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Suggestion for the Board: Technology Committee[edit]

Given recent events on the English, German, and Commons wikis surrounding MediaViewer and the troubled history of WMF product launches, I request that the Board take a more active role in engineering and product development. To do this, I propose that the board establish a Technology Committee. This request is consistent with my understanding that the Board feels that it needs to acquire more technology expertise to provide adequate oversight and guidance for WMF technology initiatives, so I hope that multiple needs can be addressed by this Committee.

  • Tasks and scope:
  • Oversee the design, project management, and testing of software products.
  • Conduct regular reviews of products that are under development
  • Ensure that useful and unbiased statistics from readers and editors are taken into consideration in product design.
  • Consult Wikimedians at important milestones in product development and ensure that their views are carefully considered by WMF.
  • Give final approval to the launch plans for major product changes and new products.
  • Oversee the curation of ideas for new products.
  • Oversee the prioritization of human and financial resources for the software product portfolio.
  • Ensure that deliverables are produced in a timely and cost-effective manner.
  • Other activities
  • Review major contracts for technology-related services, and make recommendations to the Board about major technology contracts.
  • Oversee the distribution, commissioning, major maintenance, and decommissioning of data centers and other high-value hardware.
  • Oversee the creation and implementation of data privacy and security measures.
  • Oversee risk management for technology matters.
  • Oversee the recruiting, selection, evaluation, and compensation of high-importance technology staff
  • Composition:
  • Two Board members. Their committee membership will be renewable once consecutively for a maximum of four consecutive years.
  • One member from a non-Wikimedia Foundation organization that uses MediaWiki or other software created, maintained, or used by the Wikimedia Foundation. This member will be appointed by the Board for a two-year term. Terms will be renewable once consecutively for a maximum of four consecutive years.
  • One member selected by the Funds Dissemination Committee from within its membership for a term of up to two years or until the member's FDC membership ends. Terms will be renewable twice consecutively for a maximum of six consecutive years.
  • Four members from Wikimedia content communities appointed in a community-wide election in a manner similar to Steward elections. These members will be appointed by the Board for two-year terms, with two members appointed or re-appointed each year. Terms will be renewable twice consecutively for a maximum of six consecutive years. For the first round of elections, the two candidates with the most positive votes will receive 2 year terms and the remaining successful candidates will receive 1 year terms.
  • Three members, appointed by the other members of the Committee, who have expertise in one or more of the following areas. These members should be drawn from within the Wikimedia contributor community or be from mission-aligned organizations. The Committee is strongly encouraged to appoint members who have expertise in more than one of these domains and to have at least one expert in each domain on the Committee. These members will be appointed for two-year terms. Terms will be renewable twice consecutively for a maximum of six consecutive years.
  • Technology product management
  • Human resources for technology projects
  • Finance or accounting for technology projects
  • Legal issues that are relevant to projects currently being supervised by the Committee
  • Software user experience or design relevant to projects currently being supervised by the Committee
  • Research or analytics relevant to projects currently being supervised by the Committee

This is a draft proposal and I encourage the Board to use it as a starting point for discussions. I also urge the board to look at the recent discussions about MediaViewer on English Wikiepdia 1 2 3 4, German Wikipedia 5 6, Wikimedia Commons 7, and Wikimedia-l 8 and think about how the Board can prevent this kind of situation from occurring repeatedly.

Thank you, --Pine 08:00, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

  • Support Seconded It sounds like hard work for Tech Committee members, but it would probably act as a great governor in the process and would be likely to push for early types of user testing and user case validation that may provide for a more mellow roll-out of changes. -- (talk) 08:16, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support: this might be a suitable form of governance for this proposal, already before the Board, and which includes the suggestions that
1. WMF planning address the issue of development of certain complex rendering markup and editing components;
2. WMF liaise actively and effectively with existing editor and reader communities in (1);
3. WMF draw up roadmap for development of complex rendering and editing;
4. WMF liaise actively and effectively with volunteer developer communities to determine required frameworks and work packages;
5. WMF allocate funds and resources to support work packages.

If those proposals were accepted, then here would be an example of an area in which a Technology Committee would be of value in helping the Board support the WMF in its strategic planning, act as a voice for the volunteer community, and constructively challenge and hold to account the coherence of the planning and the progress made in delivery against those plans. Deltahedron (talk) 12:25, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

On a related note:

  • This has not been taken with the relevant product team.
  • I believe that we should not escalate things before a relevant Team looks into them.

--Gryllida 09:45, 13 July 2014 (UTC)

