User talk:Tango/Consultancy

From Wikimedia UK
< User talk:Tango
Revision as of 15:38, 10 October 2012 by WereSpielChequers (talk | contribs) (→‎I'm confused: re to Tango)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hi Tango, in a narrow sense I think that if the community allowed it this could work. At least as far as the paid editors and their clients were concerned. I think you'd have a problem recruiting unpaid volunteer trustees who were willing to take responsibility for a business that others profited from and they didn't. Though you might find that a little easier if this was employing people who otherwise struggle in the job market - wheel chair users for example. You'd have a bigger problem with the community as this is clearly paid editing, and paid editing by people who know their way round Wikipedia. In my view any situation where Wikipedians take on paying clients is going to be contentious, and those Wikipedians who participate are going to come under pressure to edit favourably to their clients. BTW thanks for moving this to a wiki, but it should really have been meta or Wikipedia EN as this really isn't something where the UK could have different rules. WereSpielChequers (talk) 23:29, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

You may have a point that finding the directors (they're not really trustees - it's not a trust) could be difficult. I don't think it would be too much work, though, and you get to help raise money for WMUK and take business away from people that are doing the same thing in the wrong way. If you want the business to be successful, then you need to hire people based on their ability to do the job. Positive discrimination is just as bad for business as negative discrimination. This is very specifically not paid editing. The consultants wouldn't be doing anything other than the things we tell people with conflicts of interest they ought to be doing (posting on talk pages, mostly). It's not really any different to a member of staff at a company emailing OTRS and going through all the steps they are told about, just that the consultant knows how to do it more effectively. I chose to post this here because I think if this were to happen, it would be very closely affiliated with (if not owned by) Wikimedia UK. (There could be similar businesses in other countries, of course.) Also, there is a chance of getting a fair hearing here - if this were on meta or enwiki, any productive discussion would get drowned out. --Tango (talk) 23:44, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for fleshing this out. I do agree with the underlying problem statement: the present complaints system is full of pitfalls, and is positively customer-hostile to anyone who does not speak "the right language". I've dropped a link to this page on the CREWE Facebook page, and have also added a link and brief summary (feel free to edit it) in en:WP in the ongoing discussion on Jimbo's talk page about how the Wikipedia complaints system could be improved. Andreas JN 01:01, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
This sounds like a replica of what I do for companies, except that profits are donated to WMF. I am not sure it's a good idea for WMF to get involved in a for-profit consultancy service related to its own website, but clearer guidelines and processes for corporate participation on Wikipedia will result in the behavior your advocating for in the commercial sector.
On the other hand, companies willing to give up editorial control could follow a similar model using the reward board, which puts WMF in a less awkward position. If company XYZ posts a $1,000 reward for a GA article, that would blow up the reward board.
One of the problems isn't that Wikipedia consultants don't know ethical best practices, but that companies themselves (the clients) don't know what is or isn't ethical. There is so much misinformation on the topic, that otherwise ethical companies unknowingly engage in unlawful astroturfing on Wikipedia, while other ethical companies wrongly believe that any participation on Wikipedia is risky and unethical.
If we can establish clearer boundaries, companies will participate in the manner outlined in this page on their own, whether through a consultant or in-house. Corporate 02:22, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
  • I'm not against WMUK trading, or making a proft from merchandising or competing with others. But whilst I would very happily see WMUK calenders on sale, and a couple of my relatives's would get them as Xmas presents if they were in the shops, I am really uncomfortable with the idea of paid editing and especially paid editing where a part of the Wikimedia movement was taking a cut. If a covert paid editor salves their conscience by trying to stick to some ethical standard and/or anonymously donating part of their fee to WMUK then that is between them and their conscience. If someone offering a paid editing service was to offer WMUK a cut I would hope they would decline the offer. WereSpielChequers (talk) 23:17, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
    • I agree. This is a PR minefield, and there is no pressing need for WMUK to enter it. Andreas JN 00:05, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

Third party certification[edit source]

One of the suggestions I raised several months ago with the board, before we placed a contract for Train the Trainers, was to not provide Train the Trainers courses under the Wikimedia UK umbrella. I suggested providing this as a Third Party certification scheme and let the independent body deliver the training, which may be on a non-profit basis. Your current concept mentions that this might be a "trading subsidiary of Wikimedia UK, then the Wikimedia UK board would appoint the directors" — this sets my alarm bells ringing and my intuition is that such a scheme would not truly be open enough to meet our values, however a third party scheme would ensure that the only involvement of Wikimedia UK would be in establishing the standards for third party delivery, after that any organization could deliver training, consultancy or other services without needing any permission, control or partnership with Wikimedia UK. The implementation of certification (and hence ensuring appropriate governance throughout), would be the full responsibility, and under the authority of, the NFP third party body. This would also enable healthy competition for anyone that wished to deliver certified services on a commercial basis.

