March 22, 2017

Wiki Education Foundation

Inviting criminal justice instructors to make information available to the public

When students bring a critical eye to Wikipedia, comparing its available content to their course readings, academic studies, and personal experiences, they’re often surprised at what information is missing. During their assignment to research a topic and write about it on Wikipedia, they remedy that information disparity.

In Annette Nierobisz’s course on Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice at Carleton College in spring 2016, students identified missing information about criminology and the justice system, then created articles on those overlooked topics. For example, students started the article about reproductive health care for incarcerated women in the U.S.. As more women are incarcerated in the United States, prisons must develop systems to care for pregnant women and their babies. But most prisons lack the proper resources to make this necessary shift. If Americans don’t know about issues like this plaguing incarcerated women, they are less likely to prioritize criminal justice reform as a political platform. By contributing information about the subject to Wikipedia, students brought Americans a step closer to understanding the research behind the issues.

Similarly, students adding accurate, accessible, and comprehensible legal information to Wikipedia are empowering citizens to understand the legal rights that impact their everyday lives. After all, most people don’t have access to law books, and, even if they do, they lack the legal prowess and education to understand the details. Most Americans do, however, have access to Wikipedia, which can summarize case law relevant to their communities. This is the power of a public resource like Wikipedia and why we need more criminology students to make sure as many communities as possible are represented.

This week, I’m at the Academy of Criminal Justice Science‘s annual meeting in Kansas City, MO. ACJS promotes criminal justice research and education, and the attendees are the ideal collaborators to bring their expertise and students to Wikipedia. If you are attending the conference, stop by the Wiki Education booth in the exhibit hall to find out how criminology and law students are working to inform citizens about their rights and laws.

Exhibit hall hours

  • Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 9:00am–5:00pm
  • Thursday, March 23, 2017, 9:00am–5:00pm
  • Friday, March 24, 2017, 9:00am–2:00pm

If you’re interested in joining our program, email us at contact@wikiedu.org.

by Jami Mathewson at March 22, 2017 08:45 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Announcing Keyholder: Secure, shared shell access

Photo by LoggaWiggler, public domain/CC0.

Suppose there is an alternate reality in which you own an apartment building and your biggest worries are the security of your apartments and the well-being of goldfish, respectively.

In this reality, that of apartment building ownership without profit motive, there exists a startup, “GLDFSH,®” that allows tenants to summon others to feed their goldfish. Sometimes folks will set up a trust with GLDFSH to take care of their goldfish after they pass away.

As you care about security (even more than goldfish), if a tenant no longer inhabits one of your apartments, you change the locks as a matter of course—regardless of circumstance. There have been times (dark times) when a goldfish being cared for in trust has missed a meal because you didn’t get GLDFSH an updated copy of a key in a timely manner.

So what if you made a special GLDFSH-only key that opened all the apartments where there were goldfish?  You could keep that key under the watchful eye of a security minion 24/7/365.  That minion wouldn’t allow anyone to use the key, but would allow anyone with an active and valid GLDFSH employee ID (very secure) to enter an goldfish-containing apartment by using that single special key.


Keyholder, a newly open-sourced project from the Wikimedia Foundation, is a bit like that ever-watchful security minion. For us, it allows authorized developers to access remote servers using an ssh key, to which it is the only user that has access. More specifically, Keyholder is an ssh-agent proxy that allows a group of trusted users to share an SSH identity without exposing the contents of that identity’s private key.

We have been using Keyholder for several years, and we’re now releasing it as a standalone project.

Wikimedia and SSH

Secure Shell (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol and client-server architecture that is used to provide a secure communication tunnel over an insecure network. The SSH protocol is defined across a series of requests for comments, an Internet standards-setting publication, and its OpenSSH implementation is broadly used wherever you find Linux on a server.

Over here at Wikimedia, we use SSH everywhere! If you interact with a shell account, chances are you authenticate yourself (and the server to which you’re connecting) via SSH.

SSH is also the tool we turn to for deployments of MediaWiki and other software. Our deployment software, stripped to its nuts and bolts, sends a command over SSH to all of our application servers to tell them that new code is available and that they should fetch it.

Secure secure shell

SSH is not a perfect technology; there are various means by which malicious actors may exploit SSH, and we do our best to mitigate the ability of those malicious actors to do harm to our infrastructure.

For instance, there are several ways in which SSH may authenticate a client – passwords and public keys being the most common. Using password-based authentication is insecure for all the normal reasons that passwords may be compromised – everything from using easy-to-guess passwords to rubber-hose cryptanalysis.

Alternatively, public key cryptography is a technology that is indistinguishable from magic (a.k.a, “math”) that enables a server to authenticate you by validating that you have some secret (a private key) based on a public piece of information (a public key).

Public key cryptography is awesome; however, there are ways in which you can be bad at public key authentication.

Photo by bastique, CC BY-SA 2.0.

ssh-agent forwarding considered harmful™

ssh-agent is a program that allows a user to hold unencrypted private keys in memory for use in public key authentication. ssh-agent is neat – it means you only need to enter the password for your private keys once per login session. ssh-agent is also a way you can be bad at public key authentication.

A common use of the ssh-agent is to “forward” your agent to a remote machine (using the -A flag in the OpenSSH client). After you’ve forwarded your ssh-agent, you can use the socket that that agent creates to access any of your many (now unencrypted) keys, and login to any other machines for which you may have keys in your ssh-agent. So, too, potentially, can all the other folks that have root access to the machine to which you’ve forwarded your ssh-agent.

While some folks may pick-and-choose keys to keep in one of many ssh-agents, it’s entirely possible to keep your Wikimedia production SSH key in the same ssh-agent that you forward to your second-cousin’s friend-of-a-friend’s shared-hosting provider. For this reason, forwarding your ssh-agent is Considered Harmful™.

And even though we know no one would ever be reckless enough to try to forward SSH keys, we discourage bad practice by not allowing anyone to forward their ssh-agent to production.

Deployment hosts considered useful™

Keeping track of the two deployed versions of MediaWiki, the nearly 2000 files in the MediaWiki configuration repository, and the correct version of the other 169 extensions we branch every week is a heavy burden.

To lighten the load on our deployers, we use a handful of deployment hosts from which we are able to easily script deployments.

This means you can login to a deployment host, pull in the latest updates, and get new code running on the Wikimedia sites in under a minute (if you’re a quick-draw with git).

A perfect storm

So let’s review.

  1. Publickey SSH authentication is magic, let’s use that!
  2. To keep access to our production machines secure and to encourage best practice, we won’t allow anyone to forward their ssh-agent to production.
  3. For ease of use, we’ll deploy from a special host in production.
  4. We’ll use SSH to deploy from our special deployment host.

But how do we grant deployers SSH access from the deployment host without using passwords, without allowing agent forwarding, without having to manage SSH keys for every. single. deployer, and without creating the administrative mess of every deployer sharing a single deployment key?

With Keyholder, of course!

Several years ago there were some folks around here who pondered this exact problem and came up with a pretty novel solution that we’ve finally made into a standalone project!

Keyholder began life as a gleam in the eye of principal operations engineer Faidon Liambotis, who conceived of its core requirements and gave a basic operational sketch. From there, Ori Livneh did the hard work of reading the source and RFCs that make ssh-agent work and turned that into the initial version of Keyholder. Tyler Cipriani added support for multiple keys and separate user groups. Riccardo Coccioli added support for OpenSSH SHA256 fingerprints. And, finally, Mukunda Modell liberated Keyholder from the depths of our Puppet repository where it was previously languishing in obscurity.

Keyholder makes it possible for deployers to share a key without complicated administrative overhead. When a user needs to use SSH to connect to an application server from our deployment host they point ssh-agent requests to a UNIX domain socket created by Keyholder. If a user’s group membership allows them to use a particular key protected by Keyholder, then Keyholder will sign an application server’s authentication request, otherwise authentication will fail and they will not be able to login to the remote machine.

The actual SSH private keys are encrypted on disk and only readable by root users. When a user’s shell account is removed from the deployment host there is no need to rotate the SSH public/private keypair because the user has never had direct access to it, rather they’ve simply been using the mystical magic of Keyholder.

The magic of Keyholder is in its ability to proxy the ssh-agent socket as a privileged user. Keyholder creates a UNIX domain socket that is a readable and writable by anyone with shell access; however, Keyholder will only respond to requests to list identities and sign requests – users cannot add new keys or accidentally remove keys from the agent. Keyholder will only sign requests after verifying that the requesting user is authorized to make a signing request using a particular key.

We’ve been using Keyholder for several years at this point, and it’s a solution that works well for us. Still, it’s not a perfect approach. The increase in security comes at a price of increased complexity both for users and administrators. When the need to add new keys arises, the means by which those keys are generated and stored can be opaque for end-users. Further, utilizing and troubleshooting Keyholder as an end-user is not obvious. Many of our uses of Keyholder are scripted, so that Keyholder’s use on our servers is largely (hopefully) transparent. On the administrative side, storing separate keys and passwords for every group using Keyholder has its own difficulties.  Also, the need to add keys to the ssh-agent being proxied by keyholder means that the servers on which Keyholder are running require some kind of manual intervention on reboot to ensure that Keyholder is, in fact, holding all the necessary keys.

Despite the added complexity, we’ve found that Keyholder is a very useful tool. We’re excited to unlock its potential on the world! We hope that it will be useful to other organizations faced with similar challenges, of managing many servers that a large number of users are accessing via ssh. It’s a small step towards improving the security of our shared online infrastructure.

Tyler Cipriani, Software Engineer, Release Engineering
Mukunda Modell, Software Engineer, Release Engineering
Wikimedia Foundation

by Mukunda Modell and Tyler Cipriani at March 22, 2017 04:59 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Monthly Report for February 2017


  • Local and remote staff connected for an all-staff meeting in San Francisco’s Presidio. Staff shared Year of Science reflections, celebrated last year’s successes, and kicked off the annual planning process for the next fiscal year.
  • Wiki Ed staff attended the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. Director of Programs LiAnna Davis and Wikipedia Content Expert for the Sciences Ian Ramjohn discussed using Wikipedia as a platform for science communication with attendees in the exhibit hall and in a workshop with the Simons Foundation’s Greg Boustead and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Dario Taraborelli.
  • NPR and Pacific Standard ran major news pieces about how assigning students to edit Wikipedia through Wiki Ed’s program provides much-needed media literacy skills for students.
  • We announced a new Wikipedia Visiting Scholar, User:Czar, partnered with Smithsonian Libraries and the National Museum of African Art. Czar has already produced a number of high-quality articles about African art and artists.


Educational Partnerships

Ian at AAAS
Ian Ramjohn talks about teaching with Wikipedia with a AAAS attendee.

At this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Boston played host to thousands of scientists, policy makers, and journalists. In a workshop at AAAS entitled “Mind the Gaps: Wikipedia as a Tool to Connect Scientists and the Public”, Greg Boustead of the Simons Foundation pointed out that the coverage of women scientists on Wikipedia is less complete than that of their male colleagues (and what coverage does exist tends to speak less about the significance of their contributions to science). When scientists assign their students to create biographies of women scientists, they aren’t engaging in activism; they’re merely working to ensure that the facts that are out there “speaking for themselves” are representative of reality. In the same workshop, LiAnna discussed the role that students can play in translating scientific knowledge into something that’s more understandable to general audiences.

LiAnna and Ian also joined attendees in the AAAS exhibit hall, where conversations about using Wikipedia’s platform to communicate science were lively. Mark Sarvary and Kelee Pacion also presented about their experience in our program in their class at Cornell.

As of February 28, we have brought 143 new courses into the Classroom Program for the spring 2017 term — 53 more than this time last year. The numbers prove our efforts to raise awareness about teaching with Wikipedia have been working, and we have been spent the month helping new instructors prepare their Wikipedia assignments.

Classroom Program

Status of the Classroom Program for Spring 2017 in numbers, as of February 28:

  • 270 Wiki Ed-supported courses were in progress (126, or 47%, were led by returning instructors)
  • 4,882 student editors were enrolled
  • 58% were up-to-date with the student training
  • Students edited 2,630 articles, created 93 new entries, and added 554,000 words.

As we approach the middle of the term, students are beginning to delve deeply into their Wikipedia assignments. They’re choosing articles to improve, drafting bibliographies, and making those first edits to Wikipedia’s main article space. We’re closing out February with 270 courses in progress, already just shy of the 276 we supported throughout all of last term. We expect to exceed our Fall 2016 record shortly, a feat we’re very proud of.

As more students engage in Wikipedia-based assignments, they have the chance to participate in the production of public knowledge, and in doing so become more adept consumers of knowledge as well. They take on the great responsibility that comes with contributing to Wikipedia, and have the chance to produce work with a lasting impact. At the same time, Wikipedia gets better coverage of topics ranging from immunology to Hawaiian linguistics, and from chemical engineering to Renaissance art.

In February, we again hosted Wiki Ed Office Hours. During this program, instructors were able to drop in and speak with members of the Wiki Ed staff about their Wikipedia assignments as well as learn what others are doing in the classroom. We’ll continue running this program throughout the term. This month, we also sent out the inaugural edition of the Wiki Ed Newsletter to both current and past program participants. Wiki Ed is engaged in a variety of programs, and we want to make sure that our instructors know about the many ways they can engage with us outside of the classroom. As the program continues to grow, we see the newsletter as a way to stay in touch with our instructors, even when they’re not teaching with Wikipedia, and to expand their involvement in the project of connecting Wikipedia and academia.

At the end of the month, Classroom Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal and Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson visited Dr. Amin Azzam’s class at the University of California, San Francisco. As Amin puts it, his group of fourth year medical students are uniquely positioned to contribute to Wikipedia. Their knowledge is robust, and they are still able to communicate their medical knowledge to a non-expert audience. As Helaine conveyed to the students, hundreds of millions of people go to Wikipedia on a monthly basis for medical information, so their contributions could potentially save lives. We’ve been working with Amin since Fall 2014, and we look forward to a continued partnership as we attempt to improve medical content on Wikipedia.

A student in Emily Sessa’s Principles of Systematic Biology class created Wikipedia’s article about bat flight.
Image: Bat-wing underside.jpg, by Salix, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Student work highlights:

A zeotropic mixture is a mixture of components which have different boiling points. Separating these compounds through distillation is an important industrial application, and understanding the nature of these mixtures and their components is crucial for the design of the distillation columns used in the separation process. Before students in Elizabeth Nance’s Communication in Chemical Engineering class started working on it, Wikipedia’s zeotropic mixture article was short, saying little about the nature of zeotropic mixtures and almost nothing about their separation by distillation. A student in the class expanded the article substantially, adding not only sections on these topics but also ones on the use of zeotropic mixtures as refrigerants and cleaning solvents.

Another student in the class has been working on the capillary pressure article, which was surprisingly short before they started editing it. In addition to fleshing out the theory and equations of capillary pressure, the student also added applications both in the petrochemical industry and in natural processes, such as the formation of needle ice. Other students expanded a range of articles including those on inviscid flow, eddies, and the enthalpy of mixing. One student created a new article on minor losses in pipe flow.

Various insects have symbiotic relationships with fungi; many wood-boring insects, for example, depend on fungi to break down wood into something the insects can digest. Some of these carry their symbionts with them in a specialized structure called a mycangium. A student in Emily Sessa’s Principles of Systematic Biology class expanded the short article to add details about mycangia in a host of beetles and a group of wasps. They also added information about some of the types of fungi that insects carry in their mycangia.

Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. Another student in the class created a stand-alone article on bat flight. The article discusses topics including the evolutionary origins of flight, and the relationship between wing morphology and the ecology of various species. Other students created articles about Euwallacea fornicatus, an ambrosia beetle that carries fungal spores with it in its mycangium, while others created articles about Amoebidium and Paramoebidium, a pair of genera of unicellular organisms formerly known as protists.

To many people, nanotechnology is something just this side of science fiction, dealing, as it does, with objects between 1 and 100 nanometers in size (or as little as a billionth of a meter). Students in Katherine Mirica’s Functional Nanomaterials class have been expanding articles in this area. One student expanded the nanofiber article, adding information about the history of nanofibers (they were first produced over 400 years ago), modern means of manufacture, and a range of applications including tissue engineering, drug delivery, cancer diagnosis, batteries, sensors, and air filtration. Nanobatteries are batteries made with of nanoscale particles. The existing Wikipedia article on this topic was expanded substantially by a student in the class, adding information about the advantages and disadvantages of nanotechnology in batteries as well as current and past research on the topic. Other students in the class created an article about the photolabile protecting group and made major additions to the articles on supramolecular polymers, molecular solids and 2D materials.

Community Engagement

The Whiskey Rebellion, attributed to painter Frederick Kemmelmeyer.

Community Engagement Manager Ryan McGrady spent February working with several new and prospective Visiting Scholars and sponsoring institutions. Ryan worked with our partners at the Association for Women in Mathematics to review Visiting Scholars applicants who responded to our January call for applications. The response to the call was very strong, and as a result we are looking forward to working with two AWM Visiting Scholars, starting in March.

February also saw the announcement of a new Visiting Scholar with Smithsonian Libraries. User:Czar is a long-time Wikipedian with more than 70,000 contributions since 2005 and an impressive number of high-quality articles. One of the reasons we like the Wikipedia Visiting Scholars program so much is its ability to focus on a particular subject area on Wikipedia that needs improvement by forming a relationship between a Wikipedian and institution with shared interests. This is an excellent example of such a collaboration. Czar will be working with the Smithsonian Libraries and the National Museum of African Art to concentrate on African art and artists.

There are several examples of high-quality work from current Visiting Scholars this month:

University of Pittsburgh Visiting Scholar Barbara Page worked to bring the article about the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, up to Good Article status. It was also featured in the Did You Know section of Wikipedia’s Main Page with the fact “[Did you know] that only two men who participated in the Whiskey Rebellion were convicted of treason, but were later pardoned by President George Washington?” Barbara’s work on women’s health topics was also recognized in the Spring 2017 issue of Pitt Med magazine.

Another Did You Know this month came from Jackie Koerner, Visiting Scholar at San Francisco State University, who created an article about the Superfest International Disability Film Festival. Did you know “that the Superfest International Disability Film Festival is the longest-running disability film festival in the world?”

George Mason University Visiting Scholar Gary Greenbaum added another excellent Featured Article to his impressive list of work with the Coinage Act of 1965, which was promoted this month.

Finally, Czar, our newest Visiting Scholar, has already been very active in developing high-quality content. He worked to improve articles on Angolan photographer Edson Chagas and the National Museum of African Art, both of which reached B-class quality, and both of which are currently moving through the Good Article Nominations process.

Program Support


Working with media firm PR & Company, LiAnna did interviews with reporters from NPR and Pacific Standard, resulting in two major news pieces about how assigning students to edit Wikipedia through Wiki Ed’s program provides much-needed media literacy skills for students. The reporters also spoke to participating instructors in our program. The resulting press (especially the NPR article) was widely shared and resulted in several new instructors reaching out about potentially joining our program.

Helaine and Ryan put together the first edition of the Wiki Ed newsletter, sent to past and current program participants. The newsletter is a way to keep in touch with instructors, share news about the Dashboard, highlight student work or other successes, and communicate opportunities to connect with Wiki Ed or to get more involved in the community of people who understand that Wikipedia belongs in education. We look forward to sending out newsletters on a monthly basis moving forward.

Blog posts:

External media:

Digital Infrastructure

In February, Product Manager Sage Ross kicked off an experimental grant-funded project with Agile Ventures, a nonprofit software development education community that focuses on building web applications for other nonprofits. With funding from a Wikimedia Foundation Rapid Grant, Sage is working with an Agile Ventures project manager to guide more new code contributors to the Dashboard development project and help them get started. The project will last for two months, with the goal of determining the potential for systematically working with the Agile Ventures community as a way to continue developing the Dashboard.

Intern Sejal Khatri continued her work on user profile pages, rolling out several major updates that bring better cumulative statistics along with customizable bios to the user profile pages. See Sage’s profile, for example. Sejal also added a new visualization to course pages: an edit size graph that shows the magnitude of each edit to an article. To see it in action, visit the Articles tab of a course, zoom in on one of the edited articles, and click ‘Article Development’.

We began beta testing a real-time chat feature on the Dashboard with a handful of classes. The feature will allow students and instructors to easily discuss their projects and ask or answer questions, and will be rolled out more widely once we fix the usability problems uncovered with the first few classes. As part of the preparation for this beta test, Sage also created a framework for enabling and disabling features on a course-by-course basis. This will make it easier to gradually roll out and test new features in the future, and may also be useful for A/B testing alternative features and conducting similar research.

Behind the scenes, we took the first steps connecting the Dashboard with Salesforce. This effort is aimed at streamlining the way Wiki Ed staff uses and updates course data, automating some of the necessary but tedious data curation tasks that help us track and analyze our programs and outreach efforts. Staff can now easily open a Salesforce record from the Dashboard, and up-to-date course data is automatically pushed to Salesforce on a regular basis.

User interface design work kicked off on the upcoming authorship highlighting feature in late February, which we hope to launch sometime in March. This is the first stage of a design sprint with Iván Cruz, the design lead during the Dashboard’s initial development. This design sprint is aimed at refining and polishing many of the features that have been developed in-house in the last year without a dedicated designer involved.

Research and Academic Engagement

During February, Research Fellow Zach McDowell and Research Assistant Mahala Stewart continued analyzing the research data. We have compiled numerous findings from the data, allowing us to connect with multiple researchers and potential conferences for dissemination purposes. In particular, there was significant evidence to support the case that students and instructors find Wikipedia-based assignments more valuable than traditional assignments for learning about writing for a general audience, learning about the reliability of online sources, and for learning digital literacy. Zach is in the midst of assembling a preliminary report to be released soon.

Zach has been collaborating with instructors Alexandria Lockett, Cecelia Musselman, Katherine Freedman, and Matthew Vetter on four different writing projects using Wiki Ed’s student learning outcomes data in various ways. Topics include digital literacy, skills transfer, writing contexts and attitudes, and digital citizenship. Zach is also working with another instructor, Joseph Reagle, to submit a proposal to the New Media Consortium summer conference.

Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration

Wiki Education Foundation staff after a few hours in the clay sculpture lab.

Remote staff traveled to San Francisco to join local staff in a four-day All Staff meeting. We celebrated successes of the last four years, reviewed the learnings and accomplishments from the Year of Science initiative, and kicked off the annual planning process for next fiscal year. On the final day, staff visited The Crucible, an arts education center in Oakland, where they created clay sculptures.

For the month of February, expenses were $154,332 versus the approved budget of $181,390. The majority of the $27k variance continues to be due to staffing vacancies ($20k); as well as the timing of travel ($7k) expenses.

Wiki Ed expenses 2017-02 YTD
Year to date expenses as of February 2017

Our year-to-date expenses of $1,210,393 was also less than our budgeted expenditures of $1,588,364 by $378k. Like the monthly variance, the year-to-date variance was also impacted by staffing vacancies ($136k). In addition, there were timing and savings of expenditures within professional services ($76k); travel ($85k); marketing and cultivation events ($22k); board and all staff meeting ($44k); and printing ($17k) expenses.


In February, Tom Porter accepted a job offer from the Pacific Forest Trust and left Wiki Education. Tom has done a tremendous job, securing multiple grants for Wiki Ed and setting our organization’s fundraising efforts onto a good path for the future. We wish him well for the future.

Wiki Ed expenses 2017-02
Expenses for February 2017

Office of the ED

  • Current priorities:
  • Finding a replacement for Tom Porter
  • Securing funding
  • Developing the next annual plan
  • In February, Frank started the process of re-filling the open development position. After the job description got posted, Frank reviewed applications and conducted a couple of first interviews with the most promising candidates.
  • Frank also prepared an outline for a major programmatic campaign to start in the second half of calendar year 2017 and connected with a number of new prospects (both foundations and individuals) to investigate their level of interest in providing funding.
  • Frank started preparing for the second round of the direct mail campaign (targeting high net-worth individuals) that Wiki Ed had started in late 2016.
  • Also in February, Frank started work on streamlining the process for organizing Wiki Ed’s in-person board meetings.
  • Frank had an initial meeting with board member Ted Yang for preparing the next iteration of Wiki Ed’s strategic planning process that’s expected to start in the second half of 2017.

Visitors and guests

  • None

by Ryan McGrady at March 22, 2017 04:27 PM

Joseph Reagle

FOMO Interview

I was recently interviewed by Luciana Lima for an story about FOMO in Brazil's Você S/A ("Tudo ao mesmo tempo agora," March 2017). The story is print only, and in Portuguese, so I asked to include the original interview here; we are discussing my article "Following the Joneses: FOMO and Conspicuous Sociality."

In your article you say that the FOMO is a new word for an old concept and that the media has an important role in the construction of this terminology. Why does it happen?

"Social comparison" is a core feature of human behavior: we look to others to discern how we are doing and what we should do. Popular media changed the scope of our social comparison from our neighborhood to images on pages and screens. It's hard to compare yourself to the polished images seen in ads and among celebrities. Social media amplifies this.

You also state that FOMO and FOBO are opposing forces that can drive the person into a state called FODA. Could you explain a little more about what this third stage would be?

Patrick McGinnis coined all these terms in 2004 in response to the intense social and professional networking scene at Harvard Business School. Whereas FOMO ("Fear of Missing Out") leads to anxiety about missing something, FOBO ("Fear of Better Options") is the fear of committing to something in case something better came along. McGinnis lamented that all of this ultimately leads to FODA ("Fear of Doing Anything").

You claim that people mistakenly associate FOMO exclusively with social networks. Could we say that there is a human predisposition to blame technology for their bad behavior?

Social comparison is innate to being human; media and technology can lead to distortions, but FOMO is a very human phenomenon.

You also affirm that in the contemporary eye wanting what we see and being seen has fused. Would that not be pure vanity? And are they not two things that have always completed each other?

I believe the term FOMO conflates two distinct feelings: missed experiences (fear of missing out) and belonging (fear of being left out): to want what we see and to be seen have fused. Lone envy and social exclusion are both facilitated by ubiquitous screens.

Don't you believe that having more access to the other's daily life (trips, parties, restaurants, relationships) intensifies the envy we already felt? And that maybe this was a new modality, different from the one our parents could feel, for example?

I think the feeling is the same, media simply changes its circumstances, like its intensity and how often it occurs.

Is FOMO also just related to envy? Or is there a correlation with low self-esteem, for example?

You are right, social comparison, the behavior that drives envy, is also a factor in self-esteem.

Finally you say that the FOMO is related to a fear of "disappearing" and that it should be understood as a continuation of centenary issues. What would this "disappear" be and what are the issues that are closely related to it?

Here I was speaking about the term "FOMO" itself. Fear and envy have always been around; but, in the past two centuries, things like the telegraph and television led to people to speak about the malady of neurasthenia and the anxiety of "keeping up with the Joneses." So I wonder how long "FOMO" will stick around, or will it one day disappear and be replaced by a new term or expression?

by Joseph Reagle at March 22, 2017 04:00 AM

March 21, 2017

Wiki Education Foundation

Participate in International Fact Checking Day on April 2

International Fact Checking Day is April 2, 2017 — and we at Wiki Education have joined the initiative! We encourage you to participate by helping check facts on Wikipedia.

Participating is easy:

1. Log in to your Wikipedia account.

2. Go to the Citation Hunt tool. This will give you a sentence from a Wikipedia article with the dreaded “Citation Needed” tag.

3. Do some research to determine if the sentence in question is accurate according to sources.

4. If it is not accurate, click the “Edit” button on the section, delete the fact in question, and put in your edit summary, “Remove uncited claim I cannot find literature to support #FactCheckIt” — or edit the sentence to be true, and then follow step #5.

5. If it is accurate, find a source that meets Wikipedia’s Reliable Sources guidelines. Click the “edit” button on the section where the fact is listed, then click “Cite” and follow the directions to cite a source. Save the page. When you’re prompted to add an edit summary, say “Added citation #FactCheckIt”.

