[Foundation-l] [Announcement] update in board of trustees membership

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Tue Dec 18 18:55:24 UTC 2007

Milos Rancic wrote:
> While WMF is better the it was, there are still a number of systematic 
> problems. The main problem *is* ambivalent position of the Board: 
> something between despotic, oligarchic and representative democratic 
> body. (Of course, in the sense of from where power comes, not in the 
> sense of methods.)
This is a fundamental problem in democratic organizations, despite the 
fact that it has been repeatedly stated that Wikipedia (and hence 
Wikimedia) is not a democracy.  Rulership structures want to get on with 
the business at hand, and it can be terribly frustrating when decisions 
must be made to wait for any kind of consensus from the populace.  We 
even have difficulty defining just who that populace is, and that makes 
it more difficult to know who should be a participant in the consensus.  
While the Paris Commune of 1871 debated, the outside forces did not 
hesitate to do what was necessary to run them over.
> I don't want to say which option is better. I just want to say that it 
> is necessary to make a clear image to the community: What WMF is (not 
> what Wikimedia is, but what WMF and its Board is)? Is it a communal or a 
> private business?
There is an inherent flaw in the clause "make a clear image *to* the 
community".  This begs for leadership in an area where the community 
should be providing a clearer picture.  The Board should be facilitating 
that image, not defining it.  
> Even it is a private business (or a business of a couple of people), it 
> is not necessarily bad (there are a lot of good private foundations; 
> actually, WMF started as a good private foundation).
> But, community is confused and it needs answers. At least, how do *you* 
> (Board members) see WMF in the next two or five years? If you are not 
> possible to make a collective statement, please make personal statements.
For now, only the personal statements are valuable.  Purporting to make 
a collective statement can mislead the rest of us into believing that 
everyone on the Board thinks in the same way. 

I also think we need to make better use of Wikimania in the governance 
process.  There is a segment of the attendees who come from relatively 
close, and who need one very important level of service.  At the same 
there is the other half of the attendees who have come from around the 
world, and who have shown enough dedication to the projects to do so.  A 
question and answer session with the Board on the last day of the 
conference is not enough.  A sequestered meeting between the Board and 
the Advisory Board does not put a positive message across unless it 
immediately reports to the attendees, asks for their input, and allows 
an opportunity to digest and absorb that input.


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