[Foundation-l] Seat and Donations (SPLIT from: EFF & Bitcoins)

Dan Rosenthal swatjester at gmail.com
Thu Jun 23 20:59:43 UTC 2011

On Jun 23, 2011, at 4:09 PM, Sue Gardner wrote:

> It seems to me like you're characterizing Matt-joining-the-board as
> problematic, while at the same time saying Matt himself is a good
> board member. That seems contradictory to me.

I'm not sure it is. I think what Joseph is saying is that Matt is a good board member in that he is a qualified candidate, he is obviously suitable to handle the pressures of the board, he brings knowledge, expertise, contacts etc. In terms of qualifications, he is a very good candidate. However based on the timing and the perception of quid pro quo, that does not equate to him being a problem-free board member, or even a good choice.  In a grossly exaggerated example to show where I think the difference in the two aspects above lies, pretend it wasn't Matt, but it was say, Steve Jobs. Certainly, Steve's got a great many qualities that would serve the board well. But his appointment would create an instant perception that the board is no longer independent and is subject to the influences of outside entities, whether they be private, public, corporate, financial, whatever. When that is combined with the timing of the grant, it makes that perception that much stronger.  

(Again, not saying that is my belief, just trying to interpret what I've heard others say. I've not met Matt nor do I know much about him or Omidyar)

To clarify, what would have happened if the WMF had not received a grant from Omidyar, but still put Matt on the board? Well, there would have been no outcry that the seat was bought, because no money = no purchase. Matt would still be a good board member in all the areas noted above (expertise, contacts, etc.) But in this case, a lack of a contemporaneous large grant means that Matt is much more visibly there on his own merits.  Again, I don't think anyone is saying he lacks those merits anyway, just that they get lost among the clutter of alternative "explanations" for why he was appointed. 

The lesson to be learned from this, I guess, is that even if you have a good process and a good outcome, sometimes the community doesn't necessarily see it that way, and a greater deal of proactive engagement could be helpful in those cases. Less abstractly, I remember there being some talk on this list about the seat and donations at the time Matt's appointment was first announced, but what I don't remember (please correct me if I'm wrong on this) is the WMF publicly addressing community concerns about the grant timing beyond "no, the seat wasn't bought." As a result, it's now June 2011 and the topic is reoccurring.  Broadly speaking this is something that we need to work on. BLPs, harassment of editors, both things that the WMF itself is now beginning to fully engage on, but the community has been discussing for years looking for some sort of acknowledgement.

Of course, if I'm misinterpreting what Seddon is saying, you can disregard all of the above.


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