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What are your thoughts about the establishment of an endowment for the Foundation? More specifically: (i) How should establishment of an endowment be traded off against shorter-term objectives? (ii) What size endowment should be targetted? (iii) What operations should be supported by distributions from the endowment, and why? Jeremy Tobacman 21:59, 29 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Long term planning is the most important form of planning, and with that in mind, I am 1000% in favor of an endowment. Over the long haul, an endowment will significantly impact Wikimedia's ability to do business, particularly in down years. Significant money should be independently raised for an endowment, and if necessary, it is preferable to slightly stunt current growth in favor of the future security offered by an endowment.
I outlined this eventuation in my Platform and elsewhere in these questions. I wish to open strategic dialogue for a financially sustainable Wikimedia, so your question is close to my heart. Bequests, endowments and capital preserved trusts should be foregrounded in our prospective strategic envisioning. Jeremy, all the ins and outs and variables would require further exploration and I consider it fruitless endeavour to outline them herein. I am not a specialist in the legal requirements, a benevolent endowment, fund or foundation just feels right in my heart to ensure the continuity and furtherance of Wikimedia in the fickle turning of Fortune. I do not know the USA legislation and instruments that determine the efficacy and implementation of such entities or trusts and it may even be determined at state level. Endowments may be established within the auspice or attendant to the Foundation or they may even be established by benefactors to feed dedicated funds into Foundation, Projects or programmes into perpetuity. That is what I mean as a financially sustainable model, one that does not run counter to NFP.
I have been in favor of an endowment for several years now. I disagree with some of my colleagues that we don't need to start working on one right a way. In fact, I believe now is the perfect time to start growing an endowment; in a down economy our fundraising efforts must necessarily be increased anyway, and by starting now and getting the setup phase and initial contacts out of the way, we are not behind the power curve when the economy recovers and organizations (as well as private individuals) resume full scale philanthropic funding. In answer to your specific questions, (i) The endowment is a long-term, ongoing goal, and should not come at the expense of short-term objectives; but that is not to say that we should fill up on short-term objectives at the expense of any endowment whatsoever. (ii) The size of the endowment required will obviously grow and adjust as the organization grows and changes focus and programming. The obvious answer is "enough that we can meet all desired programming and operational activities in a year, without significantly impacting endowment principal". (iii) Just because the endowment should be large enough to support all activities in a down year of fundraising, does not mean that we want to use it for that purpose. Distributions from the endowment should be used to partner with like-minded organizations to expand our global reach, for instance, targeted programs with OLPC for distribution of Wikimedia enabled laptops, or working with cultural organizations to acquire new content under licenses that are from the very start free (rather than with restrictive copyright and waiting until they are either released or copyright expires). These are programs that will be too expensive to pursue through fundraising, as well as time-consuming for the staff. An endowment distribution allows us to offload both of these burdens, allows our partnerships to develop, brings great publicity to us, positively impacts our fundraising in future years, and helps us to fulfill our mission.
I do not see endowment as requirement for next few years - building an endowment would require way more aggressive fundraising - and more resources would have to be spent on actual fund management, and now it may be more efficient to direct those resources to other parts of organization. Growing our platform, volunteers, relations, connections - it all is investment too, that can yield good returns too. We will eventually grow our own alumni, which may be great contributing force to endowment, but at the moment we rely on small contributions, which scale with the mindshare. Once we reach mindshare saturation - then different kind of financial planning might be needed.
Also, we're still quite agile organization, which may scale down certain projects in case of financial problems. We are in somewhat uncharted lands, and endowment would commit us to certain way of financial planning way too early.
Of course, we may consider endowment as restricted funding option - if any grant makers are ready to switch from institutional funding to endowment building.
Excellent question, Jeremy. I am very cautious about the need for a Wikimedia Foundation endowment fund at this time. For the past couple of years, the Foundation has been socking away money in a "rainy day" bank account, in excess of annual expenditures. So, thus far, security against future fundraising shortfalls would seem to be a weak argument for an endowment. Endowment funds are tricky things. Outlays from the fund are restricted; typically, only the interest gained from the principal may be spent. Furthermore, only a portion of the earnings from the endowment are spent annually, to help assure that the original capital will continue to grow over time. Donors who direct gifts to an endowment fund are almost always more "hands on" in making sure their gift is shepherded ethically and responsibly.
An unfortunate but true side-effect of having a large endowment (no giggling, children) is that the WMF may be criticized for having one, or too large of one. Annual giving could erode if too many potential donors begin to view the endowment as alleviating the need for more funds. Smaller non-profits (like Wikimedia) are often criticized for not spending the lion's share of funds on current needs. Grant-making organizations might even pass over an organization that already has significant endowment capital.
Apologies for sounding like a broken record, but the Wikimedia Foundation needs to stop practices like underspending the Technology budget by 65%, and dealing Stanton Fund gift money directly to the privately-held company (Wikia, Inc.) of the Foundation's founding trustee, before it even dares consider launching an endowment fund campaign!
Well, endowment is part of this project. I do agree with some candidates in that our mission, above all things, is free knowledge. Perhaps we should make a stop and look behind in order to see how many things have been achieved until now following the current system. Here is when "planning" plays an important role. In fact, endowment should help to spread our outreach. WMF communities are growing fastly and that will generate, with the coming of the years, more need of investment.
Nowadays, we have more "propaganda" in favour of Wikimedia (which, in turn, has increased our level of reliability) and our projects are getting more and more volunteers mainly as a consequence of the things that have been done. Indeed, some of these accomplishments are possible because there exists a quite reasonable financial planning. If new times require new measures, I am sure that we will find the way to adapt ourselves in function of the circumstances.
The first steps should be definitely taken right now to prepare for an ordered transition towards a stabler financing structure. What I do not think we should do is begin such an endowment immediately. What can be done is to create a shrink wrapped action plan to kickstart such an endowment in the case of an unexpectedly large donation, immediately upon reception.
