[Wikimedia-l] Fwd: Update on community advocacy & liaison work

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Fri Dec 13 07:40:56 UTC 2013

FYI :)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Erik Moeller <erik at wikimedia.org>
Date: Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Subject: Update on community advocacy & liaison work
To: All Wikimedia Foundation staff & contractors

Hi all,

As many of you know, we recently brought on board a team of community
members to support the development and rollout of mission-critical WMF
projects like VisualEditor and Flow. To-date, this work has been
coordinated by Philippe Beaudette (reporting to James Forrester for
this purpose), with the community liaisons maintaining a dotted-line
reporting relationship to him while being hired by
engineering/product. In addition, the Community Advocacy team has made
available several of its staff members to work and partner on a
day-to-day basis with the liaisons.

What we’ve learned so far includes:

- Community engagement continues to be critical for successful
development and deployment of products with a strong impact on
community interactions. Not all products have such an impact -- e.g.
improvements to the mobile reading experience or mobile apps don’t
affect the experience of content authors directly nearly as much. In
other cases (e.g. VisualEditor) the impact is huge and the
coordination and communication requirements can be very significant.

- We need to start the process as early as possible - community
engagement isn't something that can just be done at the tail end to
support a rollout. Liaison work includes on-wiki participation in
discussions; organizing roundtables, IRC sessions, feedback and
brainstorming pages, etc. The earlier, the better -- this helps
surface likely points of contention, empowering Product Managers to
better understand the high priority needs and wants from the
community, as well as the cost of a change (how difficult will it be
to make the change, and what negative side effects may it have?).

- Product Managers and Community Liaisons need to work closely
together and see each other as being on the same team. While a typical
liaison likely will support multiple projects, just like designers,
liaisons work best when they develop a deep understanding for the
needs of one or two teams and are in active partnership with the
relevant PM. The PM and Community Liaison should be collaborating on a
day-to-day basis.

- There are other classes of community-related work that need to be
appropriately resourced, but are less directly relevant to product
development. This includes: emergency and crisis management and
response, support for policy-related RFCs, training for OTRS agents,
organizing of visits of key functionaries and committees, etc.

- Learning the lessons from the existence of a Community Department,
we don't view "Community" as a function that can be owned, controlled
or managed in a single department -- each department needs to be
supported by community expertise in its day-to-day work, partnering
closely with other team members.

Consistent with that, after careful discussion, we have decided to
create a new leadership function, Director of Community Engagement
(Product), reporting to me (as VP Product) and partnering closely with
Howie and individual Product Managers. The Director of Community
Engagement (Product) will be responsible for managing community
liaisons (staff or contractors) who directly support product

Once this Director is hired and on-boarded, the Community Advocacy
team currently reporting to Philippe will re-focus its energy on some
of the aforementioned non-product matters. The community liaison team
will at that point move to the new Director, and we will staff up as
needed. We will still intersect on projects such as election support
or policy implementation.

I’m not currently considering merging this group with the "Engineering
Community Team" under Sumana Harihareswara’s leadership. That team is
focused on engaging volunteer developers who contribute to MediaWiki,
and while there is some overlap, I consider the goals and workflows to
be pretty distinct. That said, I expect the two teams to work closely
together in practice, with folks like Andre Klapper (Bug Wrangler)
acting at the intersection between the two teams.

I want to thank Geoff, Philippe and the Community Advocacy team for
all their support bootstrapping the liaison team and partnering with
us on key product roll-outs, on very short notice. It’s been
absolutely invaluable. I’m also grateful for the continuation of this
partnership until we fill the new Director-level role, and for help in
the interview and on-boarding process. Finally, thanks for all the
hard work of the community liaisons on a day-to-day basis; no matter
how hot things sometimes can get, we know that we can count on you.

I expect to post the job by early January, and it will likely take us
until at least March/April to fill the position.

Please let me know if you have any questions. :-)


Erik Möller
VP of Engineering and Product Development, Wikimedia Foundation

Erik Möller
VP of Engineering and Product Development, Wikimedia Foundation

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