Speaking generally (meaning, not in regard to the specific situation of
Denny), conflict of interest issues do happen on a regular basis. In my
experience, we also generally handle them well.
Having numerous business relationships and interests is common in the
business world. Many times when there is a conflict of interest issue, it's
sufficient to recuse from particular discussions. Sometimes, the best
course of action is to resign from one role or another.
Regarding Denny's situation specifically, after leaving the WMF board, he
may provide valuable input and may in some ways be more effective because
he will have stepped away from numerous COI issues.
I feel that Denny's decision to resign makes sense, and in no way does this
decision put a cloud over his continued involvement in our community.
There are many problems in the Wikimedia universe, but I think that our COI
policies are generally sound.
On Sat, Apr 9, 2016 at 6:48 AM, Brill Lyle <wp.brilllyle(a)gmail.com> wrote:
I find this issue of Conflict of Interest exceedingly
Almost every person working and living today will have a conflict of
interest somehow, especially as one becomes a contributor to any of the
Wikimedia projects, gets to know people, tries to organize events or
promote the value of Wikipedia, Wikimedia, etc. Or if you work in any field
that specializes in anything online or technical. It is an impossible
I think that Wikimedia deals with this very badly -- and obviously at great
personal cost to talented, giving people. I am sorry.
And to the bigger problem: Wikimedia loses a smart person who has loads of
ideas and expertise -- and is a contributor to Wikidata (one of the best &
most exciting projects to be visited upon Wikimedia) because of this arcane
and quite frankly needing to be re-evaluated rule? I see this as one of the
many problems of Wikimedia.
EVERYONE has conflict of interest. We need the smartest and brightest minds
out there to contribute whatever they willingly can and will do on a
volunteer basis. How can they not have connections to the real world as
well as to online? Do we expect volunteers to be in their bunkers
somewhere, siloed from the world, that these clean folks are the ones to
move Wikimedia forward? It's laughable.
One thing Wikimedia seems to do quite well is torture people who want to
contribute by rules and policies that I think, quite frankly, are
Requiring some sort of absolute clean Conflict of Interest is an impossible
ideal. It is also obviously hurting the community.
There is much change happening. I think it's an opportunity for newbies
such as myself as well as folks with longer views to make things better. Or
these mistakes will continue to plague the Wikimedia community -- and we
will all lose out.
Wikipedia *User:BrillLyle* <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:BrillLyle>
On Sat, Apr 9, 2016 at 2:28 AM, Gerard Meijssen <gerard.meijssen(a)gmail.com
> Denny I am sorry to have lost a friend who is on the board but I am happy
> to welcome back a friend who can now express his ideas, his notions, his
> opposition, his point of view. Yes you work for Google. For me it means
> that you are again in an unique position to be an ambassador for both
> Google and WMF in either domain.
> You may have gained friends while on
the board, the one sad thing is that
> it came at a huge cost to you personally. Nevermind what you do, I trust
> you to do well.
> On 8 April 2016 at 20:17, Denny
> > I exchanged a walk on part in
the war for a lead role in the cage.
> > I find myself tied and
limited in my actions and projects. In order to
> > avoid the perception or potential for Conflict of Interests I have to
carefully in far too many parts of my life. Instead of being
to pursue my projects or some projects at work -
which I think would
> very well with our mission - I found myself trapped between too many
> constraints. I feel like I cannot offer my thoughts and my
> openly, since they might easily be perceived
as expressions of
> > regarding my previous work, regarding my friends, regarding my current
> > employment.
> > This hit home strongly
during the FDC deliberations, where I had to
> with the situation of people deliberating a
proposal written by my Best
> Man, around a project that has consumed the best part of the previous
> decade of my life. Obviously, I explained the conflicts in this case,
> > refrained from participating in the discussion, as agreed with the FDC.
> > This hit home every time
there was a topic that might be perceived as a
> > potential conflict of interest between Wikimedia and my employer, and
> > though I might have been in a unique position to provide insight, I had
> > refrain from doing so in order not to exert influence.
> > There were constant and
continuous attacks against me, as being merely
> > Google’s mole on the Board, even of the election being bought by
> would not have minded these attacks so much - if I would have had the
> feeling that my input to the Board, based on my skills and experiences,
> would have been particularly valuable, or if I would have had the
> of getting anything done while being on the
Board. As it is, neither
> > the case.
> > I discussed with Jan-Bart,
then chair, what is and what is not
> > to pursue as a member of the Board. I understood and followed his
> > but it was frustrating. It was infuriatingly limiting.
> > As some of you might know,
Wikidata was for me just one step towards my
> > actual goal, a fully multilingual Wikipedia. I hoped that as a Trustee
> could pursue that goal, but when even
writing a comment on a bug in
> Phabricator has to be considered under the aspect that it will be read
> > "it is a Board-member writing that comment" and/or “It’s a Googler
> > that comment”, I don’t see how I could effectively pursue such a goal.
> > It was at Wikimania 2006 in
Boston, when Markus Krötzsch and I had
> with Dan Connolly, a co-editor of the early
HTML specs. Dan gave me an
> advise that still rings with me - to do the things worth doing that
> you can do. This set me, back then, on a
path that eventually lead to
of Wikidata - which, before then, wasn't something I wanted to
myself. I used to think that merely suggesting it
would be enough -
will eventually do it, I don’t have to. There’s
plenty of committed and
smart people at the Foundation, they’ll make it happen. Heck, Erik was
> then a supporter of the plan (he was the one to secure the domain
), and he was deputy director. Things were bound to happen
> anyway. But that is not what happened. I eventually, half a decade
> realized that if I do not do it, it simply
won't happen, at least not
> > reasonable timeframe.
> > And as said, Wikidata was
just one step on the way. But right now I
> > take the next steps. Anything that I would do or propose or suggest
> regarded through the lense of my current positions. To be fair, I do
> > that I should not be both the one suggesting changes, and the one
> > on them. I understand now that I could not have suggested Wikidata as a
> > member of the Board. It takes an independent Board to evaluate such
> > proposal and its virtues and decide on them.
> > I want to send a few thank
yous, in particular to the teams at the
> > Wikimedia Foundation and at Google who helped me steer clear of actual
> > conflicts of interests. They were wonderful, and extremely helpful. It
> > bears a certain irony that both organizations had strong measures
> > exactly the kind of things that I have been regularly accused of.
> > I only see three ways to
stay clear from a perceived or potential
> > of Interest: to lay still and do nothing, to remove the source of the
> > Conflict, or to step away from the position of power. Since the first
> > option is unsatisfying, the second option unavailable, only the third
> > option remains.
> > So I have decided to resign
from the Board of Trustees.
> > It was not an easy
decision, and certainly not a step made any easier
> > the events in the last few months. I understand that I will disappoint
> > of the people who voted for me, and I want to apologize: I am sorry,
> > honestly sorry, but I don’t see that it is me the Board needs now, or
> > the movement needs me in that position. What I learned is that the
> > that allows someone to win an election is not the profile that makes an
> > effective Trustee.
> > But be warned that you will
continue to hear from me, after a
> Expect crazy ideas, project proposals, and
requests to fund and
> them. I will return to a more active role
within the movement. I will
> > again, free to work on things that are worth doing and that only I can
> > I think that in that role I can be more effective and more valuable to
> > movement, the Foundation, and for our mission.
> > Be bold,
> > Denny
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