User talk:Mdennis (WMF)

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Code of Conduct[edit]

Maggie, when you have a moment please review the progress that has been made at mw:Code of Conduct/Draft. I invite you to consider whether that progress is satisfactory, or whether, as has been suggested at mw:Talk:Code of Conduct/Draft#Nine months and mw:Talk:Code of Conduct/Draft#What happens next?, it is now time for your staff to move this project on to its next stage. In any case, this is another area in which I do not see any way to help you. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:07, 30 May 2016 (UTC)

We discussed this at another page in June. Are you still satisfied with the progress being made on this code? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 17:25, 5 August 2016 (UTC)
I'm told it's going well and is probably not far from completion. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 12:11, 6 August 2016 (UTC)
I do not know who has told you that, but if you had asked me I would have given you a different answer. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 15:35, 6 August 2016 (UTC)
Let me just follow up on that. I note you didn't answer my question as to whether you regarded progress as satisfactory. Let me give you some reasons to believe that it is not. It is now over a year since this project was started, and it is not yet finished. That is in itself quite deplorable. The ultimate object of this and indeed any other such code must surely be to reduce the level of misconduct in Wikimedia technical spaces and make those spaces more civilised, more pleasant, more fulfilling and more productive to work in. You know better than most of us what some people are suffering from in those spaces, and unnecessary delay in promulgating a code of conduct is unacceptable for that reason alone. The management of the drafting of this code, and indeed almost all the drafting work, has been in the hands of WMF staff. This may be inevitable in that paid staff probably have more time to devote to this task than volunteers, but speaking as a volunteer attempting to contribute, I felt excluded by actions of staff. One, not quite trivial example: in September I raised a legal question which I felt need attention from WMF Legal. Quite by chance I discsovered some months later that a member of staff had taken on themselves to tell Legal (through some other channel that I was not privy to) that the question did not need to be answered. The conduct of the discussion has been managed, even micro-managed, by members of staff who have taken it on themselves to declare whether and when consensus has been reached. The rather few non-staff participants left have on several occasions posted comments to the effect that they do not recognise this as a community consensus. I agree with that position.
Well, let us suppose that you regard it as satisfactory that this code should be drafted by your staff and promulgated on the authority of the WMF. This is a tenable position, just not what was initially envisaged or hoped for. Let me now address whether this project is being effectively delivered on those terms. There has explicitly never been a timeline or schedule for delivery, even though I have asked for one. There is no published stakeholder mapping or communications plan. There is no sense of pace or any of the other positive outcomes one might expect from such a closely managed process. This is quite unsatisfactory, and the result is that after more than a year there is no code and no plausible date for the delivery of a code. This is not what I would recognise as success.
Having said which, let me suggest some positive actions that you may wish to consider. There needs to be an actionable plan for delivery to the community and generation of consensus; there needs to be a set of metrics for the success or otherwise of this code that you can use to determine whether or not it is succeeding once it is in place; and there needs to be a timetable. I am sure you agree with me that this project is capable of being effectively delivered and being of benefit to the community as a whole. I ask you to take steps to make that happen. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 11:09, 7 August 2016 (UTC)
Am I satisfied? Based on my understanding, yes. Am I delighted? No.
I would have been delighted to have a quick and effective solution, with universal agreement, that would ensure that people could feel safe working in technical spaces with the knowledge that, if they were mistreated, they would have willing assistance from others. That said, this would never have been my expectation. Through my years as a volunteer and staff I've watched (or lightly participated) in conversations trying to figure out how to solve this problem in another space, English Wikipedia (my Wikimedia birthplace as it were :)). There, the Personal Attack Noticeboard of 2005 lasted less than two years before it was closed due to the contentiousness of the board and its perceived ineffectiveness. In 2012, the Wikiquette assistance program went down for similar reasons, with a consensus to find another alternative. (Transparency: I opposed. I thought we needed to fix it.) So far as I'm aware, no alternative was ever created, and in 2014 en:Wikipedia:Requests for comment/User conduct was also shut down for inefficiency. What this all comes down to, I guess, is that I'm sadly aware how difficult it is to create effective processes for dealing with misconduct and to reach agreement on those, and as delighted as I would have been, I'd have never expected it to be swift or easy. Behavioral policy and enforcement is arguably the most complex and challenging topic our communities have to navigate. I'd rather see a slowly hammered out code that will work and will last, and I hope that the time and effort that have gone into this one will be so rewarded.
