Re: [Wikimedia-l] Board level strategic planning?

2016-08-03 Thread Christophe Henner
Hey Ben,

That is exactly what we have in mind. That is way during Wikimania I sent
an email about the board priorities for the on-going year (board
improvement, ED support, movement strategy).

Doing so doesn't mean we're ignoring anything that doesn't fall into one of
this priorities, but that those are the priorities we want to tackle
heavily this year. And of course, we will report on them.

If you want, you can keep an eye on the board governance committee meta
pages. Natalia is doing a really great work documenting our work there.

As for the strategy process it will be an inclusive and open one :)

Happy to discuss those matters!

Christophe



On Wed, Aug 3, 2016 at 5:10 AM, Ben Creasy  wrote:

> Thanks Christophe! I reviewed some of the earlier emails responding to the
> June minutes and realized that Pine actually touched on this same topic
> just a bit ago and as I recall Katherine gave a great overview of her
> approach, so my apologies in bringing it up again so soon. No need to
> respond to this email.
>
> With that said, I hope that when the initial framework is released it will
> have a bit more information on the motivation and background research that
> went into it than the April 2016 Governance recommendations...
>
> If you're coming up with an important overhaul like this and an explicit
> goal is to be transparent with the community, it could be worthwhile to
> start the process with transparency by being explicit in answering
> questions like "who did you talk to", "what did you read and think was
> compelling", "what are you unsure about", "is there any empirical
> evidence", etc. Maybe the answer to some questions (like empirical
> research) is "we don't know and we don't think it's worth the time", but
> I'd be interested in hearing that explicitly rather than implicitly. The
> WMF is unique: the closest I can think of is the Mozilla Foundation (which
> I doubt has great governance) and maybe the Khan Academy (an amazing leader
> like Sal Khan makes careful governance less necessary). GNOME and KDE have
> tiny budgets with almost no employees, so their boards have little
> influence on the software. Environmental nonprofits can be fairly large and
> complex, altho the small ones end up as contractors for foundations (e.g.,
> SEACC, one of the nonprofits I was involved with). Museums are relatively
> simple. Schools and hospitals are the ones that come to mind which grapple
> with commonly grapple difficult management decisions on the scale of WMF.
> Also, elected boards (even partially) are quite uncommon; Sierra Club is a
> notable elected board, but with 15 members it can't be very effective at
> all.
>
> Also, if you want to be transparent and not over scope, it may be worth
> forecasting categories of how the board expects to allocate its limited
> time and then retrospectively reporting on how it actually spent its time
> to the community. I see that the Governance recommendation includes a plan
> is to have solid annual agenda, and perhaps that will basically address the
> issue of the board putting too much on its plate. However, when I read
> "Avoid letting minority perspectives disproportionately take up the
> Foundation and the Board's attention" it actually kind of bothered me. How
> do we know know if something is a minority perspective? Instead of
> "minority perspectives", it should be about "minor issues". The problem in
> the last year or two was more about the board (apparently) ignoring
> perspectives than it was about the board giving them undue attention. My
> personal experience and recollection from the book I recommended
> earlier, *Governance
> as Leadership*, is that it not uncommon for boards to end up spending a lot
> of time on housekeeping small items (e.g., bylaws tweaks), which could be
> relatively minor.
>
> On Mon, Aug 1, 2016 at 10:41 PM, Christophe Henner 
> wrote:
>
> > Hi,
> >
> > I love to write long emails, but four in a row would too much.
> >
> > As said before we are taking up our leadership role.
> >
> > The strategy process *is* a black box right now. We (Katherine mostly)
> have
> > been working on the process for a few weeks.
> > We will share soon I hope, the first part of that process.
> >
> > I would just ask you a little time, it has only been a month that
> Katherine
> > and I have been in our current positions. Even if works was started
> before
> > that, decisions to move forward with a movement strategy is only a month
> > old.
> >
> > And as said before, this year we are focusing on building the foundations
> > we need to get Wikimedia Foundation in a better place. So, basicly, we
> > won't go down to the feature level and focus on th global level :)
> >
> > Happy to talk on that topic :)
> >
> > Le 2 août 2016 7:19 AM, "Joseph Seddon"  a écrit
> :
> >
> > > Hey Pine,
> > >
> > > The Wikimedia Endowment is specifically set up to
> > >
> > > *"act as a 

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Board level strategic planning?

2016-08-02 Thread Ben Creasy
Thanks Christophe! I reviewed some of the earlier emails responding to the
June minutes and realized that Pine actually touched on this same topic
just a bit ago and as I recall Katherine gave a great overview of her
approach, so my apologies in bringing it up again so soon. No need to
respond to this email.

With that said, I hope that when the initial framework is released it will
have a bit more information on the motivation and background research that
went into it than the April 2016 Governance recommendations...

