[Foundation-l] bylaws (second call)

Anthere Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 17 01:10:16 UTC 2006

Lars Aronsson wrote:
> Brad Patrick wrote:
>>- With such a diluted definition of 'member' what is the real 
>>  point of being a 'member'?
> There was a decision point back in 2002 or so, where Wikipedia was 
> still more or less Jimbo's private property, and the question was 
> where to put it.  Many Germans and other Europeans wanted a 
> membership association, but Jimbo went for a foundation.  Later 
> (in 2004) the German national chapter was structured exactly like 
> the membership association (Verein) that they had wanted also for 
> the international body.  There is a fundamental difference between 
> the two kinds of organization, but I think this was more clear to 
> the Germans than it was to Jimbo or most Americans.
> (This seems to be a European/American cultural divide.  When I 
> look at an article such as the [[New England Anime Society]] the 
> *first* question I ask is *how many members* do they have?  And 
> this is not answered.  This is like not knowing the annual 
> turnover for a business or the population of a city.  Is it 
> thousands or millions?)
> However, one fundamental requirement for a membership association 
> was also missing.  The word "Verein" means union, a get-together 
> of equals.  The corresponding verb "sich vereinen" means "to 
> unite", to team up.  And there simply was nobody who equalled 
> Jimbo.  The German Wikipedians could get together as equals to 
> form their national chapter.  Their elected board was only 
> slightly more into Wikipedia than the rest.  There was nobody 
> there with the God-like status of Jimbo.
> I think the only way Wikipedia could have been turned into a real 
> membership association is if a global "chapter" of wikipedians had 
> been formed in 2002, without Jimbo, and then started to negotiate 
> with Jimbo about the future rights to domain names and servers.  
> As we all know, this didn't happen.
> This leaves Jimbo with the decision, and it is a fact that his 
> position is more like that of Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, or 
> Alfred Nobel.  One day he finds himself in possession of something 
> that should live on after him, and there really is little point in 
> his family to inherit it.  What do you do in such a situation?  
> You start a foundation.  Its bylaws is your last will. If a board 
> member needs to leave, the rest of the board must find a new board 
> member.  Many newspapers are owned by foundations, so it makes 
> sense for a web media venture as well.
> The fact that two out of five board members should be elected by 
> the community is merely a curious detail of the Wikimedia 
> Foundation.  This is not expected from a foundation.  Foundations 
> are used for purposes where democracy is not an issue. And in fact 
> the Wikimedia Foundation works perfectly alright without 
> democracy, as does the Nobel Foundation.  The former only needs to 
> keep the servers running.  The latter only needs to find the best 
> scientists.  Both tasks can be accomplished with a handful of 
> administrators and a network of experts.  These small tasks are 
> independent of the whole body of article-editing or science that 
> they serve.
>>Is it political so members have control of the organization in 
>>some way? Philosophical, in that we have 'card carrying' members 
>>to prove allegiance to something?
> The German chapter fills both roles, as far as I can see.

I thought your summary of the past very accurate and clear.

Just a couple of comments regarding your last big paragraph.
Your premise that the two members be elected from the community is a 
curious detail, because WMF is a Foundation and elected members are not 
expected in a Foundation, is incorrect.

The WMF is not really a Foundation, but by name. It is in reality nearer 
to be an association.

The second point is that the goal of the WMF support goes far beyond 
from merely keeping the servers running.


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