[Foundation-l] New Wikimedia Committees

Erik Moeller erik_moeller at gmx.de
Thu Jan 26 18:55:44 UTC 2006

Dear Angela, dear list,

thank you for publishing this, and thanks to the Board and everyone else 
involved for taking these steps, which I hope will help to decentralize 
the organization and empower and encourage users to participate in 
everyday work such as the establishment of partnerships, the 
coordination of fundraising campaigns, the management of press releases, 
the handling of libel cases, and so on. I'd like to get involved a bit 
to help this process along as much as possible.

As you requested, in this response I focus specifically on the Executive 
Committee. I am sending a separate message with some general concerns.

The situation in the past has been that the Board was the single 
executive body of the Wikimedia Foundation. This was obviously not 
scalable. There are, essentially, two competing problems:
* the Board is too small to deal with the amount of decisions that need 
to be made.
* the Board is too large and distributed to immediately make a decision 
when one is needed.

This relates to the problem Angela has pointed out of two competing 
goals of a small and a large committee. As Jake has explained, the 
solution is probably a compromise.

It is my understanding that our mid term goal is to have a full-time CEO 
in addition to the Board. This CEO position is highly relevant, as the 
CEO will have to make many of the immediate short term decisions. I 
would strongly recommend not to pick a complete outsider for this 
position. While non-profit experience is obviously helpful in running an 
organization like Wikimedia, Wikimedia is a very unusual beast and a 
highly participatory community.

The CEO needs to be a person who understands the community, the goals, 
the technology, and the organization. They also need to be particularly 
good at electronic communications, which is our main means of getting 
things done. I'd much rather see someone like Daniel Mayer or James 
Forrester in this position - both individuals with great organizational 
talent - than someone who has never edited a wiki.

I would support the current Board or a subset thereof serving in an 
interim role as a multiple personality CEO while this position is being 
defined and a suitable candidate is sought. However, I strongly believe 
there need to be more people on the Executive Committee.

We have subunits in the organization (chapters) which could provide some 
of the members of the EC: each head of a chapter would automatically be 
a member of the EC. In addition, we have the existing officers like the 
CTO, CFO and CRO, who should serve on the committee.

Now, if we stick to all these people, we still have a few problems:
- They are all quite busy in their existing roles.
- Some of these positions are appointed, others were elected to a 
specific chapter. I think we should try to avoid a situation where the 
executive body is stagnant and seen as bureaucratically distant from the 
community, like the European Commission.
- In all likelihood, these people, through their existing roles, will be 
forced to focus on our largest project, Wikipedia.

Therefore, I suggest that in addition, we have an annual or biannual 
open election of about 10 members, one or two for each Wikimedia 
project. These could be elected by their project communities, or by the 
entire Wikimedia community - I have no strong opinion on that.

The members of the EC would meet at least weekly (but also be present 
much of the time on a designated IRC channel). Realistically, in a 
volunteer organization, you'd probably find that of the relatively large 
committee, only a subset of maybe 10 people really show up and 
participate regularly. So you'd need to state that decisions can be made 
by such a subset.

Any decision that can be postponed until the next meeting would be made 
in consensus or through a vote by the members present then and there 
(with the CEO having the power to override a split vote). In addition, 
the CEO would be required to consult with the Executive Committee 
whenever possible (in practice, through the aforementioned IRC channel).

The Board would primarily exercise strategic oversight: ensure the 
openness of the organization, prioritize long term goals, evaluate the 
work of the officers, and so on. The President (Jimmy) would also be the 
main person identified with the organization at large to the outside 
world, i.e. the guy who gets the Nobel Prize in the end ;-).

Whether there needs to be a "Wikicouncil" as has been suggested before 
(similar to the Central Committee Jake mentioned) is a separate 
question. Personally, I do not see the need at present, since we also 
have the other committees which hopefully will be open enough to enable 
wide participation. A very large representative body does not really 
strike me as appropriate for an organization like ours - if you can have 
a large group of people, you might as well make it completely open and 

I see one key role of the Executive Committee and the CEO as the 
authorization of outside contacts and partnership proposals. Anything 
that doesn't fall within a defined and agreed upon strategy needs to be 
authorized a priori or a posteriori.

Ideally, in the next few years, I think we should gradually work towards 
making these executive positions full-time positions (some paid for 
through the chapters), as they will have to do quite a lot of work when 
it comes to the organization and oversight of the committees, and we 
need to be able to rely on them being available during meetings. Of 
course, this will not be nearly possible without a very substantial 
increase in our budget (i.e. multiple millions), so we could continue as 
we do now, starting with the most necessary official positions.

These are my thoughts for now and I'm very interested in what others 
have to say. Most importantly, I hope that all non-confidential 
discussion about these issues will take place in open forums and on open 
pages from now on.



More information about the foundation-l mailing list