Task force/Movement Roles/Additional Structures Rough Work

From Strategic Planning

Purpose of this page

The purpose of this page is to provide a space for the people interested in Movement Roles to:

  1. Catalogue a bunch of typical editorial 'types of work' [1]
  2. Figure out what subset needs doing at Wikimedia
  3. Of #2, figure out what subset is not currently getting done
  4. Of #3, figure out who is best-placed to do it. The "who" might turn out to be an existing entity (e.g., the chapters) or it might not exist and would need to be created.

You can help here by annotating, commenting, editing, adding, refactoring. I don't care if this page is edited in DocumentMode or ThreadMode: IMO it's a scratch pad and we can do whatever we want with it :-)

Sue Gardner 06:59, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

[1] Why editorial work? Because I think that's the closest existing comparative to what we're doing at Wikimedia. Our methods are highly unusual and emergent – we are volunteer-driven, decentralized, and collaborative in nature. But basically, what we are doing is editorial work: we're building an encyclopedia, a shelf of reference books, a shared repository of knowledge.


  • This page is an experiment; I am not sure how useful it will be
  • Thus far, the lists below have been pulled super-fast from Google, and are non-ideal in a number of ways:
    • They are not sufficiently international
    • They are mostly drawn from news media, rather than educational/reference media: that was not deliberate, it was just ease/availability
    • They are a hodgepodge of apples and oranges.
  • I (Sue Gardner) am definitely not endorsing these structures, or suggesting we should adopt all or any of their elements. This is just an exercise, to see if it helps us advance our thinking :-)

A bunch of lists of roles-and-responsibilities in typical editorial work

enWP's description of the function of the “Executive Editor”

sets the publication standards for performance
motivates and develops the staff
develops and maintains the publication budget
responsible for strategic and operational planning.

An “Executive Editor” job description, pulled from a job site

Managing the acquisition of 75+ products per year, including books, spoken-word audio, music, and online courses
Maintaining the quality and vision of the brand
Overseeing the development and production of all products from inception to publication, with a focus on quality and timeliness
Working closely with other teams to develop new online formats while maintaining the core product line
Meeting and exceeding division budget goals
Contributing to overall company strategy, vision, and decision-making.

An "Executive Editor" job description for a book publisher

shape the direction of book publishing to further strengthen the company's leading position in trade book market;
acquire writers to strengthen the author pool;
seek, develop, and acquire book manuscripts for publication;
oversee the work of the department's staff;
lead developmental editing;
work with authors, reviewers, editors to shape each manuscript's content, focus, and style;
collaborate with the other departments (e.g. sales & marketing, and production, etc) to develop materials that support and extend the product line.

A typical magazine masthead

Executive Editor
Managing Editor
Legal Affairs
Section Editors (Film, Art, Music, Dance, Theatre, Architecture, Poetry)
Special Correspondents
Contributing Editors
Contributing Artists
Art Design/Direction
Technoloy Director
Publisher/Chief Operating Officer
Chief Financial Officer
Executive Director, Strategic Marketing
Accounting Manager
Executive Director, Sales and Marketing
Advisory Board
Publicity & Public Relations

"Editor-in-Chief" Job Description

develops and implements policy
spots holes in the current over-arching structure in order to make things work more cohesively. While the EIC holds total editorial control, their job isn't to make something happen by intervening directly. Instead, their job is to spot an editorial problem and fix it by tweaking (not overhauling) the current structure until the problem is fixed.

A typical online magazine masthead

Editor in Chief
Managing Editor
Senior Editor
Copy Chief
Associate Editor
Associate Food Editor
Kitchen Editorial Assistant
Creative Director
Community Manager
Senior Product Manager
Engineering Manager
Senior Software Engineer
Senior Software Engineer
Senior Software Engineer
Senior Software Engineer
Software Engineer
Senior Web Developer
Web Developer
Web Developer
Web Developer

How the BBC structures maintenance of editorial standards

supporting accuracy
supporting impartiality and diversity of opinion
supporting fairness
supporting subjects' right to privacy
supporting good judgment when covering crime and anti-social behaviour
responsibility to prevent harm and offence
safeguard the welfare of people under 15
support political and public policy impartiality
supporting good judgment when covering war, terror and emergencies
supporting respect for people's beliefs, including religious beliefs
ensuring editorial integrity and independence
supporting a culture of accountability to the public

How PBS structures maintenance of editorial standards

(PBS is the American public TV broadcaster)

ensuring editorial integrity
ensuring editorial quality
ensuring diversity/breadth
ensuring fairness
ensuring accuracy
ensuring objectivity
ensuring balance
ensuring responsiveness to the public
ensuring courage and controversy
ensuring substance over technique
ensuring experimentation and innovation
ensuring exploration of significant subjects
eliminating unprofessional conduct
eliminating unacceptable production practices
resolving questions of taste (objectionable material)

Comment: one role I would like to see that would have helped with Strategy is some kind of Wikimedia United Nations. That's to say, if we took the ten biggest Wikipedias and had an English speaking representative from all of those we could have got a broader outlook of Wikimedia's biggest projects and may have found that we are indeed re-inventing the wheel in some cases here. The majority of the proposals are en:wp-centric and I wonder whether some of the proposals suggested have already been tried and succeeded/failed at venues that are not well-represented on this wiki.

