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

Philippe Beaudette philippe at wikimedia.org
Mon May 13 01:03:17 UTC 2013

So, I took Florence's excellent advice and went for a walk (beautiful day
in SF, by the way - absolutely perfect).

And I reflected on what I've seen since "flipping the switch" on things
last Friday.  Here's where I stand, and I haven't discussed this with
anyone else at WMF, including Gayle.

At the expense of sounding trite, I think I can safely say "Mistakes were
made."  Gayle was trying to solve a real problem, and she got a lot of
advice on how to do that.  But the principle role of a staff member in a
role such as mine is "to advise", I think, and I'm afraid that I didn't
offer good advice in this case.  I don't think I gave bad advice - rather,
I didn't give as good of advice as I could have.  What our leadership
should be able to expect from staff is that we look at things from a
different perspective, and I think I failed to get as far out of my own
head and into other peoples' to offer that varying perspective.  So when I
say that mistakes were made, I include my role in that, through commission
or omission, and I sincerely apologize for that.

With that said: I'm afraid we're headed toward a precipice.  What I'm
seeing scares me.  I see less and less good faith being offered toward the
WMF.  One of the arguments that doesn't work for me is "seven years ago the
WMF didn't make these mistakes" - because seven years ago the WMF was
paralyzed from lack of strategy and direction.  All of that has changed and
the WMF is out and aggressively trying things to arrest the editor decline
and improve the user experience.  And yet, when our talented engineers try
a data-driven tactic for something that needs to change, they're lambasted
for forgetting the existing community.  And yet everyone here knows that if
we don't change some things, things will get very very ugly, very very

One of the things that must continue to change is the tone on the wikis,
and the tone (in IRC and by email) between staff and volunteers.  I know
that volunteers are individual and - in addition to several frankly abusive
emails I've received this weekend, I've also received absolutely wonderful
support from volunteers who reached out to make me smile, laugh, or just
remind me why I love this community.  But the abusive ones absolutely
*must*stop.  I have never once, in my entire time at WMF, sent an
email that
approaches the level of things that I see WMF staff subjected to routinely,
and I have to counsel over and over that "it's okay, they don't speak for
the community", but I see the community tacitly support that behavior (or
fail to condemn it), and it's hard to say with a straight face that the
people sending abusive mail or making abusive statements in IRC don't speak
for the community.

So my challenge and my promise:  I promise to reflect on the experiences of
this weekend and figure out how I could have offered Gayle better advice,
given the circumstances, and given the fact that there are some things that
are not public about the decision, and unfortunately they can't be.  My
challenge to the community:  think about the tone of what you see happening
around you.  And if you wouldn't want to see your grandmother asked a
question like that, and if it would make you feel defensive to see her
questioned in that tone, then step in and make it clear that the tone is
unacceptable.  Staff members are people too.  How about finding one that
has done something you appreciate (come on, there must be ONE) and tell
them so?  You'd be shocked how much gratitude they'll feel, because you may
be the first community member EVER to tell them that.


Philippe Beaudette
Director, Community Advocacy
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

415-839-6885, x 6643

philippe at wikimedia.org

On Sun, May 12, 2013 at 5:46 PM, Russavia <russavia.wikipedia at gmail.com>wrote:

> On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 7:58 AM, Gayle Karen Young <gyoung at wikimedia.org>
> wrote:
> > This definitely feels like a bit of trial by fire.
> True dat. Now that you have received your initiation, there's nothing
> left to say but WELCOME TO WIKIPEDIA :)
> Cheers,
> Russavia
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