> Putting experts in a complex environment like Wikipedia's communities
> it's a risk not for Wikimedia projects, but for themselves because
> could not have the power to introduce a "new deal".
For what it's worth, putting experts on the board of EFF who
themselves had no direct experience in civil liberties or freedom-of-
expression issues turned out okay. Some of them even lacked any
experience in nonprofits.
I don't think the process outlined by Jan-Bart poses a significant
risk to the communities or the projects.
I also think that if the communities wanted a "new deal," they could
get one through the processes they control (both direct election and
chapter selection). It does not even take a majority to shake things
up if a Board has gone off-track.
Sorry for the ever-so-slightly off-topic post, but I wanted to make sure
that the members of foundation-l were aware of the upcoming
RecentChangesCamp event, happening May 9-11 in Palo Alto, CA:
RecentChangesCamp is the world-wide "unconference" for wiki admins,
users and developers (and those who love them). It's a 3-day event, free
of charge for all participants, and open to anyone who shows up
(although an RSVP is mighty appreciated, so organizers can plan food,
T-shirts, space, etc.). The event runs on peer-to-peer working group
sessions, scheduled on the first day, based on the "Open Space"
conference method. It's very wiki!
A quick review of the attendees list shows a lot of names that should be
familiar to foundation-l members:
I've been to the last three events and I've loved it. It's great to get
together with people who know and care about the wiki method and Open
Content as much as I do. Along with Wikimania and WikiSym, RCC is the
third leg of the year's wiki conference tripod. I really encourage
anyone who can go to give the event a try.
Please feel free to pass this email or the above link along to others
you think might be interested (or blog it or Digg it or whatever). It'd
be a shame for someone interested in wiki or Wikimedia projects to miss
this event just because they didn't hear about it.
> This is a strawman. The current board is a good one, and recognizes that
> the power to organize, inform, and guide the projects' social and creative
> content movements lies with the community. The /reason/ that this board
> wise has to do with its history, its long experience with the projects,
> its community membership.
And that board, with all that experience, has come to an understanding
born in a long process of work that we need some outside expertise on
the board, and that we have not managed to get the kinds of expertise
that we need solely by drawing from a community process that has tended
to choose excellent community members and editors (who we also need).
63 people have signed the petition as of this writing. They include sysops
on at least 3 projects, a former arbitrator, a checkuser, and some people
who rarely see eye to eye about anything.
The message I hope this sends is that the board is not necessarily wrong in
its decision to restructure, but it did a poor job of communicating. Since
the need for restructuring was apparent at WMF for some time...
* Why wasn't this need discussed with the volunteer communities?
* Why wasn't the proposed solution shared with the volunteer communities?
* Why wasn't the anticipated restructuring even mentioned for public
consumption until it was already done?
* Why wasn't a formal statement prepared at the same time explaining these
unusual circumstances, and the need for proceeding in this way?
What happened here stretched the good faith of many dedicated volunteers,
and I suspect unnecessarily so. With better communication that need not
Some of the responses on this list - including the Foundation's present and
former counsel - have enhanced concerns rather than allayed them. Off list,
more volunteers have been reading the Foundation's bylaws and realizing its
shortcomings. So long as there was no reasonable worry that a power
consolidation would occur, hardly anyone cared. Now the board has created
that appearance. It was unwise of them to do so.
It was also unwise at this juncture for some individuals to remind concerned
volunteers of how severely limited their formal power is within Foundation
bylaws, because in a friendly relationship nobody actually exercises the
limits of their formal powers. Bylaws notwithstanding, the volunteers wield
great power here - more so than in almost any nonprofit:
*WMF is a provider of content, but its content is entirely copyleft.
*WMF runs on powerful software, which is also copyleft.
*WMF is almost entirely dependent upon volunteer labor for its content.
*WMF is not particularly well funded: it has no endowment, no contingency
fund, and would shut its doors in less than half a year if donations
So long as the volunteers who fund WMF and provide its content remain
content, there is no realistic danger that they will bring the full import
of these facts to bear. I'll be candid, though: when I read the words "stop
whining" the first thought that came to mind was that all it would actually
take to render WMF obsolete is one Silicon Valley resident with $20 million
to kick around, and volunteers who've had enough of "whining".
I don't enjoy entertaining that thought; I doubt anyone else could do what
you folks do as well as you do. Treat me with respect; treat the volunteer
base with respect. Be mindful that we deserve respect. We shouldn't be an
P.S. While I was composing this, the petition gained a
> The Electronic Frontier Foundation has 10 members of its Board of
> Directors; all ten have prior experience strongly relevant to the
> foundation's mission (digital civil liberties, free culture, copyright
> reform, etc.). In addition, at least eight have strong prior advocacy
> credentials. There are no technocrats who are there simply because of
> their experience in some managerial or executive aspect of nonprofits,
> and only a minority is even arguably there just for their professional
> (mission-related) expertise without also having a record of agitating
> for EFF-type causes. Of course, they have staff to handle other
> but the staff are not on the Board of Directors.
