Grants talk:PEG/WM AU/Wikiconference Australia 2015

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This grant request has been withdrawn

GAC members who support this request[edit]

  1. Support, would like WMAU to consider adding new members as part of the conference . Alleycat80 (talk) 07:20, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
  2. --DerekvG (talk) 22:58, 10 June 2015 (UTC) nice project well balanced plan
  3. support in general and it will be interesting to read a report afterwards. Anyway, I think that measures of success should be more measureable and quantifiable rubin16 (talk) 10:14, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
  4. Will need more members; probably listing them all would help. Currently the entire project looks burdened on few core people. List them all and mentioning their responsibilities at this stage will help! -- ♪Karthik♫ ♪Nadar♫ 11:00, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
  5. -Violetova (talk) 21:09, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
  6. --Rebecca Cotton (talk) 07:18, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
  7. --Hasivetalk • 05:55, 18 June 2015 (UTC)
  8. Compliments on the professionally written proposal! MADe (talk) 20:28, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
  9. Support for this time. Nice structure of additional sources. But I will wait for your response to WMF comments. --Packa (talk) 09:33, 30 June 2015 (UTC)

GAC members who support this request with adjustments[edit]

GAC members who oppose this request[edit]

GAC members who abstain from voting/comment[edit]

  1. Involved in preparation of submission, so recusing from any discussion as a GAC member. Craig Franklin (talk) 10:10, 10 June 2015 (UTC).

GAC comments[edit]

A few suggestions[edit]

Hi, this seems a well crafted proposal, and, although budget is quite high, I think the end/budget justifies the means... my opinion is that generally the grant request looks fine, save for the targets which (as usual) I would've liked to see a bit more concrete (what's the projected impact on the number of volunteers in Wikimedia Australia community? one example). Which brings me to the following:

The conference seems to me to be totally focused on existing Wikimedians and Wikipedians. I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity of this conference, to bring new people into the community. How do you go about doing that? Well, I have suggestions there also:

  • Advertise on libraries/museums/archives in Queensland (I see many things in the conference are GLAM related, which is excellent IMHO), let people know it's going on. Advertise on Twitter / FB, whatever's popular. Broadcast your keynote speakers' identities to a wide audience, etc.
  • Make a theme called "Wikipedia for Newbies", and have experienced wikipedians onboard attendees about en-wp, the community, simple workshops on how to edit, etc.
  • Allocate some (additional!) budget for recruiting newbies, covering costs especially for newcomers, for staying in touch, etc.
  • Finally, and that's the most important thing - make it a conference goal to bring in at least X (where x = 30 or more...) new members into the community. Even if only 20% of these will carry on volunteering after the conference, you'll have a long lasting gain from this.

Would love to hear what you think about this. And again, support :) Alleycat80 (talk) 07:20, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

Hi, and thanks for feedback. Exploring the idea of getting new contributors is something we have looked into, and will most likely be something that is achieved as part of our conference - it will be advertised relatively widely through our forums as well as the State Library of Queensland. However, we are conscious that we don't want to try and focus on too many things, otherwise we may not do them effectively. The editing community in Australia is somewhat small and a largely untapped resource - we have from my knowledge hundreds of editors in Australia but only 40 or so members of our organisation, only a handful of which are active in our programs. We feel that by having more of an inreach conference (along with the GLAM component) it will help with our volunteer base and get people enthused about editing Wikipedia and getting involved in projects again. This will in turn allow us to run more programs targeted at new editors in future. I have no doubt that new volunteers will also be created by this conference, but it's not our primary focus and this is why we don't have key metrics attached to it. Additionally, we feel that new editor recruitment/edit training is better done for us at a more local level (city or state based) as opposed to national level, party for cost and efficiency reasons. Happy to discuss. Steven Zhang (talk) 23:07, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Hi Alleycat80! Since the goal of this conference is to connect and stregthen the existing community, I think that the gaining of new Wikimedians should not be a key metric for the success of this conference. (If it happens organically and all, that is great, but not as a success measure). What I think would be interesting to know would be:
  • did the attendees connect with others they did not know irl before?
  • did the attendees learn of new, active projects they did not know before?
  • has the conference boosted their motivation in contributing toward the Wikimedia projects?

(These 3 questions I would recommend asking on the last day of the conference)

  • how was the ratio from people hosting session (being proactive) to those "only" attending? (that number you have automatically via the submissions an the attendee numbers)

The rational behind this metric is that theses kind of conference work very well to connect people to new projects such as GLAM, WLE, WLM, local mapping projects, editathons etc. For this to really work the conference needs to attract those people who mainly organise these projects&events and those people who "only" attend them (they are not sucked up in organising their own stuff all the time and have more time to take care of the content creation). Of the top of my head I would say that a ratio between 1:3 to 1:5 is probably pretty healthy. It would give project organisers a large enough pool the recruit from, but also not overwhelm them, so they have time to connect more personally.

