Wikipedia as science communication

15:38, Friday, 22 2021 October UTC

Yug Chandra Saraswat is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University. He recently took an Wiki Scientist course sponsored by the American Physical Society.

My inspiration to become a Wiki Scientist and support unheard voices through biographies came after reading Brenda Maddox’s excellent biography of Rosalind Franklin “Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA” and sadly realizing the long time it took for the scientific community to give Dr Franklin the due credit for her ground-breaking work in the discovery of double helix structure of the DNA.

I believe that by providing scientists from minority and marginalized communities with their due recognition, we can reiterate the idea that a scientific contribution can be made irrespective of sex, race, and religious identity. I was also motivated to participate in this course because of my personal belief in promoting open access to credible and vetted scientific information to public. In the current environment, much of the technological development is hidden behind expensive archives and riddled with jargons that are incomprehensible to people without any field expertise. I strongly believed that education in this course would teach me how to communicate new scientific information in a responsible and comprehensive manner to the public.

In my opinion, the time I committed to this course was well spent as it provided me with an excellent opportunity to highlight the scientific contributions made by female scientists in the field of physics and engineering. I was very happy to see the commitment of Wikipedia users toward disseminating credible information and maintaining communication (via the ‘Talk’ pages) with other users in a respectful and professional manner thereby encouraging informative and thought-provoking discussions.

The course is well-organized and provides all the necessary information in a succinct format to become a responsible member of the Wikipedia community. I would like to mention our instructor Will Kent, who patiently showed us the complex albeit open and welcoming world of Wikipedia. His feedback on my multiple drafts helped me publish an article that I am proud of.

I devoted my time toward writing about an Indian physicist, Dr Shobhana Narasimhan, who is currently working at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research and specializes in computational nanoscience. It was especially inspiring to research about her because in addition to being a professor and a successful researcher, she is also an advocate for increasing women participation in STEM research and a member of the Standing committee on Women in Science and National Task force on Women in Science in India. I was fascinated to read about her contribution toward developing innovative pedagogical techniques and her recommendations to the Indian government on promoting female participation in STEM.

After finishing my PhD, I plan to pursue a career in academia as a professor, and I strongly believe that this course taught me how to become an effective and responsible communicator and has inspired me to contribute toward promotion of diversity and inclusion in the STEM field. I hope that my testimonial can inspire other students and members of the STEM community to do the same.

To take a course like the one Yug took, visit

Image credit: SMR 94, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Production Excellence #36: September 2021

15:11, Friday, 22 2021 October UTC

How’d we do in our strive for operational excellence last month? Read on to find out!


We've had quite an eventful month, with 8 documented incidents in September. That's the highest since last year (Feb 2020) and one of the three worst months of the last five years.

  • 2021-09-01 partial Parsoid outage
    • Impact: For 9 hours, 10% of Parsoid requests to parse/save pages were failing on all wikis. Little to no end-user impact apart from minor due to RESTBase retries.
  • 2021-09-04 appserver latency
    • Impact: For 37 minutes, MW backends were slow with 2% of requests receiving errors. This affected all wikis through logged-in users, bots/API queries, and some page views from unregistered users (e.g. pages that were recently edited or expired from CDN cache).
  • 2021-09-06 Wikifeeds
    • Impact: For 3 days, the Wikifeeds API failed ~1% of requests (e.g. 5 of 500 req/s).
  • 2021-09-12 Esams upload
    • Impact: For 20 minutes, images were unavailable for people in Europe, affecting all wikis.
  • 2021-09-13 CirrusSearch restart
    • Impact: For ~2 hours, search was unavailable on Wikipedia from all regions. Search suggestions were missing or slow, and the search results page errored with "Try again later".
  • 2021-09-18 appserver latency
    • Impact: For ~10 minutes, MW backends were slow or unavailable for all wikis.
  • 2021-09-26 appserver latency
    • Impact: For ~15 minutes, MW backends were slow or unavailable for all wikis.
  • 2021-09-29 eqiad kubernetes
    • Impact: For 2 minutes, MW backends were affected by a Kubernetes issue (via Kask sessionstore). 1500 edit attempts failed (8% of POSTs), and logged-in pageviews were slowed down, often taking several seconds.

Remember to review and schedule Incident Follow-up work in Phabricator, which are preventive measures and tech debt mitigations written down after an incident is concluded.

Image from Incident graphs.


The month of September saw 24 new production error reports of which 11 have since been resolved, and today, three to six weeks later, 13 remain open and have thus carried over to the next month. This is about average, although it makes it no less sad that we continue to introduce (and carry over) more errors than we rectify in the same time frame.

On the other hand, last month we did have a healthy focus on some of the older reports. The workboard stood at 301 unresolved errors last month. Of those, 16 were resolved. With the 13 new errors from September, this reduces the total slightly, to 298 open tasks.

For the month-over-month numbers, refer to the spreadsheet data.

Did you know
  • 💡 The default "system error" page now includes a request ID. T291192
  • 💡 To zoom in and find your team's error reports, use the appropriate "Filter" link in the sidebar of the workboard.

Outstanding errors

Take a look at the workboard and look for tasks that could use your help.

View Workboard

Summary over recent months:

Jan 2021 (50 issues) 3 left. Unchanged.
Feb 2021 (20 issues) 5 > 4 left.
Mar 2021 (48 issues) 10 > 9 left.
Apr 2021 (42 issues) 17 > 10 left.
May 2021 (54 issues) 20 > 17 left.
Jun 2021 (26 issues) 10 > 9 left.
Jul 2021 (31 issues) 12 left. Unchanged.
Aug 2021 (46 issues) 17 > 12 left.
Sep 2021 (24 issues) 13 unresolved issues remaining.

301 issues open, as of Excellence #35 (August 2021)
-16 issues closed, of the previous 301 open issues.
+13 new issues that survived September 2021.
298 issues open, as of today (19 Oct 2021).


Thank you to everyone who helped by reporting, investigating, or resolving problems in Wikimedia production. Thanks!

Until next time,

– Timo Tijhof

One million Wikipedia articles by translation

06:29, Friday, 22 2021 October UTC

I am happy to share a news from my work at Wikimedia Foundation. The Wikipedia article translation system, known as Content Translation reached a milestone of creating one million articles. Since 2015, this is my major project at WMF and I am lead engineer for the project. The Content Translation system helps Wikipedia editors to quickly translate and publish articles from one language wiki to another. This way, the knowledge gap between different languages are reduced.

My teleconf setup

22:41, Thursday, 21 2021 October UTC

Several friends have asked about my camera/videoconferencing setup, so some notes on that.

Picture from my desktop camera. Lighting isn’t quite as even as I’d like (and as always in stills, my smile is goofy) but you can see the background blur clearly.


I’ve joked that for lawyers, a good videoconferencing setup is now like a good suit—sort of pointless but nevertheless can help make a good impression in a field where impressions, for better and for worse, matter.

I picked up the new book “Presenting Virtually” from Duarte and it starts with something that’s pretty basic, but also not always obvious—you can’t control networks, and often don’t control what presentation software you’re using. What you do control is your hardware, so make that the best you can.


I bought a Canon 77D to take baby pictures and… it was in a closet when the pandemic hit. I use it with a 24mm pancake lens. Canon provides a driver that lets you use the camera as a webcam.

Given the cost, I’m not sure this makes sense for most people to do unless they already have a compatible Canon laying around. But if you do have a supported one it works great!

As an alternative, friends speak very highly of this new Dell camera.


I cheat by having good natural light in my office and then supplementing it, rather than having to blast light all over to make up for the gap. This means my light was cheap; the primary criteria was being able to change the color (from a bright white to yellow-ish) so that things looked right.

The exact model I got is no longer available, but is basically similar to this one.

Pro tip for new-ish home workers: if you have two rooms, one dark and one bright, make your bedroom dark and cramped and your office big and light. The previous residents of our place made the reverse choice and I don’t understand it at all.


I have a Blue Yeti mic. I’m not sure I’d recommend it for most people. The audio quality is very good, but positioning it over a desk is finicky. (I use these for both my camera and mic, and they work once you get them set up, but they’re a pain.) In addition, it has a headphone jack—which is fine except it insists on reporting to the operating system that it is live even when it has nothing plugged in, so I frequently have to say “no, bad zoom, use the speakers that are actually speakers”.

If I were doing it over again, I’d get something designed more specifically for the home office use case. A friend swears by their Jabra 510, and this new thing from Logitech looks pretty interesting.

What I’m not doing (at least not yet)

I’m sorely tempted to get a teleprompter, but Stephen has mostly convinced me not to. In my experience, at this time, the bar is pretty low—having a good camera and light really does make things noticeably better for people on the other end, even if your eye contact isn’t perfect while doing a slide deck. So you can get a lot of bang for a lot less effort than Stephen spent. Still, tempting some days :)

Hope this is helpful!

Production Excellence #35: August 2021

23:01, Wednesday, 20 2021 October UTC

How’d we do in our strive for operational excellence last month? Read on to find out!


Zero documented incidents last month. Isn't that something!

Learn about past incidents at Incident status on Wikitech. Remember to review and schedule Incident Follow-up in Phabricator, which are preventive measures and other action items to learn from.

Image from Incident graphs.


In August we resolved 18 of the 156 reports that carried over from previous months, and reported 46 new failures in production. Of the new ones, 17 remain unresolved as of writing and will carry over to next month.

The number of new errors reports in August was fairly high at 46, compared to 31 reports in July, and 26 reports in June.

The backlog of "Old" issues saw no progress this past month and remained constant at 146 open error reports.

Unified graph:

💡 Did you know:

You can zoom in to your team's error reports by using the appropriate "Filter" link in the sidebar of our shared workboard.

Take a look at the workboard and look for tasks that could use your help.

View Workboard


Last few months in review:

Jan 2021 (50 issues) 3 left.
Feb 2021 (20 issues) 6 > 5 left.
Mar 2021 (48 issues) 13 > 10 left.
Apr 2021 (42 issues) 18 > 17 left.
May 2021 (54 issues) 22 > 20 left.
Jun 2021 (26 issues) 11 > 10 left.
Jul 2021 (31 issues) 16 > 12 left.
Aug 2021 (46 issues) + 17 new unresolved issues.