An another intermediary step that can be taken right now, is to regularize the handling of the current financial cushioning strategy. It clearly was impossible in the previous term or the one before that, and it won't be implementable in the current accounting term either, because of the explosive growth of the size of our operations in terms of staff and office space. But once the move to an alternative location in SF is out of the way in terms of one time financial outlay; I think it only prudent that there is a clear strategy on how the cushion is handled. This would be prudent in itself, and since hopefully it would be a strategy that can be publicly expressed, as a completely serendipitous bonus, it should alleviate all the unnecessary foaming of the mouth from our more excitable critics :-) If that is ever possible :-/
To be clear, my feeling is that an endowment is useful if and only if the amount of money coming in as donations is an order of magnitude larger than currently. Specifically it would be useful if there was a sudden donation of an order of magnitude beyond our current revenues. It is conceivable that we might be able to grow in easy stages into a size where our revenues are even several orders of magnitude larger than currently before an endowment would be near inescapable. I have to say that in terms of future planning, when and if our revenues continue growing, it would be wise to begin the endowment sooner than it is absolutely indispensible, to give it time to grow.
It will be a glorious day when we are in a situation where all the money to run the servers can be scraped off the interest on the endowment. May I live to see that day!
Firstly, I prefer to defer to people with more financial planning expertise on this question. However, I think it's an idea worth keeping in mind, but one I would not pursue aggressively now; I don't think we yet need or are ready to do this.
I'll share a few thoughts on why. First of all, the main reason for an endowment is to increase stability (and the impression of stability). We don't require an endowment to assure people that we will be around for the long term; instead we make it possible for someone with the available resources to take everything we have and start over. If we for some reason ran out of money, the project wouldn't die out.
We're also not attracting the sorts of gifts that would fund an endowment. Our large gifts are mainly from foundations who are giving funds expecting it to be spent, not from individuals, and I don't expect this to change. Wikimedia does not get many major individual donors (the exceptions are very much appreciated). We don't have gala events or naming opportunities (no, no one is interested in naming rights to servers; people just look at us funny). Major donors do not routinely get board seats. No one yet has left an estate to Wikimedia. Building up the kind of fundraising strategy to build an endowment would be very different than what we are doing now.
If we were to be getting individual gifts of large sums of money at once, then I would say we should be working on this. It is a thought to keep in mind and something to talk about with potential major donors, but for now it is not a priority for me.
I think an endowment would be a great idea, the Foundation should start to make long term decisions. If needed the Foundation would be able to use the endowment as security during bad years. I've said previously that we should remember that we are in a recession and that the situation could worsen at any time. During the bad years the endowment could still function on the returns of the good years. The Foundation would also be forced to save more money, is always a good thing. We don't know what may happen in the future, so having a little more ground underneath our feet couldn't be a bad point.
Wikimedia is 8 years old
. We have built one of the informational wonders of the world, and our mission
closes with the essential phrase, "in perpetuity"
– yet we have hardly begun to plan for the future.
Yes, we need an endowment fund, and should set one up now, even before we have planned a fundraiser for it (see i.). An endowment is essential to safeguard the future of any long-lived institution. Our annual budget is now many times our basic operating expenses, with over $8M a year in recurring expenses in the current 2009-2010 financial plan (for comparison, $8M is roughly the annual upkeep of the Clinton Presidential Library). Moreover, the plan calls for Foundation spending next year to grow faster than revenue - this is short-term planning. We must prepare for the long term at the same time.
- (i) - Some donors, particularly larger individual donors, may give to an endowment what they would not to a general fund. The endowment should be supported through careful outreach to large donors, and through policies allocating a portion of major unrestricted gifts to the endowment. The greatest investment required to set up an endowment is the definition of what it would support, something that we must do regardless as part of strategic planning. (Some people have questioned whether grantors would give money to an organization with an endowment. Most grants are project based, and not for general planning or support - Universities and other entities with large endowments receive some of the largest grants in the world.)
- (ii) - This is a topic for discussion with the Foundation's finance team. The endowment should be large enough to sustainably support the basic operation of the Projects (see iii. below), able to grow with inflation while supporting any needed central server farms and technical support with its interest, and of a size that we can raise. An initial target of $10M would match current expenses. One of the goals supported by the endowment would be to reduce the future maintenance cost of core services, so the endowment would not need to grow as rapidly as the projects. (While expenses have grown geometrically in years past, there has been no focus on separating core services from research, experiments, and other expenses.)
- (iii) - First we need to work together to definine a core set of services that define our mission. I would include:
- Reliable read/write access to the projects through the Wikimedia domains, and the hardware and bandwidth this requires;
- Reliable access to dumps and statistics
- Reliable backups of private and public data
- These services should be supported as robustly as possible : making it easier for third parties to help support them in-kind with their own time, money, and hardware; having someone keeping the infrastructure involved up and running - either with a dedicated team or with some other effective supporting network; maintaining and improving ways to find and access dumps, from a fileserver and mirrors to actively-seeded torrents of large files; and regularly generating statistics from available sources while protecting private data [which makes this a difficult task to let others share].
- Distributions from the endowment should support all of this, as well as efforts to reduce the future cost of maintaining them.
At this point, the WMF should be in the planning stages of establishing an endowment, both as a supplemental source of operating revenue and as a cushion against financial catastrophe. I do not feel qualified to say at this point how large such an endowment should be; this is in part dependent on where the WMF's operating budget ultimately stabilizes. The tradeoff between operating spending and endowment investment should be minimal, in that wherever possible the endowment should be driven by revenue sources that are not operating ones (for example, I am substantially less opposed to relying on large donations from a single source for an endowment than I would for operating funding - see my response to question 9 for some elaboration on why). As to your third question, the endowment should not, as a matter of course, be drawn down. Revenue earned off the endowment should be reinvested in it (until the endowment has reached its target size) or be added to general operating revenues.
It depends on which kind of endowment. I am against any incentive programs that is initiated by the Foundation to encourage edits. I know that Hoodong does that, actually Hoodong Baike is almost entirely driven by incentives. But this is not the way of Wikimedians. We have a mission, and that is FREE knowledge, not incentive driven knowledge.
What I would support is programs that can benefit us on fields where we need help. One such field is for example research. I would support endowment on research projects about Wikimedia projects, its outreach, its development, its community, our image in the public. We need to know a lot about ourselves, but good studies are rare.
As a member of the Board of Trustees you would apparently have the power to take "office actions" with respect to content. Current policy states that "office actions" are edits intended "to prevent legal trouble or personal harm and should not be undone by any user." Jimbo Wales has stated that WP:OFFICE may be used in "cases involving a threat of legal action, but in other cases it may be simply as a courtesy". Would you support restricting this power to WMF's General Counsel? If not, do you see any conflict between satisfying an article subject who is complaining of "harm" and maintaining a neutral POV? How high a priority to you is "personal harm" avoidance?Bdell555 03:02, 30 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't particularly have a problem with taking a timeout from an article to cover all of our bases. This is how I read the OFFICE dictum. It is temporary, I think that that is the key to it. I don't love it, however, I do not foresee it causing a long term conflict with the object of the encyclopaedia projects, which is of course to build the sum of all human knowledge, in every language. As to POV issues, if WP:OFFICE leads to the removal of notable, well sourced material, I think that the community will be right to take issue with that. I do not expect that to happen.