  • ∞ support :/ John Vandenberg (talk) 10:33, 13 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Yes: it does look good to involve the board more closely in tech challenges. Tony (talk) 13:12, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support the basic concept. Clearly some kind of oversight is needed. —Neotarf (talk) 01:01, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment Comment Something is clearly needed, but I am skeptical that adding a layer of bureaucracy is the best remedy. But the approach to software development in recent years has done great damage to the collegiality of our movement, and something needs to change. -Pete F (talk) 01:49, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
    If you look at this thread, it appears that a layer of bureaucracy, in the form of volunteer advisors, was actually *removed* with this mass desysopping of volunteers. And Sue's subsequent statement "occasionally volunteers have overridden decisions made by staff ... occasionally, those discussions have been extremely time-consuming..." points to some kind of issues with ad hoc volunteer oversight. —Neotarf (talk) 16:17, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
I don't see that specific discussion as being directly relevant, but your comment suggests something to me. It seems to me there are three general philosophies that WMF could theoretically take, to help build and maintain its own understanding of what happens in its various volunteer communities:
  1. Listen to whoever comes to them with problems, ideas, insights, etc.
  2. Create a formal structure, and communication channel, for communities to present problems, ideas, insights, etc.
  3. Build an internal capacity to better observe, listen, and surface problems, ideas, insights, etc.
 #1 is what we've had from the beginning, and I don't think anybody needs to be persuaded that we have long since outgrown the stage where #1 can be effective. #2 seems to be what is proposed here (and has been implemented in various other places in the wikiverse).
I believe that #3 is the way to go. In order to do #3, the organization would have to prioritize this issue in its organizational development and hiring, and to date, it has not done so.
It's impossible for us in the community to compel the organization to do #3. Pushing for #2 is more possible; #2 is a clearly defined intervention, something that could be promoted, campaigned for, established as a popular way forward, and implemented. But I do not believe #2 would be nearly as effective as #3.
This proposal looks to me like the community trying to micromanage the organization. This makes me wonder: in general, when does micromanagement occur? I'm sure this is a phenomenon that has been studied. I'd guess it's something that happens in the absence of clear shared expectations and good lines of communication. If that's the case -- or anything like it -- I'd rather see the underlying issues addressed, than the mere treatment of symptoms. -Pete F (talk) 16:50, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
See w:en:Micromanagement#Causes. The article blames most of micromanagement on the manager's personal psychological problems. The external causes listed (e.g., increased time pressure) are mostly irrelevant to Wikipedia. AFAICT in a brief search, the article is consistent with the literature.
My primary concern with this committee-based approach (which has been suggested by staff before) is that it would not achieve the desired goal. Imagine that the committee approves something that breaks your workflow, or the workflow of any dedicated contributor. Can you imagine our most active, independent contributors saying, "Oh, well, it screws up everything for me, but 'The Committee Approved It', so I guess it's fine after all." My guess is that most editors who are badly affected by a change (even if it actually is an improvement for most people) and currently blame "the WMF" or "the devs" would simply add the new committee to the list of incompetent people who are bent on destroying the projects. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:31, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks @WhatamIdoing:, I agree very much with the way you've put it. -Pete F (talk) 20:06, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
According to the Wikimedia Foundation Board Handbook, the Board should Support and advise the Executive Director and senior staff without micromanaging. Assuming that it does this at present, why should it fail to do so with a Technology Committee? Deltahedron (talk) 20:57, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Sure, there is a big, big, difference between micromanaging and ensuring that Trustees have enacted their duty to hold senior management to account by retaining sufficient oversight of operations. This is written into UK charity law so that trustees are themselves legally liable if charitable funds are misused, or the charity or its employees break the law. I presume US law has similar obligations on trustees. Oversight itself, is often delegated to committees where this has to involve a lot of special reports, such as the annual reports, and many charitable organizations have project or technology oversight committees as part of their governance system (i.e. providing assurance directly to the board of trustees without requiring approval of the Chief Executive). -- (talk) 12:54, 24 July 2014 (UTC)
I believe Pete said that his concern was about core community members trying to micromanage the organization, not that the Board was or would. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:12, 24 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that's right. I want to point out, however -- the section of the Wikipedia article you quote opens listing "doubts about competence" -- which is, I think, the closest thing to my concern, and not necessarily related to anybody's psychological problems. Though "competence" is a harsher word than I would choose, I believe this is the dynamic that's currently at play: the WMF has done a number of things in software deployment that have been poorly received. I believe the best solution is for the WMF to focus on improving its ability to predict how things will play out, and work effectively toward desirable and non-dramatic outcomes (approach #3), not for the community to try to micromanage the WMF's approach (#2). But again, #3 will probably take a major effort on WMF's part. If it doesn't happen, I don't know exactly what the result will be -- but I don't think any of us will like it. -Pete F (talk) 20:38, 24 July 2014 (UTC)
I believe that the phrase "micromanagement, such as detail-orientedness, emotional insecurity, and doubts regarding employees' competence," is meant to be a description of micromanagement. That is, doubting the competence of all your employees is symptomatic of micromanagement, not causative. Similarly, being detail-oriented doesn't cause micromanagement. The ==Symptoms== section emphasizes an inappropriate attention to details as a symptom. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:59, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
In what way is the proposal to create a Board Technology Committee micromanagement by the community? Is the proposal in itself micromanagement, and if so, of whom? The Board? Or is it the list of proposed members micromanaging the Board? Or is the fear that those core members would use the Committee as a vehicle to micromanage the staff? Oh, and just who are those core members with such a power? Deltahedron (talk) 17:15, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
What Pete originally said was, "This proposal looks to me like the community trying to micromanage the organization." I used "core community members" as a more precise phrase, because (as Pete knows) "the community" doesn't exist: it's "the communities", and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of them, and they sometimes have contradictory goals.
Pete and I both definitely qualify as core community members; we've both made tens of thousands of edits and are regularly active in metapedian and other work that happens with the communities rather than directly in the mainspace. I don't know if you would consider yourself as belonging to that category; at some level, it is a matter of self-identification. In theory, it doesn't matter who the core members are. In practice, only core community members from major projects have any realistic chance of being elected to something like this. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:43, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
Well, that certainly puts me in my place. Now let me repeat the more important question: In what way would this proposal constitute people like you and PF trying to micromanage the organisation? Deltahedron (talk) 21:45, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
At this point in the discussion, I don't think my concept of "micromanagement" is really so helpful. It seems to me, @Deltahedron:, that we came to some understanding below, and I think that's the more important thing. I'd suggest we just drop the "micromanagement" concept as my failed attempt to communicate something, that I think has now been adequately communicated in other ways.... -Pete F (talk) 23:27, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
Fair enough. Deltahedron (talk) 06:15, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
Deltahedron, you are the only person truly capable of "put[ting] [you] in [your] place". As I said, whether you're in that group is a matter of self-identification. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:56, 8 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, if it requires ten of thousands of edits and involvement in multiple community activities, then I clearly am not. But the point is not my amour propre, but the position of the numerous contributors across the various projects, the vast majority, who are not "core" in any sense, and would not expect or aspire to be, but who collectively need to be able to have their views and requirements captured, assessed and, hopefully, satisfied. How will WMF, its Board, staff and other structures achieve that? It seems to me that a WMF Technology Committee would be a useful part of achieving that for technical requirements. It can hardly be argued that improvements in this area do not need to be made, can it? Deltahedron (talk) 17:00, 9 August 2014 (UTC)
I do not see 2 (Create a formal structure, and communication channel, for communities to present problems, ideas, insights, etc.) and 3 (Build an internal capacity to better observe, listen, and surface problems, ideas, insights, etc.) as antithetical so much as complementary -- I would say that both are now vitally necessary. It seems to me that formal structures are now inevitable, the current informal arrangements being no longer fit for purpose. It has been pointed out that there are 75,000 active editors on 800+ WMF wikis and thousands of communities in 200+ languages. With the best will in the world, existing staff arrangements, or any plausible increase in their capacity to better observe, listen etc, are not going to be enough. Formal structures are going to be necessary to prevent the staff either sinking under the weight of volunteer expectations or withdrawing into some kind of siege mentality. Deltahedron (talk) 21:23, 24 July 2014 (UTC)
By the way, it would be interesting to hear from supporters of 3 (Build an internal capacity to better observe, listen, and surface problems, ideas, insights, etc.), especially those who believe that 2 is not wanted or needed, as to how they might propose to build this capacity? Deltahedron (talk) 21:38, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

