Wikimedia Foundation Community Affairs Committee/2021-10-20 Conversation with Trustees/ja
Conversation with Trustees
The Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees’ Community Affairs Committee (CAC) hosted a conversation with members of the Board of Trustees (formerly called an Office Hour) for the community to directly engage with Trustees on October 20, 2021 at 11:00 UTC.
During the meeting, those in attendance:
- Met the incoming CEO, Maryana Iskander.
- Met the candidates nominated through the latest Community-Selection process to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees
- Learned about Board Committees’ work
- Engaged through a Q & A session (partly pre-sent, and partly live).
The session was streamed live and recorded.
The meeting lasted for 90 minutes.
The first 40 minutes included a short introduction to the session, and an update on what the Board has been working on lately.
It was followed by 50 minutes of Questions & Answers: around 20-30 minutes of answering questions sent in advance, and an additional 20-30 minutes of live questions.
Questions that were sent in advance for this session covered topics such as:
- The process of the recent Board election
- The relationship between the Foundation and the rest of the movement
- Issues currently facing large and small Wikimedia projects
- Upcoming branding work
- Wikimedia Enterprise
How to join
The event was streamed live on YouTube, or participants could register to join the Zoom room by writing to askcacwikimedia.org with the subject line “Registration for the October 20 conversation with the Board of Trustees”.
Submit your questions
Participants were invited to submit questions via askcacwikimedia.org in advance. This helped the Board engage with as many of these questions as possible. The structure enabled the CAC to not only update the community on current matters the Board is working on, but also hear directly from the community, with the goal of increasing the transparency around the Board’s work and informing the CAC’s future work.
Participants were be able to ask questions live if that was preferred.
Trustees in Attendance
- Jimmy Wales
- Lorenzo Losa
- Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight
- Shani Evenstein Sigalov
- Victoria Doronina
Trustees present: Shani Evenstein Sigalov, Jimmy Wales, Lorenzo Losa, Victoria Doronina, Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight
Staff present: Maryana Iskander (incoming CEO), Amanda Keaton, Corey Floyd, Tajh Taylor, Carol Dunn, Margeigh Novotny, Liam Wyatt
Intro: Shani Evenstein Sigalov relayed greetings and encouragement for feedback on the open conversations with the Board.
- Introduction of all the board members, three of whom are new with short explanation of roles, insight on their hopes in their new roles.
Incoming CEO: Maryana Iskander
- Listening tour started a month ago, looking forward to continued listening in today's session.
- Officially begins in January 2022.
Elena Lappen: Moderator
- The session will start with updates from the Trustees and then have an open conversation with live questions on various channels: Zoom, Facebook, Telegram and YouTube.
- Conversations are covered by Universal Code of Conduct.
High-Level Board Updates
Shani: Board meeting concluded in September, next one will be in December.
- We have three new Board members selected by the community, reappointment of one member for three years, and two outgoing members.
- Board Governance Committee: we approved a Trustee Code of Conduct. Will be signed every year.
- Creation of an Executive Committee: looking for ways to work better as Board, composed of Board Chair and two vice chairs and each board committee chair.
- The committees are: Governance, Talent and Culture, Product and Technology, and Community Affairs Committee.
- The Special Projects Committee will be finalizing their onboarding plan for new trustees and dissolving in December.
- Board released a statement on Wikimedia Enterprise, more questions can follow later on this, this is a step forward to get big corporations to contribute back.
- Brand (ad hoc) committee: work has been wrapped up, the resolution was passed and WMF teams will share more information on this soon in the coming weeks as they will be engaging with the communities further on the way forward.
- Nothing that the Board does happens in a vacuum, always working in tandem with the staff and the communities.
Human Rights: Amanda Keton
- Human rights as the global standard to guide our work, along with guiding principles and values.
- Completed an assessment of our human rights impact, will be shared soon with communities. Will also share a human rights policy to be shared with the Product and Technology Committee in the coming months and then the Board.
- We are looking at the impact of our Product and Technology on readers and editors’ human rights across the globe.
Product: Carol Dunn & Margeigh Novotny
- Co-leading Product Department during the transition. Looking forward to working with the Board Product and Technology Committee.
