translation for this answer, I would appreciate that - please paste below)
I see that there are several problems around the incubator - the main system to give communities a chance to grow in a safe environment under close supervision of experienced users (who often do not speak the language). Having these starting communities together might have some advantages, and might have some disadvantages. I do not think it is up for the board to spell out the details how this process should work - I would rather see us ask the input of experienced users who have been active in that field recently. Is it a technical problem, for which a bit of development might actually be more helpful than setting up whole sets of new wiki's? Is it a social problem, because "non-speakers" are trying to help out?
I don't have very clearly outlined ideas how the incubator should look like exactly, and I think that best practices should be leading here. I hope you are willing, independently of this election, to enter these conversations with the language committee, the incubator admins and the stewards.
-Spanish translation by Gomà-
Veo que hay varios problemas en torno a la incubadora - el sistema principal para dar a las comunidades la oportunidad de crecer en un ambiente seguro bajo la estrecha supervisión de usuarios experimentados (que a menudo no hablan el idioma). Tener juntas a estas comunidades que se están empezando a formar puede tener algunas ventajas y algunos inconvenientes. No creo que sea responsabilidad del Consejo de Administración definir los detalles de cómo debe funcionar este proceso - Prefiero pedir la opinión de los usuarios con experiencia que han participado activamente en este campo recientemente. ¿Es un problema técnico, por lo que un pequeño desarrollo podría ser de hecho más útil que la creación de conjuntos completos de la nuevas wikis? ¿Es un problema social, porque los "no hablantes" están tratando de ayudar?
No tengo definidas muy claramente las ideas de cómo debería ser exactamente la incubadora y creo que aquí debíamos guiarnos por las mejores prácticas. Espero que estés dispuesto, con independencia de esta elección, a entablar estas conversaciones con el comité de lenguas, los bibliotecarios y los stewards de la incubadora.
Estoy completamente convencido de que uno de los problemas más serios que tenemos desde el punto de vista estratégico es que todo el sistema es demasiado farragoso cuando se trata de editar. Estoy hablando de tecnología pero también de organización de contenidos, elementos de ayuda, comunicación de las herramientas disponibles etc.
También pienso que otro de los problema es que como comunidad nos hemos vuelto demasiado conservadores y reluctantes a la innovación, los cambios y los experimentos. Me propongo conseguir que esta situación cambie y encontrar fórmulas que nos permitan consensuar que haremos experimentos y que nos lanzaremos a propuestas en la línea de la que planteas sin necesidad de pasar por discusiones eternas.
En el tema que apunta la pregunta no conozco los detalles de las soluciones posibles. Pienso que el comité de lenguas está tratando el tema con buenas expectativas. Personalmente apoyaré las inversiones necesarias para facilitar al máximo el proceso de creación de nuevos proyectos.
If the problem is that all these languages share the same incubator wiki, then certainly I don't see why we can't split them up into separate wikis. This doesn't mean that they'll lose their quasi-provisional incubator status, just to make it technically more manageable. If the difficulty you're referring to is different, please describe it (I don't really read Spanish).
Language committee is working on this issue. Projects at Incubator should get "virtual projects" and everything would seem like they have a separate project (see the section "Incubator extension and redirect" inside of the LangCom's report from the meeting). Unofficially (in a couple of days it would be officially), Language committee would suggest that Incubator extension and redirects apply not just to Incubator, but to the main Wikimedia project (usually, Wikipedia) in small languages, for certain type of projects (Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikiquote).
Those two enhancements would allow people to feel as they have "normal" project, but if they don't have enough people to care about technical issues, admins of Incubator or admins of Wikipedia in their language would care about it.
This is a problem. It is being addressed in part by the current Language Committee. But this sort of support for small languages is something the Foundation should make a priority. At present, your concern is addressed indirectly by the focus on 'innovation' and support for reaching Wikimedians in parts of Asia and Africa where participation is currently low. Millosh notes two specific changes that may help improve the friendliness of the incubator in the short term.
