Talk:Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Recommendations/Ensure Equity in Decision-making

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Legitimate[edit]

Our historical structures and processes currently reinforce the concentration of power and resources in the Movement around established communities and entities. This means that a number of decisions are made without consulting diverse stakeholders affected by them, which not only hinders the growth of the Movement but also affects the legitimacy and impact of those decisions.

Is that a declaration of war of the WMF against the big Wikipedia's by declaring their decision making to lack legitimicy? ChristianKl❫ 20:03, 13 May 2020 (UTC)

No. First, just to be very very clear, these recommendations were not written by "the WMF". There is a whole load of documentation of the process on Meta, including who has been involved in it at every stage, and it would be great if people could stop pretending the recommendations are "from the WMF" as they are not. Second, it's a criticism of the WMF as an organisation as much as it is a criticism of any big Wikipedia. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 20:19, 13 May 2020 (UTC)
@The Land: Were any of the authors people who were not selected by WMF Staff? --Yair rand (talk) 20:47, 13 May 2020 (UTC)
See above. :) Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 21:24, 13 May 2020 (UTC)
@The Land: The documentation itself clearly indicates that the answer to my question is "no". And yet several people involved have continued to express that they don't believe that these things came from the WMF. I was rather hoping for a "no, but... [explanation for how these aren't "from the WMF", despite being written by WMF appointees]" kind of response, tbh. --Yair rand (talk) 22:48, 13 May 2020 (UTC)
Because the whole process has been set up to avoid "the WMF" having too much influence over it. The Strategy Core Team are funded by the WMF, but were usually working at arms' length from them. The working groups then worked independently, without the core team (or anyone else) seeking to guide their conclusions (Revenue Streams was kind of an exception, because there was a challenge to find people apart from WMF staff who could engage with the subject). Engagement from the WMF as a body with the recommendations only started to happen in September when Katherine and Ryan started to come to meetings and then in February when the Board started to ask questions - there's a very long note about how that stage progressed in the documentation somewhere, but the result of this was clarifying things rather than imposing some pre-determined outcomes at variance with what the working groups had come up with.
If you want any further evidence then maybe have a look at the content of the recommendations? I find it remarkable that anyone can read a sentence like "our historical structures reinforce the concentration of power and resources around established communities and entities" without wondering which entities are meant, or what implications this recommendation is likely to have for the largest 'movement entity' that has the greatest 'concentration of power and resources'.... Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 06:48, 14 May 2020 (UTC)
FWIW, yes, the working groups definitely involved people not selected by WMF staff. IIRC each working group was created with about 5-6 people selected from a pool of applicants (my impression is that pool was small enough that this wasn't a selection in any real sense of the word but I don't have actual numbers on that), 3-4 staff members from the WMF and some of the larger affiliates and one WMF board member, and asked to find more members to get to a full capacity of ~15 members. How exactly that played out varied from group to group (I believe most never reached full capacity, on the other hand some people in the initial set resigned or were inactive and had to be replaced) but some fraction of the working groups were definitely selected by the groups themselves and not staff members.
Later groups such as writers were then created organically from the most active / productive working group members; how they were selected or whether they were staff or volunteers didn't make any difference. --Tgr (talk) 00:17, 19 May 2020 (UTC)
@Tgr: Re "that pool was small enough that this wasn't a selection in any real sense", I'm pretty sure this is not correct, but I'd like it if someone more involved in the selection could comment on this. I know that at least one fairly prominent (and not very pro-WMF) contributor was rejected from being able to join the working groups, so it would surprise me if there were no real selection. That some of the members were appointed by people who were themselves appointed by the WMF rather than being appointed directly doesn't help all that much. --Yair rand (talk) 17:07, 19 May 2020 (UTC)
Some groups had more applicants than places, others did not. And being turned down from the initial sift did not necessarily mean someone was entirely excluded. (My experience of this is probably unusual - but initially I had applied to be on Resource Allocation or Capacity Building which were both oversubscribed; I was turned down from those - eventually I was asked to join Roles and Responsibilities by the other group members...) Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 17:35, 19 May 2020 (UTC)
Hello, we have talked about this point so many times. Let us agree on an armistice: some people think that the document is created by "the WMF", others think that that is an inaccurate or even incorrect statement. We don't have to argue again and again, but should simply tolerate that others see it differently. Ziko (talk) 21:23, 18 May 2020 (UTC)
Some people believe the earth is flat, others believe it is a sphere. I'm not going to start compromising with people who believe the earth is flat. Nor if someone goes around asserting that we should act as if the earth is flat, am I going to avoid correcting them. It is perfectly possible to disagree with the recommendations, or the implementation of the strategy process, or the entire existence of the strategy process without falsely claiming the recommendations were written by the WMF. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:15, 19 May 2020 (UTC)
Dear Chris, if you compare the others to "flat earthers" (!), then you might understand that trying to convince them will not work. And vice versa. - It would be great if it was possible to talk about the original topic, name the question of legitimation. If we all try to curb down polemicism, it might work. Hugs for everybody! Ziko (talk) 16:59, 19 May 2020 (UTC)
Hi Ziko - really, for the people who believe that these recommendations were "written by the WMF" in spite of the extensive documentation of the process, and despite people who are not "from the WMF" and were involved in writing the recommendations coming here and saying "the WMF did not write the recommendations" - I am uncertain I am ever going to persuade those people. However, it's important that untrue statements do not go accepted as fact, as they might affect other peoples' understanding of what has happened.
As to the substance of this recommendation - as I said above, this is just about the WMF's legitimacy as it is about the English or German Wikipedia's. Indeed, it will probably have a more immediate effect on the WMF. If you read the recommendation, you will see that most of the specifics are about things that will be different for the WMF (global councils, hubs, participatory resource allocation, and so on...) Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 17:19, 19 May 2020 (UTC)
ChristianKl, if you look through this page for other statements about legitimacy of decision-making processes, they're all in the context of movement-wide decisions, not local ones. I'm sure that as a sysop at Wikidata and an occasional contributor to the English Wikipedia, you would not consider it legitimate for volunteer-me to hold an RFC at enwiki about how Wikidata ought to be run. Similarly, from my POV as a long-time volunteer at enwiki and an occasional dabbler at Wikidata, I wouldn't consider any discussion at Wikidata a legitimate way of deciding what I should put in Wikipedia articles.
Changing the everyday local processes is not what's being discussed here. The problem being addressed here sounds more like "Shall a bunch of North Americans decide by themselves how much money the European, African, and Asian chapters will get?" The strategy folks say that everyone who is affected directly by those decisions ought to be involved in making those decisions – not just English speakers, not just the oldest chapters, not just people who can travel to Wikimania, etc. Unless you're hoping to get paid by one of those older chapters (whose budgets could conceivably be somewhat reduced under a fairer distribution of resources), I don't think this has much potential to affect you. Whatamidoing (WMF) (talk) 18:31, 21 May 2020 (UTC)
