User:Emjackson42/sandbox/WMF WREN feedback 2030

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Feedback from the Wikimedians in Residence Exchange Network (WREN)[edit]


The feedback shared here through Meta was compiled by the Wikimedians in Residence Exchange Network (WREN) Strategic Planning Feedback Working Group. The group consisted of Wikimedians and Wikipedians in Residence from organizations including libraries, museums, archives, and government agencies located in North America, South America, and Europe. The group met through voice and video chat for three hours during this phase of the strategic planning feedback process, and also contributed feedback asynchronously through Google Docs. All members of the group read and responded to the select topics in detail. Together, we have spent approximately 100 hours on the feedback process. We believed this process to be very important, and we devoted our resources to it.

We discussed, in depth, feedback related to these three recommendations, which is shared on the talk page for each recommendation:

  • Prioritize Topics for Impact
  • Plan Infrastructure Scalability
  • Ensure Equity in Decision-Making

We focused on the recommendations that we felt were the most important for areas of work, but recognise that they will all likely have impact.

The members of WREN who participated in this committee are:

General Feedback[edit]

Despite decentralisation being a very common and strong component of previous documents it has been almost entirely removed from these recommendations. As the Wikimedia Foundation is funding this process, this change seems to originate with them. Therefore, this change is alarming and suspect. In addition, chapters and user groups are not represented in this document, it seems very Wikimedia Foundation focused. Arguably, this does not represent the views of the community, does not acknowledge different interests of different individuals, and creates an immediate dissonance between community needs and well-being, and Foundation goals. There is also a lack of acknowledgement that specific properties and projects (WikiCite, Wikidata), have different needs in terms of funding and support.

There is an assumption that non Wikipedia writing activities (administration etc) should be unpaid e.g community organising. The Wikimedia community wishes to do Wikimedia content engagement, discussion, presentation, and curation, and wishes for the Wikimedia Foundation to exclude itself from these activities. The Wikimedia community has less interest in administrative tasks which do not attract large numbers of volunteers, and the Wikimedia Foundation is free to do things that no volunteer wants to do. To say that “[by] 2030, Wikimedia will become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge...” is arguably Problematic. ‘The’ in ‘the essential infrastructure’ ignores the work of other open organisations and feels colonial and unrealistic, like we are going to take over the work of other organizations that are doing similar work. We recognise that this is in the Strategic Direction statement and has been said by others but it is important to note that we are not the only ones doing this kind of work.

As an example of a strategic plan that we feel well-represents community needs and input, Extinction Rebellion UK is also doing a strategy process, lots of interesting comparisons with a much stronger focus on increasing participation and community wellbeing.

What is present in the XR strategy that is not in the Wikimedia strategy is community well-being, community resilience, helping people feel valued, happy, etc. Interesting to look at this document to see what is missing from the WMF planning document.

Feedback on “Prioritize Topics for Impact”[edit]

This could encompass working with at-risk partners, whether they are Palmyras or Museu Nacionals (Brazil museum fire), or Museum of Chinese in America (NYC fire recently).

This could mean more of a focus on general topics (which are likely to be higher impact) than on particular items in collections, and more cross-institutional collaboration. We want pathways for new contributors, including more mechanisms for people in education, science and culture. Sustainability of the movement as it applies to GLAM participation and resources for them.

Where will resources related to WREN needs be supported? For example, digitization, data imports. Will the support process be more centralized through the Foundation, seeking official partnerships and support from organizations, partnerships, or other organizations like Europeana?

“In order to “become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge” and to advance the world equitably, we must consider our great responsibility”

To prioritize efforts on topics aiming at having an impact on the world, we recommend an approach based on several actions. The evaluation of our impact must include assessment of how well we support knowledge equity so we can focus our efforts on the communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege,[6] and address global challenges (such as those described in the Sustainable Development Goals).[7] At the same time, we must acknowledge the human and financial sustainability of the Movement as a necessary prerequisite to long-term impact (even if priorities differ in the short term). Remembering that we are in it for the long haul, strategic choices that enable or protect future impact must be prioritized over immediate impact.

  • This statement implies that having an impact in the world and human and financial sustainability are at odds which we think is false. We do not think that investing in the most important topic areas will jeopardise the long term sustainability of Wikimedia. It is a false equivalency and assumes its a zero sum game.
  • As the Wikimedia Foundation only provides 7% of its operating budget to fund chapters and user groups, there is not already a commitment to supporting content production at scale. This recommendation fails to address that need.
  • This arguably devalues the work of immediate impact/WREN/building tools - these projects are useful and do extend beyond wealthy countries, but are not supported in a regular or systematic way.
  • This also assumes that there is a lack of funds, that the fundraiser couldn’t be continued or external funders wouldn’t be interested in funding supporting important areas of knowledge.
  • The risk involved in ‘protecting future impact must be prioritized over immediate impact’ is not made clear. What is the risk?

“To better understand how we empower people to improve their lives, we must invest more into research on how our content gets used (and misused).”

  • There is a mistake in this statement which makes it appear paternalistic and colonial. You cannot empower other people, people can empower themselves and you can give them the tools and resources needed.

