Discussion:
2014–16 audit of the WMF communications strategy
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Andreas Kolbe
2017-07-06 10:59:02 UTC
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For the past couple of days, there has been a discussion[1] of the 2014–16
audit of the WMF communications strategy[2] and the associated
recommendations for WMF messaging in the Wikipedia Weekly Facebook group.

The audit was performed by, or in collaboration with, political consultants
MinassianMedia.

I found some of the audit's recommendations troubling, and have summarised
my concerns on the related talk page on Meta.[3]

I'd welcome comments from volunteers and staff with an interest in
Wikimedia Foundation messaging.

Cheers,
Andreas

[1]
https://www.facebook.com/groups/wikipediaweekly/permalink/1366566440057850/
[2]
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/4a/Wikimedia_Foundation_communications_audit_-_2014-2016.pdf
[3]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Communications/Wikimedia_Foundation_messaging_strategy#Comments_on_the_2014.E2.80.9316_communications_audit
Leila Zia
2017-07-06 19:24:03 UTC
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Hi Andreas,
Post by Andreas Kolbe
I found some of the audit's recommendations troubling, and have summarised
my concerns on the related talk page on Meta.[3]
​I would love to find some time to go over the audit (67 pages) and your
comments/thoughts and share mine. However, given that this will require
substantial amount of time, I'm wondering if you or anyone else has a good
sense of areas that Wikimedia Foundation has decided to change its best
practices based on the audit notes. I'm assuming that receiving
recommendations for change doesn't mean that all recommendations are going
to go into effect, the teams usually spend a lot of care in implementing
changes considering the mission and their field knowledge of our Movement.
:) If we know which parts of the report Communications team has decided to
act on, then we won't spend our time on things that we already agree on. :)

I'm also wondering: Given that a Chief Communications Officer is to be
hired whether it's more productive to delay spending more time on this kind
of document until after this person is in office and we know more what
their vision/direction is.

(and as you may know by now: I have not followed discussions on this topic
before, my apologies if this is already addressed as part of the previous
conversations.)

Best,
Leila

​p.s. and you know this but for others: I'm in Research at Wikimedia
Foundation. I'm interested in this topic as communications is key for
surfacing the work I do as part of my responsibilities. I'm not talking on
behalf of Wikimedia Foundation or Communications team.​ :)
Post by Andreas Kolbe
Cheers,
Andreas
[1]
https://www.facebook.com/groups/wikipediaweekly/
permalink/1366566440057850/
[2]
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/4a/
Wikimedia_Foundation_communications_audit_-_2014-2016.pdf
[3]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Communications/Wikimedia_Foundation_
messaging_strategy#Comments_on_the_2014.E2.80.9316_communications_audit
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Rogol Domedonfors
2017-07-06 20:39:30 UTC
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Leila,

I am sorry to hear that your management have not seen fit to allow you the
time to read this report since it is on a topic that is key to work that
you do. But I think the underlying suggestion that Andreas or non-staff
readers should identify ways in which this report has changed WMF practices
is disingenuous. Surely it is the staff involved who can comment on the
extent to which they expect this report to change their thinking and
practices around communications. Of course it may well be, as you suggest,
that the Interim Chief of Communications see it as only proper to delay any
major response until her successor is in post. In either case, it would
hardly be a major investment of staff time to say so.

However, there is a point that it is proper for volunteers and donors to
raise. The company that produced this report is in receipt of some
hundreds of thousands of dollars of WMF money – which means donors' money.
If the assumptions on which they have founded their recommendations are
significantly at variance with the values and practices of the community at
large, then there is a disconnect that needs to be brought out into the
open and addressed, otherwise there is a serious risk of that money being
ineffectively spent.

