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Foundation too passive, wasting community talent

 

 

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garbage5 at seznam

Mar 18, 2011, 3:28 PM

Post #1 of 16 (1107 views)
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Foundation too passive, wasting community talent

Hi there,

why is the Foundation so passive??? I have been since almost 5 years with various Wikimedia projects and I can really see NO PROGRESS from the side of the Foundation but more employees, 2 new blogs, new Vector skin and maybe MediaWiki performance tweaks. My participation declined radically, because I can not feel any real support from the foundation. It is not 2006 anymore. Look at what other websites have done in 5 years and you realize they have undergone major redesigns. And as someone wrote here lately Wikipedia still seems so 2005. This is OK for an encyclopedia, but unfortunately the way volunteers work is stuck in 2005 too...

Large-scale LiquidThreads deployment is far far away to allow more sophisticated discussion on wikis. Few central notices is what the Strategy project just resulted in, without any "serious" action (anyone to remember that "call for action" thing?). I really doubt the community is able to do more than just bring few ideas (proposals) together.

The Fellowship program has been largely a PR thing only so far, wasting its great potential to bring a real change in how Wikimedia uses its (financial) resources. Similarly working grant program for wide community is needed to be able to do the necessary progress. Besides that, we as the community have very, very little control over what the 5 tenths of staff are paid for (I mean a real tasks breakdown).

Sophisticated decision mechanism simply does not exist on a community level, and those on Foundation level are of little importance. Is it really that hard to launch an ideas bank (at ideas.wikimedia.org for example) to boil down what the community really needs instead of letting volunteers have endless discussions in wiki-style? Will someone finally realize that wiki is not the holy-grail of "collaboration" and maybe other tools are needed too?

Videos are still not being offered in various bitrates which makes them unusable within the encyclopedia, etc. etc. There has been literally no progress at all from an established editor point of view and that is very depriving. Very little is done in supporting new projects creation, Data Commons being an example.

I wish I had the power to change all these things, but unfortunately I do not. Of course, if I do not want to have endless discussion in wiki (or mailing list) -style...


Cheers,
Kozuch

http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kozuch

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mono at mono

Mar 18, 2011, 5:37 PM

Post #2 of 16 (1091 views)
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Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

Yes, you're right.


On Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 3:28 PM, Jan Kucera (Kozuch) <garbage5 [at] seznam>wrote:

> Hi there,
>
> why is the Foundation so passive??? I have been since almost 5 years with
> various Wikimedia projects and I can really see NO PROGRESS from the side of
> the Foundation but more employees, 2 new blogs, new Vector skin and maybe
> MediaWiki performance tweaks. My participation declined radically, because I
> can not feel any real support from the foundation. It is not 2006 anymore.
> Look at what other websites have done in 5 years and you realize they have
> undergone major redesigns. And as someone wrote here lately Wikipedia still
> seems so 2005. This is OK for an encyclopedia, but unfortunately the way
> volunteers work is stuck in 2005 too...
>
> Large-scale LiquidThreads deployment is far far away to allow more
> sophisticated discussion on wikis. Few central notices is what the Strategy
> project just resulted in, without any "serious" action (anyone to remember
> that "call for action" thing?). I really doubt the community is able to do
> more than just bring few ideas (proposals) together.
>
> The Fellowship program has been largely a PR thing only so far, wasting its
> great potential to bring a real change in how Wikimedia uses its (financial)
> resources. Similarly working grant program for wide community is needed to
> be able to do the necessary progress. Besides that, we as the community have
> very, very little control over what the 5 tenths of staff are paid for (I
> mean a real tasks breakdown).
>
> Sophisticated decision mechanism simply does not exist on a community
> level, and those on Foundation level are of little importance. Is it really
> that hard to launch an ideas bank (at ideas.wikimedia.org for example) to
> boil down what the community really needs instead of letting volunteers have
> endless discussions in wiki-style? Will someone finally realize that wiki is
> not the holy-grail of "collaboration" and maybe other tools are needed too?
>
> Videos are still not being offered in various bitrates which makes them
> unusable within the encyclopedia, etc. etc. There has been literally no
> progress at all from an established editor point of view and that is very
> depriving. Very little is done in supporting new projects creation, Data
> Commons being an example.
>
> I wish I had the power to change all these things, but unfortunately I do
> not. Of course, if I do not want to have endless discussion in wiki (or
> mailing list) -style...
>
>
> Cheers,
> Kozuch
>
> http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kozuch
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> foundation-l [at] lists
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>



