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User:Jdforrester/Board 2011 questions

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From Alecmconroy[edit]


Is Wikimedia most like a library, a school, a museum? something else?
None of these - all those have a model of a central authority choosing to give out information. We are much more like a community, sitting around the camp fire and sharing knowledge.
Of the other candidates, who do you most support?
Several of the candidates and current Board members are people who I respect and think would make good Trustees, but if I had to pick just one it would be Kat Walsh.
Do you have a favorite article (or more) that illustrates the 'best' of Wikipedia? Favorite on other projects?
I don't really have favourites, but the English Wikipedia has been at its most amazing when major world events happen, collating huge amounts of information very quickly, and providing the best view on the Web of what's known at that point - from 11 September 2001 attacks to the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami, these have been excellent. From the other projects, simple words like wikt:orange show how much better that can be than a regular dictionary and thesaurus.
Of the current board members, who do you think is our most effective leader / who do you look to as a role model?
As I'm not on the Board I cannot judge who "leads" within it - the Board's job is to lead as a body, not as individuals, and I think this is done moderately well. Of course, being seen as part of a group doesn't do great things for one's electoral chances. :-(
What's your Myers-Briggs type-- here's a test if needed. (I can't imagine the answer themselves directly affecting any votes-- but it's sorta fun and might help people understand your other responses)

WM in Politics/Activism/Law[edit]

Should WMF have an advocacy role in any circumstances? If so, broadly speaking, how do we decide what issues to take a position on?
Yes; we should certainly speak out where there are issues that affect the ability of the projects to continue or to grow. However, we should not try to expand into a political force (even if it wasn't illegal for a 501(c)(3)) - we should not try to spend donors' money other than in the direct support of the projects and their missions. For example, the concept of "Net Neutrality" could potentially seriously impact our ability to deliver our projects to people worldwide, whereas the French "Hadopi" copyright reforms do not, even though many of us may think them poorly-judged. Where we do get involved, it should be as little as needed to help people understand - we should give input to wider movements, rather than try to lead them.
Does the WM Movement have a role to play in local, national and international politics? If so, what does that role look like in the future?
Yes, all of us should consider how we act as citizens of our respective nations and lobby as individuals our governments. However, as I said above, it is a hard problem to decide when the more formal parts of the movement - Foundation, Chapters, and (hopefully soon) Associations - engage or don't on these issues.
What can we do to help those directly-affected by 'The Arab Spring'? What can the WM movement do collectively do for those nations? What can the WMF foundation do? What can individual wikimedians do?
Bluntly, not much. Our primary goal must always be to uphold our mission - and post-conflict reconstruction, though worthy, is very expensive and time-consuming, and organisations which help in such situations. As individuals I would recommend that community members look to see what they can do to volunteer in these efforts. Though there are some exciting things that we could to do help out, I won't pretend that our efforts would make a significant impact in the short term, and it's there that work is needed for now.
If it were feasible, should the foundation promote 'internet freedom'-- that is, advocate for or active provide unfiltered internet access to citizens of repressive regimes?
See my answer above.
If it were feasible, should the foundation promote 'universal internet access'-- that is, advocating for or actually providing computer&internet access to impoverished peoples?
See my answer above. Note that the World Wide Web Foundation (led by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Prof. Nigel Shadbolt and others) is working on this exact point.
Should the WMF promote "Net Neutrality" in the US?
See my answer above.
Should WMF advocate any position on copyright reform?
Copyright reform world-wide is a very long-term issue, and one which other movements are better funded to lead (per above).
WMF, its offices, and its servers are US-based. Looking far forward, well beyond the next two years-- Should we choose our 'home nation' based on purely pragmatic concerns, one or is it a cultural/ideological motivation? That is if another nation would be demonstrably better pragmatically for us, would we be likely to switch? (This question arises when a nation changes in ways that could either greatly help or greatly hinder our mission).
"Yes" - we should consider both pragmatic concerns as well as ideological moves. However, I generally would be sceptical of any suggestion that moving from our US-basis would make us less likely to be sued, given the substantial protective laws there, and the huge effort involved in moving.

Movement Vision, Scope[edit]