I agree that formal structures are needed; I think the key differences between #2 and #3 are in whether those structures are internal to the WMF or external, and whether they are composed of paid staff or volunteers.

I think there are a lot of ways #3 could be implemented. I may not have enough expertise, and have certainly not devoted the necessary time, to make a strong or specific proposal. That's probably work that's better suited to the Board or the ED anyway. But for the sake of clarifying what I have in mind, I think something like this would be worthwhile:

  • Create a new C-level position (silly "draft" title for the sake of discussion: Chief Collegiality Officer). CCO has primary responsibility for the relationships between the WMF and its various constituencies (readers, regular editors, occasional editors, professors, software developers, etc.) CCO is also responsible for carrying institutional understanding of healthy and unhealthy dynamics within those communities, and developing a practical understanding of what can be done to improve their health.
  • CCO's qualifications have nothing to do with technology; a good candidate might have a background in social justice movements, government, governance of a large university or parks system or similar, organizational development.
  • Reorganize within WMF so that some relevant existing positions report to CCO.
  • CCO has (shared) authority over any action of WMF that can impact relationships with those constituencies: new software features, amendments to TOU and other policies, grant programs, etc.

Like I said -- the bullets above are just a sketch, not a proposal. That's the kind of thing I mean. It's possible the same sort of thing could be achieved without a new hire, but by restructuring the existing organization, redefining responsibilities, etc. I wouldn't rule that possibility out, it may well be the better approach; but it's harder for me to sketch out an idea under that model. -Pete F (talk) 19:36, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

Then we are pretty much in agreement, in that a Chief Officer with a formal remit is to my mind an example of (2), namely a formal structure and a communication channel. To me (3) is about culture, attitude and mindset of WMF staff. I happen to believe that in certain places that needs changing, perhaps a lot, but I don't see how that would happen without being driven from the very top. Deltahedron (talk) 19:44, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
Glad to hear it. I hope this clarifies my position -- I'm not contesting the need for some kind of major change -- far from it; I'm just not confident that the specific proposal put forward here is an effective way to bring it about. -Pete F (talk) 19:49, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
And @Deltahedron: I can see now, the way I defined #2 and #3 was not so great -- I can see how it lead to the misunderstanding. You're right, the stuff I have in mind for #3 absolutely constitutes "formal structures" so I should have defined those better. -Pete F (talk) 19:51, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
It is worth noting that the WMF wmf:staff and contractors include a
Chief Communications Officer, whose "team leads the Foundation's efforts to openly and effectively share information—about the Wikimedia movement, the Wikimedia projects and the Wikimedia Foundation's work itself—with a global audience including volunteer editors, site readers and other stakeholders."
Legal and Community Advocacy team, "charged with carrying forward the Foundation’s goals of advocating for the community"
Community liaison who "help to communicate and facilitate new software (changes)"
There's a lot of aspiration here for collegiality. I wonder whether it's all being harnessed effectively. Deltahedron (talk) 20:12, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I agree -- there are a number of positions that have responsibility for pieces of this. I believe organizing them in a way that more clearly establishes responsibilities and accountability, in the interest of improved health throughout the movement, is key to the WMF's continued success. -Pete F (talk) 20:42, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
  • On the putative Chief Collegiality Officer. I would be concerned if the CCO were indeed quite unqualified in technical issues. I would suggest that that the Chief Officers of a high-tech organisation like WMF need to be technically competent at least, in addition to any other qualifications. Otherwise the technical savvy has to come from somewhere -- such as, for example, a Technology Committee ... Deltahedron (talk) 17:58, 26 July 2014 (UTC)
    • "unqualified in tech issues" is not exactly the way I'd put it. The thing is, the Wikimedia vision doesn't fundamentally have anything to do with technology; technology just happens to be one of the best kind of interventions we have to pursue that vision. Running a complex organization with a lot of stakeholders -- say, governing the USA -- involves a lot of technology; but do we expect a presidential candidate to be a programmer? Or do we expect them to have a good enough grasp of technology and management to delgate technical aspects of the position effectively, and work well with the team they hire? I think it's the latter, and I don't see why it should be different for Wikimedia. (I wrote an op-ed piece that talks about this on a general level a few months ago.) Does that make more sense than how I put it before? -Pete F (talk) 00:52, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
An interesting point. But since WMF is, at least at present, engaged in high-tech work as part of its core business, and I am quite clear that all the leader of such an organisation need to understand what it is the organisation is doing. I believe that it is not possible to manage, or lead, abstractly. Deltahedron (talk) 06:18, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

I'm following this discussion with a lot of interest. Several things said are worth to consider and I agree that the current situation is nothing to be proud of nor to be continued without adjustments. However, a german phrase crossed my mind "Und wenn du nicht mehr weiter weißt, dann bilde einen Arbeitskreis". (Something like "And if you don't know how to carry on, create a working group.") . Given that The WMF focuses on product and engineering and wants to accelerate technical improvements (and needs to), how should that kind of committee be structured or supported to avoid being an obstacle in the process? Do you consider to let readers also have a say, or is this the part you assume the WMF to cover with sufficient competence? Creating a committee looks like an easy approach at first sight, but when we think this further, we need to ensure not to create more administrational overload at the same time. Alice Wiegand (talk) 19:32, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

