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[Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off?
Hi folks,

Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
William Beutler [1]): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
organizations and affiliates.

I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff [2] (beyond
even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
any other movement org.

I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:

1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
within that organization.

2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
different directions -- at every level.

3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
them to do.

My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:

a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
(sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
because it makes organizational units more manageable and
understandable for those who work there.

b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.

c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
GLAM work.

Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.

More on these points below.

== Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==

A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).

MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
projects to list.

Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.

Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
create a proving ground for experimental technology.

Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
MW’s architecture.

== The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==

It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
achieving impact at unprecedented scale.

LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
worth quoting in full [1]:

----begin quote----
I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
nonprofits like ours.

As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
(called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
World, Brazil, and India).

The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
fundraise on our own).

Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.

So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.

The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
helping that mission.

Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
of the overall Wikimedia mission.

I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
WMF into independent organizations.
----end quote----

== A "Movement Association"? ==

A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.

When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
(through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
affiliates.

Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
another organization for failing to do so.

Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
"Founder’s Seat".

If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
otherwise).

This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
motivated to help grow it?

== Where to go from here? ==

There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
"development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
(WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
offices?

An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
for trial and error.

Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
involved in the process? And so on.

The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
-- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
organizations than what we have today.

Warmly,

Erik

== Notes ==

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-03-09/Op-ed

[2] https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Template:STAFF-COUNT

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

[4] http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks

[5] Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
(Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
I agree that these options should be explored. I'm wondering what the best
way would be to facilitate this conversation.

Perhaps, Erik, would you be willing to set up a page on Meta for discussion?

Also, I think it would be good to have an office hour, or more likely a
series of office hours over the next many months, to discuss this.

On the WMF side, I'm wondering how this would fit into their annual
planning. Their plan is supposed to be published on April 1. This
discussion will need resources from WMF's end in the form of staff time,
including Katherine's, as well as Board time. The required investment in
the short term will be modest, but cumulatively through the year it may be
significant, particularly if the discussions get momentum. So I'm wondering
how, at this point, it would be possible to take these discussions into
account in the WMF AP.

For the affiliates and possible new WMF spinoffs, I imagine that there may
be some requests for project grants to support both the discussions about
spinoffs as well as initial support for orgs when they leave, similar to
how Wiki Ed's departure worked. My guess is that Katy will want to have
this on her radar.

This series of operations, while complicated, may yield a more resilient
movement in the end, possibly with more combined funding, more
accountability and transparency, and more credibility.

Pine

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi folks,
>
> Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
> that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
> William Beutler [1]): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> organizations and affiliates.
>
> I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
> and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
> of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
> companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
> by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff [2] (beyond
> even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
> any other movement org.
>
> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>
> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> within that organization.
>
> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> different directions -- at every level.
>
> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> them to do.
>
> My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
>
> a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
> because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> understandable for those who work there.
>
> b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
>
> c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> GLAM work.
>
> Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
> gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.
>
> More on these points below.
>
> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>
> A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
> be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
> MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
> could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
> extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
>
> MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
> that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
> Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
> WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
> projects to list.
>
> Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
> Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
> large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
> option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
> MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.
>
> Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
> for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
> create a proving ground for experimental technology.
>
> Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
> mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
> like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
> MW’s architecture.
>
> == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==
>
> It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
> The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
> was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
> partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
> join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
> relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
> achieving impact at unprecedented scale.
>
> LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
> wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
> worth quoting in full [1]:
>
> ----begin quote----
> I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
> spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
> support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
> nonprofits like ours.
>
> As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
> who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
> (called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
> restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
> wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
> assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
> started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
> World, Brazil, and India).
>
> The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
> support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
> its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
> Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
> organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
> gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
> sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
> fundraise on our own).
>
> Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
> scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
> times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
> our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
> gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.
>
> So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
> one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
> between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
> one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
> Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.
>
> The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
> movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
> to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
> mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
> I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
> mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
> to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
> along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
> to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
> from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
> the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
> help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
> helping that mission.
>
> Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
> keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
> mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
> keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
> strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
> keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
> of the overall Wikimedia mission.
>
> I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
> WMF into independent organizations.
> ----end quote----
>
> == A "Movement Association"? ==
>
> A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
> evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
> keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
> there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.
>
> When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
> ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
> each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
> the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
> (through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
> affiliates.
>
> Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
> evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
> work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
> grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
> attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
> another organization for failing to do so.
>
> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
> no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
> advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
> filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
> "Founder’s Seat".
>
> If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
> shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
> allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
> membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
> allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
> otherwise).
>
> This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
> is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
> very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
> to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
> all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
> motivated to help grow it?
>
> == Where to go from here? ==
>
> There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> offices?
>
> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> for trial and error.
>
> Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> involved in the process? And so on.
>
> The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
> should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
> shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
> -- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
> organizations than what we have today.
>
> Warmly,
>
> Erik
>
> == Notes ==
>
> [1]
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-03-09/Op-ed
>
> [2] https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Template:STAFF-COUNT
>
> [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
>
> [4]
> http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks
>
> [5] Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
> easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
> (Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
2016-03-17 22:54 GMT-07:00 Pine W <wiki.pine@gmail.com>:
> I agree that these options should be explored. I'm wondering what the best
> way would be to facilitate this conversation.
>
> Perhaps, Erik, would you be willing to set up a page on Meta for discussion?

Hi Pine,

Thanks for the comments! I wanted to start here to get a sense if
people are supportive of the idea(s) in general. In my experience a
listserv is good for kicking things around a bit before getting too
emotionally invested. ;-) And this list has a good cross-set of folks
with different backgrounds including WMF and affiliates. If there's a
general sense that this is worth exploring further, then I'd be more
than happy to help organize pages on Meta, e.g. to think about
specific spin-offs like the MediaWiki Foundation (if there isn't
already an extant proposal for it).

> On the WMF side, I'm wondering how this would fit into their annual
> planning. Their plan is supposed to be published on April 1. This
> discussion will need resources from WMF's end in the form of staff time,
> including Katherine's, as well as Board time. The required investment in
> the short term will be modest, but cumulatively through the year it may be
> significant, particularly if the discussions get momentum. So I'm wondering
> how, at this point, it would be possible to take these discussions into
> account in the WMF AP.

Unless WMF plans to dramatically expand in the next fiscal (which I
doubt), I think this discussion can and needs to happen on its own
timeline. I expect that if WMF suggests to depart a bit from what's
written into a one-year plan, with good reasons, the institutions of
the movement will have the flexibility to accommodate that.

I also understand WMF folks are very busy with the plan right now, and
I don't think there's special urgency to this conversation, which is
one with lots of long term implications. I do hope folks have a chance
to weigh in, but if that happens over the course of few weeks/months
in different venues, I personally think that's fine.

> This series of operations, while complicated, may yield a more resilient
> movement in the end, possibly with more combined funding, more
> accountability and transparency, and more credibility.

Yes, I hope so. :) But let's take it slowly and poke at this from
different angles to see if it makes sense.

Warmly,

Erik

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hi Erik,

thanks for your post, I was thinking of bringing this up as I was part
of that very discussion in August / September 2011 when the Wikimedia
overall governance model was discussed.

The idea that cristalized back then and which I still find very
appealing was to split today's WMF into these bodies - I am making some
adjustments here, as bodies like FDC didn't exist back then:

* Wikimedia Tech:
runs the servers, does the development - gets funded from the global
funds pool (today that would be FDC)

* Wikimedia Fundraising:
does the fundraising and distributes the funds, has the FDC staff /
grant making team

* Wikimedia Foundation:
more like a US chapter, does the content and lobby work, holds the
trademarks

You could even argue to move out the trademarks etc. to another body
which does nothing more than keeping those secure and maybe being home
of the endowment.

Regards,


Manuel
--
Wikimedia CH - Verein zur Förderung Freien Wissens
www.wikimedia.ch

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
On 2016-03-18 07:56, Erik Moeller wrote:
> 2016-03-17 22:54 GMT-07:00 Pine W <wiki.pine@gmail.com>:
>> I agree that these options should be explored. I'm wondering what the
>> best
>> way would be to facilitate this conversation.
>>
>> Perhaps, Erik, would you be willing to set up a page on Meta for
>> discussion?
>
> Hi Pine,
>
> Thanks for the comments! I wanted to start here to get a sense if
> people are supportive of the idea(s) in general.

I am not sure about support, but this is a sensible idea to be discussed
in a format different from the mailing list. Thanks Erik for bringing
this up.

Cheers
Yaroslav

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hoi,
Organising our movement in the format of a federation will not necessarily
do what you describe. As you assume that money flows to the places where
money is spend, you will not have a federation. A federation is based on
equal terms and when money is what keeps everone in line it is not a
federation of equals.

When you carve our movement up in parts, it becomes impossible to impose
much of what needs to be imposed. New functionality in software is badly
needed in places, a discussion on quality does not happen because it
clashes with vested interests. The negative impact of the community on
innovation is real and when one community gains even more power because of
the proposed fragmentation, I doubt if we will ever have this conversation
and many others that do not happen.