"Rogol"
Post by Leila Zia
Hi Andreas,
Post by Andreas Kolbe
I found some of the audit's recommendations troubling, and have
summarised
Post by Andreas Kolbe
my concerns on the related talk page on Meta.[3]
​I would love to find some time to go over the audit (67 pages) and your
comments/thoughts and share mine. However, given that this will require
substantial amount of time, I'm wondering if you or anyone else has a good
sense of areas that Wikimedia Foundation has decided to change its best
practices based on the audit notes. I'm assuming that receiving
recommendations for change doesn't mean that all recommendations are going
to go into effect, the teams usually spend a lot of care in implementing
changes considering the mission and their field knowledge of our Movement.
:) If we know which parts of the report Communications team has decided to
act on, then we won't spend our time on things that we already agree on. :)
I'm also wondering: Given that a Chief Communications Officer is to be
hired whether it's more productive to delay spending more time on this kind
of document until after this person is in office and we know more what
their vision/direction is.
(and as you may know by now: I have not followed discussions on this topic
before, my apologies if this is already addressed as part of the previous
conversations.)
Best,
Leila
​p.s. and you know this but for others: I'm in Research at Wikimedia
Foundation. I'm interested in this topic as communications is key for
surfacing the work I do as part of my responsibilities. I'm not talking on
behalf of Wikimedia Foundation or Communications team.​ :)
Post by Andreas Kolbe
Cheers,
Andreas
[1]
https://www.facebook.com/groups/wikipediaweekly/
permalink/1366566440057850/
[2]
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/4a/
Wikimedia_Foundation_communications_audit_-_2014-2016.pdf
[3]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Communications/
Wikimedia_Foundation_
Post by Andreas Kolbe
messaging_strategy#Comments_on_the_2014.E2.80.9316_communications_audit
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Leila Zia
2017-07-06 20:51:56 UTC
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Hi Rogol,
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
Leila,
I am sorry to hear that your management have not seen fit to allow you the

time to read this report since it is on a topic that is key to work that
you do.
​This is not a concern on my end. Time, whether it's paid or not, is very
limited and being informed when spending it is a good practice. :)
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
But I think the underlying suggestion that Andreas or non-staff
readers should identify ways in which this report has changed WMF practices
is
​​
disingenuous.
​It wasn't a suggestion but a question, also the question was to Andreas or
anyone else reading this list/email which includes staff members.

I also consider a label such as "

disingenuous" disrespectful and am not interested in continuing this line
of conversation.

Best,
Leila
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
"Rogol"
Post by Leila Zia
Hi Andreas,
Post by Andreas Kolbe
I found some of the audit's recommendations troubling, and have
summarised
Post by Andreas Kolbe
my concerns on the related talk page on Meta.[3]
​I would love to find some time to go over the audit (67 pages) and your
comments/thoughts and share mine. However, given that this will require
substantial amount of time, I'm wondering if you or anyone else has a
good
Post by Leila Zia
sense of areas that Wikimedia Foundation has decided to change its best
practices based on the audit notes. I'm assuming that receiving
recommendations for change doesn't mean that all recommendations are
going
Post by Leila Zia
to go into effect, the teams usually spend a lot of care in implementing
changes considering the mission and their field knowledge of our
Movement.
Post by Leila Zia
:) If we know which parts of the report Communications team has decided
to
Post by Leila Zia
act on, then we won't spend our time on things that we already agree on.
:)
Post by Leila Zia
I'm also wondering: Given that a Chief Communications Officer is to be
hired whether it's more productive to delay spending more time on this
kind
Post by Leila Zia
of document until after this person is in office and we know more what
their vision/direction is.
(and as you may know by now: I have not followed discussions on this
topic
Post by Leila Zia
before, my apologies if this is already addressed as part of the previous
conversations.)
Best,
Leila
​p.s. and you know this but for others: I'm in Research at Wikimedia
Foundation. I'm interested in this topic as communications is key for
surfacing the work I do as part of my responsibilities. I'm not talking
on
Post by Leila Zia
behalf of Wikimedia Foundation or Communications team.​ :)
Post by Andreas Kolbe
Cheers,
Andreas
[1]
https://www.facebook.com/groups/wikipediaweekly/
permalink/1366566440057850/
[2]
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/4a/
Wikimedia_Foundation_communications_audit_-_2014-2016.pdf
[3]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Communications/
Wikimedia_Foundation_
Post by Andreas Kolbe
messaging_strategy#Comments_on_the_2014.E2.80.9316_
communications_audit
Post by Leila Zia
Post by Andreas Kolbe
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Chris Keating
2017-07-06 21:28:58 UTC
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Post by Leila Zia
Hi Andreas,
Post by Andreas Kolbe
I found some of the audit's recommendations troubling, and have
summarised
Post by Andreas Kolbe
my concerns on the related talk page on Meta.[3]
​I would love to find some time to go over the audit (67 pages) and your
comments/thoughts and share mine.
As someone who has in fact read the whole 67 pages (twice now), I am happy
to share my conclusions:

1) The communications audit is only of interest to people with a particular
interest in Wikimedia movement communications and does not have wider
significance.

