[Foundation-l] Board-announcement: Board Restructuring

Durova nadezhda.durova at gmail.com
Tue Apr 29 17:41:56 UTC 2008

> This is a strawman.   The current board is a good one, and recognizes that
> the power to organize, inform, and guide the projects' social and creative
> content movements lies with the community.  The /reason/ that this board
> wise has to do with its history, its long experience with the projects,
> its community membership.
And that board, with all that experience, has come to an understanding
born in a long process of work that we need some outside expertise on
the board, and that we have not managed to get the kinds of expertise
that we need solely by drawing from a community process that has tended
to choose excellent community members and editors (who we also need).

63 people have signed the petition as of this writing.  They include sysops
on at least 3 projects, a former arbitrator, a checkuser, and some people
who rarely see eye to eye about anything.

The message I hope this sends is that the board is not necessarily wrong in
its decision to restructure, but it did a poor job of communicating.  Since
the need for restructuring was apparent at WMF for some time...

* Why wasn't this need discussed with the volunteer communities?
* Why wasn't the proposed solution shared with the volunteer communities?
* Why wasn't the anticipated restructuring even mentioned for public
consumption until it was already done?
* Why wasn't a formal statement prepared at the same time explaining these
unusual circumstances, and the need for proceeding in this way?

What happened here stretched the good faith of many dedicated volunteers,
and I suspect unnecessarily so.  With better communication that need not
have happened.

Some of the responses on this list - including the Foundation's present and
former counsel - have enhanced concerns rather than allayed them.  Off list,
more volunteers have been reading the Foundation's bylaws and realizing its
shortcomings.  So long as there was no reasonable worry that a power
consolidation would occur, hardly anyone cared.  Now the board has created
that appearance.  It was unwise of them to do so.

It was also unwise at this juncture for some individuals to remind concerned
volunteers of how severely limited their formal power is within Foundation
bylaws, because in a friendly relationship nobody actually exercises the
limits of their formal powers.  Bylaws notwithstanding, the volunteers wield
great power here - more so than in almost any nonprofit:

*WMF is a provider of content, but its content is entirely copyleft.

*WMF runs on powerful software, which is also copyleft.

*WMF is almost entirely dependent upon volunteer labor for its content.

*WMF is not particularly well funded: it has no endowment, no contingency
fund, and would shut its doors in less than half a year if donations

So long as the volunteers who fund WMF and provide its content remain
content, there is no realistic danger that they will bring the full import
of these facts to bear.  I'll be candid, though: when I read the words "stop
whining" the first thought that came to mind was that all it would actually
take to render WMF obsolete is one Silicon Valley resident with $20 million
to kick around, and volunteers who've had enough of "whining".

I don't enjoy entertaining that thought; I doubt anyone else could do what
you folks do as well as you do.  Treat me with respect; treat the volunteer
base with respect.  Be mindful that we deserve respect.  We shouldn't be an


P.S. While I was composing this, the petition gained a
sixty-fourth signature.

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