In a federation, it becomes easier to know who is local. I know the Dutch
chapter, they know me and there is not the same fuss for getting a project
under way. No committees, just a good common understanding what it is that
is proposed and why is sufficient. It is what makes a federation agile. It
is for the professionals in the chapter (or the people who volunteer to do
this) to be involved in the gruelling aspects of this kind of headache.
<grin> translatewiki.net does not fit in any model and why should it?
</grin>

When you federate, you will have to do something about fund-raising and
fund dissemination. They are two sides to a coin. The problem is very much
that we are an internet community and many of the activities have a global
scope. I mention Wikimedia Germany and Wikidata, Wikimedia (Scandinavia
they work together) and mapping.. the list goes on. When such projects can
have a place in a federated model than good but the problems are rife. How
for instance do people in India pick up on Maps for instance and outgrow
what happens in Scandinavia?? Arguably this is a non-issue when we
collaborate but the organisation, funding is often not agile enough to cope.

This idea of federation very much needs a lot of "tire kicking". Even when
nothing comes of it, it helps us understand what it is we do and are. We
are a movement, not a foundation. The layers of the movement are easily
forgotten and they operate best when people have good working relations. I
do think that the notion of "150" has its point but given the scope of what
we do (it is not convenient to note more than 150 Wikipedias, more than 150
countries..) We have to be clever about this. It is what makes Wikimania so
powerful, it brings us all together and work on our mutual relations. After
all, you never know what relations you need when.
Thanks,
GerardM




On 18 March 2016 at 03:22, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi folks,
>
> Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
> that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
> William Beutler [1]): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> organizations and affiliates.
>
> I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
> and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
> of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
> companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
> by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff [2] (beyond
> even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
> any other movement org.
>
> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>
> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> within that organization.
>
> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> different directions -- at every level.
>
> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> them to do.
>
> My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
>
> a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
> because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> understandable for those who work there.
>
> b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
>
> c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> GLAM work.
>
> Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
> gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.
>
> More on these points below.
>
> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>
> A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
> be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
> MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
> could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
> extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
>
> MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
> that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
> Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
> WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
> projects to list.
>
> Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
> Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
> large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
> option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
> MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.
>
> Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
> for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
> create a proving ground for experimental technology.
>
> Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
> mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
> like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
> MW’s architecture.
>
> == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==
>
> It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
> The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
> was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
> partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
> join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
> relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
> achieving impact at unprecedented scale.
>
> LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
> wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
> worth quoting in full [1]:
>
> ----begin quote----
> I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
> spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
> support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
> nonprofits like ours.
>
> As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
> who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
> (called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
> restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
> wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
> assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
> started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
> World, Brazil, and India).
>
> The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
> support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
> its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
> Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
> organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
> gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
> sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
> fundraise on our own).
>
> Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
> scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
> times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
> our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
> gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.
>
> So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
> one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
> between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
> one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
> Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.
>
> The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
> movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
> to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
> mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
> I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
> mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
> to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
> along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
> to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
> from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
> the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
> help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
> helping that mission.
>
> Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
> keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
> mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
> keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
> strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
> keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
> of the overall Wikimedia mission.
>
> I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
> WMF into independent organizations.
> ----end quote----
>
> == A "Movement Association"? ==
>
> A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
> evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
> keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
> there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.
>
> When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
> ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
> each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
> the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
> (through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
> affiliates.
>
> Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
> evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
> work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
> grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
> attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
> another organization for failing to do so.
>
> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
> no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
> advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
> filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
> "Founder’s Seat".
>
> If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
> shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
> allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
> membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
> allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
> otherwise).
>
> This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
> is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
> very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
> to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
> all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
> motivated to help grow it?
>
> == Where to go from here? ==
>
> There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> offices?
>
> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> for trial and error.
>
> Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> involved in the process? And so on.
>
> The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
> should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
> shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
> -- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
> organizations than what we have today.
>
> Warmly,
>
> Erik
>
> == Notes ==
>
> [1]
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-03-09/Op-ed
>
> [2] https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Template:STAFF-COUNT
>
> [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
>
> [4]
> http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks
>
> [5] Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
> easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
> (Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.
>
> _______________________________________________
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hello Erik, hello Gerard, hello all,

while Erik raised a very important topic and I will go into some of the
aspects I agree with him later in this mail I want at first say that
Gerard also mentioned some very important points that I strongly agree.

Splitting WMF has merits but also has disadvantages. Disadvantages could
be, aside of what Gerard mentioned in his mail, duplicate or even
tripplize organizational structures and overheads, more effort to
coordinate, synchronize and more need for alignment. In most cases if
commercial corperates split into many subsidiaries the reason for that
is to create predetermined breaking points in anticipation of the
possibility to sell part of the business areas in the future. This is
not applicable for us.

That said, I agree with Erik that the current movement wide
organizational structure is highly centralized. If we take the example
of expenses as an indicator I scarcely see any organization (commercial
or non-profit) who call themselves a world-wide operating organization
with such a centralization grade. The developments after the Haifa board
meeting need reevaluation and eventually correction.

While in the past whenever in a chapter a crisis emerged the WMF may
talk about organizational inmaturity, I find it a show of maturity and I
see awefull reaction from the chapters stretching out helping hands. Yes
I think we should reconsider if our movement organizational structure
really reflect one of our values: decentralization. But maybe not an
"easy" split the WMF.

best wishes
Ting


Am 03/18/2016 um 12:43 PM schrieb Gerard Meijssen:
> Hoi,
> Organising our movement in the format of a federation will not necessarily
> do what you describe. As you assume that money flows to the places where
> money is spend, you will not have a federation. A federation is based on
> equal terms and when money is what keeps everone in line it is not a
> federation of equals.
>
> When you carve our movement up in parts, it becomes impossible to impose
> much of what needs to be imposed. New functionality in software is badly
> needed in places, a discussion on quality does not happen because it
> clashes with vested interests. The negative impact of the community on
> innovation is real and when one community gains even more power because of
> the proposed fragmentation, I doubt if we will ever have this conversation
> and many others that do not happen.
>
> In a federation, it becomes easier to know who is local. I know the Dutch
> chapter, they know me and there is not the same fuss for getting a project
> under way. No committees, just a good common understanding what it is that
> is proposed and why is sufficient. It is what makes a federation agile. It
> is for the professionals in the chapter (or the people who volunteer to do
> this) to be involved in the gruelling aspects of this kind of headache.
> <grin> translatewiki.net does not fit in any model and why should it?
> </grin>
>
> When you federate, you will have to do something about fund-raising and
> fund dissemination. They are two sides to a coin. The problem is very much
> that we are an internet community and many of the activities have a global
> scope. I mention Wikimedia Germany and Wikidata, Wikimedia (Scandinavia
> they work together) and mapping.. the list goes on. When such projects can
> have a place in a federated model than good but the problems are rife. How
> for instance do people in India pick up on Maps for instance and outgrow
> what happens in Scandinavia?? Arguably this is a non-issue when we
> collaborate but the organisation, funding is often not agile enough to cope.
>
> This idea of federation very much needs a lot of "tire kicking". Even when
> nothing comes of it, it helps us understand what it is we do and are. We
> are a movement, not a foundation. The layers of the movement are easily
> forgotten and they operate best when people have good working relations. I
> do think that the notion of "150" has its point but given the scope of what
> we do (it is not convenient to note more than 150 Wikipedias, more than 150
> countries..) We have to be clever about this. It is what makes Wikimania so
> powerful, it brings us all together and work on our mutual relations. After
> all, you never know what relations you need when.
> Thanks,
> GerardM
>
>
>
>
> On 18 March 2016 at 03:22, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> Hi folks,
>>
>> Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
>> that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
>> William Beutler [1]): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
>> organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
>> organizations and affiliates.
>>
>> I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
>> and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
>> of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
>> companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
>> by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff [2] (beyond
>> even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
>> any other movement org.
>>
>> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>>
>> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
>> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
>> within that organization.
>>
>> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
>> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
>> different directions -- at every level.
>>
>> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
>> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
>> them to do.
>>
>> My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
>> processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
>> true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
>> and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
>> like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
>>
>> a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
>> organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
>> (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
>> for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
>> offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
>> because it makes organizational units more manageable and
>> understandable for those who work there.
>>
>> b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
>> from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
>> spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
>>
>> c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
>> responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
>> that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
>> GLAM work.
>>
>> Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
>> gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.
>>
>> More on these points below.
>>
>> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>>
>> A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
>> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
>> be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
>> MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
>> could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
>> extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
>>
>> MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
>> that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
>> Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
>> WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
>> projects to list.
>>
>> Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
>> Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
>> large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
>> option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
>> MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.
>>
>> Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
>> for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
>> create a proving ground for experimental technology.
>>
>> Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
>> mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
>> like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
>> MW’s architecture.
>>
>> == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==
>>
>> It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
>> The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
>> was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
>> partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
>> join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
>> relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
>> achieving impact at unprecedented scale.
>>
>> LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
>> wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
>> worth quoting in full [1]:
>>
>> ----begin quote----
>> I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
>> spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
>> support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
>> nonprofits like ours.
>>
>> As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
>> who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
>> (called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
>> restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
>> wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
>> assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
>> started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
>> World, Brazil, and India).
>>
>> The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
>> support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
>> its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
>> Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
>> organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
>> gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
>> sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
>> fundraise on our own).
>>
>> Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
>> scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
>> times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
>> our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
>> gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.
>>
>> So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
>> one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
>> between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
>> one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
>> Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.
>>
>> The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
>> movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
>> to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
>> mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
>> I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
>> mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
>> to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
>> along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
>> to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
>> from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
>> the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
>> help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
>> helping that mission.
>>
>> Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
>> keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
>> mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
>> keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
>> strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
>> keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
>> of the overall Wikimedia mission.
>>
>> I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
>> WMF into independent organizations.
>> ----end quote----
>>
>> == A "Movement Association"? ==
>>
>> A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
>> evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
>> keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
>> there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.
>>
>> When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
>> ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
>> each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
>> the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
>> (through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
>> affiliates.
>>
>> Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
>> evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
>> work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
>> grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
>> attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
>> another organization for failing to do so.
>>
>> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
>> no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
>> advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
>> filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
>> "Founder’s Seat".
>>
>> If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
>> shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
>> allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
>> membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
>> allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
>> otherwise).
>>
>> This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
>> is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
>> very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
>> to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
>> all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
>> motivated to help grow it?
>>
>> == Where to go from here? ==
>>
>> There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
>> fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
>> transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
>> "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
>> (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
>> those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
>> offices?
>>
>> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
>> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
>> for trial and error.
>>
>> Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
>> to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
>> publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
>> idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
>> of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
>> involved in the process? And so on.
>>
>> The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
>> should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
>> shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
>> -- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
>> organizations than what we have today.
>>
>> Warmly,
>>
>> Erik
>>
>> == Notes ==
>>
>> [1]
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-03-09/Op-ed
>>
>> [2] https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Template:STAFF-COUNT
>>
>> [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
>>
>> [4]
>> http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks
>>
>> [5] Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
>> easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
>> (Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
>> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
>> New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
>> <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l, <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>


