I have been thinking for several days about how to comment Erik mail.
Just as Erik, and many others, I see Wikipedia as having a very important political role,
just as the encyclopedia of Diderot and D'Alembert had.
Of course, bringing information to those who do not have access to information, to fight
ignorance, obscurantism, superstition, manipulation, propaganda, give
people the tools to create their own opinion, to give them facts so as to defend their
opinions, to allow them to make informed decisions, is political.
But this goes further.
Showing that we can work on a global project without being stopped by language issues is
So is the fact of proving we can have thousand of people working constructively together
with models oscillating between consensus and participative democracy.
So is the fact to demonstrate teaching is not an art restricted to experts, but that all
of us have little bits of knowledge we can offer to the others. We are all worth something
when it comes to teaching through Wikipedia.
Allowing people not to only rely on official TV and radio network for their information
feed is also political.
So is to push people to read critically rather than blindly.
Showing that we can work together on the net in spite of disagreements leading to wars in
real life is also political. We do not deny we have disagreements, we just learn to
recognise we do not agree, and we learn to handle the differences.
And building a system which defense relies on letting doors open rather than building
walls is indeed a very political act.
These are just examples, but there is no doubt in my mind we could change the world in
more ways than just in providing knowledge.
All this to say that we do politics each time we click on the edit link. And I think there
is more power in working on the projects so that they expand and improve, than in any
signature at the bottom of a petition.
However, we do it gently. It is discreet. It is like a slow wave attacking a sand castle.
We prove things can happen and we show they are good.
This is more important than political advocacy or lobbying. We can change the things for
better just by focusing on what we are doing *now*. And we can also just discuss with
other people making things change.
I think getting WMF *directly* involved in political matters could possibly endanger our
model, damage our image of neutrality, hence hurt our ability to raise funds for example
or lead to censorship from some people currently ready to help our content to be widely
It could damage our non profit status, hence again our ability to raise funds.
It could upset some participants as well.
Some of the examples you cite Erik, do not seem to me to be problematicin the least, I
think we could very well pursue some issues.
For example, fundraising meant to get used PCs with Linux and putting a Wikimedia Content
Reader application on them does not appear to me to belong to political activism proper,
and are very interesting ideas which several people have started to explore. I do not see
how they could be problematic in any sense, and I would totally welcome a proposal from
you for such a project in the coming months.
Other examples do appear much more potentially problematic to me, in particular quick
actions for laws and such, which could be post validated.
I would say that anything controversial should not be quickly decided and post approved,
but on the contrary, be met with much much care and slow building consensus.
Generally, I would recommand that we watch our steps. And generally, I think that it is
neither Wikimedia Foundation, nor the local associations roles to get directly involved in
political lobbyism, though some exceptions could naturally be considered ;-)
What is above reflects *my* opinion on political involvement.
The board discussed this topic on last sunday, and Angela will come with notes upon what
our collective opinion and suggestions are, later in the week.
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