[Citizendium-l] Toward CZ 2.0

Larry Sanger sanger-lists at citizendium.org
Fri Jun 29 00:11:16 EDT 2007


Dear everyone,

 

I'm writing to announce a set of major new initiatives and changes to the
project.  Call it Citizendium 2.0.  In the coming months, I wish to
radically expand the scope of CZ and, at the same time, change the way that
the project is managed--and the way I personally work on the Citizendium.

 

For this, I am going to need your help this summer.  I'm going to need a lot
of help.  If you pitch in, though, I can guarantee that we are going to
accomplish a lot of very exciting things.  I am constantly in awe of what
self-starting volunteers can accomplish.  But I am also aware that I've got
to take the lead on a lot of things, or it just won't get done.  So I'm
committing myself to you, here and now, to work very hard on making these
things happen.

 

This mail is very long, but for anyone who cares about the project, very
important to read.  You could think of it more as a project planning
document than a letter, but I'm presenting it in the form of a letter
because I want to make it very clear that this is my own view, and that I
encourage dialogue about what I have to say.

 

I have interspersed links to Forum pages where we can discuss the various
plans and proposals.  As we approach implementation (in the various ways in
which implementation can be achieved), I will be reminding you of the issues
so that we can have plenty of feedback.

 

We have grown considerably from the first few months, and I believe we have
reached a level of membership and activity that makes many new things
possible.  Moreover, as I'll explain, everyday responsibilities that I have
been trying to manage personally must be handed off to trusted and qualified
individuals.  Also, I pledged last September that in six to twelve months, a
Board of Advisers would be adopting a Citizendium Charter that would
formalize the governance of the project.  So we are running up against my
promise's deadline.

 

What brought all this on?  Mainly, time away from the project in San
Francisco--that's where I started writing this, so it's been a few weeks in
preparation!  Simply time and distance, which has given me perspective, as
well as (oddly enough) my re-reading of the time-management book Getting
Things Done as well as a tiny piece of advice from my colleague Peter
Magnusson.  Peter said, basically, "Larry, you're the boss now--do what you
think needs to be done while you can."  That struck me as right; there's
just a lot of stuff that ain't going to happen if I don't get behind it, and
it might only get harder even for me to do in the future.  I've also come to
the view that we have learned a great deal about how CZ works.  It is now
time to use what we've learned, and boldly make some changes and additions
that will make the project better.  But mostly, as you'll see, I'm just
following through on vague hints and promises already made.

 

Friends might caution me against trying to do too much all at once, but I
think that bold and sweeping new initiatives are sometimes the only way to
get certain things done and to generate the excitement and shared
understanding that a truly significant change is indeed underway.  And I
think I have not, in the last few months, always provided the sort of
proactive leadership that the project needs if it is to fulfill its maximum
potential.

 

In coming weeks, to help make these plans a reality, I will also be working
a great deal on policy matters with the Executive Committee, the Editorial
Council, the Constabulary, many different individuals, and of course the
community as a whole.  I will be adding much material to, and asking for
community feedback on, the Policy Outline.  It will be not so much changed
as expanded and clarified.

 

Therefore, here is a broad plan for the initiatives that I intend to
spearhead, starting immediately.  Don't be surprised if, in July and August,
these changes start coming one after another; that's my hope, anyway.  I
intend to pursue these goals with gusto.

 

 

 

I. Ensuring a proper division of power.

 

To ensure proper division of power, beginning very soon, no one who is on
the Executive Committee may also serve on any other official body of
CZ--including the Editorial Council and the Constabulary.  Similarly, no one
who is a Constable may serve on the Editorial Council, and vice-versa.
There will be at least three exceptions: the Editor-in-Chief represents the
Executive Committee before the Editorial Council, and both the Chair of the
Editorial Council and the Chief Constable must serve on the Executive
Committee, as their input on business decisions is absolutely crucial.

 

Notice, this is not now the case.  Therefore, some people with multiple
responsibilities may have to make some difficult choices.  I will be
approaching them individually and make a list of them, and follow up on the
list.  That people would only be able to serve on one major governing body
has always been my understanding, as it is a logical consequence of the
notion of a division of powers.

 

We'll be changing all relevant passwords, by the way, to help cement this
change.

 

 

 

II. Editor-in-chief's role.

 

Let me begin by explaining that it is long overdue that I define the role of
the Editor-in-Chief and the Executive Committee in this project.  And first,
let me say how I will be divesting myself of certain responsibilities.

