Wikimedia Foundation elections/Board elections/2008/Candidates/Questions/2

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The election ended 21 June 2008. No more votes will be accepted.
The results were announced on 26 June 2008.
2008 board elections
Organization

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Questions

Future growth[edit]

While some large individual donations have been made recently, the foundation is currently heavily reliant on small individual donations. Technical and other expenses continue to increase, as does the paid office staff. How do you see the future of Wikimedia fundraising? Should we be so reliant on small donations and long fundraising drives? And, how should the money be spent? Should the foundation continue to expand in size (personnel) and scope (expenses not directly related to the projects: Conferences, open source projects like en:Kaltura, offline content) or should growth be slowed to be provide more financial security in the future? Mr.Z-man 05:41, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
  1. Fundraising will continue along the lines of regular fund drives for many small donations and going after some big grants.
  2. See 1.
  3. Economic spending, primarily to keep the servers running, and a small administrative staff. Costs of life events should predominantly be covered by sponsors and admittance fees.
  4. Growth should not be slowed
Alex Bakharev
I think as the project grows in size so WMF budget should grow as well. The project is worth every cent that was spent so far. I think we still need small individual donations but we should be more active in seeking governmental grants and corporate sponsorship. We need more money to be spent on the promotion work including participation in conferences. Such events like Wikimania and local meetups should be self-financed by the registration fees. Large expenses outside our traditional areas should be reviewed and discussed with the broader community, it would be better if the money we spend on that came from targeted donations. I think it is fair that people donating money should know beforehand how we intend to spend them.
Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Large contributions are wonderful for us, but we must never forget the small contributors. Growth is wonderful, any attempts to limit would be harmful to our mission. Donations appear to be a viable source of funding for the future.

We have a duty to our donors to provide the most cost-effective ways of fulfilling our mission. We have limited resources and we must ensure that we use them best. Ensuring the effective delivery of information should be our top priority. I expect that this means that the majority of our budget will be providing for the technological operations (servers, bandwidth, etc). We can rely on volunteers for a lot, but some stuff we must have an employee do. Staffing should be the next largest expense, but it should only be a small percent of the overall budget. Conferences should be self-financed. Other expenses not directly related to the projects should be kept as minimal as possible.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
We should embrace growth, not fear it. We should similarly embrace small donors. The Obama campaign's enormous success with $5, $10 and $25 dollar donations is proof positive that small donors can effect enormous changes for a greater good, and will turn out in droves if they are inspired to do so. We need to get that kind of inspiration out there in a more proactive way. Stifling growth would not serve to help that, nor does it suit our mission. For every new person that we bring Wikimedia content to in a manner in keeping with our mission, we win. The more we reach, the more we win. If we stifle growth, we will seek only to lose our biggest advantage, which is our market leader position. This is especially threatening given that our content is free. We have to grow more, do it better, and more efficiently than our competitors, or they will be the new Wikimedia. This means investigating new open source opportunities, new projects, new languages, new offline projects that are cost effective, and innovating what we do have. That last part is a key. We MUST innovate with what we already have. Make Wikimania more cost efficient. There's a start right there. Find ways to leverage the MediaWiki community to improve our current projects that are not growing as fast as we'd like. Find incentives to get people more involved.

My biggest desire in this field would be to see an endowment for the Wikimedia Foundation. Though they are slow to develop, and especially will take time with us, they do provide, at a small level, a permanent source of income that will only grow year after year. Eventually, (or if we are fundraising well, perhaps concurrently) we can develop an endowment for Wikimania, that will pay for the event(s), pay for scholarships, etc, so that money is not coming out of the Foundation's budget. It may not be feasible. But it is what I'd like to see. Personally, I would donate quite a bit of money to an endowment for Wikimedia. I'd be much more inclined to donate say $1000 USD to something that is going to be a recurring source of income year after year, than donate $50 every year. The more people that feel like that, the more Wikimedia Foundation benefits.

Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
This may be the political "third rail" of my candidacy, but I would aggressively explore the opportunity of reader-optional contextual advertising. Money accrued would be used to pay for the Foundation's operations, maintenance of the servers, and begin a legal fund endowment. Everything in surplus of that could be given to the world's leading humanitarian charities with the highest ratings from independent philanthropic auditors. (Much like Paul Newman's commercially-funded "Newman's Own" non-profit efforts -- $200 million since 1982.)

We are witnessing a resource that the Foundation is squandering. Wikipedia’s traffic is worth at least tens of millions of dollars in ad revenue per annum. This is money that could (for example) fund the dissemination of free (libre and gratis) paperback pocket encyclopedias to tens of thousands of schools and millions of children, in their own language, around the world. It is frankly irresponsible to talk about helping the children of Africa by our mission, yet abuse this financial opportunity.

Seeing how the Board has too often failed to exemplify accuracy, ethics, and excellence in media (I don't need to list the failures over the past few years -- those who know what I'm talking about know what I'm talking about), I can fully understand why there is community skepticism that large sums of advertising money would not corrupt the organization and its output. But, at some point, we need to take the simultaneous steps of cleaning up the Board and acting as a responsible charity with an obligation to fulfill a noble mission. National Public Radio uses corporate sponsorships to fund 23% of its budget, without any significant damage to its brand and reputation. Why not the Wikimedia Foundation?

Harel Cain
(Harel)
It's difficult to answer your question without full access to all relevant data. I can imagine that as the novelty of the foundation wears off, we will have a harder time raising donations from both individuals and organizations. If that is the case, certainly the board should keep tabs on expense growth, and refrain from engaging in costly projects that are only peripheral to the foundation's goals, and stick to the mainstream activities (making Wikimania biennial for example might be a great cost-saver, and a quite natural step in years to come). No-one ever said that the foundation should grow and grow exponentially. I'm not sure we're really scraping the bottom of our fundraising potential though, especially from big corporations and organizations.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
What was that line in the song? "We ain't ever gonna be respectable!" ? We should face it; wikipedia will never be stable. We are riding a tiger, a tiger of knowledge gathering and dissemination, and as long as there are remote areas in Outer Molossia, down by the river Sylph, (completely invented examples, to avoid geographical bias) where people have never heard of wikimedia, we have our work spelled out, to hack our way in with our machetes, edit by edit, bringing the wiki. There is little point in hanging back and trying to consolidate. I honestly believe that. We have yet to be 10 years old as a project, and we aren't even started yet. On the issue of what the money should be spent upon, I have been fairly clear that I think we are underspending on the technical side (particularly in terms of programmers, which quite distinct from editors, is a clearly fungible resource, with no risk of biasing content, by a hired workforce), in relation to many other facets of our operations, as we are maturing as a *real* international major non-profit. Some have criticized me for high-lighting the technical, in the assumption that that is the only thing I am interested in. That is quite incorrect. I would be highlighting something else, if it would be as conspicous in its under-developement. And a year from now, I expect I *will* be raising a completely different issue as the most pertinent for the *then* immediate future of our foundation.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
I see the future of Foundation fundraising as being a balance between individual contributions and large institutional gifts. Even large universities still seek small donations from private alumni, in addition to large institutional gifts. Ideally we could grow fundraising to permit the establishment of an endowment, whose interest could defray continuing costs.

Personally, I would support expanding our online activities, alone or in partnership with other organizations, especially into rich-media such as audio and visual outlets. Personnel should only expand as is absolutely necessary for the continued operation of the projects. Further, the projects the WMF involves itself in, should focus on its core strength of production and distribution of free online content. While Conferences, Academies, and Meetups support that strength, expanding into other off-line operations, or other online operations that do not support the creation and distribution of free content, would be something I could not support. Also I would support the establishment of a financial road-map, that would map our long term cost and endowment goals, to allow the Foundation to know which projects it has the resources to expand, and where it may need to rein in its efforts to maintain financial stability.

Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I think that stopping the natural growth of the foundation would be a dangerous and potentially crippling move to make. Relying on individual donations is not a dangerous strategy, and I hope to see the Foundation continue to do this for the forseeable future (until such time as we become (somehow) self-reliant). Large, one-off donations are also a welcome asset. However, I believe it is the job of our soon to be appointed Fundraising staff to develop our fundraising strategies and plans for the future, and something for the Board to oversee.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
We can't ignore the importance of small contributors to our overall operation. By closely monitoring these donations and their relationship to other growth factors we are able to assess our continued relevance to the public that we wish to serve. Staffing needs to be monitored for cost-effectiveness; if a position does not achieve desired results there is no reason to keep supporting it. On the revenue site we should be exploring the possibility of a for-profit subsidiary that could market various products that have spun off from our primary mission.
Ryan Postlethwaite
A very interesting question. I’m a firm believer that the foundation should look for larger contributions rather than having relying so heavily on a large number of smaller contributions. A couple of large donations could keep the foundation stable for years to come. As far as spending is concerned, I think we’re fine at the moment with respect to staff levels, but I respect that if we want to grow further, we’ll need to employ a greater number of employees in order for that growth to happen. I’d actually like more money to be spent on the technical aspect of the site. It’s probably obvious that we do have problems with servers, and we all too often see the servers crashing, sometimes making reading pages even impossible. This is unacceptable and makes us look like amateurs. I’d also like to see more funding spent on outside business experts who can help the foundation run more efficiently.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. You can see my personal thoughts on sustainable financial stability at Three-year plan, which I wrote four years ago, and remains close to my thoughts today.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
The Foundation should be nearing the end of the growth phase of its life cycle, and that's not a bad thing at all. Ideally, we should be in a position to stand pat with staffing levels and most other major expenses, and take stock of where we stand without always needing to take immediate action to deal with growth. For increasing revenue, I confess that fundraising is not my expertise, but I think we should try to use some of the non-community board seats to fill with people with significant fundraising connections, as I said in my response to an earlier question. If we're able to stabilize fundraising at levels above our stabilized expense levels, so much the better - let's look at increased support for conferences and the like (although I'm a little skeptical about the Foundation being involved in offline publication, as I said above - for one thing, I suspect 230 immunity wouldn't apply to anything offline, though I'm not a lawyer). But we should very soon be planning for long-term viability over frenetic growth.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
At first I hope we can stabilize the cost growth, especially in personel. As I stated above we should concentrate on our online projects, and not try to do everything that is possible. Where ever it is possible and beneficial for both sides, we should coorperate with other organisations. Some projects can be done as spin off, for example the radio-project, if it can find enough contributers, it must not be a WikiMedia-project. While we are growing and people are coming up with diverse ideas we should keep in mind what our goal is.

As of fund raising and financial planning. I am considering perhaps we should rethink our plan. Until now we have planned how much we need next year. But perhaps we should plan according to how to plan if next year we cannot get more than this year. This is a paradigm change. We shall not do our plan according to the philosophy of unlimited growth. We shall do our plan according to the sustainability.

Btw, concerning the conferences. As far as I know the WikiMania conferences does not bias the foundation fund. It is funded with local donations for the conference. WikiMania conference is a chance with which we propagate ourself and with which we do fund raising in the world.

Who would you vote for?[edit]

If you were voting, rather than running, in this year's elections, who would you vote for and why? giggy (:O) 08:35, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
No comment
Alex Bakharev
I have a conflict of interests here, so I would rather not answer.
Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
I like a lot of the candidates running, so it is a very hard choice for me. I believe all of the candidates mean well and most would make fairly good board members. My first vote will of course be for myself :). After that Skenmy would be my second choice. He has a very similar position to myself on a number of issues. My next votes in no particular order would be Swatjester, Harel, Eclecticology, and Cimon Avaro. They all offer a wealth of experience and I agree with many, though not all, of their positions. I like several other candidates, but I disagree with too many of their answers or they have yet to answer enough questions for me to fairly evaluate them.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
Barack Obama.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
According the the rules for candidates and for voters, I am eligible to run for election, but not to vote in it.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
Oh, another tricky question. I see quite a few other candidates here who seem to be fair representatives of the community of editors, without hidden motives, bias, a political agenda or a big nihilistic disgruntlement. Some are familiar faces from Wikimania. I guess I would vote for them.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
Without hesitation, Ray Saintonge, aka. Eclecticology. With some hesitation, our friend from Israel perhaps, and likewise hesitantly perhaps our friend from OLPC. And not by any means least, myself; naturally. I have every faith that the very very few candidates whose election would create more heat than light, will be wisely rejected by our enlightened electorate.
  • To clarify, Ec, I have no hesitation in supporting, because his track record is so well delineated to my satisfaction. I may not agree with every viewpoint he has, but his allegiance to our mission is unquestioned. In general I should say that all the candidates have brought up good points of view (and yes, I do mean everyone). If I was seriously looking at this not as a candidate, but a voter, I think I would be most mindful of the fact there will in the future be 10 members of the board, of which this will be one of 3 chosen by this general method. I wouldn't worry about any minority views they might hold, even on vital matters, but I would worry about genuine delivery of openness of expression towards the community. Which is not to say that I would look for people who have a track record of not compromising, or of filibustering.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Well seeing as slates of candidates are prohibited, and that after reading their statements, most of the candidates are people I could bring myself to vote for, were I not running, I will decline to answer at this time. I will however note that I plan to split my voting ticket in this fall's USA presidential election between both the Republican and Democratic party.  :)
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I do not wish to answer this question as it does not seem appropriate to my running.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
I hesitate to decide yet what I intend to do. It is a preference ballot where we can rank all candidates. I can be self-serving enough to put myself at the top, and admit that I have chosen my last place vote. There's a small handful whose positive contributions are well known, and I'm still puzzling through the rest.
Ryan Postlethwaite
As with others, I think it’s inappropriate for me to comment on this question. Sorry giggy.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
Dan beat me to it.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
This is one of my favourite questions in "real" elections (I like to try to discharge the ridiculously partisan nature of Canadian politics; most candidates refuse to answer there too), and I will answer it. However, if I was a voter, I wouldn't have made up my mind yet, so I'll have to come back to this later.
Update: Okay, I just cast my ballot. Here's how it read:
  1. Steve Smith
  2. Harel Cain
  3. Gregory Kohs
  4. Paul Williams Alex Bakharev
  5. Alex Bakharev Craig Spurrier
  6. Ad Huikeshoven
  7. Matthew Bisanz Paul Williams
  8. Craig Spurrier Matthew Bisanz
  9. Ray Saintonge
  10. Dan Rosenthal Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
  11. Ryan Postlethwaite Dan Rosenthal
  12. Ting Chen
  13. Jussi-Ville Heiskanen Ryan Postlethwaite
  14. Samuel Klein
  15. Kurt Weber
This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, because I disagree strongly with every one of my opponents on at least one issue (for example, I ranked Harel second because I think we share a similar fundamental vision of WMF governance, but I think he's too complacent on BLP issues and not sufficiently interventionist to have the Board do everything it could), but agreed with several of them on many issues as well. I'd be happy to discuss any of my decisions further (on wiki, in a respectful way that steers absolutely clear of personal attacks) with anybody who would like to. The only further justification of my votes that I'll make at this time is an explanation of why I ranked Greg Kohs so high: despite disagreeing with him strongly on ad questions, and despite being concerned that he would be too interventionist, he's one of the few candidates who I think has shown any interest in tackling the WMF projects' serious problems head-on. His solutions are too radical for me, but I've learned over my career as a voter that it's usually better to vote for somebody more radical than you'd like than for somebody less radical than you'd like. Of course, he has a spotty on-wiki history, but I take him at his word when he says that he's running to help the WMF, and not to torpedo it; hopefully I'm right about that.
As a final note, I apologize to any of my fellow candidates to whom I may be giving an endorsement they could do without.
Update: Answers to subsequent questions have shifted people around slightly, and I'll likely cast a second ballot. However, I won't do so until near the end of the election period, to avoid having to cast a third ballot. At that time, I'll provide an updated answer to this question.
And I've updated my ballot.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
Sorry, I don't want to answer this question. You can ask me after the election and I can tell you my answer. But not now.

Ads?[edit]

If you haven't mentioned your position on ads in your "Future growth" answer; how will you vote on the board about paid 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
  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

-- Jeandré, 2008-05-27t20:50z

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
I'm very well aware of the fact of the huge resistance by some members of the community to any kind of ads on any of the project websites. Without community involvement I won't support introduction of ads.
Alex Bakharev
2.3 It is to big a question to be decided without a sort of community referendum. Paid advertisement may give us the badly needed development money so to get from infancy to maturity. It may also spell death to the project as most of the editors leave in disgust.

As an editor I would support text ads in skin whitespace or at bottom (as in the google search results) with the possibility to opt out for the registered users. At any rate flashing advertisements, etc are completely unacceptable if they come I would probably leave the project as an editor, admin and whatever other positions I would have.

As I understand usually we cannot get both advertisement revenue and significant government grants. So I think if we manage to get substantial government support then the advertisement question is closed. Thus, we should investigate this avenue first.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
The way I would vote on this issue would be to reflect the wishes of the community. The community is what makes the projects happen. Ignoring the wishes of the community will eventually cause the projects to stagnate and die.

I personally would only support small unobtrusive ads, and even then only if doing so was absolutely necessary to obtain funds to fulfill our mission. If we are truly desperate for funds, we have a lot of less harmful ways to obtain them before we must resort to advertising.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
4. The question is not how do I feel about ads, but how would I vote on the board regarding them. How I would vote on the topic depends on what the community has to say regarding ads. On a topic this critical, that drastically affects so many people, I would be extremely hesitant to let my own feelings on ads override the voice of the community -- especially since this is a "community elected seat". The chapter representatives to the board should vote the way their chapter wants. The professionals should vote the way they want. But the community representatives should heavily weigh the voice of the community into their decision. This does not mean I will vote whichever way the community says; it just means that I would give it considerable weight in my decision making process (and in contrast, very little weight to my personal feelings on them) to the opinion of the community, which of course, will be weighed against things like the financial needs of the foundation, the expected response if we do, what will be done with the money, etc. That's a really big question that I don't recall anyone having ever asked. What would we do with the money we got from ads? I have yet to see a business model that says "We project we'd get $x of ad revenue. Here are X, Y and Z plans we could immediately begin implementing towards how to do beneficial things with it. So I will say this now: If the board, during my term, begins to consider the question of whether or not to allow ads, I will immediately begin reviewing various plans as to what exactly we would DO with the money if we were to become ad-supported. I would hope to do that with the level of transparency and accountability that the community deserves and strenuously object to lavish and frivolous spending. We're the sum of the world's knowledge -- if we cannot be wise men with our money, how can we be wise men for the world?
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
Probably 1.6 and 1.8, but let's not trivialize this important matter. With all due seriousness, the Wikimedia Foundation has an opportunity to change the lives of many, many people who are desperately struggling in life, in ways that we who engage in "edit wars" and "indefinite blocks" can't even imagine. So, while the Board and this community tut-tut about whether there ever should be advertising on this epic project's pages, just remember that while we debate, we're flushing millions of dollars -- dollars that could have helped people who really, honestly need them -- down the drain. Are Wikimedians this selfish, that the principle of anti-commercialism is more important than the fate of a young girl in a Third World country who would be meaningfully changed by a dozen LifeStraws and a paperback encyclopedia in her language? Why is everyone inclined to think so small, so selfishly?
Harel Cain
(Harel)
As I said in my candidate statement, 2.2 - in budget emergencies only. And I mean real emergencies, where without the ads the foundation will go bankrupt.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
4. My view is that the monobook skin is already way too busy for my own preference. Adding adverts would merely trigger me using the adblock extension of firefox, so personally it would be an avertable problem. Instead of adverts on our projects, I could see us licencing non-internet products the use of our brand, for a reasonable fee. There are other creative methods for leveraging our reputation for funding, where we could still keep our sites clean of advertising, and we should explore those. Fundamentally, I have said - and continue to hold - that the decision of not using advertisements on wikipedia is not one of ideological positions for me, but purely a practical and economic decision. Wikimedia does not gain resources by the use of advertisements on its sites, it loses them. Hence it would be stupid to add them.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
I would say 3, trending maybe a bit towards 2.2. The community decided quite early on that advertising would not be its way. Since then, it has not found a need to advertise to continue to exist. I think if it were to start advertising, it would alienate large parts of the projects' editors and readers, so I would not support advertising. However, if the financial situation ever became so dire that Brion was going to Sue and saying he needed to turn the servers off at night because we couldn't pay the electric bills, well then I might need to reconsider my stance.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I think the simplest way for me to describe my feelings behind advertising on Wikipedia is that, given careful moderation of the adverts, they will not harm Wikipedia or any of the sister projects. Perhaps this would entail a special relationship with an ad broker, such as Google. They would also have to be relatively non-invasive. Perhaps only on search results? Slapping them all over articles is not a good plan. Intra-paragraph links, again, a bad idea. Some of your ideas, however, such as skin whitespace, are not a bad idea. I am, however, a strong advocate of community input, and I would not like to see the Board or the Foundation impose this without some constructive discussion that involves all communities beforehand.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
I see advertising as a last resort for fundraising, after we have exhausted all other avenues, and have reviewed spending priorities, and even then it's only to be used to the minimum extent necessary. I admit that I was not too bothered by the Virgin matching funds proposal during a fund raising campaign, but I'm also sensitive to the shitstorm that that raised. We just have to avoid becoming addicted to money.
Ryan Postlethwaite
I’d have to go for option 3. I hope that the foundation never has to resort to ads on the project. We are seen as a neutral encyclopedia, by “endorsing” companies/groups on our website, we automatically reduce that neutrality. One thing that sets us apart from many other information websites is that we don’t use advertisements – many believe it increases the readability of our website. All in all, from a reader’s perspective – I see no benefit whatsoever to the reader, and that’s the most important thing.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. My personal feeling is 3, but that shouldn't influence work as a Trustee.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
I think the notion of paid advertising is sufficiently anathematic to the Foundation's purpose that I can say that I would virtually never support it. I would support cutting back staffing levels, putting off hardware upgrades, and all manner of other things before I would support the adoption of advertising. You can put me as close to option 3 as a reasonable man can be, I think.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
2.3, community decides.

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions[edit]

How would you vote on the board about the foundation reducing or offsetting its greenhouse gas emissions from e.g. flights, power used by hardware, ... -- Jeandré, 2008-05-27t20:55z

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
Important issue, maybe very urgent for everybody on the planet, however not the most urgent issue for the Foundation. Donations restricted to spending on offsetting carbon emissions are welcome ;)
Alex Bakharev
Wikipedia is not a major producer of the greenhouse gases. In fact it is probably significantly reduce their emission globally. Every time somebody gets the info the reader need from Wikipedia instead of driving to a decent library he or she does not produce a few kilograms of green gases. Since we have millions of hits we probably reduce the global green house emission by thousands of tonnes. Changing our office practice does not change much in this equation.

