>Jimbo,>I accept the appointment as Chief Research Officer, and thank you for >your trust, and for this recognition. Given Anthere's posting here on >positions that were appointed by you before the Board was created:>http://mail.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2005-April/002998.html>.. I would briefly like to ask the rest of the Board to comment on >whether they consider these new official positions to be fully valid, >i.e. "official" official positions that will be listed on the Foundation >website etc. It is my understanding that this appointment reflects an >internal agreement of the Board, but it would be nice to have a >confirmation of that belief.
Yes, the appointments reflect an internal agreement of the board.
However, since it was highly official decision, we considered it appropriate that Jimbo announced it,
which is his role as the president of Wikimedia Foundation.
As previously indicated, the board does not take decisions by vote, but by consensus.
This means all positions given received opinions between strong support to neutral opinion.
They will be officially listed on the Foundation website. Titles may be used for any communication, such as in email signature or business cards.
A year ago, as a candidate to the board, I made this proposal of official positions to be set up.
I am glad that these aquire more reality today.
As you mention it, titles are nice. But this in itself is not enough to warantee the creation of them :-)
Titles help making contact outside, as they allow a person to be recognised as one trusted.
However, titles can only be given to a limited number of people, while dozen are interested by working with the "outside".
One thing I hope is that the officers we name try to gather around them more people to create a team,
and that all members of a team will be recognised as such.
For example, I hope that the press department is able on time to gather a team of local press contact in every part of the world.
I also hope that the legal department is able to gather members from many countries, so that we can benefit of a coverage of legal issues by the most informed people.
I could foresee that the grant department is proposing some large divisions, such as the Asian team, the European team and so on.
What I expect from officers is not to keep proudly their title, but to try to organise and foster cooperation, between projects, between languages, thanks to the participation of a whole team.
This won't happen in 3 months. It will build over time. Let's avoid hurrying, but plant the seeds so that it happens.
One point I want to make clear is that we do not want to introduce an element of authority here.
Officers are free to resign any time for whatever reason they consider important (or to refuse nomination...)
They are free to try to do their best. They have no special authority on any of the volunteers work.
I think they should have no special authority on Wikimedia employees either, aside from making recommandations to the board or to Jimbo
(this point is my opinion, and need input from Jimbo and Angela).
Similarly, I think employees should feel free to object an order given by an officer (this point is my opinion, and need input from Jimbo and Angela).
And volunteers most definitly stay free to participate to any of these issues concerned by an official title, whether within the official team or not.
Officers should be good stewards of their title and position.
It would be best that they are careful not to overstep. For example sending a press release which is not approved by the community is not okay.
Agreeing to a partnership without any previous discussion is not okay. But I believe officers are reasonable people and will avoid such traps which might result in an uproar :-)
Another point to clarify. For most parts, the positions given reflect the reality of what is currently happening.
For example, Danny has been leading most of the past year efforts toward grants.
So, an official position is not going to change much, except for helping him to contact external people with more authority,
and being an incentive to him to feel free to take the leadership on this topic.
As an example, in hope it would foster ideas and directions of development, I organised a meetup on grants a few months ago.
I believe Danny could be the organiser of such meetups.
Another example is the legal department. A lot of it was fostered by Aurevilly. In hope to get it move forward, I suggested the creation
of the juriwiki-l, which is meant to gather legal people to hack arising legal issues.
Soufron, also a member of Wikimedia France, is currently its moderator and very involved in many matters.
We believe he might be interested in trying to develop the legal department.
I think officers will help organise all Foundation issues.
This said, we are aware there are some potential drawbacks, such as editors not feeling empowered any more to do things themselves,
if there is an official person doing it. I really hope this does NOT happen in the future.
With probably the exception of finances (which is a bit different since it requires access to banking information in particular),
anyone not only should, but must feel free to do things like writing a press release, sending it, giving interview, looking for a grant,
trying to set up a partnership, send a copyright violation letter and so on.
But... what we want to make clear is this : we are now within the 50 top websites in the world (possibly english website top, but anyway, we are big).
This implies a lot of work for the board. An amount of work that board members can not assume alone. The board needs your help.
And amongst the things which could greatly help is trying to canalize information, so that board members are not constantly flooded by information.
This is first extremely tiring, as we spend a lot of time trying to understand issues, then trying to fix it ourselves or find someone to try to fix it.
If this is becoming difficult today, I expect it will be even more difficult in the future.
We believe official positions will first help us delegate some of the issues to a team.
Second, we hope that the teams themselves may over time become the recipiendaries of most of the issues,
themselves make requests to the board when (and only when) it requires the board advice, and generally try to give good overviews/reports to the board so it can make informed decisions.
Concerning the current official positions, we focused on the ones which appeared to us the most urgent ones and the most likely to benefit from contacts with the outside world.
ie, issues which most needed organisation and issues where official titles would best help.
If the nominees are not interested... well, others can candidate, or we can wait a couple of months to get more feedback before giving an official position. >As for what exactly Chief Research Officer means, I am working on a more >comprehensive proposal for an open (!) Wikimedia Research Team that I >will put on Meta later today, and which includes a definition of this >role. (The Board is familiar with this proposal.) I will state here in >advance that I consider it to be a role that exists *alongside* >development and is in no way intended to interfere with the existing >software development processes.>As Tim correctly notes, it's important that we're not introducing a new >element of authority here, but primarily first points of contact for >certain issues. Beyond that, I think the holders of these official >positions should take a basic *organizational* role in the fields they >are working in, e.g., propose meetings and agendas, though that is >certainly also an open process. I also see it as my role to write >regular reports, and to build bridges between the Board, other >researchers, and the community.>Regarding Sj's earlier
arguments, I believe it *is* important that we >have titles like these. Giving people a title is free, and it's a nice >way to show appreciation, especially when we only have 2 elected members >of the community on the Board. It would not be fair to have these two >titles, "Vice President of Wikimedia" (Anthere) and "Executive Secretary >of Wikimedia" (Angela), while delegating all other users to be mere >members of vague "Special Interest Groups" -- this only creates jealousy >and friction, not to mention that it overloads these two members of the >community. More on this in my Research Team proposal.
But Sj is also right that giving an official title to one person only,
while in reality dozen of people are participating, may foster jealousy as well. >All that being said, with the exception of Brion and Chad, Wikimedia is >still just a hobby for all of us, including even the trustees. I >therefore hope it goes without saying that any time commitments I can >give to this may change based on real life requirements. However, I >consider this role more important than anything else I've done within >Wikimedia, and will shift most of my activities towards it.
I agree with this.
I also considered my role as board member as more important than my professional activity :-)
Hmmm... I actually considered most of what I ever did for wikipedia
(and to a lesser extent to the other projects in which I have participated less) as more important than my professional activity :-)
And given the level of participation of many of the editors I daily work with, I guess this is true for many others.
However, since we are volunteers, it is an unfortunate fact of life that we have to do things like having a job to be able to pay for the rent, buy clothes for the kids, food...
And it is an unfortunate fact of life that having a job takes time and energy. And implies overloading board.
Officers are also an answer for this.
Officers may not be the perfect solution in a collaborative, volunteer based, hierarchy-light (if not hierarchy-free) project,
but I believe it is a step in the direction of a sustainable organisation.
I hope that all nominees accept their nominations. But if they refuse, that is okay.
If they decide more time should be given, for whatever reason, this is okay to wait and take a decision later.
And of course, I hope I will be able to go on working with them ;-)
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