 

We have also reached a point where my continued day-to-day interaction "in
the trenches" is becoming more distracting than helpful.  I'm encountering
the same sort of phenomenon here on CZ that I encountered after several
months managing Wikipedia: contributors are interpreting my own
contributions to the wiki and to debates as being peremptory end-runs around
debate.  This is incorrect; at least, that is not how I intend them.
Frustratingly, though, as this mistaken interpretation grows, so does my own
influence on the wiki.  And if past is prologue, this problem is likely only
to get worse.  As the project's profile rises, day-to-day work that I do on
the wiki--for better or worse, and certainly wrongly in my view--will tend
to be viewed as precedent-setting and increasingly subject to scrutiny for
policy implications.

 

Therefore, you will see me opining less on day-to-day controversies, even
ones that I care about.  I may offer mere advice "behind the scenes" to some
people, while if I must weigh in publicly, I will make recommendations or
decisions more carefully, definitively, and in a way that is more sensitive
to how they are received.  In many cases, however, I will make an effort to
do only two things: articulate the relevant policy principles in a way that
is as neutral as possible, and ask others take on any necessary management
of the issue.  I'll also make sure those others are fully authorized to
arrive at a resolution according to a fair, rule-governed, appealable, and
yet (hopefully) still efficient process.

 

I will (or hope to) divest myself of responsibility in some other ways.

 

After a few more weeks, I'll be exiting the Constabulary.  To ensure a
proper division of powers, the Editor-in-Chief should not be a member of the
Constabulary.  I believe the Constabulary has been up and running well,
thanks to the efforts especially of Steve Ewen, Sarah Tuttle, and Chief
Constable Ruth Ifcher, as well as others.  We all owe them a debt of
gratitude.  I believe that with proper oversight and just a few additions to
Constabulary policy, they will be well able to act effectively independent
of my direct involvement.

 

I also wish to find a new Chair for the Editorial Council, if possible.
This is one of many ways in which I want to work closely with the Council
this summer.  The Council has been set up, and I think it's going to work
extremely well, but it won't work properly unless the Chair is more
available than I am and has more time for the job.  But I want to remain--as
I think the Editor-in-Chief must--a member of the Council.  This is crucial
if the Editor-in-Chief is to be able to start new editorial initiatives.

 

Next let me talk in more positive terms about the role of the
Editor-in-Chief.

 

I believe--as I have discussed, to general agreement, with the Executive
Committee--that the Editor-in-Chief ought to have a veto authority over
resolutions passed by the Editorial Council.  The Council would be able to
override the Editor-in-Chief's veto with a 2/3 vote.  Furthermore, one of
the functions of the Executive Committee would be to advise the
Editor-in-Chief on the use of the veto power.  Nevertheless, the veto power
will reside in the hands of the Editor-in-Chief (but see below).

 

The Editor-in-Chief should also have similar authority with respect to any
policies (though not necessarily decisions in individual cases) established
by the Constabulary.

 

The Editor-in-Chief will also possess the ability to make new policy
decisions, or decisions about how editorial policy is to be applied,
independently of the Editorial Council, but with oversight by the Council.
Let me better explain how this will work.  Basically, there are many
relatively trivial and (probably) unobjectionable decisions to be made, on a
regular basis, that are likely to be approved by the Council simply because
the Editor-in-Chief suggests them.  If the community had to wait for the
Council to speak on every such matter, its responsiveness to problems and
opportunities that arise would slow to an unacceptable crawl.

 

Therefore, while the Editor-in-Chief will possess the authority to declare
new policies and new initiatives, he must do so before the Council, and any
Council member, if seconded, may require the Editor-in-Chief to bring the
matter up as a formal resolution.  Moreover, we will define (as clearly as
we can) what matters must be brought up in the form of formal resolutions.
The Editor-in-Chief will not be able to "make an end run" around the
Council, particularly not when it comes to any really important editorial
policies and decisions.

 

This also applies, again, to Constabulary policies.

 

As you know, in another year or two, I will be handing off the position of
Editor-in-Chief to someone else.  I've promised that and I will keep that
promise; it will make me nervous, of course, but I believe it will set an
absolutely crucial, necessary precedent, and establish CZ truly as an online
republic, the creation of which is our difficult and ongoing task.

 

I don't wish to leave the organization that I started, however.  I want to
stipulate that a new position will exist, which does not now exist, called
the Executive Director of the Citizendium Foundation.  (This assumes, of
course, that the project lasts long enough!  But I'm having fewer and fewer
doubts.)  When I step down from the role of Editor-in-Chief, I want to
assume the role of Executive Director.