Sorry for repliying in English. There was in the past an evolution of how new projects were created. And this process is one that still reflects the vitality of our movement, because it is still evolving, as the newest change in the LangCom policies show. We want to have new projects, have people gather together do new things, but we also had the experience that in the past new projects were created but with no participation. This is not the meaning for our projects. By introducting the policy of closing dormant projects and put them back to incubator we maybe can lower the threshold for new projects come out of the incubator. Every new policy, including the board resolutions, have impact on how people work together, and we are always carefully observing which influence they have and if needed correct them. This is true for board resolutions, this is true for policies of LangCom and other committees, and this should also be true for the policies in our projects. If a policy does not work out the way it is thought and destructs collaboration, then we should think of abandone that policy or change it into a more constructive way.
¿Qué opinan de posponer la votación hasta que se hayan traducido las presentaciones de candidatos y las respuestas a estas preguntas al menos en los 10 idiomas con más colaboradores? --Fajro 17:47, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
Es cierto que la situación actual es muy extraña y no acabo de entender muy bien porque fallan las traducciones en los idiomas más grandes (y la absencia de participación de ciertas comunidades...), es una cosa que se debería haber resuelto antes de las elecciones. En las lenguas más pequeñas se puede entender, muy a menudo existe poca coordinación y el tiempo pasado en las traducciones resulta en una pérdida de contribución/edición bastante valuoso pero en las grandes... Existe también la posibilidad que el candidato pida a gente conocida o a comunidades la traducción, que a mi me parece oportuna ya que así se anudan contactos fuera de la wikipedia de origen... Yo por ejemplo, en cuanto a los idiomas que no domino, les pedí a un compañero aragonés y otro lusófono ese favor y me hicieron tales traducciones (muitas gracias/muito obrigado!); también las pedí en bretón y en asturiano pero no tuve suerte... Muy a menudo hago las traducciones de artículos que se me piden y bueno en cierto senso te resulta muy grato que te pidan traducciones en occitano por ejemplo que suele ser un idioma poco visible y de baja consideración... Personalmente di algunas traducciones a ciertos candidatos que me parecen gente seria y honesta pero no se dignaron a ponerlas; sin embargo creo que es más un problema hacia mi persona que hacia los idiomas traducidos (al menos lo espero, no creo que el catalán sea para ellos un idioma inferior y del cual se puede prescindir...) y no pasa nada, si no lo quieren hacer no es problema mío... También he visto una cosa muy rara en el caso de Gomà que había obtenido una traducción en polonés y dicha traducción fue eliminada porque no le resultaba bastante correcta a un traductor polonés que no hizo ni el más mínimo esfuerzo para corregir o ayudar... muy curioso, acaso existen tensiones hacia ciertos candidatos (además de las que provoco yo evidentemente...). Como lo he evocado de antemano, las soluciones se deben plantear y resolver antes creando equipos de traductores que tengan como encargo traducir las declaraciones o lo que sea. A pesar del disbarate que la situación actual puede representar (sobre todo para los que poco entienden el inglés que son mucha gente y muy importante, al menos para mi...) me parece que no se pueden posponer ya que las fechas deben ser una cosa bastante inamovible en un ámbito elevado o resultaría en una pérdida de credibilidad de las instituciones y de su funcionamiento. Crearía un precedente y se podrían discutir los resultados que evidentemente cambiarían bastante... y sería acaso aún peor... Estas cosas se deberían pensar de manera más seria y profesional (la base del proyecto es el multilingüismo y las traducciones son una parte importante para las comunidades...) y espero que en los tres años que quedan hasta las próximas elecciones se preparen correctamente esos aspectos, a mi parecer, básicos...
Pido disculpas por escribir en Inglés. (If someone would be willing to provide a translation for this answer, I would appreciate that - please paste below)
The board elections are using processes that are ever evolving, and your suggestion could be taken into consideration for the next time. I am no fan of having uncertain dates ("when there are translations in every of 10 major languages") but I would definitely not object to more time for translations if that is required. I think there are many other improvements to be made (such as the amount of information to digest - 19 candidates is a lot, and a two round system might make sense to allow people to focus on the main candidates) not only limited to the presentations, but also to some major questions.