If saving energy saves money or at least does not cost us big then go for it. If somebody specifically donate us money to be greener or to purchase carbon offsets lets use it. Otherwise we should not divert people's money for the goals the people have not expected. Our funds come mostly from small donations, often schoolchildren lunch money.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a worthy goal. We should try to be conscious of the environmental impacts of our actions. We should try to be environmentally responsible and minimize resource usage, but I do not believe we can afford to divert resources to meet that goal. I would oppose purchasing carbon offset or any other significant financial expenditure with the goal of reducing environmental impact.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
It is a worthy goal that is secondary to our main focus. If we can do it in an efficient, cost-effective manner, great. As some of my fellow candidates have pointed out, Wikipedia by its very existence is saving more carbon emissions from reducing the need for fossil fuel burning than we could hope to compare to as an organization. With regard to flights, I'm less concerned with offsetting the emissions rather than controlling the travel expenses. I also support the purchase of more efficient server hardware, if we can do so and if the technical staff think that it is a good idea.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
I currently don't know enough about the specific proposals that the Board might consider, but I absolutely favor organizations that are mindful of and address issues relating to their environmental impact.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
I think compared to the vast majority of other corporations and organizations on the planet, Wikimedia can pride itself in having done the world a lot of good at a very modest carbon offset. Bringing knowledge to people's desktops through the internet must surely be saving a lot of energy that would be used to get to that knowledge otherwise (this is just a layman's guess, I can't prove it). I think a few people traveling back and forth and a server farm are a small footprint, compared to any other field of human activity. Sure, keeping tabs on the travel budget is important also for financial reasons. I encourage using electronic means to replace travel, but not 100% of the time. Whatever energy reductions we can achieve in the server farm would also be welcome.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
This is a question of basic ethics. I have no wish to parade my personal ethical views in this election. Nor do I think it proper. I make my personal choices in my personal life, and the foundation should make the best possible choices, in tune with its mission. Period. If I lose votes for not disclosing precisely how responsible my own life choices are, so be it. There are some things I will not do to win votes.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
Oh, come off it. The Foundation should do whatever it takes to best accomplish its mission as cheaply and efficiently as possible. In fact, I make this counter-proposal: If elected, then for whatever action the Foundation takes to explicitly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I pledge to purchase and consume a quantity of Boston Baked Beans sufficient to enable me to make up for the projected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. You won't even have to pull my finger.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Where possible, I believe the WMF should attempt to be eco-friendly. However, our primary mission is not protecting/saving the environment, so in making my decisions, I would ask: What best fulfills our mission? If we could save travel money meeting in a different area or arrange schedules to reduce power consumption, I'd be all for it. If we are going to take money from the server budget or an endowment (hopefully?) to pay for carbon off-sets I'd be against such actions. Also, I would support encouraging our editors to be eco-friendly in planning travel to and from wiki-events through email notices, etc.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I believe that this is such a wide topic that my views vary wildy across it. I do not believe that the Foundation should spend amounts of its' voluntarily donated money on offsetting carbon emissions. I do believe that working with greener equipment, where it can reduce costs or increase efficiency, is a good plan. I do not, however, have a generic view on this whole topic.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
When I recently bought flight tickets for me and my son to travel to Wikimania I was asked by British Airways if I wanted to pay an additional $138 for carbon offsets. I declined. I am not convinced that carbon offsets are anything other than an elaborate scam. Recent events related to the world price of oil suggest that the oil industry is in a much better economic health to buy these offsets itself from its profits than to pass them on to the lowly traveller. There are other ways for the Foundation to reduce its carbon footprint without contributing to speculative markets. Before voting for carbon offsets I would need to receive a report from a reliable source that convinces me that it accomplishes what it purports to accomplish, and that it is a wise expenditure of funds.
Ryan Postlethwaite
Given the industry we’re in, we’ve got many technical advanced products available to us which means that we don’t have to travel around everywhere. Meetings can be conducted via IRC/Confracall and exchanges don’t have to be done in person. We can actually perform more efficiently by working online. Another advantage of all this of course is that we save money as well.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. The Board should consider serious proposals in this regard.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
I think the first preference should be to reduce the Foundation's actual environmental impact, especially in the area of travel. It spent more than a quarter million dollars on travel in fiscal 2007, which strikes me as an absolutely enormous sum. Without seeing a breakdown and being more familiar with the organization's day-to-day operations, I cannot say with certainty that the amount is unjustified, but I would certainly want to take a careful and thorough look at this category of spending, for reasons of both fiscal and social responsibility.

With that done, I would be prepared to support some sort of offset program, provided that there was significant evidence that the program in question was a good one. I believe that the carbon offset industry is a largely unregulated one, and it behooves anybody looking to buy such credits to carefully investigate claims made by the seller. And, in any event, buying a carbon offset is never as sound an approach as actually reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.

Ting Chen
(Wing)
If it can help us cut cost, e.g. travel cost, cost for electricity, I am with it. If it is a costly extravagancy, e.g. super efficient hardware but costs double or trippel than less efficient ones, I am against it. WikiMedia is not an environmental organisation, we have not a big budget, we are certainly not the big greenhouse gas emissioner and we have other priorities.

Biggest mistake[edit]

What do you believe has been the Board's biggest mistake to date? Why do you believe this? and what would you have done differently?. RMHED 22:38, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
As stated in an answer to another question, for me acting as a team, and being a teamplayer is key to Board effectiveness. Any slight mistake I would like to discuss privately and confidentially with the Board or individual Board members.
Alex Bakharev
I think our biggest collective failure is that we have not persuaded the society how important is this project. They still consider Wikipedia as something shameful and unimportant. One of results of this is that we do not collect enough resources (including money) to comfortably support our work. This is not a result of a single mistake of the board but it hurts.

Regarding mistakes I think that appointing a COO without criminal checks was not a very smart decision (though if you pay people peanuts you should be prepared to sometimes get a monkey). Allowing volunteers to get access to sensitive information (Checkusers, Arbcom members) without checking their identities and claimed credentials was not a right decision either. If such a requirement had been implemented before, we could have prevented the Essjay controversy

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Users are feeling underrepresented and ignored, especially users on the sister projects. The board needs to ensure that the community feels its voice is being heard. There are a sizable number of users on the sister projects who do not like the board and strongly resent any board action towards their home project. I believe the board has made a big mistake in allowing communications between the board and the sister projects to get this bad.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
The board's biggest mistake today has been ongoing since it's inception: operating outside the role that the board was designed to play. The board should not be interfering in day to day operations. Instead of taking pro-active steps to hire adequate office staff to do just that, they decided to micromanage things; something the board was never supposed to do. Florence, who I admire very much, admitted this was a problem, but now we are at the point where board is able to step back into their role as guiders and trustees, instead of CEO's. I think we are there, or very close to there, but that does not mean that we should ignore the lessons: The board must stay within its assigned role in the WMF's operations. If the board finds itself not doing so, it must review what is causing this, and why, and how to fix it, and then proactively do so. Any board member who cannot do that should immediately resign. This I believe applies to all board members: from community seats, to appointed experts, to founders. Stay within your role on the board, and if you cannot do so, or cannot adequately serve your consituents or the foundation due to external constraitns, resign your position. If you find yourself or your public image to be detrimental to the foundation's public image, do the right thing and resign. If you find yourself out of touch with the community that you are supposed to be representing (applies equally to the appointed experts -- their community is their field of expertise), and you cannot or will not take action to fix it, you owe it to the WMF to resign.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
Here's an honest answer. Wikipedia's co-founder is a former Chicago currency options analyst who then got into an Internet portal and web ring business that emphasized soft pornography. He lacks the credentials and authenticity to guide the construction of a reputable, reliable encyclopedia. The Board's biggest mistake over the past few years has been its failure to install an appropriate, experienced team of reference professionals to "replace" the existing Board and staff over time, including Wales. The world has deserved a better Wikimedia system of accuracy and excellence than has been mustered over seven years' time.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
That's a catchy one. I think the softest spot has been with staffing issues, which eventually led, for a variety of reasons, to the foundation's problematic image in the media and elsewhere as a somewhat rotten and suspicious organization, not to be taken very seriously. For sure, this image problem has been made worse by some people with an overdose of schadenfreude, and by the tendency of media to make everything into a huge scandal. I think that will do -- both because I cannot point to a single point of failure, and because I don't want to paint myself as the grand opponent to the current board, which of course I am not.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I wholeheartedly endorse what Ray has said below. Wikipedias greatest vulnerability remains entreeism. We are such a select group yet, and our treasure is of such great value, that our essential task has to be that control remains with forces who will guard our mission; be they of whatever persuasion otherwise. I would add that we have so far been remarkably joyfully lucky in the people who have served on the board. While they have had differing views on how to fulfill our mission best, I have absolutely zero doubt that all of their first principles above all others, were that mission itself; not anything beside it, of the political or ideological fray the "temporal" world contends with. Our mission is *eternal*.
Perhaps I should clarify the above to the pertinent detail that Rays thought of an extended membership based organisation is In My Honest Opinion most likely a neutral to negative influence on the front of protecting us against entreeism. When what is being tried to take over is well designed to be robust from threat of forking and defined clearly in terms of who is included, it eases the task of takeover by an outside influence. Currently the community of interest is sufficiently obscure that most likely those who would try to gain control, would waste a significant amount of energy chasing down blind alleys of real influence in the community, and (despite what some might argue) the "backpocket option" of forking is live and real, if some key component of the organisation were to lose its way completely.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
The recent restructuring of the makeup of the board. It was a big enough mistake that it made several think that I of all people would actually be a good board member.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
I feel the biggest mistake has been the lack of outreach by the Foundation to the communities to encourage the communities to participate in Foundation and Board affairs. While I will not go so far as to say a membership system or council would be the right way, I do think substantially more community input should occur in the decision making processes.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
The boards' undoubted lack of solicitation of input from smaller communities has no doubt been the largest mistake made, and one I plan to counter. By not doing this, the Board has passed resolutions that do not take into consideration the unique needs of smaller communities, while focussing on the flagship Wikipedia.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
The biggest mistake was to make itself a corporation without membership. This leaves it more vulnerable to takeover by people with other agendas. I would have expanded the membership base, and planted poison pills.
Ryan Postlethwaite
I don’t think their biggest mistake has been anything they’ve done per se. I think it’s more what they haven’t done. I’ve seen very little interaction with the contributors to the individual projects, and given that, I’m not confident they understand, or are in touch with, the needs of those communities. This means, I don’t think that they have always acted in the best interests of the readers and the contributors to the projects. To help with this, I’d like to work more closely with the communities and listen to their concerns.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
A lack of checks an balances has produced vulnerability to mission drift without community input; and the natural inclination to own new projects has limited growth by limiting community contributions to core aspects of project maintenance. The Board restructuring exacerbates both of these failures.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
I think the major ongoing failure of the Board has been to remain fundamentally insular. Most of its members have been drawn, one way or another, from the community (broadly defined). The board restructuring was a step in the right direction, at least insofar as the reduction of the community-elected Trustees goes, but I have some concern that, given the past record of insular behaviour, these new expert seats may be filled by non-outsiders.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
I consider the last board restructure a big, if not even the biggest, failure of the board. The reason for this opinion I have already stated in the section Board restructuring. I consider this definitively as a move in the wrong direction.

Why?[edit]

Why do you want to be a board member? Anthony 23:54, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
Please see my candidacy statement. According to the rules of this election no amendments to the candidacy statement are allowed after May 22.
Alex Bakharev
Well all I want is that the place on board reserved to community was filled by a committed loyal wikipedian who has invested a lot of his or her efforts into the project and whose ideas about the project I share. A few days before the deadline for submission there were none that in my opinion fit the description. Thus, I acted the wikiway - if you want a job to be done do it yourself.
Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
I want to be a board member because I see a problem that needs to be fixed and I believe I can fix it. As I mentioned in my candidate statement and other questions, many users do not feel the board represents them. The sister projects, especially, often feel underrepresented. The board is perceived as to only care about Wikipedia, allowing the needs of the sister projects to go unmet. The board needs to be able to make the community feel its voice is being heard, as well as ensure it is in fact being heard.

The other major issue I hope to improve upon is the foundation's problem with public image and media relations We need to have more frequent press communications. Many of the public relation issues the foundation has faced has been because the press has interpreted common occurrences as major media events.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
I wanted to stop bitching about things, and start getting them done, and since the changes I feel must be made must occur at the board level, this is where I should be. I want to be a board member so that the community seats are TRULY community seats. I want to speak up on behalf of the community now, so there will be a community to speak for, later. And based on my experiences working with the staff and board of the Foundation, working on the Communications Committee, and working as a legal intern for the foundation, I believe that I am well suited for the position and have the credentials required. Experience with large budgets? Check. Experience with non profits? Check. Experience being on a board? Check. Experience with the people I'd be working with on THIS board? Check. A commitment and desire to ensure that Wikimedia is a better place for everybody it touches? Check. Oh, and I'd like to add, like my colleague Ray, I too have a high tolerance for boring meetings: During the law school semester, every Tuesday I attend a SBA Senate meeting, conducted under rules of parliamentary procedure, that typically runs from 10 PM (2200) until anywhere from 2-4 AM (0200 to 0400). Weekly. And I not only volunteered for it, I enjoy it.....
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
I want to give the Wikimedia community an opportunity to use my candidacy as a referendum for my platform positions. There are serious problems within the Wikimedia Foundation -- problems worthy of criticism and constructive change. If voters want to recognize the severity of these problems, they can vote for me; if they'd rather frame critics as "disgruntled" "trolls", then there are 14 better candidates from which to choose. I'm nearly 40 years old. If by serving on the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation, I can help give a deserving world a more ethical and accurate system of encyclopedias, dictionaries, news gathering resources, and more, then I can cancel my mid-life crisis.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
I want to become a board member because I feel I can be a fair representative of the quiet majority of devoted editors out there, because of the experience and trust I gathered in my home project over time, because I can bring to the board the perspective of the smaller-sized projects, and because for me personally I think it can be a rewarding and teaching experience. Wikimedia's projects are a phenomenal success by all standards -- no wonder then that people want to be involved and influence.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I wish the board member to be one that our community has evaluated to be its best representative. It can not happen, if we don't have a disparate selection of candidates for the community to make an informed choice over. I wish to give the community the opportunity to evaluate if I am the best candidate or not. If it should happen that I am elected, I believe I can represent the community to the best of my ability, holding back nothing. That is all she wrote.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
I don't. Frankly, the only reason I agreed to run was because I don't actually expect to get elected. If the community believes I'm the man for the job, then I'll do the job--several have already indicated that they think precisely that. I'll do it because I care about the WMF projects; but personally I'd rather not.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Well I've used Wikimedia projects for several years, and become very active at en.wiki. I also have a background that makes me well suited to sit on a Foundation board, both from my experience in running non-profits, working for them, my background in non-profit tax law, and my skills in strategic planning. I feel I can combine my skills, my experience at en.wiki, the voice and thoughts of the community to work with the other members of the Board to further the goals of the Foundation and the projects it coordinates and hosts.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
For all the reasons stated in my candidacy statement. I want to increase the participation in Board-level actions by the smaller, sister projects of the English Wikipedia (this includes smaller language versions, too).
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
I first considered running for the Board in 2006, but never got up the courage to file a candidacy. This year a trusted colleague who has called me a "Wikipedia dinosaur" suggested that I could be a credible candidate whom he found preferable to any who had presented themselves before that time. After a brief exchange he dispelled some of my concerns, and had to accept that I have the vision, knowledge, understanding and wikiexperience to do the job. An introverted fear of losing was not an option, so I ran.

Viewed more negatively, I have a masochistic tolerance for boring meetings. On December 31, 1964 I was at the conference in Regina which converted the Combined Universities Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament into the Student Union for Peace Action. That evening we were hammering out the by-laws for the new organization. At about 11:55, with some hint of annoyance in his voice, Dimitrios Roussopoulos, the chairman of the meeting called for a brief recess. Ten minutes later, in 1965, we recommitted ourselves to the task at hand. Anyone who would look back on that experience as a positive one must be suited for a Board seat.

Ryan Postlethwaite
To put it bluntly, I want to make a difference and believe I can. I’d like to secure the future of the foundation so all of our contributors who enjoy working on the projects can continue their hobby, and all the readers will have this tremendous online resource at their dispense. I’d also like to improve the communication between the board and the community and hopefully harmonise the whole jurisdiction.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
First, to focus on the core tasks which only the Foundation can address: long-term sustainability and robustness to disaster; a voice for all languages and projects; transparency and access to data. Second, to show the community how they can address most of the issues they ask the Trustees to handle, which distract the Board from these core tasks.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
My primary motivation in running are the problems that the communities not only are not solving, but are utterly incapable of solving. Foremost among these is that benignly neglectful savagery of living persons. Besides that, I have a strong interest in questions of corporate governance, and a great desire to make sure that the new board structure is used in ways to further sound governance. Finally, I have some concerns about the possibility of a license migration away from the GFDL, and I want to make sure that these concerns are properly addressed before the Board goes ahead with it.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
The main reason why I decided to candidate is that the WikiMedia-projects are international projects with a lot of very diverse communities. It is always important to remind ourself of this point. But most communities outside of Europe and North America are not adequately represented in the foundation and the board. They are thus also less interested in the foundation politics, which also influences them. Indeed the WikiMania hold last year in Taipei had mostly promoted our local community there and in the region. I want to give the board a face and a voice for these communities. I want to encourage members of these communities to be more interested in foundation affairs and politics. I want the board to get a more direct link to these communities.

On her opening speech on WikiMania in Taipei, Florence called the chinese community to get more involved in the foundation politics. Since then we discussed this topic for quite a long time. My favorite candidate would be Kj, who was one of the leading organiser of the event and who is surely the most charismatic member of the community who is also well known in the international community. But she declined a candidacy quite early. When early this year also Theodoranian declined because he must prepare his exam I decided to run for the election.

Print media, and the direction of the WMF[edit]

Two part question: Will you support using foundation resources to move select content of selected projects into hard media (paper, cdrom, dvdrom) as a published medium? Do you believe that extending the foundation's current mission to include such a step would be a good direction for the foundation? Thank you for your time. NonvocalScream 11:49, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

  • Point of clarification: This question does closely mimic offline goals, however, I want to focus on the very specific question of print media, and the very specific question of a possible expansion of the mission statement. Both very germane to the foundation board, and not totally duplicative of the offline goals question. NonvocalScream 15:34, 28 May 2008 (UTC)
Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
The German chapter is moving into these areas. So, that is something chapters can do. This is not a step the Foundation should make in the coming years for a lot of reason, the primary reason being to keep the Foundation positioned as an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The Foundation shouldn't be and doesn't want to be a publisher.
Alex Bakharev
I think offline media is a sort of narrowing niche market: among the people who can use CD/DVD and so who has an access to a computer most have some sort of an access to Internet and can use it online. All significantly comprehensive paper variants of wiki will be very expensive and luck significant functionality (links, references, searches). Still I could think of people who would buy such products. Firstly devoted Wikipedians (like me) would buy such CD as memento even if not very usable as reference, schools may want to buy vandalism-free offline media rather than give their pupils access to the online version. There might be some users of the $100 laptops in the developing countries who have no internet access yet. Users of electronic book readers may want to browse our product while traveling and airplanes may provide wiki as an onboard entertainment.

Thus, I think we should go into this market cautiously and only invest money if we expect them to pay for itself unless there are targeted donations for the offline media. I think the field of offline publications based on WMF materials is a field for commercial enterprises more than for the WMF.

On the other hand there is a step that may help both ourselves and the third parties in preparation of the offline publications that we might take. It would also has a great influence of the good (reviewed/stable/non-vandalized) versions. The project is currently developing in German Wikipedia. After we would see results we probably should expand it on all WMF projects.

The project would allow users to select whether they want an access to the stable (reviewed version) of an article or to the bleeding edge (developing, beta) version. There should be also a mechanism to quickly but reliably mark good versions. This makes producing offline content a breeze and gives a lot of benefits to our online goals.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
I am supportive of the idea of print media. I create a daily PDF version of the English Wikinews called the Wikinews Print Edition, that as its name implies is designed to be printed and distributed. Online distribution is currently the most effective way to distribute content, so we must devote the majority of our resources to it. Community members, the chapters, and third parties should be encouraged to distribute hard media versions of Wikimedia projects. The foundation itself is not a publisher, so while it can support others publishing hard media versions it should not at this time do so itself.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
This is a narrower question than the offline goals one. In short, yes I support allocation of funds for this purpose, if it can be done in a way that supports our goals. Offline content helps us put our content into the hands of libraries, countries without internet access, bound copies, etc. Without losing our online focus, which is what developed all of this content anyway, we should pursue offline endeavours that further our ability to distribute that content.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
This question is somewhat repetitive of the "Offline goals" question earlier; so, I will restate: I strongly suggest that the Foundation concentrate on returning to a mission of achieving a respectable level of accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media before it even thinks of polluting offline media with unacceptable content.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
Print media is an interesting venue to pursue. The good folks over at the German chapter closed a deal with Bertelsmann to just such a thing, and in the past they were involved with other print ventures. I think the foundation should not pursue print projects on its own, rather collaborate - itself or through the chapters - with (well-known) publishers to advance such initiatives. The foundation itself is not a publishing house and may not have the right experience or know-how, nor the business need, to enter such endeavors alone.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I think we should be free in selling the licence to use our brand by other publishers efforts. Not only does this provide us *guaranteed* income (rather than speculative, which we would get or not get, depending on the success or otherwise, by publishing ourselves), but is a safe way to test the marketability of our product. If it is determined that there is a sufficient market to make editions of wikipedia lucrative, we can then do them. There is no need for us to pursue a first mover advantage. We *are* the "real Slim Shady", and the punters out there know it (well, most of them anyway). In the absolute I don't think it would be a bad idea for us to merely sell our trademark licence in perpetuity, never venturing out into the market of hard-copy publishing, if that is the best use of our resources, and we can make enough money by simply selling the licence out. Do remember that any business venture carries risks as well as opportunities. I would also remind people of the ephemerality of our content. We are timely. Conceptually a leatherbound volume of wikipedia does not make much sense to me. Cheap newsprint, though, does. I would advise any prospective wikimedia content publishers to aim for the sears catalog look, not the illuminated manuscript style.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
Absolutely not. Mission creep is the death of all of us. The WMF should devote itself solely to providing the infrastructure necessary to create the content and make it available in raw form. Distribution of the content for final consumption should be left up to third parties. That's the beauty of open-content; we can focus on what we're already good at, and let others fill in the remaining roles without any need for formal association.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
The WMF does one thing really really good, that is provide online resources for people to produce free content. I would have no objection to providing limited resources, like database dumps, XML formatting, etc to groups seeking to move things off-line and would encourage them to. But I am aware that actually moving things to off-line media creates liability issues vis-a-vie publisher's liability, so that is a factor I would need to weigh. Also, I am rather happy with the current mission statement we have now, it creates goals we can reach for, so I would be against further expanding it at this time.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I have already answered this question in the much broader Offline goals question, so I refer you to the third paragraph of my answer there. As to expanding the mission goal, yes, I believe that this is something the Foundation should consider once the projects are ready to submit content to such a project.

On the flip side, this is something the chapters could pursue. Why not produce local travel guides with information from Wikipedia, as an example? Or collections of local interest media and images? These are just ideas, but hopefully you see what can be done, even without altering our mission statement.

Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
The phrase "other endeavors which serve this mission" would allow this to be done without extending the mission statement. Such an undertaking should be preceded by a cost-benefit analysis, and a clear understanding of our market. Intellectually it's a good idea, but unless we can recover costs it could be very expensive.

Addendum: In the light of my answer below regarding Wikiversity, one are where we could be competitive and profitable might be the production of learning workbooks (especially in mathematics and foreign language learning). Unlike textbooks these are not reusable when properly used by the students.

