As recent readers are aware, I’ve had a few things to say about the present election for three seats on the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees; I’ve blogged about why it’s important, and what to look for in a candidate. At the filing deadline, I found myself uncertain that three candidates (since there are three positions to be filled) were sufficiently committed to the issues I consider most important; so I decided to put myself forward as a candidate.
My position is simple: the Wikimedia Foundation has for too long focused on technical issues, at the expense of investing in social expertise, and learning to engage effectively with the complex social dynamics and wisdom in its various communities. These problems have persisted for many years; but as of 2015, the resulting problems are readily apparent. If the foundation wants to be relevant and have positive influence, it must change course. The must pressing needs:
- The foundation should meet the challenging questions around decision-making, which were raised by its misguided introduction of the “superprotect” feature last year, head on.
- The foundation should commit to modeling exemplary, transparent and accountable behavior; this would include, for instance, timely and comprehensive meeting minutes; clear and effective mechanisms for strategic input; and internal processes that lead to better, more generative communication practices from all staff and board members.
- The foundation should invest in staff with both academic and practical expertise in effective engagement with complex social systems, drawing on disciplines like organizational development (as applied toward the community at large, not just the staff); community management and facilitation; and leadership cultivation. These problems are hardly unique to the Wikimedia movement; much wisdom around them exists both within, and beyond, our community. It’s a largely untapped resource. Technical decisions should be guided from the outset by well-vetted theories of social change.
Since announcing my candidacy, I have been heartened by the statements of many of my fellow candidates on the question-and-answer pages on Meta Wiki. Although only one other candidate mentioned “superprotect” in an opening statement, for instance, many have since emerged as strong opponents of the feature. In particular, I am pleased to see many echos of my statement that “even a basic statement of when WMF will or won’t use [superprotect] to override the community,” nine months after the fact, would be a positive step.
I hope all readers who are eligible will consider asking questions themselves, and will vote in the election. (Voting runs from May 17 through May 31.) Comments, ideas, and questions are, as always, welcome here as well; but formal questions will be seen and addressed by all candidates.