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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hello Erik,

I don't disagree with the premise of your argument that an alternative
structure of the wikimedia movement would let some parts of the wikimedia
movement grow stronger and more effective in delivering a focused impact.

There is no doubt that North America could be self sustaining (people and
resources) with loads of thematic organizations, both affiliates and
independent. The largest European Chapters would do fine.

The question is whether a Federation would actually strengthen the
diversity of the wikimedia movement or would it weaken the global mission?

The important element is a body of people in the wikimedia movement who
strongly embrace the diversity of the movement and make it the priority.

Currently there is weak support in the wikimedia movement for global
alliances. But the ones that have happened have given the wikimedia
movement a sense of unity. Like Wiki Loves Monuments and Art+Feminism.

Right now the central hub of the global movement is WMF. Despite other
recent problems. The WMF is doing a great job of regularly communicating
about the world wide movement.

There needs to be a successful transfer of the global mission to another
body/bodies or there is the risk that local growth will be even more uneven
than today.

Additionally, the core sense of a movement could be lost unless there is a
strong shared vision. Volunteers and donors contribute to a greater
movement because of the its mission.

So,a priority of a Federation would be to foster a strong shared mission.

Sydney





Sydney Poore
User:FloNight
Wikipedian in Residence
at Cochrane Collaboration

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 10:22 PM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi folks,
>
> Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
> that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
> William Beutler [1]): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> organizations and affiliates.
>
> I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
> and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
> of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
> companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
> by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff [2] (beyond
> even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
> any other movement org.
>
> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>
> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> within that organization.
>
> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> different directions -- at every level.
>
> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> them to do.
>
> My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
>
> a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
> because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> understandable for those who work there.
>
> b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
>
> c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> GLAM work.
>
> Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
> gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.
>
> More on these points below.
>
> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>
> A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
> be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
> MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
> could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
> extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
>
> MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
> that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
> Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
> WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
> projects to list.
>
> Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
> Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
> large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
> option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
> MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.
>
> Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
> for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
> create a proving ground for experimental technology.
>
> Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
> mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
> like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
> MW’s architecture.
>
> == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==
>
> It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
> The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
> was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
> partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
> join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
> relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
> achieving impact at unprecedented scale.
>
> LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
> wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
> worth quoting in full [1]:
>
> ----begin quote----
> I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
> spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
> support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
> nonprofits like ours.
>
> As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
> who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
> (called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
> restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
> wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
> assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
> started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
> World, Brazil, and India).
>
> The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
> support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
> its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
> Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
> organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
> gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
> sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
> fundraise on our own).
>
> Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
> scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
> times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
> our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
> gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.
>
> So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
> one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
> between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
> one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
> Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.
>
> The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
> movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
> to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
> mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
> I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
> mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
> to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
> along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
> to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
> from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
> the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
> help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
> helping that mission.
>
> Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
> keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
> mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
> keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
> strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
> keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
> of the overall Wikimedia mission.
>
> I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
> WMF into independent organizations.
> ----end quote----
>
> == A "Movement Association"? ==
>
> A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
> evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
> keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
> there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.
>
> When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
> ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
> each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
> the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
> (through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
> affiliates.
>
> Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
> evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
> work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
> grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
> attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
> another organization for failing to do so.
>
> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
> no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
> advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
> filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
> "Founder’s Seat".
>
> If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
> shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
> allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
> membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
> allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
> otherwise).
>
> This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
> is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
> very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
> to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
> all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
> motivated to help grow it?
>
> == Where to go from here? ==
>
> There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> offices?
>
> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> for trial and error.
>
> Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> involved in the process? And so on.
>
> The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
> should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
> shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
> -- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
> organizations than what we have today.
>
> Warmly,
>
> Erik
>
> == Notes ==
>
> [1]
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-03-09/Op-ed
>
> [2] https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Template:STAFF-COUNT
>
> [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
>
> [4]
> http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks
>
> [5] Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
> easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
> (Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>
_______________________________________________
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New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l, <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>
Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hi Erik,

Those are great ideas, and I'm think I can support most of them.

MediaWiki is indeed something we need to invest on much more. Or even
re-built it from scratch. It's the base to all our work and the future or
our projects. The idea of having an organization that this is 100% of his
mission makes sense. Also the idea of hosting MW for others - see WordPress
for exmaple. Even the WMF, a big organization with hundreds of developers
and tech guys pays to WP in order to host is own blog.

The Education Foundation is also a good example - I spoke a lot with the
WMF's education team about the great EDUFund's dashboard and how we can use
it around the world, not only in the US. It is a powerful tool that the WMF
is not even close or plans to offer to the education teams around the world.
While the WMF is also not planning to develop one - why not to support the
EDUFund or another chapter in order to make it international?
But why we need to go far with the ideas - WikiData is probably the
greatest example. But WMDE is not the only one organization that can do
things like that.

So yes, we most re-think how we de-centralize some of the
foundation\movement work.


Itzik



*Regards,Itzik Edri*
Chairperson, Wikimedia Israel
+972-(0)-54-5878078 | http://www.wikimedia.org.il
Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the
sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment!


On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 4:22 AM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi folks,
>
> Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
> that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
> William Beutler [1]): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> organizations and affiliates.
>
> I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
> and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
> of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
> companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
> by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff [2] (beyond
> even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
> any other movement org.
>
> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>
> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> within that organization.
>
> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> different directions -- at every level.
>
> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> them to do.
>
> My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
>
> a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
> because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> understandable for those who work there.
>
> b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
>
> c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> GLAM work.
>
> Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
> gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.
>
> More on these points below.
>
> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>
> A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
> be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
> MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
> could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
> extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
>
> MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
> that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
> Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
> WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
> projects to list.
>
> Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
> Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
> large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
> option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
> MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.
>
> Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
> for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
> create a proving ground for experimental technology.
>
> Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
> mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
> like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
> MW’s architecture.
>
> == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==
>
> It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
> The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
> was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
> partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
> join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
> relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
> achieving impact at unprecedented scale.
>
> LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
> wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
> worth quoting in full [1]:
>
> ----begin quote----
> I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
> spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
> support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
> nonprofits like ours.
>
> As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
> who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
> (called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
> restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
> wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
> assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
> started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
> World, Brazil, and India).
>
> The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
> support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
> its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
> Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
> organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
> gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
> sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
> fundraise on our own).
>
> Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
> scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
> times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
> our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
> gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.
>
> So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
> one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
> between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
> one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
> Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.
>
> The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
> movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
> to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
> mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
> I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
> mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
> to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
> along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
> to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
> from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
> the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
> help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
> helping that mission.
>
> Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
> keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
> mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
> keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
> strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
> keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
> of the overall Wikimedia mission.
>
> I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
> WMF into independent organizations.
> ----end quote----
>
> == A "Movement Association"? ==
>
> A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
> evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
> keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
> there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.
>
> When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
> ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
> each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
> the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
> (through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
> affiliates.
>
> Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
> evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
> work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
> grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
> attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
> another organization for failing to do so.
>
> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
> no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
> advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
> filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
> "Founder’s Seat".
>
> If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
> shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
> allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
> membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
> allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
> otherwise).
>
> This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
> is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
> very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
> to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
> all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
> motivated to help grow it?
>
> == Where to go from here? ==
>
> There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> offices?
>
> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> for trial and error.
>
> Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> involved in the process? And so on.
>
> The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
> should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
> shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
> -- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
> organizations than what we have today.
>
> Warmly,
>
> Erik
>
> == Notes ==
>
> [1]
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-03-09/Op-ed
>
> [2] https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Template:STAFF-COUNT
>
> [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
>
> [4]
> http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks
>
> [5] Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
> easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
> (Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hi Itzik - a question for you

