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BARC de-adminship proposal; Wikimania recordings debate

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 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.

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  • the reality is that most Wikimania videos only get a few hundred views - I understand that on its face that its not very many. However the reality is that most Wikimania presentations only get a few hundred (at most) immediate audience - so we are more than doubling the viewership for a relatively small cost, compared with the cost of Wikimania.
  • Moreover the Q and A sessions are perhaps the most important part, as clarification is provided and new ideas are broached.
  • There is no need to have professional videographers, a single fixed camera and an auxiliary audio recording covers a great deal of what's wanted.
  • While many videos are being compiled, maybe they could be supplemented with slide decks and scripts by the presenters.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 15:43, 31 July 2015 (UTC).[reply]
  • Wikimania may look like a party but it's a place of information exchange too. So making presentations available (video, slides, whatever) is interesting. As it is mostly founded by the Movement, it is a must. B25es (talk) 15:56, 31 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • A few hundred views per video is huge, considering that probably most viewers are core wikimedians, who could have been part of the event from a distance and be inspired and informed by it for a budget price. I did watch most keynotes from Wikimania HongKong over three days and felt part of the event and inspired. And would have loved to do likewise this year. Erik Zachte (talk) 17:58, 31 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Most Wikimanias get most things right. However, most Wikimanias usually fail badly on some important aspect or another. Organsers are notorious for not learning from the mistakes of previous conferences while one would have thought that each team would be conscious of actually wanting to do better than its predecessors. In spite of its claimed $urplus, The Foundation appears to not do nearly enough to fund this most important event. I cringe when I think about what is going to go wrong in Italy next year. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 18:30, 31 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • A few thoughts / opinions on video recordings:
    • It's worth bearing in mind that this is also a disability / accessibility issue. I'm sure I won't be the only Wikipedian who is crippled in a way that means I can't easily attend a Wikimania — indeed my mental health meant that I failed to attend any events even last year, when it was in my home city.
    • Even without my mental health issues, I couldn't afford to travel to anything more remote than Western Europe and I'm pretty well paid. While I'm sure bursaries are available, we can't subsidise everyone who'd want to go.
    • Even if we could subsidise everyone and there were no accessibility issues, when did you ever go to a conference where not a single session clashed with something else that looked kinda interesting? :o)
    • Finally, even if only a few people watch one of the sessions by video, that's getting information to people who wouldn't otherwise have seen it and the cost need not be high, given the quality of smartphone recordings now. I'd be a firm supporter of making full video recording be mandatory for future bids, even if the mechanism could be something as simple as coordinating signup sheets for people to tape a session on their phone. — OwenBlacker (Talk) 22:41, 31 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • How many people watch the video in the first few weeks or months is not what is important. What is important is that we leave a permanent record that will be available for generations to come. --Guy Macon (talk) 22:54, 31 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with Owen and Guy. I remember one BarCamp in London that I discovered was broadcasting live from one individual's laptop camera, and I felt like I was there as a participant. In that case, it was live-streaming and not preserved but the great thing about digital media is like any document or sources, you can continue to draw on it to share ideas and strategies. There was a talk at WikiConUSA that actually changed my life and I wish I could refer people to a link to this presentation. I don't think this will rival TED talks but the individuals who present at WikiMania go to a lot of trouble to organize and compose their presentation and I think all Wikipedia editors could benefit from having their talks available for viewing. And if this appeal doesn't work, think of it this way: these are primary sources, documenting the history and evolution of WMF. For future historians studying social organizations, I would urge the foundation to preserve these moments of history. They are a wealth of information for researchers in understanding WMF. For posterity! Liz Read! Talk! 02:33, 1 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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