News and notes
Board changes, Wikimania, Public Policy Initiative
The new Board of Trustees, including outgoing Chair Michael Snow, and WMF Head of Communications Jay Walsh (right), at last week's Wikimania
On July 8, the Wikimedia Foundation announced several changes to the Board of Trustees.
Phoebe Ayers and Arne Klempert have been elected as members of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees by the Wikimedia chapters. The two chapter-selected seats had previously been filled by Klempert and Michael Snow (who has served as the Board's Chair for the last two years), which meant that Snow was leaving the Board. Ting Chen became the new Chair.
This is the first time the new Chapter-selected seat process was used to select the two new members. As briefly noted in an earlier Signpost issue, the chapter selection process is not public and candidates are not generally known unless they announce their candidacy themselves. According to a Q&A, this year nine candidates submitted applications or were nominated, but two of them withdrew during the process.
Some other roles changed between the existing Trustees. Stuart West became Vice-chair of the Board, taking over from Jan-Bart de Vreede who had had that role for four years, while Samuel Klein (User:SJ) took over as Secretary from Kat Walsh (User:Mindspillage).
Board Chair Ting Chen recognized the long-standing contribution of former Board Chair Michael Snow, who held that post since early 2008. Chen said of Snow, "[he] has been a loyal and devoted leader in the Wikimedia movement. I am grateful to count him as a colleague and a friend, and I know he will continue to make important contributions." A post on the Wikimedia blog read: "A huge thanks to the longstanding and substantial contribution from Michael Snow, and a warm welcome to Phoebe Ayers."
Phoebe Ayers, a valued contributor to the Signpost, spoke to the Foundation's press department. "This is an exciting and hugely important time in the history of Wikimedia", she stated. "I'm thrilled to play a greater role, and I'm honored to have been chosen by the Chapters. It's a time of flux and change and important decisions, and I can't think of a better place to put my energy." She is a highly active member of the volunteer community and has co-authored a book about the English-language Wikipedia called How Wikipedia works: and how you can be a part of It.
A press statement from the Foundation stated "there are 10 seats on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees and according to the Foundation's bylaws, three members are elected by the Wikimedia community, two are selected by the Wikimedia chapters, the Founder seat is held by Jimmy Wales, and four members are appointed by the Board itself to provide additional, specific expertise. Currently all seats on the Board of Trustees are filled." The chapters seat selection process was created in April 2008, in order to express the Board's belief that the chapters are an important player in the fulfillment of the Wikimedia mission, and that they deserve a voice in how the Wikimedia Foundation should be run.
"The chapters are very grateful for this opportunity to play a key role in the governance of the Wikimedia Foundation", offered Thomas Dalton, Treasurer of Wikimedia UK and moderator of the chapter board seat selection process. "We received nominations of several very highly qualified candidates and had a very difficult decision to make. We are confident that our chosen candidates will be able to help guide the Foundation as it continues its rapid growth and support of the ever-increasing success of the Wikimedia projects. Michael Snow's service to the board and to the Wikimedia movement, has been exemplary and we're excited he has agreed to join our Advisory Board and continue to work with the movement."
From July 9 to 11, the sixth annual Wikimania conference took part at the Baltic Philharmonic in Gdańsk, Poland.
According to the organizers the event was attended by over 400 participants. As announced by the Program Chair, Jacek Jankowski, the Call for Participation had yielded 170 submissions, of which 129 were accepted, resulting in a busy schedule of presentations mostly running in four parallel tracks, posters, etc. (see also last week's preview).
Sessions were streamed live from all conference rooms, and the recordings will be made available online (see this week's Technology Report).
In her opening speech, the Wikimedia Foundation's executive director Sue Gardner mentioned the strategic planning process and the five-year plan coming out of it, as well as the expansion of Foundation staff planned for next year (generating media coverage, see this week's In the news).
The presentation by Erik Möller, the deputy director of the Wikimedia foundation, was titled Beyond the Encyclopedia: The frontiers of free knowledge (a follow-up on Ten things that will be free, Jimmy Wales' keynote speech at Wikimania 2005, that had in turn been inspired by Hilbert's problems). Möller gave an overview of free knowledge projects other than Wikipedia, both those run by Wikimedia and the most promising ones outside the Foundation, such as OpenStreetMap and Thingiverse. He assessed the opportunities and difficulties for each of Wikipedia's sister projects. He was most concerned about Wikiversity, which he said suffers from the lack of a clear mission statement and had "serious governance issues" (see also Signpost coverage).
Saturday saw the first ever screening of Truth in Numbers, a documentary about Wikipedia whose completion has long been awaited (at Wikimania 2007, a trailer and some clips had already been shown). In the discussion following the screening, with the two filmmakers, Andrew Lih and Jimmy Wales as panelists, several Wikipedians lauded the film. However, User:Witty lama (Liam Wyatt) said he felt "attacked" by the movie, which quoted many critics without allowing room to address their criticism. Sue Gardner did not share his concern, noting that it should become apparent to the viewers that the critics mostly belonged to an older generation struggling with the change that Wikipedia represented.
The tagline featured on the conference T-shirts – "Free Knowledge in the City of Freedom" – tied Wikimedia values to the history of Gdańsk, a notion that had already been present in the organizers' bid (see 2008 interview by Wikinews). Saturday's conference party took place in a location on the shipyard area where workers led by Lech Wałęsa had defied communist rulers in a 1980 strike leading to the Solidarność movement, and at the closing ceremony a local representative relayed greetings from Wałęsa, noting that he was a frequent user of Wikipedia.
- The next edition of the Signpost will feature more coverage of the 2010 Wikimania conference, including Jimbo Wales' keynote speech and the concert, once the team arrive back from Poland.
Public Policy Initiative starts assessing articles
LiAnna Davis, the communications associate for the Wikimedia Foundation's new Public Policy Initiative (a project collaborating with U.S. educational institutions to improve Wikipedia coverage on public policy topics, see previous Signpost coverage) invited Wikipedians to join in an article assessment drive that started last week:
We're finalizing our list of professors who will be participating in the Initiative for the fall, so stay tuned for more information about that but at the moment, we're in the middle of an article assessment drive, and we encourage everyone to join us. Our on-Wikipedia home is the WikiProject United States Public Policy, and we've started a challenge to tag and assess as many articles relevant to our project as you can."
The Initiative is also looking for experienced Wikipedians to act as "Campus Ambassadors" and "Online Ambassadors", helping students to learn editing Wikipedia.