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Conversations with the Trustees - next call this Thursday 21st![edit]

Hi all. I just wanted to give you a heads-up, in case you didn’t already know, that there are regular ‘Conversation with the Trustees’ events that you are welcome to attend and ask questions to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees (who oversee and guide the Foundation). I’m hosting the next one, taking place this Thursday 21st March at 19h UTC and, speaking as a long-time enwiki editor, it would be really nice to see people from here attending and engaging in the discussions. Please see m:Wikimedia Foundation Community Affairs Committee/2024-03-21 Conversation with Trustees for details! Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:51, 18 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

This is good to know about, Mike; thanks for sharing! Sdkbtalk 18:31, 19 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Proposal: WMF should hire a full-time developer to do basic maintenance on MediaWiki[edit]

I've been disappointed with the state of disrepair of MediaWiki for years, but yesterday I've become aware of an issue that finally drove me to complain: there was a basic SVG rendering bug that has been fixed upstream 4 years ago, but it still torments Wikipedia readers because WMF can't be bothered to install the fixed version T97233. WMF also refuses to switch to a less buggy SVG rendering library T40010 or to let the browsers do the rendering themselves T5593. Other users there expressed skepticism that SVGs would ever work here and we should revert to PNGs instead, as such issues have existed for more than a decade without being addressed.

This lack of basic maintenance is not limited to SVGs. There is also the well-known issue that graphs are "temporarily" disabled, which was triggered by MediaWiki using the Vega 2 library for 6 years after its end-of-life, until this time bomb exploded in their face. It looks like the current "solution" is just disable graphs forever T334940.

Another issue is that MediaWiki still runs on Debian Buster, the Debian stable from two releases ago. Fun fact, it will be end-of-lifed in three months, so we'll have one of the biggest websites in the world running on unsupported software. And these are only the problems I have personally encountered. Other editors tell of many more that I won't list here.

One might think that this situation is due to a lack of funds, but this is not the case. WMF has so much money that it doesn't know what to do with it: Signpost May 2023, Signpost August 2023. That's why I'm launching this proposal to tell it: hire a full-time developer to do at least basic maintenance. It's unconscionable to donate millions of dollars to other charities while your own website is falling apart.

It would be in fact perfectly natural natural for such a wealthy foundation administering such a large website to fix bugs themselves, or even take over development of the libraries it depends upon. I'm not demanding that much. Only to keep the software stack remotely up to date. Right now it's downright archaeological. Our billions of readers are suffering through issues that the rest of the world has long solved. Tercer (talk) 15:56, 23 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

