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Wikipedia

Wikipedia Editors Revolt, Vote "No Confidence" In Newest Board Member (arstechnica.com) 186

An anonymous reader writes with news about an editor revolt at Wikimedia to remove Arnnon Geshuri from the foundation's board. Ars reports: "Nearly 200 Wikipedia editors have taken the unprecedented step of calling for a member of the Wikimedia Foundation board of directors to be tossed out. The Wikimedia Foundation, which governs both the massive Wikipedia online encyclopedia and related projects, appointed Arnnon Geshuri to its board earlier this month. His appointment wasn't well received by the Wikipedia community of volunteer editors, however. And last week, an editor called for a 'vote of no confidence on Arnnon Geshuri.' The voting, which has no legally binding effect on the Wikimedia Foundation, is now underway. As of press time, 187 editors had voted in favor of this proposition: 'In the best interests of the Wikimedia Foundation, Arnnon Geshuri must be removed from his appointment as a trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation Board.' Just 13 editors have voted against, including Wikimedia board member Guy Kawasaki.
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Wikipedia Editors Revolt, Vote "No Confidence" In Newest Board Member

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  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @05:54PM (#51369315)

    ... the vote will get reverted shortly.

  • by Hussman32 ( 751772 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @05:55PM (#51369321)

    The 'no-poaching' compact was an agreement among chief executives. I know someone will drag this down to Godwin's Law in a minute, but he was doing as he was ordered. Are people expecting him to go to Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs and tell them that he wouldn't follow direction? If he did, he'd get the opportunity to join the keyboard punchers at Wikipedia Editorial.

    Are there any other reasons that he shouldn't offer advice on a board of a non-profit company?

    • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:04PM (#51369405)

      If he can go to Steve Jobs and tell him anything, he's on to something much bigger than Wikipedia, especially if he can also get a response.

    • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:07PM (#51369429)

      The problem with that statement is that HR professionals are usually required to have some knowledge of employment law. For this person, this means one of two things:

      Either he saw the agreement and had no idea it could be in violation of employment law, which means he was incompetent at his own job;
      or he saw the agreement, knew it could be a violation and instead decided to ignore that and willfully proceed to fire these people without reporting it.

      Given the level of training most companies do these days to ensure that no one violates antitrust or other employment laws, it's likely that the second one is the case.

    • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:09PM (#51369447)

      I'm sorry - the argument that he can't be held to account for breaking the law because he was just trying to keep his (very well paid) job is about as weak a case as you could possibly make.

      A top executive position is not some office flunky who only does what he is told, an HR Vice President has the legal and fiduciary responsibility to tell his boss he is committing a crime and to cut it out - not facilitate it. If he can't stand up to Schmidt, he can't stand up to Wales.

      I would say that any other reasons for not employing him are superfluous.

      BTW, do we know what his salary at that "non-profit" company is?

      • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning&netzero,net> on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:27PM (#51369583) Homepage Journal

        BTW, do we know what his salary at that "non-profit" company is?

        Just that the Wikimedia Foundation is swimming in more money than they can spend. Part of that is due to really stupid non-profit laws that prevent setting up a trust account (which can be done by donors... just not the non-profit) to save the money for a rainy day, but also because they get a whole bunch of money flowing their direction too.

        As a result, the Wikimedia Foundation has a whole bunch of make-work projects to ensure that they remain "non-profit", but that just bloats their staff size too. As can be seen, I'm not too impressed with how the money is being spent as well since I think better uses of that money could be used.

        • by crunchygranola ( 1954152 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @07:59PM (#51370139)

          BTW, do we know what his salary at that "non-profit" company is?

          Just that the Wikimedia Foundation is swimming in more money than they can spend. Part of that is due to really stupid non-profit laws that prevent setting up a trust account (which can be done by donors... just not the non-profit) to save the money for a rainy day...

          Say what? Then how is that the Wikimedia Foundation is starting to set up an endowment [wikimediafoundation.org] this year if such a thing is impossible?

          The endowment which they are just now creating is being funded with $5 million, after burning through almost $300 million in the last several years, and it is just 7% of their projected fundraising revenue this year. And if their problem is that they are "swimming in money" why the aggressive year-after-year fundraising goals of 10-20% growth every single year? That is the growth plan of an aggressive for-profit start-up, not a non-profit.

          The fact is, Wikimedia could have easily funded an endowment long ago that would keep Wikipedia on-line forever without requiring another dollar in fundraising.

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            If you want to get into the nuanced USC 501(c)3 non-profit laws, be my guest. Also pay attention to what I said: donors can send donations into a trust, which is precisely what the link said is happening too. That the fundraising could be referred instead to the trust instead of the core organization is just a bit of legal game play that sometimes happens too, but you need to keep a strong legal firewall between the trust and the non-profit corporation as well. Let's just say it gets very complicated.

            The fact is, Wikimedia could have easily funded an endowment long ago that would keep Wikipedia on-line forever without requiring another dollar in fundraising.

