Wikimedia Foundation elections/Board elections/2013/Questions/3

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Regional Wikis to acquire new content and authors[edit]

The quality requirements are different in the various wikis. Some have very few requirements at the time, some others - e.g. de:WP - whose criterias (relevance) have already been set so high that it is often not possible for newcomers to partizipate. Almost every day, we lose more actual authors that we win new ones. You can not operate a constantly growing project with the same number of volunteers, if you expect article work in addition to administrative work. While the administrative burden is steadily increasing.

We have already today - and certainly much more in the future - due to an almost monopolistic position, a much greater social responsibility, which probably goes well beyond the current service character as an encyclopedia. Even there, were it seems to work very well we must find new ways.

Can you imagine that the Wikimedia Foundation also supports regionally operating wikis to foster a substantive as well as not yet locked personnel potential? And promoting such projects financially and through technical assistance and perhaps even integrated as part of the official Wikimedia system?

We would like to emphasize that we do not understand such a project as a competitor to Wikipedia, but as a supplement, the basics of Wikipedia and free knowledge must always be respected! --Hubertl (talk) 19:54, 27 May 2013 (UTC) --additional Karl Gruber (talk) 19:58, 27 May 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
There always needs to be a balance between openness to newcomers and finding ways to keep or improve the quality of articles. I dont see how creating another category of wikis will help to raise the number of volunteers on the wikis we already have. One advantage to having the different standards on the different wikis is that we can see what works and what doesnt (think of it as a kind of wiki-federalism). However, it is frustrating for newcomers to face a wall that seems insurmountable. There have been efforts targeting newcomers which are sorely needed and need to be expanded. These have mostly focused on welcoming efforts but if a wiki wants to have very strict requirements as to content, it should work on creating easy ways for newcomers to get started, to experience success quickly and maintain the interest needed to learn more challenging tasks.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
In relation to the FlaggedRevisions as implemented on German Wikipedia, I have one joke with my German friends: When Germans don't have a lot to do, they will find a way how to work more, no matter how much sense it has :P

Personally, I think that FlaggedRevisions (as implemented on German, Hungarian and Polish Wikipedia, unlike the implementation on English Wikipedia) are harmful for vitality of the community. If new user is not able to see the change immediately, than the wiki "philosophy" is flawed. Even it's about a primary school student, the difference between seeing and not seeing the change, even it's about vandalism, is the difference between potential editor and user forever.

At the other side, I completely understand necessity for high quality of all Wikipedia editions and I really admire that tendency of the German Wikipedia community. But we need to find a way how not to harm our ability to regenerate in the sense of new editors who replace the old ones. While I wouldn't have anything against creation of local wikis -- likely directly supported by appropriate affiliate organization and indirectly by Wikimedia Foundation -- I think that we should think more and find better ways for having high quality articles and lively community both.

For example, "stable versions" are common way to solve such issues: maybe de.stable.wikipedia.org could be the product of strictly imposed FlaggedRevisions, while de.wikipedia.org would continue to be not just a place for collaborative work, but also a playground for new ideas and young editors.

It is very important to keep our movement and our communities open, to actively build open culture. Years ago I noticed that we are becoming more and more conservative on all levels. One, anecdotal negative event triggers the next level of closure. At some parts of the community it created a number of bizarre rules, as well as many bureaucratic and inhumane relations. That's really bad. We shouldn't be such cowards as our present and historical position is so important, that significant parts of the future depend on our work, on conversations like this one is. Our responsibility is enormous and we should act responsibly. And responsibility means being bold, not a coward.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
Regarding quality in general: I certainly agree with your first two paragraphs. Regarding regional wikis as a solution: I am strongly supportive of regional and local wikis, though I don't think they should necessarily be Wikimedia projects. For several years I have been involved as a volunteer with the LocalWiki project, which is based in San Francisco -- and began with a wiki in the town where I live, the (somewhat famous and very cool) DavisWiki!

LocalWiki is trying to start wikis in communities all over, and I think this is great -- there's a lot of benefit to having local sites where people can add as much detail as they want and really feel connected to other people in their community. That said, I don't think running sites like these would really fit with the goals of Wikimedia; I would rather see us continue to focus on globally-scaled reference works, which have quite different infrastructure needs (LocalWiki has done a fair amount of work on features explicitly designed for small regional wikis, for instance, and they are different from the kind of multi-lingual and massively scaling features that we must worry about). I do think that LocalWiki and projects like it are potential movement partners: they share the same goal with Wikimedia of getting lots of people involved in creating knowledge, and I think we can and should share ideas and learn from each other. I also think that getting more people involved in any free knowledge project -- whether it's OpenStreetMap or a local wiki or an open archive or any other project -- helps the free knowledge ecosystem, gets people to think about contributing online, and therefore (indirectly) helps Wikimedia projects too.

On a more immediate note, since it began I've been trying to promote Wikivoyage widely -- I think in many ways it is the most accessible of our projects for new editors, since anyone can write about their hometown! So I hope that Wikivoyage can draw in some editors who might consider contributing to a local wiki.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
Quality requirement are real different and this depends on integration of the community and commitment, having a Wiki chapter/Organization doesn’t any thing if accountability, responsibility and equality is zero. Actually there’s a big gape between volunteers with wikimedia Foundation system which causing misunderstand to general operation of Wikimedia projects also even the systems required more identification for a user from one project to another. We can reach our goals of increasing users as many as we can, concentration, clarity, courage and motivation is very important for built of commitment. On my view, first am convinced to refer on this philosophy of “bureaucracy kills” because there are no reasons of persistent on the rules which are demolishing development of the Wikimedia Foundation because until today we have only 16 chapter and no any efforts has been taken to help other countries. The reasons of granting funds to people to operate a project that is not enough, we might be serious if we real need a change. Yes for several times Wikimedia Foundation has been involved to help some people interested even in our continent of Africa but that funds did not help the community and was benefiting few people, and the reason here is a lack of monitoring and evaluation of the funds granted by the WMF and to wait report from the coordinating team this was not enough. Wikimedia Foundation as a Father and Mother of Wikipedia and similar sister projects should have to declare to all those funded clearly that the funds granted is there to promote the wikipedia as a source of the similarly projects. Do whatever you do on your wiki projects at the end you’ll fall on free knowledge integration.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
Seriously, I actually have some doubt on regional operating wikis can be a way to attract new editors. Even though we keep some people in these wikis, probably the issue is how to tranfer them or the knowledge they created to the Wikimedia Projects. Of course WMF resources should help in anything related to free culture, like OSM etc.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
Hello Hubertl, this is certainly one of the greatest barriers to participation today. I'm not sure quite how you imagine "regions" being defined here, but it is definitely important for smaller groups of editors to be able to contribute what they know, without being told they are "doing it wrong". Everyone has something to teach others, and we should encourage them to do so. Learning how to teach and write is part of becoming a Wikimedian, and one of the nicest aspects of joining a new smaller project is the ability to learn without feeling that your work is not good enough.

I would like to see our projects invest in creating safe spaces for experimentation: better spaces for building drafts and creating new articles that might not immediately become the encyclopedia article on that topic. Spaces for creating knowledge about things that may not yet be notable, but are verifiable. Spaces for local knowledge that is of high value to a small group of people. This could be on a new project separate from the current wikis, or in a new namespace; or could be the default behavior for work contributed by new users, until they have more experience with a larger community. [On the smallest wikis, there is no need for a separate space: all pages are effectively this sort of drafting space.]

While these might not be called 'regional' changes, this should make it easier for a group of people with shared focus, and no interest in bureaucracy -- just a desire to edit something together -- to contribute what they know, and excite others about contributing in turn.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
Some projects nowadays have really high entrance barriers, indeed! I think many of us miss the simplicity of the earlier days, you know, having the Five Pillars as a guide and little else. Charting new territory! Now projects have become much more complex. While that isn't necessarily bad (it speaks of the quality we aspire to and the importance of the projects themselves), it is true it is harder for newbies to simply just jump in and stay contributing. Individual projects should find local ways to attract and retain editors. For example, Spanish Wikipedia has a tutor program. English Wikipedia has the Tea House.


While Local Wikis could be partners (after the User Groups and Thematic Organisations, next we -WMF, community, Affiliations Committee- will be tackling the Movement Partners), I'm not sure at all about the WMF running and operating their sites. It should be studied on case-by-case basis, in any case.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
Hi Hubert. Yes you're completely right that there is a tension between increasing quality of content and the ease by which new people can join the projects. We want to have both, we need to have both, and we cannot ever fully solve this tension by merely technical solutions. There is also an important distinction to be made between different language editions - e.g. some have lower minimum standards for referencing etc. because it is extremely difficult to find footnotes for many things in that language. This diversity is how it should be. As for specific 'local' projects I don't think that the WMF should host such websites, but I encourage their existence in general. For example, in Australia there is a small town that has a 'local heritage wiki' that enables the town elders and high-school students to collaborate and publish their local knowledge: Mallala - Then and Now. The creation and support of these kinds of projects are something that potentially falls within the remit of the national Wikimedia Chapters. Chapters are much better placed to support local communities in their country to tell their own stories in ways that are appropriate for the local people.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
I believe the answer to this problem is a 'Federated MediaWiki' or 'Distributed MediaWiki', such as mw:Extension:DSMW, however a improved special:import functionality will also help. See Category:Distributed infrastracture, this and "Ward Cunningham’s Smallest Federated Wiki Paves Road To Our Curated Future".

The approach of importing articles from smaller wikis is already being used on English Wikipedia in limited cases. I expect other languages and sister projects also do this. We have several wikis run by chapters or volunteers that may be used as 'safer environments for newbies' (Chacowiki).

