Talk:Affiliations Committee/Resolutions/Budget request for 2013 annual meeting – April 2013

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Two things in this resolution are quite interesting:

  1. Can you publish the desired outcomes of the meeting which are mentioned in the text?
  2. How does the meeting save on travel, seeing that it costs US$40,000 and the meeting in Milan (already partially funded thanks to travel scholarships provided by various chapters and possibly also Wikimedia Italia) would have been much cheaper? How do you imagine immediately implementing outcomes of the meeting during Wikimania (in other words, what does that even mean)?

odder (talk) 17:24, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

Hi Tomasz,

The meeting's exact agenda and corresponding deliverables are being developed, but the current aims are to reach out to potential affiliates during Wikimania, to discuss issues with representatives of involved candidate affiliates and current affiliates and collect input on our processes. There are plans to have a presentation/panel about AffCom and if possible to set up an open AffCom booth during the conference. All this will of course become more fine tuned in the coming months.

The meeting is a great opportunity to reach out to hundreds of Wikimedians, including Committee advisers and chapter and WMF staff, WCA volunteers, etc. without the need to separately plan for the travel of either of the potential attendees. I believe this should answer your third question as well (i.e. if we decide at the meeting to sit down with X, we can follow through immediately).

I think I've already responded to your point on the costs and opportunities of a Milan meeting – it is perhaps my fault that your strong voice and willingness to organize a Milan meeting were not acted upon while you were on the committee – I would just like to add that overall costs to the movement are roughly similar regardless of whether individual chapters or the WMF pays, but there are considerations that suggest that one should not moonlight as representative for multiple entities if one of those is bearing the costs. –Bence (talk) 17:51, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

Hi Bence, thanks for the comment.

Firstly, I would like to make it clear that the Milan meeting was given just as an example — I'm more interested to see how actually the meeting saves on travel costs, which your answer does not cover at the moment. You only mention that the costs of organising a meeting are the same, regardless of who covers them — but can you point me (us) to a calculation which shows that the meeting in Hong Kong will be cheaper than a meeting in, say, London (or Mexico City)?

Secondly, I am somehow surprised to see that the deliverables of the meeting are in preparation — the resolution clearly mentions that a list of outcomes has been created (I think it would be just nice if you shared it with the general public). Out of the plans that you described, only the three first ones seem related to the meeting; you could have an AffCom-related panel or a booth even without the full Committee in Hong Kong. With regards to those three aims, do you know how many potential affiliates will be present during the conference, and, more importantly, how many current candidate affiliates will be represented there? These issues seem quite fundamental when you spend such a big sum on a meeting. odder (talk) 18:28, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

I don't know if a meeting would be cheaper in a random city, I am sure you could find any number of places where a cheaper meeting could be organized that would not have such a diverse group of Wikimedians and a local logistics team – with the decision to have a meeting in the calendar year, the possibilities to co-locate with a grand Wikimedia event limit the choices to Milan and Hong Kong this year (and currently an unknown location and London the next). You know the reasons why Milan was not chosen; with that out of the equation the choice was between a separate meeting, no meeting, or a meeting at Wikimania and after much discussion the choice fell on Wikimania. I should add, that not being able to meet with the people I listed above would severely limit the possibilities of an AffCom meeting beyond those I listed, even if only some of these can be planned for and many are serendipitous.

I am happy to let you know that to my knowledge a great number of current affiliates in development will be represented at Wikimania and some of those that would not be were given scholarships sponsored by AffCom.

The list of aims is currently just indicative, although I feel covers the general direction of what outcomes one can expect from a meeting (make progress on difficult applications, improve the team, and improve our processes), and while perhaps vague, these are exactly the things the movement can expect from us (to not get stuck on applications; to have good, well-working processes, and a team that delivers stable results). –Bence (talk) 18:38, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

