Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Reports/2021-02-21 Wikimedia Stewards User Group

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2021-02-21 Call for Feedback - Stewards User Group


  • DerHexer
  • Matanya
  • Ajraddatz
  • Martin Urbanec
  • Base


The following feedback consists of quotes from the discussion transcript. These have been strongly redacted (shortened, condensed, slightly corrected) afterwards.

  • If you look at the people who show up at elections, they are the same people over and over again and those people who show up are always or almost always people with good English and people with good English who have experience of what we do in the community. And that makes a lot of sense when you talking about community elected position to do community stuff. This is not the case for the board in most part. Um, I wish it was. But since the the WMF is a legal entity, it has to have a board that has fiduciary requirements and that's what the board is doing. For example, if you look at our board, there is no one on the board who has product and technology experience, none. That's between hilarious and sad. If you look at a foundation that is dealing with technology and is the sixth No.6 website in the world, but they could have been appointed by the board. So now the proposal is to expand the number of appointed seats.
  • I agree. I'm saying I'm looking at the appointed seats. Those definitely should be, I don't know if vetting or whatever method is good, but I have no issue if we appoint the needed expertise to the board.
  • I think the community elected seats are our problem. There is a popularity contest, the fact that the same people show over and over again and they speak good English, we probably should tackle that and have more diverse community representation.
  • I basically see no issues with the current system because what we have in the current system, we have two kinds of community votes. So there is a popularity vote by the broad community which is here. You will probably select the same people who have the biggest support of the global community. And perhaps this one is taking into consideration the skills that you are taking them into consideration. But it depends on the people voting to know what the board members actually are. So with that particular skill, there are no issues, but there might be some skills that are being overlooked. But then there is another kind of community election, which is the affiliated election. And in case of affiliate election, it is not as simple as people just voting for whomever they like most. It is a lot of backstage negotiations. I would say, like most of the candidates know who would support them or less because they talk to each other. And when a candidate is proposed to, they have to be supported by at least two independent affiliates. So that's already like at least two big affiliates wouldn't just support some random person without skills. They mostly support somebody they know to have the skills necessary. And then there are appointed seats, where the board was taking care to select people for some skill gaps that they had. And sometimes those gaps were actually covered by some members of the community, which is good.
  • Representation should be done by quota, not by regulating the system, the voting system.
  • When we talk about representation, currently, Africa is not so active on Wikipedia projects among the world and I'm sure we also need these voices. But then quota should happen or people should be appointed to fill these quota. Why is it necessary to work on the community election process?
  • I agree that the foundation has had an issue in recent years (and by recent I mean like the past decade) adequately reflecting the priorities of the community, the people actually building these sites, the people contributing the content, the people actually doing all of the work. And I don't understand how at one point the foundation's governance systems shifted away from representing the people who are actually doing the work. And so I'm kind of two minds here. On the one hand, there's some really good things that the foundation has done recently that the community hasn't agreed with, but I think are objectively necessary for our organization. But I really, really do not see how removing the community's one already failing voice into the kind of high level Strategic Governance Foundation is going to be a useful or helpful move. My concern is that all of the proposed systems provide less of a direct voice from the community to the board than the current system does. And to be clear, I think the current system is terrible. The community's voice on the board is already nearly non-existent, and now it's being proposed to be reduced further by creating a system that I think has all the appearances of being community selected while really not having much accountability to the community at all or adequately representing, again, the views of the people who are actually there building the content.
  • I'll say the ranked voting system would not be an issue, I just get the sense here that the foundation is pushing for far greater changes than just changed the voting system. I feel like this speaks to the total lack of community engagement in setting strategic priorities in the organization. This feels like a done decision, like I fully expect that at the end of this process, regardless of what the community says, we will have a quota system and probably like board selected seats as well, like some kind of vetting beforehand. So like to to some extent, this feels like a completely futile effort because I imagine and again, like, I'm not even sure who's who's setting the agenda here. It sucks when we go into something with like a pre-defined outcome.
  • I think starting off with a community majority on the board, a directly elected, no quotas, no interference with which members of the community could be on it, just a directly elected community majority on the board would be a good first step, and that might not be an end step. Like there may be further changes that we need to make after that. But I think that will just be the best start that we could make when it comes to board reform. My point is like a system that still is fully representing the community where there still is direct elections and then have the remaining seats on the board be used to fill up the diversity and experience requirement. It just boggles my mind how, like the conversation is both like we need these appointed seats to fill these requirements and then also we need the community seats to fill these requirements.
  • And to a large extent, Asian or African people just don't use our sites. I would like us to be a worldwide movement, but I'm not sure - the pragmatist or the realist in me says that, like, we should have representation according to how our sites are used, not what we would want them to be used as.
  • And if people are not choosing to use our sites, which they aren't throughout most parts of the Third World, then like I'm not sure we should work to address that. But ultimately, like, I'm not sure how filling diversity quotas on the board will actually help with that or having like a diverse majority anyway, I.
