The Longest Now

Movement Roles: Understanding roles and responsibilities in a broad Movement
Monday June 06th 2011, 6:25 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,international,popular demand,wikipedia

As Wikimedia has grown as a movement from a website and cool idea to a family of sites and a network of national and international non-profits, we have developed many ways to engage partners and the media, raise funds, and make large-scale decisions.  National chapters have become significant non-profits in their own right, and collaboration between chapters and the global Foundation has become more intricate.  For instance, chapters today run and support international events, offer scholarships and grants to community members, raise significant funds directly through the annual sitenotices, and run branding initiatives — including the global campaign for “Wikipedia as World Heritage Site” organized recently by Wikimedia Deutschland.

In 2009, during Wikimedia’s strategic planning process for the coming five years, a task force focused on movement roles was set up.  Its task was to research how individual contributors, Chapters, and the Foundation currently interact, and how they should ideally work together, and how this happened in other global organizations.  This was the most abstract part of optimizing operations, which included discussions of how we  guarantee financial sustainability, build partnerships and infrastructure, and influence public  perception and policy.

This group tackled questions of how the different parts of the movement develop strategy, make decisions across the movement, and communicate with one another.  A few initial recommendations were made, but these issues required more detailed discussion.[1] So a Board working group was created to continue the work.

This group chose to focus for its first year on the roles of formal organizations in the movement — the WMF and its Committees, Chapters, and other structured groups that should have similar formal recognition.  We tabled the equally complex issue of the roles of individual contributors, wiki projects, and other informal groups to a separate discussion.

The result of this work will be a set of recommendations to the movement as a whole – expressed in a movement charter that all formal parts of the movement can endorse, to the WMF, and to chapters.  The project and its recommendations are being developed on the Meta-wiki.  All are welcome to participate in the working group and discussions (or simply browse our meeting notes).   By Wikimania this year, the group aims to have recommendations on new models for organizations that the WMF should recognize (Associations and Partner Organizations),  on movement standards for transparency and auditing, and more.

I will post a series of updates about the project over the coming weeks, leading up to in-person discussions at Wikimania.  If you have questions about the project or any of its targets, suggestions about important issues we aren’t yet considering, &c – please let me know on my talk page.

[1] The recommendations initially discussed were:
– To stimulate the development of more chapters or chapter-like organizations,
– To pursue a cross-project community council to address community-wide issues such as project health
– To pursue an international chapters+ network to address communication and cooperation among all formal organizations in the movement.

5 Comments so far
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Wikipedia is slowly loosing its charm. On Hacker News someone said 50% of top contributors on Wikipedia are Bots, Its sad to know this truth.

Comment by Android Training 06.07.11 @ 2:19 am

That’s for a certain bad definition of ‘top contributors’. Wikipedia now manages a huge amount of maintenance work via bots, so that normal editors don’t need to do it. That’s good progress, something to be proud of — it helps maintain a style guide and certain aspects of quality across the site.

The only sad part is that the number of other editors is slowly declining, and we’re nowhere close to covering all of human knowledge yet! So new outreach – and yes, perhaps more charm – is needed.

Comment by metasj 06.07.11 @ 2:39 am

Is “covering all of human knowledge” still a goal? My impression was the “deletionist” argument had won – “we want to provide a good encyclopedia, and since our tech is unfortunately unable to do that as a filtered view of a larger work, WP can’t be a larger work”. It seemed the broader vision, and making contribution easy and attractive (again, or better), was blocked on infrastructure overhaul and innovation. No?

Comment by Mitchell 07.26.11 @ 3:08 am

Mitchell – covering the sum of human knowledge is THE goal. Defining how to meaningfully summarize knowledge, how to separate meaningful knowledge from false or confused information, and how to give balanced weight to important ideas and trivia, are important questions whose answers improve with time. There are many temporary bottlenecks to developing knowledge, and they should be overcome.

An encyclopedia covers only part of human knowledge, so there are many other Wikimedia projects covering other types of information. Some technical improvements would expand the audience that can contribute, others would expand the ease with which new or controversial or hard-to-verity information is made available while it is reviewed and improved. There will always be room for improvement in such areas. But to the extent that there is any “deletionism” it is within the defined scope of a single project — for instance “the default-visible main namespace of one of the four largest language editions of Wikipedia”.

There is room for drafts of almost any sort in other namespaces, and for better view “filtering” as you suggest, and for a separate project with no notability standards at all (a ‘draft space’ for Wikipedia?) . The first is a social change, the second technical, and the third structural; all can be moved forward by any interested member of the community. [There is even existing code dealing with views that one can contribute to.]

Comment by metasj 08.25.11 @ 3:56 am

Wikibotia. That’s the new name.

Comment by LSW 10.18.11 @ 5:53 pm

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