I assume that the Technology Committee would support the Board in its oversight role, rather than being part of any administrative or operational structure. I have worked for, and with, organisations with a Scientific Advisory Committee, and on such Committee. Their work is capable of being constructive, if challenging. The role of such a Committee is not to direct the organisation, or write its strategy, but to help the Board hold the organisation to account technically, to give an informed external view of the way technical work is going onside and outside the organisation, to challenge groupthink, complacency, inefficiency and incompetence; it should have the right to advise, to warn and to be consulted. Deltahedron (talk) 19:30, 31 July 2014 (UTC)

The en wiki arbitration com case on a previous Media Viewer incident is interesting. Its still in workshop phase but there is a very interesting proposal by Newyorkbrad [1]

The WMF (including senior staff and developers) and the English Wikipedia community (and, as interested, other project communities) are strongly urged, as a matter of priority, to develop a protocol for collaboration and cooperative decision-making concerning high-impact software and technical changes and new or modified features (collectively referred to below as "Software Changes") that may substantially affect the Wikipedia experience for editors and readers

To me this strikes the right balance between the WMF and editing communities.--Salix alba (talk) 20:10, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Not very urgent questions about Teams commitment, related to the above[edit]

On an unrelated note I would ideally like this things to be done:

  • To dedicate a separate new team to the documentation process, including localisation of the MediaWiki documentation, as well as any extensions WMF develops;
  • To prevent the WMF engineering from abandoning any extensions it develops, like this one. Maintaining a project is one of the most important phrases of its life-cycle;
  • To prevent any WMF team from making decisions based on purely one-project trials, such as this decision based on results of pilots on 2 Wikipedias but not any other sister projects.

--Gryllida 09:45, 13 July 2014 (UTC)

Request: clarify policy for on-wiki Office actions[edit]

I request that the Board pass a resolution similar to the following.

"The Wikimedia Foundation will almost always execute the decisions made by local communities with regards to whether a particular software feature is activated on their projects. Requests to opt-out of default activation or deactivation of a feature must be renewed every 6 months, otherwise the WMF will set the feature to its default state. WMF fundamentally respects the communities' rights of autonomy and will not impose an office action on the technical operations or features of a wiki unless necessary to maintain the security, privacy, technical stability, or legal status of the site." --Pine 07:45, 13 July 2014 (UTC)

The term 'Office' action in your section title is very inappropriate here. afaics, Erik's action on English Wikipedia is not an 'Office' action. Anyway...
While I would prefer that WMF did pass a resolution something like this, I do support for the 'software developers' and sysadmins being a separate community with their own processes that other communities need to accept, which is where Limits to configuration changes. The problem is with the WMF user acceptance & deploy processes; not the relationship between devs/sysadmins and content communities. For example, I would prefer that the WMF commits to keep one of its own feature in beta until there has been an RFC accepting the feature, and from a software engineering perspective the feature should stay in the 'Beta features' list even after it is flicked to opt-out, so that it doesnt suddenly change to be buried in some user preference panel, and so that the opt-out status can be changed back to opt-in easily in the first few months. Ideally the opt-in/out status is a toggle that the local 'crats or sysops can change. John Vandenberg (talk) 09:52, 13 July 2014 (UTC)
The on/off switch is only a last resort, though one that it's good to have. The problem here, as usual, and as usual without any magic solution available, is our complete inability – in most cases – to have a proper agile software development where the users are involved in building the software since earliest phases. The more something is unwanted and disliked, or fundamentally broken, the more actual users will walk way disgusted from its discussion (hence discussion is dominated by a self-selected and biased pool of persons interested in the project a priori)... until, maybe one or two years later, the result explodes on everyone's face.
The answer the board should have is whether their organisation is able to stop or correct wrong initiatives before throwing millions of dollars at them. (Especially because the millions are spent in staff time, which proportionally adds to interaction and time needed from an already-exhausted community. So each million spent in staff time probably costs multiple millions-worth of volunteer time subtracted from editing work; the gains for such costs must be very clear beforehand.) --Nemo 09:07, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
I second this request, with reference to similar conflict in de.wp, see [2]. At least, I'd like to get a reaction from our trustees indicating that they recognize this as a problem, albeit I understand they don't feel it appropiate to take up position at this juncture. Greetings, --MBq (talk) 08:27, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
Hello MBq: this is indeed a problem and needs clarity (as recent events emphasize). Thanks Pine for your prescience. We did discuss the necessity of improving and clarifying any such changes at our past Board meeting, but no action resulting from this had been put into place in time to affect recent MV (roll|fall)out. I agree with John: our traditional community of devs and sysadmins has its own community process, and does not always accept or implement the results of decisions by content communities... this has its quirks but isn't terribly broken and doesn't need immediate fixing. In contrast, the WMF deployment and evaluation and communication processes need to be thoroughly fixed. John Vandenberg, I would be interested to see a text "something" like the above that you feel captures the separate communities of sw devs and editors.
Self-selection in software design discussions is a problem. Nemo, do you think the suggestions elsewhere of a technical working group, or some other method of identifying a slate of active editors to participate in discussions (particularly about need, motivation, feasibility), would be helpful? SJ talk  07:22, 2 September 2014 (UTC)
Various ideas of this kind are being discussed at Community Engagement (Product)/Process ideas. I myself was involved in putting forward a specific proposal of a similar kind [3], as you know [4], which included the following points:
  1. WMF planning address the issue of development of mathematics and other complex rendering markup and editing components.
  2. WMF liaise actively and effectively with existing editor and reader communities in (1).
  3. WMF draw up roadmap for development of complex rendering and editing.
  4. WMF liaise actively and effectively with volunteer developer communities to determine required frameworks and work packages.
  5. WMF allocate funds and resources to support work packages.
Unfortunately it seems that all of those were rejected -- or at least, no-one has ever told me otherwise. Is that because the WMF Board actively disagrees with them? If so, there's no point in discussing here something the Board has already decided to reject. Deltahedron (talk) 08:50, 2 September 2014 (UTC)
  • I'ld like to pick up the pointour traditional community of devs and sysadmins has its own community process, and does not always accept or implement the results of decisions by content communities... this has its quirks but isn't terribly broken and doesn't need immediate fixing. In my case, and it's the specialised one of mathematics editing and rendering, I have to disagree. The fact that a group of editors felt it necessary to get Jimmy Wales to press our case speaks volumes: that cannot be the appropriate process. Incidentally, this is not about the fact that our suggestions were comprehensively rejected, that's a decision for the Board and ED to make, and they made it. This is about the hoops we had to jump through. Speaking personally, I would say that it is appallingly difficult to find out who makes decisions, where discussions are being held, or what is going on. My inreractions with WMF staff have ranged from constructive engagement, regretful lack of resources, via patronising, condescension and on to deliberate obstruction, childish sulking, outright hostility, personal attacks and dishonesty. This is not a picture of a quirky system, it's a picture of one that is broken. Deltahedron (talk) 09:02, 2 September 2014 (UTC)