 

As Executive Director, I will have only the very broadest oversight
authority in the project.  Indeed, the broad and limited nature of this
authority will be very carefully circumscribed and written into the
Citizendium Charter.  My position as Executive Director might include such
things as fundraising, writing (though I will be careful not to comment on
ongoing CZ controversies), and starting new projects.  It will not be to
propose or debate new policy, except of the very broadest sort.  The
editor-in-chief will operate independently of me, I will not have any
editorial authority in Citizendium, and I will be pledged, essentially, to
neutrality.  In short, when I resign as editor-in-chief, I really will
resign.  Finally, I will serve as Executive Director at the pleasure of the
future Board of Directors.

 

Discuss these plans and proposals about the Editor-in-Chief's role here:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,1048.0.html 

 

 

 

III. The Executive Committee.

 

The Executive Committee has been operating under unclear rules.  This was, I
think, all right in the first few months of the project, as we learned
better from experience how the community might best be set up.  But the
clarification of the rights and responsibilities of the Executive Committee
is long overdue.  Therefore, that's something we'll be doing.

 

It will be the explicit function of the Executive Committee in general and
Editor-in-Chief in particular to ensure that everything is "running
smoothly" in the project.  As I see it, the primary (but not the only) role
of the Executive Committee is to advise the Editor-in-Chief privately on any
matters about which he or she might wish advice.  It will also initially vet
"business decisions"--the scope of which will be clarified, so as to prevent
abuse and to permit oversight by the Board of Directors.  That means
particularly that it can meet privately to discuss new partnership
proposals, as well as matters that specifically affect how money is spent,
as well as Foundation hiring decisions.

 

The Executive Committee will always be selected by the Editor-in-Chief, as
it has been until now. 

 

While the Executive Committee exists primarily to advise the
Editor-in-Chief, it can and should take a vote on matters that are
particularly controversial among committee members, and the Editor-in-Chief
can be directed contrary to his or her own wishes by a 2/3 supermajority of
the Executive Committee.  The Editor-in-Chief is expected to represent the
outcome of such decisions in good faith, and in general to be the main
representative of the Executive Committee before the rest of the Citizendium
community.

 

I will be asking certain Executive Committee members (maybe not all of them)
to update me on their work during a biweekly (every other week) conference
call.  If they aren't able to make the call, I will expect them to submit a
(brief) report by e-mail before the call.  We will settle upon a set of
standard questions for each person to report about.  I hope we will find a
Committee Secretary to take notes.  I would like this same Secretary to post
the publicizable details on Citizendium-L and the blog.  If we can't find
anyone to do this, I might or might not do it myself.

 

In the coming weeks, I will be dismissing (with gratitude) several members
of the Executive Committee who have been relatively inactive.  I will also
be asking several new members to join--we need the fresh blood.  I'm also
going to set some "term limits" for the committee.

 

Discuss these plans and proposals about the Executive Committee here:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,1049.0.html 

 

 

 

IV. The Editorial Council and the Editorial Personnel Administrators.

 

As I said, I want to find a new Chair for the Editorial Council.  This
should be someone who is online every day, quite a bit; has sufficient free
time; is entirely committed to our mission and to "the rule of law" (i.e.,
doing things by the book, supplemented by common sense when necessary);
familiar enough with the basic rules of parliamentary procedure, and solidly
supportive of our following such procedure; and not terribly interested in
voicing his or her opinion about the shape of editorial policy (since, as is
the case under parliamentary rules, the Chair rarely debates or votes).  If
we can't find an editor within CZ who is willing and suitable for the job,
we will look for someone outside of CZ.

 

I also want to consider seriously the question whether specifically the
"internetization" of parliamentary procedure makes feasible the notion that
any member can exercise many of the powers now reserved exclusively to the
Chair.  Reflecting on the job I have done as Council Chair myself, I don't
see why anyone couldn't do the work needed to move a resolution through the
system.  This would be the "Web 2.0" solution to the problem of the "Chair
bottleneck."  We would have to adjust a few rules, but the idea would be
that any volunteer within the Editorial Council would have the authority to
do what I, as single Chair, have been able to do.  The person might decide
to move a resolution from the queue to discussion, or from discussion to
voting.  But I think the way to make this suggestion feasible is that
actions are taken only via the Council mailing list, the mailing list is
moderated by the Chair, and the Chair approves certain actions on
resolutions by forwarding the mails, performing the resolution actions, to
the list.