156 issues open, as of Excellence #34 (July 2021).
-18 issues closed, of the previously open issues.
+17 new issues that survived August 2021.
155 issues open, as of today (3 Sep 2021).

For more month-over-month numbers refer to the spreadsheet.


Thank you to everyone who helped by reporting, investigating, or resolving problems in Wikimedia production. Thanks!

Until next time,

– Timo Tijhof

“Fly, little item, and be useful to someone!”

16:39, Wednesday, 20 2021 October UTC
Julia Novakovic head shot
Julia Novakovic

At a conference a few years ago, Julia Novakovic got inspired by the idea of linked data. As an Archivist for the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, Julia is responsible for the preservation of, and providing access to, primary source documentation relating to the study of play, artifacts of play, and video and electronic game history. So when an opportunity came her way to join one of Wiki Education’s Wikidata Institute courses through the New York Data Carpentries Library Consortium (NYDCLC), Julia remembered her earlier dreams of linked data — and set out making them a reality.

“The Women in Games Initiative at The Strong shares the ever-evolving story of women’s contributions to the video game industry, and I thought that using linked data to map this initiative would be a very useful resource,” she says. “If we could create a visualization showing that this woman worked for X company, which also employed this woman, who collaborated with this other woman, and so on, it could really show impact on, and growth of, the video game industry. We could then also link people to related collections materials—whether museum objects (like games or hardware), or archival collections (like primary source documentation or oral history interviews). While I’ve since been preoccupied with other duties and projects at The Strong, I realized that getting involved with Wikidata might just be the boost I need to learn more and be able to see this idea come to fruition.”

Wiki Education’s Wikidata Institute course provided that boost for Julia. Through twice-weekly Zoom sessions for three weeks led by Will Kent, out of class online tutorials, and a plethora of tools and visualizations to explore, Julia quickly became immersed in the world of Wikidata. And because she was part of a cohort of fellow NYDCLC participants, Julia got even more out of the course.

“It was actually pretty useful for me to have classmates in the same region because we had a lot of topics and questions in common,” she says. “I had also met a handful of them in person at previous events or conferences too, and it was nice to see familiar faces!”

As part of the course, she added references to items in Wikidata related to her areas of expertise at the museum. This led her down the Wikidata wormhole of creating items for publications, then linking those items as a reference for another item. She spent some time on the Monopoly article, as The Strong’s archives have lots of materials related to the Parker Brothers games.

“My favorite part is the satisfaction that accompanies a new item going out into the ether,” Julia says. “Fly, little item, and be useful to someone!”

Since the class wrapped up, she has connected with colleagues at the museum to do more work on Wikidata items related to an upcoming Women in Games celebration. And she’s planning to incorporate Wikidata into a new website her museum recently launched, the Sid Sackson Portal.

Julia encourages more librarians and archivists to contribute to Wikidata

“As information professionals, it should be second nature for us to want to help make data out there better,” she says, “whether that’s by creating items, making edits when needed, or providing references for users.”

The New York Data Carpentries Library Consortium sponsored this course for librarians in Western and Central New York, thanks to financial support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. To bring together librarians, data professionals, and others at your institution for a similar learning experience, contact

Image credits: עדירל, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Jnovakovic09, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Iterating on how we do NFS at Wikimedia Cloud Services

19:27, Tuesday, 19 2021 October UTC

By Arturo Borrero González, Site Reliability Engineer, Wikimedia Cloud Services Team

The current situation

NFS is a central piece of technology for some of the services that the Wikimedia Cloud Services team offers to the community. We have several shares that power different use cases: Toolforge user home directories live on NFS, and Cloud VPS users can also access dumps using this protocol. The current setup involves several physical hardware servers, with about 20TB of storage, offering shares over 10G links to the cloud. For the system to be more fault-tolerant, we duplicate each share for redundancy using DRBD.

Running NFS on dedicated hardware servers has traditionally offered us advantages: mostly on the performance and the capacity fields.

As time has passed, we have been enumerating more and more reasons to review how we do NFS. For one, the current setup is in violation of some of our internal rules regarding realm separation. Additionally, we had been longing for additional flexibility managing our servers: we wanted to use virtual machines managed by Openstack Nova. The DRBD-based high-availability system required mostly a hand-crafted procedure for failover/failback. There’s also some scalability concerns as NFS is easy to grow up, but not to grow horizontally, and of course, we have to be able to keep the tenancy setup while doing so, something that NFS does by using LDAP/Unix users and may get complicated too when growing. In general, the servers have become ‘too big to fail’, clearly technical debt, and it has taken us years to decide on taking on the task to rethink the architecture. It’s worth mentioning that in an ideal world, we wouldn’t depend on NFS, but the truth is that it will still be a central piece of infrastructure for years to come in services like Toolforge.

Over a series of brainstorming meetings, the WMCS team evaluated the situation and sorted out the many moving parts. The team  managed to boil down the potential service future to two competing options:

  • Adopt and introduce a new Openstack component into our cloud: Manila — this was the right choice if we were interested in a general NFS as a service offering for our Cloud VPS users.
  • Put the data on Cinder volumes and serve NFS from a couple of virtual machines created by hand — this was the right choice if we wanted something that required low effort to engineer and adopt.

Then we decided to research both options in parallel. For a number of reasons, the evaluation was timeboxed to three weeks. Both ideas had a couple of points in common: the NFS data would be stored on our Ceph farm via Cinder volumes, and we would rely on Ceph reliability to avoid using DRBD. Another open topic was how to back up data from Ceph, to store our important bits in more than one basket. We will get to the back up topic later.

The manila experiment

The Wikimedia Foundation was an early adopter of some Openstack components (Nova, Glance, Designate, Horizon), but Manila was never evaluated for usage until now. Our approach for this experiment was to closely follow the upstream guidelines. We read the documentation and tried to understand the different setups you can build with Manila. As we often feel with other Openstack components, the documentation doesn’t perfectly describe how to introduce a given component in your particular local setup. Here we use an admin-controller flat-topology Neutron network. This network is shared by all tenants (or projects) in our Openstack deployment. Also, Manila can use many different driver backends, for things like NetApps or CephFS—that we don’t use…, yet. After some research, the generic driver was the one that seemed to better fit our use case. The generic driver leverages Nova virtual machines instances plus Cinder volume to create and manage the shares. In general, Manila supports two operational modes, whether it should create/destroy the share servers (i.e, the virtual machine instances) or not. This option is called driver_handles_share_server (or DHSS) and takes a boolean value. 

We were interested in trying with DHSS=true, to really benefit from the potential of the setup., By Arturo Borrero González, CC-BY-SA 4.0

So, after sorting all these variables, we moved on with our initial testing. We built a PoC setup as depicted in the diagram above, with the manila-share component running in a virtual machine inside the cloud. The PoC led to us reporting several bugs upstream:

In some cases we tried to address these bugs ourselves:

It’s worth mentioning that the upstream community was extra-welcoming to us, and we’re thankful for that. However, at the end of our three-week period, our Manila setup still wasn’t working as expected. Your experience may change with other drivers—perhaps the ZFSonLinux or the CephFS ones. In general, we were having trouble making the setup work as expected, so we decided to abandon this approach in favor of the other option we were considering at the beginning.

Simple virtual machine serving NFS

The alternative was to create a Nova virtual machine instance by hand and to configure it using puppet. We have been investing in an automation framework lately, so the idea is to not actually create the server by hand. Anyway, the data would be decoupled from the instance into Cinder volumes, which led us to the question we left for later: How should we back up those terabytes of important information? Just to be clear, the backup problem was independent of the above options; with Manila we would still have had to solve the same challenge. We would like to see our data be backed up somewhere else other than in Ceph. And that’s exactly where we are at right now. We’ve been exploring different backup strategies and will finally use the Cinder backup API.


The iteration will end with the dedicated NFS hardware servers being stopped, and the shares being served from within the cloud. The migration will take some time to happen because we will check and double-check that everything works as expected (including from the performance point of view) before making definitive changes. We already have some plans to make sure our users experience as little service impact as possible. The most troublesome shares will be those related to Toolforge. At some point we will need to disallow writes to the NFS share, rsync the data out of the hardware servers into the Cinder volumes, point the NFS clients to the new virtual machines, and then enable writes again. The main Toolforge share has about 8TB of data, so this will take a while.

We will have more updates in the future. Who knows, perhaps our next-next iteration, in a couple of years, will see us adopting Openstack Manila for good.

About this post

Featured image credit: File:(from break water) Manila Skyline – panoramio.jpg, ewol, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Wiki Education Wow Moments

16:06, Monday, 18 2021 October UTC

Jay. F Bolin is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Biology Department at Catawba College, Salisbury, North Carolina.

Jay Bolin head shot
Jay Bolin Image courtesy Jay Bolin, all rights reserved.

As a college professor I’m fortunate to teach subjects I love at Catawba College and teaching with Wiki Education I can confidently say has made my teaching even more satisfying. Since 2016, I’ve used Wiki Education in three Plant Taxonomy courses (one that I’m offering this fall) and one Dendrology Course (for those not into esoteric -ologies, that’s a course on the biology of trees). I’ll admit I was not a Wikipedia editor before learning about Wiki Education at a scientific conference and still haven’t been fully transformed into a late night Wikipedian. But, I do dabble on occasion, since I’ve been learning about editing Wikipedia right along with my students.

