Talk:Strategic Plan/Role of the WMF
|Thread title||Replies||Last modified|
|Terminology: contributors||0||02:00, 17 August 2010|
|Social environment||0||01:02, 17 August 2010|
|Official||12||15:23, 22 July 2010|
|Footnote required on grants||1||17:19, 13 July 2010|
|a good idea?||14||17:26, 1 July 2010|
|Costs/budget||0||09:27, 1 July 2010|
It's only one point, but I'm not sure that social features should be mentioned in this plan (Strategic_Plan/Role_of_the_WMF#Encourage_the_health_and_growth_of_Wikimedia_communities_and_the_projects_they_create_and_manage): they're very controversial and there's no evidence that they would help, moreover it's quite a generic term. I didn't find consensus on this neither in interviews (e.g. wikiHow founder interview) nor on wiki: can you link me the relevant discussion, please?
I guess this makes it Official: the WMF is abandoning the "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge." in favor of "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in our view of what the sum of all knowledge should be."
It has always been unclear whether the WMF was open or closed, with for example Wikipedia theoretically an encyclopedia where anybody with knowledge of a topic could add his knowledge or improve what was there, although in practice it often was a closed community where contents was determined by the popular vote of those who considered themselves members of the community/owners of the project.
Or to paraphrase a contributor at this site: "is it the aim of Wikipedia to be the best encyclopedia possible or the aim to gather a community and have them build the best encyclopedia THEY can build?"
This strategic plan definitely answers that: the aim now is to gather a community of Wikipedians who will build a wikipedian encyclopedia, from a wikipedian point of view, filled with wikipedianisms. The outside world will have to look elsewhere for
unwikipedian unbiased information. Pity. - Brya 05:32, 15 July 2010 (UTC)
What makes you think Wikipedia is biased? The whole point of a consensus based community is to remove bias to the greatest degree possible.
Based on your comment, I'd say that it seems like you're simply angry that your particular political or religious bias isn't represented in articles. But you know what? *No* political or religious bias is suppose to be in articles. Because of that we get complaints from liberal wackos saying "Wikipedia is too conservative!" and from conservative wackos saying "Wikipedia is too liberal!". But in reality it is neither. It is just a more-or-less unbiased listing of facts. (Note that his only applies to major articles. Many minor articles still have a great deal of bias in them, but that's just because they haven't received enough attention yet. Peer review processes cause bias to decrease over time. That's just the nature of peer review. Peer review means that the more people that work on an article, the less biased it will be.)
I guess this is as good an example as any of the twisted ideology that lies at the root of Wikimedia's bias. The weird claim that there is "peer review" in Wikipedia is new to me; this claim is a firm step into megalomania? Most people would call this process of more users 'working' on an article "Might makes Right". - Brya 03:56, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
Brya; We need some citations please. Which articles do you have a problem with.
There are a lot of different people each with their own opinions and information and experience and truth. Unfortunately we have found one persons truth often contradicts anothers. We have also found people adding stuff to wikipedia which they sincerely believe to be true, because they really want the world to work that way, while others sincerely believe the opposite.
The way we have chosen to resolve these disputes is by relying editors working together to to find the best version, defending their point of view by reference to external reliable sources.
This has moved the debate to a discussion of which sources are reliable but in my view it has worked very well.
The main alternative which has been proposed is to make articles sympathetic to the subject with multiple articles for controversial topics, each article sympathetic to a different point of view.
I've spent a few minutes thinking about this, and I'm not sure I agree.
The issue is that small word, "our", in your concern. Who is the subject in the words ...can freely share in our view of what the sum of all knowledge should be? "Our" here, is the community - and the community is open. Every person on the planet can join that community, participate and contribute subject to some baic policies and requirements. So if the rhetoric is taken away, we have
- ALT1 ... a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge
- ALT2 ... a world in which every single human being can freely share in humankind's collective view of all knowledge, subject to guidance on content and criteria that are also agreed by humankind as a whole.
