Wikimedia Foundation board refuses community participation

Wikipedia is definitely showing itself to be a good example of what happens when peer governance goes wrong.

To quickly recall my vision of peer governance: the commons-oriented peer production format combines the self-aggregation of effort by self-governing communities, and a for-benefit institution which should preserve and develop the infrastructure of cooperation.

In the community, after the deletionist reforms and the requirement of notability, the editors are dominating the process, to the detriment of the more expert contributors of articles, and growth has stopped; on the side of the Foundation, it now transpires that the Board wishes to diminish the influence of the community and its voting rights.

Legal councel Brad Patrick is quite sanguine and cynical about it:

Within the spirit of civil discourse, to those who are feeling frustrated and demanding action, I submit – “so what are you going to do about it?” I suggest you be pragmatic. You do not have any means of grabbing the reins of power from the Board, and you don’t have any entitlement to anything except your ability to participate in a project, if you choose, a chapter, if you choose, or to speak up in some forum. You don’t have a “right” to vote on anything, and the Board could just as easily have a contest than an election to fill Board seats.”

A counter-petition of community volunteers has been launched:

We, volunteers, ask the Board to give the volunteer community a fair voice in Foundation governance. During its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees not only rejected a proposal to improve community input in Foundation matters, but implemented an unexpected restructuring to reduce the community seats on the board. The community was not consulted about this reduction in representation and the board provided no explanation for this change.

That is not a good way to treat people who donate their time and labor. The volunteer base made this the seventh most popular website in the world. We expect courtesy and respect, but received neither. That hurts morale.

Please provide a full explanation for recent board decisions and reconsider your top-down approach.”

That things can be better, i.e. that peer governance can guarantee excellence, while the institutional side is governed democratically, is shown in this study of the Debian community.

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