            I

          • And if their problem is that they are "swimming in money" why the aggressive year-after-year fundraising goals of 10-20% growth every single year? That is the growth plan of an aggressive for-profit start-up, not a non-profit.

            Have you actually read their financials [wikimedia.org]? [PDF link] (What you link to is their annual plan, which isn't a financial document.) They've millions of dollars in cash and short term investments on hand - far in excess of their annual costs of operation.

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @07:32PM (#51369977)

        I have to agree with this. The Board of Directors is supposed to keep a check on the management and make sure they maintain the best interests of the corporation. If this guy can't do it in one job of responsibility, I don't see why he gets to do it in another job which is theoretically an even more responsible oversight role.

        I don't know this guy from Adam, but if he did what they say he did, then he at least has some explaining to do. If he blames it all on "just following orders", then he's the type of person I wouldn't want in any position of power.

        Of course, this is probably exactly why he *is* in a position of power now. He's decided to not fight the fights that exclude him from the top floor offices.

        That said, I don't even get a non-binding vote on this, but if I did, I'd like to have him explain to me why this should not disqualify him.

      • I think the argument isn't that he "can't be held to account for breaking the law" but rather that he hasn't been proven to have broken the law at all, and that it is very important to distinguish between an accusation and a conviction. I don't know what he did, and neither do you. Neither do the wikipedia editors. They do know that socially people said bad words next to his name. That is good enough for some people, not good enough for others. That it is good enough for wikipedia editors is no surprise to

    • Befehl ist Befehl (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mschaffer ( 97223 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:15PM (#51369489)

      Since you mentioned Godwin's Law and chief execs, simply following orders is not a justifiable. To paraphrase the exchange between Google and Apple: Wikipedia's editors needs someone to be very careful to make sure this does not happen again. Wikipedia's board needs to make a public example of this termination with the group.

      • Re:Befehl ist Befehl (Score:4, Informative)

        by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning&netzero,net> on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:41PM (#51369677) Homepage Journal

        This guy got hired on as one of Jimmy Wales picks. There are two members of the board who are picked by the community, but unfortunately Jimmy Wales set up the foundation in such a way that he could still control the board and do whatever he wanted to see happen. The end result is that the board can incestually (meaning being accountable from nobody but themselves) select new board members upon their own whim. That is precisely what happened here with this board appointment.

        There is the right to fork as is the case with all open source projects, but that is really the only real power that the Wikipedia editors have in this situation other than to complain to the two community board members and see that their one limited voice can be heard on the next election for those positions. The Spanish Language Wikipedia did fork several years ago due to some disputes with the top leadership of Wikipedia (particularly the top admins in that language edition of Wikipedia), but that is far enough in the past that the root causes and resolution have nothing to do with the current situation.

        I nearly forked one of the sister projects a few years ago (with widespread support in that sister project), and in hindsight perhaps I should have followed through with the effort too. The really odd thing is how Jimmy Wales offered web space for the fork too. I suppose it just matters how the Wikimedia Board deals with this situation to see if enough editors are finally going to be so completely fed up with the current leadership direction to create that fork or just roll with the punches. Stuff like the Libre Office fork of Open Office is a good example of how such a fork can be successful.

        • Go ahead and fork, it isn't a threat like you make it out to be. Either fork because you want to, or don't because you don't want to. Forking from sour grapes, nobody cares, but nobody wants to stop you either. It isn't odd he offered web space. He probably understands the licensing, and means it. You kinda understand, but not completely, because you don't think they mean it.

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            You make it sounds like it was so black and white and an easy decision, but like everything of that nature it was a whole lot more nuanced and got into project politics. The part I understood was that I would personally have needed to at least temporarily take on the financial burden of running the website if I had done a fork, even if it was likely that other community members were going to help contribute both with money and in other ways. Getting that organized and staying on top of that while working

      • If they violate his employment rights by creating a hostile work environment and then firing him based on unproven accusation unrelated to the job and that predated his employment, then the resulting lawsuit might be one heck of a "public example" indeed.

        It is one thing to wave your hands and hate on a guy whose name you saw next to some naughty words, it is a whole different thing to actually apply principles of worker rights in a real situation.

    • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:28PM (#51369589) Journal

      he was doing as he was ordered

      Telling people what they want to hear is not "advice".

      • We don't what he did or didn't do, what advice he did or didn't give, or what people did or didn't want to hear.

        All we know is, people say nasty things. All that actually teaches us is that there are nasty people in the world, and they're not going to wait for evidence or convictions before they try to apply a sentence, for example in this case they want to exile him from economic participation. They will fail spectacularly. They may or may not succeed in harming him in the way they intend in the meantime.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          We don't what he did or didn't do, what advice he did or didn't give, or what people did or didn't want to hear.

          We know that he helped carry out an illegal activity and that he should have known better.

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @07:08PM (#51369839) Journal

      I know someone will drag this down to Godwin's Law in a minute, but he was doing as he was ordered.