As to the setting up and filling of roles akin to some of those listed above, we know that there was a council set up by ArbCom not so long ago that was brought down because it was deemed to have been created from the top down; ie people were appointed to it undemocratically. So I sense that any of these roles may only succeed if they are elected. Alternatively it could be made known to the community that these roles exist but that anyone who wants to volunteer for them can fill them, and if that means you have twenty people working on "ensuring objectivity" and nobody working on "eliminating unprofessional conduct" (just picking two random examples) then that would be accepted (though wouldn't stop anyone actively 'advertising' the empty roles for anyone who wanted to take them up). --Bodnotbod 15:34, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

Comment: Thanks, Sue, getting these perspectives from different media organizations is a lot of food for thought. What I think we're currently missing from the Wikimedia movement, is a think-tank type body that could perform a few of the select traditional editorial roles that would still be relevant to an effort like ours, as I understand was done by Jimmy Wales more at the start of the project. This could take the shape of a "volunteer council" or some kind of "institute" perhaps drawing on our growing academic/cultural relationships, or in some other forms that may yet be explored. But I still think this type of thing is a necessary and missing piece of the puzzle. For example, several times in recent history we have seen cases when relatively trivial disputes have stymied the community for months, when an equally satisfactory solution could have been reached by simply putting the question to a small group of experienced editors, or frankly even just flipping a coin, eg the date-delinking debate on English Wikipedia. --Pharos 19:18, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Comment: Thanks Pharos and Bodnotbod.

After thinking more about this, here's what I would suggest are the "missing pieces" -- significant tasks from the lists above, that no body at Wikimedia is currently responsible for. I would love to know people's thoughts about 1) are these important enough to us, to be worth assigning responsibility for, and if so 2) who should be responsible. ("Who" could be a currently-existing entity, e.g., staff, board, chapters.. or a newly-created entity.)

  1. recruiting new editors
  2. motivating and developing editors
  3. setting standards for editor performance
  4. bringing the editorial perspective to overall movement strategy, vision and decision-making
  5. managing the non-editorial development of the product (features, interface, etc.)
  6. spotting editorial problems and fixing them by tweaking current structures and systems
  7. assessing and supporting quality at a high level
  8. assessing and supporting community health at a high level
  9. investigating quality complaints and acting as a reader advocate
  10. assessing and supporting a culture of accountability to the public

(Two quick notes: 1) Responsibility here is obviously voluntary and self-assigned rather than externally-imposed. And 2) I assume that any structures we'd recommend creating would work primarily through influence and persuasion, rather than direct authority.)

Sue Gardner 01:06, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

I agree with you on the "persuasion rather than authority" aspect. A lot of the community seem to be quite hostile to anything that means "some editors are more equal than others". That's not my personal view, necessarily; I can see how giving some powers would be useful. I'm just reporting that such ideas to give people additional powers meets a lot of resistance as far as I can see (though my experience is almost solely with en:wp).
My gut instinct is that the roles you mention (which do strike me as valuable) might best bubble up from the community itself but I guess they would need to be *seeded* in some way; for example, a good editor who feels he has run out of useful contributions to make in his area of interest might be inspired to find out they could take on a role to recruit new editors. So we would need some mechanism to hook up people who would be inspired by the new roles with the roles themselves without appointing them.
Perhaps the only way to do this is to create a page (or portal) on a wiki that explains the nature of the roles and links them to resources that will assist the volunteers and then leave it to the inevitable discussion and alteration of the position's duties by the community and possible elections if there are lots of people fighting over who's going to do what.
There would still remain a lot of problems. For example, do we have enough community members, even on en:wp to fill these roles in a meaningful way? Wikipedia remains a hobby for most people; will there be enough people with both the time AND skill to make these positions work? Although I see loads of very good work on this Strategy Wiki, I still feel the level of contributions is quite low given the number of applications that were received in the beginning. And if the roles are filled, would we be pulling editors away from the valuable work of patrolling recent changes, making good edits and all the other work that is the basic stuff that keeps the encyclopedia current and unvandalised?
I have some other thoughts but I'll leave the floor open for someone else now. --Bodnotbod 14:35, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
Of Sue's list I would say #1-3 will probably always come bubbling up directly from the online community (except if you mean recruiting new editors in real life, which would be a WMF/Chapters thing). Items #4-10 would I think fit most comfortably in the mandate of any Volunteer Council, or related structures organized by same. I would also echo the "persuasion rather than authority" aspect, which is why I think a think-tank type model might be appropriate for this. --Pharos 18:12, 11 December 2009 (UTC)