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Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Transition Team/2013/Request for comments

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An Executive Director Transition Team has been formed to select a new ED for the Wikimedia Foundation.

Please feel free to leave your suggestions/comments to the Transition Team below. We will categorize and answer them here if possible.



New phase, new demand on an ED


In my view this recrutiment coincides with the movement entering its third phase. After the first with explosive growth (until 2007) we needed someone, as Sue, to get an appropriate support orgaization in place. This second phase is now at its end, and we are now heading into one that seem to be caractarized by more stagnant growth, perhaps even declining growth in edits etc. And while we still are able to neutralize forces that can destroy what we have created, this can be a bigger challanges in our next phase. Can we really keep all versions up, some of the smaller ones are now so infested with vandalism etc so they can not seen to be even an attempt to be an encyclopedia. And what if evil powers set in strong POV attacks or we can not keep up with vandalism? I would say the key work now is consolidation.

I think it is important that you have at least a short time to discuss under what scenario of future reality the new ED will be working. And also to put in a lot of effort defining what is needed, of the new ED. Personally I am a bit afraid we will look for a new Sue, when we actually need someone very different.Anders Wennersten (talk) 16:45, 1 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you Anders, that is most insightful. Some of these questions relate to not only what we need of the next ED for the WMF, but what we should look for in new community leaders, contributors, and partners. SJ talk  01:09, 3 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I think, SJ, this is not the question - the question is how to hold this wide span together. She tried to do that, even if it was hurtful sometimes. With new engagements u widen the span again, and it will get all the more not manageable. Thats why she proposed to reduce on core-themes. This was the right way and will be the right one in the very near furture...--Angel54 5 (talk) 23:09, 3 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Growth and revenue as a means


Looking at WMF, I think the time of exponential growth is over. WMF may continue to grow at a much slower pace, e.g. by making fundraising banners more appealing. Sure enough, it'd be possible to keep up exponential revenue by making banners more obnoxious, but I'm pretty certain we don't want that.
We need an ED who can work with an organization that chooses not to grow (too much) and thus does not raise the highest possible amount of funds. This, I imagine, is in contrast to what EDs at many corporations are best at, where maximizing revenue is the supreme goal. For us, it's merely a means. That has to be super-duper clear to any future ED. --Tobias talk · contrib 18:40, 3 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

+1 -- and understanding that maximizing revenue is totally distinct from having big, visionary ideas or ambitious goals for the projects, that money doesn't always (rarely?) correlates to how things get done around here. -- phoebe | talk 23:54, 5 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Bekanntmachung dieser Seite


Ich wünsche mir jemanden, der so weitsichtig (und ehrlich) ist, dies "Einladung" auch dort zu posten, wo sie gelesen wird. Ich bin zwar notgedrungen auch auf Commons und Data aktiv und passe mich dort dem Englisch-Gebot an, weil es mir einfach für meine Tätigkeit notwendig erscheint, diesen Metakram hier mag ich mir aber nicht noch in einer Sprache antun, die mir nicht allzu leicht von der Hand geht, in der ich mich nicht wie gewohnt ausdrücken kann und in der ich mich schlicht und ergreifend nicht wohl fühle. Kurz und gut: ich bin gerne in der Community aktiv, habe auch eine Meinung, Meta aber überhaupt nicht auf dem Schirm! Und so wie mir geht es wohl auch dem ein oder anderen "Communitymember", die das Projekt erst zu dem machen, was es ist. Ich wünsche mir also jemanden der die Dreistigkeit besitzt solche für alle (alle Sprachen, alle Projekte) wichtigen Anfragen in die Wikimedia-Welt hinauszutragen und nicht in einem Hinterzimmerchen verkümmern zu lassen. </ rant> --PigeonIP (talk) 17:33, 3 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Für die deutschsprachige Community wird es morgen in der Wikimedia Woche veröffentlicht, also auch über die Mailinglisten verbreitet, Wikimedia Deutschland bereitet einen Blogpost vor. Auch damit erreicht man natürlich nicht jeden, daher ist die Frage durchaus ernst gemeint: Was wären deiner Meinung nach die besten Stellen, um auf diese Seite aufmerksam zu machen? Alice Wiegand (talk) 18:20, 3 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

so many hats


I believe that the position demands (among other things) someone who is able to appreciate all the aspects of Wikimedia. We are, all at once, an academic project, a technical project, an educational project, a fast-paced start-up style organization, a revered global foundation, a loose collection of anonymous volunteers, and more -- and the ED must be able to interact with all of these parts. Regardless of what projects the WMF itself takes on, whether there is a narrowed focus or not, all these aspects (and more!) will continue to be pursued as part of the Wikimedia movement.