  • did the conference help to (re-)kindle projects? (probably best asked in a followup survey, about 2 months after the conference)

Cheers, --Rebecca Cotton (talk) 07:17, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

Hi User:Rebecca Cotton, thanks for the suggestions, which seem pretty good to me and we've taken on board. Hopefully we can gather that sort of data to provide to other user groups looking to put on similar events. Craig Franklin (talk) 09:38, 21 June 2015 (UTC).

another suggestion[edit]

You might consider asking WMNL for help on getting your a keynote speaker about GLAM projects and how to execute them, pitfalls, quick and longterm wins etc following people had interesting talks/ workshops at Glam wiki :

- Hay Kranen : about Donations and mass uploads of media files to Commons
- Sebastiaan Ter Burg : about education GLAMS , bridging the gap between GLAM expectations and WIKI offerings ...
- Hans Muller : wikimedian in residence

Check with Sandra Fauconnier of WMNL User:Spinster

It looks like a nice project , would love to attend might be a little expensive though--DerekvG (talk) 22:58, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

Hi, thanks for your feedback. We do have a few keynote speakers in mind GLAM wise, and will discuss these names as well. Appreciate any other feedback you can provide. Steven Zhang (talk) 23:53, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

a few hints from a similar event[edit]

Hi, I think this is a very well thought through proposal. In Germany there is a similar event, that has been running for a couple of years in a row now that explicitly focuses on (re-)connecting the existing community. They have made a very positive experience of involving the targeted community as soon as possible, especially concerning attendance, contributions and volunteering to support the running of the conference. Heres a link to this years event. (Also the event template is quite nice, I think) Since so far you only have fairly few people voicing interest, I was wondering whether you had already started reaching out to the community as proposed in you grant. It would give you the benefit of a) being able to rescale the event (and the grant if necessary) according to actual needs and b) give the eventnotice the chance to spread organically through the networks of volunteers - that does take quite some time in my experience (which might help you especially with reaching those volunteers, that have not disclosed their location but live in Australia).

Also for the conference: If you do not have enough slots to host all sessions for all, or just want to heighten the visibility of active projects and topics in for the Australian I can highly recommend using a highly frequented area to host a poster session, where every project can send in their poster to be shown at the conference. If you are also considering to let some barcamp style meeting happen this could also be a good announcement and meeting point space for those projects. Since printing big formats and getting them to the conference in one piece is not always trivial, I would highly recommend the posters printing to be organised by the conference organisation.

Otherwise: Rock on! --Rebecca Cotton (talk) 07:17, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

Community comments[edit]

Tony1 comments[edit]

Introduction[edit]

This is the very kind of funding the movement should be discouraging. Indeed, many aspects of the application illustrate why "funding more offline meetups (e.g. conferences, editathons)" was rated on average ninth out of ten priorities by the 21 candidates for the recent community-elected WMF Board seats (and tenth by all three new trustees). Prima facie, the bid appears to be an attempt to kickstart an organisation that has been in a chronic coma. There is no evidence that a three-day get-together, with social interaction high on the list of aims, has any hope of bringing sustained online or city-based offline programs. What militates against this are: (1) the affiliate's very poor track-record in organising and managing programmatic activity on a chapter basis; (2) its poor record of legal compliance and transparency in governance; and (3) a cursory evaluation of likely impact on Wikimedia sites or communities of a sudden grand splurge of donors' money on an event with little thematic substance or direction, likely poor attendance, and serious division on the committee concerning the location.

There is evidence of discord among committee members themselves concerning this application. At the committee's April meeting, only five of its eight members endorsed the application—the barest of majorities. One member is down as "abstain", but strangely is marked as "absent" at the top of the minutes, without mention of any proxy arrangements. One member felt so strongly about the matter that he requested the minuting of his view that the choice of Brisbane "is not in the best interest of our members". Rumours from more than one affiliate member suggest that Ms Raymond, as a Brisbane resident, has been driving the proposal from the start, and that there was and remains considerable opposition by Perth members, and indifference from those elsewhere. Perth—the most isolated large city in the world—appears to be the location of the only meetups (informal, and held under the auspices of the chapter in name only), and of one or two programmatic events, arranged personally by User:Gnangarra. Perth has also seen sputtering attempts to marshall members there into a user group, which would be more rational than the failed national chapter given a demographic distribution into geographically distant cities on a continent largely empty of people; but like the chapter generally, these attempts seem to have foundered on the rock of general disinterest among members in undertaking the work required to design, organise and undertake programmatic activities—nowhere is this more obvious than in the committee itself. Suffice it to say that there is no evidence of engagement by the committee with the membership at large on the wisdom of prioritising this kind of expenditure and event.

After years of not much at all, there are sudden gusts of apparent and unverified activity, mainly posted on the chapter's moribund site and a Facebook page. These look suspiciously like an attempt to provide a wall of support for getting WMF money; the reportage of such activities is variously non-existent or wanting. It is very difficult to find statements of the actual numbers of participants and the impact (such as number and quality of photos uploaded to Commons). The state of WMAU suggests that rather than trusting it with large amounts of donors' funds, it should be showing cause to AffCom as to why it should not be wound up and any role in this country taken over by city-based user groups. In slightly more detail, there are six reasons that the WMF would be betraying the interests of readers and editors by funding this application.

Numbers and logistics[edit]

  1. As the application points out—apparently to garner support for generous air-ticket subsidies—Australia has "a small population of 24 million people spread over a land mass comparable to the continental USA or Europe". This demographic dispersion underlines part of why the event would be so expensive (more than a tenth of a million dollars); it is the very reason we should be exercising great caution in putting physical meetups at the front and centre of planning and deliberation—especially without a cohesive track-record of programmatic activities of substance. It is why, unlike the population-dense Dutch, NYC, and Estonian affiliates, meetups are likely to have a very high expense per impact, and why planning, deliberation, and social interaction should be based online, just as WMF site-editors interact to achieve outcomes of great complexity.
  2. In more than four months, the WikiConference Australia 2015 attendance page has attracted just 11 names untainted by doubts such as "I'm interested but not definite", "possible at this stage", "Not sure about the travel", "possible, keep me in the loop", and "most likely will be travelling overseas on those dates". It is not at all clear that the 11 are good odds to make it to Brisbane (one is a US medical student in Botswana). I'm not counting a two-year-old child on the list, nor the eight-member committee, which of course has signed up to the gig en masse (they would receive preferential subsidies). Just where 100–200 participants are going to materialise is a mystery. Even if non-Wikipedians are papered in to provide another 10–20 folk, there's a nought missing somewhere. Let's be generous and presume that 40–50 might attend for at least one of the days—some not engaged enough with the Wikimedia movement to be at all likely to provide sustained impact after the event. That's some $1300 per person (almost $800 of which would be paid for directly from PEG, and another $460 by donors to WMAU back in the 2010 banner-led campaign). This excludes private expenses and labour foregone by anyone taking employment leave or paid a salary by their employer (countenanced in the application). Yet two "tracks" (parallel sessions) are envisaged through the event, which smells to me like 10 in each of two rooms for most sessions, given that most conference attendees in any realm do not attend for the full number of days. A large paragraph under "Risks" concerns "Ability to attract attendees" in a rare moment of transparency.

