On 28 Feb 2016, at 6:51 PM, Erik Moeller <eloque...@gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Chris,
> 
> It's good to read you here and on WW. I think you're raising
> legitimate points that others have also sought progress on. I would
> just suggest one thing. Right now the Wikimedia Foundation is going
> through an ED transition, impacting nearly 300 staff members most
> immediately. The Board's primary responsibility at this point is to
> identify interim leadership, set that person up for success, and renew
> the Board's bridge to the staff. Painful as the situation with James
> Heilman is, it is legitimate to address it later, in a professional
> and civil manner.

I hear you, and I would normally agree. However, I’m not entirely sure that it 
is James that is the person you need to be directing your email to. 

Quite frankly, James’ reputation has been damaged by the words used by various 
Board members. Denny has, in my view, made certain allegations that James could 
not be trusted with confidential Wikimedia Foundation business, but there is no 
direct evidence this was ever, or has ever, been the case. 

The Jimmy sent an email to the mailing list:

> It was written at a time when there were efforts underway by Patricio to
> get James to agree to a joint statement.  It is an encouragement to
> James to be honest with the community about what happened.  It is not a
> full explanation of what happened - he already knew that.

And yet, when he was advised by James that in fact that effort was spearheaded 
by James and not Patricio, he turns around and states that he didn’t know as he 
wasn’t involved. Jimmy has just now written that it was the Wikimedia 
Foundation that “encouraged [him] to be honest with the community”. Jimmy is 
saying, yet again, that James is not honest and is a liar. It was not James who 
wrote that he "made a lot of noise about why he was dismissed which is utter 
and complete bullshit”, nor was it James who wrote that "I was unconvinced that 
it would be held in confidence”, with the clear implication that James was 
someone who leaked secrets. 

If civil discourse had have happened, and Board members were open and showed 
that they were able to give clear, factual information as to why he was 
removed, then this would of course not be a problem. It is very unfortunate 
that Jimmy and Denny made these statements, had they not made such inflammatory 
statements then I would of course bow to your request. It *has* been a very 
difficult time, and nobody is happy with this situation. Unfortunately, those 
who should have known better (in particular Jimmy) have as another member has 
described it, "been mauling each other politely in public” [1] this isn’t going 
to go away. 


> I would encourage James, Jimmy, Denny and others similarly to not
> shoot from the hip at this time. I know something about shooting from
> the hip, and it rarely moves things forward positively. ;-) This
> dispute may need a facilitator and a quiet, generous conversation to
> be settled amicably. Given that Dariusz voted to retain James, I trust
> James hasn't done anything so dastardly that this cannot be done.

Dariusz has been nothing short of amazing in this whole situation. I have 
nothing but the greatest of respect for him, he is a true diplomat, and IMO he 
seems to have a very deep understanding of not only the Foundation’s mission, 
but how Wikimedia works in totality. 

Shooting from the hip is definitely not what I’m aiming for though. I actually 
spent a long time working out what I wanted to say before I decided to wade 
into this mess by subscribing to this mailing list and sending that rather long 
open letter to the board. Of course, I know that’s not what you mean also, and 
I know that my timing is less than awesome, but given the things that have been 
written about James by people who should know better, they have now left us all 
in the rather unfortunate situation where these issues must be addressed before 
anything can be resolved at Board level. 

Now I’m not saying that quiet, generous conversation cannot happen. I know 
James well enough to know that throughout all of this there isn’t even a single 
email, communication, Facebook post or Wiki edit that can be said to have been 
unfair, unfeeling, ungenerous, rude or abusive. Not one, and I challenge anyone 
here to point me to such a contribution. James has, and continues to have, a 
great passion for Wikimedia and its central tenants of openness, transparency, 
civility and great work. 

Frankly, I’m amazed at James’ good grace. I have seen on Facebook certain 
people accuse him of not answering his phone when he was high on mountain 
slopes where there are limited opportunities to use the Internet, and VOIP is 
banned or else it uses up everyone’s bandwidth. I have now read the Founder of 
Wikipedia accuse him of being dishonest.

But, how, precisely, are we meant to take this? At the very least, surely those 
attacking James should acknowledge their accusations and their unbecoming, 
abusive language were way out of line? How can this possibly reflect well upon 
the Wikimedia Foundation? One of the five pillars is civility. Yet here we have 
the Founder abusing a former WMF Board Member. That same Founder claims that 
nobody is more compliant with these central tenants than himself. I can only 
imagine he forgot himself in a stressful situation; but now he refuses to even 
acknowledge his actions. I cannot see how there can be generous conversation 
whilst this stands.  


> Everyone has had an incredibly long week. I am sure
> everyone--including Board members, who are all volunteers with other
> obligations--is still stressed right now about what's to come. People
> don't make the best decisions when they are too stressed, too tired,
> too busy. It's important that the Board is given some space to focus,
> to move forward one step at a time.

Agreed. I think it would be very good for all Board members, and everyone else 
who has been badly stressed by this situation (which I include the many, many 
dedicated volunteers and staff members of the WMF!) to take a break over the 
next few days. It is definitely not a situation within which stressed, tired 
and busy people can easily make important decisions. 

The issue, of course, is that this crisis has now caused an urgent need for 
something to be address the way in which James was removed. Now whilst a few 
days may go by with in which the Board regroups, there will need to be an 
accounting for it. The Board *will* need to publicly address this issue. The 
Board *will* need to look at their problems with transparency and openness. 
They *will* need to address the current climate of fear and intimidation within 
the WMF. They *will* need to address the situation that can occur when someone 
asks too many questions and is then removed from the Board, which to the mind 
of most thinking people is precisely what happened to James. 


> I concur with your call for greater transparency and involvement of
> the Board in meaningful conversations with staff and volunteers. I
> also think other steps of Board reform, including better training for
> Board members, ought to be considered. I would love to hear more from
> recently appointed Board members like Guy and Kelly, to understand
> their perspective on the last few months. But all in due time.

Agreed also. I think that the Board is not well trained in their fiduciary 
duties. There seems to be a misconception that fiduciary duties mean that all 
matters must be kept confidential. There is clearly a problem with secrecy, 
which now that Lila has resigned we can now see very clearly. Board reform, 
including increasing transparency by recording meetings, or reforming meeting 
minutes, must be an urgent matter that needs addressing. I would also love to 
hear from the newly appointed Board members on how they feel these issues must 
be tackled. 


> Warmly,
> 
> Erik

From me also :-) I appreciate your wise words, and yes I know I’m going at this 
very strongly, and I regret I feel the need to do so. If people had done things 
differently from the start, I likely as not would not have even sent an email, 
let alone such a strongly worded one. I am, as I’ve said, more of an outsider 
to the WMF, but given my experiences on Wikipedia and the relationships I still 
have with many people on Wikipedia, I felt I could not stay silent. 

I wish everyone the best, and I truly mean that - including Jimmy, Lila, Denny 
and others who I have criticised. The WMF is truly an important force for good 
in this world, and as any true Wikipedian (even an inactive one) I want a 
strong Board of Trustees, with independent and wise leadership. 

Chris

1. https://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2016-February/082639.html
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