What's our Big Purpose? What's our Mission? Jimmy Wales famously said "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." Without quoting or paraphrasing, how would you say it?
I was at the movement conference in October 2006 when we came up with the exact wording for the Mission Statement, so I'm biased, but that's what I feel too. I've had doubts and other thoughts, but I think our current wording is the cleanest, quickest way of describing what we're about.
What is the "big new exciting amazing thing" that the Wikimedia Movement could potentially accomplish in the next five years?
There's not one, there are lots of them - there's a danger of focusing on just one thing (like some people's focus just on the English Wikipedia), which ignores the great work we do elsewhere. I'd particularly like to see improvements for Wiktionary to make it really come alive, and for Wikisource to become more of a well-know public repository for GLAM texts. Ideally, I'd like all our projects to gain as much exposure as Wikipedia has, and become part of people's every-day lives. Of course, the suggestion to get UNESCO to list Wikipedia (in all its languages) as a World Heritage Site is very exciting, too.
Can WM host a 'non-educational' project if we want to? For example, suppose there was a multiplayer online game targeted at Israeli and Palestinian children, in the hopes that this childhood experience will promote future peace. If there's a broad consensus that the non-educational project would bring good in a clear way, could we host it if we wanted to?
I don't know - the Foundation is rightly focussed on the educational world. It would take quite a bit to convince me that the Foundation was the best place to host such a thing, and if another venue might be more suited. If there was broad consensus, then we "could", but that doesn't mean we "should".
Should promoting "free culture" a goal in and of itself for the WM movement?
See my comments around advocacy, above, but in short: to the extent to which it achieves our aims, yes.
WM content has generally been described using terms like "knowledge" and "educational". Do you think WM has a role in hosting non-notable art, fiction, music, and other works of open-culture? As hosting expenses naturally approach zero due to ever-dropping technology cost, should WM host increasingly more diverse content, or should we stick to the domains we currently focus on-- namely, factual, notable, instructional content of the kind that might be found in an encyclopedia or textbook.
Currently, that is not in scope for the projects we have. Of course if the movement community wanted us to expand into a new project which covered that, it would be my duty as a Trustee to help out.
Looking far forward, beyond the next few years. Should each Wikimedia-named projects have to adhere to the same basic set of values we, as a community, currently hold here in the existing projects? (Namely, valuing the free distribution of factual knowledge). Or will falling hosting costs eventually mean that Wikimedia's projects will eventually become more diverse in their values, methodologies, and purposes?
Yes. The "five pillars" on the English Wikipedia, which started on MeatBall wiki in another form and spent a good few years on meta before being adopted, are a good starting set. Some of them don't apply directly for some of our projects, and I think it would be worthwhile to distill the cross-project considerations into a single agreed set of values that we all share, so that it's clearer for all of us.


How can we empower our developers and other programmers to "be bold" in trying to create 'the next big Wikimedia thing' that will do good for humanity?
The developers used to be bold (no, really, back in 2003 we locked the wiki for a day or so and ran a bot over the entire text to bring in a better way of using templates). However, around 2005/6 some people in the community started shouting a lot about what they wanted/didn't want. At the same time, on the whole the developers' numbers didn't grow significantly whilst the community did, so they became more remote, and appeared less "bold". The focus on allowing everyone to write their own extensions is good in theory, but in practice it often means that some wikis have features that the rest of us would like to have too, but the administrative overhead for the sysadmins and developers would be too much because it wasn't designed from the start to scale, or to work in some scripts, or involve more senior sysadmins who can clear it. This is one of the core things I'd like the Board to work on in the next term, and would like to lead on if elected.
How do we fix the "MediaWiki Problem", namely, an over-reliance on a single software platform?
I disagree that it's a problem, more that we haven't always found the best way of improving it to serve us.
If it were technically feasible and of negligible cost, should we someday empower trusted users the "be bold" and create new projects on their own initiative, ala Wikia?
Perhaps. We (the movement) would need to create some community norms first, I feel, but being more open to new-comers is in general a good thing.
On projects like Wikipedia, how do we fix the quality problem? (some of our articles aren't very good and don't necessarily seem to be improving with time)
Big question. In general, it boils down to three things - an engaged community, empowered by useful policies and sensible standards, with the right tools to do the job. The Foundation can only really supply the third of these (though it should help with the others). I have been endlessly disappointed by how often good ideas get shut down on the English Wikipedia as not how we do things around here - from Flagged Revisions to allowing logged-out editors to create articles, we have moved away from the wiki way and yet also away from a focus on quality.
Distributed Wikipedia-- great idea or greatest idea? :)
Certainly it would be good to consider this. Indeed, this has been discussed for years - certainly, before I was involved in discussions in 2003 it was already going strong as a topic. However, that proposal spends far too long talking about technical matters and not enough about how it would work in practice - it's asking for the community to accept major changes (and, at least as they get used to it, increased workload), and the important thing (as I say above) is to "sell" it to the community. The Board isn't the hard one to convince here. :-)
On projects like Wikipedia, how can we 'move beyond' the inclusionist/deletionist schism over inclusion criteria? How can we use software or social innovation to create a 'win-win' that gives us the best of both approaches?
Inclusionism/deletionism is not a "schism", is the way that the community figures out the best way to interpret out policies. It's like saying that court cases are a failure of the law, rather than trying to work out what the generalities mean to a particular case. That said, it's sad when people think of their argument has having "won" or "lost", rather than considering how the community has learnt from the discussions. We should focus on working together, not beating each other.