Thoughts on the Executive Committee

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Hi Leigh,

Your notion that the Executive Committee may lead to an "impenetrable power base" seem somewhat unfounded:

  • First, in terms of the policy - "The Council has the authority to establish and appoint an Executive Committee in accordance with this policy and to determine the general responsibilities and powers of the Executive Committee." - so the powers would be determined by the full Council if Council decides that that the appointment of an Executive Committee is required;
  • In the event that council decides on an Executive committee, clear guidelines are provided on its constitution and operation;
  • It is common practice for large governing bodies (in our case a maximum of 25) to elect a smaller sub-committee to oversee the duties of council on a day-to-day basis, without negating responsibilities of accountability to the body that created it.

If the Executive Committee becomes an "impenetrable power base" it will only be through fault of the WikiEducator Council who determine the authorities of the Executive Committee. Moreover, elected Council members will always have a majority over nominated members on Council.

I don't see how the Executive Committee can become an "impenetrable power base" -- can you explain?


Mackiwg (talk)20:25, 5 October 2008

This reply will go to Randy's questioning as well (although I am pretty sure I have already outlined why I think low engagement in the past does not mean we should accept it now - especially if it is still in Draft Status). In relation to Minhaaj, I agree that his post on his blog uses extreme language (in our eyes) but I can see past all that and recognise an underlying issue that has always concerned me about the Wiki projects generally, and the so called Governance structures they use. There IS a noticeably Western bias, there are celebrities, there are power dynamics which don't get mentioned in the rhetoric, and there is the question I even ask myself.. how much do I profit from all this and should I? I have no answers to these questions, they are simply things I think we should be very sensitive towards as we set up our governance structure. I think Minhaaj's voice is important to keep and we should work towards his acceptance as with anyone who takes the time to criticise the work - not dismiss it because we are offended by certain language or attitudes expressed SOME of the time - we are bigger than that. (defensiveness is a sign of weakness in a project).


The original Draft Policy consultation period did not (in my view) achieve a level of engagement from very many of the more active users at all. At the time, I personally did not intend to run for Council and had a very poor view of politics in Wikis (but I kept that view silent because there seemed to be a popular opinion that politics is what we needed). I remember reading the Policy at some stage, saw Steve was discussing aspects of it, recognised him as experienced and critical and myself as having really no experience or perspective to add to it, and so stayed out of it. Since I did end up campaigning (after a nomination was made that included personal convincing I might add), I was elected and so now have a clearer perspective on the Policy.

Originally I didn't understand the agenda item for the first Council meeting where we were to nominate extra members to the Council. I looked into it just so I wouldn't look a fool, but saw something in that Draft Policy that made me worry. It is my view that I am acting responsibly by voicing these concerns now I am aware of them and have an elected responsibility.

Even though I did not engage with the draftng of the Policy at the time of initial consultation, I did not know that the Draft Policy would be the Policy that the first Council would be set by. It seemed fair to me that the First Elected Council would now progress the Draft into a final workable version. Now I am learning (from your perspectives at least) that the Draft Policy is in fact the Final Policy and that changing it would be a corruption of some sort of constitution somewhere. One that says in the first instance of a Council, we cannot use the Elected Members to review the Draft Policy and make sure it is right (especially in light of a low level of engagement at the initial consultation time). Now that we have Elected Members who have a responsibility, we can use that to achieve a better engagement level in the development of a Final Policy.

Finally, Wayne asked how I see an "impenetrable power base forming". I have asked a number of people I know personally with experience in politics, and they all know this situation well! Can you really not see this?

