Expert board members - a suggestion

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Michael Snow-3
Thomas Dalton wrote:

> 2009/8/27 Michael Snow <[hidden email]>:
>  
>> Thomas Dalton wrote:
>>    
>>>> The best examples you can see are Stu West and Jan-Bard de
>>>> Vreede. Stu with his technical and financial expertise is simply there,
>>>> in every meeting, in the board mailing list, we don't have to go out and
>>>> ask someone from the outside, especially because these expertise are
>>>> really direly needed in every meeting and most of our topics.
>>>>        
>>> Brion and Véronique have that expertise and could easily be brought in
>>> to whatever meetings they are needed for.
>>>      
>> This is incomprehensible to me. One of the key responsibilities of the
>> board is to oversee the work of the staff. That requires a combination
>> of the board's own expertise plus outside advisors on occasion to
>> supplement this. Brion and Veronique do great work and we need their
>> expertise in doing it, and occasionally they may be brought into our
>> meetings to provide information. But it would be totally abdicating our
>> responsibilities for us to call on that expertise in order to review the
>> work they themselves did.
>>    
> If you read the entire email I sent you will find that I addressed
> exactly that point. Please don't selectively quote to misrepresent
> people, it is either extremely stupid, extremely immature or extremely
> malicious, and I'm not happy with any of those qualities in the chair
> of the WMF board.
>  
As the portion of your email making that caveat did not appear until
after quoting another portion of Ting's message, suggesting that it
would be addressing some other aspect of the discussion, I missed that
you had hedged what seemed to be a pretty plain statement. Honestly,
considering the significance of this responsibility, I would have
expected the sentence to be qualified immediately since the point
negates so much of the basic assertion.

Meanwhile, there have been a lot of messages to read on this list
recently, and I've learned as part of list etiquette to trim replies to
the material you're responding to, as a courtesy to readers. I apologize
for overlooking the additional context as a result, but I had no
intention of misrepresenting you and I don't think it was particularly
stupid, immature, or malicious.

--Michael Snow


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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Thomas Dalton
2009/8/28 Michael Snow <[hidden email]>:

> As the portion of your email making that caveat did not appear until
> after quoting another portion of Ting's message, suggesting that it
> would be addressing some other aspect of the discussion, I missed that
> you had hedged what seemed to be a pretty plain statement. Honestly,
> considering the significance of this responsibility, I would have
> expected the sentence to be qualified immediately since the point
> negates so much of the basic assertion.
>
> Meanwhile, there have been a lot of messages to read on this list
> recently, and I've learned as part of list etiquette to trim replies to
> the material you're responding to, as a courtesy to readers. I apologize
> for overlooking the additional context as a result, but I had no
> intention of misrepresenting you and I don't think it was particularly
> stupid, immature, or malicious.

Apology accepted. I'll classify it as "careless" instead. It really is
important to read the whole of a message and not jump to conclusions
half way through. I don't expect people to stop reading half way
through so my emails will frequently not make sense if you do so.

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Florence Devouard-3
In reply to this post by Ting Chen-2
Ting Chen wrote:

> Hi Thomas,
>
> one year ago when I run for the board election I came with the same
> proposal as you. Meanwhile I have changed my oppinion. The problem is
> that this would not work out.
>
> I totally agree with you that voting is the minor part of the board
> decision making process. Actually in many cases it is only for the
> protocol and formality. The really big part is before voting, while
> discussion. Here you are totally right.
>
> There are a lot of differences between a board member and an advisory
> board member. The most important difference is the dedication. As a
> board member you MUST attend board meeting, you MUST take part in
> discussion. As an advisory board member you are not obliged to do that.
> Naturally, if we have an issue and we feel lack of expertise, or simply
> because we want to get more input from more sources, we go out and ask
> members of the advisory board. This is for example why some of our
> committees has advisory board member in it. This is also why the
> advisory board would play a crucial role in the strategic planning. But
> it is totally different between that expertise is already inside of the
> board or if the expertise must at first be asked from outside of the
> board. The best examples you can see are Stu West and Jan-Bard de
> Vreede. Stu with his technical and financial expertise is simply there,
> in every meeting, in the board mailing list, we don't have to go out and
> ask someone from the outside, especially because these expertise are
> really direly needed in every meeting and most of our topics. The same
> is it with the organizational expertise that Jan-Bard brings into the
> board both in how an ordinary procedure should look like as well as how
> discipline must be excercised in the board. This is the reason why they
> are asked to be on the board again and again and why they hold so
> important offices in the board. Indeed, my experience with both of them
> is why I have changed my opinion. I don't know Matt that long yet, just
> met him in one board meeting. But I do feel that in this one meeting he
> gave very interesting and important insights. For example how
> measurement of success should look like. There are also other reasons
> why we need expert seats. One is that sometimes you are in a discussion
> and stumbles over something where you didn't see the need of an expert
> before but where you feel really thankful to have one in the board.
> Naturally you can say, hey, we need here an expertise, let us at first
> ask someone in the advisory board and then make a decision. This
> actually happend in the past year more than once. But this is a slow
> process, you would go out and e-mail that person, she or he would
> answer, there would maybe more questions that you would ask again, or
> the board must first discuss internally and then ask again. This is
> totally different as if you have already that expertise in the meeting
> and can directly go forward. I also need not to mention that it is
> totally different to talk with someone from face to face or via e-mail
> and we cannot fly all advisory board members whose expertise are needed
> in to the board meeting.
>
> As I said before I had the same idea as you last year. But some times a
> change of perspective or new experiences show that the idea doesn't work.
>
> Greetings
> Ting

Incidently, in the context of the strategic planning process, I talked
this morning with Laura and Barry from the Bridgespan Group, as well as
with Eugene yesterday.

 From what I understood, the Bridgespan Group is trying to interview all
advisory board members to collect information and feedback for the work
started on the strategic wiki (http://strategy.wikimedia.org).

I think that is an excellent way to make use of the Advisory Board
member and I thank them for our implication in that process.


Ant


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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Ting Chen-2
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
Thomas Dalton wrote:
> a) Could you give an example of an organisation with over 100 board members?
>  
IOC has, ok only more than 70 members, not totally 100.

> b) You haven't answered the question. Why couldn't the dedicated
> experts that currently go on the board of trustees go on the advisory
> board instead?
>  
Actually I had, because not all advisory board members want to have that
sort of dedication. There are other reasons too. For example because an
advisory board member don't have certain authority against the staff,
and because in a lot of cases you cannot definitively say here ends the
strategic planning and there starts the othervise function.

--
Ting

Ting's Blog: http://wingphilopp.blogspot.com/


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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Thomas Dalton
2009/8/28 Ting Chen <[hidden email]>:
> Thomas Dalton wrote:
>> a) Could you give an example of an organisation with over 100 board members?
>>
> IOC has, ok only more than 70 members, not totally 100.

The IOC Executive Board (which is the relevant body to compare to) has
15 members.

http://www.olympic.org/uk/organisation/ioc/executive/index_uk.asp

>> b) You haven't answered the question. Why couldn't the dedicated
>> experts that currently go on the board of trustees go on the advisory
>> board instead?
>>
> Actually I had, because not all advisory board members want to have that
> sort of dedication.

That's not an answer at all. I'm not talking about all advisory board
members. I'm talking about people that are currently board members, so
obviously are that dedicated. You really aren't listening. My proposal
isn't complicated, you should be able to understand it.

> There are other reasons too. For example because an
> advisory board member don't have certain authority against the staff,
> and because in a lot of cases you cannot definitively say here ends the
> strategic planning and there starts the othervise function.

Now we're getting to some real reasons. I don't agree regarding
authority - the board as a collective body has the authority, they can
exercise that authority on behalf of an advisory board member if
necessary. The difficulty in drawing lines between different parts of
the role is valid, though. I expect it can be overcome with some
effort, however.

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Anthony-73
On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 11:34 AM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]>wrote:

> 2009/8/28 Ting Chen <[hidden email]>:
> > There are other reasons too. For example because an
> > advisory board member don't have certain authority against the staff,
> > and because in a lot of cases you cannot definitively say here ends the
> > strategic planning and there starts the othervise function.
>
> Now we're getting to some real reasons. I don't agree regarding
> authority - the board as a collective body has the authority, they can
> exercise that authority on behalf of an advisory board member if
> necessary. The difficulty in drawing lines between different parts of
> the role is valid, though. I expect it can be overcome with some
> effort, however.