Adding the #FactCheckIt hashtag will enable us to track the impact of this initiative — so be sure to include it!

Feel free to repeat the steps to add more citations to facts. While we encourage you to participate specifically on April 2, facts can be updated any time, so don’t feel restricted to just participating then.

For more events related to International Fact Checking Day, visit http://factcheckingday.com/.

by LiAnna Davis at March 21, 2017 04:44 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Why I periodically write about the elements on Wikipedia

Photo by Alchemist-hp, Free Art License 1.3.

In the eighth grade, I was introduced to the new subject of chemistry. Most my classmates found it incredibly difficult, while I found it easy. My problem was that the next step up were university textbooks, which I couldn’t handle at the moment.

Instead, I gradually turned to Wikipedia to obtain the knowledge I wanted. Eventually, I realized that I could write Wikipedia articles, to give back to the site I’d taken so much from. I’d still be learning, but I’d also be helping anyone in a similar position to where I was.

I chose to take a narrow scope to my contributing: the elements of the periodic table. These form a set of articles that can be reasonably taken on—not finished by just one person, of course, but some tangible progress could be made by one.

And, of course, elements are the building blocks that, when combined, constitute the full diversity of chemistry. That made the choice clear.

Photo by Alchemist-hp, Free Art License 1.3.

I’m from Russia, so I first tried to break into the Russian Wikipedia, but I found it difficult to collaborate with the editors there. So I instead decided to move to the English Wikipedia, as I’d been wanting to improve my English anyway. Moreover, the English site had an entire “wikiproject” dedicated just to the elements.

I chose fluorine as my first article-project because I thought it would be the easiest one. It only assumes only one oxidation state in its compounds, was not a major influence on history or industry (like, say, iron or oxygen), and was in pretty bad condition.

I finished the article in January 2011, and nominated it for “featured article” (FA)—a quality marker reserved for Wikipedia’s best work—status in April. As it turned out, I was wrong about how easy it would be, as the nomination failed. Still, it wasn’t all bad: the article had gained some support, and I gained a lot of knowledge about how to write Wikipedia articles. A lot of that came from TCO.

TCO was a great editor to get in contact with. I can’t thank him enough for giving so much of his time. He certainly delayed my attempts to get the article featured, but he also offered a lot—and that turned out to be a far better thing. Part of what he had for me was a new understanding of the importance of things and how I needed to do work beyond was needed for that “featured” status. This would allow to to have the star and  enjoy the great article I’ve produced. That’s not to say I didn’t want to write great articles, but there were moments when you think, “aah, it’ll pass the FA review anyway, they won’t notice.”

Nowadays, I’ve become my own measure of quality. It was that that mattered most, not the stars. This didn’t happen too quickly. I nominated fluorine for featured article again, albeit somewhat prematurely, in September. More and more work was being put into it, and I was becoming more and more disillusioned with it, so I’ve decided to diversify my work.

Photo by Tmv23 and Dblay, CC BY-SA 3.0.

I produced a number of GAs, two of which became so complete by the time I submitted them that I decided keep going and aim for FA as well. I had dove into the interesting topics of heavy and superheavy elements, producing a good, detailed, and Soviet-styled (as I based it on a Soviet book) article on astatine, plus a nice short beautiful article on ununseptium (now tennessine), which only lacked one thing—prose quality. Had it not been for this, we would’ve gotten it on the first try; but it had, and we didn’t.

But soon enough I entered university in 2013 and immediately lost most of my free time. This made rewriting Wikipedia articles rather difficult. Eventually, with lots of work put into them, all three articles ended up as FAs in late 2014 and 2015. But this happened only after TCO’s influence hit me one more time.

Back in 2011, TCO wrote a report titled “Improving Wikipedia’s Important Articles,” which advocated for focusing Wikipedia’s editors on vital topics, ones read by the most people. While panned by other editors at the time, I discovered it in 2014 and believe that it’s an absolutely great masterpiece. When writing ununseptium back in 2011–12, I tried to write it in a way that was fascinating but accessible. This challenge helped hook me into editing Wikipedia. You need to be immerse yourself in the topic, but you also need to make sure you’re delivering the information you’ve learned in a way that others can understand. Reading TCO’s report helped galvanize just how important this is.

Sadly, TCO left Wikipedia a few months before fluorine got its featured article star. The article would’ve gotten the star far earlier if it wasn’t for him, but it wouldn’t be as good, either. Besides, this taught me about writing articles in general and changed my perception of the topics I write about.

Photo by Alchemist-hp and Richard Bartz, CC BY-SA 3.0.

I was mostly inactive in 2015–16, though able to help with a few other projects like thorium, with User:Double sharp. In 2016, I decided to go for an important article once again. Wikipedia’s readers have been the top priority for a long time for me now, and after all I’ve been through, it didn’t only matter how I serve the information on the topic I’ve chosen, but also how I choose the topic.

So, I started work on lead, a good choice indeed. Never would I think an element could be so interesting in human life and so important in history. I’ve absolutely enjoyed that and want to go on. After it’s done, it will be aluminium, iron, and—if I ever to get to it—gold.

I may even go further after that, picking an even more important article, not even necessarily about chemistry. I’m currently considering rewriting the article on the continent of Europe, but it’s still so far away I can’t tell if this will ever happen.

But I definitely want it to.

Mikhail Boldyrev (User:R8R Gtrs), Wikipedian

by Mikhail Boldyrev at March 21, 2017 03:32 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata and #activism

When you care about something, you want to make sure that when you do something, it has an impact. There are many ways a difference can be made, you can protest, you can write in a blog, you can write Wikipedia articles and you can try to connect things in Wikidata.

For Wikimedians like me, sharing the sum of all knowledge, is why we are involved. As knowledge is key, it is important to make sure that facts are registered and access to knowledge becomes enabled.

The problem is that it is not obvious how and where a difference can be made. When the BBC gives diversity a prominent place because of its 100 women program, it seems obvious that we will write articles about these women. It is however not the first time that the BBC runs this program. We have written articles for women celebrated in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. But in what language are these articles written? How much are they read? How well connected are these women to universities, to political parties to organisations and what countries are they from?

For a Wikimedian these are interesting questions. For an organiser of editathons they are what measures success. Is this activism? Sure. How does it affect the legitimate concern of impartiality? Not really as Wikimedia has always been about what people fancy to work on.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 21, 2017 01:09 PM

March 20, 2017

Wiki Education Foundation

Encouraging education work in Brazil

Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to São Paulo, Brazil, giving two presentations at the University of São Paulo (USP), meeting with the Grupo de Usuários Wikimedia no Brasil (Wikimedia Brasil User Group), and attending a neuroscience and mathematics edit-a-thon for the Portuguese Wikipedia.

Meeting with representatives of the Grupo de Usuários Wikimedia no Brasil.
Meeting with representatives of the Grupo de Usuários Wikimedia no Brasil.

The group in Brazil is already having an incredible impact on Wikipedia. In particular, a group of Wikimedians based at USP’s Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat), led by Professor João Alexandre Peschanski, has dramatically improved information available on the Portuguese Wikipedia on topics in neuroscience and mathematics. With a grant funded by São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), they’re working hard to bring more science information to the Portuguese Wikipedia. For example, check out the Portuguese Wikipedia article on the mathematical term average, which includes extensive written content added through their work — as well as animated illustrations of concepts and a sound file of the article read aloud, to make it easier for people with vision impairments who speak Portuguese to understand mathematical formulas. João, Celio Costa Filho, David Alves, and the rest of the team at NeuroMat have long been engaged in our work as well, translating many Wiki Ed blog posts for their blog.

Thanks to travel funding from FAPESP, I was able to come give two talks about connecting Wikipedia and academia at USP. The first was an informal talk to students, professors, Wikipedians, and other people interested in what we at Wiki Education are doing to connect Wikipedia and academia. We spent some time talking about how our program works, the importance of media literacy skills in the digital age, and more. I encouraged attendees to get involved in the Wikimedia movement, whether through editing articles, adding photos to Commons, translating articles, or playing the WikiData game. The result of this first meeting is that one of the two journalists who attended the talk has already published an interview with me in Carta Educação, and a Brazilian Wikipedian in the room was inspired to create the article on media literacy on the Portuguese Wikipedia.

For the second talk, representatives from the Research, Information, and Dissemination Centers of FAPESP attended to hear more specifically about Wiki Ed’s Year of Science initiative. Many attendees were not very familiar with the inner workings of Wikipedia, so it was an excellent opportunity to explain more about how Wikipedia works, the community involved in it, why it’s something worth contributing to, why Wiki Ed’s participating professors see Wikipedia assignments as key for teaching media literacy and science communication, and what we did during the Year of Science. In particular, I encouraged the group to work toward engaging with Wikipedia in hopes of seeing a Year of Science in Brazil in the coming years.

I was incredibly inspired by the enthusiasm and energy of the Wikimedians in Brazil, and I am confident that good things will continue to come from this group in the future! Many thanks to João and the rest of the team for inviting and welcoming me to Brazil!

Image: Wiki Edu presentation and the 3rd Neurociência e Matemática edit-a-thon (08), by RIDC NeuroMat, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

by LiAnna Davis at March 20, 2017 07:53 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Get live updates to Wikimedia projects with EventStreams

Photo by Mikey Tnasuttimonkol, CC BY-SA 4.0.

We are happy to announce EventStreams, a new public service that exposes live streams of Wikimedia events.  And we don’t mean the next big calendar event like the Winter Olympics or Wikimania.  Here, an ‘event’ is defined to be a small piece of data usually representing a state change. An edit of a Wikipedia page that adds some new information is an ‘event’, and could be described like the following:

'event-type': 'edit',
'page': 'Special Olympics',
'project': 'English Wikipedia',
'time': '2017-03-07 09:31',
'user': 'TheBestEditor'

This means: “a user named ‘TheBestEditor’ added some content to the English Wikipedia’s Special Olympics page on March 7, 2017 at 9:31am”.

While composing this blog post, we sought visualizations that use EventStreams, and found some awesome examples.

Open now in Los Angeles, DataWaltz is a physical installation that “creates a spatial feedback system for engaging with Wikipedia live updates, allowing visitors to follow and produce content from their interactions with the gallery’s physical environment.” You can see a photo of it at the top, and a 360 video of it over on Vimeo.

Sacha Saint-Leger sent us this display of real-time edits on a rotating globe, showing off where they are made.

Ethan Jewett created a really nice continuously updating chart of edit statistics.

A little background—why EventStreams?

EventStreams is not the first service from Wikimedia to expose RecentChange events as a stream. irc.wikimedia.org and RCStream have existed for years.  These all serve the same data: RecentChange events.  So why add a third stream service?

Both irc.wikimedia.org and RCStream suffer from similar design flaws.  Neither service can be restarted without interrupting client subscriptions.  This makes it difficult to build comprehensive tools that might not want to miss an event, and hard for WMF engineers to maintain. They are not easy to use, as services require several programming setup steps just to start subscribing to the stream.  Perhaps more importantly, these services are RecentChanges specific, meaning that they are not able to serve different types of events. EventStreams addresses all of these issues.

EventStreams is built on the w3c standard Server Sent Events (SSE).  SSE is simply a streaming HTTP connection with event data in a particular text format.  Client libraries, usually called EventSource, assist with building responsive tools, but because SSE is really just HTTP, you can use any HTTP client (even curl!) to consume it.

The SSE standard defines a Last-Event-ID HTTP header, which allows clients to tell servers about the last event that they’ve consumed.  EventStreams uses this header to begin streaming to a client from a point in the past.  If EventSource clients are disconnected from servers (due to network issues or EventStreams service restarts), they will send this header to the server and automatically reconnect and begin from where they left off.

EventStreams can be used to expose any useful streams of events, not just RecentChanges.  If there’s a stream you’d like to have, we want to know about it.  For example, soon ORES revision score events may be exposed in their own stream.  The service API docs have an up to date list of the (currently limited) available stream endpoints.

We’d like all RecentChange stream clients to switch to EventStreams, but we recognize that there are valuable bots out there running on irc.wikimedia.org that we might not be able to find the maintainers of.  We commit to supporting irc.wikimedia.org for the foreseeable future.

However, we believe the list of (really important) RCStream clients is small enough that we can convince or help folks switch to EventStreams.  We’ve chosen an official RCStream decommission date of July 7 this year.  If you run an RCStream client and are reading this and want help migrating, please reach out to us!


EventStreams is really easy to use, as shown by this quickstart example in JavaScript.  Navigate to http://wikimedia.org in your browser and open the development console (for Google Chrome: More Tools > Developer Tools, and click ‘console’ on the bottom screen, which should open on the browser below the page you are visiting). Then paste the following:

// This is the EventStreams RecentChange stream endpoint
var url = 'https://stream.wikimedia.org/v2/stream/recentchange';

// Use EventSource (available in most browsers, or as an
// npm module: https://www.npmjs.com/package/eventsource)
// to subscribe to the stream.
var recentChangeStream = new EventSource(url);

// Print each event to the console
recentChangeStream.onmessage = function(message) {

//Parse the message.data string as JSON.
var event = JSON.parse(message.data);


You should see RecentChange events fly by in your console.

That’s it!   The EventStreams documentation has in depth information and usage examples in other languages.

If you build something, please tell us, or add yourself to the Powered By EventStreams wiki page.  There are already some amazing uses there!

Andrew Otto, Senior Operations Engineer, Analytics
Wikimedia Foundation

by Andrew Otto at March 20, 2017 05:00 PM

Tech News

Tech News issue #12, 2017 (March 20, 2017)

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March 20, 2017 12:00 AM

March 18, 2017

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Who is Eric D. Wolff?

Eric D. Wolff is one of three authors of a paper called "Original Issue High Yield Bonds: Aging Analyses of Defaults, Exchanges, and Calls". They won the 1989 Smith Breeden Prize and the Wikipedia article has a red link for Mr Wolff, no link for Mr Paul Asquith and a blue link for  David W. Mullins, Jr.

The simplest thing to do is add an item for all the missing authors, connect them to the awards and be done. As they wrote a paper, it is reasonable to expect a VIAF registration and it was possible to find Mr Asquith.

The question is not if Mr Wolff is notable; he is as he won a prize. The question is how to reliably connect him and others to external sources. Making this effort improves quality for Wikidata; it is quality in action.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 18, 2017 02:52 PM

#Wikimedia - Professor Chuck Stone, Tuskegee airman and member of Alpha Phi Alpha

Professor Stone is the founding NABJ President, he was included in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2004 and he received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush.

The description for the Wikidata item for Mr Stone is "American air force officer". This will not change; it is based on a bot that at one time decided that this would do. The automated description is: "US-American journalist (1924–2014); National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame and Congressional Gold Medal; member of Tuskegee AirmenAlpha Phi Alpha, and World Policy Council ♂" and the beauty is that this is updated as more information becomes available.

When you consider the quality of the information for Mr Stone in Wikidata, today 10 statements were added to the item. He has been added to the hall of fame with many others including some people Wikipedia does not know about. The World Policy Council is connected to Alpha Phi Alpha. The data is not complete; there is more to add.

When we consider quality, most of the data was added thanks to information available in the English article of Wikipedia. Yet there is information available that could find its way from Wikidata; how do we inform Wikipedia about the people who became part of the hall of fame for instance. Quality for Wikidata is not in single items, it is in how it connects and how it is used. With this realisation we learn from where some say Wikidata and Wikipedia fails and achieve the success that our combined data offers.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 18, 2017 01:41 PM

#Wikidata - the #Rome Prize

The Rome Prize is given to a high number of Americans artists. It is awarded every year to 15 artists and 15 scholars, they stay for an extended period in Rome. The first awards were given in 1905.

The award winners are mentioned in many articles, when there is no article yet, there is a red link. New articles are written all the time so problems can be anticipated.

The problem is in names; different people bearing the same name. When new articles are written, there is no consideration for these red links. Articles are written. When an article is written for a Rome Prize winner, he or she may be included on the category for Rome Prize winners and that works well.

Some will say that Red Links are bad. They have a point. However it is all in the delivery. When there is no article, it does not follow that there is no information. The information could already be in Wikidata and I added a few statements for 2016 winners..

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 18, 2017 12:44 PM

Authors, the #OpenLibrary, #Wikidata and libraries

The Open Library is part of the Internet Archive. It makes books available for you to read. That is awesome and that is why Open Library is a natural ally of the Wikimedia community.

At our end we can do more of the things that we do anyway and share what we do. The good news is that Wikidata has a CC-0 license. The people at Open Library can use everything that we do and they do not even have to bother to say thanks.

When we add more Open Library identifiers and VIAF identifier to Wikidata we connect them, us and all the libraries in the world. Yes, individual libraries may have different ways of spelling an author's name but using these connections disambiguation slowly but surely becomes a thing of the past for Open Librarians.

What will we have in return? All the books at Open Library of these authors become available to our readers and editors. We are already in the process of adding identifiers to Wikidata for Open Library. For all the authors that have been connected, we can provide our identifiers to Open Library. This helps them with their outreach and disambiguation.

Through Wikidata more and more authors become connected to VIAF. This allows the librarians of the world to share these freely licensed books with their readers. A clear win-win situation don't you think?

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 18, 2017 09:00 AM

March 17, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation

Community digest: New tool eases reuse of Creative Commons-licensed photos, news in brief

What is Creative Commons? Video by Victor Grigas, CC BY-SA 3.0. You can also view it on Vimeo or Youtube.

One of the simplest requirements for using freely-licensed photos from Wikimedia Commons is to give credit to whoever created the material. But even this is not easy for users to comply with if they aren’t familiar with Creative Commons licenses and the right wording for license labels.

As opposed to those under copyright, freely-licensed photos on Wikimedia Commons are available to the world. Anyone can use them, for free, in printed material, blogs, social media channels, etc., without getting permission from the photographer—but with some stipulations, including attribution.

Wikimedia Germany (Deutschland), the independent chapter that supports Wikimedia in Germany, wants to show you how easy it is to re-use these freely licensed works. We have created a web tool to simplify these stipulations—and it’s as simple as copy and paste.

This license notice should include the author’s name and the license type. Creative Commons licenses have clear legal requirements, but they’re not always easy to interpret when the photos are being reused. Attribution requirements for the license notices can be hidden in “legalese,” which can be a challenge for the layman to decipher even with the best of intentions. Moreover, missing information can have serious legal repercussions! Even accidental non-compliance with license requirements can lead to copyright infringement.

An easy way to follow the rules with a ready-to-copy license label

The attribution generator is a new tool by Wikimedia Germany. The tool automatically compiles the license information. The user just needs to answer a few simple questions: Do you want to use the image digitally or in print materials? Have you modified the photo? Is it going to be used alone or with multiple images? The correct license notice is then generated after the user answers these questions.

Video by Benjamin Wüst/Wikimedia Germany (Deutschland), CC BY-SA 4.0

This short video, available in German (with English subtitles on Commons), shows how easy it is to create the license notice for an image with the Attribution Generator. In addition, Dr. Till Jaeger, a specialist attorney in copyright and media law, briefly explains the benefits of Creative Commons licenses. Dr. Jaeger collaborated with Wikimedia Germany in developing the Attribution Generator.

At the time of this writing, the Attribution Generator is only available in German and English. To get the word out about the Attribution Generator internationally, we need your help! Our goal for the tool is to make it available in as many languages as possible so that everyone can easily use freely-licensed images. Help us translate the Attribution Generator into your language. You can find details on how it works on Wikimedia Commons. You can also contact us via email.

Katja Ullrich, Project Manager for the Attribution Generator
Wikimedia Germany (Deutschland)

In photos

Photo by Sailesh Patnaik, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A Wikidatathon was organised during the 7th WikiTungi Puri meetup. The goal of the Wikidatathon was to translate labels and descriptions of the articles created so far on Women’s History Month Editathon on Odia Wikipedia. Eight Wikimedians joined the event, where they translated nearly 220 labels and descriptions.

Photo by Fjmustak, CC BY-SA 4.0.

On March 10, 2017, Zwolle, Netherland hosted an introductory workshop to Wikipedia. The Workshop was attended by a group of fourteen Syrian refugees and migrants to the Netherlands. The workshop was held in Arabic.

Photo by Francesca Lissoni, CC BY-SA 4.0.

This month, Wikimedia Italy organized six Art+Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thons in Milan, Florence, Rome, Battipaglia, Venice and Potenza. More than 100 participants attended the events and more than 80 articles on female artists and their productions were created or improved.

In brief

Arabic book about Wikipedia: Wikipedian Abbad Diraneyya has published a new book about Wikipedia. This book discusses how Wikipedia works, how to edit on the website, and the author’s personal experience with it. It took Diraneyya over three years to compile the the book. However, the book is free to download and is available under CC BY-SA 3.0, the same free license used for Wikipedia’s content.

WikiLesa encourages Argentinian students to edit about human rights: Over the past two years, Wikimedia Argentina held four editing events for the project WikiLesa. The project aims at improving Wikipedia’s content on human rights violations during the (1976–1983) military dictatorship. Wikimedia Argentina worked in partnership with a local media agency specialized in human rights where they worked together on training students, educators and researchers on Wikipedia editing. 54 Wikipedia articles have been improved while 21 new ones were created as part of this project. More about the project on the This Month in Education newsletter.

DARM challenge helps with nearly 2,200 photo uploads on Wikimedia Commons: Between 25 December 2016 and 25 January 2017, the Wikipedian in Residence at DARM (National Archive of the Republic of Macedonia), in collaboration with the State Archive, helped coordinate the DARM challenge. As part of this challenge, 2,190 files were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by sixteen Wikipedians. The photos have been used on nearly 1,400 pages on Wikipedia in 33 different languages. More about the project on Wikimedia’s GLAM newsletter.

Wikipedia Education Program kicks off in Finland: The Finnish Wikipedia community and Wikimedia Finland (Suomi), the local chapter, are getting ready to support the first regular Wikipedia courses in their country. The courses will be hosted by the University of Helsinki and the University of Jyväskylä starting in the next academic year. More about the courses in the This Month in Education newsletter.

Embassy of Sweden in New Delhi hosts a ‘women in science’ editathon: On 4 March, the Embassy of Sweden in New Delhi hosted an editathon on Indian women in science. Participants were a mix of new and experienced Wikipedia editors who worked on creating and improving relevant articles to commemorate the women’s history month on Wikipedia.

New hardware donation program: Asaf Bartov has announced that the Wikimedia Foundation will begin donating fully-functional but depreciated laptops to community members who apply for them. The pilot year for the program begins with twenty laptops, subject to several conditions; you can apply for one over on Meta. Similarly, a community-driven equipment exchange program has been started for Wikimania 2017. If you are looking for or have equipment that could be donated, navigate to the official wiki for more.


Compiled and edited by Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

by Katja Ullrich and Samir Elsharbaty at March 17, 2017 09:44 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Overcoming barriers to engage psychology students in the PSYCH+Feminism Initiative

Patricia Brooks is a Professor at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York and Doctoral Faculty at The Graduate Center, CUNY where she serves as the Deputy Executive Officer of the PhD program in Psychology. Christina Shane-Simpson is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Elizabeth Che is a doctoral student at The Graduate Center, CUNY. In this blog, they describe their efforts to engage undergraduates taking an Introductory Psychology course at City University of New York—arguably the most diverse public university in the world—as editors of new Wikipedia biographies on women in psychology as part of the broader PSYCH+Feminism initiative.

Last year, as part of the Wiki Education Foundation’s Year of Science, we launched the WikiProject PSYCH+Feminism to bring attention to more than 400 prominent women who were recipients of the most prestigious awards in Psychological Science, yet lacked commensurate recognition on Wikipedia. PSYCH+Feminism dovetails with the efforts of the Wikipedia Gender Gap Task Force, which was designed to confront systematic bias in Wikipedia content while also encouraging women, in particular, to become involved as editors on Wikipedia.

Introductory Psychology is a popular social science course taken primarily for general education credit by students in their first year of college. The relatively high potential for students with diverse interests and majors to enroll in this course also provides a prime opportunity for instructors to engage students through novel and exciting teaching and learning activities, particularly those that help students to connect their in-class content knowledge with a larger population of psychology learners. We used Wikipedia editing as a novel approach to help our students connect with the psychology material and build skills that would serve them well in other, non-psychology majors (e.g., communication, collaboration skills).

Although Wikipedia editing has great potential to foster students’ research, writing, and information literacy skills, our students were initially daunted by the prospect of contributing original content on a public site. They expressed concerns about their skills, as illustrated by the following quotes:

“I do not want to put up false or wrong information. I’m a bit nervous since I want to make sure that the information that I put up is valid.”

“I am afraid of making grammatical errors while editing because English is my second language.”

“I feel a bit nervous because I have never done anything like that before. I also feel confused because I do not know what it is I am doing.”

They also voiced concerns about Wikipedia’s reputation by writing:

“When I think about editing of Wikipedia I think about false information. Therefore, I don’t want to edit something if others would think it false anyway.”

“I was always told to stay away from Wikipedia. Anytime that I would get a school assignment my teachers/professors would be super strict about the use of Wikipedia. I feel like it is not that reliable. I’m not that excited about using it only because I was taught that way since I first even heard of it.”

In the face of student anxiety and ambivalence, we sought to support students as they developed their self-efficacy in public editing.  By scaffolding the assignment, we found ways to make Wikipedia editing accessible to students with no prior knowledge of the subjects they were assigned to write about. We started by creating a short list of 36 women from the PSYCH+Feminism project whose research was cited in the required Introductory Psychology textbook, and who lacked biographies on Wikipedia. We developed a preliminary set of source materials for each of these “women in red” by locating faculty websites, representative publications accessed via Google Scholar, and references in the textbook.  We then created a template for new biographies, which we loaded into each student’s sandbox. The required use of the template ensured that student work would comply with Wikipedia guidelines for biography articles and it facilitated student editing by allowing them to insert content without having to tinker with complicated HTML syntax.

The students’ first assignment was to register their Wikipedia accounts on the Dashboard website and complete the basic training modules provided by the Wiki Education Foundation.  We then asked them to select a topic from the short list, and use the source materials provided to fill in the template. We encouraged students to work together with a partner, but also allowed them to work on their own if they preferred.  After an initial round of editing, we provided extensive feedback using talk pages, email, and course announcements, and devoted class time to help students find reputable source materials through the library, use the citation tool to link source materials to Wikipedia content, and create hyperlinks to connect information across Wikipedia pages. Building on the first two assignments, students were instructed in the third assignment to continue editing in their sandboxes, expanding content and citing their sources. Following another round of feedback, students were shown how to upload their new biographies into the public domain.

Despite student concerns that they were unprepared to edit Wikipedia, 34 students (83% of the class) contributed content to 21 new biographies over an 8-week period. (Two additional students attempted to edit but did not upload their work.) The majority of the student editors found ways to connect the assignment with other aspects of the course and 40% indicated plans to continue editing Wikipedia in the future. They described new appreciation of Wikipedia by writing:

“I now believe Wikipedia is a credible source. There is a lot of work and research involved in creating an article.”

“I value it more since I had to contribute to an article being built.”

“I used to believe anybody could write anything they wanted. I now know everything gets verified.”

Given students’ lack of expertise, we were not surprised that several of the new articles were flagged as needing further attention from the Wikipedia community. We encouraged students to view their work as part of an effort-in-progress, and not be discouraged if their work was flagged. Students took this advice to heart, stating:

“It was fun and made me feel like I was smart enough to get my article launched, even if it was flagged.”

Another student wrote, “I check my article frequently to see what edits have been made. I am sure I will stumble on an article to which I can contribute in the future.”

