February 28, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Help improve this blog: Take our survey

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What do you think of the Wikimedia Blog? How can it help you?

We’d love to hear your feedback about the current blog content and features, as well as your suggestions for improvement.

Please take this short survey.

If you are not familiar with the blog, we invite you to visit it before you take the survey.

We plan to improve the blog’s contents and features in coming months, based on what you and others tell us.

Here are our goals for this survey:
• understand who our current blog users are
• find out what you like / don’t like, by user group
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• inform our editorial strategy for communications

User groups to be surveyed include blog authors and readers, contributors, developers, donors and readers, as well as foundation staff.

We will run this survey for a couple weeks and post the results at the end of March, both here on the blog and on Meta.

Thanks for sharing your feedback!

Fabrice Florin
Movement Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation

by fflorin2015 at February 28, 2015 12:13 AM

February 27, 2015

Gerard Meijssen

Harvest #Wikipedia categories

For many categories it is obvious what they should include. "Indiana State Senators" for instance will all be human. So when we know that an article is a human, we can safely deduce that they indeed hold or held a position as "member of the Indiana State Senate".  We can do similar things for alumni or members of a sports team.

When we harvest such categories regularly, Wikidata will become more inclusive than any Wikipedia. This is because we can harvest from similar categories from any Wikipedia.

We can, we should. harvest Wikipedia categories regularly. It will enrich Wikidata and we will become more aware of the full scope of the information held in all the Wikimedia Wikis.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 27, 2015 10:55 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

WikiCamps introduce young Armenians to Wikipedia

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Armenian students participating in WikiCamps divide their time between editing Wikipedia and physical activities. Here they use their bodies to spell out “Wiki Camp”. Photo by Beko, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

WikiCamps is a new educational project organized by Wikimedia Armenia to encourage young people aged 14-20 to edit Wikipedia. This program provides a healthy balance of work and fun, insures the safety of participants, and seems particularly effective for engaging teenagers. Making this possible wasn’t easy — and it took time and effort.

So far, four WikiCamps have been held in Armenia. Each one took several months to study and plan — and required quite a bit of work to implement. Two camps were held in the summer of 2014, one took place in the fall and another was held in the winter. The summer WikiCamps were attended by 135 students, who created 5,425 new articles and added more than 22 million bytes of content to the article namespace on the Armenian Wikipedia. The fall and winter WikiCamps had 73 participants, who created more than 997 Wikipedia articles, adding more than 3 million bytes as well as improving 576 articles on Wiktionary.

It is generally easier to organize training events for somewhat older users (e.g.: university students), rather than working with younger participants. Adults are better acquainted with research, which is the cornerstone of Wikipedia — and do not need as much attention to contribute quality content. This is consistent with worldwide editing patterns, which suggest that the majority of Wikipedia editors tend to be adults. However, this is not the case in Armenia, where extensive training sessions for teenagers were held with very promising results.

Press conference about WikiCamps in Wikimedia Armenia. Pictured from left to right are Lilit, Mher and Susanna. Photo by Beko, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

This project started with a budget of US $2,000, which was left over from a Wikimedia Foundation grant to Wikimedia Armenia. Susanna Mkrtchyan, President of the Armenian chapter, suggested using these funds to hold camps for school children aged 14-20, so they could learn to edit Wikipedia in a collaborative and safe atmosphere. “When I mentionned our experience with WikiCamps, everyone was excited,” says Susanna, “But we must be careful when working with children. I’m a grandmother and an educator, so people trust me with their children. Safety was our first priority during the camp. We kept an eye on everyone during the day and we closed the camp at 10 PM.”

Every day the WikiCamp started with warm up exercises and sports. Editing Wikipedia came next, but for only 4 hours a day. The rest of the day was spent practicing favorite hobbies. Mkrtchyan said, “They wanted to contribute more to be the best editors, but we didn’t let them. We wanted them to dance, do sports, play music. We wanted to always keep them active.” On the other hand, a competition for the highest contributor was held every day, to encourage campers to do their best during editing hours. It was extra work for the organizers to check all participants’ contributions daily, but it helped campers focus on editing during assigned hours, so they wouldn’t forget the main purpose of the camp: to actively contribute to Wikimedia projects.

Students edit Wikipedia in one of the summer WikiCamps (which are called Վիքիճամբար in Armenian). Photo by Beko, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

This well-divided timetable successfully encouraged students to add high-quality content to Wikimedia projects in a short time. It was also helpful to impart a love for Wikipedia and contributing to free knowledge. Mixing editing with fun activities and not letting them exceed the time limit increased the campers’ passion for editing Wikipedia. And every night, the campers also engaged in another competition: composing the best song about Wikipedia. They used known song melodies and wrote new lyrics about being in love with Wikipedia. Dduring each camp, students were also sent on two expeditions to discover new places. “They don’t just contribute to Wikipedia. Their character also changes, which is more important for them,” Susanna notes.

Project leaders helped newbies choose articles to edit, but everyone had the option to select a topic to research — or translate articles from other languages. Younger campers were invited to edit Wiktionary, since it is a simpler assignment — while the older campers edited Wikipedia (many of them had already participated in WMAM’s Education Program). This well-prepared division of work, combined with daily competitions, provided two important motivations for engaging participants. Camp fees were covered for those who made the highest contributions in previous camps (or on Wikimedia projects in general), while newbies paid their own fees. This seems like an effective reward system for participants.

Group photo in the winter WikiCamp. Photo by Beko, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

There was not much money to advertise the camps. Instead, Mkrtchyan wrote press releases and invited journalists to press conferences in which Wikimedia Armenia announced each of the WikiCamps. Social networks replaced usual advertising methods, as the project depended mainly on word of mouth, press coverage, and social media, rather than customary high-cost advertising campaigns. Some of these ideas may not be possible elsewhere, but this approach worked well in Armenia.

Wikimedia Armenia’s WikiCamp project was recognized as one of the “coolest Wikimedia Chapter projects” of the year at Wikimania 2014. Our chapter agrees and we are very excited to be sharing this story and experience with our community.

These Armenian WikiCamps exceeded all our expectations. This experience shows that thinking out of the box to empower users can be very productive, with the right amount of preparation. This pilot contributed a large amount of high-quality content, while keeping participants active and engaged as Wikipedia participants.

Samir Elsharbaty, Communications Intern, Wikipedia Education Program, Wikimedia Foundation

by Andrew Sherman at February 27, 2015 09:56 PM

February 26, 2015

Wikimedia Tech Blog

What is Wikipedia Zero? (VIDEO)

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What is Wikipedia Zero? This short video explains the Wikipedia Zero program, in under two minutes. You can also view it on Vimeo.com here and YouTube.com here. Video by Victor Grigas (WMF), freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0

Since early 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation has been creating partnerships with mobile carriers in selected regions of the world to waive data charges for accessing Wikipedia. To many people, the utility of such a program might be hard to understand. That’s why the Wikimedia Foundation works to create awareness of the Wikipedia Zero program, so that mobile carriers and mobile users can discover what free access to Wikipedia means for sharing knowledge across the globe.

The video above (which was narrated by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and animated by Sasha Fornari) is one way to create awareness of Wikipedia Zero; it explains how the program works by using symbols, narration, animation and music — to communicate a complex concept in an inclusive way. The script was written so that anyone with access to video editing software and a microphone could re-record the dialogue track in their own language, and then mix it with the music from the video (available here). Captions have been created in English and the open captions on Wikimedia Commons allow for the timecode to be copied and the script to be translated. Below is the script for the video, which runs at just under two minutes:

Together, we are creating the most comprehensive encyclopedia that has ever existed – Wikipedia. It’s also free; free to read, free to edit, free to share. It is available in hundreds of languages, and it’s accessible to anyone with access to the internet or a mobile phone. Roughly 6 out of every 7 people today have mobile access. Mobile technology is the future of knowledge sharing, it has the potential to bring Wikipedia to billions of people. However, despite Wikipedia’s free content, most people simply can’t afford the data charges to access Wikipedia. That’s why the non-profit that supports Wikipedia runs a program called Wikipedia Zero, which works with mobile carriers to waive the data charges for accessing Wikipedia. Removing the cost of accessing Wikipedia may sound trivial, but it’s one small change that makes a huge difference. Students will do their homework and research careers. Doctors will study treatments. Small businesses will find knowledge to innovate. People will better understand their own history, society, and culture. We invite mobile operators all over the world to make knowledge truly free. Wikipedia belongs to all of us. Imagine a world in which every single human being on the planet has equal access to the sum of all knowledge.

Thanks to Jimmy Wales for providing narration, to Sasha Fornari for his motion graphics, and to the Wikimedia Foundation’s communications team members who developed the script and gave feedback on all the iterations of the video — as well as to the people who contributed their designs to the noun project that Sasha remixed, and Andy R. Jordan for the music.

Victor Grigas, Wikimedia Foundation Storyteller and Video Content Producer

by Andrew Sherman at February 26, 2015 09:26 PM

Priyanka Nag

Living the dream

Since my very early days of Open Source contribution, that goes back to my early days of college life, Red Hat had been my dream organization! The reasons behind this was probably many. During those initial days of my Open Source journey, I had been inspired by many Open source advocates and most of them were Red Hat employees. Also, many of the events that I had attended during my early college days used to be held at the Pune Red Hat office.

Well, as long as I had this dream of getting the appointment letter from Red Hat, life was exciting....but somehow I never thought how would I react once I had it! 

On Monday, when I walked into this office building, I was just as scared as a child, when he (or she) is going to school for the first time. Things then happened one after the other...each one more exciting than the previous one! New people, new space, new desk, new laptop, new monitor, new desk phone...and finally introduction to some new work. Wait, did I flaunt about the welcome kit? Its like a complete package...with all the stationary one could need at office. Well, I love stationary...and as a friend of mine did rightly say, it was indeed Disney land for me.

Can't speak much about the work, since I have not done much yet....but definitely the people and the place is just what I had dreamt about! 

by priyanka nag (noreply@blogger.com) at February 26, 2015 11:19 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikimedia #Labs - Risc analysis

Labs is a wonderful and successful project; more virtual machines are added all the time. More data is produced all the time and more people rely on it all the time.

Sounds good? It is!

From a management point of view it becomes increasingly problematic because for many of the most valuable Wikimedians it became a production resource and, as Labs is growing really quickly, it easily escapes the boundaries set earlier. Staffing, hardware it could all be better and it should all be better.

Having the best possible Labs will grow Labs even more. The best will outwit and outperform expectations. Classical budget think is a disservice to what we may achieve: share more information as widely as possible. One approach is to maintain a risc analysis of the services provided by Labs. It will help management to manage, to think and to use funds when the need and the justification is bigger than the budget

Today new virtual machines have been started that are starting to produce ZIM files based on the latest dumps. This will improve off-line reading of our projects a lot. The ZIM files will in future be and remain fresh..

This is just one day in the life of Labs...

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 26, 2015 10:38 AM

February 25, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

New Education Toolkit helps program leaders develop more effective Wikimedia programs

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The new Education Toolkit provides a blueprint for implementing successful Wikimedia programs. Photo by María Cruz, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

About the Education Toolkit

The Learning & Evaluation and the Education teams at the Wikimedia Foundation, together with the Education Collaborative, have created the Education Toolkit, the first in a series of program toolkits — guides for implementing effective Wikimedia programs. The program toolkits aim to share best practices among the experiences of Wikimedia program leaders from all over the world, to create a blueprint for designing successful Wikimedia programs.

From beginning to end, the Education program toolkit walks users through different phases of an education program:

  • Best practices for planning new and growing programs and developing partnerships with educators and the Wikimedia community
  • Tips for finding resources and accessing tech support for running a program
  • Ideas for teaching and assignments
  • Strategies for evaluation
  • Ways to connect with other community members

The content is organized based on learning area and topic, using learning patterns, problem and solution pairings, to help complete the toolkit. Those newer to the education program can begin at the start and follow through each step while more experienced program leaders can easily jump to the section that is most relevant to their work at that time.

Efforts to better understand programmatic work at the Wikimedia Foundation started in 2013. Through a series of investigations, workshops, and community consultations, the Learning and Evaluation team began to map the most replicated information about Wikimedia programs. The Wikipedia Education Program has been very popular around the world and the way the program is carried out has changed. Through an analysis of shared goals, common struggles and successes, a number of key lessons were captured to create the Education Toolkit — the first toolkit from the Learning & Evaluation team this year.

An education program manager consulted about this project wrote about its benefits: “Education programs are mutually beneficial activities with a high potential for meaningful impact. While students may benefit in a number of ways, their contributions benefit Wikimedia projects and users around the world.”

What do we know about the Education Program?

Educators and school administrators find contributions to Wikimedia projects to be a low cost way of incorporating and teaching technology in the classroom. Students also learn important objectives such as research and writing skills, information and media literacy.

In 2014, the Wikipedia Education Program Team at the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) began mapping more than 70 educational programs in 66 countries — almost half of which are in the Global South. This mapping was shared in the team’s Quarterly Review. The mapping revealed that although 71% of assignments are on Wikipedia, many require students to translate rather than write or expand articles. The other 29% of student assignments contribute content to Wikimedia Commons and other sister projects. Further, unlike the US/Canada program – that focuses on university students who complete assignments for academic credit – education programs in other countries serve students of all ages, notably, 60% serve participants at universities, 20% secondary schools, and 13% through teacher training programs. We also learned that many students, in different parts of the world, are learning to contribute to Wikimedia projects for fun; only 30% of education programs are part of a formal course, 23% are part of structured extracurricular programs such as Wikicamps and Wikiclubs.

How was the toolkit created?

Education Collaborative meeting in Edinburgh. Photo by Samir Elsharbaty, under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

One key goal in creating the Education Toolkit was to curate a set of information and materials that reflect both the variety of programs as well as the global nature of the education programs.

In November 2014, Program Evaluation Analyst Kacie Harold traveled to Edinburgh with the WMF’s Education team to interview the members of the Wikipedia Education Collaborative — a group of program leaders that support other education programs and initiatives around the world.

Research for the interviews included reading reports, blog posts, newsletters and combing through threads on the Education-L mailing list. And we were blown away by the rich anecdotes, stories of successes, discoveries, hacks and strategies that Collab members shared in interviews.

Members of the Wikipedia Education Collaborative helped inform the development of the Education Toolkit. Photo by Samir Elsharbaty, under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Most interestingly, many program leaders began their stories by saying, “We are the only ones who are working on this kind of program.” In fact, the interviews uncovered several similarities across programs in different countries. By curating learning pattern experiences, and organizing them into a program toolkit, we hope to pave an easier way for program leaders to collaborate in identifying common experiences and effective strategies.

Watch this video!
We are launching the toolkit to the community, sharing its story and discussing its use on Thursday, Feb 26 at 9 am (PST).
Find the video of the presentation on Youtube

We believe that this type of resource will make it easier for program leaders throughout the world to develop more effective educational programs, without having to start from scratch. In addition to sharing lessons learned, the Education Toolkit will become a central place for people to start conversations about challenges they face running programs and share experiences that others can benefit from. Since learning patterns (like Wikipedia articles) can be created, and edited, by anyone, we hope that this toolkit will expand as more and more people use it, learn from its lessons, and share new lessons!

View the Education Toolkit

Please let us know which parts of this Education Toolkit work for you — and which parts don’t.

Make your program the next big success story on Wikimedia!

Kacie Harold, WMF Program Evaluation Analyst.
María Cruz, Learning & Evaluation Community Liaison.

by Andrew Sherman at February 25, 2015 11:52 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Authority, Play, and Information Literacy in “Wikipedia U.”

IMG_0051Many people argue there’s a crisis of information in the 21st century. Facts come wrapped in claims and counterclaims, they say, with dubious sourcing and various grains of credibility. This generation of students sees digital literacy as a core skill set. How can instructors help students determine which facts are trustworthy?

Thomas Leitch’s book, “Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority and Education in the Digital Age,” examines questions of authority that Wikipedia skeptics often put front and center in their concerns. Leitch dedicates significant time to addressing those skeptics. Along the way, he shows how Wikipedia assignments can promote not only digital literacy skills, but an opportunity to instill a sense of personal mastery over knowledge that is unparalleled elsewhere in academia.

Leitch outlines connections between traditional knowledge production in academia and on Wikipedia. For students to evaluate online information, Leitch suggests, they should try producing it themselves. Wikipedia, he writes, is “an unexcelled laboratory for examining and comparing different models of authority” (page 6).

Leitch draws distinctions between “academic learning,” knowledge received in a classroom, and “higher learning.” Keeling and Hersh define higher learning as embracing “the active and increasingly expert use of that knowledge in critical thinking, problem solving and coherent communication” (86). Actively using Wikipedia, writes Leitch, becomes a kind of “apprenticeship” for students to practice exercising their own sense of authority over knowledge, what Char Booth calls “learning through Wikipedia.”

Traditional term papers, Leitch suggests, are a practice in passive, received knowledge. Leitch suggests that direct engagement with Wikipedia reveals how authority is created and defined.

Most undergraduate students aren’t given opportunities to practice their sense of authority and mastery. Students rarely confront challenges to their received knowledge in a classroom, meaning they have few opportunities to test or expand knowledge in the real world. Without examining the sources of their own authority, it’s difficult to determine for others.

Wikipedia becomes an experience, a field trip to the public sphere. Students engage in discourse firsthand, and see how information emerges from a consensus. Students witness the oftentimes heated debates between perspectives of knowledge. Knowledge, they learn, isn’t just something to consume. It’s something to engage with. Even, Leitch suggests, something to play with.

Leitch highlights play as often overlooked aspect of Wikipedia in academia. Wikipedia allows student editors to act out, and engage with, ever-changing claims to authority. When a student contributed to Wikipedia, they put their knowledge into play. Other editors can pick it up, and the play begins.

For an example, Leitch looks to Wiki Ed board member Bob Cummings’ Wikipedia assignment. Leitch writes that students “focus on Wikipedia as a platform for refining and extending their own authority, not as an authority to be accepted, questioned, or dismissed itself” (104). When claims to authority compete, students may defer to any outside claim. By contributing to a shared resource, they practice their authority. In turn, student editors see, firsthand, what determined their own claim to that authority. This prepares them, better than abstract exercises, to test the claims of others.

The history of this play is right there on any article’s talk page. Leitch encourages using this history for insight on how Wikipedians build knowledge. Examples range from arguments over “Grease” performer Olivia Newton-John’s national identity (British or Australian?) to deciding which assessments of the Bush administration are relevant.

This consensus-building process should be familiar to academics. Leitch suggests that Wikipedia isn’t so distinct. Rather, it reveals the evolution of knowledge unfolding in real-time, at a faster pace. Sources are still cited, evaluated, and critiqued. Wikipedians, and great scholarship, both “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Wikipedia assignments challenge student editors to articulate and communicate their learning from many angles. This is a hallmark of higher learning. When students produce knowledge, they see how knowledge is produced. When students editors earn authority on knowledge, they see how authority is earned. Wikipedia is a rare opportunity to practice both.

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 25, 2015 04:00 PM

February 24, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

The benefits of Wikipedia assignments for photography courses

"NC State Fair Sunset" by Melizabethi123 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

NC State Fair Sunset” by Melizabethi123Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

What happens when photography students know they’re working for publication, rather than a classroom exercise? What if that publisher was the sixth-most visited website in the world, where millions of people could see those images?

That’s what happens when you combine Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia with photography assignments.

We’ve already seen measurable benefits for students who contribute to Wikipedia. Students love that their work makes a difference. It’s visible, and has a tangible effect on the people who read it. This spring semester alone, 4.3 million people saw the work of student editors.

It’s a simple twist on a familiar assignment. Students find articles on Wikipedia that aren’t illustrated. That can mean anything, from household items to local monuments or buildings. Then, they upload their images to Wikimedia Commons through a Creative Commons license.

"Saladin statue" by Tfoz257 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Saladin statue” by Tfoz257Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re curious in seeing the range of photos that apply, our colleague Ryan McGrady’s course at North Carolina State University has some excellent examples. Not only are there some wonderful images from local institutions and events, but there are some contributions from a student’s visit to Damascus, Syria, from just before the city was transformed by civil war.

Students hold themselves to a higher standard when they shoot for a real audience. It’s a chance not only to practice, but to show what they already know. They develop their skills while showcasing what they’re capable of.

Wikipedia assignments can adapt to fit any class, even if it’s already underway. We can help you start immediately, with staff and print materials to help you have a successful assignment.

If you’re looking for a new way to engage your students in real-world, practical problem solving for photography courses while teaching digital literacy, contact Ryan McGrady, ryan@wikiedu.org.

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 24, 2015 11:48 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Black History Month edit-a-thons tackle Wikipedia’s multicultural gaps

Group editing Wikipedia at the Schomburg Center in New York City. Photo by Terrence Jennings, free license under CC BY-SA 4.0 For Black History Month, many new Wikipedia articles about black culture were created in edit-a-thons across the United States, such as this at the “BlackLivesMatter” event at the Schomburg Center in New York City. Photo by Terrence Jennings, under CC BY-SA 4.0

Black History Month

Black History Month is celebrated annually in the United States in February, to commemorate the history of the African diaspora. For this occasion, Wikipedians worked together to honor black history and to address Wikipedia’s multicultural gaps in the encyclopedia, hosting Wikipedia edit-a-thons throughout the United States, from February 1 to 28, 2015.

