Just this goy...

Monday, January 25, 2010

I've tried to approach this subject three or four different ways. Face it, my writing skills suck, and I'm far too blunt at this time of night. Stripped of all rhetorical embellishments:

The Wikimedia Foundation Strategy project is [still] doomed.

This is not the simple pronouncement of someone who hates the idea, has done nothing to try to make it work. I put my bits of sweat and research into the process. I have every hope some vestiges of my efforts will make it into any reports, proposals, and recommendations.

My conclusions really bother me. While reading on the project, and working on a task force, I came into contact with a number of very wonderful people. While not entirely selfless, they were working in good faith on something they view as larger than themselves, larger than the Foundation itself really. Their visions of the project are inspiring, admirable, even at times beautiful.

I just don't think, in the larger picture and over the longer term, this project is very relevant to the future of the Wikimedia Foundation. Here are some of my reasons, which I think have evolved since my last entry on the subject:

  • There is nothing tying any of this work to implementation. Not only is there no mechanism or created process going from envisioning to application, there is no transparent and public statements that anything will be implemented. There is no moral difference between the task force's efforts and [[Walter Mitty]]'s fantasies - that is, escapism from the reality of the Foundation as it is.

  • The process fundamentally alters the relationship between the Wikimedia Foundation and the communities which it formerly served. With this process the future of the projects is clearly top-down, from the ED's office to the people who volunteer, rather than bubble-up from the people to the office. This may reflect a reality of long standing. That does not make it any more palatable. In fact, it fucking sucks.

  • For all intents and purposes, the entire point of the Strategy project is to talk about other people doing things. This is 100% in opposition to the Wiki Way. In the Wiki Way, people work on what interests them. They do not work on what other people think they should work on.

  • For all intents and purposes, the Strategy project is about talking about changes. I hate that. In my opinion, if you see something you'd like to change, you act on getting it changed. {{sofixit}} is the mantra of wikis. If anything is my primary point here, this is it.

There is one further point to be made: Everything is about Wikipedia.

No, to be honest, very little is about Wikipedia. At least, not if you're not sucked into the narrow, focused, blindered [[weltanschauung]] of the Wikimedia Foundation. Schools in third world countries don't want wikipedia: they want to teach students. Google news doesn't want wikipedia; they want free backgrounder information which is hyper-current. Random readers don't want wikipedia: they want reasonably reliable information instantly on the topic in which they are interested [this microsecond].

But wikipedia contributors - like contributors to each of the projects - are all about wikipedia.

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