--
*Mono*
http://enwp.org/m:User:Mono
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hashar+wmf at free

Mar 21, 2011, 12:50 AM

Post #3 of 16 (1081 views)
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Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 18/03/11 23:28, Jan Kucera (Kozuch) wrote:
> Hi there,
>
> why is the Foundation so passive??? I have been since almost 5 years
> with various Wikimedia projects and I can really see NO PROGRESS from
> the side of the Foundation but more employees, 2 new blogs, new
> Vector skin and maybe MediaWiki performance tweaks.

Hi Jan
I am one of the volunteer software developer for MediaWiki.

Those are all important progresses! Do not forget back in 2006 the
foundation was really small, it is the year we had to support an
ENORMOUS growth of popularity, since them, we are still as popular and
the website is still up.

The blogs makes easier to follow what is happening
Vector skin has been build up following a professional usability study.
The resource loader will save bandwidth, loading time and already let
the developers enhance the site easily.

For software development, do not forget some months ago there was a
great community crisis between staff and volunteers. Looks like we have
this sorted out, 1.17 is live and a release is coming.

> My participation
> declined radically, because I can not feel any real support from the
> foundation. It is not 2006 anymore. Look at what other websites have
> done in 5 years and you realize they have undergone major redesigns.
> And as someone wrote here lately Wikipedia still seems so 2005. This
> is OK for an encyclopedia, but unfortunately the way volunteers work
> is stuck in 2005 too...

I agree with you: overall the website interface looks old. The Vector
skin is a first step in enhancement, we now have to add new features to
it to make it more like a 2011 website. One possibility would be to
list the best gadgets users have developed and merge them in the
MediaWiki software for the benefit of everyone.
If you get other enhancement ideas, please submit them to bugzilla. If
you know PHP, try hacking in MediaWiki. We have developers around to
help you :-)

<snip LQT, fellowship>

> Sophisticated decision mechanism simply does not exist on a community
> level, and those on Foundation level are of little importance. Is it
> really that hard to launch an ideas bank (at ideas.wikimedia.org for
> example) to boil down what the community really needs instead of
> letting volunteers have endless discussions in wiki-style? Will
> someone finally realize that wiki is not the holy-grail of
> "collaboration" and maybe other tools are needed too?

An idea website much like the Dell site http://www.ideastorm.com/ or
something like http://www.reddit.com/ would be a great thing. If it
exists as an open source software, we can probably have it installed
somewhere for testing.


> Videos are still not being offered in various bitrates which makes
> them unusable within the encyclopedia, etc. etc. There has been
> literally no progress at all from an established editor point of view
> and that is very depriving. Very little is done in supporting new
> projects creation, Data Commons being an example.

Saving a video and offering it in multiples bitrates require two things:
- disk space
- bandwidth

LOT OF DISK SPACE. I mean in the Petabyte or even Exabyte scale ranges.
Totally different with your local computer or our current system, it
needs software engineering to answer "simple" questions like:
- what happens when a datacenter goes down
- how do you backup the data
- what are the legal impacts of having data in such or such country
- how much space is required 3 months after deployment, 18 months and
3 years?
- how do we make it scales?
The good point is that was already identified as an action and is a work
in progress.

Bandwidth, the main datacenter is in Florida wich does not have that
many routes to the internet. The new datacenter (nothing easy to build
up) will be in Ashburn, Virginia which is one of the major world
internet exchange point in the world. I had been given the privilege of
looking at the new architecture, and trust me, it is going to be an
awesome structure for the future.

