[Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

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[Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Yuri Astrakhan-2
Something in Oliver's departure email caught my eye:


*  "Because we are scared and in pain and hindered by structural biases and
hierarchy, we are worse at our jobs." (quoted with Oliver's permission)*

And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the open
and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example of
a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism rather
than a human-built pyramid?

This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
storing 3D models in wiki. Their efforts are noticed, the community shows
its support, and WMF reacts by increasing project resourcing. Or the
opposite - the community questions the need of a project, and neither the
team nor WMF can convincingly justify it - the project resources are
gradually reduced.

An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
focused teams achieve that better?
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Danny Horn
If I remember correctly, I think that's how the Content Translation project
started -- it was someone's personal project, which got more people and
attention because it's a great idea and showed real success.

It's hard to know what the mechanism would be for how to gauge community
support at meaningful intervals. Most people aren't paying a lot of
attention to what the WMF is working on from one day to the next, and
there's only so many big surveys you can do before people get tired of
them. It's a tough problem.


On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 4:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
wrote:

> Something in Oliver's departure email caught my eye:
>
>
> *  "Because we are scared and in pain and hindered by structural biases and
> hierarchy, we are worse at our jobs." (quoted with Oliver's permission)*
>
> And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the open
> and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example of
> a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism rather
> than a human-built pyramid?
>
> This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
> flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
> sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
> example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
> storing 3D models in wiki. Their efforts are noticed, the community shows
> its support, and WMF reacts by increasing project resourcing. Or the
> opposite - the community questions the need of a project, and neither the
> team nor WMF can convincingly justify it - the project resources are
> gradually reduced.
>
> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
> resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
> focused teams achieve that better?
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Brion Vibber-4
In reply to this post by Yuri Astrakhan-2
I've advocated for flexible/ad-hoc/cross-functional teams before, and I
would advocate for that again.

Many of our successful projects -- both software and social -- start as
initiatives from individual staff members, often in concert with volunteers
providing research, testing, feedback, usage, and even patches. This is
something I think we should embrace in how we structure new projects.

Central budgeting and a standing team are great for maintenance and for
ongoing work on large projects, but I think we need to be more flexible in
spinning up new projects.

Communication should be handled by people close to the planning and
implementation; we've seen startling failures of centralized communication
in the Knowledge Engine project, and the difficulty for the *actual*
Discovery team to control and communicate their own narrative and be judged
on their own merits has been very painful for that team.

Anyway, I think there's plenty of place for planning and big teams and
predefined KPIs, but I think we can be more... dare I say "agile"... than
we have been. (Little "a".)

I hope once the current troubles pass, that we will all be able to talk
more openly and safely about how we can all help ourselves, our org and our
movement succeed.

-- brion
On Feb 23, 2016 4:53 PM, "Yuri Astrakhan" <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Something in Oliver's departure email caught my eye:
>
>
> *  "Because we are scared and in pain and hindered by structural biases and
> hierarchy, we are worse at our jobs." (quoted with Oliver's permission)*
>
> And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the open
> and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example of
> a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism rather
> than a human-built pyramid?
>
> This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
> flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
> sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
> example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
> storing 3D models in wiki. Their efforts are noticed, the community shows
> its support, and WMF reacts by increasing project resourcing. Or the
> opposite - the community questions the need of a project, and neither the
> team nor WMF can convincingly justify it - the project resources are
> gradually reduced.
>
> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
> resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
> focused teams achieve that better?
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Dan Andreescu
In reply to this post by Yuri Astrakhan-2
Well, I see nothing in the rule-book [1] that says we have to be rigid.
Sure a lot of our work aligns with Reading, Editing, Discovery, and
Infrastructure.  But some of our work needs bits and pieces from each
vertical, and even if managers and "hierarchists" [2] moan and groan, it
doesn't make the need for that work go away.

I'll give you one example.  This graph that Yuri shared earlier [3] has a
dark secret if you click Edit twice.  The data for that graph is
copy-pasted into the graph in a most unsightly way.  So now it lives in
both wikitext format in the table below and eye-piercing JSON format inside
the graph.  Obviously, this data should live somewhere as a first class
citizen, and be used from both the table and the graph.  Yuri, me, Dario,
and a *bunch* of community members have been talking about the fact that we
need this for at least 2 years.

So why hasn't it happened?  Well, it's because people moaned and groaned
and it didn't fit into our structure.

So let's do it.  Starting now, I am no longer going to be rigidly defined
by my title [4].  I will dedicate some (not all) of my time to helping make
this structured data a first class citizen so we can use it on wikis and
stop turning people's eyeballs to mush with our weird JSON.  I know there's
community desire and support for this, it makes sense, and we're all trying
to work on it in our spare time and at 3am on Sunday the last day of the
hackathon.  Not a great way for a complicated feature to make it out to our
dear community!

Much love, and hopefully inspiration for others to find and do useful
projects not necessarily defined by their title.

Dan

p.s. this email was written with a smile and light-hearted attitude


[1] There is no rule-book :)
[2] hierarchists: people who love hierarchy
[3]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_paintings#Interactive_graph
[4] I am a "Front End Javascript UX/UI Engineer, Analytics"  *whatever*
that means... : )

On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
wrote:

> Something in Oliver's departure email caught my eye:
>
>
> *  "Because we are scared and in pain and hindered by structural biases and
> hierarchy, we are worse at our jobs." (quoted with Oliver's permission)*
>
> And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the open
> and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example of
> a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism rather
> than a human-built pyramid?
>
> This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
> flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
> sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
> example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
> storing 3D models in wiki. Their efforts are noticed, the community shows
> its support, and WMF reacts by increasing project resourcing. Or the
> opposite - the community questions the need of a project, and neither the
> team nor WMF can convincingly justify it - the project resources are
> gradually reduced.
>
> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
> resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
> focused teams achieve that better?
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Dan Andreescu
In reply to this post by Danny Horn
>
> If I remember correctly, I think that's how the Content Translation project
> started -- it was someone's personal project, which got more people and
> attention because it's a great idea and showed real success.


and Event Logging, and the Graph extension, and Mediawiki Vagrant , and ...
and ... Wikipedia!!

but also, some projects that were not so useful, sure.  But we learn, move
on, we're not the first group of people to make mistakes : )
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Brion Vibber-4
On Feb 23, 2016 5:52 PM, "Dan Andreescu" <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> but also, some projects that were not so useful, sure.  But we learn, move
> on, we're not the first group of people to make mistakes : )

Yep... High-tech organizations call it "failing fast".

-- Brion

> _______________________________________________
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Yuri Astrakhan-2
Does it make sense to have an "Incubator team" ("Bell Labs" if you will),
whose core competency is to nurture small projects? When projects are
mature and need to switch into maintenance mode, they move under the
umbrella of a different team.



On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:06 AM, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Feb 23, 2016 5:52 PM, "Dan Andreescu" <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> > but also, some projects that were not so useful, sure.  But we learn,
> move
> > on, we're not the first group of people to make mistakes : )
>
> Yep... High-tech organizations call it "failing fast".
>
> -- Brion
>
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> _______________________________________________
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> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Dario Taraborelli-3
Brion,

there was a very constructive, heartfelt session on models of bottom-up
open innovation at this year's WMF All Hands. You can find extensive notes
from this session on the Office Wiki ("Embracing skunkworks") which I
encourage you to read and that I'd love to share publicly in a more
readable format at some point.

