Nina Simon wrote a blog post  that I think has a lot of merit for what
we could do to gain relevance. Nina is big in the GLAM world and the museum
she works for has an approach that will have a big effect when we consider
it carefully and implement it in the best way we can.
Caitlin, thanks for sharing this.
My general thoughts are below. These are not directed at Caitlin or anyone
else in particular.
I think that the document does a generally good job of outlining trends and
asking questions. I think that I agree with about 95% of what's in the
document. I agree especially strongly that there should be more emphasis on
improving the user experience for those who wish to contribute content
using mobile devices.
My most significant concern is with the question that the document asks
staff: "How will the Wikimedia Foundation assert and balance leadership of
the Wikimedia movement with its role fostering a robust volunteer culture?"
WMF's role is that of a public service organization, not a central
management agency, and "assert(ing)" leadership is the opposite of what WMF
should do. Wikimedia's culture is collective rather than monarchical. Staff
and Board members should be trained to understand that their role is to
serve the public interest, and not to manage or supervise the community.
Leadership of individual projects, initiatives, and teams happens in many
ways inside and outside of WMF, and leadership skills are important.
However, I believe that leadership of the entire movement is not and should
not be WMF's role. WMF can be the facilitator, but should not be the
manager. In the recent past we had a vivid demonstration of what happens
when there are governance problems in WMF.
I think that good questions would be:
1. How can WMF better align its internal priorities with those of the
community? There has been progress on this during the past few years, and I
would like to see continued progress.
2. How can WMF evolve such that if WMF became dysfunctional or inoperable,
the remaining organizations and people in the Wikimedia ecosystem could
continue to thrive?
I also would like to see questions about the governance and financial
transparency of the Wikimedia Foundation, for example by asking questions
such as "Should WMF decentralize some of its current functions?", "Should
WMF become a membership organization?", and "Should WMF increase its
After reading the document, I'm left wondering how to make progress on some
of the issues that the document outlines. We've known about some of these
issues for years, and in a number of cases WMF has funded efforts to
address them, but in multiple cases we have had limited success.
Even when we have agreement about the nature of challenges and that we'd
like to address them, we don't necessarily know how to address them
effectively. I think that the document does a good job of asking us
questions that we should explore, and probably will continue to explore for
We need considerably more human resources than we have now on many fronts,
including more contributors in diverse languages, contributors with the
skills and tools improve the visual experience of Wikimedia content, and
contributors who can protect the sites from interference from people who
harm the integrity of the information on Wikimedia sites. I am not sure how
we make that happen, or that it will happen. I fear that it will only
happen after AI takes over a considerable number of jobs that humans do
today, so that there is a significant increase of global unemployment and
under-employment of people who have the skills and the will to contribute
to Wikimedia. I hope that I'm wrong.
I realize that this email sounds a bit pessimistic. I think that there are
numerous significant challenges for us. I am hoping for the best. In the
short term we are doing okay, and we continue to numerous incremental
successes. In the long term, I am worried.
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