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

Alec Conroy alecmconroy at gmail.com
Fri Jun 24 01:11:11 UTC 2011

Let me chime in here.  Starting at the basic sentiment:
>At the end of the day, things have moved on without incident but lets not
>simply ignore this issue. I think that there is something to be learnt and
>its that care really does need to be taken when repeating a venture like

That's kinda how I feel.  This particular appointment has been
explained to me to my personal satisfaction, but I know it had the
potential to erode community trust in the foundation leadership.  The
board seems like they were aware of this issue in 2009 but decided
Matt's skills were worth the risk.

I think the board has hit upon the correct solution with the Board
Visitors concept.   The way to 'defuse' Matt's appointment in the eyes
of the community would have be to give him everything but a vote,
until the community could 'get to know him' or whatever.

And I think what we needed was his voice, not his literal formal
official binding voting status.   Think about it-- if a majority of
the board felt Matt's skills on the board were so positive that they
outweighed the risk of creating an appearance of impropriety, then
surely that same majority of the board would have continue to 'heed'
his advice.

I think Matt as a Board Visitor would have been 95%-150% as effective
as Matt the board member.   But I don't think that would have
generated nearly the same amount of controversy, even though he would
might have had the same exact pragmatic positive effect on our
foundation's future.
The general part that's controversial here is that the board's vote
can, in practice, bindingly affects the community in very big ways.
And the community is very scared of being affected by 'negative
outside influences'.  Thus Matt wasn't as valuable to us as he could
have been, simply because of the nature in which he came to the board.

An alternative roadmap would have been for Matt to have been appointed
as a Board Visitor, Acting but non-voting member, or some other 'sign'
that recognized his role posed a certain liability.   Let Matt do
whatever he needs to do, and then, at an appropriate point, let the
community 'confirm' him or something.   Let each sitting board member
write a full endorsement,  let the board in total write a statement if
it wants,  require a very high threshold for a community-veto if you

The point is, there is a way to 'sanitize' controversial
appointments-- by just running them past the community.  Then, instead
of a dirty, backroom-deal in a smoke filled room, I think you'd wind
up with near unanimous community support for a talented individual
volunteering his time and money to help lead us.


All this isn't meant as a criticism of Matt's appointment--  his
specific appointment involved  a lot of very complicated interlocking
and novel problems and issues, many specific to him (most notably
Wikia, which is simultaneously our ally and our competitor).

But going forward, the idea that a "stranger can ride into town" and
instantly lead a global movement-- that's not gonna be sustainable, I
don't think.   I'm, it's sustainable for me personally, but I speak
English and I 'kinda know' nearly half the board, and thus I know what
great people they are.

But looking forward, consider this:
1.  We have chapters in lots of countries, we're going to have
chapters in lots more.
2.  They are going to care about their projects as much as we care about our.
3.  The foundation hosting already requires a limited amount of
foundation control over projects.
4.  The foundation is going to the chapters and the subprojects  'pay
into' the global movement via donations

Now, if I'm a small-language project editor, a passionate wikimedian
who cares a lot of about 'my' project,  what is my connection to an
edict issued by an English-speaking businessman I don't know who was
appointed by a group of strangers I also don't know that was itself
appointed by a community of people only a minority of which I know?
If I cannot directly communicate with Matt, if I have never had the
chance to get to know him in some way--  why should I possibly look to
him as a valid 'leader'?    And if his vote could be decisive, why
should I look to the board  as a valid authority either?

Now, when that same group of people comes to tell me about how laws
apply to my project, or how much of my chapter's resources they're
going to get to keep-- how likely am I to trust them?   Remembering of
course that I've never been to the US, I've never read English, I've
never directly communicated with the board?

If I agree with board's decision, great.  But if I disagree with it,
there's a chance their words will have ZERO weight with me beyond what
they can actually enforce.

(again, a reminder--  for the past several paragraphs, "I" was not
myself.  I personally am deeply 'sold' on the foundation)
So-- global trust.   That's the problem.   Not that Matt's a bad
choice, not that it was the necessarily the wrong thing to do at the
time-- but if we keep doing this sort of thing, the board will be very
limited in the amount of global community trust its decisions have.

Our current system isn't bad at all--  but there is a minor flaw, and
there is still room for improvement without losing the basic


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