[Foundation-l] Money, politics and corruption

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Tue Jul 13 22:30:16 UTC 2010

Besides having a great time on Wikimania, I've heard a number of
complains which put a shadow on a really great event. At some point of
time I was even a bit depressed.

I was thinking a lot about should I raise this issue or not; and if
yes, then how. After the first issue I thought not to talk about it at
all. After the second, I thought that it is better not to talk. After
the third, I thought that I should contact some people privately.
After the fourth I've realized that I should talk about it publicly.
Then a couple of more issues came which convinced me that I have to
talk about that publicly. We are open community and serious issues,
those which affect many people, should be discussed publicly.

I will talk without mentioning names, but I will try to be precise
enough. In other words, I don't want to talk about people and
organizations, but about problems. Taking care about problems is much
more important than making witch hunts.

It also should be noted that all of those problems are "natural" and I
don't see that any of them is able to hurt Wikimedia movement, if we
put it under control. It also should be noted that there are many
successful corrupted organizations, like FIFA and OIC are. However, I
hope that we won't go that way.

I've heard about two serious corruption issues among chapters. And as
I am living in a deeply corrupted country, I am personally very upset
with this. However, those two cases are too obvious not to be
recognized and fixing is in ongoing phase. However, I am very deeply
concerned about what is going with the rest of 20+ chapters. And what
will happen with them when they are able to become corrupted. We need
an audit system for checking how things are going on in all chapters.
In this case I am much more concerned about chapters than about WMF,
but it would be good to have a common international body which would
audit all of the important issues among chapters and WMF.

What I am able to realize a couple of months earlier, everybody are
able to realize when those things become public. I've already
mentioned privately that I am deeply concerned with the connection
with US business interests and present WMF strategy (not to be
confused with whole Strategic Planning, but partially yes). It is now
a public issue, although my concern has been seen by very limited
number of people. And I am quite sure that it was not about spreading
my concern via informal channels, but about recognizing the problem by
a number of Wikimedians separately. I hope that Strategy Planning will
fix those problems -- if properly implemented.

There is a split between those who are coming from rich and poor
countries. Wikimania social networking was about various groups. I am
lucky that I am connected well and that I know where should I ask and
what should I ask. However, there are Wikimedians who are not well
connected and who don't know where to ask and what to ask. I am also
from a country similar to Poland and I had a feeling like I am just in
a little bit weird city of my own country. But, many Wikimedians came
from very different parts of the world, as well as they were not able
to buy their confidence. If we want to be a global movement, we have
to think about them. It is not just about Wikimanias, it is about
every social interaction in which Wikimedia is involved. Thus, I fully
support Wikimedia Israel initiative for helping spreading Wikimedia
projects into developing world. And if organizations from Israel are
not welcomed everywhere, there are many other Wikimedia chapter which
could help.

Wikimedia is now a global movement and global culture. It is not
anymore a site with cool content, but an organization and movement
with worldwide impact. *All* decisions of WMF, chapters and their
bodies are now political decisions in the international sense. So,
*before* making *any* decision, please consider political impact of
your decision. If you need help, you can ask various Wikimedians or
hire a professional in international relations.

WMF and chapters have enough money now to be attracted by careerists.
Persons who try to put themselves as "mid-players", between Wikimedia
organizations and people and organizations who are working with WM
organizations. WMF and chapters should be explicit in noting to
everybody that such behavior is not acceptable and to Wikimedians that
they are safe of it.

Closely connected with the previous previous is the fact that many
Wikimedians feel that they are alienated from Wikimedia leadership
(not just WMF and staff, but more about some amorphous mass of
influential Wikimedians). There was an incident in Dormitory 6 because
of misunderstanding between organizers and dormitory management. I
would say that it shouldn't be a big deal, as such problems can happen
everywhere. What was not usual is the reaction of the part of
Wikimedians who were there. Some of them were cool and just somewhat
frustrated because of this. However, the reaction and feeling of the
other part was "We shouldn't call them [WMF and organizers]. They will
not help us. They don't care for us. They have fun in the city,
although we have problems here."

This feeling is irrational in the particular case. Organizers took
care about them, of course. However, I didn't hear this from a couple
of well connected Wikimedians who were there. I didn't hear it from
Europeans and inhabitants of other OECD countries. I've heard this
from not so rich Wikimedians who were far away from home; from those
who felt insecure in a distant country and who feel a gap between
those with money (and/or connections) and them.

This list is consisted of our first serious real-world problems. Yes,
I know that we used to be virtual, online, onwiki. I know that those
problems are new for us. But if we want to stay as a global movement,
we have to fix them. Otherwise, we'll be just another attempt for
creating a decadent society which main purpose is to make fun for rich
and wannabe rich. And, by the way, to explain to poor how rich world
looks like.

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