[Foundation-l] A Board member's perspective

Stuart West stuwest at gmail.com
Tue May 11 21:48:02 UTC 2010

A lot has happened since my email so here's a quick follow-up. I hear the
concerns many of you have raised on this list and elsewhere. I feel awful
about them. As Kat said so well, I think there is a big difference between
the principles the Board agreed to in our statement and the actions taken by
Jimmy and others.

I supported the Board statement last week and still support it. I believe
the presence of materials unambiguously not relevant to our educational
mission is bad for us as it can alienate people (users, potential new
volunteers, educators, others) who we need on our side to accomplish our
mission. I know this is a complex issue.  Many people have thought more
about the challenges than I have (please read Greg Maxwell's great email for
some of the history
http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2010-May/058081.html). I
am trying to catch up. I hoped the Board statement would both encourage the
community to pursue a clean-up drive and also renew community efforts to
resolve the tough policy issues.

I do not support the degree of unilateral deleting that happened. I was
happy to see deletion of the really bad stuff that unambiguously lacked
educational and historical significance. I wasn't expecting and wasn't happy
to see how far things went without broader community involvement. Jimmy
acknowledged this wasn't right and I respect his apology.

What I didn't say in my earlier emails, and should have, is that I want the
leadership resolving this to come from the community. I feel passionately
the community is the heart and soul of our movement. Without you we have
nothing. I am in awe of your energy, commitment, and ability to change the
world. As Ting said, we as a Board can at times help focus energy. But I
believe the best solution is a community solution.

I'm really sorry about the way this played out. Commons editors should feel
they have more support and encouragement dealing with this tough issue, not

I'll be on the IRC open meeting tomorrow if you want to discuss live.


On Sat, May 8, 2010 at 4:52 PM, Stuart West <stu at wikimedia.org> wrote:

> 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
> =====================
> Stu West
> Member, Board of Trustees
> Wikimedia Foundation
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