 

It's the "internetization" that makes this possible, by the way; in a
physical assembly, the whole assembly can do only one thing at a time, and
that's why there has to be exactly one person who directs the proceedings.
But a great advantage of putting parliamentary proceedings online is that
the assembly can address many issues at once, and there doesn't have to be
just one person coordinating the discussion.  I think that, ultimately,
online parliamentary procedure might end up being more efficient than
offline, because the assembly is "always on" (though we block out weekends
and holidays in a certain way).

 

There are many active editors who arrived after I invited the current batch
of Council members to the Council.  I would like to add these people to the
Council.  I will be making a resolution to the effect that all of them (who
agree to my nomination) should be included in the Council en masse.
Moreover, as Chair, I will request (not require, as there are no rules that
allow me to do so) people who have not voted on any resolutions, or
otherwise participated, to agree to exit the Council.

 

After that, I want to pass a resolution about how to get new people on (and
off) the       Council, which will also address the issue of term limits.
For one thing, it makes no sense to have term limits if there are not enough
volunteers to replace the current batch of members.  For another, if someone
does not vote on n resolutions, the person should be automatically dropped
from the Council; we can debate about what n should be.

 

Some legitimate complaints have come up to the effect that authors should
have representation on the Editorial Council.  I agree, and that has been my
intention, but setting up author representation meant deciding between
sortition and election, and I had been putting off arguing for one or the
other.  It's one of the Big Issues that is extremely consequential, like the
license issue.  Well, I'll be putting off important policy decisions no
longer.  I am going to be arguing for sortition among active contributors,
or, if the total desired number of author representatives is greater than
the number of active contributors, all or most active contributors will be
invited.  Exactly how sortition would work is something I would be settling
upon with your help; doubtless, there will be age and education
requirements, as with the Constabulary.

 

There is also the difficulty of managing the selection and departure of
author representatives--as well as other representatives.  On this, more in
a bit.

 

Next, let me briefly talk about the people who get new editors into the
system, called Editorial Personnel Administrators.  First, I want to greatly
expand the number of people who can do this--to perhaps a dozen or 15.

 

I want to create these EPAs as an Editorial Personnel Committee, and specify
that this is a subcommittee of the Council.  Therefore, the Committee can be
expected to answer and give reports to the Council.

 

I want the Council to create a new position: Chair of the Editorial
Personnel Committee, which will itself essentially be made up of the present
Editorial Personnel Administrators.   The Chair will be responsible for
finding new Editorial Personnel Administrators and for making sure that we
stay on top of new editor applications.  (We've fallen behind, again.)

 

Also, I'm pretty excited about the Big Invite initiative, 

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,1041.0.html 

 

and I will be working with virtually everyone on making that a reality.  I
truly believe that we might increase our fund of active editors by an order
of magnitude or two if we execute this initiative aggressively.  It's very
exciting idea, probably a more exciting idea, to me, than any I've had since
the beginning of the project.  Of course, we'll do it as intelligently as
possible.

 

To discuss these proposals about the Editorial Council, go here:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,1050.0.html 

 

 

 

V. A new governing body: the Judicial Board.

 

The Constabulary has been formulating policy regarding good behavior, while
the Editorial Council is now responsible for editorial policy.  Essentially,
we have two different legislative bodies, one for editorial issues and one
for behavioral issues.  I think we can all agree that it is not perfectly
clear what the distinction is between these two sets of issues.  But I think
we can also agree, or enough of us can agree, that there is a useful
distinction between the two sets of issues.  And, just to be explicit, the
reason I have always thought the issues (and the managing bodies) should be
kept separate is the aforementioned division of powers.  The power to ban
someone from the website, and impose other personal sanctions, seems like an
importantly different kind of power from the power to decide how some text
should read.

 

Now, since there are these two separate policy domains, some method is
needed to decide whether an issue is an Editorial issue or a Constabulary
issue.  I observe that this is a very basic governance controversy, and we
could easily find ourselves with a "constitutional crisis" without a clear
way to resolve it--especially since the Editorial Council has recently come
into existence.

 

It has long been in the back of my mind that we might have some judicial
function in addition to the Constabulary--which right now performs both
"police" functions and "law court" functions.  There are well-known problems
with the police acting as the judiciary, not least of which is the fact that
people who are competent at rapidly responding to reports of law-breaking
are not always most competent at judging whether the rules are correctly
applied in a case.  Moreover, "peace-keepers" per se have no inherent
interest in following the rules assiduously; they and others are apt to
think they've done a good job simply when peace is kept, regardless of
whether the rules were actually followed in doing so and whether justice was
actually served.  Finally, and most importantly, we have written into our
Statement of Fundamental Policies that there is a right of appeal.  There is
too much of an opportunity for unfairness, and even abuse of power, if the
persons hearing an appeal are drawn from the same narrow group (i.e., the
constables in this case) that are responsible for enforcing the rules.