I think an ideal scenario to trial Federated/Distributed MediaWiki is for large classes of "first year" university students who are creating or editing articles as part of the outreach:Wikipedia Education Program.


LGBT visibility[edit]

Do you believe that the creation of Wikimedia LGBT as a thematic organisation would be a good demonstration of Wikimedia's diversity, and do you think it is a positive demonstration of the Foundation's commitment to diversity for members of the Board of Trustees to publicly identify themselves as LGBT, or their interests in LGBT culture? (talk) 14:31, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
no response yet.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
Hi. Yes, like SJ, I think a thematic organization around LGBTQ issues would be great. But not as a demonstration: not because it would make Wikimedia look good. Because, rather, I think such an organization would bring new contributors in and help us do outreach to many of the great cultural institutions and groups around -- I know of several LGBTQ libraries and archives that I would love to see us do GLAM work with, for instance, or LGBTQ groups that we could work with to train new editors, or gender studies programs that we could work with in universities... the list goes on. Similarly, I think openness, tolerance and diversity is something the WMF has done a very good job of; I think, based on my time in San Francisco and elsewhere, that the WMF is already a particularly supportive organization for the LGBTQ community. I think it goes without saying that the Board does and should support this. For any individual trustee: I think our culture is one of listening to what people have to say about Wikimedia issues, regardless of who they are personally or who they declare themselves to be, and the Board culture in my experience is pretty much in line with this. I would not want to pressure anyone into saying more about their private life than they felt comfortable saying.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
The Wikimedia Foundation is a link between the community and creators, users, readers and developers with the full mandate of expanding the capacity of free knowledge to enable all the the part of the world coming together and to speak the same language. The founding of LGBT for LGBT is to have an opportunity of discussing their interests without any discrimination to non LGBT. The idea of the Wikimedia foundation is to integrate between the different of caliber and caliber freely, either one of obligation of the community is to prove of awareness about WMF, to prove that WMF stand for all community ideologically it make very good seance for a father of the house after sending his child to school and after few days the child wrote a letter to his father with only two words of tank you dad, do you think will father's respond negative to his son? of cause not. founding of different thematic s is to support WMF.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I am not comfortable commenting on particular case, I think. However if such group really have some ground work, generarting content, or doing something benificial to incread reach or recruit volunteers, I think we should support them and get funded.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
Thematic organizations focused on new communities and cultures, to improve content across the projects, can be great for the projects. They help improve our scope, and welcome new communities of contributors who might not feel welcome without that shared working group. An LGBT org could be effective in this, and I hope to see it succeed. The WMF has a history of support for LGBT culture in the policies it sets. Whether Trustees publicly identify as LGBT is a personal choice, but publicly supporting and promoting LGBT initiatives certainly contributes to the sense of diversity of the foundation and of the movement.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
I'm divided on this matter. On the one hand, clearly, a LGBT thematic org is a great thing and should be done. Should it be done now? I am not sure. Wiki Med is going to work because it has a strong editor-base, established working methodologies and deep community links. I'd worry that setting up a legal entity is bureaucracy which would detract from the matter of improving LGBT content - and so my first preference would be to see strong attempts to build on-wiki communities (which then naturally transition to thematic organisations).

However, I think if a sensible plan of practical actions could be presented - with some reasonable objectives - then a strong argument can be built for a thematic org to support those actions!

As to identification as LGBT; that is a personal choice and not even slightly relevant to the election. Ever. No one should be voting for candidates because they identify as LGBT, but because they support LGBT initiatives! One thing I do think we need to look at, as a community, is an assumption that interest and participation in a LGBT project means the participant is LGBT. This is disappointingly old fashioned and I'd like to see us move away from it :)
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
I would want the creation of any LGBT-related thematic organisation to show how useful it could be providing free content to the projects, doing outreach and multiple activities and attracting and retaining new editors. :) I think it has the potential to be a very successful thematic org, and I hope it takes off the ground and becomes a reality.


As for the second part of the question. I am aware of the importance of having LGBT (and other) role models, not just on the Board but everywhere in life. Nonetheless, I would respect a person deciding whether they want to be out or not. You know how important it is for every individual to move within their own comfort zone. That said, as a Board candidate I have made it a point to declare my interest on LGBT culture, even if it could go against my candidacy. If you want to see what I would do as a Board member, you will just have to vote for me and find out. :D
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
I would be perfectly happy with an LGBT thematic group, Wikiproject or any other mechanism that helps improve the quality of content on our projects. Equally, I would be happy to see systems in place to support community members who have been harassed or otherwise treated in a discriminatory way (similarly to some of the issues the GenderGap project have been working on). However, I think clarification is needed about the scope of this question - what is the purpose of this (or any) project as it pertains to our mission of providing access to knowledge? I would not like to see Wikimedia groups created solely to be an advocacy group for a particular interest group - be it sexual, religious, ethnic etc. As for whether the WMF Board should be obliged to make public declarations of their sexuality or personal opinions on LGBT matters, I would find that to be quite invasive. I can see how languages and nationality ARE relevant to the election process, but I already find the mandatory candidacy question asking the candidates' age to be irrelevant. It shouldn't matter what age, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexuality etc. that I am, and I don't see how it would be relevant to this election for me to be obliged to announce such things.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
I would support establishment of an LGBT* thematic organisation or Wikimedia User Groups. I don't believe a LGBT* organisation is critically needed, so it would not be at the very top of my list, but I can easily foresee this cohort of contributors forming an affiliate in the near future, or an existing organisation being approved by the Affiliations Committee.

I think it should remain a personal choice whether Board of Trustees members publicly self-disclose as LGBTI. I hope that they would feel comfortable self-disclosing in our community. If you believe that self-disclosing should be mandatory, I would like to hear more detailed reasons as I'll admit I have never pondered at length about this type of self-disclosure and it sounds like you have.

I believe all of our Trustees members must sign a document indicating that they are committed to our Values (which includes 'sexual preferences'), and there are many other WMF resolutions and policies which are more detailed when defining diversity, such as wmf:Resolution:Nondiscrimination. The WMF commitment to diversity is clear. Are there gaps in implementation?


Use of off-wiki sites which harm the Foundation and individual Wikimedians[edit]

Some of the current candidates for election have written for websites publicly critical of the Wikimedia Foundation, an activity they have not declared in their statements. At least two of the candidates have supported Wikipediocracy in the past by writing there, a website known for harming the reputation of the Wikimedia Foundation, outing and making personal attacks against Wikimedians, and is a source of damaging inflammatory allegations that have been repeated by journalists in national newspapers. Do you think it proper that the candidates should declare their use of these critical websites as part of their candidacy for the Board of Trustees, and do you think members of the Board of Trustees should publish past pseudonyms so they are accountable for what they have written about the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia projects? (talk) 14:57, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
There is a difference between criticizing Wikipedia and personal attacks against Wikipedians/Wikimedians. I dont think that participation in criticism against the Foundation in any media should serve as "black mark," which the question seems to imply. We already have policies for those to make personal attacks on or off wiki.... I dont think that should be extended to the Foundation or wiki-world itself as there is such a thing as valid criticism. Not long ago, I was asked to guest write something on a conservative political blog called "Legal Insurrection" [1] In it, I tried to be as fair as possible and did not simply defend Wikipedia as there are significant problems in how we handle controversial topics. U.S. conservative blogs and websites tend to be quite critical of Wikipedia. Under the question, as I understand it, I would have to "disclose" such statements as something against me as a candidate. To me, this seems chilling of freedom of speech.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
In a perfect world -- which is not the one that we live in -- I would wish that there wasn't an "us-vs.-them" mentality towards critics of Wikim/pedia, or sites devoted to such criticism. There's a place for good criticism; it's necessary and healthy that folks feel like they can criticize the projects, or even just vent, in a place where they will be listened to and supported. What I find distasteful about these sites (Wikipediocracy and its predecessors) is not the criticism, but rather the personal attacks, name-calling, vulgarity and general lack of good faith; there's also the occasional inaccuracy or malicious meme that gets amplified there, which sometimes the outside world picks up on. Because of all that, I don't think it's worth my time to participate; I do not, as a general rule, enjoy the kind of back-and-forth hotheaded posting that characterizes many forums (not just this one). But I wouldn't begrudge participation to anyone else.

I hope that we can spend our energy trying to model good criticism inside the WMF and Wikimedia, though. So often, community members feel they don't have a good way to criticize WMF actions without getting into a larger debate about WMF-community relations; so often people in the WMF feel similarly. It can be extremely difficult for community trustees to walk that line, too; as a trustee, your duty of loyalty and care is to the WMF, but this does not preclude having strong personal opinions about what Wikimedia should be doing (if we didn't have strong personal opinions, none of us would be running for a board seat). This often manifests as a kind of tightrope act where you can't say everything you think, but also get criticized for not speaking up enough!

