[Foundation-l] Community, collaboration, and cognitive biases

Aryeh Gregor Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com
Tue Jun 8 22:55:20 UTC 2010

On Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 6:31 PM, Erik Moeller <erik at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> With all this in mind, here are just a few concrete ideas for closing the gap:
> 1) Embedding teams funded by WMF into larger, publicly visible
> workgroups which include volunteers and which meet regularly e.g. via
> IRC;
> 1 a) Outreach to grow and strengthen those workgroups with the best
> skills present in the Wikimedia volunteer community;
> 2) Publication of mini-projects which we identify and which can be
> tackled by self-organized volunteers, with mentoring by experienced
> WMF staff and volunteers (happening a bit via GSoC, but not as much
> outside of it yet);
> 3) Making development roadmaps fully transparent and open to
> discussion, and sharing justifications for all key priorities;
> 4) Further iteration of tools and processes for rapid volunteer-driven
> bug reporting, cross-browser testing, and submission of simple
> patches;
> 5) Stimulating larger scale contests focusing on specific areas of interest;
> 6) More topic-focused meetings and sprints like the multimedia
> usability meeting in Paris.
> 7) Further experimentation with tools like IdeaTorrent for large-scale
> brainstorming and ranking purposes (we have a prototype running at
> http://prototype.wikimedia.org/en-idea/ideatorrent/ ).

None of these strike me as essential for a successful bazaar-style
development model, except (4).  I'd say some of the most important
things are (from a development point of view, not talking about
non-developer communities)

1) Rely on public mailing lists for communication as much as possible,
supplemented by IRC channels (preferably publicly logged).  Private
e-mail, face-to-face meetings, and telephone meetings are impossible
for volunteers to join in on, so they should be used as little as
possible.  Don't try to move everyone to San Francisco -- if you do
that, they'll inevitably rely heavily on face-to-face communication
and lock out volunteers.  I get the impression this has happened with
the usability team.

2) Make sure that every paid developer spends time dealing with the
community.  This can include giving support to end users, discussing
things with volunteers, reviewing patches, etc.  They should be doing
this on paid time, and they should be discussing their personal
opinions without consulting with anyone else (i.e., not summarizing
official positions).  Paid developers and volunteers have to get to
know each other and have to be able to discuss MediaWiki together.

3) Don't needlessly fork discussion fora.  The Usability Initiative
made its own public wiki, IRC chat, etc., and those are used
overwhelmingly by paid people.  This might not have happened if they
stuck to existing, established fora like wikitech-l, #mediawiki, and
mediawiki.org, where there are already a lot of community members

The basic attitude has to be that paid developers are treated
identically to volunteers, except that you can tell the former what to
do and expect them to put in more time.  There should not be
communication between paid developers and the community, paid
developers should be an integral *part* of the community rather than a
separate group of people.

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