To the leadership of the Wikimedia Foundation:
Along with you, we envision a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge, and seek to make that vision a reality. We are members and supporters of the Wikimedia community. We have great faith in the potential of the Wikimedia web sites and communities (commonly known as "projects") to move the world toward realizing this vision.
Recent actions undertaken by the Wikimedia Foundation (in deploying the Media Viewer and superprotect software capabilities) however, threaten and undermine our ability to pursue this vision together going forward. When new software substantially changes the way that our work and the work of our colleagues is presented to the world, it should be deployed only where there is broad agreement that it advances our vision and our strategic goals. Our software and our activities must strike a balance among the interests of a variety of stakeholders, including photographers, media curators, the subjects of photos, those viewing images, those seeking to reuse images, and others.
In addition, Wikipedia is fondly and importantly known as the encyclopedia anyone can edit — a concept whose central importance applies equally to all her sister projects. New software should not diminish the end user's awareness that they are invited to add to, improve, and curate Wikimedia content; ideally, it shouldincrease that awareness. The "superprotect" page status introduced to keep the Media Viewer enabled is even more extreme: for the first time, a software feature has been designed to take the ability to edit pages away from Wikimedia project communities, giving that ability exclusively to unelected Wikimedia staff members.
Alongside our general concerns, we are dismayed to see many of our colleagues making a variety of acts of protest. Longtime and respected Wikimedians have given up their advanced user permissions; ceased contributing to and translating the WMF publication Tech News; and repeatedly discussed whether it is time to create a fork of Wikimedia projects. Is it possible that the good will that contributes to attracting and retaining volunteers is eroding to a point that will significantly damage our ability to fulfill our vision? We cannot know, as there is no practical way to measure this; but recent trend toward acts of protest is, at the very least, alarming.
What can be done to get us back to a point where we can calmly discuss and pursue the best course(s) of action? We believe there are two simple steps that the Wikimedia Foundation can and should take.
Those of us signing below have varying perspectives on the Media Viewer software: some think it should be discontinued entirely, while others think it is a worthwhile addition to Wikimedia sites. Likewise, we have varying views on the new "superprotect" user right; some think it should not exist, while others think there is an appropriate place for this feature in our world, as long as its proper use is clearly defined and diligently executed.
But we are united in our belief that the following are necessary conditions for a healthy and productive path forward. We hereby request that you disavow and reconsider your recent statement to the contrary:
- * The Wikimedia Foundation should clearly assert that it will permit local projects (such as German Wikipedia, English Wikipedia, and Wikimedia Commons) to determine the default status of the Media Viewer, for both logged-in and non-logged-in users, uninhibited.
We look forward to improving our software together, to better reach our strategic goals and better attain our vision. But that process is hindered by the current state of affairs, and we need the Wikimedia Foundation to act decisively before it is possible to move forward effectively.
PLEASE NOTE: Wikimedia contributors are encouraged to sign this letter on Meta Wiki, instead of here on Change.org. Please do not sign in both places.
Cartoon by Don-kun, licensed CC BY-SA.