As I understand it, the WMF has hundreds of staff and these include developers. Github has 558 names of such. So, my impression is that there's no lack of staff or other resources. Presumably it's more matter of organisation and fit. I'm guessing that there's a lot of legacy code and technical debt and maybe this is too brittle and rotten to maintain easily. The graph debacle indicates that senior management ought to be getting a grip on this before a more catastrophic gap opens up. Andrew🐉(talk) 17:58, 23 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Obviously WMF has some developers. Certainly not hundreds, let alone 558. In any case none of them is dedicated to maintenance, otherwise Wikipedia's servers wouldn't be in a worse state than my grandmother's PC. I assume they are working on sexy new features such as the visual editor, the reply function, or the dark mode. Maintenance is boring, and doesn't look impressive in your CV. Nobody wants to do it. That's why I'm proposing a full-time maintainer.
Your alternative theory that they have enough resources but still can't do maintenance can be summarized as rank incompetence, and that's too cynical for my taste. It's also not actionable. What could one propose? "Proposal: WMF should get its shit together"? Tercer (talk) 19:09, 23 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
The WMF does appear to have hundreds of developers and engineers. For example, see Developers/Maintainers which has a specific column documenting maintenance responsibilities. Some of these are the responsibility of entire teams such as Wikimedia Site Reliability Engineering which has a headcount of about 45. There are still clearly gaps in this structure, as shown by the year-long outage of graphs, for example. But the idea that there's nobody currently responsible for maintenance in a general sense seems too simplistic. The problem seems more that there's a complex structure in which it's easy for issues to fall down cracks or for people to pass the buck. Andrew🐉(talk) 21:21, 23 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I took a look at the gigantic list in Developers/Maintainers; the first two names there are volunteers, not staff, so we can easily discount that as indicating that WMF has hundreds of devs. All the ones I clicked in Wikimedia Site Reliability Engineering, however, are actually staff, so we can take 45 as a lower bound for the number of devs. Fair enough, some of them are responsible for maintenance, but it's clearly not enough. The WMF can easily afford to hire another, and it should urgently do so. Tercer (talk) 23:07, 23 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I find these threads tiresome. By background, I'm a real software engineer for real money in real life. I do some software development on enwiki-related projects as a volunteer. The pay sucks (but it's no worse than I get paid for editing) but at least I get to pick and choose what I work on, when I want to work on it, and how I want to architect it.
I've found my interactions with the WMF development staff similar to my interactions with any dev group I've ever worked with. Some are good, some not so good. There's a few who are absolute joys to work with. There's a few who are grumps. But then again, you could cross out "WMF developer" and write in (with crayon if you like) "enwiki editor" and you would still have a true statement.
The basic architecture is 25-ish years old. There's a lot of legacy crud. The fact that the core system is written in PHP just boggles my mind. Recruiting must be a challenge. How do you attract top-shelf talent when what you're offering is an opportunity to work on a legacy code base written in PHP and salaries which I can only assume are not competitive with what the Googles and Facebooks and Apples of the tech world are offering. And yes, you are right, doing maintenance work is not what people want to do. If you told somebody, "Your job is to ONLY work on maintaining the old stuff and you'll never get a chance to work on anything that's new and shiny and exciting", I can't imagine you'd get many applications. RoySmith (talk) 23:54, 23 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
And the slow code review process discourages the volunteers who are affected by longstanding bugs from working on fixing them. And of course a company with a known-bad workplace culture.
I think there are people, myself included, who would be willing to work on only fixing bugs rather than building new things in principle, but probably a lot of those people (again including myself) have internally vilified the WMF for exactly this reason so would consider it to morally repugnant to work for them. * Pppery * it has begun... 00:32, 24 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I am one of those people. The experience described in that link is totally unacceptable and would lead to prosecution in many jurisdictions. I am ashamed to be associated with its perpetrators. Certes (talk) 01:41, 24 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
That's why WMF has to pay them. You'll never get boring infrastructure work done by volunteers. And no, I don't believe you'd have any difficulty finding applicants if you offer a decent salary. Even for working with PHP (it's no COBOL, everybody knows PHP). WMF can afford to pay even a top salary from a tiny fraction of the money it has been setting on fire. Tercer (talk) 10:26, 24 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, that sounds much more likely to succeed than giving the interesting work to the paid staff and hoping some mug will volunteer to do the grind for free. One option is make dedicated maintenance a role rather than a person, and to allocate it to a different member of staff each month. (Other time periods are available.) That way no one has to do it for long enough to drive them to resignation, and it's a chance to cycle the skill set with e.g. graph maintenance being done when a graph expert is on duty. Certes (talk) 11:44, 24 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Small bug fixes can be spread out amongst developers. But truly addressing significant technical debt means cleaning up the software framework to be more sustainable. That's not something that can be done effectively by rotating the work. isaacl (talk) 20:49, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
To add a bit to what Roy Smith described about software development: there are failures in managing it throughout the industry, particularly dealing with legacy code bases and a existing user population that generally wants all of their interactions to remain exactly the same. When the software has an associated revenue stream, there's a profit incentive to drive deadlines to be met, but when there isn't, the motivation is to get something that works implemented, as cheaply as possible. That tends to accumulate technical debt that has to be resolved later. One more developer isn't going to have much effect on these problems, which need significant resources working in concert to address. Better project management and setting of priorities is needed, to adequately plan how to transform the code base to a more sustainable state. Note there's a good possibility that would result in a decision to shed functionality currently in use that's too costly or insecure to keep in place, with a plan to re-implement some parts deemed necessary. isaacl (talk) 01:57, 24 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
That's mitigated slightly by the lack of one negative force: MediaWiki has no need to make change for change's sake, just to make Product 2024 look sufficiently different from Product 2021 that users will feel obliged to upgrade. Certes (talk) 11:48, 24 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I'm a software engineer myself. More specifically I'm an SRE, so I'm typically responsible for the types of tasks you're talking about (server upgrades, etc). Let me give you my perspective:
For most software engineers, the work they do at their job is completely outside of their control. They do what makes their boss happy, and in turn, they do what makes their boss happy, and so on. Thankless work like regular maintenance is often dropped without the proper incentives. For some people, those incentives are the salary to work long hours, but since many American jobs in big tech pay 2x to 5x the salary WMF pays for the same role, That isn't it. Those incentives have to come from the top. An example of what that might look like is a "backlog drive" that employees are required to participate in. But that's pretty rare, because leadership is typically being evaluated on metrics like increasing revenue or visitors to the site, and technical debt doesn't push those metrics. So, asking WMF to hire more people doesn't address the problem. Those new employees, if hired, would just fall into the established system that caused the technical debt to exist in the first place. So the conversation you need to be having is: "How do we convince WMF to invest in technical debt?" I don't know the answer to that question. But focusing on hiring more people doesn't solve anything. Mokadoshi (talk) 03:31, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
That's why the proposal is to hire a dev specifically to work on maintenance. Tercer (talk) 06:51, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
The problem is bigger than just one person working on small bug fixes. The framework needs to be cleaned up to be more sustainable. The third-party software dependencies need to be reconciled across different extensions. This needs co-ordination across multiple development areas, and a lot of automated testing. It needs support from management to push through, rather than to just spend enough to keep the parts working. isaacl (talk) 20:49, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Been there, done that. Assigning all mainteinance work to a single engineer (or a small group of them) is a really bad idea in practice. It just obfuscates the need to have better mainteinance practices across the whole engineering organization. It isolates "mainteinance folk" from the new developments that they'll eventually move to mainteinance. It leads burns out, and then to a new "mainteinance guy" coming who starts from scratch and cannot tap into institutional knowledge about mainteinance. It is just unsustainable practice. MarioGom (talk) 10:19, 6 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, investing in technical debt is exactly what's needed, but one reason (or excuse) for not doing that is lack of people. If I gag the cynic in me shouting that any new staff would just be diverted to exciting but unnecessary new chrome, an increase in resource should make it easier to get through the required drudgery. Certes (talk) 09:14, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
The key point is why hasn't the WMF already hired that one more developer, or ten, or fifty? Because it places a higher priority on spending those funds and management resources in other areas. For the development environment to truly improve, the WMF needs to change how it sets its priorities. Echoing what Mokadoshi said, that's the problem that needs to be worked on. isaacl (talk) 20:58, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Do you have a source that the Wikipedia web servers run on Debian Buster? I thought they ran on Kubernetes? Mokadoshi (talk) 19:03, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
A message just came around on the cloud-announce mailing list saying that all the VPS hosts running Buster need to be upgraded in the next few months. I don't have any insight into what they're running on the production web servers, but I assume if they're migrating the VPS fleet, they're doing the same for production. RoySmith (talk) 19:14, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for that link, I'm not in that mailing list so I didn't know. I don't know how WMF runs prod so it very well may be that they are running Buster. But it's important to note that the announcement is for Cloud-VPS which is VPS hosting for the community. It would be common practice to not upgrade Cloud-VPS until the last possible minute so as to minimize disruption for the community. AWS for example does not forcibly upgrade your OS until the last possible day. Mokadoshi (talk) 19:51, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I wouldn't spend too much time and effort focusing on the Debian Buster thing. That doesn't affect end users in any way that I can see, and it is not end of life'd yet. Let's trust WMF software engineers and SREs to handle those details, and focus on things that directly affect end users. –Novem Linguae (talk) 21:05, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Where it adds to the technical debt that has to be managed is the work to figure out the third-party software stack required by the extensions used for a given Wikimedia site. I agree that it's not a level of detail that editors should be worried about figuring out, but getting the code base improved so that it's easier to work out is important for long-term sustainability of the software. isaacl (talk) 21:24, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
It's in the discussion of the SVG bug I linked, where they say they will only install the bugfix when it comes with Bullseye, and link to the task for upgrading from Buster to Bullseye. Tercer (talk) 23:33, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I really don't want to speak for the WMF, but I kind of understand their logic here. One way to manage a fleet of machines is to stick with LTS releases and survive on whatever gets packaged into that. It's certainly possible to built custom installs, but once you start doing that, you're off the LTS train and have to take on a lot more responsibility and overhead. I've lived in both worlds. If you haven't, it's difficult to fully understand just how attractive sticking to the LTS can be. RoySmith (talk) 00:10, 26 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I suspect WMF SRE would be fine with a newer version of the package, provided that there was a compelling reason (more than just small bug fixes) and a different person/team took full responsibility for what that entailed. Like if WMF multimedia team (staffed in this hypothetical future differently) basically said that this is a critical issue, we need the new version, and we are willing to take responsibility for all that entailed, it would probably happen. But that is not the situation happening here. Bawolff (talk) 15:28, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
