User:Charles Matthews/WMF Board Election 2006
- Please leave questions here, related to my candidacy. If you write in French, or Russian or German (probably), I'll reply, in English.
Michael Kinyon's questions
If you are elected to the WMF, will you step down from the ArbCom? Michael Kinyon 18:48, 21 August 2006 (UTC)
- I don't know the answer to that. I don't know how time-consuming Board membership would be. There might be good reasons not to try to combine the two, but I'd take advice on that. At present the ArbCom needs active Arbitrators, so leaving isn't the obvious course to take. Charles Matthews 21:57, 21 August 2006 (UTC)
- It's part of my activities on en-WP, and mentioned on my home page there. There were other priorities for things to mention in my statement, that can't be read as easily anywhere. Charles Matthews 11:07, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
- Fair enough. You have my endorsement. I'd give you my vote as well, but there's no way I'm going to reach 400 edits by the time the election starts, so I have no vote to give. Best of luck; you have a lot of competition for what are likely to be few positions! Michael Kinyon 12:14, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
- I have no idea what the major issues will be. It's good that we have an election this year, to find that out. Charles Matthews 15:16, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
Composition of the board
What is your opinion on how the board should be constituted ? Do you think it should exclusively be composed of editors of our projects ? If so, rather elected or appointed ? Do you think we should have some people external to our community ? In those listed in the past two months on Foundation -l, can you list those you think would be great board members and those who might reveal dangerous for our dream ? Do you have names to suggest for board expansion ?
- I'm agnostic about the constitution. At this point, elections are a good idea: an election is at the very least a time to interchange ideas and sharpen our visions. I think external members will come one day, not just yet. If the WMF tends towards a more academic orientation, then one kind of member would be appropriate, but if it becomes closer to a media and publishing model, another kind of member.
- I don't really have things to say about particular persons. Charles Matthews 10:49, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
Do you think the Foundation should be a publisher ? If not, do you think it should control what is publish, through the authorization (or not) of use of our brands ? Do you know of one project currently trying to be edited and in conflict with the Foundation on that matter ?
- I think the Foundation is already an unconventional kind of publisher. I think defending the 'brand' is one of the most important priorities for the Board. As I say in my statement, I am 'old-school', and that means I see a certain kind of integrity in the 'wiki way'. (Part of that is honesty about the quality levels.) Charles Matthews 10:54, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
What should be the business plan of the Foundation ? How would you suggest it earns money ?
- Live within its means! The discussion about advertising has always been in relation to what could be done, if there were suddenly a larger budget (something more comparable to the other Top 20 websites). This week the sites are sometimes slow and even possibly down for short times. Would adding more and more servers cure this? Of course. Is that the best use of limited resources? That's not so clear. We know from experience that people who ignore the sites when they are slow will return, and that editing on the wikis continues. The growth - over 1% per week - is there. We don't need ultra-fast response, to continue. (On the other hand, those on slower connections need consideration, too.) It is hard to see the past year as anything other than a great success, with quite a tight budget. Staff have been taken on; what I understand of the priorities seems fine to me. Money: I see no need for advertising. Fund raising as before, and the pursuit of grants should be the basics. Charles Matthews 11:05, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
Threat and forces
Can you cite 3 forces of the Foundation ? Can you cite the main 3 threats for our projects as of today ?
- Threats are easier. (1) Some determined litigant trying to wreck the whole project financially; (2) Internal schism, which could arrive unexpectedly; (3) Disillusion, from some combination of overstretch of systems, economic factors deterring volunteer activity, slide in quality of contributions for no clearcut reason.
- On the positive side: (1) the communities continue to grow and do good work, and attract people by the simplest word-of-mouth publicity; (2) good timing: the history books are going to conclude that Wikipedia, anyway, was founded when the time was ripe, and is a killer app for broadband connections (reference window can always be open as you work); (3) the management seems to me - and I have worked in other voluntary contexts - to be better than one could reasonably hope.
- Charles Matthews 11:16, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
Can you cite the current three main projects/agreements/priorities of the board ?