In talking about Wikimedia or Wikipedia to others I often say that we are a kind of loose federation of lots of different individuals and groups, working on many distinct projects, who are united under some shared basic values, a shared style of working, and a commitment to making the projects better. So the most basic qualification to my mind is that the WMF's leader must also share those values, that commitment, and be comfortable with embracing our style of working... it is perhaps too much to ask that any single person would be (all at once) a technologist or engineer, an academic, a great manager, cross-culturally fluent, a great spokesperson, and have a deep understanding of the internet. But they must be comfortable interacting with and learning about each of these areas.

One of Sue's great strengths, to my mind, is her curiosity about the world, and in turn her willingness to explore and understand and appreciate all the parts of Wikimedia; I think anyone who leads the organization should share that fundamental curiosity, regardless of their background. There's nothing else quite like Wikimedia out there, so even if we look for someone who is particularly good or experienced in some aspect of our work (such as leading technological development, or international growth) they must also be flexible enough to appreciate the whole picture. -- phoebe | talk 23:46, 5 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Diverse skill sets are common in for-profit CEOs who have earned their way to the top with lengthy track records of responsibility and success. And my personal point of view, as someone who works in the private sector, is that I'd like to see a WMF ED with private sector management experience in a publicly held, high profile, high energy, and relatively reputable consumer-oriented organization such as Google, Samsung, or Toyota. I haven't looked deeply at the backgrounds of the people on the transition team, but I hope that at least a few of them have meaningful private sector experience. If not then I'd encourage the team to expand to include community members who have that experience. --Pine 23:10, 2 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Wide participation


Great to see such a wide level of participation here. I am curious the transition team is made of just board members and senior staff members. Even the comments here are from the exact same people, it seems this RfC is for you people alone, just being held openly so it can be viewed in a fishbowl. It's tiring and disappointing to see the same group have the same level of participation and go around in circles.

