Sisterproject of wikipedia
What's the vision of the candidates on promoting sister projects? I'm currently working on the Dutch wikiversity and sometimes I'm a little bit jealous on the attention wikipedia gets. In my opinion (the Dutch) Wikimedia could/ should put more energy in the sisterprojects. I'm curious whether the candidates also see this challenge and I would like to hear about their ideas to put sisterprojects in the spotlight. Timboliu (talk) 05:51, 29 April 2013 (UTC)
I think that the sister projects should be considered individuallly, rather than lumped together as "non-Wikipedia." After all, Commons began as a way to upload images to Wikipedia more easily and only not-to-long-ago has value in its own right. While I hate to trash anyone's valuable volunteer time, I do worry about the "dilution" of the Wikipedia brand. New projects are exciting but real value is had only with long-term, stable participation by a community. We have pretty clear standards about what constitutes a viable new-language Wikipedia (to take out of the incubator) but no such for other wiki-type projects. As noted elsewhere, we have no criteria for closing a project. I would be against the creation of any new projects in the future, as I believe that we are stretched to capacity now. Having said that, I have been reaching out to Wikiversity projects with the wiki version of the Education newsletter 
and recommend those active in non-Wikipedia and those in smaller Wikipedias to become more involved with outreach projects such as GLAM and Wikipedia Education in order to increase visibility.
Not counting Wikipedia, Commons and really small engagements, I am actively involved in Wikinews, I am linguist by education and thus highly interested in Wiktionary, and I contributed to Wikiversity. Because of that, I know what are you talking about.
Potentials of Wikimedia projects other than Wikipedia and Commons are far from being explored. I think that projects like Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikinews and Wikiversity have potentials for great global impact (note that I am not counting here technical projects, like MediaWiki and Wikidata are, because they are qualitatively different; as well as Wikivoyage, which is a very young as a Wikimedia project).
I can imagine that Wiktionary and Wikidata could change the linguistic picture of the world, that Wikinews could become the most important news source in the world and that Wikiversity could build real-world network of free universities. (One of my dreams was to take a big unused building from the government and create there real-world Wikiversity.)
Elected or not, I think that WMF should boldly explore possibilities which other projects are capable to create. That means that it should work on Internet and software issues, but not to be shy to take a real-world action if Wikimedia community and free access to knowledge would benefit from it.
I am also concerned about sister project support. No Wikimedia project should feel like a second-class citizen when it comes to outreach and engineering, though the larger projects do take proportionately more effort and attention to maintain.
I think there are three aspects of support to focus on:
- Starting (and ending) new projects: I am very pleased that both WikiData and WikiVoyage were started as new projects last year, ending our years-long hold on starting new projects. However, we are still lacking an effective, clear process with criteria for starting -- and closing -- new projects. There are many reasons to start or end a project: we may want to expand into a new area of free knowledge, or a project might be better off being hosted independently or by a different organization, or the community may decide a project simply is not successful. Making a stronger process for this is something the Board can lead, with the aid of the meta community.
- New feature support: All of the sister projects need custom features, and to share in the wealth of extensions and innovations that have been developed recently. The latter is a core engineering need; leaders of any language Wikipedia or sister project need to have a central place where they can find new features (like article feedback, or pending changes) that they can request be deployed for their project. For custom features, we also need a pipeline in the other direction, where projects can make their needs and requests known. These requests are currently sent through Bugzilla, but I don’t know of a place where cross-project requests can be discussed or prioritized by the non-developer community. For instance, it's interesting that there are two Wikimania submissions this year on Wikiversity, both of which talk about needed features; there should be a good central place to convey these ideas. This process should be supported by WMF engineering, though filling these requests is not something WMF can do alone; the help of the volunteer and chapter-supported developer community is also needed.
- Outreach and publicity: our smaller projects also suffer from lack of public recognition and outreach support. Again, this is something I think that is ideally suited for the larger community of volunteers, chapters and thematic organizations to work on, with the support of grants; it is not something the WMF can or should do alone.
First, my reputation is to ensure that we prepare strategies to festivals, Conferences, concerts, Seminars and symposiums of various topics that enable our Creator, Users, Translators and look at ways of distributing volunteer experts to their projects:
- provide advice on how to strengthen all projects
- convincing stakeholders to know the importance of these projects
- provide training on a variety of projects to facilitate the growth
My answer to this question may be dissapointing in some ways. I think as the Wikipedia already become a brand, so we have to focus on bringing more people involved in Wikipedia, and then seeing them if they want to switch or also contribute in other projects. I definately support those working on the other projects, especially those with a signifcant group of people working on them, and they should be funded to develop & build up the communities.
I have contributed to each of our sister projects; they are essential to our mission.
Most human knowledge is specialized: not currently covered by Wikipedia, and suited to a different interface and data model. So we must support sister projects, or make it possible to include specialized portals in Wikipedia. (for an example of the latter, note how German Wikipedia has incorporated species data directly into WP rather than contributing to Wikispecies)
As a community, we should welcome new types of knowledge, and should help them find a place in our constellation of projects: as a new sister project, or as editors with their own focus and standards, within an existing project.
As a Foundation, the WMF should encourage innovative ideas about making new types of knowledge free. And for the sister projects we have adopted, we should support regular conceptual and feature development, to help curate and share that knowledge. [Whether those features continue to be used on a distinct sister project, or get wrapped into Wikipedia or some other combined project, is a separate matter.]
From the perspective of the WMF, a fair allocation of resources is a must, but what "fair" means is probably hard to define; it's not simply a matter of numbers, since no one could call it fair to allocate 96% of everything to Wikipedia. And we'd have to be able to take a risk or two, by supporting projects that may seem to be a bit iffy or by supporting them for a bit longer than we might like. At the same time we need to be fair: not every project can be a winner.
My own admittedly limited experience with other projects makes me wonder how much overlap there is among editor populations. Promoting other projects could conceivably be done from higher-up, if you like, but I've always felt that the best promotion is sideways, by editors active in one community infecting editors in another, if you pardon the metaphor--and that's not something that can be mandated. As I'm learning more about the organization, I do wonder what can be done to lessen the gap between the Foundation and the corps of editors in all our projects. If, say, the Foundation (I use that term broadly and loosely) had a good idea of which editors were active in which projects, and by "active" I mean as key players, then they could more easily reach out to those editors in order to promote sideways cooperation. For instance, if a certain weakness is spotted in Wiktionary, it would be very useful if the word gets out to the linguists active on the Wikipedias, some of whom may have never heard of Wiktionary. As a sidenote, I recently taught an upper-level linguistics class and found that Wiktionary is quite good, better than I expected, so now I'm plugging it to all those students. The best advertisement is still word of mouth.
I see a role here for chapters and thorgs (thematic organizations) as well, as a conduit in two directions--to and from the Foundation and to and from editors. I think it's at those intermediate levels that the most fruitful pollination can take place, since that's where one is most likely to find experienced editors who know more than one project, and that's where questions (about technical problems and needs, for instance) can meet answers, or where questions can be sharpened up and then passed on to the Foundation. So there again, a close(r) relationship between Foundation and editors provides a better chance of success.
Sister projects should form a key aspect of the editor engagement project, going forward. With smaller communities new editors can feel more at home, as if their contribution is worth something. And the existing editorship will be welcoming of the fresh blood.
My view of the editor engagement program is that it needs to extensively co-ordinate with existing editor pools to create welcome environments for new users. Sister projects represent low hanging fruits, with tighter communities, desperate need for new editorship and often less well formed rules (one of the most off-putting aspects of English Wikipedia is it's slew of policies).
Another aspect in serious need of attention is technical support; significant development resources are devoted to Wikipedia and Commons, with sister projects left somewhat out in the cold. That's fairly natural, Wikipedia is the biggest project by a long stretch. But I think it would be appropriate for the Foundation to focus at least some effort on improving the sister projects. Otherwise we see a vicious circle of specialist wikis that struggle to attract editorship due to lacking tools.
Wikidata is an interesting first step here, and I would love to see more international teams working on new features and tools for the sister projects.
I contribute to small projects, so I can relate. The way I see it, Wikimedia projects complement each other and ideally should act to support each other. Wikiversity allows original research. It can complement other educational activities on other projects like Wikipedia, Wikinews, Wiktionary and Wikivoyage. Wikinews allows original reporting, which supports work on Commons by providing a framework for taking pictures and Wikipedia by covering topics that might not otherwise be allowed. Wikivoyage allows non-neutral, non-notable content for people to use explicitly for decision making.
To me, the smaller projects have much potential. And with the new models of affilitation, I think the solution lies with members of the community empowering themselves to seek local solutions. I don't think the WMF has the one perfect solution, so while it can offer support, I think the solution lies within the community members.
I feel that most of the attention Wikipedia gets isn't generated by the Foundation but simply by the momentum the project has built up on its own--it's the one with the largest contributor community and the greatest scope. In general, I think that it may be interesting to try to focus attention on the sister projects where there are ways to direct efforts people are already involved in that should be going into those projects--material being created elsewhere that should be going to Wikibooks, for example, but isn't because people simply don't know about it. Wikipedia is structurally the one that is most able to generate its own attention, because it is widely used, because its purpose is widely understood, because it has a low barrier to entry and a high visibility for contributing, and because it has this huge reach naturally most of the resources that are directed toward one project in particular are going to go toward it. But I think there are opportunties to figure out if there are big systematic issues where people should be using the sister projects and aren't, and where small pushes can get big results.
It is clear that the majority of attention goes to Wikipedia in terms of developer time and strategic focus. Moreover, as Erik Zachte clearly illustrated in 2008
this is justified by the relative sizes of the projects. On the one hand this is fair. Erik Moeller argues that much of the work the WMF does is valuable to all projects - i.g. server infrastructure, legal support, MediaWiki development. On the other hand however, I also believe that there also should be a discussion of the "minimum standard of support" that being a WMF project means. For example: I think we need to raise this minimum standard so that there is, for each project, at least one person at the WMF who is responsible for advocating on behalf of the needs of that project. It is also possible to extend this to direct support for key languages. This will not solve the divide but it would help each project find a voice for their specific needs.
There have been some interesting developments recently that are encouraging for this issue. The Individual Engagement Grants team that I am part of funded ideas that are dedicated to non-WP/Commons projects (notably "Elaborate Wikisource strategic vision
"). When we re-open the strategic planning process, I would like for us to put the different Projects "on the table" and for each to have an identified place in the next plan's gloals. This then gives them the justification and the right to receive specific attention to meet those goals.
I took a year off work to devote myself to help building English Wikisource, and have often lamented about the lack of support given to Wikimedia sister projects. I am a huge
fan of them all (except Wikiquote; see Wikimedia Forum/On disbanding Wikiquote
), and I contribute to them all (even Wikiquote) whenever I can.
If you care about sister projects, please vote for community members who have actively contributed to sister projects. Too often candidates say they support the sister projects, but don't do anything to support sister projects once elected.
I would like the sister projects to be included in all levels of WMF reporting (monthly, quarterly and annual), and strategies developed for how sister projects can be used to assist the WMF reach their strategic goals of increasing participation and quality.
Software engineering resources should be dedicated to improving the sister projects, including Product Manager roles.
Mobile apps for each of the sister projects should be established and/or existing volunteer created apps should be reviewed and funded.
About MediaWiki development
Hi. As of now, some budget is dedicated to MediaWiki development, in order to add some new features and to improve the existing ones. On which extensions would you prefer this budget to be spent ? For example, some groups need tool improvements, such as stewards who are sometimes forgotten by the board but play an essential role in coordination between project. What's your opinion on this ? Thanks. -- Quentinv57 (talk) 06:40, 5 May 2013 (UTC)
This is an aspect that I am not very familiar with as I am not a computer person. Liam has the right idea in that this is a MediaWiki community issue, as it needs to be decided by people with sufficient knowledge of the technical possibilities. As noted by others, money generally isnt the main issue, but rather coming to a consensus, but that consensus is critical.
