On 6/1/06, Erik Zachte <erikzachte(a)infodisiac.com> wrote:
Later we got closed wikis and private board chats as a
side affair. Recent
statements like the ones quoted above give the impression that both board
members find the Wikimedia community has become a pain in the neck at times,
better to be ignored, or kept in the dark.
No. What Angela pointed out is that there was an open meeting about
the committees, about the need for a CEO, and so on (we created a
separate meeting specifically to discuss the ExecCom). For arguing for
the open meeting, Angela and myself received little but scorn from the
existing group of people who were likely to serve on these committees.
(Anthere was in the middle of her pregnancy at the time.) The
community members from the outside who joined hardly participated at
This wasn't a small number of people, something like 70 in the main
meeting. See the logs at:
Note that to this day, the second log contains a claim by Jimbo that I
"deeply misrepresented" him during the ExecCom meeting, without any
actual elaboration of why or how that is the case. I will not repeat
some of the other things that have been said.
You will also note that in the end, it was mostly me and another small
group of people arguing. I know you were there, but there are many
people who are on this list who weren't. Now we are given the usual
round of whining: "I don't like IRC!" "I wasn't informed!"
"My cat ate
Participating in these meetings, for me, has not exactly been an
exercise in gaining popularity or favor; rather the opposite. Taking a
stand against a prevailing line of thinking strains relations with
people, and that should not be done unless there is a clear benefit.
This was a crucial meeting where a case could have been made, by the
community, for organizing and structuring Wikimedia in an open and
participatory fashion. There are very few people who were willing to
actually make that case.
For the "inside people" this is easy to explain: as we see with
adminship on Wikipedia, open and accountable models are quickly
subjected to constant harassment by self-appointed "accountability
activists". Having your private little clubs and mailing lists (some
of which, as we have heard, even the Board doesn't know about or have
access to) makes things so much easier. Why put up with the hassle of
an open meeting when you can have a closed one?
As for the outside people, perhaps their lack of participation is
because they don't care about "organizational stuff," perhaps it's
because Wikimedia has historically been so opaque that people have
expected that it needs to stay that way. Whatever the reason, people
like myself frankly lose the motivation to invest time in a lost
Just like Wikipedia has to deal with vandalism and trolls for allowing
anyone to edit, an open organization would have to deal with
incompetence and maliciousness in return for rapid growth and network
benefits. Rather than invent the organizational equivalent of wiki
processes -- something which would require a lot of creative thinking
from the brightest minds of Wikimedia -- it's much more convenient to
say: "wiki and organization are different things and need to be kept
separate." And, guess what, the lawyers agree!
There is virtually no active pressure or demand from the actual
community for openness, participatory processes and transparency
within the Wikimedia Foundation. As a result, there are very little.
The committees which have been formed are useful, but they pick and
choose their members on a case by case basis (or perhaps I should say
"face by face") -- cf. GerardM's rejected membership application to
the Special Projects committee. At least during the transitional
phase, the amount of bureauracy is even worse than it was at the time
we were ruled by the Board and the Board alone.
A process whereby every committee holds open, widely announced
meetings and where advisor status is granted instantly without
bureaucratic process was discussed, but does not seem to be practiced
by any of the committees.
Even a trivial idea like putting a couple of new community-elected
members on the Board has been proposed years ago but never
implemented. But, then again, has there been any pressure from the
community for such change to hapepn? Hardly at all. When a couple of
"big shot" outside people are appointed to Board positions and the
Board remains otherwise as it is, sure, there will be the usual round
of whining. But during the processes that actually matter, the people
who whine later tend to be conspicuously absent.
So, Wikimedia is shaped by people who feel that the very philosophy
that made WP a success is not applicable to organizations. Wikimedia
will become a functioning non-profit with the usual bureucratic
processes, some successful fundraising, a few good partnerships here
and there, a bunch of "professionals", lots of infighting among
volunteers, etc. It will not become the open platform for social and
technological change that it could be -- the wide network of people
who are interested in building a free knowledge and free culture
movement. And who is to blame for that? Not the people who made it
so. They have only the best interests of Wikimedia in mind and work
their ass of to do what they can to make it a success. The people who
are to blame are those who did not participate in turning Wikimedia
into something else, something larger, when it mattered.