Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2023-09-16/News and notes

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Wikimedia power sharing – just an advisory role for the volunteer community?: Plus: Africa news, funding report, U4C draft, roads fork and another ChatGPT block.
News and notes

Wikimedia power sharing – just an advisory role for the volunteer community?

Global Council draft comes under fire from European Wikimedians

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Symbol used for the Global Council in the draft Movement Charter

The Movement Charter Drafting Committee (MCDC) recently invited feedback on the latest draft chapters for the Movement Charter (which aims "to define roles and responsibilities for all the members and entities of the Wikimedia movement"):

The discussion page for the Global Council draft saw the most participation. This included some strong criticism, especially from European Wikimedians. A key point of contention was that the Global Council, as envisaged in the draft, would only have advisory powers. Former WMF board member User:Jan-Bart, for example, said:

The movement strategy process and especially the work of the Roles and Responsibilities working group did give a baseline of what we as a movement wanted to achieve (some said that the recommendations did not go far enough in distributing the "power" within the movement but let's leave that aside for a minute)

So reading the current drafts makes me wonder what happened? One of the most important aspects of the recommendations was the equity in decision making within our movement. Reducing this by (for example) reducing the global council to an advisory body is not something that I had expected to read here. [...]

Wikimedia Sweden added:

From the draft text it seems clear that there is no intention for the GC to exert any control over the funds within the WMF, especially since it is not even clear where the funds for the GC itself will come from. This is understandable if this power, for legal reasons, needs to reside with the BoT. But if this is the case the legal limitations should be clearly laid out. We should also consider if such legal limitations are the result of some pre-existing structure or mechanism which could be changed.

But if the relationship to the WMF is simply that the GC provides advice which the WMF can then choose to ignore, this runs the risk of becoming a source of potential conflict [...]

A summary of German Wikipedia community discussions by User:Denis Barthel said:

There were many comments on the draft on the Global Council. All were characterized by disappointment, outrage, or resignation. Many community members felt their assumption confirmed that the Wikimedia Foundation was unwilling to share powers. The "equity in decision-making" promised by the MCDC and the Movement Strategy, allowing a stronger representation of all groups in the Movement, was regarded by many voices as an obviously vain hope.

In particular, a kind of parliament or general assembly was missed, as well as powers beyond those already exercised by various volunteer bodies. There was a clear desire for the Global Council to be more than just an advisory body.

Mysterious "external legal feedback"

Another key point of contention was an "external legal feedback" shared by the WMF, authored by an undisclosed law firm advising the drafting committee:

The legal feedback doesn't reveal the author and it is qualified as an "external legal feedback" at Movement Charter/Content/Global Council. Could you tell us who was the commissioner and who was the author? Alice Wiegand (talk) 20:34, 3 August 2023 (UTC)

[...] Is there any reason not to say who wrote the document, who commissioned it, and what terms of reference were given? Many thanks, Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 21:23, 3 August 2023 (UTC)

@Lyzzy and The Land: hi, the external legal review was provided pro bono by a reputable multinational law firm, based on information provided by the MCDC. Under the terms of this engagement, the law firm’s services were limited to providing advice to the Wikimedia Foundation only, and their work product was not intended for publication. In the interests of transparency for this project, they have permitted us to share this document here without attribution. Thanks, RamzyM (WMF) (talk) 03:42, 9 August 2023 (UTC)

Thanks Ramzy. Could this be changed for future legal reviews so that the name of the firm, the terms of their commission and their full opinion are shared? Without this information I don't think the document will fulfill its purpose. Thanks, Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 10:41, 9 August 2023 (UTC)

Wikimedia Germany suggested that alternative legal advice should be sought:

[...] There are reputable law firms in the US that bring the necessary expertise in designing inter-nonprofit legal relationships, and that have not had WMF as a client previously. WMDE suggests that it may be time to figure out together how we can commission this expertise, so that we can have a fuller and more neutral understanding of what is actually possible – to ultimately arrive at a governance structure that does justice to our movement and its diverse stakeholders and lets us move towards the strategic direction. Nicola Zeuner (WMDE) (talk) 10:50, 14 August 2023 (UTC)

The use of unclear or meaningless buzzwords was another point of criticism. Overall, the feedback pages for Hubs and Roles & Responsibilities saw somewhat less participation. The Hubs draft also received some praise from community members. Even so, questions and concerns about fundraising and funds dissemination were recurring topics on both feedback pages. – AK

WMF reconsiders Africa approach

"A new approach to contributor growth in Africa" – presentation at Wikimania 2023 (slides as PDF)

The Wikimedia Foundation is piloting a new approach to contributor growth in Africa (see presentation, pictured), noting that past approaches aimed at increasing coverage of African topics – and thus the amount of time African citizens spend online reading internet coverage of African affairs – have been hit and miss.

Recent projects have included contests such as Wiki Loves Africa 2023 and the Africa Day Campaign 2023, whose winners were announced at the end of August.

Some initiatives have caused controversy, such as the $20,000 project on Deforestation in Nigeria that was discussed at the WP:ANI noticeboard last month.