-Spanish translation by Gomà-
Las elecciones al Consejo de Administración emplean procesos que están en constante evolución y tu propuesta se podría tomar en consideración para la próxima vez. No soy partidario de establecer fechas inciertas ("cuando haya traducciones en cada uno de los 10 idiomas principales”), pero, por supuesto no tengo ninguna objeción a dejar más tiempo para las traducciones si es necesario. Creo que hay otras muchas mejoras a realizar (como la cantidad de información que se tiene que digerir - 19 candidatos es mucho, un sistema de dos rondas podría tener sentido para que la gente se centrarse en los principales candidatos) no sólo limitadas a las presentaciones, sino también a algunas de las principales cuestiones.
(apologies for not being able to respond in Spanish, I am part way to correcting my defecit of languages, but Spanish is not one I started yet :))
On principle, of course, I think this *might* be a good idea. Not for this election, because voting has started and - for better or worse - it is not really possible to interrupt it at this stage.
Next time it would be good to try some different ideas to increase general participation in the election process - Alecmconroy, I think, should be co-opted to lead that charge :) He has done a lot this election already.
On the other hand, we need to find a balance between getting the most translation - but not delaying the process so long it peters out. If it will take a month to translate everything into 10 languages, then, that would be too long. The way to address this is to bring in more helpers and contributors in the initial stages - so translation can happen smoothly and quickly.
La propuesta pone de manifiesto un problema serio pero la solución no es suficientemente adecuada.
Ahora, los que no hablan Inglés no tienen las mismas oportunidades de participar.
Esto tiene dos inconvenientes. Primero, que no es justo. Pero además estamos depreciando y desperdiciando la imaginación, la creatividad y las ideas de la personas que hablan todas las demás lenguas.
Ampliarlo a las 10 lenguas con más colaboradores no termina de resolver el problema y además lo esconde y reduce el incentivo para solucionarlo. Pienso que lo ético seria que en las traducciones de los textos fundamentales (Informes de la WMF, resoluciones del Consejo dirigidas a la comunidad, estos textos de las elecciones...), pongamos como mínimo el mismo énfasis que ponemos en las traducciones en las campañas de recaudación de fondos.
En mi presentación propongo que los proyectos participen más directamente en las decisiones y que se cree un consejo que pueda hacer de portavoz de los proyectos. Entonces, en cada proyecto se podrán discutir los temas en su propia lengua y trasladar las conclusiones al conjunto.
Respecto a la ampliación del plazo debo abstenerme porqué personalmente me beneficiaría ya que yo no contribuyo a los proyectos en inglés y por tanto no soy tan conocido como los que sí lo hacen. Claro que si el resto de candidatos están de acuerdo, a nadie le amarga un dulce.
The board elections have very low turnout (I think this year even worse than previous years) for many deep-seated reasons. Most wikimedians just don't care or understand why the board should or could affect their wikimedian life (compare it for example to adminship discussions), or they don't know any of the numerous candidates. Your proposal to translate sounds good, though I'm disinclined to postpone the voting deadline more and more. I doubt we'll see a seachange in turnout this way or that.
I agree with the proposal. While I am not sure how feasible it is now (I suppose that the most of candidates should agree with that, as well as Election committee, as well as present Board), I think that this should be regular part of the next elections. Something like: 2 weeks for translations between the questions and voting. During that period of time no new questions should be asked.
This is a great idea. It is unfortunate that none of the questions in this or past years were translated well into other languages; this is a good reason to have an extra two weeks between candidate presentations and voting, during which questions are answered -- in that time, there could also more reasonably be public debates among candidates, if this is desired.
Again sorry for not answering in Spanish. Since there is no deadline for question and answers I think at least for Q&A there is no possibility to get all the translations. As for the candidate statements. The problem is that the translations are done by volunteers just as you and me. We cannot force people to do the translations. And we have some deadline because the new board member should be onboarded latest at Wikimania, they need to prepare their travel if they originally didn't prepared to take part on Wikimania, and they need to get informations. The board need also to adjust to the result of the election, so there are a lot of things happenning after the election. We try to get the election finished at least one and half a month prior of Wikimania, and this is the challenge in it.
