Wikimedia Foundation elections/Board elections/2007/Candidates/Mindspillage/questions

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2007 board elections

A note to questioners: no, I am not answering in order! Some questions will take me a long time to answer, and others I can answer quickly. But if I haven't answered yours, I don't intend to skip it entirely, I just haven't yet gotten to it. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 02:03, 24 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Last December, the Wikimedia Foundation revised its bylaws to change itself from a membership organization to a non-membership organization. In a membership organization, the trustees are directly responsible to the membership; in a non-membership organization, the trustees are ultimately responsible only to one another (and indirectly to donors, who presumably will not donate if they feel the trustees are not being responsible). Do you feel that the Foundation, constituted as it is as a non-membership organization, provides sufficient structural checks and balances to ensure that the trustees observe their fiduciary responsibilities appropriately? Would a return to a membership structure, with the ability of members to bring policy proposals themselves at the annual meeting or by other methods, to remove board members by appropriate vote, and to sue the Foundation under certain conditions limit the ability of the Trustees to do what they need to do? If you do support a return to a membership structure, how would you determine who the voting members are? Kelly Martin 01:32, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

For the current revision, which was done just before my appointment, it changed nothing in practice; already there were no members of the Foundation and the revision only described what was in place.

As for the future, I don't think it is the idea of membership itself that is problematic, but rather determining who those members are.
I think the current state of the Foundation is greatly disorganized and that information flow isn't sufficient for there to be sufficient checks and balances, membership or not; it's hard to say whether membership would improve that or if simply improving organization and information availability would do it. I would like to see that kind of accountability, however it may be accomplished.
In principle I don't believe a membership structure, with members who did have a genuine concern about WMF's activities, would limit the ability of Trustees to do what is needed; speaking to leaders of similar organizations I don't believe Wikimedia can be sustainable under our current model if we do not have a dedicated core of people both providing support and knowing that their voices do have influence. However, being formally a membership organization requires being able to determine a bar for membership sanely.
And that's a hard problem, one I don't have a good solution to. Creating too low a barrier to entry means that those who want to turn WMF to their own interests would be able to do so more easily -- and we are an attractive target to many because of our visibility, influence, and potential commercial power. Too high a barrier to entry means that people who genuinely should have their voices heard will be excluded. (Part of what I like about the chapter structure is that it seems this is easier to handle on a local level than a global one.)
And so I do not support a return to a membership structure until this problem is handled acceptably; I think we need to think about it carefully before committing to change or not to change. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 02:05, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Office evolution[edit]

In what way do you forsee the office (and staff) evolving under your tenure as a board member, should you be elected? i.e. would you be in favor of expansion, contraction, status quo, more interns, new positions, less, what?Swatjester 01:05, 15 June 2007 (UTC) *cough*specifically on the interns part ;) *cough* Swatjester 06:38, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sorry about the weird timestamping, it was a cut and paste from the other candidates. Swatjester 06:38, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The most important staff changes coming up are the addition of an executive director and a legal counsel, both of whom should be brought on in the next few weeks; this is something that has been long needed but it has taken some time to find and negotiate with candidates for the positions. I'm looking forward to seeing the office have an executive leadership team in the coming months who are not too busy simply fighting fires to get things done.
As for the rest, this really isn't something the board will have much direct influence over; rather it will be up to the existing office staff under the direction of an executive director to determine what else is needed, and the board only having influence over high-level strategic decisions. The board has been too much involved in operational matters without this leadership and I at least am looking forward to stepping back and getting out of that;that's not what we're supposed to be here for!
As a personal opinion, though, I do think we aren't doing as much as we could be with structured volunteer help and I look forward to more such opportunities, such as internships; I know there have been a few more interns taken on recently (you might know one of them...). I'd to see more volunteer positions that carry with them defined responsibilities and commitments, on the Foundation side of things, in addition to the opportunities that currently exist all around for people to simply drift in and out as they are able. This is something I have seen starting to form already, such as the election committee, and then some from the project-focused side such as the Wikipedia 0.5 team, and I think focused, task-oriented groups like this are something we need to encourage in the future; this is something I hope Cary as Volunteer Coordinator can do more of with the office settling in more. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 03:27, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As you might expect, I am interested in the last paragraph. Is there anywhere online that you have....spilled your mind about this? i.e. a brainstorming page somewhere, or a blog or something, or is this something that one would just have to get in touch with you about? Swatjester 23:38, 19 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, I stopped my personal blogging around when I got involved with the Wikimedia projects: it took too much time for too little usefulness! I keep thinking of starting up again but never do; I write too slowly... For this issue I'd prefer to air any thoughts I have about this in a Wikimedia forum, anyway, rather than my own personal webspace. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 23:40, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Lesser-known projects[edit]

What is your opinion on some of the projects that are not as well-known as Wikipedia? Would you favour a situation where attempts are made to nurture these projects rather than almost-solely concentrate on the one that has the highest profile? --Brian McNeil / talk 07:12, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

I am also very interested in this question, best regards, --birdy geimfyglið (:> )=| 15:50, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Looking from the inside I don't think that the board concentrates on Wikipedia over the others, really, not of its own direction. The appearance of overemphasis on what could fairly be called the "flagship" project, Wikipedia, doesn't come from us but rather from the outside; this is what the most people are interested in, what the press wants to talk about, where people approach us to pursue partnerships, what people see as our success story... and also what people generally want to sue over. And I think it will always be the most successful and visible of the projects on its own momentum and because the culture was built around it to begin with, and not because of anything the leadership of the foundation does.
I do think we need to do a better job of making the public aware of all that is going on, that Wikimedia is more than just the English Wikipedia, and drive traffic and interest toward the others. But the initiative to nurture the less-developed projects—as do most of the initiatives to develop the larger projects!—must come primarily from within the project communities themselves, or from dedicated small working groups who want to pursue a particular project: that is, from the people who are best placed to do so. And I hope to see that happen. The Foundation's role is then to assist by making contacts, putting its name behind a proposal, or earmarking funds to carry out a well-thought out project proposal.
We may have occasion where for some reason or another—a partnership opportunity, a grant opportunity, something else—we have occasion to really push something that we otherwise might have left to its own devices, but really we as an organization can't commit to doing something without the people already there to make it happen.
The Board alone is a small group, some of whom have limited experience in participating on the projects, particularly the smaller ones. This is at its core a volunteer organization, driven by the commitment and interest of those who both build and use it; I think it is most worthwhile to give a push to projects that are on their way to succeeding based on the interest and motivation of those who use it, and that the primary drive needs to come from there as well. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 18:50, 19 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ads, branding, business dev., GHGs.[edit]

  1. On the board, will you vote for ads on Wikimedia sites?
    1. yes
      1. pop-ups/flash/banners/graphics
      2. flash/banners/graphics in skin whitespace or at bottom
      3. company logos in site notices
      4. prominent text ads
      5. company names in site notices
      6. text ads in skin whitespace or at bottom
      7. opt out
      8. opt in
      9. other
    2. maybe
      1. only for a huge amount of money
      2. only during budget emergencies
      3. only if editors support it
    3. never
    4. other
  2. What are your thoughts on the foundation's hiring of a business developer?
  3. Please elaborate your position on branding and partnerships.
  4. Please elaborate on how you'd vote on the board about the foundation reducing or offsetting anthropogenic greenhouse gases, e.g. power used by hardware, flights, etc.?

Thanks. -- Jeandré, 2007-06-17t07:57

Wow, lots of issues to address in this question.
I don't want to have ads, as I suspect most don't, and I will never support anything so obtrusive as a popup or Flash-based monstrosity. I'd like us to pursue other ideas for as long as possible. But I'm not morally or philosophically opposed to advertising, and I don't believe having it would conflict with our aims and values. (Not inherently: I think anything that required any influence over the content would be completely unacceptable. But something like Google ads, where the advertisers and the site operators have no contact with each other, does not have that problem.)
I think opt-in is completely fine; I wouldn't see a problem with us doing that tomorrow (provided we could work out the technical, legal, and financial considerations). As for the other sorts of ads: estimates of how much money advertisement could bring in are in the range of... well, of enough money to do almost anything we could think of wanting to do, and that's not something to be passed up lightly. And yet we continue to pass it up. I think we need to take a solid look at the pros and cons of it to have a clear, complete picture of what we're turning down and why we're doing it.
One note: if the foundation were in danger of shutting down because of financial crisis, I would not hesitate to support advertising, even if only on a temporary basis. (And then I wouldn't hesitate to want to figure out where we went wrong that we can't support basic operations on the money from donations alone, because we should, as a public charity with a great deal of community involvement and goodwill, be able to do that.)
If we do wish to avoid advertisement in the future, we need to look into other ways of funding. We can simply keep going as we have been on donations alone, but we can't do any more than that, and we're straining to. All of this that others are talking about even in the questions elsewhere on this page: supporting new initatives, new hires, new projects.
I do support the hire and consultation of people for business development; I think it is becoming increasingly necessary, not only to manage our own affairs but because businesses both established and starting up are wanting to enter into business deals with us, and we need someone with business acumen to evaluate whether these ideas make sense from that perspective, and what other options there are.
As for branding, I am undecided. I have little experience in marketing and branding and prefer to consult outside advice; my role in these matters is primarily to object where something goes contrary to the philosophy of the organization as I see it, rather than to formulate strategy myself. As a personal preference, while I recognize the strength of Wikipedia as a brand... I really don't like the idea of rebranding the other projects, which have their own "feel" and identity. I'm not dead set against it but neither is it something I'm happy to support. In face of compelling evidence that rebranding the others would be the right thing to do, I would do it. But I'd want to see that evidence carefully gathered.
My position on "greening" the site has already been expressed on foundation-l; to summarize for those who have not read it I support our being environmentally responsible and using no more resources than necessary, but I don't think that we should be diverting resources to go further than that. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 22:51, 20 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


My interest is for the Board to act with a long-term view of its mission in mind,
and not to take actions which might compromise WMF's future. 

