News and notes
Chapter-selected Board seats, an invite to the Teahouse, patrol becomes triage, and this week in history
Chapter-selected WMF Board seats
On March 1 Béria Lima, moderator of the selection process for the chapters-selected seats on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, announced the publication of all candidate statements for the two chapter-selected positions that are to be filled this year, with new terms to start July 1. The announcement is indicative of the partly public proceedings of this year's selection process, which has been hailed as a significant improvement in transparency over the last one in 2010. In contrast to the three trustees elected by the editing community, who were last elected in 2011 (Signpost coverage: June 6, June 20), the two chapter seats are filled according to the decision of chapter boards in what has traditionally been a private mailing list and wiki-based process open to neither the community nor the regular chapter members.
Like all Wikimedia Foundation trustees, chapter-selected members are required to oversee foundation affairs, and the board as a governing body exercises authority over the organisation's budget. As such, the board avoids interfering with both the editing processes of the projects and the daily business of foundation staff. Trustees are not direct representatives of those who elect them, but do help to determine the long-term view of the movement as a whole as well as the role of the Wikimedia Foundation within it. The current board structure, established by a reforming resolution passed in 2008, currently consists of four board-appointed "expert" members, three community-elected members, and two chapter-selected members, as well as Jimbo Wales, who occupies the unique position of "founding" member, and is reaffirmed every two years.
This year the community may take part in the open phase of the chapters selection process by submitting questions to the candidates. There are eight candidates in all, including incumbent Phoebe Ayers, who is running for a second term. The other candidates are Alice Wiegand, long-time member of the German chapter board, OTRS administrator, and participant in the movement roles project; Craig Franklin, the Treasurer of Wikimedia Australia and an English Wikipedia ArbCom clerk; Salmaan Haroon, who was extensively involved in the strategy process in 2009–2010; Liam Wyatt, former vice-president of Wikimedia Australia and Wikimedia Foundation cultural partnerships fellow; Raúl Gutiérrez, who provides an outside view backed up by international professional experience; Lodewijk Gelauff, a former steward and board member of Wikimedia Nederland as well as a current member of the Chapters Committee; and Patricio Lorente, the current president of Wikimedia Argentina and a major organizer of Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires and Iberocoop, the Regional Cooperation Initiative for Ibero-America of Wikimedia entities.
On March 15 the selection process will advance to the chapters debating the candidates and their responses to questions on the private chapters wiki, at the Wikimedia conference in Berlin end of March, and beyond. If no consensus can be reached before May 5, a vote will be called by the moderators and the trustees to be will be singled out on May 15 by using the single transferable vote method. The process takes place at a delicate time, marked by tensions between the WMF and the chapter community over key issues such as fundraising processing and the nature of relations between Wikimedia entities generally.
Wikipedia:Teahouse is a pilot project exploring innovations in Wikipedia's social dynamics as a means to drive editor retention. Initiated last December, the initiative serves primarily as an incubator for editor development, intended to acclimatise and integrate new contributors to the culture of the editing community. The project is part of Sarah Stierch's gender gap fellowship, and is being managed by foundation community fellows on meta at Research:Teahouse. It aims to offer a "peer support space" to new editors, especially women, in a "many to many" social context. The organisers have envisioned several scenarios in which it could be helpful to new editors.
The image to the right is from the project proposal page on meta, and is meant to evoke the atmosphere that the Teahouse project seeks to create. The "Teahouse" concept was chosen to suggest a comfortable place for "meaningful social interaction", and as a reference to the English Wikipedia essay a nice cup of tea and a sit down, a plea to editors to focus on the good points of others and to interact congenially, especially during conflict. It stresses its social atmosphere by inviting guests to introduce themselves, and features Wikipedia:Teahouse/Questions, a help desk of sorts to answer newcomers' questions in "real time".
The Teahouse project was announced at the Village Pump on January 21 and although feedback was requested, little was given. A team of hosts (selected "somewhat on the Online Ambassador process") were recruited to aid the incoming "guests", and the Teahouse was formally launched in late February (see the Teahouse timeline).
According to the proposal, the project is time-limited and will end with a report assessing its success on the basis of specified short-term metrics, to be delivered on May 15. The goals are as follows:
- At least 20 trained hosts active throughout the pilot
- 75 new editors utilizing the Teahouse weekly
- 50 to 100 new editors invited to participate in the Teahouse daily
- A measurable increase in retention of new editors should be apparent via an increase in logins/editing sessions of participants vs a control group.
New Page Triage initiative announced
A mockup of the "list" interface for New Page Triage. A "zoom" interface for New Page Patrol is also proposed
The New Page Triage (NPT) project is a newly announced initiative of the foundation directed at improving quality of new articles, the ease of patrolling them, and the treatment of their creators on Wikipedia, by the introduction of a new software interface. According to Wikipedia:New Page Triage, problems in the way new pages are patrolled, aggravated by problems in the existing setup at Special:NewPages, created frustration in the Wikipedia community that led to their endorsement of the autoconfirmed article creation proposal that would have put tighter controls on who could create new articles. Although the foundation declined to implement that proposal on the grounds that it was exclusionary and insufficiently respectful of the editor retention priority (Signpost coverage), staffers have striven to make clear that they appreciate community concerns with the quality of the new page patrollers' experience and the other goals.
