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This is an archived BrainstormMode version of MeatballBoard from October, 2006.
I find it very hard to manage the site, financially, socially, and security-wise by myself. It drains my emotions, bank account, time, and energy. Originally, Cliff and I shared power equally. He had control over the servers and the code, and I ran the community. I did not have the server or admin password. Over time I have become a total GodKing and it sucks. As a result, I no longer trust my own decisions since I do not have to test them with someone else before enacting them.
I'd like to change the executive leadership of Meatball so it is made of at least 3 people on a board of directors. I'm making an open call for suggestions on how to nominate, elect, and organize this committee. The very real problem is what constitutes the CommunityMembership who will elect this committee, so suggestions on that front are welcome.
I recognize that while for the most part the site hums along by itself, the serious executive questions like when to exile someone should be imbued with a FairProcess that is held accountable through elections. Moreover, I'd like others to feel equal ownership over the site as I do, and for Meatball to not be directly associated with me.
Thoughts? -- SunirShah
I'm going to set an arbitrary deadline to have a board in place by October 15. That means we should open voting by October 1. -- SunirShah
Things to decide by then:
- What defines a CommunityMember with voting privileges?
- What responsibilities belong to the board?
- What roles do the board need?
- What formal processes need to be in place?
- ... feel free to add more ...
I invited the UseModWiki community to participate, since we are responsible for hosting them. -- SunirShah
I've been looking forward to something like this. I've been adding patches to UseMod:WikiPatches and UseMod:WikiBugs for some time now. I would really like to see a UseMod 1.1 that includes just some minimal code cleanup and improvements that have accumulated so far. -- UseMod:UngarPeter
This section summarizes what seems to be the consensus by SilentAgreement. If it isn't, don't be silent!
What defines a CommunityMember with voting privileges?
Anyone with a homepage in place before this page was created (Aug 25, 2006) are the initial voting pool that constitute TheCollective. The voting pool can invite new folks into TheCollective through some as yet to be defined formal process.
Would the board members have defined roles (e.g. in charge of the server, etc.) or not?
- Any decision that cannot be actually enacted by simply doing the work yourself on the site using the same powers as anyone else is an executive decision which the board would have privy over. For instance, moving the site to a new domain, changing the software, or exiling somebody.
- In keeping with FairSoftware, it's better if one board member paid attention to the community, another paid attention to the technology, and another paid attention to gaining and managing external resources.
- Board members have both social and technological responsibilities.
- When given a choice between growing power or to DevolvePower, DevolvePower. When no such option is presented, aim to take no action until the ability to DevolvePower is available.
- Protect the corpus.
- Make Meatball a SafePlace? to work.
- Keep the servers (and domains, properties) running.
- Grow the community.
- Follow the MeatballMission to build a community focused on helping others with building their communities.
Are there any specific roles among the board members?
- Chair: The Chair's responsibility is to maintain the process.
- There should be at least one board member representing each of the three areas: Technology, Community, Resources (aka Treasurer).
- Secretary: Should rotate each meeting; one person to publish the minutes.
Is there a difference between a board and a committee?
How long would the terms be?
- 1 year -- any shorter would be chaotic, and longer would not reflect the fact that interests change, nor would it respect the RightToLeave.
- Starting when, the first of the year?
Suggestions on how to nominate, elect, and organize this committee.
What constitutes CommunityMembership? Some possible definitions:
- Regular contributors who have had HomePages for at least a month? What is a 'regular' contributor?
- HomePage for a month, and at least five contributions (including WikiSpam removal)?
- If I was a regular in 2004 but have not made any edits this past year, am I a CommunityMember?