That is nice, you are a guardian..right? ..can you please give me examples of the actions that might compromise the foundation's future?

I know that know..but don't you think that any decision is taken with the consensus of the board members can seldom affect the foundation in a bad way?...--The Joke النكتة‎ 08:06, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sure. Some examples of decisions that could compromise WMF's future include entering into disadvantageous contracts or partnerships that require us to give too much control to an external organization that may not share our interests. We could choose policies and practices that seem like a good idea, but that alienate the core community and cause it to fork or simply disappear.
And I do believe a decision taken by board consensus could be harmful: not out of malice, but sheer oversight. I've seen my role on the board this past term to be the person always pointing out what could go wrong, looking at new plans and initiatives and saying "wait, stop, what about *this* part?" (And now I wonder if my colleagues would agree with this characterization...) There need to be people who do that, to counterbalance and be a moderating influence on the people with grand ideas. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 03:33, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
yeah, I believe this is by and large a good part of your contribution indeed. You also bring a peaceful influence with you. Anthere


Hi Kat,

What is the top 3 things you want to have changed in the current strategy of the foundation? Thanks, Effeietsanders 10:50, 17 June 2007 (UTC) In no particular order:Reply[reply]

  • We need have a stable and clear enough structure, including solid executive leadership, so that we're not driven by reacting to the crisis of the day and wondering who should solve it, but rather have plans for it already in place and can focus on the needs already identified.
  • We need to have a more sustainable strategy for fundraising than we currently do, either looking to other sources of income or figuring out how to tap further into the pool of potential donors. We currently rely too much on the large donations of a small number of donors, and many others who may be motivated to support us have not done so because we have not reached them.
  • We should pursue more partnerships with organizations with common goals, where we can further each other's missions; organizations working to digitize public domain materials, to promote free software and free culture, to create educational content online, to do any one of a number of things that we also support, could benfit us and us benefit them working on common projects. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 19:04, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Added Value[edit]

Hi Kat,

What kind of value do you add to the current set of boardmembers (In your case only reviewing the other boardmembers, not yourself :P ) in the area of Legal, Financial, Accounting etc expertise? Thanks,Effeietsanders 10:50, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am currently studying internet law, and while I cannot give professional guidance in this capacity (I am not licensed to practice, nor do I have the necessary experience), I do at least have a reasonable picture of the types of problems that may crop up, what the the concerns should be, and where we will need to consult outside help.
My financial knowledge is also limited; while I have studied mathematics and economics I have no professional experience in finance.
A primary skill of mine, however, is simply being a moderating influence and having the ability to condense arguments and issues to the most important points, regardless of the area it is in; I regard this as an important skill to have amongst others with greater professional qualifications. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 22:15, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Checkuser policy[edit]

What is your opinion of the privacy policy, particularly relating to checkusering of adminship candidates? Majorly (talk) 13:24, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

First of all, adminship is a community matter rather than a Foundation matter, and in general whatever distinctions there are between the role of admins and the role of non-admins ought to be made on a community level.
On a Foundation level I do not think we ought to make a distinction in how our policies apply to one class versus the other. (There are certain positions and responsibilities that require the technical access of adminship, but this is a different matter.)
So, when should we checkuser editors, which admins are? I think a straight reading of the privacy policy won't go far wrong: when it is necessary to protect ourselves from harm and only then.
However, on the issue in general, I don't think users who are concerned about their anonymity should be relying only on a registered username as an anonymizer, and that those who are concerned should take appropriate measures as well. We allow anonymous editing because in general it encourages many people to contribute their knowledge who otherwise wouldn't, but we aren't an anonymizing service; our privacy policy in the ideal should be to protect users' privacy so far as it is responsible and in all of our best interests to do so.
My position on the situation you're alluding to is one I've already expressed as a member of the English Wikipedia community, both on-wiki on on-list, and in my copious free time I'd like to write more about it. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 01:33, 24 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Communication with communities[edit]

Smaller communities in my experience can have problem drawing attention of the Board to important community issues where Board input is really necessary. Do you recognise such needs are currently left unanswered, and what could change to let the Board process such requests?--Steven Fruitsmaak (Reply) 15:08, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I do recognize that the Board gets more queries than it could possibly deal with! And a lot of the queries we get, I honestly don't think should be handled by the board itself. I am looking forward to our hire of a legal counsel which will allow us to bring a speedier resolution to legal concerns.
For other issues, I notice a lot of questions regarding dispute resolution, new language projects, and issues that should be local community policy matters. For those issues that need broader input than a local community should provide for itself I'd like to see more working groups and committees set up to handle such issues, such as the language committee (its operation may not always be perfect, but the idea I am wholly in support of!). The Board doesn't scale to the point where it can handle requests from the hundreds of active project and issue communities that exist; it is simply not possible, however much we may want to be able to handle everything that is going on, and so there need to be groups that are empowered to handle those issues, who let only ones that they cannot handle or are of broader importance be filtered up to the Board itself. I think this would allow more requests to go answered by groups more able to handle them, and for the board's time to be spent on only the issues that really need its attention. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 02:14, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Foundation Growth[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation is growing at much faster rate now than ever before. We are trying to establish ourselves as a stable, mature, international non-profit organization. What type of organizational and management skills can you offer that will benefit the foundation?

I admit, there is no management position on my CV; my work experience is largely in independent, self-directed jobs. However, I do think I have some useful skills to bring to the table. I am able to take in a complicated situation and identify the most important points, to see when the problem is manageable and when we are attempting to overreach, to identify what people are looking for and what our position is in relation to that, and to have a good sense of what we are, what we do, and where we stand. I'm not the world's most dynamic leader—or even Wikimedia's!—but I think I am a decent catalyst. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 20:52, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Also, our advisory board ( is filled with experienced and competent professionals. The foundation can benefit greatly from their expertise and knowledge in various fields. Currently, their involvement in the foundation seems limited, how can you change the system to utilize their expertise? Do you think the advisory board should have more influence on decision-making? Vpatel 15:16, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am looking forward to meeting the advisory board at the Wikimania retreat this year; I believe part of the reason we have not drawn on the skills of the advisory board as much as we should is that we simply do not know each other well enough to have a good working relationship; several of us independently have called on individual members for their expertise, but we as a group do not really know the advisory board as a group. Even in a primarily online orgnization there is much to be said for simply meeting face to face!
I don't know about "more influence"—we've taken the advice we have gotten from the advisory board quite seriously and I can't say that we have a baseline for less or more influence—but "more input" would be a good place to start. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 20:52, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


You used to describe yourself as: a libertarian, extropian, transhumanist, contrabassoonist (among other things). What roles do libertarianism, extropianism, transhumanism, and contrabassoonism play in your work for the Board (past and future) and for the Foundation?--Ragesoss 18:35, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pretty much no role whatsoever, which is largely why I removed it from my user page. Well, I suppose that's not accurate; we all bring who we are into what we do. So I'll say that those labels do not factor in to what I do, but the outlook and general philosophy that leads me to hold them does.
I identify as libertarian because iI believe that central planning is often less efficient than people working on an individual basis and coordinating themselves, and that there should be minimal intervention by a central power to keep the basic requirements of a society going; what those basics are gets far too much into personal politics for this question. And the Wikimedia projects show an example of this philosophy in practice toward a successful end; it's got its lumps but on the whole I think it has made more progress than were there a formal editorial hierarchy determining how things go. (Jimbo said in a recent interview that you should read Hayek if you want to understand Wikipedia, and I think that's about right.)
I identify as transhumanist and extropian because I think it is moral and ethical to try to be better than we are, not to reject advances simply because they are "unnatural", that we can use technology for great advancement if we study it rather than fear it.
As for contrabassooning... well, I could say that as a musician I have a perspective on forms of content creation other than text, and an appreciation for what rich media can add to a reference work.... but really, contrabassoon is just admitting a bit of insanity. What else can you possibly say about playing a humongous instrument that looks like furniture and sounds like a foghorn? If I were really smart, I would have played the flute; those things fit in your purse. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 02:40, 20 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Religious Picture Ban – Muhammed (Islam) versus Bahá'u'lláh (Baha'i)[edit]

Islam is a religion which don't want to see/show pictures or images of the founder Muhammed. Baha'i is a religion which don't want to see/show pictures of the founder Bahá'u'lláh. Wikipedia in most languages show respect for Islam and don't show Muhammed. But Wikipedia in most languages show a picture of Bahá'u'lláh. Wikipedia show more respect for the picture ban in islam than it show for the picture ban in Baha'i. What do you think is the cause for this and do you think that Wikipedia shall treat religions equal? Caspiax

I don't think this is relevant to my Board candidacy as it is not a matter for the Board to decide; it's up to the individual project communities. As a Foundation position, all projects should represent a neutral point of view, but there is a wide latitude of editorial judgment within that. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 19:14, 19 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What are "free" works?[edit]

Hi Kat,

  1. What is your opinion on the fact that the WMF has based its licensing policy on a definition of free cultural works that is not controlled by the WMF itself but by some external group? Doesn't that make it harder to adapt it, if that should ever become necessary?
  2. How should, in your opinion, requests for clarifications from the community regarding said licensing policy and/or the definition of free cultural works or their impact on the Wikimedia projects be handled?
  1. Trick question: would you consider Image:Empire State Building3 Dec.2005.jpg or Image:HH Polizeihauptmeister MZ.jpg "free" works? They are properly licensed CC-BY-2.0 and CC-BY-SA-2.5, respectively... (please look at the images before looking at the hint :-)

