Wikipedia talk:Project Leader

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Proposed: That Jimbo should have the powers he currently has.[edit]

Basically, the purpose of this page is to describe the Jimbo's unique role and codify it as an actual policy. With the impending arbcom election coming up, some have claimed that Jimbo's powers are no longer supported by consensus. I disagree-- I believe his current role is very strongly supported by consensus, and seek to settle the issue by proposing this policy ratifying his current role. An actual policy on this aspect of the project is long overdue.

In writing the page, I have tried to be entirely descriptive, summarizing the powers Jimbo currently has. Thus, while this is technically a "proposed policy", the proposal is that we change nothing about Jimbo's current powers, but merely ratify them in their current form. --Alecmconroy (talk) 06:03, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Pedantic, maybe, but the ability to ban users, and the power to bestow/remove user rights aren't "unique powers". Nor are the rights to subscribe / post to Mediation-en-l or Arbcom-en-l. fish&karate 09:58, 4 November 2008 (UTC)
A quite correct observation-- scrapping the word "unique". --Alecmconroy (talk) 19:57, 4 November 2008 (UTC)


Just a note that this should probably at some point be merged with Wikipedia:Role of Jimmy Wales. I started that latter page with exactly the same motive as you started this one ("settle the issue by proposing this policy ratifying his current role") and was unsuccessful in doing so. I am quite in support of your efforts here, and I would prefer a page of this sort rather than what mine has turned into, but one way or another all the content should probably wind up at one page. Sarcasticidealist (talk) 20:00, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Yes! I relied upon Wikipedia:Role of Jimmy Wales in determining what the status quo was, such that we could propose the ad hoc status quo become policy.
The difference between the pages is that this is (proposed?) policy, rather than descriptive. This page seeks to prove, once and for all, that Jimbo's powers do in fact have force of consensus. It's important to clearly establish that fact. Doing so will head off any future problem scenarios in which someone could claim Jimbo's power's "violate consensus". One case in point-- right now, without this policy, there might be an obscenely-large amount of drama if Jimbo decided to exercise his Arbcom appointment veto for the first time. With this page as policy, it would be much much easier to sooth such a situation and make it clear that Jimbo's veto does not 'override' community consensus-- on the contrary, it is PART of community consensus for him to have precisely that role. --Alecmconroy (talk) 20:25, 4 November 2008 (UTC)
I totally agree with making the page a policy, and that's what I was trying to do originally (I failed). But if this page does get adopted as policy, then that will make the other page unnecessary (since there's no point in having one page that sets out policy and another that sets out current practice on exactly the same issues). If it fails to be adopted as policy, it will essentially have become exactly what the other page is. Sarcasticidealist (talk) 20:58, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Limitations section[edit]

Coren has added a limitations section that was overlooked in the initial drafting. For the record, this section is, in fact, a correct description of our current ad hoc status quote, as shown by this.

Good catch!--Alecmconroy (talk) 21:01, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Better off without this[edit]

Jimbo started off as the Godking of Wikipedia. Until ~18 months ago, Wikimedia stated that "Jimbo Wales [is the] ultimate authority on any matter" [1]. Literally, he had the power to do anything. Over time, more and more authority has been shifted to the Foundation and local governance structures (e.g. ArbCom). For example, until 2006 Jimbo was chair of the Board, and now Board operations are directed by others. Once upon a time, Jimbo led operations, and now we have a professional staff managing the infrastructure. The history and practice suggests to me that more and more power will likely devolve from Jimbo, so that his role in practice evolves and probably becomes less active over time. At the same time, Jimbo still has a history of exercising extraordinary power (e.g. policy by Jimbo fiat). For those reasons, I don't think this effort to define his role or circumscribe his power is likely to be very accurate/effective. Dragons flight (talk) 07:33, 6 November 2008 (UTC)

Hmmm.. I'm not sure I follow your logic here, so I'm going to say it back to you. I understand Jimbo was once the final authority, but now that role is held by the board. He used to have the role of chairman of hte board, but those roles have shifted to others. Various others of his roles have also now shifted to arbcom. And I understand this trend is probably likely to continue in the future, with more of his aspects of his role being taken over by others in the future.
So, recognizing that his role is in flux, how does that affect the need to set down the nature of his role, as of right now? Recognizing of course, that it's certainly not written in stone, and his role will probably change in the future.
Or, to put a finer point on it-- if you were going to write the policy to explain what Jimbo's role is, what would that policy look like?
Do you think there are aspects of his role that the current draft misses? Do you think it lacks some "Final Authority" statement saying that, in effect, that Jimbo's role should be... whatever Jimbo says it should be? --Alecmconroy (talk) 08:19, 6 November 2008 (UTC)
Alec, you're not being clear on whether you're trying to describe his present role, or get consensus approving his present role. If the former, it shouldn't be called policy because policy is normative, not descriptive. If the latter, it will tend to inhibit change; it will tend to cement-in, make more permanent, the present state. (Consensus on a policy page is hard to change once it has been formally instituted.) I don't know whether we want to make Jimbo's role more permanent or not, but that would be the effect.
P.S. W'ere already drowning in policy. -- 20 November, La la ooh —Preceding undated comment was added at 00:01, 21 November 2008 (UTC).
La La ooh-- that's a really really helpful comment actually, because it distinguishes between two very different approaches, and you're right, I haven't really clarified, or honestly, fully considered the difference until you raised it.
Speaking for myself, I am trying to generate a consensus-supported policy that describes Jimbo's current role. I'm not exactly sure I'm trying to 'generate' consensus, since I think consensus already exists on Jimbo role, but the basic answer is yes.
I think that will have a lot of positive benefits down the road that could avert disputes in the future by getting everyone on the same page about Jimbo's role. If somebody questions "Who says Jimbo gets to do this", the answer won't be "Jimbo says so". Instead, the answer will be "Our policy says so." Such a dispute is _going_ to come up, only a matter of time, and we can head off future drama.
And yes, you're correct that the nature of policy is that policy is hard to change. I can understand people who worry about this. I tend to be in the same camp as FT2, and think that this part of wikipedia being somewhat difficult to change is actually probably a good thing. --Alecmconroy (talk) 01:04, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

More requests for eyeballs[edit]

Posted this to a different section of the village pump in an effort to answer:

1. Are we missing any powers that Jimbo currently has in the status quo?
2. The status quo does have consensus, right?

--Alecmconroy (talk) 05:16, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Even if you can accurately capture Jimbo's role in this policy, and consensus supports it, consider what it does: 1) It creates yet another policy that needs updating (by a tedious process) when changes occur, and 2) It adds much weight to future arguments that Jimbo is entitled to do thus-and-such, thereby suppressing counterarguments that might reflect changing consensus. In short, it adds bureaucracy and increases the inertia of the status quo. Is that good for Wikipedia? Is it something Jimbo would want to do? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I didn't see that anyone had recognized this effect. -- Unconventional (talk) 12:23, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
I don't think this page will be hard to update at all. All past changes to the Policy have come in the form of Jimbo voluntarily relinquishing some of his previous powers and that seems to be his stated plan for any future changes to his role. Consensus in such a case shouldn't be hard at all to obtain.
I definitely do recognize that anyone strongly opposed to Jimbo's current role may object to this policy page, because it will sort of "enshrine" that role in policy, rather than leaving it floating in the ether of unwritten rules. But I would argue that regardless of what people think Wikipedia's policies should be, we still should document what our policies actually are, as of this moment.
After all, we have policy pages on all the other role around here: Mediators, Admins, Arbs, Checkusers,Office, OTRS, etc. I can't see why this particular sphere of Wikipedia policy should be any different. --Alecmconroy (talk) 12:44, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
Agree completely with Alec. Whether you support or oppose Jimbo's present role, we're better off with clarity surrounding what it is and where it comes from. Sarcasticidealist (talk) 14:37, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
1. I don't think so.
2. There is clearly no consensus for a drastic change, but I am not sure that there is active consensus for the status quo rather than simple lack of will to change it. Unfortunately I am not sure what the best way to guage this is, or even if its really possible. I don't have any strong feelings about tagging. It seems an accurate description of current practice (which is waht piolicy is supposed to be), but as Unconventional says it will doubtless be bransihed in future discusions of Jimbo's role in ways that may not be salutory. Eluchil404 (talk) 06:12, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Positive and negative definitions[edit]

The danger (and candidly for some people, this might seem an intention) is to provide a positive definition (the leader has these listed rights; anything else they don't have).

However historically the rights of the project leader have been defined as a negative right (they have all rights they started with, except those they explicitly state they will set aside or never use).

Thus there was no written "right to create Medcom" but in 2004 Jimbo did so, and the consensus over time seems to be that this was within his role as project leader. In fact we can't say what may be needed in future, and the project leader role is a check and balance on that. Tying its hands by means of a list that codifies only a few limited rights needed recently, (such as "can subscribe to mailing list X" or "can appoint arbitrators"), is probably going to be seriously counter productive if Wikipedia's community did start to slide into a bad state.

What is far more notable is that these rights - whatever they may be - are exercised in serious matters, and rarely even so. In the great majority of cases (almost "wherever possible"?), Jimbo has in fact let the community get on in its own way, including making its own mistakes. That might be one of the better starting points for a summary of the project leader's role - it is not used lightly, and the community is largely given complete self-governance how it will meet the project goals and stay within WMF requirements. FT2 (Talk | email) 14:16, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

I don't think anyone on this page is trying to "remove any unspecified powers", as much as we need to figure out what those powers are and write them down-- even if it turns out one of those powers is "the power to do absolutely anything". Whatever Jimbo's role is, it clear _is_ part of Wikipedia policy, and it should be documented.
There are a wide range of roles he could have-- from "Widely-respected but otherwise normal community member with no special powers" to "Able to, on his own authority, make any changes whatsoever to the project, sort of as the EN-Wiki equivalent of a one-man WMF board." The current text of the proposal represents one point on that line that is, to the best of my ability, an attempt to describe the status quo. But like any policy, what's there may need to be tweaked, revised, or altered. Some of the comments above seem to feel the current text gives Jimbo too much power, some seem to fear the current text gives him too little.
Since the issue of my own intentions were raised, I'll say-- I'm far less attached to what text actually goes up than I am to the idea that the community state their consensus-- any consensus-- on the subject. In the past month, I think I've encountered debates in four or five different venues about what Jimbo's role is. In particular, the ability to veto arbcom candidates was something that a few people found very controversial, even though I think that aspect of Jimbo's role is, in fact, strongly supported.
So, whether you're in favor of a large role for Jimbo or a small role for Jimbo, that doesn't change that we need a place to talk about it, a place to hammer out a consensus statement on the matter, a place to figure out what his role actually is. And more importantly, to figure that out before there's a major dispute within the community about his role. These questions are going to be far easier to deal with in the abstract, when there are no names or egos attached to the debate.
I've sincerely tried my best to write down the status quo, neither adding any powers nor taking any away. --Alecmconroy (talk) 15:08, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
I wasnt specifically meaning you ("some" wasn't a euphemism), and generally agree with your comment, especially the last paragraph. Much better sorted out as you suggest. :) FT2 (Talk | email) 15:45, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

FT2 Proposal[edit]

How about an approach like this:

The English Wikipedia community generally manages that project as agreed amongst themselves. To that end, the community is largely given complete self-governance to decide how it will achieve its directives: meeting the project goals and staying within WMF requirements.

The role of the project leader in English Wikipedia stems from Jimbo Wales' involvement as a founder of the project, and his close involvement in it over time. It functions as a final decision maker in the English Wikipedia project. The role does not have a formal definition to date, although the term "traditional powers" is sometimes used.

Jimbo has at times indicated where boundaries may be drawn. In general they are as follows:

  • The role is described as being akin to a "constitutional monarch" - that is, its day to day powers are gradually delegated to subsidiary bodies or the community itself over time. The project leader retains their role and reserve powers as a check and balance, to allow speedy action in exceptional matters, and against the risk that the community in future may need unilateral action stemming from that role to fulfil its goals. The project leader retains wide scope to act and make binding decisions in that role, but exhibits significant reluctance to do so, and tries wherever possible to allow community processes to handle such matters.
  • Areas the project leader has delegated or where restrictions or limits have been stated, include <list>
  • Areas the project leader has not delegated or where matters have been reserved, include <list>

