Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-29 Thread Strainu
A few responses in random order:

> > OK, but how is this done precisely? Are there written docs? Mentors?
> > Is cross-team help common? Or is this kept at the anecdotal level ("oh
> > yeah, you should also keep in mind..." )?
> >
>
> In my experience, all of the above

That doesn't sound so good. For me, it means 2 things:
1. There is no uniform approach to onboarding re community collaboration.
2. Some teams choose to keep it anecdotal


> Perhaps we shouldn't expect this of an organization not ultimately
> accountable to the editors?  No amount of onboarding can change the
> Foundation's corporate Bylaws or the fact that it owns the trademarks
> whose value is based on editor labor.  Perhaps if we had a membership
> organization instead, which would have to report to the editors and
> justify its progress on initiatives directly voted on by its members...

I'm afraid that changing the "ownership model" wouldn't help much.
It's highly unlikely that the WMF, regardless of who they respond to,
will find employees with adequate experience and a willingness to work
for them only within the community. That means that they will still
need to address the onboarding part and implicitly the documentation
task.

> Our movement is complex, and there are no amount of explanations that will
> portray its richness. I will be working to make sure that new hires at the
> Foundation know to ask the right questions at the right time and to the
> right people to minimize errors. Of course, I want to set realistic
> expectations, this will not happen in a day, nor will it happen in a year
> only. My goal is to start a process that will change and evolve with time,
> as does our movement.

Delphine, it's great to hear that someone with a lot of community
experience is taking on this task. Obviously mistakes will never go
away completely, but I'm looking forward to seeing the results of your
work. I just hope you have some measure of success in mind, it would
be a pity to evaluate the program based on wikimedia-l feedback. :)

>
> If any of you have any questions about how we are working on this, or want
> to contribute ideas, please talk to me offlist!

I think documenting the process should be part of the process :) That
way it can be replicated or adapted by other organizations with
similar growth pains.

Strainu

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-28 Thread Adam Wight

On 8/25/20 10:51 PM, Strainu wrote:


It seems the WMF is going through another crisis of institutional
memory


I think I see where you're coming from, and I appreciate the generous 
turn away from individuals and towards potential structural problems.  
Whatever the latest incident was, we can assume good faith and find 
constructive ways to prevent it from happening again.


Still, it's strange to see this thread veer into "onboarding" and 
building up an archive of knowledge and experiences.  These are 
important topics, perennial even, but I feel it totally misses the point 
of the incident itself.


As a service organization potentially liable for content stored on their 
infrastructure, it makes sense that the WMF would have a large team 
dedicated to threats of physical harm like terrorism, suicide.  It also 
makes sense that they wouldn't invest explicitly in the emotional 
well-being of editors and mediating interpersonal problems.


Perhaps we shouldn't expect this of an organization not ultimately 
accountable to the editors?  No amount of onboarding can change the 
Foundation's corporate Bylaws or the fact that it owns the trademarks 
whose value is based on editor labor.  Perhaps if we had a membership 
organization instead, which would have to report to the editors and 
justify its progress on initiatives directly voted on by its members...


Just my usual 2 cents!
-[[mw:User:Adamw]]

(Views here are my own and do not represent my employer, WMDE.)


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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-28 Thread Peter Southwood
Maybe you could take on an official historian.
Cheers,
P

-Original Message-
From: Wikimedia-l [mailto:wikimedia-l-boun...@lists.wikimedia.org] On Behalf Of 
Delphine Ménard
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 19:06
To: Wikimedia Mailing List
Subject: Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

Dan, you're right, it's a bit of all, formal and informal, and it is
important that we keep this process flexible. This allows us to adapt to
changing circumstances and a movement which well... moves. :-)

This fiscal year, Talent & Culture (HR) will be working on streamlining the
onboarding experience at the Foundation. This is why I joined the Talent &
Culture department, to coordinate this project and contribute my Wikimedia
experience. One of my mandates is to tackle the piece of onboarding that
takes into account our history as a movement, our common failures and
successes and the cultural pieces that are at the heart of our relationship
with each other (Individuals in the community, Foundation, affiliates,
external partners...).

Our movement is complex, and there are no amount of explanations that will
portray its richness. I will be working to make sure that new hires at the
Foundation know to ask the right questions at the right time and to the
right people to minimize errors. Of course, I want to set realistic
expectations, this will not happen in a day, nor will it happen in a year
only. My goal is to start a process that will change and evolve with time,
as does our movement.

If any of you have any questions about how we are working on this, or want
to contribute ideas, please talk to me offlist!

Best,

Delphine

Le mer. 26 août 2020 à 14:40, Dan Garry (Deskana)  a
écrit :

> On Wed, 26 Aug 2020 at 12:16, Strainu  wrote:
>
> > Thanks for the response Dan!
> >
> > A rigorous study is IMHO impossible, since we're lacking a rigorous
> > definition of the limits between WMF and community.
> >
>
> Absolutely agreed.
>
>
> > OK, but how is this done precisely? Are there written docs? Mentors?
> > Is cross-team help common? Or is this kept at the anecdotal level ("oh
> > yeah, you should also keep in mind..." )?
> >
>
> In my experience, all of the above. What is done exactly depends on the
> situation, but all of those things you've listed can and do happen,
> depending on the nature and size of the project, the people involved, and
> so on. People keep their eye out, through both formal and informal
> mechanisms, and help out if they think they can.
>
> I don't want to go into specific details, as I'm doing it purely from
> memory and might misremember things, and things might've changed since I
> left the WMF two years ago. To be clear, I'm not under any kind of
> non-disclosure agreement, I just don't want to be inaccurate.
>
> Dan
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User:Delphine_(WMF)
Wikimedia Foundation <https://wikimediafoundation.org/>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-28 Thread Peter Southwood
This is the sort of information that should be in the official history.
Cheers,
P

-Original Message-
From: Wikimedia-l [mailto:wikimedia-l-boun...@lists.wikimedia.org] On Behalf
Of Pete Forsyth
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 22:37
To: Wikimedia Mailing List
Subject: Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

Correction:

It's been pointed out that I erred in two significant ways when discussing
Katherine's background: Prior to becoming CEO, she was Chief Communications
Officer, which is a more senior position than the one I named; and, where I
said that prior to her time at WMF her career was "largely in
communications," I was simply mistaken. Her background is covered in her
Wikipedia bio, and is indeed quite varied.

