<CPOV> RS: Wikimedia evolution in terms of governance and thecreation of a Foundation (Fuster, Mayo)

nathaniel tkacz nathanieltkacz at gmail.com
Fri Mar 12 00:22:03 CET 2010

Hi Mayo,

I think Alex Roshuk and Larry Sanger played an important role, however,
> there is a reason to exclude mentioning them, the same reason to exclude
> mentioning Brion Vibber, Angela Beesley, Florence Nibart-Devouard, Sue
> Garner, Erik Möller, Samuel Klein, and a very long etc of people who had a
> role in the direction of the Foundation (furthermore considering not only in
> the early stages but the whole process until today). The only person I did
> mentioned is Jimmy Wales, certainly, from this perspective I could ignore
> who he is, too.
> My goal is not to do an account of the important people, but to analyse
> governance stages in the process from a cross-temporal perspective (since
> its creation until today) and how this is connected or not to the growth of
> the community. That is: how scale contribute to shape governance over time
> and looking at the same time how governance contribute to scaling. I found
> this exercise useful. Would you suggest other stages that I did not mention?
> Would you add other important reasons to explain those governance changes
> over time?. It is also en-lighting how for some cases similar moves of
> stages had been found in the process of creation of Foundation around FLOSS
> projects (see the work of O'Mahony on this). The same can not be said to the
> evolving of the governance acrooss time of other collective process (such as
> the Internatinal Council in relation to the World Social Forum).
> I am very sympathetic to focusing on other aspects of the development of
Wikipedia besides a who's who! The reason I mentioned Sanger was because I
think that he complicates the 'Benevolent Dictator' model. I guess it
depends on what kind of authority you associate with 'governance' as to
whether or not his role is significant.

> I consider the Spanish Fork played a role in the creation of the
> Foundation. But it was not the only element, but in combination to other
> aspects: the Spanish Fork and the voices in favour of the non-profit
> character of the activity and the trust of the community as organizational
> form, the uncertainty of the governance structure, and the increase of costs
> (such as the one you mentioned on salaries of Sanger and other employees, or
> the servers) linked to the growing popularity and participation. In sum, it
> seems to be important, but in conjunction to other aspects that all together
> determine the creation of the Foundation.
Yes, I'm sure the fork wasn't the only thing that brought about the change.
What I would like to know if it was the fork that made all these other
things manifest? Whether all these others factors had been there and even
acknowledged, but that it wasn't until the fork that all the issues were put
on the table and confronted? I hope your knowledge of the history of
Wikipedia governance might be able to shed more light on that question.

> Nate you mention you are looking to FLOSS forking, I would be very happy if
> you could comment (or other people on the e-list) on this and particularly
> how the forking relates to scale. Such as: is forking less of an option when
> the community growth? I think the risk of forking is a source of power of
> online platforms participants in front of platforms providers, however as
> the community scale (for several types of reasons) the possibility of
> forking become more complex. Any input on this would be much appreciated.
> My current writing is very much a critique of the way people understand
forking - both in terms of capacity to fork as well as the political
function of forking (which supposedly is a kind of safety net or exit
strategy). One thing I've found is that there is a lot of uncertainty as to
what actually constitutes a fork. Whether, for example, there has to be
intent not to re-integrate with the original community at a later stage or
whether forks have to eventually become completely "incompatible" with the
original. Can Citizendium be considered a fork of Wikipedia? Many people
would think not, although this is how the project was framed. Is a fork
necessarily about source code or "source content"? Can it be about key
members in a project who take a competing vision of the project and create
it from scratch? In my own writings I've tried to avoid these concerns by
simply accepting something as a fork if it has been described as one.

I certainly agree that forking is increasingly difficult when a project
scales. I'm tempted to say it is now impossible to fork the english
wikipedia, for example. I'm also tempted to say that forking itself has
always been impossible, a fiction made possible only by a generalised
fetish, or at least a misguided privileging of code as the site of politics.
I think Wendy Chun has made this point about software, but I might be
putting words in her mouth. My main interest in forking however, is that is
reveals existing asymmetries in FLOSS and related projects. Not everybody
has an equal capacity to fork. Moreover, forking represents a moment when
conflict is manifest and also clearly articulated. It reveals key principles
of a project that might not have been voiced previously. Of course, it would
also be a mistake to think that forking is necessarily Clint Eastwood-style
gun fight! I've been reminded in the past that many forks are rather
harmonious occurrences.

I'll post the draft I'm working on when it's done.

Nate Tkacz

Research Fellow,
RMIT University

Twitter: http://twitter.com/__nate__
Homepage: www.nathanieltkacz.net
Current project: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/cpov/about-2/
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listcultures.org/pipermail/cpov_listcultures.org/attachments/20100312/e95db6a9/attachment.html>

More information about the cpov mailing list