Talk:Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Vetting of candidates

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

.[edit]

In my humble opinion Wikimedia contributors are very well capable themselves to evaluate the merits of candidates in an election. The design of election processes in the past included asking candidates to fill out a nomination form with questions about their experiences, and included periods of questions and answers from voters to candidates, aka vetting. That works just fine. No need for a vetting committee. Ad Huikeshoven (talk) 10:37, 3 February 2021 (UTC)

Hi Ad Huikeshoven, I want to make sure I am understanding clearly. You are saying the existing contributors are capable of evaluating candidates. Does this include a consideration for diversity or how it can encourage diversity? These ideas are presented for discussion as suggestions to "help us form a more diverse and better performing Board of Trustees!" I just want to make sure I'm not missing anything. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 21:18, 5 February 2021 (UTC)

What happens if not confirmed elected?[edit]

:Moved from Talk:Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Election of confirmed candidates

What happens if the Board suggests a candidate to the community and an Arnnon Geshuri case happens? That's a democratic disaster, right? Does the Board understand that after the first disaster they will have to change this system again? — NickK (talk) 11:45, 6 February 2021 (UTC)

Hi NickK, I did a bit of homework since this happened before my time of getting really involved in the community. That sounds like that was a very tense situation! Do you think this might be something to cover in Vetting of candidates? Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 22:29, 12 February 2021 (UTC)
@JKoerner (WMF): The Arnnon Geshuri case shows how easily things can go wrong. He would have passed any reasonable profile-based vetting: he did have the necessary skills, and he was legally eligible for this position. However, he had also done something deeply unpopular with our volunteer community that does not make him directly ineligible but means that he could not get enough community support. This was basically the only case of election of confirmed candidates in our community, and it failed.
This election system is based on the assumption that candidates selected by the Board will be confirmed. However, it is not unlikely that some candidates will not be confirmed. It is unclear what will happen in this case: second-choice candidate will be submitted for a new community vote? new call for candidates? seat remains vacant? As the proposal does not mention any 'plan B', I assume there is no plan B, which makes it a poor proposal — NickK (talk) 16:19, 13 February 2021 (UTC)
I see. Thanks for your response. Those are important questions. I'll put those in the feedback. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 13:09, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
@NickK If I understand correctly your comment, it is based on the idea that the Board would suggest community candidates. However, the Board is not considering such scenario.
The problem you are presenting is related to the Vetting of candidates, I guess?
Or maybe I am misunderstanding your comment. Arnnon Geshuri was a trustee directly appointed and here we are discussing processes for community-selected trustees. Qgil-WMF (talk) 20:08, 23 February 2021 (UTC)
NickK I note neither of the staff members answered your section-heading-question: What happens if not confirmed? Reviewing the proposals as a whole, it appears "Election of confirmed candidates" implies that unconfirmed candidates are banned from the ballot. And if the candidate you want to vote for is banned from the ballot, you are banned from voting unless you cast a puppet-vote for one of their selected candidates instead. I of course invite any staff to jump in here, if they would like to explain that we can vote for unconfirmed candidates and that unconfirmed candidates can win. In which case I'd also like an explanation of the purpose and functional difference between "confirmed" and "unconfirmed" candidates. Alsee (talk) 08:30, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
@NickK @Alsee About the question "What happens if not confirmed?" meaning "What happens if a candidate is not confirmed in a community election... the answer is simple, and it has been clear in all previous Board elections: that candidate cannot run for election. "Confirmed candidates" here just means the candidates that pass the requirements to be eligible in a given election process. For instance, in the 2017 Board elections there were Prerequisites to candidacy. The same page explains: "Candidates who fail to comply with the above requirements and deadlines will be disqualified."
Let me insist again: the contentious point that @NickK @Alsee @Sänger are referring to here is the vetting of candidates. What the three of you are saying or implying is that the community can vet community candidates better then the Board. Very well, point taken. If you want to discuss in more detail how the vetting process should or should not work, you are encouraged to do so in the discussion about Vetting of candidates. Qgil-WMF (talk) 09:48, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
All this talk about vetting is just a strawman, the only legitimate vetting is the pure and plain legalistic vettíng, done probably by legal, whether any objective legal, issues are prohibiting a candidate to be elected, anything else is up to the community to decide, nobody else. Thus this discussion ios obsolete.
If there would be less appointed seats, and those special skills should be included in an election process as well, that's something else, but so far, with appointed seats for the missing special skills already there in huge quantities, thefre is no need for any further premature vetting process. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 10:13, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
