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

Todd Allen toddmallen at gmail.com
Mon May 13 15:37:49 UTC 2013


Thank you for a thoughtful reply. I have especially taken seriously your
advice to moderate the tone, something I have been guilty of in the past.
We expect editors to treat one another respectfully even when they
disagree, and I think staff should receive the same courtesy.

That aside, I do indeed disagree.

Communication is not the problem. Yes, it was a problem here, but it was
not -the- problem.

This started for me with ACTRIAL. The community came to an unprecedented
consensus for a major change, and asked WMF to implement.

WMF said no.

The community looked at the new new-message system and clearly said "Do not
want! Roll it back!"

WMF said no.

I see a precipice too. But that precipice is with WMF attempting to rule,
rather than serve, the communities they lead. Just like project admins are
expected to use their technical authority to uphold and implement community
consensus, never to overrule or subvert it, so should we expect the same of
WMF. We know how to run our projects better than you do.

After ACTRIAL, we heard the same thing-"We communicated poorly." Much of
the frustration you see, and certainly my own, is the "I didn't hear that"

When you overrule the community, it is a slap in the face. You are telling
the volunteers who took the time to develop and gain consensus for their
proposal that they both wasted their time and do not know what they are
doing. What we are saying is not "Give us a little better notice when you
plan to slap our face" or "Please explain a little better why you slapped
my face." It is, instead, "Please stop slapping my face."

Once again, you are being told "You are standing on my toes. Perhaps it was
inadvertent, but it hurts. Please move." What I would like to be clear on
is that when you hear that with one voice from the community, it requires
not an apology or explanation, but a reversal. That didn't happen in the
two scenarios I mentioned, and it hasn't in several others. Yes, that
created bitterness and mistrust, disillusionment and many to leave
altogether. To ask a serious question, not intended to be sarcastic or
rhetorical, did you foresee some other outcome from such absolute overrules?

I hope I've spoken clearly and without undue bitterness, but I feel this
point must be made clearly. Communication isn't the root problem. Heavy
handedness is. I suppose you could say the problem is in listening. The
community is, in many cases, coming to a strong consensus on what it does
and does not want. The WMF is ignoring that and doing something else.

You won't stop that from being a problem by communicating better or sooner.
At the end of the day, we need you to stop doing that.

Here, you've been told "We disapprove of this action." Do we talk around it
and leave more resentment to linger? Or do you listen and reverse it?

Thanks if you took the time to read all this. I see a precipice, too. Let's
all step back.


Todd Allen
On May 12, 2013 7:04 PM, "Philippe Beaudette" <philippe at wikimedia.org>

> 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
> quickly.
> 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.
> Best,
> pb
> ___________________
> 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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