Wikipedia editing provides a context for students to learn by teaching—sharing what they are researching and disseminating it in accessible language. The experience can be empowering for students, but it requires them to overcome initial barriers including prejudiced views about Wikipedia content. Students require a lot of help; they tend to procrastinate when anxious about assignments, which makes it imperative to guide them through the editing process, by devoting class time for research, providing feedback, and pushing them to make edits and ultimately upload their work.  For students to see their work published was exceptionally rewarding. In the words of the students:

“It was fun to become an editor and learn it is something I can do.”

“After fooling with it and learning about how it is monitored, I totally love it.”

We hope that our experience encourages you to consider Wikipedia editing as a tool that can help your students develop their research, writing, and information literacy skills.  For additional tips, check out our article in the APS Observer where we provide links to helpful Wiki Education Foundation resources and other suggestions for implementing Wikipedia editing in introductory-level courses.

by Guest Contributor at March 17, 2017 04:32 PM


Research techniques - Wikipedian ways

Over the years, I have been using Wikipedia, as a kind of public research note book. I sometimes fail to keep careful notes and I regret it. For instance, some years ago I was reading through some scanned materials on an archive and came across a record of the Great Indian Hornbill in the Kolli Hills in Tamil Nadu. It was carefully noted by some British medical officer who was visiting the place and he commented on the presence of the species in the region as part of a report that he submitted on the sanitary and medical conditions of the district. Google searches did not see or index the document and I thought I would find the content when I wanted it but I have never managed since to find it again. Imagine how useful it would have been to me and others if I had put in a reference to it in the Wikipedia article on the hornbill species with a comment on its past distribution. 

Not long ago, someone on the email list Taxacom-L sought information on Samuel B. Fairbank - a collector of specimens in India. I knew the name as he was one of the collaborators of Allan Octavian Hume (who even named a species after him) and decided that I knew enough to respond to the request for information. I looked around on the Internet and found that there was enough material scattered around to put together a decent biography (I even found a portrait photo whose copyright had thankfully expired) and it led to a Wikipedia entry that should spare anyone else looking for it the effort that I put in. Of course one follows the normal Wikipedia/reseach requirements of adding citations to the original sources so that anyone interested in more information or in verifying the sources can double check it.

These additions to Wikipedia may strike you as something that is not very different from what an ant does when it (actually usually she) goes out foraging - when she finds food, she eats a bit and then returns to the nest leaving behind a trail marker on the ground that says "this way for food". Other ants that are walking by spot the message written on the ground and if interested go on and help harvest the food resource. The ants that find the food again add a trail marker - now the strength of the trail marker chemical indicates veracity and possibly the amount of food available. This kind of one-to-many communication between individuals mediated via environmental cues has a term - stigmergy. Now the ant colony has been termed as a "super organism", a kind of distributed animal, with eyes, legs and even a brain that is distributed across little seemingly independent entities. Now there is a lot of research on how super-organisms work - it is an area of considerable interest in computer science because - the system is extremely resilient to damage - a colony goes on as if nothing has happened if you went and crushed a whole bunch of ants underfoot. How far this metaphor helps in understanding the organic growth of Wikipedia is uncertain but it certainly seems to be a useful way of conveying the idea of how contributors work. From a biomimicry perspective it could even inspire ways of designing the interface and system of Wikipedia - imagine if visitors could mark their attention to specific lines and the links that the followed. Subsequent visitors could perhaps see links that led to particularly useful additional articles or references.

I sometimes run workshops to recruit new people to contribute to Wikipedia and my usual spiel does not include any talk on "how to edit" Wikipedia but deals with why contribute and about how to incorporate Wikipedia into one's normal day-to-day activities. I sometimes take pictures from walks, record bird calls and research topics for my own learning. I compare what I learn with what Wikipedia has to say and where it fails, I try and fix defects. This does not actually come in the way of my learning process or work much but I like to think that it helps others who may come looking for the same kinds of things.

Incorporating Wikipedia into normal learning practice - should only need a small incremental effort.

The real problem in some parts of the world, such as in India, is that not everyone has access to good enough routes to learning - experts are often inaccessible and libraries are often poorly stocked even if they happen to be available. Of course there are privileged contributors who do have access to better information sources than others but these are the people that often look at Wikipedia and complain about its shortcomings - it seems likely therefore that the under-privileged might be better at contributing. In recent times, Russian underground sites like sci-hub have altered the ecosystem in a kind of revolution but there are also legal channels like the Wikipedia Reference Exchange that really go a long way to aiding research.

Of course there are an endless array of ways in which one could contribute - by translating from one language to another - if you are proficient in two languages - there is the gap finder which allows you to find what entries are on one language and missing on another - http://recommend.wmflabs.org/ . If you are interested in challenging your research abilities and want to see how good you are at telling good and reliable resources from websites with "alternative facts and news" then you should try finding references for dubious or uncited content from https://tools.wmflabs.org/citationhunt/en .

One of the real problems with Indian editors on Wikipedia is that a large number of them support their additions with newspaper and media mentions and many of them do not know what reliable sources mean. Information literacy is key and having more scholarly information resources is important. I have therefore tried to compile a list of digital libraries and resources (especially those with India related content).

Here they are in no particular order:
Although all of these are accessible, you may need little tricks like finding the right keywords to search, using the right google operators in some cases and for some people finding references for obscure things is fun. And some of us, like me, will be happy to help others in their research. With this idea, I created a Facebook group where you can seek references or content hidden behind a paywall. This assistance is provided in the hope that you can summarize your research findings on Wikipedia and make life easier for the ants that walk by in the future.

by Shyamal L. (noreply@blogger.com) at March 17, 2017 05:24 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

“I will never be quite as proud of something as my writing about women”: May Hachem

Video by Victor Grigas, CC BY-SA 3.0. You can also view it on Vimeo or Youtube, or without burned-in English subtitles on Commons.

During a workshop for a Wikipedia Education Program course at her Cairo university in spring 2013, May Hachem created her account on Wikipedia and quickly made her first edit, creating an Arabic Wikipedia article about Princess Alice of Battenberg (en).

Before that day, there was no article on the Arabic-language encyclopedia about Alice, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and mother-in-law of Elizabeth II, the current queen of the United Kingdom. Hachem quickly became hooked on writing about women like Alice. “I felt that women should be remembered in history,” she said. “I will never be quite as proud of something as my writing about women.”

Since then, May has made efforts to document the lives of women on Wikipedia by creating 450 articles and made over 10,000 edits on Wikipedia, many about women—and she has devoted an even larger part of her time to encourage others to do the same.

Photo by Ruby Mizrahi/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Although it is uncommon for students to continue editing after completing a Wikipedia-centered education course, the education program was just a starting point in Hachem’s journey advocating for something she believes in. It was “the message behind Wikipedia,” she explains. “Knowledge should be free and everyone has the right to get the knowledge they need.”

Her success and productivity in that course, along with her eagerness to help others, drove her to enroll as a Campus Ambassador, a volunteer role that was designed to mentor fellow student editors.

“I worked with a group of 100 students, including Turkish and English department students,” Hachem recalls, and it was more successful than they realized at the time: “When we worked on the WikiWomen contest, the Turkish department students translated all the articles about women on the Turkish Wikipedia. So when we ran the contest again, we couldn’t find any articles left.”

The WikiWomen contest is a writing competition on the Arabic Wikipedia that started in late 2014. Hachem led the competition which helped the students achieve the highest contributions in the Arab World education program since its inception, during the summer 2014 term. As a program leader, Hachem helped the program get adopted by Alexandria University and Al Azhar University, both located in Egypt.

And national borders have not stopped her. May can be found at many Wikipedia editing events across the Middle East, raising awareness about gender diversity on the internet, and has established successful partnerships between the Wikipedia community and international organizations, including UN Women.

On International Youth Day in 2016, Hachem was one of the organizers of an international edit-a-thon (editing workshop) that took place in different locations around the world, including the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City, American University in Cairo, and several other venues. May also led events during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign to promote the importance of writing about women.

Hachem is looking forward to doing more on Wikipedia, even though her time has diminished since graduating from university. “I think it’s kind of an addiction … really, I can’t define it. I’ve thought about that a lot—what makes me keep doing this?”

But she had answered that question earlier in the interview: “It is my passion.”

Interview by Ruby Mizrahi, Interviewer
Profile by Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern

Wikimedia Foundation

by Ruby Mizrahi and Samir Elsharbaty at March 17, 2017 05:03 AM

March 16, 2017

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 347


Überarbeitete Emergency-Map

Revised Emergency Map 1 | © OpenStreetMap Contributors [CC-BY-SA 2.0]


  • User BushmanK writes about the quality of foreign names submitted under the name:<language_code>=* tag. An in-depth analysis is presented and suggestions on how to mitigate the issue.
  • The Costa Rican community organises a tour (Feb & March event) to map national parks and volcanoes. This month’s destination was Bosque del Niño.
  • Jochen Topf reports that the multi-polygon fixing effort is going well and provides an issue thread to track the evolution.
  • A discussion started on the French mailing list about tagging standards for river fishing categories. Concerns were raised about such information only being relevant with regard to local nomenclatures.
  • User Muzirian proposes the tag amenity=courier to map courier services. However, it received some criticism.
  • The Tagging mailing list is looking for a neutral name for “Segways and the like”.
  • On the Tagging mailing list, Warin asks for ideas to map Drying_room or Drying_area.
  • Dave Swarthout is looking for a tag for cannabis processing plants.
  • Yuri Astrakhan published a proposal to distinguish between “There is a Wikipedia page about this object” vs “This object is mentioned in a Wikipedia page”. His suggestion was seen rather critically on the OSM Wiki.
  • Joshua Houston suggests on the Talk-US mailing list to replace the tag man_made to human_made, as a step to make OSM more inclusive. The OSM Latam community had a similar discussion on this issue.
  • Martijn van Exel posts the latest news from MapRoulette.


  • After Senegal, Burkina Faso and Benin, it is the turn of Togo to start its phase 01 of the project School of Free Geomatics. (fr)
  • For some time now, there have been rumours that Niantic is using OpenStreetMap data to influence Pokemon Go. There’s more discussion about it here, and a recent OSM diary entry has linked to an article amusingly titled ‘How To Create Your Own Nest In Pokemon GO With A Free Tool Called “Open Street Map”’ (and as you’d expect, every other post there, reads like Buzzfeed Bingo too). But this could mean that there are a few people trying to game OpenStreetMap to make things appear in Pokemon Go. Here are a few things that you can do about such vandalism.
  • Sven Geggus tweets that the German tile server operated by FOSSGIS e.V. is now HTTPS capable.


  • The Swiss OpenStreetMap Association’s Annual General Meeting will take place in Fribourg, Switzerland on April 8th. A mapping party will follow.
  • Gregory calls again to submit lectures for the State of the Map in Japan, since not enough papers have been submitted so far. Rob also refers to the deadlines for proposals and the scholarship program.

Humanitarian OSM

  • Marek Kleciak reports in the German forum that new satellite images from Nepal are available. They allow to map previously untapped areas. (de)
  • The HOT Team Indonesia organized a mapping event called WomenMap. They introduced women to ICT and digital mapping skills. It was pioneered by HOT as it moves towards promoting inclusion for vulnerable, disenfranchised groups (women, persons with disabilities, youth and marginalized communities) and thus help to narrow the digital divide. The initiative is supported by the Australian Government, Disaster Management Innovation and UN Women.


  • Walter aka wambacher presents the completely revised version of the Emergency Map.
  • Mapzen now offers a map style for cycling. European readers have to answer the question themselves if this map design can compete with the long-standing experience and work of all those cycling mappers/developers in Europe. 😉


  • When you do a geo search on the meta search engine Startpage, you will directly see an OpenStreetMap map in the results.

Open Data

  • Mapbox published new satellite imagery for Vancouver and Toronto.
  • The summary of an interview with Antonio F. Rodríguez Pascual provides (es) 10 good reasons why the public administration (in Spain) should release data under an open license. (automatic translation)


  • Andrés summarizes all important sources for learning about and using the Overpass API.
  • The motorcycle route planner “Kurviger”, which prefers beautiful winding routes with elevation changes, is now available worldwide.
  • Harry Wood created a tool to convert OpenStreetMap notes into KML and to use them in MAPS.ME.
  • On talk-fr, Florian Lainez announces the launch of Bus Contributor, a new Android app to ease public transport related contributions in OSM. Provided by Jawg Maps, the app is based on OSM Contributor.


  • A “monster relation” of an undiscussed import in Brazil with more than 32,767 members was too big for osm2pgsql, which probably caused problems on many servers.
  • In the second part of his blog series, Roland explained how to deal with numbers in the Overpass API.


Software Version Release date Comment
OSRM Backend 5.6.3 2017-03-03 Some bugfixes.
Osmium Tool 1.6.0 2017-03-06 Many changes, please read release info.
libosmium 2.12.0 2017-03-07 Many changes and bugfixes. Please read change log.
MapContrib 1.4.6 2017-03-08 Bug fixed.
Mapillary Android * 3.32 2017-03-08 Fix background crash in camera and upload.
Locus Map Free * 3.22.1 2017-03-09 Bugfix release.
VROOM V1.1.0 2017-03-09 Three extensions and three changes.
Mapbox GL JS v0.33.1 2017-03-10 Many changes and bugfixes. Please read change log.
Routino 3.2 2017-03-12 Various bug fixes, more translated phrases and some web page improvements.

Provided by the OSM Software Watchlist.

(*) unfree software. See: freesoftware.

Did you know …

  • Multimapas by Javier Jiménez Shaw to compare a variety of different map layers? Javier’s service also supports WMS layers and allows you to add your own layers.

Other “geo” things

  • Mongabay Wildtech reported on a new mapping platform for environmental protection.
  • The French magazine ‘Sciences et Avenir’ reports on PaleobioDB, a database inventorying fossils found by hundreds of paleontologists. The corresponding interactive map is based on OSM.

Upcoming Events

Where What When Country
Mazzano Romano Presentazione di OSM al MAVNA 17/03/2017 italy
Tokyo 東京!街歩き!マッピングパーティ:第6回 愛宕神社 18/03/2017 japan
Bonn Bonner Stammtisch 21/03/2017 germany
Scotland Edinburgh 21/03/2017 uk
Lüneburg Mappertreffen Lüneburg 21/03/2017 germany
Nottingham Nottingham Pub Meetup 21/03/2017 uk
Passau FOSSGIS 2017 22/03/2017-25/03/2017 germany
Lübeck Lübecker Mappertreffen 23/03/2017 germany
Urspring Stammtisch Ulmer Alb 23/03/2017 germany
Zaragoza Mapeado Colaborativo 23/03/2017 spain
Zaragoza Mapping Party #Zaccesibilidad (Mapeado Colaborativo) 24/03/2017 spain
Louvain-la-Neuve Bar meeting 24/03/2017 belgium
Vancouver Vancouver mappy hour 24/03/2017 canada
Mazzano Romano Workshop 1 24/03/2017 italy
Ayacucho Workshop of Mapbox Studio 25/03/2017 peru
Bremen Bremer Mappertreffen 27/03/2017 germany
Mazzano Romano Workshop 2 31/03/2017 italy
Kyoto 【西国街道#02】山崎蒸溜所と桜マッピングパーティ 01/04/2017 japan
Avignon State of the Map France 2017 02/06/2017-04/06/2017 france
Kampala State of the Map Africa 2017 08/07/2017-10/07/2017 uganda
Curitiba FOSS4G+SOTM Brasil 2017 27/07/2017-29/07/2017 brazil
Aizu-wakamatsu Shi State of the Map 2017 18/08/2017-20/08/2017 japan
Boulder State Of The Map U.S. 2017 19/10/2017-22/10/2017 united states
Buenos Aires FOSS4G+SOTM Argentina 2017 23/10/2017-28/10/2017 argentina
Lima State of the Map – LatAm 2017 29/11/2017-02/12/2017 perú

Note: If you like to see your event here, please put it into the calendar. Only data which is there, will appear in weeklyOSM. Please check your event in our public calendar preview and correct it, where appropriate.

This weeklyOSM was produced by Nakaner, Peda, Polyglot, Rogehm, SeleneYang, Spec80, SrrReal, TheFive, YoViajo, derFred, freeExec, jcoupey, jinalfoflia, keithonearth, taranarmo, wambacher.

by weeklyteam at March 16, 2017 08:12 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Black Art

Charles Alston is one of the artists who are of interest to the Black Lunch Table. Mr Alston died in 1977. One of his struggles was to have his art appreciated in the same way as any other art. It is why he refused to be exhibited in William E. Harmon Foundation shows, which featured all-black artists in their travelling exhibits. Alston and his friends thought the exhibits were curated for a white audience, a form of segregation which they protested. They did not want to be set aside but exhibited on the same level as art peers of every skin color.

Today is 2017 and the BLT addresses this black experience and gains the same attention for black artists by writing in Wikipedia about them. It is why many artists with a black experience gain more information in Wikidata, artists like Mr Alston. The one thing where Wikidata differs from Wikipedia is that it is all about connections. The more a person is connected, the more relevant in different settings. Mr Alston had a notable spouse, he was a founder and member of an art group, he studied and worked. All these things are easy and obvious in Wikidata.

From an artists point of view, other things are of relevance too; what awards did he gain, what museums have work in their collection and where did he exhibit. There is yet no obvious way how to make such a claim. Like so many young men of his time, he was in the army in the 372nd Infantry Regiment but that is not quite what Mr Alston is about. This could be relevant for people who care about the military and also, the 372nd was a black experience as well.

Most articles on the English Wikipedia for a person have categories about education, work at a faculty. Adding the implied information for everyone is almost as easy as adding it for one person. It makes adding statements something of a black art, an art that looks complicated an art that connects everything.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 16, 2017 11:30 AM


Canon EOS 5D Mark III donation

My old 5DIII is now in the hands of Wikimedia UK meaning that they now have a full frame camera. While its a decent camera there are some catches. It has been through about 42K shutter actuations or a bit under a third of its expected life. It has had zero maintenance during that period (no sensor cleaning for example) and not exactly spent its time indoors as a safe studio camera. Its been as far north as Dunnet Head, as far south as Sandown, as far west as Delabole, and as far east as Norwich.

Attitude range is rather more limited. While it has been at sea level I’m not sure its been much above the summit of Arthur’s seat.

That said with the low light performance you can only get from full frame, good autofocus and 22.3 mega-pixels it still have as a lot of use left in it. The real limit it is going to hit is lenses with WMUK currently only having 2 lens that work with it both at 50mm. While there are “50mm only” adherents it is rather photography’s equivalent of iron-man mode.

by geniice at March 16, 2017 02:38 AM

March 15, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation signs amicus brief supporting temporary restraining order against revised U.S. travel restrictions

Photo by Jon Rawlinson, CC BY 2.0.

Update, 5:42pm PST: This afternoon, Judge Derrick K. Watson granted the requested temporary restraining order, preventing nationwide enforcement of the executive order in question. We are happy with the outcome of this hearing, and look forward to future proceedings in which the court may more closely examine the executive order.

On March 14, 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation joined more than 50 other organizations, including Electronic Arts, Pinterest, and Zendesk, to file an amicus brief in State of Hawaii v. Trump. The brief supports the issuance of a temporary restraining order against a new executive order issued in the United States that imposes restrictions on travel and immigration based on national origin. The brief demonstrates that these restrictions will cause serious harm to the Wikimedia Foundation and signatories’ operations, and explains how the order itself violates fundamental essential constitutional protections.

The Wikimedia vision is a world in which everyone can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. In support of this vision, the Wikimedia Foundation is an inherently global organization. When our ability to collaborate across the world is hindered, our work toward that vision suffers. After an earlier executive order placing restrictions on travel was issued in January of this year, the Wikimedia Foundation joined an amicus filed in State of Washington, et. al. v. Trump. Following the issuance of this latest executive order, that case was dismissed. However, it remains clear that any effort to stifle international travel and collaboration will seriously impact the operations of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects are the work of thousands of volunteers who collaborate across cultures, languages, countries, beliefs, and experiences to share free knowledge with the world. Together, they have created the world’s free knowledge resource—available in nearly 300 languages spanning all corners of the globe. Reflecting both this breadth of content, and the global nature of our mission, the Wikimedia Foundation has employees and contractors from all over the globe, and we collaborate with community members, chapters, and affiliate groups in nearly every time zone. Restrictions on international travel will greatly hinder our ability to work together in furtherance of making free knowledge available to everyone, everywhere.

For more information about the importance of travel and collaboration to the Wikimedia Foundation’s operations, please see our February 5, 2017 blog post about the amicus we joined in Washington. Additionally, the January 30 statement by our Executive Director Katherine Maher discusses the Foundation’s philosophy of making free knowledge available across all borders.

The latest restrictions presented in the U.S. executive order are antithetical to the spirit of open collaboration that has allowed the internet and the Wikimedia projects in particular to flourish. We urge the court to grant the restraining order, and provide protection until the order’s legal and constitutional infirmities can be fully examined.

The list of signatories, as of publishing time, follows.

  1. Airbnb, Inc.
  2. AltSchool, PBC
  3. Ampush LLC
  4. Appboy
  5. Appnexus, Inc.
  6. Azavea
  7. CareZone, Inc.
  8. Chegg, Inc.
  9. Cloudera
  10. Color Genomics, Inc.
  11. Copia Institute
  12. DoorDash
  13. Dropbox, Inc.
  14. Electronic Arts
  15. EquityZen Inc.
  16. Evernote Corporation
  17. Flipboard
  18. General Assembly Space, Inc.
  19. Glassdoor, Inc.
  20. Greenhouse Software, Inc.
  21. IDEO
  22. Imgur, Inc.
  23. Indiegogo, Inc.
  24. Kargo Global, Inc.
  25. Kickstarter, PBC
  26. Light
  27. Linden Research, Inc. d/b/a Linden Lab
  28. Lithium Technologies, Inc.
  29. Lyft
  30. Lytro, Inc.
  31. Mapbox, Inc.
  32. Marin Software Incorporated
  33. Meetup, Inc.
  34. Memebox Corporation
  35. MongoDB, Inc.
  36. NetApp, Inc.
  37. Patreon, Inc.
  38. Pinterest, Inc.
  39. Postmates Inc.
  40. Quora, Inc.
  41. RealNetworks, Inc.
  42. RetailMeNot, Inc.
  43. Rocket Lawyer Incorporated
  44. Shutterstock, Inc.
  45. Square, Inc.
  46. Strava, Inc.
  47. SugarCRM
  48. Sunrun, Inc.
  49. TripAdvisor, Inc.
  50. Turo, Inc.
  51. Twilio Inc.
  52. Udacity, Inc.
  53. Upwork
  54. Warby Parker
  55. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
  56. Work & Co
  57. Y Combinator Management, LLC
  58. Zendesk, Inc.

Michelle Paulson, Interim General Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

Special thanks to the law firm Paul, Weiss for drafting the brief, to the other signatories of the brief for their collaboration and support in this matter, and to the Wikimedia Foundation Communications, Legal, Talent and Culture, and Travel teams for their work since the initial order was first issued.

This post has been corrected to note that State of Washington v. Trump has been dismissed.

by Michelle Paulson at March 15, 2017 04:00 PM

March 14, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation updates non-discrimination policy to support inclusive and diverse workplace

Photo by Ken Hammond/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, public domain/CC0.

Wikipedia is based on the belief that every person, everywhere should be able to freely share in the sum of all knowledge. This vision only works when when every single person feels welcome to participate and collaborate openly, regardless of background or identity. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we believe this commitment to inclusion applies to our staff as it does to Wikimedia communities. Today, I’m proud to share that we’re affirming this commitment by making some important updates to our non-discrimination policy.

Our updates go beyond protecting all the classes that the law requires. Our updated non-discrimination policy includes new explicit protections and expanded definitions related to gender identity and expression, disability, citizenship, and ancestry. This updated policy codifies practices and values already in place at the Foundation, and builds on recent efforts to support inclusivity and equitable opportunity within our organization, including expanding our parental leave policies, standing in support of our global staff, and appointing Talent & Culture leaders with strong track-records in supporting people rather than process.

Our previous non-discrimination policy had not been updated since 2006. While it was progressive at the time, we know time keeps moving forward. As you might imagine, in nearly eleven years, not only has the law of equal opportunity changed, but our understanding of how to best manifest equitable opportunity has evolved as well. We believe that this recent update better reflects our commitment to non-discrimination—and to realizing the diversity of talent, identity, and experience necessary to support one of the world’s most beloved and popular websites.

The first additions regard gender identity and gender expression. Our updates here reflect the Foundation’s belief that regardless of how someone identifies or expresses their gender, they bring value and perspective to our work. With this and all the updates, the Foundation affirms its belief that a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives is critical to effectively serving the Wikimedia movement worldwide.

The new policy includes explicit protection in a number of other areas, including veteran, military, marital, and childbearing status. We also added an expanded definition of protected disability to explicitly include mental as well as physical disability. The Wikimedia movement and the Wikimedia Foundation welcomes contributors of all of these statuses and backgrounds.

Finally, the policy adds explicit protections for citizenship and ancestry, confirming the Foundation’s belief that each person should be considered as an individual, regardless of the nation or culture from which they hail. The Foundation seeks to find the most passionate, dedicated, and talented employees who are committed to its mission to help make the world’s knowledge freely available to all, and celebrates the rich tapestry of language, culture, and identity that inform these efforts.

In addition to the updates to this important policy, our Talent & Culture department is supporting new employee resource groups, as well as an organization-wide discussion group on diversity and inclusion. Some of the employee resource groups being developed include ones for parents, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and women.

These groups have already been involved with the updates to our non-discrimination policy and other recent efforts. They are also looking at actions for the future, such as bringing in outside speakers to discuss topics like the gender gap, the transgender gap, and anti-harassment efforts; coordinating our efforts at events like San Francisco Pride and diversity work fairs; and reviewing our recruitment materials to better reflect our diverse workplace.

The Wikimedia Foundation will continue to develop our internal programs and policies to help nurture an inclusive and equal opportunity workplace that allows us to recruit the best talent possible to serve the Wikimedia movement.

Katherine Maher, Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

Special thanks to Angel Lewis, Joady Lohr, Patrick Earley, Jacob Rogers, Michelle Paulson, Gregory Varnum, and Juliet Barbara for their contributions to this update.

by Katherine Maher at March 14, 2017 10:09 PM

Semantic MediaWiki

Semantic MediaWiki 2.5 released/en

Semantic MediaWiki 2.5 released/en

March 14, 2017

Semantic MediaWiki 2.5 (SMW 2.5.0), the next feature version after 2.4 has now been released.

This new version brings many enhancements and new features such as full-text search support for datatype "Text", query result caching for better performance and the options to record and reference provenance data, to use property chains and language filters in print requests, to define preferred property labels as well as to integrate edit protection with annotations. Moreover the links in values feature for datatype "Text" was improved a lot and the fixed properties support was repaired which is now no longer experimental. Not to forget special page "SMWAdmin" was renamed to "SemanticMediaWiki" extended and overhauled. See also the version release page for information on further improvements and new features. Additionally this version fixes a lot of bugs and brings stability and performance improvements. Automated software testing was again further expanded to assure software stability. Please see the page Installation for details on how to install and upgrade.

by TranslateBot at March 14, 2017 09:45 PM

Semantic MediaWiki 2.5 released

Semantic MediaWiki 2.5 released

March 14, 2017

Semantic MediaWiki 2.5 (SMW 2.5.0), the next feature version after 2.4 has now been released.

This new version brings many enhancements and new features such as full-text search support for datatype "Text", query result caching for better performance and the options to record and reference provenance data, to use property chains and language filters in print requests, to define preferred property labels as well as to integrate edit protection with annotations. Moreover the links in values feature for datatype "Text" was improved a lot and the fixed properties support was repaired which is now no longer experimental. Not to forget special page "SMWAdmin" was renamed to "SemanticMediaWiki" extended and overhauled. See also the version release page for information on further improvements and new features. Additionally this version fixes a lot of bugs and brings stability and performance improvements. Automated software testing was again further expanded to assure software stability. Please see the page Installation for details on how to install and upgrade.

by Kghbln at March 14, 2017 09:43 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Helping you find that needle in the haystack: Building Wikipedia’s search functions

“The Gleaners,” by Jean-François Millet, public domain/CC0.