  • You can just use the appointed seats to elect somebody from Africa, Asia or, I don't know, Antarctica or Mars to the board. But if the community vote doesn't select enough people with necessary skills or some groups they are representing, then the appointed seats can be used for that.
  • Yeah, I also think, like, there's that it's a good point and like, again, I'm not I'm not trying to pooh-pooh diversity. I just think it's like we already have a built in mechanism for ensuring it through the appointed seats.
  • My issue is also like some a lot of kind of changes that may need to be made to kind of accommodate the developing world, it doesn't always need to be top down, nor do I think that the board, which is at most 16 people, is going to be an adequate avenue for sort of top down representation anyway, like a lot of this is going to be based on specific community needs. And that can be developed because on like with with our current kind of system of decentralized governance, project based governance, like if more people start using the non English Wikipedias, they will be in almost full control on what what happens on those projects, if that makes sense. So like there's from from a content perspective, from a kind of developing a community voice and projecting that voice.
  • We have sufficient females in the board and I'm not saying it as a cap of some quota we need to fill, but as the fact that we have female representative representation on the board.
  • The appointed seats cannot cover all diversity issues like gender diversity and topics, diversity and such. So the idea brought in by Edri was that they could cover everything. But I mean, we have to ask ourselves, which is the main goal for the board? Should there be community representation, as Adrian implied that? Community should be somewhere, should have the majority. And then staff people or appointed people can fill in the gaps.
  • I can only support the first point ranked voting system.
  • So in my opinion, and I know it's only my opinion, the plant, the seeds of missing gaps of skill, not to cover for diversity. And if the community is not diverse, that's a deeper problem that we won't fix by electing sorry, appointing diversity into the world. It simply won't help.
  • I agree to the lack of diversity within the Wikimedia community is, I think, much largely or much more largely driven by societal issues than it is by anything we're specifically doing. And of course, there's work that can be done around the around the kind of edges with like the universal code of conduct, for example. I think some of these issues are broader than what we can address just through changing the board representation.
  • The board is currently very close to gender parity. I don't think that that's like we shouldn't be proactively making quotas for something that has not been an issue as of now.
  • I'm not against quota, but I don't have a solution to find a fair one. That's my problem.
  • We'll need to figure out which identity factors are important enough to warrant a quota. And I think that that process would be horribly divisive like there is. There are more identity factors than we could fit into eight board seats.
  • I think I do see the point that there should be more women, more women and more regional representation. But I'm I'm not sure if quotas will manage that. Again, we're talking about eight communities, selected seats. And I think like with that, with such a small number, we we really are limited in what we can actually represent. And I think quotas will very quickly start to overpower a full representation of the community, the majority community voice on the board.
  • I know that at one point with the strategic recommendations and I'm not sure how this ties into them, there is kind of an idea for a Tier two governance body, like a global council of some sort, which, to my understanding, would have handled more of the policy decisions, whereas the board would have been more restricted to fiduciary duties and kind of rubber stamping policy decisions or providing an oversight function. And I'm not sure what's happening with that. But I think that, like a broader body like that would be a good opportunity. That body would be entirely focused on community representation. And I think there would be much more potential for focusing on diversity there.
  • I don't think that the diversity issue can be adequately solved by the board, either in its current form or its proposed forms, while still maintaining like any sort of proper community representation such that the objectives of the Wikimedia community at large is reflected in the strategic planning of the foundation. That's kind of the end goal that I'm looking at. And I don't see I don't really see those two goals as being compatible, to be totally honest.
  • I think either we have a diverse board or we have a representative board.
  • The goal is to find skillful people and try to recruit those people from other parts that we use to recruit up until now. That's how I see the thing.
  • The fact is, quite frankly, the sad fact that we typically don't see recruitment, a call for recruitment, for a specific missing skill, we see a popularity contest, as I said before. And if you put the skill requirements, it usually doesn't matter at all to the people who vote. They'd simply vote for the most popular person, even if it doesn't feel there are needed skills. I know Adwan said in the beginning that if you want specific skills, you should go to the appointed seats. But I disagree with this specific point.
  • Some candidates highlight their unique skills in their statements, and that is good. But that is not the same as if the requirements would be stated on the election page. And I know we be in big letters with translations made to many languages currently. You don't have that. You just have the election and then people choose whatever criteria they personally think are important and not what is kind of dictated to be important.
  • I'm not seeing a diversity problem with the current board. What I am seeing is a serious issue, a systemic issue over the past decade of the community perspective, not being represented at all in the strategic decision making of the foundation. This exercise is one like the the exercise of extending the board membership and changing the selection process was at no point something that I have seen as a community member who's involved in sort of governance discussions coming up like so it's just emblematic of the fact that the foundation is setting strategic direction that is completely withdrawn from the objectives of the people who are actually building the content, making the site work.
  • I think that we have such discussions here is already a good step, despite our quite direct feedback on the proposals, but also recently there have been issues and I have the feeling that a lot or many people in the community feel that they're disconnected to the Wikimedia Foundation and whatever comes up will be treated as some kind of invasion or something like that. Make it easy - just say something you want to and we can say it, we like it or not.