Talk:Wikimedia Foundation elections 2013/Post mortem/Report from Risker

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Comments from Board Liaison[edit]

Risker, thanks very much for this detailed analysis, which is just what's needed if we want to do better next time around.

Here are my comments on some of the issues you raised, and some of the things I observed:

Make-up of Election Committee[edit]

Yes, this was a small committee and membership inactivity meant that a disproportionate load was carried by one or two members, particularly Risker, who took it on herself to make up for the inactivity of some of the other members. This is not sustainable and we must ensure it does not happen ever again.

Some recommendations for the future (and please take these seriously):

  • Create a larger committee. Five is too little, and this is even more telling when not all members are active. I would suggest a minimum of 8 members, a maximum of 10.
  • Have a formal committee chair. The chair can either be elected by the committee or appointed by the board; this needs further discussion. This formalizes a 'steering' position and enables the person who is driving the committee to formally exercise leadership, particularly in difficult situations.
  • Define the board liaison's role more clearly. I took over from Ting as board liaison midway, around mid-April. I take on board Risker's assertion that both Ting and I were informed about membership inactivity, and that even though this was discussed, neither of us took pro-active steps to address this. I'll explain where I came from here.
-First, a big picture issue. Since the board liaison role is not spelt out anywhere, those of who take on this role 'feel' our way through it, learning by going through the archives and seeing how earlier liaisons worked with the committee etc. This needs to change. Spelling out a board liaison's role will empower liaisons to act in a timely manner without feeling they are somehow bulldozing community-driven committees.
-Most of the committees I've been part of (as liaison or observer) have faced the problem of membership inactivity without expanding the number of members or removing members. Part of me may have got caught in this culture or in this rut. Perhaps more boldness was required, and I accept that I did not act as boldly as I could have.
-I've also experienced many committees where members who are initially inactive take on much larger loads as the event in question approaches. It may have been naive, but part of me expected this to happen here too.
-Even though the election committee is appointed by the Board, I don't feel that individual "members" are appointed by the Board. So I am not sure that it is solely the Board liaison's responsibility to deal with membership inactivity. Even though we did discuss member inactivity, we somehow never came to discussing a solution. In future, if the Committee does elect a Chair, I'd recommend direct communication between the Chair and the Board liaison on such issues so that alternatives can be discussed and solutions jointly hammered out. Not shrugging off my responsibility here, but suggesting how to improve this in future.

The "English fluency" thing is a conundrum. While I agree that "fluency in written English is very important for document review and copy-editing, and for intra-committee communication," one of the real problems is ensuring global participation both in the elections and in the committee. I would encourage that we try to represent the diversity of the projects both in the elections and on the committee - but the English criteria will then not necessarily be met. Maybe if there are enough members, lack of English fluency in one or two will not seem such a barrier.Any thoughts?

Elections for multiple positions at one time[edit]

My gut feel is that having a Standing Committee would take care of this issue - since the committee would be a continuous committee, which could also make recommendations on timing etc. Looking into the future, I would strongly recommend the formation of a Standing Committee (like AffCom or the FDC, which has its own call for selection, charter, members, chairs, standards of participation etc.) Having a continuous committee will also mean that there can be continuous process improvements, including technical improvements, so that the overall election/s can be continuously strengthened.

Delay in start of election[edit]

Going forward, it is important to have at least 1-2 members with technical expertise on the committee going forward. This can be a criteria for selecting some members.

Voting methodology[edit]

Heartily and strongly recommend a standing Election Committee as specified above. The time is ripe for this.

How can we expand the voter base?[edit]

A total of 1809 votes were cast for the board election, which is the lowest ever, and most of them were from the bigger wikipedias. How do we get:

-more votes?
-voters from the smaller projects and from all the 286 wikipedias to vote? This is as important as anything else, if we are to live up to our claim as a global movement.

Again, I feel that a standing Election Committee could tackle some of these issues too.

After this one experience, I feel we need to take this year's experience very seriously and make the needed changes right away, instead of waiting for the next election to make these. By then, the immediacy will be lost, as also perhaps some of the motivation to act. Bishdatta (talk) 06:35, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

10 members on a working committee? That sounds like it could become complicated and difficult to manage. Why not just go with 5 members with several alternates, and have the Board liaison substitute alternates if an original committee member becomes inactive or unresponsive? That seems to be what Risker was suggesting. I'm not sure that more bureaucracy (in the form of more members, or a Chair, or a vice-Chair, etc.) is a good solution; the people involved just need to be more pro-active and aware of the state of election prep and the pace of progress.
Likewise the problem of a standing committee; if anything this will exacerbate problems related to inactivity, particularly if strong mechanisms aren't established to remove inactive members after a short time. The role you describe for it sounds like it would be more appropriate as a subcommittee of the Board itself. The elections are, after all, the exclusive responsibility of the Board to organize and manage. Any attempts by the EC to reform the process will have to be vetted and approved by the Board regardless.Nathan T 12:27, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
To attract more voters, the process needs to be simpler. I have contributed to Wikipedia since 2004 and I intended to vote, but gave up, too complicated. It seems the analysis point regarding whether WMF should change to some third-party open source voter system is the right way to go to get something that is easier to use. Ulflarsen (talk) 06:57, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

Other comments[edit]

If the situation was already so hard, why did you add complexity on your own e.g. by changing electoral system? --Nemo 11:51, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

