[Wikimedia-l] The new narrowed focus by WMF

Nathan nawrich at gmail.com
Thu Oct 18 14:17:30 UTC 2012

Other than the fellowships, which I'll come back to in a moment, I
think Sue's new course for the WMF makes a lot of sense. The WMF has
been the subject of a lot of valid criticism in the last few years
around its goals, spending and achievements. Despite soaring budgets
and an FTE trend to delight any bureaucrat, measurable positive
impacts have been few and far between. Glamorous international efforts
and experiments in organizational management might please their
respective stakeholders and beneficiaries, but they have had
questionable benefit for what is supposed to be the WMF's core
mission. Perhaps in an attempt to be all things in this "movement",
the WMF has lagged at being what it truly ought to be - an effective,
innovative manager for an ecosystem of web-based knowledge references.

There's no margin in ignoring the fact that steadily dropping editor
involvement is a serious challenge for the future of Wikimedia. We
don't really understand what's causing this drop, and we're suffering
from a lack of ideas on how to solve it. There's a place for
small-bore efforts like training small groups of people on how to use
our projects, but they are too low impact for a big scale problem. Yet
I haven't seen big efforts at innovating solutions.  Beyond Vector and
the abuse filter, what attempts have been made to solve the big
problems? Or even to understand them? Why can Reddit and other
massive userbase sites keep their community and continue to grow,
while Wikimedia can't? Is it that we're too hard to use? Too much has
already been done? Are the communities not open enough? Too bound by
rules and standards and a conservative ethic of interaction? This is
where I think fellowships are useful and should continue; they are an
opportunity to incubate innovative solutions and improvements to the
problems we face, and to generate insight into what those problems
are. I don't have the answers, and I don't think Wikimedia does
either. Narrowing the organizational focus to more tightly concentrate
on these issues sounds like a great idea; keeping on as it has been
sounds like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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