This certainly does illustrate the odd relationship that the community has with WMF. In a commercial software shop, there would be meetings between engineering and product managements. The product folks would say, "If this bug isn't fixed, it's going to cost us $X next quarter in lost revenue as customers jump ship". The engineering folks would say, "The only way we can fix this is if we go off the LTS train and that's going to cost us $Y in additional engineering costs, plus some indeterminate $Z in technical risk exposure". The two sides would argue and come to some decision, but at least both points of view would be heard and weighed.
But that relationship doesn't exist here. The customer base is the volunteer community. It's difficult to put a price tag on their labor, and even if you could, they don't have a seat at the table when it comes to making these decisions. Yeah, there's meta:Community Tech and meta:Community Wishlist Survey, but that's not quite the same thing as having the VP of sales in your face about fixing whatever bug is pissing off his biggest customer and threatening his bonus this quarter :-) RoySmith (talk) 17:48, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I think there is also a problem here in that the community lacks sufficient knowledge into how WMF does things to make effective criticism, and without effective criticism its impossible to hold WMF to account. Take this thread. The proposal is for WMF to hire a single developer to work on maintenance of MediaWiki despite the fact that there is already a lot more than one developer currently working on MediaWiki maintenance and none of the issues mentioned actually are MW maintenance issues. As a proposal it is pretty non-sensical - it is hard to even tell if these are issues the community cares a lot about or just an issue that a few people care about. The community might lack a seat at the table, which is a problem, but the community is also pretty bad at expressing what is important to it in a way you can actually do something with. Bawolff (talk) 18:17, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
You're missing the forest for the trees. I could have phrased the proposal instead as "invest more resources in maintenance" without changing anything else, and your criticism wouldn't apply. Moreover, you're missing the point about "jumping off the LTS train". There is no need to update this package in isolation. If MW had been updated to Bookworm last year, or even Bullseye three years ago, they would have gotten for free the SVG bugfix. No matter which way you look at it, maintenance is lacking. Tercer (talk) 19:16, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Sure, but would it have been worth it? I also have a long list of things i would like to see fixed. The issue is everyone has a different list. I don't think there is any reason to think that hiring 10 more, or even 100 more devs would neccesarily fix the specific issues you are concerned about. Not all problems can be fixed by just hiring more people. (P.s. my criticism of, well technically this isn't a mediawiki issue, isn't neccesarily directed at you - there is no reason you should know where the boundries between different components lie. I think it is more emblematic of the meta problem where the community lacks the ability to really tell what WMF is doing and hence lacks the ability to really judge it which undermines the community's ability to be taken seriously when lobbying for changes) Bawolff (talk) 21:21, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Actually, we do have good visibility into what they're doing. The big picture of how they handle OS upgrades is on on Wikitech. And if you're willing to invest some effort looking around on phab, you can find all the details. For example, T355020 talks about upgrading the hosts that Thumbor runs on. RoySmith (talk) 22:06, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
That's funny, it turns out SRE is violating their own policy by hanging on to Buster for so long. Well, I'm glad they agree with me. Tercer (talk) 22:16, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, it would. Updating Debian is a no-brainer. Very likely it would take care of a large fraction of your list automatically. And it's something you have to do anyway, so there's no benefit from running archaeological versions. Keep in mind that we're talking about Debian stable here, so even the newest version is already old and battle-tested. Tercer (talk) 22:09, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I disagree. Bawolff (talk) 21:19, 1 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
  • From what I am aware of, there is a decent number of employed devs as well as volunteers, so if anything, this is a coordination problem (economical and social) more than anything else. I do have to agree on the point that despite the number of people, some important things don't seem to get done - some of it is primarily because dealing with legacy code is hard, and because hiring quality is hard (this is not to imply at all that current devs are bad) but more exactly that hiring the best devs to work on legacy code is particularly challenging (atleast without paying through the nose). The best way to resolve this is to use the donation war chest and work harder on technical evangelism + hiring on quality over quantity. --qedk (t c) 22:54, 25 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
    Perhaps WMF can fund the volunteer developers to do basic maintenance, just like the Rapid Fund and the Wikimedia Technology Fund (which is unfortunately permanently on hold)? Thanks. SCP-2000 14:53, 27 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
  • Hi all - I'm Mark Bergsma, VP of Site Reliability Engineering & Security at WMF. Thanks for this discussion and the points already raised. I'd like to help clarify a few things: at WMF we do indeed have a few hundred developers/engineers - spread over many teams in the Product & Technology department, which is roughly half of the organization. "Maintenance" is not exclusively done by a few dedicated staff, but is the shared responsibility of most of those teams and staff, for the components they're responsible for. They actually spend a large amount of their time on that, and for some teams it's the vast majority of their work. We do consider that a priority and explicitly make time & space for it (we call it "essential work"), and we aim to carefully balance it with strategic work (like bringing new functionality to users/contributors), as well as needed investments into our platform and infrastructure (e.g. our multi-year project to migrate all our services to modern Kubernetes platforms for easier development/testing/maintenance/developer workflows). Since last year, we've also made MediaWiki and related platform work an explicit priority (WE3), including the establishment of some much needed MediaWiki-focused teams again, and have an explicit annual goal to increase the number of staff and volunteer developers working on MediaWiki, WE3.2), and the new formation of our MediaWiki platform strategy. This will continue going forward (WE5 and WE6 of our draft next-year plan).
    Nonetheless, it's true that we have a big challenge sustaining the large and ever growing footprint of services, features and code we've developed and deployed over the now long history of our projects, at the large scale we're operating at. Compared to that footprint, and considering the very wide range of technologies involved, old and new, different code bases and needed knowledge and skill sets, a few hundred staff to sustain and develop that is not all that much. It involves difficult choices and tradeoffs everywhere - prioritizing between many tasks and projects, all of which seem important. It's something we care about, have done quite a bit of process improvement work on over the past 1.5 year, and have a lot more left to do on. We're planning several related initiatives (e.g. WE5.1, all KRs of PES*) as part of our next annual plan to further improve this. We're also going to communicate more about this sort of work, which has been less publicly visible before.
    But, for something more concrete right now: I've also looked into the situation of the specific issue with SVGs that you raised. That's indeed a problem with an old librsvg library version that is used by Thumbor, our thumbnailing service, which was extensively worked on last year to migrate it to our Kubernetes platform - also for easier/quicker maintenance like discussed here. Further work (including the Thumbor container OS image upgrade and some required Thumbor development for that) then unfortunately got delayed, as the development team then responsible for it needed to be disbanded and reorganized at the time - also to allow us to form the aforementioned MediaWiki focused teams. But, I'm now happy to report that the plan is for the work on the Thumbor upgrade to Debian Bullseye to start soon, in the next few weeks, which when finished should finally address this frustrating issue as well. (And yes, we do normally upgrade before OS releases go out-of-support :)
HTH! -- Mark Bergsma (WMF) (talk) 12:14, 27 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed answer (it seems that Andrew Davidson had a much better grasp of the situation, and I stand corrected). I'm glad to hear that you are aware of the issues, care about them, and there are plans for improvement. In particular, I'm glad that there is a MediaWiki team again and that WE5.1 is an explicit goal. If the state of MediaWiki in fact improves (at least in the issues I'm aware of) I'll resume donating.
It's clear that the answer to my specific proposal is (a quite diplomatic) "no", but I don't mind. I care about the results, and I'm not going to pretend to know better than you how to achieve them. Tercer (talk) 18:44, 27 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Regarding the broken Graph extension, I have written an overview in the new Signpost that hopefully sheds some light on the situation for those who haven't followed it closely over the past year: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2024-03-29/Technology report.
Speaking personally and generally (i.e. not necessarily about the Graph situation in particular), I think people should keep their minds open to the possibility that several things can be true at once: 1) WMF does a lot more maintenance (and other technical) work than some community members give it credit for, 2) many technical issues are trickier to solve that it might appear without detailed knowledge about the situation, but also 3) WMF often has serious problems with assigning resources proportional to impact and 4) there can also sometimes be situations where engineers overcomplicate a problem and let the perfect become the enemy of the good, or lack the expertise to find the most efficient solution. Regards, HaeB (talk) 02:49, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you @HaeB for your even-handed review of the Graph extension situation, and articulating some real challenges that we all face, contributors and WMF staff. Something that I remind myself daily is that most people are trying very hard to get decisions they think will have a lasting impact right, and it's true that sometimes that can lead to letting 'perfect become the enemy of good.'
I wanted to share a little of my perspective on the maintenance challenge: I've joked that this is my third 20+ year old codebase. Over those years, security, uptime and performance expectations have changed dramatically along with the Internet. We all expect software to be more safe, available and faster than ever before. Wikipedias have the privilege of serving a large user base of readers and editors, who are diverse in their geography, expectations and needs (to name just a few ways!). And often, those who work on the software are trying to keep as much functionality as possible as we modify things, so that as little as possible breaks even as the world changes around us. An imperfect analogy to what's happened might be retrofitting a series of buildings and changing their core purpose from some industry to housing. It's possible to change the purpose of a building without changing any of the internal structure, but over time, that becomes increasingly hard to live with. And now you have tenants, so you can't just send everyone away for a year to upgrade it all!
We have multiple significant maintenance projects underway. One place to hear about a part of this work is in the monthly MediaWiki Insights reports, which describe MediaWiki project progress and plans. Each language wiki and sister project wiki is a separate deployment that also supports a distinct set of extensions, some of which were created and deployed many years ago, under pretty different circumstances than we face today. Following the insights reports may help those interested learn more about what it takes to untangle years of uncoordinated decision making for our most critical software, and what it will require for us to establish a platform that is supportable on a free and open internet by dedicated staff and volunteers, and still enable an open and distributed model for all contributions.
Having volunteers who understand our challenges and then help us think through how to get things right together is super helpful. Thanks again and please keep sharing your thoughts. SDeckelmann-WMF (talk) 19:42, 1 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Preannouncement of upcoming Movement Charter conversations[edit]

