Wikimedia Foundation Community Affairs Committee/2021-05-13 Office Hour
Now in more details:
What are we announcing?
The CAC is a new Board of Trustees committee established to assess, explore and address current and future community-related efforts. The Committee's Charter lists its full responsibilities, with the first 3 being a priority for this coming year. As part of our commitment to foster better communications with the Wikimedia Movement Community, and based on feedback received from community members requesting more availability from the Board of Trustees, the CAC will be hosting its first Office hours.
When & Where?
May 13 2021, at 19:00 UTC via YouTube The Office hours will be held on May 13 2021, at 19:00 UTC via Zoom. At least three(3) Trustees and relevant WMF staff will be in attendance. The session will be streamed live and recorded, so those who cannot participate live will be able to watch later.
How will it work?
The meeting will last for 60 minutes and an additional 30 minutes of an “open room”. The first 60 minutes will be divided into 45 minutes of structured Q & A (based on either updates from the CAC and questions sent by the community in advance). The final 15 minutes will be in the “ask us anything” format, with live participation. We will be monitoring live YouTube, Wikipedia Weekly Facebook group and the Wikimedia General Chat Telegram group and the Discussion page on Meta (the one for this page). The structure is meant to enable the CAC to not only update the community on current matters the Board is working on, but also hear directly from the community, which will help inform the Committee’s future work.
Setting the agenda with your Questions
In order to be as efficient as possible, and since we anticipate that some questions will require answers from WMF Staff, we are encouraging community members to send questions in advance. Please send all questions to askcacwikimedia.org, by Friday, May 7th 2021 (midnight, whatever time zone you may be in). The office hour agenda will be based on the main topics related to the questions received. We will share this agenda on Meta on May 12 2021, including final names of Trustees in attendance.
How to register
For security reasons, and specifically to avoid Zoombombing, we will be sending the Zoom link close to the meeting only to people who have registered in advance. In order to register, please send an email to askcacwikimedia.org, indicating your name, username, affiliation and email you'll be connecting to the meeting with. The title should be: “Registration for the May 13th CAC Office Hours”.
- This is the first time that the Board is attempting something of the sort. This is an experiment. We’ll see how it goes - how many people are interested in attending, timing, translation needs etc -- and make decisions about future meetings / changes to format accordingly.
- The session will be moderated based on the Universal Code of Conduct.
- Universally blocked users will not be allowed in the room, but can still participate by watching live and sending questions in real-time.
Please help us spread the word by sharing this message with your local / online communities.
CAC Office Hour Agenda. May 13, 2021; 19:00 UTC
- Welcome and introductions (5 minutes)
- Updates from the Community Affairs Committee (40 minutes, this time includes updates from the Community Affairs Committee and questions sent by the community in advance)
- Live Questions and Answers (15 minutes; the final 15 minutes will be in an “ask us anything” format with live participation)
- Open Room (30 minutes; no live-streaming, no note taking)
Expected Trustees in Attendance:
- Shani Evenstein Sigalov
- María Sefidari
- James Heilman
- Esra'a Al Shafei
- Raju Narisetti
- Nataliia Tymkiv
This is a shortened and cleaned up version of the notes of the office hour. Please check the YouTube recording for all details.
Question 1: Will CAC commit to organising its events across rolling time zones to ensure inclusion and diversity for contributors? And, how will the CAC be more inclusive of languages other than English?
Shani: We agree the CAC should be accessible to multiple time zones and languages. The CAC will make an effort to alternate its events in the future, depending on interest. The CAC is also working on a strategy to be more inclusive to different languages, including making sure that communications are done ahead of time in a variety of languages. Finally, we will be opening an option for live translation. In order to be mindful of resources, we have decided on a minimum of at least 5 people who are requesting live translation and who are committing to being in the room. Finally, a summary of the meeting notes will be shared online and translated into a few main languages.
Mayur: Movement Communications is a new team in the Foundation - if we were a Wikipedia article we would be a stub. We need to work with everyone to help improve it. Some of the objectives for the team are:
- supporting equity and ensuring accessibility (e.g. language, time zones),
- thinking about ways to engage the movement and create 2-way dialogue.
Hope is to have multilingual staff across time zones - closer to the communities, scaling our connection with communities. Another small flavour of things to come is communicating with everyone in the movement in a more accessible way about the Foundation’s plans for next year through short videos - with translations in many languages - and office hours such as this.
Some of these ideas are coming from the focus groups that convened earlier this year and there is a plan to share some of the findings (research report is already in translation) and due out in a couple of weeks time.(see Movement_communications_insights)
Shani: Thanks Mayur. This is really exciting and I look forward for this strategy to be implemented. I believe it will help improve our communications with the movement right then and there. We want to meet people where they are and will do our best to make that a standard in the way we communicate.
Question 2: The Community Tech team plays a vital role that is essential for community success. What is the plan to scale Community Tech to continue to be able to meet community needs as the movement grows?