Black WikiHistory Month edit-a-thons include:


Maira Liriano, one of the key institutional organizers of the #BlackLives Matter Edit-a-thon in New York, summarized the goals of this project to reporters, as reported on Innovation Trail: “There is a bias and a lack of people of color involved in creating Wikipedia and many subjects are also missing from Wikipedia. So events like today are in part to make people aware of that and then to empower them and give them the information they need to correct that bias.”

To kick off this project, the New York #BlackLivesMatter Wikipedia Edit-a-thon was held on Saturday February 7th at the New York Public Library‘s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York (this event took place in the Aaron Douglas Reading Room of the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division of the library). Satellite #BlackLivesMatter Edit-a-thons were held on February 7th at the SUNY Purchase College Library and the Nashville Public Library, and the AfroCROWD initiative kickoff event was held on February 7th and 8th at the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch. Wikimedia D.C. also co-organized three events including: the First STEM Heroes Edit-a-thon at the White House and the NPR Black History Month Edit-a-thon on February 24th, as well as the Black History Month Edit-a-thon at Howard University on February 19th.

Libraries proved to be ideal places for these edit-a-thons. At the Aaron Douglas Reading Room, librarians located reference texts and provided suggestions for further research. A list of Wikipedia articles to edit and create was prepared for the Schomburg Center Edit-a-thon and used by many of the satellite events.

These events received wide press coverage from diverse news sources, including:



Schomburg Center, New York City

Group editing Wikipedia at the Schomburg Center in New York City. Photo by Terrence Jennings, free license under CC BY-SA 4.0

The #BlackLivesMatter Edit-a-thon at the Schomburg Center was organized in collaboration with NYPL, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, Wikimedia NYC, Wireless Harlem, and the West Harlem Art Fund for the Black WikiHistory Month outreach campaign.

Over 50 experienced and beginning Wikipedians attended throughout the day, and almost every seat was filled.

The New York Edit-a-thon was an overwhelming success, which led to the creation of 19 new Wikipedia articles, including:

  • Leonard Harper, producer/stager/choreographer in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Judy Dearing, American costume designer, dancer, and choreographer.
  • Mildred Blount, American milliner, costume designer, and clothier.
  • National Black Theatre, a non-profit cultural and educational corporation, and community-based theatre company.
  • Ruth Jean Baskerville Bowen, first black female booking agent and the president of Queen Booking Corporation
  • Harlem Book Fair, the United State’s largest African-American book fair.
  • Maritcha Remond Lyons, educator, civic leader, feminist, and writer from Brooklyn, NY; first African American to graduate from Providence High School in Rhode Island in 1869.


AfroCROWD, Brooklyn

AfroCROWD Kickoff at the Brooklyn Public Library 2/8. Photo by Alicaba, free license under CC BY-SA 4.0

On February 7th and 8th in Brooklyn, kickoff events took place for a new initiative, the Afro Free Culture Crowdsourcing Wikimedia (AfroCROWD), which seeks to increase the number of people of African descent who actively partake in the Wikimedia and free knowledge, culture and software movements. The workshops were open to all Afrodescendants, including but not limited to individuals who self-identify as African, African-American, Afro-Latino, Biracial, Black, Black-American, Caribbean, Garifuna, Haitian or West Indian.

Events were held at the Brooklyn Public Library. Wikipedia trainings and overviews were given in some of the many languages spoken by our target population: French, Garifuna, Haitian Kreyòl, Igbo, Yoruba, Spanish and Twi. Affiliate project pages such as WikiProject Haiti were also introduced — and organizers announced the new Garifuna language Wikipedia incubator, the fruit of a collaboration between AfroCROWD and Wikimedia NYC.

Afrocrowd’s next 3 events will be HaitiCROWD on 3/14, AfricaCROWD on 4/4 and AfrolatinoCROWD on 4/12. HaitiCROWD will focus on resources in the Haitian Kreyòl, French and English Wikipedias, as well as growing the Haitian Wikipedia, which is now available free of charge to many Haitians in Haiti through the Digicel/Wikimedia Foundation Wikipedia Zero initiative. The workshop series will culminate in an edit-a-thon on June 20th at the Brooklyn Public Library.

Here is a visual recap of the AfroCROWD kickoff event.

Events in Washington D.C.

Three Black History Month events were held in Washington D.C.; one at Howard University on February 19th, as well as the STEM Heroes Edit-a-thon at the White House (learn more) and another one the National Public Radio (NPR) headquarters on Tuesday, February 24th.

The Howard University event led to the following additions to Wikipedia:

Nashville Public Library

Participants editing at the Nashville Public Library Our Story Matter Editathon. Photo by Amwilliams15, free license under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Nashville Public Library held “Our Story Matters Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” on Saturday February 7th. This was the first Editathon at Nashville Public Library and 11 enthusiastic editors attended, including 8 new users. Participants worked on these articles; African Americans in Tennessee and Callie House. Several articles were in the draft stage when the program ended, but will hopefully be completed soon.

SUNY Purchase

A #BlackLivesMatter Edit-a-thon was also held at SUNY Purchase, Westchester County, NY on Saturday February 7th.

We wish to thank all participants who made these edit-a-thons possible! It’s really exciting to see so many new editors join forces to help fill the multicultural gaps in Wikipedia — and to honor black history together.

Dorothy Howard, Wikipedian-in-Residence, Metropolitan New York Library Council, Aliceba

This blog post was updated on Feb. 25 to include information about the First STEM Leaders Edit-a-thon at the White House, as well as update photos.

by Andrew Sherman at February 24, 2015 10:12 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - #Alumni by university or college in #India

As one of the most populous countries in the world, it is no surprise that India has many universities. The alumni of Indian universities or colleges can be found through a Wikipedia category.

Whenever tools are down I have been adding these alumni to Wikidata. It seems obvious that not all universities and colleges are represented. It is certain that many alumni cannot be found in these categories. This is because there may be no article about them or they have not been included in the category.

It is relatively easy to do this for India given that English is the main language for subjects about India. For China, Russia and Japan it is not so easy. Someone else has to get involved as I do not know the languages.

All of Labs is down again. So this time my customary hyperlinks are sadly absent..

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 24, 2015 07:33 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation Quarterly Report, October-December 2014

A few days ago, we published the Wikimedia Foundation’s report for the timespan from October to December 2014 (the second quarter of our fiscal year), which you can find in PDF form below. As of today, it is also available as a wiki page and (for easy online presentation) on Google Slides.

This is the first report in a new format. Since 2008, we have been publishing updates about the Foundation’s work on a monthly basis, also on this blog. As announced in November, we are now changing this to a quarterly rhythm; a main reason being to better align it with the quarterly planning and goalsetting process that has been extended to the entire organization since Lila Tretikov became Executive Director in 2014.

You can
– Browse through the report slide by slide
– Download the full PDF (8MB)
– Read the report as a wiki page or
– View it on Google Slides

The main objectives and design principles for this report were:

  • Accountability: Help our movement and our supporters understand how we spend our effort, and what we accomplish.
  • Learning together: Highlight important internal & external data, trends and lessons.
  • Presentable: Anyone, from volunteer to the executive director, should be able to present the work of the WMF using this report.
  • Reasonable effort: Pull as much as possible from existing sources, e.g., quarterly review slide decks & minutes.

Excerpt from status column of the “top objectives” table (slide 6)

The new format reflects this in various ways. For each of the highlighted key priorities, colors (red/yellow/green) indicate clearly whether the quarterly goal was met or not. Besides a slide with overall “Key insights and trends” (see below), there are also “what we learned” sections throughout the document which summarize what the corresponding team considers the most important takeaways informing future work in that area. The report has the form of a slide deck suitable for a 90 minute presentation, keeping the amount of detail limited and linking to corresponding quarterly review meeting documentation for further detail. The Foundation began holding these quarterly team meetings in December 2012 to ensure accountability and create opportunities for course corrections and resourcing adjustments. By now, this process involves almost every WMF team or department.

Please refer to the links above for the full report. But to offer an excerpt from the “Key insights and trends” section (slide 5):

  • Readership: Globally, pageviews are flat. Mobile is growing, desktop is shrinking. Given a growing global potential audience, this means we need to invest in the readership experience, with focus on mobile.
    We have learned that we can move at highest velocity on mobile apps due to their self-contained nature.
  • Beyond editing: Inviting readers to perform classification tasks on their smartphone is showing promise; response quality is exceeding expectations.
  • Performance: The implementation of HHVM across Wikimedia sites is an engineering success story and demonstrates that dedicated focus in the area of site performance can pay off relatively quickly.
  • Fundraising: Mobile matters — thanks to focused effort, we were able to increase the mobile revenue share from 1.7% to 16.1% (2013 vs. 2014 year-end campaign).

This being the first report in this new format, we will surely tweak format, content (including the choice of key metrics) and process for the subsequent issues. Comments continue to be welcome here or on Meta-wiki.

Tilman Bayer, Senior Analyst

by wikimediablog at February 24, 2015 01:57 AM

Wiki Loves Africa photo contest announces winning pictures

Egyptian food Koshary.jpg

A plate of koshary, the most popular food in Egypt. This picture was taken for “Wiki Loves Africa Cuisine”, a photo contest about african food. Photo by Dina Said, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Wiki Loves Africa organizing team is proud to announce the winners of this year’s photo contest — and invites you to vote for the Community Prize.

Wiki Loves Africa Cuisine

Wiki Loves Africa (WLAf) is an annual contest that invites people from across Africa (and beyond) to contribute media (photographs, video and audio) on a specific theme. All photos are posted to Wikimedia Commons, where they can be freely used on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

This year’s theme for the Wiki Loves Africa contest was Cuisine!

The 2014 contest invited entries that document diverse types of cuisines from across the African continent. Participants could submit media on a variety of topics: “foods”, “dishes”, “crops”, “husbandry”, “culinary art”, “cooking methods”, “utensils”, “food markets”, “festivals”, “culinary events”, “famine food” — and any other issues related to food in Africa. The contest aimed to feature the pride we feel about the food we eat, how it is prepared, what it looks like, how it differs from other types of food, which types of rituals may be observed, and how that cuisine reflects the many and diverse cultures of Africa.

The contest ran for two months, from October 1 until November 30, 2014. It took place across all of Africa. The project was facilitated by WikiAfrica at the Africa Centre and funded by Orange Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation.


Wiki Loves Africa Cuisine engaged community members in a variety of ways, such as this cooking contest at the Rotary Club in Tema, Ghana. Photo by Dromo Tetteh, CC BY-SA 4.0


Wiki Loves Africa had several positive outcomes for the Wikimedia movement: it helped increase the amount of free content on Commons; and it also increased the visibility of Wikimedia projects in Africa. To make this possible, local teams were formed on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria or Uganda. These country teams, made up of existing or new groups of volunteers, hosted specific events as part of the contest. In the end, 27 different local events were organized over the two months, to foster and support participation. Three cooking sessions were organized, which resulted in more images (and were apparently lots of fun). Other local teams organized photo hunts (in a market place, for example), followed by uploading sessions. Three press conferences were organized locally and resulted in media exposure, which not only drove participation but also cast a much needed light on Wikimedia projects in those countries.

Overall, this project added 6,116 images to Wikimedia Commons, from 873 unique contributors in 49 countries. Countries with the largest number of contributions included: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tunisia, Uganda, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa (which by and large maps the countries where local teams were involved). But we also noted unexpected enthusiasm and high participation from countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania that did not have local teams.

The tastiest entries

The Wiki Loves Africa entries were judged by a panel of experts made up of Wikipedians, photographers and food professionals. The judges came from across Africa and beyond, including: Carianne Wilkinson (South Africa), Paul Sika (Cote d’Ivoire), Africa Melane (South Africa), Pierre-Selim Huard (France), Pierre Beaudoin (France), Habib M’henni (Tunisia), and Mike Peel (United Kingdom).

After several weeks of evaluation, they chose the following images:

First prize by Terrence Coombes, under CC BY-SA 4.0
This photo of a freshly opened nutmeg won this year’s first prize. By Terrence Coombes, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Photo by Dina Said, under CC BY-SA 4.0
This photo of Egyptian grains won second prize. By Dina Said, CC BY-SA 4.0. See her Facebook page.

Photo by Natnael Tadele, under CC BY-SA 4.0
This photo of young girls in an Ethiopian market won third prize. By Natnael Tadele, CC BY-SA 4.0

Here are the prizes the winners will receive:

  • 1st Prize: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 + “Star Fish: Top 10 Sustainable Fish” by Daisy Jones and Lazy Days by Phillipa Cheifitz (a book donated and published by Quivertree) + a Wiki Loves Africa T-shirt + the print of the winning picture
  • 2nd Prize: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact + “The Karoo Kitchen: Heritage recipes and true stories from the heart of South Africa”, by Sydda Essop and The Bo-Kaap Kitchen (a book donated and published by Quivertree) + Wiki Loves Africa T-shirt + print of the 2nd prize picture
  • 3rd Prize: US $200 Amazon gift voucher + “The Bo-Kaap Kitchen and Lazy Days” by Phillipa Cheifitz (a book donated and published by Quivertree) + “Wiki Loves Africa” T-shirt + print of the 3rd prize picture
  • The Community Prize: US $200 Amazon gift voucher + Wiki Loves Africa T-shirt + print of the Community Prize

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who helped organize the contest this year!

Check out some of the best images on the contest page!

Help pick the Community Prize

The Community Prize is yet to be decided. Wikimedia community members are invited to pick their favorite photos in the next 7 days. Community members from Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and social media related to Wikimedia projects are welcome to choose their favorite image from these top 20 images (also shown below). You can vote on this Community Prize until 24:00 (UTC+1) on Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

Community members can vote:

Here are the twenty photos you can choose from:

Egyptian food Koshary Photo by Dina Said, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Cola nuts in Lagos, Nigeria Photo by Antoshananarivo, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Young boy selling lemon Photo by Natnael Tadele, under CC BY-SA 4.0
La leçon de cuisine au Mali Photo by BluesyPete, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Sweet moroccan honey biscuits in the Souks of Marrakesh Photo by La Chimère, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Tajines in a pottery shop in Morocco Photo by Jafri Ali, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Food eaten during fasting season in Ethiopia Photo by Dawityirga, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Egyptian olives Photo by Dina Said, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Condiments au carrefour de Lakota (Côte d’ivoire) Photo by Cyriac Gbogou, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Sudanese woman making the traditional baking called “Kisra ” Photo by Mohamed Elfatih Hamadien, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Ghana snails alive Photo by Antoshananarivo, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Anchovies being transferred into a bowl with the hand Photo by DromoTetteh, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Spicy Dreams Photo by HalwaStudio, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Okro of Liberia Photo by Antoshananarivo, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Fresh nutmeg in Zanzibar (Tanzania) in a spice farm Photo by Baptiste Vauchelle, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Pottery wares at Sidi Bousaid Photo by Emna Mizouni, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Palm nuts in Nigeria Photo by Joel Akwevagbe, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Pumpkins in storage Photo by Terrence Coombes, under CC BY-SA 4.0
The most popular food in Egypt, Koshary Photo by Dina Said, under CC BY-SA 4.0
Fruits on the market, Kigali, Rwanda Photo by Antoshananarivo, under CC BY-SA 4.0

Thanks and next steps

We would like to specifically thank:

  • Romaine for his technical support to set up banners and the upload wizard.
  • Erik Zachte for the statistics and moral support :)
  • All of our jury members: Pierre-Selim, Pyb, Mike, Habib, Carianne Wilkinson, Africa Melane, and Paul Sika.
  • As well as ALL the WiC, WiR and volunteers who helped during local events: Samuel Guébo, Cyriac Gbogou, Donatien Kangah, Eben-Ezer Guebo Dja, Mélèdje, Emmanuel Dabo, Raphael Berchie, Stephen Tetteh, Okpoti Felix Nartey, Katerega Geoffrey, Erina Mukuta, Steve Bukulu, Felix Nartey, Bobby Shabangu, Clement Khanye, Linda Shusha, Michael Mwangi, Millicent Mudzusi, Sipho Mampe, Joel Phologo Thembelihle, Mohamed Ouda, Ahmed Mohie, Eldeen Samir Elsharbaty, Nathan Kalungi, Douglas Ssebagala, Michael Phoya, Blessings Phumisa Upile Rina Malenga, Constance Thyangathyanga, Peter Lungile Chidothe, Sam Banda Jr, Mounir Touzr, Yassin Tounsi, Okpoti Edmond Laryea Sabra Asante, Felix Tetteh, Prince Akpah, Gervasio Ngumbira, Steve Kamanga, Laetitia k., Guilian Zouzouko, Abel Asrat, (my deep apologies if we forgot anyone here).


We hope that the Wiki Loves Africa 2014 contest will foster more content creation in the coming year: this could range from the new article creation, to documenting what the pictures are about, or adding recipes in Wikibooks (see Cuisine ivoirienne). We hope these photos will make their way to illustrate many articles on various food-related subjects.

The local teams are eager to participate in the next Wiki Loves Africa! The 2015 theme is still to be decided. Proposals received by the organizers from local teams are diverse and exciting: Fauna, Modern Art, Wildlife, Clothing, Architecture, Markets, Rites and Rituals are just some of the ideas they have suggested.

Florence Devouard, former chair, Board of Trustees, Wikimedia Foundation
Isla Haddow-Flood, Project Manager, WikiAfrica

Related links

by Andrew Sherman at February 24, 2015 01:17 AM

February 23, 2015

Not Confusing (Max Klein)

Asking Ever Bigger Questions With Wikidata

This is a Guest-Blog I wrote for Wikimedia Deutschland: copied here:

German summary: Maximilian Klein benutzt Wikidata als als Datenfundus für statistische Auswertungen über das Wissen der Welt. In seinem Artikel beschreibt er, wie er in Wikidata nach Antworten auf die großen Fragen sucht.

Asking Ever Bigger Questions with Wikidata

Guest post by Maximilian Klein

A New Era

Simultaneous discovery can sometimes be considered an indication for a paradigm shift in knowledge, and last month Magnus Manske and I seemed to have both had a very similar idea at the same time. Our ideas were to look at gender statistics in Wikidata and to slice them up by date of birth, citizenship, and langauge. (Magnus’ blog post, and my own.) At first it seems like quite elementary and naïve analysis, especially 14 years into Wikipedia, but only within the last year has this type of research become feasible. Like a baby taking its first steps, Wikidata and its tools ecosystem are maturing. That challenges us to creatively use the data in front of us.

Describing 5 stages of Wikidata, Markus Krötsch foresaw this analyis in his presentation at Wikimania 2014. The stages which range fromKnow to Understand are: Read, Browse, Query, Display, and Analyse (see image). Most likey you may have read Wikidata, and perhaps even have browsed with Reasonator, queried with autolist, or displayed with histropedia. I care to focus on analyse – the most understand-y of the stages. In fact the example given for analyse was my first exploration of gender and language, where I analysed the ratio of female biographies by Wikipedia Language: English and German are around 15% and Japanese, Chinese and Korean are each closer to 25%.

To do biography analysis before Wikidata was much harder. To know the gender of an article you’d resort to natural language processing or hacks like counting gendered categories and guessing based on first name. Even more, the effort had to be duplicated for each language that had to be translated. Now the promise of language-free semantic data, and tools like Wikidata Query and Wikidata Toolkit are here. The process is easier because it is more database-like; select, group by,apply, and combine.

With this new simplicity, let’s review what we have imagined so far. Here’s a non-exhaustive introduction to the state of creative question-asking so far:

Pushing Ourselves to Think Even Bigger

Can we think even bigger if we use more of the available data? Thinking about the fact that every claim may have an attached reference, Markus Krötzsch always wants to know, for a given set of claims what references must be believed in order to believe the set of claims? With that notion we could look at all the claims associated with all the items of a given language, and thus the required belief system of that langauge. At this point we could ask what are the differences in the belief systems of any two langauges?

Another way we could test the fundamental principles of knowledge and culture is to consider the chains made by the subclass of, instance of, or cause of properties. Every language is present at different links of each chain. So we can look at the differences in ways in which languages organize a hierarchy of concepts – or if they think it’s a hierarchy at all.

Much fun for logicians and epistemologists. But we can also ask more socially important questions, questions about how language and society relate. What biases do we have that we aren’t even aware of? The method, for which I’ve proposed a PhD, could be conducted as follows. We’re aware of sexism in our societies, and as you’ve seen we’ve started to build a statistical profile of how it manifests in Wikidata. Likewise we’re cognizant of racism and homophobia. We might next look at rates people appear in Wikidata by race and desire. Let’s assume we could train a model to say that these kinds of distributions are types of social biases. Next we could search every property in Wikidata to see if it indicated social bias. If successful we may find overlooked stigmas and phobias in society.

I claim that our theoretical question-answering ability has paradigmatically shifted with the growing up of Wikidata. Soon enough you won’t even need to be a sophisticated programmer to whisper your questions into the system. So next time your reading, browsing, querying or displaying Wikidata, challenge yourself to think about how to analyse it too.

by max at February 23, 2015 08:22 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Join the Wikimedia strategy consultation

The Wikimedia movement works because it brings together many different perspectives to solve complex problems. Join the community consultation to plan our strategy together. Group photo of Wikimania 2014 participants by Ralf Roletschek, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

The Wikimedia Foundation has a rich tradition of stopping to take stock of where we are and where we’d like to go as a movement. Over the years, this has taken different forms — from “Board-only” processes to our massive, community co-created strategic plan five years ago.

This year, to support the Foundation’s strategic planning efforts, we’d like to try something different, by kicking-off a two-week community consultation about the future of Wikimedia. The themes that emerge from the consultation will be used to inform the development of the direction and priorities for the Wikimedia Foundation.