The WMF's analysis of its efforts, and the opportunities and challenges involved in Africa (presented at last month's Wikimania conference), highlights the importance of intrinsic motivation:


  • Our eagerness to see more programmatic work in SSA has resulted in funding of projects with moderate to low effectiveness, sometimes even repeatedly.
  • We have been investing in those who showed up, sometimes without intrinsic motivation. We suggest we should have instead been:
    • seeking out self-motivated contributors and investing further resources only in them.
    • Verifying organizers possess the skills to effectively deliver their programs (edit counts and time-since-first-edit are insufficient indicators)
  • We have been slow or reluctant to recognize and stop resourcing ineffective organizers.
  • If proven effective, our proposed approach would increase the pool of skilled contributors and potential leaders and organizers, thereby increasing programmatic funding opportunities.

Similar concerns about attracting mainly extrinsically motivated contributors go back to at least 2010, when Tanzania-based Wikipedian Muddyb expressed his deep frustrations about finding himself cleaning up the results of a Google-funded initiative that awarded prizes for adding content to Swahili Wikipedia. (See "In the news" from the July 26, 2010 issue of The Signpost.)

The Foundation's analysis also highlights that "Too much programmatic outreach work in the region is ineffectively carried out by volunteers who have insufficient familiarity" with the platform, the policies (e.g. on copyright and licensing) and the culture of Wikimedia projects. Accordingly, the pilot aims to test the hypothesis that audiovisual training materials on core policies along with live tutorials can achieve significantly higher retention.

The pilot is currently limited to the English Wikipedia and envisaged to run from September to December 2023. – AK, H

WMF publishes 2022–2023 Funding Report

The Wikimedia Foundation last month published its Funding Report for the last fiscal year:

During the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the Wikimedia Foundation awarded 638 grants to mission-aligned organizations and people around the world, totaling $17,512,472 USD. Of these funds, 381 totaling $16,032,838 are administered by the Community Resources team (other funds are summarized below). 2022-2023 marked the second fiscal year of Community Resources' Grants Strategy Relaunch, prioritizing the Movement Strategy goal of Knowledge Equity.

Below are some key graphics from the report. First, an overview of grants and grant money by fund program:

Regional breakdown of funding administered by the Community Resources team, 2015–2023:

Overview of WMF-distributed funds not managed by the Community Resources team:

For further details see Meta-Wiki. – AK

Code of conduct committee draft charter ready for review

The U4C Building Committee has announced:

The Universal Code of Conduct Coordinating Committee (U4C) draft charter is now ready for your review.

The Enforcement Guidelines require a Building Committee form to draft a charter that outlines procedures and details for a global committee to be called the Universal Code of Conduct Coordinating Committee (U4C). Over the past few months, the U4C Building Committee worked together as a group to discuss and draft the U4C charter. The U4C Building Committee welcomes feedback about the draft charter now through 22 September 2023. After that date, the U4C Building Committee will revise the charter as needed and a community vote will open shortly afterward.

Join the conversation during the conversation hours or on Meta-wiki.

The committee's language use was mocked as "highly bureaucratic and unnecessarily hard to follow". Some commenters stated that the language stopped them from reading the draft in full. – AK

User enamored with ChatGPT gets indefinitely blocked

A robot writing not-quite-English words on a piece of paper
We asked an AI to create this illustration of an AI writing an apology for an AI-written article.

An editor was indeffed after extensive use of AI-generated text, including this oddly worded apology for using ChatGPT to request restoration of their article. In fact, their response in the related AN/I noticeboard discussion also appeared to be the product of ChatGPT.

This may be the first instance of an indefinite block stemming specifically from the use of the technology in talkpages. A commenter at ANI called their reply posting AI-generated waffle. On the other hand, an after-closure discussion started by the author of this article included this observation from another: there's no guideline or policy banning empty blather.

In June, another editor had been indeffed for using ChatGPT in articles alone, with paid editing as the underlying concern. Some investigation of the incident found a probable paying party and turned up the possibility that the whole episode was an elaborate hoax, based on their off-wiki writings; one participant in the discussion said they found a comment off-wiki stating I pay people to waste the time of volunteers who have innumerable things they'd rather be doing.

Was the latest case a prank? We can't tell. – B

A fork in the Roads WikiProject

On September 7, the "AARoads Wiki" was launched, "a free online encyclopedia dedicated to roads", forming part of the existing website. According to an announcement post on the site's forum, "The team making up the core of the US Roads WikiProject on Wikipedia [WikiProject U.S. Roads] has moved over to the new wiki". An FAQ for the new wiki states that "much of the content was forked from the English Wikipedia in mid-2023," and that "After several months of extended discussions and uneven enforcement of policies towards the road subject area, many felt that starting a new project with a new community solely focused on road transportation would be a more viable option. A sampling of such discussions can be found here and here." (The latter, an RfC titled "Using maps as sources", had concluded in May and resulted in the addition of a clarification that "Source information does not need to be in text form" to Wikipedia:No_original_research#What_is_not_original_research. However, other proposals were rejected in the RfC.) In an emotional TikTok video (which has attracted 48k likes at the time of writing), one of the seceding editors explains the underlying concerns in more detail, arguing that "in the past couple of years, our little corner of the site [Wikipedia] has come under attack [... for] two reasons: sourcing and notability". An earlier FAQ by another longstanding member of the U.S. Roads WikiProject sheds further light on some longstanding tensions. – H

Brief notes

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