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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

WereSpielChequers-2
Dear Pine,

You wouldn't get transparency simply by publishing a list of applicants. You would only get transparency by publishing a list of applications, including any other info being used by the scholarship committee.  For example if they want to give priority to people who they have previously declined, they could only do that transparently by including previous applications. Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a decision does not enable you to understand how people came to the decisions they did.

As for whether the community is plateauing or growing, from the stats I monitor or help maintain, the English Wikipedia community at least has rebounded significantly since the 2014 low. More importantly from the perspective of things like Wikimania, the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Regards

WereSpielChequers


On 20 Apr 2017, at 08:31, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:

I'll respond to Risker and DerHexer in a single email.

> Pine, have you noticed how we're seeing fewer and fewer well-qualified community members actively seeking out the responsibility of various committee roles? 

While I haven't looked at committees' member applications in some time, it wouldn't surprise me if a dwindling pool of highly qualified applicants is a problem. My understanding from the information that I see from WMF Analytics is that our population has somewhat plateaued. I've been thinking for awhile about how to address this problem, and while I think that there are ways of making incremental progress such as with the Wikipedia in Education Program and the engagement of more enthusiasts for particular subjects like cultural heritage or public health, I have yet to imagine a way to make significant progress. I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation with you about that subject.

> It's because they are being bombarded, more and more, by unreasonable levels of criticism.  I can say this with a fair bit of authority because I've been involved inhigh-profile committees, task forces, steering groups and responsible
> roles for 8 years, and the level of criticism has definitely affected where I'm willing to invest my volunteer efforts.  I turn down 10 attempts to recruit me for various tasks for every one I accept, and I'm not alone.

I don't volunteer for Arbcom for similar reasons: too much stress and conflict, and too little gratitude. WMF is working on some of the civility issues, but that's a long journey. Again, I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation about that sometime.

> The Wikimania Scholarship Committee does work that will never satisfy everyone, and all of their decisions will be found wanting by some segment of the community.  It is a very difficult job - there are so many factors to weigh that,
> even though there are some basic minimal levels of activity expected, deciding between a candidate with a few thousand edits who is one of the most proliferate editors of a small wiki (e.g., the editor mainly translates high-value articles
> and posts them in a single edit) against one who specializes in high quality images (but only uploads 50 a year) against one > who averages 15,000 edits but mainly works in anti-vandalism, against one who has few on-wiki
> contributions but has trained and educated dozens of very productive editors....well, you see the challenge.  These are all valuable contributors - but their contribution to the movement is very different, and those who value some of those
> contributions over others will find personal justification in complaining about the decisions the committee makes. 

> There may be some reasonable arguments about providing some aggregate information such as the number of applicants from different regions and the percentage that were successful....but again, there are other routes to Wikimania
> including scholarships from large chapters, which often sponsor community members from other regions, and often select recipients from the pool of WMF-sponsored scholarship applicants. 

I think that publishing the usernames of the applicants, the decisions made by the committee, and perhaps some other aggregate information would be a good move in the spirit of transparency, if done in future years when applicants can be told in advance that this will be done. I anticipate that there will be disagreements, but civil discussions are beneficial to inform future work of the Committee as well as community and WMF practices and policies.

> Of course, there is an easier way to affect the outcome of these discussions.  Sign up in late 2017/early 2018 to become a member of the scholarship committee. 

No thank you.


On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 12:41 AM, DerHexer <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi,

transparency on the selection can only work when also the application texts are public because we have many very active Wikimedians who are not very clear about what they ever did or actually do, how this is relevant to Wikimania and if they are able to and want to share this at Wikimania and back in their local communities afterwards. However, if only the results were published, there could be no useful discussion between the committee and others without information from the application texts.

I think that partial information is better than none. However, I think there's room for discussion about what kinds of information should be made public; for example it might be that individual users' countries aren't published in the scholarships announcement if the user hasn't themselves already declared that information publicly. I am mindful of the safety of scholarship applicants who live in countries where their participation in Wikipedia might place them at risk, and I would take that into consideration when designing the reports that are published. Also, I think it's reasonable to withhold the prose application texts that applicants write to the Committee for privacy and safety reasons.
 

But when applications are public, it would make absolutely no sense to have a committee for the selection because every decision by the committe could be easily be debated. When the expertise of the committee is questioned, people would be hesitant to participate as already described in this thread. Hence, only a public selection done by the community as a replacement for the committee would make sense.

Grant applications are public, and we have grants committees, and those committees' decisions are subject to review and occasional debate. It seems to me that the Wikimania Scholarship Committee should align itself with the grants committees in publishing decisions. Discussions and debates, when done civilly, can be informative and lead to better decisions in the future.
 

When the community would decide on the applications, we had to define who would be part of that community: who's eligible to vote on these? should the votes be public? would large discussions be allowed? etc. As we have lots of experience with public elections, we can also easily name the disadvantages of these: Popularity contests for only those people who can stand public criticism, sometimes by few very loud destructive people or even enemy groups, on everything they every did. Tons of people would be refrain from applying at all, something we strongy have to face at the moment with elections for adminship or other committees as pointed out by Risker.

I'm having a little difficulty understanding this paragraph, so please help me understand. Is the concern about electing the members of the Scholarship Committee, or is the concern about direct public votes on individual scholarship applications?
 

Of course, we had transparency as a result and more public discussions around the selection, but we would have no safe space for applicants at all (also in terms of sensitive data like personal living conditions and anonymity). I see no third working model besides these and my preference would clearly be the committee. But if you like, you can, of course, seek consensus on the other model. I will raise my concerns there as pointed out here.

As I stated above, I think that publishing some information to enhance transparency and inform future decisions can be done while withholding other information for the safety and privacy of applicants.