My experience as a Wikimedian - overall, not specifically as a WMF employee - is actually that volunteers can drive projects quite ably. Volunteers’ energy and ability to achieve is pretty spectacular; it's the base on which this whole thing was created, after all. :) Because of that, even given the complexity of responding to behavioral issues, I don't think it's inevitable that staff lead drafting the code, but I can see many reasons why staff may wind up doing so. In relation to this, staff are a large component of the technical spaces and so are deeply impacted by behavior there themselves. And it’s particularly likely that staff may lead if there's not any particular group of volunteers who are able under the circumstances to hammer down on solving a difficult situation. I know from Support and Safety's exploration of harassment last year that some in community are afraid of becoming too visible in this area, because they've become targets after doing so. (For that matter, so have some staff.) I am sorry to hear that you feel the process hasn't been as collaborative as you'd like - I don't know what question it is you felt legal needed to answer or who decided on what basis that it may not have been necessary to consult them. If you still have unresolved questions there, I'm happy to ask somebody to look into it, but I can't promise that legal will be able to specifically answer the question (they can only give legal advice to the WMF).
I imagine you know that this plan was not born in my team or even in my department, but that rather it came out of those staff and volunteers who worked in the technical spaces themselves. My awareness of it has accordingly risen as it has grown and as my own role has evolved. What I've been told by both staff and volunteers who've discussed this with me is that progress on the Code of Conduct work has been slow, but steady, with consensus reached on each section as it is complete. (I don't imagine consensus will mean unanimity, and I do hear that you don't necessary agree that consensus has been reached at points.) I am told that it is approaching the final stages, which would seem quite satisfactory to me. I'm not sure that I agree with you that a timetable is essential when it comes to collaboratively agreeing on an approach to a problem that has been demonstrably so difficult to handle. Such conversations shouldn't go on forever, of course. But building the right approach may be time-consuming, and - if it is the right approach - will be worth it in the end.
In terms of metrics to evaluate its effectiveness, we are building review of community health in our Community Engagement Insights surveys, which I hope will deliver regular data on people's sense of safety in the various spaces of our projects and also in the effectiveness of techniques and policies to handle issues. This should allow us to assess what our effectiveness is and to adjust as we go. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 14:57, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
If you are satisfied, then all I can do is wait for the process currently underway to complete at some point in the indefinite future. I am increasingly disappointed with how hard it is to help the WMF. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:53, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
  • Maggie, I just want to say thanks for that summary. My mind is too full of other issues to keep on top of the TCOC as well, but I am hopeful that we will make some progress on the broad issue of civility in the community, particularly in regards to how it affects contributor diversity and attrition. I'm not sure that a COC is the tool that I would choose to invest so much time in; I think that some of the themes and projects being developed in the anti-harassment campaign may be more fruitful. But I am glad that people are viewing the problem of incivility with enough seriousness that they are trying to make it better.
