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Proposal talk:Paralympic Winter Sports

Revision as of 14:51, 15 December 2012 by Chris Watkins (talk | contribs) (→‎On its merits: new section)

The proposal

The total cost of the trip is AU$12,000 for all three people attending the trip, the grant request is for one person (myself) only and for the person whom can't afford the trip the most. The success of the trip weighs on the photographer to get accreditation to Sochi (APC needs evidence that the photographer can handle the conditions [not just the cold but the light due to reflection off the snow, cloudy weather which limits light]), without a photographer, there would be no accreditation. Bidgee 15:23, 6 December 2012 (EST)

the "preamble"

In what way does this edit - - enhance the proposal? It is probably best discussed on the talk page. -- Chuq 19:57, 6 December 2012 (EST)

Retrospective applications

Treating WMAU as one's private treasury, launching into a project in the expectation of funding from the chapter when no approval has been forthcoming, is setting a very bad precedent.

As long as the board doesn't mind, I'm going to launch an expensive project now and will ask for funding in retrospect. If I don't receive it, I'll go into a public spin-out. Tony1 20:42, 6 December 2012 (EST)

It isnt retrospective claim this was in front of the committee well before it they were due to depart, it was queries by the committee in October how much extra it'd cost for myself and another editor to attend, my committments here meant I could leave early enough to get the benfits of cheaper airfares which blew those costs out. I was under the impression that funding was approved on this when it was queried by the committee how extra to include two more photographers. Gnangarra 10:28, 7 December 2012 (EST)
Whilst it does seem to me that you're basically correct, Tony - your comment does also seem a little harsh - as a complete outsider, what I've been feeling about this broo ha ha is mainly sympathy for all concerned - in particular sympathy that what I would have thought was a close decision (should I pony up without the funding in the bank) was probably a mistake. I think it's right and important for the Committee to follow structured processes, and from outside it seems like that's exactly what happened. Privatemusings 11:17, 7 December 2012 (EST)
I suspect that our chapter can kiss goodbye any hope of FDC funding if we can't get a basic aspect of governance right. The WMF board has made transparency and openness a priority. Tony1 14:46, 7 December 2012 (EST)
Tony, I agree that dealing with a funding matter retrospectively is not the best way to do things, and, in general, I would not support retrospective applications. However, in this particular instance, there was email to the committee in the advance of the event and, I understand, discussions involving at least some of committee members, but, for whatever reason, no proposal was ever put forward. For the reasons of openness and transparency, a proposal should be made for people to comment on. By creating this proposal (with Laura's consent), I am taking this matter through the proper process which allows for member comment followed by a committee decision. I believe that the question that we should be asking within the committee is "if the committee had originally received this as a proposal instead of an email, would the committee have funded it at that time given the usual considerations of strategic fit and value-for-money?". Kerry Raymond 08:47, 8 December 2012 (EST)
  • There is a misunderstanding of processes here, the mandatory requirement of using the on Wiki proposal for events is something that has occured since the AGM, prior to that a proposal only needed to be sent to the committee mailing list for cosideration. The committee recieved that email and the requirements of that committee was followed, there's no "if the committee had originally received this as a proposal instead of an email, would the committee have funded it at that time given the usual considerations of strategic fit and value-for-money?" because it did, my emphasis. While its laudible that the committee is improving processes the committee still needs to accept in good faith the way in which applications were made in good faith according to the requirements of the previous committee. Gnangarra 11:28, 8 December 2012 (EST)
Well, having been a committee member since the AGM, I can say that we have not introduced this policy since the AGM. The Proposal policy appears to have been introduced in July 2012, looking at the edit history, so would appear to have been in place at the time of the email. But clearly it was relatively new at that time and not everyone may have been aware of it. Kerry Raymond 13:37, 8 December 2012 (EST)
The decision to have everything on the wiki has only occured since the AGM, it wasnt what was occurring when the application was submitted and the application should be treated by the current committee in the good faith that it was submitted to the previous committee. Gnangarra 14:49, 8 December 2012 (EST)
I want to confirm that this application is in every substantial regard the same as the one that was submitted to the committee in October. At the time latitude was given to Laura to submit it outside of the public proposals process because she was (in name at least) a member of the committee. I don't think this sort of discussion about what happened in the past is particularly helpful at this point though, does anyone have anything to say about the merits of the proposal itself? Lankiveil 15:44, 8 December 2012 (EST).

Evaluating the proposal

I have just found this proposal. Now that I know what we are considering, here are my thoughts on it. There are two aspects: the process and the merits of the proposal itself.

Problems with the process

It is unfortunate that the project proposal was not discussed before it commenced. We are remedying that now. In the future, proposals ought to be public, easily findable and allow time for discussion. We can work on our processes to achieve that.

