Mailing List Archive

[Wikimedia-l] Comment on the content, not the contributor - with staff?
Hey, all. Bit of a question, here.

Basically, how does "comment on the content, not the contributor" apply
to staff and contractors? What can we, as volunteers, do when we believe
staff have gone too far (besides create drama on a mailing list)?


In many of our communities, we have a saying: "comment on the content,
not the contributor". When working with others, this is quite useful,
and something we definitely want to remember, because it reminds us to
cooperate and find use for whatever content is good, and it also helps
us to avoid making personal attacks and other generally unhelpful
comments about the people involved that tend not to be relevant to the
situation.

Of course, this depends a great deal on the situation itself - this
applies to an edit dispute or a bug report or an RfC about content or
features or what have you, but what about when the contributor IS a
relevant topic? In volunteer circles it generally boils down to a
question - is the contributor causing more trouble than they're worth?
If so, an appropriate committee or whatever can do something sanctiony,
and the situation will be resolved for the time being.

But what if it's not a volunteer? What if it's a staff developer who is
consistently ignoring project consensus and needs, or a team that
refuses to justify their decisions even in light of scrutiny, or a
contractor hired to do something specific and community-facing who won't
actually do it, and on top of that won't let volunteers do the needful
either? With a volunteer, it's often a pretty simple matter to simply
remove an individual or group from a topic or project, but with staff,
the situation is a lot more complicated - not just because they're paid,
but also because they have specific obligations and requirements, as
well as the power and authority the position grants. Volunteers come and
go, and answer to other volunteers. Staff are supposed to do things, and
paid to be doing things, and answer to staff (and also the board and
crap, but at the level I'm talking about it's basically just other staff).

There's a very real disconnect here, and though community liaisons are
supposed to be bridging that gap, this works far better on content
projects than in development, where developers and designers and whatnot
need to communicate with each other, no matter who they are, in order to
get things done. And indeed, most staff here are pretty great about this
and you can totally go right up to them and talk about their work and
collaborate and what have you, but sometimes they aren't. And that's a
problem.

So what can we, as volunteers, do in such cases? What are our channels
for bringing up issues with staff, so that we don't just wind up
bringing it up somewhere completely inappropriate, where we really
should be commenting on the content itself?

-I

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Comment on the content, not the contributor - with staff? [ In reply to ]
In the past, this mailing list has been used for discussions of staff
conduct, which I am not sure is the best idea when identifiable people are
involved. I suggest that a first line of approach would be to discuss the
matter civilly with the people directly involved including the employee and
other volunteers, and if that doesn't get results, then go to the
employees' supervisor.

WMF HR has told me in the past that they can also step in with situations
like this.

Pine


On Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 10:57 AM, Isarra Yos <zhorishna@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hey, all. Bit of a question, here.
>
> Basically, how does "comment on the content, not the contributor" apply to
> staff and contractors? What can we, as volunteers, do when we believe staff
> have gone too far (besides create drama on a mailing list)?
>
>
> In many of our communities, we have a saying: "comment on the content, not
> the contributor". When working with others, this is quite useful, and
> something we definitely want to remember, because it reminds us to
> cooperate and find use for whatever content is good, and it also helps us
> to avoid making personal attacks and other generally unhelpful comments
> about the people involved that tend not to be relevant to the situation.
>
> Of course, this depends a great deal on the situation itself - this
> applies to an edit dispute or a bug report or an RfC about content or
> features or what have you, but what about when the contributor IS a
> relevant topic? In volunteer circles it generally boils down to a question
> - is the contributor causing more trouble than they're worth? If so, an
> appropriate committee or whatever can do something sanctiony, and the
> situation will be resolved for the time being.
>
> But what if it's not a volunteer? What if it's a staff developer who is
> consistently ignoring project consensus and needs, or a team that refuses
> to justify their decisions even in light of scrutiny, or a contractor hired
> to do something specific and community-facing who won't actually do it, and
> on top of that won't let volunteers do the needful either? With a
> volunteer, it's often a pretty simple matter to simply remove an individual
> or group from a topic or project, but with staff, the situation is a lot
> more complicated - not just because they're paid, but also because they
> have specific obligations and requirements, as well as the power and
> authority the position grants. Volunteers come and go, and answer to other
> volunteers. Staff are supposed to do things, and paid to be doing things,
> and answer to staff (and also the board and crap, but at the level I'm
> talking about it's basically just other staff).
>
> There's a very real disconnect here, and though community liaisons are
> supposed to be bridging that gap, this works far better on content projects
> than in development, where developers and designers and whatnot need to
> communicate with each other, no matter who they are, in order to get things
> done. And indeed, most staff here are pretty great about this and you can
> totally go right up to them and talk about their work and collaborate and
> what have you, but sometimes they aren't. And that's a problem.
>
> So what can we, as volunteers, do in such cases? What are our channels for
> bringing up issues with staff, so that we don't just wind up bringing it up
> somewhere completely inappropriate, where we really should be commenting on
> the content itself?
>
> -I
>
> _______________________________________________
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Comment on the content, not the contributor - with staff? [ In reply to ]
On 03/07/14 18:16, Pine W wrote:
> In the past, this mailing list has been used for discussions of staff
> conduct, which I am not sure is the best idea when identifiable people are
> involved. I suggest that a first line of approach would be to discuss the
> matter civilly with the people directly involved including the employee and
> other volunteers, and if that doesn't get results, then go to the
> employees' supervisor.
>
> WMF HR has told me in the past that they can also step in with situations
> like this.
>
> Pine

The problem is, in my experience the main problem has usually been that
the people involved won't talk at all, at least in the case of the
employees. And what are you supposed to say? Somehow I don't think "Hi,
please remember that consensus is something you're supposed to follow"
or "Hi, could you please do your job?" would help matters any.

