Talk:Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Recommendations/Sprint/Roles & Responsibilities/Scenario

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We do not have this many people[edit]

We typically get about 10 candidates for the FDC, most of whom don't get elected and therefore are free to use their time for other roles. AffCom and LangCom tend not to require that much time investment, IIUC. I'm pretty sure that the number of other active volunteer Wikimedians (outside established roles) who try to follow the off-wiki elements can probably be counted on two hands.

This proposal recommends duplicating the FDC in each Hub (while keeping the central FDC), creating a permanent governance body of 100 people, having another 11 for the Ombuds Council, while keeping the boards for the WMF (or "BSS" now) and every Chapter (or "Team").

Look, I was just about to suggest that a hybrid model be worked on before this was put out. But, this tries to do too much. The hubs, we might be able to do that, and decentralization is important so I can see focusing on it. The Ombuds Council? In 2013 and 2015, we had two candidates for FDC Ombudsperson. In 2017, we had one. The Global Council of 100 people would be completely unworkable, really. Even if we could get a fraction of that many people who knew at all what they were doing (read: are active contributors), it would practically guarantee that a large portion of Wikimedia would be forced to spend endless time on infighting.

Also, some other points:

  • The idea of a charter that imposes rules upon the Wikimedia projects is not something that can be done.
  • I recommend against referring to the off-wiki/corporate part of Wikimedia as the "organized part". Many on-wiki elements are very organized, and the on-wiki parts are what Wikimedia is based around.
  • I'm disappointed that this doesn't include the part of Quotiel where the WMF/"BSS" is placed under a hub as one organization among many. The BSS maintains a "leading role in fundraising and product/technology development", and is in charge of proving staff support for the Councils, both of which counteract much of the decentralization efforts.
  • I'm even more disappointed about the non-inclusion of the parts about the communities driving some of the agenda ("Each volunteer community can decide on their need for a support structure, which will then be set up by a 'regional hub'"). The current version doesn't really say anything about the Hubs taking any direction from volunteers, or allowing communities to choose their supporting groups.
  • The name "Team" should probably be replaced with something else. Calling all of Wikimedia Germany a single "Team" is going to get confusing, especially since they probably have teams of their own.
  • A lot of this structure doesn't feel very wiki-ish. (Sorry, I know that's not really an actionable complaint, but it feels important.)


(Okay, these don't match the heading, but whatever.)

If anyone from the working group reads this, I'd appreciate a note being added here, even if you have no actual response. --Yair rand (talk) 02:50, 19 September 2019 (UTC)

Thank you Yair rand for taking the time to study our suggestions and all this feedback. I personally do not share your view on not having enough volunteers, as firstly I believe many people who do not chose to apply for global posts would do so on a local level, where they feel more empowered to do so (e.g. less language barriers etc). We also think about a growing movement, that will include new people who are not on the table yet, some of them will hopefully bring just the expertise and perspectives we are currently lacking. From experience on a local level as the Executive Director of a Wikimedia affiliate I'm familiar with this line of arguments but I also know that once we really started actively recruiting people for open posts it was not a problem to find great candidates. So far, I believe more often than not we don't try hard enough :-)
  • We believe a charter is something that all kind of groups can buy into, this includes online communities.
  • "Organized" might not be the best term, but we are also lacking a better one currently. "Off-wiki/corporate" seems equally misleading as our orgs are neither only offline, nor corporate.
  • WMF/"BSS" is meant to be an organisation just as many others, it does not hold power over the hubs or something
  • Our model is based on the idea of self-management, so of course we still believe hubs should be created and shaped by the communities they serve
  • "Team": Aain, here we use a mostly neutral term that currently seems to be the best alternative. For us it was important to not encourage any perceived hierarchy between different kinds of groups. Currently there seems to be the idea that being a chapter is better than being a user group and that one should strive to become a chapter in some sort of linear development. We believe that different groups and purposes call for different ways to organise and they should all be respected equally. Whether these names interfere with existing structures is something that we can tackle in the implementation phase.
  • If you explain what "wki-ish" means we can try to understand or explain more. A governance structure based on self-management, that empowers people to take on more responsibilities, with flat hierarchies and servant leadership feels quite wiki-ish for us. So obviously we don't share that notion ;-)

