User talk:Org/Wiki Software Development Party

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Positions to cut[edit]

See Foundation:Staff. What positions should we cut? When in doubt, contract out, because there is a lot of overhead associated with keeping full-time staff in an office, and their staff status creates inflexibility, in that it's harder to fire staff than contractors. And whatever can be done by volunteers, should be done by volunteers, unless there's a good reason not to. Here is my preliminary commentary, much of which is based on first impressions, speculation, and possible outright factual inaccuracies:

  • Executive
    • YesY Executive director (Sue Gardner) — Probably can't cut this one; someone has to be in charge. But let's keep an eye on the salary and make sure that it's reasonable. The same goes for all the executives, since executive salaries tend to be the most costly, and executives, as the most powerful staff members, are in the best position to exert influence over their own salaries, as has been seen all over the corporate world and in many nonprofits.
    • Deputy directory (Erik Möller) — We all love Erik Möller, but does the deputy director role need to exist, or is it just another level of (highly-paid) bureaucracy? He manages the non-technical staff, which presumably means the CTO, CCO, CDGO, CFO, General Counsel, and HR Manager.
    • Executive assistant (James Owen) — Pretty much all organizations of WMF's size need an executive assistant. It's probably a good investment. Although if we shrink the organization down enough, this could become a lower-level (i.e. less costly) admin assistant role.
  • Technology
    • YesY Chief Technical Officer (Danese Cooper) — What's with the fact that the CTO of the largest wiki farm in the world, and several of her staff members, don't have user pages? Makes you wonder. Anyway, we need a CTO of some sort, so keep this role.
    • YesY MediaWiki Software Developer (Tim Starling) — Someone needs to be release manager and be in charge of the MediaWiki development community. And, although most development work should be contracted out to freelancers, we need someone on staff to handle emergencies (e.g. if MediaWiki unexpectedly breaks and Wikipedia goes down). So, keep this position.
    • Engineering Program Manager (Tomasz Finc) — Not enough information about this role was found to judge whether it's necessary. Worth looking into.
    • Data Analyst (Erik Zachte) — Couldn't this be done by a volunteer or contractor?
    • IT Manager (Rob Halsell) — Every office needs IT support, but maybe if we cut the rest of the office down to size, we can have a contractor do that work and charge by the ticket. A cost-benefit analysis may be in order.
    • Networking coordinator (Mark Bergsma) — Why do we need a full-time networking coordinator?
    • N Open source video collaboration technology (Michael Dale) — Kill this program as soon as the funding runs out. What do you have to show for your efforts?
    • YesY System Administrator (Fred Vassard) — Probably needed, just to put out fires if for no other reason.
    • Code Maintenance Engineer (Priyanka Dhanda) — And what do you do for us, that couldn't be done by a contractor or volunteer?
    • N Software Developer - Fundraising (Ryan Kaldari) — Why do we need a staff member devoted to developing special software for fundraising? It's not that complicated.
    • N Software Developer - Mobile (Hampton Catlin) — Contract this position out.
    • Other developers, system administrators, etc. — Consider contracting most development and system administration work out to freelancers and/or having volunteers do it, and keeping only a skeleton crew on staff to handle emergencies.
  • User experience programs
    • N Cut them all, as soon as the grant money runs out. What have they done for us lately, that was of any use?
  • Community
    • Chief Community Officer (Zack Exley) — Yet another bureaucrat. Maybe after this department is drastically reduced in size, we can just have a senior development person and a junior development person.
    • N Head of Community Giving (Rand Montoya) — Which community? The community of editors? That's not too hard; just have a "Donate" link on the sidebar and people will donate. Cut this position entirely.
