I believe that Dariusz' comment was somewhat blown out of proportions
(due in part to difficulties in communication inherent to our
multicultural movement). I also think that some of the statements he
made were too "blanket" to let go, so I understand the frustration.

This said, Ori, I want to thank you for what I believe is the most
daring, heartfelt and bold emails ever written to this list.

And I use the word bold very specifically because I believe that this
is what is missing today. Boldness. Boldness does not only translate
in taking (un)calculated risks, it also comes in the capacity of
admitting failure.

I'll tell you where I think we, as an organisation, have failed. It
was already a long time ago, when we started to talk about efficiency.
When the Foundation started working and acting like an American Global
Corporation, and stopped cherishing our diversity and leverage it to
do that thing we once all dreamed of "taking over the world". I will
give you a few examples which I think illustrate the failure to be
bold in organisational ways. They might shed a light on today's
governance chaos.

Fundraising & Trademark: For the longest time, we've been analyzing
what risks there were if Chapter/Entity XYZ fundraised, or used the
trademark. What are the terrible things that would happen if someone
got in trouble at the other end of the world and they had anything to
do with Wikimedia or Wikimedia money. No-one ever said: "let us find a
solution to leverage our diversity and fundraise all over the world,
and make sure that we get all there is to get, together". Or: "Let us
recognize how every single person using the trademark is an asset to
that trademark". No one said, let us work together to make sure that
our organisational network represents our diversity, our collective
core. We're only afraid of what may happen if. We are afraid, or cosy.
After 10 years, Wikimedia Germany and Wikimedia Switzerland are the
only parts of the world where fundraising is happening locally. And
it's not because anyone ever thought that they did it better (well, I
do ;)), but because of technicalities. We have never thanked the
thousands of volunteers handing out flyers for their part in making
our trademark an amazing thing. instead, we're calculating all the
risks, the "what happens if". The "product" by definition is owned by
all of us, and more. While protecting it is a good thing, keeping it
behind bars isn't. We are diverse, we will make mistakes and learn
from them. We freaking built an encyclopedia, of course we can take
care of it without having to fear everyone and their brother! And
while an organisation is not a wiki, and revert not always an option,
I'm pretty sure that

Governance: No members at the Foundation. OK, I am not for or against
it, but the whole speech "we answer to 80000 volunteers" which has
been served to me over the years (as opposed to a mere 300 members in
that chapter or that other) is a load of BS. Because what I have
observed in the past few years, the Board only serves itself or the ED
(your pick), or "the Foundation" (the word "fiduciary responsibility"
still makes me cringe today).  I am questioning who feels "served"
today. Doesn't seem like a lot of people. But you know, nobody
represents anyone, they're only "selected"...

Governance again: 10 board members. No clear cut majority, ever.
Impossible. No-one can take charge and make things change drastically.
Not the community and "chapter" seats, not the appointed people. An
inertia of the likes I have *never* seen. I have been very close to
the board in extremely different contexts, extremely different
constellations and I have come to the conclusion that however smart
the people on it were, the sum of their intelligence as a collective
body amounted to less than their average intelligence when taken as
individuals. Insane. You cannot "govern" when the gap in opinions is
so huge that you can only always go for the "middle", which makes
nobody happy. I have seen people on the board get lashed at because
their vote on the outside looked like they were betraying the people
they were close to. But we don't know what the options on the table
were, and who knows, how they might have been so much worse. So middle
it is. Bold is but a faint memory (and the bold ones still get lashed
at, look at Dariusz being the only one talking here, and the one who
takes the blows).

Loyalty: We never really prodded for loyalty. Chapters were left to
develop in their own chaotic ways, pushed away because they were a
risk, and when they strayed they were put back under the iron hand of
the Foundation and handled like kids. We never said: "gals and guys,
we're all in this together, let us work together to be better,
together". I know I am not doing justice to all the amazing work that
has been done in the grants department, among others, but hear me out.
I want chapters and affiliates and communities and staff to feel they
owe and own the Foundation at the same time. Back to "governance
again", no representation, a self-serving body. There are still (too
many) people out there who feel "the Foundation" does not represent
them. How do we change that? How do we make sure that people feel they
have a voice, and give them the will to give back to the whole?

Impact: Wow, that one is a big one. We don't know the impact we have
because we never really asked ourselves what impact in our context
really means. Oh, we do have data, tons of it. But what does it mean
to have impact when you're Wikimedia? page views? Number of mobile
devices in the Global South (sorry kittens) accessing the content for
free? Number of mentions of Wikipedia at dinner parties to check who's
right or who's wrong on who last won the Superbowl? We're trying hard,
but not finding a common definition. Or even agreeing on the fact that
there might not be one. Again, how do we find a common direction? It
takes leadership in thinking out difficult questions and strength in
making them heard and embraced. One thing is sure, there are many
people asking others to show impact, but no-one within our governance
ranks making a real and beneficial one in giving a strong sense of

So yes, I think I understand your frustration. And I wish that someone
had the boldness to take their fingers out of their... ears, and make
things change. Too many people in too little time have been "moving
on" or "exploring other opportunities". And this is indeed a strong
sign that something must be done. You pointed out in a direction, I am
of a mind that it is not the only direction, even if it might be the
most acute and the (relatively) easiest to address.



PS. For history's sake, I have worked for the Foundation, I have left
it too, I know the feeling, to my bones. It was not an easy decision
and today, 8 years later, there are times where I regret it, and
others when I think to myself "good riddance". I also had quite a few
other volunteer roles in chapters, committees and whatnots.

PPS. I say *we* and take my part of responsibility, as I have been in
positions where I should have worked harder at changing things.

On Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 7:33 PM, Ori Livneh <o...@wikimedia.org> wrote:
> On Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 4:47 AM, Dariusz Jemielniak <dar...@alk.edu.pl>
> wrote:
>> There is way too much blaming/bashing/sour expectations
>> working both ways - we almost forget how unique we are, irrespective of
>> many slips and avoidable failures we make (and WMF  is definitely leading
>> here, too! ;)
> No, we're not. My peers in the Technology department work incredibly hard
> to provide value for readers and editors, and we have very good results to
> show for it. Less than two years ago it took an average of six seconds to
> save an edit to an article; it is about one second now. (MediaWiki
> deployments are currently halted over a 200-300ms regression!). Page load
> times improved by 30-40% in the past year, which earned us plaudits in the
> press and in professional circles. The analytics team figured out how to
> count unique devices without compromising user anonimity and privacy and
> rolled out a robust public API for page view data. The research team is in
> the process of collecting feedback from readers and compiling the first
> comprehensive picture of what brings readers to the projects. The TechOps
> team made Wikipedia one of the first major internet properties to go
> HTTPS-only, slashed latency for users in many parts of the world by
> provisioning a cache pop on the Pacific Coast of the United States, and is
> currently gearing up for a comprehensive test of our failover capabilities,
> which is to happen this Spring.
> That's just the activity happening immediately around me in the org, and
> says nothing of engineering accomplishments like the Android app being
> featured on the Play store in 93 countries and having a higher user rating
> than Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Netflix, Snapchat, Google Photos, etc. Or
> the 56,669 articles that have been created using the Content Translation
> tool.
> This is happening in spite of -- not thanks to -- dysfunction at the top.
> If you don't believe me, all you have to do is wait: an exodus of people
> from Engineering won't be long now. Our initial astonishment at the Board's
> unwillingness to acknowledge and address this dysfunction is wearing off.
> The slips and failures are not generalized and diffuse. They are local and
> specific, and their location has been indicated to you repeatedly.
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