[Wikimedia-l] Thoughts on Admin Rights on WMF Wiki (and other things)

Gayle Karen Young gyoung at wikimedia.org
Thu May 23 04:22:58 UTC 2013


Hi folks!

I felt like Sue did a nice job earlier of responding in an earlier thread
of http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2013-May/125807.html,
 but here’s my response as well. Wikimedia Foundation wiki has always been
uniquely governed among the family of Wikimedia wikis, with decision-making
authority historically placed with the WMF itself due to its purpose
(hosting of official documents like bylaws, IRS tax returns, Board
resolutions, staff listings, official WMF communications of various kinds,
etc.). While the Board was described as the decision-making authority for
content disputes before the organization had paid staff, in day-to-day
practice, staff members are now helping to maintain and post many of those

Consistent with this, my goal was to ensure that the function of a wiki
adminstrator, which is often identified with community self-governance, is
clearly mapped against the governance model of the site: the organization,
with that function delegated to staff members in day-to-day practice, is
directly responsible for making and arbitrating decisions on the Wikimedia
Foundation’s website. This does not preclude volunteers from being granted
administrative-level access where a project requires it and where we have a
good working relationship that makes this possible. However, I wanted to
create clarity as early and possible, and therefore requested that
administrator accounts initially be limited to staff.  I think it's a
reasonable criteria that in addition to having a project reason, being able
to work with Foundation staff in a collaborative manner should be a part of
that - and it does take two to tango (i.e. the Foundation should be as
responsible for being collaborative).

Clearly I did this in a manner which was needlessly abrupt and didn’t
acknowledge the key role that many volunteers have played in the WMF wiki
over the years - so I’ll say that this has been a hell of a learning
experience, and one I’ve actually appreciated, as rough as it’s felt. For
this, I have apologized both on the list and to the individuals affected.
The overall change does reflect, in the Wikimedia Foundation’s view, a
necessary clarification in how the contents of the Wikimedia Foundation
site (wikimediafoundation.org) are governed and how decisions are made or
abitrated. I know this will disappoint some of you, but I also want to say
that I’m not planning to reverse this decision.

I’m also wondering what’s necessary to create better interactions and more
visibility with one another, which is one of the foundations of trust. I’m
not so active on this mailing list, so you don’t know me and I don’t know a
lot of you.  My personal experience is that it helps to have a sense of who
people are to really be able to assume good intent, so I’d like to also
start a different conversation if y’all are game in the next few weeks.
(Someone wrote me recently in light of this that I must be either stupid or
malicious, which I thought was sort of funny, but it highlighted for me
that without more visibility into me and what I do, you really could think
either of me - or both.)

John Gottman <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gottman>, in his research
on healthy relationships, talks about the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse of
relationships - elements that contribute negatively to every relationship.
They are criticism, stonewalling, disdain, and contempt.  These are
elements that I aspire to eliminate in my correspondence with all of you,
and that when I experience them aimed at me,  erode my ability to be
collaborative with y’all and I’d like to work on that. I realize I
committed the first error in the last round, so I have some ground to cover.

Negative interactions (mine included) “weigh” more than positive
interactions. People remember them more, and are affected by them more
deeply. Gottman, in marriage relationships, says you need a 5:1 ratio of
positive to negative interactions for healthy relationships. I think that's
true in many kinds of relationships for them to be healthy, thriving

He also mentions that having a sense of what matters to other parties in a
conflict matters, so I wonder, do we have a sense of who each other is and
what we care for?

In the hope that it helps you to get to know me a little, I’d like to share
a few things about who I am and also extend the invitation that I’d love to
know these about any of you who care to respond.

Most of my early world was on-line as a really awkward geek kid.  I spent
time on BBSes over modems growing up, so most of the way I knew my friends
was through text, later playing an admin role on a few MUSHes. I have a lot
of interest areas - I sing, I played LARPs, I love Star Trek and Broadway
musicals, write fanfiction, am an avid reader, and love travel. In my spare
time, I run an organization called Spark <http://www.sparksf.org>that works
on global women’s human rights issues.  My core commitment is to technology
as a frontier for human rights work, because access to free knowledge is
fundamental for social change. I am in awe of what Wikipedians have built.
Last week, I was at a human rights conference. I learned things that scared
me and met a ton of people who inspired me. For instance, I talked to a
woman named Hannah Song of the organization Liberty in North Korea
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_in_North_Korea> about how to sneak
Wikipedia and other media into North Korea. The North Korean government
retaliates against three generations of a family if one person speaks out
against their government. Things like that in our world are not okay with

I’ve been doing leadership development work for 15 years, out of a
conviction that the world needs more conscious leaders. (I’m not unaware of
the irony of my own lack of consciousness over pulling the trigger on
something on my to-do list right before I went somewhere. Definitely a
comical wake-up call to re-examine my own behavior with some hubris.)

Here are a couple things that are up for me around Foundation work this
week, related to what I see as my core role of caring for people’s well
being. Yesterday, we launched the “Aliens” group here at the Foundation
last night. I’m very amused that they called themselves that. The purpose
of the group is to help people we bring in from different parts of the
world who have chosen to relocate to SF figure out how to live in the
United States, and understand the arcane systems we have like health
insurance and how credit scores in America works, and for them to share
experiences with one another. We’re deep in improving our annual review
process, so I wonder a lot about how to help people get the right feedback
to help them improve in how we do things.  A big thing that I’m taking very
seriously is the ED transition - it matters to me that we have someone who
can help us be even better, who gets the movement and its values, and who
can navigate one of the most complex operating environments I’ve ever seen
in all my years of leadership.

So those are some things about me. I’d love to learn more about you.

Warm regards,

Gayle Karen K. Young
Chief Talent and Culture Officer
Wikimedia Foundation

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