The logistical problems go to the heart of why an expensive meetup like this will do nothing: if the affiliate and its members have been unable or unwilling to collaborate online, there's no point in meeting up and then sinking back into business as usual, which is close to zip.

Poor track-record[edit]

  1. Nothing has changed since WMF grantmaking staff gave WMAU a damning assessment in the first FDC round—by far the worst of any applicant both numerically and in commentary. They wrote: "There are questions about WMAU's capacity to put a plan in place", "Initiatives seem like large investments relative to impact". That application was prepared entirely by then-president John Vandenberg, who at the time complained to me privately that he had received utterly no help from the rest of the committee in the task. If anything, matters are now worse: the presidency gives every appearance of being dysfunctional, and this time a committee member, Ms Raymond, has written an application by herself (strangely, the president's name appears as the only contact). It must have been a lot of work, so the strategic and logistic inappropriateness of the scheme is embarrassing; but regrettably this work cannot be a factor in judging the application.
  2. The few programs WMAU seems to claim as its own are at the behest of individual members in isolation, not of the organisation itself. Among these are Gnangarra's and Whiteghost's occasional and laudable programmatic efforts. These are included in the president's latest annual report as though organised by the chapter itself, which also lists the "Women of Science Wikibomb" as part of the chapter's program; but wasn't it conceived and run by the Australian Academy of Science, without reference to WMAU? Ms Raymond attended from Brisbane at donors' expense, although as usual I can find no report as to impact from that expenditure. I find the inclusion of such items in a president's report to be disingenuous.
  3. Donors funded the entire committee to fly to Sydney in 2013 at the cost of some $5000 with the aim of meeting members. When I publicly asked the then-treasurer, Craig Franklin, how many members had turned up during the visit, he said "two"; I later learnt that one of those was the carer of a committee member, so readers can judge for themselves the genuineness of the reply. A committee meeting in Melbourne in 2012 appears to have achieved almost nothing at great expense. There is no report justifying the expense against impact.
  4. A continuing theme is the desire to hire staff to do what the committee will not. The FDC staff evaluation stated: "There is a plan to hire staff, but WMAU has faced challenges with this in previous years". This has gone through a re-run more recently, where a part-time position was advertised and interviews held to find someone to organise this proposed event; but the position remains unfilled. The job brief advertised and the rate of pay suggest low-level skills, whereas a major concern for me is the history of inactivity by most of the current committee members, whose credentials comprise a few presentations given in the past. Designing and running a large and complex event, including liaising with one's community beforehand, and selecting appropriately scoped and focused themes and good presenters, takes more than sitting in the chair for an academic session. I know because I've done that myself.

Low likelihood of impact-value for money[edit]

  1. The emphasis on "celebration" is telling. It is front and foremost in the Celebrate – Inspire – Excel slogan that has been invented for this proposal. A recurrent theme is to celebrate the past and present (there's precious little of either, I'm afraid). The aim of one of the two planned parallel sessions "is to celebrate the achievements, collectively and individually, of Australian contributors and of Australian content to date". This appears to have little relevance to either PEG or WMF priorities. "A strong element of WikiConference Australia 2015 will be the opportunities for social interaction". This is another recurrent theme, but gives no confidence that it will lead to impact; above all, it fails to recognise the only practical route for pursuing the goals of both affiliate and Foundation, given the geodemography of Australia: the online social interaction that makes the editorial environment work so well.
  2. The scoping is out of control. Much of the voluminous thematic content in the application looks as though someone bent back a paint-brush and released it to spatter a wall. Much of the program looks suspiciously like brainstorming, whereas Asaf Bartov has warned that physical meetups should be the culmination, not the start, of discourse. Discourse between members, and between the committee and members, has been spectacularly absent for years, discouraged by both a passivity and absence of leadership, and in some respects by active commission (see membership secrecy, below).

    So much in the event program is expressed in terms both vague and hopelessly ambitious; for example, "to inspire our Wikimedians into the future, by exploring the challenges we face and seeking innovative solutions"; "discussing social challenges"; "WikiProject members can meet and discuss their projects".

    Among the themes are those quintessentially of the type normally handled online on the English Wikipedia by editors from a vast language community; e.g. "Guild of copy editors"; "New editors—'was it good for you too?' "; "Manual of Style—help or hindrance?" "What do [readers] really want?" A panel on "Writing for readers or writing for editors?". Then there are the navel-gazing "Benefits of regular meetups" and "Impact of edit training and editathons". One theme, "Gender gap", is made razor-specific: "editors, and content".

    The Monday would be "a specialist day focussing on in-depth topics"—but in-depth requires a lot of pre-discussion; participants need to put in work reading and discussing issues before they arrive, and their skill- and knowledge-base needs to be a factor in the thematic planning. Wikimedia Australia has demonstrated how bad it is at engaging with its own community; it is hard to see how this event would be any different.

