Thanks a lot Denny for your honest and inspiring mail.
I kept stumm for the most part of the last month's controversy, as I
merely could have +1ed a lot of stuff that has been said and that's not
worth spinding bandwidth and people's time.
Now I want to take that time to say thank you, for your time on the
board and for your role in Wikidata. For a return in a role that
inspires you again.
On 04/08/2016 08:17 PM, Denny Vrandecic wrote:
> I exchanged a walk on part in the war for a lead role in the cage.
> I find myself tied and limited in my actions and projects. In order to
> avoid the perception or potential for Conflict of Interests I have to act
> extremely carefully in far too many parts of my life. Instead of being able
> to pursue my projects or some projects at work - which I think would align
> very well with our mission - I found myself trapped between too many
> constraints. I feel like I cannot offer my thoughts and my considerations
> openly, since they might easily be perceived as expressions of interests -
> regarding my previous work, regarding my friends, regarding my current
> This hit home strongly during the FDC deliberations, where I had to deal
> with the situation of people deliberating a proposal written by my Best
> Man, around a project that has consumed the best part of the previous
> decade of my life. Obviously, I explained the conflicts in this case, and
> refrained from participating in the discussion, as agreed with the FDC.
> This hit home every time there was a topic that might be perceived as a
> potential conflict of interest between Wikimedia and my employer, and even
> though I might have been in a unique position to provide insight, I had to
> refrain from doing so in order not to exert influence.
> There were constant and continuous attacks against me, as being merely
> Google’s mole on the Board, even of the election being bought by Google. I
> would not have minded these attacks so much - if I would have had the
> feeling that my input to the Board, based on my skills and experiences,
> would have been particularly valuable, or if I would have had the feeling
> of getting anything done while being on the Board. As it is, neither was
> the case.
> I discussed with Jan-Bart, then chair, what is and what is not appropriate
> to pursue as a member of the Board. I understood and followed his advice,
> but it was frustrating. It was infuriatingly limiting.
> As some of you might know, Wikidata was for me just one step towards my
> actual goal, a fully multilingual Wikipedia. I hoped that as a Trustee I
> could pursue that goal, but when even writing a comment on a bug in
> Phabricator has to be considered under the aspect that it will be read as
> "it is a Board-member writing that comment" and/or “It’s a Googler writing
> that comment”, I don’t see how I could effectively pursue such a goal.
> It was at Wikimania 2006 in Boston, when Markus Krötzsch and I had lunch
> with Dan Connolly, a co-editor of the early HTML specs. Dan gave me an
> advise that still rings with me - to do the things worth doing that only
> you can do. This set me, back then, on a path that eventually lead to the
> creation of Wikidata - which, before then, wasn't something I wanted to do
> myself. I used to think that merely suggesting it would be enough - someone
> will eventually do it, I don’t have to. There’s plenty of committed and
> smart people at the Foundation, they’ll make it happen. Heck, Erik was back
> then a supporter of the plan (he was the one to secure the domain
> wikidata.org), and he was deputy director. Things were bound to happen
> anyway. But that is not what happened. I eventually, half a decade later,
> realized that if I do not do it, it simply won't happen, at least not in a
> reasonable timeframe.
> And as said, Wikidata was just one step on the way. But right now I cannot
> take the next steps. Anything that I would do or propose or suggest will be
> regarded through the lense of my current positions. To be fair, I do see
> that I should not be both the one suggesting changes, and the one deciding
> on them. I understand now that I could not have suggested Wikidata as a
> member of the Board. It takes an independent Board to evaluate such
> proposal and its virtues and decide on them.
> I want to send a few thank yous, in particular to the teams at the
> Wikimedia Foundation and at Google who helped me steer clear of actual
> conflicts of interests. They were wonderful, and extremely helpful. It
> bears a certain irony that both organizations had strong measures against
> exactly the kind of things that I have been regularly accused of.
> I only see three ways to stay clear from a perceived or potential Conflict
> of Interest: to lay still and do nothing, to remove the source of the
> Conflict, or to step away from the position of power. Since the first
> option is unsatisfying, the second option unavailable, only the third
> option remains.
> So I have decided to resign from the Board of Trustees.
> It was not an easy decision, and certainly not a step made any easier by
> the events in the last few months. I understand that I will disappoint many
> of the people who voted for me, and I want to apologize: I am sorry,
> honestly sorry, but I don’t see that it is me the Board needs now, or that
> the movement needs me in that position. What I learned is that the profile
> that allows someone to win an election is not the profile that makes an
> effective Trustee.
> But be warned that you will continue to hear from me, after a wikibreak.
> Expect crazy ideas, project proposals, and requests to fund and implement
> them. I will return to a more active role within the movement. I will be,
> again, free to work on things that are worth doing and that only I can do.
> I think that in that role I can be more effective and more valuable to the
> movement, the Foundation, and for our mission.
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