 

For all these reasons, I would like to start a three-person Judicial Board.
(As the project grows, we might expand this group to five or seven persons.)
No one on the Judicial Board may serve in any capacity on CZ other than as
Author or Editor.  The Judicial Board will have three separate functions.

 

First, it will have the authority to resolve disputes about the proper
domain of a disputed policy question--whether the Editorial Council or the
Constabulary.  To be clear, they will not rule on such questions unless they
are specifically and formally asked to rule on them.  For example, if the
Constabulary insists on taking up a question that the Editorial Council says
is a Council issue, the Judicial Board is authorized to make the decision.
Note that the decision might be that both bodies must pass a measure for it
to be enacted.  We will be specifying rules about jurisdiction--rules that
will essentially be written into the Charter.

 

Second, the Judicial Board will be specifically tasked with hearing appeals
from Constabulary decisions.  The Constabulary now hears its own appeals.
This has always made me a bit uncomfortable, and the opportunity for abuse
will grow as the Constabulary grows.  I think that the Judicial Board should
have the authority to specify what the appeals process is.  In particular, I
believe that complaints about constables should be heard only by the
Judicial Board.

 

Third and finally, like the Supreme Court, the Judicial Board will be able
to rule on questions of "constitutionality"--the extent to which a policy
coheres with the Statement of Fundamental Policies (for now), and later with
the Citizendium Charter.

 

Whether the Judicial Board will have any authority with respect to editor
selection and editorial policy interpretation is something I would like to
defer thinking about for now--that makes my head hurt.

 

As to how the Judicial Board is selected, at least for now, I'll be
proposing that the Executive Committee make nominations, and that both the
Editorial Council and the Constabulary confirm the nominations.

 

Discuss the notion of a Judicial Board and the proposals made about it here:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,1051.0.html 

 

 

 

VI. The Constabulary.

 

A lot of the changes that I want to make to the Constabulary are already
under way, and they can be stated relatively simply.

 

We badly need to clarify the rules for entrance and exit from the
Constabulary.  This is something that I have been working on with Ruth
Ifcher in recent weeks.  We've discovered that there are (unsurprisingly)
some difficult issues here.  Of course, the Constabulary members themselves
will be responsible for adopting these rules.

 

But, in addition, we need to regularize the procedure whereby the
Constabulary makes new policy.  There are a few proposals on the table, and
to my mind the most promising is one that makes use of a rather
stripped-down version of the parliamentary procedure we're using for the
(larger) Editorial Council.  One thing I am going to insist upon, which we
have not (I'm sorry to say) always done consistently, is that new policy
proposals must be opened up to general public comment, and the constables
must take this public comment into account.

 

Also, as I said, I want to remove the appeal function to Judicial Board.

 

There's one other deep and important issue I want to address, and that is
the very idea that the same body that enforces rules of behavior actually
makes those rules.  In this regard, the Constabuary is both a legislative
and an executive body.  This is not how most law enforcement agencies work.
Someone might well ask: doesn't this violate the general principle about the
separation of powers?  Why should the constables be the same ones to make
Constabulary policy?  Even supposing that we should separate Editorial from
Constabulary issues, shouldn't there be essentially two branches of the
Constabuary, a legislative branch and an enforcement branch?  Or should we,
perhaps, give the Editorial Council authority over all new policy, including
Constabulary policy?

 

The main reason for including both legislative and enforcement functions in
one body (and, by the way, a judicial function: they will still have the
authority to issue warnings and to ban people), as I see it, is simply that
the constables become, in their experience monitoring the wiki and
responding to complaints, the local experts about what fair play is.  They
are regularly getting their hands dirty with controversy and getting
experience with what approaches work best and what approaches work not so
well.  I think, therefore, there is no one better than our constables to
decide on Constabulary policy.  The Editorial Council represents the
authority and interests first and foremost of editors, and placing the
authority over Constabulary policy in the hands of the Council might
eventually prove to be a strong temptation to weaken the distinction between
editorial and behavioral authority as much as possible.  The ultimate
effect, which is one of the main effects I want to avoid, could be to give
editors the authority to enforce their own decisions--something that, in an
open, self-selecting, collaborative online community, is an invitation for
abuse.  Of course, we can write that into the Citizendium Charter, but it is
important, I think, to make structural barriers to such self-serving
legislation as well.

