I find a lot in your email to agree with.

The Board of the Wikimedia Foundation, in my understanding, is not the top
governance body of the Wikimedia movement. It sometimes stands in for that,
because we don't have anything better - but its composition and its legal
obligations suggest that this is and should not be the case.

You write that Board members tend to think of themselves as the governing
body. At least for myself, I can say that this is not the case. My
understanding restricts the Board only to the role of being the Board of
the Wikimedia Foundation. The Foundation is not the community. The Board is
not the voice of the community for the Foundation. The community is neither
lead by the Foundation, nor by the Board. I don't even think there is a
community - there are numerous overlapping communities.

It seems to me that in open collaborative projects like ours, the amount of
scrutiny and criticism a governance body receives is negatively correlated
to the amount of competences it has. Creating or deleting content, banning
disruptive users from a project, deciding how the energy of the community
should be spent on creating content? None of these is the business of the
Board. None of these is the competence of the Board. And that’s good.

When I started working on the Croatian Wikipedia, I did not send a request
to the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation to see if what I did was good.
When I became the first admin and bureaucrat on the Croatian Wikipedia, it
was not the Board that bestowed these powers on me. When I suggested to
create a Semantic Wikipedia, it was not a request sent to the Board.

The power of the communities does not emanate from the Board. The power of
many of our other organs do not emanate from the Board (some do, though).

Let's say, a specific Wikipedia would be in trouble - maybe there are
reports that it was taken over by a small group of POV-pushers. This would
be a serious issue - what is the body in our movement to deal with that
issue, though? Does anyone argue here that the Board has these powers? What
could the Board do? What other organ would be the right one to make such
decisions? Which other organ is willing to take on these decisions?

I think that the Wikimedia movement needs to reconsider its governance
structures. We need something like a constitution. Maybe a general
assembly, as Milos suggests, or another body that somehow represents the
communities at large is needed. Maybe a reshuffling or explicating of the
powers vested in the current bodies is needed. What is the role of the
affiliates? What should the Board be deciding and what not? How can the
Foundation talk to a body representing the communities? How can we
strengthen the voices of the communities? Which body could credibly
represent the voice of the communities towards the Foundation?

The Board currently is exposed to requirements from a number of different
sources, and sometimes requirements that contradict with each other. In
order to become more effective, I would like to invite everyone to consider
Milos' suggestions and come up with your own. Our movement is now in its
teenage years - let us have a strategic goal of having a better
constitution before we leave adolescence. Let us aim at having a better
understood governance structure before we turn 18.


On Sat, Jan 9, 2016 at 11:37 AM, Milos Rancic <> wrote:

> Forking the issue of Board composition.
> We tend to think of Board as the governing body of the movement, not just
> WMF. Board members tend to think of themselves as the governing body of
> WMF, with shiny cool movement supporting it.
> We tend to discuss of community representation, they tend to assimilate
> anyone who joins them. While "trust and honesty" are noble words, they tend
> to be the words of excuse, covering forced imposition of the dominant
> position over everybody inside of the group.
> The Board composed as it is now has no capacity to overcome this problem. I
> am not talking about particular persons inside of the Board, but about the
> culture of assimilation, which usually ends in assimilation, but, as we
> could see now, it could end in removal of a Board member.
> I see two options to overcome this problem and both of them require wide
> consensus, including the present Board.
> One option is to restructure the Board itself, the other one is to create
> new cover organization, with WMF as one of its institutions.
> It's obvious to me that Wikimedia is not an ordinary organization or even
> an ordinary movement. The importance of Wikimedia movement is on the level
> of smaller country. Our needs are on the level of a city-sized society. And
> our governance should be so.
> At the moment, we have a kind of a mix which works because of that culture
> of assimilation and because WMF makes enough money. Destroying any of those
> corruptive powers would destroy WMF itself. So, if we want to change
> something, we have to reorganize the structure, not to fix it.
> What every organized social group? Yes, assembly (or whatever the name is
> inside of the particular structure). If it's about business, it's the
> assembly of shareholders. If it's about democratic institutions, it's about
> the assembly which represents all members of the society.
> WMF Board is quasi-assembly, quasi-government. It will always has partial
> excuse that it's about community-elected members, but also that it needs
> "an expertise" as a governing body. It's no surprise that the turnover on
> the best elections (the last one) was around 10%. Not a lot of Wikimedians
> think they are able to change anything and they are right.
> I suggested few times that we should create assembly as a real democratic
> institution. Such assembly could then appoint the Board as a governing body
> or leave to ED and staff to be executive body of the movement.
> The other option is to create assembly outside of WMF and make the relation
> between them later.
> As long as we don't talk about this issue, we will have the same stories
> again and again. The set of mistakes Board could make is not finite. And
> whenever something odd or harmful happens, we will be talking the same
> stories.
> By moving it into openly political discourse, we will avoid secrecy and
> Wikimedians will be able to influence decisions, outside of closed groups
> and personal connections.
> (At the end, I am wondering why I am repeating this, as nobody responded to
> this idea previous few times. Not even with "this is bad idea because
> of...".)
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: "Todd Allen" <>
> Date: Jan 9, 2016 19:34
> Subject: Re: [Wikimedia-l] WMF trustee Arnnon Geshuri and part in
> anticompetitive agreements in Google
> To: "Wikimedia Mailing List" <>
> Cc:
> > There is still a significant problem the Board does have, though.
> > "Chapter/thorg selected seats" are not community seats. And we've
> recently
> > found out that none of the seats at all are actually considered to be
> > community-selected, and that a community elected board member can be
> > removed without referendum to the community.
> >
> > A majority, at least six seats, on the Board, should be directly elected
> by
> > the Wikimedia community. (Not "chapters", the entire community). And
> > "directly elected" should mean that the member cannot be removed
> > involuntarily except by vote of that same electorate, whether by
> referendum
> > or the community's own initiative.
> >
> > On Sat, Jan 9, 2016 at 11:29 AM, Risker <> wrote:
> >
> > > On 9 January 2016 at 10:09, Fæ <> wrote:
> > >
> > > >
> > > > <snip>
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> > > >   We are well overdue for a major turnover of board members.
> > > > Fae
> > > > --
> > > >
> > > >
> > >
> > > While I have largely kept out of this thread to this time, this
> statement
> > > needs to be rebutted.  There are ten seats on the board.  Five of them
> -
> > > all three "community-selected" seats and two of the four
> board-appointed
> > > seats - have changed hands in the last six months.  An additional
> > > board-selected seat changed hands not long before Wikimania last year
> (Guy
> > > Kawasaki).  That means six of the 10 board members have less than a
> year's
> > > experience in the role.  (One of those has now been removed, but that
> still
> > > means half the board has very limited experience.)
> > >
> > > Of the remaining seats, two are "Chapter/Thorg-selected" seats that
> will be
> > > contested in the near future. Historically, only one of the incumbents
> of
> > > those seats have been reseated, and I make no predictions for this
> year.
> > > Jimmy Wales is assumed to still hold the Founder seat, and the fourth
> > > board-appointed seat is held by longtime community member Alice
> Weigand.
> > >
> > > We do not know how the board will decide to fill the recently vacated
> > > "community-selected" seat - the options appear to be narrowed to
> appointing
> > > the fourth-place candidate from the last election (which would bring an
> > > experienced board member back to the table) or an election, which could
> > > also bring a completely new trustee.
> > >
> > > At minimum, we already have five board members who weren't board
> members
> > > this time last year.  By the end of their Wikimania board meeting, we
> could
> > > have as many as eight trustees with less than 18 months of experience
> under
> > > their belt.  Of all the problems the board has, insufficient turnover
> is
> > > NOT one of them.
> > >
> > > Risker
> > > _______________________________________________
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