Micromanagement

WMF is occasionally, although rarely, accused of micromanaging the communities. (This would be something like: inappropriately detailed interference in the management of the projects’ development or processes.) But it occurs to me that the community is having incredible trouble letting go of micromanaging the Foundation.

I suppose slowly, eventually, people will let go – or more to the point, realise they have been made obsolete.

Either that, or the claims of the Foundation being “out of touch” will increase.

27 March, 2008 • ,

Comment

1

Quite true.

But just as the process of “professionalising” the foundation (setting aside the semantic debate over that word) continues, the corresponding “letting go” and AGF of the community will/should occur. These are tandem processes rather than consecutive.

More than likely there will be teething issues and I believe the calls for a volunteer council is part of the concern over a loss of control.

Rather, I hope that this is the kind of input and control that the national chapters will take up.

liam Wyatt · 27. March 2008, 16:50

2

Your charge of the Wikimedia communities “micromanaging” the Foundation might be plausible if there was a way any of the communities could manage — or even review — what the Foundation has done. Up to now, the WMF has been a mystery to outsiders like me. Obviously they are responsible for keeping the servers running, & some other activities that no one has so far precisely explained. I think the Foundation also has a hand in sponsoring the annual Wikimania conferences, but the people most involved in this effort, such as Phoebe Ayers, do not have an official relationship with the Foundation that I have heard of.

We’ve had staff like Brad Patrick & Carolyn Doran come & leave without anyone explaining in an official capacity what they did — or even why they left. (Beyond telling us that the reason for their departure was confidential.)

To be fair, Sue Gardner is making an effort to furnish more light on what the WMF is doing, like a monthly status report (an example can be seen here), but this is only a first step. There remains the expressed goal that the WMF needs to raise money so that it can hire staff to do stuff. What this “stuff” is, I — & I assume others — still would like to see explained or justified. I don’t think this is unreasonable: anyone would like to see a justification for a proposal that they are asked to be part of. It would also be a plus if the Foundation made an effort to recruit from the existing volunteer membership, rather than from the outside; this would help avoid the disconnect that threatens to arise if current trends continue.

My motivation here is simple: I don’t have the persistence or the interest to do more than squawk from the sidelines about those kinds of matters. I’d be far happier to simply ignore what the Foundation is doing so I can spend my time researching & writing articles. However, to tend to one’s house it is sometimes necessary to be part of the neighborhood organization.

Geoff

llywrch · 28. March 2008, 02:44

3

@ Liam, while the chapters definitely have a role to play, I don’t think they are the end of the story. For most? contributors the geographic tie is not considered relevant at all.

@ Geoff,
“The expressed goal that the WMF needs to raise money so that it can hire staff to do stuff.” Then I guess you are not content with the Planned Spending Distribution 2007-2008 ? The current staff page shows vacancies for two developers, a Partnerships position, and a Fundraising position. Do you have trouble envisaging what these postions might do? I don’t.

I think the Foundation does make an effort to recruit from the existing volunteer community – I am pretty surprised to hear you suggest they don’t. If people presented themselves as suitable candidates for whatever position I feel certain they would be preferred over an equally qualified candidate not from the community. But I think it’s a big myth that just because there are many volunteers that they will be able — and more to the point, willing — to fill any conceivable kind of skills gap.

pfctdayelise · 28. March 2008, 13:01

4

Brianna, you’re right about that chart. It was my mistake for not mentioning it, since I knew about its existence long before you mentioned it. (I could blame this on sleep deprivation due to my 8-week old daughter, but I’ve made mistakes like that long before she was born; I’ll just blame my delay in responding to you on her. ;)

But I have looked at the Foundation webpages, & done exactly what you suggested — tried to envision what the WMF could do with enough money & manpower. My criticism has been — & remains — that I have no idea what the Foundation’s vision is, beyond raising money to hire more people … to raise more money. Even the Planned Distribution Chart does not make clear how more money will improve things with the different projects.

To repeat a story I must have told a couple of times before, consider my own response to last year’s fundraiser message. I had fully intended to contribute last December to it since I happened to have a job this time around & I do believe that there are good things going on in the Wikimedia projects. However, when I clicked on the link, what I found was an extended plea based on the needs of schoolchildren in Africa — although I’ll concede it’s an important cause. But reading these words, I lost interest. If I wanted to promote education in Africa, there are many NGOS that are currently doing that: running schools & teaching both children & adults. I want my donations to Wikimedia to go to activities that enable the creation & distribution of free culture.

This lack of a clear message they can give to the faithful does not help the WMF, instead raises the suspicion that the Foundation is little more than a bureaucracy looking for a purpose.

Geoff

llywrch · 1. April 2008, 07:18

5

Geoff,

“Think of the children in Africa” – I see that whole thing as poorly-executed PR. I don’t see it as really representing what they are doing right now, at all.
What are they doing right now… I see the bulk of money going towards hardware and software development, which are absolutely the right things for it to go to. And the rest towards basic staff for an organisation of this size and scope. But I guess that they thought servers were not sexy enough, and went with a more expansive message. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again.

pfctdayelise · 1. April 2008, 12:59

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