Are you in favor of implementing social networking features in Wikimedia projects? Example: Profiles with interest lists(could replace Userboxes) and status updates, Following users (watchlists of contributions of newbies who need tutoring or suspected vandals) and groups (useful for wikiprojects). --Fajro 17:58, 7 June 2011 (UTC)
I'm not opposed to looking into new features that learn from what social networking sites have to teach us (there is no question, for instance, that their demographics are attractive, or that they are successful at what they do). The danger lies in trying to be "like Facebook" because Facebook works very well for what it is trying to do.
Supporting our community is an important aspect of our projects, but it is — ultimately — a means to an end: our primary efforts should be expended towards the objective of making our educative and cultural mission easier to achieve. Some aspects of social networking may end up beneficial, but it's clear that some would quickly become very detrimental to our pillars even if they do increase traffic (Facebook-like interests groups, for instance, would be a neutrality and canvassing nightmare in the best of cases).
Social tools should never be a goal in itself, but a means to an end: content creation and community support. That automatically means that it would only work if there is actually demand for those functions from within the community. I would be happy to allow allocation of budget for community support if it is believed that this would actually help them to work better. Especially if it helps the community to help new community members better and creates a more friendly environment. Important to consider in these cases (as I've been explained) is the privacy of our visitors and editors - there should be no unauthorized private data transfer from Wikimedia to the social network providers.
On the specific ideas you raised; no, they are not things I would support adopting. It's a bad idea to turn into a social network style community (mostly because that would be constraining).
That is not to say there aren't specific "neat ideas" we can pick up from other sites (not just social ones). MediaWiki is a good piece of Wiki software, and has been slowly dragged into the "modern" internet, but it is not the pinnacle of perfection quite yet (by no fault of the developers, I should add).
What ideas could we adopt?
More powerful ways of filtering edits (on watchlists or wherever) would be useful.
There is already extensive work being undertaken on the user signup process - and this is an area we can definitely look to other sites (whose commercial success depends on getting people through that stage successfully) for ideas.
We already share some similar aspects to other sites; for example the edit tagging feature has some similarities to the Twitter hashtags - this is an area we could look at expanding to give more features to editors (example; the guild of copyeditors could "tag" edits "#GOCE" to help them track the groups work, and important part of their activities).
These are just my top thoughts I plucked out while writing this, there are a lot more.
There is another aspect here too, one which I was actively debating on English Wikipedia the other day - that of what features we can adopt for the benefit readers. They make up the vast majority of visitors to the site, and we need to take the time to cater for them. The specific example I am referring to relates to placing sharing features on articles - to let people quickly share links to content on social sites. This idea is generally resisted by the editor community, and has a number of important problems to be overcome, but I think for readers it would be beneficial.
But, ultimately, no - moving towards being too much like a social network is an adverse move.
Many of our activities are too much for individual people. It takes a group of people working together to make this happen. The fact that some are adverse of Social Software does hamper our activities. We review articles, we proofread digitised scans, we have competitions. We suffer from a lack of new people and becoming more social and sociable will change our attitude by necessity.
I am in favor of innovation and experimentation. Every idea can raise a lot of pros and cons and a never ending discussion avoiding innovation. I think we must agree to behave as in writing articles. Be bold. Implement innovative features. Experiment the results. If the results are not satisfactory enough then revert.
While I'm all in favor of playing with the technical side of things to try to counteract the worrying results of the editor trends survey (see my statement), such as trying new permissions groups or new possibilities (protect your sandbox from admins?), I think we should be careful about turning Wikipedia into a social networking site. Yes, editors should be encouraged to communicate more and better (liquid threads?), it's for the benefit of the project. But I'm afraid we'll wake up one day with a Facebook clone that has an encyclopedia, and not the other way around. So I'd like to see these things in beta testing before we go Facebook.
Yes. I assume that as minimum of necessary "innovation" (quotes because it is not innovation at all, although we are around five years late and it would be innovation for us). I wrote about it numerous times during the past years (I think, mostly on foundaiton-l). The last one is my blog post.
We already have some; you're really asking if we'd like more of them! For example, user pages and categories on user pages are social networking tools. I think it's important that we do remain a project with a purpose, and that the social features don't detract from that. But where the social features improve our ability to keep contributors actively interested and help them to improve the projects, we should adopt them. One thing that I hope will come of increased tech staffing is the ability to experiment more with features like this to see where they are helpful.
