The advisory board basically never gets used as a group (and IMO it
wouldn't really make sense to). In my experience, people named to the
list fill one of a few functions:

1. Big Names who don't have the time to commit to being on the board
or are otherwise unsuited to being one of the main decision-makers,
but whose formal association with the project makes sense and is
beneficial. (I think of Clay Shirky as one of these: he is busy with
his existing work, but he is a great champion of the projects; he's
given presentations and press mentions that were helpful, consults on
some issues, and has offered his university's resources.)

2. People who are prominent in some area relevant to the projects and
whose work touches on it, who offer their expertise in their
particular domain and may be all but invisible to others. (Melissa
Hagemann is an example--she is prominent in open access and the people
working in that domain have worked with her, but people outside of it
may not see her work.)

3. People who have held high-level formal roles within WMF and whose
continued connection is recognized through being named an advisor. In
an organization with Senior Fellows, this is probably what we would be
called; it basically recognizes that although these people no longer
hold their roles, they continue to be supporters and advisors and
would like to continue to be available to offer their input and
expertise. I fall into this role, for example, and the structure of
having the formal connection makes it easier for current board and
staff to call on me. (FWIW, I was named to the advisory board by a
resolution after my term ended, though I see the page is poorly-enough
maintained that I'm not listed.)

4. People we hoped would fall into one of these roles, but who have
not actually kept up the relationship or whose guidance turned out not
to meet our needs.

It is useful to have a formal structure to call on people for their
help; most of the help the AB members provided in my experience was
through 1-on-1 consultation (more by Sue than by myself). But I think
there are more people in category 4 than there ought to be. The
renewal mechanism was intended to make it easier to graceully remove
people who fell into that category without making it feel like they
were "fired", but as it turns out if you renew some but not others,
people will feel that way no matter how gracefully you try to do it,
and probably not wrongly--and since they are all people who were
originally named because of a desire to strengthen the relationship,
souring it by ending their terms is a very difficult thing to do,
especially when it is easy to keep them.

Yes, the advisory board is invited to Wikimania with travel expenses
covered, though of the few members who come, some pay their own way
anyhow; the financial cost is relatively small. (I would say I made a
principled stand to pay my own way last year, but really I just
waffled over it for a while until it was late enough that I'd have
been embarrassed to submit receipts.)

In my tenure the advisory board was considered a few times, but it was
just never a high-priority item; I am aware of it having been
considered again last year but not sure if anything came of it. The
main drawback I think of is that people tend to forget it exists until
too late in a decision process, and many who could usefully consult
them don't even know who is on the advisory board, what their
backgrounds are, and how receptive they are to messages, so it is hard
to use them effectively.


On Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 10:51 PM, Tanvir Rahman <> wrote:
> As far as I heard, the WMF employees and Board use the advisory board
> according to their need. Sometimes they are share their thoughts as a team,
> sometimes individually, according to their expertise.
> I have mentioned to an adviser once that it would be better to have a group
> submission from the Wikimedia advisory board in the Wikimania to fill-in
> the community about their work and need. How do they work/collaborate and
> so on. It does not need to share anything confidential or something, but it
> helps the community a lot how this mechanism functions.
> T.
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