So, let me sum up the answers:
  1. We're not exactly sure how the meeting saves on travel costs, but had to put something into the resolution;
  2. The list of desired outcomes has been created, but not really, and it's too vague anyway;
  3. We're going to have a meeting for the committee and meet with some external people, but don't actually know who will be there.
Isn't that what these avoiding answers are about? odder (talk) 18:49, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
I can only second what Odder has written just above. I am most curious as to why it has been stated the the desired outcomes has been created in the resolution, but what is written above gives us an entirely different take on things; in that they haven't really been written at all. Russavia (talk) 19:04, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
I wish I could share more of the internal discussions and documents (which Tomasz had already seen and had time to judge, although he did not share his opinion internally, in a way that would have been constructive – and therefore I doubt I could change the picture he has painted for himself even before resorting to his blog and this talk page).
The gist of it is that there is a draft agenda and connected outcomes, but it is subject to change and as an internal working document is not public; I have listed the major outcomes expected; the detailed agenda will become more fine-tuned now that the meeting has been greenlit but I believe the major summary will remain the same. The internal document will rely on all available information (some of it already known but not public - like the list of scholars from affiliates to be, who have agreed to share their contact info with Affcom for the purposes of a possible meeting at Wikimania; or the applications that need special attention or a meeting with the given organization's reps; and some that will become clear in the fullness of time - like the extent of progress we make with the movement partners process and whether that needs time at an-in-person meeting, or the state of the WCA to determine if we need to have a meeting, possibly a joint one with them) that I cannot or do not want to share at this point.–Bence (talk) 19:22, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
TL;DR: the list of desired outcomes has not been created. Why did you include it in the text of the resolution then? odder (talk) 19:36, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
That is one way to summarize it, I would say that there is a a draft agenda with connected outcomes and a short public summary of it. –Bence (talk) 19:42, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
When will this draft agenda be made public? Before or after the finalisation of the $40,000 funding? Russavia (talk) 20:59, 8 May 2013 (UTC)
As Bence has explained, an agenda is an internal working document. He has (and so has Effeietsanders) given the gist of the main desired outcomes: making progress on current applications, reviewing and improving existing procedures, increase effectiveness, and so on. Is there anything about that which requires a more detailed explanation? There is a public annual memory (with an annex) that could perhaps give an insight on the activities of the Committee. Perhaps it will serve to explain better the desired outcomes which have been put forth repeatedly here by Committee members. Cheers. Raystorm (talk) 09:01, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
A list of desired outcomes has been created indeed - not necessarily the final list though. Also, that is not the same as an agenda. Bence's comments cover the main idea of the desired outcomes: "make progress on difficult applications, improve the team, and improve our processes". More specifically: reviewing procedures, reviewing applications, discussing what information is missing (which could then immediately be gathered by having meetings/interviews at Wikimania, which saves a lot of time and momentum). There's nothing secretive about that, it is just not as exciting and easy to explain. Effeietsanders (talk) 21:13, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

I have another question in relation to this $40,000 being spent. Obviously part of the amount will be airfares to get participants to Hong Kong. The amounts required for this will be varied from a couple of hundred dollars for a return ticket (for Josh Lim for example, fares for this period are available for around AU$300 return) upwards to around $2000 (depending on where the attendee is travelling from). I take it that this $40,000 will also include accommodation whilst in Hong Kong. This area of Hong Kong has some very affordable guesthouses and the like available, all with wifi access, etc if this is required.

So I would like to ask what hotel are attendees staying at, and will attendees be sharing rooms, as has been done in the past. I am asking this, because having been in the travel industry myself, I am aware of what things cost, and I would like to personally assess whether Affcom is spending donours money wisely. I am really struggling to see why it is going to cost $40,000 to send 9 people to Hong Kong for a week. Russavia (talk) 18:33, 12 May 2013 (UTC)

