Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

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Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Daniel Kinzler-2
Over the last couple of months, the Architecture Committee has been working on a
charter that defines the Committee's purpose of authority. Thank you for your
input! The final draft of the charter is now available at:

  <https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Architecture_committee/Charter>

For a final round of feedback, we are following the procedure we also use when
approving RFCs. As per yesterday's ArchCom meeting, the charter is entering the
Last Call period. If no new and pertinent concerns are raised and remain
unaddressed by July 26, the charter will be enacted as the new basis of the
committee's operation and authority.

Note: with the new charter comes a rebranding: ArchCom becomes TechCom, the
Wikimedia Technical Committee! We think the name better fits the scope of the
committee as defined by the charter.

--
Daniel Kinzler
Principal Platform Engineer

Wikimedia Deutschland
Gesellschaft zur Förderung Freien Wissens e.V.

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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

MZMcBride-2
Daniel Kinzler wrote:

>Over the last couple of months, the Architecture Committee has been
>working on a charter that defines the Committee's purpose of authority.
>Thank you for your input! The final draft of the charter is now available
>at:
>
>  <https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Architecture_committee/Charter>
>
>For a final round of feedback, we are following the procedure we also use
>when approving RFCs. As per yesterday's ArchCom meeting, the charter is
>entering the Last Call period. If no new and pertinent concerns are
>raised and remain unaddressed by July 26, the charter will be enacted as
>the new basis of the committee's operation and authority.

How do you reconcile these two sentences?

"The WMF CTO is automatically a member."

"TechCom has full discretion over adding or removing members, with the
CTO having veto power. Committee membership is not tied to employment by
 the WMF or any other organization."

I don't think the Wikimedia Foundation Inc.'s current CTO should
automatically be a member of a technical committee for Wikimedia projects.
And I certainly don't think the current CTO should have veto power over
anything. I'm also pretty wary of this document as it seems to have been
almost entirely written by Wikimedia Foundation Inc. employees. Where is
the input and representation of the rest of the Wikimedia technical
community outside of current Wikimedia Foundation Inc. (or Wikimedia
Deutschland) employees?

And then there are parts like this:

"Conflicts can be escalated to the [current Wikimedia Foundation Inc.]
CTO."

Bleh. This page is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It's claiming
to be representative of the Wikimedia technical community, while also
basically (re-?)establishing itself as a mere extension of the current
bureaucracy of Wikimedia Foundation Inc. The lofty sentences such as
"Within Wikimedia, technology leadership is not vested in a single
individual, but in the technical community. That leadership is focused in
TechCom." are counter-acted by the finer print (i.e., the actual proposed
implementation of this committee).

MZMcBride



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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Daniel Kinzler-2
Hi MZMcBride!


Thank you for your reply. I had to think a bit to come up with a structured way
to respond. Before I reply, I want to be sure I understand your concerns, so I
will list them here, paraphrased. Please speak up if I didn’t capture any of
them accurately:

0) (Implied) There seems to be discomfort with the level of WMF control over
MediaWiki and/or concern about the relationship between the WMF and the wider
Wikimedia movement

1) Automatic membership of the CTO seems to contradict the statement that
membership is not tied to WMF (or other) employment

2) The CTO should not automatically be a member

3) The CTO should not have veto power over anything

4) This document was written almost entirely by WMF (and WMDE) employees, with
little if any input from the broader technical community

5) The details of this charter, such as escalation to the CTO, do not seem
consistent with the ideals of the committee leading on behalf of the wider community


Here is my response to the above points:

re #0: This seems to be the issue underlying most of the other concerns, so I'd
like to address it first and in depth.

For better or worse, the reality is: The WMF, via its engineers and the CTO,
controls MW development. You will currently not get changes done to MediaWiki
against the will of payed MWF engineers.

I appreciate that this charter may be seen as a way to reinforce this situation,
instead of trying to change it. The issue of balancing the power of WMF (plus,
to an extent, WMDE) with the wishes of volunteer contributors and 3rd party
professionals has been a longstanding one. This charter is not going to solve
the issue. But I don’t believe it makes the situation worse - it rather makes it
more clear. Hidden power structures are generally worse than explicit ones.

We chose a pragmatic approach: To formalize what is currently reality, and aim
to act not only as a committee of experts, but also as an interface for
volunteer contributors. I suppose we can get better at the latter. We are open
to suggestions.