I am Kaarel, support staff of the Movement Charter Drafting Committee, working with the Wikimedia Foundation.

I am writing here to let you know in advance that the full draft of the Movement Charter will be published on April 2nd, 2024. This will kick off the community engagement period from April 2nd to April 22nd. Perspectives from the English Wikipedia community would be very valuable for the conversations.

For context, the Movement Charter is a proposed document to define roles and responsibilities for all the members and entities of the Wikimedia Movement, including to lay out a new Global Council for movement governance.

Everyone in the Wikimedia Movement is invited to share feedback on the full version of the Charter draft – this is the last chance to propose improvements before the Charter draft is updated for the ratification vote in June 2024.

Since the last feedback round the drafts have gone through notable changes. I hope many of you will still find it worthwhile to review the drafts and share your perspectives to inform the final version of the text that will be ratified.

How to share your feedback?

Read the Committee's latest updates for more information. I am truly grateful for your kind attention!

On behalf of the Movement Charter Drafting Committee, --KVaidla (WMF) (talk) 07:38, 26 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Please remember, when attempting to tie-in and enforce any specific rulings or wording of the document, that this project is Wikipedia (specifically English Wikipedia) and not Wikimedia or an entity called "Wikimedia movement", and its editors are called Wikipedians and not Wikimedians (although some Wikipedians may also want to self-identify as Wikimedians). Thanks. Randy Kryn (talk) 12:27, 27 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you for this feedback! I would like to understand better the point you are making. The Wikimedia Movement Charter is a high level document defining the future roles and responsibilities of those comprising it. As defined here, on English Wikipedia, "The Wikimedia movement is the global community of contributors to the Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia." The article further elaborates that "the Wikimedia community includes a number of communities devoted to single wikis", followed by a list, including Wikipedia communities.
In my perspective, this means that following the definitions also in respective article on English Wikipedia, as curated by English Wikipedia community, Wikipedians are part of particular Wikipedia community, who in turn are part of the global Wikimedia community. It does not seem reasonable in a Charter-like high level document to mention all the projects separately, so the term Wikimedia is used. At the same time, I do hear your point about the choice of the term might feel "alienating" (my interpretation, please correct or specify, if not correct) for the contributors of particular projects. What is your positive proposal for terminology considering this?
Thank you for your very kind attention given to the matter! --KVaidla (WMF) (talk) 15:46, 28 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Hello KVaidla (WMF). The point is quite simple. Wikipedians are people who have edited Wikipedia, the flagship project that WMF was organized to fund and protect. Wikipedians can individually choose to identify as Wikipedians, Wikimedians, or both (irregardless of the language you quote above, remember that Wikipedia cannot be used as a source) and are different groups of people when they identify or identifying them. WMF's funding is primarily based on donations that people think they are donating to Wikipedia when, in fact, Wikipedians have very little to do with deciding where and how much such funding is allotted. Wikipedians, a dictionary term, even used to have an annual award named for them. Wikimedian of the Yearl was named 'Wikipedian of the Year' from 2011 to 2016, when an obvious opportunity not taken arose to create the second award while keeping the first intact.
Since Wikipedians are a stand-alone grouping, they may choose to belong or not belong to what you call the 'Wikimedia movement'. But any rulings or direction which dictates WMF (or "Wikimedia movement") policy onto them, without regard to the separation of the two, should not stand as doctrine or overriding policy but simply as suggestion. Funding of Wikipedia projects, conventions (our Wikimedia conventions, both worldwide and local such as the North American convention, should rival other major corporate and professional conventions in terms of facilities, banquets, sponsorship, etc., with a much greater extension of WMF funding, upwards of 500 scholarships to each, etc. as a major opportunity to celebrate the volunteers), and new ideas should be taken for granted in WMF's yearly budget, with WMF asking "Thank you, what more can we do?". In any case, the elephant in the room is that Wikipedia is the popularly known entity which "brings in" the donations for the movement and WMF operations, and instead of erasing the term 'Wikipedian' (as was done with the annual award) that separation, as well as the partnership and much fuller funding, should be further recognized and encouraged. Thanks for your reply above, and for your work supporting the projects. Randy Kryn (talk) 15:37, 30 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I am proud to be a Wikipedia editor. I don't really know or care about this "Wikimedia movement" which some marketing genius seems to have plucked out of thin air recently. I associate the term "movement" with promoting some cause or other, whereas I try hard to do the opposite by editing neutrally. If membership of this "Wikimedia movement" is optional, then I opt out. If it's a mandatory condition of remaining a Wikipedia editor, just let me know, and I'll move on and leave you to write your own encyclopedia. Certes (talk) 22:31, 1 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
The “membership” like it pleases you to frame it is optional but certain policies are not. For camper, you may not personally attack other users or perform undisclosed paid editing. Ymblanter (talk) 11:40, 2 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I haven't done either of those and don't intend to, but I consider myself answerable to the community and not the WMF. I'll continue to behave in a way I feel is reasonable, the WMF (unfortunately) can decide which of us it allows to edit, and I trust the community to react appropriately to any poor or unexplained decisions as we have occasionally had to do in the past. Certes (talk) 11:59, 2 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you, Randy Kryn, for taking the time to elaborate your point more. clearly. I believe I understand the perspective better and it has sparked further conversation, which can be helpful.
As to separation between Wikipedia communities and Wikimedia movement, I believe that project autonomy and agency of project contributors in policy-making continue to be important aspects of how we function. At the same time, there are already global policies, like the Terms of Use in place, that basically legally enable the functionality of all the projects. The Wikimedia Movement Charter drafting work is based on a hypothesis that there are matters that can be defined universally, so we do not need to revisit these matters project by project. Also it is about having the rights and responsibilities of different stakeholders set in writing for clarity. It would be interesting to hear your further thoughts and insights in relation to what has been suggested in the Movement Charter draft (which is now been published). Thank you again for your time and sharing of your perspective! --KVaidla (WMF) (talk) 12:58, 4 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks KVaidla (WMF). I think my statement above presents my personal concerns, mainly about full funding of Wikipedia/Wikimedia volunteer projects and the worldwide and regional conferences (where 257 scholarships are given, for example, expanding that to 700, or 800, and assuring that the conferences rival the best corporate or non-profit conferences in keeping with Wikipedia's reputation and, importantly, to thank some of the volunteers who provide both the work product and the incentive for donors) could easily become a key priority of WMF funding. I've been saying that the world's billionaires will, at some point donate up to a billion dollars to Wikipedia and Wikimedia associated projects (Wikipedia's perceived yearly worth per the EMO - the Elon Musk Offer). For both then and now it would be nice to assure that the volunteers fully participate, including widescale funding-decision participation, in everything that dedicated knowledge-sharers can think up and accomplish. Randy Kryn (talk) 14:46, 5 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

The movement[edit]

