News and notes
Candidates nominating for Foundation elections; Looking ahead to Wikimania 2014
Although not yet in great numbers, candidates are coming forward for Wikimedia Foundation elections, which will be held from 1 to 15 June. The elections will fill vacancies in three categories, the most prominent of which will be the three community-elected seats on the ten-member Board of Trustees. The current two-year terms for these trustee positions end on 1 September (or the first Board meeting after the election results are announced, if sooner). The two incumbents are Kat Walsh (chair) and Samuel Klein; the other seat was recently vacated by Ting Chen, a former chair of the Board.
Candidate submissions opened 24 April and will close at 23:59 UTC on 17 May. At the time of publication, three members of the community have nominated as candidates: Leigh Ann Thelmadatter, a US citizen who currently resides in Mexico City and mainly works on Mexico-related articles; Milos Rancic, a Wikimedia steward from Europe; and Phoebe Ayers from California, who served as a chapter-selected trustee on the Board from July 2010 until the middle of last year.
The Board of Trustees is the ultimate governing authority of the Wikimedia Foundation. The trustees' roles and responsibilities are of profound significance in the movement. The Board determines the mission, goals, long-term plans and high-level policies of the Foundation and its projects, and it will select the new Executive Director of the WMF to replace Sue Gardner, who announced on 27 March that she would be leaving the job when a successor is recruited. The trustees also define a number of independent revenue sources, oversight staff on accounting, budgeting, and programs, maintain legal and ethical integrity, and articulate the WMF's mission to the outside world.
- FDC and FDC ombudsperson
The second category of positions is two community-elected seats on the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC). The successful candidates will be the first elected members on this central part of the Foundation's financial restructuring last year, which has thus far comprised seven volunteers appointed by the Board, plus two non-voting Board members. The FDC assesses funding proposals by eligible Wikimedia entities, mostly nation-based chapters, and was allocated a maximum budget of more than US$11M in its first year of operation.
The two new members will serve for two-year terms. FDC members have many responsibilities, including reading and evaluating proposals during the two rounds each year, and in-person attendance at two to three meetings a year (the Signpost reported on the FDC's most recent recommendations last week).
A third category will be the FDC ombudsperson, who has a separate set of responsibilities: receiving and publicly documenting complaints about the FDC process; supporting complaints investigations when formally requested to do so by the Board representatives on the FDC; and publishing an annual report to the Board that summarizes the feedback received and makes recommendations about how the FDC process could be improved. At the time of publication, there was only one candidate for FDC membership—Smallbones, who has served on the advisory committee that ushered in the establishment of the FDC. As yet, no one has nominated for the position of ombudsperson.
- Organisation of the elections
The SecurePoll interface will be used for all three categories in the election; SecurePoll is a MediaWiki extension that will be familiar to voters in the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee elections. Unlike the 2011 election for community-elected trustees, which used the preferential Schultze method, the upcoming election will use the support–neutral–oppose system used in ArbCom elections. This decision prompted a degree of animated discussion, and in response to complaints of possible distortions, on 5 May minimal support levels were announced: support votes of 10% of eligible votes are now required for trustee candidates, and a raw number of 30 support votes for FDC and FDC ombudsperson candidates.
Relatively active community members, developers, staff, contractors, and board members will be eligible to vote, with minor exceptions; the lack of voting rights for chapter staff and chapter board members has been challenged on the Wikimedia-l mailing list.
The Board set up a volunteer Election Committee to plan and maintain virtually every aspect of the Board election, including the type of voting, the eligibility criteria for candidates and voters, and the drafting and organisation of all official election pages on Meta. The Committee will verify that candidates and voters meet the criteria, and will audit votes to ensure that any duplicate votes are not counted. The WMF's director of community advocacy, Philippe Beaudette, serves as staff support and liaison, with general counsel Geoff Brigham providing support on legal issues.
