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 to strongly, 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 :-)

A quick additional comment: I originally wrote this post because I was thinking about the discussions you-all were having about unfriendliness, barriers to participation, and so forth. And then I accidentally posted to Community Health instead of here, because I confused your task force with theirs. So .. I want to step very lightly, because I am sure you are having conversations about your mandate, and I have not read everything you've written. With that caveat though, I hope that for the most part your group is staying focused on recommendations to improve/support quality. I personally believe that overlap among different task forces is generally fine, and has the potential to be actually be quite positive (because it'll make it obvious where there is general consensus and evident need) -- but your group is the only one that's been asked to think about quality. So I hope you are mainly focused there. Thanks :-)

Sue Gardner23:52, 7 December 2009

I can't speak for others, but I've not felt any concerns about the ability of the team on this page to develop a brief number of insightful and pivotal key recommendations.

FT2 (Talk | email)00:06, 8 December 2009

Ummm. What worries me here is that all of our deliberations may end up pointless - few will read them, and nobody will act on them. Creating another body to implement them smacks of even more bureaucracy (and I do think that we already have too much of it). What I'd like to see is a short, simple (KISS) set of recommendations, in as simple language as possible, that would be widely advertised by the WMF. But no, we cannot and should not force anybody to accept them; we don't have a mandate for that. The Board, on the other hand, does, and what the Board wants to do with our recommendation is, well, up to the Board. Our goal is to make it as useful as possible (and I'll stress it again - useful usually has a high positive correlation with KISS)., 8 December 2009

That was me. Hey, I found another thing to bitch about w/ regards to liquid threads - apparently I cannot edit it to replace my IP with my name. I really, really, really hate LT.

Piotrus03:43, 8 December 2009

Well, no, that would be re-attributing a contribution. :)

But you can edit the post and make a note that it was you.

~Philippe (WMF)03:45, 8 December 2009

I submitted that as a request to change LT, a while back.

FT2 (Talk | email)09:19, 8 December 2009

This is interesting. I just came to the same conclusion as Sue Gardner, before she posted it. My own idea was we should form some kind of lobbying group/wiki-party pushing for quality improvement on a meta scale. Things we should lobby for:

    • We should push for a 'brand', which must contain the basic aspects of quality;
    • We should advertise, stimulate and teach these aspects of quality on as many Wikimedia projects as possible;
    • We should push for more statistical research specifically directed at these aspects of quality and then address the question what proposals/systems stimulate these aspects best;
    • We should push for more guidance and teaching of new or otherwise inexperienced contributors;
    • We should push for a technical addition that enables feedback for articles and talk page contributions;
    • We should push for admins to be more active in battling rude, demotivating behaviour.
    • We should push for a 'senior editor' status to be created to give quality users more influence in wiki-politics and more authority in discussions;
    • We should push for measures that keep the not-understanding-but-wanting-to-comment types out of discussions;
    • We should push for wikiprojects to function at a meta scale; apart from sharing specialist knowledge, such groups should create lists of the universal information that all Wikipedias should have.

All of these things have already been discussed by this task force. As a first step, we could take the most practical/realistic four points and make them our four recommendations for January. We should then continue to pursue our goals by creating a group page at meta, attracting more contributors that care for quality from as many different projects as possible. Together, we could make a wiki-wide difference for quality.

Woodwalker20:39, 8 December 2009

I think we should also recognize that these things are directed at very different target audience: some at communities, some at specific groups of users (e.g. sysops), some at developers, some at external audience, some of them might require some discussion by the Council.

Yaroslav Blanter11:41, 9 December 2009

My understanding is that:

(i) no one can mandate the policies to be adopted by the projects, but we must be able to convince the projects that the proposals are really attractive. For this we obviously need to compile attractive proposals. (ii) some of the proposals may be not policies but the proposed actions, and these need to be endorsed by WMF.

Yaroslav Blanter10:29, 8 December 2009