Erik Zachte wrote:
Anthere, thanks for you extensive reply on my previous
Jimbo, thanks for recognizing that my remarks are meant constructively.
Anthere, I hope you did not think of me as one of the guys who threw 'oil on
the fire'. If so, I would feel very sorry for that.
I certainly did touch on a sensitive issue when tensions were already high.
Erik Moellers resignation is the apotheosis of a longer time of difficult
relations between him and the board. So his announcement will have done
little to make your wikibreak bear fruit. And then, on top of that, I made
some remarks about the role of the board, as if you did not have enough on
your mind yet. Maybe I should have postponed my reaction and should not have
jumped up immediately to try to put this event in a broader perspective.
At the other hand: part of my point is exactly that it may be useful to make
roles and rules more explicit in times when everyone is on a good footing
with each other, since it is much more difficult to discuss these things
when emotions are already running high, and conflicts have started. So with
hindsight I illustrated my point inadvertently with my initial mail. Let me
quote from my first mail to emphasize this even more: "So let us be inspired
to clarify roles, responsibilities and procedures, at a time when we can do
without in many occasions, in preparation for a time when we might need more
clarity and transparency badly."
Anthere, not all of my questions are addressed (to be clear about this, you
did elaborate on how you see the role of the officers, but not the
jurisdiction of the board, perhaps you think this is self evident by its
actions) but I will happily defer this discussion till a later time, and
move half of this mail into my drafts folder.
Oh one more thing: I'm one those guys that, as Chris described, does not
often write a mail to tell I'm happy with how things are going.
Maybe I should, but these lists get spammed with trivia already far too
much, and I feel a mail about how I have nothing to say, apart from that
things are going well, or how I also support a decision that is already
approved by most writers, would be quite trivial indeed.
So for the record, I'm in some cases reasonably happy with how things are
going, and in many cases very.
And still euphoric after Wikimania by the way.
Enjoy your wikibreak. :-)
It is quite impossible for me to be in full wikibreak, but I enjoy a
long week of wiki-activity reduction (attempt to reduce wikipediholism :-)).
I think it is bearing fruits indeed, as my blood pressure was acceptable
again 2 days ago (which might be a good reason for me being back to my
real life job today...).
No, I have never seen you as throwing oil on the fire. You raise good
One point striked me in what you wrote above. "you did elaborate on how
you see the role of the officers, but not the jurisdiction of the
board, perhaps you think this is self evident by its actions"
You are correct that I think it is self evident, while actually it is
possibly not. So, I'll try to elaborate a little bit about that (with
the usual warning, this is only my opinion).
When Angela and I were elected a year ago, the Foundation did NOT exist,
except for a legal paper. The Foundation was just a set of principles, a
bit of bureaucracy and a man, Jimbo. Nothing else. This was sufficient
for the beginning of the project and possibly till about 1 or 2 years
ago, it can not be any more today.
Jimbo's opinion of the board future and activity was that it would only
consist of a handful of meetings per year, where a bunch of decisions
would be made, and off it goes. He mentionned this is what most board
members on most foundations are doing in the USA. Not day to day
operations, but just settting up strategies, ensuring big principles are
respected, and letting others taking care of the daily work.
I guess this was not Angela and I opinion, and we both put a lot of time
in it. But a lot of time to do what ? And with which goals ? Well, it
quite simple : a system where a board would merely meet 4 times a year
to decide big directions could not work a year ago simply because the
Foundation only existed on a paper. A Foundation is not first a legal
structure, it is first human people working as a team.
So, while I fully agree that micro-management is NOT the role of the
board, practically, it HAD TO BE for a while, till things start(ed) to
clarify. The first role of the board was simply to build an embryo of
organization. If we had limited ourselves to set big principles and
directions, I am not sure we would even have an embryo now.
A year after this first election, a real organisation is only barely
beginning to appear. It is still very messy (more than you could dream
of), it is possibly not very transparent (but I don't think it is meant
to be non transparent), and it is veeeeery slow (ask to anyone waiting
for a reimbursement, but again, this is changing). It is quite obvious
to me that the embryo of an organization we have today would have been
different if other people had been elected on the board a year ago.
I think I proposed the official positions even before the elections a
year ago. To my opinion, it was the first step.
Aside from Mav role (finances), which was quite urgent, I think the
first few months were mostly used for the board members to get to know
one another better, to check what mattered for each of us, to test the
limits of our mutual patience and understanding, and to meet
people/editors and evaluate "who" could work with "who" and on
topic. Whether it will be easy for you to accept or not, this was also
one of the goal of the developer poll last summer, and I think it really
helped me to get to know some people much better, and to figure out who
was controversial and who was not, who was a leader and who was not, who
was strong headed and who was more easy going.
If one want to build a solid organisation, the different members
composing it must be quite diverse (all officers being native english
speaking is a very bad idea, all officers being men is quite possibly a
bad idea, all officers being less than 20 may not be very wise...). We
need people from various origin, various professional background,
various personalities. Best is that all of them are at least on polite
terms. Best to mix emotional ones with less emotional ones etc...