--CDG (WMAT staff) (talk) 12:30, 23 September 2019 (UTC)

My gut feel is aligned with Yair rand's commentary above. This does feel so much like creeping bureaucracy as galloping bureaucracy. Maybe I am wrong, but this is the impression I am getting. I am probably not alone in feeling that the actual quality content creators are being marginalised. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 18:24, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
Peter (Southwood) What makes you think that this will be more bureaucratic? I hope that for many people around the world it will actually be easier and more straight forward to get support and access to resources, at best in their own language. The aim is also to have more clarity on where to get support, currently for many parts of the world or certain types of groups there are no clear support structures. But it's hard to argue against a claim of increased bureaucracy based on gut feeling and without a clearer argument why this would be the case. --CDG (WMAT staff) (talk) 18:39, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
I did say that is what it feels like. The structures described have the feeling of a massive bureaucracy. This may be inaccurate, but in that case the working group is failing to communicate their point. Maybe a few pictures could do the job where a few thousand words are failing. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 19:27, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
Thanks Pbsouthwood - your perception is not an unusual one and I think there is more scope for us to articulate our thinking on this. Very briefly, we think it's likely to enable less friction (whether from bureaucracy or communication or something else) in most of the common 'use cases'. Maybe we can describe that more clearly. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 08:28, 24 September 2019 (UTC)
Some more points:
  • It's a significant problem that the organizations are getting further away from the communities. The "Teams" should really be required to associate with the actual projects they're supporting. (And if a Team can't find a single Wikimedia project that's even willing to affiliate with them, that Team (in general) probably shouldn't continue to operate/receive support.)
"It's a significant problem that the organizations are getting further away from the communities" - for me thats a claim that would qualify for "citation needed". While our research shows that this is certainly true in some cases, it's also certainly not true for all orgs in all corners of the wiki-world. There are orgs that manage very well to work for and with the communities they serve. As Wikimedians we should be aware of the fact that stating personal experiences and opinions as global facts is not helpful for informed discussions ;-)
Fair point. Let me qualify it with "some" Wikimedia organizations are getting further away from the communities. The point still stands, though, that Wikimedia organizations should work directly with communities, and those organizations which don't have a community that approves of their work should be incentivised to rectify the situation. --Yair rand (talk) 18:15, 26 September 2019 (UTC)
  • +1 to Peter's point above on galloping bureaucracy. Wikimedia is based around wikis and anonymous online volunteers, and while we appreciate the work done by our supporting organizations, their role is supposed to be, on the whole, really minimal.
Perhaps it helps to point out that not every team needs its own overhead structures, quite the contrary. Example: The team that organizes WLM international every year, they do great work, they are all volunteers and they do not need any label such as User Group or Chapter to do that. Why? Because they have a fiscal sponsor that shares their established bureauratic structures with them. Before they found this "home" at Wikimedia Österreich however, they needed to go knocking from door to door asking for an org to help them every single year. Because there is no incentive currently to take on "more work" to help such groups or "teams". This will change in the proposed future structure, there will be a "home" for groups without them having to beg for it. So for some regions, the future might bring less bureaucracy, as existing strucutres will be consolidated, for other regions there will be more, as there is nothing currently, and because they need these structures to make progress.
  • Why is the document that deals with the support structures called the "movement governance document"? The off-wiki parts don't govern the Wikimedia movement. Projects are self-governing.
Governance describes how stakeholders interact with each other and their roles and responsibilities in a given system. That's why we use the term. It does not contradict the fact that Wikimedia projects are self-governing.
