Talk:Wikimedia Foundation Board Governance Committee

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Expanding ..[edit]

I reverted this edit because it was inaccurate. The Board of Trustees approved the Board Governance Committee in 2010 at the Gdansk meeting. There was no "interim committee" for the last two years. Mhalprin (talk) 15:07, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

My edit did not say there was an interim committee for two years; it said there was an interim committee between April and June 2010, as that is what the minutes for April and June appear to say. John Vandenberg (talk) 15:10, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

Thanks Matt for filling in the history. Cheers! John Vandenberg (talk) 13:18, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Board Obligations and Responsibilities and Pledge[edit]

Hi, is the BGC aware of WMF Statement of Obligations and Responsibilities? Has it been in defacto use, or should it be marked {{historical}}? John Vandenberg (talk) 08:03, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

Currently under discussion at Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard#Obligations and Responsibilities Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 07:33, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
For the record, we were informed at Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/Archives/2016#Obligations and Responsibilities that "the page is a draft, 7 years old, never implemented". Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 13:36, 24 August 2016 (UTC)

Meetings[edit]

Is it really the case that the committee has not met since August 2014? If they have, please may we know the dates, and the results of their deliberations? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 07:32, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Of course it is not the case. You can read this on this same page, I dont know where you get the August 2014 date. As it says, there were weekly meetings, and if you read this page in conjuction with Board minutes and resolutions, you can see what the BGC has been doing in the past. Cheers Raystorm (talk) 13:24, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for the correction, I read the list in the wrong order. The last meeting documented here was September 2014 and the last meeting date given is November 2014, not August as I mistakenly wrote. That does not change the force of my point in the slightest. I repeat my request, please may we know the dates of the subsequent meetings and the result of their deliberations. The suggestion that the information can be found by textual analysis on some other, unclearly specified, pages is not in keeping with the WMF_Resolutions/Wikimedia_Foundation_Guiding_Principles#Transparency. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:30, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
As it says, there was a standing weekly meeting, first on Thursdays, then on Fridays. The agenda for the term is linked. You can check on the resolutions what the results were, because do not forget, at the end of the day it is the entire Board that makes a decision, not a committee. Cheers Raystorm (talk) 20:56, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
We are clearly talking about different pages. On the version I am looking at there is no link for Wikimedia Foundation Board Governance Committee/Agenda 2015-2016? Whether or not there were weekly meetings in 2014-2015 tells us nothing about what is currently going on. Has the committee met at all in 2015-2016 -- we cannot tell. As you know, the Wikimedia Foundation Board Governance Committee Charter specifies a wide range of activities other than recommending decisions to the Board: indeed that charter mandates regular reports to the Board on the committee's activities. To suggest that the Board's resolutions constitute a sufficient summary of the committee's activities is not correct. Why is it so hard to accept that the committee's agenda and activities could and should be summarised in a timely and transparent fashion at this page? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:35, 9 February 2016 (UTC)
Ah, I understand now. You are referring to the current BGC. Well, it depends on how they have determined to do the reporting, timeframe-wise. It can be from week to week to bimonthly to annually - it depends on the workload and availability. A soft ping to ask them when they'd be able to update the public pages will probably yield information on this regard. Cheers Raystorm (talk) 20:02, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
I am referring to the BGC since the time in late 2014 when it ceased to publish information here about its activities and agenda. My own view is that viewing transparency and accountability as optional extras to be undertaken, if at all, on a time lag of months or even years is unsatisfactory. Do you not agree? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:54, 11 February 2016 (UTC)
The agenda and meeting schedule of the previous bgc is on this page. I reiterate, the bgc does not make decisions, the board does, and when the board makes decisions, those are published. Raystorm (talk) 19:50, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
I said "activities" not decisions. As you must be well aware, and as I pointed out, the BGC charter involves a variety of activities which do not constitute board recommendations -- do you deny this? -- and recommending that the community data-mine the main Board minutes for information about this committee's activities is not transparency, it is wilful obscurity. Better involvement of the community in the BGC activities in 2015 might have saved the Board considerable difficulty. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 23:13, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
Do not misrepresent what I said. I refuted -easily- your claim that the BGC had not met since August 2014. You have dates of following meetings and the agenda available on the page about what the committee was working on at that time. Calling data-mining reading the Board minutes in which BGC recommendations may be approved is frankly underwhelming as an argument. The BGC and the Board had problems in late 2015, but my considered opinion is they were of a different nature and origin. Raystorm (talk) 10:42, 29 August 2016 (UTC)
I am not aware of having misrepresented you. If you believe that I have, please have the courtesy to explain where and how you believe this to have have happened. Returning six months later to issue a curt instruction does not help me or other readers of this page to understand what the issue is and gives me no opportunity to correct it, if indeed correction be needed. As far as "August 2014" is concerned, you will know perfectly well that this was a trivial error which you pointed out and I acknowledged and corrected within twelve hours of making it, and the correction, to November 2014 does not in any way detract from the validity or substance of my original point. Reopening this trivial issue now is simply an attempt to muddy the waters, for what reason I cannot imagine. I asked about "activities" and you have consistently responded about "decisions" as if the only activities of the BGC were recommendations to the Board. It is not the case that the only activities of the BGC are recommendations to the Board, as you must be well aware, from reading the BGC Charter: I have already stated this several times and you do not deny this. It was and is discourteous to me and to the community at large to suggest that looking through the Board minutes for reports of the BGC recommendations is an adequate account to the community of the BGC recommendations during the period after November 2014, and even if this were a transparent account of the BGC's recommendations, it is not in any way an account, transparent or otherwise, of the totality of the BGC's activities. I fail to understand why, having apparently decided not to address this issue at all for six months you revive this issue in this way by repeating your position of February, and bringing up trivial issues already settled long since If you decline to give a fuller account of the BGC's activities under your leadership, then by all means say so. Are you attempting to suggest that it is somehow wrong of me to have asked for an account of these activities? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 18:38, 29 August 2016 (UTC)