There are obvious tradeoffs between allowing more flexibility on the one
hand and making sure we have a reasonable budget plan, accountability to
donors and stakeholders and appropriate resource allocation on the other
hand, but I believe this model would work much better than the current one,
at least for projects that are not core initiatives.

Skunkworks is what got us revision scoring, EventLogging, countless
initiatives by TechOps and innovative MediaWiki extensions.

Dario

On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 6:14 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
wrote:

> Does it make sense to have an "Incubator team" ("Bell Labs" if you will),
> whose core competency is to nurture small projects? When projects are
> mature and need to switch into maintenance mode, they move under the
> umbrella of a different team.
>
>
>
> On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:06 AM, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>
> > On Feb 23, 2016 5:52 PM, "Dan Andreescu" <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
> > >
> > > but also, some projects that were not so useful, sure.  But we learn,
> > move
> > > on, we're not the first group of people to make mistakes : )
> >
> > Yep... High-tech organizations call it "failing fast".
> >
> > -- Brion
> >
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> >
> _______________________________________________
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> New messages to: [hidden email]
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> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>



--


*Dario Taraborelli  *Head of Research, Wikimedia Foundation
wikimediafoundation.org • nitens.org • @readermeter
<http://twitter.com/readermeter>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Dan Andreescu
That's funny, there's also an active reading group looking into flatter
organizational structures.  I think we're maybe ready for a more official
lack of hierarchy, or at least a more solid acknowledgement that it's
flexibility that makes us strong and it should be cherished.

On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 10:01 PM, Dario Taraborelli <
[hidden email]> wrote:

> Brion,
>
> there was a very constructive, heartfelt session on models of bottom-up
> open innovation at this year's WMF All Hands. You can find extensive notes
> from this session on the Office Wiki ("Embracing skunkworks") which I
> encourage you to read and that I'd love to share publicly in a more
> readable format at some point.
>
> There are obvious tradeoffs between allowing more flexibility on the one
> hand and making sure we have a reasonable budget plan, accountability to
> donors and stakeholders and appropriate resource allocation on the other
> hand, but I believe this model would work much better than the current one,
> at least for projects that are not core initiatives.
>
> Skunkworks is what got us revision scoring, EventLogging, countless
> initiatives by TechOps and innovative MediaWiki extensions.
>
> Dario
>
> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 6:14 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>
> > Does it make sense to have an "Incubator team" ("Bell Labs" if you will),
> > whose core competency is to nurture small projects? When projects are
> > mature and need to switch into maintenance mode, they move under the
> > umbrella of a different team.
> >
> >
> >
> > On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:06 AM, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > On Feb 23, 2016 5:52 PM, "Dan Andreescu" <[hidden email]>
> > wrote:
> > > >
> > > > but also, some projects that were not so useful, sure.  But we learn,
> > > move
> > > > on, we're not the first group of people to make mistakes : )
> > >
> > > Yep... High-tech organizations call it "failing fast".
> > >
> > > -- Brion
> > >
> > > > _______________________________________________
> > > > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > > > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > > > Unsubscribe:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> > >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> >
>
>
>
> --
>
>
> *Dario Taraborelli  *Head of Research, Wikimedia Foundation
> wikimediafoundation.org • nitens.org • @readermeter
> <http://twitter.com/readermeter>
> _______________________________________________
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Brion Vibber-4
In reply to this post by Dario Taraborelli-3
On Feb 23, 2016 7:01 PM, "Dario Taraborelli" <[hidden email]>
wrote:
>
> Brion,
>
> there was a very constructive, heartfelt session on models of bottom-up
> open innovation at this year's WMF All Hands. You can find extensive notes
> from this session on the Office Wiki ("Embracing skunkworks") which I
> encourage you to read and that I'd love to share publicly in a more
> readable format at some point.

Awesome, I'll check it out and read up on the prior art. :) Looking forward
to further discussion on these ideas once we have a chance to clean it up.

> There are obvious tradeoffs between allowing more flexibility on the one
> hand and making sure we have a reasonable budget plan, accountability to
> donors and stakeholders and appropriate resource allocation on the other
> hand, but I believe this model would work much better than the current
one,
> at least for projects that are not core initiatives.

*nod* I like the idea of an internal small grants-like system to provide
some documentation, a little oversight, and help coordinate needed
additional people/equipment/contracting budget on small projects with a
shorter turnaround time than waiting for next year's annual budget.

-- brion

>
> Skunkworks is what got us revision scoring, EventLogging, countless
> initiatives by TechOps and innovative MediaWiki extensions.
>
> Dario
>
> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 6:14 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>
> > Does it make sense to have an "Incubator team" ("Bell Labs" if you
will),

> > whose core competency is to nurture small projects? When projects are
> > mature and need to switch into maintenance mode, they move under the
> > umbrella of a different team.
> >
> >
> >
> > On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:06 AM, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > On Feb 23, 2016 5:52 PM, "Dan Andreescu" <[hidden email]>
> > wrote:
> > > >
> > > > but also, some projects that were not so useful, sure.  But we
learn,

> > > move
> > > > on, we're not the first group of people to make mistakes : )
> > >
> > > Yep... High-tech organizations call it "failing fast".
> > >
> > > -- Brion
> > >
> > > > _______________________________________________
> > > > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > > > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > > > Unsubscribe:
https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,

> > > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> > >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> >
>
>
>
> --
>
>
> *Dario Taraborelli  *Head of Research, Wikimedia Foundation
> wikimediafoundation.org • nitens.org • @readermeter
> <http://twitter.com/readermeter>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Andrew Lih
In reply to this post by Yuri Astrakhan-2
On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
wrote:

>
> And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the open
> and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example of
> a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism rather
> than a human-built pyramid?
>
> This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
> flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
> sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
> example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
> storing 3D models in wiki.


So glad to see this being discussed in the open with smart folks like
Brion, Dario, et al.

3D support would be most welcome – we’re in a holding pattern with
Smithsonian 3D GLAM projects in DC because of that shortcoming in Commons.
It was never known whether anyone was paying attention or going to put 3D
on the radar screen. (https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T3790)

At my keynote talk at Wikiconference USA, I said one of the things WMF
“must do” is multimedia and interactivity. Your work on the interactive
graph is a great step. Brion, myself and others have been working on
collaborative video. Brion’s ogv.js work is a great example of skunkworks
type projects having a huge impact.

And if 3D is given a priority, the three areas would be a great collective
step towards Wikipedia continuing its revolutionary work. Best of all, they
would be technologies developed in service of content and community needs,
and not simply created for tech’s sake.

An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
> resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
> focused teams achieve that better?
>

Yes, and in a recent meeting you mentioned Bell Labs as a model. As someone
who worked there, it’s a very good ideal to shoot for.

https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Discovery/2016-02-16_Discussing_Knowledge_Engine_with_Lila

Thanks for opening up this discussion.
-Andrew
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Pau Giner
>
> If I remember correctly, I think that's how the Content Translation project
> started -- it was someone's personal project, which got more people and
> attention because it's a great idea and showed real success.