Clarify relations among Foundation, Chapters, Thematic Organizations, User Groups and individual volunteers[edit]

Sub issues:

  • How to make AffComm more transparent
The affcom is discussing this, but it is pretty open about its processes as far as I can see Jan-Bart (talk) 07:14, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
  • How and when the existence of a chapter can affect the formation of another type of affiliate, such as a user group.
It shouldn't, although it would be good if they work together Jan-Bart (talk) 07:14, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Is there a hierarchy among groups? If so, what is it? If not, why is there an assumption that everything in a territory with a chapter must go through that chapter?
There is no hierarchy and although we would prefer local initiatives to work with the chaper in that area (simply because it usually adds value) but this does not have to be the case. There are many examples of small groups of individuals who are organising themselves to get something done (and sometimes they create a user group) Jan-Bart (talk) 07:14, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
  • If a chapter refuses membership and/or support to people or projects, what are the alternatives?
Reading the information below I get the intent of this question, but a chapter does not have to "provide membership". you can just apply for any user group/thematic org status without their permission. Jan-Bart (talk) 07:14, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm curious what brings you to include bullet #3 -- that sounds like it's very out of sync with how things are supposed to work. Speaking for myself, I have put together a number of events in areas that have formal chapters (England, Canada, DC, NYC) and places with less formal chapters-in-formation (SF, Portland, Boston) without any chapter involvement whatsoever. Are you talking about WMF funding? One of these projects (as you may recall) was WMF funded. If there are cases where a non-chapter-affiliated project has been denied funding on the grounds that they didn't work with the chapter, that should definitely be discussed -- but personally, I'm not aware of any cases like that. -Pete F (talk) 17:54, 31 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes... I thought so too. But there has been a long and sad history between Wikimedia Mexico and wiki work at my campus, currently under the name of Wiki Borregos. [5] Thelmadatter (talk) 19:42, 31 July 2014 (UTC)
Leigh, I'm sorry to hear it, and interested to know more if you want to share. -Pete F (talk) 19:48, 1 August 2014 (UTC)


Actually I am aghast about the ignorancy and arrogancy represantatives of the foundation are acting right now. The foundation should bear two points in mind:

First, the development of the software has to be done in consensus with the community(s). It can't be devellopped against them. Jimbo was aware of this very early when in 2001 he published his statement of principles, which to my knowledge never was revoked. If we look into it we find the fourth item:

Any changes to the software must be gradual and reversible. We need to make sure that any changes contribute positively to the community, as ultimately determined by the Wikimedia Foundation, in full consultation with the community consensus.

The WMF at the moment is acting against this statement of principles, is is acting against the community consensus. The WMF is harming Wikipedia because of their unprecedented injuring and unsettling the Wikipedia editors.

Second, during the last years Wikimedia was blessed with high amounts of money people from all over the world donated. But people do not donate because of MediaWiki is a nice software ore because of the Website appears neatly but they donate because they think that Wikipedia is helpful (in school, for doing homework, for beingn informed). It is the content which triggers users from all over the world to donate. While I think that Tim Starling et al. are doing good work for Wikipedia, pityfully, they are not the primary reason why people are donating money to the WMF. To make it short: it is the content of Wikipedia which makes up almost all of the salaries of the people employed by the foundation. And the content is produced by us, the editors, not by Lila, Eric, or any other WMF employee. If you are deciding to continually injuring and unsettling us editors you must expect editors will quit, content will wind down in quality and/or actuality, and eventually fundraising shrinks.

Think about that. --Matthiasb (talk) 09:56, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