I regret both of those errors.

Pete

>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-27 Thread Yaroslav Blanter
I just want to comment on one particular point made by Pete.

On Wed, Aug 26, 2020 at 8:27 PM Pete Forsyth  wrote:

> Institutional memory is important BOTH to staff of WMF, AND to the
> volunteer community.
>
> I think both you and I, Michael, have blurred these two issues to some
> degree. It would be possible for (a) WMF to fully and privately document
> the relevant history (which could be a function of top-down leadership
> and/or staff culture), and for (b) volunteers to fully and publicly
> document relevant history (growing out of volunteer culture, presumably
> with some input from staff).
>
> Whereas this is correct as a general statement, in practice, volunteers
can not document the institutional history. This documentation can not be a
bottom-up process similar to writing a Wikipedia article. For a very simple
reason: There are many viewpoints at every particular event, and the
documentation of volunteers will inevitably reflect one of the points.
Sure, one person can write an analysis of a particular incident from their
point of view, or even a book on the history of Wikipedia. This person can
be a knowledgeable volunteer having general trust of the community or it
could be a user under a site ban. However, a collective product will
inevitably face the necessity of choice. In writing a Wikipedia article, we
use reliable sources to select material (and when reliable sources clash,
we usually face a disaster). Here, we are talking about the events which no
reliable sources describe in detail. An organization can document them on a
basis of performed investigation. A single person can document them on the
basis of their memory and experience. But I do not see how any grassroot
collaboration could be possible here. Any attempt to document these things
from the volunteer side would lead to projects similar to V-ocracy (which
already happened in some languages).

Best regards
Yaroslav



>

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-26 Thread Pete Forsyth
Correction:

It's been pointed out that I erred in two significant ways when discussing
Katherine's background: Prior to becoming CEO, she was Chief Communications
Officer, which is a more senior position than the one I named; and, where I
said that prior to her time at WMF her career was "largely in
communications," I was simply mistaken. Her background is covered in her
Wikipedia bio, and is indeed quite varied.

I regret both of those errors.

Pete

>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-26 Thread Pete Forsyth
Michael, thank you for weighing in. Your background in the movement and
perspective is unique and valuable. (For those who don't know, Michael was
an early WMF board chair, and also the founder of the Signpost newspaper.)

I'll respond to everybody in this thread, but I want to start with
Michael's comments.

On Tue, Aug 25, 2020 at 6:11 PM Michael Snow  wrote:

> I think [Pete's closing point] overrates the effect of the individual
> Executive Director/CEO on what are, after all, institutional and
> collective processes. While I recognize the importance of the role in
> heading the organization, that person may try to shape the overall
> culture, but they are not really the source of it.


This is a valid point, but I was trying to look at this from a broad
perspective. I think the source of any dissonance is this:

Institutional memory is important BOTH to staff of WMF, AND to the
volunteer community.

I think both you and I, Michael, have blurred these two issues to some
degree. It would be possible for (a) WMF to fully and privately document
the relevant history (which could be a function of top-down leadership
and/or staff culture), and for (b) volunteers to fully and publicly
document relevant history (growing out of volunteer culture, presumably
with some input from staff). To some degree this already happens. It would
be worthwhile to discuss the possible benefits, and the possible design, of
a system that facilitates those things happening in a mutually supportive,
or even merged way; I expect you and I have probably both explored that to
some degree in the past. But, getting into that would substantially expand
the scope of the present discussion, and I'm not going to assume we, or
anyone, want to go there right now.

In my message, I was only addressing the WMF's *institutional* memory (a).

Just consider what
> transpired between the two Executive Directors mentioned above; while
> that was a difficult time and the organizational culture suffered
> significantly, I would argue that the underlying culture at the
> community/staff/"grassroots" level is what forced the organization to
> reconsider and change directions.


Well, this illustrates the point I was making rather nicely: In order to
consider it, wouldn't it be nice to have an existing summary or two of
facts that allowed you and me to assess whether or not we share an
understanding of the facts, and permitted those unfamiliar with the facts
to catch up and follow what we're saying? (Maybe that exists, to some
degree, in the form of the volunteer-built Knowledge Engine
 article
on English Wikipedia. But for many other topics, that are vitally important
to our history but have not attracted independent journalistic inquiry, we
have no such Wikipedia article.)

WMF staff actually attempted to do much of that at the time. The transparency
gap 
page on Meta Wiki was started by WMF staff. I think it's an
excellent example that a unified "culture" of the staff and volunteer
community has often existed, and can produce valuable documents. But as far
as I could tell, it has never attracted significant notice from the WMF
board or executives. If there were directed outcomes from this body of
work, in terms of changing the policies or high-level practices of the
organization, I'm not aware of them.

Grassroots efforts are valuable (which in general is why most of us are
here), but when it comes to an organization like the WMF, much of their
value is only realized when they are recognized, and used as the foundation
for policy changes, at the board or executive level.


> 
>


> Pete also offers much good advice about maintaining institutional
> knowledge, but I think it's a mistaken dichotomy to view two different
> modes of presenting information ("encyclopedic" and "communications") as
> if they are conflicting philosophies rather than merely separate
> skillsets.


