The following is *not *a "strictly confidential communication." Still,
I'd appreciate that if you want to quote me in a broader forum, please
clear that with me first. Thanks. (The obvious exception is what I've
already said publicly, which I've noted below.)
This morning I attended one of the eight "engagement sessions" for the
2024 Wikimedia Summit at which I will represent Cascadia Wikimedians in
April. The Summit will probably be the last meaningful chance for input
to the Movement Charter, which will probably determine a great deal
about Wikimedia governance going forward, including (indirectly, but
almost without a doubt) a lot about how money and resources are
allocated. I think the process is well-intentioned and may well produce
positive results, but I have some concerns.
Before anything else, let me note that relations between the upper
echelons of the WMF and the community of editors and contributors are
tremendously better than it was a decade or so ago, where it seemed to
me to be primarily oppositional. I do think we are now at least
generally trying to pull in the same direction, and that the WMF is
genuinely trying to do what they think is best for the community, and
even has at least a fair understanding of what that entails. I would not
have said any of that in the mid-2010s.
Now the concerns:
1) I raised this one publicly at
which you may quote freely.
Because the "community" (vs. Foundation) involvement for the conference
is entirely through affiliates and user groups -- not through "projects"
such as Commons -- there is no overt representation at the Summit either
for projects (such as Commons, or WikiProjects) or the many users,
probably the majority of users, whose involvement is strictly on-wiki.
If you are part of an online Wikimedia community that has concerns you
would like represented in Berlin in April, you would do well to identify
those concerns and organize them in a way that they can be brought into
the discussion by one or more of us who are already attending. I do not
think the organizers are going to do anything proactive to address this
2) It looks like the tentative intent is to create a Global Council
that will represent the broader "movement" community. This is clearly
well-intentioned but (a) I think it at least potentially suffers from
exactly the same flaw in terms of omission that I mentioned in the
section above, and the people who are liable to be disenfranchised by
that will not be in the room to discuss it. Also, (b) I fear something
like the UN General Assembly: a "talking shop" with little or no actual
power, thick with bloviators and boondogglers.
3) Related: I think there is a bit too much focus on structures that
correspond to overt money flows (hence that failure to recognize on-wiki
activity). And, I have to say, money is often spent in weird ways in the
WMF world. I do think face-to-face national and international gatherings
can be very valuable, but it's worth realizing that about 90% of what
WMF has ever spent on Cascadia Wikimedians has been to fly some of us
halfway around the world and put us up in hotels for conferences. When
it comes to doing locally-focused events, where we might be able to do
quite a bit with a small budget, let alone hiring a grant writer of our
own, we are lucky to have a budget for paper plates and cookies, let
alone any publicity, or anyone compensated for their time and effort.
I'm guessing that the drinks-and-food budget for an event at a Portland
bar that Peaceray and I attended a couple of months ago with several of
the C-level WMF people was about the size of the biggest annual budget
Cascadia Wikimedians ever had. (Could be off by a factor of two, but not
more.) What it costto fly half a dozen people from the Bay Area to
Portland dwarfs that annual budget.
4) Combining points 2 and 3: WMF has its own, effective, fundraising.
The only other entity I'm aware of in the Wikimedia world that has a
comparable budget is Wikimedia Deutschland (it's no accident that the
Summit is in Berlin). Money is power. And I have a lot of doubt about
the power of any entity that is set up that does not have its own source
of money. (Cue Billie Holliday's recording of "God Bless the Child".)
Open to any feedback, especially thoughts on the draft Charter and
things people want me to bring into the discussion in Berlin next spring.