Friday, June 22, 2007

Wikimedia Board candidates: Danny

Well, the first one was easy: Ausir wasn't a serious candidate. The next one to look at is very much a serious candidate, and in fact probably the most significant of the candidates. That would be Danny Wool.

Danny has long been involved in Wikipedia and the Foundation. Danny is one of the earliest editors on the English Wikipedia (2001) and is also quite active on Wikisource. He was also employed by the Foundation for a rather long time, recently resigning his position while refusing at the time to state his reasons. It has become quite clear that Danny is very dissatisfied with the leadership of the Foundation. His campaign slogan appears to be "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, Latin for "who watches the watchers?" and he speaks frequently of fiduciary duty and the need for independent oversight. Based on his questions page (including the parts that have been redacted), and comments elsewhere, it would appear that Danny believes that the current leadership is behaving unethically, possibly even illegally, and intends to (if elected) use his Board membership as a platform to launch an ethics investigation into the conduct of the other Board members. Danny is strongly campaigning on a platform of increased professionalism by the Foundation, including a much stronger commitment to oversight. It appears to be his position that the Foundation is in dire waters and headed in entirely the wrong direction.

My analysis: Danny likely brings more to the table as a Board member than any of the other candidates. He actually has relevant experience in a number of related fields as well as intimate knowledge of the Foundation, likely deeper than even most members of the Board. It is quite obvious that Florence fears Danny. GerardM, Erik's trained attack dog, is also very much opposed to Danny, even going so far as to call him a dirty American at one point. Gerard's suggestion that Danny should be disqualified from the election for a "conflict of interest" is ludicrous, and shows the depths to which Erik's coalition is willing to go to keep Danny out. Florence even went so far as to beg the wikichix list for astroturf opposition to Danny's candidacy, a thread that I admittedly stopped reading out of disgust rather early on.

There is a significant debate between Danny and Florence on Danny's question page. The two of them present "versions of the truth" that are quite incompatible with one another. At times it is hard to know who to believe; one has to fall back onto their personal experiences with the individuals in question to decide who is more credible. Frankly, for me I'm going to take Danny's word over Florence's. I have long had concerns about Florence's motivations as a board member and even more as chairman of the board. The information vacuum that the Board maintains around its activities doesn't help much; not only does it make it really difficult to tell what is really going on, but it also lends a lot of credence to Danny's allegations of misconduct. Erik's insistence on the value of "secret minutes" (you'll have to see his questions page for that discussion; I'll expand on that more later when I get to his candidacy) also raises red flags for me. Even if Danny's wrong and there is no wrongdoing lurking behind the shifty walls, the fact that these walls exist is disturbing. The Foundation needs to be far more open than it is.

Danny might squeeze by for the third seat. He is broadly known and well-liked by many people on many projects; at the same time he has some very powerful enemies lobbying very aggressively against him, and there are a lot of people angry at Danny for his dedicated efforts to keep spam out of the English Wikipedia. I suspect his final tally will land him somewhere between third and fifth.