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UK chapter governance review marks the end of a controversial year

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By The ed17

Wikimedia UK (WMUK), the national non-profit organization devoted to furthering the goals of the Wikimedia movement in the United Kingdom, has published the findings of a governance review conducted by management consultancy Compass Partnership.

This review was partially the result of a conflict-of-interest controversy revolving around Roger Bamkin, whose roles as English Wikipedia editor, trustee of WMUK, creator of QRpedia, and paid consultant for MonmouthpediA and GibraltarpediA received much press coverage, including a Signpost report. Bamkin subsequently resigned from WMUK's Board of Trustees.

WMUK's turbulent year was dotted with other trustee resignations as well. Ashley Van Haeften resigned from the position of chair in August 2012 after his ban from the English Wikipedia. Later that month, Joscelyn Upendran resigned from the board itself, stating that "personal loyalties may be getting in the way of what is really best for the charity and of dealing with any actual or perceived conflict of interest issues" in regard to Bamkin's actions.

Following these events, the chapter and the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) published a joint statement on September 28, 2012, where they laid out their plan to appoint an independent expert to review and report on the governance practices of WMUK, along with its handling of the controversy. The WMF's head of communications Jay Walsh posted a blog post on February 7, which said in part:

Compass Partnership was appointed to do the review selected through a collaborative dialogue between the WMF and WMUK, and their fee was covered in full by the WMF.

Compass reported that while WMUK had conflict of interest guidelines, and individual trustees had typically stated their conflicts of interest—including Bamkin—the former were "not always implemented to the standard expected by the movement" and the latter could have been made much more transparent (pp. 13–14). In particular, with regard to the Bamkin controversy, the report found no "indication that the Wikimedia UK board formally asked to know the monetary value of any personal contracts to permit an assessment of the material extent of Roger Bamkin's consultancy work" (p. 8). While some individuals interviewed by Compass believed that the foundation would have known of the conflicts of interest through various postings on WMUK's website, Compass found that the declarations were only posted after discussions with the WMF had already begun, and there was no reference to conflicts of interests in WMUK's reports to the foundation.

Compass laid out 50 recommendations that it believes WMUK should implement to better capitalize on previous positive actions and tackle areas identified as needing work (pp. 17–26). Conflicts of interest were principally dealt with in recommendations 26 through 32, where Compass stated that WMUK should observe the "highest standard" in dealing with potential conflicts of interest.

To do this, Compass recommended that if WMUK trustees thought that there could be "any potential for the perception of a conflict of interest", they should contact the chair. Furthermore, when judging this, the board should gather all of the necessary information before coming to a decision, which includes "the size and extent of the personal or financial interest and the identity of relevant business associates." If this is not possible, Compass believes that WMUK should automatically assume that there is a conflict, and possibly request the resignation of the trustee.

Roger Bamkin, when contacted by the Signpost, told us that recommendation 32 may make it difficult to use otherwise perfectly suited candidates in the short term, but as recommended by the review, he believes that the "role of trustees will change and staff members will be available to take on more of the management roles." He also found that recommendation 47 (pp. 25–26), which regards the negotiations required for the use of the Wikimedia trademark and the role of conflict of interest declarations in them, "is a very good idea that will add to the important and essential safeguards of due diligence, the need to make no assumptions about contracts, and to check when the trademark agreement is required."

When asked about recommendation 50, which read in part that "Wikimedia UK should swiftly come to agreement with the owners of QRpedia on the future ownership of this software", Bamkin pointed to a recent agreement with WMUK, which will transfer the domain names and intellectual property of QRpedia to WMUK, while allowing Bamkin and its coder, Terence Eden, moral rights of attribution without financial compensation.

The current chair of WMUK's Board of Trustees, Chris Keating, stated to the Signpost via email:

The governance review, which also gave recommendations on items like the size of WMUK's board, how to run board meetings, and the relationship of WMUK with the Wikimedia movement, is available on Commons. A centralized discussion of it is taking place on meta, and there is a questions and answers page on the WMUK blog.

In brief

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Working Paper – Descriptive Chronology on Conflicts of Interest (Governance Review of Wikimedia UK)

Five days ago, when WMUK was soliciting community input, I asked some fairly straightforward questions about wikitown projects on the Meta page set up for discussion of the report. Stevie Benton of WMUK told me "I'll take a look at your questions and will answer them if I'm able. If I'm not, I'll see if I can prompt someone who can". That was three days ago. WMUK staff and trustees have posted on the page since then, but no one seems to be addressing my query. The questions aren't very difficult and I would expect any of the trustees to be able to answer them without difficulty. This isn't the first time that I have tried to find out something which should be easily available information -- the status of a "memorandum of understanding" with Monmouthshire County Council -- and been met with less than "transparency and openness". See for example User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_117#WMF_involvement_with_Gibraltarpedia and User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_118#WMUK_and_Mounmouthshire_County_Council_Memorandum_of_Understanding. The Compass Partnership report makes some excellent recommendations, but there needs to be a change of culture at WMUK. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 18:05, 13 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]

  • See also Wikipediocracy's reporting on the topic. Cla68 (talk) 22:37, 13 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • I sincerely hope that future US and Canadian regional or state/province chapters will learn from the mistakes made by the WMUK, and that the WMF will invest more in helping these groups avoid scandal. Well-meaning people can sometimes end up hurting their own cause, or in some cases be led astray by seemingly nice people who have ulterior motives. --SB_Johnny | talk01:12, 14 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • If it's any help to Delicious carbuncle, the WMUK minutes of 26 July 2012 (at wmuk:Minutes 26Jul12 ) pretty much summarise the present situation with the MOUs, Chepstowpedia, and so on, because all of those issues he is concerned about were more or less 'frozen' soon after that time and certainly before the next board meeting. Now that we have the Governance Review and the QRpedia agreement, it would probably be reasonable to review all those issues in the light of lessons learned. I very much doubt that there is any appetite for rushing into any of that though. --RexxS (talk) 03:27, 14 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
      • I've seen that and it's no help at all. In fact, I think it may be at odds with later statements. I'm still waiting for someone to answer some rather simple and not unreasonable questions. It is puzzling to me why it seems so difficult to get answers, and even more puzzling to me that dues-paying members of WMUK would accept such behaviour from the management and board of WMUK. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 03:37, 14 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Ongoing Gibraltarpedia hooks on the main page

Note that Gibraltarpedia hooks have never stopped, except for a brief period in September and early October.

Overall, the main page has seen the following monthly numbers of Gibraltarpedia hooks:

  • July: 7
  • August: 17
  • September: 12
  • October: 11
  • November: 13
  • December: 8
  • January: 12
  • February to date: 6

For a list of recent Gibraltar hooks, see Wikipedia_talk:Did_you_know/Gibraltar-related_DYKs#List_of_Gibraltarpedia_hooks_November_through_February.

Since October, when Gibraltar hooks were resumed after a three-week gap, Gibraltar hooks have been subject to special rules (for example, limiting them to one a day, and requiring two reviewers). As can be seen from the above figures, they have continued to be a regular feature on the main page. In fact, The Register reported today that they have readers writing in who have spotted the latest "Gibraltar plug" on the Wikipedia main page.

Even so, there is currently an RfC on a DYK subpage discussing whether the special rules for Gibraltar hooks should be waived, e.g. to allow more than one Gibraltar hook per day on the main page: Wikipedia talk:Did you know/Gibraltar-related DYKs. It seems crazy to me, but there you go. Andreas JN466 01:24, 14 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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