User talk:Katherine (WMF)

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Proposals for policies regarding Staff-community interaction[edit]

(Sorry if this really isn't the right place for this. If there's someone in particular who's in charge of these kinds of things, could you please direct me there? Thanks.)

Discussions involving both WMF Staff and community members have been somewhat contentious over the past several years, leading to worsened WMF-community relations and a generally less civil environment for everyone. I don't think this is anyone's fault in particular, but there are several ways in which the WMF may be able to improve things. Three areas in particular in which I think the WMF may be able to reduce friction:

  1. When WMF employees participate in discussions, there is usually no indication that the owner of their staff account and their personal account are the same person. This becomes harmful when an employee participates in the same discussion under both accounts, leading to accusations of sockpuppetry and possibly a disregard for any opinions posted from a WMF account. There are legitimate reasons why one may need to switch accounts mid-discussion, for example to indicate participation under a different role, but it is very important for trust and community health that everyone can be certain that two comments from two apparently disconnected accounts actually come do from two different people. One possible solution to this problem would be for a policy to be enacted requiring that WMF employees that may participate in the same area in both a personal and professional role change the signature of their staff account to include their personal username in brackets after their staff username. Possible alternative solutions include changing staff usernames to match personal usernames (though that would likely be a problem for reasons of professionalism), or prohibiting participation in the same discussion under both accounts.
  2. When the WMF attempts to gather consensus from a community, things get complicated. Technically, the WMF doesn't have to get consensus to implement changes to software or policy, so when it tries to, reactions from certain community members are sometimes less than positive. It's often unclear whether the WMF intends to actually listen to the community's decision or not. If some community members incorrectly assume that the thread began as a result of someone receiving an assignment to "get consensus" for a decision that's already a foregone conclusion, the discussion becomes less about debating the merits of the proposal, and more about yelling at whichever well-meaning WMF employee is involved, trying to rapidly convince them that going through with it would be catastrophic in rather harsh terms. Certainly, the WMF will occasionally need to try and gather feedback regarding an action without actually committing to do whatever the community decides, but the distinction between the two types of discussions really needs to be clear or else it poisons actual attempts to gather meaningful consensus. The norms of collaborative discussion and consensus seem to essentially break down when there's such a difference in power of the participants. I recommend establishing a policy clearly delineating requests for a community decision via discussion and consensus on one hand, and requests for feedback which the WMF is permitted to disregard on the other.
    (I'm probably a bit overstating how much of a problem this is and how frequently these issues happen. I'm also worried that these problems might make the WMF less likely to engage with the community, which would be really bad in my opinion.)
  3. The community needs to know that opinions expressed by WMF employees are their own, and that they were not assigned or pressured into expressing them. We've already had discussions where concerns of this have been raised, leading to multiple accusations from WMF employees accusing community members of discriminating against them because of their employer, with the discussion going downhill from there. These interactions erode trust between the community and the WMF, and make it much more difficult for cooperative discussions to take place.

I know a lot of these issues sound like they could be fixed by people being better at Assuming Good Faith, but we have to work with what we have, I suppose. Hopefully the situation can be improved. --Yair rand (talk) 00:48, 24 October 2017 (UTC)