@Qgil-WMF: No, that's not my point. I think the misunderstanding is coming from the double meaning of the word 'confirmed': while you think it means 'vetted', I wanted to mean 'elected'. I will paraphrase without using the word 'confirmed' (and have amended the heading)
The major issue is the following. There was only one case in our movement when someone proposed the name of the trustee and then the community voted on this trustee, and it was Arnnon Geshuri. It was a major catastrophe, and the Board had no plan B when the community decided to reject Arnnon Geshuri.
The problem with this proposal is that the procedure is extremely similar to that used for Arnnon Geshuri case. Some committee submits the list of vetted candidates. In case of Arnnon Geshuri it was the Board itself for an appointed seat, here it would be some mixed community/expert committee for one or more community seats. This process is based on the assumption that if this committee submits vetted candidates, they will be elected by the community. This process works well if the committee does a really good job and vets candidates that are overwhelmingly elected by the community. However, it can perfectly happen that this committee will do a bad job and vet a candidate with relevant skills but really unpopular with our online community and/or our affiliates.
Thus to reword a question, what will happen if the committee vets candidates that end up not being elected? There is no scenario for this case — NickK (talk) 10:44, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
@NickK Thank you for your clarification, I understand your point now. Given the ideas presented for discussion, I think there is only one combination where this situation could happen (if someone sees more combinations, please share them): a Community-elected Selection Committee entirely or nearly entirely community-run presents to the Board a list of candidates that have gone through a vetting process, for a direct appointment of confirmed candidates by the Board. In this scenario, one possible way to prevent surprises would be a community review period before the Board makes any decision. During this period anyone could present allegations about the eligibility of any of the candidates. If a lot of people think a candidate should not be eligible, a loud protest would be expected. This is just an idea I thought to answer your question, I'm sure there could be other ways. Qgil-WMF (talk) 22:27, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
@Qgil-WMF: I am very sorry, but I am surprised that you need to look for a combination. My feedback concerns exactly the idea listed on this page: how does voting on confirmed candidates compares to direct appointment of confirmed candidates?. The scenario I am talking about is the one listed here, and it is pretty straightforward: the committee has already completed vetting, but instead of direct appointment of these vetted candidates the committee wants the community to support these candidates. Obviously the committee does not want the community to reject vetted candidates, but what happens if the community rejects them? — NickK (talk) 23:17, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
I will add one more comment and then I'll wait for others to chime in. Maybe I'm the only one who is not understanding.
If "the community rejects" the candidates in a vote then the community won't vote the candidates they want to reject and the election will be a big fiasco. More realistically, if the list of candidates presented by the committee is so bad, it is quite certain that a big protest will arise as soon as the list of candidates is published, well before an actual vote starts. Qgil-WMF (talk) 23:25, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
To bring the example of Arnnon Geshuri that you have mentioned. His appointment was made public on January 6 2016, protests in community channels started almost immediately, a request for comment was started on the 20th and on the 27th Geshuri stepped down. I would imagine a similar or even shorter timeline if a committee would present a slate of candidates to vote that would be, as you say, "rejected by the community". Qgil-WMF (talk) 23:32, 25 February 2021 (UTC)
@Qgil-WMF: Yes, that's exactly what I mean. The issue is that, as a result, we will likely need to change the election system again... This system is vulnerable to one single failure: if there is at least one case when a vetted candidate is overwhelmingly rejected by the community, the system will not be viable anymore. That is my main concern — NickK (talk) 12:38, 27 February 2021 (UTC)
NickK I'm pretty sure it was an error to strike "confirmed" in the section heading and replace it with "elected". "Not elected" is meaningless - it is literally impossible. Let's say there are three open seats to fill on the Board. Let's say the committee declines to confirm any of the candidates the community wants, the committee confirms Arnnon Geshuri and his six identical clones. Let's say at least one person casts a vote - and we can assume at least one member of the committee casts a vote. The Ranked Choice voting system then examines all votes that were cast and it ALWAYS elects the three candidates with the highest ranking. It elects Arnnon Geshuri, it elects Arnnon Geshuri clone 1, and it elects Arnnon Geshuri clone 2. In a ranked choice voting system you have no way to oppose candidates, you vote among the confirmed candidates or you don't get to vote at all. It's like Iranian presidential elections: The Council Of Clerics chooses two-or-more candidates that they want for president, then you are permitted to play puppet and give the Council a vote for one of their candidates. Alsee (talk) 14:28, 7 March 2021 (UTC)
Arnnon Geshuri is an example, that the board is not able to properly vet candidates, the community on the other hand well. So the community has proven to be better at vetting of candidates then those, who try to erect hurdles here. The only completely valid members of the board are those, that were elected by the supreme entity in the Wikiverse, the online communities. Everybody else has far less legitimity and validity, and thus less rights to decide anything. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 08:59, 25 February 2021 (UTC)

Introduction to law[edit]