--Next section--

FT2 (Talk | email) 16:05, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

First response: Excellent excellent excellent that we're having this discussion. This is the kind of thing that we should be seeing, with some substantial diversity of ideas. Me just writing something out and throwing it up on a page isn't a policy, it's an essay.
Second response: We need more eyes. I've spammed this everywhere I can think of, but this is really more a matter for the pillars of the community, not for some fly-by-night looney like myself. I can raise specific point, but ultimately, my opinions aren't going to matter much-- this needs more involvement.
Third response: Even though my own thoughts don't matter much, I'm here, so I'll throw them out. But I strongly encourage people to get more attention on this, since my thoughts don't matter much.
  • I don't think it's correct to refer to the project leader as the "final decision maker" anymore. He's explicitly given arbcom the ability to over-rule him, and of course, the board has the authority to overrule anyone.
  • A minor point, but kind of an important one-- I don't think we should confuse the roles of founder and project leader, because one does not automatically follow from the other. Jimbo is the founder of WMF, but not the project leader of all its projects. He will always be the founder, but the project leader role may disappear over time, someone else could one day be project leader, Jimbo is mortal, etc. I'd prefer to just state "The project leader is Jimbo Wales." Or "By consensus, the project leader is Jimbo Wales" or something similar. Minor point of preference, but such is the nature of policy language.
  • Some sort of pre-amble about the purpose of the position is probably good. The analogy to constitutional monarch is good. Maybe tweaking there, but the general idea that the policy should mention why we even decide to have a project leader is a good idea.
  • I think we get into trouble with the sentence: "The project leader retains wide scope to act and make binding decisions in that role, but exhibits significant reluctance to do so, and tries wherever possible to allow community processes to handle such matters." It's policy, not history. Forward-looking, not backwardlooking. Changing to "should exhibit" might be one way to handle it. Even though I can agree that the statement characterizes how Jimbo has acted, I can foresee situations where others may disagree about whether he's truly "significantly reluctant" or not.
  • Listing the powers that ARE currently exercised by the Project Leader shouldn't be complicated, nor should listing the universally agreed upon limitations on the Project Leader (arbcom decisions, WMF).
  • I suspect, based upon FT2's earlier comment that some people might like to add a statement somewhere listing that the project leader may have unspecified powers which haven't been explicitly enumerated in this policy? Something akin to the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution? I don't know that I personally see the role that a way, but it's entirely possible that most wikipedians do. So, more eyes, I guess.
Reiterate, despite nitpicking it, I'm really really happy to see the FT2 Proposal. This is how policy formation is supposed to happen. Thank you FT2! --Alecmconroy (talk) 16:57, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Small notes on the above to help things along: 1/ "In areas where no formal delegation has been made, may act as a final decision maker" is probably more accurate; 2/ The sole mention of "founder" (or co-founder, or role in founding) is in giving a historical explanation, in the sentence "The role of the project leader in English Wikipedia stems from Jimbo Wales' involvement as a founder of the project", a historical point of fact. It's not otherwise relevant at all; 3/ 'We' haven't 'decided' to have one. It's part of the fabric of the community as it has grown up, and at present, that's how it is. This is describing a role (and perhaps cleaning up some issues), not defining a new thing; 4/ Use of present tense to describe how the project leader acts now, and by implication is anticipated to act. Unsure if it's binding though in all possible times and circumstances - and it is against unexpected times and circumstances the role mainly exists; 5+6/ Sensible. FT2 (Talk | email) 18:44, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
I'd suggest one other thing - if we (community + Jimbo) ever do get round to devising an agreed summary of the project leader role, it'll probably be the kind of page that shouldnt have substantive change without consultation and agreement. Just an advance thought... FT2 (Talk | email) 18:52, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
No question. Our important policy pages aren't good candidates for being bold-- that goes for NPOV, or V or NOR or this page if it makes it to policy. --Alecmconroy (talk) 19:34, 13 November 2008 (UTC)


Calling this "Project Leader" seems to assume that the role is in some sense separable from Jimbo. Obviously there is no historical proof of that, and while we can speculate on what might happen were Jimbo to unexpectedly die, I don't know that we can really assume that there would ever be a new "Project Leader".

With that in mind, perhaps it would be clearer and less objectionable if instead of inventing the title "Project Leader" and defining its role, we rather address simply "The Role of Jimbo Wales".

