[Foundation-l] Internal wiki(s) and confidential committee communications
erik_moeller at gmx.de
Sun Feb 5 05:54:07 UTC 2006
I apologize for taking this out of the communications committee thread;
however, I think this is an issue which affects all committees and
should be discussed separately: How to deal with confidential information?
Daniel Mayer has rightly pointed out the risk of balkanization of our
communications infrastructure. The current approach -- one wiki and
mailing list for a lot of trusted people -- has the clear advantage that
we can get input on a variety of issues from a reasonably large group of
Right now, being a member of the internal wiki and internal-l is tied to
organizational status: board members and officers of the mother
organization and its chapters have access. This is not entirely fair, as
being a chapter officer doesn't automatically mean you're doing as much
work, or have as much legitimate interest, as someone who does not
currently have the required organizational status, and there is no
process -- as far as I am aware -- for those who don't have it to gain
My favored approach would therefore be one which makes a clear
distinction between the "core committees" (created through Board
resolutions) and the subcommittees (created by the committees
themselves). To my knowledge, we have never really defined what a
subcommittee is, so here is a hypothetical model:
1) A core committee which chooses its own members, using 75% approval
(the steward threshold). If it is considered necessary, these members
might also have to be approved by the Board majority or the Executive
Committee; I would prefer this not to be the case. All these members
have access to the internal wiki and list as they currently exist.
Membership status might be re-evaluated regularly. The committee members
would be advised to choose only individuals who are already trusted to
be granted access to confidential information, rather than those who
have yet to earn that trust.
In addition, there are the observers/consultants, who can participate in
open meetings, but do not have access to confidential information.
Ideally, as much as possible should be discussed in open meetings, but
how much that can be will vary, of course. Having these non-voting,
non-member participants on board ensures that we have a constant
pressure for openness, which is good, as it is always easy to become
complacent and do things confidentially when you don't have to.
2) A subcommittee focusing on a particular area of interest, e.g. one
project ("Wiktionary"), task ("OTRS") or language ("Swedish"). These
could have their own membership procedures, i.e. be totally open or more
restrictive, with the maximal restrictiveness being the same as the core
committee. Being a member of a subcommittee alone would not
automatically give you full access to the internal wiki and list.
However, one could be a member of both a core committee and a subcommittee.
I would imagine that in practice, much of the work will be going on in
focused subcommittees. I would also imagine that, due to them being
generally more open, they will have less authority to act in the name of
the Foundation than the core committees, but that they will be able to
propose resolutions to the core committees.
So, in this model, members of the core committees would ideally be
chosen based on them doing good work in the subcommittees, hence moving
more to a meritocratic model of information access than the current one,
which is tied to the (rather stagnant) organizational status.
Now, each of these subcommittees may have the need for confidential
communications, and this is where it gets tricky. Here, I would suggest
exploring the use of namespaces on the internal wiki to segregate
confidential information relevant only to one subcommittee. For example,
an OTRS: namespace could be created on internal.wikimedia.org
particularly for the OTRS subcommittee of Communications.
This would necessitate changing the software to allow for namespaces to
be associated with user groups, and then giving the correct group
membership to everyone who is supposed to have access to the information
relevant to a subcommittee. Hiding page content is not too hard; it gets
a bit more complicated if we want to make sure that people cannot even
see page _titles_ outside their given namespace access, as these are
currently shown all over the place. Perhaps a gradual implementation
would be sufficient.
I prefer this approach to creating lots of separate wikis because, for
those people who are trusted to see _all_ confidential information, it
reduces the need to manually aggregate information from lots of places
(balkanization), and enables them to quickly get involved in relevant
discussions (synergies). At the same time, it guarantees that people who
have not yet gained the trust of a core committee cannot see anything
which is not clearly relevant to them.
I know solutions involving software changes are always the least popular
;-), but perhaps it is still preferable to ending up with 30 new wikis
and mailing lists.
What do others think about this model? I hope we can discuss this in
some more detail at the open meeting later today.
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