  • I'm glad that there's at least an attempt to regulate the organizations using such a document, but I'm worried that this document will be crafted by the organizations themselves, which would kind of ruin the point. The recommendation itself doesn't specify who will write or approve the document. The kinds of rules that we'd like the organizations to follow are those they themselves don't seem to consider important.
This is a question for the implementation phase and hence is not adressed in detail here. Just like the Charta, this will probably be done by something like a constitutional assembly that needs to represent all relevant stakeholders, which of course includes volunteers without affiliation.
  • The description of the Global Council seems like it would very much contradict the whole "Decentralisation and self-management" business, given that it seems to have unchecked power over all the organizations. (Also, the "flat hierarchies" concept mentioned above.)
In our thinking the responsibilities of the Council has to be limited to a few well defined spheres and the Council needs to be diverse enough to represent all relevant stakeholders. However, this is also one of the points that needs more deliberations between working groups as the ideas of how much we need some kind of central decision making varies widely. So I do understand your concerns.
If the Council's responsibilities are to be limited as such, it would be helpful for the recommendation to say this. Currently, it doesn't sound like the Council would have any restrictions. --Yair rand (talk) 18:15, 26 September 2019 (UTC)
  • What exactly is the "organised part of the movement"? User:Claudia.Garad says above that these are "neither only offline, nor corporate", which contradicts my previous understanding of what the term meant. I had previously thought it referred specifically to the WMF and affiliate groups. Does the "organised part" include the English Wikipedia? Or Wikiprojects, with or without defined memberships? Does it include local ArbComs or MedComs, or the stewards? Or local user groups (not to be confused with the WMF's badly-named "Wikimedia user groups")? The WMF and affiliates are incorporated organizations and other groups with defined memberships/boards/structures that conduct IRL off-wiki activities, if I understand correctly, and I had thought that this group was synonymous with what people were calling the "organised part".
We probably have very different understandings of what corporate means, as for me the WMF or affliates are not corporate, as it has the strong implication of for profit organisations.
@Claudia.Garad: Ah, I've understood the term quite differently. Strictly speaking, the Wikimedia Foundation, Incorporated is a nonprofit corporation, and defines itself as such. It also specifically uses the term "corporate" internally for things like "corporate records of the Foundation", "the Board is the ultimate corporate authority", etc. However, if some might take it as implying profit, then a different term would probably be better. Maybe "corporative", which more-or-less means the same thing but might not have those connotations? Or "organization-based", or "association-based"? --Yair rand (talk) 18:15, 26 September 2019 (UTC)
It's probably something that that is understood differently by peole living in the US vs other parts of the world. I like "organisation-based" and will keep that in mind for the next stage of discussions. Of course it's not in my or the power of our group to decide on the language used in future communication in the general process, but it is a valid point and I'm häppy to bring it to the table. --CDG (WMAT staff) (talk) 19:18, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
  • (On a lighter note, I'm wondering if I can tell who wrote which parts of the document based on the rapidly alternating "organization"/"organisation" spelling. :P) --Yair rand (talk) 02:37, 25 September 2019 (UTC)
Answers in-line -- CDG (WMAT staff) (talk) 09:33, 25 September 2019 (UTC)

Process of the proposed council[edit]

This recommendation doesn't describe very much how the nominations, selections, or appointments will proceed, despite brief references in the "Global Council" section. Will the councils and other groups consist of members elected by majority vote or appointed by WMF, Trustees board, or who else? George Ho (talk) 00:31, 15 October 2019 (UTC)

To work out the details such as election mechanisms etc would be part of the next step (it would probably be a separate document that complements the charta and we need to think carefully how to set up the group that writes this docuent), once there is an agreement that a Council that represents online communities as well as affiliates is a good idea. There definitely needs to be a direct way to elect representatives, but also mechanisms that prevent this from being a sheer popularity contest. Once we agree on the general idea, we can move on to talk about the way and all the necessary details to make it happen. --CDG (WMAT staff) (talk) 10:17, 15 October 2019 (UTC)