Couldn't agree more
From: "Erik Moeller" <erik(a)wikimedia.org>
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 5:52 PM
To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List"
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Erik's New Job
On 12/19/07, phoebe ayers
I find the lack of public search less worrying
than the complete lack
of public discussion over what the position might do and why we might
need someone as Deputy Director in the first place. One difference
between WMF and other organizations is historically we *have*
discussed things like this.
I don't believe that hiring and staffing decisions are something that
belongs on a public mailing list. This is not a question of
transparency, it's a question of competency and knowledge.
- Competency: Wikimedia has a strong culture of "everyone can do
anything and comment on everything". It's a culture of self-selection
and free association. A 14-year-old may make as meaningful
contributions to an article about the British nobility as a
50-year-old tenured professor (or someone pretending to be one,
And that's fine when you are dealing with a self-correcting
encyclopedia that is built through a process of deliberation and
consensus-building, and where it's an acceptable characteristic that
any given article may be rubbish at any given time.
But an organization cannot function under the same parameters. You
cannot "revert" a bad hiring decision; you cannot "rollback" money
that's been spent. So you want to make sure that you have a competent
core team that makes these decisions. Not every decision benefits from
a scattershot approach of asking hundreds of self-selected interested
individuals what they think: you end up spending too much time
separating noise from signal.
- Knowledge about the needs of the organization will typically be
concentrated among a fairly small group of people. This is also not a
question of transparency: Our meritocratic systems of volunteer
participation make it relatively easy for anyone willing to spend
enough time to be in the loop on almost anything. [It could & should
be easier still!] But only a tiny number of people have a full-time
role in Wikimedia or can afford to spend a near-equivalent amount of
time _caring_ about the needs of the organization. And even among
these, knowledge and interests are specialized: into technology,
chapters, administrative work, fundraising, etc.
It's the _job_ of the Executive Director to have a high level view of
the operational needs of the Foundation. And if she is any good at her
job, then she will concentrate and process in her mind a fairly large
amount of knowledge on this topic: more so than anyone else.
Increasing the number of people involved in the decision does not
necessarily increase the quality of the decision; unconnected
additional bits and pieces of information do not self-assemble into a
The Foundation has gone through many dramatic transitions and
disruptive changes throughout its history. What it needs at this point
in time is a little bit of harmony and trust: We're trying to do
something amazing, and we need to pull together to get it done. And
whether we're paid or not, we all appreciate support, kindness and
Sue & I will try to be transparent about what we're doing & why.
Though I haven't officially started yet, I am volunteering on a number
of important fronts -- so much so that I won't have much time to spend
on mailing list conversations. But I hope that I'll be able to give a
reasonable length update about what I've been up to after the
holidays. And once I'm officially on the job, I'll try to post updates
on a regular basis. :-)
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