Topic on Talk:Wikimedia Technical Committee/Charter

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Questions about governance & decisionmaking process

4
Summary by KSmith (WMF)

RFC decision-making will be described in documents outside the charter. Membership rules and changes are entirely up to TechCom, as was the case with ArchCom.

EGalvez (WMF) (talkcontribs)

In my role in the Community Engagement department, I've had the opportunity to observe various committees and how they work. From what I've observed, when "we" (the Foundation) alter the processes we use to make decisions, the expectations from communities we serve might stay the same, which results in misunderstandings. So this is where I'm coming from in my comments. I very much appreciate the opportunity to be able to weigh in on this discussion.

RFC process - According to Requests for comment page, in the RFC process "The developer community strives to achieve consensus." What does "consensus" mean for these discussions? It is unclear if the "consensus" needs to be reached by the committee or by the commenters. What does it look like if "consensus" is not reached? What happens if someone has a complaint on a decision? I believe RfC's work differently on Wikipedia and other projects, which typically end up in a Support/Oppose vote from commenters and are not necessarily done through consensus. I am wondering if or how RfC's are different/the same as they are done on other projects, and whether the name "RfC" is appropriate or not (I'm really not sure). This is similar to how the word "consultation" can mean different things to different people.

Membership - as a committee whose role is to support decision-making that affects an extremely wide audience (e.g. every single user), am I correct in noticing that most are staff of WMDE or WMF? What is the term length for members? How are new members added or removed? I also observe that most of the current committee members are part of the Technology Department, who report directly or indirectly to the CTO of the Foundation. I'm also wondering if or how committees that are entirely made up of staff might be renamed so its clear they are entirely made up of staff. A committee that includes staff as voters and that serves such a public function feels to me like a very different model from other committees (FDC, AffCom, ArbCom, etc.). These other committees have staff, but they are non-voting.

Hope you find this helpful. Thanks!

EGalvez (WMF) (talkcontribs)

One thought about the RFC process is to call it the "MediaWiki RFC process" or the "Technical RFC process" to distinguish it from other processes.

KSmith (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Thanks for raising these questions. I'll take them to the committee for discussion.

As for membership, I believe you are correct that all current members are either WMF or WMDE staff. And currently there is a strong concentration in the Technology department.

Moving forward, the committee explicitly wants membership to be open to non-staff, and would prefer broader coverage within and beyond the organization--not because there are actual ties between departments or teams and the committee, but because people in other parts of the org, or outside it, are likely to have skills and knowledge that existing members don't.

Under the existing model, membership does not have explicit terms. The committee itself has complete discretion for adding or removing members. This charter proposal does not change either of those.

KSmith (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I believe the RFC process here works as it does with standards bodies: That input is solicited from anyone interested, but in the end, the decision is made by the committee.

Documentation outside the charter should clearly describe the RFC process in more detail. (It may already do so, but the committee will be reviewing and updating its process documentation as needed.)