Thanks for the response. A couple of things, while I do agree on some of
your observations about the trends on this list, I would like to point out
I have rarely seen Ashwin partake in those discussions, either on the list
or on IRC. To highlight general trends on a list, and use him to point out
the said trends as if he is responsible for propagating them, felt a bit
unfair. Merely prefacing the critique with, "don't take it personally...."
didn't resonate the real intention you might have had. You can have another
look at this thread in a week, and tell me if I am wrong or being too
I haven't been following the lists closely for the past couple of weeks, or
what is going on, so I might be a bit out of touch on what happened
recently. My earlier point was his feedback and assertions weren't that
out-of-line or uncommon, to be only evident of his own view. I am not sure
they all originated from him, or from the perspective he had formed over
the last year. Either way, he is still entitled to voice them, and not be
considered representative of any large trends. You are of course, more than
free to call them out, and correct them, but the way it was handled seemed
a bit out-of-character.
Anyway, this is the kind of reasoned response I would have expected
earlier. Not the one, that had "Who really cares, seriously!..." and
"you might reflect on use of terms like "sincerity"" and "I would prefer
that you speak for yourself rather than invoking "most concerned editors".
Let's not pretend that we have any special authority to speak for the
community." - As I said they seemed uncharacteristic of what I've come to
expect from you. I was surprised to read those comments originating from
you, they reminded me of someone else, on another list a couple of months
On Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 11:59 PM, Barry Newstead <bnewst...@wikimedia.org>wrote:
> Hi Theo,
> Look, this is a two-way street. Ashwin made rather robust assertions along
> side his feedback and I think I am entitled to both clarify points and call
> out assertions that are unfair or unfounded IMO. The fact that I did that,
> shouldn't be interpreted as disrespect for a senior editor or ignoring the
> valid feedback in the post. It is quite possible to both respond, call out
> assertions AND still hear feedback.
> As I said at the beginning of the post to Ashwin, "Please don't read my
> responses too personally, as I'm more focused on the themes in your
> comments that are persistent rather than responding personally."  I was
> seeking to illustrate these themes.
> In recent months, many a post on this mailing list have had some or all of
> the following themes (as I read them):
> a) assert either deep knowledge of the work that the IP team (or other
> groups) is doing, make demands of the team based on this incomplete
> knowledge and/or in a tone that asserts that the writer is somehow "an
> authority" and the team should jump at their command;
> b) make assumptions about people's motivations on the basis of rumour or
> pretty limited personal knowledge of that person
> c) seek to speak for community rather than for themselves when sharing
> opinions (I believe the norm in our movement is to speak for yourself,
> unless you are acting as an official spokesperson for a group)
> d) a general focus on criticism without the "constructive" element of
> building bridges/relationships as well as contribution to generating
> solutions and balancing negative feedback with positive
> My post sought to highlight these issues as all four came through in the
> post and make a few suggestions on how one might engage more constructively
> General thought:I belive it is time that the focus return toward more
> constructive engagement about the program work and challenges that we face
> in India and the work that many of us want to accomplish together. This
> can and should include engagement and feedback on the work that the IP team
> is doing. In this vain, I've created two new pages on Meta within the India
> Program area to provide a space for suggestions and for
> appreciations/feedback. This will hopeful provide a new outlet for
> sharing of information on a wiki, where the environment is designed for
> constructing work products rather than the ping-pong style of a mailing
> list, which IMO encourage personal squabbles that more often end in ill
> will than in a good exchange of ideas that help people learn and advance
> our shared agenda.
>  For the record, despite your assertion Theo, I do not doubt Ashwin's
> sincerity. He asked if I doubted and I confirmed that I did not doubt it. I
> felt it was useful to say that rather than ignore him and leave it
>  http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/India_Program/Suggestions
> On Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 3:10 AM, Theo10011 <de10...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hi Barry
>> I have to say I'm a bit surprised reading this mail from you. I really
>> don't care about what the issue is, and what side you or anyone is, but
>> this is not the way to address and answer feedback and queries that I've
>> heard from others a hundred times. This is not the kind of professional
>> tone I expected from you, some of your inline responses are
>> uncharacteristic of you. You conflicted yourself questioning Ashwin's
>> definition of "sincerity", and then ending the email with "I don't doubt
>> your sincerity..", It seems you do. You question Ashwin's insight and
>> motivation. I haven't read a single thing in Ashwin's email that I already
>> didn't hear from others over the years, even before you were hired, on what
>> the IP should focus on, what should it do, etc.. Those are still common
>> points, and general feedback. I fail to see what provoked this kind of
>> I don't know about Ashwin but I would have expected an apology after
>> that. I took umbrage with a couple of things you said, and how you said
>> them. My responses inline are in reaction to yours.