> I wish I had the power to change all these things, but unfortunately
> I do not. Of course, if I do not want to have endless discussion in
> wiki (or mailing list) -style...

You do have the power! The world as immensely changed in the last few
years thanks to the internet. Internet is just about connecting people
and every little step is a change. Get an idea, get community members
sharing it then you can markets it, find developers and get it applied
to the live site.

cheers,

--
Ashar Voultoiz


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z at mzmcbride

Apr 4, 2011, 6:20 PM

Post #4 of 16 (1050 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

Jan Kucera (Kozuch) wrote:
> why is the Foundation so passive??? I have been since almost 5 years with
> various Wikimedia projects and I can really see NO PROGRESS from the side of
> the Foundation but more employees, 2 new blogs, new Vector skin and maybe
> MediaWiki performance tweaks. My participation declined radically, because I
> can not feel any real support from the foundation. It is not 2006 anymore.
> Look at what other websites have done in 5 years and you realize they have
> undergone major redesigns. And as someone wrote here lately Wikipedia still
> seems so 2005. This is OK for an encyclopedia, but unfortunately the way
> volunteers work is stuck in 2005 too...

It's a volunteer community: you can improve the sites at will. I agree that
a lot of the software development in the past year or two has been rather
boring. MediaWiki 1.17 was largely a lot of "fixes under the hood" and it
took way too long to go live. On the Wikimedia side of things, it's been
roughly the same: new datacenter, better ops support, etc. This isn't
exciting work, but it does hopefully make it more likely that, going
forward, other people can spend their time focusing on software feature
development and code review rather than constantly battling to keep the site
up. Or something like that.

A lot of the projects that Wikimedia is investing in today are small and
focused on particular needs of the Wikimedia Foundation, not the Wikimedia
community. One example might be an article feedback tool that's largely
focused on ensuring that Wikimedia fulfills its Public Policy grant
requirements rather than actually being a useful tool for rating and
evaluating articles. (Imagine if you could find the most fascinating
articles, similar to ted.com's system; now look at what Wikimedia has
implemented.) Another example might be an UploadWizard that is focused on
ensuring that Wikimedia fulfills its Multimedia grant requirements rather
than actually being fully developed and ready for use by Wikimedia Commons.

These examples are off the top of my head, but anyone paying attention can
see the trend fairly clearly, I think. The return of Brion as Lead Software
Architect may change some of this, but only time will tell.

> Sophisticated decision mechanism simply does not exist on a community level,
> and those on Foundation level are of little importance. Is it really that hard
> to launch an ideas bank (at ideas.wikimedia.org for example) to boil down what
> the community really needs instead of letting volunteers have endless
> discussions in wiki-style? Will someone finally realize that wiki is not the
> holy-grail of "collaboration" and maybe other tools are needed too?

There were some ideas thrown around about this at some point, though I don't
remember by whom or where. Other large organizations use systems like this
(e.g., Starbucks and KDE or Debian, as I recall). They generally implement
software such as Pligg and the like. It's certainly possible to install
similar software on Wikimedia's servers, but there are large challenges to
overcome such as language barriers and concerns about a pure voting system
that discards rational argument and debate.

If you want something like this, work toward making it happen. Write a
proposal at Meta, investigate options for implementations, file bugs in
Bugzilla, talk to Wikimedia Foundation staff, etc. Rambling e-mails to
foundation-l, while sometimes stress-relieving, don't tend to actually
accomplish much. A little more free advice: if you can convince the
Wikimedia Foundation that your idea/project/proposal is related to
"usability," "fundraising," the "gender gap," or "engaging new users,"
you're much more likely to get attention for it.