  • Rogol Domedonfors I appreciate your asking questions about the progress of this matter. I've communicated occasionally with Maggie for years, and I'm confident in her ability to do as well as anyone could reasonably be expected to do in her position. On a personal level, in some ways I don't have much choice but to trust WMF people to do the right thing because I'm too stretched -- and the organization is now simply too big -- for me to try to keep track of numerous important initiatives while also trying to make progress on my own projects both on and off of Wikimedia. While I have some vivid memories of WMF doing things in ways that were harmful, I'd like to suggest to you that you choose your priorities carefully. Of the issues that I see as the biggest risks and those with the highest potential benefit to the community, I might suggest that this is one which none of us should lose sleep over. If you'd like to help WMF, I'm sure Maggie could offer some good suggestions about areas in which your input could be particularly helpful. I like that you are trying to do the right thing. (: --Pine 07:38, 11 August 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for that. Unfortunately the overlap seems to be narrowing between those areas where I believe the WMF needs help; where the WMF is ready, willing and able to accept help; and what I personally can do. Incidentally, it is not a question of wanting "to help WMF", it is a question of wanting to support the mission. The WMF and the volunteer community are or ought to be working together to that end. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:26, 11 August 2016 (UTC)
  • I thought I would mention that two months after our last exchnage on this subject, the Code of Conduct still has not been completed, and is apparently still bogged down in issues that were first raised by WMF Legal over a year ago. I invite you to consider whether you still regard this as satisfactory. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 08:46, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
  • Hi, Rogol Domedonfors. Thanks for modifying the time-stamp - I'm afraid I missed the original notice. My status is largely the same - satisfied, yes. Delighted, no. I wish this was complete and fully operational, but people have reservations with specific points that need to be discussed, and this work is being conducted as secondary to main work tasks. Not ideal, but progressing. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 15:20, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
Maggie, thank you for taking the time to reply. I think I have already explained why I personally would not accept this as satisfactory progress. It is now over a year since this Code became in effect a WMF staff project. External consultants were brought in to help WMF staff on this in January and no report of their activities or recommendations has been published (indeed, I do not believe they ever returned a formal report as such). It is stalled on the same problems that were under discussion with WMF Legal in September 2015 (is there any action you could take to help to unblock that?), it has no timeline and, as you reveal, is of secondary priority. I assess the probability of this Code ever appearing as being less than 100%. Rather than dwell on the details of this specific project, let me say that this is a depressingly familiar picture. You will perhaps recall the discussion we had in August 2015 about the unsatisfactory progress in completing and publishing the report on the 2015 Strategy/Community consultation, arising out of a discussion between myself and the then ED. That was another example of an initiative in which volunteer time and effort was consumed initially, followed by the follow-up actions from WMF staff stretching out apparently indefinitely until an outside consultant had to be brought in to finish the work and deliver the outputs. The pattern is the same. Do you think it is unfair of me to suggest that the WMF still has some way to go culturally with its follow-through on such matters? Is there any way in which lessons can be learned from this repeated pattern? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:39, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
I have more faith in a positive outcome than you do, Rogol Domedonfors, but at the same time I think very little is 100%, aside from the proverbial death and taxes. :) I know that the staff working on this are still committed to it, and I get regular reports on this and the suite of other approaches being taken to harassment. I think it's a bit soon to count it out. From what you say, I'm not sure you are fully remembering the situation with the 2015 Strategy/Community consultation - the outside consultant was not brought in to finish the work and deliver outputs; the outside consultant was the one who did the work and was contracted to deliver the report. Unfortunately, the delivery of her report was delayed. But it was the same person, from start to finish. As I mentioned to you at the time, delivery of the report was part of her contract. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 20:27, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