In my courses where I employ Wiki Education the implementation is incredibly straightforward, I have students find stubs (sad nubbins of Wikipedia pages) for native plants in my home state of North Carolina. With over 4,000 plants in the Tar Heel state, the student’s task of finding a stub for a plant that is interesting to them and developing a reasonable Wikipedia species page is a challenging but still reasonable ask. They explore and write succinct and dispassionate descriptions in Wikipedia of the plants themselves, their ecology, taxonomy, and any other area that the students choose with adequate references. I love the self-directed aspect of Wiki Education assignments; for example, if a student is interested in Native American uses of a plant they follow that path, if they are biochemistry nuts they can describe medicinally active compounds.

screenshot of iMessage conversationMince no words, implementing Wiki Education in your classroom is work, but it is rewarding for so many reasons. Just this week, I was on a nerdy iMessage thread with two other academic botanists about the identification of a particular maple tree in Kentucky. We were discussing possible options then when I intuited that he was reading from a Wikipedia page that my student primarily authored! There aren’t a lot of student assignments that you work on with your student and spend time carefully editing that make an impact like Wiki Education outside of the classroom. Just so you know, the popular “facepalm” emoticon on the right is more of a mind-blown happy thing than the traditional usage.

Another “Ah-Ha” or Wow teaching moment that I had a few years ago was in a Plant Taxonomy Class. While students were doing some revisions and research on their own Wikipedia plant species pages in class, a student just yelled out “NOOOOOO, NOOOOOOOO” and gesticulated wildly, alarmed I walked over and asked what the issue was. He shook his head and showed me his phone. He had the astute idea of doing more research on his focal plant species using a very widely used photo identification phone app called iNaturalist.  When he pulled up the description of the plant species in iNaturalist, what he saw was his own writing, talk about circular: He had written nearly all of the Wikipedia page, already made it “live” and was looking for guidance from his own writing. As many natural historians know Wikipedia is an invaluable source of freely available taxonomic information,  iNaturalist (funded by the California Academy of Science and National Geographic) and the Encyclopedia of Life (funded by the Smithsonian Institution) both feed some or all of their descriptive data from Wikipedia. Soon all the students whipped out their phones (OK I’m lying they were already out on the lab tables), and looked up their focal Wiki Education species on the iNaturalist app, and were one by one blown away and shaken, that the inviolable fount of knowledge, their phones, were linking their own writing, for class! After that they realized that they were the experts and took their tasks of editing and researching “their plant pages” with solemn seriousness.

A few protips from a somewhat seasoned Wiki Education professor (78.K words & 926 references added by students and an astounding 611k plant species page views! (this is how Wikipedians talk)): If you aren’t using Wiki Education in the classroom I suggest giving it a whirl, as long as 1) your class is relatively small, 2) your students are mostly Junior or Seniors, and 3) you have time (I know) to edit your student’s short Wikipedia entries. As a final thought, if you are preparing a new course, that would be a good time to introduce a Wiki Education assignment. Mashing the well thought out Wiki Education training and modules into an existing course may not work unless you can take a paring knife to the precious content you have developed for a course that you’ve taught a few times. I enjoy teaching with Wiki Education and I think you will too.

Image credit: Kharris0317, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tech News issue #42, 2021 (October 18, 2021)

00:00, Monday, 18 2021 October UTC
previous 2021, week 42 (Monday 18 October 2021) next

weeklyOSM 586

10:33, Sunday, 17 2021 October UTC


lead picture

Daniele Santini‘s Open Etymology Map [1] © Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, Mapbox | map data © OpenStreetMap contributors


  • Daniel Capilla told (es) > en us in his blog that the reality in Malaga has nothing to do with the old cliché ‘Malaga, city of a thousand bars and only one bookshop’, sharing details related to bookshop and libraries mapped in OSM.
  • Voting is underway for boundary=border_zone, for tagging areas near borders that have special restrictions on movement (till Friday 22 October).


  • The UN Mappers Crowdsourcing Team organised its first online training in Portuguese. The activity was in collaboration with the Munzuá Research Group from UNILAB (pt) > en . Over six sessions of three hours each, the aim was to both train new contributors on OSM mapping and provide insights regarding the OSM ecosystem. The overall objective is to support the development of OSM communities in Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. In addition, the Highway tag Africa OSM wiki page has been translated into Portuguese.
  • The University of the Philippines’ NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) has formally launched its revamped website, which uses OpenStreetMap datasets to identify hazard exposure and risk for the whole country.
  • After only one week as a mapper in the OSM world Sebastian Helm wrote a blog post about his first impressions of mapping and pointed out some aspects that, from his point of view, make it difficult for new mappers to stay on the ball.
  • Simon Poole shared that he sent the 10,000th new contributor a welcome message on Tuesday 5 October. The first was sent in December 2013.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Dorothea Kazazi released three reports highlighting recent updates related to the OSMF, including local chapter news and membership statistics.
  • Amanda McCann suggested, on the OSMF-Talk mailing list, that the State of the Map brand should not be used for events in places where homosexuality is banned and persecuted.
  • The minutes of the Friday 24 September OSMF Board meeting have been released.

Local chapter news

  • Christian Quest wrote (fr) > de about the creation of OpenStreetMap France on the occasion of its 10th birthday.


  • Pista ng Mapa (Festival of Maps) is an annual open and geo conference held in the Philippines. Registration is open until Sunday 31 October.


  • In this tutorial Amanda McCann demonstrates using different GPS positions for mapping, creating curved and unusually shaped buildings, and the all-important terrace.
  • Amelia Hunt and Doug Specht, academics at University of Westminster (London ), published ‘Crowdsurced mapping in crisis zones: collaboration, organisation and impact’, in the Journal of International Humanitarian Action. The paper presents case studies centred on crowdsourcing communities, such as the Standby Task Force (SBTF), which activate on a case-by-case basis at the request of international agencies and/or local actors. These communities gather and analyse, in real time, social media information during conflict and disaster, and produce POI maps.

Humanitarian OSM

  • HOT Open Mapping Hub – Asia Pacific announced their Booster Grant programme – OpenStreetMap community/ecosystem investments in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines.
  • At HOT’s Annual General Meeting (held on 7 October), the HOT Voting Membership elected five members to the Board of Directors. Chad Blevins replaces Matt Gibb as the newly elected Voting Membership Chairperson. Four amendments to the organisation’s by-laws were also approved.
  • Outgoing HOT Board President, Miriam Mapanauta, shared her End of Term Report 2019–2021.



  • LySioS wondered if the OSM copyright notice might not be better clarified by a word-picture mark rather than plain text to indicate OSM’s contribution. Various people in the thread pointed to earlier discussions on the theme.


  • Geofabrik tweeted that their OSM Inspector QA tool is now being updated twice a day.
  • Pieter Vander Vennet released a new version of MapComplete. As detailed in his diary entry, it contains a heap of new themes (for example, charging stations, pubs and cafes and restaurants), performance improvements and new features. The post ends with a request to help develop MapComplete, e.g., with translation.
  • Bo Percival is seeking the community’s views on the Tasking Manager’s ‘tomorrow’. HOT_tech are also on the hunt for a possible community representative product owner for TM, so if this sounds like something you could be interested in, please get in touch.
  • Sarah Hoffmann discussed some of the issues encountered when trying to deal with names in different languages or mixed-lingual names. The next version of Nominatim will support language-specific handling of names, including for names that do not have a language suffix.
  • The subway validator (we reported earlier), initially created by Ilya Zverev, is now being hosted by Some details about this tool are available on the OSM Wiki and the code is on GitHub.

Did you know …

  • … that the key floor:material is designed for tagging ceilings (technically the lowest part of a building part with a non-zero minlevel). taginfo suggests that it is in fact used for tagging floors, at least in places like Nepal. It is one of a number of confusing tag names documented on the wiki.
  • … that the shapes of non-circular turning circles (yes, it’s an oxymoron) can be described with the turning_circle key? The recent documentation of this usage is by Jdcarls2.
  • … the JOSM style Coloured Streets for better address mapping? nickjohnston explains how it improves address mapping.
  • … the vroom-project on GitHub by Julien Coupey, the open source application to solve the travelling salesman problem? Vroom is BSD-licensed, relies on OpenStreetMap data, and works with OSRM, Openrouteservice, or Valhalla.
  • … the OSM Emergency Map?

Other “geo” things

  • The Azores Islands may have been inhabited (pt) > en 700 years earlier than previously thought, reveals a new study developed by an international team of researchers. Until now the islands were thought to have been discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century, namely the island of Santa Maria in 1427 and the islands of Corvo and Flores in 1452.
  • Map war: China dictates (de) > en (paywalled) its borders to the world with maps.
  • The Billion Dollar Code is a German Netflix miniseries that covers, among other things, the legal battle over the allegation that Google Earth software plagiarised the Terravision system developed by ART+COM.

Upcoming Events

Where What Online When Country
OSMF Engineering Working Group meeting osmcalpic 2021-10-18
Lyon Missing Maps CartONG Tour de France des Mapathons – Lyon osmcalpic 2021-10-19 flag
Bonn 144. Treffen des OSM-Stammtisches Bonn osmcalpic 2021-10-19 flag
Berlin OSM-Verkehrswende #28 (Online) osmcalpic 2021-10-19 flag
Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen (online) osmcalpic 2021-10-19 flag
Olomouc říjnový olomoucký mapathon osmcalpic 2021-10-21 flag
Budapest Survey around the University of Óbuda (please vote!) osmcalpic 2021-10-25 flag
Hlavní město Praha “50 years of MSF” mapathon with Missing Maps CZ community 2021 #6 osmcalpic 2021-10-25 flag
Code for Toyama City シビックテックナイト#33 参加できるデジタル地図づくり osmcalpic 2021-10-25
Bremen Bremer Mappertreffen (Online) osmcalpic 2021-10-25 flag
San Jose South Bay Map Night osmcalpic 2021-10-27 flag
Bruxelles – Brussel Virtual(?) OpenStreetMap Belgium meeting osmcalpic 2021-10-26 flag
Düsseldorf Düsseldorfer OSM-Treffen (online) osmcalpic 2021-10-27 flag
Decatur County OSM US Mappy Hour osmcalpic 2021-10-28 flag
[Online] OpenStreetMap Foundation board of Directors – public videomeeting osmcalpic 2021-10-29
Amsterdam OSM Nederland maandelijkse bijeenkomst (online) osmcalpic 2021-10-30 flag
Prévessin-Moëns Cartographie dans le Pays de Gex osmcalpic 2021-10-31 flag
[Online] OpenStreetMap Foundation – Board of directors and advisory board public videomeeting osmcalpic 2021-11-02
Greater London Missing Maps London Mapathon osmcalpic 2021-11-02 flag
Landau an der Isar Virtuelles Niederbayern-Treffen osmcalpic 2021-11-02 flag
Nordrhein-Westfalen OSM-Treffen Bochum (November) osmcalpic 2021-11-04 flag
OSM Local Chapters & Communities Virtual Congress osmcalpic 2021-11-06

If you like to see your event here, please put it into the OSM calendar. Only data which is there, will appear in weeklyOSM.