So for both parts of your question -- pseudonyms and use of outside sites -- I don't know that we need a policy, though I don't see anything wrong with the idea of declaring past pseudonyms as a matter of practice if you have them. (For my part, I edited the wikis for several years under 'brassratgirl'; I migrated everything to 'phoebe' circa 2008, except for some accounts on the early Wikimania wikis [2005, 2006, 2007] and a few other projects that were created pre-SUL. Except for the Wikimania sites, which are one-time projects, most of these I just created a new account on as user:phoebe and didn't have enough edits to bother merging. I changed my name mostly so I wouldn't have to explain it every time I gave a talk about Wikipedia.)
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
Some of the current candidates for election have written for websites publicly critical of the Wikimedia Foundation, an activity they have not declared in their statements. At least two of the candidates have supported Wikipediocracy in the past by writing there, a website known for harming the reputation of the Wikimedia Foundation, outing and making personal attacks against Wikimedians, and is a source of damaging inflammatory allegations that have been repeated by journalists in national newspapers. Do you think it proper that the candidates should declare their use of these critical websites as part of their candidacy for the Board of Trustees, and do you think members of the Board of Trustees should publish past pseudonyms so they are accountable for what they have written about the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia projects Thank you, (talk)what saying am on your questions, many of community by majority can say any thing especially at this time of elections race, but always the truth will remain be truly, me am representing Africa a the old man by age but every young on the industry (Wikimedia community) am telling you to day, stakeholder/users can talk a lot about wikipediocracy and many more others recalled wikis and not part of Wikimedia and behind the curtness its better you think before you. in Africa other users are introducing with names of Africa and etc.and even if you tress there real name you will never find, am sorry to explain on this on my views its a problem i don't see a reason of hiding names if your expectation is to give free knowledge , do you think how your features can be received by the readers (community) once they want to learn from you with hided name. Any body can challenge, but if your challenge you don't need a lauding instead of that post your questions in the project talk pages and definitively you will be given explanations about your problems. I don't think that some one can make abuse today and come tomorrow wishing to share with the abused its not possible, may be there was misunderstand, and the treatment of misunderstanding is only transparent and starts form users for adding their true names, let us built together a reputation of Wikimedia Foundation and its projects, yes we can the only way is to come together.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I do think we have communication problem, if the current ways work, why Wikipedians need to address the fustrations or critisism somewhere else? And I think it should be a pernsonal choice on disclose the past pseudonyms or declare their past publications.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
Contributing writing or ideas on a site run by critics does not necessarily harm the Foundation. It is often a good-faith effort to find common ground. I assume you do not mean that candidates have themselves written things that were damaging, inflammatory or harmful. I don't believe that is the case this year. We have certainly had candidates who were outspoke WMF critics in the past, but that was always made an explicit part of their platform. A longer list of each candidate's writing and contributions would be welcome, as a facet of the candidate profile. We already seem to have a social norm that 'opposition' candidates who are broadly critical of the WMF indicate this in their statement. And anyone may ask a question of specific candidates about work they have written under a pseudonym. I do not think requiring information about contribution to any particular site is worthwhile.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
I'm cautious answering this question because a) I'm one of the two the asker refers to and b) I have a personal, and unpleasant, history interacting with Fæ that is not relevant to this election.

Some general comments though... although the off-wiki site Fæ refers to is a major issue to him, it's only really a middling part of the wider community. And so I didn't refer to my (past) participation in the forum in my candidate statement (which is very constrained in length!). I agree with sj it is important to have full disclosure by candidates - and indeed I like to think I exemplify a high level of openness. For example, I edit everywhere [even off-site] under the same pseudonym, which is publicly and consistently linked to my full name and career. I think this is important to both build trust and friendships within the community.

Interestingly, during my participation on Wikipediocracy I did get harassed, and discovered several people whispering about me behind my back - but these were all Wikipedians. I think we definitely do need stauncher harassment policies and safe ways to report concerns. I have a number of friends who have been, or have felt, harassed by one or two Wikipedians - and there is no real path to removing these objectionable people from our community. I've heard these stories, because we lack a path to report harassment securely - and this is something the Foundation can look at.

Finally; I stopped contributing to Wikipediocracy some time ago when it took what I saw as a worrying turn toward outing and attack, over criticism. Prior to that there was a lot of useful criticism, from some interesting people. Sadly the signal was crowded out by noise. And, I am sad to say, the final nail in the coffin was being advised by a wiki-friend that by participating in that website was making me enemies who were attempting to undermine me across the Wikimedia community. A sad state of affairs, and I find such politics tiresome. This is one of the reasons I stepped back from wider community participation for a while to focus on article writing, which was a very pleasant experience! :)

If anyone has any specific questions about my comments on Wikipediocracy, or anywhere else, please do get in touch! Either in public or private.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
Sure. I wouldn't make it mandatory, but it makes sense as a personal act of transparency towards the wider community so they know who they are supporting. Remember though that, as Liam points out, the character limit is a hurdle in the candidate statements, and choosing what activities to highlight might involuntarily make you go for the most recent and relevant material. Fyi, I've always used Raystorm as my username, and have never contributed to this site you mention.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
I have not personally been involved in any websites that you describe. This does not mean that I have not been critical of decisions made by the WMF over the years. However I have always tried to be "from within the community" rather than from the outside. The difference is between trying to be constructively critical rather than merely being critical for its own sake.


Given the brevity required in the candidacy nomination statements (and the prohibition on linking to longer texts) it would be impractical to require a thorough listing of opinions. However, I think it would be sensible to require the listing of any previous Wikimedia usernames that the candidate has had. I would hope that if a candidate has made statements in the past that are contradicted by their current answers, that this Q&A section, articles in The Signpost, mailinglists, etc would be appropriate places to discover and debate it. I suspect that making a requirement to declare past usage of x, y and z websites would be a simplistic method of improving transparency.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
For the record, I contributed to w:Wikipedia Review as 'jayvdb' with 271 posts in total, and have a login to w:Wikipediocracy with one post dated April 2012 which says: "I created an account here when invited to by a regular. I've yet to decide whether this site is for me.".


I believe candidates for the Board of Trustees should be people who stand by their words and actions, and therefore they should self-disclose their activity on other websites that are relevant to their role as a Trustee. I do believe that participation in Wikipedia Review and Wikipediocracy is relevant, and candidates should link to those accounts before this election begins. If asked about an account on an external website, a member of the Board of Trustees should honestly answer if it is their account. The community must trust them, and their fellow board members must also trust them. Board of Trustees should not hide behind pseudonyms on other websites like those mentioned, as that allows a Board of Trustee to play games that to put pressure on their fellow board members, and it also means the operator of those websites is in a position to blackmail the Board of Trustee when they become aware of the linked identity.


About the approval of new Chapters[edit]

Pryvit! what would be your personal opinion or position regarding the approval of new Chapters like say Wikimedia Kossovo, Wikimedia Catalonia or Wikimedia Scotland if these two last entities were to become independent in 2014? Dyakuyu! posted on behalf of my cholovik, Claudi Balaguer/CapsotInnaBalaguer (talk) 18:50, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
I have no problem at all. In fact, it is not necessary to have political independence to justify a chapter. After all, we have WM-NYC and WM-DC. I dont see how chapter status has to be so intricately tied to nation-state. If we are lucky, the movement will grow enough that some chapters will need to split in order to serve Wikipedians/Wikimedians in the area better!
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
Yes, SJ has it right: if they became independent, they would certainly be eligible, but would likely also want to work with existing groups in building that chapter. Personally, I'd encourage groups of users in these areas (or any other area) to also consider forming user groups first, to get started with outreach activities and building a local in-person community. The grants process for user groups is pretty straightforward, as are the requirements, and a user group can do a whole lot of excellent in-person work without the same level of administrative overhead as a chapter. And I hope over the next few years that we will have gatherings involving all kinds of Wikimedia groups, to share ideas and get to know one another.


For new chapters, generally to gauge future success I look to see how many people are involved, their track record with grants/activities and their stability as a group; for user groups, I might look at the size of the group and their planned activities. As a trustee, I generally supported and trusted chapcom's (now affcom's) recommendations on the formation of new groups, and expect that would continue to be the case.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
To be honest Francis Kaswahili am representing Africa the continent where there's no strong Chapter regardless of given opportunity of hosting Wikimania conference in 2008 which was an opportunity of going forward, to day if you ask me the Question of Wikimedia Kossovo, Wikimedia Catalonia or Wikimedia Scotland. I have been saying this for several times, that we can have many problems but it must be solved and challenges be faces. i promise if elected with my ability and convincing power i will do what ever possible to make WMF the the Proud of every one and I will do this at my first term. I will prove this if i got enough votes, I will not work for my Africa but for all continents.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I am not comfortable commenting on particular case (again), I think. However if such group really have some ground work, generarting content, or doing something benificial to incread reach or recruit volunteers, I think we should support them and get funded. And according the current policy, it seems to me only Kosovo can get a chapter, as my understanding as I was member of ChapCom.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
Hello Capsot, if Catalonia or Scotland were to become independent principalities, they would be eligible to have their own geographic Chapter. I expect Amical Wikimedia to be recognized in the next few days as a thematic organization; as there is much overlap between that group and Wikimedians based in what might be Catalonia, that group could decide whether they wanted to shift their focus to that of a geographic Chapter, at which point their status could change. A group of Wikimedians in Kosovo would be welcome to form a User Group, regardless of the region's independence.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
Well, this seems a rather simple question: if those countries become independent, and they have an active volunteer base that wishes to set up a chapter, great! In fact, if a group of people want to set up a chapter and can come up with a good proposal it should be considered regardless. However, take Scotland. The UK chapter has been trying to establish a group there for a while - and whilst there are some active volunteers I doubt there is enough activity to support a chapter. So often the constraint is not independence! :)
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
While I suppose it is technically possible for the Board to go against a recommendation from the Affiliations Committee (AffCom), in reality that has never happened. And as a current AffCom member myself, I would fight against that happening! So I'm going to support AffCom recommendations. It is the job of the Affiliations Committee to check that all potential user groups, thematic organizations and chapters comply with the current requirements and guidelines (is the group viable? how many people are actively involved in it? how many wikimedians? does the group have a history of past wiki-related activities? do they have a provisional board and bylaws? and so on, depending for what model of affiliation they are aiming for), and to subsequently provide the Board with a recommendation. And as I said, I would support their recommendations.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
The role of a Chapter is to represent a geographically defined administrative region - enabling the organisation to do things like manage a bank account, talk to a government, make formal partnerships with cultural organisations etc. Now that the concept of the "Thematic organisation" exists, there are for the first time other mechanisms for being formally affiliated with the Wikimedia movement - and these groups do NOT have to be based in a geographical defined administrative region. Kosovo, Catalonia and Scotland are all geographic and administrative regions with different levels of contest about their Nation state-hood. Depending on whether the local Wikimedia community is organised and capable, I would be very happy to see Chapters in each of these areas, but the crucial thing is this: Are these groups being created merely as an expression of Nationalism (in opposition to the neighbouring Chapters), or are they genuinely useful to the Wikimedia movement (in collaboration with other Wikimedia affiliated groups, Chapters...). In that case, the question is: what is the intended purpose of the group? If they want to support the sharing of the local language and culture then there should be no opposition to providing support from the WMF and the existing neighbouring Chapter through the various Grants programs. Setting up an affiliated group to support a Language edition might also be relevant. So, to answer your specific question: I would be happy for there to be a Chapter in places that are sovereign nations (and I'd also like to see 'branch' or 'sub' chapters in regional areas of Nations when applicable) but it is important to state that a Chapter should not exist simply because there is a Nation. A Wikimedia community does not need a Chapter to be considered "real" or to have access to support programs.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
Decisions regarding affiliation are the responsibility of the Affiliation Committee. My personal opinion is in line with my fellow candidates and the common practise of the Affiliation Committee
Independent nation states qualify to have a 'chapter'.
I hope that in two years time we wont be worried about 'chapters' vs 'other affiliates', as all chapters and affiliates large and small will feel adequately supported and empowered, and they will work together on program activity when it is appropriate. That should be our objective.