First of all, I have to say that I am barely introduced into the allocation of money for MediaWiki development. At the other side, if elected, it's likely that it would be my task to oversee technical issues of WMF, as technological infrastracutre and software development are my profession. So, I have to say something decent here :)
I am a steward and -- although I am not one of those who are actively involved in the War on Spam -- I feel well how important is that issue. I think, also, that we desperately need new software features in MediaWiki to be attractive to the new generations.
From sporadic talks with various people from WMF last few years, I know that money is not the most important issue in relation to various development (not just software-related) initiatives. Most importantly, it's about organizational capabilities.
Because of that, Wikidata is the important example how those issues could be handled: chapters willing to provide logistic support to various software initiatives should take the initiative. And that's not just good from WMF's perspective, but from the perspective of the movement's health: we have to (it's a must, not just a nice idea!) to build diverse and failsafe network, movement. Said so, it is necessary to establish if it's better that WMF leads steward-related software development or it's quite fine to leave it to an interested chapter.
Speaking generally, I think that WMF and the community should have an open channel to discuss software needs of the community, including the most vitally important parts of it. It could be a good idea to establish a committee which would take another part of defunct Special projects committee
, related to the software development. If we go a step lower, I think that it's good idea to open discussion about creation of such body and/or methods for efficient communication between WMF and the community.
This is actually related to the question above, in my mind; there needs to be a good community-driven central place for such tool and feature requests, with both a way to prioritize requests and a way for the developer community to iterate designs with the community. I can imagine that with a functional process for this, WMF engineering would need additional resources and staff to triage these requests, approve code, help volunteer developers, etc. Millosh's idea of a committee to help with this process is also not bad, though I'd be careful to make it an open process than anyone could contribute to.
Determining which specific extensions should be prioritized is far outside the scope of the Board; this is a question for the engineering team and community together. The level at which the Board gets involved is to approve engineering's overall budget and broad areas of focus: engineering has, for instance, been tasked with building features that help the usability of the sites and support new contributors, per our strategic goal of reversing editor decline. I do strongly support the principle that engineering should also be tasked with supporting the existing community (which includes the core meta-processes that stewards are involved in), and that spending should be allocated accordingly.
The main problem here is only communication, if we take seriously, there are too many ways of solving our problems and we can stick well, I'm not quite sure we do not need much more power for looking funds of running our projects, the strength of the first is the influence of our community that benefits from our projects, spreading education and awareness, but the point is innovative and loyalty to those who are willing to cooperate with our projects;
- stewards is very important to re-development of Wikimedia and its projects, in my opinion the right way here is to ensure access to new stewards and the seniors are all tooled
- The key thing is to create the habit of visiting the Wikimedia community to eliminate the performance of this growing industry
I have to confess, I am not familiar with this area, and I do love to hear from the communities on this, especially the developers, and those hardworking stewards. Also I doubt that determining pioritiy of particular extensions' development is within the scope of the Board, although the Board should make sure the projectes are funded, and the volunteers are compensated.
Hi Quentin. I think each major community - the active editors on each sister Project, the stewards, the SWMT and spam and vandal fighters - should get to maintain their own list of priority features. And we should ensure that the top priorities of each community are being met. A few ideas about how we mgiht accomplish this:
We can delegate some of the decisions about "where should money for features be spent" to the communities we support, giving each one a small budget. This question of how we collaborate on priorities and goals is something the Board should consider.
This would improve transparency about how decisions are made, and empower each community to reach internal agreement about what they need most.
We can also consider new ways to support small-feature development for core communities: a bounty board for open problems, a new grants initiative for technical projects, or a team of generalists that only work on such things.
If I were to show up here pretending I had detailed knowledge of which extensions did what I'd be the laughing stock of the English Wikipedia, where my ignorance of all technical matters is well-known. Typically, what I do is figure out who knows what I need to know and make friends of those wiki-gnomes, whose help has been instrumental in making me a halfway-decent editor. I imagine I'd be acting the same way if I get to be elected (even as a luddite). Now, the budget, that's another matter, and I haven't been able to find more than the qualification "shoestring budget". At any rate, even if I had those numbers right here I wouldn't be able to say what should get budgetary preference; the community should play a great part in telling us what we need, and those desires should find a centralized place where editors, developers, and users from all projects can find a place to talk (and someone smart will translate it for me, no doubt). And what I'd like is, if there's for instance Board-appointed people in such a committee, that they actively trawl the various projects and listen to editors there, to find out what it is that they need and want.
By-the-by, what's been funny is how much resistance there is to change, until we get used to it. The new notification system, for instance, was announced on the English Wikipedia though very few were aware of it (a matter of finding better outlets for such announcements), and it quickly became heavily criticized. I too miss the old orange bar where one click led to all the diffs. I imagine we'll get used to it very soon. Same with WikiLove, which is deemed silly by many of the older editors, but which apparently seems to be popular enough. In both cases, though, it seemed to me that the Foundation could have done a better job announcing those changes and asking for input; I'm just not convinced that they are always able to reach a wide enough group of editors. And the editors (me included) seem to think that the Foundation ought to send every editor a hand-written letter. In other words, there's a bit of a gap between the community and the Foundation, and I believe it behooves the Foundation to attempt to improve. Lately I've seen more such efforts on the English Wikipedia and that's been good to see. As for me, I don't have many brilliant suggestions at this moment on how to improve communication, but if elected that's one of the things I want to make a priority for myself.
I'd like to see the community more involved in determining where at least some of the technical effort is spent. As with Phoebe I see this as closely linked to both the former question, and the broader issue of community->Foundation links. Here are some things I'd like to see:
- A technical committee, similar to our existing wide range of committees, which will help drive technology strategy for the movement. This could be as simple as a think tank, or have more direct control in setting work/budgets.
- More work to build links between the community the development teams. Some of the cool things we could do include:
- FInding ways for technical teams to conduct their work even more publicly; particularly spec and iteration stages, where community members could be brought into the brainstorming process.
- Centralise development/feedback away from the project wikis (perhaps onto meta)
- Encourage volunteer teams to build tools, features and plugins - with project management support from the Foundation
This should ideally be determined by both the engineering team and the community. There is no other way. Engage the specific community (be it stewards or any other), and listen to its members about their needs. I know there's a couple of features I'd like for some of the smaller Wikimedia projects I contribute to, which I do think would work towards editor retention. But I'm also aware that it's possible the potential impact could be not worth the effort. It can be exasperating for trusted community members like stewards and for members of smaller wikiprojects. So perhaps there is a middle way, maybe through the IEG, where specific MediaWiki-related projects for local solutions can be accomplished.
The real answer to this question is "the ones that will best contribute to the strategic goals". At the moment, I think this is probably Visual Editor, which is getting prioritized. But the board isn't where decisions on specific extensions come from: the board sets the goals to be achieved, the staff come back with the particular ways to achieve them, by conducting research, consulting with the community, doing testing. (That said, also, dumping more resources into a problem doesn't always solve it faster.) I can have favorite extensions, but if someone comes back to me and says "no, this won't work, it doesn't do what you hope it will do", we do the ones that we think will work. So right now our priorities are to reverse editor decline and make it easier to bring in new contributors and keep existing ones actively contributing; the extensions I want prioritized are the ones that do that.
As others have mentioned, the specific choices of what should/shouldn't get built and in what order is not something that the Board decides - nor should it be. That would become micromanagement and unnecessarily politicise decisions. As a matter of personal choice I would like to see active work on: integrating OpenStreetMap more thoroughly to Wikipedia; revamping the Commons category structure (something like this
); and producing usable analytics reports that help us explain to why GLAMs should be working with us. But, that's just me.
More importantly is an issue that underlies this question - the decision making process, its transparency, its responsiveness to community needs, and how it is communicated. It is fair to say that some WMF software decisions have been made without good communication with the community. Furthermore, many software decisions are made with the reader or "the future potential editor" as the intended user. It is sensible that software prioritisation is not a contest where the most experienced editors win. However, I think it needs to be recognised in the prioritisation that a small group of people do a disproportionate amount of the work. Therefore, I would like to see a good proportion of time devoted to fulfilling the needs of the power-users (so long as this doesn't undermine the work of course) as this recognises the value that these editors bring to the community. For every two projects that is solely focused on improving the reader/newbie experience (a goal which I wholeheartedly support) there should be at least one project that is dedicated to assisting the existing community - according to the needs that the community itself identifies.
As I discuss here
, I believe our most urgent development priority should be a modern discussion tool, like mw:Extension:LiquidThreads
. This should also help stewards, as oversighting individual threads is easier from a community management perspective than oversighting an entire discussion page.
The WMF initiative to merge all user accounts will save stewards a lot of time if it is implemented well, or cause the stewards enormous headaches if it the implementation is botched. I pray that it goes well.
After the 'big user account merge' happens, I believe the WMF should start working on allowing Wikimedia accounts to be created more quickly using OpenID (and other similar systems) and allow Wikimedia accounts to be publicly linked to those identity management systems, thereby allowing people to have their Wiki identity linked to their other identities (facebook, twitter, etc).
Longer term, I believe Semantic MediaWiki and Distributed MediaWiki are going to be necessary, and WMF should play a part in ensuring they are production ready.
Presently, no one is tasked with increasing the percentage of material reviewed to be of high or very high quality by 25 percent, under the 2015 strategic plan. At the medicine project, one of our main strategic goals is the recruitment of professional and scholarly associations, and individual subject experts to help with reviewing and building our medical content, and we would very much appreciate having someone on staff who understands, and can perhaps help us to achieve, our shared strategic goal of improving the quality of our articles, images, definitions, etc. Do you believe the Foundation needs to devote resources to the improvement of the quality of our content? --Anthonyhcole (talk) 06:52, 11 May 2013 (UTC)
My principle involvement now with Wikimedia is related to education, which makes sense since Im a college professor. Our two outreach efforts GLAM
and Wikipedia Education
are specifically geared toward bringing in people with more various types of expertise than what we have with no outreach at all. I have experience with both, even overlapping the two. Im not sure at this point having a "quality czar" is the right way to go about this. I do believe that GLAM and Wikipedia Education need to have better structure and be better known in the community. Both have sterling qualities and flaws. In addition, I would also like to see more from Wiki_Projet Med in newsletters and other publications as much fine work has been done there as well. I think that this is a better focus I dont know how we can measure this 25% that is listed on the Strategic Plan.
Wikimedia projects are common good of humanity. What WMF needs to do is to find good framework for various scientific institutions to participate in building the common repository of all human knowledge. Basically, I think that it's much more about approach than about resources; though, you are right that the basic resources are, actually, having someone on staff who would be devoted to communication between editors and scientific institutions.
I think that Wikimedia didn't explore possibilities for systemic cooperation with scientific institutions. There are various kinds of scientific institutions and a number of them are clearly "on our side", being fully aware of free content. So, if communication with more traditional scientific institutions could be painful, we can make fruitful cooperation with those which have better understanding of contemporary trends.
One significant part of Strategic Planning process is missing. I suppose that the idea of SP was to create the most general framework, but collaborative creation of a strategic plan without collaborative creation of operational plans (wherever it's possible, and in this case it is possible) -- doesn't have a lot of sense. The deadend of this part of SP is lack of editors' involvement in creation of operational plan (if there was an operational plan for this segment at all).
In other words, as the first step, I think that WMF should initiate discussion about the needs of the projects, like your own is. I suppose that it would lead into a permanent staff position, which would care about cooperation between editors and scientific institutions. But I think that much better options (which could include the mentioned one) could be found in an open discussion between WMF and relevant editors.
Though I of course support the goal of increasing high-quality information on the projects -- that's why we're here! -- I thought at the time of the strategic plan's approval, and still do think, that the way the quality target was framed was problematic. For one thing, to meet the target, we don't have any real metrics to know how our articles should be reviewed, what factors constitute quality (which can be defined many ways), or what the baseline is that's going to be increased by 25%. And, much like our strategic goal of increasing editors, we also do not know the best way to get there. When the strategic plan was passed, I was one of the trustees who was most focused on the quality priority, in large part because of my background as a librarian -- I've spent time studying information quality both academically and hands-on, and have thought long and hard about the problems involved with quality metrics (such as timeliness, ability to answer the question asked, understandability, etc.), information authentication, and review.
