Following the Wikimedia finance meeting in Paris in February 2012 (Signpost coverage), a number of chapters started to formally debate the idea of creating a Chapters Council to improve cooperation among themselves and to advance their common positions in relation to the Wikimedia Foundation. The deadline to draft a founding charter of the body to be established was March 18, and two designs have been discussed.
On March 7, Tango – the former treasurer of Wikimedia UK – submitted one draft and Ziko – the president of Wikimedia Nederland – another one, trying to outline a compromise between the older models KISS (Metternich), he authored himself, and B (Bismarck) by Sebmol. Both older models command some support among chapters who have indicated interest in joining a council. While KISS was distinguished by a short sleeves-approach with a paid director, B emphasized the need for a more robust institutional structure with a paid executive board.
Tango's draft includes an assembly as main body, composed of two representatives for each chapter – one orderly member and their deputy – selected by that chapter according to a manner of its choosing. Each representative would have one vote. To ensure implementation and facilitation of the assembly, it is proposed to establish a staffed (paid) Secretariat, and to provide the main body with the option to delegate issues to special committees. The financial resources would be provided by the members.
Tango decided to incorporate optional clauses to be looked at in Berlin via WP:BRD to reflect different possibilities.
Draft Ziko (and others)
Ziko's draft tries to combine the older models B and KISS, thereby creating some sort of chapter parliament – called Council, a kind of paid government – called Secretariat, and a roughly defined Judicial Board to handle conflicts occurring under the charter.
The council would be filled with people picked by the chapters, one per entity with one vote each and two year terms. Chapters joining could elect one representative and would be required to pay an as-yet-undefined amount of money to support the association.
State of the chapter boards
According to the chapter support count, B is named as the preferred version in the resolutions of the chapters of Germany, South Africa, and with some exceptions Israel, while KISS is backed by Austria, France, Serbia (which would like to integrate some elements of B), and Switzerland.
However, most of the resolutions of these chapters, as well as the others from interested chapters which have not formally expressed a preference for one of the underlying models in their resolutions (Chile, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Netherlands, UK, and Venezuela), provide considerable maneuvering space to agree on compromises. The chapters in the Netherlands and the UK, whose members were the primary drafters of the two final designs, have not formally committed themselves to either of the models originally discussed.
Additionally, several chapters vowed to provide resources – in the form of funds (from €10,000 from the Netherlands to €375 from Indonesia), manpower (Israel, Germany, Venezuela), and (in the case of the Swiss chapter) support in negotiations for offices in Zürich or Geneva.
The issue of resources was targeted by Nathan and Tom Morton on foundation-l as well as on Meta. The critics argued that the proposal to create a council was among other things too heavy-handed, while Jan Ainali – the chairman of Wikimedia Sverige – raised the point of how binding council decisions should be.
The process also sparked some discussions on the German Wikipedia, since Ziko published an article in the Signpost's tabloid-leaning sister publication, the Kurier, on March 10. Several Wikipedians, notably Hubertl (a member of the Austrian chapter) emphasized in the discussion that the purpose behind the concept and several aspects of the Ziko draft were insufficiently clear to them. The Tango draft played no role in the local German debate.
According to the timeline, the interested chapters need one additional entity to formally support by mandate the general concept before March 25 to proceed in Berlin by signing a charter and handling details.
The event is very academic in nature, and submissions are particularly encouraged from doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, to discuss "issues in the overall nexus of Wikipedia and free knowledge". Nonetheless it will be open to all, and feature a variety of sessions ranging from open panel discussions to workshops to lightning talks. As of now "topics of interest" are Wikipedia users and contributors, global differences, cultures and practices, economics and regulation, and statistics. Extended abstracts are due on 31 March 2012, and papers that are accepted are due in full on 1 June 2012.
First GLAM partnership in Bulgaria
On March 13, the first GLAM partnership in Bulgaria was officially announced by the Bulgarian Archives State Agency (BASA) and Wikipedia volunteers. In the beginning of November 2011, BASA initiated a dialogue with interested members of the local community for establishing a partnership that benefits both the Agency and the free encyclopedia. The idea that undergirds the talks is that BASA is to grant access – to those Wikipedian volunteers with whom official agreements have been made – to archival records not subject to copyright. The volunteers will digitize the records of interest to them, will upload them to Wikimedia Commons (commons:COM:BASA) and will use them to illustrate and enhance the articles published in the encyclopedia. In this way, BASA will attempt to popularize its activities and to enlarge the use of its records by the general public. The press conference on March 13 was well covered in the national media.
Wikimedia Research Newsletter, volume 1: The Wikimedia Research Newsletter has completed its first volume. Many Signpost readers are familiar with the report as a monthly feature in the newspapers, having launched in July of last year. The complete volume 1 covers its 2011 editions, cataloging a total of 87 different pieces of Wikimedia-related scientific press. With the publication of volume 1 comes @WikiResearch, a new identi.ca and Twitter feed for the effort, as well as email delivery.
Free HighBeam Research accounts: A program by HighBeam Research to give free, full-access, 1-year accounts to Wikipedians has been launched; applications are being accepted from now until April 9th. Editors must have a 1 year old account with 1000 edits to qualify.
Office hours: Hisham Mundol, Wikimedia Foundation consultant for India, heldoffice hours on March 15th. The logs are available on Meta.