  1. Users elect members to the Council.
  2. Some members nominate new members to the Council that the electorate were not aware of, nor where the other Elected Members aware of the nomination before nomination or during campaigning.
  3. Worse, there may be a low level of Elected Member participation at the meetings where new nominations are made and voted on, and one by one the Non Elected Members have voting power.
  4. We end up with a Council with 15 Elected Members from the Wikieductor Users, and up to 10 or at least 4 non elected but Nominated Members. If the Elected Members disengage or are removed because someone was able to convince a majority that their responsibilities were not being met, we end up with a stacked council.
  5. Finally an executive committee is formed to which both Elected and Non Elected Council Members have access to. This committee has powers beyond the Council, and if no one is left in the Council to question the conduct of the Committee, then the electorate is not likely to be made aware of issues and concerns.
  6. When the new elections come, the process starts all over again, but with an established power base

It is my view that elected members are enough to govern the Wikieducator project, and that expertise should be brought in on a case by case basis - as consultants to help that Council consider the issue, and that ultimately the Elected Members will vote on the issue. I do not think we need Nominated Members for this Council, beyond consultation. It is this view that I hope we will debate at the first meeting of Council, and that the Draft Policy remains open to further development by Elected Members to decide on.

Your arguments to the contrary are of grave concern to me now as I was convinced this was a real vulnerability I was highlighting and a reasonable request to proceed on. Randy, and Wayne in other forums: your pointing to my supposed responsibilities to a consultation period before I had elected responsibilities, as though I am somehow trying to undermine a process to my own ends, is disrespectful of the issue I raise now. Rasing this issue now has no benefit to me what so ever. That consultation period for the Draft Policy has passed, it occurred at a time before we had elected members to consider it and consequently received little real input. Moreover, it evidently did not pick up the vulnerability I see in it now or suggest the alternative I am suggesting now. All this coupled with your inability to see how open the Wikieducator Council could be for bias control and disconnection between the Users and a responsive decision making channel is a serious concern to me.

Leighblackall (talk)13:35, 6 October 2008

Thanks for acknowledging the western bias Leigh and your support to eradicate the abusal clauses. I did not refer to you as profiteer as you might have noted although i would like to bring up the issue of wayne giving lame excuses for cancelling my L4C contract AFTER signing it himself posing that COL is out of funds when he is hopping all around the world on his hilarious keynotes and 'international missions' that i think is getting a better job in NZ for himself and his family. We whine about bandwidth costs and other technical problems like implementing FCK and chineese language which are as plain things as one could imagine, and yet we give out thousands of dollars in bounties for l4c workshops? what kind of crippled logic is that ? Isn't WE's responsibility is to fix its infrastructure and bandwidth issues BEFORE trying to market itself in developing countries and ofcourse the big 'peace missions' of the 'ICT Specialist'?

You are right that primary responsibility of new council is to review the draft of the policy that is by no means mutual and drafted by the consensus of community. a review of edits made by the big Mack and 'courtesy' 5 edits by Steve Foerster doesn't make it any better. Our community is powerful than that and don't want itself abused by Mack using its name for something that promotes his interests and agenda. By adding clauses like removal of elected members he wanted to remove the opponents of his ideas. I wonder why people from COL were allowed in first place to contest for elections? Its like opening up a hotel and eating like guests. Then new council members weren't given sysops right so that they can't make modification to 'locked' page of policy, thanks to Mack again. If that wasn't enough lets see his words from a forum post. 'For good or worst we are stuck with this policy and we need to complete our fiduciary responsibilities as per policy that community has made' which is a plain idiotic statement since this policy had no community participation and there are no fiduciary responsibilities of the council except to zip up and see Mack kickin back on cruises all around the world and say 'CHEESE'.

Minhaaj (talk)07:46, 7 October 2008

You should get a job in the US presidential election campaigns Minhaaj :) You certainly don't hold back. When I read your post here, I had to work hard to remove the personal insults and the like so that I can see what you are saying. I need to do this for my own sensibilities, which I am sure Randy and Wayne would be dealing with in reading this post too. No doubt it will be hard for many people not to take your posts personally as you certainly write and no doubt feel personally about it. But their is valuable commentary underneath it all. Me and my "western values" I suppose, try to keep it objective and non personal - but I can do that for you when I read you. One way I do this is to imagine myself as the one you are writing about. I also have a job that is paid substantially more than people are paid elsewhere. It is still a far cry from what others that do my work get, but it is certainly in the wealthy class bracket globally speaking. What I mean is, you cause me to reflect on how I go about my work in this very international project we have, and how others may perceive that work. Where as before Wikied, my contact with people online was exclusively with people like me. The Wikieducator project has put me in touch with people of vastly different background and thinking to me, and your post (if I work a bit to read it) helps me see that. I write this in the hope that Wayne and Randy will pause and not let the insult they would no doubt be feeling, affect them too much.