One of the recommendations of this strategy session is to introduce a code of conduct that overrides local decision making. The idea is that the new Global Council would be an authority that could establish such norms. It's supposed to "Overseeing the implementation of Movement Strategy" and one of the items on that list is the code of conduct. In the latest conflict between the WMF and EnWiki (Framgate) the EnWiki community voiced that they want local norms of behavior and not a global code of conduct that stands above EnWiki policies.
The document says:" Our historical structures and processes currently reinforce the concentration of power and resources in the Movement around established communities and entities". Power is currently centered in established communities such as the big Wikipedia's and that explicitely seen as a problem that's supposed to be fixed by given power to "diverse stakeholders". ChristianKl❫ 14:18, 22 May 2020 (UTC)
Hi ChristianKl. Yes, the idea of the Global Council is that is has some 'power' over project communities, affiliates etc. (I put power in inverted commas because in practice that power will consist of the ability to ask the WMF and/or other movement entities to do things, in a way that will be advisory in law but compelling in practice...) It's also expected that this power will be used. There are cases that exist already where a small Wikipedia is said to have been taken over by ethnic nationalists, or where a Chapter has splintered into two groups who are mainly intent on taking each other to court. Presently there is no good way (or no way all) of dealing with these situations. There needs to be one.
So what guarantee is there that this power will not be used to tell a large Wikipedia to change its conduct policies?
Ultimately, there is no guarantee - but let me set out why I think this is unlikely. Also, there no guarantee that without this structure, the WMF will not just do this anyway at some point. (I don't believe they would under current leadership, but boards and EDs change...)
The purpose of the Movement Charter and Global Council is to make the relationship between the WMF, the chapters, and project communities more effective, by providing a structure for discussion and engagement - as well as a method of making decisions that is better than the current situation of having a set of WMF staff holed up in a bunker somewhere and a group of angry Wikipedians shouting on a talk page somewhere else.
Given the likely composition of the Global Council, I believe it's going to be unlikely that it's going to be forcing through any radical changes any time soon. It's going to be a slow, deliberative body with a high proportion (a majority? who knows?) of members elected by the Wikimedia communities, who will tend to have a good understanding of how Wikipedians react to things. Thanks, Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 16:18, 22 May 2020 (UTC)
What I hear about the UCOC is that it will be much less concerned with things like "naughty words" (some of which are accepted at some wikis but will get you an insta-block at others) and much more concerned with protecting good-faith editors at the hundreds of wikis with zero written policies on the subject, or whose practices are dramatically out of step with others. Nobody doing cross-wiki anti-spam work should have to wonder whether identifying where they live will get them blocked because a local policy says that it's "uncivil" to use the "wrong" name for your home. Whatamidoing (WMF) (talk) 18:07, 22 May 2020 (UTC)
@The Land: Given that these strategic recommendations where drafted by people who don't like discussing important things on Wiki and who write in a style that's full of buzzwords and very different from the way Wikipolicy is written, I think there's a valid fear that the composition fo the Global Council will be as problematic as the composition that lead to the recommendations. The title of this recommendation is about ensuring equity (giving power to "diverse" groups that currently don't have power) and it's not about drafting a Global Council that represents existing power concentrations. ChristianKl❫ 18:38, 22 May 2020 (UTC)
@Whatamidoing (WMF): I don't think the problem is about naughty words. The problem is about mechanism where a code of conduct allows people to be punished in a Kafkaesk manner where they aren't told about what they are specifically punished for as that would violate confidentiality of the complaint against them.
Earlier drafts of the strategy recommendations contained sections to forbid EnWiki from having it's current policy to deal with suicide the way it does. If a Global Council is staffed with people with activist views the same way the group that staffed the strategy recommendation team is full of those people, there's a good chance that such conflicts reappear. ChristianKl❫ 18:38, 22 May 2020 (UTC)
Does enwiki's policy line up with best practices? If not, mightn't it be appropriate to update it?
I understand the tension between protecting your confidentiality (when you're the complainant) and seeing the evidence (when you're the accused). I don't know if there's a good solution. Whatamidoing (WMF) (talk) 19:26, 22 May 2020 (UTC)
EnWiki consensus is that standard language use is more important then using politically correct terms when speaking about suicide. While I personally voted in favor of using the more politically correct language in this case, I don't think that a global body should overrule EnWiki. ChristianKl❫ 19:56, 22 May 2020 (UTC)
What do "policitically correct terms" have to do with w:en:WP:SUICIDE? Whatamidoing (WMF) (talk) 02:04, 23 May 2020 (UTC)
w:en:WP:SUICIDE doesn't contain any recommendations about what terms to use when speaking about suicide as the relevant RFC that would have put them there didn't find consensus. It doesn't contain advice such as not writing "Alice committed suicide" that you find in best practice guides for writing about suicide. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Suicide_methods would likely also not survive if EnWiki would want to enact best practice. ChristianKl❫ 22:08, 24 May 2020 (UTC)
Why do you think that what's written on any individual page, in any individual wiki, is a "movement-wide decision"? Whatamidoing (WMF) (talk) 16:14, 25 May 2020 (UTC)
While there is no interdependence whatsoever between the composition of the working groups and the composition of the Global Council, I am sure the latter will be influenced just as heavily by our strategic direction of knowledge equity ("We will welcome people from every background to build strong and diverse communities.") as the former was. Yes, that means trying include people from all walks of the movement, not just hardcore wiki editors; which in turn means using mainstream group collaboration tools that everyone is comfortable and effective with. (Also, the sad fact is that those tools far surpass the wiki software in efficiency. MediaWiki has a number of saving graces, mainly around transparency and scaling, that make it a very reasonable choice for its intended use-case, open collaboration where everyone with an internet connection is invited to participate. It makes much less sense to use it for closed small-group discussion, with a bottleneck on volunteer time. Also also, as all sane planning processes, it relied heavily on expertise, and the subset of strategy volunteers who are fluent in working with wiki tools had the necessary areas of expertise nowhere near covered; so involving a diverse set of working group participants would probably have been necessary anyway, regardless of the strategic direction.) I understand you are unhappy with that choice, ChristianKl, but you can hardly blame the staff and volunteers of the strategy process for trying to act in the spirit of the strategic directions the movement has chosen in 2017. I don't think trying to relitigate that choice leads to anything productive. --Tgr (talk) 23:11, 23 May 2020 (UTC)
Welcoming people is quite different from giving them power. People like you presenting the strategy vision has having decided such power transfer because of it's vague language should make everybody a lot more suspicies of these strategy recommendations as they are likely abused the same way in the future.
I don't think that anybody who isn't fluent in using MediaWiki has any business setting strategy. The act about going through learning those tools provides valuable insight into our communities. As long as there's no decision to change how such policies are formed in the future it's worth bringing up that point. ChristianKl❫ 22:08, 24 May 2020 (UTC)

