Affiliate-selected Board seats/2016/Questions
Please add your questions to candidates here, with a new section for each question. Any Wikimedia community member is welcome to ask questions. If you want to ask a single candidate a specific question, please go to their nomination's talk page and ask there. The election facilitators may remove questions that are off-topic, or consolidate similar questions (on this or the individual candidate pages).
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Learning from Arnnon Geshuri's appointment and resignation
- Q. What do you think the WMF Board needs to learn from the appointment and subsequent resignation of Arnnon Geshuri? If a similar situation somehow arose in future, what would you do differently to deal with it? Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:56, 21 February 2016 (UTC)
You assume such a situation should arise when I belive it should't. The learnings of this situation are the need for a better screening process and clearer communication if appointements is made. Once that is done, a similar situation shouldn't happen. If a board member is appointed, the board will have done it with full knowledge of its background and be able to defend its decision. Schiste (talk) 10:03, 1 March 2016 (UTC)
The most important learning is to prevent similar situations to happen again. I.e. better screening processes and background checks. And to prepare better for questions that are likely to arise, and answer them in advance in a FAQ. Ainali (talk) 12:39, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
- Learn - that regardless ability, integrity is important even though it is appointed seat.
- Learn - that when a Wikipedian raise it, news media will pick it up, and it is sad to be exposed like that and later on resign with the printed negative paper trail for your name.
- Do differently - two ways, I think we should also explain to future appointees the risk in taking the seat (one) and background check document to the other trustee member for each nominee names that comes up. Pay for the background check if necessary. Siska.Doviana (talk) 18:43, 3 March 2016 (UTC)
I don't know this case in details. We cannot take into account all possible situations, but in order to prevent or decrease risks like this, maybe we can introduce something like an observer status for new people who want to become Board members, some kind of preliminary membership, so they will have time to integrate into the board community and have some experience working with them.--SusikMkr (talk) 08:56, 5 March 2016 (UTC)
I think most will agree that the communication was handled pretty badly. The issue was ducked, while pressure was building up. The board seemed to hope that the issue would blow over - which of course didn't happen. Bad strategy. That is the most important thing to change maybe, because it applies so widely. Because while we can dream of it never happening again, it will. We will screw things up. Then, it is important to own the problem, and be transparent about it. Effeietsanders (talk) 07:20, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
Arnnon Geshuri’s appointment showed clearly a number of problems that the Board has had in the past time. Mistakes can happen, but with relevant decisions like this, we have to be extremely careful. The Board can’t depend just in the opinion of one person or senior staff, without any prior check (in this case, it had simply to look at the second page in Google). The workflow to propose and select a Board member must be improved, making deeper scrutiny and further analysis that allows us to avoid such gaffes. I also think the community should be heard. A year ago, I mentioned that there should be at least an instance where the community can give input regarding a Board member nomination or re-election.
But, beyond Geshuri’s appointment, I’m worried with the tendency the Board has followed in the past year, choosing three persons from the U.S. with the same corporate background. I don’t focus here on their professional experience and skills, because they certainly have them and they can be very valuable for the Wikimedia movement, but this bias is certainly noteworthy for a movement that is supposed to be global. It is worrying that two appointed members from the US and Western Europe have stayed longer together than all Board members coming from developing countries in the WMF’s history. While different geographical regions haven't been represented yet in the Board, we have an unelected de facto permanent seat that could be used for extra capabilities and diversity.
Appointed members should provide the Board with knowledge, skills and experience, but I think it is not compatible with providing diversity too. There are great potential Board members from Africa, the Middle East or South Asia -to name a few regions- that can do a good job and also can bring some experience from the developing world, something the Board currently lacks. I think a good way to bring new names to diversify our movement would be to have a systematized process for Wikimedia volunteers within the broader community to suggest, propose people outside the movement that can become great Board members. Providing the Board with that input ex ante can only add value and trust to the process. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 00:55, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
I think there are a few different things to take away. First, the screening process that was used has some holes. In my opinion, it is embarrassing for board members to claim that it was missed during screening due to using different versions of Google. After concerns were raised by the community, communication from the board was virtually non-existent, and when it did happen, it was too late. Clear statements like "we are looking into this and will get back to you on [specific date]" would have appeased concerns people had with the board instead of the silence community got.
Everyone makes mistakes, and that's okay. So if a similar situation were to arise in the future, the most important thing to do differently would be to recognize that we've made a mistake, and own up to it. That's when trust can be re-gained. Legoktm (talk) 04:33, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
The abovesaid situation shows that the Community cares if a Board member actually shares the mission and values of WMF and the Community. And I thank that appointing, for example, a politician would probably result in the same manner, thus the selection process needs to be improved. I am using Windows, but even I know the Linus's Law: "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow", and I strongly believe that had the Board announced its plans to appoint Arnnon Geshuri even fairly beforehand, we would have noticed that there is something off and asked questions prior to his appointment as a Board member. It would be better if we could avoid having the same unpleasant situation in future. It resulted, among other things, in bad press coverage, offended Arnnon and unhappy Community... But if the similar situation occurred nevertheless, I think that the Board should understand that the problem will not resolve itself, be more engaged in talking to the Community, trying to explain why that was the right choice to make… or being ready to handle a mistake with public consequences --アンタナナ 00:06, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
Firstly, I have the feeling parts of the story are still unclear for the community, this is not ok. We should have full insights in why this happened, eg. by an external audit.
Secondly, I consider this case very specific, and probably difficult to avoid by implementing extra rules. I want to avoid adding too much "red tape" and "decision processes" to the Foundation. Those extra rules do more harm because they can stall all decision making. (I consider this a difference in opinion with my colleague candidates)
Thirdly, well defined responsabilities could have avoided the problem. The selection of Arnnon was considered as a big mistake by the community. Has somebody within the board taken responsability for this? MADe (talk) 20:34, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
Turnout in this selection process
- Q. In previous affiliate-selected board seats not all of organizations who were eligible to vote actually voted. How important do you think it is to get all eligible organizations to vote and engage in this election? What can you do right now to assist more eligible organizations to vote in this present election? Blue Rasberry (talk) 18:20, 21 February 2016 (UTC)
If we consider it a democratic process, not voting shows a lack of interest. That is not a question to ask now, once the election has started. If people don't see the interest in voting, it usually is a political failure. Meaning the vote isn't political and doesn't influence the situation in the long run.
What could be done is, I believe, at board level to share and promote a political vision. And top that with regular discussions of the board strategic decisions. In affiliates that is done through institutionnalized moments and documents (such as the AGM) which should be recreated for WMF. Quick exemple, WMF chair doesn't do a "vision" talk at Wikimania, which could help create that political environement and show, to some extent, the impact of voting. To be fair, even if instintutionnalized, it is hard to show the real impact of voting, even in members organisations. Schiste (talk) 10:10, 1 March 2016 (UTC)
a) I would say it is not as important that all eligible organizations actually do vote compared to that the importance of those who actually are voting are making informed decisions and are voting for the best of the movement rather than for one special interest.
b) Before suggesting improvements, it is best to know what causes the problem. So I could launch an investigation to ask those who didn't vote the last time for their reasons and after that make improvements. However, I feel it would be inappropriate for me as a candidate to do that. Ainali (talk) 12:54, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
- Hi Lane,
- To me it is important to engage all organization in the process.
- However if you go into specific, some organization probably doesn't vote because even though they are eligible at the time, they are (and/or) 1) new; 2) have an internal problem in getting agreement in time to support certain candidate ; 3) don't like the candidates option available; 4) feels that the process might go along fine without them participating.
- What can I do right now to make sure they participate? Like I did last time, we do guerrilla effort in contacting the chapters that are *not* openly already support a candidate. We can't make them vote, some of them know the effort is on going but not vote anyway. But personally, I find these kind of event exciting, give us reason to contact chapters to poke, asks around, and get to know each other better (regardless whether they vote or not). Siska.Doviana (talk) 13:09, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
In my opinion, it is very important to get all eligible organizations to vote. I think the reason they do not vote is the lack of awareness. We should use every opportunity to disseminate more information about the WMF, the affiliates, the issues and achievements of the wiki movement.--SusikMkr (talk) 08:59, 5 March 2016 (UTC)
I consider it very important. Small organisations have the same voting power as big chapters, so it is surprising some of them did not vote last year. For me it is a result of the lack of involvement from the chapters, and a lack of follow-up of the WMF. That is why I propose to improve the relationships between the WMF and the chapters, and give the latter more financial responsability. MADe (talk) 14:51, 5 March 2016 (UTC)
@Bluerasberry: I am sorry answering took me a bit longer than I expected. And here is my answer to your question: Access and Participation in the ASBS. Especially to the last part of it :) Please ask me more if there is something not clear --アンタナナ 07:51, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
TL;DR: I believe that it is actually very important to make sure that all affiliates eligible to vote are aware of the elections and can choose consciously. And to do this we must ensure access and participation in the ASBS process for the affiliates and the communities they work alongside with. Thus I requested from the WMF to dedicate the resources needed to have at least the nominations pages translated into languages used by the affiliates eligible to vote. At the moment if you do not know English, you cannot take real part in the discussion and make an informed choice. WMF spends considerable resources (mostly in staff time) on supporting the three community-elected seats, but these two seats are not lesser board seats than the three ‘community’ ones.
I suggest contacting each affiliate eligible to vote and asking them if they need help to translate the statements and if yes, what languages are required by memberships/affiliates leadership to read the statements. By doing this we also make sure that they are aware of the upcoming elections and are engaged --アンタナナ 17:51, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
The Affiliate-selected seats were not invented for a voting process - but were a way for affiliates use their networks and their discussion processes to select good candidates. In that respect, it would be great if more organisations would participate in the process. Not just to vote, but to actively join discussions what kind of candidates they are looking for, what qualities they need and who would be a best fit with that. To use their networks to come up with good candidates. The role of the candidates in involving more groups is rather limited because they will always be considered biased. Involving more groups should happen at the earliest stages in setting up a profile, before the political discussions start. Effeietsanders (talk) 07:23, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
While there is no way to have 100% participation, as organizations may have issues that prevent them from voting, not voting can be a conscious choice, indicating distrust in the system. Given that it is probably not feasible to find out which is the case for all eligible voters, I would say that non-participation by a large percentage (40% and up) would be a red flag.--Thelmadatter (talk) 21:12, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
Although I agree with the rest of the candidates that we should encourage all affiliates to participate (not necessarily vote; abstention is, after all, also a valid opinion), I think there is a larger problem with some chapters that haven’t been able to continue their work and have become less active. I know from my experience that creating a chapter and maintaining it active is a very difficult task and not all our volunteers have the time and resources to do it, and if you do have some of those, you will focus in the things you care - promoting our projects, not an election, to be honest. So, instead of just focusing on Election Time, urging them to vote, we should care about our fellow affiliates permanently, supporting them, helping them in time of need. Then, when they are active and vibrant organizations like we wish they are, votes will surely come in. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 00:57, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
In general, it is important that all affiliates that are eligible to vote, should vote. That said, we should make sure that largely inactive chapters are being held to the same standards of activity we would hold new chapters and if they aren't, they should be relegated to a user group status. We shouldn't disenfranchise them though, we should be including all user groups in the ASBS process; something the board recently discussed “without reaching a final conclusion”.
- Q. Could you please comment on the last available Board minutes of 28 June, 14 September & 7 November 2015 (or any other minutes you might find interesting)? Any room for improvement? Popo le Chien (talk) 10:50, 28 February 2016 (UTC) Yes, this question is extremely open-ended, and yes it's on purpose. I want to know how you think and how your experience is reflected in your answers.
As a general note, the minutes are at a pretty detailed level compared to many other organizations. Sometimes however, persons, functions and processes are mentioned in passing without further explanation which can make it very hard for someone who does not know everything about the organization to understand what has been talked about. What could easily be improved to help the readers of the minutes get the context better is links to underlying documents, slides or similar. What also could be improved is the time it takes to publish the minutes. Ainali (talk) 15:30, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
Honestly, these minutes are the bare minimum. I urge you all to review them (eg. the part on the "Knight Foundation grant") and come to the same conclusion. As there are no background documents attached, no links to other discussion pages, ... it is difficult to get a full view of what was discussed. (@Ainali: curious why you to come to a different opinion...)
Although only a minor problem, the reporting is a "canary in a coal mine" for me about the way the board functions. Improving the way the board functions and communicates is one of the three points I want to focus on when being on the board. MADe (talk) 14:06, 5 March 2016 (UTC)
- Hi Popo,
- Interesting question. Let see. The first thing that I usually look for in the minutes meeting is how long it run. Being in many meetings (not BoT meeting), there's no such thing as an interesting long meeting (romantic meeting excluded). Some of these meeting run for an hour, three hours, an hour an a half, and I wonder whether anyone is recording these meetings and do transcript later. It could be "super secret transcript", but if I was the secretary taking notes alone is not enough given there are so many attendees. I usually like to review the transcript later to make sure I get things right (on the right time). It's one thing to disagree for an issue, it's another if you can't even remember what one person is saying, and suddenly another person claim that you said otherwise. I mean you can fight for the meaning of what you're saying later, but at least get the wording right.
- The second is personal comment on the meeting, it looks that at least the housekeeping is working, you can see that some things get done, a lot of attendees, decisions reached, so it's good. I found interesting that some of the trustees feel they need to elect another trustees with very specific ability like finance. It's good, however, to read complicated report produce by an executives (be it finance or technical) each and every trustees should have an allocated budget in paying specialist to understand what it meant so they can make informed decision or asking the right question. (I usually go to a friend working in KPMG or another friend in E&Y for financial matter, and they would try to shove me off the door, but I usually get in and get what I want :D ) Siska.Doviana (talk) 16:49, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
I’ve read them and I think they must be improved or complemented if we want to increase transparency and more communication within the movement. Currently, besides being a description of some activities, they don’t provide any explanation for why some decisions are taken and I think that should be included. I understand minutes have such format for legal reasons --but there is always the possibility for the Board to explain its relevant decisions besides formal minutes, using other registry or channel if need be.