Even though a second run of the course is scheduled for the end of this month, I am strongly recommending Wikimedia UK reconsider the current Train the Training programme and, if the board can ever reach a ruddy consensus on this point, ask current attendees to either sign up on the basis of them never delivering a commercial service, or to ask those attendees that might use the training in this way, to defer until we have a better arrangement where Wikimedia UK is not using charitable monies to fund people to be certified for a service they may commercialize — to be clear, even if this is the case, such a scheme is fully within the guidelines of the Charity Commission and many cases can be found of other UK charities that have such schemes. For me, in consideration of the values of our wider community and my ethical compass, this is not a grey area, but of course, I cannot speak for the Board as a whole and am writing my personal viewpoint here, as we do not yet have a joint agreed position.

For reasons of super transparency and openness, I will declare that in the last millennium, I worked with Logica and my experience in how third party frameworks are established is based on that experience. I have no current or recent interests that are relevant to declare, otherwise you would already know about them and they would be listed on Declarations of Interest. Cheers -- (talk) 10:33, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

That's an interesting idea, but I don't think it would solve the problem I describe. A key part of my idea is that it ensures the control of the consultancy service rests with Wikimedians that are doing it for the benefit of the movement. Your idea would ensure the consultants know what they ought to be doing, but there would be no way to ensure they actually do it. In what way is my idea "not open"? What definition of "open" are you using? --Tango (talk) 11:09, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
The scheme you suggest is not open in a commercial competitive sense as it appears limited to a subsidiary or parter (or series of partnerships) of Wikimedia UK that are likely to be composed of sole trader Wikimedians wanting to get paid on a day rate for extra pocket money. Under a third party scheme, it must remain fully open to the market, including any training or consultancy companies of any kind that can meet the third party assessed criteria, such as Midas Training or much larger commercial beasts such as CGI. The question of "benefit to the movement" would be addressed by the criteria and standards that Wikimedia UK would be active in establishing and would have no market validity were Wikimedia UK (or potentially the Wikimedia Foundation) to refuse to agree them.
The point here is we really mean open or we don't. For the moment I would rather guarantee no commercial interests are involved until we can establish a credible scheme and agree it with all stakeholders, including the consensus of Wikipedians (more than just English Wikipedia!), Wikimedians who are interested in future consulting, the Wikimedia Foundation and, dare I say it, Jimmy Wales. Cheers -- (talk) 11:17, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
You mean "open" as in "open market"? I don't think that's what "open" in our values is talking about. Wikimedia UK doesn't have an official position on the merits of economic systems... I don't think anything anti-competitive about my idea anyway. Of course it has a unique selling point (the association with Wikimedia UK), but any good business has something that other people can't easily replicate. Incidentally, I haven't suggested anything involving sole traders. This would be a company with, perhaps, five staff (it could expand if it's successful, but five would be about right to get things going). As for getting a consensus of all stakeholders - that will never happen. There would certainly need to be a thorough public consultation, but if you would only act with a consensus then there is no point even trying. --Tango (talk) 11:45, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Having Wikimedia UK sponsor or be seen to authorize a commercial or NFP company as the sole approved provider of Wikimedia related consulting services, would certainly be accused of being anticompetitive, widely and publicly. You may want to address the reasoning as to how we can justify this would be in the interests of the charity in comparison to other, more open, solutions. It strikes me that the intent of "open" is more than making our documents and proposals public, but comes bundled with with openness of fair access and opportunity. I have struck "consensus" in my last comment rather than making it a sticking point; I am very tired of pointing out that consensus is more complex than a majority vote of whoever happens to be "in the room" and don't want to make a thing of it here. Cheers -- (talk) 12:17, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by "approved"... there is nothing to stop other people offering the same service - there is no regulator handing out licenses. My idea is to stop them precisely by competing with them. My idea better serves the interests of the charity than yours simply because mine would actually achieve my stated goal. I don't think yours would. There is no way Wikimedia UK could actually regulate the market in a way that would prevent third party consultants behaving improperly. It could provide training and could certify that someone has completely the training, but that's it. That wouldn't be enough. And, for the record, I know what consensus means. --Tango (talk) 12:40, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Third party certification does not mean that the consultants delivering under the framework are third parties, they are second parties. Thanks -- (talk) 12:42, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
True, but does that impact on my point at all? -Tango (talk) 13:59, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