This weeklyOSM was produced by Nordpfeil, PierZen, SK53Strubbl, TheSwavu, arnalielsewhere, conradoos, derFred.

How we deploy code

21:41, Thursday, 14 2021 October UTC

Last week I spoke to a few of my Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) colleagues about how we deploy code—I completely botched it. I got too complex too fast. It only hit me later—to explain deployments, I need to start with a lie.

M. Jagadesh Kumar explains:

Every day, I am faced with the dilemma of explaining some complex phenomena [...] To realize my goal, I tell "lies to students."

This idea comes from Terry Pratchett's "lies-to-children" — a false statement that leads to a more accurate explanation. Asymptotically approaching truth via approximation.

Every section of this post is a subtle lie, but approximately correct.

Release Train

The first lie I need to tell is that we deploy code once a week.

Every Thursday, Release-Engineering-Team deploys a MediaWiki release to all 978 wikis. The "release branch" is 198 different branches—one branch each for mediawiki/core, mediawiki/vendor, 188 MediaWiki extensions, and eight skins—that get bundled up via git submodule.

Progressive rollout

The next lie gets a bit closer to the truth: we don't deploy on Thursday; we deploy Tuesday through Thursday.

The cleverly named TrainBranchBot creates a weekly train branch at 2 am UTC every Tuesday.

Progressive rollouts give users time to spot bugs. We have an experienced user-base—as Risker attested on the Wikitech-l mailing list:

It's not always possible for even the best developer and the best testing systems to catch an issue that will be spotted by a hands-on user, several of whom are much more familiar with the purpose, expected outcomes and change impact on extensions than the people who have written them or QA'd them.


Now I'm nearing the complete truth: we deploy every day except for Fridays.

Brace yourself: we don't write perfect software. When we find serious bugs, they block the release train — we will not progress from Group1 to Group2 (for example) until we fix the blocking issue. We fix the blocking issue by backporting a patch to the release branch. If there's a bug in this release, we patch that bug in our mainline branch, then git cherry-pick that patch onto our release branch and deploy that code.

We deploy backports three times a day during backport deployment windows.  In addition to backports, developers may opt to deploy new configuration or enable/disable features in the backport deployment windows.

Release engineers train others to deploy backports twice a week.


We deploy on Fridays when there are major issues. Examples of major issues are:

  • Security issues
  • Data loss or corruption
  • Availability of service
  • Preventing abuse
  • Major loss of functionality/visible breakage

We avoid deploying on Fridays because we have a small team of people to respond to incidents. We want those people to be away from computers on the weekends (if they want to be), not responding to emergencies.

Non-MediaWiki code

There are 42 microservices on Kubernetes deployed via helm. And there are 64 microservices running on bare metal. The service owners deploy those microservices outside of the train process.

We coordinate deployments on our deployment calendar wiki page.

The whole truth

We progressively deploy a large bundle of MediaWiki patches (between 150 and 950) every week. There are 12 backport windows a week where developers can add new features, fix bugs, or deploy new configurations. There are microservices deployed by developers at their own pace.

Important Resources:

More resources:

Thanks to @brennen, @greg, @KSiebert, @Risker, and @VPuffetMichel for reading early drafts of this post. The feedback was very helpful. Stay tuned for "How we deploy code: Part II."

Nick Geiser in front of a white board
Nick Geiser

Like most people, Nick Geiser uses Wikipedia every day. As a PhD candidate in theoretical physics at the University of California, Los Angeles, Nick studies string theory and uses mathematics to solve problems in quantum gravity. Outside of research, he works with a variety of organizations to support under-represented minority groups in STEM fields.

When he first saw information about an American Physical Society (APS) Wiki Scientists course, where participants would learn to edit Wikipedia with instruction from Wiki Education, Nick was intrigued, but work and other distractions kept him from applying.

“A few months after that, I read an article about the course itself and the experiences of the Wiki Scientists who took it. I then enthusiastically signed up for the latest iteration of the course and received a scholarship from the APS to attend,” he says. “I specifically wanted to learn how to edit Wikipedia and to spend time improving the biographical pages for minority physicists.”

Nick joined other APS members in a six-week course over Zoom, led by Wiki Education’s Will Kent. As a scientific researcher, Nick says he was familiar with technical writing, but the idea of editing Wikipedia was still daunting to him.

“The weekly meetings and homework assignments were a perfect format to learn the particular skills of editing Wikipedia that I might have never learned on my own,” he says. “Frankly, Wikipedia is overwhelming, and Will broke things down so that I could learn the ropes in manageable steps.”

Following those steps led Nick to improve the biography of Argentine theoretical physicist Miguel Ángel Virasoro, whose work laid the mathematical groundwork for Nick’s field. The article was a stub, meaning it was comprised of a handful of sentences but lacked detail.

“I am also Latino, so I found Virasoro as a fitting first subject for my Wikipedia journey,” Nick explains. “Through writing this article, I learned that a prominent Argentine philosopher with the same name was the father of the physicist Virasoro, but there was no reference to this connection on English language Wikipedia! I disambiguated the two Wikipedia pages and added the fact that they were father and son. I was incredibly surprised that such an important fact was missing from the two Wikipedia pages, and I was happy to have added that particular bit of information.”

Having learned to edit Wikipedia through this course, Nick plans to keep contributing content. He loves how focused he becomes when editing Wikipedia — to the detriment of his other projects, a statement many Wikipedians all over the world can identify with. In the future, he plans to both improve biographies of under-represented physicists as well as regularly editing more technical articles he’s engaging with as part of his own research.

“Improving the open-access reservoir of knowledge on Wikipedia will now be part of my regular work as an academic,” Nick says. “I think all academics, including physicists, should learn the basics of editing Wikipedia. We all write academic papers which may be read by only a few other researchers. Wikipedia articles, however, may be read by millions of people. Just a few hours of edits can tangibly improve a primary source of information for much of the globe.”

“Moreover, STEM in particular has real problems of representation, and improving the biographical articles on Wikipedia for under-represented minority scientists can help turn the tide,” he adds. “Aspiring young scientists are influenced by scientists who look like them, and the biographies of these scientists will not write themselves.”

Image credits: Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Quant Mechanic, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This Month in GLAM: September 2021

22:34, Tuesday, 12 2021 October UTC

“So often, we hear that girls in science need more role models and inspiration. We’re asked, ‘Where are the women in science?’, as if we’re not already here.”

Dr. Maryam Zaringhalam and Dr. Jess Wade, Nature


500 Women Wiki Scientists is a project between Wiki Education and 500 Women Scientists to increase visibility of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine (STEMM) through Wikipedia’s vast reach. Since May 2020, we’ve partnered to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of women and other historically excluded scientists. 500 Women Scientists has given 75 members—predominantly early career scientists—the opportunity to work with Wiki Education’s Wikipedia experts to learn how to join the Wikipedia community and ensure the encyclopedia reflects the most accurate and equitable representation of STEMM.

In three Wiki Scientists courses to date (with a fourth one starting this week), scientists affiliated with 500 Women Scientists have collaborated with each other and Wiki Education’s team to add and expand STEMM biographies on Wikipedia. Over 6 weeks, they’ve learned how to use Wikimedia projects as tools in their work to preserve and share knowledge with the public. By embedding Wikipedia know-how within their institution, 500 Women Scientists has developed a network of Wikipedians to continue this important work both through their own editing and through coordinating Wikipedia-editing events.

This is the story of how this group has become an integral part of the Wikipedia movement, and how other organizations can make that happen for their faculty, staff, or members.

There are two key components to this ongoing project:

1.  we expand public knowledge of notable scientists who have been historically excluded from the narrative;

2. scientists learn how to edit Wikipedia, later applying their learning outcomes to teach others.

1) The public benefits from more inclusive information about scientists

The US Department of Education says that women earn 57.4% of bachelor’s degrees and 62.6% of master’s degrees. But only 31% of degrees and certificates in STEMM fields go to women.

This gap has an uneasy, well-known counterpart on Wikipedia. Roughly 83.7% of the volunteers writing Wikipedia are men. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Wikipedia’s biographies of women are often lacking in quality (sometimes highlighting a woman’s work through her husband’s career), and some are missing altogether, as only 19% of biographies on Wikipedia are of women. Wiki Education and 500 Women Scientists celebrate the idea that access to knowledge is a game-changer. We believe the same holds true for young future scientists. The gap in Wikipedia’s coverage of women reflects worrisome stereotypes of women in science, especially when we know that women already “do groundbreaking work and pave the way for more like them to join the ranks of the scientific workforce,” as Dr. Maryam Zaringhalam of 500 Women Scientists puts it.

That’s where the 500 Women Wiki Scientists come in. The participants in our courses have added more than 373,000 words to Wikipedia, primarily to biographies, and they’ve created 92 brand new articles. This is a feat for any group, but especially first-time editors who are new to Wikipedia’s technical and procedural nuances. They’re able to do this work because the publications about these scientists’ work already exist—notice they’ve added 1,400 references—but nobody else has taken the initiative to add it in to Wikipedia.

Dashboard statistics for 500 Women Wiki Scientists

Participants’ hard work has reached over 7 million people curious to learn more about these scientists. Now, anyone with access to the internet can learn about Jean Langenheim, a plant ecologist and pioneer for women in the field. Perhaps they’ll read about Angela Christiano, a molecular geneticist whose research shows promise for treating hair loss, or Mercedes Concepcion, a Filipino social scientist whose outstanding work in population studies in Asia has earned her the nickname “Mother of Asian Demography.”

