User:Sj/Board 2011/questions

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

from alecmconroy[edit]

The first few major sections below are a long set of questions from alecmconroy.

May 2010 unpleasantness and Projects' Scope[edit]

I'm asking the same question of all current member seeking re-election. It concerns the "May 2010 'unpleasantness". In brief, Wales proposed that the board redefine all our projects' scope in a controversial way (specifically to exclude anything deemed 'pornographic'). Some board members strongly supported this idea, some opposed it from the outset, and some supported first and then opposed it after community feedback.

The question to you is pretty simple: which group were you in? Did you support or oppose the redefinition at the outset? If you changed your mind in May, when did you change your mind and what prompted it? Where are you on the issue now? (I should say, how you acted in May 2010 is absolutely not a litmus test for me. Ultimately, it's how you're likely to act in the future that we care about.)

Long form:

In May 2010, Jimmy Wales announced and implemented a policy without prior community consensus. He made the following statement:

This is not merely the advice of one person. I don't intend to deadmin anyone - but I will. The order of operation here is going to be that we first [implement the new policy], and then we can open a broader discussion about [how to apply that policy]. I just don't want anyone to get the impression that we're going to have an open vote [on the policy]. We aren't. It isn't going to happen. This is not a democratic debate, this is policy. [1]

When pressed, Wales further clarified:

I am in constant communication with both the board and Sue Gardner about this issue, yes. I expect the board to issue a statement within a few days offering a general philosophical support for the serious enforcement of policy on this issue. [2]

Ultimately, the forthcoming board statement was quite clear that it no new policy has, in fact, been authorized. So my question is-- who was Wales in communication with, such that he believed his actions would be vindicated by the board? Who endorsed the idea that one individual, or even one handful of individuals, should be able to unilaterally declare a new policy of that magnitude?

The specific question over images isn't the "real issue"-- there's a legitimate diversity of views on that question. The big issue, to me, was that in May 2010, we learned some minority within the board had come to feel that board votes, not community consensus, should be able to redefine the projects and their policies in controversial ways.

In the interest of transparency and openness, perhaps the community should have learned by now who stood where during the events of May 2010. But given all the emotions running high during that time, it didn't seem prudent to actually ask. So long as board members didn't run for re-election, they had a good claim to "put the past behind them and just move on" with taking care of business. But now that the community has to decide whether to re-elect you, so I think that means it's time to for you to show your hand. Where were you on things and when? Alecmconroy 07:06, 24 May 2011 (UTC)

Hello Alec, that's a good set of questions. A point of clarification: there had been no Board discussion before May 6 of the idea that "one individual, or one handful of individuals, should be able to unilaterally declare a new policy of that magnitude". Most of the discussion was about whether a policy change was going to happen through the ongoing community discussion, whether one was needed, and whether & how the Board should engage. SJ talk | translate  
Specific questions 
  • Where did you stand on this issue before Jimbo's announcement on May 6? Did you endorse or oppose his stated plan?
I was firmly against the idea of acting without community consensus, and also against the idea that a small group such as the Board could work out the subtleties of major content policy change - beyond the very broad general suggestions that were made in the Board's statement.
  • Where did you stand on the issues during the interim when Jimbo was implementing his new policy? Did you endorse or oppose his actions?
I opposed the idea of any preemptive action, and noted on Commons efforts that were not Board actions or reflective of Board consensus.
  • Where did you stand on the issue during the board resolution vote? Did you advocate for the resolution that was more in support of Jimbo's new scope definition, or did you advocate for a version based on the status quo 'educational' test?
I did not think that Commons needed to revise its scope, nor do I now. I think it needs to clear up some confusions within current policy, and to have better ways to implement policy - particularly controversial or time-intensive ones - given the low ratio of active editors and admins to volume of new contributions.
We still lack a good test for the educational nature of material on our Projects, save on projects where there are tests for notability, which has limited overlap with educational value. And since educational value, like many other things, depends on context, we have an interesting challenge for Commons and any other meta-repository that proposes to archive material for many current and potential future contexts.
  • Do you feel differently now, or wish you'd acted differently, or have learned anything from those experiences?
This was the first topic in my experience that led to hundred-message-long discussion threads among the Board. This was due in part to a diversity of views on precisely the point you raise - how policy change should ideally take place on the projects, and the Board's role in it. I didn't recognize how broad that diversity was at first. In hindsight I think we could have avoided most 'unpleasantness' by addressing that before being distracted by the emotionally-charged particulars. SJ talk | translate   22:48, 26 May 2011 (UTC)


Question Re: May 2010 and Projects' Scope[edit]

I'm asking the same question of all current member seeking re-election. It concerns the "May 2010 'unpleasantness". In brief, Wales proposed that the board redefine all our projects' scope in a controversial way (specifically to exclude anything deemed 'pornographic'). Some board members strongly supported this idea, some opposed it from the outset, and some supported first and then opposed it after community feedback.