From my perspective, the purpose of making decisions of the Scholarship Committee more transparent is *not* to foster controversy or debate for their own sake. My hope is that more transparency would foster civil discussion, promote learning, and facilitate improvements in future years for the committee as well as for the WMF and the community in general.

Pine
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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

Frances Di Lauro
Dear everyone

I agree with Pine. I applied for a scholarship to attend a recent Wikimania and was successful. The committee (let’s call it the left hand), I believe was influenced by the extent to which I met the criteria and I thought that I would have scored quite well on criteria. The problem was I received notification of the scholarship a week after the other committee (the right hand), had written to decline my proposal to present. It was voted on by three members, one gave it a high ranking, the second gave the lowest, considering it to be too academic, and the third gave a mediocre rank. I declined the scholarship to give the opportunity to someone who had been accepted to travel with funding. At the time, I lamented the fact that the same criteria that secured a scholarship was eliminated me as a presenter. In hindsight though, the fact that two branches weren’t talking to each other indicates that both committees worked on independent objective and subjective standards and that degree of separation might in reflect transparency. 

Regards
Frances


From: Wikimania-l <[hidden email]> on behalf of WereSpielChequers <[hidden email]>
Reply-To: "Wikimania general list (open subscription)" <[hidden email]>
Date: Thursday, 20 April 2017 at 11:43 pm
To: "Wikimania general list (open subscription)" <[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [Wikimania-l] WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

Dear Pine,

You wouldn't get transparency simply by publishing a list of applicants. You would only get transparency by publishing a list of applications, including any other info being used by the scholarship committee.  For example if they want to give priority to people who they have previously declined, they could only do that transparently by including previous applications. Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a decision does not enable you to understand how people came to the decisions they did.

As for whether the community is plateauing or growing, from the stats I monitor or help maintain, the English Wikipedia community at least has rebounded significantly since the 2014 low. More importantly from the perspective of things like Wikimania, the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Regards

WereSpielChequers


On 20 Apr 2017, at 08:31, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:

I'll respond to Risker and DerHexer in a single email.

> Pine, have you noticed how we're seeing fewer and fewer well-qualified community members actively seeking out the responsibility of various committee roles? 

While I haven't looked at committees' member applications in some time, it wouldn't surprise me if a dwindling pool of highly qualified applicants is a problem. My understanding from the information that I see from WMF Analytics is that our population has somewhat plateaued. I've been thinking for awhile about how to address this problem, and while I think that there are ways of making incremental progress such as with the Wikipedia in Education Program and the engagement of more enthusiasts for particular subjects like cultural heritage or public health, I have yet to imagine a way to make significant progress. I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation with you about that subject.

> It's because they are being bombarded, more and more, by unreasonable levels of criticism.  I can say this with a fair bit of authority because I've been involved inhigh-profile committees, task forces, steering groups and responsible
> roles for 8 years, and the level of criticism has definitely affected where I'm willing to invest my volunteer efforts.  I turn down 10 attempts to recruit me for various tasks for every one I accept, and I'm not alone.

I don't volunteer for Arbcom for similar reasons: too much stress and conflict, and too little gratitude. WMF is working on some of the civility issues, but that's a long journey. Again, I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation about that sometime.

> The Wikimania Scholarship Committee does work that will never satisfy everyone, and all of their decisions will be found wanting by some segment of the community.  It is a very difficult job - there are so many factors to weigh that,
> even though there are some basic minimal levels of activity expected, deciding between a candidate with a few thousand edits who is one of the most proliferate editors of a small wiki (e.g., the editor mainly translates high-value articles
> and posts them in a single edit) against one who specializes in high quality images (but only uploads 50 a year) against one > who averages 15,000 edits but mainly works in anti-vandalism, against one who has few on-wiki
> contributions but has trained and educated dozens of very productive editors....well, you see the challenge.  These are all valuable contributors - but their contribution to the movement is very different, and those who value some of those
> contributions over others will find personal justification in complaining about the decisions the committee makes. 

> There may be some reasonable arguments about providing some aggregate information such as the number of applicants from different regions and the percentage that were successful....but again, there are other routes to Wikimania
> including scholarships from large chapters, which often sponsor community members from other regions, and often select recipients from the pool of WMF-sponsored scholarship applicants. 

I think that publishing the usernames of the applicants, the decisions made by the committee, and perhaps some other aggregate information would be a good move in the spirit of transparency, if done in future years when applicants can be told in advance that this will be done. I anticipate that there will be disagreements, but civil discussions are beneficial to inform future work of the Committee as well as community and WMF practices and policies.

> Of course, there is an easier way to affect the outcome of these discussions.  Sign up in late 2017/early 2018 to become a member of the scholarship committee. 

No thank you.


On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 12:41 AM, DerHexer <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi,

transparency on the selection can only work when also the application texts are public because we have many very active Wikimedians who are not very clear about what they ever did or actually do, how this is relevant to Wikimania and if they are able to and want to share this at Wikimania and back in their local communities afterwards. However, if only the results were published, there could be no useful discussion between the committee and others without information from the application texts.

I think that partial information is better than none. However, I think there's room for discussion about what kinds of information should be made public; for example it might be that individual users' countries aren't published in the scholarships announcement if the user hasn't themselves already declared that information publicly. I am mindful of the safety of scholarship applicants who live in countries where their participation in Wikipedia might place them at risk, and I would take that into consideration when designing the reports that are published. Also, I think it's reasonable to withhold the prose application texts that applicants write to the Committee for privacy and safety reasons.
 

But when applications are public, it would make absolutely no sense to have a committee for the selection because every decision by the committe could be easily be debated. When the expertise of the committee is questioned, people would be hesitant to participate as already described in this thread. Hence, only a public selection done by the community as a replacement for the committee would make sense.