If you're coming up with an important overhaul like this and an explicit
goal is to be transparent with the community, it could be worthwhile to
start the process with transparency by being explicit in answering
questions like "who did you talk to", "what did you read and think was
compelling", "what are you unsure about", "is there any empirical
evidence", etc. Maybe the answer to some questions (like empirical
research) is "we don't know and we don't think it's worth the time", but
I'd be interested in hearing that explicitly rather than implicitly. The
WMF is unique: the closest I can think of is the Mozilla Foundation (which
I doubt has great governance) and maybe the Khan Academy (an amazing leader
like Sal Khan makes careful governance less necessary). GNOME and KDE have
tiny budgets with almost no employees, so their boards have little
influence on the software. Environmental nonprofits can be fairly large and
complex, altho the small ones end up as contractors for foundations (e.g.,
SEACC, one of the nonprofits I was involved with). Museums are relatively
simple. Schools and hospitals are the ones that come to mind which grapple
with commonly grapple difficult management decisions on the scale of WMF.
Also, elected boards (even partially) are quite uncommon; Sierra Club is a
notable elected board, but with 15 members it can't be very effective at
all.

Also, if you want to be transparent and not over scope, it may be worth
forecasting categories of how the board expects to allocate its limited
time and then retrospectively reporting on how it actually spent its time
to the community. I see that the Governance recommendation includes a plan
is to have solid annual agenda, and perhaps that will basically address the
issue of the board putting too much on its plate. However, when I read
"Avoid letting minority perspectives disproportionately take up the
Foundation and the Board's attention" it actually kind of bothered me. How
do we know know if something is a minority perspective? Instead of
"minority perspectives", it should be about "minor issues". The problem in
the last year or two was more about the board (apparently) ignoring
perspectives than it was about the board giving them undue attention. My
personal experience and recollection from the book I recommended
earlier, *Governance
as Leadership*, is that it not uncommon for boards to end up spending a lot
of time on housekeeping small items (e.g., bylaws tweaks), which could be
relatively minor.

On Mon, Aug 1, 2016 at 10:41 PM, Christophe Henner 
wrote:

> Hi,
>
> I love to write long emails, but four in a row would too much.
>
> As said before we are taking up our leadership role.
>
> The strategy process *is* a black box right now. We (Katherine mostly) have
> been working on the process for a few weeks.
> We will share soon I hope, the first part of that process.
>
> I would just ask you a little time, it has only been a month that Katherine
> and I have been in our current positions. Even if works was started before
> that, decisions to move forward with a movement strategy is only a month
> old.
>
> And as said before, this year we are focusing on building the foundations
> we need to get Wikimedia Foundation in a better place. So, basicly, we
> won't go down to the feature level and focus on th global level :)
>
> Happy to talk on that topic :)
>
> Le 2 août 2016 7:19 AM, "Joseph Seddon"  a écrit :
>
> > Hey Pine,
> >
> > The Wikimedia Endowment is specifically set up to
> >
> > *"act as a permanent safekeeping fund to generate income to support the
> > operations and activities of the Wikimedia projects in perpetuity". [1]*
> >
> > The Endowment acts as the online projects safety net. It will be
> > independent of the Wikimedia Foundation board and importantly It's not
> > there to support the WMF in perpetuity, it's the Wikimedia projects. Even
> > if the WMF is likely to be the main benefactor from the fund; should, in
> > the eyes of the Endowment Advisory Board, the WMF be no longer a fit and
> > appropriate body to support the Wikimedia projects (as a result of legal,
> > fiduciary or other issues), it has the ability to provide fund to an
> > alternative organisation to fulfill that work.
> >
> > Regards
> >
> > Seddon
> >
> > [1]
> >
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Establishment_of_Endowment
> >
> >
> >
> > > * WMF remains a single point of failure 

Re: [Wikimedia-l] Board level strategic planning?

2016-08-01 Thread Christophe Henner
Hi,

I love to write long emails, but four in a row would too much.

As said before we are taking up our leadership role.

The strategy process *is* a black box right now. We (Katherine mostly) have
been working on the process for a few weeks.
We will share soon I hope, the first part of that process.

I would just ask you a little time, it has only been a month that Katherine
and I have been in our current positions. Even if works was started before
that, decisions to move forward with a movement strategy is only a month
old.

