[Foundation-l] Communication

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen cimonavaro at gmail.com
Sun Jun 6 07:51:22 UTC 2010

Keegan Peterzell wrote:
> Okay, so from my perspective, here's where we are:
> The WMF staff cares about the projects and we respect the work that they do.
>  Additionally, they do a much better job than the other top...well, one
> hundred websites in the world in communicating with their volunteers and
> their userbase.  The flip-side is that this is the reason that most
> organizations put up a wall between administration and staff.  Not that this
> is healthy, and I certainly don't encourage it, but this is what a thread
> like the ones we've had recently fosters: Damned if you do, damned if you
> don't.
I would suggest that instead of a wall between the community
and the foundation, there should be built a bridge. A form
of consultation by a small group of "wise heads" from the
communities, who know how they work; not as a decision
making body, but purely informing about the realities in
the various communities.

> 1. MediaWiki software support
>       Damned if you don't:  Volunteers won't necessarily jump on fixing the
> software patches/extensions if they are to hard and there is not enough
>            time or energy to go around.
>       Damned if you do:  You didn't listen to the community and implemented
> these changes without review.
There hasn't historically been a need to listen to the community
for but a tiny fraction of features to the software, which are
espescially sensitive. There isn't an absolute need to build a
consensus for most trivial and crystal clear improvements to
the software. The problem is determining which changes are
going to be controversial, and which not.

To repeat, the community at large need only be rarely given
a look in before the implementation, but there needs to be
some review by folks who understand viscerally how the
animal (community) functions. This didn't used to be a
problem at all, because all the developers in fact came from
the communities, and full well knew us, warts and all.

Ceterum censeo, I think a minimal group of wise folks from
the community should be brought in to identify all the changes
that are totally uncontroversial.

> 2. Project support:
>       Damned if you do:  We demand that the office intervene in pushing
> through community requested enhancements, and we will complain about them
> when you do.
>       Damned if you don't:  Why do we pay these people?

I don't think there has *ever* been a case where a requested
enchancement that had reached a community consensus being
implemented had caused complaints by any but the regular trolls.
I could imagine serious complaints being leveled if the implementation
didn't adhere to the consensus reached, but that is just about all.

> 3. Takedown notices/other staff or founder actions:
>      Damned if you don't:  The Wikimedia Foundation does not care about its
> userbase, and requests that all issues about content being directed at the
> uploader (at their own legal expense).
>      Damned if you do:  GET OFF MY LAWN
I am sorry, I just can't parse what you are suggesting here.
This doesn't correspond to anything real in the past
or anything hypothetically in our future.

There has never been a "Get off my lawn!" attitude anywhere.
What people have said quite often is: "Please explain your
actions, and what variety of justification are they based on,
pretty please, with a cherry on top!" And absent a clear and
present danger, "Do join us, we respect and value involvement,
within the context of the normal operation of our community,
from foundation functionaries, no matter how senior."

The above really is an egregious case of the excluded middle.
> I'm sorry if this seems terse.  Well, actually I'm not.  The Foundation is
> as actively engaged as it can be and hands off as it can be.  Say an
> "engine" as it was put doesn't like vector.  Well, I don't either.  But what
> do you want?  Polls?  Noticeboards?  Even more discussion than we already
> have now?
Ceterum censeo, the fuss could have been reduced, if quietly some
wise heads from the community might have just whispered to
the vector-crew; "Great job, overall, but collapsing the interwiki
links just won't fly. Best not even try."
> I'm a big fan of discussions, I'll talk about most anything endlessly.  This
> is talking about running a business, and sometimes that requires stifling
> discussion until the appropriate time for ideas and reforms have come about
> as well as {{sofixit}}.  Criticism is what should build a business model,
> and I'm certain that the WMF takes this to heart because, as mentioned, they
> don't have the steel heart wall that most major websites do.
I think the point is that it would be nice if there was somebody
from the community who would be tasked with heading foundation
folks aside, before the fact, when they are in danger of doing
something seriously controversial that really *does* require
a consensus reached.


Jussi-Ville Heiskanen

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