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Board of Trustees Board noticeboard Archives
Welcome to the Board of Trustees' noticeboard. This is a message board for discussing issues related to Wikimedia Foundation governance and policies, and related Board work. Please post new messages at the bottom of the page and sign them.
  • For details of the Board's role and processes, see the Board Handbook.
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Proposed resolution on user rights process[edit]

As announced earlier, I prepared a very simple text the board can certainly agree with: User:Nemo bis/User rights process. Please schedule for the earlier opportunity (a quick online meeting is probably sufficient). I recommend to vote on it before the WMF board elections end, to ensure higher participation. --Nemo 20:48, 8 May 2015 (UTC)

Hi Nemo, I will bring this to the attention of the board. But this is in no way the "easy" topic you are suggesting it is. I will get back to you Jan-Bart (talk) 10:30, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

Now that superprotect is gone, we no longer have the hypothetical problem "OMG the board is giving micro-management orders to the ED". It's time for the WMF board to focus on how to avoid future errors like that. Nemo 18:48, 5 November 2015 (UTC)

I agree, this is a good time to address this important issue. Thank you Nemo bis for taking the time and effort to put this proposal together. -Pete F (talk) 18:48, 8 November 2015 (UTC)
While this tool was not so much of a problem in and of itself, it was the misuse of this tool that was of concern IMO. Hopefully the same issue will not simply arise via another technique. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:25, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

Accountability to the community (finances)[edit]

Following an exchange with the Foundation Treasurer, he has made it clear [1] that he does not regard himself as required to respond to questions from the community regarding the financial and business operations of the WMF, but rather sees his accountability as being restricted to the Board. This raises questions for governance which I think it is for the Board to address. There seem to be three main lines that the Board might wish to take.

Does the Board believe that members of the community have the right to raise a question of this nature directly with WMF staff? Does the Board believe that common courtesy imposes a requirement that such questions be properly acknowledged and managed by a nominated staff member, even if it not possible or desirable to answer them in detail? Will the Board mandate a clear coherent effective process with known lines of responsibility and accountability for such questions to be raised and answered?

If the Board does not believe that individual community members should raise such questions directly with WMF staff, will the Board institute a process for taking such questions themselves for subsequent discussion with staff? Will the Board commit to acknowledging such questions and, in the interests of transparency, publishing as much of the answer they receive as possible?

If the Board believe that community members should not involve themselves in these issues either directly or indirectly, will the Board make a clear public statement of their position on this issue?

Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:03, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

A correction to the statement from Rogol, I have never stated that I do not need to respond to questions to the community. Over my nearly four years with the Foundation, I have a record of responding to inquires from the community. What I was responding to was the request for a detailed listing of purchases of furniture and equipment. I have provided information on the percentage allocation of spending to furniture and computer equipment (servers) and I believe this is sufficient given my review of the records.GByrd (WMF) (talk) 16:56, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
This "correction" is not quite correct. The link I gave makes it plain that my question was specifically about the procedural issues and not about furniture, as members of the Board can readily verify for themselves. GByrd avoided answering it by diverting back to the furniture issue, just as he has done again here -- that evasion leads me to believe that he does not accept the requirement to answer questions from the volunteer community (although in the interests of fairness I suppose it is possible he simply assumed he knew what the question was without actually reading it). It is noteworthy that in this comment he does not actually go so far as accepting that the WMF has this respnsibility to the community, he merely denies having denied it. Let me ask again for the sake of clarity -- does he positively accept this responsibility? If so, perhaps he might like to inform the Board, and the community at large, what arrangements the WMF has made to discharge this responsibility -- what is the venue for posing such questions, what process is employed for answering them, and who is responsbile for delivering those answers. In the absence of a satisfactory process, then no real acceptance of that responsibility can be said to exist, and my questions for the Board stand unaltered. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:04, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
Financial questions can be and have been sent to my talk page, my WMF email address or when we have a comment period on a financial report, on the Talk page of that document. I will respond to questions via those forums.GByrd (WMF) (talk) 22:15, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for that commitment, which I think resolves the issue as far as Board intervention is concerned. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 06:14, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
We appear to have wildly different views about the meaning of the word "resolve". See User talk:GByrd (WMF)#Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard#Accountability to the community. Promising to answer questions and then letting an unanswered question sit for a month is simply one more example of WMF stonewalling. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:13, 17 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Rogol, I generally have received prompt responses to occasional questions that I've emailed to Garfield. I did have a little difficulty getting precise answers in response to some of my questions about last year's annual plan, though I believe that was because of concern about the sensitivity of some information that I think should be public and transparent but which WMF so far generally has been reluctant to make public. In general I don't think this line of questioning about the office furniture is a high-value interest for any of us when we have next year's Annual Plan to think about; that plan is supposed to be implemented starting on July 1st and I am quite perplexed about the delays associated with that plan. In general I don't feel that Garfield's integrity or communicativeness are in question. My present concerns about WMF financial matters are much more focused on the Annual Plan for the next fiscal year. --Pine 23:27, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
As I stated above, the principle is now clear. I think that direct email with senior WMF officials is sub-optimal for most issues, as it may consume time responding to repetitions if answers are not made public. It is also a weaker form of transparency than the community is accustomed to. However, having established the principle, the implementation issues will no doubt resolve themselves over time. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 06:14, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Echoing Pine's viewpoint, based on several meetings about various serious community issues, Garfield is a very genuine and skilled chap. I have never known him to spin facts or avoid a difficult question. I hope the WMF can retain his services for a long time ahead, as he is a great asset to our projects and community. Keep on asking high level governance questions, but there is no evidence that the community needs to be concerned about Garfield's personal commitment to our shared goals of transparency and accountability. Thanks -- (talk) 07:37, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Unfortunately personal commitment is only a part of the story -- it needs to be accompanied by effective communications and processes. Effective engagement between the WMF and the community is still poor and this is one example of it. Lila made various commitments to improve matters last August, but it is clear that they have not yet worked through into practice, and it may be that the Board will need to examine whether more could and should be done. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 06:40, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
Specifically, is
"I have responded to the question with information that most of the money listed in "Purchase of computer equipment and office furniture" is for servers."
a reasonable answer to the question
"I would really like to see an itemized list of exactly what computer equipment and office furniture was purchased with the $2,690,659 spent in 2012 and the $2,475,158 spent in 2013. Verifying that those purchases were reasonable and fiscally prudent would go a long way towards giving me confidence that the rest of the money was also spent wisely. As a non-profit that accepts donations and is committed to openness, the WMF should have no problem with telling me exactly what was bought, the price paid, and in general where it went No specific names, of course, just a general description of which department got what."
I don't believe that my question was answered in the thread where I asked it (I have seen no itemized list) and I don't believe that my request was denied (I see nothing from GByrd (WMF) saying that they will not provide an itemized list. much less a reason why they decided not to do so)
Now, on this new page (which I was not have known about if Rogol Domedonfors had not posted a link on my talk page) I see a new "answer":
"I have provided information on the percentage allocation of spending to furniture and computer equipment (servers) and I believe this is sufficient given my review of the records"
In other words, "trust me". There are several areas where I am willing to trust. I trust that GByrd (WMF) and all others on the WMF staff are honest and trustworthy and would have reported anything fraudulent long before I started asking questions. I trust that GByrd (WMF) was aware of and approved all furniture purchases, believed them to be reasonable then, and believed them to be reasonable when he reviewed them. And most of all I trust the independent auditors who wrote "In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. as of June 30, 2013 and 2012, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the years then ended, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles."
I do not trust that the WMF always made wise decisions in this area (they are fallible and may have overspent on furniture when faced with a big budget surplus -- it is a natural thing to do) and the steadfast refusal to simply reveal what furniture was bought and how much it cost (and the gymnastics while denying that they refuse to reveal what furniture was bought and how much it cost instead of simply telling me no) gives me zero trust that the WMF is committed to financial transparency.
I don't expect that I will ever get an accounting of the 2012-2013 furniture purchases, especially on this page. Because this is to Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard, let me ask some new questions that members of the board should be able to answer:
In the following document...
...on page 10 it says "Furniture: 2013=$439,562, 2012=$277,312"
Would the board be willing to ask for a detailed accounting of how that $439,562 and $277,312 was spent, as a spot check on the theory that if the furniture purchases were reasonable, the rest of the finances probably are as well?
I am not at this time asking that this information be made public. I just want to see if the board is able to get an accounting.
If you get the information and the the decision is made to not reveal it, I would really prefer a straight answer telling me so. And if you decide to not ask for the information I would really prefer a straight answer telling me so. --Guy Macon (talk) 04:59, 7 July 2015 (UTC)
( ...sound of crickets...) --Guy Macon (talk) 07:55, 11 July 2015 (UTC)
(...chirp...) --Guy Macon (talk) 15:13, 17 July 2015 (UTC)
@Guy Macon: I think there is an echo in here... Green Giant (talk) 14:55, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
I think your question is clearly within the scope of the Audit Committee, although I am not certain if it will look specifically into furniture (although I understand that you're specifically concerned with the increase - possibly related to office restructuring?). Please, note, that it is not common to provide an itemized list of all furniture purchases for organizations of this size. Do you know some? We should match the high standards, but within reason. Pundit (talk) 15:33, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
At this point I am just hoping for an answer -- any answer -- from the WMF. If they tell me that my asking what furniture was bought in 2012 and 2013 and how much it cost is unreasonable, fine. I will then ask what they are willing to reveal. Right now I am only getting silence. As I have said before, I simply can not automatically assume that the WMF has always made wise decisions in this area, and their steadfast refusal to even discuss what furniture was bought and how much it cost gives me zero trust that the WMF is committed to financial transparency. --Guy Macon (talk) 14:25, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Guy, the figures you quoted actually seem to be coming from this document: The figures in the 2013/2014 document you linked above are higher (684,024 for furniture in 2014, with the 2013 figure unchanged). Note, however, that as far as I can tell, these are not cash expenses for furniture purchases, but the value of the furniture the WMF owns. Thus the increases represent not increased spending, but accrual of furniture, which might be in line with staff increases (more people needing more desks etc.).
If you look again at you can find on page 4 an item called "Cash flows from investing activities: Purchase of computer equipment and office furniture", with approx. $1.6 million spent in 2014, and $2.5 million in 2013. I think this is closer to the figure you are looking for, although it does not distinguish between furniture and computer equipment. Maybe it would be useful to break this down into its components.
Sad to see that you did not get any more useful responses. Best, --Andreas JN466 14:47, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
User talk:GByrd (WMF)#Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard.23Accountability to the community --Guy Macon (talk) 18:30, 5 October 2015 (UTC)
This seems a strange point to harp on, since the furniture expenses are fairly low. But I'll answer in the section below. SJ talk  05:44, 8 January 2016 (UTC)

