Thread:Questioning the use of 'Official' (6)

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After the event:

This is a useful exercise which may result in some excellent guidelines. I would hesitate to make it a mandatory process even for Community workgroups. More agile, organic, spontaneous community processes (e.g. via a collection of self-organising projects on WE) may result in policies/ approaches adopted more widely later (perhaps as de facto standard practices before they become "approved policy").

Would it make sense rather (or in addition) to institute a WE Community process to highlight and "approve" emerging guidelines and policies? The resulting pages may be tagged (with attribution and a gold "WE Approved Policy/Guideline star") rewarding the innovators (of the associated projects) and those who took the extra trouble to elevate it to WE Community level.

All the thinking so far on this page would become part of the valuation/"approval" process, rather than a prescriptive process.

I could imagine something like this happening with the Language Policy - many projects involving multiple languages, as we go along we learn and adapt each others' good ideas, the best of which rise to the top and become standard practices.

Regarding consensus, check out the following approach to decision making in the Apache project: Decision Making (click and scroll down). That has worked well for a very prominent software development initiative with multiple projects. For WE, a libre knowledge community of communities with multiple projects, what actually happens is likely to be (and should be IMHO) at least as "lazy".

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I think you are right that making this policy mandatory could diminish the desire of the community to be spontaneous and self-organizing and thereby less likely to work towards the betterment of the community, which is obviously not the intent. I wonder if there are examples of this effect already.

In my mind, we need to balance the need to be spontaneous with providing a mechanism and support for members who recognize a need, but don't know where to begin to start working to address it. I think there are a lot of members like me who have no previous experience working in an open, geographically disperse, online community. I think helping people to get involved is important to the success of WikiEducator. And I can see how the idea of mandatory could get in the way.

I like your suggestion for creating a mechanism to recognize emerging guidelines and policies, with the idea of encouraging their development into community-wide WE guidelines/policy.

We could revise the mandator-iness in this policy into steps for moving guidelines or policy to apply community-wide.

Also, I think WE need to integrate a page discussing what policy and guidelines are, how different communities within the larger WE community can have "local" policy and how policy/guidelines get made with the Policy on Community Workgroups. I've noticed this WE policy page.

Thanks so much for the link to the Apache project. I have only a cursory understanding of what this project is about (I think I heard someone once use Apache as an example of a really successful open source software development effort), so I would never know to go looking for their organizational process. I see what you mean by 'lazy'. Is it fair to say that it's a consensus of those interested? If you're interested you pay attention and participate, if not, you implicitly trust that others will do their best. I also like their term do-ocracy. I wonder how do-ocracy will play out in WE.

Good ideas. I'm interested to see what others think about moving this policy to a less prescriptive process.

Alison,

I have refrained from making any comments regarding this workgroup, though I have been watching it, because I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of a globally recognised foundation and a wiki working together in this way. I'm not really familiar with Wikipedia's working relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation, but I get the impression that WE's working relationship with the foundation is one of symbiosis, perhaps more so than WMF and WP. Without WE, the foundation doesn't work. Do I have the right idea?

Hi Jesse,

Good questions. I'm certainly not the most capable at clarifying, but I can say that I have a similar understanding of the relationship. Although I think there is more to the Foundation than WE. My reading suggests that WE is the main mechanism for achieving the goals and vision of OERF. OERF's About page provides the bigger picture of the foundation and how WE fits in. Note that there is a WE.com entity that is a for profit initiative (I think).

I expect Wayne will chime in here at some point and help us both come to a better understanding as to the relationship.

Hi Jesse,

Symbiosis is a good description of the working relationship between the OER Foundation and WikiEducator.

I should also point out that WE has a different organisational history when compared to WP and WMF.

WE was originally administered under the auspices of an international agency i.e. the Commonwealth of Learning (an intergovernmental agency established by the Commonwealth heads of Government.) All operations and support were centrally funded by the Commonwealth of Learning. I must commend COL for its commitment to a community governance model for WikiEducator thus enabling the project to evolve as a community of association -- a community of educators working together on OER projects without interference in the community governance of the project. This is unusual in the world of international agencies and attests to COL's commitment to listen and respond to the voices of the communities it serves. The growth in Wikieducator as an international project had resulted in a number of difficult challenges. For example, COL is funded by Commonwealth governments, and therefore it was becoming increasingly difficult to justify expenditure supporting WE initiatives for members from non-commonwealth countries. Software development necessary to improve they way we work could not be justifiably be funded by COL as this fell outside the agencies remit. Moreover, it was not possible to raise donor funds for WE as the community has no legal status. The domain names of WikiEducator have been transferred to the OER Foundation an independent non-profit registered for charitable education purposes.

Symbiosis is a good description of the relationship between WE and the OERF. WE provides a solid foundation for the OERF to raise donor funding and membership contributions to support the work of WE. Similarly -- OERF is the sole funder of WE paying for the server infrastructure, training workshops etc. The OERF respects the autonomy of WE and is required to operate within the policies established by the community. For example, there are no allocated seats on Council for the OERF nor is there a requirement in the constitution of the OERF to have WE members on its board of directors.

OERF has a wider remit than WE -- and this is healthy situation. OERF has the flexibility to widen its sphere of operations regarding funding models etc, without compromising the core values of the WE community. WE has the advantage of a dedicated funder --- and the more success WE achieves, the greater the returns will be for our community. (Remember OERF is a non-profit, and all surplus funds are reinvested back into OER and WE.)

OERF subscribes to open philanthropy which means all planning documentation, funding proposals etc are developed openly and transparently in the wiki.

This is the model we have, and its worked well for WE to date, taking into account that the majority of WikiEducators are working within the formal education sector. Speaking candidly, the funding models and organisational structures are more appropriate for education institutions who are traditionally more conservative.

I apologise if it seems I'm asking all the same questions about that, Wayne. I've been doing whatever reading I run into, and am still having difficulty wrapping my head around the subject. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually. That is a good explanation!

←In reply to Questioning the use of 'Official' (6) by Ktucker, above:

I absolutely agree with your comments about mandatory processes. In the wiki/open source communities I come from, the one thing I have learned is that the large majority of members are incredibly fickle. I truly admire my fellow teachers for their passion for education, but I don't think professionals are immune to the fickle phenomenon. To date, most of the precedent is found in the computer and software professions, but that precedent, shown by the Mozilla foundation, the World of Warcraft addon communities, and others, proves that for every successful project, there are ten that go unfinished. The idea has been that "friction" in the environment contributes to this behaviour. The environment includes policy and collaborative situations.

This article on meta wiki provides a good example of the woes of over zealous policy making. The example talks about the result of someone screwing up, but I've also seen this sort of thing happen for more selfish reasons. Someone gets offended because they were not included, or didn't get what they wanted, and a suggest a process which makes the situation more favourable to the individual. The group often takes it up as being more "fair", rather than beneficial to the situation.

I'll admit, I'm a bit colder to emotional situations, an not always successful at attending to a team's emotional needs, but I tend to look at this sort of thing as a matter of "keeping one's eye on the ball". This is perhaps a more American idiom meaning that the utmost priority must remain utmost, no matter the situation, otherwise that priority is devalued, and the results will not be equivalent to the team's potential. WE's "ball" is providing free education resources to the world, which is done at the ground level by authoring content.

Policy aside, I think you will be very interested in the style guide workgroup. I think these are a good example of what this community can achieve with an Apache project-style "do-ocracy" (I really love that word!). I'd like to hear your opinions on the process we've devised for both the workgroup and the guidelines. In fact, we have discussed a guideline that encompasses your language policy suggestions.

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