- Why not just "anyone with a homepage in place before this page was created (Aug 25)" unless that policy causes real problems? That way, there's no voting-elite to cause problems later. -- ChrisPurcell
Thanks for nomination. Let's say I'm not technologically savvy, my work will keep me busy till january 2007 and my family life is currently being restored. Furthermore, even if I learn a lot and I love mb, I still don't feel enough strong socially and in english to apply for any position here. Let's say I love my current HoneyBee
statut and will still be very happy to try to help mb to grow in the future french WikiNet
! Our first project could be to go on MeatballWikiRecovery
to shape our french language-link. Have a nice week-end and I'd be happy to welcome you on our mb-board 2007 after your travel. -- ChristopheDucamp
Sorry for my delayed response but I was (1) on a vacation and (2) this OpenProxy checking makes editing almost impossible for me. I think MeatballBoard is a good idea, we have a somewhat similar system on GründerWiki. As a long-term regular of mb it's almost inevitable for me to also accept a formal role. But I have three preconditions that I hope can be met. First is that mb must get a decent backup system or - maybe better - a mirror, I'm pretty shocked that there was none. Second, board membership should be pretty open and there should be a formal process to enter the board (brainstorming: e. g. at GründerWiki any board member can suggest and veto new board members within a one-week timeframe of consensus or SilentAgreement, I'd basically suggest to routinely consider to invite all active BarnStar holders) and anyone can take a TimeOut? from board work (basically decision making). As there never is much work (decisions), there would be no need from Christophe to hesitate to join. Third, I think that this OpenProxy thing is a PITA which should be either improved to become unnoticable, turned off or side-stepped by using some codeword (I can not afford to spend another 1-3 min on each single edit, others will feel the same). -- HelmutLeitner
- I was hoping you'd get back from vacation soon. I was inspired primarily from your experience at GründerWiki. What you write here sounds like a fine platform to run on, which I will say since I agree with you. -- SunirShah
I thought more about opening the board to be more than 3 members. I think it would not be the Board, but TheCollective, and that is a more valuable thing than the board. I think inviting all BarnStar holders is a good start, but I'd prefer not to make BarnStars formal in any dimension, so then make TheCollective both InviteOnly? but with the presumption that invitations would be freely flowing. TheCollective can decide things like whom to exile and which projects to support with our resources through a formal process. However, I still think (a la FairSoftware) there should be at any one time someone whose primary responsibility is to represent and organize the techies, someone to represent and invest time in building the community, and someone to active look externally for resources to grow the community. These three people should constitute the executive. The executive's primary task is keeping the trains running on time and the site viable, as well as ensuring the wishes of TheCollective are carried out (i.e. setting up a backup system, collecting money). There are real Getting Shit Done tasks at the high level that require a small team. -- SunirShah
- Sunir, what kind of GSD tasks are on your mind? -- HelmutLeitner
TheCollective is a good technical term but mightn't work as well for outside relations. I think that the big challenge of the next years (2007-2010 perhaps) will be to actually initiate real world projects and collaborations between online communities and real world organisations. So formal things like "role titles", unimportant as they seem, may be important to get understanding and acceptance in the world of corporations and institutions. E. g. making contact to initiate cooperation with universities or publishing companies, it may make a big difference whether you enter dialogue as a "member of ..." or whatever. I can only imagine what might work in English, but I know that in German a simple member/Mitglied will not do the job. We have little experience in this, but in German I'd currently suggest to rename members/Mitglieder as a "delegates/Delegierte" who are actually representing the community and are peers in a consensual decision process (which actually means very, very much) and who could flexibly be endowed with role titles like "delegate for publishing collaborations" or "delegate for content quality" without that they have to take much obligations in terms of work or time. I think we can only get people to engage more intensly when they can be sure that they keep autonomous control about what they are willing and expected to work. I think that Christophe hesitates because he doesn't want to take an additional work obligation, while I think that being part of the core team shouldn't mean that you have to work beyond what people actually do or want to do. The only exception may be decision making but in this case the formal TimeOut? should help. -- HelmutLeitner
- Sunir always held the position of VotingIsEvil. As long as the board is not growing out of bounds (maybe 20-30 members) consensus should be sought. This is effectively a safety net, because each one has an effective veto at hand. When the board should grow larger, one could relax what consensus means (perhaps "all except 1" or "all except 10%). --HelmutLeitner
Just to be clear, since it may be relevant to this discussion, I don't believe voting is always evil. Most people don't understand voting, which is why it is often used badly, and often as a tool of demogogues. It can be useful in two circumstances:
- Accountability. That is, to vote out bad apples. In representative democracies, voting is primarily about firing a representative, not hiring him or her. The point is that it measures whether or not the population is ready to revolt. In a place with the RightToLeave, and such a fluid concept of membership anyway, the fidelity of such votes is questionable.