Ryan Postlethwaite
I do believe that there is a role in moving into hard media, but I’m not sure it’s the board’s role to dictate this. We need individual contributors to be interested in this to get them ready for release. I’d certainly discuss this with the communities, and I’d encourage the use of foundation resources to help with this, but we’ve got to choose the right medium to do this with. As I said earlier, I think it would be great to get some of our content available to people with limited internet access – that would make all knowledge available to all people.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. Trustees should not make this decision, though the Foundation should be able and willing to support it (including by assessing how the community could achieve such goals, centrally or individually, without taking on undue risk).
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
In the broadest sense of "Foundation resources", I may support it, in that if another organization wants to publish in hard copy form some content of Wikimedia projects, I may support cooperation (in the form of staff participation, etc.) with it, provided that the resources are available. However, I agree with most other candidates that this should not be a priority, that it should not happen on the Foundation's initiative, and that no change to the Foundation's objects should be contemplated in this direction. I also restate my suspicion that there isn't yet enough high quality content on the Wikimedia projects to sustain a paper or CD ROM publication that people would pay for (even if the cost was much lower than for proprietary projects, as it presumably would be). Finally, I strongly suspect that section 230 protection wouldn't apply to any publishing effort of this sort, which would provide a further difficulty.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
I thinks this question is in basic the same as Offline goals. And as I answered there I think we should concentrate on our online activity. The more I consider this, the more I think it should be done by some spin off or partner of WikiMedia, but I don't think WikiMedia should put a lot of resources on this matter.

Specifically to the question of print media. I am not quite sure. At the moment I think it is a task for the chapters. They know the local market and they know if the local society need print media from WikiMedia-projects. From a high level it is difficult for the board or the fundation to decide this.

Attitude to "obscene material"[edit]

Could you please let people know your attitude toward WMF projects materials which in different jurisdictions might be regarded as "obscene material"? Thanks. theodoranian 03:30, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

  • Clarification: I would like to make some points regarding the question above that the world, with so many linguistic and cultural barriers, is not as simple as we think. Our global Wikimedia communities might face many difficulties, including political, cultural, religious and ideological pressures. When our projects communities encounter the problems mentioned earlier, what approach would you take? People live in environments with free speech and open minded culture don't necessarily know the true meaning of them, because they don't have to fight for it. If some Wikipedian was put in jail due to the educated contents that he/she composed being improper to the society where he/she lives, but those contents are acceptable in other jurisdictions or regions, what position will the WMF take? Will WMF drop her principles for any government regarding any political dissent or offensive materials? Even at a cost of being banned by government? Is there a ground for compromise? I don't see this issue is just at community level. --theodoranian 03:50, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
The Wikimedia Foundation is in defense of free speech. I my jurisdiction your question is considered "obscene material". Could you withdraw your question? In the end, it is a project level issue, not a Foundation, Board or Office issue to deal with.
Alex Bakharev
I think the status quo is about right.

Let me remind what the status quo is. We do not do anything that is illegal in the place of our incorporation. If the child pornography is illegal in the USA then our servers shall not have child pornography as defined by Florida Law. Period. We also respect decisions of the participants language projects to be legal in their countries. If simple:wiki wants to have stricter control on the pornography - so be it. If German wiki wants to limit the usage of Nazi symbols so to be legal in Germany - so be it. Chinese users have chosen not to comply with the restrictions on criticizing the Communist Party on zh-wiki and we applaud to their bravery, but if they were not so brave the board should probably respect their decision.

Otherwise we are not censured for minors. If we need an example of an explicit or shocking image to better present the information for a particular article then the image we should have. We need an image showing penis in the en:Penis article so we have it, we need an image of autofellatio for the en:Autofellatio so we have it; we need the controversial cartoons for the en:Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy so we have it.

We are not a pornosite or a shocking image site. We do not put pornographic or shocking image so to give people sexual or other pleasure, if a milder image would do for an article, we use milder image. As a result Wikipedia is not usable as a pornosite, you have to search hard to find some "adult entertainment" here, so i doubt somebody use it this way.

I think it is a consensus and the status quo, so no changes are expected here. What is a perennial proposal is to somehow label explicit or shocking material, so the spinoffs could easily produce Wikipedia-PG-13 or Wikipedia-G or Wikipedia-MA censored versions for schools, homes with small kids, etc. At the first glance the proposal seem to have sense but there are two major problems. Firstly, the definitions of PG or M or XXX is very culturally dependent. If we do mass labeling we are bound to have massive editorial conflicts. The second problem is even worse. If we label all the potentially offensive material we make it extremly easy to search for all the adult material here, indeed producing a some sort of Pornopedia. The result makes us much worse off and indeed can lead to legal persecutions. Unless those problems are somehow solved I am against this proposal and basically for keeping the status quo.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
The concept of obscene is a culturally determined concept. Wikimedia is a multicultural project. To try to impose one definition of what is obscene would be ethnocentric and should be avoided. All material must be legal under the laws the Wikimedia Foundation is subject to. Wikimedia projects should not be censored, though we should try to use good taste. If less offensive content would do just as good of job we should use it. Users should not generally run into materials that are offensive unless that material is necessary or they went looking for it. We must remember that just because we are not censored does not mean that we should try to offend large populations just because we can. Above all though, we should never compromise NPOV. If this means we offend large parts of the population or get banned by governments, so be it.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
Tempted to say I know it when I see it. For further information, see here and here. Beyond that, I'm not concerned with the raving objections of the WorldNet Daily crowd, who cannot bother to monitor what their children view on the internet, but are more than happy to condemn us as the spawn of Satan. If your question had some other meaning that I have not addressed, I'm more than happy to refine it. Oh, and as a more practical aside, the definition will vary from project to project as to what is obscene or blasphemous to the community. Cf. Arabic Wikipedia's lack of images of Muhammed, and Farsi Wikipedia's inclusion of such pictures. With regard to your addendum, if I may channel John Marshall for a moment "Let us not forget that it is an 'encyclopedia that we are expounding." I understand the concerns you have about censorship of information in parts of the world, and backlash against editors. I am a firm advocate of a strong privacy policy that works to prevent any backlashes against editors: that is one way the foundation (and the board) may help stand up for freedom of information. As I mentioned beore, different projects will decide for themselves what is acceptable by their community standards. So long as those standards don't violate the mission of the foundation, I don't think it's really the board's place to step in and enforce standards a community doesn't want, for the sake of a "uniformity" between projects. That being said, should projects deviate so far from acceptable standards that they're working against the mission of the foundation, the board ought to step in and say "No."
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
While I'm sounding like a broken record, if the Foundation undertakes to pursue accuracy, ethics, and excellence in media, we should be able to arrive at answers to these questions. I am certain that Encyclopedia Britanica and Encarta editors address these questions before publication. Is the only reason the Wikimedia Foundation generally fails to address them because they rather enjoy Section 230 protections? The Wikimedia projects have an opportunity to push the envelope with regard to freely licensed material, but at some point an editorial oversight needs to draw lines somewhere. Is it "obscene" for Wikipedia to have an article about "penis"? Is it "gratuitous"? No, and no. Was it "obscene" or "gratuitous" for Wikimedia Commons to have a category "Lolita"? Maybe, and yes. Is it "obscene" or "gratuitous" for the Wikipedia article about "hogtie bondage" to have five photos depicting the position? Probably, and yes. These are merely my opinions, though. I would prefer to rely on the expert guidance of professionals who have credentialed experience building online storehouses of reputable information.

A Board that dedicates itself to the balance between accuracy and excellence will be able to arrive at suitable answers to these questions and hopefully distribute policies that help guide editors in being accountable together with the Foundation for what is presented.

Harel Cain
(Harel)
Pornography is a matter of geography, and I don't see a way around the different projects deciding for themselves what can be considered appropriate. Trying to enforce some clear-cut global standard will probably fail, and I don't see why we need it.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I have to agree that this question addresses nothing at all. What are we talking about here? Pictures of women who have bare arms?
With reflection, my above answer may appear too dismissive. To provide a window of sorts into how I personally approach these matters, let me address the pictures mentioned above, in the article "Hogtied". Of the five, I think only one can be reasonably termed to be an overly sensual image, the last one depicting a bondage position with the bound person upright. And even that one I would personally deem appropriate as an illustration that *some* instances of the particular bondage style are indeed highly sensual, rather than "matter of fact". In terms of the number of images in the article, I will remark that each image illustrates a particular clear variant of the style, and in fact I feel that the images reduce the prurient effect of the article, rather than adding to it. A verbal description of each particular bondage form that would be as accurate as the image in conveying precisely how it is implemented, would be likely far more arousing than the images themselves.
In general I would go so far as to say that the current images in that article do in fact lack one that is done in the japanese artistic style, purely in terms of variety. Not a huge problem in my opinion, because that one has its own article. BTW, if someone wishes to infer that my comments betray some familiarity with the subject matter, I proffer a nolo contendere, and strenously insist that even if they did, it would not invalidate my response to the question about skeletons and closets ;-D
In terms of board of trustees activism in matters of this ilk, I will say that in the past, I personally was dissapointed in how Jimbo Wales chose to act in the case of the image on Autofellatio. Not in the sense that his act was done in bad faith, but more in that it betrayed a profound *lack of faith* in the community doing the right thing, on its own.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
At the broadest level, I think material deemed obscene, to be housed on the WMF's servers, must meet the standard that possession/distribution of the material does not violate US law.

Beyond that, the Foundation has erected the rules that material must be free or justified under an EDP policy, must be NPOV, and that the "wiki process" will control decision making. So I am happy to leave specific content censoring decisions to the projects. If users are put into jail for material they post on Wikipedia, whether in the United States or in China, it is not the position of the Foundation to advocate for them or provide legal assistance. While the Foundation may decide to fight subpeona's for IP information, at the end of the day, each editor is responsible for editing within the laws of their nation, even if those laws are considered oppressive.

That said, I would follow a course of policy that the WMF should never force change on a project to avoid being banned by a governement or to compromising the pillars of the Foundation's mission. For instance, en.wp was banned in China for over a year, and it was not seen as appropriate to compromise our NPOV rules to have it unbanned.

Further, I would be ok at a Board level if individual projects, in light of national norms, decided to further restrict themselves, while stall adhereing to the NPOV issue. If the Arabic WP decided to use the (pbuh) formula or the fr.wquote decided to limit quotations of Hitler, those would be content decisions of the projects that I believe should be respected.

Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I do not see that "obscene" material is damaging or harmful to projects in any way. It is, however, up to the communities to decide how to "censor" this content, and not something the Board or Foundation should take a global stance on.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
The term "obscene" is a subjective one. Defining it in terms of the lowest common denominator could leave us requiring that any picture of women must show them wearing burqas. Binding legal restrictions should be kept to an absolute minimum. Beyond that each project needs to negotiate its own comfort level. Auto-fellatio and felching are two practices that have given rise to disputes in the past. They may understandably disgust some people, but we cannot ignore the fact that these things happen. How the more extreme practices are treated requires a great deal of in-project sensitivity to arrive at an encyclopedic treatment of the topic.
Ryan Postlethwaite
I’m against censorship on Wikimedia, and I think the lack of censorship makes Wikimedia projects as respected as they are. Obviously, I’m against illegal material being hosted on our servers, but there is a place for material that some would see as obscene – without this we would never be able to document all the knowledge that is available to us. Censorship would also go against the core NPOV policy, again, reducing our overall credibility. Whilst I respect the opinion of those against obscene material, I believe we’re better off with it, than without it.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. Community projects and mirrors can make various compromises without explicit Foundation policy.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
My preference is for this to be resolved at the community level. I don't think that Foundation projects should self-censor on the basis of culturally-specific norms of "obscenity", though I see no problems with such mechanisms as collapsible image boxes with advisories.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
Ideally, I think none of any articles in WikiMedia-projects should be obscene. I will take an example for this statement. If I say the word Penis, many people would consider this obscene. But an entry in Wikipedia or Wiktionary or any other WikiMedia-project about Penis should not be obscene or even create the feeling of obscenity. It should use an emotionless and neutral language, it should be based on facts and when necessary with references. Any images or other media content used in the article should only frame the discription. It should describe all aspects of the topic: biology, anatomy, health care, cultural, etc. If someone think the article contains obscene content, he can edit, some other people don't agree with his opinion would change his edit. They would have to discuss it and at the end, they may get a consensus and so improve the article.

I know that for some societies even a medical text book is too obscene. As a member of the community I would vigorously advocate for a facts based article without any censor. It is a work of discussion and convincing the majority of the community.

Regarding self-censor, may it be of political or cultural (and thus back to obscenity). I can remember this was a very big topic on zh-wp two and three years ago, when the community was shocked by the blocking of the chinese gouvernment. The board, the foundation and the majority of the community had always committed themselves against any self-censor. It is one of the most important principle of all WikiMedia-projects. The foundation and the board should (and in the past had always) take a very clear stance on this topic. And every community should be aware of this.

Legal Counsel[edit]

How would the foundation be able to afford extending more positions for legal counsel? Other than Wikipedia, copyright law exists with Wikimedia Commons, concerning nc and nd derivations, and possibly other issues. miranda 14:24, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Clarify: The question is concerning the foundation's legal counsel. Since the foundation is legally incorporated in the state of Florida, how can the foundation afford more lawyers (not legal interns). What qualifications should they have? Also, what I mean by legal counsel is the lawyers must be able to practice in the state of Florida. In addition, if more lawyers were to be hired, what qualifications should they have regarding copyright, technology, right to privacy, etc., if the foundation were to be sued? miranda 17:30, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
Great question. Sounds to me like you're applying for a job. Please send your resume and short cover letter to Sue Gardner - she is in charge of hiring staff.
Alex Bakharev
Traditionally the main source of the legal help is the work of of our volunteers: professional lawyers and students of law. I think in difficult cases we should seek professional consultations from a payed copyright law practitioner. It is costly but sometimes we have to find money for this service.

It is true that we have only be legal in the USA but because of Bern convention we usually have to check if a work is protected by the copyright law in their home country to determine if it is protected by law in the USA (it is actually even more complicated than that). So we have to determine how American Court would interpret Russian/German/Iranian/Guatemalan/you name it law. Believe me it is complex but with the help of our volunteers and an occasional advise from the WMF staff we somehow managed yet.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Wikimedia while having growing legal needs, has an excellent general counsel and a number of qualified volunteers to handle it. If Mike Godwin identifies a need for more lawyers and the budget allows, I would support hiring additional lawyers. Until Mike identifies a need, it would be pointless to speculate on their qualifications.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
Well, I first hand have experienced how to deal with this, as a legal intern for the Foundation. The foundation can find a ready supply of both local and remote interns/externs at law schools across the nation. Another important option is the hiring of support staff such as legal assistants/paralegals to assist the General Counsel in being able to focus on more important duties. If it comes to it, we can choose to outsource certain cases to external counsel. By taking some of the grunt litigation work off Mike and onto the shoulders of paralegals and law students, he will be more free to draft a comprehensive review of our copyright position regarding various licenses and their interactions around the world. As a law student I also would be willing to volunteer my time to assist Mike in this matter (I scored top of my class in legal research and writing -- I can draft a damn good memo).

Clarification: We don't need more lawyers. Support staff for Mike might be necessary in the future, but either way, we're not at that point yet. The foundation's state of incorporation has nothing to do with its ability to afford more lawyers. That's apples to oranges. Jurisdiction is relatively unimportant: most copyright law is federal (U.S. Copyright Act), trademark law is federal (Lanham Act), and defamation cases can arise anywhere in the country. So, I still do not understand your question. The foundation is in relatively good shape with legal experience: one lawyer, one current law student who is about to become a lawyer, a candidate who is a law student, a network of external counsels in other countries to help with foreign litigation....why do we need more?

Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
I predict that legal resources will be a growing need for the Foundation in the coming years, as more and more litigants challenge Section 230 and the failure of the Foundation to duly care for its responsibilities to the public trust. I have discussed in previous answers how the Foundation should finance increased legal expenditures.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
You start by assuming that we need more legal counsel. What makes you say that? I'm not sure I understand what the question is hinting at.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I personally think in the future the need we have to fear litigation will abate, not swell. After enough people have poked the ice with a stick, folks will see the case-law and figure out for themselves what their chances are. Jurisdiction too is not really an issue, because there is no guarantee that the only suits will be Florida ones.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
I believe this question might be better address to Mike Godwin, as that is whom I would ask, if an editor brought it to me as a Board member. I believe if the Foundation needs more lawyers, Mike will recognize the need and ask Sue to include a larger line for legal funds and new staff lines for lawyers in budget requests to the board. As the Foundation grows larger over time, I suspect we will need more lawyers to handle the legal "noise" that any major organization has. If asked what I would like to see in legal staff, ideally I'd like to see a graduate of a reputable law school, who was admitted to the bar of a US state, and had some experience at technology/intellectual property law. As most states grant reciprocity, state of origin would not be a huge concern for me.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I am unaware that there is a problem with our current Legal Counsel or the way that legal matters are handled, and as such I do not see it fit to speculate on extending or changing the setup.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
I see no pressing need for maintaining more than one legal counsel on staff. Being incorporated in Florida is not a significant problem unless we are faced with issues of corporate law. Copyright law in the U.S. is generally a federal matter, and the cases could just as easily arise in any state. The same goes for the other items that you list. The recent Bauer case is based on defamation issues; it was filed in New Jersey. We have also been named in actions in Germany and France. To deal with these issues as they arise it is just as well to hire local counsel on an ad hoc basis. Having house counsel run around from California to these various jurisdictions just to put out these fires would not be fiscally prudent.

Currently, the Board already includes one lawyer and one law student, and I'm sure that neither will be too shy to give opinions at Board meetings. We also have no shortage of individuals with legal experience willing to give opinions. Most legal situations, including those involving copyright law, are just not as clear as most people would hope. The Board makes the decisions; those decisions are strongly influenced by the opinions of the house counsel, but it is still free to take the risk of deciding otherwise. Having a second house counsel is not likely to make the decisions any easier.

Ryan Postlethwaite
An interesting question. I think the foundation could do with some greater legal expertise on board. The problem comes with funding. That’s why I like the current idea of seeking advice from legal interns – they have sound legal knowledge for day to day legal questions the foundation have, whilst leaving the more important issues to Mike. They should of course have experience in Florida law, but there would be an advantage of having advice from people specialising in particular areas (such as copyright law). In the long run, we may need to give Mike greater support by employing more respected legal officials – whether this is on a long term basis, or consultancy type work, I’m undecided.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
Having talented supportive law firms available on short notice, as the Foundation does, should suffice to hold off any surprises.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
I'm broadly in agreement with Ray on this, at least with regards to the need for more Florida-specific counsel on retainer. I think Greg has it exactly wrong with regards to where section 230 issues are going - the Foundation's 230 immunity is about to be tested and if, as most legal experts seem to expect, it's upheld, that's going to forestall any future challenges of 230 immunity, absent any major change in the relationship between the WMF and the projects' editorial behaviour. There are an awful lot of specific copyright issues that it would be nice to have legal counsel on, but as long as we have an umbrella policy on non-free content (which we do, and in which the Foundation's counsel presumably played a substantial role) individual applications of the policy can almost always be dealt with without the involvement of counsel. Besides that, most projects (possibly all, I'm not sure) have copyright policy that is much more restrictive than U.S. law, which makes it all the more unlikely that the Foundation will run into legal trouble there, provided these policies are enforced (which is a community issue, and which the English Wikipedia, at least, is getting better at all the time).
Ting Chen
(Wing)
Hello Miranda, I don't quite understand your question. Especially the second part is a statement and I don't quite catch what is its relation to the question in the first part. Can you explain that more precisely? Thank you very much.

Ah, ok, thanx Miranda for the clarification. I do hope we don't need to hire more lawyers. We have at the moment legal counsel for the foundation and until now I think it is enough. We have also legal counsel for example for the german chapter and until now he worked also very good. As far as I know we didn't lost any law sue there. The lawyers work pro bono, so we would only pay them if we have some legal matter. Not every legal matter goes to court. Our lawyers also prevent us from being sued. If we are sued and lost, it would be expensive for us. But I hope we would not come into this situation. I don't think that copyright issue is grave. On german Wikipedia and on chinese Wikipedia, which I know at best, we have very tough copyright checks. I believe the chinese Wikipedia is one of the most restrictive chinese website (the governmental inclusive) on this matter. And if we really have copyright matter, and our lawyer think the chance for us is bad, we can still remove the picture or content. I myself advocate for a very strict copyright handling like the german Wikipedia. Many wikipedians outside germany think this is too much. But in my experience most of our community members (even the chinese ones) are aware of the danger and they are reasonable.

It is good that we remind this danger and I hope we can always avoid it.

Diversity[edit]

Do you believe it is a problem that contributors to Wikimedia projects lack diversity (gender, ethnic, racial, age, national, language, etc.)? If so, how do you think the foundation can help in rectifying the problem? What will you do in particular? ScienceApologist 17:21, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
The mission of the Foundation is to collect the sum of knowledge and share it with everybody on the planet. The Foundation is very busy in outreach - letting everybody know we exist, and that anyone can edit. And probably the Wikimedia projects as a whole constitute the largest, most diverse and collaborative community in the entire world history.
Alex Bakharev
While we certainly have some systematic bias I believe the community of contributors is very diverse, maybe the most diverse encyclopedic authorship ever (at least among the people working on en-Wikipedia). While I would certainly vote against any reforms reducing our diversity I do not see the need to increase the participants diversity as the most pressing need at the moment.

One of the theoretically sound ways to increase participations from poor countries is setting cash rewards and bounties. A group of emigrants from the post-Soviet countries tried to establish prize equal to three months of the broadband access fees for the residents from those countries who improved an article on en-Wiki related to those countries to the FA level. AFAIK only two editors qualified and both politely declined the cash. No significant improvement of the FA activities were observed despite many users from xSU complained that the high cost of broadband prevents them from writing articles. We could try offering small cash prizes for the users from poor countries for exceptional editorial achievements. It would not make us broken but it seems that it does not help much. Currently WMF can not afford to establish large or even moderate cash prizes. Maybe some sponsor can? Say Sergey Brin or Balmer or Gates Prize for the best Wikipedia article, does it sound right?

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
The contributors to Wikimedia projects appear to lack diversity. I believe that when we look at diversity in the projects, we need to ask two questions: are the contributors representative of internet users in general? and are the contributors representative of the world population? The answer to the first is probably no. The second is almost definitely no. I believe that the contributors will eventually reflect the demographics of internet users in general without any significant involvement by the foundation. In order for the contributors to be representative of the world population though, intervention is required. Wikimedia can provide limited support for these efforts, but the lack of resources means that the bulk of this intervention will have to be done by other organizations such as One Laptop Per Child and similar groups. Additionally most of the factors are outside the control of the foundation. I believe we are becoming a more diverse group and will eventually be fairly representative of at least internet users in general and hopefully the world as a whole.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
Do we know whether Wikimedia contributors lack diversity? I find it difficult to believe that we have a true representative sample from which we can say that our contributors are not diverse when our population of contributors is not polled for any demographic or socioeconomic data. We know English and German Wikipedias have a lot of users. But we have projects in languages around the world. If our contributors lack diversity, it is because of inherent problems with diversity on the internet in general, which discriminates heavily against poorer countries, non-white countries, women, elderly, etc.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
If you look at the 29 English Wikipedia users with CheckUser permissions, I tally 19 that identify male, 7 who are probably male, 2 that identify female, and 1 who is probably female. Of the 29, I believe 1 is non-European-white. If you look at Daniel Brandt's dreaded "Hive Mind Administration" page, it is a sea of white male faces, with a sprinkling of white females, and if you use a magnifying glass I think you can spot a non-white face in there. This election produced 15 candidates, all of whom are male, and I believe all but Chen are European-white. Any candidate who says that Wikimedia projects are as diverse as they should be ought to have their gourd examined. The demographics of Wikimedia projects, in my opinion, resemble those of a Dungeons & Dragons gaming convention, or perhaps the 30,000 paid members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. In my opinion, these reflect advantaged, but not wildly successful, white males and (to a lesser extent) females who have a surplus of free time. I have no doubts why we have not seen a bi-lingual Mexican immigrant woman working in hotel housekeeping in Southern California rise to CheckUser or Admin or WMF Board Candidate levels. She would almost certainly say, "¿Está usted loco? ¿Por qué querría hacer eso?"