Unpacking it that way shows two areas of concern. First, is the collective view going to be the same as the highest quality possible? Second, humankind are notorious for having some who are very active and some very passive, will the collective work reflect unduly the views and priorities of the few who have a wish to edit rather than the interests of the many who don't or the knowledge of the many who aren't involved.
Both are very valid and the rhetorical style marginalizes them rather than giving them the seriousness they deserve.
The honest answer is, nobody knows. (Old joke - Q How do I get to the library? A I wouldn't start from here if I were you) Wikimedia's editing is run by humans, we are exploring the unknown, we are leveraging mass collaboration, human beings en masse do exhibit considerable dysfunctional and unhelpful group behavior, and any attempts to address those must work within the confines of a global mass edited project and not some ideal of what we'd like people to be like that they are not. Structures, "step by step", and considerable compromise on the way are probably essential. We will probably never get both completely free editing and completely summed knowledge, for they do conflict. It will have a style, for style is inherent in writing content.
We can also consider whether we should create 60% of a world-size cake and refine incrementally as we collectively figure out how to improve that, or demand creation of 100% of a world-size cake and likely find very few can and will help so it fails. The latter approach has been tried of course.
What I'm not seeing though is evidence of any of the rest you then suddenly denounce from nowhere - "the aim now is to gather a community of Wikipedians who will build a wikipedian encyclopedia, from a wikipedian point of view, filled with wikipedianisms" such that people "will have to look elsewhere for unbiased information".
Obviously, the community is not open, not in the sense of "anybody can edit". It is true that anybody can enter the site and make a change, but not everyone can edit content. The community is closed in all kinds of ways, as commented on at this Strategy wiki often enough.
The basic reason for encyclopedias to exist is that if you go into the street and ask people about "A" some 90% will say ""bbbb" while in reality it has been perfectly established that "cccc" appies; there should be a reference work where one can go and look it up. A majority feeling is not a reliable guide.
Of course Wikipedia has fundamental principles, basic policies, etc, but they are not enforced. I do not recall a single instance where I have seen any appeal on a fundamental principle work out. What happens in reality is that groups of users (communities) agree on something (usually a way things should look) and they will enforce that, no matter how much at odds it may be to those fundamental principles, basic policies, etc.
There is a basic juxtaposition between creating content in line with the goals of the WMF (access to knowledge), which is done by going to reality (diving into the literature) and making wikipedia-pages by consensus, which is done by the 'community' putting in their (uninformed) opinions and possibly taking a quick look in an online-database. The underlying cause is that although ideally (if building an encyclopedia is the goal) one would want people who know something to make useful contributions (following those fundamental principles, basic policies, etc) and have those people form a loose 'community' of like-minded people (self-organized by those fundamental principles, basic policies, etc), in reality wikipedia is a squatters' world, a 'community' organized by social bonds and shared (narrow) interests.
This "strong and healthy editing community" has long since shown itself to be limiting the scope of Wikimedia. The last thing that is needed is to strengthen it. If it would be desirable to play the 'community'-card the way to go would be to draw up a formal charter setting out the rights and duties of its members (so as to prevent the often outrageous demands some users now feel free to make). However, that is unlikely to be feasible(!), and for the moment it remains true that the stronger the community is, the weaker the content that it allows to exist, will be. - Brya 06:35, 18 July 2010 (UTC)
First; "A world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge" is the aim of Wikimedia. The aim of wikipedia is to create an encyclopedia - a subset of the Wikimedia aim.
Brya: you claim "groups of users (communities) agree on something (usually a way things should look) and they will enforce that, no matter how much at odds it may be to those fundamental principles, basic policies, etc.". This is a big claim and it does not match my experience. Can you give some concrete examples please where the editors have enforced something which is against fundamental principles (e.g The 5 pillars of Wikipedia) and the basic policies (e.g. What Wikipedia is not).