A Global Council independent from the WMF[edit]

Here's a quick way to establish broad representation on a Global Council, while avoiding having members selected by the WMF:

  1. First, put together a formula for dividing up the seats on the Council among the various projects, taking into account the size of the contributor base, the activity level of the project, and perhaps the size of the readership and the potential readership (number of speakers of the language...). (Some alternative to those last bits can be put together for groups like the Wikidata community and the Mediawiki community.)
  2. Use any of the messaging systems to inform each of the projects that a Council is being established with considerable powers over the movement, and that they are requested to send X number of delegates to the Council. Each community may use whatever system of electing/appointing they prefer, deciding the rules on their own. (Some might also want to have rules about people voting in multiple communities' elections.) Allowing each community to handle its own election would be following the principles of subsidiary put forth in these recommendations, as well as allow contributors to participate without leaving their home projects (which a lot of people really dislike doing), not to mention avoiding translation difficulties.
  3. If necessary, some number (maybe 20-30%) could be appointed by the affiliate groups.
  4. If there is some necessity for further unelected members, they could be appointed by the other elected/appointed members, as opposed to, say, the WMF.

It's difficult to request feedback for something when there's no clear link between the feedback and results, as people often don't participate. However, when you ask wikis to make a decision that would have a clear outcome, people behave rather differently. --Yair rand (talk) 20:19, 20 May 2020 (UTC)