All this being said, I think it would help the understanding of every stakeholder if a random, probability-sampled census of the various Wikimedia projects took place, under the authority of an independent, outside research agency, such as a research university's Sociology department.

Harel Cain
(Harel)
Yes, editors on Wikimedia projects do not seem to be a fair sample of world population, not even of internet users worldwide. I guess it takes a certain background, education, mindset and character to want to be involved in one of our projects. I think the foundation should strive to reach out to under-represented sectors (and there are many), as I said in my candidate submission. Some people just don't grasp the concept behind wikis, or they are afraid to try, or they find it too intimidating. Urging our volunteers to prepare approachable lecture kits that can then later be used (and reused) by many in workplaces, elderly homes, social clubs etc. seems like a plausible and easy step in the right direction. These lectures should present editing in our projects as a fun and rewarding hobby. If from every talk in front of 30 people we can get five to try and two to stay in the long run, it's worth the effort.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I think we are *very* diverse indeed. What we are not though, is a sample identically weighted as the general public. Some minorities amongst the general public are well represented on wikimedia, and some sizable demographic groups within the general public are thinly represented on wikimedia. But there are fundamentally very very many sorts of wikimedians; old, young, men, women, of varying persuasions and backrounds. In particular, I personally will attempt to ameliorate this problem somewhat, by raising the median age of wikimedians through the natural process of aging; day by day.
Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
I do recognize that there exists a high degree of systematic bias across most of the WMF projects. For instance, participation pre-supposes internet access, which is not available to most of the developing world. Further, use of the MediaWiki interface requires a knowledge of computing, which generally biases contributors to younger males. I think the WMF has a duty to inform the world of the opportunities the various projects offer in knowledge exchange and creation. To that end I support initiatives like the Academies that teach individuals how to use and contribute to the projects. I also support increasing the accessibility of the software to reduce the learning curve required to operate it. I could imagine tie-ins similar to those with the $100 laptop project to market Wikimedia with the American Association of Retired Persons, with inner-city outreach groups, and with groups supporting the No Child Left Behind program. Those are tie-ins that will directly improve the reputation and content of the projects.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I do not believe that there is much the Foundation can do to encourage diversity. The foundation could certainly support projects such as OLPC or other computing projects, however there is no guarantee of return. Our communities are diverse, however it is often missed as we do cater predominately to the English community (our largest projects are predominantly English). This is something I think needs to be changed, but not something I think the Foundation can change drastically.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
In most respects I think we already make good efforts to encourage diversity. The simple fact that we already have projects in more languages than any other site is a positive indicator, as does our encouragement of national chapters. The problem for female participants is much less direct. At the highest levels we have shown that we certainly accepted how much we appreciate our female leaders by electing them despite clearly larger numbers of male candidates. A bigger deterrent there may be the testosterone laced atmosphere in which some discussions are maintained, and that requires a serious look at personal behaviour before it can be overcome. Changing human nature to address deep-rooted problems will take a lot of time and patience in dealing with people who have a hard time even seeing the problem.
Ryan Postlethwaite
There may be areas that lack diversity, but it’s hard to pin point these areas. Where there is a lack of diversity, there’s an obvious problem of keeping a neutral point of view because we haven’t got the views from a full range of people. I’m not sure how the board could deal with this – Personally, I think the only way they could get involved is to increase the editorial knowledge of the projects and open them up to a greater number of contributors.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. I personally support a strong push to increase geographic and linguistic outreach to Africa and south and central Asia, but that is something the whole community must address.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
The only part of your question I can answer with certainty is whether there's a problem, which there is, although the problem is not equal on every axis you mention. For example, I think contributors are much younger than the population at large, but that's mostly a function of younger people being more comfortable, technically and intellectually, with technology like wikis, and a function of young people having more time on their hands than people who are well into their careers, raising families, etc. (although there are obviously some great contributors who fit that second profile). I wouldn't worry too much about this. On the linguistic and geographical fronts, the problem is a little more serious. Part of the problem is obviously that internet access isn't evenly distributed around the world, but even besides that there are inequalities that I'm at a loss to explain: the relative under-representation of Mandarin speakers is attributable to the issues with the PRC, but why does the world's second most widely natively-spoken language, Spanish, have only the ninth largest Wikipedia? And what explains the great and disproportionate success of the German and (especially) Polish projects? I suspect there are some sociological factors at play that are beyond the ability of the Board to significantly affect, but I'd be very interested in studying the answers to these questions. If there aren't already workshops on the subjects at Wikimania, that might be a good place to start.

I think the most glaring deficiency as far as diversity is concerned is on the level of gender. While I have no specific numbers, it's my impression that contributors are overwhelmingly male (probably at least 75%, although that figure is just off the top of my head). What is more, every single candidate in this election is male (though that seems to be something of an aberration, since women seem to do as well or better at getting elected to the Board as males). Again, I don't have answers to this; I'd be interested in soliciting the opinions of some of our female contributors on this.

So there you are: lots of recognition of the problem, very little in the way of solution.

Ting Chen
(Wing)
I believe our community is very diverse. Though there are differences between the different communities. Some are more diverse (like the english Wikipedia community as an extreme), some are less, like the german. In total our communities are more diverse then most other online communities (for example the gamers community, or the open source community). The only community which I can think of now, and can compete with us in diversity is the blogger community. I think this is a very good thing. And I hope it would get even better with the time.

On the board and foundation level our diversity is not good. A lot of communities are not represented here. There are multiple reasons for this. Language barrier is an important one. I am very happy to see that the foundation do a lot of work to overcome this problem. Here also my thank to the translation team. I know from my own experience it is a tedious and not very merciful work. There are also other reasons, for example geographical and political. I know that the board is always concerned about this problem and had always tried to find a way to solve the problem. Still, we need more representation from these communities in the foundation and on the board and more communications to these communities. We need people who understand their problems, who knows to address these problems. And we must appall their interest in foundation and board affairs. This is the reason why I candidate. I would work hard on this matter and I would like to see more people follow me.

I know there are good people out there, in every community.

In the section "WikiNews" I have also stated more detailed how I think the board and the foundation can help promote the smaller communities.

Off wiki / external discussions[edit]

I want to thank the candidates once again for the attention to the questions. Your time is valued.

  • Does a board member have a duty to be mindful of his or her comments made in public areas regarding WMF, its contributers or staff, and the projects itself?
  • To clarify, should a sitting board member act any differently with respect to public discussions regarding Wikimedia projects, Wikimedia contributers, or Wikimedia itself, as opposed to how a non-board member would act in these discussions (discussions being of an unofficial nature)? NonvocalScream 15:22, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
  1. Yes.
  2. A board member will be responsible for the foundation as a whole, act as a member of a team, preferably all board members speak with the same mouth publicly.
Alex Bakharev
The shot answer is yes. Members of the board have an access to privileged information that they should keep confidential. Members of the board consider a face of the project and so they should keep the decorum. I think in a lesser degree it is true for all the position of trust in the project: Checkusers, ArbCom memebers, Admins. On the other hand, if I think a decision of the board seriously damage the project I promise I will make my concerns known to the community by any means available being they on or off wiki. I consider the community elected member of the board as a representative of the community in the board not as a representative of the board in the community.
Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Board members should of course behave respectfully towards other contributers. Board members should be sure to take into consideration that what they say will often be given undue weight.They should make it very clear when they are acting as community members as opposed to board members. Outside community discussions, board members should always make sure that they are very clear when they are speaking as an individual.

They should not however stop participating in the community just because what they say could be misconstrued. Board members should represent the community. The best way for them to do this is to be an active member of the community.

I also fully support Cimon Avaro proposal of publishing redacted version of all meeting minutes. Board members have a responsibility to keep confidential materials confidential, but much of what is declared confidential needs not be. Openness should be a core value of the board. What can be made public should be.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
There is a duty to be mindful, absolutely, but that is not the same thing as a duty to agree with the majority position, even in public. Comments should be levied in the appropriate field. In many cases, that will be privately, but in the interest of transparency, when it is better off made publicly, there is nothing wrong in doing so. For instance, Florence has expressed her disagreement with certain actions recently, such as the non-disparagement agreements. This expression of disagreement, while public, developed into a good discussion about the merits and wordings of such agreements. By making her position and concerns public, she helped achieve transparency and keep the community informed. This is a Good Thing (TM). In contrast, however, it is not appropriate for every concern or disagreement to be made public, and even for the ones that do become public, it may be better that discussion occur amongst the board members in private first. With regards to how a board member should act with regard to discussions, so long as they are acting in the best interests of Wikimedia, and in the best interests of their position (meaning, the community's interest for community positions), before they are considering their own interests on a project. This means if the result of a discussion is distasteful to the boardmember, but is in the project's and community's best interests, they should go along with it. Such a situation may occur if, for instance, a board member with sysop status on a project that regularly reviews for inactivity has their status removed. If that is the best interests for the project, then the board member should not use their status to interfere.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
Of course there is a duty to be mindful of one's comments when speaking in public about an organization to which you have committed your services of care. In some cases, there will be times when a board member is apprised of private information that may not be in the best interest of the organization to "get out". However, any ethical person might have to eventually weigh the long-term impact on the organization of systemic secrecy and denial of wrongdoing. We have been seeing too much of that with the WMF in the past 18 months or so, and I would certainly not care to sign any contract that prevents me from communicating to the public personal beliefs about the organization that I feel would show care for the continuing health of the mission.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
Noblesse oblige, and a board member should bear in mind that whatever he or she says may be taken quite seriously by many, be attributed to the foundation as a whole, or worse, be taken out of context or unfairly used against him or her. I expect board members to be thoughtful and careful in what they say, even if unofficially. This does not mean however that they have to shut up if they have something serious, even if painful and critical, to say.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
This is one of the key questions of this election, if not *the* key question.

Gossipping and scheming certainly should be entirely avoided by all trustees. Communicating in a public channel that is equally accessible to all community members, however, is neither, though such communication can stray too close to an attempt to manipulate artificial community constituencies based on imperfectly disclosed/disclosable information. Personally, what I most miss from current communication in the direction of the community, is after the fact justification by board members of decisions that have passed, not necessarily even so much the expression of dissenting views by those in the minority on the board. And here I mean specifically decisions that materially have a public community affecting import.

While the board of course has some responsibility for "inaction", its actions are of crucial importance, and because of that, surely it is not entirely unreasonable to wish that people who supported an action had the confidence in the intelligence of the community to bare their reasoning in public.

I don't know if it has been suggested before, but I would be interested in exploring the possibility of publishing a fully public redacted version of all meeting minutes, where would only be included the minutes of discussions pertaining to decisions, which resulted in affirmative action by the board, in the form of a passed resolution and/or change in bylaws (naturally subject to *genuine* confidentiality considerations being taken into account).

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Yes, given the position of supreme trust over all projects that Board members have, they must be mindful of their comments at all times. Specifically, they must realize that people will view them differently due to their Board membership and that care must be taken to avoid using that membership to disrupt projects. While it may be inappropriate to require the Board to sign a non-disparagement agreement, there is a duty of common courtesy not to publicly denigrate other board members, foundation staff, etc or go out of one's way to report every disagreement a board member has with the Foundation.

To expand further, it would be generally inappropriate for say a Board member to perform Arbcom clerking duties as they could be required to block those who disrupt Arbcom pages. Or filling a User Conduct RFC by a Board member would probably be inappropriate due to the excessive weight other parties would give to the Board member's Board status. I think Board members can be publicly critical of projects or even the Foundation, so long as it is made clear it is their personal opinion and is not a Board opinion. Also, it should be reserved for actions a particular Board member finds grossly offensive, such as if a project decided to abandon NPOV or if the Foundation enacted discriminative hiring practices, not slights at that Board member individually or in the course of everyday business. And really there should not be a good reason why a Board member is commenting on an individual contributor in an official capacity, because Board members are not to interfere with projects, and very few things would be of greater influence than saying "I don't like person X".

Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
A Board member needs to be mindful of what they say regarding the projects. Any comment could be misconstrued (either correctly or incorrectly) as a board level endorsement of an action. However, this is not to say that Board members should not be open and frank with members of the community, as it is the place of the community representatives to do just that - represent the communities. I hope that the communities are able to speak with the board members on both a formal and informal level.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
Of course, that kind of mindfulness is important. This is what discretion is all about, and it is normally learned through experienced. Some of it is straightforward. Public criticism of other Board members or staff is especially to be frowned upon; remember that a Board member already has more private opportunities to deal with this than the average user, or even the average admin. When he engages in this kind of public criticism it may leave the general impression that the situation is far worse than it really is.

While a level of loyalty is to be demanded of Board members, it should not be presented as artificial solidarity. In a small board (and ten members is still small) one can still easily list those who are for and against a principle motion. If I am the odd man out on a vote it would be awkwardly insincere to pretend that I supported it. Nevertheless, the vote results are what they are. I can explain my disagreement with the results, but I can't go around trying to undermine those results.

Some kinds of discussion must by their nature be kept confidential. It is easy to have disputes about just what materials should be confidential. For this reason it is important to have the circumstances clearly identified. Some of them may be obvious, but not all. Far more important than having Board members sign demeaning oaths is to develop a series of Board approved expectations. It would still be appropriate for a Board member to sign an acknowledgement that he has received a copy of these expectations.

In relation to the projects, a Board member who qualified for candidacy through participation in a project does not automatically lose interest in that project. Clearly he should not be using his new Board status as a tool to impose his will on the project, consciously or unconsciously, and it must be remembered that it is not the function of the Board to micromanage the editorial policy of any project. Other than that he should be free to take part in a project's discussions.

Ryan Postlethwaite
I think a board member has a greater responsibility in discussion. They should make it clear when they are acting in an official role, and when they are not. Whether intentional or not, board members often get greater weight in discussion, and this is particularly damaging in community discussions when people may misinterpret a comment as being an official decree. I do think it’s important that board members remain completely neutral whilst commenting in any forum – letting their personal views affect the comments/decisions they make is of no benefit to the community or foundation.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
Of course.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
The bit about confidential information - which isn't what I thought the question was asking - is a no-brainer. Pretty well anyone in any position of authority is going to come across information that they can't share, and being a WMF Trustee would be no different. As for what information this should be, any information transmitted in camera or in executive session or what have you is confidential, as is information transmitted outside of board meetings with an understanding on the part of the transmitter that it will remain confidential (if, as a Trustee, I felt that such information should in fact be shared with the community, I would bring it up with the rest of the Board).

What I interpreted the question to be asking was regarding whether Trustees should make public comment on Foundation matters in their capacity as individuals, or whether they should confine themselves to official Foundation positions. I believe that Trustees, especially community-elected Trustees, should have the full right to dissent from Board decisions within the communities that elected them, but should generally refrain from doing so before audiences other than the community. This might seem like a meaningless distinction, since any curious media outlet could just look through the wikis for comments, but in my experience very few journalists would bother. As an additional rider, board collegiality requires that the Trustee in question air his concerns before the Board in the hopes that they can be resolved before making any kind of public issue of it.

Ting Chen
(Wing)
The answer is a definitive yes. When expressing an opinion, a board member acts as a speaker of the board, and thus of the foundation and the community. Or at least his opinion would be taken as such. So the board member must think about what he is talking about and how other people could probably interprete what he is saying. To say something as a voice of the community and know that at least part of the community would be other opinion would be a very heavy weight on my shoulders. And it would always remind me the responsibility.

Inside the community I would still actively take part in consensus building as a normal member of the community. In this case I would always emphasize that I act as a member of the community and not as a board member.

Image licensing[edit]

Over on Wikinews there has been a lot of complaints about the licensing resolution approved by the board. Do you think the board should allow projects to host non-commercial/no-derivatives images? Anonymous101 20:01, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

Added after the original comment: As visible on n:WN:DR there are several deletion requests for images that are either cc-nc licensed or are used under a grant of license. It is likely that many of the images could not be made available under a gol. For example, the resolution says that "an EDP may not allow material where we can reasonably expect someone to upload a freely licensed file for the same purpose, such as is the case for almost all portraits of living notable individuals." We recently published an interview with a New Zealand politician and he provided us with images to be used under a cc-by-nc-nd license (I think). They were then removed from the article as they were non free. There is also n:Image:5Y-KYAPlane.jpg which was nominated for deletion because "grant of licence images are no longer allowed nor were they permitted at the time of upload per the Foundation resolution, as such this image should be deleted." This image added to the article yet it faced a dr due to the licensing resolution. (Although there is a large support for keeping the image). In another incident, all the images at n:User:Anonymous101/Unfree/2 faced deletion due to the licensing resolution. My question is asking what you think should happen to the licensing resolution. Anonymous101 20:20, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
I'm in support of free content.
Alex Bakharev
This is a very important problem where is the emphasize in the phrase Free Encyclopedia: on the word Free or on the word Encyclopedia. Do we strive to get our product as Free as possible or as usable as a reference as possible. Currently we do not allow any images on the most of the projects only if anybody has freedom:
  1. to use them commercially;
  2. to modify them freely.

On a few projects (most notable en:wiki but not e.g. de:wiki) we allow images under claim of fair use as defined in the USA law. In our jargon we name them EDP (Exemption Doctrine Policy). The allowed use of EDP is project specific and every year is tightened more and more. As an example of a high profile development we get rid of all (almost all) images of living people on en-wiki so to encourage Wiki-paparazzis to get unauthorized photos of celebrities (or the celebrities to submit free images themselves).

The ban on the noncommercial and non-derivatives licenses helps the re-users of Wikipedia information so it increases the value of the product for them. Tightening of the EDP policies protects us from the copyright infringements as the law here is very ambiguous.

On the other hand the ban on the non-derivatives licenses makes us susceptible to the privacy violation suits. Not all celebrities are happy with the wikirazzies work. Moreover allowing derivative work theoretically allows all sorts of libelous and disrespectful usage. Recently there was a high profile case than a nice photograph of identifiable boyscouts in their camp submitted to Wikipedia to illustrate some boyscout-related article was digitally transform into a commercially-exploited (put on a pornosite) sexually explicit picture involved spanking, etc. It was absolutely legal from the copyright side and enforcing personality rights (probably violated here) is much more difficult then copyrights. Obviously, most of celebrities worry about giving-up free licenses of their photos. As an example all images from the Russian Govermental site has the copyright notice that they allow free usage of all the materials including commercial if the reference is provided. It seems to be fine with us and we put a lot of images from there but when we asked if the notice means that anybody free to modify the images, we did not received any answer (good luck to get an answer from a Russian official that will allow sexual explicit modifications of the photograph of their leaders!). The images were deleted.

The ban on noncemmercial-only images does not spell any legal troubles but might mean that we decrease the value of the project for ordinary users to satisfy a few commercial reusers. Is it worth it?

I think we need to review our decisions. We need a community-wide discussion. I am personally for:

  • Allowing Non-derivative licenses for images of living people and in other special circumstances.
  • Encouraging to use non-derivative licenses if living minors are involved;
  • Allowing non-commercial licenses if there is a consensus on the project (e.g. language wiki) that they need it. No non-commercial licenses on Commons.
Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Free content is obviously best. We should definitely avoid hosting non-commercial content. Our content should be available for reuse. Wikinews has a fairly small number of images that are under -nc licenses, most of these also qualify as fair use. Wikinews should not be permitting new uploads under -nc licenses, nor using them in new articles. However, I believe the integrity of the archives is more important then the harm caused by allowing a few nc images to remain. I greatly dislike the non-derivative licenses, but they do not prevent re-users downstream from using our content. I have very mixed feelings on if we should allow non-derivative images. They do not hurt the ability for our content to be reused, but they conflict with parts of our ideology. They should absolutely be discouraged, but it should probably be up to the project to forbid them.

Grant of license images are a worse problem then either non-derivative or non-commercial images. GOL images can not be reused at all. The normal solution on Wikinews for GOLs was to ask the people who give us grant of licenses to grant permission for all uses in news reporting (or something equally general) and then use the image as a publicity photo under our fair use policy. I have no objection to this use.

Wikinews is a bit of a special case, as the archives create a situation where deleting images causes significant harm. I see compromising the integrity of the archives as being more harmful then allowing a couple of non-free, but legal, images to remain. On the other projects though I support completely forbidding non-commercial images and GOLs. Non-derivative images could be treated like fair use images, used only with a good reason and replaced when possible.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
I support free content whenever possible. When free content is not possible, and it is within our mission, policies, and interests to do so, I support content with restrictions such as non-commercial or non-derivative. However, this is at a board level. Projects are free to come up with more restrictive content guidelines if they wish. On a more personal note, I have both provided Wikimedia image content for print media publications (my picture of John Marshall's statue in the U.S. Supreme Court building was published in "The Cresset" at Valparaiso University) and used similar content myself (The American Jurist, on which I serve as Director of Art and Layout, used an image of Africa from Commons on our cover from last issue). I would very much like to see a strong emphasis on convincing contributors, especially professionals, to avoid such restrictions. If that takes a proactive education policy, if that takes exploring new license forms or a more comprehensive EDP, that's what it will take. Such things are something that I think deserves greater discussion and consideration by the board proper, rather than just by a single board member. I'll admit, it's not my forte, so I'd like to see what other people have to say about it.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
I would rather see specific licensing policy matters like this addressed by a trustworthy team of paid executive staff relying on expert consultation, rather than volunteer Board members entrusted with broad, strategic vision and guidance of the Foundation's mission.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
I feel this topic has more to it than I can readily answer at this point in time. Could you elaborate a bit on the problem that the board resolution has created in Wikinews and what types of images that you feel are needed are not free as per the resolution's definition and Wikinews' EDP? I don't want to give an answer until I feel I understand the matter better.

Thanks for the elaboration. Back in 2007, I wasn't very happy with the way this resolution was brought down on the communities from on high, it felt all too sudden and drastic, at least in my home project. I do feel, however, that the basic ideas behind this resolution are right - that we should try to use free licenses and avoid non-commercial and no-derivative restrictions, as well as others. I think the EDP mechanism is a reasonable way for different projects to work out the "gray zone" of those borderline cases where there's a rationale for using non-free content. It calls for the community to debate the rationale. For example, if you hold a special interview with a leading politician and cannot use the pictures that he provided you with, that seems counterproductive and I think it's a good enough rationale. Simply "adding (value) to an article" is not a good enough rationale. Like in any other editing action on our projects, some issues need to be debated on a per-case basis. I find the board resolution quite fine, but not the way it was brought to the attention of my home project back then.

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I think the primary issue here is that there are some wikimedia projects (such as English Wikipedia) which can in quite practical terms be obviously and clearly considered realistically as providers of material for downstream users. There may be (I am open to discussion on this point) some projects under the wikimedia umbrella, where downstream re-use is either purely theoretical, marginal or simply untenable. I am not convinced that English language Wikinews fits that framework though. Even though re-use is clearly limited because of the "yesterdays newspapers are todays fish-wrap" issue, I can at the very least envision real re-use possibilities.

