[Wikimedia-l] Go away, community (from WMF wiki at least)

Sue Gardner sgardner at wikimedia.org
Sat May 11 16:48:38 UTC 2013

Gayle is travelling today and not online, so I'll take a crack at
responding to this.

The editors are responsible for the projects: the Wikimedia Foundation
knows that, acknowledges it, and is deeply appreciative (as are all
readers) for the work that volunteers do in the projects. The Wikimedia
Foundation is responsible for the Wikimedia Foundation wiki (and the blog).
We are grateful to get community help there, and a small number of
community members do really good work with us on both the WMF wiki and the
blog. But ultimately that wiki, and the blog, are our responsibility, and
we are accountable for making sure that e.g. the staff page, the Board
bios, the resolution texts, etc., are maintained and in good shape. Most
material on the WMF is not created via collaborative production processes
-- it's "corporate" in nature, meaning that it is developed by the
Wikimedia Foundation, for an audience of Wikimedia Foundation stakeholders,
which includes community members and prospective community members, donors,
readers of the projects, media, and others.

My understanding is that administrator rights have been removed from a
small number of volunteers, but that those people still have basic editing
rights. My understanding is that the Wikimedia Foundation staff who work on
the Foundation wiki have been grateful (and are grateful) for the help
they've gotten from community members in maintaining the Foundation wiki,
and that we hope they'll continue to help us. They've been great, and we're

But, my understanding is also that occasionally volunteers have overridden
decisions made by staff on the Wikimedia Foundation wiki. I don't think
that's ever been a huge problem: I don't think we've ever had a situation
in which extensive discussion hasn't reached an okay conclusion. But, the
extensive discussions --which, I understand, have typically been
one-on-one, by which I mean, not a large number of community members or a
community consensus against something the Foundation has wanted to do, but
rather one volunteer disagreeing with something staff have been asked to do
as part of their job --- occasionally, those discussions have been
extremely time-consuming. That's not good. The staff working on the
Wikimedia Foundation wiki have jobs they've got to get done, in support of
the entire movement. If they spend days or weeks needing to persuade a
single community member of the merits of something they want to do on the
Foundation wiki, or if they need to modify their plans extensively to
accommodate the opinions of a single community member, that reduces the
amount of time available for them to do the rest of their work. Which, I
repeat, is in the service of the movement overall.

So I would say this:

This decision is not about "the community" versus "the WMF." This decision
is about the WMF staff, and making it possible for them to do their work on
the WMF wiki with some reasonable degree of efficiency and effectiveness.
This decision clarifies roles-and-responsibilities. On the projects, the
volunteers are the editorial leads, and the WMF plays a supporting role by
creating functionality, maintaining the servers, paying the bandwidth
bills, and so forth. On the WMF wiki, the WMF is the editorial lead, and
volunteers can (and do) play a supporting role helping staff organize
pages, maintain pages, and so forth. That's a reasonable division, and I
think having clarity around it is a good thing.

Slightly more broadly: when the Wikimedia movement was very young,
everybody did everything and there wasn't much division of
roles-and-responsibilities. I remember when the Wikimedia Foundation
budgets were prepared by volunteers, when the trademarks were managed by
volunteers, and so forth. That was appropriate for the time, and even
though it was messy, it was kind of great. Then we all went through a
period in which roles-and-responsibilities were utterly unclear -- it
wasn't at all obvious who should do what, and many
roles-and-responsibilities were hotly disputed. Personally, I feel like
we're moving into a period now in which things are getting clearer. We
don't pay staff to edit the projects: staff who edit do it on their own
time, as a hobby or special personal interest. We do pay staff to do things
that are better done by staff than by volunteers, such as managing the
trademark portfolio. Some volunteers (such as Domas) have very special
privileges and powers, because they've proved over time they are
exceptionally skilled. Some volunteers support the Wikimedia Foundation
staff in their work in a variety of ways, because they've proved their
interest and abilities. Some work happens in close partnership between
staff and volunteers, such as production of blog posts, speaking with the
media, and in projects such as the Global Ed one. Sometimes organized
groups of volunteers are created by volunteers and supported by staff (e.g.
ArbCom or AffCom) and sometimes organized groups of volunteers are created
by the Wikimedia Foundation and supported by the Wikimedia Foundation (such
as the FDC). Upshot: community members and Wikimedia Foundation staff work
together in many different coordinated fashions. The ways on which we work
together are becoming increasingly clear, and I think that clarity is good.

So. People can disagree with this decision, and that's okay. But
ultimately, the Wikimedia Foundation is responsible for the Wikimedia
Foundation wiki: it's our job to figure out how best to manage and maintain
it. That's what we're doing here.

On May 11, 2013 4:15 AM, "K. Peachey" <p858snake at gmail.com> wrote:

> This is the email that got sent out to everyone,
> ---
> Dear XXX,
> Thank you for your work with the Foundation wiki.  At this time, we
> are formalizing a new requirement, which is that administrator access
> is given only to staff and board.  I am having administrator access to
> accounts that are neither staff or board be disabled, effective
> immediately.
> Sincerely,
> Gayle
> --
> Gayle Karen K. Young
> Chief Talent and Culture Officer
> Wikimedia Foundation
> 415.310.8416
> www.wikimediafoundation.org
> ---
> Gayle's response (which was the first time she has edited the wiki in
> ~5 months[2]) seems lacking[1] in general and the subsequent responses
> about knowing what these people do on the wiki
> Another interesting fact is that Mz got desysoped first, When you
> would expect it to be done in alphabetically order.
> "We've been discussing this for awhile, and the thought is that it's
> ultimately the Foundation's web presence, not the community's web
> presence. A useful parallel to consider might be how userrights are
> given to staffers on the community wikis; they're distributed as and
> when they're needed for a specific task."
> Um, Rights for staff on wikis are given out like candy?, although not
> as much thee days but it still happens.
> Also, How is the foundation wiki not apart of the community? Has the
> position of the legal department changed? or the boards? just randomly
> changing without any imput or discussions seems utlimately strange.
> since it is actually their wiki (just like everything else that falls
> under the foundation)
> [1]. <
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/w/index.php?diff=91857&oldid=91855#Users_stripped_of_rights.3F
> >
> [2]. <
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3AContributions&target=Gyoung
> >
> [3]. <https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Special:Log/rights>
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