Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2009 Board elections/Lourie Pieterse
- How did you become involved with the Wikimedia community? What contributions are you most proud of?
I have used Wikipedia for ages before signing up. My brother-in-law was for some time a pilot for the Silver Falcons. I googled to see what information I could find on this aerobatic group. As usually I've opened the Wikipedia link. Unfortunately the Silver Falcons article was pretty poor at that time. Just then I've decided to start and contribute. I don't really know on what work I am the proudest, to say the truth, I am very proud on all the work I do. I fight a great deal of vandalism, got into creating accounts recently and I also collaborate on SPOTLIGHT. I am actually the proudest on my African related contributions, mainly because this way I inform the world of my continent.
- What do you see as the role of the Board of Trustees?
The Board is like the driver of a motor-vehicle—the Wikimedia Foundation in our case. They have the responsibly to drive this vehicle in the necessary direction, having the power to decided if the current route is the best possible one or not. Like an experienced driver they should make sure the vehicle has enough fuel to complete the current route, and if necessary make decisions on filling up the fuel again. Being in charge of the vehicle they must take the lead in keeping the car clean and tidy. When needed they must also take control when any of the passengers is getting restless, and finally keep all the passengers on-board safe.
- If elected, what would you bring to the board that it currently lacks?
I believe the Board is currently in good shape and is appropriately fulfilling its responsibilities. So if I get a position on the board, I wouldn't be fixing any problems, I would rather make a significant difference in the speed at which the Foundation approaches its goals. I personally believe that it is crucial for the Foundation to bury their roots in Africa, just as in America and Europe. Doing this wouldn't be an easy task, that's why I believe I should be on the board, because I would make this challenge a reality.
- What specific goals would you have as a trustee?
My main goal is to get South Africa, but also Africa, to become more involved with the Wikimedia Foundation. This would bring financial support, increased involvement, and help the Foundation to expand into largely untapped geographical regions. There is never to many contributors to any of the Wikimedia Projects, so by involving Africa, one could get thousands of new users. These users have experienced Africa, and could contribute in a better way to Africa related articles than users from overseas.
- The Wikimedia Foundation is beginning an organized effort at strategic planning, in which the board will play a major role. What are the key elements you would like to see prioritized in Wikimedia's strategy for the coming years?
The Foundation should start to approach more companies, especially companies in currently untapped regions, such as I proposed. These companies could not only make noticeable donations to the Foundation, but could also inspire others to get involved. One of my other ideas is to approach the education departments of developing countries. The Foundation could then help these departments to spread knowledge to people who doesn't have access to it. The Board should then be there to make sure the Foundation takes the correct steps, and involve the correct parties.
- What do you think the Wikimedia Foundation isn't doing that it should be? What is it doing that it shouldn't be?
I don't think their is really much to discuss on this topic. There isn't one answer to this question, because every now and then a new issue get raised. Luckily these problems get solved quickly. I know that all of the content on the Wikimedia Foundations' servers are released as free, but I have a strong feeling about websites copying content directly from Wikipedia. When I Google a subject, especially a subject not covered much, the first link is the Wikipedia one and the rest is to direct copies of Wikipedia content. These websites doesn't even change a bit of the content, even the edit links are still in it! I would love to see some policy stating that direct copying, mainly focussing on our layout, should be prohibited.
- The English Wikipedia community is increasingly concerned with questions of project governance: who has authority to set and reshape policy, and who should?; how can a project so large, with so diverse a community, make collective decisions?; does consensus scale, or will some form of democracy be necessary to address the project's problems?; and many others. What role, if any, do you think the Board of Trustees can or should play in addressing governance and policy problems on individual projects?
Being highly active on the English Wikipedia, I've encountered several issues regarding decision making. Once there was the suggestion that the editors should vote when deciding on something. The problem with voting is, Wikipedia has a few million users, and not everyone understands how things should work. So keeping a vote would sometimes create problems, because an experienced editor might know that something wouldn't be plausible on long term, maybe even short term. Inexperienced editors might make a vote that would seem good in their eyes, but might have both short and long term problems. In situations like these it is very important not to make a decision by votes, but by thinking of the consensuses.
I believe that editors should be able to contact a trustee who could help to make the final decision. A very important factor to remember is, some of the board members isn't so active on the English Wikipedia. This is just another reason why I believe that I would make an excellent trustee, because I could also help in complicated situations such as these because I have the necessary experience.
- Wikimedia's partnerships with outside organizations--including for-profit companies like Kaltura and Orange as well as non-profits and public institutions like Mozilla Foundation and various archives and museums--have becoming increasingly prominent. What sorts of partnerships should and shouldn't the Foundation pursue?
The Foundation should form more partnerships with institutions such as archives, museums and other valuable information sources. The reason I say this is, we should publish information on the Wikimedia Projects one couldn't find anywhere else on the internet. When someone Google a subject they must know that our projects has information no other website has. People shouldn't even bother checking other websites, we must create this type of confidence for internet users. We shouldn't form partnerships with institutions which use our contributions to make profit for themselves only. It is acceptable if they collaborate with us and share the profit with us, but we shouldn't be used by people.
- Over the last three years, the scope of the Wikimedia Foundation has expanded rapidly, with a budget growing from $3.0 million in fiscal year 2007-2008 to a planned $9.4 million in 2009-2010. What strategy should the Board of Trustees pursue in planning for future financial growth? What is your view of the current financial plan?
Currently I am very pleased with the financial plan of the Foundation. The budget improves rapidly, which is definitely a sign of good financial management. I believe that there is room for improvement, and that I could help with this process. As I've stated earlier, we should start to involve African companies. We could get large amounts of financial support from these companies, because donating to the Foundation is different than any usual donation. Not only do they directly spread knowledge, but their contributions would have a long lasting effect on the world.
I believe that there should also be more chapters worldwide, especially in countries that is currently untapped. By having a chapter close to one would make donations so much easier. Sometimes people wouldn't do the trouble donating over the internet. By expanding to Africa the Foundation wouldn't just get support from companies, but also from the Wikimedia users of that countries.
- What role would you like the board to play in fostering the initiation, growth and viability of local Wikimedia Chapters? What role do chapters play in your strategic vision for Wikimedia?
The board should encourage editors to start chapters locally. Currently there are not many chapters around the world. Though the chapters are slowly getting speed, I think that the board should speed it up even more. I am very much in favour of the chapters, because people don't always want to communicate over the internet. People like it to talk face to face with each other. Another important factor of the chapters is to get local sponsors. Companies would rather work together with local chapters, mainly because of the personal contact. My conclusion is that chapters have a far larger importance than we think. Chapters both improve WikiLove and gather donations, something which could only be a plus point for a country and the Foundaion. The board should consider giving chapters a far higher priority on their to-do list.
- How does the Wikimedia Advisory Board fit into your strategic vision for Wikimedia? Are there any specific tasks you would ask of them as a trustee? Are there critical areas of expertise that are not represented on the Advisory Board and you think should be?
The Advisory Board is crucial to both the Board of Trustees and the Wikimedia Foundation. The Trustees need the input from the Advisories to make important decisions. The board is to small to have all the knowledge and experience that the Advisories has. I believe that the Advisories shouldn't hesitate to let the board know if they are doing anything wrong, because no one is perfect, but one should learn from your mistakes. The bond between the Advisories and the Trustees should be very good, because they need each other. I don't think the Advisory Board has any lacking, they do a pretty good job.