Sections that make up a charter
1. We have a statement of Aims and objectives -- so that's covered (Great.)
2. We have the roles of convenor specified including the option to co-opt co-convenor(s). By nature wiki's are self-organising. For example -- you are not listed as a participant of this group, but your inputs are contributing to the refinement and quality of this group :-) (Perhaps this is an issue of semantics, but if “convenor” means one who facilitates the process of achieving group goals, then fine. At first I took the term “convenor” to mean simply one who assembles meetings. I think this facet of a charter is essential because without it, the workgroup is more likely to work in a less-productive way.
3. mmmm -- yes I think we need to be more focused on the listing of participant skills as they pertain to the task of the workgroup. Perhaps the subheading of required skills should be placed before the listing of participants? (Ok, but I think we should focus on articulating the skills needed to achieve the objectives first and then simply have members sign up if they feel they have or wish to develop those skills. I don´t feel that including the experience/skills of each member in the charter is a material factor in whether group objectives are met. If someone wants to know the background of the members, they go to their respective user page.)
4. As an open community I'm not sure whether we should go down the path of defining categories of members -- this risks excluding the range of volunteers on which our community depends. Ultimately --- its the quality of the outputs which count, not the qualifications of the participating members. Here I see that the Community Council has a responsibility in assessing whether policy guidelines are logical, will contribute to the development of WE taking into account the skills and experience of the workgroup participants. If the proposed guidelines are of poor quality they should be referred back to the work group. (I agree, this facet could probably be removed.)
5. We have a section which considers resources -- so that's covered (ok)
6. Regarding timelines -- I think milestones and corresponding dates should be specified in the charter. These time frames need to be determined by the workgroup taking into account the scheduled meeting dates of Council. (Ok, just to clarify though…I´m proposing a charter framework that can be used for all types of WGs. When you mention “Council”, are you referring to all types of WGs?)
7. Regarding the questions of workgroup process -- I think the workgroup should decide these parameters -- After all the work group is responsible for getting the work done :-) (Exactly, that’s why I´m advocating that it be part of the charter. What I´m proposing is not that we develop one particular charter that is to be applied by all, only the sections of the charter (i.e., objectives, workgroup facilitator(s), skills/experience that will contribute to achieving objectives, resources required, boundaries, process, resolving conflict, project plan, and evaluation). The point is that each workgroup is expected to fill out this (or some other) format with the hopes of achieving a greater level of success.
8. Securing equal commitment -- well that depends on the individuals involved -- wiki's typically rely on the efforts of volunteers and its been my experience in WikiEducator that the majority of participants act in good faith in the interests of the project. (I agree, but I think articulating this within the charter and within the context of meeting particular objectives promotes a higher level of obligation and communication on the part of its members. If I enter into a new workgroup and I look at their commitment statements I have a good feeling as to whether I would like to be a part of that WG or not. It’s not a contract, it’s just communicating one’s own commitment level to the group. It also helps in addressing group expectations that if aren´t met later on, can cause conflict.) – segue…
9. Resolving conflict --- the WP guidelines on consensus provide a solid foundation to work from --- that said, I think that we should think about the refinements that are necessary and appropriate for our community. (I agree, and perhaps this section could include a link to the WP guidelines. But there is something about having members communicate how they will resolve conflict before the conflict exists. We can just tell members to read the guidelines, but I don´t think it carries the same weight or importance.)
10. Yip -- we need to work on developing a clear project plan with corresponding milestones and ideally specify this in the guidelines. I think that it’s also important to think about reasonable and achievable targets. This relates to your earlier comment about the ability of members to contribute. (Yes, it’s related but this section is more specific, as when teams use a Gantt chart to organize work. And again, I´m only proposing that this be a section in the charter where group members decide themselves)
11. Evaluation and reflection is very important -- I think we have this heading, but haven't spent time populating this section yet. (ok. Probably in this same section would include the process of how to update the charter itself as well.)
Again, my main point here is that we reach a consensus on a common charter framework that this and all subsequent workgroups are to follow. Each group may populate their respective charters in different ways, but that each section should be important enough to make it a requirement to be filled out or included as a link.
Ben and Wayne,
Great that we are mostly in agreement on this. Here's the points that I think are still in discussion, with my thoughts added in blue:
2. Workgroup Facilitator -- We have the roles of convenor specified including the option to co-opt co-convenor(s). By nature wiki's are self-organising. For example -- you are not listed as a participant of this group, but your inputs are contributing to the refinement and quality of this group :-) (Perhaps this is an issue of semantics, but if “convenor” means one who facilitates the process of achieving group goals, then fine. At first I took the term “convenor” to mean simply one who assembles meetings. I think this facet of a charter is essential because without it, the workgroup is more likely to work in a less-productive way. I think the we should change the term for the leadership role for Workgroups from convenor to facilitator. I think the term convenor has meanings that we don't intend. The term facilitator is much more readily understood to mean someone who helps the group reach its objectives.
