[Foundation-l] Board response on Volunteer Council
Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 26 15:28:39 UTC 2008
effe iets anders wrote:
> I am seriously disappointed for the Board not to take this chance and
> finally catalyze the community process here. It was a great
> opportunity in my opinion, and I am sorry you are making things so
> hard now. It does not happen that often that such a lot of people at
> least agree on a concept, which makes it even more sad with such a lot
> volunteer representatives on the board that you were unanle to fit
> things in. I think I'll let things sink in first, and respond later on
> more in-depth.
> -- Lodewijk
I understand and regret your disappointment Lodewijk. As an ardent
believer of the wikicouncil concept, I hope that such a group is created
in the future.
I largely share Michael opinion below. Many roles could be held by such
a council, which are now either unsufficiently handled (eg, coordination
between projects) or inappropriately under the responsibility of the
board (eg, approving stewards).
However, it is also true that the many different roles envisionned by
the council might create some confusions (eg, approving bylaws and being
a meta arbitration committee calls for very different skills). Putting
too many roles in the hands of a unique group would also probably create
some power struggles, some members willing to be part of it more for the
fame and recognition than for the doing the job proper.
Last, populating this group (election of its members) might reveal
really community-destructive in that we will never all agree on how to
represent a community.
All this suggests that the multiplication of several committees
empowered to handle certain tasks is probably preferable to a large
I essentially can summarize the roles of the wikicouncil has being the
three following ones
1) delegation of some of the current responsibilities of the board, and
better coordination of some of the responsibilities given to the communities
(in this group, I could imagine: approval of arbcom, meta arbcom,
approval/oversight of stewards, approval/oversight of checkuser,
approval/oversight of oversight etc...)
2) Coordination of activities between projects and languages
(eg, coordination on the robot.txt page; list of 1000 pages
all-wikipedia-should-have; wish list of technical features etc...)
3) Approval/Oversight of certain decisions taken by the Wikimedia Foundation
(eg, changes of bylaws; business development strategy (advertisement);
Wikimania location; opening of new projects)
1. is more or less working, but would benefit from improvement.
I would be willing to help straighten it... except that each time I
tried, I ran into mumbles in particular from the english community
(micro-management yada yada) or was told I was walking on Jimbo's toes
(eg, arbcom issues).
I have no idea how things could be fixed in some cases, perhaps a future
chair with more will than I could help ;-)
But overall, I am not sure how much it is really broken and how much
fixing it really needs. Perhaps is it not really broken ? Perhaps a few
fix here and there might be enough ? I am in particular thinking of
"approval of steward" and "creation of the meta-arbcom".
2. Is very little handled, so there is a lot of room for improvement and
creativity here. Support from the board would however be a good idea.
My own view is that this is the most problematic area, and my feeling is
that the gap between projects and languages is currently rather growing
than reducing. If there is one area of real concern to me, this is the
one. I do not feel there is enough bridging.
3. This is probably the one concerning *you* the most. I am not sure how
valid this concern is. A solid and daring board should be sufficient to
help alleviate major concerns. A good ED and staff team should be
sufficient to help alleviate major concerns.
I'd say the most urgent point to fix right now is not "oversight", it is
Our communication has been dropping badly for the last months. By
communication, I do not mean necessarily "board to community" or "ED to
community". I mean our "interactions" and discussions.
There are various reasons for this. Three are the most problematic ones
and should be fixed :
a) bickering and flamewarrying on this list. It created an unpleasant
atmosphere and prevent good people from being willing to participate in
a constructive fashion
b) public view. Every time we sneeze, there is a journalist to report
it, claiming we caught the flu and are dying. There are leaks to the
press in private lists. It is disastrous because it created an
atmosphere of distrust, and many issues are no more discussed by fear of
c) languages. We are translating things less than in the past; We are
less welcoming to non-english natives than in the past; We are
developing ways of distribution of information only in english (blogs
etc...). No one fault, but this is a trend I see.
There are ways we can improve these three points, but again, wikicouncil
will perhaps not help. Let's try to find other solutions.
I do not think that creating a wikicouncil would help 3), because either
the group is too small and there is no sufficient representativity (does
not bring much more than having community members on the board), or the
group is too big (and nothing sensitive will be discussed because of
fears of leaks).
Sorry, it is a bit long. I hope it is clear.
> 2008/4/26 Michael Snow <wikipedia at verizon.net>:
>> Michael Snow wrote:
>> > At this stage, the board has decided not to take action on the proposal
>> > to develop a Volunteer Council. We thank everyone who put the time and
>> > effort into formulating and discussing this proposal. Although the board
>> > did not find a clear fit for this proposal in the formal structure of
>> > the Wikimedia Foundation, we didn't rule out the possibility that the
>> > Wikimedia project communities might organize this or another type of
>> > council for their own benefit.
>> Not speaking on behalf of the board generally, I'll share some of my
>> personal opinion here. I can see some potential benefit to a volunteer
>> council or similar body, but more clearly in a function of
>> self-government for the community, where this may be lacking. That is to
>> say, not so much to be involved in foundation-level operations, but to
>> allow the foundation to avoid interfering where it is not wanted and
>> does not want to be.
>> For example, I don't think we as the board should really be approving
>> stewards, or new arbitration committees on projects. Those are affairs
>> for the community to handle on its own, other than that the foundation
>> may want to have those people be personally identifiable. I could
>> imagine that starting projects in new languages (as opposed to launching
>> entirely new projects) might fit under this heading as well. So I
>> encourage people to keep looking at the idea, and I would support
>> developments that allow the community to govern itself instead of
>> lapsing into anarchy.
>> --Michael Snow
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