To your immediate question, the short answer is I think the WMF's role should be supporting those who build quality content. That means many things: doing research into large-scale article evaluation; building tools for new and experienced editors; and supporting individuals and on-the-ground groups like Wiki Project Med who need grants and materials to do outreach. The WMF does these things now, though there is room for debate over, say, the role of the education project, or how to liaise with the community, or how much to devote to research. And I would be very interested in your project's ideas on ways that it could be supported more by staff; Wiki Project Med is doing fantastic work.
To your larger question though, I think that on the WMF side the urgent priorities of increasing participation and technical infrastructure have taken precedence over the quality priority, perhaps out of an assumption that building the editor base and infrastructure of the projects will in time (as it has done so far) lead to quality content. This is probably a fair assumption, but I also think it's important that we keep track of all five strategic priorities. Before asking the WMF to devote major resources to new projects, as a trustee I'd want to review our current capacity and where we are with editor recruitment; however, this year as we look towards a new strategic planning cycle is an ideal time to both assess where we are on all of the priorities, and to spend serious time thinking about how to support each priority in future. And, as a trustee I would ask for a regular assessment of our performance against all of the priorities.
Since beginning of Wikipedia in 2002, there are many challenges in this world of globalization and technology of computerizing knowledge, this question proves and is evidence of the community to the importance of the presence of Wikipedia for now and we know it is important alternatives to deal with these challenges is:
- Wikimedia as an axis of Wikipedia and other projects just to prepare various academic departments,
- every person has a responsibility to ensure that the world is comprised of specialized expertise for academically manner,
- Each department that will be created is going to come and plan a strategy to help the community,
- Seek not to take Wikipedia editing industry is growing rapidly so it is important that we preparing and making lasting mechanism to be tool to assist generation to generation,
- More importantly attract specialists in the medical community to be part of Wikimedia,
- We have to decide now to use existing studies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,
- Supporting various researchers that the participants to achieve all these goals we expect,
- support research and researchers into new areas from which will help expanding Wikimedia community.
I am actually skeptical about can we really reach that 25% goal, as in many parts of the world, our volunteers seem spend more time in different adminstrative burdens, rather doing more outreach & other more meaningful thing which they're good at. I do think WMF should try to decentralize the effort of engaging more professional and scholarly associations, and individual subject experts to help with reviewing and building our content, not just in medical articles but also other articles, to all kinds of affliates and even personells. As in many cases, they know the best about their local enviroments. In order to do that, I think stablizing the affliate structures & empowering individual seems something more pressing to me.
Yes, the WMF does need to devote resources towards quality. Standards for quality will vary by project, and reviewing material and working with outside experts is something that should be run by each community. However the WMF should help coordinate our many quality initiatives, and provide guidance to new projects.
This coordination should include identifying quality standards where they exist, encouraging them where they do not, and including them in our internal report cards and research. Some projects have detailed quality assessment projects (e.g., Wikipedia:Version_1.0_Editorial_Team/Assessment), which deserve publicity across our communities.
The WMF should also support the development of tools that help reviewers work more effectively.
Yes, but I think the key stakeholders responsible for this are the chapters and thematic orgs. The Foundations role should, in my view, become more centralised - focusing on technology and support of the wikis. This is a role best managed centrally, and with a traditional corporate structure - indeed the WMF do it pretty well already.
Outreach, globally, is best done by people on the ground - which means affiliates. I'd like to see the Foundation focus on providing support (monetary, of course, but also logistical and academic) for the bootstrapping and ongoing work of affiliate orgs. Eventually those models should be self-sustaining, with a globally agreed approach to outreach.
We need some good key performance indicators (KPI's) for content; it's our most important aim and I feel like we don't give it much attention. People often say "wikipedia is a work in progress", and it makes me sad that the way they say it implies that this means most of Wikipedia is poor quality and that is OK. Projects like Med and Milhist have had great success in organising editors and focusing them on improvement tasks - but this represents only a small portion of the topic areas on Wikipedia. We are strong in these areas, but weak in many many others.
We need to find ways to achieve the critical mass of interested editors needed for these sorts of groups to form within other topic areas. Great content comes from the community, and we need to support that body in every way possible. Does that require dedicated staff? Not staff to involve themselves in community/volunteer processes (it would be a bad thing, in my view, if that work fell on staff as they would then be relied on too heavily - making the system centrally weak). But, yes, we need staff to develop outreach programmes, to liase directly with affiliates and to bootstrap new groups within the movement.
Improving quality is a strategic priority. In that sense, communities on local Wikiprojects should have greater acknowledgement for the work they do with improving content. Several specific efforts come to mind, such as the work of GLAM projects in general. It's even more amazing when members group together to form User Groups, Thematic Orgs (like you!), Chapters, and GLAM partnerships as part of a community driven effort to improve content. Wiki Loves Monuments comes to mind, for example! Some of these initiatives receive support through these affiliates or through the Grants program. I do think the WMF can find a way to support the goal through the community members.
Actually, you are tasked with it. Fortunately, you can share that responsibility with tens of thousands of others!
The staff goal in this area is to help enable you to do that by giving you the tools to do so, and by helping bring in more people who can add to the quality of the projects--so tools like the Visual Editor, and better notifications, that make it easier for more people to contribute who aren't necessarily experts in editing the wiki, all work toward that goal; in some sense, growing and supporting the community supports all of those goals, and outreach is the most important way WMF can help. I worry about what it might look like to have someone specifically devoted to content quality: what do they do, and does it get in the way of having the community do things where WMF can never be more expert than the editing community? I have never liked this particular statement of this goal of the strategic plan; I think trying to put a number on it is wrongheaded because we don't have a consistent standard to measure against, and I think the next iteration of the goals in the next plan will be better in this regard.
Of all the strategic planning outcomes this is the one that I am frustrated by. Not because it is a bad idea - of course "more good quality content" is a good thing - but because it is vaguely defined and because the measures identified to achieve this (listed here
) don't seemed to have been followed. The recent "focusing" of the WMF has exacerbated this. As the areas of the Wikimedia-universe that I am most involved with (outreach training, GLAM partnerships) are primarily about improving quality, I feel this issue directly. I have been thinking about how we can increase quality and engage experts in ways that they are comfortable with for a long time (e.g. this blogpost of mine
from 2009 proposing a possible solution.
In answer to your specific question - I think that the WMF does have a role to play in helping improve the quality of content, but not directly... I think that thematic coordination (e.g. Wikiproject Military History or Wikiproject Molecular Biology) is the perfectly placed vehicle for supporting quality content and therefore I believe that the WMF should investigate how to support the capacity development and stability of these organisations. The advent of "thematic groups" as a mode of formal affiliation with the Wikimedia movement is an interesting and welcome step - and I suspect that it is through this model quality can be best targeted. In terms of facilitating direct access between world experts and key Wikimedians I believe the "Wikipedian in Residence" model that I pioneered is also particularly useful. It would be very interesting to see the WMF help develop a system whereby a Wikiproject/thematic group could commission a quality audit from experts, or gain accreditation from recognised authorities for particular content at a certain time. Imagine if we could have the technical and procedural systems in place to be able to say that (for example) a particular revision number of a Feature Topic on "Malaria" was formally "approved" by the World Health Organisation. That would be very powerful.
[p.s. I've modified my original answer in response to a clarification of the question left by its author (Anthonyhcole) on my talkpage]
WMF shouldn't get involved in funding content directly, but should be aware of the quality, and fund affiliates and individuals who have put forward sensible strategies that will improve quality where it is needed. Our donation model requires that we inspire the public each year, and increasing quality is one of our untapped 'stories' to use.
Please see User:John_Vandenberg/WMF BoT candidature notes#Quality
(and 'core' funding to affiliates).
Foundation's long-term vision
What major issue(s) do you think the Foundation should focus on over the next 10 years? 126.96.36.199 04:03, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
My short answer is that Wikimedia is struggling with the transition from a fledgling, idealistic organization to a more mature one, trying to keep as much of its idealism as possible. What I hope to see is the end of the significant expansion Wikimedia's projects and consolidation of its organization and structure. Wikimedia's mission is fairly clear, but from that clear start, we have run into many problems with expansion and implementation, often asking for good-faith interaction among people and organizations who have never done such with each other before... "the devil is in the details" It is no longer enough to just say "...is to empower and engage people around the world..." we have to define what that means in as many of the situations we have.
(Just to say that you bugged me with an extraordinary good question and I am writing a long response for two days. Will be finished today, I hope :) )
That is a big question :)
Over the next ten years, I think the biggest challenges for the WMF, and the areas it should focus on, will be:
- encouraging community leadership: both on the projects and within our many organizations (including the WMF). We must get better at providing clear paths to leadership, opening up governance, and encouraging and recognizing new leaders; and there must be meaningful paths for volunteer participation in the work of the WMF.
- recruiting and retaining editors for all of the projects: we must stabilize our editorial base and make sure that new editors feel both welcome and excited to be a part of the Wikimedia projects.
- maintaining the visibility of free knowledge in all spheres: education, the law, government, the technical world. This means everything from supporting a free and open internet to supporting sane copyright law. The Wikimedia projects depend on a technical and legal ecosystem that is often threatened; we can and should lead the world in demonstrating the importance of free knowledge.
- long-term financial planning: we have no problem raising the money we need, but we currently plan for the short term, and we are a long-term knowledge project. Our technical and financial planning should reflect a view towards being around for the next ten years and more.
- increasing and maintaining information quality: for example, I often think that, with 4 million articles, we are just now getting started on "phase 2" on the English Wikipedia -- that is, keeping those articles up to date and making them all high quality. This can seem impossible; like any long-term editor, I've watched articles I've worked on go through IP-address churn, and not always come out better than when I left off with them a few years ago. And I see our quality backlogs slowly growing, and I know that system isn't sustainable either. I think the next period of growth for all of our projects will require innovative quality maintenence tools and mechanisms -- tools that I don't think we've thought of or developed yet.
The WMF will face these challenges, but the solutions will come from an all-hands effort from all parts of the Wikimedia community; we must work together.
WMF in the next ten years with the current policy is the need to turn to new areas and work to integrate into the effectiveness and efficiency of the program, for example:
- Defend the basis of its existence since its inception in 2003,
- Carrying out its program of work and see what has been put in place and has not been implemented,
- Seeking new ways to monitor the system, and community participation in all Wikimedia projects,
- Check how to be a special department headed by considering academic achievement,
- Invest a lot of energy in a region that does not know the importance of Wikimedia projects especially in the continents of Africa and Asia,
- Put the best way to resolve conflicts between WMF and other organizations, but also by users,
- WMF and watch how the current will be the bridge between them and all other stakeholders in the creative sector companies and all other disciplines,
- Shorten the time of the establishment of a chapter in the country and encourage countries that are not yet supporting Wikimedia
- WMF to support individual users who spend a lot of time to develop the personalities of the Wikimedia worldwide
As my answers to some previous questions, the pressing issue is really how to stablizing structure local communities, and free up volunteer manpower to do the stuff they really good at and even empower individuals to achieve their goals. These infrastrure thing should not be ignore, it is fundamental to any sucess in the future, and these goals already take a long time to achieve.
Thank you for asking this question. The Wikimedia projects have come to represent the promise of the Web for collaborating and sharing knowledge. As a result, in addition to supporting the community and the Projects, the Foundation is also part of a larger discussion about how our society works together.
The Foundation should facilitate the community's work, and focus on long-term planning. This includes expanding who is part of the community, and working with global groups to increase acceptance and recognition of Wikimedia projects, throughout the world.
- Long-term planning
- Financial - We should develop long-term investing, a community of recurring donors, and an endowment.