My apologies if I gave that impression. I agree with you 100% that the
skills are not mutually exclusive. As I have written about extensively
elsewhere, I think the Wikimedia community often mistakenly sees this issue
as more black-and-white than it is.

Still, I think the distinction is significant, and it does surprise me that
a community that is often so deeply opposed to communications and public
relations activities *outside* its own world (influencing corporate
Wikipedia articles, etc.) can be so blasé about these dynamics when it
comes to the Wikimedia Foundation itself. For instance, in 2017 Tony1 and I
wrote a Signpost article about WMF hiring a reputation management firm in
the early planning of its strategy process
.
That story, to which I devoted far more attention to the research and
writing than much of my other Signpost work, attracted comparatively 

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-26 Thread Delphine Ménard
Dan, you're right, it's a bit of all, formal and informal, and it is
important that we keep this process flexible. This allows us to adapt to
changing circumstances and a movement which well... moves. :-)

This fiscal year, Talent & Culture (HR) will be working on streamlining the
onboarding experience at the Foundation. This is why I joined the Talent &
Culture department, to coordinate this project and contribute my Wikimedia
experience. One of my mandates is to tackle the piece of onboarding that
takes into account our history as a movement, our common failures and
successes and the cultural pieces that are at the heart of our relationship
with each other (Individuals in the community, Foundation, affiliates,
external partners...).

Our movement is complex, and there are no amount of explanations that will
portray its richness. I will be working to make sure that new hires at the
Foundation know to ask the right questions at the right time and to the
right people to minimize errors. Of course, I want to set realistic
expectations, this will not happen in a day, nor will it happen in a year
only. My goal is to start a process that will change and evolve with time,
as does our movement.

If any of you have any questions about how we are working on this, or want
to contribute ideas, please talk to me offlist!

Best,

Delphine

Le mer. 26 août 2020 à 14:40, Dan Garry (Deskana)  a
écrit :

> On Wed, 26 Aug 2020 at 12:16, Strainu  wrote:
>
> > Thanks for the response Dan!
> >
> > A rigorous study is IMHO impossible, since we're lacking a rigorous
> > definition of the limits between WMF and community.
> >
>
> Absolutely agreed.
>
>
> > OK, but how is this done precisely? Are there written docs? Mentors?
> > Is cross-team help common? Or is this kept at the anecdotal level ("oh
> > yeah, you should also keep in mind..." )?
> >
>
> In my experience, all of the above. What is done exactly depends on the
> situation, but all of those things you've listed can and do happen,
> depending on the nature and size of the project, the people involved, and
> so on. People keep their eye out, through both formal and informal
> mechanisms, and help out if they think they can.
>
> I don't want to go into specific details, as I'm doing it purely from
> memory and might misremember things, and things might've changed since I
> left the WMF two years ago. To be clear, I'm not under any kind of
> non-disclosure agreement, I just don't want to be inaccurate.
>
> Dan
> ___
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Lead Orientation Specialist
User:Delphine_(WMF)
Wikimedia Foundation 
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-26 Thread Dan Garry (Deskana)
On Wed, 26 Aug 2020 at 12:16, Strainu  wrote:

> Thanks for the response Dan!
>
> A rigorous study is IMHO impossible, since we're lacking a rigorous
> definition of the limits between WMF and community.
>

Absolutely agreed.


> OK, but how is this done precisely? Are there written docs? Mentors?
> Is cross-team help common? Or is this kept at the anecdotal level ("oh
> yeah, you should also keep in mind..." )?
>

In my experience, all of the above. What is done exactly depends on the
situation, but all of those things you've listed can and do happen,
depending on the nature and size of the project, the people involved, and
so on. People keep their eye out, through both formal and informal
mechanisms, and help out if they think they can.

I don't want to go into specific details, as I'm doing it purely from
memory and might misremember things, and things might've changed since I
left the WMF two years ago. To be clear, I'm not under any kind of
non-disclosure agreement, I just don't want to be inaccurate.

Dan
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-26 Thread Strainu
În mie., 26 aug. 2020 la 13:07, Dan Garry (Deskana)  a scris:
>
> On Tue, 25 Aug 2020 at 22:26, Strainu  wrote:
>
> > The pattern I'm seeing is: team gets a big project (in this case UCoC)
> > -> team hires -> newbie makes good faith edits that are known to cause
> > offense to some members of the community.
>
>
> This is basically always going to happen when new people are onboarded, or,
> indeed, as people make mistakes. By my observations, this happens a lot
> less nowadays than it used to. This is anecdotal on my part, but in the
> absence of any rigorous study of the frequency with which this occurs, this
> thread as a whole is anecdotal. That's not to say it's not valuable to
> discuss it, but it's worth bearing that in mind.

Thanks for the response Dan!

A rigorous study is IMHO impossible, since we're lacking a rigorous
definition of the limits between WMF and community.
>
>
> > This pattern can be broken
> > only if the organization has a process to teach newcomers things that
> > seem obvious to old timers ("don't go over community decisions if you
> > can avoid it", "don't change content", "try to talk to people before
> > doing a major change", "not everyone speaks English", "affiliates are
> > not the community" etc.)
> >
> > My question is: does the WMF has such a process?
> >
>
> When people are onboarded a lot of this is explained to them, and people
> are encouraged to reach out to those more experienced with the communities.
> That people get it wrong occasionally is expected.

OK, but how is this done precisely? Are there written docs? Mentors?
Is cross-team help common? Or is this kept at the anecdotal level ("oh
yeah, you should also keep in mind..." )?

Strainu

>
> Dan
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-26 Thread Dan Garry (Deskana)
On Tue, 25 Aug 2020 at 22:26, Strainu  wrote:

> The pattern I'm seeing is: team gets a big project (in this case UCoC)
> -> team hires -> newbie makes good faith edits that are known to cause
> offense to some members of the community.