The fact that there was an election happening is also unfortunate but it was proper that no decision was made either just before or during that election. So in that respect, we are doing the right thing discussing it now. The consequence though, is that the proponents had to take more of a risk in undertaking the project without certainty of funding. However, given that they knew it would not be proper or possible to make the decision in time, the risk was theirs. Unfortunate as it is, this kind of risk is very common for travellers when they are purchasing tickets and going on trips. In my own experience for example, I had to commit to buying my plane ticket and accommodation for Wikimania long before I found out whether Wm-Au would award me a scholarship. To wait would have meant that even if any any plane seats were still available, they would have been about three times the cost. This does not mean that our Chapter should not try to ensure that the timing of its advice about funding be improved. It should. This time though, we were understandably hampered by the Chapter election and by the pending FDC decision.

Another poor aspect of the process is that the proposer and the seconder were both involved in the project and stood to benefit from it (assuming that they all did in fact, want to be involved). We can remedy that lack of propriety by having an uninvolved Wm-Au member second the proposal now. Even at this late stage, that would be a good thing. In fact, if there is no uninvolved member prepared to second it, this proposal should fail.

Merits of the proposal

The three questions to ask are:

1. Does this proposal align with the strategic plan?
A: This proposal supports volunteers who are enthusiastic about it. That is in line with “Support volunteer initiatives” in the strategic plan. It also is aligned with “Organise and support ‘real life’ events” and it follows on from previous work. These are good things.

2. Will allocated funds be well managed?
A: The planning and the work put into budget economies are to be commended.

3. Is this the best way to spend this money?
A: This is the crux. The main questions about this for the Committee (and for each of us) to answer relate to:

3.1 Quality
That is, are we spreading ourselves too thin? Are we trading off quality for quantity? What is the quality of the Paralympic and Olympic work done so far? What work currently needs to be continued or improved?

3.2 Focus
That is, as well as the above, should be focusing on winter sports at all, since that is not where Australia normally makes much impact? Also should Wm-Au be funding Wikinews?

3.3 Opportunity cost
What other volunteer efforts will have to be forgone in favour of this one? Have we done enough to support and follow up what has already been started with regard to the Paralympic projects? Will other volunteers have to drop their own projects in order to bring this one up to standard later?

3.4 Cost-benefit
That is, is there a cheaper way to get more/better results?

My responses to the questions about merits

I am unconvinced that Wm-Au should fund this proposal. Even if it were a good idea, I am not yet convinced that it is necessary to send three people to achieve this project’s objectives. If the decision were mine to make (and it is not), I would not allocate funds to it for the following reasons – they are my summary response to the questions.

If we had sufficient people-power to continue with other work and engage in new planned work, I would be happy for an even larger contingent of Australian volunteers to go and help with this proposed activity. As it stands, I am neither convinced that this is the best way to allocate our financial resources, nor that it would be the best use of our human resources (inasmuch as we have any control over volunteer efforts). I think we should congratulate the group for their camaraderie and commitment and for using their time and energy on this effort, just as we should with any of our members who use their time and energy to try to develop WP and its sister projects and I hope that the listed deliverables do indeed eventuate.

In regard to 3.1, after my experience on the very small Paralympic edit-a-thon in Sydney, I believe there is still much work to be done improving the work that has already been started. We would do better to support these people in bringing what they are already doing up to a good standard.

In regard to 3.2, this is quite an exotic overseas mission and possibly in conflict with the Chapter’s central goal, which is to “Identify and improve key Australian content”. In the realm of sport, we might be better placed to focus on say, surfing, especially at times when the championships are held in Australia. Beyond sport, there are a myriad other areas that need work (see re 3.3 and 3.4 below). This then, is a project that seeks funding for three people to go overseas to work on one of the (rare) types of sport in which Australia makes a very modest claim to achievement. I appreciate that it is designed as a stepping-stone to another activity but that attenuates its focus even further.

Furthermore, my own view is that WP is an inherently more valuable project than Wikinews, although that is just a personal opinion and anyway, I might change it.

In regard to 3.3 and 3.4, we are struggling to find the organisational power to participate in Wiki Loves Monuments (WLM), which is a project in line with our goal to “Maintain GLAM momentum”. So there is a case to be made that these editors and photographers are more needed on that task. Also, the fact that editors from the UK and US are not interested in pursuing these winter sporting events is telling - it means we should be cautious. From the perspective of the global community, it must seem bizarre that our Chapter is considering funding its editors to leave the country in order to follow winter sports in the northern hemisphere when there is so much work to be done in our own backyard. As we are all aware, that backyard is very large. It throws our ability to prioritise into doubt at the very time that the WMF has challenged it and the decision of the FDC makes it imperative.


Our committee is charged with finding their own answers to these questions and making a decision about funding. Before they do, we need an uninvolved seconder for the proposal.