Maggie, thanks for such a quick response. It's not a matter of faith, but an assessment of probabilities based on what I see. But you will have a different view, of course. I probably am not aware of the precise details of the situation with the 2015 Strategy/Community consultation, as an outsider who over the course of trying to find out what was going on was given quite a bewildering variety of not entirely consistent explanations. Presumably you took the view that the minor discrepancy between your recollection and mine so completely nullified the pattern I believe I see that you didn't feel any necessity to address the wider question of whether there were lessons to learn, or whether they have been learned. I was consciously and explicitly trying to move the discussion on to learning from the past in order to do better in the future, and away from simply replaying old debates. I would hope that we could all sign up to that. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:06, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, I guess to me it's a little more of a major difference than a minor discrepancy, Rogol Domedonfors. People generally do tend to want to set the record straight when they see disagreements of fact that they consider substantial. That said, you offer two incidents which you refer to as part of a repeated pattern: the slow progress of a difficult and new Code of Conduct discussion being carried on by staff in their spare time and and a contractor's delay in producing a report. These things are not the same. I do not see the pattern from which we can learn that you evidently do. I'm happy to acknowledge that things do not always move as quickly as I want even now. The Code of Conduct is a great initiative, and I applaud the staff who are giving of their extra time to work on it while meeting their committed work targets in our annual plan. I also appreciate the volunteers who are engaging in conversations around it. I support them in that effort, and I have not lost faith in their ability to succeed. Is there a learning for doing better in the future from this singular issue? "Assign more resources to this work," perhaps. But I realize that resources are needed in many areas, and there is also other important work to be done that can't be neglected. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 21:35, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
Then I have indeed failed to make it clear what I see as the pattern underlying the two projects I described, which of course are not the same (if they were, there would only be one of them). Each started off with high hopes, a lot of involvement by staff and community, and then it became clear that there was nothing delivered and no more staff resource available. The commonality was not lack of resource as such, but failure to plan for and deliver the resource necessary on the time scale required to achieve the project. In the 2015 case the project was completed by using an external consultant: I do not know whether there was an initial timeline but I do know that the timescale proved incorrect. In the current case I do not know whether or how it will be completed, but I do know that there is no timeline. This pattern was also visible in the earlier projects Community Engagement (Product)/Process ideas and Community Engagement (Product)/Product Surveys about which the then ED commented It did not have an expected outcome and a timeline (which projects should have). So to reiterate, the pattern seems to me to be – Good idea; enthusiasm; lots of community and staff involvement; lots of work; unclear timescale and/or success criteria; hence impossible to plan for staff resources; staff resources are not allocated; staff resource not available; staff and volunteers get bored/bogged down/jaded or work is harder than expected; effort slows down below critical; project fades away with little or nothing delivered or heroic efforts/special measures introduced to deliver less than expected later than expected. Does this seem familar to you? It is to me. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 22:04, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
Maggie, just to follow up on the historical aspect, since you are keen to set the record straight. You might wish to view the page Strategy/2016-2017/Audit of past strategy processes where the 2015 Call to Action / discovery work on strategy Overview section states March 2015: Kim Gilbey (strategy consultant) hired and the analysis was delayed because a contractor was brought in to complete the report after the strategy consultant completed the initial front-end since they are are not consistent with what you wrote here yesterday [1] the outside consultant was not brought in to finish the work and deliver outputs; the outside consultant was the one who did the work and was contracted to deliver the report. Unfortunately, the delivery of her report was delayed. But it was the same person, from start to finish. As I mentioned to you at the time, delivery of the report was part of her contract. You may wish to comment on that point at the discussion I have started at Talk:Strategy/2016-2017/Audit of past strategy processes. However I believe that the discrepancy, whatever its resolution, will not significantly affect the nature of the lessons that can be learned from that and other episodes I have mentioned here and really hope that you will have time to contribute your thoughts on how to take them forward. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 18:18, 21 October 2016 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing that out, Rogol Domedonfors. I've dropped a note to Suzie for clarification. Perhaps we hired a consultant to help with the report, but I have no doubt of Kim's role in producing the report - double-checked her emails in August and the attribution history of the draft report. In any event, you and I see these situations differently, obviously. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 17:34, 23 October 2016 (UTC)