Frequently Unanswered Questions[edit]

I have been waiting for an answer -- any answe -- since July 7th, 2015


For convenience, here is that question once again:

In the following document...
...on page 10 it says "Furniture: 2013=$439,562, 2012=$277,312"
Would the board be willing to ask accounting/finance for a detailed accounting of how that $439,562 and $277,312 was spent, as a spot check on the theory that if the furniture purchases were reasonable, the rest of the finances probably are as well?
I am not at this time asking that this information be made public. I just want to see if the Wikimedia Foundation Board is able to get an accounting.
If you get the information and the the decision is made to not reveal it, I would really prefer a straight answer telling me so. And if you decide to not ask for the information I would really prefer a straight answer telling me so. So far I have been stonewalled. -- Guy Macon (talk) 00:02, 17 October 2015 (UTC)
From my reading of [2] page 11 the $439,562 is how much the furniture was worth rather than how much was spent that year on it. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 09:51, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
(For those following along, see item (4) on page 11.)
That could be. I certainly am no expert on reading accounting documents! So, if we don't have any numbers on how much was spent on furniture, I would have to assume that it is part of the $10 million and $12 million listed as "Other operating expenses" on page 3.
Is the board allowed to ask accounting/finance for a detailed accounting of furniture expenses? If not, who has the authority to ask? --Guy Macon (talk) 10:30, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
I am not sure what form the books are in / how they are organized. I am happy to ask when in San Fran in two weeks. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 10:38, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
I'd say that this is definitely not an issue the whole Board should address, but the Audit Committee can. Pundit (talk) 13:36, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
So that would be Stu West, Alice, and Denny. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 22:12, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
Not sure who the new audit committee is going to be. While I mentioned it in passing likely all involved were distracted by other issues. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 13:27, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

Hi Guy, the board is certainly allowed to ask such questions. The only constraint is self-imposed, to avoid micromanaging staff. Detailed financial questions are raised by the audit committee, as Pundit mentioned. And furnishings & physical plant are currently touched on each year when the financial report is reviewed. Without even looking at details, this is a moderate amount of furniture to own — $1-2k spent in total, over the course of occupying 3 floors of the building, per staff member. Much much less than the amount spent on the real estate square footage per person.

Here's how you read that section of the report:

  • the 'Furniture' number is the total value of furniture the foundation owns as of that year. so new spending on furniture is the difference b/t the two years.
  • having a line for 'Less accumulated depreciation' tells you that depreciation is calculated separately: the Furniture number is how much everything cost when it was purchased, even though much of it is many years old.

Much of the furniture costs in recent years has been for renovation of an old floor and expansion into an additional floor. SJ talk  05:44, 8 January 2016 (UTC)

  • Re: your comment in the section above ("This seems a strange point to harp on, since the furniture expenses are fairly low. But I'll answer in the section below.") It's a diagnostic question. When I see multiple people asking the board questions and not getting answers, two possible explanations come to mind:
Possibility [A] is that there are good reasons for the board not to answer those particular questions (which makes sense, seeing as how so many questions are about controversial / contentious topics or about things like pending litigation or personal issues where legal is likely to have ordered -- with good reasons -- everyone at the WMF to stay silent).
Possibility [B] is that the WMF as an institution has gotten into the habit of not answering any questions (or providing non-answers, answering other, somewhat related questions, etc.).
So, how do I determine whether [A] or [B] is more accurate? well, one way would be to ask a question like "Would the board be willing to ask accounting/finance for a detailed accounting of how that $439,562 and $277,312 was spent, as a spot check on the theory that if the furniture purchases were reasonable, the rest of the finances probably are as well?" and to make it clear that I will accept "No, the board is not willing to ask accounting/finance for that" as an answer. If I cannot get an actual answer to the question asked, then [B] is almost certainly true. If i can, then [A] is more likely to be true.
So, if I am interpreting the above answer correctly, (please correct me if I am wrong) the answers are: The board is allowed to ask accounting/finance for a detailed accounting of how that $439,562 and $277,312 was spent. The board probably won't ask for that, because that's the job of the Audit Committee per Audit Committee and wmf:Audit Committee charter. As an ordinary Wikipedia user and donor there is no way for me to find out, in detail, how that $439,562 and $277,312 was spent.
So, as far as my diagnostic question goes, it looks like [A] is the answer. --Guy Macon (talk) 16:34, 16 January 2016 (UTC)
Would anyone from WMF be willing to at least state that the WMF legal department has not ordered them to stay silent on this topic? --Guy Macon (talk) 22:19, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Risk Assessment Document update[edit]

The Audit committee at their March meeting wmf:Audit Committee/2015-03-16 referred to this update being ready for the Board by the end of June and then refers to "review of the document by the Community". Does the Board have that update, or does it expect to have it in the next few days? What arrangements will the Board make to publish it for review by the community? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:34, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Two months later, without response or even acknowledgement, should we assume that the document has still not been delivered to the Board? Or that the Board has decided not to share it with the Community? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:39, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
And now it is nearly four months. I think we should make this a major issue in the next board elections. -- 09:43, 22 October 2015 (UTC)
This was delivered to the Board by the July meeting. There was almost nothing confidential in it, so I hope that a finance staff member will share a public version soon. [In the future, better to structure the whole document as a public doc, with a possible private addendum, to avoid this delay – not having regular public feedback is an important meta-risk]. SJ talk  23:46, 8 December 2015 (UTC)
Is this the document that was belatedly added to the Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan/2015-16? If not, will it be published "for Community review" as suggested last March and if so when? It seems unsatisfactory that it should have taken so very long to decide on this point and that there is still no definitive answer on this page nine months since the Audit Committee meeting and six months after my original question. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 17:27, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