And as said before, this year we are focusing on building the foundations
we need to get Wikimedia Foundation in a better place. So, basicly, we
won't go down to the feature level and focus on th global level :)

Happy to talk on that topic :)

Le 2 août 2016 7:19 AM, "Joseph Seddon"  a écrit :

> Hey Pine,
>
> The Wikimedia Endowment is specifically set up to
>
> *"act as a permanent safekeeping fund to generate income to support the
> operations and activities of the Wikimedia projects in perpetuity". [1]*
>
> The Endowment acts as the online projects safety net. It will be
> independent of the Wikimedia Foundation board and importantly It's not
> there to support the WMF in perpetuity, it's the Wikimedia projects. Even
> if the WMF is likely to be the main benefactor from the fund; should, in
> the eyes of the Endowment Advisory Board, the WMF be no longer a fit and
> appropriate body to support the Wikimedia projects (as a result of legal,
> fiduciary or other issues), it has the ability to provide fund to an
> alternative organisation to fulfill that work.
>
> Regards
>
> Seddon
>
> [1]
> https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Establishment_of_Endowment
>
>
>
> > * WMF remains a single point of failure in the Wikimedia network of
> > affiliates. I am hoping that mitigating the community and affiliate
> > dependencies on WMF will be addressed in the strategic plan, so that if
> we
> > have another mess like we had prior to Katherine, the affiliates and
> > community will have a plan that can be executed that ensures the
> viability
> > of the Wikimedia sites and affiliates without WMF. WMF can fail in many
> > ways; besides governance meltdowns, lawsuits and hostile political
> > environments are also risks. The sites and affiliates need to endure even
> > if WMF weakens, loses its way, or dissolves. I hope that we never again
> > have a repeat of last year and that WMF is healthy in the future, but it
> > would be prudent to have a strategty for the affiliates and community to
> > continue whether or not WMF is with us.
> >
> > Thanks again for your post.
> >
> > Regards,
> >
> > Pine
> > ___
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > 
> >
>
>
>
> --
> Seddon
>
> *Advancement Associate (Community Engagement)*
> *Wikimedia Foundation*
> ___
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Board level strategic planning?

2016-08-01 Thread Joseph Seddon
Hey Pine,

The Wikimedia Endowment is specifically set up to

*"act as a permanent safekeeping fund to generate income to support the
operations and activities of the Wikimedia projects in perpetuity". [1]*

The Endowment acts as the online projects safety net. It will be
independent of the Wikimedia Foundation board and importantly It's not
there to support the WMF in perpetuity, it's the Wikimedia projects. Even
if the WMF is likely to be the main benefactor from the fund; should, in
the eyes of the Endowment Advisory Board, the WMF be no longer a fit and
appropriate body to support the Wikimedia projects (as a result of legal,
fiduciary or other issues), it has the ability to provide fund to an
alternative organisation to fulfill that work.

Regards

Seddon

[1]
https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Establishment_of_Endowment



> * WMF remains a single point of failure in the Wikimedia network of
> affiliates. I am hoping that mitigating the community and affiliate
> dependencies on WMF will be addressed in the strategic plan, so that if we
> have another mess like we had prior to Katherine, the affiliates and
> community will have a plan that can be executed that ensures the viability
> of the Wikimedia sites and affiliates without WMF. WMF can fail in many
> ways; besides governance meltdowns, lawsuits and hostile political
> environments are also risks. The sites and affiliates need to endure even
> if WMF weakens, loses its way, or dissolves. I hope that we never again
> have a repeat of last year and that WMF is healthy in the future, but it
> would be prudent to have a strategty for the affiliates and community to
> continue whether or not WMF is with us.
>
> Thanks again for your post.
>
> Regards,
>
> Pine
> ___
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> 
>



-- 
Seddon

*Advancement Associate (Community Engagement)*
*Wikimedia Foundation*
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Board level strategic planning?

2016-08-01 Thread Pine W
Thanks Ben.

Just a few comments:

* The WMF Board has limited bandwidth, and they have a lot on their agenda
right now. I'm not sure how much of strategic work they can do while also
handling their other priorities, so some dependence on the ED is likely
necessary.

* Some members of the WMF Board have voiced the feeling that they would
like the Board to have a leading role rather than a reactionary one. It
looks to me like the governance review could be considered a step in this
direction. Having the Board take a public and leading role in developing
strategy with a transparent and thoughtful approach would be great to see,
so +1 to your comments on this topic.

* I get the sense that both the current Board and Katherine are trying to
take a responsive and cooperative approach to community input, so I am
cautiously optimistic that in the big picture WMF is heading in a good
direction.

Comments about specifics of strategic planning:

* One of my current concerns is the usability of Wikimedia sites for both
readers and contributors; we have some powerful tools but our usability
leaves much to be desired, and fixing an approximately 10 to 15 year design
and features deficit might require a lot more design and engineering
resources than WMF can recruit with its current income streams. I am
hopeful that WMF can boost its design and engineering capacity while
maintaining good relations with the community, and also while investing
more resources in developing GLAM+STEM and other offline support of
affiliate programs that have good cost-benefit ratios.

