WikiConference UK 2012/Elections/Questions/Michael Peel
From Wikimedia UK
|Hi there! This is the page for you to answer questions posed to you by the members of Wikimedia UK. Press the
- What different groups and communities are you part of?
- I'm not sure of what types of groups and communities you're asking about, so I'll answer this from both on- and off-wiki perspectives.
- On-wiki: I view myself as being part of the Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource communities - although due to time constraints I'm not as active in them as I would like to be.
- Off-wiki: I'm professionally part of the astronomical research community (including being a member of the Royal Astronomical Society), as well as being a member of several heritage organisations, and also a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Had it not been for the amount of my time that WMUK has consumed over the last few years, I'd be able to add more groups and communities (with a higher level of active involvement) here. ;-)
- What motivated you to stand for the board of Wikimedia UK?
- Everything that Wikimedia is doing is is ground-breaking - and the opportunities that are available to Wikimedia UK now are amazing. I want to make sure that WMUK continues to enable volunteers to make the most of those opportunities, whilst giving them professional support and assistance. We're on the path to that being the case, but I don't think we've reached that that position yet - and I would like to see things through until we're there.
- I also want to help provide continuity to, and memory for, the organisation (and to transfer that knowledge to other trustees, staff and volunteers). There are situations that arise that have previously come up a year or more ago, and long-term perspectives that can prove to be useful.
- Wikiversity has been set up as a sister project to serve as a platform for Open Educational Resources. Many people feel that it is not really meeting its potential. In light of a serious commitment to education probably emerging from the WMUK Strategic Plan, please name at least one element you feel might help take things forward.
- The problem with Wikiversity is that it's trying to do too much in a very diffuse way, and that it isn't focused on a single problem (e.g. like Wikipedia was focused on writing an encyclopædia, not writing every book ever). So I'd suggest that a project that focuses on a single sector, possibly even a single subject - e.g. university lecture course material on flower arranging - would provide a good, worked through case study which could then be publicised and replicated in other subjects, whilst also increasing number of contributors to wikiversity, and generating more interest from the educational community.
- What projects should WMUK pursue over the next five years. Where should we be in five years time? See Talk:Draft 2012 Five Year Plan/Counterproposal for some ideas. What's your idea?
- This is a really complex question, and not one that any individual would be able to answer. Asking candidates about 1-year plans would have been much nicer. ;-) To answer in generalities, I'd like to see the GLAM projects multiply and diversify, as well as a strong set of educational and technological projects to develop along the same lines, and for those projects to have a substantial impact in the quality and comprehensiveness of the online projects.
- When Wikimedia UK submits information to the Charity Commission, a parliamentary committee, or another public authority, is it more important to present Wikimedia in a positive light or to answer questions as accurately and completely as possible even when this might cast WMUK, Wikipedia or the individual answering the questions in a negative light?
- Of course, accurate information should be provided, at a suitable level of completeness for the situation (not too general, not too detailed).
- If Wikimedia UK submits information to the Charity Commission, a parliamentary committee, or another public authority, and that information subsequently turns out to be inaccurate, incomplete or liable to be interpreted in a manner that places Wikimedia in an overly positive light then what action should WMUK take?
- In such a situation, WMUK (staff/trustees/involved volunteers) should carefully evaluate the situation and send in corrections where appropriate. Such corrections may not always be needed (e.g. "oh, we said 45% where we meant 46%" wouldn't need correcting, nor would "we missed the name of one of our partner organisations out of a long list of people we're working with") - it's a judgement call as to when and where such corrections would be needed.
- As the elected representatives will be charity trustees, have they read and understood the legal requirements and obligations of being a charity trustee and have the current trustees brought these obligations to your attention?