The Education Foundation is also a good example - I spoke a lot with the
> WMF's education team about the great EDUFund's dashboard and how we can use
> it around the world, not only in the US. It is a powerful tool that the WMF
> is not even close or plans to offer to the education teams around the
> world.
> While the WMF is also not planning to develop one - why not to support the
> EDUFund or another chapter in order to make it international?
>

What is EDUFund Dashboard? Are you referring to the WikiFoundation Dashboard
<https://dashboard.wikiedu.org/>?

Thanks,
Edward
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
*WikiEd Foundation Dashboard

On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 10:32 AM, Edward Galvez <egalvez@wikimedia.org>
wrote:

>
> Hi Itzik - a question for you
>
> The Education Foundation is also a good example - I spoke a lot with the
>> WMF's education team about the great EDUFund's dashboard and how we can
>> use
>> it around the world, not only in the US. It is a powerful tool that the
>> WMF
>> is not even close or plans to offer to the education teams around the
>> world.
>> While the WMF is also not planning to develop one - why not to support the
>> EDUFund or another chapter in order to make it international?
>>
>
> What is EDUFund Dashboard? Are you referring to the WikiFoundation
> Dashboard <https://dashboard.wikiedu.org/>?
>
> Thanks,
> Edward
>
>


--
Edward Galvez
Survey Specialist
Learning & Evaluation
Wikimedia Foundation
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Yes Edward, I referred to the WikiEd foundation dashboard. I may gave them
another nickname by mistake;)



*Regards,Itzik Edri*
Chairperson, Wikimedia Israel
+972-(0)-54-5878078 | http://www.wikimedia.org.il
Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the
sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment!


On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 7:32 PM, Edward Galvez <egalvez@wikimedia.org>
wrote:

> Hi Itzik - a question for you
>
> The Education Foundation is also a good example - I spoke a lot with the
> > WMF's education team about the great EDUFund's dashboard and how we can
> use
> > it around the world, not only in the US. It is a powerful tool that the
> WMF
> > is not even close or plans to offer to the education teams around the
> > world.
> > While the WMF is also not planning to develop one - why not to support
> the
> > EDUFund or another chapter in order to make it international?
> >
>
> What is EDUFund Dashboard? Are you referring to the WikiFoundation
> Dashboard
> <https://dashboard.wikiedu.org/>?
>
> Thanks,
> Edward
> _______________________________________________
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 10:42 AM, Itzik - Wikimedia Israel <
itzik@wikimedia.org.il> wrote:

> Yes Edward, I referred to the WikiEd foundation dashboard. I may gave them
> another nickname by mistake;)
>

Well then - It's a good time to share that our team (Program Capacity &
Learning), with the support of developers in other departments, has just
built the *alpha* version of the Program and Events Dashboard[1]. "Alpha",
from my understanding, means it is still in development. I can let Amanda
share more about the project and where it is at. (You can find the project
in Phabricator as well)

But my point here is that we are working to recognize community needs and
adapting. I do have to admit that if it were not for the WikiEd
foundation's work, I wonder if the Program and Events Dashboard would have
been created at all. However, the added benefit that the WMF brings to the
Program and Events Dashboard is that its for ALL programs, globally - not
just the Education Program, and not just U.S. and Canada. I would have to
wonder if spun off organizations would be able to ensure the work they
create serve the broad global audiences (*which is already a challenge for
our 300 staff!*)

It is difficult to manage both the technology and governance sides of and
organization like the WMF, but part of me really hopes that this is what
can help us succeed and excel. It's a symbiotic relationship. Technology
works with and for people; they are difficult to separate; one doesn't work
well without the other, especially if trying to hold the technology that is
created to the values and purpose the movement and mission.


[1] *Programs and Events Dashboard alpha
<https://dashboard-testing.wikiedu.org/> built and tested! Alpha works on
any wiki project and language. Now easier to use for edit-a-thons,
workshops, and education programs. UX/UI and features still to be added to
core. *

*https://wikiedu-dashboard-staging.wmflabs.org
<https://wikiedu-dashboard-staging.wmflabs.org>*


>
>
>
> *Regards,Itzik Edri*
> Chairperson, Wikimedia Israel
> +972-(0)-54-5878078 | http://www.wikimedia.org.il
> Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the
> sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment!
>
>
> On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 7:32 PM, Edward Galvez <egalvez@wikimedia.org>
> wrote:
>
> > Hi Itzik - a question for you
> >
> > The Education Foundation is also a good example - I spoke a lot with the
> > > WMF's education team about the great EDUFund's dashboard and how we can
> > use
> > > it around the world, not only in the US. It is a powerful tool that the
> > WMF
> > > is not even close or plans to offer to the education teams around the
> > > world.
> > > While the WMF is also not planning to develop one - why not to support
> > the
> > > EDUFund or another chapter in order to make it international?
> > >
> >
> > What is EDUFund Dashboard? Are you referring to the WikiFoundation
> > Dashboard
> > <https://dashboard.wikiedu.org/>?
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Edward
> > _______________________________________________
> > Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> > https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> > New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> > <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>
> >
> _______________________________________________
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>



--
Edward Galvez
Survey Specialist
Learning & Evaluation
Wikimedia Foundation
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
2016-03-18 9:01 GMT-07:00 Sydney Poore <sydney.poore@gmail.com>:

Hi Sydney!

> Right now the central hub of the global movement is WMF. Despite other
> recent problems. The WMF is doing a great job of regularly communicating
> about the world wide movement.
>
> There needs to be a successful transfer of the global mission to another
> body/bodies or there is the risk that local growth will be even more uneven
> than today.

Yes, I agree with that, and I think it's generally what characterizes
successful federate models. A "Wikimedia Movement Association" with
global membership could address this. Let's say as a hypothetical that
grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities ultimately become part of
such a WMA's scope. That would naturally give it a lot of
responsibility for sharing practices, bringing attention to things
that work, and helping to organize postmortems or governance reviews
where appropriate.

Not being itself responsible for a large body of programs, and being
accountable to its members, it could be in a better position to foster
a global sense of belonging and accountability. I suspect a lot of us
would become dues-paying members of such an organization, and proudly
so.

To the extent that it would do programmatic work, like organizing
conferences or developing tools for evaluation, it would likely do so
by contracting that work out to affiliates within the movement, or
externally if necessary. That would enable it to remain lean,
staffing-wise. And incidentally, it could enable organizations like
WMDE to bid for contracts alongside WMF, yielding the benefits of
light competition and greater geographic diversity.

What would a WMA _not_ do? It would not host servers, or deal with
trust and safety issues on the websites, or respond to DMCA notices,
or develop MediaWiki improvements. It _might_ have a stewardship role
for movement resources, like the movement blog and potentially even
the brand assets, as an ultimate safety valve.

In short, a movement association would act as a direct proxy for the
movement, maintaining a network of clearly scoped short term and long
term relationships to advance the Wikimedia mission. It would not
replace the WMF, but it would give it a more clearly defined scope of
responsibilities and a more equal footing within the movement.

Erik

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hi all,

I'd like to add some thoughts to the discussion about the potential pros
and cons of spinning parts of the Wikimedia Foundation off. I’m writing
this in my personal capacity and this email might not represent the views
of the Wiki Education Foundation.

This is a comparably long note; the upshot is that in my opinion there are
more pros than cons.

== PRO ==

* Distributed risk: If one part of the new ecosystem fails, the rest should
still be healthy enough to survive. Today, if the WMF implodes, everybody
else will be affected in a big way. If we manage to successfully create a
number of separate organizations of what is today WMF, the risk will be
spread. Some parts will still be vital for the survival of others, though.
So, that has to be taken into account during the process of spinning off.