I uphold that an encyclopedia's register should be dispassionate, yet engaged. We as a Community should strive for balance and where possible a full, informed and systemic framing of an article with rich context and historicity. I favour a deep consultation model throughout the Community which subsumes Foundation, Projects, Charters, programmes, editors, administrators and audience, amongst others particularly benefactors. I do not favour censorship unless in situations of compassion and duress or where minors may be impacted. Even then the censorship is not one of filtering holdings but one of retrieval. I also favour decentralized governance, a reticulum of interpenetrating amorphous sapiential circles, to engage the term of Margaret Mead. Consensus fails without having deep consultation and broad catchment and representation from our manifold constituencies. This is a fundamental flaw in Wikimedia currently. To further my Platform standing and to strengthen consensus, I intend to table a universal communication channel with social media capability integrated directly with the online interface. Or at minimum a widget or plug in that provides for deep consultation and the establishment of communities that can amass according to interest and necessity. Information will be interrogable and reportable. The channel will be designed for our express functionality post deep consultation and encryption of data maximized for our purposes. "The bandwidth, the bandwith" I hear voiced with terror...lets just open the dialogue and see how the channel opens. I don't use IRC, though I appreciate its function in the history of the Internet and particularly hacker culture
. Wikimedia is the lovechild and fulfillment of hacker culture. Wikivoices has foregrounded to me that only certain collected individuals talk and have a voice in Wikimedia. There is a certain humanity to hearing one another and seeing one another if possible. We don't all write well, we aren't all clearly and powerfully literate. Particularly given the impending strategic envisioning, it is timely to progress beyond IRC. The nature of privilege in the Community is sensitive. We should endeavour to be open and accessible wherever possible. Audiovisual communication and the richness of social media will help establish powerful networks establishing communities that penetrate and interpenetrate our Community and communities: assisting in cross-cultural communication. Wales has established and invested this failsafe, this safety valve within the Board and before I establish a platform or opine as to its benefit or otherwise, I would require a statement or consultation from legal counsel and exposure to prior case studies and to dialogue with the Community. There is a wisdom in committees not evident in any one of the individuals of that collective, singularly. Grievances grounded in law should be communicated to general counsel with haste as well as the Board. Grievances grounded in violation of Wikimedia Standards should be directed to the Board who may defer to legal counsel.
Having had to implement an office action on an article at the request of the foundation staff, I disagree that it should be limited to the General Counsel. It is part of the necessary oversight that the WMF (both staff and board) must have over the projects to protect the foundation's mission. The second half of the question is not related to board activities, but I will answer it anyway. Our policies require us to maintain a neutral POV. We should strive to do no harm. It is extremely rare that these two things are incompatible with each other, and almost never in a well cited, verifiable, researched article.
Our General Counsel suggests that we should do as few as possible 'office actions' - and I support him. It is not much of an issue lately, and I think that foundation should always try to have best possible dialogue between community and staff - and have bidirectional support on all the issues, that previously required unilateral actions. This is definitely scaled down activity from few years ago, and I think that everyone involved now is happier :)
Wikimedia "office actions" are exceedingly rare, and even more so when executed by Trustees lacking the surname "Wales". Thus, without any offense to the person asking the question, I am struggling to see the merit of providing anything more than the following response: if you trust the Board member to take care of more than $6 million of your money, then you ought to trust that the Board member will exercise an appropriate balance between caution and action when faced with questionable or illegal Wikimedia content that happens to be drawing complaints.
Office actions should be avoided as much as possible within the Board. I do agree that contents must be removed if and only if they represent what the policy states. These are obviously particular cases and care ought to be given when there is a special information disclosure that may cause any harm or offence. As an administrator on es.wiki, I have dealt closely with cases of legal threat. Fortunately, things were not taken further and dialogue proved to be a useful tool. Some "famous" people whose privacy was compromised claimed for their right to have such information removed from the article. Others just wanted me to keep an eye on their articles in order to protect them from vandalism. Special attention was devoted to some politicians who were under suspicion of corruption. Those are just examples I can remember now but, in response to your question, at a global level - especially when more than one community is/may be affected - "office" actions like these must be tackled with the utmost care and efficiency. I believe that the Board will be responsible enough to handle with this issue, just in case there were an unavoidable possibility to do so.
With the greatest of respect to our General Counsel (Hi, Mike!) the one healthy trend in the operations of our movement, has been the concerted effort to identify bottlenecks and to attempt to see how they can be removed from being a potential source of problems. Having a single person with so much power was not ever good before, as the power of OFFICE; and putting it into single hands again would be a serious step back. I won't tell precisely why putting them into single hands would be a bad idea, just to not give the bad guys any ideas, but be advised that my mind is fertile in charting ways bottlenecks can fail, and I can see several in the instance of putting the whole ball of wax in the hands of our venerable General Counsel.
As a completely unrelated to the question above, but intimately entangled with the rationale I offer why consolidating the OFFICE power back into single hands would not be a good idea, I note as a sidebar that the reason that having a single Executive Director is not in violation of this doctrine is precisely because the staff is thoroughly insulated from having any influence on editing activity, apart from situations where legal matters are not in play. And that insulation should be further enhanced rather than creating a breach across it directly connected to the General Counsel.
On the separate issue of "harm"...
While I haven't had to participate in OFFICE actions, and I suspect there are very few office actions that are operated on any but some of the largest language projects, but have had to witness a few cases where there have been "complaints" of harm, libel and the like (the most bizarre perhaps being the case of a lady Video Jockey who made a complaint to the police so they could see if it was illegal to edit her article in a way that made her feel "uncomfortable"; specifically quoting catty words she had uttered in a major newspaper against another female political candidate in a race she was running in etc.) My attitude is that we should be skeptical about one-sided claims of harm. Investigating the issues behind such ought to be done with a huge amount of diligence, as interfering with the normal procedures of a project is something that shouldn't ever be lightly done, and never never never with fear or favor.
Firstly, I am not part of the office. The board may require the staff to take a certain action but on my own I could only give an opinion with no particular weight.