Instead of launching a comprehensive (and expensive!) process and creating a formal document, like the last strategic planning initiative, we see this as the first step. We are interested in an iterative, discursive strategic process — one that continues to reflect changes in knowledge creation, user behavior, and the internet as a whole, while remaining agile and responsive to our mutual thoughts and needs.

The Wikimedia Foundation needs to hear your ideas about the emerging trends we should be paying attention to as a community, about what the Foundation could (or should) do to adapt to emerging challenges and opportunities, and how our movement (including the Foundation) should respond to these changes. We hope the conversation will highlight the huge changes that have occurred since our last strategic conversations, as well as emerging trends that will have significant impact on the projects.

We all know that since Wikipedia began fourteen years ago, the world — including the internet — has changed dramatically. More people are coming online, in more places, and they are accessing knowledge in new and changing ways. One change we’re watching is the dramatic growth in mobile devices. It’s clear that the world is “going mobile.” Trends show that mobile access and devices are becoming the primary (and often only!) method of access to the internet for people around the world. What does this mean for our projects?

Similarly, we’ve seen Wikipedia’s reach grow and change. Wikipedia, which started in North America and quickly spread to Europe, is now growing fastest in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Another billion internet users are expected to come online in coming years — many from these growing regions. These users may not know about Wikimedia projects, and will likely have new and different motivations for participation and collaboration. How do we prepare to include and engage these new users and contributors?

The next few years will be characterized by rapid change: technology will change; devices will change; people will change. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we believe one thing will not change: the need to share and access free knowledge with the world. Our mission is as relevant now as ever before. Our movement’s challenge is to be ready to adapt when necessary to continue to make a difference. That’s what this consultation is about.

I hope you will participate in the consultation to share your ideas of the future and help lay the groundwork for defining the Foundation’s strategic direction.

Join our online discussion here, starting today, February 23, at 12:00 noon PST (20:00 GMT).

Your vision matters.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Philippe Beaudette
Director, Community Advocacy
Wikimedia Foundation

by fflorin2015 at February 23, 2015 08:01 PM

Wikimedia UK

New recommendations outline ways to strengthen Europeana’s future relationship with Wikimedia

The Europeana logo

This post was written by Liam Wyatt and was originally published here. Re-used with kind permission.

In light of the Europeana 2020 strategic plan, what shape should Europeana’s relationship to Wikipedia and the wider Wikimedia community take in the years to come? To find an answer to this question, a Europeana Network Task Force was formed with a mix of people drawn from the Europeana network of GLAMs as well as active members of the Wikimedia community. It was chaired by Jesse de Vos from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, now at Wikimedia Netherlands, and had a clear mission to reach final recommendations that benefited both Europeana and Wikimedia.

Together, the group has produced a report outlining ten ways in which Europeana and Wikimedia can build on their successful cooperation.

The first task was to create an overview of all past Wikimedia activities that Europeana has had involvement in. This list of past and current projects was built on-wiki (where else?) and shows very clearly the depth and breadth of the existing relationship.

The second half of the six-month review then focused on developing 10 strategic recommendations which would make this relationship even stronger over the next five years.

“Europeana has a long standing relationship with the Wiki community. With the development of the GLAMwiki Toolset, publishing to Wikimedia has become an intrinsic part of our publication policy and we would like to expand on this relationship for the benefit of our data partners. The recommendations in the report of the taskforce amplify that ambition, and we will investigate how we can act upon each of them.”
(Harry Verwayen, Europeana Foundation)

This can be achieved by considering a Wikimedia-component to both current and future projects. Europeana can also play an important role by enhancing relationships between GLAMs and the Wikimedia network, as well as sharing knowledge about practices in each of these communities.

An important aspect of the report was the recommendation that Europeana further integrate its systems and technology with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia platforms.

Wikidata is a key part of this, as a fast-growing project with enormous potential for linking collections, carrying out authority control, and synergy with Europeana’s systems.

The introduction of a dedicated Wikimedia coordinator and ‘product owner’ was another significant outcome. The creation of this position means that each of the ten recommendations can be fulfilled to their full potential. This new team member can also look at the opportunities to integrate Wikimedia in each of the major forthcoming Europeana projects, such as “1914-18”, “Sounds” and “Fashion”.

A final element to the report considers the possibilities for cooperation between Europeana and Wikimedia as they seek external funding for projects, with the possibility of Europeana becoming Wikimedia’s first movement-partner.

Each of the different strands to the report offers groundwork for exciting developments that can form future planning, and we would like to thank all members of the Task Force, as well as numerous others who gave their valuable insights during the creation of this report.

by Stevie Benton at February 23, 2015 04:41 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Tech Talk

"Gladys kathleen parkin". Licensed under Public domain in the United States">PD-US via Wikipedia.

Gladys kathleen parkin“. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.

Every week we find interesting articles that student editors have created or improved. This week we’re looking at Georgetown University’s Communication: Theory and Frameworks, taught by Dr. Jeanine Turner, for articles that connect to technology or communication.

 Does social pressure silence controversial opinions? Is small talk a way to minimize threats?

How does technology travel? There’s a time and place for phone calls. What do people do with media?

Or from Prof. Veronica Paredes’ Collaborations in Feminism and Technology course, meet the first (and possibly youngest) woman to earn a first-class radio license in the US.

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 23, 2015 04:00 PM

Wikidata (WMDE - English)

Platypus, a speaking interface for Wikidata

PPP (Projet Pensées Profondes)  is a student project aiming to build an open question answering platform. Its demo, Platypus (http://askplatyp.us) is massively based on Wikidata content. 

At the École normale supérieure de Lyon we have to do a programming project during the first part of your master degree curriculum. Some of us were very interested in working on natural language processing and others on knowledge bases. So, we tried to find a project that could allow us to work on both sides and, quickly, the idea of an open source question answering tool came up.
This tool has to answer to a lot of different questions so one of the requirements of this project was to use a huge generalist knowledge base in order to have a usable tool quickly. As one of us was already a Wikidata contributor and inspired by the example of the very nice but ephemeral Wiri tool of Magnus Manske, we quickly chose to use Wikidata as our primary data source.

This is why, after four months of hard work from seven people, we are happy to introduce Platypus, the new English speaking interface for Wikidata.

It is available as a simple web application. A getting started manual can be found here: https://projetpp.github.io/demo.html

Platypus, the true Jimbo Alpha?

Platypus, using advanced natural language processing techniques and Wikidata, is able to answer a lot of questions, from the simple ones like “What is the birth date of Douglas Adams?” to the strange “What are the daughters of the wife of the husband of the wife of the president of the United States?” Currently most questions that may be answered using a single statement from Wikidata are supported. Platypus is also able to do simple spell checking in order to be able to answer to questions like “What is the cappyttal of Franse?”.
As computer scientists, we love mathematics, so the Platypus is also able to simplify a lot of mathematical formulas written in a natural-like syntax like “sqrt(180)”, in Mathematica like “Sum[1/n^42, {n,1,Infinity}]” or even in LaTeX like “\sum_{i=0}^n i^2″.

Why Wikidata is amazing

Wikidata was a very good choice because with its strong database of labels and aliases it has allowed us to easily find the Wikidata entities matching a given term using the search suggestion API of Wikidata. So it is very easy to map terms of natural languages to Wikidata identifiers and then use the statements in order to answer to most of simple questions like “When is X born?”.
Platypus is also an amazing excuse to improve Wikidata: questions for which Platypus does not give the answer are often an occasion to add relevant data to Wikidata, and different formulations of questions are sometimes the occasion to add aliases to properties in order to improve their discoverability. It also made us discover vandalism on various Wikidata items. As example, the result of the query “Barack Obama” was broken a day because of a change of the English label of its item on Wikidata. After the revert of the vandalism and a cache purge Wikidata was clean again and this question worked.
We are also looking forward to improvements to Wikidata like the addition of support for quantities with units in order to increase the number of answerable questions.


The student project is finished since a few weeks but the open source project continues. We are currently working to add the support of other languages like French, improving the global performances and investigating in order to add context to question to be able to answer to things like “What is his birthdate?” after “Who is the president of the United States?” or “Where is the closest Wikimedia user group?”. People are welcome to help us on these points, or more globally to improve Platypus.

by Jens Ohlig at February 23, 2015 01:31 PM

Niklas Laxström

IWCLUL 2/3: morphology, OCR, a corpus vs. Wiktionary

More on IWCLUL: now on the sessions. The first session of the day was by the invited speaker Kimmo Koskenniemi. He is applying his two-level formalism in a new area, old literary Finnish (example of old literary Finnish). By using two-level rules for old written Finnish together with OMorFi, he is able to automatically convert old text to standard Finnish dictionary forms, which can be used, in the main example, as an input text to an search engine. He uses weighted transducers to rank the most likely equivalent modern day words. For example the contemporary spelling of wijsautta is viisautta, which is an inflected form of the noun viisaus (wisdom). He only takes the dictionary forms, because otherwise there are too many unrelated suggestions. This avoids the usual problems of too many unrelated morphological analyses: I had the same problen in my master’s thesis when I attempted using OMorFi to improve Wikimedia’s search system, which was still using Lucene at that time.

Jeremy Bradley gave presentation about an online Mari corpus. Their goal was to make a modern English-language textbook for Mari, for people who do not have access to native speakers. I was happy to see they used a free/copyleft Creative Commons license. I asked him whether they considered Wiktionary. He told me he had discussed with a person from Wiktionary who was against an import. I will be reaching my contacts and see whether an another attempt will succeed. The automatic transliteration between Latin, Cyrillic and IPA was nice, as I have been entertaining the idea of doing transliteration from Swedish to Finnish for WikiTalk, to make it able to function in Swedish as well by only using Finnish speech components. One point sticks with me: they had to add information about verb complements themselves, as they were not recorded in their sources. I can sympathize with them based on my own language learning experiences.

Stig-Arne Grönroos’ presentation on Low-resource active learning of North Sámi morphological segmentation did not contain any surprises for me after having been exposed to this topic previously. All efforts to support languages where we have to cope with limited resources are welcome and needed. Intermediate results are better than working with nothing while waiting for a full morphological analyser, for example. It is not completely obvious to me how this tool can be used in other language technology applications, so I will be happy to see an example.

Miikka Silverberg presented about OCR, using OMorFi: can morphological analyzers improve the quality of optical character recognition? To summarize heavily, OCR performed worse when OMorFi was used, compared to just taking the top N most common words from Wikipedia. I understood this is not exactly the same problem of large number of readings generated by morphological analyser, rather something different but related.

by Niklas Laxström at February 23, 2015 12:25 PM

February 22, 2015

Guillaume Paumier

2014 in review, and the year ahead

Photo of a park with grass and tall trees with Autumn colors

In 2014, I posted a few photos, I continued to work on technical communications at Wikimedia before a role change, I learned more about myself, I moved to California, and I hiked a lot.

2014 in failures

Let's begin with what didn't work and get it out of the way. In January 2014, I started posting some of my photos on this site. I have accumulated dozens of thousands of photos over the past eight years, but published only a small fraction of them. By starting to publish a selection of them here, my goal was to create a momentum that would encourage me to process my backlog and publish my collections here and on Wikimedia Commons.

Screenshot of the Photo page of this site

The photos didn't last, but they might come back.

The momentum didn't really last, though, and I ended up stopping after posting only seven photo articles. In retrospect, I think the issue wasn't really the photos themselves, but rather the accompanying texts. I've acknowledged this failure, and recently decided to retire the “Photo” section of this website. The photos are still online, but I've removed the navigation shortcut to that section.

I may resume posting photos in the future, although it's not a priority at the moment. If I do, I might change the format of the posts and only feature the photos with a very short text, if any.

2014 in work

During most of 2014, I continued to work as Technical Communication Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia.

Part of this work involved reviewing technical posts for the Wikimedia blog; I notably edited and published a series of candid essays written by students who participated in the Google Code-in program. In their “discovery reports”, they outlined their first steps as members of the Wikimedia technical community, and provided a newcomer's perspective on tools and processes regularly used by experienced contributors.

I also continued to assemble monthly engineering reports, and to put together the weekly technical newsletter, which celebrated its first anniversary in May. I also worked with André on the Project management tools evaluation, which eventually led the Wikimedia technical community to migrate to Phabricator.

Photo of a large glass window onto which an A0-size poster has been hung. The poster shows text and diagrams about the Wikimedia Technical newsletter in Solarized colors.

In 2014, I continued to work on Technical Communications at the Wikimedia Foundation, before transitioning to a new position.

I attended the Zürich hackathon, as well as Wikimania, the annual Wikimedia conference, whose 2014 edition was in London. At Wikimania, I presented on Tech News and put together a poster so that attendees could learn about it even if they couldn't attend the presentation.

In September, my role at the Wikimedia Foundation changed, and I started working on other projects, most notably the File metadata cleanup drive. The drive is an initiative to decrease the number of files (on Wikimedia sites) whose information can't be read by programs.

Screenshot of the MrMetadata tool, showing progress bars for different wikis

In September, my role at the Wikimedia Foundation changed, and I started to work on other projects, like the File metadata cleanup drive.

2014 in self-discovery

2013 had been a turning point for me, in that I had discovered that I was likely on the high-functioning part of the autistic spectrum. In 2014, a few experts officially confirmed that hypothesis. When asked why this had not been detected earlier in my life, the prevailing hypothesis was that I had unwittingly compensated this social blindness by a higher intelligence, as suggested by tests performed in 2013. I like to think of it as having my my own emulated emotion chip.

Screenshot of a paragraph from a text document. The text (in French) translates to: CONCLUSION: The criteria (CIM 10 and DSM IV) for the diagnosis of an Autism spectrum disorder, and and in particular of Asperger Syndrome (CIM 10: Axis 1, F-84.5) are present.

I feel like I deserve a membership card or something.

Throughout 2014, I continued to research and read on this topic. Doing so, I've continued to better understand my blind spots, and explored what I now refer to as my “super-powers”, a fancy way of characterizing the unique way in which my brain works.

Notably, I started reading on a variety of specialized topics I was not familiar with but intrigued me. Doing so, I discovered that I was very fast at picking up and understand new concepts and disciplines. I had had a feeling that that was the case for a long time, but experimenting with this skill was particularly fun and rewarding (I've recently been reading about Civil engineering and Human spaceflight).

2014 in transatlantic move

The biggest change in 2014 was our emigration from France to the US. As part of a role change at the Wikimedia Foundation, I relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area (again). The relocation process was easier this second time around, in part because my partner was able to relocate with me this time, and also because we decided to get organized.

Photo of the forward section of a plane in a foggy airport

That cold morning of October, we left France and embarked on our journey to San Francisco.

Transitioning from a completely-remote environment to a tech open-space has required some adjustments, but overall we're very happy to have relocated.

2014 in physical activity

I do go outside sometimes, and as someone intrigued by the concept of Quantified Self, I try to keep metrics about my life whenever possible. Physical activity is one of the easiest things to track thanks to dedicated mobile apps.

ActivityDistance (km)Distance (mi)
Running178 km110 miles
Hiking (inc. snowshoeing)163 km101 miles
Downhill skiing105 km65 miles
Cycling49 km30 miles
Cross-country skiing21 km13 miles

I love to hike and I occasionally run. In 2014, I knew we were going to relocate to sunny California, so I decided to take advantage of the snowy Alps while we were still in France.

Photo of Guillaume Paumier snowshoeing on top of a mountain, with other skiers and blue skies in the background

Some days, taking the chairlift isn't nearly as fun as snowshoeing to the summit.

It had been years since I had skied downhill, but after a couple of days it all came back and I enjoyed it a lot. I also started snowshoeing, which was a really nice complementary activity. Where downhill skiing involves sprints and adrenalin, snowshoeing involves endurance and beautiful lesser-used forest trails.

The year ahead

2015 is already well underway, but it's not too late to mention what I'm planning to do this year.

Regarding my work at the Wikimedia Foundation, I'm continuing to lead the File metadata cleanup drive, and I'm hoping to continue to drive down the number of files missing machine-readable metadata. I also have a few smaller projects in the pipeline, notably the Template taxonomy.

Regarding personal work and recreation, I've started to learn Spanish again. My goal is to be able to handle basic communication by Summer, when I may visit Mexico City. Hopefully, by then, I'll be able to say more than “¡Hola!”, “Soy una tortuga” and “El elefante come la manzana”.

I've also decided to learn the piano; we'll see how far I can go in one year. Considering that I'm a total beginner, I can only make progress!

Close-up photo of the keys of a piano

This year, I'm starting (from scratch) to learn to play the piano.

Last, I intend to continue to populate this site with historical and new content. My current priority at the moment is finishing to write about past projects before embarking on new ones, but I do think there will be room to post new content before next year's “year in review” post.

by Guillaume Paumier at February 22, 2015 11:24 PM

File metadata cleanup drive

Screenshot of the MrMetadata tool, showing progress bars for different wikis

As an effort started in September 2014 by the Wikimedia Foundation to fix file description pages and tweak templates to ensure that multimedia files consistently contain machine-readable metadata across Wikimedia wikis.

A short while after Wikipedia was created in 2001, contributors started to upload pictures to the site to illustrate articles. Over the years, Wikimedians have accumulated over 22 million files on Wikimedia Commons, the central media repository that all Wikimedia sites can pull from. In addition, nearly 2.5 million other files are spread out across hundreds of individual wikis.

MediaWiki, the software platform used for Wikimedia sites, wasn't originally designed for multimedia content. We've made good progress with better upload tools, for example, but the underlying system still very much focuses on text.

On MediaWiki, each file has a file description page that contains all the information ("metadata") related to the picture: what it depicts, who the author is, what rights and limitations are associated with it, etc. Many wikis have developed templates (reusable bits of wikicode) to organize such file metadata, but a lot of information is still unstructured in plain wikitext.

In October 2014, the Wikimedia Foundation launched an initiative to develop a new underlying system for file metadata using the same technology powering Wikidata. This project is still in the early stages, and even when it becomes available, it will take a long time to migrate the existing metadata to structured data.

The goal of the File metadata cleanup drive is to make the migration process for those 24+ million files less tedious, by making sure that robots can process most of the files automatically.

Machine-readable data also makes it easier to reuse Wikimedia content consistently with best practices for attribution. Examples of tools that use existing machine-readable data include the stockphoto gadget on Commons, WikiWand and Media Viewer. The PDF generator and offline readers like Kiwix are other tools that will benefit from this effort.

Evolution of the file description page

The upcoming Structured data project aims to build a system where you edit the metadata using a form, you view it in a nice format, and robots can understand the content and links between items.

With Structured data, robots will know exactly what field refers to what kind of information. This will make it easier for humans to search and edit metadata.

Many files on Wikimedia Commons aren't actually very far from that model. Many files have an "Information template", a way to organize the different parts of the metadata on the page. Information templates were originally created to display metadata in a consistent manner across files, but they also make it possible to make the information easier to read for robots.

This is achieved by adding machine-readable markers to the HTML code of the templates. Those markers say things like "this bit of text is the description", and "this bit of text is the author", etc. and robots can pick these up to understand what humans have written.

This situation is ideal for the migration, because it tells robots exactly how to handle the bits of metadata and which field they belong to.

    Current information and license templates can be read by machines if they contain special markers. Robots will be able to migrate many files to structured data automatically if they use those templates.

Current information and license templates can be read by machines if they contain special markers. Robots will be able to migrate many files to structured data automatically if they use those templates.

If the machine-readable markers aren't present, the robots need to guess which field corresponds to which type of content. This makes it more difficult to read the metadata, and their parsing of the text is less accurate. The good news is that by just adding a few markers to the templates, all the files that use the template will automatically become readable for robots.


If a file contains information and license templates, but they don't have the special markers, it's difficult for robots to migrate it. Fortunately, it's easy to add the special markers.

Things become fuzzier for robots when the information isn't organized with templates. In this case, robots just see a blob of text and have no idea what the metadata is saying. This means that the migration has to be made entirely by human hands.

    If the file's metadata only contains wikitext, we need to organize the content by adding an information and a license template manually. Those templates need to contain the special markers.

If the file's metadata only contains wikitext, we need to organize the content by adding an information and a license template manually. Those templates need to contain the special markers.

Fixing files and templates

Many files across wikis are in one of the latter states that aren't readable by robots, and about 700,000 files on Commons are missing an information template as well. In order to fix them so they can be easily migrated in the future requires, we need an inventory of files missing machine-readable metadata.

That's where MrMetadata comes into play. MrMetadata (a wordplay on Machine-Readable Metadata) is a dashboard tracking, for each wiki, the proportion of files that are readable by robots. It also provides an exhaustive list of the "bad" files, so we know which ones to fix.

Screenshot of the MrMetadata dashboard for the English-language Wikivoyage

Each wiki storing images has a dedicated dashboard showing the proportion of files with machine-readable metadata, and providing a list of the files to fix.

Once the files have been identified, a multilingual how-to explains how to fix the files and the templates. Fixing template is easy: you just add a few machine-readable markers, and you're done. For example, the English Wikivoyage went from 9% to 70% in just a few weeks. Fixing individual files requires more manual work, but there are tools that make this less tedious.

Get involved

If you'd like to help with this effort, you can look for your wiki on MrMetadata, bookmark the link, and start going through the list. By looking at the files, you'll be able to determine if if has a template (where you can add markers) or if you need to add the template as well.

Screenshot of the Chinese-language version of the 'How to fix metadata' page on Meta-Wiki

The multilingual how-to provides a step-by-step guide to fixing files and templates. It's currently available in more than a dozen languages.