The phrase "Wikimedia movement" is not a recent invention, though it has received more attention in the past couple years. We individual Wikians of course are free to call ourselves proudly as we will but I think the failure a few years ago to rename the outlying and ancillary sites to "Wikipedia [something]" was unfortunate as it would have helped in public recognition. It would help in recruiting; almost all my students have been attracted to our teaching sessions in hopes of writing a new article when really, it would usually be easier for them to learn how to add a new picture. For my own editing, for a decade or more I have been putting about as much effort into Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata as into English Wikipedia. Those sites do a few things but mainly they supply pictures and data (geographical coordinates are one of my specialties) to the hundreds of Wikipedias including English. Even without a common name, I figure there ought to be a common policy structure and general set of guidelines for us all, so the WMF staff don't have to decide so many things for us. Naturally there will be an interest in adding matters that are mainly the concern of only the encyclopedias or of only few of the various other autonomous member sites, who each ought to handle such things by their already established methods. There will be disagreements on such questions, but I'm confident our usual methods of drawing a consensus will prevail. Jim.henderson (talk) 00:16, 4 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

  • In short: I'm curious whether you're saying you believe that a difference of one letter (in some cases) constitutes a real detriment to the development of Wikipedia's sister sites? "Wiki" is already very widely associated with Wikipedia by the public, does "Wikipedia Data" being a thing people hear about and are surprised it exists seem much more unlikely than with "Wikidata"?
  • I really disagree that even in effect Commons's main function is to act as Wikipedia's image repository. Its use is ubiquitous.

I figure there ought to be a common policy structure and general set of guidelines for us all, so the WMF staff don't have to decide so many things for us.

  • I don't really think this structure makes sense. WMF doesn't really make that many choices for us—or at least, I feel part of the process for just about every choice I would like input on. I'm not sure what exactly you would like centralized, the current model seems to work. Do you have specific areas of policy or administration in mind?
Remsense 00:39, 4 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I think it's important to remember that there isn't a "we", strictly speaking. Not all of us are here to be part of a movement or whatever, or even editing for the same reasons; some just want to fxi a tyop that bugged them, others to add information about their favourite volcano. Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk) 07:18, 4 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I have a great respect for sister projects. I refer to Wiktionary regularly, and I use Commons unconsciously most times I read a Wikipedia article with images, though I've contributed very little to either. I use Wikidata occasionally, and was briefly an enthusiastic contributor; I would use it much more if it had an intuitive user interface. None of this makes me part of a "Wikimedia movement", which I see largely as a political stance shared by some but not all editors. Certes (talk) 09:08, 4 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
The fact that you think the other projects are nothing more than ancillary sites that should be rebranded as under the Wikipedia umbrella is a very, very bad sign. Cremastra (talk) 22:04, 5 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
  • I completely understand that Wikipedia editors have a very Wikipedia-centric view of the broader Wikimedia community. It would be nice if everyone had the interest to learn more about the other projects, and how they are used, but I understand that it's not a priority for most Wikipedians, regardless of which language Wikipedia they choose to edit. But I'll just throw in a few tidbits:
  • For many mainstream media sources that use images, Wikimedia Commons is often a go-to resource. There isn't a day that I don't find a Wikimedia Commons credit on the series of mainstream media sources I look at.
  • Wikidata is used widely as a data aggregator by many other not-for-profit resources.
  • Some language editions of Wikisource are the largest repositories of open-source historic documents and literature in those languages
  • Some language editions of Wiktionary are having a major impact in preserving dying languages

The 339 Wikipedias, with their collective 62+ million articles, are indeed the major drivers of the Wikimedia family of projects; the largest Wikipedias, especially the English one, have deservedly gained a reputation for accuracy and neutrality in providing the entire world with information. That doesn't mean that the "sister projects" don't make a valuable contribution to the sum of all human knowledge. I will never fault anyone for choosing to focus on one specific Wikimedia project, or even one small aspect of a specific project. We're all better for those contributions. Risker (talk) 08:39, 4 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

  • Fearful of being caught beating a dead horse, I'll speak once more and hope to be disciplined enough to hold my peace. Yes, one little letter can indeed make a difference. Besides the local Wikimedia Chapter I am a member of local clubs concentrating on bicycling and astronomy. I'm always nattering to them about how we make Wikipedia and sometimes they actually listen. A couple times, though they did not surrender to my efforts to get them to edit an article or two, they decided that a money contribution would be a good thing. "Eh? The form said 'Wikimedia Foundation'. Is that the same thing, or did someone else sneak in with some kind of Internet scam?" These people had me to make the explanation, unlike most outsiders.
  • A common brand can't help us thousands of insiders to understand what we're doing; like other big busy communities we are too complex to be understood with just a few simple labels. However, that's not what brands are for. Brand names are to promote instant understanding among the mass of outsiders, in this case their understanding that this is a big complex of websites with a common theme. We have different detailed policies to handle our specialties, but we are all about Wikipedia's original aim of promoting universal knowledge by organizing it for accessibility.
  • I have uploaded thousands of pictures to Wikimedia Commons, and I know of a dozen that are used in news publications, books, and other works. Probably hundreds more are so used; we don't require to be given notice. The usual credit, when given, is "From Wikipedia" or "From Wikimedia Commons" or "by Jim.henderson via Wikimedia Commons". I figure, out of the small minority of their readers who actually wonder where the pictures came from, "From Wikipedia" is the only one that isn't mysterious. Yes, knowledge professionals, most often, know what they are doing but they hope their product will be read by many more people than are composing it; same as we do. They don't expect their readers to learn what it takes to be a knowledge professional.
  • Wikidata is indeed used by many knowledge professionals. I am most familiar with the work of librarians since I work with them often, and have a lunch appointment tomorrow with a relative who's in that line of work. They are familiar with the different workings of OCLC, Worldcat, LoC and various local or specialized catalogs, and many of them also use Wikidata to help find their way through and among the others. Haha, a couple years ago I looked at the Wikidata item about me, and it showed my LoC Authority Control Number. What, has my good work come to such high prominence? No, that was another Jim Henderson, so I corrected it. Wikidata is full of dirty data like that, some of it imported from massive outside databases a century old or more. Not a big problem since WD serves people in the database business who are aware. I have also worked with art museum archivists and have no idea whether their old catalogs have as many errors as the databases for community gardens in Brooklyn or defunct restaurants in The Bronx. Hmm, perhaps I have wandered but anyway yes, the question of what brand name Wikidata ought to use is a lot less important than for Wikiprojects that serve a wider direct audience.
  • Oh-oh, it seems this paragraph on WD has revealed that I've already gone overboard. So, I'll drop my stick and carefully back away from the dead horse. Jim.henderson (talk) 01:13, 5 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

The full Movement Charter draft awaits your review on Meta[edit]

Hello again! I am following up on the pre-announcement from the previous week to let you know that the full draft of the Movement Charter has been published on Meta for your review.

Why should you care?

The Movement Charter is important as it will be an essential document for the implementation of the Wikimedia 2030 strategy recommendations. Participating in the Charter discussions means that you ensure that your voice is heard and your interests are represented in shaping the future of the Wikimedia Movement. As the English Wikipedia community is the largest of the Wikimedia movement, it is essential to have the perspectives from your community presented in the global conversations. I hope many of you will find time to provide feedback, share your thoughts and perspectives!

Community Engagement – April 2nd to April 30th

The Movement Charter Drafting Committee (MCDC) cordially invites everyone in the Wikimedia movement to share feedback on the full draft of the Movement Charter.