Would tracking down their supervisors and hoping they know any more than
the other folks do really be the best option? Personally I wouldn't even
know where to start, and even then there's no guarantee they would
listen. Email shows up from someone they've never heard of calling into
question their people. Or better yet, email shows up from someone they
understand that their people widely regard to be a troll. Might be
difficult to keep an open mind at that point. (I've had this happen.)

Perhaps HR is the only way to go at that point? But even then, how do
you bring that up?

-I

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Comment on the content, not the contributor - with staff? [ In reply to ]
In general, supervisors in any organization should be interested in the
performance of their employees. If there is evidence that an employee is
slacking, being unresponsive, or creating unnecessary friction, I would
expect a supervisor to exercise good judgement in listening to the concern,
making a reasonable investigation, and taking appropriate action to address
the problem if there is one.

If you are uncomfortable with approaching the supervisor or don't know who
the supervisor is, then contacting WMF HR would be one option. You could
also contact one of the community-elected WMF trustees.

I am including Gayle on this email. She may be away from her email due to
the US holiday weekend but I hope she will comment when she is available.

Pine


On Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 1:50 PM, Isarra Yos <zhorishna@gmail.com> wrote:

> On 03/07/14 18:16, Pine W wrote:
>
>> In the past, this mailing list has been used for discussions of staff
>> conduct, which I am not sure is the best idea when identifiable people are
>> involved. I suggest that a first line of approach would be to discuss the
>> matter civilly with the people directly involved including the employee
>> and
>> other volunteers, and if that doesn't get results, then go to the
>> employees' supervisor.
>>
>> WMF HR has told me in the past that they can also step in with situations
>> like this.
>>
>> Pine
>>
>
> The problem is, in my experience the main problem has usually been that
> the people involved won't talk at all, at least in the case of the
> employees. And what are you supposed to say? Somehow I don't think "Hi,
> please remember that consensus is something you're supposed to follow" or
> "Hi, could you please do your job?" would help matters any.
>
> Would tracking down their supervisors and hoping they know any more than
> the other folks do really be the best option? Personally I wouldn't even
> know where to start, and even then there's no guarantee they would listen.
> Email shows up from someone they've never heard of calling into question
> their people. Or better yet, email shows up from someone they understand
> that their people widely regard to be a troll. Might be difficult to keep
> an open mind at that point. (I've had this happen.)
>
> Perhaps HR is the only way to go at that point? But even then, how do you
> bring that up?
>
>
> -I
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at: https://meta.wikimedia.org/
> wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
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>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Comment on the content, not the contributor - with staff? [ In reply to ]
On Thursday, July 3, 2014, Isarra Yos <zhorishna@gmail.com> wrote:

> What can we, as volunteers, do when we believe staff have gone too far
> (besides create drama on a mailing list)?
>

It depends on the area and the problem, but there are enough WMF employees
with public exposure and community background to choose from. The
Engineering Community team should be able to help technical volunteers
having problems with WMF employees. The community liaisons (now Community
Engagement team) are also good points of contact.

Of course, each of us employees has a manager and a HR contact, and if the
problem is exceptional they could be the ultimate points of contact within
the WMF.

Does this answer your question?


--
Quim Gil
Engineering Community Manager @ Wikimedia Foundation
http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/User:Qgil
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Comment on the content, not the contributor - with staff? [ In reply to ]
Hi Isarra,

I did bring this up with Gayle near the end of her office hour on July 9.
The first hour of these logs is with Language Engineering and the second is
with Gayle. I was hoping that she would respond on Wikimedia-l as well and
I didn't want to speak for her which is why I didn't comment here earlier,
but since she hasn't, I suggest reading the logs. (:

https://tools.wmflabs.org/wm-bot/logs/index.php?start=07%2F09%2F2014&end=07%2F09%2F2014&display=%23wikimedia-office

Pine


On Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 8:11 AM, Quim Gil <qgil@wikimedia.org> wrote:

> On Thursday, July 3, 2014, Isarra Yos <zhorishna@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > What can we, as volunteers, do when we believe staff have gone too far
> > (besides create drama on a mailing list)?
> >
>
> It depends on the area and the problem, but there are enough WMF employees
> with public exposure and community background to choose from. The
> Engineering Community team should be able to help technical volunteers
> having problems with WMF employees. The community liaisons (now Community
> Engagement team) are also good points of contact.
>
> Of course, each of us employees has a manager and a HR contact, and if the
> problem is exceptional they could be the ultimate points of contact within
> the WMF.
>
> Does this answer your question?
>
>
> --
> Quim Gil
> Engineering Community Manager @ Wikimedia Foundation
> http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/User:Qgil
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
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> <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] Comment on the content, not the contributor - with staff? [ In reply to ]
On 14/07/14 15:11, Quim Gil wrote:
> On Thursday, July 3, 2014, Isarra Yos <zhorishna@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> What can we, as volunteers, do when we believe staff have gone too far
>> (besides create drama on a mailing list)?
>>
> It depends on the area and the problem, but there are enough WMF employees
> with public exposure and community background to choose from. The
> Engineering Community team should be able to help technical volunteers
> having problems with WMF employees. The community liaisons (now Community
> Engagement team) are also good points of contact.
>
> Of course, each of us employees has a manager and a HR contact, and if the
> problem is exceptional they could be the ultimate points of contact within
> the WMF.
>
> Does this answer your question?

Aye, thank you. I think you and Pine covered it, or enough that I feel
like I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. I'm not exactly
convinced there'd be any point bothering at this stage, rather like with
gerrit where it's just sort of like dropping things into a dark
unknowable hole, but should something come up again I'll definitely try
what you said.

Also I like the lack of drama. Yay, lack of drama.

-I

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