If you add markers to the templates, wait a couple of days for MrMetadata to update, so you can see the remaining files missing machine-readable information. The multilingual how-to provides a step-by-step guide to fixing files and templates.

Bar chart showing the increase in proportion of files with machine-readable metadata on the English-language Wikivoyage

Adding special markers to the templates can improve metadata readability very quickly. The English Wikivoyage went from 9% to 70% of "good" files in just a few weeks.


An assessment of impact conducted in January 2015 showed that, in three months, the cleanup drive had contributed to eliminating a third of the files missing machine-readable metadata across all wikis. Most of this progress was driven by editing file templates on the wikis with the most files. Over this period we gained 3 percentage points in the total proportion of files with machine-readable metadata.

Chart showing the impact of the File metadata cleanup drive. The source data comes from MrMetadata, and more specifically the historical tallies for Commons and historical tallies for all wikis combined between 2014-10-10 and 2015-01-22.  The stacked bar chart (blue & yellow) uses the left-side axis. The deltas (Δ) represent the absolute difference in files for Commons (Δ in the blue bars) and for all other wikis (Δ in the yellow bars) between the start and end dates of the chart. The standalone Δtotal is the total difference for all wikis combined. The top (green) line chart uses the right-side axis.

In three months, over a third of the files missing machine-readable metadata were fixed.

The challenge at this point was that most of the low-hanging fruits (templates that were on lots of pictures) have been exhausted, and most of the remaining files don't have templates. This means that we need to add the templates ourselves to structure information that is currently in raw wikitext, which will take more time. This will be done by running focused campaigns using bots on large sets of files whenever possible.

by Guillaume Paumier at February 22, 2015 11:02 PM

February 21, 2015

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - the Stern–Gerlach Medal

The Stern–Gerlach Medal is one of many awards Wikidata knows about. Information is often available in a list within the articles. In some languages there are links to all those who received the award.

Having all the awards and all the people who received them in Wikidata is a massive undertaking. It can be argued that everyone who received an award has some notability..

Some people think that awards are not that important to categorise. Their way of thinking means that awards specifically relevant within a culture, a language become underrepresented. This is however an effect that diminishes in time.

It would be good when the lists were available to Wikipedias to use. When such lists become a service from Wikidata, it is easy to provide minimal information for the people that do not have an article yet. For best results it helps when all the associated labels are available.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 21, 2015 11:35 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

Survey: What do Pakistani readers think of Wikipedia?

Karachi Walkers (cropped).jpg

Some Wikipedia readers in Pakistan have become active contributors, as featured in this group portrait from the 2013 Karachi Photo Walk. Karachi Walkers by Azlan Khan, CC BY-SA 4.0

Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in Pakistan, with millions of Pakistani Internet users accessing the site every month. But despite the site’s popularity, topics related to Pakistan seem to be seriously under­-represented in the encyclopedia and few Pakistanis are contributing to their encyclopedia. To better understand Pakistani readers and their relationship with Wikipedia — and to learn why they do not contribute back to it, I conducted an online survey of Wikipedia readers for the very first time in Pakistan, in consultation with the Wikimedia Foundation’s Learning and Evaluation team.

The purpose of this online survey was to gather demographic data about our Wikipedia readers, to get their opinions about the site, to learn about their editing behavior and to understand their device ecology. The exploratory survey was conducted for Urdu and English Wikipedia and was enabled for anyone reading a Wikipedia page on a desktop computer in Pakistan. It was available for about 48 hours between November 9 and November 11 in 2014. From the 7,000 individuals who opened the survey, 5,376 respondents completed at least 70% of the survey. The numbers we present below are only a summary of the responses for each question, and each question should be read as a standalone question.

Survey results suggest that 56% (3,460 out of 6,192) Wikipedia readers from Pakistan visit the site at least once a day. (It’s worth noting that Pakistan only represents about 0.3% of worldwide traffic to Wikipedia — or an average of 28 million page views from Pakistan — compared to about 18 billion page views per month worldwide, from nearly 500 million monthly unique visitors.) And yet, about two thirds of respondents realize that Wikipedia is a non-profit project (only 32% responded “No” when asked if they knew Wikipedia is non-profit).

About 87% of survey respondents from Pakistan identified themselves as male, while only 11% identified as female (6,698 responded to the question). This seems to correspond to a recent global south analysis, which identified a large gender gap in Wikipedia, whose readers and editors tend to be predominantly male.

In Pakistan, Wikipedia seems to attract younger readers than in western countries, based on 6,723 age-related responses:
• 37% (2,490) reported being between 21 and 25 years old;
• 21% (1,427) between 16 and 20 years old;
• 17% (1,149) between 26 and 30 years old.

About 6,650 respondents answered the question about employment:
• 47% (3,131) reported that they are students;
• 27% (1,799) are employed for wages;
• 12% (785) are self-employed;
• 7% (446) are either out of work or looking for work.

About 6,636 people responded about their level of education:
• 33% (2,202) reported having a Bachelors degree;
• 20% (1,347) said they have a masters degree;
• 14% (939) said they completed a secondary education.
(For this question, respondents could only select one option.)

When asked about their main reasons for using or reading Wikipedia, about 6,182 who answered that question:
• 69% (4,257) selected “for information and knowledge”;
• 67% (4,178) selected “for study and research”;
• 52% (3,226) selected “for personal curiosity and interest”;
• 22% (1,348) selected “for fun or hobby”;
• 22% (1,340) selected “for work.”

According to the survey, 97% of respondents (5,976 out of 6,156) find Wikipedia mostly useful or somewhat useful. Out of 6,099 respondents, 77% (4,694) rated the overall quality of Pakistani topics on English Wikipedia as good or very good. (In my own observations, coverage of Pakistani topics seems to be low-quality — and this might be related to low number of editors from Pakistan.) Only 4% (254) rated the quality of Pakistani topics on English Wikipedia as poor or very poor, while the remaining 19% (1,151) rated it as of fair quality.

Wikipedia readership survey Pakistan 1.png

Responses on how they feel about using Wikipedia as a resource included:
• 63% (3,894) selected ‘Wikipedia is a popular source of information';
• 43% (2,650) picked ‘Wikipedia has good quality content';
• 41% (2,541) responded that they ‘always find what they are looking for';
• 40% (2,463) thought that ‘Wikipedia is user friendly';
• 37% (2,295) said that they ‘trust Wikipedia';
• 30% (1,828) chose ‘Wikipedia articles are most up-to-date’.
(Respondents were able to select more than one option.)

Wikipedia is multilingual and available in 285+ languages, including in Pakistani languages such as Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi and Pashto. But a large majority of Wikipedia readers from Pakistan read and edit the English edition of Wikipedia. When asked whether they are aware of the existence of Wikipedia in Pakistani languages, about 6,071 respondents responded: 38% (2,320) said they unaware of these language editions, while 47% (2,835) said they’re aware of them but they only use English edition. About 849 responded to a question about whether they use non-English Pakistani language editions: 92% (784) said they use Urdu Wikipedia and 17% (144) use Punjabi Wikipedia. When asked how often they use non-English Wikipedia editions, 38% (320 out of 845) said they use Wikipedia in a non-English Pakistani language less than once per month. But at the same time, 49% of respondents (2907 out of 5,904) said it is “important” or “very important” to have Wikipedia articles available in Pakistani languages.

When asked what other media they used, about 6,137 responded:
• 22% (2,017) said they read at least once per day;
• 26% (1,598) said they read Pakistani newspapers online less than once a month.

Of the more than 2.9 million monthly total edits to the English language edition of Wikipedia from across the globe, only about 7,000 – or roughly 0.5% – are from Pakistan. The survey found that about 18% of respondents didn’t know that anyone can make an edit (1,073 of 5,895), whereas 61% (3,580) said they’re aware of it, but they never edit. Only 6% (364) said that they edited Wikipedia recently, and 15% (877) said they have previously edited Wikipedia, but not recently.

Wikipedia readership survey Pakistan 2.png

About 4,084 respondents who answered to the multiple choice question about why they don’t contribute to Wikipedia:
• 38% (1,566 of 4,084) feel happy simply reading the articles;
• 38% (1,545 of 4,084) don’t have enough information to contribute to Wikipedia;
• 32% (1,313) are afraid they will make a mistake while editing;
• 29% (1,190) don’t have time;
• 23% (945) spend more time on online social networks such Facebook or Twitter;
• 21% (850) see no need to edit to Wikipedia because others are already doing it;
• 18% (740) don’t want to edit other people’s work;
• 17% (705) don’t know how to edit.
(Respondents were able to select more than one option. )

Wikipedia readership survey Pakistan 3.png

About 1,184 respondents answered a question about their reasons for currently editing or editing in the past:
• 63% (735) said that they like the idea of sharing knowledge;
• 55% (654) said that they saw an error and wanted to fix it;
• 37% (432) said they believe that information should be freely available to everyone in the world;
• 21% (249) said they like the Wikipedia’s philosophy of openness and collaboration.

From the 4,737 who said they have mobile phones, 55% (2,593) said they never or rarely found data charges to be an obstacle for them to access the site, while the other 45% (2,144) found data charges to be an obstacle at least some of the time. When asked if they would change their use of Wikipedia if access to Wikipedia were free, 68% (3,260 out of 4,792) reported this would increase or greatly increase their use of Wikipedia.

While these numbers are very preliminary, they offer some useful information about who is reading and using Wikipedia in Pakistan and how they are gaining access to Wikipedia. We hope you find these findings helpful.

Saqib Qayyum, Wikimedia Pakistan

Graphs by Saqib Qayyum, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Andrew Sherman at February 21, 2015 12:20 AM

February 19, 2015

Gerard Meijssen

Where people died; a perspective on diversity

A wonderful new view is available thanks to Vizidata. It shows where people were born and were people died. The data is from a Wikidata dump so it is sadly static. Given that it is from Wikidata, you can safely assume that the data also exists in a Wikipedia ...

Italy is well pronounced in this view. It is because a lot of effort went into extracting data from the Italian Wikipedia. It follows that all the people the Italians care for are included as well. The fun thing of a view like this is that it is a historic view of what Wikidata covers and does not cover..

Apparently hardly anyone died in Africa in all the centuries.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 19, 2015 08:07 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation supports Twitter’s fight for transparency

The Wikimedia Foundation joined Twitter and others to file this amicus brief against the Department of Justice regarding national security requests. Public domain.

The Wikimedia Foundation and others filed this amicus brief in support of Twitter’s case against the Department of Justice regarding national security requests. Public domain.

On Tuesday, the Wikimedia Foundation, along with Automattic, Medium, CloudFlare, Sonic, and Wickr, filed, and the court has accepted, an amicus (or “friend of the court”) brief in support of Twitter’s pending lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding national security requests. We invite you to read the full brief.

In October 2014, Twitter filed suit in federal court against the DOJ to establish its right to publish more detailed information about the national security requests the company receives from the government. The DOJ had denied them permission to report the number of national security requests within any useful ranges. The government is insisting on a reporting practice that, in our opinion, is misleading and non-transparent, especially for smaller organizations.

Current permissible reporting standards require organizations to report the number of national security requests in ranges or “bands”. For example, companies can report the number of national security letters (NSLs) received in bands of 1000, such as 0-999, meaning that an organization that received zero NSLs must report in the same band as one that received 999 NSLs. Twitter seeks confirmation that it can report that it received zero national security requests, when applicable.

The Wikimedia Foundation joined this amicus brief because we believe transparency is vital to the Wikimedia movement and that true transparency cannot be achieved without accuracy and completeness. We support any effort that permits more transparency on these kinds of demands, given the significant policy issues of these practices. As the brief underscores:

“This case is about an Internet company’s desire to be open and honest about its role—or lack thereof—in national security investigations in the post-Edward Snowden era. . . . Amici believe that to truly have a government for the people, by the people, we must have an informed citizenry.”

We, along with the co-signers of this brief, hope that the court will hear the case on its merits and provide much-needed clarity on these sensitive topics — and enable all organizations to inform their users on the practices of the government within reasonable ranges of accuracy.

Michelle Paulson, Senior Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation
Geoff Brigham, General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation

by Andrew Sherman at February 19, 2015 08:03 PM

Working to bring diversity on Wikimedia projects? Share what you learned

Share the love, share the flyer! Help us spread the word on this campaign.

Help close the gaps: share what you learned about bringing diversity to Wikimedia projects.
Image by María Cruz, free license under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

For many years, the Wikimedia movement has acknowledged that language, culture and gender diversity are vital for its goal to share the sum of all human knowledge. But we are still facing some challenges in supporting diversity across Wikimedia projects. For example, the Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic Wikipedias have very small percentages of editors, when compared to the total population of people who know those languages; only about a quarter of the world’s sovereign states participated in Wiki Loves Monuments 2014 on Wikimedia Commons; and only a minority of Wikipedia contributors are women. To address these gaps, several initiatives have been set to foster a better understanding of this problem, and also to increasing diversity in participation and content coverage, some of them being Writing Diversity back in Wikipedia toolkit and Charting diversity, to name only two. The Learning and Evaluation team now wants to capture the learnings that stem from these initiatives.

Diversity Campaign

How much do we know about diversity-oriented programs and projects? If you visit the Learning Pattern Library, you’ll see that little information is available about diversity practices and outcomes for Wikimedia programs or projects.

For example, few of these questions are answered in that library:

  • Have you preserved your cultural history through Wikimedia photo contests and editing events?
  • Have you worked to enrich a particular language or cultural group on Wikimedia?
  • Have you studied diversity issues in online communities?
  • What have you learned about encouraging diversity on Wikimedia?


Starting in March 2015, the WMF Grantmaking team will engage our communities in a new initiative: the 2015 Inspire Grants Campaign. This three-month event will sharpen the focus of Individual Engagement Grants and Project and Event Grants to support potential projects that can help close the gender gap. You can support this campaign in a variety of ways — even if you don’t need to apply for a grant. Share your questions and answers about diversity on Wikimedia projects, and help expand our knowledge of this topic.

Get involved

Win a barnstar for ideas shared on the campaign page!

… and another one for sharing Learning Patterns!

Share your experience and ideas by creating new learning patterns, to support diversity through Wikimedia projects and activities!

Is there anything you would like to know about gender diversity that has not yet been posted? Would you like to share something you learned from your own experience? Post your questions and answers in ‘Inspire Learning Patterns.’ There are multiple ways to participate:

  1. Describe a problem: share your challenges and the changes you would like to see.
  2. Offer a solution: there may be different ways to solve the same problem. Do you see a challenge you can relate to? What is your proposed solution?
  3. Describe a problem and offer a solution: show others how you tried to solve a specific challenge.
  4. Endorse other people’s contributions: if you think a problem and a solution are relevant, even if they are not linked, endorse them by signing below the edits.
  5. Create a Learning Pattern based on a Problem and Solution set: take a problem and solution set and create a learning pattern based on it.


You can contribute in any of these ways directly on the Diversity Learning Patterns campaign page!

If you have new information to share, feel free to start a Learning Pattern! You can do that on the Learning Pattern Library. Remember to add [[Category:Diversity learning patterns]] and help us to spread our knowledge. These will appear automatically on Diversity Learning Patterns campaign page.

Learning Patterns: now easier to link on grant proposals!
If you would like to submit a proposal for Inspire Grants, use new templates to link relevant Learning Patterns in your proposals and reports!


Together with the Inspire Grants campaign, this joint effort can help develop new ideas for bridging our diversity gaps. We can all contribute something to make Wikimedia projects more diverse — whether it’s questions, answers, or ideas for projects, events and programs.

How would you like to contribute to this campaign?

María Cruz, WMF Evaluation Community Coordinator
Brett Gibbs, WMF Learning and Evaluation Intern
All photos in this article by María Cruz, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

by Andrew Sherman at February 19, 2015 05:59 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Report finds the Wikimedia Foundation to be the largest known Participatory Grantmaking Fund


Participatory grantmaking works because of committees such as this one. These community members review proposals for funding and help decide what to fund. Photo by Adam Novak, CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Because of Wikipedia’s unique structure, the grantmaking conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) must be infused with the same spirit of collaboration, transparency, and participation that underpins the entire Wikimedia project. A new report published by The Lafayette Practice, and commissioned by WMF, provides the first in-depth insight into the Foundation’s grantmaking practices and reveals some interesting findings about our particular model.

As authors of “Who Decides?: How Participatory Grantmaking Benefits Donors, Communities and Movements,” The Lafayette Practice (TLP)  found that Participatory Grantmaking (1) is a powerful movement-building strategy that leads to efficient transfer of money, knowledge and the promotion of self-determination. The idea behind this practice is to include representatives from the population that the funding will serve in the grantmaking process and in decisions about how funds are allocated.

The report found that the Wikimedia Foundation is the largest known Participatory Grantmaking Fund, through grants that support our communities and the movement more broadly. WMF’s total grants exceed all of the other funds documented in The Lafayette Practice’s original “Who Decides” report. In that study, the highest documented grantmaker budget was $2.37 million in 2012. WMF’s grantmaking budget for 2014-15 is over $7 million.

Slides for “Funding Free Knowledge the Wiki Way: Wikimedia Foundation’s Participatory Grantmaking.” Report by Matthew Hart and Ezra Berkley Nepon, The Lafayette Practice, licensed freely under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Central to the findings of this study is that our grantmaking processes and practices reflect the core ethos, mission, and model of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects. In the same way that Wikipedia articles are born and grown on a public platform through the collaboration of a global community, so too are our grant proposals workshopped and reviewed on public wikis, as well as improved by volunteer editors.

Our four grantmaking programs have differing degrees of participation, where decisions are made in cooperation with volunteer committee members, Board members, WMF staff — and with input from the larger community.  The committees behind these grantmaking programs — the Grant Advisory Committee, the Funds Dissemination Committee, and the Individual Engagement Grants Committee — are an incredible and diverse group of community members who engage in the tough work of reviewing proposals for funding and helping to make decisions about what to fund with limited resources available. It’s certainly no easy task.

The report also found that the Foundation’s grantmaking program has the largest peer-review participation of any funder of this kind, with many diverse community members from around the world involved in the decision-making committees. And in the same way that anyone can become a Wikipedia editor, anyone who edits Wikipedia can submit a proposal to the Wikimedia Foundation.

We agree with the Lafayette Practice’s assessment that our grantmaking is “innovative and groundbreaking” and we believe passionately in the participatory nature of our work.

Ultimately, the Wikimedia movement’s deeply ingrained values of collaboration, transparency and expanding access to information are reflected not only on the projects, but are also central to the way funds are allocated — and the way we support our community in sharing free knowledge with the world.

By Katy Love, Senior Program Officer, Wikimedia Foundation

This blog has been updated with a new title, replacing “Research” with “Report.” This update reflects that this report was commissioned by the Wikimedia Foundation, as is clear from the first paragraph. We have also added a footnote about the Wikipedia article on Participatory Grantmaking.

(1) The Wikipedia article on Participatory Grantmaking was written primarily by Wikimedia Foundation staff in their capacity as Wikimedia volunteer editors. This was done on their own time, using their personal editor accounts, with the intent to share information with the larger philanthropic sector about a practice that is very much aligned with wikiculture. The article, which meets Wikipedia policies and guidelines, was developed based largely (but not exclusively) on the original report by the Lafayette Practice about participatory grantmaking, which was not funded by WMF. The study cited in the article did not include the Wikimedia Foundation. The subsequent report about the WMF’s participatory grantmaking approach was commissioned by Foundation in the months following the original report and is not referenced in any version of the Wikipedia article.

by fflorin2015 at February 19, 2015 04:04 PM

Wikimedia UK

Found: more maps than we’d reckoned

Photo shows people with computers and maps at the event

One corner of the room – detail of photo by Machi Takahashi of ATR Creative who joined the event from Tokyo and was one of the speakers. CC BY-SA 2.0

This post was written by Kimberly Kowal of the British Library and was originally published here. Reused with kind permission. 

Without looking, you can’t know what’s there. That was our experience locating maps amongst the one-million British Library images released to the public domain. We had not guessed that 50,000 images of maps were lurking there. So how were they singled out?

Answer: with the help of our friends (the crowd!) using several methods.

A dedicated team of volunteers looked at individual images and applied the tag “map” on flickr. The work was organised using a synoptic index in Wikimedia Commons, providing a systematic method of looking at each volume and tracking shared progress. Over 29,000 map images were identified in this way.

Day-long event
The British Library hosted a one-day event, in concert with Wikimedia UK, to which volunteers were invited to kick-start the effort. In between working, the 30 participants enjoyed tours and talks from speakers representing online mapping efforts, including OpenStreet Map and Stroly. The day’s activities were captured in Gregory Marler’s engaging description, Lost in Piles of Maps, and a series of photographs from ATR Creative.

Ongoing crowd activity
The bulk of the work took place online over the next two months. With the wiki tools built by J.heald to guide and coordinate contributions, 51 volunteers approached the work, book by book, often focussing on geographic areas of interest. Together, they made short work of what was a huge task; 28% of the books were completed after the first 72 hours; 60% were reviewed in the first 20 days; after five weeks over 20k new maps were found in 93% of the source volumes.

Automated methods
But surely maps can be identified automatically? It’s true that well before the organised effort just described, one user produced algorithm-guided tags for this image set, which resulted in the addition of well over 15k map tags.

By the end of December 2014, every image in every book had been reviewed, and between the manual and automatic tagging, over 50k maps had been found. Since then, we have been working to clean up the data, including reviewing rogue tags, rotating images, splitting maps, and removing duplicates, to derive a final set of data. Next step: georeferencing.