Thanks to the 500 Women Wiki Scientists, there are dozens of other stories like this now waiting for the world to discover them. We’re excited to continue this partnership, sharing stories that better represent the existing diversity among scientists, especially to encourage even more diversity in the coming generations. As Dr. Maryam Zaringhalam and Dr. Jess Wade have said, “If we can inspire enough editors to take to Wikipedia and fill in the gaps forged by gender bias, we will improve our scientific record, celebrate the outstanding science done by scientists from underrepresented groups and, maybe, inspire a new generation of girls in science who can find stories of girls just like them who grew up to do and discover incredible things.”

2) Wiki Scientists courses teach scientists how to edit Wikipedia, and alumni pass their new skills to other newcomers

Over 6 weeks, Wiki Education’s team of Wikipedia experts facilitates collaborative group sessions among 500 Women Scientists’ members to immerse them in Wikipedia’s technical, procedural, and cultural practices. Wiki Education helps these scholars incorporate published information about notable and underrepresented scientists from their field of study to Wikipedia.

Upon course completion, participants receive a shareable, electronic certificate issued by 500 Women Scientists and Wiki Education, designating them as 500 Women Wiki Scientists. At this stage, they have developed the technical skills and Wikipedia know-how to disseminate their knowledge to the public and facilitate Wikipedia-editing activities among their peers.

We’re proud of our Wiki Scientists course curriculum and the ability to bring “newbies” into the community in a relatively short period, and we’re especially thrilled with how much participants enjoy the whole experience. One participant said, “I was hoping to create two new Wikipedia pages – which was a huge stretch for me, since I had very limited editing experience before this program. I ended up creating three pages and participated in two additional edit-a-thons during the program. I plan on continuing to edit and make contributions. The course set me up to succeed.” When asked how they would describe the benefit of learning how to edit Wikipedia to someone else, another participant said, “Having the tools to contribute and improve one of the most visited sources of information is pretty empowering. Especially if you have a niche you’re excited to work on/learn more about. Editing Wikipedia is also a good exercise to become a better writer.”

And, of course, we love seeing that all post-course survey respondents reported satisfaction and that they would recommend this course to a colleague.

28 survey respondents said they would recommend the course to a colleague

To date, we have trained 55 members of 500 Women Scientists how to edit Wikipedia, and we’re starting a new course this week, which will bring 20 new scientists into the community. The new cohort will join their peers in moderating virtual events to bring more scientists to Wikipedia. Check out their ongoing impact as they train others how to add biographies of historically excluded scientists to Wikipedia.


How organizations can partner with Wiki Education around a training course

Amplify reliable information to the public

Our team works personally with organizations like 500 Women Scientists to set up Wikipedia and Wikidata training courses that align with their mission and expand the public’s access to high quality knowledge. In conversations with one of 500 Women Scientists’ executive leaders, Dr. Maryam Zaringhalam, we identified what Wiki Education could help their members achieve, and we built the first course to ensure it would be an excellent learning experience for 500 Women Scientists’ participating members and would contribute to the public scholarship about women in STEMM.

Give your team the skills they need to train others

500 Women Scientists has been active for a few years in running Wikipedia edit-a-thons, events where trained Wikipedia editors guide interested newcomers through the early stages of contributing content to Wikipedia. Though they originally held events in regional “pods,” the COVID-19 pandemic shifted their events into a virtual space. These events proved engaging for members and have long had a high turn-out, but we determined that a more in-depth Wiki Scientists course would provide a deeper learning experience for anyone who prefers structured assignments and milestones as a part of their learning process. That way, 500 Women Scientists could expand their pool of members who were competent in Wikipedia editing and confident enough to train others, thus passing on their new skills to other members.

Help make open knowledge more inclusive and equitable

500 Women Scientists’ mission to make science more inclusive aligns with Wiki Education’s initiative to make Wikipedia more equitable. Not only do their members bring more inclusive content about scientists to the public through Wikipedia, but they represent a much more diverse group of editors than the existing community on English Wikipedia.

98% of the 500 Women Wiki Scientists alumni report their pronouns as “she/her” or “they/them,” which means this partnership is bringing more diverse voices to Wikipedia, as the existing editor base is 83.7% men. Additionally, we can compare the reported race and ethnicity of Wiki Education’s participants in the 500 Women Wiki Scientists courses to the Wikimedia Foundation’s 2021 Community Insights Report and see how much more racially diverse the 500 Women Wiki Scientists are compared to the existing Wikipedia community within the United States.


Bar graph comparing the 500 Women Wiki Scientists' ethnicity to the US population and US Wikipedia editor base

Join our movement!

Together, 500 Women Scientists and Wiki Education are working together to improve Wikipedia’s breadth, quality, and equity. We’re eager to continue this work, both with 500 Women Scientists and other partners. 500 Women Scientists has sponsored 75 seats since May 2020, creating a free, engaging learning opportunity for their members. This unique, fun professional development experience is fulfilling for scholars as they share knowledge with the world, and we can’t wait to bring more subject-matter experts into our community.

If you’re interested in beginning a conversation about buying out a customized course for members or staff of your organization, contact us at

The fight over the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has shown that European copyright rules affect the operation of Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. Global rules are equally important. Negotiations take place in Geneva, at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Wikimedia Deutschland and the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group are committed to increasing transparency around WIPO negotiations on international copyright law, and shaping WIPO-level policy outcomes, especially facing the pressure by rightsholders’ to expand the scope of copyright protections. This is the third installment of a series on Wikimedia’s involvement at WIPO (see part I and part II).

China blocked the Wikimedia Foundation’s bid for observer status at WIPO. This is the second time this has happened after the Foundation’s initial application in 2020. Wikimedia’s exclusion sets a worrying precedent and should alert European lawmakers who are concerned about the democratic governance of intergovernmental organizations.

Unsurprising yet still disappointing

China’s move during last week’s general assembly session didn’t exactly come as a surprise. It was again the only country to explicitly object to the accreditation of the Wikimedia Foundation as an official observer. Since WIPO is generally run by consensus, any one country may veto accreditation requests by NGOs. The Foundation will reapply for official observer status in 2022, but it will only be admitted by WIPO if China decides to change its mind.

Like last year, China’s statement suggested that “affiliated websites of Wikimedia contain a large amount of content and disinformation that run counter to the ‘One-China-Principle.’” It’s unclear whether this claim was made in reference to the independent, volunteer-led Wikimedia Taiwan chapter or the Wikimedia projects, such as Wikipedia. The government has blocked access to all language versions of Wikipedia in China for a number of years.

No consensus in sight

The United States and the group of industrialized countries at WIPO (Group B) — which also includes a number of Western European Union member states, Australia, Canada, the Holy See, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom — expressed their support for the Foundation’s application. Yet Iran, Pakistan, and Russia in their respective statements insisted on the observance of the consensus principle.

A wide range of international and non-profit organizations as well as business associations are accredited as observers by WIPO. These outside groups offer technical expertise, on-the-ground experience, and diversity of opinions to help WIPO carry out its global mandate. It’s not at all unusual for observers to have members, partners, or affiliates in Taiwan. So far, the only organization that unsuccessfully applied for observer status has been Pirate Parties International due to being a political party.

Civil society united

In a statement released on Tuesday, Amanda Keton, General Counsel of the Foundation noted that “the Wikimedia Foundation’s absence from these meetings deprives our communities of an opportunity to participate in this process.” Keton added: “We renew our call to WIPO members, including China, to approve our application. The international community must ensure meaningful civil society participation in UN fora.”

“We renew our call to WIPO members, including China, to approve our application. The international community must ensure meaningful civil society participation in UN fora.”

Amanda Keton, General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation

The French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and Swiss Wikimedia chapters joined in on this call. In addition, Creative Commons released a statement of support and Communia sent a letter to WIPO delegates co-signed by 55 civil society organizations, asking for the Foundation’s admission as an observer organization.

The EU needs to do more to uphold democratic principles

China is already using its influence to choke NGO participation at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). WIPO is at risk of falling prey to the same mechanism of capture and becoming an arena for battles unrelated with intellectual property. The EU has a responsibility to uphold democratic principles in global governance and particularly in the UN system. While the statements by the United States and Group B are certainly welcome, it’s clear that we need more support.

2021 Palestine-Wales editathon

12:29, Tuesday, 12 2021 October UTC

By Robin Owain, Wales Programme Manager for Wikimedia UK

Wikiproject Palestine-Wales was a month-long editathon, which took place in August 2021, between Wikimedia UK and Wikimedia Levant. The event generated a total of 242 new articles.

Wikipedians from both communities listed the most important articles from their respective languages and translated them as a token of friendship. The wikiproject contributed to reducing the cultural as well as content gap on Wikipedia, and strengthened the bond between the State of Palestine and Wales, both Levantine and Welsh communities.

Half way through the programme, the organisers reached out to the Cornish editors who flocked over to the project in droves. They created a list of subjects based on Cornwall (for example, King Doniert’s Stone (Cornish, Welsh, Arabic, English, Stargazy pie and an article on the Cornish language revival) which were subsequently translated into Arabic and Welsh. This was their first Wikiproject and 7 editors participated; all in all, 32 editors contributed. There’s a Welsh saying that it’s easier for two mountains to get together, than two people; in this case we got three mountains!

The themes were mostly cultural: food, places of interest, women of note, education and COVID-19. Among the articles written in Arabic and Cornish on Wales were, Gwenno Saunders (English, Arabic, Welsh, Cornish), bara brith loaf and Aberystwyth University. The Cornish editors created 44 new articles, just shy of the Palestine editors who wrote 57 articles, and the Welsh community created 142 new articles.

In the context of languages, perhaps the winners are the Cornish speakers. There are 300 million Arabic speakers, 750,000 Welsh speakers and around 2,000 Cornish speakers. However, the number of articles per language was:

Cornish – 44

Arabic – 57

Welsh – 142

So the winner is… all 3 communities!

