2008-2009 AGM/Ordinary Members/Andrew Owens

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Hi, my name's Andrew and I'm based in Perth. I'm proud to have this opportunity to run for a Committee position in Wikimedia Australia.

I've been associated with Wikimedia projects (under the username Orderinchaos) for several years now, registering my first account on en.wikipedia on 22 March 2006 and becoming an admin on that project almost a year later. My main aim there is to help bring the Australian geography and politics sections of en.wikipedia up to an academic standard. I've been fortunate to work in en's WikiProject Australia which is a very strong group of co-editors with a wide range of backgrounds, opinions and expertise. Lately, I've also become interested in Simple Wikipedia, which I've started work on in conjunction with a fellow educator on a range of neglected higher learning areas which may become the basis for a private ESL training program in Western Australia. That and my communications with university academics on broad politics and government topics which will lead to several en.wikipedia articles should, I believe, assist everyone, both Australian and not, in understanding a bit more about the world we live in.

What can I offer?

As I see it, we are just starting out. We have come a long way in the past year, and I think we owe our interim Committee a massive vote of thanks for the time and energy they've put into making it happen as well as all others involved. The next period is make-or-break. We need to clearly enunciate what we are about, where we are going and what we are doing. We also need to maintain a high standard of professionalism in our outside dealings. Of particular interest to me is the education sector and how we relate to it.

I think my strengths have been carved out of experience. I'm a good team worker and team builder, I also work well on my own, I have a lot of ideas and the energy to see them to completion if necessary, I'm a good "lateral thinker" and problem solver, and I have good people skills. In my own areas I am no ideologue - I often ask for ideas, as those who are used to the way I operate on en.wikipedia will confirm, and I'll take on any useful feedback, good or bad.

I will commit if elected to attending all Committee meetings, which I feel is very important, and helping where required with any tasks (whether mine, common tasks or others') within my ability.

A few things I would like to see personally, and would be happy to assist with, are:

  1. Standard pack for presentations. Say that one of our members is visiting a regional centre or an office with which they have personal links. What do they say to them? We should have a standard talk with key points and a few slides they can have with them, tailor to their audience, and know the talk they're giving will have been cleared by the Committee, will meet our legal and other obligations and promise only what we can deliver. Clarity with flexibility within boundaries is the key.
  2. Relationships with like-minded organisations devoted to the aims of freely-licensed content and sharing of information.
  3. Growth of membership A carefully thought-out strategic approach to growing our membership and particularly its breadth is vital. Also, a way of making the members we have aware of current greatest areas of need (monthly circular?). Many will not ask us how they can assist but will happily volunteer in an area of their capability if they see it on a list and know it exists.
  4. Newsletter An interesting and attractive publication which an editor organises on behalf of the Committee, and which our members can contribute pieces to. It would probably be low frequency initially. I've seen the WA branch of the Australian Computer Society organise this, with just one editor who canvasses members and others for contributions and keeps an eye out for events and photo ops, and they do it amazingly well.
  5. Educational resources for teachers. I see education as one of the key targets of growth for free and shared content. I've seen a Canadian-based global organisation do this extremely well, but something based around the various Australian syllabi which teachers can use, comment on and contribute to would be fantastic. At present the complaints I hear are that en.wikipedia articles "pitch too high" in areas of interest to high school teachers, while Simple's hit-and-miss nature and its particular community patterns may not meet teachers' needs either. Some areas of en.wikipedia (thankfully not too many) are as we know ridden with controversy, which stunts their development, whilst others rely on particularly committed single editors and are therefore subject to their personal limitations. Most schools do not have ready access to computer rooms for classes, so we're aiming firmly at the teachers and educators (not all educators are trained teachers!)
  6. Western Australia - We have a very committed but also very small group here. Ultimately I think we should be participating as much as possible in IT community events here, perhaps in conjunction with other active groups such as the Perth Linux Users' Group and the UCC at UWA, and running stands at relevant industry exhibitions.
  7. Corporate governance issues - Ensuring we meet the highest standards of professionalism and compliance to relevant standards, and also ensuring in fundraising or relationship-building exercises that Wikimedia Australia avoids conflicts of interest with outside organisations or causes.

Conclusion

I would like to thank those that nominated me and all those who expressed an interest in my running. If I am successful, I hope that I will meet (hopefully exceed?) your expectations. And whether successful or not, I intend to give the elected Committee my full support.