[Foundation-l] About transparency

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 31 12:02:45 UTC 2007

Derrick Farnell wrote:
> Contrary to my previously stated intention not to, I can't resist replying:
>> 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
>> involved.
> I don't see why all of the above cannot be decided solely by the community.
> If you mean that there is a legal necessity for the board to be involved in
> each of the above three decisions, why can't it be reduced to a rubber stamp
> role? Do the laws regarding foundations actually state that the board must
> be more than a rubber stamp?

I think there are several answers to your comment.

First, in the case of stewards, the board is actually doing rubber 
stamp. Why does it need to be involved at all ? Simply because stewards 
have potentially access to private data, or may cause some people to 
have access to private data, and in case of release of this data, WMF is 
responsible. Because we host the projects and provide access to tools. 
It is hard to consider an organization responsible of something on which 
it can not act. Rubberstamping could be delegated I guess, but to who ?

Second, the license is more tricky. But in the whole discussion over 
evolution of GFDL, it was not the amorphous community which was called, 
but WMF. Also, according to our mission statement, we must facilitate 
the production of freely-licensed content. So, if the community was 
solely in charge of deciding a license change (making it copyrighted) or 
to ask for a fee, it might result in us not respecting our mission.

The first thought I have in mind when reading what you write is that the 
community actually CHOSE the majority of the current board members to 
precisely make some decisions for the community. Delegation of power.
I would hope to think that editors (those aware of the existence of a 
foundation) by large, are happy to be able to edit the project and 
create some content, without having to deal with the daily crap of the 

> 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.
> I wouldn't have a problem with the board making such urgent decisions
> without community consultation - as long as such decisions are followed by a
> full explanation of the decision, including why community consultation
> wasn't deemed possible.

If I remember well, this is what we did in the french wikiquote case.
Actually, several core members were involved in the closing, and 
received plenty of support to make it possible to re-open it again.
They re-opened it with our support and as far as I am aware, there was 
no criticism about the way the closure was done. You may consider 
talking with them:http://fr.wikiquote.org/wiki/Accueil

Please also read this: 

> 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.
> I also don't have a problem with the board deciding which particular
> accountant should be hired. I'm more concerned with decisions regarding the
> actual running of the projects. For example, I think it should be the
> community who decides whether it is *necessary* to hire an accountant -
> however obvious that decision is - given that the money to pay the
> accountant ultimately derives from the voluntary work of the community.

No desire to offend you, but here, you talk non-sense.
The Foundation has to follow US non-profit law, and the board has 
ultimate responsibility. There is no way such a decision will ever be 
left to people with no responsibility in the end.
I am glad that community participates in the strategy related to the 
projects themselves, when it comes to running the organization, that's 
WMF responsibility.

> 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.
> I don't see why. Again, it would the community's hard work that would
> ultimately pay for such a new location, so why shouldn't the community
> decide?

Just as above, I see not how the community volunteer work pay for the 
servers and hosting services. It seems that it is rather the community 
work which cause servers costs :-)

> Incidentally, I posted the minutes of the last irl board meeting here:
>> http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Minutes/October_6-7%2C_2007
>> Beyond the usual complains about our financial statements, can you
>> answer to:
>> * Does that help identify what our daily activity is about ?
> Yes.
>> * Does that appear threatening ?
> Yes - I think it's threatening to the future of Wikimedia that the board is
> anything more than a rubber stamp. If the community has the ability to
> create an encycopedia that can rival, if not better, Britannica, then it can
> surely be trusted to directly govern itself.

Elections are next june. You will have the opportunity to look for 
candidates ready to run an organization of 5 millions dollars with no 
accountant, or with an accountant hired through a poll of 10 000 
anonymous editors. I sort of doubt you will find anyone willing to take 
that risk...

I am a volunteer myself. I pride myself to have worked thousand of hours 
to help run this organization with others, after being selected by the 
community itself for doing so. My next visit to the local police 
station, because of the nastiness of an editor, is planned next week. 
And should there be a lawsuit, I will be the one concerned, not the 
thousands of anonymous editors all over the world. I also pride myself 
in having tried as much as I could to involve the community. I find 
pretty tough to read that I could be a threat if I was doing more than 
mere rubber stamping. I find that also insulting to all the people who 
have voted for Kat and Frieda to be their representatives on the board.

>> * In which areas would you like to be more informed?
> I'd like the community to be so involved in the decision-making process that
> there would be no need for it to be merely 'informed' later on.
>> * In which areas would you like to be more involved ?
> I'd like the community to be more involved in every area. :-)

Never ask for the unreasonable, you might not get the obvious and easy.


> Derrick Farnell
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> foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org
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