Esra: It's great that people appreciate the work that the Community Tech team has done. The team has grown over the years; when we started the team in 2015, it was just three people. Now, there are nine people on the team, including a designer and QA testing engineer. What the team works on is determined by the Wishlist Survey, so if there are vital tools that need support, then let us know on the survey starting in late November. We rely on your input to explore and prioritize these needs.
In addition to the Community Tech team, we've also got the Anti-Harassment Tools team, which has recently been upgrading the checkuser tools and the blocking tools. A new offshoot of this team — Trust & Safety Tools — is going to spin up in July, to work on more projects related to user privacy and safety.
Later this year, we're planning to establish a new Moderator Tools team, with a broad mandate to identify and address the needs of experienced contributors on medium-sized wikis, and help them adapt the tools and processes that the biggest wikis use. We're going to start investigating these user needs soon, so if any of you at the office hours have ideas and suggestions, maybe we could connect them with the product manager. I'm sure it would be helpful to find out what people think the biggest needs are. As mentioned earlier, we are really trying to keep the process open and inclusive of your feedback.
Esra'a: [please see above, no changes]
Question 3: When the endowment is big enough, would you announce to the cultural sector the movement has the funds to guarantee the survival of Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource indefinitely?
When fully funded, the Wikimedia Endowment will allow us to ensure that a portion of the annual operating needs for the Wikimedia projects and mission are supported for generations to come.
Raju: Even though the endowment predates my joining the board, it was created to get past the survival mode of being entirely dependent on us raising money year over year. We have been very good at that, but we may not always be successful in reaching our annual goals. The endowment is also a way we could set some money aside and balance the annual act of seeking money, acting like a cushion. We will never walk away from what we do - annual fundraising - but this is a way to supplement that. When fully funded, a portion of the annual costs and mission can be funded from the endowment.
Other questions (Asked by community via various platforms recently, but not submitted specifically to the office hours)
Why are meeting notes only available from the Audit Committee and not all committees?
María: It is true that there is not a standard practice for publishing committee minutes. There are reasons for this, the committee chairs can determine each year whether the minutes of the meetings are to be published or not. The main reason for not publishing tends to be to ensure freedom in discussion without additional aspect of public communications. We don’t have a great sense of what level of engagement with the Board people want at a given time. We had a Board Q and A at Wikimania where nobody showed up, and the noticeboard on Meta has extremely small participation.
So there is an ongoing effort to be better connected to the communities and there is an effort to get to the heart of the matter and ensure transparency and participation with other ways (e.g. these CAC office hours, the recent pathways process), which help the BoT to interact with the community, show what we are working on and get feedback more directly before making any decisions.
How is the search for a new CEO going? Will it affect strategy?
Raju: There is a lot of interest in the opportunity; Wikimedia's work is seen as high impact and critical in these times.
Lots of intentionality has been placed on connecting with leaders with deep experience in the Global South. Response has been strong in Africa; Asia and South East Asia as well as Latin and South America.
We know WMF is large for a nonprofit; each of the initial leaders who will meet the TC has led within a complex governance and stakeholder (volunteers, chapters, etc.) environment. Each has also been in organizations with global advocacy/policy work; all would have some learning curve on WMF's specific content. There is no perfect candidate.
We are feeling good as a TC group about the range of candidates with expressed interest. Will continue to update community and staff. The initial time-frame of 6 months - concluding in September and October - still stands. This was always going to be a 4-6 months process given the importance of the search and its global nature. About 1.5 months in, it’s going quite well, because there is a lot of interest in the opportunity. Wikimedia is seen as having a high impact, especially these times. Great interest in preliminary conversations. Close to 450 different levels of engagement and conversations have happened. Trying to narrow that down to eventually get to deeper conversations. A lot of intentionality was put in connecting with leaders with rich experience in the “Global South.”
The effect of this search on the strategy - it does and does not affect it. There is a roadmap in place with prioritization, which means that the CEO transition does not change the big picture. For much of the staff moving forward with the strategy is business as usual and it is being taken forward. In other ways, the strategy is never static and we would need to adapt to changes in the environment, but these changes will not be entirely related to this particular transition.
How much did we spend on Movement Strategy? How much did we spend on Brand ´
María: The Board doesn’t get into very granular details since that is the role of WMF leadership. Generally speaking, Movement strategy was 1.6% of the total expenditure of the Foundation since the work launched, and hovering just a bit above 1% the past two years. So, total MS expenses from FY 16/17 to FY 19/20 were $5.21 M (19/20 is projected).
And for Brand the spending has been about $1M over the past few years, plus staff time, that lives within the broader “brand awareness” budget. For the size and global complexity of WMF, these are very reasonable spends.
Maggie: I have come up with my own little catch phrase and I feel like MS is the air we breathe and the water we swim in. Increasingly since i”m part of the APP for the Foundation, I see MS everywhere - like in increased funding for communities - and it will increasingly become more difficult to say we have spent X on it. It’s important to point this out as it will become more difficult as MS is integrated into everything we do.
