Saturday, June 11, 2011

#WMFboard; interview with GerardM

Milos wanted a debate and in stead he got ten questions. I was very pleased with the answers he provided and I am positively delighted with the questions he put in front of me. I hope you like my answers as well.

You are known as a person who cares about languages. You are a member of Language committee. If elected, what would you do in relation to them?
I will continue to care for languages and I will remain a member of the Language Committee. At most I will refrain from voting when LC issues are considered at the board.

What should be the priorities of Wikimedia Foundation by your opinion?
The primary goal is to work toward the realisation of its aim; bringing the sum of all knowledge to the people of the world. To realise this, we will need to continually find people who are willing to share our dream.

What is your position toward strategic focus on developing countries?
Look at the effect our existing attention has on India, it strengthens the Indian communities that are already vibrant in places. Focussing on what is already there, strengthening it with focussed attention will work wonders. 

What should WMF do in relation to underdeveloped countries, where Internet access and even electricity are significant problems?
It is a fallacy to think that in underdeveloped countries everybody is suffering. As the situation in many countries is improving markedly anyway, we should concentrate on the people who do have Internet access; they will write the articles in the languages that matter in their country. From their work it becomes possible for them to produce books, CD-s for the people who lack the access we wish them to have.

By your opinion, what should be the path of MediaWiki development?
Cooperation is what drives our activities, including social functionality that helps drive cooperation is important. The current drive towards WYSIWYG editing will make MediaWiki more like what people are used to. Many aspects of social software we already have in IRC, and in communities in LinkedIn or Facebook. When such functionality becomes part of MediaWiki, cooperation is made more easy and obvious.

How can we preserve knowledge gathered on Wikimedia projects for the future generations?
The basics are already done at the Internet Archive. Making sure that we will be there next year is the second layer of defence, this is why we have our annual fundraiser.

What we accumulate in our projects is information; when people read it and understand it it becomes knowledge. It is for this reason that clear, uncluttered language is essential to attract future generations to what is already on offer in our projects.

You are against politics in Wikimedia. May you define your position better? I suppose that you are not against "a process by which groups of people make collective decisions", which the the main definition of politics.
Politics, as in the public and private practice of politicians, shows a disconnect between what is said and what is done. It is a posturing by some on first principles and at the same time a total lack of room given for compromise and accompanied by a lack of personal involvement and an imposition on the others who are to do the actual work.

May you define bureaucratic tendencies inside of Wikimedia community, according to your opinion?
The Language Committee offers a great example; our rules gives us the room to come up with exceptions. We made an exception for the Sanskrit Wikisource, we made this exception because of the special role Sanskrit plays for many languages and cultures in India. Changing our rules as a consequence limits and changes the wriggling room the LC has. It is not necessary and it is a disservice to the competency that can be found in the wonderful members of the LC.

What would you change in Wikimedia Foundation if elected?
When I get elected, I will be a trustee. This gives me a responsibility for the whole of the Foundation. The consequence is that I have to tread lightly and first have to learn even more details of the functioning of what makes up the total of our Foundation. I am known for my enthusiasm for certain subjects, I will not hide that but I will seek its place in order for it to fit in properly. 

What would you change in Wikimedia movement?
The Wikimedia movement is for me not synonymous to the Wikimedia Foundation. In what is effectively an ecosystem, actions by the WMF have an effect that can have a huge effect outside of the WMF. As a 800 pound gorilla in the multi-lingual information world, it is in a position to positively influence the position of languages and scripts on the Internet and beyond.

The synergy with Silpa is one of the best examples of how the total of our movement changes our world for the better. What is especially valuable is that Silpa ensures solutions that benefit the whole software stack and thereby the whole Internet.
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