[Foundation-l] About transparency

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Sat Dec 29 15:23:08 UTC 2007

Derrick Farnell wrote:
> I agree with SJ. Radical transparency seems to fit perfectly with the
> radical collaboration model used by Wikipedia.  If we can give anonymous
> users the power to vandalise a page, which can then be seen by everyone,
> including the media, then I don't see why we can't let everyone see our
> decision-making processes, warts and all.
> I also think that the term 'radical transparency' is a bit loaded: the word
> 'radical' seems designed to scare people in this context. Why not just use
> the word 'transparency'?! It is surely lesser forms of transparency that
> should have a qualifying term - e.g. 'semi-transparency'. It would surely be
> misleading to refer to such forms of semi-transparency simply with the term
> 'transparency'.
> But I have a much, much deeper concern about Florence's post. Why are we
> merely being presented with the decision not to have 'radical transparency'?
> I appreciate that the board must be able to make certain decisions without
> consultation with the rest of the community, but surely not on such an
> incredibly fundamental issue as this? I'm new to this community and am
> wondering what rules are in place to dictate which decisions are made by the
> board and which by the community as a whole? For example, I assume it is not
> the case that the board has the power to introduce adds without any
> consultation?
> Derrick Farnell

It is a good question.

Probably best to mention right now that the WMF board has not decided to 
add advertisements :-)

But, I think the Wikimedia Foundation staff has technically the power to 
introduce ads.  Then the Wikimedia Foundation board has the power to 
request that ads be removed. If the board decides not to remove the ads 
placed, the community has the power to elect new members in may, and 
then vote the ads to be removed. Or the community can decide to shame so 
much the board members that they will resign in disgust and be replaced 
by new community members, who can then vote the ads to be removed.

"Power" is a complex notion. It is different if approached from a legal 
perspective, from a technical perspective or from an ethical perspective.

I am against putting advertisements on the articles. This has been my 
position since 2002, when I joined the projects. I will never agree to this.

Now, it may be, this year, or next year perhaps, that we will realize 
that in spite of our efforts, only relying on altruistic gifts will not 
be sufficient. I do not know if you realize, but our current revenue is 
quite significantly below what we will need this year. And in front of 
such a situation, we probably have three paths (other paths exist, but 
require investments, additional human resources or will take too much time).

Path 1 is diet. As in "serious diet". Diet will mean that the websites 
which have been working very smoothly for the past 18 months or so, will 
not work so well. Sluggish, perhaps even down sometimes. A sluggish site 
will automatically lose audience, which will lighten the pressure.
Diet will also mean losing some staff. I am not quite sure which one we 
can really afford losing right now.

Path 2 is business deals. Such as advertisements. If ads on articles is 
too controversial, perhaps a consensus position will be to put ads on 
the search pages.

Path 3 is relying on big donors. But big donors have a serious drawback, 
which is called "loss of independence". There is no mystery, when a 
donor give you 25% of your annual revenue, it is quite expected that 
they will try to influence you. Perhaps will it be light, or perhaps 
will it be much heavier. Perhaps big thank yous on the website, perhaps 
pushing so that the board accepts as its treasurer someone of big donnor 
staff, perhaps asking for exclusive use of our trademarks, perhaps 
asking that "annoying" board members be removed from the board, perhaps 
suggesting certain partnerships rather than others. Loss of independance 
would be a terrible thing to happen. Much more dangerous than 
advertisement actually, because it may not be reversible at all.

I am not *presenting* you with a *decision* of non-radical transparency.
I am telling you that we can not provide radical transparency anymore. 
As for the good old regular transparency, I wish there was more 
willingness to provide it.


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