Manipulative behavior thrives in an environment where a person can say
different things to different audiences, and can speak freely with the
expectation they will not be held accountable for their words.
Erik, thank you for articulating your views. As for my own actions, you
have either made some incorrect assumptions about the background, or you
operate on a set of principles that I don't entirely share. I'm pretty sure
it's the former. I carefully considered whether to publish this email
before doing so. I'm confident I'm on solid ethical ground (i.e., didn't
violate anyone's rights), and I'm pretty sure the impact on Wikimedia will
be positive in the end as well. Jimmy Wales sending this email, in my view,
tends to damage our project. It's worthwhile for those who care about
Wikimedia's future to know.
I agree very much with what you said in reply to SarahSV. You present a
very useful overview of how things could or should go in the future. Thank
you for that.
Specifics about my choice to release the email below:
On Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 10:18 PM, Erik Moeller <eloquence(a)gmail.com> wrote:
2016-03-09 16:56 GMT-08:00 Pete Forsyth
I feel this message can provide important insight
into the dynamics
surrounding James H.'s dismissal, and various people have expressed
interest in seeing it, so I'm forwarding it to the list. (For what it's
worth, I did check with James H.; he had no objection to my sharing it.)
Pete, regardless of Jimmy's words in this email, like others, I fail
to see how it's okay to share a private email to this list. I can
think of a few instances where this might be ethically defensible --
like actual fraud being committed -- but this is not one of them. It's
totally fair for people to ask Jimmy to clear the air on stuff
himself, but this crosses the line, at least from my point of view.
This comes down to giving a person you're corresponding with an
honest, open channel by which they can apologize, clarify, and make
things right. By violating that private channel you're making it
implicitly impossible to have that kind of conversation.
Meatball Wiki, as you know, has some wise words on this kind of stuff.
is a good page to
And no, I'm not a fan how things have played out so far, and I'm not
arguing for just moving on without addressing remaining grievances.
But this isn't how we should move forward. Criticizing people's
actions is fair game, even calling for resignation or other types of
structural and organizational change. This kind of picking out of
lines from private emails ought _not_ to be, in my view.
Jimmy Wales and I have never had a working relationship, or an ongoing
email correspondence. I'd guess we've exchanged under a dozen emails since
2008 or so, and spoken in person fewer times than that. I cannot think of a
single example of an exchange where we came to an agreement. The much more
common theme is that, the moment I express any kind of disagreement, he
vanishes without a word.
So the "private channel" you mention has never existed between Jimmy Wales
and myself. There has never been an agreement, either explicit or implied,
between us about whether our communications are private. Given our past
interactions, if he were to request of me that I keep our communications
private, I would refuse without hesitation.
Where I do have a healthy line of communication with someone, I agree with
you. It would take a very high bar (like fraud) for me to release such
communications publicly. We would simply work through any differences
together. I of course have this kind of communication all the time, as you
know. This situation is nothing like that, though. Jimmy and I have no such
relationship. And the bar is, indeed, pretty high: I read this as
manipulative communication, at odds with Jimmy's publicly expressed goals,
about things that impact the future of Wikimedia.
I did reply to Jimmy's email, and since my role is apparently something
people are interested in, I'm including my reply below. You'll see that I
was suggesting some of the same things you do, Erik. Jimmy never replied,
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Pete Forsyth
Date: Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 10:49 AM
Subject: Re: A conversation?
To: Jimmy Wales, James Heilman
Jimmy, thanks for following up -- and James, thanks for alerting me of this
(it went to an old email address I no longer check. Good reminder though, I
am putting an auto-reply on there.)
I see that we have three things under discussion, and I want to reiterate
that I strongly urge the first:
1. JW and JMH have a private conversation with the support of an
independent, skilled facilitator
2. JW and JMH have a truly one-on-one conversation
3. JW and JMH have a conversation with PF as informal facilitator
I appreciate being looped in here, but I want to say very clearly: I don't
have the professional skills to serve as a facilitator here, even if I did
I am too involved to do it well, and I also don't really have the
bandwidth. However, I'm sure the WMF's HR department could refer you to
some excellent people. (I could give referrals, but I'm sure the HR
department is better equipped for that.) I think that the value of
professional facilitation/mediation/ombuds/whatever is well known, so I
won't go into the details of why I think this is a good idea unless asked.
In the meantime, I would very strongly urge you, Jimmy, to cease making
speculative statements about James' honesty or state of mind. James is
probably much less volatile than me, but personally I would probably freak
out if somebody was saying stuff like that about me, either publicly or
privately. It's highly inflammatory.
I would also request that you address (publicly, I hope) my main question
about your interpretation of the board vote about "discussing long term
strategy" as evidence of James' dishonesty. I think that is a point you
could, and should, walk back without much drama. I think it's safe to say
that it's highly obvious that you two agree about what constitutes "long
term strategy," and that's fine -- but the fact that it's become a
referendum on somebody's integrity is not, in my view, fine at all. I think
it would help things a great deal if you could publicly acknowledge that
I'll leave the other points to be dealt with between you, ideally with
professional support. I really can't play the mediator role here.