The resolution calculates with single rooms in the hotel chosen by the WMF for its staff at $200/night. Final prices could be lower, and individual Committee members have not made their choice yet where to stay, but this is the prices to calculate with under the WMF's Travel policy and general travel practice. –Bence (talk) 19:25, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but are you serious? 9 people x 7 days x $200 = $12,600!! That is an absolute outrage, I can not begin to tell you. Firstly, why are 9 single rooms required? Why are people not sharing? In fact, why are you not staying in the dorms for $27 per night. US$1701 is a lot more palatable to one's ears, than $12,600. One can point to the WMF travel policy as justification, but I will point out the obvious and say that this is essentially donor money you guys are spending, and I am certain they would be outraged to hear that this gross amount of money is being planned to be spent on what is looking to be more and more like an all-expenses paid junket.
I will direct you to AsiaRooms.com which has much more affordable accommodation with the amenities that will be required. 4 or 5 star luxury is not a requirement of this excursion, and I am truly outraged that this Committee is even considering spending a gross amount of money like this.
I urge each individual member of the Committee to publicly state whether they are for spending this gross amount of money, or whether they will commit to either staying in the dorms, or at a more modest "locale" at which there is at least 2 people sharing per room. Russavia (talk) 19:47, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
Russavia, I can agree with you on this point, but what Bence was implying is that they don't make this choice. This is standard for WMF-reimbursed travels. --Nemo 20:19, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
That may be the case, but each member of this Committee has it within their power to reject this outrageous spending proposal. And publicly commit to only spending a reasonable amount of money in shared accommodation. Russavia (talk) 20:26, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
Nobody is denying the importance of being good stewards of donor money, and we are conscious of the need to deliver value for the expense. The issue is a bit wider as it involves all WMF staff and Board travel (and other people travelling under WMF) and this is part of a 1.7 million dollar travel expense for the WMF (a large chunk of it spent on Wikimania). AffCom could and probably will save some of it by the final choice of hotel and the volume deal made on the rates, but I am not sure demanding that savings be made on this one trip for a very small subset of WMF travelers would bring significant savings.
Individual committee members are considering staying in accommodation that is used by other attendees for reasons of networking (keeping also in mind that there are people to be met in the hotel used by the WMF) and the possibility to conduct AffCom discussions in the off-hours, less so for costs as long as we are staying inside the parameters of the WMF travel policy which reflects WMF travel practice (which is indeed not cheap and everyone is conscious that that is from donor funds).–Bence (talk) 20:54, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
The issue here Bence is that you guys are NOT WMF staff, nor are you board members. You are members of the community, and regardless of whether the WMF want to use donor funds as a travel slush fund, you guys have a responsibility to the community to reject such outrageous spending; perhaps then the WMF can be publicly encourage to reign in their non-project spending too, and get more money pumped back into where it is really required.
Bence, it would be great if you could ask all AffCom committee members to come here and state for the record whether they are for or against spending $13,000 of donor money on luxury accommodation, and whether they will accept or reject the use of such accommodation. Perhaps we can start with yourself. Russavia (talk) 21:13, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
I'll forward the link to others in the committee, but in general I think there are larger issues at hand, included indeed identity that you raised as well as personal autonomy. The Travel policy does extend to volunteers travelling on Wikimedia business paid for by the WMF.
I would not like WMF volunteers to be treated to lower standards than WMF staff, nor would I like committee members feel pressured to accept lower conditions than is accepted for the entire organization only because this one part of the organization happens to be more transparent in actually publishing its costs. Nor would I like AffCom members to be felt not part of the community we serve.
In that light I can tell you that it is a dilemma and I haven't made my final choice yet, nor probably have others, but I will probably not discuss my personal choices of comfort on Meta. –Bence (talk) 21:34, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
Bence, I need to make it absolutely clear, so that you and others know. As much as I am not a member of the "movement", I am a member of the community, and I do not begrudge the WMF and committees such as AffCom from having access to reasonable funds for such excursions. But the amount of $40,000 makes my head spin; if this amount of money is being spent by AffCom, I shudder at what amount the WMF is wasting. I really do believe that you guys are in a prime position to responsibly reject such largesse. AffCom needs to continue with the transparency you speak of, so I am unsure why would won't discuss your choices on Meta? Russavia (talk) 21:47, 12 May 2013 (UTC)
I figure that since my name has been mentioned on this page (and yes, Russavia, my ticket is around US$250 to and from Hong Kong), I should try to pitch in here. As far as I'm concerned, the budget is what it is: a budget. It is not like the entire amount will be spent: should we find room to underspend, that is perfectly fine with me, with the money either reappropriated for other Committee budget items, or returned to the Foundation, should it go unused. Just because the Committee (including myself) approved a budget proposal does not mean that we are not open to other options when it comes to cutting costs here: I am perfectly fine staying in a hostel as much as I'd like to stay in a four-star hotel along Nathan Road. Like you and your claims of "largesse", I am baffled by the presumption that the Committee is believed to be in such a position to waste money, when not a single cent has even been spent. If it calms your nerves (and Tomasz's too), the Committee I believe may be open to releasing an expenditure report too if you like. --Sky Harbor (talk) 19:46, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
Instead of getting personal, I'd suggest that you limit the budget for the meeting and fund the three remaining Wikimania scholarships that were mentioned in the budget submitted to the WMF. And yes, I for one would be quite interested to see how the US$40,000 (or even $30,000) are being spent. odder (talk) 19:55, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
I was getting personal how? o____O
While drafting a budget is supposedly not rocket science, I am not in a position to adjust the budget items, nor am I in a position to presume how much something in the budget ought to be funded. If you would like to come up with an alternate budget proposal (or if you have an idea as to how the money ought to be spent), then go right ahead. (Also, I am under the impression that those Wikimania scholarships that you mentioned will be funded by this budget, regardless of the allocations given to the other items.) --Sky Harbor (talk) 20:16, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
Of course you are in that position, Josh. All AffCom resolutions are being discussed (sometimes very thoroughly) before being put into a vote, and all members have the ability to amend their text before the voting starts. You could've suggested to lower the amount reserved for the meeting (which was to cost US$25,000 in the original budget proposal) the moment that other Committee members suggested that it was pure craziness to book 9 single rooms in such an expensive hotel.

