Excellent set of questions

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Last edit: 04:26, 30 October 2007

Apologies if what I will say will sound rough, but I think we are overcomplicating things while talking in a highly speculative manner. I think that we should try VERY hard to clear our heads of traditional notions of governance, and trying to fit them into the wiki, as at best, we'll end up with a bad fit, at worst with an unworkable system.

Sure we can have elections! why not use the transferable vote system (it works in Malta -- sort of) [1] but do we have an electorate? the 2500 user mark set by Wayne, was an arbitrary ball park marker. what if we only get a 100 voters? what if the voters are gender biased? .. that's already too many what ifs for me!

Would you consider having the new board chosen by public acclaim? Its not a formal system, but it can work if the electorate is very small? Here's how it would work: step 1: find out how many users are interested in positively choosing a board. step 2 find out how many people are willing to sit on the board, and how many can get a seconder. If the total is less than a dozen, then you have your committee, and just ask the community to approve.

NOW, I'm not saying that this is either a good or a realistic system. I'm just trying to put in a bit of fantasy into the conversation, so we don't get lost on drab electoral technicalities which might not be relevant in the long term.

I think we should try to hold close to the rough consensus model as much as possible; but that is just my opinion)

Also the very first thing we need to determine is the raison d'etre of the board. And its role. In my view, an open wiki like this exists independently of its infrastructure. It is primarily a community (which can do finely without a board). It is also a bunch digital data under a free licence; which implies that if the database dumps are made available that too is independent of the infrastructure, at least in theory. On the practical side, a wiki needs an infrastructure without which it cannot express itself, and would die. Currently the infrastructure is provided for by COL.

I think it would be useful to frame the role of the board (if not of wikieducator itself) in these terms. Lets think abstract first, and grow outwardly from there. Wherever we end up, My personal preference will always be for set-up that is a informal as possible while remaining workable, constantly re-shaping itself ad hoc. My hope is that whatever is decided by us now, will have been comletly reshaped by 2015, because by then the internet, wiki technology and education will have changed dramatically.

In designing the wikieducator board our first requirement ought to be that this structure will not hinder our successors, in any way, shape or form from taking wikied forward in a changed scenario. Too many a board has painted itself into a beurocratic corner. Thank god that free content always leaves a way out (also known as a fork).

Also, I disagree with the role of Executive Director. Its good that Wayne acted unilaterally on occasion, and we should leave that window open. The formal posting of an Executive Director, implies that NO other person can act unilaterally, even if it is required to e.g. keep the server online in an emergency. We do not need a formal role, people will naturally emerge as Executive leaders, and unless otherwise required, the board ought to allow them to fulfil this role.

I also don't like the idea of "Full Voting member" vs. "associeate member". We should only distinguish between "confirmed users" and "unconfirmed users" for some definition of confirmed, which might include "potential contribution" but would definitely exclude Sock Puppets and bots

Phsi (talk)05:39, 5 November 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 16:24, 30 October 2007

Thank You Philip, for airing some of my views too.. I thought that I would look really dumb if I asked how the actual voting would be held..but I still don't know how we're going to go about it. I also think we should determine the actual role of the Board. I looked up the Community Governance model, which does fit quite well into the WE picture and I see terms such as trust, empowerment,knowledge, collaboration transparency, all very noble qualities...and that are already set up, through Wikis, and of course the whole contributing towards community and also by the community who would be benefiting from the availbility of all the resources. In short, Wikis and Boards seem to be a contradiction to me.

But if its really needed, I still think that as Philip had put it, informally check the response rates from the whole 2000+/- users, have COL to assess and nominate Board members and empower them for acting in the best interests of the community, whether its creating these wonderful liquidthreads or putting up content, age no bar, gender no bar Let it be LIBRE!--Sandhya 19:30, 29 October 2007 (CET)

Sandhya (talk)16:32, 30 October 2007
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Last edit: 16:32, 30 October 2007

Hi Sandy,

Appreciate your feedback. Nope - you're not dumb in asking how the actual voting would be held -- we haven't decided yet!

Under a community governance model - COL cannot assess and nominate Board members on its own, we need the guidance and support of the community to do that. The Commonwealth is committed to the values of democracy and good governance - therefore we have an obligation to discuss these issues with the community and ensure the autonomy of the community to govern the project.

Viva libre, viva.