Leighblackall (talk)08:42, 7 October 2008

To think of Wayne's take on Democracy as a product of "Western" thought, is, I think, to ignore it's relation to Democratic Centralism (See The Bolsheviks and Workers Control by Maurice Brinton. Wayne's has given a very persuasive argument for accepting that his personal judgement is a better guide to action than formal collective consideration. I think has considerable talents at presenting persuasive arguments, which if he can share with WE by acting as an ambassador, and helping us gain funding. However, WE should not let his talents divert ourselves from our responsibility to facilitate precisely the sort of formal collective consideration which can provide. There are formal points I would like raise concerning Wayne's points:

  1. I find the term 'fiduciary as involving legal language a little at odds with his generally chatty style. It is certainly an element of company law in the UK. However, Wayne's use of the term is at odds with how that law functions in practice here. Draft policy is not a fiduciary responsibility until its has been formally adopted, i.e. is no longer draft policy, but formal policy. Of course there might be other judicial zones which handle this matter quite differently, and if anyone can cite some examples it would be interesting.
  2. Wayne also uses a status quo argument which I think is similarly flawed. When considering amendments to a policy which has already been adopted, the status quo argument is that things should stay as they are until an amendment is agreed. However as there only exists a draft policy at the moment, then the status quo is actually that there should be no nominated members except as provided for in any policy which has actually been adopted.
  3. Wayne also seems to want to privilege those of us who choose to organise on a national basis. Perhaps he could expand on this.

By creating informal groups, whereby Council Members can work with the WE community to practically address the key issues that WE face, progress can be made

  • in creating a shared approach for dealing with problems which can be refined into draft policy before being passed onto the formal Council for amendment and adoption.
  • in creating shared working processes which constitute an arena in which the participatory democracy Wayne also advocates can be realised.

from these experiences a broader range of people will be able to understand the practical consequences of any policy innovations which are proposed. Then, I would argue, we would have a larger and better informed turn out in future voting processes. It may well be that we find that lots of people are really keen on Wayne's approach . . . or we may find that there is another preferred option.

What I would really to see is how the Council can set up such informal working groups to help cope the problems which WE is currently experiencing. Taking an example form my own personal experience joining 10th Online L4C Workshop. 62 participants from 23 countries. However only 15 participants signed their learning contract, and it appears that only 10 actually developed user pages. The goal of the course was to gain WikiMaster/WikiBuddy recognition. Of those 10, only 2 did so, 3 getting WikiMaster/WikiApprentice Level 2, 4 getting WikiMaster/WikiApprentice Level 1. I found the two people supporting us through the process very friendly and helpful. And it may well be that they are checking to see whether they can upgrade anyone's course work. However I think it is at a structural level that the high drop out level needs to be addressed. I have tried to encourage other people to join WE, but as they have less experience of dealing with wikis than I have, they are finding it impenetrable and are on the point of giving up. Furthermore there are many instances of generic pages being created - take Booklist as a recent example - which simply create more confusion. At various times I have encouraged editors to think more about the titles of the pages they start, whether it is something specific to them or their organisation, or something that is open to the whole community.

So I suppose what I am asking for is that the Council creates a Usability Working Group to start dealing with these issues. I think this would involve a smaller group of council members to self-select to participate in this working group to draft good practice guidelines which can then be discussed, adapted and adopted if acceptable by WE as a whole. If there are WE editors, particularly Council members who would like to discuss this proposal in greater detail, please feel free to contribute to the Usability Working Group proposal for first Community Council Meeting section of User:Leutha/Guidance for the Perplexed. Leutha 13:22, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

Leutha (talk)02:22, 10 October 2008