[Foundation-l] bylaws (second call)

Anthony wikilegal at inbox.org
Mon Aug 14 12:34:15 UTC 2006

On 8/13/06, Ray Saintonge <saintonge at telus.net> wrote:
> Anthony wrote:
> >On 8/13/06, Anthere <anthere9 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> >>http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Bylaws_update
> >>
> >>
> >The proposed bylaws do not at all mention the chapters.  Is this
> >intentional?  It's my understanding that chapters are not legally
> >affiliated with Wikimedia except that they license the use of certain
> >trademarks.  Is this correct?  And is this pretty much what everyone
> >wants?  What do Jimbo and Brad (apparently the two main proponents of
> >a non-membership organziation) think the role of chapters should be?
> >
> I have yet to see a clear rationale for a memberless Foundation.  In
> some jurisdictions such a concept is unthinkable.
I get the sense that there's an effort to run Wikimedia more like a
private foundation than a public charity.  Of course a public charity
has tax advantages, so as long as Wikimedia can continue to be
recognized as such, they'll do it.  But with Brad talking about
getting billions of dollars in revenue it's unclear how such a broad
base of contributors will be able to be kept up very long.  Personally
when I heard him say that I imagined the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation making a large multi-million dollar contribution, and for
me it wasn't something that I got excited about.  Of course that's
probably just my imagination running away.  But the point is, I'd
rather see a billion member organization than a billion dollar one.
In fact, *all other things being equal* I'd rather see Wikimedia spend
(and receive) less money rather than more.

Anyway, look at the original bylaws.  Sure, there were members, but
they weren't given any real power.  A majority of the board was
appointed and served for life, and this board was given all the powers
of the organization.  It seemed clear to me at the time that as far as
the bylaws were concerned Wikimedia was Jimbo's gift to us - he
created it and then it he let the public have it, under certain

Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikinews, etc. have all grown since then, and
it's because of the community of volunteers and donors.  We still
don't have a good sense, I think, of what Wikimedia is.  The way I see
it membership is a way to define that, and late is better than never.

My idea is to form a group of members who care specifically about
Wikimedia, not as just "that organization that provides
Wiki[whatever]", but for its full potential.  Ant recently brought up
a thread that she wanted to see more candidates for the board with
interests other than just on the English Wikipedia.  My response to
that thread was more practical than idealistic - I feel that this is a
symptom of the way the organization is currently being run (in essence
ignoring the bylaws), and that simply encouraging more people to run
for the board is not going to solve anything.  The membership of a
membership-based organization is the base, and right now we don't even
know who that membership is.

I've been thinking a lot about what I'd like to see in the updated
bylaws.  My current thinking is to have members of Wikimedia which are
not tied in any way to the current projects (i.e. you don't have to
have a log in anywhere, and you don't even have to have a computer).
I think the part about not even needig a computer is important -
Wikimedia is more than just the sum of its projects, and it exists in
the real world, not on the Internet.

The annual dues would be around $250 US, but a committee would be
formed to introduce rules by which members could have the dues waived
(or possibly reduced, but I'm not sure if that complication is worth
it).  The idea is that volunteers on any of the various projects would
be able to become members for free, but it wouldn't be automatic, and
the rules could be different for the different projects.  The
committee would have flexibility so that a peace core worker who
distributes printed Wikimedia materials in some remote location, and
can only get on the Internet once a week, can still be a member, and
they can be a member for free.  I chose $250 because I think this is a
big enough amount that it'll keep membership to people who truly care
about Wikimedia, but I initially was thinking more like $100/year, and
I'm still very flexible on this number.  I also think the number of
members whose dues get waived will probably outweigh those who don't,
as that seems to be within the spirit of the projects Wikimedia runs.

Well, as I said this is just my current thinking on the matter.  If
anyone has any comments I'd love to hear them.  If any lawyer-minded
people want to propose some language which accomplishes this I'd love
to hear that too.


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