    • YesY Head of Major Gifts (Rebecca Handler) — I guess you have to spend money to make money. Keep this one, but keep an eye on performance.
    • Head of Partnerships and Foundation Relations (Sara Crouse) — Are we getting our money's worth out of this position? What major partnerships have we made, that have worked out well? The Facebook thing isn't too impressive so far. The position itself might not be the problem; maybe it's the person holding it, or the attitude of the organization toward partnerships.
    • N Public Outreach Officer (Pete Forsyth) — What is this guy's job? To propagandize on how awesome Wikimedia is, and how they can do no wrong? Given that we have volunteers to answer most inquiries and provide most public information, how many official statements does WMF really need to make? Cut this position, maybe down to a part-time role, or merge it into some other position.
    • N Project Manager - Bookshelf (Aradhana Ravindra) — This position involves doing stuff like designing lesson plans for teachers on how to edit Wikipedia. Utterly unnecessary; volunteers, private industry or academia itself can handle this. Eliminate this position.
    • N Volunteer Coordinator (Cary Bass) — What a pointless role. Wikimedia attracts all the volunteers it needs by virtue of its awesomeness, and managers of volunteers are themselves volunteers. Eliminate this position.
    • Stewardship Associate (Anya Shyrokova) — Another fundraising role. Keep if it's worth its cost.
    • Development Associate (Megan Hernandez) — Another fundraising role. Keep if it's worth its cost.
    • N Head of Public Outreach (Frank Schulenburg) — Another public outreach guy? Fire him, or make it a part-time/contract position. Wikimedia runs one of the most popular websites in the world; I think we've adequately developed the public's understanding of at least one of our projects, and if the others have stagnated, that's because of inadequate integration. A public outreach position won't address that issue.
    • N Education Programs Manager (Rod Dunican) — There's no description of what this guy does. Sounds suspicious. Better fire him, just in case.
  • Global development
    • Head of Communications (Jay Walsh) — Maybe keep this as a part-time position. Why do we need to have staff communicating with the press so much? Let the press do their own research if they want to write a story on Wikimedia. Our staff's statements to the media haven't been all that impressive anyway. Mostly, they just seem to blame Wikimedia's problems on WMF's being a victim of its own success.
    • Head of Business Development (Kul Takanao Wadhwa) — What business have you developed for us lately?
    • N Communications Officer (Moka Pantages) — Yet another superfluous communications staff member. Fire her.
  • Finance and administration
    • Chief Financial and Operating Officer (Véronique Kessler) — Every organization needs someone to be in charge of finance, but again, watch the salary for reasonableness. If the organization can be reduced in size, this role might even be contracted out to an accounting firm.
    • Accounting Manager and Financial Analyst (Bill Gong) — Probably a necessary position for an organization WMF's size. Accounts payable and such tend to be labor-intensive. It's hard to tell, though; maybe some activity based costing is in order.
    • Office IT Manager (Jeff Jones) — What, another IT person? How many IT people does one organization need?
  • N General Counsel and Legal Coordinator (Mike Godwin) — Do we really need a full-time lawyer? Contract this position out. Our counsel just interjects his opinion where it's not needed, whips up unwarranted paranoia about legal liability, and responds to accusations (i.e. Larry Sanger's kiddy porn allegations) that could have simply been ignored.
  • Human Resources Manager (Daniel Phelps) — A full-time HR manager starts to become needed once the number of staff reaches about 50, but if we can reduce it significantly below that, we should take a hard look at whether the HR functions might become some other staff member's part-time job.
  • Wikimedia Strategic Plan
    • N Program Manager (Eugene Eric Kim) — Don't we have executives to handle strategic planning? What are you needed for?
    • N Facilitator (Philippe Beaudette) — We can facilitate our own strategic planning, thanks.