Seeing that the resolution has already been approved, I can hardly imagine you change your decision (though you are of course able to amend the resolution, or simply choose the regular accommodation that is being provided to other conference participants). With regards to the scholarships issue, I haven't seen Bence's response at the time of posting my message—I now see that there weren't enough candidates to be issued scholarships (though you could've sponsored more scholarships—there is no requirement that only one community member can be present at Wikimania). odder (talk) 20:32, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

The list of candidates provided by the Wikimania scholarships committee was limited due to several constraints, one being the limited number of candidates from countries with potential affiliates, their willingness to share their personal information and how high or low they had been ranked by the scholarships committee, among others, like whether the candidates had been awarded a scholarship previously and if after that previous award some progress had been made from their side towards the organization of an affiliate and obviously their contributions to the movement in general. Saying "you could've sponsored more candidates" without knowing all of the facts is actually, quoting a word that has been used extensively in this talk page, outrageous. Maor X (talk) 20:57, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
It might be outrageous to you, but to me it's a hard fact. The Committee had the ability to award multiple scholarships to people coming from one country, and it's decided not to (which is of course a decision you were perfectly allowed to make). odder (talk) 22:10, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
How would that have been fair? There are dozens of affiliates to be with 1 scholar coming, and there were a few with zero scholars. How would you have handed out extra scholarships and on what criteria, and how would that have resulted in a fair distribution? –Bence (talk) 22:14, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
Definitely, you are not reading well. Dear Tomasz, please don't make statements based on assumptions while at the same time you do not know _all_ of the facts. That makes it all look like the cover page of a british tabloid. --Maor X (talk) 19:21, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
I responded on mailing list about this already, but since you asked, I do not accept the premise of your question, as I do not think these are luxury accommodations. However, if you want to know if I support the budget, yes, absolutely. As a donor to WMF and member of AffCom, I am okay with the funds being spent on this - which is ALWAYS a question I ask myself before voting on financial matters. --Varnent (talk)(COI) 20:01, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
I can understand the uncomfortable feeling some people get when they read the budget. I think the comment made earlier is very valid: this is a budget, based on worst case scenarios to ensure that we would be able to have a meeting (and I might add that I hope it to be very effective - although the effects will probably not be immediate nor very publicly visible unfortunately). I definitely agree with Bence that volunteer committee members should not have to follow lower standards than paid employees. However, I am not and have not been a big fan of expensive accommodation in general. But as there is a clear cut travel policy at the Wikimedia Foundation (as I understand it), these are simply the standards people are to expect. Personally I am rather in favor of lower level accommodation if reasonable (as an extreme example, if sleeping in a 10-person bedroom affects the ability to function properly in a meeting, that would be a very good argument to get a higher level accommodation) - not so much because it saves money, but because I think that being in one location with diverse community members is much more valuable for our committee than being in one hotel with WMF staff members (no offence though!). At the same time I recognize that there is limited availability and that the cheaper locations might be 'sold out' once we're able to book (this is pending WMF procedures). At this point we only approved the maximum budget we could spend, and the discussion on which hotel(s) to choose and how is not finalized to the best of my knowledge. Again, as stated above. I don't think however that this discussion should be held in public, because I think the most important outcome is an effective meeting, and to that end I want people to be completely honest, and not having to be ashamed because of their sleeping habits etc. Choosing a hotel that has a very negative impact on the outcomes of the meeting would be more of a waste of money (and more importantly: volunteer time) than the actual amount spent. Effeietsanders (talk) 21:07, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
I agree with all this and what Bence said on wikimedia-l about following WMF policy and avoiding micro-managing. The most AffCom could do, at this point, is probably officially protesting that they'd like the WMF policy to be less expensive and the accommodation coordination more efficient (e.g. more double rooms; at least for those who don't care) and less ghettoing. :) --Nemo 22:41, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

Hilarious that in a world that is ever more connected with the phone, mobiles, emails, IRC, webcams, skype, videoconferencing and so on, that it all just will not do once the chuff chuff chuff of that gravy train gets a going.

People should take the time to muse over that whole tool-server thing closing down cause there is not enough funding. Hilarious. Penyulap (talk) 09:34, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

I disagree with this analysis. The Committee does meet online on numerous occasions, and we keep in touch via e-mail, IRC, social media and the like. However, it cannot be denied that physical meetings (even once a year) are helpful on several grounds, including knowing who your fellow Committee members are, collaborating with difficult applications, getting work done that might be put aside if left online, etc. --Sky Harbor (talk) 19:53, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

Wikimania scholarships[edit]

Hi,

I would like to note that based on available data at the time of the decision all current affiliates to be that had scholarship applicants and agreed to share their application status with AffCom (which I believe is the most of them) will have at least one person receive a scholarship either from the WMF, a chapter or AffCom. We've decided to not award multiple scholarships to a single entity, but rather to ask all our scholars to report back to their community.

The leftover funds for scholarships can be used to provide scholarships to other events in the same fiscal year. --Bence (talk) 20:00, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

For those interested the resolution on scholarships has already been published. We were I believe positively surprised by the good coverage of affiliates to be among scholarship recipients this year. –Bence (talk) 20:06, 13 May 2013 (UTC)