User:Johan (WMF)/Wikimedia Foundation and its teams

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

These are personal notes. They don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Also, it was written in 2016. The teams or team names might no longer be the same, but the point remains.

Communicating with the Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation is not a monolith, and like any sufficiently large organization, one part of it doesn’t necessarily know what the other part is doing. This isn’t a failure per se: there’s always some sort of trade-off between keeping track of what everyone else does and actually getting your own work done. However, it means that there are a couple of things that are helpful to understand when you communicate with the WMF.

The Wikimedia Foundation works in teams. A product or feature will often have a specific team that’s responsible for it and develops it. It’s not that the teams are the only ones responsible for MediaWiki development – the Wikimedia movement is to a very large degree a volunteer organization where we help out in our spare time, and this includes technical development – or that we don’t do things outside of the responsibilities of our teams, of course. However, it’s normally much easier to get a good answer or things done if you contact someone who’s working on the thing you’re commenting on. If someone tells you ”oh, you should talk to [name] instead” they aren't necessarily trying to ignore you or the information given to them – it could be they don’t know what to do with it, or feel they can't even judge the importance of what they’ve just been told. We’re hired for a wide variety of skills, even within the spectrum of technical development. We’re not always very familiar with the development of things we’re not working on ourselves.

I’m part of the Community Liaisons, and spend a fair amount of my time supporting Community Tech team. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the other Community Liaisons are doing and what the Community Tech team are working on. To a certain degree, I can answer questions about the Community Engagement department. But a team working on a product I don’t interact with when it doesn’t turn up in Tech News? It could very well be that working for the Wikimedia Foundation doesn’t help me at all, and everything I know about the product comes from using it when I edit from my normal, non-WMF, account.

This doesn’t mean we can’t help you. Helping you is a pretty central thing to the Wikimedia Foundation. But we’re much better at helping if you approach us knowing that we’re, as individuals, probably not the right persons to answer questions about things that someone, but not we, is working on.