Tisane talk/stalk 23:22, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

Banners, userboxes[edit]

We need banners, userboxes, etc.. --Timeshifter (talk) 09:10, 24 June 2010 (UTC)

Jimmy[edit]

Shouldn't Jimmy run for board member like everyone else? If he's one of the best people for the job, and the election system isn't good enough to ensure that he wins, then how can we trust it to elect other good candidates? Evidently, he doesn't trust the system to produce good results, or he wouldn't be bypassing it. Tisane talk/stalk 14:58, 24 June 2010 (UTC)

It's a constitutional monarchy, and I don't mind. I trust the judgment of Jimmy Wales most of the time. The tyranny of the majority can be just as bad as the tyranny of the minority. Democracy is not what counts most. The original consensus (Bill of Rights, Wikipedia policies) is what counts most. That consensus consists of Jimmy Wales and those longterm admins, trusted arbitrators, and board members that have actually done some serious editing. I don't trust most newbs or most appointed or elected board members without serious editing experience. Many organizations have been destroyed by elections, for-profit boards, etc.. Inexperienced people are still inexperienced even if they are elected, or own a lot of stock.
I prefer a non-profit organization led by a trusted group of people that has developed a working consensus, and only allows new people into the inner circle by super-majority votes of the inner group, and Jimmy Wales as final veto. People support this trusted leadership by voting with their donations. Votes in elections can be stacked. Votes are frequently stacked. I have seen it in various organizations. Cliques form in many organizations. For the most part I like the current clique in the Wikipedia leadership. It seems to believe in WP:NPOV. Nothing else matters as much in my opinion. Elections here help in finding good people for board members and arbitrators. And finally, "If it aint broke, don't fix it." --Timeshifter (talk) 13:06, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
So basically you support a board-only system. That's not necessarily a bad way to run things. Theoretically it gets rid of the membership as a check and balance, but given public choice dilemmas such as rational ignorance, I question how well the membership is able to function as that check and balance anyway. Jimmy's statement of principles is sound. On the other hand, a board-only system would be immune to, say, pressure from a Party such as this, since the incumbents could simply choose not to fill any vacancies with candidates from the Party. Time will tell whether the system we have now will allow us to gain any influence. Tisane talk/stalk 16:59, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

NPOV knowledge base in English is static[edit]

If the consensus for WP:NPOV, and for expansion of WP:NPOV knowledge, lessens or compromises too much at the top, then Wikipedia will become less important. I feel that it could already be happening in the English projects. I think this slow decay of the MediaWiki software, and the lack of integrated watchlists is indicative of a lack of vision.

The English WP:NPOV knowledge base is fairly static under the current WMF umbrella. The associated projects of Wikibooks, Wikiversity, and many other minor wikis of the Wikimedia Foundation are losing steam.

I am losing enthusiasm for English Wikipedia and English WMF projects. It may be time to fork. See Comparison of wiki software. I am not sure there is anything else out there though that can substitute for MediaWiki, and the huge underutilized user base of English Wikipedia. Stagnation due to lack of integrated watchlists. New people to this subject can see Wikipedia:Integrated watchlists.

This is the main problem I see with the current WMF leadership. Their lack of understanding and vision concerning the sister projects in English. See: Wikipedia:Wikimedia sister projects. There are many existing projects, and many proposed projects, that need the help of the large English user base. See: meta:Category:Proposed projects and meta:Proposals for new projects. --Timeshifter (talk) 13:15, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure that Wikibooks, Wikiversity, etc. ever had much steam to begin with. Lack of integration with WP consigned them to stagnation. Yeah, there is a lack of vision; that's what this Party is designed to address. We're trying to nudge the organization in the right direction. I would encourage, not a fork, but a mirror-supplement. Tisane talk/stalk 16:59, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

Move to meta?[edit]

Should we move this page to the Wikipedia namespace, or to meta? If it's moved to meta, of course, it will be forgotten because it won't show up on watchlists, but that theoretically is the correct place for this type of thing. Maybe a sock should be created for the Party itself, and this can become part of its userspace. E.g., User:Wiki Software Development Party. Or maybe User:ORG/Wiki Software Development Party, kinda like how we have User:UBX. Really, maybe the best thing is to have interlanguage links to versions of this page in French, Dutch, German, etc. Tisane talk/stalk 15:25, 24 June 2010 (UTC)

If you move it to Wikipedia space (WP:) or User:Org then the organization page is subject to control by people other than you. But the topic and organization may get more participation there. If needed, it can always be moved back to User: Tisane/Wiki Software Development Party. --Timeshifter (talk) 13:19, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

Sell the crown jewels?[edit]

