[Foundation-l] the easy way or the less easy way

Anthere Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 17 23:29:48 UTC 2006

Brad Patrick wrote:
> On 6/17/06, Samuel Klein <meta.sj at gmail.com> wrote:
>>The main arguments against a membership model last time around were that
>>it was too *limiting* in requiring a contribution, and too unclear in not
>>demanding that potential members opt in... are there other reasons not to
>>do this?
> I must confess this conversation has, to me, been completely bizarre.
> Membership organizations (open your wallet and see which of them you belong
> to) involve a quid pro quo - you give something, you get something.  You
> give dues, you get to "belong" and call yourself a member.  You attend a
> meeting of other members, maybe, and perhaps you are part of a particular
> local organization of that group.  Churches, civic organizations, soup
> kitchens, environmental groups, etc., all exist in this paradigm for good
> reason; they include as part of their fundamental mission a dichotomy
> between those who *are* in the group and those who *are not* in the group.
> Part of the worldwide appeal of Wikimedia projects is their egalitarianism
> and respect for the contributions of *everyone*.  There is no us and them -
> if you want to be a Wikimedian, you can be; you edit, you are.  It's simple,
> and only goes in one direction.  If you edit enough, you can vote for a
> person you want to see on the board.  Without money changing hands, you have
> the same representation you would under any other circumstances.  The
> Wikimedia you would see with stark membership requirements is a dark place
> indeed.  What happens to members who don't pay?  Are they prevented from
> editing?  If there is no meaningful distinction in categorization of either
> one or the other, what exactly is the point in the first place, except to
> give those who are interested and active another membership ID in their
> wallet - and this is the point - which confers no additional rights or
> privileges?

Just to clarify about the original idea which explain the current bylaws.

The idea was that absolutely every editor of any wikimedia project was a 
member. This membership was described as "volunteer membership". There 
was of course nothing to "give" in terms of money, since the gift was 
the gift of one person time, energy and goodwill.

However, Jimbo thought there might be people who would bring other 
things than "edits" but who would be valuable enough to find a path to 
join as a member. And one of the simplest thing to imagine was simply 
money. It was considered that if people gave money to the organisation, 
they should be represented by someone as well. Hence the "contributing 
membership". This option made it possible for everyone to join the 
membership without having to edit.

As for those who both edited and paid, they were offered two representants.

As a deeper background... Jimbo's dream, at the time of bylaws creation, 
was that the membership dues would represent a highly significiant 
amount of the Foundation revenues.

I am not sure, but I think Jimbo envisionned a huge membership with 
paying members spread all over the world. Something such as "if we have 
100 000 members and each give 50 dollars...

It was not a dark scheme, there was no notion of removing or not 
granting anyone right. The idea was rather to be totally inclusive and 
to allow anyone helping, being as an editor or as a payer, to somehow 
have a right to impact who was on the board.

What happened next ?

Well, we first met the issue of the dues. Jimbo was suggesting for 
example dues of 80 dollars, because it is a very natural amount in most 
us organisations. Other positions requested a much lower amount to fit 
all countries. Then, we discussed amount per group of countries...per 
professional status etc... and it became horribly complicated.

At the same time... some developers indicated that ... they participated 
without being editors... so where not counted in the first group.

And some people highly objected to be mandatorily considered as members.
They asked that the memberships be opt-in.

And of course, there was the question of whether someone could be a 
member without revealing his true identity. Add a layer of sockpuppetry 
on top...

> As to the suggestion above by SJ that "Real name" is a field to be filled
> in, required or otherwise, I think recent history has shown that part of the
> lingering appeal to many in the community is that anonymity will be
> respected.  As soon as you cross the line into a "real world" membership
> situation, that is undermined substantially, if not eliminated.  To be sure,
> we have anonymous donors now.  But that is a quid without a quo - it is a
> gift from an unknown individual to an organization they want to support.
> Membership cannot be sustained the same way for any valid reason...there is,
> again, no meaningful distinction.
> The essence of this openness to all will be lost as soon as an us/them
> dichotomy is established.  It does not exist today, except as a relic of the
> bylaws which are long overdue to be changed.  The badges of "membership" -
> if you give money, if you contribute to projects, if you volunteer for
> various positions in the organization - all exist independent of that.
> Other than providing a political means for takeover of the organization
> directly (and that's a whole other conversation), I don't see the point.
> The Apache model has some strengths, but my personal opinion is that the
> difference between producing software alone and producing encyclopedias,
> news, etc. yields a gap that is difficult to close.  My hats are off to the
> Apache folks.  But they have a much more narrow mission and fewer moving
> parts to achieve that mission.  Different parts of the free culture movement
> are more or less affected by each undertaking of the Foundation, and are of
> varying degrees of interest to many.  I think the Foundation's mission is
> simply too broad to decide to govern it through direct reliance on
> formalized elected constituencies.  Creating representation from the
> existing pattern of projects is also inherently political.  If the
> Foundation is successful, the massive trend will be towards languages and
> projects with many fewer articles and users now, and millions more speakers
> and writers worldwide yet to be connected.  So, there is a shift ahead no
> matter which way you look at it, provided the projects continue to grow as
> they have.
> Those who are concerned about this kind of governance issue would be better
> served, I think, by focusing attention on board composition and expansion,
> as some have done.  Jimmy and the other board members are of an open mind as
> to what the future of the board will be, what it will/should/could look
> like, and there is a lot of discussion about all this.  We may disagree on
> various points for legitimate reasons, but I hope everyone agrees the
> conversation is healthy and beneficial to the organization.
> -Brad

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