* Specialization of EDs: People who are experts in their field tend to
produce better results. During the last ED search, WMF struggled with
finding a “unicorn”. In order to run the WMF, you’ll have to be able to
deal with a high level of complexity, understand the community, be willing
to deal with public criticism, understand how to build an effective
engineering organization, etc. Splitting WMF into different organizations
would make subsequent ED searches easier as their expertise won’t have to
be as broad as under the current conditions.

* Better focus: Organizations with a narrower focus are likely to do
better. Wiki Ed is only one example. I’ll leave it with that because LiAnna
has explained this point already nicely.

* Shorter and more efficient decision making processes: The larger an
organization, the more it tends having more levels of hierarchy. This
affects decision making – smaller organizations can react more quickly and
more efficiently to changing conditions.

* Feeling of ownership leads to higher job satisfaction: This one is
closely related to my last point: people in a smaller organization tend to
feel a much higher level of ownership over the outcomes of their work. As a
result, they’re more motivated (which, in most cases, will lead to better
results).

* Stopping things that don’t work: Larger organizations tend to continue
projects although the outcomes of those projects are questionable. They can
simply afford it. Spinning off parts of the WMF would require the spin-offs
to justify their existence every single day. That seems to put a lot of
pressure on these spin-offs. However, the result would actually be good: if
an organization doesn’t continually deliver value to the ecosystem as a
whole, it will disappear. That’s better than a continued investment of
resources into projects that everybody knows don’t have the impact that
people expected them to have.

* More potential for innovation: Independent organizations have more
freedom to look at things from a fresh and different angle. While I was
still with WMF, everything needed to be done in MediaWiki. From the
perspective of the WMF that made sense. However, for what Wiki Ed needs to
accomplish, we believed that building our own software outside of MediaWiki
(but communicating with Wikipedia’s platform through OAuth) would be
better. Today, WMF is working on adapting Wiki Ed’s software to the needs
of a global community (see Edward’s email).

* Positive effects of competition: In a world, where organizations are more
independent, they won’t always choose a service provider within the
Wikimedia ecosystem. Instead they might decide to work with outside
contractors who are able to deliver better results in less time. As an
example, Wiki Ed worked with an outside contractor based in Seattle to
develop its dashboard. We could have partnered with WMF, but the project
might not have received the same level of attention. We’re happy with the
results, and now there’s one more company in the world that has a growing
understanding of Wikimedia’s requirements.

* Geographic diversity: if we decided to spin-off parts of WMF, we'd have
the opportunity to think about where these parts should be located. Given
the extremely high cost of living in the Bay Area and meager opportunities
for WMF to recruit people locally (for the many obvious reasons; e.g.
competing with Facebook and Google for talent is hard), some of the spun
off parts might be located in other regions of the world. This would make
the Wikimedia ecosystem more diverse than it is now and will most likely
reduce costs.

== CON ==

* Coordination gets more difficult: With parts of the WMF getting spun off,
coordination between these parts will be more vital than ever. The risk is
that one organization doesn’t know what another organization is planning to
do / started executing / learned along the way. A solid process of
communicating things can solve this. However, this requires the willingness
of everybody to communicate early and often. And, in fairness, this is
already an existing problem in need of better solutions, given the large
number of chapters and affiliates WMF already has (and even within WMF
itself).

* Need for more EDs with unique profiles: With a greater number of
independent organizations in our ecosystem comes the need for more leaders
who are able to run a nonprofit in the Wikimedia world. We’ve already seen
that this isn’t easy to achieve. Nonprofits don’t pay as well as others,
EDs need to be comfortable with being yelled at on public lists, people
really need to understand our world. How would we be able to mitigate this?
(1) With more geographic diversity comes a larger pool of candidates
(actually, not everybody on this planet believes that it’s desirable to
live in San Francisco); (2) We should invest more in developing leadership
from within. WMF has a long track record of recruiting people “from
outside” for key positions. I believe we can generally do better in this
area.

* More resources being spent on administrative stuff: If every new
organization creates its own finance / HR / communications department, more
resources in total will be spent on support work. That can either be
mitigated by creating specialized units which offer administrative/support
services to organizations within the ecosystem (at some point Garfield and
I discussed whether WMF should offer such services for Wiki Ed and/or for
affiliates) or by implementing these functions in a very lean way (that’s
actually the path Wiki Ed chose with e.g. having payroll done by an outside
contractor instead of doing it in-house).

* Smaller organizations might be weaker when it comes to partnerships: If
you’re the Wikimedia Foundation and you’d like to partner with, let’s say,
some Academy of Sciences, people at that institution will immediately
listen to you. Because you run one of the biggest websites on this planet.
If you’re a smaller organization, it’s more difficult to get someone else’s
attention. On the other hand, if we develop leadership from within, the
next generation of EDs may have existing connections to relevant partners
(as it was the case with Wiki Ed).

Now, do I believe splitting off parts of WMF and creating a “federation” of
organizations that deserves that name is better? Yes, I do. However, I
agree with Erik that this needs to be a “gradual process with lots of
opportunity to course-correct”. We have to let go of the idea that we’re
going to end up with an “ideal” organizational structure. We’ll have to
experiment and learn along the way. We might even have to reverse some of
our decisions in the future (which is ok). This all will take time, a good
amount of thinking, and everybody’s willingness to assume good faith. But
the recent developments at the Wikimedia Foundation have – at least in my
opinion – shown that thinking more thoroughly about the broader shapes of
our organizational structures is worth a shot.

Best,

Frank


P.S.
I'm using this email address only for mailing lists. Personal emails to
this account will be lost.