Yes. This is an important aspect of improving and updating our interface, and being more open to welcoming contributors who are "turned off" by the current simple tools we offer. Being able to personalize your experience of reading and commenting on the projects, is key to expanding the group of people who join and feel "like Wikipedians". And being able to keep track of what your friends are doing -- from a better messaging system across Projects to better ways to run group activities such as WikiProjects -- is important to maintaining editors' interest.
I am FOR every measure that can improve participation and collaboration. For me especially collaboration is one of the most important aspect of our projects that was more and more neglected in the past. The most strong objection against social networking features is worries of personal information and privacy. Personally I believe there is a very big difference in philosophy between a non-profit organization as we are and companies like Facebook or Twitter. For us, social networking features would be a tool to improve the collaboration of the editors and users, and not a tool to get information or make money. There were some talks on zh-wp about to make a java-script based and client side code. But at the end the programmer who proposed this changed his interest and so the development never started.
Well, you've just mentioned here one of the reasons why I will never be an administrator. I would not know how to define myself in this case though I guess I would fall somewhere in between. That is, I hate to see some work erased, especially if the editor did it with good faith and spent so much time... At the same time however it is obvious that some things do not belong here and have to be removed... Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and thus it has to stay true to some standards of quality and every article has to meet some criteria and among them the theme chosen should possess a certain notoriety in order to be included inside our virtual book.
I've been "accused" of being both, so I take this to mean that I'm doing a fairly good job at balancing the need to apply editorial judgment and the desire to be all-inclusive. I'm in the "I don't mind how superficially trivial a topic may be if we can make a good article about it" camp.
I believe that the level of inclusionism is something that ought to be determined on a local community level. General guideline here should be that the level of inclusionism should be supportive of the operations of the community - what level of inclusionism allows the community to grow the most effectively, to invite the most new users, to control vandalism and false facts best etc. Personally I think that allowing a lot is helpful in involving a lot of volunteers. However, it depends still on the maturity of the project how inclusionist it should be. A project of 10 articles should not start writing about individual bus lines, because there is no context to make it relevant. Forcing people to focus might actually be most effective there. On the English Wikipedia, there are so many specialists active, that it makes more sense to allow a wide range of very specific articles, to allow these people to share their knowledge as extensively as possible.
I'd prefer not to characterise myself as either, especially as I make a point of not characterising others. I'm not sure it really matters; the beauty of Wikipedia means that largely the consensus opinion works out (with a wide margin of error) and personal views only amount to part of that overall decision. For example; I disagree with a couple of en-wp policies, but I realise they have community consensus and support - so as much as I take opportunities to talk about why I think they are wrong, I do abide by them :) But to specifically answer: I probably tend more toward including content. But not to the level of "include everything"; and my method of deciding what makes it inside the line depends very much on the topic and associated sourcing.
I am sorry but I prefer not to answer this questions in Board elections debate. I think it belongs to the community of editors to find the balance between those positions. I will be happy to express my personal opinion in any discussion but at the same level as any other editor not as a Board member.
Beh, do we have to be so partisan? I never identified as either. Not even all wikipedias have such clear divides. I like quality. An article about a seemingly esoteric subject could be well written, well sourced and truly informative - that's the way I like them. But it could also be bot-generated, contain no real information, and exist just for statistical inflation. That's not the way I like them. And it could be just a silly gimmick articles - these I dislike the most.
I am ambivalent toward communityism/encyclopedism line. Wikipedia is encyclopedia and our primary job is to work on spreading free knowledge, based on scientific principles. However, we are community, too and we have to care about civility; personal attacks shouldn't be tolerated, but free speech shouldn't be suppressed (people tend to treat reasonable criticism as personal attack).
Contrasted to authorism, I am extreme communalist.
Every person is able to change herself or himself. Thus, I am rehabilitist.
Edit warring is very harmful; which means that I am WikiPacifist.
Adminship is "no important thing" for me.
I think that neutrality is a basic skill.
I am antifactionalist.
I tend to be proceduralist, but I completely agree with IAR (ignoring all rules) when it is necessary.