The larger issue is whether Wikimedia should allow, choose or forsake entirely the role of a site only providing its own content directly, but not looking to re-users downstream. That is a real big issue, with arguments that could be made on either side. And I definitely don't have a chosen side on that. I think I would be very closely guided by the expressed views of the community on this one.

Granted of course that non-commercial licenses don't forbid downstream use entirely... but downstream users is the raison d'etre for our insistence toward free licencing.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
Only truly freely-licensed content is appropriate. The end does not justify the means. I am by no means a free-software or open-content fanatic; I simply object to saying one thing and then doing something else, however expedient it may be.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
You present an interesting question as to how far may Projects go in interpreting the EDP. At en.wiki, we maintain a very strict "If the person is still alive, we can in theory get a free picture, so no unfree pictures of people allowed". At the same time, Wikinews, by virtue of being time-oriented, faces different issues than an encyclopedia faces. The Wikipedia No Deadline concept therefore does not apply. So, looking at it from a community point of view, I could understand the Wikinews community having a less strict EDP than the Wikipedia community. As long as both comply with the letter and spirit of the Board resolution, which does mention that "...such as is the case for almost all portraits of living notable individuals." (my emphasis), I think this is a community matter that the Board should not interefere in.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
As a member of the community, I believe that this is something that needs to be discussed on Wikinews and presented to the Board. It is not possible to make a general observation or present my future views as a Board member on this question at this point. I am, however, strongly in favour of the Wikinews Image Licensing Policy being revised and rewritten to fit the needs of the project, rather than struggling under the weight of the board-imposed EDP policy.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
The licensing policy seems to make no specific mention of either non-commercial or non-derivative licences. It is then a matter of interpretation whether these can properly be a part of a free licence. What we have here then is a question of how the Wikinews admins have interpreted the policy. So even if the Board would consider such uses allowable, the community at Wikinews could still have a more restrictive policy. It is important that the Board not intervene in disputes between an individual editor and his chosen community except in matters of dire necessity.

In general, my personal view about what policy should allow would be more liberal than what the policy currently allows, but those liberalities must work to help free material that is not already. The problem that I have with nc and nd clauses is that make material less free than it otherwise could be.

Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address., though the current policy strikes me as sufficiently flexible.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
While I'm generally in favour of keeping all images on WMF projects as free as possible, I think there is merit to the inclusion of media that's less than totally free in some circumstances. My thoughts on exactly what those circumstances are are somewhat fluid. I think the most interesting part of your question is whether non-derivative licenses should be treated differently from unlicensed media; currently they aren't. Under current policy, either something's considered "free" or "unfree", and the latter case includes everything from non-derivative licenses to non-commercial licenses to copyrighted and unlicensed works. I think it would be quite appropriate to hive out some situations in which unlicensed media may not be acceptable, but "free but not free enough" licenses would be. In any event, though, we must make sure that less than totally free media is never used in such a way that it reduces the motivation or impetus to find truly free substitutes.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
The goal of WMF is to provide free knowledge. Really free contents are the GFDL and compatible contents. A goal of WMF is also to encourage people to put their contents under free licence. I see this decision of the board very positive. Since this policy is issued we had replaced a lot of fair used images with free images. And we see that there ARE enough free images. People go out and make images and put them under free licence.

As of non-commercial free licences. I remember we had quite a log discussion in the earlier years of zh-wp. People feeling themselves cheated because they contribute freely but other people may use their contribution to earn money. I explain it this way. It is a fact that commercial encourages innovation. And this is in principle a good thing. So why should we put on a barrier for people to use our content and be innovative and more public for our content? If this way we can open our content to a broader public, then it supports our goal, and not contradicts our goal. If we put a constraint on part of our content, it would narrow down the possible use of our content. So in total I support this rule issued from the board.

Also I have stated in the question about the commons that I think the licence handling on commons should be most restrictive simply because every project and their derivatives should be sure, that there is no problem if they use content from commons. And because of its central role the board and the foundation should keep a short line on the policy of commons, and not like the other projects, give the community a more broader freedom.

Feedback from community to board[edit]

I read with much interest the answers to the questions biggest mistake and Board restructuring. Several answers may be summarized with this comment "I feel the biggest mistake has been the lack of outreach by the Foundation to the communities to encourage the communities to participate in Foundation and Board affairs" from Matthew. Whilst I do not fundamentally disagree with this statement, I would like to know what candidates plan to do to change this trend for the best. I have the feeling I actually spent a lot of time precisely trying to do that, following many mailing lists and participating to them, following village pumps in the limits of my language understanding, hanging out a lot on irc, travelling all the way to Taiwan or Boston or Frankfurt, or various wikimedia meetings (Switzerland, France, Finland, Greece, New York, South Africa, etc...), frequently sollicitating the community on the foundation list or on various meta pages (eg Input on values brought an amazing lack of comments (see talk page)), starting Wikimedia Quarto (which failed due to unsufficient support from the community). It took me two years to write Board manual largely because no one was interested in the topic. I got no feedback whatsoever on my Fiduciary duties for dummies (my latest attempt to motivate future candidates to the board to actually interact with the board they wish to join, rather than only with communities. Afaik, no comment from ANY of you). After Wikimedia Commons wrote a technical wish list a few months ago, I sollicitated the other communities to do the same (and got nothing at all). And I tried to push the agenda of various community requests over time ([1], though it seems few noticed).

In short, without crying over spilled milk, I'll summarize in saying that my own attempts have not been very successful, for various reasons, in spite of huge time dedication. I do not feel guiltly in any sense of a lack of interaction myself (so, my pride is not hurt :-)), but I agree that overall, there is unsufficient both way communication, and I agree that the community suffers from that. So, that's a problem. And a serious one, and I hope you guys will work on this issue.

As future simple citizen of the wikimedia movement, I would like to know what you intend to actually DO to improve the situation. Please do not offer political talk (eg I will work to improve communication) if you have nothing to say. Be specific IF you have some solutions to bring to the table. Thanks a lot and good luck to all of you on the elections ! Anthere 02:51, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
Florence, after giving a long introduction you posed a hard question. Thanks to bringing fiduciary duties to our attention again. Anyone can review my answers on previous questions on the dimensions care/loyalty/obedience and probably be satisfied. Communications in large groups is always hard. When no one complains or absence of comments comes close to agreement in large groups. Try a little more controversial subject - you definitely will get at least some objections (from the usual suspects). Consensus is implied if there are no unsurmountable objections to a proposal.

I've been listening to questions and concerns that popped up in this thread. Have you been listening? Ordinary community members do have concerns about project level frictions like BLP etc. In this election some do look to candidates if the Foundation, Board or Office could do anything about these project level challenges to project communities including admins, sysops, volunteers on OTRS. There is and should remain a clear division in labor between Foundation/Board/Office on the one side and project communities and chapters on the other side. The duty of the first is to keep the servers running, the second has the duty/responsibility to resolve project level challenges by themselves. Such a division of labor minimizes the need of massive interactive communication about Board/Foundation stuff, and dissolves your problem. What I will do at least is to insist on timely prior notice to project communities through multiple channels of communication of upcoming decisions or changes that might affect projects in a major way to open a window of opportunity for feedback. SUL was technically possible to implement 2 years ago. It is now implemented smoothly with hardly any complaint (though a lot of work to deal with discrepancies). So we will to move to SUP (Single User Pages) in the future, and on an internet timescale, the Wikipedia future is very very far away, probably multiple years. In the end the problem is the tyranny of structurelessness of all wikimedia projects out of resistance to any organizational hierarchies within projects, though the move to flagged revisions might change that. All the bad things aside of hierarchies, the good of hierarchies is what they can do: provide a channel of communication up and down. I do favor openness of Wikimedia projects that anyone can edit. We should remain welcoming newcomers. We should make it much more easy for new arrivals to edit, provide wysiwig functionality for example. What the board should do? Discuss internally - after reviewing the external environment - discuss internally where the Foundation will be in five, or ten years time. That will require developing multiple scenarios, as the future is hard to predict. And disseminate the outcome of such a conversation to anyone, so people will get an idea what is needed to be done to get there, the sum of all human knowledge in all languages. We aren't there, and, we aren't in a hurry.

Alex Bakharev
Florence, thanks for your thoughts and the question.

I think that the major problem we have is that we do a business of a multi-billion corporation (I have read that WMF would be valued at $7billion [2] been it private) on a budget of three orders if magnitude less. As a result we heavily rely on work of unpaid volunteers and underpaid staff to get our results. The results are not bad but we have people feeling unappreciated and frustrated. I am using this occasion to say big thank you from all of us.

Meanwhile there is a job of the community of editors and a job for the paid staff (who might get some help from the volunteers). Extracting and auditing expense report is not a job for the editors community. Preparation of the internal manuals on reimbursing the expenses of the staff and the board is not a job for the multi-million community of the editors. Some of them may want us to help and all of them has the right to know the details if they wish to but it is not helpful to bother them with gory details. On the other hand, WMF initates changes that affect all the community like changes in the fair use policy or policy on providing the free public dumps the community has the right to participate in the discussions well in advance. Usually the only thing we need is to give a pointer to discussions in popular language projects like Village Pump of en-wiki, de-wiki or commons and you would get quite a lot of feedback. I would not rely on the editorial community reading foundation mail-list - they do not.

The task of WMF board is not to micromanage either the foundation staff or the editorial process but to supervise and appoint right people that would have the job done. It is not the task of the board to write the expense report manual but to ensure the task is given to a staff member and that the staff member is fired if the manual is not written in time. It is also the board task to review that manual and approve or disapprove it.

Regarding the communication with the community, I have a more or less established relations throughout en:wiki. I will try to sort all my decision on three groups: there the input of the community needed, there the input is not needed but somebody can help, the confidential matters. The first one will be discussed in the relevant parts of en:wiki, en:commons and ru:wiki - I can promise it. I will do my best to put them for discussion on other projects if necessary. The second group will have a reference from my talkpage on enwiki: somebody with expertise could help me, maybe I would manage to find more prominent place. The third group is only mine to decide. I can assure that being an active editorial member I know what the community would feel about many matters and would try not to give them bad surprises.

Sorry for being long.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Thanks for the question. You have done a very good job as a board member, your efforts at improving communications, despite not getting the feedback you hoped for, have helped.

One of the biggest problems with board communication is the lack of any apparent method to bring an issue to the board. Obviously there is no way for the board to monitor the equivalent of the village pump for every project for issues. There must then be a way for the community to share concerns with the entire board. There are a few ways to ask individual members questions such as IRC, or we can bring it to the foundation mailing list, but there is no telling if the board actually saw it and foundation-l is often unproductive.

Making board@wikimedia.org (or some less publicized version) actually go to the board again might help. Even if we continue to have it go to OTRS, we need to make sure that messages beyond the those not really meant for the board actually go to the board. This very well might be the case right now, but if I am not really sure, then it is unreasonable to expect the rest of the community to think it is a useful method of communicating with the board.

I think we should try to do more Q&A sessions with the board. Once a year at Wikimaina is not enough. I think monthly moderated IRC Q&A sessions with the board would go a long way towards fixing the perception that the board is not communicating. If I am elected to the board I will commit to do at least monthly IRC Q&A sessions, and I hope the rest of the board would as well.

The other big issue with board communication is the perception that the board is acting without input from the community. The board should be discussing big changes with the community before they happen. A large portion of the community only cares if the board policy will effect them, so most times the feedback will be poor. Other times the community will care and the board will be able to get great feedback. Even when the there is a poor response, by posting information about issues people feel more in the loop and that the board is communicating with the community.

The community largely does not know what the board is doing most of the time. I like Cimon Avaro proposal of publishing redacted version of all meeting minutes. If the board is to effectively serve the community, the community must be able to find out what the board is doing.

Some attempts at communication may be getting lost in the monstrosities that are the big mailing lists. Perhaps a public announce list to which only board members and staff can post should be created. This list would allow the board and staff to report on what the foundation is doing, and solicit feedback on issues, that could then be discussed on foundation-l or another relevant list.

Communications between the board and the community are never going to be perfect, the community is to large and the board is to small for that to ever happen. What we can do is make it so the community feels it knows roughly what the board is doing and that it has appropriate outlets for its concerns. I doubt any of my suggestions are the magic fix to the problem, but I believe they will help.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
First, Florence, let me thank you for doing a commendable job on the board. I could give an answer talking about broader issues with communities and governing bodies in general, however the question asked to be specific about what steps I intend to take. One concern that I have is often it feels like the board is making changes, or deciding to make changes, and then asking for feedback. This seems to me to be a reverse order of things. Perhaps it would be more effective to ask the communities first what changes THEY think should be made. The board of course will make their own decisions, but better that the decisions be made after the input has been requested rather than before. See, for example, the board restructuring. Another idea I want to implement would be a "suggestion box" style tool for changes. Not how we currently have it on the mailing lists like foundation-l (although there is no reason to expect that suggestions wouldn't mirror discussion on foundation-l), but something perhaps done through OTRS or a similar structure. Instead of someone presenting a suggestion and it degenerating into a flame war, or being shouted down, they email their suggestion to whatever the email address is, and that way the board can get ideas from the community without a vocal minority interfering. Similarly, I know many people across different languages and projects, and will proactively seek their opinions. To that end, I would establish an unofficial contact list somewhere (probably on meta) that anyone could join by simply listing their username and most active projects. That way, when a change is being made that would affect, for example, all Wiktionaries, I could easily speak with several users across many different languages to find out what their opinions are. That's being a community representative in action: you have to proactively keep yourself informed, through direct contact, through projects, through Administrators Noticeboards, village pumps, metapub, IRC, mailing lists, etc. In order to favorably solicit communication going both ways, I intend to urge, cajole, poke, prod, and nudge people into participating in decisions that affect them. It will be a tireless, thankless, often frustrating job. Such is life. Another reason that communication has been poor in the past has been due to growing pains within the foundation. We thankfully have a much more stable structure, with an office led by professionals who can help facilitate this kind of communication. That is not something that we have been able to capitalize upon in the past, and I aim to work very closely with the office staff. Certainly not interfering, I'm quite wary of hindering the staff from doing their jobs. But I would like to speak with each staff member, and find out where they are at right now, and what their goals are in the future, and compare how that relates to various community concerns (from the above contacts), and figure out a plan of action as to how the concerns can best be addressed. More importantly, I intend to be active. That's something that has been a concern of many people I have spoken with. What are the board doing? What is Jan-Bart doing? What board projects is Jimmy working on? Why are some board members not voting or missing votes? The board reports have helped toward this end but there is not enough proactive communication coming out from the individual board members as to what their activities are. I intend to change that, and open these channels of communication, by being able to honestly say "I have been doing X and Y, and I'm confronting this project right now, and A and B are the two major views of the community affected by that project". It's the responsibility of someone in a community seat to be able to stand up and say "I'm in a community seat; I am a representative of the community, here is what they think" and not just take up space on the board that could be better served by someone who is more proactive. These are just a few of the steps that I intend to take. Once again, if I haven't said it enough, I will be a liaison for the community. If you or any other Wikimedian thinks that my above steps are flawed, or that they're great, or that they could be more effective, I absolutely invite you (or any other wikimedian) to discuss it with me, and I will take your concerns seriously and into consideration.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
Florence, you didn't exactly get "no feedback whatsoever" to your fiduciary essay. Someone replied to it with a comment about an "obscene joke in the negro tradition". (facepalm)

The strongest future path for the Foundation is to dedicate itself to attaining professional levels of ethics and excellence. If community members have the skills and the dedication to participate in that quest, then they should be included in the process as fluidly as possible. However, we all know that there is a vastly larger group of community members who have very little interest in the long-term health of the Foundation, but are rather fixated on protecting their power and prestige within their own project-specific fiefdoms, getting quite caught up in opining about individual, relatively tiny affairs of the month. They then use these incidents to push their points at the Foundation from the "community level". This is crippling to the efficiency of the Board and of the Foundation.

My direct and blunt suggestion would be to remind "the community" (as defined by the highly-active and highly-vocal editors and admins) that the purpose of the Wikimedia projects is not to serve them. It is to serve the rest of humanity. Let's let the Foundation do its job, and if "the community" objects, they are free to replace the Board one by one, or fork their pet project and do it better.

Right now, I think 80% of "the community" would be thoroughly satisfied if we just took anonymous IP vandals out of the equation. That one action would show more respect for the community's valuable editing time than just about any other simple modification to the projects; yet, no such step has been taken.

Harel Cain
(Harel)
Thanks Anthere for the interesting questions and information. I'll admit some of the links you mentioned were unfamiliar to me. I'll answer somewhat unorthodoxly. I don't share your (?) basic assumption that the "lack of outreach ... to participate in Foundation and Board matters" is indeed a real problem. I think it's the way of the world that for the vast majority of editors, and especially in smaller projects and less wide-spoken languages, the foundation is a somewhat vague notion they do not really feel very engaged about or care much about. As I told Jan-Bart in person following a (thinly attended) panel on the last board elections in Wikimania, for the average user it's their local policies, local admins and "small" local debates that really matter (e.g. they can list the names of 30 admins, but not two names from the board...) Foundation stuff is for, hmm, "advanced" users who're really into the matter. I don't see this basic fact changing, and I'm not even sure it should be changed. The main obstacle is that Foundation stuff, while theoretically multilingual, is often in a foreign language to many of these editors. They don't know the foundation people (board, staff, active meta users), so they lack the sense of community they have in their local project. In conclusion, I think the current methods of outreach are quite fairly enough. The Wikimedia Blog is maybe the best method, and I would be happy to see it updated more often and regularly translated and accessible directly from the different projects in a local page. That should whet a few more people's appetites to be involved at the foundation level (so expect more candidates next time...)
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I disagree with the notion that there is a fundamental problem with communication. There have been dramatic new initiatives both by board and staff to communicate to the community. Sues reports, the Wikimedia Foundation blog etc, and even the the communications from the board members have been far more useful than in some periods in the past. From what I gather, there have in fact sometimes been problems in communicating *within* the "organisation side" of things. When that happens, it is natural that communicating with the community would have been frought with risks of splitting both board and community into separate factions. In those situations it often is *wise* to not say too much. Where the dramatic failures in communication do happen, they are usually no-ones fault, but we are *all* guilty if we don't learn the right lessons from them. The board should try to avoid turning into a porcupine/hedgehog, bristling and withdrawing into a spiky ball. Diplomatic communication is more of an art, than a matter of will.

There are two communication strategies that are bound to fail. One is the "singular vision" approach. Expressing a coherent plan which is thought out to the last detail, where the slightest jot cannot be adjusted, or it turns into a clunky piece of junk.

The other one is the "listening and recieving" approach to communication. People expect leadership, and they do expect that board members and staff have a grasp of what the community is about, without the community having to *tell* them what's what.

Somewhere between there, there is a yellow brick road where the board will walk confidently forward, knowing what it does, and having the confidence to be flexible in executing its plans, when it does happen that good ideas do come from the community, or mistakes in board or staff operations are pointed out by community members.

The *amount* of communication matters not so much, but the quality of communication is paramount. When hazy, confused & poorly phrased it can be hard to express even justified criticism of ideas. But when crisply and clearly expressed, the logical errors are easily addressed, and good ideas are easy to improve and expand.

One problem we have is that quite a bit of the communicating happens in places where people haven't yet learned to look. Such as the various foundation web-sites. Not nearly all the relevant pages there (even the public ones) are known to all who might be legitimately interested in their content. This bit is one part where education of he community *has* to occur.

And of course, the community has to learn to not go into a knee-jerk critical mode, each time the board *does* tell it what is coming down the pipeline in advance.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
My solution is quite simple: make the entire board a community-elected entity. Eliminate all appointed and permanent seats, and expand the board to include a general representation of all language and subject communities (no, I am NOT saying "one board member for every WMF project"). Terms should be staggered to maintain SOME continuity on the board, of course.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Excellent question (and thanks for quoting me). You've been a great Board Chair, who has always acted with the interests of the projects at heart and worked to make the Board and Foundation more accessible to the individual communities. I also recognize that you are not an en.wiki native, so your contributions there are even more telling of your dedication to helping all projects.

What disappoints me is that outside of a very few number of Board members such as Jimmy, yourself, and staff members like Cary, Brion, and Tim, there is a noticeable lack of communication between the non-technical parts of the Foundation and the communities. Ideally I would hope all Foundation staff and Board members would be as involved with the communities as you and Cary have been. Also, I wish there were more formal ways for community members (outside of Emailuser and the Foundaiton email address), to communicate with staff and board members. I think the Foundation blog is a great step in the direction of informing the communities of changes, and would hope that methods are developed for individuals to respond to blog posts.

Now the bread and butter, you asked for specific ideas, so here are my best initial efforts:

  • On-wiki, IRC, and Skype forums with Board Members/Staff and communities in which the Board/Staff answer the communities' questions on topics of concern.
  • Development of forums at the community level that are visited weekly/frequently by Board and staff members to discuss ideas related to that community or propose ideas for further discussion. It would serve as a gateway from the community to wider discussion at Meta.
  • Inter-wiki polls on major proposed Board initiatives (new projects, alliances/partnerships, structure changes, etc) that will let the Board know what the communities feel about ideas, and provide a way to use the power of the wiki model to improve proposed ideas.
  • Establish an annual referendum to accompany these elections. Permit individuals to submit proposed Foundation-level issues/changes to the Elections Commission, and then let the voters voice their approval with the matter. It could be done in a binding or non-binding format (depending on relevant corporate law), but would provide an invaluable way for communities to influence the direction of events.

Thank you again for serving these years as Chair and I look forward to seeing your continued contributions.

Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
My solution to the problem would be to actually re-open the communication channels between the Board and the community. Offer ways to bring issues to the Board (email, IRC) in both formal and informal contexts, on and off-wiki. It is vitally important that all communities have a say in the actions and decisions of the Board, but currently it can feel quite lonely when there is no way of actually contacting the Board as an entity. Of course, I am wide open to discussion on this issue, and encourage community participation in the decisions that are made regarding it.

I would strongly support regular Q&A, perhaps "Chat with the Board", sessions - perhaps on IRC, perhaps on Skype, or some other method. I believe that this will open the floodgates for ideas and move the Foundation in the directions that both the Board and the communities want.

Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
If I were to answer you by describing my magic bullet for fixing all that ails this huge enterprise I would be deceiving myself as much as I would be deceiving you and the voters. Describing the solution implies that we have described the problem, and I'm not sure that that has been adequately done. I have been aware of your essays (except for the Board Manual), and have been in substantial agreement with them. What then? Talking about fiscal responsibility spawns two possible reactions: people who say nothing because they see it as too elementary to merit comment, and people who say nothing because they haven't a clue about what you are saying. I could say the same about any number of other skills that are vital to the maintenance of a world-class organization.

It is a paradox of democratic systems that democracy is wasted on the masses. This paradox cuts deeper than what such a superficially elite statement would at first suggest. Purveyors of democratic structures anticipate that the responsibilities of democracy will gratefully be picked up by a population that has really been trained to consume a welfare state of the intellect. We cannot "change the shape of wisdom" without understanding that. In Taipei our Advisory Board went off with the Board to dream up our guiding platitudes. Since then I am aware of only one (Teemu) who has continued with any of the projects in an attempt to make a difference; I would be delighted to hear of there were more. We would do better to spend as much bringing ordinary Wikimedians to Wikimania where they could engage in intensive hands-on sessions for understanding the underlying philosophy that has made wikis work. They might just apply the skills they learn, and pass them on to others. The tired pattern of speeches followed by a Q&A session is not enough. The most important sessions in both Boston and Taipei were cut short just when they were beginning to deal with the real problems.

