As a rule, I don't comment on staff arrivals and departures on this list,
even though I often (as in this case) greatly regret seeing talented people
leave the Wikimedia Foundation.

But Siko Bouterse's departure is different.

Siko, in her parting message, used words that are unmistakably candid. We
haven't yet discussed them, and I think we should. Her message is a strong
departure from the kind of announcement that is typically crafted to
present a clean image, giving both the organization and the individual
space a fresh start for whatever comes next. But Siko's words are clearly
her own, and allow us to peek behind the curtain of the WMF, and
increasingly opaque organization.

Most of all, these words stand out:

On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 5:24 PM, Siko Bouterse <>

> Transparency, integrity, community and free knowledge remain
> deeply important to me, and I believe I will be better placed to represent
> those values in a volunteer capacity at this time.

These are words no organization would endorse in a carefully planned joint
message. I have no doubt that Siko speaks to us here with her own words,
without edits from WMF management. This is a rare step; I believe it speaks
to Siko's courage and dedication (qualities I have never doubted in her),
and it offers us a rare and important insight into the WMF's increasingly
opaque internal workings.

I am sure Siko chose all her words carefully, and I encourage anyone who
hasn't to read and consider her message carefully.[1] But for now, I'll
limit my comments to the sentence quoted above -- and specifically, the
second of the four values Siko chose to identify.

Integrity must be a core value for any organization. Any effort of multiple
people to work toward a common goal must protect integrity as a baseline
value. It is so central and obvious, in my view, that we Wikimedians have
managed to neglect adding it to the central expressions of our values we
have produced over the years.[2] Integrity is the air we breathe as we work
together -- easy to forget as we focus on values more tangible, more unique
to our movement. But without a basic belief in the integrity in our
immediate colleagues and the system we work in, working effectively toward
a common goal becomes a futile enterprise.

Speaking for myself, the integrity of my various colleagues throughout the
wiki movement -- from the first people I met at Free Geek[3] (where I
encountered my first wiki) and Wikipedia -- is at the core of the
inspiration and the delight that have driven my career and much of my
personal and volunteer activity in the last 15 years. If I were to lose
faith in the central integrity of an organization, I would not be able to
continue working there. I have left many jobs over the years (including at
WMF), for many reasons, not always my own. I often felt strongly at those
moments that my employer was getting something important wrong. But I can't
think of a single instance where I would have made a considered and public
assertion that my employer and I differed over basic integrity. I have had
big and often public disagreements over the years with WMF executives like
Sue Gardner, Erik Moeller, and Zack Exley, and the committee that hired the
current Executive Director; but though I have often questioned or objected
to their decisions, the integrity of these individuals is clear and
obvious, and even at the most contentious moments I have at times
reasserted my respect for their integrity.

So when somebody with Siko's track record (and, dare I say, integrity)
identifies integrity as a key issue in her decision to leave, we should
take notice. There is a lot going on these days; but this message and
event, I believe, can help us rise above the trees for a moment and survey
the forest. If Siko feels that she can represent her values better as a
volunteer -- without a full time paycheck, without the resources and staff
at the disposal of a senior manager at WMF, without a job title and
business card that command respect and enthusiasm across the entire planet
-- that is a bold and important statement indeed.

We should be paying close intention, and if we find ourselves agreeing that
the basic value of integrity is lacking in the WMF, we should seek and find
ways to decisively solve that problem. This goes, I think, for everyone who
cares about the future of Wikimedia, regardless of whether you are a
volunteer, a donor, a staff member, or a board member.

> Much love,
> Siko

And much love to you, Siko. You have done excellent work in a variety of
places -- and I'm sure I'm only aware of a small fraction of it. Thank you
especially for the poise and focus you have shown just now, in providing
useful information to the Wikimedia movement even as you leave your formal
role at WMF. I look forward to finding you, perhaps in better spirits as
your big decision recedes into the past, on the wikis.

Happy editing,

[2] For example, this page and the pages linked from it:
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