[Wikimedia-l] The new narrowed focus by WMF (cleaner version)

David Goodman dggenwp at gmail.com
Mon Oct 22 00:54:05 UTC 2012

One obvious possibility for support is the chapters and the thematic
organizations; even if the WMF continues these fellowships as it
should, the other bodies in the movement should supplement them--it is
good to have more than one source of funds and more than one body
deciding on requests.  But whether their work can be actually
implemented at those levels is another matter.

The proposal at meta says "the Wikimedia Foundation was never able to
resource the fellowships to the point where they could achieve
significant impact: " I don't think the resource at issue is primarily
money, considering that in all recent years we have had not only
surpluses, but greater than expected surpluses.  The resource which is
lacking is sufficient qualified people at the Foundation to work with
the fellows and help implement their projects. Rather than get such
people--which admittedly would require a change in WMF culture--the
WMF staff finds the easiest thing is to not even attempt to make the
improvements; it is too troublesome to deal with the good ideas of the
community, so the reaction is what one expects of self-protecting
incompetent bureaucracies: diminish the flow of good ideas.

On Sun, Oct 21, 2012 at 7:57 PM, Steven Zhang <cro0016 at gmail.com> wrote:
> In my opinion, the value of fellowships in my opinion is huge, and I feel that ceasing to support projects like the Teahouse would be a real shame. That said, I do feel there are other ways that individual editors could get the support they need to work on critical projects. As long as this remains in some capacity, then I think that could work too.
> Regards,
> Steve Zhang
> Sent from my iPhone
> On 22/10/2012, at 10:25 AM, Jacob Orlowitz <wikiocaasi at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> A letter in support of the Community Fellowship program from past,
>> current, and prospective Fellows,
>> The WMF has expanded profoundly over the past decade, and especially
>> in the last few years.  Recently initiatives to streamline and focus
>> the WMF have been undertaken; while these efforts are worthy in spirit
>> and necessary at some level, one useful if not vital program has been
>> caught in that process:  The Community Fellowship program.  We would
>> like to express our strong support of this valuable and important
>> program.
>> The Fellowship program is first and foremost a community-based
>> program.  It selects editors to work on projects -- those which are
>> novel and have yet to be tried, those that have been tried but have
>> not been rigorously developed or tested, and those otherwise that need
>> financial, technical and institutional backing to succeed.  It
>> represents a direct line of support from the WMF to
>> community-organized, community-driven, and community-maintained
>> projects.
>> We strongly believe that the Fellowship program is a great way to jump
>> start many projects cheaply, efficiently, and with low-risk.  Most
>> importantly, because Fellowship projects are community-organized,
>> there is high potential for their broad community support.
>> We recognize that the Wikimedia Foundation’s allocation of funding
>> must reflect the priorities of the Foundation’s annual and strategic
>> plans, and we understand that the future of the Fellowship program is
>> at risk under the justification that it does not fit within those
>> plans.
>> The Fellowship program of course has a cost, but it is one we believe
>> is well justified by its impact.  The following reasons explain why we
>> think the program is a worthwhile asset to the WMF and one that will
>> ultimately help it succeed in its strategic goals:
>> 1) The program has a track record of producing successful projects,
>> with promising upcoming efforts that would be interrupted by a loss of
>> funding.  Most recently a new-editor community called the Teahouse was
>> developed directly through the Fellowship program.  The Teahouse, as
>> well as other projects have targeted goals which often match up with
>> those identified by the Foundation as urgent, such as new editor
>> engagement and editor retention.  Other projects besides the Teahouse
>> have worked on improving our dispute resolution processes, our small
>> language wiki development, improving the usability of help
>> documentation, and facilitating cross-wiki translation efforts.
>> GLAM/Wikipedian-in-Residence positions were pioneered under the
>> Fellowship program as were studies in long term editor trends through
>> Wikimedia Summer of Research.  (See the full list of past projects).
>> These projects are of great value and exist in areas that the
>> community had or has not made sufficient advances in on its own.
>> In the works are projects to create a sense of community around the
>> sorely lacking female demographic, to build a game which would ease
>> new editors through the maze of skills needed to be effective, a
>> Wikipedia Library initiative which would outfit our most experienced
>> editors with access to high quality resources through a single sign-on
>> portal, and a Badges experiment to employ a proven approach to
>> recognizing, motivating, and rewarding the efforts of our users.
>> Without the Community Fellowship program, those efforts may stall or
>> collapse.
>> 2) The Fellowship program's core strength is as a laboratory of agile,
>> community-driven creativity and innovation.  The program has nurtured
>> projects that require more investment and organization than the
>> community alone can support, but that innovate in areas of importance
>> to both the community and the Foundation.  The Fellowship program has
>> the asset of targeted flexibility and cost-effective implementation.
>> Fellowship projects require few if any development resources,
>> substantially reducing their burden on the Foundation.  Through its
>> varied portfolio of projects the Fellowship program can address any
>> number of key goals, and do so in a lightweight but meaningful way.
>> 3) The Fellowship program is committed to demonstrating results and