- Displays of power. When different stakeholders with real, capable power must demonstrate their willingness to use their power to help or attack the given cause. The vote is a symbolic stand in for the theoretical fight, or a way to account the available resources. For example, the House of Lords assembles to vote instead of each lord waging war on the kingdom, as well as shareholders vote rather than sue each other or withhold capital. Typically, such votes are weighted votes. In the House of Lords case, because they aren't weighted, it resulted in much political machinations behind the scenes to ensure more powerful players can control the votes of weaker players.
I do not believe in referenda on issues, as no one ever votes for anything. It's better to expend energy creating more natural options than forcing (scalarizing) a single decision amongst bad choices. I'm also personally very very dubious about the merit of voting out people, especially to vote to CommunityExile someone, as that will lead to LynchMobs. Or the converse, when a troublemaker calls for a referendum on whether the community wants him to stay. The effect is everyone has to declare explicitly how strong their relationship is to the person, which is always fraught with falsehoods, both positive and negative, and it is hurtful as some things are better not known. I'd rather see a FairProcess of reconciliation or determination that was rational. -- SunirShah (copied to VotingIsEvil)
I want to throw this idea into the mix... ConsensusPolling, or BeyondYes, work that TedErnst and BrandonCsSanders are doing. I am pretty intrigued by it and will invite them here to explain it. Here are some examples: [the wiki], [ICANNwiki], [icann wiki again] and I proposed it at WikiMania? to a board member and then AngelaBeesley was introduced to it at WikiSym [Wikimedia]. Food for thought. Best, MarkDilley
- I do think the BeyondYes process could be helpful here. The idea is to create a solution that works toward addressing the concerns of everyone, while understanding that to get anything done we just need agreement of "enough." -- TedErnst
- TedErnst, wouldn't figuring out the question be the first of five parts? ;-) MarkDilley
- I have a mild objection to the BarnStar requirement. I've been around MeatballWiki for a number of years and consider myself a member. I have not been given a BarnStar, although I have been informally thanked for various contributions. I realize that I haven't been around much lately, and I wouldn't be offended if other MeatballWiki members think I should need an invitation to vote. However, it is a potential problem if the membership definition excludes people who made major contributions before the BarnStar award was invented, and have been semi-active since then. -- StephenGilbert
- Stephan, when I brought BarnStar into the discussion, I never intended it as a requirement. It's just a formal and intuitive way to look for appreciated contributors and natural members. Another selection criterion could be "anyone to contributes peacefully for N months should be considered to be invited to the board". All this is about have a large and open board. The only reason why I havn't yet proposed you (I now have) is that I wasn't wuite sure whether we shouldn't have representatives of other communities important to mb (e.g. wikipedia, wikisym, cw, c2, ...) and imho you could also fill the role as "representing wikipedians". -- HelmutLeitner
- Thank you for the nomination; I'm considering what I could do for the board. If a Wikipedia representative is desired, we'll want to find someone besides me, as I'm not active in behind the scenes work anymore. When I look at the current Wikipedia bureaucracy, I feel as lost as a newbie. :) -- StephenGilbert
I concur. As I wrote above (how confusing this page has got), why not just "anyone with a homepage in place before this page was created (Aug 25)" unless that policy causes real problems? That way, there's no voting-elite to cause problems later. Building societies work this way, too. I certainly would feel silly excluding Stephen from the category of CommunityMember. -- ChrisPurcell
Getting "stuff" done tasks
I've been thinking what constitutes a Getting "Stuff" Done task which would require a small executive team to make decisions. Judging from past history:
- Rebuilding the MeatballServer, which is the event that predicated this discussion.
