[Foundation-l] About transparency

Derrick Farnell derrick.farnell at gmail.com
Mon Dec 31 15:39:51 UTC 2007

I don't think this discussion is likely to make any progress, from the point
of view of both sides, so this really (really) will be my last post in this

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 ?

In short, in answer to my question, it *is* the case that the board can
merely be a rubber stamp on this issue.

> 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.

But there aren't structures in place for the kind of community-wide
decision-making that I'm advocating, so you can't say that things wouldn't
have happened differently if they had been in place. It is not surprising
that the board was called to make the decision, given the current form of
governance. The point I was making was that this decision *could* have been
made by the community, with the board then merely rubber-stamping the

> 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.

First, copyrighting content is an extremely unlikely scenario. Second, even
if the community did have the power to decide to copyright the projects,
they would of course also have the power to first change the mission
statement. :-) Third, while, as I say, this is not a realistic scenario, if
the community did decided this, then isn't that fair, given that they did
create the content in the first place?!

> 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.

The community chose the board members, but they did not chose to be governed
by a board. You can't assume that people think that the current form of
governance is the best form of governance just because they voted in board

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
> organization.

Why not ask the community, rather than 'hope'?! If there was a strong desire
amongst the community to retain the current form of governance, then of
course that would be the end of the debate. But until there has been a
community-wide referendum, there is no point in guessing.

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

This seems to be evidence that such closures *can* be handled by the

> Please also read this:
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Anthere/archive11#Charte_pour_Wikiquote_francophone
I got as far as 'Bonjour Florence'. ;-)

> > 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.

I don't talk nonsense - you misunderstood me. I wasn't arguing that the
community should make the ultimate decision about whether to hire an
accountant - of course that has to made by the board. My point was that,
instead of the board establishing that there is a need for an accountant,
and then hiring one, it could *first* approach the community, explain that
there is the need to hire an accountant, in order to ensure that the
foundation complies with non-profit law, and then ask for a vote. The
community will then *inevitably* vote for the hiring of an accountant, with
the board then rubber-stamping that decision. *Even if* the community did
vote for the foundation to operate without regard for the law, the board
could of course resign rather than rubber-stamping such a decision - and
quite rightly, given what would have been a failure on the board's part to
persuade the community of the need for the foundation to ensure that it
operates within the law.

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 :-)

I'm genuinely shocked. The volunteer work produces the project content. The
high quality of the project content motivates people (including those
volunteers themselves) to donate money to the foundation in order that that
content remains available and continues to grow. Hence my reason for
advocating direct government by the community, because a) it is the
community that generates the content, and b) that content generates the
donations which funds Wikimedia.

> 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...

First, I have never questioned the need for an accountant, and nor have I
advocated that the community should decide which particular accountant
should be hired. Second, the direct governance I have in mind would involve
only registered users having a vote, and, as I explained above, it is
inconceivable that the community would vote for the foundation not to have
an accountant to ensure that it complies with the non-profit law.

> 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.

I think you're being a bit mischievous here. Your turning my criticism of
the way Wikimedia is governed into an insult to those on the board, and
everyone who voted for the board members, which isn't helpful. I merely said
that the current form of governance is a threat to the *future* of
Wikimedia. This is *not* the same as saying that the current board, and
everyone who voted for them, represent a threat to Wikimedia in the short

As I said at the start of this post, I'll stop contributing to this thread

Derrick Farnell

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