[Foundation-l] Board restructuring and community

Samuel Klein meta.sj at gmail.com
Tue Apr 29 05:43:51 UTC 2008

Hi Brigitte,

As always, I relish your emails.  Some answers inline:

On Sun, Apr 27, 2008 at 2:05 PM, Birgitte SB <birgitte_sb at yahoo.com> wrote:

> --- On Sun, 4/27/08, Samuel Klein <meta.sj at gmail.com> wrote:
>  [3] Perhaps this simply means that the foundation does not wish to
> address
> the specific needs of the projects, and instead wants to be a
> self-sustaining pillar handling funds and professional relations with
> other
>  This is clearly the answer in my mind. However I feel this line was
> crossed about a year ago not just the other day. (Where have you been!)

Since I see opportunity wasted if this path is taken too firmly, my hopes
may have blinded me.  The not-so-distant addition of new community seats to
the board led me to think that we were headed in a slightly different
direction.   Of course a two-year-old dilemma did not happen just the other
day :-)  But it is also true that, much as I regret it, I have been away for
some time...

The WMF is an outward looking organization indifferent to the small
> successes and failures of the wikis.  And more worried about preventing
> large failures than facilitating large successes.

Well, such an organization is certainly also important; though it should be
open to input about how (for instance) to prevent large failures.
As an example, I don't think the foundation's data is backed up redundantly
enough or easy enough to mirror at the moment to prevent certain failures; I
don't think we have good contingency plans for what would happen if all
funds dried up in two years; and I would like to see a trust set up
specifically to cover these basic needs.

Now that there are no longer regular firefights to keep the site running, we
are still not publishing, discussing, and prioritizing goals to improve
interface, robustness, and data-availability to everyone; or accessibility
of the foundation itself in various languages -- the literal foundations on
which the projects rest.  And I see much of this resulting from people no
longer feeling that these crucial choices and prioritizations are in their
hands, when really they always have been.  So I agree with other recent
comments that the community should take these other matters into their own

That said, the Board will set its own priorities, and the projects are
currently in many ways deeply beholden to the Board (no image dumps
available for over a year, for instance); if the Board ceases to be giuded
primarily by the community, some simple checks and balances should be put
into place.

> As far as the stagnation and restriction that you talk about, I believe it
> comes more from the OTRS/meta-minded Wikimedians rather than the board (I
> recognize this group also does a great deal of good and plain tedious stuff
> that no-one else does). And it is not as though WMF takes a strong role in
> leading that group. I can actually see the rejection of the Volunteer
> Council as being the board reigning the momentum in that direction in a bit.
> (While there were other ideas, Milos posted a great deal about top-down
> governance in regards to the Council)

This is fair.  We should come up with better suggestions.   It is certainly
true that the Foundation could have a structure wholly dissimilar from the
projects + meta + otrs.

But I also don't believe all the wiki's are in the trouble that you
> describe.  I think the autonomy of the wiki's will pull them through.

Perhaps.  But I see the foundation's role in encouraging growth and
development of projects as extending at least to setting a good example re:
transparency and communication, and actively facilitating that development,
not simply avoiding harmful interference. Facilitation does not mean
top-down direction.

> And while they would be better off with a best-case WMF focused on their
> development, they may be better off that the current WMF is indifferent.
>  The only good thing about the politicking and power-plays within WMF is
> that they have hardly touched the wikis.

Too true!

Anthere writes:
> There are many ideas. But only so much time available. And some much
> energy. There are two main problems in my view.
> One is that some board members hardly every communicate with the
> community. If these were elected community members, I would dare to say
> that this is the responsibility of the community to make sure they elect
> members with good communication skills. And the responsibility of the
> community to contact the board member if they feel the communication is
> not sufficient.

Yes.  Maybe I should get serious about getting that writing requirement for
new board members instated.

> The second is a way to not only communicate with community, but to make
> sure that the answer we get is really representative of what the
> community think. And not simply the grumbles of 2-3 isolated
> individuals. Discussion on this list provides me with good ideas and
> allow me to feel very unpopular decisions, but it does not provide me
> with a good and accurate measure of what the community really think
> globally. Neither would a wikicouncil.

This is spot on.  I hope that finding ways to accurately assess the ideas of
the community is taken very seriously in the Foundation's priorities.  The
WMF is somewhere in between a traditional non-profit and a traditional
municipality, and has some of the chores and obligations of both.  Perhaps
one of the 'experts' turned to for advice, if not seat-warming, is someone
with experience in municipal governance.


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