Maybe WMF should just sell Wikipedia and its other projects to Google (or another non-evil corporation), and use the proceeds to fund MediaWiki development. Maybe Google could even take the lead in coordinating MW development, and WM could just fund particular development projects and bug fixes. As an open-source free software project, anyone can contribute to the codebase, regardless of who controls MediaWiki.org. Tisane talk/stalk 15:49, 24 June 2010 (UTC)

Anybody can donate now towards MediaWiki software development. Google has already donated 2 million dollars:
If the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) sells Wikipedia to Google (or any other company), then what guarantee is there that Google will honor WP:NPOV? Google is a for-profit company, and if its shareholders feel that NPOV causes them to lose some advertisers on Wikipedia, then they may believe they have a fiduciary responsibility to get rid of NPOV and controversial info. A for-profit Wikipedia would eventually not work for this reason.
Selling Wikipedia could easily get hundreds of millions of dollars for the WMF. But without an NPOV Wikipedia why would WMF further develop MediaWiki? --Timeshifter (talk) 13:24, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
Encyclopædia Britannica is run by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. but I would imagine it has an NPOV policy, since neutrality helps it appeal to a broader audience. It's probably as neutral as Wikipedia; the only difference is, its systemic bias comes from the top of the organization (management, which decides which topics will be covered and in how much depth), whereas ours comes from the bottom (the editors, who decide what they want to spend time writing about). And both organizations have their own memory holes by which they dispose of material they do not want to present to the public. The profit motive can be a good thing; it can impel organizations to focus on value-added activities and cut waste.
MediaWiki is of course used by many other projects besides Wikipedia; for instance, Metapedia, Conservapedia, WikInfo, Wikia, etc. so the need for it isn't going away. There are limits, in any event, to how easily anyone can subvert Wikipedia's NPOV, since the content is copylefted and anyone can create an NPOV fork. Tisane talk/stalk 16:26, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
Google and Britannica can create forks now. They don't need to buy Wikipedia to do that. There are mirrors of Wikipedia listed here:
http://openfacts.berlios.de/index-en.phtml?title=Copies_of_Wikipedia_content
Also, Britannica is small compared to Wikipedia in the number or articles and topics. Its systemic bias is similar to how the Western media spins issues through omission.
Wikipedia could become a for-profit organization, and put ads on all pages on the site. Most editors would leave, and immediately start a non-profit fork. That is easier said than done, though. It costs money for the hardware and basic staff. So a startup fund would have to be created. It would probably take 6 months to a year to fully ramp up back to our current number of servers and page views.
Wordpress.com and Google are for-profit and allow a wide variety of topics and opinions on their blogs. But I have seen some Google and Wordpress.com censorship at times. As the original founders of progressive companies sell their controlling shares it oftentimes happens that the new shareholder majority implement mediocrity, regressive policies, restrictions, etc.. --Timeshifter (talk) 10:15, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

Optional ads[edit]

Ads button.png I support on/off buttons for opt-in ads on a nonprofit Wikipedia for all readers (via cookies).

Optional ads on a non-profit Wikipedia might work. If the majority of editors stayed, then it would probably work well because it would generate more income, and thus be able to fund development of integrated watchlists. Integrated watchlists would cause me and hundreds of thousands of other editors to return to editing Wikibooks, Wikiversity, and many other WMF projects. This would snowball as editors crossed from project to project.... --Timeshifter (talk) 10:24, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

I wonder if ads could be done on a trial basis? We need to make sure that whatever ads are used are high-quality. I.e., let's avoid hosting ads for get-rich-quick schemes and such. I doubt that many people will opt-in to ads, but it could be given a try. Tisane talk/stalk 03:24, 30 June 2010 (UTC)
Help fund Wikipedia. On/off button for ads.
I think that if an on/off button were used, then enough people would try (including unregistered readers) to make this work. Cookies make it work. --Timeshifter (talk) 17:03, 30 June 2010 (UTC)
Has this been taken to the village pump yet? We could propose a 2-month trial, similar to what is happening with Pending Changes. Tisane talk/stalk 17:30, 30 June 2010 (UTC)
Optional ads have been discussed at the Village Pump, but not seriously. Not as a proposal. Would it have to be developed first? It could be proposed without it being ready to implement. --Timeshifter (talk) 05:26, 1 July 2010 (UTC)

