Hubs/Implementation/Regional Hubs Draft Plan/Interview 5

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This page is part of the Implementation Report for Regional Hubs. It regards specifically Interview 5.

Background[edit]

  • Date: June 29, 2021
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Profile: Wikipedia Editor (active online - Relatively newcomer)
  • Region: North Africa
  • Gender: Man
  • Interview language: Arabic

Questions and answers[edit]

1. What is your view for a hub in your region by 2030?[edit]

  • For me, some countries are at the crossroad, between the Arab world, Africa and Europe, which gives them uniqueness. For example, in North Africa, French is used often, while it is not the case in the Middle East. In our region of North Africa and the Middle East, it seems that the representativity is heavily unbalanced in the Arabic Wikipedia, where most of the powerful and decision-making editors come from a specific area.
  • I believe that it is better to have a specific hub for North Africa, given the cultural aspects that are in the region. It is true that we share the same language and religion with the Middle East, but there are many other differences that make it better to separate the entities.
  • When thinking about a strategy for 5-10 years, my priority as an online editor is that the quality of the Arabic Wikipedia is improved. I want a hub that supports a better quality in the articles and less fake-news and subjectivity. Concretely, this can be done by a hub creating more support material for affiliates regarding workshops and edit-a-thons, but also support online by creating video tutorials and raising awareness about trustworthy sources and references.
  • If we want to have a strong hub, it needs to be very transparent, and not be managed by "winners of popularity contests" who will then distribute funds to friends and family. Unfortunately we see this behavior a lot, where some prominent members use their network and relations to be in a win-win where they accept their friends in conferences (as they are the organizers), and will later receive paid roles or grants from the others who might sit in committees and are decision-makers. Some communities are not mature yet to be able to manage this work, and I prefer a firm monitoring by external parts (such as WMF) to prevent these actions.

2. Why do you think you should have a hub in your region?[edit]

  • First of all because I want decentralization. I cannot understand why me and other community members living in Africa, need to be under an organization complying to the American law. We are not living in America, and we have our own laws already. If our movement is really international as it claims, it should not be centralized in the United States. Some people claim that we are not centralized in the USA, but you can ask communities in countries under bans and restrictions by the USA if they can receive funds for example.
  • Also, a hub in our region will make many things go faster. Many decisions will be taken locally, and can will not need to go back and forth to the USA. Creating regional hubs will decrease bureaucracy a lot, and will allow us to work much more efficiently.
  • Moreover, a hub is very important to centralize resources in our region. We have many common challenges across our community, and I fear that unfortunately sometimes many people have to "reinvent the wheel". I say that in the sense that there is nowhere to share experiences or document how a problem was solved. If we have a hub, we can gather this information and make it available to the community. We can also gather databases about regional Wikimedians and their skills (of course, only those who wish to). This way, many people can benefit from these contact experiences, and solve their issues much faster. This is an important point for efficiency as well.
  • Finally, our region has only user groups with no legal status. It is very problematic especially when we want to start partnerships. Many official organizations refuse to meet and talk with us because we are only volunteers, with private email addresses, and who do not have a legal framework. If a hub is created, it will strongly support in partnerships, and can be a perfect umbrella for us in this work. We will be able to meet many organizations as hub representatives. It is also important that the hub is local, as local organizations will trust more a local or regional hub, than a foundation based in the USA, especially in our region.

3. What do you envision as roles for the region hub?[edit]

  • I think that a hub can coordinate on the regional level, and navigate between the different stakeholders (WMF, local affiliates, local community) in order to facilitate all the regional initiatives. This can be all sorts of projects, but mostly the international ones, that local affiliates cannot handle alone. I see the hub also as a support structure, especially for technical matters where we need a lot of help in our languages. Currently technical help is centralized at the WMF, which is problematic with us because I have to deal with American employees who do not understand my context or the needs of Arabic language. I would rather want to have a specialist in my region, working with my hub, who can support all the Arabic speaking community in technical matters (and other specialists for other hubs in other regions as well). In particular, there is a difficulty to implement bots in our languages, as the technical support is very limited when it is centralized in the USA.
  • This brings me to think about how these skills can come to our hub. Will it be the WMF who will seek skilled people outside of the movement to work with the technical support of our community? Or is it the community who will conduct this work? We should not forget that we as a community in our region are volunteers and have very limited resources. If a lot of responsibility is given to us in solving our problems, and figuring out solutions "by ourselves", it can contribute in letting us under-represented, while the biggest communities who have staff working full-time to solve problems will reach a lot of results. This approach will contribute to even bigger gaps in our movement.

4. What is most important for a hub? Is it legitimacy or competence?[edit]

  • In order to answer this question, we need to know what will exactly be the roles in question. For example, as I mentioned earlier, if we need someone with a technical competence that is not present at the community, then we need to hire an external person, even if the person is not a "hardcore" Wikimedia (but we will expect them to learn along the way). However, for most roles, it shall be community members who should take them, as they are passionate about Wikimedia and its projects, and will transmit this passion in their working duties with the hub. In an ideal world, best candidates will be having the right skills and are also Wikimedians.

5. How do you envision the relationship between a regional hub and the WMF?[edit]

  • In terms of communication, it is important to have a WMF representative or liaison at the hub. I believe in a hybrid model where some hub employees will be hired by the WMF (a minority), and some others will be employed at the hub. The reason is that the hub needs the support of the WMF, as well as a constant communication. The WMF is in fact a "hub of hubs" and can enable hubs to communicate and collaborate with each other. It is important to keep the contact with the WMF and also with the other hubs.
  • One idea could be that the hubs write yearly reports that are shared publicly with the WMF. This reports describes the yearly activities of the hub, similar to what other affiliates are doing now. Talking about affiliates, will the Affcom create a new status for a hub so that our communities can apply to it? Do they have a plan for it?

Key Takeaways[edit]

  • It is better to have a specific hub for North Africa.
  • Hubs enhance decentralization, and will allow the communities to be more independent in their work, and not necessarily be guided by a foundation reporting to the American government.
  • Creating regional hubs will decrease bureaucracy a lot, and will allow work to happen work much more efficiently.
  • I see the hub also as a support structure, especially for technical matters where we need a lot of help in our languages.
  • A hub is a very important structure to centralize resources in a region. Many community members face challenges but are "reinventing the wheel" to solve them. A hub can gather the necessary documentation and skills necessary to solve recurrent issues more efficiently.
  • We should not forget that we as a community in our region are volunteers and have very limited resources. If a lot of responsibility is given to us in solving our problems, and figuring out solutions "by ourselves", it can contribute in letting us under-represented, while the biggest communities who have staff working full-time to solve problems will reach a lot of results. This approach will contribute to even bigger gaps in our movement.
  • Will the Affcom create a new status for a hub so that our communities can apply to it? Do they have a plan for it?