Grant applications are public, and we have grants committees, and those committees' decisions are subject to review and occasional debate. It seems to me that the Wikimania Scholarship Committee should align itself with the grants committees in publishing decisions. Discussions and debates, when done civilly, can be informative and lead to better decisions in the future.
 

When the community would decide on the applications, we had to define who would be part of that community: who's eligible to vote on these? should the votes be public? would large discussions be allowed? etc. As we have lots of experience with public elections, we can also easily name the disadvantages of these: Popularity contests for only those people who can stand public criticism, sometimes by few very loud destructive people or even enemy groups, on everything they every did. Tons of people would be refrain from applying at all, something we strongy have to face at the moment with elections for adminship or other committees as pointed out by Risker.

I'm having a little difficulty understanding this paragraph, so please help me understand. Is the concern about electing the members of the Scholarship Committee, or is the concern about direct public votes on individual scholarship applications?
 

Of course, we had transparency as a result and more public discussions around the selection, but we would have no safe space for applicants at all (also in terms of sensitive data like personal living conditions and anonymity). I see no third working model besides these and my preference would clearly be the committee. But if you like, you can, of course, seek consensus on the other model. I will raise my concerns there as pointed out here.

As I stated above, I think that publishing some information to enhance transparency and inform future decisions can be done while withholding other information for the safety and privacy of applicants.

From my perspective, the purpose of making decisions of the Scholarship Committee more transparent is *not* to foster controversy or debate for their own sake. My hope is that more transparency would foster civil discussion, promote learning, and facilitate improvements in future years for the committee as well as for the WMF and the community in general.

Pine
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https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimania-l

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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

Pine W
In reply to this post by WereSpielChequers-2
Hi WSC,

> Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right
> choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a  decision does not enable you to understand how people
> came to the decisions they did.

My view is that partial transparency is better than none. I don't anticipate that redacted applications will be sufficient for people to make appeals of individual decisions, but what could be of public interest and analyzable from partial transparency are patterns of selections, for example if all 10 applicants from Wikimedia Alaska were awarded scholarships while all 20 applicants from Wikimedia User Group Microsoft were denied scholarships. Also, seeing year-to-year trends would be of interest, such as people who are awarded or denied scholarships for multiple consecutive years.

> the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time
> of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Perhaps WMF will want to research whether it's true that the quality of participants and/or number of applicants to online committee roles is declining. On English Wikipedia, the Signpost is currently having a near-death experience, which I consider worrisome and disappointing. I share Risker's concern about the "community health" of online organized groups such as grants committees (as well as WikiProjects, arbitration committees, etc), and would be interested in seeing a holistic analysis of the situation of organized Wikimedia community groups that do most of their work via Internet. The scope of this is a bit different from the scope of Wikimania, so perhaps we can continue discussing this topic on-wiki or on a different mailing list.

Pine


On Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 6:43 AM, WereSpielChequers <[hidden email]> wrote:
Dear Pine,

You wouldn't get transparency simply by publishing a list of applicants. You would only get transparency by publishing a list of applications, including any other info being used by the scholarship committee.  For example if they want to give priority to people who they have previously declined, they could only do that transparently by including previous applications. Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a decision does not enable you to understand how people came to the decisions they did.

As for whether the community is plateauing or growing, from the stats I monitor or help maintain, the English Wikipedia community at least has rebounded significantly since the 2014 low. More importantly from the perspective of things like Wikimania, the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Regards

WereSpielChequers


On 20 Apr 2017, at 08:31, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:

I'll respond to Risker and DerHexer in a single email.

> Pine, have you noticed how we're seeing fewer and fewer well-qualified community members actively seeking out the responsibility of various committee roles? 

While I haven't looked at committees' member applications in some time, it wouldn't surprise me if a dwindling pool of highly qualified applicants is a problem. My understanding from the information that I see from WMF Analytics is that our population has somewhat plateaued. I've been thinking for awhile about how to address this problem, and while I think that there are ways of making incremental progress such as with the Wikipedia in Education Program and the engagement of more enthusiasts for particular subjects like cultural heritage or public health, I have yet to imagine a way to make significant progress. I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation with you about that subject.

> It's because they are being bombarded, more and more, by unreasonable levels of criticism.  I can say this with a fair bit of authority because I've been involved inhigh-profile committees, task forces, steering groups and responsible
> roles for 8 years, and the level of criticism has definitely affected where I'm willing to invest my volunteer efforts.  I turn down 10 attempts to recruit me for various tasks for every one I accept, and I'm not alone.

I don't volunteer for Arbcom for similar reasons: too much stress and conflict, and too little gratitude. WMF is working on some of the civility issues, but that's a long journey. Again, I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation about that sometime.

> The Wikimania Scholarship Committee does work that will never satisfy everyone, and all of their decisions will be found wanting by some segment of the community.  It is a very difficult job - there are so many factors to weigh that,
> even though there are some basic minimal levels of activity expected, deciding between a candidate with a few thousand edits who is one of the most proliferate editors of a small wiki (e.g., the editor mainly translates high-value articles
> and posts them in a single edit) against one who specializes in high quality images (but only uploads 50 a year) against one > who averages 15,000 edits but mainly works in anti-vandalism, against one who has few on-wiki
> contributions but has trained and educated dozens of very productive editors....well, you see the challenge.  These are all valuable contributors - but their contribution to the movement is very different, and those who value some of those
> contributions over others will find personal justification in complaining about the decisions the committee makes. 

> There may be some reasonable arguments about providing some aggregate information such as the number of applicants from different regions and the percentage that were successful....but again, there are other routes to Wikimania
> including scholarships from large chapters, which often sponsor community members from other regions, and often select recipients from the pool of WMF-sponsored scholarship applicants. 

