The Signpost

During a papal conclave to choose a new Pope, white smoke from the Sistine Chapel indicates a decision has been made. [updated]
Guy Kawasaki, trustee, appointed April 13, 2015 – December 31, 2016
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Lila Tretikov

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Podcast #119: The Foundation and the departure of Lila Tretikov
16 March 2016

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WMF staffers are convinced that Tretikov's departure is imminent Other things that WMF staffers have been convinced of have included that VisualEditor would reinvigorate editing, that Flow was the future of discussion on the wikis, and that it was of paramount importance to force MediaViewer onto the projects in an unfinished state.  — Scott talk 12:02, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, looks like I was wrong. I'm sorry to learn of Lila's departure.  — Scott talk 23:45, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The Signpost is campaigning against Lila Tretikov. Indeed, letting go the wonderful people who wrote VisualEditor, MediaViewer, SuperProtect, Flow, and Gather... What a shame ! Maybe the Signpost has someone to put in orbit, in order to launch some EditorProtect, F-Viewer or SuperMedia. Pldx1 (talk) 13:19, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Can you point to where Siko or Luis were involved in any of those projects, please? Ironholds (talk) 13:24, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Dear User:Okeyes (WMF). Can you point to where you were not involved ? But, anyway, good luck for your new job. Pldx1 (talk) 13:35, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was certainly involved in the very early stages of Flow and VisualEditor, yes - three years ago. I've never worked on any of the others, and my departure is unrelated to the projects we choose to work on. Thank you for your best wishes. Ironholds (talk) 13:37, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You were still involved with Flow after it had been released and at least until February 2014, two years ago, not three. Please don't be too modest about your role in these failed implementations and the steep drop in enwiki-WMF relations. Better luck in your next job. Fram (talk) 15:26, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My apologies, then; I have not been involved in some of the work that people are laying at my feet for two years, and have never been at all involved in the rest. For reference, if we're taking responsibility for our role in enwiki-WMF relations I have always found your aggressive and sarcastic communications style to staffers to be deeply chilling. People tend to not go out of their way to help people out when those people are snarling at them. You might want to factor this into how you talk to staff who are, ultimately, mostly just trying to help (even if you might dispute the quality of the actions). Ironholds (talk) 15:55, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Perhaps check which staffers have been treated sarcastically and which ones haven't, and from what point on I started treating someone thus. When it is obvious that some people are not interested at all in "helping people out" (not "go out of their way to help people out", but simply help out with things that are the core of their function at the WMF), or at least not the people thay are talking to (but are more than happy to go out of their way to help the people that are paying them), then I may become sarcastic, yes. When someone truly wants to help, or honestly indicates that they can't help (not "don't want to help" as was often the case), then I have no problem with them and treat them correctly. When someone talks bullshit and hopes to get away with it (like making empty promise after empty promise, or fabricating numbers out of thin air, or claiming that things work and have done extensive testing when a simple test indicates that it doesn't work at all, or ...), then eventually they lose my respect and I treat them with the contempt they clearly have for us, but I do it openly instead of covered in a civil coating. Finally, for someone who has been admonished by ArbCom "For his history of incivility, which includes logging out to engage in vandalism and to make personal attacks on other editors on other Wikimedia projects"[1] and desysopped at the same time, you are perhaps not the best person to comment on someone's communication style. Fram (talk) 09:21, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Or, alternately, as someone who has been on the other side of the aisle, so to speak, I am perfectly qualified. I'm not saying that mistakes aren't made: I'm saying that all too often the people you're "treating with the contempt they clearly have for us" are the messengers, not the author. Liaisons make promises, but they don't set priorities. Liaisons provide reports, but don't necessarily author them. Everyone has one small piece of the puzzle, and the person tasked with communicating something is not that commonly the person responsible for making it, be that promises, numbers or code. Ironholds (talk) 21:14, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, just to be totally clear; I don't think your frustration with people providing inaccurate or false reports is not valid. It's entirely valid and entirely understandable, in the same way that (from the inside) employee dislike towards, say, our senior management structures, is totally understandable. But the vast majority of the