Minutes/2016-11-13

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Wikimedia Foundation Board minutes

November 13, 2016
  • Location: New York and online (via Bluejeans)
  • Board of Trustees present: Christophe Henner (Chair), María Sefidari (Vice Chair), Kelly Battles (via Bluejeans), Dariusz Jemielniak, Guy Kawasaki (via Bluejeans), Nataliia Tymkiv, Jimmy Wales, Alice Wiegand (via Bluejeans)
  • Non-Board members present: Katherine Maher (Executive Director), Maggie Dennis (Interim Chief of Community Engagement), Michelle Paulson (Interim General Counsel), Jaime Villagomez (Treasurer; Chief Financial Officer), Stephen LaPorte (Interim Secretary; Senior Legal Counsel)

The meeting was called to order at 10:00 AM Eastern on November 13, 2016. Stephen called roll and confirmed that a quorum was present. Kelly, Guy, and Alice joined remotely via Bluejeans, and confirmed that they could simultaneously hear and speak. Katherine, Michelle, Jaime, and Stephen were also present.

Operations update

Jaime provided an update on the financials for the last quarter. There were four fundraising campaigns, including one in Japan that performed well. The Foundation underspent in the last quarter, and contributing factors to this underspend included open staff positions and some changes in planned spending. The Foundation has some interim leadership in executive positions, and has budgeted to fill these spots when ready. Additionally, the Technical Operations team has decided to move some equipment purchases to the next quarter.

Katherine presented product metrics. As discussed at previous Board meetings, year-over-year unique device metrics will soon be available starting in January 2017. The Foundation is continuously evaluating the metrics used to understand how people interact with the Wikimedia projects. One important metric is unique devices. The 602 million unique devices in the product report is based on English Wikipedia only (due to the difficulty of calculating unique devices globally). Board members discussed the previous numbers that were available from ComScore, but were discontinued due to issues accurately capturing Wikimedia's global mobile traffic. Board members also discussed the stable trend for the average monthly editors, and the relatively flat trend in pageviews. Board members discussed the trends for pageviews and unique devices, and Katherine suggested that Foundation staff can provide a presentation on these metrics for the Board in the future. Katherine reviewed the trends for fundraising, including the importance of the fundraising email campaign.

Maggie joined at this point in the meeting.

Katherine shared some highlights from the Foundation's work last quarter, including the new lazy-loading mobile-data saving feature, a retrospective on Wikipedia's press coverage, the rapid grants project, a project with the Internet Archive to repair links, the clean financial audit from last year, recent hiring of the Chief Technology Officer, and a process for vetting candidates for the open executive positions.

Strategy

Katherine reviewed the background on the Wikimedia Foundation's strategy. In 2010, the strategy process provided a set of goals. In 2012, the organization refocused on narrower objectives around engineering and grantmaking. In 2016, the Foundation set three strategic areas: reach, community, and knowledge. Wikimedia has a few challenges and opportunities ahead, such as changing technology and new emerging populations online. Wikimedia is also in a good spot in the present, with a strong model for collaboration, good financial footing, and a trusted reputation.

Katherine reviewed some of the potential elements for a strategy process to determine the next long-term strategic direction for the organization. This process will include consulting with community, discussions on wikis, broader surveys, focused meetups, and consulting with staff and experts. The discussions should aim to be inclusive of people in multiple languages and geographies. The current goal is to develop the process and hold discussions with community in early 2017, and present a general direction for the Board and community at Wikimania 2017. The Wikimedia Foundation's 2017-18 Annual Plan will be based on the interim 2016-2018 “three prong” strategy, but certain programs and spending may be influenced by the new strategic direction as it is developed.

Board members asked questions about the funding for the new strategy process, and the opportunity to review more details on the strategy plan. The current budget is for up to $2 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year and up to $2.5 million overall, which can be reallocated from the existing budget. Katherine offered to present more detail on the process and budget in early 2017.

After a motion by María, seconded by Jimmy, the Board approved a resolution authorizing the budget for the strategy process.