- Highlights in Product work: Desktop Refresh rolling out more features to more wikis; newcomer experience is default on all wikis; content translation increases year over year; MVP of Wikifunctions in this fiscal year; teams testing inclusive product development process.
Technology: Corey Floyd and Tajh Taylor
- Platform product strategy; inclusive development practices for engineers
- Developing data strategy, as well as machine learning. Review Technology's Annual Plan.
Conversation: Pre-Submitted and Live Questions
Do you intend to replace the current voting process of the Board election, in light of the fact that not as many people participated as was hoped? Are there plans to replace or improve the voting process?
Jimmy : It was a disappointment to see not as many people participate. Diversifying and increasing the number of people involved in governance is important. Some more concrete ideas can experiment with:
- A Voter Compass
- Increasing the amount of visual and multimedia content.
- Building on translation best practices to expand supported languages.
- Better investigating where the communication and knowledge gaps are around governance in our movement, and working to fill those gaps.
- Better investigating the feelings of apathy to activate more voters.
- There is also a need to strengthen community control over everything and to do this, we need more people to get involved.
Follow-up: Do you trust the voting process for this past election? Why or why not?
Jimmy: Elections Committee put in a huge amount of work. Not everything went perfectly, but I do trust the process and we can always improve. Fundamentally I trust the process.
Shani: Three main changes for this past round: move to a single transferable vote, do extensive outreach, to have an evaluation form for each of the nominees. From the Board’s perspective, this was a huge success. Numbers show that we reached many more people than before. Involving communities that have not known about the Foundation or Board before.
Follow up question: Why did the Board not take into consideration the community ideas about BoT elections such as regional quota and other ideas? Is the decision documented?
Shani: We had lots of input from communities. We made lots of changes but we wanted to make changes incrementally so we can reliably track what is working and what is not. The idea of quotas was mentioned but it was not supported fully. We will have to reassess, there is already a report from the previous elections as well as lessons learnt that will help us prepare for December and continue to receive more community input.
Will there be an evaluation of the Election Committee and its representativity?
Shani: Some confusion around roles and responsibilities. Election Committee, before next elections, we will have discussions between the Community Affairs Committee, Governance Committee, Election Committee and staff to sort this out.
Will the Board continue to oversee the WMF into the future?
Jimmy: Yes. The Movement Charter will clarify different roles across the movement. Some power sharing will happen with Global Council. Note that the Global Council will not replace any Boards of movement organizations.
How can Wikipedia better represent the large areas of our planet where journalism or academic publications are not common (and where therefore there is limited access to material meeting citation requirements)? How can we enhance access to Wikipedia in those societies, perhaps through other types of knowledge sources?
Shani: This is a question for all of us as a movement. I can answer based on what I think. Knowledge equity is not something we can achieve alone. It requires collaboration and partnerships with other organizations to expand citations and sources. We hope that the Equity Fund will help us build this ecosystem. Investing in non-traditional sources of knowledge is one of the five areas that the Equity Fund wants to invest in. Asking the movement to recommend organizations that do this kind of work.
How do we increase engagement with the community in East Asia?
Shani: This region and emerging communities in general--we want to get there. There are always efforts to get to places where there isn’t as much infrastructure. And for the parts of the world that are connected--how do we expand? There are always multiple efforts within the Foundation aimed at this.
Jimmy : Because Japan and Korea were mentioned in particular -- every region in the world is unique. Japanese Wikipedia is incredibly successful, 1.2 million articles. In June 2020 it was the second most-visited Wikipedia. We do have a strong community there, but it is not very well-integrated with the international movement. There is a real language barrier. Other areas in East Asia, the context will be different. In all of our outreach we have to keep the different contexts and solutions in mind.
Shani: This ties to our 2030 strategy--capacity-building training of all sorts is being implemented by the Foundation. These trainings are being built in a way that is adjustable.
Carol: The Product Platform Strategy is focused on smaller and medium sized wikis. Our team interacts directly with the Korean community, for example, for developing newcomer features. East Asia is a big part of the global strategy and we work closely with them.
While we are waiting for the Drafting Committee and Global Council- will the Board wait to make decisions about regional hubs? Will this result in communities being blocked from advancing on these things?