This is basically always going to happen when new people are onboarded, or,
indeed, as people make mistakes. By my observations, this happens a lot
less nowadays than it used to. This is anecdotal on my part, but in the
absence of any rigorous study of the frequency with which this occurs, this
thread as a whole is anecdotal. That's not to say it's not valuable to
discuss it, but it's worth bearing that in mind.


> This pattern can be broken
> only if the organization has a process to teach newcomers things that
> seem obvious to old timers ("don't go over community decisions if you
> can avoid it", "don't change content", "try to talk to people before
> doing a major change", "not everyone speaks English", "affiliates are
> not the community" etc.)
>
> My question is: does the WMF has such a process?
>

When people are onboarded a lot of this is explained to them, and people
are encouraged to reach out to those more experienced with the communities.
That people get it wrong occasionally is expected.

Dan
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Gnangarra
Institutional memory and Institutional knowledge are two subtle and unique
characteristics, sharing knowledge is what we are supposed to be good at
yet internally its our biggest weakness.  The WMF would do well to have a
"historian" on staff to document and maintain our movements' history.
Internally it is the responsibility of the human resources department to
ensure that the knowledge required and collected in any position is
captured and then transferred appropriately as people and positions change.

One issue we have is that a very significant amount of our Institution
knowledge is held by volunteers that knowledge is held closely as it builds
their reputation while creating a power base that gives them leverage for
special opportunities.  Its difficult to get volunteers to willingly hand
over knowledge that makes them special and able to stand out. Part of that
is ensuring that at least WMF staff are able to connect directly with a
wider selection of the community at events, and why its so important that
conduits of knowledge are broadly dispersed beyond just these gatekeepers.



On Wed, 26 Aug 2020 at 09:11, Michael Snow  wrote:

> On 8/25/2020 4:34 PM, Pete Forsyth wrote:
> > I've thought about institutional memory quite a lot since I stopped
> working
> > at WMF in 2011. A few points I think are worth considering:
> >
> > 5. The Wikimedia Foundation has not historically done very much in
> terms
> > of thorough encyclopedic documentation of important events in its
> history.
> > There have been exceptions, and I believe that where it has been
> done and
> > done well, much good has come of it. The best example of this, in my
> > opinion, is the Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence
> > program
> > <
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Assessment_of_Belfer_Center_Wikipedian_in_Residence_program
> >.
> > This was initiated by then-Executive Director Sue Gardner and her
> deputy
> > Erik Möller, who participated actively in it. Specific programmatic
> > improvements in the Grants department were a direct outcome.
> >
> > 11. In closing, I'd like to make a point about the skillset the WMF
> > board has hired. I want to be really explicit -- I like and admire
> the
> > WMF's Executive Director/CEO; she is highly skilled, and a kind
> person. But
> > I am continually surprised that there has been little acknowledgment
> of
> > what the board did by hiring her, and the direction the WMF has
> > (unsurprisingly) taken since her hire. She was previously the WMF's
> > Communications Director, and her earlier career was largely in
> > communications. I would urge others to consider that it is not
> surprising,
> > if an organization is guided by an executive with a Communications
> > background, that it would not embrace an encyclopedic approach to
> its own
> > self-knowledge.
>
> I want to react to a couple of Pete's points here. First, as to the
> closing point, I think it overrates the effect of the individual
> Executive Director/CEO on what are, after all, institutional and
> collective processes. While I recognize the importance of the role in
> heading the organization, that person may try to shape the overall
> culture, but they are not really the source of it. Just consider what
> transpired between the two Executive Directors mentioned above; while
> that was a difficult time and the organizational culture suffered
> significantly, I would argue that the underlying culture at the
> community/staff/"grassroots" level is what forced the organization to
> reconsider and change directions. Organizational culture determines how
> institutional memory is transmitted, and simultaneously that memory
> becomes part of the culture and shapes it.
>
> Pete also offers much good advice about maintaining institutional
> knowledge, but I think it's a mistaken dichotomy to view two different
> modes of presenting information ("encyclopedic" and "communications") as
> if they are conflicting philosophies rather than merely separate
> skillsets. People can have both, or value both even when their personal
> skills are stronger in one or the other. To the extent the Wikimedia
> Foundation struggles to have an encyclopedic approach to institutional
> memory, frankly that problem is nearly universal among organizations.
> It's less the background of a particular leader than the general
> emphasis on "getting things done" over documenting what was done, how,
> and why.
>
> Going back to the earlier point, it's good to recognize Sue and Erik's
> leadership in an assessment that can serve as a positive model. With
> respect to encouraging a more "encyclopedic" approach, I think it's
> worth observing that from a conventional organizational leadership
> perspective, Erik was a pretty nontraditional choice for the deputy role
> (and even a sometimes controversial figure within the community).
> Nevertheless, he and Sue made an 

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Michael Snow

On 8/25/2020 4:34 PM, Pete Forsyth wrote:

I've thought about institutional memory quite a lot since I stopped working
at WMF in 2011. A few points I think are worth considering:

5. The Wikimedia Foundation has not historically done very much in terms
of thorough encyclopedic documentation of important events in its history.
There have been exceptions, and I believe that where it has been done and
done well, much good has come of it. The best example of this, in my
opinion, is the Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence
program

.
This was initiated by then-Executive Director Sue Gardner and her deputy
Erik Möller, who participated actively in it. Specific programmatic
improvements in the Grants department were a direct outcome.

11. In closing, I'd like to make a point about the skillset the WMF

board has hired. I want to be really explicit -- I like and admire the
WMF's Executive Director/CEO; she is highly skilled, and a kind person. But
I am continually surprised that there has been little acknowledgment of
what the board did by hiring her, and the direction the WMF has
(unsurprisingly) taken since her hire. She was previously the WMF's
Communications Director, and her earlier career was largely in
communications. I would urge others to consider that it is not surprising,
if an organization is guided by an executive with a Communications
background, that it would not embrace an encyclopedic approach to its own
self-knowledge.