I think what Brya is saying is that the structures we have and human nature will tend to encourage editors to propose and support what they believe or what the group has collectively adopted rather than what is the highest quality of knowledge, where there is a contentious issue or a division, and that the strongest individuals and groups gain ownership in a practical sense in being able to fend off edits that would change the page's representation and balance. (Brya, correct me if I'm wrong?)
I don't agree with any exaggeration, but given human nature the core is a fair point or concern.
I am not sure if the summing up by FT2 is accurate, but it is going there. However, I am not talking about the what is the highest quality of knowledge as even very basic things are affected.
Human history has amply documented group dynamics, and man's inhumanity to man. The way to promote Wikimedia's mission is to strengthen the core values (the values of the various projects) and to encourage implementing these. Strengthening communities (as communities) is to create loose warheads with predictable deleterious consequences for the projects. - Brya 05:11, 19 July 2010 (UTC)
I am confident that there are multiple examples. By this time I have resigned myself that What Wikipedia is not is a pretty fair description of what Wikipedia really is, in most places. But the example I am thinking of first and foremost are the Tree-of-Life and Plant communities. The Wikipedia Tree-of-Life community exists to create a wikipedian Tree-of-Life, so it exists for the very purpose to defy NOR and V policies. It is all abundantly documented: I gave a partial summary here. But this belief that there is a single Wikipedian Truth (discovered by Wikipedians, and first made known on Wikipedia) is all through the project pages. Even recently there was a move to delete the established information on APG (what made it into Wikipedia in spite of the Tree-of-Life and Plant projects) in favour of a Wikipedian Synthesis (here) but fortunately this has not happened (yet). Wikipedia Syntheses (on things that exist only or mostly on Wikipedia) are here, and the like.
But the general pattern of groups that establish ways-things-should-look and then have these displace actual content is found all over. It is really widespread. - Brya 05:00, 19 July 2010 (UTC)
As a matter of general practice, the Foundation will no longer accept restricted grants for non-core operations and programs, other than those currently planned
Unclear to a reader what this means or what it may have encompassed in the past. Footnote please to give more information?
I posted my thoughts on this part of the strategic plan here. Others are commenting (I hope) as well.
It would be useful to see provenance: where did any particular part of this come from? From community members, Bridgespan, senior leadership at WMF?
That's kind of a broad question. All of it came from the process, which of course, involved everyone. The main concern was making sure that the Foundation priorities aligned with the movement priorities, which I think they do. Is there a specific section you're wondering about?
I thought I'd comment on your blog post here. I'll probably post something there as well.
Regarding Foundation growth: This recommendation was first made in Sue's letter to the board last February, which was published openly on this wiki. The link was prominent on the Main Page for the past six months, and we also used the SiteNotice to draw attention to it as well. The eventual number that the Foundation decided to target was smack in the middle of that range -- about $50 million in annual revenues. Your post is the first time I've seen anyone raise any eyebrows about it.
I don't see going from a $15 million to a $50 million organization shocking growth. Wikimedia is a top five web site -- the other four are organizationally-driven, and they're all 3-4 orders of magnitude larger, both in revenue and in employees. Tripling in size doesn't change that. Moreover, this growth is consistent with large open source projects, such as the Mozilla Foundation. In fact, that would make us smaller in five years than they are right now.
I think Nihiltres's comments on your blog post are hard and important questions, and I think it's worth having a discussion about that. But I don't see the growth we're talking about exacerbating that. Those issues are real now.
you are absolutely right that there is a budget range buried in the middle of that letter (which yes, I have read before). And indeed, I should have noticed it, extrapolated to the kind of staff growth proposed on this page, and lodged a thoughtful criticism. However, I find your suggestion that this proposal has raised no eyebrows absurd -- are you seriously saying that there is anything this important within Wikimedia that someone wouldn't find fault with? You know the community better than that :) If there is not even a single complaint, I think it simply means it hasn't been discussed at all.