- Two would be Money (budget and allocation to hardware, software development and management) and Momentum (new projects recently launched). Third would be Movement or Mania or something: there are literally thousands of volunteers working for the WMF, and there has to be communication, feedback, meeting of minds. Unfortunately I didn't make it to WikiMania, because family holiday had to take priority (they put up with my Wikipedian behaviour for the rest of the year) and I was in Japan. Charles Matthews 12:01, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
If you had to decide which are the 5 most important tasks for the board to accomplish in the time of your term, which ones would they be ? (be practical)
- Five seems a large number, considering this is until 2007 only. Here are some things that need doing:
- Bring the quality assurance debate to a definite plan and schedule;
- Biographies of living people - the area needs a definite line on tagging and classification, as well as a clearer policy outline (and is threatening enough to warrant the Board's full attention);
- Personal interest of mine, in relation to the above, is to focus on surnames as a vital component of infrastructure for the future (software solutions required);
- Systemic bias over the whole project: understand the issues with getting more non-European languages represented. Here I can give input about Luganda, a representative African vernacular language, based on discussions in Uganda in June;
- Review internal communications as a priority (what email lists, and other tools), with the goal of letting participants have a full voice but recognising that sheer volume of talk is not the right measure.
- Charles Matthews 12:03, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
You write in your user page that you have joined the Wikipedia:WikiProject Countering systemic bias, and that is a good thing IMO, as I believe as you do, that bias, and specifically systemic bias, is and will remain a long term issue for WP. In this context, in a recent arbCom proposed decision, you voted in support of a ruling against a disciple of a "guru", that could be used in future cases as a precedent to restrict or discourage editors of Eastern religions and spiritual paths (such as Tibetan Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Vedānta, yoga, tantra and bhakti schools and others in which a guru plays an important role), from editing articles about their teachers or gurus (this, when there are no such restrictions or discouragement for followers of other spiritual paths or religions. )
You also asserted that a distinction is needed in this case, because "discipleship" in your view, carry connotations that are different from other strong/passionate allegiances (such as other religious, political, philosophical, scientific, and otherwise), thus requiring specific restrictions.
In that context, I would appreciate your views on the following:
- Do you believe that these type of rulings and approach are aligned with the aims and objectives of Wikipedia? If so, what considerations and actions will you take or endorse as a member of the board in this respect?
- Do you believe that as Wikipedia continues to grows in significance and substance, we will need to assert restrictions based on this type of value judgments made by the ArbCom (or the board, or any other entity) about the ability of users to edit without bias?
- Do you believe that the current WP content policies, the editing process, and the strength of the community, are not sufficient to address these issues in order to reduce bias in articles? If this is your view, what should be modified in the policy of w:WP:AFG, and the current Wikipedia motto Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.?
- I shall try to answer straightforwardly on the particular point (1). Some of the comments below apply to the other points. I think 'guru' here should be seen only as indicative of what I'd prefer to call 'traditional teacher', in a relationship with 'disciples'. My background in Eastern Asia culture (through the game of go) suggests strongly that such relationships are very strong, and induce great loyalties. In that context, an indication that disciples may be too close to the teacher to be neutral editors seems fine to me. As I have explained to you before, when the ArbCom defines principles, it is to explicate reasoning, and does not define policy. Since the ArbCom does not directly rule on content, but looks at behaviour, I don't see an issue here.
- I do think, as a Board member and someone who has travelled often in Asia and had contact with its culture, I may be able to contribute something in the future.
- Charles Matthews 09:09, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
In an conversation about the above ruling you wrote that we need to "recogni[ze] this kind of 'moral hazard'" in Wikipedia as it can be "can be useful all round".
- In regard to such moral hazards, could you declare your views on morals, and who, in your view should be the entity to dictate such morals in Wikipedia, beyond the ones implied in our policies and guidelines?
- We are talking here about the 'moral hazards' of politicians editing their own wiki articles, businesses trying to control articles about them, as well as for example believers writing about their own beliefs. The policy framework discourages placing yourself in a position of any conflict of interest of this kind. To put it another way, even great scholars find it difficult to be dispassionate about certain issues (for example, in history); and wiki editing is for people who may have little to help them write neutrally. So the advice comes from policy, and policy is just collective wisdom from the wiki's past in consolidated form. We tell people 'don't put yourself in that position', and that is a well-meaning piece of advice. If you are talking about an 'entity', you presumably mean the ArbCom, which has to distinguish cases and patterns of inappropriate behaviour from editing that is flawed but forgiveable. The Arbitration process is slow, and perhaps not perfect, but it seems to me to be a reasonable and practical way. But 'morals' is wrong: if the ArbCom tells someone not to edit on a topic, that is saying they are failing to remain neutral or to edit collectively. Charles Matthews 09:46, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
Wikipedia's biggest challenge
In your candidacy statement you write: "the biggest challenge remains the harnessing of the folk writing on the wikis to projects in the larger scheme. In the day-to-day operation of the sites, this means not losing sight of the old-school way of thinking."
