The Board has decided to put on its agenda for the next meeting the process for
admitting new members.
One question I wanted to raise for discussion among the community is what kind
of "due diligence" should the Board do when admitting members.
Most of the people who get involved in the wikimedia projects do so because
they want to contribute in a positive way to the projects. Unfortunately, given
the open door attitude we have of "anyone can edit", we also attract people to
the projects who spend most of their efforts vandalising, defacing, pov-pushing
or playing the system.
This can also carry over into the running of chapters. Sadly, we have already
seen this with Wikimedia UK v2 - where one person - a persistent sock-puppet on
the projects - put themselves forward as a candidate using two identitities,
lied about their age and later lied about their professional qualifications.
When we were drafting the constitution, we adopted the standard Articles for
charities, which give the Board fairly broad powers to refuse (or remove)
membership if they consider this in the best interests of the charity. This is
subject to a due process that the Board must follow and a right of appeal to
the AGM, which the Board decided to beef up from the standard rules.
The draft membership rules at the moment mention these as examples of where the
Board may refuse membership:
- missing information or signature from the application form
- fee not paid
- information on the form "obviously fabricated"
- behaviour on Wikimedia UK community areas (the meta pages, email list and IRC)
Examples of invalid considerations include:
- activity/inactivity on Wikimedia projects
- behaviour on Wikimedia projects
I don't want to exaggerate the potential problems, but there are certain risks
which I think we ought to take reasonable steps to minimise. These risks
- time wasting - people trying to play us so we spend all our time dealing with
their obstructions rather than doing things to further our objects
- entryism - people getting all their friends to sign up so they can get voted
onto the Board (more of a problem when we have more income/assets)
Coming back to my question - what kind of due diligence should the Board do?
You could say just do nothing - trust that there will be enough reasonable
people to outweigh the isolated troublemaker and their impact can be contained.
With this approach we could be accused of complacency if we do run into
At the other extreme we could vet every applicant and ask them to provide
references, nominators and their activity logs from a wikimedia project. This
strikes me as being too restrictive for the kind of organisation we want to be.
My feeling is that we just need to keep a watchful eye open to signs of abuse.
This is particularly the responsibility of the Membership Secretary who needs
to bring anything of concern to the attention of the Board. Things to look out
for include getting lots of applications from one small town, all drawn on the
same cheque and also where certain individuals apply for membership who have a
history of abuse. I think this is probably the most effective way to deal with
this kind of thing in parctice.
What do others think?
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