Asking for a hard, bright-line rules on this is understandable but bound to lead to dissatisfaction; it's intended for exceptional situations which tend to present challenges to bright-line rules. (If Mike is out of town and unreachable, can no action be taken? No, that would be nonsensical.)
That said, of course there are competing concerns: if it were so easy to make these judgment calls, this wouldn't be a question. But they're not unique to the office; everyone who deals with articles on these topics should be aware of them. I think there are some cases in which it is appropriate for the office to act, and yes, risk personal harm is one. My opinion on what the office should do depends largely on how action by Wikimedia affects the outcome of the situation, but I trust their judgment.
I personally don't support removing information that is properly referenced, but if the information is unreferenced or unreliable, such as Ting mentioned in his answer I have no problem with removing it. The link in the question states that the content would only be removed temporary. Bearing this in mind, I don't believe that such office actions would case any significant problems. I believe that this permission, or action, should be limited to as few people as possible. The board of trustees shouldn't have the ability to play Big Brother
on any of the Wikimedia projects.
The Board itself should not be taking part in any Office Actions.
Wikimedia's Counsel may request such an action, but would not need to do so through the Board. Thankfully this is rarely done - it is generally an ineffective way to get things done, and an unnecessary imposition on community processes.
Yes, there is a central conflict between satisfying an article subject who is complaining of harm and maintaining a neutral POV; and it is one that community editors and OTRS respondents must cope with every day - independent of whether or not the Foundation feels an additional legal reason to respond to such a complaint.
I do not believe that office actions of the sort that you describe should be limited to the WMF's counsel, but I do believe that they should be limited to persons holding some sort of executive role in the WMF, which Trustees do not. Trustees should not have any privileged position in on-project edits.
From all "office actions" in the last year that I am aware of or I was involved in I can say that they are carried out very sensitively and very carefully. They are all justified. I handled such a case in the last year because we received a letter from a lawyer of a hongkongnese company. The staff member asked me if the accusation is correct. I checked the article on zh-wp, found that the section that was mentioned in the letter was without citation and not reliable. I informed the user who put the passage in on his or her talk page, informed the community through village pump and the administrators through the Skype chatroom and removed the section. Part of the section was put in later again with sources and citations by other users. I don't see in such cases the staff abused their power in any way.
Naturally, your concern is legitimate. I can only assure you that our staff is in awareness of their responsibility and the trustees take their control duty very seriously.
(Should be a quick side-question.) Licensing policy is an example of policy which affects all projects. It states: «By March 23, 2008, all existing files under an unacceptable license as per the above must either be accepted under an EDP, or shall be deleted». We have a number of small projects where sysops don't know this policy and need "coaching", but some simply don't care, even when advised. Should someone delete such images? Who? --Nemo 08:56, 1 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It seems that in this particular instance a bot could be modified to do the dirty work pretty quickly. Whether to allow a bot needs to be up to the communities themselves. When it comes to enforcing the law, however, there needs to be action taken, and if the administrators on a particular wiki are not up to the task, it may be necessary to take a top-down step to enforce the laws of the United States, where the servers are based. If it came to a head, I would not oppose such an action.
Nemo, ello :-D. If Administrators in suite do not engage a policy we need to take pause and consult. If select Administrators due to laxity or ideology do not fulfill their function that renders the Administrator function questionable. Coaching is a constant in such a dynamic information Community. Administrators must maintain continued vigilance in apprizing themselves of changing policy. I foreground consultation over proscription: as a necessity guidelines and directives need to be in place. I prefer a sapiential circle of seasoned Administrators in consultation with the Community to implement deletion in answer to your question. If this Circle is undecided, or if the matter compromises the integrity of the Foundation and Projects then it needs to be flagged for engagement and action by appropriate forums, also sapiential circles in consultation with legal counsel and other specialists, or amongst the remunerated tenures if required. We need to have a rigorous campaign to reinforce the function of Psyops: there is no hierarchy there is only role and function difference. I have had a rich and textured experience with Psyops and hold the quality of those invested with such privilege widely divergent. It is my experience of heavy-handed administration that foregrounded my candidature. Everpresent in the mindstream of the Administrator is to be from whence of which and by whom are they invested authority and power. My experience is some Psyops are elitist, politicking, power-hungry and they forget their mandate.
Should someone? Sure. Incompatibly licensed material should go. But it's not the board's job to be doing that. This is something that the community should decide on how to implement. I don't like the precedent that would be set if the board started meddling in something like this and telling the community how to do its job at one of the most basic levels (like, how to delete content).
The only legal entity, for which board resolutions are legally binding, is Foundation itself - so there has to be work done at foundation level, to assist projects with EDPs, or deletion. Of course, foundation is free to recruit volunteer committees for such tasks. As with Privacy and data retention policy, it is Foundation job to act accordingly.
I don't see a need to delete the images from the Foundation level until a complaint from a license- or copyright-holder is heard. Let's face it, these various projects spiraled out of control because the folks who established them didn't care enough to seek paid professional guidance at the outset. So, without a rational legal plan for sustained, practical policy, we're left with cleaning up after the mess, even as the mess continues to grow.
Ciao, Nemo. I think that those problems should be discussed and decided within the community. I believe that most administrators (aka sysops) are responsible enough to make their own decisions without the Board telling what to do on that field. The real problem is the one that involves small projects. Here is when we can give some guidance and support. However, as Chen suggested, we already have experienced administrators who oversight those projects. Again, I believe that most of these things can be widely treated and spoken in the different communities before taking it further. A good and suitable option would be to organize a place where everyone can "put in the picture" their opinions on that (this could be carried out locally). Conversely, if things go wrong, there is always a chance to take more "general" and universal actions. I am quite broadminded regarding this topic.
Yes, someone should be doing this—but the idea is that admins on individual projects should feel empowered to do it, that it is part of their shared responsibility as enforcing any other project policy should be, and that the deletion of such images should not be up for debate. The date was a goal: so that people would not panic that everything had to be done immediately and rush into poor methods of achieving it, but still understand that it was something we thought was important enough to be done soon. Where the goal date was missed we should look at why, and how to remedy that. Probably, there is not enough communication between these small projects and the more active ones; surely the language barrier is a big issue. I wonder how much the sysops on some of these projects who are not fluent in a more popular language (particularly English) and do not participate in the lists share in the project culture, and how much they are left floundering on their own; this is the big issue that needs to be resolved. Because it shouldn't be someone from WMF swooping in and doing it; it should be that someone lets those sysops know why and how they need to.