 

Still, you might say, constables have the opportunity to increase their own
authority, simply by making the rules more draconian.  But, unlike editors,
whose authority over content issues increases as their enforcement authority
increases, constables are not personally benefited by more draconian rules.
Indeed, the job of constables is made easier and more rewarding the more
objectively effective the rules are, that is, the more that there is a
vibrant and smooth-running project; and draconian rules only create more
work and controversy for constables.

 

I admit that my reasoning here is preliminary, and perhaps not a solid as it
could be.  I want to give it more thought.  I invite further reflection on
this issue from everyone--I'd especially like to hear from political
theorists and philosophers.

 

Finally, as with the Executive Committee and the Editorial Council, I wish
to remove certain constables who are now inactive, and I would like to get a
very large number of new constables on board.  (I would like to double or
triple the number of active constables, mainly in order to make sure that
new applications are responded to instantly.)  This is in no small part due
to the fact that many of our wonderful, hard-working constables are
currently involved in other bodies, including the Executive Committee and
the Editorial Council, and at least one of them is gunning to head up a new
group that would, essentially, require him to join the Editorial Council.
The guard is going to have to be changed.

 

Here's a place to discuss these plans & proposals for the Constabulary:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,1052.0.html 

 

 

 

VII. The Citizendium Charter and the selection of a Board of Advisors

 

As many have discovered by now, while I try to apply rules in a common sense
way, I do take rules seriously.  In fact, I think it is essential to our
long-term success, since we resemble a polity, that we follow a "rule of
law," as opposed to the rule of inconsistent personal whims.  This is why I
have insisted strongly that new contributors agree with our Statement of
Fundamental Policies:

 

http://www.citizendium.org/fundamentals.html

 

If you'll examine the end of that document, you'll see that "Within six
months to a year after the launch of the Citizendium, its Advisory Board
will adopt a binding community charter that states, in a clear but general
way, the fundamental goals and policies of the Citizendium project."  The
Advisory Board is also supposed to choose a Board of Directors.  As you can
see, we're running up against a deadline.

 

Therefore, I intend to spend some time in the next few months collecting
together a stellar group of people who will do three things for the
Citizendium: (1) approve the Citizendium Charter; (2) invite and empanel a
Board of Directors for the Citizendium Foundation; and (3) thereafter, serve
as an external, independent group of advisors, offering advice that the
relevant bodies should consider seriously, but are not required to take.
How we might make use of this Board remains to be seen, but certainly we'd
like to get their input on various questions from time to time.

 

I'll be asking for nominees from within the entire CZ community, but, as the
Statement of Fundamental Policies says, I reserve the decision as to the
makeup of the Board of Advisors to myself.

 

There's an entire Board set aside for discussions of the Charter:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/board,7.0.html 

 

Feel free to start new topics there.

 


 

 

VIII. The future of the "Policy Outline" document and other organizational
documents

 

In executing all these changes, I am going to be editing, or (when
appropriate) proposing edits to, "Policy Outline."  But in fact, one of the
first things I want to do is to make a thorough overhaul of that document,
which in places has become a bit bewhiskered.  I want to move some details
to their own policy pages, and move other details that appear only in other
documents now to the outline.  The outline itself will become (I hope)
shorter and more readable, and I will make sure that it has links to every
important policy document.  It will (and will continue to be) the one-stop
shop for all Citizendium policy.

 

I will list all changes that I make to Constabulary policy and Editorial
policy, and look to get en masse permission from the Constabulary and the
Editorial Council for these changes.

 

I will also give explicit permission to several more people, to maintain
specific sections of the Policy Outline--and linked documents--that are in
their care.  In order to do this, though, I will write up some guidelines
for editing the document: which details go in the document and which go on
more specialized policy pages, who needs to be informed of changes, and that
we should be linking to all (yes, all) policy pages from the Policy Outline.

 

I'd like to make better use of various templates in organizing policy and
help documents, as I have done with the various Editorial Council pages.

 

I am going to draft a brand new introduction to CZ for editors--long
promised, never executed--and do a thorough overhaul/careful rethink of how
many other policy and help pages are done.  The aim will be to maximize
simplicity and clarity. 

 

 

 

IX. A new Personnel Manager?

 

We have desperately needed (perhaps without often being aware of it) a
Personnel Manager, that is, a person who manages, or oversees, the selection
of persons in every position of responsibility.  Note, the person would not
(in most cases) be responsible for the actual selection of persons, but for
three things.

