[Foundation-l] Board restructuring and community

Birgitte SB birgitte_sb at yahoo.com
Sun Apr 27 18:09:22 UTC 2008

I don't know if others are simply not reading the situation as I have been but I though I would share my impressions here. The restructuring strikes me as being a difficult compromise. Overall I am happy with it considering what I imagine some of the extreme positions to have been. I don't believe anyone went into board meeting anticipating the outcome that was just announced. My impressions from reading this list for years is that most people had much more extreme positions. I imagine that some want something close to a 10-member board with 3 traditionally elected members and others wanted close 80% traditionally elected members. Some people want to have Jimmy's seat to be "community elected", while others feel doing that would be stealing a seat from the community since there is little chance anyone could beat him. I imagine the "chapter election" scheme was a creative compromise to allow the majority of seats some insisted to be from the community
 while addressing the distrust others have for the results of our traditional community elections (i.e. Danny was nearly elected last run and that obviously cannot sit well with some board members).

If there had been a large discussion on board restructuring before the meeting I doubt that the current compromise would have even been on the table for us to discuss. And let us not forget the numerous threads on board restructuring from Florence which received little or no responses. If there had been a discussion beforehand, I think it would have focused on extreme positions rather than anything close to a workable compromise. And most board members would not share on this list what issues are deal-breakers for them, so we would be unable to offer anything specific for a proposal that would having any hope of passing. And I think in general, community concerns over the board have been discussed enough in the past to ensure the board was not uniformed.

On the other hand, I do not see why the board cannot treat the current proposal as in a "community comment period" right now before making the actual amendment to the by-laws. For one thing I would suggest that the "expertise" seats constitute "up to four seats" rather require four seats to always be filled.

Birgitte SB

--- On Sun, 4/27/08, effe iets anders <effeietsanders at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: effe iets anders <effeietsanders at gmail.com>
> Subject: [Foundation-l] Board restructuring and community
> To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Date: Sunday, April 27, 2008, 5:09 AM
> Dear Domas, Florence, Frieda, Kat and Michael, (and maybe
> Jimmy too)
> Yesterday the Board announced a major change in the bylaws
> and power
> structure. Although I see some positive aspects in the
> change from my
> personal point of view (I have still not seen the official
> changes -
> as you might know by now, I am for balance - so until then
> I can't be
> definitive about that), let me summarize what is happening
> here:
> Without asking any feedback from the community before the
> decision has
> been made, the Board decides to convert two community seats
> into
> chapter seats (it has always been announced that Domas'
> and Michaels
> chair were intended to become community seats too) and two
> expert
> seats were added, bringing down the community share in the
> board from
> 71% to 50% or 30% (depending whether you count chapter
> seats as
> community seats) of course assuming that the expert seats
> will be
> filled too.
> This is quite a huge change with a huge impact on the power
> structure
> of the Wikimedia Foundation and therefore of the Wikimedia
> Movement.
> And this has been done without asking even advice to the
> community or
> the chapters? I find this a very strange procedure for a
> movement as
> the ours, and I am for the second time in a row very much
> disappointed. This time by all community Board Members, who
> - all of
> them! - dit NOT contact the community or chapters for a
> view!
> I would very much like an explanation from every board
> member why they
> have chosen not to ask the opinion of the community.
> Because you're
> not going to sell me the story that this idea was totally
> new on the
> board meeting, and that you had no time. Because this was
> of course
> already on the agenda of the meeting: "We plan to
> dedicate saturday to
> board development and governance. This will include
> relationships and
> contractual agreement between board and executive director,
> possible
> future council, next elections, professionalization of
> board, etc..."
> (quote from Florence's email announcing the coming up
> Board meeting)
> And please don't tell me either that the only
> "platform" there is, the
> foundation-l, does not function any more. Although that
> statement
> would be true to some extent, but it would highly puzzle me
> why the
> heck you have concluded from the new layout of the board to
> *not* need
> a Volunteer Council of *any* shape any more. Why you do not
> even want
> to encourage the research after the possibilities any
> more... Let me
> quote from your FAQ: "* `What does this [The
> restructuring of the
> board, LG] mean for the 'wikicouncil?' -    The
> "wikicouncil" and
> "volunteer council" were part of the board
> discussions about its
> restructure. At this stage, we have decided to not take
> action on the
> proposal to develop a Volunteer Council. (...)"
> I think this restructuring of the Board only shows once
> more why we
> need a Wikicouncil. The Board itself is apperently not able
> to ask
> input herself on big decisions, and this sets a very bad
> precedent to
> the future. Apperently the Board is in need of some kind of
> council
> that is, in contrary to the few community members left in
> the board,
> able to bring through the questions to the communities.
> Maybe the VC
> would not function perfectly, but from what I am seeing
> now, it would
> at least do a much better job, because of course this is a
> very sad
> day for community involvement in the Wikimedia Movement.
> So please, Domas, Florence, Frieda, Kat and Michael, (and
> maybe Jimmy
> too), let's just be fair and state your opinion. What
> is *your*
> thought about community involvement. Should community only
> be allowed
> to say something every two years? Should community only be
> allowed to
> say something afterwards (the perfect receipe for ranting,
> btw)? Do
> you think community members could be smart people who have
> a smart
> opinion about the topics you discuss? Do you think they
> might come up
> with arguments you did not think of yet?
> If you think so, you should start working, in one way or
> another, on
> some kind of platform that is able to improve your attempts
> to contact
> the community on major decisions. And no, I have no
> ready-boiled plan
> for it, but I do know that there is a catalyst out there,
> that could
> come up with a nice result. That catalyst consists of a
> group of
> dedicated people, with a wide range of views, that could
> maybe come up
> with something that is actually good.
> If you think this all is no longer needed, then please say
> so, then we
> know what we're up to.
> I know it is not customary (unfortunately) any more that
> single Board
> members speak up. However, in this case I find it very
> important not
> to hear the Boards voice any more, but the individual's
> voice. Because
> that is highly important to be able to choose between
> people in
> elections and "chapter appointments". Is it not
> on a short term, then
> it will be in a year, but there will be a moment, and I
> would like to
> know who I am dealing with here. As I said before, I am
> disappointed
> in you, and that means that I had a better impression of
> you.
> Regards, and looking forward to all your replies,
> Lodewijk
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