Since you are convinced that there is no pattern here, no lessons to be learned, and no consequent improvement to the WMF way of working to be made, then we must indeed agree to disagree. Thank you for your time and attention. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:09, 23 October 2016 (UTC)

This "hub" thing[edit]


Please ping me when responding. I was wondering if any progress has been made on the "hub"-idea, and when we can expect to see it in action. TBH I think it is very very important. The Quixotic Potato (talk) 22:48, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

Hello, User:The Quixotic Potato. Progress is being made, yes. This year, the “central Wikimedia resource center” (as it’s currently titled) is part of the annual plan, as a series of quarterly goals being lead by the Learning & Evaluation team. It is in early testing phase, and I hope will be rolled out before too much longer. I expect to be hearing the results of the testing by the end of this quarter. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 14:55, 16 August 2016 (UTC)
The objective appears to be "Develop a Wikimedia Resource Center that allows community leaders to design, deliver and evaluate core programs more efficiently – through semi-automated tools and infrastructure". Please tell us who those community leaders are, and how they were involved in the planning stage. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:23, 16 August 2016 (UTC)
It would also be helpful to have someone explain the difference, if any, between this new Wikimedia Resource Center and the Communications/Resource center. The latter seems to be a revival of the (presumed defunct) Communication Projects Group, and overlaps somewhat with the Communications committee. Please consider whether there ought to be a single locus that explains the remit and status of all these activities, groups, centres, programmes, and how to interact with them. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 09:27, 21 August 2016 (UTC)
Hi Rogol Domedonfors, I'm responding to your questions below:
1. Who these community leaders are and how they were involved in the planning stage. We refer to program leaders here - those Wikimedians who develop and manage programs, like editathons, photo contests, writing workshops, educations programs, etc. We consulted with many of them in different one on one conversations through November last year. After that, we had an online conversation about our Program Capacity and Learning strategy, which was drafted based on these ideas. You can see the plan on Program Capacity and Learning page, and the conversation on the the talk page. Although that team has split into the Learning and Evaluation and Programs teams, we are still working on the same shared strategy and projects. Consultations were also conducted at various pre-conference Learning Days amongst programs groups by L&E (and, formerly, PC&L). These consultations, however, are not over. As we launch and develop the Wikimedia Resource Center, we will continue to gather feedback as Wikimedians begin to interact with it in order to also improve its usability.
2. Differences with other resource centers and comment on committees' roles. The Wikimedia Resource Center is an umbrella that includes the Communications Resource Center. We aim to connect from the WRC all resources available for Wikimedians. One of them is the Communications Resource Center. There are other resources, as well, for example: Program Toolkits for Wikimedia movement leaders, Technical Collaborations Guidelines for Mediawiki volunteers, Support and Safety public question posting system, just to name a few. As you state, the Communications Committee is expected to oversee, contribute and promote to the Communications Resource Center, and this will continue to be the case. As a a group of people with expert skills and the capacity to mentor others on diverse communication topics, we will continue to connect people to them and we hope to do this through the Wikimedia Resource Center, as well. So there will be two types of content linked from the Wikimedia Resource Center: (1) guides like toolkits and FAQs, and (2) people that can give direct support. We will also explain in which ways Wikimedians can contribute.
I hope this gives more clarity about the project. Please let me know if you have any other questions or comments. María (WMF) (talk) 17:01, 22 August 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for that information. To my mind, "community leaders" is different from "program leaders" and in particular I would have hoped to see a wider consultation than direct personal approaches to those already benefitting from the current system. You might have taken the opportunity to capture the views of those who do not participate in these programmes already, and find out why not, for example. Your comments on the Wikimedia Resource Center are most interesting. The multiplicity of resources available underline, I think, the suggestion that I made above to Maggie, which I reiterate for clarity here, that she "consider whether there ought to be a single locus that explains the remit and status of all these activities, groups, centres, programmes, and how to interact with them". I do not believe the Resource Centre is intended to be that locus. I look forward to hearing Maggie's response to my suggestion at some point. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 17:34, 22 August 2016 (UTC)

Hiya! Me again. Please ping me when responding. I basically still have the same question that started this thread. The Quixotic Potato (talk) 19:36, 4 October 2016 (UTC)

Hi, The Quixotic Potato. You should reach out to María (WMF), per her invitation. She's managing the project and should be able to update you. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 20:31, 20 October 2016 (UTC)
Hi The Quixotic Potato, yes, there has been a lot of progress on the Wikimedia Resource Center. I am creating a prototype on my Sandbox. You can follow the progress on Phabricator, and should expect a launch of the alpha version in December. Please message me if you have follow up questions. María (WMF) (talk) 17:02, 26 October 2016 (UTC)