Hello, Yair rand. :) I'm stepping in here in my role as interim Chief of Community Engagement as I have actively worked with our legal team and our talent & culture team in putting together some guidelines for behavior for staff on our projects. Also in my role with Support & Safety, I worked with Legal and others in SuSa in putting together a User Account Policy. So I have some insight into current guidance and an interest in making sure that guidance is solid!
The first situation you describe - where WMF staff participate both as staff and volunteers - should be rare. As you note, there may be occasions why somebody needs to switch streams, and I agree with you that where this happens the change should be made clear in that discussion. But generally staff should not be engaging both professionally and non-professionally in the same conversation. If it's happening routinely, then either there are reasons for doing so that the guidelines aren't taking into account (and the guideline needs to be adapted to address those reasons) or the situation really shouldn't be happened (and the guidelines need to be clarified or reinforced). If there are specific instances where you think this wasn't optimally managed, I'd appreciate it if you'd shoot me an email - not in the interest of getting people in trouble (and obviously that's not what you're here for :)) but so I can learn why and talk with Talent & Culture and Legal to see how we can help avoid problems in the future. Either way, I will review the guidelines new staff are given to make sure that guidance is clear and also think about whether occasional reminders are useful - maybe at some standard interval after onboarding. Starting a new job usually comes with a glut of information, and it's always possible that details are lost. :)
I do see the problem you identify in your second bullet. I think there's a bit of a "culture clash" involved - that is, as a Wikimedian myself I know that often Wikimedia discussions are based on the presumption that consensus in a conversation rules. (Obviously, it's more complicated than that and takes explanation to those who aren't deeply involved that local consensus may not overcome policy. But generally, consensus in a discussion rules. :)) The Foundation shouldn't ever seek feedback without intention to listen, but there are occasions when listening may not result in the outcome that those who have an expectation that local consensus will rule will believe to be proper. I think you're right that it's important to people who launch discussions to be clear about what the outcome of the conversation may be. I think you're also very right that it would be bad if people shied away from talking. :) The Technical Collaboration team and the Audiences team are collaborating on a mw:Technical Collaboration Guidance document. I haven't closely followed conversations around this document, but I'll point this thread out to them in case it's not already reflected or on the table for future documentation.
With respect to your third point, I'm really sorry to hear that this confusion exists. :( Every Foundation employee is required by policy to have specific language on their accounts noting that their opinions are their own, and those who have publicly identified personal accounts are required to note that those accounts are distinct from work. You can see, for example, my personal page (wow, predates the template!) and my work account. In those conversations that you have witnessed where people are misunderstanding the role of staff, have people expressed doubt about those, or do you think they are unaware? I'd like to think about how to avoid such problems if this is a common misunderstanding. Occasionally, some staff may miss the policy (as mentioned above, there's a lot of information coming at people when they start a new job) and I know that sometimes others may doubt the disclaimer, although I'm not sure what in that case would work, if an explicit statement doesn't. :/
I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on these issues and hope to hear more! --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 13:52, 24 October 2017 (UTC)

When are you going to do something about the abusive culture on Wikipedia[edit]

Greetings Katherine,

I'm just wondering when you are finally going to step up and do something about the abusive culture on Wikipedia that drives away editors. It's such an oppressive environment even this discussion will likely be reverted as trolling just for asking the question or at best completely ignored by you because it doesn't deal with pandering donation dollars.

It's no secret that the editing community is suffering...largely at the hands of abusive admins, the WMF has gotten grant money specifically to deal with the abusiveness but refuses to admit that much of the abuse is due to out of control admins and people in the WMF that could and should be doing something about it like James Alexander.

Rather than deal with the problem admins and editors he bans the whistleblowers and advocates a culture of abuse and bullying. He really needs to go! He doesn't care about the community or the project as long as the culture gives him control and anyone who believes him when he says he does is kidding themselves.

It's really a shame how far own Wikipedia has sunk, it used to be a great project and an inclusive and positive environment, now even the most active WikiProjects are shadows of what they once were, editors don't even want to be admins and the admins on the site do whatever they want with impunity. You need to step up and act. Active and dedicated editors are being bullied out of Wikipedia and other WMF projects just for trying to change and improve the abusive culture by admins who want to keep it the way it is and as the Executive Director the fault is yours and only leadership from the top will fix it. 2601:5CC:101:2EF2:4D9F:586E:8234:7E05 01:08, 1 November 2017 (UTC)

This is absolutely correct. The culture in some communities is toxic because of the legal fiction adopted by the WMF that they are merely a hosting platform and their "communities" (of mostly anonymous users) are responsible for content. Luckily the courts in Europe have started a trend of exposing this fiction. Inlinetext (talk) 04:34, 7 November 2017 (UTC)
Wow, no response at all to these very serious and seemingly well meaning question? That shows a lack of interest in the safety and well being of the community or the sites by you. Even if the comment is wrong above, ignoring it for so long gives the perception of credibility to the statement. If there is even a small amount of truth to these allegations (and I have to assume there is) then I would think the ED of the WMF would at least give the appearance of caring about them! LyleSWang (talk) 16:58, 16 November 2017 (UTC)

Display of covert advertising notice prominently for EU readers[edit]

Dear Ms. Maher,

I am reposting this because the Chief Director (Support and Safety) for Wikimedia Foundation seems to be ignoring messages related to safety of Wikimedia users.

I would like to know precisely how the WMF is complying with the Munich and Stuttgart superior court decisions involving WMF that (a) covert advertising (paid edits) warning notices be prominently displayed in the article for the safety of consumers in EU (European Union) itself without consumers/Wikipedia readers having to read article talk pages or user talk pages, and (b) that objectionable content when brought to notice of WMF will be removed promptly.

