[Foundation-l] Policy governance ends

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Thu Apr 19 01:44:11 UTC 2007

daniwo59 at aol.com wrote:

>Some people have commented about my comments. I wish to explain myself, and  
>I will start with a few assumptions.
>1. Wikimedia is big, and it is growing, beyond what anyone ever imagined. 
>2. Our greatest asset is our brand, and the reputation for quality that  goes 
>along with it. People trust us.
>3. Growth requires money requires trust. Trust leads to money leads to  
>4. The world is watching us. Some people even want us to fail.
>5. Long term sustainability should be a mantra for the Board and for  
>everyone else involved in fundraising. 
I can only partially agree with these assumptionss.  I don't dispute 1. 
and 4., but I have reservations about the others. 

Our greatest asset is our community, not our brand.  The brand only 
becomes the greatest asset on a balance sheet that monetizes such 
intangibles.  The trust that people find in us was not born fully grown 
from Gargamelle's ear when our puzzle-egg logo was designed.  We all 
support high quality, but I don't believe that that quality is a product 
of being imposed, nor is it from a single-minded drive for a 
reputation.  A common vision that inspired contributors to look in the 
same direction has much more to do with it.  It does not do justice to 
that vision to reduce it symbols and reputation.

3. implies that growth is our goal.  I have difficulty seeing growth as 
anything more than a by-product.  A bigger and improved encyclopedia is 
indeed desirable, but I believe that the kind of trust we need to tap 
goes well beyond an accurate and comprehensive product.  Such an idea as 
NPOV in a context where there is an opportunity to be heard may have a 
far greater resonance than the product.

Long term sustainability is very important, and it will certainly be 
expensive, but we should not develop tunnel vision over this.  It is 
just as important for us to encourage other collaborative enterprises 
that will work with us.

>Having said all that, I think that Florence asked some interesting  
>questions. I am pleased that the Foundation still values community input. That  we can 
>rival Amazon or Ebay, and still encourage input from our community is  
Do I detect a note of condescension in this?  Heavens to Haliburton!!  
One gets the impression that you are patting our lovely leader on the 
head and saying, "Nice job, but now let the real leaders takeover."

>But the Wikimedia Foundation is also a business, hence the name Wikimedia  
>Foundation, Inc. It is a not for profit, but that still means it is a  
>business--just that there are no shareholders, and instead of measuring our  success in 
>dollars (or euros or yen), we measure it in free content for the  world. 
So exactly what does "not for profit" mean?  I find it frightening that 
someone would put the Foundation's business interests ahead of the 
vision that spawned it.  One cannot completely ignore business 
essentials, and I fully appreciate that some negotiations are so 
sensitive that they cannot be divulged prematurely, but at the same time 
the community should continue to demant a very high level of 
transparency and accountability.

>We are a vast internet business, and Florence, our CEO, is roughly the  equivalent 
>of the CEO of Amazon, of Ebay, or Google. 
We all love her despite that.

>And I wonder what would happen to Amazon, Ebay, or Google if their CEO  would 
>ask on a public mailing list, "So, how do you think we should run this  
>I, for one, would sell my stock ... cheap. 
The market value of our stock has never been our goal.  Perhaps a more 
cogent analogy would be if the president of a country were to ask his 
public. "So, how do you think we should run this country?"


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