    The second "track" of activities sounds a little more fruitful on the surface than the first, but without a solid track-record of active partnerships, it would be hard to attract good speakers. "Ability to attract speakers" is acknowledged as a problem in the "Risks" section: "Wikipedians are not always keen to be public speakers. To mitigate this risk, we will offer a range of formats for presentation including interviews, panels, and smaller group sessions in an unconference format that might be less intimidating. Also, being a presenter will be an advantage in the travel subsidy allocation." It sounds amateurish. I don't believe speakers and facilitators commensurate with the scale and expense of this event would be attracted, even by the inducements mentioned. And yet "training through both demonstrations and hands-on sessions to learn new technical skills" is trumpeted at the start. It takes skill, even expertise, to run training sessions. Who would design and present them?

  3. Among the topics would be the "history of paralympics project". This is strange, because the committee, or part of it, dishonoured WMAU's legal contract in 2014 to fund and participate in a project that gained funding from the federal government partly on the basis of that contract. Through misrepresentations to both the WMF and WMAU's members, the president, Steven Zhang, even managed to squash what appeared to be a good compromise. The scheme would have involved chapter members and John Vandenberg in collaboration with the Australian Paralympics Committee and the University of Queensland. The chapter's written undertaking was a significant part of the Australian government's decision to provide general funding to the project. That decision produced valuable publicity for the Wikimedia brand, online and in the press. It appalled many people that the chapter, without consulting members, then treated the signed deal with disdain. But not just the financial commitment was sacrificed: the chapter withdrew from the agreed collaborative efforts that would have invited its members to join with the partners in specific editing on a major Australian topic, poorly covered on the Wikipedias. I can't imagine what there is to discuss, although it's pleasing to see that there was actually a meeting in Melbourne last month that included the partners. I've contacted the UQ partners to ascertain what exactly happened there (since no report has been published for the benefit of members or the editing public—and organising high-quality text and photographs as part of this project would have been a major plus for Wikipedias, the chapter, the partners, Australian leadership, and let's not forget the paralympians themselves). Perhaps the UQ researchers' anger at their treatment by the chapter has receded.
  4. Among "target participants" are those who are "contemplating" contributing to or using Wikimedia projects. Really? At $1300+ per person, people who haven't ever touched a save button on a WMF site? Investing so much donors' money in those who have shown they are not motivated to edit the sites that "anyone can edit" is a risky gamble indeed.

Weak and opaque governance[edit]

  1. The affiliate has a history of jurisprudential wrongdoing that undermines the notion of the trust we are asked to put in WMAU's committee. Just two of the more egregious examples:
    In the 2013 "musical chairs" scandal (a particularly bad year, but not all that unrepresentative), directly elected officers decided to reshuffle their positions, with complete disregard for the members' decision in the election just months before and in blatant contravention of the affiliate's rule 21 (this first requires the establishment of casual vacancies, and in any case was not intended to be used for mass reshuffles after an election; Stephen Zhang is down as agreeing to prepare the documentation for this action, but did not do so). The incorporations authority was not informed of this action until well after the 14-day legal requirement, and when it was informed, the fact that the legality of the :musical chairs" had been subject to unresolved legal complaint among the members was not disclosed.
    WMAU has run and continues to run a secret membership regime. In 2013, the committee broke both the law under which the affiliate is incorporated and the affiliate's rule 5 in denying a member's right to inspect the register of members (naturally, with legal provisos as to treating members' privacy with sensitivity). Such is the insistence on non-disclosure of the members' list that current committee member (then vice president) Craig Franklin publicly encouraged members to apply to have their names redacted by exploiting a loophole in the law. Yet this secrecy renders the whole idea of a Wikimedia affiliate rather pointless (see WMUK for a proper arrangement). The register remains effectively withheld from members, significantly reducing the scope for marshalling volunteers around shared interests and skills. I have been informed by the then-secretary (legally responsible for membership matters) that the software for maintaining the register was, and to his knowledge still is, "hopeless", and that the list is almost certainly not accurate anyway. Rule 5 was changed after a special members' meeting in September 2013, although that was not conveyed to the incorporations authority within the required 14 days—itself a breach of the law. How small the membership is is anyone's guess; even the committee would find it difficult to assess, given the state of the software. There has been chronic non-compliance with the legal requirement to remove non-financial members' names by 14 July each year.
  2. I find the financial reporting to lack the kind of detail necessary to judge accountability. In 2012–13, the affiliate spent $57,573.88 of what at the time were substantial reserves, largely on sending "observers" to the Paralympic Games in London, the Languages Conference in Indonesia, Winter Paralympic Sports at Copper Mountain, Colorado (without prior approval of the committee—indeed after the treasurer had said "no"), and the ALIA conferences in Brisbane. I note that several committee members have recently been issued with debit cards on the chapter's behalf. And what can you say about an organisation that still gives someone access to their full bank account more than 18 months after his term on the committee ended?
  3. Until 2 March, there had been an enormous gap in committee-meeting minutes, since February 2014. No member complained, perhaps because expectations and involvement are so muted. Since March, and especially since the draft of this application was launched two weeks ago, there has been a flurry of posts to hurriedly fill this gap, perhaps to make good the impression of non-transparency.
  4. True to form, the current committee membership was declared without election last November for want of any interest among the affiliate's membership.
  5. Another official "risk" is, "Capacity of the organising committee to execute the project." Well we might ask.
  6. Perhaps Ms Raymond summed up in February what many members of the affiliate have felt for a long time: "The committee has been a bit quiet lately".

