[Foundation-l] Wikimedia Committees: general concerns

Erik Moeller erik_moeller at gmx.de
Thu Jan 26 19:08:46 UTC 2006

As announced in my previous response, here are some general concerns 
about the various committees created through:

=== Openness ===

The secret to our project-level success has been that we allow ordinary 
people to do extraordinary things. This distinguishes Wikimedia from 
other organizations. It is essential that we preserve this principle in 
our organizational work.

There has been a committee before these new committees; it is the 
Wikimedia Research Network which I started while I was CRO. This 
committee is open. Anyone can join, it has public meetings anyone can 
participate in, and public IRC logs and reports. I hope that we can make 
these new committees (except for the Executive Committee) similarly open.

That does not mean that every member has to have the same rights and 
privileges. There can be leaders, a trusted (elected or appointed) core 
group, and a larger open membership group surrounding the core. There 
may be meetings which are open to all members, and those which are only 
open to the core group.

But I hope we all agree that an approach which maximizes openness and 
participation is desirable. I would very much like to see open meetings 
about the formation of these committees, open discussions about their 
purpose, and open reports about their activities. I would appreciate 
some Board-level oversight to ensure that this openness is preserved.

Are there still documents on the internal wiki or relevant messages on 
the internal mailing list which have not yet been, but can be 
publicized? If so, I would appreciate it if this was done.

=== Multiple languages ===

I do not find anything in the resolutions about languages. In fact, as 
far as I know, all the committee organizers speak English. This is to be 
expected and perfectly alright. However, as a community which strives to 
bring knowledge to people in their language, I find it highly important 
that people are enabled to participate in their language on an 
international level. (We do enable local participation through the 
projects and chapters.)

This is a tricky problem, but I believe there are reasonable ways to 
deal with it. For example, every committee can agree on its most 
commonly spoken language - in almost all cases, this will be English. 
Beyond that, it can form language-specific subcommittees that meet 
separately, and that relay the results of their work through someone who 
speaks the common language.

This may seem like overkill, but do keep in mind that if we aim for open 
committees with different levels of authority, we will also end up with 
fairly large groups, so this will become a real issue. I certainly hope 
that it will! :-)

=== Multiple projects ===

Among the resolutions, there is a "Special projects" committee which, at 
the moment, has no definition. I'm not sure if I would call Wikisource, 
Wikiquote, Wiktionary, Wikinews and Wikimedia Commons "special 
projects". (Wikispecies is perhaps one because of its relation to a 
grant.) Yet, all of these projects have very specific needs.

For example, there have been ideas floating around for Wikinews to work 
together with journalism schools and radio stations. There's been talk 
about collaboration between Wikisource and Project Gutenberg / 
Distributed Proofreaders. And there are about a hundred different 
possible collaborations actively being explored around Wiktionary and 
its potential successor, from the European Union's terminology databases 
to Swahili dictionaries.

It is clear that these partnerships need to be pursued by people close 
to the projects, who understand their needs and who are in touch with 
the right people, some of them because of their personal background, 
others because of their passion.

In all these cases, it would greatly help to have a workgroup that is 
authorized and tasked with pursuing these partnerships, and that can act 
in the name of the Wikimedia Foundation, together with the Executive 
Committee (more on this below).

Wikimedia is much more than just Wikipedia. Therfore, I think it is 
absolutely necessary to think about forming project-specific committees 
for each Wikimedia project. I understand "special projects" to be 
something separate from this - things like grants work, new project 
proposals like Wikiversity, and other meta collaborations. What do the 
organizers of the special project committee think about its role?

In line with my earlier comments about the Executive Committee, if we 
end up with project-specific committees, their leaders could be elected 
by their communities, legitimizing them and at the same time ensuring 
their participation on the ExecCom.

=== Clear definitions ===

At the moment, none of these proposed committees has a clear scope or 
clear definition. There is a communication committee, for example. 
Communication cannot be compartmentalized; every single committee needs 
to be able to communicate with the inside and outside world. My concern 
is that as these definitions are made, there will inevitably be scope 
conflicts between the committees.

This reinforces my earlier point about the need for openness. Perhaps an 
open meeting with all committee organizers and interested parties could 
be organized soon to hammer out the basic definitions, in order to avoid 
overlap. Angela, Anthere and Jimmy, would you be willing to organize 
something like this in the near future?



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