That is not accurate. I think Content Translation is a good example of
bottom-up and design-driven project, though.

The Language team identified that users frequently were asking for better
support for translating Wikipedia articles, and decided to learn from
existing translators (and their heavily manual efforts) without a
predefined idea of how the solution would look like. After many iterations
of design, prototyping and research the team started building the tool
iteratively and driven by user behaviour (based on metrics and more user
research). I wrote a more detailed piece about this some time ago if anyone
is interested in more details:
http://pauginer.com/post/116536135010/the-design-of-content-translation

So while this project didn't came from top-down roadmap, it was also not a
solo "cowboy-style" personal project.
I definitely think it followed a good pattern for more projects to consider.

Pau


On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 4:40 AM, Andrew Lih <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>
> >
> > And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the
> open
> > and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example
> of
> > a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism
> rather
> > than a human-built pyramid?
> >
> > This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
> > flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
> > sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
> > example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
> > storing 3D models in wiki.
>
>
> So glad to see this being discussed in the open with smart folks like
> Brion, Dario, et al.
>
> 3D support would be most welcome – we’re in a holding pattern with
> Smithsonian 3D GLAM projects in DC because of that shortcoming in Commons.
> It was never known whether anyone was paying attention or going to put 3D
> on the radar screen. (https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T3790)
>
> At my keynote talk at Wikiconference USA, I said one of the things WMF
> “must do” is multimedia and interactivity. Your work on the interactive
> graph is a great step. Brion, myself and others have been working on
> collaborative video. Brion’s ogv.js work is a great example of skunkworks
> type projects having a huge impact.
>
> And if 3D is given a priority, the three areas would be a great collective
> step towards Wikipedia continuing its revolutionary work. Best of all, they
> would be technologies developed in service of content and community needs,
> and not simply created for tech’s sake.
>
> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
> > resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
> > focused teams achieve that better?
> >
>
> Yes, and in a recent meeting you mentioned Bell Labs as a model. As someone
> who worked there, it’s a very good ideal to shoot for.
>
>
> https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Discovery/2016-02-16_Discussing_Knowledge_Engine_with_Lila
>
> Thanks for opening up this discussion.
> -Andrew
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>



--
Pau Giner
Senior User Experience Designer
Wikimedia Foundation
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Oliver Keyes-5
I would like to clarify a fairly major premise of this conversation:
namely, the comment I made that Yuri quoted in the very first message.

When I say that the hierarchical organisation of the Foundation is
something that is preventing us from doing better, I was not thinking
of how we develop software. Indeed, I suspect that peoples' tendency
to bring things constantly back to "does it improve the measurable
speed at which we right code" is symptomatic of the problematic
dynamics here. What I was thinking about was how we pay attention to
organisational hiring, to how we promote, to how we treat people, what
empathy we have and how we value empathy.

I have consistently found the Foundation to lag in all of these
regards. It is not good at making sure that the recognition of
employees is fair and treated equitably (be that who gets called out
in presentations, who gets given opportunities, or who gets raises).
It is not good at making sure that how we hire is fair. It is not good
at making sure that concerns of employees are given weight. All too
often the people marginalised by our approaches are the people
marginalised outside the Foundation, as well; women, people in
"non-technical" roles, people in roles that we code as "support work"
(and guess what tends to correlate with a role being coded as support
work?) All too often the work marginalised by our approaches is the
work that Doesn't Product Code (again: guess who tends to do the heavy
lifting on things like organisational health and process and
structure?)

As an organisation I have found the Foundation overly rigid and
resistant to the most conservative change around these problems;
particularly I think of efforts to improve unintentional bias in our
job descriptions. Basically, unless you as an employee go out and do
the damn work yourself, for free, with 0 recognition of the emotional
and temporal cost of that work, it doesn't get done. The organisation
as a whole is not interested.

Switching to a flat organisational structure does not, in any way,
solve for this problem. In fact, in some way it makes it worse,
because it makes us *think* that we have solved for the systemic and
hierarchical power dynamics that make it difficult for low-level or
marginalised people to get things done, or people doing marginalised
work to get things done, when we have only shifted them.

To pick on someone, I pick Trevor (sorry Trevor. For reference this is
an entirely hypothetical example and Trevor is lovely): Trevor's voice
is given a lot more weight in the organisation than mine. Trevor has a
lot more influence than I do. Trevor has a lot more influence than
most WMFers do!

Crucially: this *isn't because he's management*. This was the case
even *before* he was management. Because:

1. He's been here a really really long time and so knows everyone.
2. He's an Engineer, and we give engineers more weight and cachet than
we do, say, administrative staff or people in "support" roles, even
though those people are both as-smart and have an equal interest in
the organisation's success;
3. His background matches what we strongly correlate with Authority Voices.

If we switch to a flat organisational structure where nobody has a
title, or..whatever, all of these things will still be true. We will
switch pronounce systemic biases or uneven power dynamics Done, and we
will have achieved something that's actually worse than not doing
anything at all. Because now, we still *have* all those problems, we
just think we're done and don't have to put any work in and can't talk
about it, and nobody has the responsibility for continuing to fix
things.

The Foundation I would return to is not an organisation with a flat
structure. In fact, it could be an organisation that looks a lot like
this one, because I don't believe reporting lines or titles have as
much of an impact on dynamics as we think they do. What *does* have an
impact is how we recognise the value of emotional labour, how we
recognise our implicit biases and advantages, and how honest we are
with each other: not just in terms of what we *say* but in terms of
how we *listen*. In other words, the litmus test for me is: what
happens when the socially and politically weakest person in the
organisation has an idea?

Anyway; I don't particularly want to go into a long drawn-out
conversation, just correct the initial, fundamental misunderstanding.
Hopefully I've provided a bit of food for thought along with that.

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 3:50 AM, Pau Giner <[hidden email]> wrote:

>>
>> If I remember correctly, I think that's how the Content Translation project
>> started -- it was someone's personal project, which got more people and
>> attention because it's a great idea and showed real success.
>
>
> That is not accurate. I think Content Translation is a good example of
> bottom-up and design-driven project, though.
>
> The Language team identified that users frequently were asking for better
> support for translating Wikipedia articles, and decided to learn from
> existing translators (and their heavily manual efforts) without a
> predefined idea of how the solution would look like. After many iterations
> of design, prototyping and research the team started building the tool
> iteratively and driven by user behaviour (based on metrics and more user
> research). I wrote a more detailed piece about this some time ago if anyone
> is interested in more details:
> http://pauginer.com/post/116536135010/the-design-of-content-translation
>
> So while this project didn't came from top-down roadmap, it was also not a
> solo "cowboy-style" personal project.
> I definitely think it followed a good pattern for more projects to consider.
>
> Pau
>
>
> On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 4:40 AM, Andrew Lih <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
>> wrote:
>>
>> >
>> > And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the
>> open
>> > and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example
>> of
>> > a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism
>> rather
>> > than a human-built pyramid?
>> >
>> > This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
>> > flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
>> > sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
>> > example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
>> > storing 3D models in wiki.
>>
>>
>> So glad to see this being discussed in the open with smart folks like
>> Brion, Dario, et al.
>>
>> 3D support would be most welcome – we’re in a holding pattern with
>> Smithsonian 3D GLAM projects in DC because of that shortcoming in Commons.
>> It was never known whether anyone was paying attention or going to put 3D
>> on the radar screen. (https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T3790)
>>
>> At my keynote talk at Wikiconference USA, I said one of the things WMF
>> “must do” is multimedia and interactivity. Your work on the interactive
>> graph is a great step. Brion, myself and others have been working on
>> collaborative video. Brion’s ogv.js work is a great example of skunkworks
>> type projects having a huge impact.
>>
>> And if 3D is given a priority, the three areas would be a great collective
>> step towards Wikipedia continuing its revolutionary work. Best of all, they
>> would be technologies developed in service of content and community needs,
>> and not simply created for tech’s sake.
>>
>> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
>> > resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
>> > focused teams achieve that better?
>> >
>>
>> Yes, and in a recent meeting you mentioned Bell Labs as a model. As someone
>> who worked there, it’s a very good ideal to shoot for.
>>
>>
>> https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Discovery/2016-02-16_Discussing_Knowledge_Engine_with_Lila
>>
>> Thanks for opening up this discussion.
>> -Andrew
>> _______________________________________________
>> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
>> New messages to: [hidden email]
>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
>> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>>
>
>
>
> --
> Pau Giner
> Senior User Experience Designer
> Wikimedia Foundation
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l, <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Brion Vibber-4
I just want to call out Oliver's post here as extremely valuable, and this
bears repeating:

A "flat" org structure is not a panacea when you don't have a level playing
field, and the playing field's never as level as we like to think it is.

Google up some discussions on the subject of 'meritocracy' and you'll find
talk about all kinds of inequalities in the power dynamics in
free/open-source software and similar online cultures, as well as many
engineering/"high-tech" organizations in general. I won't go into more here
now, but I think it's something we need to seriously think more about,
especially since we're at the intersection of many different cultures.

-- brion



On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 10:34 AM, Oliver Keyes <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I would like to clarify a fairly major premise of this conversation:
> namely, the comment I made that Yuri quoted in the very first message.
>
> When I say that the hierarchical organisation of the Foundation is
> something that is preventing us from doing better, I was not thinking
> of how we develop software. Indeed, I suspect that peoples' tendency
> to bring things constantly back to "does it improve the measurable
> speed at which we right code" is symptomatic of the problematic
> dynamics here. What I was thinking about was how we pay attention to
> organisational hiring, to how we promote, to how we treat people, what
> empathy we have and how we value empathy.
>
> I have consistently found the Foundation to lag in all of these
> regards. It is not good at making sure that the recognition of
> employees is fair and treated equitably (be that who gets called out
> in presentations, who gets given opportunities, or who gets raises).
> It is not good at making sure that how we hire is fair. It is not good
> at making sure that concerns of employees are given weight. All too
> often the people marginalised by our approaches are the people
> marginalised outside the Foundation, as well; women, people in
> "non-technical" roles, people in roles that we code as "support work"
> (and guess what tends to correlate with a role being coded as support
> work?) All too often the work marginalised by our approaches is the
> work that Doesn't Product Code (again: guess who tends to do the heavy
> lifting on things like organisational health and process and
> structure?)
>
> As an organisation I have found the Foundation overly rigid and
> resistant to the most conservative change around these problems;
> particularly I think of efforts to improve unintentional bias in our
> job descriptions. Basically, unless you as an employee go out and do
> the damn work yourself, for free, with 0 recognition of the emotional
> and temporal cost of that work, it doesn't get done. The organisation
> as a whole is not interested.
>
> Switching to a flat organisational structure does not, in any way,
> solve for this problem. In fact, in some way it makes it worse,
> because it makes us *think* that we have solved for the systemic and
> hierarchical power dynamics that make it difficult for low-level or
> marginalised people to get things done, or people doing marginalised
> work to get things done, when we have only shifted them.
>
> To pick on someone, I pick Trevor (sorry Trevor. For reference this is
> an entirely hypothetical example and Trevor is lovely): Trevor's voice
> is given a lot more weight in the organisation than mine. Trevor has a
> lot more influence than I do. Trevor has a lot more influence than
> most WMFers do!
>
> Crucially: this *isn't because he's management*. This was the case
> even *before* he was management. Because:
>
> 1. He's been here a really really long time and so knows everyone.
> 2. He's an Engineer, and we give engineers more weight and cachet than
> we do, say, administrative staff or people in "support" roles, even
> though those people are both as-smart and have an equal interest in
> the organisation's success;
> 3. His background matches what we strongly correlate with Authority Voices.
>
> If we switch to a flat organisational structure where nobody has a
> title, or..whatever, all of these things will still be true. We will
> switch pronounce systemic biases or uneven power dynamics Done, and we
> will have achieved something that's actually worse than not doing
> anything at all. Because now, we still *have* all those problems, we
> just think we're done and don't have to put any work in and can't talk
> about it, and nobody has the responsibility for continuing to fix
> things.
>
> The Foundation I would return to is not an organisation with a flat
> structure. In fact, it could be an organisation that looks a lot like
> this one, because I don't believe reporting lines or titles have as
> much of an impact on dynamics as we think they do. What *does* have an
> impact is how we recognise the value of emotional labour, how we
> recognise our implicit biases and advantages, and how honest we are
> with each other: not just in terms of what we *say* but in terms of
> how we *listen*. In other words, the litmus test for me is: what
> happens when the socially and politically weakest person in the
> organisation has an idea?
>
> Anyway; I don't particularly want to go into a long drawn-out
> conversation, just correct the initial, fundamental misunderstanding.
> Hopefully I've provided a bit of food for thought along with that.
>
> On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 3:50 AM, Pau Giner <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >>
> >> If I remember correctly, I think that's how the Content Translation
> project
> >> started -- it was someone's personal project, which got more people and
> >> attention because it's a great idea and showed real success.
> >
> >
> > That is not accurate. I think Content Translation is a good example of
> > bottom-up and design-driven project, though.
> >
> > The Language team identified that users frequently were asking for better
> > support for translating Wikipedia articles, and decided to learn from
> > existing translators (and their heavily manual efforts) without a
> > predefined idea of how the solution would look like. After many
> iterations
> > of design, prototyping and research the team started building the tool
> > iteratively and driven by user behaviour (based on metrics and more user
> > research). I wrote a more detailed piece about this some time ago if
> anyone
> > is interested in more details:
> > http://pauginer.com/post/116536135010/the-design-of-content-translation
> >
> > So while this project didn't came from top-down roadmap, it was also not
> a
> > solo "cowboy-style" personal project.
> > I definitely think it followed a good pattern for more projects to
> consider.
> >
> > Pau
> >
> >
> > On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 4:40 AM, Andrew Lih <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
> >
> >> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <
> [hidden email]>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >> >
> >> > And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the
> >> open
> >> > and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic
> example
> >> of
> >> > a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism
> >> rather
> >> > than a human-built pyramid?
> >> >
> >> > This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
> >> > flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
> >> > sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
> >> > example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
> >> > storing 3D models in wiki.
> >>
> >>
> >> So glad to see this being discussed in the open with smart folks like
> >> Brion, Dario, et al.
> >>
> >> 3D support would be most welcome – we’re in a holding pattern with
> >> Smithsonian 3D GLAM projects in DC because of that shortcoming in
> Commons.
> >> It was never known whether anyone was paying attention or going to put
> 3D
> >> on the radar screen. (https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T3790)
> >>
> >> At my keynote talk at Wikiconference USA, I said one of the things WMF
> >> “must do” is multimedia and interactivity. Your work on the interactive
> >> graph is a great step. Brion, myself and others have been working on
> >> collaborative video. Brion’s ogv.js work is a great example of
> skunkworks
> >> type projects having a huge impact.
> >>
> >> And if 3D is given a priority, the three areas would be a great
> collective
> >> step towards Wikipedia continuing its revolutionary work. Best of all,
> they
> >> would be technologies developed in service of content and community
> needs,
> >> and not simply created for tech’s sake.
> >>
> >> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
> >> > resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and
> more
> >> > focused teams achieve that better?
> >> >
> >>
> >> Yes, and in a recent meeting you mentioned Bell Labs as a model. As
> someone
> >> who worked there, it’s a very good ideal to shoot for.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Discovery/2016-02-16_Discussing_Knowledge_Engine_with_Lila
> >>
> >> Thanks for opening up this discussion.
> >> -Andrew
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> >> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> >> New messages to: [hidden email]
> >> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> >> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> >>
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Pau Giner
> > Senior User Experience Designer
> > Wikimedia Foundation
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: [hidden email]
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