Develop processes and relationships to work with specialized partners who can assist in prioritizing topics.

  • This statement is very passive, specifically it misses out:
    • It only talks about identifying topics, it should also include helping to prioritise topics and also to share and create content.
    • It does not address working with partners to then get topic knowledge into Wikipedia
  • In what way do WREN folks help to prioritize topics for impact? Where is the feedback capability? Professional networks like WREN could have a role in some of these conversations. They are representative of people working in different institutions - and we work with some of these specialized partners and people they’re hoping to make Wikipedia more useful for.

Feedback on “Plan infrastructure scalability”[edit]

Generally, WREN as a group can serve as a good model for communications and professional peer networks for others. In terms of communications, do we really want boutique communications solutions or more generalized ones? (For example, Wikimedia Space is maybe not a useful solution, while Zoom access may be more generally useful and accessible.) We’re a part of an information ecosystem - we should utilize what’s available to us - not reinvent the wheel -especially when what’s available is more accessible then what’s being created.

The analysis of our infrastructures must include a complex set of criteria, such as resource distribution and legal protection for handling risk in limited geographies, investment in modern and efficient developer tooling to support community and other developer capacities, cutting-edge technologies to build content partnerships, and decisions on whether platform improvements could come from external sources or partners.

  • Central pieces of existing infrastructure are socially brittle (this would never be allowed in hardware or software) and this is not really acknowledged. For example, only one person may know how to do something important related to a Wiki system. What happens if that person is not available and/or can’t maintain the tool(s)? We are specifically thinking about Magnus Manske whose tools are essential to our work..
  • Additionally, Wikimedians in Residence depend on some critical pieces of software, from OpenRefine, to Quickstatements, to many other utilities. What happens to projects like GLAMwikitoolset that die slowly out of neglect? Can and should the WMF be offering better support to these useful open source projects?
  • This recommendation doesn’t mention working with other organisations with the same goals e.g open education, open software etc. The language of the recommendation suggests that WMF exists in a vacuum, and does not mention key/close partners in open education, open software, open culture, etc. and how we work with them. WMF is not the largest open-source software company by miles, although Wikimedia provides an extraordinary amount of open-information. For example, in CY 2018, the Mozilla Corporation generated $435.702 million from royalties, subscriptions and advertising revenue. We are part of a greater ecosystem, with a larger infrastructure, which should be reflected here. Our infrastructure should be more closely integrated into the wider free software / free culture ecosystem.
  • This is a similar problem in the same vein as the goal of being ‘the essential infrastructure,’ which seems unrealistic and uncooperative.

third-party partnerships and developers can also support and make way for working on modern technologies, as in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and others, as deemed necessary

  • How do we develop and manage partnerships with not-so-like-minded-institutions (for-profit), like Google, Microsoft, etc.? What are the standards and guidelines necessary to ensure ethical relationships that have integrity and benefit the Community? This must be addressed, with the Community providing feedback for standards. Perhaps some sort of community-generated agreement similar to this 2014 document would be appropriate. (It is important to note that WMF is already working with these groups even if the community doesn’t quite know it yet.)
    • Any agreement should set boundaries, i.e. if xyz happens, our partnership is withdrawn. Ideally, everyone should be able to have a say (in mind). But maybe it begins with a representative from each corporation, and someone from the Wikimedia foundation or maybe a team from Wikipedia community/Wikimedia foundation.
    • We would like to see more mediated discussions between stakeholders and communities, to share input on COI from WREN models
  • How do we determine who to partner with, and when it is acceptable?
  • How do have more direct and cooperative involvements/interactions with these companies who see our value? How can we have more connections and fewer barriers? How can we build relationships related to vetting reliability of information?
  • Cultivating valuable allies is useful, and having diversity in allies is also useful - not just the Googles, not just the GLAMS, not just the Mozillas

make all processes regarding infrastructure development transparent to engage more stakeholders in them

  • This seems very general in terms of recommendations, but we acknowledge that this concern may be addressed at another point in the recommendations with the formation of the Technical Committee.

“Great structural support spaces”

  • What does this mean? Maybe Wikimedia Space? Concern about technical spaces that are not associated with the Wiki - the answer is not always new platforms, it is in making the existing platforms better.

Feedback on “Ensure equity in decision-making”[edit]