3. Skills required to achieve the objectives -- mmmm -- yes I think we need to be more focused on the listing of participant skills as they pertain to the task of the workgroup. Perhaps the subheading of required skills should be placed before the listing of participants? (Ok, but I think we should focus on articulating the skills needed to achieve the objectives first and then simply have members sign up if they feel they have or wish to develop those skills. I don´t feel that including the experience/skills of each member in the charter is a material factor in whether group objectives are met. If someone wants to know the background of the members, they go to their respective user page.) I like Ben's idea that a person signs on to help if they feel they have or wish to develop those skills. And I like, even more, Ben's suggestion to harness the power of the user page. The WG charter lists the skills and people sign on. To evaluate if the current config of the group (which may change over time) fulfills the needed skills, evaluate skills of the group via group members user pages. And I think some people may feel less self-conscious and be more likely to sign on if they don't have to highlight their lack of relevant skill/experience directly on the page. So, I suggest removing the user statements and the two-way table. And maybe we should add # of edits to the personalinfobox -- so that it autoupdates.
6. Boundaries -- Regarding timelines -- I think milestones and corresponding dates should be specified in the charter. These time frames need to be determined by the workgroup taking into account the scheduled meeting dates of Council. (Ok, just to clarify though…I´m proposing a charter framework that can be used for all types of WGs. When you mention “Council”, are you referring to all types of WGs?) . I agree. I think the charter template should be written as a resource for all workgroups. Any specifics for community-wide WGs are included in the guidelines.
Ben's proposed framework is very well suited to what we are doing. I like the idea that the charter is a living document, that would be revised as the WGs purpose changes over time. It's really coming along well.
First of all, apologies for coming in so late.
I have been reading through the wealth of great contributions by all. Sterling job!! I will do my best to share some of my thoughts and observations, so here it goes. I apologise in case I respond to comments that were made earlier on, trying to catch up and hope that I can bring some new thoughts to the table.
In response to the comments made by Ben and Wayne, let me say the following:
1. Listing participants skills pertaining to the tasks of working groups: I agree with what has been said. Because we are an open community, we should allow a person, who wants to join because s/he thinks that s/he has something to contribute, the option to follow through. Does it matter what type of background or skillset a person has, if contributions are appropriate to and for the outcome of our desired objectives? I think requirements if any should be made general and based on good will of the incoming new workgroup member, time requirements should be indicated and I think we need a "Workgroup Buddy" kind of person who takes up the task to make the transition for the newcomer easier. This could be done on a rotational basis within the relevant working group, so one perosn doesn't get stuck with this all the time.
If we are talking about participants skills in general, maybe a short paragraph at the top each working group page would help, informing about expectations and commitments for and to a working group if people wanted to join the group or attend a course as true participants (minimum requirements).
More working groups/Facilitators:
We need new ideas and people to come in and we should decentralise our efforts and have for instance workshop facilitators work in teams of at least two (based on the size of the group [which we are doing], facilitating consecutively and concurrently, depending on what we are looking at, whereby the tasks should be more evenly distributed, so the overload on one person can be minimised.
I think we need a catalogue of distribution of tasks to be done when facilitating online (creation of another working group perhaps), and I am not referring to the facilitation guidebook on how to... The way workshops are run depend very much on the individual faciltiator(s) and technological expertises as each person has their own style when facilitating.
Boundaries: There is also a reference here on We values, overdominance, overzealousness, competitiveness (it suffrocates the others), and "not pulling "your" weight that needs to be looked at => WE guidelines Question is, where do you draw the line. What is enough, too much and what isn't and who is to tell?
For me flexibility is the key word, this within parameters that are designed to support the established processes, which we are looking at, if this makes any sense.
I also agree with Ben's suggestion to harness the power of the user page. I have been thinking about this myself. How could we find a creative way of using these pages more effectively, other than just using it for our own personal ideas, purpose and content. I would rather like to see them used in addition. Maybe another type of working group is required, for instance, for the compilation of expertises that are really hidden within these user pages, listing them somewhere by category or area of expertise, so when we are looking for people in specific areas with certain expertises, we have a pool of expertise to fall back on. These WikiEducators can be contacted and will not drown in the great mass of wonderful WikiEducators. We would be pulling them back in this way as well and can make them our strength. All this falls under the WE community Improvement working groups. Two ideas.
I reciprocate Peter's thoughts re not always getting email notifications, and/or receiving emails long after they were sent and I am on the system every day. Also not sure what to do about this.
Evaluation: How do we want to capture lessons learned? Surveys? is this enough? and how real is the result if we are asking more specific questions. Feedback pages don't always seem to work. People are apprehensive about saying something critical publically.
Let me stop here for now.
