Looking ahead to recommendations: who has credibility/authority to move them forward?

Looking ahead to recommendations: who has credibility/authority to move them forward?

The conversation here is really interesting, and I totally sympathize with people who are feeling daunted by the challenge of coming up with actionable recommendations in the time you've got.

But I would like to put forward an alternative way of looking at this, and a recommendation.

Let's imagine this group had a year or more –whatever was necessary time-wise-- to develop dozens of recommendations for changes to Wikimedia project policies, designed to support community health. If that happened, I think the most the Board would be able to do would be to recommend that all the various Wikimedia language versions / projects take a look at the recommendations, and consider adopting them. I don't think the Board would be comfortable mandating adoption.

Why? My guess is that the Board would feel ill-equipped, itself, to evaluate the recommendations. It is the body delegated by the editing community to be responsible for advancement of the mission, but it has only nine members (six from “the community”), and they do not collectively reflect very many projects or language versions. (And nor does this task force. Which is not your fault: you weren't designed to be representative.) So my guess is that the Board would feel uncomfortable mandating adoption of your recommendations. [1]

To me, that raises a really interesting question. Because if the Board can't mandate adoption of “community health” recommendations, who can? I think the answer, currently, is nobody. There is no group that currently exists, with the authority and the ability to mandate the kind of change your group is moving towards recommending. Because there is no body that is reasonably reflective of the full breadth of projects and languages, and would therefore would have the necessary credibility and moral authority.

This suggests to me that, rather than focusing your energy on the development of recommendations for new meta-level (cross-project, cross-language) policy changes (or maybe in addition to it)......... your group might better focus energy on developing a recommendation for a meta-level body that would have the necessary credibility and moral authority to mandate changes (or at least strongly, to confidently recommend them). What would such a body look like? How would its membership be established? What level of “representation” would be required for it to be credible? How much “hard” authority would such a body ideally be granted – or should it just have the ability to recommend? What kind of support would it need, to do its job well?

I'm on the Movement Roles task force. If your group sees a need for a meta-level body, I would be happy to carry that message to Movement Roles so we can support it.

[1] I would love if a Board member could confirm or deny this assumption :-)

Sue Gardner19:45, 7 December 2009

Oh LOL, I think I actually meant to post this to Quality, not Community Health. But upon reflection, it's probably equally relevant for you all :-)

Sue Gardner20:13, 7 December 2009

We've been talking about meta type issues related to how to put our recommendations in a form that they will be best used by the Board. So, I guess every group is asking the same type questions. Sydney aka FloNight

FloNight♥♥♥20:19, 7 December 2009

Sue, it's funny that the quality task force become very focused on community health, because that very much applies to us.

I've kind of had a sense that we wouldn't be able to actually make policy for the community. We wouldn't have the legitimacy... and even if we could make a persuasive case to the board, I'm sure they'd ask if they even have the legitimacy on such a people-driven community.

But the good news is that we've identified seven areas for recommendations, and most of them avoid direct changes to policy:

  1. Rewards
  2. Social networking features
  3. Improved usability (and tutorials/wizards?)
  4. Improved governance
  5. Improved dispute resolution and decision making
  6. Policy
  7. help and documentation

The first three do not get directly involved in community controversies. They just make it more rewarding, fun, and easy to get work done, all of which promote community health. Help and documentation is pretty uncontroversial, and could easily be sponsored by the board (if we thought it was one of our top four recommendations, which I don't think it is). And when I look at issues of governance and decision making, I would look at doing exactly what you just said we should do: create a system where Wikipedians can mandate their own changes, instead of forcing changes upon them.

The only area of recommendation that could lead to actual policy changes is #6: policy. And I was already lukewarm towards that. The Ortega study has suggested that policy isn't having much of an impact, and I've looked at a few case studies to find that a lot of hostility and closed-mindedness comes from individual editors rather than broad policies. If you're right that the board couldn't do anything about policy except set soft targets, then I'd be ready to cross "policy" off the list. It would make picking our four areas of concentration much easier.

We should probably have a discussion about which areas of recommendation to pursue anyway. I think we're doing that this Thursday.

Randomran20:41, 7 December 2009

Randomran - these are a good list of areas to work on. I would add one category that may overlap with #1,4,5 somewhat but has a slightly different orientation that being small efforts within the community of contributors to create new norms of engagement. Here is the link to a post I just added to the quality TF (which as you note is wrestling with some of the same questions) t link:Thread:Talk:Task force/Improve Wikipedia's Quality Task Force/Communal enabling of quality/BarryN

--BarryN 18:23, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

BarryN18:23, 8 December 2009

Barry, I think that's an interesting idea. I figured that kind of thing would come up in "improved decision making and dispute resolution" -- tools like facilitation, and new guidelines that prevent it from just turning into "last person standing wins".

I think even FloNight wanted to move away from talking about "governance" and talking more about "organizational structure", so I think that what you're talking about could come up there.

Good to know you're seeing some of the same things. Hopefully through dialog we can make these ideas more feasible and effective.

Randomran19:25, 8 December 2009