- I understand the basic legal requirements and obligations of being a trustee (as I stated to the tellers during the nomination process). With regards the details, however, to be honest I need to revisit the relevant Charity Commission guidance and general advice. I've been on the board of Wikimedia UK since well before it became a charity, and although I have previously read through that guidance and advice, I need to refamiliarise myself with it. Should I be re-elected, I intend to undertake trustee training as soon as I can do so - it has been becoming increasingly clear over the last few months that such training would be very useful.
- The vast majority of Wikimedia UK's activities are undertaken by volunteers, who are the lifeblood of the organisation. How do you think you, as an individual trustee, and the board as a whole can better support those volunteers, especially those who live some distance from the chapter's headquarters in London?
- I simply can't over-describe how much I'm behind volunteers being the driving force behind WMUK. With everything that WMUK has done, particularly in terms of activities and with hiring staff, I've been pushing for a 'volunteers first' perspective. Every staff position that we've hired has been directly targeted at supporting volunteers, and my hope is that this will continue indefinitely. As a volunteer that is situated nearly 200 miles away from the WMUK office (in Manchester), I am sensitive to the issue of volunteers being far from the WMUK offices, and my hope and aim is that distance should not be a deterrent to participating in our activities. Note that locating the office in London was a decision that was made with accessibility for volunteers in mind, given how connected London is to the majority of the country and hence UK population.
- Given that volunteers conduct so much of the charity's work, perhaps even fulfilling roles that would be fulfilled by paid staff in other organisations, what role do you feel trustees should play in ensuring that, as Wikimedia UK professionalises and its staff expands, volunteers remain at the heart of the charity's activities and actively participate in the running of the organisation?
- I firmly hold that staff members should only be doing those duties that volunteers are not able and willing to do, and that staff members should be supporting volunteers with everything they do. This needs to be clearly written into every job description that WMUK advertises. It's the Trustee's responsibility to ensure that this happens and continues to be adhered to.
- While I have the utmost respect for our four current staff, only one had an extensive background as a Wikimedian before being employed by the chapter. How important do you think it is that Wikimedia UK seeks to recruit from within the Wikimedia community, and should it try harder to recruit staff who are Wikimedians as it expands?
- I think it's absolutely vital that staff are Wikimedians. However, I would disagree that this needs to be a requirement for staff prior to being hired - being a Wikimedian is by definition something that anyone can become. I note that our staff that were not Wikimedia editors before being hired, and that they have been making significant effort to become Wikimedians during the course of their induction processes.
- In terms of hiring Wikimedians: sadly, we've received a lot of opposition to advertising staff positions to Wikimedians. We distribute all of our job descriptions via mailing lists and twitter/facebook to encourage Wikimedians to apply. However, our efforts to advertise the position on-wiki (in particular via the geonotice on watchlists) has encountered a lot of opposition from the Wikimedia community. We've also encountered competition with regards hiring UK Wikimedians from the Wikimedia Foundation - in the past few years we've found that some of our most valuable volunteers have been hired by the WMF. I hope that this process can become easier in the future, and I would welcome suggestions as to how to improve our hiring process in the future, particularly when it comes to advertising positions to Wikimedians.
- What role do you think Wikimedia UK could play in ensuring that Wikipedia's articles about living people are kept accurate and free of malice?
- Wikimedia UK simply cannot play a direct role with biographies of living people - the situation with UK libel law at present would mean that any attempt to do so would end in unnecessary and futile law suits. Instead, the best we are legally able to do is to provide indirect support. For example, the volunteer community that responds to email queries about BLP's and similar issues is absolutely vital to solving this issue. I organised the first ever OTRS workshop to take place in the UK, and I hope that this will be the first of many to support the existing OTRS community and increase its capacity to deal with issues in the future. Similarly, but less directly, we've been working with scholarly societies to improve Wikipedia's content (again, something I've led one of the first examples of with the Cancer Research UK Workshop), and also via Editathons with cultural organisations (Tango and myself invented this type of event with the very first British Library editathon back in January 2011) - I would hope that we can indirectly support volunteers and experts to improve BLP's.