I think that publishing the usernames of the applicants, the decisions made by the committee, and perhaps some other aggregate information would be a good move in the spirit of transparency, if done in future years when applicants can be told in advance that this will be done. I anticipate that there will be disagreements, but civil discussions are beneficial to inform future work of the Committee as well as community and WMF practices and policies.

> Of course, there is an easier way to affect the outcome of these discussions.  Sign up in late 2017/early 2018 to become a member of the scholarship committee. 

No thank you.


On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 12:41 AM, DerHexer <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi,

transparency on the selection can only work when also the application texts are public because we have many very active Wikimedians who are not very clear about what they ever did or actually do, how this is relevant to Wikimania and if they are able to and want to share this at Wikimania and back in their local communities afterwards. However, if only the results were published, there could be no useful discussion between the committee and others without information from the application texts.

I think that partial information is better than none. However, I think there's room for discussion about what kinds of information should be made public; for example it might be that individual users' countries aren't published in the scholarships announcement if the user hasn't themselves already declared that information publicly. I am mindful of the safety of scholarship applicants who live in countries where their participation in Wikipedia might place them at risk, and I would take that into consideration when designing the reports that are published. Also, I think it's reasonable to withhold the prose application texts that applicants write to the Committee for privacy and safety reasons.
 

But when applications are public, it would make absolutely no sense to have a committee for the selection because every decision by the committe could be easily be debated. When the expertise of the committee is questioned, people would be hesitant to participate as already described in this thread. Hence, only a public selection done by the community as a replacement for the committee would make sense.

Grant applications are public, and we have grants committees, and those committees' decisions are subject to review and occasional debate. It seems to me that the Wikimania Scholarship Committee should align itself with the grants committees in publishing decisions. Discussions and debates, when done civilly, can be informative and lead to better decisions in the future.
 

When the community would decide on the applications, we had to define who would be part of that community: who's eligible to vote on these? should the votes be public? would large discussions be allowed? etc. As we have lots of experience with public elections, we can also easily name the disadvantages of these: Popularity contests for only those people who can stand public criticism, sometimes by few very loud destructive people or even enemy groups, on everything they every did. Tons of people would be refrain from applying at all, something we strongy have to face at the moment with elections for adminship or other committees as pointed out by Risker.

I'm having a little difficulty understanding this paragraph, so please help me understand. Is the concern about electing the members of the Scholarship Committee, or is the concern about direct public votes on individual scholarship applications?
 

Of course, we had transparency as a result and more public discussions around the selection, but we would have no safe space for applicants at all (also in terms of sensitive data like personal living conditions and anonymity). I see no third working model besides these and my preference would clearly be the committee. But if you like, you can, of course, seek consensus on the other model. I will raise my concerns there as pointed out here.

As I stated above, I think that publishing some information to enhance transparency and inform future decisions can be done while withholding other information for the safety and privacy of applicants.

From my perspective, the purpose of making decisions of the Scholarship Committee more transparent is *not* to foster controversy or debate for their own sake. My hope is that more transparency would foster civil discussion, promote learning, and facilitate improvements in future years for the committee as well as for the WMF and the community in general.

Pine
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https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimania-l

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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

WereSpielChequers-2
Hi Pine, I agree with you that partial transparency can be a positive and at least assure people that their region/language/project is getting a fair share even if they were declined. But I'd suggest that can be done with anonymised stats rather than applications with some details redacted or withheld.

Trend analysis can be self defeating, I've discussed this off wiki with some of the people who have had scholarships in the past, including a couple of people who didn't apply this year because they assumed they would be declined for Montreal after having had scholarships recently. 

What might save a lot of time on everyone's part would be if there was a simple rule such as we don't give the same person a scholarship for two consecutive Wikimanias. Emphasis on give rather than award as there will be people who were awarded a scholarship but could not get a visa. That would reduce the workload  of the scholarship team, and also of the applicants. You could of course balance that by other factors, I'm hoping thatFrench speakers are being given preference for Montreal.





On 21 April 2017 at 06:14, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi WSC,

> Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right
> choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a  decision does not enable you to understand how people
> came to the decisions they did.

My view is that partial transparency is better than none. I don't anticipate that redacted applications will be sufficient for people to make appeals of individual decisions, but what could be of public interest and analyzable from partial transparency are patterns of selections, for example if all 10 applicants from Wikimedia Alaska were awarded scholarships while all 20 applicants from Wikimedia User Group Microsoft were denied scholarships. Also, seeing year-to-year trends would be of interest, such as people who are awarded or denied scholarships for multiple consecutive years.

> the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time
> of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Perhaps WMF will want to research whether it's true that the quality of participants and/or number of applicants to online committee roles is declining. On English Wikipedia, the Signpost is currently having a near-death experience, which I consider worrisome and disappointing. I share Risker's concern about the "community health" of online organized groups such as grants committees (as well as WikiProjects, arbitration committees, etc), and would be interested in seeing a holistic analysis of the situation of organized Wikimedia community groups that do most of their work via Internet. The scope of this is a bit different from the scope of Wikimania, so perhaps we can continue discussing this topic on-wiki or on a different mailing list.

Pine


On Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 6:43 AM, WereSpielChequers <[hidden email]> wrote:
Dear Pine,

You wouldn't get transparency simply by publishing a list of applicants. You would only get transparency by publishing a list of applications, including any other info being used by the scholarship committee.  For example if they want to give priority to people who they have previously declined, they could only do that transparently by including previous applications. Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a decision does not enable you to understand how people came to the decisions they did.

