Monday, June 06, 2011

#WMFboard; an interview with Milos

Milos is another candidate for the board of trustees. We are friends and we have been at opposite ends on many an argument. Milos wants a debate and I am not that interested in one. In stead he got these ten questions to answer. His answers are as I received them and I clarified the questions when they were not clear.

I have offered to answer ten of his questions ...

If anything, the board provides gentle oversight have you ever noticed its politics as being overly intrusive ?
As a group -- no. However, some members of the Board have shown disrespect toward decisions of the communities (cf. Jimmy's actions of May 2010), as well as I am worried about Ting's authoritarian tendencies.

Anyone can be a candidate for the board through both the chapter elections and through the community elections. Are the issues different once elected ?

In the strict formal sense, there are no differences after the election. In other words, no candidate is legally responsible to those who elected her or him.

However, in the sense of political responsibility, if Board member elected by chapters is willing to be reelected, then such candidate has to reasonably represent chapters' needs. Similar issue is with
community-elected Board members: if such candidate is willing to be reelected, she or he has to think about community's needs.

As a board member of a chapter, would it not be more obvious for you to stand in the chapter elections ?
My Wikimedian work is more connected to the community and less to the chapters. Two of my main Wikimedian responsibilities are stewardship and membership in Language committee. Both of them are more connected to the community and less to the chapters.

Thus, I think that it is more logical to me to stand in the community elections.

We often do not agree in the language committee on procedures. I am dead against more bureaucracy and policies you are invariably in favour. Why do you think I have it wrong ?
There are three main meanings of the word "bureaucracy". One is descriptive, two are pejorative.

The first meaning is "Structure and regulations in place to control activity. Usually in large organizations and government operations."  The second meaning, derived from Kafka's works (especially The Trial) and usually used in Europe, is about rigid, estranged and unreasonable administration which makes life of ordinary people hard.

The third meaning, usually used in US, is about people in public administration who are using their knowledge of rules for personal gain, corruption.

You are not using the term in any of those senses, but in the sense of codifying the rules, which is completely different issue.

In relation to the first and basic meaning, Wikimedia -- as any growing organization -- needs administration (or bureaucracy) and that administration is mostly consisted of volunteers. Members of that administration are sysops, bureaucrats, checkusers, stewards, members of various committees etc.

In relation to the second meaning, I actually care a lot about such things and I am pointing to the members of Wikimedia administration how their actions could look like to newcomers. Exactly because of such
problems I wrote a satire few years ago.

To be precise, intentionally or not, you are a bureaucrat of this type. One of the widely obvious issues is related to your sticking to ISO 639-3 codes. Although it is obvious that SIL is making mistakes (from time to time they fix some of them), you are willing to deny existence of some project, if it doesn't have ISO 639-3 code. Your standard answer is that those people should ask for ISO 639-3 code. However, process of defining new ISO 639-3 code could last for years. In the mean time, instead of living project, we would have disappointed people in two years who are not willing to contribute to Wikimedia projects any more.

Your behavior is even more absurd: You were arguing that Wikimedia projects in Persian and Albanian should lose their ISO 639-1 codes "fa" and "sq" in favor of ISO 639-3, as, by your opinion their ISO 639-1 codes are referring to "macrolanguages" (which is, BTW, an obscure and very problematic term in linguistics; but you are extensively using it because it is defined in ISO 639-3 standard). That's exactly the type of "rigid, estranged and unreasonable administration".

I think that Wikimedia movement is still too young to have large scale problems of the term's third meaning. It could be the problem in the future, but we are fine now.

In relation to your interpretation of the term "bureaucracy", I have to say that one of the most abused excuses for the third meaning of the word "bureaucracy" is exactly insisting on less rules, so bureaucrats could use their deeper knowledge of the rules and loopholes for personal gain. I am sure that it is not your motivation.

Our last rules-not-rules conflict was related to the part of Language proposal policy. For the last couple of months we've agreed that we would accept Wikisource and Wikiquote editions in ancient languages. However, inside of the policy just Wikisource is mentioned ("Only Wikisource wikis in ancient or historical languages are accepted...").

I suggested to add Wikiquote into the policy and you opposed on the grounds of "bureaucracy". In other words, "bureaucracy" is your excuse for not letting Wikimedians know what they could expect when asking for new project. I think that that your position is abusing the word "bureaucracy" for making the point, as well as I think that it is very harmful for the Wikimedia movement.

The board is the top organisational level of the WMF. Still some people object for it to set policies, what is your opinion on this ?
Board is the top organizational level of the Wikimedia Foundation. Board is not the top editorial level of the Wikimedia editor community. Those two things are very different. Board's responsibility is to make directions how resources should be spent and to keep integrity of the projects. Board's responsibility is not to make editorial policies. That's community job.

The main task of the Board is to keep integrity of the projects. If it is necessary to do some unpopular moves to keep the integrity, that's Board's responsibility. However, I don't remember that Board ever had to do such thing in opposition to the community.

The second task of the Board in relation to gently point to the community about some important issues. Resolution related to the biographies of living people is exactly the way how Board should deal with it. Board didn't order to the communities what to do, but urged to take care about one noble cause: not harming people by adding bad faith non sourced data into their biographies.

* What is it the board vote needs; attention or politics ?
* What is it the board needs; attention or politics ?

According to the English Wikipedia article "Politics", it is defined as: "Politics (from Greek πολιτικός, "of, for, or relating to citizens"), is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs. It also refers to behavior within civil governments. However, politics can be observed in other group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. It consists of "social relations involving authority or power" and refers to the regulation of public affairs within a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy."

The main meaning is "a process by which groups of people make collective decisions". I see that the inherent part of any Wikimedian group is exactly that.

As someone who was living in one semi-authoritarian bureaucratic (third sense) country -- Socialist Yugoslavia -- I can say that statements like "we don't need politics; politics is harmful" are exactly excuses for making personal gain based on people's abstention from decision-making processes.

And your contrast between "attention" and "politics" is saying that you treat "a process by which groups of people make collective decisions" as something bad.

The Dutch Wikipedia is again the tenth largest Wikipedia. Are you happy about that ?
I am happy to see that Wikimedia projects are flourishing. I am not happy to see competition between them.

Nowadays the board influences the Office through its direction ... any comments

Isn't it a regular relation between a board and employees of some organization?

If there is one thing you could effectively change in our priorities, what would it be ?
We need younger generations badly to survive next 10 years. I see no mention of it in our strategy. So, that one thing would be to make Wikimedia projects more attractive and exciting to them.

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