+1 I totally agree and wish, that the Board seriously reviews the way software changes are developed and introduced into the projects. It's not the first time such problems between the staff and communities occur and this is slowly and seriosly harming the projects, more than gender gaps or "rights to forget" ever could. --Don-kun (talk) 14:51, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
I am increasingly worried about statements made at Wikimania and on-wiki by officials of the Wikimedia Foundation that read as threats to block accounts of those that raise dissenting voices. There is a world of difference between someone who has a legitimate complaint to pursue, compared to deliberate disruption, vandalism or spamming. I hope that the Board of Trustees can make that distinction exceedingly clear. Frankly, in the current increasingly polarized environment, I am concerned that even writing here without expressing any particular opinion on WMF development practices, may result in me having my account blocked or being black-listed as a critic. -- (talk) 15:00, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
Don-kun, you are right. The need to improve how software changes are developed and introduced was one of the first things Lila noted when she joined. It is unfortunate that this conflict arose before those changes could be put in place, as staff have been thinking about ways to fix such rollouts, even as it developed. I hope that we can resolve such things more quickly, and with more humility and mutual respect.
Dissenting voices are not only welcome, they are necessary to a community of critical thought. We experiment, fail, try again, and discover through trial and error, discussion and criticism and debate. Noone sharing complaints is being nor should be accused of disruption, vandalism, or spam. (unless they are deleting pages to make a point, 'spamming' talk pages to the annoyance of those users, &c.) SJ talk  06:56, 4 September 2014 (UTC)
For years, critics, including constructive ones, who did not "deliberately disrupt, vandalize, or spam," have been suppressed, blocked, banned, or marginalized, and those whose personal interests were not affected looked aside and did not intervene to protect whistle-blowers and other minorities. And now the bell tolls for them, and they wonder how this could happen. Structurally, what is happening was totally predictable, even boringly ordinary, as was the ED's first response. To the ED, I suggest: time for the extraordinary. You can do it. Show us. --Abd (talk) 15:33, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
I second the input by Matthiasb. Several critical points have already been voiced adressing individual board members (e.g. Phoebe) and especially also Lila. A very large group of the most active users of english- and german-speaking wikipedia, wikicommons and other projects feel very strongly offended by recent developments. Many see this as a breaking of fundamental principles governing the relationship between WMF and communities in general (among them, #4 and #7 of these). We expect the Board to intervene and work towards a resolution (for immediate steps to take, see [6]), hopefully winning back some of the users that have already left the community WMF had formerly been a part of or announced to do so, should such inacceptable circumstances prevail. Ca$e (talk) 10:45, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
That's like telling "Fuck Off" to the Wiki community. We on Commons are plagued by lots of long standing Wiki Software issues but instead of fixing them they waste money on BS software like media viewer just to be more like Flickr or Facebook. The Software devs mainstay should be the proper functionality of the Wiki Software but not releasing this Alpha Software which often violates Attribution requirements of images and could cause legal issues.--Denniss (talk) 20:38, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

About the Media Viewer Roll Out[edit]

Hi all,

Some of you have asked the Board and its individual members for feedback. Some of us are already in conversation with you or are planning to answer on different pages. This is our general common statement:

The Board supports the decision to protect the Media Viewer roll out. Our platform powers a top-5 website. We need operational protocols that are consistent with this position. This includes making improvements, rather than a tendency towards reverting to the status quo.

At the Board meeting before Wikimania, Lila laid out her strategy to put in place best practices for product development. We will communicate sooner, we will prioritize smarter, we will test more, and we will achieve better outcomes. Her vision is to involve the community at each step of product development, including more structured feedback stages and reviews. We endorse this vision.

We realize that there is concern about the superprotect user right and how it affects power balance and influence on content and administration. We recognize the concern that we need to explain and introduce our measures better. However, stability of the platform is necessary as we seek to improve our sites, and, for that reason, we support the creation of this tool. We also understand that with more robust rollout plans and better staged community feedback - as Lila envisions - the tool should rarely be used. We urge you to focus on specific improvements you'd like to see in the Media Viewer and the roll-out process. Lila intends to incorporate that feedback as she plans to improve Media Viewer and the process for future product roll outs. The Wikimedia Foundation needs to be in a position to make software and configuration changes for which it is responsible. We expect restrictions of MediaWiki code-level editing to be a temporary step to enable us to move forward with improvements. As we say, Media Viewer should be improved; our procedures to date have not yet met the high standards we want to set for ourselves. Lila wants to address both now, and we need to give her the space to do so. She has our full support and confidence as she tackles this tough challenge.Jan-Bart (talk) 18:13, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Thank You[edit]

A big Thank You to the Board for their statement concerning the superprotect-affair. Thank You for disrespecting the communities, thank You for disrespecting the guidelines for Office actions, thank You for arguing personal ("We have trust in Lila, she will save the world") instead of arguing to a concrete case of power abuse without any urgency, thank You for having even the chutzpah of urging the communities, on what they have to focus with their reactions. Thank You for destroying the little plant of regaining trust, that Lila's personal statements on her talk page made growing. --Magiers (talk) 17:10, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

+1. (For a more explicit establishment of why your Board notice is totally off, see e.g. [7]). Sadly, Ca$e (talk) 17:13, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
In addition: "The Board supports the decision to protect the Media Viewer roll out." - this phrasing is totally misleading and indeed suggests that you have been mislead yourself, as it concurs with Lila speaking of merely 2 options regarding the matter. I have established here why this is mistaken. Ca$e (talk) 08:20, 15 August 2014 (UTC) Also, just so that none of you will be able to say haven't heard: you are now for several days seen as producing issues of legal concern, as was pointed out months ago. Ca$e (talk) 12:25, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
+1 (passing to inactivity, as many other editors and sysops already have over this scandal, no more left to say).--Aschmidt (talk) 19:40, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
+1. The Board doesn't even care how much trust has been shattered by their disrespecting the communities. --Leithian (talk) 08:11, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Well, I for one am looking forward to hearing more about this: At the Board meeting before Wikimania, Lila laid out her strategy to put in place best practices for product development. We will communicate sooner, we will prioritize smarter, we will test more, and we will achieve better outcomes. Her vision is to involve the community at each step of product development, including more structured feedback stages and reviews. We endorse this vision. Deltahedron (talk) 17:23, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
+1 - Nice but hollow words. WMF is asking the community to trust Lila's vision while this same community is being bullied by WMF. The trust was broken, many respected editors are leaving and it seems now too late to engage in a fruitful discussion (not certainly before MV is disabled by default). Forgive my skepticism but I don't believe it is really necessary to keep MV enabled in order to make improvements. Alvesgaspar (talk) 11:41, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Questions left over from Wikimania Board Q&A[edit]

Following are the two questions that were not answered during the Board Q&A at Wikimania. The original page with some more questions and answers can be found at:


I'm quite interested in the fundraising situation in the United Kingdom with the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK, specifically the board's decision to not renew Wikimedia UK's fundraising agreement, and the loss of approximately $500,000 (at current exchange rates) of Gift Aid funding (a UK Government incentive, explained at Will the Wikimedia Foundation be renewing the fundraising agreement with Wikimedia UK, or will they form an overseas subsidiary in the UK to enable the collection of Gift Aid receipts. Does the board agree that the loss of such a significant sum is regrettable, that its collection must be investigated as a priority, and that such a sum could create significant benefits to the movement around the world.