As for whether the community is plateauing or growing, from the stats I monitor or help maintain, the English Wikipedia community at least has rebounded significantly since the 2014 low. More importantly from the perspective of things like Wikimania, the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Regards

WereSpielChequers


On 20 Apr 2017, at 08:31, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:

I'll respond to Risker and DerHexer in a single email.

> Pine, have you noticed how we're seeing fewer and fewer well-qualified community members actively seeking out the responsibility of various committee roles? 

While I haven't looked at committees' member applications in some time, it wouldn't surprise me if a dwindling pool of highly qualified applicants is a problem. My understanding from the information that I see from WMF Analytics is that our population has somewhat plateaued. I've been thinking for awhile about how to address this problem, and while I think that there are ways of making incremental progress such as with the Wikipedia in Education Program and the engagement of more enthusiasts for particular subjects like cultural heritage or public health, I have yet to imagine a way to make significant progress. I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation with you about that subject.

> It's because they are being bombarded, more and more, by unreasonable levels of criticism.  I can say this with a fair bit of authority because I've been involved inhigh-profile committees, task forces, steering groups and responsible
> roles for 8 years, and the level of criticism has definitely affected where I'm willing to invest my volunteer efforts.  I turn down 10 attempts to recruit me for various tasks for every one I accept, and I'm not alone.

I don't volunteer for Arbcom for similar reasons: too much stress and conflict, and too little gratitude. WMF is working on some of the civility issues, but that's a long journey. Again, I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation about that sometime.

> The Wikimania Scholarship Committee does work that will never satisfy everyone, and all of their decisions will be found wanting by some segment of the community.  It is a very difficult job - there are so many factors to weigh that,
> even though there are some basic minimal levels of activity expected, deciding between a candidate with a few thousand edits who is one of the most proliferate editors of a small wiki (e.g., the editor mainly translates high-value articles
> and posts them in a single edit) against one who specializes in high quality images (but only uploads 50 a year) against one > who averages 15,000 edits but mainly works in anti-vandalism, against one who has few on-wiki
> contributions but has trained and educated dozens of very productive editors....well, you see the challenge.  These are all valuable contributors - but their contribution to the movement is very different, and those who value some of those
> contributions over others will find personal justification in complaining about the decisions the committee makes. 

> There may be some reasonable arguments about providing some aggregate information such as the number of applicants from different regions and the percentage that were successful....but again, there are other routes to Wikimania
> including scholarships from large chapters, which often sponsor community members from other regions, and often select recipients from the pool of WMF-sponsored scholarship applicants. 

I think that publishing the usernames of the applicants, the decisions made by the committee, and perhaps some other aggregate information would be a good move in the spirit of transparency, if done in future years when applicants can be told in advance that this will be done. I anticipate that there will be disagreements, but civil discussions are beneficial to inform future work of the Committee as well as community and WMF practices and policies.

> Of course, there is an easier way to affect the outcome of these discussions.  Sign up in late 2017/early 2018 to become a member of the scholarship committee. 

No thank you.


On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 12:41 AM, DerHexer <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi,

transparency on the selection can only work when also the application texts are public because we have many very active Wikimedians who are not very clear about what they ever did or actually do, how this is relevant to Wikimania and if they are able to and want to share this at Wikimania and back in their local communities afterwards. However, if only the results were published, there could be no useful discussion between the committee and others without information from the application texts.

I think that partial information is better than none. However, I think there's room for discussion about what kinds of information should be made public; for example it might be that individual users' countries aren't published in the scholarships announcement if the user hasn't themselves already declared that information publicly. I am mindful of the safety of scholarship applicants who live in countries where their participation in Wikipedia might place them at risk, and I would take that into consideration when designing the reports that are published. Also, I think it's reasonable to withhold the prose application texts that applicants write to the Committee for privacy and safety reasons.
 

But when applications are public, it would make absolutely no sense to have a committee for the selection because every decision by the committe could be easily be debated. When the expertise of the committee is questioned, people would be hesitant to participate as already described in this thread. Hence, only a public selection done by the community as a replacement for the committee would make sense.

Grant applications are public, and we have grants committees, and those committees' decisions are subject to review and occasional debate. It seems to me that the Wikimania Scholarship Committee should align itself with the grants committees in publishing decisions. Discussions and debates, when done civilly, can be informative and lead to better decisions in the future.
 

When the community would decide on the applications, we had to define who would be part of that community: who's eligible to vote on these? should the votes be public? would large discussions be allowed? etc. As we have lots of experience with public elections, we can also easily name the disadvantages of these: Popularity contests for only those people who can stand public criticism, sometimes by few very loud destructive people or even enemy groups, on everything they every did. Tons of people would be refrain from applying at all, something we strongy have to face at the moment with elections for adminship or other committees as pointed out by Risker.

I'm having a little difficulty understanding this paragraph, so please help me understand. Is the concern about electing the members of the Scholarship Committee, or is the concern about direct public votes on individual scholarship applications?
 

Of course, we had transparency as a result and more public discussions around the selection, but we would have no safe space for applicants at all (also in terms of sensitive data like personal living conditions and anonymity). I see no third working model besides these and my preference would clearly be the committee. But if you like, you can, of course, seek consensus on the other model. I will raise my concerns there as pointed out here.

As I stated above, I think that publishing some information to enhance transparency and inform future decisions can be done while withholding other information for the safety and privacy of applicants.

From my perspective, the purpose of making decisions of the Scholarship Committee more transparent is *not* to foster controversy or debate for their own sake. My hope is that more transparency would foster civil discussion, promote learning, and facilitate improvements in future years for the committee as well as for the WMF and the community in general.