Why isn't there a community person on the selection team? In fact, more specifically, why isn't there any opinionated person on the team? opinionated, in the sense they would actually engage outsiders with their opinions. There is a high number of staff members who will be selecting their boss, the number seems disproportionate, and might screw up the hierarchy a bit. I am grateful for what Sue has done, I am disappointed to see her leave and hope she made changes to the top instead of leaving herself, with that said, I would like to see some changes at the top. I hope some of the decisions in the last year will be reconsidered, the grant organization structure would be de-emphasized. The current selection group, along with that (one)advisory board member and certain others are becoming the nebulous persistently perpetuating group. A good thing this will perpetuate itself for the next decade instead of getting a fresh perspective in there. Theo10011 (talk) 14:42, 7 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Personally, this would be my wish-list for a future ED.
  • Re-evaluate the tech spending, and the general spending Erik has been taking with the tech side of things. Maybe get someone with more of a tech background in there who can counter some of the one sided influence, and make their own decisions (SF and California should have no shortage of people with tech backgrounds). Besides the Visual editor, there has been a LOT of waste in tech spending - AFT1,2,3,4,5 whatever, all the general teams that no one can discern at this point, all the retreats, research and associated spending. After the GD dept. and its spending, the majority of spending was moved to tech after its demise. The results it brought aren't all that visible. The strategy department, or whatever they are being called now, the left over staff members from the now gone-GD dept. which was supposed to be replaced by someone?
  • Re-evaluate the fellowship program - This was universally liked up the point it was cancelled. I don't recall seeing a complaint about the program, but it was axed for liability, bad feelings it generates or whatever exposure, and changed to a grants model. This wasn't just about paying someone a bunch of money, though it will go down the road now. It was the age-old idea of recognizing someone's work, and inviting them to join temporarily, giving them attention and support to fulfill their goal - now, its only about making a good application, and getting the funding. The whole idea feels empty.
  • Moving away slightly from a grants model- Everything has been moved to a grants model. FDC, GAC, whatever that falls in between the two. They are off to a decent enough start, but this model needs to have a reduced focus. There is nothing left after it, little concern about efficiency, bottom-line, and more so- bridging the gap in between and making a connection. At this path, WMF might as well be a bank evaluating applications with proper filing, and forms submitted in triplicates for their analysts. The entire idea of a grants organization just feels....soul-less.
  • Chapter, WCA, et al - This needs some kind of an initiative. WCA doesn't seem to be going anywhere easily either, its just there to be brought up when problems arise as a bargaining chip. The impetus behind it just dies when there is no pressing large issue, and gets re-invigorated in times of trouble. There are issues with Chapters there, there are more than a few opinions out there, but this needs addressing not constantly ignored or de-prioritized for when the temperature gets too hot. At this point, I'd like to see some permanent solution - whether its not recognizing chapters anymore or separating them completely from WMF in to a separate entity (which might have been what the people who proposed chapters wanted). A new ED might be able to make a tough decision here, not continue to have the same boot on their back. Sue's stance has been keeping a distance between WMF and all these other entities - whether the chapter or WCA - the communications seem to come from the board, this might be a smart strategy but clearly it has been generating problems.
  • More communication - more specifically, better communication. This has been pointed out as the biggest problem for years. It has now come to the point that WMF has to hire community people just to communicate in "their language". The top direction in terms of communication definitely needs re-evaluation, half the time its hard to tell who is in charge of what. There is someone apparently who solely handles press release, then another who handles blogs, and another who handles annual reports. Then there is the board communications, tech communications, specific team communication- it all gets muddled in different areas and departments with no coherent strategy (if there ever was one) No one seems to do the job of communicating internally very well.
In summary, I'd like to see someone with a tech and maybe even for-profit exposure who watches the bottom line and doesn't expand easily - I don't think there would be shortage of either in SF/silicon valley/CA. I'd like to see someone who would actually scale things back a bit, in terms of staff and spending for a short while. They should be informed of what they are getting in to, and the large problems around, so they can make the hard decisions with more impact. Theo10011 (talk) 15:10, 7 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Agree that we need someone from the broader movement (unaffiliated with WMF). It's very odd for a person to select their own future boss. Abbasjnr (talk) 08:16, 24 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
It is not that weird elsewhere... I'd say that it is a good practice to have the future closest subordinates to participate to some extent, but of course the Board should have a major role. Pundit (talk) 09:34, 24 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I Agreed with Pundit, its pretty normal in a lot of organisations as far as I know... Jan-Bart (talk) 07:37, 17 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Im not that sure


if he or she has to have a tech backround. But Im agreeing that they have to make hard decisions with more impact. Perhaps this was the case with Sue Gardner, although I will and do not want to interpret her. If u r leading, u cannot ignore all forces which comes up to destroy ur joint effords. Thats whats hindering at the moment. It has to be a clear leader, who knows how to make sense out of differing wishes and goals. With an attractive concept on a small line. Thats - although I dont believe the bible - what was said about the fat years and the lean years. U could transform this to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_economics. He proposed that there is a shift from upswing to downswing. Means: clearly, dont forget that decentralization means more service on different frontiers (and more money involved). So a leader is appropriate again.--Angel54 5 (talk) 13:10, 23 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]



Can we have the new ED be announced at Wikimania (in August)? Abbasjnr (talk) 08:13, 24 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Abbas, I think the announcement said they're shooting for October (after this upcoming Wikimania). It typically takes six months or more to find a new ED of an organization like this. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 18:49, 24 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Abbas, as Steven said, no that's not the plan and it wouldn't be honest to promise it . Currently the timeline (will be published soon) is aiming at September, and even that's quite ambitious. Alice Wiegand (talk) 19:59, 25 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
It's here, sry I missed to mention it after it was added. Alice Wiegand (talk) 09:28, 17 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]