Wikimedia Committees: general concerns

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Wikimedia Committees: general concerns

Erik Moeller-2
As announced in my previous response, here are some general concerns
about the various committees created through:

=== Openness ===

The secret to our project-level success has been that we allow ordinary
people to do extraordinary things. This distinguishes Wikimedia from
other organizations. It is essential that we preserve this principle in
our organizational work.

There has been a committee before these new committees; it is the
Wikimedia Research Network which I started while I was CRO. This
committee is open. Anyone can join, it has public meetings anyone can
participate in, and public IRC logs and reports. I hope that we can make
these new committees (except for the Executive Committee) similarly open.

That does not mean that every member has to have the same rights and
privileges. There can be leaders, a trusted (elected or appointed) core
group, and a larger open membership group surrounding the core. There
may be meetings which are open to all members, and those which are only
open to the core group.

But I hope we all agree that an approach which maximizes openness and
participation is desirable. I would very much like to see open meetings
about the formation of these committees, open discussions about their
purpose, and open reports about their activities. I would appreciate
some Board-level oversight to ensure that this openness is preserved.

Are there still documents on the internal wiki or relevant messages on
the internal mailing list which have not yet been, but can be
publicized? If so, I would appreciate it if this was done.

=== Multiple languages ===

I do not find anything in the resolutions about languages. In fact, as
far as I know, all the committee organizers speak English. This is to be
expected and perfectly alright. However, as a community which strives to
bring knowledge to people in their language, I find it highly important
that people are enabled to participate in their language on an
international level. (We do enable local participation through the
projects and chapters.)

This is a tricky problem, but I believe there are reasonable ways to
deal with it. For example, every committee can agree on its most
commonly spoken language - in almost all cases, this will be English.
Beyond that, it can form language-specific subcommittees that meet
separately, and that relay the results of their work through someone who
speaks the common language.

This may seem like overkill, but do keep in mind that if we aim for open
committees with different levels of authority, we will also end up with
fairly large groups, so this will become a real issue. I certainly hope
that it will! :-)

=== Multiple projects ===

Among the resolutions, there is a "Special projects" committee which, at
the moment, has no definition. I'm not sure if I would call Wikisource,
Wikiquote, Wiktionary, Wikinews and Wikimedia Commons "special
projects". (Wikispecies is perhaps one because of its relation to a
grant.) Yet, all of these projects have very specific needs.

For example, there have been ideas floating around for Wikinews to work
together with journalism schools and radio stations. There's been talk
about collaboration between Wikisource and Project Gutenberg /
Distributed Proofreaders. And there are about a hundred different
possible collaborations actively being explored around Wiktionary and
its potential successor, from the European Union's terminology databases
to Swahili dictionaries.

It is clear that these partnerships need to be pursued by people close
to the projects, who understand their needs and who are in touch with
the right people, some of them because of their personal background,
others because of their passion.

In all these cases, it would greatly help to have a workgroup that is
authorized and tasked with pursuing these partnerships, and that can act
in the name of the Wikimedia Foundation, together with the Executive
Committee (more on this below).

Wikimedia is much more than just Wikipedia. Therfore, I think it is
absolutely necessary to think about forming project-specific committees
for each Wikimedia project. I understand "special projects" to be
something separate from this - things like grants work, new project
proposals like Wikiversity, and other meta collaborations. What do the
organizers of the special project committee think about its role?

In line with my earlier comments about the Executive Committee, if we
end up with project-specific committees, their leaders could be elected
by their communities, legitimizing them and at the same time ensuring
their participation on the ExecCom.

=== Clear definitions ===

At the moment, none of these proposed committees has a clear scope or
clear definition. There is a communication committee, for example.
Communication cannot be compartmentalized; every single committee needs
to be able to communicate with the inside and outside world. My concern
is that as these definitions are made, there will inevitably be scope
conflicts between the committees.

This reinforces my earlier point about the need for openness. Perhaps an
open meeting with all committee organizers and interested parties could
be organized soon to hammer out the basic definitions, in order to avoid
overlap. Angela, Anthere and Jimmy, would you be willing to organize
something like this in the near future?


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