MZMcBride



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dgerard at gmail

Apr 5, 2011, 1:40 AM

Post #5 of 16 (1047 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 5 April 2011 03:02, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:

> A lot of the projects that Wikimedia is investing in today are small and
> focused on particular needs of the Wikimedia Foundation, not the Wikimedia
> community. One example might be an article feedback tool that's largely
> focused on ensuring that Wikimedia fulfills its Public Policy grant
> requirements rather than actually being a useful tool for rating and
> evaluating articles. (Imagine if you could find the most fascinating
> articles, similar to ted.com's system; now look at what Wikimedia has
> implemented.)


*cough* From 2005:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:David_Gerard/1.0

Magnus put together a quick version, but Brion didn't like the code
and it never happened. However, mine is just one such proposal.
Article rating has been a wanted feature for *years*.

What I'd like to see is article rating being more widespread. But
having a grant push it through is *just fine*, because it gets it done
at all.


- d.

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amir.aharoni at mail

Apr 5, 2011, 1:48 AM

Post #6 of 16 (1046 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

2011/4/5 David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail>
>
> On 5 April 2011 03:02, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:
>
> > A lot of the projects that Wikimedia is investing in today are small and
> > focused on particular needs of the Wikimedia Foundation, not the Wikimedia
> > community. One example might be an article feedback tool that's largely
> > focused on ensuring that Wikimedia fulfills its Public Policy grant
> > requirements rather than actually being a useful tool for rating and
> > evaluating articles. (Imagine if you could find the most fascinating
> > articles, similar to ted.com's system; now look at what Wikimedia has
> > implemented.)
>
>
> *cough* From 2005:
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:David_Gerard/1.0
>
> Magnus put together a quick version, but Brion didn't like the code
> and it never happened. However, mine is just one such proposal.
> Article rating has been a wanted feature for *years*.

... And in the Hungarian Wikipedia it was even implemented quite a
long time ago. If i recall correctly, at some point i saw it in the
Polish, too.

--
Amir Elisha Aharoni · אָמִיר אֱלִישָׁע אַהֲרוֹנִי
http://aharoni.wordpress.com
"We're living in pieces,
I want to live in peace." - T. Moore

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dgerard at gmail

Apr 5, 2011, 1:59 AM

Post #7 of 16 (1050 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 5 April 2011 03:02, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:

> Another example might be an UploadWizard that is focused on
> ensuring that Wikimedia fulfills its Multimedia grant requirements rather
> than actually being fully developed and ready for use by Wikimedia Commons.
> These examples are off the top of my head, but anyone paying attention can
> see the trend fairly clearly, I think.


What I see is grants supplying money to get initiatives that have been
long-wanted happening. The near-impossibility of getting even quite
simple things through a bureaucratic kudzu-choked community process
has been noted on this list *many* times.

This is far from ideal, as you note. But in practical terms, I submit
it's better than this stuff never happening at all, which is what
would occur without it.

If I've correctly ascertained your essential point: you appear broadly
to think the WMF is becoming a self-sustaining creature *at the
expense* of the community; and you think it's getting bloated and
complacent. I think both of these are quite incorrect.


> The return of Brion as Lead Software
> Architect may change some of this, but only time will tell.


You phrase that as if that's a change in politics (I don't know if
that's what you intended, it's just how it comes across to me), but I
think it's more a factor of having *another senior developer*.

We really do underspend horribly in the tech area, compared to what we
need. That $14-16m from the fundraiser could be gobbled up in a
moment. In my day job, I work for a tiny, tiny publisher with an
approximately negligible web presence; two sysadmins, several
developers, about the same number of support staff; our department's
budget is bigger than WMF's entire budget. This mainstream website,
this *social institution*, still runs on cheese and string and crossed
fingers. Brilliant devs get paid at charity scale, not at what they
could get at Facebook or Google (which is fine, 'cos everyone needs
career progression, and a couple of years' WMF is resume gold).

(And I am not saying that I think we should sink the entire budget
into tech and neglect everything else, not at all - all the program
and liaison and fuzzy human stuff WMF does is necessary to deal with
the fact that we are in fact a social institution and have become part
of the fabric of society that people just assume is always there, and
only we seem to realise just how tiny and fragile WMF actually is.)

