[Foundation-l] Erik's New Job

phoebe ayers phoebe.wiki at gmail.com
Wed Dec 19 01:41:46 UTC 2007

On Dec 18, 2007 9:52 AM, Birgitte SB <birgitte_sb at yahoo.com> wrote:
> --- Chad <innocentkiller at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Allow me to be the first to say "What the hell?" Am
> > I the only one who
> > is absolutely outraged by this? We hear Erik call
> > for transparency and
> > openness, yet he gets hired for a position there was
> > no announcement
> > about? I call BS.
> >
> > -Chad H.
> >
> >
> While "outraged" is rather strong, I am also surprised
> by the situation considering the previous discussion
> about the problematic conflict in interest that would
> arise if a board member were to be hired by WMF
> immediately after their departure.  [1]  I suppose the
> exact nature of Erik's hire shows that such
> discussions on this mailing rather than being taken to
> heart as feedback from the community about the spirit
> of WMF's operations are instead being used as an
> outline for how to game the community.  After all Erik
> was not hired by *the board*  So I suppose all these
> previously expressed objections just don't apply in
> this case ;)
> Birgitte SB
> [1]Emails agreeing that an immediate hire of a former
> board member could be a problematic conflict of
> interest and supporting the adoption of some kind of
> guidelines to guard against this
> http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2007-July/031814.html
> http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2007-July/031814.html
> http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2007-July/031846.html
> http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2007-July/031867.html
> http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2007-July/031908.html
> Sole email disagreeing this kind of hiring would be
> problematic
> http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2007-July/031862.html

Indeed. Thanks for the references, Birgette (although much of that
discussion was over whether a former employee could/should become a
board member, which is perhaps a slightly different set of issues). As
I recall all of that was happening right when Sue was getting started

I find the lack of public search less worrying than the complete lack
of public discussion over what the position might do and why we might
need someone as Deputy Director in the first place. One difference
between WMF and other organizations is historically we *have*
discussed things like this. I think the community agrees, for
instance, that we need a legal director (Mike's current role), and we
know why -- there are lots of legal questions that come up every day.
The board has made the case eloquently to us over the last couple of
years why we need an executive director, and an accountant -- those
positions aren't controversial. But a deputy director?

Sue's message was primarily an announcement, with a short bio. I think
most of us already know who Erik is, though; know from innumerable
projects & six years worth of edits. His election returns would seem
to show a good bit of support in the community, as well, so that's all
to the good -- I don't doubt that he is a reasonable choice for the

But I am more interested in what it is exactly he is supposed to be
doing. Getting projects delegated from Sue and orienting the staff is
not a very descriptive charge; and no offense to anyone, but I'm
pretty sure there are other ways to orient the staff -- I know the
thriving and friendly Wikimedia community in SF would be happy to help
out, or they could be oriented online like everyone else. So what are
these special projects? If Brion is reporting to Erik, then is Erik
going to work on technical policy? How do the two open positions, for
Head of Partnerships and Head of Development, fit in given that Erik
has done a lot of work on both those things (will he be doing those
things)? Is Sue unavailable so much that she needs backup? (As a
consultant, perhaps yes, but as a full-time CEO?)  Given our pretty
slim funding this year, hiring another executive isn't the first thing
that would occur to me when looking at the budget.

As you all know, I am all in favor of professionalism, but I am also
in favor of knowing what's going on, and I think we all greatly value
the sense that our ideas and work as community members might have an
impact in making decisions like this.

-- phoebe

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