the past three months

There are about a million topics that I have considered writing about in this blog the last three months, things I made notes on and never quite finished. I’ve been, you might say, a little overwhelmed this quarter; but mostly with trying to process lots of ideas and information. I have been trying to dig myself out this Thanksgiving weekend though, so if I have failed to do something don’t hesitate to remind me. You know that thing where you’re juggling, and everything is fine but then something happens — you catch a cold, someone jostles your elbow, something happens at work, you lose all motivation for a few days — and once you drop one ball you drop them all? Right.

Here are some of the things that have happened since I last wrote:

  • Back in September Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, and I went to Quaker Camp. It was a retreat down in the Santa Cruz mountains on the subject of clerking, or the fine art of facilitating a meeting to consensus. Neither Sue or I are Quaker ourselves, but we enjoyed the camp-out style retreat setting and talking about the mechanics of interpersonal and group consensus with a small gathering of people who had thought a great deal about it. The Quakers are a fascinating, low-key but fundamentally sturdy bunch; as a social organization, I admire them greatly. Sue wrote about what we learned on her blog.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation Board met in early October for the Board’s annual San Francisco meeting. This of course was my first in-person meeting, and I thought it went well. The Board meetings are a two-day affair, but really more like three or four as we got together the night before and the day after as well, and there’s a fair bit of reading we needed to do beforehand. It’s pretty intensive: full days of meetings, followed by dinner, and a packed agenda. You can view the resolutions that came of it here; items included approving the final strategic plan, meeting with the movement roles working group, and discussing the report on controversial content that was commissioned. This last item led to a working group being formed to work on the recommendations; I’m on the group, and wrote a note to Foundation-l explaining it a couple weeks ago, if you’re curious.
  • At my workplace, the UC Davis libraries, I led a project to put on a speaker series for Open Access Week, which was October 18-22; Open Access Week is a celebration and awareness event for open access and alternative scholarly publishing that is now in its fourth year. I thought we had a pretty great lineup of speakers: Catherine Mitchell and Patricia Cruse (the California Digital Library), Jonathan Eisen (PLoS Biology), Marta Brunner (Open Humanities Project), and Lisa Green (Creative Commons). I was particularly pleased with this event since it helped bring together the two halves of my working life — the free culture/Wikimedia side and the library/academia side — and because I think it’s very important to raise awareness of open access on campus, as the first step of bringing about more sustainable, fair publishing models. I am grateful to our speakers and attendees.
  • The local chapter of the Special Libraries Association that I am president-elect of , the Sierra Nevada Chapter, put on a couple of great events this fall as well, including dinner with Stacey Aldrich (the California State Librarian) and a discussion about information professional ethics with Toni Carbo (Drexel). Let me tell you what, after organizing a bunch of these meetings I feel like I know just about everything there is to know about local affordable catering options! I also of course learned a lot from our excellent speakers, and am glad to meet and network with regional librarians; it’s a nice chance to meet librarians outside of the academic area. I also attended a talk put on by the SF Bay SLA chapter about net neutrality with Richard Esguerra of the EFF, who did a great job of teaching us more about the long and sordid history of net neutrality legislation.
  • Our SXSW panel got accepted! It is called “Too Small, Too Open: Correcting Wikipedia’s Local Failure, ” and it’s about community wikis and how to best support them. SXSW is in March, and I am looking forward to working with everyone. Additionally, the LocalWiki kickstarter grant got funded, and they are well on their way towards even more awesomeness.
  • I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking at the annual Wikimedia staff all-hands meeting in late October. I didn’t have anything earth-shattering to say; I talked about contributors, and motivation, and things I’ve learned about communication during my tenure on the projects. It was really lovely to see everyone, though, and I hope the talk was helpful at least for the new people.
  • At the beginning of November, I attended the Charleston Conference, an annual gathering for publishers and librarians (primarily acquisitions librarians). I had the privilege of speaking twice: I gave a talk about Wikipedia and the ways that librarians and publishers can help with it, and then another short talk about the same subject as part of a plenary panel that was organized by John Dove of Credo Reference. The panel, which was called “The Tower and the Free Web” focused on the issue of publishers working with the free web — e.g. the web that is accessible to all, including Wikipedia — and it was utterly fascinating.  I am grateful for the invitation to speak, and I found it quite interesting to talk to publishers, many of whom wanted to know “how can I help Wikipedia?” which is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit ever since. In addition to lots of good conversations about Wikipedia, I went to several sessions relevant to my day job. And as a special bonus, I got to see my awesome cousin who lives in the area.
  • I also attended the annual Boardsource conference in mid-November; it happened to be in San Francisco this year.  Boardsource is an organization that works with non-profit boards and executive directors. I have been spending all fall reading their excellent Handbook of Nonprofit Governance, which is quite practical and comprehensive (I recommend it to anyone thinking of running for the Wikimedia Board or sitting on another nonprofit board). The conference was 600 or so nonprofit board members and directors gathered together for sessions on topics like diversity in governance and financial accounting. I came away with a fair amount of information and things to think about, and feel it was a valuable experience — though I did learn that Wikimedia is a bit of an outlier, as we are quite large and organized compared to the majority of U.S. nonprofits!
  • I also had the fun of seeing lots of visitors to the Wikimedia office this fall, like Liam Wyatt, who came to visit on part of his grand worldwide tour of museums and cultural institutions before the GLAM-WIKI conference in the UK, which just concluded. We spent the day together talking about cultural institutions and how to make collaborations with them scale, a topic which Liam wrote up eloquently on his blog.

