Wikimedia Foundation Community Affairs Committee/2022-10-20 Conversation with Trustees
The Community Affairs Committee – a committee of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees – hosted a Conversation with the Trustees on 20 October from 18:00-19:30 UTC. This conversation allowed community members to speak directly with the trustees about their work. The Board of Trustees is a volunteer body of movement leaders and external experts in charge of guiding the Wikimedia Foundation and ensuring its accountability.
This conversation was held on Zoom with a live YouTube stream. The call was 90 minutes and consisted of updates as well as open Q&A and conversation. The recording is available on this page.
Submit your questions
People brought questions or submitted them ahead of time.
- Board Elections
- Wikimedia Summit
- Progress on Wikimedia Commons Annual Plan priority
- Open Q&A
Updates: Celebrations. Shani Evenstein Sigalov
- WD passed the 100 million items threshold. Right on time for Wikidata’s 10th birthday at the end of this month. Congrats to all volunteers and look at celebrations going on.
- Also this month Malay Wikipedia which turns 20, Indonesian Wikiquote which turns 18, and many more.
- The English Wikipedia also celebrated an important milestone–edit #1,111,111,111
Wikimedia Summit: Vicki Doronina
- 150 people joined in person, with another approximately 250 people connecting from through BigBlueButton.
- Impressed with integration of in-person and virtual participation worked. Hope to replicate this hybrid model in the future to reduce barriers to participation.
- Movement Charter:
- Movement Charter Drafting Committee presented early drafts of three chapters of the Charter: the Preamble, Values & Principles, and Roles and Responsibilities.
- The preamble states the purpose of the Movement Charter
- T he Values and Principles chapter outlines our movement values and establishes basic principles for collaboration across the movement
- The Roles and Responsibilities section defines the roles in the movement of the Wikimedia Foundation, this Board of Trustees, the affiliates and the communities.
- The committee gathered feedback on these early drafts from Summit participants, and has now integrated the feedback. The Committee will publish new drafts for movement wide consultation in November.
- Movement Charter Drafting Committee presented early drafts of three chapters of the Charter: the Preamble, Values & Principles, and Roles and Responsibilities.
- People who have been working on hubs were able to connect at the Summit.
- In high-level discussions, there was a need to define how hubs will be different from already existing structures for collaboration. Wave of regional events happening now, each region will discuss issues locally as they move forward in building their own hubs.
- Thanks to Wikimedia Deutschland and all of the people who worked hard on the event.
Question: what does it mean for the Board if we are to be less US centered? And, the charter is calling for a new governance structure to be implemented which requires your support. Third session around resources - how does money come into the movement and how to be distributed in different ways. Would like to know what the Board’s plan is in engaging with these issues?
Shani: The Board has 2 liaisons to work with the MCDC (Nataliia and Shani) and following the process closely. We are following different conversations in the movement like hubs and the global council. We look forward to seeing what the community comes up with. Besides the liaisons and CAC, the Board Governance Committee is following some of these things and one agenda item for 2023 is to have a clear position from the Board towards some of these issues. Already working on it but still very much in listening mode. We don’t think it’s right for the Board to tell the community how things work. We are facilitating, we are listening. We do want to bring our perspective to the conversation as it is a unique viewpoint.
Question: For hubs, there are a lot of ways (pilot, study). Is there any reflection on it for the future
Shani: It was clear from the Summit (at least to me) that "hubs" is not just one thing. There may be different formats and shapes to it, depending on context. So we'll keep following and make sure whatever we do, is flexible enough to accommodate the needs on the ground
Vicki: Essentially, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is the pilot one, because they are the first. The was also a bid to create another one in Europe called Wikimedia Europe that wants to concentrate on the relationship between the Movement and EU.
Question from chat: My main question would be: How open and ready are you for change, also for your own organization? I think preparing the Board for change could start before you start engaging with the Charter content.
Shani: The Board is open and ready to make necessary changes. For us, it's about making an informed transition, making sure we are supporting new entities that are coming to being, making sure everyone is accountable (including us), and that these transitions serve our strategic goals.
Board elections: Lorenzo Losa
- Board Selection Task Force and Elections Committee tried some changes to the Board selection process, to try to make the process less time-intensive for candidates.
- Candidates answered questions on their applications, recorded videos answering questions proposed and selected by the community, and responded to Election Compass statements.
- 5957 voters cast their vote, second-highest number of voters in any Board election, last year had 6873.
- Voters selected Shani and Mike for the two open seats
- On voter turnout:
- Decrease in turnout was significant. May have been because there were fewer candidates and fewer large communities represented in the candidate pool. Still, want to see more people voting each time we have an election.
- In terms of next steps, the Movement Strategy and Governance is gathering feedback about the 2022 election. They will be releasing a full report in the coming weeks, with plans to use those findings to continue to improve the process.
- In November we will meet to talk about the future of elections, including the charter of the Elections Committee and the timeline of the 2024 election.