In the long-ago dark ages of 2005, I declared myself a mergist (and blathered about it a bit in my userspace). I still am—I think that focusing on including or deleting individual articles is simple, obvious, and completely the wrong idea; instead, the focus should be on putting information where it makes sense.
Getting a little bit on a tangent, I think it's unhelpful and even harmful to try to classify people as "inclusionist" or "deletionist"; using the label means people split into camps that don't even make sense, rather than trying to figure out what they actually want. (No one wants to delete everything; that doesn't even make any sense. And almost no one wants to include everything.) I didn't mind the labels too much when it was mostly a joke, but now I wish no one would ever use them again, so they'd be forced to say what they actually meant instead.
I also like searching for better solutions: is there any way to get the good parts of two competing ideas at the same time? Almost all of my views are somewhere in the middle of extremes, and I hope I'm able to change my mind where I'm wrong.
I used to be an eventualist. Recently I have seen ways that important information throughout history has been hidden and lost -- we can suffer from the same problems that past generations of historians and archivists have suffered.
I believe in making it as easy as possible to contribute information -- imposing as few barriers and requirements and restrictions on what we archive as possible -- and making the final output that is included in the "organized summary" of what is known about a topic as refined as possible; adding requirements and levels of organization to that output as we learn and develop our style guidelines.
In between, we need useful quarantine spaces for content whose license is not yet clear, draft spaces for anything inoffensive that has not yet been verified, and some sort of 'omnipedia' space for knowledge that is verifiable and verified but otherwise does not pass the current standards of being notable, educational, &c of one of the major projects.
In other areas, I think neutrality, letting everyone edit easily, facilitation of balanced discussion, an opposition to systemic bias, and making access to tools (such as adminship flags) no big deal, are all essential aspects of the projects.
Content should generally be kept. It is a question about organising. First it is data, in a certain context it becomes information. The highest level one can reach is knowledge. One should not delete content, we should develop it to knowledge.
Gerard asked me the following question: What story about the Chinese Wikipedia would you love to be known more widely ?
And I answered:
One of the greatest thing I love Chinese Wikipedia is its diversity. We have volunteers from Mainland China, from Taiwan, from Hong Kong and Macau and from oversee Chinese. The composition of all these four groups are about one fourth each. This made the Chinese Wikipedia a place that is very tolerant to different views and to different opinions, because non of these groups can overwhelm the other groups and one must work with each other in a constructive way. For example it was members from the Hong Kong community who began to write articles about individual bus lines of Hong Kong: Bus line 110 is operated by this company, its start point is station x, its end point is station y, it is operated most frequently during the rush hour and less at Sunday, it was started in year 1997, changed the root this or that in year 2006. And so on and so on. At the beginning there was a big dispute about if such articles are notable. And some of them were deleted at the beginning. But because of the maintenance of those community members from Hong Kong slowly there was a turn of opinion. And now people from Taiwan or even from some of the big cities of Mainland China like Shanghai start to write such articles. I like this example especially because I believe it shows the vitality of the Chinese Wikipedia. Hey, Hong Kong is only a city, although a very big one and a very diverse one by the way, but at some point everyone "notable" is written and people want to contribute. As long as they contribute in an informative way, bus lines are valuable informations! This is a very good example of Be Bold. I have always big fun on Chinese Wikipedia and see it evolve and change. Sometimes on Chinese Wikipedia I still feel that innovative spirit that was so characteristic for our projects, let's say five or six years ago.
