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Finance meeting fallout, Gardner recommendations forthcoming

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By Jan eissfeldt, Mathew Townsend and Skomorokh

Finance meeting fallout and Gardner recommendations to be finalized

Many communities make up the Wikimedia Foundation.

According to the unofficial collaborative statement the Finance meeting 2012 in Paris on fundraising and Wikimedia Foundation–Chapters relations (Signpost coverage: Feb 13, Feb 20) delivered no substantial progress in regard to the ongoing debate on financial relations between the foundation and Wikimedia chapters. On the other hand the conference was seen as a step to improve the communication climate in the run up to the annual Wikimedia conference in Berlin at the end of March, and the Board of Trustees also clarified its interpretation of the Haifa letter (Signpost coverage).

However, the summit revived the Haifa debate about the chapters council proposal. Proponents of the basic concept argue that establishing some sort of international permanent body to represent chapter interests will both improve the cooperation among the participating organizations and strengthen the position of the chapter system as a whole in negotiations with the foundation. That represents a shift from the stance taken at Haifa, where the idea was mainly seen as a defensive move by some chapters in response to what was interpreted as aggressive action by the WMF. Neither the notes nor the unofficial statement made clear how this body would help to resolve the short term debates on finance or fit into the ongoing wider movement roles debate.

Instead, discussions about the council in Paris revolved around better coordination and the possibility of improving accountability standards among chapters through self-assessment and inter-organizational peer reviews. There are two models, called B and KISS, in early stages of discussion. Both reflect the largely continental European composition of the chapter communities and are nicknamed Bismarck (B) and Metternich respectively. While KISS focuses on a simple three stage structure with equal representation of all involved chapters, B includes significantly more paid employees to keep up with the capacity of WMF staff.

The board of the Austrian chapter took a lead by formally declaring its preference for KISS, and empowered its responsible board members to enter further negotiations. The outlined global debate timeline is hoped to lead to results in the run up to or at the Berlin conference between March 30 and April 1.

Editor comments requested
Foundation executive director Sue Gardner will be presenting her final recommendations on fundraising and dissemination of those funds to the WMF board on March 9, 2012

According to a note on Meta, Sue Gardner is to present her final recommendations on fundraising and the dissemination of those funds to the Board of Trustees on March 9. She welcomes further discussion right up until that deadline, according to community liaison Maggie Dennis' note on the page; as long as the report is marked "draft", she is open to making changes.

It is unclear how aware individual editors on the English Wikipedia are that to provide input on WMF decisions such as the current proposals relating to fundraising and the distribution of funds, they must participate actively on the Meta website (although recent controversy surrounding a Meta-based request for comment on an English Wikipedia administrator will have heightened the site's profile locally). Judging from the amount of discussion of Sue Gardner's draft proposal, there is very little awareness among editors.

Draft report highlights

Gardner stated in her draft report that she had hoped that her finalized recommendations on fundraising and funds dissemination would receive consensus support, but at this point she doubts this will happen, as the many past proposals and suggestions on how to move forward have historically not been supported and the problems remain unsolved. However, she warns that the status quo cannot continue:

In the draft, Gardner criticizes the current Wikimedia structure that "enshrines" chapters based on geography. The chapters have no common mission. As they are considered "key" participants, the foundation has given the chapters two board seats on the Board of Trustees, whereas none of the Board members are selected specifically by ArbCom members, stewards, administrators or general members of the editing communities.

The 160 countries of the world that do not have chapters do not benefit from special privileges dispensed by the foundation, nor does any editor not active in a chapter, regardless of their status in the community (including the en.wp community), such as ArbCom members, stewards or those in any other community-elected position.

Gardner is convinced that the "enshrining" of the chapters as key is the wrong approach for the foundation, as it violates the basic principles of the movement:

Chapters council

Indeed, currently a Chapters council is being proposed to centralize the organization of all the chapters as well as control their organization and activities. The Chapters council, among other activities, will "determine consensus positions on common chapter interests and represent them in relations with the Foundation, the project communities, and interested external parties". This, in effect, appears to remove individual chapter autonomy so that the chapters will speak in one voice.

