[Wikipedia-l] Parallels with other volunteer efforts & foundations (3 of 3)

SJ 2.718281828 at gmail.com
Fri Sep 22 03:05:37 UTC 2006

Wikipedians speculate about the future all the time.  And yet I say we
rarely engage serious discussion of priorities, dreams, timelines,
goals, and opportunity costs.  Why is this?  In part, it is because we
don't have detailed comparisons with other similar organizations and
situations; only hearsay and vague rules of thumb.

Threads and policy subpages about what should or should not happen,
with hypotheses about the results of community or policy or
organizational change, often go on for months and hinge on unknowns.
But people are far more willing to speculate absently about human
nature than they are to research what has happened to similar efforts
in the past.

Reading and learning about how other projects and international
volunteer efforts work, and how similarly bold historical efforts have
grown and transformed, can help turn these discussions from circular
arguments to analytical collaborations.  This can also help avoid
"reinventing the flat tire".

These comparisons *should* be made.  Fundraising; volunteer
attraction, empowerment, and retention; administration; handling of
software and article bounties; multilingualism; logo and trademark
licensing; partnership and promotion; selection of advisors -- these
are all general problems.  Wikipedia is different in details, but
shares a great deal with the thousands of thoughtful institutions that
have dealt with these issues in countless contexts, since before the
first Wikipedia logo was a twinkle in the Cunctator's eye.

Unfortunately, these discussions tend to peter out and get lost.
Mailing list threads are dropped and never wikified -- as happened
with the "Wikimedia in five years" thread from last August, and with
the interesting Apache Foundation thread.  Wiki pages are abandoned
and forgotten.

Help keep these discussions alive, and give them shared context.  Here
is a page for gathering links to these discussions, and for
encouraging investigations into groups (such as the Red Cross) that
have been suggested many times for comparison:


Do you know someone who works at a multinational volunteer collective?
 At a major political campaign, grassroots news foundation, or a
branch of the UN?  At a global NGO?  Find out what they think the
parallels are between their organizations or projects and ours.  Ask
them for documents and essays, or even for their take on the greatest
obstacles our projects will face in the near future.  As with the
NetBSD essay, you may be amazed to discover how much of existing
discussions apply to our communities.


ps - Reading over the discussions about Wikipedia's future that have
inspired or provoked me over the past few years, I noticed that
Anthere and Erik Zachte have been involved in, if not the initiators
of, a majority of them.  Rock on.

pps - this is thread 3 in a 3-thread microseries.  see also


More information about the Wikipedia-l mailing list