- Could you expand on your views about "harnessing the folk"?
- As a board member, what actions would you take in this respect?
- Could you clarify what do you mean by "old-school of thinking" and what do you consider "new-school of thinking" in day-to-day operations?
- We have to recognise that this is a volunteer project. The wikis are not just 'content aggregators', as the business analysts speak. This is not a for-profit operation. 'Management' is not about the 'bottom line' in monetary terms, but about directing energies into directions where they will produce results of value, for everyone online (currently about 600 million, or 10% of the world, but growing rapidly). The biggest issue in voluntary organisations can be to define a large, indefinite task (like 'write a multi-lingual encyclopedia') by breaking it down into comprehensible pieces. For example, we are tolerant of stub articles, because 'upgrade that stub' is a comprehensible and person-size task.
- I have stated above five things I'd hope to implement as a Board member: such as making it easier to track biographical articles by having software tools.
- Old-school wiki thinking can seem rather feeble, because in controversies it falls back on WikiLove as a concept; in other words management apparently gets reduced to some sort of hippie-type idealism. I actually think you need a mixture of the 'romantic' concept of what we do, and the ability to deal with the real world issues (it's not at all romantic to get involved in litigation or have serious disruption). But the wikis should remain as open as possible, we should keep 'assume good faith', the Board should be communicative, and contributors should be treated with great respect.
- Charles Matthews 09:23, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
In a recent wikiEN-I en posting (8/19/2006), Jimmy Wales wrote:
"Most of us do care passionately about the ethics of what we are doing, and how it affects people. Indeed, for most of us, it is part of the very fabric of the reasons we participate. We are human beings, trying to do something good, not automatons puking out soulless "content" [...] we are good, we are ethical, we are trying to produce something important in
the world that matters to the world, and we want to do it the right way."
- Are you in agreement with that statement?
- If you do, what would you do as a board member to bring that understanding to life in our project?
- I have to say that I agree with Jimbo about 95% of the time, and I don't think you'd find much between us on major issues. Wikipedia in particular, but all the projects, has the potential to change things for the better. I think we know how to do that, now. The question for whom? is what remains: this is why I have talked in defining my platform about distance learning, and Africa. This is also why I have spoken in the past about 'systemic bias' as an issue. The 'ethical' imperative I understand best is to make the content accessible and useful as broadly as possible. But I'm not going to claim that this is a solved problem. In the end it is broader participation that brings broader content. Charles Matthews 09:33, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
≈ jossi ≈ 01:40, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
Follow up questions
Thank you for answering my questions.
As a member of the board of trustees, you will be in a position to influence the future of this project, as such, it is very important to me to understand your world-view as it pertains to the ability of the project to police itself, and your assessment of the strength of our policies and the community to enable it to grow unimpeded. Thus, my follow up questions.
Regarding question (Bias-1), please note I was not asking you about the obvious loyalties that a disciple has toward his sensei or guru and the challenges that such person may have in editing neutrally. Rather, what I was asking is you opinion about the need (or our ability, for that matter) to make a distiction between such a situation and others in which loyalties play as a substantial role, such as in many areas of human endeavor as espoused on question (Bias-2), that remained unanswered.
After all, as editors, we tend to gravitate to articles we feel passionate about. Making the rounds around any of the thousands of articles about which there is a robust NPOV debate, would demonstrate human nature as it pertain to loyalties, being these political, religious, or otherwise. My question to you then is: It is your understanding that Wikipedia, as it evolves, will need to be sending a message to editors: "don't edit articles you feel passionate about, because we question your ability to edit dispassionately and without bias?" I would also appreciate an answer about question (Bias-3) in this regard.