frustration I've seen expressed around the current crisis has been very deliberately expressed in closed venues, confidentially, or privately, for the simple reason that airing all the dirty laundry with all of our frustrations about it makes it unlikely people would listen to us: with how angry I've seen some people they'd probably just hide under their desks. So, your frustration here is valid, and I'm not denying that. But airing or not airing those understandable frustrations, and how you do it, has implications for whether situations get resolved or not. Learning or directing through fear is not the Wikipedia way. Ironholds (talk) 21:20, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Nice to see the tabloidification of this weekly newsletter for Wikipedia. Might we keep all this stuff on Jimbo's talk page where we are quite used to it? :) Collect (talk) 14:14, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't know, Collect, this seems like news that could be consequential. I'm not clued in, I'll just have to wait on developments like everyone else who isn't directly involved. - Dank (push to talk) 14:35, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This article is quite professional, and appears to be needed to inform the community. I do agree with Collect about "tabloidification" however, and think that anybody who read the last 2 editions would know what he is talking about. Smallbones(smalltalk) 15:19, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hey, I was jonesing yesterday for the latest info on this trainwreck, & found myself reduced to reading the discussion pages of Wikipediocracy in hope of learning something new. So I appreciate the updates here. (And FWIW, they didn't have any new information either. All I learned from reading the threads there was many posters there hate Wikipedia & the employees of the Foundation -- which I already knew.) -- llywrch (talk) 16:24, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't know what you're complaining about, Collect. I didn't put any swear words in the title this time. Gamaliel (talk) 18:17, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well written and well-edited summary of the current state of affairs. MarkBernstein (talk) 17:05, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ditto. - kosboot (talk) 17:14, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
+1. Ironholds (talk) 17:38, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Let me add a positive outlook at all these scandals: in terms of Wikipedia, WMF is "mostly harmless". During my nearly 5 years of wikipedianship, I didn't feel any disruption of my work as a wikipedian by WMF. For Wikipedia, what matters is technical support. The rest is political games. Wikipedians themselves are capable of organizing edit-a-thons, "countering systemic bias", etc. From what I see, I have an impression that WMF is less concerned with using money to improve Wikipedia, the flagship project, but with looking for ways to burn more money. Fortunately, I believe, Wikipedia reached the stage that it will not collapse as long as servers are running. Staszek Lem (talk) 18:26, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree. And one can accept that things need to be tried, and they cost money, and that is not necessarily a waste, even if they fail. However it has to be galling when such large sums are donated to the WMF and no progress is made on years old bugs. For example T14974 has been sitting gathering dust for 6 years, but the bug bit me a few days ago, wasting a significant amount of my time, as I am sure it has wasted the time of many others.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 19:01, 25 February 2016 (UTC).Reply[reply]
" {Phab|T14974}} has been sitting gathering dust" -- not exactly so. In fact 's been sitting gathering numerous notices of kind "Bug 11262 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug". Staszek Lem (talk) 03:31, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I also agree. So long as the servers are running and the community remains independent then things tend to tick over well enough. Spending money just because you (WMF) have it has never sat well with me.--Discott (talk) 21:37, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Scott: : FWIW, I can assure you that various people inside the WMF have disagreed on all those points. However, it seems that WMF staff like to usually keep their disagreements internal (Which quite frankly, I've always thought was a mistake - I've often felt that the appearance of WMF being all one person with no dissenting views, gives rise to much of the strained relations with the projects, because its often non-obvious that WMF'ers are discussing and considering concerns that get raised internally. Obviously, there's a lot more than that to strained relations than that, but I feel like its a big part). Bawolff (talk) 21:05, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That is important. Wikimedians are used to understanding consensus, and reading (or not reading and accepting) the discussions that lead to them, without taking decisions personally. What we really don't like (I think) is "We are doing this because we know better" or "we are not working on this bug because we know better." The "we" that knows better can be the speaker, or some vague reference to "authority".
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 00:25, 26 February 2016 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Re: Many staffers had little information about the project