>> On Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 11:37 PM, Barry Newstead <
>> bnewst...@wikimedia.org> wrote:
>>> Who really cares, seriously! The purpose of any list is to share
>>> information openly and encourage community members to participate. It is
>>> not a credit taking exercise.
>> Err...You should? Someone from IP attended Wikimania and the chapters
>> meeting last year, why not add those to the list, or the ones from 2004.
>> Global south has been the rallying cry for WMF fundraising for a few years,
>> is this how that focus is going to get translated into? by blurring the
>> lines between where the money is actually going. I'm not sure about your
>> community organizing experience, but these events take a bit of effort to
>> organize and put on, to just have them claimed by someone else, is not in
>> the good spirit of things either.
>>> If you look more deeply, you'll see the IP team is doing work that helps
>>> move us forward. They aren't simply replicating what the community can do
>>> (note: I will still take issue with the point that there is some invisible
>>> community being held back from doing copious amounts of outreach or other
>>> work because the IP team is crowding out their activity). I think the
>>> value that the IP team can and is bringing is more about the overall
>>> support of outreach and the improvement of outreach work to increase
>>> impact. The sad fact about a lot of outreach work is that it doesn't
>>> produce that much community growth in its current form. Ask yourself
>>> honestly, Ashwin, how much has your Pune community grown as a result of
>>> your excellent and dedicated efforts to conducting outreach? What Nitika
>>> (yes, I think it should be clear to all that she is working hard on this)
>>> is doing is really investigating the efficacy of outreach and trying to
>>> identify things that will improve the results for the tireless work that
>>> you and other community members are doing. The link that I pointed to has
>>> a handbook for outreach that is evolving and would benefit from a
>>> collaborative, wiki-style partnership to share learning in which Nitika
>>> can be the facilitator and doer of the heavy work. In addition, Nitika and
>>> Subhashish in partnership with the Global Development research team is
>>> piloting a tool that will help with follow-up after events with attendees
>>> to encourage actual editing. The tool also allows us to measure whether
>>> attendees ever actually edit. This is a small pilot that they are
>>> investing a lot of time in and has the potential to dramatically improve
>>> outreach (or tell us conclusively that it is not an effective way to build
>>> community, which I hope isn't true). IMO this is the kind of work that
>>> adds real value to the community and will help us achieve our shared
>>> mission in India.
>>> See, there is a difference, it is not Ashwin's *job*. By your own
>> admission the spending within India has not been able to achieve any
>> growth. Ashwin is a community member, who got even a laggard like me to
>> edit an India related article for his collaboration. WMF didn't raise money
>> in the name of Global south, to have it fall on Ashwin to be responsible
>> for the growth - That's just you.
>>> Thanks for the advice. I think that is already largely the case. Nitika
>>> is the main resource focused on outreach with some support from
>>> Subhashish. Hisham involves himself as the manager of the work and has
>>> been instrumental in guiding us toward a more analytical and
>>> learning-oriented approach that we hope will be fruitful.
>>> Thanks. He is indeed focused here and is doing excellent work. It is
>>> useful to note that he partners very closely with Hisham, who provides a
>>> lot of silent support and guidance and gets useful input from the rest of
>>> the team (and he contributes to the work of the team as well). We believe
>>> (and most organizational effectiveness research supports) that teaming is
>>> an effective approach to getting things done. It isn't about putting
>>> people in silos and leaving them there to figure it out.
>>> I've explained Nitika's work above and she will also play an important
>>> role in future education work. Noopur has been on the job for a month and
>>> her role will become clearer as she settles in and starts getting some
>>> communications-focused initiatives going. Subhashish's role is by
>>> definition less simple to express. He is there to support the team and
>>> handle administrative elements. He is playing a valuable support role to
>>> Nitika and Shiju. He also frees Hisham from some of the burden of
>>> So, we are taking this slowly on purpose. It is not because of shyness
>>> on Hisham and Nitika's part. They are ready to go for it again and are
>>> excited to lay the ghosts to rest as you say. We did wait a bit to let
>>> everyone have some time to reflect on the pilot lessons (including us). We
>>> want to get the conversation going again, soon, though there is nothing
>>> stopping you from starting it yourself if you like. I will say I'm really
>>> encouraged by part of your remark, as we haven't really heard anyone say
>>> that the Indian community is committed to trying again to make this kind of
>>> program work in the Indian context. We too, particularly Hisham and Nitika,
>>> remain committed to education work in India. We are also looking forward
>>> to incorporating the lessons we are garnering in our work in Brazil and
>>> Egypt at the moment into future designs. We'll be getting back on the
>>> elephant, for sure.