What will be your efforts to ensure that Wikipedia does not have an Eurocentric bias and has balanced view of achievements of all ancient civilisations and not just Greece & Rome? Ramananrv123 13:39, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you are right but well the problem goes way beyond Eurocentrism, it would rather be Westerncentrism... The whole amount of information is generally biased in many Wikipedias by the more or less nationalistic vision of things and particularly when dealing with precise historical moment involving the "nationality" of the Wikipedia. When talking about these differences I usually point out to the fact that sir Francis Drake is some kind of hero in the British history while it is a real bad guy for the Spaniards, some kind of cruel pirate and I guess that the history of India is really different when seen/taught in the United Kingdom from the Indian standpoint... The additional problem, which is a recurrent problem of the project, is that the less-privileged countries, or even the minorities inside a state (the vision of the Albigensian crusade and people like Simon de Montfort change drastically whether "you" were among the losers (Occitans) or the winners (the French)), have little access to Internet and contribute little so these issues are bound to stay biased for a long time but well you know, unfortunately as the saying goes: "History is made by the winners" so let's hope technology will progress at a faster pace so we can have better and less partial visions of things. Also dealing with the Roman and Greek civilizations there is a great deal of data that makes these civilization well known and confronted to some oral cultures well it is too obvious that the first will be privileged since they are easier to study... but well I also think that we lack a lot of things on other cultures which have many written records like in India, China, Japan or many countries of the Middle east, so I hope it will come gradually...
As I've stated in an earlier answer, I do believe this is one of the more important problem facing Wikimedia for the years to come, and one of its most difficult challenges.
Part of the difficulty comes from the very large disparity in contributors. It's unavoidable that the projects (Wikipedia most of all) reflect mostly the culture and history of its contributors, and no secret that the editor demographics right now are very biased towards the North Atlantic cultures. This is both and accident of history and a consequence of an external disparity in the means to contribute to Internet in general.
What we can do is to expend effort and resources to bridge that gap. It means working with other organism to bring Internet to underrepresented communities, outreach efforts to make other cultures aware of our mission and of the importance to share their histories and knowledge, and giving them the means to contribute.
This means we need to bring the Wikimedia projects to those parts of the world which are underrepresented, but it also means we have to give them a voice. It may mean projects like bringing Internet connectivity and computers to schools, for instance, or giving support to other organisations who do. It may mean things like stipends for editors in countries where leisure time for activities like editing an encyclopedia is a luxury they cannot afford. I think we need to examine ways in which we can reach out, and I would encourage exploration of methods to do so.
I think that a significant fraction of our funds should be spent in that direction, certainly.
The way Wikipedia works is that thanks to the high amount of readers and editors from different backgrounds, they cancel out each others' bias. Unfortunately this system is not perfect, especially when there is a relatively high amount of people with an interest in European (or Western) culture and history. The best way to mitigate that is by involving more people from different cultures. This is an ongoing exercise and nothing new - but it is good to recognize its importance. And it is not just about ancient civilizations, but also about geographical and biographical articles about current topics. People tend to have a higher interest in their own area - and we can't force them to change their interests. That means that the best way forward is involving more people with diverse backgrounds - from non-Western countries for example.
This all ties back to the outreach questions that were asked the other day; a lot of work needs to go into bringing in a wider array of interests. When I happen onto the smaller Wiki's I see this problem in sharp relief - there are articles about topics/events/people that are of a very high quality that are simply not appearing on English Wikipedia. (plus there is the reverse problem; where smaller wiki's are missing key topics from other cultures or subject areas).
There are two major solutions to this:
Bring in more editors from different countries to edit the various wiki's. There are communication issues to solve here, as well as culture clashes. But outreach work should help to smooth over such things.
Start a drive to get work translated amongst Wiki's. I can only write about my technical topic in English, and it seems that foreign language wiki's barely cover the material, but a translator could happily rework my content into a foreign language and provide benefit to the wiki.
Where can the board help here? Well I suggest first by considering ideas (at foundation level) to encourage translation; I'm thinking meta ideas here such as considering small bonuses to people willing to do the grunt work (just thinking out loud here) or hiring professional translators to the staff to help co-ordinate (and work on) such an effort.
Then there is outreach, where a lot of work is already underway (and which I commented on it detail in earlier questions).
The only way to deal with systemic bias of that type is to promote Wikimedia projects at the other parts of the world. And that's ongoing process, not something which should be pushed by any new Board member. Strategic emphasis on developing countries ("Global South"), passive work of Chapters committee and active work of Language committee are bringing editors from underrepresented parts of the world. Economic situation is also important and it is improving in those parts of the world. Eventually, 1 billion of Indians will have stronger voice than 500 millions of Europeans, and that's natural.