From my point of view is it important that a further board member understands the legal needs and complys with them. I read the slides of the presentation about the legal requirements and I think it is something what is possible to pay attention to if it is explained to a person interested for candidating for the board. I think there are not so many requirements to be qualified as a candidate from my point of view. There is from my point of view a chance in having not only experts in the board. If people want to candidate for the board I trust that they are able to do the job good. I suggest that the candidates are elected by the community and so the community can aks questions to the candidates and then it is more clear what their positions are. This shouldnt be something what is done by the Wikimedia Foundation more then the legal needs require it. --Hogü-456 (talk) 20:17, 3 February 2021 (UTC)

Hi Hogü-456, Thanks for your feedback. The feedback that the "Wikimedia Foundation should do only legal checks of people during the election process" is present in the first weekly report. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 21:56, 12 February 2021 (UTC)

Interesting question...[edit]

This is an interesting point. For instance, the WMF couldn't appoint someone who had been convicted of e.g. fraud or harassment, no matter how many votes they got. The fact that this has so far only happened with one appointed board member doesn't mean that it will never happen with an elected member. So when should it happen? Well, I don't think it's plausible to have a system where the candidates are entirely 'vetted' at the nomination stage. New information may come to light during the election process itself when candidates have higher profile, and you can't say that such information can be disregarded. So I would suggest something like a multi-stage process:

  1. At the point of nomination candidates are required to self-certify that they haven't been convicted of criminal offences, and invited to disclose in private anything that has happened in the past that might cause any concern regarding their fitness to serve.
  2. During the election itself, further checks are conducted in private by WMF staff - probably not extending much beyond googling peoples' names.
  3. When the election is final, anything that has come to light is investigated further if necessary and discussed with the candidate. Any relevant information is supplied to the Board to make a decision on.

I hope this helps. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 20:55, 3 February 2021 (UTC)

Hi there, Chris Keating (The Land)! Let me see if I am summarizing your feedback appropriately: you feel vetting is good but suggest some sort of safety protocol or practice to make sure the nominees are fit to serve on the BoT before they are installed. Did I get that right? Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 22:12, 5 February 2021 (UTC)

How much vetting is needed?[edit]

I think it might make sense to take a new pass at this proposal. Discriminating against people based on their immutable aspects is disgusting, and the Board should apologize for their quota proposal. Making sure the elected members of the board can cover the roles that are needed is the community's responsibility. And it's not clear how the Duty of Care, the Duty of Loyalty, and the Duty of Good Faith can be meaningfully evaluated before a Board member takes office.

I think it might make sense to write legal requirements into the rules, and vet people against those. For example, if it's illegal for a felon to serve on the board, we can write that into the rules directly, and if a felon was elected, it wouldn't count, as they'd have been ineligible to run. Beyond that - the thing that comes to mind is that public stock corporations hold elections for their board of directors all the time. And it's at least possible for someone to offer an alternative slate of directors, and for the shareholders to vote them in even over the objections of the current board.

I have to think that there are some rules that govern how that process works. I think it makes sense to adopt those. TomDotGov (talk) (hold the election) 01:54, 5 February 2021 (UTC)

Board for legal, community for skills[edit]

This should be split into two parts:

  • Board (with support from WMF legal) should be involved in legal screening, i.e. if the candidates are not convicted felons or otherwise unsuitable for this position for legal reasons. That is clearly with the board.
  • Community should be involved in skills screening to eliminate completely irrelevant candidates. So far this has worked, e.g. for ASBS a support of two affiliates is needed, and it helped avoid spending time on profiles of people who were obviously not qualified for this position. The bar should be rather low, and if in doubt, allow the community to decide. The community has never elected Francis Kaswahili and the likes, so there is no reason to think this will change, but we can save time by eliminating candidates who really fail to demonstrate relevant skills.

On the other hand, I don't want the Board to eliminate popular, quite qualified but not exactly relevant candidates. For instance, if the Board needs an education expert, and they have to choose among 1) a popular and recognised Education Programme leader of an affiliate, 2) a professional educator with low edit count and limited understanding of our projects, I would really like not to arbitrarily eliminate 1) but let the community decide. However, I would be quite comfortable with elimination of 3) a known anti-WMF troll who actively blocks Education Programme participants as they think their contributions are too poor. That's the level of vetting I am comfortable with, but I would prefer a community committee t o make this vetting — NickK (talk) 11:40, 6 February 2021 (UTC)

I fully agree with this. The only vetting done by the WMF/Board should be the strictly legal vetting, for more they don't have any competence and legitimation. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 12:40, 6 February 2021 (UTC)
That the board is not capable of doing this right was proven beyond any doubt in the double disaster inflicted by detached board members with Doc James ditching and at the same time appointing a completely unsuitable candidate Arnon Geshuri for an appointed seat. I simply don't trust them in this regard, regardless of the concrete persons involved, the whole community are far better equipped for such vetting. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 14:05, 13 February 2021 (UTC)
I agree that there should not be "vetting" beyond basic legal screening, as I believe is already done. The rejection of legitimate election candidates by the WMF board or staff should only be done under the most extraordinary of circumstances.--Pharos (talk) 04:52, 26 February 2021 (UTC)

Thanks, all, for this feedback. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 05:11, 4 March 2021 (UTC)

Legal qualifications separate from desirable attributes[edit]

Regarding Fiduciary duties of care & good faith, loyalty, and obedience to the mission and other legal vetting, it appears that is currently done after the community election. It would be reasonable and perhaps preferable to move that earlier in the process, so everybody does not get blindsided if an election-winning candidate is later found to have legal problems.