Mackiwg (talk)16:32, 30 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 17:07, 30 October 2007

Hey Philip

Not to worry about the "rough" reflections. WikiEducators don't bleed easily. Its refreshing to see that the wiki way is still live and well! - but more importantly that we are discussing these challenges openly in the community.

Governance is a process that makes decisions to help define expectations, and in terms of its Latin origins helps to steer a future (that hasn't happened yet). As a community we have the freedom to determine the leadership style we adopt to help steer our project to success. We shouldn't confuse governance with the leadership approach/style we choose to adopt. My personal view is that we should minimise bureaucracy and promote open and transparent discourse.

When the WikiEducator prototype started on a desktop server in Auckland - it has one registered account holder. As of today 1,847 accounts have been created and the site generates about 42 000 hits per day from about 3223 visitors per day, from 183 countries for the month of October. By comparison to the big wiki sites this is trivial. However, this is far too big for Wayne Mackintosh sitting in Vancouver to take the tough decisions on his own alone.

Early in the history of WikiEducator I asked the assistance of an Interim Advisory Board to help me with the task of setting up appropriate governance structures the wiki way. You're right the 2500 arbitrary mark was an arbitrary figure I unilaterally selected for a democratic election process. However, I aim to keep my promise to the community.

Hey - if we only get 100 votes - that's fine by me. If we end up with a gender bias, I hope that the WikiEducator community will help us in getting it sorted. But a promise I make is a promise I keep!

Philip wrote:

Also the very first thing we need to determine is the raison d'etre of the board. And its role. In my view, an open wiki like this exists independently of its infrastructure. It is primarily a community (which can do finely without a board). It is also a bunch digital data under a free licence; which implies that if the database dumps are made available that too is independent of the infrastructure, at least in theory. On the practical side, a wiki needs an infrastructure without which it cannot express itself, and would die. Currently the infrastructure is provided for by COL.

I agree - WikiEducator does not have a raison d'etre for the board. I have intentionally not attempted to speculate about the raison d'etre - I'm hoping that this discussion is the first step in attempting to develop the first draft. You're right - WikiEducator is more about community than the digital data available under a free content license and that is why its imperative for us to collectively decide how we move forward.

I'm really glad that someone on this list disagrees with the role of Executive Director. I dream of the day when the community takes responsibility for the difficult decisions. Hopefully, one day I'll have a life again <smile>. Seriously, WikiEducator has been the most rewarding project of my career - but it would be great to have a thriving community that jumps in and takes the difficult decisions.

So I guess that an important requirement for a board member is the willingness to step in and take difficult decisions with the responsibility and accountability that comes with the decision.

We must avoid bureaucratic corners - so my request to you is to help us develop a policy that does just this.

The reality is that WikiEducator is at the point in its evolution where donors are investing real dollars in our work. Part of that investment is the result of our commitment to a community governance structure that has instilled confidence in what we are doing. WikiEducator, through its Learning4Content initiative will be launching, to the best of my knowledge, the largest wiki capacity building initiative for free content in the history of human kind. We need your help in ensuring our success.

Great chatting again Philip - we'll count on you to keep us honest!

Mackiwg (talk)04:26, 31 October 2007

Hi all,
great talk going on here about the first WikiEd board elections. Me personally, I don’t have much experiences with voting systems, the only things I can say are of general nature:

    1. I find it useful to our aims, to have a board of elected persons, who take care. That can take decisions in the name of the whole community and act quickly in case of need.
    2. For me, WikiEd is truly a COL project and should remain a COL project. COL represents for me a guarantee of good quality distance education in the developing world. Therefore I would prefer a majority of board members to be COL members.
    3. I see WikiEd still in its initial phase, and development will be quick and dynamic. But his doesn’t mean board members have to change quickly. A term of 3 years seems fine to me.
    4. I also see the issue of defining a voter. I guess, many have opened an account because they were curious, or just for fun. So, how many “WikiEducators” do we have right now? If we say, only one out of ten who has opened an account is serious, it will be about 200. This figure would fit with the number of participants inscribed in the Google discussion group (155).
    5. What criterion should we use for a voter? Learning4Content demands 2 serious wiki pages in turn for the introductory course, doesn’t it? So, how about the condition that only people who have contributed at least 2 serious pages to WikiEd get the right to vote? I don’t think someone who does not meet this criterion will feel discouraged for further participation.

Thanks for all your efforts to find a good way of governance for WikiEd!

