IRC office hours/Office hours 2022-06-02
The Community Resilience & Sustainability (CR&S) team at the Wikimedia Foundation hosted a new conversation hour call (‘previously called ‘Office Hour’) led by its Vice President Maggie Dennis. Topics within scope for this call include Movement Strategy coordination, Board Governance, Trust and Safety (and the Universal Code of Conduct), Community Development, and Human Rights. Come with your questions or feedback, and let’s talk! You can also send us your questions in advance.
The meeting took place on June 2 at 17:00 UTC (check your local time).
This call will be streamed and available on-demand at Youtube.
We will host this office hour on Zoom, taking questions from participants joining Zoom itself as well as via the YouTube chat, as well as collecting them in advance over email at answerswikimedia.org (with "Question for Maggie" in the subject line).
If you want to participate verbally from the Zoom call, please ask for the link at email@example.com, at least an hour in advance of the meeting's start (please use "Conversation with Maggie" as the subject line).
We will be taking notes to go alongside the video recording. We will be fielding questions from Wikimedians in good standing (that is, not Foundation or community banned) and will follow up with anything we can't get to during the meeting in writing after the call.
Maggie Dennis, Vice President of Community Resilience & Sustainability, a division of the Legal Department at the Wikimedia Foundation, hosted the office hour. Maggie oversees the functions of Community Development, Trust & Safety Policy, Trust & Safety Operations, Human Rights protection, and Movement Strategy.
As in previous calls, there is an important note from Maggie:
- I can't and won't discuss specific Trust & Safety cases. Instead, I can discuss Trust & Safety protocols and practices and approaches as well as some of the mistakes we've made, some of the things I'm proud of, and some of the things we're hoping to do.
- I will not respond to comments or questions that are disrespectful to me, to my colleagues, or to anyone in our communities. I can talk civilly about our work even if you disagree with me or I disagree with you. I won't compromise on this.
Vivien Chang (staff member of the Movement Strategy + Governance team) facilitated and read out the questions submitted for this conversation hour with Maggie Dennis. Besides Maggie herself, Quim Gil (Director of Movement Strategy & Governance), Patrick Early (Lead Trust & Safety Policy Manager), and Stella Ng (Senior Manager within the Trust and Safety team) provided answers and further details to specific questions related to their thematic areas.
These notes have been condensed and summarized, rather than transcribed. You can hear the full recording on Youtube. Please let us know if you think the notes are inaccurate to what was said!
Board Elections 2022
- Question: Why was the new process added for the Board election?
Maggie: This would ordinarily be the Affiliate selected seat. We are looking for a way to involve all of the community (affiliates and online projects)
Quim: In the meantime, the bylaws change. The board wants to have a clear intention to complement the skills needed in the board, and with this process, there have been problems, last year we had 30 candidates and it was hard to rank candidates for the community. This year the board asked to shortlist 6 candidates.
- Question: A follow-up question on that. This election process has been perceived as complicated. What can we expect next?
Quim: We need to run this process and see what works. The participation of affiliates is to honor the previously existing Affiliate Selected Board Seats (ASBS). But it is not automatic that it is always going to be this way.
Political biases of staff
- Question: Given that the Wikimedia Foundation skews left, as does the movement, what frameworks are there (or maybe should be there) to manage staff bias in politically oriented disinformation cases? Should there be a policy of preferring the local community to deal with the matter and providing support to them, instead of issuing WMF actions (assuming the local community is open to taking up that responsibility)?
Maggie: Right now it’s a community process, but not every community can take on this burden. The goal of the team is to work with communities. Regarding staff bias, we have different levels of reviews inside the Foundation, not only one person or team is reviewing cases.
Questions on UCoC
- Question: I hear there will be some revisions to the UCoC enforcement guidelines. What’s the timeline for the enforcement guidelines revisions? How can I get my viewpoints heard by the Revisions Committee? Will there be a chance to weigh in after the draft changes are made?
Stella: In terms of drafting, the committee will start shortly to work. Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight sent an email regarding the themes that will be subject to change.
Patrick: We’ll be publishing a timeline after a review with the board. There will be a good process of continuous feedback.
Maggie: They are concerns that need to be addressed. We need a good system to use it moving forward.
- Question: Is the UCoC currently being enforced? Since the UCoC Enforcement Guidelines is being revised, is the UCoC still enforceable?
Maggie: UCoC was ratified last year, and it is already in operation. It has been used for WMF and some affiliates in shared spaces.
- Question: This is a two part question: (1) Why aren’t you opening the UCoC policy up for revision now? (2) What makes that one passage (Section 3.1 note) merit handling now?