Communicating physics through Wikipedia

15:55, Monday, 11 2021 October UTC
Roxanne Hughes dressed as an astronaut
Roxanne Hughes.
Image courtesy Roxanne Hughes, all rights reserved.

Roxanne Hughes uses Wikipedia all the time. So when Roxanne, the director of the Center for Integrating Research and Learning at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, saw a call from the American Physical Society to take one of our Wiki Scientists courses aimed at improving biographies of underrepresented physicists on Wikipedia, she signed right up.

“I realized that Wikipedia was such a valuable place to highlight biographies of STEM women who might not be known,” she says. “I work in diversity, equity, and inclusion within STEM and Wikipedia’s efforts to give voice to scientists and engineers who have been ignored is incredibly valuable.”

In the six-week class, Roxanne met with our instructor, Will Kent, and her classmates once a week via Zoom, as well as taking our online trainings outside of class. Roxanne says she enjoyed both the trainings and the synchronous instruction.

Roxanne chose to work on Dorothy Toplitzky Blum‘s Wikipedia article. Blum was an American computer scientist and cryptanalyst.

“She worked for the National Security Agency and its predecessors from 1944 until her death in 1980,” Roxanne explains. “I find the period during WWII to be such an interesting time period for women to gain opportunities in the workforce. So her story particularly intrigued me.”

In addition to improving Blum’s biography, Roxanne is also contemplating how she can engage more with Wikipedia. In her work, she runs or oversees programs for K-12 students/teachers, undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs. She says she thinks a similar course for these age groups could have a profound impact on students and postdocs. Roxanne calls it an “empowering experience” to give credit to an underrepresented scientist on such a big platform like Wikipedia. And of course, she adds, it’s not just Wikipedia’s biographies that need expanding: physics topics themselves are important too.

“When people Google physicists or physics concepts, they will most likely be taken to a Wikipedia page,” she says. “Physicists need to be part of the communication of their science, and that happens through Wikipedia.”

To take a course like the one Roxanne took, visit

Image credit: NationalMagLab, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tech News issue #41, 2021 (October 11, 2021)

00:00, Monday, 11 2021 October UTC
previous 2021, week 41 (Monday 11 October 2021) next

weeklyOSM 585

07:06, Sunday, 10 2021 October UTC


lead picture

Chetan_Gowda’s map in Kannada [1] © Chetan Gowda | map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Mapping campaigns

  • The OrganicMaps team asked users to help fix issues with subway mapping using this validator. Brandon suggested that the makers of the recently released new app for Jungle Bus could perhaps initiate a collaboration?




  • foxandpotatoes explained, in detail, how to use official sources related to Belgian cadastral boundaries to complete and/or correct OpenStreetMap data for administrative boundaries.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Roland Olbricht explained the mission and tasks of the new Engineering Working Group (EWG), of which he has become chairman.
  • Here you can find all the necessary information to become a candidate for the OSMF board (election in December), or to nominate someone else.

Local chapter news

  • Happy birthday OSM-FR! The French local chapter will celebrate its 10th birthday on Monday 11 October at several locations in France.
  • The University of Arizona will host the next State of the Map US on 1 to 3 April 2022. So let’s go to Tucson!
  • The September issue of the monthly newsletter from the US local chapter has been published.


  • Topi Tjukanov has announced the categories for the 30 day map challenge to be held during November 2021. OpenStreetMap features directly as one of the data challenges.
  • The call for a venue for the State of the Map 2022 (we reported earlier) has gone unanswered. Andrew Hain asked if we need to think more carefully about how we meet? Or have the explicit or implicit demands placed on venues become too onerous?


  • Chetan Gowda is looking for some feedback on their printable Kannada maps.
  • Marcos Dione blogged about how he manages the rendering of isolated points of interest at lower zoom levels compared with the same type of POI in dense areas.


  • Bryce Cogswell announced that Go Map!! v3.0 has been released for iOS. In the diary post Bryce also reminisced about how Go Map!! came to be.
  • Version 4.0 of the GraphHopper routing engine has been released. ‘Spatial rules’ have been replaced and extended with custom areas. You can use custom areas to customise properties of GraphHopper’s road network in arbitrary areas. A typical use case is to amend rules on a country-by-country basis, such as default speed limits.
  • NLnet is a foundation that ‘funds those with ideas to fix the internet’. A call for open funding proposals, for projects that would help with creating an ‘open, trustworthy and reliable internet for all’, may cover projects helping OpenStreetMap, and it may be a good idea to apply.

Did you know …

  • … Richard Fairhurst has written Providing data to OpenStreetMap, an illustrated anglophone guide for local authorities and other data owners?
  • … that Anne-Karoline Distel (OSM user b-unicycling) maintains a YouTube channel with lots of ideas and advice on OSM for history buffs?
  • … you can find a list of external data that has been imported into the OSM database on the wiki?
  • … that the colour scheme of the OSM Mapnik layer, now replaced by CartoCSS with a revised scheme, was investigated by researchers from Hamburg University in 2013? Richard Fairhurst, who created the original colour scheme, speculated that the effort spent on research was considerably greater than that spent on choosing the colours in the first place.

Other “geo” things

  • OpenCage’s latest and very recent #geoweirdness thread is focused on Spain. The thread starts with the image of a multipolygon natural=lava that contributor sergionaranja entered into OSM on the occasion of the current eruption of the volcano Cumbre Vieja on the island of La Palma.
  • Fancy a bit of aerial surveying using a drone? Be careful not to get too close to aggressive wildlife. A crocodile took out a low-flying drone in Australia, which captured its own last moment on video.
  • Google has released an app, Address Maker, which is designed to encourage the use of Plus Codes as addresses in areas where there are no government assigned addresses.
  • There are surviving references to the existence and geography of North America from as early as the 14th century, thanks to an Italian monk.
  • The radio signals of a large number of low-flying and GNSS-independent Internet satellites are being used by scientists to determine their location.

Upcoming Events

Where What Online When Country
Nantes À la découverte d’OpenStreetMap [Fête de la science 2021] osmcalpic 2021-10-09 – 2021-10-10 flag
Zürich OSM-Treffen Zürich osmcalpic 2021-10-11 flag
Tours OSM Tours (FR) fête les 10 ans de OSM_Fr 🙂 osmcalpic 2021-10-11 flag
DRK Missing Maps Online Mapathon osmcalpic 2021-10-12
München Münchner OSM-Treffen osmcalpic 2021-10-12 flag
Hamburg Hamburger Mappertreffen osmcalpic 2021-10-12 flag
San Jose South Bay Map Night osmcalpic 2021-10-13 flag
Mannheim Einführung in der humanitären Kartographie osmcalpic 2021-10-13 flag
OpenStreetMap Michigan Meetup osmcalpic 2021-10-15
Bonn 144. Treffen des OSM-Stammtisches Bonn osmcalpic 2021-10-19 flag
Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen (online) osmcalpic 2021-10-19 flag
Olomouc říjnový olomoucký mapathon osmcalpic 2021-10-21 flag
Hlavní město Praha “50 years of MSF” mapathon with Missing Maps CZ community 2021 #6 osmcalpic 2021-10-25 flag
Bremen Bremer Mappertreffen (Online) osmcalpic 2021-10-25 flag
San Jose South Bay Map Night osmcalpic 2021-10-27 flag
Bruxelles – Brussel Virtual(?) OpenStreetMap Belgium meeting osmcalpic 2021-10-26 flag
Düsseldorf Düsseldorfer OSM-Treffen (online) osmcalpic 2021-10-27 flag
[Online] OpenStreetMap Foundation board of Directors – public videomeeting osmcalpic 2021-10-29
Amsterdam OSM Nederland maandelijkse bijeenkomst (online) osmcalpic 2021-10-30 flag

If you like to see your event here, please put it into the OSM calendar. Only data which is there, will appear in weeklyOSM.

This weeklyOSM was produced by Nordpfeil, PierZen, SK53, TheSwavu, derFred.

When what is there does not easily burn, a fire will be not that damaging. In a forest, a prairie particularly those with wild grazers and browsers, the damage by a wild fire is substantially less. Science describes this effect and science describes the effect of beavers who have a similar beneficial effect.

For the paper "Effects of large herbivores on fire regimes and wildfire mitigation" Wikidata has an item, it links to its eight authors but there are no citations. Like any quality article there are plenty of references on the website for the article but we do not know them yet in Wikidata. There is a bot that goes around and adds citations in its own sweet time but when volunteers like me take an interest, it would be great to tool up for attention for a single paper.

What it would look like is easy; it would show the papers that are known to be citations and enable a one click solution to add them as a citation. Then it would show the papers not known to Wikidata but with a DOI. They can be added one at a time. What is left is the stuff that is cited but takes more effort to annotate. 

The benefits are obvious; science connects what is said before to what is said in a paper and eventually it will be linked to those citing a paper. As more papers from more authors get this royal treatment, Scholia as a tool will become even more relevant for those who care about the references in related Wikipedia articles; its references are referenced.

It is easy to suggest that it should not be hard to implement; there is a bot and it only needs to function for only one paper in stead of serially. It then has to find its way as a tool in Scholia and that opens up a box of user interface related issues. Well worth it (I think) but it then we also need to get the message out that Scholia is very much an active as well as a passive tool.

Thanks, GerardM

Why donate to Wikipedia?

22:39, Friday, 08 2021 October UTC

Nonprofit organizations across the world are vibrant and diverse with wide ranging missions and objectives. One thing that ties them together is the goal of fundraising and awareness – something each organization approaches differently. At the Wikimedia Foundation, your generous donations help us maintain our independence, serve our diverse and global community, and––unlike many other major websites––guarantee that Wikipedia will never have to rely on advertising. In short, your donations help keep free knowledge free.

We are grateful to be funded primarily by readers around the world who give an average of €10, responding to appeals in banners and email. Reader donations are the best and most important support that the Wikimedia Foundation receives, because they are a reflection of the value that people feel Wikipedia brings to their lives. These donations have allowed the Foundation to provide the infrastructure, world-class technical engineering, and community support that a top ten global website requires.