Executive director selection and oversight[edit]

It's commonly said that the most important thing a board does is hire, evaluate, and fire its top manager (CEO, executive director, etc). On May 21 the job posting for the new ED was announced. How do you approach your supervisory role? First off, what qualities do you think are most important, e.g. experience, vision, technical aptitude, community involvement? Second, how should you direct, supervise, and evaluate; for example, to what extent should Wikimedia be setting measurable expectations for the ED? Do you believe in a 360-degree evaluation? Also, how demanding of a supervisor are you, and is performance which strikes you as "OK" or "not bad" adequate for retention purposes or do you think a position such as this requires outstanding performance? ImperfectlyInformed (talk) 21:06, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
no response yet.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
That is a great question, and an important one especially for the next Board, which will have to spend much extra energy and time on this.

For the WMF ED, I would look for vision and value alignment above all. Vision, meaning someone who appreciates the scope of Wikimedia and the Wikimedia movement, the power our projects have, and who has long-term ideas and interest in building a vibrant future for them. Values, meaning someone who both already agrees with and can defend our core values (openness, collaboration, transparency, free information) in principle; but also someone who is prepared to live and work with those values every day: someone who is prepared to be a Wikimedian, as well as a director. Whoever the next ED is, they will have an immense amount to learn about how Wikimedia works, and they must be flexible, patient, sympathetic and tolerant in that learning process. We have been lucky to have Sue in this regard, with her good humor and curiosity about the world. Of course the next ED must also have the core management skills and experience necessary to do a good job of running a $40M organization; but given that baseline, I think their values and vision will be more important than any specific skillset, as I have written more about here.

The Board will play an important role both in hiring the ED, but also in supporting him or her through this learning curve and beyond. This will no doubt range from the practical (what kind of communication the community expects) to the philosophical (what our core issues are), and this guidance will be in addition to the formal organizational direction that the Board gives the ED. And while we need to hire someone who has from the outset what I'd describe as the right attitude towards Wikimedia, the Board can help them understand the WMF as an organization that helps our projects and movement to excel. The Board and ED ideally work in partnership, with a good working relationship that leads to good decision-making; we should aim to hire someone, and then help them succeed.

Broadly speaking, the ED is evaluated both personally and organizationally by the Board. Personally, the ED is evaluated largely on their judgment: whether they made a good call in difficult situations. Organizationally, they are evaluated on how the organization itself is doing. The ED assumes responsibility for making sure the organization's finances and infrastructure (both physical and human) is in good order and healthy. So the baseline expectation, when evaluating an ED, is that the organization is doing well under the ED's leadership. But I think Wikimedia deserves much more than just this baseline; we need someone who can meet our challenges, and lead and inspire us to solve them.

When it comes to evaluation, I'd also look for whether someone is personally growing and learning, whether they are effectively leading their senior-level staff (who in turn are leading the rest of the organization), whether they maintain a strong and productive tone for the organization, and whether in their decisions they demonstrate that they understand and continue to align with our core principles. And finally, I'd look at how setbacks and successes are reacted to: how someone responds to feedback, both personally and organizationally; the lessons that someone takes from failures small and large; how they communicate with their Board, staff, and community; and how supported their staff feel in the learning process (and 360 feedback is an important part of determining this). In my experience, anyone with the skills necessary to work at this level also has very high personal standards for their own work; so the total package of evaluation is about whether they are able to meet and master the whole scope of the position, and lead effectively.

This is not exactly how I approach day-to-day supervision, which I have also occasionally done in a small way. Trustees are not expected to be hands-on managers of the ED, but rather to guide, direct and evaluate them based on the big picture. But there are certainly shared characteristics. When I've managed employees, I try to direct them enough on what to do so as to not leave them lost at sea, but also give them enough flexibility to creatively solve problems in their own way. The Board must do the same for the next ED: give them context and direction, but also freedom to act. It's not a simple process, and the coming period will be difficult but also hopefully quite exciting for the Board, Wikimedia, and the new ED alike.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
Do whatever you do, if there's no responsibility, accountability, associatively and accommodatingly, alternatively all these are thematic tools working together and can apply in any manner of performing of the Implementation o order tabled with supremely and admirable. the coming Executive should have experience on the general sanctions of Wikimedia Foundation practically and aptitude familiarly with wikis projects, am also proposing to use the 360-degree evaluation, my reason on this is experience of performing the free knowledge provided by Wikimedia's projects, the Board of trustees as a governing body shall handle this selection very carefully. I don't expect ED from out of 360 because he/she will need more time of studding the environments which I think Wikimedia doesn't have that time, what is needed, is transparent.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I think the urgency for me, is the communication. I tend to have an ED, really good at internal communications, stablize the structure and lesson keeping, or at least have dertermination and will on doing this. I think this is the basic problem we have, if won't consilidate this fudemental issue, volunteers time just wasting on beaurcartic waiting and tasks dealing with bureaucracy.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
This is true. Choosing the Executive Director takes a great deal of thoughtful consideration: it is a hard decision to change, and affects both what the Foundation focuses on, and its atmosphere and personality. This guides the sorts of people who are comfortable working there or collaborating with it, and directly affects the governance of the Foundation as well. The Board not only chooses the ED, but also works with them, supports them throughout their term, and relies on them for effective collaboration.

Some skills can be learned in the position. Sue certainly learned a great deal about how our movement works and about leading a different sort of organization when she joined. Other skills cannot: Passion for our work, and the power to inspire others cannot be so easily learned, and are greatly important for our work. A willingness to work in public, and a certain unflappability, is also critical to success as the WMF's ED.

Vision, creativity, and openness to new ideas are necessary for juggling the many opportunities and projects in our movement. This too requires comfort with public discussion and revision. The ED should be a clear communicator, and bold in public discourse, sharing ideas early and often. Similarly, the ED should be a good mediator and facilitator: personally or through their staff, as much of the WMF's work is supporting efforts throughout the movement.

Our size and growth call for experience leading organizations or projects of significant size, and working comfortably with both financial and technical plans. And knowing where to turn for deep expertise, and how to attract and keep brilliant and talented staff, is a more robust quality than personal topical expertise.

As to evaluation and performance: we should expect outstanding performance from the WMF - both because there is so much potential for our projects and because the broad appeal of our mission allows us to be selective.

I support 360-degree evaluations, and both the WMF and the Board have started using them.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
It would be very important to hire someone who is passionate about our mission. Top level management experience, administrative and technical expertise are vital, of course, but it will be the commitment to the mission which will make the ED go the extra mile. Being a good communicator and motivator are two other important skills. However, let's remember how groundbreaking as an internet-based non-profit the WMF is: its ED should be able to lead changes to keep it at the top, should manage the staff to promote new types of thinking and ideas, and should be both flexible and confident, ready to defend his/her ideas.


I do believe in 360º feedback evaluations, used in conjunction with other evaluation tools. And we need outstanding performances, not merely okay ones. Sue is leaving the bar high in this regard.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
This is a big question that goes right to the heart of the purpose of the Board of Trustees. Traditionally, yes, you're right that the role of the Board is to talk to and evaluate the Director, and for the director to be the conduit between staff and board. However, our community is so very different that it is almost impossible to make neat deliniations of role and authority. For that reason I think evaluation by one's colleagues is just as important (if not more important) than evaluation by managers. Because of how uniquely structured our movement is, the quality I would most look for in the new ED is flexibility and, in the absence of a better way of describing it, a sense of Zen. The new ED must be able to be calm and see above the water even when they feel like they are in a raging river. They must be able to know when something is important to manage directly and when the best way of managing is to encourage the community to come to consensus first. For Wikimedia, I think that often the best decisions we make are those that were slow to arrive at, but in the process of arriving we manage to solve much of the underlying problem - getting an excellent solution slowly is much more important for Wikimedia than getting an adequate solution quickly.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
The responsibilities of our Board of Trustees are very broad, as the Wikimedia Foundation is the legal custodian of the assets created by the volunteers.

