Anthony has hit the nail on the head here with "could be used to
punish or intimidate staff"; the reason I, at least, am uncomfortable
talking about the internal details here (beyond the obvious PR
elements for the Foundation) is that there's a lot of ongoing fear
about repercussions. A couple of years ago this wouldn't have been the

(This also indirectly answers the "can we see your NDA?" question. I
don't know. And hell, I'm this scared having *already quit*.)

More guidance, and public guidance at that, would be deeply
appreciated. Within the Discovery Analytics team we've gone out of our
way to write up pretty all-encompassing guidelines specifically for
data (which I look forward to being able to publish pretty soon - we
just got clearance to do so). It would be nice to have more firm
guidance on what we should do with transparency around other kinds of
information. It would, of course, be even nicer if we could rebuild
trust, since that's the source of a lot of the fear.

On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 6:40 AM, Anthony Cole <> wrote:
> It's not just NDAs that constrain you, staff. The WMF code of conduct
> <> (that
> applies to staff and trustees) reads,
> "People acting on the Foundation’s behalf must respect and maintain the
> confidentiality of sensitive information they have gained due to their
> association with the Foundation. This may include personal information
> about community members or members of the general public, and/or
> information about the internal workings of the Foundation or its partners
> or suppliers."
> "Information about the internal workings of the Foundation" is extremely
> broad and vague, and could be used to punish or intimidate staff who talk
> openly about anything. Perhaps you could add "some" ("some information
> about the internal workings of the Foundation") and leave it to the
> individual NDAs to specify what "some" means. Or perhaps you could just be
> specific in the code of conduct.
> Anthony Cole
> On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 6:51 PM, James Alexander <>
> wrote:
>> On Fri, Feb 26, 2016 at 11:17 PM, Pine W <> wrote:
>> > Something that I would like to understand is why so much WMF information
>> is
>> > cloaked under NDAs. It seems to me that this is philosophically at odds
>> > with the values of the community, makes for poor governance, and provides
>> > cover for opportunities for mischief. I hope that recent events will
>> prompt
>> > WMF to rethink its habits and assumptions in the realms of transparency,
>> > openness, and values alignment.
>> >
>> > Pine
>> >
>> While on a base level I agree with you I feel its important to add some
>> caveats to that. I think a good portion of this is actually everyone
>> needing a better understanding about what 'is' expected to be private (and
>> preferably why) from Management on down. I think a lot of what people are
>> calling "under the NDA" may not be :).
>> I also think it's important to consider the categories of private
>> data/information too, however, because i fear we (both the staff and the
>> community) use "under NDA" as a very broad and note always accurate
>> description. The way I see it there is:
>>    1. Private WMF Data or information that is most definetly covered by the
>>    NDA: examples include most donor data, attorney-client privileged
>>    information, information that is legally protected, information we
>> protect
>>    via official public policy etc.
>>    2. Information and notes that really don't need to be private: This is
>>    the stuff we're talking about releasing.
>>    3. Inter personal/team discussions and similar.
>> [sorry, this turned out tldr, apologies. TLDR: Careful demanding sharing of
>> internal team discussions]
>> 3. I actually think is really important because it is not what we think of
>> when we think of private information (and, honestly, probably isn't under
>> the NDA usually) but can be very important to be kept privately even if the
>> end result of the discussion should be made public etc.. This is especially
>> true to allow open conversations between staff members. Not only do they
>> need to feel comfortable bringing up crazy idea A (which some are now and
>> could probably be done more with culture change, possible on both the
>> community and WMF sides) but they need to feel comfortable saying that
>> crazy idea A is crazy and bad for reasons X,Y and Z.
>> Lodewijk made my main point well in the thread about Lawrence Lessig:
>> People get very uncomfortable talking about others in public. If Staff
>> member B is breaking apart Staff member A's proposal there is a good chance
>> at least one of them is going to be feeling very uncomfortable about it.
>> That discomfort often gets much bigger the more people who see what's
>> happening either because they feel more shame (to pick just one of the
>> emotions you can feel in that type of situation) or because they feel like
>> they're doing more shaming then they want to do. That expanded discomfort
>> can make them significantly less likely to do any number of things we don't
>> want: get more defensive/less willing to change, be less wiling to propose
>> those bold ideas that could be really great (or not), be less willing to
>> speak out against the bad ideas etc.
>> The other reason is another one that I imagine we're all familiar with on
>> wiki: The more people who pile on in one direction (even if it's only 2-3
>> frequently) (and in my experience the more public that discussion) the less
>> likely people are going to be to oppose what the direction those initial
>> commentators/voters/blah went. Suddenly people feel like they need to
>> defend their opinion much more then they would otherwise or that they could
>> be faced with angry opposition. These concerns are certainly possible on
>> internal teams and mailing lists (the WMF Staff list is somewhat famous for
>> people being afraid to pile on after a lot of people went the other way and
>> I know some, including me, are trying to change that)  but they become more
>> and more of a concern the wider that audience becomes and publishing those
>> discussions is a VERY wide audience.
>> I think that publishing the Discovery Team meeting with lila recently was a
>> right and proper move but I also think it was likely an exception to the
>> rule. Seeing people disagree so strongly and publicly with one of their
>> regular colleagues could very well scare away those colleagues and we don't
>> want that.
>> James Alexander
>> Manager
>> Trust & Safety
>> Wikimedia Foundation
>> (415) 839-6885 x6716 @jamesofur
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