Decision Making of the Wikimedia Board

It is interesting to see how the social organization and culture of Wikipedia changes as it matures. During a session at Wikimania on liability (i.e., Section 230) I raised my point of how legal concerns have apparently required the adoption of a “hidden” edit feature and the hiring of a general counsel. Later I had the opportunity to speak with Brad Patrick and explain that I was not necessarily objecting to these changes – I expect they are prudent steps to take in a litigious world – only pointing them out as important. I also came away feeling that Brad was very much in the Wikipedia spirit of pragmatic idealism: working towards a vision of a free encyclopedia, but also being realistic and careful.

During the Foundation Panel, evidence of another change was present. When longtime board member Angela Beesley was asked why she resigned she alluded to a change in decision-making practices: conversations have been abandoned for voting on a Wiki. Decision-making by the Board has always been an interesting issue given possible tensions between elected “community members” and the other appointments. In fact, Jimbo Wales had stated that he would never vote against the community members (Angela and Anthere) on community questions. Yet, it is not exactly clear to me why the shift happened when it did, and why.

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