When you say "developed," do you mean bringing it to WP:VPIL? That probably is a good starting place for it, if we plan on ultimately taking it to WP:VPPR. The more that the details of the proposal can be ironed out before it's presented to the community, the better; if we present an amorphous proposal, people will probably raise a lot of "what-if" scenarios that are irrelevant to what we're envisioning.

Actually, the proposal route might not be the best one. Sometimes it's better just to impose changes from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. Hardly any proposals are approved by the community, but a lot of stuff gets imposed by WMF leadership. E.g., I'm pretty sure making the Vector skin the default wouldn't have been approved at WP:VPPR, and the banners that are being plastered over the site probably would have been rejected, too.

So, I think the way to create major change is to take over the Board of Trustees. Have you seen some of the stuff they've been spending money on? All these consultants to help them make no-brainer decisions that are their responsibility, or WMF staff's, to figure out; that's what we pay them for. Oh and let's not forget the 3-D puzzle globe. Tisane talk/stalk 05:33, 1 July 2010 (UTC)

Either way it won't last without a majority of editors being able to live with optional ads. From past discussions at village pumps and elsewhere, fewer and fewer editors oppose opt-in ads. Most editors, myself included, vehemently oppose mandatory ads.
I will follow your lead on this, and enter discussions you start whether at the top, middle, or bottom of the hierarchies. I occasionally start discussions myself on optional ads.
As for development you are right it would require discussion first at WP:VPIL. I think that would work if some actual development on MediaWiki also occurred. --Timeshifter (talk) 14:54, 1 July 2010 (UTC)
Maybe we shouldn't try it out first on Wikipedia, but rather on some project no one cares about, like Wikiquote or Wikibooks? Wikipedia is the crown jewel of Wikimedia, and people get nervous about fooling with it in any way. Tisane talk/stalk 17:22, 1 July 2010 (UTC)
Good idea. The percentage of active editors to registered editors on wikis outside Wikipedia is smaller compared to the Wikipedia ratio.
So as long as people remember that, then we might be able to get some statistics from running a long-term test. Short-term tests won't be very helpful in my opinion. It takes time to make it the "in" thing to do.
I am not sure it will be a good test though. Readers don't come back nearly as often to Wikibooks, Wikiquotes, or Wikiversity. So they may not know the need for donations. Wikipedia readers have seen donation requests, and come back often. They are more likely to join in optional ads as just one more way to donate.
I also think it is essential that the on/off button work for non-registered readers too. That is where the real numbers will occur. Cookies would make it work. --Timeshifter (talk) 21:08, 1 July 2010 (UTC)
These are good points. Well, you have more interest in the opt-in ads than I do; why don't you take the lead on this? I've had enough proposals get shot down at the Village Pump lately that I'm ready to take a break from that for awhile. (Most notably, WP:PWD got shot down after I went to all the trouble of coding it.) Tisane talk/stalk 00:19, 2 July 2010 (UTC)
It looks like most people approve opt-in ads. I did a search and found this Village Pump discussion in late 2009 on optional ads. Maybe we need to go to some developer and board member forums now and raise some support? --Timeshifter (talk) 01:31, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

You can always give them a poke at Bugzilla. But the usual rule applies. If you want something implemented, you have to do it yourself. And if you're not willing to, it just doesn't get done. The exception is if you get elected to the board and use the power of the purse to cause it to be done, but that's a pretty big "if," and one that won't happen for awhile. By the way, this electoral route is not without its disadvantages as well; most notably, public choice dilemmas such as rational ignorance. Tisane talk/stalk 01:51, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

Wiki software development is urgently needed[edit]

GIF scaling was returned by many people continually prodding to get it done. I played my part. I think the same thing is happening with opt-in ads. More prodding by more people will make it happen if it is the right thing to do according to most people. Most people have no problems with it. But they don't see the urgency of it. The lack of GIF scaling was a serious problem that was messing up many articles, especially those articles containing animated GIFs. Eventually, there were so many complaints, coming from many directions, that a paid developer re-instituted GIF scaling, and even took some flack for it. But the need was obvious, and it fixed more problems than it caused. The problems were speedily dealt with because many people discussed them all on the Village Pumps.

