The national chapter recently informed the community about its Membership
and Community engagement plan -June 2011.

In that document, the regulatory framework for conduct of Wikiconferences
was released.

Shortly thereafter, a clarification was issued.

Members of the community must be puzzled at the need for clarification from
the Chapter on the issues of its regulatory framework when there was no
discussion online. This is because the recent announcement of the framework,
in conjunction with other issues, led to the community believing that the
chapter had forsaken it.

A little history - the idea for a Wikiconference was mooted way back in
March by the Mumbai community and they asked the Pune community to co-host
it to which the Pune community agreed. As India now has a national chapter,
we naturally asked for their support more than two months ago.  For more
than two months they were silent. Yesterday, they responded saying that the
community was invited to submit their proposal, duly modified as per the
said framework, and resubmit it for consideration with other bids. The
cavaliar treatment of the serious efforts put in to date by the communities
and the contents of the Framework of Regulations were disturbing to the

At the face off it, one may just consider the Regulatory Framework as just
another logical and reasonable document, but its language, text and subtext
upset the community, in light of Chapter's attitude.

The first and over-riding issue was the type of language used and its
indication of the relation between chapter and communities. We all know that
the Wikimedia Foundation encourages national chapters so that the community
and creation of knowledge by them is facilitated. However, the language
herein clearly gives a message - that the Indian chapter is boss and all
Indian wikimedian communities are subservient to it.

While that is a great inequity in itself, the community was also aggrieved
that the framework has been foisted on them without discussion, without any
attempt to get them to participate and buy in into the plan, without
community consensus and without any consideration of the community's
interests. This feudalistic attitude is considered to be an anachronism in
volunteer driven communities of the 21st Centuries especially in India. So,
no matter whether the framework is good or bad, sensible or not, the
approach to the community taken by the chapter is to be firmly objected to
and resisted.

The Mumbai & Pune community supports the chapter, and have defended the
chapter on number of occasions in email discussions. Members of the two
communities have enthusiastically joined the chapter once membership opened.
A member of the Mumbai and a member of the Pune community are the first two
members to join by NEFT and physical cheque. To the best of my knowledge 24
members from Pune joined the chapter in response to Arjuna Rao Chavala's
appeal for member ships when he came last month to our Pune meetup.

We earnestly believe that India needs an active, sympathetic, facilitative
and supportive chapter. We look forward to heartily cooperating with such a
chapter - alas, the chapter's latest tune was nothing of that kind. It
seemed to be indicative of wanting power and to dominate.

The third issue, were the "black" provisions of the framework. Each of the
sentences seemed to imply negative connotations for the community.

To give you some examples of the "black" provisions -

Example one - Finance

The responsibilities of the Host city team included "Fund raising", whereas
the corresponding responsibility of the Chapter Team was "Responsible for
facilitating financial operations and accountability for finances for the

The message conveyed was that the community was responsible for raiising
funds but only the chapter was allowed to decide how it was spent. No
commitment of raising monetary support was made by the chapter for the

Example two - Logistics

The responsibility for the "Host city team" is mentioned as being
"responsible for City logistics in terms of Venue, local transportation,
stay assistance". However, the city community was to be given no say in the
decision-making i.e. organisation of the programme, guest list, expenditure
etc. The OC head was to be some person of chapter Executive Committee. That
meant, the community had to do the hard work but the chapter would take
credit. If the conference succeeded, it was the chapter's moment of glory.
Whereas if the conference failed, the communities would be blamed.

Example three - Venue

After three months of spade work by Mumbai-Pune, when no other city had
shown any inclination to take up the project, the chapter thanked the city
community for the "proposal", came up with this framework, asks the city to
make changes as per the framework and resubmit it for consideration within
two weeks or so. Then, all proposals/bids would be considered by the chapter
and the decision communicated.

For two months, the community waited with bated breath for the chapter's
response and was floored when it eventually came. There were no emails of
 encouragement, no saying "we support you", no saying "great job guys, lets
give it to Mumbai-Pune this time, next time, cities can bid". The community,
not surprisingly, were forced to construe such a response as lack of support
by the chapter.

So what was to be done? The community was furious at being treated this way.
They could not acquiese to this kind of 'fatwa' type of decision-making by
the chapter. It was felt that if the community accepted this state of
affairs this time around, it would act as a precedent and set the tone for
all future interactions between community and chapter.

So, we indicated to the chapter informally through various people that this
sort of thing just will not do. We were prepared for a confrontation on
matter of principle. However, thanks to various third party
back-of-the-scenes attempts, the chapter is now beginning to realise this. A
member of the chapter Executive Committee has given a clarification. You can
read it here -

The community's demands are few and equitable.

Firstly, treat us like equals and stakeholders. Amongst us, chapter will
then be first among equals. The community will not accept any other form of

The second request is always ask our opinion before issuing policy
especially for a thing like Wikiconference which has not been conducted
before. The chapter must be consultative and facilitative of the community.
The community will not accept orders by fiat.

Lastly, this present framework will not do. We need a framework which gives
autonomy to the Organising Committee to successfully pull off an event of
this scale and nature. While organising this Wikiconference, the community
is willing to develop a sensible, practical framework which can be debated
and finalised after the event is over. In this manner best practices and
lessons learnt will be incorporated.

We felt that you as a community member should know what was going on and
what happened and how we responded to it. Our next step is to list the
issues concerning how the Wikiconference should be conducted and discuss
them on the list. At present, an active discussion on this is going on
between Pune and Mumbai communities off-list. In the meantime, we invite the
chapter to Mumbai where these issues can be discussed amicably face to face
and resolved.

We thank all those who spoke out in favour of the community.

Please write back with your views and support as this concerns every one of

Ashwin Baindur
Wikimediaindia-l mailing list

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