Question: My main question is how the Board plans to respond to the multiple requests that the entire Election Committee resigns. Lorenzo: We are not asking the Elections Committee to resign. We are planning in November to meet with the Elections Committee (joint meeting with Board Selection Task Force and Elections Committee) to discuss how to better organize the elections and the Election Committee itself in the future. And especially clarifying the different roles between the Board, the Election Committee and staff in order to make sure responsibilities are clear.
Vicki: Yes there are voices that the EC should resign but there are other people, other voices. We can see that the process has not worked as well as it could. We are taking steps to remedy it in the future.
Shani: Issues stemmed from poorly defined roles and responsibilities for each of the different groups involved. The meeting in November will help us move forward. We will keep you updated and will report out at the December meeting.
Lorenzo: Board has discussed the situation and have seen that there have been some problems with the different groups in charge of the election. The Board is acting on these issues and it is our responsibility to make sure there is a clear mandate and put the EC in a position to succeed. We are starting to work on this.
Question in chat: Has diversity gotten better after these elections?
Answer: In some respects, yes, in some no. That is why the Board also has additional seats that the Board appoints. So we'll be able to bring specific missing voices by appointing them.
Answer: Having a diverse Board is important so the Board can be as effective as it can in its work. Are you asking how are we evaluating our own work..? Cause that's a whole different thing. In a sense, the way for the community to influence if they are unhappy with the Board, is to choose other people in the election. The community-elected trustees are still the majority of the Board. Other than that, the community needs to trust the people it elected to do their work well. And the Board is making an effort to be more transparent than in the past about what it does and how, so the community is more informed about our processes. Hope that answers.
Commons progress toward Annual Plan goals: Esra’a Al Shafei, Fiona Romeo and Selena Deckelmann
- Fiona: Under this year’s Annual Plan, which kicked off in July, we prioritized deepening our commitment to knowledge as a service. We selected Wikimedia Commons to help us do that. We held community conversations in April as a way to start scoping and prioritizing the work that needs to happen on Commons.
- Coming out of those conversations, we had a list of community priorities that we organized by the skills that we needed to address them. We looked for software improvements that were clear, well scoped, and within their capabilities for this year.
- Selena: Have seen the open letter written by Commons volunteers. Our plan is to also share our progress so far in a written response to that open letter, but figured this was a good opportunity to kick off conversation.
- Since July:
- Created working group starting with incremental improvements.
- Upgraded our image thumbnailing service, Thumbor and are now working on QA and deployment.
- Funded OpenRefine to develop a Commons extension to support batch uploading and editing of media files on Commons with structured data.
- Fixing critical bugs and supporting adoption. 91% (80M) of files on Commons now have some structured data. "View It!", uses structured data to show related images for Wikipedia articles.
- Concerns about Wikimedia Commons Query Service requiring authentication. The Search team is conducting experiments to provide access to these services in a way that aligns with open values. In the meantime, they published documentation on using WCQS with OAuth and resolved persistent errors reported by the community.
- Looking ahead, collaborate with the community through regular co-working sessions. The first two topics for consideration:
- Improving discovery and maintenance of community-maintained tools and gadgets.
- Content curation on the Commons homepage and social channels, to surface the best images/campaigns that the community organizes. To help create community and paint a picture of what you want Commons to be.
Do these feel like the right topics?
What’s the best approach to organizing these conversations?
These updates are also on wiki and we’ll be updating that page regularly: Commons
Question: Glad to hear Thumbor is finally getting the love it needs, but why is it being worked on by temporary contractors rather than WMF staff so there's long-term knowledge around it?
Selena:How are staffing - there is a mix of short term contractors and permanent staff looking at these issues. The engineers directly working on it are short-term but there are other long term staff. It’s a mix. We are currently in the stage of defining a set of problems we are going to work on for Commons so it’s not clear yet what kind of permanent staffing we should have for this.
Question: It is not about improving some tools - we need a full vision for the future. With all options for how to go on. How do we build out the future vision as we are doing this work?
Selena:Request for thinking bigger, which is great. Need to think about this in the context of a global movement and what we are trying to achieve with the spread of free knowledge. We are building out a vision for that future informed by the community and the needs of the world, which takes time and effort. We are building up incremental knowledge of existing tools we have while beginning to understand the broader vision. You’ll see incremental delivery of engineering work and testing/implementing. Intention is share on a more timely basis. Quarterly coworking sessions and see how that works.
Comment: would like to see a coworking discussion about how other structured data statements than just “Depicts” can be made discoverable, aid browsing and search.
Question: What do you see as the major challenges for WMF's product & technology department?
Selena:First of all, I see so many amazing opportunities in the team. The people who are attracted tow rok here are incredibly skilled, extremely experienced. They come here because of the mission of the organization to spread free knowledge. They contribute to something that makes the world better. The challenge we face is that it’s not a uniform movement. It’s not alway obvious what the next right step is. Forming just one strategy that addresses a varied and diverse movement whose goals are large, that's the challenge. Many that come here do incredible things when faced with impossible challenges.
Question: Where do you see Commons in 5 or 10 years, vis-a-vis the wider world of multimedia platforms? Can/should it compete with Instagram, TikTok, and other more mainstream platforms?