The concern of systemic bias, in editors and contributors, is important. Addressing this bias is one of the five targets of the Foundation's current 5-year strategy - something the WMF takes quite seriously. The details of content bias are not within the scope of the Board, but addressing demographic bias is.
After just few decades some of the minority nation’s people might not be alive to let their culture kept in human-kind heritage. Should we leave them to Archaeologists? In a worldwide community as Wikipedia is, who is in power to represent them and how? Sohale SHARIFAN 19:35, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
No way, languages and culture should not be left to archaeology, especially if they are still alive... You know I come from two minorities... and the languages that I defend, that is Catalan and Occitan, are also endangered but to very different extents. Catalan is a coofficial language in most of its territory while Occitan is hardly recognized and is constantly losing its native speakers who could be less than one million within the next ten years, Catalan should have more assets than Occitan for its survival. I think that the Wikipedias are a great opportunity for these languages and may become very helpful for their survival. But, in my opinion one of the immediate goal of the Board should be to work on diverse solutions to help foster participation of the native speakers in order to make them understand that they can have an encyclopaedia for free in their language and also strenghthen some small wikipedias which are not working very well right now. So they should focus specifically on these endangered languages, trying to contact the diverse organizations that promote and/or defend these languages and organize together various events which would make Wikipedia and the language known, appreciated, read and transmitted. Unfortunately even with our tools I am afraid that many languages will not survive, especially in the places where Internet is not fully available yet, in the upcoming decades... I tried my best to defend them in front of the big language which have dominant positions here, organizing a campaign so that every Wikipedia can have the same rights and manage to have upper structures if they deserve it through hard work and organization, not just because they are lucky to have a state to represent/promote their language.
Free knowledge has given a new momentum to minority languages; since it is free, nobody can discriminate against them by stopping people from writing in those languages. Knowledge being offered for free removes market discrimination, which plays against languages with few readers.
Inside wikimedia movement having a chapter is becoming an increasingly important tool for promoting the projects. Projects promoted by one or more chapters benefit from having a team of people promoting them on the streets, which can also:
Identify with the Wikimedian movement by using the Wikimedia Foundation logos.
Appear in the Foundation website contact sections.
Access information on the internal wiki.
Attend chapter meetings.
Share experience on good practices with other chapters.
Accessing Foundation funds to finance their projects.
Taking part in fundraising campaigns.
Taking part in the selection of the Chapter-nominated Foundation Board Members
Therefore, projects which are not promoted by any chapter will be clearly handicapped. It would now be an historic error for Wikimedia to discriminate against people who have these languages as mother tongues, depriving them of these tools to promote their projects or forcing them to join Chapters where they will not feel at ease.
I think the best we can do for those peoples, languages and cultures is allow them to help themselves by giving them the same tools the dominant languages have.
That's the issue which bothers me a lot. As a member of Language committee I am actively working on making requirements for making more languages alive. My last initiative is Missing Wikipedias. That initiative should list languages which should be Wikimedia Foundation priorities.
Unfortunately, WMF alone isn't able to save even languages with more than 100,000 of speakers. Wider attention is needed. One kind of attention is internal to Wikimedia movement, the other is external. Internal attention is needed from Wikimedia chapters, external attention is needed from international organizations, like UNESCO is.
For both of those approaches Board action is needed: Internally, Board should ask chapters to work on it; externally, Board should convince international organizations to work on it. Unfortunately, organizations which should have primary job to save languages, like UNESCO is, are not doing their job. Thus, Wikimedia movement should stand in front of such initiative and gather those organizations.
Preserving languages around the world is one of the important services Wikipedia offers. In the worldwide community of Wikimedia, the editing community has the power to represent those languages, and the Foundation has the power to support this through global partnerships.
Last year at Wikimania the Foundation welcomed the people working on the Rosetta Project to Wikimania in Poland -- they are the organization trying to do this most explicirly, and their work is certainly something we should support more. However the real power to preserve those languages lies in the hands of the speakers of those languages, and global organizations devoted to cultural preservation.
One important thing we can do is to speak up about how important this is -- something that everyone who interacts with the media can support. In this, the Foundation and Chapters and other Partner Organizations all play important roles; and the Foundation should support the creation new organizations, as Joan notes, to further the preservation of those languages and cultures.