[Foundation-l] Self-determination of language versions in questions of skin?

Birgitte SB birgitte_sb at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 29 17:15:55 UTC 2010

--- On Mon, 6/28/10, Martin Maurer <martinmaurer73 at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Martin Maurer <martinmaurer73 at gmail.com>
> Subject: [Foundation-l] Self-determination of language versions in questions of skin?
> To: foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> Date: Monday, June 28, 2010, 6:11 PM
> Hello,
> I posted this yesterday at wikitech-l and was told to ask
> this
> question here at foundation-l.
> I'm a member of the German language Wikipedia community and
> have a
> question that no-one could give me a definite answer to so
> far. I hope
> someone here can answer it, or point me to where I should
> go to get a
> definite answer.
> The question is, what level of self-determination do the
> 260 language
> versions of Wikipedia have as to the design of their user
> interfaces
> (skins)? Can individual wikis choose independently
> modifications of
> their skins, and which of the available skins to use as the
> default
> for unregistered users, or is this controlled centrally by
> the
> Foundation?
> For backgrund, this question arose after the German
> language Wikipedia
> (de.wikipedia.org) was switched from Monobook to Vector as
> the default
> skin on the 10th of June 2010, resulting in considerable
> criticism
> from the community. On the more sober side of the debate,
> it was asked
> whether it would be theoretically possible to return to
> Monobook as
> the default skin, at least for some time until the biggest
> known
> issues with Vector have been fixed. Under the theoretical
> scenario
> that a majority voted for a return to Monobook as the
> default skin,
> would it be possible at all to switch it back? Or would the
> Foundation
> not permit that?
> The question seems to be a very fundamental one and I would
> also
> appreciate insights into the big picture. How independent
> are the
> language versions? To what degree can they govern
> themselves and to
> what degree are they bound by decisions made centrally by
> the
> Foundation?

I don't think you have quite the right question in framing the Foundation as "other".  Rather, what degree do should the wikis present a cohesive movement to the world?  What issues are so important to you that you might really say, "Forget the unified movement we mean to have our way in this."?  I am serious there; I know I have my own issues.  Mostly about things that I believe that would harm the Wikimedia movement in the long run if not pursued. One of my pet issues is even the self-governance of the wikis (Sister projects as well as languages).  It is a well-known proof of independence that some wikis accept fair-use images and others forbid them.  But these breaks in unity are not without a price and shouldn't be pursued lightly. I am sure there are still many strong feelings and barriers to collaboration over the fair use issue even after all this time.  I believe one the more important debates I have pursued in the past was convincing a wiki to
 decide through their local process to conform to what the larger community of wikis was promoting. The best thing that came out of that situation, in my opinion, was that we never had to test the bounds of self-governance. Certainly wikis working out local compromises which then make acceptable the adoption of changes that support unity through the WMF is the best case scenario.

If you accept the local wiki's as being own decision-makers, you also must expect them to consider the larger benefit to Wikimedia in their decisions. In other words, the wikis are not so independent that they should feel correct in only considering their local community’s preferences when making decisions.  You ask how far they are bound by the decisions made centrally by the Foundation, but I would say instead that they bind the Foundation with their decisions and should see this as an important responsibility.  Several wikis could easily destroy the ability of the Foundation to create anything useful by each pulling in separate directions due to too much focus on local preferences. And though each wiki might count that as a "win" for their pet issue, alot of possibility would be lost. The whole mission to reach out to every person on the planet cannot survive by Anglophones catering only to Anglophones any more than by de.WP thinking only of what
 the de.WP community wants.  Self-governance is the only option for running the wikis, but it will only serve the mission of WMF if they can each remember to govern themselves as an individual collaborator in a larger project.

Birgitte SB


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