Maggie: We need to be moving forward. Wikipedians know that policies change through time, but global policies need more work because of existing language barriers. The goal is to have some time with the UCoC and enforcement approach in operation so we can better identify what works and what doesn’t as it is tried out across the movement. The single passage we are reviewing in the policy now has been identified as actually undermining the purpose of the document and causing immediate hurt.
- Question: What was the process of writing the guidelines and the policy? Did the drafters of the committee have to unanimously agree?
Patrick: Phase one of the committee work consisted heavily of reading existing policies, and figuring out the landscape, and we had discussions with communities about what they wanted to see within the UCoC. We started to draft something on wiki. Folks moved to sections to look at different areas. Perfection is not a reasonable goal, but it was the goal to have something that is usable and applicable, and can be improved over time.
Stella: Similar to phase two, we brought a diverse group of people to work on these enforcement guidelines to be actually feasible in the end. Overall it was a great team effort.
Questions on MS Forum
- Question: Do you plan to use the newly created MS Forum within big community processes like the Movement Charter review, the UCoC Enforcement Guidelines review, and other hot topics? What is your plan for Meta if this new Forum is established?
Maggie: I plan to use the new forum, and I love people communicating in different languages in real time.
Quim: This tool is designed to host discussions of this kind in real-time. No decisions were made regarding the idea to support the MCDC process with it. Nevertheless, Meta keeps being an important place, I understand people that use meta, and community discussions will still be happening in meta. We proposed the MS Forum with the idea that people liked it and, additionally, to lower barriers for conversations about the movement strategy (in terms of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). We also want to keep everyone in the loop on different existing platforms, like Facebook, Telegram, etc.
- Question: What is the underlying technology behind the translation feature?
Quim: It is an open-source plugin enabled by Discourse. Among all options available, Google Translate was the best solution, but we can change this API at any time.
- Question: Being a member of the Ombuds Commission: Is it conceivable to use the forum in a secure way for Ombuds Commission members to enable discussions on any project in any language? Currently, this is being done manually.
Quim: Anywhere in the MS Forum, there is an administration team supporting anyone, not only WMF staff, and we abide by the UCoC. We can set a different level of permissions, and we can set a private group. It is even possible to have encrypted messages on the platform.
- Question: Can we swift to an open-source translation feature?
Quim: Yes, technically we can do a change. Discourse only supports one API, but a case is open to changing this.
UCoC within small projects
- Question (asked live by a community member): Among other things, I’m a check-user on English Wikipedia. Within the UCoC we developed a process to address threats of violence in projects. One of the great advances of this process is if you make a mistake in judging whether it is serious or not, the consequences are quite large. What are you doing to support smaller languages and glitches in the process?
Maggie: We provide support to every project, albeit without in-house language abilities which means we sometimes scramble. It depends on the laws of the countries where and how we can help them. When there are glitches in the process, for me, every error in the system is an opportunity to improve it. It's an emotionally charged job, and no one wants it to go wrong.
- Question: I understand that WMF cannot provide us a “legal clinic” in which legal advice is offered to those who are facing actual legal cases. I had inquired about some kind of workshops/training, but didn’t receive any answer.
Maggie: At one point in time, the Legal team used to post general information on meta about copyright or other legal issues. (added after the call: See Wikilegal; technically, I think it still could, although I believe demand went down.) Offering legal advice would cross an ethical line and could result in a lawsuit, although we are able to support some users with legal defense funding. Regarding training, we can think of that kind of support in the next couple of years.
Quim: There is nothing ready but we are working on an answer for this.
Oversight vs Agility within Movement Governance
- Question: There is a discussion on how to balance movement-level oversight with agility - whether it would be better to have a community-approved framework in place first, such as the Global Council, before starting on the implementation of initiatives that are about structural changes to the movement, or whether it’s more important to experiment with implementation (in the spirit of recommendation 10) so the community governance decisions can be informed by experiences from those experiments. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Maggie: My thoughts are that we really need to get the UCOC and framework in place, in order to test how it will work. I really think we need to start testing a lot of these things if we have any hope of meeting our movement strategy goals by 2030. Also, a single group cannot own all the ideas, it is important to share with other stakeholders. It is important to listen to what MCDC has to say.
Quim: To add an observation from my side: A community-approved framework wouldn’t appear instantly. If we added a community-approved framework on top of the Global Council / MCDC, we would have another discussion about how to get there. What we try is that whatever we do, it’s fully backed by community participation/feedback. We need to combine long-term steps (like Global Council creation) with ongoing experimentation and allow all of us to make mistakes and do it better next time.
Plans for Hubs
- Question: What is the plan for hubs, moving forward?
Quim: We are organizing a series of events, in a few weeks, on June 24, 25, and 26 (see event page). Tomorrow we are going to share a draft of how the hubs will be moving forward. We are inviting people interested in hubs to participate in these discussions.