Why would staffers ever need to know more than others? If something can be said to hundreds of persons on WMF's payroll, it can as well be said on Meta-Wiki. Nemo 19:26, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well, the examples the article uses are the board (which has, what, 9 people?) and the Discovery team (which has ~12, 13). Not exactly hundreds. And even if it were hundreds, there is a very big difference between "a pool of NDAd people" and "the entire internet-connected population of earth". Ironholds (talk) 19:29, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
To answer your question Nemo, they apparently did not need to know at all - no one was was expecting them to work on a project they say they did not know about - a project that did not exist anyway. Alanscottwalker (talk) 19:48, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nemo_bis, the few staff who did know had very little understanding of Wikimedia values and dynamics. But many staff do have a good understanding. So from a pragmatic standpoint, being more open with staff would have helped expose decision-makers to considerations that could have potentially avoided all this chaos and disruption. -Pete (talk) 21:52, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Might be, but I see no proof that this system ever worked. If someone could write a history of mail:wmfall and exhibit a couple examples of productive discussions that could not have happened elsewhere, I'd be very grateful. Nemo 08:34, 2 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Now that the story's over

Would anyone care to share their thoughts about what qualities the next ED should have? One quality that I see mentioned time & again would be an ability to reach out & communicate with the communities of volunteers. An important sign a candidate might not have this ability would be if she/he spoke repeatedly about "crowdsourcing" & not about "online community". I believe not knowing why these two terms are not synonymous is why there was friction between the volunteers & the Foundation during the tenure of the last two EDs. -- llywrch (talk) 19:57, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The task of any Executive Director is to act in accordance with the specific instructions of the Board of Directors in operations of the entity for which he or she is the Executive Director in order to handle day-to-day decisions and staff management. Can a board instruct an ED to specific obey the instructions of a community of some sort? Maybe - but any acts done in that manner which are to the detriment of the foundation might be found to be a dereliction on the part of the board, which has a primary statutory responsibility to the organization itself. Therefore, it is outré to suggest that any "community" control an Executive Director.
What the community can do is establish a liaison beholden only to the community and not selected by the Board of Directors to communicate the community concerns. I think what you are seeking instead of an "Executive Director" is an "Executive Interlocutor" which is rather a different animal.
I, in fact, think it would be a good idea for the WMF to establish such a position. But the title can not be "Executive Director" with any straight face. Collect (talk) 20:20, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Who is in charge now?

Since this departure sounds like it is happening right away and a typical search for a capable executive director can take 6-12 months, who is left running the organization in the interim? I guess there will be some announcement about this by tomorrow (I hope). Liz Read! Talk! 20:25, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

According to the expert view of User:Liz, it takes 6-12 months to select a capable Executive Director. Thus the aim of the actual campaign is to put in charge an incapable/not Executive for 6-12 months. Cui bono ? Pldx1 (talk) 21:09, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Liz: As the story notes, the resignation is effective on March 31, 2016. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 21:15, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks, Ed17, I did see that notice after I posted my question. As for Pldx1, I don't see your point except to mock me. I never said I was an expert. I was asking a question in a comments section...which is one of the purposes of a comments section. Liz Read! Talk! 21:17, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
According to Dariusz Jemielniak, writing on the Facebook group, Lila "will be available to support the transition work for that period, which is definitely useful for many practical reasons", but he implies she won't be doing any more day-to-day management.
There will be an interim ED, but that is something that the Board need to work on. Jimmy's just announced he's flying to San Fransisco to be on the spot to hear what people are saying, and will be there from Saturday to Wednesday.
More may be clearer tomorrow, when I think they're having a big staff meeting.
The recruitment process for a permanent replacement may take at least a year. Jheald (talk) 21:49, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Can we get rid of the huge image at the top please? (I tried but was reverted) It adds nothing, is redundant since the decision is now taken, and sucks up everyone's bandwidth. Philafrenzy (talk) 23:39, 25 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

White smoke indicates a decision has been reached
The image is of the situation when the story was posted. I have added a white smoke image here to bring the semiotics up to date. All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 00:32, 26 February 2016 (UTC).Reply[reply]
Thanks whoever changed it. Philafrenzy (talk) 19:23, 29 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


"The focus of the Wikimedia Foundation has always been to support that community." Lies. I sincerely doubt the WMF has given a damn about helping actual editors since before I got here. For those asking what Tretikov's replacement should be like, I'd respond that the ED's job is to execute the Board's directions which doesn't help us because the board sucks. If the "focus of the Wikimedia Foundation" was actually taking care of the tasks we the users indicated we wanted done this problem would sort itself out. Chris Troutman (talk) 01:17, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Not lies. It just so happens that WMF knows better what "that community" needs than "that community" themselves. Staszek Lem (talk) 03:37, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Chris troutman: I'll be the last to say that the WMF has done a perfect job of supporting the community, but did you notice the new Community Tech team and its community wishlist? Or perhaps the Wikipedia Library? (Note: I work for the WMF but this comment is made in my volunteer capacity only—imho there are areas that you can fault the WMF on, but .... 'everything' is a bit much.) Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 06:10, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@The ed17: Indeed I am. I have served both as a coordinator for TWL and a visiting scholar. Although I haven't been a witness to the work accomplished by the folks in San Francisco, it appears to me these efforts at TWL run on the contributions of our many volunteers, not the salaried board members whom I accuse of apathy. This Signpost article and the other related articles illustrate well that the WMF board has been putting their effort and money into other pet projects while giving lip-service to what the community asked for last year. You yourself (and the other Signpost contributors) have made great benefaction to the community by running this newspaper and you've done so as a volunteer. If the WMF valued you they'd be paying you for your hard work or at least publicly expressing thanks. I judge the WMF by its revealed preference. Chris Troutman (talk) 14:59, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Chris troutman: Ah okay, I see your point of view better now and it makes much more sense—thank you. :-) Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 19:29, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@The ed17: The WMF should apologize to the community for the way they handled that Community Wishlist Survey. The Quixotic Potato (talk) 21:01, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
What? Legoktm (talk) 23:17, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Which "salaried board members" are you referring to? Legoktm (talk) 23:17, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Legoktm: All of them: Kelly Battles, Frieda Brioschi, Dariusz Jemielniak, Guy Kawasaki, Patricio Lorente, María Sefidari, Denny Vrandečić, and Alice Wiegand. I don't know to what degree Jimbo is anything more than a talking head but he's responsible for this mess, too. Don't tell me they're all working on a volunteer basis. Chris Troutman (talk) 23:37, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
...they're all working on a volunteer basis. The bylaws explicitly prohibit them from holding a paid office with the Foundation, or any chapter or thematic body. Ironholds (talk) 23:44, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(edit conflict)They don't get a salary, they're volunteers. Legoktm (talk) 23:44, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well. I guess we, the community, got what we paid for. Chris Troutman (talk) 23:49, 26 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sure, if you want. We're not trustees so insulting them doesn't exactly do damage. Ironholds (talk) 03:24, 27 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Extremely unhelpful comment by Chris Troutman. Tony (talk) 07:48, 27 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Put the arbitrators in charge