- Society's vision - We should build a network of partners and supporters that sustain and expand our work. Wikimedia should be part of global discussions about how we develop laws and social norms around sharing knowledge. And the WMF should ensure that this happens: through partnerships, and through recommending thoughtful community members to represent our ideas in forums around the world. Our goals for access to knowledge should be part of every major plan for global development. (At present these plans tend to discuss 'education' but do not think about the generative effects of free reuse or collaborative development.)
- Movement strategy - We need a shared map of where all of our projects and communities are heading. This means a strategy that includes both the WMF's goals and those of all of our projects, which is continuously updated. The WMF should lead the development of such a map.
- Community empowerment: Major Wikimedia initiatives should be developed in collaboration with the community -- each one an opportunity to expand who we invite into our technical and content communities, and to update our goals and priorities. Some of these will be driven by the WMF, some by individuals, some by other entities. The WMF should help to coordinate all of these efforts, keep them in line with a shared roadmap and vision, and channel support to projects that need it.
- Channeling funds to local projects: We should be implementing the best available tools for crowdsourcing technical help, funds, and other resources, within our community, for specific projects. We should become better at supporting individual projects, and not simply large chapters.
- A strong MediaWiki community: We should focus on building a strong network of MediaWiki developers, and supporting work on it as a general tool. It should work to support new developers, through training and publicity. Hiring out of the volunteer community should be balanced by expanding that community. We should actively cultivate new communities of mobile developers, and those working on other new platforms, giving them recognition for their work and space to lead.
- Support for new types of knowledge: We should become an incubator for new knowledge-projects of all kinds: including many types of knowledge not currently covered by our projects. We should learn how to spin off projects that would do better on their own, and how to adopt other projects, with minimal overhead. And in our role as grantmaker we should become a source of support for free knowledge projects that further our mission, regardless of where they are currently hosted.
This is quite an open ended question, so I'm going to keep my answer quite broad, and cover some of the key issues I see in the movement.
Broadly my view is that the Foundation should become leaner, and more tightly focused on technology and core support, rather than outreach and advocacy. A long term strategy should be to evolve the affiliates model into a lean, centrally supported system of loosely integrated local (both geographically and topically) groups - and it is to these that the task of outreach and content generation should fall. This model is elegant in that it incorporates extensive community support, helping bridge some of the gap that seems to be growing between the Foundation and some areas of the community.
I'd like to see a well-defined strategy for this model, along with documentation and procedures for quickly bootstrapping, supporting and promoting new affiliates.
Aside from this one of the key focuses of the Foundation over the next decade should be securing its long term position. I think that the board and senior staff should, with community support, work on codifying the guiding principles in some form. We can help this guide the movement and affiliates in the coming years by creating a broad guiding concept, similar to the five pillars.
There are other long term considerations too:
- Finding ways to ensure financial security over the longer term
- Creating a guiding strategy for the long term (multi-decade) to help ensure the Wikis will still be here in 100 years!
Over the short to mid term the Foundation needs to build more professional links to the communities. I feel that there is opposition from within the movement to some of the things the Foundation is doing, and some communication issues (in both directions). These need to be ironed out so that we're all actively pulling in the same direction.
- One of the major issues we face has to do with the concept of a free internet. Threats are multiplying, and we need to be on top of that. Many of us were very surprised by what happened in France (France!) recently, for example. And there are even more recent cases. We also have copyright laws that are undermining the projects, for example Commons, which has to adhere to a highly restrictive CL (which impacts those projects which do not have Fair Use and heavily depend on Commons for files). Thanks to Wikipedia, the WMF is in a unique position to take action against these threats, which in the end are a symptom of a larger problem. The Board will need to make this a priority for the Executive Director(s), which in turn will apply resources (legal, financial, human) to strategize how to best protect our interests, and in a larger scale, the internet, within our capabilities (there is a limitation on engaging on lobbying, as defined by the US, that could make the WMF lose its non-profit status, so we need to be careful).
- Another major issue is to continue to diversify and increase our editor base: we need to empower local volunteers to aid us in this. Catalyst programs are fine, but we need the support of on-the-ground volunteers to achieve this. Perhaps it would be worth to examine what the WMF could do to aid this with human/financial resources.
- Ten years ago, there were no such things as tablets or smartphones. Ten years from now, who knows what new cool gadgets will be available. Whatever the platform, we want users to be able to access and edit Wikimedia projects easily. It makes sense to continue to focus our efforts on the Engineering team, so they can keep making the reading and editing experience simpler and easier, and keep making the projects available throughout the world (like with the Wikipedia Zero project). And from reading, to editing, of course. The translation tool on Meta is an example of how a technological tool helps volunteers. In due time, the Visual Editor will be another.
- I think we are on the right track empowering volunteers. We need to continue doing so. The IEG, AffCom, FDC, these are all volunteer-run committees that support the decision-making of the WMF. They are all pretty new (even if AffCom was previously ChapCom), and we need to keep building on them and on the idea behind it. The new models of affiliation (thematic orgs and user groups, in the future movement partners -without forgetting the chapters, of course, which are maturing and in some cases vis a vis with the WMF) will develop and hopefully thrive, create cooperation networks like Iberocoop, and become strong allies supporting the WMF vision. We need to give them time and resources to develop, mature and thrive.
Hm, very difficult to say! I guarantee you that whatever I say, I will want to change the answers within a year, if not sooner; if you had asked me any time in the past several years, I think I have different answers now. That said:
- Growing and enabling the contributing community. No matter what hppens, the projects go nowhere without an active contributing community; ultimately the Foundation must be working to enable and encourage that. This is multifaceted: it means developing tools that make it easier to bring people in, it means reaching out to comunities that are underrepresented, it means studying the social trends of the projects and figuring out how those interact with people's ability to contribute.
- Connecting with related communities. We've started over the past few years really building connections to other groups with common goals, figuring out how to work with each other--other free knowledge organizations, academics and cultural institutions, scientists and researchers. We have mny, many common goals, and if we can figure out more ways to work with each other, and make working with each other part of our regular ways of achieving what we set out to achieve, all of us are stronger.
- Having a more active role in the free knowledge ecosystem. We've figured out that we are a powerful and influential voice, when we speak up for free knowledge. That said, we can't do blackouts all the time, maybe not even more than once. But we spent a long time building up our credibility as a project promoting the ideals we believe are important; we should figure out how we can most effectively use our resources to speak up more directly for them, without compromising our core focus.
- Using our resources to empower others doing our work. One focus we've had over the past few years is grantmaking. Wikimedia gets a lot of resources because of its visibility. But not everything we want to accomplish, that's within our mission to accomplish, can or should be located within the boundaries of the Foundation. We can do better at figuring out where we can let others who have more trouble getting the resources achieve those goals by giving them what they need to do so.
This is an extremely broad question and therefore any answer must be equally broad. There is the risk of being too vague because of this breadth, but anything actually specific would be to be trying to predict the future.
Here are just four key trends that I think will continue and become increasingly important. This is not a comprehensive list of trends, and it is not a prioritied list of things the WMF should do first, but it's something:
- Mobile (and touch/augmented reality) will continue to grow - and dominate the way that large proportions of the globe accesses digital information (particularly in the developing world). Wikipedia Zero is an excellent project to address this trend but it doesn't help increase editorship, only readership. There is the real possibility that we have a "two speed internet" - those who create content and those who only read/see content.
- Legal and structural threats to the Open Web. This is actually the issue that Sue Gardner identified in her message announcing her leaving her role as Executive Director. The stakes are increasingly high for control over the internet as a place where "the people" have control. There are increasing trends to make "walled gardens" online (like Apple's iOS) and to control the way content is delivered (e.g. laws like SOPA etc.) How we as a movement chose to deal with this has not been fully determined. On the one had we are clear that we are neutral and not a political advocacy group, but on the other hand, delivering free access to knowledge to everyone is an inherently political activity (in some countries more than others).
- Community demographics changes will become an increasingly important are to monitor. We need to simultaneously become more open to new members of the community - and the different needs and perspectives they bring (especially from countries that are currently not well represented) - but we also need to stay true to our culture and "the wiki-way". More people for the sake of it is not a good goal, but equally we cannot design our processes so that we only listen to people we already agree with.
- More money and more capacity is both a good and a risky thing. It is fair to assume that we will be able to continue to increase the size of the organisation in financial terms for several more years. Even under the current system of fundraising we are obtaining our increasing annual budgets in decreasing amounts of time. This means we can do more things each year but also means we have the increasing risk of losing our way. I would advocate that we aggressively delegate responsibilities to the most local competent group. Doing this helps to ensure diversity and organisational flexibility.
Communication and activity level
My concern is about communication, and engagement level. For example - Kat, you've made ~6 edits on Meta this year, and a bit over 12 the last. Your mailing list stats aren't any better, while you've been a trustee for around 6 years, there is a big drop-off 2 years ago (and understandably people become busy, but then why seek re-election). Those stats alone might not mean much about substance, but they do clearly display the engagement level with the community that elected you. Trustee especially community elected ones, should value direct conversations - Considering all the unpopular decisions in the last few years, do you think your level of activity and communication will be a problem? The same question I'd frame to everyone is, how will you make sure you are in touch with the community especially when unpopular decisions are brought up? Will you just ignore the majority of the voices and do what you think is right? I'm trying to ask if there is a mechanism or a way, to keep yourself in-check in these situations and not lose sight of what the community wants completely. A strong-handed "I always know best" approach displayed by a few board members is worrying. Theo10011 (talk) 03:30, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
While I have no desire to trash anyone's service to the community, I mentioned to Signpost that we should consider term limits for board members. It is not possible to keep the same energy level after a certain amount of time. It is also important to have new voices on the Board to prevent stagnation.
As it's the case with everybody, the reason for activity level is not related to free time, but to the priorities of particular person. Once upon a time, Wikimedia was more important to me than many other things in my life. Today, after years of [Wikimedia's] social stagnation, my motivation fell to the level of struggling with activity. I still hope that Wikimedia can survive as an attractive phenomenon, I would say that I know how and that's why I am still struggling.
In relation to the community, my answer is known and clear. As a Board member, I'd have to do my best to keep organization healthy. However, my mandate would come from the community and I'd be politically responsible to the community. If the community and Board would be in confrontation and the long list of possible solutions wouldn't help, my responsibility would be to resign.
Every Board decision is a balancing act: trying to figure out what is best for the WMF and Wikimedia in the short and long term, while balancing what the project communities need and want, and what the costs and benefits will be of each action. The role of a trustee is to listen to criticism -- which there is plenty of! -- and to the best ideas from all sides, and also to bring their own unique experience and professional background to the table, which is why having a diverse body of trustees is a good idea.
But the role of a trustee is also to make decisions on behalf of the whole system -- decisions that will affect all of the editors of all of the projects (not just those who speak up on wikimedia-l), and all of the readers (not just the ones we meet), and all of the donors (not just the ones who leave messages). There will never be perfect consensus or agreement among all these interests, so while every decision has to take many points of view into account, trustees also have to realize that most decisions will make someone unhappy, and will sometimes be very unpopular indeed. Being unpopular doesn't necessarily mean that decision is bad -- but only if the reasoning behind the decision, the process, and the outcome can hold up to scrutiny.
My ideal for Wikimedia governance is one where anyone from the community feels they can participate in governance discussions: where the process, problems to be solved, and ways to get involved are transparent. We sometimes achieve this, but not always. The trick for the Board, I think, is to try to make sure that the problems, the logic and the sense of the discussion behind a decision are communicated, to make that an open process when possible, and to always be willing and answer questions. Speaking personally, I'm not afraid to stand behind my decisions, including the unpopular ones; I'm also not afraid to change my mind -- and change course -- when I'm convinced by good arguments that I made a bad decision. And though I don't always live up to my own ideals of open process, I do try, and am always willing to talk.