phoebe ayers-3
In reply to this post by Oliver Keyes-5
On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 1:34 PM, Oliver Keyes <[hidden email]> wrote:
....

. What I was thinking about was how we pay attention to

> organisational hiring, to how we promote, to how we treat people, what
> empathy we have and how we value empathy.
>
> I have consistently found the Foundation to lag in all of these
> regards. It is not good at making sure that the recognition of
> employees is fair and treated equitably (be that who gets called out
> in presentations, who gets given opportunities, or who gets raises).
> It is not good at making sure that how we hire is fair. It is not good
> at making sure that concerns of employees are given weight. All too
> often the people marginalised by our approaches are the people
> marginalised outside the Foundation, as well; women, people in
> "non-technical" roles, people in roles that we code as "support work"
> (and guess what tends to correlate with a role being coded as support
> work?) All too often the work marginalised by our approaches is the
> work that Doesn't Product Code (again: guess who tends to do the heavy
> lifting on things like organisational health and process and
> structure?)

This is an important thing to say and an important lens to look at the
organization through; thank you for saying it, and thank you for being
specific.

How can an organization turn itself around?
Many of you know I changed jobs last year, to be at MIT Libraries.
There's a lot of good things about this, but one good thing is that
the head of the library is remarkable, and thinks a lot about how to
make equity and diversity an actionable part of our daily work.

One of the first things she did was to add a section to our
performance review forms (which also include sections for goals, etc)
to include a section called:
"Demonstration of organizational values of diversity and inclusivity–
Note participation in formal and informal activities and demonstrated
behaviors that enhance these values (past year, ongoing and planned)."

She also added a similar category to our staff awards process. She
invited two line staff on a semi-annual rotation to join the
leadership group (our equivalent of the C-levels). Then she did the
same thing for a big formal strategy process. Then we sponsored an
outside organization that supports underrepresented librarians. Now,
because she's set a tone, rhetoric in meetings and among all levels of
staff is similar.

None of this is perfect or earthshaking, and I suspect there are a lot
of ideas yet to come. But what she's taught me, in the few months that
I've been here, is that an organization can address systemic and
societal problems through concrete actions without a lot of drama.

 In other words, the litmus test for me is: what
> happens when the socially and politically weakest person in the
> organisation has an idea?

A question that we sometimes talk about for the community, too (and is
sometimes framed as what ways can a person develop a positive
reputation sufficient enough to make a change); not unrelated to the
question of how we treat smaller projects too.

best,
Phoebe

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Andrew Bogott
In reply to this post by Oliver Keyes-5
Thanks for this email, Oliver, it's fantastic!  Since I'm one of the
people who says 'flat' and 'flatter' a lot, I feel compelled to respond,
though I run the risk of painting an already-perfect lily.

One of the first essays we read in the Flat Org group was 'The Tyranny
of Structurelessness'[1] which makes a similar point to Oliver's, and I
think it's one that everyone is wise to remember. The question that I
seek an answer to is not "How can we smash hierarchy?"  It is, rather,  
"How can an institution be less reliant on the competence and
benevolence of a small number of people, and less vulnerable to malice
or incompetence on the part of a small number of people?"  In my
experience, traditional top-down management systems are highly
vulnerable because they're great at magnifying whims and mistakes.

I'm pretty sure that it's possible to have structure without having a
rigid power-based hierarchy.  To some extent, that's what democracy is,
or at least what it seeks to be.  It's definitely what Wikipedia seeks
to be.  I hope that someday the WMF joins Wikipedia and the other
projects in their weird adventure of
anarchist/collectivist/self-organizing weirdness.  Not because I want
the Foundation to be governed more like Wikipedia, but because I want
Wikipedia _and_ the Foundation to be governed better, and I think there
are lessons we can learn together.

-Andrew
(Top-posting to prevent scroll-wheel-related RSI)


[1]  http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm



On 2/24/16 12:34 PM, Oliver Keyes wrote:

> I would like to clarify a fairly major premise of this conversation:
> namely, the comment I made that Yuri quoted in the very first message.
>
> When I say that the hierarchical organisation of the Foundation is
> something that is preventing us from doing better, I was not thinking
> of how we develop software. Indeed, I suspect that peoples' tendency
> to bring things constantly back to "does it improve the measurable
> speed at which we right code" is symptomatic of the problematic
> dynamics here. What I was thinking about was how we pay attention to
> organisational hiring, to how we promote, to how we treat people, what
> empathy we have and how we value empathy.
>
> I have consistently found the Foundation to lag in all of these
> regards. It is not good at making sure that the recognition of
> employees is fair and treated equitably (be that who gets called out
> in presentations, who gets given opportunities, or who gets raises).
> It is not good at making sure that how we hire is fair. It is not good
> at making sure that concerns of employees are given weight. All too
> often the people marginalised by our approaches are the people
> marginalised outside the Foundation, as well; women, people in
> "non-technical" roles, people in roles that we code as "support work"
> (and guess what tends to correlate with a role being coded as support
> work?) All too often the work marginalised by our approaches is the
> work that Doesn't Product Code (again: guess who tends to do the heavy
> lifting on things like organisational health and process and
> structure?)
>
> As an organisation I have found the Foundation overly rigid and
> resistant to the most conservative change around these problems;
> particularly I think of efforts to improve unintentional bias in our
> job descriptions. Basically, unless you as an employee go out and do
> the damn work yourself, for free, with 0 recognition of the emotional
> and temporal cost of that work, it doesn't get done. The organisation
> as a whole is not interested.
>
> Switching to a flat organisational structure does not, in any way,
> solve for this problem. In fact, in some way it makes it worse,
> because it makes us *think* that we have solved for the systemic and
> hierarchical power dynamics that make it difficult for low-level or
> marginalised people to get things done, or people doing marginalised
> work to get things done, when we have only shifted them.
>
> To pick on someone, I pick Trevor (sorry Trevor. For reference this is
> an entirely hypothetical example and Trevor is lovely): Trevor's voice
> is given a lot more weight in the organisation than mine. Trevor has a
> lot more influence than I do. Trevor has a lot more influence than
> most WMFers do!
>
> Crucially: this *isn't because he's management*. This was the case
> even *before* he was management. Because:
>
> 1. He's been here a really really long time and so knows everyone.
> 2. He's an Engineer, and we give engineers more weight and cachet than
> we do, say, administrative staff or people in "support" roles, even
> though those people are both as-smart and have an equal interest in
> the organisation's success;
> 3. His background matches what we strongly correlate with Authority Voices.
>
> If we switch to a flat organisational structure where nobody has a
> title, or..whatever, all of these things will still be true. We will
> switch pronounce systemic biases or uneven power dynamics Done, and we
> will have achieved something that's actually worse than not doing
> anything at all. Because now, we still *have* all those problems, we
> just think we're done and don't have to put any work in and can't talk
> about it, and nobody has the responsibility for continuing to fix
> things.
>
> The Foundation I would return to is not an organisation with a flat
> structure. In fact, it could be an organisation that looks a lot like
> this one, because I don't believe reporting lines or titles have as
> much of an impact on dynamics as we think they do. What *does* have an
> impact is how we recognise the value of emotional labour, how we
> recognise our implicit biases and advantages, and how honest we are
> with each other: not just in terms of what we *say* but in terms of
> how we *listen*. In other words, the litmus test for me is: what
> happens when the socially and politically weakest person in the
> organisation has an idea?
>
> Anyway; I don't particularly want to go into a long drawn-out
> conversation, just correct the initial, fundamental misunderstanding.
> Hopefully I've provided a bit of food for thought along with that.
>
> On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 3:50 AM, Pau Giner <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>> If I remember correctly, I think that's how the Content Translation project
>>> started -- it was someone's personal project, which got more people and
>>> attention because it's a great idea and showed real success.
>>
>> That is not accurate. I think Content Translation is a good example of
>> bottom-up and design-driven project, though.
>>
>> The Language team identified that users frequently were asking for better
>> support for translating Wikipedia articles, and decided to learn from
>> existing translators (and their heavily manual efforts) without a
>> predefined idea of how the solution would look like. After many iterations
>> of design, prototyping and research the team started building the tool
>> iteratively and driven by user behaviour (based on metrics and more user
>> research). I wrote a more detailed piece about this some time ago if anyone
>> is interested in more details:
>> http://pauginer.com/post/116536135010/the-design-of-content-translation
>>
>> So while this project didn't came from top-down roadmap, it was also not a
>> solo "cowboy-style" personal project.
>> I definitely think it followed a good pattern for more projects to consider.
>>
>> Pau
>>
>>
>> On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 4:40 AM, Andrew Lih <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>>> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <[hidden email]>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>> And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the
>>> open
>>>> and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic example
>>> of
>>>> a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism
>>> rather
>>>> than a human-built pyramid?
>>>>
>>>> This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
>>>> flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
>>>> sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
>>>> example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
>>>> storing 3D models in wiki.
>>>
>>> So glad to see this being discussed in the open with smart folks like
>>> Brion, Dario, et al.
>>>
>>> 3D support would be most welcome – we’re in a holding pattern with
>>> Smithsonian 3D GLAM projects in DC because of that shortcoming in Commons.
>>> It was never known whether anyone was paying attention or going to put 3D
>>> on the radar screen. (https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T3790)
>>>
>>> At my keynote talk at Wikiconference USA, I said one of the things WMF
>>> “must do” is multimedia and interactivity. Your work on the interactive
>>> graph is a great step. Brion, myself and others have been working on
>>> collaborative video. Brion’s ogv.js work is a great example of skunkworks
>>> type projects having a huge impact.
>>>
>>> And if 3D is given a priority, the three areas would be a great collective
>>> step towards Wikipedia continuing its revolutionary work. Best of all, they
>>> would be technologies developed in service of content and community needs,
>>> and not simply created for tech’s sake.
>>>
>>> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
>>>> resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and more
>>>> focused teams achieve that better?
>>>>
>>> Yes, and in a recent meeting you mentioned Bell Labs as a model. As someone
>>> who worked there, it’s a very good ideal to shoot for.
>>>
>>>
>>> https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Discovery/2016-02-16_Discussing_Knowledge_Engine_with_Lila
>>>
>>> Thanks for opening up this discussion.
>>> -Andrew
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
>>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
>>> New messages to: [hidden email]
>>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
>>> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> Pau Giner
>> Senior User Experience Designer
>> Wikimedia Foundation
>> _______________________________________________
>> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
>> New messages to: [hidden email]
>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l, <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
> _______________________________________________
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Dan Andreescu
Now, I agree with Oliver's points but I disagree they apply to the entire
organization, and I have proof.  I also objectively think there's much more
reason for optimism than pessimism.  I'm open to being proven wrong or told
that I have an Authority Voice and I just don't understand, I really am, I
think if someone like me who's thought about this extensively doesn't get
it we have a real problem and my optimism should check its privilege.

*how we treat people, **what empathy we have, and* *how we value empathy*.
Disclosure: I was treated very poorly in my past work life.  I was forced
to work an average of 70 hours per week for 32 months, without overtime for
most of it, and was denied any vacation during that time (a superior
punched me in the chest at one particular low point).  In a different
situation I had to organize a strike to obtain overtime payment for my 30+
hours and my friend's 50+ hours of *continuous* work with *no sleep*.  My
point is, when I got this opportunity to work at WMF, I was extremely clear
that I was looking for a place where I was treated decently.  My first few
months here were rocky, I got unknowingly tangled up in some political
struggles.  But over time, I'm really proud of what my team has
accomplished and the fun, empathetic, distributed, and fair way we run
things.  We take turns presenting at quarterly reviews, try to achieve
consensus, consider each others' welfare, it's really great.  So I'm trying
to say that we're proof it's possible to have this kind of environment at
WMF.  I admit I've never thought about this beyond the now comfortable
walls of my team, but I am really deeply sad now that I have poked my head
outside.  The fact that so many people I feel really close to are
leaving... it just feels like a big opportunity lost.  We could have made
this place amazing to work at, together.  Instead we seem to be conquered
individually by enemies that some of us have defeated.

how we pay attention to *organisational hiring*.  We're bad at this.  We
get lucky sometimes, and sometimes we get lucky to hire *amazing* people
like Nuria who really know what they're doing and help us hire well.  So we
need to get better, and we do that by paying really close attention to
those who obviously know better.

*how we promote*.  I'm against promotions personally, I don't want or need
the recognition, power, or change in work type.  But some people do, and I
don't for the *life* of me understand why this is such a taboo touchy scary
topic full of drama and elevated emotion.  My 2c: if you want a promotion -
make a case for it.  Say, I've been here for this and this time, I feel
like I add this and this value, if I was promoted, I feel like this would
align better with my opinion of myself and the value I provide while also
benefiting the organization in such and such way.  You'll get public
support if the argument makes sense, and you'll get private hopefully
sensitive messages if not.  And, if you get something else, like
intimidation, pain, reprimand, etc. then I *personally* have your back.
And I'll call on the many friends I have that share my feelings on this.
There's a way to be appropriate, transparent, and fair here.  And a way to
drown out biased voices through the wisdom of our especially wise crowd.
Use that, don't fight your battles in silence and complain about the
results of problems that the rest of us don't even have a chance to help
with.