Oh wait, we already have a page: Wikipedia:Role of Jimbo Wales. I would suggest any content original to this page be merged into that one, and if there is to be "policy" describing Jimbo's role then that is the better way to frame it. Dragons flight (talk) 20:00, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

In my eyes, the role absolutely is separable from Jimbo Wales. Again, see what people think, but this ties in with the idea that the Founder and the Project Leader are inherently the same person. It's a really subtle point, but WP:OWN is just as applicable to the project as a whole-- nobody owns the project, not even the founder. Conflating the two implies that Jimbo had some innate right to be the project leader since he was the founder. Occasionally you'll hear it said "It's jimbo's show, the only right you have is the right to fork or the right to vanish". That sort of logic probably has its place, but I don't think it's the most helpful direction. That argument engenders strife and erodes at the sense of community.
Instead, I'd point out the following reasoning, which reaches the same endpoint but does so while being far less abrasive. The argument is: "Hey, we like Jimbo. We all like Jimbo. I like Jimbo. He's doing a good job. Everyone around here basically agrees he's doing a good job! He still has his job because everyone is so impressed with the job he's doing. There is a genuine consensus for him to be doing this job-- sincerely, there is. I know it."
Now, it's going to take some extra work on our parts to demonstrate the second argument. We're going to have to have some discussion, we'll have to do the hard work of policy formation-- but in the end, it's going to be worth it. Because mark my words, it's inevitable in any organization that there will be disagreements of every imaginable sort. Sooner or later, Jimbo is going to, through no fault of his own, step on a land mine. And when that happens, it will be much much much better for the project if we can all point to this policy page and say "Well, we _did_ all ask him to do his best in this role, he does have consensus to be doing this role. We, the community, gave him an embossed invitation asking him to be our leader".
Or, we can stick with the argument that since he was the founder, he has called dibs on this project, and if you don't like it, you should take your ball and go home. I hear that argument made from time to time. Which is an argument that works as long as he does everything mostly perfectly (as, I might add, I think he has!). But unless we take the time now to show there IS a consensus for the Project Leader role, I suspect it's only a matter of time before the inevitable happens, he does something controversial, and we find that his first truly controversial action will be his last.
Taking the time to prove that the community has a consensus for Jimbo to hold his role is time well-spent. I think so anyway. --Alecmconroy (talk) 21:51, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
But as always, I talk too much. Ultimately, this issue will rise or fall based on what hundreds of editors think, not what I think. I just have a lot of thoughts on the matter, so I say a lot, but ultimately, this is going to be written and decided on a project-level. This isn't a stub where three editors can get together and resolve a content dispute. I have opinions, so I might as well type them out quickly, but I'm not crazy enough to think I'm speaking for anyone but my own stream of consciousness. :) humbly, --Alecmconroy (talk) 22:00, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
Let me be more direct. In the unfortunate event that Jimbo gets hit by a bus, the "Project Leader" role (as a collection of functions embodied by a single person) should die with him. It is unwiki and we should not be enshrining it as a separate concept to carry forward. The tasks would still be necessary, but there is no need or unifying theme for why that should be embodied in one person. So, at a fundamental level I am opposed to "Project Leader" as a defined office. Dragons flight (talk) 22:43, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
To expand a little bit, I consider it an accident of history that Jimbo has the role he does. I don't begrudge it of him, and acknowledge that the community (generally and usually) supports him in it. That said, I don't think it is a governance structure that we should or would want to choose for ourselves in the unfortunate event that we lose Jimbo. Hence, the role of Jimbo is very much something I see as specific to Jimbo and not as a structure that needs to be enshrined for the future. Dragons flight (talk) 22:53, 13 November 2008 (UTC)
I think defining the concept of project leader as "unwiki" is inappropriate. The Collective is the ultimate authority (just as "We, the people" are in real life), but they can choose a leader to delegate executive power to if they think it an effective form of government. They can even agree to accept his decisions over their own in specific cases — with the understanding that a leader making too many unpopoular decisions would soon stop being one. The main issues are that an individual does not scale (which is why as a project grows you see a majority of tasks being directly or indirectly re-delegated from the Collective to a larger body), and that the opinions of the Collective or the leader can change over time (at which point you need a new leader). GreenReaper (talk) 16:17, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
The proposed title is not amusing though. The current title reminds me of the Movementarians. --bainer (talk) 09:37, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
Hehe-- yes, it is a sort of awkward title, and definitely not the job title I would have picked on my own. But it seemed to have quite widespread usage: here and here and here, [2], [3], [4] --Alecmconroy (talk) 10:02, 16 November 2008 (UTC)