The tagging project was presented 12 February 2015 at the EuropeanaTech 2015 conference as a short talk and poster, Case Study: Mapping the Maps.

This achievement represents the work of many. Special thanks go to Maurice Nicholson, BL Georeferencer participant; James Heald, Wikimedia volunteer; and Ben O’Steen of BL Labs.

by Stevie Benton at February 19, 2015 12:18 PM

Niklas Laxström

Prioritizing MediaWiki’s translation strings

After a very long wait, MediaWiki’s top 500 most important messages are back at translatewiki.net with fresh data. This list helps translators prioritize their work to get most out of their effort.

What are the most important messages

In this blog post the term message means a translatable string in a software; technically, when a message is shown to users, they see different strings depending on the interface language.

MediaWiki software includes almost 5.000 messages (~40.000 words), or almost 24.000 messages (~177.000 words) if we include extensions. Since 2007, we make a list of about 500 messages which are used most frequently.

Why? If translators can translate few hundreds words per hour, and translating messages is probably slower than translating running text, it will take weeks to translate everything. Most of our volunteer translators do not have that much time.

Assuming that the messages follow a long tail pattern, a small number of messages are shown* to users very often, like the Edit button at the top of page in MediaWiki. On the other hand, most messages are only shown on rare error conditions or are part of disabled or restricted features. Thus it makes sense to translate the most visible messages first.

Concretely, translators and i18n fans can monitor the progress of MediaWiki localisation easily, by finding meaningful numbers in our statistics page; and we have an clear minimum service level for new locales added to MediaWiki. In particular, the Wikimedia Language committee requires that at very least all the most important messages are translated in a language before that language is given a Wikimedia project subdomain. This gives an incentive to kickstart the localisation in new languages, ensures that users see Wikimedia projects mostly in their own language and avoids linguistic colonialism.

Screenshot of fi.wiktionary.org

The screenshot shows an example page with messages replaced by their key instead of their string content. Click for full size.

Some history and statistics

The usage of the list for monitoring was fantastically impactful in 2007 and 2009 when translatewiki.net was still ramping up, because it gave translators concrete goals and it allowed to streamline the language proposal mechanism which had been trapped into a dilemma between a growing number of requests for language subdomains and a growing number of seemingly-dead open subdomains. There is some more background on translatewiki.net.

Languages with over 99 % most used messages translated were:

There is much more to do, but we now have a functional tool to motivate translators! To reach the peak of 2011, the least translated language among the first 181 will have to translate 233 messages, which is a feasible task. The 300th language is 30 % translated and needs 404 more translations. If we reached such a number, we could confidently say that we really have Wikimedia projects in 280+ languages, however small.

* Not necessarily seen: I’m sure you don’t read the whole sidebar and footer every time you load a page in Wikipedia.


At Wikimedia, first, for about 30 minutes we logged all requests to fetch certain messages by their key. We used this as a proxy variable to measure how often a particular message is shown to the user, which again is a proxy of how often a particular message is seen by the user. This is in no way an exact measurement, but I believe it good enough for the purpose. After the 30 minutes, we counted how many times each key was requested and we sorted by frequency. The result was a list containing about 17.000 different keys observed in over 15 million calls. This concluded the first phase.

In the second phase, we applied a rigorous human cleanup to the list with the help of a script, as follows:

  1. We removed all keys not belonging to MediaWiki or any extension. There are lots of keys which can be customized locally, but which don’t correspond to messages to translate.
  2. We removed all messages which were tagged as “ignored” in our system. These messages are not available for translation, usually because they have no linguistic content or are used only for local site-specific customization.
  3. We removed messages called less than 100 times in the time span and other messages with no meaningful linguistic content, like messages where there are only dashes or other punctuation which usually don’t need any changes in translation.
  4. We removed any messages we judged to be technical or not shown often to humans, even though they appeared high in this list. This includes some messages which are only seen inside comments in the generated HTML and some messages related to APIs or EXIF features.

Finally, some coding work was needed by yours truly to let users select those messages for translation at translatewiki.net.


In this process some points emerged that are worth highlighting.

  • 310 messages (62 %) of the previous list (from 2011) are in the new list as well. Superseded user login messages have now been removed.
  • Unsurprisingly, there are new entries from new highly visible extensions like MobileFrontend, Translate, Collection and Echo. However, except a dozen languages, translators didn’t manage to keep up with such messages in absence of a list.
  • I just realized that we are probably missing some high visibility messages only used in the JavaScript side. That is something we should address in the future.
  • We slightly expanded the list from 500 to 600 messages, after noticing there were few or no “important” messages beyond this point. This will also allow some breathing space to remove messages which get removed.
  • We did not follow a manual passage as in the original list, which included «messages that are not that often used, but important for a proper look and feel for all users: create account, sign on, page history, delete page, move page, protect page, watchlist». A message like “watchlist” got removed, which may raise suspicions: but it’s “just” the HTML title of Special:Watchlist, more or less as important as the the name “Special:Watchlist” itself, which is not included in the list either (magic words, namespaces or special pages names are not included). All in all, the list seems plausible.


Finally, the aim was to make this process reproducible so that we could do it yearly, or even more often. I hope this blog post serves as a documentation to achieve that.

I want to thank Ori Livneh for getting the key counts and Nemo for curating the list.

by Niklas Laxström at February 19, 2015 10:07 AM

Andre Klapper

Wikimedia’s migration to Phabricator: FOSDEM talk.

Earlier this month, Quim Gil and I gave a talk at FOSDEM:

Wikimedia adopts Phabricator, deprecates seven infrastructure tools:
First hand experiences from a big free software project on a complex migration

The talk description and the presentation slides are available. At some point there will likely also be a video (probably under 2015 and H1308).

The talk tried to cover three aspects: The decision driving process in a large distributed project, the technical and planning aspects of such a complex migration that nobody has tried before, and describing some of the functionality of the new tool (Phabricator) itself.

by aklapper at February 19, 2015 04:47 AM

February 18, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

The Gender Gap: A Student’s Take

“I am a Wikipedia editor,” writes Alicia Pileggi, a student in Dr. Adeline Koh’s Feminist Theory course at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. For that course, Alicia edited the article “Feminist Digital Humanities.”

Alicia Pileggi

“Wikipedia is an amazing forum for anyone to participate in Feminist Digital Humanities,” she told us. She said she saw Wikipedia as a way to strengthen women’s voices by documenting the lives of women, and contributing quality content about feminism. That meant drawing a direct line between studying Wikipedia and contributing to it. “It’s one thing to study theory, but it’s a powerful thing to get an opportunity to put theory to practice.”

Alicia is a HASTAC scholar and an intern with the Digital Humanities Department at Richard Stockton College. She’s also a blogger, and will be working on social media for Stockton’s board of trustees this spring. But this was her first foray into Wikipedia.

“I honestly never gave much thought to how edits were made or how the information on Wikipedia got there,” she said. “In my first few edits I had other editors contact me within a day about correct formatting of citations … This was both intimidating and exciting, to realize I was a part of a network of editors who were paying attention to what I was doing. It pushed me to strive for better edits, knowing that there was a community both noticing the good work I did, but also anything that didn’t meet their standards.”

Once she’d learned the ropes, however, Wikipedia presented an opportunity that aligned with Alicia’s interests in raising social awareness.

“As with many web-based academic forums and archives, Wikipedia has been accused of having a sexist bias running throughout its articles. This may be due to the lack of women editors,” she said. Pointing out Wikipedia’s gender gap, she mentioned a study from the Wikimedia Foundation that found “women only contribute to editing 13% of the articles on Wikipedia,” and quoting Sue Gardner, mentioned that the typical editor is a young man. “Without diverse representation in the editing community, there is a tendency for this gap to be reflected in an under-representation of a large group of people and concerns in the articles. This is exactly what Feminist Digital Humanities addresses and looks to repair. So by just taking the time to edit Wikipedia, you can be a part of Feminist Digital Humanities efforts.”

She worked to maintain a neutral tone throughout her article, “much like the process for any research paper. You must write in a non-biased, non-personal tone, with all information backed up with secondary sources,” she said. She edited sentences at a time, to make sure other editors could easily track what she was doing and offer guidance along the way. “It’s definitely different to know that your work is in collaboration with a whole network of contributors.”

Alicia is proud of the contributions she made to Wikipedia, expanding Feminist Digital Humanities out of its stub status. “Where a paper will most likely only be read by a single professor, these edits are documented on the web for all to see. While the stakes are high, so are the rewards. There is much gratification in leaving your personal mark on something that will help others to learn.”

These are the reasons Dr. Koh said were behind her contributions to Wikipedia. “Students were scared by the assignment but also felt it was completely rewarding,” Dr. Koh told us, “much more than a final research paper, because they could see the tangible results of them actually contributing to knowledge.”

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 18, 2015 04:00 PM

Joseph Reagle

Privilege, Slights, and Hanlon's Razor

I think one of the reasons for my discomfort with many of the arguments I see online (especially in the Twitter context, like the #stopwadhwa2015 campaign I recently discussed) comes down to my disposition, as manifested in my career. I'm slow to anger and accusation, I'm influenced by Buddhist notions of compassion and inter-being, professionally I've spent my time facilitating consensus and teaching (including conflict management). There's been much discussion about online shaming recently, for which I also have a reticence. (The only shaming I enjoy without much guilt is dog shaming.) My sentiments are captured and were shaped by a suitably geeky maxim known as Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." I think this to myself at least once a day, especially when I feel slighted.

Even so, I absolutely support identifying problematic behavior and holding those who engage in it accountable. And I recently came to realize that my use of this Hanlon's Razor is privileged. I was speaking with a colleague, a women of color, who was rightfully complaining of microaggresions (a notion I'm sympathetic to, although I find the term imprecise). I responded that perhaps it is "better to assume stupidity than malice" but immediately realized -- and acknowledged -- that this is an easy maxim to hold from a privileged position. I thought of this yesterday too, while listening to This American Life's segment on "cops see it differently". In Miami Gardens, the police's effort to crack down on crime took the form of a competitive race to "bring in the numbers." This runaway system, for which no one has been found accountable, generated enough "stop-and-question" contacts to include half the city's population, including thousands of children and a 99-year-old "suspicious" man. The worst case was that of Earl Sampson, who became an easy target for the police whenever they needed a boost: he was arrested 111 times, 71 of which was for trespassing at his workplace! In this case and others, small systemic stupidities can be an injustice greater than personal malice.

by Joseph Reagle at February 18, 2015 05:00 AM

Mike Linksvayer

Annual thematic doubt 2

My second annual thematic doubt post, expressing doubts I have about themes I blogged about during 2014.

commons ⇄ freedom, equality ⇄ good future

Same as last year, my main topic has been “protecting and promoting intellectual freedom, in particular through the mechanisms of free/open/knowledge commons movements, and in reframing information and innovation policy with freedom and equality outcomes as top.”

Rather than repeating the three doubts I expressed last year under the heading “intellectual freedom” (my evaluation of these has not much changed), I will take the subject from a different angle: the “theory of change” I have been espousing. This theory is not new to me. Essentially it is what attracted me to following the free software movement circa 1990 — its potential of extensive, pro-freedom socio-economic reform from the bottom up. That and wanting to run a unix-like on my computer — a want satisfied without respect to freedom as soon as I could use a Sun workstation at work, and for many years now would have been satisfied by OS X. I never cared very much about being able to read, modify, and share all of the software on my computer — the socio-economic implications of those capabilities make them interesting, to me. The claimed ends of the theory are in the ‘for a good future’ slogan I’ve occasionally used at least since 1998. I occasionally included the theory in blog posts (2006) and presentations (2008). Much of my ‘critical cheering’ last year (doubt) and before has largely been about my perhaps unreasonable wish that ‘free/open’ organizations and movements would take the theory I do and act as I think follows. I could easily be wrong on the theory or best actions it implies. Accordingly, I ratcheted down critical cheering in 2014; hopefully most but not all of what remained was relatively fun or novel. Instead I focused more sharply on the theory, e.g., in Sleepwalking past Freedom’s Commons, or how peer production could increase democracy, equality, freedom, and innovation, all of them!

The theory could be attacked from a number of angles — I’d love to see that done and learn of new vulnerabilities. For example, commons might not significantly affect freedom and equality, these may not be the right values, and one might consider a ‘good future’ to be one with maximum hierarchy, spectacle, even war (I repeatedly argue that future tech and culture will be marvels in most plausible futures, and that is a reason to reject ones that do not have freedom and equality as top values, but also something that makes it hard to see how a future — or present — could be different or better with more knowledge economy/policy-driven freedom and equality). But this isn’t a cheap refutation post (see below) and I don’t have very practical doubts about those values and what they imply constitutes a good future.

But I do have practical doubts about the first leg of the theory. Summary of that leg before getting to doubts: Commons-based knowledge production simultaneously destroys rents dependent on freedom infringing regimes, diminishing the constituency for those regimes, grows the constituency and policy imagination for freedom respecting regimes, and not least, directly increases freedom and equality.


  • Effects could be too small to matter, or properly attributed to generational or other competition among firms, not commons-based production. Consider Wikipedia, a success of commons-based production if there is one. Such success may not be possible in other sectors, especially ones that command top policy attention (drugs and movies) — policy imagination has not been increased. The traditional encyclopedia industry was already mostly destroyed by Microsoft Encarta when Wikipedia came along. The encyclopedia industry was not a significant constituency for freedom infringing regimes, so its destruction matters not for future policy. Encyclopedias were readily accessible at libraries, vastly more useful info of the sort found in encyclopedias is accessible online now, excluding Wikipedia, and ‘freedoms’ to modify and distribute are just not relevant nearly all humans.
  • I claim that the best knowledge policy reform is that which favors commons and that the reforms traditionally proposed by copyright and patent reformers are relatively futile because such proposals if implemented would not significantly change the knowledge economy to produce freedom and equality nor grow the constituencies for such changes — rather they are just about who, how, and for how much the outputs of production under freedom infringing regimes may be used — so-called balance, not the tilt I demand. But perhaps the usual set of reform proposals is the best that can be hoped for, especially given decades of discourse and organization-building around those proposals, and almost none about commons-favoring reform. Further, perhaps the usual set of reform proposals is best without qualification — commons-based production is a culturally marginal (in software; wholly irrelevant in most other sectors) arrangement that ought be totally ignored by policy.
  • Various (sometimes semi-) free/open movements within various sectors (e.g., software, education, research publication) are having some policy successes, without (as far as I know) usually considering themselves to be as or more central to shaping knowledge policy as usual things fitting under ‘copyright reform’ and ‘patent reform’ but this could be just what needs to happen. The important thing is that commons-based knowledge production entities act to further their interests with minimal distance from current policy discourse, not that they have any distracting and possibly discrediting theory about doing so relative to overall knowledge policy.

Only the first of these gives me serious pause, though my discounting the last two might be a matter of (dis)taste — my feeling is that most of the people involved thoroughly identify with the trivia of copyright, patent, and similar law, even if they think those laws need serious reform, and act as if commons-based production is something to be protected from reform in the bad direction, but not at all central. Sadly if my feeling is accurate, the second and third doubts probably ought give me more pause than they do.

Despite these doubts, the potential huge win-win (freedom and equality, without conflict) of reorienting the knowledge economy and policy around commons-based production makes robust discourse (at the least) on this possibility urgent, even if tilt probability is low. One of the things that makes me favor this approach is that reform can be very incremental — indeed, it is by far the most feasible reform of any proposed — we just need a lot more of it. Push-roll towards tilt!

The most damning observation is perhaps that I’m only talking, and mostly on this very blog. I should change my ways, but again, this is not a cheap refutation post.

Software Freedom/Futurism/Science Fantasy

I recently wrote that “it’s much easier to take software freedom as a serious issue of top importance if one has a ‘futurist’ bent. This will also figure in a forthcoming post from me casting doubt on everything in this post and the rest from 2014.”

How important are computers to human arrangements, and how large is the range of plausible computer-involved arrangements, and how much can those realized be changed? Should anyone besides programmers and enthusiasts care about software specifically, any more or less than they care about the conditions under which any tool is created and distributed? (Contrast with other tools would be good here, but I’ll leave for another time.)

The vast majority of people seem to treat software as any other tool — they want it to work as well as possible, and to be as cheap as possible, the only difference being that their intuitions about quality and cost of software may be worse than their intuitions for the quality and cost of, for example, bridges. Arguably nearly everyone has been and perhaps still is correct.

But one doesn’t need to be much of a futurist to see software getting much more important — organizations good at using software ‘eating’ the lunches of those less good at using software, software embedded in everything or designing everything (and anything else being obsolete), regulating and mediating every sort of arrangement — with lots of plausible variation as to how this happens.

Now the doubt: does future-motivated interest in software freedom share more with interest in science fiction (i.e., moralistic fantasy) or with interest in future studies and the many parts of various social sciences that aim to improve systems going forward in addition to understanding current and past ones? If the latter, why is software freedom ignored by all of these fields? Possibly most people who do think software is becoming very important are not convinced that software freedom is an important dimension to consider. If so (I would love to see some kind of a review on the matter) it would be most reasonable to follow the academic consensus (even if it is one of omission; that consensus being of software freedom not interesting or important enough to investigate) and if one cares about the ethical dimensions of software, focus instead on the ones the consensus says are important.

Two additional posts last year in which I claim software freedom is of outsized and underappreciated importance (of course I don’t usually restrict myself to only software, but consider software a large and growing part of knowledge embodying cumulative innovation, and of the knowledge economy leading to more such accumulation) and some of many from years past (2006, 2006, 2007, 2007). The first from 2006 highlights the most obvious problem with the future. I had forgotten about that post when mentioning displacement of movies by some other form as the height of culture in 2013 — one has to squint to see such displacement even beginning yet. The second isn’t about the future but is closely related: alternative history.

Uncritical Cheering

I feared that many of my posts last year were uncritical cheering (see critical cheering above and last year). Looking back at posts where I’m promoting something, I have usually included or at least hinted at some amount of criticism (e.g., 1 2). I don’t feel too bad. But know that most of the things I promote on my blog are very likely to fail or otherwise be inconsequential — if they were sufficiently mainstream and established they’d be sufficiently covered elsewhere, and I likely wouldn’t bother blogging about them.

One followup: I cheered the publication of the first formally peer-reviewed and edited Wikipedia article in Open Medicine — a journal which has since ceased publishing.

Freeway 980

I continue to blog about removing freeway 980, which cuts through the oldest parts of Oakland. Doubt: I don’t know whether full removal would be better (at least when considering feasibility) than capping the portion of 980 which is below grade. I intended to read about freeway capping, come to some informed opinion, and blog about it. I have not, but supposedly Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf has mentioned removing 980. Hopefully that will spur much more qualified people to publish analyses of various options for my reading pleasure. ConnectOakland is a website dedicated to one removal/fill scenario.


I’m satisfied enough with the doubt in my two posts about Mozilla’s leadership debacle, but I’ll note apparent tension between fostering ideological diversity and shunning people who would deny some people basic freedoms. I don’t think this one was fairly clear cut, but there are doubtless far more difficult cases in the world.

Instead of doubt, I’d like to clarify my intention with two other posts: thought experiment/provocation, serious demand.


I fell further behind, producing no new dedicated collections of refutations of my 8+ year old posts. My very next post will be one, but as with previous such posts, the refutations will be cheap — flippant rather than drilling down on doubts I may have gained over the years. Again these observations (late, cheap) are what led me last year to initiate a thematic doubt post covering the immediately previous year. How was this one?

by <span class='p-author h-card'>Mike Linksvayer</span> at February 18, 2015 03:28 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Highlights, January 2015

Here are the highlights from the Wikimedia blog in January 2015, covering selected activities of the Wikimedia Foundation and other important events for the Wikimedia movement.


Wikipedia turns 14, receives prestigious Erasmus Prize 2015
Civility, Wikipedia, and the conversation on Gamergate
How student Jack Andraka used Wikipedia to research a new test for cancer
Wellcome Library donates 100,000 medical images to Wikimedia Commons
Senior citizens learn to edit Wikipedia in the Czech Republic
Content Translation: A quick way to create new articles from other languages
Weekly edit-a-thons help create new articles about women in Sweden

Wikipedia turns 14, receives prestigious Erasmus Prize

Desiderius Erasmus was a renowned humanist, scholar and theologian. Erasmus portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, from Le Musée du Louvre. Public Domain.
Erasmus portrait by Hans Holbein, from Le Musée du Louvre. Public Domain.

Wikipedia turned fourteen years old on January 15, 2015. On that same day, the Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community were honored with the prestigious Erasmus Prize — one of Europe’s most distinguished recognitions. We are very grateful to the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation for this award.

Civility, Wikipedia, and the conversation on Gamergate

US Navy 040623-N-8977L-010 Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) position a frame of a wall while helping the non-profit group Habitat for Humanity build homes.jpg
Building an encyclopedia requires working together, even when topics are difficult. US Navy Photo by Johansen Laurel. Public domain.

The debates on Wikipedia about the Gamergate controversy have been heated. At times, contributors on various sides of the debate have violated Wikipedia’s standards of civility. The Wikimedia Foundation believes inclusion and diversity are essential to achieving the mission of free knowledge, and that civil discourse is key to making that happen.