Always, decision is decision whether is unpopular decisions or popular decisions, whether has effects or not, all contains opposite side. As the decisions chamber must go through a specific period to protect, defend, but also to determine. Wikimedia subdivided into many aspects that want to take proactive decisions and decisions require careful evaluation. it means that you can decide exactly one side must be sad, so now the right way to do it on the affected agree with the decisions that the issue of the spread of truth when it springs you must now respond to those affected to share ideas, a professional approach and is now the measure of a good leader and not a supervisor leader, good governance in any nation depends on all of us, a leader must know those you lead what they want and that each head has its first location, it is important to know what community think is the language of charity begins at home, this means you cannot be a good leader if don’t have a charity at your home, the most important thing is to be collaborative leaders who has likely want to meet the community.
I have to confess, I am not active in mailing lists either, and I am even not a fan of mailing lists. However I do read most of them, especially in areas I have serious concern on (Chapters, Development in Asia etc.)
However I do believe board members should communicate to the coummities through mailing list, espcially when the board or the whole movement have to decide something, and when there is some crisis. In other time, I would prefer do more "ground work", linking the communities/chapters/affliates to the resrouces directly, rather than present huge plans on the mailing lists.
Involvement in the community is key to being able to support the Foundation's work effectively. I would like to see the Board do most of its work on Meta - something that the Board has started to do while I have been on it - including drafting resolutions and discussing major topics of the day. And I believe that almost all work should be done on public wikis.
The Board should not (does not) ignore public input; and we regularly consider topics that were proposed on Meta or by community groups. All community members are welcome to participate in governance threads, and should know that their input is valued and considered. And elected Trustees are responsible as well to the community that elected them, so they should always be available to respond to questions and suggestions.
With regard to unpopular decisions, controversial topics are an opportunity to learn from one another. Individual decisions may be unpopular - as phoebe says, that doesn't mean they are wrong, sometimes there is no popular decision. But the discussion that goes into them, and the willingness to keep an open mind and correct decisions that turn out to be wrong - is the most important part of that process. Part of the role of every Trustee, and particular the elected Trustees, is to facilitate these discussions and help improve communication, between the WMF, chapters, Projects, and other parts of our community.
I don't do mailing lists or IRC (too difficult for me). We have lovely things called talk pages, which is where I conduct my business. Transparency, as much of it as possible, is of paramount importance in this collaborative project. I imagine that if I get this position there will be different avenues of communication, reams of email being one of them. But this answer isn't really exciting since I've done very little in that respect, and don't have a record to stand on or to defend--except as an administrator, and how I fare in that position you can gauge from my talk page. Whether I fare good or bad, I fare openly, on the appropriate notice boards and talk pages. Also, there is no cabal, of course. :)
More interesting, for the nonce, is your question "Will you just ignore the majority of the voices and do what you think is right". It's never smart to ignore the majority, but it's also not smart to ignore the minority. I've closed a number of Requests for Comment on Wikipedia, besides a ton of Article for Deletion discussions, where the idea is that the closing admin doesn't count votes but rather weighs arguments pro and con, and the head count is only one of many factors. (I learned this a long time ago when I studied the work of Frans van Eemeren
, who needs an article on the English wiki
.) The way I see it, whenever one holds elected office, whether admin on Wikipedia or member of this Board, one is morally obliged to listen to the constituents (broadly defined), and being very much a novice at this level of governance I don't see myself as "knowing best".
I certainly don't plan to end my involvement in mailing list and other forms of discussion, especially my participation in the English Wikipedia and UK chapter communities. I really enjoy those things! I'm constantly on email and deal with a huge volume of correspondence (related to other aspects of my life) so this will hardly be a drop in the ocean :)
As to controversial decisions.. It's worth saying that to some extent the board is elected with community support to make decisions. Furthermore, decisions that are unpopular with some often create vocal outrage on the mailing lists (which is always disappointing to see) that, whilst loud, doesn't represent the view of the majority! Any board member should not be afraid of sticking to a decision that they have weighed as correct just because they get shouted at.
However. The board should actively display the capacity to question their decisions in light of objection. Hopefully criticism can be anticipated and mitigated before that stage, but we live in an imperfect world. When some or all of the community raises objections that should generate dialogue both within the board, and with the community. In some cases those objections may not change the decision, in others it may be factored in. Either way the board should be seen engaging with the affected sections of the community, and responding to the issues raised. Certainly I think there should be deeper engagement by the board with the community, and I would aim to lead by example in that area - I am always accessible to anyone who wants to talk! And that will never change.
Without a specific example, though, it's impossible to give my idea of how it should have been addressed.
I'd like to make a small point here. English is always a limiting factor when we talk about "the community". On a number of Wikimedia projects, some of the most visible and influential community members are limited in their ability to participate in the global movement, via Wikimedia-l or Meta, because of their limited English language skills. Since I'm a non-native English speaker who edits different language projects, I always try to keep this in mind. I participate in several mailing lists, but only a handful of them are in English. I've recently seen an initiative by Alice Wiegand, "Ask a Board member", directed for the German community I believe, which sounds fantastic. Maybe it could be replicated for other communities as well. I don't think the English-speaking community is ever going to have a problem participating on governance issues in the existing channels. I'd like Board members to be available for non-English communities too, within our possibilities. At the very least, be approachable. Maybe we can all think about a mechanism that makes this possible like you request.
It may well happen that different communities will be at odds between themselves or with the WMF, and a decision has to be made or a window of opportunity will be lost. In that regard, I would hope the Board would make a decision based on all available information, that they truly felt it was the best possible one and would advance the mission. A board paralyzed by indecision or by fear of being unpopular wouldn't be desirable. In ocassion, decisions may be unpopular, granted. The board can and will make mistakes, since no system is infallible or perfect. I would want the Board to explain how and why a particular decision was made, and if shown incorrect, to learn from it and improve its processes where needed, so it can reduce its fallability next time. And I would like community members to assume good faith and remain approachable as well, so we can keep improving our communication possibilities (communication goes both ways, after all).
What I do for the board is mostly not visible. But I don't think I am disconnected--the way I engage is simply very different, in part because of my role. My time is best spent doing the things only someone currently in the board role can do, which isn't always the same things that others are engaged in. For example, I've spent a huge chunk of time over the past several weeks working on the executive director transition--talking to the search firm, developing criteria, working on external communications for it; hiring a new executive may be one of the most important board tasks and I don't rack up any edits for it. I spend time with Legal, consulting on policies; I talk at conferences; I explain what's so important about us to people working in related organizations.
I read almost all of the lists (yes, including tech); I go to community events, I try to be reachable in IRC and to keep up with project announcements. I edit almost completely anonymously now, mostly small fact corrections, and I don't have time to write to the mailing lists all the time--I barely did when I was a student and definitely don't now. But I am engaged, just not in the same ways I used to be. And I don't ignore community voices--but neither do I prioritize the loudest ones. My role is to consider the big picture: the community members who shout and the ones who don't, how stated wants and needs interact with the goals and mission, what research tells us, what it means for our role in the greater community.
The level of involvement of a Board member in the community is a perennially controversial question, and is not unique to Wikimedia - for example it is the same thing with any politician (how much time they spend meeting with locals etc.) There are at least two complicating factors for us: The language barrier makes it difficult for all language communities to talk to the board (and vice versa); the areas of personal involvement that the individual board member has (no one can be present and active on all communication fora equally). As a result of these factors it is relatively difficult to give a measure of "how active is xyz Board member". However, there are certain practical measures we can take to increase the visibility of the Board to the different parts of the community.
I would like to see the Board initiate more focused discussions or asking questions (on Meta, or wherever applicable) in advance of issues becoming controversial and requiring major action. Equally, I would like to see the board publish draft statements to seek comment before actually passing resolutions that then have to be clarified. I would also like to see methods introduced for the community to formally petition the board to discuss a topic.
As for me personally, I have been steadily involved in many mailing-lists for many years now. For example, I can honestly say I've read every single email to Foundation-l (now Wikimedia-l) since at least 2007, and through my GLAM work have been fortunate enough to attend Wikimeetups (and therefore meet the local communities in many, many countries. Of course my direct involvement has increased or decreased depending on real-world factors but I have been watching, listening, podcasting, blogging, editing, debating and researching (my thesis was about Wikipedia too), and plan to continue for many years still!
I think the "community members" of the Board of Trustees must be active in representing the community that elected them. They have failed to do this, as they do not seek input into their resolutions, do not assist the community table items for consideration at board meetings, do not ensure all community engagement exercises are translated into major languages, etc, etc.
The only board member who has done a good job of engaging with the community is user:Sj, who will be my role model should I be elected.
I think we need to change the structure of the board of trustees so that all positions are community elected, and are term limited. See User:John_Vandenberg/WMF_BoT_candidature_notes#Board_of_Trustees for details.
I would like all proposed resolutions to be drafted on meta with community involved.
I will try very hard to remain in touch with the community, but I will also do what I think is right in order to effectively carry out the responsibilities of being a Board of Trustees member. Whenever my vote goes against the opinion of a sizable cohort of the community, I will do my best to communicate my rationale.
What is your view on the current distance between the Wikimedia Foundation and the editing community? How (if at all) would you like to change that in the next 2 year: what would be a realistic goal and what would you personally do to accomplish that. For candidates that have occupied a board seat in the past: why did you not do this already / were you unsuccessful at this in your previous term? Effeietsanders (talk) 15:59, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
The "community" is worldwide, spanning numerous cultures with different expectations from being involved with Wikimedia. In addition, people's motivations for being involved vary immensely as well. Its kind of like being a teacher, with a class of 30 students. It is not possible to satisfy all students' individual needs at all times. However, this does not mean that the teacher can't get a "feel" for the group. Wikimedia has grown immensely and rapidly and frankly speaking, its bureaucracy is still struggling with keeping large numbers of people involved and motivated. One main proposal I would have is to consolidate our communications channels. As of now, we have Meta, Outreach, chapters, two main outreach programs, not to mentions numerous smaller initiatives which Ill bet many, if not most, of our editing community has no idea about. (I found out about the "wiki-world" quite by accident in 2009, finding a photo related to Wikimedia México on Commons, after 2 years of fairly intense editing). I would work on single site, linked to by every Wikimedia related site, for info and news on what is going on.
The distance between the WMF and the community is at the worst acceptable level for few years. Relations vary, but significant level of tension exists. And the most of the responsibility for that situation is on WMF's side, specifically Board and top management are responsible for that.
While I wouldn't say that there is bad faith on the side of Board and top management, while it is possible to see positive trends from their side, I don't think that they put enough effort to solve the issue more systemically. I still see that WMF is struggling between the mentality of an Bay Area NPO and the lead organization of the global movement. Fortunately, present situation is significantly better than it was a couple of years ago.
There are a couple of very realistic goals which could be achieved during the next two years:
- Promoting the culture of the global movement among the staff. Even it's about of San Francisco, from time to time the provincial mentality is striking. WMF's employees should be the persons of the world and it's not so hard to learn it.
- Promoting active and responsible approach in dealing with the community. Those in position of power are more responsible for their actions and WMF's staff is constantly in such position (this is not related just to WMF staff; the same applies to all volunteers in the committees, for example). Passive decision-making process is not enough when it comes to handling the issues of one global movement.
- Board members, regular volunteers, highly involved volunteers (members of the committees etc.) and staff should have as equal treatment as it is possible during the conferences, as it's the most visible inequality. I understand that it's not so easy to achieve, but it would be possible if it would become one of the priorities. We don't suffer from a lack of creativity and I know personally a couple of very good organizers from within the movement.
- On the community side, WMF should promote mutual understanding. Everybody can be upset because of personal issues, everybody can have a bad day; who does can be wrong, but it is extremely important that that person actually does. That especially applies to staff, which job is volunteers' hobby.
- Promoting more active and less fearful approach on all movement levels. Significant part of the problem inside of the movement comes due to the instinctive passivity.
I've been thinking all week about how to answer this, and it's difficult to write a short answer. For one thing, to echo Maria, there's not just one community. For instance, WMF communication with communities that don't have many English speakers is not very good. And even though there's been a lot of tension, communities with chapters are closer to the WMF than those without -- because we meet each other at the chapters meeting, get each other's reports, etc., whereas many smaller projects don't have any editors that attend global events or report on their activities.