The only people I have faith in are the arbitrators as a whole. Their collective decisions. I may disagree with individual votes at times, but their collective decisions are usually pretty good. And they self-correct later on at times.

I have rarely trusted the board as a whole because they are outsiders for the most part. The board should be strictly honorary. They are important, and their opinions should be sought. But they should not be in charge.

All the paid staff (including the executive director) should be under the control of the arbitrators as a whole.

And why did it take so many years to get a wishlist based on a survey?: meta:2015 Community Wishlist Survey/Results. I am one of the top 2500 contributors (in number of edits) to Wikipedia. These things have been desired for years. Please implement them. --Timeshifter (talk) 02:21, 29 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Speaking as a former arbitrator: no, just no. Those "outsiders" include Wikimedians from projects other than English Wikipedia. Are you including the arbitration committees from those projects as well? By law, Board of Trustees members must publicly identify, and by bylaws they receive no money for what they do: what about if those arbitrators from various projects don't want to do that? Nobody elected arbitrators to oversee budgets or select executive directors or review contracts, and on every project arbitrators are specifically *not* responsible for strategy or policy decisions. I will say, though, that it is great that you have found the Arbitration Committee to be impressive enough to suggest they would be a suitable replacement. Risker (talk) 19:08, 29 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Arbitrators are deeply involved in what makes Wikipedia the trusted neutral source of info that it is. Almost no one else is so deeply and continuously involved in the balance of power, rules, and guidelines. And they are elected. I don't think anyone should be on the board of trustees who has not been an arbitrator. I do not like many of the tangents that the Board has taken us on. The arbitrators make decisions that are much more transparent. Detailed positions on an issue are taken from most anybody that wants to write up their point of view on an issue that the arbitrators are deciding on. I want that openness on the Board. Experience is the best teacher. So only ex-arbitrators should be on the board. --Timeshifter (talk) 09:27, 2 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Lila's statement

"I am both inspired by, and proud of, the many great things we have all accomplished at the Foundation over the last two years, most significantly reversing the loss of our editorial community"

That's quite a bold statement. --NaBUru38 (talk) 20:57, 29 February 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Indeed. And it is not borne by the statistics we have. It is a pity she chose to assert this. Ijon (talk) 06:04, 2 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Over the last 2 year period it looks like it may be true. But not over the last year according to the yearly change for active editors over the last year:
See: Wikimedia project at a glance. See the top table, and the first chart. It is also linked below:
File:Active editors on English Wikipedia over time.png --Timeshifter (talk) 08:56, 2 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ok, but is the foundation responsible for that? I'm pretty certain thay are not. --NaBUru38 (talk) 20:08, 2 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(volunteer edit) It's the very actives that have stabilized, and active editors are flat. Not increasing. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 20:38, 2 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This isn't the appropriate venue for discussion of this topic, but I feel the "decline in editors" is probably attributable to a number of factors (almost no one has noticed that it coincided with the Financial crisis of 2007–08). Similarly the current leveling-out of declining editors is probably due to a number of factors, and I suspect none of them have much to do with actions of the WMF. Calling Wikimedia Research. - kosboot (talk) 02:06, 3 March 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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