In his response to the refusal by the Board to create the Provisional Volunteer Council Michael Snow did suggest that any such body should be generated directly by the community. This makes sense. Maybe too, it means that greater participation on the Board needs to be deserved by the community by showing that it is prepared to deal with the very kind of issues which you have raised.

I do not bring pat answers to the Board; I bring an attitude and a way of looking at issues, and maybe a little vision and imagination, sometimes with a sense of humour.

Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
To start with, the Board should avoid a sense of ownership that pushes interested community members away.

These communication issues can be resolved by relying on the communities for proposals and solutions, and helping them solve major problems, rather than asking for ideas or comments on fait-accompli drafts. Anyone, not only Trustees, can achieve this (ANOTCAT)... however, issues and discussions that begin in private with the Board or individual Trustees require active community engagement and public broadcasting before the community can recognize a specific need and its ownership of part of the solution.

The more that Trustees claims personal responsibility for directing the project goals and making, rather than reviewing and facilitating, long-term plans, the less the communities will be involved in the process (and the worse the outcomes will be).

We have an engaged, brilliant community. Claims that the community members are not interested in policy or in planning miss the mark; a casual look at the project-level discussions on any active project should dispel such notions. We should expect and ask its community to articulate, propose, and vet important proposals. this is something all community members should address.. Trustees should inquire, review, and approve; maintain focus on long-term sustenance and development; and help get extraordinary help when a specific urgent need arises.

To give an example of the sense of ownership, and the arrogation of responsibility, which limits communication and discourages direct community engagement, simply look at the definition of a Trustee you linked above.

  • determining mission, goals, long-term plans and high level policies of WMF and its projects
    much of this should be determined by the community with approval by the Trustees. If Trustees regularly set goals, plans, or policies contra the interests of the project contributors, something is wrong.
  • ensuring the sustainability of the organization by defining a number of independent revenue sources
    The community has always been the largest direct contributor of 'independent revenue sources', and could help here much more broadly. While "approving" and "defining" the revenue sources that are actually used is something Trustees should do, identifying and reviewing such sources is something that can be done by all -- and that is so done every fundraising cycle, though it has not recently been recognized as such. However, individual staff and Trustees have generally wanted to own all parts of ths process and have discouraged community help with fundraising, grant-writing, and other readily-distributable processes.
  • communicating about the direction and the activities of the WMF to the community.
    Interested community members (foundation clerks?) can do this directly. If one has to be a Trustee to know about the direction and activities of the WMF, something fundamental is broken. If this is just a matter of communication, many people can take part in that process.
  • maintaining legal and ethical integrity
    All contributors and community members who represent the projects have a responsibility to do this; one which should be more often repeated to remind us all of the impact of our personal lives on our tremendous collaboration.
  • recruiting and orienting new board members
    Assuming the goal is to have the most enlightened and trustworthy set of Trustees in the world, we should all be participating in this recruiting and orientation. limiting this to being a responsibility of existing Trustees only guides the mind towards a closed organizational cabal, which is unlikely to be so enlightened.
  • articulating the mission of the WMF in public
    Of all the stated responsibilities of a Trustee, this one is least warranted. A great Trustee may be a poor public speaker, and we have tens of thousands of contributors who in their eloquence and their desire to share the benefits of our joint work should be and are out in public, articulating the mission of the projects (and of the WMF).
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
Thanks for weighing in, Madam Chair. I think your experience highlights the fact that most people don't really want to be involved in governance. They'd much rather leave all decisions to somebody else, until that somebody else makes a decision they don't like, whereupon they raise hell about how they were insufficiently consulted. This is how things work in pretty well all representative democracies, and I hope you don't get too discouraged about how it happens within the Foundation.

All of that being said, the general lack of response when feedback is sought is not a sufficient reason to abandon seeking feedback (note that I'm not suggesting that you've done so). Community-elected board members should be active on Meta and, to the extent practicable, as many other projects as possible, making sure that they're posting their Board-related activites and responding to whatever feedback may come up. If they're doing that, that's sufficient.

Ting Chen
(Wing)
Hello Florence, I hope you read my answer in the section Why. So, at least one of your appalls was heard. And because we discussed quite a lot in the community, I think my candidacy is not only a personal decision.

Second point. There is a phrase in China: "The mountain is high and the emporer is far". So, I hope my candidacy would bring San Francisco nearer to a part of the community.

Third point is that communication is bilateral. To explain what the board is doing and why they make this or that decision is the one way, the other way is to let the board know what is important for the community. I remember, while extending the panel led by Andrew, you complained that you simply didn't found the time to do edits in the last years, though you really tried. I think this is a vital point. You must do the basic works to understand what the contributor really need. You must do afd or ifd to know where the problems are and how you explain the policy.

The majority of contributors may be not interested in the board and the foundation and the politics there. They want to have a framework in which they can do their work, with a good and understandable policy, with the servers running stable. That's what they want, they don't want to read a daily mailing list with hundreds of arguments, most of them repeating themselves again and again. What they need is someone who know their work, who talk their language and who can atticulate their demand. They need a representation from the community, and this is what this seat for, this is what I want to do there.

I already mentioned in earlier answers that I will try to keep my edits and my administrator works, and take part in the discussions in the community as a community member if I am elected. And I will not recandidate after the turn. I will hope that this seat will always be kept by someone, who comes from the community, who do the basic works there and who can represent the community. I myself will then go back to the work which I love so much.

Wikispecies[edit]

As a bureaucrat myself at Wikispecies, I feel that the foundation has not provided enough support to this project. Two major "competitors" of Wikispecies are Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) and Tree of Life Web Project. Both of them are backed by other institutions such as universities, biodiversity libraries, and various departments in the U.S. government. If you were to become a board member, what would you do to:

  1. Increase the popularity of Wikispecies to generate more editors and readership? (I have seen too many times that Wikispecies was forgotten when someone listed out all WMF projects)
  2. Promote Wikispecies to scientists? (Remember that almost all scientists would prefer EOL over Wikispecies because EOL is more stable and edited by scientific community rather than just about anyone.)
  3. Ensure that while scientists are strongly encouraged to contribute in Wikispecies, the contributions of the general public should not be forgotten?
  4. Obtain funding or work in collaboration with other similar projects for Wikispecies?

OhanaUnitedTalk page 18:03, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
What specifics has Wikispecies to offer a board member could "sell" to the general public, scientist, grant donors of other similar projects? Tell, tell, tell, sell, sell, sell. I can dream the Wikipedia story. Tell to everyone who is prepared to listen the Wikispecies story (I'm listening).
Alex Bakharev
Well, I am for promotion of our work on all levels and seeking to increase the financial support to our work from anybody and on all levels. It might benefit Wikispecies. I guess after all your work on wikispecies you have better ideas how to help the project than I. Tell me your ideas and I will promote them!

On the other hand if there is somebody who do Wikispecies work better than us we might decide to concentrate on the field there we are the best in the world by miles margin.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
Wikispecies is an interesting and commonly ignored project. The target audience is rather different then that of the other projects. Scientific knowledge appears to be required to be able to do much with Wikispecies. This obviously limits the contributor base.

Most of the problems you described, if Wikispecies is to be successful, need to be resolved by the community. The board ideally should be responsive and able to provide support for what ever the community develops. As you suggested, we should always be trying to form partnerships with like organizations.

I wish I could give some specific suggestions, but my experience with Wikispecies is limited to a few short visits during which I discovered it was too technical for me to be any help :). The best I can do for now, is promise that if I am elected, I will do my best to be responsive to the needs of all of the Wikimedia projects including Wikispecies and I will try not to forget it if I am ever called on to list the projects :).

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
I confess to a lack of experience with Wikispecies. All 4 of your questions, to be answered at the level they deserve, require a greater indepth knowledge of the project than I have at this time. I welcome you to tell me all about Wikispecies, what problems it faces, about these other competing projects, and what you think the solutions are. That will give me a baseline opinion that I can speak to other users of Wikispecies, and perhaps even users of the competing projects, and figure out what the solutions are. Any answers that I would give you today, however, would not be as good as they deserve to be.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
As a point of experimentation, I made an edit to an obscure species on Wikispecies today, where I noted its common name was a goofy quote from the movie, Galaxy Quest. The edit stood for over 30 minutes, then I divulged it on WikipediaReview.com, and then (after a total of 69 minutes) it was properly reverted. This experiment underscores why Wikispecies may never attain the credibility of Encyclopedia of Life. The open wiki is too easily made inaccurate, and in science accuracy is paramount. Not to mention, over 90% of the last 500 edits on Wikispecies have been made by OhanaUnited, his bot, or two other editors.

So, perhaps the question is, "Why would scientists not come flocking to Wikispecies to contribute their accurate information?" Do you know the probable answer to this question, based on my experiment?

Harel Cain
(Harel)
I admit I don't know for sure. I think option 4 (collaboration) sounds the most promising. Wikispecies has the disadvantage that it needs specialized scientific knowledge to be able to make a real impact as an editor there (am I wrong?). That's unusual among our projects, and I can understand why there are attractive alternatives by "competitors". As taxonomy is indeed a specialized field of knowledge, it would be best if we could somehow find a special model where it is endorsed by some leading university or academic organization so that it can have its own specialized group of editors. I admit Wikispecies is a bit of a 'stepson', so to say, among the projects, and I might have to give it more thought.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I think I need to be brutally honest here. What you are in essence asking for, is for us to square a circle with ruler and compasses. It cannot be done. I remember well the history of how the wikispecies project was begun, with some significant people expressing more than mild scepticism both at the process of its inception and of its necessity and viability. Wikispecies needs to justify and prove itself, is the best advice that can be given here. It may well be that it is a poor fit with the wikimedia mission in general, with such projects as EOL able to reign superior. It may well be that I am wrong. I cannot however argue for something I do not affirmatively believe.

Personally (and I know this may sting, badly) I feel we should divorce metadata from the prose of wikipedia articles, and wikispecies data would naturally fold into that metadata structure. If that were to be done technically, the content creation that wikispecies is currently acheiving, might in fact actually get a genuine boost, because of the prominence of wikipedia which is well known to all of us; but of course wikispecies would lose the parochial status it has. Does the wikispecies project really wish to remain divorced from wikipedia, even though its information is clearly of encyclopaedic import, is IMO the *real* question here.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
no response yet.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Another one of our fine projects that probably needs the attention of the Foundation in order to jumpstart it on the path to success. While I'm sure from the project point of view, EOL and other similar projects are competitors, I look at the situation and see two things:
  • Potential partners. If I understand the concept correctly, EOL and other projects will be expert driven. So they might be verifiable enough for Species to cite to and let us offer all of the EOL content, plus all of our content (assuming all the CC licenses work). Or we might find a way to merge the back end source data with one of these projects, so its the same content coming through different interfaces.
  • A swift kick in the pants. As you mention, Species, both due to its topical content and structure, if neglected in WMF advertising. If we have competitors, we must improve the project, through advertising it to more locations, integrating its content better into the other projects, and making it more accessible to the scientific community.

No to overdue a point, but I can imagine an inter-wiki transclusion system, that lets Wikispecies content propagate through to other projects. Also, while scientific point of view was rejected at en.wiki, there is no reason it could not be combined with the flagged revisions feature at Species, to increase the level of quality to the end reader. I suspect if Wikispecies could be formatted and advertised to the scientific community, as a resource on par with $10,000 a year private databases of species, it would be much more heavily used. I also suspect if it were integrated more into other part of the WMF family, as commons has been, it would gain more editors to contribute more content. Lastly, I think technical means can be implemented that still permit all users to edit, while maintaining a distinctly scientific focus.

Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
As I hope I have made clear, it is my aim to support the lesser-known communities (of which Wikipsecies is a prime example) in whatever their smaller, dedicated communities deem fit. It would be unfit and unfair of me to make such decisions for the communities, and not being active there I do not believe that I can weigh in much on ideas. It is, however, my aim to encourage the Board to lend as much support as it can to all projects, whether it be in funding (for whatever reason), advertising, or other methods. It is, however, up to the communities to decide on what they need help with!
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
Perhaps our Testudinidae at Wikispecies should begin by giving themselves more credit than the flashy Leporidae at these other project cousins. While it may be unpardonable for those who list projects to neglect Wikispecies, I think there is much that Wikispecies could be doing to help itself. Building links into Wikipedia's extensive taxobox system would be very helpful for promoting Wikispecies. After all new visitors to the Wikimedia projects almost always visit us first through Wikipedia. Links there would be the best advertising that Wikispecies could give itself.

When Wikispecies began the biggest concern was that it would duplicate material already in Wikipedia. That concern did make it more difficult for Wikinews to get started shortly afterwards. The risk for Wikispecies is that it become stuck as a backwater species list that does not provide any added value. Start adding differential keys or DNA profiles, and it will become something more.

While the Board should not ignore Wikispecies in its promotion campaigns, the essential viability of Wikispecies will still depend mostly on its own participants.

Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
Trustees should work to broadcast these opportunities -- the existence of these high-profile projects in line with Wikispecies -- and the needs of the project itself. As to how to improve outreach and look for better support and integration, this is something all community members should address..
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
First of all, let me concede a total lack of experience with Wikispecies. That said, I think we need to be careful about whether there's a need for all of these projects - we should be quite prepared to experiment with new project ideas, but we also shouldn't be afraid of abandoning them if it turns out that they're not meeting any need. I'm not necessarily saying that that's the case with Wikispecies, because I'm not familiar enough with the project, but my immediate question is what it's supposed to provide that the other projects don't? I see that EOL, at least, is largely licensed under creative commons licenses, including a couple that are compatible with Wikimedia; with that in mind, is there a need for Wikispecies? If there is, what is Wikispecies supposed to provide that the EOL doesn't? Is Wikispecies providing it now?

With all those questions answered, it should be easier to evaluate how to proceed (and maybe all those questions already are answered, and I just haven't seen the answers yet). In the meantime, I can only suggest that, at the community level, the best way to help the non-Wikipedia projects is to piggyback off of Wikipedia's success through liberal use of interwiki links.

Ting Chen
(Wing)
I can support all 4 points you suggested and I think it is important that the community make such suggestions.

As I mentioned in an earlier question (about WikiNews in that case). The foundation and the board should promote our smaller projects, make them more public. And as I stated in my candidate goal I said I would work for more collaboration of the foundation projects with other scientific institutions.

What I also think is important is that the community which is working on the project should also be active: Issue papers for WikiMania to introduce your project, talk to other people whenever possible and encourage other people to take part on your project. If you think, there is a possibility to make a collaboration with an insitution but you need the official support of the foundation, call it out, in the foundation mailing-list or anywhere where the foundation is collecting feed backs. I personally cannot tell you whom you can collaborate with and how a collaboration could be, because I am not a biologist and I have no skills there to make such suggestions. Such suggestions must come from you, but you can tell me and if you think you need support, I would try to give you such support.

It should always be a two way communication. The foundation should give you a framework where you can promote yourself and should support you if you need official support. But it is also to you to elaborate the oppotunities and to catch the oppotunities.

Flagged revisions / sighted versions[edit]

Dear candidates, do you have an opinion whether Flagged revisions are a step in the right direction? They are currently tested on German wikipedia, but the results of this test may be inconclusive. Thanks for your answers. Stefan64 18:30, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
  1. Flagged revisions ends up with contributors having different editorial rights. Wikipedia's success was and is openness by 'anyone can edit'. However, I'm in favor of the experiment championed by the Germans. How the flagged revision test will affect the community and the influx of new comers, is something to watch. Project communities will have a choice, and decide on a project by project basis.
  2. What is the problem of a test with inconclusive results? I know right now the test won't answer all questions. Thereby, further testing will be necessary, to provide more or other answers, and generate lots of new, and yet to be answered questions as well.
Alex Bakharev
I think the idea of flagged versions is brilliant and it is the single most important software thing that we should implement in our projects. It might greatly improve the reliability and consequently reputation of our product. It might reduce edit warring. It makes preparing hard and printed versions a breeze.

On the other hand the implementation of the idea in the code/procedures can be wrong or right. We must review German experiment and see if want to do something differently. I have not looked in the results yet: my German is almost not existent and my participation to German wiki is mostly adding interwikis and images from Commmons, but I am surprised that so little fraction of the articles is flagged yet. I think it is critically important that all improvements to articles were flagged within hours, maximum days. Otherwise editors lose their motivation. And it does not seem to be the case in German Wiki.

At any rate we need a serious discussion with the community.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
I think flagged revisions could prove to be an amazingly valuable tool for us. It stands to help reduce vandalism and thus improve our reputation. It will not fix most accuracy issues, but will stop a lot of the vandalism and obvious BLP problems. We still have a number of details to work out before it can have a successful complete roll out, but we will eventually get these worked out and be able to fully take advantage of this great tool.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
I share my learned colleagues' opinions that Flagged Revisions are a great idea, especially to the need that in many cases they will reduce the need for semi-protection, leading to a more open encyclopedia. Whether the great idea will be implemented properly on various projects, whether they technically are sound, whether they address both the needs of editing wikimedians and those who just read our projects, remains to be seen as far as I am concerned. On the other hand, I am learning to speak German (yay for Rosetta Stone), and I hope to become more active on the German Wikipedia both to review the effect of Flagged Revisions and to increase my knowledge of the language. Perhaps what works for the German Wikipedia will not work for the English or Polish Wikipedias. We won't know until more projects test them out.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
Sighted versions is an obvious step in the right direction. I would still have questions about code policy aspects, such as how search engines will crawl "live" versus "flagged" versions, and whether anyone has any clue how difficult it is to affirm that a page is "clear of libel and unsourced statements about living persons", according to one average Joe who happens to carry the Surveyor bit. (Currently, the English Wikipedia's plan for awarding the Surveyor bit is "a non-vandal account". Can you imagine?)

Personally, I'd be more inclined to take this a step further and make our objective "professionally certified" versions that even supercede a "sighted" version, but that would take grown-up alliances with authoritative knowledge professionals and perhaps paid review and editing. Lots of Wikimedians balk at this idea; but then I wonder, is the Board so afraid of promoting accurate, authoritative encyclopedia articles because the Foundation might then actually be held accountable for them?

Harel Cain
(Harel)
I was watching that closely for the first few days and even translated the main information page into Hebrew for my home project to consider. I think the concept is interesting and worth exploring, but it is technically somewhat awkward and confusing to the casual readers. Especially the concept of "Prüfer" is still very undecided. It's good that it's being tested in a big-scale, and I would be looking forward to the full results of the test run. Eventually the communities will have to decide for themselves, and I expect a lot of opposition - it takes away the immediacy of an edit being displayed immediately (unless you have the right permissions), and that may be a very big reason for many to object.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
Flagged revisions and patrolled edits and all these other ways to clarify the edit history and enable some sifting of what is visible to whom at which time, are a good and useful addition which will make the workflow much streamlined, and our site more attractive to those who are on the fence about our quality, if they become widely adopted. And they are vastly superior to such blunt instruments as semi-protection for instance.

And I am well aware of the irony of being able to phrase it in such a fashion; semi-protection itself being such a vast improvement over what came before it. I think it is really a good thing to occasionally reflect on how far MediaWiki has already come.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
I'm not sure this is a path we should be heading down. As I remarked in an earlier question, I believe the WMF projects should solely be concerned with creating the content; leave formal distribution to others. Certainly, presenting an article in its current state to the general public is a necessary means for our ideal of open contribution, but it is ONLY a means. We shouldn't be in the business of bending over backwards to accomodate people who want to treat us as the distributor of our content. Those who wish to look upon us as such are perfectly entitled to do so, of course, but we shouldn't be concerned with it ourselves.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
I think its a great technical tool that certain projects can adopt to aid their editing. I am happy the German wiki has taken the initiative in live-testing the tool and that the developers have made it easy to customize for individual projects. I can see such a tool helping greatly to reduce drive-by vandalism and protect BLPs on the projects that deal with living persons.

I think this tool fall s more into the community decision realm than the Board realm, and therefore would leave it open to each community to decide whether or not to adopt it. I do think though it is the sort of thing the Foundation needs to provide to the communities. AFAIK, this was a tool some users wanted at some projects, that was finally coded by the devs. I would of course support efforts to create more "optional" features for projects to adopt on an as needed basis, as furthering the efforts of the those projects and fulfilling the Foundation's mission.

Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I am strongly in support of Flagged Revisions where the community deems it fit. There is no point in putting these new tools into a community that just does not want to use them, or has no use for them. However, in the right places, and when proper guidelines are in place, the communities can benefit strongly from their use.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
I think that flagged revisions is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the fact that the implementation may still be in need of serious debugging shouldn't be enough to scuttle the primary idea. The needs of passive readers and active editors are different. The former, in particular, does not want to be caught in the middle an edit dispute where the version that he is reading is only an ephemeral one.

In longer terms, if we can make flagged revisions a success, I would support a system of article ratings that depends very much on the observations of readers.

Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. None should wait on the Board to issue a dictat about this; people should figure out what it means for them and for their local projects.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
I suppose it's a step in the right direction, but I don't think it's anywhere near the panacea that it's being made out to be. There are so many pages/articles/what-have-you on the various Foundation projects, and these are growing at such a great rate, that I don't think we have enough editors qualified to whom we could give the "reviewer" bit. I just think the scale of the projects is such that it will be impossible to implement the technology in the most useful possible fashion; either we'll have reviewers flagging revisions without reviewing them properly, or the trickle of flagged revisions will be inconsequential compared to the deluge of edits.
Addendum: I'm watching with interest the discussions on the English Wikipedia about how to implement flagged revisions there. These discussions do not seem to be making very much progress. While we might disagree on this technology's capacity to solve our problems, it's clear that it can't solve any problems at all if the community can't agree on an implementation, as I'm afraid will turn to be the case at enwiki. Self-serving candidate that I am, I view this as another argument in favour of my policy committees on the largest projects, and just couldn't resist the chance to make that point here.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
I am less enthusiastical about the flagged revisions. I think I first heard of the talking about this possibility one and a half years ago, or maybe still longer. Now we are doing field tests on the Wikipedia language version with the highest quality demand. We take this as a test, so far I know. But I don't know what we are testing. If we say we are making a test, we expect results, but this result is for me somehow undefined. What is the criterien for saying the test is successful or the test is not successful? I understand that we want to give a user of our content, who doesn't do edits and doesn't care how the content come, a mean to be sure that the content he is reading has passt some sort of quality check. On the other hand, after moderating so much edit wars and disputes I am also in fear that we will create a new war, the revision-war. I am also a little concerned that with this we could rebute new editors. And for me to keep the community open is a very important thing.

All in all I am waiting for a report of the test.

Your edit count[edit]

With reference to an external tool (such as this one[3]), I would be interested to know how many edits you have made to whichever project(s) you are most active in, and your opinion on whether and how this is an important factor for good candidates. Thanks. --Gronky 11:25, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
You're free to research my edit count on each and every project. You have to decide for yourself which weight you'll give to edit count in evaluating candidates.
Alex Bakharev
According to this tool I have 31634 edits on enwiki, 3610 edits on commons, 521 on ruwiki and quite a few on another dozen of projects. Editcount is of course a very inexact measure of wikimedia contribution. OTRS work or WMF work requires a lot of difficult work but leaves very little edits. Software development does not leave edits at all. On the other hand using automatic and semi-automatic tools can give someone a huge amount of edits in short time. As an example my bot en:User:AlexNewArtBot has got 194K edits according to en:Wikipedia:List of Wikipedians by number of edits more than any humans. Even similar types of work produces vastly different amount of edits with different editors: one person might write articles using an external editor in one edit while another would write the same article saving each word. Obviously the editcount of them will be different. See also en:Wikipedia:Editcountitis.