Brief notes

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Dear Mathew - read ur commentary on the page on meta focussing on Funds and so on. Please dont be sarcastic. If there will be numbers, there will be a discussion. The article here shows, that there are none. But thats not the point. U cant shift all the evil to Mrs. Gardner. She made proposals, others should have contributed. They did not in Paris, as we read. So she can only make recommendations for strategic reasons - but that shouldnt be the point either. The point is: How is that structure to be dealt with: The WMF - the chapters - the authors. Who is what in that chain? How can we make benefit possible for all (and dont forget the donors, its a complicated system to resolve). --Angel54 5 (talk) 03:01, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I'm not being sarcastic. I had no idea about this chapter business until now. I'm not shifting the blame to Gardner. Personally, I think she is right on - she sees how screwed up things are and she is pessimistic that there is any kind of will in WMF to fix things. She is the only one that seems to see what is going on and how destructive it is. Isn't it a little strange that the US has no chapter? The Signpost editor says this is old news, that anyone can find this out in 10 seconds. But now I am understanding some things and how unlikely anything about en:wp specifically is going to be fixed. It is obvious to me that WMF has its own agenda, and that when they speak of "community" they are talking about something completely different than when people on en:wp speak of "community". MathewTownsend (talk) 03:22, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Wikimedia DC and Wikimedia NYC actually focus on multi-state regions around the cities they're named for. Both of the existing US chapters would very much like to encourage the creation of new chapters in the other major regions of the country, and would be glad to assist fellow volunteers in any area.--Pharos (talk) 04:27, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
well, I live much closer to Cuba than I do to Washington DC or New York City. Can I "join" one of those two chapters? I read the directions about how to start a chapter and there is no way I'm up to that. It seems I would have to form a corporation to form a chapter. I don't even know another single person that edits en:wp. MathewTownsend (talk) 15:45, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Dear Signpost, thank you for mentioning the two models for a chapters council and stressing out the general movement atmosphere in which the discussion was revived. Please allow me to point out that the principle "one chapter, one representative" is valid for both models. By the way, I don't totally understand why the models reflect something "continental European", according to you. Kind regards Ziko (talk) 12:10, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Interesting, Mathew - it was an Australian who proposed to build a US-Chapter, Wittylama. But as he mentioned there on that page. The initiative to do so is not in responsibility of WMF, thats what wittylama also said. I really dont know how to solve that problem. Perhaps ask some people about, and perhaps look for the nutshells of discussions Maggie Dennis from WMF did. on the above mentioned page. Perhaps u ask wittylama directly about his proposals. --Angel54 5 (talk) 16:56, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Here's the directions: Step-by-step chapter creation guide. Step 1: Gather the people. It goes on to recommend that I "gather a community of at least 20-25 people interested in creating or joining the chapter." Now, I don't know anyone that is interested in creating or joining a WMF chapter. I don't even know anyone that's interested in editing en:wp. So I don't get to be in a chapter and have a voice in anything WMF does, how funds are distributed, how much Wikipedia:United States Education Program/Online Ambassadors/About is expanded etc. I'm voiceless. MathewTownsend (talk) 18:41, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Except for that bit where you get to vote in the election of several Board members. Okeyes (WMF) (talk) 19:37, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
You're joking, right? I've never seen notification of a pending election posted. I've looked at the Board elections 2011 results and I've never heard of any of these people. Are you saying that if I could figure out how to contact them, I could be "heard"? That I would count somehow? (I did discover a WMF site that for some reason doesn't seem to be listed anywhere that is apparently the springboard for the on line educational program:[1]). I think it's clear that the WMF power structure allocates me zero, except perhaps the chance to vote once a year for someone I've never heard of. MathewTownsend (talk) 20:17, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Matthew, the pending election notice is a big banner at the top of every watchlist. It runs for several weeks, in various forms. It is accompanied by notices on all major noticeboards, on all major mailing lists. The lack of notices is not the issue; the last election was in June, and your contributions state that you were not an editor in June (do correct me if I'm wrong). Note that electing people to the board of trustees is the primary way chapters are heard, as well; if you had become a chapter member after the chapters election, or founded a chapter after the chapters election, you would have the same problem. Okeyes (WMF) (talk) 20:29, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Okeyes, hows that? I still would be voiceless, without a means of input, even if I were in a chapter? So it matters not that there's no chapter I can join? Well, it's clear I'm wasting my time trying to learn about chapters! MathewTownsend (talk) 20:45, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