>> making data-driven recommendations that help meet Foundation targets.
>> Fellowship research projects have set and maintained a high standard
>> for reporting results and making actionable recommendations.  The
>> Teahouse pilot reports and metrics reports, the dispute resolution
>> survey results, and the template A/B testing projects are excellent
>> examples of this commitment to transparency and accountability.  The
>> Foundation has benefitted from these data: results from fellowship
>> projects have been featured at Wikimania.  Deputy Director Eric
>> Moeller’s presentation on supporting Wikiprojects drew extensively on
>> Fellowship project findings, and E3’s template testing presentation
>> was based substantially on Fellowship research.  Fellowship research
>> has been a frequent feature on the Wikimedia blog, and has generated
>> good press for the Foundation.
>> 4) The Fellowship program been instrumental to our understanding of
>> the editor decline, and how to stop it.  Fellowship projects have
>> yielded many valuable & actionable insights into the editor decline:
>> such as the negative impact of the gradual increase in newcomer
>> warnings and newcomer reverts, and the recent decline in participation
>> in community processes by newer groups of editors.  Fellowship
>> research has also refuted several prominent decline theories, such as
>> the theory that the quality of new editors has decreased over time, or
>> that the workload of vandal fighters has increased.  In short,
>> Fellowship research allows Wikimedia to prioritize promising work and
>> make decisions about which decline theories to address based on actual
>> data, rather than anecdotes, accepted wisdom, or intuition.
>> 5) The Fellowship program builds good will between the WMF and the
>> community by spotlighting and bootstrapping community-driven
>> initiatives.  Fellowships are devised by community members, endorsed
>> by community members, implemented with community involvement--and the
>> community reaps the benefits of those initiatives.  The Foundation
>> gets to play the vital role of supporting projects that otherwise may
>> have floundered, sat idle, or been ignored completely.  The community
>> appreciates this and recognizes the Foundation’s pivotal part in
>> making these projects happen.  Also, not continuing the program would
>> mean not just removing funding from the recipients of Fellowships and
>> their projects, but also losing the community infrastructure and
>> networks that have been developed as a result.  The Foundation is the
>> keystone to continuing this progress.
>> 6) The Fellowship program gives the Wikimedia Foundation one of the
>> only channels to directly fund individual editors.  And not just any
>> editors but some of the most active, engaged, driven, and enthusiastic
>> editors Wikipedia has.  Funding those editors directly enables them to
>> devote a degree of focus and commitment to Wikipedia that they might
>> not otherwise be able to balance while meeting other constraints in
>> their lives.  The Foundation has become a recipient of a great amount
>> of donations, but much of that financial support is unavailable to
>> individual editors.  There is not yet a grant-making process which
>> doesn't run through Chapters.  The Fellowship program is one lifeline
>> to those editors, and it is a good one.
>> 7) The Fellowship program provides a pipeline of trusted and
>> knowledgeable editors to contribute to the Foundation's efforts.  Many
>> of those editors would be ideal candidates for positions within the
>> Foundation, and the Fellowship program is a great way to identify,
>> enlist, and onboard those individuals.  Maryana Pinchuck and Steven
>> Walling were Fellows, as were Liam Wyatt, Lennart Guldbrandsson,
>> Stuart Geiger, Diederik van Liere, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, Melanie
>> Kill, Aaron Halfaker, Achal Prabhala, Jonathan Morgan, and James
>> Alexander.  While being a training ground for future Foundation
>> staffers, advisors, or researchers is not the stated purpose of the
>> Fellowship program, it is nonetheless a positive side-effect.
>> 8) The Fellowship program partners with and complements other WMF
>> initiatives.  The fellowship program enhances programs such as Editor
>> Engagement Experiments by experimenting with community features rather
>> than just interface features.  Creating new spaces for new editors to
>> find help and build community, identifying pain-points in existing
>> community processes by surveying editors, and organizing cross-wiki
>> translation efforts are excellent ways of improving the editor
>> experience on Wikipedia.  Fellowship projects have also benefitted
>> existing WMF initiatives by providing necessary services: for
>> instance, the Teahouse has served the needs of students enrolled in
>> Global Education programs that do not have access to Classroom
>> Ambassadors.  The impact of the Fellowship program scales and exceeds
>> the scope of the individual projects to numerous other forums and
>> facets of the community.
>> For these reasons, we urge the Wikimedia Foundation to reevaluate the
>> worth of the Community Fellowship program and to continue it in its
>> original or a similar capacity.   The Fellowship program is an
>> impactful, flexible laboratory of creativity which connects the
>> Foundation and the community's best and most passionate editors.
>> Having it has been a huge gain, and losing it would be a significant
>> loss.
>> Sincerely,
>> * Anya Shyrokova User:Anyashy, prospective Fellow
>> * Jake Orlowitz User:Ocaasi, prospective Fellow
>> * Jon Harald Søby User:Jon Harald Søby, former Community Fellow
>> * Jonathan Morgan User:Jtmorgan, former Research Fellow
>> * Liam Wyatt  User:Wittylama, former Cultural Partnerships Fellow
>> * R.  Stuart Geiger  User:Staeiou, former Wikimedia Research Fellow
>> * Peter Coombe User:The wub, Community Fellow
>> * Steven Zhang User:Steven Zhang, Community Fellow
>> * Tanvir Rahman User:Tanvir Rahman, Community Fellow
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David Goodman

DGG at the enWP

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