The question to you is pretty simple: which group were you in? Did you support or oppose the redefinition at the outset? If you changed your mind in May, when did you change your mind and what prompted it? Where are you on the issue now?

(I should say, how you acted in May 2010 is absolutely not a litmus test for me. Ultimately, it's how you're likely to act in the future that we care about.)

Long form:

In May 2010, Jimmy Wales announced and implemented a policy without prior community consensus. He made the following statement:

This is not merely the advice of one person. I don't intend to deadmin anyone - but I will. The order of operation here is going to be that we first [implement the new policy], and then we can open a broader discussion about [how to apply that policy]. I just don't want anyone to get the impression that we're going to have an open vote [on the policy]. We aren't. It isn't going to happen. This is not a democratic debate, this is policy. [3]

When pressed, Wales further clarified:

I am in constant communication with both the board and Sue Gardner about this issue, yes. I expect the board to issue a statement within a few days offering a general philosophical support for the serious enforcement of policy on this issue. [4]

Ultimately, the forthcoming board statement was quite clear that it no new policy has, in fact, been authorized. So my question is-- who was Wales in communication with, such that he believed his actions would be vindicated by the board? Who endorsed the idea that one individual, or even one handful of individuals, should be able to unilaterally declare a new policy of that magnitude?

The specific question over images isn't the "real issue"-- there's a legitimate diversity of views on that question. The big issue, to me, was that in May 2010, we learned some minority within the board had come to feel that board votes, not community consensus, should be able to redefine the projects and their policies in controversial ways.

In the interest of transparency and openness, perhaps the community should have learned by now who stood where during the events of May 2010. But given all the emotions running high during that time, it didn't seem prudent to actually ask. So long as board members didn't run for re-election, they had a good claim to "put the past behind them and just move on" with taking care of business. But now that the community has to decide whether to re-elect you, so I think that means it's time to for you to show your hand. Where were you on things and when? Alecmconroy 07:06, 24 May 2011 (UTC)

Hello Alec, that's a good set of questions. A point of clarification: there had been no Board discussion before May 6 of the idea that "one individual, or one handful of individuals, should be able to unilaterally declare a new policy of that magnitude". Most of the discussion was about whether a policy change was going to happen through the ongoing community discussion, whether one was needed, and whether & how the Board should engage. SJ talk | translate  

specific questions[edit]

These and other detailed questions are also answered on my questions page.

  • Where did you stand on this issue before Jimbo's announcement on May 6? Did you endorse or oppose his stated plan?
I was firmly against the idea of acting without community consensus, and also against the idea that a small group such as the Board could work out the subtleties of major content policy change - beyond the very broad general suggestions that were made in the Board's statement.
  • Where did you stand on the issues during the interim when Jimbo was implementing his new policy? Did you endorse or oppose his actions?
I opposed the idea of any preemptive action, and noted on Commons efforts that were not Board actions or reflective of Board consensus.
  • Where did you stand on the issue during the board resolution vote? Did you advocate for the resolution that was more in support of Jimbo's new scope definition, or did you advocate for a version based on the status quo 'educational' test?
I did not think that Commons needed to revise its scope, nor do I now. I think it needs to clear up some confusions within current policy, and to have better ways to implement policy - particularly controversial or time-intensive ones - given the low ratio of active editors and admins to volume of new contributions.
We still lack a good test for the educational nature of material on our Projects, save on projects where there are tests for notability, which has limited overlap with educational value. And since educational value, like many other things, depends on context, we have an interesting challenge for Commons and any other meta-repository that proposes to archive material for many current and potential future contexts.
  • Do you feel differently now, or wish you'd acted differently, or have learned anything from those experiences?
This was the first topic in my experience that led to hundred-message-long discussion threads among the Board. This was due in part to a diversity of views on precisely the point you raise - how policy change should ideally take place on the projects, and the Board's role in it. I didn't recognize how broad that diversity was at first. In hindsight I think we could have avoided most 'unpleasantness' by addressing that before being distracted by the emotionally-charged particulars. SJ talk | translate   22:48, 26 May 2011 (UTC)


