If you are usually logged in to your user account when you visit Wikipedia et al, you may have noticed this lately:
A call for candidates for the Wikimedia Foundation Board election. What is that? What do they do? Why would you want to be a candidate and what difference does the result make anyway?
The introductory notes say:
Being a Board member of a small organization like the Wikimedia Foundation, which faces immense challenges, can be time-consuming. The position is voluntary and unpaid. While board members are not expected to bring personal money to the organisation, they are welcome to help raise funds.
Board members are expected to attend at least 3–4 meetings per year in person, attend Wikimania (our annual conference), and attend other scheduled online meetings and votes. The Board communicates intensively via e-mail, wiki, and IRC. Individual trustees sometimes participate in strategic meetings with other organizations and companies, relaying results back to Board and staff.
Individual board members are expected to be involved in certain activities (such as fundraising, Wikimania, or auditing) and to help draft policies, charters and resolutions on such topics.
The election is to fill the first three slots in this graphic (also on Commons), the “community elected” seats:
So if you were elected, you’d be working with this lot. You should definitely also study the Staff page, because they are all the people who will actually be doing stuff. Other recommended reading: Values and Policies. The best overall guide should be the Board manual (and I hope it’s up to date!).
There are several bad reasons one might want to join the Board. They include:
- Wanting to change a project policy. Brrp! Do not pass Section 230. Do not collect $200. This is not something you do from the top, this is something you have to do the hard way — convincing the community. Yes, sometimes that is impossible. Sometimes with good reason; sometimes not.
- Take part in the community’s hardest RfA ever! Take a 100-to-1 longshot, just because you can! Go try become a bureaucrat or steward instead.
- Wanting to destroy the Wikimedia projects. Again, joining the Board is not going to get you far with this. Look at that diagram: everyone else there is working towards positive goals. If you seriously want to, say, shut down Wikipedia, you are not going to have enough influence to do it from there.
What is hard to see clearly at the moment is clear information about where the board is at and what its role is these days. There are lots of staff now, so being a board member is much more about setting the direction and stepping back to let the staff carry it out. In fact my guess is that the major task for the next board will be the strategic planning, for which several staff are being hired to carry out.
Questions (in order) that I will look for answers to among Board candidates are:
- Do they understand the role of the Board and how it differs to the role of the staff and the community?
- What does representing the community mean to them?
- What are some elements of their strategic vision for Wikimedia for the next 5 years?
- Do they have any particular skills or experience that will be valuable to the board?
- Do they contribute to the diversity of skills and experience on the board?
Currently with ten more days for candidates to announce themselves, there are 11 that have already done so. Some are
repeat offendersprevious candidates:
- Ad Huikeshoven (Dedalus) — ranked 5th of 15 in the 2008 election
- Dan Rosenthal (Swatjester) – ranked 10th
- Gregory Kohs (Thekohser) — ranked 15th
- Steve Smith (Sarcasticidealist) — ranked 8th
- Ting Chen (Wing) — ranked 1st (was elected :))
Now 2008 had 15 candidates for 1 position. With 3 positions up for election — on one hand I shudder at how many candidates there might end up with, but on the other, I’m disappointed to think we might not get enough good candidates. I would hate to see the community seats become a ghetto of the inexperienced/confused/axe-grinders.
For repeat candidates, my additional question will be: what’s changed? WMF has changed. Have you changed? Has your response or attitude changed? Or else has the community changed? If nothing’s changed, and the community did not previously give you significant support — why are you wasting our time?
Well, there’s been really an awful lot of interesting stuff going on that deserves comment, but this brief note makes it to the top of the pile because of the graphics:
These are summaries of two sets of elections that are going on at the moment. The first is ArbCom, only relevant to the English Wikipedia. That election closes in a couple of days.
From these candidates, Jimbo is supposed to draw at least five arbitrators, according to the Signpost. At the moment the fifth-ranked candidate has a full 98 opposes, which is quite remarkable…
As for stewards, it seems obvious that people are going to be a lot happier with the results of this election. The WMF Board chooses candidates from those who get at least 30 supports and at least a 4:1 support:oppose ratio. They will be spoiled for choice, since about 2/3 of the candidates meet that at the moment. I couldn’t see any infomation about how many they will choose; maybe as few or as many as they like.
Stewards have a funny job. They typically do administrative work on wikis too small to have their own administrators or bureaucrats. There are currently 30 stewards. They are really in the Wikimedian spirit of contributing something that brings them no immediate personal gain but helps another person out who has done nothing more than ask politely. They would see quite some interesting things, too: emergency de-sysops in small communities and the like. There is even a Small Wiki Monitoring Team which does nothing more than try to keep spam off these projects too small to defend themselves. It is like tending to baby birds abandoned prematurely in the nest. ;)
Conclusion: the small wikis that rely on the stewards should be in good hands, but if Arbcom elections can only produce two candidates with > 80% support, it’s a good guess that controversy won’t be leaving the administration of the English Wikipedia anytime soon.