We should acknowledge that not all discussions and decisions will be published. There are legal responsibilities that we should consider, so debates regarding human resources, contracts, agreements with other organizations, etc. (just to name a few), probably won’t and shouldn’t be completely public.
I’m sure revisiting and rediscussing the limits of information disclosure, and dealing better with the tension between a legal need of confidentiality on many issues and a public-community claim for open information (which is not always solvable with an optimal outcome), will be an issue of great importance for the Board. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 01:56, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
Board minutes could take many shapes - serving different purposes. There is no 'best way' of doing things. However, there might be ways that are more logical, given our movement background. But transparency doesn't necessarily stop at the board minutes, there are many different ways to accomplish that.
Most important is that decisions are properly recorded (I wasn't there, so can't judge that for sure - but I have to assume they are) and that they justify the reasoning behind them (something that seems to be missing often). For the rest, I would refer to the general points I made in my statement: be honest, be transparent where you can etc. But do realise that too much detail might proof detrimental towards the publication speed and might tempt tinkering with the contents. Minutes are not supposed to be essays, nor do they have to report every word. Effeietsanders (talk) 08:45, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
It would be great if the minutes were more detailed, with all crucial facts included and key documents attached (if they are not confidential). It is important to be able to understand why this or that choice was made.
The annual plan approved by the Board on June 28, 2015 raised a whole bunch of questions, as the draft of the plan was published on May 25 (announced on Wikimedia-l on May 26) thus the Community had only four (!) days to make comments. And the annual budget was never discussed  . I second the suggestion that “there definitely should be sufficient time for the community at large to comment AND to get feedback from the FDC”. It seems to be a lesson learned, though.
The minutes from September 14 could have been more detailed. I cannot see any harm in having detailed notes of the sections on Strategy and Operations updates published, just like it was done for Discovery Knowledge Engine Fallout Discussion 2016-02-16. The same can be said about the minutes from November 7, especially the sections on Board Recruiting and the Knight Foundation Grant approval. And, of course, the minutes from the special meeting in December just raise more questions --アンタナナ 00:47, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised states that “minutes should contain mainly a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the members.. Using that definition, those minutes are well, minutes. I do not believe these minutes are good enough to meet the expectation of transparency that most people have of the WMF board. And the board should be setting the bar high for others in our movement to look up to, not falling drastically short. So going through the minutes…:
- Minutes/2015-06 (2)
- Minutes don't indicate why a special meeting was called.
- Which parts of the meeting did Stu miss?
- The annual plan section doesn't indicate what feedback (if any) the Audit committee had
- What specifically was the change to the fundraising schedule?
- Who/what required Patricio to leave? (Maybe this is ambiguously written and he had to leave due to his schedule?)
- I hope private notes of the executive session were kept somehow.
- The Knight Foundation grant approval looks innocuous, but it wasn't.
- Other than that, the minutes are similar to the other two.
Recently the technical community worked on improving our meeting practices, especially during the most recent Wikimedia Developer Summit. From the Good meetings section about note taking, there are both detailed notes (a record of what everyone said) and summary notes (kind of similar to the current board minutes, but well, with more details). Having both available for people who weren't at the meeting is invaluable, they can read through a quick summary, and then go through the more detailed notes if they wish. I'd like to see something similar for board minutes in the future. We need to make sure we don't move too quickly though, see the end of my response to the “Transparency” question for some more details. Legoktm (talk) 07:02, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
- Q.hi, how do you think the Board could increase its level of relevant expertise, especially when community and affiliate seats are taken into consideration? Pundit (talk) 16:48, 28 February 2016 (UTC)
As I see it, there are two main ways to do that. One is to increase the expertise of the existing board members, and one is to bring in board members with expertise. Either way, you first need to do a mapping on what expertise is wanted in the board and what is lacking in the existing board members. After that you can make the call on whether you educate (parts or the whole of) the board, which in turn can be made in various ways, or if you want to start looking for new board members. Ainali (talk) 14:32, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
- Of course we need a high expertise Board to resist challenges the Wikimedia community faces. On my viewpoint, it would be better to investigate previous Board members’ experience, tasks they have faced, also make surveys inside communities and chapters in order to explore their needs, and then systemize requirements to the Board members and the election process.To come closer to communities, may the Board members from communities and chapters have meetups with members, listen to their opinions, in order to get the whole picture of the wiki movement. In addition, it will encourage the communities and the Board member will help to solve the problems risen within the communities.--SusikMkr (talk) 10:11, 29 February 2016 (UTC)
Hi. There are many different skills and backgrounds to balance in the board. I see some different approaches to your question:
- Outsource some of the expertise to bodies that are better suited (which happened already in some committees). That would allow us to bring in more people to share expertise.
- Raise the general level of expertise of the board as a whole by providing courses, education, exchange of experience, handbooks etc.
- Where it comes to getting specific expertise on board, the most effective way is probably to define what you're looking for. In the past, this has only rarely happened (to the best of my knowledge), and quite a bit of improvement is possible here. Tell the affiliates and the community what kind of skills you think are missing, share the analysis of the board skills that you also used for the appointment procedures, and it is likely at least taken into consideration. Effeietsanders (talk) 07:27, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
@Pundit: I do not fully understand your question. For me the experience of the affiliate and community selected board is in the fact they come from the affiliated organisations / community. Could you rephrase? MADe (talk) 21:08, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
- @MADe:For organizations of this size, budget, or public exposure it is typical to expect Board members to have wide experience from previous boards of organizations of similar size, as well as to have some special expertise, strengthening the executive team with direction - finance, HR, PR, marketing, strategy, tech, research, publishing, etc. are definitely useful. Just the fact of being from the affiliate organization only helps in understanding the internal governance. So my question is, how you think we could increase the level of actual expertise and skills? Pundit (talk) 17:00, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
- For me the main focus of the affiliate and community selected seats should be .. representing the affiliated organisations and the community. It is clear that candidates should fulfill certain minimum requirements (eg. knowledge of English, a certain "maturity"). Specifically for the Affiliation seats, candidates should have experiene in the board of a chapter. That is the only experience that should be considered when comparing candidates for the Affiliate seats.
- Clearly, this is different for the other board members. The Board should set out a long term vision, ideally these board members have external experience that can assist with this task. MADe (talk) 20:42, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
- @MADe:For organizations of this size, budget, or public exposure it is typical to expect Board members to have wide experience from previous boards of organizations of similar size, as well as to have some special expertise, strengthening the executive team with direction - finance, HR, PR, marketing, strategy, tech, research, publishing, etc. are definitely useful. Just the fact of being from the affiliate organization only helps in understanding the internal governance. So my question is, how you think we could increase the level of actual expertise and skills? Pundit (talk) 17:00, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
In my opinion, an optimal Board for an NGO should be able to balance the representation of their members or volunteers, the experience in their particular social purpose and the needs for expertise in different general fields (for example, finances, administration, HR, etc.).
And I think that, while the WMF has been able to increase the relevant expertise on those general fields in the past through the appointed members and the community and affiliate seats have served to bring the representation of our community to the Board, the Foundation has neglected the need of Board members aligned with our purpose as a global movement. The last 4 members appointed by the Board has come from Europe and the United States, and none of them has been involved in international cooperation, education or cultural outreach, which are some of the most fundamental assets for our movement —more so than needs such as finances or marketing that may perhaps be better served by staff or by reinforcing the Advisory Board. In fact, the ASBS have been the ones who provided that expertise to the Board; the only current Board member from outside Europe and the US was chosen by the chapters two years ago.
How can we help achieving that? As I mentioned in the first question, we should start looking outside the box, asking our members from different latitudes about people that can bring their experience to the Board, specially on those fields aligned with our mission, and their understanding from different parts of the world. Of course, more expertise in other fields is always beneficial for the Board but it shouldn’t be at expenses of the capacities aligned with our purpose. The Advisory Board is a good space to bring that knowledge and I think their role should be expanded and strengthened.
Blatantly speaking, I fear overconcerning with Board technical expertness at times comes at the expense of Board representativeness: in a movement as wide and diverse as ours we can easily find or gather technical experience elsewhere within WMF —but having Board members who are legitimate voices for communicating with our communities (and with the staff in what the Board is concerned) is perhaps a more crucial and difficult task. The Board at this moment lacks the diversity that not only has characterized our movement in its history but that is ultimately fundamental to move towards our goal: sharing the sum of all knowledge with every person in the world. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 00:15, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
I believe the board needs more expertise in the technical side of the WMF. Jimmy hasn't been involved in the technical side of things in years, so the only person with recent MediaWiki experience is Denny while working on the Wikidata project. This does not seem like a good proportion of board members to me, especially since it's nearly half of what the WMF does. The engineering side of the organization (now “Product” and “Technology”) has seen a lot of confusion with leadership changes (Damon and Terry), a poorly thought-out reorganization of the engineering department, and then an even more poorly thought-out (purely from a technical perspective, ignoring the social and process aspects of it) grant application for the Knowledge Engine project that the board approved. So I think the board needs more expertise from someone significantly involved with the technical aspects of the projects. It doesn't seem like the board is interested in appointing someone like that (it hasn't since Domas), so it seems the best way to get that expertise is by having a community member run for it. And that's what I'm doing :-). Legoktm (talk) 05:32, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
Update: Since Denny has resigned from the board, there is no one on the board with strong experience in Wikimedia technical areas, which is a huge problem in my opinion. Legoktm (talk) 15:36, 9 April 2016 (UTC)
First of all, at the moment we need to establish good and constant connection between the Board and the Community. Thus I would really love to see that more experienced editors join the Board. This is not about number of edits etc, but about knowing how the Community works and not being afraid to talk to the Community and listen to the Community.
Secondly, community and affiliate seats can be an excellent source of expertise and diversity at the same time. Five other seats are usually taken by people from North America and Western Europe and by male trustees, which is unfortunate but understandable as such candidate are the easiest to find. Thus community and affiliate seats are our chance to increase diversity of the Board, particularly by inviting more women and candidates from Global South: we have a lot of qualified people who have the necessary skills for working on WMF board and can bring a different perspective. We are a global movement, and being a girl from Global South myself and willing to use my expertise in finance and HR to help WMF advance I find unfortunate that a candidate like me has chances only in a community or affiliate election and has very little chances of being considered for an appointed seat at the moment.
To sum it up, we have a lot of people who are a part of our community AND have very relevant skills AND who can bring more diversity to the Board, so the Board itself should encourage such people to become candidates and consider them for appointed seats --アンタナナ 00:52, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
- Q. How do you understand transparency with regard to the Board, and what actions are you planning to undertake if elected to achieve/improve transparency. Ymblanter (talk) 20:49, 29 February 2016 (UTC)
Hi, I don't know. To be crystal clear, transparency is a "buzz word" to me that is being used to pin someone down. Because an organisation cannot be transparent. I'm not even saying by design, but in a movement as large as we are, there are so many things that happens that not all break through to be seen by everyone. Also is seen as something absolute, binary (transparent vs not transparent). Which is rarely the case. So I wouldn't do much regarding "transparency", what I could push forward to is better documentation and spread of information. A way to achieve that, which are currently implementing within WMFr, is to clearly state what is confidential and the default being not being confidential until said otherwise. Which, in the end, will allow us to produce even more detailed minutes of our board meetings. A board is a group of person working together, one person can't bring "transparency" but can try to adapt processes in order to provide with better dissemination of information. Schiste (talk) 14:21, 1 March 2016 (UTC)
To me it is first a set of values. And the movement has always been transparent by default. But of course, when you hire people from other organizations this does not come naturally. No company puts their drafts in public online. Therefore I think it is most important for the board to let the staff know that it is a cherished value in the movement. So my actions would be to live up to that in attitude and discussions and try to be a role model so that it is clear that this is not just a buzz word, but something dear to us all. Ainali (talk) 13:03, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
To me, transparency implies accountability, openness, and communication. While the community is 'transparant by default', this is not the case with the WMF. Just take as example the Knights Foundation Grant, where non-disclosure Agreements ('NDAs') prevented a real discussion about the subject. There are different actions possible to improve the situation. Given my situation, I consider it interesting to implement the following things:
- improve communications: clearer meeting minutes, direct communication on what happens and what is discussed on (social) media and The Signpost;
- improve openness, by implementing an open visitor policy, an "open by default" culture (and assessing the need for legal documents like NDAs), by adding a financial auditor and more community liasons to the board, and implementing "good practices";
- accountability: Give the community a legal role in the board elections. Eg. a community appointed board member can only be removed from the board by the community.