There will always be distance: the WMF is often working on different things from the editing community, and we rely on each other for different things (the editing community relies on the WMF to keep up the servers, deal with lawsuits, etc.; and the WMF relies on the editing community to maintain the projects). But I think when we talk about distance between communities what we're really worried about is losing the value system that holds all of Wikimedia together. The WMF and the editing community shares core values -- openness, free information, meritocracy -- and we must continue to share these values, not just as a philosophical matter but also as a practical part of how we work. I am always worried that we are in danger of losing our most important values (through becoming too "corporate" or focusing on the wrong things) and I think this is always something to watch for.
Personally, as a Board member, I tried and would continue to try to model good behavior, consistent with our values. I tried to report out and internally, to be open, and to recognize good ideas. For the next two years, I think some practical ideas include: strengthening WMF staff training in how the rest of Wikimedia works, especially for new folks (and vice versa, sharing what the WMF does with the rest of Wikimedia); spending serious energy improving our RfC/beta testing process so that it is easier to iteratively develop software & features with
the community (rather than in opposition to it); centralizing discussion and making multilingual commenting easier so that it is simpler for all of our community members to participate in RfCs and decisions; supporting community leaders and leadership, both with tools and processes (such as building the steward tools mentioned above, but also recognizing great outreach efforts). None of this is something the Board can do alone, but trustees can advocate for these changes.
It’s a matter of responsibility, accountability and participatory between the Wikimedia Foundation leaders and Wikimedia community to come together and to fill the lack of distance. A leader with accountability shall have a time of evaluating himself about his accountability to WMF, the groups in each project l will measure themselves whether they fulfill their duties or not, and where could they submit their finds. You’ll never be good a leader if you cannot make an evaluation of your accountability and at the same time a good leader visiting people and asking on how his performance it’s, this is the same to the community and together we can help the glow of Wikimedia.
A difficult questions, let me try to put it into two prespective.
1. In the board level, it is really a personal choice of board members, they can be step away from the community to think hybridly, or get into the community to bring back the opinion from the community, I think we need both to develop healthly.
2. I I think why we feel WMF is out of touch, may due to quite a part of work are transfer to the staffs. A number of staff really get involved into the community and serve us for a long time, which is incredible. But in a number of area, our staffs seems come and go very quickly, seems changing all the time. Although this may be "normal" for a "Charity in the US" (at least I was told), but these constant changes, always come with communication backlogs & problems, make us feel more and more apart. I think we need to also stablized the HR in WMF, as well as we need some role like a community receptionist, whom is the community familiar with, to deal with situation when the community members need help from the staff.
The current distance between WMF and the communities is significant. This is unfortunate, and it slows down many things we try to accomplish together as a movement: we invest energy in internal debates rather than on the next frontier of our work.
What I find most interesting about this distance, is that it is not a lack of regard or respect; but a disconnect in worldview. For instance, in some circumstances the community feels the WMF makes decisions without community input; while WMF staff feel that their work is beholden to the community and will be scrapped if the community does not like it. Similar problems, at smaller scales, can be seen in the distance between some individual chapters and related editing communities; and between the WMF and chapters.
In my time on the Board I have tried to publish as much as I can about our work, and advocated for staff liaisons focused on providing this sort of support; each community and affiliate could use a community member focused on this as well. I have voted against proposals that I thought widened this gap, and fought as much as I could within the Board to avoid sudden changes in the Foundation's positions. I have not always succeeded in part because I am seen as an extreme voice on these issues; even though within the spectrum of positions in the rest of the community I do not think my positions are particularly extreme.
The WMF is planning to hire 2 people in such roles over the coming year. Together we should also clarify the role of community and WMF in decision making in different situations. Some decisions are made entirely by the community, others by the WMF, others require collaboration and joint approval. Other ways to address this problem over the next two years include
- making community groups part of the planning process for decisions that affect them, not simply part of feedback after the fact (this is a feature shared by the 'good examples' to date)
- supporting and empowering community decision-making, by investing in better collaboration tools
- investing significantly in multilingual communication, so that non-English speaking communities can be part of these conversations.
Ha, effeietsanders, een gewetensvraag voor sommigen. I think that the current distance is pretty significant. One could be a happy editor in a project and have nothing to do ever with the Foundation, not even know what it is or how it works (that was me until recently). That's not necessarily a bad thing for the editor, though it is always a bad thing for the Foundation which needs to know, after all, what those editors are doing, how they're doing it, how they could do it better, why they're doing it, etc. I imagine, since I know quite a few people on the English wiki, that if I get elected I'll find out soon enough what it is that they want from the Board. In general, what I'd like is for (more) Board members and others in the organization to be more active as editors. I remember being at an event (which shall remain nameless) where an apparatchik (who shall remain nameless) announced with some pride that they had finally made some edits on Wikipedia. And I thought to myself--well, I thought that it was strange for someone with a high rank in our organization to be so little schooled in the stuff editors do. At least our boss*
knows how to write an article. But seriously, few Board members have been prolific editors, and while I may not yet know a lot about the Board, I do know a lot about editing.
The specifics of your answer are difficult to address: measuring a metaphorical distance is a hard enough thing already. The ultimate goal is easy, as far as I'm concerned: that the Board help editors write better articles (dictionary definitions, software, courses, etc), and that editors feel that the Board, which makes such important decisions that affect the long and the short term, is not a stranger to them. Our Strategic Plan, the way I see it, mandates an improved relationship since participation and quality can be directly affected by it. What I'm interested in right now is what kinds of things I'll hear from editors on Wikipedia and other projects, what it is that they want done. That is what matters for me in this process.
Of course Jimmy Wales
is not really our boss, or anyone's boss. He also hasn't written as many articles as I or ErrantX have.
Foundation/Community relations are certainly at a low point. However there are moves in the right direction with the employing of community members as liasons. I'd certainly, though, push for much more effort to bring the community into the Foundation's vision.
More than anything I'd like to start to encourage a new culture, or viewpoint. The Foundation should be serving the needs and requirements of the community, and so the community should be more deeply involved with strategising. I'd like to see a corporate culture where everyone is accessible to community members with constructive views and input. I'd like to see the Foundation employ staff to pester community members with known interests to give their views.
I would come to the board as a long term English Wikipedia editor, with numerous friends within the movement. I have a decent list of written articles, wide participation in community policy discussions and a passion for free culture. The point being that I have deep ties to the community, and so would be able to bring the board a taste of the current culture, and the community a taste of the board!
At the beginning, the vast majority of people had no idea what the Foundation did. That was bound to generate mistrust. Then the Foundation got really good at reporting and informing community members, via reports and global delivery systems. That reduced uncertainty, as information always does. For there to be trust, people first need to know what the Foundation does and doesn't do. Yet, this is only partially true --it's valid mostly for the English Wikipedia and a small number of international volunteers who are already interested in organizational stuff and have good English skills.
(I also think chapters have helped a lot here too: local organisations formed by volunteers and editors who in some cases acted as mediators or facilitators or just plain explained what the WMF was going to do in the next few years. So while there is a distance, there has been progress as well.)
What would I change? Nowadays, it takes some effort to keep on top of what is going on in the movement. A discussion started on some page on Meta is moved to another page on Meta and then jumps to the Wikimedia-l mailing list. Or a discussion on WikiResearch-l is forwarded to Wikimedia-l and then continued on Meta. It's very difficult to follow all the existing mailing lists (scratch that, it's impossible, you need to choose). We need to be able to keep conversations in one place so they are easier to follow (and translate). Maybe we need to lay a heavier emphasis on the use of Meta. Perhaps that would help the WMF be more approachable. I think the irc office hours help, much more than mailing lists at any rate, and are more interactive and fun, but I realise it's difficult for one or two staff members to answer questions of dozens of Wikimedians simultaneously. Regarding enhancing communication between WMF and project communities in languages other than English, I favor broadening the scope of the "community liaisons" the Foundation is hiring right now, so that they focus not only on technical issues but are able to provide a two-way communication link between the Foundation and the different communities, by both translating or making known the relevant news and discussions Foundation-wise, and transmitting to the staff any significant worries or proposals they could receive or detect in their home wikis.
I believe there is a trust-gap between the editing communities and the WMF and that this is in spite of both sides having genuine good-will and a common desire to see the projects succeed. It is my feeling that this gap manifests itself in a mutual "siege mentality". Being someone who has has been a staff member (as WMF Fellow), a Chapter board member, and longtime community member, I get the impression that each of these three groups feels that they themselves are the ones with the least power to effect change. Fortunately though, I do think things are changing. While there are always going to be arguments, mistakes, and outbreaks of bad faith, the WMF is increasingly devoting resources to community liaison with major projects. More communication is always better.
A lot of the breakdown in communication stems from, in my opinion, the anonymous nature of online communication. It's a bit like road rage: it's much easier to get angry at the car in front of you if you cannot see the driver's face. Once you are seeing an actual human it is far harder to be angry. So, I think that the best way to break down the barriers is to find methods to increasingly humanise the WMF and the Board.
For the "one realistic thing": I would like for the agenda for each Board meeting to be published in advance - and the issues on the agenda clearly described - with the proactive soliciting of comments in advance of the meeting from relevant parts of the community. Ideally this will result in an outcome where no one is genuinely surprised when the WMF makes a decision on an issue. Individuals might not like the result of a decision, but for individuals who are making every effort to follow what is happening, we need to make sure that they are at least not surprised that the decision is being made. A reduction of "surprises" and an increase of "humanisation" should help reduce the present distance between the editing community and WMF.
The WMF board should review WMF activities through the prism of our Values
, and require more transparency and community involvement in planning and decision making.
The agenda of board meetings should be open for community participation.
The board should champion a process of defining 'core' funding for all affiliates.
Please see User:John_Vandenberg/WMF BoT candidature notes
Network of chapters (affiliates)
The statement of purpose of the Wikimedia Foundation reads:
The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.
In coordination with a network of chapters and individual volunteers, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.
(for the ease of conversation I will replace 'chapters' with 'affiliate organizations')
Could you please explain how you see this (...) coordination with a network of [affiliate organizations] and individual volunteers (...) two years from now? Will that be on equal footing, will all have their very specific roles (which?), will the role of the Wikimedia Foundation (and with that its budget & staff size) increase/decrease because of expanding/reducing task packages? Should that be (if so: how) that different in 5 or 10 years? Effeietsanders (talk) 16:05, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
I share Tom's concerns about the tensions between the Foundation, chapters and community (those volunteers who do not benefit from being part of a collective voice in Wikimedia). Quite frankly, there are "turf wars" going on, with some people who consider themselves above everyone else, even to the point of supressing others' involvement, with the justification that they are the "so-and-so" of a chapter, or project or sub organization in Wikimedia. One reason for this is that the Foundation is still trying to find some happy medium between autonomy for sub-organizations, but keeping them inline with Wikimedia goals and mission. This might seem easy but it is not. For example, different cultures will read the Foundation's mission statement and interpret it in line with their own worldview, simply because we are all ethnocentric human beings. So when an affiliate organization says it agrees with Foundation principles, the two groups may not really be on the same page. It is important for the Foundation, as if not legally, then to the public, has the final responsibility for what affiliate organizations do as part of the movement. Whether it likes it or not, the Foundation will have to make its expectations clearer, not only for affliates which are forming, but also those in existence. As of right now, I do not believe there is enough oversight over affiliates, as shown by some of the more recent problems with various chapters.
I don't know about very specific roles, but I do imagine various Wikimedia organizations developing different types of activities that each type of organization specializes in -- for instance I can imagine thematic organizations focusing largely on outreach and content. But what those programs look like will depend a lot on the individual organizations. Wikimedia Germany has hosted some impressive software engineering this year, proving that at least some chapters might do engineering work even if many don't. There are certain things that I see being the core role of the WMF, that as trustees we would want to continue planning for: responsiblity for keeping the projects online being the most crucial. But my hope is that over time some programs will be supported by affiliates, that we share tasks and responsibilities, and the WMF sees itself as working more and more hand in hand with various organizations.
