[Foundation-l] About transparency

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 30 11:39:58 UTC 2007

Derrick Farnell wrote:
> Thanks for explaining all of that Florence.
> Re ads, I think showing the amount needed to keep the projects going in the
> fundraising banner would have helped greatly, as a motivator. Surely, if the
> banner showed that the amount raised so far was below that needed, then this
> would encourage more donations. As it is, no one has any idea, from the
> banner, that the amount raised so far falls well short. But I guess this has
> already been discussed.

Yes. It has been discussed and the staff was willing to find new paths, 
new approaches to the previous fundraisers.

Some of the changes were very good: for example, the bar at the top was 
much more graphic than the previous ones, and the new fundraising page 
looks so much more professional than before. The blog was, overall, a 
good idea as well and a couple of blogs very interesting.

Other decisions were not so convincing or just plain wrong: the bar 
representing people rather than money was, in retrospect, not a good 
decision. Many people complained about the reference to africans, and 
decided not to give to their favorite project, in fear that funds will 
be used for projects they would not support. For the website, it would 
probably have been best to keep the message on "servers". The message 
mostly carved for an english-speaking audience was not in the 
international spirit of our projects (blog in english only for example, 
and only displayed on english speaking projects).

In short, there were good points and not so good points. We'll learn 
from it :-)

This said, I do think the fundraiser was not so bad given the global 
financial context. Remember, over 50% of our funds are in dollars. And 
in the USA, the mood is not very much to giving.

> Re 'radical transparency', I understand each of your points, but I do not
> accept that it is literally impossible ("I am not *presenting* you with a
> *decision* of non-radical transparency. I am telling you that we can not
> provide radical transparency anymore."). I think that a person's perception
> of possibility of something depends on how much they want it. As I say,
> 'radical transparency' fits perfectly with the radical collaboration model
> of these projects.
> Also, you say the board dictates the general strategy of the Foundation. To
> me, this kind of decision simply *must* be made by the community as a whole,
> given that the projects are the product of the community.

There is no black and white answer here Derrick.

When it comes to opening a new project, both board and community must 
make the decision (as we learned the hard way a few years ago), because 
the entire community is concerned and the Foundation supporting the 
project is concerned as well.

When it comes to changing a license, both board and community must be 
involved in the decision.

When it comes to choosing our stewards, both board and community must be 

However, when it comes to closing a project because it is a huge 
copyright violation and threat of a huge lawsuit, then no vote of a 
community will make a difference.

Or when it comes to hiring an accountant because we can not reasonably 
run a 5 million dollars organization with no accountant, then it is 
Foundation job to make that decision. Not the community.

Or when it comes to decide to open a new hosting location, it would also 
be unreasonable to expect us to put that to vote to the community.

So, the answer is "that depends".

In many cases, I wish we could get more feedback from the community. But 
given the totally amorphous caracter of the community, it is really hard 
to get. Hence the wikicouncil necessity.

Incidentally, I posted the minutes of the last irl board meeting here: 

Beyond the usual complains about our financial statements, can you 
answer to:

* Does that help identify what our daily activity is about ?
* Does that appear threatening ?
* In which areas would you like to be more informed ?
* In which areas would you like to be more involved ?


> I could go on (and on), but I think I've said enough in this thread now, so
> I'd better stop!
> Derrick Farnell
> On Dec 29, 2007 6:33 PM, Fred Bauder <fredbaud at fairpoint.net> wrote:
>> 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.
>>> Ant
>> The problem is the slippery slope one. It is assumed that if there is
>> advertising we would go whole hog. A limited program could raise enough
>> money, but not overdo it. For example, the Foundation could accept
>> advertising from selected non-profits and charities.
>> Fred
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