Let your voice be heard by sharing your feedback in any language on the Movement Charter Talk page, attend the community session today, on April 4th at 15.00-17.00 UTC, or email movementcharter@wikimedia.org. I will also be monitoring conversations on this talk page, to bring back the summaries to the ongoing global conversations.

You can learn more about the Movement Charter, Global Council, and Hubs by watching the videos that the Movement Charter Drafting Committee has prepared. Read the Committee's latest updates for more information about the most recent activities from the Drafting Committee.

Thank you again for your time and kind attention! I look forward to your input and feedback. Have a wonderful month of April! --KVaidla (WMF) (talk) 13:07, 4 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Unified enwiki response to the charter[edit]

In votes like these a significant issue is that interested editors do not have the time or wherewithal to properly assess the issues or candidates presented and so abstain from the vote. I propose that we attempt to address this, by having more engaged editors consider the proposal carefully and, in consultation with the community though an RfC, issue a recommendation either to support or oppose the change. Specifically, I propose a three-stage process:

  1. A pre-RfC discussion where we will write a neutral summary of the proposal.
  2. An RfC where we will:
    1. !Vote to approve the summary and its dissemination
    2. !Vote whether we should encourage eligable enwiki editors to vote for or against the change
  3. Assuming the summary is approved, a mass message to all eligable enwiki editors providing it. Further, assuming there is a consensus either for or against the change, a recommendation to the editors that they vote in line with that consensus.

Stage one should probably begin soon, in time for a RfC in May; first, however, I wanted a brief discussion of the general idea. BilledMammal (talk) 02:41, 7 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks for your comment, BilledMammal. This isn't a bad idea, but it is worth noting that the draft charter will be revised in early May following this current feedback round. Although the MCDC (of which I am a a member) does not anticipate making really large changes, I think it would be reasonable to assume that the final version is going to have at least some differences from the current draft. Would it make sense to create a feedback page on this project as a place where interested enwiki editors could flesh out their opinions before the final revision is made? I'd hate to see people investing a lot of time reviewing a draft and proposing a project-wide opinion in an RFC-type format, based on a document that we know will change. There is something to be said for having a local page for comments and suggestions for improvement (and please yes, if someone thinks X is a bad idea, propose an alternative) as long as there's a link to it on the Meta page so that the MCDC will be well-informed of the discussion on this project. (For that matter, it may be a good idea for other projects, and I'm pretty sure some of them are thinking about this too.) Risker (talk) 03:17, 7 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
That's a good point, but we also need to consider that it will take time for the RfC to run. I think we should start drafting the summary based on the current document, and then make any updates that are necessary to align it with the May changes and start the RfC a few days after it is released.
I would also agree that creating a local page where editors can make comments and suggestions for improvements would be useful, although I would suggest just using this page as it isn't as busy as the other village pumps and thus an extensive discussion of the proposed charter won't disrupt other discussions. BilledMammal (talk) 04:59, 7 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I think mass messaging every eligible voter WP:ACE style might be too many people. Perhaps a watchlist notice, or pinging rfc participants, would be a good compromise. –Novem Linguae (talk) 16:30, 7 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I don't think that the vote to ratify this charter is less important than the vote to elect the Arbitration Committee. BilledMammal (talk) 16:32, 7 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you for this initiative, BilledMammal, to approach the Movement Charter conversations in a constructive way! For reference, the timeline for the steps can be found here on meta and you are right, the time is of essence. It has been already pointed out on the meta discussion page that the review of the Charter would benefit from additional contextual materials for informed decision-making. As a supporting staff member to the MCDC I will see what I can do, yet it might take some time. If there are priority areas for further context in the English Wikipedia community, please let me know, so I can focus my work around that and hopefully have respective content available earlier. Also let us know, if we can support the discussions around the Charter in other ways. Looking forward to hearing the perspectives and seeing good participation from en.wp community! --KVaidla (WMF) (talk) 12:47, 9 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Responding to Katherine Maher / Uri Berliner Story[edit]

What is WMF's position on the buzz on X/Twitter over Katherine Maher's ideological beliefs (e.g. with 2 million views) and NPR Veteran Uri Berliner's resignation  ? Are there any efforts to clarify the distinction of those views from WMF and editors at large?

@llywrch raised concern about the transition in January. I worry about unfair attention to implications of Ideological_bias_on_Wikipedia which may trickle over to Wikipedia's editors & patrons.

cc: @I JethroBT (WMF) Tonymetz 💬 18:46, 17 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

In that clip, Maher's not talking about her personal philosophy. She's talking about a principle that's been part of Wikipedia since long before her tenure at the WMF: the distinction between verifiability and capital-T Truth. The idea is that an encyclopedia anyone can edit could not function if it were predicated on a bunch of anonymous users arguing about what The Absolute Truth is. To make this model work, we try to leave The Truth and the beliefs of individual users out of the equation and instead spend our time debating how to effectively summarize what reliable sources outside of Wikipedia say about a subject. Then we cite those sources. As a tertiary source, we can afford to outsource ~truth to journalists, book publishers, academics, and other experts/professionals.
What's going on now is that people are highlighting that clip and similar claims about Wikipedia and making it seem like she doesn't care about what's true in a journalistic sense. It is [ironic] misleading partisan dreck. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 19:34, 17 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
That is helpful context thank you. Tonymetz 💬 20:30, 17 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
An example I use is that, at one point, plate tectonics was considered a fringe theory by most of the best and most reliable sources in the field. Had Wikipedia existed at that time, it would have said as much. Now, of course, those who thought it was true actually did the hard work, collected the evidence, did the math, convinced their peers, and today plate tectonics is widely considered correct. So Wikipedia says as much. But Wikipedia isn't out to "scoop" anyone on anything (and indeed, if we ever do, we should not congratulate ourselves, but ask "What went wrong?"). Rather, once the best sources available on a given subject change their consensus, then, and only then, should Wikipedia change to reflect that. We could argue forever over what the truth actually is and never come to consensus on it, so the best we can do is to reflect what the best available sources say on a given subject. If it turns out that they're wrong and that later comes to light, well, articles can be edited after that happens. But only after. Seraphimblade Talk to me 23:10, 17 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
thanks this helps provide some context on her words. I also want to make sure WMF helps manage the PR . Most patrons, editors and readers will need help understanding WMF & Wikipedia's position Tonymetz 💬 23:12, 17 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Hi, I am Lauren from the Communications Department at the Foundation. Thank you for letting us know about your concerns. We are following the situation, and our goal as always is to raise understanding of the Wikipedia model. LDickinson (WMF) (talk) 16:51, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you Lauren for your efforts here. What is the best way for editors to track the Communication Department's efforts as the situation develops? I've noticed the attacks have become more directed toward Wikipedia itself. Tonymetz 💬 17:03, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
We can update you here if there are any new developments. Thanks for being so attentive to this. LDickinson (WMF) (talk) 17:45, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Are any comms planned? The story seems to be getting more coverage and as an editor I would like to see the comms team defend Wikipedia. Tonymetz 💬 20:49, 21 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
@Seraphimblade You too, huh? [1]. Ignaz Semmelweis is a good alternative. Gråbergs Gråa Sång (talk) 18:34, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
When I was writing WP:When sources are wrong, to illustrate a case where we had no choice but to be wrong I used this version of Priming (psychology): We did a good job summarizing a well-respected social science theory. It later turned out that that theory is almost certainly junk, but we still got it right based on the information we had to work with. -- Tamzin[cetacean needed] (they|xe) 18:38, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
it's more honest and straightforward to say "we got it wrong". "getting it right" doesn't mean following the rules — "getting it right" means "getting it right" Tonymetz 💬 18:53, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
In my opinion Wikipedia can't function if people are chasing truth rather than Verifiable content that has a Neutral Point of View based on Reliable Sources. That does mean that we're going to present information that is wrong at times. But does provide a reasonable set of parameters on which editors can more likely find consensus about what content says than if we go after truth. And far more often it means we don't present information that is wrong even if the editor adding it firmly believes its true. Best, Barkeep49 (talk) 19:01, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
In practice, "right" is always relative to something. One can argue that there is such a thing as objective correctness—that's a pretty profound philosophical question, and above my paygrade—but even if there is, only supernatural beings would be privy to such a distinction. For we mere mortal encyclopedists, the best we can do is be "right" relative to the knowledge we have access to. Even now, can we conclusively say we were wrong then and are right now? Science could be wrong twice, unlikely as that may be. From our frame of reference now, our current article is right. (Well, right-ish, it actually hasn't been updated very well.) From our frame of reference in 2012, the article we had then was right. We can't hold ourselves to any higher or lower standard than that. -- Tamzin[cetacean needed] (they|xe) 19:31, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I am old enough to remember that the views expressed by Maher in this clip were very well represented in the initial iterations of the Wikimedia Strategy 2030 process. I would even say they represent the core of what the Strategy process was meant to produce initially. But there was a big community pushback and all that language got dropped. MarioGom (talk) 13:20, 20 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]