Coordination with networking of affiliate organizations and individual volunteers can never be huge if there’s a lack of responsibility, accountability and participatory that is a truth, any ddevelopment are found for commitment and responsibilities of each other, but also the time now has come for the Wikimedia Foundation to hand over all responsibility to Wikimedian community. It would rather increase the number of Board elected by the majority and minority as per constitutional regard. The reason of this idea is to integrate relationship between the Wikimedia community and its consumers, (Users) if these changes has done, definitely it will help to push forward on Coordination with networking of affiliate organizations and individual volunteers and the growing Wikimedia movement to to bring success to each group.
Two years? I think if we need to reach the goal metioned above is pretty far away. It seems to me so-called the sucessful chapters, really depends on their own work & friendly local environment. As I said in my answer to a number of quetions, if we can stablized the structures of a number of affiliates and their community, I think it is already a very great sucess.
We already delegate most local media, partnership-development, messaging, and advocacy to affiliates. I expect this to strengthen over the next decade.
We have also started delegating part of donor communications and relations, and microgrants, to affiliates where they have the capacity to manage them. I expect this to accelerate as we reach a critical mass of groups who have done these things successfully and can share their experiences.
Finally, I hope to see much of the currently-centralized outreach programs the WMF manages, particularly to expand awareness and engagement of communities in places with little infrastructure or community support, to be picked up by regional umbrella groups such as Iberocoop or (one day) Wikimedia Asia or WALRUS. These are tasks which are best handled by groups with strong regional connections, and the WMF should shift to providing background support and global promotion of that work, rather than coordinating it directly.
One of my current concerns within the Wikimedia community is the growing tension between the triumvirate of Foundation, chapters/affiliates and community. I think it's urgent that the entire movement sits back and assess the role of all of the stakeholders, so we can move forward collaboratively.
To specifically answer the question; affiliate organisations have a key role within the movement. I talked to Lane Raspberry yesterday, and we discussed this exact issue - where the chapters have important geographical links, the new thematic organisations have key ties to professional bodies/groups. Both types of affiliate are strongly placed to conduct outreach and education in a way the Foundation simply cannot manage. So in the future I see the role of these groups growing stronger and stronger, with deeper community support and funding.
This is why I am tentatively in favour of the FDC; although I have specific criticisms of the current model, it is nice to see that body beginning to include the Foundation in its funding decisions. This helps promote the idea that the Foundation and Chapters have a somewhat equal footing in the field of outreach.
How this growth in importance directly affects the Foundation I don't know. But I don't think it really affects the staffing :) Unlike the chapters, the Foundation has a key role in hosting, developing and supporting the Wikimedia wikis. This core role is very important.
So in summary; I see a greatly increased importance for affiliate organisations in conducting outreach, with the Foundation tightening its focus on the technology and support aspects of Wikimedia.
I would like to see the affiliates and the WMF complementing each other. We all share the mission. Sometimes we just prioritise differently: while there is a tendency to speak of chapters as a homogeneous group, there are big differences from chapter to chapter, be it because they are on different evolutionary periods or because they have different strategic planning for a concrete time period for their specific territories. The same will happen with the other affiliates when they start being approved: we will have thematic organisations, but they will all not necessarily have the same priorities or goals. Likewise for user groups. Hopefully in two years time we will see thematic organisations and user groups coordinating and cooperating between themselves and with existing affiliates, and have existing affiliates cooperating with the WMF as well. Wikipedia's own success is the success of a highly distributed, de-centralized model, creating coherence out of diversity. Beyond 2015 we will need a new five year strategic plan, and then we can all brainstorm about the different roles, tasks, etc. I remember hearing once in a Wikimedia Conference (maybe in 2011) that ideally chapters (now it would be affiliates) should one day be able to support financially the WMF, not the other way round. While perhaps a tad utopic and very long term, the idea has stayed with me for all that it implies.
All of the affiliated organizations are very, very different in their organizational capacity and goals; it doesn't make sense to talk about them all as if they were the same kind of thing, and I'm glad that we're moving away from that. The role of each organization depends so much an each one's individual situation: some function very similarly to WMF, and carry out similar execution on strategic goals, while others are basically small user groups, who may not even want to take on the same kind of role and would rather run small, one-time projects.
I don't see the overall size of the Wikimedia budget changing much, but the profile of it is likely to shift, as it has shifted--for example, we have been and will be putting much more money into grantmaking, and less into project-based programs. Basically, I see the distinction between what should be done by WMF and what by affiliates as things that function better when centralized and things that are just as effective or more effective done locally. Many projects can be done anywhere by anyone and be done just as well; others require massive coordination.
Hi Lodewijk. As you know, this is an issue I have been working on and debating about (often with you!) for quite a while. The role of the WMF vis-a-vis the Chapters (and now the other potential affiliated organisations) is something that remains contentious. One of the things I have been saying a lot over the years - and repeated in my candidacy statement for this election - is that the WMF needs to proactively support the capacity development of local communities. By this I mean that it is far more sustainable in the long term if there are many Wikimedia groups around the world who are competent and capable at working with their local education systems/GLAMs/governments/charity laws etc. Even if it is more efficient in the short term for the WMF to directly manage in University education programs (for example), it is not helpful to the long term goal of building a worldwide movement that is capable of fulfilling our mission.
I would like to see the WMF continue to grow - in a stable and sensible way - but I would like to see the WMF spend increasing proportions of its time and resources focusing on helping other parts of our movement to become capable at taking larger responsibilities. In some cases this will mean professionalisation in the sense of "paid staff" but more importantly I think this will mean professionalisation in the sense of "increased competency".
The board should champion a process of defining 'core' funding for all affiliates.
The WMF should support all affiliates, providing them will advice and templates, assisting them meet financial and reporting requirements. Lots of carrots.
The WMF should work with affiliates produce a 'Wikimedia' annual report, and maybe quarterly updates too, encompassing the work of all affiliates. We need to increase the sense that 'we are all working on the mission together, under the same brand.'
The management of the 'brand' needs to be overhauled to put the community ahead of 'the Wikimedia Foundation assets'.
Please see User:John_Vandenberg/WMF BoT candidature notes
2012-2013 Annual Plan, Narrowing Focus, and Fundraising
In May 2012, the Foundation's Fundraising team indicated they were concerned that fundraising in 2012 might not substantially increase, possibly because of a misinterpretation of measurements which showed a seven-fold increase over the best performing appeal from the December 2011 results. In July 2012, the Board adopted the 2012-2013 Annual Plan which included a substantially slowed rate of growth amounting to over $10 million less than the historical rate of growth would have provided, and stating that they had "reflected on the ... rate of growth, and how that impacts our ability to focus on the movement's mission. Therefore ... the Executive Director should present options for adjusting the annual plan, potentially reducing or eliminating lower-priority programs and capabilities." In October 2013, the Executive Director presented such recommendations for "Narrowing Focus" and the Board accepted them.
The Board's July resolution adopting the 2012-2013 Annual Plan stated that, "If, during the year, management anticipates the annual reserve at each quarter-end will differ materially from the plan, the Board directs management to consult the Board Treasurer promptly." In 2010 the Board had passed a resolution which stated that, "Fundraising activities in the Wikimedia movement should generally be directed at achieving the highest possible overall financial support for the Wikimedia movement, in terms of both financial totals and the number of individuals making contributions."
Actual fundraising in December 2013 far exceeded the diminished expectations, and was proceeding in line with the historical rate of growth before it was halted after only nine full days, less than a day before it would have exceeded the diminished goal. What, if anything, would you have preferred to have happened differently during the 2012 fundraising projections, annual plan adoption, and fundraising processes? And what corrective action, if any, would you recommend? A4BQ (talk) 03:15, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
While everyone wants more money, including non-profits, I am concerned there is too much emphasis on fundraising and not enough on how that money is being spent. Most donate thinking that the money goes towards the "basics" technology and some administration. From what I see, a large portion is going towards travel and there has already been some backlash on this. I think it is a good idea to scale fundraising down because it creates the expectation of more. I dont think it is prudent to think that people will always give at the same level to Wikipedia, especially as more and more see it as "finished."
I think you're asking why did the Board pass the narrowing focus resolution, despite the fact that we had the most successful fundraiser to date that year and could have raised more money than we did. The answer is that these were largely unrelated. The Board was less concerned with our ability to raise money than we were concerned with the WMF's ability to handle and do a good job at completing all the projects the Foundation had taken on (see also: my answer above!) The Board also wanted to see the WMF more focused on our core strategic goals and a few key projects. As far as fundraising goes, we are lucky: we could raise more money, if we had more fundraising days or ran more annoying banners or a variety of other things. But given that we can easily fund our projects and many discretionary initiatives, it seems better to try to make the fundraiser less annoying and to use that time, energy and banner-space to try other things: perhaps recruiting more contributors!
The sustainability of accountability of every one belongs to Wikimedia community is the only way of reachable to the targets as:
- to pay a respect to the Wikimedia Foundation rules,
- a truly identification to public of users,
- a royal of every one representing the Wikimedia to the public,
- to show an example of being royal to our contribution to public,
- to come closer in free discussion of the non community of Wikimedia,
- to accept the rights of each other,
- to obey on the rules regarding the rights of your neighbor,
- to accept that challenge might be faces,and
- the problems must be solved
These sub thematic answering of the questions posted, the community who is the contributors of Wikimedia Foundation with its projects they have two option of whether willing to contribute or willing of stopping to contribute this is dependable on we are performing, because they see, they participate with accessibility of evaluating themselves on our accountability with responsibility of performance and their finds is a position of their determination. No need of doubting with the current plan it’s very practical. All wikimedia community are in position of making the change because its the only community which which has an accessibility of collecting not only $45,000,000.00 but billions of USD, how? its a matter of integrating our networking.
I think we are blessed by a trike of luck in last year's fundraising, however we did need to carefully consider the future, as we cannot assume we are always lucky. Again my piority is still stablized the infrastructure, Affliattes, Community & WMF, otherwise I don't think people are really can achieve other goals without worries.
When we discussed Narrowing Focus, a number of Trustees who supported that resolution also noted that focus of effort was not directly tied to the size of the budget. However the rate of annual budget growth had allowed the Foundation to avoid focusing its initiatives. As our movement has many working parts, which benefit from knowing how tasks and initiatives are split up, it has been helpful for the WMF to clarify what it is focusing on.
As for fundraising itself - I am glad that the fundraising team limits the effect of their messages on the project. We should avoid spending too much time each year on fundraising. However as our reach grows, our fundraising capacity will grow faster than our current budget projections. I would like to see us carry out a minimum amount of fundraising as well - say, the amount of messaging we did two years ago. This coming year, it has been suggested that we may be able to raise the projected budget with almost no active fundraising campaign - simply through much lower-impact messages throughout the year. So we will have an opportunity to raise funds for an endowment, or for a larger pool of grant-making funds, and not simply for the next year's budget.
I'm having a hard time with the question and the provided links. I don't see much in the way of concern in Fundraising 2012/How Wikimedia revenue grows
, nor how in Resolution:2012-2013 Annual Plan
it is the finances that drive the request for an assessment. There are other concerns signaled in the "Narrowing Focus" document: the issue was how many projects the WMF was supporting and what kind of a drain that was on the people working for it. In other words, there was no need for "corrective action"--funds were raised, and in an unrelated move various management decisions and strategic shifts were accepted.
The Fundraising team did a wonderful job on the last fundraiser. They were going for something new (less banners to annoy people less) and exceeded their conservative expectations. There is nothing wrong with that. Fundraising for the sake of fundraising, to see how much money we can get out from people, looks haphazard and random. We fundraise to finance very concrete things.
When you do strategic planning, or prepare a budget, or something similar, sometimes you need to update it before the period it applies to is through. Not because something has gone wrong, but simply because the context has changed or you have achieved your goals before schedule, and you are flexible enough to adapt it to the new circumstances.