Cheers, Lupo 10:30, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am actually in favor of having the definition of free works controlled by an outside organization. It "keeps us honest", so to speak; that is, we are adopting a common definition not only for our purposes but for being part of a wider community of free content organizations, and it is to all of our benefit to agree on a common definition and to draw on the knowledge and thought of people from the wider free content community to come up with this definition. The free content definition project is one I am in full support of; there is too much confusion currentl with the proliferation of licenses what exactly they allow and do not allow; in particular I think it is unfortunate that the Creative Commons umbrella is so wide because when someone says their work is "Creative Commons-licensed", it could mean only attribution required but it could also mean that you cannot modify it at all. Identifying a core set of freedoms that a content consumer must have in order for a work to be "free" will be a big step forward for the free content and free culture movement.
As for requests from the community: it really depends on the type of clarification sought. For a clarification of the policy itself, then those should be considered by the board in consultation with the community and advisors. For requests as to whether a particular work meets the guidelines, I think most of those need to be handled by the communities themselves.
I've been harping on this concept of small groups who are empowered to make decisions in their own fields of interest and I'm going to suggest that again here. The board can't answer all of these requests, nor should it. A group of people from the projects who are experienced and knowledgeable with copyright issues and have a commitment to free content would be the group to handle them, asking for advice from counsel when necessary. Even with the addition of legal counsel—which will be a great help for questions of codified law—many of the questions brought forth, I think, are not questions of law and legal interpretation, but rather of judgment calls and specific cases.
As for the "trick question"... well, a full discussion of this belongs elsewhere; I'm spending far too long on these questions anyhow and this is more of a factual research question! This is something that my say-so alone doesn't matter for, and requires a longer discussion of whether works can ever be free in places where there are moral rights, what the deal is with logos in backgrounds, what a private and public person are, etc., etc. A general philosophical statement relevant to my candidacy is that I do think we need to take a responsible, committed stance to freedom, even where it is inconvenient, but not to take it to absurdity. And yet I think that both of those pictures should be allowable—I would have to spend some time detailing why. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 23:22, 27 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Be present these proverbs and the reality of wikimedia[edit]

  • En cuanto a cualquiera que tapa su oído al clamor quejumbroso del de condición humilde, él mismo también clamará y no se le responderá. Salomón - Proverbs 21:13 --Constance 09:01, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • “No hay justo, ni siquiera uno; 11 no hay quien tenga perspicacia alguna, no hay quien busque a Dios. 12 Todos se han desviado, todos juntos se han hecho inútiles; no hay quien haga bondad, no hay siquiera uno solo”. Romans 3:10 --Constance 09:01, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My apologies for the response in English; while I can read Spanish, I do not write it well.
The first I will assume is referring to the fact that it seems like people ask for an ear and no one is listening, so why should they help the Foundation? You can see some of what I have to say about that in response to comments above, particularly those by Fruitsmaak—I think that someone other than the board needs to hear most of what is said, and then need to be able to act upon what is said. Already I read hundreds of pages of messages a week just to keep up on what is already going on, and can reply to only a small fraction of them; there are some issues that I can't be active on because there are too many voices to hear. I think this is true of all of the board, and I think this will only be more true in the future. The only solution I have then is to have more small groups coming from interested members of the community, perhaps also combined with people from the board and staff, who are able to handle certain areas on their own, who pass information along, and who can be a contact point for everyone in the community concerned about that issue so that everyone can be heard by someone able to help. And then when we ask for help, it is yourselves you are helping.
I'm not quite sure where you are leading with the second; I could take some guesses but I am not sure what you wish to say. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 05:33, 27 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sharing accounts[edit]

What is your opinion on family members/close friends using another person's Wiki account? Would you vouch not to allow other people use your account as <unnamed> board member did? MatthewFenton 15:27, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's been four days, do you take this election seriously? or for that matter: do you take these projects seriously? MatthewFenton 15:42, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nearing six days. MatthewFenton 12:23, 24 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
First of all, let me note, in response to your impatience, that this was an unfortunate time for me; I spent the first week after my candidate presentation away at a conference and had limited time to answer questions; I have been trying to catch up, but I have had to spend a large proportion of my free time doing so! I am not a rapid writer, and have endeavored to give serious and thoughtful responses. I don't think it is at all required of a serious and committed board member to always be available, or to devote several hours a day to a single task, and I think most qualified candidates will have a variety of other obligations as well. A board seat is not a full-time position, and if it starts to turn into one, something is wrong.
As for your question, I don't see what it really has to do with anything. You are responsible for the actions taken by your account, whether you take them or your dog does. I do not let even my partner use my account unsupervised (though certainly I've been involved in "group edits" where more than one person is standing over the screen at a time!), but I don't see what the concern is; you take responsibility for what is done in your name. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 23:34, 27 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was inpatient because I strongly believe Gregory Maxwell, your partner, used your sysop flagged account on the 23rd of March 2007 to edit protected templates. MatthewFenton 00:21, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, wouldn't it have been better if you had come out and asked me directly, now or at any point since then, so that I could have told you that you were under a mistaken impression, rather than insinuating it here and making it a general question to all candidates, who had to take the time to answer? Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 00:45, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You don't realise that there was motive to the question, it was intended to check how honest you can be. Your answer told me that your a) not committed to these projects and b) you are willing to be dishonest. MatthewFenton 09:47, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Headquarters location[edit]

From time to time there has been discussion about whether the Foundation's current headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the United States, is the best location for the office. Do you think that the Foundation should continue to be headquartered in and operate out of Florida, or would you support a move to another location? If you think a move is appropriate, where would you move the Foundation to, and why? Kelly Martin 21:36, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I would support a move out of Florida; it seems that it was only by chance it was located there rather than by deliberate design. Living in the Washington, D.C. area, having moved from central Florida myself, I can see huge value in being located near other like-minded organizations, even for an organization that operates almost exclusively online. Here, on my own time, I attend conferences, meetings, and events, meet up socially with people involved in compatible endeavors, and have several universities, museums, and institutions within easy travel distance.
I would like to see the office move somewhere that this is possible, and somewhere that we can draw on a rich pool of talented people to help us locally; DC is one possibility, New York City, Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco/San Jose are others, for example. I do think we should continue to be based in the United States both because of various US laws around speech and copyright, among other things, and because we are already organized as a nonprofit around US regulations, and at significant tax benefit to a very large portion of our donor base, and I don't see enough value in moving to change that.
Concerns include how this will affect existing staff, as well as the cost of a move both in the move itself and cost of living/renting space/taxes; it needs to be carefully considered but I would like to see it happen on the medium term if it is feasible to do so. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 02:01, 24 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


By nature and design, wiki communities are an amateur, unstable amalgam of widely differing perspectives and agendas. There is no individual or collective responsibility and no competence test for participation. Yet, the board of the ever-expanding and legally constituted foundation that runs one of the world’s top websites, needs to be highly professionally, highly competent, collectively coherent and responsible. It must have business savvy, and be willing to make hard-nosed and even unpopular decisions. In your opinion:

  1. Is the current board, vision and structure fit for that purpose?
  2. Are you? (Would you be a competent candidate for a board in any non-profit venture?)

(same asked of all candidates)--Doc glasgow 14:44, 19 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I do not think anyone would find an assessment of the current board as mostly inexperienced to be an unfair one; though there are some members with a greater degree of expertise than others in various areas the group as a whole is still finding its way.
As for willingness to make unpopular decisions, I think we have often been too much influenced by the voices of a few in making decisions even over the consideration that went into the decision in the first place. We need to come to grips with the idea that in a community as large and participatory as this one there is no decision anyone can make that some people will not be truly upset about, and act when there is strong enough reason that it outweighs the other concerns. I believe adding more outside perspectives to the board, such as Jan-Bart (who has been an excellent board member) is a help for this, in seeing when concerns raised are something that should make us rethink a decision and when we are simply trying too hard to please everyone, especially those people we have known and worked with for a long time and hate to disappoint. I would like to see expansion in the future go in this direction; while I am in full support of the majority of the board coming from the community, the addition of voices coming from outside who do have that understanding of what we do and what we need to accomplish provides some perspective we sometimes lack.
The current structure is not fit for the purpose; the board is too much involved with day to day operations and lacking the solid leadership in the office. But this is something we are all aware of, and working to fix; we are bringing more executive talent into the office to take this over and I have every intention of stepping back and letting those people do their jobs so that the board can fill its proper role and not everyone else's.
As for myself—when I was appointed to my first term, I was worried that I would be in over my head; while I have a broad knowledge of the issues facing the projects, mainly through my experiences handling a range of issues on OTRS, I had not been responsible for such a venture to such a degree. And I think I was correct in that worry; I felt as if I had been thrown into the pool for the first time and told to learn to swim; since then I think I have managed to keep my head above water.
I would not be a competent candidate for a board in just any non-profit venture. The skills I have that lead me to think I am competent to run here are mainly my knowledge of things specific to Wikimedia and organizations like it: free content licensing, libre culture, digital culture, internet law, and the philosophy and mission of Wikimedia; my knowledge of education, academia, and publishing are not quite so strong but something I am continually gaining experience in.
The skills I have that could be applied to any nonprofit board are not remarkable; many people have them in far greater measure than I do. That's not why I'm here; if you are looking solely for someone who does have the financial, governance, and fundraising experience, I'm on no one's short list. But I'm not running for any other boards. I know what I do not know; and I expect to call on the expertise of people who do know what I don't in order to get things accomplished so that I may focus on the areas where I am best suited. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 22:16, 27 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Chapters[edit]

