Affiliate-selected Board seats/2016/Nominations/Kunal Mehta

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Kunal presenting at Wikimania 2015

Name:

Kunal Mehta

Wikimedia username:

User:Legoktm

Questions for all candidates; Questions for this individual candidate that do not apply to other candidates

Statement[edit]

Hello,

I'm not a conventional candidate, and am not directly affiliated with any chapter or thematic organization (mainly due to geographical restrictions). And I also have the (mis)fortune of living in San Jose, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. And I only speak English (unless you count programming languages 😉).

A little background about myself first though. I started editing Wikipedia in 2007, mainly to edit hockey articles. I learned about Pywikibot, and self-taught myself Python using Wikibooks. Since then, I've used free content and free software to teach myself to program, and was eventually hired by the WMF as a software engineer after doing a year of volunteer MediaWiki development.

Most of my free time these days goes towards extra Wikimedia and MediaWiki things I want to do, as well as running free content wikis for organizations like MusicBrainz and Uncyclomedia. I helped start a slightly-inactive MediaWiki Farmers user group, and help run the Wikimedia DC wikifarm.

So why am I running?

I am worried about the future of the Wikimedia Foundation and the movement. We have lost our relationship with the community. Announcements that new features are coming should not frighten Wikimedians about what they have to deal with next, but it should excite them about new possiblities. The WMF shouldn't be building features like AFTv5 and Gather that add more work, it should be building infrastructure that empowers the community like Global CSS/JS, Global rename, and Gadgets 2.0 (in progress!). We don't need misfeatures like Special:UserProfile that take away control from wikis, we need tools like GlobalUserPage that bring our wikis closer together, without taking away local wiki autonomy. We shouldn't need a "Community Tech" team, every team at the WMF should be working to help the community.

Finally, the core MediaWiki software is being neglected, and not being treated as a full Wikimedia project. Non-WMF MediaWiki instances are slowly dropping due to difficulties in installing, upgrading, and even using the MediaWiki software. Instead people are moving to closed platforms like Github or Confluence, actively harming our vision of making sure everyone can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

At the top of the Wikimedia power structure is the technocracy. And because the WMF is in near sole control of the technology stack, they can force their decisions upon everyone else as we saw with superprotect. We need to distribute this responsibility amongst affiliates and other volunteers and move towards a more federated model. We need more affiliates doing technical work like WMDE (Wikidata) and WMCH (Kiwix). After the WMF hired up most of the MediaWiki volunteer development pool, the MediaWiki open source project has stagnated due to one organization setting priorities for nearly all developers. The WMF shouldn't be a giant organization doing everything, it should be a smaller organization that lays the framework and foundation so contributors and affiliates are empowered to do what they want to do.

Wikimedia has given me the knowledge and empowered me to build my own livelihood. And now it's my turn to give back.

P.S. I plan to leave my job at the WMF if elected.

P.P.S. My default search engine is DuckDuckGo.

Résumé[edit]

Odder wrote a feature of me for the Wikimedia Blog which explains how I got interested in editing Wikipedia and later became a MediaWiki developer.

Here are some other highlights:

English Wikipedia
  • Administrator since 2013
  • Dealt with sockpuppets and LTA cases as an SPI clerk (now inactive)
  • Operate Legobot, which does a lot of things, has 800,000+ edits
Wikidata
  • Former administrator and bureaucrat, removed due to inactivity
  • Wrote first bot that could add claims based on Wikipedia category data
    • d:User:Legobot has 9 million edits, plus does other miscellaneous tasks
  • Worked with many individual wiki communities on running a bot to remove local interwiki links from page text
  • Assisted with few Wikibase development tasks and patches
  • Co-presented about State of Wikidata at Wikimania 2013
Pywikibot
  • Core developer with merge (+2) rights
  • Implemented initial version of Wikidata support in pywikibot-core.
MediaWiki
  • Administrator and bureaucrat
  • Wrote MassMessage tool to replace bot that performed global message delivery
  • Maintained and added functionality to Echo (Notifications) feature
  • Implemented global.js/global.css pages, replacing manually-run Syncbot system
  • Implemented global user pages, also replacing syncbot functionality.
  • Wrote global rename tool in preparation for SUL finalization
  • Main developer for SUL finalization effort, working with stewards, global renamers, WMF staff and more to pull it all off. See Wikimania presentation for more details.
  • Improved Notifications feature, including adding support for cross-wiki notifications
  • Re-started dormant Gadgets 2.0 work (still in-progress)
  • MediaWiki core developer with merge (+2) rights
    • Worked on librarization project to improve modularity and improve architecture of MediaWiki
    • Overhauled extension loading process for performance improvements and improved developer tooling (RfC)
    • Second most active MediaWiki core code reviewer (stats)
  • Mentored 3 GSoC projects, which improved MassMessage list support, MediaWiki email bounce handling, and a Tool Labs cross-wiki watchlist tool
Affiliates

None of the above items have been solely done by me, they were all in collaboration with other people in those communities, always leading to significantly better products than me working alone.

Eligibility[edit]

I am eligible to serve as a trustee at the Wikimedia Foundation.

Endorsements[edit]

Wikimedia District of Columbia is pleased to endorse Kunal Mehta as a candidate for an affiliate-selected seat on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The past few months have been a trying time for all of us in the global Wikimedia movement. In the aftermath of the recent upheavals at the Wikimedia Foundation, the Board of Trustees must steer the organization through another leadership transition, and then support the new Executive Director in formulating and executing an effective strategic plan. Kunal's experience as a Wikimedia Foundation employee gives him a unique perspective on the challenges facing the Board and the new Executive Director, and will allow him to articulate a compelling strategic vision that will be embraced across the organization.

While he has not served on a chapter board, as many other candidates have, Kunal has acquired a deep understanding of affiliate activities through his work with Wikimedia DC and the MediaWiki user groups. Kunal's proposal for a federated model of technology development will give affiliates new opportunities to shape movement strategy, engage more closely with project communities, and collaborate with partners within and outside the Wikimedia movement, and represents the sort of innovative thinking around affiliate roles within the movement that we wish to promote among the Trustees.

We are certain that Kunal has the potential to be an outstanding member of the Board of Trustees, and look forward to supporting his candidacy.

Kirill Lokshin
President, Wikimedia District of Columbia
18:02, 8 March 2016 (UTC)

  • At the Wikimedia NYC March 2016 public meeting, attendees took part in an open vote to endorse Kunal's participation as a candidate in this election. This is part of our chapter's policy to encourage a more diverse and more transparent process for the WMF board elections.--Pharos (talk) 17:39, 18 March 2016 (UTC)