Pine
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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

Lodewijk
(not responding to a person in particular)
I'm a little bit at a loss here. The proposal is to share a lot of information from the application process (whether attempted to anonimize or not) beyond statistics. Given the high number of countries and other rather specific characteristics, anything vaguely useful will likely contain at least some personally identifiable information. More likely even, anything you can share without being personally identifiable will probably not be very relevant for the application consideration. Sure, you could do some gender statistics, but how does that tell you why people have been rejected? 

So I'd like to take a step back: what exactly is the problem you're trying to solve? Is publishing a lot of data really the best approach to that solution? If you define the problem well, I can imagine a few alternative approaches, like asking the scholarship committee to report back with an analysis of the problem and how they went about it - or asking an independent person/persons to sign an NDA, and go into the data, investigate and report back. They could actually go in depth - but it requires a good definition of the problem. 

Best,
Lodewijk

2017-04-21 13:32 GMT+02:00 Jonathan Cardy <[hidden email]>:
Hi Pine, I agree with you that partial transparency can be a positive and at least assure people that their region/language/project is getting a fair share even if they were declined. But I'd suggest that can be done with anonymised stats rather than applications with some details redacted or withheld.

Trend analysis can be self defeating, I've discussed this off wiki with some of the people who have had scholarships in the past, including a couple of people who didn't apply this year because they assumed they would be declined for Montreal after having had scholarships recently. 

What might save a lot of time on everyone's part would be if there was a simple rule such as we don't give the same person a scholarship for two consecutive Wikimanias. Emphasis on give rather than award as there will be people who were awarded a scholarship but could not get a visa. That would reduce the workload  of the scholarship team, and also of the applicants. You could of course balance that by other factors, I'm hoping thatFrench speakers are being given preference for Montreal.





On 21 April 2017 at 06:14, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi WSC,

> Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right
> choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a  decision does not enable you to understand how people
> came to the decisions they did.

My view is that partial transparency is better than none. I don't anticipate that redacted applications will be sufficient for people to make appeals of individual decisions, but what could be of public interest and analyzable from partial transparency are patterns of selections, for example if all 10 applicants from Wikimedia Alaska were awarded scholarships while all 20 applicants from Wikimedia User Group Microsoft were denied scholarships. Also, seeing year-to-year trends would be of interest, such as people who are awarded or denied scholarships for multiple consecutive years.

> the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time
> of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Perhaps WMF will want to research whether it's true that the quality of participants and/or number of applicants to online committee roles is declining. On English Wikipedia, the Signpost is currently having a near-death experience, which I consider worrisome and disappointing. I share Risker's concern about the "community health" of online organized groups such as grants committees (as well as WikiProjects, arbitration committees, etc), and would be interested in seeing a holistic analysis of the situation of organized Wikimedia community groups that do most of their work via Internet. The scope of this is a bit different from the scope of Wikimania, so perhaps we can continue discussing this topic on-wiki or on a different mailing list.

Pine


On Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 6:43 AM, WereSpielChequers <[hidden email]> wrote:
Dear Pine,

You wouldn't get transparency simply by publishing a list of applicants. You would only get transparency by publishing a list of applications, including any other info being used by the scholarship committee.  For example if they want to give priority to people who they have previously declined, they could only do that transparently by including previous applications. Otherwise you have list of applicants and when you query why a decision was made to give a scholarship to one person and not another all that people can say is that "judging by the applications we think we made the right choice". OK you could redact some data they hopefully ignore such as real name and exact contact details. But simply publishing part of the information used to make a decision does not enable you to understand how people came to the decisions they did.

As for whether the community is plateauing or growing, from the stats I monitor or help maintain, the English Wikipedia community at least has rebounded significantly since the 2014 low. More importantly from the perspective of things like Wikimania, the community seems to be greying and stabilising. Not many editors under 18 attend Wikimania, and several of the roles that Risker talks of are limited to legal adults; so the decline in our number of minors at a time of general growth should mean we have many more people available for such roles or who are likely to attend things like Wikimania.

Regards

WereSpielChequers


On 20 Apr 2017, at 08:31, Pine W <[hidden email]> wrote:

I'll respond to Risker and DerHexer in a single email.

> Pine, have you noticed how we're seeing fewer and fewer well-qualified community members actively seeking out the responsibility of various committee roles? 

While I haven't looked at committees' member applications in some time, it wouldn't surprise me if a dwindling pool of highly qualified applicants is a problem. My understanding from the information that I see from WMF Analytics is that our population has somewhat plateaued. I've been thinking for awhile about how to address this problem, and while I think that there are ways of making incremental progress such as with the Wikipedia in Education Program and the engagement of more enthusiasts for particular subjects like cultural heritage or public health, I have yet to imagine a way to make significant progress. I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation with you about that subject.

> It's because they are being bombarded, more and more, by unreasonable levels of criticism.  I can say this with a fair bit of authority because I've been involved inhigh-profile committees, task forces, steering groups and responsible
> roles for 8 years, and the level of criticism has definitely affected where I'm willing to invest my volunteer efforts.  I turn down 10 attempts to recruit me for various tasks for every one I accept, and I'm not alone.

I don't volunteer for Arbcom for similar reasons: too much stress and conflict, and too little gratitude. WMF is working on some of the civility issues, but that's a long journey. Again, I'd be glad to have an off-list conversation about that sometime.

> The Wikimania Scholarship Committee does work that will never satisfy everyone, and all of their decisions will be found wanting by some segment of the community.  It is a very difficult job - there are so many factors to weigh that,
> even though there are some basic minimal levels of activity expected, deciding between a candidate with a few thousand edits who is one of the most proliferate editors of a small wiki (e.g., the editor mainly translates high-value articles
> and posts them in a single edit) against one who specializes in high quality images (but only uploads 50 a year) against one > who averages 15,000 edits but mainly works in anti-vandalism, against one who has few on-wiki
> contributions but has trained and educated dozens of very productive editors....well, you see the challenge.  These are all valuable contributors - but their contribution to the movement is very different, and those who value some of those
> contributions over others will find personal justification in complaining about the decisions the committee makes. 