I want to react to a couple of Pete's points here. First, as to the 
closing point, I think it overrates the effect of the individual 
Executive Director/CEO on what are, after all, institutional and 
collective processes. While I recognize the importance of the role in 
heading the organization, that person may try to shape the overall 
culture, but they are not really the source of it. Just consider what 
transpired between the two Executive Directors mentioned above; while 
that was a difficult time and the organizational culture suffered 
significantly, I would argue that the underlying culture at the 
community/staff/"grassroots" level is what forced the organization to 
reconsider and change directions. Organizational culture determines how 
institutional memory is transmitted, and simultaneously that memory 
becomes part of the culture and shapes it.


Pete also offers much good advice about maintaining institutional 
knowledge, but I think it's a mistaken dichotomy to view two different 
modes of presenting information ("encyclopedic" and "communications") as 
if they are conflicting philosophies rather than merely separate 
skillsets. People can have both, or value both even when their personal 
skills are stronger in one or the other. To the extent the Wikimedia 
Foundation struggles to have an encyclopedic approach to institutional 
memory, frankly that problem is nearly universal among organizations. 
It's less the background of a particular leader than the general 
emphasis on "getting things done" over documenting what was done, how, 
and why.


Going back to the earlier point, it's good to recognize Sue and Erik's 
leadership in an assessment that can serve as a positive model. With 
respect to encouraging a more "encyclopedic" approach, I think it's 
worth observing that from a conventional organizational leadership 
perspective, Erik was a pretty nontraditional choice for the deputy role 
(and even a sometimes controversial figure within the community). 
Nevertheless, he and Sue made an excellent pairing in their roles, and 
he was an important part of ensuring that the organization understood 
and valued the community, its culture, and the "encyclopedic" approach. 
I believe this illustrates why it's important for the Wikimedia 
Foundation to continue valuing experience in the community for all of 
its hiring, so that the staff can maintain a culture that stays in sync 
with the movement. It's less about one or two specific leadership 
positions, and more that every Wikimedia ED/CEO needs to surround 
themselves with a variety of people who bring different pieces of 
institutional memory with them.


--Michael Snow


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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Philippe Beaudette
Credit for that goes to the inestimable Eugene Eric Kim and the hundreds of 
Wikimedians who contributed to it. It still exists I believe, at 
strategy.wikimedia.org. 

Regards,
pb 

Philippe Beaudette
philippe.beaude...@icloud.com


> On Aug 25, 2020, at 7:32 PM, Pete Forsyth  wrote:
> 
> Thanks Philippe. Funny, the minute I hit "send" I thought of you -- I don't
> know whether or not it was your idea originally, but the "Wikimedia-Pedia"
> that was created during the 2010 Strategic Planning process was probably
> the closest thing I've seen to an organized effort to do this.
> 
> -Pete
> [[User:Peteforsyth]]
> 
>> On Tue, Aug 25, 2020 at 5:25 PM Philippe Beaudette 
>> wrote:
>> 
>> Pete, one thing that I loved about my time at reddit was the existence of
>> a subreddit called “r/museumofreddit”. It was mandatory reading for every
>> new hire on my team and every other team I could convince and it was
>> critical to onboarding me.
>> 
>> It lived to serve just the documentary process that you mention.
>> 
>> Regards,
>> pb
>> 
>> Philippe Beaudette
>> 
 On Aug 25, 2020, at 6:35 PM, Pete Forsyth  wrote:
>>> 
>>> I've thought about institutional memory quite a lot since I stopped
>> working
>>> at WMF in 2011. A few points I think are worth considering:
>>> 
>>>  1. Often, institutional memory is measured in terms of
>>>  staff/executive/board turnover; while there has indeed been a very high
>>>  rate of turnover at times, I would argue that another factor (see #2)
>> is
>>>  actually more important.
>>>  2. An organization can do a great deal, with a well-planned top-down
>>>  approach, to ensure institutional memory is *generated* and *retained*
>> even
>>>  if there's a lot of turnover.
>>>  3. The main thing that can be done is to ensure that significant events
>>>  are *debriefed and summarized *("documented") in a way that is clearly
>>>  and concisely articulated, supported by evidence and logic, and fair to
>>>  various good faith perspectives.
>>>  4. We might call that an "encyclopedic" approach. (The skills required
>>>  are almost exactly the skills that tend to be cultivated in our
>> Wikipedia
>>>  volunteer community, as codified in its policies and norms, and learned
>>>  through practice by its core volunteers.)
>>>  5. The Wikimedia Foundation has not historically done very much in
>> terms
>>>  of thorough encyclopedic documentation of important events in its
>> history.
>>>  There have been exceptions, and I believe that where it has been done
>> and
>>>  done well, much good has come of it. The best example of this, in my
>>>  opinion, is the Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence
>>>  program
>>>  <
>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Assessment_of_Belfer_Center_Wikipedian_in_Residence_program
>>> .
>>>  This was initiated by then-Executive Director Sue Gardner and her
>> deputy
>>>  Erik Möller, who participated actively in it. Specific programmatic
>>>  improvements in the Grants department were a direct outcome.
>>>  6. But many events have never been documented with
>>>  guidance/resourcing/participation by the WMF. It's worthwhile to
>> debrief
>>>  and summarize both positive and negative experiences.
>>>  7. If you don't document positive outcomes, WMF staff may have
>>>  difficulty replicating that success, because the experience is not
>> widely
>>>  understood within the WMF (or in the community, etc.) The example
>> foremost
>>>  in my mind is the 2012 rewrite of the Terms of Use, overseen by
>>>  then-General Counsel Geoff Brigham. He made changes to his process to
>>>  leverage the knowledge and experience within the volunteer community,
>> and
>>>  ended up with a document substantially superior to his initial draft,
>> and
>>>  that also had the buy-in of many volunteers whose fingerprints were on
>> the
>>>  final document. (I hope to write this up myself some day; if I ever get
>>>  around to it, it'll be linked here
>>>  <
>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Peteforsyth/governance#Organizational_governance
>>> 
>>>  .
>>>  8. If you don't summarize/debrief negative outcomes, you don't learn in
>>>  the moment what went wrong (so as to avoid repeating the mistakes),
>> and you
>>>  leave anybody impacted by the problems (e.g. volunteers) with the
>>>  impression that you don't care. The example I think of is Superprotect
>>>  . As the author of a
>>>  diplomatic letter, signed by more than 1000 people, making
>> straightforward
>>>  requests of the WMF, I am not too bothered that they didn't do what we
>>>  requested; but I am very bothered that they never acknowledged the
>>>  existence of the letter, nor stated which parts of it they
>> agreed/disagreed
>>>  with, or what motivated the subsequent decisions they did make. (These
>> are
>>>  things they could still do, even several years later, that would still
>> make
>>>  a difference.)
>>>  9. As any seasoned Wikipedia writer/editor knows, there 