Editors from EU who have attempted to discuss this issue over at the WMF's largest project, the English language Wikipedia, are not getting anywhere since it seemingly must be implemented by WMF and not by the user communities. Inlinetext (talk) 04:34, 7 November 2017 (UTC)

User:Inlinetext For articles which appear to have been created by an undisclosed paid editor we are using this template which also shows up on mobile.[1]
For articles which are created by a disclosed paid editor and have not been thoroughly reviewed by a non paid editor I have been using this template which does not show up very prominently on mobile.[2]
Does more need to be done to deal with paid promotional editing, especially that of the undisclosed type? IMO yes and we need to be putting foundation resources towards dealing with it / creating tools to help the community deal with it.
We currently have a RfC on meta about one method to address the issue here Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 14:55, 7 November 2017 (UTC)
I am awaiting an official answer from WMF (not from a member of the Board in his private capacity) preferably after consulting WMF (Legal). I am especially concerned by paid edits to articles by certain disclosed paid editors who maintain Wikipedia administrators on their payrolls to block editors who raise inconvenient objections to their proposed drafts on article talk pages. The RfC you link to is not of concern to me. No offence intended, but it appears you are unable to understand my query which concerns compliance with judgments of superior courts in Germany. In any event, I am no longer a part of the editing community of English Wikipedia, and am here to see how WMF enforces my legal court conferred rights as a consumer and reader of English Wikipedia within the EU, and specifically within Germany. Inlinetext (talk) 16:06, 7 November 2017 (UTC)
I understand your concerns and yes the RfC is tangential to them. Paid editing is a difficult problem to "solve". Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 16:11, 7 November 2017 (UTC)
I should also clarify that the import of the German judgments is that the WMF (Wikimedia Foundation) is responsible for, and should remove objectionable content upon receiving a proper complaint and not leave it to the "community". Inlinetext (talk) 16:15, 7 November 2017 (UTC)

Providing authorship information on every visible page[edit]

A simple solution on would be to provide authorship information to the reading community on every visible page.
A pop-up graphic showing the top 10 editors by text added could make quality assessment a bit easier. (This is currently available only to those initiates who know where to find it: view history > revision history statistics) .
The page I linked to above shows, for example, that a user named Sagecandor composed 98% of the text of the book review review of The Plot to Hack America. It also shows that the biggest removal of content was by a member of ArbCom who spends a lot of time reading off-wiki criticism of corruption. A reader being able—at a glance—to see whether there was consensus on articles or if—rather—one account was largely responsible for the text (e.g. the promo of Taibi's Insane Clown President book or the BLP of Michael Caputo).
I noticed that IAC's Daily Beast was interested in that last article recently but failed to mention its principal author. If even elite Clintonite journalists can't figure out how to find authorship information on Wikipedia and end up looking foolish as a result, I can see why people might get frustrated with Wikipedia's poor transparency with regard to protected accounts. I see another IAC is interested in encouraging the WMF to comply with German law and give encyclopedia readers the tools to determine the degree of advertising a page contains. I do believe adding that pop-up graph would go a long way in terms of increasing Wikipedian transparency. What do you think, Doc? Katherine? inline? SashiRolls (talk) 00:01, 9 November 2017 (UTC)
User:SashiRolls I think it is an excellent idea :-)
I built of mockup of the idea in 2014 which you can see here [3]
The text says "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Contributors" with contributors linked to this tool. Authors are linked in the byline right were people would expect them to be. Discussion was here and here
We had the ability to turn this on for all medical article as a gadget for three months. Problem at that point in time was that the tool was unstable and I was unable to find any programmers to fix it. Would love to see this pushed forwards again. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 04:49, 9 November 2017 (UTC)
Something you could add to the 2017 Community Wishlist Survey maybe? See how many people are interested. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 08:33, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
I'll look into that this WE. Thanks (again) for telling me about the fate of the previous initiative; it's really too bad there were technical problems. SashiRolls (talk) 10:12, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
  • Since this 2017 wishlist proposal originated here, I should report back. It looks like a few folks were against showing authorship data (for diverse reasons, some ecological, some psychological, some technical, some per theDJ). I wonder who Jack who built the house is? He seems to like theDJ's adpocalypse argument... ^^ Oh well, I appreciate the info on the javascript gadget Doc. SashiRolls (talk) 00:59, 18 December 2017 (UTC)

Financial Times interview[edit]

Thanks for stressing the need for more women editors in your Financial Times interview last week.--Ipigott (talk) 16:09, 13 December 2017 (UTC)

I also enjoyed reading the article. Other readers might disagree on which of the topics covered by the FT writer were the best or worst, but IMHO I really liked seeing the photo of your books. (I have the bad habit when visiting a person's office or home for the first time of reading the titles of the books there and quizzing my unfortunate host on their contents - but I wouldn't even know where to start with your books!) OTOH I think the writer's stress on your apartment could have been cut back.
All the best.
Smallbones (talk) 16:19, 15 December 2017 (UTC)