[Foundation-l] Board restructuring and community

Michael Snow wikipedia at verizon.net
Tue Apr 29 03:55:39 UTC 2008

effe iets anders wrote:
> 2008/4/28 Michael Snow <wikipedia at verizon.net>:
>> effe iets anders wrote:
>>> 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.
>> I take to heart your comments about the lack of soliciting feedback. Some
>> elements of the idea I had previously discussed with people (community,
>> chapters, staff), including in my election campaign last year, and generally
>> the responses I received were positive. I don't recall it being a topic on
>> this list, though. The responses here to the Volunteer Council proposal
>> illustrate some of the challenges of getting useful feedback that way. I
>> followed that closely and had difficulty coming away with a useful take-home
>> message, amid the various criticisms and diffusion of counter-proposals or
>> suggested modifications.
>>> 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.
>> Lodewijk, I'm very glad to see that you've changed your labels to recognize
>> that the catalyst should be the people working on the proposal, instead of
>> waiting for the board to be the catalyst as you were putting it previously.
>> I think it likely that if the board creates a council, that will end up
>> defining its relationship to the community and the world at large, and it
>> will be perceived as a creature (literally, "thing created") of the board.
>> If so, it would lose nearly all the value hoped for in its development. On
>> the other hand, if the community creates a council, then I would certainly
>> want to be aware of its perspective on foundation issues, and I expect other
>> board members would as well.
>> --Michael Snow
> Hi Michael,
> thanks for your email. I don't want to be rude, but could you please
> also try to more explicitely answer my questions? Thanks :)
I certainly don't take it as rude. I didn't intend to be rude either, 
but I took the questions as being rhetorical - meaning in this case that 
the answers are implied by the questions themselves. So instead of 
merely answering them - because I think a response like no-no-yes-yes 
--~~~~ would hardly add any value to the discussion - I thought I would 
elaborate a bit on the general issues your message touched on instead. 
If you have more questions (preferably open-ended ones that promote 
reasoned thought and discussion), you're welcome to ask them and I will 
try to answer as I have time.

Speaking more generally, I am wondering how to incorporate some of the 
comments (not only yours) seeking not just more consultation, but more 
setting forth by board members of their "true positions" as Sj put it. 
This latter expectation strikes me as running counter to the obviously 
strong expectation that we should be representing the community, however 
that is defined.

In order to represent the community, it seems like we should be required 
to keep an open mind, listening to different perspectives before making 
a decision. I take a similar approach to maintaining a neutral point of 
view when writing for Wikipedia, and it works pretty well for me there, 
so I think it's an important part of our culture. In my short time on 
the board, I've tried to offer constructive commentary when I can, 
including personal opinions where appropriate. But making snap judgments 
and only moving from them by overwhelming force of argument doesn't seem 
like the right approach, so I'm looking for feedback. What is a good 
balance between board members forming and advocating their positions, as 
opposed to reserving judgment until they feel like they've gotten the 
community's input?

--Michael Snow

More information about the foundation-l mailing list