Wikimedia Foundation elections/2022/Affiliate Organization Participation/Candidate Questions/Question8

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We learn from both successes and failures. In what crucial ways did the Wikimedia Movement fail, and what do we learn from these failures?

This question was proposed and selected by the Affiliate Representatives of the 2022 Board of Trustees election. Translations of the questions and answers may be found on the Movement Strategy Forum

Farah Jack Mustaklem (Fjmustak)

We learned that the movement as a whole is usually not in favour of radical changes. As a very diverse movement, the status quo is seen by many as a stabilising factor. While change is inevitable, and at times much needed, community acceptance needs to be taken into account, and changes should be gradual.

Mike Peel (Mike Peel)

There have been various organisational issues over the years, both at WMF and affiliates, that have led to significant improvements in governance processes. There have been a lot of on-wiki learnings too - particularly in the earlier days, for example, highlighting the importance of references (something that is still to come on Wikidata). There have also been lessons we haven't learnt well from, with lots of opportunities lost (particularly growing sister projects, and expanding the tech community outside WMF), and a lot of editors that have had bad experiences and have moved on.

Gilbert Ndihokubwayo (Gilbert Ndihokubwayo)

The Wikimedia Movement fails in the quality of edits and some articles created on Wikipedia. Effectively we learn from the failures. In fact, an error makes learning in the manner that it shows that the way taken did not lead to the right destination or the expected result. This makes you meditate and think about another adaptation by rectifying the previous way.

Tobechukwu Precious Friday (Tochiprecious)

I wouldn’t say the Wikimedia Movement has failed because in my opinion it hasn’t. I see the Wikimedia Movement as a democracy movement and in contrast to other democracy movements in politics or in the workplace, the Wikimedia Movement offers more than theory. It gives a glimpse of what is possible in questioning hierarchies and gatekeepers-the creativity and energy unleashed, the involvement, the common ground possible even as the Movement continues to question and seek to improve its own structure. We’re progressively working towards the future.

Lionel Scheepmans (Lionel Scheepmans)

That's clear that the movement and specially the foundation was according too much importance on Wikipedia as the biggest project to promote. Wikipedia is great, but not the only way to share knowledge. Also, Wikipedia has editorial rules that are incompatible with the strategy's desire for equity and inclusion. To achieve strategic objectives, we must focus on other sister projects which are all as important as Wikipedia while being more open to inclusion and equity.

Abderamane Abakar Brahim (Abakar B)

The movement failed on the choice of subject which has no source or documents in some but it is an identity of the country

Joris Darlington Quarshie (Joris Darlington Quarshie)

In every establishment, there are failures and successes these establishments do learn from them. In 2007, A WMF employee with central responsibilities turned out to have an extended criminal record (no wrongdoing at WMF found, but fired nevertheless) Now, there are routine criminal background checks for new hires. (A usual procedure that WMF would probably have made anyway but here learned the hard way.

Egbe Eugene Agbor (Eugene233)

No response yet.

Kunal Mehta (Legoktm)

A lot of ways, but to fail is human. I will focus on two main issues that are at the core of my candidacy.

First, we did not adapt from the failures of the Lila-era. If the WMF CEO went rogue (for lack of a better word) again, would we, institutionally be in a better spot? I would argue no, as WMF staff saw after a disastrous reorg attempt in November 2021, we're likely in a worse spot. Plenty of people have opined over the years on how to avoid these problems again, but the board has chosen not to act on them.

Second, our technical prioritization is broken. If you asked a majority of editors for the top thing they'd like fixed, it would not be better diffs. Back in 2014, we had a very clear list of how to fix talk pages. Yet the mw:Talk pages project (which is great btw) only started in 2019. We need bottom-up prioritization and resourcing. Ironically, it seems like that push will need to come from the board at the top.

Shani Evenstein Sigalov (Esh77)

Failure is a natural part of doing. Looking at WMF since 2011 I can say:

  • The number of different mistakes is actually quite small. However, there are repeating patterns of similar mistakes leading to issues, mostly due to lack of good communication, not enough transparency, lack of clear roles and responsibilities, etc.
  • The most important thing is owning mistakes when they happen and fixing them. Also, developing mechanisms for better communications and transparency (e.g. the Community Affairs Committee) and clarity on roles & responsibilities.

I actually believe WMF has been improving and will continue to improve under its new leadership.

Gina Bennett (Redwidgeon)

I am not aware of all the “crucial ways in which the Wikimedia movement failed.” I do remember when information in Wikipedia was regarded as suspect (at best) and many of the educators I worked with refused to have anything to do with it. That has certainly changed… I think Wikipedia has learned to be more nimble, more conscientious about seeking feedback from users, and more willing to establish flexible rules (or at least guidelines) to address potential areas of perceived failure.

Michał Buczyński (Aegis Maelstrom)

Wikimedia are a major social movement, and anyone can name a number of missteps. The biggest one is forgetting our core principles and promises, and losing big vision in favour of business-as-usual and minutiae. Turning from a bold, experimenting culture into a very conservative, "no change as a default" culture. Moving from distributed networks to hierarchies. Losing from sight needs of audiences and needs of volunteers alike. Narrowing our scope and ditching our dreams, sometimes unnecessary copying others instead of advocating our way, missing opportunities for productive UX, novel ways of content creation and collaboration, and more.