Budget[edit]

  1. "staffing by a venue supervisor and two audio-visual technicians on Sat/Sun 3–5 ($4,580)". Rather expensive.
  2. SLQ $21,000 for rooms, plus staff time as a cash cost of $5030? Extraordinary costs, even if the $21k is in-kind; I suppose it's nice to be able to drag that out to make the WMF bid look more reasonable.
  3. $40,000 in travel subsidy: see my comments above about the inappropriateness of this, given the absence of online organisation of members.
  4. Contingency of 10%: "Given this is our first event of this nature, we feel a 10% contingency is a reasonable figure."—that makes me nervous. And there will be cost blowouts if the 150 estimated attendees are significantly greater or fewer in number.

Measures of success[edit]

Please do not list the conduct of the event as measures of success. We are interested in measures of future impact, in numerical terms if possible. This section is expressed in the vaguest of terms. It it totally inadequate.

COI statement[edit]

It is no secret that the attitude of the affiliate's committee towards me soured more than two years ago. This has stemmed from my open criticism of illegal and inappropriate behaviour by committee members since 2013. I have since been subjected to bullying and ill-treatment by three current committee members. Wikimedians are invited to take this into account in assessing my review; however, except for my closer knowledge of the wrongdoings of this affiliate over considerable time, I doubt my review would be much different were this an application by an entity unknown to me. I can only probe the facts as presented. Tony (talk) 11:11, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

Graham87 comments[edit]

As a previous member of the committee, I have read the review above and largely agree with it. Graham87 (talk) 05:14, 13 June 2015 (UTC)

Some specific questions[edit]

Within two days of posting my review above, I was privately informed that the WMAU committee had decided to ignore it. While that might be a reasonable political strategy in the short term, it's hard to see how a head-in-the-sand approach can benefit the prospects of the application. By default a deafening silence in the face of a review that raises a multitude of serious issues, and lack of probing by those who have parachuted in to write "support" at the top, undermines the application.

So let's make it simple for the applicants, at least, to respond, even if GAC members are quite happy to be an unquestioning cheer squad—which is so far from the role they agreed to play when asking to serve on that committee. Here are a few direct questions related to the programmatic activity and the issue of trust in giving the affiliate responsibility for spending more than A$60,000 in donors' funds.

  1. Where, specifically, will the estimated 150 participants come from? What evidence or experience is the prediction of attendance actually based on?
  2. Given that the WMAU committee is seriously divided on the matter of this proposed event, please provide evidence that the three members who opposed it and the one who abstained would actually perform the roles outlined for them in the application, comprising "program chairs", "webmaster and publicity", "registration", "accommodations", "travel subsidy chairs" (furniture?), and "attendance liaison".
  3. Is it true that not one, but two national football grand finals will be held on the same weekend for which this event is scheduled, with the usual chaos for air bookings and transport?
  4. Under "Impact, three points are made (my numbering):

    (a) Given that Australians are predominantly English speakers, the benefits will most likely be to English Wikipedia and Australian content on Wikimedia Commons.

    (b) However, Australasia is a multi-cultural region and there may be benefits to other language Wikipedias.

    (c) There are Australasian contributors and partners in relation to other Wikimedia Foundation projects, e.g. WikiSource, which may also benefit."

    Could the likely impact be explained in concrete terms for each of these three claims?

  5. "inspiring new projects, new content donations, and new technical tools"—who would be likely to carry these forward, specifically, given that it's hard to point to much specific impact by the affiliate since 2008?
  6. "Evidence of past success in executing similar projects" is put forward as a major part of the argument that the applicants are able to properly organise a large and complex event and gain impact from spending a large amount of donors' money. It's telling that the only possible contender named is a GLAM-WIKI meetup in 2009, six years ago; the first specific goal of the proposed event is "to revisit the GLAM-WIKI recommendations from 2009 to assess progress and produce revised recommendations". There were 80 recommendations. Could we have a statement on the affiliate's progress towards them since they were developed and posted on Meta six years ago?
  7. In the same section, there's also a link to our Past Events a link to support claims of "organising or assisting" other events. I've looked only at 2015. All but one item have no report and no verification that the event actually occurred, or of the numbers of actual participants. The only item with a report involved one committee member's attendance at an external event. The report is full of complaints, including that his camera had "rather bad barrel distortion". How many of these events actually took place, and how many were organised at a chapter level? Are there more reports we're not seeing, and did donors put money towards these events?
  8. The Paralympic History Wikipedia workshop is listed as a WMAU event—apparently a member ran a brief edit session. Please respond to the following questions:

    (a) Did the chapter actually contribute to any aspect of planning, organisation, or financial expense (aside from paying any of Ms Mitchell's expenses)?

    (b) Having been listed in the organisers' publicity and on Meta as a presenter, did Stephen Zhang actually turn up?

    (c) Has there been any attempt to engage the WMAU membership and Australian Wikimedian editors in the project, which I'm informed was the only reason the Paralympic organisers invited the two committee members to the workshop?

Please respond inline if it's more convenient. Tony (talk) 06:30, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

Steven Zhang and cohorts: your silence on these questions and my review above condemns. I suppose I should be thankful that you've confirmed all that I've said. Thank you. Tony (talk) 02:22, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm not commenting for the WMAu committee.
"(7.) The only item with a report report involved one committee member's attendance at an external event." I haven't been a member of the committee since October 2014, the request to the event wasn't made until February 2015.
"The report is full of complaints, including that his camera had "rather bad barrel distortion"." The report was done a few days after, I wanted to state my thoughts on how it could've been done better and the issues I had. Though happy to take onboard any constructive criticisms you have. Bidgee (Talk) 13:54, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

Number of Wikimedians attending[edit]

I've read this a few times and can't be certain what is the expected mix of Wikimedians and "Open Knowledge community" that is being planned for, and who will be receiving travel subsidies.

