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Ryan Merkley joins WMF as Chief of Staff

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By Smallbones

Ryan Merkley will join the Wikimedia Foundation on September 16 as Chief of Staff to the office of the Executive Director. His extensive experience includes five years as the CEO of Creative Commons (CC), and three years at Mozilla, moving from Director of Programs and Strategy to Chief Operating Officer to Chief Strategy Officer.

A man and a woman talking
Merkley with Executive Director Katherine Maher in April 2018

Merkley listed ten accomplishments in his five years at CC, including

You can watch his presentation at Wikimania (starting at 36:00) as he explains his work at CC, how copyright works, and how CC works with the UN’s sustainable development goals.

His new role at the WMF "is designed to be both operational and strategic," Merkely told The Signpost. "I’ll serve as an advisor and partner to the ED and support leadership and the Board," as well as working on "special projects like the Movement Strategy."

He’ll work from his home in Toronto, where he lives with his young daughter, wife, and a dog. "My wife Kelsey and I started a small wine club, where we focus on natural and biodynamic wines. I’m a musician — drums, percussion, guitar — and I sometimes get out to play with friends and their bands."

The editing community is central to Merkley’s view of Wikipedia, "everything at the Wikimedia Foundation connects to community in one way or another." His message to the community is

I love the idea of work we can only do together — of collective acts. I get energized from meeting people and having them tell me about their work and their interests. Too often people treat leadership in an organization like characters in a soap opera, not as real humans who struggle and sometimes fail. I hope people will reach out, and connect so we can get to know each other and accomplish great things.

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"I love the idea of work we can only do together", so do I, it's a shame the Community and the WMF have never really succeeded in seeing eye-to-eye. Let's hope that with the Executive Director spending 200 days in a in a metal tube in the air (–WMF) and being an excellent advocate and ambassador for the movement, this appointment will fill a serious gap in ground control. Or will it incur yet another hefty budget for plane rides to and from SF? For my part, I can't easily envision the management of a 350-strong staff from a living room in Toronto. Lets hope we volunteer minions are going to get our money's worth from the millions our labour generates. Don't get me wrong, for once I'm not being cynical - for obvious reasons it was a solution waiting to happen, and Ryan sounds like the right person for the job. I very much look forward to meeting him here in Bangkok next year, Katherine as well, of course. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 22:45, 31 August 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The fact the new COO will be working in Toronto, while the main office is in San Francisco raises the question just how effective can he be? And if a COO so far away can be effective, it leads to the question why is the WMF headquarters located in one of the most expensive cities to do business in? -- llywrch (talk) 05:07, 1 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some little-discussed and little-advertised information: about a third of WMF staff do not live or work in the US at all, and at least half of the staff do not work out of the "head office". The current head office location was chosen because a decision about whether or not to renew the lease on the previous office (an office suite just down the street in San Francisco) had to be made just about the same time that Katherine Maher was appointed *interim* ED, and when even many SF-resident staff were avoiding working in the office if they could possibly do so. Given the level of turmoil within the WMF at the time, it was decided to keep it in SF for a period, just to provide some organizational stability and buy some time to do proper research on alternatives. The current WMF head office is about half the size of the previous one, despite the fact that WMF staffing numbers are up considerably from Fall 2016, when the location was moved. The WMF, as currently constituted, needs to remain resident in the US, and there will always need to be a "head office" somewhere, but if I was a betting woman, I'd lay odds that when this current lease expires, the head office will move elsewhere. Many of the executive, not just the new COO, work primarily from other locations. Risker (talk) 04:07, 4 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
They should move the HQ to Barstow, California and use the money they save for state-of-the-art teleconferencing facilities. --Guy Macon (talk) 06:58, 6 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This Barstow for sure. Not so sure about the many others. How about Juneau? That would appeal to their love of airplanes. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 04:47, 7 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yet another example of the WMF's bloated bureaucracy. I'm sure the employee hired is qualified, but the position is unnecessary. Padding the payroll is one of the ways the WMF justifies the increased funding it requests from foundations. Senator2029 “Talk” 20:16, 15 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Or maybe not quite so unnecessary - as can be seen recently at this page, there really is no one ireally n overall control. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 17:13, 18 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]





       

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