Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-02-13/Wikimedia committees
Wikimedia Foundation committees organizing, starting work
The Wikimedia Foundation has begun the process of developing more of an organizational structure, with several meetings being held recently to spur this along. The new framework is already beginning to produce some results.
Part of this evolution in Wikimedia's development involves the creation of eleven committees that would deal with various aspects of the Foundation's work. These committees include Financial, Technical, Executive, Events, Communications, Special projects, Board expansion, Chapters, Audit, Insurance, and Trademarks. The committees were authorized in a series of resolutions passed by the Board of Trustees last month.
In order to discuss this with the Wikipedia community and those of other Wikimedia projects, open meetings were held on IRC each of the last two weekends (meeting logs). The purpose was to bring committee organizers together with community members and consider issues such as the selection process for committees. However, the meetings themselves produced no firm conclusions; another meeting was tentatively set for March 4 to allow time for the Board to meet again first.
In the course of discussion, some expressed concern about whether the committees would increase the control exercised by the Wikimedia Board of Trustees or instead help delegate responsibility to members of the community. Jimmy Wales explained that the Board of Trustees has a legal responsibility to direct the Wikimedia Foundation as an organization, but that "the point of this is to improve things toward distributed authority." After being unable to attend the follow-up meeting, he voiced some displeasure that his views and positions had, he felt, been misrepresented there.
The Executive committee was a focus of particular attention in the follow-up meeting, but there appeared to be some uncertainty as to what it would be and do. Among the options discussed were making it a subset of the Board of Trustees, of the other committees, or some combination of the two. This might also fit into a possible expansion of the Board's size, which Wales later confirmed is being discussed. Its responsibilities could involve providing guidance for the other committees or managing the affairs of the Foundation. Referring to the potential expansion, Wales commented, "a larger board should not be tasked with day-to-day management."
Another possibility mentioned was to make the Executive committee a group of representatives from the different Wikimedia projects and languages, perhaps with its members being elected by those communities. This would be similar to the idea of a Wikicouncil that was proposed last year, but never implemented. The nature of such a body would seem to resemble a legislature more than an executive, however.
Committees go to work
Although some uncertainty remains about what is necessary to implement the board's resolutions and formally organize the committees, some of them have already begun working. Two that have been visibly active are the Chapters committee and the Communications committee, which have selected their initial membership. The Chapters committee, which will coordinate the organization of local Wikimedia chapters, has also begun drafting its mission statement and rules of procedure.
One of the first acts of the Communications committee was to organize how Wikipedia responds to queries from the general public, particularly dealing with one of the trouble spots, the helpdesk-l mailing list. This list had been criticized on occasion due to difficulty ensuring that someone would actually respond, duplicate responses, and even inconsistent or inappropriate responses being sent. To resolve these issues, as of Sunday helpdesk-l is now no longer a separate mailing list. Messages there have now been redirected to the firstname.lastname@example.org address, where they will be processed using the Wikimedia OTRS system. There the messages will be handled by the PR department, which can use the system to track responses and also has prepared answers for common situations.
Also, in other news relating to the Foundation, elected Trustee Florence Devouard had a baby boy, Thomas, last Tuesday. She and her family are reportedly doing well.