      So wait, you're saying "he was just following orders" and then literally quote the strongest source for why "just following orders" isn't an excuse. You literally rebutted your own argument.

      Are people expecting him to go to Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs and tell them that he wouldn't follow direction?

      Are people expecting him to have a fucking backbone?

      I believe the answer to that is "yes".

      If he did, he'd get the opportunity to join the keyboard punchers at Wikipedia Editorial.

      ooooh so he did it for *money*. Well that certainly is an excellent excuse.

    • The 'no-poaching' compact was an agreement among chief executives. I know someone will drag this down to Godwin's Law in a minute, but he was doing as he was ordered. Are people expecting him to go to Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs and tell them that he wouldn't follow direction? If he did, he'd get the opportunity to join the keyboard punchers at Wikipedia Editorial.

      Arnnon Geshuri was not some low level flunky at Google, he was in charge of 900 recruiters. At that level of authority, you don't have to run to someone for approval of every decision. It was his job to know employment law and to know that Google was doing something illegal. It was his responsibility to not do illegal things, and if questioned, it was his job to tell Eric Schmidt "this is illegal and we can't be doing this".

      • There is a simple solution to this, if Arnnon Geshuri is removed. Google should just stop putting Wikipedia pages at the top of its searches when there are other sites of the original entities. If it is an obscure subject, then fine, the Wikipedia page would do, but if it is a common subject like, say, President Obama, there is no reason the Wiki page should be on pg 1.

  • The fact that they don't clean their own house and have become an ego trip for the editors

    http://www.theguardian.com/boo... [theguardian.com]

    or the fact that they are useless for any topic with even a whiff of controversy

    • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:16PM (#51369507)

      ...the fact that they are useless for any topic with even a whiff of controversy

      Is Britannica better? Wall Street Journal? People Magazine? Please advise.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ecyclopedia Drammatica is better.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 )

        Is Britannica better? Wall Street Journal?

        Yes, and yes, when it comes to controversial topics (though Britannica isn't as up-to-date and has a different focus). You might add that the New York Times is better, too.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You've committed the Hipster Comparison Misdirection Fallacy.

        This is a fallacy we typically see employed by hipsters/Millennials in discussions like this.

        Here's how it works:

        1. Somebody points out a real problem with an idea, a product, a person, etc.

        2. Some hipster comes along, ignores the actual problem being discussed, and instead says, "But is $SOME_OTHER_IRRELEVANT_THING any better?"

        3. The comparison is totally irrelevant, because we aren't talking about $SOME_OTHER_IRRELEVANT_THING.

        4. Discussion of th

        • This comparison is not hipster-specific. Almost everyone makes it. The truth is comparisons are useful when looking for ways to innovate and when making to sure that you are doing *comparatively* well, but they are not useful when looking for ways to see if you are doing *what you should be doing*. This is because a field as a whole can be taking the wrong approach. For example, a school can have students with better standardized test scores than everybody else and still not be teaching the students wel

        • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

          I think you maybe miss the point this type of comparison is intended to raise. That is, there are no perfect things of any type in this world. Defining and understanding the limits imposed by those imperfections makes it possible to recognize in what ways the flawed tools available may still be useful. IOW, if we throw away all imperfect tools, we would be left with none.

          • If Wikipedia is imperfect, and the response is 'neither is Britannia, or Merriam-Webster, or whatever,' then I think the point is, indeed, being missed completely.

            The response *should* be 'You're right. But unlike Britannia, or Merriam-Webster, or whatever, we can, indeed, improve Wikipedia.'

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @07:25PM (#51369939)

    Without a personal statement from Mr Geshuri about how he views the ethics of his own past behaviour on which to base my judgement, I can't see how this appointment can reasonably move forward.

    I sure hope the employee severed for failing to break the law as directed worked this into a fat severance settlement.

  • It got so big, it couldn't help but fail. Sadly this is seen in many large groups, commercial and non-commercial.

  • ... for people who earn 5 or 10 times as much as me, complaining that they don't get even more.

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      I don't have much sympathy... ... for people who earn 5 or 10 times as much as me, complaining that they don't get even more.

      Don't expect when people that earn 5 or 10 "times as much as" you that they give much sympathy when you complain that you "don't get even more". Because honestly, that's what your comment sounds like right now.

  • I find it hard to imagine that there wasn't a less controversial figure with similar qualifications," wrote one

    I find it hard to imagine that any sane person would actually want that job.

  • by Martin S. ( 98249 ) <<Martin.Spamer> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @09:14AM (#51372853) Homepage Journal

    What exactly are the grounds for this?

    The vote of no-confidence includes no info and the news link is particularly vague allegations of poaching.

  • Why yes. Yes they do.

  • The problem with wikipedia admins remains the immature teenage mind - emotional, irrational, quick to judge and slow to alter a judgement despite new evidence.

    The comments of the Florence Devouard, a former chair of the foundation and someone whose career I have watched exemplifies this in some respects. I struggle to find the logic in her statement of "Please take my vote as a respectful record of my perplexity." FFS.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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