Günther --White Eagle 15:26, 30 October 2007 (CET)

White Eagle (talk)04:26, 31 October 2007

Hi White Eagle,

Appreciate your feedback- thanks. I think that your estimate of active content developers in WikiEducator is about right. Its growing every day and once the Learning4Content project gets started - I expect that we will see exponential growth in the active members in our community.

WikiEducator is a flagship project of eLearning for education sector development at COL. COL is very serious about achieving a free curriculum by 2015 and we will support the our community in the realisation of these aims.


Mackiwg (talk)04:26, 31 October 2007

As neat as a Board by public acclamation would be, I expect that there will be more people interesting in serving than there will be seats, and while at first expanding the Board to accommodate them all might be practical, ultimately the community will have to choose who should represent their interests.

And I do think we need a Board. Prospective donors need to know who's going to be responsible for overseeing the disposition of their largess. Similarly, I don't think that the appointment of an Executive Director would stop others from acting unilaterally under extraordinary circumstances, it would simply make it clear who the point of contact would normally be. (Besides, how else will such things as the Licensing Policy be decided?)

Having said all that, one thing I'd definitely support is a list of things that the Board and its appointees do not oversee -- i.e., that are up to community members to decide spontaneously. It may be best if this is a strongly delineated list, a sort of "WikiEducator Charter of Rights and Freedoms", that details things that the Board, Executive Director, CoL, etc., are prohibited from deciding on behalf of the community.

There is another important aspect to all this that we haven't discussed, and that's how this Governance Policy gets amended once it's been implemented. One way could be that the Board suggests an amendment to be sent as a referendum to the community. I also believe, however, that amendments to the Governance Policy should be able to be originated by community members, such that with some threshold of support a referendum must take place.

SteveFoerster (talk)05:39, 5 November 2007

Hi Steve,

My gut feel is that WikiEducator will generate more willing people interested in serving than we have have seats to serve. It is of course and entirely different matter whether we will generate sufficient interest among the potential voting community to cast their ballots!

In the absence of a legitimate board - from experience I know that fund raising would be an order of magnitude more difficult. Clearly these discussions should lead to some declaration of what we as a community mean by governance and a clear statement of authorities and responsibilities of the Board. Similarly, I believe we should generate an environment that is open and flexible. For example, we should not constrain the ability for countries or communities to initiate their own nodes and clusters in furthering the objectives of WikiEducator. Local clusters should have the freedom to initiative their own projects including the ability to raise donor funding independently. My personal view is that the Board should be the custodian of the values that underpin our community and what we are trying to achieve. Without these - we will find it difficult to achieve and maintain a sustainable project.

Good point - we need to be clear on what the amendment protocols are regarding our Governance Policy.

Mackiwg (talk)17:04, 30 October 2007

Just a few quick points.

I mentioned public acclaim as an extreme case scenario. I DO Agree that we need a board that is legitimized by the users. I just think that FIRST we need to decide what that board we be like, then choose the best way to have it appointed (read: electoral system).

The problem of Executive Director is more in appearance than in essence. But in a community where many people have never met (and probably never will) face to face, appearances matter.

Lastly I think that this should not be a GOVERNING board, but an advisory/supervisory board. It should be distinct from the Governance Policy which should remain the domain of the community as a whole. Of course the issues are tightly related as the Board will act upon that policy, but this board should neither be a board of directors nor a parliament, more of an spokes-person-group.

Phsi (talk)05:39, 5 November 2007

Hi Philip -

Looks like this group has heeded your advice. There has been reasonable discussion on think first what the board would be like. The current consensus emerging is to establish a WikiEducator Council - see Erik's proposal

We still need to work on an appropriate electoral system - but we do have a few guidelines and suggestions being submitted in this forum.

I agree - the concept "Governing" board is misleading in terms of role and function - but this stems from the notion of "community governance". Your suggestion to keep Governance Policy distinct from the advisory board is a good one and I was hoping that this would be the case fro WikiEducator.

The next step will be to draft a page outlining and describing the WikiEducator Council - its purpose, roles, accountability. electoral system etc. based on all the contributions we've received so far. (I'm happy to do this - but it will need to wait a week or so as I'll be away on a short international mission.)

We will then need to take a careful look at the draft to see if it is in fact what we have been saying and how best to refine it.


Mackiwg (talk)05:39, 5 November 2007