Wikimedia meetings/2006-02-05/Minutes

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Summarized minutes from the Sunday, Feb 5 21:00 UTC Open meeting.

Greetings, background[edit]

1. Cookies, hobnobs and molasses snaps, were promised, but hoarded. The lack of stroopwafels was noted.
2. A log was started at
3. Everybody should submit their TPS reports on time
4. Agenda and background refs: Wikimedia meetings, Resolutions

"Topics of discussion may include:

  • scope of work for each committee
  • need for subcommittees and procedures to create them
  • membership procedures
  • roles within committees: chair, member, advisor
  • decision-making processes
  • ways to deal with confidential information
  • interaction and communication between the committees and to the Board
  • legal liability of committee and their members
  • multilingual membership"

Introduction to committees[edit]

History of the current committee setup[edit]

22:21:45 <mav> committees = delegation of authority
22:21:56 <Angela> Yes, one idea for committees was to delegate authority away from the board so more people could do stuff without waiting too long for the board to decide something.

Soufron, who drafted the committee system, explained [paraphrased for brevity]

currently we are unable to get things done efficiently. I don't mean complicated strategy decisions; simple things like "let's pay 150$ to these 3 people so they can meet and get a few more things done" or "let's decide that this and this guy will have to register these 2 domain names by next month". Today, these decisions can take months. We need small decisions to be taken; there is a need for small delegations of executive authority to people who want to help on a volunteer basis, with easy and efficient control from the community and from the board (which also represents the community).
    in January we held a meeting in Florida to work on this and other problems, [with angela, anthere, jimmy, michael, tim, brad, danny, delphine, mav, me (soufron) (Angela: brion and domas for part of it)]. We took 3 or 4 days discussing these issues...
    [backs up in the story] Let me explain. I am the chief legal officer of the foundation, supposed to take care of trademarks, etc. In december, for various reasons, I needed things decided in a matter of hours : money and signatures. I needed a decision from the board, with these 5 people living in 5 different places to sign and decide. Simply meeting was a hassle. We met with Brad [WMF external counsel], and began brainstorming. For 3 long days : what to do? ceo or not ? giving more power to 2 or 3 people from the board, or not ? My idea was to create groups of people with small delegated authority from the board. Practicallly speaking, most of the blocked decisions imply nothing big; small amounts of money or small signature powers.
    the thing is to have groups of people propose things that the board can actually vote on. I suggested weekly or bi-weekly meetings, where you vote and you don't discuss, with proposals being deposited 5 days before. These committees only vote on the topics that the board delegated to them; the board can take back any delegation at any time.
    ...what will the committee do and how will they work? they will decide it by themselves. If they don't, they will get no delegations from the board. The only thing I insisted on was that they would hold regular meeting, that they would only vote on proposals, that these propsals would have to be proposed 5 days before and that they would have to ask for delegations. We give a chance to groups of people to decide small things that are needed. From my point of view, this is a job. volunteer, ok, but a job.

  • ..."right, with regular work, regular meetings," "a job you can get fired from," "including responsability."

Scope and function of committees[edit]

Q: What status do committee members have?

A: Not employees, also not "officers", so not covered by B&O insurance (currently soufron is the only "officer" in that sense); cf. the cyber insurance working group

Q: Why are committees useful?

<NullC> Talrias�:� Because making the board more responsive isn't just something we can wave a wand at right now, I believe strongly that they are needed.
<Talrias> so basically the case for committees is that it means stuff gets done faster?
<NullC> s/done faster/done/
<Talrias> NullC: ok, good enough for me :)

Q: How does a committee ask for delegations [of authority, from the board]?

Q: Each committe would have its own budget, yes?

A: <Angela> Committees would have budgets, yes.

Q: Would the committees be vote-based?

Q: How is the committee selection process handled? Are there general principles for this? Should there be?

Q: What is the dismissal procesdure?

How open / how closed?[edit]

<Angela> can I can talk about one problem that has come up on the board wiki this week now?

One issue that was raised since the last meeting is that the committees risk becoming closed processes where no one knows how they can become a member, and no one knows what the committee is up to, so I proposed the following but it didn't get Board support.

  1. Every committee shall submit a report to the Board monthly.
  2. Committee members conduct their activities publicly wherever possible, using internal means of communication only when confidentiality is required.
  3. Committee membership shall be an open and transparent process, with all committee members being informed of changes to membership, and outsiders understanding how they may join the committee.

I'd like ideas on a compromise proposal that might get more support, and also comments on whether committee actions can or should be open and transparent.


