I was glad to see this detailed note of an important gap in search, but it
left me wondering how the board views its role in strategic planning?

TL;DR: top-level prioritization should be done in a more public and
transparent manner, probably with more board input

Historically, it seems like the board has approached the strategic plan as
something to review after the plan is solidified rather than driving the
plan in a meaningful way. There is a bit of evidence that the board is
taking a more active role in planning in the 2016 Governance
recommendations [1], although it looks like it is being sent to the Audit
Committee, which I'm not sure I agree with.

In 2015, when the board opened up for Q&A questions at its noticeboard
[2], some
of the questions were around the board's view of specific issues. The only
board member who mostly responded deferred having any judgment on features
or software issues whatsoever. For example, someone questioned
Superprotect, with the board member responding: "I think that the super
protect feature is something that falls within the domain of our Executive
Director, whom I trust to have good judgment. I would personally never vote
for or against a specific feature of Mediawiki software, unless this is at
the specific request of the Executive Director, it simply is not our job"
...

Features like Visual Editor, Flow, or search improvements are voted on
whenever the budget comes up. It may be dressed up as "Editing" or
"Discovery", but it's basically about a large, long-term feature. And work
on these features is done at the cost of not working other items such as
features requested by editors (see Community Tech) or other stakeholders
(e.g., unclear how line-level employee feedback is rolled up).

When I was on the board of a couple nonprofits, we did relatively detailed
strategic planning. For example, the board decided it was important to
overhaul and modernize our website, and then we monitored progress on its
overhaul by staff over time. It wasn't easy to extract priorities from a
bunch of people with diverse opinions on what was worth doing, and staff
played a huge role in recommending and assembling these opinions into a
reasonably scoped plan which they ultimately executed. But the board took
ownership of the plan because they played a major part in its draft.

Historically, boards were the driver of major plans (see *Governance as
Leadership*, p4 [3]) but as nonprofits grew large, that role is often taken
by executive leadership.

It's up to the board to figure out how it wants to run the organization,
but I hope to see the board taking a stronger, more public role in
planning. Perhaps I just haven't read deeply enough, but the strategic
planning process seems like a black box right now. My hope is that board
members feel comfortable championing causes that they feel are important,
but also take time to champion the causes that are important to other
stakeholders, which can be discovered through well-designed research,
surveys, and anecdotes (like this search observation!). I do recall filling
out a survey on future WMF priorities a few months ago, but I don't recall
feeling altogether satisfied with it.

I feel bad about this wall of text.

Random postscripts:

When I was serving on boards, I read an interesting book called *Governance
as Leadership* which emphasized the somewhat fuzzy concept of "generative
thinking" which allows the board and executive team to partner effectively.
It also puts the history and typical roles that a board plays into context.

It's important to keep marginal cost and return on investment in mind. Even
Google continues to spend an enormous amount on search.

I work as a software developer in downtown San Francisco. A couple of my
friends work at privately-funded startups - ranging from 20 to 70 people -
where the employees literally vote on the company's direction. At my
company, the strategy is set by the executive team, where engineering hours
are allocated to various categories (new products, maintenance, internal
engineering). We do a lot of estimation to allow the product and executive
team to figure out what new features make sense, and a lot of the internal
engineering time goes into devops, refactoring and underlying architectural
improvements.

Sam Altman of Y Combinator noted: "The company will build what the CEO
measures". So if the board has a goal in mind, think carefully about the
metrics. [4]

[1]
https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Board_Governance_Recommendations_(April_2016)
[2]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Board_noticeboard/Archives/2015#Submissions
[3]
https://smile.amazon.com/Governance-Leadership-Reframing-Nonprofit-Boards/dp/0471684201
[4] http://blog.samaltman.com/startup-advice-briefly

On Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 1:32 PM, Pax Ahimsa Gethen <
list-wikime...@funcrunch.org> wrote:

