Hi Quim,

On Wed, Jun 26, 2019 at 4:47 PM Quim Gil <q...@wikimedia.org> wrote:

> Hi, thank you for your feedback about Wikimedia Space.
>
> So far, there have been many comments focusing on _who_ has released _what_
> and _how_. Let me tell you _why_ we are proposing Wikimedia Space. People
> agreeing on _why_ can agree on the rest way easier.
>
> Wikimedia Space is all about Wikimedia growth. If you are supporting
> newcomers or you are contributing to the growth of the Wikimedia movement
> in other ways, we are very interested in your opinions, your suggestions,
> your needs. And we are especially interested in hearing from you if you are
> a promoter of movement diversity and/or part of any kind of group
> underrepresented in Wikimedia.
>

I think that it's okay to experiment with new communications tools, but I
would like to hear more specifics about how the new platform is intended to
contribute to growth in a way that providing new features or more
newbie-friendly tools on wiki does not. I say this mindful that talk pages
have a steep learning curve, but there are ongoing efforts to make talk
pages be more user-friendly.


>
> Why Wikimedia Space, in more detail:
>
> From the Wikimedia movement strategic direction -
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Strategy/Wikimedia_movement/2018-20
>
> * Knowledge equity
>
>
> From the Wikimedia Foundation medium-term plan -
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Medium-term_plan_2019
>
> * Grow participation globally, focusing on emerging markets
> * Thriving movement
> * Support to newcomers
> * Strong, diverse, and innovative communities that represent the World
> * Strong and empowered movement leaders and affiliates
> * Safe, secure spaces and equitable, efficient processes for all
> participants
>
> I hope this explains our _why_. About some of the points mentioned...
>

I agree with most of those points, with two possible exceptions.

Regarding "efficient processes for all participants": I understand the
attractiveness of speedy and efficient processes, which often coincide with
unilateral decisions. Sometimes in the community we specifically empower
people to make unilateral decisions, such as blocking vandals. However,
democracy, consensus, legislative processes, and judicial processes are
sometimes not efficient ways of making decisions; they may trade speed and
efficiency for quality, equity, transparency, and/or sustainability. I
would be concerned if WMF is broadly adopting a mindset of "move fast and
break things".

At the same time, I think that we in the community should be open to
considering tools that would let us improve our processes, often in
increments and with careful testing. An example of this would be
considering Discourse as a platform for communications.

Regarding "safe, secure spaces": There will always be contentious topics in
the Wikiverse, such as the sovereignty of contested geographic territories,
the validity of certain scientific theories, policies for the English
Wikipedia Manual of Style, and the morality of certain actions. People will
be upset, angry, disappointed, or offended. There is a tension between
freedom of expression and safety. I think that an unqualified goal of
"safe, secure spaces" is unrealistic, and risks doing more harm than good
by promoting an unrealistic vision and by implying that people have a right
not to feel offended.

At the same time, I am willing to block people in various circumstances
such as if they threaten to commit a criminal action, engage in phishing or
other fraudulent activity, fail to disclose an important relationship to a
subject of their editing or official activities, or engage in harassment of
others. Freedom of expression has some limits, even in the public square.

The Wikiverse is more like a public square than a quiet office, and I worry
that WMF's current vision for safety might be misguided and might be
harmful to candid public discourse and to people who are misled into
relying on an unrealistic implication that the Wikiverse is a place where
they shouldn't expect to feel offended and will reliably be protected from
harm. I think that being honest about the risks would be good, along with
supporting improvements as requested by the community. An example of an
initiative that I believe has community support is the partial blocks
feature.


> Wikimedia Space is a proposal to the movement in the form of a prototype
> https://discuss-space.wmflabs.org/t/what-do-mean-here-by-prototype/188/4.
> We believe it will generate interest, feedback, criticism and contributions
> in a number of ways that a text-only proposal in (say) Meta Wiki wouldn't
> achieve.
>
>
I'm cautiously supportive of experiments and prototyping in general.
However, WMF already appears to be planning to add more resources to this
project. Can you share what the long term plans are?