The engagement component of the Triage initiative proposes that, contrary to precedent, discussion of these improvements will take place on the English Wikipedia, and working prototypes will be provided so that editors can experience the new software and provide feedback. There will be "regular and nuanced discussion between the Foundation and the community throughout the design process" via the community liaison for product development (currently Oliver Keyes), who is a dedicated Foundation contractor. Feedback on the draft proposal is also encouraged directly on the discussion page, while those interested in following the development may sign up for a newsletter at Wikipedia:New Page Triage.
This week in history
Old Man Murray was a US computer gaming review website begun in the late 1990s by Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw. Harsh, irreverent, and satirical, many in the gaming industry look back on the website as an inspirational classic. Faliszek and Wolpaw went on to work in the industry for Valve Software and were central figures in the creation of Portal, one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed games of the last few years. So, naturally, people in the industry and gaming fans were surprised when the Wikipedia article on Old Man Murray was deleted on March 2. The deletion was overturned the next day at Deletion Review.
Deletion discussions can be one of the most contentious interactions Wikipedians have with those outside Wikipedia, especially when it involves a subculture or fandom with vocal adherents. Perhaps the most notorious of these incidents was the long running conflict regarding the deletion of articles on webcomics, as discussed in this 2007 Wikinews article. Non-Wikipedians often interpret a deletion discussion as an assault on their field of interest and are offended at Wikipedians who are ignorant of it making decisions about it, and some of them respond with uncivil comments or personal attacks. Wikipedians are dismayed when they are the subject of personal attacks during what should be a sober policy discussion, and see the vocal fans who are denouncing them as little better than those who vandalize articles. Needless to say, this isn't a fertile ground for productive discussion between the two groups.
This time was no exception. Gaming blogs and message boards filled with angry messages (a Slashdot article received over 400 comments) and many fans shared their ire by posting to the Wikipedia deletion discussion. Rob Beschizza, Managing Editor of the popular website Boing Boing, wrote about the deletion. About two dozen prominent figures in the gaming industry responded to a call by John Walker from the gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun to testify to the importance of Old Man Murray. Valve co-founder Gabe Newell wrote that "Old Man Murray were the Velvet Underground of post-print journalism" and Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels which are steeped in gaming culture, wrote "As far as I'm concerned, Old Man Murray invented the internet, and also invented making jokes about video games, two things which are maybe the foundation of everything I hold dear." Walker told the Signpost that he was not surprised by this response. "OMM is something spoken about by people in our industry with hushed tones of reverence. I'd be fairly disappointed to learn a developer was not a fan of their writing."
- Resolutions on movement accountability and committee standards: On March 4, two resolutions passed by the foundation's Board of Trustees, concerning movement accountability standards and committee standards, were published. The board thereby asked the Audit and the Board Governance committees respectively to develop these standards in the run up to the next Board meeting in Berlin at the end of March.
- Wikimedia partners with Telenor on mobile: The Wikimedia Foundation has announced a new partnership with the Norwegian Telenor group to promote free access to Wikipedia on the mobile devices of the telecommunication group in Southeast European and Asian countries. After the deal with Orange back in January (Signpost coverage) it is the second cooperation of this kind for WMF, and could potentially affect up to 135 million mobile users.
- Wikimedia affiliation models: Foundation trustee Bishakha Datta has posted an update on a new plan for Wikimedia affiliation models, an expanded organizational construct that will sort Wikimedia-supporting organisations into Chapters, Partner Organizations, Associations, and Affiliates. The proposal, once complete, will be presented for approval by the Board during its July meeting. A small informal group has been formed and has been discussing the proposal on its meta talk page.
- United States Education Program enters its spring semester: The United States Education Program has started its spring semester, offering upwards of fifty Wikipedia-related initiatives in colleges in all corners of the United States.
- New Wikisource logo: Discussions evolved around the bug report requesting the creation of the Marathi Wikisource project. As the bugs author Gerard Meijssen reports in his blog it is planned to use a new logo instead of the regular Wikisource logo and the change could be implemented on the Gujarati Wikisource as well. This new local approach to Wikisource logos resulted in discussions in the bug attachments.
One of the prototypes of the new article feedback form
- Article feedback tool version 5: Limited release (to oversighters only, for testing purposes) of the Article feedback tool version 5 on pages of English Wikipedia is tentatively scheduled.
- Milestones this week: the Persian Wikibooks has reached 1,000 book modules, the English Wikisource has reached 300,000 text units, the Catalan Wikisource has reached 5,000 text units, and the Assamese Wikipedia has reached 10,000 total pages.