I think it is becoming obvious to more people at the top that MediaWiki development is greatly needed. I don't really care if opt-in ads are the way the money is raised to pay more developers, or if paid developers are substituted for non-technical staff. I just want more paid developers.

I think this page should be moved to Wikipedia space as an essay, and the name changed to "Wiki software development is urgently needed". Or something similarly focused. More people will write and edit sections in the article in Wikipedia space as an essay. That is what happened with the WP:Advertisements essays. People wrote new sections, and helped edit all sections. --Timeshifter (talk) 14:58, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

The overall philosophy of software being king is what m:Mediawikianism is about. Anyway, the problem here is a systemic/political one. Wikimedia has enough money to accomplish the technical changes that are needed; they just need a board that is willing to restructure the organization and shift its focus in that direction. This is much bigger than the GIF scaling issue, and will probably have to be addressed from the top down. If there are no candidates willing to run for the board, then yes, the Party should be given up on and the page converted into an essay, perhaps.
By the way, another possibility is for an entrepreneur to start up a competing wiki and run it competently (i.e. with good rules and good management; see User:Tisane/Characteristics desirable in a wiki god-king), while integrating data from Wikipedia as needed via automated mirroring. That would take care of a host of other issues as well. Unfortunately, while Wikinfo made the good decision to dispense with strict notability requirements, it has also fallen short, in that it pursued a misguided "sympathetic point of view" rule and failed to integrate with Wikipedia. I suggested installing mw:Extension:RPED and running an IRC bot to update the rped_page table continuously using the enwiki recent changes IRC channel, but they perceived such a move as counterproductive. Essentially, where they go wrong is that they are trying to fork Wikipedia rather than mirror and supplement it. They don't understand that no wiki that aims to be comprehensive and high-quality can be very successful unless it integrates with Wikipedia. Tisane talk/stalk 16:13, 2 July 2010 (UTC)
I think the problem is integrated watchlists. The Open Directory Project is the type of list compiler that would be perfect for millions of Wikipedia editors to help out at. Same is true for many other projects. --Timeshifter (talk) 18:18, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

New WMF plan[edit]

Did you see the new WMF FY 2009-2010 annual plan? Tech has gone from 10 / 26 (38.4%) positions in 2008-09 to 22 / 47 (46.8%) positions in 2009-2010 to 38 / 91 (41.7%) positions in 2010-2011. However, as a % of total spending, tech is going from 38% to 48% from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011. Tisane talk/stalk 02:07, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

I wonder how many developers there are now, and how many in previous years. --Timeshifter (talk) 04:32, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
I guess it would be a matter of going through the histories? E.g., here is how it started out. Tisane talk/stalk 04:37, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
I can't tell from this page what exactly each of the technical staff do:
http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Staff
I trust that all the staff (tech and non-tech) were hired in good faith, and that all the staff are needed. It looks like many of the staff help with internationalizing Wikipedia. That is a good goal.
I think though that integrated watchlists and more developers may do more to internationalize Wikipedia. The Commons is used by all Wikipedias in hundreds of languages. The Commons needs more editors, and that means integrated watchlists. There are many language tools needed on the Commons too. Developers are needed for that too. --Timeshifter (talk) 18:24, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
It doesn't really matter so much whether they were hired in good faith (although some positions may very well represent an effort to expand one's empire, improve prestige, etc.) What matters are results. The road to hell is paved with good faith hires. Tisane talk/stalk 20:27, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
I think "good faith" matters a lot. But this is also true: "What matters are results." --Timeshifter (talk) 23:26, 8 July 2010 (UTC)