So, yeah. Good times ahead! Hopefully.


- d.

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dgerard at gmail

Apr 5, 2011, 2:01 AM

Post #8 of 16 (1047 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 5 April 2011 09:48, Amir E. Aharoni <amir.aharoni [at] mail> wrote:
> 2011/4/5 David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail>

>> Article rating has been a wanted feature for *years*.

> ... And in the Hungarian Wikipedia it was even implemented quite a
> long time ago. If i recall correctly, at some point i saw it in the
> Polish, too.


I didn't know that at all :-) Having it as a proper supported
extension pulled into core-ish code would definitely be an advance.


- d.

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z at mzmcbride

Apr 5, 2011, 8:21 AM

Post #9 of 16 (1053 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

David Gerard wrote:
> On 5 April 2011 03:02, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:
>> Another example might be an UploadWizard that is focused on
>> ensuring that Wikimedia fulfills its Multimedia grant requirements rather
>> than actually being fully developed and ready for use by Wikimedia Commons.
>> These examples are off the top of my head, but anyone paying attention can
>> see the trend fairly clearly, I think.
>
> What I see is grants supplying money to get initiatives that have been
> long-wanted happening. The near-impossibility of getting even quite
> simple things through a bureaucratic kudzu-choked community process
> has been noted on this list *many* times.
>
> This is far from ideal, as you note. But in practical terms, I submit
> it's better than this stuff never happening at all, which is what
> would occur without it.

It goes back to nothing in life being free, I think. The money for (most of)
these grants has been restricted. These projects are generally worthwhile,
but with grant money, they immediately become top priority due to grant
deadlines and the specifications for these products must be tailored to the
demands of the grant. That isn't to say that the code can't be
expandable/extensible/etc., but the primary goal of these tools is to
fulfill the needs of the grant, not to fulfill the needs of the community.

> If I've correctly ascertained your essential point: you appear broadly
> to think the WMF is becoming a self-sustaining creature *at the
> expense* of the community; and you think it's getting bloated and
> complacent. I think both of these are quite incorrect.

Something thereabouts. It's easy enough to find people who agree with this
view, though it's easy enough to find people who agree with any view on the
Internet....

MZMcBride



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z at mzmcbride

Apr 5, 2011, 8:21 AM

Post #10 of 16 (1049 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

David Gerard wrote:
> On 5 April 2011 09:48, Amir E. Aharoni <amir.aharoni [at] mail> wrote:
>> 2011/4/5 David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail>
>
>>> Article rating has been a wanted feature for *years*.
>
>> ... And in the Hungarian Wikipedia it was even implemented quite a
>> long time ago. If i recall correctly, at some point i saw it in the
>> Polish, too.
>
> I didn't know that at all :-) Having it as a proper supported
> extension pulled into core-ish code would definitely be an advance.

Aye, the English Wiktionary has had a rating feature in the sidebar for ages
as well. (The English Wiktionary's implementation might be the oldest
working system.) I wrote some comments about the grant-based ArticleFeedback
tool here and there are some interesting, thoughtful replies:
http://www.mediawiki.org/w/index.php?oldid=395730#Assorted_comments

I think a neat rating tool would be an awesome addition to MediaWiki. I
don't think it's top priority, though. I also don't think the current
implementation is anywhere near what users would actually want to see. The
English Wikipedia has a lot of "quirky" articles, for example. It'd be
awesome if you could get a list of those easily (or randomly flip through
the most quirky). Or the most "fascinating," the articles with the "best
layouts," (following the addition of a "share this article" feature) the
"most e-mailed," (following the addition of proper view metrics) the "most
viewed," etc.

MZMcBride



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erik at wikimedia

Apr 5, 2011, 9:13 AM

Post #11 of 16 (1046 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

2011/4/5 David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail>:
> What I see is grants supplying money to get initiatives that have been
> long-wanted happening. The near-impossibility of getting even quite
> simple things through a bureaucratic kudzu-choked community process
> has been noted on this list *many* times.