 

First, the Personnel Manager would make sure that the processes in place for
new user registration are all running properly.  In other words, we aren't
getting any big backlogs of author or editor applications, and we have
enough constables and editorial personnel administrators to handle the
workload efficiently.

 

Second, the Personnel Manager would maintain a master list of all appointed
personnel, including their dates of appointment and when their terms are to
expire, and, when necessary, remind the relevant parties about the need to
start the process for replacement. 

 

Third, the Personnel Manager would run, or supervise, whatever mechanisms of
sortition (or election) we establish for the Editorial Council.

 

The Personnel Manager would be answerable to the Editor-in-Chief and would
necessarily be on the Executive Committee.  In fact, the person might be
either the Chief Constable or the Chair of the Editorial Personnel
Committee, but should not be a rank-and-file constable or a rank-and-file
Editorial Personnel Administrator.  Considering the possibility that the
person might end up with responsibility for important decisions affecting
editorial personnel, perhaps the person should be an editor. 

 

I want to leave it unsettled, by the way, whether this person might have any
special authority over hiring decisions with regard to (future) employees.
I don't think so.  The important executive nature of such decisions is
something that the Editor-in-Chief should handle, with the input of the
entire Editorial Committee, at least while the project is small enough for
this to be feasible.  In some cases, in the future, volunteers might be able
to select some employees, however.  We'll cross that bridge when we come to
it.  Right now it's irrelevant because we have no money to pay employees!

 

This is another position, like that of the Chair of the Editorial Council,
that is important enough that if we can't find a person within CZ to do the
job, I might well look for someone outside of CZ.

 

 

 

X. Coming soon: job listings and a new method of volunteering.

 

At several points in the past, I have asked, in various ways, for people to
take responsibility.  Most recently, I asked people to create their own
roles, and submit job descriptions to the Executive Committee.  I'm
embarrassed to say that we still have not responded to some of those
applications, and the applicants have been patiently waiting.  I pledge
again to follow up on these application in the coming weeks, and, once
found, a Personnel Manager will (if necessary) also help ensure this.

 

But, despite getting some good volunteers involved in new positions this way
(such as Stephen Ewen and Sorin Matei), I think we haven't really recruited
as many people as we could for positions of authority.

 

To solve this problem, I want us to compile "job listings," a list of
different positions of responsibility for which we are specifically looking
for volunteers.  Also, rather than encouraging people to volunteer for just
one specific position, I want to give people the ability to apply for any
one of a list of choices, and then I and the personnel manager decide where
to send them.  They can specify their preferences, but I think perhaps we'll
have more volunteers if people are under the impression that they'll be
"called to duty" rather than seeming to assert publicly, and perhaps vainly,
that they are the most qualified person for a job.  They can say, "I'll do
any job (except #3 and #8), just tell me where I'm most needed."  Then I can
assign the willing hands best in accordance with their abilities.

 

I think a lot of people involved in CZ are very willing to volunteer to take
responsibility--their hard work on the wiki demonstrates that--but they
don't want to come across as so self-assertive.  Strong collaboration might
require boldness, but it also invites a more conciliatory and unassertive
sort of spirit.  These people aren't always the most visible or the noisiest
in the project, but they nevertheless make up the majority of our active
participants.  So, with this in mind, I'm thinking we might get more
volunteers if we ask people to volunteer to be assigned, to go where they're
needed.  After all, over the months, I've received dozens and dozens of
mails from participants saying, essentially, "Let me know what you want me
to do."  If you have sent me such a mail, by the way, please send me
another, after we produce a list of "job openings," and this time I'll have
an answer for you!

 

Another option the personnel manager and I might well want to exercise is to
advertise these positions on the blog, Craigslist, and other venues external
to CZ.  That could be rather exciting. 

 

Here's a place to talk about all these "personnel" issues:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,1053.0.html 

 

 

 

XI. Subpages and new "ancillary content" projects

 

So far, I've talked mostly about project policy and governance.  But I also
intend to start work, quite soon, on a whole bunch of new content
"subprojects," which together will, I think, give a real shot in the arm to
CZ as a whole, and could (I hope, anyway) generate a lot of new excitement.
It is this, even more than the governance improvements, that will transform
us into "CZ 2.0."

 

I've already signed on to the notion of using MediaWiki subpages for
ancillary, supporting types of information:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,973.0.html 

 

Let me give you my latest thinking on this.  Basically, I want to move all
the end matter, except footnotes, to subpages, and I want to link to those
subpages at the top right of every regular article page.  (I believe this
list of subpages can be generated automatically a la the neat {{archive}}
template you can see demonstrated on, for example, [[User talk:Larry
Sanger]].  Should be very cool!)  This will require a project-wide
initiative (The Big Subpage Move?).