One reason for the imbalance is that there are many casual contributors, but
there is no big community of consistent highly skilled volunteer contributors.
Even 3rd party professional contributions are few and far between. The WMF is
investing in the community of volunteer developers through events like
hackathons and resources like Wikimedia Cloud Services. Our goal is to
strengthen that community and bring it to the table as much as possible.

There is a handful of highly skilled consistent long term contributors around. I
know these people read and participate on wikitech-l. None of them chose to
comment on the charter so far, see #4.

Overall, I don't think this concern can be addressed by the wording of the
charter. It's a structural problem of the community, and it's not easy to fix.

By the way, if you know a volunteer contributor who should be a member of
TechCom, please let us know. We are looking to balance our pretty biased
collective skill set anyway.


re #1: We don’t see a contradiction. Perhaps it could be stated explicitly that
the CTO is an exception to the rule that membership is not tied to employment,
but it doesn’t seem necessary. The CTO will be a member, and otherwise the
committee has control over membership, subject to CTO veto power (which we don’t
expect to be used often, if ever).


re #2: could be debated, but the CTO being a member, and the CTO having veto
power, is a direct result of the approach we have taken to the authorization of
the committee, and its interaction with the WMF org chart: The committee acts as
an extension of the CTO. This finally gives the committee a clear place in the
"chain of command", and real authority over software development at the WMF,
where it formerly had none.


re #3: the CTO, by definition, already has the ultimate power over all technical
development at the WMF. The WMF controls MediaWiki development. The powers of
the CTO as stated in the charter simply make this reality explicit.

Perhaps your desire is to have TechCom balance the power of the CTO. This would
mean that TechCom would need to have a different formal relationship with WMF
management, perhaps by acting as an extension of the board. This would require a
lot of deliberation. Also, it would give the committee only indirect power, and
very little direct influence on development. The proposed charter is much closer
to the status quo of ArchCom.


re #4: the Charter was written by the Committee, which currently consists of WMF
and WMDE employees. Input was solicited on multiple occasions via the ArchCom
Radar mail on wikitech-l, and via Tech News #23 (2017-06-05). No non-employees
chose to comment.


re #5: the committee (including the CTO) "represents" the technical community
(which includes payed staff) in technical decision processes - it's where
management (and engineers) should come when they want to know what "the techies
think". Much better than a mailing list, where the response may often be...
crickets.

The possibility of escalation to an ultimate authority ensures clear and timely
decision making -- many open source projects have a benevolent dictator for this
purpose. For MediaWiki, this responsibility will be shared among the members of
TechCom. This seems more democratic and more scalable to me.


I hope I could make my position clear: I too see the problem you see, but I
think this charter is a step in the right direction. I certainly don't think it
will make matters worse by increasing power concentration. Instead, it for the
first time defines a group that can act as an interface between WMF engineering
and volunteer contributors when making high impact technical decisions.


Regards,
Daniel


PS: Please note that this is my personal view. The view of other committee
members may differ.


Am 20.07.2017 um 18:52 schrieb MZMcBride:

> Daniel Kinzler wrote:
>> Over the last couple of months, the Architecture Committee has been
>> working on a charter that defines the Committee's purpose of authority.
>> Thank you for your input! The final draft of the charter is now available
>> at:
>>
>>  <https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Architecture_committee/Charter>
>>
>> For a final round of feedback, we are following the procedure we also use
>> when approving RFCs. As per yesterday's ArchCom meeting, the charter is
>> entering the Last Call period. If no new and pertinent concerns are
>> raised and remain unaddressed by July 26, the charter will be enacted as
>> the new basis of the committee's operation and authority.
>
> How do you reconcile these two sentences?
>
> "The WMF CTO is automatically a member."
>
> "TechCom has full discretion over adding or removing members, with the
> CTO having veto power. Committee membership is not tied to employment by
>  the WMF or any other organization."
>
> I don't think the Wikimedia Foundation Inc.'s current CTO should
> automatically be a member of a technical committee for Wikimedia projects.
> And I certainly don't think the current CTO should have veto power over
> anything. I'm also pretty wary of this document as it seems to have been
> almost entirely written by Wikimedia Foundation Inc. employees. Where is
> the input and representation of the rest of the Wikimedia technical
> community outside of current Wikimedia Foundation Inc. (or Wikimedia
> Deutschland) employees?
>
> And then there are parts like this:
>
> "Conflicts can be escalated to the [current Wikimedia Foundation Inc.]
> CTO."
>
> Bleh. This page is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It's claiming
> to be representative of the Wikimedia technical community, while also
> basically (re-?)establishing itself as a mere extension of the current
> bureaucracy of Wikimedia Foundation Inc. The lofty sentences such as
> "Within Wikimedia, technology leadership is not vested in a single
> individual, but in the technical community. That leadership is focused in
> TechCom." are counter-acted by the finer print (i.e., the actual proposed
> implementation of this committee).
>
> MZMcBride
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikitech-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikitech-l
>


