The Open Letter to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees (shown in my previous blog post) was built around the good faith assumption that there was some truth to the claims made by Mr. Wales after he deleted the Wikiversity Ethical Breaching Experiments project (a copy of the main project page is here). When asked about his out-of-process page deletions, block of Privatemusings and emergency desysop of SBJohnny (see timeline of events), Mr. Wales claimed, “I have the full support of the Wikimedia Foundation” and “This is a Foundation matter“.
The Open Letter has begun to shake out some information from the WMF Board of Trustees. Samuel Klein wrote that Mr. Wales “was not acting as an agent of the Board nor was there any ‘Board authorization of an intervention’.”
Can the statements by Mr. Wales and Mr. Klein be reconciled or is it safe to assume that Mr. Wales did not accurately characterize his level of support from the Board? Did Mr. Wales incorrectly claim to have support for his actions from the Board in order to prevent his personal actions from being reviewed and over-turned by the Wikiversity community? Did Mr. Wales’ claim of “full support of the Wikimedia Foundation” only mean that he told Sue Gardner that he was going to deal with a troll at Wikiversity and she said something like: have fun with that? The WMF Executive Director does not have the authority to grant Mr. Wales permission to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity.
Will we ever know what constitutes “full support of the Wikimedia Foundation”? We need to know the details of how the Foundation authorized the deletion of a Wikiversity learning resource that was aimed at improving Wikimedia wiki projects. We need to know how Mr. Wales was authorized to impose blocks against participants at Wikiversity, participants who never violated any policies or rules, blocks imposed without any prior discussion or warning and apparently without any chance for the Wikiversity community to object. We need to know how Mr. Wales was authorized to perform an emergency desysop procedure when no emergency existed.
Exactly what authority does Mr. Wales have for use of his “founder” tools? When Mr. Wales was being stripped of his Stewardship, he wrote, “Please take no action until we have finished with a mailing list discussion.” What mailing list discussion? He wrote, “I would support the creation of ‘founder’ group”. Initially the creation of the Wikimedia “founder” user group was attributed to a request from the Board. However, while Darkoneko initially let that statement stand, three days later he did not agree with that assertion. Thus, it appears that Mr. Wales suggested that he be given special user rights (“founder”) that would give him the powers of a Steward and he was given those rights. Was there any public discussion of this grant of user rights?
It appears that people who were critical of the “founder” rights were “faked” into going along because of the claim of Board involvement in the decision (see).
Similarly, at Wikiversity, Mr. Wales’ claims about “full support” from the WMF were used to prevent the Wikiversity community from over-riding Mr. Wales’ actions (example). Has Mr. Wales ever been given more authority than a Steward? If not, his recent intervention into Wikiversity affairs was a violation of procedures that must be followed by those who are given Stewards tools. Does the Board intend to allow Mr. Wales to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity while claiming that his actions are Board actions?
Privatemusings has now started a new learning project. The entire Wikimedia Ethics project is an example of action research. Action research is a way for members of the Wikimedia community to study their community and seek ways of improving the community. Such action research is a normal part of participation in Wikimedia wiki projects and requires no special oversight or review beyond those already provided for in Wikiversity policy. What does it mean when a few members of an online community try to prevent other members of the community from participating in action research? Have action research projects at Wikiversity been disrupted by Wikipedians who fear having their actions studied?