What I meant by provenance was that it would be nice to know where specific recommendations come from: the recommendation to grow the staff to a particular number, the budget recommendations, etc.
And I think it's disingenuous to suggest that tripling the size of the Foundation wouldn't change it. The question is whether those changes are good and appropriate for our community, which is, as you note, quite special.
I'm not suggesting that no one would find fault with it. Obviously, you do, and so I'm glad we're discussing it here. You seem to be suggesting that this goal would have created much more controversy if it were more explicit. I do not agree with that, and frankly, from the feedback on this thread, your blog post, and foundation-l, I'm not seeing that from others.
If anything, the feeling that I get from conversations here and elsewhere is that people want the Wikimedia Foundation to do a lot more than it can, it will, and in my opinion, it should. One of the motivations behind the reframing of this wiki around the Call for action and Proposals was to help people realize what they are capable of without needing Foundation approval or intervention.
I never suggested that tripling the size of the Foundation wouldn't change it. From an organizational standpoint, your questions are very valid. My suggestion was that the growth target would not shift the power equation between the Foundation and the community.
I do think that the relationship between the Foundation and the community is an ongoing challenge, one that needs to be addressed. Jan-Bart and Arne are initiating a movement roles discussion as a way to make progress with these challenges, and I hope they and others leverage this wiki to do so.
Finally, it's very fair for you to ask about the methodology for coming up with those numbers, and I'll ping Bridgespan about sharing this.
Last edit: 14:08, 30 June 2010
well, I for one was surpised to see all this and only noticed it because of a mention in The Signpost. However my concern doesn't lie in the rapid growth - I think we need to grow and take risks or else be left just being "that encyclopedia that was innovative in 2006". However, I do have 2 other concerns:
- I don't see where the-people-formerly-known-as-the-community sit in this plan. Personally, I am neither an employee of the WMF nor am I a very active contributor of content to the projects (I'm not an article-writer) and as such I don't see what role I have in the movement if there is no scope for participating outside of these.
- The foundation's professionalisation over the last few years has been great and I'm very happy with it. I do wish however that rather than the WMF investing directly in chapter-like projects, that it would invest in the development of the professionalisation of the chapters themselves so that they can do the outreach on the ground. Currently, we do not have a "rising tide lifts all boats" relationship between the WMF and Chapters and this plan doesn't seem to set out any ways to rectify that. This leaves the chapters in a position of a) not being able to support the WMF professionally and b)a parternalistic system of WMF handouts to chapters when requested.
Regarding investment in developing Chapters: That is absolutely part of the plan. And you're right, for some reason, it's not listed in Strategic Plan/Role of the WMF. I will see if we can get clarification on that.
Regarding your opportunity/role as a non-active contributor and a non-staff member. I have two thoughts. You, in particular, are in many ways the ideal example of a community member who is making a huge difference for the movement simply by doing what you do. (For people who don't know about Liam's British Museum work, see his blog.) I think this kind of work squarely falls under the second of the Strategic Plan/Movement Priorities -- improve content quality.
The fact that you, as an active contributor, look at the plan, and you don't see a role for yourself, troubles me. So I'd like to explore how we could make this better.
One way would be to create a page called Strategic Plan/Movement Roles. This was the original intention. It didn't happen because this page has to be written by members of the movement (which happened with the Strategic Plan/Movement Priorities page, and for whatever reason, we've had difficulty getting people contributing to a movement roles discussion on this wiki. I allude to this a bit in my comment above about Jan-Bart and Arne's initiative.
But that doesn't mean it can't happen. Would you and others (Phoebe, perhaps) be willing to take a crack at such a page?
(This dual forum (here + on the blog) is a little confusing :)
Until now, the Wikimedia Foundation has “survived” with limited financial and human resources. We are now in a position where our financial situation is more comfortable, and it’s natural to convert these financial resources into human resources, considering the Foundation has been ridiculously understaffed for years.