Selena:Depends on our own vision. Depends on the skills and capabilities that we all bring. May be that we have opportunities with the people that we have. Should we compete with TikTok? Not sure! What are the right questions and the right problems to solve. Maybe we have the right skills in the room in the broad movement.
Shani: Selena is CPTO, which is a new role for the organization. The Board wants to give Selena the time she needs to assess. Re:video, one of the things we kept hearing was a desire for us to tackle video. We don’t know how exactly, but we all want the same thing - good service to our community and to remain relevant. We are all in this together.
Question: Is there any possibility of routinely making the various teams' internal weekly reports public, in order to keep the broader community on the same page about things?
Selena:Plan is to commit to quarterly updates. Thinking about ways to engage more regularly. Have committed to quarterly updates and go from there. Plan is to have monthly updates on-wiki Product and technical support for Commons and quarterly meetings for Commons
Question: Page Triage is the software that the New Page Patrol team uses on English Wikipedia. There is an open letter regarding the status of Page Software, which has 150 bug reports and feature requests on Phabricator. Who is the decisionmaker on Page Triage? When can we meet with them? When will the decision be made?
Rosie: There is a meeting with the Product and Tech department soon to talk about priorities for the New Page Patrol software, PageTriage. Board will be briefed once meeting happens to help department think strategically about this alongside other tech priorities. The Board’s role is not operational and it is not project-specific. Role is to provide strategic guidance and oversight for global Foundation initiatives.
Closing note: I want to say BRAVO! to all the reviewers who have recently engaged in the NPP work and brought the unreviewed pages backlog to 258 pages according to DatBot.
Selena: Meeting for November 3. I am accountable for the decision. Process of determining the work has many stakeholders. I am a steward of the team and will be working with the team to figure it out.
Question: Given there were twelve months notice (after 2021 election) why was communication not better in 2022? Why did it not improve and why should we believe that it will now improve? What’s different now that couldn’t have been done then?
Lorenzo: I was elected in 2021 so can’t say much about the past. We are starting our work earlier - meeting in November with all the parties that were involved in the elections. BSTF did consult the Community before the elections on Meta and in videoconferences. The result was the election procedure that nobody was happy with. Back to the drawing board. How do we want to design the work of these bodies in the future.
Vicki: How will we make sure that the next election will be better? Lorenzo and I elected in 2021 and saw process was not ideal. But we saw it from the side of the candidates. This time we saw it from the side of the Board. Now the election task force has a better understanding of why the process hasn’t worked as well. Next election is in 2024, Lorenzo and I won’t be able to be on the Task Force because we would potentially be running. So whatever we do will be on our heads as candidates.
Shani: We’ve been working diligently to improve relationship with the community. Trust builds over time. We all want the same thing: thriving movement, to achieve our strategic goals. We are volunteers, doing our best. We tried new things this year, and it’s always possible something won’t work. Even if something doesn’t succeed the way we want it we can learn. It’s a matter of attitude. Think about what unites us. Trust that we are doing our very best to serve this movement. We are dedicated people that want to see the movement progress. Working to improve is all we can do. We are making an effort to meet in November and we are hoping that will be a game changer.
Comment: For future meetings, and on the theme of supporting one another, I would be interested in the Board's view on this (different) issue. Some affiliate organizations can't get a normal WMF grant because of a tax/administrative situation, e.g. not sustaining tax-deductible non-profit status. Is there some kind of short term lifeline contract available from WMF?:
Question: What is the Foundation’s response to criticisms about the fundraising banners and Foundation funds being used to support other organizations?
Lisa Seitz Gruwell: Crux of question: whether the Foundation needs money and whether there’s urgency in having people donate. What I’ve heard today and what I hear when the budget is built is there’s a lot of needs. New software for page patrollers, investment needed in Commons, changes in elections software. That’s just in this conversation. The scope of what the Foundation does is not always obvious to everyone: we run a top 10 website on fraction of most orgs. 18 billion visits each month. Two data centers, four caching centers, 32 internet boosting connections. All have grown over last decade. Before, places in Asia, load time for Wikipedia was appalling. It’s improved significantly. Infrastructure is a big investment.
Security threats have significantly changed. Used to be one guy. Now there’s an entire team and they are even stretched.
We’ve dramatically increased direct funding to affiliates and partners. That’s increased by 240% in the last year. Direct that support to growth in parts of world where our movement has been underinvesting. We’ve made progress toward equity in support but still long ways to go.
This org and this movement does a lot that we try to support. 175 million operating budget, still hear of more needs we have and things we need to invest in to solve different problems. A lot of responsibility to make sure the money is spent wisely, we take that seriously.
A banner is a small piece of real estate for communication. We can only say a few sentences, but there’s a lot of other comms that go to donors. Annual report, annual plan, Foundation website, quarterly donor newsletter, donor relations team directly interacts with over 100k donors a year in over 20 languages. Online events with donors to answer questions. Banners are a small part of communication. The need for donors to contribute is significant.