I think the main valid reason is that it's kind of rude to ask someone like
Halprin to commit a certain portion of his quite valuable time to the
project, absolutely free, and not to even allow him one board vote (out of
what, 10 now?).

I'd rather see a system for experts where "the community" (with a better
definition than just whoever makes X edits) ratifies the nominees made by
the nomination committee, or at least one where "the community" has the
power to remove members.  But I'd rather see the Wikimedia Foundation as a
membership organization...  So whatever.
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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Thomas Dalton
2009/8/28 Anthony <[hidden email]>:
> I think the main valid reason is that it's kind of rude to ask someone like
> Halprin to commit a certain portion of his quite valuable time to the
> project, absolutely free, and not to even allow him one board vote (out of
> what, 10 now?).

I don't see why. I donate lots of my time to the project and don't get
any board votes. I would hope (and assume) he took the seat because he
supports the cause not because he is power hungry.

> I'd rather see a system for experts where "the community" (with a better
> definition than just whoever makes X edits) ratifies the nominees made by
> the nomination committee, or at least one where "the community" has the
> power to remove members.  But I'd rather see the Wikimedia Foundation as a
> membership organization...  So whatever.

That is an interesting idea. A ratification process wouldn't be too
difficult logistically and would help keep the real power in the hands
of the community, where it should be.

The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
community as members of the chapters. There are other global
non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Anthony-73
On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 2:06 PM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]>wrote:

> 2009/8/28 Anthony <[hidden email]>:
> > I think the main valid reason is that it's kind of rude to ask someone
> like
> > Halprin to commit a certain portion of his quite valuable time to the
> > project, absolutely free, and not to even allow him one board vote (out
> of
> > what, 10 now?).
>
> I don't see why. I donate lots of my time to the project and don't get
> any board votes.


With all due respect, I'd say your time is worth a lot less than his.
 Besides, not all people are like you.

I would hope (and assume) he took the seat because he
> supports the cause not because he is power hungry.


I would too.  Absolutely.  But there's something to be said about
specifically having a power not granted to you because you're deemed
untrustworthy.  In fact, on a smaller scale I think that's one of the
reasons Wikipedia works.


> > I'd rather see a system for experts where "the community" (with a better
> > definition than just whoever makes X edits) ratifies the nominees made by
> > the nomination committee, or at least one where "the community" has the
> > power to remove members.  But I'd rather see the Wikimedia Foundation as
> a
> > membership organization...  So whatever.
>
> That is an interesting idea. A ratification process wouldn't be too
> difficult logistically and would help keep the real power in the hands
> of the community, where it should be.
>
> The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
> it is practical.


It's not practical in the sense that there's not a snowball's chance in hell
of the board agreeing to it, but I don't see why it's not practical
otherwise.  The biggest reason people give is that they would want to become
a member without revealing their identity.  To them I say either get over
it, or contribute to the individual project(s) without having membership in
the foundation.

Of course, that leads back to the fact that some (many?) people are not
willing to volunteer for an organization when they have a power not granted
to them because they are deemed untrustworthy.  Of course, in this case, I
say we can do without those people.
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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Tim Landscheidt
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:

> [...]
> The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
> it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
> poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
> community as members of the chapters. There are other global
> non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
> of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)

Why? What's broken at the moment? The servers are running,
and I really cannot see how a different form of organization
would have any favourable impact on a few million people
writing the best free encyclopedia (*1) in this solar sys-
tem. Not to speak of this thing with the sum of all know-
ledge being shared by every single human being.

  If for each message sent in this thread, one article was
checked for vandalism according to Anthony's proposal, he
could present some results in a few days. If one article was
checked each time a message in this thread is read somewhere
around the globe, he'd be done in a few minutes.

Tim

(*1)   ... and dictionary and books and media repository
       and ...


