Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Recommendations/Plan Infrastructure Scalability
Connection to other recommendations
This recommendation proposes the idea of planning for infrastructure upscaling on a continuous basis to meet the needs of Movement stakeholders and the goal of sustainability. This is supported by the recommendations ‘Coordinate Across Stakeholders’, ‘Evaluate, Iterate, and Adapt’, ‘Ensure Equity in Decision-Making’, and ‘Innovate in Free Knowledge’.
We must create a fluid ecosystem so that our infrastructure serves our needs as we grow. In this sense, to bring about significant change, planning infrastructure scalability requires consideration of risk management and assessment, ensuring inclusive decision-making spaces and enabling coordination, establishing protocols and roles and responsibilities, and investing sufficient resources in implementation.
While the Movement has organically grown in many areas, we must acknowledge the challenges that could bottleneck our plans of achieving the strategic direction. Any structured plan for scalability requires a Movement-wide process to iteratively evaluate the current infrastructure, communicate its needs, and make decisions in order to plan and execute the solutions to prepare for the future.
In a decentralized volunteer-based environment like Wikimedia, communication is probably the most central part of this process to (1) let peers evaluate and express their contribution needs, and (2) to make them aware of the importance of the changes required for scalability. Today many significant changes tend to be entangled and slowed down in a lack of cohesion and expansion capacities that affect the final resulting quality. This lack of coordination is due to the separation between volunteers, technical contributors, and developers in the community and inadequate support and communication capabilities for them to work together.
In addition, the changes needed to modify our systems for scale are often misunderstood or rejected because of insufficient coordination or a lack thereof attributable to inadequate or deficient communication channels. Redressing challenges and reconciliation is often stagnant or progresses upwards at a crawling pace. In addition, lack of training affects our ability to scale utilizing volunteer contributors and partners. Today this results in technical contributors often at their own discretion in terms of maintenance and upgradation of their tools and both users and partners can experience technology (e.g., GLAM tools) as a barrier rather than a bridge.
Even though communication plays an essential role in the upscaling Wikimedia infrastructure, one must also consider the importance of inclusivity in these conversations. Scaling often requires weighing or leveraging for various outcomes, for example, our global goals to give access to knowledge to as many individuals as possible (quantity) may have a different strategic purpose than our goals of being more inclusive and provide beneficial services to under- and unrepresented groups (quality)
Finally, considering the necessity of planning for the evaluation of the infrastructure’s scalability, we must consider the limiting consequences of not adequately allocating resources for risk assessment and implementing adequate solutions. In Wikimedia, this currently happens in a bureaucratic structure that fails to consider variances of scale are important for growth adequately.
To ensure that we continually plan for scalability, we propose to iteratively evaluate the current infrastructure, communicate its needs between stakeholders, and make decisions to execute the solutions to prepare for the future. We recommend an approach based on several actions.
We must create dedicated teams or Movement entities to analyze our infrastructures with a focus on optimization and risk assessment to ensure the scalability and sustainability of the Movement. The analysis of our infrastructures must include a complex set of criteria, such as resource distribution and legal protection for handling risk in limited geographies, investment in modern and efficient developer tooling to support community and other developer capacities, cutting-edge technologies to build content partnerships, and decisions on whether platform improvements could come from external sources or partners.
We must ensure that every stakeholder is represented in the decision-making that affects them. We need governance structures that are inclusive, usable, accessible, in a multilingual and friendly environment, which handles disruptions and toxic behavior and adheres to ethical as well as privacy and security protocols. We propose investing in solutions for supporting community discussions and participatory decision-making on technology and systemic enhancements to be fine-tuned by constructive and inclusive debate, as well as consensus-building at scale, taking into consideration the diversity of our communities and those not present in them yet.
We must improve the communication and coordination spaces aimed at different stakeholders as they are essential to continue planning and implementing solutions to improve infrastructure scalability. These spaces need to provide a good user experience to serve users from different cultures and diversities in various ways that they have deemed meet their needs. We must ensure that our platforms, practices, and policies have better support structures that promote work ease in routine processes and align with modern practices.
To adequately provide structural support in communication and coordination, we need three spaces for different stakeholders involved in the infrastructure planning, development, and use to ensure that they are connected to follow the process of iteratively making the infrastructure scalable. One space (1) for the diverse segments of the Movement that are dealing with key areas for scalability and thus need to be closely coordinated, ie. technology infrastructure, governance, and resource distribution (both with each other and with the communities/partners they serve in order to assess the risk, plan, and generate the solution, make decisions for implementation, and complete the final development); another space (2) for partnerships and people working on specific content areas (GLAM and others) that require specific tools needing updating and upscaling to produce content; and a third space (3) for opening the Movement to include external and third-parties who may use our software to other purposes and expand it with new functionalities and capacities valuable to us. Such third-party partnerships and developers can also support and make way for working on modern technologies, as in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and others, as deemed necessary. These communication spaces, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, will also make evident support systems for mentoring and training, as well as organized code review and other processes, such as documentation writing.
We must make all processes regarding infrastructure development transparent to engage more stakeholders in them. This needs to be complemented with an investment in the necessary skills peers require to understand the issues that relate to scalability. Engaging community members in product roadmaps will assist in establishing a wide consensus to meet the goals of our Movement. Transparency and skill development regarding the rationale behind decision-making also offer windows of opportunity to upscale or downscale as per the learning/findings. Such actions would also impact large scale content partnerships, where tools and technological solutions have relied heavily upon the individual mastery of skills.
- Create dedicated teams or Movement entities to analyze our infrastructures with a focus on optimization and risk assessment to ensure the scalability and sustainability of the Movement.
- Create structural support spaces with clear rules of engagement to address the needs in technology, governance, and resource distribution; partnerships and other collaborators; and third-party developers.
- Invest in communication solutions and processes to support community discussions, participatory decision-making, and consensus-building at scale.
- Adopt a plan delineating roles, responsibilities and practices to onboard, train, monitor, and retain technical contributors in various capacities.
- Design a process to facilitate communication between developers and other technical contributors to network, coordinate innovation, and provide and obtain support, as well as have input on decisions and resource allocations that impact the communities.