Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wikimedia election results

So, the elections are over; the winners were Erik, Kat, and Frieda. Most of you probably know this by now. I had originally projected that Erik would win and that the other two would be chosen from Kat, Oscar, Michael Snow, Danny, Yann, and Frieda, but that I could not narrow it down more closely than that. What's interesting is that while Erik's and Kat's margins were quite large, the competition for the third seat was quite close, with fully five candidates (Frieda, Oscar, Michael Snow, and Danny) all within 100 votes of one another.

None of the candidates has a mandate; Erik's percentage of support was lower this time than it was last time and obviously Frieda's tiny margin of victory over Oscar demonstrates that her election is "but by the grace of God". That incumbency did not give Oscar enough votes to be reelected is something of a condemnation of his tenure, especially when Erik and Kat both clearly benefited from their incumbencies.

Fears that the Board might repudiate the results did not materialize, although that's not all that surprising as the one candidate that certain loud people were so upset about did not quite get enough votes. There are clearly several people who are still upset about Greg's get-out-the-vote campaign, although my impression is that most people think it was a reasonable act, and I expect that the election committee will be expected to do this next time around. In general, the election was poorly planned and poorly communicated; the main problems seem to have been trying to do things on too compressed a timetable, and a general lack of communication from the EC and the Board about the election (which, given that this is the Wikimedia Foundation we're talking about, is not in the least bit surprising).

My advice for the next election:
  • Change from approval voting to some form of preference voting. Approval voting is easily gamed, and broadly misunderstood especially when multiple seats are up for election. Preference voting is more likely to yield results that reflect the true intents of the electorate, in my opinion. (However, there is a risk of preference voting making the cost of voting high enough to significantly discourage voting.)

  • Formally and officially invite all eligible voters personally to participate in the election, using direct communication. Do not rely on broadcast announcements.

  • Allow more time between the close of nominations and the start of voting. The short timeframe did not give voters much time to digest all the information that was generated by the nomination and questioning process; I suspect many voters voted based almost entirely on name recognition.

  • Spend more time on planning and preparation in advance of the start of the voting process. Perhaps this will avoid a repeat of some of the unfortunate events that happened during this election due to sloppy planning and poor communication.
As to the impact on the Foundation: I personally considered Oscar to be the most useless and least competent of the members of the board. I do not know Frieda well, and didn't learn much about her from her candidacy page, but I imagine she cannot be worse than Oscar, and so will probably be something of an improvement. I suppose time will tell in that regard. It's pretty clear to me that she won on the basis of popularity (although her pretty breasts I'm sure also helped some). Otherwise, Kat and Erik are returning, and I think we pretty much know what we're getting with them. So overall I don't think there's too much of a change there. Business as usual. The only question at this point, really, is whether Erik will keep this time any of the campaign promises he made last time. I'm not counting on it.