DDD Europe 2023 - Program

Improving Technical Decision Making in the Wikimedia Movement

Main Conference - Talk



Kate Chapman

Kate Chapman

The Wikimedia Movement (the movement behind Wikipedia) is a complex socio-technical environment behind Wikipedia, involving passionate people from all over the world in both the editorial and technological processes. The decisions required to bring our vision to light – “free access to the sum of all human knowledge” – are infinite and complex. Effective technical decisions is a core architectural process; that has become more complex as the number of stakeholders has grown significantly.

I joined the Wikimedia Foundation (the non-profit that supports Wikipedia) to support technical decision making. I then began looking at how technical decisions were made and was charged with improving the process surrounding them. Key areas for improvement included timeliness of decisions, better documentation of decisions and better definition of problem statements.

A year and a half ago we switched from an architecture review committee style of decision-making to a consultation focused methodology. Each decision-making method has different advantages and different stakeholders for which they are optimized. In this talk I will go over the change process, what areas were difficult and what surprises there have been along the way. Specific areas included will be:

  • Surprising reactions between the two processes
  • How we approached avoiding early solutioning
  • Incorporating system thinking into the approach
  • The evolution of the process since the initial switch


No prerequisite. Anyone who has ever had to choose between two or more options that have trade-offs will get something out of this talk.

About Kate Chapman

Kate Chapman is a technologist, geographer and farmer. Currently she is leading the Engineering Enablement Group at the Wikimedia Foundation. Kate is passionate about collaborating on systems level changes within Wikimedia enabling better knowledge sharing across the world. Kate also serves as the President of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team where she is a passionate supporter of open mapping for more resilient communities.

Previously Kate served as the Chief Technology Officer of the Cadasta Foundation and was Executive Director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. A long time advocate and participant in the free culture movement she believes it is important to put people first. When not thinking about virtual systems she is at home thinking about physical systems on her miniature dairy goat farm.