So what’s going on for me now?

  • At the library, our quarter is winding down: it was busy as usual for the fall quarter, with lots of teaching, orientations and reference. We are still uncertain of what is happening to our library building; we have not yet gotten the report from the faculty group that is investigating whether we should close the branch and consolidate our library into the main library. In the meantime, we’re also still waiting on the announcement of an appointment of a temporary University Librarian. So lots of change may — or may not be — in the air, and we are all just sort of bracing ourselves to see what comes. On a happier note, I am in charge of planning our annual fall/winter librarian’s social this year; it’s next week, and it will be great. And of course I’m working on a half dozen collections and web projects, as usual.
  • Have you seen the face of Jimmy Wales staring down at you from the homepage of Wikipedia? That’s because it’s time for our annual fundraiser! Though I’m not directly involved in the mechanics, I’ve of course been following along closely. It’s very exciting: we have ambitious goals this year, a more tightly refined fundraiser than ever, and we’re trying lots of new things behind the scenes. You should of course donate if you have not done so already; I’m a bit biased, sure, but Wikimedia is a truly amazing organization. The average donation this year is about $29, and that’s how we pay the bills.
  • Wikimania and WikiSym — the two wiki conferences I am involved in — are both gearing up behind the scenes as well. Further information soon!
  • Starting pretty much directly after the Board election this summer, I started trying to better educate and prepare myself for the role of being a Board member — everything from reading the aforementioned Handbook to reading documents on the Board wiki. I also started taking notes on things I wanted to write about and work on, and spent a fair bit of time talking to my fellow trustees. This of course is an ongoing process — I hope to blog about what it’s like to be on the Board, for instance, while I figure it out myself. This onboarding has been taking most of my mental energy, as you might imagine. I knew a good deal about the organization, but still had a lot to learn, and on top of that have a lot to think about: it’s a big year for the Foundation. It’s a full-time job just to keep up with all the things happening with Wikimedia, it seems like; for the lay reader, I recommend the excellent newsletter The Signpost and our new Announcements list.

That’s mostly it, I think. There have been interludes — I caught a cold a couple weeks ago and so stayed home in bed and watched the completely excellent 1980s adaptation of the Dorothy Sayers stories, with Edward Petherbridge — something I have been meaning to watch for ages. Those who know me well know that I adore Sayers to the point of obsessiveness, so was nervous about the adaptations, but they were great — much better than I’ve heard the 1960s ones are.  I traveled a bit this fall to see friends, too — up to Seattle, off to the east coast — but only for long weekends. I’ve been re-watching the ridiculous but sublime teen drama Veronica Mars lately, and have been staying up much too late — my sleep cycle is a bit off, which has been making me cranky. I’ve been spending a lot more time in San Francisco in general lately, which has been a lot of fun, though I sure do wish it were closer — the hour+ drive gets old after a while. And, most recently, I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my friends in Sacramento, who are excellent hosts and super poker players; I had a great time on my favorite holiday eating and being lazy, and now find myself at an end of a long weekend with my house still a total mess but hey, at least that bookshelf got assembled.

More soon. I swear!

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6 Responses to the past three months

  1. Steven Walling says:

    Glad to hear you had some time to eat turkey and be lazy Phoebes, though I’m sad to see it was at the bottom of the list. 😉

  2. Mark N. says:

    Is it even possible to do this many things in one quarter? Are you a mortal, Phoebe??

  3. Austin says:

    You just reminded me of the time you, me, and Charles were in a Cambridge (UK) used bookstore (which prided itself for its first editions, but wasn’t really that great) when a 50-ish woman came in and asked “Do you have anything by Dorothy L. Sayers?” I can’t remember the exact words of the snobby proprietor—who was going casual that day by wearing a necktie rather than an ascot—but it was the ultimate passive-aggressive smackdown in the way only a Brit can pull off. I do, however, distinctly remember her heartbreaking parting words: “Well, I just made a fool of me.”

    If this were a better story, it would end in some sort of Texas/Cambridge showdown where we found common ground in a duel. Unfortunately, I was nonplussed.

  4. phoebe says:

    oh man! I’d forgotten about that. I might not have been quite as into Sayers then; I can’t remember when I started really reading them. I would have totally dueled with that guy though.

  5. David Gerard says:

    “the fine art of facilitating a meeting to consensus.”

    Oh, man. Can we start an active recruitment programme for Quaker editors?

  6. phoebe says:

    David: yeah! Sue and I talked about that 🙂 we tried to recruit the people who were there, anyway.

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