>> Oh we are ready for the IEP. I'm not sure what the community needs to
>> learn from the failures. It's great you can still blame the Indian
>> community for not showing its commitment to make your program a success. I
>> and others pointed out several times in Tory's report, that this is the
>> perspective that is one of the problems - Not admitting mistakes, not
>> taking responsibility and working together on correcting them. Do you still
>> want to blame the Indian community for IEP failure.
>> We'll keep an eye out for the elephant when you finally get on it, until
>> then he's going to be in the room.
>>> You are incorrect, actually, so you might reflect on use of terms like
>>> "sincerity", since this speaks to motivations that you don't really have
>>> insights into. Hisham has been engaged with institutions and is developing
>>> a valuable network, though not as much as he would like as these efforts
>>> take serious time. Hisham would love to have even more time to do this.
>> I took umbrage with this part. Is this how you address a senior editor?
>> Questioning his motivation and insight? I don't see a single thing in his
>> comment that I haven't already heard from others about partnerships and
>> cultural outreach. You are free to defend Hisham as much as you like, but
>> not at the cost of denigrating a community member, not like this. What
>> insights and motivations does anyone have, in the end.
>>> Do note that as the leader of a team of people he does a lot to help
>>> them be effective - this is a core role in team leadership - and is a
>>> valuable use of time, even if it isn't always visible. He also has had to
>>> carry significant administrative duties that we are working to get off his
>>> shoulders. Finally, he spends an inordinate among of time on "India
>>> politics" (the other IP) - fighting off accusations of malintent, attacks
>>> on himself and his team members, and arguments that go nowhere about who is
>>> the "boss of X". The guy is working is butt off...often seven days a week
>>> and is available at odd hours to engage with colleagues in the US and with
>>> community members around the country. It is worth stepping back and
>>> reflecting before offering personal critiques of Hisham and the IP team.
>>> One might ask oneself: "do I understand the full context of the situation
>>> that this person is dealing with?" There is some great research on
>>> "attribution bias" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attributional_bias)
>>> that is worth keeping in mind when you think you have things all figured
>>> out and are comfortable ascribing motives to people or commenting on what
>>> you think they are doing.
>>> I respect your concerns, but I would prefer that you speak for yourself
>>> rather than invoking "most concerned editors". Let's not pretend that we
>>> have any special authority to speak for the community.
>> Why? Is "the movement" a whipping stick only for the staff. Don't believe
>> there is any authority when you use terms like these either. When a simple
>> long-term editor uses these terms they should carry more weight. If you
>> have any doubts, please consider me as one of the concerned editor, and
>> feel free to question my authority and motivation.
>>> My view of the IP is that it will not be built in a day. We committed to
>>> a multi-year investment because it will take time to build and we would
>>> need to do a range of pilots (some successful, some not), learn from them
>>> and then build programs that work. If this work was easy, it would have
>>> been done already. I'd like nothing more than to have "figured it all out"
>>> in India, so that we could move on to other challenges, but that isn't what
>>> we signed up for. This is a long, hard road with elusive rewards and a lot
>>> of difficult work along the way (including building community support), but
>>> the rewards are pretty huge if we can find solutions that help build our
>>> projects in India and expand access and contribution to the sum of all
>>> You might refer to the India Program plans on Meta (
>>> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/India_Program), which have been there
>>> for people to contribute to for about a year and is evolving as we learn.
>>> The team is working to this plan and is adjusting as needed based on
>>> learning from their engagement on the issues and discussions with people in
>>> the community. If you have better ideas or think that their plans can be
>>> improved, then click edit. I'm actually serious about this. There has been
>>> a ton of keys clicked in the mailing lists criticizing, but not many on
>>> contributing to the plans and helping improve them. They are on a public
>>> wiki for a reason.
>>> I don't doubt your sincerity. You make a lot of valuable contributions
>>> including this note. I would say that we all would benefit if you (and
>>> others) would ascribe the same sincerity to the IP team, recognize that
>>> what they (and all of us) are engaged in isn't exactly straight-forward and
>>> their goals are the same as yours.
>> That is all I have to say on the matter. I was disappointed by the tone
>> you employed in the response above, my inline responses were in reaction to
>> what you had to say.
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> Wikimedia Foundation
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