Answers to the User:Alecmconroy questions for WMF Board candidates

Alec M. Conroy has made the list of questions for Wikimedia Board candidates. Here are my answers.


  • Is Wikimedia most like a library, a school, a museum?  something else?

Wikimedia is a movement in its early stages of development.

  • Of the other candidates, who do you most support?

Kat. Other candidates have their own virtues, but I wouldn’t be able to say so surely who should be the third one, counting that I would be elected. If Sj is more active, I would be sure. I like Ting personally, but he has changed considerably during the past year or two: from community advocate he has become more authoritarian and more elitist. Gerard Meijssen is my friend, he is often hard for communication, but he is good worker. Patricio Lorente is a good guy, but I would like to hear from him more broader positions. James Forester and especially Lodewijk Gelauff are young enough that they will be Board members in the future, for sure — if they wouldn’t abandon that idea.

I don’t know other candidates well to have precise opinion about them.

  • Do you have a favorite article (or more) that illustrates the ‘best’ of Wikipedia?  Favorite on other projects?

No, but I like to edit articles related to Antarctica.  Long time passed since I edited those articles last time, but it is likely that I will continue with it.

  • Of the current board members, who do you think is our most effective leader / who do you look to as a role model?

Kat has her own place inside of the Board as guardian of the core values, but she is too quiet to be effective leader. Jimmy wants to be a leader, he has his own virtues, but he is not effective leader. Other Board members do their job, but they are not effective leaders. Sj could be if he devotes more time to Wikimedia. Sue and Erik are more leader-type than any of Board member. None of the Board members is my role model.

  • What’s your Myers-Briggs type– here’s a test if needed.  (I can’t imagine the answer themselves directly affecting any votes– but it’s sorta fun and might help people understand your other responses)

Extraverted 22%, Intuitive 88%, Feeling 12%, Judging 1%; that gives the type ENFJ.

WM in Politics/Activism/Law

  • Should WMF have an advocacy role in any circumstances? If so, broadly speaking, how do we decide what issues to take a position on?

All advocacy roles should be movement-wide, not WMF-specific. Speaking about movement, I think that it should have advocacy roles, but the movement itself should define it.

  • Does the WM Movement have a role to play in local, national and international politics?  If so, what does that role look like in the future?

Yes, but moving toward such position should be made carefully and in coordination with the movement as a whole.

Our first influence is promoting free knowledge and surrounding areas. The second one is international cooperation. While building a framework for its own work, Wikimedia entity is being necessarily involved in politics on appropriate level. At some point it wouldn’t be possible to avoid it, and it is better to be prepared for that role.

And we have a lot of things to give to all levels of human society. Free knowledge, cooperation, deep knowledge of different cultures are just the top of the iceberg of our possible contributions to any society.

  • What can we do to help those directly-affected by ‘The Arab Spring’?  What can the WM movement do collectively do for those nations? What can the WMF foundation do? What can individual wikimedians do?

Speaking about the present moment of Wikimedia movement, we should keep our work on free knowledge.

Personally but not officially, I would encourage people to help any democratic movement which doesn’t diverge from the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Officially, I would encourage Wikimedians to help other Wikimedians living in countries with political problems.

  • If it were feasible, should the foundation promote ‘internet freedom’– that is, advocate for or active provide unfiltered internet access to citizens of repressive regimes?

We have to be careful in such situations. The main reason is very obvious fact that even the Western societies don’t have consensus about what is acceptable and what isn’t on Internet. At least significant minority (but likely majority of general Western population) think that we shouldn’t have depictions of sexual acts even they are for educational purposes.

Thus, if one population doesn’t have visibly expressed will of at least significant minority toward less censored information, we shouldn’t interfere.

Summarized, I would put our role inside of helping particular persons (and movements like Arab spring is; but note that it’s particularly clear case, not comparable with a lot of contemporary history events), but outside of political activism.

Primary role of Wikimedia movement is to create and deliver knowledge. We should be able to deliver knowledge to the people under repressive regimes and we can’t do that if we are involved in political activism.

  • If it were feasible, should the foundation promote ‘universal internet access’– that is, advocating for or actually providing computer&internet access to impoverished peoples?

Yes. Without internet access we are not able to deliver knowledge in full scale.

  • Should the WMF promote “Net Neutrality” in the US?

Yes. Unlike activism in countries with repressive regimes, we are fully able to deliver knowledge in US, which means that we should strive there to other goals compatible with our ideals.

  • Should WMF advocate any position on copyright reform?

Yes. Our movement is based on free content. Ideally, we don’t want copyright to exist.

Movement Vision, Scope

  • What’s our Big Purpose?  What’s our Mission?  Jimmy Wales famously said “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”  Without quoting or paraphrasing, how would you say it?