> There may be some reasonable arguments about providing some aggregate information such as the number of applicants from different regions and the percentage that were successful....but again, there are other routes to Wikimania
> including scholarships from large chapters, which often sponsor community members from other regions, and often select recipients from the pool of WMF-sponsored scholarship applicants. 

I think that publishing the usernames of the applicants, the decisions made by the committee, and perhaps some other aggregate information would be a good move in the spirit of transparency, if done in future years when applicants can be told in advance that this will be done. I anticipate that there will be disagreements, but civil discussions are beneficial to inform future work of the Committee as well as community and WMF practices and policies.

> Of course, there is an easier way to affect the outcome of these discussions.  Sign up in late 2017/early 2018 to become a member of the scholarship committee. 

No thank you.


On Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 12:41 AM, DerHexer <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi,

transparency on the selection can only work when also the application texts are public because we have many very active Wikimedians who are not very clear about what they ever did or actually do, how this is relevant to Wikimania and if they are able to and want to share this at Wikimania and back in their local communities afterwards. However, if only the results were published, there could be no useful discussion between the committee and others without information from the application texts.

I think that partial information is better than none. However, I think there's room for discussion about what kinds of information should be made public; for example it might be that individual users' countries aren't published in the scholarships announcement if the user hasn't themselves already declared that information publicly. I am mindful of the safety of scholarship applicants who live in countries where their participation in Wikipedia might place them at risk, and I would take that into consideration when designing the reports that are published. Also, I think it's reasonable to withhold the prose application texts that applicants write to the Committee for privacy and safety reasons.
 

But when applications are public, it would make absolutely no sense to have a committee for the selection because every decision by the committe could be easily be debated. When the expertise of the committee is questioned, people would be hesitant to participate as already described in this thread. Hence, only a public selection done by the community as a replacement for the committee would make sense.

Grant applications are public, and we have grants committees, and those committees' decisions are subject to review and occasional debate. It seems to me that the Wikimania Scholarship Committee should align itself with the grants committees in publishing decisions. Discussions and debates, when done civilly, can be informative and lead to better decisions in the future.
 

When the community would decide on the applications, we had to define who would be part of that community: who's eligible to vote on these? should the votes be public? would large discussions be allowed? etc. As we have lots of experience with public elections, we can also easily name the disadvantages of these: Popularity contests for only those people who can stand public criticism, sometimes by few very loud destructive people or even enemy groups, on everything they every did. Tons of people would be refrain from applying at all, something we strongy have to face at the moment with elections for adminship or other committees as pointed out by Risker.

I'm having a little difficulty understanding this paragraph, so please help me understand. Is the concern about electing the members of the Scholarship Committee, or is the concern about direct public votes on individual scholarship applications?
 

Of course, we had transparency as a result and more public discussions around the selection, but we would have no safe space for applicants at all (also in terms of sensitive data like personal living conditions and anonymity). I see no third working model besides these and my preference would clearly be the committee. But if you like, you can, of course, seek consensus on the other model. I will raise my concerns there as pointed out here.

As I stated above, I think that publishing some information to enhance transparency and inform future decisions can be done while withholding other information for the safety and privacy of applicants.

From my perspective, the purpose of making decisions of the Scholarship Committee more transparent is *not* to foster controversy or debate for their own sake. My hope is that more transparency would foster civil discussion, promote learning, and facilitate improvements in future years for the committee as well as for the WMF and the community in general.

Pine
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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

Pine W

On Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 5:08 AM, Lodewijk <[hidden email]> wrote:
(not responding to a person in particular)
I'm a little bit at a loss here. The proposal is to share a lot of information from the application process (whether attempted to anonimize or not) beyond statistics. Given the high number of countries and other rather specific characteristics, anything vaguely useful will likely contain at least some personally identifiable information.

PII disclosures can be limited to what users have already disclosed in public (which, admittedly, may not be entirely current and truthful.) Aggregated information can be provided as well.
 
More likely even, anything you can share without being personally identifiable will probably not be very relevant for the application consideration. Sure, you could do some gender statistics, but how does that tell you why people have been rejected?

I anticipate that the level of transparency would be insufficient to evaluate the Scholarship Committee and WMF decisions about individual applicants. However, the information that is published may still be useful and of interest when considering trends and groups.
 

So I'd like to take a step back: what exactly is the problem you're trying to solve? Is publishing a lot of data really the best approach to that solution? If you define the problem well, I can imagine a few alternative approaches, like asking the scholarship committee to report back with an analysis of the problem and how they went about it - or asking an independent person/persons to sign an NDA, and go into the data, investigate and report back. They could actually go in depth - but it requires a good definition of the problem. 

My impression is that there are disappointments and complaints almost every year about scholarship awards. I hope that increasing transparency will result in a decreased number and intensity of complaints about individual cases, and will also increase the amount of information that is made public which can be used by anyone and everyone to analyze policies and practices and to make recommendations for refinements or changes as may seem best.

Also, as a broader theme, I would like to see more transparency about how WMF funds are used. A change of practice like we're discussing here would be one step in that direction.
 

Best,
Lodewijk

2017-04-21 13:32 GMT+02:00 Jonathan Cardy <[hidden email]>:
Hi Pine, I agree with you that partial transparency can be a positive and at least assure people that their region/language/project is getting a fair share even if they were declined. But I'd suggest that can be done with anonymised stats rather than applications with some details redacted or withheld.

