Wikimedia Foundation elections/2022/Candidates/Kunal Mehta
Kunal Mehta (Legoktm)
Legoktm (talk • meta edits • global user summary • CA • AE)
|Introductory statement / Application summary.
This section to be translated. (150 word maximum)
|I have been a Wikimedian since 2007, and I was a former WMF staffer for 8 years (see full biography). From both of these roles, I have gained a strong understanding of the technical needs and realities of the movement.
A healthy and sustainable technical community is one led by volunteers, affiliates and WMF staff alike, which is why I’ve worked to mentor and empower volunteer developers. I’ve focused my work to build features and tools that give control to users on-wiki, like AbuseFilter, SpamBlacklist and global CSS/JS.
A key part of the WMF's work is in developing and maintaining technical features—it is crucial that the board make well-informed decisions about technical initiatives and priorities. As someone who has hands-on experience developing, deploying and maintaining features that meet Wikimedia's unique requirements, I believe my experience and perspective can help the board and WMF better serve the movement.
|Contributions to the Wikimedia projects, memberships in Wikimedia organizations or affiliates, activities as a Wikimedia movement organizer, or participation with a Wikimedia movement ally organization.
(100 word maximum)
|As a Wikimedian since 2007 and a former WMF staffer for 8 years (see full bio), I have a strong understanding of the technical needs and realities of the movement. I work to build features and tools that give control to users on-wiki. A healthy and sustainable technical community is one led by volunteers, affiliates and WMF staff alike, which is why I’ve worked to mentor and empower volunteer developers. Wikimedians are disappointed with the WMF’s recent technical output; I would like to bring my experience in successfully creating, deploying and maintaining technical projects to the WMF board.|
|Expertise in skill areas identified as needs by the Board.
(150 word maximum)
|I bring significant experience in “Enterprise-level platform technology and/or product development” as well as “Organizational strategy and management” to the board. Wikimedia technical development is radically different than the rest of the web, with an intense focus on privacy, security, transparency, internationalization, and user freedom. Blending my experience as a longtime volunteer contributor and as a WMF engineer, I understand the desires for new features and bugfixes while balancing the day-to-day needs of building and defending a secure platform. I’ve developed new features for editors and resolved sitewide outages during late nights and weekends. I regularly give input on technical roadmaps, favoring a bottom-up approach for determining strategy.|
|Lived experiences in the world. We are especially interested in reading about lived experiences in the regions of Africa, South Asia, East and South East Asia & Pacific, and Latin America & Caribbean. We believe that experience in these regions could help expand the board’s ability to fulfill the movement strategy goal of more equitable participation, although we recognize that other experiences may also provide important contributions.
(250 word maximum)
|As a journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to others, tell their stories and amplify their experiences. I’ve interviewed homeless university students, victims of assault, as well as politicians and activists. In 2018, I traveled to Italy and Greece to report on the ongoing refugee and migrant crises firsthand. On the island of Lesbos, we visited Moria (aka “the worst refugee camp on earth”), interviewing refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war, as well as residents on the island who were living with the influx of refugees.
Telling these stories and more have allowed me to gain a better appreciation for experiences I personally haven’t lived through. I do my best to make sure as many other people can gain that same appreciation by releasing as much content as possible under free licenses.
Outside the bubble of the English Wikipedia, my experiences have given me a unique perspective on the technical needs of our diverse communities, which I’d like to bring to the board. During SUL finalization, I worked with stewards on implementing a new global renamers group. To empower cross-wiki patrollers and global sysops, I rolled out global CSS/JS. Wikisourcians particularly felt the pain of musical scores being disabled, and helped test it when we re-enabled it. And they, along with Commons uploaders, raised awareness of large file uploads being broken and helped with debugging until we found the cause and fixed it.
|Cultural and linguistic fluency with regions and languages additional to your native region and language. Intercultural awareness helps build bridges in our multicultural community.
(250 word maximum)
|I learned how to program via Wikibooks and Wikipedia, and it eventually grew into my dream career. I regularly interact with people from across the world through talk pages, IRC, etc., many of whom I now consider friends. I’ve spent my summers mentoring and working alongside GSoC/Outreachy students from Cameroon, India and Taiwan, not to mention many others from around the world through guidance on bugs, patch review and casual conversations.
Despite only speaking English (and fragments of Gujarati and Spanish), my key skillset is bridging the communication and culture gap between technical and non-technical users. I’m fluent in technical jargon and can translate that into plain language when helping people out over chat, in person and on technical village pumps. And I’m able to diagnose user complaints, turning them into actionable bug reports on Phabricator.
A key part of the WMF’s work is in developing and maintaining technical features – it is crucial that the board has someone who has real experience developing, deploying and maintaining features that meet Wikimedia's unique technical requirements. I regularly hear that the board and WMF upper management are out of touch with the needs of the developers and editors doing the work on the ground, and don’t realize the full scope or implications of projects they sign off on. Having collaboratively developed user scripts, gadgets, Toolserver/Toolforge tools, and MediaWiki extensions to benefit a diverse group of contributors, I’d bring a bridge to the technical community that is desperately lacking.
|Experience as an advocate for creating safe and collaborative spaces for all and/or experience in situations or contexts of censorship, repression, or other attacks to human rights.
(250 words maximum)
|As an administrator, IRC channel operator, and member of the Technical Code of Conduct Committee, I have significant experience ensuring users can work together in safe/collaborative spaces by working to catalyze and de-escalate situations, stepping in with sanctions to protect contributors as necessary.
I've invested time developing and improving anti-abuse/power user tools that give control to users on-wiki like AbuseFilter, SpamBlacklist and GlobalCssJs.
Creating safe spaces requires identifying and reducing power imbalances. In the technical community, there is a de facto power disparity between paid WMF developers and volunteer developers. To counteract this, I regularly mentor and support newer developers and nominate them for “+2” merge rights (which WMF staff get by default). A thriving and empowered volunteer developer community is essential to sustain the Wikimedia movement.
WMF staff also need a safe space, and must not be constantly in fear of being re-organized at the whims of a constantly changing upper management. The board must support the unionization of staff in addition to the previously promised ombudsperson.
I regularly fight attempts at censorship through my work with Kiwix, the offline Wikipedia reader, by packaging it for Debian, which makes it easier for users to install. Recently I wrote a guide showing how to set up a local mirror of the Russian Wikipedia using Kiwix and Debian.
At my day job, I’m privileged to continue the work that the late Aaron Swartz started in SecureDrop, building and supporting software to protect whistleblowers and journalists.
|Experience in relation to (or as a member of, to the extent you choose to share) a group that has faced historical discrimination and underrepresentation in structures of power (including but not limited to caste, race, ethnicity, colour, national origin, nationality, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, language, culture, education, abilities, income and environment).
(250 word maximum)
|I am a person of color and do not feel comfortable sharing more than that publicly.|
|Verification||Verification performed by elections committee or Wikimedia Foundation staff.|
Verified by: Matanya (talk) 09:03, 17 May 2022 (UTC)
Verified by: Joe Sutherland (Wikimedia Foundation) (talk) 23:55, 18 May 2022 (UTC)
2022 Board of Trustees Analysis Committee Rating
|Candidate Name||Wikimedia Background||Sought Skills||Sought Regional Experience||Human Rights & Underrepresentation||Overall rating from the average score of the four categories||Overall rating from the average score of the nine criteria|