- What are your views on having an optional image filter installed on Wikimedia projects, to enable users to opt out of seeing images they feel are inappropriate?
- I support the establishment of an effective filter for images and content on Wikipedia. However, implementing this is far from easy and uncontroversial. I respect that the WMF has been attempting to tackle this issue, but I don't think that they have being doing so in an effective manner. In particular, the meta:Image filter referendum was a failure that cost far more volunteer time than was worthwhile (and, as the archives show, I tried to highlight the issues with this referendum as it was planned and implemented, but none of the issues that I raised were resolved). I suspect that the best approach here would be to encourage users (particularly schools and parents) to install filtering software on their own computers, rather than relying on optional server-side filters.
- With the current concerns over adult (up to R18 certificate and equivalent) content appearing unfiltered on Wikimedia projects, how would you advise UK schools and youth groups to handle access to Wikimedia sites?
- There is justifiable controversy over this issue, and I note that this question comes from someone with a very forthright viewpoint on this issue. So I do not expect that my answer to this question will satisfy the questioner. My recommendation would be that any decision on how to address this particular issue would involve both the school's and youth group's IT person, and their Sex Ed person. If the school/youth group wants to take a conservative approach, then I would recommend they utilize the Schools' Wikipedia rather than live access to Wikipedia. If they want to take a more liberal approach, then I would recommend they provide direct access to Wikipedia. If they want to take an approach somewhere in the middle, then utilizing third-party filtering solutions would be the best solution. In all cases, I would recommend thinking through the implications of any filtering (or lack of filtering) solutions that they utilize.
- Do you agree with the Wikimedia Foundation board () that processes for ascertaining model consent for images taken in private situations need to be improved, and if so, what (if any) role do you think Wikimedia UK should play in this?
- Yes, I agree with the WMF board's position here. The important roles here are that of the Commons community to deal with images that are uploaded without model consent, and that of the OTRS community to deal with model releases as that consent is made available. WMUK can support both of these communities - both by directly supporting the Commons and OTRS communities to make them more effective, and by pointing enquirers towards the OTRS community so that they utilize the most effective approach to resolving issues. I'm not sure how much more WMUK can do here, though, and would welcome constructive suggestions for how to improve the situation. Of course, WMUK cannot take any direct responsibility or role with such content, since we have no direct control over the content of the Wikimedia projects.
- Would the candidates agree that in this election and elections generally that a high "turnout" of voting members is necessary to give credibility to the final outcome/result and that the most worthy candidates are chosen? Are the candidates aware of what % are usually encountered in WikiMedia elections for board members?
- Desirable, yes, but I wouldn't say 'necessary'. The requirement from the Articles is the higher of 10 members or 10% of the membership, which has been achieved without fail at past WMUK AGMs. Membership has been steadily increasing over the years, which means this requirement has also been increasing in terms of number of members - but it's notable that in the last few years the % turnout has also been increasing. Last year it was 33/~200 = ~16% - not great, but respectable, and I'm confident that this election will have a higher turnout (number and %) than we've ever had before at an AGM, particularly given the high turnout at our EGM late last year (49/212, or 23%).
- It's a bit difficult to compare the % turnout with other Wikimedia board member elections, mostly because the number of people that can vote at the time isn't always recorded, but also because different organisations will naturally have different ratios of active to passive members which affects the % but not the absolute number (and then, there's the language barriers and culture differences too). The WMF doesn't really have a turnout, since it has no members as such (and I haven't seen any estimates of how many accounts could potentially vote in their community elections, so as a result I can't really quantify their % turnout). I see that WMFR had a 57% turnout in 2010 , which is impressive - and it's also impressive that they had over twice the number of votes cast in 2010 than we had in 2011. Perhaps they provide a benchmark and target for WMUK to be measured against in coming years. Mike Peel (talk) 23:59, 8 May 2012 (UTC)