Full disclosure, Oliver, I spoke up on your behalf several times, and I
thought you received fairer treatment as a result, but I now consider
myself an idiot because we should have had this conversation in the open.
It's sad to lose you, but I'm very happy for you and your next adventures,
and thankful for this last gift you give us, the opportunity to have this
conversation.





On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 3:27 PM, Andrew Bogott <[hidden email]>
wrote:

> Thanks for this email, Oliver, it's fantastic!  Since I'm one of the
> people who says 'flat' and 'flatter' a lot, I feel compelled to respond,
> though I run the risk of painting an already-perfect lily.
>
> One of the first essays we read in the Flat Org group was 'The Tyranny of
> Structurelessness'[1] which makes a similar point to Oliver's, and I think
> it's one that everyone is wise to remember. The question that I seek an
> answer to is not "How can we smash hierarchy?"  It is, rather,  "How can an
> institution be less reliant on the competence and benevolence of a small
> number of people, and less vulnerable to malice or incompetence on the part
> of a small number of people?"  In my experience, traditional top-down
> management systems are highly vulnerable because they're great at
> magnifying whims and mistakes.
>
> I'm pretty sure that it's possible to have structure without having a
> rigid power-based hierarchy.  To some extent, that's what democracy is, or
> at least what it seeks to be.  It's definitely what Wikipedia seeks to be.
> I hope that someday the WMF joins Wikipedia and the other projects in their
> weird adventure of anarchist/collectivist/self-organizing weirdness.  Not
> because I want the Foundation to be governed more like Wikipedia, but
> because I want Wikipedia _and_ the Foundation to be governed better, and I
> think there are lessons we can learn together.
>
> -Andrew
> (Top-posting to prevent scroll-wheel-related RSI)
>
>
> [1]  http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm
>
>
>
>
> On 2/24/16 12:34 PM, Oliver Keyes wrote:
>
>> I would like to clarify a fairly major premise of this conversation:
>> namely, the comment I made that Yuri quoted in the very first message.
>>
>> When I say that the hierarchical organisation of the Foundation is
>> something that is preventing us from doing better, I was not thinking
>> of how we develop software. Indeed, I suspect that peoples' tendency
>> to bring things constantly back to "does it improve the measurable
>> speed at which we right code" is symptomatic of the problematic
>> dynamics here. What I was thinking about was how we pay attention to
>> organisational hiring, to how we promote, to how we treat people, what
>> empathy we have and how we value empathy.
>>
>> I have consistently found the Foundation to lag in all of these
>> regards. It is not good at making sure that the recognition of
>> employees is fair and treated equitably (be that who gets called out
>> in presentations, who gets given opportunities, or who gets raises).
>> It is not good at making sure that how we hire is fair. It is not good
>> at making sure that concerns of employees are given weight. All too
>> often the people marginalised by our approaches are the people
>> marginalised outside the Foundation, as well; women, people in
>> "non-technical" roles, people in roles that we code as "support work"
>> (and guess what tends to correlate with a role being coded as support
>> work?) All too often the work marginalised by our approaches is the
>> work that Doesn't Product Code (again: guess who tends to do the heavy
>> lifting on things like organisational health and process and
>> structure?)
>>
>> As an organisation I have found the Foundation overly rigid and
>> resistant to the most conservative change around these problems;
>> particularly I think of efforts to improve unintentional bias in our
>> job descriptions. Basically, unless you as an employee go out and do
>> the damn work yourself, for free, with 0 recognition of the emotional
>> and temporal cost of that work, it doesn't get done. The organisation
>> as a whole is not interested.
>>
>> Switching to a flat organisational structure does not, in any way,
>> solve for this problem. In fact, in some way it makes it worse,
>> because it makes us *think* that we have solved for the systemic and
>> hierarchical power dynamics that make it difficult for low-level or
>> marginalised people to get things done, or people doing marginalised
>> work to get things done, when we have only shifted them.
>>
>> To pick on someone, I pick Trevor (sorry Trevor. For reference this is
>> an entirely hypothetical example and Trevor is lovely): Trevor's voice
>> is given a lot more weight in the organisation than mine. Trevor has a
>> lot more influence than I do. Trevor has a lot more influence than
>> most WMFers do!
>>
>> Crucially: this *isn't because he's management*. This was the case
>> even *before* he was management. Because:
>>
>> 1. He's been here a really really long time and so knows everyone.
>> 2. He's an Engineer, and we give engineers more weight and cachet than
>> we do, say, administrative staff or people in "support" roles, even
>> though those people are both as-smart and have an equal interest in
>> the organisation's success;
>> 3. His background matches what we strongly correlate with Authority
>> Voices.
>>
>> If we switch to a flat organisational structure where nobody has a
>> title, or..whatever, all of these things will still be true. We will
>> switch pronounce systemic biases or uneven power dynamics Done, and we
>> will have achieved something that's actually worse than not doing
>> anything at all. Because now, we still *have* all those problems, we
>> just think we're done and don't have to put any work in and can't talk
>> about it, and nobody has the responsibility for continuing to fix
>> things.
>>
>> The Foundation I would return to is not an organisation with a flat
>> structure. In fact, it could be an organisation that looks a lot like
>> this one, because I don't believe reporting lines or titles have as
>> much of an impact on dynamics as we think they do. What *does* have an
>> impact is how we recognise the value of emotional labour, how we
>> recognise our implicit biases and advantages, and how honest we are
>> with each other: not just in terms of what we *say* but in terms of
>> how we *listen*. In other words, the litmus test for me is: what
>> happens when the socially and politically weakest person in the
>> organisation has an idea?
>>
>> Anyway; I don't particularly want to go into a long drawn-out
>> conversation, just correct the initial, fundamental misunderstanding.
>> Hopefully I've provided a bit of food for thought along with that.
>>
>> On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 3:50 AM, Pau Giner <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>>> If I remember correctly, I think that's how the Content Translation
>>>> project
>>>> started -- it was someone's personal project, which got more people and
>>>> attention because it's a great idea and showed real success.
>>>>
>>>
>>> That is not accurate. I think Content Translation is a good example of
>>> bottom-up and design-driven project, though.
>>>
>>> The Language team identified that users frequently were asking for better
>>> support for translating Wikipedia articles, and decided to learn from
>>> existing translators (and their heavily manual efforts) without a
>>> predefined idea of how the solution would look like. After many
>>> iterations
>>> of design, prototyping and research the team started building the tool
>>> iteratively and driven by user behaviour (based on metrics and more user
>>> research). I wrote a more detailed piece about this some time ago if
>>> anyone
>>> is interested in more details:
>>> http://pauginer.com/post/116536135010/the-design-of-content-translation
>>>
>>> So while this project didn't came from top-down roadmap, it was also not
>>> a
>>> solo "cowboy-style" personal project.
>>> I definitely think it followed a good pattern for more projects to
>>> consider.
>>>
>>> Pau
>>>
>>>
>>> On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 4:40 AM, Andrew Lih <[hidden email]>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>> On Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 7:53 PM, Yuri Astrakhan <
>>>> [hidden email]>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>
>>>> And that got me thinking. WMF, an organization that was built with the
>>>>>
>>>> open
>>>>
>>>>> and community-driven principles - why have we became the classic
>>>>> example
>>>>>
>>>> of
>>>>
>>>>> a corporate multi-level hierarchy? Should we mimic a living organism
>>>>>
>>>> rather
>>>>
>>>>> than a human-built pyramid?
>>>>>
>>>>> This may sound naive and wishful, but could we have a more flat and
>>>>> flexible team structure, where instead of having large teams with
>>>>> sub-teams, we would have small self-forming teams "by interest".  For
>>>>> example, someone decides to dedicate their 20% to building support for
>>>>> storing 3D models in wiki.
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>> So glad to see this being discussed in the open with smart folks like
>>>> Brion, Dario, et al.
>>>>
>>>> 3D support would be most welcome – we’re in a holding pattern with
>>>> Smithsonian 3D GLAM projects in DC because of that shortcoming in
>>>> Commons.
>>>> It was never known whether anyone was paying attention or going to put
>>>> 3D
>>>> on the radar screen. (https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T3790)
>>>>
>>>> At my keynote talk at Wikiconference USA, I said one of the things WMF
>>>> “must do” is multimedia and interactivity. Your work on the interactive
>>>> graph is a great step. Brion, myself and others have been working on
>>>> collaborative video. Brion’s ogv.js work is a great example of
>>>> skunkworks
>>>> type projects having a huge impact.
>>>>
>>>> And if 3D is given a priority, the three areas would be a great
>>>> collective
>>>> step towards Wikipedia continuing its revolutionary work. Best of all,
>>>> they
>>>> would be technologies developed in service of content and community
>>>> needs,
>>>> and not simply created for tech’s sake.
>>>>
>>>> An organism reacts to the change of its environment by redistributing
>>>>
>>>>> resources to the more problematic areas. Would small, flexible, and
>>>>> more
>>>>> focused teams achieve that better?
>>>>>
>>>>> Yes, and in a recent meeting you mentioned Bell Labs as a model. As
>>>> someone
>>>> who worked there, it’s a very good ideal to shoot for.
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Discovery/2016-02-16_Discussing_Knowledge_Engine_with_Lila
>>>>
>>>> Thanks for opening up this discussion.
>>>> -Andrew
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
>>>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
>>>> New messages to: [hidden email]
>>>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
>>>> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>> --
>>> Pau Giner
>>> Senior User Experience Designer
>>> Wikimedia Foundation
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
>>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
>>> New messages to: [hidden email]
>>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
>>> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
>> New messages to: [hidden email]
>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
>> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
>>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: [hidden email]
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> <mailto:[hidden email]?subject=unsubscribe>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Yuri Astrakhan-2
In reply to this post by phoebe ayers-3
Oliver, thanks!