It seems odd that at all levels the WMF was openly and publicly praising the UK chapter during Wikimania, and yet this nuts and bolts question of why so much of the donor's money is actively thrown away is skipped over. Wikimedians need not just draw their own conclusions, they can read Jon Davies' (WMUK Chief Executive) open letter to Sue Gardner in May 2014. If nothing is ever said by the WMF, then a fundamental lack of trust in WMUK's competence to manage fundraising must still be a core problem, despite the last 3 years of negotiation, expensive consultants and politics, this lack of trust costs the movement $500,000 a year. If a change of management or leadership is needed to resolve this, maybe 3 years is long enough to decide on what action is needed?
Along with many other active Wikimedians who are focused on content creation rather than politics, I could find a huge number of worthy open knowledge projects that would deliver amazing value with these lost funds.
P.S. I did not raise the question and unfortunately I was unable to attend this session, being busy as a Wikimania volunteer on other stuff; my travel for my volunteer days cost £14, which I have yet to be paid, and at that rate you could fund around 250 volunteer years worth of effort from willing unpaid folks like me with this lost money. -- (talk) 13:31, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Hello Fae, these extra potential funds are important. The WMF this year qualified for Gift Aid [via the UK Fund for Charities, something that was beneficial when we raised sponsorship for Wikimania. I am not certain how this might fit into the donation flow for individual donors, that is something worth clarifying. SJ talk  07:07, 4 September 2014 (UTC)
I suppose I need to declare an interest, in that as a UK taxpayer, WMF failing to collect Gift Aid has probably saved me one or maybe two pence. But having just read the letter referred to above, I find it odd that WMF would not bother to institute a UK-based process, whether it be via WMUK or some other vehicle, that would enable it to more effectively collect donations from the UK and claim the tex refund. Deltahedron (talk) 14:00, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
@Sj: It is possible we might be talking about different things. If the WMF will be able to claim gift aid in the UK, that sounds great, as it will make a huge difference to the impact a donor's money can make, particularly if Wikimedia UK is never to be recognized again as a funds processor for the WMF. Do you have a link to point to where this is explained further? -- (talk) 07:57, 4 September 2014 (UTC)
To be frank, I don't see how this can be quite right. Charities have to be based in the UK, EU, Iceland or Norway to qualify [8] and as far as I know the WMF is not. Deltahedron (talk) 17:19, 4 September 2014 (UTC)
The [UK Fund for Charities channels gifts to validated non-UK based charities. We were able to use their service this year for large Wikimania-related donations. They charge 1% for large gifts, making this an effective way to receive gift aid. However this is not a great solution for individual donors: for gifts under £100, they charge up to 20%, consuming most of the gift aid. SJ talk  00:28, 13 October 2014 (UTC)


  1. Last year the WMF Board passed what is facetiously known as the Pricasso Resolution/Amendment. To date only 2 images have been deleted from Commons due to this resolution, whilst numerous other images have been kept. Both images deleted are of Jimmy Wales. Part of that resolution states: "Treating any person who has a complaint about how they are portrayed in our projects with patience, kindness, and respect, and encouraging others to do the same." The other day, the WMF published notices that they had received from Google under the "right to be forgotten" program. Included in these notices was an image which was hosted on English Wikipedia (not linking to it here so as to not increase the poor guys Streisand Effect). The article the image was uploaded for was deleted (likely a vanity article), but the image, oddly, remained. Wikipedia is a massive bureaucracy, and the person in question may well not have known how to go about getting the image deleted.
    The WMF's opposition to the EU laws that requires Google to remove some items from its search results in the EU is well known. My question is as follows:
    • 1) Do you think the WMF should have considered the Streisand effect as it relates to this image before it dumped the Google requests into the public domain, which has ended up being reported widely in the media? Can you please also comment on whether that action complies with the Pricasso Resolution; in particular being kind and respectful towards people with complaints about images of themselves.
    • 2) An editor on English Wikipedia placed that image on the "Right to be forgotten" article and then began a discussion on Jimmy Wales' English Wikipedia talk page with a section entitled "Right to remember". He stated: "The photo was up for deletion on Wikipedia. I've put it in the Right to be forgotten article. It should also be moved to Commons and put in a new (?) Category:Right to be forgotten. Perhaps all the other articles should be put in a Wikipedia category, or maybe a List of articles subject to "right to be forgotten" requests. Please remind me if I forget." Jimmy Wales retorted on the actions of this editor: "This strikes me as POINT-y and cruel". Could you please comment on whether the Board agrees with Jimmy's comments and whether the actions of the editor are inline with the Pricasso Resolution.
    • 3) What can the WMF board do so in that future people such as the person who filed a "Request to be forgotten" with Google are afforded the same "patience, kindness, and respect" that the Board extended, and expected the community to extend, to Jimmy Wales in relation to the Pricasso video.
It is hard to answer a question that begins and ends with trolling. SJ 07:07, 4 September 2014 (UTC)
… or you can just do your job and answer the questions. odder (talk) 19:39, 4 September 2014 (UTC)
It is hard to see the substantive question hidden within the mistaken information and rhetorical questions. For faster responses, it would help to reword and restate such things briefly. I will try:
We should take care in publishing this sort of information, to respect the dignity and personal privacy of people who might be affected. RTBF can be problematic when it helps hide information about disasters or crimes or difficult political topics. But in other cases it helps to (imprecisely) identify complaints about project content that the community might normally address and remove. In those cases we should improve the content; and may want to avoid publishing the request to avoid spotlighting it.
A community review could help here: OTRS already has decent practices around dignity and privacy. A queue for reviewing RTBF notices before they are published could help decide whether there is a reason not to do so.
An aside on views and actions: the Board is composed of individuals, and in general has individual views, prominently including Jimmy's. Issues such as "how to handle RTBF notices from Google" are not Board decisions, though individually we share our perspective including potential ways forward. SJ talk  01:19, 24 October 2014 (UTC)

@Sj: we are still waiting for an answer to this question. Any chance you can nudge the board on this issue thanks. Russavia (talk) 16:09, 5 October 2014 (UTC) @Sj:, pinging you here for an answer from the Board in relation to Wikimedia_Foundation_Board_noticeboard#Images. Two months have now passed and the question has gone unanswered. It's a tough question to answer, I know, given that the Board went out of its way to pass the Pricasso Resolution. The Board's silence on the issue of the right to be forgotten images is even worse given that Jimmy himself stated:

Morally, we should treat this as a complaint about our content that Google passed along to us to deal with. There will be more notices from Google and some of them will be worth fighting. This is not one. This is just a pointless image.