Narrowing the focus, on the other hand, makes sense, even if there will never be 100% agreement on which programs to support and which to let go. I was sad to see some go, but through the Grants program (GAC, IEG, FDC, Participation Support... and let's not forget the affiliates and their capabilities) there is the potential to resurrect some of them in a new form.
If I understand your question correctly, you're asking about the apparent disconnect between the budget planning and the fundraising practice. From a technical point of view, the WMF's fundraising team have been getting better and better each year - more efficient, more effective, less disruptive. The work they are doing is excellent given the task they have been set. I have my disagreements with the manner in which fundraising is centralised away from some of the Chapters who I believe are capable of doing it themselves, but that is not the point of your question... Meanwhile the number of projects the WMF as engaged in were also growing. Our appetite for projects has been growing to match the speed of our ability to raise funds - whereas it should be the other way around. While I disagreed with some of the choices for programs to cut (and others which were left untouched) I am happy with the principle that the WMF should "focus" on its core activities of technology and grantmaking. This focusing did cause a lurch in the the nature of the budget for this past year, but now that it has been done, it should bring more predictable growth and make for more clear budget forecasting in subsequent years.
The professionalisation of our fundraiser has done wonders, and the constant improvement of the Wikimedia content also does wonders for our fundraiser.
We need to ensure we dont betray the financial donors by raising money that we don't use effectively and transparently.
We need to ensure we dont betray the content contributors by raising money that we don't use to further our mission in accordance with our values.
Too much money, if distributed unfairly or inappropriately, will destroy us.
I agree that Wikimedia Foundation needs to narrow focus, and it needs to nurture the affiliates to take on the areas that the Wikimedia Foundation is discontinuing.
The community needs to define 'core' funding for all our affiliates, allocate money to establish affiliates where they are needed, and determine the size of the pool available to the 'Funds Dissemination Committee'.
Should the Foundation raise an endowment? If so, how large? Large enough to sustain operations at current levels from investment income alone without the need for additional fundraising? A4BQ (talk) 12:08, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
This is related to my answer from above. Im worried about "charity fatigue" in the long run for Wikipedia. An endowment fund would take away much of the living from year to year, which we kind of do now. At first, this endowment should be large enough to fund long term projects and projects that we know to be important, but difficult to "sell" to the donors (especially small donors) as needing to fund. I dont see the possibility of an endowment large enough to cover all of our expenses and probably that is best. If we need to fundraise, it gives us accountability to the end user, especially small donors.
Yes, of course. The level of the investment depends on WMF's abilities. First, we need to cover the costs of keeping servers. Then we need the development. Finally, WMF is the lead of the global movement and it should be capable to keep the level of movement's activity no matter if the world is in financial trouble or not, as well. But there are chapters and other affiliate organizations as well, so they could take a part in raising the funds (not just via annual fundraiser) to create local endowments, which would cover the costs for themselves, as well as to participate in the global activities. In other words, ideally significantly larger than you suggest :) If the WMF is independent from the outside turmoils, the movement should be, as well. At least theoretically.
Yes to your first question, no to your second :) I do strongly support the idea of raising an endowment. This would be a long-term fundraising effort, complementary to our current annual fundraising. Philosophically, I think it makes sense to have an endowment that can cover our core expenses, which should be defined as a minimum level of project hosting, backup and support; these expenses are relatively stable. It's impractical to consider building an endowment large enough that we could run all of Wikimedia's initiatives on investment income; that would be a very large fund, and there are also benefits to having an annual fundraiser, such as having accountability to our readership. However, I think an annual fundraiser can work with an endowment, which would provide us long-term stability and ensure our ability to provide free knowledge for years to come.
Endowment fund may be granted under strongly stipulations to regard its usage what I know about this revenue the discussion about it is on the way and once approved it will help, endowment will support many projects but the points is the matter of accountability and responsibility it’s an obligation of all us to post comments to the Board of Trustees in wise discussion and approvement.
I do agree we could need to raise an endowment, but it is better spend on how to stablized local affiliates strutures, empower individual to do meaningful stuff, rather than spend on bureaucracy.
Raising an endowment for the core technical needs of the projects is important. This should be large enough to support bandwidth, hosting, and basic technical administration, from investment income alone. This is something we should take seriously and address in the coming year.
As part of the Audit Committee, I raised this topic earlier this fiscal year, and the Foundation CFO is currently exploring options for both an endowment campaign and a long-term investment strategy. We will be considering those options at our next meeting in July.
Raising an endowment is a long-term project, but while I'm not an accountant or investor I think it would take a lot more than the annual income from donations to build one that is sufficient to sustain levels of operation without other fundraising. 2011-12 revenue was estimated at some $35 million
; to generate such an income from an endowment alone requires a huge pile of money (to put it in non-accounting terms). From what I understand the matter is still under discussion, but I think that starting one is a good idea even if it won't fund operational expenses (or even a significant chunk thereof) for many years. It's like saving: the sooner you start the better it is. (Though interest on savings is negative, these days, given the low rate and inflation.) Moreover, having an endowment, in my opinion, is a fundraising tool as well: some donors give more gladly for an endowment since it makes them feel that they are contributing towards a long-term goal, not just an incidental acquisition of a server, a salary, or a power bill. That's how it seems to work in US higher education institutions, for instance. So, in principle, I think this is a no-brainer, but the technicalities of it, the numbers, is a matter of serious discussion informed by financial specialists, and we should not hope that saying "yes" will make the fundraising banners go away in the near future.
It should be the boards job, over the coming period, to examine the Foundation's finances and put it on track for long term financial security. That may include an endowment fund. As I said last elections, we have seen extensive growth and now it is time to solidify our position.
There is clearly a lot of community belief in such a fund, and the Foundation should take that belief very seriously. I think the board needs to look at as wide a range of options and bring the most workable back to the community & Foundation as a decade long financial security plan - such strategic planning & decision making, under advisory of the community, is the entire purpose of the board after all! I'd like to see a working group established by the board, consisting of community members, staff and board members, to work through all of the options and present a cohesive strategy.
I'm waiting on Garfield Byrd's report
on the matter expected in the next few months. We need all information possible in order to make a sound decision.
I don't consider it an urgent issue right now, though I'm not opposed to one; it would just require a specific additional push with a specific campaign for it, probably focused on large donors. I don't think any such endowment should be large enough to sustain the current budget on investment income: tying up resources that way seems like a waste.
At some level I like that we are continually dependent on a successful fundraising income, from small donations at that; it means that every year, millions of people are telling us "yes, you should continue to exist" by donating, and we have to continue to be valuable to them in order to continue to exist. But if an endowment were to exist it should be basically insurance against complete disaster: if something unforeseen happened that made it impossible to raise money even when we continue to provide value to the people who would otherwise give to us; such an endowment should be large enough to keep the lights on and make sure that the content stays available until we can recover.
Yes - eventually. I agree that, in principle, an endowment should happen. However, while the global budget for the Wikimedia movement is still consistently growing, setting a "target" for what the endowment size is too much of a guess. Setting out to create an endowment fund should not be something that is done "on the side" while we still continue with the current fundraising system, but something that should be the main focus of effort. This is because if building an endowment is actually successful, then we would need to change everything else about the way we approach our budgeting and fundraising. So, I would argue against an endowment right now, if it was something to simply add-on to existing fundraising efforts. But would be happy to talk about it as part of a holistic review of long-term financial planning.
Currently there is an advocacy proposal pending which has received only support but has stalled because nobody has asked the community for comments. Does the Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline imply that it is the Foundation's responsibility to create such an RFC? Ideally, about how many times per year would you prefer that the Foundation request comments from the community concerning various advocacy actions? A4BQ (talk) 19:10, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
I am a bit leery on calls to advocacy for Wikimedia. I know much of it comes from the highly-successful 2012 SOPA blackout, which shows that Wikimedia indeed has clout. However, that clout can be far too easily abused and sidetrack us from our main mission, to build Wikipedia and other projects. There are too many organizations which have fallen into this trap, and Id rather see too little advocacy from Wikipedia than too much.
I'm pleased with the development of the new WMF advocacy guidelines that you linked above, and also with the advocacy group for discussion; this seems like the right kind of process. If a member of that group wants to bring an RfC forward, and it's within the guidelines, then that seems totally appropriate whenever the need arises. I'd much rather see this be community-driven than only WMF-driven. I think as a community we have strong interests in supporting fair and open copyright, open access, and open internet policies around the world, and the advocacy group seems like a good way forward.
Regardless of discussion on RFC the Policy and political associations has Putin clear with specifying also clearly and whatever RFC has been approved the policy noted that will not support on, environmental issues, animal rights, anti-globalization, anti-war activism, religious activities and political parties. I hope that the ongoing discussions we still have more thematic of consideration to guide it’s a matter of patience, but without forgetting the issue of by laws of the Foundation is under responsibility of the Board of trustees.
I do think this should be a community initiative, I personally prefer WMF should switch to more on infrastructure and relevant support. However if the community decided we should do some work on advocacy, the Foundation should have the responsibility to support the community in the causes.
The Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline does not define whose responsibility it is to post requests for comment. Anyone may do so, normally the person who feels action should be taken. These things should be community driven -- I would like to see these sorts of comments and suggestions from community members as often as they come up. In this case it seems people were put off by worries about the RfC bureaucracy - that they might file one incorrectly; we should fix that problem and make it simpler. I created an RfC
about this particular topic, since it is one I care about -- in my role as a community member.
RfCs are community/editor initiatives. I don't see why the WMF should go out to seek issues in which an RfC could provide a useful assessment of the community's opinion on a certain matter. By the way, this particular proposed amendment is, from what I've seen on the internetz, widely seen as a no-brainer. Besides, collaborative advocacy doesn't necessarily require an RfC (or Board approval). An RfC could stipulate that support from the Board be desired, and it could strengthen the public appeal of the proposal by suggesting there is widespread support among the community, and a Board that listens to the community could help in setting up RfCs when necessary. But I trust the community well enough that a. they'll know if an RfC would be necessary or serve a useful purpose and b. they'll start that procedure if needs be. RfCs strengthen the community's voice and can make the Foundation and the Board pay attention, but it's the community that needs to start them.
As it happens, this particular RfC is up and running (started by Samuel Klein--whether he did so privately or was wearing his Trustee shirt, I don't know); it's not exactly causing a drain on the servers yet but it's there. It's worth noting, looking at the list of still-open RfCs, that they don't attract that much attention on Meta, that not all of them seem to be a Meta-matter, that it might be a good idea to set some boundaries on how long they ought to run, and that someone needs to go down the list to close a bunch of them (this one hasn't been commented on in over a year, and three are still open from 2009). On the English Wikipedia we have a couple of editors who hound the admins to take care of overdue RfCs (are there time limits on Meta for RfCs?) and that needs to be done here as well. It's all fine and dandy to support community involvement and all, and RfCs are a great tool to do what with, but if they're not dealt with properly there is little point to them.
We need to remember that that specific policy applies only to actions by the WMF. Not those community driven. In other words, whenever WMF staff resources will be used for advocacy purposes, that's when the WMF would open a RfC as detailed on the guideline. This does not apply to affiliates or community-driven advocacy initiatives, those for which community members can open RfC's at any time. Personally, I hope that these WMF RfC's happen very rarely, because otherwise it would mean that the WMF is (a) becoming a lobby group (something that cannot happen under US law) and (b) that the world is becoming so hostile to our cause that we need to become so politically-oriented. Hopefully it won't happen, but if it does, this guideline serves as good practice on how the WMF should act. And sure, as a community member I would appreciate a RfC if and when the WMF engages in political action.
The specific line in the Guidelines that I believe you are referring to says, "Before a decision, an RfC is posted regarding the policy association, either for consultation or consensus." The question of whose responsibility is it to create RfCs must be answered with an "it depends". I would say that it is the responsibility, generally speaking, of the person trying to drive a change to be the one to create an RfC. It also "depends" with regards to the frequency of RfCs. I would not like to see the WMF getting directly involved in too many things of this nature - it would be never ending and is not our core business - but it is important to do sometimes. So I guess the answer is "Not frequently, but when necessary".