[Foundation-l] Statement on appropriate educational content

Michael Snow wikipedia at verizon.net
Sun May 16 05:57:33 UTC 2010

On 5/15/2010 4:34 AM, Joan Goma wrote:
> *The roots of the problem*
> Michael, if the Board is analyzing the issue then it should address the
> roots of the problem.
We would like to. Roots are sometimes difficult to get at.
> The fact that recent discussion has taken place around sexual images has the
> advantage that sex raises a lot of interest from everybody.
> But from my point of view the issue is grounded in two deeper problems: 1)
> what happens if the board takes a decision against the community consensus?
> 2) What happens if the community of a project rejects discussing deeply an
> issue up to finding a consensus, if they simply vote and applies the
> majority decision?
> It seems to me that this is what happened. The community defined a policy
> without analyzing the issue deeply enough, they didn’t reached a consensus.
> The board decided that this should addressed and Jimbo actuated.
> Perhaps this is a caricature of what happened. Surely the real story is far
> more complex. There was an open debate in the community, the board
> resolution was more or less ambiguous, and the actions of Jimbo could have
> been more polite. But I believe that the roots of the problem are more or
> less there.
As you say, it's an oversimplification and it doesn't match the details 
exactly, but you've done well nevertheless at focusing on essential 
concepts. I would think that the board is unlikely to make a decision 
that goes against full community consensus. Reaching or identifying that 
consensus can be a challenge, though, as I think anyone who's worked on 
highly debated topics on the wiki knows. Sometimes there's a lack of 
analysis (or simply attention) that makes an apparent consensus 
immature, not the consensus that would be reached if everyone was really 

In many cases, this isn't that big of a problem. Not inventing policies 
until there's a need for them is usually wise, as it gives people the 
freedom to be bold and move the work of the projects forward, without 
worrying about mastering complex rules. But on occasion, this has meant 
that inadequate care was given to issues of serious concern, as used to 
be the case with biographies of living people.

I don't know that the community has ever really rejected the idea of 
serious discussion in such a situation. People sometimes argue based on 
various "votes" (more like opinion polls, really), but I think most of 
us understand those are not definitive. The problem is more that it's 
quite challenging to conduct these discussions, and as a tool, a wiki is 
better suited to other tasks we do than to this one.
> *Proposed changes in the system*
> > From my point of view the system should be changed in two ways:
> First Wikimedia Foundation (and its governing body, the Board) should have a
> mechanism to force the community to debate and search for a consensus. Call
> it founder’s flag or voice of conscience flag or whatever you want. This is
> exactly what Jimbo did. He didn’t impose his will although founder’s flag
> gave him the power to do it.
I think this is a good concept and part of what we are trying to figure 
out is the right tools for it. I suspect the "founder" flag was not the 
right tool for a number of reasons. Now that it has been removed from 
the equation, how would people suggest that this be set up?
> Secondly it should be stated clearly that once a true consensus is reached,
> the community is sovereign in developing the project. The duty of the
> Foundation is providing the means to put in practice those decisions. To put
> a humoristic example, if the law of some state says that the value for
> number pi is mandatorily 3.2 [1] and the community reaches the consensus
> that we must explain clearly that the law is wrong, then if necessary the
> Foundarion must avoid being under the rules of that state.
To give a more serious example, we have a consensus on Creative Commons 
licensing, and in fact there was a desire from the community to go in 
this direction long before we were ultimately able to. I don't imagine 
that changing unless a better free licensing system arises and the 
consensus changes. So to answer your suggestion, I'd reiterate my 
earlier point: I really don't envision the board or the foundation going 
against anything that amounts to a true consensus in the community.

--Michael Snow

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