> In other words, the litmus test for me is: what happens when the socially
and politically weakest person in the organisation has an idea?

If we speak of a "product" idea, we have two groups of people - those who
can implement the idea, and those who would need to convince others to do
it.  They use fundamentally different, scarcely overlapping skill-sets. An
engineer might go via the "hackathon + demo" route, implementing something
simple and showing it to gain traction. A non-engineer would start with the
social aspect first - talking to others if the idea is worth pursuing, how
hard is it to do, and eventually - convincing others to allocate their
time/resources to do it. Sometimes an engineer may go the social route
instead, but it would be very hard for a non-engineer to engage in
development. Lastly, the "designer" group has an amazing skill-set to
visually present their full vision rather than the demo, thus often having
easier time of conveying their thoughts.

In a sense, the barrier of entry for the person in the "weakest position"
would not be as high for the "doer" as for the "inspirer". So I think the
real challenge is how do we capture and evaluate those ideas from the
second group? Also, no matter how hard we try, it would be either very
hard, or very expensive (and not just financially) to force the
implementers to do an idea they do not believe in. So in a sense, doers
need to be persuaded first and foremost.

As with any explanation, a picture == 1000 words, so we could promote "idea
visualizers" - designers who are easily approachable and could help to draw
up a few sketches of the idea.
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Guillaume Paumier-3
Hey Yuri,

[Responding offlist because I'm linking to officewiki]

Le jeudi 25 février 2016, 01:38:31 Yuri Astrakhan a écrit :
>
> In a sense, the barrier of entry for the person in the "weakest position"
> would not be as high for the "doer" as for the "inspirer". So I think the
> real challenge is how do we capture and evaluate those ideas from the
> second group?

One possible mechanism is the Business case:
https://office.wikimedia.org/wiki/Business_case

And also from https://office.wikimedia.org/wiki/Rebuilding#Agency :
"If we want to start a new project or make a big change, we can make a case
for it and argue its merits to the group."

--
Guillaume Paumier

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Are we too rigid?

Oliver Keyes-5
In reply to this post by Yuri Astrakhan-2
On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 5:38 PM, Yuri Astrakhan
<[hidden email]> wrote:

> Oliver, thanks!
>
>> In other words, the litmus test for me is: what happens when the socially
> and politically weakest person in the organisation has an idea?
>
> If we speak of a "product" idea, we have two groups of people - those who
> can implement the idea, and those who would need to convince others to do
> it.  They use fundamentally different, scarcely overlapping skill-sets. An
> engineer might go via the "hackathon + demo" route, implementing something
> simple and showing it to gain traction. A non-engineer would start with the
> social aspect first - talking to others if the idea is worth pursuing, how
> hard is it to do, and eventually - convincing others to allocate their
> time/resources to do it. Sometimes an engineer may go the social route
> instead, but it would be very hard for a non-engineer to engage in
> development. Lastly, the "designer" group has an amazing skill-set to
> visually present their full vision rather than the demo, thus often having
> easier time of conveying their thoughts.
>
> In a sense, the barrier of entry for the person in the "weakest position"
> would not be as high for the "doer" as for the "inspirer". So I think the
> real challenge is how do we capture and evaluate those ideas from the
> second group? Also, no matter how hard we try, it would be either very
> hard, or very expensive (and not just financially) to force the
> implementers to do an idea they do not believe in. So in a sense, doers
> need to be persuaded first and foremost.
>
> As with any explanation, a picture == 1000 words, so we could promote "idea
> visualizers" - designers who are easily approachable and could help to draw
> up a few sketches of the idea.


My email opened with "I think reducing things to engineering terms are
sort of indicative of the problem here". I'm not talking about code.
I'm not talking about designs. I'm not talking about software
products. And thinking about it in terms of engineering projects,
which is what we do as an organisation a lot, will not be helpful. If
it did, then after several years of insisting that we are primarily a
tech shop, we would hopefully not still be having conversations about
structure and direction!

What I am talking about is ideas generally. They might be about
software products. They might be about social products, a la the
teahouse. They might be about how to tweak our process by which we
interact with the community. They might be that our hiring process is
kinda weird and here's this one cool way we could look at improving
it. They might be that the break room snacks _suck_ (again,
hypothetical: they're fine. Sorry, Facilities).

In any case, the litmus test is just that; a litmus test. Our
structure should be designed cognizant to these problems, and then
pass the test, but not be designed *specifically* to pass the test.
And the designer idea seems pretty hyper-optimised just for the test.

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