Phoebe, you of all people must know the insane amount of work the current Foundation staff has had to bear; it is not uncommon for a WMF employee to work 50 to 60 hours a week, because they have to. That’s not sustainable.
The financial / fundraising goals can be reached — I fully trust my co-workers who made this decision. And even if they can’t, we have back-up plans.
I hear your concerns about the risks associated with such a rapid growth in personnel. But with more people, the staff will be more available and more responsive to the community. With more people, the Foundation will be able to support the community more effectively. Until now the staff has had to focus on more “internal” tasks; I expect a larger staff to be able to devote more time to interacting with the community.
In a word, I think having more staff at the Foundation will enable the Foundation to work more closely with the community; it is an opportunity for better collaboration and integration. And also an opportunity for talented community members to join the staff :) We need more people on staff who share that historical & community knowledge with their co-workers who are relatively new to the Wikimedia universe.
I see no serious effort at separating the things that can equally well be done by volunteers from those that require the centralization of paid staff. It's looking at things backwards to see that we have money available, so we must spend it. I would instead suggest that we have reached our current status because we have had the absolute minimum of paid staff, and if we depart from it we shall be turning into the sort of organization that discourages volunteerism and diversity. The basic structure of Wikipedia is that anyone can work on whatever they please, but they know that the quality of the site will depend directly on themselves and others like them. This encourages personal responsibility and personal initiative. All of this is lost in a site relying upon professionals for its direction. The existence of paid staff with professional titles inherently exposes us to the danger that they will think that they, not the volunteers, run Wikipedia , and the volunteers are only peripheral. This is not why the volunteers work here. They work because they know that more than with anything else they might be doing , they actually do affect the project directly. Our strength is our chaotic manner of working, and we should not compromise it. Every additional staff member contributes to the ossification of the overall project. If this is irreversible, the best course will be to fork the project: I predict the fork without the staff will do the better.
DGG above expresses many of my feelings about the staffing levels and how it affects volunteer motivation.
At the moment, I'm mostly involved with OpenStreetMap, which prides itself as being "100% volunteer run" and that's a very helpful thing to be able to say when recruiting new volunteers, and appealing to people's altruistic motives.
For Wikimedia, I think that volunteers should be positioned high in the org chart, and staff fill in and supplement in areas that volunteers are weak.
I'm also not thrilled about the departmentalisation, and rather would like to see more cross-fertilization between the various areas and between staff and editing community.
Volunteers are at the top of the org chart - they form the Board of Trustees. And yes, the general organizing principle of the work of WMF is to fill strategic and operational gaps and facilitate volunteer efforts. Whether staffing numbers are (relatively speaking) large or small does not say anything about whether we're being successful at doing so. I see no reason why it isn't possible to build a 200 people organization that's wonderfully capable of supporting volunteer work without displacing it, or a 20 people organization that's utterly incompetent at doing so. Each WMF initiative, including this very strategy process, needs to be carefully assessed in how it's influenced and been embedded into volunteer efforts; in every case, there are lessons to be learned for next time, and we need to work together to figure out the best ways to support Wikimedia's mission.
That's all true regardless of whether WMF grows or remains static, but growth almost certainly guarantees that we'll fail more (because we'll do more). Not a bad thing, as long as we iterate, remain self-aware, and get smarter.
Aude, you said that volunteers should be positioned high in the org chart, and paid staff should fill in and supplement where volunteers are weak. As Eloquence noted, this is the case right now. Do you disagree? If so, could you elaborate?
Quite reasonable and explained in overview (WMF needs to do certain things, have certain capacities, these are much different than its historical low-budget role but needed to stay relevant and provide a stable basis long term).
But when all said and done it's 2x rising to 5x as large as 2010 and some thought or explanation is needed of the principles governing this and what the extra funds buy us - not in terms of type of expenditure or type of staff person, but more in terms of capabilities they bring within scope and what those capabilities require to bring on board in terms of resources.