Meetups/Chapters (November 2009)

From Strategic Planning

This page is used for reporting out by the strategy group meeting in Paris on November 5, 2009.

Questions for discussion (Movement roles)
  • What roles are volunteers best positioned to play within the movement and what support do they need from the Foundation, Chapters, or other structures within the movement in order to do so?

1) What role are volunteers best-positioned to play?

a. Volunteers in the chapters

b. Volunteers active on the projects

Technology; logged in editors; drive-by editors; affiliated volunteers; structurally active volunteers; ad hoc volunteers.

We need to communicate in different ways with different groups of users. We need tools to help us communicate with local people; for instance geo-ip.

“When do you need legal/organizational structure to do something”? Developing a piece of code doesn’t require it, for instance. If you want to apply for a grant, you probably DO need a legal entity. Should this question be rephrased to “when do you require a level of support that the foundation needs to supply?” Chapters can’t be a requirement for stuff that need to be done without that. For recruiting new Wikimedians do you need to have a chapter? Is it culturally bound?

As a representative of an organization is it easier to open doors?

What about a foundation-blessed workgroup/committee? An official “cultural partnerships” workgroup, for example. There are alternatives to having to be a part of a chapter.

WikiPods: The idea is to, on a local level, be able to advance a particular issue/section. Found a wikipod with three or five friends and do things without going through the whole process of becoming a chapter. It is a flexible, small, local team.

Can volunteers get logistical help requests forward, without being affiliated with a chapter?

Technology volunteers


  • mentoring - it's impossible for one or two people to keep up with the amount of commits to the SVN. It's nearly impossible for people to give a timely review of new code from volunteers.
  • people to review third party patches
  • Foundation is currently advertising for a code maintainer/QA reviewer; also for the CTO obviously.
  • Can parts of the code review role be appropriately transferred to other entities? For instance, WM-de and their responsibility for toolserver.
  • Face-to-face meetings and some sort of affirmation. (This is something that chapters can do well).
  • Documentation for how to join the engineering team. How to become an engineer in a useful way? (How do I get my code reviewed and applied?) What are the paths that people take to get there? How do we create support lines to nudge people along the ways that we want?
Sporadic editors

Hard-core editors

  • What are current and future roles and expectations of Chapters? How might roles vary in different country contexts? What policies would support/enhance Chapter roles?
  • What roles should the Foundation continue to play in supporting the movement? What roles should it start playing? What roles should it stop playing?
  • What costs should each group - chapters and the Foundation - be responsible for covering?
  • What additional structures could be developed to connect volunteers to the movement and what would it take to develop these structures?

What support do volunteers need?"

  • For less formal groups, (such as Brazilian chapter or association groups), Foundation needs to recognize volunteers as people who want to contribute.
  • Volunteers need to be able to affiliate with the Wikimedia movement outside of the traditional chapter structure.
  • There should be a way to recognize people in a country in such a way as to specify that there is legitimate representation. Regional working groups?

Group 1

1) What role are vols best positioned to play/support do they need? Volunteers should be pushed to help the reading community become the editing community.

  • Vols and editors are best positioned to help get new editors acclimated. One of the things that volunteers need support for: more intuitive software that provides a gradiant of participation for editors. Flagged revs, staging, draft/versioning software. People should be able to make mistakes without it being scary.
  • Setting up a chat help system where more experienced vols can be available for online chat to help out. It may be easier to implement this as a chat room than as a one-on-one customer support help system. There may be service level issues.
  • What about a "this person is logged in" indication on the editing stream? This could be wonderful in collaboration with a direct chat system. Downside: what about the spam factor?
  • Reaching out to people in the real world could be a very good volunteer role. People are sometimes "nicer" in the offline world (or not).
  • Reaching out to academic programs
  • Setting up workshops
  • Preparing material to reach out to particular groups. (Isn't this part of the role of Bookshelf?)
Support needed
  • Foundation should be a facilitator for these things and create scalable solutions.
Chapter roles
  • Chapters are good at disseminating information and doing outreach.
Foundation roles
  • Encourage chapters to do work on grants and contests. (ie, a chapters "Wiki-cup" - for amount of work, etc.)
  • Software development ideas
  • Social networking functions for mediawiki.
  • Make it easier to create/organize wikiprojects and add social networking to them.
  • Targeted donations (earmarking of donations). This is something that havs possibilities but it must be very very carefully done. Is it a sustainable, long-term possibility? What if it were to be done for special appeals only? One thing that came up: closing fundraiser early - what if, instead of stopping it early, it was made clear that the excess went to the endowment. On the other hand, stopping early gives you the possibility to also extend it if the fundraiser misses the goal.
Cost responsibilities
  • Foundation responsible for hard/software; financial support for chatpers as need be.
  • Chapters responsible for their own costs.
Add'l structures
  • More local/regional groups
  • Speakers bureau - non-geographically centered org (pool from which referrals can be made) - this is DIFFERENT from the wikipage on meta. Should be public but not publicly editable.
  • Experts database (who's good at what?)
  • Set up more channels of communication for users of Mediawiki that are not Foundation projects.

Group 2

1) Foundation and Chapter Values

2) How can we help each other grow?

3) How do we empower parter organizations

4) How do we make sure the atmosphere remains positive? What is happening now that should be changed?

Not just chapter-WMF, chapter internal tension + growing pains. May be delays & difficulties chapters-WMF; also chapters having problems with legal support, and charity status.

"The course to Berlin" - atmosphere was getting tense. - Too many big things all ongoing in parallel - rather than focusing on one thing at a time. - Ongoing issue of big picture. - Tend to forget that we all have the same goals. Charter? (This is the very non-legal chapters agreement mentioned on the internal wiki). - Positive: chapter reporting & sharing. "lightning talks" worked well. Also would be good if Foundation gave presentations about what they are doing.