The selection of the next Executive Director (ED) is a daunting responsibility, as Sue Gardner's shoes will be hard to fill. Unlike other responsibilities, selecting the CEO is a decision which can't easily be revised.

We are fortunate that Sue has provided the organisation with a path to follow, so we do not need to rush to make this appointment. (I can't see any wmf:Bylaws regarding the period within which the Board of Trustees must appoint a new ED.)

For the WMF ED, I will primarily be looking for experience in running an organisation that has successfully achieved its goals through a network of affiliates across the world, being able to set out a broadly supported agenda, as I believe this will be an important part of the next phase of the Wikimedia Foundation. The ED also needs to be closely alignment with all of our Values in their previous jobs, and Sue's "Wikimedia Foundation Guiding Principles" is an excellent expanded version of our values.

I have only managed small software teams as a team leader in my professional life. I do not have high level human resource management experience, and I am not sufficiently familiar with w:360-degree feedback or similar tools so I will defer to others on what is the best tools for this activity.

I am an idealist, and believe that the staff and volunteers deserve outstanding performance from the WMF ED, however I think 'effective' performance is the yard-stick (assessment gauge) I would use. The WMF ED needs to be a sustainable appointment; the WMF ED is an important part of a very large community with many people performing outstandingly at times, and all our hopes should not lie on the shoulders of the WMF ED.

Community involvement can be learnt in the first year as Sue did.

About overspending and/or misspending[edit]

Bonjorn/bon dia/hello/dobry den'! When reading the details of some projects approved not that long ago and seeing that there is still no report, I am a bit worried about misspending and overspending in the Wikimedia world. To be more precise, I have noticed way too expensive flights (€ 500) to cover distances such as Madrid-Santiago de Compostela (about 600 km, 1.200 in round trip) while I think you could pay at least 5 times less and you could even use the train (I checked Renfe's site, the highest fare is about €140) instead of a plane, not to mention other expenses which also seem very high and other grants that seem to be field trips for the grantees instead of real benefits for Wikimedia... Thus, do you plan to enforce stricter supervision or control over these potential financial issues/problems that could affect the credibility of the whole movement? Mercés/gràcies/thanks/dyakuyu (again) for your answers. On behalf of my cholovik/husband once more Claudi Balaguer/Capsot InnaBalaguer (talk) 09:18, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
Mis-spending and over-spending are perennial concerns in any organization. I believe that the FDC, with elected representatives is a good step in getting a handle on this issue. Travel expenses are a large part of what we spend money on. Basic travel costs such as fares are pretty easy to verify online, as you did, but other costs are more difficult (venue rentals, catering etc.) What I agree with you is that our fairly numerous in-person events could create problems PR-wise, even if there is no problem with cost controls. Questions we need to consider in the future go alogn the lines of "How many worldwide conferences and other events related to X should we sponsor, especially if we are paying for transport costs for attendees?" or "Is it more feasible to encourage regional conferences7events?" We could even consider mandating that those going as simple attendees (as opposed to speakers) be required to pay a percentage of their expenses. Simply put, I do worry about some kind of "exposé" in a newspaper someday accusing us of wasting donors' money on "junkets" especially after the brouhaha over accusation by the NYT that we are somehow sexist over a categorization issue.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
Hello Capsot. I think that worrying about questions like this is some of the basis behind the idea of peer review, both on a large scale (FDC) and small scale (grant review). We all rely on each other to make sure proposals are reasonable and have a good impact. And we need peer review that looks at the whole grant -- the proposal, the report and the outcome. For instance, for the particular grant you mention I don't have enough information to comment -- I don't know if someone listed the most expensive ticket simply to make sure that they would have enough to cover the cost (but actually spent less, as we would see in the report), and I don't know what the purpose or outcome of the grant was.


Overall, for the movement and WMF, I have the following principles: I think that in-person events are valuable; that we all should be conscious that we are spending donor money (as I think we are) and spend cheaply and wisely in consequence, and make sure our support goes towards an end goal of helping Wikimedia; but we shouldn't let this consciousness stand in the way of supporting people who want to try new ideas, get together to share knowledge, or travel to do great work. We've always treated volunteer time in Wikimedia as unlimited, but in fact it is our most valuable resource, and is by some measures much more scarce than money. So while of course I don't support excessive spending or personal trips that are really holidays, I do support holding many Wikimedia events around the world, and funding travel and grant support that helps Wikimedia volunteers do great work, gain personal ideas and training, and build our network.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
As you can see my questions to FDC/Eperson, it was very short but very clear, FDC is very important to WMF and the Board may transparently open door to the community to expand the capacity of how this can perform better than as it's, this is the time of action and not about story. The Board of Trustees as the highest instrument of WMF shall work harder to make all this real. overspending and/or misspending to me it depends with areas and uses for example traveling in Africa to South America, Asia, North America or oceanic is very expensive and at the same it can be lower so this is dependable, my advice is to see how to successfully reacing our goals where important thing truthfully.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
We all have mistakes, but I think the difference is wherther we collect them and put it into a database-alike thing. However something quite worrying, is the WMF staff come and go pretty quickly, so making the process of "keeping the lessons" very hard. And I have to point out, sometimes if we just try to ask the locals or simply people around, or speaking the languages, such silly cases, can be avoided.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
Hello Capsot and Inna, we do need to be careful with how we spend money, both on principle to be effective, and to protect our reputation as you suggest. Travel and hotel expenses are fairly high variance: if you simply ask different travel agents you can get a 2x-5x difference in results based on what they think you want. (A great example is getting plane tickets by default even when there are other methods of travel.)

The Board doesn't directly oversee daily expenses. But as we improve peer review of expenses and grants - something that has been started over the past year and is expanding, including internal peer review within the WMF of how projects spend resources - there are three things I think we should do.

  • We should have guidelines for the normal baseline of travel - # of stops, business class, ground travel under a certain distance or total-time. We should offer access to a movement travel agent that can help find good rates within that baseline.
  • We should encourage grant recipients to be moderate in their travel costs, and to look for ways to accomplish the same things without travel, or to combine trips.
  • We should invest in tools and support-networks that allow excellent virtual meetings; something that most global organizations and movements use better than we do. For instance, the recent GLAMout hangouts that GLAM participants have been using to stay in touch are wonderful - and would be even better with a handful of inexpensive webcams and mics for interested participants.
Finally, community standards are largely set and maintained by the community: commenting on grants and politely suggesting alternatives are good ways to support effective use of funds. These comments are noticed by both the grant-recipients and by the peer reviewers.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
The Grants Program has several checks and bolts in place to protect the movement funds. If a report is not submitted, or is submitted but it is not satisfactory, there are consequences. Now, I'm not sure to which case you are referring to, but speaking generally I've had the opportunity to organize several events in the past, and you have to remember that sometimes you are constrained by dates (even hours) when booking travel tickets, to say nothing of location, which can increase the cost. Also, as Phoebe points out, remember that estimated costs and real costs may not necessarily be the same, and can be much lower. You do have the possibility, as a community member, to make comments in all grant request talk pages, especially if you believe funds are being misspent, and also give the chance to the proposers to defend their proposals and show if they are reasonable or not. Any community member can do that, and it can be most constructive. I encourage you to do so.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
I appreciate the sense of probity that this question is based on, and I agree that we must be forever-dilligent in checking that we are behaving (in all senses) true to our mission. I cannot comment on this specific example - I don't know the context and it would be unfair to the people who requested and approved any individual grant to make a public example of them. With regards to the general principle of travel-funding: Our movement we must simultaneously hold two opposing points in our mind: Firstly, that face-to-face interaction is infinitely more valuable than virtual discussions. Especially because our whole project is online this, seemingly paradoxically, makes physical interaction all the more important. Secondly however, we must also remember that only a very few will be able to participate this way, both because we don't have unlimited funds and because not everyone has the time to spend. Therefore, physical meetings should not be seen as a luxury, but nor should they be a necessity.

I have personally benefited from several grants from the WMF (and also been an employee for a year) so I am one of the lucky ones who has received funds. I hope that I have been able to use this money in a way that is most useful to the movement and honest to our donors, and that is the best I can hope for.

Nevertheless, as we get larger, and the travel-budget increases, I think that it has probably come to the time that we do need to make a serious investment in video-conferencing. Notwithstanding the usefulness of Skype and Google-Hangouts, good quality video-conference systems are not cheap but we have probably reached a point where the economy of scale makes the investment worthwhile from both a financial and environmental point of view.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
Hi Capsot and Inna Balaguer.

I won't comment on the example you refer to, as I would need links and more information in order to understand the situation.

Financial transparency is important; regular review is needed, and concerns should be discussed calmly and processes improved over time.

It is important to remember that many of our volunteers are not financial gurus, and need the support of the community and WMF staff at times. Mistakes will be made at times, and most of the time we need to collectively take responsibility for those mistakes. It is important to remember that the volunteers running chapters have typically given person-years to our mission and they believe in our values. There have been a few 'bad apples', but usually the mistakes are often relatively minor and due to insufficient experience and planning rather than malice.

I also know of several cases where the expenses were higher than I thought were appropriate. I also know of instances where I knew of local people who could be utilised for a workshop, but someone was flown to the locality instead. We need to work as a community to minimise these inefficiencies, by discussing program proposals openly before they are approved, and by finding and up-skilling people who live in regions other than the capital cities where the meetups are regularly held.

In general, we should not be miserly (cheap) in supporting our programs, as our volunteers are a precious asset. Programs should be evaluated with both cost and effectiveness in mind, and also the w:opportunity cost of not completing the program. Programs may also appear expensive, but the investment makes more sense when we consider the longer term vision of the organisation. Sometimes the best person for the job lives far away. If they need to fly rather than take a train, because it is quicker or more convenient, or if there is only an expensive flight at the appropriate time, then the money is well spent. In these situations, local Wikimedians should be included in the program so that they can learn and then expensive flights are not needed the next time a Wikimedian is needed in that region.

