User:JWSchmidt/Blog/2 January 2008
The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees has been working to establish a professional staff that can deal with tasks like fundraising, legal challenges and technical issues related to the hardware and software that keep the wiki projects going. Indications continue to appear telling us that the Foundation and community of volunteers is just too large to rely on informal channels of communication between the community and people working at the Foundation level (Trustees and paid staff).
Special projects committee
The Special projects committee was previously established (about two years ago) as a tool for the Foundation that would involve community volunteers in the, "Evaluation, incubation, and development of current and proposed Wikimedia projects, events, and ideas". The special projects committee has several subcommittees and most of them have become inactive. An alternative idea has been the creation of a Wikicouncil. This Wikicouncil idea has been around for several years and has been imagined in several different ways. A useful summary can be found at: The foundations of the Wikimedia Foundation along with other recent related posts in the foundation-l email discussion forum. I previously tried asking Board of Trustees candidate Oscar van Dillen why he thought a Wikicouncil would be better than the Special projects committee (see the question).
Fair community representation
If there were a Wikicouncil with designated community representatives, would that structure provide an efficient mechanism for allowing needs and ideas to be communicated from the community to the Foundation? Would the members of the Wikicouncil be elected in the way Trustees have been elected....by a community vote? Many people have been calling for some type of representation system that might guarantee some Wikicouncil representatives from small wiki projects (that means making sure Wikipedia is not "over-represented") and from multiple nations where a diverse range of languages are spoken (make sure that the USA and English are not "over-represented"). In any kind of a representation system, how can you make sure that small sub-communities are not shut out? It will be interesting to see how this shapes up. Hopefully all the jockeying for position will not distract from the need to have some system by which community needs can be efficiently communicated to the Foundation. How can a community-based Wikimedia Foundation not slide into having managers who are disconnected from the community?
Community representatives on the Board
I'd still like to see the promise kept that at least half of the Board will be composed of people from the community, not outside "experts". The Board appoints the Executive Director and defines the duties and powers of the Executive Director. It is important that Trustees who are active members of the community make sure that the paid staff serve the community. Also, I hope it remains clear to the paid staff that it is their job to do the work that is needed by the community. We do not need Foundation Staff who think they have the right to put their personal agendas ahead of the needs of the community. A Wikicouncil will be a waste of time if there is not an efficient organizational structure by which community needs and ideas are acted on when the Wikicouncil representatives work with the Trustees and the paid Staff.