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Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Transition Team/2013/Call for Questions

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On this page we (Jan-Bart on behalf of the Executive Director Transition Team) invite everyone to submit questions which may be asked in the first round of interviews with applicants for the position. Please note that while we are really happy to get community input on the questions we will not share the answers given due to privacy of the applicants.


  1. Tell us about your experience in editing any of the Wikimedia projects
  2. Tell us about your experience in collaborating with a large and globally dispersed set of volunteers
  3. Tell us about your experience in leading software development
  4. With you at the helm, where will you lead the Wikimedia Movement in the year 2020? In the year 2030?
  5. Which key performance indicator would you track?
  6. Tell us about your experience in mission aligned fundraising
  7. We don't believe you can close the gender gap on Wikipedia. Please comment
  8. What do you see as the role of Chapters and Thematic Organisations in comparison to the role of the WMF?
  9. What do you see as alternative ways to fund WMF if the stream of donations dries up?
  10. What should matter more to WMF, quality of content or quantity of content? Are you an inclusionist or deletionist?
  11. What do you believe are the causes of the gender gap on Wikipedia?
  12. What are your views on paid editing?
  13. If WMF seeks to increase participation in the "Global South", does it intend to respect and implement the religious and culture views of other nations in relation to the creation of content about their nation, religion or culture, and presentation of content more generally to people of that nation, culture or religion. For example, should they be able to suppress the display of explicit sexual images? Should governments be able to censor the content of Wikipedia as is acceptable under their own laws (e.g. criticism of the government)? Or should WMF impose the existing policies (largely created by the "Global North") on the Global South?
  14. What kind of relationship would you like WMF staff and the community to share? How can this be implemented?
  15. Is community building important for you? What steps would you take to make new community members more welcome within the movement?
  16. How can you improve reporting to the community given on paper community volunteers are at the top of our movement tree?
  17. How tolerant will you be on project failures?
  18. What are your views on the FDC process?
  19. Is there another organisation you can think of that compares with WMF? What lessons can we learn from them?
  20. Why do you think, you are the right candidate for this job?
  21. What is the best way for the Foundation to assist chapters, thematic organisations, and other allied groups to have a larger positive impact upon the movement and its goals?
  22. What are your view and opinions about the "entitlement" of Wikimedia donations?
  23. Tell us about your experience in volunteer organizations.
  24. What languages do you speak and/or understand?
  25. Why have their been some tensions in the past relationship between the Foundation and the community, and what steps have helped or hurt it?
  26. What were the best traits of Jimmy Wales and Sue Gardner as leaders? How would your leadership style differ from them?
  27. What is your strongest competency, the skill or approach that makes you most successful?
  28. What are the biggest threats to Wikimedia in the next decade? To the internet in general?
  29. How would you respond to a Security Letter from a government agency which required you to turn over private user data but prevented you from disclosing the demand to the public?
  30. What role does HTTPS play in internet privacy and security? Is it sufficient? What are the drawbacks of using it? What should we aim towards for better security?
  31. Should the Wikimedia Foundation have an endowment?
  32. Would you ever, under any circumstances, allow an advertisement on Wikipedia?
  33. What role do Wikipedia's 'sister' projects play in the Wikimedia movement. How much funding and developer attention should they receive? How can you grow them?
  34. How does Wikimedia's mission relate to the broader open source community and open access movement?
  35. When is it appropriate (or required) for the Foundation to intervene in the actual content of a Wikimedia project?
  36. What is the DMCA and why is it important to Wikimedia?
  37. How can Wikimedia attract new contributors while retaining long term editors and power users?
  38. Who is an ideal Wikimedia contibutor?
  39. What is a wiki? As one, why does Wikipedia actually 'work'?
  40. What are the main reasons that our long term contributors are motivated to stay with us and remain highly active? What are the main obstacles that demotivate and turn off contributors, especially new contributors?
  41. What are Wikipedia's "Five Pillars", Wikimedia's "Founding principles", and the Wikimedia Foundation's "Values"?
  42. As a top ten website, what might Wikipedia learn from the others in that group? What should it not copy from them?
  43. Wikipedia is both a social and a technological project. How do these elements relate to eachother?
  44. Which five people, and works of art, have most influenced how you see the world?
  45. One of the WMF's strategic goals is to boost participation in the Global South. How will you do this? What are the risks in doing so, and how will you mitigate these?
  46. There's an a priori belief around these parts that the "Global south" should be the focus of Wikimedia activities. The strategies have gone through a complex evolution, starting from a global development dept. and offices in those countries to a distant grant and programs based approach using "partners" etc.. The focus has rarely been project specific, but now seems to be moving to languages, and still none of it is yielding any measurable impact. Would you reconsider the entire approach? or modify it like before?
  47. WMF is turning more and more into a grants organization. It is doing lesser things itself for legal exposure or financial reasons, and as such the entire infrastructure is being built around grants. Do you see WMF as a primarily only grants based organization, that reviews reports, makes grants, and keeps everything else at a distance? (in terms of direct spending) while engineering becomes its own entity?
  48. The majority of grants are not going to editors, who edit the largest property that generates revenue - en.wp. A very large majority of the grants go to the chapters and those in the clique, who are expanding their budgets several times every year, without any actual growth. The active editors rarely solicit any grants directly - this entire system seems predicated towards an imbalance between editors who rarely solicit it while doing the majority of the work, and chapters (registered organizations) who *have* to solicit it to remain operational. The actual volunteer editors receive tiny fraction of the grants budget already and solicit far less. What are your opinions on the matter?
  49. Lastly, Activities earlier performed by volunteers have been moved to dedicated staff or contractors (for control, privacy, ease) - while they seem less efficient at it. There is also an attempt to make certain minor tasks still performed by volunteers to maintain some semblance of dependence -(steward related requests etc.). The "right balance" has never been achieved. Going ahead, would you be more interested in moving back towards volunteer run activities? or hiring new staff for those tasks?
  50. Articulate the vision for the organizations you've led. What made them unique? What was their core value proposition to users?
  51. Who were the core users/customers for organizations you led? What tools and methods did you personally use to understand your customers, and how did that understanding shape your work?
  52. What challenges have you faced in working with designers, software developers, product managers and others in product development? How have you been able to relate to employees in these roles, gain their trust, and motivate them to do their best?
  53. What technology product are you most proud of shipping during your career?
  54. What is the worst mistake you've ever made in a technology leadership role?
  55. Your hiring process is taking too long as compared to any serious organization. Why do you think things have happened in this way and how would you try to solve this problem?
  56. It was already pointed out that Wikimedia Foundation is too Americo-centric (e. g., by a consulting firm analysis during an all staff meeting of 2012). For an organization willing to become global (e. g., the previous Global Developement efforts, now turned into the Gratmaking and Programs), what would be your first steps for that? What would be your mid and long term goals for achieving that?
  57. Tell us your thoughts about admiting failures? [if the answer goes well, you continue with] How would you improve the organization to learn better from its previous mistakes? Please, mention examples of your previous failures, the main things you have learned and how did you solve or tried to solve some of these problems.
  58. In your opinion, what are the main challenges that Wikimedia projects face to achieve growth? How would you like to tackle them?
  59. Assuming no one is totally ready to be the ED of an organization as complex as WMF, how long do you believe it will take for you to thoroughly understand the main challenges and build a strategy you feel confident about? And how do you believe it may be done in with participation from the Wikimedia movement?