How high school student Jack Andraka used Wikipedia to research a new test for cancer

File:Jack Andraka - Cancer Researcher.webm

High school student Jack Andraka talks about how Wikipedia enabled his research to find a test for pancreatic cancer. You can also view this video on YouTube.com and Vimeo.com — or watch his full speech from Wikimania 2014 in London here.

After a family member died from pancreatic cancer, high school student Jack Andraka set out to find a cure for the disease, using Wikipedia as a primary reference for this research. His fast, inexpensive test may someday be used to detect pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer.

Wellcome Library donates 100,000 medical images to Wikimedia Commons

A blow fly (Chrysomya chloropyga). Coloured drawing by A.J.E Wellcome V0022553.jpg
This image of a female blow fly (Chrysomya chloropyga) is part of the Wellcome Library’s medical image collection, now available on Wikimedia Commons. Drawing by Amedeo John Engel Terzi. From Wellcome Library, licensed under CC-BY-4.0.

Wellcome Images provide free public access to their digital collection online, covering topics from medical and social history to current healthcare and biomedical science. The high resolution photographs and scans they just donated are used to illustrate a wide range of Wikipedia articles such as disease, art history, cartoons, sexuality and biographies. This collection can be browsed here on Wikimedia Commons.

Senior citizens learn to edit Wikipedia in the Czech Republic

Overview of class of Senior Citizens write Wikipedia in MLP, 2014-11-04.JPG
Senior citizens learn to edit Wikipedia in special classes held in Prague’s Municipal Library “Senior citizens class photo” by Pavla Pelikánová, licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

A new training program in the Czech Republic shows senior citizens how to edit Wikipedia. Here are some of the lessons learned from three separate weekly classes held in Prague last year. After learning how Wikipedia works and how to edit it, participants edited a wide range of articles — and about half of the registered senior citizens continued to edit after the program ended.

Try Content Translation: A quick way to create new articles from other languages

File:Content Translation Screencast (English).webm

Video: How to translate a Wikipedia article in 3 minutes with Content Translation. This video can also be viewed on YouTube (4:10). Screencast by Pau Giner, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Wikimedia Foundation’s Language Engineering team announced the first version of Content Translation on Wikipedia. This new tool makes it easy to translate articles from one language to another. It is now available as a beta feature in 8 different languages.

Weekly edit-a-thons help create new articles about women and literature in Sweden

Skrivstuga Litteraturhuset 2014-06-03.jpg
A happy group of Wikipedians gather for a weekly edit-a-thon in Gothenburg. “Edit-a-thon photo” by Lennart Guldbrandsson, licensed under CC-Zero

During 2014, Wikimedia Sverige organized a new series of regular edit-a-thons and workshops focused on the Gender gap issue. Altogether, 35 weekly edit-a-thons were held in Gothenburg, the second largest city of Sweden. About 15 different Wikipedians edited over 100 different articles about women and literature.

For versions in other languages, please check the wiki version of this report — you are welcome to add your own translation there!

Fabrice Florin, Movement Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation
Andrew Sherman, Digital Communications Intern, Wikimedia Foundation

by Andrew Sherman at February 18, 2015 12:36 AM

February 17, 2015

Wikimedia UK

Response to the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills report

The image shows the grand Palace of Westminster at night

The Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament

The House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills today published its report. Wikimedia UK submitted evidence to the consultation, which you can see here.

In the report the Committee makes a series of important recommendations which will influence the future digital skills of the UK. Perhaps chief among these is the recommendation to “define the internet as a utility service, available for all to access and use.” This would place access to the internet on an equal footing with access to water and energy and is an acknowledgement of just how fundamental the internet is to our modern way of life.

The report makes a number of recommendations and statements that are of particular interest to Wikimedia UK. The countries that ranked above the UK in a recent digital study had all “invested heavily in digital ‘foundations’, including up-skilling the population in technical expertise and digital capability…” These skills are extremely important and we believe that the use of Wikipedia and other open knowledge projects as both teaching and learning tools can offer great benefits to digital literacy.

The Wikimedia movement globally is making great strides towards the acceptance and appreciation of Wikipedia as a learning and teaching tool. Countries such as Israel, Serbia and Sweden are taking advantage of the capacity and scale of the free encyclopedia in creative ways within their education systems. The UK should likewise adopt the use of Wikipedia and other open knowledge projects.

One point from the report indicates a key, and timely, shift – effectively, the “3Rs” will become “3Rs and a D”. Explicitly stated in objective four of the report: “No child leaves the education system without basic numeracy, literacy and digital literacy.” This is a very welcome development. The use of Wikipedia in formal education settings from Key Stage 4 onwards could make a significant contribution to not only digital literacy skills but to core life skills such as critical thinking.

Many universities are reporting that undergraduates have not only digital skills gaps when they arrive at university, but gaps in critical thinking and key information literacy gaps too. We are currently exploring a number of ways in which using the Wikimedia projects can bridge these crucial skills gaps effectively. We welcome thoughts on this so please get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

The report calls for a single “Digital Agenda” within government following recent initiatives looking at developing greater digital democracy and the use of digital tools to replace civil courts (digital justice?). There needs to be a great deal of joined up thinking and shared ownership of work within government and the public sector for these initiatives to be introduced effectively and efficiently into one distinct package to support digital citizenship. The voluntary sector has a significant role to play in this.

If you would like to learn more about why Wikipedia belongs in education, please contact our education organiser, Dr Toni Sant – toni.sant{{@}}wikimedia.org.uk

by Stevie Benton at February 17, 2015 05:39 PM

Gerard Meijssen

25.000 books, old books

When 25.000 books, books from the early days, English texts from 1473-1700 become available it is quite something. Many of these text are the earliest sources on many subjects in English.

All of them deserve to be registered in Wikidata, The most relevant question would be: how do we serve our public best. Yes, it starts with indicating that these books exist but it is easy enough to point people in the right direction. The direction where these books can be found to be read.

It seems obvious. When books are (finally) available under a free license, it is important for people to find them.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 17, 2015 08:06 AM

February 16, 2015

Gerard Meijssen

Rafik Tlili, member of the Constituent Assembly of #Tunisia

Mr Tlili is a Tunisian politician who died. What is refreshing is that there is at least one decent list of members of the current parliament and, as is fitting, it is in French. Without assistance of Google translate the articles are too difficult for me.

There is also a category; and it has a problem. It links the current members in French to every member of the Tunisian parliament. from a Wikidata point of view that is fatally flawed. It is however part and parcel of a category of subjects that is underdeveloped. Our Wikiverse does not really care about Farfarawayistan. Its problems is seen as the diversity that is in genders and while important, it easily ignores what is far far away. As you can see in the picture, there are a fair bunch of women in the Tunisian parliament.

Even people who research are interested in diversity. They want to know how diversity differs in different languages. Those different languages mean different cultures, Cultures that by and large are not really well known in our Wikipedias as they are far, far away. Consequently Wikidata does not serve them the data they need.

I am happy with the Tunisian list. It means that Tunisia is not longer as far far away.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 16, 2015 08:08 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: The Cost of News

From the University of Southern Indiana’s Intro to Mass Communication course, taught by Dr. Chad Tew, this week we’re sharing Wikipedia articles, created or expanded by students, and about journalists killed while reporting.

Simone Camilli and Ali Shehda Abu Afash were both killed reporting on the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict. Naseem Intriri and Walid Bledi were killed while making a documentary about Syrian refugees; the Syrian government called them “infiltrators.” Or read about Claude Verlon, the journalist Al Qaeda claims to have killed while he was on assignment in Mali. Or Michael Deane, a journalist killed covering what Humans Rights Watch described as “Egypt’s bloodiest day.”

Read about Larry Dale Lee, an American journalist killed in Guatemala. Then read about the unsolved murder of a Guatemalan radio journalist killed in his car as he arrived to work. Related: Crime in Guatemala, from Drake University’s Global Youth Studies course, taught by Dr. Darcie Vandegrift.

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 16, 2015 04:00 PM

Royal Society of Chemistry - Wikimedian in Residence (User:Pigsonthewing)

News from Catalonia

I have received an email from Lluís Madurell, a Catalonian Wikipedia editor, and reproduce it here (verbatim, but with links added) with his kind permission: My name is Lluís Madurell (U:Lluis_tgn). I am a Catalan Wikimedian from 2009 and member of Amical Wikimedia.   In november Lorena Tomás contacted Amical Wikimedia. She said that you approached them to inform about the project you are running on the translation of articles about key chemistry matters from English into Catalan.   Lorena was willing to participate throught ICIQ (Institute of Chemical Research in Catalonia). ICIQ contacted Kippelboy and Kippel contacted me because this chemistry research center is in Tarragona (city 100km south of Barcelona), I am from this city and I already do diferent wiki-projects in my city. So we started mailing, we met in December and I created this Wikiproject page (https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viquiprojecte:ICIQ). ICIQ started the promotion of this project to all of his reserachers and this wednesday I did a small presentation about Wikipedia and this project to the 7 researchers that show up to the meeting (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Introduction_about_Wikipedia_at_ICIQ_by_Amical_Wikimedia.jpg). So the project is starting.   All of this maybe useful for you If you are stll a WiR in Royal Society of Chemistry, maybe not.   Thanks for openning this oportunity for us, your WiR got International :)   Best regards. Working with my Wikipedia friends overseas, to develop material in multiple langauges, is one of the things I enjoy most about contrbuting to Wikipedia.

Posted by Andy Mabbett
Feb 16, 2015 1:00 pm

February 16, 2015 12:00 PM

Wikidata (WMDE - English)

Asking Ever Bigger Questions with Wikidata

German summary: Maximilian Klein benutzt Wikidata als als Datenfundus für statistische Auswertungen über das Wissen der Welt. In seinem Artikel beschreibt er, wie er in Wikidata nach Antworten auf die großen Fragen sucht.

Asking Ever Bigger Questions with Wikidata

Guest post by Maximilian Klein

A New Era

Simultaneous discovery can sometimes be considered an indication for a paradigm shift in knowledge, and last month Magnus Manske and I seemed to have both had a very similar idea at the same time. Our ideas were to look at gender statistics in Wikidata and to slice them up by date of birth, citizenship, and langauge. (Magnus’ blog post, and my own.) At first it seems like quite elementary and naïve analysis, especially 14 years into Wikipedia, but only within the last year has this type of research become feasible. Like a baby taking its first steps, Wikidata and its tools ecosystem are maturing. That challenges us to creatively use the data in front of us.

Describing 5 stages of Wikidata, Markus Krötsch foresaw this analyis in his presentation at Wikimania 2014. The stages which range fromKnow to Understand are: Read, Browse, Query, Display, and Analyse (see image). Most likey you may have read Wikidata, and perhaps even have browsed with Reasonator, queried with autolist, or displayed with histropedia. I care to focus on analyse – the most understand-y of the stages. In fact the example given for analyse was my first exploration of gender and language, where I analysed the ratio of female biographies by Wikipedia Language: English and German are around 15% and Japanese, Chinese and Korean are each closer to 25%.

To do biography analysis before Wikidata was much harder. To know the gender of an article you’d resort to natural language processing or hacks like counting gendered categories and guessing based on first name. Even more, the effort had to be duplicated for each language that had to be translated. Now the promise of language-free semantic data, and tools like Wikidata Query and Wikidata Toolkit are here. The process is easier because it is more database-like; select, group by,apply, and combine.

With this new simplicity, let’s review what we have imagined so far. Here’s a non-exhaustive introduction to the state of creative question-asking so far:

Pushing Ourselves to Think Even Bigger

Can we think even bigger if we use more of the available data? Thinking about the fact that every claim may have an attached reference, Markus Krötzsch always wants to know, for a given set of claims what references must be believed in order to believe the set of claims? With that notion we could look at all the claims associated with all the items of a given language, and thus the required belief system of that langauge. At this point we could ask what are the differences in the belief systems of any two langauges?

Another way we could test the fundamental principles of knowledge and culture is to consider the chains made by the subclass of, instance of, or cause of properties. Every language is present at different links of each chain. So we can look at the differences in ways in which languages organize a hierarchy of concepts – or if they think it’s a hierarchy at all.

Much fun for logicians and epistemologists. But we can also ask more socially important questions, questions about how language and society relate. What biases do we have that we aren’t even aware of? The method, for which I’ve proposed a PhD, could be conducted as follows. We’re aware of sexism in our societies, and as you’ve seen we’ve started to build a statistical profile of how it manifests in Wikidata. Likewise we’re cognizant of racism and homophobia. We might next look at rates people appear in Wikidata by race and desire. Let’s assume we could train a model to say that these kinds of distributions are types of social biases. Next we could search every property in Wikidata to see if it indicated social bias. If successful we may find overlooked stigmas and phobias in society.

I claim that our theoretical question-answering ability has paradigmatically shifted with the growing up of Wikidata. Soon enough you won’t even need to be a sophisticated programmer to whisper your questions into the system. So next time your reading, browsing, querying or displaying Wikidata, challenge yourself to think about how to analyse it too.

by Jens Ohlig at February 16, 2015 08:18 AM

February 14, 2015

Priyanka Nag

A beautiful journey, finally coming to an end....leaving Scrollback

In the last 8-9 months of my life, I have gone through some of the most beautiful experiences of my life, which has helped me grow, personally as well as professionally. Now its time to move on, implement those learning in making something bigger.

Scrollback had given me a new identity. I probably got famous on social media like never before! I could never refer to it as just another organization I worked for and it will always hold the same place in my heart. But just like all good things should come to an end, this journey also needs to.

I am leaving Scrollback in a week's time. I am joining Red Hat and moving back to Pune. This was never an easy decision. I have always loved Scrollback, as a product, as an Open Source community and of-course, most importantly, I have loved the work I had been doing and the people I had around me, to always guide, support and help me.

My career graph, if we plot it now, has a lot of ups and down. I have worked as a PHP developer in the initial 6 months of my work life, before moving to Scrollback as a Technical Evangelist. Somehow, I couldn't do much evangelism here. With the need of the organization, I moved more into community management. But, well, no kidding, I am not getting any younger and need to start thinking of building one profile, in any one domain, which I can sustain for the rest of my life! When the Red Hat offer came across, I saw it as an opportunity to experiment with another new profile and see if this can be the one which can ultimately settle me down.

Its tough (well, I would like to believe impossible) to take the Scrollbacker out of me now....its too deep in my blood. I will always keep contributing to Scrollback, in all possible ways. I will be joining Red Hat as a Technical Writer. There are a lot of reasons behind my decision to join Red Hat, out of which I guess I have already told the most important one, experiment a different profile. Another big reason is the fact that this offer came from Red Hat! Red Hat has been my dream organization since my early days of college! This Open Source organization has a constant reputation of hiring really cool people, and giving the ultimate work environment, along with the required freedom both at work as well as to maintain the work-life balance. I had wanted to join the cool gang for years and finally got the chance now!

This paragraph is unnecessary. Its only for all those who have been hearing (or spreading) rumours around this decision of mine. So, if you are not one of them, feel free to skip it. My decision was not influenced by the fact that the offered job location was Pune. I love Pune as a city, I never disagree to that, but, had the job location been the remotest village in India (or any part of the world), things would have not changed. Also, I am not taking this job because my "believed" boyfriend is at the same office! Trust me, even if that was true, I don't take career decisions based on emotional influences!

Having said most of the things, just to let everyone know, I am going to continue all my Mozilla activities the way I have been. Rather, I will be taking up a few community responsibilities again, since I am moving back to Pune and I have worked way more closely with this community than the Bangalore community. I will also continue contributing to Scrollback as a volunteer, so in-case you need to reach out to me for any Scrollback related queries, I am still available.

by priyanka nag (noreply@blogger.com) at February 14, 2015 06:18 PM

Gerard Meijssen

CC-BY-SA; Creative Commons needs our support

The CC-BY-SA licenses are crucial to the Wikimedia movement. All but one of the Wikimedia Foundation projects are licensed with CC-BY-SA; Wikidata being the exception.

I find it astounding to learn that Creative Commons is in financial dire straits. As Wikimedians we are part of a world that is shaped by copyright law and the fight for free and fair license. When a crucial player like Creative Commons cannot take its role, it shows our weakness, It indicates that we are fighting a losing battle because our priorities are wrong.

Creative Commons deserves our support. We rely on Creative Commons.

It is one of those organisations that the WMF could do something special for. For instance a fund raiser on their behalf. <grin> WMF is good at that </grin> and in this way commit ourself more to free and fair licenses.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 14, 2015 08:16 AM

Joseph Reagle

Wadhwa and Geek Feminism

In watching the twitter storm about #stopwadhwa2015 I'm struck by two things, but first, some context—which as we will see, is problematic in Twitter discourse. Vivek Wadhwa is an American tech entrepreneur, columnist, pundit, and researcher. He's been a vocal advocate for more gender and racial diversity in technology and is a co-author of Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology. Upon being quoted in Newsweek's "What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women" a number of women (roughly aligned with Geek Feminism) protested and asked Wadhwa that he stop presuming to speak for them. (Even if the article's author, Nina Burleigh, was sympathetic to women, the graphic associated with it set the frame for controversy.) In response to this challenge, Wadhwa attempted to defend himself on Twitter. This led to further critique, best documented in Amelia Greenhall's post "Quiet, Ladies. @wadhwa is Speaking Now". Greenhall had been interviewed for a story on On the Media's TLDR podcast, but it was removed, leading to further antagonism.

I'm struck by how inappropriately people use Twitter, such as breaking up a longer missive into separate tweets or trying to have a sensible disagreement. Little that is nuanced or complex can be expressed in 140 characters. As I note in the forthcoming book "because comment is reactive, it's inherently contextual; yet, it's also hypotextual, shedding context with ease which leads to confusion and retorts of 'WTF?!?' in response." If you find yourself trying to have a challenging conversation, you're using the wrong medium. Twitter is best used for links, status updates, and the whimsical; people who try to use it for more will often find themselves frustrated—I admit I may be old school. (I recommend Jon Ronson's recent "How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life" on this point.)

This case also exemplifies what happens when a well-intentioned male is confronted by Geek Feminism. The well intentioned may have been thanked and congratulated for his disposition and efforts in the past, but Geek Feminism says no cookie for you. As I discuss in "The Obligation to Know: From FAQ to Feminism 101," geekdom is culturally laden and one is expected to educate oneself on the rudiments. To avoid making stupid 101-type mistakes, one has to read up on the common problematic behaviors of misogynists and allies alike; this can be alienating (even for women) just as it is for the tech "newbie" who is told to go away and RTFM. As Kelly Ellis noted, the fact that Wadhwa presumes "nerds" can only be men is an egregious mistake for someone who supposedly studies the technology gender gap. It insults women because it further polices an identity they have claimed (sometimes at great expense) and, worse yet, it is clueless to this fact.

Update 2015-02-14: And all of this is assuming that Wadhwa is a well-intended but clueless newbie. As a friend reminded me, the critique is that he's opportunistically exploiting the issue (to the detriment of actual women) for his own advancement.

Update 2015-02-16: Wadhwa responds to the critiques.

by Joseph Reagle at February 14, 2015 05:00 AM

The Metaphors of Privilege

Privilege is often understood by way of metaphor. Like any tool, a given metaphor is apt for some tasks more so than others. Even so, “when you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail.” Hence, it’s worth considering the merits of metaphors related to privilege.

privilege as an invisible knapsack
Peggy McIntosh’s (1990) original metaphor for privilege was that it was “like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions.” This is useful in that it speaks to relative advantage and that privilege is often hidden or unseen.
privilege as the “lowest difficulty setting”
In the contemporary technology context, John Scalzi (2012) likened privilege to playing a game on the lowest difficulty setting: monsters are easier to kill and there’s more health and bonus packs. This not only translates McIntosh’s notion into the digital realm, but improves upon the knapsack insofar as it recognizes that you can still lose the game: there are still challenges to overcome, yet “The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the ‘Gay Minority Female’ setting? Hardcore.”
privilege and smoking
Tim Wise and Kim Case (2013) also speak to the non-deterministic character of privilege on outcomes; they liken it to smoking: many people smoke without getting cancer, but it is highly correlated with it. Similarly, whiteness is highly correlated with advantage relative to people of color.
privilege as a intergenerational relay race
Mcnamonee and Miller’s (2004: 49) metaphor nicely accounts for the importance and perpetuation of social, economic, and cultural capital by likening privilege to an intergenerational relay race: "children born to wealthy parents start at or near the finish line, while children born into poverty start behind everyone else. Those who are born close to the finish line do not need any merit to get ahead. They already are ahead. The poorest of the poor, however, need to traverse the entire distance to get to the finish line on the basis of merit alone" (p. 49).

Finally, meritocracy is also spoken of as by way of metaphor, often as a bubble. The meritorious are said to “rise to the top,” much like champaign bubbles. This naive notion of meritocracy is that there is an inherent quality of superiority which causes a person to rise through a transparent and fluid medium. Alan Fox (1956) and Alice Marwick (2013) have critiqued this metaphor.

Fox A (1956) Class and equality. Socialist Commentary, 11–13.

Marwick A (2013) Silicon valley isn't a meritocracy. And it's dangerous to hero-worship entrepreneurs. wired, Available from: http://www.wired.com/2013/11/silicon-valley-isnt-a-meritocracy-and-the-cult-of-the-entrepreneur-holds-people-back/ (accessed 10 December 2014).

McIntosh P (1990) White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Available from: http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html (accessed 1 January 2015).

Mcnamonee SJ and Miller RK Jr. (2004) The meritocracy myth. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Scalzi J (2012) Straight white male: The lowest difficulty setting there is. Whatever, Available from: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/ (accessed 15 December 2014).

