Wikimedia Foundation/Comitê de Capítulos/Resposta aos questionamentos 2010 02

Grupo de Usuários Wikimedia no Brasil
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Active volunteers in the chapter and their relationship to other Wikimedia projects[editar]

Observation
Wikimedia Brasil does not have a membership system, anyone is entitled to participate, propose and organize Chapter activities as long as they observe the Statement of Principles.

Most active[editar]

These people have showed up in meetings, edited the chapter wiki and posted to the mailing list over the last year, or, alternatively, have not showed up in meetings but had an important participation on both the wiki and mailing list.

Warning
This list of users is based solely on the arbitrary technical criteria above. We don't consider it meaningful for anything but accountability and even then only as an ensemble. Some volunteers have been unfairly excluded, as others included who are no longer so active.

Here are the people most active in the chapter as specified, listed by username, in alphabetical order.

(contributions[1] over all content projects: + = over 100; ++ = over 1,000; +++ = over 10,000)

  • Beria +++
  • Everton137 +
  • Heldergeovane +++
  • Jo Lorib +++
  • Lechatjaune +++
  • Nevinho ++
  • OS2Warp +++
  • Ozymandias +++
  • Pietro Roveri ++
  • Rautopia ++
  • Rodrigo Tetsuo Argenton ++
  • Sir Lestaty de Lioncourt +++
  • Solstag +
  • TSB

Activities of Wikimedia Brasil in the last six months[editar]

See Wikimedia:Chapter Report/2009

On the choice of a distributed chapter model[editar]

What is a distributed chapter anyway?
In short, it is a chapter organized just like any other Wikimedia project.

What follows here is a refinement, after one year of experience, of what was first expressed in our chapter report for 2008 and shared at the chapter's meeting in 2009.

Reasons[editar]

The single most important reason: scalability in the Brazilian context.

Brazil has almost two hundred million people spread over a continental area, with cultures so varied that we define ourselves by that diversity, and a strikingly unequal distribution of wealth and education.

In addition, incorporating and maintaining a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Brazil represents a significant cost both financial and in human resources, and authority hierarchies here are known to create distrust and dissipate the motivation of volunteers.

Thus, a single Wikimedia chapter would not be able to handle the diversity of challenges and the organizational overhead. Those same factors make it impractical to have several regional chapters, which could be even worse in terms of financial sustainability and critical mass, making perhaps even less impact than a single overloaded chapter given a fixed amount of investment.

On the other hand...

Brazil has a wide but troublesome governmental infrastructure and state presence, with a long history of social movements and a passion for solidarity. There are thousands of NGOs and centers dedicated to culture and education, many of them funded by the government, plus a vast public school and health system.

Most of those, however, function poorly. Teachers have no training or support and earn shameful wages, culture centers struggle within impoverished communities. And they all have a hard time acquiring knowledge and sharing experiences.

Every single one of them has a lot to gain if we can bring it into the Wikimedia movement, and a strong community is the only requirement for that.

Regarding Brazilian politics and other institutions, they are used to deal with social movements. There is no general barrier and, wherever there is a specific one, there is often a friendly organization already in place through which we can channel our efforts.

What do we mean by movement and why is it a chapter[editar]

A chapter has a number of attributions and activities it should perform. As a movement without legal instruments, we have worked the concept of Mutirões, which allows us to execute those activities without the need for representative decisions or lasting attributions, in the same fashion other Wikimedia projects work.

Mutirões are self assembled groups of autonomous volunteers who share a specific concrete goal. Volunteers who join a mutirão are required to observe the Statement of Principles. Each mutirão enjoys full independence from each other and organizes itself through a page in the chapter's wiki, where it must also welcome new contributors and report back to the community.

There are a few special mutirões which are of general interest, like our relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation and the Chapter's Committee, answering the press, welcoming new members who haven't decided where to contribute, ideas for new mutirões and evolving our organizing principles. Those are kept separate on the wiki under the Wikimedia namespace. General discussion and announcements are made in a village pump-like area and through the mailing list, where critical issues that require quick response are also brought to.

For all general issues, the main decision making tool is consensus, but within each mutirão participants may opt for other means compatible with the principles.

So why is this structure a chapter?

We see chapters as a road builders. They build and help others bulid roads that bring people outside the Wikimedia Movement to get involved with it as well as take people from within the movement to teach and learn new forms of collaboration.

It is a very different role from that of participating in another Wikimedia project, this roadbuilding. Just as, in fact, participating in Wikiversity is different from contributing to Wikipedia, and that for one is not like writing to Wikinews. Some people like to do one thing, others prefer another, a few like both, a handful would do all of them.

Chapters exist, therefore, to aggregate and empower people interested in helping other people find or build these roads. And so it is important for people, when they want to join these efforts or need this kind of assistance, to know that they should look for a chapter.

That is a valuable identity, and preserving its uniqueness increases its strength.

Now, according to an equally valid tradition restricted to a smaller universe of people, a chapter is also a legal organization. This tradition started in Europe and spread by applying a working model elsewhere.

However, knowledge of our local context suggested that we abandon this tradition, and our experience with an alternative model has stood up to fulfilling the usual tasks of a chapter and offers interesting future perspectives.

So we, the broader Wikimedia community, are left with a choice:

  • to preserve the word Chapter as a universally recognized reference to the functions they perform within our movement; at the cost of forking the term within the narrower community of people who are directly affected by whether they take a legal form. (A form that already varies from place to place.)

or

  • to save this narrower community from the effort of cultural change; at the cost of forking a term that will make the world's understanding of how to relate to Wikimedia less clear, as for them the fork is likely meaningless. (And, perhaps, sends the wrong message about our ability to adapt to different local needs within our movement.)