Every donation we receive is effectively and transparently spent to support our mission. It is important to know that donations do not fund the editing of Wikipedia by Foundation staff. The Foundation does not write, edit, or determine what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained––editorial policy is determined by Wikipedia’s global community of volunteer editors who strive to deliver neutral and reliable information and prevent and revert inaccurate information on the site. 

Here are just some of the ways we do use donations to sustain Wikipedia and free knowledge:

Providing international technology infrastructure

Our dedicated engineering staff work to ensure you can securely and quickly access Wikipedia on your preferred device no matter where you are in the world. Donations also ensure people around the world can access Wikipedia in their preferred language. While most major websites support an average of 50–100 languages, Wikipedia supports over 300 and counting.

Supporting community-led projects to increase access to trusted information

We support numerous initiatives and projects, including various volunteer-led events and workshops that enrich content on Wikimedia sites and invite new editors to join. We collaborate with Wikipedia volunteers around the globe to support their ideas and help them bring more free knowledge to the world. Every year, about 10% of our budget is specifically dedicated to supporting community projects that enrich, grow, and improve knowledge on Wikipedia.

Defending and protecting free access to information globally

Our legal team works to protect free knowledge, working to prevent censorship, advocating for free licenses and the reform of copyright laws, as well as defending our volunteers from the threat of reprisal. In addition, while Wikipedia remains an example of the good the internet can provide, governments are looking for new models to curb the influence of larger tech companies. Tech companies that operate in the for-profit area have significant financial resources to respond, but we need the help of our supporters to protect our movement’s efforts from these and other looming challenges. 

Empowering French communities

The Wikimedia Foundation supports and promotes the direct impact our free knowledge projects have on French communities. The French language edition of Wikipedia receives nearly one billion pageviews each month, with half of those views coming from France. Wikimedia Commons, our free media repository, has hundreds of thousands of photos and videos sharing the sites and sounds of France with people around the world – including nearly 20,000 files showcasing the Eiffel Tower. Finally, the Foundation provides support to Wikimedia France, the independent movement affiliate working on the ground in France everyday.

We see the impact of these efforts in the messages we receive from French donors:

“Thank you for your kind return email. I am a grandmother over 70 who loves Wikipedia, it helps me a lot when I want or need to know something important to me.”

“Your work is masterful, universal. A huge thank you for allowing us, indeed, without effort, to access your encyclopedia on a daily basis or nearly. Your appeal for financial support is also useful so as to remind us that we are all members of a common world, a common history.”

“I use Wikipedia almost daily. I have the chance to have free access to the French and English pages, which multiplies the field of possibilities. Wikipedia is a gold mine, long live free knowledge! Thank you for what you do for the good of humanity.”

It takes a village to successfully operate a global free knowledge platform, and your donations help by sustaining Wikipedia and our numerous other open source projects. We hope to keep Wikipedia primarily funded by our readers long into the future. Please consider making a donation to Wikipedia to ensure it continues to thrive and remain independent for years to come.

8 October 2021, San Francisco, California — The Wikimedia Foundation today announced the appointment of two new Vice Presidents: Anusha Alikhan as Vice President of Communications, and Margeigh Novotny as Vice President of Product Design. The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization that supports Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. With this news, both Anusha and Margeigh build on their established tenure at the Foundation and step into expanded leadership roles supporting the broader free knowledge movement.

“I’m thrilled by this opportunity to recognize the deep bench of leaders we’re developing at the Wikimedia Foundation,” said Robyn Arville, Wikimedia Foundation Chief of Talent and Culture. “Anusha and Margeigh both excel at articulating long-term strategy for their respective functions. They are creative thinkers who have the experience and the operational skills to work across rapidly expanding teams and broaden the ways in which Communications and Product support our global movement.” 

Anusha Alikhan brings more than 14 years of communications experience spanning the areas of human rights, technology, international development, journalism and media innovation. She started her career as an employment and human rights lawyer in Toronto, Canada. She expanded her focus on advocacy by building a career around social good with communications leadership roles at the UN, the National Parkinson Foundation, and Knight Foundation. Technology has been core to her focus in communications; at the UN her work centered on promoting technology solutions to advance global peacekeeping, and at Knight Foundation she led strategies that emphasized the power of technology to inform and engage.

Anusha Alikhan
Anusha Alikhan, Wikimedia Foundation Vice President of Communications

In her two years at the Foundation, Anusha has led an expanding team and strengthened Wikimedia’s strategic communications focus. Her emphasis on targeted-campaign building has increased the Foundation’s media impact, particularly around key initiatives including Wikipedia’s 20th birthday, the Foundation’s partnership with the World Health Organization and our approach to misinformation. She also stewarded the restructuring of the Foundation’s digital strategy to expand its visibility, increase brand alignment, and attract new and global audiences. Her focus on diversity, equity and inclusion has advanced new approaches to engagement and outreach, combining storytelling with data-driven insights.  

As the new VP of Communications, Anusha will oversee communications activities across media, brand, marketing, movement and internal communications functions, with the goal of educating and engaging global audiences on Wikimedia work. She will move forward the department’s strategy to expand communications within regional markets, advancing the Foundation’s equity, advocacy and growth goals, and creating campaigns that meet people where they are. 

“Communications has a vital role to play as the Wikimedia Foundation seeks to grow and support a diverse, global movement, while pushing the understanding of what it takes to keep knowledge free,” said Anusha. “Wikimedia is a technology and social good organization working to advance a movement that is human at its core; our stories and unique perspective have the power to connect and influence. I could not be more excited to collaborate with a talented group of staff to continue and expand this work.” 

Anusha has a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, a law degree from Queen’s University in Ontario and an honors bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto. She is also a Board member at the Communications Network, First Draft News, and Awesome Foundation Miami, and a member of the Communications Network working group for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Margeigh joined the Wikimedia Foundation in 2018, building on an expansive career as a product strategist, designer and inventor. An architect by training, she has led the development of many first of category consumer technology products, including  the design of polite intelligent systems that are able to build trust through transparency with the users they serve. She is also the first inventor on several patents related to user-centered machine learning, video content delivery and other hardware-software interfaces.

Margeigh Novotny
Margeigh Novotny, Wikimedia Foundation Vice President of Product Design

During her tenure at the Foundation, Margeigh has led the Product Design and Design Strategy teams, with an emphasis on modernizing the reading experience across Wikimedia products, and streamlining the editing experience to make it more accessible for newcomers. She has expanded design research capabilities to make it possible to reach users in emerging contexts, and to engage with them in their preferred language. Margeigh has also co-led the development of Wikimedia’s Product Platform Strategy and been an active contributor to the broader Movement Strategy effort, working closely with Wikimedia volunteer communities on recommendations for the future of the Wikimedia movement.  

In her new role as the VP of Product Design, Margeigh will focus on making inclusive product development methodologies a best practice at the Wikimedia Foundation. She will expand the department’s capability to design with, not for – prioritizing products and features which will empower emerging communities to scale. She will ensure that human-centered design continues to influence organizational practice at the Foundation, and will continue to support design thinking in the free knowledge movement.

“I joined the Foundation because I believe the Wikimedia projects are critical cultural infrastructure,” said Margeigh. “I want to help ensure the resilience and relevance of the projects in these times of global uncertainty and change. I’m honored and grateful to work with such a talented and mission driven team on products that truly welcome all people to participate in the sum of all knowledge.”

Margeign has a Bachelor’s of Architecture, Philosophy minor, from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. She did her masters’ studies in architecture, anthropology and continental philosophy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and University of California, Berkeley. She is a registered Architect in the state of California.

About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. Our vision is a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. We believe that everyone has the potential to contribute something to our shared knowledge, and that everyone should be able to access that knowledge freely. We host Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, build software experiences for reading, contributing, and sharing Wikimedia content, support the volunteer communities and partners who make Wikimedia possible, and advocate for policies that enable Wikimedia and free knowledge to thrive. 

The Wikimedia Foundation is a charitable, not-for-profit organization that relies on donations. We receive donations from millions of individuals around the world, with an average donation of about $15. We also receive donations through institutional grants and gifts. The Wikimedia Foundation is a United States 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA.

Edited by Sarah R. Rodlund and Srishti Sethi

Wikimedia technology participated in two major outreach programs this year: Google Summer of Code 2021 and Outreachy Round 22.

According to the program websites, “Google Summer of Code is a global program focused on bringing more student developers into open source software development. Students work with an open source organization on a 10 week programming project during their break from school,” and “Outreachy is a diversity initiative that provides paid, remote internships to people subject to systemic bias and impacted by underrepresentation in the technical industry where they are living.”

Both programs provide the students and interns with the opportunity to work with experienced mentors on technical projects that benefit Wikimedia technical projects.

In this post, you’ll find summaries of each of this year’s outreach projects.


mwsql is a Python library that makes it easy to work with Wikimedia SQL dump files. Its simple and user-friendly interface is ideal for exploratory data analysis and conversion to other data and file types commonly used in data science in just a few lines of code.

Slavina Stefanova

Mentors: Sarah R. Rodlund and Isaac Johnson

Synchronising Wikidata and Wikipedias using pywikibot

Synchronizing Wikidata and Wikipedias using Pywikibot: Wikidata is a structured data repository that holds organized data of contents in Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects – and this project aims to write scripts for Pywikibot to create new Wikidata Items and extract relevant information from Wikipedia articles and import them to Wikidata once the scripts are accepted through bot requests (example: Niraibot). This ensures access to only the important information from Wikimedia projects in an organized way.

Nirali Sahoo

Synchronizing Wikidata and Wikipedias using Pywikibot project focuses on automating the process of extracting data from Wikipedia articles and exporting them to Wikidata as structured data items. Having the data in Wikidata structured form helps automated tools as well as all Wikimedia projects by allowing them to be able to pull information from the same central place and thus helps in reducing the time outdated/wrong or inappropriate information remains publicly on wikis, especially on projects with a smaller editor base.

