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.