Shani: This will not be a block, the process is gradual. There’s a need for a Global Council, it will take time to be formed and time to start working. We’re not going to wait to make decisions. We do, however, want to make wise decisions that will not result in blocks to our progress in the future.
How will be Board engage with the Drafting Committee around future movement governance?
Shani: The Community Affairs Committee is following the Movement Charter and Global Council closely. We will have two liaisons joining the work of the Drafting Committee. To guide, to give perspectives, in partnership with the different groups throughout the process. Support but not interfere too much--it’s not our role to make decisions. Our role is to shepherd or facilitate or guide this process to fruition.
Can we have reporting templates in the future in relation to Movement Strategy?
Amanda: Facilitators are in constant communication with communities around the world. Happy to tighten up communication loops if that’s what we mean. If there is a proposal of what a reporting template could look like we would be ready to engage.
The UN produces a huge amount of content useful for Wikipedia. They want to change their licenses to 4.0, Wikipedia doesn't accept 4.0 text yet despite the board agreeing in 2016 so the UN is less interested in changing their licenses. Please could you help?
Jimmy: 4.0 license is an improvement, it’s where the world is going. In 2016, we ran a consultation to get community feedback on adopting Creative Commons 4.0 (CC 4.0) as the default license for text contributions. We believe that CC 4.0 would be a better license for Wikipedia and Wikipedia re-users, due to the license's improvements in readability and internationalization.
- We received positive feedback from the community about the upgrade, and began discussions with Creative Commons about the legal implications of the upgrade.
- When investigating the technical requirements to make the change after the 2016 consultation, we found that it would be more costly than originally anticipated. The upgrade was put on pause pending our ability to dedicate the technical resources it would require across all of Wikimedia's interfaces and form factors (desktop, mobile, etc). We are continuing to investigate making an update to Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 for text on Wikimedia projects. Part of that will require updating the page footer and other interfaces to reflect the proper license text for content, including displaying the proper license for past versions of text. This will likely require making coordinated changes to multiple parts of the software, and possibly paying down some technical debt around how the page footer works, so it will require additional evaluation before we can commit to a specific upgrade date.
Has the perception of the Foundation changed within communities? What could be done to address some negative perceptions that communities might have?
Jimmy: Attitude of the community toward the Foundation is not at an all time low, not even close. It’s bumpy, we’re human beings, there will be high and low points. The important thing is to assume good faith and communicate. My personal view is that we can improve by opening up lines of communication with the Board, like today’s event. Things that have worked well have gone slowly. As a movement and a Foundation, we are slower than we’d like to be. Some people would like to see change coming faster. We have to focus our attention on building trust on all sides and taking things slow.
Shani: As a movement, remember there is no one thing that is the “Foundation-community relationship”. Different people will perceive it in a different way in different parts of the world. We want a wider perspective than just some loud voices from the bigger projects. In the past year we have made enormous efforts at building trust. It will be interesting as a movement to have better tools to measure that and track it in a practical way. There is a Foundation team that was founded in parallel to the Community Affairs Committee that is working on communication strategies for the movement. I have seen big improvements in the last year. I want us to strive to not think in “us” v “them” terms. We now have the 2030 strategy that unite us all in moving toward solving difficult problems.
Victoria: From the point of view of Russian Wikipedia, not many people engage on Meta with the wider movement. This is due to a language barrier. When I was elected, the reaction from the community was largely that they didn’t care--didn’t feel the Board impacted them. But with global blocks happening and other movement-wide issues, there will be more interest in Foundation and the Trustees. I hope that this is the beginning of the process that will bring us all together.
Open question: from Trustees to the Communities. Are these sessions working for you? How can we improve these sessions in the future? Please respond in chat or email askcacwikimedia.org
Questions Answered After the Meeting
الانتخابات الأخيرة لم تعبر فعلا عن تطلعات المجتمعات المهمشة، ما دامت نفس أدوات الانتخابات التي تؤدي إلى فوز الاغلبية هل
تفكرون في بدائل ؟
The recent elections did not really express the aspirations of marginalized communities, as long as the same election tools lead to the victory of the majority, do you think of alternatives?
Some detail was given on this at the start of the Q&A (approx. 30:47), and is also in the translated notes above.