"Is simply an attempt to muddy the waters" - this is again a very poor way to engage people. No, your mistake was not a trivial error, and you misrepresented me when you said I was recommending the community to data-mine the Board minutes. It is a pity that you do not seek to engage with better faith Rogol, because you do make really good points in other topics - but it is hard to see good faith when you do not offer it for others. Raystorm (talk) 19:01, 29 August 2016 (UTC)
The interested onlooker, should there be one, can look at my posting of 1930 on 9 February and decide for themselves whether or not writing August for November was a trivial error quickly corrected, as I believe, or a major flaw in my argument as you seem to suggest. Your suggestion was to read this page in conjunction with Board minutes and resolutions, a dispersed set of pages across two wikis. I regard the word "data-mine" as an appropriate term for the exercise, in view of the effort involved to produce what would even then be only a partial answer to my question. You think it is not. We must agree to disagree on both these issues, it seems. Since you have chosen to raise this issue six months after it was, apparently, allowed to drop, for no reason other than to chastise me for the failings you perceive in my engagement, I suggest that we terminate this discussion once and for all. The object of the exercise was, is and should only be, how to improve the engagement between the Board, it's committees, and the wider community, I believe that it would be improved by greater efforts for transparency on the part of the Board and its committees: you do not accept my view that there was any deficiency in transparency on the part of the BGC from late 2014 into 2015; I hope and believe that your successors will take a different view to you of the ways which that transparency might be achieved. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:27, 29 August 2016 (UTC)
Well, with a brand new BGC, why is it odd to comment on this now? I must however ask you to refrain in the future from making comments about how I perceive your views - unfortunately, we are not understanding each other, and we would not like interested onlookers, should there be any, to get a wrong impression, would we? I'm happy to let this drop per your wishes. I hope we can meet in another thread with more constructive results. Raystorm (talk) 19:52, 29 August 2016 (UTC)
I haven't seen minutes from the previous BGC meetings and thus I cannot confirm if they were taken and published anywhere (pundit, could you please correct me if I am wrong?), I can say that Dariusz Jemielniak has sent a summary of the work BGC done in the recent past. You can read his letter/report posted on wikimedia-l. To make my first post here more constructive: the BGC established during Wikimania 2016 has not met yet, we are (hopefully) going to meet for the first time as the BGC during this week. And I am planning to publish the minutes on Meta after the meeting --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 23:28, 3 July 2016 (UTC)
We held regular meetings, and the updates were published periodically to the list. We have not published the minutes, which may be something to correct for the future - this was due mainly to the work- and solution-oriented nature of our meetings, and also a major overload (with several issues requiring immediate attention in the same time), which is hopefully amended now. Pundit (talk) 13:03, 4 July 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for that -- unfortunately the reference to "the list" is rather imprecise. I presume that you are not referring to this page. Could you be more specific, please? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:27, 4 July 2016 (UTC)
Rogol Domedonfors, I think that Pundit was speaking about wikimedia-l as "the list". He published there the updates from BGC --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 16:39, 5 July 2016 (UTC)
Yes, apologies for the lack of precision. I meant wikimedia-l. Pundit (talk) 18:43, 5 July 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for this at clarification. So as I understand it, in order to find the public record of the Committee's activity, all we, the members of the Community, have to do is go to that list, now that we have been told which one it is, and read through every month in the archives, since of course we have not been told which months the Committee has met in. As I said to your predecessor above, who had a different reason for not publishing these reports here, this is the sort of transparency which looks to me more like wilful obscurity. Not only is this unsatisfactory in itself, but failure of the Committee to adequately connect with the Community was surely a factor in the poor decision-making that caused such a loss of time, energy and credibility for all parties around the end of 2015. I accept that transferring the historic archive from wherever it may currently be to this page is going to be low on your list of priorities but I strongly urge that going forward the Committee resume the practice of publishing the announcements and records of its meetings (to the extent that they can be made public) on this page here on Meta which is the obvious single location to centralise them on, and where they have been published in the past. This is surely the best locus to engage with the Community in a constructive way on issues arising out of the Committee's activities, an engagement which as I never tire of reminding you, will be of mutual benefit if entered into in a spirit of mutual respect. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 07:06, 6 July 2016 (UTC)
Rogol Domedonfors just to let you know that the minutes from our July meeting are published here: Wikimedia Foundation Board Governance Committee/Minutes 07-08-2016. And yes, "transferring the historic archive" from wikimedia-l to Meta subpages (or one subpage) does not seem like a very pressing task. It would be wonderful even to have a list of letters sent to wikimedia-l with the updates, and publish it on Meta --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 23:38, 18 July 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for that move towards greater transparency. I think it better to concentrate on going forward rather than getting bogged down in recriminations over the history. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 04:16, 30 August 2016 (UTC)

