March 25, 2007 |
I caught a WiredNews story by Kim Zetter about some recent resignations at Wikimedia, the 501(c)3 non-profit foundation that supports Wikipedia and its sister projects. According to the article two top foundation employees resigned citing disagreements with the governing board of the foundation.
Danny Wool has been the grants coordinator at the foundation since 2005 and has been accepted widely as the number two man at Wikimedia. Wool talked of his resignation in a note to the foundation list. This note was followed by one from Brad Patrick who is general counsel and interim Executive Director of the foundation. Patrick had formerly tendered his resignation earlier this month but decided to announce it publicly after Wool's note.
Wikimedia's board is comprised of people from the Wikipedia community who are elected by the community. There are no particular competencies required for being elected to the board, which seems to have really been one of the reasons for these resignations.
Patrick made statements to WiredNews essentially bashing the board for not having the capacity to properly run the organization. Apparently these two members are no longer in sync with the open and free nature of the organization. Wikipedia is the very essence of an interactive online community, but there has been growing tension obviously given some of the statements made over course.
Jimmy Wales seemed rather confused by all the conflict over the organization obtaining outside help because an advisory board had just been put together out of the business, academic and not for profit arenas in order to assist the board.
Wool essentially said that he was not so much resigning as he was desirous of working in a different capacity. Wool apparently carried a great deal more clout than his title suggested.
From what has been expressed, it looks to me like what happened was a power struggle or conflict in egos. Some 50,000 people donated $1 million dollars last December in just four weeks. Evidently there was some conflict over how these funds should be allocated, in particular business opportunities.
Patrick noted that the future of the foundation rested in the ability of the board to find a "very powerful" executive director to provide leadership. I think this says a great deal about what may be going on at the foundation. This looks like someone who had a free hand to make whatever decisions they desired, and then someone did not say "how far" when they were asked to jump. The current members of the board do not appear to be a group of simpletons or incompetents to me. It is interesting to note that much of this was evidently not to the knowledge of Wales and that he is overseas right now.
I don't think you have to be a Wall Street attorney or Harvard Business School graduate to make good decisions or ask for expert help. Wikipedia got this far without high powered business people, perhaps it would be good to make note of that before trying to change Wikimedia into just another business.