--
Daniel Kinzler
Senior Software Developer

Wikimedia Deutschland
Gesellschaft zur Förderung Freien Wissens e.V.

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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Federico Leva (Nemo)
 > This finally gives the committee a clear place in the
 > "chain of command", and real authority over software
 > development at the WMF, where it formerly had none.

This is a compelling argument, but why not call it Wikimedia Foundation
Technical Committee then? It would also be easier to clarify that it's
mostly/only meant for WMF staff and whoever else decides to submit to
its process (this is already implied by phrases such as "developers or
teams"), rather than for MediaWiki in general.

I think it's appropriate for the WMF to have some body to take care of
technology beyond MediaWiki, think for instance
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/FLOSS-Exchange (still missing a contact
point since Erik went, btw) and all the cases where disagreements over
MediaWiki or Wikimedia practices have been worked around by using
non-MediaWiki solutions.

I'm not sure it was necessary to give up on having a MediaWiki body in
order to have a Wikimedia Foundation one, but probably two parallel
systems would have been confusing. Hopefully at some point after this
repurposing we will be able to afford integrating more third parties
into the "central" development process and an actual MediaWiki
governance will be useful/possible/needed (this was the core idea at the
time of the Architecture summit 2014 etc., IMHO).

Ah, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Gerrit/%2B2#Revocation at some point
listed the WMF ~CTO and currently contains an unlikely "anyone
authorized by Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees". Some updates
might be in order.

Nemo

P.s.: Not commenting is not necessarily a choice. For instance, the talk
page doesn't use wikitext and therefore creates selection bias for the
discussion.

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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Daniel Kinzler-2
Hi Nemo!

Thanks for your comments. Please note that the last call period is over, and the
charter has been officially adopted on Wednesdays. I mentioned this in the Radar
email yesterday. I'll send out a separate announcement today.

You wrote:

> Daniel wrote:
>> This finally gives the committee a clear place in the "chain of command",
>> and real authority over software development at the WMF, where it formerly
>> had none.
>
> This is a compelling argument, but why not call it Wikimedia Foundation
> Technical Committee then? It would also be easier to clarify that it's
> mostly/only meant for WMF staff and whoever else decides to submit to its
> process (this is already implied b​​y phrases such as "developers or teams"),
> rather than for MediaWiki in general.
The charter does not reduce the committees scope from what it was before, it
expands it. Also, it does not reduce authority, but expands it.

Volunteers are by definition only subject to processes they decide to submit to.
The new charter changes nothing for volunteers. However, with the new charter,
WMF staff is now subject to TechCom decisions, based on the CTO's authority.
This was not the case before.

> P.s.: Not commenting is not necessarily a choice. For instance, the talk page
> doesn't use wikitext and therefore creates selection bias for the
> discussion.

Well, using wikitext is also a barrier to many, so that would also create a
selection bias. Even using computers creates a selection bias. Seriously - we
are talking about developers. I expect they are able to use a thread based
discussion board as well as they can use wiki syntax. And if they totally hate
flow, they can just reply to the email.

Regards,
Daniel

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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Brian Wolff
Volunteers are subject to all sorts of processes they dont (directly)
consent to. Sure they could walk away if they dont like a process, just
like staff can quit if they dont like something, but thats rarely a real
option.