Wise T and Case KA (2013) Pedagogy for the privilege: Addressing inequality and injustice without shame or blame. Case KA (ed.), Deconstructing Privilege: Teaching and Learning as Allies in the Classroom, New York: Routledge.

by Joseph Reagle at February 14, 2015 05:00 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

A WikiLove story

Elef Milim at Mount Eitan.png
Avner and Darya fell in love while touring Israel with other Wikipedians. Here they are at Mount Eitan. Photo by Deror Avi, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0

On Wikipedia’s 14th birthday, Avner proposed to me. It seemed very natural, as we both feel that Wikipedia’s community is family.

Avner and Darya first met at a Wikimedia Israel Meetup.

I remember meeting Avner for the first time at a Wikimedia Meetup with volunteers, hosted at the Wikimedia Israel office by Jan-Bart de Vreede, chair of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Wiki-Academy had just successfully completed its 6th conference and everyone was in good spirits. Avner came in late. He knew everyone in the room, except for a girl in a red who caught his eye.

Avner asked around and learned that I was the Wikipedian in Residence at the National Library of Israel. So naturally, the next time he saw me at the library, he started a conversation. The first thing we talked about was a recent complaint the Library’s Reference Desk in Wikipedia had received. He was unaware that I was in charge of the Reference Desk and that I wasn’t very happy being criticized. So we kept our distance during the Hebrew Wikipedia birthday that summer.

Avner and Darya at the Hebrew Wikipedia’s 11th Birthday.

Not ready to give up hope, Avner wrote to me and we started corresponding. Soon after, we went out and in no time we realized this was the real thing! As we are both Wikipedians, we got involved together in many of the chapters’ activities, including Elef Millim, a ‘thousand words’ tour of Israeli landmarks (see photo above).

Finally, Avner decided it was time. He thought it over very carefully, I didn’t realize a thing. On Wikipedia’s 14th birthday, organized by Wikimedia Israel, Avner was to give a lecture titled “How to find love in Wikipedia and what do Wikipedians do when they are in love.” It was supposed to be a theoretical lecture on couples in Wikipedia. He even invited my brother to the lecture: I still didn’t figure out that something was up.

The lecture started, Avner spoke about how he begun writing in Wikipedia and how we met. Not exactly a theoretical lecture. :) Then, his last piece of advice for finding love was to dedicate an article for your beloved. He dedicated an entry of a well-known poem by Natan Alterman called ‘Eternal Meeting’. He then read a verse from that poem, looking straight at me, his voice trembling a bit:

You stormed in to me
I’ll forever play your tune
(Avner’s addition) Will you give me your hand in marriage …
‘Eternal Meeting’ by - Natan Alterman

Avner and Darya kiss after his proposal.

Then Avner took out a ring. We embraced. I put the ring on my finger and we kissed, while the audience applauded. We were greeted with so much love from the Wikipedia community! We are incredibly happy to be able to share this moment with everyone. It was perfect!

Wikipedia is our passion. Naturally, we will be celebrating our honeymoon at Wikimania 2015!

Darya, Hebrew Wikipedian and volunteer for Wikimedia Israel

All photos in this article by Deror Avi, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0

by Andrew Sherman at February 14, 2015 01:00 AM

Love on the Wikis

3D Love: This mathematically-defined heart shape is one of the many ways that love is represented on Wikimania sites. By Chiph588, CC0.

3D Love: This mathematically-defined heart shape is one of the many ways that love is represented on Wikimania sites. By Chiph588, CC0.

What do we know about love? What can we learn from Wikipedia and its sister sites?

For Valentine’s Day, we asked Wikimedians to share their favorite articles or images about love, from Wikipedia and sister projects.

Together, we collected a wide range of insightful articles, images, videos, sounds, quotes and websites on the many different ways this topic is represented in our wikis: from platonic to fraternal, divine or romantic love.

Here are some of our favorites, based on over 77 community recommendations, shared via email, social media and on Wikimedia sites this week.


LoveArchetypal lovers Romeo and Juliet portrayed by Frank Dicksee
Good introduction to the many types of love, and how they vary between cultures and viewpoints. This article is well-written, factual, and nuanced, with helpful context. Did you know that a core concept of Confucianism is Ren (“benevolent love”, 仁), which focuses on duty, action and attitude in a relationship, rather than love itself?
Suggested by Karam Wajeeh Abutabaq (Facebook). Romeo and Juliet painting by Frank Dicksee, public domain.

Valentine’s DayAntique Valentine's Day card
A well-researched overview of Valentine’s Day, how this holiday came about, and how it is celebrated in many world regions. Did you know that Saint Valentine marks the beginning of spring in some cultures? that some Islamic countries ban the sale of Valentine’s Day items?
Suggested by Fabrice Florin (WMF). Antique Valentine’s Day card is public domain.

Golden RuleGolden rule image by Bernard d'Agesci, public domain.
This article describes the ethic of reciprocity behind by this maxim: “Treat others as one would like them to treat you.” Community member Lotje chose it because “you can pick in any language or religion,” and supporter Anika adds it can be practiced both “on-wiki and off-wiki.”
Suggested by Lotje. Golden rule image by Bernard d’Agesci, public domain.

ParvatiPicture of Shiva and Parvati is public domain
Pārvatī is the Hindu goddess of love, fertility and devotion. She represents the gentle and nurturing aspect of Hindu goddess Shakti. Community member Wyatt Brown adds: “Lord Shiva and his Parvati companion have been doing some pretty epic stuff together, for a very long time.  :)”
Suggested by Wyatt Brown (Google+). Picture of Shiva and Parvati is public domain.

Love testerA vintage Love Tester machine at w:Musée Mécanique
Love tester machines like this vintage model rate the subject’s sex appeal, love abilities or romantic feelings. A quirky, but popular recommendation.
Suggested by Secretlondon. Photo by Piotrus, from Musée Mécanique, CC BY-SA 3.0.

For more articles about love, visit ‘Love on the Wikis’.


Love’s Messenger

Loves Messenger Stillman DAM.jpg

Smallbones writes: “‘Love’s Messenger‘ is a wonderful painting I found and uploaded three years ago in February while working with a previously unknown colleague on a series of articles on Pre-Raphaelite paintings. She was absolutely wonderful in helping me work through the series. (…) Finding a colleague like this is the greatest pleasure that I have working on Wikipedia. (…) Even though we still haven’t met, and there is no romantic love between us, this is my “love letter” to P., and to all my great colleagues on Wikipedia.”
Suggested by Smallbones. Painting by Marie Spartali Stillman, public domain.

Mother and child

Mother-Child face to face.jpg

A mother and child look at each other.
Suggested by Pine (see his ‘Feel the love‘ gallery). Photo by Robert Whitehead, via Flickr, licensed under  CC-BY-2.0.

Lovers with doves

Entre palomas (8972089122).jpg

Lovers with doves kiss in Kiev, Ukraine.
Suggested by Pine. Photo by Juanedc, via Flickr, licensed under  CC-BY-2.0.

Sappho and Erinna

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene.jpg

Sappho and Erinna in a garden at Mytilene, Greece.
Suggested by Pine. Painting by Simeon Solomon, public domain.

IKEA Gets Queered with Russian Kiss-In

Fucking IKEA.jpeg

Two men kiss in IKEA, during a protest against Russian censorship of an IKEA catalog that included a lesbian couple.
Suggested by . Photo by Sasha Kargaltsev, via Flickr, licensed under  CC-BY-2.0.


"Tenderness" (1972). (5973001763).jpg

Love amongst the Moldovan peasantry, from a 1972 documentary from Grigoriopol, Malaiesti, Romania.
Suggested by Secretlondon. Photo by Ion Chibzii, via Flickr, licensed under  CC-BY-2.0.

Kissing prairie dogs

Kissing Prairie dog edit 3.jpg

Two black-tailed prairie dogs appear to be kissing. “Birds do it, bees do it … why not prairie dogs?”, says the person who recommended this image.
Recommended by: Photo by Brocken Inaglory, CC-BY-SA-3.0

For more images about love, visit ‘Love on the Wikis’.


What’s a Love Dart?

File:What's a Love Dart?.webm

Created as a ‘Valentine from Wikipedia’, this video documents the creation of an article about the ‘Love Dart’ — along with candid reactions from people on the street. Did you know that some snails and slugs make a little arrow (or ‘love dart’) inside their bodies before mating? Wikipedia editor Susan Hewitt thinks this may have been the origin of Cupid’s arrow.
Suggested by Michael Guss. Video by Victor Grigas (WMF), licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0. View it on YouTube.

Why Change Your Wife?

<video class="wp-video-shortcode" controls="controls" height="360" id="video-36994-1" preload="metadata" width="640"><source src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/Why_Change_Your_Wife_%3F_%281920%29.webm?_=1" type="video/webm">https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/Why_Change_Your_Wife_%3F_%281920%29.webm</video>

American silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille (1920). As described on Wikipedia, this 90-minute romantic comedy tells the story of Robert and Beth Gordon, who are married but share little. He runs into a young woman at a cabaret — and the Gordons are soon divorced. Over time, they are drawn back to each other — and they fall in love again. The end title claims that “a man would rather have his wife as a sweetheart than any other woman”: it invites women to always look their best and “learn when to forget that you’re his wife.”
Suggested by Geni. Film by Cecil B. DeMille is public domain. (Note this file may not play well on some browsers.)

Let’s Do It

<audio class="wp-audio-shortcode" controls="controls" id="audio-36994-1" preload="none" style="width: 100%; visibility: hidden;"><source src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Let%27s_Do_It.ogg?_=1" type="audio/ogg">https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Let%27s_Do_It.ogg</audio>

Audio recording of Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It”, performed by Linda November and Artie Schroeck.
Suggested by Audio by Linda November and Artie Schroeck, ARTLIN Enterprises, CC-BY-SA-3.0. (Note this file may not play well on some browsers.

For more multimedia files about love, visit ‘Love on the Wikis’.


Wikilove – The Encyclopedia of Love
WikiLove logo
Wikilove is a project dedicated to emotional bonds and love rituals. Founder Alexis de Maud’huy says the main idea of Wikilove is to “educate about emotional intelligence.” Did you know that he first created this project as a wedding gift to his wife? It has now grown to nearly a million pages and has become a valuable resource about emotional issues.
Suggested by Keegan (WMF) and Jessica Robell.

Feel the Love
Al - Chinese symbol of love
A wonderful gallery of love images on the Signpost, created in response to our call for wiki content on this topic. Its creator, Pine, writes: “If anyone felt that there was too little love in Wikimedia, I hope that this gallery will change their minds!” Thanks, Pine, we feel the love, and it is much appreciated. :)
Suggested by Fabrice Florin (WMF).

Love Wikiquotes
Wikiquote logo
A rich collection of quotable statements about love. You can pick quotes in any language, on a wide variety of emotional states related to love.
Suggested by Nemo.

Speaking of quotes, we end this roundup with Shakespeare’s own inspiring sonnet about Valentines day, from Hamlet:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5

For more community recommendations about love, visit ‘Love on the Wikis’.

Thanks for sharing the love!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this great community-created love collection!

We are particularly grateful to Pine, Nemo, Fae and Geni, some of our most active participants, for their helpful contributions. Many thanks as well to all the folks who shared their suggestions on Facebook, Twitter and Google +.

Your collective suggestions broadened our perspectives about love, in all of its forms. Together, we found some really well-written, factual and nuanced articles, as well as many humorous, dramatic or beautiful images, which gave us a better understanding about love and why it matters.

What do you think about this curation experiment? Did you learn anything new? Should we do it again? If so, what themes should we focus on next? Please chime in the comments below with your ideas and suggestions. We hope that collaborations like these can help us discover new ways to share useful information, combining the wikis, our blog and social media.

Thanks again for sharing the love — and happy Valentine’s Day to all Wikimedians!

Fabrice Florin – Movement Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation
in collaboration with many gracious community volunteers, as well as:
Victor Grigas – Storyteller, Wikimedia Foundation
Michael Guss – Research Analyst and Social Media Maven, Wikimedia Foundation
and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Communications team.

by fflorin2015 at February 14, 2015 12:55 AM

February 13, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

Translation courses: sharing the world through Wikipedia

Wiki Ed is looking for current translation and language courses to translate Wikipedia articles.

These assignments present students with an opportunity to put their skills into public service. Student editors get real-world experience in translating for a broader public while deepening an appreciation for cross-cultural understanding.

Finally, it taps into an intrinsic motivation to apply skills beyond the classroom. They know the translation exercise they do will matter long after it’s graded.

How does a translation assignment work? It’s actually simple. As a source text, students find a high-quality article on their target-language Wikipedia. They check to see if the corresponding article is on their native-language Wikipedia. If it’s missing or short, they translate the article into their native language.

Here’s an example. An English-speaking student studying Spanish would find a Good Article on the Spanish Wikipedia. Then, they would add translated content to the corresponding article on the English Wikipedia.

By translating geographic and cultural articles from other parts of the world that are otherwise missing or incomplete, a student at an American or Canadian university can expand English Wikipedia’s diversity of content for millions of people.

You can get started right away. We can help you find articles to assign to students, or they can find them on their own. We’ll offer a flexible assignment outline, training materials for student editors, and support during the assignment.

We’ve already seen great outcomes from translation assignments in our program. For example, Dr. Julie McDonough Dolmaya’s translation course at York University has added good content to Wikipedia.

Other parts of the world have focused on translation assignments, including the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt and Wiki Borregos in Mexico, and we’d like to replicate their successes by giving more students access to this rewarding assignment.

This assignment is a rare opportunity to apply translation to a widely read source of information for people around the world. If you are interested in bringing this opportunity to your students, contact Ryan McGrady at ryan@wikiedu.org.

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 13, 2015 11:53 PM

Wikimedia UK

Altmetrics and Wikipedia

Altmetric logo‘Impact’ is a perennial concern for organisations, including Wikimedia chapters. Showing that what you’re up to makes a difference: contributing to free knowledge.

It’s a familiar topic if you’re a researcher and can affect whether you get funding. It’s one thing to be able to say that your article has appeared in a journal with a circulation of 10,000 copies but that doesn’t necessarily show that it has influenced people. Ideally you want to see people talking about your research, sharing it with other people, and using it to inform their own work. This is often done by counting how many times an article is cited in other publications, but misses out the likes of social media and newspapers. Altmetric.com measures the digital impact of articles, and recently announced that they are now including Wikipedia in their statistics.

This is a significant step. Wikipedia is the 6th most visited website in the world and receives about 500 million unique visitors every month. Not only is it one of our first sources of information in the digital age, it is read on an incredible scale. If your work is being used there, it is reaching far more people than would otherwise be possible.

So why is the inclusion of Wikipedia something to celebrate?

In short it’s another step towards recognising the reach and importance of Wikipedia and might encourage academics to interact with it. Already groups are considering Wikipedia as part of their outreach work when applying for funding. The Atlas of Hillforts Project of Oxford University’s school of archaeology specifically mentioned Wikipedia in terms of data dissemination and received £950,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. One more incentive might help people get involved and it creates a positive feedback loop. The better quality information Wikipedia has, the more likely academics will be to improve it.

Importantly, this move might help encourage open access. Researchers and academics generally understand conflict of interest issues, so the key way of making it more likely that Wikipedia will cite your work is to make it available to as wide an audience as possible through open access.

Overall any initiative which might increase the quality of Wikipedia in the long run and improve its reputation is surely a good thing.

by Richard Nevell at February 13, 2015 03:41 PM

February 12, 2015

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

Wikipedia’s support page

Most users of Wikipedia aren’t aware that Wikipedia, like other online services, has a support staff. Granted, it is an all-volunteer staff and it can sometimes take months to get an answer to your question because of the backlog that often exists. But it’s a free service, and no one will try to upsell you to Wikipedia’s premium version. Many who’ve used the service have been quite satisfied with the results.

That said, there are complicating matters and some ethical issues involved that will be discussed in a subsequent blog post. In this post I’d like to focus on how you can access the Wikipedia support system. The following screencast is designed to do just that.

<iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" class="__youtube_prefs__" frameborder="0" height="360" id="_ytid_17716" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" src="http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/oRBtSS5oiEE?enablejsapi=1&amp;autoplay=0&amp;cc_load_policy=0&amp;iv_load_policy=1&amp;loop=0&amp;modestbranding=1&amp;rel=0&amp;showinfo=1&amp;playsinline=0&amp;autohide=1&amp;theme=dark&amp;color=red&amp;wmode=opaque&amp;vq=&amp;controls=2&amp;" type="text/html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="640"></iframe>

Once you’ve submitted your email request, it is entered in a support ticket system (often referred to by Wikipedians as “OTRS,” the name of the software used to run the system.) Your ticket will eventually be processed by a Wikipedia volunteer. All subsequent communication will be via email between you and the volunteer who, with any luck, will help you with your request.

by Dan Cook at February 12, 2015 11:44 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Monthly report for January 2015


  • Results of our December 2014 instructor survey show that 85% of our instructors are firmly committed to teaching with Wikipedia again, and 88% were satisfied with Wiki Ed’s level of communication and feedback. The same survey indicates that 68% of the student editors contributing content to Wikipedia through Wiki Ed’s Classroom Program are women.
  • In January, we launched the WikiEdu Dashboard, http://dashboard.wikiedu.org. This new tool provides instructors and Wikipedia community members with detailed information about each class: who the students are and which ones have completed our online training; how much content they’ve contributed to Wikipedia, and how many page views their work has accumulated; what edits they’ve made, and more. This is our second piece of software that makes participating in our programs easier.
  • Wiki Ed held its first all-staff meeting will all members of the staff physically present in San Francisco. This was an intense week of strategizing and brainstorming methods for improving our programmatic activities.


Wiki Education Foundation Staff Photo, January 2015

The Programs team welcomed Ryan McGrady as our interim Classroom Program Manager. Ryan is filling in for Helaine Blumenthal while she is on maternity leave. Ryan has experience with our program as an instructor and a volunteer Wikipedia editor. He will be working remotely from his home in New York.

Ryan and other remote staff (Sage Ross, Ian Ramjohn, and Adam Hyland) came to San Francisco for a weeklong all-staff meeting. This meeting emphasized teambuilding, professional development, and defining better processes for more effective work. We reviewed goals for the next two quarters as part of the annual planning process for the 2015/16 fiscal year.

A full day focused on the Programs team. The team discussed adjusting processes to create better experiences for program participants. One outcome will be closer monitoring of assignment design during the onboarding process. That way, the Classroom Program can ensure better Wikipedia content from supported courses.

Educational Partnerships

Jami Mathewson at Wiki Ed’s all-staff meeting

Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson finalized Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with existing university and association partners, developing a plan to fulfill commitments to those partners in the first half of the year.

Jami also on-boarded courses coming into the Classroom Program through those educational partnerships. That process ensures that these courses and partner organizations are aware of, and use, current resources and best practices.

Classroom Program

Helaine Blumenthal and Ryan McGrady at Wiki Ed’s all-staff meeting

The spring 2015 term is off and running, with 52 supported courses as of January 31. An additional 30 or so classes were in preparation in January, with several assignments starting in February and March. Helaine and Ryan are busy communicating with professors, reviewing course pages, and onboarding classes. We have developed our onboarding process, and published the checklist we use here.

We’ve made the online student training a top priority this term. We’re also emphasizing that Wikipedia writing assignments have clear milestones and due dates. The new Assignment Design Wizard has been invaluable in doing so.

We’re excited to see classes use the new course Dashboard. The Dashboard is a central location for tracking student activity, including student training. We’re inviting feedback and suggestions for improving the Wizard and Dashboard throughout the term.

Current status of the Classroom Program (spring term 2015) in numbers, as of January 31:

  • 52 Wiki Ed-supported courses have course pages
  • 19 of the 52 classes (37%) are taught by returning instructors
  • 727 student editors are enrolled

It’s early in the term, but we have good contributions from Theresa Burress’s Become a Wikipedian course at the New College of Florida. Students have made major contributions to articles on Thomas Sankara and Nervous tissue.


Eryk Salvaggio at Wiki Ed’s all-staff meeting

In early January, we completed a survey of instructors teaching Wikipedia assignments in the fall 2014 term. Eryk Salvaggio has analyzed and interpreted survey results and found that:

  • 92% of instructors saying they would consider teaching with Wikipedia again
  • 85% of those instructors committed to it

You can read more instructor feedback in his blog post from Jan. 27. Furthermore, we found that 68% of our student editors were women.

Eryk has also been interviewing student editors and instructors from the fall 2014 term and highlighting their work on the web site, many of which will appear in February. One example, The Wikipedia Frontier, was shared by Boston College in its electronic alumni newsletter and was one of the most widely read and shared posts on the web site.

Blog posts:

News coverage:

From Universities

Digital Infrastructure

Early in January, we did a soft launch of the WikiEdu Dashboard: http://dashboard.wikiedu.org. All course pages were linked to a global Dashboard that showed every course in the program.

Product Manager Sage Ross and the WINTR development team focused on expanding the capabilities of the Dashboard system, with a major update at the end of the month.

Our Dashboard now shows detailed information about each class, showing who the students are and if they have completed the online training. We can see how much content they have contributed to Wikipedia, how many page views that work has accumulated, what edits they’ve made, and more.

Sage also developed a Wikipedia bot task to help student editors avoid a common pitfall. Often, students accidentally submit sandbox drafts to Wikipedia’s backlogged Articles for Creation process. This bot makes it easier to follow our special instructions for student editors who move articles into Wikipedia.

