Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wikimedia Board candidates: Michael Snow

I'm going to sneak this one in during lunch if I can, because if I take much longer on these the elections will start before I'm done. The next candidate to examine is Michael Snow, the well-known editor of the Wikipedia Signpost, a weekly newsletter published on the English Wikipedia. He has also long been the chair of the WMF Communications committee.

I've long respected Michael, ever since the time he cut both me and Jimbo off in the same discussion. (He even apologized to me for doing it later, even though it was entirely the right thing to do at the time.) I've been consistently impressed by his ability to remain calm and respectful when others around him are losing their tempers, heads, and self-control.

Michael's chairmanship of the Communications committee should, of course, be examined, and this is an area that does not, at first glance, speak well for him. The ComCom often fails to do a very good job of dealing with the communications needs of the Board. However, I blame the Board for this, and not Michael: the Board rarely tells the ComCom what it needs to know in order to keep the Board out of PR issues and so the ComCom spends most of its time reacting to issues that it did not know were coming because the Board has kept it in the dark. For example, when I broke the news about Sue Gardner earlier this week, the ComCom should have handled the situation; instead, it was handled first ineptly by Gerard Meissen, who has no formal relationship with the Foundation but is clearly a power broker, and then by Erik Moeller, a Board member himself. I don't know if the Board has requested the ComCom to prepare statements related to the hiring process, but it certainly should have done so. In any case, I doubt the ComCom has been kept appraised, which is why Erik is handing PR matters instead of the communications committee, and so the failure of the ComCom to properly manage the public relations for the Board cannot be fairly attributed to Michael.

Michael's answers to questions are without a doubt the best of any of the candidates. His responses are complete, coherent, and contemplative, and he is not skipping questions he doesn't feel like answering. I am especially fond of his comments regarding chapters as members, which is also my opinion of the proper direction for the Foundation to proceed in returning to a membership format.

Of all the candidates I've seen, Michael is the only one that wins my unqualified endorsement. I just hope that that endorsement does not ruin his chances, which I think are good but by no means assured, as I suspect that the Europeans will not be likely to support him. Michael's strong name recognition on the English Wikipedia and sterling reputation throughout the projects will definitely help him, though. His best hope is for high turnout on the English Wikipedia, since most of those voters (that is, editors who are not very much involved in day to day governance, but who are voting anyway out of a sense of duty) will be voting primarily on name recognition; he will do better with that electorate than virtually any other candidate.


  1. I think you're playing the Europeans vs. Americans angle up a bit. I'm European and I will very likely vote for both Kate and Michael. I, too, have been impressed with Michael's detailed, contemplative and *prompt* responses to questions. Some of the candidates have been amazingly slow to answer questions and that does not speak well for them. If you won't even respond to the community during an election campaign then when will you?

    I've enjoyed reading your series of election posts. Though I strongly disagree with a lot you say, your blog has been one of the very few places offering analytical commentary on election issues.

  2. I should clarify that by "Europeans" I don't necessarily mean everyone living on the European continent; rather, that term is a shorthand for a group of people, mostly Europeans although there are a handful of Americans and others as well, who are more strongly involved in the social-networking aspects of the Foundation than its other roles, and who seem intent on giving those aspects more importance/significance. Frieda is a good example, with her claim that "chapters are key", since the main function of chapters, as far as I can tell, seems to be social networking. I identify them as Europeans because, well, most of them are Europeans, and relatively few Americans are pursuing the same set of interests and values.

    I'll expand on this more in a post-election series discussion on why there is no US Chapter.

  3. After reading the bios, Michael is the only credible, qualified candidate. What a sad situation that the board is full of unqualified people.

  4. Anonymous, this is an editorial blog. Candidates are cast as scheming demons or all-but-singing saints based on Kelly's approval, with rather little objectivity or verifiability.

    Before making a judgment on a candidate, take these posts with a grain of salt and consult more than a single (albeit interesting) editorial blog.

  5. Jesse Martin, I am well aware that this is the opinion page of Kelly Martin. The bios I am referring to are the candidate questionnaires themselves.

    Which other candidates have strong organizational experience outside of Wikipedia? Which other candidates have ever been in a leadership position of a large organization with a million dollar yearly budget?

    Michael Snow is not only the best qualified candidate, but is the only qualified candidate. My problem in voting was that after Michael Snow, I had to choose two other candidates from a crowd that I didn't feel was qualified for the positions.

  6. May I point your attention to the fact that Kurt Jansson (Wikimedia DE) even sent out a personal vote recommendation on the german mailinglist in which he clearly said that he considered Michael Snow to be the best candidate? And he is not alone with this attitude, many european (chapter...) wikimedians are in support of Michael Snow (I have no evidence for this except private conversation logs and emails).
    This is not a Europe vs. America issue...

  7. "been in a leadership position of a large organization with a million dollar yearly budget"

    Get real. Michael Snow is an unemployed realtor with a third-rate law degree so he can close contracts before the suckers change their mind.

    Mr. Snow is only running for the board because they wouldn't give him a job as the foundation attorney!

    Wikipedia is like the government in that can you get turned down for a job and then end up in charge of everyone.

    He'll fit in fine with the rest of Wikipedia's unemployed. Mindspillage, Eloquence, Anthere... Jimbo too, for the most part. But that doesn't mean he is qualified, it means quite the opposite.

  8. "Get real. Michael Snow is an unemployed realtor with a third-rate law degree so he can close contracts before the suckers change their mind."

    A third-rate law degree is better than none. As for Kat being "unemployed" based on these two prior statements, I'm guessing you've never been to law school.