[Wikimedia-l] Origin and status of WMF Values and Guiding principles

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[Wikimedia-l] Origin and status of WMF Values and Guiding principles

Guillaume Paumier-4
Hello folks,

I was adding citations to an internal WMF page, and I went down a wiki-
archaeology rabbit hole trying to find the origin of the WMF's Values and
Guiding principles documents.

I'd like to reach out to the collective accumulated experience of this list to
sort out a few questions and disambiguate the two concepts.

I realize a lot is happening in the movement (and on this list) these days,
and this isn't an urgent, important or groundbreaking discussion. This message
is more like a message in a bottle, hoping to find knowledgeable people that can
help me clear up the ambiguity :)

This is what I've got so far (with some help from Tilman Bayer for a few bits):

-o-o-o-o-

* Florence Devouard (then-Chair of the WMF's Board of Trustees) started a
discussion about the Foundation's values on the foundation-l list in 2007:

http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.org.wikimedia.foundation/19502

* The list of values was first drafted by the Board and the Advisory Board, and
then discussed on Meta-Wiki with the larger communities:

https://advisory.wikimedia.org/wiki/Meeting_August_2007/Notes#Values
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Values

* The discussion was restarted by Florence in early 2008 on foundation-l. She
presented a new, longer draft of six core values with explanations, and
proposed "to the board to finalize (-> approve) the values of Wikimedia
Foundation.":

http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.org.wikimedia.foundation/25147/

* After some feedback from list members, she posted a modified version on the
Meta-Wiki page, which is largely identical to today's text:

https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?diff=858927&oldid=856985

* It is unclear whether those Values were officially approved by the Board. I
couldn't find a resolution or meeting minutes indicating official approval.

* In 2013, then-Executive Director Sue Gardner drafted a list of Guiding
principles for the WMF, which were presented to, and approved by, the Board in
May of that year.

https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Guiding_Principles
https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Minutes/2013-04-18#Guiding_Principles
https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Wikimedia_Foundation_Guiding_Principles

* That resolution indicates that the guiding principles "may come to replace
the previous list of values", but I couldn't find any confirmation that they did
replace them.

* A conflicting statement from Sue on Meta-Wiki indicates that "This document
isn't intended to supersede the Values document. It's actually intended to
flesh out the values a little bit further, so it's more explicit how we live
them on a day-to-day basis at the staff level.":

https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?diff=5375389&oldid=5367067

-o-o-o-o-

We're linking to the WMF's Values in a lot of prominent places, and they've
also been brought up many times in recent strategy discussions. There seems to
be an underlying assumption, in those discussions, that the Values are a
document with the same origin and status as the Vision & Mission statements.

My impression (and I'd like to hear thoughts from this list about this) is
that the Values document was never "officially" approved by the Board, and
instead is more the result of a soft consensus.

This isn't to say that those Values wouldn't have as much weight, importance or
authority as voted-on documents like the Mission & Vision statements, or the
WMF Guiding principles. An unchallenged consensus seems like a valid way of
validating rules and principles, especially in the context of our movement.
I'm trying to get confirmation about whether this is the case, so as to remove
the ambiguity and acknowledge the origin story.

As I mentioned, this isn't the most important topic of discussion right now.
I'll still be grateful if someone can help me understand the backstories :)

--
Guillaume Paumier

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Origin and status of WMF Values and Guiding principles

Sam Klein
On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 9:53 PM, Guillaume Paumier <
[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Wikimedia_Foundation_Guiding_Principles
>
> * That resolution indicates that the guiding principles "may come to
> replace
> the previous list of values", but I couldn't find any confirmation that
> they did
> replace them.
>

I don't think they did.  They were drafted in such a way that one could
have constructed "principle blame" to see which values informed parts of
which principles, and a merge or more nuanced classification that covered
various layers of principles would make sense (ex: from abstract values to
specific principles to short-term implementation), but that did not happen.


> We're linking to the WMF's Values in a lot of prominent places, and they've
> also been brought up many times in recent strategy discussions. There
> seems to
> be an underlying assumption, in those discussions, that the Values are a
> document with the same origin and status as the Vision & Mission
> statements.
>

As a point of reference: there was a brainstorming sessions at the Board+ED
retreat in Nov 2014, about whether the (principles+values) were
unchangeable / had the status of the mission.  [conclusion at the time: no.]

The retreat was private, with lots of playing devil's advocate for each
value ["how does this aspect of this principle make it harder to realize
the mission?  what would happen if it were ignored?"].  But as I recall, we
imagined doing something similar in the public strategy discussion. In the
end, the public discussion in 2015 was delayed & simplified... But I hope
we do still have that discussion on Meta.