Membership 2016[edit]

I updated the membership in the light of Resolution wmf:Committee Membership 2016 of 30 March 2016. Is there anyone whose job it is to keep this page up to date? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:49, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

Thank you! Well, I guess that for a while it will be my responsibility --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 23:11, 18 July 2016 (UTC)

Liaison with the Election Committee[edit]

In spite of the disclaimer at Wikimedia Foundation Board Governance Committee/2017 Election Disclosure I do not see how a potential candidate for an election can have any form of special role with respect to the Wikimedia Foundation elections committee. I suggest that anyone aiming to fulfil the Liaison role effectively needs to be clear that they are not going to ask for Community selection in a process overseen by that committee. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:31, 22 July 2016 (UTC)

@Rogol Domedonfors: My intention is to specifically work on topics not related to the upcoming elections (in particular, a more long-term reform of the system we have been discussing for quite a while, with no clear outcome). I find this topic important, and I'm afraid that without continuing the discussion started already with the previous committee the result may be lost. Naturally, unless I decide that I definitely do not run, I will not be participating in any discussions related to the elections, not even passively. Nataliia, the chair of the BGC, is in charge of the upcoming elections. This committee is a permanent one, and its work will extend beyond the horizon of just the nearest elections, and has a scope that goes wider than the upcoming elections. Please, keep in mind that the Board itself as a whole is using the committee for recommendations anyway. Does this address your concern? Pundit (talk) 20:44, 22 July 2016 (UTC)
No. In my view for one candidate for selection to have a curent special relationship with the Committee and hence a potentially privileged insight into or even influence over the conduct of the selection process creates the appearance of an unlevel playing field and put the candidate and the committee in an awkward position. The more careful you are to avoid these issues the less effective you are as a liaison. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:54, 22 July 2016 (UTC)
@Rogol Domedonfors: I understand your concern. Yet, on the other hand, following this logic, every single Bpard member, and especially a BGC member, is privileged. I expect to have zero influence over the conduct of the selection process. Also, I basically want some work that I started a while ago done, and this work pertains to this committee. However, since I value your critical insight and we've known each other (virtually) for quite a while. I suggest this: I will address this issue as the first order of business with the committee and request them to come up with a solution, not just for me, but for any similar case systematically. This will be useful for the future as well, instead of an individual decision (since I really don't feel attached to this formal role). Does this make sense? Pundit (talk) 22:09, 22 July 2016 (UTC)
It is indeed the case that a current Board member has an insider view of the WMF processes in general. But not every Bord member is designated to engage specifically with the election committee, and not every Board member is or about to be an active candidate for a further term selected by a process overseen by the committee with which they are in a specially active engagement. I think it is for you to decide whether or not you are in a tenable position. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 06:26, 23 July 2016 (UTC)
My experience is that people who are in a general perceived COI are the last to really recognize it, and thus I think it will be best for the election committee to make it the fist order of business to decide once and for all for such cases (which will be common anyway). Pundit (talk) 16:42, 23 July 2016 (UTC)
Thank you anyway for agreeing to take another look at this issue. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:27, 23 July 2016 (UTC)