The choice is not clear. It depends on how actually meaningless is the fork for most people. The reason one has to stop at likely is that chapters must have a responsibility structure to guarantee continuity in relationships and accountability in resources they manage. The question, then, is whether a distributed chapter can handle responsibilities.

Responsibility structure of a distributed Wikimedia Chapter[editar]

First and foremost, there should be nothing new to this. All Wikimedia projects enjoy privileges and responsibilities and handle them well by means of the same principles applied here. What we are proposing is only to use the wiki way also in the organization of a Chapter's functions: outreach, culture change and education, events, relationship with institutions and the press, advocacy, etc. This is not to mean we believe this organizational form to be effective or preferable everywhere, though We have argued above why we are convinced it is the best choice for Brazil and, perhaps, other countries which share our context.

It is important to emphasize that this is also not an attempt at something completely new. Several Brazilian and international activism networks work just like this. In Brazil we were inspired by MetaReciclagem, a movement that has managed to establish a strong influence on both public and private digital inclusion projects. Curiously, we later learned that they too went through a debate on whether to incorporate or not, and came to similar conclusions as ours. Internationally, Creative Commons is a prominent example of how an NGO of international scope can execute tasks that might require a legal presence locally without the need to incorporate its own institutions. And the Internet Engineering Task Force is perhaps the prime example of how a non corporate organization can efficiently manage a complex and valuable operation while coordinating with institutions and society.

Second, we recognize that our choice does not come without certain sacrifices. Namely, we are not interested in prearranged permissions to use Wikimedia trademarks, nor do we want to have donations specific to our chapter or directly handle part of the donations to the foundation. Regarding trademarks, we trust the foundation will develop an efficient way to handle simple requests, like using the puzzle globe in a lecture, and we'll avoid any complicated use of Wikimedia trademarks. On funding, we will do our best to profit from the available, and preferably idle, infrastructure of friendly institutions and volunteers, and will only rely on foundation resources for Wikimedia affairs and for projects that need leverage and whose importance is consensual across the movement but no alternative sources could be found.

Given that, we can start discussing responsibility in a distributed chapter model. The principal mechanism of responsibility is the Statement of Principles, and the tool through which is enacted is the chapter wiki. Just like any Wikimedia project, the chapter wiki is a public wiki, anonymously editable and integrated with Wikimedia's Unified Login. Below we discuss the main outcomes expected from responsibility in this context: abuse, continuity, trust, representation.

Abuse

Not being incorporated means we don't handle trademarks or foundation funds, therefore the foundation has nothing to worry for itself. Volunteers of Wikimedia Brasil will always present themselves as volunteers. Pretending to represent the foundation constitutes fraud under Brazilian law, so third parties harmed by volunteers of Wikimedia Brasil can handle the situation in Brazilian justice.

Continuity

In our experience, as openness is a requirement, any sufficiently interesting Mutirão will attract more than a few volunteers. In fact, without a few volunteers from the start it would be very hard to bootstrap one. As transparency is a requirement, anyone leaving a Mutirão will have left his participation sufficiently documented in order for another of the volunteers involved to pick it up, or recruit a new volunteer to step into his shoes. Both these conditions are naturally met by using the wiki as the primary means of organization for a Mutirão. There will, of course, be cases when someone leaving an effort causes it to stop, but the probability of this happening is naturally inversely proportional to the its importance and the commitment of other groups and institutions involved, so the impact of Mutirões that stop is typically small. And sometimes a Mutirão will die, but later be recycled by another group of people who finds it buried in the wiki.

Trust

Trust is different from abuse, as there are ways to be untrustworthy without actually infringing provable harm. Wikimedia Brasil cannot sign a contract to guarantee delivery of services, so can you trust someone without a contract between two parties? There are two ways out of this. First, human behavior relies on incentives. People participate in Wikimedia Brasil voluntarily, so there is little incentive to be dishonest about your commitment to a job. Besides, as transparency is a requirement and motivations for participation are social, there is a strong incentive to not become known for letting people down. We've seen this work this last year and we've seen people make an effort to make up when accused even when they don't admit to having done wrong. Second, you can always contract with individual volunteers, which actually creates a virtuous incentive for people to join the chapter, as it becomes economically interesting to participate in a free knowledge ecosystem. This is similar to what happens in the free software movement and also happens with contributors to Wikimedia content projects.

Representation

There are no representatives in Wikimedia Brasil. There are, however, task specific volunteers, chosen by consensus, when the number of participants in an activity is limited. These volunteers do not have a mandate to represent the community, and must refer to it any collective decision. Also, they can only speak for themselves or according to previously established consensus. Their behavior in terms of trust, continuity and abuse are handled as explained above.

In conclusion,[editar]

Even though we don't have a responsibility structure based on individuals, we have a responsibility structure based on process and culture. It has not reached a mature stage, if there even is one, as we are constantly experimenting with it, but it has worked well and taken us this far. We invite everyone to talk to us and share your views, and hope this document has been useful in explaining our perspective, sometimes obscured by our impatience and emotional reactions. We just care a lot that we are all together in this wonderful puzzle of Wikimedia Chapters — in the functional sense — around the globe.

Yours truly,

The volunteers of Wikimedia Brasil