* WMF remains a single point of failure in the Wikimedia network of
affiliates. I am hoping that mitigating the community and affiliate
dependencies on WMF will be addressed in the strategic plan, so that if we
have another mess like we had prior to Katherine, the affiliates and
community will have a plan that can be executed that ensures the viability
of the Wikimedia sites and affiliates without WMF. WMF can fail in many
ways; besides governance meltdowns, lawsuits and hostile political
environments are also risks. The sites and affiliates need to endure even
if WMF weakens, loses its way, or dissolves. I hope that we never again
have a repeat of last year and that WMF is healthy in the future, but it
would be prudent to have a strategty for the affiliates and community to
continue whether or not WMF is with us.

Thanks again for your post.

Regards,

Pine
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Board level strategic planning?

2016-08-01 Thread Ben Creasy
I was glad to see this detailed note of an important gap in search, but it
left me wondering how the board views its role in strategic planning?

TL;DR: top-level prioritization should be done in a more public and
transparent manner, probably with more board input

Historically, it seems like the board has approached the strategic plan as
something to review after the plan is solidified rather than driving the
plan in a meaningful way. There is a bit of evidence that the board is
taking a more active role in planning in the 2016 Governance
recommendations [1], although it looks like it is being sent to the Audit
Committee, which I'm not sure I agree with.

In 2015, when the board opened up for Q questions at its noticeboard
[2], some
of the questions were around the board's view of specific issues. The only
board member who mostly responded deferred having any judgment on features
or software issues whatsoever. For example, someone questioned
Superprotect, with the board member responding: "I think that the super
protect feature is something that falls within the domain of our Executive
Director, whom I trust to have good judgment. I would personally never vote
for or against a specific feature of Mediawiki software, unless this is at
the specific request of the Executive Director, it simply is not our job"
...

Features like Visual Editor, Flow, or search improvements are voted on
whenever the budget comes up. It may be dressed up as "Editing" or
"Discovery", but it's basically about a large, long-term feature. And work
on these features is done at the cost of not working other items such as
features requested by editors (see Community Tech) or other stakeholders
(e.g., unclear how line-level employee feedback is rolled up).

When I was on the board of a couple nonprofits, we did relatively detailed
strategic planning. For example, the board decided it was important to
overhaul and modernize our website, and then we monitored progress on its
overhaul by staff over time. It wasn't easy to extract priorities from a
bunch of people with diverse opinions on what was worth doing, and staff
played a huge role in recommending and assembling these opinions into a
reasonably scoped plan which they ultimately executed. But the board took
ownership of the plan because they played a major part in its draft.

Historically, boards were the driver of major plans (see *Governance as
Leadership*, p4 [3]) but as nonprofits grew large, that role is often taken
by executive leadership.

It's up to the board to figure out how it wants to run the organization,
but I hope to see the board taking a stronger, more public role in
planning. Perhaps I just haven't read deeply enough, but the strategic
planning process seems like a black box right now. My hope is that board
members feel comfortable championing causes that they feel are important,
but also take time to champion the causes that are important to other
stakeholders, which can be discovered through well-designed research,
surveys, and anecdotes (like this search observation!). I do recall filling
out a survey on future WMF priorities a few months ago, but I don't recall
feeling altogether satisfied with it.

I feel bad about this wall of text.

Random postscripts:

When I was serving on boards, I read an interesting book called *Governance
as Leadership* which emphasized the somewhat fuzzy concept of "generative
thinking" which allows the board and executive team to partner effectively.
It also puts the history and typical roles that a board plays into context.

It's important to keep marginal cost and return on investment in mind. Even
Google continues to spend an enormous amount on search.

I work as a software developer in downtown San Francisco. A couple of my
friends work at privately-funded startups - ranging from 20 to 70 people -
where the employees literally vote on the company's direction. At my
company, the strategy is set by the executive team, where engineering hours
are allocated to various categories (new products, maintenance, internal
engineering). We do a lot of estimation to allow the product and executive
team to figure out what new features make sense, and a lot of the internal
engineering time goes into devops, refactoring and underlying architectural
improvements.

Sam Altman of Y Combinator noted: "The company will build what the CEO
measures". So if the board has a goal in mind, think carefully about the
metrics. [4]

[1]
https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Board_Governance_Recommendations_(April_2016)
[2]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Board_noticeboard/Archives/2015#Submissions
[3]
https://smile.amazon.com/Governance-Leadership-Reframing-Nonprofit-Boards/dp/0471684201
[4] http://blog.samaltman.com/startup-advice-briefly

On Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 1:32 PM, Pax Ahimsa Gethen <
list-wikime...@funcrunch.org> wrote:

> One risk of using Google to search Wikipedia is getting bad results. For
> several weeks, a Google search for