Tango, one of the issues is that if your aim is market regulation you are scuppered by the fact that the service would probably have to spend significant time patrolling Wikipedia for problematic edits by competitors. Because it is still possible to insert such material with relative ease, any company considering consultation of this sort would have compelling reasons to choose an "unregulated" service provider with less restrictions (i.e. working within policy) than the official one. On top of that there is the concern of any company regulating a marketplace it competes in - that is a protection racket! :) --ErrantX (talk) 14:59, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

The value of any certification program is that it validates a participant's skills and - in this case - ethics, to make it easier for clients to know which services are or aren't kosher. That un-certified hacks will continue to roam is inconsequential, since anyone seeking a certified consultant is looking to do things honorably. Certification provides a more obvious path for companies trying to do things the right way, but it has nothing to do with anyone with ill-intentions, which is another topic with different solutions.
On the other hand, if we create clear boundaries and consistent processes, the ethics test should be an easy one.

Do you edit articles directly?

If yes, well, maybe they are on the up and up (probably not), but they are in murcky waters. If no, that is the obvious choice for honorable companies. (with the disclaimer that to make it the obvious choice, we need to set clear boundaries and establish consistent processes that make it an effective approach)
As a Wikipedia consultant, I've seen this discussion a few places where Wikipedians want to influence the market, which is fine to an extent, but I think we should only establish the behavior that is appropriate on Wikipedia or maybe even make recommendations on criteria, but we should not endorse specific vendors or anything bordering on it (myself included), because it is an inappropriate position for WMF or for the Wikipedia community. Corporate
No, my aim is not to regulate the market. I never said anything of the sort. My aim is to control the market through competing with it. Rather than try and stop people offering these services in proper ways we should just offer a better service so that nobody uses them. --Tango (talk) 17:14, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Difficulties with this idea[edit source]

Here are some areas of difficulty:

  1. I share Fæ's concerns about openness. As it stands, the idea involves Wikimedia UK people trading for profit on the Wikimedia UK name. The potential for this to be portrayed as self-interest and unfair competition is great. There is also a great risk of a sort of meatpuppeting, or the perception thereof, whereby other Wikimedia UK members would come to a paid advocate's aid in on-wiki discussions, along with the risk of on-wiki and media scandals that could result.
  2. Tom's reference to a protection racket is apt. Seen from the critics' angle, you have a website that lacks safeguards like flagged revisions or consistent implementation of policy to prevent abuses, and which also lacks an effective complaints procedure where genuinely wronged parties can get prompt, uncomplicated satisfaction. But rather than cleaning house, the charity supporting this website starts a commercial service designed to help people undo what the website has done to them. This business model has indeed uncomfortable parallels with that of a protection racket: throw a brick through someone's shop window, and then ask them to pay you to put a new window in and "protect" them from any further bricks that will come flying if they don't pay. You see? And at the same time the whole service is said to be "charitable" ... and aims to prevent anyone else from providing similar protection. It does not add up, morally. Think of a paid Facebook support service to help you cope with Facebook bullying. (Funnily enough, it adds up far more easily, morally, for someone like Greg Kohs. He maintains that Wikipedia is an uncontrolled defamation engine, and he provides customers with protection. In his case, the person throwing the brick and the person offering protection are not part of the same team.)
  3. This is most definitely paid editing. If I post on talk pages and noticeboards in defence of a paying client's interest, or start an AfD and argue their case for them, then I am beyond a shadow of a doubt engaged in paid editing. It is at least as valuable as writing an article on a client.
  4. You'll never get Jimbo to agree to this. You may not have to, because Jimbo's times as god-king are long past, but just saying.
  5. I absolutely agree with you about the fundamental problem (lack of an efficient, customer-oriented complaints system in Wikipedia, and people feeling clueless). I just think this makes it worse. You might get happy customers, but it would do serious damage to both Wikipedia and Wikimedia UK. Cheers. --Andreas JN 01:37, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
  1. The company would be a for-profit company, so I suppose there is "trading for profit" involved, but all those profits go to charity so I don't a problem with self-interest. I also think the meatpuppetry problem you describe is very unlikely to happen. I haven't seen that kind of unity between WMUK members...
  2. That is an interesting point, and one I hadn't really thought about. I'm not sure the analogy quite works, though. A protection racket involves getting someone to pay you not to do something illegal. We're not talking about anything illegal. If an article contains libellous, or otherwise illegal, content then the procedure is to complain to the WMF's legal team who will deal with it. The consultants I describe wouldn't be dealing with legal issues, but rather with fixing innocent mistakes and improving articles. That articles aren't perfect doesn't mean that anyone has done something wrong.
  3. How is this any different to an employee of a company with an article emailing OTRS and following their instructions? We don't call that paid editing. This is just outsourcing that work to an expert. The work itself is the same.
  4. Jimmy has long since stopped having that kind of influence. The community has no problem disagreeing with him. This idea doesn't really need community approval, anyway, it just needs there not to be active resistance (there would need to be a consultation process aimed at minimising such resistance - if it becomes clear that there is no way to appease the community and prevent such resistance, the idea would have to be scrapped). Getting approval of the community is extremely difficult for anything, because there aren't any good decision making procedures - there isn't even an official policy on paid editing because the community can't agree on one even though there is more than enough common ground for a basic policy to be agreed.
  5. There is always to option of shutting down the company if it doesn't work out. I think it could work. We won't know either way unless we try. --Tango (talk) 17:26, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
  1. A charity can be perceived to have self-interest, too, especially if it or an affiliate charges people money for services.
  2. BLP and NPOV violations are "illegal" in Wikipedia's terms. Often they are strictly speaking libellous as well, but not prosecuted for practical reasons. WMUK has to stand by Wikipedia rules. If you think of "illegal" in terms of what is "illegal" (against policy) in the Wikipedia universe, then you'll see that the parallel works quite well (take coatracks and attack articles e.g.)
  3. The difference is that OTRS agents don't charge for their advice.
  4. We are largely in agreement on that point. However, Jimbo's views are widely disseminated by the media.
  5. Shutting the service down after damage has been done to the reputation of Wikipedia and Wikimedia UK is not the best solution. YMMV. --Andreas JN 00:02, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
There is a very big difference between failing to follow your own policies and breaking the law. Not all the problems I'm talking about are even policy violations, though - there is no policy that all articles need to be perfect. And you seem to have misunderstood my analogy regarding point 3 - I'm comparing the consultants to the company staff following OTRS guidance, not to the OTRS agents. The consultants are simply taking the place of the company's own staff and doing exactly what we would tell the company's own staff to do if they asked us (only more effectively because they know what they are doing). --Tango (talk) 11:07, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
If there is a policy violation, WMUK should fix it for free, rather than charge money. As for point 3, if you compare the employee posting to the consultant posting, the difference is that the employee complaining about defamation, say, is posting in self-defence, and under the salaray they are already paid, whereas the consultant is making money out of protecting or defending the defamee, rather than themselves. Again, if Wikimedia has wronged someone, the charity should fix it for free, rather than profiting. That's the essence of what charity means. --Andreas JN 22:31, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
WMUK is not responsible for enforcing Wikipedia policy. --Tango (talk) 23:46, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
No, but nor should it charge people for helping them do it. Otherwise Wikim/pedia feels a lot less "charitable", and more like a burden on society. Andreas JN 08:05, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

I'm confused[edit source]

Does the U.K. not have a rule that you can't enrich yourself by leeching off a not-for-profit? This proposal is so gobsmackingly corrupt that I am almost incoherent in my disbelief. Why not set up a section of the Church of England specializing in selling good seats for important services? (Yes, I'm aware that in a more class-conscious time that was sort of the practice.) Why not rent out Westminster Abbey for use as a disco? Why not clearcut the New Forest and Sherwood Forest to make more woodpulp for Murdoch's crap papers? Yes, there will always be prostitutes; but that doesn't mean that Wikipedia has to become a home for the ponces! --Orangemike (talk) 13:00, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