As for your response to (Morals-1), do you think that it is appropriate to make a distinction between "believers", and "non-believers" when it comes to editing articles related to editors' affiliations? That is, do you think that we should differentiate between a Roman Catholic editing the article on Pope Benedict XVI, and say a mathematician advocate of string theory, editing the string theory article, or a revisionist historian editing the article on the European colonization of the Americas? And if so, why?
As for the other answers above, I thank you for your clarifying these in the way you did. ≈ jossi ≈ 16:26, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
- You are asking me very detailed questions, relating to editing issues with a religious flavour, really about enWP alone. This is in the context of an election to the Board. I think I will ask you first, if your focus on issues you have already raised elsewhere, and to which you now return with many-part questions with follow-ups, is right for this election.
- If your answer to that is 'yes', I am of course bound to give you some kind of answer in return. But it seems to me that you wish to extrapolate from one point in an ArbCom principle, to Catholics editing on the Pope; and that you are wrong to make such an extrapolation. You appear to be trying for a reductio ad absurdum; and I as an Arbitrator don't see my role as having anything to do with stretching principles as far as they can go. Common sense intervenes. Charles Matthews 19:46, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
- I found your responses to the other questions to be very useful and beffiting for a possible future member of the Foundation board of trustees. As for the other questions, I would argue that assessing a candidate's suitability, includes learning about a candidate's world-view even if those are extrapolated from a candidate's work in one of the wikis, in this case enWiki, from which you seem to have gathered most of your WP experience. If you believe this is not the case, and that voters should not assess candidates in this manner, you may chose not to answers them. Some of the other candidates have chosen to either disclose their world-views and bias, or have presented extensive platforms from which these can be ascertained, probably out of the understanding that it may be useful to voters when they assess how to cast their votes. Regardless if you chose to respond to these questions or not, I wish you best of luck with your candidacy. ≈ jossi ≈ 20:55, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
I think you could have taken a hint. I have to say that I think your line of questioning is special pleading. Your User page on enWP says you are a follower of a certain guru. You wish to have in some way weakened a recent point voted on by the ArbCom, discouraging editing by disciples of gurus. Well, I reject the idea that this is even close to the issue of Catholics editing about the Pope. It is much more like something from an earlier ArbCom case, namely an academic editing pages dealing with the area of his own speciality, and putting a clear spin on them. In the case of that professor, he was potentially damaging his reputation: because he really could not muster a dispassionate point of view. This is as much as need be said, really. NPOV always applies: you are an enWP admin, and I'm sure you understand the policy. The fact is you are trying to discredit an ArbCom principle with scope that includes you personally. I think I would be a worse Arbitrator or Board member if I gave you any encouragement at all, in that. This may seem a bit harsh, but this is not the kind of election in which votes should be bought with anodyne words. Charles Matthews 21:28, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
- I was not asking you to buy my vote with your reply, that would be most unbecoming. Your words are not necessarily harsh, I am just disappointed that you chose not to answer these questions by forwarding an argumentum ad hominem, because it leaves me and other voters with no understanding of your world-views beyond these that could be gathered from your response above. As for NPOV always applying, I never disputed that. Good luck with your candidacy, Charles. ≈ jossi ≈ 23:26, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
No, really. I answered the question. The professor needed the good advice of a friend, that there is such a thing as a false position in which to put yourself. It is in the nature of things, that this type of advice is least heeded when most needed. That is a tinge of pessimism in my world-view, in your terms. Please read it with all the rest, though. Charles Matthews 10:11, 26 August 2006 (UTC)
Charles ! je te prie de vérifier la version française de ta candidature : je me demande si nous n'avons pas commis d'erreurs ou des contre-sens. Que proposes-tu comme traduction française pour "outside tourist bubble-wrap" - ou peux-tu expliciter cette expression par d'autres termes anglais. Merci Arno Lagrange ✉ 09:18, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
- "Hors des circuits touristiques" - oui, ça va assez bien. Merci bien, c'est agréable de rencontrer de la bonne volonté parmi nos politiques de wikinaut féroces! Charles Matthews 11:01, 28 August 2006 (UTC)
More "Wiki" or more "pedia"
I count me among those who got suspicious of a "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" and fear that those two goals are ever more hard to achieve together. I already notice a (perhaps minor) brain drain on this issue, with contributors like User:Hillman or de:User:Wolfgang Beyer leaving.
