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

Sue Gardner sgardner at wikimedia.org
Thu Jun 23 21:58:59 UTC 2011

On 23 June 2011 13:59, Dan Rosenthal <swatjester at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

Right, but the board did not appoint Steve Jobs. If the board had
appointed Steve Jobs, then people might have reasonably said 'hey,
there are problems with this: was the right decision made here?' But
that's not what happened.

I am still confused by the argument here.

* I agree that there are people who shouldn't be put on the board.

* I agree that money is a complicating factor. Money is good: it
enables us to do important work. And yet it can also be a negative
influence, if we allow it to persuade us to do things that we
shouldn't do.

* But in this instance, we did not do anything we shouldn't have, and
we got both a chunk of money and a great new board member. That is a
win all round.

> 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.

Yeah, I dunno. What I see happening here is this: the Board weighed a
bunch of pros and cons, and ended up making exactly the right
decision. Even with the advantage of hindsight, I don't hear anybody
arguing that the wrong decision was made. So I continue, I guess, to
fail to understand what went wrong here. Maybe there are people who
feel like money is inherently corrupting, and that the Board should
bar from consideration anyone who has donated (although I have not
heard that argument, I can imagine in theory that someone could make
it). And maybe there are people who feel like they would like to have
a better understanding of how the board arrived at this decision, in
which case they could presumably just ask the board members to talk
about it :-)

I need to run: I'm going into a conference call :-)


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