I consider transparancy as very important in the WMF, as an organisation almost fully funded by donations (@Schiste: and I seem to have a different opinion on this). It is a part of my priorities when elected as board member. MADe (talk) 17:31, 7 March 2016 (UTC)
Transparency is much more an attitude than a set of rules. You can update rule books all you want, but people can always find a way around it. The best thing one can do for transparency, is by showing that being transparent brings benefits, that it results in constructive feedback. In the long run, I hope to be of help in the constructive dialogue, and make transparency pay off. Because there will always have to be a balance between transparency and due process, between transparency and privacy, between transparency and efficiency. People determine this balance in the end. Effeietsanders (talk) 07:30, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
IMHO, this is the most pressing issue facing the WMF today. There are too many excuses masquerading as reasons for not making things public. Not only does this affect the WMF, it sets a poor example for many chapters and other affiliates. Most of the problems we have had, not just now but in the past, is due to not following good practices for NGO's.--Thelmadatter (talk) 21:15, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
I believe that transparency with regard to the Board first of all consists in an open and understandable process of making decisions. The Board needs to clearly communicate its logic and reasoning behind this or that choice. And there seems to be no legal reasons that prevent the Board from having some sort of 'unofficial notes of the meeting' taken and published, as well as non-confidential documents discussed by the Board. Of course this can cause some additional discussions, people will ask questions, find something interesting in documents and try to start a sprawling conversation. But it would be wrong to think that this will increase the workload of board members; on the contrary, this would avoid pointless discussions like “why WMF does that? why this document was not published?” etc. Instead we will receive productive discussions and constructive comments, and the Board should not only welcome such discussions but rely on them in their work. The approach is really simple: announce the ideas or problems you have on your mind, start public conversations and explicitly ASK for community participation. Give it a few weeks. Take the input (staff can help digest and collect themes), and then make decisions. Far from a distraction, the availability of smart and eager participants is a huge and underutilized resource :)
I can answer the question about the steps to take very down-to-earthly: I have joined Wikimedia Ukraine’s board in December 2012. The decisions then were mostly made during rather chaotic discussions on the board's closed mailing list or with the help of telephone calls, and the resolutions were published on wmua: without indicating who voted for or against. Board meetings were not regular, minutes were not published and so on… Now Wikimedia Ukraine’s meeting are open to anyone via Skype, notes are taken in etherpad and published later as 'unofficial notes of the meetings', and we also have 'official minutes' and resolutions published separately. A lot of things are discussed on WMUA wiki directly, so anyone can join the discussion, and the voting is done openly. I do not want to suggest the very same approach to the WMF, but we should definitely work on making the Board’s decision-making process more clear and more open to the Community --アンタナナ 02:33, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
Transparency is a basic value of the movement. Lack of information creates mistrust and frustration in the movement. The challenge that I see is the following: As the movement expands, the amount and quality of data exchange also expands exponentially (data exchange within and between local communities as well as between the Board and local communities or merely a single contributor). The challenge is not only to make this information available, but also easily accessible, so I can find easily the information that I am interested in. I am not sure it would be easy to implement new technologies, they might also demand some changes in organization. (So for instance, new technology could enhance the feedback system, and also it could categorize the exchanged data or add labels to them) Making these changes would not be easy, will help to avoid "indifference" toward the whole mass of information.--SusikMkr (talk) 17:50, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
In my personal experience, transparency is actually a tool that people use to judge whether you are being fair or not. The red thread that connects the relationship between board and everyone else is whether they are being fair in approaching all kind of issues that hit them from multiple direction. Transparency is actually really boring but by creating documentation that is clear and understandable it helps people to decide how they feel about the issues. For example, when I manage a one million dollar grant, not all grantees "made it", some actually failed and failed big. Not all the grantees like me as a person, but they trust me because I am being fair and I make the important information transparent. Not all information need to be "out there", but the important one definitely is. That big grant, when launch, there's a lot of suspicions around it, Indonesia is known one of the top corrupt countries and in 2011, being transparent is unheard of. However, when the information is out there, we kill the drama, kill the suspicions, and create a very boring - trust... a nod. If elected, to improve transparency, I need to know how bad is the distrust and unfairness that happens and to which side, and only after that one can device a plan >:-) Siska.Doviana (talk) 14:57, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
I probably sound like a broken record by now, but the WMF's greatest asset is our communities. And if the board is opaque, there will be very little community involvement, meaning we aren't utilizing our biggest asset. And if people are actually involved in the processes, they will begin to trust them again (see my response to the “What's the crisis?” question). Transparency itself won't magically solve all of our problems, what's more important is a process of collaboration – and that kind of collaboration has transparency as a prerequisite.
My personal policy is to default to open (the summary at the beginning of  is a pretty good explanation of what that means in my opinion). In my role as a WMF staffer, I've pushed for more transparency and openness quite often (I can find specific instances if you'd like) in an environment that often defaults to closed, while having the tact to ask when appropriate or likely to have a long-term impact. It's important that becoming transparent is a gradual processes; if people suddenly have a spotlight shined on them, they are more likely to not contribute at all (see “TMI bullying” on User:RobLa-WMF/Transparency). So that's what I'll push for on the board, specific areas where making something transparent will have a reasonable amount of value, and if the process is to be repeated, to set expectations that future instances are open by default. Legoktm (talk) 07:26, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
Transparency, it is true, is too wide a concept to mean something in particular.
In the context of our community, transparency means to me that the Wikimedia Foundation should work openly and side-by-side with our community. No initiative should be hidden from our communities and developed without any kind of participation from us. We can’t repeat the situation of the now infamous Knowledge Engine project. The problem was not the project itself —we couldn’t really evaluate that, given the few information available— but the logic that led to conceive such initiative without relating with our communities and for the Foundation to act as a standalone, self-ridden organization.
Transparency means sharing as much information as it is legally possible with our stakeholders —we have no bigger stakeholder than our communities and our donors— and, perhaps more notably, doing it the other way round: avoiding as much as possible any culture of secrecy that isn’t strictly necessary and contradict the open nature of our movement and projects. If there is no good reason to maintain something as private, it shouldn’t be private. In general, besides personal data and HR information, I don’t see a lot of things that should be considered private per se. I work in a public institution in Chile, where all information must be open to any citizen (and that includes even my salary!), so I understand that we can move further to be more transparent towards our donors and volunteers.
The Board is the ultimate authority of the Foundation and should work as the link between WMF staff and our communities and affiliate organizations. It is important that its members share as much possible information about their concerns, their ideas and the topics they are discussing to cement, instead of undermining, the kind of trust that is so necessary for the Foundation being conceived as a legitimate and good-willing actor by our volunteers.
This doesn’t mean, of course, immediately publishing transcripts about what each member said in a particular discussion. That would undermine confidence and would made it impossible to work as a collective decision-making body. But it does mean, for instance, that issues the Board discusses are shared before decisions happen —for example, when the recognition of chapters was stopped or the FDC budget was frozen— so never again our communities, affiliates or even staff feel imposed with some strange news that seem to come out of nowhere.
As an individual Board member it would be unrealistic to say I’d deliver a particular change. But I’d do my best with my voice and vote to ensure we explore all limits to increase the public availability of information about Board issues and discussions, and to actively engage our communities in any important conversation before things happen. The Board must treat and respect our communities as partners, not as clients. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 00:51, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
Q. . In the last year, WMF releases a new model to grant funds to affiliates, individuals and others. Do you agree with the new model?, Do you have a new ideas about grants for "Global South" (or developing countries)? Superzerocool (talk) 11:53, 1 March 2016 (UTC)
It was an improvement over the previous model, and I wish for continuous improvement in the future too. However, I don't have any specific ideas, and I also believe that would be micro-managing the staff. Ainali (talk) 14:08, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
I would prefer that good ideas for new grant models come from the evaluations and the people who request those grants, rather than from an individual board member. The models as such should be evaluated, and when considering the 'costs' of a model, also the costs (including time!) on the side of the applicants should be included - especially when the applicants are also part of the movement. Because at the end of the day, there's limited resources in time, money and more - and a focus on money alone would bring unhealthy outcomes.
But as long as the overhead doesn't become too big, I do see potential benefits for local funding processes over global ones. I also suggested some possible venues for more efficient grant distribution and impact reporting for the bigger organisational grants at my Wikimania 2015 talk, based on science funding systems. This includes multi-year grants and more emphasis on trust, once proven trustworthy, and an impact evaluation afterwards (i.e. only demanding a thorough impact evaluation for a sample of the activities). But this should be part of a discussion process and not a loose idea with a single (candidate) board member. Because I'll be the first to admit that such improvements would probably be beneficial mostly to well established organisations, while we also need help in underserved countries to grow a community. Effeietsanders (talk) 08:48, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
I think the Grant application process became easier after the improvements that took place last year. The applicants can now more easily find the grant type they want to apply to, the reporting process became clearer as well. As for the Global South, we should pay more attention to the developing countries where the social and economic conditions are not high and they are not so actively involved in large wiki initiatives. Wikipedia and sister projects could help such countries to make essential changes in education and social environment. I believe, I can bring new ideas for motivation in such countries.--SusikMkr (talk) 16:15, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
- Q. Do you agree with the new model?
- A. Yes.
- Q. Do you have a new ideas about grants for "Global South" (or developing countries)?
- A. Yes. I always had ideas about grants, but usually people receiving the grant and giving the grant don't like it because it creates a lot of work. :D Siska.Doviana (talk) 15:52, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
My impression from reading about the changes and speaking with grantees about them, is that the new grants model provides more choices and as a result, more flexibility. More choices can sometimes be more confusing, but it seems that the flexibility heavily outweighs that.
One of the somewhat overlooked changes is that grantees are now allowed to work on MediaWiki software, including extensions. Prior to this change, grantees were forced to make on-wiki gadgets or use bots, which we all know are not sustainable in the long term. We were basically setting our grantees up to fail. Now that they can work on the MediaWiki platform, we can build sustainable software that is integrated into the wikis, in manners that users are used to. I believe this is key for the vision that I outlined in my candidate statement, where affiliates and individuals are empowered to build the tools and software that they want to.
I don't really have any ideas for grants for specific regions, I think the grants staff and grantees from those areas are in the best position to figure out how to improve the process. Legoktm (talk) 05:26, 16 March 2016 (UTC)
@Superzerocool: I do not consider this a completely new model, rather an improvement or reimagining of the existing one. What I really like about these changes is that they are occurring. WMF is seeking better ways to support individual volunteers and organisations, and asks for opinions, and does its best to implement them. We’ll see if it works and how, for the time being it is difficult for me to evaluate this way of restructuring. I have to note that the changes in this process are not up to the BoT to decide, I trust WMF staff in charge of it to organise the consultations with the Community to get useful feedback.
As for the reimagining, only the first stage (Simple Process Annual Plan Grants) was established as of now. I am a part of the Committee and I think that this change - a simplified APG process, easier, aimed at the organisations requiring funding up to $100,000 - is a good improvement, as there is a clear difference between the annual plan of a big organisation like Wikimedia Deutschland (almost 2 million USD) and, say, Wikimedia Czech Republic (up to 50 thousand USD). But they were supposed to undergo the same process to apply, and it is difficult to expect the same level of details and plans from so different organisations. It is good that there are different approaches to these different annual plans now.
As for the other stages of implementing the results of the abovementioned consultation, I think that having rapid grants for experimenting is a nice idea. Back in 2013 Wikimedia Ukraine wanted to conduct a local Wiki Loves Earth photo contest, and we were a bit reluctant to try applying for PEG, as it may took up to two months to be approved and money received, and we needed almost 2 thousand USD, and we did not have enough data to present it to the committee (it was similar to WLM, but different at the same time), as it was an experiment. I hope rapid grants will be beneficial for small and growing affiliates.
“Global South” (though the term itself is not very accurate, there is nothing better for now) is very diverse (both in its opportunities and challenges), so I do think that having more individual approach to every grantee from there is important. Of course, there are some limits to it. And my experience as both a WMF grantee (on behalf of my chapter) and as a member of Simple APG Committee, is that WMF staff and grant review committees wants to know more and understand the local context better. But I cannot suggest here something solid at the moment. I am really curious as to how rapid grants will work out, as coming from “Global South” myself, I think that a lot of activities can be funded with that money. And experimenting can bring some awesome results to the Movement --アンタナナ 18:24, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
As a FDC member, I have seen in the past several chapters that wanted to grow and expand their capacity to impact, but to do that, they needed more support and more resources (money, but also staff, time, etc.) than the PEG program could offer. However, to apply to an Annual Plan Grant (APG) to do that, the affiliates needed a built-in capacity to meet the requirements, write the application and report their outcomes. These requirements are essential to ensure unrestricted grants are used in the best way possible and in line with our goals as a movement, but are sometimes too difficult to do for a small chapter led only by volunteers in their limited free time.
So, we usually faced a vicious circle where a small chapter needed to apply to the FDC for an annual grant to grow and professionalize, but needed to have already a staffed team and administrative capacity to apply for the FDC. Some affiliates were too big to stay in the PEG but too small to receive an APG. The creation of the Simple APGs is an important step to end this sort of “limbo”, giving an opportunity to those chapters wishing to advance in the path of professionalization.
I think this is a good step for all affiliates, including those from developing countries. At this moment, we have a very limited number of affiliates from those countries that can apply to this type of grants. But it is promising to see every year more and more projects coming from different affiliates applying to PEGs and other types of grants, from East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. I hope this programs can be a platform for those groups of volunteers to increase their impact, just like it was a few years ago, for their European counterparts. However, I don’t think we just need to focus on the “money” issue. It is a step forward, but, if we really want to increase the impact of our projects in developing countries, we should have a clear strategy, created with these communities so it can be really effective and not a failure like other initiatives in the past. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 12:49, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
The updated grant system is a prolongation of the old system. Donation money is collected by the WMF all over the world, and than distributed back to the local chapters in a cumbersome grant process. The chapters and the Foundation are not peers on financial issues.
I would like to go to a situation of peers, where both the local chapter and the WMF can manage the local donations. This will make the chapters responsable, and although it might lead to the occassional mistake, I think this will lead to a bigger and more sustainable growth. MADe (talk) 20:36, 26 March 2016 (UTC)
I strongly support the idea of "meta chapters" like Iberocoop. It is a great way to support small chapters, it helps to increase the participation of non-English communities to grow within the community. It is no accident that the current WMF chair comes from Iberocoop and that there are more chapters in Latin America than in Africa.