Topical meetings

Providing spaces: fundraising summit? Inherently intense - but diffuses stress for the rest of the time. Topical meeting around the time of the chapters meeting? Need to get together to organize the 2010-11 fundraiser. Don't necessarily need to have a representative of every chapter.

  • Main reason for fundraising revenue sharing: both WMF and chapters get behind it.

  • Worth having a table of chapters vs. item (fundraising, objects, etc.), with chapter contacts given?
  • Translated WMF annual reports? Translation via meta of chapters + WMF reports
  • Showing appreciation for work done by others. There is no "one way" that it would happen. This may be one of the most actionable things to do. Something as simple as a single email are important. Is there an inherent difference between recognition (Facts) and appreciation (feeling)?
  • No clear communication lines.
  • Responses to emails are important. An escalation process? Why are emails not getting answered? Is it because Foundation staff are blowing chapters off, or is it because Foundation staff aren't issued extra hours in the day? Our current communication system simply doesn't scale. We also all need to learn to be forgiving, and to assume good faith. The best way of solving this is to reduce the need for communication.
  • Internal hours. (Once a month: similar to office hours, except not a public meeting. This should be limited to some subset of users, not openly public).
  • Tracking system, chapters coordinator, office hours, cultural training.
  • How can we make the chapters communicate?
  • What do you do when chapters go inactive/silent/dormant? In terms of the atmosphere, the chapters who are striving to be productive might be negatively affected by chapters that have gone silent. A dormant chapter can be a show-stopper. There should be an accountability to other chapters, to their membership and to the movement.

Chapters discussion

1) In Real Life volunteers

2) Empower non-chapter/non-WMF groups

3) Helping each other grow

4) Silent/Dormant chapters

Silent - Chapters that aren't talking to each other

Australia silent - not doing any activities to mention as focused on administrative work. Requirement to report would be "embarrassing". cf. New York chapter, who do only the interesting things as boring things are 'looked after for them'. Information such as being able to accept donations in specific areas is useful, and should be communicated. Interesting to someone. HK just starting to have something to report - so far administrative.

Chapters doing interesting stuff but silent: e.g. Deutschland, Indonesia. Overworked - don't have the time? Last report (ED report) was in German; very detailed. Volunteer in German community to translate? Problem first to summarize. Mailing list, webpage, etc. - lots of methods of communication, but not put in a single place, even in German.

Translation issue: if translation is done wrong, might trigger cascade of problems that could cost money / damage reputation. Official translation? Approved by ED?

ACTION: Matthias(?): reach out to german chapter, ask for translated summary. Important to do this.

Translation Committee useful.

ACTION: Jeromy to address translation committee for help.

Polska: Doing lots of cool stuff, reporting every 3 months to chapters-reports. Best way to communicate, with summary on internal-l. Use Signpost/Wikizine? Latter already covers some. WMUK provides a paragraph on each, with a paragraph summarizing the whole newsletter.

ACTION: All mailing lists should have an auto-confirm from addresses

If reading a report, good to send an email thanking them for the report - lets them know that the newsletter has been read.

Reports should be in Sue's report?

Have a chapters blog? Bring together posts from chapters + wikimedia foundation blogs.

Argentina doesn't write reports: changed board last month, starting a new policy of communication with members, sending them a newsletter about activities carried out. Need some person to translate. Translate 2-3 lines per month? Reports shouldn't take longer than 15 mins to do.

Standardized report - template, to be filled in? Best Practices form? Each chapter should decide what they want to cover - can leave sections blank. e.g. not everyone wants to share press activities.

One-to-one communication is always a good thing.

More established chapters can support new chapters? Most chapters are in europe - most non-chapters are elsewhere. Some communication going on - HK-Macau, Argentina-Chile. AU-NZ could happen? WMUK: advice to avoid pitfalls is useful. Communication going on, e.g. best practice with BLW/Wiki Loves Art events. AU: "As a new chapter, I don't know what I need."

"To be recognized as a new chapter, must have an existing chapter sponsored as a buddy?" No - another bottleneck. Shouldn't be a requirement. Chapter buddy system? Jose of WMNL helping Indian chapter develop. Personal buddy? Could be funded by WMF? Justification for helping other chapters - expenses/time compensated? "Chapters ... need to make mistakes, and have a hard time to develop." "Process can be eased, but not make it easy."

GLAM-WIKI made a total loss of (only!) $23.

Suggestion: have a 'upcoming chapters' mailing list? Another mailing list probably not useful. Most chapters come to ChapCom with most things already done. Mostly done in their own language. Can lead to things being done wrong initially - but not avoidable.

Chapters survey each year? Factual - number of members, main activities, etc. Done in another organization with ~ 150 chapters.

ACTION: Delphine to get standard survey used by other organization.

Survey could come from ChapCom?

Chapters reports: only announcements, no discussion. Good for people receiving only a few emails. Should make sure that Signpost knows about it.

Make useful information available to chapters - should subscribe to these mailing lists, what does a donor thank you letter look like, etc.

[Lots of discussion about WikiPods / novel groups, including Brazil and France/Spain organization]

Novel groups such as Wikimedia Brazil - could affiliate with an existing, 3rd party organization, who could take on the legal liability, e.g. Creative Commons Brazil.

Could e.g. a Creative Commons chapter become a Wikimedia chapter? Do we want that? If they fulfil the requirements, in terms of goals + presence of Wikimedians. Already done with Serbia and Indonesia. Also potentially partnering with a university - would probably not be membership-driven, but that could be ok in some cases.

Anyone can make a presentation about Wikipedia inc. using the logo - but can't say that they are, or represent, Wikipedia or Wikimedia.