2) Given that the audit was finished in September 2016 and was greeted by a
marked lack of fanfare, anything that the Foundation was going to do
differently as a result of the audit has probably already happened.

(It's difficult to tell from Meta whether anything has actually changed,
but the report made a number of very sensible recommendations like WMF
Comms working more with chapters, engaging more with non-English language
audiences, and trying to avoid coverage about vandalism - hopefully those
have all been picked up!)

3) If one reads any 67-page document related to the Wikimedia movement
determined to find points of criticism, then it's probably possible to do
so. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that the longer the document, the
easier it is to find selective quotes to support an arbitrary level of
outrage about its contents.

Regards,

Chris
Rogol Domedonfors
2017-07-07 06:18:37 UTC
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Chris

Your points
1: Surely the audit is of interest to those with whom the Foundation wishes
to communicate, which includes the donors, who are paying for it, and the
volunteers, whose work is being presented to the world at large in ways
that might not always be consistent with their values and practices.
2: If the things that were already going to happen have already happened,
then presumably somebody made them happen and those people would find it
quick and easy to explain to the community what those things were (I take
it from your wording that you are not one of those people). Explaining to
the donors what $436K of their money bought would rarely come amiss.
2': Andreas made the point that "trying to avoid coverage" about a problem
is not necessarily the best strategy. Being open about a problem may be
better, and/or more consistent with community values. But that is a
discussion for another location. The point of this thread is to encourage
participation in that debate.
3: Quotes are by their nature "selective" since otherwise one would simply
repeat the entire document, which is unlikely to be optimal. If you
believe those quotes are not representative, have the courage to say so –
you have read the whole document, after all. Suggesting that Andreas
selected quotes to support an arbitrary level of outrage is, to use Leila's
word, disrespectful.

"Rogol"
Post by Chris Keating
Post by Leila Zia
Hi Andreas,
Post by Andreas Kolbe
I found some of the audit's recommendations troubling, and have
summarised
Post by Andreas Kolbe
my concerns on the related talk page on Meta.[3]
​I would love to find some time to go over the audit (67 pages) and your
comments/thoughts and share mine.
As someone who has in fact read the whole 67 pages (twice now), I am happy
1) The communications audit is only of interest to people with a particular
interest in Wikimedia movement communications and does not have wider
significance.
2) Given that the audit was finished in September 2016 and was greeted by a
marked lack of fanfare, anything that the Foundation was going to do
differently as a result of the audit has probably already happened.
(It's difficult to tell from Meta whether anything has actually changed,
but the report made a number of very sensible recommendations like WMF
Comms working more with chapters, engaging more with non-English language
audiences, and trying to avoid coverage about vandalism - hopefully those
have all been picked up!)
3) If one reads any 67-page document related to the Wikimedia movement
determined to find points of criticism, then it's probably possible to do
so. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that the longer the document, the
easier it is to find selective quotes to support an arbitrary level of
outrage about its contents.
Regards,
Chris
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Chris Keating
2017-07-07 08:20:54 UTC
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Dear Rogol,
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
1: Surely the audit is of interest to those with whom the Foundation wishes
to communicate, which includes the donors, who are paying for it, and the
volunteers, whose work is being presented to the world at large in ways
that might not always be consistent with their values and practices.
Your mileage may vary, but usually I find that the large majority of donors
and volunteers have little interest in reading a document this detailed.
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
2: If the things that were already going to happen have already happened,
then presumably somebody made them happen and those people would find it
quick and easy to explain to the community what those things were (I take
it from your wording that you are not one of those people). Explaining to
the donors what $436K of their money bought would rarely come amiss.
Well, hopefully someone at WMF knows what happened as a result and how
things have changed. There is a very brief bit of documentation for 16-17
messaging strategy still marked as a work in progress, so certainly the
outcomes could be better documented on Meta.