On Friday, July 28, 2017, Daniel Kinzler <[hidden email]>
wrote:
> Hi Nemo!
>
> Thanks for your comments. Please note that the last call period is over,
and the
> charter has been officially adopted on Wednesdays. I mentioned this in
the Radar
> email yesterday. I'll send out a separate announcement today.
>
> You wrote:
>> Daniel wrote:
>>> This finally gives the committee a clear place in the "chain of
command",
>>> and real authority over software development at the WMF, where it
formerly
>>> had none.
>>
>> This is a compelling argument, but why not call it Wikimedia Foundation
>> Technical Committee then? It would also be easier to clarify that it's
>> mostly/only meant for WMF staff and whoever else decides to submit to its
>> process (this is already implied by phrases such as "developers or
teams"),
>> rather than for MediaWiki in general.
> The charter does not reduce the committees scope from what it was before,
it
> expands it. Also, it does not reduce authority, but expands it.
>
> Volunteers are by definition only subject to processes they decide to
submit to.
> The new charter changes nothing for volunteers. However, with the new
charter,
> WMF staff is now subject to TechCom decisions, based on the CTO's
authority.
> This was not the case before.
>
>> P.s.: Not commenting is not necessarily a choice. For instance, the talk
page
>> doesn't use wikitext and therefore creates selection bias for the
>> discussion.
>
> Well, using wikitext is also a barrier to many, so that would also create
a
> selection bias. Even using computers creates a selection bias. Seriously
- we
> are talking about developers. I expect they are able to use a thread based
> discussion board as well as they can use wiki syntax. And if they totally
hate
> flow, they can just reply to the email.
>
> Regards,
> Daniel
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikitech-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikitech-l
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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Daniel Kinzler-2
Am 29.07.2017 um 04:44 schrieb Brian Wolff:
> Volunteers are subject to all sorts of processes they dont (directly)
> consent to. Sure they could walk away if they dont like a process, just
> like staff can quit if they dont like something, but thats rarely a real
> option.

Sure, to have certain things done, volunteers have to submit to certain
processes. My point was that volunteers are free to pick what they want to see
done, and thus what processes they submit to. Staff doesn't have that choice -
unless, as you said, they quit. Sure, that's always an options, but not really
comparable.

What I was getting at is: for volunteer developers, the new charter effectively
changes nothing. Except perhaps that they gain some more influence on wmf
development via TechCom, which now has at least some authority within the wmf
org chart.

-- Daniel Kinzler
Senior Software Developer

Wikimedia Deutschland
Gesellschaft zur Förderung Freien Wissens e.V.

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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Pine W
> Staff doesn't have that choice -
> unless, as you said, they quit. Sure, that's always an options, but not
really
> comparable.

I don't think that being paid well in exchange for being unhappy,
especially if someone is highly stressed or miserable most days, is a good
deal. If someone feels that way then I would encourage them to either try
to negotiate changes to their work environment internally, or to find a new
employer.

This isn't to say that I want to see a mass exodus of employees from WMF or
its affiliates, and I get the impression that average job satisfaction at
WMF has improved since Katherine took over, but I think that people may
have more freedom and opportunities than they may realize if they're
feeling trapped and would probably be happier elsewhere.

(Self-disclosure: I once worked as an intern for WMF. It was an interesting
and useful experience, but I don't think that I'd want to go back
regardless of how much I was paid.)

Pine
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Re: Last Call: ArchCom/TechCom Charter

Daniel Kinzler-2
Am 29.07.2017 um 17:43 schrieb Pine W:

>> Staff doesn't have that choice -
>> unless, as you said, they quit. Sure, that's always an options, but not
> really
>> comparable.
>
> I don't think that being paid well in exchange for being unhappy,
> especially if someone is highly stressed or miserable most days, is a good
> deal. If someone feels that way then I would encourage them to either try
> to negotiate changes to their work environment internally, or to find a new
> employer.

That makes it sounds like people are being forced to put up with horrible
things. That's not what I meant. I was referring to the fact that when you work
in an organization, it's part of your job to stick to pre-defined processes, and
it's part of your job to follow some agreed-upon roadmap. Volunteers have the
luxury on working on what they want, when they want. One reason to pay people is
so the less appealing stuff also gets done, and gets done in time. That's a fair
deal, I think.

My point was - for certain topics, TechCom is now part of the official decision
making process at the wmf. That's new. For volunteers, nothing changes, really.

As to workplace satisfaction at the WMF - that's an entirely different topic. I
sure hope that the involvement of TechCom in certain questions doesn't make
people's job horribly frustrating now. I rather hope it would reduce
frustration, at least in the long run.

--
Daniel Kinzler
Senior Software Developer

Wikimedia Deutschland
Gesellschaft zur Förderung Freien Wissens e.V.

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