[Foundation-l] chapter board seats (was: Greg Kohs and Peter Damian)

phoebe ayers phoebe.wiki at gmail.com
Thu Oct 21 07:26:51 UTC 2010

Hi Risker!

On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 10:29 PM, Risker <risker.wp at gmail.com> wrote:
> <snipping>
>> changing the subject line because I think we've ranged pretty far away
>> from the original subject of moderation....
>> As the person who was selected via this process I feel the need to jump in
>> :)
>> I agree that the chapter selection process is not very transparent, or
>> very clear (to the people inside as well as the people outside!) and
>> could have been improved. However, this time around was also only the
>> second time chapters have selected seats (by contrast, last year was
>> our 6th community election) ... so I hope that we will continue to
>> improve on that front and the next selection process, year after next,
>> will be better. That's something we all want to see.
> I've looked around both the WMF wiki and Meta, and can't actually find any
> documentation of the process by which the chapters elected their two
> representatives.  Does anyone have a link to where I might be able to read
> it?

Sure. See: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Chapter-selected_Board_seats,
for a bit of background, and
for the process used this year.

Here's how it worked, in a nutshell:

* anyone could nominate a candidate, including non-chapter people;
people could also self-nom
* for the nomination process, a candidate had to accept the nomination
and write a brief statement
* within the timeline, nominations were accepted; then all the
nominations went to the chapters
* candidates were discussed between the chapters & within each
individual chapter
* a page of questions went to each candidate, who sent their answers
back, via the moderator (I posted my answers on meta, if anyone cares)
* I believe once they got down to a handful of finalists there was a
vote, which each chapter casting a ballot for the two seats
* the final announcement was made the day before Wikimania started,
which was a bit awkward, but was the reason why I was on the board
panel this year (I had just found out about 6 hrs previous)

I am not sure how many people noticed the "anyone can nominate
candidates" part, though it was advertised pretty widely (I think in
the sitenotice even?). I'll note that since the finalists do come out
of the pool of nominations, nominating people is one way to influence
the process (much like how running for the elections is the surest way
to make sure candidates you agree with stand!).

>> Others can speak to this better than I can, but part of the rationale
>> behind chapter-selected seats was to help even out representation --
>> to make sure that the elected seats on the board were not entirely
>> dominated by candidates from those communities that have lots of
>> voting editors, like the English Wikipedia. If you are from a smaller
>> language project, or a smaller chapter, the chances of getting name
>> recognition and a seat in the community elections is much harder.
> <snip rest of message>
> Well, that would sound logical....except that the majority of chapters
> correspond pretty well with the largest projects, and they are
> geographically based, not project-based or language-based.  That argument
> would make more sense for a Wikiquote chapter (or, heaven forbid, a
> Wikiversity one) if one is concerned about "smaller" projects.  I'd
> disagree, as well, about the difficulty of getting "name recognition",
> because there have always been non-English members on the Board, and some
> consider relatively small projects their home wiki.

Sure. However, I think the idea is that chapter people who speak the
same language and were probably editors on whatever wikipedia or
sister project probably also know who the good leaders are in their
communities, whether they are directly involved in the chapter or not.
Appointments can actually help in that regard as well; Bishakha has
done some wonderful outreach to Indian projects since she joined the
board. (And I'll note there's nothing to stop chapters from selecting
someone who's not directly from the projects as well -- perhaps a
member of our advisory board or similar. The hope is just that they
pick good board members).

> It also doesn't deal well with the intersection of geographic areas, such as
> the current discussion on Kosovo/Serbia. What happens if a bunch of Scottish
> editors decide they want their own chapter - does Wikimedia-UK prevent that
> from happening?  What if the Scottish editors want to focus on
> Gaelic-language projects?

You're starting to ask the kind of questions that keep the chapters
committee up at night :) Yes, chapters focus on geographies not
languages, a point which has been debated. There is also a clause in
the chapters agreement that if a new chapter wants to start up within
the area of an existing chapter the foundation will consult the
existing chapter first.

> Right now, the US only has one chapter, WM-NYC. What about if the Boston,
> Washington, Chicago, and Nashville groups all decide to proceed? Will they
> all have the same voting power as, say, WM-DE, our oldest and (I believe)
> largest chapter?

Another good question that has been on a lot of people's minds. This
is, not coincidentally, PRECISELY the kind of question the Movement
Roles group is interested in, so if you're at all interested in this
kind of discussion I'd post on those wiki pages.

> What about situations where a dozen or so people get together and decide to
> do the "chapter" thing for a geographic region/country, without actively
> seeking input from the majority of Wikimedians from their region? Once the
> name is incorporated, it's something of a done deal, whether or not the
> Board grants them chapter-hood.

Well, not entirely. As I understand it, if a group got together and
started using the Wikimedia name without permission it would be a
trademark violation (see
http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Trademark_Policy). I know these
questions has been debated over many years; someone from the chapcom
etc should jump in for a longer answer.

> Please don't misunderstand me, I agree that chapters should exist, and those
> who can demonstrate active focus on the work of various WMF projects and the
> goals of the WMF itself are worthy of support in both time and, yes,
> money.   Support, though....not giving them the ability to decide 40% of the
> make-up of "community" representation to the board.

Well, I was trying to make the point that in the end what you're
trying to end up with is electing five great board members, and then
appointing five more great board members. Yes, the community board
members come from the community but, much like elected representatives
in the U.S., what you're trying to elect in the end is good judgment,
shared values and the skillset needed (e.g. a tolerance for

(or perhaps not; I am sure there are single-issue voters out there.
But from the limited exposure I've had to the board so far it doesn't
really work that way, and I think a truly single-issue candidate would
be quite ineffective.)

 If it seems like the process isn't working well we should revise or
reform it, but that's of course a conversation that would have to be
had with all the stakeholders and the board. Scrapping the process
altogether and doing something else would take a bylaws change.

> Phoebe, on a personal note, your election to a chapter seat on the board has
> reassured me to some extent; having seen your contributions over several
> years, I know your focus is on the community as a whole, and I cannot
> imagine you changing your focus. (I don't know Arne's work well enough to
> comment, but I extend the same good faith to him.)

Thanks. :) Your good faith is well placed in Arne as well.

speaking of long histories with the WMF, a correction is in order --
two people wrote me to ask what in the world I was talking about re:
wm:de & the wmf. The WMF was founded in 2003, WM:DE was founded in
2004... I was confusing something in my head about non-profit status
dates. You would think I would have the history of the foundation
memorized by now! I'll just claim that I was trying to keep the
fact-checkers of foundation-l on their toes....

-- phoebe

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