On a daily basis, millions of terms are entered into the Wikipedia search engine. What comes back when people search for those terms is largely due to the work of the Discovery team, which aims to “make the wealth of knowledge and content in the Wikimedia projects easily discoverable.”

The Discovery team is responsible for ensuring that visitors searching for terms in different languages wind up on the correct results page, and for continually improving the ways in which search results are displayed.

Dan Garry leads the Backend Search team which maintains and enhances search features and APIs and improves search result relevance for Wikimedia wikis. He and his team have a public dashboard where they can monitor and analyze the impact of their efforts. Yet, they do much of their work without knowing who is searching for what—Wikipedia collects very little information about users, and doesn’t connect search data to other data like page views or browsing habits.

Dan and I talked about how the search team improves search without knowing this information, and how different groups of people on Wikipedia use search differently. An edited version of our conversation is below.


Mel: You mentioned in an earlier conversation we had that power editors use Wikipedia’s search in a completely different way than readers. What are some of the ways that power editors use search?

Dan: Power users use search as a workflow management tool. For example—they might see a typo that annoys them or a word in an article that is misused a lot, or be looking for old bits of code that need to be changed, and then search for that to see if corrections can be made. In that case, unlike your average user, they’re actually hoping for zero results from their query, because it means the typo isn’t present anywhere.

Another way that power users might use search is to look for their usernames because they might want to find places where they’ve been mentioned in discussion—and they want to “sort pages by recency” so that they can see the most recent times they’ve been mentioned.

That represents a divergence from someone who simply wants to find an article. Our power users aren’t always trying to find an article—they’re trying to find pages that meet certain criteria so they can perform an action on those pages. They’re interested in the whole results set, rather than 1-2 results.


Mel: It sounds like power editors don’t always want or need relevancy. (Although I’m sure sometimes they do.)

Dan: That’s right. It’s something we’d like to study more in-depth. We prioritize relevancy for readers but editors and even some kinds of readers might need something completely different.

Dan Garry. Photo by Myleen Hollero/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.


Mel: There are a lot of ways to search Wikipedia. Off the top of my head, I can think of searching through search engines, through wikipedia.org, through an individual article page, and then on the mobile apps. Do you notices differences between all of these different pathways into the site?

Dan: Occasionally we do. I used to be a product manager for mobile and I was focusing a lot on search. I was interested in search as an entry point for the mobile app.

But we found that a lot of people were having trouble with things like finding the search tool. We had made an assumption that keeping a search query in the search bar would be useful for the end user, but people thought that was the title of the page, and they were really confused.

When we realized that this could be an issue, we did a lot of qualitative user studies with people, and asked staff who weren’t on the product team what they thought. It was helpful to get perspectives of this feature on the app outside of the dev team, from actual users.

We decided to change the way that search appeared in the app once a page loaded. When people navigated to that page, we deleted their search phrase from the search box which helped people know where to look to start searching again.

We’ve also thought quite a bit about images and their relationship to search. We thought about adding images in search results, and we found that adding images to the search results changed user behavior quite a bit. Instead of clicking on the first link, which may or may not have been the most relevant result, they would almost always prefer articles with pictures, even if the articles were further down the search results page. We asked why, and people said that they felt that the result was more comprehensive or complete.

It’s funny how changing something small can immediately have a huge effect. When we made the picture change, we also saw a small drop in people clicking through to the articles. This alarmed us because we thought we were enhancing things for the end user, and we were worried that by adding the pictures, that we may have inadvertently caused them to not get the information they needed. But we did some digging, and found it was the opposite:  for some queries, the answer to the search query was given in the search results so they didn’t need to go to the article. We were meeting their user needs earlier in the search process which was fantastic.

You really need both quantitative and qualitative data to truly understand all the ways users use your product. Having either only one or the other can paint an unclear picture.


Mel: What kinds of things do you think about when thinking about relevancy?

Dan: This is a tricky topic. The fundamental approach assumes that you can break down relevance into an equation that aggregates different factors, and then produces results that are “the most relevant.” That’s clearly not always going to be the case. If I search for ‘Kennedy,’ I could be looking for the airport, or the President, or I might be looking for John Jr. or Ted. There is no single correct “most relevant result” for that query.

There’s a multitude of different factors—we used to use something called tf-idf to figure out what to surface in what order. tf-idf stands for ‘term frequency—inverse document frequency’, which combines measures of how much words are mentioned in one article with how much they’re mentioned in the whole site.

So if I were to search for “Sochi Olympics”. The word “Sochi” is relatively rare, but the word “Olympics” is much more commons, it knows that “Sochi” part of the query is probably the more important one, and that’s how it finds the 2014 Winter Olympics article as opposed to other articles about the Olympics.

Melody Kramer. Photo by Zachary McCune/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.


Mel: It sounds like that would be challenging for words that have multiple meanings.

Dan: That’s true and something we think about a lot. If you go to Wikidata, and you search for life on the search page, you get search results like: Life Sciences, the Encyclopedia of Life, IUBMB Life, Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, the phrase slice of life, the video game Half-Life… but you don’t get the item on the concept of something being living.

And that’s because of the term frequency and inverse document frequency. A lot of the pages I just mentioned a lot of them have the term life in them. And, by coincidence, the item about life itself doesn’t actually have the word life in it very often. Which means the actual result for life is far down, because it doesn’t seem as important as the others, even though it is!


Mel: I imagine there must be ways to mitigate that.

Dan: We’ve switched to an algorithm Okapi BM25 instead of tf-idf – it’s a newer algorithm. (BM stands for Best Match.) Basically, what BM25 says is that there isn’t a huge difference between a term being mentioned 1000000 times and a term being mentioned 10000 times.  Using the new algorithm and switching to a more precise way of storing data about articles helped with the Kennedy problem a lot, because it’s paying less attention to how frequently the word Kennedy appears in other pages since it’s used a lot in this page. Before John Fitzgerald Kennedy was on the second page of result, and now he’s about 7th or 8th in terms of results.


Mel: Does the site use BM25 everywhere?

Dan: We use BM25 on every Wikipedia that is not in Chinese, Thai, Japanese and other languages where words in a sentence don’t have spaces in between them. We tested BM25 and it caused a massive drop in the zero results rate on the spaceless languages due to a bug in the way words are broken up, or tokenized. We learned the algorithm wasn’t working on those languages, and we deployed it everywhere else. We’re hopeful that we can fix that problem for spaceless languages in the future.


Mel: What has been the most unexpected thing you’ve learned through search?

Dan: There is a surprising long tail when it comes to the frequency of searches.

One of the first things we were asked by our community members is “Why don’t you make a list of the most popular queries that give zero search results so editors can make redirects or find articles that need to be written?”

The data is not that useful, as it turns out. In our analysis of the problem, some of the most popular zero result searches were “{searchTerms}” and “search_suggest_query” which we think are bugs in certain browsers or automated search systems.

We also found that a lot of people were searching for DOIs, which are digital object identifiers used by academic researchers. Most of the searches for those got zero results. We had to ask ourselves “What are people doing?” And we found there was a tool that let researchers put a DOI into it to see whether their paper was cited in Wikipedia. Of course, most papers that people are searching for aren’t in Wikipedia, so it’s actually correct to give them zero results!

When I started in search, we believed that users should never get zero results when searching. But it turns out that a lot of people were searching for things we don’t have and it’s correct to give them zero results.


Mel: I know that Wikipedia has a very strict privacy policy and tracks hardly anything. What do we collect?

Dan: We do track some info. We have event logging that says ‘This user with this IP clicked on the 4th result, it took us this long to give them results’, and so on. But, it’s Wikimedia’s policy to delete all personally identifying information after 90 days. That is a very intentional thing we decided to protect user privacy.

If you don’t want information about users to be revealed, the only thing you can do is to not record it. If we get subpoenas, we are legally required to comply with. But if we don’t have that information, we obviously can’t give it out! So it’s the safest way to keep users’ privacy protected. We can figure out some things by language, but not geography.

But it’s tricky sometimes. A good example of that within the Latin alphabet is the search term “paris”. What language is that in? Is it English? French? If I search for “cologne”, it’s a city in Germany but also a perfume in English. And that’s an example of relevance. Is a user who searches for “cologne” searching for a fragrance or a city? These things make delivering good search results really hard, but we keep on trying, and keep making them a little better every day.

Melody Kramer, Senior Audience Development Manager, Communications
Dan Garry, Lead Product Manager, Discovery Product and Analysis
Wikimedia Foundation

by Dan Garry and Melody Kramer at March 14, 2017 05:58 PM

Magnus Manske

Mix’n’match interface update

I have been looking into a JavaScript library called vue.js lately. It is similar to React, but not encumbered by licensing issues (that might prevent its use on WMF servers in the future), faster (or so they claim), but most of all, it can work without interference on the server side; all I need for my purposes is including the vue.js file into HTML.

So why would you care? Well, as usual, I learn new technology by working it into an actual project (rather than just vigorously nodding over a manual). This time, I decided to rewrite the slightly dusty interface of Mix’n’match using vue.js. This new version went “live” a few minutes ago, and I am surprised myself at how much more responsive it has become. This might be best exemplified by the single entry view (example), which (for unmatched entries) will search Wikidata, the respective language Wikipedia, and the Mix’n’match database for the entry title. It also searches Wikidata via SPARQL to check if the ID for the respective property is already in use. This all happens nicely modular, so I can re-use lots of code for different modules.

Most of the functions in the previous version have been implemented in the new one. Redirect code is in place, so if you have bookmarked a page on Mix’n’match, you should end up in the right place. One new function is the ability to sort and group the catalogs (almost 400 now!) on the main page (example).

As usual, feel free to browse the code (vue.js-based HTML and JavaScript, respectively). Issues (for the new interface, or Mix’n’match in general) go here.

by Magnus at March 14, 2017 12:59 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - actionable quality; Debora L. Silverman

Mrs Silverman is the 2001 winner of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award. As Wikidata had only two statements for her, it was appropriate to add more information. The Wikipedia article is a stub but it had two categories for a university where she studied and one where she worked. Adding this fact to all the people in a category is relatively easy.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson award was given for "Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art". It makes Mrs Silverman an author and consequently there is a VIAF registration for her. Adding this has an effect when the {{Authority control}} template is available in the article.. I added it to the Wikipedia stub and was pleasantly surprised with the WorldCat information from the OCLC.

It is wonderful to find such quality information provided as a consequence from having VIAF information in Wikidata. That is actionable quality!

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 14, 2017 09:24 AM

March 13, 2017

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata #quality - is it actionable?

T. Geronimo Johnson
The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence is a great example to explain about Wikidata quality. The item is linked to a Wikipedia article and it has several red links. For all the red links a Wikidata item has been created and, the winner for 2015 and 2016 are only known to Wikidata.

The Wikipedia article for the 2016 winner knows about the award. The article mentions the Sallie Bingham Award, an award that Wikidata does not (yet) know about. Wikidata knows about the VIAF registration for the winner; this is relevant because it means that the international libraries know about this author. The Wikipedia article mentions several universities that were attended; including them in Wikidata is easy and obvious. Doing so improves quality for both the author and for the universities involved. The quality of Wikidata is equal or better than Wikipedia when it knows about the same or more articles than a Wikipedia category does.

Several of the winners including T. Geronimo Johnson, the 2015 winner, are "red links". The minimum needed for Wikidata is to know that he is male and, the winner of the award. With a little bit of effort his VIAF identifier can be found. Consequently we know that the T. stands for Tyrone. Adding the VIAF identifier will show the Wikidata identifier in a months time on the VIAF website and, it allows for quality checks in Wikidata.

Quality for Wikidata is different from quality for Wikipedia. It is less in traditional sources and it is more in connecting to sources like VIAF. When a Wikipedia, a Wikidata and sources like VIAF are in agreement a fact is verifiable and becomes more immune to "alternative facts".

When editing Wikidata quality is in completeness, in combining information from multiple sources, in making Mr Johnson the 2015 winner by adding a qualifier. It starts however with making an effort.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 13, 2017 06:24 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #11, 2017 (March 13, 2017)

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March 13, 2017 12:00 AM

March 12, 2017

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Maren Hassinger is on the "Black Lunch Table"

Maren Hassinger is a sculptor born in Los Angeles. She was awarded both the Anonymous Was A Woman Award and the Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to this there is a Wikipedia article.

When you read the article, all kinds of statements are made that could reflect in the article having Wikipedia categories. In this case statements in Wikidata were made.

The outward appearance is that Wikipedia and Wikidata are two distinct projects. Wikidata however has always included data from Wikipedia and there has always been a realisation that Wikipedia in its turn could benefit from Wikidata; generating category entries should be possible for instance.

When you consider the immediate future of the Wikimedia projects, Commons will be wikidatified. One part of the information that is directly related to GLAM activities is registering the museums that include an artist in their collection. This is applicable for many artists that are part of the Black Lunch Table including Mrs Hassinger. So the question is; should we include such information in Wikidata and how should we do this?

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 12, 2017 02:28 PM

March 11, 2017

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Historical amnesia

A discussion about contemporary politics is not based on facts, nor on the interpretation of facts it is much more based on identity and what group you belong to. It is important to politicians to frame their message and much of this framing is done through a selective use of facts and the presentation of opinion as facts.

The Wikimedia community is not about politics except where facts are concerned. Facts matter; for instance Mrs Clarissa Sligh cares about "historical amnesia", read her website and see what is meant. Mrs Sligh qualifies as far as I am concerned as a "Black Lunch Table" candidate. They are artists from the African diaspora and giving attention to them is a project that aims to lessen the diversity gap that exists.

In contemporary anti politics it is relevant that facts are available. All the Wikimedia projects are political in that they deny any singular political message their limited view on facts. It is important to overcome the bias of the demagogues and pundits and bring together information that paints a difference.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 11, 2017 07:14 AM

March 10, 2017

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - dating awards

Many awards are dated using "point in time". With a query you can count them, certainly when you are WikidataFacts. Looking at a graph like this, you will see that many awards for 2016 and 2015 are still missing. Many of these awards were imported in the past and have not been updated yet.

It would be cool if we knew what Wikipedias have an article for the awards and would be "pinged" when new values are known.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 10, 2017 10:52 PM

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 346


About us

  • Dale Kunce accuses us of selective news coverage about HOT and points out the Validation Fridays. As barely 50% of the added data is validated till date, HOT hopes to have a quality gain and more feedback to the mappers, who are new mappers in many cases, through their initiative.

  • March 8 marks the International Women’s Day. WeeklyOSM extends congratulations to all women within our community!


  • Tagging mailing list discusses the new tag motorcycle_friendly as the RFC and voting phases didn’t happen as expected.

  • Tyndare reports on talk-fr about his use of the conflation plugin to work with French land registry data within JOSM. He provides documentation both on the wiki and in a video.

  • [1] Frederik Ramm initiates a discussion, on the Tagging list, about issues concerning the mapping of time zones as geometries. A long and detailed discussion follows.

  • A former modification of motorway exits by hsimpson triggers an extended discussion, in the Tagging mailing list, about where a way branches at motorway exits. There is a discussion in the German forum as well.

  • Users sabas88 and sbiribizio from the Italian community experimented with the "geography" of Wikidata and built a service to assist in matching the Wikidata element to the OpenStreetMap database.


  • South Korea has its first forum thread. We wish to say: 오신 것을 환영합니다, 한국

  • Martijn van Exel has created a small survey on Maproulette tasks. Please participate in the survey so that Martijn gets a picture as complete as possible.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • The Data Working Group (DWG) publishes the minutes of the February 8th meeting and its activity reports for the year 2016.

  • On OWG’s issue tracker on GitHub, there is a discussion on the rules for a banner policy for advertising banners on osm.org in the future.

  • The Operations Working Group (OWG) publishes its activities report for February.

  • Gregory Marler summarizes his thoughts about the purpose of the UK local chapter.


  • Do you want to learn how to create and publish interactive and personalized maps? Come and participate in the Mapbox Studio workshop. It will be held this March 25th at the Mapbox Peru Office. It will be addressed for an open group.

  • Framasoft, a group of FOSS enthusiasts, will provide technical support to the SotM France 2017 from June 02 to 04 in Avignon.

Humanitarian OSM

  • HOT aims to map buildings over an area of 500,000+ square kilometers by the end of April. The Malaria Elimination Campaign completed Guatemala and is currently validating Honduras and Botswana maps in Zambia. It is to begin soon in Zimbabwe, Cambodia and Laos.

  • Trudy Namitala describes in a HOT blog post why we need women and girls in mapping. Hint: Especially in Africa women often lack the information about help facilities for gender based violence, family planning or maternity services. Look at the list in the wiki.

  • Emir Hartato announces the completion of his Masters thesis on Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) for Disaster Management. However, his full work may be published only after review.

  • Various people, including Simon Poole, have expressed surprise that HOT is advertising on Google. Are they running short of volunteers? Do they want more donations? Let’s not forget that the OSM Foundation’s donate link will still happily take any spare cash that you might have…


  • After ongoing discussions about debugging tiles infos (we reported earlier), Tom Hughes took the time to develop a new info box about a tile’s detail.

  • Todd Neumarker introduces new Trailfork cards for the Garmin Edge series. You can find more information here.


  • The game 911 Operator uses OpenStreetMap data for a world wide coverage.

Open Data

  • On the occasion of the international Open Data Day on March 4, the Guardian reported Open Data projects in five countries around the world. OSM has, of course, featured as one of them with CARTEAU in Burkina Faso and the Open Source Flood Map in Indonesia being OSM based.


  • Paul Norman searched and found benefits in replacing string arrays with hstore in the previous representation of the tags in the slim tables of osm2pgsql databases.

  • The Engineering Working Group calls for mentors for the next round of Google Summer of Code 2017.

  • The next version of Overpass API is out. The release notes provide a summary of changes.


Other “geo” things

  • Christoph Hormann reports about the changes in Sentinel-2’s image format.

  • The company SIGRA asks whether OsmAnd could be adapted for autonomous driving.

  • Amazing Maps presents a map from the time of Charles the Great.

Upcoming Events

This weeklyOSM was produced by Nakaner, Peda, Polyglot, Rogehm, Spec80, SrrReal, YoViajo, derFred, jinalfoflia, keithonearth, piligab, vsandre.

by weeklyteam at March 10, 2017 07:08 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Community digest: WikiFundi, an offline editing platform for Wikipedia; news in brief

Photo by Islahaddow, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Fundi is a Swahili word for an expert or guru; WikiFundi is a tool that can enable everyone to be an editing expert regardless of their background.

“School children in South African countries refer to each other as being fundi,” the project page explains. “As in, ‘Can you help me with my homework? You’re such a math fundi.’”

Last month at WikiIndaba, the regional conference of the Wikimedia movement in Africa, community members announced WikiFundi to the world. The tool will allow offline editing of Wikipedia. It will be initially distributed in 16 countries in Africa, where it will be helpful whenever constant access to the internet is not available.

Offline editing on WikiFundi “will provide a similar experience to online editing,” said Isla Haddow-Flood and Florence Devouard, the main organizers of WikiAfrica, in a press release early February. Offline contributions will be uploaded to Wikipedia when the device is reconnected to the internet, even briefly.

The problem is particularly acute in developing countries, like those on the African continent. Although the telecommunications market in Africa is growing, most of the region’s inhabitants do not have access to the internet. The lack of this infrastructure plays a role in what is a disproportionate knowledge sharing game. Wikipedia tells us that “Of about 400,000 rural communities that are estimated to exist in Africa, less than 3% have access to a public telephone network.”

WikiFundi is not the first tool to approach this issue on Wikipedia. Several apps, for instance, enable Wikipedia users to download and browse copies of Wikipedia’s content in any language. One of these, Kiwix, recently had its tenth anniversary.

But most, if not all, do not allow offline editing. The Wikimedia Foundation’s executive director Katherine Maher has said that WikiFundi “is not just about creating knowledge or reading knowledge, but about sharing in knowledge.” Similarly, Ghanian Wikimedian Felix Nartey said that it will “increase the reach of Wikipedia to areas that have never heard of the platform and to break the barrier of accessibility through the internet.”

One of the first initiatives that WikiFundi will support is the WikiChallenge African Schools. The challenge will be held at 300 schools participating in the Orange Foundation’s Digital Schools Program in 8 African countries. The program involves over 130,000 school children.

In addition to the Digital Schools Program, the software will help Wikimedia affiliates and individual Wikipedians in over 20 African countries with their outreach activities.

More about WikiFundi can be found in a press release and flyer published by the organizers.

In brief

Enterprise MediaWiki Conference Spring 2017: This week, a suburb of Washington, DC is hosting the second Enterprise MediaWiki Conference, a three-day conference featuring discussions of topics related to “Enterprise MediaWiki,” i.e. the usage of MediaWiki software by and within companies, non-profits, governments, and other organizations. More about the conference program on MediaWiki. Watch the live streaming of the conference on YouTube.

The women you have never met (editing contest): This month, Wikimedia Israel is holding an editing contest on the Arabic Wikipedia. The contest aims at promoting Wikipedia’s content about pioneer women, in addition to helping recruit new editors who are passionate about women’s history. More about the contest and how to join on Meta.

Arabic Wikipedia reaches 500,000 articles: This week, the Arabic Wikipedia community celebrated a new milestone in their efforts to freely share human knowledge.

100 Wiki Women days marathon: The #100WikiDays challenge is a personal commitment in which the participant creates a new article on Wikipedia every day for 100 consecutive days. This month, to commemorate Wiki Women’s History Month, many #100WikiDays contributors are starting a new challenge where they will create only women profiles. More information and how to participate on Meta.

A team of female contributors adds over 300 articles to Wikipedia: In Mangaluru, India, a team of 47 women collaborated on creating over 300 articles on Wikipedia in three Indic languages: Kannada, Tulu and Konkani. The team organized meetups and editathons for the participants over a year where they helped each other with the editing process. More about this project on The Hindu, an Indian news website.

New Wikimedia user groups: This week the Wikimedia Affiliations Committee (AffCom) announced the recognition of five new Wikimedia community user groups: West Bengal Wikimedians user group, Wikimedians of Erzya language user group, Wikimedians of Lëtzebuerg user group, Karavali Wikimedians user group and Wikimaps user group.

Train the trainer program 2017: The center for internet and society in Bangalore, India held a four-day workshop between 19 and 22 February 2017. The workshop was part of their annual train the trainer program. The program aims at empowering leadership development in the Indian Wikipedia community where the participants get training on how to recruit and support new volunteer editors on Wikipedia. More information on the Program page on Meta.

WikiWomen editathon in Warsaw: This weekend, the Wikimedia community in Warsaw, Poland is hosting an editathon to commemorate the women’s history month. Wysokieobcasy, a Polish news website interviewed Natalia Szafran from Wikimedia Poland about Wikipedia’s gender gap and why is it important to organize events like this one. More information about the editathon on Meta and Natalia’s interview on Wysokieobcasy (In Polish).

Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

by Samir Elsharbaty at March 10, 2017 06:23 PM

Paolo Massa (phauly@WP) Gnuband.org

Design Thinking: Norman and I (and the stupid question)

I’m starting a new adventure and it is about service design and design thinking, so I thought I could start looking at what Don Norman said about design thinking, right?

In 2010 Norman labelled design thinking as a powerful but false myth with questions such as “Why should we perpetuate such nonsensical, erroneous thinking?” and statements such as “what is being labeled as “design thinking” is what creative people in all disciplines have always done”. Norman argues that designers are not “mystically endowed with greater creativity (…) but they have one virtue that helps them: they are outsiders. People within a group find it difficult to break out of the traditional paradigms, for usually these seem like givens, not to be questioned. Many of these beliefs have been around for so long that they are like air and gravity: taken for granted and never thought about. Outsiders bring a fresh perspective, particularly if they are willing to question everything, especially that which seems obvious to everyone else.”

But in 2013, Norman writes a new post titled “Rethinking Design Thinking” in which he changes a bit his position. The part I like the most is the conclusion where he posits “That is design thinking. Ask the stupid question.” basically arguing that:

What is a stupid question? It is one which questions the obvious. “Duh,” thinks the audience, “this person is clueless.” Well, guess what, the obvious is often not so obvious. Usually it refers to some common belief or practice that has been around for so long that it has not been questioned. Once questioned, people stammer to explain: sometimes they fail. It is by questioning the obvious that we make great progress. This is where breakthroughs come from. We need to question the obvious, to reformulate our beliefs, and to redefine existing solutions, approaches, and beliefs. That is design thinking. Ask the stupid question.

Well, I think I can wonderfully get along with this suggestion, so if you happen to pass by while I’m asking a stupid question (or you are the one I asked the stupid question to), don’t be judgemental, I’m just doing my (new) job ;)

P.S.: I hope you can forgive me for putting so close Don Norman and myself in the title ;)

by paolo at March 10, 2017 09:55 AM

This month in GLAM

This Month in GLAM: February 2017

by Admin at March 10, 2017 07:07 AM

March 09, 2017

Wikimedia UK

Wikipedia Vs Fake News

Old media – image by User:Rufus330Ci

This article based on the text of Wikimedia UK’s submission to the government’s inquiry into fake news, which was launched in January.

A changing media landscape

The media landscape has changed beyond all recognition over the past 25 years. Before the internet, there were just a handful of media providers with large, guaranteed audiences and plenty of funding to compete with each other on the quality of their journalistic output.

In this bygone era, people generally had more trust in mainstream sources of information and knowledge. You knew where this media was coming from, and the media landscape was predictable. But now none of this certainty exists. The media landscape is diverse, with hundreds of subsidiary websites controlled by opaque political groups or corporate bodies. Faith in the old canonical media sources has eroded and social groups insulate themselves in bubbles that keep out conflicting ideas.

As economic inequality has risen, fragmented social groups have retreated into ideological positions. The erosion of trust in traditional media institutions further contributes to the ability of people to ignore facts that don’t fit their confirmation biases. This trend has become so bad that some commentators have declared that facts don’t matter.

Where does Wikipedia fit in?

Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, not a news service (though its sister site WikiNews is a news service), and our mission is not political in the way many media organisations are – our goal is accurate, neutral information, not to make money or support any political ideology. Our volunteers are diverse in their politics, but they subscribe to the same process and mission to make the best, most neutral source of information which can be trusted by people no matter what their political views are. A recent study by Harvard Business School showed that Wikipedia articles usually become more politically neutral as more contributors get involved in editing them. This allows us to win the trust of our readers and hopefully provides an example to the media of how to regain the confidence of the general public.

As the charity which supports and promotes Wikipedia and its sister projects in the UK, we believe that facts do matter, but the way in which they are produced matters too. Wikipedia generates trust in itself through transparency and verifiability. You can check the sources of the facts written on every page in the list of citations. You can see the history of how each article was written and the accounts or IP addresses of the editors who wrote it. If you disagree with the content, you can discuss it on the talk page of the article to reach consensus with other editors about whether the information should be included.

Part of the problem is that our education system is still too often set up to inculcate facts, rather than analytical ways of thinking. Our pedagogic processes haven’t evolved from a media landscape in which you could be reasonably sure that what the BBC said was true, to one in which children are bombarded with messages from different political points of view, advertisers and ideologies. Our minds have always been a battleground for various social forces, but the sheer number of agents and institutions vying for control of our thoughts and feelings today is so large that it is confusing and destabilising for many.

In such a confusing landscape, people will often choose simple, clear messages which cut through this white noise. Facile slogans with little substance like ‘Take our country back’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ can gain momentum and huge support, while more complex facts and realities are drowned out.