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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Thomas Dalton
2009/8/28 Tim Landscheidt <[hidden email]>:

> Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> [...]
>> The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
>> it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
>> poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
>> community as members of the chapters. There are other global
>> non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
>> of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)
>
> Why? What's broken at the moment? The servers are running,
> and I really cannot see how a different form of organization
> would have any favourable impact on a few million people
> writing the best free encyclopedia (*1) in this solar sys-
> tem. Not to speak of this thing with the sum of all know-
> ledge being shared by every single human being.

I think most people want the WMF to do more than just keep the servers
running, though. It is the extra stuff that depends on good
governance.

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by Tim Landscheidt
On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 3:06 PM, Tim Landscheidt <[hidden email]>wrote:

> Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> > [...]
> > The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
> > it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
> > poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
> > community as members of the chapters. There are other global
> > non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
> > of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)
>
> Why? What's broken at the moment?


The English full-history dump, for one.
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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Tim Landscheidt
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:

>>> [...]
>>> The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
>>> it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
>>> poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
>>> community as members of the chapters. There are other global
>>> non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
>>> of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)

>> Why? What's broken at the moment? The servers are running,
>> and I really cannot see how a different form of organization
>> would have any favourable impact on a few million people
>> writing the best free encyclopedia (*1) in this solar sys-
>> tem. Not to speak of this thing with the sum of all know-
>> ledge being shared by every single human being.

> I think most people want the WMF to do more than just keep the servers
> running, though. It is the extra stuff that depends on good
> governance.

I did not ask what you think other people want, I asked what
you think is broken at the moment and how that could be
mended by another form of organization.

Tim


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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Tim Landscheidt
In reply to this post by Anthony-73
Anthony <[hidden email]> wrote:

>> > [...]
>> > The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
>> > it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
>> > poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
>> > community as members of the chapters. There are other global
>> > non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
>> > of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)

>> Why? What's broken at the moment?

> The English full-history dump, for one.

And that would work if the WMF were a membership organiza-
tion? Interesting.

Tim


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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by Tim Landscheidt
2009/8/28 Tim Landscheidt <[hidden email]>:

> Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>>>> [...]
>>>> The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
>>>> it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
>>>> poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
>>>> community as members of the chapters. There are other global
>>>> non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
>>>> of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)
>
>>> Why? What's broken at the moment? The servers are running,
>>> and I really cannot see how a different form of organization
>>> would have any favourable impact on a few million people
>>> writing the best free encyclopedia (*1) in this solar sys-
>>> tem. Not to speak of this thing with the sum of all know-
>>> ledge being shared by every single human being.
>
>> I think most people want the WMF to do more than just keep the servers
>> running, though. It is the extra stuff that depends on good
>> governance.
>
> I did not ask what you think other people want, I asked what
> you think is broken at the moment and how that could be
> mended by another form of organization.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." is a good principle for maintaining
the status quo, it isn't a good principle if you want progress. The
job isn't done yet, so progress would be good. If you want progress
you have to be willing to implement enhancements as well as fixes. One
of the main fundamental problems I have found with the WMF is with
regards to prioritising. Often the WMF doesn't prioritise the same
things as the community seems to want. The dumps that Anthony
mentioned is a good example of that - a significant number of
community members complained about the dumps not working for years
before much progress was made and they still aren't completely
working. The tech team prioritised other things over the dumps, had
the community had the final say they may have done otherwise (or they
may not, no detailed discussion of the options ever took place in
public so it is difficult to know what conclusion would have been
reached).

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by Tim Landscheidt
On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 3:35 PM, Tim Landscheidt <[hidden email]>wrote:

> Anthony <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> >> > [...]
> >> > The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
> >> > it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
> >> > poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
> >> > community as members of the chapters. There are other global
> >> > non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
> >> > of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)
>
> >> Why? What's broken at the moment?
>
> > The English full-history dump, for one.
>
> And that would work if the WMF were a membership organiza-
> tion? Interesting.


I have no idea if it would or wouldn't, but it's certainly within the power
of the board to pressure Sue to hire a CTO sooner rather than later.  It's
certainly also within the power of the board to ensure that budgets are set
honestly and that the money allocated to technology is spent on technology,
not on the office of the executive director.
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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Thomas Dalton
2009/8/28 Anthony <[hidden email]>:
> I have no idea if it would or wouldn't, but it's certainly within the power
> of the board to pressure Sue to hire a CTO sooner rather than later.  It's
> certainly also within the power of the board to ensure that budgets are set
> honestly and that the money allocated to technology is spent on technology,
> not on the office of the executive director.

