Thursday, June 5, 2008

Board elections

So we're now significantly into the voting stage of the 2008 Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustee's Election. With one seat available, it's difficult to say who'll be signed to the one year term that is being offered.

I voted as soon as I could on June 1, the first day of voting, but since then, my voting and ranking of the candidates (the election is being done using a format based on the "Schulze method") has been re-shuffled a bit several times. It can be difficult to work out who one thinks would be best suited to the Board, and who would most effectively fill the position.

Judging by the candidate statements, we have a great number of the people vying for the seat pledging to bring the Board back to the community, and to involve the community more in Board affairs. While cynicism may write these promises off as bids for false ingratiation, it does seem that this is what the general Wikimedia populace want from (prospective) Trustees: greater input in Foundation and Board affairs and decisions.

We also see more candidate focus on the improving of and increased involvement in all the Wikimedia projects, rather than just the English Wikipedia. This I like - so much that I have written an essay on the subject. The day that we take attention away from en.wp and give it to the smaller projects is the day that Wikimedia and everyone associated with it takes a fundamental and highly necessary step forward. And, in my opinion, having a Board of Trustees invested in this cause is one of the first movements we need to take towards this important change.

And so what about the candidates themselves? Well, we have a very diverse and colourful cross section of the 700-odd projects of Wikimedia running for the Board, which I suppose is always a good thing, but results in me knowing very few of them at a level at which I have interacted with them prior to the election. There are 4 or 5 users running from the English Wikipedia alone, most of whom I know of from observation there. It would seem the obvious conclusion that origination from Wikimedia's largest project (by far) would lead to a certain degree of advantage vote-wise, but that remains to be seen and I'm not sure it'd be a good idea to remark more specifically on the results of the election until I'm staring at the figures on the 21st. I will say though that I would not be surprised if we end up with another English Wikipedian filling the seat; I only hope that, as I have stated before, they can overlook their home wiki and consider the welfare of the budding wikis.

There were a few candidates that caught my eye from the list of people I do know - Kurt Weber, better known as User:Kmweber, was one. Considered by some on his home wiki as a disruptor and a "troll", Weber has attracted considerable and continuing controversy for his frequently scorned antics at the "Requests for adminship" forum, the venue where new administrators are elected through community discussion, and the views he holds in regards to that process. He has also been blocked from editing on the English Wikipedia several times over the space of time he has participated there, for various reasons including incivility to fellow editors and personal attacks on others. All in all, his reputation there is not good, and the impact this poor reputation on his home wiki will surely be a complete detriment to his candidacy, especially combined with the fact that he has chosen not to answer most of the questions.

Gregory Kohs is the other highly controversial candidate. He is the operator of English Wikipedia User:Thekohser, a puppet of banned User:MyWikiBiz. Kohs was banned following the proving of allegations that he was creating Wikipedia articles for paying companies and customers at his own profit. At prices ranging up to $100, he offered his patrons the service of adding whatever content they wanted to Wikipedia through him. While MyWikiBiz was initially blocked indefinitely by Wales in the October of 2006, much controversy followed the exposure of Kohs' online enterprise and final absolution did not come for the entire affair until March 2007. His presence on the Board is therefore in the realms of the unimaginable in my humble opinion, considering above all else that he was blocked from "the Flagship" by the incumbent Chair Emeritus.

So, to sum up: we have a good range of candidates from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and home wikis, and a few of them presenting compelling cases for their candidacies. We have some controversial candidates, and we have some relatively unknown ones, and we have some from projects and languages that are currently underrepresented by the Board. All in all, 2008 has served us up yet again another interesting election!


Philomid said...

I disagree with your notion that moving away from en.wp towards the smaller projects would be a step forward. I think that if the board members associated more with the en.wp /and/ equally with smaller projects then that would be a step forward. I say this because right now, the smaller projects are feeling disregarded, while en.wp is quite content (from what I see), but if the board was to lack focus on en.wp, it would be such a drastic change from the self assured consciousness that is so evident now. Any change for the worse on en.wp would be drastic and hard to deal with on an internal level.


Gregory Kohs said...

The User:MyWikiBiz account wasn't blocked by Jimbo for the reason of creating GFDL content for payment (and posting said articles on, NOT Wikipedia). The account was blocked because I had the nerve October 4th, 2006, to e-mail Jimbo and suggest that the community had developed WP:COI into a policy that conflicted with what Jimbo had told me to do on August 9th.

Jimbo had a hissy fit, because he hated being shown the suggestion that the community had developed a policy that potentially contradicted his earlier pronouncement. A few days later, Jimbo then made up a story that the "real" reason for his October 5th block was inappropriate use of the Wikipedia trademark in business. (Wikipedia hadn't even properly registered its trademarks, thanks to Brad Patrick, at the time.)

It was all a big fiasco, and if people would actually look into it, they'd see that MyWikiBiz was healthily operating as a productive business, adding GFDL material to the free-content world, between August 9th and October 4th. Jimbo shut it down because of a personal tiff. Nothing more, nothing less.

I hope you'll investigate the truth a bit more and then begin to spread the word of what REALLY happened.

Gregory Kohs said...

Josh, you never did look further into the "why" MyWikiBiz was banned from Wikipedia, did you?