In regard to diversity and experience and other desireable attributes, the Board should publish its opinion and advice. It would also be appropriate to vet the truthfulness of qualifications&attributes claimed by candidates, and to report on any fraudulent claims. However the qualifications and attributes of the candidates should be weighed and by the community in the election. I believe the community is eager to embrace diversity in candidates, if those candidates are otherwise acceptable. The Board can and should use the non-elected seats to fill any gaps in skills or experience or diversity it feels exist, after the composition of the community seats are known. Alsee (talk) 05:58, 13 February 2021 (UTC)

Collected Feedback about Vetting of candidates from the 1st weekly report[edit]

The facilitation team was thinking it might be helpful to share the feedback pertaining to each idea on each idea's talk page. Here is the feedback from the first weekly report covering February 1 - 7 as this idea came up after the first week of the Call for Feedback. The facilitation team has revised the reporting procedure for weekly reports after feedback received from the community regarding the weekly reports.

  • The Wikimedia Foundation should do only legal checks of people during the election process
  • The candidates should self-certify that they have not been convicted of any criminal offenses
  • It is the community's responsibility to make sure the Board can cover roles that are needed.
  • The community should be able to screen for unqualified candidates.
  • The candidates should complete a process like a job application.

—The preceding unsigned comment was added by MPossoupe (WMF) (talk) 18:50, 22 February 2021‎

Collected Feedback about Vetting of candidates from the 2nd weekly report[edit]

The facilitation team was thinking it might be helpful to share the feedback pertaining to each idea on each idea's talk page. Here is the feedback from the second weekly report covering February 8 - 15 as this idea came up after the first week of the Call for Feedback. The facilitation team has revised the reporting procedure for weekly reports after feedback received from the community regarding the weekly reports.

—The preceding unsigned comment was added by MPossoupe (WMF) (talk) 18:55, 22 February 2021‎

Collected Feedback about Vetting of candidates from the 3rd weekly report[edit]

  • Astrid Carlsen, Executive Director of Wikimedia Norge, reminds that a vetting process itself might suffer from a cultural and language bias, it should be taken care of when designing the vetting processes itself.
  • At a conversation with “Les Sans Pages”, a person said that the most important criteria to be taken into account is the candidate's skills. The same person suggested that former board members should be evaluated first on their work as trustee.
  • A volunteer from a conversation with French Canada Community said that criteria based on expertise and experiences are needed to select candidates along with their experience in the movement projects.
  • A person from a conversation with the DRC user group said that a basic experience with wikis is enough. All the people in the conversation agreed with it.
  • A person attending the midpoint office hours shared an example of a form used to complete a board assessment and self-assessment to determine skills possessed and skills needed on non-profit boards.

MPossoupe (WMF) (talk) 09:48, 25 February 2021 (UTC)

Collected Feedback about Vetting of candidates from the 4th weekly report[edit]

Meta-wiki Talk page conversation statistics:

8 users from 5 different home wikis have participated in the conversation on this idea's talk page so far.

MPossoupe (WMF) (talk) 14:05, 4 March 2021 (UTC)

Collected Feedback about Vetting of candidates from the 5th weekly report[edit]

Meta-wiki Talk page conversation statistics:

8 users from 5 different home wikis have participated in the conversation on this idea's talk page so far.

A member of the Elections Committee considers that this idea is a necessity at this point and definitely needs to happen at the start of the campaign rather than at the end.

MPossoupe (WMF) (talk) 10:23, 12 March 2021 (UTC)

Collected Feedback about Vetting of candidates from the 6th weekly report[edit]

Meta-wiki Talk page conversation statistics: 8 users from 5 different home wikis have participated in the conversation on this idea's talk page.

  • Former trustee Christophe Henner said, that it goes against diversity because if you grade against a degree of skill set, you will shape the kind of condition that you have on language or understanding of the world, or you will end up by having only the richest people from some of the countries because they are the ones that have the skill set.
  • A volunteer from the Gujarati community suggested the candidates should go through an evaluation for skills before the elections begin.
  • During a 1:1 with Florence Devouard, former Board member, she said that the evaluation form may be a barrier: some candidates may not want to share publicly some of their personal information.

MPossoupe (WMF) (talk) 19:02, 17 March 2021 (UTC)