Diversifying and increasing the number of people involved in governance discussions, and the representativity of those elected, is important to the future of our movement. We will be experimenting with new methods in future elections to address this. New methods could include:
- A Voter Compass, like the one currently being used for the Movement Charter Drafting Committee election. This would allow voters to respond to statements and see how their responses align with those of the candidates. This could help address the fact that some people found ranking many candidates daunting.
- Increasing the amount of visual and multimedia content. People responded positively to the graphical timeline of the Board election, so the team will likely build on this for 2022.
- Building on translation best practice by continuing to expand the network of volunteer translators interested in governance. This last election was supported in 40 more languages than those spoken on the team; this number can continue to grow.
- Better investigating where the communication and knowledge gaps are around governance in our movement, and working to fill those gaps.
- Better investigating the feelings of apathy that we heard around voting this time, and addressing those root concerns to activate more voters.
'There is a sentiment that larger Wikipedias often suffer from deletionism and lack of geographical representation amongst administrators. Do you have any ideas for how to address these two issues?'
Shani: This is not necessarily a question for the Board, but the community at large, though the Foundation can and is certainly working on aspects relating to this issue. To me this issue ties closely to our community health. First, it is about giving our admins and other functionaries better tools and trainings, and offering capacity building training for volunteers in our community, so they can better handle diversity and address conflict, and we can better support the development of community leadership; it is also about our internal culture and attitude towards newcomers (where we clearly have lots of space to improve). In some capacities, the Universal Code of Conduct and related work on community health, are supposed to address / influence that over time. But eventually, even with all the support and investment, it is a community-led issue, and the community will have to choose to address it.
What can be done to retain and build on the volunteer spirit which Wikipedia has been rightly known for?
Shani: A lot, actually. This has been discussed thoroughly during the 2030 strategic discussions, but from things like acknowledging our volunteers, through training and capacity building, to identifying and supporting rising leaders in the movement. Then, it all comes down to education, so outreach, outreach, outreach -- collaborating with schools, universities, GLAMs; meeting people where they are and telling them the story of Wikipedia and its amazing global community from a young age, so people in the public are aware, and inspired to join.
What could be done to promote the many smaller and struggling Wikipedias to grow in meaning, content and impact?
The Foundation’s current Annual Plan prioritizes providing support and resources to underserved communities, including smaller Wikipedia communities. This is highlighted in both the Product Platform Strategy and the second Thriving Movement priority: to become more welcoming to diverse contributors and build systems encouraging global growth. The four cross-departmental pilot programs are central to working towards this objective:
- The Newcomer Experience is a project to build out features that increase new editor activation and retention, with an eye toward growth in medium and smaller communities.
- The Campaigns pilot aims to streamline the process for registration and participation in campaigns, making it lighter-weight for organizers and more inclusive for participants speaking different languages, contributing to different projects, from different backgrounds and levels of experience with Wikimedia.
- Wikistories adapts Wikimedia content for a more visual experience, with the goal of making it more meaningful and inclusive, particularly for communities that prefer to consume visual content and for those that contribute through mobile.
- Research on Moderator Tools, which looks in particular at the moderation needs of medium-sized and smaller Wikis that are growing quickly.
To learn more about the pilots, listen to the Product Platform Strategy session from this year’s Wikimania.
Has the WMF regretted committing Office actions against user Fram?
Is it possible to track situations of Wikipedia-capture or undue influence by vested interests, including possible State actors and commercial entities, and take action against the same in places beyond China as well?
The Community Resilience and Sustainability team is happy to address questions like this on their September statement Meta talk page.
Have you, any Trustee (former or current), or the Board regretted appointing a controversial figure, Arnnon Geshuri, as a Trustee? Communities reacted negatively toward the decision to appoint Geshuri.
The Board of Trustees is not perfect, and the important thing is that we learn from mistakes and improve. The process for accepting new trustees was drastically improved after this—the Board now requires a background check and a media check be completed before seating any Board candidates. This year, the Community Affairs Committee also hosted a private session with the candidates who were running for the community-selected seats to answer any questions candidates may have had. The Board Chair and Vice Chairs also conducted 1-1 interviews with candidates.