Perhaps there is a mismatch of expectations here.  The trustees and the
senior staff of the WMF are the leaders of the movement and we may presume
that they know how to do their job.  It is for them to decide on the way
they wish to engage with the community they lead, and they have many ways
of doing so.  Indeed, there is an elaborate strategy consultation taking
place at many levels right now.  One should not confuse a well-thought-out
process for community engagement  with one particular vehicle for
engagement, such as this mailing list.  If seniot staff find that reading,
or responding to, this mailing list does not constitute the most effective
means for them to achieve their leadership goals, then why should anyone
insist that they use it, and thereby spend their valuable time being less
effective in their leadership roles?


On Wed, May 15, 2019 at 2:17 AM Asaf Bartov <> wrote:

> Speaking as a (very) longtime member of this mailing list, and one who is
> carefully observing it for a few years now as a volunteer list
> co-administrator:
> On Wed, May 15, 2019 at 3:56 AM Joseph Seddon <>
> wrote:
> > I, like many others, wish to see this list become a crucible of good
> > suggestions, healthy and critical debate about ideas and as a sound
> > mechanism for oversight and account . A huge amount of staff time and
> > movement resources is taken up by the consumption of its content. And yet
> > it remains the greatest shame that much of the best most worthwhile
> > constructive discussions have moved to platforms like Facebook because
> this
> > list is viewed as hosting such an unhealthy atmosphere when emails are
> > written with such overt passive aggression.
> >
> > I call it out because if we want people to participate on this list, the
> > unhealthy way in which this list gets treated by some of its most active
> > participants needs to be dealt with. Otherwise valid points will not get
> > acknowledged or answered.
> >
> I am not sure the causality here runs in the direction you describe.  It's
> true that this list had some aggressive, even vulgar participants in the
> past, and that some senior staff members, as well as board members, have
> left the list in protest.  Personally, I think that was a mistake on their
> part: to improve the list atmosphere, you model good behavior yourself, and
> you call upon the rest of the list -- the "silent majority" -- to call out
> bad behavior and enforce some participation standards (as, indeed, I and my
> co-moderators have been doing since we took over).
> By senior people's departing this list, and no longer requiring staff to be
> on this list, a strong signal was sent that this is not a venue crucial to
> listen to, and that, coupled with the decreasing frequency of WMF responses
> to legitimate volunteer inquiries and suggestions, had a *powerful*
> chilling effect on the willingness of most volunteers to engage here.
> Especially when, as you say, they were able to get better engagement on
> Facebook and other channels, despite the serious shortcomings of
> accountability on those channels (immutable archiving, searchability,
> access to anonymous volunteers, etc.)
> Yes, this list has also seen some pseudonymous critics whose questions may
> have been inconvenient or troublesome to address.  Yet I think the
> accountable thing to do would have been to respond, however briefly, to
> prevent the sealioning and sanctimonious posts that filled the list -- and,
> I am sure, greatly annoyed and demotivated many subscribers.  Even a
> response stating WMF chooses not to respond to a certain question, or not
> to dig up certain data, would have been better than the stony silence that
> has become the all-too-common stance for WMF on this list.
> As you know, I also work for WMF (though I am writing this in my volunteer
> capacity, and out of my care for the well-being of this list).  While I
> have never shied away from responding on this list, I have on occasion been
> scolded (internally) for attempting to answer volunteer queries to the best
> of my knowledge, for "outstepping my remit" or interfering in someone
> else's remit.  I have taken this to heart, and accordingly no longer try to
> respond to queries such as Fae's (which in this case I find a perfectly
> reasonable question, meriting an answer).  Several past attempts by me to
> ping appropriate senior staff on questions on this list (or on talk pages)
> have also met with rebuke, so I have ceased those as well.
> For these reasons I do not accept this wholesale blaming of this list's
> subscribers on the difficulty having meaningful conversations here:
> But if we want to see staff members more actively
> > participating here then those long standing individuals need to really
> > thing about the tone in which they engage here, particularly those who do
> > so most often. If that does not change, this list will continue to
> languish
> > and those few staff members who continue to engage here will slowly
> > disappear. This now increasingly perennial topic keeps coming up and my
> > fear is that it will on go away through the increasing abandonment this
> > list faces.
> >
> It is WMF that is not behaving collaboratively here.  And it is within
> WMF's power to change it.  C-levels, the ED, and other managers at WMF
> could all decide to participate more actively in this list; to respond to
> questions or delegate the answering to their subordinates, who are awaiting
> their cue; and indeed, they could themselves make more use of this list as
> a sounding board, a consultation room, and a reserve of experience and
> diverse context.  They can be the change they (and you, and me) would like
> to see.
> Perhaps this e-mail could convince some of them.  And if not my words, then
> perhaps those of some of the other list subscribers.
>     A.
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