Since my name was mentioned, I'll add my two cents. I find the issue that Berliner raises intriguing. While I haven't listened to NPR for something like 30-35 years, I've seen criticism of NPR for being too conservative; this makes me wonder just how accurate Berliner's criticism is. Yet I feel a certain solidarity with his situation at NPR: there are times I feel Wikipedia is increasingly pandering to certain groups at the cost of helping volunteers in general. I can only wonder if this tendency was caused Maher, since I don't remember this happening before her. (I want to emphasize that this is more of a feeling than an accusation.)

But I found more of interest was the PR release announcing Katherine Maher as the new head of NPR, especially about her "achievements" at the Foundation. I'm sure to anyone who wasn't a volunteer at Wikipedia during her tenure it sounds impressive; I can only wonder just how much of these claims she actually believes. (I must admit almost everyone inflates their resume to some degree.) One detail I will comment about, her claim that she "reversed decades-long declines in core contributors": my own opinion is that after Sue Gardner's less than empathetic attitude towards the average volunteer, almost anyone could have been appointed head of the Foundation, & the number of "core contributors" could have only increased. She benefitted by not being Sue Gardner. -- llywrch (talk) 07:19, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

I'm dumbfounded by Katherine Maher's statements directly undermining some of the core principles of Wikipedia: including verifiability and notability through published, secondary, independent, and reliable sources. And linking those to some identitary and racial arguments is appaulling. One other core value of Wikipedia is that editors' identities do not matter: what matters is the quality of their contributions, judged by themselves.
I am a contributor of both my time and my money to Wikipedia/WMF. I have tended not to follow closely the work by the WMF and its leadership. I am appalled by Katherine Maher's statement. How could she been allowed to become the WMF's ED?? That seems gross negligence by the Board of Directors. That all makes me want to stop my monthly donations. I think it would help address this issue if the WMF made a public statement that despite Maher's crazy statement, the WMF stays true to the original core values of Wikipedia and as a consequence does not get involved in identity politics. Thoughts? Al83tito (talk) 14:51, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Wikipedia has always been a left-wing institution, just as academia has been for decades prior. The ideological bias was baked-in. Why else are supposed right wing sources deprecated here so often? Now the problem for many contributors is that they realize the one party they joined in hope actually eats its own young, and that in the future you guys might not be so safe from your erstwhile allies. If this story reflects on Wikipedia, it is only this realization that the WMF is as much of the pipeline for this ideology as the other parts of Maher's resume. Don't bother trying to distance us from her. Chris Troutman (talk) 15:23, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I agree that her positions on censorship, truth, the first amendment, and “correcting past wrongs” are a bigger risk to Wikipedia than the degree of her left-leaning beliefs. They threaten Wikipedia’s reputation as a neutral publication. Both her ideology and left leaning views may scare off a good portion of our patrons and editors. It would be good to know exactly how little or how much influence her views have had on Wikipedia. Were there active censorship efforts? How much does WMF influence the senior administrative staff like bureaucrats, stewards, Aprbcom, admins etc. ?
In short, WMF has had a few months to prep for this fallout and there are hundreds (thousands) of volunteers who deserve PR support to protect their hard work on the encyclopedia. Tonymetz 💬 15:55, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I think most of her personal positions are being overblown and conflated with Wikipedia, but I do disagree with her statement about notability. It's not Wikipedia's responsibility to right great wrongs. She points out that Wikipedia reflects the biases of the world, but that's Wikipedia working as intended. If there is more source content written about Western topics or cultures with written traditions, then Wikipedia is going to have more articles about Western topics or those cultures. Yes, that would mean unequal coverage, but what are we expected to do about it? We follow what sources say, not lead them. ARandomName123 (talk)Ping me! 01:42, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
@Tonymetz: Thanks for your question, Tony. I'm not personally aware of any official statements from the Foundation on these developments at the moment, so I've brought this thread to the attention of the Movement Communications team. I JethroBT (WMF) (talk) 16:13, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
thank you for the quick attention to this post and for escalating it to the appropriate team. I appreciate your help here. Tonymetz 💬 16:33, 18 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Does Maher have a current role in the WMF? I am unsure why WMF would need to have a position on her statements related to her current role, a few years after she moved on from being WMF CEO. (They certainly should not have a position on X/Twitter buzz.) CMD (talk) 02:20, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Katherine Maher says that, as CEO of Wikipedia, she "took a very active approach to disinformation," coordinated censorship "through conversations with government," and suppressed content related to the pandemic and the 2020 election.
[2]
More generally, the bulk of the content receiving attention was made during her tenure here (or refers to it).
This is among the top responsibilities of the comms team. Tonymetz 💬 02:33, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Responding to X/twitter posts should certainly not be among the top responsibilities of the comms team, especially if they're such obviously rubbish tweets. The WMF does not editorially control the various language Wikipedias. CMD (talk) 05:17, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
@Tonymetz: Why do you care what Christopher Rufo has to say about her? Wikipedia says he is a conservative activist and he is certainly not a reliable source. If you want to criticize or analyze her words then why not look at her original words in their original form? and then quote from there not from Rufo. I believe that I've found a video and transcript of what Rufo was referring to. I tentatively plan to watch the video tomorrow, haven't read the transcript yet. Jeremyb (talk) 05:51, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Why do you care

. I worry about unfair attention to implications of Ideological_bias_on_Wikipedia which may trickle over to Wikipedia's editors & patrons.