Teach critical ways of thinking, not just facts

We believe that instead of trying to control the conversation and narrative, the best thing that governments can do is to arm their citizens with the educational tools to analyse this confusing landscape and protect themselves from indoctrination by simplistic political messaging. We believe that learning how to use Wikipedia, engaging in the creation of knowledge through debate and consensus, is one way that people can be armed with the analytic tools to form their own opinions and to distinguish good information from bad information.

On Facebook, people often share stories that conform to their previously held beliefs without checking the source of the information first. One very common internet meme from the middle of 2016 involved a made up quote by Donald Trump about how he would run as a Republican candidate for President because they are the ‘dumbest group of voters’. Just a minute of effort searching for the source of this information would reveal that it had been made up, but people wanted to believe it. This kind of fabrication is impossible to get away with for long on Wikipedia.

When you create a new article or add information to an existing article on Wikipedia, other editors who are watching the page will review your work, deciding if the information is correct and the source is reliable. Some of the highest traffic articles on Wikipedia are peer-reviewed by thousands of different people. Here are the page view statistics for the International Women’s Day article, which has been viewed over 1 million times already in 2017 on the English Wikipedia.

Wikipedia also creates trust and reliability by being the only non-commercial website in the top 100 most popular sites (by traffic) on the internet. It is run by a non-profit charity, the Wikimedia Foundation, and has no advertising. We believe that the absence of commercial advertising is integral to maintaining trust in the site, and this shows in the public’s response. Wikipedia gets around half a billion unique visits a month, and a recent poll by YouGov shows that people trust Wikipedia more than journalists from any media group.

Ensuring the best information is more visible

One aspect of Wikipedia’s importance is its search engine ranking. Unreliable sources can game the way search algorithms work to place high on Google rankings. However, Wikipedia articles will also appear near the top of searches, providing a reliable, neutral place to find a summary of other good sources. Here is an example:

Unfortunately, many educators have had a propensity to warn students away from Wikipedia, in the belief that if it can be edited by anybody, its reliability cannot be as good as the BBC or other traditional media. We believe this is clearly not true for most articles, but the point of Wikipedia is not to encourage people to take the information at face value. The sources will be transparently listed at the bottom of each article so you can see where the information comes from.

Social trust is an important bedrock to creating political consensus. Countries that exhibit low levels of interpersonal trust are generally ones beset by social and political issues. Economic inequality creates the conditions for a loss of trust, and makes it more likely that people will be willing to believe biased information. Wikipedia cannot fix the underlying problems of economic inequality, but it can teach people how to understand and analyse information in context.

Our community creates trust by developing rules by which we can judge the veracity and value of the content that people add to Wikimedia projects. Editors have for a long time deprecated the use of unreliable media sources, with one policy (WP:PUS) stating that:

These policies guide and inform discussions and disputes about the content of articles, and editors engage with each other on the Talk pages of articles to discuss and decide by consensus whether a source is reliable and whether particular information is relevant. This whole process is transparent, and you can look back at the history of any article to see its previous versions and what has been changed.

Active knowledge construction as part of good citizenship

What we try to do as a charity is to encourage people not simply to be passive consumers of information, but active agents and participants in the collective construction of knowledge about our world. We don’t believe that the narrative of history is best controlled by any one powerful interest, and we would like everybody to understand the process by which knowledge is produced on Wikipedia, so that we can all be sure the final output is transparent and verifiable.

It is this process which is lacking in traditional media. You never get to see the process by which the sausage is made, and that allows people with low levels of trust in traditional institutions to believe that the information is inherently biased. It is harder to believe this about Wikipedia because you can see for yourself how it was produced.

The world has changed, and yet we are still right at the dawn of the internet age, experiencing the changes that this new technology has wrought on culture, politics and society. We need to get to grips with these changes and develop systems which allow a more equitable balance of power between individuals, corporations and states so that people cannot be exploited for others’ gain. Wikipedia is one way to do that.

by John Lubbock at March 09, 2017 02:16 PM


Naturalists in court and courtship

The Bombay Natural History Society offers an interesting case in the history of amateur science in India and there are many little stories hidden away that have not quite been written about, possibly due to the lack of publicly accessible archival material. Interestingly two of the founders of the BNHS were Indians and hardly anything has been written about them even in the pages of the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society where lesser known British members have obituaries. I suspect that the lack of their obituaries can be traced to the political and social turmoil of the period. Even a major historical two-part piece by Salim Ali in 1978 makes no mention of the Indians involved in the founding of the BNHS. Both of the founders were connected with medicine and medical botany and connected to some of the other naturalists not so just because of their interest in plants but perhaps through their participation in social reform movements (markedly liberal). The only colleague who could have written their obituaries was the BNHS member Kanhoba Ranchoddas Kirtikar who probably did not because of his conservative-views and a fall-out with the liberals. This is merely my suspicion and it arises from reading between the lines when I recently started to examine, create and upgrade the relevant entries on them on the English language Wikipedia. There are also some rather interesting connections.

Sakharam Arjun
Dr Sakharam Arjun (Raut) (1839-16 April 1885) - This medical doctor with an interest in botanical remedies was for sometime a teacher of botany at the Grant Medical College - but his name perhaps became more well known after a historic court case dealing with child marriage and women's rights, that of Dadaji vs. Rukhmabai. Rukhmabai had been married off at the age of 11 and stayed with her mother and step-father Sakharam Arjun. When she reached puberty, she was asked by Dadaji to join him. Rukhmabai refused and Sakharam Arjun supported her. It led to a series of court cases, the first of which was in Rukhmabai's favour. This rankled the Hindu conservatives who believed that this was a display of the moral superiority of the English. The judge had in reality found fault with English law and had commented on the patriarchal and unfair system of marriage that had already been questioned back in England. A subsequent appeal was ruled in favour of Dadaji and Rukhmabai was ordered to go to his home or face six months in prison. Rukhmabai was in the meantime writing a series of articles in the Times of India under the pen-name of A Hindoo Lady (wish there was a nice online Indian newspapers archive) and she declared that she would rather take the maximal prison penalty. This led to further worries - with Queen Victoria and the Viceroy jumping into the fray. Max Müller commented on the case, while Behramji Malabari and Allan Octavian Hume (now retired from ornithology; there may be another connection as Sakharam Arjun seems to have been a member of the Theosophical Society, founded by Hume and others before he quit it) debated various aspects. Somewhat surprisingly Hume tended to being less radical about reforms than Malabari.

Dr Edith Pechey
Dr Rukhmabai
Dr Sakharam Arjun did not live to see the judgement, and he probably died early thanks to the stress it created. His step-daughter Rukhmabai became one of the earliest Indian women doctors and was supported in her cause by Dr Edith Pechey, another pioneering English woman doctor, who went on to marry H.M. Phipson. Phipson of course was a more famous founder of the BNHS. Rukhmabai's counsel included the lawyer J.D.Inverarity who was a big-game hunter and BNHS member. To add to the mess of BNHS members in court, there was (later Lt.-Col.) Kanhoba Ranchoddas Kirtikar (1850-9 May 1917), a student of Sakharam Arjun and like him interested in medicinal plants. Kirtikar however became a hostile witness in the Rukhmabai case, and supported Dadaji. Rukhmabai, in her writings as a Hindoo Lady, indicated her interest in studying medicine. Dr Pechey and others set up a fund for supporting her medical education in London. The whole case caused a tremendous upheaval in India with a division across multiple axes -  nationalists, reformists, conservatives, liberals, feminists, Indians, Europeans - everyone seems to have got into the debate. The conservative Indians believed that Rukhmabai's defiance of Hindu customs was the obvious result of a western influence.

J.D.Inverarity, Barrister
and Vice President of BNHS (1897-1923)
Counsel for Rukhmabai.
It is somewhat odd that the BNHS journal carries no obituary whatsoever to this Indian founding member. I suspect that the only one who may have been asked to write an obituary would have been Kirtikar and he may have refused to write given his stance in court. Another of Sakharam Arjun's students was a Gujarati botanist named Jayakrishna Indraji who perhaps wrote India's first non-English botanical treatise (at least the first that seems to have been based on modern scientific tradition). Indraji seems to be rather sadly largely forgotten except in some pockets of Kutch, in Bhuj. I recently discovered that the organization GUIDE in Bhuj have tried to bring back Indraji into modern attention.

Atmaram Pandurang
The other Indian founder of the BNHS was Dr Atmaram Pandurang Tarkhadkar (1823-1898)- This medical doctor was a founder of the Prarthana Samaj in 1867 in Bombay. He and his theistic reform movement were deeply involved in the Age of Consent debates raised by the Rukhmabai case. His organization seems to have taken Max Muller's suggestion that the ills of society could not be cured by laws but by education and social reform. If Sakharam Arjun is not known enough, even lesser is known of Atmaram Pandurang (at least online!) but one can find another natural history connection here - his youngest daughter - Annapurna "Ana" Turkhud tutored Rabindranath Tagore in English and the latter was smitten. Tagore wrote several poems to her where she is referred to as "Nalini". Ana however married Harold Littledale (3 October 1853-11 May 1930), professor of history and English literature, later principal of the Baroda College (Moreshwar Atmaram Turkhud, Ana's older brother, was a vice-principal at Rajkumar College Baroda - another early natural history hub), and if you remember an earlier post where his name occurs - Littledale was the only person from the educational circle to contribute to Allan Octavian Hume's notes on birds! Littledale also documented bird trapping techniques in Gujarat. Sadly, Ana did not live very long and died in her thirties in Edinburgh somewhere around 1891.

It would appear that many others in the legal profession were associated with natural history - we have already seen the case of Courtenay Ilbert, who founded the Simla Natural History Society in 1885. Ilbert lived at Chapslee House in Simla - now still a carefully maintained heritage home (that I had the fortune of visiting recently) owned by the kin of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Ilbert was involved with the eponymous Ilbert Bill which allowed Indian judges to pass resolutions on cases involving Europeans - a step forward in equality that also led to rancour. Other law professionals in the BNHS - included Sir Norman A. Macleod and  S. M. Robinson. We know that at least a few marriages were mediated by associations with the BNHS and these include - Norman Boyd Kinnear married a relative of Walter Samuel Millard (the man who kindly showed a child named Salim Ali around the BNHS); R.C. Morris married Heather, daughter of Angus Kinloch (another BNHS member who lived near Longwood Shola, Kotagiri) - and even before the BNHS, there were other naturalists connected by marriage - Brian Hodgson's brother William was married to Mary Rosa the sister of S.R. Tickell (of Tickell's flowerpecker fame); Sir Walter Elliot (of Anathana fame) was married to Maria Dorothea Hunter Blair while her sister Jane Anne Eliza Hunter Blair was married to Philip Sclater, a leading figure in zoology. The project that led to the Fauna of British India was promoted by Sclater and Jerdon (a good friend of Elliot) - these little family ties may have provided additional impetus.

Someone in London asked me in 2014 if I had heard of an India-born naturalist named E.K. Robinson. At that time I did not know of him but it turned out that Edward Kay Robinson (1857?-1928) born in Naini Tal was the founder of the British (Empire) Naturalists' Association. He fostered a young and promising journalist who would later dedicate a work to him - To E.K.R. from R.K. - Rudyard Kipling. Now E.K.R. had an older brother named Phil Robinson who was also in the newspaper line - and became famous for his brand of Anglo-Indian nature writing - a style that was more prominently demonstrated by E.H. Aitken (Eha) of the BNHS. Now Phil - Philip Stewart Robinson - despite the books he wrote like In my Indian Garden and Noah's ark, or, "Mornings in the zoo." Being a contribution to the study of unnatural history is not a well-known name in Indian natural history writing. One reason for his works being unknown may be the infamy that Phil achieved from affairs aboard ships between India and England that led to a scandalous divorce case and bankruptcy.

by Shyamal L. (noreply@blogger.com) at March 09, 2017 09:07 AM

March 08, 2017

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Wizards, Muggles and Wikidata: The Room of Requirement for structured knowledge

Image by John Cummings, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Don’t you worry, Harry. You’ll learn fast enough. Everyone starts at the beginning at Hogwarts, you’ll be just fine.

Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone


Chapter 1: Data is magic

As you walk through the halls of your new school, facts about the world float all around you. The people who walk through the school corridors,  that live in the paintings, biographies of the authors of the books that line the walls, through the window you see numerous plants and animals and can identify them all.

Whether you are an experienced wizard, able to hiss strange commands in Python and other programming languages or a lowly muggle, contributing to Free Knowledge through other skills, you have come to the right place: Wikidata.

Wikidata is a free and open knowledge website holding over 25 million pages of facts, each representing a part of the world, a person, a place, a piece of art, a book. Wikidata provides structured data for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects as well as a growing number of websites and apps. Wikidata is built by a community of volunteers working in almost 300 different languages, just like Wikipedia.

Data shared in Wikidata becomes free knowledge, released into the public domain, available for everyone to use, share and build upon. Many organisations are choosing to make their knowledge available to the whole world through Wikidata. Galleries are adding information about their paintings, libraries their book catalogues, archives their historical records, museums their objects.


Video by Jens Ohlig/Elisabeth Mandl/Wikimedia Deutschland/Simpleshow Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0.


Chapter 2: Fantastic graphs and where to find them

Collating data from many sources into one place allows us to analyse and visualise it, helping us to understand many aspects of the world in a new way. In the same way Wikipedia helps us understand the world through words and images, Wikidata helps us understand the world through data. It allows us to explore great works of fiction…



Harry Potter novels as seen on Histropedia. Image from Histropedia, CC BY-SA 3.0. Images within the timeline may be licensed differently.


people’s lives…


Harry Potter character’s lives, as visualised in Histropedia. Image from Histropedia, CC BY-SA 3.0. Images within the timeline may be licensed differently.


the relationships between them…


A family tree visualisation of Harry Potter characters, as visualised from Wikidata. Screenshot via Wikidata: Family Trees.


and the groups they belong to…


A treemap of groups in the Harry Potter universe. Visualisation created via Wikidata, public domain/CC0.


The visualisations that aid our understanding of the world will only grow richer and more complex as as more data is added to Wikidata and more tools are created to use it.


Chapter 3: Wikidata as an enchanted map

The stories created by J.K Rowling in the Harry Potter books have sold over 400 million copies and translated into over 70 languages. They have been a major part of millions of children’s (and adults’) lives and played a major part in their journey of learning and loving to read.

Literacy is a fundamental requirement to access  information, formal and informal education, employment and our ability to address global challenges. But how do we understand the state of literacy and education globally? And how can we understand the scale and the complexities of the barriers preventing access to education?

Many organisations are collecting data on state education across the world and the Sustainable Development Goals provide us with targets to work towards. Wikidata and Wikipedia allow us to collate and share this information with a huge worldwide audience of 500 million people who use the sites each month.

The information on Wikidata is collected from many sources, from books, journals and newspapers to databases and videos. This newspaper article about the shortage of teachers worldwide includes the fact that there are 263 million children worldwide who are not in school. It provides a broad understanding of the number of out of school children but no detail or nuance. It does not tell us about children’s access to education in different countries, by income level or how it is changing over time. To find this information we have to go back to the source used by the newspaper, a dataset on children’s access to education, produced by UNESCO.

By adding all the data from this dataset to Wikidata we can provide a more complete understanding of the state of education. We can go even further and combine it with related data from other organisations to provide an even more complete picture of education worldwide. Having a large amount of high quality data on Wikidata will allow it to be used by researchers as well as for a general audience.


Heatmap of items on Wikidata around the world. Visualisation by Addshore, public domain/CC0.


Chapter 4: Magic is hard

How do we achieve this? Adding individual facts to Wikidata is often a simple process but adding the thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of facts in a large dataset manually is not practical. Instead we must use special software to import the data en masse which presents its own set of challenges.

There are some tools and resources available to import data into Wikidata, but it is a complicated process requiring many different skills and steps which are often not well documented, making it something of a dark art. Non technical people can see the value in adding datasets to Wikidata but lack the technical ability to make it happen. This can leave us feeling like muggles and seeing the people able to import data like wizards.


Chapter 5: Muggles are magic too

Adding datasets to Wikidata requires more skills and knowledge than simply being able to import the information. For Wikidata to be a rich and accurate source of information we need to find a way to draw in the expertise of  different people. This includes those with a deep understanding of the subject, a knowledge of where to find reliable datasets and the subtle differences between different kinds of information.

Both muggles and wizards need to be able to work together, each contributing their own skills, experience and specialist knowledge in the same way Wikipedia articles are created, with the input of 10s or even 100s of people.

To help this to happen we have created a workflow and documentation to make it easier for people to collaborate on importing datasets. These pages allow contributors to pool their knowledge and skills, breaking the process of importing a dataset into smaller tasks and providing a way to learn the skills needed to complete each step. The pages allow the Wikidata community to make decisions together, helping people to learn from previous data imports and progress in their technical skills and turn into wizards.

Data Import Hub

A central place to request, organise and record the import of datasets, the process is broken into stages requiring different skills.

Data Import Guide

A practical guide to learn how to import datasets into Wikidata which integrates with the existing Bot Requests page.

Bot Requests

A place to request that prepared data is imported into Wikidata using existing tools like Quick Statements and Mix n’ Match.

Partnerships and data imports

A page to discuss partnerships with organisations and work on data imports.

Data donation

A page to give for potential partner organisations an overview of Wikidata including the benefits of adding data and visualisation tools available.

Wikidata import archive

Records which datasets have been imported into Wikidata, important for understanding what data is in Wikidata and keeping data from external data sources up to date.

Chapter 6: Collaborative spells

Now that we have these resources we can each contribute our skills and knowledge to help import data into Wikidata:



If you are new to Wikidata there is a huge amount you can contribute, some of the most important tasks on Wikidata require no technical knowledge.

  • Suggest datasets: One of the most important tasks is to identify data that can be imported into Wikidata, this could be from an organisation you work for or simply a subject you are interested in. To suggest a dataset go to the Data Import Hub, then simply create an account and fill in the form on the page.
  • Help robots import data: Not all data import can be done automagically, datasets being added to Wikidata can often include some data that is already in Wikidata, the Mix n’ Match tool allows us to examine and compare data, making suggestions of possible matches with existing items.
  • Translate: If you are able to speak other languages please translate the pages so that other language communities can work together to import data.

Tip: This page can help you understand the terms used on Wikidata and how it works.


Wizards in training

Some people, like experienced Wikipedia contributors, have some technical knowledge but they are missing some of the skills they need to fully import a dataset themselves.

  • Work with muggles: help new users learn about Wikidata and how to contribute to it.
  • Learn wizard skills: unlike in the  Harry Potter universe, in Wikidata muggles can, with enough time on their hands, become wizards themselves. Now that the data import process has been broken up into stages you don’t need to learn all the skills at once. E.g here is a video to learn how to query Wikidata, an important stage in learning to create visualisations



These new pages allow you to work more easily to collaborate with your muggle friends to import datasets. You can do things that take you a very short amount of time that take Muggles days but they can also do much of the manual work that takes so much time. Using the Data Import Hub to document the datasets you are importing, it will allow experts to provide information on the datasets and document what data is being added to Wikidata.


Chapter 7: Wikidata as Neville Longbottom

Neville Longbottom begins his time at Hogwarts as a shy and quiet young student with few skills and abilities, by the end of the series he leads Dumbledore’s Army, destroying the final Horcrux (a giant snake) with the Sword of Gryffindor. Wikidata is young and developing and people may not see the potential of Wikidata yet. It can only achieve its goals using the different skills and knowledge of each member of the community. These new pages are early steps to make it easier and simpler to add and maintain data in Wikidata. They need input from everyone to grow and improve.

Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

John Cummings, Wikimedian-in-residence, UNESCO
Jens Ohlig, Wikimedia Germany (Deutschland)
Navino Evans, Histropedia

Special thanks to Martin Poulter and Adam Shorland for their assistance with Wikidata queries.

by Jens Ohlig, John Cummings and Navino Evans at March 08, 2017 06:21 PM

How a feminist stood up to trolls and measurably changed Wikipedia’s coverage of women scientists

Emily Temple-Wood. Photo by Victor Grigas/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Almost one year ago today, the Wikimedia blog wrote about Wikipedia editor Emily Temple-Wood and her personal stand against sexist trolls. The post described how Emily, a medical student at Midwestern University who edits as User:Keilana, would create a Wikipedia article about a woman scientist for every harassing email she received.

The response was incredible: BBC News, Buzzfeed, Guardian, Washington Post, Nautilus, Huffington Post, Jezebel, and many other media outlets wrote about her inspiring project. Even Backchannel covered it as late as last month.

Temple-Wood was astonished at the coverage the blog post received. At the time, Temple-Wood was in her final undergraduate semester and had no illusions that her story would extend around the world. “Writing about women scientists seemed like such a special interest, where no one would really care,” she says. “Then my life suddenly turned into simultaneously doing a bunch of things—I’d be taking calls from reporters in between classes, labs, shadowing doctors, and trying to get everything together before medical school.”

But she is quick to give credit to some of the great projects full of collaborators who are working to address the gender gap on the English Wikipedia, where women only make up 17% of biographies on the world’s largest encyclopedia. Temple-Wood helped found WikiProject Women scientists, an effort to ensure that these notable women are well-covered on Wikipedia.

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight (third from left) with Temple-Wood and other attendees at the 2016 Wikimedia Conference. Photo by Zachary McCune/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Temple-Wood’s friend Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, who shared the 2016 Wikipedian of the Year Award with her, helped found Women in Red. That project, dedicated to turning “red links” blue by creating articles for women without them, has now created 37,000 articles about women that weren’t covered before in English.

That impressive number moves the needle a bit. But did Temple-Wood’s editing, even when coupled with the efforts of many other editors, really make a difference in the encyclopedia’s coverage about women scientists given the vast expanse of an encyclopedia with 5.4 million articles in English alone?

The answer, one year after the headlines, is an unequivocal yes.


Aaron Halfaker, the Wikimedia Foundation’s principal research scientist, has been experimenting with new ways to measure content coverage in Wikipedia.  “Usually we measure the growth of Wikipedia in numbers of articles, but it’s important that we also account for the completeness of those articles,” Halfaker argues. “Having a Wikipedia full of half-written articles isn’t as valuable as a Wikipedia full of high quality articles.”

He’s developed a strategy that uses artificial intelligence to learn from Wikipedians’ evaluations of quality, filling in the blanks between manual evaluations (see related report about the modeling strategy).  “The result is that we can see clear trends how and where Wikipedia is growing in quantity and quality,” he says.

When Halfaker has compared the growth of articles about women scientists to the rest of the encyclopedia, he discovered a striking trend: You can clearly see a content coverage gap for articles about women scientists grow from mid-2002 until 2013. During that decade, articles about women in science were falling behind the rest of the encyclopedia.

Then Temple-Wood and a plethora of collaborators formed projects and started work, and we see a sudden and abrupt shift.  By 2014, they had completely closed the gap, and they didn’t stop there—the graph clearly shows that the quality of articles about women scientists is about a half-step above the quality of the rest of the encyclopedia, and this trend isn’t showing any sign of slowing down.

For Temple-Wood, whose life is now filled with medical school, WikiProject Women scientists and Women in Red are proofs of concept. “A group of people chipping away, bit by bit, can make a major difference. We got the ball rolling in 2013,” she says, and in the intervening years “the percentage of women’s biographies has gone from 14 to 17%, an incredible feat.”

For those experiencing online harassment like her, Temple-Wood says that there is no way to beat them—but “you can make sure they don’t get the better of you, and writing about women scientists is how I do that.” As examples of the stubborn hold of sexism, she points out the people who have asked if she had sex with powerful men to get into medical school or be named co-Wikipedian of the Year. “But I’m the one making a difference,” she says. “I’m the one leaving a mark. I and all of the other people in these projects are bringing these fascinating and awesome women to light.”

Halfaker has termed this difference-making the “Keilana Effect,” named after Emily’s Wikipedia editor handle. It is not just data; it is evaluative data from artificial intelligence that is making Wikipedia better every day. It measures not just articles, but impact.

What was inspirational on last year’s International Women’s Day was not just symbolic. It moved the needle in a very real way. One of the many mantras of the Wikimedia movement is “One edit can make a difference.”

Emily made a difference, taking resistance to feminism online, and flipping it, judo-like into a positive that can be measured, proven, and prototyped. That’s not symbolic. That’s real change.

Jeff Elder, Digital Communications Manager
Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

You can help Wikipedia address a different gender gap by liking our Facebook page, where our Women’s History Month promotion is running all month. Add our “I (love) Women’s History” profile picture frame to show support!

by Ed Erhart and Jeff Elder at March 08, 2017 01:02 AM

March 07, 2017

Lorna M Campbell

Open Knowledge, OER, Wikimedia, MOOCs and Maritime Masculinities

How is it March already?!  I’ve been sorely neglecting this blog for the past few months, not because I’ve got nothing to say, quite the opposite, I’ve been so tied up with different projects I’ve barely had a chance to write a single blog post! A poor excuse I know, but anyway, here’s a very brief run down of what I’ve been up to for the past three months and hopefully I’ll be able to get back to blogging on a regular schedule soon.

Most of my time has been taken up with two new IS Innovation Fund projects I’m running at the University of Edinburgh.

UoE Open Knowledge Network

The UoE Open Knowledge Network is an informal forum to draw together the University’s strategic policies and activities in the area of Open Data, Open Access, Open Education, Open Research, Open Collections and Archives, in order to support cross-fertilisation and promote the institution’s activities in these areas. This Network aims to embed open knowledge within the institution and to establish a self-sustaining network supported by the departments and divisions that have oversight of the University’s strategic Open Access, Open Education and Open Data policies.

The Network held its first event in January which featured a keynote from Gill Hamilton of the National Library of Scotland plus lightning talks from colleagues across the institution.  You can read more about the event on the Open Knowledge network blog here: http://okn.ed.ac.uk/

UoE Open Knowledge Network, CC BY Stephanie Farley

Accessing Open Research Outputs MOOC

Since the publication of the Finch report and the Research Councils’ policy on open access, universities have increasingly made the outputs of their publicly funded research freely and openly available through open access journals and repositories. However it’s not always easy for people outwith academia to know how to access these outputs even though they are available under open licence.

This project is developing a short self paced learning MOOC aimed at the general public, private researchers, entrepreneurs and SMEs to provide advice on how to access open research outputs including Open Access scholarly works and open research data sets, in order to foster technology transfer and innovation. The course will focus on developing digital and data literacy skills and search strategies to find and access open research outputs and will also feature a series of case studies based on individuals and SMEs that have made successful use of the University of Edinburgh’s world class research outputs.

This is the first time I’ve worked on a MOOC project and I’m delighted to be working with Morna Simpson, of Geek Girl Scotland who has just been named one of Scotland’s most influential women in tech.

Wikimedia UK

I’ve been involved in a whole host of Wikimedia events including the Wikimedia UK Education Summit at Middlesex University, where Melissa Highton gave an inspiring keynote and I chaired a panel of lightning talks, #1Lib1Ref which encouraged Librarians and wikimedia editors to add one reference to Wikipedia to mark the 15th anniversary of the foundation of Wikipedia, and the History of Medicine editathon, part of the University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Creative Learning.  This event was a personal highlight not only because it took place in the stunning Surgeon’s Hall Museum and featured an utterly fascinating series of talks on subjects as diverse as Lothian Health Services Archive and William Burke, Scotland’s most prolific serial killer, but also because I got to create a new Wikipedia page for Ethel Moir, a nurse from Inverness who served on the Eastern Front in WW1.  I’m planning to do some more work on Ethel’s Wikipedia page tomorrow as during the University of Edinburgh’s Bragging Writes editathon as part of International Women’s Day.

History of Medicine Editathon, Surgeon’s Hall, CC BY Ewan McAndrew

UNESCO European Consultation on OER

2017 marks the 5th anniversary of the Paris OER Declaration and UNESCO and the Commonwealth for Learning are undertaking an international consultation focused on OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education. Since the end of last year I’ve been liaising with COL to ensure that Scotland was represented at this consultation which is being undertaken in advance of the 2nd World OER Congress which will be held in Ljubljana later this year.  Joe Wilson went along to the consultation in Malta represent Open Scotland and you can read his report on the event here.