Do you consider this to be a problem which in the foreseeable future will leave us with the choice of either going to more closed model of contributorship or accepting that the product of an open contributorship will not exactly be an encyclopedia? And if so, will you vote for "wiki" or "pedia"?
- I haven't anything really new to say on this, which has always been one of the major issues.
- I think 'open' is good - in fact at times very good. If we are talking about mathematics, say, the anonymous editors may be graduate students, or in fact experts, editing casually. They certainly provide some very good edits, and needed corrections.
- Before going to a more closed model, we should certainly try for a system of assigned quality ratings (and reference points - so you can 'go back to five star version' for an article easily, if you don't want recent updates). In a sense we so far only have an outline of the encyclopedia, with good 'places' to add information. If the real aim is to make access to the preprint literature possible (a good definition, in my view) then we are still collecting up basic information. In a sense I'm an optimist: we really have some very good articles and contributors, and the project goes forward. The Fields Medals were a test, and that was OK.
- People do leave, and everyone has a story about that. When it is caused by problem users then this is an issue about confidence in the 'judicial' aspect (which as an Arbitrator I know quite well). I think problem users are now readily identified by the community, and banned. Of course there is also tiredness as a cause, or life changes.
- Experience from another wiki suggests to me that the dynamic, open model is actually the correct recipe for the long term. We have to accept newcomers arriving and changing things, and keep ourselves intellectually youthful, for as long as possible. So, yes, in the end, we can still do good by staying close to the wiki model.
- Charles Matthews 10:42, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
Questions from Dijxtra
Hello, these are generic questions I decided to submit to every candidate. If you already answered the question in your application, skip it. If you consider any question to be to private for you to answer, feel free to state that and accept my apology for being to intrusive. I also ask you to pardon my English since spellcheckers doesn't check grammar :-) Here are the questions:
- It really should depend on the reasons given. I don't think Wikimedia should obstruct law enforcement. But if this is a more tenuous 'fishing expedition' type intelligence-gathering operation, we might have to dispute it. Charles Matthews 21:33, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
2. What is your opinion of WP:OFFICE? Do you think that:
- It is very good solution to bureaucratisation of Wikipedia, allowing a swift action in cases which need such action. We should widen the circle of people who have the power to use WP:OFFICE.
- It is very good solution to bureaucratisation of Wikipedia, allowing a swift action in cases which need such action. (And only Danny should use WP:OFFICE privilege)
- I don't like the thing, but we need it so we don't get sued.
- Community is above any user and we should think of WP:OFFICE as temporary measure until we find a way for the whole community to act swiftly in cases of libel accusations.
- We should move our servers to jurisdiction which makes it hard for people to sue us for libel.
- I have heard some things about such Office actions that make me believe we need them. It is not just the legal position: we should be ethical, and sometimes that means minimising damage to people. It is not part of our mission to post certain things. Charles Matthews 21:33, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
3. Have you ever been on a paylist of anybody/any organization/any firm connected to any current member of the board? Please understand this question in the broadest sense possible.
- The answer is 'No'. Charles Matthews 19:14, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for your time, Dijxtra 20:26, 30 August 2006 (UTC)
Si vous êtes élu, quelle action pour soutenir le wikipédia francophone et, de manière plus générale, les autres wikipédia non anglophones ? Merci.
TCY 21:50, 4 septembre 2006
- Vous voulez des précisions? Je me considère assez sympathique aux 'non-anglophones'. J'étais en Ouganda pendant juin, et j'ai fait quelquechose pour encourager l'initiation du WP en Luganda (http://lg.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Recentchanges) (à cet époque, rien). Maintenant ça existe.
- En tout cas, je demanderais pourquoi pas de marques diacritiques sur meta; c'est peu convenable! Charles Matthews 13:37, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
Hi, Charles. In light of the four discussions listed below, what course of action would you take with regard to the 9/11 Wikipedia if you were elected to the board?
Looking forward to your response. Thanks. Andreyi 17:36, 13 September 2006 (UTC)
- For obvious reasons, this discussion has never been on 'pure wiki' terms. I think this project is not much to do with Wikipedia. It should be treated as archive material. Make a good version, see what it looks like, have it hosted either as a static site, or as another wiki if there is a serious group willing to host it. Charles Matthews 18:24, 13 September 2006 (UTC)