I personally believe that administrators should be constantly up to date with all policies and guidelines. When you take the title as an administrator, you must understand what responsibilities you would have. As my one fellow candidate said, these is some administrators who only wants to be one for the glamour of it. The community should inform administrators of problems such as these. If the particular administrator doesn't want to do the trouble fixing the issue, one should not only consult a more experienced administrator, but also report the one not willing to follow the policies.
We shouldn't just ignore problems as these. Even if you are just an editor, you are just as valuable to the Wikimedia Foundation as an administrator. Be bold and contact someone for help regarding the problem. I believe the board should encourage administrators to keep up to date with policies and help the small wikis that are in need.
Nemo, a good question. Any policy that affects all projects, whether or not it comes from a Board resolution, has a similar dilemma. Smaller projects sometimes lack the active editors or admins to do everything that is needed for their wikis -- such as identifying and deleting obvious copyright violations, not just the borderline cases that the policy you link to addressed. I have two answers:
- In some cases the problem is that we do not disseminate these decisions very widely, or in very many languages. To begin with, we should define an organized way to share these rare project-wide decisions with small projects in their local language.
- I would like to see a community-selected group whose role is to help small projects carry out these tasks. Stewards can do this if needed, but that is not really their role. There has been some discussion of creating a small-wiki-admin flag for such editors, and asking smaller projects to opt into this policy, similar to the opt-in global bot policy. Communities that don't opt into this could identify a place where one should post notice of new global policies, or requests for implementation.
If a local project disagrees with a cross-project policy, and refuses to implement it, then that is another story -- and needs to be discussed here on Meta. I don't believe in unnecessary bureaucracy; we don't to consider a special body to handle such discussions unless this becomes a constant problem.
If there are projects whose administrator corps refuses to abide by WMF-imposed policies, those projects should be shut down by discussion on meta (assuming earlier efforts, such as finding qualified and compliant individuals to join these projects' administrator ranks, fail). I would hope that direct WMF-intervention would not become necessary in such cases, but ultimately the WMF is responsible for enforcing its policies and has the authority to do as it likes with the projects (though not, of course, the underlying content).
A big part of these problems must be resolved by the community, a very small part maybe by the staff. This is a traditional solution that we use in all our projects. If there is a problem, it is most probably that the community would detect it and fix the problem. We do have projects with very weak communities. For the really very small projects as far as I know there is a small project task force consisting of experienced administrators oversighting these projects. But naturally we also have projects with say maybe five or ten active contributors, where the people are not aware of board resolutions or other policies. I think with the expansion of our outreach some of these projects can grow and can be aware of their problems. Latest then the problems would be fixed. But before that happens, if you know such a case, even if it is not your home project, you are part of our community, so please don't hesitate to contact and inform our Community Coordinator, who will find resources and contacts to find a solution.
It is my impression that the relationship between the Mediawiki developers, the system administrators and wiki communities is rather dysfunctional. It is extremely difficult for a wiki community to request even minor changes in the software, setup or locally installed extensions. Proposals that require technical changes are dead in the water. Many developers appear outright hostile towards the community and especially the English Wikipedia. Do you think there is a problem, and if so what do you want to do about it? --Apoc2400 09:43, 2 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ideally, we'd have the money to hire 100 more people and the back end would be perfect in 6 months. In reality, however, there is a lot of waiting for the developers time. I don't think this is malicious, but a fundamental problem posed by the number of hours in a day, which I do not believe is an issue that is within the jurisdiction of the Wikimedia board of trustees, at least not yet. In all seriousness, I would like to push for more money for back end development, but the extent which that will be successful is dictated by the generosity of the public.
Apoc2400. I have not had this experience. Are you speaking of your experience directly? I recently made contact with a developer regarding some support for a Skype Extension. I haven't been answered as yet. I am going to contemplate this further before I answer.
Well, I disagree with you on the hostility issue. I think it is easy to confuse competitive allocation of scarce developer resources with some sort of confrontational attitude. Keep in mind that there is an obligation on behalf of the developers not just to the community, but to MediaWiki development in general. This can certainly throw monkey wrenches into timetables for implementing changes. I think that a properly managed foundation, with a board that is active in securing fundraising and partnerships, can afford to expand development, and many of the problems that you suggest will be solved by greater funding in development.
Huh, *shrug*, I shouldn't point out any preferential treatment, but simply because of its size English Wikipedia has been getting most attention from operations and development than any other project. Problems arising within English Wikipedia have pushed all development into certain paths, which are limiting features for lots of smaller wikis. It is somewhat obnoxious to throw such statements around - most of developers are or were volunteers, and have spent way too much time helping these exact communities, with way more dedication and accountability, than any editor has ever had...
Emotions aside, we try to put more and more resources to actively handling request queues, and making as easy as possible to file technical requests (ever tried bugzilla?).
Of course, the top goal for any organization is having all expectations managed and delivered, and WMF isn't anywhere close that path. It is amazing (and scary, considering what they are aiming for), that very same people who say that Foundation is a bloat, and doesn't need people to work in it, are suggesting close deadlines, and expulsions of volunteers and staff. As someone, who has been trained in ITIL (thats the "best practice for service organizations"), I sure see how we differ from the 'Real Service', but on the other hand, that has allowed us to be where we are now.
We could involve ten different managers to do triage of requests, rebuild our IT strategy over and over, so that hundreds of engineers and managers would have something to gnaw on, but we wouldn't be anywhere close to our current achievements. There always are tradeoffs - more people in staff is way more difficult to manage, and more procedures based decision making is also way less agile.
Developers have to deal with multiple communities - sometimes efficient dealing with requests has caused community uproar (some said it was consensus, some said it wasn't), sometimes telling 'no' is considered to be more hostile, than 'not saying yes', sometimes it is less hostile. The request queue that is in there has quite a lot of vague spots and problem areas - certain improvements for some people can be regressions for others - and that has to be always considered.
Our environment at the moment is the absolutely most permissive around, no any web shop is giving that much power into hands of their users - part of that because simply there is no way to do that with in-house development resources - thus leading to constant 'arms race' where developers try to keep pace with how community is using those features and resources given. Certain changes require way way more thought, than is usually included in initial discussions, and technology issues are quite often thought to be not important ("thats development issue").