Maritime Masculinities Conference

Way back in December I took a week off from Ed Tech to co-chair the Maritime Masculinities Conference at the University of Oxford. The two day conference featured keynotes from Prof. Joanne Begiato, Dr Isaac Land and  Dr Mary Conley and a wide range of international papers.  I chaired a panel of papers on the theme of Sexualities and my co-author Heather Noel-Smith and I also presented a paper on Smoking Chimneys and Fallen Women: the several reinventions of Sir Henry Hart.  We were pleasantly surprised by the success of the conference and the lovely feedback we got from delegates.

I’ve also got a lot of conferences and events coming up over the next couple of months, but I think that deserves a separate blog post!

by admin at March 07, 2017 10:43 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

The road not taken: Why I write about horses on Wikipedia

Photo by Montanabw, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Champion race horse California Chrome with his unsung heroes, the people working behind the scenes: his exercise rider and grooms. Photo by Montanabw, CC BY-SA 4.0.

An interest in horses must be inborn. There is no other explanation, as it seems to be an illogical passion. While Jonathan Swift said, “he was a bold man that first ate an oyster,” consumers of bivalves have nothing on horsemen and horsewomen.

The first person who got on the back of a horse needed courage and a touch of insanity. The first rider may also have been the first person to take flight—one envisions a young man telling his friends, “hold my beer and watch this” as he leapt onto the back of a wild horse . . . Or, maybe romantics with visions of magic unicorns laying their heads in the laps of fair maidens had it partly right: perhaps some young girl of the late neolithic rescued a foal and created a lifelong bond.1

The “horse bug,” however contracted, is incurable and lifelong. It might even be genetic: my father, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather all worked with horses.  In any case, I have it.  And that is why I write Wikipedia articles about horses.

Growing up in rural Montana during the 1960s and 1970s, it seemed that every farm and ranch kid was issued a Shetland pony as soon as we could get on by ourselves. Shetlands are notorious for being opinionated, smart, and devious. If the pony and child didn’t murder each other due to mutual stubbornness and disinclination to follow directions, eventually the child earned the right to ride a “real”, full-sized horse.

I survived my trial by pony, and when I was nine, my father brought home a part-Arabian mare he picked up for $400. I discovered she was a granddaughter of Witez II, a stallion rescued from the Nazis by George Patton’s Third Army during WWII.2 3 4 Learning more about my mare’s famous ancestor coincidentally launched my fascination with history that ultimately led to my undergraduate degrees.5

My own horses became handy models when writing articles such as Bay (horse). Photo by Montanabw, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The character of my little horse (intelligent but loyal—the complete opposite of the Shetland) gave me a permanent love for the Arabian breed. My summertime world focused on the horse show circuit of the Rocky Mountain west, where I won 50-cent ribbons riding in dusty arenas wearing long sleeves, long pants, and felt hats in 85-degree heat. I started teaching riding lessons while still in high school, began judging open horse shows as a young adult, and added horse training to my employment repertoire to help meet expenses in college.

I had two paths in front of me—horse training or a “normal” career. It seemed the smart decision was to finish college and let my day job fund my horse habit. Most horse owners in Montana are not wealthy and I was married and a parent— I’d seen too many struggling trainers living in a single-wide mobile home next to a six-figure horse barn, spending their last dime on hay and unable to pay their utility bills. My path not taken was to work with horses as a full-time professional. Instead, I chose to finish college, became a teacher and later, a lawyer.

For the next few decades, I kept one foot in the horse world (and often that foot was in a manure pile—I clean my own barn…). I owned a few horses, taught some riding students, gave clinics, judged shows, took horse photos, and never sold my saddles.

Then I discovered Wikipedia. In March 2006, I noticed the article on Arabian horses contained numerous inaccuracies and realized that anyone, including me, could edit the encyclopedia. After making four edits as an anonymous contributor, I created an account the next day.  For two months, my efforts were confined almost exclusively to the the Arabian article. I corrected errors and found friendly and experienced editors to help with the technical details. I learned how to add images, create citations, and use Wiki markup for formatting. I was, so to speak, off to the races.

Next, I branched out to other horse topics: equipment, breeds, coat colors, genetics, history, health, equestrian sport.  In July 2006, I created my first article, Cerebellar abiotrophy, inspired by a young Arabian horse affected with this genetic disease. By August, unable to find images to illustrate articles, I started uploading mine. That November, Arabian horse became my first good article.

By my first anniversary as a Wikipedian, I began to edit other topics, especially on Montana and the west. My article on Skowronek appeared appeared on Wikipedia’s main page in the “did you know?” (DYK) section, and I helped an enthusiastic young newbie get WikiProject Equine off the ground.

By 2008 I had the courage to team up with four other users on a featured article candidate, an article assessment label for Wikipedia’s best work.  Thoroughbred got the gold star, made the main page as Today’s featured article, and marked the beginning of my active involvement with WikiProject Horse racing. There I was inspired to write about people and horses who overcame the odds: Mucho Macho Man was born without a heartbeat and became a champion.  California Chrome showed us that, sometimes, the ordinary person (or horse) could win. By 2015, I was tracking the Triple Crown in real time as part of a great team of editors making the biography of American Pharoah into a featured article.

I rediscovered my path not taken through writing about horses.  Approaching my 11th anniversary on Wikipedia, I’ve topped 94,000 edits, created 250 new articles and have 60 DYK credits. I have been part of teams who developed 55 good and featured articles.  I’ve uploaded over 1000 of my own images to Commons, many of horses, but also of Montana, powwows, Yogo sapphires, horse races, and even random cellphone photos from road trips.

What I have learned by writing for Wikipedia is that we are all in this together.  I’ve met many wonderful people online and in real life.  The community and teamwork needed to make this collaborative model work has been uplifting and inspiring. I’ve honed my research skills and learned to accept input from others.  I’ve navigated some tough editing disputes and have had to examine many of my own assumptions.  Even though I’m now over 50, I’m still learning and growing. Being a Wikipedia editor is one reason why.

Wikipedia’s impact is far-reaching; I have seen Wikipedia articles I’ve worked on be mirrored and quoted, my photographs at Commons have been re-published everywhere from Cornell University to the Moscow Times.  I’ve been inspired to write freelance articles and they’ve been published. It’s been a great ride, and I’m still in the saddle.


  1. Most books about unicorns are terrible.  One worth reading is Beagle, Peter S. (1968, reissued 2007) The Last Unicorn. Penguin. ISBN 9780451450524.
  2. For an account of the evacuation of the Lipizzan, Thoroughbred, and Arabian horses kept at Hostau by Charles Hancock Reed’s 2nd Cavalry, see Letts, Elizabeth. (2016) The Perfect Horse. Ballantine Books. ISBN 9780345544803. Jensen, Karen (September 18, 2009 ) “How General Patton and Some Unlikely Allies Saved the Prized Lipizzaner Stallions.” History Net.
  3. For a partially fictionalized biography of Witez II, see Smith, Linnell. (1967) And Miles To Go: The Biography Of A Great Arabian Horse, Witez II. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316800310.
  4. For more on the Polish-bred Arabian horse, see the documentary Path to Glory: The Rise and Rise of the Polish Arabian Horse. Horsefly Films, 2011. Film trailer on YouTube.
  5. Yes, I was the kind of kid who lived in books when I wasn’t outside with the horses.

Brenda Wahler, Wikipedia editor

by Brenda Wahler at March 07, 2017 05:58 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Roundup: Disulfide Bonds for Dessert

If I asked you what angel food cake is like, you’d probably talk about it more in terms of texture than taste: light, delicate, airy. Maybe you’ve made one before, and know that texture is created by whipping eggs and sugar together. However, odds are you don’t think about it in terms of hydrogen bonding, electrostatic interactions, or Van der Waals interactions. But thanks to a student in Richard Ludescher’s Food Physical Systems class at Rutgers University, the Wikipedia article on angel food cake now explains how these forces create that light, airy texture. You can also learn how protein denaturation during the baking process helps set this mass of bubbles into a stable matrix. You can also read about the role of the additional ingredients added to commercially-produced cakes.

Another student in the same class expanded the croissant article by adding information about their manufacturing processes and the changes in the physical and chemical properties of ingredients during manufacturing, baking, and storage. Gluten and starch play important roles in the absorption of water into the predough; gluten networks formed during the kneading process help make the dough cohesive; fats contribute to the flakiness, while yeast helps the dough rise. The baking process leads to the formation of disulfide bonds between protein molecules and starch gelatinization, changing the soft, flexible dough into the flaky baked goodness of croissant.

By adding these sorts of perspectives to an article, student editors in the class were able to transform the information available about these and other foods including marshmallows, mayonnaise, meat analogue and chewing gum. By doing this, they didn’t just add information to Wikipedia—the context in which they added it was important. The formation of disulfide bonds between protein molecules might not be of interest to most people, but the “magic” by which dough turns into croissants or beaten egg turns into an angel food cake is something that’s relevant to a much wider audience.

Image: 00 Croissant. Yum.jpg, by Mark Mitchell, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

by Ian Ramjohn at March 07, 2017 05:13 PM

March 06, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation

Women’s History Month on Wikipedia

Actress Anna May Wong became an international fashion icon and leading lady, fighting stereotypes in Hollywood on every step of the way.

Australia’s first female electrical engineer, Florence Violet McKenzie, taught signaling skills to over 12,000 servicemen and founded the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service.

Barbara McClintock’s contributions to genetics earned her the only unshared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for any woman.

Wikipedia tells the stories of so many fascinating and inspirational women, but we still have a long way to go. Women only make up 17% of biographies on the world’s largest encyclopedia—despite the heroic efforts of multiple editors and projects. Medical student Emily Temple-Wood, co-recipient of last year’s Wikipedian of the Year Award, made headlines by creating an article about a female scientist every time she is harassed online. Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, who shared that award with Temple-Wood, helped found Women in Red, a project dedicated to turning “red links” blue by creating articles for women without them. Those blue links now lead to 37,000 articles about women that weren’t there before.

We want to make a difference, too, and we need your help. In March, we are featuring articles about women such as Anna May Wong, Florence Violet McKenzie, and Barbara McClintock on our Facebook page with an “I (love) Women’s History” frame. We are promoting that frame on Facebook to women. Here’s why:

Our Facebook followers are just 30% women. That is better than some other parts of the Wikimedia movement, but not good enough—and we need your help to change that. Please share posts from us on Facebook of a pioneering scientist, decorated war hero, paradigm-busting educator, or social activist with the “I (love) Women’s History” frame, and we would be honored if you put the frame on your own profile picture in March, which is Women’s History Month and contains International Women’s Day. At the end of the month, we will let you know how many new women followers we have gained on our page.

Why does this matter? We tell stories on Facebook every day—of editors like Temple-Wood, and of pioneers like her hero, Barbara McClintock. “She was unapologetically passionate about corn,” Emily told us, “an incredible mentor to other women, and was unapologetic about who she was and what she did.” We want to reach more women to change our own gender gap and the very public conversations that take place on our social media channels every day. To do that, we need great article subjects, devoted editors, and readers. We need Emily Temple-Wood, Barbara McClintock, and you.

WikiProject Women in Red has been moving the needle on Wikipedia’s gender gap for years, Stephenson-Goodknight says. “In support of Women’s History Month, Women in Red is busy creating, improving, and promoting women’s biographies and articles about women’s work, hoping to exceed our record of 839 articles in 2016.”

There are many ways to join a thriving community of researchers and editors working to close the gender gap on Wikipedia.

How can you get involved?

  • Become an editor! Check out WikiProject “Women in Red” to find articles you can create on your own, and stubs you can improve upon. You can learn how to edit Wikipedia with an interactive game or a written tutorial.
  • Art + Feminism is set to host several edit-a-thons encouraging new articles on feminism, women’s history, and the arts.
  • Let us know a remarkable woman you’d like to see featured on our Facebook page by emailing socialmedia-internal@wikimedia.org or leaving a comment on one of our #womenshistorymonth posts with a link to the Wikipedia article.
  • Tell the world you support women’s history by using our picture frame on your Facebook profile picture!

Aubrie Johnson, Social Media Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

Image credits: Photo of Aubrie Johnson, CC BY-SA 4.0; Wikipedia logo, public domain (see visual identity guidelines); Photo of Anna May Wong by Paramount, public domain.

by Aubrie Johnson at March 06, 2017 07:49 PM

What is it like to edit Wikipedia when you’re blind?

Photo by Linda Pearce, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Linda Pearce, CC BY-SA 4.0.

To say that Wikipedian Graham Pearce (Graham87) has never seen light wouldn’t be quite true. On a number of occasions up to the age of nine, his doctor or his mother would shine a torch into his left eye, and the few retinal cells that had not died would pick up a strange flash of light. But since then his retinopathy of prematurity has made those fleeting experiences distant memories (and rather meaningless ones, he says).

Not only is Graham totally blind, but as a result of being born 15 weeks premature he has only 50% hearing in one ear—although his other ear is perfect. While some might regard this as a threadbare perceptual situation, that’s not the way Graham sees the world or himself (to use a visual metaphor that blind people become inured to). To know him is to become acquainted with a rich internal landscape, where the linguistic, the spatial, and the proportional seem more sophisticated than for many sighted people. Ask him whether Tokyo is more northerly than Beijing and he’ll tell you. Ask him what the cubed root of 97 is, and you’ll know within a couple of seconds (if only to one decimal place).

Now 29, Graham has been a devoted Wikipedian for eleven years, and achieved adminship nine years ago with a 67–0–0 result. He spends an average of six to eight hours a day onwiki on tasks that keep the site operating smoothly, such as merging page histories, repairing vandalism, and blocking miscreants—all in addition to article writing and editing. From time to time he’s been active in the offline Wikimedia movement: he attended Wikimania in Washington DC (2012) and in Hong Kong (2013), and he expects to be at Montreal this year.

He and I sat down to a Skype audio interview for the Signpost across the 3300 kilometres (2000 mi) between Australia’s east and west coasts.

Before Wikipedia

Tracing Graham’s history on Wikipedia, and further back to his early experiences with computers and the Internet, demonstrates what a profound difference information technology has made to the lives of many people who have an unusual perceptual profile. This is especially true for those who are visually impaired.

“My mother started teaching me braille when I was three. A year later I started typing braille with a Perkins Brailler, essentially a braille typewriter from the 1940s that’s still in use today.” He adds: “A lot of blind tech has always been a decade behind.” At school, Graham used an automated machine that would translate from braille to print. In an unjust twist, the system excluded him from the “gifted and talented program” because of his blindness. But this is where we see the precursor to his involvement in Wikipedia: during “silent reading”, he’d indulge himself by reading the school’s hard-copy encyclopedia and the Atlas for the Blind, while his fellow students chose children’s fiction.

The first of two milestones came in 1997, when he experienced a full PC standard qwerty keyboard in touch-typing tutorials at Perth’s Association for the Blind, “a pretty crude setup”, he says. It was there that he learned how to use the Internet, and Microsoft Word and Excel. But still he had no proper facilities at home. “Although I’d had a desktop PC at home since 1998, it had no ‘speaking voice’, so it wasn’t much use to me.”

The second milestone was a grant he received to install a copy of JAWS on his home computer (JAWS is a computer screen reader with text-to-speech output). “That marked the start of my fast trajectory. I devoured the JAWS basic training tapes and achieved facility through self-training. It went way beyond what I’d learnt at what was then the Association. But still we had no Internet at home.” Finally, in 2000, his family was able to access dial-up Internet at home, just before he started high school.

I ask him what his intellectual interests were at the time: “Internet, computers, maths, and music. I went to a specialist music high school. I got in on a voice scholarship, and I’d already learned to play the piano. That’s aside from a disastrous attempt to play the recorder in year 2!” Graham also has absolute pitch, a coveted ability among musicians.

Becoming a Wikipedian

Fast-forward to the end of high school, just before he joined the English Wikipedia. What predisposed him to the kind of writing and editing required of a Wikipedian? He says: “I had some experience in writing and editing essays, and I’d occasionally heard about Wikipedia. In February 2005, I took the plunge and made my first edit. I took to it immediately using JAWS. From memory, my first activities were on a list of interesting and unusual place names.

“I didn’t even think to tell people I was blind. It just didn’t occur to me, even though there was nothing to stop me from telling people. I think I was mainly a lurker in the early stages, on forums like Featured Article Candidates. I gradually moved from lurker to editor over the first three or four months, and copyedited quite a few articles nominated for FAC. I remember getting into trouble with JAWS, which got a lot of homonyms wrong, as you can imagine. Someone accused me of vandalism at FAC because I’d changed “wear and tear” to “ware and tare”. The accuser was the first person on Wikipedia I told that I’m blind. That night he announced it on his user page, and word soon spread. It was a turning point for me, I now realise: it improved my confidence.”

In 2006 Graham started to advocate for accessibility on the site. He was using an older version of JAWS, and couldn’t afford to upgrade; it didn’t read CSS properly, and HiddenStructure caused JAWS to display “weird things”. He wrote messages on relevant talk pages. Sometimes people were receptive, and with the help of others he expanded into broader issues about accessibility. One example was main-page headings, which were chaotic. He got that fixed.

In those early days he wasn’t able to view diffs properly: “I discovered that by viewing the html source and looking for the CSS class diffchange, the diff changes could be accessed. But this method is problematic when people add/remove line breaks while making edits. In these cases I have to restore the line breaks to figure out what else the editor changed.”

How is it different from vision-based editing?

I want to know more about the experience of editing as a blind person. The most obvious difference, he says, is that nothing is synoptic: “It’s all presented to you in a very linear fashion, in the order the page is written in html. Buttons that appear to sighted people at the top—including the menus, the pull-downs, and the search box—are actually at the bottom when you use JAWS. Under them, right at the bottom, are the items you see on the left-side margin.” I notice he uses a visual metaphor (“bottom”, not “end”) to express it in a way that’s easier for sighted people. Graham adds: “Images, of course, are just part of the linear stream of syntax”. He does the odd bit of maintenance and replacement on images, but understandably it’s a minor part of his work.

Graham finds it easier to edit after copy-pasting from edit-mode onto a plain text file. He can switch back and forth between wiki and a text file because using JAWS he doesn’t have to visually re-find the equivalent place in each. He has JAWS set to a default line-by-line display (in audio). “You can go word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, if you want, using the arrow keys as modifiers. And you can jump between section headings.”

However, it’s by no means a perfect system, and he’s found the slow progress in JAWS’ feature set frustrating over the years.

Astonishingly, his reading speed can be up to 500 words per minute—not skimming, he emphasises. “I haven’t got any faster since 2003, and this speed is typical of blind computer users.” I hear an example in the background of the conversation; it sounds like incredibly fast, garbled, unmodulated speech, stopping and starting at his whim. But what is an auditory muddle to me is a super-fast, clear stream of information to someone who’s used it for years. This is Graham’s bridge to the world. JAWS even signals that a word is initially capitalised by raising the pitch with which it speaks the word. The contour of yes–no questions (on talkpages) rises just as it does in speech. It’s all in a US east coast accent by his choice (“the British accent sounds fake and awful for some reason”, he says).

At the end of the interview I can’t resist asking him about the sensory modes in which he dreams. He says: “I guess it’s more strongly auditory and tactile than for a sighted person. And if it’s spatial, it’s not spatial in a visual way.” Afterwards, he links me to an online article on the subject.

Tony Souter, Wikipedia editor

This post was originally published in the Signpost, a news journal about the English Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community; it was adapted and lightly edited for publication in the Wikimedia blog. The views expressed are the author’s alone and not necessarily held by the Wikimedia Foundation.

by Tony Souter at March 06, 2017 05:56 PM

Tech News

Tech News issue #10, 2017 (March 6, 2017)

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Other languages:
العربية • ‎čeština • ‎Deutsch • ‎Ελληνικά • ‎English • ‎español • ‎فارسی • ‎suomi • ‎français • ‎עברית • ‎italiano • ‎日本語 • ‎한국어 • ‎occitan • ‎polski • ‎português do Brasil • ‎русский • ‎svenska • ‎українська • ‎Tiếng Việt • ‎中文

March 06, 2017 12:00 AM

March 03, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation

The one true international language is translation

Photo by Alina Zienowicz, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The European Parliament, surrounded by translation booths for the interpreters. Photo by Alina Zienowicz, CC BY-SA 3.0.

”Oh, it’s called sheep in the plural, not sheeps, right? Why? Sheeps sounds so much nicer,” my German friend said, describing her holiday in Wales, where they had annoyed their neighbours by loudly playing Yahtzee every evening for a week. It’s a cruel thing to do: leaving them the options of suffering while the dice rattle for hours, or living the rest of their lives knowing they are the kind of person who complains about others playing Yahtzee too enthusiastically. We decided that sheeps had a nicer ring to it. Later, I described how I—well aware that many are averse to such neologisms—had wanted to use ”thankee” to describe a person who had been thanked, using the same pattern as so many other English words, only to realise it already existed in the English language with another meaning.

Languages are tricky. We don’t live in English-speaking countries; no matter how much English we speak at work we’ll never really achieve the same fluency as a native speaker.

But at least we speak it. A lot of people don’t.

The Wikimedia Foundation and other international parts of the Wikimedia movement tend to work in English and hope that information will gravitate out to as many editors as possible. Our Board of Trustees do their work in English. The discussions about the movement tend to be in English. Our technical development is overwhelmingly in English.

But when we edit the wikis, we do it in more than 200 languages. The wikis’ interfaces, all the buttons and information, have to be translated, so that readers and editors can navigate them. Documentation about the tools we use should be available for as many as possible. It needs to be possible for editors to be kept up-to-date, getting news about technical changes that could affect their editing. Information about the Wikimedia movement should be available to as many as possible. English is the lingua franca of the Wikimedia movement because we have no single better alternative, not because it works for everyone. And so we depend on our translators.

And there’s always work for them to do.

Normally, the active editors of each wiki discuss among each other to come to decisions around everything they need to agree on. But we need to decide some things collectively, as a movement. We do that on Meta, the wiki we have to talk about things that relevant for all or a large number of Wikimedia wikis. As much as possible, we want these processes to available for everyone, regardless of what languages they do and don’t speak. That means that editors often translate things as the processes are going on, to make it easier to participate for others. Maybe we send out a short piece of text to wikis, in order to invite more to participate. Then we need that invitation to be in as many languages as we can get in the days between it’s written and send out, so that fewer invitations need to start with “My apologies for writing this in English, please translate this to your local language if you can.”  Once we have come a decision, that’s hopefully going to be relevant for years to come, which means that what was a decision-making process in need of translation morphs into a piece of documentation in need of translation, so that everyone can at least read up on what conclusions we came to and what we will be doing.

On MediaWiki.org we collect information about how our tools work. This is relevant for everyone who edits a Wikimedia wiki, especially if you need to something that is slightly more specialized than just writing a normal article. For example, if you want to know how to translate something with the Translate extension. There’s often a small “Translate this page” link towards the top of the page. Often at least parts of the text is translated into a number of languages; often, fewer translators have had time to finish translating the entire text. And there’s an entire wiki, Translatewiki, aimed at people who want to help open source projects with translations. Here one can help translate the MediaWiki software – the the things you see on the wiki, like all the buttons. The thing that really needs to be translated to make sure someone who doesn’t speak the source language can use the wiki at all.

Of course, there’s a separate tool to help translate articles on Wikipedia, if there’s a well-written and well-sourced Wikipedia article in a language you speak that doesn’t exist in another. But this is a more obvious task: It’s about making the encyclopedia grow. This is at the core of what we do. But perhaps exactly therefore, all the other translations are more difficult to find and it’s less apparent to other editors who does the work – or, indeed, that there’s a lot of work to be done.

If you want to help out, almost all languages are always in need of more translations. Some barely have any. It can sometimes be rather daunting to find your way around where to start. If you go to Wikipedia or any other Wikimedia wiki in your native language and see the link, a good start would be to go to Translatewiki, register to become a translator and choose the MediaWiki project to translate. If you know your way around the Wikimedia wikis and would like to help out with documentation, you can go to MediaWiki.org and see if you can help make sure the help pages for the tools you use the most are available in your language. Both of these require that you have some sort of knowledge about technical vocabulary – translating an interface is far more difficult than most people would think. On the other hand, the Wikimedia wikis have always depended on our volunteer efforts – and there are places where you can ask for help. Many who write newsletters, announcements and other important information are asking for help on the Wikimedia translators mailing list.

Because we use English, but it’s not an international language that works everywhere for everyone. The one true international language is translation.

For more:

Johan Jönsson, Community Liaison
Wikimedia Foundation

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series on translation in the Wikimedia movement. Part one, titled “Spreading information in the Wikimedia world,” was published on 3 March 2017.

by Johan Jönsson at March 03, 2017 05:52 PM

March 02, 2017

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 345


About us

  • The weeklyOSM team happily switched from Slack to the open source software Mattermost for internal communication. After tests conducted on framasoft‘s framateam, a dedicated instance is now up and running thanks to FOSSGIS.


  • Inspired by the German OSM-Blog Wochennotiz № 343, and a previous discussion in the German forum, Ogmios wrote an article about the quality of recycling stations and how to improve their tagging. Also there is a new QA page for recycling tagging.

  • Arun writes about broken relations in river banks and wants a good guide to correct such errors. Christoph explains in the comments why there is no easy answer.

  • Daniel-j-h writes on the two tags, exit_to=* and destination=* and then explains why only the second is used in OSRM. Towards the end, he also shares a tool that allows automatic conversion. (de)

  • User naveenpf shows the steps to associate Wikidata QIDs to Indian districts in OSM.

  • Wille Marcel has restarted development on his OSMCHA project. Its main objective is to help to detect potentially harmful OpenStreetMap edits. Wille asks for your feedback and suggestions for improvements.

  • Anthony Hombiat recently presented his PhD thesis (automatic translation) – "A meta-model for structuring OpenStreetMap folksonomy into a new ontology in Grenoble, France". Here is a related paper on the same.



  • Facebook has repeatedly uploaded import data into OSM, but without previous discussion as required by the import guidelines, as Frederik Ramm criticizes on the discussion page of the import. People are discussing it at the Thailand section of OSM forum in English.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Matt Amos announced on the Announce mailing list that the OSM API and the osm.org website will be temporarily unavailable on Sunday, March 12 due to a software upgrade, which will start at 11:00 UTC and hopefully take no longer than one hour.


  • You can now apply for a travel scholarship to help you attend State of the Map 2017 which is in Japan. The deadline is March, 22nd.

  • The first fablab in Benin, blolab, promotes the use of open-source projects and tools, including OpenStreetMap through workshops. They have launched a crowd-funding campaign.

  • The international OpenDataDay will take place with events around the globe. Search for your event on this map.

  • The first in-person meeting of OpenStreetMap United Kingdom CIC (Community Interest Company) will take place at iCentrum, Birmingham on Saturday, March 4th between 11:00 and 16:00.

Humanitarian OSM

  • Biondi Sima reports on mapping the whole of Surabaya, Indonesia. This HOT project (funded by USAID, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), supported by the University of Hawaii: Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)) concluded in just three months, resulting in addition of over 4,400 buildings and 3000 km of roads.

  • The discussion about the quality of the mapping by HOT-volunteers continues on the hot-mailing list.

  • Pete Master leaves his job as Missing Maps Project Coordinator.


  • After the ticket about the context menu on the OSM main page had been closed (we reported earlier), the discussion continues on the dev mailing list. Though many who were criticising Tom Hughes, didn’t notice was that the desired feature was actually removed by Leaflet and not by OpenStreetMap.

  • OpenSnowMap is using its own font (ski.ttf) and icons to render the winter sports (downhill, nordic, sledge, etc) of a ski resorts at zoom levels 10 to 12.


