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

Casey Brown lists at caseybrown.org
Mon May 13 05:05:52 UTC 2013

On Sun, May 12, 2013 at 8:28 PM, Theo10011 <de10011 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Try and be a bit nicer please. Gayle is still relatively new and this level
> of scrutiny might be jarring for someone.

Comments like these have always bothered me.

Gayle isn't some random secretary or new run-of-the-mill employee. She
is a C-level staff member who has been here for more than a year and
made a policy decision that people have feedback on. While the
feedback may not have come in the nicest form, it is still valid and
we can't just ignore it because "it wasn't nice enough". As a high
level staff member in charge of your own department, you need to deal
with it -- this is one thing that comes with the job, unfortunately.
It's an insult to Gayle to assume that she will not be able to handle
criticism or answer people's responses. A C-level staff member needs
to be able to handle this "scrutiny", even high level scrutiny, when
they were the one that made the call, and I'm sure she's more than
capable of doing that.

[Note that I'm speaking generally -- I personally think Gayle can
handle criticism and she seems very nice. She also probably had no
idea this would create dramz. My comment is directed towards the
general "omg think of the staff member!" response to criticism that is
systemic in our movement.]

On Sun, May 12, 2013 at 9:03 PM, Philippe Beaudette
<philippe at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> 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.

This is something that bothers me too.

The situation is always framed as "poor WMF". Yes, it is true that bad
faith is assumed on both sides, but I don't really think the community
(including the chapters) is the only one doing that. A lot of the
reason the community responds with such little faith or with such
outrage at the actions of the Wikimedia Foundation is because they do
not afford them any good faith either -- the community is simply
acting on the defensive. Many decisions are just handed out, are
half-baked, or are handled behind closed doors, so people have no idea
how to respond and feel no ownership.

If people have no control over a situation, the only way to respond is
to point fingers and complain. We all work on things together -- there
aren't many areas that are exclusively community or WMF. If you don't
let the community do anything to fix a problem or constructively
contribute to bettering the situation, you're going to find yourself
stuck with a lot of bad faith and complaining.

Take the WMFwiki policy decision for example -- was it really
necessary to discuss everything behind closed doors? Did the action
need to be taken two hours before the work week ended and before the
"decision maker" would be out of reach? We're always painting the
Wikimedia Foundation as the victim, but we're forgetting that they
definitely have their share of the blame. I realize that we're all
human, but, at the end of the day, the Foundation *should* be held to
a higher standard -- they are being paid to learn from their mistakes,
get things done correctly, and handle criticism. If something is going
to be controversial, it should not be done on a Friday before work
ends and then say no one can respond until Monday when someone
critiques it.

[Again: I'm speaking more generally. I don't personally care that much
about the WMFwiki issue, since I'm not active much anymore.]

We definitely have an agency issue here. The volunteers and the
community should not be viewed as a lone "aggressor" -- they're who
the Foundation ultimately report to: Staff => ED => Board =>
Community. The readers and donors are clear stakeholders, but the
community is at the top of the pyramid. The Foundation is not
completely innocent, but when things go wrong, we can't just call the
community out for complaining and then ignore the reason for that

Casey Brown (Cbrown1023)

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