Milos, thanks for your long email because it highlights some problems I
mentioned already in another long email ("Building a we in the wikimedia
movement"). It is in fact hard to deal with social systems, but
nevertheless important if we want the movement to survive to itself. The
greatest enemy are the dynamics that neglect volunteers instead of
empowering them, that try to centralize the system to make it more
"efficient" around technological solutions, instead of making more
effective at building a togetherness, which is in the end the only thing
that can keep it alive.

The thing is that these kind of paradigm shifts only happen with the will
of personal transformation. I often hear "if only the wmf did this or
that", however I seldom read "if only I was able to be a more agreeable
volunteer to work with". Involvement comes from perceived benefit, and in
our case it seems that the metrics went wrong long ago, first in article
count, then in number of volunteers, then funds raised, KPIs, etc, etc, and
I say it is all useless metrics that don't reflect at all the health of the

I agree that number of healthy discussions might be a much better
indicator, and I also agree that the social aspects of the movement are the
key parameter, and for that reason I have joined your initiative. In
systems engineering the emergent properties of the whole depend on the
individual properties of the agents, so that should be the main focus, to
encourage growth of the volunteer community, to establish paths for them to
advance, and of course to let these advances to spread out to the whole

The practical wisdom cultivated while attending conferences, reading lists,
establishing contacts, etc, is a rare quality and there are not enough
efforts to make it more prominent or appreciated. But again who should do
this effort? It is the task of each person to assume its own wished
responsibility to transform himself or herself for the benefit of all the

Power exists in every organization, however "power-grabbing" should be
coupled with the path of personal transformation that allows to use this
power in a constructive way which makes people feel more motivated. In my
personal experience I have worked with managers that just by being
themselves were able to get more commitment from my side than others who
stick to the procedures. Why so? Because it is easily noticeable who is
using power to empower, or who is using it as an uncontrolled ak-47 to calm
their inner frustrations.

I sincerely hope that your initiative gains traction, together with others
we run a similar initiative on Wikidata for some time
From the experience I can say that it is not as easy to do it online as it
would have been in person. In the end what matters is the personal
commitment to other fellow wikimedians, and it is much easier to commit to
other people who you met in person before or had some contact.

Anyhow, if more people would join, it could lead to the formation of a user
group and as a group it is much easier to have a say in procedures and try
to make them more human. For me this is not just about complaining, but
about finding ways for effective action that leads to more people
interested to transcend their own limitations, just as I would like to
transcend mine.

Thanks again for your bravery, and I hope it leads to positive change.


On Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 10:33 PM, Milos Rancic <> wrote:

> Looking into the numbers and having in mind events of those times, I
> don't think that the main reason for less traffic here is because of
> moderation for this particular drop, from April to May this year. Drop
> from quite regular ~300kB of gzipped file to ~160kB says that
> something extraordinary happened. And the main reason is likely about
> the Board elections themselves.
> However, there is the trend which lasts since April 2012 and it's not
> again about anything external to this list, but to the events internal
> to this list and "the core" of the community.
> For five or more previous years I hear the reasoning "let's new people
> talk". That's, of course, quite good idea and the vitality of the
> community depends on the influx of the new people.
> However, after a number of years I don't see that the discussion on
> this list is flourishing. Instead of heated but substantial
> discussions, the amount of discussions at all is very low. From the 50
> last threads (May 11-June 4), 20 didn't have any response and 11 have
> one response (one response doesn't create a discussion). That's 62% of
> all threads.
> Besides that, the main reason of why still have the editing community
> is the fact that natural systems usually have long tail, which means
> that there should happen something very bad to have sudden drop of
> participation in such large systems, like Wikimedia is.
> So, the strategy proved to be wrong. Except we want to wait the next
> decade to gather more data and prove or disapprove the hypothesis. If
> you we want to have motivated community, we have to have people
> capable to motivate the rest. And they usually have strong positions
> and they can't be easily handled.
> But I don't think that we had strategy at all. It was always just an
> excuse for a vanity show of people in power positions. And it's not
> related just to this list.
> Our main problem are not loud people without power in any paradigm (a
> loud user on a project; a member of the "core" community criticizing
> list admins or WMF Board or staff), our main problem is the culture of
> people in power position. And one person could be in both positions:
> implementing the same culture on project or inside of his or her own
> [Wikimedia] organization, while being oppressed as a powerless member
> of the "core" community.
> And the culture is based on vanity supported by anecdotal evidence.
> "It's not my job, I am just a volunteer" -- but you've taken that
> position, voluntarily. "I don't have time to deal with him or her" --
> but it's the part of your paid of volunteer work to deal with
> Wikimedia community. "It's too complex to think about it" -- Wikimedia
> *is* complex by it's nature, if not the life itself.
> In various Wikimedia decision-making environments it was at least a
> couple of times that I was scared by how quickly anecdotal evidence is
> becoming the basis for the future rule. And, of course, the
> implementation varies. Some use that "evidence" quite strongly, while
> other are using them as long as it's comfortable to them. And it's
> useless to mention any example, as it's endemic.
> Instead of working with those stubborn but enthusiastic (usually
> young, white and male) people, that culture simply removes them. And
> decline is obvious product of that culture. You can't trigger
> enthusiasm to outsiders, so they would be happy to join the movement,
> if you are suppressing the most enthusiastic people inside of the
> movement. It doesn't work like that.
> I am quite aware which topic this issue is opening. In black and white
> world, this would be in direct collision with our aim to include
> underrepresented groups. But there are many colors outside, not just
> black and white.
> I completely understand that there are very problematic people in the
> Wikimedia wildness. But we are not talking here about random
> misogynistic geek, but usually about good young guys, with proven
> history of enormous contribution to our cause. Odder and Nemo are
> paradigmatic for that cause.
> It's not about "it would be good" or "we should" -- but we have to
> change that culture. (It seems that unmoderated could be
> very good solution for that.) If somebody is stubborn and could cause
> flame wars, the right method is to talk with that person, to address
> his or her reasonable issues and give good explanation why something
> had to be done in particular way.
> While writing the last paragraph, I've realized that we need the
> institution of social work counseling: if you have a problem with
> Wikimedia structures, you could talk with us publicly or privately.
> So, I've created the page [1]. Besides joining the list, feel free to
> change the name of the page and fix the content. (Especially first, as
> not that I am just a non-native English speaker, but I am especially
> unimaginative while giving names to anything.)
> [1]
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