Although translations into some 80 languages are linked from the main page, at the time of publication the election information was still mostly in English alone. Despite valiant and much appreciated efforts by volunteer translators—and given that the deadline for translations is still a week away—where there had been progress, voters from major Wikimedia communities still faced pages such as this one, marked "2/3 complete", an apparent overestimate. Some translators are understandably having trouble with terms such as "a Support/Neutral/Oppose system". Instructions on how to ask questions of candidates were available in languages other than English only through Google translate.
The Election Committee will announce the results of all six vacancies on Meta, on or before 22 June.
Looking ahead to Wikimania 2014
Banner of the London bid for Wikimania 2014
This August, editors will be flooding into Hong Kong for the annual wiki conference, Wikimania. Planning for the 2014 event is already starting, however, because next year's event venue has already been selected. As the Signpost reported briefly in last week's News and notes, it has been confirmed that the winner of the bids to hold Wikimania 2014 is London. The other candidate city, Arusha, Tanzania, were congratulated for putting in "a solid effort" by James F. as he announced the winner on behalf of the selection jury on May 1 (last Wednesday). This will be the tenth year of Wikimania and the third to be held in Europe since Frankfurt 2005 and Gdańsk 2010.
Cape Town, South Africa and Bukittinggi, Indonesia both withdrew their bids, leaving the jury to decide between London and Arusha. The London bid team included Jimbo Wales and other Wikimedians from the UK; conference speakers have a line-up including Stephen Fry, Eben Upton and representatives from many projects across Wikimedia sites. The Barbican Center in the City of London—the largest performing arts center in Europe—has been selected as the main venue for events. As in previous years, scholarships will be available to fund those unable to attend without assistance; the Signpost will announce when these are open to applicants later in 2013.
This major wiki event follows GLAM-WIKI 2010, EduWiki Conference 2012 and GLAM-WIKI 2013 that were held in the UK. Around 50,000 Wikipedians are estimated to live in the United Kingdom; combining some of them, the expected influx from overseas, and interested non-Wikimedians, quite a few people are projected to attend. The organizers will be renting two auditoriums with a capacity of over a thousand and just shy of two thousand; the latter is expected to hold the traditional plenary sessions.
- Russian blacklist and Wikipedia, redux: Fifteen more articles, thirteen from the Russian Wikipedia and two from the English, have been placed on Russia's state-sponsored blacklist. The law that created the blacklist sparked a major protest in July of last year, and the articles in question are listed on the Russian Wikipedia. In the related mailing list discussion, opinions ranged from outrage to pragmatism:
||If you insist on leaving a paragraph on "how to make a bong" in the Russian-language "Marijuana smoking" article, then the article won't be accessible to 140,000,000 people; if you remove that paragraph (and any others that are censored), the article, and its information about psychosis, respiratory effects, geographic distribution, history, correlation with tobacco smoking, gateway to harder drugs hypothesis, etc. will be available to 140,000,000 people.
We would be failing in our mission to disseminate educational information effectively and globally if, due to an ideological attachment to NOTCENSORED, we took the former option. ... my attachment to NOTCENSORED doesn't trump my attachment to our mission.
- SUL will be universal: The Foundation's developer team has announced that every account will be required to have the same name across all Wikimedia projects starting on 27 May. Users who have single accounts with the same name as someone with a "single user login" (SUL) will be renamed to <username>~<project>, e.g. User:Example~zhwikipedia. According to the developers, they will be contacting affected users individually. This will lead to the end of local username changes, as all renames will have to be done by stewards on a global basis.
- New GLAM project: Freopedia, an initiative aiming to put QR codes at various places around Fremantle, Western Australia, has been launched. It follows in the footsteps of the highly successful Monmouthpedia and controversial Gibraltarpedia (the latter ran into several problems unrelated to QR-code-placing).
- Main page RfC: The design and appearance of the English Wikipedia's main page, which has not been significantly altered since 2006, is the subject of a new request for comment. Previous assessments have been unkind, calling it ugly and "remarkably unattractive", and that a "superficial makeover" may be "just the thing Wikipedia needs to begin growing in a more meaningful way."
Check back for the next Signpost on May 1.