To clarify, the Article Feedback Tool isn't funded by grant money.
Measuring Public Policy Initiative article improvement was one of the
timeline constraints for the project, but it had been in our list of
wants and needs before that, it is being funded out of the core
budget, and it's being tested on non-PPI articles. We'll wrap up this
iteration of the tooling soon, and after that, will likely post an RfP
for next-generation work so the core team can focus on
rich-text-editing and new user interventions.

Guillaume is working on some draft specs for next-generation work
here: http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Article_feedback/Extended_review
if you want to jump in with thoughts, but note that it's still being
iterated quite heavily.

It's very easy to expand these kinds of tools into all different
directions -- ratings/comments/tagging/sharing etc. -- and we're
focusing on quality measurement as the main objective, but you'll see
in the extended proposal that we're thinking about ways that readers
can add extended feedback, going into a review database from where it
could be promoted to the talk page if it's considered especially
useful.

In the current iteration we're also testing whether ratings can be a
form of user engagement, by running a few post-rating invitations
(create an account / edit the article / take a survey) -- if those
invitations work, the tool could also play a significant role in our
new user work.
--
Erik Mller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Support Free Knowledge: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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geniice at gmail

Apr 5, 2011, 2:20 PM

Post #12 of 16 (1041 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 5 April 2011 09:40, David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail> wrote:
> *cough* From 2005:
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:David_Gerard/1.0
>
> Magnus put together a quick version, but Brion didn't like the code
> and it never happened. However, mine is just one such proposal.
> Article rating has been a wanted feature for *years*.
>
> What I'd like to see is article rating being more widespread. But
> having a grant push it through is *just fine*, because it gets it done
> at all.

except the current implementation is horrible in in the classic skin
since it shoves a huge great ratings box at the top of the article.


--
geni

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dgerard at gmail

Apr 5, 2011, 2:37 PM

Post #13 of 16 (1042 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 5 April 2011 22:20, geni <geniice [at] gmail> wrote:
> On 5 April 2011 09:40, David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail> wrote:

>> Article rating has been a wanted feature for *years*.
>> What I'd like to see is article rating being more widespread. But
>> having a grant push it through is *just fine*, because it gets it done
>> at all.

> except the current implementation is horrible in in the classic skin
> since it shoves a huge great ratings box at the top of the article.


Classic is largely unmaintained, since no-one seems to want to bother
to maintain it. How's your coding?


- d.

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wikipedia at frontier

Apr 5, 2011, 2:47 PM

Post #14 of 16 (1044 views)
Permalink
Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 4/5/2011 2:37 PM, David Gerard wrote:
> Classic is largely unmaintained, since no-one seems to want to bother
> to maintain it.
To coin a phrase, Monobook is the new Classic. Maybe we should rename
Classic to Legacy? That might communicate the implications a bit better
to anyone considering it.

--Michael Snow

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george.herbert at gmail

Apr 5, 2011, 3:11 PM

Post #15 of 16 (1044 views)
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Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 8:22 AM, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:
> David Gerard wrote:
>> On 5 April 2011 03:02, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:
>>> Another example might be an UploadWizard that is focused on
>>> ensuring that Wikimedia fulfills its Multimedia grant requirements rather
>>> than actually being fully developed and ready for use by Wikimedia Commons.
>>> These examples are off the top of my head, but anyone paying attention can
>>> see the trend fairly clearly, I think.
>>
>> What I see is grants supplying money to get initiatives that have been
>> long-wanted happening. The near-impossibility of getting even quite
>> simple things through a bureaucratic kudzu-choked community process
>> has been noted on this list *many* times.
>>
>> This is far from ideal, as you note. But in practical terms, I submit
>> it's better than this stuff never happening at all, which is what
>> would occur without it.
>
> It goes back to nothing in life being free, I think. The money for (most of)
> these grants has been restricted. These projects are generally worthwhile,
> but with grant money, they immediately become top priority due to grant
> deadlines and the specifications for these products must be tailored to the
> demands of the grant. That isn't to say that the code can't be
> expandable/extensible/etc., but the primary goal of these tools is to
> fulfill the needs of the grant, not to fulfill the needs of the community.