> As I mentioned, this isn't the most important topic of discussion right
> now.
> I'll still be grateful if someone can help me understand the backstories :)
>

Thanks for asking here :)
<%2B1%20617%20529%204266>
Sam
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Origin and status of WMF Values and Guiding principles

Florence Devouard-3
In reply to this post by Guillaume Paumier-4
Le 07/01/16 03:53, Guillaume Paumier a écrit :

> Hello folks,
>
> I was adding citations to an internal WMF page, and I went down a wiki-
> archaeology rabbit hole trying to find the origin of the WMF's Values and
> Guiding principles documents.
>
> I'd like to reach out to the collective accumulated experience of this list to
> sort out a few questions and disambiguate the two concepts.
>
> I realize a lot is happening in the movement (and on this list) these days,
> and this isn't an urgent, important or groundbreaking discussion. This message
> is more like a message in a bottle, hoping to find knowledgeable people that can
> help me clear up the ambiguity :)
>
> This is what I've got so far (with some help from Tilman Bayer for a few bits):
>
> -o-o-o-o-
>
> * Florence Devouard (then-Chair of the WMF's Board of Trustees) started a
> discussion about the Foundation's values on the foundation-l list in 2007:
>
> http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.org.wikimedia.foundation/19502
>
> * The list of values was first drafted by the Board and the Advisory Board, and
> then discussed on Meta-Wiki with the larger communities:
>
> https://advisory.wikimedia.org/wiki/Meeting_August_2007/Notes#Values
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Values
>
> * The discussion was restarted by Florence in early 2008 on foundation-l. She
> presented a new, longer draft of six core values with explanations, and
> proposed "to the board to finalize (-> approve) the values of Wikimedia
> Foundation.":
>
> http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.org.wikimedia.foundation/25147/
>
> * After some feedback from list members, she posted a modified version on the
> Meta-Wiki page, which is largely identical to today's text:
>
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?diff=858927&oldid=856985
>
> * It is unclear whether those Values were officially approved by the Board. I
> couldn't find a resolution or meeting minutes indicating official approval.
>
> * In 2013, then-Executive Director Sue Gardner drafted a list of Guiding
> principles for the WMF, which were presented to, and approved by, the Board in
> May of that year.
>
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Guiding_Principles
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Minutes/2013-04-18#Guiding_Principles
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Wikimedia_Foundation_Guiding_Principles
>
> * That resolution indicates that the guiding principles "may come to replace
> the previous list of values", but I couldn't find any confirmation that they did
> replace them.
>
> * A conflicting statement from Sue on Meta-Wiki indicates that "This document
> isn't intended to supersede the Values document. It's actually intended to
> flesh out the values a little bit further, so it's more explicit how we live
> them on a day-to-day basis at the staff level.":
>
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?diff=5375389&oldid=5367067
>
> -o-o-o-o-
>
> We're linking to the WMF's Values in a lot of prominent places, and they've
> also been brought up many times in recent strategy discussions. There seems to
> be an underlying assumption, in those discussions, that the Values are a
> document with the same origin and status as the Vision & Mission statements.
>
> My impression (and I'd like to hear thoughts from this list about this) is
> that the Values document was never "officially" approved by the Board, and
> instead is more the result of a soft consensus.
>
> This isn't to say that those Values wouldn't have as much weight, importance or
> authority as voted-on documents like the Mission & Vision statements, or the
> WMF Guiding principles. An unchallenged consensus seems like a valid way of
> validating rules and principles, especially in the context of our movement.
> I'm trying to get confirmation about whether this is the case, so as to remove
> the ambiguity and acknowledge the origin story.
>
> As I mentioned, this isn't the most important topic of discussion right now.
> I'll still be grateful if someone can help me understand the backstories :)
>


Hmmm

Obviously it was not voted. In 2008 we had already adopted a clean track
record of voted resolutions and it is no where in the list.

We were using the board wiki to draft resolutions before they were
proposed for voting. I have no idea whether that wiki still exist or
not. If it still does and if someone still has access to it... it might
be possible to check whether a resolution was drafted then but some for
reason never put up for voting.

One thing is sure... if it had been drafted to propose for a vote, it
would have been by myself. And I have no memory I did that.

Why not ? Well yes, I think I felt it was the result of a soft
consensus. I pushed the process for the adoption of the vision/mission
statement because I felt it was mandatory to be able to use an official
statement in our communication with "external" people (for fundraising
for example). So, crafting it was one of the key point of the meeting
organized in Germany back in winter 2006. We wanted something, short,
sharp and "fixed in time". Most of the text has been written by Erik and
I during that meeting.

But... working on the values had a different goal; it was more meant to
be for "internal" use, amongst us. There were several discussions that
made me feel it was a good move to try to put that down and to express
it as clearly as possible. For example, I remember discussions at that
time related to the use of certain formats that were not free, or video
software that could be added to the plateform that would also have not
be free. But not adopting those would have meant less accessibility to
our users. So what was more important ? Standing up in our boots and
rejecting non free, or facilitating access to all which would require to
put water in our wine ?
And of course, since we lacked money back then, it was also these good
old days where we (the board) were frequently approached by various big
companies (or smaller ones) trying to buy us or trying to grab bits of
our marks. And quite obviously, all board members did not share the same
view on how we should approach this.
This was also when we started hiring beyond 1-2 people, so the question
of diversity was on the table then.

So it felt more like an internal work on which we would softly agree on
what was really important to us. Not binding, but moral engagement.
Guiding principles indeed. And I think this is why I probably did not
propose it for vote.

Also... it is a bit like the pillars of Wikipedia. Soft consensus on a
version till the time we rework the text to make it clearer. Or till the
time we feel like an additional pillar must be added ("All articles must
strive for verifiable accuracy, citing reliable, authoritative sources,
especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons."
were not part of the original pillars. They were added after Seigh story).

Consensus is by nature evolving. Values need to be "lived" and owned by
community and by staff everyday. If at some point there is no consensus
anymore between us all on what our values are, it is useless to try to
"bind" us to broken (voted, fixed) values. It is best for us to know
that our values are no more the same and either to collectively make
them evolve ... or to part.

Anthere


Ant


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