If inefficiencies are regularly occurring, the community should become more active carefully reviewing the program proposals before they are approved. If the inefficiencies appear to be intentional and are avoiding transparency, the processes of approving programs needs to be reviewed and improved.


Narrowing focus and funding allocations[edit]

As you are likely aware, Sue Gardner's narrowing focus essay from October 2012, which was approved in Oct 2012 resolution by the board, proposes to scale back the activities Wikimedia is involved in and focus on core engineering and grantmaking. Apparently related to this is the birth of the FDC, which was created through a 30 March 2012 board resolution; the initial outline also calls for the FDC to allocate money available to the Grant Advisory Committee (GAC). As a result of this, the 2012-3 budget in the annual report (see page 56, also the next few pages are very interesting as well) allocates 25% of funding to the FDC and GAC (e.g., $10m on a $40m budget). The Board then has final say over funding allocations (perhaps less so with the GAC). Few questions about this:

1. Under Sue's plan, feature development is a 'core' activity. In a comment responding to Sue's essay, User:Pine commented that feature development did not seem core. Is it core? Clearly the WMF should be involved in feature development and has some major features under development, but how exclusive should it be over that area?

2. Under the FDC as it is currently operating, it is presented with several organizations, often somewhat large, bureaucratic, and decently opaque, and permitted to recommend 0-x% of what the organization is asking for, with the remainder placed into reserves. Is this really an effective way to involve the 'community' in funding allocation? Do you think the FDC should be encouraged to take a holistic or proactive view in funding, by sua sponte responding to various requests from community members in general or noted gaps in important areas with a recommendation that funds be spent in addressing the problem? Feature ideas are an obvious example, but another example could be the WebCite proposal, which garned 174 support comments on meta.

3. Only 'movement' entities are eligible for money through the FDC. Could you explain how you interpret this and whether you believe that this restriction is reasonable? When donors contribute to Wikimedia, they do it expecting that the money is spent on improving the services they're using. I don't believe they expect that it might go to less competent entities just because such entities have special connections within the Wikimedia community. ImperfectlyInformed (talk) 05:53, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
no response yet.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
1) As SJ alludes to, the term 'core' is a bit fraught. I think in future we'll have to define different layers of core. For instance, baseline ops, emergency management, the lights on in the office for these folks, & hosting (or whatever it would take for Wikimedia project readers to not notice that something terrible had happened): that's core 1. Running a functional if slim office, responding to software bugs, etc: core 2. Coding features, doing some community work, responding to media requests about the hurricane that hit our data center, fundraising staff to run the donation infrastructure, etc: core 3. Running the WMF as it is but without standalone or outreach-oriented projects: core 4. [This is all hypothetical, by the way]. I think Sue was using a definition closer to 3-4, when many of us think of 'core 1' as "core". But her point, I think, is that the WMF is not going to stop doing important work to try and meet our strategic goals of editor recruitment and retention, and this includes feature development; as long as we have the money, this is non-optional. That is not, by any means, an exclusive statement -- other organizations should and can get involved in feature development as well.

2) I think the idea you propose is a good one, but not really inside the mandate of the FDC, which was created to solve a fairly specific funds-distribution problem. I see the idea of feature up-voting as being related to the very first questions about features for sister projects and stewards: we do need a strong process for identifying and funding requested features, from across all of the community.

3) Yes, this is a reasonable restriction. Donors donate to Wikimedia; they should have the assurance that their money is going towards a Wikimedia entity, doing Wikimedia-related work. However, as Liam points out, there is room now to identify 'movement partners' that are doing related good work, and I also hope to see this happen.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
In Swahili we have the word of don't look to much back, it's better to work forward for creating the new structure if we meet s lack of miss conducting our set of principles, today if I speak to much about issues which I had never work on it just because am convincing voter. I will be definitely lying to the WMF community, I think of this Board, if the voters decided to give this opportunity to Africa and elect Francis Kaswahili I will uses these questions as working tools and friendly collaborating with other board members, it will be a time to seat down and making analysis on how we can monitor and evaluate our sunctions.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I actually prefer to project-based funding to the current model like FDC, no matter to individual, a group of person or an entity. I have to admit I have negative preception towards FDC, as it seems to me it really look backwards on goverence rather than to be helpful to solve problems and let the entity to move on, and some restriction are just snobbish, like the charity status thing. I do agree with John Vandenberg on most of things, and I do think we need to spread the work globally, and let the local to develop some feature, as they know their need best. And as I was quoted in signpost, we should be more flexible on fundings, especially in some cases that there is difficulties getting "foreign funding".
Samuel Klein (Sj)
Hello II, three good questions. 1. I think the "core v. non-core" distinction needs to be revisited. We will be considering an endowment this year, and the most popular notion is that an endowment would focus on must-have technical challenges: operations, bandwidth and hosting, and critical technical maintenance. This is what I normally think of as core needs of the Projects. However when it comes to research and development, new features are essential to solving long-standing problems or expanding our content scope. This is not exclusive to the WMF, however the WMF does employ much of the core development team and maintain the release process. More high-priority development should be done by other entities in the movement -- something the WMF is supporting, for instance by encouraging WikiData to develop as an outside team hosted by WM-DE.

2. The FDC is not the only community-led process to distribute funds. It is simply the process for funding long-established community groups, with at least 2 years of successful grants/projects. While they may be somewhat opaque, their work can speak for them. Other less established groups are welcome to request funds for large projects as well - but that would go through the GAC, another community process.

You also point out that there are good ideas out there that have community support, but noone offering to realize the idea. Such as the WebCite proposal or other projects that require [staff / core developer] time, not simply funds. This is something that I would like to see the GAC take on: review of project proposals that require internal resources beyond funds. This remains an open topic of discussion - particularly who would review and approve such things. Currently these projects are approved in a more hazy process: after a successful community RfC such as that for WebCite,

  • a lead proponent of the RfC defines what next steps might look like
  • that proponent communicates via mailing lists, wiki discussions, and email with staff
  • a staff member (often Erik, in the case of a technical proposal) confirms that it will be implemented and appoints a liaison to work with the lead proponent to work out details and see the project through.

We can make this process clearer and simpler.

3. Movement entities are defined as recognized to be well-aligned with our movement's work, with more than one year of experience scucessfully handling grants. I don't think the problem with the FDC process is this definition; it helps to guarantee that recipients are competent - either well trusted themselves, or working under the umbrella of a trusted part of our community.

However the requirement that a group only apply once each year makes certain projects difficult to support. For instance, the WikiData team would not directly have qualified as such an entity when they started 2 years ago, but WM-DE (which they worked with) would qualify. However the current process would make it difficult for WM-DE to apply both for their normal programs and for a separate, large WikiData program... even though the two project ideas might have been finalized at different times during the year.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
(1) Feature development is core. I don't think it is or should be exclusive to the WMF, but the WMF should take the lead. If affiliates can help with this task, even better.

(2) The FDC is targeted for very established chapters. Initiatives such as the Grants Advisory Committee, Participation Support and the Individual Engagement Grants program (especially this last one) take into account community support when distributing funds, and are targeted for individuals, small groups and less established afffiliates.

(3) Yes, it is a reasonable restriction. This way funds go to entities and affiliates who share our mission and values, which is what donors are supporting when they donate their money to the WMF.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
I'll try to take these questions sequentially:

1) This is a case of "it depends". Some features are certainly not core projects while others are. Just like some software bug fixing might be minor cosmetic changes but other bugs might be closing serious security holes. I think over time, if the FDC system proves to be reliable and accountable, that the WMF will increase the proportion of the money that it gets to allocate from the total movement budget. This would imply a redefining downwards the number of projects that are core. Equally, as others have mentioned, it is important that there is stability and confidence amongst the developers the their long term projects will be maintained and therefore it is not acceptable that ALL software development be moved into the non-core section.


2) No, I do not believe the FDC should chose to expand its own mandate in this manner. This would be a very fundamental shift in the nature of their remit that would increase their power significantly. The FDC is not the only method by which projects get approved or money is made available. We have a quite complicated system, but I believe it is one that is deliberately mutually co-dependent. This allows lots of checks and balances on the power of each group - which is a good thing. Rather than increasing the mandate of the FDC to address issues like the individual projects like the one you mentioned, I would rather that we increase the visibility and scale of our grant projects (notably the Individual Engagement Grants). I would also like to see the introduction of something like a formal "petition" system which would make it clear to the WMF which projects are the "most wanted". We have something like this in the voting on the bug tracker but ai would like something more higher-level where the WMF was obliged to formally consider the most popular request every 6 months - or something like that. I'm just making up the parameters of this idea out of my head, but perhaps the "we the people" petition website set up by the US White House is a good example of the kind of thing I mean.


3) Under the new Affiliations system recently introduced there was an exapansion to include not only "thematic groups" but also "Movement Partners". This is potentially an area that could help resolve this issue. Currently this subsection is not developed, and I believe it should be. In theory, this would allow "friendly" external groups to formally affiliate with us and therefore become eligible for funding for relevant projects. I can see a day when we give a grant to the Open Street Map foundation (on the assumption that they are an official Movement Partner) to help improve how their mapping system connects to Wikipedia articles. It would be logical that they might be best people for that job!
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
We need to retain our development capacity, and a large part of the team is at WMF headquarters, with some team members working remotely from other countries. A large percentage of this team is ‘core’. Some of the features they work on may not be what I think are ‘core’, but the personnel are ‘core’, and the WMF management team are the best placed to allocate feature work to development staff. Retrenching staff because of an FDC decision would be disastrous.