Setting up similar "meta chapters" is part of my plan to support volunteers and chapters. I also consider setting up such meta chapter in Africa or Asia, to spur the growth there, or in Europe to support the different (often small) chapters ... MADe (talk) 14:32, 5 March 2016 (UTC)
I am ambivalent about such organizations. When working well, they offer the opportunity for smaller organizations to have a voice. However, I have not seen reaching out by Ibercoop to user groups, and a huge lack of transparency.--Thelmadatter (talk) 21:18, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
I don't see Iberocoop (or CEE, or ESEA hub) as a meta-chapter at all - but rather as a (rather successful) collaboration structure. That's helpful, and should happen when viable around the world. Especially because it allows chapters to more easily exchange information. It does bring a risk of less communication with the other affiliates outside your meta-structure. You are probably a better judge than me on whether that happens or not. Lets aim for a variety of collaboration models, and pick the ones that work best where possible. Effeietsanders (talk) 08:52, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
Frankly, I am not familiar with Iberocoop in much details, so it's difficult to asses its activities. What I know for sure is that collaboration projects is extremely valuable for small chapters or user groups. Our chapter, for instance, is part of WMCEE which organizes a lot of collaboration events. So last year WMCEE organized CEE Spring, within CEE Vasia organized 100 wiki days, etc. I myself had Skype presentation with Belarusian User Group, Wikimedia Armenia has close collaboration with Georgian user group, wikipedians from Georgia participate in our projects, like WikiCamp and Wiki loves science. We also started collaboration with Iranian user group. Neighborhood countries can collaborate in free format as well.--SusikMkr (talk) 17:43, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
I believe that collaborations between chapters are really good, and most often can make really good sense in a "local" scale, sharing best practices for organisations that are dealing with similar cultures and/or legal situations. That being said, it might be worth asking yourself the question if you need an organisation for that or if you could handle it informally, like the WMCEE has done. Creating a formal organisation also creates administrative overhead that has to be justified by the impact of the organisation. Ainali (talk) 21:59, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
My answers, might be disturbing, however it does comes from years of watching the Iberocoop pictures in facebooks and in commons (among others) :D
- There's a plus. That the network in South America+ chapters are successful in "pulling up" user group/ several individuals/ communities (with the exception of Brazil, who's still struggling) to become a chapter. It's hard to be a chapter, a lot of people now realize that. Reports, events, financial reports, eugh <-- 'I don't remember signing up as a volunteer to do this' *screams*. Even the one that already a chapter, i.e. Wikimedia Makau, didn't make it through in the end as a functioning chapter. The Iberocoop not only successful in pulling up a later on become chapter, but it also successful in maintaining the chapter status. It is successful in promoting new people into the movement and keeping them there. That is a hard thing to do, and a lot of people acknowledge it. It is so successful, it inspire other entity to do the same.
- There's a minus. I heard a lot of, "Oi, why don't you mingle?" during in person meeting, to the group. It is so pact - it alienate the other that is not in the group. There's a, "either you with us or against us" in the air, a bully-like chance that might happen if one push too hard. And because in a person-to-person meeting there's not much number can participate, Iberocoop stood up very 'different'. In my capacity watching as an outsider, if you consider Iberocoop is a meta chapter instead of cooperation - which is interesting, it means instead of many, it is one. In ASBS, Iberocoop has been able to put forward its candidate in make them win twice in a row in 2012 and 2014, whoever it is, doesn't matter whether their good or bad. There are 13 chapters in iberocoop in 2015, and if they vote as one - it's not going to be a good democracy. My math is not good, but referring back to Lane's question up there, if other person calculation is correct (I asks someone else to do the math for me), if seven chapters failed to participate in the election, Iberocoop endorsed candidate will automatically wins. Siska.Doviana (talk) 15:27, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
I participate myself (as a member of Wikimedia Ukraine) in a similar and rather successful regional cooperation Wikimedia Central and Eastern Europe (WMCEE). I was one of the speakers at Wikimedia Conference 2015 session about regional cooperation, and I would not call Iberocoop or WMCEE (and other alike partnerships) meta-chapters, but rather (frame|net)works for cooperation/collaboration and it is up to the participants themselves to decide what they make out of their cooperation and how they decide to organize the work.
I think that such networks can help to identify common challenges and look for possible solutions by sharing the learnings and experiences across different countries and communities. They can support each other in their project activities (for example, Wikimedia CEE Spring 2015 and Wikipedia Asian Month) or organize regional meetups to work on particular issues that are important for the community in the region (see Wikimedia CEE Meeting 2015 or Iberocoop:Iberoconf 2014). Of course, fruitful cooperation and maintaining working relationships require a significant amount of work, particularly documenting needs, like Wikimedia CEE Meeting 2015/Questions&Needs, and planning, or planning and coordination, like WMCEE Calendar 2015.
I believe that such networks (usually created by affiliates and volunteers wishing to work together) are a good thing and Wikimedia Foundation needs to support these initiatives to cooperate and exchange the experiences --アンタナナ 03:02, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
Cooperation and collaboration has been central values of our projects and projects like Iberocoop, the CEE, WikiFranca, WikiArabia and others have brought those values to the relationship between different affiliates. I don’t see those initiatives as a “meta-chapter” because the most valuable thing is that most of those activities are done without a formal structure.
Those initiatives have become spaces for successful projects (like conferences and contests), but the most important thing to me is that have made possible for chapters and affiliates to share experiences, learning how to face similar challenges, and that has helped them to grow. In my Iberocoop experience, when we started six years ago, only there were two chapters and the rest were only a few members starting to think about a potential chapter in our countries; now, most of Iberocoop members became chapters or user groups, because we were able to help each other.
Although cooperation is something that can be done between any affiliates (and I wish we could have more of that inter-chapter collaboration), one of the reasons for the success of this kind of initiatives is that they have been able to find something in common besides the Wikimedia movement. In Iberocoop, for example, we have the luck that all our languages are similar and we understand each other without the need to use English —although most of us have a good English proficiency, it is not the same to think and speak in a different language than your native one, and certainly that has helped us to share in a much more deep way than others. But even languages are different, there are cultural patterns that can bring some affiliates together —as it happens in the CEE Group.
And I think this has been fundamental to empower those communities in the global context of our movement. Smaller chapters have been able to have a voice in a movement where basically everything must be thought, said and heard in English and with an Anglo-Saxon perspective. Given the failed strategies pursued in the past by the WMF in the developing world, these initiatives have made it possible to strengthen the movement in some of those countries, developing strategies and projects with and from a local perspective, recognizing the unique characteristics of those communities, and not with a top-down approach. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 19:23, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
Fostering cooperation between affiliates or any Wikimedia organization is always a good idea. I'm not sure “meta-chapter” is a good label, it's more like a collaboration structure. I'm mostly familiar with the Wikimedia United States Coalition (WALRUS). While being more informal, it has a similar purpose and provides value for the US affiliates. Legoktm (talk) 16:24, 30 March 2016 (UTC)
What is the crisis?
Q. One candidate stated: "WMF has been going through, for many months now, an important crisis with huge stakes." I think many would agree with this overall statement; however, different people would describe the "crisis" differently. A Trustee's perception of what the problems are will play a huge role in how they approach the position. Can you please share your understanding the events of recent months, and what Board-level problems they expose? Pete F (talk) 17:55, 1 March 2016 (UTC)
This "crisis" has been long in coming. Some are pining for the "good old days" with Sue in charge, but I believe that the problems we face now have their origins far before Lila... quite possibly from the very beginning. In my own experience, I have seen a lot of backroom dealing and assumptions about who can or should be doing what. I would also like to see better relations between staff and volunteers.--Thelmadatter (talk) 21:21, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
There is a significant amount of mistrust and fear within the organization and the movement as a whole. The staff do not trust the board. The community does not trust the board. The community does not trust the staff. The staff are afraid of the community. The board does not even trust itself!
I believe I will have a unique perspective on this from other candidates as a WMF staffer during the “crisis”, so I'll go into some more detail. I do not believe it is worth rehashing the specific events that have happened recently, so I'll try to speak more generally.
The staff do not trust the board. Starting with the November all-staff meeting, an overwhelming amount of staff have lost their trust in the board. When legitimate concerns were presented to the board (many of which are still not, and probably will never be public), the board did not act, forcing staff to bring the matter up publicly, after strongly trying to resolve the matter internally. From what I understand, part of the problem was that one of the main sources of information the board got was from the executive director, which was not a good conduit for passing information along. Jimmy and Alice visiting San Francisco to talk with staff is a good start to rebuild trust, now both sides need to follow through by creating the discussed “ombudsperson” role that reports directly to the board.
The community does not trust the board. The other questions on this page about transparency and minutes lacking detail are simply symptoms of a lack of trust (not that they aren't important, but I'll address them in those questions). Rebuilding trust here will take a while, mostly because the board operates in a different manner than our wikis do. I believe that over the years I have earned the trust of many Wikimedians, whether in my volunteer role or as staff, and hope to bring some of that trust to the board.
The community does not trust the staff. I talked about this in my candidate statement – the community is tired of bad software being thrust upon them, and then fighting to get rid of it. It's not uncommon for me to be reading a village pump or technical page where people will sincerely state that they believe the WMF is actively harming the projects, rather than helping them. I believe that the best way to rebuild trust in this area is to get more people involved in product and technical development. Whether it be individual community members of affiliates participating in developing our software, I think the end result will be significantly better.
The staff are afraid of the community. Some (definitely not all!) community members are openly hostile to staff members, questioning their competency for their job, etc. Part of it is due to the lack of trust and past history, while other community members are just frustrated and are looking for someone to blame, and it technically happens to fall under the WMF's responsibility. The end result is that staff will now draft proposals and plans in private Google Docs instead of public wikis, or discuss things via private email instead of public mailing lists. We claim that our communities are our biggest asset, but the WMF needs to start acting like it means it.
The board does not trust itself. This one seems self-evident based on the removal of Doc James from the board. I do not have much visibility on the current board dynamics, and don't have much to offer in what to work on.
So where does the board come in to all of this? The WMF is in a partial state of dyfunction currently. It is the board's responsibility to make sure the WMF is able to function properly. The board needs to be proactive in rebuilding bridges and rebuilding trust.
All that said, a phrase that's come up recently that I strongly agree with is “change happens at the speed of trust”. There is a huge lack of trust right now, which means that change will happen slowly. That's okay. Trying to push change through too quickly will only cause more mistrust, which we desperately need to avoid.
The events in recent months, there are several, I believe.
- 7 percent confident in ED not being taken seriously causing employees quitting. I know some of them and they are complaining publicly that moral is low. I wish I could say my understanding is (fill out the blanks), but I would be frank and say, one thing I would admit is, I don't understand. How could it gotten so bad. What Board-level problems they expose? Board handling problem as it arise, board communication, and board SOP in crisis.
- Community elect board member being kick out. That. Board level problem: communication with the community.
- ED support board member appointment. Board level problem: background check?
- Appointed board member quitting. Board level problem: appointing a new board will be hard. May I suggest Kunal Mehta? :-) I think he is awesome and cover Pete's questions beautifully.
- ED quitting. Board level problem: selecting the new ED and not making the previous mistake again. Siska.Doviana (talk) 15:52, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
We have seen (probably) only a portion of the events that have taken place in the past months. Most likely, from what I have gathered, the 'prequel' to these public outings have been going on for several months before that at least. It is tricky to draw definite conclusions based on so little information, but I will try to address your question anyway.
It seems safe to conclude at least that there are serious issues with the ability to communicate effectively and timely of the Board at this point. Between the Board and Staff (listening, rather than hearing), between the board and the community and between executive staff and the staff at large, as well as the community. Also, it seems that the effectiveness of the Board as a body leaves room for improvement, based on the information that has become public. Someone recently introduced me to the word 'omnishambles' which seems appropriate in this context.
Besides communication and effectiveness as a body, there are to this day issues with (at least publicly) accepting the fact when a bad decision has been made. Without such acceptance, it is hard to find improvement. And this all feeds into trust issues, increased hostility (which is a problem on itself) and in itself another hurdle for effective communication. If the board would have acted differently, a lot of the fallout would not have taken place, damage could have been more controlled. Effeietsanders (talk) 21:48, 13 March 2016 (UTC)
Back when I started editing Wikipedia, I enjoyed especially the creating of articles collaboratively. I was thinking, I found what we need, in Armenia, in the world: the synergy, the ability to listen to each other and throw away our ambitiousness. I was surprised and somehow disappointed when I saw all the hot debates that were going on. Many users start long discussions about one misspelling, instead of correcting it. Such an atmosphere prevents development and the joy of creation. What we need is constructive discussion to overcome difficulties.
There are objective issues that we need to talk about but we have to take into account what we have and go ahead without harming our values. By arguing who is right, who guilty, we can loose what matters most, even everything. Trustees should be close to the community, bring community issues to the Board and find together solutions. The Board has to feel the pulse of community, and play a key role in preventing for the atmosphere becoming overheated.--SusikMkr (talk) 08:53, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
I have mentioned above that lack of transparency seems to be the core issue for a lot of problems of the unfortunate events of the recent months. We need an open and understandable process of making decisions by the Board itself, we need to organise the work in such a way, that the Community, staff and affiliates’ input can be heard and taken into account. What is more, the Board needs to be engaged more with the whole Movement, and I am not talking about official resolutions from the Board, I am talking about personal engagement from the Board members, be it Wikimedia-l or talk pages etc. The BoT is supposed to make some big decisions, but one cannot make them without knowing and understanding a lot of what is going on, and for this personal involvement is important. This problem with establishing channels for communication needs to be solved, as the BoT is responsible for hiring and firing of ED, choosing the right person to take care of micromanagement (micro from the BoT’s perspective), and the BoT is accountable for the chosen person’s actions, for supporting mutual trust between the Community, WMF staff, affiliates, for not stepping back from unpleasant decisions, for not failing the trust --アンタナナ 23:44, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
This situation has certainly been complex. In the latest Wikipedia Weekly it took almost two hours going through what happened and timelines have been built. So it is not just one thing that happened for which there are one easy fix. I believe that Kunal summarizes it pretty well above in a way that is aligned my my view. Ainali (talk) 12:20, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
I think this has fundamentally been a crisis of information, stemming from a basic crisis of communication and transforming this into a crisis of trust on all levels of our movement.
First, we had the lack of confidence between the WMF staff. To my understanding, the series of departures and complaints from the staff are not a direct competence of the Board (everyday administration is a responsibility of the Executive Director, and having been an ED myself, it is basic that Board members don’t interfere with normal staff dynamics). Yet, the point to which the situation escalated at the end reveals IMHO the severe malfunctioning of the Board that I have already described in other replies regarding transparency, communication and community involvement.
Staff unrest within the Foundation, from what we know now, didn’t start over the last couple of months. Departures are a very explicit message and have been going on practically since Ms. Tretikov was named as ED, as this very useful timeline from Molly White illustates. We had a Board that was too much accustomed to receive information and even its agenda from senior staff, if not from the ED herself, and that isolation prevented from hearing other voices on time and ultimately being able to take a well-informed decision. When the only contact between the Board and the rest of the Foundation depends on the ED it is evident that an asymmetry of information will develop. The Board must end this autopilot behavior that permitted not only this lack of communication but also the selection of a person with an evident conflict as Board member without a duly vetting process.