In the first handful of decisions that the Election Committee made, we decided to move to a Support/Neutral/Oppose voting method. The software was already written for this, so there was no additional complexity to make this change. It also reduced the turnaround time from close of election to reporting of results; and made much more sense for the FDC/FDC ombud elections, where we had no idea whether or not we would have more candidates than seats. Risker (talk) 16:59, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Oh really, how about the pseudo-rules you had to add at the last moment to compensate at least the most obvious deficiencies of the new system then? Just to mention one example. (I call them pseudo-rules because they were not documented in the rules pages and because one normally can't add rules to a process after said process started.) --Nemo 18:48, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
We added them at community suggestion. I didn't really think they were necessary, myself, but I also didn't think they would be harmful. Being responsive to community suggestions is part of the responsibilities of the committee, regardless if the response is "great idea! let's do this" or "sorry, no, we don't agree". I will note that by the time this issue arose, several of our members were quite inactive, and that is why it took a bit of time to approve the minimal support rule. And yes, it was a real rule; if any candidate had fallen below it, they would not have qualified. Risker (talk) 19:06, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I support the new voting system. It makes it much easier for users to know who won and by how much. Understanding the results is key for a democratic election, and the Schulze system is impossible to understand. --NaBUru38 (talk) 13:00, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
I agree that the system should be understandable, and that Schulze's method is not really to most people. Nevertheless I would appreciate some kind of possibility to "rank" votes resp. candidates. --MF-W 15:09, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

Comments from committee member - KTC[edit]

I would like to echo Bishdatta thanks of Risker, without whom the election would not have happened. Though this report was compiled by Risker as an individual, I am happy to endorse the comments expressed throughout.

In additional to the comments expressed by Risker and Bishdatta, I have couple of quick observation.

The appointment to the election committee have very much been ad hoc and differs every election. From recollection and please correct me if I'm wrong in my memory, in 2008 a request for volunteers went out on wikimedia-l (and possibly on wikis), with volunteers publicly volunteering on meta before being selected by the board. In 2009 and 2011, a committee of members were simply announced by the board, seemingly out of the blue, in one case along with a request for any additional interested volunteers though none were appointed. This year has returned to a public call of volunteers, though with the act of putting oneself forward in private.

Clear expectation of time commitment required should be spill out to potential volunteers so that they know in advance whether they are likely to have the time required.

Whether a third party organisation to be monetarily contracted to deal with the technical side of running the election or it be given to WMF tech employees as part of their job rather than something on the side, the liaison to the election committee should be the ones doing the actual work rather than one layer removed.

-- KTC (talk) 20:28, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Proposal for the setup of a standing commitee[edit]

  • Create, as proposed above, a standing election committee primarily taking care of recruitment of new members to the Board but also other groups in close relation with the Board, like the FDC
  • Let the group be made up of five members (no more, it then becomes an adm burden to keep it together) to be supported on technical issues with an allocated staffperson from WMF. Let one be appointed by the chapters, one being an affilaite from the board, and three from the community.
  • Split the dates for election to the Board (+three to the election committe) and other like FDC. (and there is a process flaw when it comes to election to FDC, in 2015 there is planned for five to be elected which is too much, and they ought to be elected to Jan 1 not July 1)
  • There should be a chair and there should also be the ambition to include earlier Board members (like now Kat)

Anders Wennersten (talk) 07:06, 31 July 2013 (UTC) being chair of the election committe for WMSE and member of FDC

Are you sure about having the committee manage recruitment to the Board etc.? That seems to be a wholly new role for the EC, isn't it? Or has the EC been recruiting for candidates as well all along? Nathan T 12:59, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
I believe it would be inappropriate for the committee running the election to also recruit candidates for any position, as there is an obvious conflict of interest; that is, they would have an interest in having their recommendations affirmed by the community. I also do not see this as an elected position, any more than the Audit Committee or the Ombud Committee is. I think what you are suggesting here is a Nominating Committee or a recruitment committee, and then tacking on the election management processes. Risker (talk) 13:05, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
I did not mean recruit explicity but supporting and run an election. Yes I am suggesting a Nomination comitte if you prefer that name. In my culture this is they way associations are run, and that the nomination/election committe members are elected and not nominated by the Board. It is adiffrence beteen anglosaxon counties and other but I see no reason we must play according to the anglosaxon culture in this matter. Anders Wennersten (talk) 17:04, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Well, we have to "play" to the "anglosaxon culture" inasmuch as we must follow the WMF Bylaws and the US and Florida legal structures that allow the WMF to exist as a charitable organization. My concern about adding another layer of elections is that hardly anyone cared that much about who was on the Board of Trustees based on the number of votes in the recent election, and I cannot imagine even that much interest in deciding who is on a subcommittee. Wikimedia isn't intended to be an exercise in democracy. I do think there's a serious risk that the only people who are "electable" will be ones with wide and diverse connections across multiple internal communities, rather than people who would actually be good at the job. We don't need popular people to run elections, we need people who will do the work. Risker (talk) 17:15, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
You main conern as I understand it was the election of the other members in the committee. My proposal is one way of making this work better. And we have to apply to US law, but how a speceic committe works in practice we can adjust to our needs.Anders Wennersten (talk) 18:10, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
No, Anders. My main concern was that we had committee members who were inactive. They would have been inactive if they were elected, too. Except if committee members are elected instead of appointed, then they cannot be replaced by the Board for their inactivity. Risker (talk) 18:16, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Fluency in English[edit]

I wonder why it is even considered to include someone like Ralf Roletschek in the election committee who prides himself in not being able to speak English (Babel template: en-0). This was a total failure.--Aschmidt (talk) 21:53, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

Actually he can speak some basic English, he even gave to talks at Wikimania 2012 and 2013 - very basic language indeed, but at least he tries. --Manuel Schneider(bla) (+/-) 11:40, 11 November 2013 (UTC)