Regarding features, I consider the recent addition of music markup support to MediaWiki to be ‘core’, as the community has been requesting it for over 10 years. I am sure that there will be people in our community that don’t consider music markup to be core. Those decisions are best made at the operational level in most cases, except where the community and the WMF disagree on the need for a feature.

Several chapters employ developers on projects such as Wikidata and Kiwix. I haven’t reviewed the Wikidata development in detail, but it seems to be progressing well. I have been following Kiwix, and the developer is doing a great job. Many of these entities are less mature, but I think ‘less competent’ is going too far. The Wikimedia Foundation is the most mature, but I suggest that you look at the India Education Program (see w:Wikipedia:India Education Program/Analysis/Independent Report from Tory Read) - we're all going to make mistakes at times, and when bigger organisations make a mistake it tends to bigger. What is important is that we learn from our mistakes and from each other.

I would like to see an increase in the number of developers who are working for other entities, as skilled developers exist across the globe and shouldn’t need to move to San Francisco. The majority of the core team of developers will probably always be in San Francisco.

Large pools of money shouldn’t be given to individuals. We have a network of non-profit organisations operating across the globe, that can hold the money safely and provide good governance. They can more easily disperse money to volunteers in their region, and should be able to better evaluate the effectiveness of the program activity conducted in their region.

Most affiliates run programs with only volunteer time, and minor expenses. Most affiliates would be able to be effective with consistent funding that is insignificant compared to the total worldwide donations (e.g. US$40,000,000 last year). For example Wikimedia Indonesia has received about $40,000 from the WMF since 2010. They have run a large 'Wikipedia Education Program' across 10 universities (called wmid:Free Your Knowledge 2010), and received US$1,000,000 from Ford Foundation Indonesia (wmid:Siaran pers/ Ford Foundation Meluncurkan ‘Cipta Media Bersama’ Hibah Terbuka Untuk Publik Senilai Satu Juta Dolar AS/en) which allowed them to fund Creative Commons Indonesia and other free culture projects, allowed the organisation to gain maturity, and run small effective Wikimedia programs like a Wikisource transcription of a w:Sunda language dictionary - that project cost around US$300 if I remember correctly, which was spent on a prize for the two volunteers who transcribed the largest number of projects.

Regarding FDC, my preference is that the pool of 'non-core' money is divided into a set of grant schemes which have a well defined objective (e.g. Increasing participation; Editor retention; Outreach to GLAM; Outreach to academia; Improving quality; etc) with each scheme being given an amount relative to the current importance of the strategic objective. Each year those amounts might change as priorities change. Proposals for each grant scheme would then be submitted by WMF and other movement entities, and the community reviews the proposals comparing them against other proposals in the same scheme. The FDC would then approve funding for the ‘best’ proposals for each grant scheme. I think that would facilitate more targeted funding, helping us reach our strategic goals. The WMF should have no problem putting in very competitive proposals in all schemes, ‘winning’ most of the large projects due to superior planning and capacity. A few of the larger movement entities would have medium sized proposals approved, and a large number of affiliates that are volunteers only would have small projects approved, essentially using up the remainder of each pool of funds.

Global South[edit]

Does the WMF have any idea just what it means by the term "Global South"? Which countries does this include? --Ohconfucius (talk) 11:13, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
no response yet.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
Well, part of the problem with this term is it does mean different things to different people, including within the WMF. But I think SJ provides the canonical definition. The point is that the so-called 'global south' areas have less-robust internet infrastructure than more developed parts of the world, making it harder for readers and editors alike to get online; and that the Wikipedias and other projects in the primary languages of those areas are not well developed on a variety of metrics: they don't have a high article-to-potential reader ratio, they don't have a sustainable or sustained editor base, and often don't have lots of information (in Wikipedia or in sources for Wikipedia) online in their languages. This is a particular set of challenges shared by many language projects and many disparate parts of the world (including some underdeveloped areas in developed countries); a better term would be welcome.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
We are always using “I think or actually" in all of our basic answers to votes. To be frankly the Global South was created in 7 September 2012‎ by one of wikimedia community User and she has some ideas regarding a generic term used by WMF in much of the official communication and discussion and the project is there for discussion to everyone. There's still a time, it is very important that we post discussions; I'd like to target some questions of how the candidates will make some changes to increase some ideas where the ongoing Board do. It is my comment to Global South views in discussions as author of the project is asking the community to discuss the comparative perspectives.,
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I was puzzeled by this issue too, like Hong Kong, economically probably should be Global North, but in the WM Stat it count as south. I think probably we should have our own standard, base on problem in development, is a more better approach on dealing with this
Samuel Klein (Sj)
This is not my favorite term in the world. Patricio and I try to avoid using it because it is vague and possibly counter-productive. (It's not location on a map that matters, but whether a region has reached a self-sustaining ratio of contributors, developers, organizers, and wiki-users to potential readers and knowledge-seekers!) I predict that the term will be replaced by something more precise when we update our strategic plan. :-) Nevertheless, it is a term used by many organizations and projects to identify most of Latin America, most of Africa, most of South and Southeast Asia, Oceania, and certain other countries. Depending on who you ask, the other countries may inlucde {the rest of Latin America, South Africa, the rest of Asia except for Japan, Russia, and S. Korea}. It commonly includes the countries in red on this map; that is roughly how the WMF uses the term. But the edit war in that image's history is typical of the confusion the term causes.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
Short answer: The term means this and includes those countries.


Long answer: "Global South" is a rather loose term which aims at a politically correct and revamped definition of what would have traditionally been called developing countries. Thus it is not geographical in nature, even if most developing countries tend to be south from Europe and the USA. As I understand it, "Global South" would include everything the UN-affiliated and other similar international organizations (OECD, etc.) exclude from their "developed" qualification. They are countries where, to start with, Internet access is not as widespread and accessible as it may be in First World countries, and where potential Wikimedia countributors may face additional obstacles that aren't present in the former --from connectivity to political or free speech restrictions that are unthinkable of in the so-called Global North.

Yet I think that at many times we risk falling into some kind of semantic stubborness around the "Global South" term, trying to adapt realities to typologies instead of the opposite. And that is especially problematic when you have only two ideal types in mind: either it's Global South or it is not. I'm all for further strenghtening a regional approach, one that is viable Foundation-wise and that at the very same time fosters the development of direct collaboration ties between local Wikimedia chapters and organizations.

You know, there's an Iberocoop initiative. (It is through this group that I know how intensely the term Global South is disliked, and how they would much rather have instead commonly accepted terminology used by official institutions applied to them.) Latin America or Ibero-America has some exceptional particular features that are not so easily found in other parts of the world --many countries all packed together with the same or very similar languages, a shared history and culture. It's an extremely fertile ground for the development of cooperation frameworks, and thus it happened. But it does also serve as an example. Latin America is hardly comparable to Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East (or should we rather go with an 'Arab World' definition?) or to Africa, just to mention some typical "Global South" areas. And even inside Africa or Latin America you can find strong regional differences --remember, strong inequalities and underdevelopment usually go hand by hand.

That is why I believe that the Foundation should delicately phase out the "Global South" catch-all phrase for planning purposes, and continue its work with individualized high-potential geographies, be them limited to a country or to an entire socio-demographical or socio-cultural region, adapting its strategies, its tools and its partners in accordance with each different reality, with each different set of challenges and needs. In some past Wikimedia Conferences, there were sessions to try to diagnose "Global South problems". They were not successful. Some "Global South" countries are nearer to "northern" countries that those that are "southernmost", and it's not good for the movements' strategy --because the Foundation is there coordinating the movements' general strategy-- to loose all that shading with the use of a very limiting term.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
Coming from Australia - arguably the most developed country in the Southern Hemisphere - I understand the inherent absurdity of dividing the world this way! My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Globalisation studies, so we spent quite some time analysing different methods people use to classify the world for different politico-economic purposes. However, while I too don't like to use it, there is no universally agreed terminology or definition for what constitutes "more" or "less" developed (notably, countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China [BRICs] are hard to define). I challenge anyone to come up with a universally-agreed definition, especially since originally neutral terms become derogatory over time (like "third world" which originally meant "non-aligned State in the Cold War" but came to be popularly understood as simply "a poor country").


I believe the WMF originally used the term to mean the specific areas it was targeting at the time for the "catalyst" project - Middle-East/North Africa [MENA], Brazil, India - and also Africa more genrally for the "Wikipedia Zero" free mobile access project. I personally have no attachment to the term and see no reason to discontinue its usage at the WMF (as many already do in practice). Presumably we could simply say "less economically developed countries" if things must be defined in that format.... Preferably, I would like to see issues classified by geographic region (rather the development status) as this implies that you're also taking into account culture, language and context more than just economics.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
no response yet.