The intro states "this grant seeks funding specifically to reduce the registration costs for active Wikimedians and to provide travel subsidies for active Wikimedians".

In the "Travel subsidies" section, it says 30% of non-local attendees will be professionals, and then continues budgeting on the basis that the other 70% of non-local attendees will be needing travel subsidies. Ergo, 70% of non-local attendees will be active Wikimedians? Or will travel subsidies be given to people who are not active Wikimedians? Other parts of the grant proposal make me a bit suspicious that non-active editors may be given travel subsidies, especially if they are presenters or volunteers, or have extensive contributions to other "open knowledge" activities. Will there be a published list of people receiving travel subsidies, with usernames? As this will be the largest ever meeting of Australian Wikimedians, and the majority of the Wikimedians will be funded (which implies reported), it would also be very useful to report the number of travel subsidies granted based on diversity indicators, such as gender, state/territory, education level, city/country, age bracket, etc.

Anyway, assuming that the travel subsidies are only going to allocated to active Wikimedians, fleshing that out a little it means that if the total attendance is 150 people, 78 non-local attendees with be active Wikimedians. If we assume higher professional attendance by locals (reasonable given the lower cost for professional locals to attend), and assume only 30% of the estimated local attendance are Wikimedians, that would equate to another 11 active Wikimedians attending from Brisbane. The total active Wikimedians attending would then be 89, and the final percentage of active Wikimedians attending would be roughly 60% of total attendance. Is that roughly the mix of Wikimedian vs non-Wikimedian that you've been designing the conference around?

A little aside, it would be good to see a breakdown of the $15,400 income estimated to be collected from participants. That section notes that "The calculations of registration income make a number of assumptions of the ratios of different registration types," but doesnt articulate what those calculations are, as far as I can see. My quick calculation indicates that if there are 89 Wikimedians paying $20 per the two main days, that is $1,780 being collected from Wikimedians; and the non-Wikimedians are bringing in $7,320 for those two days. That means the budget is expecting $3,180 for the third day, which is a normal working day for half of Australias population, which seems a little off kilter and probably means I have my maths wrong somewhere. John Vandenberg (talk) 14:45, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for your questions John. I have an understanding of the maths and how we came to the conclusions we did in terms of estimated income from participants. I want to discuss this with the other organisers before I provide a full reply to ensure my understanding of the calculations are correct, so I hope you don't mind if I come back to your question in a few days? Thanks. Steven Zhang (talk) 02:59, 27 June 2015 (UTC

WMF comments[edit]

Thank you to WMAU for the thoughtful preparation of this grant request and the time and effort taken to plan the conference thus far. We realize the organizing team is excited to re-engage the community and create an event that moves beyond past challenges and develops opportunities for future collaboration, communication, and activities. Echoing some of the comments above and repeating what we have discussed with WMAU openly and honestly previously, the reality is that things are not going smoothly for WMAU in terms of governance, programming, and communication amongst members/committee. Each of these issues is serious in its own right and conditions are not optimal for a high impact event. However, we are still willing to consider a conference in spite of this difficult situation as an attempt to rally a very demoralized membership. Meeting in person could conceivably heal rifts and build renewed energy for the community. What we would need to see in a revised proposal for approval includes the following:

  1. A focus on the active Wikimedian community. This conference should be seen as a safe space for community members to talk directly and move beyond issues of the past. We have seen this type of truth and reconciliation discussion work well in other communities, but only with strategic moderation and without the distraction of new editors or non-Wikimedians. Alleycat80 gave good rationale for why including new users can be useful for some type of wikiconferences, but this one, especially at the national level, needs to be very focused on engaging and supporting collaboration between the existing community members.
  2. Expanding on the above, the GLAM component of the conference should be removed as outside experts will dilute the important conversations that need to be had. GLAM programs should be city-based. For example, there is little advantage to introducing GLAMs from Brisbane to Wikimedians from Perth if those Wikimedians cannot follow-up with local events, etc. We would encourage you to develop those partnerships and outreach events at the local level.
  3. A more rationalized program that demonstrates community engagement. We see that only a few people have commented on the conference pages thus far and have been fairly non-committal in their participation. However, we realize that WMAU has not yet run any site-notices to get folks engaged. We would like to see what level of engagement you have after you run a site notice about the possibility of a conference and how this helps to shape the program.
  4. As John mentioned above, expecting to raise $15,400 from participants is very unlikely, especially if GLAM professionals will not be participating. We look forward to reading your response to his questions.
  5. It's our understanding that WMAU has ~$65,000 in chapter reserves. This budget proposes to use ~$23,000 of those reserves on the conference. No other chapters in WMAU's position have reserves. They all apply for funding on a project or annual basis, which results in a greater level of transparency and oversight of donor funds. We are curious to know why you have decided not to use the majority of your reserves (leaving enough remaining for a year of hosting/domains, bookkeeping or similar expenses) to cover the cost of the conference?

We realize the comments above will result in a re-scoping of the conference, but we hope it will make for a more productive meeting and ultimately healthier community. We want to see WMAU and the Australian editing community thrive. Please let us know if you have questions and/or want to set up a time to talk. Best, Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 02:51, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Hi Alex. Thanks for your comments. We will review these at our committee meeting this weekend and discuss, and then I will contact you to set up a time to talk, while responding to your questions here as well. Regards, Steven Zhang (talk) 03:03, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Application withdrawn[edit]

Hello all,

After some consideration and discussion with WMF regarding this request, we have decided to withdraw our application for funding at this time. We will be exploring alternative options and proposals. I'd like to thank the GAC members and other members of the community for the time you spent discussing and providing feedback on this request. Regards, Steven Zhang (talk) 07:49, 3 July 2015 (UTC)

Lessons learned from this application?[edit]

I note the withdrawal of this application, and thank Ms Raymond for her good-faith effort in preparing the text—it's not an easy task.

