[Foundation-l] Communication

Noein pronoein at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 09:09:22 UTC 2010

Hash: SHA1

Thank you Phoebe, you've been of a great help. I'll ponder your answers
for a while.

On 03/06/2010 07:21, phoebe ayers wrote:
> 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
> role.
> * 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
> activities.
> 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
> another.
>> - - 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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