> One risk of using Google to search Wikipedia is getting bad results. For
> several weeks, a Google search for "gender" returned a disruptive edit[1]
> that replaced the entire article with " There are only 2 genders. Male and
> Female." That edit, from May of this year, was only live for a few minutes,
> but got cached in Google somehow, resulting in this (mis)information being
> prominently displayed near the top of the search results. Only recently has
> a search on that term begun returning the updated page (which is now
> semi-protected through June 2017 due to excessive vandalism.)
>
> - Pax
>
> [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gender&oldid=722247975
>
> --
> Pax Ahimsa Gethen | http://funcrunch.org
>
>
>
> On 7/28/16 5:37 AM, Andrew Lih wrote:
>
>> We recently had a thread in the Wikipedia Weekly Facebook group, where we
>> pretty much concluded the reason why we don’t have word in English for
>> “looked it up in Wikipedia” is because that word is “Googled it.” :)
>>
>>
>> https://www.facebook.com/groups/wikipediaweekly/permalink/1050447111669786/
>>
>> -Andrew
>>
>>
>>
>> On Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 8:09 AM, Jimmy Wales <jimmywa...@wikia-inc.com>
>> wrote:
>>
>> First, some context:
>>>
>>> I was in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention earlier
>>> this week, where I had been invited to speak (in a small side event)
>>> about connectivity and global development.  I spoke about our work in
>>> the languages of the developing world, and made a point to say that bad
>>> laws in the developed world which might hurt our work can be damaging
>>> for the development of the Internet in the rest of the world and urged
>>> lawmakers to not just think of various Internet legal questions as being
>>> "Silicon Valley versus Hollywood" but to understand that they impact how
>>> our volunteer community and many other ordinary people online.
>>>
>>> Second, the story:
>>>
>>> The main conference was held in the [[Wells Fargo Center
>>> (Philadelphia)]], an indoor arena where basketball and hockey teams play
>>> normally.
>>>
>>> A journalist friend said to me that he "finally found something that
>>> Wikipedia doesn't have" and he was surprised.  What was that, I said?
>>> "The history of Wells Fargo".  What?!!  Really?!! That seemed impossible
>>> to me.  He said we have an article about Wells Fargo that seems to be
>>> mostly about the contemporary bank, and when you search for Wells Fargo
>>> history there's also an article about the Wells Fargo History Museum.
>>>
>>> I popped on my phone and used my own personal preferred method of
>>> finding things in Wikipedia: Google.  I typed in "Wells Fargo history"
>>> and sure enough, the first two links are history pages from their
>>> official websites and the third link is Wikipedia - a normal state of
>>> affairs.  He started to apologize for raising a false alarm
>>>
>>> I asked him for more details on exactly how he searched, and explained
>>> that I regard it to be very sad if some volunteers spend hundreds of
>>> hours working on an article, painstakingly going over tons of details in
>>> an effort to get it right, and then someone couldn't find it.
>>>
>>> Here's what he did - and I replicated the steps and all was clear.
>>>
>>> Go to http://www.wikipedia.org/
>>>
>>> Make sure the dropdown in the search box is set to 'EN' - which it would
>>> have been for him.
>>>
>>> Start typing 'Wells Fargo history' and watch as the dropdown selections
>>> narrow.  You'll have the experience that he had - you'll see the bank
>>> article prominently featured and then various buildings (they have a
>>> habit of sponsoring sports arenas in various US cities) and finally as
>>> you start typing history it focuses in on the History Museum.
>>>
>>> If you don't choose any of those, then hit enter, you'll get to the
>>> search results page.  This is the one with a huge box of options at the
>>> top (which will be confusing and frightening to people who aren't
>>> already wikipedians) and then by my count the desired article is 13th on
>>> the page: [[History of Wells Fargo]].
>>>
>>> Now, I strongly suspect this could be fixed by making a redirect from
>>> [[Wells Fargo history]] to [[History of Wells Fargo]].
>>>
>>> Or a more serious fix could be had if the search engine understood that
>>> very very often in English [[X of Y]] can be written [[Y X]].  ([[List
>>> of French monarchs]] becomes [[French monarchs list]], see:
>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=french+monarchs+list
>>> where the desired article is in 10th place.
>>>
>>> But my point is not to argue for any specific fix.  My point is to
>>> illustrate that there is a real problem with search, that it is
>>> impacting users, and that we should invest in fixing it.
>>>
>>> --Jimbo
>>>
>>>
>>>
>
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-- 
Ben Creasy
http://bencreasy.com <http://bencreasy.com?t=email>
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