  • The so called "Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau", uses OSM on its home page.

  • The Open Source Flight Simulator "Flight Gear“, integrates 3D buildings that have been rendered realistically using OSM data in its latest version. (de)

Open Data

  • The surveying authority of the German state of Saxony has, after much negotiation, allowed (automatic translation) the OSM community to use WMS services with aerial imagery and topographic maps as a data source.


  • A German Magazine reports (automatic translation) about a tool by Simon Lührs. This enables urban planners to easily generate figure ground plans out of OpenStreetMap data.

  • Michael von Glasgows published a new map style for winter sports areas. Hartmut Holzgrafe found it so good that he replaced the previous OpenPisteMap style in his maposmatic instances.

  • With the release of Open Source Routing Machine (OSRM) version 5.6, Karen Shea highlights its main feature: Making Travel Time and Edge Weights Independent.


  • Andy Allan describes his steady work on the OpenStreetMap website codebase.

  • Mapzen announced their new address interpolation system. It used in the open source geocoder Pelias, which is therefore used by the Mapzen Search.

  • OSM has been approved as a mentoring organization for the Google Summer of Code this year, as Peter Barth announced on the mailing list OSM-dev. See the project ideas in our OSM-Wiki.


Did you know …

  • … the Fullscreen Map on sammyshp.de? Besides its full-screen mode, the Leaflet application offers interesting features such as hillshading, a history of views, a functional context menu 😉 (show the current tile, check its status and request re-rendering), and a distance meter.

OSM in the media

  • Following recent political events, a French TV show tries to know where each member of parliament stands on simple questions regarding transparency. The results are displayed on an OSM-based map.

Other “geo” things

  • Nyall Dawson explains the new map coloring algorithm that will be present in QGIS 3.0.

  • Adam Rousell and Alexander Zipf from the GIScience Research Group at the University of Heidelberg publish a paper, which shows a new pedestrian-based navigation service. "Unlike car-based services where instructions generally are comprised of distance and road names, pedestrian instructions should instead focus on the delivery of landmarks to aid in navigation."

  • The OpenHistoricalMap is online again, but changes after May 19th 2015 are now lost, as Rob H. Warren at the mailing list reported.

Upcoming Events

This weeklyOSM was produced by Nakaner, Peda, Polyglot, Rogehm, SeleneYang, Softgrow, SomeoneElse, Spec80, derFred, jcoupey, jinalfoflia, kreuzschnabel, vsandre, wambacher.

by weeklyteam at March 02, 2017 09:16 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Spreading information in the Wikimedia world

Painting by Lucas van Valckenborch via the Louvre, public domain/CC0.

The Tower of Babel. Painting by Lucas van Valckenborch via the Louvre, public domain/CC0.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
In any other tongue would smell as sweet.

– William Shakespeare, sort of

The Wikimedia movement—Wikipedia, its sister projects, and everyone who helps out in one way or another—could be described as a network of hundreds of wikis in more than 200 languages. The wikis make the most of their decisions by trying to reach a local consensus. Not all Wikimedians are necessarily interested in the movement as a whole; they might focus writing an encyclopedia, a dictionary, or a travel guide. They’re content without venturing outside the wiki or wikis where they normally edit. One leg does not know what the others do, said the centipede.

That’s excellent. The core of our work is making sure the Wikipedias and Wiktionaries and Wikisources are as good as we can make them. But some decisions are movement-wide, as when we’re voting new members to the Board of Trustees, a group that makes strategic decisions and oversees the budget for the Wikimedia Foundation. Technical decisions often have to be made for all wikis, because too many exceptions would fracture the system and make further development of the tools we use when we edit very difficult.

At the very least, we need to work to be open for participation for those who want to participate.

The Wikimedia movement is not a republic. It’s not like each wiki sends its representatives. Nor are the initiatives are discussed on the local wikis, each wiki then informing the other about which conclusion it has come to. Instead we discuss on places like Meta, the global community site for the Wikimedia projects, and any Wikimedian who wants to is welcome to take part.

But there are several obstacles on the way. Even when everyone speaks the same language there’s getting the information to the right place. There are the central discussion forums on each wiki—the village pumps, or water coolers, or scriptoriums. But not everyone reads them. They’re editors, busy editing. And even when people read them, do we want to bury the discussion forums in a constant barrage of updates and news and requests for feedback? On a smaller wiki with fewer participants, untranslated updates from the Wikimedia Foundation might completely dominate the page. You could put a banner on the top of the site, but there’s always something new happening and we can only pay so much attention, so we save that for the most important things. We write newsletters, but we can’t force them on everyone. They have to sign up for them. So we try to reach out with enough information without being annoying, which of course results in not giving enough information to some and annoying others.

For any piece of information that could be relevant to the Wikimedia editors, we always have ways of making it more likely they’ll see it. But if you send an avalanche of information my way I have two choices: I can stop reading it or I can spend far less time editing.

And everyone doesn’t speak the same language. For all practical purposes, the lingua franca of the Wikimedia movement is English. But sometimes people don’t understand English. Sometimes it requires an extra effort, to the degree where they no longer feel it’s worth it. Sometimes you can understand what you read but can’t write. Sometimes the presence of another language on a wiki where it shouldn’t be takes away the feeling of autonomy, or of the wiki being a project to take seriously—hey, this isn’t even available in our language.

So we translate. But Wikimedians translate the same way as they do most other things: In their spare time, when we have it. When you’re trying to reach out with a piece of news, you put it up for translation and never really know what languages you’ll get. Maybe the person who usually does the Japanese translation was travelling that week. Hey, you got Hindi – that’s nice. It’s the same haphazard way as we’ve built our projects. You get the languages people feel like doing that particular week.

That’s fantastic. More people can take part of the information. But not everyone. As Wikimedia editors, we need to find the balance between working on access to information and editing content on the wikis. If a small wiki only has a few active editors, when does it become worthwhile for one of them to spend their spare time keeping track of what’s happening in the Wikimedia world when it takes time from writing articles or adding words to the dictionary? There’s no perfect solution. But making sure more Wikimedians can access information about what’s happening is usually not a bad one.

Johan Jönsson, Community Liaison
Wikimedia Foundation

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on translation in the Wikimedia movement. Part two, titled “The one true international language is translation,” was published on 3 March 2017.

by Johan Jönsson at March 02, 2017 08:21 PM

Pau Giner

Content Translation: impact beyond numbers

In the past I wrote about the design process of Content Translation and how the tool was born. The tool has been growing since then. While still in beta, it is showing a positive impact already as it was highlighted in the recent Wikimedia Foundation annual report.

Last summer the project crossed the milestone of one hundred thousand articles translated. This video celebrates the achievement:

It is really great to see that the tool is frequently used by translators. However, the biggest impact of a tool is not always captured just by numbers.

I was excited to hear that the Medical Translation Task Force was interested in trying our tool. They are a group of users devoted to reduce the language barriers for health knowledge. Having access to essential health information, such as vaccines, can make a big difference on many people’s life.

After a trial, it was amazing to read that they boosted their productivity by 17% by using the Content Translation tool. This means more people will have access to essential information in the language they understand.

Translating articles about vaccines is something I could not have contributed much directly. So it is really great to see how through design you can help others to do so and contribute a bit on relevant but unexpected areas.

Another less known aspect about Content Translation is that by using it you are also contributing for translation services to get better in the future. As you create a translation, your contribution is published as a collection of translation examples (technically known as parallel corpora). This information is publicly exposed through an API and is very useful for researchers and developers of machine translation services in order to improve their approaches or create new services.

Spreading the word

We want to help as many people as possible to break language barriers in their different areas of interest. The possibilities of the Content Translation tool have been discussed in different venues and we are always interested to spread the word more.

Last June we organised an event for the San Francisco design week. I had the opportunity to talk with people from the Google team that worked on the Google Translation toolkit. We had an interesting discussion about the design principles that aligned our tool with the way people translate on Wikipedia.

Santhosh, a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Language team, presented the tool at the Unicode Conference where attendees were interested in the technical challenges the tool solves. Content Translation was also presented to a very different audience at “Translating for EU" an event organised by the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission.

The tool has been also used in many other workshops, editathons and university courses around the world. We love to hear your stories about your experience using the tool, so feel free to ping us.

Next steps

As the tool becomes more mature we are improving several technical aspects but we wanted also to polish different aspects to make the tool more consistent with the evolving Wikimedia design guidelines.

These design improvements include the evolution of the visual design of the tool as well as improvements in some of the workflows such as making the process of starting a new translation more fluent.

Another area where the tool has been evolving is in template support. Wikipedia uses templates to format content in a consistent way. the infoboxes (tables with quick facts that you can find at the beginning of many articles are just one example).

Initially the tool didn’t provide support for templates because of their complexity. After several explorations we came with a concept based on the same principles we applied to the rest of the tool: supporting translation in a visual way, making it possible to translate as much as you need and getting the support of translation services when available.

Initial research based on a prototype showed it was a promising approach and we added initial support in the tool. There is still a long way to go in this front, but we are happy to have improved already the support of a frequently requested aspect.


March 02, 2017 08:03 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Politics and 33% fewer #HIV infections in the #UK

Professor Sheena McCormack studied the efficacy of PrEP in the United Kingdom. She headed a major NHS study to ascertain how effective the drug was, and who should be given it. The study was called PROUD. Greg Owen was to late to enrol, buying the drug privately would have set him back £500 per month, money he could not afford.

He could score some of these pills but before he started, he found he was already HIV-positive.. He posted his story on Facebook and was inundated with questions; what is PrEP, where can I get it. At some stage he remembered that medicines can be had from the Internet from countries where medicines are better affordable. Unbranded PrEP is available for £50 per month.

Greg informs people on his blog. Professor McCormack was instrumental in helping set up clinics that monitored the use of these unbranded medicines. It was based on the assertion that doctors are responsible for the care that they provide. Helpful friends monitor the supply and indicate what websites provide the correct substance

The National Health System meanwhile did not want to fund the use of PrEP in 2016. As a result more and more people became aware of PrEP and learned about the alternative. In August of 2016 the NHS lost its case in the High Court. As a result the NHS is doing a "test" for three years starting this summer for 10.000 people ignoring the 33% fewer HIV infections because of PrEP.

When Wikimedians talk about politics, having no article on Professor McCormack and on Greg Owen is relevant. With all the publicity on this case, where is the neutral point of view in this?  It is important because it highlights the cost of medicines as a determining factor on who lives and who does not. In Europe many people can afford £50 a month but in many other countries it is out of reach to make the difference it makes in Europe. According to the United Nations, we can end the HIV/Aids epidemic by 2030 and then Mr Trump happened.

It is political because it provides clarity in a time where companies like Milan make medical care too expensive. It provides clarity when the US government insists on taking away medical insurance from people.

It is political and all too often Wikipedia does not inform. We know that 12% of the 2500 most sold prescription drugs are not effective (source British Medical Journal) and we do not even register this on those drugs. Wikipedia is the prime source of information on medical matters and in my opinion we are negligent.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at March 02, 2017 09:26 AM

March 01, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation

Community digest: WikiTungi is building city-based Wikipedia communities in Odisha, India; news in brief

Photo by Jnanaranjan sahu, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Jnanaranjan sahu, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Tungi is an ancient practice in Odia culture where participants share knowledge of the scriptures. The Odia Wikipedia’s WikiTungi is an attempt to capture that spirit to help build city-based offline Wikipedia communities that help Wikimedians within a city meet and learn from their shared experiences.

For over a year, Tungi meetups and events have been organized by volunteers. The activities included a self-sustaining training program cycle wherein community members train new contributors who will in turn be responsible for training the next generation of editors.

Two Indian cities, Puri and Bhubaneswar, have hosted WikiTungi events so far. 22 experienced Wikipedians helped train both existing and new Wikipedia users.

In the bi-monthly meetups in Puri and the monthly ones held in Bhubaneswar, Wikimedians meet to share their updates and discuss any emerging queries or issues around the projects. Tungi also helps promote the Wikimedia movement in the area by encouraging individuals to participate.

The new activity helped the community make improvements in several areas:

Video by Dorajagannath8, CC BY-SA 4.0. Users not able to watch the native webm above can see it on Wikimedia Commons.

  • Rath Yatra GLAM: Wikimedians in Puri documented the 22-day Ratha Yatra festival (Ratha Jatra), also known as the “chariot festival.” The community felt a need to improve on photo and video documentation of this ritual on an open platform like Wikipedia, so they organized Rath Yatra GLAM—the first GLAM activity by Odia Wikipedians. Wikimedians spent over three weeks documenting the important parts of the festival at Ratha Khala, where the chariots are made. The project will take a full year to complete and will provide one of the largest open knowledge resources available on Jagannath culture. Towards that effort, a month long edit-a-thon was organized where participants improved and created 60 articles on the Odia Wikipedia.
  • Image-a-thon: The image-a-thon was a project to illustrate Odia Wikipedia articles that are missing photos. Phase one of the project was held in Puri, where participants took and uploaded photos of Puri City to Wikimedia Commons, then added them to Wikipedia articles. Seven Wikipedians participated with 150 photos uploaded.
  • Article placeholder extension: The Odia Wikipedia was one of the first languages to host the article placeholder extension. The extension helps automatically generate content pages on Wikimedia projects displaying data from Wikidata. Since August 2016, a series of Wikidata label translation activities have been carried out in collaboration with Wikimedians from Puri to help with this project.
  • Odia Wikisource’s second-anniversary conference: On January 2017, the Odia Wikimedia community organized the second anniversary celebration of Odia Wikisource. Thirty Wikimedians attended the event where they learned about the book digitization process, proofreading, and OTRS support. Wikipedian Jnanaranjan Sahu helped with the funding process.
  • Sambad’s 100 Women Editathon: Inspired by the BBC’s 100 Women editathon, the Odia Wikipedia’s Bhubaneswar WikiTungi community is organizing a 100 Women editathon in collaboration with the Sambad newspaper. The editathon will be held at the Sambad office, Bhubaneswar on 18 and 19 March 2017. Participants will be editing and improving 100 articles about women of Odisha. Utkal University’s Department of Women’s Studies and Sambad will support the event by providing the participants with resources to create or improve the profiles.
  • Future plans
    • Planning to send postcards as souvenirs to the participants of the global community for the online sessions.
    • Publishing meeting minutes to the community.
    • Sharing experiences with the global Wikipedia community by inviting Wikipedians to video calls and exchanging best practices.

In brief

Telugu Wikipedia’s attempt to improve machine-translated articles: In 2008, Google started the “Indic Google Translate Project” on Indic language Wikipedias to promote Wikipedia’s content with the help of machine translation tools. The project continued through 2011. Telugu Wikipedia was one of the languages that collaborated with the program, which helped translate articles from the English Wikipedia into the Telugu Wikipedia using these tools.Despite its goal to improve Indic language Wikipedias, to some, the project wasn’t considered of great help, as the pages had many incomprehensible parts, redlinks, template issues, broken file links, etc. The Telugu Wikipedia community is now working on a project to improve the quality of the Google-translated articles.

Despite its goal to improve Indic language Wikipedias, to some, the project wasn’t considered of great help, as the pages had many incomprehensible parts, redlinks, template issues, broken file links, etc. The Telugu Wikipedia community is now working on a project to improve the quality of the Google-translated articles.

The community is teaching Wikipedians how to use the Wikipedia translation tool to rewrite the articles more efficiently. A video tutorial has been created for that purpose. As some Wikipedians have noted that the Google Translation Project created many unnecessary and low-quality articles, a framework has been developed to prioritize which articles should be rewritten, improved, or deleted during edit-a-thons.

International Mother Language Day in Bangladesh: On 21 February 2017, Wikimedia Bangladesh hosted gatherings in five divisions of Bangladesh (Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna and Rangpur) to celebrate International Mother Language Day. Wikipedians of Bangladesh were standing in a public place with banners asking passersby to contribute to the Bengali Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. The day has a special meaning to Bangladeshis, as UNESCO established 21 February as International Mother Language Day as a tribute to those who were killed in the 21 February 1952 Bengali Language Movement demonstration and the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world. (item courtesy of Nahid Sultan, Wikimedia Bangladesh)

The First gathering was held back in 2007 in Dhaka. Since then, Bangladeshi Wikimedians have been doing it annually. More images can be found on Wikimedia Commons.

Sailesh Patnaik, Community Advocate

by Sailesh Patnaik at March 01, 2017 10:58 PM

Jeroen De Dauw

Simple is not easy

Simplicity is possibly the single most important thing on the technical side of software development. It is crucial to keep development costs down and external quality high. This blog post is about why simplicity is not the same thing as easiness, and common misconceptions around these terms.

Simple is not easy

Simple is the opposite of complex. Both are a measure of complexity, which arises from intertwining things such as concepts and responsibilities. Complexity is objective, and certain aspects of it, such as Cyclomatic Complexity, can be measured with many code quality tools.

Easy is the opposite of hard. Both are a measure of effort, which unlike complexity, is subjective and highly dependent on the context. For instance, it can be quite hard to rename a method in a large codebase if you do not have a tool that allows doing so safely. Similarly, it can be quite hard to understand an OO project if you are not familiar with OO.

Achieving simplicity is hard

I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.

Blaise Pascal

Finding simple solutions, or brief ways to express something clearly, is harder than finding something that works but is more complex. In other words, achieving simplicity is hard. This is unfortunate, since dealing with complexity is so hard.

Since in recent decades the cost of software maintenance has become much greater than the cost of its creation, it makes sense to make maintenance as easy as we can. This means avoiding as much complexity as we can during the creation of the software, which is a hard task. The cost of the complexity does not suddenly appear once the software goes into an official maintenance phase, it is there on day 2, when you need to deal with code from day 1.

Good design requires thought

Questions about whether design is necessary or affordable are quite beside the point: design is inevitable. The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all.

— Vaughn Vernon in Domain-Driven Design Distilled

Some people in the field conflate simple and easy in a particularly unfortunate manner. They reason that if you need to think a lot about how to create a design, it will be hard to understand the design. Clearly, thinking a lot about a design does not guarantee that it is good and minimizes complexity. You can do a good job and create something simple or you can overengineer. There is however one guarantee that can be made based on the effort spent: for non-trivial problems, if little effort was spent (by going for the easy approach), the solution is going to be more complex than it could have been.

One high-profile case of such conflation can be found in the principles behind the Agile Manifesto. While I don’t fully agree with some of the other principles, this is the only one I strongly disagree with (unless you remove the middle part). Yay Software Craftsmanship manifesto.

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

Similarly we should be careful to not confuse the ease of understanding a system with the ease of understanding how or why it was created the way it was. The latter, while still easier than the actual task of creating a simple solution, is still going to be harder than working with said simple solution, especially for those that lack the skills used in its creation.

Again, I found a relatively high-profile example of such confusion:

If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea. If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

The Zen of Python

I think this is just wrong.

You can throw all books in a library onto a big pile and then claim it’s easy to explain where a particular book is – in the pile – though actually finding the book is a bigger challenge. It’s true that you need more skills to use a well-organized library effectively than you need to go through a pile of books randomly. You need to know the alphabet, be familiar with the concept of genres, etc. Clearly an organized library is easier to deal with than our pile of books for anyone that has those skills.

It is also true that sometimes it does not make sense to invest in the skill that allows working more effectively, and that sometimes you simply cannot find people with the desired skills. This is where the real bottleneck is: learning. Most of the time these investments are worth it, as they allow you to work both faster and better from that point on.

See also

In my reply to the Big Ball of Mud paper I also talk about how achieving simplicity requires effort.

The main source of inspiration that led me to this blog post is Rich Hickeys 2012 Rails Conf keynote, where he starts by differentiating simple and easy. If you don’t know who Rich Hickey is (he created Clojure), go watch all his talks on YouTube now, well worth the time. (I don’t agree with everything he says but it tends to be interesting regardless.) You can start with this keynote, which goes into more detail than this blog post and adds a bunch of extra goodies on top. <3 Rich

Following the reasoning in this blog post, you cannot trade software quality for lower cost. You can read more about this in the Tradable Quality Hypothesis and Design Stamina Hypothesis articles.

There is another blog post titled Simple is not easy, which as far as I can tell, differentiates the terms without regard to software development.

by Jeroen at March 01, 2017 09:18 PM

Priyanka Nag

The Travel Experience That Wasn't Fun at All

I had boarded the bus from Swargate (Pune) bus stop on 24th February, at 10pm. While boarding the bus, I had put my luggage in the lower dickey of the bus. 

While deboarding at Majestic bus station (Bangalore) next morning, I realized that my luggage was missing. There were three different passengers whose luggage went missing at the same time. The bus crew apparently had no clue about the missing item.

When we went to the KSRTC office to complaint against this careless behavior, KSRTC decided to not take any responsibility and put the entire blame only on the crew of the bus (3 drivers). Well, this was probably the most disappointing part of the incident. When booking a bus, I never book it because xyz driver would be driving the bus...I book it because of the brand name of KSRTC! And that very name denying to take responsibility and blaming it all on the crew was not at all acceptable.

We tried lodging an official police complaint, but only to realize that there is going to be no good coming out of it. Police gave us clear indication that they won't put much effort searching for 3 missing bags. The only outcome of it would be that the drivers would lose their jobs. The police suggested us to take some compensation from the drivers and not file an official FIR. Well, we all know how our legal system works...so no surprise.

I don't expect to get my bag back...just like I don't believe in miracles or magics but the one lesson definitely learnt is never to travel via KSRTC again. I am saying similar incidences couldn't happen with another travel agent, but the fact that KSRTC cares least about their crew as well as their passengers is enough for me to not trust that brand any more!

Details of missing items:

* 1 white color duffle bag (adidas brand), with 5 shirts, 3 pair of denims, a few Tshirts, 2 pair of shoes and 3 PS3 gaming controllers.

Passenger and bus details:

* Seat # : 36
* Luggage tag # : 067481
* Bus # : KA 57 F-890

by Priyanka Nag (noreply@blogger.com) at March 01, 2017 06:22 AM

Wiki Education Foundation

Introducing the Smithsonian Libraries Wikipedia Visiting Scholar

Wikipedia suffers from systemic biases due to the shared social, cultural, and geographic characteristics of a majority of contributors. This results in the underrepresentation of subjects from outside the English-speaking world, from places where people may not have access to the Internet, where people have less time to edit Wikipedia, or where the locally produced sources of information are not easily accessible over the Internet. An African artistic technique, work of art, or artist is simply less likely to exist than similar European or American subjects.

One of the reasons we like the Wikipedia Visiting Scholars program so much is its ability to focus on a particular subject area in need of improvement by forming a relationship between a Wikipedian and institution with shared interests. I’m pleased to announce the most recent Visiting Scholar, hosted by the Smithsonian Libraries and the National Museum of African Art.

User:Czar is a veteran Wikipedian, having made more than 70,000 contributions since 2005. He is an administrator as well as prolific content writer, having taken several entries to Featured Article (FA) or Good Articles (FA) status (labels reserved for the highest quality articles on Wikipedia). Czar explains his editing interests as “broadly in the arts, humanities, and education” and says he’s glad that “this assignment with the National Museum of African Art spurs me to focus on new source material and new applications for my background in contemporary art.”

The National Museum of African Art was founded in 1964 by Warren M. Robbins as a private museum. In 1979, after a request by Robbins to Congress, ownership of the museum was transferred to the Smithsonian. Its mission is to “foster the discovery and appreciation of the visual arts of Africa, the cradle of humanity.” Working with Czar at the Smithsonian are Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, and Janet Stanley, Librarian at the museum’s Warren M. Robbins Library. Smithsonian Libraries has participated in the GLAM-Wiki initiative for several years, and we’re excited they’ve decided to expand that involvement to the Visiting Scholars program.

Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s Flying Carpets.
Image: Nadia Kaabi-Linke Flying Carpets.jpg, photo by Timo Kaabi-Linke, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

To Czar, “the chief obstacle to a high-quality, free encyclopedia is access to reliable, secondary sources.” He quickly began preparing drafts of articles on relevant topics upon gaining access to Smithsonian resources, improving them to the point that several are already into the Good Article Nominations process, and one has already been promoted: Nadia Kaabi-Linke, a Tunis-born, Berlin-based visual artist. To help with some of the harder topics, he said he’s looking forward to working with Diane and Janet in building bibliographies.

If you’re an educational institution with resources to share with a Wikipedian, or if you’re a Wikipedian who would like to partner with an educational institution, read more on the Visiting Scholars section of our website.

by Ryan McGrady at March 01, 2017 12:48 AM

February 28, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation

Wait, what? How a double-agent codenamed Zigzag two-timed everyone

Photo by MI5, public domain/CC0.

Photo by MI5, public domain/CC0.

Eddie Chapman’s codename in the British Secret Service was “Zigzag”—appropriate for a World War II double-agent. The Germans called him Fritz, or the affectionate diminutive, Fritzchen. (The Germans liked him.)

With handsome, off-kilter features and a pencil-thin mustache, Eddie Chapman looked like a dinged-up Errol Flynn. He even worked for a bit as a film extra. Eddie did all kinds of things.

He joined the British Army at 17, ran off with a girl, got arrested, tended bar, gambled away all his money, and became a safecracker with London’s “Jelly Gang.”

Just after his time with the Jellies, Eddie made a daring escape reminiscent of movie star Errol Flynn as Robin Hood or Captain Blood. According to the Wikipedia article on Eddie:

Chapman had been dining with his lover and future fiancée Betty Farmer at the Hotel de la Plage immediately before his arrest and, when he saw undercover police coming to arrest him for crimes on the mainland, made a spectacular exit through the dining room window (which was shut at the time).

While in prison for theft, Eddie “confirmed his willingness to act as a German spy. Under the direction of Captain Stephan von Gröning,” the article says. He was “trained in explosives, radio communications, parachute-jumping and other subjects.”

Loyalty was never Eddie’s strong suit, and he soon offered his services to his home country, which also took him up on it.

And here one finds a significantly redemptive pillar of Eddie’s life. According to the Wikipedia article’s source Zigzag: The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman, by Nicholas Booth, Eddie may have saved central London from heavy bombing. He consistently gave the Germans misinformation about their bombing targets, and as a result many bombs missed those heavily populated areas by a good deal, landing instead in the suburbs of Kent.

But don’t afix a halo too securely to Eddie’s head. During this time he was also fixing dog racing bets by drugging greyhounds at a track.

A double agent of love, or at least betrothal, Eddie had two fiancées in two warzones at the same time: Freda Stevenson in Britain, and Dagmar Lahlum in Norway. The only equitable thing was to abandon them both, which Eddie did.

He married a third fiancée, Betty Farmer (his date for the daring restaurant escape), and they stayed married for 59 years until Eddie’s death in 1997. Perhaps the most amazing part of Eddie’s life is his marriage’s patient endurance.

After the war, a movie on Eddie’s life was made in 1966, with Christopher Plummer in the starring role. “In his autobiography, Plummer said that Chapman was to have been a technical adviser on the film,” the Wikipedia article says. “But the French authorities would not allow him in the country because he was still wanted over an alleged plot to kidnap the Sultan of Morocco.” In some lives this accusation would be scandalous, but it dangles prosaic in Eddie’s story like a delinquent parking ticket.

After all the swashbuckling espionage and misadventures, Eddie left something behind. Or someone. And she matched Eddie’s rakish disloyalty with humbling devotion.

Photo via MI5, public domain/CC0.

Photo via MI5, public domain/CC0.

Unlike Eddie, Dagmar Lahlum—his Norway fiancée—was an incredibly loyal and covert spy. They met during the war at a bar in Norway where she was “smoking Craven A’s with an ivory mouthpiece,” the Wikipedia article on her says. She thought he was German; he thought she was a prostitute. Later they discovered they were both spies for the same side. They lived together in Oslo while they worked gathering intelligence against the Germans. They talked of getting married, opening a restaurant, and having children.