 

Here is a rough draft of a standard list of subpages:

 

*	Annotated Web links
*	Annotated (non-Web) bibliography
*	Categories (subtopics, supertopics, related topics)
*	Catalogs (almanac-type information in tabular form; see e.g.
[[catalog of religions]])
*	Gallery
*	Expert (curated) articles with bylines
*	Debate guide
*	News guide

 

There might, in addition, be other kinds of subpages depending on the type
of article.  (In fact, some of the above might be optional.)  In any case, I
want to have a canonical list of acceptable types of subpages carefully
maintained on the wiki.  Note that no encyclopedia article should occur on a
subpage.

 

It occurred to me some time ago that, with the "physical" separation of
content onto special and standardized subpages, it then becomes much easier
to think of how subprojects of the main encyclopedia project might be
organized.  It is also possible to think of how to assign editorial
responsibility over such subprojects: each type of subpage might have its
own Project Workgroup, headed up by a Project Coordinator.

 

In short, the subpages schema could very nicely serve as an extensible
framework on which to hang subprojects.  So we can imagine a CZ Web
Directory Project, a CZ Bibliography Project, and so on down the list of
subpage types.  The assumption, however, is that there will be a mapping
(one-to-many) from encyclopedia article topics to the needed topics for all
other types of content.  (I'll explain this problem more later.)

 

To be clear, while I would want to take the lead in defining the subprojects
and working on basic policy (in most cases), I think that they each need
organizers, or coordinators.  For certain projects, we already have some
suitable potential coordinators on board.  I have a certain very active
editor in mind as Editor of the Bibliography Project (I sure hope he'll
agree to take it on).  Steve Ewen has already thrown his hat in the ring as
a media coordinator.  There is a certain former ABC News producer on board
who has been working on plans for the CZ news summary project.  There's also
a person who, if he's still interested, has expressed interest in acting as
editor of a project that solicits expert-written, not-necessarily-neutral,
bylined introductions to topics.

 

Each of these coordinators might be encouraged to gather together an outside
advisory committee for the project.  This is potentially in the works for
the news summary project.

 

I'd like to stress that the job of the project coordinators need not be so
terribly arduous, for several reasons.  First, most importantly, the
infrastructure for these projects is already in place.  That is, we already
have processes in place to get new participants on board; we have CZ-wide
governance processes in place and ramping up; etc.  Second, they'll probably
have help from me and from many Citizens.  If we don't see much evidence of
broad-based interest in a brand new sort of project, before we start it,
then we won't start it.  Third, several of these projects are simply natural
extensions of what we've already done, including the links project, the
bibliography project, and the image gallery project.  Those projects will be
relatively easy to get started.

 

I've listed a number of different perhaps unfamiliar items on the list.  I
will have to explain these later.  Don't worry, it won't all happen at once
without public input.

 

Again, here's where to talk about this proposal:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,973.0.html 

 

 

 

XII. Other new initiatives

 

Probably the most important other new initiative I want to start is an
expansion of the Article Checklist, especially with editor ratings of
different aspects of content.  That is, I would like to give editors the
authority to rate all articles on several different dimensions, but
especially accuracy, completeness, and mechanics--and, generally, all or
almost all of our article standards:

 

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/CZ:Policy_Outline#Article_Standards 

 

Another initiative I want to start (and this we can start anytime) is an
initiative to delete all external articles and all stub articles below a
certain length.  Moreover, this is something that we ought to schedule and
do on a regular (e.g., monthly) basis.

 

The general place to discuss new initiatives is here:

 

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/board,74.0.html 

 

 

 

XIII. Prioritization and my to do list 

 

If you've read this far, you're probably saying, "Sanger, you're crazy.  We
can't do all that."

 

But I think we can.  It won't happen overnight, but it can be done on the
order of a few months, not years.  It will take more focused effort than
we've been giving lately--my efforts in particular haven't always been as
focused as they should have been.

 

In the coming days, I am going to be using [[User:Larry Sanger]] to maintain
my project "to do" list, so that you can see my plans:

 


http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/User:Larry_Sanger 

 

You'll see there my "roadmap" for short- and medium-term project
development.

 

The only thing I'm asking you to do at this time is to react to this mail.
Please don't send me any applications for the positions described above yet.
My mail backlog is too big as it is, and I need to tackle these more
efficiently, as described above.

 

Regards,

Larry

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