[Wikimedia Announcements] April 2016 minutes for the Board of Trustees

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[Wikimedia Announcements] April 2016 minutes for the Board of Trustees

Stephen LaPorte
Hi all,

The Board of Trustees has published minutes from the Board meeting on April 22, 2016. You can find the meeting minutes and accompanying documents on the Foundation Wiki: https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Minutes/2016-04

Best,
Stephen

--
Stephen LaPorte
Legal Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

NOTICE: As an attorney for the Wikimedia Foundation, for legal and ethical reasons, I cannot give legal advice to, or serve as a lawyer for, community members, volunteers, or staff members in their personal capacity. For more on what this means, please see our legal disclaimer.

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] April 2016 minutes for the Board of Trustees

Ben Creasy
>Stephen LaPorte <slaporte@...> writes:
>
> Hi all,
>
> The Board of Trustees has published minutes from the Board meeting on April
> 22, 2016. You can find the meeting minutes and accompanying documents on the
> Foundation Wiki: https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Minutes/2016-04

So the confidentiality agreement which was passed seems like it will represent
a regression in transparency. One of the things I pointed out in the last
controversy is that it wasn't clear that the non-executive session portion of
the board meeting was actually confidential. This closes that gap with 1.b.
and 1.c defining as confidential "the Foundation’s nonpublic plans, strategies,
budgets, or financial information;" and "nonpublic information shared in
connection with Board meetings, deliberations, and discussions, including
nonpublic communications on private mailing lists or private wikis". Why it is
necessary to have a blanket everything as confidential rather than narrowly
defining the scope to specifically documents and deliberations is unclear. This
seems to run contrary to the suggestions which came out of discussions in
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wikimedia_Foundation_transparency_gap

This effectively silences trustees from offering any information, lest they
befall what happened to James (who didn't even give any information to his
constituents, the community, only staff). Historically Samuel Klein and Phoebe
spoke to the community to some limited degree about their board involvement,
but I wonder how comfortable a trustee could feel in providing even such
limited information with this confidentiality agreement in place.

For an example of how this affects our conversations with our elected
representatives:

Last month, "Geoff and Stephen prepared a draft set of basic best-practice
recommendations [on governance]". These weren't released publicly as far as I
am aware. "Maria and Dariusz were tasked with preparing a proposal for a
lightweight structure to increase transparency" but as far as I am aware we've
received no color on what this proposal might end up looking like. Someone on
this list asked Dariuszand he declined to offer details; if I recall correctly
he said the boardshoulddo what it can internally first. I disagree with this:
if you do a bunch of work without consulting your stakeholders, there's a good
chance you'llhave to scrap all that work. In the software world we call early
feedback from the stakeholders "Agile", and it is widely viewed as a superior
process to long efforts without feedback.

Would Maria and Dariusz even be able to share thoughts on their proposal if
theyhad provided any initial information in the board room? The way this
confidentiality agreement reads, once something is discussed in the boardroom,
it becomes off-limits for public conversation until the Chair approves it.
The presentation by Geoff and Stephen also seems off-limits, and it's hard to
imagine why this should be treated as proprietary/secret. Or is it public since
we know that such a draft exists?

I really think we need to see the best-practices recommendation that Geoff and
Stephen presented.

Do we have a champion for transparency left on the board with James gone?

I did like the PDF overview. And I was happy to see that the board ended the
meeting with a no-staff executive session. That's a well-recognized best
practice which really helps the board assert itself and form a more
consistent voice.


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Re: [Wikimedia-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] April 2016 minutes for the Board of Trustees

Dariusz Jemielniak-3
hi,

On Wed, May 25, 2016 at 5:12 PM, Ben Creasy <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Last month, "Geoff and Stephen prepared a draft set of basic best-practice
> recommendations [on governance]". These weren't released publicly as far
> as I
> am aware. "Maria and Dariusz were tasked with preparing a proposal for a
> lightweight structure to increase transparency" but as far as I am aware
> we've
> received no color on what this proposal might end up looking like. Someone
> on
> this list asked Dariuszand he declined to offer details; if I recall
> correctly
> he said the boardshoulddo what it can internally first. I disagree with
> this:
> if you do a bunch of work without consulting your stakeholders, there's a
> good
> chance you'llhave to scrap all that work. In the software world we call
> early
> feedback from the stakeholders "Agile", and it is widely viewed as a
> superior
> process to long efforts without feedback.
>

I generally agree with the principle of consulting first, it is just that I
believe that in our efforts to increase transparency we do not necessarily
have to work on all-encompassing and mutually exclusive initiatives, but
rather add modules and alements to the system. The reason why I suggested
slight delay is also that our ideas will be soon published (we're currently
voting the minutes from May meeting). I definitely do not perceive our
initiative as the end of discussion about transparency, but rather a
beginning.

I've personally also had a feeling of urgency that we need to start working
on increasing transparency (even if through an imperfect way) rather than
await community consultations. I just believe that the community
conversation is unlikely to scrap all of that work, but rather improve it.

In principle, I would hope that the Board should accept a policy in which
the content of our discussion is public, unless needed otherwise. As a
person coming from a different cultural background I care much more about
the actual practices of communicating within our community, than the
procedures and policies, although I am well aware that the latter have some
influence on the former.
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] April 2016 minutes for the Board of Trustees

Chris Keating-2
In reply to this post by Ben Creasy
>
>
> So the confidentiality agreement which was passed seems like it will
> represent
> a regression in transparency. One of the things I pointed out in the last
> controversy is that it wasn't clear that the non-executive session portion
> of
> the board meeting was actually confidential. This closes that gap with 1.b.
> and 1.c defining as confidential "the Foundation’s nonpublic plans,
> strategies,
> budgets, or financial information;" and "nonpublic information shared in
> connection with Board meetings, deliberations, and discussions, including
> nonpublic communications on private mailing lists or private wikis"....
>
> This effectively silences trustees from offering any information, lest they
> befall what happened to James (who didn't even give any information to his
> constituents, the community, only staff).



I can't see why you'd read it this way, but I think the Code of Conduct
document presents things in a different light: points 2,3 and 7 are
particularly relevant here.

https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Code_of_conduct_of_the_Board_of_Trustees

To my mind that sets a (welcome) expectation that Trustees will communicate
proactively about what is going on and also clarifies that Trustees are
free to speak in a personal capacity in many circumstances.

Chris
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