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Pete Forsyth
Thanks Philippe. Funny, the minute I hit "send" I thought of you -- I don't
know whether or not it was your idea originally, but the "Wikimedia-Pedia"
that was created during the 2010 Strategic Planning process was probably
the closest thing I've seen to an organized effort to do this.

-Pete
[[User:Peteforsyth]]

On Tue, Aug 25, 2020 at 5:25 PM Philippe Beaudette 
wrote:

> Pete, one thing that I loved about my time at reddit was the existence of
> a subreddit called “r/museumofreddit”. It was mandatory reading for every
> new hire on my team and every other team I could convince and it was
> critical to onboarding me.
>
> It lived to serve just the documentary process that you mention.
>
> Regards,
> pb
>
> Philippe Beaudette
>
> > On Aug 25, 2020, at 6:35 PM, Pete Forsyth  wrote:
> >
> > I've thought about institutional memory quite a lot since I stopped
> working
> > at WMF in 2011. A few points I think are worth considering:
> >
> >   1. Often, institutional memory is measured in terms of
> >   staff/executive/board turnover; while there has indeed been a very high
> >   rate of turnover at times, I would argue that another factor (see #2)
> is
> >   actually more important.
> >   2. An organization can do a great deal, with a well-planned top-down
> >   approach, to ensure institutional memory is *generated* and *retained*
> even
> >   if there's a lot of turnover.
> >   3. The main thing that can be done is to ensure that significant events
> >   are *debriefed and summarized *("documented") in a way that is clearly
> >   and concisely articulated, supported by evidence and logic, and fair to
> >   various good faith perspectives.
> >   4. We might call that an "encyclopedic" approach. (The skills required
> >   are almost exactly the skills that tend to be cultivated in our
> Wikipedia
> >   volunteer community, as codified in its policies and norms, and learned
> >   through practice by its core volunteers.)
> >   5. The Wikimedia Foundation has not historically done very much in
> terms
> >   of thorough encyclopedic documentation of important events in its
> history.
> >   There have been exceptions, and I believe that where it has been done
> and
> >   done well, much good has come of it. The best example of this, in my
> >   opinion, is the Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence
> >   program
> >   <
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Assessment_of_Belfer_Center_Wikipedian_in_Residence_program
> >.
> >   This was initiated by then-Executive Director Sue Gardner and her
> deputy
> >   Erik Möller, who participated actively in it. Specific programmatic
> >   improvements in the Grants department were a direct outcome.
> >   6. But many events have never been documented with
> >   guidance/resourcing/participation by the WMF. It's worthwhile to
> debrief
> >   and summarize both positive and negative experiences.
> >   7. If you don't document positive outcomes, WMF staff may have
> >   difficulty replicating that success, because the experience is not
> widely
> >   understood within the WMF (or in the community, etc.) The example
> foremost
> >   in my mind is the 2012 rewrite of the Terms of Use, overseen by
> >   then-General Counsel Geoff Brigham. He made changes to his process to
> >   leverage the knowledge and experience within the volunteer community,
> and
> >   ended up with a document substantially superior to his initial draft,
> and
> >   that also had the buy-in of many volunteers whose fingerprints were on
> the
> >   final document. (I hope to write this up myself some day; if I ever get
> >   around to it, it'll be linked here
> >   <
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Peteforsyth/governance#Organizational_governance
> >
> >   .
> >   8. If you don't summarize/debrief negative outcomes, you don't learn in
> >   the moment what went wrong (so as to avoid repeating the mistakes),
> and you
> >   leave anybody impacted by the problems (e.g. volunteers) with the
> >   impression that you don't care. The example I think of is Superprotect
> >   . As the author of a
> >   diplomatic letter, signed by more than 1000 people, making
> straightforward
> >   requests of the WMF, I am not too bothered that they didn't do what we
> >   requested; but I am very bothered that they never acknowledged the
> >   existence of the letter, nor stated which parts of it they
> agreed/disagreed
> >   with, or what motivated the subsequent decisions they did make. (These
> are
> >   things they could still do, even several years later, that would still
> make
> >   a difference.)
> >   9. As any seasoned Wikipedia writer/editor knows, there is an important
> >   difference between writing that aims first and foremost to be useful
> and
> >   informative ("encyclopedic"), vs. writing that aims first and foremost
> to
> >   present an organization in a good light, or to advance an agenda
> ("public
> >   relations" or "communications" for an 

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Philippe Beaudette
Pete, one thing that I loved about my time at reddit was the existence of a 
subreddit called “r/museumofreddit”. It was mandatory reading for every new 
hire on my team and every other team I could convince and it was critical to 
onboarding me. 