The relationship between the Foundation and the volunteers has been in a continued process of degradation. I don’t want to make generalizations, but the situation raised by the VisualEditor and Superprotect has shown that some community members have felt displaced and not considered by the staff members, while some staff members see the volunteers constantly opposed to their projects and communication as a burden. Of course, there are still members in both sides that recognize that the symbiosis between community and staff is possible and can deliver great results, but the distrust is palpable. And the same occurs between the WMF and the affiliates. The so-called “Haifa trauma” has not disappeared and, even though the funding processes have been more articulated with the chapters, there are still situations that have raised alarm like the resolution to freeze the recognition of new chapters and to freeze the amount of money to be distributed through grants —both resolutions that came out of nowhere, just like the failed proposal to eliminate the ASBS. Instead of looking at the WMF as a partner, it became untrustworthy.
The ousting of James Heilman from the Board was the last straw in this crisis of trust. As someone who has always defended further community involvement within Foundation governance, all I can say is that it was a disgraceful situation. I don’t want to make demagoguery by defending James because we don’t have complete information about what happened and what were the actual reasons for such a drastic decision. But, for the same and more reasons, I won’t defend a decision nobody had the elements to understand. That is possibly the most worrying part. Once again, the culture of secrecy and legal-imposed restrictions was more important than the need to communicate such a sensible situation and it is obvious the breach of confidence between the WMF and the communities, including both the people that voted and didn’t vote for James, increased.
I believe that, in the future, the Board should have more clear and public reasons, especially for a situation as controversial as the expulsion of a Board member. In line of what I have said elsewhere, all possible information about the reasons and rationale for such decisions should be duly disclosed. And that also must apply to the WMF in general if we expect to rebuild the trust lost. But, it is not a task only for the WMF and its Board; it’s also a task for us as community. We need to look for a future where we can trust the Foundation, acting less defensive and supporting the staff in its ED transition. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 02:16, 26 March 2016 (UTC)
BoT Role in new ED appointment
Q. Significantly the BoT will need to appoint a new ED sometime into the future, assuming the process of due diligence is properly carried out it's not likely to occur before you take your seat on the board. How do you envisage your role as an Affiliate representative in that process? Gnangarra (talk) 10:42, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
Each ED will have their own vision how to lead . As board member appointed by the chapters, my first priority would be to make sure his/her vision has a positive impact on the affiliated organisations (chapters, user groups ...) . I plan to communicate a lot with the chapters, and to ask a lot of feedback to verify this.
- If you look at the history, there has been tension from the first ED to chapters and the second ED to chapters, should she continue, will also likely be taking similar position toward chapters. When election to the second ED happened, even though there are two affiliate selected seat, there are practically three seat filled by "chapters people": Patricio, Frieda, and Alice. I understand completely that each seat should not acted to the interest of chapters and acted to the interest of WMF. However I don't understand why none of this ED consider chapters/ affiliates as an asset? Personally, the EDs have been acting as if affiliates as a big, expensive, high maintenance accessories to wear and maintain.
- Kunah Mehta in his answer covers an rounded analysis on trust, which I echoed in this question for a chapter-ED relationship. What would I hypothetically do for selection of the new ED? I would asks how she sees the chapter and WMF in her role in ED, what does she think? What potential problem that the ED would see in the relationship, etc. And I would endorse one candidate that would likely have more impact in getting the trust and confident of chapters, community, BoT, and WMF employees. Siska.Doviana (talk) 16:34, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
To be honest, I'm not worried about the hiring processes for the new ED. Enough people who I trust are sufficiently worried and paying attention to what is going on, that I don't feel that I need to be. I am worried about the role and process surrounding the ED position within the WMF:
- The ED must not be a single point of failure. We need a series of checks and balances to prevent what just happened from happening again. In the past we were extremely lucky to have a “unicorn” as our ED. This is unlikely to happen again, and we need to be able to operate just fine without such a unicorn.
- There must be an ombusperson role at the WMF who directly reports to the board, and their hiring/firing is not under the control of the ED.
- The HR department must be appropriately staffed, and not gutted.
- We need to carefully look at our C-level hiring practices. Bad hires occasionally happen, but when it starts happening multiple times, it shows a pattern that needs to be investigated closer.
So I envision my role as pushing to make sure those action items happen during the process of finding a new ED. Finally, I don't believe I should be acting any differently as an affiliate-selected board member as compared to if I were community-selected or an appointed board member. I will push for improving and empowering affiliates because that's what I believe is crucial for the success of the Wikimedia movement, not just because they elected me. Legoktm (talk) 16:29, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
First of all: I see my role in such a process as no different than a board member selected in a different way. The selected candidates will *not* be a representative for the affiliates on the board.
Hopefully the process will be well underway, and I trust that sufficient people will buy into that process. What is important though, is that the board lets all stakeholders (Staff, volunteer community members and affiliates) be part of that process, where possible. They can take part in setting up the profile, or by bringing on candidates. Staff would definitely have to be involved in the interviews. Of these stakeholders, most affiliates will probably have less to bring to such a process, compared to the community and the staff of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Another role the board has, but less formally, is helping to onboard the new ED that is eventually selected, and supporting him/her in their transition. It will be a tough situation to join, and everybody will be looking with suspicion and (s)he can use all the help they can get. Effeietsanders (talk) 07:23, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
Believing that affiliate-selected Board members are Affiliate representatives can be a bit misleading. I don’t see my potential role in that respect to be different from that of other Board members, but I do have some ideas about the process.
The Wikimedia Foundation, to my understanding, is basically an organization dealing with knowledge, education and communication. Certainly, it has important legal responsibilities and a technical branch in charge of developing the platform used in its projects. But from a strategical point of view, in my opinion, the technical branch is subordinate to what we are as a movement for free knowledge —the very word platform defines that what WMF helps develop is a means for pursuing our mission, and never an end. There has been interesting talk recently about the possibility of splitting WMF on different fields of action —I don’t see that as a priority right now, but it is true that we must have a clear idea of what is the Foundation there for.
That means that whoever comes to be the next Executive Director should have clear strengths in communication, knowledge of different cultures and a profile leaning towards education and international cooperation. We are not a company and, more, we are not a tech company. I think the Board should add up political criterion and strategical vision to the assistance that will surely come from recruiting firms, assessing both Foundation and movement sensibilities and needs. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 23:03, 18 March 2016 (UTC)
Although almost everyone who knows me would say, that I always prefer to bring a new approaches, in this particular case I would prefer a commonly known mechanism of election. I think ED should preferably be elected from WMF or from community, because then he/she will know the atmosphere, tasks, challenges, strength and weaknesses of the community, he/she also more likely will be trusted by the community. In the ideal case, the ED would have 2 deputies: one for the engineering team and one for the community communication team.--SusikMkr (talk) 18:20, 22 March 2016 (UTC)
Well, the affiliate-selected board seats are not affiliate representatives, so my role in the appointment process would not be any different from any other Board member.
I do see it as a very difficult challenge for all stakeholders, BoT included. And the responsibility is enormous. The most important thing, though, is to make the process as transparent as possible, and, firstly, we need to understand what we want from the new ED, what is our desired strategy (or at least what strategical goals the new ED is to pursue). One of the lessons learned from the recent events is that the ED has to share our values and understand the roles of all stakeholders. Another important point is that we have to make the new ED aware that we are very diverse and that priorities and capacities of our communities are different and help the ED work in such environment. Thus the work will not end once the new ED is appointed, and we should also dedicate time and efforts to make sure that the new ED is on the same page --アンタナナ 00:22, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
Affiliate-selected board members are not representatives for the affiliates, hence my role would formally be the same as for all board members. Even though the process probably has started already by the time the seat is taken, I would like to look for ways to make this process as inclusive as possible. Ainali (talk) 12:06, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
Long unresolved bugs
Q. What will you do, or what we can do to resolve long unresolved bugs to MediaWiki software? I can mentioned e.g. "Add a direct unwatch link to entries on Special:Watchlist" (T2424). This is an enhancement requested by community member in 2004, which is still nor resolved in 2016! There is a general consensus on it and it would simplify the work of contributors. Juandev (talk) 08:25, 7 March 2016 (UTC)
Honestly I would like to see that feature as well ... I collected a long watchlist, and it sometimes not easy to follow all the changes on that list. However, resolving specific bugs is not the role of the board.
The board could get involved indirectly, eg by setting aside a budget for community requested updates of the MediaWiki software. A group of volunteers or a volunteer voting system could determine what bugs to tackle first. That would be a good way to support the volunteers working on our projects (one of the three points I want to focus on). MADe (talk) 19:18, 7 March 2016 (UTC)
Honestly, I don't think that is a question the Board should deal with. It's within the realm of the CTO and, in any case, it is a legitimate concern that the MediaWiki community should be able to voice to the concerned staff people. I do believe the Board should support the improvement of channels between community and WMF, at various levels, and thus ensure such possibility exists. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 02:19, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
I mentioned above that a lot of the "non-glamorous," "doesnt get our name buzzing around Silicon Valley" work is really what is important. We also really need to get serious about metrics. The Knowledge Engine idea is a reaction in part to fears of losing page views and ranking, which is all we have easily availble to guage impact. It is not the only, nor the best for something like on online encyclopedia, a basic. It is better suited for something that needs to keep adding something novel. It's like using the same standards as for which is better, a book or a sandwich.Thelmadatter (talk) 00:26, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
I don't see a role for board members to push for resolving specific bugs or implementing specific improvements - the board should focus on the big picture. We have all seen what it can bring when micromanaging timelines can bring with the initial Visual Editor rollout. The question that could be more interesting, is whether there is a good process in place to make technical progress happen on topics with lots of demand (and even there you would run the risk of micromanaging). Is there sufficient infrastructure to support volunteer coders to pick up an improvement request like this, and implement it. I'm not sure if this is the kind of bug that should get the highest priority for the WMF staff, but if it annoys you, it would be nice if you have the opportunity to fix it. Effeietsanders (talk) 07:27, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
As I outlined in my candidate statement, I envision a system where affiliates and community members feel empowered to fix bugs and add features in our software that they wish to. We're currently in a place where the WMF has expanded so much and has effectively taken over MediaWiki development that others often don't feel like they can or should contribute. Ideally, the WMF wouldn't be fixing bugs like T2424, it would be mainly working on key infrastructure issues so that others can make the software enhancements that they would like to. As a board member I would push to make sure affiliates, grantees, and community members that want to work on technical projects are properly supported, and that MediaWiki is properly supported as its own open-source project.
Speaking as a MediaWiki developer, I could personally fix T2424. I estimated it would take me about 2 hours to do so. But me fixing every bug that people bring up to me doesn't scale. So I would much rather spend 4 or 6 or 8 hours of my time working with and mentoring new contributors so they can fix the bug and then future ones themselves. So let me know if you (or anyone else) is interested in working on the bug and I'll be happy to assist. Legoktm (talk) 06:51, 17 March 2016 (UTC)
I don't think the board should decide on small details like this. If there is a large number of feature requests and bug reports, maybe we should consider to hire additional staff members to deal with such type of issues, and/or think of ways to encourage volunteer contributors. For example we can start a project similar to Google Summer of Code, but for such small tasks.--SusikMkr (talk) 09:16, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
Oh, thank you for the question. Frankly speaking, I like the part with “what we can do”. I have mentioned in my statement, that I consider community support as very important. By this, though, I am not talking about the BoT issuing resolutions to resolve this or that bug as soon as possible. I am sure that we as the stakeholders (the BoT included) need to work with the growing needs of the contributors, and having the long-unresolved-bugs resolved is a part of it. It actually uncovers some real problems we have now: too many things going on, not enough people willing to be accountable for things started and not finished, if the process cannot be well-organised for years, the BoT needs to take some actions, but this actions are to be aimed at how the work is done and viewed by the staff responsible, not at a particular bug here or there. The BoT needs to see that the WMF executive staff makes sure that the developers do not test code using “in production” approach; that some crucial/strategic things are prioritized (and we have a number of things to be done and redone, not only long standing bugs, but relatively new, but critical problems, like Education Program extension security issues, for example), so that we use the resources we have right (and I am talking not only about money, as we do have lots of volunteers able to write the code). It does seem to me that prioritizing things to do is the right way to go, but this cannot be done just based on popularity (there are things that can only impact a handful of editors, for example, administrators/CheckUsers, so if there are things to be improved for them to perform better, these things will almost never get the popularity needed to be implemented), other things are to be considered. 2015 Community Wishlist Survey was a nice thing to do, but it gives a queer feeling that only Community Tech is going to work directly with the Community, and it does not seem right. I think that we should discuss how to prioritize technical tasks, but I believe that this question is aimed at all stakeholders, at us all, not only at 10 members of BoT, thus a community consultation would be more appropriate --アンタナナ 16:59, 20 March 2016 (UTC)
First of all, prioritizing bugs are in general not a concern for the Board of Trustees. However, this problem is probably reflecting on something else, perhaps that the engineering departement is understaffed. I am open for discussing more resources, or other ways on making best use of them. Perhaps open up an office in a country where wages are lower than in the Bay area? Ainali (talk) 20:23, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
- Hi Juan,
- I believe several board candidate like Natalia & Lego KTM already answers clearly on this one. For my side, I'm interested to see how many of this bugs has been resolved, how many unresolved, how many are priority, how many are low priority, and usually the data shows whether problem like this is on track to be solved. If the data shows it wasn't "on track", executive could answer ways on how it should be dealt with better. 20:34, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
Q. What organizational interests impact your life and career? How will they relate to your role as a Trustee? There is much discussion in our community about "conflict of interest"; and indeed, any Trustee will have to submit a (private) disclosure about any conflicts of interest upon being appointed. Now is a good time to help Wikimedia volunteers understand your roles with other organizations. I urge candidates to address this broadly: tell us not only how your organizational roles may conflict with your Wikimedia role, but also how they connect. How have your professional roles impacted how you think about topics like free knowledge and broad collaboration? And yes, the "conflict" part is important too. Can you imagine a circumstance where, for instance, your employer might wish to influence your activities as a Trustee? How would you respond? -Pete F (talk) 04:40, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
- I am a full-time employee of the Tec de Monterrey. Wiki Learning is not officially part of my duties, but many of my on-campus hours have been dedicated to it. If elected, I will have to make sure that the institution will comply with WMF COI standards.Thelmadatter (talk) 00:29, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
First of all, I cannot imagine my employer (that’s Media Law Institute) wishing to influence my activities as a Trustee. The organization I am working for is really far from Wikipedia world, and though they are aware that I edit Wikipedia (as another weird hobby apart from phillumeny), there was never even a suggestion to write an article about my organization or its key people (though my colleagues usually complain to me about this or that article missing, and sometimes I create articles they suggest, like this one :)). They think that it may do us good (as a country) to have more trustworthy information in Ukrainian Wikipedia about basic human rights (my organization is working on developing relevant laws in Ukraine and monitoring their implementation) and that may be a task for a lawyer (or a junior lawyer), but consulting how to do it right is the only capacity in which I can help :) And that’s precisely the same with any other flag or status I might get in the Movement. There are some things that my organization can help with, like lobbying a law amendment that all works done by Ukrainian state agencies and their employees are in public domain (we have been recently discussing this).