Taking into account the growing importance of Wikimedia chapters in furthering our common goals on the one hand and the impact the decisions made by the Wikimedia Foundation have on the work (if not existence) of the Wikimedia Chapters on the other hand: What do you think about the idea of giving the chapters a formal say in WMF's decision making process? What do you think especially about a) letting the chapters appoint one or more board members (beside the ones elected by the community) and/or b) changing the WMF back to a membership organization (with the chapters as members)? Do you have any other ideas to achieve more checks and balances between Foundation and chapters? On top of that, would you care to elaborate on your vision about the current and future role of the Wikimedia chapters? Thanks in advance, Arne (akl) 15:42, 19 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't like the idea of giving chapters such a direct voice in leadership of the foundation for a few main reasons. Looking at the chapters currently existing, it's a bit haphazard and not necessarily representative of the Wikimedia community. There is a Wikimedia Germany and a Wikimedia France, for example, which represent some of the largest communities, but there is no Wikimedia USA, nor one in Japan, Sweden, or Brazil, all of which which have large projects in their countries' primary languages that ought to have their interests represented. There is, however, a chapter in Serbia and one in Israel, which have relatively small communities. And then there are varying degrees of activity and organization even between chapters: Germany has a very mature and organized chapter, and others are barely off the ground; should they all have an equal voice and all greater than the communities without formal chapters?
The idea put forth in a) would put a disproportionate amount of power in the hands of those relatively few communities which do have chapters, one that is not necessarily representative of the Wikimedia community as a whole, nor do I think it would best serve it. As for b), see my answer to the general membership question above; assuming such a change were to take place I would not support having only chapters as members but as part of a general voting membership it would be worth considering.
I see the chapters' primary purpose as being a group for local actions and local coordination. The chapters are better placed to coordinate with national and local institutions and mobilize volunteers in a region than the global WMF is; for example, the successes of the German chapter in particular. I could also see them taking a greater role in areas where in-person meeting and personal trust are more important simply because of the ability to meet more regularly, with the leaders of the chapters then being able to vouch for volunteers to the leadership of WMF; this is one of only a few ways I can see something like reporter or photographer accreditation (to touch on another question) ever working.
But without a more logical and complete structure in place I do not see it as having a direct influence on leadership in the short term. At this point in time the leadership (and often membership) of chapters are also heavily involved in the Foundation activities in general and so their influence is felt that way, and I do not see that extending into something more formal for the time being. With that structure in place, however, the picture would change. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 01:11, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Project policy involvement[edit]

What are your views on board involvement in writing and implementing policy for the various projects, especially in controversial areas where it appears that community consensus will be difficult to establish, such as on the "attack sites" [1] and biography of living people (BLP) [2] issues? Cla68 15:54, 19 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In general I think the board should stay out of individual project policy except where those policies touch on some area of Wikimedia's core mission. However, I do think that there should be some sort of group of policies that hold true across all projects: the neutral point of view policy is one, for example; there are a few others. And I think that a principle of taking care with articles on living subjects should be another. We are a powerful force online, more than many editors realize, and because of that I think that as a cross-project ethical principle we need to take particular care in places where that power may cause us to do harm.
I don't know how directly the Foundation should be involved in the actual formation of such policies, and the specific extent can be up for debate, but I do think that any project with a mission to do good has an ethical obligation to consider how it affects those it supposedly benefits, and these considerations certainly fall within that scope. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 13:59, 27 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What if[edit]

What would you do/recommend when elected and faced with 40% budget deficit? Absolwent 18:43, 19 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Cash & users[edit]

We need money and people. We have lost users (for a while) after this event. Nobody expected it, but... the same was in 2006. Do you want to talk about money (with these wealthy guys) and what's your opinion about that event ;)? Przykuta 11:56, 20 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I strongly doubt that the two are related; it looks more like a seasonal dip. As I think others have said, her statement was misinterpreted by the press, which is unfortunate (perhaps not if you subscribe to the idea that no publicity is bad publicity). Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 04:58, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wikinews and Accredited reporters attending events[edit]

Wikinews may be one of the lesser-known projects, but we recently managed to get a contributor entry to the G8 conference. Efforts were made to get the Board involved in the drafting of a letter for the reporter's entry to the G8, but these received no response. As an involved party there is more about this issue on Eloquence's questions page [3]. What is your opinion on this, it is - I believe - an issue the board should take seriously. Those of us who contribute on Wikinews are ambitious enough to think that we can overtake the Wikipedia article count (although I may be retired before we manage it there are new news stories every day). As we really want to be able to do truly original reporting we need people who can "almost" say they represent us. Do you support this, and do you believe the board should have been involved for something as important as sending a reporter to the G8 conference? --Brian McNeil / talk 21:09, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

I am wary about the idea of Wikimedia directly accrediting reporters. The accreditation policy is currently managed by the Wikinews community, and has never been formally approved by the Board; rather, it's within-project and the accreditation says clearly that it comes from the community. There's a lot of commitment and thorny questions involved in sending someone out into an event bearing our name and saying "this person is accredited by Wikimedia" and not simply by the project community, both in terms of our reputation and in terms of whether this makes Wikimedia responsible for what they write.
As in my response to Arne above I think some of this might be better filtered through local communities where people can meet in person and get to know each other, and then vouch for each other through local leadership and local organizations such as chapters, when someone will be going physically to an event.
In response to the specific incident, it seems from Erik's questions page that he was given less than a week to respond to your request to draft a letter, and I don't think that's a reasonable expectation; he's in the best place to answer that one regarding specifics. Whether or not I believe the board should have been involved I certainly believe that there should have been enough advance notice to handle it properly; we need to seek professional advice on questions such as this.
For the meantime, I'd like to hear more from working journalists about how people writing as freelancers also can gain entry to such events, until the question of what Wikimedia itself can or should do is more deeply considered; those I have spoken to before have suggested it is a reasonable option. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 17:59, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Impending failure[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation at a corporate level is soaked in its own drama and if conditions don't improve soon, it will crash and burn. I want the newly elected trustees to act as catalystic mediators to simply and peacefully transform drama into productivity and then success for the foundation. How do you plan on doing this? Signed, your friendly neighborhood MessedRocker. 06:07, 21 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That question doesn't seem like it was designed to reduce drama, either; I wish you had phrased it less provocatively. If WMF is about to crash and burn, I do not believe such conflicts will be the killing blow, though certainly they have been the cause of more stress and setbacks than they should have.
I am not a dramatic person. I try to be a very careful communicator and not let an emotional response run away with me, and I think this is something you can see throughout my history on the projects; rarely do I give in to the temptation to say something rash. (I have done it, but always regretted it.) My main fault here is that I stand back where I should say something, an undesirable consequence of being timid and trying to avoid butting in to everyone's business all the time; I am capable of corresponding in a professional manner even with those I disagree with or dislike.
In mediating with others again I think I am able to keep my emotional responses in check and work toward dialogue, identifying the main points of disagreement between warring parties and ways to resolve them, and again I do fail to get involved in some places where I should.
I believe I am a peaceful influence, in that I respond to drama calmly and rarely create it, and hope to improve my effectiveness here. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 02:01, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some questions for existing board members[edit]

  1. Since the departure of Brad Patrick, both Brad and the Foundation have been remarkably silent regarding the state of the WMF office and the reasons for Brad’s departure. Did the Foundation sign an anti-defamation agreement with Brad? If so, does it prevent the Foundation from providing a factual account of the situation that led to Brad’s resignation? Did you vote in favor of or otherwise support this agreement?
    No, we have no such agreement. I think it is fair to say that he and WMF mutually agreed that the difference between what we each expected was sufficient that we were not happy with each other, and I don't think the specific facts are appropriate or necessary to publicize—I have no reason to believe that there was any wrongdoing that should be reported regarding his departure, and I wish him well.
  2. While I realize that travel expenses are a necessary part of conducting the affairs of the Foundation, some individuals in the community are concerned about the appropriateness of some travel expenses incurred by board members. Would you be willing to share a list of the trips you’ve taken at the Foundation’s expense, and the rationale and total cost of each trip?
    I have taken no trips at Foundation expense save travel to board meetings (twice in the Netherlands, and once in Florida); beyond that I may choose to ask for reimbursement for my trip to speak with candidates for ED and legal counsel, which had a total cost of $200. I am also fortunate to live in an area where many meetings and conferences are local to me, and I am often able to attend at no cost.
  3. Concerning travel, many corporations adopt a travel policy to define acceptable and unacceptable expenses. At the board retreat last fall, a “reimbursement policy” was one of the items determined to be necessary, yet no such policy has been forthcoming. Do you support the adoption of such a policy by the Foundation?
    Yes, I support such a policy, and there is one nearly complete right now, which is only slightly altered from the reimbursement policy of a more professionally mature organization.
  4. Have you incurred any travel expenses that would be in violation of the typical limits of such a policy, e.g. first-class airfare, meal expenses in excess of $50 a day, or reimbursement of expenses other than transport, food, and lodging?
    No, I have not. However, I do think there is a case for expenses other than transport, food, and lodging and am willing to support reimbursement for those where it is a reasonable expense directly related to completion of WMF business.
  5. The Foundation does not make the votes of individual board members on matters before the board public. Do you believe it is wise for votes to be kept secret in this regard? Would you be willing to share your own voting record for the time you have been on the board?
    The main reason I can see for not disclosing individual votes is that resolutions should come from the board speaking as one voice, and not as individual members; we as a group agree to do this. But I have no particular objection to publicizing individual records; I've simply never asked why it was not done, and I would be perfectly willing to do so if researching the drawbacks found no compelling reason to do otherwise. Yes, I am willing to share my own.
  6. The board has stated that “involvement of board members in executive issues” is a major obstacle in recruiting an Executive Director. Do you agree with this statement? Do you believe that you personally have been involved in executive issues that are outside the board’s legitimate purview?
    Yes, I agree with this statement; I can't think of a professional executive who would wish to be micromanaged by a body that doesn't exist for that purpose. As for myself I think I am generally hands-off, both as a matter of philosophy and because I am not qualified for the job; my role has been more to ask questions than to get directly involved, and where I have been involved is only where it was necessary due to a lack of personnel elsewhere.
  7. The Foundation’s most recently issued financial statement covered the period ending June 30, 2006. Do you believe that more frequent financial statements should be issued? If so, what steps have you taken as a board member to move towards more frequent reporting?
    Yes, I believe more frequent financial statements should be issued. That they have not been is not through a lack of desire to have them, or through any motivation to hide information, but simply the level of disorganization that existed; we did not have good financial records until quite recently and several staff have been working on these along with the independent auditors; we now within the past few days have an updated set of statements available to the board which I will be able to review. I believe the only thing I can honestly do as a board member to get more frequent reporting is to enable the staff to do it in whatever way possible and to make it clear that I think it a priority; I am not on the audit committee nor directly involved in finance as I am simply not here for financial expertise, rather, I ask questions about the handling of finances as any intelligent person would be able.
  8. A major role of the board is oversight. Can you describe your oversight activities? How frequently have you visited the major operational sites (e.g. the Florida data center and the St. Petersburg office)?
    Honestly, I don't think there is much purpose to be served by my visiting the data center, or really by anyone's visiting the data center aside from those directly involved in its technical administration. I have visited the office only once since my term began. I don't think physical presence should be necessary for oversight, though I would like to visit again after the new ED is hired. Whatever oversight of practices I could do there is better done by the independent auditors, and I have read their reports and been satisfied that their conclusions seem to be in line with reality. As for management of staff, I do not think it should be the board's role to directly observe, though in the absence of executive leadership we've had to be more involved in operations; we should be able to review what is going on by having information available rather than by physical presence.