It lived to serve just the documentary process that you mention.

Regards,
pb 

Philippe Beaudette

> On Aug 25, 2020, at 6:35 PM, Pete Forsyth  wrote:
> 
> I've thought about institutional memory quite a lot since I stopped working
> at WMF in 2011. A few points I think are worth considering:
> 
>   1. Often, institutional memory is measured in terms of
>   staff/executive/board turnover; while there has indeed been a very high
>   rate of turnover at times, I would argue that another factor (see #2) is
>   actually more important.
>   2. An organization can do a great deal, with a well-planned top-down
>   approach, to ensure institutional memory is *generated* and *retained* even
>   if there's a lot of turnover.
>   3. The main thing that can be done is to ensure that significant events
>   are *debriefed and summarized *("documented") in a way that is clearly
>   and concisely articulated, supported by evidence and logic, and fair to
>   various good faith perspectives.
>   4. We might call that an "encyclopedic" approach. (The skills required
>   are almost exactly the skills that tend to be cultivated in our Wikipedia
>   volunteer community, as codified in its policies and norms, and learned
>   through practice by its core volunteers.)
>   5. The Wikimedia Foundation has not historically done very much in terms
>   of thorough encyclopedic documentation of important events in its history.
>   There have been exceptions, and I believe that where it has been done and
>   done well, much good has come of it. The best example of this, in my
>   opinion, is the Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence
>   program
>   
> .
>   This was initiated by then-Executive Director Sue Gardner and her deputy
>   Erik Möller, who participated actively in it. Specific programmatic
>   improvements in the Grants department were a direct outcome.
>   6. But many events have never been documented with
>   guidance/resourcing/participation by the WMF. It's worthwhile to debrief
>   and summarize both positive and negative experiences.
>   7. If you don't document positive outcomes, WMF staff may have
>   difficulty replicating that success, because the experience is not widely
>   understood within the WMF (or in the community, etc.) The example foremost
>   in my mind is the 2012 rewrite of the Terms of Use, overseen by
>   then-General Counsel Geoff Brigham. He made changes to his process to
>   leverage the knowledge and experience within the volunteer community, and
>   ended up with a document substantially superior to his initial draft, and
>   that also had the buy-in of many volunteers whose fingerprints were on the
>   final document. (I hope to write this up myself some day; if I ever get
>   around to it, it'll be linked here
>   
> 
>   .
>   8. If you don't summarize/debrief negative outcomes, you don't learn in
>   the moment what went wrong (so as to avoid repeating the mistakes), and you
>   leave anybody impacted by the problems (e.g. volunteers) with the
>   impression that you don't care. The example I think of is Superprotect
>   . As the author of a
>   diplomatic letter, signed by more than 1000 people, making straightforward
>   requests of the WMF, I am not too bothered that they didn't do what we
>   requested; but I am very bothered that they never acknowledged the
>   existence of the letter, nor stated which parts of it they agreed/disagreed
>   with, or what motivated the subsequent decisions they did make. (These are
>   things they could still do, even several years later, that would still make
>   a difference.)
>   9. As any seasoned Wikipedia writer/editor knows, there is an important
>   difference between writing that aims first and foremost to be useful and
>   informative ("encyclopedic"), vs. writing that aims first and foremost to
>   present an organization in a good light, or to advance an agenda ("public
>   relations" or "communications" for an organization). People who excel at
>   one of those types of writing are not always great at doing the other kind;
>   the two types of writing require a different mindset.
>   10. The kind of writing required to summarize and debrief
>   important events, to create and preserve institutional memory, is (in terms
>   of the ways I defined them above) *encyclopedic* writing.
>   11. In closing, I'd like to make a point about the skillset the WMF
>   board has hired. I want to be really explicit -- I like and admire the
>   WMF's Executive Director/CEO; she 

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Pete Forsyth
I've thought about institutional memory quite a lot since I stopped working
at WMF in 2011. A few points I think are worth considering:

   1. Often, institutional memory is measured in terms of
   staff/executive/board turnover; while there has indeed been a very high
   rate of turnover at times, I would argue that another factor (see #2) is
   actually more important.
   2. An organization can do a great deal, with a well-planned top-down
   approach, to ensure institutional memory is *generated* and *retained* even
   if there's a lot of turnover.
   3. The main thing that can be done is to ensure that significant events
   are *debriefed and summarized *("documented") in a way that is clearly
   and concisely articulated, supported by evidence and logic, and fair to
   various good faith perspectives.
   4. We might call that an "encyclopedic" approach. (The skills required
   are almost exactly the skills that tend to be cultivated in our Wikipedia
   volunteer community, as codified in its policies and norms, and learned
   through practice by its core volunteers.)
   5. The Wikimedia Foundation has not historically done very much in terms
   of thorough encyclopedic documentation of important events in its history.
   There have been exceptions, and I believe that where it has been done and
   done well, much good has come of it. The best example of this, in my
   opinion, is the Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence
   program
   
.
   This was initiated by then-Executive Director Sue Gardner and her deputy
   Erik Möller, who participated actively in it. Specific programmatic
   improvements in the Grants department were a direct outcome.
   6. But many events have never been documented with
   guidance/resourcing/participation by the WMF. It's worthwhile to debrief
   and summarize both positive and negative experiences.
   7. If you don't document positive outcomes, WMF staff may have
   difficulty replicating that success, because the experience is not widely
   understood within the WMF (or in the community, etc.) The example foremost
   in my mind is the 2012 rewrite of the Terms of Use, overseen by
   then-General Counsel Geoff Brigham. He made changes to his process to
   leverage the knowledge and experience within the volunteer community, and
   ended up with a document substantially superior to his initial draft, and
   that also had the buy-in of many volunteers whose fingerprints were on the
   final document. (I hope to write this up myself some day; if I ever get
   around to it, it'll be linked here
   

