Saturday 13th July, Watershed in Bristol, UK
Tara s bell
We held our Community Strategy Salon in the cafe of the multi-arts centre Watershed in Bristol, in the evening following our Annual General Meeting. There were 12 participants at the dinner, representing a wide range of age, ethnicity and user experience level. The gender balance was 50/50, with six men and six women attending. Three people were from BAME backgrounds, and several speak English as an Additional Language. Whilst most people were experienced Wikimedia contributors, the group also included several newer members of the Wikimedia UK community.
As there were 12 of us in a public space, most of our discussions were held in two separate groups for ease of communication. The notes below are generally a combination of both groups' discussions, unless otherwise indicated.
We looked at two themes, roles and responsibilities and capacity building. As the host of the event, I (Lucy Crompton-Reid, Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK) consulted with the Co-ordinators of the relevant working groups beforehand to find out which areas it would be most helpful for us to consider. I then narrowed this down to four key questions, which were circulated in advance to participants. As you can see from the notes from our discussion, the group also had some more over-arching questions and comments about the strategy process, which have also been documented as part of this report.
Summary of the discussion points
What structures, processes, and behaviours will enable Wikimedia to include all voices - including current contributors and emerging audiences - in our decision making?
It was suggested that Wiki needed to do more independent research in order to understand its communities, as we currently do very little of this compared to other global online platforms.
There may be some situations where the community to not buy into the mission - or where the mission seems less relevant. The movement needs a multi strand locally sensitive approach.
Local solutions would need ‘boots on the ground’ - people working closely as part of local communities to understand their needs. Also need to train and support key people in the community in order to build capacity and skills.
The issue of traditional knowledge and oral history came up - and the need to understand different cultures and provide relevent solutions for recording knowledge.
It was acknowledged that there are multiple channels of communication for contributors and potential contributors, but the question is how to reconcile these? With or without ‘establishment’ dominance?
The idea of a voting system for all users was suggested.
To whom and how should movement roles and structures be accountable?
“Readers should be the answer, but it’s not what the editor community is thinking...”
There was a strong feeling amongst one of the two groups discussing this question that the movement is accountable to Wikimedia’s readers - and that we should also consider our accountability to potential readers who are not yet accessing the projects.
There was a discussion about how to be accountable to new readers - all the people that will be coming in online in the next few years - but concern that existing communities won’t necesarily be able to provide the right sort of tools and knowledge...“but how do we know what’s useful to these people?”
There was a discussion about ownership versus stewardship. Editors are discouraged to be gatekeepers, but stewardship is encouraged, and there’s a fine line between the two. The outcome is that editors don’t want to let new people in. This means there will be a resistance to any potential shifts in who we’re meant to be accountable to.
Editors are also accountable to each other, and should perhaps also be accountable to new editors (described by the group as a duty of care).
There was a more philosophical discussion about what is a role within the Wikimedia movement?
The discussion focused mainly on the roles that individuals can have within Wikipedia e.g. election committee: wmf, arbcom: en.wp editors.
There was a related discussion on safety. There was soem agreement that WMF should have more capacity to implement safety measures. But they also need to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing - communication is essential.
Provocation: Do we need the Foundation? What’s its role?
What even is the Foundation? (rhetorical?)
If chapters are responsible to Foundation, are the Foundation responsible to chapters?
As editors can we see the wood for the trees?
How do you measure the impact of an article? Wikipedia as a whole? (yes, to at least some degree as we're 5th most popular website) article feedback tool was not a success. Some topics easier to determine than others (treatment of diarrhoea vs what constitutes murder)
The other group discussing this question at first posed other questions in response, including:
Is donation a measure of accountability?
After much debate it was agreed by this group (representing roughly half the participants of the Salon) that the stakeholders are everybody involved in the projects. But should we (the movement) be accountable to the entire readership? This group felt that the answer to this question was ‘probably’ (unlike the other group, for whom there was a very strong feeling that the movement is ultimately accountable to readers).
There was a discussion about the potential for setting up an independent accountability council or panel, similar to Facebook, but overall it was felt that this approach wouldn’t work for Wikimedia.
What are the capacity building needs of global movement stakeholders and their organisations?
We need to decentralize and de-westernise the movement and invest in local leaders and schemes.
We discussed the question of whether we should pay trainers and community leaders, and there was quite a lot of support for this. Several people pointed out that often they can be the only unpaid person in a room, with many event participants taking part as part of their jobs, and therefore being paid for their time. Of course this situation might be quite specific to the UK, and/or to other chapters or affiliates who do a lot of work with institutions.
We need to focus on training trainers such as community leaders or teacher trainers (we need to think about the impact when we priorities resources)
Diversification is key. We need to get people from minorities in on discussions and increase confidence in the global mission. Decolonisation is also important in encouraging more diverse participation.
How should conflict management and resolution be structured across the movement?
What conflict? We assume this means harassment and similar, but is that divorced from content (article writing on wp)?
Psychic Artificial intelligences - the Foundation has poor record of software development (Flow), so the group weren’t sure they would be able to come up with good tech solutions for improving the culture on wiki.
There was lots of debate about how much the foundation should intervene. Perhaps with better procedures they wouldn't need to?
It was felt that the transparency on Wiki can actually be very damaging when it comes to disciplinary cases.
Arbcom and other areas of community need more training on dealing with conflict.
We could hire content moderators like the Wiki Edu Foundation or develop better software for spotting potential cases of conflict or bullying.
We could provide a live chat option for editors who feel they need support in a conflict situation.
We need to remember that smaller communities might need different solutions. For example on CY wiki there are only two active admins. How can we insure editors in all languages feel supported should they encounter conflict or bullying?
Overall comments and questions about the strategy process
Will change be accepted or strategy recommendations deleted/ignored? WMF more likely to accept than en.wp (editor strikes, will WMF stand firm of admins resign? cf Jimmy's keynote speech at Wikimania London; US investment bank bailouts)
What will the change management process be? Is anyone thinking about the pain of implementing change for the editors, and taking in the risks of losing people? What if we pull away from implementation once the reactions are too strong?
Strategy - what will be the change process and how can it be implemented through the editor communities? Is the RnR working group only looking at organised parts of the movement? If so, then where does that leave editing communities? En.wp community is perceived to be set in its ways and reluctant to change, with pushback for anything that doesn't appear in a traditional encyclopaedia.
Photographs or videos
Statement on your budget
We are still waiting on travel expenses from several participants so haven't yet completed our financial report.