So, does this problem exist? Of course, in certain cases there may be miscommunications, leading to wrong expectations. Overall, development process hasn't stalled, plenty of community requests get fulfilled, new stuff gets developed, old is still up and running. One can just look at our bugs/features tracker, and see that it isn't "dead in the water", nor "difficult to request". Foundation should always ensure, that it does best job to handle those needs, and adjust resources it has for that - but as that costs money and requires time (no sudden engineering team growths bring the desired outcome too fast), we have to assume good faith instead of hostility.
Of course there is a problem at hand. An example of the endemic dysfunction is the implementation of "flagged revisions" on the English Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales has been jetting around the globe, promising assembled crowds and awe-struck journalists that flagged revisions are just around the corner. He's been saying this for about two years now. At last count, it's supposed to be implemented "in time for Wikimania 2009", or we're supposed to start stomping our feet if it's not in place within about four weeks after Wikimania.
This is ludicrous. Flagged revisions should have been mandated by the Board in 2007 or so, and implemented within 60 days of the Board's decree. Any paid developer who dragged their feet on such an important improvement to Wikimedia projects should have been fired, and any non-paid developer who delayed implementation should have been shunned.
I hope that I have made myself clear enough, without it sounding like a rant. Without trying to point blame
at any developers, it is painfully obvious to me that they have not been professionally-enough guided by senior management. I don't blame "the community" for this dysfunction.
The relationship is not univocal and you have a point there. This also happens in smaller communities. When we speak about Wikimedia, obviously things become bigger and it is necessary to keep a certain order. Coordination, planning, cooperation and understanding must be our priority in a project like this one. We cannot deny that this problem already exists and, being optimistic, it is likely to disappear in the future. Nevertheless, I do not believe that we are facing widespread cases. As a member of the Board, I would do everything I can to achieve a better system of organization, having a good understanding and predisposition towards all the communities, without forgetting smaller ones. Our mission is to hear what the community needs and says, in general terms.
- "Many developers appear outright hostile towards the community and especially the English Wikipedia." - I point blank refuse to acknowledge this as an accurate representation of reality, without some evidence. This is certainly not something I have experienced.
- "It is extremely difficult for a wiki community to request even minor changes in the software, setup or locally installed extensions." - Again, I would have to question the accuracy of this statement. My experience has been quite different.
- "Do you think there is a problem, and if so what do you want to do about it?" - Well it is definitely a problem that you have an impression of dysfunctionality. I think I would like to know more about what led you to that impression, to get a better handle on whether there is any reality basis for your impressions.
- One very very very *important* thing is that people who wish for the developers or "system administrators" to act as _imposing_ a solution where the community has failed to internally reach a consensus, is something that is quite dangerous, and if your perception of developers being "hasty" or "hostile" is due to this feature of their way of acting, it is in fact important to note that developers forcing things through is never a good idea, except when there are real dangers to the integrity of the site.
I think "hostility" isn't an accurate description (and probably some of the developers are a bit offended by it!). I don't know that anyone who is really hostile to the projects would continue to put in the kind of time and effort that they do. Part is stress over demands on their time; maybe all you ask is that someone spend 15 minutes on your problem. But 100 other people have a similar request, and that adds up to a lot of time. Part is that when you have already thought through a problem and know why it's harder or less reasonable to do some things than it seems, you get impatient with repeated requests from people who are asking something very difficult or unreasonable who don't know how difficult or unreasonable those requests are. Part is that interpreting what the community wants, and what is only wanted by a small group of people who might be strongly opposed if anyone else knew, is hard even for the editing community to decide. We've had limited staff resources, and each person has been responsible for too much at once; I hope some of the recent hiring will alleviate that problem; I do think it is resources rather than attitude.
As there isn't any evidence of the above problems, I can not really answer this question without making assumptions. All the times I have worked with developers things went smoothly. It never happened to me that an developer were hostile towards me. I believe that the best way for the two communities to truly understand each other is, if the developers are directly involved at the user level. To this end, I might suggest the idea that each developer should do some real editing
- such as, conducting a peer review
, voting in some AfD
's, or even creating an article.
One consideration is, do the developers focus too much on the English wiki? I believe that each developer should help his own wiki, rather than just the English one. We could even start a project called Adopt-A-Wiki. Developers could then support the smaller wikis during times of need. When I've checked something on the Afrikaans wiki the other day I realised just what major difference there is. Because of this difference people would rather contribute to the wiki that has more tools and is more user friendly.
I'm not sure what you mean by hostility, but you have identified a common problem. Even community developers are frustrated at times that they don't have a way to speed up the process of implementing changes that they have worked on.
As the Foundation employs core Mediawiki developers and helps guide its roadmap of most essential features, it should actively clarify that it is not creating bottlenecks to independent community work. Developers in every community should feel they have support to develop tools to meet their own needs. The availability of toolservers has been a good step in this direction. The rest of the issue you raise is something for the community to address, but I am happy to share my thoughts.
There is often a communication breakdown between identifying a problem, proposing a technical solution, and seeing it to completion. I would like to see
- good models for organizing local priorities and improving them over time.
- a mechanism simpler and more general than bugzilla for defining technical needs and drawing attention to them (with one or more bugzilla tickets opened for each such need; but sometimes it is not clear what the specific ticket should look like, and widespread discussion and clustering of these discussions is essential)
- community facilitators who can find issues that local groups (editors and developers) think are important, help move them to a resolution, and raise awareness about them when needed (I support something like this on the English Wikipedia).
I have had extremely limited contact with the developers (though I did file a bugzilla report once) so I can't speak much from personal experience. In general I think that this problem, like so many of the WMF's projects' problems, is related to it being unclear who has what authority to make what decisions. You complain that developers are slow to react to requests from the communities, which may well be true for all I know, but I can well imagine what an uncomfortable position developers are in with the hundreds of communities, none of whom have any designated spokespeople. Clarifying and strengthening lines of authority is a major part of my platform; while I can't say at this point exactly how that would apply to developers, it has to be part of the solution.
Yes, this is a problem. Part of the problem is also a resource problem. As I have said in another occasion our staff, including the tech staff works very hard and they must be multitalents. Often they have many roles at the same time or are involved in many projects at the same time. But you are right. The most highest priority of the Foundation is support the projects and keep the projects running. So community demands and decisions should get a higher priority in the tasks of the staff, if necessary, with cut backs to other projects or with hiring more tech personals. I think it would also be good to have the response time to community decisions and requests as a parameter for the measurement of the tech staff performance.
