[Foundation-l] Board restructuring and community

Birgitte SB birgitte_sb at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 28 03:21:57 UTC 2008

--- On Sun, 4/27/08, Samuel Klein <meta.sj at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Samuel Klein <meta.sj at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Board restructuring and community
> To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Date: Sunday, April 27, 2008, 8:37 PM
> Birgitte, I think I agree with most of what you write.  Some
> specific
> comments:
> Birgitte SB wrote:
> > 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.
> Why not?

Because I do not believe it existed before the actual meeting and we could not have developed a compromise in this direction not knowing the frank opinions and deal-breakers of the board members.

> > And let us not forget the numerous threads on board
> restructuring from
> Florence which received little or no responses.
> This seems to me a topic which is not very conducive to
> threads, but more to
> revision of specific proposals with attention paid to
> details.  At any rate,
> see below for reciprocity re: the lack of response from the
> Board to the
> Volunter council discussion.  This is not lack of interest,
> it is lack of
> communication.

I think this is partly due to the "single voice" theory that WMF is currently subscribing to and partly due to the fact that specific proposals developed in advance do not seem to workable in the current political environment.  Regarding the latter, I notice that there is consistently strong opposition to any specifically proposed changes. Whether it is due the actual merits of proposal or more about opposing the faction who wrote the proposal, I cannot always determine.  In any event it appears to me that the only way things can actually be achieved is through adhoc proposals that are adopted before there is chance for them to spun by the court gossip so to speak. Please don't read this as an excuse to shut out community input, but rather simply my speculation on the realities of the political situation where there appears to be no hope of a coalition and little trust. I still think we can accept the situation, be supportive that the board has managed
 to find this compromise rather digging their heels in and bickering by proxy, and expect them to be receptive to community input and willing to make further updates based on the input now being given. 

> > If there had been a discussion beforehand, I think it
> would have focused
> on
> > extreme positions rather than anything close to a
> workable compromise.
> Perhaps so.  One could say the same thing about making
> changes to the
> mission and vision statements.

I don't believe there ever were the opposing positions on those statements as their are on several of the issues here.  

> > 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.
> I should hope this is not the case -- why do you say it is?
>  Hopefully they
> will at least share on this list whether or not this is
> true :-)
>    @ Board members : are you wary of sharing your true
> positions on delicate
> issues on this list?  Why or why not?

SJ do you seriously doubt this?? I suppose I say this because it is consistent with my past observations (which is pretty why I say everything in emails like this as no one is feeding me any information).  What past behavior of board members, outside of Anthere, would lead you to believe they would frankly outline what their personal deal-breakers are in this area?

> > And I think in general, community concerns over the
> board have been
> discussed
> > enough in the past to ensure the board was not
> uniformed.
> Perhaps.  The same concerns led to the proposal of a
> volunteer council, with
> apparently more legwork and discussion than was given to
> the new board
> proposal, and the board hasn't given much feedback
> there.   It isn't that
> the presented proposal is terrible, it is that absent
> strong indication that
> such a resolution was in the works, it is far too
> significant to have been
> made without notice.

I feel Anthere and Micheal gave some good feedback there.  Personally I think you give more credit to the planning of this resolution than I do.  

> If you think the core issue here is deciding on a set of
> rules for board
> membership that most rules-lawyers won't disagree with
> too much, I think you
> are pursuing a red herring.   The issue here is community
> empowerment, not
> just through the board, but through engagement in the
> process that brought
> about new bylaws.  The loss is a community that feels
> incrementally
> disempowered.  The benefit of a vibrant discussion, even
> one involving flame
> wars and extreme positions, is almost independent of the
> impact it has on
> the final decision : it inspires those who care about the
> future of
> Wikimedia and the projects to take an active role in
> discussing their
> future.
> The misfortune here is that, despite the thousands of
> Wiki[mp]edians who
> care deeply about community governance, we were somehow not
> able to generate
> a lively and informative discussion about altering our own
> must central
> governing body.

I'm not sure the core issue is either of those things.  I think the core issue is much more about practicality.  My speculation:  They needed a treasurer.  They couldn't find one in the community so they had appoint one.  They looked to the future of how Stu's seat should work out which brought up the previously tabled discussion of the size of the board.  At the same time they looked over the VC proposal.  They dislike the tying of it legally to WMF; so they rejected it.  They saw that rejecting the of VC and the appointing of an outsider announced together could be read as anti-community.  There was someone who strongly insisted an expanded board to have a majority come from the community.  Someone else who distrusts the results of the last election refused to increase the number of seats elected in that manner.  The "chapter compromise" was reached.  The poor workings in the appointing a new treasurer in a timely manner was discussed. The "nominating
 committee" solution was worked out.  As long as they are reworking the whole structure they have deal with Jimmy's seat and the standing disagreements about it; compromise was reached.  

As I see it the core issues in the restructuring were the previous discussed need to expand the board, the poor functioning of the treasurer search (in timely sense, not a dis of Stu), keeping the board connected to the community, avoiding having "untrustworthy people" elected to the board.

That you wish the core issue of this thread to focus on one of those issues does not mean the other issues were not a factor and that it is a red herring for me to discuss them.  Of course my speculation could be wrong and I could be following a red herring in that regard.  But I do not think that is what you meant.  But despite all this back in forth, I do not disagree with you all that much.  I do think you adopting an purposely naive position to make a point, where I would rather stick to things that realistic given the WMF as it currently exists. 

> > 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.
> Perhaps this is how it was meant.  That would be an
> excellent update to the
> announcement.

I hope the board can see the advantage to this approach however it was meant.  

Birgitte SB

> SJ
> > For one thing I would suggest that the
> "expertise" seats constitute
> > "up to four seats" rather require four seats
> to always be filled.
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