Patricia, Thanks so much for your thoughts. The discussion has been quite far-ranging. You have some good ideas that I don't think have been brought up yet. Here are my thoughts on various points:
"Listing participants skills pertaining to the tasks of working groups..."
- I think we are all in agreement on this.
"I think we need a "Workgroup Buddy" kind of person who takes up the task to make the transition for the newcomer easier"
- Good idea. Some of the Workgroups will (I think) require substantial effort with no end date. They may begin with the task of creating a policy, and then take on the role of implementation (e.g., the group that creates the policy to deal with spam morphs into group that implements the policy, including a portion that has day-to-day tasks). We will need a system to bring new people into a workgroup and get them up to speed. I will add this idea to the sustaining workgroups section of the guidelines.
"If we are talking about participants skills in general, maybe a short paragraph at the top..."
- I think we've got this in the charter.
"...we should decentralise our efforts..." and share the work among many.
- Totally agree. I'm hopeful that the implementation of Workgroups will do this -- 1-2 facilitators per group, without much overlap across groups (although likely overlap of members).
"I think we need a catalogue of distribution of tasks to be done when facilitating online..."
- Not sure what you mean, probably because this is my first time facilitating online. Anything to help newcomers get up to speed on this would be very helpful.
"Boundaries"..."not pulling "your" weight ...WE guidelines. For me flexibility is the key word,..."
- I suspect these sections of the charter were originally designed for paid employees forced to work together to achieve some objective. WE are here by choice, which certainly changes things, but I'm not sure exactly how. Will be interesting to see how these sections are used by different groups.
"...harness the power of the user page..."
- I think we should revamp the participant section on our first draft charter to drop the skills table and maybe also the user statements -- we could suggest that users include a brief bio statement at the top of the user page for quick review when determining if a group's participants cover the needed skills. I think I'll put this issue into a separate thread.
"Maybe another type of working group is required, for instance, for the compilation of expertises ... WE community Improvement working groups. Two ideas.
- Two good examples of possible future Workgroups.
- Let's think how to create a communication method for this group that does not depend on email notification. Should we set up an alternative to the talk page?
- I suspect that evaluation will be another learning process. Hopefully we can benefit from what others have learned on this already.
I think the group is largely on the same page, conceptually....just need to work out the details.
Thanks again for taking the time to write out your thoughts. Appreciate your checking in.
--Alison Snieckus 01:40, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, Alison for your full response. Just starting to wrap my head around all.
Re If we are talking about participants skills in general, maybe a short paragraph at the top..." I think we've got this in the charter. I like your template idea at the top of the user pages to obtain the most important information and i know Wayne talked about infoboxes that assign some of these things as well, but I meant professional categorisations, so we can go back to a professional category WE page to look for a certain expertise. I am not just thinking about participants information.
by the same talking, maybe we should keep professional resumes on WE, people with OS expertises - Pooling the information by category.
One other thought came to mind: WE clean up. there are quite a number of pages that have no relevant content, maybe a line "Hi, I am ..." how do people feel about deleting those, or separating them into a subfolder, archive?? kind of thing. With 10,000 user accounts now, it can only get bigger. Maybe a Wiki "Maintainance working group" to help with these issues???
I've also suggested a permanent workgroup for "enforcing" (I don't like the connotation of the word, though the definition is correct) the future style guidelines. You can see the thread here. I think the two purposes we've both come up with are nicely combined in a single group. It may seem like a lot of work, now, but the guidelines will be a while, and the workload would severely calm down once the initial cleanup phases are over. I've seen this implemented in WoWWiki as the "watchdogs" and I thought Wikipedia used to have a group called "the cleaners" or something like that, but I'm only finding smaller focus groups. They may have changed to that due to the much higher volume of work.
You are right, words like "watchdogs" and "cleaners" sound a lot like the Wiki Mafia to me (smile!) Maybe we can find a friendlier professional designation (;-))) I agree with your comments.
Something remnant of "help desk" or containing the word "assistant" would be good. We should try to get across that they are there to guide the authors, helping them create better content.
I've noted this team as a specified output of the style guide workgroup. I'm not sure we're ready to do that now, but it sounds to me like it's something should be collaborated on by wider range of people.
Help desk might be too general, because where does it start and end? so I think we need to be more specific. I think "Workgroup Buddy" isn't too bad and Assistant, not sure because it offers the suggestion of a subordinate role while in fact, they are taking the lead until a person is up to speed. What do you think?
I like "buddy" but I also like the idea of giving the impression that the author is in charge, making the decisions. If you take a look at the "Thoughts on related issues..." thread here, you may agree with us that making the contributors feel forced into following the guidelines is not a good idea, because then it becomes another hurdle for them to jump in order to share with us. I think Wayne's point (please correct me if this is isn't the case, Wayne :P) is that we want them to share first, then to conform to the guidelines. It would be the team's duty to guide them through the process.
What about "guide"?