UninvitedCompany 21:23, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 23:34, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Article validation[edit]

What do you think of the idea of stable versions, article validation, and WP: 1.0? For example, see w:Wikipedia:Flagged revisions. Do you think the board has any role in this or do you feel it is a strictly local issue? Thanks. Voice-of-All 05:50, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

While the specific implementation is up to the project and technical communities, I'm in favor of the foundation giving resources to coordinated efforts such as these quality initiatives that have potential for great impact across a large number of wikis, which further our goals by making the projects more useful to the people whose benefit we exist for. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 03:35, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Executive director[edit]

I'm asking this question of the other two existing Board members too.

To what factors do you attribute the failure of the Board to this date to hire an executive director? It is now more than a year since Brad Patrick was hired as interim executive director, and just shy of five months since Phillips Oppenheim was engaged to help find a candidate. --bainer (talk) 08:27, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As you almost certainly now know, we've recently hired Sue Gardner as a consultant and special advisor. I cannot speak for the time before my appointment in December, but we have been actively involved in searching for executive staff, which included taking a look at our own role and evaluating our practices and what we would need to do in order for a suitable candidate to want to work with us; largely, being prepared to step back from the operational side of things.
While we realize the folly of waiting forever to find the idealized perfect candidate, I don't think it would have been at all a credit to us to fill the position sooner with someone who may not have been as qualified or as suited to such a role. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 23:53, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

IRC Debate[edit]

This is a mass question being posted to all candidates. A couple days ago there was a proposal to hold an all candidates debate on IRC at a time TBD. The planning page is at ElectionDebate07 - please indicate if you are interested and if so, a time that would work for you. -- Tawker 22:59, 23 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Responded there. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 03:05, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Most Wikipedia users are technically inclined, but usability studies have turned up serious problems for non-geeks, and many of these problemsd remain uncorrected.

Have you read these usability studies? Do you consider them to be important? Would you commission more such studies? How would you implement their results?

Here's an example from just a couple months ago: a journalist working for a major newspaper thought that "there's no way to tell who wrote the entry or how many people contributed to it" until one of his readers corrected him -- he works for the media! How many regular people know how to check an article's contributors? If i might be permitted to opine for a second: the fact that you can view the revisions of an article should be obvious from the design of the webpage, but it's not: "history" is a terrible, non-obvious name for the function.

Put yourself in your parents' shoes: you're reading a page about Thailand that you found through Google, and you see a square that says "history". You click the square expecting to read about the history of Thailand and suddenly you're faced with a long, mysterious list of nonsensical words and numbers. You click the back button. Aaron Swartz gave one of the best summaries of the issue that I've seen:

"The page design the site uses encourages specific actions by making some links clear and prominent. Software functions like categories make certain kinds of features possible. The formatting codes used for things like infoboxes and links determine how easy it is for newcomers to edit those pieces of the site.

All of these things are political choices, not technical ones. It's not like there's a right answer that's obvious to any intelligent programmer. And these choices can have huge effects on the community.


One presentation was by a usability expert who told us about a study done on how hard people found it to add a photo to a Wikipedia page. The discussion after the presentation turned into a debate over whether Wikipedia should be easy to to use. Some...questioned whether confused users should be allowed to edit the site at all -- were their contributions even valuable?

As a programmer, I have a great deal of respect for the members of my trade. But with all due respect, are these really decisions that the programmers should be making?"

How would you solve this problem?

Tlogmer 00:10, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I would like the site to be as usable as possible. I don't think that's a controversial position; I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone disagreeing. But I haven't been impressed with any of the usability studies of Wikipedia that I've seen: they make recommendations that improve usability in some sense, but that are too superficial, and ignore the realities of the projects.
I'd have to reread them to recall details, but I've been disappointed. One, for example, recommended that we eliminate mention of copyright and licensing from image uploading, because it was too hard. (Which we can't do and still be able to ensure that the images are free. The improvements Commons has made to uploading, such as splitting the process into multiple pages, have been helpful.) Many also recommend wysiwyg editing—which is fine for the sort of simple editing that doesn't require much markup anyway; once you get beyond that into more complex things such as templates, it becomes difficult or nearly impossible. (To opine a bit myself: I'm not optimistic about wysiwyg; the implementations I have tested suffer the same sort of non-intuitiveness and steep learning curve as wiki markup, only without the flexibility, and without the ability to transfer that knowledge to MediaWiki sites without it.)
Of course programmers shouldn't be the only people making these decisions. I don't think design and usability people should, either. There needs to be a broad spectrum of input. I worry that commissioning expert studies by people who are not knowledgeable editors of the site would produce more conclusions that don't suitably meet our needs; as the saying goes, we should make things as simple as possible, but no simpler. (At one illustrative extreme, a site which is not editable at all would arguably be much more usable, but much less suited to our goals!) And I don't think many attempts to improve usability on the site pass this test.
I certainly think we should be more open to experiment and testing of site changes than we currently are; many people on the projects are firmly against testing anything new because they're not certain that they want that change as a permanent fixture. I don't think it hurts us overall to be slightly worse off for a short time if allowing such tests results in progress. I think we would be best off with a cultural shift toward realizing that we are still very much a work in progress, and that like the content, the site itself is open to change and improvement to better serve the needs of those who use it. I don't claim that this is easy, of course. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 02:21, 30 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Recruiting expertise[edit]

Danny Wool has proposed replacing the current board with "a professional board consisting of captains of industry and academia" -- presumbaly, web leaders and information academics, etc. Do you agree? What do you think Wikipedia can learn from, for example, professional writers of paper encyclopedias like Britannica? How should the foundation best recruit their advice and put it into practice? Tlogmer 00:10, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't agree entirely with Danny's statement. I do see the outside perspective as useful and valuable to have, definitely; I don't think I need to go on at length about the benefits such expertise would bring because it's clear to anyone, and I was glad to see an "outsider" appointed along with me this last term. But I do still think that the majority voice needs to be those with direct experience on the projects. It's difficult to have a complete understanding of the group you're working with without that experience.
Too many projects fail because leadership comes in who don't get the ethos of the projects they come in to; they have generic experience in the field but their attempts at improvement based on what has worked for them before does not necessarily fit, and this is particularly true in an organization like this one, which is almost completely horrifying to contemplate to... well, almost anyone with professional experience anywhere else.
And so with us; we are a delicate ecosystem of sorts and I worry that bringing in too strong an outside voice, even a very competent and professional outside voice, may not be the best move. I would rather we relied more heavily on the expertise of our advisory board, who are the sort of professionals that Danny refers to (at least I think so), and see where that leads us and what we need to change from there. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 03:20, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Appropriate conduct for Board members[edit]

Recently, in a non-Mediawiki forum, Erik Moeller made the following comments: "Cyde's and Kelly's arguments are on the same level: they are driven by blind hostility, not thoughtful analysis." [4] Do you believe that responding to criticism of one's credentials and conduct as a member of the Board with personal attacks such as these is appropriate for a member of the Board of Trustees? Kelly Martin 00:51, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You already know my answer to this question, in principle. I don't think it's appropriate for anyone to be making ill-considered assumptions or overgeneralizations, no, and especially not someone who's supposed to be setting an example of leadership.
A board position, exposed as it is, is inevitably one that draws criticism from all angles, some of it harsh and perhaps undeservedly so even for the most sage of people, while those of us who are further from perfect draw more of it yet. And still those holding one are obligated to respond gracefully and with careful consideration; if not by any formal restriction, than by social pressure to set an example of how we think the organization should function and what sort of discourse we want to see within the communities.
But for that matter, I think anyone who wants to participate in that discourse ought to consider themselves held to the same standard.
(Note that I think this differs from dealing with identities who come out only to troll and cause harm, to whom something amounting to "go away" is sometimes the only answer. But not everyone who hurts you is a troll.) Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 19:03, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wikiquote & copyright[edit]

What's your stance regarding Wikiquote and copyrights? As it is, most wikiquotes depend and extensively use fair use content, which is contrary to the philosophy of most other projects. What are your views on this? Should wikiquotes move to only free content? Should resolution on fair use have a special exemption for wikiquote? Should fair use be removed from Wikiquote after deadline for the resolution? drini [es:] [commons:] 16:06, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


A bunch of questions :) Can you give an estimate of how much money that the foundation has spent so that you can attend meetings? Any other expenses? Do you know how much in total for all boardmembers, has been spent by the foundation in the last year? Will that cost be higher or lower, and why? How much money (estimate) does the foundation have on hand now? Are we gaining or losing money? If we are losing money, what can be done about it? Do you think that the foundation will have the same amount of money that it has now 4 months from now? If not, will we have more or less, why? I know that is a lot of questions, and I appreciate any responses. Thank you. —— Eagle101 Need help? 19:13, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hm, this looks like a research question... As the financial statements for this past several months are not yet compiled into a format where it's easy to see this data and trends in it (the drafts are less than a week old yet), I can only give rough answers.
I don't make my own travel arrangements, so I don't have the figures at hand, nor do I have immediate influence over the cost. I would estimate about $4000 has been spent on transportation, lodging, and food/daily expenses for me to attend the three board meetings since my appointment (two of which were overseas for me, as most of the board members live in Europe); I've claimed no other expenses. This should be similar for others, with some variance for different cost of travel and miscellaneous related expenses for others. I imagine total cost will be higher next year; I think the trend of quarterly in-person meetings is a worthwhile one, and should the board be expanded as has been spoken about several times then costs will increase to some degree.
You ask whether we are "gaining or losing money", which is a question difficult to answer; what do you mean? The monthly expenses are more than the typical month's income, but one fundraiser will bring in enough to make up this difference for months, including enough for large expenditures such as hardware purchases. No, I do not think that we will have the same amount of money 4 months from now; we should be having another fundraiser before then. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 06:36, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

IRC Debate[edit]

Hi, as this seems to get closer to the time that the elections are to start, I thought it would be best to go ahead and attempt to get the unofficial IRC debate a time and a place. By the time analysis on the talk page, the best time for the debate appears to be 1800 UTC, to 1900 UTC. As it would be best for this debate to occur before the elections, June 27 was chosen as the day. I know that this is short notice, but the whole unofficial debate thing was on a very short notice to start with. I hope that you are able to attend. Again the time is 18:00 UTC, June 27, 2007, it will be held at ##wikimedia-debate. Please do note that this debate is unofficial, and you are not required to attend. —— Eagle101 Need help? 20:38, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks for the notification. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 21:13, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Donors and scope[edit]

Asked of all candidiates: Okay, I'm not naive so yeah, it follows that large donors will probably get some pull when policies, direction and the scope of the foundation get decided, but what's your take on it all? How far do we bend to satisfy our donors, and to what extent are ideals of the foundation non-negotiable? In five years say, would you expect the foundation to still exist in the same legal fashion as now and assert ownership over the assets it currently has? Steve block 20:43, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

We've turned away offers of large amounts of money in the past because the offers came with conditions that were against our ideals, and I think we can continue to do so. We talk a lot about wanting to take in more funds to better achieve what we want to do. But we're not desperate for it, and what is money if the organization it is to support has to be bend from its ideals to do so? That would be no success for us. I consider the ideals of the WMF non-negotiable regardless of the power of the interests behind it.
I don't think large donors should get "pull" as you state, and we should refuse any money that comes with those conditions; for any board member to do otherwise would be a grave mistake. We've paid for the luxury of having principles quite dearly by some measures, and yet without doing so we wouldn't be having this discussion; you wouldn't be asking questions to determine whether or not I am suitable to be voted in because Wikipedia would have been bought out already and changed beyond recognition, and your voice wouldn't count for much. Our ability to set the direction of the projects and the communities to manage their own policies independently, once lost, is not something that can be taken back easily or cheaply, if at all.
In five years, I expect the legal structure will be more mature and possibly quite different—I certainly hope so—but I think we must hold to the same ideals: the content is free and the tools are free so that the projects don't need the Foundation to exist, and were it to fail tomorrow someone else could pick up where we left off, with no exclusive agreements, promises, or restrictions to limit that. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 05:38, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you very much for your answer, Kat. Steve block 15:35, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

success as a Board member?[edit]

Dear Kat, what thing do you consider as the main success of your membership? How much time requires this rôle? Could you spend this time more usefully if had not a Board member? Best regards, Incnis Mrsi 22:20, 26 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The issue I think I have been most influential in during my term is the licensing policy, in joint effort with Erik; I think it was important to reaffirm and clarify our commitment to free content as a Wikimedia-wide principle, particularly as several projects had shown signs of drifting from it, or of not accepting it as part of the mission. On the same theme I have been active in discussion of the future of free content licensing in general, particularly considering Wikimedia's position and the ethical considerations of any future action; this is a long-term project that has borne few if any visible results, but that has taken careful thought, research, and cooperation. Runners-up include mainly things I was involved in arguing for the board not to do; not glamorous, but necessary.
How much time the role requires depends on what is happening; if I am in meetings or if there is a major issue occurring it may take several hours per day but on average board duties are a not a heavy time burden. (With the board able to begin handing off operational tasks to employees now, it should not be too demanding of time; if it is, it generally means something is wrong.) Of course, it is difficult to separate board-specific activity from general activity as a member of the Wikimedia communities, and more broadly as a member of the wider community committed to parallel goals.
I think that if my answer to your last question were "yes" I would be foolish to run. There are many projects I could be doing right now that might make more of an impact on a purely personal level (for one thing, at this rate it will take me ages to push out the academic papers I'm trying to write), but few places where I may be as useful to the world around me. I believe Wikimedia is an important endeavor; the ideas behind it are shaping the way information is spread and used throughout society. As arguably the most successful, visible, and influential project of its type, its effects ripple outward to people, organizations, and ideas in ways that are hard to fathom. It needs people in its guiding leadership with an understanding of its philosophy and practices, a long-term, principled outlook, and a commitment to its ideals and goals.
And with that description I remember why I continually wonder if I am up to the task! Nevertheless, I see myself as able to help it in this way, and the position as a worthwhile use of my time and effort. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 05:32, 30 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What do you do when faced with a difficult decision to take ?[edit]

I saw in the recent irc debate the following question. Would you support releasing the state of the foundation's finances quarterly? Why or why not.. Of course, making such a decision is a matter of board-level policy. Now, the job of the board is also oversight. So, let's imagine the hypothesis that the board made a policy for quarterly release, the staff was asked to provide the statements according to the policy... and in spite of this, the report does not come. As board, you are embarassed. First because the policy is not respected. Second because the community is complaining. And third because, with no financial statements, there is no oversight possible. Please imagine you are facing this situation, reminded the staff once, then twice, then three times, and still no report.

What do you do ?

Personal challenges[edit]

Above[5], you spend some time discussing how your religious and political perspectives have only a minimal impact on your ability to perform foundation duties. One might, however, be more interested in knowing about aspects of your personality which would have an impact on your performance. For example, Why did you fail to mention your life-long struggle[6] with social anxiety disorder? Those us of who are unaware of your limitations might think that your complete unwillingness to attend speaking events on behalf of Wikimedia has more to do with a misrepresentation of your appearance ([7] vs [8]), age, or race rather than factors outside of your control.

Do you feel that having perfect SAT, GRE, and LSAT scores are enough to compensate for your handicaps?

Are you able to learn from your past mistakes? Humor a curious fellow and please spell ĭn'kyə-năb'yə-ləm. Please do not to cheat by looking it up.

Thanks for your time. --John 02:36, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Short answer: dude, WTF?
Long answer:, I'm tempted to stick with that actually. For such a proficient (read: somewhat creepy) Googler you're not so good on the follow-ups, though; I've made several speaking appearances on behalf of WMF, including the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in 2006 in Washington, DC as well at the Women in Technology Summit at Harvard in 2007. (And for those who care, I played a full hour-long recital in 2005 without incident.) I'll leave your other inaccuracies for you to ferret out yourself. Now, please go amuse yourself elsewhere; read an incunabulum, or maybe go hang out under a bridge. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 03:04, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sister Projects[edit]

One of the issues that has been brought up frequently this election, and in the recent past (especially on foundation-l) is the issue of the sister projects. Candidates in this election make up an entire spectrum of attitudes towards the sister projects: Some candidates want to remove them, some want to "rebrand" them, some candidates are indifferent to them, and a precious few candidates are even interested in actively helping and supporting them. As a Wikibookian first and foremost, I would hate to wake up one morning to find Wikibooks had been deleted, or "rebranded", or placed "under new management". What is your position on the Sister projects? --Whiteknight 02:44, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You might want to see also question Board elections/2007/Candidates/Mindspillage/questions#Lesser-known_projects, best regards --birdy geimfyglið (:> )=| 13:39, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That does answer my question, thank you. --Whiteknight (meta) (Books) 00:08, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nice timing! I was just responding to this, as I don't think I answered all of your question. But if you're satisfied with it I suppose the objective was satisfied! Still, here's what I had originally written:
There's that answer, and then also you should see my response to Vpatel where I expressed my position on rebranding. I'm not a fan of the idea; I think each project has a distinct identity and a rebrand wouldn't fit. However, neither am I firmly opposed to the idea; I would want to see compelling reason for a change.
I also can't imagine a project being deleted in such a way that a regular participant wouldn't know what was going on. I think it is possible that we could decide, some time in the future, that some project doesn't fit under the WMF umbrella as well as we all might have hoped, and that it should go elsewhere; I cannot imagine this happening without massive debate and a sense from all involved—especially the project communities—that the direction of the project and the direction WMF wishes to go are no longer compatible. (For Wikibooks in particular, some contributors may choose to fork, as is their right, but I can't imagine WMF not wanting to keep the project!) Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 00:15, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

fund raiser and chapters[edit]

do you support to facilitate fundraising by offering a direct link to country specific donation possibilities? an example woulde be medecins sans frontier's donation page. in wikimedia's case the donation page for the year end fundraiser would contain flags, and the links behind the flags would go to the donation page of local chapters, for two reasons:

  1. local law (which donators know and can make use of) strengtens donators feeling, that their donations are used at their will
  2. local tax exemption allows to donate up to 50% more without paying more

--ThurnerRupert 12:13, 28 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'm currently not in support of redirecting donors to local chapters during fundraisers because of the legal and tax-related restrictions that prevent local chapters from being a significant source of financial support to the global WMF.
The local chapters have been a great service in some ways; the toolserver, for example, benefits the whole Wikimedia community, as does the development work on stable versions, both funded by the German chapter. But I worry that diverting too many of the donations to country-specific chapters, and presenting that as the most desirable option, would reduce the funds coming in to the foundation that pay for hardware, hosting, and staff, which are the bulk of expenses, and without which the work that local chapters do is of no benefit.
There are certainly strong reasons for someone to donate to a local chapter, particularly where a chapter has tax-exempt status. Potential donors should be aware that the option exists, but I don't think donating to local chapters as a default option during a major fundraiser is the most efficient use of donors' resources for now. In cases where using the funds locally would be a more effective use of donors' money for the overall goals of our projects, I would be in support. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 00:44, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"most efficient use...", "divert money ...", "tax related reasons prevent ..."? huh? mind-spillage maybe, hehe ;) you do not want to throw dirt on chapters integrity and efficiency, and the brightness and attitude of people from outside the u.s. without stating evidence, isn't it? isn't it very easy to make the chapters donation page tailored to local law and guide donors so they are able to pay their money on whatever account is necessary to reach the donors goal, and aren't chapters obliged to do that by law - as they have "support wikimedia projects" in their bylaws? --ThurnerRupert 16:30, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It looks like you take an awfully dim interpretation of my meaning! I don't think "throw[ing] dirt" is a fair suggestion as that's not at all what I meant. I would love to be able to make everyone happy, but the world does not always wish to go along with me, and I am reporting on what I understand to be true based on the information I have, told to me by people from those chapters—not what I would wish or what I am happy to say.
What chapters can properly do with the money has nothing to do with the "brightness and attitude" of anyone. As I understand it, and I may be misunderstanding, it is difficult at least in some situations for donations that go to the local chapters to be used for expenses and equipment paid for from the Florida office, without which there are no projects for a local chapter to support.
Huge amounts of confusion surround anything to do with legal and financial considerations. Already it is complicated to make clear to donors where the money is going, whether or not it is tax-deductible, where you can send donations, in what currency you can donate... and bright people get confused, not because they cannot understand, but because you cannot, should not, expect people to spend a long time studying options simply to give money to a project they like.
I have never said that I do not want people to donate to the chapters; I do, and I have tried to make it clear that I think they are worthwhile. However, I think the focus during a major WMF fundraiser should be on the global pool of funds. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 20:52, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

it is very easy to make everyone happy: unlock the true potential in donations for the cause "free knowledge". the current total amout donated and paid for the cause "free knowledge for everybody" is just 5%-10% of the potential sum, and therefor a very poor result. so our goal should be more the like: up to 10% of the working people give 1 eur/usd per year to "free knowledge projects", be it wikipedia, wikiversity, etc. this would amount to 3´6 mio euro (>4mio usd) alone in germany, and 10mio usd in the states. we want to reach this with:

  • two click no fee 1€ donation
  • two click big tax exempt donation
  • one currency, one law, legally sound, very simple page per chapter
  • provided by local experts

be assured the chapters will find a legally compliant way to support what we are obliged to by the donators, by law and by the bylaws. be also assured that the chapters people know the local law much better than you with your "i heard that somebody said that she heard sombeody saying that ..." style from above.

and be assured, the free content created and used by millions of people will easily survive the foundation, and even the chapters.

--ThurnerRupert 14:06, 2 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The committee system has been around for roughly a year and a half now, not counting previous initiatives. Several of the committees are now dormant and some never got off the ground. Some, conversely, have done fairly well.

I know this is a long-standing and groan-inducing topic of debate, but what is your view on the committee system? Do you have ideas for reviving the current committee system or making it more functional? Do you think there is a place in the Foundation, in theory at least, for community-based committees to do some of the day-to-day work or oversee certain areas? Who should the committees report to, ideally? Are there new committees that should be formed, or old ones to be reworked?

Sorry about posting my question(s) so late! Note: I know you addressed this briefly under "communication with communities", I'm wondering if you have additional thoughts. -- phoebe 00:34, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hah, groan-inducing indeed. As you might be able to see from answers to other questions, I support more community-based structures for handling these types of issues, but not necessarily ones as broad and as static as the current committees; even those which have succeeded have done so in spite of this. (Not to fault the idea of creating them to begin with—but now we need to fix them!)
I won't go on too long as I think I've covered this adequately elsewhere, but I think we need to combine more community structures for problems that currently get taken too often to the board and which should be the domain of regular dedicated volunteers, combined with a cultural shift toward more professionalism and responsibility in these groups, and a narrower focus for the groups that exist. For one example, Special Projects Committee was doomed to fail because of its broad scope (oh, how easy that is to say in hindsight!); better to have a smaller group of people for each project who will be dedicated to that project.
Who the groups should report to depends on what the group is; I think of a structure where some may report to staff and others to the board. For many basic office functions where consistency is important, I think they must be handled primarily by staff, with volunteer help as appropriate; I think we have outgrown having our accounting done mainly on a volunteer basis! But definitely, as a primarily volunteer organization, I think most projects and initiatives should be supported by those closest to them. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 03:09, 30 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you for your reply. Hindsight is indeed at least closer to 20/20... doing something about it in future is the tough part! -- phoebe 08:02, 1 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Free resources[edit]

Wikipedia, being one of the ten most visited sites in internet, has some negotiation power. I believe we should be able to use this power in order to increase both the freedom and quality of the encyclopedia. In example, the board could contact copyright holders of promotional images (places, objects, models, singers, bands, etc), and convince them to release their items under a free license. I have been doing this myself, but I believe the Board could have better chances than a single person, a WikiProject or even a Wikipedia project. What do you think, do you think this could be a priority? And good luck! -- ReyBrujo 18:37, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In cases of individual works I think that most of this needs to be done by individuals from the community itself, as one small group working alone wouldn't be able to handle it—to help with this, there are already several boilerplate letters for users to send to copyright holders explaining what the case is and what free licensing is.
Where the Board could have the most influence in this is in several areas: first, by maintaining a principled and uncompromising position on free media, emphasizing the mission of free content and the importance of creating materials that are free in this way.
Second, by appealing to content-related organizations. Not with someone that sees itself as a competing media repository like a Getty Images or a Corbis, but perhaps seeking the discarded photos of a newspaper or magazine, or encouraging a photo hosting site to offer its contributors the option to freely license and to note specifically which licenses will allow use by Wikipedia. (This is something that perhaps ought to be handled directly by staff. But the direction from the board is there; I think it is clear that this is within our mission and worthwhile.)
Third, by putting the free content nature of the projects and the need for free media—and the benefits of releasing freely—in publicity materials such as press releases where those not familiar with us may see it.
And then, finally, it needs to be taken up by the communities, who should all have people who are able to explain why this is important to us and how to help.
I think it should be clear that this is something that we as an organization would like to encourage, so long as it is done respectfully and patiently, and with an understanding of the perspective of those creating the content and what they want to happen to their work. If you see opportunities for contacting someone for a large-scale request it's something we would be interested in knowing. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 07:35, 2 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for your reply. I am used to contact photographs, even agencies and record companies for promotional elements (success appears to be indirectly proportional to the sizer of the contact, unfortunately). One of the points people use when replacing free images with fair use ones is that the current free one does not have enough quality. Personally, if we could use discarded promotional content (in example, an Alf promotional poster, a three or four years-old promotional image of a band, etc), it would really help the spirit of some users who think the project is going downwards in quality because of the forced replacement.
I have discovered marketing and promotional teams quickly understand the benefits of releasing a limited amount of content under a free license, but the push is usually blocked by the legal team of the company. I believe the board could issue a press release, in example, asking for high quality promotional content, which we could use to contact these agencies and companies. Or releasing a joint press release after a deal has been achieved with a company to get free content. In example, I recently discovered the Dutch government agreed to provide free images. This is an outstanding achievement, yet it was published in the rather techie signpost. Why wasn't a public press release issued? We need a place to make public the agreements for free images, a place where we (editors contacting companies and agencies) can point and say "Look all the companies who have been supporting us", "Look, the Dutch government agreed to provide free images of their chair, your company could do something similar with your board", etc.
We must show everyone that others have been contributing to us. A press release requesting images, press releases every time we obtain a deal, press releases every time we hit a milestone (100, 250, 500 free promotional images). A note at Wikinews to make that information public, maybe contact a friendly reporter at CNET, eWeek or somewhere else and drop a hint that, say, Wikipedia just obtained a thousand images from a record company. Personally, it is worth a try, don't you think? -- ReyBrujo 03:29, 3 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Several questions[edit]

I am asking these exact same questions of you and all your opponents so I can make an apples-to-apples comparison.