And this ties into the Pricasso Resolution directly, where the Board has stated:

Taking human dignity and respect for personal privacy into account when adding or removing information and/or media, especially in articles or images of ephemeral or marginal interest


Treating any person who has a complaint about how they are portrayed in our projects with patience, kindness, and respect, and encouraging others to do the same.

Is it yours, and the Board's, belief that the person in question was treated with patience, kindness and respect, when the WMF made the decision to dump his name into the public domain, knowing full well that the media would jump upon the information and disseminate it more widely.

This is ever so important given that WMF Legal have stated that the WMF will be exploring more legal options to fight what they say is a crude implementation.

I don't know about others, but it is my opinion that on the issue as it relates to this individual, that the WMF is ethically bankrupt, and has acted in a most morally reprehensible way.

Will the Board answer this criticism, or will it, and you, continue to bury your heads in the sand? Russavia (talk) 10:51, 14 October 2014 (UTC)

Replied above. SJ talk 

Think tank[edit]

The Board might consider having its own Think Tank. An area where new, high-level, strategic ideas can be proposed and discussed between the Board and interested members of the community about where WMF project should be going, in very broad and conceptual terms. Very much not a forum for debating the merits of specifical, tactical or historical decisions. Just as some examples, nt necessarily because I think they're good ideas:

  • How should WMF projects interact with MOOCS?
  • WMF should involve itself more in open standards for metadata
  • WMF should commission academic research into its own projects, using its own data

Deltahedron (talk) 06:44, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Actually, the Strategy Wiki was thought of as an example of such think tank, and, despite all issues, I think it was rather a positive experience.--Ymblanter (talk) 07:20, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Interesting, I hadn't been aware of that. Would you like to give a brief summary of what the plus and minus points were as you see them? Would it better to revive it or start afresh? Deltahedron (talk) 11:41, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
The minus points were that it was too crowded and nobody had any obligations. For example, in one of the task forces I participated a user volunteered to summarize things on a regular basis, but then disappeared and nobody heard of her again, and the things were not done until I did them, and then some other users joined. Also there were a lot of discussions about nothing, and liquid threads which were installed here did not make things better. Good things were that at the end some things were formulated, and they made it to the 2010(?) strategic plan. I do not think reviving it would work. Instead, one can envivision ofa think tank, possibly on the same basis as many committees here: solicit applications and then select 20-30 users with sufficient commitment and appropriate/diverse background, and in case of inactivity replace the swiftly. (One can also think whether external members would be useful, or it would be just a think tank of the Wikimedia editing community. However, it is useless to start anything like this until the Board /ED clearly expressed interest in creation of such body.--Ymblanter (talk) 12:03, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for that. I am indeed suggesting it here as something the Board might wish to initiate. Deltahedron (talk) 12:59, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
An interesting idea, worth considering. Individual pages about strategic topics can be categorized as strategy or initiatives. SJ talk 

Split vote[edit]

What happens if the board vote on a resolution is split 5 support and 5 oppose? The bylaws state a majority is needed. I'm guessing a split 5:5 vote isnt a majority, and the motion doesnt carry, but would appreciate a board member or their staff assistants confirming that this is the commonly understood interpretation of the board members. John Vandenberg (talk) 21:13, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Hello John, that is correct: a majority of a quorum is needed, which means 6 votes in favor at a 10-person meeting. SJ talk  00:28, 13 October 2014 (UTC)
I'm in neither of those groups, but a 5-5 split never passes a motion in any organization. Not only does the definition of "majority" always require more than exactly half the votes, but it isn't practical: Imagine that you put up a motion to do A, it receives 5-5 votes, and you declare that the organization must do A because your motion 'passed'. Then I put up a motion saying to do not-A, and it also receives 5-5 votes, and I declare that the organization must do the exact opposite, because my motion 'passed', too.
By the way, to avoid this situation, it's customary in most organizations for the chair to not vote unless the chair's vote is needed as a tiebreaker. This is relevant even when the board has an odd number of members, because you can't guarantee that every board member will be present for every vote. I don't know whether the current WMF board follows this custom. WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:29, 7 September 2014 (UTC)
You wrote that "a 5-5 split never passes a motion in any organization". This is not correct. I would argue that the Swedish parliament is an "organisation", and there the outcome is determined by a lottery if "yes" and "no" both receive exactly the same number of votes, so a 5-5 split vote would sometimes pass. See also sv:Lotteririksdagen. --Stefan2 (talk) 20:30, 7 September 2014 (UTC)
Apart from the technical reality (thanks for the link below :) the Board does not seek to have a unanimous vote, but we try to get a clear majority, if prolonged discussion is unlikely to move us away form 6-4 votes (to 7-3) then we let it rest, but otherwise we will probably continue. As far as I can recall we have never had a 5-5 situation... but I might be wrong... Jan-Bart (talk) 15:48, 3 October 2014 (UTC)

Hi Jan-Bart, after a month you respond, but did not answer my rather simple procedural question.

What happens if the board vote on a resolution is split 5 support and 5 oppose?

Most organisations have procedures in place that cover this precise situation, and situations like it. I have yet to see any link which explains how the WMF board is expected to act when it happens. John Vandenberg (talk) 03:56, 4 October 2014 (UTC)

I thought the answer was clear, we do not have a formal procedure, and so far have not needed one. Jan-Bart (talk) 11:21, 8 October 2014 (UTC)