[Foundation-l] Quo vadis, WMF?

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen cimonavaro at gmail.com
Wed Aug 30 21:45:59 UTC 2006

For a long long time it has been the operative assumption that the
Wikimedia Foundation carries the legal liability, and if things go
really really badly wrong, the foundation would sacrifice itself, so
the community, and the content itself could continue elsewhere.

There has however been gradual development of the foundations
structures in two ways that seem to indicate that this operative
assumption (not being anywhere formally enunciated, except in the
tangible fact of working under the GFDL) may not last forever.

Firstly there is the building of increasingly robust defensive
bulwarks against litigation and other forms that the foundation could
be seriously harmed. This is something which is clearly an unequivocal
good in what ever operative assumption the Foundation labors under,
and should continue no matter what. The question on this front rather
is, whether there exists now, or will exist in the foreseeable future,
a sufficient level of robustness for these defenses that the need to
keep the Foundation as expendable, discardable isn't relevant anymore
from a standpoint of necessity?

The other facet of the question is the speed at which the organs of
the foundation develop into integral parts of how our whole greater
endeavour operates. Note I am not saying indispensible in the sense
that those particular organs are locked into place (we are a long way
from that yet), but integral in the sense that should the highly
unlikely eventuality of having to start again occur (as the GFDL
allows), _something_ would have fill their functions in the operation
of the restarted endeavour.

The problem (or non-problem, as the facts may obtain) here lies on
what philosophy do we adopt toward this earlier operative assumption
of sacrificability?

Do we find on reflection, that we have already crossed the Rubicon,
that although theoretically the work could be restarted elsewhere, the
disruption would be high enough, that it is wisest to abandon all
worry about the possibility of sacrificing the Foundation, and
concentrate on making the Foundation functional without regard to what
things it might lock us into, and speed up construction of legal and
other defensive bulwarks into a kind of Fortress Wikimedia Foundation?

Or should we seriously consider examining every new thing the
Foundation takes onto its plate, making doubly sure that it is
something that would compromise our ability to just chuck the
Foundation away like the tail of a lizard, and trust we will have the
resources to grow a new tail, there being no vital organs in it.

Or can someone in one swift stroke demonstrate that all the above is
entirely inconsequential? For me, that would be a great relief, and
good enough.

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen, AKA. Cimon Avaro

Candidate for Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation in the
September 2006 elections.

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