  • <soufron> everything could be done through resolutions from the board
  • <Angela> Soufron: everything should not be done through board resolutions. That defeats the point of delegating authority away from the board.
  • <soufron> let me give a practical example. let's imagine our friend here Angela thinks the XXX committee is not open enough. what does she do? she wraps up a proposal... she makes her proposal public... she puts it to vote for the next XXXC meeting... and pouf, suddenly everything is open
Selection processes and focused discussion[edit]

Q: who is eligible to join a committee? and (if this isn't going too far off topic) how then will they be selected to join a pre-existing committee?

<Angela> Nach0king: that's what we need to sort out.

Q: Is open membership useful for committees?

Q: Is there a way to implement 'open' membership without allowing meetings to become too large and chaotic?

Q: Should selection processes ever be open?

<Angela> My view is that people should at least know *how* they can join a committee.

Q: If so, in what ways should they be closed?

Q: Do committees have to be closed in order to get anywhere?

22:46:56 <AlisonW> There are justifications for not to be /fully/ open though ... you just have to look at this meeting - a ctte needs to look at possibilities without everyone shouting their preference... it doesn't need to have too many voices clamoring to be heard at once
<soufron> why would not [committees] be open ? I think they should be open... but it's up to them to make themselves open. committees will draft their own rules, that simple
<EuropracBHIT> Who approves the rules of the committee?
<Angela> EuropracBHIT: it's not currently clear.

Q: Should committees discuss matters when they meet, or only vote on submitted proposals?

<Angela> I don't see the point of committees *not* discussing what they're voting on.
<dannyisme> committees have time to discuss, but the meeting is for purposes of voting after discussions have taken place
Privacy and Transparency[edit]

Q: Is transparency even a desired feature of the committees?

<NullC>� Does anyone propose transparency as completely undesired?
<mav> different committees, even subcommittees, will require different levels of transparency

<mav> transparency should come from monthly and quarterly reports by the committees

Make WHAT public?[edit]
<akl> TimStarling: okay, next time wikimedia germany gets sued, we'll discuss our legal strategy on public mailing lists ;)
<TimStarling> akl: nobody is saying everything should be public
<akl> TimStarling: good

Committee- and role-specific questions[edit]

Executive Committee

  • What are the needs, roles and possible configurations of an Executive Committee?
    This was a hard question; was half-raised many times.
<Angela> There are two points of view surrounding the Executive Committee. One is that me, Jimmy, and Anthere have basically been this for the last 18 months, especially since Tim and Michael had no involvement until fairly recently when we started actually voting on stuff (the first year was based on consensus between the three of us, not votes). The other is that there isn't currently an Executive Committee so this is a completely new structure.

General 'governance'

  • Which risks (legal, project-based, other) impact the foundation, and which individual editors or groups? Which risks can be taken?
  • How is this tied to 'governance'? Does it make sense to talk about this at all?
    <soufron> why would we change something that's actually working ? we just need to HELP people a little bit... not to control them. even speaking of governance makes me feel bad

Legal aspects[edit]

  • <dannyisme> the wikimedia foundation is registered in the state of florida and comes under florida law... it was necessary that we adhere to florida law regarding institutions like ours

Other questions[edit]

Q: Should outsiders (not project-affiliated) be on the committees?

Q: Will any committee be charged with stopping copyvios?

  • <Xirzon> soufron: While I completely share your concern about small delegations of authority, larger decisions are affected in exactly the same way by exactly the same communication and decision-making bottlenecks. I would prefer to discuss the exact setup and communication procedures, as well as the nature of delegation of authority openly.

Meeting moderation & the discussion process[edit]

  • Kim volunteered to moderate. Nominal +v worked for part of the meeting; yelling may or may not have been effective; +m during the meeting's end kept things pretty quiet indeed.
  • <Xirzon> "I think the idea is that each committee organizer present elaborates on their ideas of how the committee is supposed to be run..." -- not how the meeting went.
  • Suggestion : Use three parallel channels; #wikimedia for chatty conversation (drinking, cooking, editing), #wikimedia-meeting for discussion at length by a limited # of voiced people, and a side-channel for all other discussion about what's going on in #wikimedia-meeting (or a set of breakout channels, each for a different topic)


<EuropracBHIT> I thought Wikimedians acted beyond the call of duty ... 
  like on Uncyclopedia.