I tentatively plan to watch the video tomorrow, haven't read the transcript yet.

do let us know Tonymetz 💬 17:56, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Precisely. Ymblanter (talk) 06:35, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

What's going on[edit]

Pardon the self-indulgent subsection and long post, but this is turning into a real story in right-wing media and it seems useful to pull all the claims together. So here's what's going on, as far as I've seen. (I do not work for or speak for the WMF, just to be clear, and as such don't object if someone wants to move this elsewhere).
It appears to begin with Christopher Rufo, who found in Katherine Maher a new target in a campaign to dig through people's past comments to frame as radical leftists, stoking partisan outrage and eroding trust in institutions he perceives as leaning left. And yet again right-wing media is eating it up while making no effort to verify that the framing is accurate. Ironically, it's terrible journalism about insinuations of bad journalism.
Here's what he found, and the basis for the current hubbub about Maher:

  1. Some years-old tweets that make it clear she's a democrat. Yes, she appears to support Biden and doesn't like Trump. Certainly none of the heads of the news organizations picking up this story have expressed political beliefs before, right? IMO it would've been a good idea to wipe her Twitter before jumping into the WMF CEO role and certainly before the NPR role, but none of the tweets were really all that wild. Maybe cause for some light Twitter bashing like we see anytime leaders of companies are found to not be apolitical robots, more or less assuaged with a "I shouldn't have said that on my personal twitter account years ago" apology. The most "scandalous" was one about Trump being racist, which might be jarring if she tweeted it today in her NPR role, but it was six years ago. Also, whether you agree or not, it's hardly a fringe interpretation of his comments/actions. Regardless, these aren't what most people are focusing on.
  2. One of the clips going viral is from a TED Talk (here's the full talk) where she's talking about Wikipedia. When you hear someone say something odd about Wikipedia and the truth, they're probably talking about the practical way in which Wikipedia works, not a personal philosophy. Wikipedia works according to verifiability, which is what makes it possible for a bunch of anonymous users to collaborate on a single version of an article. If we were all arguing about things we know to be True, it would be chaos. Imagine writing an article on the Israel-Palestine conflict, for example, based just on what individual people on the internet say is true. It wouldn't work. For some subjects, it's easy to agree on a single truth; in others, we have to figure out how to present multiple perspectives based on good sources and put aside what individual users say is true. That is the kind of truth Maher is talking about, arguing that the "productive friction" of sorting out how to summarize multiple perspectives could be beneficial outside of Wikipedia, too. Her words about Wikipedia, by definition a tertiary source, are being isolated and reframed to make it seem like she's talking about truth in the journalistic sense of NPR. That would be clear to anyone who watches the full talk or puts any effort at all into fact-checking the context. Journalistic outfits that care about truth usually do that sort of thing rather than write a story about a short clip someone posted on X without asking any questions.
  3. The "first amendment" clip doesn't even need the jargony context of the Wikipedia-related one -- it just requires listening to the question she's answering. Here's a link that includes the question. She was asked about solutions for dealing with content like misinformation and asked where those solutions will come from: companies, the government, civil society, etc. So she talks about civil society and about companies. As far as government, she says that yeah, if you think the government is going to intervene and do something to address misinformation, the first amendment presents an obstacle. It's just a non-starter. That's.... it. She never says it should change, she never says it should be removed, never says it's bad. She's not even talking about her own opinion -- it's just addressing the government part of the question. She then talks about the importance of the first amendment in giving platforms the ability to moderate content according to their own business interests and values. It's simply misleading to present it as "Katherine Maher is against the first amendment".
  4. Some quotes about race, gender, notability, and a "white male Westernized construct". There's a lot to be said about systemic bias on Wikipedia, gender gap on Wikipedia, racial bias on Wikipedia, etc., and a lot of debate over the extent to which systemic bias affects Wikipedia's content, whether it's something to be fixed, how it could/should be fixed, or if it's something simply to understand as a historical reality. The idea is, if demographic surveys show that Wikipedia is written overwhelmingly by men in North America and Europe, that probably affects the content in some way. Our articles on European naval battles, baseball, and Hollywood movies are better than our articles about women's health in Tanzania. So there are efforts to recruit other participants, with the hope that it will increase the overall quality/coverage of the encyclopedia. It's not especially controversial to acknowledge that the historical record of Europe and the US was almost entirely written by and about white men. Again, whether that's something we should look at and say "that happened, and we've come a long way since then" or "that happened, and we haven't done enough to address it" is open to debate, but Maher is basically alluding to these things and saying that the free/open approach of Wikipedia reproduces those biases rather than corrects them. If your perspective is that we should not try to fix these biases, I have good news for you! Those are our policies. We base articles on published sources and whatever biases exist in the body of literature on a subject will typically be reproduced in Wikipedia because we are a tertiary source. During Maher's time at WMF, our rules for notability (how we determine which subjects get articles) got stricter, not more inclusive. That's not specific to Maher -- they've been getting steadily more restrictive for years. The point is, regardless of where you stand on issues of bias, the Wikimedia Foundation and its CEO have no power at all to change anything at all about how Wikipedia writes articles or which articles it covers. The most they can do is decide where to allocate recruitment funds and determine what makes for the best language in fundraising/communications.

TL;DR - Culture warriors on X are isolating clips of Katherine Maher and using a blatantly misleading framing to stoke outrage about NPR and Wikipedia. Maher's statements aren't actually controversial, didn't have anything to do with how articles are written on Wikipedia, and have nothing to do with NPR at all, but yeah she wore a Biden hat and had a nice dream about Kamala Harris (Twitter's a weird place sometimes). Even if they were accurate portrayals of her philosophy, the Wikimedia Foundation does not influence the content of the articles you read on Wikipedia in any way. Any news publication that's actually interested in things like "truth" could've figured out these tweets were misleading with minimal effort. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 19:43, 19 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]

100% endorse with one quibble. My reading of her answer to the question in the First Amendment clip is that she actually does endorse the First Amendment, even in the context of content moderation on the internet, because it gives platforms the ability to moderate content according to their own interests and values. Small difference, but an important one. Loki (talk) 03:10, 20 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I don't see that I said something different, but for the avoidance of doubt: yes. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 12:34, 20 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
100%. A lot of this is just basic willingness to look beyond what people scream out loud. If people haven’t learned by now that those who yell loudest are generally in it for their own good, rather than the rest of us… well I call that a failure of the educational system. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 10:36, 20 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Funny thing is that my criticism of Maher has been independent of whatever this Rufo troll has been writing. (I'd like a reliable source to confirm that he has been the primary instigator.) And I'm annoyed that my criticism about her abilities as a manager is being usurped by one side in the ongoing US culture wars. From what I've read, her political views are very close to mine. Further, the effort to combat systemic bias on Wikipedia started years before Maher's tenure, probably years before she even heard of Wikipedia -- that page was first created 4 October 2004 -- so I'm offended she is taking credit as a major driver in that effort, when I never witnessed her making any significant contributions to solve that serious problem. Flying around the world to hold meetings to discuss how this is a problem & that more meetings are needed doesn't count. Especially when this hasn't generated any of the many needed articles.
My criticism is based on what I've seen while a contributor during her tenure -- especially her clumsy handling of the FRAM incident. In that incident, she was so out of touch with what was happening & obsessed with her own priorities that it required someone to flame her on her preferred social networking platform for her to finally acknowledge that a problem existed needing her attention. (People posting on her talk page over at Meta, asking her to intervene, failed to attract her attention; from other statements she made it would appear that she didn't value the wikiwiki platform that highly.)
As I wrote above, almost everyone inflates their resume to some degree. I found Maher's claims about her accomplishments as CEO of the Foundation was notably inflated. And I am annoyed about that, if not offended. Where was she when I -- or anyone -- needed help with finding materials to write articles to fill gaps in Wikipedia coverage? I have stated elsewhere that I hope she learned from her tenure at the Foundation, & won't repeat the same mistakes at NPR as she did there, but I'm reserving my final judgment on that matter. -- llywrch (talk) 17:38, 20 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Your comments have been helpful for me to better understand her leadership accomplishments and setbacks. Tonymetz 💬 20:38, 20 April 2024 (UTC)[reply]