On Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 2:40 PM, Roan Kattouw <roan.kattouw(a)gmail.com> wrote:
Since the discussion about staff collaboration with
a few weeks ago, actions and statements by staff members have
undergone an increasing amount of scrutiny and criticism. That in
itself is not a bad thing necessarily: staff members need to be kept
on their toes and not be allowed to get away with doing bad things,
and some scrutiny and criticism is needed to accomplish this.
This is a symptom of the tension between staff and volunteers.
Naturally, volunteers are more likely to express their frustration
here, because they don't have to act professional and because they're
the ones who feel wronged in this case. Some of those who aren't
overtly expressing their frustration are just cutting back their
contributions. It's a warning sign.
A crucial point that I think is being missed by a
number of people
right now is that collaboration is a two-way street. Staffers and
volunteers are both responsible for making it work. While staff
members have to be open to, respectful of and collaborative with
volunteer developers, the reverse is also true: volunteers are
supposed to make staff members feel welcome and appreciated, and treat
them as their equals. Right now, the opposite seems to be happening,
which I fear will lead to a negative spiral.
Entirely possible, if no action is taken to correct it. This is the
sort of thing that tends to end in the volunteer community either
dissolving or forking. Forking isn't practical in MediaWiki's case,
because volunteer developers are almost all interested in MediaWiki
due to Wikimedia projects, so the volunteer development community will
probably just disappear over time if matters don't improve. I suspect
that process is already well underway, although I only have anecdotal
A few weeks ago, staff members were called upon to
attitudes to do their part in fostering collaboration between staff
and volunteers. Volunteers, in turn, should be aware that they have a
part to play too. Also, both sides should realize behaviors don't
change overnight, and should give each other time to adapt and cut
each other some slack in the meantime.
The problem is not about attitudes, it's systemic. The negative
attitudes are a byproduct of various concrete problems, both social
and technical. You could either tell the volunteers they shouldn't be
frustrated and negative, and then watch them either ignore you or
leave because the reasons for their frustration aren't addressed. Or
you could actually take them seriously when they tell you *why*
they're frustrated, and fix the cause of the frustration.
The only progress I've seen in this regard at all is that Wikimedia
has finally deployed more review manpower. If volunteer commits
actually get back to being deployed as often as employee commits, most
of the reason for frustration will vanish, and so eventually the
frustration will be reduced too. But it will take a long time for the
neglect to be forgotten, and it will easily be remembered again if
there's a lapse.
The bottom line is that you're not going to have a happy volunteer
community unless you consistently pay attention when it complains. I
think the response to the thread I started about this a while ago was
a pretty clear-cut example of complaints that a huge proportion
(~100%) of volunteers agreed with and many prominent volunteers felt
were important, but which were simply brushed off by staff as
unreasonable. When you do that, you will very predictably find that
volunteers' attitude toward staff will sour.
But instead of seeing volunteers' frustration as something that needs
to be addressed by staff if you expect to keep a healthy community
going, you see it as a problem in its own right which is the fault of
the volunteers. This perspective has, unfortunately, been typical of
Wikimedia staff for some time now.