In your estimation, over the past 24 months, what has been the most urgent or catastrophic error, mistake, or miscalculation that you feel the Wikimedia Foundation has committed? This may apply to the Board, the Staff, or both. Feel free to briefly list all of the mistakes that may come to your mind, but please focus the most attention on what you perceive to be the worst of the batch. -- Thekohser 17:17, 4 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I do not recall an error I would term "catastrophic". I consistently find the decisions of the board and staff to be no worse than tolerable, and often much better. On the whole I would say that I think that I can help the board become better at marketing and possibly more tolerant of the little novice editor, but to say that their marketing or tolerance are currently "mistakes" would be wildly overstating it. Wikipedia is one of the 10 most wildly successful websites in the world, and the rest of the project is the largest collaborative on the internet. This does not happen due to "catastrophic" decision making, and it does not come from making dire "mistakes". The last major error I recall was the Essjay controversy, which was 27 months ago.
I believe that over approximately the past two years, Jimmy Wales has brought the Wikimedia Foundation and its project into a light of disrepute, thanks to his handling of the Essjay scandal; the Rachel Marsden affair; the expense receipt reimbursement allegations; accepting a rental agreement for office space where Wikia, Inc. was extended a bidding advantage (matching the "average" bid) that was not extended to other bidders; and the continued petty framing of the "sole founder" label and that Wikia is "completely separate" from Wikipedia, when clearly neither are wholly true. Truth (especially in light of verifiability) is of paramount importance for a knowledge-based project like a global encyclopedia. Therefore, I feel that the Board's most urgent mistake was to not say "enough is enough" and publicly rebuke Wales for failing to comport himself in a manner that brings honor and respect to the Wikimedia Foundation.
I think it is pretty damn awesome that I can't think of anything worse in that timeframe, than the latest board restructuring decision, and the lack of consultation beforehand, on which it was based. I think I expressed at the time that it was done in a near panic'd fashion, very rushed, and some facets of it were "running before we had learned to crawl".
Another awesome feature of our workings is how resiliently even that plan was adapted to deal with the facts on the ground. Things were slowed down and there was after the fact consultation. There is a great and wonderful self-correcting nature to this whole thing we are involved with.
The results of that restructuring are still not clear, but I have abiding faith that the structure can be ever adjusted to deal with any percieved shortcomings.
I could write a lot about what I thought was the deeper backround of the decision, that caused it to be such a spectacular flop, but it genuinely serves no purpose to dwell on the past. We must concentrate on what to fix in the future.
I could not name anything the Foundation did in such a way that it had long term or catastrophic effects. I personally think the Foundation is doing a pretty good job. Everyone makes mistakes, so we should not kill the Foundation because of theirs.
I'm going to identify a couple of things, prefaced by something that the WMF did right. Its 2008 board restructuring was a good thing insofar as it allocated four seats to people with "specific expertise" without any connection to the community being required. This is the WMF's best chance to ensure that stakeholders other than community members—our readers, our donors, our subjects, etc.—are represented in high-level decision-making. Unfortunately, only two of those four seats have been filled thus far. The WMF Board's failure to take the opportunity that it gave to itself to become less insular must surely rank as among its greatest failures.
The second failure that I would identify is that I believe that the WMF in general has been too "hands off" in its management of the projects. While there are obviously limitations imposed by s. 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, I don't believe that the WMF is currently anywhere near those limits, and it has been very frustrating to watch it stand idly by as project-level governance has all but disintegrated on its largest projects.
I want to talk what was my biggest mistake (seen from my own view) of the last year and what I learned out of it. After my election I had intensified my work on the chinese community. For example already in December 2008 I had already informed the chinese community about the license change. I was in the opinion that other communities like the german community are better informed as the asian communities and was very surprised about the outcry in the german community when we begann the vote of the license change. I think it is my duty as a community elected board member to inform the community about events and plans from the board and the Foundation. It doesn't matter if it is my home project or not. And it was my failure not to have take care about the german community. The lesson I learnd from the incident is that don't take it as given that a community is better informed just because the community is bigger and more active. All our communities and projects are equal and should be taken care of.
At least one of the candidates has tried to use legal means to have the Foundation's charitable status rescinded. What is your view of the Foundation's charitable status - should it continue, or should the Foundation become a for-profit organisation capitalising on the strength of the brands it controls? JzG 08:39, 8 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It should continue as a charitable organization. Setting aside the fact that the act of changing a non-profit into a corporation in the US is as hard as stapling bricks together with a Swingline, its not what the mission of the project is. I intend to ensure this never happens.
The question bears false witness and utterly lacks any evidence, so I won't dignify it with a response.
From a POV, I think that Wikimedia should keep its non-profit status. It is possible to enter into agreements and/or negotiations without missing this point. I have a clear position regarding this issue. Therefore, let things be the way they are.
I don't think this question is directed at me. As should be obvious from my history I think we should continue to be a non-profit. There are a host of reasons, not least being signaling what our priorities are, but there has never been a serious consideration to change this.
Easy question. We should not even discuss it, the Foundation should stay being charitable organization.
The Foundation is strengthened by being a profoundly charitable organization, and should always remain so.
The WMF should remain a non-profit and should take advantage of registered charitable status (directly or through chapters) in every jurisdiction in which it so-qualifies.
This question is for me very straightforward to answer and the answer is "Yes, we should continue our charitable status and no we don't want to be a for-profit organisation". As a non-profit charitable organization we can be far more efficiently do our work and pursue our mission. For example I think understanding our character and how we function and work is the key element of us not being blocked again by the chinese authority after the Olympic Games last year. As a for-profit organization we would be confronted with the same problem and pressure like other companies such as Google or Yahoo in China.
At present, the overwhelming majority of people have never stated their opinions on the ever changing wikipedia guidelines, which are now totally different than what they were in the early years of wikipedia, and are often used as excuse to mass delete long held articles. Would you support a general election to determine the rules of notability, and what type of articles should be kept or deleted? According to the rules, simply being on the bestsellers list doesn't make a book notable, and sometimes they are erased, while at other times people say ignore the rules and keep them. Some believe in wiping out all character articles, episodes that had millions of viewers but didn't get reviewed in mainstream media, and many other things, and usually succeed in deleting them, depending on who is around at the time to participate in the AFD, and the opinions of the closing administrator. The exact same types of articles are kept or deleted, based on who shows up to argue, it all random. The constant debates raging on the AFDs could be eliminated by a general vote, and a specific set of rules. The current system has all guidelines pages edited by whoever camps there and argues constantly, to get their way, knowing most people aren't going to spend every day in constant conflict, and will just give up and let them have their way. Dream Focus 14:51, 8 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This is an en.Wiki question, and not part of board duties. I will answer it, however. The community has always been able to decide to hold an election to determine those things. Personally, the way I read policy on en.wiki is Descriptive, not Prescriptive, and I think its a core principal of the project that it stays that way. That is to say, policies and guidelines reflect what would happen if we played out everything in a deletion discussion with no guidelines. I do miss early Wiki, where we talked about the merits of things rather than pointing to policy, but if this is where the community wants it, this is where we go.
