April 28, 2008

Wikimedia Foundation Community Petition about "governance" and "community"

Wikipedia hype meets harsh reality:

http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Meta:Community_petition (Wikipedia site version) [via Danny Wool]

I'll simply quote it, since it says all that needs to be said:

Petition to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees:

We, volunteers, ask the Board to give the volunteer community a fair voice in Foundation governance. During its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees not only rejected a proposal to improve community input in Foundation matters, but implemented an unexpected restructuring to reduce the community seats on the board. The community was not consulted about this reduction in representation and the board provided no explanation for this change. [1]

That is not a good way to treat people who donate their time and labor. The volunteer base made this the seventh most popular website in the world. We expect courtesy and respect, but received neither. That hurts morale.

Please provide a full explanation for recent board decisions and reconsider your top-down approach.

I keep telling the people who donate much of their time to Wikipedia:
Don't ever risk anything for Wikipedia, since it won't risk anything for you. You're fed a line about "community" and "knowledge", but you're utterly powerless. And when it comes down to a crunch, you're merely unpaid labor with no rights, who can be discarded at a moment's notice.

And if you think I'm just a bombastic critic, well, he said it, not me (Brad Patrick, former Wikimedia Foundation general counsel and interim executive director) [via "Durova"]

It would be best for those critical of the Board (and feeling that the community is the most important ideal) to remember that whether you like it or not, agree with it or not, or would have selected an alternative reality or not, it is still the case that the Board is that which governs the Wikimedia Foundation, ... As is oft-repeated, WMF is not a membership organization.

Within the spirit of civil discourse, to those who are feeling frustrated and demanding action, I submit - "so what are you going to do about it?" I suggest you be pragmatic. You do not have any means of grabbing the reins of power from the Board, and you don't have any entitlement to anything except your ability to participate in a project, if you choose, a chapter, if you choose, or to speak up in some forum. You don't have a "right" to vote on anything, and the Board could just as easily have a contest than an election to fill Board seats. [... snip]

Stop whining and ask yourself if you have the objective qualifications to lead an international organization. If not, work on obtaining the skills to be such a leader, if you choose. Toiling on a project is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition to be a Board member at WMF.

Or, get back to the data-mines, suckers.

The funniest thing about this is Jimmy Wales has been appointed a special slot that's counted as a "community" seat.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on April 28, 2008 11:53 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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To fork remains an option, despite the Wikipedia brand.

They could fork and ensure that a more democratic/co-operative management system was implemented.

Wikipedia is a public work, irrespective of who owns the domain name. The contributors, being members of the public, own the work as much as anyone. They can vote with their 'attention'.

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at April 29, 2008 03:58 AM

It's amusing that Brad Patrick considers himself a qualified and responsible individual in charge of the WMF. As far as I know, none of the current members of the WMF have any qualifications/experience/expertise with encyclopedias, journalism or managing vast realms of knowledge, prior to working for Wikipedia/Wikinews/what not. (True, there are a lot of good people on the software side).

Brad Patrick himself is a financier and businessman, from what I gather -- not quite an ideal qualification for managing a foundation geared towards the spread and dissemination of knowledge.

Posted by: Vipul Naik at May 3, 2008 10:45 AM