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Foundation finance reformers wrestle with CoI

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By Jan eissfeldt

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On June 10–11, the working group advising on the design of the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) met in San Francisco to tackle several basic issues like who should be able or required to apply for FDC funds and how multilingual application processes will look. The FDC will be tasked with evaluating applications for funding, mainly by chapters, and on this basis will make recommendations to the WMF board of trustees on how funds should ultimately be allocated.

An "in-depth" point for discussion was whether staff and board members of organizations applying for FDC funding can serve on the FDC at the same time. While chapter functionaries had lobbied for chapter-selected FDC members, thereby being able to choose some of the people to be in charge of evaluating their own chapter applications, in the run-up to the meeting the working group stuck to the existing arrangement: five community-elected and four WMF-board-appointed voting members. On the wider COI question, the following clause remains in the draft:

"Staff / board members of entities requesting funds from the FDC may serve on the FDC; however, they must recuse themselves from deliberations pertaining to their entity's application."

The clause would come into effect if either the community elects or the WMF board appoints such members. However, the Signpost notes that a broad "recusal" requirement failed in the only comparable Wikimedia committee that has come under wider community scrutiny: the first German Community Project Budget Committee (CPB), established in 2011 to evaluate and recommend applications on how to use €200,000 of German chapter funds to the WMDE board of trustees. The CPB ran into trouble over CoI allegations against its own members and WMDE trustees who applied for CPB funds while in charge of its oversight and final approval. The unfolding debate triggered several resignations from both bodies. The chapter's general assembly responded by amending the CPB’s framework to exclude all sitting CPB and WMDE board members from applying for CPB funds.

Another point at issue in San Francisco was the management of FDC volunteers who become inactive. While the English Wikipedia’s ArbCom, one model looked at for best practices, has a larger pool of arbitrators to cope with members who become inactive, and the foundation's Grant Advisory Committee resolved to abandon fixed membership numbers altogether, it may still be decided that FDC members, who will number up to nine, might be replaced by alternate members if inactive for periods long enough to affect the workability of the body.

Topics like the concrete role of a community-elected ombudsperson to handle dispute resolution over the FDC’s work and details of the application papers will be discussed up until the final recommendations deadline to the WMF board on June 30.

Brief notes

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Italian SOPA-like bill

Rendering text in both serif and sans-serif typefaces

The Project page headline "Foundation finance reformers wrestle with CoI" illustrates a recurring issue of considering how text looks in both serif and sans-serif typefaces. To a Wikipedian who knows Wikipedia's common abbreviation for conflict of interest, the meaning of "CoI" in a serif typeface is obvious. It is much less so when rendered in a sans-serif typeface, where it looks like the first syllable of College. (The headline appeared on my talk page sans-serif, so I came to the article mainly to discover what "Col", ending with a lower-case l, means.) However, to one who knows the abbreviation, "COI" (all caps) is unambiguous in either a serif or sans-serif typeface.

Does Wikipedia have a guideline about avoiding potential ambiguity in both typeface styles? If not, perhaps we should considered adopting one. In the meanwhile, please consider changing the abbreviation in the headline to all caps.—Finell 20:41, 19 June 2012 (UTC)[reply]


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