Vacancies[edit]

I understand there are currently two vacant seats on the Board, one appointed and one community nominated. Has the Governance Committee decided how to fill those seats? Will they be seeking Community input as happened in 2015? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:40, 17 August 2016 (UTC)

Yes, there are two vacant seats now. And at the end of 2016 two more appointed seats will be vacant. We have discussed it. As for community nominated seats, we have an option to have early community elections for all three seats, so they can join us in Berlin, during Wikimedia Conference. As for the appointed seats, this matrix was taken into account, but we also want to support Katherine, thus we want to make a choice taking into account her needs for expertise. As for the Community input in 2015: it does not seem that it led to anything --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 07:53, 18 August 2016 (UTC)
I am glad to hear that you have discussed this issue, and suggest that you share as much of your thinking as you can with the Community in the interests both of greater transparency and greater effectiveness. Having had community input into the matrix, I propose that you publish the revised person specifications after taking the ED's needs into account and seek community input and suggestions for candidates. As for the 2015 input, the assessment that "it does not seem that it led to anything" is probably valid, but my perception is that is because it was not allowed to (and possibly was never intended to) lead to anything. I personally suggested some names both in public [1] and in a private email to the then VP/HR. As far as I can tell no interest whatsoever was shown in those suggestions: I was not asked for further information or given any feedback on why the suggestions might or might not have been appropriate. In other words, the reason that it led to nothing was that it was not taken seriously. I would say that you have various options. (1) Publish the person specification and solicit suggestions from the Community which you then assess seriously and give appropriate feedback on; (2) Publish the person specification and solicit direct applications by individuals which you then assess seriously and give appropriate feedback on; (3) Publish the person specification and solicit nominations which you then ignore and proceed to a secret selection on private criteria; (4) Publish nothing and carry out the whole process in secret. Naturally I would prefer (1) or (2) or both: there is clear evidence that (3) leads to disaster, and so probably would (4). Please, have an early, open and frank engagement with the Community, which can surely help you if only you will let it do so. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 17:02, 18 August 2016 (UTC)

It seems that there is some misunderstanding about the purpose of the page you have linked to. I set it up in Feb 2015, and maybe It wasn't best worded. So, please take this as a try for belated clarification.
The page had been set up to initiate some general discussion about how to improve the board's composition, how to raise diversity and find talents, and how to raise flexibility. The board had discussed this in 2014 and early 2015 and came up with 3 rough ideas, which we wanted to discuss with the community. It was meant as discussion about generals, and looking at the talk page this is exactly what happened. During the discussion the board realized that our ideas didn't made it to consensus, and that there were a lot of other ideas and issues, which needs to be considered also. We didn't want to change bylaws and board composition just for the sake of a change, so we deferred the idea in May (the last section of the page). If my wording was understood to start discussions about individual potential board members, I apologize. However, when the BGC started to collect names for the search in September 2015, I pointed your list of names on the talk page out to the staff which supported us in the search. Alice Wiegand (talk) 13:16, 19 August 2016 (UTC)