Hi SJ
Personally, I see this dynamics of questions/answers to candidates as a very interesting exercise.
I believe it is a unique type of debate among us that is especially interesting.
I have noticed that User Alecmconroy suggested a very interesting series of questions on strategic issues. I have given my opinion, I see you have made your comments too.
I wish you the best possible result in these elections and, if you agree, I suggest that we continue having this type of debate regardless of who is chosen.
Cheers and good luck. --Gomà 09:18, 29 May 2011 (UTC)


WM in Politics/Activism/Law[edit]

Advocacy role[edit]

Should WMF have an advocacy role in any circumstances? If so, broadly speaking, how do we decide what issues to take a position on?
Yes. Issues that directly impact how successful our Projects and work can be in achieving our mission - from supporting massively parallel collaboration online without undue legal risk, to providing effective access to knowledge around the world - deserve our support.
Does the WM Movement have a role to play in local, national and international politics? If so, what does that role look like in the future?
It asbolutely does. The movement and the Projects represent our capacity as a society to create monumental collaborations to improve all of our lives, and to realize the potential of the Internet. This is one of the great strengths in our public image which we could make better use of.
What can we do to help those directly-affected by 'The Arab Spring'? What can the WM movement do collectively do for those nations? What can the WMF foundation do? What can individual wikimedians do?
This sort of political question is a bit outside Wikimedia's scope, as I see it. We may advocate for access to knowledge and sharing of cultural works everywhere in the world, but not for any particular sort of government or national standards beyond that.
If it were feasible, should the foundation promote 'internet freedom'-- that is, advocate for or active provide unfiltered internet access to citizens of repressive regimes?
In context, yes - certainly unfiltered access to educational projects.
If it were feasible, should the foundation promote 'universal internet access'-- that is, advocating for or actually providing computer&internet access to impoverished peoples?
Yes - certainly access to educational materials on the internet.
Should the WMF promote "Net Neutrality" in the US?
Net neutrality is essential to providing access to unbiased knowledge [as well as any biased information that is subsidized by an interested party, which tends to edge out unbiased information in a non-neutral network]. As a movement we should promote this everywhere, the WMF should do what it can to support that advocacy everywhere, including in the US. [so: through local wikimedia groups as well as directly making statements as a global foundation]
Should WMF advocate any position on copyright reform?
Yes. We are the first major society-wide project to demonstrate the immediate benefits of making large-scale reuse and remixing free and simple. Even massively popular sharing sites such as youtube, while they scale in terms of the # of people they touch, are not primarily about remixing; whereas we could not possibly compile and edit our projects without that as a central focus. Our work would not be possible under the sort of copyright regime we have developed in the past few hundred years.
Now that Wikimedia projects are a notable force on the Internet, we should not only promote free licensing for contributions to our own work, but should help countries understand how they might revise their own notions of copyright to support and encourage the sort of work we do.


Movement Vision, Scope[edit]