Investment policy and philosophy[edit]

According to the note (1)(h) of the latest 2011-2 financial statement, the foundation has an extremely conservative investment policy (essentially certificates of deposit and U.S. Treasury Bills) and apparently has no policy for long-term investments. Considering that recent narrowing focus has identified the 'core' budget is a fraction of recent reserves, which are around $40m, do you think this is the right decision? Are you at all familiar with how nonprofits typically handle their reserves, or the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (see Florida version)? If you believe that there is a place for long-term investments, what is your perspective on what the policy and diversification should look like? Do you lean towards passive or active investment strategies? Do you have any experience (including in your own personal capacity, such as retirements) or expertise in evaluating investments? If not, do you believe you are the type of person who can teach yourself to follow along and understand investments? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by ImperfectlyInformed (talk) 8:10, 8 June 2013

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
no response yet.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
Hello. I am personally a fairly cautious/conservative investor, and I think this approach also is appropriate for the WMF, where we are essentially holding this money in trust so as to ensure the stability of the projects against potential disasters. There is an FAQ touching on our current investment strategy here; to my knowledge, this hasn't changed substantially in the last few years. I think that the question of an investment policy should be revisted along with general long-term financial planning discussions, such as endowment planning. However, it should be noted that developing a more detailed or long-term investment strategy would take some work; it would likely mean hiring an investment manager, and perhaps forming an investment committee of the Board and financial staff -- it would be, to pardon the pun, be an investment. I would support looking at these questions, tasking our staff to look at investment best practices for nonprofits, and from the Board side working on financial strategy. We should also build up our financial infrastructure and expertise beyond the treasurer and audit committee (including, for instance, looking at appointing trustees with this experience, educating current trustees [something I tried to do while I was on the Board], and building financial committees). However, I do not see building an investment strategy as the most pressing priority for the WMF and Board; rather, I see these questions as one facet of general, and ongoing, strategic planning.


As for the reserves, this was discussed each year while I was on the Board, and will no doubt continue to be a question in annual planning. Our reserves are, as I understand it, on the high side but still within a normal range for a non-profit of our scope, in terms of months of operating capital. Frankly, we are lucky to have a robust liquid reserve. Considerations for thinking about the size of a reserve include balancing our commitment to keeping up the projects 'no matter what', versus our apparent ability to raise funds quickly and efficiently when needed. I am on the side of keeping a fairly large reserve, in line with my general orientation towards long-term stability; but this has to be balanced, of course, with getting pressing programmatic work done (like trying to get more project editors) -- we want to see money spent on good work. Over the past several years the reserve has pretty much kept pace with our increased operating budget, which is appropriate, and the Board would certainly need to approve any shift towards a dramatically higher or lower reserve.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
The new elected Board in collaborated with the current members will have time of making Analiese's for the previous sanctions to date, as I have been explained before all questions posted at the elections process will be presented as an starting point of the board to work and every members of the board shall work on it. all this questions is a challenge to the WMF and that's why wikimedia community need answers. Lastly am saying problems will be solved and Challenges will be faced, I believe that we Can.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I have to confess I have no expirience on financing and investment, although living in Hong Kong, somehow you have to make some investment decisions, like MPF. Anyway I don't think I have any concrete idea on this, however I think funds should really spend on local project, and if we really want to keep some reserve, probably it is safer to put it in investments in different markets, rather than in a single market.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
In earlier years the WMF's main concern was having stable, liquid reserves. Now it needs a long-term investment policy, and can take on more short-term risk and pursue a more active investment strategy. This has been my primary input as part of the Audit Committee this year, and we will be reviewing proposals from the CFO for both long-term investment and endowment policies at our next meeting in July; I hope to see a long-term policy in place next year, starting with a portion of the current reserve. We need a related discussion about the size and composition of our investments - a larger reserve would also make it easier to focus on long-term returns. I would prefer to see the reserve grow to 12 months of operating expenses over the next few years, with only a quarter of that in conservative investments. I have experience evaluating investments for my family, and with non-profits that (like the WMF in its earlier years) are primarily focused on stable, liquid reserves. In the past year I have been learning more about institutional investing, from colleagues at libraries, colleges and established foundations.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
no response yet.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
There are about 10 questions here, but I'll give it a go! The investment policy, as described in the link you have given includes these sentences: "Preservation of principal and maintenance of liquidity are priorities over yield." and "...the Foundation holds no shares of stock as of June 30, 2012 and 2011, consistent with its policy to sell stock received through donations as soon as possible". Both of these policies I believe a prudent and correct. Te former policy is correct because it emphaises that we are a rapidly growing orgsnisation, in a very volatile economic time, with money given to us in trust by the public. Therefore it is prudent we have a low risk strategy that enables us to liquidate assets quickly and without penalty if either the organisations's financial situation rapidly changes, the economy gets rapidly worse, or both. The latter policy is correct because it ensures we do not have a financial relationship with a commercial organisation tha tonight be considered to give us an editorial conflict of interest - this is the same reason that we don't accept advertising.


However, how that our growth trajectory has slowed down (or at least, so it seems by the "narrowing of focus" recently, people have started to raise the issue of "the endowment" again and more long-term investment plans. As I have mentioned in my interview with The Signpost, I am theoretically in favour of an endowment (and therefore a long term and non-liquid investment) but that to make a decision to go in that direction is something that must be made as a long term strategy itself. We cannot run an annual fundraiser AND an endowment building campaign simultaneously as they are two valid but contradictory messages. I would argue that we should only move to a medium-term, and then a long-term, investment strategy when our growth strategy is of a similar scale. Currently we look forwards one, sometimes two, years ahead in our budget. When we are looking five years ahead, THEN we can talk about investments to match.


Finally, in terms of your personal questions: No I'm not personally familiar with Florida financial regulations and am not trained in accounting or similar. I do personally have experience in stock market investing (shares and options trading) but in the case of a major charity I would suggest we would want to leave any investing to the experts and not be actively managing a portfolio. Equally, it would be important we also extend our movement values to any investments we make - what that might look like in practice I'm not sure yet (but I reckon a lot of ethical investment consultants would love to try and tell us!).
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
no response yet.


WMF effectiveness and board self-evaluation[edit]

Generally, how effective has the Wikimedia Foundation been in the past few years? I recognize that fundraising, pageviews, etc have been up but do you think that's because of, in spite of, or regardless of the Wikimedia Foundation? Do you place more praise (or blame) on staff or the board? As a related point, board-self evaluation is a tricky area (60% of nonprofits reportedly conducted them as of 2010). The board's governance committee alludes to board self-evaluations. How would you approach board self-evaluations? Have any self-evaluations been made public? If not, should they be? Was input formally solicited from the community? If not, should it be? ImperfectlyInformed (talk) 19:03, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
no response yet.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
Well, this seems like a somewhat loaded question that requires a somewhat equivocal answer. The answer, of course, is "it depends"; the WMF's been quite effective in some areas over the years, and less so in others. Some things have gone extraordinarily well; as you note, we've managed to scale technical infrastructure to handle half a billion visitors a month, we've managed to fund all that with no ads and an ever-shorter fundraiser. These things would not have happened without dedicated and immensely talented staff and volunteers who took the job on. Many other things both large and small deserve much praise as well. But there are also big problems with the Wikimedia universe: we continue to lose editors in the largest projects, and there are many philosophical dilemmas around quality and project support, many of which have been alluded to in other questions above. These are issues that we don't yet fully understand, and are not solvable by the WMF alone -- but are still questions the WMF must, and does, worry about. And of course the WMF has made various missteps over the years, in poor decisions or bad communication; but I think overall, the organization is effective, and is headed on a good trajectory.


Measuring the effectiveness of the Board is tricky. By one measure, an effective Board is one that does not get involved very often; you want an organization that is functioning smoothly enough that the Board simply doesn't have to intervene. I think that is largely the case for the WMF, and has been more so over the past few years as the organization has matured. What the Board does do, and what we need it to do, is hash out various big issues in relation to the WMF; we need the Board to represent and synthesize large-scale debates over our future and goals, both publicly and privately. As far as individual trustee effectiveness, when I left the Board we'd just completed our first two years of trustee evaluations, thanks to the leadership of Matt Halprin, who brought this in as a best practice from other nonprofit boards. We did not solicit public feedback, and they were private; the process involved getting feedback on our performance from the other trustees as well as reflecting on our own performance. It was an 'in-house' process largely because the evaluation was about Board interpersonal workings (how are you contributing to meetings, etc.) as well as overall effectiveness. I think this was a valuable exercise -- I certainly learned from my fellow trustees -- but I also think it would be valuable to have community feedback on the Board as a whole. (But not on individual trustees, as I think that would be too hard to give accurate feedback on from the outside; as Kat mentioned a while back in an answer, much trustee work is simply invisible). In addition to strategic guidance (where we have tried to have community input) the WMF Board does play a valuable and unique liaison role between the various parts of Wikimedia (WMF, community, governance committees, etc.) and as a trustee I'd welcome more feedback on how the Board does that. I've been an avidly-involved community member in Wikimedia issues for many years, so of course I have opinions on how the Board should communicate and so on, but ongoing input from many people would be great.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
My point still the same to questions with the main point that, WMF has an instrument guiding the sanction of the Foundation under the governing mandate of the 10th Board of trustee members, any achievements of the WMF depends on the associate leaderships with accountability of every one and where seems any lack of misunderstanding between the WMF community it's better to come together. These comments/questions are very important to be used as start working points, and this depends how the elected board members have convincing power to other seven board members to come together. The thinking capacity of a human being is completely different and the solution is only transparent before the WMF community for each and every thing. To be honest the next board members must be ready to start a self-evaluations on their obligations to the WMF as well as to evaluate the lookalike of WMF before the community and to work on challenges and solve ourproblems.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
I do think WMF is really sucessful in fundraising, part of global engagement & PR is a sucess, but I do think in Funding distribute, or even in maintain global structures and dealling with our own affliates, we have lot of lesson we should keep. So I do think the best way to keep the lesson, is let the community know the facts, because they might also help to pass on the lesson, so at least the lessons from the self-evaluation should be publicized.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
Self-evaluations are difficult but important. The Board has done them, but not consistently; now that the staff are doing 360 evaluations the Board should try something that includes more direct feedback from staff and community about how it is doing. I think the biggest risk to the Board is inactivity of Trustees - a problem that most Boards face at some point and that in my experience the WMF Board has had to face every year. To this end, more input more regularly - not just once a year - is also important.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
no response yet.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
no response yet.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
no response yet.