No, Matthew, I'm saying that regardless of what organisation you join or what status you have in the movement, gaining this status or joining this organisation does not give you the ability to vote in elections that happened eight months ago. whibbly-wobbly-timey-wimeys are a bit out-of-scope for our budget. Okeyes (WMF) (talk) 20:48, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
But you don't seem to get that I can NEVER join a chapter, unless I move to New York City or Washington DC, and voting one a year for someone I've never heard of is not my definition of giving me a voice. MathewTownsend (talk) 20:51, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Well, there are more options than that. The WMF employs or contracts several community managers and community liasons, whose job is to handle ideas and queries from the community in specific areas. There is Maggie, for example, who you've met; she deals with most of the things :). I handle Engineering-related queries. There are people you can speak to, and people who can listen to any specific concerns you might have. Okeyes (WMF) (talk) 20:54, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
(outdenting) Dear Matthew, the WMF and board are well aware that chapters aren't the "entire story" -- that not every editor lives in a place where there is a chapter, and even those who do may not want to get involved with their chapter. The chapters are part of the story -- a structure that has arisen to support local activity. WMF sees itself as serving everyone: the projects, editors, chapters, and yes readers too. Chapters certainly don't have an exclusive say in how money is allocated; the article may be a bit misleading because it is focused on a specific debate. Anyway.... I am on the Board of Trustees, and I am reading your comments! best, -- phoebe / (talk to me) 21:04, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • I'm not sure this article is particularly correct in some of its interpretation. As one of the people who attended the meeting, I'm pretty sure it did produce substantial progress. This topic has not been an easy one for relations between Chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation over the last year or so. The fact that people at the meeting treated it as a common effort to find solutions to a real problem was in itself a real step forward. I'd also point out that discussion also covered the development of the next iteration of movement strategy, and how to align spending decisions (by the Foundation or chapters) with the movement strategy.
You also seem to have missed most of the discussion on Meta. There are actually dozens of pages of content and discussion on this subject - I think the link in the article goes to the wrong place. Of course more contributions are welcome, but it isn't an under-discussed topic.
And finally, I don't think the Chapters Council proposal will have any effect of "removing chapter autonomy". If it did, it wouldn't have been enthusiastically supported by (almost) every Chapter representative present at the meeting. Part of its role is to help develop and communicate consensus amongst chapters, and so to facilitate communication. Another part of its role is to develop standards of audit and transparency for chapters, which everyone agrees needs to happen but which the Foundation would prefer not to impose. But I believe everyone involved in the process understands that Chapters will continue to enjoy a high level of discretion.
Regards, The Land (talk) 20:31, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with this interpretation of the meeting. -- phoebe / (talk to me) 21:04, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
(I did wade through pages and pages and pages of WMF stuff.) Could you be specific about what "substantial progress" was produced? It did say somewhere that there was an effort to end the meeting with good feelings. This statement seems to speak to the low level of expectations for the meeting's outcome: "The fact that people at the meeting treated it as a common effort to find solutions to a real problem was in itself a real step forward." Is this the "substantial progress" that was achieved? Or were fundamental decisions made as to how to handle fund raising and fund dissemination? MathewTownsend (talk) 21:41, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with Phoebe and The Land statement. I was a participant to this meeting and I think the report provided above absolutely not reflect what happened there. I think the meeting was extremely positive and fruitful, though not as we