I also note that the affiliate has remained silent concerning the problems I raised of:

  • governance
  • transparency
  • track record
  • disingenuous appropriation by the affiliate of credit for the hard work of a few members
  • low impact
  • questionable financial accountability and reportage, and
  • resistance to engagement with the members or more broadly Australian Wikimedians.

There has been no response to the WMF staff query about "~$65,000 in chapter reserves" and the implied need for "a greater level of transparency and oversight of donor funds".

After all this time, a single affiliate spread thinly across an enormous continent has proved itself unviable. Its reserves exist only as an accident of history. The proper course of action would to encourage local groups of enthusiastic members and other Wikimedians to apply for programmatic seed funding from the reserve, and to approach AffCom with a proposal to wind up the chapter under item 6 of its rules. Skilfully transforming the affiliate into viable local groups would be of great benefit to Australian editors, readers, and those who are keen to pursue city-based offline programs. This would be the chapter's gift, for which it would be remembered positively as a stage in the history of the movement. There should be no shame or regret: it is simply a practical move to put Australians' contribution to and benefit from that movement on a proper footing.

I'd be pleased to assist in such a transformation, although I'm not interested in formal leadership. I'm sure WMAU has members who feel the same. Tony (talk) 14:11, 3 July 2015 (UTC)

I don't really understand why you think that winding up the chapter is a good solution. Dissolving an incorportated legal entity for a chapter and establishing multiple legal entities for local groups is a complex and costly process, and I don't really thing it is a good investment for the movement.
On the other hand, it seems to be clear that WMAU is not good at working at local level, but hopefully our movement has good examples of resolving this problem. A number of chapters have successfully built a network of local groups, for example, one can learn from the example of Wikimédia France documented here: Grants:Learning patterns/Regional action plan and in the guide: File:A practical guide to Wikimedia France HD.pdf. It would be much better to resolve such questions by learning and cooperating, but not by destroying everything hoping to build something better next time — NickK (talk) 15:20, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
Wikimedia France has volunteers at the top who are culturally and institutionally motivated—who come up with creative, viable programmatic ideas, directly involve people at the local level to implement them, and have the confidence to properly report progress or lack of progress. It's not an empty shell, bent on jetting around an empty continent to "socialise". They have a volunteer momentum I can't see materialising in Australia, for several reasons (but prove me wrong over time ...).

The argument for WMAU's continued existence is its to make—by deeds, not words, by actually demonstrating programmatic impact for a sustained period; but there's no evidence of leadership willing to put the work into achieve that (which rather called into question the value of this application): it's a matter of sitting at the computer and working the phones, remotely gathering momentum with our communities, and encouraging iterative feedback between committee and targeted members—not wasting money and carbon flying people all over the place for one-offs (viz. the 2009 meetup, which got us nowhere despite its 80 statements). How can we help willing Wikimedians in Perth, and what ideas will they put on the table for the next 12 months? Can we recruit collaborative members from GLAM in Tasmania? Are there enough members in Melbourne for a photographic tour of a few regional galleries? Can we pick up what Liam Wyatt did (regrettably without success) in getting more free content out of the ABC? Who are the other free-information groups in the country, and can we form an alliance with them? Above all, let the communities take the credit, and credit will flow back from that.

But the committee's iron-fisted policy of keeping the membership secret—forbidding members access to usernames and contact details, and geographical regions for engagement and planning—makes this very difficult (cf. WMUK by contrast, where you join to be involved: if you want to be anonymous, don't join, just donate, they state).

My advice is to spend the remaining $65,000 wisely (why not with occasional review and advice from Alex—she's there to help), and then take a good hard look at the viability of a national structure. My guess is that this won't be achievable—and certainly not without committee renewal (from where?).

But this is not the place to conduct such a debate, and I'll leave it at this point. Tony (talk) 02:20, 4 July 2015 (UTC)

I'm just going to respond to a couple of things here...

  1. While I would have liked to have done more with the ABC before I moved away, I wouldn't say that what I did do was "without success". For starters, I got a few dozen beautiful archival videos from their newsreel collection released and uploaded to Commons - which are seen on en.wp about half a million times a month.[1]
  2. The point raised about the Chapters' reserve funds is quite important. No other Chapter has a pile of 'spare' money. While it's a nice 'nest egg' to be sitting on, I think it might actually be harming the Chapter in the long run as it makes us complacent and means we have not been forced to build experience in envisaging, planning, undertaking, and reporting on projects. This would have given the Chapter a track-record of accountability (both with the local community and with the WMF). Instead, we have the 'easy' option of just dipping into the pot of spare money. So... It's perfectly understandable that any potential grant-giver is going to ask, in effect, "Why do you want money from me when you've got your own money already sitting there?"
  3. With regards to the question of "winding up" the chapter, as someone who was there from the beginning, I think an important point is that being a Chapter was the only model of affiliation which existed when WM-AU was founded. It was the only model for getting access to funds and movement-legitimacy at the time. Since then other forms of affiliation have been crated (notably user-groups) which are specifically designed to have lighter-weight requirements. I believe that if (hypothetically) WM-AU didn't exist, user-groups would probably have formed instead. That doesn't mean it's better, but what I'm saying is that WM-AU needs to have a more inspirational reason-for-being than because it's the status quo. Furthermore, if the level of bureaucracy and compliance (membership rules, CAV accreditation, WMF project reporting, elections, responding to hostile community members...) is sucking the motivation out of the key actors in the local community, and actively hindering them from doing good things, then the system itself needs to be re-investigated. I'm not saying that it's the "right" answer, BUT, if the existence of the Chapter is causing LESS good stuff to happen, then it's time to re-evaluate the role of the Chapter in 2015 Australia (especially since other forms of affiliation with the same advantages and less bureaucracy now exist).

