[Foundation-l] EFF & Bitcoins

Alec Conroy alecmconroy at gmail.com
Thu Jun 23 00:18:38 UTC 2011

On  Bitcoin--  we (and the web in general) desperately need a
zero-overhead micropayment system of some kind.   I can't help but
think our fundraising efforts would be helped if people would able to,
on impulse and without premeditation, donate $1 to WMF in thanks for
particular articles and have the full $1 actually get sent, without
transactions fees.

A open-standard, widely-used, zero-overhead, hopefully-anonymous
micropayment system _might_ even be so important that it'd be worth us
to pay somebody an insanely large sum of money just to develop it for
us and the rest of the web.    Before we actually did something of
that magnitude, I'd obviously want lots of other people to agree, and
in particular we'd want lots of input fundraising team (who have
consistently amazed me with their mad skills), to actually assess
whether it would be a wise use of resources.

The Bitcoin system itself might not be what we're looking for.   But
if you're curious about why everyone's so excited about it, that's
why.   It's not that we're 'novel currency enthusiasts', it's not that
we're trying to undermine the US federal reserve or anything crazy or
overtly political.     A system like this would be an amazing tool for
the entire planet, especially for us-- if it actually worked and its
use was legal and easy in the US.

A Bitcoin-esque system is something we need to be looking for, if not
actively building ourselves.   Keep your eyes peeled.


On the other side of the thread:

> Out of the 6.5 billion-plus people in the world, one of four or so who were
> partners at the organization that was donating $2 million to Wikimedia was
> the best choice? With those kinds of odds and that kind of luck, I would've
> been buying a lot of lottery tickets.

So, this particular incident hasn't overly stressed me out as much as
it does others, but I think MZMcBride et. al. are the "canary in the
coalmine" on this--  an early indicator pointing out an existing

Namely,  a widely-populist / massive-multiparticipant volunteer
movement won't like its highest-level decisions being made by
appointed officials.

I understand the pragmatic reasons for it, which have been
well-stated. I also understand some of the unstated pragmatic reasons
for it-- i.e. so that big name donors can feel comfortable that their
money isn't going to go to a bunch of insane info-anarchists hippies
who will blow all their money on something stupid.   But as more and
more people get emotionally invested in the foundation, as our editors
get more diverse,  these sorts of board-appointed board-members are
going to start becoming more and more controversial.

Right now, we haven't gotten much heat for this issue because people
don't necessarily look to the board for "leadership", they look to the
board to "keep the lights on".

But as the foundation starts to gear up for even more of a leadership
and development role, I think there might be an advantage to
revisiting the way we do things so that the global community can have
some involvement in the appointment of all the "top level" personnel.
That choice process need not be the same as the process for community
appointed members, but let's start to look down the road and see how
to responsibly give the global community a slightly more direct say in
it's top-level leadership.

(alternatively, we could just ever-so-slightly demote the
board-appointed members so their votes would never be  'decisive'--
but this has a lot of other disadvantages and also seems
unnecessarily rude to the  board members who are working very hard
and, through no fault of their own, find themselves sitting in an
board-appointed rather than an community/chapter seat. )

Right now, this isn't a big deal, but that should change with rime.
Right now, except for Meta/mailinglisters,   nobody much cares who
sits on the board. But by the same token, no one automatically cares
what someone sitting on the board has to say-- atleast not because
they're sitting on the board.   As we've seen before, outside of enwp,
any unwanted 'interference' from the foundation in local project
policy provokes great controversial from the global users.

The "board-appointed board members" and the "foundation as mere ISP"
are two facets of a shared issue, involving global community trust and
investment in the foundation board as a institution of leadership
(rather than an institution of 'Keeping the lights on').

I don't want to sound hysterical or give this issue too much weight--
how we appoint our experts is, admittedly, a semi-ceremonial issue.
But if we really want the Wiki movement to really go global WHILE
still keeping strong ties to an English-speaking US-based board, we
need to at least consider some of these ceremonial aspects.


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