  • Speaking as a volunteer here, Orangemike, but I really want to answer this question. A social enterprise is a not-for profit company. Good examples are the Big Issue (a magazine sold so that the homeless on the streets can have an income), The Eden Project (and environmental education centre in Cornwall), the 'Fair Trade' scheme, etc. A social enterprise does make its money from selling goods and services, does cover its own costs in the long-term, and does put at least half of any profits back into making a difference. However, it doesn't exist to make profits for shareholders, or to make its owners very wealthy. A social enterprise is a business that trades for a social and/or environmental purpose. It will have a clear sense of its ‘social mission’: which means it will know what difference it is trying to make, who it aims to help, and how it plans to do it. It will bring in most or all of its income through selling goods or services. And it will also have clear rules about what it does with its profits, reinvesting these to further the mission. Cafedirect is the UK's largest Fairtrade hot drinks company; The Elvis & Kresse Organisation (EaKo) takes industrial waste materials, turns them into luggage and hand bags and donates 50% of the profits to the Fire Fighters Charity; Hill Holt Wood educates at-risk youth in an ancient woodland; Central Surrey Health is a pioneering social enterprise in the healthcare world that is run by the nursing and therapy teams it employs; Green-works takes office furniture that would have been sent to the landfill and offers it at a large discount to charities and other organisations. The first one was in 1844 - you can read about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_Society_of_Equitable_Pioneers. It's not illegal - far from it - it's encouraged. They are usually incorporated as Community Interest Companies, which are limited companies, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a "community interest test" and "asset lock", which ensure that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes. Registration of a company as a CIC has to be approved by the Regulator who also has a continuing monitoring and enforcement role. NB: I've taken this info from http://www.bis.gov.uk/cicregulator/ and http://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/. I think the US equivalent is roughly an L3C.
I can't comment on whether or not it's sensible, or a good idea, as I haven't really given it any thought: but it's a very inefficient, slow, and laborious way for individuals to make a profit. Richard Symonds (talk) 15:09, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Richard, the fact is though that the social enterprise would pay its consultants, who would most definitely make part of their living from the paid work they do for this consultancy. Moreover, while the social enterprise itself would be non-profit, it would only be non-profit because it would give its profits away to the WMUK charity. So it is in fact WMUK who profits. Now, you can argue that this is not a profit, but a donation made by a non-profit social enterprise – a donation the non-profit makes to the charity so that neither the non-profit nor the charity can be said to be making a profit – but surely the facts of the matter are plain. Customers inconvenienced by their Wikipedia articles are exploited for financial gain, with the beneficiaries being (1) individual consultants and (2) the charity itself. Andreas JN 22:39, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
  • Hi Orangemike, speaking as a volunteer who happens to be a trustee, you can be assured that trustees must comply with the guidance given at the Charity Commission guide to conflicts of interest for charity trustees supplemented by our own improving policies of Trustee Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Policy. Consequently depending on the arrangement for a subsidiary or similar, it would be highly unlikely, or legally impossible, for any trustee, recently retired trustee or prospective trustee to take any role in earning money under such a scheme. With regard to the possibility of trustees such as myself helping to set up a commercial scheme, then craftily stepping down from the board to cash in, I am recommending a minimum period of 12 months to elapse before an ex-trustee could take such an option. Such a period is fairly normal in other UK charities. You can comment on my proposals at Talk:Trustee_Code_of_Conduct#Planned_improvement_to_bundle_in_the_next_version_of_the_code. Personally, I would like the Trustee Code to be improved in such a way to make it impossible for trustees to have close personal involvement (including close non-financial involvement due to potential for a conflict of loyalties) with schemes that would invariably risk being perceived as trustees making money from their role on the Wikimedia UK board, even if the amounts involved were small. My experience, and that of most other trustees, is that we make a thumping financial loss during our time on the Board, just out of the fact that it is easy to forget to claim expenses and never catch up with the paperwork. This may put off some running for the Board and if people interested in being trustees have such doubts, then that is probably a good thing. By the way, I don't think Tango's proposal has any chance of flying, particularly the bit about "Wikimedia UK board would appoint the directors" (no way!), but it seems pretty tough to shoot it down by defaming it as a prostitution racket run by ponces. Thanks -- (talk) 15:42, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Churches are rented out for private use (eg. weddings) and church halls are rented out for all sorts of purposes. Churches do this because it is a good way to make money and it often helps further their charitable objectives. The kind of thing I'm proposing is not at all unusual within the charitable sector. --Tango (talk) 00:01, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Dear Tango, a church wedding is usually a religious service, and many churches require one or both parties to be believers. Church halls are usually more relaxed as to who can use them, but a teetotal church would probably be uncomfortable with a wine festival and some fundamentalists would probably be unimpresed with a booking from their local paeleontology society. A non for profit needs to know where to draw the line between things it wants to do, things it is willing to do for fundraising purposes, and things that shouldn't be touched with a barge pole. WereSpielChequers (talk) 14:38, 10 October 2012 (UTC)