Community culture

Maggie presented on some of the Foundation's recent work on handling harassment and supporting community culture and potentials for future expansion of anti-harassment approaches. Current focuses include working with community members to prepare training, developing administrative tools, and working directly on some of the most significant harassment cases. The team is also preparing a page offering resources for people who have experienced harassment. The Wikimedia Foundation is working with Jigsaw (formerly Google Ideas) on some tools to address harassment, as well.

Board members discussed the importance of and some of the challenges in addressing harassment and aggressive behavior, including the difficulties users may encounter finding clear and simple guidance to resolve problems among the significant number of guidelines and essays on the subject, especially on English Wikipedia, and the challenges in other communities which may offer little guidance at all. Board members encouraged staff to fund work immediately where appropriate, and consider including more work on harassment and community culture in the Foundation's next annual plan.

After a short discussion, Jimmy made a motion, seconded by Christophe, to approve a statement from the Board on Healthy Community Culture, Inclusivity, and Safe Spaces:

At our Board meeting on November 13, and in Board meetings in September and June, we spent considerable time discussing the issues of harassment and hostility on the internet generally, and more specifically on the Wikimedia projects.
This is an important issue. Approximately 40% of internet users, and as many as 70% of younger users have personally experienced harassment,[1] with regional studies showing rates as high as 76% for young women.[2] Of people who have reported experiencing harassment on Wikimedia projects, more than 50% reported decreasing their participation in our community.[3] Based on this and other research, we conclude that harassment and toxic behavior on the Wikimedia projects negatively impacts the ability of the Wikimedia projects to collect, share, and disseminate free knowledge. This behavior is contrary to our vision and mission.
Our communities deserve safe spaces in which they can contribute productively and debate constructively. It is our belief that the Wikimedia Foundation should be proactively engaged in eliminating harassment, promoting inclusivity, ensuring a healthier culture of discourse, and improving the safety of Wikimedia spaces. We request management to dedicate appropriate resources to this end.
We urge every member of the Wikimedia communities to collaborate in a way that models the Wikimedia values of openness and diversity, step forward to do their part to stop hostile and toxic behavior, support people who have been targeted by such behavior, and help set clear expectations for all contributors.
[1] 2014 Pew Research Center Study, found at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/
[2] "Online Harassment: The Australian Woman's Experience" (2016), Norton/Symantec, found at: https://www.symantec.com/en/au/about/newsroom/press-releases/2016/symantec_0309_01
[3] 2015 WMF Harassment Survey, found at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Harassment_Survey_2015_-_Results_Report.pdf

Committee updates

Human Resources

Alice provided an update from the Human Resources Committee. The Committee developed and agreed upon high-level performance criteria for the Executive Director at her request. The Committee further discussed building a strong working partnership between the Board and the Executive Director.

Audit

Kelly provided an update from the Audit Committee. The recent audit came back clean. The next task for the Committee is looking at the next year's annual planning, working closely with Jaime.

Governance

Nataliia provided an update from the Governance Committee. The Committee is currently focusing on three goals: appointing new members to fill the vacant seats, supporting the 2017 election process, and planning for a governance review.

On the first point, the Committee recommends, moving to terms where new Board members regularly join at the summer Wikimania meeting. This would make transitions and onboarding easier for the Board. Nataliia reviewed some of the possible options for adjusting Board terms to fit this new timeline, depending on how the Board plans to fill vacant seats.

On the governance review, the Committee has met with a firm to assist with the review. The Committee will plan to do the governance review in Q1 or Q2 FY17-18 to allow the Board to focus on the high-priority strategic conversations.

Housekeeping

Prior to the meeting, the Board unanimously approved a resolution delegating policy-making authority. Michelle and Stephen reviewed the following upcoming policy changes:

  • Revised Whistleblower Policy
  • Creative Commons 4.0 transition
  • Donor Privacy Policy update

Executive session

The staff were excused at this point in the meeting. At the conclusion of the executive session, the meeting closed at approximately 2:30 PM Eastern.