Maher named interim executive director of the Foundation
Patricio Lorente, chair of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees, announced on 10 March that the interim executive director of the WMF will be Katherine Maher. Maher, currently the chief communications officer, will assume the post on March 14—two weeks prior to the anticipated departure of current executive director Lila Tretikov, who resigned last week effective March 31.
The announcement comes after the Board, in a surprise move, deferred the selection process to the C-level-team at the WMF. In his announcement, Lorente wrote:
||In choosing an interim ED, the C-levels started by identifying immediate priorities for the coming months, including building trust, improving communications, and filling key leadership positions. They felt, and we agree, that Katherine is the right person to lead the organization while it addresses these and other important issues. Additionally, this will allow the rest of the executive team to focus on critical organizational functions, including community and engineering management, fundraising, and strengthening our human resources function.
Lorente's message was followed by a message by Maher, in which she wrote in part:
||As a movement, we've had some challenges lately. We've started on a process of change, but as Lydia Pintscher recently reminded us, "Change happens at the speed of trust." We will need to work together over these coming months to build that trust, and open critical lines of communication and accountability. I get the sense from many people that that's exactly what they'd like to do: absorb the lessons we've learned, re-engage with each other, and get back to advancing our global movement.
Maher's appointment was greeted with an overwhelmingly positive response from current and former WMF employees and community members, including former Board members Florence Devouard (Anthere) and James Heilman (Doc James).
Maher joined the WMF in April 2014, shortly before Tretikov became executive director. Maher had worked for The World Bank, UNICEF, and Access Now, an advocacy group for open-access information and Internet freedom. While she does not have an engineering background, she is no stranger to some of the technical challenges that may be faced by the Foundation in the future. G
Wales email re-sparks Heilman controversy
Questions still surround the December departure of James Heilman from the WMF Board of Trustees, ousted in December on an 8–2 vote. Pete Forsyth, a former WMF employee who left the Foundation in 2011, re-sparked this controversy by posting to the Wikimedia-l mailing list a February 29 email from Jimmy Wales to Heilman and Forsyth, prompting a debate about the appropriateness of posting private correspondence, and about Wales' comments and role in the Heilman ouster.
In the email, Wales pondered the reasoning behind Heilman's actions:
||One hypothesis is that you're just a liar. I have a hard time with that one.
Another hypothesis is that you have a poor memory or low emotional intelligence or something like that – you seem to say things that just don't make sense and which attempt to lead people to conclusions that are clearly not true.
Another hypothesis is that the emotional trauma of all this has colored your perceptions on certain details.
While Wales characterized his email as an olive branch, a number of commentators were stunned by the email, labeling it emotionally manipulative or even gaslighting. Others thought that revealing private email was a violation of trust and damaged the possibility or reconciliation between the two parties. G
Draft WMF strategy
The draft WMF strategy has been posted on Meta and is open for feedback:
||Over the course of a month-long consultation (Jan 18 – Feb 15, 2016), we received community feedback on 18 pre-defined strategic approaches and received over 300 suggestions for additional approaches. We've evaluated this feedback alongside other relevant factors, such as current Foundation capacity and resources, to identify the three most promising strategic approaches.
The three proposed strategies focus on improving our ability to reach new audiences and retain our current readers and contributors. They incorporate testing different approaches, iterating on feedback and results, and scaling successful outcomes.
The posted strategy statement focuses on three points, corresponding to the three previously defined challenges of "reach", "communities" and "knowledge":
- We will better understand and respond to the needs of our global users so that more people can share in free knowledge.
- Key points: understanding whether users are looking for general or in-depth information, what hardware they are using, improving the user experience, especially in mobile (web and app) contexts, and engaging readers in countries and communities with low Wikimedia awareness.
- We will increase volunteer retention and engagement through improved programs, experiences, and resources.
- Key points: investigating ways to increase volunteer retention and engagement (including mentoring, training, support and outreach programs and identifying ways to recognize volunteer contributions).
- We will increase and diversify knowledge by developing high-priority curation and creation tools for user needs.
- Key points: addressing technical and experiential barriers to contributing such as complex interfaces and workflows, especially on mobile, and facilitating high-volume contributions from GLAM institutional partners.
The page on Meta contains further details and rationales relating to these three generic goals, and explains how priorities identified during the community consultation fed into them.
The draft strategy will be open for community comment and feedback until March 18th. The incorporation of this feedback is scheduled to take place between March 18th and April 1st; any major changes resulting from this feedback will be highlighted in the final draft.
The Wikimedia Foundation will use the month of March to finalize its draft 2016–2017 Annual Plan. The plan will be based on the proposed strategy, incorporating initiatives and work projects believed to have the greatest impact on these strategic approaches. The Wikimedia Foundation's draft annual plan will be submitted for comment by April 1st.
On the topic of mobile accessibility – a key point in the draft strategy – see also the Signpost's report on the new Wikipedia iOS app, in this week's "In the media" section. AK