Random asides[edit]

<AngryParsley> I say jimbo should give a "state of the wiki" speech 
  once a year  [general support from three others]
<Tinfoiled> Is Wikimedia willing to ban specific U.S. Senate IP ranges 
  from editing?
<romihaitza> �04What about new wikipedia languages adding?
 22:44:38 <brion> kim_register: if some people claim to be [changing 
  copyvio policy], they should be immediately desysopped (if opped) 
  and banned.
 22:45:01 <kim_register> brion, Ok, that's something to discuss with 
  the en.wikipedia community

In attendance[edit]

...and active: Alphax, AlisonW, Angela, AngryParsley, brion, bawolff, carlmb, ChrisO, cimon, dannyisme, delphine, elian, Erik Zachte, EuropracBHIT, Frieda, gattonero, GerardM, jwales, JoanneB, kim_register, karynn, LeBron, MikeSnow, MiyamotoMusashi, mav, mindspillage, nach0king, NullC, romihaitza, robchurch, Talrias, takot, TimStarling, TOR_CNR, Trickstar, WiseWoman, Xirzon, verdy_p,

...but silent: AutisticPsycho, blaite, borism, basis, ChrisCE, Celestianpower, Chiacomo^, cormaggio, Commander_Keane, dungodung, Dbl2010, Datrio, eia-study, FireFox, FCYTravis, galwaygirl, John123, javiercarro, Jeandre, Kipcool, mark, MrPatate, Pyb_, Physchim62, Pomi, rory096, SimonP_, southpark, Sbisolo, Shanel, tomg, Tinfoiled, TerryFoote, the_lurker, Tdevries, TimShell, Teofilo, Ugur_Basak, unforgettableid, VampWillow

Raw chat[edit]

 22:59:33 <dannyisme> ok
 22:59:41 <dannyisme> lets go through your resolutions one by one
: 22:59 PART: romihaitza
 22:59:49 <Xirzon> Talrias: Ideally, the committee would be open to interested members of the community who could either have delegated authority or advisor status.
 22:59:52 <dannyisme> and i must clarify that i can ONLY speak for myself
 23:00:01 <dannyisme> not for michael, brad, soufron or anyone else
 23:00:39 <NullC> Talrias�:� There are some activities which confer legal liability, it would be foolish to simply delegate them to the 'community'.

 23:00:46 <dannyisme> <Angela>   1. Every committee shall submit a report to the Board monthly.
 23:00:46 <dannyisme> <Angela>   2. Committee members conduct their activities publicly wherever possible, using internal means of communication only when confidentiality is required.
 23:00:46 <dannyisme> <Angela>   3. Committee membership shall be an open and transparent process, with all committee members being informed of changes to membership, and outsiders understanding how they may join the committee.
 23:01:22 <dannyisme> I will start with saying that today is the first time i actually saw that proposal
 23:01:54 <dannyisme> because board proposals are made on the board wiki, and I do not have access to that
 23:01:58 <dannyisme> i am not board
 23:02:22 <dannyisme> I support the first part of the resolution
 23:02:29 <dannyisme> regarding monthly reports
 23:02:42 <dannyisme> though i would say that perhaps bi monthly would be better
 23:02:48 <AlisonW> bawolff: you cannot have "absolutely open membership" given that there are legal ramifications of what the comittees are expected to do. 
 23:02:50 <dannyisme> a monthly report is a lot of work
 23:03:11 <dannyisme> as for part two
 23:03:26 <dannyisme> i see committees involved in two activities
 23:03:34 <dannyisme> 1. Deliberations, 2. Voting
 23:03:49 <dannyisme> I am a firm believer in the secret ballot
 23:04:05 <dannyisme> i dont want people to be afraid to vote because of what people might think of them
 23:04:12 <dannyisme> i am good friends with delphine
 23:04:17 <dannyisme> but sometimes we disagree
 23:05:00 <dannyisme> yes, but that is the basis of secret balloting
 23:05:07 <dannyisme> it gives people freedom to vote
 23:05:09 <dannyisme> as for deliberations
 23:05:10 <bawolff> who decides the what the right thing is if its unpopular?
 23:05:18 <dannyisme> that would depend on the type of deliberation
 23:05:20 <dannyisme> for instance
 23:05:38 <dannyisme> if i were to tell brion i wanted to take part in all the server discussions, he would not be happy
 23:05:49 <dannyisme> because frankly, i know nothing about the topic
 23:06:09 <dannyisme> i make a point of not commenting on legal matters because i am not a lawyer
 23:06:25 <dannyisme> similarly, there are financial matters i am not qualified to speak about, so i dont
 23:03:38 <AlisonW> "..shall submit a report monthly unless it meets less frequently, in which case it shall submit a report no more than one week after each meeting "
 23:03:54 <WiseWoman> But if there is no monthly report, people forget to report on what they are doing, and then we are at quarterly reports, which is too slow.
 23:03:55 <kim_register> AlisonW, we're at point 2 for dannyisme now, you'll get the floor next, if you like :-)