  1. Do you think the Wikimedia Foundation should invest in stocks and bonds so that it has a source of income if donations dry up? If so, should its investment strategy be active or passive, diversified or focus, value or growth?
    Not right now. The amount of capital required to support ourselves through investments at this point would be... well, it would be infeasible; if we had enough money that this were a realistic option no one would be talking about finance woes but rather arguing over what to do with it. Depending on market returns, how much risk we would want to take, inflation, annual growth rate of our own expenses... at the lowest back-of-the-napkin estimate I have we need to be able to make an investment of many times our annual spending to make this realistic.
    As a long-term strategy it is worth looking into. But for now, we need to build up our sources of funding so that we are able to consider it. As for the specifics of what to do once that is the case, this is what professional financial advisors are for; I am not one.
  2. Do you think the Foundation's spending on travel and conferences before it has a long-term source of income is responsible?
    Yes, I do. Even for an organization that exists primarily online, face to face meeting is tremendously valuable. The board currently meets roughly quarterly in person; during that time we're able to have more productive communication than over IRC or mail, and able to get to know each other and work with each other more effectively.
    For conferences I don't know if you mean conferences we travel to or that we put on.... for Wikimania, the bulk of the cost is covered by sponsors and by attendees, though WMF puts in some money directly itself, particularly for sponsoring travel for both leadership and community scholarships. (Because what is a conference if no one can come?) These conferences are huge community-building and information-spreading events; most community-oriented projects have regular meetings and conferences for this reason and I think it would be a mistake for us not to have them. If you mean conference travel by members, very little of that is paid by WMF directly, and where it is, it is usually for Wikimedians to speak, to present, or to pursue specific networking opportunities that often lead to partnerships or donations. Such events are a small expense in the grand scheme of things and can have a high return in either donations or publicity and goodwill, and I think they are worthwhile.
  3. Should some of the Foundation's major financial decisions, such as expansion of the paid staff, be subject to referenda of the editors and donors?
    It depends on how formally you mean that. We're not currently a membership organization (see answers above for my views on that) and so formal action in this regard is difficult: who may do this? However, we are responsive to concerns raised publicly; all major financial decisions end up public by necessity and therefore criticism also.
  4. The oversight function -- where edits are hidden even from admins -- has legitimate uses, but the potential for misuse is Orwellian. How can abuse be avoided?
    The main mechanism right now is social pressure, and through limiting access to a small group of people who are trusted to act responsibly and identified to WMF; concerns about its use can be sent to the whole group able to use it, who may check each other and escalated as necessary. It's not something the board controls directly except where it creates legal or otherwise wide-ranging implications, but so far this system seems to be working.
  5. Do you believe control over Wikipedia content policy should ultimately rest with the man who created the skeleton of the site, or the editors who create its flesh and blood and/or their elected representatives?
    Interesting phrasing...! What control Jimbo has over content policy is that which he has through social custom, not any formal power. Therefore, my opinion on this as a candidate does not matter (unless I wanted to impose my will on it through the board one way or another, which I don't think is appropriate). If you'd like to change the current practice, it's a cultural shift you want, not a foundation policy change.
  6. What is your position on freedom of expression in the User namespace?
    My position is that unless it is legally problematic or otherwise endangers the projects, it is a community and not a Board concern.
  7. Where U.S. copyright law unfairly impedes Wikimedia Foundation projects, should the Foundation lobby for the law to be changed? If so, how should it do so without spending money it can't afford?
    Well, we are limited on how much lobbying we can do, officially, as a 501(c)(3) organization. There are groups such as Public Knowledge and the en:Center for Democracy and Technology in the U.S. which are actively working on this from a political perspective and experienced in directly influencing legislation, and I think it is better if we support efforts such as theirs where we wish to get involved, rather than engaging in it directly ourselves.
    The way in which we really are able to have an influence on changing copyright law and practices should be as an example of what it is possible to do with free content, and of what it is not possible to do while some works remain under tighter protections; our own publicity may mention the effects that various laws have on the way we are able to operate and what we would want to see for a healthy information society.
  8. To what extent is Wikipedia yet reaching the developing world, and what could you do during your term to speed that up?
    I believe the main way in which Wikipedia reaches the developing world for now is that the freedom of the licensing and the software enables others more experienced in distribution and who have more direct connections to projects going on there to use Wikimedia projects' content. The One Laptop Per Child project is perhaps the most obvious example of this; there are others printing textbooks and distributing offline versions.
    I think the best way for us to move forward here is to partner with organizations who are directly in the developing world, who have the contacts and the experience to know what will be most effective at sharing knowledge there.

Seahen 05:37, 30 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 17:58, 1 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wikinews and building on an unexpected publicity opportunity[edit]

As I would hope you have seen, Wikinews has made a splash in the news as the original non-blog source for the story of a prank edit to w:Chris Benoit's Wikipedia page. Our Alexa rating has skyrocketed, Google news has hundreds of articles that mention - or cite - us. I had planned to sponsor a Writing Contest on Wikinews following these elections - but this seems like too good an opportunity to miss. I've asked a few people to contribute to the prize pot, but most of our local contributors don't have the spare cash.

  • First question, should we do things like this - we've had other competitions in the past and the daily article count has gone up significantly.
  • Second, are you prepared to put your money where our projects are and donate to the prize fund?
  • Third, if you are prepared to donate to the prize pot would you also be prepared to help out as a judge? I feel the impartial position the board should strive to take day to day would be welcome in defining rules and judging a competition. --Brian McNeil / talk 11:17, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
    • to the first, I do think it is a good idea, though my opinion isn't the important one here! I think that any community effort to improve the quality of the projects is a good thing, and if it can take advantage of the increased recent publicity so much the better.
    • The second question I don't think is appropriate to ask here and so I leave it unanswered.
    • As for the third, I simply can't promise you the time; having seen previous WN writing competitions it's required a fair bit of the judges' attention and I'm not able to say yes to it in addition to the other things I keep up with. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 23:15, 30 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Attack site" link bans[edit]

On English Wikipedia, there has been some controversy about whether it is, or ought to be, the policy that linking to so-called "attack sites" against Wikipedia and Wikipedians is to be banned. Some administrators have (overzealously, in some others' opinions) removed links to criticism sites from such places as talk pages, evidence pages for ArbCom cases, and even in a few cases from actual articles where they were being used as a source. I wrote an essay on this issue. What is your opinion? Dtobias 04:02, 1 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

How will you deal with this...[edit]

Whenever I can not find the specific answer to a question in an article I turn to Wikipedia help. In many instances, however, the reply is devoid of thought or knowledge and merely a student's guess to fill blank space on the page as if to say: "Here is my guess. I've done my job. You have received my authoritative response."

The guiding principles are already there: material should be verifiable, and contributors should cite their sources. If we demand that every contributor produce a perfect footnoted and referenced article on their first try, we will have very few contributors. The value needs to be expressed to the local project communities that this information needs to be checked, cited, cleaned up, so that it will be useful. (I think this is happening on many projects, particularly the more mature ones, while the smaller ones and still more in the stage of collecting the raw material for a good reference work.)
But even being diligent, things will always slip through. And so it's also a matter for public education to let people know that Wikipedia isn't guaranteed accurate; that it's as good as the people who have edited it, and you should use it as a starting point, but not as the final word. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 12:34, 6 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Still waiting[edit]

I'm still hoping you could provide a response to the question I left at en:User talk:Mindspillage#Foundation licensing policy. —Remember the dot 03:42, 3 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't really know what to say that I didn't already say in my 2 responses to your emails. If the image is free of restrictions, than it can be used freely; if it does have restrictions that mean it is not under a free-content license, it can only be used under a project's non-free content policy, which must be no broader than US fair use, but potentially stricter. The legal status of that particular image or potential alternatives is a research question; non-free content within the bounds of foundation policy is a community question. I may later leave comments on what I think or have turned up in other places, but neither are within the scope of this page. Kat Walsh (spill your mind?) 19:12, 3 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Let me try to be be as clear as I can. Fair use does not apply in this case. The only thing that says we have to limit the use of this symbol unnecessarily is the Foundation's desire to punish "god-like creators" for retaining copyright over their works. The symbol poses no harm to either us nor downstream users. We would not want to modify the symbol because if we did it would lose its value as an internationally recognized symbol.
Perhaps I should rephrase the question: Do you think that what the Foundation's policy has done to our ability to use copyrighted international symbols is fair? Do you think it is justified?Remember the dot 20:50, 3 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Actually, a simple statement to the effect of "The community can make its down decision about how to interpret the policy; the Foundation doesn't want to get involved" would suffice. —Remember the dot 23:53, 3 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

How to deal with consensus of uninformed editors[edit]

Sometimes a popular opinion is contradicted by scientific evidence. Majority of editors stick to the popular opinion (which is also theirs) and vote to delete all pages that contradict their opinion (intrinsic weakness of democracy). As a result Wikipedia propagates old prejudices. How would you solve this problem?

Supporting evidence for the problem: Once I wrote several pages on Einsteinian physics (I'm just doing my PhD on it) and all of them were deleted by consensus of editors (9:1) who preferred their old high school physics :-). Unfortunately their high school physics was invalidated about 100 years ago by Einstein. Yet till today one can read as the first statement of Wikipedia's Gravitation: "Gravitation is a natural phenomenon by which all objects attract each other". According to contemporary science objects don't attract each other they just look like they do. Similarly as the Sun looks like running around the Earth while it doesn't and there exists a simple explanation in both cases. So I just explained the simple Einsteinian mechanism of this apparent attraction, since I thought it may be interesting to Wikipedia's readers. All those pages were deleted by consensus of editors cooling my enthusiasm for Wikipedia. So the issue of propagating old prejudices, because of democratic process involved in editing, seems to be very real in Wikipedia. JimJast 14:06, 4 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Majority biasing the facts[edit]

12:35, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

Dear Candidate,

it is an increasing frustration to me that a supermajority of wikipedians has apparently decided to defend their common view of the world as the only truth. All minority views are blocked. This goes so far as to not allow facts, which are acknowledged to be true, on article pages when they are seemingly at odds with this view. This tends to make the articles POV and destroys the knowledge and hard work brought together by many, many editors in this unique enterprise. It makes wikipedia a very unreliable and biased source of information. Subjects are e.g. terrorist attacks. Will you make an effort to change this trend? It is imortant to us that the guidelines are upheld fairly and equally, and not just to defend a single viewpoint.



How to attract authors who know facts[edit]

How to attract authors who know facts (e.g. from the scientific literature) and could pupularize them dispelling cultural prejudice about those facts but don't have time to waste on fighting misinformed editors. Those editors unconcsiously push their popular, and therefore already generally accepted, POVs (since brain, being a perfect antibody, automatically rejects any new idea) deleting the new pages by those authors. Those editors always prevail since they have much more time than those authors. How would you address this issue? JimJast 17:39, 6 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Who Writes Wikipedia?[edit]

Late question: do you have any thoughts on this essay (and if so, what)? It suggests that Jimbo formed a radically false picture of anonymous users and their contributions to Wikipedia. This may have far-reaching implications. Dan(pedia) 21:40, 6 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A Fairer Voting System[edit]

Would you support the use of choice voting in the next Board Elections?

Choice voting protects majority rule while providing for the fair representation of minority views. Voters rank the candidates 1, 2, 3, and so on, in order of preference. If your top choice either is not elected or already has enough votes to win a seat, your vote goes to your next choice. No vote is wasted, and all viewpoints are represented. Choice voting would drastically reduce the number of wasted votes.

Choice voting can be used for single or multiple position elections. It is used for national elections in a number of countries including the Republic of Ireland. It is also used by a wide variety of organsations such as students' unions, charities, trade unions, universities, hospital trusts and housing associations. Choice voting is already used to elect the board of Nominet UK.

Choice voting is also called preference voting or wikipedia:single transferable vote (STV)

John Cross 16:59, 7 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]