Kudpung and Worm That Turned have introduced an RFC proposing to create a "Bureaucrats' Admin Review Committee" (BARC) composed of bureaucrats empowered to remove adminship rights. Each case before the Committee would last only seven days, at which point the case would be rejected, the administrator's tools would be removed, or the case passed on to the Arbitration Committee.
A 2012 discussion concluded that the current methods to remove adminship were insufficient and that a "community-driven method" – such as this proposal – should be implemented. This feeling still exists, as evidenced by the dozens of support votes the RFC quickly amassed when it was opened. Dennis Brown wrote of all the proposed solutions to this issue, the BARC proposal "has the best blend of safety, equity, speed and flexibility. This will help increase the number of admin and reduce the impression that admin are guaranteed to be admin for life."
The proposal theorizes that it would also address the pressing problem of the dwindling ranks of administrators, positing that requests for adminship – widely considered an arduous process – would be easier to pass if removing the right were easier too. The proposal would make no direct changes to the RfA process, however. Gatoclass wrote, "This is not going to make a lick of difference to the number of successful RfAs in my view, but it may well lead to fewer people bothering to stand in the first place." Carrite disagrees, and wrote, "Easier removal of tools of abusive Administrators will lessen the stakes and hopefully soften the tone of the RFA process."
Bureaucrats, given their "very high level of community trust" – requesting bureaucratship is far more arduous, requiring around 85% support – play a main role in the proposed committee; half of its members would come from the ranks of the bureaucrats. However, concerns were raised about the workload for bureaucrats – there are only 33 of them as of this writing – and giving them a new task the role was not originally designed to implement. Wehwalt wrote, "Bureaucrats were not selected for their abilities to investigate and judge." Chillum asked, "Has anyone asked the crats if they even want this job?" On the other hand, Tony1 affirmed the bureaucrats' aptness for the job: "Bureaucrats are appointed through a very high bar for trust (higher than stewards, even); and in my view their role has always been too narrowly conceived. Since crats exercise judgement in closing RFAs, it is natural and logical that they should play a role further down the pipeline."
A number of editors expressed the concern that it would be taken advantage of to target administrators who made unpopular decisions, including Chillum, who wrote "This system sounds like an invitation for a witch hunt every few days." Kudpung tried to assuage such concerns, reiterating the bureaucrats' role as gatekeeper: "In this system, the Bureaucrats are not just gatekeepers, they are part of the deliberating committee."
As of this writing, the RFC has about 70% support; time will tell where it goes from here, but one thing is for sure, the community is talking about this proposal in droves, with over 125 having !voted already, and many more participating in the discussion.
Recording the Wikimania video controversy in slow motion
Last week, we reported on the situation with video at Wikimania 2015. In short, only keynote speeches were recorded, not all sessions, as had been done in years' past, including at Wikimania 2014 in London. This angered some editors, who felt this plan of only recording keynotes was poorly communicated; one individual expressed that the point of recording video is so that one need not attend to be informed. Even a WMF staffer conceded the lack of recording was problematic. Compounding that controversy was a comment from Victor Grigas pertaining to the licensing of videos, noting that the licensing process was in the hands of Wikimedia Mexico (WMMX). Katherine Maher, the Foundation's Chief Communications Officer, was unable to comment last week due to staff vacations. She later followed up with us.
In regards to Grigas' comment regarding licensing, Maher suggested that the confusion was mostly over procedure:
|The default rightsholder is the person holding the camera or pressing record, even when that person is acting under the direction of another, including contract services unless stipulated otherwise. In Mexico, we worked with a contracted video crew. We wanted to make sure that both the final edited product and the unedited video would be freely licensed, but as in any creative work, we knew that the product could be construed as being copywritten by the videographers, As such, Grigas recommended unambiguous in the contract language that would transferring the rights to WMMX, knowing that they would only release under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 (or compatible) license.
The Signpost contacted Ivan Martinez, a representative of Wikimedia Mexico, to ask when the videos would be released, under what license, and where they could be found. We received no reply by press time. We also received a message from Ellie Young, the WMF Conference Coordinatior, who indicated that she would be able to reply to an inquiry upon returning from her vacation earlier this week; but again, we received no reply.
In regards to only recording keynote sessions, Maher cited cost as the primary factor in that decision, one she said the Foundation revisits every year. "Recording all the sessions would have been prohibitively expensive, and the reality is that most Wikimania videos only get a few hundred views," she said. She acknowledged the confusion the decision caused, noting that people probably assumed that everything would be recorded, as it was in London.
A number of Wikimedians objected to the decision not to record all the sessions. In true Wikimedian fashion, a number of them have assembled a list of publicly available videos made by attendees. On the mailing list Wikimania-l, Guillaume Paumier (Guillom) wrote: "I realize it's probably too late to do anything for this year's Wikimania, but I'd like to start a discussion about making video recordings of all sessions (not just a selection of them) a requirement for upcoming Wikimania bids."
The Signpost will continue to convey any additional relevant information or findings regarding the video situation from the recent conference.
July Research Showcase
The Wikimedia Foundation's Research Showcase on July 29 offered two presentations.
Aaron Halfaker (Halfak (WMF)) presented the results of a study on VisualEditor's effect on newly registered editors. This comes two years after a previous study and a number of improvements to VisualEditor. The current study found that there was "no difference in newcomer productivity", a small decrease in the burden on current editors, and that new editors were less likely to save their edits and spent more time before saving them.
Stanford University students Juhana Kangaspunta and Thomas Palomares presented "Wikipedia Knowledge Graph with DeepDive", a project using a tool called DeepDive to extract data from Wikipedia and add it to Wikidata.