[Foundation-l] NPOV as common value? (was Re: Board statement regarding biographies of living people)

Brianna Laugher brianna.laugher at gmail.com
Wed Apr 22 03:21:59 UTC 2009


I think the Board's statement is quite commendable if unremarkable
(which is I guess part of the reason for the silence - nothing new,
which is as it should be!). Only one comment actually surprised me.

2009/4/21 Michael Snow <wikipedia at verizon.net>:
> The Wikimedia Foundation takes this opportunity to reiterate some core
> principles related to our shared vision, mission, and values. One of
> these values which is common to all our projects is a commitment to
> maintaining a neutral point of view.

I find it a bit strange to talk of Wikimedia Commons as having a NPOV
policy. Like Wikiquote, our "unit" of interest is something that
typically has a strong authorial voice rather than being a synthesis
of multiple contributions. (Unlike WQ, it does in some circumstances
make sense to edit a file, unlike a quote -- but usually if the edit
radically changes the meaning, it should become a separate, derived

We are also, like WQ, bound by the creations of others, especially in
relation to past events. If there is some past conflict, where the
(free) media is available only represents one side of the conflict,
there is nothing we can do to "balance" that. So there is an external
limit on how "neutral" we are able to be.

I also find there is some tension between the views of 1) "Wikimedia
Commons as a service project" and 2) "Wikimedia Commons as a project
in its own right".
According to 1), the files in Commons are "context-free", waiting to
be used somewhere and given context. And context is a major part of
NPOV. As a service project, it would not be up to us to decide
questions of "proportional representation", because that would all
depend on how they are used in the projects.
According to 2), the Commons community would have a role to play in
deciding appropriate proportional representation, and we would assume
the Wikimedia Commons itself is a context of use for the files.

This plays into the question of how much autonomy the Wikimedia
Commons community has. If we have a curatorial role beyond being
"license police" and enforcing our necessarily very broad project
scope, then that must be negotiated between these two views. I
definitely believe it is not Common's role to decide "for" projects,
which free media they should use. So this is something of a constraint
for (2).

It *may* make sense to talk to NPOV for Wikimedia Commons, but I don't
think it is necessarily obvious, or that it should be assumed everyone
has a shared understanding of what that means.

Of interest: <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Project_scope/Neutral_point_of_view>


They've just been waiting in a mountain for the right moment:

More information about the foundation-l mailing list