On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi folks,
>
> Now that the dust has settled a bit, I would like to expand on an idea
> that’s been touched on a few times (most recently, in an editorial by
> William Beutler [1]): the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> organizations and affiliates.
>
> I was very much part of building the current WMF in terms of both size
> and structure, but I also think recent events underscore the fragility
> of the current model. WMF is still tiny compared with other tech
> companies that operate popular websites, but it’s a vast organization
> by Wikimedia movement standards. With nearly 300 staff [2] (beyond
> even our ambitious 2015 strategic plan staffing numbers), it dwarfs
> any other movement org.
>
> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>
> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> within that organization.
>
> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> different directions -- at every level.
>
> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> them to do.
>
> My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
>
> a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
> because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> understandable for those who work there.
>
> b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
>
> c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> GLAM work.
>
> Note that I'm not proposing a quick splintering, but rather a slow and
> gradual process with lots of opportunity to course-correct.
>
> More on these points below.
>
> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>
> A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
> be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
> MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
> could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
> extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
>
> MediaWiki is used today by numerous nonprofit and educational projects
> that are aligned even with a narrow view on Wikimedia’s mission.
> Examples include Appropedia, OpenWetWare, WikiEducator, W3C’s
> WebPlatform, Hesperian Health Guides, and too many notable open source
> projects to list.
>
> Among commercial users, it has lost much ground to other software like
> Confluence, but it remains, in my view, the most viable platform for
> large, open, collaborative communities. Yet it’s a poorly supported
> option: many of the above wikis are outdated, and maintaining a
> MediaWiki install is generally more work than it needs to be.
>
> Building a healthy third party ecosystem will have obvious benefits
> for the world, and for existing Wikimedia work as well. It may also
> create a proving ground for experimental technology.
>
> Which work that WMF is currently doing would be part of an MWF’s
> mandate? I don’t know; I could imagine that it could include aspects
> like Vagrant, or even shared responsibility for MediaWiki core and
> MW’s architecture.
>
> == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==
>
> It’s worth noting that this spin-off model has been tried once before.
> The Wiki Education Foundation is an example of an organization that
> was created by volunteers doing work in this programmatic space in
> partnership with staff of the Education Program at WMF, who left to
> join the new org. It is now financially independent, building its own
> relationships with funders that WMF has never worked with, and
> achieving impact at unprecedented scale.
>
> LiAnna Davis, who is today the Director of Program Support at Wiki Ed,
> wrote a detailed response to William’s blog post, which I think is
> worth quoting in full [1]:
>
> ----begin quote----
> I worked for the WMF for nearly four years and have worked for the
> spun-off Wiki Education Foundation for the last two, and I strongly
> support the idea of spinning off more parts of WMF into independent
> nonprofits like ours.
>
> As you noted, Wiki Ed is a test case for your proposal, so for readers
> who don’t know our history: We started in 2010 as a pilot program
> (called the Public Policy Initiative) within WMF, funded by a
> restricted grant, to support university professors in the U.S. who
> wanted to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class
> assignment. The pilot showed the idea was successful, and so we
> started piloting it in countries as part of the Catalyst project (Arab
> World, Brazil, and India).
>
> The U.S. program had lingered at WMF without any real organizational
> support because the U.S. wasn’t a target region. WMF leadership saw
> its potential, however, and formed a volunteer Working Group of
> Wikipedians and academics who created the structure of the
> organization that became the Wiki Education Foundation in 2013. WMF
> gave us a small start-up grant to get us going, and provided fiscal
> sponsorship for us until our 501(c)3 status came through (and we could
> fundraise on our own).
>
> Today, we’re an independent organization, not funded by WMF, and we’ve
> scaled the impact of our programs incredibly. We’re supporting three
> times as many students, we’ve developed our own technology to support
> our programmatic work, and our students are busy addressing content
> gaps in academic areas on Wikipedia.
>
> So why are we so successful? There are a lot of factors, but there’s
> one I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a clear difference
> between when we were at WMF and our current work at Wiki Ed. We have
> one, very clear mission: We create mutually beneficial ties between
> Wikipedia and academia in the U.S. and Canada.
>
> The WMF mission is inspiring — but it’s really broad, just like our
> movement is. When we were doing this same project at WMF, I’d struggle
> to just focus on the Education Program and ignore the rest of the
> mission. Whenever I interacted with people outside the foundation (and
> I did so a lot), people would come to me with ideas to further WMF’s
> mission that weren’t in my program’s boundaries. I’d spend time trying
> to help, because I believed in the mission and wanted to help it
> along. I’m not the only one: I would see this idealism and commitment
> to the mission repeatedly among my colleagues at WMF. I still see it
> from the current WMF staff. They’re all there because they believe in
> the mission. They want to help, and it’s really hard to not try to
> help with everything, because you can see so many different facets of
> helping that mission.
>
> Essentially, with a mission as broad as WMF’s, it’s hard for staff to
> keep a narrow focus. *Everything* can seem mission-related. When your
> mission is as narrow as Wiki Ed’s, it’s easier to find your focus and
> keep your attention on developing one area well. This is a key
> strength of independent organizations — independent, narrower missions
> keep staff focused and more productive on achieving their small part
> of the overall Wikimedia mission.
>
> I strongly support more discussion about spinning off other parts of
> WMF into independent organizations.
> ----end quote----
>
> == A "Movement Association"? ==
>
> A more radical suggestion would be to spin off work on grantmaking and
> evaluation. This isn’t trivial -- there are legitimate arguments to
> keep this work close to other community-facing work WMF is doing. But
> there are undeniable benefits in greater separation.
>
> When it comes to large annual plan grants, much has been done to
> ensure that the FDC can operate as an independent body and evaluate
> each plan on its merits. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with
> the WMF, which has a much better understanding of its own programs
> (through the direct relationship with its ED) than of those of
> affiliates.
>
> Similarly, while WMF has done a fair bit to provide self-service
> evaluation tools to the movement at large, it’s not clear that its
> work is always held to the same standard as everyone else’s. A WMF
> grantee must very publicly report results and success metrics; WMF
> attempts to do so as a matter of course, but it is not accountable to
> another organization for failing to do so.
>
> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
> no clear accountability to the movement. The Board elections are
> advisory in nature. There is no membership. Non-elected seats are
> filled by the Board with little visibility. There is a semi-permanent
> "Founder’s Seat".
>
> If grantmaking and evaluation responsibilities were increasingly
> shifted to a "Wikimedia Movement Association", this could gradually
> allow for true accountability to the movement in the form of
> membership and democratic, movement-wide decisions to make funding
> allocations on the basis of evaluation reports (through committees or
> otherwise).
>
> This may also make the endowment a more compelling proposition than it
> is today. Yes, keeping Wikimedia’s sites operational indefinitely is a
> very worthwhile goal. But what if the endowment ultimately also helped
> to support global, federated work towards Wikimedia’s vision? What if
> all affiliates -- indeed the whole movement -- were excited and
> motivated to help grow it?
>
> == Where to go from here? ==
>
> There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> offices?
>
> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> for trial and error.
>
> Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> involved in the process? And so on.
>
> The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
> should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
> shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
> -- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
> organizations than what we have today.
>
> Warmly,
>
> Erik
>
> == Notes ==
>
> [1]
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-03-09/Op-ed
>
> [2] https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Template:STAFF-COUNT
>
> [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
>
> [4]
> http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/the-dunbar-number-from-the-guru-of-social-networks
>
> [5] Our branding is confusing beyond repair. I don't think there's an
> easy fix here, and we should just embrace our nutty nomenclature
> (Wikimedia/MediaWiki/Wikipedia) at this point.
>
> _______________________________________________
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
I think these are interesting discussions. My first feedback -

Let's get as granular as possible about describing activities undertaken now. Leave out the "by who" and org structure for the moment.

For example, I can even see five tech organization activities. Internal IT, website ops, back end dev, UI dev, and tools.

For every activity we need to understand who the customer(s) are. Is that "the reader", "free information concept globally", "the editor", "the foundation organization(s)", "researchers", "the board", "large benefactors/donors", "global movement", etc. This is not complete, please add to it.

Customer focus is where we understand all the roles and customers, and align organizationally so that orgs or sub orgs have as good a focus on a smaller customer set and roles set as possible.


George William Herbert
Sent from my iPhone

> On Mar 17, 2016, at 11:56 PM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> 2016-03-17 22:54 GMT-07:00 Pine W <wiki.pine@gmail.com>:
>> I agree that these options should be explored. I'm wondering what the best
>> way would be to facilitate this conversation.
>>
>> Perhaps, Erik, would you be willing to set up a page on Meta for discussion?
>
> Hi Pine,
>
> Thanks for the comments! I wanted to start here to get a sense if
> people are supportive of the idea(s) in general. In my experience a
> listserv is good for kicking things around a bit before getting too
> emotionally invested. ;-) And this list has a good cross-set of folks
> with different backgrounds including WMF and affiliates. If there's a
> general sense that this is worth exploring further, then I'd be more
> than happy to help organize pages on Meta, e.g. to think about
> specific spin-offs like the MediaWiki Foundation (if there isn't
> already an extant proposal for it).
>
>> On the WMF side, I'm wondering how this would fit into their annual
>> planning. Their plan is supposed to be published on April 1. This
>> discussion will need resources from WMF's end in the form of staff time,
>> including Katherine's, as well as Board time. The required investment in
>> the short term will be modest, but cumulatively through the year it may be
>> significant, particularly if the discussions get momentum. So I'm wondering
>> how, at this point, it would be possible to take these discussions into
>> account in the WMF AP.
>
> Unless WMF plans to dramatically expand in the next fiscal (which I
> doubt), I think this discussion can and needs to happen on its own
> timeline. I expect that if WMF suggests to depart a bit from what's
> written into a one-year plan, with good reasons, the institutions of
> the movement will have the flexibility to accommodate that.
>
> I also understand WMF folks are very busy with the plan right now, and
> I don't think there's special urgency to this conversation, which is
> one with lots of long term implications. I do hope folks have a chance
> to weigh in, but if that happens over the course of few weeks/months
> in different venues, I personally think that's fine.
>
>> This series of operations, while complicated, may yield a more resilient
>> movement in the end, possibly with more combined funding, more
>> accountability and transparency, and more credibility.
>
> Yes, I hope so. :) But let's take it slowly and poke at this from
> different angles to see if it makes sense.
>
> Warmly,
>
> Erik
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 3:22 AM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:
<cut>
> the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> organizations and affiliates.
<cut>
> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>
> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> within that organization.
>
> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> different directions -- at every level.
>
> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> them to do.
>
> My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
>
> a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
> because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> understandable for those who work there.
>
> b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
>
> c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> GLAM work.
<cut>
> == Where to go from here? ==
>
> There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> offices?
>
> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> for trial and error.
>
> Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> involved in the process? And so on.

that all sounds quite reasonable. also what erik writes about
organisations is to be expected. at the end it all boils down to
money. spending all money available and wanting more money never has
been a problem. if there is dissent it was always about who has the
say what the money is spent on, and where it is spent. i am convinced
if we get the responsibilities right, the dissent will stop, and the
output will be better.

sizing organizations and distributing responsibilities on a global
scale seems to be a very difficult task, close to the soviet empire's
task to plan its next 5 years. one could argue to resolve it via
setting a financial targets, just as multinational companies do. two
simple long term key performance indicators might already do the trick
for the wikimedia movement: first "maximum 50% of the money is spent
on persons whose life depend financially on the movement", which is
employees, or long term contracting persons, organizations,
foundations, enterprises. and second, "50% of the money stays in the
country where it is donated." the rest will auto-organize, and
auto-change. finding intelligent spending for the rest of the 50%
should not be a too difficult task, there is sufficient universities
and students around the world who would be happy to compete for this
money. the success, means and outcome will change over time, in areas
and ways nobody can predict today. the 50% are a made up number, a
little bit influenced by public spending of 40% - 50% in many
industrialized countries nowadays. it seems people accept such a
ratio.

whatever the target is, getting acceptance is not simple. currently
the WMF at the same time controls the domain and with it money inflow.
at the same time WMF spends 90% of the total money, preferably to its
own employees. "growth" is such a natural target, no matter in what
area that WMF tries to even increase this percentage. from a WMF
perspective it is not bad at all. unfortunately it causes eternal
struggle, and damages the movements progress. without it wants to do
so, the WMF violates its custodian obligations. to me the most natural
split therefor seems to separate "domain ownership" (ownership, some
legal protection, set key performance indicators, maybe
operations/infrastructure, maybe fundraising), and the rest. leave all
processes, budgets, affiliates untouched for a couple of years.

to come back to eriks first step, decide if a split makes sense: yes,
i am for it. the challenge i personally hope is addressed: get
continuously new persons, new ideas, new content, new software
implementations into the movement, from all over the world. WMF will
never win the competition for talent and ideas in silicon valley only
against the likes of facebook or baby facebooks. so we need to go
where others are not, and have a hard time to go. people will follow
money, and ideals.

best,
rupert

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Erik, thank you for framing this discussion, I think your "Resilience,
Focus, Accountability" formula hits on some of the most important ways in
which the Wikimedia Foundation has failed. I share the concerns of Sydney
and Gerard however, and would like to ask some questions about how a real
Federation might emerge.