Has tech money been spent on other things previously? That is news to me.

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Anthony-73
On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 4:33 PM, Thomas Dalton <[hidden email]>wrote:

> 2009/8/28 Anthony <[hidden email]>:
> > I have no idea if it would or wouldn't, but it's certainly within the
> power
> > of the board to pressure Sue to hire a CTO sooner rather than later.
>  It's
> > certainly also within the power of the board to ensure that budgets are
> set
> > honestly and that the money allocated to technology is spent on
> technology,
> > not on the office of the executive director.
>
> Has tech money been spent on other things previously? That is news to me.


Depends how you want to look at it, since the dollar bills aren't color
coded or anything.  But the last budget I bothered to look at (which I
believe is the one before the last one released) was underspent in the area
of technology and overspent in other areas.  So I think it's valid to say
that "tech money was spent on other things".  As I said, I didn't even
bother looking at the last budget.  After hearing Sue admit that the one I'm
talking about was padded, there was little point.
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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

thekohser
In reply to this post by Thomas Dalton
Thomas Dalton asked:

"Has tech money been spent on other things previously? That is news to me."

For your edification, Thomas, since at least you seem willing to listen, as
opposed to some others here who simply "tut tut" at all the "trolling" and
the "time wasting" any critics might have to offer:

http://philanthropy.com/giveandtake/article/858/wikipedias-fund-raising-success-questioned

Please make sure to read my comment there, which references this document:

http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Planned_Spending_Distribution_2007-2008

Which does not "square away" with this document, specifically Page 4:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/41/FY_2008_09_Annual_Plan.PDF

...which says, "tech department underspending equalled 1.7m".

Anthony's not exactly being fair, though, when he sort of suggests that the
shortfall in Technology spending went instead to the Executive Director.  As
far as I can tell, it went into the bank, to be spent in the FOLLOWING YEARS
on the Executive Director's need to expand staff to unprecedented levels.

Pay attention, Thomas.  I've discussed this issue in many places.  On the
Wikimedia-controlled places, I'm often censored or blocked, but there are
plenty of other non-WMF venues where facts can be laid out for the curious
to learn the truth:

http://www.mywikibiz.com/Top_10_Reasons_Not_to_Donate_to_Wikipedia

Greg
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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by Anthony-73
2009/8/28 Anthony <[hidden email]>:
> Depends how you want to look at it, since the dollar bills aren't color
> coded or anything.  But the last budget I bothered to look at (which I
> believe is the one before the last one released) was underspent in the area
> of technology and overspent in other areas.  So I think it's valid to say
> that "tech money was spent on other things".  As I said, I didn't even
> bother looking at the last budget.  After hearing Sue admit that the one I'm
> talking about was padded, there was little point.

There were explanations for all those over- and under-spends. I
considered them all to be good explanations. I would have to look at
the report again to be sure, but I think there was a better than
budgeted surplus in the year you are talking about, so the reason for
not spending the full tech budget wasn't lack of funds from having
spent them elsewhere.

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Re: Expert board members - a suggestion

Brian J Mingus
In reply to this post by Tim Landscheidt
On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 1:35 PM, Tim Landscheidt <[hidden email]>wrote:

> Anthony <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> >> > [...]
> >> > The WMF as a membership organisation would be great, but I don't think
> >> > it is practical. A better option (which I have discussed with a few
> >> > poeple) would be having the chapters as members of the WMF and the
> >> > community as members of the chapters. There are other global
> >> > non-profits that work along those lines. (The International Federation
> >> > of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for example.)
>
> >> Why? What's broken at the moment?
>
> > The English full-history dump, for one.
>
> And that would work if the WMF were a membership organiza-
> tion? Interesting.
>
> Tim
>

If it were once again a membership organization it would imply that the
Foundation had not reneged on the original vision without the ability of the
community, which approved that vision, to provide input on the modified
input. It would turn around the Foundation's usurping of community power. It
would give each community member a voice.
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