Generally, we mostly rely on friendship relations, not cold and
In an system such as ours, it is maybe not so good to have too strong
egos. We need leaders, but not a leadership based on authoritarian
behavior. I do not think leading in organising so-called democratic
votes every week is a good idea either. We rather need coordinators or
facilitators. For officers, we need people who are not too
controversial, are generally appreciated, but who also have a rather
strong personnality, however it is nice as well that they are surrounded
by very bold people pushing issues sometimes a little bit heavily.
Once it begins to be clear which departments are needed, and who could
fit where, things can progress. But until this is set up,
micromanagement is necessary to a certain point. And if officers are not
trusted, micromanagement will also occur by fear of the board losing
control :-) Now that several departements have been better defined, some
with officers, some without..., I strongly believe micromanagement will
decrease. It already did. But I still believe it will be the role of the
board to look for people who can bring much to the organisation. Finding
these people might be part of our "jurisdiction" as you say.
Incidently, I think the next two "departments", which might have an
officer, or not, are
* "publishing" (paper versions; dvds; wikireaders) - with a strong link
with the legal departement due to issues of copyright, trademarks and
logo use. This will probably need an officer. If anyone feels like
working on a "role description", please do. I however do not see clearly
yet who might hold it.
* "public relations" - I do not think I need to explain why I feel we
need to work on this ;-) This will probably not have an officer, or not
until a good while.
The second "jurisdiction" of the board might be the "role
clarification of responsabilities and procedures.
Quite funily, some of you asked for roles to be much much more strictly
defined, while others rather said we should leave much room for the
officers to move.
I am not convinced that we should be very strictly defining all that
yet, rather let it grow a little bit organically. Example : Maveric is
taking care of finances and fundraising at the same time. But should
these two be together ? Or two separate positions ? Or under the
responsability of another officer ? After all, it could also depends of
a public relations commitee, or of the grant commitee.
I think that for a while, it is urgent... to do nothing and just see
what happens, and trust that things will naturally become obvious.
It may also be that the role change with the person holding it. I'll
give another example. Delphine is now our chapter coordinator. I think
that role holds two different parts; one being of communication, the
other being more on financial matters. It is my belief Delphine will be
much more precious (and happier) on financial matters. I think that
under her leadership on the matter, the chapter coordinator will be much
more oriented on financial matters. Possibly another person would do
In case you then say "what the hell, let us define their role quite
strictly and it is their job to try to do their best in that role", I'll
answer that all officers are volunteers. If they get bored or lost in
the role strictly defined, they will do a bad job and will drop. As much
as we can, I think we should let them flower, just as wikipedia allow
people to. And if they are really outside of the rails, it is then the
(third) "jurisdiction" of the board to make suggestions to improve (if
no one else hinted the problem at them already).
And little by little, as we grow and improve, and as the needs become
pressing, we can more clearly define the roles.
One of the thing I hope we work on is communication. Communication
feedback from officers to the board and to the community, should be
sometimes more frequent (such as on technical matters), but mostly more
organised. Offering communication is not sending immediately a mail when
something is boiling, but rather trying to makes regular summaries about
what is currently ongoing, who they need help from, when, what is
blocking them from going further.
For example, grant report from the grant coordinator once a month :
* I have approach this group as well as that group. No answer yet from
* for the grant G, we are currently writting the full grant request
([[link]], which should be send before dd/mm/yyyy. We would need
information from the legal departement (paper XX) as well as banking
information from Jimbo (paper Y).
* for the grant Y, it has been submitted and we are waiting for result
by that day.
* We got Grant S !!!! We start working with the press departement. A
press release in under work at [[link]]. Please comment.
In the future, here is what I would love to see :-)))
Such reports from each departement will allow the board to organise
itself better and decide things more quickly and efficiently.
(let's say this will happen in a year from now).
I know that some people feel lost when they are not quite firmly told
what to do and not do. This model is frequently used in the internet
business and not everyone is confortable with it. But it is my belief we
are no more under fordism. And my belief that those most happy in the
wiki model are precisely people who like a certain independance. This
said, less defined roles also mean more risk to walk on each other toes.
I know I sometimes walk on other people toes, I regret this and try to
make efforts myself. The solution is not really to walk on more toes to
ensure the other toes disappear, but rather to look where the toes are
and be careful to walk on them less. If someone walks too much on the
wrong toes and does not realise that, then... he should be removed from
the path. This is the fourth "jurisdiction" of the board. The one big
difference with being an employer... is that there is the weight of a
Finally, another "jurisdiction" of the board is simply to ensure that
some important principles are respected.
I'll cite two cases : the french wikinews is out of our projects
principles, and strongly borderline very frequently. This is due to the
presence of a very small number of editors, who have never been involved
in wikipedia, so lack some "habits". So I have it on careful watch. This
is micromanagement, but this allow me to stay an editor as well :-)
Another example : I think we (the Foundation) are currently on the verge
of closing ourselves too much, and I do not like this. We recently set
up a private wiki and as long as the management of access groups is not
developped (by Brion), access will be restricted to board, officers and
chapters board members only. I think this is very very unfortunate,
because 1) there are plenty of good trusted people who are not in this
group and 2) we are reducing the number of people who could help, though
we need them.
There are some other "roles" of the board. But I guess I wrote enough.
Mostly, we need not to rush. Imho.