[Foundation-l] Our values

Florence Devouard anthere at anthere.org
Tue Jan 29 22:05:43 UTC 2008

(for those not willing to read a long email, just jump at the end of it
to read the 6 proposed values)


I would like to propose to the board to finalize (-> approve) the values
of Wikimedia Foundation.

What is it about ?
It would be a collection of common words or ideas which reflects what is
important to us, as an organization. It comes on top of
* the vision tagline, which is our bold goal
* the mission statements, which describe what the organization is doing
to reach its goal
The values represent the principles we share together

What is the difference with the Wikipedia pillars ?
The values I am talking about are the *organization* (WMF) values, not 
the projects values. Obviously, many values will be shared, but not
necessarily all of them. For example, Wikipedia has NPOV as a pillar,
the Wikimedia Foundation does not have NPOV as a pillar.

What is the difference between "vision", "mission" and "values" ?
Imagine you are a WMF staff member, you are at a dinner with your
grand-mother and she asks "so tell me about your job, is it interesting
? do you have to wear a suit ?"
Your answer might be "eh, we want to give access to information to every
one in the world (vision). So, to make that happen, we host some freely
accessible internet web sites where people can add information
(mission). My own job is to make sure we have enough cash to operate, so
I raise money from people and companies (my job). What is real cool is
that I am not the only one doing that, but many volunteers from all over
the world help as well; sometimes it is not easy, because I need to keep
them informed a lot of what I am doing even though they are not my boss.
Also, it is very important to us to stay independant, so I have to find
funds from various sources. It makes things more complicated, but it is
super exciting ! As for the suit, the team is very geek like, very
diverse set, most have already been living in other countries. So, as
long as we are clean and careful not to hurt anyone sensitivities, no
need to wear a suit on a daily basis !" (values)

Why do we need that ?
Some of you would consider that unnecessary. I would respectfully
disagree :-)
There are two main reasons we should have these values written down, one
is related to "branding" (public perception of our uniqueness), the
other to "management" (training of our staff members).

It is important that "outsiders" (donors, partners, governments, civil
society...) understand what is important to us, what is welcome and what
is non negotiable.
Donors will give us money more easily if they know what is important to
us, and actually agree with our values.
Potential partners will not lose our valuable time and their valuable
time proposing proprietary software deals if they know it is a
deal-breaker for us.
Wikipedia in particular, currently enjoys very much support because it
is clearly identified as a brand. Other Wikimedia projects are not as
well clearly identified yet (there are still people wondering what
Wikiversity exactly is about for example).
During the past year, the WMF motto has been "we are a non profit", and
still many people think it is a business company. People do not approach
a non-profit and a for-profit in the same way. In any cases, most people
have no idea of the existence of WMF, and when they do think about
organization, they believe we have 10.000 employees somewhere in the
Silicon Valley, and open big round shocked eyes when they learn the truth.
There are also beliefs that, as a web 2.0 company, every one can do
whatever they want on the websites, and no one is responsible. We should
kill such an idea in the egg, and make sure that the common view becomes
  that thriving to quality is one of our major motto.

Values are not only what make us stick together, but also general
guidelines for what we want to become, what we are really trying hard to
do, and what we want to be known as specific about us.

Which is also why it is important to management.
The bottom line concept is that the staff is ultimately trying to
achieve the VISION, thanks to operational activity (the MISSION), and
deep respect of the VALUES.

The put it bluntly: no decision should be made that could hurt the
values. Any time a decision is on the plate, the staff and volunteers
should keep in mind "does it go along with our values, or against our
values ?"

It seems that past and recent discussions show how important it was for
the community that our entire projects be build upon free software,
using free format and free standards. It goes beyond the simple notion
of creating freely-licenced content, as described in the mission
statement. Whilst supporting, defending, developing, the free mouvement
is NOT our goal, nor even within our mission, it seems to be an
important value to most of us. Hence, the very notion of listing our
support to freedom is a VALUE, which has been clarified in a recent

As a value, anytime the staff is thinking of making a deal with a
partner, it should ask himself, "is that all right with the freedom
value" ? If it is not, no deal. Period.

Other values have other impacts. When we talked to Sue last summer
before hiring her, we made super clear that it was super important to us
to hire staff with international awareness (either non US staff, or US
staff having lived outside of the US, or at a minimum, US staff being
multilingual). Sue has been extremely careful to take such guidelines
into account, and all recently hired staff is in one way or another,
respecting these guidelines. Practically, if a staff member was at some
point voicing such opinion that "non US people are jerks", I would
consider that ground for being fired.


Last summer, the board + advisory board brainstormed together over our
values. We further discussed the issue on this list, as well as here: 
I have been thinking over it in the past few weeks, and here is the 
result of my list.

* Community
* Diversity
* Quality of service
* Transparency
* Freedom
* Independance

Text is rough draft for now

Our community is our biggest asset
We are a community-based organization. We must operate with a mix of
staff members, and of volunteers, working together to achieve our mission.
We support community-led collaborative projects, and must respect the
work and the ideas of our community. We must listen and take into
account our communities in any decisions taken to achieve our mission.

Commitment to openness and diversity
Though US-based, the organization is international in its nature. Our
board of trustees, staff members, and volunteers are involved without
discrimination based on their religion, political beliefs, sexual
preferences, nationalities etc... Not only do we accept diversity, but
we actually look forward to it.

Quality of service is a priority
We will try our best to give access to high quality Wikimedia project
content 24 hours a day and 7 days, as well as provide access to
regularly updated, user-friendly, and free dumps of Wikimedia project
To insure world-wide, unrestricted, dissemination of knowledge, we do
not enter into exclusive partnerships, with regards to access to our
content or use of our trademarks.

We make extra efforts to use only free software on our own servers, and
to support open and patent-free media formats that are viewable and
editable with free software.

We must communicate Wikimedia Foundation information in a transparent,
thorough and timely manner, to our communities and more generally, to
the public.

As a non-profit, we mostly depend on gifts to operate (donations,
grants, sponsorship etc...). It is very important to us to ensure our
organization stays free of influence in the way it operates. For this
reason, we strictly follow a donation policy, reserve the right to
refuse donations from a limited number of sources, and try to multiply
the number of sources.


are they comments at this point ?

Sorry for the verrrry long email :-)


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