- Current attacks on the server, which are typically spam, vandals, or sociopaths, which require responses that are effective, measured, and balanced against the long-term impact on the CommunityExpectations. Over time, my attitude has become exasperated defending against a maelstorm of bullshit over the past couple of years, and thus HardBans have been increasing in frequency and speed, which itself is total bullshit.
- Conflicts within the community. I'm now keen on the idea that the MeatballBoard should minimally reflect all the stakeholders that have decided to Do Something about something of interest to them, and perhaps certain others with a longitudinal stake in Meatball. However, sometimes there are global resources that are under tension between people with differing values. For instance, the whole CopyLeft vs. DefaultCopyright dispute. While structural conflicts often have a straightforward answer (e.g. EnlargeSpace), it may take a little massaging for all parties to hear it.
- Budgeting and operational planning. Someone has to go off and find money, servers, bandwidth, manage the domains, etc. Often these kinds of problems come with compromises and trade offs, some of which are unpalatable. Some are politically difficult, such as the Google offer to fully host WikiPedia, which was correctly rejected as it would give Google too much control. While the full Board should make the decisions, the actual negotiations need to be concentrated into one or two spokespeople. And of course, someone has to be on the hook to actually pay things on time or else no one will take responsibility.
- How much bandwidth or disk space does meatball or usemod need?
- Legal stuff. If there is any legal stuff, typically officers need to be named to take responsibility. Otherwise, as AboutThisSite claims, SunirShah will continue to own Meatball, which is working against this plan. A NonProfit would be a likely ideal to strive towards.
Feel free to disagree with or add to any of these points because concentrating power is antithetical to the MeatballMission. -- SunirShah
- Perhaps we could try to find a "more appropriate" name for GSD tasks and a more general definition. One problem are situations where someone is forced to work, whether he wants or not: some spam attack needs blocking, an edit war ruins the community spirit, theserver is down ... there is need for immediate action and there is no-one else to take the burden (maybe workgroups and "workgroup organizers" would be a good way ... anti-spam workgroup, server-administration workgroup). The advantage of WorkGroups? is that it is again an open structure, anyone can participate or be suggested to participate. The second kind of situation seems to be when social decisions are involved and the founder is the only one to make the decision ... this is where the community always was able to help (DefendEachOther) and a board should take the burden easily and completely, because there is not much work involved. The third kind is about the legal and financial burden. In the short term there could be donations. But only when the board is further developed into an NPO or foundation or something like that (institutionalisation), so that it can own a bank account and pay for a server or take a legal risk or be partner in a legal agreement, the founder can be helped with this kind of tasks. -- HelmutLeitner
Helmut, that was a useful summary to help me clarify my thinking. As a CommunityMember and also as the GodKing at the moment who is entrusted with enacting whatever we decide here, I think what I most want are a small group of people that can reliably make fast decisions on behalf of the community, and are then accountable to the community after the fact. I also want to know if anybody else wants to help with the long list of critical todo items. Selfishly speaking, I'd really like to do some actual writing instead of spending all my time in the boiler room. -- SunirShah
- Sunir, I understand your need, acting in similar roles and situations. It may be sad, but "take my burden" may be not enough to motivate a group. Beside the work a group needs a number of positive perspectives of community development, additional ways of acting and unfolding. There are many projects possible that would set free a lot more energy than needed to let you out of the boiler room. -- HelmutLeitner
I don't believe it is enough to motivate a group to complain work isn't being done, because I believe most folks are SelfishVolunteers. That's why I like your idea of a more open board. I think the MeatballMission should be extended to providing substantial support (e.g. resources) to anyone who wants to start a new community-driven CollaborativeHypertext? initiative, and then the server would become a GlobalResource. At that point, people would be motivated to preserve GlobalResources. -- SunirShah
See also MeatballToDo for ideas about TheCollective's priorities.
To bring in: