Q 1 What is your Recommendation?
The movement should invest more in solutions for supporting community discussions, decision making and self-governance. A dedicated team, department or movement entity should focus on providing community members with discussion / governance platforms that are fine-tuned for constructive and inclusive discussion and consensus-building at scale in a diverse community: they are in accessible, inclusive and multilingual, handle disruption and toxic behavior, allow community self-moderation, support task management, review, refactoring and summarization and workflows, support voting and similar formal decision making processes, and nudge participants towards constructive, thoughtful and scalable interaction norms.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
One main obstacle to building all the functionality we will need to become the essential infrastructure of free knowledge is our limited ability to build global consensus; major changes tend to be bogged down in controversies, and often decisions are made which do not reflect the distilled knowledge of one of the parties (the community or the developer organization). We posit that a shared vision of how we need to achieve our goals can only be built on a more open and engaged communication between movement actors than the current system of “liaisons” and “ambassadors”, and the reason such communication did not emerge organically (e.g. on our existing mailing lists) is that our current communication channels do not provide the social and technical solutions that would enable effective discussion and decision-making at scale.
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
It will enable honest and productive discussion between movement entities, thereby preventing major fallouts between the WMF and project communities, allowing participatory decision-making of editors in product roadmaps, improving transparency and empowering communities to improve their governance and policies. It will also make discussions more inclusive and harassment and abuse harder.
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
Any entity endeavouring to promote technological or product change will be directly influenced by having to take on the task of hosting and/or entertaining these exchanges.
The project communities and the whole movement will be influenced by the results (being able to have better discussions, which will lead to more participative and transparent decision-making).
Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?
It requires a significant investment, which might end up being wasted if the goal turns out to be unrealistic.
It might be seen as an attempt by the WMF to manipulate, bias or censor discussions; or might actually end up doing that.
Large non-incremental changes to existing discussion systems tend to be highly disruptive and have been strongly opposed in past community consultations.
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
Establish a wide consensus for the goal, use an open development process where affected community members are active participants; develop the new platform in parallel to current key discussion spaces so that people can fall back to those in case of problems, or use an incremental process when changing existing systems.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?
It adds something new (a discussion and governance platform, or possibly a family of such platforms).
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
No (although it’s likely that Decentralization would make the current communication problems even more acute). Open up Product Governance does depend on it, though.
Q 6-2 Does this Recommendation connect or relate to your Scoping Questions? If yes, how?
It’s part of the answer to “Which are the structures and processes to assure the required level of inclusion in decision making and planning of the community at large in their full diversity?”
Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?
It tries to solve problems relevant to Diversity and Community Health, and while the goal of this recommendation is to improve technical discussions, the solution suggested here is applicable to other kinds of discussions as well.
The goal of this recommendation is to include communities in technical decision-making more, which is relevant to Roles and Responsibilities.