[Foundation-l] Board response on Volunteer Council

Florence Devouard 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 
being repeated
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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