Move for closure of a proposal[edit]

Proposals_for_closing_projects/Move_Beta_Wikiversity_to_Incubator#Move for closure I believe that this conversation has gone on for plenty of time to assess the feasibility, community consensus, relative strengths of discussions, etc. regarding closing beta.wv and incorporating its content into Meta and Incubator as appropriate. I hope that someone here can put to rest the conversation there and either a.) have us move on and let beta.wv be or b.) let us get started with winding down beta.wv. —Justin (koavf)TCM 04:15, 8 June 2015 (UTC)

@Justin, let me check how to close this issue best. Will come back to you soon. Alice Wiegand (talk) 20:36, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
We should have a community process for closing proposals for new projects & for closing projects. And a dev contact who can carry out the details required to flip the relevant switches. It's not a board task. But if that doesn't exist, perhaps we can help create one. SJ talk  23:22, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
There is a process, it seems that there is no member of WMF staff responsible for monitoring those discussions and implementing them, and there is no way that the volunteer community can find out who is responsible for doing what. Perhaps the Board might want to look into that. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:20, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
@Justin, the Community Engagement team, in this case Philippe is figuring out details, in general my understanding is that it's in the scope of Language committee to deal with closure proposals. As I see on the proposal's talk page, it might bot be as clear as I thought. I propose to follow the discussion there. Alice Wiegand (talk) 15:06, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
It's still on.....--John123521 (talk) 06:46, 16 November 2015 (UTC)
Let's wind it down, on that page. SJ talk  05:44, 8 January 2016 (UTC)

Mailing list discussion about Facebook's "Free Basics" and net neutrality[edit]

Happy New Year to all!

See mailing list thread. Your thoughts and input would be appreciated. Andreas JN466 14:33, 1 January 2016 (UTC)

Non-Discriminatory Policy[edit]

The current wording of the non discriminatory policy implies that I can be as racist as I want towards former employees, users, etc. This should not be so. SpinkZeroZero (talk) 20:19, 11 January 2016 (UTC)

Will there be any answers in regard of the discredited new member?[edit]

The board has just appointed a new member, that is completely unsuited for such a seat due to his illegal actions in one of his former jobs. Up to now nothing serious in this regard has been said by the board, the discredited member is officially still not removed from the board, no explanation about how this error of judgement by the board could happen was given, just loud silence.

It could as well be, that some kind of Saul/Paul event took place in the life of this member, and that he has changed completely, so that he is fit for a seat despite his illegal actions, but this event has to be made public as well, as long as no such event seems to come to the surface, I regard it as has not happened.

When will the board make an official statement in regard of this discredited member? Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 12:43, 16 January 2016 (UTC)

This public statement of support for Geshuri is probably the only statement that will be made. Future statements about trustee self-governance, vetting or transparency are highly likely to remain general. -- (talk) 16:20, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
No, I really don't expect any meaningful answer, neither here, nor in regard of Doc James, where the only "reason" given is still We didn't like him, so bugger those communities. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 18:04, 31 January 2016 (UTC)


Our shared vision is free knowledge for all, but reliable information is what makes knowledge, and presently we are publishing unreliable assertions. Readers and editors who responded to the recent community consultation [3] wanted improved accuracy and neutrality in our offering. By my estimation there are fewer than fifteen English language Wikipedia articles that have a version that meets our own definition of reliable.* The board needs to recognise this as a serious failure, and needs to empower the community and the WMF to prioritise making the world's encyclopedia trustworthy.

Improving quality was on the five-year-plan but to my knowledge not one staff member was appointed to monitor reliability. There is no board committee tasked with monitoring the problem. No resolution addresses it.

I'd like to hear individual board members' thoughts on this issue, and wonder if the board might consider passing a resolution that acknowledges Wikimedia's reliability problem and empowers the WMF and the FDC to enthusiastically support realistic initiatives addressing the problem.

I realise the board can only express wishes and intentions, and give overall direction and priorities to the ED and the FDC. But you're not presently doing that with regard to the reliability problem. And I realise there are limits to what the WMF can do. But they will be restrained even in that already limited capacity without clear direction on reliability from you, the board.

I'd like to see the board name the problem as a priority issue, and so encourage volunteers and partners to work toward a solution, and reassure the FDC and the ED that they may direct appropriate resources toward it. While the board publicly ignores the problem, it is harder to convince potential partners that we have the WMF's full support in our efforts to address it.

* Here I'm referring to articles like Dengue fever, where this version passed expert review and was published in a journal.

Anthonyhcole (talk) 02:37, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

"Reliability" made me first think of site reliability (in terms of server uptime and connectivity), but we obviously have articles such as w:en:Reliability of Wikipedia. Maybe accuracy or verifiability or breadth of deep, rich content could be alternate terms to explore?
There's a larger question of how much the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees should be focused on editorial content. That's typically the editors' purview. Keeping the sites up and available for reading and writing (i.e., site operations) is what this Board of Trustees is really responsible for, not prioritizing content development and quality, per se. That said, the Board has passed resolutions such as wmf:Resolution:Controversial content. These types of resolutions are largely decorative/toothless, though it sounds like you may be fine with that. For example, in the case of controversial content, it was a lot of time spent, ultimately resulting in the conclusion that the community needs to solve the problem itself and has been implementing adequate enough measures to do so. Similarly, even if you get a resolution passed about the reliability of editorial content, it probably won't have much effect on its own as it will probably mostly be a few paragraphs reaffirming that the Wikimedia community is in charge of the content and that we all eventually want great, high-quality content. --MZMcBride (talk) 21:44, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
I think I agree with all of that. "Accuracy", "trustworthiness", any number of terms might capture the concept. I settled on "reliability" because it's what we use at en.Wikipedia to denote the best sources, but I'm not wedded to it.
The WMF won't be involved in editorial decisions, but the board should be (and is) concerned about the reliability of our product. The resolution would be largely symbolic: encouraging efforts already under way, and giving the green light to the FDC and ED to support them and new initiatives as they arise from the community.
On the mailing list, Gerard asked what would the money be spent on. IEG's, and chapters are already supporting these initiatives (and individuals are contributing a lot of their own personal funds). I attended a conference in London last year that was all about improving the reliability of Wikimedia's science content. That was supported by WMUK and Wellcome Trust. I envision a summit happening in the next few years, where the editors-in-chief of the world's top medical journals agree on a structure to provide free expert review for our medical content. Hopefully, we can tack that on to an existing industry conference, but it will still cost something. The resolution would simply endorse this kind of thing as a ligitimate use of WMF resources.
One project I'm working on will require some developer input as it matures. It would help us when we're competing for developers' time if the board expressly prioritised making our product reliable.
I also agree with your last sentence but would just highlight your use of "eventually". This symbolic gesture from the board would, in my opinion, smooth the road and speed things up a bit. It won't cost the board anything but a bit of time, and would help us at the coal face. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 23:49, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Would you be pushing for reliability assessment across the board, or for selected aspects? For example reliable information in medical articles has a more direct influence on the usefulness of Wikipedia than reliable information in engineering and taxonomic articles, or articles on music, sports, games, politics and religion. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 07:12, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Peter, if you're referring to assessing the reliability of a sample of our content on a topic, then I'm still open to ideas about how best to do that. But one method would involve subjecting a random sample to rigorous expert review, using the field's top researchers and scholars chosen by the editors of the relevant top peer-reviewed journals. If that's the method employed, then you'd be limited to assessing only topics that are well-covered by good scholarship, and where the relevant journals are willing to get involved.
But we're getting off track here. There are many possible approaches to making Wikimedia reliable. Here, I'm just asking the board to make a statement to the effect that (a) it is a problem that the world's encyclopedia and most (all?) other Wikimedia products are not reliable sources and (b) it empowers the WMF to support reasonable efforts to fix that. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 09:52, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Doesn't it seem like a majority of Wikipedia articles (at the English Wikipedia) are not on subjects "well-covered by good scholarship"? Also, it's worth pointing people to w:en:Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine/Google Project again. When we did something similar before, we determined that even the very organized and active WikiProject Medicine wasn't able to handle more than about 20 reviews (all on important subjects) in a reasonable length of time. A sustained rate of five reviews a month would be seriously pushing our capacity to respond. If a review falls on a talk page, and nobody acts upon it, did it make a sound? WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:56, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
  1. Are the majority of topics in Wikipedia poorly covered by scholarship? Yes. So? An awful lot are well-covered - like most medical topics.
  2. Regarding the Google project, It was poorly conceived. The pilot I'm running only reviews articles that have passed FA and have been nominated for review by the editors. I'm not proposing dumping unsolicited reviews on random articles.
  3. Regarding the existing WP:MED workforce not being able to handle 20 reviews a year, I know. The main, underlying hypothesis here is, if we offer review by the world's top experts, it will incentivise other experts to start editing and getting our articles up to FA, and responding to the review.
Think what you will of the last point, but only doing it will prove or disprove it. If it doesn't ultimately lead to large numbers of experts volunteering to work our medical articles up to FA, then it will have failed. I know this. Believe me, What, I've thought this through.
Anyway. Why are you taking this opportunity to criticise one attempt at improving Wikipedia's reliability. My question is, should the WMF board of trustees care that Wikipedia is unreliable, and should they urge the WMF to support efforts to improve reliability? --Anthonyhcole (talk) 00:27, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
  1. IMO a more broadly applicable approach might be appropriate. Reliability matters for biographies of living people, even though >95% of them aren't "covered by scholarship" at all.
  2. The Google Project wasn't poorly conceived. It did not address random articles. It addressed important articles, especially articles that are of relevance to developing countries.
  3. I honestly don't think that this incentive will actually produce more experts creating FAs on scholarly subjects. I wish it would, of course, and the only way to prove it is to try, but if the allure of having "your" medical subject featured on the Main Page doesn't attract a medical expert enough to figure out how to edit, what to say, how to source, where to get help, how to resolve disputes, what the conventions are, how to navigate the FAC process, etc., then adding a Board resolution in favor of reliability (and motherhood and apple pie) seems unlikely to do so. It certainly would make no difference in my own willingness to take an article to FAC, and I'm already well past the learning curve. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:24, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
Considering that the "Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia" grant application was funded to allow WMF to develop "the most reliable and trustworthy public information channel on the planet", I would have thought that an explicit commitment to reliability by the Board would not come amiss: refusing to do so when asked would look very odd in the context of that grant application. It will be interesting to hear from the Board how, in their opinion, the fact that Wikipedia does not regard itself as a reliable source fits into that commitment. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 12:23, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

