Just this goy...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm torn about how to handle this topic...

In general, the press should maintain a healthy antagonistic relationship with government. And like it or not, beyond all the illusions and delusions, the [[WikiMedia Foundation]] serves as the government of the various [[projects]] and online communities it supports. So, throughout the sometimes chaotic [[IRC office hours]] on Friday([[transcript]]). I tried to maintain a skepticism and animosity.

But it was just soo sad...

So to preface this I have to say that I find [[Ms Gardner]] a sympathetic figure, and it was very hard to find fault with what was said and done in the talk. Except, of course, that little was said or done.

Far more fault was to be found in the audience. Which at times more resembled a riotous mob than the literate, motivated, strong-shouldered giants building the greatest websites on the planet from bare rocks they seem sometimes to think they are. From the raucous pre-show cerebral strutting to the strident questions and interjections during the talk, I've rarely seen a spectacle of nit-wits and testosterone/caffeine junkies I'd less like to be associating with except, possibly, watching English Rugby. Let me blunt, if I haven't been so yet: several of the people participating were rude, boorish, and thuggish, and are prime examples of why corporal punishment shouldn't be removed from the WMF options for improving behavior. I'd make a comparison with toddlers, but it simply wouldn't express the vitriol some were expressing.

But the content over which they were squabbling! it was so slight as to hardly be worth mentioning, let alone acting out.

On [[en.wp]], the rollout of [[Flagged Revisions]] is delayed. Yawn. En is a big site, and processes and software have to be scaled for the sheer volume of the place. This has always been true, likely always will be true. But the whining was intense, and this was the first question of substance, and went on and on, dragging in various WMF employees, and accomplished exactly nothing other than pissing off people who would later act out in their turn.

The softball question and discussion about [[Wikimedia Strategic Planning]], the ostensive purpose for the whole IRC talk thing, was pretty pointless as well. Except for one thing: it showed very clearly that there is a minority chorus who support it and are already involved in it, and a much larger majority who are unaware, indifferent, and are likely to start screaming as soon as changes are instigated by the project. It seriously sounded like a [[Greek chorus]] at times as a series of players would chime in to repeat themes or announce their support.

As an aside, I think Frank/[[Wikipods]] was mentioned at least a half-dozen times. This must have been the agreed on "we'll make sure to mention this at the meeting" topic.

But it also leads me into another 'theme' in the meeting - hostility. There was plenty in the meeting. And plenty of discussion about how the projects seem mighty hostile. And it's an important element of strategy to improve retention, but people leave because the community is hostile. And we shouldn't be hostile to newbies, but it seems we are. In several of the discussion threads this came up. Not that anything was suggested to change this (well, someone suggested banning everyone who is a current contributor, but I assume that was in jest.)

This theme led into another, more subtle one: twitting office, being twitted by office. Gerard was (mildly) belittled by a WMF officer. Sue was not-quite-bluntly asked about the recent departure of an employee (it strongly suggested to me that at least one person thinks there's a story there, and Sue's nonchalant answer the WMF will not notice the departure seems to confirm it - at the very least it was the faintest of praise.)

But getting back to the content, there really isn't much more that hasn't been mentioned. There was a dustup regarding Chapters. When isn't there a dustup regarding chapters? But in this case people carrying a grudge made clear they don't trust the WMF. Mind you, they're right not to. And then they were roundly shouted at for carrying a grudge.

Just as another aside, I noticed the extreme lack of comment or even notice that there isn't a Wikimedia Chapter USA. Still. Why is it that no one will come out and state that if there were a USA chapter there would be a helluva lot more action (and leverage), but that none of the extent chapters (or the organizers/activists ) want a USA chapter because it would over-power the others? Allow me to quote from [[en.Wikipedia]]: "Wikipedia policy has been formulated for the most part by habit and consensus..." It seems to me, then, that avoiding/preventing a USA Chapter is policy for the WMF. (oh, if you don't recognize that exact quote, even though it was part of en,wp for years, it's because it was written by [[Larry Sanger]]. Notice how that link doesn't go to either his [[w:User:Larry Sanger]] or [[w:Larry Sanger]]? I sure did, yet I clicked on his user name in [[Policy and Guidelines history]]. I found it interesting.)

So, in addition to the [[kerfuffle]], back to the content, what else was there? Oh yes, Gerard's question about smaller projects. Which somehow fell out of the question queue, but was graciously restored, and resulted in the best quote of the entire session:
[23:26pm] SueGardner: I think our obligation is to focus our energy, for the most part, on the projects that have the greatest potential.
I'm sure you can guess this caught the attention of several attendees. Ms Gardner went on to explain that "potential" was defined as projects with a large, available, literate, internet-connected readership where WMF is performing poorly, the emphasis being all mine.

However, what caught my attention most was the lack of real reference to projects at all, but rather languages. If Ms Gardner meant what she said, literally, she would be casting en.wp aside and focusing on the life-support projects like en.Wikinews or en.Wikisource or other English language project whose traffic is relatively minimal, yet which have the huge 'potential' as she describes it. En.wp doesn't qualify.

But that's not what she meant. In fact, she bluntly dodged the question about how this applies to projects. She was referring to languages such as Hindi and Chinese, and she stuck to those talking points like glue.

And that's how the meeting trailed off, a good half-hour to an hour longer than was planned. Some platitudes, some talking points, more hostility.

And Ms Gardner came across as nice.

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