Thank you for that historical update. I hadn't realised that you had forwarded my suggestions as well, belated thanks for that – unfortunately that only underlines the point that my suggestions arived at, well whoever was conducting the search, by not two but three separate routes without my being asked for further information or receiving any subsequent feedback, which only tends to reinforce my belief that the input was not taken seriously. However while I'm happy to see the history corrected, the issue before us is, what is going to happen now? I think it is worth having a genuine engagement with the community: Alice apparently disagrees? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:57, 19 August 2016 (UTC)
The BGC and their advisors have an impressive agenda, and I trust them to do their work - prudent and focussed. I don't understand what you imply with your last sentence, and I won't engage in discussions based on assumptions. Alice Wiegand (talk) 19:56, 23 August 2016 (UTC)
Very well, I will be completely blunt. My experience of the engagement in 2015 led me to the conclusion that it was not a genuine engagement: that is, that it had been undertaken to produce the appearance of community engagement but not the substance. (I note that this is probably but not necessarily the opposite view to Alice's.) My understanding of Alice's posting is that she felt that the engagement was both genuine and a failure: and that on that basis she is not in favour of repeating it. My belief is that it was a failure because it was not genuine, and I am in favour of holding a further exercise of this nature on the basis of genuine engagement with the Community. My position is that it is better to have a genuine enagement than a bogus engagement or none at all. Alice is free to clarify her position on this issue if she wishes, and if she does not wish, then so be it. However, the issue for discussion on this page is and always has been: How best to manage the process for filling the current vacancies on the Board and what suggestions can we make to Nataliia and the Governance Committee. I hope that Alice will join me in making suggestions as constructive and positive as possible. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 13:33, 24 August 2016 (UTC)
  • Perhaps it would be more productive to return to looking at the question going forward. How can the Community best play its part in helping to select the new members of the Board? In particular, will the BGC be interested in suggestions of specific individuals? How can the likely person specifications best be publicised, and how should suggestions be gathered? What sort of feedback can be given to the suggestions? Will there be a formal process of nomination (proposer, seconded, that sort of thing) or just an informal list of names? I would propose a wide range of input and selection from a wide range of candidates. It is my view that the movement can only survive and prosper by harnessing innovative, even disruptive, thinking. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 04:23, 30 August 2016 (UTC)
A gentle reminder: are you yet in a position to say how you intend the Community at large to be involved in the nomination and selection of new Board members? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 17:01, 2 October 2016 (UTC)

Diversity versus unanimity[edit]

I have been disappointed by the lack of willingness of Board members to discuss, or even express, their views on the long-term future of the movement and the Foundation: see, for example, last February's non-discussion at Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/Archives/2016#Deep strategy and the current statement at Talk:Strategy/2016-2017#Board contribution. I think that the Board is leaning too much in the direction of collective responsbility as expressed by section 7 of wmf:Code of conduct of the Board of Trustees, possibly as a result of some unhappy disagreements in 2015. I suggest that there is no contradiction between Board members expressing their personal views before a collective decision, provided of course that after a substantiative decision is taken they do not seek to undermine any decision which has been collectively agreed. Unanimity after a discussion is not weakened, indeed it is strengthened by a robust conversation around the diversity of opinions beforehand. I propose looking to encourage the Board and its members to be more forthcoming while discussions are still under way, such as is the case right now with the hugely important Strategy/2016-2017 discussion. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 12:14, 8 September 2016 (UTC)

Ethical underpinnings[edit]

In the course of a (somewhat unproductive) discussion at the Wikimedia Research Newsletter, former trustee Denny Vrandečić suggested that computer scientists and engineers "rarely discuss in depth how their work impacts human lives". For what it's worth, I disagree with that sweeping assertion, but it seemed that it was worth asking what steps the WMF has taken to avoid this ethical pitfall. I asked Anna Stillwell, as Director of Culture, about the policy for staff, but in her response [2] she has stated that the Board is outside her remit. I wonder whether whether there are professional codes of conduct, and ethical training and support, that Board accepts as approriate for its own activities? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:59, 2 October 2016 (UTC)

We do not have any trainings of this sort at the moment. We have a Board Handbook, as well as pledges, but the training the Board receives is more focused on legal aspects of governance, than the ethical ones. Most of the Board members have professional backgrounds, but I agree that we cannot by design rely on that only. If you have any good benchmarks from the NGO world that we could relate to, I assure you I'll bring them to the governance committee discussion. Pundit (talk) 11:24, 12 October 2016 (UTC)
Unfortunately my experience as a trustee is entirely in the UK and so is probably not particularly relevant. However, I am sure that if the Board and its members see this as an iumportant development, you will have no difficulty in finding the corresponding resources in the US. No doubt there will be Board members and advisors with more relevant advice and experience to share. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:10, 14 October 2016 (UTC)