Speaking as someone who worked for EFF for nine years, let me point
out that, over time, many Board members of EFF have had no connection
at all to the free culture movement. Moreover, they almost always
have had relevant and useful experience in one or another industry in
addition to whatever free-culture credentials they may have. Finally,
*all* of EFF's Board members are selected by the Board -- so far as I
know, there's no election by the EFF community of board members at all.
Anyone under the impression that EFF's Board is somehow more
democratic or representative of its constituency than the Foundation's
Board hasn't actually done a thorough comparison of the history of
EFF now has the luxury of having been in existence for almost 18 years
-- our Board is about 4 years old. It will be a while before we have
a large pool of expert candidates, like EFF's Board, have experience
both in relevant business fields and who have also demonstrated a long-
term commitment to Wikimedia projects and the Wikimedia movement.
(I would add that I view my own work for the Foundation as in line
with my own long-term commitment -- 18 years -- to free culture and
freedom generally in the online world.)
Brion Vibber, the Foundation's Chief Technical Officer said that
"Currently, no new wikis will be created until GFDL 1.3 is released.".
Hungarian Wikinews, Erzya and Extremaduran and Gan Wikipedia, and
Japanese Wikiversity are approved projects currently waiting creation.
These projects had waited for a month, before Brion said about a
moratorium. It is unknown, when GFDL 1.3 will be released, few weeks or
maybe few months?
I think that license changing is completely unrelated to the process of
creating new wiki projects.
Why new wikis will not be created? Many people are waiting.
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_new_languages (see "approved")
https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=13264 (Opened: 2008-03-06)
First, the Board sent the ball on Wikicouncil back to the Community, then the Board made community elected seats a minority.
Because of our principles, we attract a lot of people who are suspicious of authoritarian structures. This move seems kind of authoritarian.
----- Original Message ----
From: George Herbert <george.herbert(a)gmail.com>
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <foundation-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2008 4:50:40 PM
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Board-announcement: Board Restructuring
Yes, that's clear and evident from the discussion.
The question is - Why?
The reaction is out of proportion to the proposal.
-george william herbert
On Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 4:46 PM, Geoffrey Plourde <geo.plrd(a)yahoo.com> wrote:
> People are afraid that the Board is forgetting why it exists.
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: George Herbert <george.herbert(a)gmail.com>
> To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <foundation-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
> Sent: Monday, April 28, 2008 3:19:02 PM
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Board-announcement: Board Restructuring
> I am somewhat perturbed by the reaction here.
> Perhaps this was not the best approach for the Board to restructure
> its membership, but to leap from that to the assumed bad faith a
> number of participants here have expressed is highly disturbing.
> This has not been an episode of healthy skepticism. I assume that
> everyone has the overall projects' best interests in mind, but the
> level of distrust is disturbing, and does not evidently stem primarily
> or originally from the actual chapters select two of the board members
> Why has this been simmering off in the wings? What are people
> actually upset about?
> -george william herbert
> foundation-l mailing list
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
> Be a better friend, newshound, and
> know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now. http://mobile.yahoo.com/;_ylt=Ahu06i62sR8HDtDypao8Wcj9tAcJ
> foundation-l mailing list
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
-george william herbert
foundation-l mailing list
Be a better friend, newshound, and
know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now. http://mobile.yahoo.com/;_ylt=Ahu06i62sR8HDtDypao8Wcj9tAcJ
If the functionality of the Board is the primary goal of its
restructuring, here is my scratch for making everybody happy:
Let's say that the Board will have 10 members (as it has).
And we have some rules:
- There should be 5 directly elected Board members.
- Board may appoint its members, but it is not preferable.
- Board needs, for example, 1 treasurer, 1 NGO expert, 1 lawyer, 1
developer, 1 economist.
- We had elections and we elected 5 Board members. I would be really
surprised if we didn't elected at least persons who are qualified for
being treasurer, NGO expert and developer. But, I am sure that we
would elect at least one of the needed experts.
- But, even if we didn't elect any of experts, Jimmy may be treasurer,
NGO expert or economist.
- So, we have 4 empty seats. Board should ask chapters to choose four
needed experts for the Board.
- If chapters find appropriate persons -- the job is done. If not --
Board may appoint needed experts.
Benefits of such approach are:
- Community really have the majority. At least half of the members are elected.
- Chapters will be represented according to their development level,
which means that they will be pushed to think about their own
- Board will use its possibility to appoint its members only in
extraordinary circumstances: for Jimmy and for empty seats.
As has been said, the two new "chapter" seats will be filled by representatives
of the individual chapters, with the method of selection left up to
(and no real guidance on how to go about this). Of course, an open election
would be fantastic, but we have no way of knowing if this will be the case.