expected it would be. I think it was probably one of the most productive meeting I ever attended in the wikimedia mouvement. I am also thinking of a rule on Wikipedia, which about the space dedicated to each position. It is quite weird to see that a meeting where the discussion was so fruitful between Chapters, Board of WMF, and people such as Geoff and Garfield finally end up in a 90% space occupied by Sue's position. It is just.... not it. I understand very well that it is hard to report on something you were not present. But don't you think there is something illogical when on one hand you write that the meeting essentially produce no results whilst people came back from it so much more in peace than before and plenty of stuff to do ? Anthere (talk) 23:51, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Mathew--actually, the meeting exceeded everyone's expectations. The "low end" of expectations you refer to would have been a weekend of unproductive discussions. Ironically, if the discussions had been unproductive, it's rather more likely that there would have been more written statements issued about it.
It was not a meeting at which decisions about the future of fundraising could be taken. Formally speaking, there is only one decision to take, and that lies with the Wikimedia Foundation board. Since it wasn't a Foundation Board meeting, and only 50% of the Board was present, that was not going to happen in Paris. However, the Foundation board members who did attend seem to have found it a very valuable experience in informing their decision-making. Equally, the Chapter representatives who attended found it very helpful to discuss their concerns face-to-face. As a result, the conversations about fundraising moved forward much more than they have done in about the last 6 months. The Land (talk) 22:48, 29 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
well, I didn't write that part of the article. I have no idea what happened in Paris. Glad that everyone feels good although not enough of the Board was there to be able to make decisions. MathewTownsend (talk) 23:46, 29 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • I'm used to considering the Signpost as a reference news source and I'm pretty ... abashed. The info I got from our board members who took part in the Paris meeting were extremely positive as to how it went and that things where headed for the better.
now what should be a sourced, serious "piece of news" looks to me more like an "inflammatory opinion paper". I do not know Jan eissfeldt, MathewTownsend and Skomorokh, neither what they are up to, but I'd guess "nothing very positive for the Wikimedia movement" would be an understatement --Ofol (t) 21:08, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Considering the statement, "to provide input on WMF decisions such as the current proposals relating to fundraising and the distribution of funds, they must participate actively on the Meta website", it might be useful for someone to monitor discussions on Meta & provide a report for the Signpost. In any case, this is the first time I've seen this & I've been around Wikipedia for quite a few years, participating at different levels throughout that time. -- llywrch (talk) 21:27, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • I reported on WMF Executive Director Sue Gardner's draft proposal that she is presenting to the WMF board on March 9. I quoted from her report. She asked for input while the report is still in a draft state. I gave a link to her report, and I encourage all interested editors to go to her report and add your views, correct what you perceive as her misperceptions or add any suggestions you want. The point of my report is that many editors on en:wp may not know that they can give input regarding Gardner's draft proposal but they must go to the WMF site to do so. MathewTownsend (talk) 21:49, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
yeah, but could you somehow separate the report on the meeting from Sue's recommandations ? Sue's draft recommandations were made much earlier than the meeting and are in no way an outcome of the meeting. Anthere (talk) 23:54, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Anthere, yes, I agree. That wasn't my doing but the editor/publisher who edited the page. I'd have liked to have seen the issues separated. MathewTownsend (talk) 00:00, 29 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]

well, the numerous points made above on what "real" progress was archived are in terms of politics and are (of course) covered in the report ("step to improve the communication climate"). however, politics is not policy ("substantial regard to financial relations") and its only proper to maintain this distinction between ends and means in reporting, regards --Jan eissfeldt (talk) 12:34, 4 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Random question

Was curious, what is the average number of edits to an article? ResMar 23:58, 28 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]

19.67 (according to special:statistics - which may not be the most accurate source, but should instead be treated as a good guess). Bawolff (talk) 00:37, 29 February 2012 (UTC)[reply]


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