[Foundation-l] Erik's New Job

The Cunctator cunctator at gmail.com
Wed Dec 19 15:31:11 UTC 2007

On Dec 19, 2007 3:52 AM, Erik Moeller <erik at wikimedia.org> wrote:

> On 12/19/07, phoebe ayers <phoebe.wiki at gmail.com> wrote:
> > 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 don't believe that hiring and staffing decisions are something that
> belongs on a public mailing list. This is not a question of
> transparency, it's a question of competency and knowledge.

It is a question of transparency.

> - Competency: Wikimedia has a strong culture of "everyone can do
> anything and comment on everything". It's a culture of self-selection
> and free association. A 14-year-old may make as meaningful
> contributions to an article about the British nobility as a
> 50-year-old tenured professor (or someone pretending to be one,
> *cough*).

You can't let sleeping dogs lie, can you?

> And that's fine when you are dealing with a self-correcting
> encyclopedia that is built through a process of deliberation and
> consensus-building, and where it's an acceptable characteristic that
> any given article may be rubbish at any given time.
> But an organization cannot function under the same parameters. You
> cannot "revert" a bad hiring decision; you cannot "rollback" money
> that's been spent. So you want to make sure that you have a competent
> core team that makes these decisions. Not every decision benefits from
> a scattershot approach of asking hundreds of self-selected interested
> individuals what they think: you end up spending too much time
> separating noise from signal.

Requesting transparency is not the same as demanding wiki rules for hiring.
This is a pathetic strawman.

> - Knowledge about the needs of the organization will typically be
> concentrated among a fairly small group of people. This is also not a
> question of transparency: Our meritocratic systems of volunteer
> participation make it relatively easy for anyone willing to spend
> enough time to be in the loop on almost anything. [It could & should
> be easier still!] But only a tiny number of people have a full-time
> role in Wikimedia or can afford to spend a near-equivalent amount of
> time _caring_ about the needs of the organization. And even among
> these, knowledge and interests are specialized: into technology,
> chapters, administrative work, fundraising, etc.

This is self-serving nonsense. Wikimedia is special, but the job skills
needed for the position listed can be acquired any number of ways.

> It's the _job_ of the Executive Director to have a high level view of
> the operational needs of the Foundation. And if she is any good at her
> job, then she will concentrate and process in her mind a fairly large
> amount of knowledge on this topic: more so than anyone else.
> Increasing the number of people involved in the decision does not
> necessarily increase the quality of the decision; unconnected
> additional bits and pieces of information do not self-assemble into a
> hiring strategy.
> The Foundation has gone through many dramatic transitions and
> disruptive changes throughout its history. What it needs at this point
> in time is a little bit of harmony and trust: We're trying to do
> something amazing, and we need to pull together to get it done. And
> whether we're paid or not, we all appreciate support, kindness and
> generosity.

Ah, the poor Foundation. It needs love and trust, not oversight and

Give me a break!

> Sue & I will try to be transparent about what we're doing & why.

Good start so far!

> Though I haven't officially started yet, I am volunteering on a number
> of important fronts -- so much so that I won't have much time to spend
> on mailing list conversations. But I hope that I'll be able to give a
> reasonable length update about  what I've been up to after the
> holidays. And once I'm officially on the job, I'll try to post updates
> on a regular basis. :-)

The funny thing is, Erik certainly may have been the best candidate for the
job anyway. But by not having engaged in an open process and, worse, not
being willing to admit they screwed up when they didn't, everyone involved
(the Board, Sue, and Erik) are making things worse.

But please, don't ask for our harmony, trust, generosity, support, and

Earn it.

More information about the foundation-l mailing list