[Foundation-l] Communication

phoebe ayers phoebe.wiki at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 05:21:40 UTC 2010

Hi Noein,

With no comment on the issue you were interested in, you raise good
questions about internal communication, which has indeed been chaotic
for as long as I've been around, but is -- if you can imagine --
better than it used to be!

On Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 4:23 PM, Noein <pronoein at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> I've been watching the dialogues between the WMF and this mailing list
> for a while now and most of the conflicts are the same: bad
> communication. This is apparently not due to individuals but institutional.
>  I'm still ignorant of many aspects of the internal mechanisms and
> interactions of the WMF, its projects, chapters, communities, sites,
> tools, pages, agendas and mailing lists and to be honest I think it's a
> maze.
> One has to invest months, maybe years of investigation to really know
> where he should be communicating, searching or waiting for certain kind
> of information. Maybe these very considerations should be put instead on
> the meta, on the strategic, on the village pump, on another mailing
> list, or on several lists, or directed to the WMF, globally or to
> certain dedicated persons only?

There should be a how-to-communicate-internally guide, no doubt. The
problems are a) there are no easy answers (a lot of where to ask
questions is contextual, it depends on the question); b) often there
is no single point of contact -- to raise a discussion or ask a
question of the community means putting it out there for whoever has
time and inclination to answer. This is the way that many, many
aspects of the projects work, which can be frustrating.

> So let me ask some genuinely ignorant questions:
> - - are there somewhere an organizational map and schematics of the
> overall components of the Wikimedia institutions, projects, foundations,
> chapters and communities, their governance, roles, duties and
> interactions, synthesized in one main page instead of dozens, each one
> in a different part?

Not that I'm aware of, though there has been recent talk of trying to
define this and there are probably attempts somewhere. The Meta-wiki
is where such things would be found if they existed. Again, there is
an issue in that these relations are not static, fixed, or typically
well defined. In general:

* everything having to do with project (e.g. wikipedia, wikiversity,
etc) content & policies is defined by the editor communities on those
projects, that is, the people who show up and do stuff on the wiki
over the long-term. Very, very little is done by the Foundation etc.
in this regard, nor has the Foundation ever historically had this

* The Wikimedia Foundation, specifically meaning the 30-odd people
employed in San Francisco, have historically run the servers that host
the projects, issued press releases, done fundraising, managed legal
threats (against the WMF itself), and a few other administrative
tasks. This is slowly changing as the WMF gets more in the business of
supporting outreach and editor activity, but in general it is still
true that the projects are autonomous and editors have little to do
with the WMF itself as far as day-to-day interaction.

* The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation provide guidance
to the WMF, generally concerning themselves with big-picture issues.

* The Chapters are organizations in their respective geographic
locations that do outreach, events, etc as independent charitable
organizations. They are hooked to the WMF through name and mission,
and a few shared activities, but stand apart in their day-to-day

It's important to realize that there are large volunteer communities
surrounding *all* of these institutions, including technical
development, and community members do a lot of work in all areas. This
work is not necessarily (in fact usually is not) directly managed by
the WMF or another formal group.

So you can see that defining precise relationships is hard.

> - - is there one main page instead of dozens for announcements and news,
> with a RSS feed system, with selectable categories to choose what kind
> of information one wants to follow ?

Nope. That's a fantastic idea though. It's related to the idea that
was recently re-raised on the English Wikipedia Signpost talkpage
about having a centralized community newsletter for everyone on Meta.

> - - why, simply, the activity of the WMF is not published each day or
> week? For example why the Gallimard letter and negociations were not
> made public? why the confidentiality instead of a transparency policy?
> why the causes, debates and decisions of Jimmy and the board in the
> recent censorship controversy were not published in time? I sincerely
> don't understand.

To answer the general question: you would not believe how much news
there is on a daily basis from 11 projects in 250 languages with an
additional 29 chapters, active Foundation, and enthusiastic volunteer
community! You'd be doing nothing but reading news all day. Maybe it
still should be aggregated somewhere...

If you are asking about just the news of the WMF, e.g. the activities
of the Foundation that is based in San Francisco, that is easier and
should be done better; though the announcements list is a pretty good
way to keep up with major announcements, and most news does come
through Foundation-l. I didn't pay attention to the letter you're
concerned about, but the debate over censorship is a community-wide
issue -- not WMF specific -- that *was* debated on this very list
immediately and rapidly, pretty much as it happened. I don't know what
you mean by not being published in time.

> - - how a newbie could understand the current activities and projects?
> where to start? who to contact?

Start with: wikimedia-announce-l. Check out:
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Goings-on. Consider reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:POST and, if it's ever revived,
http://www.wikizine.org/. Beyond that, you might specify the *kinds*
of projects you're interested in -- outreach is one thing, tech issues

> - - in case of emergency like the Fox News attack, is there a plan?
> protocols? a priority channel? plannified meetings and groups of
> reflexion/discussion? plannified ways of updating the situation, of
> sharing official declarations and resources?

Sort of. For instance, press inquiries go to Jay Walsh at the
Foundation and his team; in turn he works closely with a community
committee called the Communications Committee (ComCom). That's where
press releases come from. There is no regularized public forum for
reflection on every issue that comes up; Foundation-l is as good a
place as any. Announcements go out the normal ways. In other words...
re the Fox News story, if you read the threads on commons, and read
the many emails on this list, and participated in giving your views,
you were as much a part of the debate as any other community member.

> - - are there ways to delegate, federate, synthesize, communicate opinions
> and information between each community, chapter, board members?

I don't know. Are there? Everyone that I know involved with any kind
of Wikimedia governance and decision making struggles with this, in
large part because of the complexity and amount of information
involved, and because it's not so simple as getting a "community"
opinion -- we are both a part of the Wikimedia community, but we may
well disagree.

This is a fundamental and important question though and one a lot of
people care about.

> I don't mean to force a type of governance or another, but simply to
> organize the information so it's easier for everybody to know what's
> happening.
> Everything seems so fuzzy and chaotic currently. It seems that it all
> depends of the charism of hyperactive community members and the good
> will of board trustees. Please enlighten me.

Yes, but also the long-term perseverance and work of many community
members (which designation includes staff and board, by the way) --
not just the hyperactive ones! Things are chaotic but they are not as
fragile as they seem, either -- just very, very complex.

-- phoebe

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