Sage and LiAnna are looking forward to a focused research and planning sprint with WINTR in February. This sprint will create a plan for technical infrastructure development for the coming year.

Research and development

Outreach to high-achieving students

The Research and Development project team met in January to select the first student groups for the high-achieving students pilot, including the Berkeley Water Group Idea Lab, the University of Arizona Geology Club, and the Oregon State University Pi Alpha Xi Horticulture Club. The students in these clubs range from undergraduates to post-doctoral fellows. These clubs will host Wiki Ed staff at meetings this term. They’ll receive training on how to contribute illustrations and text to Wikipedia articles. They’ll then take on a group field trip and editing project. Planned activities include tours of geologic phenomena in the Tucson desert, water treatment plants in the San Francisco Bay Area, and local reservoirs, arboretums, and more.

Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration

For the month of January, expenses were $220,003 versus the plan of $148,747.

The $71k variance excess is primarily due to one major event: a major Digital Infrastructure project was completed, and we allowed the next one to start a earlier. This resulted in $60k spending of unspent funds from prior months and earlier payment of start the next project. An additional $10k was a result of an unforeseen need for additional outside services.

Year-To-Date expenses are $923,696 versus the plan of $1,019,121. Much of the $95k variance remains to be the savings as a result of the timing of staff hires – $53k. The remaining amounts are a result of deferred travel and events ($26k); and ($15k) in additional office setup expenses.


Wiki Ed expenses for the month of January 2015

Year to date expenses as of January 2015

Year to date expenses as of January 2015


On January 30, the board’s Audit Committee had its second meeting of the current fiscal year. Board members Karen Twitchell, Karen George, and PJ Tabit reviewed the December and YTD financials and discussed drafts of internal financial controls and investment policies with Bill Gong and Frank Schulenburg. Bill also provided the Audit Committee members with updates on the search for a local bank and for an external audit firm.

Office of the ED

Frank presenting at WMF’s January Metrics and Activities meeting

 Current priorities:

  • Building a robust funding pipeline; developing relationships with new prospects; hiring a new fundraiser
  • Setting up the FY 2015/16 annual planning process
  • Preparing materials for the March strategy discussion kick-off

    Supported by Lisa Grossman from m/Oppenheim, Frank started the process for filling the open position in fundraising. He also worked on expanding Wiki Ed’s funding pipeline, identifying a number of prospects, and establishing or renewing relationships. Board member Lorraine Hariton and Frank discussed approaches of achieving Wiki Ed’s longterm fundraising goals during Lorraine’s visit end of January.

    In early January, Frank gave a presentation on Wiki Ed at the Wikimedia Foundation’s monthly Metrics and Activities meeting. He outlined the work done over the past 11 months and highlighted the major achievements of the organization since February 2014.

    During the all-staff meeting, Frank and LiAnna trained the rest of the organization in Crisis Management and Communication. As a result, Wiki Ed has a procedure in place for how to handle a crisis, including a detailed process for how to build a crisis management team.

    Meeting with local Wikipedia community and Wiki Ed instructors in New York

    Also in January, Frank went on a one-day trip to New York to connect with potential funders and partners for Wiki Ed’s programmatic work. As part of the visit, Frank also met with members of the local Wikipedia community and a number of Wiki Ed instructors.

    During an in-person meeting in San Francisco, Wikimedia DC President James Hare, Frank, and Renée LeVesque fleshed out the details of Wiki Conference USA 2015 preparation meeting scheduled for March. They also agreed on the basic roles and responsibilities between the two organizations and discussed opportunities for Wikimedia DC and Wiki Ed to partner in the future.

Visitors and Guests

  • Howie Fung, Wikimedia Foundation
  • Lisa Grossman, m/Oppenheim
  • James Hare, Wikimedia D.C.
  • Lorraine Hariton, board member
  • Adam Hyland, remote staff member
  • Ian Ramjohn, remote staff member
  • Ryan McGrady, remote staff member
  • Sage Ross, remote staff member

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 12, 2015 04:00 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Wikimedia at FOSDEM 2015

Brussels-FOSDEM 2015 (12).jpg
The Wikimedia Foundation hosted a booth at FOSDEM 2015, the annual Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting. Photo by Romaine, licensed under CC0 1.0.

FOSDEM 2015, the annual Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting, took place in Brussels, Belgium, from January 31 to February 1, 2015. The Wikimedia Foundation hosted a booth throughout that conference, in collaboration with Wikimedia Belgium, the Wikimedia Shop and Wikimedia Deutschland.

We are happy to say that our Wikimedia booth received a lot of attention at FOSDEM. We experienced a remarkable turnout by women editors, despite our gender gap issues. As a result, we learned more about how our female editors like to engage when creating content on Wikipedia: it appears that in-person collaborations and social settings appeal to female contributors and keep them coming back.

Based on these and other conversations, it seems these best practices could increase gender diversity:

  • host more face-to-face workshops or edit-a-thons, where participants are encouraged to interact with each other in person.
  • develop social software that makes it easy for users to form groups, so they are not feeling alone and can work with others in their group.
  • provide groups with a central discussion page, recent changes showing the activity of other group members, as well as a way to create tasks, and host a wish list.

Our FOSDEM booth was originally focused on providing information about Wikimedia and Wikipedia, but we had many questions about Wikidata and MediaWiki. Our software developers were able to answer most of these questions, but next year we plan to have more materials to cover these topics, due to this high level of interest. We also gave free Wikimedia T-shirts, water bottles or hoodies to participants who tweeted about the shop — or who demonstrated that they had edited Wikipedia or Wikimedia projects.

Quim Gil and Andre Klapper made a presentation about our Phabricator collaboration software: “Wikimedia adopts Phabricator, deprecates seven infrastructure tools – First hand experience from big free software project on a complex migration”. Read more about their presentation and check out their slides.

FOSDEM 2015 was a very productive conference, and we hope that next year will be even better. Thanks again to Quim and Andre for presenting. And thanks to everyone who showed up at the booth to ask questions and share their insights. We appreciate all your support and interest in our cause.

Romaine, board member of Wikimedia Belgium

by Andrew Sherman at February 12, 2015 01:39 AM

February 11, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

We’re hiring!

The Wiki Education Foundation is seeking a Senior Manager of Development.

The Senior Manager of Development will report to, and work closely with, the Executive Director to develop sustainable support for Wiki Ed. The successful candidate will also work with program staff to ensure funding for current and future programs.

Successful candidates are as enthusiastic, creative, and passionate about our mission as we are. Communicating our vision with a wide audience and diverse constituencies is a key skill. Ideal candidates are hands-on in maintaining and developing infrastructure that ensures sustained stewardship, and in working with individual donors and grant-making foundations.

We will favor candidates with broad knowledge of various developmental activities. We’d like to see past success in fundraising for high-growth, rapidly evolving organizations, individuals, or foundations. You should be comfortable in a technology-driven environment, and an exceptional communicator in writing, speaking, and public presentations.

We are looking for people who share our values. That means curious, mission-driven individuals with a commitment to freely available knowledge.

Please see this document for more information on priorities, responsibilities, and how to apply.

Frank Schulenburg
Executive Director

by Frank Schulenburg at February 11, 2015 07:59 PM

Expanding African Archaeology

Turkana Boy.jpg

“Turkana Boy” by Claire Houck from New York City, USA – Turkana Boy. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

English Wikipedia articles tend to favor locations where English speaking editors live. That means that finding information about African historical sites on Wikipedia can feel like an expedition in and of itself.

Dr. Kate Grillo’s African Archaeology course at University of Wisconsin La Crosse showed us some great examples of student editors helping to contribute content about geographical gaps to Wikipedia. The course required students to contribute an article of research-paper length to Wikipedia, built from her list of missing or stub articles.

“Articles on African archaeology are few and far between on Wikipedia,” Dr. Grillo said, “and those that do exist are often in need of substantial editing. I saw an opportunity, then, to both improve Wikipedia content and to teach my students a new set of skills.”

History and Archaeology double major Michelle Kelly was one of them. She created an article on Kenya’s Kariandusi prehistoric site from scratch. Discovered by Louis Leakey in 1928, the site is believed to have been a kind of factory for axe-making, and artifacts include some early examples showing variety in dominant “handedness” in humans. It’s an interesting and important site, and until last fall, it didn’t exist on Wikipedia.

Michelle had no technical knowledge of Wikipedia when she came into the assignment, she said. Initially, adapting to Wikipedia’s expectations was a challenge.

“With Kariandusi, [a course paper] would include a paragraph or two on whether or not I believed in the theories archaeologists put forth regarding the site, whereas on Wikipedia I can only mention and explain them,” Kelly said. “It’s very hard to be unbiased.”

Furthermore, knowing the assignment was going to be published on Wikipedia inspired her to find more diverse sources than she might have otherwise.

“I know there are people, like me, out there who go to Wikipedia for references,” she said. “If I were just writing a research paper I would have probably copped out and just found articles by the same few people.”

While many students come into a Wikipedia course without much background as editors, in this case, they were learning along with their instructor.

“I had never edited a Wikipedia page in my life prior to the start of last semester,” confessed Dr. Grillo. “So there was a huge learning curve for me as well as for my students. Once we all got past the initial trepidation and confusion, editing became simple and (dare I say?) fun.”

Dr. Grillo said that most students saw the Wikipedia component as an initial challenge that ultimately rewarded their time.

“My students were initially reluctant to embrace my crazy Wikipedia idea, but came around once they had gotten some practice with editing,” she said. “Almost all said it had been a worthwhile experiment.”

by Eryk Salvaggio at February 11, 2015 04:00 PM

This month in GLAM

This Month in GLAM: January 2015

by Admin at February 11, 2015 06:01 AM

February 10, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

An easier way to share knowledge through learning patterns

Austria - Schloss Leopoldskron Library - 2741.jpg
Sharing knowledge is a beautiful thing: a growing library of ‘learning patterns’ helps Wikimedians share what they learn about organizing activities like edit-a-thons. Max Reinhardt Library in Schloss Leopoldskron, by Jorge Royan, under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

The Wikimedia movement is increasingly using learning patterns to share what we learn when working on a Wikimedia program (such as an edit-a-thon) or what we learn on an organizational level. These simple documents, that describe solutions to a problem, have become harder to find, as the collection of learning patterns has grown in the past year.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Learning and Evaluation team recently made its Learning Pattern Library easier to navigate. This special library is a shared resource for Wikimedia program leaders and organizations across the world, created to help them find learning patterns that are relevant to them.

How does the new system work?

A new categorization system will help people find related patterns by topic of interest. Let’s say the University of Washington is hosting a hackathon and local organizers want to learn more about how to host their event. They can now see which learning patterns are related to hackathons. There are currently 17 patterns in the hackathon category, including “Accommodations at meetups”, “Birds of a feather”, “Connectivity issues”, “Five tips for preparing a great conference”, and “Set up a GitHub profile for your hack-a-thons”.

Patterns are easier to search…

… and find!

Photo by María Cruz, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Get involved!
You can visit the library anytime to:

  • Search for learning patterns relevant to your work;
  • Share your experiences with Wikimedia activities and programs.

Suppose that a community member wants to use the learning pattern “Let the community know”. By looking at the bottom of the learning pattern page, they can see that this learning pattern belongs to many categories including: Event patterns, Programs learning patterns, Project management learning patterns, Organizational design patterns, Communications learning patterns… and more! When you click on the category links, you can see related learning patterns that provide additional information. With this new system, we are trying to make learning patterns more accessible. A great idea could lead to the next and a challenge can open the door to a range of possible solutions.

Moreover, this added reference supports more complex pattern search strategies. This lets you examine intersections across learning patterns. Check out the category intersection search tool, as outlined in Grants:Learning patterns/Searching the Learning Patterns Library. You can see the full list of Learning Patterns categories. Tables showing how subcategories are organized can be found here.

Help close the diversity gap

Let’s invite more diversity on Wikipedia! «Harmony Day», by DIAC Images, under a CC-BY 2.0 Generic license.

A good way to start contributing to the Learning Pattern Library is by joining the Diversity campaign! If you learned anything from past experiences, you can share what you know through a learning pattern, including: under-represented topics or voices in Wikimedia projects, programs or events. Your questions are welcome too!

The Learning and Evaluation team encourages you to help us:

  1. Generate a list of knowledge needs related to the gender and diversity.
  2. Help to rank the list of potential needed patterns by endorsing other’s suggestions.
  3. Help to create, expand, and apply learning patterns relevant to diversity in support of creative solutions in the upcoming Inspire campaign.

Happy editing,

Brett Gibbs, WMF Learning and Evaluation Intern
María Cruz, WMF Evaluation Community Coordinator

by Andrew Sherman at February 10, 2015 11:13 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Wikimedia in Google Code-in 2014

GCI2013 Group Photo - Android Building 44.jpg
For this year’s Google Code-in software development contest, Wikimedia developers mentored young students to contribute to our free codebase. Here are last year’s winners. Group Photo by M4tx, licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0

The Wikimedia Foundation was proud to participate for a second time in Google Code-in, an annual software development contest for 13 to 17 year old students. In this program, young students are introduced to free and open source software (FOSS) projects and invited to make practical contributions.

Weekly summary of tasks

Wikimedia results from Google Code-in. Weekly summary of tasks by Andre Klapper, under CC-BY-SA 4.0

Between December 2014 and January 2015, 48 students successfully completed 226 Wikimedia tasks, supported by 30 mentors from our community. The foundation was one of the twelve mentoring organizations selected by Google. Students who completed their tasks will receive a certificate and t-shirt from Google. And finalists will be invited with their parents to visit Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Google Code-in tasks include not only code development, but also documentation, research, and testing — leading to a wide range of achievements:

We welcome more contributions to help improve our free and open software. Check out how you can contribute and the list of easy software bugs to start with.

Thank you and congratulations to all the students who joined Wikimedia and supported its mission to freely share knowledge! Special kudos to Wikimedia’s two Grand Prize Winners: Danny Wu and Mateusz Maćkowski — and to our finalists Evan McIntire, Geoffrey Mon and Pranav Kumar! The full list of winners across all organizations can be found here.

“It’s been satisfying (and a little addictive too) to see your changes merged into a project used by millions”, said Unicodesnowman, one of the participating students.

We also wish to thank all our mentors for their generous commitment: we are especially grateful for the time they spent on weekends, coming up with task ideas, working with students and quickly reviewing their contributions.

And last but not least, thank you to Google for organizing and running this contest, creating awareness of and interest in Free and Open Software projects.

Andre Klapper, Bugwrangler, Engineer Community Team, Wikimedia Foundation

by Andrew Sherman at February 10, 2015 09:21 PM

Benjamin Mako Hill

Consider the Redirect

In wikis, redirects are special pages that silently take readers from the page they are visiting to another page. Although their presence is noted in tiny gray text (see the image below) most people use them all the time and never know they exist. Redirects exist to make linking between pages easier, they populate Wikipedia’s search autocomplete list, and are generally helpful in organizing information. In the English Wikipedia, redirects make up more than half of all article pages.

seattle_redirectOver the years, I’ve spent some time contributing to to Redirects for Discussion (RfD). I think of RfD as like an ultra-low stakes version of Articles for Deletion where Wikipedians decide whether to delete or keep articles. If a redirect is deleted, viewers are taken to a search results page and almost nobody notices. That said, because redirects are almost never viewed directly, almost nobody notices if a redirect is kept either!

I’ve told people that if they want to understand the soul of a Wikipedian, they should spend time participating in RfD. When you understand why arguing about and working hard to come to consensus solutions for how Wikipedia should handle individual redirects is an enjoyable way to spend your spare time — where any outcome is invisible — you understand what it means to be a Wikipedian.

That said, wiki researchers rarely take redirects into account. For years, I’ve suspected that accounting for redirects was important for Wikipedia research and that several classes of findings were noisy or misleading because most people haven’t done so. As a result, I worked with my colleague Aaron Shaw at Northwestern earlier this year to build a longitudinal dataset of redirects that can capture the dynamic nature of redirects. Our work was published as a short paper at OpenSym several months ago.

It turns out, taking redirects into account correctly (especially if you are looking at activity over time) is tricky because redirects are stored as normal pages by MediaWiki except that they happen to start with special redirect text. Like other pages, redirects can be updated and changed over time are frequently are. As a result, taking redirects into account for any study that looks at activity over time requires looking at the text of every revision of every page.

Using our dataset, Aaron and I showed that the distribution of edits across pages in English Wikipedia (a relationships that is used in many research projects) looks pretty close to log normal when we remove redirects and very different when you don’t. After all, half of articles are really just redirects and, and because they are just redirects, these “articles” are almost never edited.

edits_over_pagesAnother puzzling finding that’s been reported in a few places — and that I repeated myself several times — is that edits and views are surprisingly uncorrelated. I’ll write more about this later but the short version is that we found that a big chunk of this can, in fact, be explained by considering redirects.

We’ve published our code and data and the article itself is online because we paid the ACM’s open access fee to ransom the article.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at February 10, 2015 06:32 PM

Community Data Science Workshops in Seattle

<figure class="wp-caption aligncenter" id="attachment_2517" style="width: 600px;">Photo from the Boston Python Workshop – a similar workshop run in Boston that has inspired and provided a template for the CDSW.<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Photo from the Boston Python Workshop – a similar workshop run in Boston that has inspired and provided a template for the CDSW.</figcaption></figure>

On three Saturdays in April and May, I will be helping run three day-long project-based workshops at the University of Washington in Seattle. The workshops are for anyone interested in learning how to use programming and data science tools to ask and answer questions about online communities like Wikipedia, Twitter, free  and open source software, and civic media.

The workshops are for people with no previous programming experience and the goal is to bring together researchers as well as participants and leaders in online communities.  The workshops will all be free of charge and open to the public given availability of space.

Our goal is that, after the three workshops, participants will be able to use data to produce numbers, hypothesis tests, tables, and graphical visualizations to answer questions like:

  • Are new contributors to an article in Wikipedia sticking around longer or contributing more than people who joined last year?
  • Who are the most active or influential users of a particular Twitter hashtag?
  • Are people who participated in a Wikipedia outreach event staying involved? How do they compare to people that joined the project outside of the event?

If you are interested in participating, fill out our registration form here. The deadline to register is Wednesday March 26th.  We will let participants know if we have room for them by Saturday March 29th. Space is limited and will depend on how many mentors we can recruit for the sessions.

If you already have experience with Python, please consider helping out at the sessions as a mentor. Being a mentor will involve working with participants and talking them through the challenges they encounter in programming. No special preparation is required.  If you’re interested,  send me an email.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at February 10, 2015 06:32 PM

Community Data Science Workshops Post-Mortem

Earlier this year, I helped plan and run the Community Data Science Workshops: a series of three (and a half) day-long workshops designed to help people learn basic programming and tools for data science tools in order to ask and answer questions about online communities like Wikipedia and Twitter. You can read our initial announcement for more about the vision.

The workshops were organized by myself, Jonathan Morgan from the Wikimedia Foundation, long-time Software Carpentry teacher Tommy Guy, and a group of 15 volunteer “mentors” who taught project-based afternoon sessions and worked one-on-one with more than 50 participants. With overwhelming interest, we were ultimately constrained by the number of mentors who volunteered. Unfortunately, this meant that we had to turn away most of the people who applied. Although it was not emphasized in recruiting or used as a selection criteria, a majority of the participants were women.

The workshops were all free of charge and sponsored by the UW Department of Communication, who provided space, and the eScience Institute, who provided food.

cdsw_combo_images-1The curriculum for all four session session is online:

The workshops were designed for people with no previous programming experience. Although most our participants were from the University of Washington, we had non-UW participants from as far away as Vancouver, BC.

Feedback we collected suggests that the sessions were a huge success, that participants learned enormously, and that the workshops filled a real need in the Seattle community. Between workshops, participants organized meet-ups to practice their programming skills.

Most excitingly, just as we based our curriculum for the first session on the Boston Python Workshop’s, others have been building off our curriculum. Elana Hashman, who was a mentor at the CDSW, is coordinating a set of Python Workshops for Beginners with a group at the University of Waterloo and with sponsorship from the Python Software Foundation using curriculum based on ours. I also know of two university classes that are tentatively being planned around the curriculum.

Because a growing number of groups have been contacting us about running their own events based on the CDSW — and because we are currently making plans to run another round of workshops in Seattle late this fall — I coordinated with a number of other mentors to go over participant feedback and to put together a long write-up of our reflections in the form of a post-mortem. Although our emphasis is on things we might do differently, we provide a broad range of information that might be useful to people running a CDSW (e.g., our budget). Please let me know if you are planning to run an event so we can coordinate going forward.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at February 10, 2015 06:31 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Tokyo University of the Arts alumni

Mr Kenji Ekuan died. He was a Japanese designer who studied at the Tokyo University of the Arts. As can be expected, he was not the only one who studied there. There are categories in several Wikipedias informing us about them. The category on the Japanese Wikipedia has includes 642 alumni and for many of them there is no label in other languages.

It is no surprise either that these people refer to many items that have a label in Japanese and not in the languages people are familiar with. The automated description for Mr Munemoto Yanagi in Dutch for instance is "kunsthistoricus (*1917); Mainichi-Kulturpreis; kind van 柳宗悦 en 柳兼子 ♂". As more labels become available in Dutch, this information becomes easier to comprehend.

With every label that is added, all the associated descriptions are improved. Every item will be easier understood in Reasonator as well. Adding labels in Reasonator will provide you with instant gratification. Every statement of that item will show the new label.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at February 10, 2015 09:01 AM