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:
> Finally, as was discussed here a lot in recent weeks, WMF itself has
> no clear accountability to the movement.

I think this is the first thing. For the same reason, we should not expect
or even allow the Wikimedia Foundation to take the lead in any federating
that takes place.

To briefly argue about the source of authority for making financial
decisions about the Wikimedia movement: a generous majority of donor money
comes from people like us on this list, who donate less than $100, and
roughly the same proportion of these donors (75%) imagine that they are
donating directly to Wikipedia.[1, 2] The historical events which led to
the Foundation taking the money and deciding how it should be spent is
quite arbitrary, and the insular structure of its Board of Trustees is also
an accident waiting to be corrected.[3]

It seems clear that the Wikimedian contributors have both an ethical and a
legal claim over these funds, and over the supporting organizations, the
endowment, and so on.

Let's give Wikimedia resources back to the contributors, and follow their
lead on how to allocate. Surprises are fun!

Demographic bias among the contributors, towards anglophone regions or
other power and population centers, is certainly a problem, but it would be
paternalistic for the WMF to assume that it can do a better job creating a
space for global social justice than the Wikimedians themselves might do.
In fact, given the WMF's own position in North America, and the Silicon
Valley bias of its Board, that would a case of the fox guarding the
henhouse.


On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:
> == The Wiki Education Foundation precedent ==

This is actually a deeply disturbing precedent that has affected me
personally. Others on this thread have mentioned it already, but the WIki
Education Foundation is *specifically* not chartered to serve a global
audience, they only deal with the United States and Canada.[4] Having just
finished a month of working as a developer with the Community Engagement
team--one of the few months of developer time ever conceded to this
department--I feel confident repeating the common knowledge that the
remnants of the Education Program which remain at the Wikimedia Foundation
are shamefully underfunded, and now in freefall with the loss of Anna Koval
and Floor Koudijs. I have to think this is all a direct consequence of
outsourcing the North American, English wing of the program, and that the
resources have followed. As wonderful and caring as the Wiki Education
staff are as individuals and as an organization, and even with Sage Ross
making the most generous contributions of his personal time to help with
internationalization, I ask how the Wiki Education Foundation will ever
fill the gap left by the WMF's Education Program, if its charter does not
allow it to do so?

Likewise, if we carve off MediaWiki software development into its own
clubhouse, they will inevitably look for funding from the biggest funded
users of the software, which are governments and corporations. Bite the
hands that feed you? They'll have no choice but to modify their mission to
accommodate the wishes of their donors.

Again, I would oppose the current WMF leadership making any of these
difficult decisions. My faith would be much more in the capacity for a
broad alliance of Wikimedia project contributors to constructively engage
with your recommendations. Of course WMF staff and Board members past and
present would probably be invited to this table, but as equals and
individuals, not as the holders of the purse strings.

-Adam Wight
[[mw:User:Adamw]]
This letter represents my personal views and not necessarily those of my
employer, the Wikimedia Foundation.

[1]
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/34/FY1415AmountDistributionPieChart.png/1100px-FY1415AmountDistributionPieChart.png
[2]
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/72/Wikimedia_2014_English_Fundraiser_Survey.pdf
[3]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_membership_controversy
[4] https://wikiedu.org/about-us/

On Sat, Mar 19, 2016 at 7:41 AM, rupert THURNER <rupert.thurner@gmail.com>
wrote:

> On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 3:22 AM, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:
> <cut>
> > the notion that WMF might be a more effective
> > organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
> > organizations and affiliates.
> <cut>
> > I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
> >
> > 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> > independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> > within that organization.
> >
> > 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> > a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> > different directions -- at every level.
> >
> > 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> > to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> > them to do.
> >
> > My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
> > processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
> > true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
> > and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
> > like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
> >
> > a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
> > organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
> > (sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
> > for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
> > offices, and other human endeavors. [3][4] This is very specifically
> > because it makes organizational units more manageable and
> > understandable for those who work there.
> >
> > b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
> > from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
> > spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
> >
> > c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
> > responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
> > that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
> > GLAM work.
> <cut>
> > == Where to go from here? ==
> >
> > There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
> > fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
> > transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
> > "development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for Wikimedia"
> > (WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
> > those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
> > offices?
> >
> > An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> > painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> > for trial and error.
> >
> > Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
> > to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
> > publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
> > idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
> > of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
> > involved in the process? And so on.
>
> that all sounds quite reasonable. also what erik writes about
> organisations is to be expected. at the end it all boils down to
> money. spending all money available and wanting more money never has
> been a problem. if there is dissent it was always about who has the
> say what the money is spent on, and where it is spent. i am convinced
> if we get the responsibilities right, the dissent will stop, and the
> output will be better.
>
> sizing organizations and distributing responsibilities on a global
> scale seems to be a very difficult task, close to the soviet empire's
> task to plan its next 5 years. one could argue to resolve it via
> setting a financial targets, just as multinational companies do. two
> simple long term key performance indicators might already do the trick
> for the wikimedia movement: first "maximum 50% of the money is spent
> on persons whose life depend financially on the movement", which is
> employees, or long term contracting persons, organizations,
> foundations, enterprises. and second, "50% of the money stays in the
> country where it is donated." the rest will auto-organize, and
> auto-change. finding intelligent spending for the rest of the 50%
> should not be a too difficult task, there is sufficient universities
> and students around the world who would be happy to compete for this
> money. the success, means and outcome will change over time, in areas
> and ways nobody can predict today. the 50% are a made up number, a
> little bit influenced by public spending of 40% - 50% in many
> industrialized countries nowadays. it seems people accept such a
> ratio.
>
> whatever the target is, getting acceptance is not simple. currently
> the WMF at the same time controls the domain and with it money inflow.
> at the same time WMF spends 90% of the total money, preferably to its
> own employees. "growth" is such a natural target, no matter in what
> area that WMF tries to even increase this percentage. from a WMF
> perspective it is not bad at all. unfortunately it causes eternal
> struggle, and damages the movements progress. without it wants to do
> so, the WMF violates its custodian obligations. to me the most natural
> split therefor seems to separate "domain ownership" (ownership, some
> legal protection, set key performance indicators, maybe
> operations/infrastructure, maybe fundraising), and the rest. leave all
> processes, budgets, affiliates untouched for a couple of years.
>
> to come back to eriks first step, decide if a split makes sense: yes,
> i am for it. the challenge i personally hope is addressed: get
> continuously new persons, new ideas, new content, new software
> implementations into the movement, from all over the world. WMF will
> never win the competition for talent and ideas in silicon valley only
> against the likes of facebook or baby facebooks. so we need to go
> where others are not, and have a hard time to go. people will follow
> money, and ideals.
>
> best,
> rupert
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list, guidelines at:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mailing_lists/Guidelines
> New messages to: Wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l,
> <mailto:wikimedia-l-request@lists.wikimedia.org?subject=unsubscribe>
>
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
> On Mar 19, 2016, at 7:41 AM, rupert THURNER <rupert.thurner@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> at the end it all boils down to
> money. spending all money available and wanting more money never has
> been a problem. if there is dissent it was always about who has the
> say what the money is spent on, and where it is spent. i am convinced
> if we get the responsibilities right, the dissent will stop, and the
> output will be better.
>
> sizing organizations and distributing responsibilities on a global
> scale seems to be a very difficult task, close to the soviet empire's
> task to plan its next 5 years. one could argue to resolve it via
> setting a financial targets, just as multinational companies do. two
> simple long term key performance indicators might already do the trick
> for the wikimedia movement: first "maximum 50% of the money is spent
> on persons whose life depend financially on the movement", which is
> employees, or long term contracting persons, organizations,
> foundations, enterprises. and second, "50% of the money stays in the
> country where it is donated." the rest will auto-organize, and
> auto-change. finding intelligent spending for the rest of the 50%
> should not be a too difficult task, there is sufficient universities
> and students around the world who would be happy to compete for this
> money. the success, means and outcome will change over time, in areas
> and ways nobody can predict today. the 50% are a made up number, a
> little bit influenced by public spending of 40% - 50% in many
> industrialized countries nowadays. it seems people accept such a
> ratio.