I can have another conflict of interest if we take into account Wikimedia Ukraine (not my employer, but I dedicate a lot of time and efforts to its projects), but I am very well aware of possible CoI here and I am also sure that the Board of Wikimedia Ukraine also understands this, particularly because I helped to organize a workshop on conflicts of interest for my Community in 2014. I have been a Ukrainian Wikipedia administrator for more than three years now, and I am confident I can disclose any CoI I may have and recuse myself from making a decision if I am not objective --アンタナナ 01:23, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
At this point, I do not know where I will work when I would join the Board, if selected. I do know that I would not hide who my employer is, and if there is any potential conflict of interest. I can imagine a scenario where an employer would wish to influence activities - but I cannot imagine accepting such influence (nor could I accept that in my editing Wikipedia). I maintain a pretty strict separation of work and private life.
You also ask about connections - the main connection I do see, is that at my current employer I learned a lot about societal impact of science, and how systems are being set up to measure/demonstrate that. This has attracted my attention, and I did present something on what Wikimedia could possibly learn from those mechanisms at Wikimania last year. Effeietsanders (talk) 23:01, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
I currently hold the position of leading researcher in the Institute of Informatics and Automation problems of National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. Our division is mainly working on a large data base about Armenian scientists. I can't imagine a reason for my employer to try to influence my activities as a Trustee or in any other sphere.
Besides, I can resign and retire at anytime. Nothing essential will happen, except status change. I already did my choice, I'll devote most of my time to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia movement. My coworkers are scientists who often help me to get in touch with wider circles of scientists whom I invite to conferences, workshops or other Wikimedia events.--SusikMkr (talk) 19:32, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
I was hired as a part-time WMF contractor doing software development in late 2013, and transitioned to a full-time position in mid-2014 (right around after Wikimania London if I recall correctly). For some of my time as a contractor, I mainly worked on my own projects (Global rename and GlobalCssJs) and wasn't embedded in a team, so I was able to see the inside the WMF, but was still mostly as an outsider. The rest of my contracting time (January 2014 onwards) and full-time employment was spent embedded in a proper WMF engineering team, and I truly learned and experienced how the WMF works, and where it is dysfunctional. Especially after the recent crises, I believe I would bring a unique and valuable perspective to the board based on my experiences. Of course, being a WMF staffer would be a giant conflict of interest, and I will be resigning from my job if elected, as I said in my candidate statement. I intend to go back to school, and don't plan on having an employer currently.
One of the other hats I wear is volunteer MediaWiki sysadmin for a few other free content projects. I've spoken and worked with many people who wish to contribute back to MediaWiki, but struggle and eventually give up, mostly because there is no actual community around MediaWiki outside of the WMF sphere. I've also worked with and advised grantees on technical projects, helping them reach their goals while also being aware of their limits. I believe it is crucial for Wikimedia to remember that we are only a small part of the free knowledge movement, and must make sure to work together with others who are also working towards the same goal.
The last hat I'll mention is that of a free software advocate. I'm a Free Software Foundation associate member and Software Freedom Conservancy member. Nearly everything I run is free software. For whatever reason there has slowly been a general shift in attitude in the WMF that using non-free software is permissible, when it really isn't. As a free software advocate I've made it clear that using non-free software is not acceptable, and should be avoided as much as possible. I believe that this is consistent with the WMF's value of “Freedom” and the right to fork.
It's a little difficult for me to express how my job and experiences in the Wikimedia movement have affected my opinion on things like collaboration because I take it for given. If we don't collaborate with others, things won't get done, period. Legoktm (talk) 09:33, 17 March 2016 (UTC)
I am self-employed so influences will be from myself. I work as a consultant in openess in my company Open by default. I have a hard time coming up with scenarios where my clients would try to influence me in questions relevant to the Board. Since I work to make things more open, there is a strong connection to the Mission. As the question is broad I will list memberships in other organisations. In all these I am only a regular paying member and do not have any functionary role nor responsibilities. Member of (in chronological order): Wikimedia Sverige, Mensa Sverige, Elbil Sverige, Miljöpartiet, Engineers without borders Sweden and Naturskyddsföreningen. All are non-profits. In neither of these I can think of a scenario where these memberships could have impact on my role as a Trustee. Ainali (talk) 18:27, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
- Hi Pete,
I'm just off the board of Wikimedia Indonesia, they have two board, and I am not on either of them. Currently I am leading two projects and wrapping up three others in Wikimedia Indonesia, none of this projects are WMF funded. To tell you the truth, because WMID has been independent of WMF for so long, I'm having problem thinking of what CoI might happened. For the last six years, I am the executive head, no body told me what to do, so I got no "employer" and if funding bodies counted as an employer, they don't care about what wikipedia article I wrote. They are a bit amused when I told the program officer that I am running for BoT. "So what did you do? You go to places and they put on the red carpet out for you?", they asked. I told them it is wikipedia BoT, so the most likely thing that happened is you roll out your own red carpet, cheer for yourself, and if you're really really good, you roll back your own carpet. In a nutshell the funding bodies would take it as something crazy that Siska done, again. Would they care? In a positive way that I tried things, would it create conflict? I don't see it happening in the past, I don't think I'll see it happening in the future either.
How would I respond if my employer asks me to influence my activities as a trustee? Well, in 2008, my boss actually asks me to change content article in Wikipedia. I told him no, I didn't get paid to change article in Wikipedia. He looked at me really confused, but shrug. I still hold the same value.
I am a Ford Foundation grantee, I used to work in US Departement of State, part of USAID projects (DAI) as a communication specialist, start branching out with UNESCO and has been in contact with Goethe Institut in Indonesia. How will it connect? Ford has been supporting free knowledge movement in Indonesia by supporting Wikimedia Indonesia since 2011 with Creative Commons, and funding its projects. I'm also dealing with grants, one of our grants comes from Africa as part of MAVC - so I might have ideas about managing grant, it won't conflict since my role in BoT would be advisory, but it would certainly connect, and hopefully connect for the better. As for US Dept of State, UNESCO, and Goethe Institut, I believe cooperation can happened as part of cultural exchange - with information exchange.
By experience, broad collaboration is messy, but if it pulls out, it usually quite a beautiful work to look at. One that makes you goes, "Aagh...yes, this is what I need." Siska.Doviana (talk) 23:15, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
Currently, I work in the University of Chile, one of the main educational institutions in Chile and South America. It is a public institution aimed at the common good and my work there has a strong focus in the inclusion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, both Chileans and foreigners. In that sense, my current professional work relates to Wikimedia from a common understanding of education and knowledge as a basic human right, and one that must be free from commercial limitations. I see both my paid and volunteer work as going in different paths towards the same direction.
On another note, the University can be an excellent partner with our movement for GLAM activities that can incorporate some of their historical and valuable documents, but also for educational activities, where are our projects can be promoted with their academics and students. But it’s not me who is meant to do that. I’m glad that Wikimedia Chile and our Chilean volunteers have already capacity and experience to engage with institutions and develop successful projects, so it is not needed for me to participate directly in any kind of activity, avoiding any potential conflict of interest.
In fact, I’m glad that all my employers (now and in the past) have supported and encouraged me to participate in our movement because they see how valuable is Wikimedia for the common good. In the past I have been President of Wikimedia Chile and later Executive Director of Wikimedia Argentina. Since the connection to our goal and to WMF is pretty obvious, I’d better focus on the COI side. For the last couple of years I have been a member of the FDC, where WMAR regularly applies for APGs. My fellow committee members and the Board representatives to the FDC can assess that I have abstained and kept myself aside of any discussion relating with WMAR, as I would have done if it was the case of WMCL or any other case where a potential COI can arise.
As any experienced Wikipedian, I’ve received some offers and requests in the past to edit our projects. And, just like most of our volunteers do regularly, I’ve been able to refuse these requests and, instead, I’ve explained how our projects work. I know it is not the same, but as a Board member, I would like to continue with the values of independence and good judgement that most of our volunteers have and that are in the core of our projects. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 04:48, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
Openness of board proceedings
Q. The minimal information contained within published WMF board minutes has attracted a large amount of adverse criticism from the community. While acknowledging that some board proceedings (for example relating to personnel issues) do have to be kept confidential, would you support a switch to the more open approach to minuting used by some of the chapters, in which the public minutes fully describe everything that is not explicitly agreed by the board to be confidential? For an example of how this works in practice, see the minutes of the December board meeting of Wikimedia UK. As a follow-up, would you support as a matter of course publication of all staff reports to the board, including ED reports, other than those parts that the board deems to be confidential?--MichaelMaggs (talk) 09:16, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
Confidentially should be limited to what is by US law. I have seen way to many excuses used to avoid transparency. Most of these reasons are not more important than knowing what the board's agenda is. The WMF is a non-profit educational organization, not a technologial business.Thelmadatter (talk) 00:30, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
Oh, yes. I would support a switch to the more open approach. I have mentioned above that I believe that having more detailed minutes (or minutes and notes from the meetings themselves) would be a good approach. Wikimedia Ukraine publishes the notes taken in etherpad during the meetings (for example, from February 1, 2016). Our agenda has fewer items, as we have meetings weekly :)
As for the publishing staff reports: I am supportive of the idea. We also have such practice in Wikimedia Ukraine (see the report of our PR-manager). In a volunteer-based organization it ensures better understanding by the community what the employee does and how his/her work is organized. It would be also useful to share updates about staff work not just as a list of “things accomplished”, but also including “things we are planning” or “challenges we see and are still thinking about”
These are all opportunities for valuable community input. And I expect WMF managers and other staff to be able to make the most of such input, which includes assessing the value of engaging with particular pieces of input, and the scale of time and effort appropriate for doing so --アンタナナ 23:35, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
This question has some overlap with the question of Popo above - please forgive me if my answer overlaps as well. The main importance of minutes is that they correctly depict what has passed at the meeting. It is important that the minutes don't become an obstacle to the meeting itself. I would would myself support a more detailed account of the meeting, with limitations for confidentiality and practicality. At the least, I like minutes to describe what has (not) been decided and why. I fear that a more detailed account (i.e. word-by-word) would trigger some people to be too careful with what they say, and make those arguments outside the meeting. A balance has to be struck, and I think the balance can be moved a bit more towards transparancy. In the end, the document has to be a fair and honest representation of the meeting.
I have not seen the reports, so I cannot make a well supported argument for those. But importance of the the board being well informed without attempts to smooth language for publication, should not be underestimated. If staff would feel restrained in informing the board, I would like to look for other venues to improve transparancy though - the importance is that the information makes it to the community, ideally one wouldn't wait with that until the board gets a report. But I agree it would be nice if the perfect situation could occur that all reports would be made publicly, where the board can read them, together with the feedback on it from the community. Transparency is an attitude, and I hope that we can grow a culture (forsofar that doesn't still exist) where staff members want to share information with the community. Effeietsanders (talk) 23:07, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I believe my answer to the “Meeting minutes” question above also covers yours; specifically it outlines what kind of minutes I'd like to see published (please let me know if you think it doesn't or would like more detail).
But really, non-confidential staff reports to the board (or anyone really) would ideally be drafted on public wikis instead of in Google Docs. There should be no requirement to publish them afterwards, they should just start out that way. And by using wikis, we can make these reports translatable and more accessible than pdfs that are uploaded to Commons and can't be improved by others. Legoktm (talk) 05:56, 20 March 2016 (UTC)
- Q: As a follow-up, would you support as a matter of course publication of all staff reports to the board, including ED reports, other than those parts that the board deems to be confidential?
Absolutely, a wiki is perfect to archive happenings and follow up. Since you brought up a link to WMUK board minutes, I believe the problem from BoT minutes is not how short/ how long it is. But how unclear it is that the discussion and notes from member of the board that should be happening in BoT minutes, move to mailing list and facebook. Siska.Doviana (talk) 22:03, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
I wholeheartedly support the idea of more openness․ Transparency and publicity bring trust and creativity. Secrecy or lack of information triggers mistrust and suspicion. At the same time we have to be realistic about how detailed information it is feasible to publicize each time. Overall, I think we need to find a more effective publishing mechanism of Board minutes: more detailed and systemized information, with more links, attached documents, etc.. In other words we need comprehensive information about each Board meeting. Also we need mechanism that enables quick feedback from community and WMF communication team, so the decisions of the board will more easily be accepted by community.--SusikMkr (talk) 15:30, 22 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes I support more openness. How it should be done need to be considered carefully, both not to be unpractical and disturb the actual meeting, but also so not there are so many details that it is hard to get the full picture (this might be solved with sub pages for the details). I absolutely support that all staff reports to the board should be created on meta, except for anything that might need to be confidential (this could be published later if the board with the help of the legal team thinks it does not need to be confidential). This would be a big shift from publishing the reports after the meeting. Ainali (talk) 07:46, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
I would. I have already replied to a similar question here. I see the WM-UK minutes as a good example on how you can report the meetings with transparency, where we can see how there is debate, there are reasons behind every decision. Some Board members raise concerns and questions, some people congratulate the staff, and decisions are taken. You can see a Board (and staff) doing its job discussing and not doing just the regular housekeeping, while the really important decisions are taken without any explanation.