Utterly opposed to the Board or Foundation having any control or standards for editorial content on any national Wikipedia including, but not limited to, en-Wikipedia beyond, at least, editorial content involving legal issues. To do so goes against the very wiki-nature of the project. The suggestions made at Jimbo's talk page and on the Village Pump are nothing less than converting Wikipedia from a wiki to, at least in part, a professionally-edited encyclopedia. Why aren't the original principles on which Wikipedia was founded sufficient? People may rant about reliability, but the success of the encyclopedia in its present form clearly indicates that those are the expressions of a vocal minority versus the millions of people who use Wikipedia on a daily basis without substantial concern about its reliability. It's also to be remembered that it is and is intended to be nothing more than an encyclopedia. It's not intended to be an academic source and need not be more reliable than traditional encyclopedias of the past. I have no issue with the idea, as suggested by Jimbo on his talk page, is that the primary role of the Foundation should be to provide, through software, means by which reliability can be made easier to achieve or unreliability easier to avoid or control, but I'm opposed to any direct intervention on their part in regard to editorial content or, indeed, to having software changes forced upon the individual Wikipedia communities which those communities believe to be more harmful than beneficial. Regards, TransporterMan (talk) 19:07, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

TransporterMan: I agree the Board or Foundatiion may not control content. Nor should they. This proposed resolution is not about that. I'm asking for an expression of concern from the board that Wikipedia and its sister projects are unreliable, and a call from them for the WMF to support efforts to improve reliability.
You say complaints about reliability are the expressions of a vocal minority. I understand some editors don't care and like things just the way they are, but the main plea coming from readers and editors in the recent community consultation (I discuss this below in my response to Ajpolino) was for improved quality, reliability and accuracy. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 00:27, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose Oppose I'm sorry but this is kinda silly to expect the foundation board to make a statement like this. Its not going to happen and its just not realistic. Of course its not "reliable", its updated by individuals with no proven professional certifications or training (some have them, but we don't make them prove it to edit). Frankly, until the WMF can get a handle on civility, attrition and recruitment, the board has bigger problems to deal with than stating the obvious. Reguyla (talk) 19:50, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Reguyla: Well, Jimmy said he'd sponsor such a resolution if there was support for it from the community. And from the comments immediately above and below, do you think it's obvious to everyone? --Anthonyhcole (talk) 00:27, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose any such move. Wikipedia is not supposed to be reliable in the same way that our sources we use are reliable. Otherwise, study after study have shown that, contrary to insistence otherwise by random people who don't actually do any studies in this direction, Wikipedia is generally more reliable than most other only sources of a similar nature. Given that a) the premise is wrong and b) we already explain the reliability of Wikipedia, I'm not sure what else we need to do here. --Jayron32 (talk) 21:13, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Jayron32: Who says Wikipedia is not supposed to be reliable? We all know it isn't, but do we all think that's how it has to be? Those studies into the reliability of Wikipedia are all poor quality. But even if Wikipedia is as reliable as some other sources, shouldn't it be better? Just because you can't envision a way for that to happen without harming Wilipedia, doesn't mean a way can't be found. No one is proposing a solution should be forced on the encyclopedia. The foundation wouldn't try, and if they did the community would reject it. The solutions come from the community. All I'm asking for here is the board to give moral support to the aspiration. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 00:27, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose Comment (See below for addition). I think such a statement has potential downsides that outweigh any upsides that I can see. I fear that if the board were to release such a statement, it may irritate some editors who might take it as an insult to their hard work. It seems to me that some editors already feel that the board does not have their best interests in mind, and so I'm afraid a statement like this could fan the flames.
I'm not totally clear on what the benefits would be. I've read the arguments above, but they seem a bit abstract and hypothetical. Could you please explicitly state what you think the positives of such a statement would be? I think that would help some of us to better understand your position. Thanks! Ajpolino (talk) 01:19, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