Raju: From the BoT perspective the MS has been the most important project and the question has always been whether the MS has necessary resourcing to succeed and this will be the perspective also for the future.
What is the progress towards creating a Movement Charter and a Global Council?
Maggie: This is a major commitment by the CR&S team and the Foundation over this quarter and moving into the next FY in July. The initial conversations by the MC drafting committee - hoping for late June, which might be ambitious, but as soon as we can, hoping to have an idea put together and support the committee through a professional consultant on what it means to draft a MC. We hope to have many conversations with the community on representation, ratification, and putting together the Global Council based on its outcome.
Shani: We see a great deal of importance in making sure we do this quickly, but well, and the CAC is there to support that process from the Board’s perspective.
How would the WMF improve cases where a WMF team just fails to answer questions (including refusing to say they won't answer it), even while the project continues? As an example, the IP Masking project has had pending questions of WMF Legal for well over 2 months, but our only point of contact is NOT in that team. (Talk:IP_Editing:_Privacy_Enhancement_and_Abuse_Mitigation#Some_thoughts)
Maggie: I have been working at the Foundation for 10 years starting in a role to improve communications b/w Foundation and staff and this is not always possible as fast and as often as the community wants. We have a whole bunch of facilitators that do that. The lawyers are pretty busy and a lot goes into planning around how or what is asked and when. If a question appears on a Meta page for a lawyer, they may not be able to answer. They may have to analyze the response, go after others, etc. There is a lot of complexity to answering questions and meanwhile they also have contracts to process. It may be that we don’t have the systems in place for people to respond in a timely fashion.
Shani (from chat): We are hoping that the communications strategy will help -- having clear places to submit questions to and knowing who to talk to is part of it. The CAC will also be a venue to raise questions. But agreed we can do better in acknowledging seeing and working on it.
Mayur: Especially the questions of the legal nature might have the issue that it is not possible to answer the question and it is also not possible to publicly state that (because of the legal nature of the questions).
María: Sometimes, legal responses take time and they can’t be super immediate b/c they need to consult. I understand how frustrating it can be. Perhaps because of the time we are in, so I ask for a little bit of grace. There are backlogs and we are coming out of a very difficult year. Two months may sound like a lot, but there is a human aspect, asking for a bit of patience.
Raju: the CAC can become an additional layer of bringing a response back and if something is bottle-necked, we can look into it.
How much have we managed to adapt the strategy in regard to how the pandemic has come to change the way we interact in meetings? Or have we missed addressing that in a systematic manner?
María: Happy to take a stab at it. The pandemic has impacted this a lot. We have been a movement that’s been doing the bulk of strategy work in in-person meetings, so we can discuss faster than in series of emails. And suddenly, we couldn’t travel anymore and we had to meet online, which comes with a lot of challenges. It’s difficult to do many hours in front of a screen, there are time differences. It’s been challenging and we are not the only ones. Something we have been trying to promote is how to have all the voices in the conversations and we don’t miss people. People are less available and time has become an even more scarce commodity, particularly for folks in certain communities. We’ve tried to move forward as much as possible so we didn’t come to a complete halt. Trying to not lose voices and perspectives has been one of our greatest challenges. It also matters that we have been having these conversations exclusively in English - we have tried to provide translations, have documentation out ASAP to make it more accessible. But all of this takes time and time has been scarce.
Raju: Example of some of the challenges, which also explains why some of the answers are getting delayed. WMF is mission-driven and people can work where they want to - this has helped to compete with the tech companies. There are now significant challenges to attract people for the projects related to tech. This also affects a lot of people in a positive way, e.g. a lot of people can join virtual events like Wikimania no longer needing visa and travel arrangements.
James (from chat): Wikimania is going online. All WMF board meetings have been online. Lots of changes. Technology is not as smooth as in person.
Thanking staff and the Board working on the Board elections and thinking about it more creatively. This came up in one of the March meetings - to have support for candidates and potential candidates. Like peer mentorship from Board members or former ones, so people considering running can learn what it’s like. Wondering if current Board members are thinking about this. One of the weaknesses of elections in recent years has been the candidate pool and expanding this pool might solve some of the problems.
Shani (from chat): This needs to be discussed internally. We'll do that and get back to you.
Can we have a visual search on Commons, i.e. what images look like the image put in the search?
James: One way I have addressed this is using Google image search and upload that image to Commons.org and see what image looks like that. Whether or not we should do this internally, i am not a tech person, so not sure how difficult it would be or if there is existing open source software that exists.
My question is about what are the board’s thoughts on salary differences by place of residence of staff and contractors. Raju's point about more companies allowing remote work touches on how this practice might be outdated and hurt the movement. Another issue is this introduces a big bias on who WMF manages to keep. What is the board’s thought on that as remote work becomes more widespread.
Raju: It is not the level of granularity to which the BoT gets to. If there are challenges regarding staffing or retention rates, then the BoT asks how it can support the organization, but generally this is the area of Chief of Talent and Culture and the T&C team. Appreciate the suggestion.