Whether the staff concerned feel it's a good use of their time to respond
in detail on Meta or on this email list, who knows. There is always a
judgement call to be made about what it's helpful for staff to spend their
time replying to. However, if I was in their position, looking at the
nature of comments on Wikipedia Weekly, on Meta and in this thread, I would
probably not be leaping to provide a full and thorough response.
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
2': Andreas made the point that "trying to avoid coverage" about a problem
is not necessarily the best strategy. Being open about a problem may be
better, and/or more consistent with community values. But that is a
discussion for another location. The point of this thread is to encourage
participation in that debate.
Yes, indeed, there is a legitimate question about how bullish WMF Comms
ought to be about Wikipedia. Generally however I think they get it about
right.
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
3: Quotes are by their nature "selective" since otherwise one would simply
repeat the entire document, which is unlikely to be optimal. If you
believe those quotes are not representative, have the courage to say so –
you have read the whole document, after all.
Simply highlighting the ~1 page of arguably controversial stuff in a 67
page document is also unlikely to be optimal, because it creates a biased
and misleading impression of the whole document, and gives the impression
(accurately or not) that one's main interest is stirring up controversy.

Regards,

Chris
Rogol Domedonfors
2017-07-07 16:46:59 UTC
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Chris
Post by Chris Keating
Whether the staff concerned feel it's a good use of their time to respond
in detail on Meta or on this email list, who knows. There is always a
judgement call to be made about what it's helpful for staff to spend their
time replying to. However, if I was in their position, looking at the
nature of comments on Wikipedia Weekly, on Meta and in this thread, I would
probably not be leaping to provide a full and thorough response.
In the interests of improving communications between staff and the
community of volunteers and donors, please indicate how a request might
have been framed that would have encouraged your colleagues "to provide a
full and thorough response"?

"Rogol"
Chris Keating
2017-07-07 17:47:42 UTC
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Hello Rogol,
Post by Rogol Domedonfors
Post by Chris Keating
Whether the staff concerned feel it's a good use of their time to respond
in detail on Meta or on this email list, who knows. There is always a
judgement call to be made about what it's helpful for staff to spend
their
Post by Chris Keating
time replying to. However, if I was in their position, looking at the
nature of comments on Wikipedia Weekly, on Meta and in this thread, I
would
Post by Chris Keating
probably not be leaping to provide a full and thorough response.
In the interests of improving communications between staff and the
community of volunteers and donors, please indicate how a request might
have been framed that would have encouraged your colleagues "to provide a
full and thorough response"?
Just to be clear they aren't "my colleagues" :)

However I would suggest that the following things make it less likely to be
worth responding:
* Many of the points the WMF could make have already been said by community
members, either on Facebook or on Meta. (For instance, in the words of one
Wikimedian who is normally unafraid to express his criticisms of the WMF,
"Organisation has desire and strategy to maximise positive media coverage.
Shock horror. Film at 11.")
* Despite the issue having been raised in three different fora, the number
of community members who are expressing concerns remains countable on the
fingers of two hands.
* Given that the criticisms are expressed as selective quotes without any
appreciation of context (either from the document or the wider
environment), the staff who would be inclined to respond are probably
concerned that any response they gave would also be selectively quoted to
misconstrue what they were saying
* The whole idea that there was something wrong here started on the
Wikipediocracy forums, which is a hotbed of crackpot Wikiconspiracy

Of course I wouldn't suggest any of these is an absolute counterindication
for WMF staff wishing to spend their time responding to the issue, but it
all adds up...

Regards,

Chris
Robert M. Fernandez
2017-07-07 17:02:25 UTC
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Post by Chris Keating
Simply highlighting the ~1 page of arguably controversial stuff in a 67
page document is also unlikely to be optimal, because it creates a biased
and misleading impression of the whole document, and gives the impression
(accurately or not) that one's main interest is stirring up controversy.
That's very dismissive of legitimate concerns. If something is of genuine
worry, how many pages should it take up before we are allowed to raise our
concerns about it?
Chris Keating
2017-07-07 18:00:19 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Hi Robert,
Post by Robert M. Fernandez
Post by Chris Keating
Simply highlighting the ~1 page of arguably controversial stuff in a 67
page document is also unlikely to be optimal, because it creates a biased
and misleading impression of the whole document, and gives the impression
(accurately or not) that one's main interest is stirring up controversy.
That's very dismissive of legitimate concerns. If something is of genuine
worry, how many pages should it take up before we are allowed to raise our
concerns about it?
Where there's a genuine worry, I think it's much more likely to get a
constructive response if the worry is expressed with understanding of the
context.

"Here are my five concerns about this document" is quite a different thing
to read from "Most of this document seems pretty sensible. However, are
five concerns I have about it, though I think I have only spotted one of
them actually happening at all"

Regards,

Chris

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