  • As was stated in our other recommendation feedback comments, “empowering people” sounds paternalistic.
  • The the global Governance Body sounds like a toothless body that is acting only as a subsidiary of the WMF. Ideally, the role of this board would choose the board, perhaps with mediated elections. (The current model has community-elected seats and affiliate-selected seats.)
  • How centralized are regional hubs? Hopefully they are not WMF branch offices. What exactly is a regional hub? They should be bottom-up more than top-down. The WMF should not make assumptions about what people want/need, but actually ask them. Again, the danger is in being overly paternalistic.
    • Wikipedia Zero in India is an example of the mismatch between global/foundation and local needs/views. (TL;DR - Wikipedia Zero/zero rating services rejected by local community because of net neutrality concerns)
  • Is it possible for regional hubs to be related to specific projects (e.g. WikiCite) and not just geographical regions?
  • The Movement Charter is undefined. What coverage does it have related to rights, governance, and principles? These are all different concepts, and there are different structures that would be appropriate. While there seems to be an idea that there should be a Constitution to govern the movement, that is rather ambitious, and what is in the recommendations as they currently stand are trending more towards general principles. The main danger is for something like this to be so vague as to be meaningless/worthless.
  • For budgets to be “equitable”, we have to agree on some mutually shared values. Equitable by size of general population, readership, Wikimedian population, affiliate membership, topical underrepresentation, etc? Probably some formula taking all of these into account. Equitable is a very vague term, and the danger is that WMF/others can pick and choose depending on the metrics they decide to focus on. We prefer that WMF does not develop these metrics in a vacuum - the community may be the ones to do this, or an external third party.
  • How do we select who will lead in these movements? Whoever is first to the table is often in leadership position - maybe not the best person/org. How do we decide how to partner/who leads?
  • Again, we will comment that this recommendation is in great error for omitting the Wikipedia community's wish for decentralization of power. The Wikimedia community is against greater centralization of power in the Wikimedia Foundation and in favor of more decentralization of power.
  • This is an error - "Although the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees (WMF Board) has, by default, the role of representing the whole Movement..." The Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia community are different things. The Wikimedia Community has one goal, the advancement of the Wikimedia Movement, and the Wikimedia Foundation has two conflicting goals, its own interest as a nonprofit organization and then the advancement of the Wikimedia Movement. There are frequently conflicts between the interests of the Wikimedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • We do not accept that the WMF represents the whole movement. We believe that individual community groups/projects should speak for themselves.
  • The community groups can and should be more organized - capacity building on the group/project level is important.
  • Volunteers in every region in the world should have equal access to funding through the standard Wikimedia funding process. Volunteers in LMICs should not have additional burdensome bureaucracy beyond the standard Wikimedia application process in order to access Movement funds.

Every community has the mandate, knowledge, and resources to be present in any decision-making process that affects them, make decisions and have meaningful input on related issues including opportunities to access resources in an equitable manner.

  • Every community SHOULD have these things, but they don’t currently we argue. Resources in particular. It would be great if programs like rapid grants were expanded rather than shrunk, as there is a danger in putting too much into “big” communities. We have to tolerate that small groups are more imperfect and are also vital.
  • Perhaps there are different “rules” for different parts of the world - certain regions (such as India) will not have as much success with seeking unpaid volunteers and may need to hire staff.
  • There are two roles in the Wiki community that need to be supported - project content (fun!) and administration (less fun). The WMF will get a lot of mileage from funding administration. This is a way to provide access to resources in an equitable manner.
  • It is arguably not a good use of resources to pay for outreach - especially if the outreach is in another country. If there is outreach needed for another country, that outreach should be done within that country, and not from the WMF in the US. This is not a good way to provide access to resources in an equitable manner.
  • It is important, again, to discuss the importance of regional hubs - administrative centers that can remit funds at local costs and with local administration. For example, there are not legal ways to receive money from the USA in certain countries - local participants are harassed by police if they receive out of country funds.
  • WMF should be the point of receiving funding, then it should distribute money to volunteers?/administrators? within countries, who in turn make sure that the funds are sent to the volunteer who has requested the funding. WMF handles administration, so that funds can be distributed within the countries where the requests have been made.

These structures need not begin in full force during the implementation of the Movement Strategy and can be rolled out in a gradual and emergent manner with consultation and after more involved discussions with the stakeholders.

  • The WMF should not be the arbiters of success, while at the same time they should not allow themselves to take no action and assume success. There are not enough metrics in place to measure success. WMF should not determine all of the metrics, and they should be held accountable for measurement of success. (See: Wikimedia Space - what measurements are there for success?)
  • Suggestions as to what should be reported on/measurements of success for any project, and especially for projects with more resources, for example more than US$100,000.
    • Money/Budget
    • WMF staff time
    • Volunteer hours
  • In fact, we should commit to putting developing decentralisation in at full force, and not at whim.

To build a more equitable Movement, we need to ensure that roles are clearly defined and the access to power is based on capacities and the will to contribute.

  • This one feels much further away from what is currently happening than other recommendations.
  • It does not mention decentralisation despite this being a key part of working groups recommendations, it has all been cut out.
  • Global governance body should be empowered, not just an advisory body to the WMF board.

Enable equitable representation in global decision-making

  • Easier said than done. We already had headaches with the everyone 1 vote system with the board elections with Affiliates. Overlapping constituencies and double-dipping voting?

Participative resource allocation

  • We believe this suggests a higher level of transparency and accountability than will actually be the case. It is also very dependent on how well regional hubs are organized and administered, and how representative they are of their regions.

Open pathways to power positions

  • This doesn’t seem to be a solution to fixing what I perceive to be the biggest issue - communication or lack thereof by/from WMF. It seems like a policing of community leadership.

Additional general comments

  • There has been a tendency to try to find top-down replacements of communities for the developing world, rather than support the local community in developing its own agency and ability to represent itself.
  • There should be an actual process of selecting representatives for specific projects/governing bodies, not a vague idea of future stakeholders.