   .
   8. If you don't summarize/debrief negative outcomes, you don't learn in
   the moment what went wrong (so as to avoid repeating the mistakes), and you
   leave anybody impacted by the problems (e.g. volunteers) with the
   impression that you don't care. The example I think of is Superprotect
   . As the author of a
   diplomatic letter, signed by more than 1000 people, making straightforward
   requests of the WMF, I am not too bothered that they didn't do what we
   requested; but I am very bothered that they never acknowledged the
   existence of the letter, nor stated which parts of it they agreed/disagreed
   with, or what motivated the subsequent decisions they did make. (These are
   things they could still do, even several years later, that would still make
   a difference.)
   9. As any seasoned Wikipedia writer/editor knows, there is an important
   difference between writing that aims first and foremost to be useful and
   informative ("encyclopedic"), vs. writing that aims first and foremost to
   present an organization in a good light, or to advance an agenda ("public
   relations" or "communications" for an organization). People who excel at
   one of those types of writing are not always great at doing the other kind;
   the two types of writing require a different mindset.
   10. The kind of writing required to summarize and debrief
   important events, to create and preserve institutional memory, is (in terms
   of the ways I defined them above) *encyclopedic* writing.
   11. In closing, I'd like to make a point about the skillset the WMF
   board has hired. I want to be really explicit -- I like and admire the
   WMF's Executive Director/CEO; she is highly skilled, and a kind person. But
   I am continually surprised that there has been little acknowledgment of
   what the board did by hiring her, and the direction the WMF has
   (unsurprisingly) taken since her hire. She was previously the WMF's
   Communications Director, and her earlier career was largely in
   communications. I would urge others to consider that it is not surprising,
   if an organization is guided by an executive with a Communications
   

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Strainu
În mie., 26 aug. 2020 la 00:03, Amir Sarabadani  a scris:
>
> Hey,
> Can you elaborate what happened? if It's public of course. It's hard to
> understand the problem without proper context.

The edits are public, but I don't really want to be specific, as that
would likely derail the discussion.

The pattern I'm seeing is: team gets a big project (in this case UCoC)
-> team hires -> newbie makes good faith edits that are known to cause
offense to some members of the community. This pattern can be broken
only if the organization has a process to teach newcomers things that
seem obvious to old timers ("don't go over community decisions if you
can avoid it", "don't change content", "try to talk to people before
doing a major change", "not everyone speaks English", "affiliates are
not the community" etc.)

My question is: does the WMF has such a process?

>
> Is it https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T261133 ?
>
> On Tue, Aug 25, 2020 at 10:52 PM Strainu  wrote:
>
> > Hi,
> >
> > It seems the WMF is going through another crisis of institutional
> > memory, with the T team taking center stage. It's not really
> > important what they did wrong, it's minor compared with other faux-pas
> > they did in the past.
> >
> > I was wondering though if the organization as a whole has learned
> > anything from major crisis in the past and if there is a formal way of
> > passing to newcomers information such as when and how to contact
> > communities, what's the difference between a wiki, a community and an
> > affiliate etc.?
> >
> > Strainu
> >
> > ___
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines and
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia-l
> > New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > 
> >
>
>
> --
> Amir (he/him)
> ___
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at: 
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines and 
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Paulo Santos Perneta
No, not related in the least.
He's probably talking about a recent situation discussed at this ML where a
WMF employee at T emergency role directed someone complaining of
harassment to the AN/I because they thought it was the appropriate venue.

Amir Sarabadani  escreveu no dia terça, 25/08/2020
à(s) 22:03:

> Hey,
> Can you elaborate what happened? if It's public of course. It's hard to
> understand the problem without proper context.
>
> Is it https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T261133 ?
>
> On Tue, Aug 25, 2020 at 10:52 PM Strainu  wrote:
>
> > Hi,
> >
> > It seems the WMF is going through another crisis of institutional
> > memory, with the T team taking center stage. It's not really
> > important what they did wrong, it's minor compared with other faux-pas
> > they did in the past.
> >
> > I was wondering though if the organization as a whole has learned
> > anything from major crisis in the past and if there is a formal way of
> > passing to newcomers information such as when and how to contact
> > communities, what's the difference between a wiki, a community and an
> > affiliate etc.?
> >
> > Strainu
> >
> > ___
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> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > 
> >
>
>
> --
> Amir (he/him)
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Amir Sarabadani
Hey,
Can you elaborate what happened? if It's public of course. It's hard to
understand the problem without proper context.

Is it https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T261133 ?

On Tue, Aug 25, 2020 at 10:52 PM Strainu  wrote:

> Hi,
>
> It seems the WMF is going through another crisis of institutional
> memory, with the T team taking center stage. It's not really
> important what they did wrong, it's minor compared with other faux-pas
> they did in the past.
>
> I was wondering though if the organization as a whole has learned
> anything from major crisis in the past and if there is a formal way of
> passing to newcomers information such as when and how to contact
> communities, what's the difference between a wiki, a community and an
> affiliate etc.?
>
> Strainu
>
> ___
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines and
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia-l
> New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> 
>


-- 
Amir (he/him)
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[Wikimedia-l] Institutional memory @ WMF

2020-08-25 Thread Strainu
Hi,

It seems the WMF is going through another crisis of institutional
memory, with the T team taking center stage. It's not really
important what they did wrong, it's minor compared with other faux-pas
they did in the past.

I was wondering though if the organization as a whole has learned
anything from major crisis in the past and if there is a formal way of
passing to newcomers information such as when and how to contact
communities, what's the difference between a wiki, a community and an
affiliate etc.?

Strainu

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