Only time will tell.
However, as the chapters are left to decide how their seat will be dispensed,
what if they came forward with an idea such as "the WMF Board will pick a
member of our board to represent us on the WMF Board." Or perhaps, "the
staff will select for us." Or potentially, "ChapCom and the Chapters Coordinator
will make the decision."
While these aren't likely scenarios I think, would the Board consider adding a
provision to eliminate such possibilities as this? Having someone within the
WMF decide who the Board members are for the chapters is not only a
massive potential conflict of interest, but would also lose some of the appeal
a chapter-based seat might have (as the decision would be coming from within,
not from the chapter itself).
For what it's worth, the chapter representation is severely limited compared to
the overall traffic. According to Alexa, the United States (no
to over 29% of all views. Japan (no chapter either) is around 9%. This is nearly
the first 40% of the overall traffic which has been disenfranchised to
The discussion about the Ancient Greek Wikipedia has started discussions about the current language proposal policy and about the current application procedure for new projects.
Currently the language subcommittee decides both about the language proposal policy and about its implemenation in particular cases. I agree that this has its advantages over the old procedure, where a community vote decided about each case.
However I think that all discussions about the language proposal policy should be public, and if possible the language proposal policy should represent community consensus. The work of the language subcommittee would then be reduced to implementing the policy in particular cases and maybe to make final decisions about the policy in cases where there is no clear community consensus.
On 17 October 2007, Pathoschild replaced "interested editors" by "living native speakers" in the language proposal policy, adding the comment "tweaked audience criteria per discussion". Since I could find no public discussion about that change, I assume that it was based on a discussion within the language subcommittee, which makes it quite hard for outsiders to find out the rationale behind that change.
People don't read Wikipedia only in their native languages. As for myself, my native language is German, but I also read the Wikipedias in Esperanto, English, Spanish and Swahili. Different Wikipedias often cover different topics in various degrees of depth, and despite the general NPOV policy, sometimes some Wikipedias give more weight to certain points of view than other Wikipedias. So reading Wikipedia in as many languages as one is capable of reading is often a very rewarding practice.
Despite the fact that Esperanto has some native speakers (and one active contributor to the Esperanto WP is a native speaker), the Esperanto Wikipedia is a good example for the fact that a Wikipedia version can be very useful independently of their being native speakers of the language in question.
So I would urge to remove the word "native" from the language proposal policy. In order to avoid proposals on completely extinct languages or recently constructed languages, I would add the following two criteria (which I already mentioned in an earlier message):
* New literature is still being produced and published in the proposed language (whether translated or original)
* The proposed language is taught in a number of institutions like schools or universities.
> Many people maintain their positions and do not for whatever reason
> consider the arguments of others.
Many, including myself, have addressed Gerard's main argument (that one can't add neologisms to an ancient language, as it would no longer be that language). As a reminder, here is what I replied to his argument before:
"In the case of an ancient language that is still used outside of Wikipedia for new pieces of literature, one can say that as a written language it is still "living" (though as a spoken language it can be called "dead"). Inevitably the language is still evolving by accepting new words or phrases (otherwise new pieces of literature wouldn't really be possible). So in that case, Gerard's argument doesn't apply."
Even though I have read all the messages in the threads about Ancient Greek and the language subcommittee, I haven't seen a response of GerardM to those who responded to his argument. So it seems to me that it's GerardM himself who is not considering the arguments of others.
Psssst! Schon vom neuen GMX MultiMessenger gehört?
Der kann`s mit allen: http://www.gmx.net/de/go/multimessenger
Are there good unofficial sites with mirrors and dumps? Is anyone using a
live feed to generate same?
Here is one of those core project support tasks that only the Foundation can
do at the moment, that never seems to become a priority... but is
fundamental to supporting a broad network of people who are carrying out
their own Wikipedia and related initiatives.
Among the core ways that the projects' work gets out into the world is
through full dumps provided by the foundation in all languages. There
aren't many people with access to the databases to generate those dumps, and
it often requires scheduling machine processor and disk time from inside the
cluster to carry out regular dumps effectively.
Image dumps haven't worked reliably since sometime in 2005. I blogged about
this in mid-2006, at which point I believe there was a bittorrent option but
no other; the bittorrent option hasn't worked for over a year.
http://downloads.wikimedia.org/images/ used to offer a few 2006-era
dump links; those too are now gone.
Static versions of the site have also been available from time to time -- at
the moment, the links from download.wikimedia.org are broken:
And html dumps of the projects have been generated from time to time; I
don't know why these are presented separately from the full dump-lists
(which generate xml dumps in many gratifying varieties), but the process
involved needs some upkeep. At the moment, one can only get wikipedia
dumps from february for languages aa to eml.