Your remark about staff reports is very important, not only because I agree the Board would help building a more trustful environment by avoiding secrecy and disclosing with our communities all the possible information, but also because it would help the Board to assume its role of political representation and incidental mediation between the communities and WMF internal proceedings, avoiding systematic “outsourcing” of strategic decisions to the staff alone. I want a Board that gathers different sources of information, discusses and decides, not one that is merely rubber-stamping staff reports. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 20:00, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I would support such a switch. I think this could be part of a more general move to more transparancy of the WMF (See my earlier reply in this Q&A for more details).
On the staff reports, I support a 'transparant by default' approach at WMF level. Reports by staff members should be open except when this is not possible for legal (eg. privacy) reasons. MADe (talk) 20:33, 26 March 2016 (UTC)
Q. What is the largest non-profit group that you have overseen, in what capacity were you overseeing it (e.g. Trustee, ED/CEO, manager, team leader, etc), and how long did you hold that position? Please provide details about the number of staff, contractors and/or other organisations reporting to you, directly and indirectly. John Vandenberg (talk) 03:02, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
For non-profits, it is Wikimedia Sverige. First as a trustee for 5 years (with positions as regular trustee, secretary, treasurer and chairman) and then as CEO for almost three years. As a trustee there was everything between 0-7 employees, maxing at around 5.5 FTE's and as the CEO it was an average of 6, but short term hiring making it 8 (or 12, depending on how you define contractors) as a peak. Members went from around 250 when I started to around 550 now. Ainali (talk) 22:10, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
I have two different non-profit experiences on both sides:
WMUA is the largest organisation I have overseen as a board member: we have over 60 members, we had from 0 to 3 employees, the projects are usually done by organisational committees (usually consisting of volunteers), and I have been a part of a lot of such teams. I am a Board member since December 2012. I was a treasurer from 2012 to 2013. From 2013 to 2016 I held the key position on the Board of Wikimedia Ukraine (which due to inefficient organisation used to be an ED position - a volunteer ED who is a Board member - something I proposed to and successfully changed in our bylaws recently). Now I am a treasurer again.
MLI is the largest NGO I have worked for. We have 25 employees and over 20 permanent contractors. I started working there in 2010 as a financial manager, and for the last two years I hold the C-level position of financial director. I have three employees reporting to me directly, and if the Director is away, I am usually Acting Director.
Apart from colleagues from my organisation, I also work with many people from other organisations who report to us. MLI is co-initiator of Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) civic movement, consisting of 48 NGOs and think tanks and many individual experts. Since its creation two years ago MLI coordinates this coalition, offers institutional support to this coalition and is responsible for grant applications, evaluation and audit of most projects. Many of these NGOs, think tanks and experts report to us as well. I work closely with many of them, and although I am mostly engaged in financial matters I am also well aware of other aspects of these activities, as budgets and financial reports reflect the reality, not create it by themselves :) I would say that RPR is very much alike our Movement (individual volunteers, WMF, affiliates working together, but with very different levels of experience and power) --アンタナナ 18:17, 12 March 2016 (UTC)
For non-profits, I was in the board of Belgian Engineers Association (18 staff that time, 8000 members), South African Renewable Energy organisation (founding member), Wikimedia Belgium (founding president) and Wikimedia South Africa (board member). In both WM chapters I started in a difficult situation. In Belgium I was faced with community problems for years when I wanted to set up the local chapter. The last six months we had to fight our case with the Foundation. In South Africa I worked hard with the two remaining board member to revive the chapter, while we had two board members that were blocking us. I'm ready to use these experiences when selected as WMF board member.
I have been on the board of Wikimedia Nederland for five years, from its foundation up to the rent of its office space. In that period, we only had one contractor for a while, working on fundraising. I have been general board member, treasurer and vice president (with the president on long term leave). In those years, we did have easy years, and a big crisis, which we overcame quite well - with some valuable lessons on the importance of keeping an open attitude. In my current job I do oversee some people, going up and down between 1 and 3.
Maybe the most relevant oversight/coordination role that I have been in, was the organisation of Wiki Loves Monuments. I was part of the international team, responsible for coordinating up to 50 teams of volunteers and staff around the world, making up a total of hundreds of people. Obviously this is not quite the same as being on a board of a much more hierarchal organisation, but many aspects played a role. It was much more hands on than a board would be, but it did require a collaborative effort to keep the project on track, it did require an awful lot of communication and networking with partners. Finally, I'm often being told that I am a strategic thinker, which I'll leave to your judgement.
I have about 3 years of experience as chair of the board of Wikimedia Armenia. Prior to that, I was the main initiator to found WM AM NGO, I started organizing meetups and events since 2011. Wikimedia Armenia has FT employees. There are no other organizations reporting to it directly, but we have a large number of partners that I am directly communicating with. I furthermore coordinate the seven wiki-clubs in different locations and schools.--SusikMkr (talk) 09:23, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
The largest non profit group I have overseen is Wikimedia Indonesia. At the last count for annual report it has 47 contractors full time and part time reporting directly and indirectly to me. In 2013 it has 25 organizations, and two organizations of partners reporting directly/ indirectly to me. In 2015 it has 12 organizations of grantees, and two organizations reporting indirectly to me. I held the position for six years now. For non profit experience which I did not overseen, I worked in US Embassy mission, it has around 1,000 employees, I am volunteer as part of their employee association and they dub me "the debt collector" as I walk around the embassy every month collecting dues and report the stat, we use them later to do event/ parties/ donation for unfortunate events that fall to employees. A visitor to the embassy at one point was surprised that everyone from the security guard to ordinary employee wave at me, it was low level and voluntarily, and I didn't plan that side effect but it was pretty memorable because it was funny. In USAID project for environment I am the national contact, five regions of communication specialist report to me, and I compile them. Siska.Doviana (talk) 00:41, 22 March 2016 (UTC)
Aside from my staff role (software engineer) at the Wikimedia Foundation, I haven't held any formal role at a non-profit. I was the de facto tech lead of the SUL finalization project and was involved with the project from about November 2013 to its completion in April 2015. I've also overseen the creation and deployment of various MediaWiki extensions, nearly always working with others in a group.
As I said in my candidate statement, I'm not a conventional candidate for this election, I don't have any formal non-profit experience with an affiliate (outside of user groups). My expertise is mainly technical areas and a strong background in how the WMF actually works. I believe that my lack of formal non-profit experience will not hinder my effectiveness as a board member, as I believe that is something I can pick up during the first few months on the job. Legoktm (talk) 07:11, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
I was Executive Director of Wikimedia Argentina between 2012 and 2014. In that position, I was able to present the first application of the chapter for an Annual Plan Grant; our application was one of the best evaluated by the FDC, recommending full funding for the 2013 period and becoming the first organization from the developing world to receive an APG. In that context, we move from only one staff member (just me) to a total of 3 direct staff members at the time I decided to resign and return to my country, plus one fixed contractor and about a dozen people working for us on a per-project basis. We did not have other organizations reporting to us except for shared responsibilities with our partners in GLAM agreements.
Prior to that, I was the President of Wikimedia Chile between 2012 and 2013, as well as having led its process of formation over the previous couple of years. Wikimedia Chile was an organization of about 30 members at that time.
I currently work at the University of Chile, which is a government organization but at the same time is autonomous and, to that respect, also a non-profit organization. There I am the Chief Admission Officer, with 4 people directly depending from my office and a dozen other staff members and 200 volunteer students depending indirectly. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 20:07, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
I've been on WMFr board for 10 years, and lived it all from a small organization to what we are today with, in the middle, a huge transformation in our mission, organization, and focus. I did not take any other role in any other organization as I tend to prefer to focus and put all my energy in our movement. You know, crazy in love. Schiste (talk) 07:08, 15 April 2016 (UTC)
Making the WMF a membership organisation
There have been recent discussions on meta and wikimedia-l about possibly turning the WMF into a membership organisation, where members from the wider volunteer community appoint (rather than recommend) the majority of WMF trustees. Do you have thoughts on this?
I believe someone is looking into whether the WMF was supposed to be a membership organization and "somehow" this got either sidelined or erased completely. I hope this is not the case. There is a very good piece at the Wikipedian http://thewikipedian.net/2016/03/11/modest-proposal-wikimedia-future/ that, while it does not talk about membership per se, makes a good case for rethinking the Foundation's mission and its relationship with volunteers. It also points out very rightly that the problems began long before Lila's tenure, they just came to a head under it. The WMF and the board need to be held accountable, something sorely lacking for years. This is not only a problem with the board, but employees and affiliates take their cues from this and follow suit. I would have to see how membership would accomplish this. I dont think it is the only path.Thelmadatter (talk) 03:06, 12 March 2016 (UTC)
I particularly love this idea, because it fits with my three points I included in my programme:
- Firstly, membership organisations means we will need to focus more on our "volunteers" (create support material, set up "career paths", see the link to the Toastmasters material on my nomination page).
- Secondly; I believe the local chapters are the best level to manage memberships. Moving our community to a membership organisation isa move to stronger chapters;
- Thirdly, there is currently a strong push to more transparancy within the WMF. Also this idea of "membership" is one of the ways to achieve this. MADe (talk) 17:18, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
I would love to see some kind of structure where the community members have some actual rights, beyond the current 'right to nominate board members' (which is, to be honest, already quite something!). However, having spent a lot of time on the Chapters/Affiliations Committee working with bylaws, I can see how this gets complicated, quickly. Because such a thing would probably require some kind of personal identification (privacy! sockpuppets!), maybe even a membership fee (how to make that fair across the world) and we would have to build in mechanisms to avoid some extreme situations like where a sect or even a government would try to take over the organisation by simply making all its members/employees a member of Wikimedia.
But it is the thought that is most important: find a structure where the collaboration with the community is even more unavoidable, where the influence is real, and where there is a right to a degree of transparency & involvement. There are many possible mechanisms for it, and membership is a few of them. There are also other mechanisms possible, so lets keep this discussion going! But don't expect it to be finished easily. Focus on the goals, not the means. Effeietsanders (talk) 23:42, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
I believe you're asking two separate questions here, which both deserve separate answers:
- First, should the WMF be a membership based organization?
I will confess to not being totally familiar with Florida non-profit law (and I am definitely not a lawyer), but I've tried to keep up with the on-wiki and mailing list discussions surrounding the subject. I would be concerned with any system that codified benefits for users willing to give up their privacy and disclose real names over those that aren't. The biggest benefit that people have brought up recently is the selection of trustees and removal thereof. Which brings us to your next question...
- Second, should community selected board members be directly appointed by the community, and therefore only be removable by the community?
As far as I know, there's nothing preventing an amendment to the WMF bylaws stating that the results of the community elections are binding and those trustees may only be removed by a community vote. The former sounds like a good idea to me, but I'm not so sure about the second. The board's ability to remove board members seems like a reasonable check and balance, provided it is used appropriately.
But many community members don't feel that it was used appropriately in the case of Doc James, and there's been a significant breakdown in trust (also due to other events) due to that. (For a more detailed explanation on a lack of trust within the movement, see my response to the “What's the crisis?” question.) I don't think creating a system where we don't trust the board to do their job by not being able to remove trustees if absolutely necessary is a great idea, instead we should focus on making the board accountable for their actions. This would mean providing a full explanation to the Wikimedia community about why said trustee was removed. And if there's some legal issue preventing full disclosure, that should be explicitly stated, and the full details can be shared with a few trusted Wikimedians who have signed NDAs. Legoktm (talk) 07:21, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
I do think that wider volunteer community must have a right to appoint (not just recommend) WMF trustees, as volunteers are stakeholders. But I am not sure that making the WMF a membership organisation is the right way to do it.
I have followed that discussion, and I must say that I am in general not very supportive of it. It will be splitting community into two groups: members and non-members. Another issue: one is required to abide by the US laws and share his/her personal data in order to become a member. At the same time, there are lots of Wiki(m|p)edians who value their privacy. For example, in Ukraine we have a user who has won prizes in Wiki Loves Monuments but refused to receive them as he does not wish to share his personal data. Such people should not be excluded from participating in WMF elections. There are also other obstacles, including financial (the appropriate amount of membership dues varies greatly from one country to another) and legal (we have users in different circumstances, and if, say, a user from Syria wants to be a member and can afford to pay the membership due, it may be legally difficult for him/her to become a member of an organisation from the USA).There is at least one more issue: all members are to be treated equally, so they all have to have access to all relevant information and documents. And we cannot provide it, I think. The working language for the WMF is English, but there are a lot of Community members who do not speak English.
To sum up, I have too many concerns about this proposal and I am not sure how to overcome them just now, thus I am not confident that it is right to make the WMF a membership organisation now. I would like to look for other legal ways to enable the Community to participate in the decision making process, not concentrating on membership only --アンタナナ 00:48, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
I think that rather than focusing on appointments to the board, it is interesting to think about checks and balances on a wider scale. I'd like to see a system where the board are accountable to the community in some way. If a membership organisation is the right way to do it? Perhaps. I would like to get deeper in this discussion and reviewing a few alternatives before deciding on the specific model. Ainali (talk) 07:58, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
I agree that it's time to renew and reinvent the WMF, but I also think we should measure thrice and cut once before making radical decisions. Honestly, I need more time to reflect on this question. I also would need to talk to people from affiliates about this idea, random community members, from WMF, former Board members, to look through the issue from their position and take into account each opinion. Only then, I can summarize everything and come to clear opinion. This kind of R&D I have also done a lot during my scientific career.--SusikMkr (talk) 15:25, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
I agree that there should be more control from the community in the WMF. We, as a volunteers, are the main stakeholders of this organization and we should be represented as such in its leading body, but the community doesn’t currently hold a majority; it has 5 seats while the other 5 are held without any recurrent validation by our movement.
I fear, however, that simply converting WMF into a membership organization would greatly affect the minorities of our movement: those from smaller Wikimedia projects, those from smaller linguistic communities, those from unfavoured countries. In the last election, the highest ranked candidate coming from outside Europe and the United States got 7th place; the second highest one, 12th place. In general, this could further exclude those unable to speak English in a native level (and at native speed) or to devote their time to governing an organization. There are also lots of people that for different reasons may be unable or unwilling to join a formal organization (political, laboral, financial), and that have the same right than anyone else to have a say in the governance of the Wikimedia Foundation, and we are not even considering the millions of people that use our projects towards whom we have also a responsibility.