Hi, Ajpolino. The community is aware of the reliability problem. Last year, the WMF surveyed 1,295 people, asking them to describe (a) global trends that are affecting Wikimedia projects and (b) characteristics of vibrant and healthy projects in the future. The respondents were 69% anonymous, 7% new accounts created to complete the survey, and 24% established, experienced users.[4] Although this last group were only 24% of respondents, they made 31% of the comments. [5]
The 2,468 comments were organised into 28 themes; the top five emerging concerns (by number of respondents mentioning them) were, in order of popularity:
  1. Mobile & apps
  2. Multimedia
  3. Accuracy
  4. Neutrality
  5. Content structure and breadth [6]
I'm happy to define "reliability" as "accuracy and neutrality" so, if you combine those comments, reliability outranks all other concerns.
The ranking of these concerns differs between logged-in users (more likely to reflect the editor perspective) [7] and anonymous respondents (more likely to represent the readers)[8] but accuracy and neutrality were high on both groups' list of concerns.
I would like the board to just acknowledge these concerns, and empower the WMF to support any realistic initiatives that address them. That's all.
In practical terms, when I approach a potential partner institution with a proposal that they work with us to improve reliability, it would help me a lot to be able to point them to such a resolution, and reassure them that the WMF is supporting such efforts. When I approach the Funds Dissemination Committee to fund a conference or meeting aimed at devising strategies to measure or improve Wikimedia's reliability, it would help me if I could point them to such a resolution. When I approach the very pressed WMF technical team for help with software to present the reviewed versions of our articles, it would help to be able to point them to such a resolution. But that's just me. There are many others working on the reliability problem who would also benefit from a clear statement from the board on this. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 04:17, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for the response. I'm not sure I have the experience to really evaluate those benefits since I have no involvement with potential partners, funding committees, etc. I'm still a bit worried, but hey what do I know. I've changed my vote from "oppose" to "comment", and I'll keep an eye on others' responses. Thanks. Ajpolino (talk) 02:20, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment Agree that our readers have requested as one of their top priorities the improvement of our reliability (it was ranked 3rd, 4th, and 5th while search and discovery come in 13th)[9]. Agree that having greater support from the WMF to improve quality would be useful. For example it was a community effort to get the copy and paste detection bot up and running.[10] It has been selected by the community as one of the top 10 efforts so hopefully we will see it improved with some support from the WMF soon. The improvement of reliability however is a slow effort that is hard to measure. Not entirely sure how to bring it about but the verbal support of the effort from the board would not be harmful. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 10:35, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment Pardon me. I'm a relatively new user on the "user" side of Wikipedia, but I've been a "real" user (that is, the general public) of Wikipedia for most of your 15 years. I sort of fell into this discussion by accident, but it certainly is in line with many of my personal concerns about Wikipedia, both as it is now, and its future. I believe this is the concern, here. IMHO, Wikipedia (and by that I mean the broad community of user-side editors and the foundation) tends to forget who its users are. This problem is compounded by the fact that we call our editors "users".
Wikipedia has two user communities. The first, and most important community are not [[User:]]s. They are the general public who go to our website, search for information and read our articles. They know nothing about what Wikipedia is, what our history and values are, who our editors are, what our publishing process is, and how much editorial control is exerted (or not) by who. Let me repeat that point. The general public who uses our articles have no clue, none, about the black magic that produces Wikipedia articles. They assume (and we all know what happens when you assume!) that "somebody" had to make sure that this information is correct. Now, we all know that to be untrue, and cannot be true, by the very nature of how Wikipedia works, and the founding principles. But the general public knows nothing of this. When I hear stories of Oxford University Press, of all organizations, using our content as reliable information, that's just shocking! But that is what the general public expects of us. Rightly, or wrongly, that is what the man on the street believes. This is a problem.
Once upon a time there were these big things made of paper and cardboard, and fake leather, and they called themselves "Encyclopedias". They were very expensive. But they were worth every penny because they contained the sum of all of mankind's knowledge ... or so their salesmen pitched. Then came the Internet. And one of those big old companies (we all know who) decided to jump on the Internet fad ... but then they decided to do something stupid. Then the Internet rose up and made a fuss and virtually blacklisted the company from the Internet. Soon after, Wikipedia came into being. And Wikipedia started growing ... and getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Eventually, Wikipedia had more articles on more subjects than the old companies ... and the old companies found themselves irrelevant to today's world. Where the old encyclopedias once stood, there was Wikipedia, and it was free. But what the public doesn't know is that Wikipedia wasn't written the same way as those encyclopedias once were. And because of that, Wikipedia can't pretend that one word of its 5 million articles is the least bit correct. It can say that it did look over a few articles, at one time or another, but it can't say that the articles they have today are the same as the ones they looked at, so they can't even say that the few they looked at are correct! But the public doesn't know that!
So with all this said, we come upon an existential question: What is Wikipedia's mission??
Is it to have a fun "toy" encyclopedia that anyone can mess around with and scribble on and post four letter words all over? Or is it to create a "real" encyclopedia created by crowdsourcing the editorial process the way free software did, and brought us GNU and Linux and LibreOffice??
Well, there's a big difference between Wikipedia and them. You see, Wikipedia says it's the encyclopedia that "anyone" can edit. That's a good thing ... and a bad thing. It's been the key to our success, and our biggest problem. It is the reason you're even having this discussion in the first place! The problem is that "anybody" includes literally "anybody" such as an 8 year old, who just learned a new four-letter-word, and likes to post that word over everywhere he can scribble. Or a mentally unstable person who insists that Wikipedia articles must reflect his own personal version of "reality". Or somebody who wants to proclaim himself an "expert" by posting a bio of himself on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia wasn't created with some grand plan for what happens when they hit 5 million articles. I doubt the founders honestly believed they'd reach that mark. They just wanted to do better than Nupedia. And Nupedia did very badly ... they never hit the 100 article mark. And that includes drafts, not published articles. Wikipedia was founded as the anti-Nupedia. Instead of exerting all this control that was killing Nupedia, let's exert no control at all! But there was no long-range plan.
Here we are, 5 million articles later. The public thinks we're something that we're not. Now what? That's the question being asked here. Now what?? If the public knew what we all know, Wikipedia would fold. Someone else would come up to fill the void. Just like someone else came up to fill the void of that big company that thought it could own the Internet. He who does not know history repeats it. I believe I've stumbled into a perfect example of it in action.
The question being asked is "Does Wikipedia want to remain relevant in the future?" Yes? Well, then, you need to do something about this problem. No? Well, then, we can take care of that. You can remain a playpen, and the grown-ups can go elsewhere. Where, you ask? Elsewhere. It's the place you went when Nupedia was going bust. Do you want to be a "real" information provider, or a toy? This is the question.
Now the way GNU and Linux and LibreOffice created their product was similar to yours, but it differed in one key aspect: they accepted submissions from anyone, but they published only the submissions that made sense. What if someone wrote code for the Linux kernel that created a backdoor for every Linux computer in the world?? Linus would look at that submission and hit "reject". Wikipedia publishes it. That's the difference. It's not the matter of setting up a big, bad editorial board, who passes judgement on eveyone saying, "none shall pass". It's a matter of applying some basic sanity, here. We're talking about looking at the scholarly submission of "Sally is a poo-poo head." and deciding, is this a proven fact, backed by a reliable source? Or is it a bunch of nonsense from a 4 year old??
It's also about making a judgement call of what is the impact of our "information"? Is a dubious "fact" about the love life of a dead practitioner of some occult group going to be a matter of life or death? Or is a dubious "fact" in an article about drug dose that, if followed, would kill people a matter of life or death?
We're talking about sanity checks. Is Wikipedia going to be sane or insane? That is the question. So. Will history repeat itself? Will some new project rise up and slay Wikipedia? Or will Wikipedia go forth and prosper? The answer's in your hands. Think carefully. Your 25th anniversary could be somebody else's 10th. That is what you're debating. Just ask a historian. High-storian (talk) 12:48, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
So what's new? · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 13:02, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
P.S. Not so heavy on the italics please, it is distracting.· · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 13:04, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
You probably haven't encountered it, but there are several Wikipedias that do require most edits to be double-checked by someone else before being published. You can read about it at Flagged Revisions. The English Wikipedia (where you edit) has rejected the standard implementation of this, and only rarely uses a variant called "Pending Changes". WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:33, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Support While the board certainly should not get involved in the detail of content (heaven knows, neither they nor senior management have been recruited with expertise in this area in mind), the content is the reason Wikipedia/media exists, and broad top-level statements of this kind are entirely appropriate and an important part of their function. It would be good to reduce the thinking that WMF is a software organization, which some seem to believe. It is not. Johnbod (talk) 15:16, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment One can consider starting a new project, a sort of a fork of Wikipedia, where one uses different rules that favors the reliability aspect more. So, you could start with a copy of Wikipedia as it exist today and then let that evolve under different rules and then perhaps adapt those rules to make it work better according to the different reliability criteria. I guess this would work best if this new encyclopedia would only contain scientific content. Count Iblis (talk) 18:12, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
Thanks Count Iblis. That's an option. I've been thinking we should publish an online "journal": Wikipedia Reviews or Reliable Wikipedia or something, and present a nicely-formatted (like a journal article, not a wiki page) copies of each version of an article that has passed rigorous independent review. But we're digressing. Do you think it would be nice for the board to express their concern about the unreliability of our product and set a goal for making our products reliable? --Anthonyhcole (talk) 00:23, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes, but I think they don't necessarily have to take a position on this matter, they can let independent scientists do some research into this matter and then take appropriate measures based on such research results. Count Iblis (talk) 00:34, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
Fair enough. I don't think we need scientists to tell us we're unreliable - we admit as much ourselves. I'm just trying to get the board to highlight it and prioritise it. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 01:49, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose: Striving for verifiable accuracy is already part of the five pillars. There's no need to force the board to reiterate what we already know. Praemonitus (talk) 22:20, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
You can't force the WMF board to do anything. They'll make a resolution if they think it will help our mission. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 00:23, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Support per Johnbod. Quality measurement and improvement has long been a curiously neglected part of the Wikipedia project. There is a lot more that could be done, be it along the lines of the current efforts in the medicine topic area (which, it is worth noting, are generally welcomed by the community) or those of the Wiki Education Foundation. The board definitely should express support for such initiatives. It's a no-brainer. Andreas JN466 04:38, 3 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Totally support - as I understand it's not the intention for the WMF to interfere with content, or to control it, but to better enable those that do. Peter Damian (talk) 18:30, 5 February 2016 (UTC)