I... This line of thinking worries me.

In Programming / IT / information companies, there are a number of well known examples of organizations with legendary ineffectiveness measured on a per dollar or per employee basis.

Logic of "we will just control or manage the money flow" is focusing on the wrong end entirely. We need organizations that are effective, and secondarily (for a host of reasons) which people enjoy working in. Neither of those is a result of any accounting focused reform or management approach.


George William Herbert
Sent from my iPhone


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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
in breaking up (spinning parts off) the WMF we run the risk of creating
silos of information, knowledge and disconnecting one speciality from
another preventing cross pollination of ideas and innovation. It also
breaks the collaborative core of the projects which has created what we
enjoy and at the heart of our volunteer driven successes.

The movement works because diverse group, diverse cultures and diverse
ideas are able to come together through a shared principle, when the
movement has issues its because of fragmentation, them vs us, or closed
cabals acting out their own desires past experienced shows our greatest
failures are when we act in isolation and secrecy.

Before spinning of parts or isolating programs from each other we must be
looking at ensuring that which has given us the greatest success and which
is at our heart the collaboration, the sharing, the diversity are not
disrupted because no matter how much is rebuilt the distrust will linger
long after the experiments have failed

On 20 March 2016 at 02:44, George Herbert <george.herbert@gmail.com> wrote:

>
>
>
> > On Mar 19, 2016, at 7:41 AM, rupert THURNER <rupert.thurner@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >
> > at the end it all boils down to
> > money. spending all money available and wanting more money never has
> > been a problem. if there is dissent it was always about who has the
> > say what the money is spent on, and where it is spent. i am convinced
> > if we get the responsibilities right, the dissent will stop, and the
> > output will be better.
> >
> > sizing organizations and distributing responsibilities on a global
> > scale seems to be a very difficult task, close to the soviet empire's
> > task to plan its next 5 years. one could argue to resolve it via
> > setting a financial targets, just as multinational companies do. two
> > simple long term key performance indicators might already do the trick
> > for the wikimedia movement: first "maximum 50% of the money is spent
> > on persons whose life depend financially on the movement", which is
> > employees, or long term contracting persons, organizations,
> > foundations, enterprises. and second, "50% of the money stays in the
> > country where it is donated." the rest will auto-organize, and
> > auto-change. finding intelligent spending for the rest of the 50%
> > should not be a too difficult task, there is sufficient universities
> > and students around the world who would be happy to compete for this
> > money. the success, means and outcome will change over time, in areas
> > and ways nobody can predict today. the 50% are a made up number, a
> > little bit influenced by public spending of 40% - 50% in many
> > industrialized countries nowadays. it seems people accept such a
> > ratio.
>
> I... This line of thinking worries me.
>
> In Programming / IT / information companies, there are a number of well
> known examples of organizations with legendary ineffectiveness measured on
> a per dollar or per employee basis.
>
> Logic of "we will just control or manage the money flow" is focusing on
> the wrong end entirely. We need organizations that are effective, and
> secondarily (for a host of reasons) which people enjoy working in. Neither
> of those is a result of any accounting focused reform or management
> approach.
>
>
> George William Herbert
> Sent from my iPhone
>
>
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--
GN.
President Wikimedia Australia
WMAU: http://www.wikimedia.org.au/wiki/User:Gnangarra
Photo Gallery: http://gnangarra.redbubble.com
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Erik Moeller writes:

> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>
> A "MediaWiki Foundation" has been proposed a few times and I
> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF.

This past January at the Developer Summit[1], there was an
unconference session for a meeting between the MediaWiki Stakeholders
(represented by Cindy Cicalese and myself) and the WMF[2].

This meeting was better attended by WMF staffers than I expected it to be
and, with the encouragement of some of those in attendance, we began a
series of follow-on meetings to explore interest in and discuss the process around
constructing an organisation focused on MediaWiki development -
not only for the WMF but also for third party users of MediaWiki
(including, as Erik hinted, organisations as diverse the W3C, NASA,
NATO, major oil companies and pharmaceuticals).

We've since held three meetings[3][4][5] and have planned two more.
During the meeting planned for about six weeks from now[6], we intend
to have a format that allows us to respond to questions or concerns from
the larger community.

If you would like to be a part of the planning and creation of this
organisation, please contact myself, Cindy Cicalese, or Markus Glaser. We welcome your input.

Footnotes:
[1] https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Developer_Summit_2016
[2] https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T119403
[3] https://etherpad.wikimedia.org/p/i8XjsnBxxh/timeslider#5797
[4] https://etherpad.wikimedia.org/p/MWF20160226/timeslider#959
[5] https://etherpad.wikimedia.org/p/MWF20160318/timeslider#1334
[6] http://mwstake.org/mwstake/wiki/Event:30

--
Mark A. Hershberger
NicheWork LLC
717-271-1084



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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
> On Mar 19, 2016, at 8:23 PM, Gnangarra <gnangarra@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> in breaking up (spinning parts off) the WMF we run the risk of creating
> silos of information, knowledge and disconnecting one speciality from
> another preventing cross pollination of ideas and innovation. It also
> breaks the collaborative core of the projects which has created what we
> enjoy and at the heart of our volunteer driven successes.

I am not uncritically for an organizational breakup. Nor am I against one.

Part of the argument above seems self-contradictory, though - we have already demonstrated that diverse groups across the Foundation, chapters, volunteer groups, etc etc come together effectively. The Movement is characterized in part by that. That would seem to indicate that a reorganization that split part of it up would still be able to work and team up effectively.

Regardless of whether a split is a good idea or happens, grabbing the info on who does what for whom, and why, will help us make it better.

George William Herbert
Sent from my iPhone
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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hi!

On 03/17/2016 07:22 PM, Erik Moeller wrote:
> I can see three potential benefits from a more federated model:
>
> 1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
> independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
> within that organization.
>
> 2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
> a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
> different directions -- at every level.
>
> 3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
> to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
> them to do.

I strongly agree with you.

> == Where to go from here? ==
>
> <snip>
>
> An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
> painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
> for trial and error.

I also agree with this too. :) In my candidate statement[1] for the
current board election, I outlined a vision where existing affiliates
would do some of the technical work that the WMF currently does (or
doesn't). Many of the existing affiliates already have legal
infrastructure and staff in place, and would require less bootstrapping
than an entirely new organization, which should make it easier to test
and demonstrate that a federated model will work, and be an advantage to
the movement. One downside would be that regional chapters may be less
focused (benefit #2) compared to say, an organization specifically
dedicated to non-WMF MediaWiki development (I don't like the term
third-party).

> The fact that WMF has just experienced a major organizational crisis
> should not itself fill us with pessimism and despair. But we also
> shouldn’t ignore it. We must learn from it and do what reason tells us
> -- and in my view that is to build a more resilient _federation_ of
> organizations than what we have today.

+1.

[1]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Affiliate-selected_Board_seats/2016/Nominations/Kunal_Mehta

-- Kunal Mehta / Legoktm

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
Hi Eloquence

Since the "Mediawiki" trademark was lost to WMF the day you and
Anthere placed the logo into public domain [1], how can the WMF now
spin-off this new organization ?.

Am I correct in assuming the Mediawiki software can be forked by
anybody interested along with attribution ?

Regards

Dave

[1] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MediaWiki.svg

On 3/18/16, Erik Moeller <eloquence@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi folks,
>
> == Potential test case: MediaWiki Foundation ==
>
> A "MediaWiki Foundation" [5] has been proposed a few times and I
> suspect continues to have some currency within WMF. This org would not
> be focused on all WMF-related development work, but specifically on
> MediaWiki as software that has value to third parties. Its mission
> could include hosting services as earned income (and potentially as an
> extension of the Wikimedia movement’s mission).
>

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Re: [Wikimedia-l] The Case for Federation: Should Parts of WMF Be Spun Off? [ In reply to ]
On Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 8:48 AM, David Emrany <david.emrany@gmail.com> wrote:

> Since the "Mediawiki" trademark was lost to WMF the day you and
> Anthere placed the logo into public domain [1], how can the WMF now
> spin-off this new organization ?.

That's incorrect, putting something in the public domain does not
remove trademark rights. In fact, trademark rights are often on names,
which are almost without exception public domain copyrightwise.

> Am I correct in assuming the Mediawiki software can be forked by
> anybody interested along with attribution ?

Attribution only is not enough, it is licensed under GPL, which means
that a fork will also have to be under the same license. The essence
of the license is the same as that of the CC-BY-SA that Wikipedia is
under, the differences mostly have to do with technical points because
of the different way in which computer programs are used compared to
texts or artwork.

--
André Engels, andreengels@gmail.com

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