What we are needing is effective representation and, furthermore (or, better said, as a condition), back-and-forward communication channels and increased accountability. I believe this can be done without the need to turn WMF into a membership organization.
What we do need is a serious conversation about Board seats that isn’t imposed on the communities as the mere officialization of something that has been already discussed and decided in some obscure place. What we need is to end this logic where volunteers and affiliates are imposed a pre-defined discussion topic already biased towards a certain “solution” and where any possible negotiation is aimed at softening what is already perceived as an unwilled outcome serving the interests of who knows. What I mean is that we have to discuss the appointed and founder seats way before talking about restricting, one way or another, community-elected Board members. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 21:02, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
This is a legal question, and even though I studied law, I won't assume to be able to assess that. But the question raised, through that one, is one of accountability. On most of the other Wikimedia organization, accountability is partly enforced through membership. But just partly. Even with membership you can have a "black box" organization. So I'd rather focus on setting up things that do enforce accountability and leave the membership question to lawyers to provide us with an answer.
As for accountability, there are many things that do allow better accountability. The main way is to provide clear strategy and reporting on the strategy. The FDC brang that to many organizations, as now we do need to plan and report. Not perfect, but that is a step. An other thing is to have the board be more vocal. For years, at Wikimania we had ED speech, Jimmy's speech but not Chair speech. I'd rather replace the two previous one by a chair speech. Or even better a chair/ed speech. In our AGM, Nathalie and I share most of the speeches, in our trimestrail newsletter we write the op-ed together, and so on. Accountability goes a long way when, as a board, you put yourselves forward. And all of that is possible and comes down to clear vision, strategy and leadership.
In my new role at work, based on experience, it's the one things I did with my staff: I made clear where we where going, what was at stake and the "rules of engagement". I clearly told them that would we fail, I would be the first to lose its job. That I was appointed to put everything back on track, that it would be quick and radical but that on the other hand I would defend all of the decisions we're taking collectivly. They can't fire them, but I shaped a situation where I need them to move forward and if don't meet their expectations there would be consequences for me as we would not succeed. Accountability can take many forms, you just have to make it happen in the end. Schiste (talk) 07:06, 15 April 2016 (UTC)
Should there be an independent review / analysis of the recent crises?
From the article linked by Leigh in her answer to the previous question:
So what should happen? ... an audit / accounting of the failures of recent years. Wikimedia UK was required to do one following the Gibraltarpedia controversy; what’s good for the chapter is even better for the foundation.
Absolutely. Remember we work with donation money! As pointed out in an earlier question and in my programme, we need to work to increase transparancy and accountability of the WMF board. Performing audits is a part of this effort.
To reply to your question, I think we need both a one-time audit to see what went wrong in the last months (specifically the Knights Foundation Grant) and a permanent auditor to the board. But again, a simple audit will not fix it. We need to work on both communications, openness and accountability. I see this as one of my three priorities when I'm on the board. MADe (talk) 20:43, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
I may be one of the people that you're referring to. I don't per se believe in focusing on 'failures' though, but rather on possible improvements. What structures could be adapted, how can we function more effectively. Understanding what went wrong is only the first step. But at the same time, we should not try to do everything at once - focus on the few things that are most important. But I think that the board should seriously look at itself, and consider what it could do better next time, when facing a crisis. And if it needs some help with that from the outside, please get it.
As a more general note: the WMF should of course /always/ strive to be more reliable, more thorough and have better governance than the chapters it criticises/criticised (sometimes) so easily. Lead by example. Effeietsanders (talk) 23:40, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
Absolutely. When I work with funding bodies I found that one of the things that they are interested most other than success is the failure. What "lesson learn" one comes out with. Failure will happened whether we like it or not, the one thing that different will be the scale of it. It also shows that whether one learn, as a person (the head of executive, the decision maker), as an organization, and how one respond to failure: denies it (it is not a failure), mask it (it is a success), admitting it (it's a fail, and we learn...), or expose it (the guessing game and conspiracy theory begins). As I said earlier, transparency is just a tool to create trust, when trust already happened you need another tool in order to avoid conflict of interest, and when crisis arise - you need to do audit. To prevent crisis to happens again you need to know why it happened in the beginning. Siska.Doviana (talk) 00:58, 22 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes, there needs to be some kind of review, but it must be clearly scoped. In my answer to the “What is the crisis?” question, I stated it was a lack of trust across the movement. Trying to investigate why trust has broken down in every single case would not be a very good use of time and effort. Instead, I would suggest the following specific incidents and topics are reviewed, with the end goal being to improve our processes to prevent similar situations from happening again:
- Removal of Doc James from the board
- Gutting of the WMF HR department, leading to an inadequate staff support system
- C-level turnover and hiring practices
- Selection, appointment, and eventual resignation of Arnnon Geshuri
- Staff communication with the board and lack thereof
- ED's actions that led to her resignation, WMF's whistle-blower policy, and creation of an ombudsman position at WMF
- WMF policy and practices around restricted grants, with some focus specifically on the Knowledge Engine grant
That's not a complete list of everything that's gone on, but I think those are the most crucial to get the WMF back on track and start rebuilding trust.
Absolutely! Every cloud has its silver lining! We need a creative approach to this situation. I consider crisis as an opportunity for renewal. Review and analysis are a chance to look into different mirror, to see the existing problems from another perspective, to evaluate failures and shortcomings, seek new ways to improve the behavior and activities of key players, and doing so also improve the wiki movement in general. I would prefer to find the causes of failures and find solutions, rather than point out who is guilty. Sure, a creative approach will make us stronger, smarter, more transparent and create a better atmosphere both in the Foundation and the movement.--SusikMkr (talk) 18:31, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
My answer to this question is: of course. Though it is not that easy, as we do not want to get a simple recount of what has happened and why it has happened. We want to know what to do next, how to improve things, how to avoid making these mistakes in the future. We need an analysis to have answers and new questions. We have learned (I think) already that we need to be transparent and accountable, we need to communicate more, but we still are not sure how to do it right and (what’s important) how to keep it up. This review must help us overcome the problems, not point at some personal flaws and bad decisions. Thus we have to discuss and clearly define the focus of this independent review in order to make it really efficient --アンタナナ 01:33, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes, in some way it needs to be done. There has been so much happening that the organisation really need to improve processes and routines. Hence it is important to see which ones that were not working and why, in order to be able to improve them. An independent review could give that, if properly scoped. Ainali (talk) 08:08, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
I agree it is a healthy practice —and one that can do no harm. I share the idea that the Foundation will work better if only it applies itself the same practices on audit, accountability and reporting it applies to its grantees. But we shouldn’t expect an audit to solve the problem alone if the Board and the WMF don’t change their working methods —it would be yet another case of outsourcing decisions, this time outside of the entire movement.
Transparency and openness should be present now in the WMF, no matter if there is an independent review. We just can’t wait. That’s why I think the WMF proposal for the Annual Plan Grants process in a few weeks, following the FDC recommendation past November, is a great opportunity to put those values back in our movement and have an space where we can all work together again, as it should have been in the past. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 23:58, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
No. Having a review of the recent crises would be focusing on a tree and not looking at the forest. It's nice to say "hay shit happen, we're investigating that", but it often is pretty useless. Those issues are not a disease, they're symptoms. What is needed, in my opinion, is a more global audit of WMF structure, organization and power distribution. We've reached the point where the situation must be adressed as a whole and with a critical eye at every level. One thing that tends to happen in those situations is not reviewing what isn't a problem. but a department that seems not to be a problem also usually means a department that is not enough involved in the larger mechanics of the organization and had it been, some issues would actually have been avoided. So, third party expert help, really important. But review everything, not just what seemed to fail Schiste (talk) 06:53, 15 April 2016 (UTC)
Effect of the board seat to your Wikimedia activity
I am curious what would be the effect of a selection for board membership on your current Wikimedia activity, positions and/or work. Would it change? If yes, how? I hope it is not too late to ask you. Samat (talk) 17:55, 27 March 2016 (UTC)
I consider the board membership to be a significant and serious engagement, which should not be taken up lightly. To do it well, which I would intend, would mean a serious time investment, and this time has to come from somewhere. For me, that would probably mean that I will have to make some choices in which Wikimedia activities I engage in, and which not. I hope I can use overlap as efficiently as possible, but yeah, most likely I will not engage in some activities, I would otherwise have engaged in. For example, I will have to quit my advisory role at the Affiliations Committee (which I would have to anyway, as it would be a conflicting role). I do hope to remain involved with Wiki Loves and similar activities on a basic level (give input, think along, transfer knowledge, maybe a hand here and there) and I do hope to edit every now and then. But I don't have a crystal bowl, so lets see where things take us, if selected! It is never too late to ask questions! Effeietsanders (talk) 23:05, 27 March 2016 (UTC)
I have no other positions or work within Wikimedia so that is not affected. Regarding my activity I expect I would be doing even more monitoring on what happens and what discussions are important at the moment. This would probably be at the expense of the time I now spend editing. Ainali (talk) 21:35, 28 March 2016 (UTC)
As I stated in my candidate statement, I will be resigning from my job at the WMF if elected. I plan to continue on with my volunteer MediaWiki development work, and the other on-wiki roles I have as time permits. I expect that for the first few months my other Wikimedia activities will significantly drop as I am on-boarded onto the board. Legoktm (talk) 16:28, 30 March 2016 (UTC)
Hi! Before deciding to run for the Board, I already decided to not ask for a re-appointment to the FDC. I wanted to focus on my volunteer role on the projects, especially Wikipedia and Wikivoyage, participate more actively on the activities of Wikimedia Chile and support the Iberocoop members. Obviously, if I’m elected, I will have to spend most of my free time on the Board discussions and related matters. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 16:25, 4 April 2016 (UTC)
My situation is similar with the one of Osmar. Beginning this year I stepped down as WM BE president to focus on volunteering activities (both in and outside the WMF). After election, I will spend most of my free time on the WMF Board discussions MADe (talk) 16:28, 4 April 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for the question. I would have to resign from Wikimedia Ukraine board and Simple Grant Committee, and they both take as much time as I think BoT would require of me. And this would not affect my job, as by now I have learnt to work effectively enough to make up for the time I dedicate to my Wikimedia activities. BoT would not change the level of my involvement into other Wikimedia activities like editing or performing administrative tasks --アンタナナ 23:39, 5 April 2016 (UTC)
I intend to replace my WMFr time with WMF time. I am no longer editing Wikipedia on a regular basis, though I follow french community news and debates from up close. So mostly things would remain the same, just replacing a french org by a global one :) Schiste (talk) 06:44, 15 April 2016 (UTC)
Top board responsibilities?
Q. What do you think the top 3 responsibilities of the board are? How would your skills or experience (not your opinion/position) contribute to the board's ability to fulfill those three responsibilities? For example, if you think management and hiring of the executive director is one of the top responsibilities, how would your skills and experience help hire a new ED? —LuisVilla (talk) 20:19, 2 April 2016 (UTC)
The board handbook states that the board's role is that of oversight and making sure that the organization is fulfilling the mission. To put this more concretely, I see the top 3 responsibilities of the board as:
- Ensure the WMF has a long term strategy consistent with our mission and vision
- The WMF's long term strategy has to come from our communities and formally drawn up by WMF staff, but it is the board's responsibility to ensure it exists. I believe this is the top responsibility for the board, because the rest of it really doesn't matter if we don't know where we're going and where we want to end up.
- In my experience as a WMF staffer, I've observed and experienced many of the problems that a lack of long term strategy has caused, and recognize how important it is. I would be able to use my skills of effectively communicating information between communities and WMF staff in helping facilitate the process of creating and reviewing the strategy.
- Take care of legal responsibilities that are the board's responsibility, as stated in the bylaws
- The board has a fiduciary duty to the WMF, including approval of grants, audits, hiring an executive director, and more.
- With Denny's resignation, the board no longer has any members involved in Wikimedia technical areas, which is a huge issue, given how much of the WMF's work is technical in nature. I have a strong technical background and understanding of how MediaWiki and Wikimedia technical development actually works, and would be able to use my skills and expertise in that area in discussion of technical grant applications as well as in reviewing restricted grants that the WMF has applied for.
- The board needs to keep track of the movement's health, and identify areas that need change, and make decisions accordingly
- This involves paying attention to our communities, WMF staff, and external events that affect our movement, understanding what issues are affecting them, and determining whether and what the appropriate board response should be if one is needed. Bishakha discussed the different ways board members show leadership in her “Through Thick And Thin” blog post.
- I am a member of many different Wikimedia communities, and have strong relationships with many different Wikimedians, from different areas of the movement, and have the skills necessary to stay up to date with movement and external events. Knowing whether and how the board should act is trickier, but I believe I've picked up the necessary skills through my experiences with MediaWiki development: accepting a new feature into the codebase can easily impact MediaWiki users and developers for years to come, just like board actions will affect Wikimedians and our users for years to come. At the same time, I've learned that sometimes you need to realize you can't anticipate every possible consequence and have to just do it – something the current board is lacking. Legoktm (talk) 05:02, 11 April 2016 (UTC)
Hey Luis, the short answer is "steering". Steering iWmply, to me, staying on tracks. The board is there to define the direction, the values attached to the how we get there and ensure both are respected. Everything else you do, is actually to make sure that happen. Reviewing the budget, the ED, the actions, making decisions, setting a strategy, setting up an audit committee, everything you do you do so that you fulfill this role.
On the steering part I would add a second duty, "strongness". A board must always, no matter what, operate so that the organisation goes in the right direction. As a board you have to be able to assess and make decisions based on how things are going and leave aside the personal part. A board is responsible, in the end, of a mission that is bigger that the individuals. Your loyalty must go the organisation, to the movement first. Not to individuals.
As I write that, I realize that someone actually wrote that before me in a much better way : https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/board-roles-and-responsibilities with 3 duties : duty of care, duty of loyalty and duty of obedience.