Meanwhile in Community Resources[edit]

Anthony, It may interest you to learn that WMF's Community Resources team, after community consultation, does think content quality is important enough to do something about in the short term, and will focus its next proactive grantmaking campaign on content curation. Asaf (WMF) (talk) 21:59, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

Asaf (WMF), thank you. The IdeaLab investigation was a great initiative. (You'll be hearing from me. Face-smile.svg) --Anthonyhcole (talk) 01:49, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Advisory Board membership[edit]

Please clarify the status of the wmf:Advisory Board. It seems that members are appointed annually and there is no record of reappointments since 2014. It appears that the Advisory Board is currently empty. Is this correct and if so is it desirable? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:49, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

I agree this needs clarification. In the meantime, I have created (and at least partially populated) on the WMF Wiki: wmf:Category:Advisory Board I also added a message about the apparent hiatus to the Meta Wiki page Advisory Board. I am not comfortable adding such a note to the WMF Wiki without some kind of guidance. Hope this is some help in the meantime. -Pete F (talk) 21:35, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
(Side note, in the process of doing this I discovered an entire wiki I was never aware of. Its main page says it is closed, but incoming links to specific, outdated pages still exist, and the reader would not be aware. This should be addressed more comprehensively than I'm able to.) See, for instance: and wmf:Special:Diff/104869 -Pete F (talk) 21:39, 31 January 2016 (UTC))
That wiki was used by Anthere when the WMF board actually cared about its advisory board; it's listed at private wikis and is occasionally useful. As for the advisory board, rumors are that at the last Wikimania the board decided to disband it, but of course they never bothered announcing it and perhaps by now they changed their mind. Nemo 22:03, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Such rumors are notoriously unreliable. There was no such decision; the minutes of the meeting accurately describe the discussion about the advisory board; and there was a meeting of advisors at Wikimania to discuss how they could be more helpful and more actively engaged by the WMF. [short summary: more engagement to help with searches & especially diversity of nominees, more regular requests for connections with partners tackling similar tactical issues, earlier and more specific engagement to contribute to strategy, targeted at the advisors with interest in each area] SJ talk  22:45, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
That is noted in passing here: wmf:Minutes/2015-07-15#Advisory Board (but I agree, this is no way to go about making or communicating decisions). -Pete F (talk) 22:15, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Also, as for the utility of the wiki: Is it truly useful? Since special:import was used, the edit history of that page exists here on Meta Wiki. Wouldn't it be better, in instances like your example, to link to the Meta Wiki version of the page? (See also: where I have just left a new comment) -Pete F (talk) 22:20, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Do let me know if you see a problem with changes like this, Nemo_bis. -Pete F (talk) 22:26, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
  • The resolution of 15 July 2015 referred the question of the Advisory Board to the Board governance committee. The latter committee was re-appointed in August and has published nothing since then, so we may presume that it has not met. It has certainly done nothing to engage with the community on this or indeed any other matter. In passing it appears that by this complete failure to act inaction the Governance Committee is in breach of the Wikimedia Foundation Board Governance Committee Charter. We conclude that it has made no recommendations and that the Advisory Board has been allowed to lapse. It is regrettable that the Board has allowed this to happen, and has failed to keep the community informed. It is particularly regrettable that the Board does not wish to make use of the experience and expertise of the wider community in this respect, and in particular that it abandoned a consultation on this subject last year. I would suggest that in this as in certan other matters the Board is approaching the point of being in violation of the Guiding Principles on Transparency and Accountability. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:44, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

Governance of the English Wikipedia[edit]

Here is a comment for the WMF, that is a component of other issues that I will identify shortly. It is my understanding that the WMF Board is currently preparing its strategy for 2016, and I would like this taken into account.

The basic problem has to do with the governance of the English Wikipedia. I am aware that the WMF Board takes the position that each language Wikipedia, and each WMF Wiki in general, is self-governing. That is a valid general principle, but common sense is needed. Because the English Wikipedia is said to be self-governing, it is ungoverned. It has an unworkable governance model, and, because it is self-governing, it is not capable of its own governance reform. The English Wikipedia is said to be governed by consensus, but consensus is often not feasible for a group as large and diverse and fractious as the English Wikipedia. Consensus governance doesn’t work in the English Wikipedia, at least not with regard to policies or conduct. It works reasonably well for content in the form of Requests for Comments. However, the idea that the English Wikipedia can, on its own, change its governance to something other than consensus is just unrealistic. We don’t have a consensus as to what form of governance we want. From time to time, editors have said that they would like a constitutional convention. There is usually agreement that a constitutional convention would be good. However, consensus, in the sense of supermajority, is elusive. Any constitutional convention for the English Wikipedia will anyway require some sort of support from the WMF Board. Does the WMF Board think that its responsibilities include helping the Wiki communities achieve effective governance?

To be more specific as to my assessment of the self-governance of the English Wikipedia, we do a good job on Requests for Comments. In my opinion, we are essentially always stalemated on any policy matter, because we are deeply divided, and the consensus model of governance does not work for a large, diverse, fractious community. (We have had a few policies enacted for us by the one body that we have that is exempt from consensus, which is the ArbCom, which was created by Jimbo Wales (not by the community), is elected by majority, not by supermajority, and acts by majority, not by supermajority.

In short, is the WMF Board sufficiently satisfied with its own perception that each of its communities can self-govern (that they will ignore evidence to the contrary), or are they willing to work with a very large, nominally very successful community (but never successful at governance) to achieve practical governance?

Can the WMF Board help the English Wikipedia, which is very large, very diverse, and very fractious, achieve more or less effective governance, or do you have a principle that you can’t get involved in communities, or something else?

Thank you.

Robert McClenon (talk) 17:09, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

Personally, I have no faith at all in the communities ability to govern itself at this point and much of that concern is based off the leadership of the project (The Arbcom, admins and functionaries) and their conduct on the site both towards each other and its users. The English Wikipedia is the core of the WMF projects. It gets the most edits, has the largest editor base and its the flagship for the WMF as much as some projects hate to admit that. What happens on ENWP affects all the other projects, often in a negative way. Its time for the WMF to address the problem of ENWP's governance failures and start to actively participate in turning the project around before its declining activity and failure is no longer preventable. Recruitment on the project is failing; RFA is failing; more editors are leaving than oining, less people are doing less edits (although more is being done by bots); Arbcom has become a joke and has been failing to function for several years, etc. Its time to act. Reguyla (talk) 19:55, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

If you didn't yet, please participate to the community consultation about strategy, since one (out of three) of the feedback requested is on community and your inputs are more than welcome. Thank you, 11:26, 2 February 2016 (UTC)

Where would the WMF get the authority/legal right to impose governance on the community of English Wikipedia? · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 13:09, 2 February 2016 (UTC)
It's their website; therefore, they can legally choose to operate it however they want.
The more important question is whether the existing communities (in the instant case, the core community at the English Wikipedia) would accept that they have a moral right to do so. You know the line about a boss telling an employee, "Do this, or I'll fire you and hire someone who will?" That approach can become self-defeating. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:42, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

I think communities can self-govern; I come from a (big) project that does just that. But for arguments' sake, what do you mean by "achieve practical governance"? Raystorm (talk) 20:28, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Arbitration Committee allegations not notified to the party[edit]

It has come to my notice that one of the arbitrators, Opabinia Regalis, has made allegations to you about an editor on en:wp, Vote (X) for Change. She did not have the courtesy to notify her she was doing this, nor did she supply a copy of the allegations. Perhaps you could post a copy on her talk page, en:User talk:Vote (X) for Change so she can see what is being alleged and respond as appropriate.