Said this, I would expect a successful candidate for the place reserved to the community of editors to have a reasonably high number of edits: say, ten thousands or more. This is just a form of respect to the editorial community.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
I have 9400 edits on en Wikinews, 539 on en Wikipedia, 445 on meta, 360 on en Wikibooks,111 on commons and a handful scattered across the other wikis.

Edit count is an extremely imprecise measure of anything meaningful. It is easy to add several hundred edits in a very short time doing mindless maintenance tasks. The same time could also be used to make five or six major high quality edits. Quality is what matters not quantity. Some users will spend a lot of time to make one major edit using preview heavily, while others will make dozens of small edits to do the same thing.

Edit counts do however make good shortcuts for determining activity. A candidate without a number of edits should be given a closer look at their involvement, but not excluded from consideration. This seat is a community seat, so the user should be involved enough with the community to be able to represent it.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
16,249 on English Wikipedia, plus another 1200 deleted edits, and I've answered several hundred emails on OTRS, participate on the unblock mailing list, spend time working on the Communications Committee, etc. I believe edit counts work acceptably as a floor. Once that floor is established, they become very quickly irrelevant. The biggest benefit of making many contributions is gaining the ties with the community, and those ties are established whether one has made 10,000 or 1 million edits.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
My two most dominant accounts on English Wikipedia were Thekohser (670 edits, of which 507 were in Article space) and MyWikiBiz (228 edits, of which 82 were in articles). Contribution history to one or more of the Wikimedia projects is an important factor in your evaluation of candidates, but no more or less than other factors like real-world experience, platform positions, and overall trust and likeability exhibited by the candidate.

If Philip W. Goetz (former executive editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica) were running in this election, but he had twelve Wikimedia edits to his name, I'd still want you to vote for him over any of the 15 of us.

Harel Cain
(Harel)
I have ~22500 edits on the Hebrew wikipedia, of which 8000 in the main namespace. I think it's a fair and respectable amount, and I'll admit I'd rather I had a better namespace distribution. As a long time admin and now bureaucrat, I'm naturally involved with many "managerial" functions, and that reflects in my statistics, as well as my special interest in starting and running all sorts of projects such as writing competitions, reader surveys, quality offensives and the like - they don't count in the main namespace. I don't think that a board candidate necessarily has to have a flabbergastingly big number of edits (beware of editcountisis!), but he/she must be vested in the ways of the wiki projects -- I'd expect a good few hundred edits as the very least.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I have genuinely zero interest in going through all my edit numbers that are relevant in full detail, but I will give you an impressionistic account of my edit history in terms of quantity.

If somebody has the energy they can either deny or confirm that my edits overall, on the various projects, go into the five figures... that is are above the 10 000 ceiling - where above it I have no real idea, in the low 10 000s or pushing the 99 999 rollover.

There are some fun numbers involved though within that and outside it...

On the Finnish Wikipedia I did literally thousands of edits in the early days, with the specific intention of keeping the recent changes look like it was alive. For someone on the English Wikipedia this may be quite inconceivable as a concept. Not just trying to maintain churn of existing articles into the recent changes, but to maintain the appearance that there were people editing the pages at all. There are consequently many days on the finnish wikipedias early Usemod days history where the only edits of the day were a few dozen by me.

Another fun number is the number of *page moves* I did in the few days after November 28th 2004. We did a genuine "barn raising" effort to move the Finnish Wikipedia from the Usemod to what became the MediaWiki code (then still called simply Phase III), which involved *manually* page moving thousands upon thousands of pages to a different title, because of the problems with page title capitalisation in the software.

As a wholly serendipitous legacy of this barnraising effort, since I was so eagerly awaiting the opportunity to start hauling pages to their correct title, I happen to still have the smallest User Identification Number of any Finnish user of wikipedia. That is my UID is 2, with 1 going to Brion Vibber, who (after some gentle hectoring by me and a few other finns) finally moved us from the (oh, so nostalgic) Usemod software. And since we are talking completely irrelevant stuff like numbers (really, if you do care, see what kinds of edits, not how many), I may note that on the english wikipedia I am one of the last who still has only four digits in their UID, with the first three being "999".

I am sorry, but this really has to be all I will say on quantities of any sort.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
It's quite easy to look for yourself, but I can tell you now it's probably considerably fewer than all the others. My life does not resolve around a website. It's just a fun hobby.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
I believe candidates should have a varied experience with a good number of edits to truly understand the wiki community and be able to respond to matters raised by it. However, once an individual reaches the point that they've seen most of what there is to see in the MediaWiki program, edit counts become meaningless because knowing how to fix an image and doing it 10 times is the same as doing it 1,000 times. Since you as, I've compiled my stats:
Articles 8818
Talk 452
User 756
User talk 5947
Project 2756
Project talk 726
Image 5992
Image talk 6
MediaWiki talk 2
Template 518
Template talk 43
Help 18
Help talk 4
Category 14
Category talk 6
Portal 13
Portal talk 3
  • Other Actions
Articles created: 92
Redirects created: 93
Users blocked: 628
Accounts created: 7
Pages deleted: 682
Pages moved: 105
Moves over redirect: 56
Pages patrolled: 745
en.wiki en:user:MBisanz (cont.)
Pages protected: 114
Pages restored: 35
User rights modified: 10
Users unblocked: 36
Pages unprotected: 4
Files uploaded: 37


User: 7
User talk: 10962


Meta 47
Talk 1
User 13
User talk 4
Project 2


User 6
User talk 2
Image 7
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
You are, of course, free to research my edit count as you deem fit. My user account is User:Skenmy on all projects. I ran a bot on en:wikinews under User:ArchiveBot. I am. however, a strong opposer of editcountitis in all its forms, and I do not believe that an edit count is at all an indicator of a person's usefulness, willingness to contribute, or even of how good that person's edits are. Only the communities and people who have dealt with a person can have that opinion, not someone who only has a bunch of numbers.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
About 28K combined. Edit count and edit patterns may be useful at the lower end for rough evaluations about whether a person is around to stay, but if you really want to know what a person's like you have to do the work to look at the edits themselves. The importance of more sophisticated evaluation techniques rises with the importance of the privilege or office being sought.
Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
Edit counts are not the measure of an editor, certainly not of a Trustee. Long-standing commitment to the projects is. Since you mention it, we need to find a better way of recognizing active participants who edit rarely -- highlighted by the handful of developers and other important community members who were almost disenfranchised by the voting rules this election.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
On en-wiki, I have 10309. I also have 89 at the Commons, 66 here at Meta (I guess my response to this question is #67), 6 at fr-wiki, and 1 at en-wikibooks. I think that's it. I think experience within the community is one factor to consider, but it's not the only factor. Besides that, edit count and experience, while correlated, are far from the same thing. I'd say edit counts are more or less meaningless - I'd certainly have some questions about any candidate with fewer than a couple of thousand edits (Greg's obviously a bit of a special case in this regard), but beyond that I don't think there's a lot that can be learned from edit counts.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
On zh-wp. (User:Wing) : total edits: 52312, articles: 19071, Talks: 484, User Talks: 18073 (welcome, copyvionotice, ifdnotice, discussions), project: 12860 (mostly articles for delete, copyright problems and village pump), deleted edits: 13731 (these are mostly copyvio notices and afd or ifd notices). On de-wp. (Benutzer:Wing) : total edits: 1790, articles: 1529, Talks: 114. On en-wp. (User:Philopp): total edits: 537, articles: 432, talks: 51. On meta (User:Wing) : Total edits: 245, articles: 229 (I believe most translations).

As I already had said in other questions. I think the candidate should be from the community and should represent the community. He must not have the highest edit counts, but he should be doing basic works in the past years.

Due Process[edit]

Hidden in en.wikipedia's Administrator's Noticeboard, there is a quote from w:en:User:Lar:

The thing is, the project doesn't DO due process. There is no reason to expect it. This is not a governance experiment, a society, or even fair.

The question, in response to quotes like this, is: Should Wikipedia reform its regulatory structure to better respect modern society's concept of Civil Rights and Due Process? --Whiteknight (meta) (Books) 13:51, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
Which problem did you like to have solved?
Alex Bakharev
I am afraid the answer is NO. WMF projects are vastly different from a state. WMF is a private non for profit organization run mostly by volunteers. Nobody has the right to use our resources as their own playground or as their own soapbox. The ability to do volunteer work is inherently a privilege granted only to people that work productively. The ban is not equal to imprisonment nor loss of a paid job. The children of banned vandals would not go hungry because of our ban.

If we have reasons to believe that the work of a person will not be helpful for our goal we should make the person go, keeping him or her on the project compromises our goals and drains the little resources we have. Moreover, the barrier for the people banned from the project is very low. Usually they only have to wait 24h until the autoblock will expire. Even if we block the underlying IP that happen to be static they only need to spend $20 on another internet provider or a few minutes looking for an open proxy. If we allow our good productive volunteers to spend more time on a due process to try to get somebody out than the troublemaker spends getting in then we are in troubles. We simply cannot allow this it is a suicide.

Having said that we must note that WMF is tragically under-resourced for our goals. As an example in this elections we have only 28K editors eligible to vote (that is having more than 600 edits). Thus only 28K editors have a clue about wikiediting. We have more than 10mln articles on WMF projects all together. Thus we have some 400 articles for each of us to maintain and develop! Each of us have probably some 4000 articles to create to reach our goals! We cannot to do it alone we have to look for more editors and we have to retain the old hands. Additionally, if we want to keep NPOV we have to have all major points of view represented among the editors. We cannot afford one group to win over another.

Because of this we have to bend backwards to keep productive editors on the project. That means that we have to be vigilant and should not allow any people of power and community trust to abuse or somehow persecute productive editors. But this is not the civil rights this is just pragmatism.

Over our history we have established our own user's rights that are very different from the rules of the outside world:

  • Everybody has their right to Fork all our content and establish his or her own clone of WMF products.
  • People who edit in good faith could expect their right to not be harmed by WMF including their right to privacy and right to vanish
  • Everybody has their right for the recognition of their copyright (as defined by GFDL) if thy contribute to the product.

That is the closest thing to the civil rights we have.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
We should absolutely try to treat people fairly and with respect. This does not mean that we need to adopt a complex system designed to mimic the concepts of Civil Rights and Due Process. It would add unnecessary complexity with minimal benefit. Overall though, this is an issue best handled by the projects, rather then the board.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
Who's view? US? France? Kenya? Due Process in the United States is significantly different than it is in the UK, which is significantly different than it is in China, which is different than Due Process in Saudi Arabia. We have significant editing populations in all of these communities. Which one gets to be the foundation-wide due process inspiration? The concept of modern due process arises from the premise that protecting the government's internal constituency from abuses by the government is a worthy goal that outweighs the harm it causes to the external society that are not members of that government. Wikimedia does not function that way, because we are not like a government. We serve everybody. And while we must do so equitably, that does not mean that inviolate institutionalized procedural norms are the correct answer. Saying that there is Due Process on Wikimedia projects (Wikipedia for example) is like saying that Arbitration Committees are the Supreme Court, and Jimbo is the President, and the board is Congress. Sure there are similarities. But there are also gross differences, and the analogies just aren't correct.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
Wow, we have a blocked user answering a question posed by someone proxying for a blocked user. Will there be a revert war on my response?

Moulton has been going on and on about this notion of Wikipedia's due process over on WikipediaReview.com for quite some time. There's no due process on Wikipedia -- not as long as anonymous admins hold dominion over editors who identify themselves by real name. For a legal system to be just, the accused must have the right to know who accuses him.

I want everyone to note something said in response to this question: "As an example in this elections we have only 28K editors eligible to vote (that is having more than 600 edits). Thus only 28K editors have a clue about wikiediting." Someone with 520 edits doesn't have a clue about wikiediting? My, my. What is wrong with this culture?

Harel Cain
(Harel)
The very wording of this question leads me to answer: Wikimedia projects are not a country and not an experiment in political science. They are joint projects for people to collaborate and cooperate, and such their rules have to be fair, transparent, easy to grasp. The Wikimedia experience for users has to be friendly and encouraging. But once we start thinking of ourselves as an electronic society with policemen, judges, jails and parliaments, that's when the original intent of the project stops and the Wikimedia Role Playing Game begins...
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
The real problem with this question is that not that Due Process and what society calls Civil Rights are sometimes in fact invoked on wikipedia (as yet, sporadically and not at all in a comprehensive manner) - or at the very least a reasonable simulacra of the same, adapted to our projects natures.

The real problem with the question is that what we *do not* have, is a "regulatory structure". Things do get regulated and adjusted, but never with any consistency or structure. There are things one may well infer from this as regards the future of our projects, but for now, we will do well enough to just manage things day by day. (Some apologetic mumbles about "rail-road time" may be heard in the backround.)

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
Although, as a private project, Wikipedia (as well as the other WMF projects) certainly has an objective moral right to not have any sort of "due process", I happen to think that it would be a good idea to do so (and have advocated it in the past), simply because no one likes feeling railroaded--and I can think of one particular instance (Sarsaparilla) where an excellent contributor was run off simply because a bunch of lesser Wikipedians couldn't handle the threat to their corrupt and entrenched status quo that he represented.

That said, this is a project concern, not a board concern.

Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Well let me preface my answer by saying it is completely outside the Board's mandate to interfere in a local community's governance structure other than in matters such as teh privacy policy, etc.

That said, I think en.wiki already has one of the most developed due process systems of any WMF project. We have an extensive Dispute resolution process with many closely regulated steps. We have an Arbcom mailing list, an unblock mailing list, an unblock IRC channel, and we've even placed Jimbo as a Founder to resolve any gross miscarriages of justice the other levels of dispute resolution may make. Now I won't say our due process system is perfect, and there are things I would like to see changed and will probably propose over time as an editor, but I think we hew pretty closely to modern society's definition of due process.

To answer the second part of the question as it relates to civil rights. I'm really not sure how that applies to en.wiki. We follow the practice that any IP may edit, anyone may register for an account and edit, and that there is no hierarchy among editors. We don't discriminate on race, gender, sexual orientation, military history, etc, and in fact don't even know most of those facts about most editors. So I struggle to see how we could better adhere to the ideals of modern civil rights. Of course though, we are always open to discussion and proposals about ways to better improve the editing process, in order ot build on the ideas of the community.

Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
This is not a board-level issue, in my opinion. If the communities decide to reform their rules and guidelines to fit in with civil rights and due process, so be it. But I see that introducing more problems than it solves.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
Phrasing wiki-activities in terms of "civil rights" is meaningless in the absence of a clear understanding of what we mean by that term, and, simply put, we have yet to define those rights.

For the other term at issue we need to distinguish between "Due Process" as a set of procedural rules that must be followed to insure the fair treatment of individual wikimedians, and "due process" as the exercise of fair-mindedness. "Due Process" mimics the practices of state judicial structures; "due process" may draw from the best of those structures, but it is more properly an exercise in equity. Equity seeks a balance of interests to the mutual benefit of all. The person who relies primarily upon his imbalance of power is not capable of achieving balance.

This is not at all to deny the existence of vandals and others whose intent is less than honourable, but it does oppose the presumption that different ways of thinking imply vandalism. While it is not up to the Board to intervene in protracted wrangling (tempting as that often may be) it behooves the senior members of a project to recognize when an advantaged individual is getting carried away with his accusations, when that individual's ammunition is taken from the same gutter purportedly used by the person he accuses, when that individual's persistance might as well represent a recruitment effort on behalf of Wikipedia Review.

When a newbie takes questionable action it is far more constructive to engage him in a dialogue than to stick impersonal boilerplate on his talk page. Demanding apologies as a condition for reinstatement when it is clear that an editor is willing to stop his offending practice is as good as sending a pack of jackals nipping at his heels. Apologies are rarely needed because they only make face-saving more difficult. This kind of due process based on a mature everyday understanding of what people are trying to do is the kind of due process that I support. Once you acknowledge and respect the motivations of the other person it is much easier to integrate them into a consistent whole.

Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address..
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
Civil rights are bestowed by states, and the WMF is not a state. Due process is an obligation on the state, and the WMF is not a state. Civil rights and due process are important concepts at the state level because the state has the power to deny fairly fundamental rights, and it is vitally important that it not do so except in accordance with due process. This is not true of the WMF (incidentally, anybody who claims that the WMF can, by blocking contributors, violate their freedom of speech does not understand the concept of freedom of speech). In real life, I pride myself on being "soft on crime", and I'm alarmed at the extent to which the tone of western politics is going towards treating criminals (and even alleged criminals) as somehow subhuman. I believe that the idea that it's better to let ten guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man is a sound one. But on Wikipedia we can block people on balance of probabilities, and we can block people for "disruption", which is a catchall crime of the sort that would, in real life, be used only by totalitarian states. And this is fine, because on Wikipedia the bottom line in the best interest of the project.

The WMF and its projects should strive to be fair to its contributors, but this is a matter of courtesy and decency, as well as self-interest (contributors who are treated fairly are going to be better contributors than those who are screwed over). For these reasons, I welcome discussions on how to make WMF projects fairer (although for the most part these are community-level issues). But cloaking these discussions behind the lofty concepts of civil rights and due process is unhelpful.

I think Lar has it pretty well right.

Addendum: I need to raise the distinction between blocking or banning somebody and behaviour post-block/ban. If we decide to block or ban any user because we consider it in the best interests of the project, that's all the reason we need. But if we block Editor X for the crime of "disruption", we shouldn't then proceed to say, in Google-indexed space, that "Editor X lacks the maturity to properly contribute" or anything similarily unkind. But that's less an issue of due process towards contributors than it is an issue of doing no harm to living persons, which is a separare issue on which I have strong opinions.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
My answer to this question is we should respect civil rights and due process, but we don't need to reform Wikipedia's regulatory structure to do it. No regulatory structure can grant you 100% protection of your civil right. See en:Miscarriage of justice and there are milliards other examples. And I think we are doing quite well with our system. But I also think that if there are acute danger that we have violated other peoples civil right and the local community failed to notice that, the foundation should have a way to inform the local community about it and to actively take measure to correct this failure.

License Migration[edit]

I was disappointed to discover that only one candidate mentioned license migration. What are the candidate's position on moving off the GFDL on to something like the Creative Commons? Samuell 21:50, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
The Board can not force the move to CC-BY-SA, only facilitate the process.
Alex Bakharev
To be honest I am mostly care about the editors and primary users of our products. They need the license to be free so they have their right to fork (so if our respected board will become financially insolvent or decided to sell our product to Microsoft, or do any other stupid thing, our product will still resurrect under a different name run by a different organization). What exactly the free license we are giving to our product is not a concern for them.

On the other hand the license is a very important matter for the re-users, especially commercial re-users. I would like to meet some of them to see their concerns.

It is my understanding that CC-BY-SA-3 license is shorter, cleaner and theoretically more suitable for an online encyclopedia. It is not sure if it is legal to relicense all our 10 million articles from GFDL to CC. This question should be studied with the best lawyers we can get. If this is not true - then forget it, we should not have two license types for the texts, it simply to much a hassle. If we can relicense might be we should put the dual license as on commons so to maximize the usability for the reusers?

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
We need a license that allows for reuse and requires attribution, that both Wikimedia and reusers can be easily compliant with. The current version of the GFDL is poorly suited towards our needs. Fully compliant reuse is difficult and even well meaning reusers struggle to get it right. A future version of the GFDL likely will be better. The two issues with a license migration are the legal concerns which is best handled by Mike Godwin, and the community response to it. A license migration could be extremely harmful to the community, if it is not widely supported. We should only attempt it if Mike judges the legal risk of not migrating to be significantly greater then migrating and we have exhausted all efforts at getting a better version of the GFDL developed or the community is extremely supportive of the change.
Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
We don't know yet. To my knowledge, CC-BY-SA is a better license for our purposes than GFDL. That doesn't mean that we successfully can make the switch. The answer to whether that CAN happen is not likely to be coming from the board. The question of whether it CAN happen needs to be addressed before we get to the board issue of whether it WILL happen. Personally, I think it's doable, but I'd like an expert in the field to confirm that.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
We can't seriously talk about the legal or ethical merits of switching to a Creative Commons license when the GFDL is violated many times a day, every day on Wikimedia projects, can we? If a voter is really interested in this issue, look up how User:JzG blanked the initial two content-generating edits on the English Wikipedia article Arch Coal. He didn't overwrite them -- he deleted them, using his admin tools. He then claimed that he had created the article from the ground up, "ab initio", as he said. The evidence was abundant that plagiarism had actually taken place, and it took Jimbo Wales to finally restore the edits that JzG sought to remove from history. But JzG is (still!) held up as a peerless example of administrative wisdom on the English Wikipedia, while the author of the Arch Coal article is blocked. If there's no respect for the GFDL from this "top admin", why is anyone even pretending to care about future respect for a CC license?

Please. I don't care how insufficient or difficult the GFDL terms are for building an encyclopedia. This should have been considered more carefully when the project started. To transfer the license out from under the expectations of millions of past and present contributors is to shockingly fail to uphold the responsibilities of the content host.

Is anyone truly surprised, though?

Harel Cain
(Harel)
no response yet.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
Many of the answers to this question gloss over the nuances to present a more stark situation than really is the case.

There are (at least) three ways we could do the migration. But I'll address only two.

1. We migrate in the manner specifically provided for in the GFDL licence itself, by the book, in the entirely correct and easy fashion, with FSF:s blessing. This is entirely possible, and at the very least, this option - if it comes to pass eventually - completely renders all the objections people have voiced in answer to this question, wholly and absolutely moot, void and invalid. Any moves we would then make in terms of content by people who object to such move, would then be a simple and pure public relations, courtesy and avoidance of trolling excercise, with nary a gnats whisker of legal import whatsoever.

2. For whatever reason - and useless to speculate what such a reason could be - negotiations fail between FSF and WM. For whatever reason (but in my opinion they had better be pretty darn convincing reasons) we decide to migrate anyway. Then we have the task of slowly but surely contacting contributors and for at least some time having two kinds of material, that which has not yet migrated, but is under the old licence, and that on the other hand where we have obtained permission to migrate.

Some people may think such a situation with split content would be bad. And I sure can understand if they do.

However, even such a situation is not entirely hopeless. We are currently in such a split state in terms of image fair use. It is all a matter of what your timescale is. If there are serious enough problems in the long run with GFDLs flexibility towards our purposes, a migration that would last twice the time we have been in existence, so far - say 17ish years - would not be at all something that would be dramatic enough to dissuade us. Do remember we are not working to a timetable. That situation would be uncomfortable as the deuces, but not hopeless by any means.

3. The third option I can envision is one that I don't think is a good one myself, so I won't even describe it, just to avoid giving people ideas.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
As I understand it, the individual content creators retain copyright to the content they have contributed. Thus, changing the license under which CURRENTLY EXISTING content is written is impossible, since there's no way to track down every single person who has ever changed a "teh" to "the"--or even committed vandalism, which is still copyrightable content--and ask him to relicense the matter, even if every one of them would agree.

That said, I'm perfectly open to changing the license under which FUTURE content is released (I personally prefer Creative Commons licenses for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's free of the Stallman cult control), although making sure the right license is applied to not just the right pages, but to the right VERSIONS of the pages, is a technical problem that may make it more trouble than it's worth.

Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
This is an issue that would need much more research than any Board could ever do on its own. If there would be substantial benefits from a license migration, and all content would remain after the migration I could support the matter. However, if we started running content forks due to licensing, contributors opting out, etc, then I could not support the migration. Right now GFDL works alright. It may have its flaws and probably isn't perfect, but I'd need to see a dramatic predicted improvement, one with iron-clad legal guarantees, before I could support changing it.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
This is definitely something that needs to be discussed at length by the communities, and the Board needs to facilitate these discussions and support the decisions made as far as is possible. Each project has unique needs, and while it is strongly favourable to have inter-working licenses, we need to make sure that we deal with the needs of the communities before anything else.
Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
It's premature to start migration while negotiations are still on between the two groups. The legal implications are not at all clear, and that is especially the case when we can't be sure what the merged licence will look like. While I've been known to disagree with what lawyers say, I would still find it irresponsible to go ahead without a thorough legal report that addresses the legal implications, and the ways that such a move could go sideways.
Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address., and many community members have both addressed this and contributed to the discussions about whether and how such a move would make sense.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
I was waiting for this question - thanks.

My first instinct is that it's madness to try to take the work done by literally millions of people, many of whom we have no way of contacting, and try to change the terms under which it's licensed. My concerns on this front is not exactly allayed when I see Mike Godwin agree that it's possible that we would have to remove content at contributors' request. This suggests to me that it's not possible to migrate our content from one license to another without the consent of the rightsholders. From there, it seems a short leap to the possibility that the passive consent - that for the majority of our content is the best we can get - won't be sufficient. From that standpoint, any license migration looks like a terrible idea. That said, however, Mr. Godwin also suggested that the risks of such a migration were, in his opinion, less than the risks of sticking with the GFDL. This suggests that there might be some extremely compelling arguments in favour of the migration to which I'm not yet privy. This is why all I can commit to is critically examining the migration.

All of that said, Ray has it right when he says that we're not at the "yea/nay" point of this issue yet. But asking some questions about it is going to be very high on my priority list if I'm elected.

Ting Chen
(Wing)
I must confess that I cannot answer this question at the moment. There are two points for me that prevents me to make a yes-no-answer: The first point is that I am not in the material. I am not sure at the moment what legal implication a switch would mean. If I am elected in the board and the question must be discussed, I would work through the documents and our legal advisors judgements. The second point is that I don't want to make this decision without a discussion inside the community. I think this is a question that should at least asked to the community. At the moment I don't see the urgency for this question.

Wikinews' EDP[edit]

Earlier this year the Board's resolution required projects to have an exemption doctrine policy for fair use and other non-Free content. This has caused some issues on English Wikinews

Wikinews has a set of policy and guidelines for the archival of articles when they are ten days old. They are fully protected and the project's record of what was known at the time.

A dispute has repeatedly been played out on the project's deletion requests page where images on months, or years, old articles are nominated for deletion.

Given this apparent conflict, how do candidates see a Fair Use or EDP for the project operating? With a key part of the project's mission being to record what was known at the time should Fair Use be applied while the article is on the main page, or constantly revisited and the archives edited? Brian McNeil / talk 22:34, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
Definitely an issue to discuss at project level.
Alex Bakharev
As the project grows the need to be more aware of the copyright laws becomes more important. We are growing into a desirable target of the copyright litigation and we simply do not have money to protect us in the court. Thus, whatever good intentions we might have if keeping an image puts us in the legal jeopardy then the image should be deleted. If we are certain that an image is legal for us but our own policies require its deletion then we can see if we can make an exemption from the policies. I am personally better utilization of American fair use laws on English language projects.

Regarding this case: I am not a lawyer but it looks to me that taking an image from an information agency and then put it on wikinews to directly compete with the same agency is not an easily defensible fair use claim. It should not be done in the first place. We might have to have those images deleted for the legal reasons. Then the buck stops here, the images must be deleted. Otherwise if we could get a legal advise that this was a legal fair use then I would be for making an exemption to our policy and keeping the images. The goal of preserving the news archives is an important one. To make myself clear: if we have a news regarding the Danish cartoon controversy, then using a low resolution copy of the cartoons is a valid fair use and should be preserved, if our policies prevent it then we might change the policies. On the other hand e.g. using a Barak Obama photo by a CNN reporter in an article about the election campaign is not a valid fair use. It should not be on Wikinews in the first place and it must be deleted for copyright reasons even if the integrity of our archives will be affected.

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
This issue was one of the first things that really made myself and a number of other Wikinewies feel like our concerns were not being heard. Wikinews as part of its initial mission was to build a news archive. The exact archiving policy was community developed, but the idea of archiving is a part of the initial founding of Wikinews. Wikinews has allowed fair use images for a while under a fairly strict board approved fair use policy. This existing fair use policy serves fairly effectively as an EDP. The communities objection to the resolution comes mostly from the line which states “any content used under an EDP must be replaced with a freely licensed work whenever one is available”. This appears to directly conflict with the archiving policy, as it requires images that are a part of archived articles to be changed. Changing archived articles harms the integrity of our archives. Occasionally images or even articles in the archives must be deleted as they are not legal for us to host. This is unfortunate, but necessary. This is not the case with most of the images effected by the resolution. The resolution calls for the deletion of images that were compliant with policy when uploaded and are legal for us to host, but a new free version has since been created. The resolution calls for us to replace the fair use version with a new image, even thought the existing image is a part of the archives. Even if one ignores the issue of altering of our archives, replacing images with ones which are newer is misleading to our readers. I believe the archives should not be altered unless we are legally required to do so.

The resolution, by not taking into account Wikinews has forced the community of Wikinews into a position where the two choices are either fundamentally alter the mission of Wikinews or ignore the board resolution. Neither option is particularly acceptable. I would like to see the resolution be amended to allow images in Wikinews's archives that were permitted when they were uploaded to be allowed to remain.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
I'm not 100% sure this is a board issue. It appears much of this can be solved at the project and office levels. To the extent that it becomes a foundation issue, it likely requires the legal counsel's opinion as to whether issues that are fair use at point in time X, can lose that protection at later point in time Y. If Wikinews's policies are, in Mike Godwin's opinion, conflicting or inappropriate, then he ought to make recommendations as to the best way to solve this. He's an incredibly intelligent man, and he has both a lot of experience with these sorts of things as well as good knowledge of what we do and how we work. Before I would come to a decision on this topic, I would certainly need to consult with him.
Addendum: To the extent that this is a question of federalism between the board and the Wikinews community, I would say that it is absolutely 100% within the power of the board to enforce a global rule, such as requiring EDPs, upon a project. The legal protection of the foundation comes first.
Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
I'd hate to see the Board saddled with making operational decisions like this, when there is a fine lawyer being paid to counsel us on matters of this sort.
Harel Cain
(Harel)
I feel this question is too project-specific and even temporally specific for the board to get involved with. The board is not, and should not be, some kind of Supreme Court of Justice for projects to settle their fundamental wars and disagreements.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I would echo the sentiment that there are legal issues here that would benefit from being clarified by people with actual legal credentials. I know a few myself (but will resist the temptation to name drop, even to the point that I know Mike Godwin personally from early Usenet discussions we had of 1980's vintage - oops! ;-)

There are some glib solutions though, which may well be too radical if we can find easier solutions. The archives of wikinews might become a project outside of Wikimedia. Say on Wikia. Or another place. Please do not raise your arms in indignation, I merely present these as options in ultimo, likely far too radical, and quite probably easily averted by simple jaw-jaw. However, I note this solution to illustrate that even if we as an organisation deem that our free use provisions are important and basic enough, solutions exist which will not involve letting the nose of the camel inside the tent, just to accommodate a single exeption of an exeption policy.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
I've said elsewhere that the Board should not intervene in the operations of the individual projects except to ensure legal compliance, financial security, and technical stability. This is just such a situation where board intervention is, at least in principle, appropriate. That said, not being an expert on copyright law myself, I don't believe I am qualified to offer a worthy answer as to the precise solution.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Well obviously a project needs to weigh all the relevant facts. It for instance, it turns out that years down the road, we discover a contributor lied when uploading an image, and it actually is an impermissible license, that might be grounds to revisit the image at a deletion discussion. On the other hand, if the status of an image is known at the time an article is "locked" and the community agrees that it conforms to the EDP at that time, then I would probably suggest grandfathering the old images in to any new changes to the EDP. In general I am against editing archives, and can understand WN's need for a slightly broader FU policy. Also, since the Foundation EDP policy has now been around for quite some time, communities should have local policies in place, or at least be able to figure out if an image could ever be considered usable under a future local EDP that complies with the Foundation EDP mandate. For instance, copying an image of a direct news competitor such as MSNBC or the NYT's probably isn't a good use of the fair use exemption, since they are making a profit, at that time, off that image. On the other hand, copying a historical image from an online media archive is probably a safer fair use example due to decreased infringement of earnings potential to the copyright holder. I'd also be interested to see Mike Godwin's thoughts on this issue, as he has provided en.wiki with advice on using WMF logos and has a detailed understanding of such matters.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
As a member of the Wikinews community, I have strong views on this subject. I am, first off, opposed to the editing of our archives. If an image has been uploaded and deemed Fair Use at the time of upload, it should remain so. The problem we are currently facing is, what some deem a "crusade", against images that have been uploaded as Fair Use, but never really checked. No-one is sure what was going on when the person uploaded it. This is something that needs to be fixed at project level.

As for adapting the EDP, I believe that each community needs to have a say in what goes on. The Foundation EDP policy has fit a tight grip around Wikinews, and I will support the decisions of the community if/when they decide to petition the Board over it. I do not, however, wish to propose solutions in this format, as it is inappropriate and is best discussed at project level, where the people who know what Wikinews needs can discuss it at length.

Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
My first impression is that if an image qualifies for fair use when it is first used it would take exceptional circumstances for that to change. This may perhaps involve intervention by the actual owner of the copyrights. Third party takedown requests have very little weight, because those persons have no authority to issue the order. Wikinews's EDP may be subject to negotiation with the Board, but if it allows some kind of fair use I don't see what business it is of those who enter the fray long after unless they can establish that the use was never fair in the first place.
Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
this is something all community members should address.. The Foundation policy on EDP is brief; the project-level interpretations may not be. But the conflict you describe is between editors on the project, not between the project and the WMF policy.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
no response yet.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
My answer is that the contents should be deleted. Let me explain the reason:

You have a rule on en-WikiNews that contents that are elder then 10 days would be archived and no more changed.

The board issued a new rule that has possible conflict with the old rule.

The board rule has priority because the old rule is a project intern rule, while the board rule is a global rule. The board issued this rule not because it want to issue a rule and influence the projects operation, but because there are real world concerns in this matter. And the last argument has the highest priority, because it can possibly endanger on the whole WikiMedia and all its projects.

Quality and recruitment[edit]

How can we continue to improve article quality, encourage experienced editors, and recruit new productive editors, while minimizing the time and effort spent on dealing with disruptive editors? Macrakis 23:46, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven
(Dedalus)
Project level issue, not directly a Foundation/Board/Office issue. However, general outreach by Foundation/Board/Office is to people willing to contribute to the sum of knowledge.
Alex Bakharev
There are hundreds of ways, many are on the project level, quite a few are on the WMF level. The main task that we have to get recognition that what we are doing is not a childish prank but a very important project that benefit the humankind. Our editors should feel the support of the society the way Salvation Army or Amnesty International do. We must make school teachers aware how is to get the most from our project. We must make schoolkids aware. We must make casual internet browsers aware. We must make Wikipedia users aware (currently 90% of wikipedia users does not know what the History button is for. Should we make it a tip box? We must find a way of good news about wiki into the technology sections of major newsmedia. We should promote books about wiki. We should make the support of the free content a question we ask our political representatives, etc.

We must find a way to be a more reliable source of info. I think the reviewed or flagged versions is the way. This way we would increase our users self-esteem.

WMF might award prizes and celebrate achievements of individual editors. It would help too.

There are huge resource drain on perennial content conflicts. There should be some high wikicourts to make content decisions similar to Arbcoms making decision about users behavior. E.g. we must finally take a decision whether the controlled demolition theory of 9/11 is a conspiracy theory that should be presented as such or one of the mainstream theories that need to be presented in a neutral manner. For the content courts we could use either uninvolved into the discussion volunteers that have real-life credential or even paid experts.

On some projects we have very acute conflicts over policies. I think WMF might take leadership and make a choice in the cases of unclear consensus on the project. Should we have paid coordinators for the major projects on the WMF payrolls?

Many of our users quit because of offline harassments, stalking or even threats of violence. We should have a legal fund to protect out users. We might also want to have media professionals who would volunteer to help people under unfair attacks, IT volunteers to counter hacker attacks, etc. (Do we really need volunteer bodyguards than the physical violence is possible?)

Many of star users complain about harassment from administrators of projects. While it is mostly the matter for Project's arbcoms can we review the most contentious cases on WMF level?

On each project we have many software tools for reducing vandalism and disruption. WMF can promote migration of the tools from one project to another.

I could continue much longer but I have heard we have a limit on the length of answers...

Craig Spurrier
(Cspurrier)
There is no one answer to this question that is going to work on all of the projects. The community of the projects are the best suited to developing solutions to each of these challenges. The board's job is to provide support for the solutions the communities develop. The board should be responsive to the needs of the communities, but not try to force solutions upon them.

The communities need to ensure that the projects are welcoming places. Editing needs to be simple, users should be treated with respect and we need to avoid overwhelming new users with masses of policy and acronyms.

Both the foundation and the communities need to become more involved in real world outreach. There are a number of people who would be interested in the Wikimedia projects, but are unaware of them or their open natures. We need to find ways to reach them. I would like to see us more real world events, ideally in conjunction with universities, designed to share information about the projects and their uses to new users.

Dan Rosenthal
(Swatjester)
Improving article quality is different for each project, and cannot be (nor do I think it should be) answered at the board level. For instance, Wikisource requires different quality standards than Simple Wikipedia does. The foundation should continue to improve its public image to help attract new editors, and encourage the community to come up with better guidelines and methods for welcoming these editors. We should be conducting outreach with educational institutions (this is something I have strongly advocated that the chapters do, and that the foundation should be encouraging the chapters to do) to attract professors to Wikipedia. Teach them how to use it. At the firm I work at, I had an expert witness who was the head of one of the world's top medical schools, who previously had held a very high position with the Center for Disease Control, tell me he uses Wikipedia to look up chemicals because it's the fastest way to find the most highly targeted references. We need to be educating other professionals and experts that you can use Wikimedia content to do that. Encourage the world's top photographers to submit stuff to Commons. Encourage the world's professors and teachers to use Wikiversity for their assignments. Encourage historians to submit documents to Wikisource. Let these people know how good we are and what we can do, show them how we can be the most powerful tool they've ever seen to advance the fields of knowledge. We need to be conducting that kind of outreach, and it needs to happen at the foundation level (i.e. the board strategically, and the office operationally) and the community level (both by the chapters, and by individuals). Show your friends, show just a single friend, something new and awesome that you can do with Wikimedia, that proves to them that it is a quality set of tools, be it references, or featured articles, or valued images on Commons, etc. Convince that one friend to become a quality contributor. Then convince him to do the same outreach to his friends.

MediaWiki is daunting to people who are not already used to it. We need to make its use more user friendly to start with. Teach new users, especially non-technical ones, how to use Wikimarkup in easy to understand. Teach them how to sign with four tildes. Teach them how to use headings. Teach them how to bold and italicize things. Teach them how to use asterisks and pound signs to make ordered and unordered lists. Every new thing these users learn feels like an accomplishment, and makes them feel like they can easily create something powerful and good looking.

Finally, the issue of disruptive editors is one best dealt with by the projects. But, with that said, I strongly take the position against the harassment of editors through sites and individuals that "out" their personal information, contact their employers, harass their families, etc. I strongly feel that the board owes its community members to investigate in which ways it can protect them from such harassment, which has led to the loss of some of our strong contributors.

Gregory Kohs
(Thekohser)
This question is an important one, but it's also a slam dunk. I would advocate:
Semi-protection of all articles that are more than 7 days old. No more drive-by IP vandalism, since a user would need to have an account at least 4 days old, with at least 10 edits (which, under this plan, would be devoted to new articles as training ground).

Anyone who wants to contribute meaningfully to Wikimedia projects can pay these simple dues. I'm certain it would cut the nonsense by 90%, thus simultaneously relieving good editors of this burdensome police work, while helping to build the reputation of the projects as more accurate and reliable than they currently are.

Harel Cain
(Harel)
This is perhaps the biggest day-to-day question good-willed editors in all of our projects face. I wish there was a simple answer. It's a matter of atmosphere, and there's a snowball effect. If we let the projects become role-playing dramas or huge w:MUDs inhabited mainly by young teenagers, it'll stay that way and even become worse. We need to create a more serious, academic, tolerant and erudite atmosphere. Personally, I'm not a big fan of user templates, for example. They make it all too game-like. I think of the projects ideally as suitable for curious, intellectual people of all ages. Others, too unruly or disruptive for our projects, should ideally find it a boring place for them. I could go on and on, but I feel this is enough for now.
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
(Cimon Avaro)
I think fundamentally the answer is not simply doing what we already do fairly well, the community side of things, but we need to focus on the technical in new ways. We are accomplishing Single User Login finally, and various sighted revisions and stable version functionalities will allay some problems, but we need to continue to pursue technical means to improve the editor experience, espescially with regards to beginning editors. Eventually we should aim to have fully "What You See Is What You Get" type editing, since our markup is at the moment getting progressively impenetrable for ordinary editors to read, with references, templates, info-boxes, images, tables etc. cluttering the source, and making the visualisation of the flow of prose within the text code nearly impossible. There are naturally possible intermediary solutions between full WYSIWYG and having to edit the cluttered source, with all metadata and markup breaking things up visually.

What we as a board can do, is make strategic choices, perhaps saying to the Executive Director that we are hugely grateful for all the work done to make the corporate side more mature, but that we do not need to overextend in that direction, making ourselves into a veritable corporate juggernaut, but rather should see how the Executive Director and her Deputy can do to support and encourage useful hiring and other resource usage on the technical side, which might even radically overhaul the user experience for our new and more experienced users, and last but not least, make the casual browser experience more attractive. After all, it is easier to get large donations to a website that works like a well oiled machine, and looks that way too, rather than a quaint basket-weaving community, and despite what people will say about how cosy and shoestring operation we have been, I suspect even our smaller donors will prefer to donate towards a site that functions well, rather than one which is frustrating, when they really think about it, as long as we stay true to our essential mission and values.

Kurt M. Weber
(Kmweber)
I admittedly have little experience outside of the English Wikipedia, but everything seems to be doing just fine there. Recruiting participants is a project concern, not a board concern.
Matthew Bisanz
(MBisanz)
Well I think I can sum my answer up in one line: We need to give the projects more tools that they can easily use to edit. We need to make the editing interface as easy to use as possible, and accept that not everyone will contribute Featured Articles in their first edit. I think having stepped levels of involvement, such as new users being welcomed, more experienced users receiving recognition, such as barnstars, and content progressing through series of grades such as A-class, Good, Featured, etc, works well to improve the editing experience. I think the Foundation's support of chapters and academies bodes well for bringing in new editors and encouraging a sense of community among established editors. Further, I think developments such as flagged revisions serve to maintain and increase the level of article quality. Additionally, things like global Tor and global IP blocking serve to decrease disruption, as would better inter-wiki communication regarding banned and problematic users.
Paul Williams
(Skenmy)
I believe that this can be solved at project level, with the Board facilitating the needs/wants of these "sub-committees" dedicated to bringing in new users. Each community has something very different to offer, and each one needs to develop the ideas and processes to draw in and keep new, constructive users, whilst keeping the disruptive ones out.

It pleased me to see a form of "Outreach to the Elderly" Wikipedia program pop up on the Mailing Lists last week - and this is exactly the sort of thing that comes to mind when thinking about how to draw people in. Offer them something, whether it be a communal gathering of knowledge, a social occasion, or eevn just a friendly "hello, here's how to get started!" on the talk page (something which most projects already have down to a T).

Ray Saintonge
(Eclecticology)
The simple answer: Be nice.

Also

  1. Keep editing simple. Any more wiki code and other instructions than can fit on one are too much.
  2. Never complain when what is added is only a stub.
  3. Treat newbies with respect without immediately overwhelming them with criticisms about notability and references. Not every article is a BLP.
  4. Talk with people, and make them feel that what they have added is important, and giving clues that you have really read what they have added.
  5. Avoid technical demands, or otherwise insisting that they stick to templates.
  6. Don't confront disruptive editors with disruptive admins.
  7. Small project members need to do targetted recruitment among the people they know.

In a top ten website there will always be new people to test the waters, even if most people only come as passive viewers that aspect is not a problem unless they see only a place of perpetual warfare.

Ryan Postlethwaite
no response yet.
Samuel Klein
(Sj)
From the perspective of a Trustee and community representative, this is something all community members should address.. Personally, I advocate for constantly lowering the barrier to entry and contribution while increasing the quality of what is globally published.
Steve Smith
(Sarcasticidealist)
no response yet.
Ting Chen
(Wing)
These are four questions.

As of the first two questions. Improvement of quality and get qualified editors. Last year in Germany an expert agency won a fund from the german government to put qualified content about environment and environmental science topics into german Wikipedia. I think this is a method other chapters and the foundation should actively try. This is also that, what I stated in my candidacy, get more collaboration and cooperation with scientific institutions.

The third question is how we can recruite productive editors. I want to emphasis at this point that an editor must not be an expert, but can still be very beneficial to WikiMedia-projects. An editor who has dedicated himself in doing spellchecking is as important for us as an editor who write articles. After five years I am tempted to say there are no method. We have editors who were very enthusiastic for a few months and then left and never seen again, and we have editors who remain. It depends on the people, how they integrate into the community and how they find works that they like to do. I doubt there is a sort of "Psychogram" for an average longtime WikiMedia-project-editor. In general I think it is important for potential editors see the room where they can contribute, and this is not constraind only for qualified editors. While in some areas and in some Wikipedia-versions the articles are getting better, what can a new starter do? This is a question that we must cope with in the future, if we don't want to press our new comers into fringe topics, what room can we offer them and how. This is a question I would like to talk about on this years WikiMania conference. At this point I would also encourage our editors to go to the smaller projects, simply because there are more to do and you have more freedom to build up the project.

The last question is how do we handle destructive editors. In the past the community and also the MediaWiki software had developped quite a lot methods to handle vandalisms and other destructive editings. At the moment I don't have the impression it is getting worse. Which user is destructive is a very subjective definition. I tend to be more tolerant. Patience is a difficult way, but it is a way that worth to go. I want to put an example. Four or five years ago, as we began to do copyvio checks on chinese Wikipedia, Shizhao, me and other administrators who do this work were often attackt, often with very personal insults. It was a fully new concept for the people that time and a lot of people didn't have the understanding for it. We explained, explained and explained, and insisted our work, improved our communication, made templates, worked out manual pages for copyright issues. In the last years I didn't get personal insult because of copyright issue again, though I still am doing copyvio checkings. People now have an understanding for the issue. The works we did were not fruitless. We are actually changing the world with our patience. What I want to say with this example, and what I want to answer your question is, that I think the way we used is a good way. It is often tedious, but it is worth all the difficulties.