[Foundation-l] A Board member's perspective

Stuart West stu at wikimedia.org
Sat May 8 23:52:01 UTC 2010

A few of you have asked for more perspectives from Board members on the goings-on at Commons. I'm happy to share some of my personal views on the events of the past few days.

First off, let me thank everyone who has participated in the debate. I've kept up with many of the email threads, talk pages, village pumps, and some IRC. I really appreciate the passion and energy, especially when constructive.  I've been around the projects for about five years, and on the Board for over two years, and this is one of the hardest and most substantive issues we've attacked. In my view, it is also one of the most important.

Here are some of my personal thoughts on the issue:

- We were hosting material that was unambiguously not relevant to our educational mission and it needed to go. Its presence on our projects/servers alienated people (users, potential new volunteers, educators, others) who we need on our side. Getting rid of it was the right answer for the long-term success of our mission which is a focus both of my responsibilities as a Board member and my personal motivation as a volunteer. More broadly, in allowing the clearly objectionable content on one of our projects I feel the community (including the Board, Foundation and Commons admins) failed in our collective role as stewards of the mission.

- I agree with the view that the presence of hardcore pornography on Commons represents a clear failure of our community-driven consensus process and that we must change the way we do things.  Among other drivers I see:  (1) There were some bad actors at work (e.g. hardcore pornography distributors taking advantage of our open culture to get free anonymous hosting).  (2) As a community (including the Board), we debated the issue too long and failed to drive closure and implement.  (3) There are complex issues around _some_ of the content that is in a gray area and those complexities distracted us from dealing with the clearer cut cases.  

- Due to the failure of the community process, something extraordinary had to be done. A small step was our Board statement we hoped would focus attention. A bigger step was the work by Jimmy and other individuals on Commons who took bold and decisive action. Clearly it is messy, and there is room for overcorrection and the removal of some materials that are indeed relevant to our educational mission. This is inevitable but is certainly fixable. I want to thank all those who have been working so hard on this, either the initial clean-up or the ongoing review process.  It's not easy work, but it's critically important.

Like a lot of things within our community, the past few days have been messy. But I believe the outcome is headed in the right direction:  get rid of the content that is irrelevant to or hurts our mission, bring urgency to the debate about the many challenges and gray areas, and most importantly fix the policies/processes that have been broken. Let's get to it.


Stu West
Member, Board of Trustees
Wikimedia Foundation

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