I know something of this case, and two discussions I have located would appear to be worthy of your attention. The first is on the talk page of one of the administrators, Zzuuzz, who said that the ban had been "superseded", extract below:

I followed the links and I reached this: User talk:DoRD/Archive 2#Showing you something I just wanted to be certain to make sure you saw. (talk) 14:42, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
I saw that temporary conditional unblock half an hour ago. -- zzuuzz (talk) 14:45, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
Have you seen the discussion which immediately followed it? (talk) 14:47, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
Is that the community unban discussion? I saw the re-block two days later. I think we're done here. Would you like me to block you again? -- zzuuzz (talk) 14:51, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
Did Fram see the discussion? (talk) 14:54, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
Template:Facepalm. -- zzuuzz (talk) 15:01, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
Hi. The above discussion concluded that the OP was not banned and you did not block him/her. At the administrators' noticeboard you have blocked an OP claiming (s)he is "banned" without linking to any discussion. Are the two matters related? (talk) 14:17, 25 October 2015 (UTC)


  • This user's account is blocked[11] and there has been no successful appeal against the block,
  • This user is community banned[12] and there has been no successful appeal against the ban,
  • This user continues to violate Wikipedia policy, and refer to themselves in the third person

I conclude that there is no doubt that this user (User:Vote (X) for Change) is banned. -- zzuuzz (talk) 08:01, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

I just happened to come upon this discussion by chance. Zzuuzz did not have the courtesy to notify the participants that he was reopening it.


  • Fram blocked per incuriam, i.e. at the time he placed the block he didn't know the editor had been unbanned.
  • When he discovered his mistake he didn't extend the block but let it run off.
  • End of story. (talk) 18:44, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

The second discussion is on the talk page of the reference desks, most of which have been protected, against consensus, for up to three months:

A wise admin once told me that it's easiest to think of these characters as being actually all the same guy. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:01, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Not so wise, Bugs. When the CU results come through that administrator is going to be in trouble (think Chase me ladies, I'm the Cavalry). Two more administrators are also in trouble - Elockid and Sunshine. The editor was unbanned years ago and they both know it. That's why no "abuse" report was filed for six years (check the date of creation on the "history" tab). All the best, (talk) 17:22, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

Honestly this is only the most recent in a long string of incidents by the English Wikipedia Arbitration committee or its members. They have no respect for the Arbcom's rules, site policy, WMF policy or the limits of their authority.

  • Recently that disbanded both the Audit subcommittee and the Block appeal subcommittee without so much as a whisper to the community even though the community had non Arb members on the AUSC. Those community members didn't even know until someone else outside the Arbcom mentioned it too them.
  • Then, in a case to ban The Devils Advocate the outgoing arbitration committee didn't have enough votes to ban him so they extended the case and let the new group vote on it as well and then they were able to achieve the ban some wanted.
  • There was recently even a community discussion about disbanding the arbcom for its problematic behavior. As of yet it hasn't gone anywhere but its unlikely it would because if it did start to gain momentum, the arbs would close it as a disruption and probably block some of the participants to quell the mutiny.

These are just a couple of examples in a long list of problematic behavior. The people on the Arbcom, regardless of who they are at the time, know that they have absolute power and can do anything they want. There is no checks and balances, no auditing, nothing to prevent abuse and its harming the project and driving editors out so that the only the most abusive admins are left. There are still a lot of good admins and editors left from which to build on but the WMF needs to do something about the ENWP arbcom. It's no secret I haven't had any respect for the Arbcom in a long time. They have shown time and time again they cannot be trusted and have no respect for their own policies and procedures its also clear that the community is losing patience with their behavior as well. I highly recommend that the foundation take action immediately to either eliminate the ENWP arbcom or force them to start following their own policy and show that the WMF will not allow them to do as they wish regardless of policy. Reguyla (talk) 14:48, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Hi Reguyla. Can't the enwiki community remove its own Arbcom if the situation demands it? Spanish Wikipedia did so years ago. Raystorm (talk) 20:09, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
In theory, yes, but its almost impossible to come to an agreement about in anything in that community and even if they did, I am not convinced the Arbcom would listen. They would likely just say that the community cannot remove them or that it didn't constitute a true consensus or they would argue that it didn't meet some rule of policy the feel is needed, etc.. They have already, routinely, redefined the rules to suit them. I just think and have for some time now that the Foundation should review their actions and procedures because there is currently no auditing done on them and no checks and balances so they are, in essence, allowed to do whatever they want. Reguyla (talk) 20:15, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I see. But can't the (very vibrant) community of enwiki set up some checks and balances? Without going into the specific case of en:arbcom, can't the community set up an ombuds figure, specific policies or the like? In Spanish Wikipedia we spend a lot of time discussing checks and balances for eg admins, and some policies are approved and some aren't. Can't the en:community come up with something that is able to address concerns? Raystorm (talk) 20:34, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
No, not without the person starting the process being accused and possible blocked for disruption or some other fallacy by the members of the arbcom to prevent such a thing. On ENWP there is also a lot of discussion about checks and balances for admins, changing RFA, etc. and in all the years there has been talk, not one has been adopted. They are always shot down regardless of how much or little support they receive, no matter what the idea is or how well thought out, they are always shot down. Because in the end, the admins on the site have to close the discussion and the ones who are willing to do that type of close are usually not the ones who want such a change. At this point the only way that change is going to happen with regard to the Arbcom is if it comes from the foundation itself. Frankly, if they are unwilling or unable to do so then they don't really care about the success of Wikipedia because the Arbcom and a couple of the more aggressive admins are driving the site down and running all the editors out. Reguyla (talk) 21:47, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
For arguments' sake, what would you have the WMF do, exactly? Raystorm (talk) 22:23, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Make sure that the Arbcom is following policy and their own procedures and hold them accountable if they do not. If the WMF reviews some of the efforts of the Arbcom over even the last year they are going to see a horrible track record and a complete disregard for policy. The community can't do anything about it but the foundation certainly can if they want to improve the culture of the projects and reduce harassment. Reguyla (talk) 01:09, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Obligations and Responsibilities[edit]

Does the Board accept the WMF Statement of Obligations and Responsibilities, either formally or informally, as a statement of the behaviours that they expect to adhere to?

If so, would Board members consider that the Non-disparagement provision has been adhered to with respect to the statements made by Board members collectively and individually about the trustee that they removed in December?

Again, if so, do Board members claim that they adhered to the provision to "Become adequately informed regarding all aspects of any proposed decision or action" in respect of recent Board nominations?

