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

Heather Ford heather.ford at oii.ox.ac.uk
Mon May 13 07:27:10 UTC 2013

On May 13, 2013, at 6:57 AM, phoebe ayers wrote:

You know, it's kind of the
ultimate Wikimedian tempest: arguing over who gets to add users and delete
pages on what is quite possibly the world's most boring wiki[1]...

I would take a stab and stay that it's not about who gets access but about how people are treated. Sending a mass email to a bunch of people saying that they no longer have admin access is pretty much like firing them by mass email with no warning - but it's probably a bit worse than that since the people who do this work do it because they love Wikipedia and because they care about it, and it's a slap in the face to be given the pink slip like this. And it is also rightfully worrying because it isn't the first time it's happened.

I know this because a few years ago, while perusing the WMF wiki, I noticed that my name had moved from current to past advisory board members. Shocked, I emailed around to find out what had happened. Apparently I'd been fired and thanked for my service (another mass email that had apparently gone to my iCommons email address and which I no longer had access to) but to this day I have never received any advice on why I was removed, despite asking for clarification in person and via email on a few occasions. I don't like to whine and complain [1] and I thought that it was just me, but it made me sad and upset because I felt like I'd done a lot for Wikimedia, was one of the few advisory board members who showed up to meetings and tried to get things done, and to be discarded like that was really upsetting.

This is what this is about. It's about people engaging with one another on a personal, human level and understanding what it means to be a part of this thing, this crazy wonderful thing. Maybe it also takes some deeper engagement in editing these things to understand the implications of what seems to be just a technical thing like removing rights, placing in different categories but is heavily political, heavily personal.

And so I'd offer different advice from taking a walk or eating an ice cream or writing more mass emails to this list. I'd suggest that the people concerned to write personal emails to the *individuals* who were affected by this and to engage in a conversation among individuals about why this happened and how they're going to make it better together. At iCommons, when I was on the receiving end of similar anger, I had a mantra that I tried to stick to. When someone sends something that is upsetting, get on the phone with them. Sort it out one-on-one. This, for me, passionately for me, is what's needed here.


[1] here I am whining and complaining but hopefully it is to make a point at least.

Heather Ford
Oxford Internet Institute Doctoral Programme
@hfordsa on Twitter

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