Wittylama (talk) 11:28, 7 July 2015 (UTC)

"Lightweight" local user groups sounds good but that approach transfers legal/financial risk onto the volunteers. In Australia the reason for incorporating is the legal protection of members and to obtain public liability insurance. Without these, individual volunteers are at personal legal/financial risk if anything goes wrong at an event or activity. Yes, there is some bureaucracy, compliance and costs with an incorporated association, but the incorporation of local groups would simply multiply that many times over. If an unincorporated user group receives a WMF grant, it would have to be paid to an individual (or split between individuals). What are the taxation and social security implications to those individuals? If people want to look at other models, here is a start as to the possible legal options in Australia. Kerry Raymond (talk) 23:33, 7 July 2015 (UTC)

In this case a natural role for WMAU would be acting as a legal and fiscal sponsor for projects launched by local groups. That would be both beneficial for local groups who will be backed by a strong legal entity in their projects and for WMAU who will help local groups to build high-impact projects — NickK (talk) 09:05, 8 July 2015 (UTC)
Kerry, that "Betterboards" site doesn't have a conflict of interest, does it? Methinks they profit from scaring the life out of anyone who doesn't incorporate. Think about their business model. Do you mean that the chess club I ran for years was putting the members in serious risk? And I must ask: should I stay indoors today because I might fall under a bus? Rather than trying to undermine the WMF's user-group model for low-cost, low-fuss, low-overhead affiliates, let's dispense with the status-quo COI and think about how local groups could accomplish so much more. And can we see formal arrangements for online communication and collaboration among Australian Wikipedians? Tony (talk) 12:32, 8 July 2015 (UTC) PS But, the Betterboards site provides information that describes well the potential for local user groups in Australia. Tony (talk) 12:37, 8 July 2015 (UTC)
Relatedly, I remember that in 2009 myself and Peter (can't remember username right now) went to visit the "Volunteering Australia" office in Sydney to introduce WM-AU/Wikipedia as a volunteer organisation/community that they weren't aware of. We thought that maybe we could help train their affiliated local volunteer orgs in WP and equally that Volunteering Australia could help us with the bureaucracy of being a small non profit. However, our whole conversation seemed to be talking across-purposes... All they wanted to tell us was how WP editors should have to sign a volunteering-contract with the chapter first, and that the chapter would need to buy public liability insurance for any WP meetups in the country. It was a most unsatisfying meeting because their legal-liability-focus would just mean that we never would end up actually DOING anything.
This returns to my earlier point - if having a particular form of affiliation only sucks up the time and goodwill of otherwise-productive people, then that affiliation model needs to be revisited. We should be spending 90% of our time planning and doing THINGS and only 10% of the time discussing the insurance/by-laws/funding-model/CoI/etc. Not the other way around. Wittylama (talk) 12:45, 8 July 2015 (UTC)
To clarify - I'm not advocating for, or against, a specific organisational framework, Tony1's or anyone else's, I'm talking about having a sober evaluation of whether the current affiliation setup is helping or hindering the promotion of Wikimedia's goals in Australia. No one could argue that I don't have goodwill towards the Chapter or it's people - I think my credentials for supporting the chapter are quite strong! - which is why I hope that my suggestion is not simply dismissed as trolling etc. We spend an inordinate amount of time in Australia talking about bureaucracy and doing a lot of yak shaving. Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate whether that is not only frustrating for people (both inside and outside the chapter committee) but actively harming the community health by sucking the oxygen out of potentially viable volunteer projects. Wittylama (talk) 13:24, 8 July 2015 (UTC)
Wittylama, I wasn't a member in 2009 so I cannot comment on that period, but we don't spend 90% of our time discussing insurance, by-laws, CoI, etc in 2015. We have public liability insurance, by-laws, CoI policies, travel policies etc all in place, so we don't have to keep discussing them (definitely at the < 10%). Just as I don't question your credentials as a supporter of the chapter, equally I hope you don't question mine as a do-er. I believe risk management is inherent in "doing things". It is not about ticking boxes nor hysterical scaremongering nor limited solely to taking out insurance, but the considered analysis of what can go wrong, whether it's worth worrying about, and if so, what can we do about it, all of which becomes habit with a bit of practice. With any project, one needs to consider both the upside and the downside. In the case of our legal structure, I believe our national incorporated assocation is the most appropriate and that it already supports local activity as most of our real world activities are highly localised in content and format - different kinds of activities occur in different places reflecting different interests and different opportunities. It is the national activities that are more difficult to make happen, because they tend to cost more and often depend on having people with similar interests/availability in each city/state; as a result, these tend to produce divergent views on the benefits/feasibility of the project and make it difficult to achieve the level of consensus needed to proceed. I am happy for other people to experiment with other affiliation models, but I'd rather invest my efforts into doing things within the organisation we have than in reinventing the wheel. Kerry Raymond (talk) 15:43, 8 July 2015 (UTC)
"Reinventing the wheel" refers to inventing something that has already been invented. User groups have not yet been invented in Australia. "We have public liability insurance, by-laws, CoI policies, travel policies etc all in place"—Why all that bother when virtually nothing of programmatic value or impact ever happens by virtue of the national body? User groups don't need those overheads—they just decide on a program and do it, with a minimum of fuss, overheads, bureacracy. Tony (talk) 10:58, 9 July 2015 (UTC)