> For instance, while we discuss here in a black & white and text-only
> environment, more than 60 colorful users have signed up already and
> Wikimedia Space and are getting their own impressions about it.
> https://discuss-space.wmflabs.org/u .
>

> Or for instance, several event organizers just signed up and added their
> event to the Wikimedia Space map, which, if you ask me, after just one day
> already looks fresh, beautiful and interesting:
> https://discuss-space.wmflabs.org/c/events/l/map


I think that an on-wiki version of the map could be of great interest.


> We are happy to discuss possibilities for connection / integration /
> migration between Wikimedia Space and existing community channels. As a
> matter of fact, wikimedia-l could potentially benefit from the features
> offered by Wikimedia Space (a conversation started in this list by
> volunteers years ago):
>
> https://discuss-space.wmflabs.org/t/integrating-mailing-lists-to-wikimedia-space/136
>

I think that experimenting with Discourse as an alternative for Wikimedia-l
makes sense. However, given WMF's tendencies to grab power unilaterally
instead of using persuasion, its opacity regarding both financial and
governance matters, and the risks associated with strong central control, I
prefer that any replacement for Wikimedia-l is not under the control of
WMF. One reason to shift community conversations to Facebook, email, and
other platforms is that WMF has less ability to control them.


> Wikimedia Space doesn't prevent improvements in Meta or other places. If
> anything, we believe it will become an incentive for improvements in all
> community channels willing to keep up.


To the best of my knowledge the community has been very supportive of
improved mapping tools, and I cannot recall anyone opposing a better
on-wiki calendaring system. I believe that in both cases those have stalled
due to lack of resources from WMF. Occasionally I see or hear from WMF
staff that they are frustrated by community opposition to what the staff
thinks is progress. Recently I have been optimistic about WMF's talk pages
consultation, which I feel is being done well. Regrettably, some of WMF's
other recent actions (I am thinking in particular about WMF's intervention
on English Wikipedia) have been far less respectful.


> In our opinion, potential improvements in Meta shouldn't prevent the
> release of Wikimedia Space. What you see today is the result of about three
> weeks of part time work by four
> people. Now consider how much time would it take to discuss, agree,
> resource and implement an equivalent feature set in MediaWiki, and (just as
> important) equivalent social expectations and norms in the Meta community.
>

I would feel better about WMF's judgement here if this statement was
carefully qualified to say that WMF respects community processes and
thought that a small experiment would be okay. I think that some
experimentation is good, but I am troubled by what comes across to me as a
"move fast and break things" line of thought. Am I understanding your
position correctly? Unilateral decisions may be convenient, but goodwill is
easy to lose, and short term gains risk long term harms. Perhaps WMF is
justifying unilateralism and impatience as being for the good of the
community, but I think that such reasoning can easily be dangerous.


> We are just starting to promote Wikimedia Space. Yesterday we did an
> initial announcement to get a first wave of users, see how the prototype
> would take hold, and gauge the initial response. We plan to continue
> promoting Wikimedia Space in more channels. In fact, you can help. If there
> is a channel missing, please point to its URL, or (even better) feel free
> to forward the announcement yourself.
>

I will not do that myself, but I hope that there are benefits from this
prototype. I think that some experimentation is fine and good.


> If you have found an actionable problem, we welcome bug reports and feature
> requests: https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/tag/space/
>
> We encourage you to give Wikimedia Space a try. Even if today someone
> remains unconvinced, signing up won't hurt them. Then give it a week, and
> let us know. We really mean it! Prototypes always contribute to better
> discussions.
>

Thank you for your explanation of WMF's line of thinking. I think that some
experimentation can be refreshing and good. However, I would suggest that
WMF not adopt a "move fast and break things" mentality. There are
circumstances in which boldness is good, but I am concerned about recent
actions of WMF that suggest a move toward impatience at the expense of
respect, thoughtfulness, and long-term goodwill.

Pine
( https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Pine )
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