Re: [Foundation-l] the easy way or the less easy way

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Re: [Foundation-l] the easy way or the less easy way


FYI; part of a long thread on foundation governance and structure.

Those interested in discussions about foundation membership, the
meta-organization of the projects, and the future of the foundation :
you may want to join or browse foundation-l.  I don't know where these
conversations will take place in the future, but at present they seem to
be gathering in frequency and length on that list, and long-ranging
decisions are being made over the next few months.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2006 11:00:12 -0400 (EDT)
From: Samuel Klein <[hidden email]>
Reply-To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <[hidden email]>
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] the easy way or the less easy way


Thanks for the long and insightful posts to this list recently.
Some quick thoughts.

> The Foundation shall have no members.

Opt-in membership is useful; I always liked the idea, regardless of
whether or how dues were set up.

> Section 4. Community.
> The Foundation acknowledges the valuable contributions of volunteers
> throughout the world for their dedication and tremendous work. The
> Foundation defines as one of its purposes the enhancement of the various
> Wikimedia communities throughout the world in their respective languages.

This would be an unfortunate first sentence.  Foundations do not usually
acknowledge the contributions of projects they support.  The contributions
of donors, perhaps...

More generally : I am surprised to see the term "volunteer" has come to be
used in these discussions as a way of distinguishing some contributors
form the Foundation; at times in a lightly patronizing context
('volunteer' as opposed to 'professional' / 'expert' / 'dedicated')...
similar to the way "amateur" has come to mean "dilletante" or "unpaid"
rather than "connoisseur".

I expect that Wikipedians of all people have a sense of generativity,
active creation, and public responsibility which transcends the notion of
'volunteering' for a cause.

When one returns home to fix the plumbing in a parents' house, does one
call it "volunteering"?  No.  Participating in a barn-raising for a
neighbor, or rebuilding one's own community after a storm?  Likewise no.
Neither is it "volunteering" to create part of a public art project, tend
a community garden, write the biography of a hero, or spending an evening
in language-exchange.

Wikipedians "contributing" to the public store of knowledge are simply
doing for their own global community what most people on the planet should
come to do -- sharing what they know, and helping others do the same.

On Fri, 16 Jun 2006, Anthere wrote:

> Hence my trying to turn toward you.
> How many editors work on the projects ? thousands
[over 100,000]

> How many people are registered to this list ? a few hundred
[only?  when was the last time a call for sign-ups went out?]

> How many people are active on this list ? A couple dozens
> How many people from wikitech commented on the Apache model ? 0
> How many people from this list commented on the Apache model ? less than 5
[more coming...]

This model was fascinating, though a lot to digest.  (It would be even
more fascinating to see one or two other models, and hear details of how
and why they were set up.)

> ----------
> Roughly, this model would be what I would qualify as a Private
> Foundation. Or Business Foundation. It is a Foundation which focus a lot
> on the efficiency of business (except that there is no business

A pity, for a foundation with as much promise as this one has to change
the world.

> The Apache model is entirely different. I would call it a public
> Foundation or a Community Foundation. Majority of members would be
> garanteed from the community. There would be term limits. It would be a


> ----------
> Which model would be better in our case ?
> One model insists more on business. It would certainly be more business
> efficient in the long run. It will certainly be more stable and more
> reliable (only limited turnover in the board). Likely more professional.
> I can envision a group of famous people seating on its board, with 3-4
> meetings per year. Some staying there forever because that looks good on
> their business card, even though they do nothing at all (this is already
> the case of one of our member). A big and well-paid staff to run the
> business. And little by little, disinterest by the community.
> But this might be the best choice to create bonds with the big firms,
> the big NGOs, as that Foundation will appear more solid and trustworthy.
> More money... could mean better support of the projects and of our goals.

I don't know.  The best support of the projects and goals that I can
imagine doesn't stem directly from money, but from an ever-increasing
community participation; something which Wikipedia and other projects have
enjoyed to date.

> The second model will be more lively. A bazaar of some sorts. We could
> expect the board to get more involved in every-day running. More
> volunteer work probably. It will be much more difficult to organise,
> because of the noises of campaigning from new candidates, of the public
> discussions. It will be more of a social construction. Less stable due
> to turn-over of board members. We would not have such a good image in US
> business, but we might be loved by free-movement organizations and
> citizens all over the world.
> I suppose we'll have less money... but we may have more ideas because of
> the boiling culture.

I wouldn't say "by free-movement organizations and citizens" -- but simply
"by individuals" all over the world.  Many people who don't get 'free
culture' or 'FOSS' at all, and don't care, get Wikipedia (great project)
-- and get *really* interested when they find out the extent to which it
is guided by a broad and milling community.

Tangentially, it's not at all clear to me that this would mean less money
in the long run; more to the point, goals of generating and distributing
content may be better served without that intermediary.

> If we pick up the second model, it will be much more painful. The

Also a chance for community members to reflect on the best that they have
gotten from the projects, and the best that they have seen in the world;
regardless of which model is picked, it would be better if a few hundred
community members took this analysis and brainstorming seriously so that
it was a considered choice and not a default one based on what is easiest.

> I thought it over and over. I am not sure which one of the two models
> would be best for the goals of the Foundation. According to our habits,
> we would say "first option". But are we not precisely amongst those who
> proved that a decentralized, transparent model, largely based on
> volunteer work and using the goodwill of non-expert people may be
> successful ?

Not only successful.  Exuberantly, outrageously successful, orders of
magnitude beyond the dreams of the initial participants.  There are
subtleties in what has worked here that have never before been effectively
explored.  Some are still mysterious, which is why small groups of editors
/ meta-editors / policy writers often have trouble tapping them as needed
to work on specific projects.

> I have little interest in the first model as an *individual*.

Do you think it has value for the general good?

> --------
> between community and Foundation are disorganised. We'll soon have new
> appointed board members. I do not expect new appointments to help
> reducing the lack of communication.
> But this is a broken system. Balancing between the Business Foundation
> and the Community Foundation, so that no one knows where to put his ass.
> At this point, in large part, this now depends on you. If you want to do
> a more Community Foundation, we need bylaws which reflect this. We need

It is hard to get feedback on newly drafted bylaws when they are not
public.  How could the community help draft new bylaws that were different
from what has been written?

> Sorry for the long rant.
> I hope it clarifies the current situation.
> Anthere

Thanks again.
Catching up on email,

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