Sincerely, 14:14, 9 December 2012 (EST)

(As a complete aside, would it be worth writing up the process and the list of questions you've asked above as a separate document that we can refer to in future? While I don't completely agree with the conclusions you have drawn on this specific application, I'd like to see more of this sort of process thinking in the organisation. I agree re capacity, Wikinews and uninvolved seconder though.) Andrew Owens 20:02, 9 December 2012 (EST)
Your 3rd test is difficult to implement in a "bottom up" approach to proposals. If we had a top-down strategy of saying "we're allocating $X to work on Y and we'd like some proposals by date D", then we could have a number of proposals on the table to achieve Y and we could make better decisions between them. Kerry Raymond 19:23, 10 December 2012 (EST)

I would second if needed

IMHO this is worthwhile as we've previously started on the track of Olympic accreditation, via the Paralympics, and to not go ahead with this effectively stops our attempt at Olympic accreditation.

If this proposal does not have any undocumented "hidden surprises", I would be happy to second it if you want someone who does not directly obtain benefit from it. Mark Hurd 17:12, 9 December 2012 (EST)

As anyone looking at the proposal in Edit mode can see, I am supporting the proposal as the Proposals policy requires a committee member support, but it seems the template does not allow for 3 people to support a proposal!. Perhaps there is another template I should have used?! Kerry Raymond 08:34, 10 December 2012 (EST)
Good. Looks like this probity problem is solved. 14:32, 10 December 2012 (EST)

Very expensive for the claimed benefits

I agree with Whiteghost's main points.

In particular, I have the following queries:

  • "A meeting with the WMF to explain the Paralympic project, and our efforts to secure Olympic accreditation;"—is it really necessary to have a physical meeting? Couldn't it have been done on Skype/email?
  • "Articles created about all notable (per WP:GNG) active members of Australia's Paralympic and Olympic ski and snowboard team members;"—Again, I can't quite see why face-to-face physical presence is required. Surely the subjects are very available in Australia.
  • "Hosting a Wikinews workshop in San Francisco [and] Denver"—no details are given, and no justification as to why this is necessary or who would attend. What are the goals? As people no doubt know, I seriously question the emphasis on a failed working model and the fact that the WN community is toxic. Diffs can be supplied to anyone who wants them, and a list of refugees from WN can easily be posted here. Just say the word. Why are we supporting it?
  • "Hosting a Wikimedia meetup in Vail, Colorado"—Again, goals? Participants? Duration? I can't see what is coming out of this expensive operation. Meetups in Australia that can bring cohesion to our membership are a quite different matter, though.
  • "Headshots of all Australian Paralympic team members competing"—Do them in Australia, as the German chapter arranged for their Olympic athletes to be photographed (professionally) in Germany.
  • "at least 4 will be interviews, with at least 1 not being about an Australian"—Who has the skills to properly interview (or are we talking about the lowest-common-factor question-and-answer format)? Can I see some examples of journalistic interviews, please?
  • "Audio versions of all interviews done uploaded to Commons for use outside Wikinews"—they won't be properly edited, will they.
  • Improving four Wiktionary entries on winter sports seems pretty far from our chapter's mission. Tony1 19:49, 9 December 2012 (EST)

Process suggestions

It seems we are recognising that we need a more structured way to manage our projects and are working towards that. I have made some general suggestions about how to improve our management of projects and posted them at Billabong.

The usual practice is a phased approach with checkpoints that give a chance to stop (or at least pause) before going on. As a result of the timing problems we had with the election, this project's deadline and the FDC decision, we are discussing all this project's phases at once - that is, we are considering it as a proposal when it is already bring implemented, and we are beginning to consider its outcomes before it is finished. It is all a bit chaotic. But hey, at least we are doing it.

I would like to be able to go to a tab called "projects" and follow each one through its phases, and have the proposals and plans separate from the discussions about them. That's what my suggestions at the Billabong are about. 16:00, 10 December 2012 (EST)

Agreed. We need a place to transition successful proposals into ongoing projects (where applicable). I think both Proposals and Projects need a link from the home page. Kerry Raymond 19:25, 10 December 2012 (EST)

On its merits

I'm not sure how to judge the specifics of this application, so I'll leave that for others to comment on. Obviously there were some serious problems with communication/misunderstandings, involving people who have given a lot of themselves for the foundation. For this application right now, I would think that the approach that WMAU can take with integrity is to assess the application on its merits. As Kerry formulated it above: "if the committee had originally received this as a proposal instead of an email, would the committee have funded it at that time given the usual considerations of strategic fit and value-for-money?"

To grant it without due process and the usual considerations would be sloppy, regardless of the good faith of those involved. To reject it out of hand seems unduly harsh, and might also be perceived as punishment of the challengers in the recent election (regardless of the reality).

It's very good to see the processes being developed. This problem with the Paralympic Winter Sports project won't seem as bad if it's handled thoroughly now, and followed by a good, rigorous, clear process for all future applications. --Chris Watkins 01:51, 16 December 2012 (EST)