On the other hand, if not, will the Board explicitly repudiate this statement and publish as a matter of urgency the equivalent code that they currently accept as being in force? Will they instruct their Governance Committee to meet and review that code, and will they publish the results of that review? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 07:44, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Comment Comment I like the idea of a Code of Conduct for trustees. Raystorm (talk) 22:24, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
So you currently do not? That seems less than ideal. In particular you do not regard yourself as bound to adhere to the standards described on this particular page? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 07:25, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
...What? Raystorm (talk) 07:33, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
I take it from your reply that you, the members of the Board, currently do not have a Code of Conduct: that sounds less than ideal. The question is, whether you and the other Board members regard the Statement referred to as something that you think you ought to adhere to. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 22:21, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Hi Rogol Domedonfors. I'm not sure what you mean. Have you read through wmf:Resolutions? It's pretty easy to spot wmf:Resolution:Code of conduct, which leads you to wmf:Code of conduct policy. :-) There are other related resolutions and policies in place as well, of course. --MZMcBride (talk) 16:59, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
You are addressing your remarks to the wrong person. It was User:Raystorm who said that she liked the idea of a Code of Conduct for Trustees. My question was, and is, about the status of the page WMF Statement of Obligations and Responsibilities. It has not yet been addressed. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:46, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
As you can see in its header the page is a draft, 7 years old, never implemented. I didn't even know that page until you have mentioned it here. You can find our policies including the code of conduct at the foundation wiki and a review is planned. Alice Wiegand (talk) 22:19, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for that. The second part of my question was whether Board members would accept it informally, and there was a follow-up on non-disparagement. I note that the final part of my question is answered. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 22:32, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Adding seat type to infoboxes at wmf:Board of Trustees[edit]

Hi. The thread at Special:Permalink/15340631#Regarding Board of Trustees suggests adding the seat type to the infobox of each Board member at wmf:Board of Trustees. Barring objections, I'm inclined to accept this request. --MZMcBride (talk) 17:01, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

I've always found it confusing to find this information and it required digging around, so I'm personally (without consulting with anyone) in favor :) Pundit (talk) 17:18, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

Community Broker[edit]

A modest proposal to help bridge the gap that has unfortunately opened up between the Board and the volunteer community -- a Community Broker. A member of the community, elected by the community, attending in a speaking but non-voting capacity at all Board meetings and business. The Broker would be charged with gathering concerns from the community, raising them in a frank and constructive way at the Board, and reporting back to the community on the results, and the other Board business, within the obvious limits of confidentiality. The Broker should be supported by the secretariat and have travel expenses defrayed on the same basis as the full members.

This is an arrangement that I have seen work well in some of the charities and other leadership boards I have been on. There seems no reason to believe that it would not work here. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 22:19, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

You realize that in practice this would mean reducing the number of voting members from within the community, right? :) The community currently elects 3 members, and they do exactly what you describe, but they are also allowed to vote. Pundit (talk) 17:17, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
No, at present the community elects precisely zero members of the Board. It selects candidates whom the Board may or may not appoint, and if the Board does appoint them, which it is not bound to do, it may, as we have seen, remove them and appoint another for any reason or none. The Board membership may include more members of the community than three if it wishes, or fewer. Board members once appointed are all collectively responsible to the Foundation, they are not there to represent the community, they are not specifically answerable to it, and they have tasks and responsibilities other than communication with the community -- as we have seen that communication is not as effective as it could and should be. This proposal is in addition to the current arrangements. The Community Broker, as a non-voting observer, would prioritise communication, in both directions: they would be answerable to the community for the effectiveness with which they carried out that function. There would be no need to change the number of voting members of the Board as a result of this proposal, as their duties would not be affected by the election of the Broker -- although some people may believe that a change in the composition of the Board is desirable for other reasons, this proposal is independent of that discussion. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 17:54, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

Transparency - cost versus benefit[edit]

In discussions about Transparency, at such places as Wikimedia Foundation transparency gap, there seems to be an assumption, more or less explicit, that transparency is nothing but an overhead: that we do it because we have to, because it's the good thing, but accountability to the community is fundamentally an overhead. To the extent that this is believe, I suggest that it needs to be challenged, from the top, and by example as well as words. Firstly, of course, there is a cost attached to preparing and publishing reports and accounts. This can be reduced by embedding transparency into the business activities. When a report is being produced, it needs to be written in such a way that it's easy to remove any sensitive content that could not be published, or mark portions that are time-sensitive. If builtin in this process takes much kess time than having to unpick a document afterwards (we see this above on the #Risk Assessment Document update). Secondly, bulding mechanisms for engagement around transparency would signficantly improve the quality of decision making. For example, the Board governance committee has failed to publish any accunt of its agenda or activities since 2014. Yet its remit includes "Recruit, for Board review and consideration, new appointed trustees when a vacancy exists or is anticipated". There is no doubt that effective community involvement in this activity at an earlier stage would have improved the chances of avoiding the recent damaging conflict between Board and community. Better exposure of the WMF techn ical plans would have prevented the waste of effort on Flow and Gather, and the damage by the launch of Kowledge Engine by Wikipedia. Any one of these examples of these demonstrates, I think, that transparency and better engagement would have delivered far more benefit than its cost. Since transparency is already an agreed principle, I call on the Board act to ensure that transparency and enagement are embedded in the WMF planning and business processes and that resources are made available to deliver the benefits which would accrue from effective engagement with the community at the strategy and planning stages, as well as the direct delivery of the projects.


There seems to be a degree of Silicon Valley focus in recent Board appointments. In the Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia grant application, one of the two key risks is Sophisticated role hiring and team attrition. In the San Francisco Bay Area, ... Why assume that the work has to be done by WMF staff and in SF? Under Innovation#Possible partners, I listed a dozen organisation, all of them in the UK, which have expertise or interest in data science. I was at a workshop recently in one of those institutions and there were thirty world-leading researchers and practioners there. The community of 100,000 volunteers is sure to contain people who know more about any given subject than anyone in WMF (to my personal knowledge there is a Nobel laureate and a Fields Medallist, for example). Why are these world-wide possibilities not being taken up? Has the Board considered the merits of locating WMF research, develop and operations away from SF? Specifically, have they considered the London Knowledge Quarter as a possible base? Does the Board have a policy on location, and will they publish it? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 12:09, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

+1 From an outside perspective, much of the top level "recruiting" is based on who is a friend of a friend on your personal network. This limits the field of view that always results in bias, and bias at the top level will trickle to all levels. The good news is that the board can easily act to correct its own failed self-governance and make decisions that visibly shift away from Silicon Valley/Americanocentric bias, and this can be done now rather than in some vague "moving-forward" thoughtful future world. -- (talk) 12:41, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
Moving away from a SF-centrism to a London-centrism? The problem is not physical location but appointment. The cheapest location works and currently it's SF, at WMF's. Dealing with appointment a two step process would do the trick: for example WMF proposes ten candidates and the community selects three of them. --Vituzzu (talk) 13:14, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
To be clear, I mentioned the possibility of London as a base, not the base. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:24, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
If we are focussing on the board of trustees, then certainly a community input to the governance process would be helpful. In fact, this as an open process, hand-in-hand with proper declarations of any existing or perceived potential conflict of loyalties would make for a highly robust and unusually transparent board of trustees. By "declarations" I would be hoping for frank and complete statements of any relationship or potential loyalty, such as "[person] is the ex-president of the yacht club I support, and we often meet at events and talk about working together on projects", "[person] was my manager in 2001 and we stayed in touch", or "I know [person] as they approached me with an investment offer in 2014 and I had a holiday in their villa last year". -- (talk) 13:28, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
In general, I think it would be nice to have a somewhat dispersed model, it worked great with wiki-data, for example. However, there is a cost of coordination that has to be taken into account. I could imagine e.g. some mature chapters offering such coordination of tasks to some extent (WMDE at least has been clearly mature enough). Pundit (talk) 19:46, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
None of this is a new challenge. When I consulted at JPMorgan in the 1990s, the development team was split over London, Paris and New York and there was no difficulty in having agile teams working on the same projects even when this meant real-time operational changes. We didn't even bother with video conferencing, picking up the telephone and simply talking with each other worked. Most of the staff knew each other personally as the longer you worked on the projects, the more often you would have a chance to visit one of the other centres for a bit of hands-on experience in the other teams. It's not rocket-science. -- (talk) 20:00, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
Indeed, and it's a question of weighing the advantages against the disadvantages. This is why I am asking the Board whether they have considered these questions, or will do so, and to consult and publish as widely as they can. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:24, 13 February 2016 (UTC)


The lack of activity by WMF at the Innovation page, even though it is one of the three components of the 2015 Call to Action suggests that it is not as active as that Call would imply. Unfortunately the ED has been too busy to respond to me personally on the matter since last June, but no doubt she was busy with her own innovation project among other things. Does the Board believe that Innovation is in a healthy state in the WMF? Does the Board feel that the WMF has appropriate resources and partnerships in place to undertake innovation on the scale it needs? Will the Board ask for a report from the strategic lead for innovation and publish it? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 12:14, 13 February 2016 (UTC)