Let me ask: why shouldn't the usernames of applicants, and whether they were offered scholarships, be made public in future years if scholarship applicants are told in advance that this information will be published?
 

Trend analysis can be self defeating,

How so?
 
I've discussed this off wiki with some of the people who have had scholarships in the past, including a couple of people who didn't apply this year because they assumed they would be declined for Montreal after having had scholarships recently. 

What might save a lot of time on everyone's part would be if there was a simple rule such as we don't give the same person a scholarship for two consecutive Wikimanias. Emphasis on give rather than award as there will be people who were awarded a scholarship but could not get a visa. That would reduce the workload  of the scholarship team, and also of the applicants. You could of course balance that by other factors, I'm hoping thatFrench speakers are being given preference for Montreal.

I agree with the general sentiment that giving scholarships to the same person for multiple consecutive Wikimanias should be avoided. If what I'm told is true that there are thousands of applicants for only a few hundred scholarship spots, perhaps the bar should be even higher and scholarships should be awarded to the same person at most once out of every three years. It would help to have the information that we're discussing in this thread be made public so that we can have a better-informed conversation about the policies for scholarship awards. (:
 
Pine

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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

Lodewijk
(responding inline)

2017-04-22 7:41 GMT+02:00 Pine W <[hidden email]>:

On Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 5:08 AM, Lodewijk <[hidden email]> wrote:
(not responding to a person in particular)
I'm a little bit at a loss here. The proposal is to share a lot of information from the application process (whether attempted to anonimize or not) beyond statistics. Given the high number of countries and other rather specific characteristics, anything vaguely useful will likely contain at least some personally identifiable information.

PII disclosures can be limited to what users have already disclosed in public (which, admittedly, may not be entirely current and truthful.) Aggregated information can be provided as well.

Sure - like I said, probably rather useless depending on the goal you want to actually *do* with the information. And still tricky, aggregated information could be provided to some extent, but probably not to the level of detail you'd want.  
 
More likely even, anything you can share without being personally identifiable will probably not be very relevant for the application consideration. Sure, you could do some gender statistics, but how does that tell you why people have been rejected?

I anticipate that the level of transparency would be insufficient to evaluate the Scholarship Committee and WMF decisions about individual applicants. However, the information that is published may still be useful and of interest when considering trends and groups.

OK, so you want to discover 'trends and groups'. Goal 1 identified. 
 
 

So I'd like to take a step back: what exactly is the problem you're trying to solve? Is publishing a lot of data really the best approach to that solution? If you define the problem well, I can imagine a few alternative approaches, like asking the scholarship committee to report back with an analysis of the problem and how they went about it - or asking an independent person/persons to sign an NDA, and go into the data, investigate and report back. They could actually go in depth - but it requires a good definition of the problem. 

My impression is that there are disappointments and complaints almost every year about scholarship awards. I hope that increasing transparency will result in a decreased number and intensity of complaints about individual cases, and will also increase the amount of information that is made public which can be used by anyone and everyone to analyze policies and practices and to make recommendations for refinements or changes as may seem best.

Also, as a broader theme, I would like to see more transparency about how WMF funds are used. A change of practice like we're discussing here would be one step in that direction.
 

Of course there are going to be disappointments and complaints every year. Unless we increase the acceptance rate to 100%, that is bound to happen in a process that always results in some personally disappointing outcomes. Even with perfect transparency and process, people will be disappointed. And a process will never be perfect. I sincerely doubt transparency will decrease the intensity or number of complaints about individual cases - I rather suspect it will increase them. As transparency often does. Which is fine if the transparency brings other benefits - but don't expect it to go down. 

Also, identified the second goal: propose recommendations for refinements and changes. 

Good! Two valuable goals. Now, just disclosing stuff the best approach to tackling it? 
 
Lodewijk


Best,
Lodewijk

2017-04-21 13:32 GMT+02:00 Jonathan Cardy <[hidden email]>:
Hi Pine, I agree with you that partial transparency can be a positive and at least assure people that their region/language/project is getting a fair share even if they were declined. But I'd suggest that can be done with anonymised stats rather than applications with some details redacted or withheld.

Let me ask: why shouldn't the usernames of applicants, and whether they were offered scholarships, be made public in future years if scholarship applicants are told in advance that this information will be published?
 

Trend analysis can be self defeating,

How so?
 
I've discussed this off wiki with some of the people who have had scholarships in the past, including a couple of people who didn't apply this year because they assumed they would be declined for Montreal after having had scholarships recently. 

What might save a lot of time on everyone's part would be if there was a simple rule such as we don't give the same person a scholarship for two consecutive Wikimanias. Emphasis on give rather than award as there will be people who were awarded a scholarship but could not get a visa. That would reduce the workload  of the scholarship team, and also of the applicants. You could of course balance that by other factors, I'm hoping thatFrench speakers are being given preference for Montreal.

I agree with the general sentiment that giving scholarships to the same person for multiple consecutive Wikimanias should be avoided. If what I'm told is true that there are thousands of applicants for only a few hundred scholarship spots, perhaps the bar should be even higher and scholarships should be awarded to the same person at most once out of every three years. It would help to have the information that we're discussing in this thread be made public so that we can have a better-informed conversation about the policies for scholarship awards. (:
 
Pine

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Re: WMF Scholarships to attend Wikimania

Pine W
I'm not sure that I agree that increasing transparency will correlate with an increase of complaints... but I don't have data that supports my own hope that increasing transparency will decrease complaints. Either way, I think that better-informed discussions would be good.

Regarding "(is) just disclosing stuff the best approach to tackling it?", more disclosure seems to me like a good first step so that there is more factual information with which to work. Perhaps others will have some ideas as well.

Pine

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