What's our Big Purpose? What's our Mission? Jimmy Wales famously said "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." Without quoting or paraphrasing, how would you say it?
Organize and share the knowledge of our civilizations, large and small. Spread the idea that everyone has something to teach, and provide a way for them to do so.
The part of or mission where we support a global collaboration around our educational mission is what sets us apart from every other effort to share 'human knowledge' with 'everyone' (from Google to the Internet Archive). It invites all potential readers to contribute to how we understand both of those terms.
What is the "big new exciting amazing thing" that the Wikimedia Movement could potentially accomplish in the next five years?
Provide effective translation services for people who share/publish their educational materials under a free license. This service doesn't exist in a large-scale way today (though our community and many others, like universalsubtitles, offer narrow bits of it), is a significant reason for archives and authors to join free culture communities, brings different language communiteis closer together, and is a useful way for people to practice or improve their language skills -- all reasons this would be exciting and amazing. It could also spur a lasting wave of contribution to many of our existing projects (wikisource, wikibooks, wiktionary, wikiquote) beyond Wikipedia.
This is especially important now that organizations which have recently offered translation services start to close off access to their translation tools and databases. For instance, Google is cancelling access to its translate API.
Can WM host a 'non-educational' project if we want to? For example, suppose there was a multiplayer online game targeted at Israeli and Palestinian children, in the hopes that this childhood experience will promote future peace. If there's a broad consensus that the non-educational project would bring good in a clear way, could we host it if we wanted to?
Not without revising our mission and vision first. We could conceivably do this, if it seemed relevant to the spirit but not the letter of our work. War, for instance, has often been a cause of people losing access to (or destroying all trace of) human knowledge. But this would take a serious community discussion to reach such a consensus.
Should promoting "free culture" a goal in and of itself for the WM movement?
Yes, for a certain definition of free culture. And we should be part of shaping that definition. A culture of shared creation, sharing, and joyful reuse is central to our mission - which covers both historical, current and future human knowledge.
WM content has generally been described using terms like "knowledge" and "educational". Do you think WM has a role in hosting non-notable art, fiction, music, and other works of open-culture? As hosting expenses naturally approach zero due to ever-dropping technology cost, should WM host increasingly more diverse content, or should we stick to the domains we currently focus on-- namely, factual, notable, instructional content of the kind that might be found in an encyclopedia or textbook.
Looking far forward, beyond the next few years. Should each Wikimedia-named projects have to adhere to the same basic set of values we, as a community, currently hold here in the existing projects? (Namely, valuing the free distribution of factual knowledge). Or will falling hosting costs eventually mean that Wikimedia's projects will eventually become more diverse in their values, methodologies, and purposes?

Innovation[edit]

How can we empower our developers and other programmers to "be bold" in trying to create 'the next big Wikimedia thing' that will do good for humanity?
Highlight new labs work, encourage work on important small projects with obvious room to expand (wiktionary, wikisource), reach out to hackers in parallel spaces (but not mediawiki) to collaborate with us at least on brainstorming.
How do we fix the "MediaWiki Problem", namely, an over-reliance on a single software platform?
That's a tough question, and related to why we have such a hard time supporting some of the sister projects, like Wiktionary. One way would be to find an obvious candidate for a separate tool or platform and build it independently rather than as an extension. We might look to what derivative platforms (like Deki Wiki) have done, or how similar collaborative projects (like freebase, fotopedia, openstreetmap, or ]http://werelate.org werelate]) approach the platform question.
If it were technically feasible and of negligible cost, should we someday empower trusted users the "be bold" and create new projects on their own initiative, ala Wikia?
Yes - an improved incubator process could allow for this, both for new languages and for new project-types.
On projects like Wikipedia, how do we fix the quality problem? (some of our articles aren't very good and don't necessarily seem to be improving with time)
Among other things, we could add a flag for articles that have this problem, and develop different policies for them. Wikipedia has a pretty good low-bureaucracy way to develop 95% of our articles, which are long-tail topics developed from scratch.
Distributed Wikipedia-- great idea or greatest idea? ;)
Greatest idea! But there are many conflicting ideas about what this means, and some of them would be very hard to realize.
What I think is a great idea is recognizing that global usage of Wikipedia is already distributed today, in a few senses. People make frequent offline and derivative works based on Wikimedia projects - something we go to great pains to allow. But we do almost nothing to visualize or even recognize that reuse; no trackbacks, no standard way for a reuser to note which specific permalink of individual articles were captured for that use. We should work towards providing better explicit support for these types of use.
It would also be great to support distributed hosting and sharing of information - even if this remains a secondary mechanism not used by most readers. We should recognize that libraries want to be able to share and locally host digital collections, and give them a canonical way to host a local copy of Wikimedia material. We should recognize countries in which international bandwidth is expensive, but local bandwidth is not, and help them set up and synchronize local caches. Doing this in even a limited fashion would guarantee significant improvements in accessibility during a regional netsplit or infrastructure failure.
Finally, we should support a distributed model for editing that allows people to export sections of a project, edit it offline or on a local/regional network, and then push those changes back to the rest of the world. There are many excellent models for this in the world of version control for software; and we have people who care about this topic in our community. Making this work is far more than an academic exercise - it will enable entirely new uses of our projects, as well as improving current channels of reuse.
I've heard some interesting discussions recently about what this might look like from Rob Ochshorn and Mako Hill.