Saturday, 21 July 2007

On election timing

I blogged a few weeks ago about some issues I saw with the process for the Wikimedia Board election that was held recently. The results, as I am sure most people are aware by now, were released on 12 July, with Erik Möller, Kathleen Walsh and Frieda Brioschi being elected to serve two year terms.

One seemingly obvious observation that seems to have been lost so far amidst the larger controversies is that the new members of the Board were appointed some time after the date when their terms were supposed to commence, which was 1 July. Either the seats of the three outgoing members were left vacant for twelve days, or else they were occupied for twelve days beyond the time that they were supposed to be. Either alternative points to a serious failure with timing.

This is representative of almost all the problems with the election, which I attribute primarily to how little time there was for the Steering Committee to organise these elections; the Committee only being put in place at the beginning of the last week in May.

A number of problems with the election were caused or at least exacerbated by the haste with which the election had to be conducted. As an example, the amount of translation achieved in the 2007 election was less than that which has been achieved previously. For the 2004 election, the primary information page for the election on Meta was translated into 32 languages, and the 2005 election page was translated into 35 languages. In 2006 this dropped to 26, and in 2007 the main election page was translated into just 21 languages. I suspect that this was at least partly due to the fact that the master version of the election description page was only released a little over an hour and a half before candidate entry began. This is perhaps the most obvious problem with the election that could be lessened by allocating more time, though there are others.

Given that we know exactly when elections will be due (since we know when members' terms conclude) it should be entirely possible to plan when certain key events in the election process need to occur, and indeed to prepare for many parts of the election in advance.

I have put together some more thoughts in my userspace on Meta, along with a suggested timeline for when the election process should begin. Any suggestions as to improving this suggested timeline (particularly input on how long should be allocated to each phase of the election) are welcome.


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