As with any volunteer project, the efforts volunteered by
grant-writers are not optimal for the long-term evolution of the
encyclopedia (not that I think we know / agree on what that path
necessarily is, but for the sake of argument...).

All types of volunteer project are a brownian random walk in the
generally agreed upon direction. I think it's fair to say that the
Foundation should reject grants that don't push in the generally
agreed upon direction. But I don't think they should reject generally
agreed upon direction grants that the donor puts a scope limit on,
because they don't completely fulfil the community desires in
particular areas.

Donors have finite resources and are balancing wider concerns, too.
We can always come back and add additional features or function where
a grant didn't give us everything we want.

Lacking a large endowment, we have to take what we can get.


>> If I've correctly ascertained your essential point: you appear broadly
>> to think the WMF is becoming a self-sustaining creature *at the
>> expense* of the community; and you think it's getting bloated and
>> complacent. I think both of these are quite incorrect.
>
> Something thereabouts. It's easy enough to find people who agree with this
> view, though it's easy enough to find people who agree with any view on the
> Internet....

There is a curve in the evolution of volunteer groups into charities;
it happens because differently sized organizations have different
organizational requirements and structures and imperatives. It's not
a straight line; some organizations at a given size are more
responsive and closer to their original constituents than others.

Some of those goals include the "We have a long term goal, and
therefore the organization must survive long-term," which then drives
one towards more PR and organized giving and donor development etc.
Those things are not in any way directly relevant to the Encyclopedia
(and other projects). But having a Foundation is key to the
Encyclopedia (and other projects) long term successes; we long passed
the point that volunteer labor would keep the lights on, servers up
and sufficient for the load, and software development running at
acceptable pace. The tradeoff, that a fair amount of what the
Foundation does is then necessary because it's a Foundation, was
explicit in its founding.

It frustrates people a lot at times, but we need to acknowledge that
tradeoff, that we made it, that we needed to make it, and move on.

Whether the Foundation's board, execs, and staff are as focused on
supporting the community that work on the projects as is ideal is
unquestionably no. That's part of a dynamic trade between the
concerns of the ongoing organization and the concerns of its final end
product (the projects). We'll never on the community side be entirely
happy with that.

What we can ask is whether the board, execs, and staff support the
goal and work diligently on it. And as a rule, I have been satisfied
with the answers on that one. They generally get it right; when they
get it wrong, they talk about it and are open to input. When it's not
clear what right and wrong are they let people know there's an
unanswered question.


--
-george william herbert
george.herbert [at] gmail

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millosh at gmail

Apr 7, 2011, 7:31 AM

Post #16 of 16 (1039 views)
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Re: Foundation too passive, wasting community talent [In reply to]

On 04/05/2011 10:59 AM, David Gerard wrote:
> We really do underspend horribly in the tech area, compared to what we
> need. That $14-16m from the fundraiser could be gobbled up in a
> moment. In my day job, I work for a tiny, tiny publisher with an
> approximately negligible web presence; two sysadmins, several
> developers, about the same number of support staff; our department's
> budget is bigger than WMF's entire budget. This mainstream website,
> this *social institution*, still runs on cheese and string and crossed
> fingers. Brilliant devs get paid at charity scale, not at what they
> could get at Facebook or Google (which is fine, 'cos everyone needs
> career progression, and a couple of years' WMF is resume gold).

Money is not an issue. Put the finger anywhere in Eastern Europe and you
can take [already employed] best programmers for 20-50k EUR who would be
loyal to WMF up to their retirement (if they don't need to go to SF).
Put the finger anywhere in India (which has four or more times more
inhabitants than Eastern Europe) and you can get similar ones for 5-10k.

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