Eddie zigged and zagged, went back to Betty, and had a movie made about his life. Dagmar never revealed her life as a spy. She served a six-month prison sentence for supposed treason in Norway, and was shunned as a German collaborator. “Many years after the war, her neighbours would still whisper darkly that she was a German whore,” her Wikipedia article says.

Decades after her death, a niece found a box of letters in Dagmar’s home. One by one the niece read the letters and was astonished. Into view came a film noir story, out of the blank past, as if written in disappearing ink.

A woman in a nightclub smokes with a cigarette holder. A rakish man in a German uniform looks her in the eye. In a private room they discover they are allies. For a while they live their double lives together, dancers trailed by their matching shadows.

None of the letters, written over years, had been sent. All of them were addressed to Eddie.

Jeff Elder, Digital Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation

by Jeff Elder at February 28, 2017 07:10 PM

Wikimedia Research Newsletter, January 2017

“Wikipedia as a platform for impactful learning: A new course model in higher education”

Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny

Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University

The paper[1] starts with a solid literature review on existing scholarship on teaching with Wikipedia, and this reviewer commends the authors for doing a very solid job with their introduction, which also displays their familiarity with Wikipedia community and institutions such as the Wiki Education Foundation and related. The authors then describe a semester-long elective course opened in the 2013 fall semester at the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, registered on Wikipedia as the Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine/Tel Aviv University project.

One of the unique elements here is that the authors designed a course that would not just use the Wikipedia assignment as part of the course, but also had substantial elements discussing topics such as “what Wikipedia is”. Courses that significantly discuss Wikipedia are still very rare, and this one is to best of my knowledge the first course of this type that has been described in peer reviewed literature. In terms of content generation, the course resulted in 64 new articles in Hebrew Wikipedia and 64 expanded stubs, all related to medical topics.

The article presents an in-depth overview of student responses, which were mostly positive. There are many insights which match my own experiences, including the note that “A new mini-assignment focusing on copyright violations resulted in a drastic decline in copy-paste issues” – a great idea that deserves inclusion in best practices for teaching with Wikipedia (if it is not there already). The authors also found that students’ perception of Wikipedia’s reliability has risen. Students did not think that their digital literacy improved significantly, but instead noted that their academic skills and collaborative work skills improved. Students were satisfied and proud, and most reported sharing their experiences with family members and friends, and would recommend this course to others. Four students (out of 62) reported editing Wikipedia after the course. The authors describe the course as successful, and note that they are expanding it to be available to more students. The authors express hope that their study and design will allow for further popularization of Wikipedia teaching assignments and Wikipedia-focused elective courses, and this editor sincerely thinks their effort will be very helpful, as in my professional experience related to reading and reviewing literature on teaching with Wikipedia for many years, this is one of the best, if not the best, treatment of this subject. Anyone interested in teaching with Wikipedia, particularly from a practical perspective, should read this paper.

Faculty perception of Wikipedia improves over five-year term

Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny

This paper[2] reports on faculty perception of Wikipedia, based on a survey of academics at four Californian universities. (The authors attempted to identify all faculty members in those institutions, and asked all of them to participate in the survey. The response ratio was about 13% of a population of 3,000.) The primary research question was whether attitudes towards Wikipedia are changing. Respondents were asked whether their attitudes have shifted over the past five years, and if so, why. The study opens with an interesting literature review, citing prior works on use and perceptions of Wikipedia in academia. Following a presentation of the survey results, the authors conclude that faculty perceptions of Wikipedia have improved over the five-year period surveyed. (The perceptions of over a third of the respondents improved, while perceptions of only 6.5% worsened.) Interestingly, the number of teachers allowing students to cite Wikipedia nearly doubled from 5% to 8.5%. The biggest reported shift is for teachers recommending use of Wikipedia for initial data gathering (from 40% to 55%). Similarly, the number of those telling students to never use Wikipedia decreased from 52% to 31%. The authors find that the impacts of rank, years of teaching, or discipline on faculty attitudes are minimal. Based on qualitative comments, the authors note that negative comments about Wikipedia focused on the lack of reliability and the instability of entries. As the authors note, followup studies on what, exactly, is responsible for different attitudes will hopefully cast light on this still unclear topic. At the same time, we can reasonably expect that as time goes on, faculty views of Wikipedia will be slowly but steadily improving.

On another note, authors also found out that 13% of the respondents (52 individuals) have incorporated Wikipedia into their courses in some fashion – an interesting number regarding the spread and impact of the Wikipedia in Education initiatives.

Students report 95% of their interactions with other Wikipedians as positive – even when they are getting reverted

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

A case study titled “Giving Psychology Away: Implementation of Wikipedia Editing in an Introductory Human Development Course”[3] reports on a Wikipedia assignment to edit psychology related content in a large introductory class (110 participants). Students received guidance in the form of in-class workshops as well as online support, and “demonstrated considerable engagement with the assignment”, with an average of 14.5 edits over 50 days. Apart from peer feedback by classmates, the reactions by other Wikipedians to the students’ contributions were highlighted as important in the evaluation survey:

only 6% (of 93 responses) indicated that [the students] had not interacted with outside editors. The majority (95%) identified beneficial interactions, where the editor helped them to improve their work […]. Of the 70 students who described their interactions with these Wikipedians, over half (73%) mentioned editors who reverted their edits (perhaps due to concerns about quality or plagiarism), or corrected their punctuation/grammar (56%). Some students (17%) reported using Wikipedia talk pages to communicate with other editors. A few (6%) asked the instructor or a campus ambassador to intervene with an outside editor; another 3% described an edit war that occurred when they went back and forth with an outside Wikipedian editor, reverting their work.

The outcomes of the course were described as positive: “Students demonstrated improvements in information literacy and Wikipedia knowledge, with gains in locating and evaluating the quality of source materials.” However, when the researchers checked back six months after the end of the semester, none of the students had made further edits to their articles after the course ended.


What we know from research about why Wikipedia is still struggling to get accepted in academia, and about the benefits of teaching with Wikipedia

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

“Teaching with Wikipedia in a 21st-century classroom: Perceptions of Wikipedia and its educational benefits”[4] offers a thorough examination of two main research areas, based on an extensive review of the existing literature (up to early 2015):

  1. “the reasons that Wikipedia is still struggling to gain acceptance among many academics and higher education professionals”
  2. The benefits of using Wikipedia in class – for educators, students and the public

Regarding the first question, the author (Piotr Konieczny – also a frequent contributor to this research report, like in this issue, but not involved with this particular review), notes that much of the coverage of skeptical attitude in academia towards Wikipedia is based on anecdotes (opinions that “are commonly backed up by references to one or two newspaper articles focusing on criticism of Wikipedia by academics”), whereas peer-reviewed publications about the question are rarer – only seven (up to 2015), whose findings are summarized in form of a handy table. All involved faculty surveys of varying sample sizes, with respondent numbers ranging from 5 to 800 (the latter in the 2015 paper by Meseguer et al., also listed below). Recurring topics include Wikipedia’s credibility (both negative opinions about the project’s credibility and positive opinions about the actual quality of articles) and “a negative attitude toward collaborative knowledge produced interviews with faculty members outside academia”.

“Contributing to Wikipedia as an assignment for undergraduate students”

Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny

This short paper[5] describes another teaching activity. It notes that students in a German undergraduate class had much confidence in the quality of Wikipedia, but did not feel qualified to make their own contributions. The study suggests that students need a hands-on guide to explain how editing Wikipedia works, and to direct them to articles that need attention, and confirms that if a Wikipedia assignment is offered as an optional activity, relatively few students will attempt it.

Logo of Arabic Wikibooks

How to motivate students and others to contribute to Wikibooks

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

A paper titled “How to motivate formal students and informal learners to participate in Open Content Educational Resources (OCER)?”[6] reports on results of a survey of Wikibookians in English and Arabic, conducted as part of PhD research at University of South Australia.

The survey was targeted at both readers and editors in 2009–’10 via posts to the project’s mailing list ([2],[3],[4]) and banner notices on Wikibooks itself (English versions: 1,2).

Of the 262 respondents, 88% described themselves as contributors. 26% identified as female and 71.8% male, indicating one of the smallest gender gaps observed on Wikimedia projects.

Regarding incentives to contribute to Wikibooks, “tesults show the co-existence of intrinsic & extrinsic motivations and approach & avoidance motivations. Results suggest that self-learners are more likely to be excited and have their desire to learn and other endorsed values, while students likely to be ‘pushed’ or encouraged to write and contribute to OCER until they enjoy/value what they are doing”.

K-12 teachers perceive Wikipedia as easy to use but unreliable

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

The Technology Acceptance Model

This paper[7] reports on a survey among Israeli K-12 (i.e. primary and secondary school) teachers, whose design was informed by the technology acceptance model (TAM) theory. As summarized by the authors, “TAM suggests that when users are presented with a new technology, three major factors influence their decision about whether and how they will use it: (1) External factors, e.g. personal characteristic and background of the user (2) Perceived usefulness (3) Perceived ease of use.”

The survey had 143 respondents (out of 200, reached through Facebook groups and during professional development seminars), most of whom “perceive Wikipedia as an environment of middling to poor reliability, accuracy, and timeliness. Many teachers do not realize how authoritative information is when generated by ‘wisdom of crowds’ and interpret it as unacceptable and untrustworthy.” Among the positive assessments, “the teachers ranked the ease of use of Wikipedia as High. They consider the information very handy (M=4.46; SD=.74) and very easy to understand (M=4.05; SD=.83). Nevertheless, they perceived its overall usefulness as medium.” While “a large majority of teachers don’t think Wikipedia should be forbidden for learning purposes [, …] they rank Wikipedia as a valuable source of information only on a medium level. Therefore teachers don’t encourage their students to use this environment”. Most of them were using Wikipedia at least once per month themselves, and more than 30% at least once per week.

As may be common in this professional group, respondents showed a huge gender gap (as extreme or even more extreme as that of Wikipedia itself, but in the opposite direction), with 11% male and 89% female. Also, “the average age was 45 years (ranging from 26 years to 67 years).” From the paper it appears however that the results indicated no gender bias or variation by age (or that the question was not examined): “Looking for correlations between teachers’ use of Wikipedia with their students and their personal characteristics, the only correlation found was between the self reported information evaluation competencies of the teachers and their level of teaching their student to evaluate information in Wikipedia”.

Conferences and events

See the research events page on Meta-wiki for upcoming conferences and events, including submission deadlines.

Other recent publications

Other recent education-related publications that could not be covered in time for this issue include the items listed below. Contributions are always welcome for reviewing or summarizing newly published research.

  • “Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it”[8] From the abstract: “… based on a large survey to all faculty members in two large public universities [with 913 valid responses. …] The results do not support an overwhelming sceptical attitude among faculty towards Wikipedia. The overall quality of Wikipedia articles is highly valued and most faculty are regular users, just as students are. Though most faculty show a positive view on the teaching usefulness of Wikipedia, few of them actually use it for teaching purposes. A certain conflict has been detected between standard academic procedures of knowledge building and the open collaborative model on which Wikipedia rests. In the end, two important factors play a role in shaping faculty views: their colleagues’ perceived opinions and practices, and academic disciplines.” See also our previous review of an earlier publication about the same research: “Most academics are not concerned about Wikipedia’s quality – but many think their colleagues are
  • “Veni, Vidi, Vicipaedia: Using the Latin Wikipedia in an Advanced Latin Classroom”[9] From the abstract: “Vicipaedia, the Latin Wikipedia, offers instructors an easy and flexible way to integrate composition assignments into a course. The high profile and immediacy of the site makes it uniquely attractive to students while the collaborative nature and complete transparency of the editing process recommend it to instructors. This paper documents the way Vicipaedia was incorporated into one advanced Latin class as a rich learning experience that resulted in better translation and increased understanding of the language.” (see also Dr. Ostorius)
  • “Using Wikipedia to Teach Discipline Specific Writing”[10] From the abstract: “Students at a mid-sized research institution in a course called Writing in the Health Professions evaluate Wikipedia articles related to healthcare and contribute to one of them. Writing for Wikipedia provides students with the opportunity to practice using plain language, write for an authentic audience, and engage in a non-traditional form of civic engagement. […] In this paper, the assignment will be discussed as well as the advantages and challenges of using Wikipedia in the classroom.”
  • “Improving Information Literacy Skills through Learning To Use and Edit Wikipedia: A Chemistry Perspective”[11] (coauthored by Walkerma) From the abstract: “This article overviews the Chemistry content on Wikipedia and how students can learn to use it effectively as an information resource, critically evaluating content, and learning key information literacy skills. We also discuss how students’ information literacy skills can be improved through a class project where students edit Wikipedia articles.”
  • “The Use of Digital Media Like YouTube and Wikipedia in Education”‘[12] Thesis about an online survey of 50 students. From the “Research findings” chapter: “10 students (20.4%) of the questionnaire respondents reported that they always use Wikipedia and 13 students (26.5%) answered they used Wikipedia frequently […] (36.7%) reported that they used it occasionally. Far fewer of the respondents (2%) said that they never used it. […] 20 students in this study (40.8%) said they used [Wikipedia] to obtain a summary or a background information about a topic and to get started to assignment, (24.5%) of the students said they refer to use it when they want to find a meaning of terms, (10.2%) stated that they used it because of its comprehensible explanations, (12.2%) said Wikipedia has certain advantages in researching over the citation at bottom of entry, (10.2%) reported that they used it to figure out search terms by having an idea about what are they going to write about, […] (10.2%) of the respondents reported they use it because it’s up-to-date entries, as unexpected only (4.1%) of the students report that they refer to Wikipedia because it is more credible than other websites, (26.5%) respondents reported that they refer to Wikipedia because it’s interface were easy to understand and use. [sic]”
  • “Writing for Wikipedia in the classroom: challenging official knowledge (a case study in 12th grade)”[13] From the abstract: “The paper describes an exploratory case study, carried out in an environment of critical action-research, at a urban K12 School in Portugal […]. The question was: Does the activity of writing articles for Wikipedia, by students changes the way these students a) relate to knowledge (awareness of it’s constructed, dynamic nature and b) use the information available on the Internet? Through questionnaires, observation and document analysis, we found many positive outcomes, e.g. skills relating to Wikipedia system; critical awareness of the information available; awareness that a text is an unfinished product and that can be collective; awareness of ethical and legal requirements. [sic]”
  • “Basic information competencies and the use of Wikipedia in educational environments” (“Competencias informacionales básicas y uso de Wikipedia en entornos educativos”, in Spanish)[14]
  • “How do Japanese students think about the credibility of Wikipedia and use Wikipedia in their learning? “ (“日本の大学生のWikipediaに対する信憑性認知, 学習における利用実態とそれらに影響を与える要因”, in Japanese)[15] From the English abstract: “[…] we conducted a survey on 102 students of Doshisha University in 2015. The survey concluded that students think Wikipedia has some credibility and they use it in writing reports. However, most of them never cited Wikipedia in the reference [sic] of their reports.”
  • “Ninth Graders’ Use of and Trust in Wikipedia, Textbooks, and Digital Resources From Textbook Publishers”[16]
  • “Using Wikipedia to Teach Audience, Genre and Collaboration”[17] From the abstract: “This essay describes a sequence of assignments to guide students though an informed effort at making contributions to Wikipedia that persist, and suggests ways this set of exercises in social informatics may also serve a number of common goals in a variety of writing, literature, and other courses: analyzing and writing for explicit editorial guidelines (“standards” in information science; “house style” in editorial practice); understanding, conforming to, and even negotiating conventions of genres and subgenres; collaborating online; writing for an audience that is not only real but talks back; and developing deep understanding of revision and the writing, editorial, and publication processes.”


  1. Sigalov, Shani Evenstein; Nachmias, Rafi (2016-12-12). “Wikipedia as a platform for impactful learning: A new course model in higher education”. Education and Information Technologies: 1–21. doi:10.1007/s10639-016-9564-z. ISSN 1360-2357.  Closed access / author link
  2. Aline Soules (2015-03-09). “Faculty Perception of Wikipedia in the California State University System”. New Library World. doi:10.1108/NLW-08-2014-0096. ISSN 0307-4803.  Closed access
  3. Shane-Simpson, Christina; Che, Elizabeth; Brooks, Patricia J. (2016-11-01). “Giving Psychology Away: Implementation of Wikipedia Editing in an Introductory Human Development Course”. Psychology Learning & Teaching 15 (3): 268–293. doi:10.1177/1475725716653081. ISSN 1475-7257. >
  4. Konieczny, Piotr (2016-04-01). “Teaching with Wikipedia in a 21st-century classroom: Perceptions of Wikipedia and its educational benefits”. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. doi:10.1002/asi.23616. ISSN 2330-1643.  Closed access Temporary author link available via [1]
  5. Reimers, Gabriel; Neovesky, Anna. “Contributing to Wikipedia as an assignment for undergraduate students” (PDF). Proceedings of DisCo 2016: Towards open education and information society. 
  6. Hanna, Amal (2014). “How to motivate formal students and informal learners to participate in Open Content Educational Resources (OCER)?”. International Journal of Research in Open Educational Resources 1 (1): 1–15. 
  7. Meishar-Tal, Hagit (2015-01-01). “Teachers’ use of Wikipedia with their Students”. Australian Journal of Teacher Education 40 (12). doi:10.14221/ajte.2015v40n12.9. ISSN 1835-517X. 
  8. Aibar, Eduard; Lladós-Masllorens, Josep; Meseguer-Artola, Antoni; Minguillón, Julià; Lerga, Maura (2015-07-21). “Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it”. The Electronic Library 33 (4): 668–683. doi:10.1108/EL-12-2013-0217. ISSN 0264-0473.  Closed access
  9. Oosterhuis, David (2016). “Veni, Vidi, Vicipaedia: Using the Latin Wikipedia in an Advanced Latin Classroom” (PDF). Teaching Classical Languages 7 (2): 30. ISSN 2160-2220.  (archived from the original)
  10. Callens, Melissa Vosen (2016-06-28). Using Wikipedia to Teach Discipline Specific Writing. EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016. pp. 1299–1303. ISBN 9781939797247.  Closed access
  11. Walker, Martin A.; Li, Ye (2016-03-08). “Improving Information Literacy Skills through Learning To Use and Edit Wikipedia: A Chemistry Perspective”. Journal of Chemical Education 93 (3): 509–515. doi:10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00525. ISSN 0021-9584.  Closed access
  12. Shehab, Abdulkarim; Kadhem, Kadhem Husain (April 2016). “The Use of Digital Media Like YouTube and Wikipedia in Education”.  (student thesis)
  13. Oliveira, Lia Raquel; Martins, Lauro Manuel (2016). “Writing for Wikipedia in the classroom: challenging official knowledge (a case study in 12th grade)”. ECER 2016. ECER 2016. 
  14. Tramullas, Jesús (2016-06-07). “Competencias informacionales básicas y uso de Wikipedia en entornos educativos”. Revista Gestión de la Innovación en Educación Superior 1 (1). ISSN 0719-7624. 
  15. Sho Sato, Ranko Ide, Saki Ota, Naoki Hayashi, Kana Michura, Saori Soeda (佐藤 翔, 井手 蘭子, 太田 早紀, 林 直樹, 道浦 香奈, 副田 沙織): “How do Japanese students think about the credibility of Wikipedia and use Wikipedia in their learning?” (“日本の大学生のWikipediaに対する信憑性認知, 学習における利用実態とそれらに影響を与える要因”). Joho Chishiki Gakkaishi (情報知識学会誌), Vol. 26 (2016) No. 2 p. 195-200. (in Japanese, with English abstract)
  16. Hatlevik, Ove Edvard (2016). “Ninth Graders’ Use of and Trust in Wikipedia, Textbooks, and Digital Resources From Textbook Publishers”. Digital Expectations and Experiences in Education. pp. 205–219. doi:10.1007/978-94-6300-648-4_12.  Closed access
  17. Bilansky, Alan (March 2016). “Using Wikipedia to Teach Audience, Genre and Collaboration”. Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture. 

Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Vol: 7 • Issue: 1 • January 2017
This newletter is brought to you by the Wikimedia Research Committee and The Signpost
Subscribe: Syndicate the Wikimedia Research Newsletter feed Email WikiResearch on Twitter WikiResearch on Facebook[archives] [signpost edition] [contribute] [research index]

by Tilman Bayer at February 28, 2017 06:27 PM

Wikimedia community in Iraq partners with Asiacell to bring Wikipedia to nearly 12 million subscribers free of mobile data charges

Photo by Christiaan Briggs, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Christiaan Briggs, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Roughly 12 million people in Iraq will be able to access Wikipedia free of mobile data charges through a partnership announced Tuesday by volunteer Wikipedia editors in Iraq, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Asiacell, one of Iraq’s largest mobile operators. The new Wikipedia Zero partnership was announced at a press event during Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.

The partnership, developed in large part by Iraqi volunteer editor and Asiacell employee Sarmad Saeed Yaseen, marks the first Wikipedia Zero program in Iraq. Overseen by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia Zero addresses one of the greatest barriers to internet access globally: affordability. In a recent phone survey in Iraq led by the Wikimedia Foundation, roughly 80% of surveyed participants reported that mobile data costs limited their use of the internet. About 33% of participants also reported rarely or never being able to find online content in their preferred language.

Through the Wikipedia Zero program, mobile data fees are waived for subscribers of participating mobile operators so that they may read and edit Wikipedia without using any of their mobile data.

Sarmad, who is part of a community of local volunteer Wikipedia editors in Iraq, started the partnership to extend access to knowledge in his home country of Iraq. Together, he and his wife and fellow Wikipedian, Ravan Jaafar Altaie, have been active editors since 2008.

“I’ve always believed that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness, so I decided to volunteer in Wikipedia to provide knowledge for free to my people in their own language,” said Sarmad. “When I was first introduced to Wikipedia Zero, I felt right away that this could be the best thing ever to share free knowledge in my country and encourage the people of Iraq to contribute knowledge and share this with the world on Wikipedia.”

Wikipedia in Iraq is supported by a local community of volunteer editors in almost every major city of the country. In 2015, Sarmad and Ravan organized the first series of workshops in Iraq to teach Iraqi people how to edit Wikipedia. The workshops led to 600 new articles and more than 12,000 edits primarily to Arabic and Kurdish Wikipedia. In October 2015, this community launched the first formalized Wikimedia group from Iraq, the Iraqi Wikimedians user group.

Wikipedia is recognized worldwide as an important learning resource, but it also offers a platform to share knowledge with the world. Edits from any country contribute to the world’s common knowledge repository, seen by hundreds of millions of people every month. This allows many to learn from what just a few people might otherwise know. As more voices contribute to Wikipedia, it becomes a better representation of the diverse cultures, history, people, viewpoints, and perspectives of our world.

“Asiacell believes that sharing knowledge is a way to enforce the interaction among human beings. We strongly believe in contributing in the global project of Wikipedia. Beside all the modern technologies that we offer, this partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation is one of the achievements that we are proud of. We will enable our 12 million subscriber base to have free access to Wikipedia, this will enable them to widen the scale of their knowledge and thus direct them towards a brighter future for themselves and for humanity,” said Zring Faruk, Chief Commercial Officer at Asiacell.

With this partnership, Asiacell customers will be able to edit Wikipedia without mobile data charges—adding to and improving articles in their preferred language and sharing knowledge of Iraq’s rich cultural history, heritage, and its people with the rest of the world.

“Wikipedia is guided by a powerful vision: that every single person should be able to share in all of the world’s knowledge, for free and without restriction,” said Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “Sarmad, Ravan, and the Iraqi Wikimedians User Group have been passionate advocates of this vision in Iraq. They’ve nurtured the growth of Arabic and Kurdish Wikipedia for nearly a decade, and have built a vibrant community committed to sharing knowledge of Iraq and its heritage, people, and culture with the world. We are thrilled to have Asiacell join us as a partner in this journey.”

The Wikipedia Zero program is overseen by the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia and a number of other Wikimedia free knowledge websites. Since the program first began in 2012, Wikipedia Zero partnerships have taken place with 68 mobile operators in 52 countries.

About Asiacell

Asiacell is a leading provider of quality mobile telecommunications and data services in Iraq with a subscriber base of nearly 12 million customers as of December 1, 2016. Asiacell was the first mobile telecommunications provider in Iraq to achieve nationwide coverage, offering its services across all of Iraq’s 19 governorates, including the national capital Baghdad and all other major Iraqi cities. In all, its network covers 99.06% of the Iraqi population.

Jack Rabah, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Middle East and Africa – Global Reach team
Zack McCune, Global Audiences
Wikimedia Foundation

by Jack Rabah and Zachary McCune at February 28, 2017 03:39 PM

February 27, 2017

Wiki Education Foundation

Students, Sources, and Sentinels at AAAS

In February, Boston played host to thousands of scientists, policy makers and journalists who attended the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The conference took place against a background of mounting concern in the scientific community about the future of science during the new presidential administration. While the conference was going on, hundreds of people, including many AAAS attendees, gathered nearby in Boston’s Copley Square for a “Rally to Stand Up for Science”. In her plenary address, Naomi Oreskes (author of Merchants of Doubt) argued that scientists should serve as “sentinels,” willing to speak up about the policy implications of their research. Many scientists take a more cautious approach, preferring to let the science “speak for itself” rather than take a more activist role, but they still see the value in supplying the public with good scientific information. The problem they face is how to do this. This is where Wiki Ed can help.

Wikipedia is the place where people go for information, but the quality and coverage of information is uneven. In a workshop at AAAS entitled “Mind the Gaps: Wikipedia as a Tool to Connect Scientists and the Public”, Greg Boustead of the Simons Foundation pointed out that the coverage of women scientists on Wikipedia is less complete than that of their male colleagues (and what coverage does exist tends to speak less about the significance of their contributions to science). When scientists assign their students to create biographies of women scientists, they aren’t engaging in activism; they’re merely working to ensure that the facts that are out there “speaking for themselves” are representative of reality. In the same workshop, Wiki Ed’s Director of Programs, LiAnna Davis, discussed the role that students can play in translating scientific knowledge into something that’s more understandable to general audiences.

But a Wikipedia assignment doesn’t simply help communicate science to the public; it can also help students learn. Many see the rise of “fake news” as a major threat to the ideal of an informed population, and people have been shown to have trouble distinguishing good sources from poor ones. Instructors who have taught with Wiki Ed have seen an improvement in these sorts of media literary skills among their students. A Wikipedia assignment can shift the power dynamic in the classroom, changing students from being passive recipients of information into active disseminators of knowledge. People who stopped by our booth in the AAAS Exhibit Hall were quick to recognize that potential.

Over the course of three days, the flow of people through the Exhibit Hall kept conversations at the Wiki Ed booth lively. In addition to scientists, the AAAS meeting attracted people from the fields of science policy, science communication, and various parts of government. Mark Sarvary and Kelee Pacion presented on their experience using a Wikipedia assignment with students in a class at Cornell. The American Junior Academy of Science poster session and the conference Family Days brought in high schoolers, middle schoolers, teachers and parents. Teachers were quick to see the utility in a Wikipedia assignment, but parents were sometimes more skeptical. Middle and high schoolers often lamented the fact that they were not supposed to use Wikipedia at all (while admitting that, like anyone else, it was the first place they went for information). While many people tried to wrap their minds around Wikipedia’s reliability, everyone I spoke to seemed to recognize the value of high-quality sources, and the importance of critical judgment in evaluating sources.

Wiki Ed provides technical tools, training materials, and flexible assignment timelines to make integrating Wikipedia into your courses as simple as possible. Instructors and students also receive staff support throughout the semester. For more information about teaching with Wikipedia generally, visit teach.wikiedu.org. If you’d like to talk with someone about setting up an assignment in your next course, reach out at contact@wikiedu.org or visit teach.wikiedu.org.

by Ian Ramjohn at February 27, 2017 11:54 PM