This is very much a Wikipedia question and not a board question. What you are asking is different in many Wikipedias and it is not something the board involves itself in. Many Wikipedias do not even have such policies.
Your question seems focused on the English Wikipedia, which while the grand-daddy of Wikimedia wikis, is not the Wikimedia Foundation. I think that the disjointed, unfair techniques of lording over guidelines via close-knit, sycophantic cabals is probably the best that Wikipedia can hope for, since the Foundation shows no interest in becoming a more professional, accountable body.
The answer to this question deals closely with what each community decides about those topics. Every Wikimedia project has its own policy (e.g.: fair use is forbidden on the Spanish wikipedia while generally allowed on en.wiki). However, I believe in the ability of each community to decide what it best suits its interests; consensus is one option out of many. There should exist some dialogue within the community. In fact, there are certain things which can be better sorted out without the Board's assistance (speedy deletions, relevance of some articles, etc.). When it comes to projects at a higher level, usually affecting or involving more than one community, other measures can be considered. One of my aims is to support rules based on consensus, making sure that they are "watertight", organized, approved by a considerable majority and only if WM sister projects really take benefit from it.
This is a question for the project communities to answer, rather than the Board. (If you dug through my enwiki editing history enough you might find out what I think, but I won't answer it here.)
The question is related to the English Wikpedia, not the Wikimedia Foundation. The situation you are talking about is different in each project. The board should not decide on a solution, the particular community should.
This is a decision for projects to make, not something for the Board to have any say in at all.
Personally, I find the loose structure of the projects encourages flexibility over time, and has its advantages - while any given decision is bound to offend the sensibilities of some editors, the overall guidelines for notability have gradually relaxed as the Wikipedia has grown. Work could be done to keep the process friendly and orderly while allowing individual WikiProjects to develop distinct rules of thumb, and without mandating once and for all a rigid set of guidelines.
No, I would not support such an election. I certainly agree that the status quo makes it impossible to resolve controversial policy issues on the larger projects; my proposal for dealing with that is described in my candidate statement: Foundation-mandated governance committees.
I had referred about the change of our projects in a presentation I gave on last year's Wikimania conference in Alexandria, Egypt. The title of the presentation is "Keep the Community Open while Wikipedia matures". Yes I think about these questions and I am involved in the discussion of these questions. The question comes from the en-wp but it is also there in a lot of other projects including so central projects like the commons.
There are two different approaches in this question. The first is to implement a regid rule for everything. The positive side of this is you can avoid a lot of conflicts just by pointing to the rules. The negative side is that rules are something that is very unflexible, sometimes a situation happens where a rule doesn't acquire that good, or is even contradictory to our mission. So in such cases you have either to avoid the rule, which makes rules quite useless if it happens too often or to amend the rules, to make them more precise, but also more complicated, so that at the end you have so heavy a set of rules that only a professional jurist know every detail of it. The second approach is to search for consensus through community discussions. The positive of this approach is that it is in our tradition, it is with the basics of our philosophy. The drawbacks are what you pointed out, it can be quite abitrary, and discussing the same point again and again can be very tiresome.
In general every of our projects had evolved in their history its own approaches, mostly a combination of the two solutions illustrated above. The problem must be solved in the community, it cannot be ordered from above, from the board.
Personally, as a normal community member, I usually advocate in discussions about this question for the second approach. At first I think we are community driven projects and the community, everyone in the community should have the chance to take part in discussions and decision makings. I also admit that I have personnally an aversion against very regid, unflexible rules. While our projects evolve, old rules can become less suitable. But as all these things it is always difficult to change an old rule, even if everyone see that it is outdated. And thus they tend to become some ugly conservative ideology that prevent the projects develop further.
A late question for the candidates, but how do each of you feel about a WMF candidate who was recently blocked on enWiki for edit warring? Can someone with such a recent block for disruptive editing be a viable candidate? 22.214.171.124 13:34, 9 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Steve Smith has summarized my feelings aptly. As someone who has worked for a Jewish member of the American Government
in the US Senate, which is a major target of O'Keefe's criticism, I have strong feelings on the matter. But regardless of a candidates demonstrably false political views, I do not believe that a short term block is grounds for rejection, as I think it is up to the community to decide the criteria to elect candidates by. Democracy to me means that anyone can run.
Of course a blocked user can be a suitable candidate for the Wikimedia Foundation board. Many reputable professionals have been blocked for any number of ridiculous reasons on different WMF projects. If you're looking for more reputable professionals to serve on the WMF board of trustees, then you may be doing yourself a disservice by disqualifying blocked editors from board eligibility.
Actually, that's a very personal question. Everyone may have their opinion on what you are asking. Some people might agree with a particular candidate just because s/he represents their interests and ideology. For the same reason, another group of individuals may disagree and then vote against a particular candidate for multiple causes. My scheme of how a desirable and reliable candidate must be doesn't contemplate neither disruptive behaviour nor lack of transparece. I am also in favour of free speech built over the basis of tolerance. Since I believe that we must advocate for free knowledge worldwide, we have to be able to respect others as much as we would like to be respected. Summarising, an ideal candidate is that who is supported at least by his/her local community/ies; that who has been able to show his/her interest for the project's sake no matter what his/her personal beliefs may be. A good candidate has to show himself honest towards others and recognise his/her mistakes as well as his/her accomplishments.
Yes, I think someone who has been disruptive can be a viable candidate—or, at least, having been blocked at some point shouldn't be a bar. The voters should be able to be aware of it and make the decision for themselves, rather than candidates being prescreened. I think people who are truly unable to resolve disagreements without becoming disruptive are not going to be a good board members, nor are people holding some views—but that should be for the voters to decide.
We should never prejudge someone on the fact that he or she was blocked, but in the current case we should look deeper. All I have to say is, after reading Steve's response I immediately changed my vote.
A recent block is not in itself reason to keep someone from being a candidate for the Board.