Creating and delivering knowledge to every single person is the goal of Wikipedia and we are doing very good job.

However, Wikimedia movement purpose is not just that. The purpose is to participate in building new world based on principles of cooperation. (I wrote a text about it.)

  • What is the “big new exciting amazing thing” that the Wikimedia Movement could potentially accomplish in the next five years?

Regaining younger generations. At this moment that’s the most important thing which we have to do.

That process includes many “big new exciting amazing things” and, if elected, I would encourage Wikimedians to propose new projects, of which we would choose the best, the biggest, the most exciting and the most amazing.

  • Can WM host a ‘non-educational’ project if we want to?  For example, suppose there was a multiplayer online game targeted at Israeli and Palestinian children, in the hopes that this childhood experience will promote future peace.   If there’s a broad consensus that the non-educational project would bring good in a clear way,  could we host it if we wanted to?

Likely not during the next two years, but I think that the time will come when it would become completely acceptable and feasible.

  • Should promoting “free culture” a goal in and of itself for the WM movement?

I would say that we should promote free society, not just “free culture”.

By the way, I have a problem with the phrase “free culture”. The phrase is oxymoronic or nonsense buzzword at best. Culture by itself is a set of rules, which makes it impossible to be “free”.

It is possible to have “non-violent culture” or “tolerant culture”, as it implies that specific [non-written] rules define culture as non-violent or tolerant. However, culture can’t be defined as “free”. Thus, phrase “culture of freedom” or “freedom culture” would be more appropriate, but I don’t think that that’s the meaning of the buzzword “free culture”.

That’s unlike software or knowledge, where “free” means specifically “freely accessible”. The phrase which connects free software, knowledge, art works is “free content”.

  • WM content has generally been described using terms like “knowledge” and “educational”.  Do you think WM has a role in hosting non-notable art, fiction, music, and other works of open-culture?  As hosting expenses naturally approach zero due to ever-dropping technology cost, should WM host increasingly more diverse content, or should we stick to the domains we currently focus on– namely, factual, notable, instructional content of the kind that might be found in an encyclopedia or textbook.

The most of human works could be useful for educational and informational purposes. If they are free and we are able to host them, why not?

  • Looking far forward, beyond the next few years.  Should each Wikimedia-named projects have to adhere to the same basic set of values we, as a community, currently hold here in the existing projects? (Namely, valuing the free distribution of factual knowledge).  Or will falling hosting costs eventually mean that Wikimedia’s projects will eventually become more diverse in their values, methodologies, and purposes?

All Wikipedias should follow the same set of the rules. That means that I think that we should have one set of rules (or values) per project type.

However, we can decide to create some new project type which would allow us to host diverse types of content. Besides that, Commons has very wide scope.

But, anyway, we should keep our scientific nature. I don’t think — and I would oppose strongly — if Wikiversity creates course in, let’s say, astrology.


  • How can we empower our developers and other programmers to “be bold” in trying to create ‘the next big Wikimedia thing’ that will do good for humanity?

We should create autonomous or separate organization which would care about MediaWiki; and leave it to developers. (Of course, WMF should guarantee financial stability of newly formed organization.)

They should explore their own paths and the rest of the community shouldn’t be able to make pressure as it is able now.

But, when developers create some good thing, the rest of the community, including the Board, should be able to recognize it and implement on Wikimedia projects.

The other similar approach is to really encourage innovation. Let’s say, by making an open call for ideas and pay for development of the best ones.

  • How do we fix the “MediaWiki Problem”, namely, an over-reliance on a single software platform?

First, we need clean Parser. Brion is working on that (finally! end of the world tomorrow!). After that, other programmers would be able to implement it in any other programming language and in any other software. That would be our obvious exit method if MediaWiki development comes into really big problems.

  • If it were technically feasible and of negligible cost, should we someday empower trusted users the “be bold” and create new projects on their own initiative, ala Wikia?

Yes, but just inside of our scope. For example, project for bibliographic data would be good idea. But, some more fun ways of editing Wikimedia projects would be good to have.

At the other side, it would be good to leave projects like Star Trek wiki to other entities, like Wikia is.

  • On projects like Wikipedia, how do we fix the quality problem?  (some of our articles aren’t very good and don’t necessarily seem to be improving with time)

We need systemic cooperation with academic institutions. That should be risen to the WMF level, not just to the personal initiatives.

Such cooperation would change academic institutions, too; and make them more receptive for open collaborative projects, like Wikimedia projects are. On the long run, that would bring more experts to edit Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

I like the idea and I would like to see it working. That would make Wikimedia projects content safe in computer age.


~ by millosh on May 27, 2011.

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