Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Working Groups/Product & Technology/Recommendations/Nutshell
Currently the majority of the decision making and execution of software development is performed by the Wikimedia Foundation. This recommendation is to work towards decentralizing the development of that software. A few different activities are required for this to be possible. First what software is going to be built needs to be determined, next who is going to build the software and then finally how.
Decentralize development and infrastructure, going as far as outsourcing specific projects to non-WMF entities which then become contractors/grantees for the Foundations. We recommend that WMF retains ownership of and focuses on core development, but that other projects are evaluated to determine if better served by being developed by other organizations and groups of community members.
Set-up an ongoing strategic consultation in which long-term goals and visions can be determined in a participatory manner. This process should lead to a public roadmap with project dependencies outlined.
From the roadmap affiliates and volunteers can make proposals to build components of the roadmap. These proposals will be vetted for their technical merit, cohesiveness with the technology architecture through the “Technology Council”.
After delivery of the software projects they will be reviewed to determine the success of the project. This review will be used as input into further decisions regarding this groups award of future proposals.
Support Community Decision Making
The movement should invest into tools that support community discussions, decision making and self-governance. There should be a dedicated team, department or movement entity focusing on providing community members with discussion / governance platforms that are fine-tuned for constructive and inclusive discussion and consensus-building, both technically (e.g. an easy-to-use discussion interface, translation tools, summarization tools, voting tools, community moderation features, flagging...) and socially (e.g. codes of conduct or constructive criticism norms) .
Open up Product Governance
Make governance of the WIkimedia product offering more inclusive, participatory and predictable by setting up an open and transparent project proposal process where WMF, affiliates, and community members can all participate and decision-making power is shared to some extent with the communities, who in turn commit to honoring the decisions they are involved in.
Make governance of the software used in WIkimedia projects more inclusive, participatory and predictable by setting up a “Deployment Council” for setting the requirements for deploying new functionality to the wikis, in the form of a co-decision-making process between the organization building the feature and the editor community.
Create an evangelism / knowledge dissemination team that is tasked with ensuring that core community members understand the factual basis of ongoing projects and strategic decisions and lead time. The team would make sure that the background information necessary for understanding and evaluating product strategy is available, easily accessible to the average reader, and disseminated to the communities.
New Developer Engagement Models
New developer engagement models will help attract, retain, and support developers in the Wikimedia community. Increased attraction and retention rates will, in turn, lead to a more significant and diverse developer community that addresses various software needs the movement has. Also, the new models would make Wikimedia a friendly and welcoming place, wherein the developers can learn, grow, and innovate; thereby leading to the growth of Wikimedia projects.
Growing the Third-Party Ecosystem
We think there is a large third-party user base potential that is not currently realized; this assumption should be tested. Successful open source projects tend to receive resources (money, staff and volunteer time, brand and marketing, etc.) from a diverse set of entities, which have different goals but work together to improve the tool they all need. MediaWiki on the other hand is a monoculture, almost entirely dependent on Wikimedia, even though there seems to be a much wider demand for the functionality it provides. The Wikimedia Foundation (or another movement entity with sufficient capacity) should research what blocks the development of such an ecosystem in the MediaWiki case.
(MediaWiki is used in the wide sense here, including all technologies built around it, such as Wikibase or Parsoid.)
Emerging Technology Ethics Advisory Panel
Create an Emerging Technology Ethics group, to be administered by the Wikimedia Foundation, and to consist of representation of paid staff, affiliates and outside experts to review new areas of technology and identify and publish recommendations and guidelines for potential social or ethical concerns raised by the technology. These would be published annually as specific findings of fact and related recommendations to all Wikimedia developers (staff, volunteers and 3rd parties) for how to engage with emerging technologies in a way consistent with the movement’s values, and to identify new technology risks to our users or platform.
Monitoring Product and Societal Impacts
Direct the Foundation or other movement body to review the current social and policy impacts of Wikimedia and to identify if, or how, recommended or planned changes to policies, technology choices and product experience and marketing, are or are not “neutral” and what potential risks or opportunities for Wikimedia as a consumer product might arise if the Foundation or other movement bodies make significant changes in these areas. This review should occur on the same cycle as movement wide planning in Technology and Product, for example every 3 years when the Wikimedia Foundation publishes a medium term plan.