Ammar Abdulhamid 

Mentor: Mike Peel


WikiNav is a tool that processes the Wikipedia clickstream data to generate statistics and visualizations that help make this data more accessible to folks with varying levels of programming and data wrangling experience. Alternatively, users can invoke the WikiNav API to perform quick lookups on the clickstream dataset and use the results to power their own analyses and visualizations.

Muniza A

Mentors: Martin Gerlach and Isaac Johnson

The Userscript Tour

The Userscript Tour: A guided tour that helps users learn about userscripts, and how they are created using ResourceLoader, MediaWiki Action API, and Object-Oriented User Interface (OOUI). It primarily focuses on newbie developers and existing Wikimedia community members who have a little bit of JavaScript knowledge. If someone does outreach, then every participant would go in the same flow.

Devyansh Chawla

Mentors: Jay Prakash, Krishna Chaitanya Velaga, Enterprisey


Wikidata-Complete-Gadget: The WikidataComplete Gadget is a Wikidata gadget that is intended to help users in adding more facts to the Wikidata knowledge base. The tool is fetching suggestions from an API and shows them to the user directly within the Wikidata Web frontend, s.t., adding more facts is becoming convenient. The suggestions are computed automatically from other sources (e.g., Web Content, Knowledge Bases). 

Dhairya Khanna

Mentors: Dennis Diefenbach, Andreas Both, Gabin Guo, Aleksandr Perevalov

Cypress tests for Wikipedia Preview

Cypress tests for Wikipedia Preview: Wikipedia Preview provides Wikipedia content in the form of contextual information to be available on 3rd party sites. This involved writing a quality level of tests that checks the preview on different parameters. This helped in identifying the fallback conditions and in delivering better Preview to the end-users.

Shailesh Kanojiya

Mentors: Gabriel Pita, Vidhi Mody, Soham Parekh

Custom Picture Selector for commons android application

Custom Picture Selector for commons android application: A custom picture selector for commons upload. It has the ability to show differently the images which have already been uploaded. The feature indicates an already uploaded image with a Commons icon overlay, thus saving time and improving the user experience. Find the GitHub issue here.

Aditya Srivastav

Mentors: Nicolas Raoul, Madhur Gupta

Bernard – WMFDBBackups Dashboard 

Bernard – WMFDBBackups Dashboard: This is a user-friendly dashboard that can be used by the Wikimedia Data Persistence Team to easily find out the status of the daily MariaDB/SQL database backups that are executed on various databases used by Wikipedia. This would help the team to monitor backup operations and easily pinpoint where backup operations issues are, thus helping members of the Data Persistence Team to resolve any issues relating to daily backups. Daily backups are essential to help Wikipedia recover from any database failures. A lot of work remains to help this prototype become useful in production.

Hari Krishna

Mentors: Jaime Crespo and Manuel Arostegui

Add zoom and pan to the Wikisource Pagelist Widget

Add zoom and pan to the Wikisource Pagelist Widget: The Wikisource Pagelist Widget is an OOUI based widget that streamlines the process of creating a pagelist for new (and existing) users of Wikisource.

While using the Pagelist widget, the user is presented with the picture of a scanned page and is asked to identify the page number on the scan. However, there is no option to zoom or pan the scanned image inside the Pagelist widget. Adding the option to zoom and/or pan the image will allow users to see the page number for scans that have a tiny font, or have lots of text (for example newspapers scans).

Yash Agrawal

Mentors: Sohom Datta, Sam Wilson, Satdeep Gill

Update the front-page of Wikimedia projects

Update the front-page of Wikimedia projects: The main aim of this project is that all the sister portals use the same build system and resources ( By Using (templates, scripts, styles) of, we can get the same build system to all sister portals.

Bhaarat Kumar Khatri

Mentors: Jan Drewniak

Autocompletion in Page Forms Spreadsheet display

Autocompletion in Page Forms Spreadsheet display: The Page Forms extension provides a spreadsheet-style editing display in two places-

1.     In Special Pages: MultiPageEdit – Using this user can edit multiple pages using a particular template in a spreadsheet-style display, making it easier to modify the pages or add new pages.

2.     In regular forms, with the form definition setting “display=spreadsheet”- Using this user can edit the values of different fields of multiple instances of the template within the same page in a spreadsheet-style display.

This auto-completion will make users use all possible forms of autocompletion that are present in Page Forms like “values from category,” “values from external data,” “values dependent on,” etc.

Most importantly, the autocompletion is not enabled using Select2 or jQuery, but rather OOUI’s Text Input Widget has been used for maintaining the consistency among the MediaWiki.

Yash Varshney

Mentors: Yaron Koren and Sahaj Khandelwal

Upgrade WebdriverIO to v7 in all repositories

 Upgrade WebdriverIO to v7 in all repositories: Testing of software is important since it discovers defects/bugs before the delivery to the client, which guarantees the quality of the software. It makes the software more reliable and easy to use. Thoroughly tested software ensures reliable and high-performance software operation. Now to ease regression testing time and for better efficiency to validate complex scenarios automation is preferred.

Sahil Grewal

Mentors: Vidhi Mody and Soham Parekh

Retraining models from ORES to be deployable on Lift Wing

Retraining models from ORES to be deployable on Lift Wing: This project consisted of a renewed attempt to retrain the existing ores architecture and build new deep learning based techniques and how it improved the performance. This was a pilot project and revealed a lot of flaws in the existing pipelines of the ORES architecture. 

Anubhav Sharma

Mentors: Christopher Albon and Chaitanya Mittal

Thank you!

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the outreach programs this year: mentees, mentors, and organizers! Thank you for sharing your time, effort, and expertise to make this one of the most successful years ever!

About this post

File: Dülmen, Brachliegendes Feld mit Wildblumen — 2021 — 9774.jpg, Dietmar Rabich, CC BY-SA 4.0

Join us at WikiConference North America!

23:09, Thursday, 07 2021 October UTC

This weekend is WikiConference North America, a virtual gathering of Wikimedians who will share our experiences. Wiki Education board, staff, and program participants are featured prominently in the schedule.

Board member Carwil Bjork-James is a plenary speaker. We also extend our thanks to our board members Richard Knipel and Bob Cummings, both of whom have helped to plan the conference.

Sessions Wiki Education’s staff are running include:

Program participants are also well represented in these sessions, all involving instructors who teach in our Wikipedia Student Program:

We’re looking forward to the conference; we hope to see you there!

Image credits: Geraldshields11, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; KevinPayravi and Outstandy (source work), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lorraine Hariton
Lorraine Hariton.
Image courtesy Lorraine Hariton, all rights reserved.

Lorraine Hariton, President & CEO of Catalyst, has volunteered to help Wiki Education in a new capacity as a member of our Advisory Board. Lorraine previously served on Wiki Education’s Board of Directors, and is greatly valued for her fundraising expertise and knowledge in STEM.

She advocated for Wiki Education’s successful Year of Science in 2016, which helped young scientists learn about science communication, while improving Wikipedia’s science coverage for millions of readers worldwide. In 2016, more than 6,200 students contributed nearly 5 million words to science articles seen more than 262 million times.

As the leader of Catalyst, Lorraine is dedicated to accelerating positive change for women. Her extensive career includes senior-level positions in Silicon Valley, as well as leadership roles across the private, nonprofit, and government sectors. She served as CEO of two Silicon Valley start-ups and held senior executive roles at IBM and other public companies.

In 2009, she was appointed by President Obama to be Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at the US Department of State. Most recently, Lorraine was Senior Vice President for Global Partnerships at the New York Academy of Sciences. She was instrumental in creating the Global STEM Alliance and its 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program, a global mentoring initiative to help girls pursue careers in STEM.

Wiki Education is focused on promoting two initiatives in our Wikipedia Student Program: Communicating Science and Knowledge Equity. I’m excited to work with Lorraine to broaden Wikipedia’s content of women and other historically marginalized groups in the STEM fields and beyond.

“I look forward to continuing to help Wiki Education achieve its vision of representing the sum of all human knowledge in this new advisory capacity,” Lorraine says. “Women, people of color, and those of different sexualities deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments on Wikipedia. I’m happy to spread the word of Wiki Education’s equity work in making that possible.”

Setting priorities for Programs & Events Dashboard

17:07, Wednesday, 06 2021 October UTC

I want to offer a very big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who took the time to respond to the first-ever Programs & Events Dashboard user survey. It had 73 responses from a diverse cross-section of Wikimedia program leaders — roughly mirroring the usage patterns of the Dashboard, with less than half from English Wikipedia. In preparing the survey, I wanted to cover a wide variety of possible focus areas for Dashboard development and to get a sense for what users’ top priorities for improvement are. The results are helping me form a clear picture of what to work on — the start of a Programs & Events Dashboard roadmap that I’ll be publishing soon.

Top priorities

The most popular priority matches a request I’ve heard frequently in the last year: program leaders want “easier ways to manage overlapping campaigns and sets of events”. Especially for Wikimedia affiliates that run large numbers of programs, using the Dashboard’s campaigns feature doesn’t provide an easy way to group related sets of events while also getting accurate aggregate statistics for all their events (or all their events over a certain time period). Organizers are looking for something like a “campaign of campaigns” that they can use to get an overall picture of their programs. I’m not sure exactly how this will look, but this is something I’m going to work on. I’m planning to follow up with survey respondents to learn more about the specific use cases and what new features would meet their needs. Relatedly, Wiki Education is exploring the possibility of offering “Dashboards-as-a-service” to other organizations in the Wikimedia community; having a dedicated, branded website for all an organization’s programs (as Wiki Education has with could be a simpler and more satisfying solution to the problem.

The second most popular priority — “better scoping of which edits are part of my event, and which edits are not” — represents a mix of problems. Many program leaders want to track edits — and statistics — for pages that are not in mainspace. For programs where most of the expected activity is happening in sandboxes or Draft space, the Dashboard just doesn’t offer much utility right now. Being able to explicitly choose which namespaces to count is a straightforward feature to describe — although implementing it won’t be trivial. For other program leaders, the problem of “better scoping” is about defining a topic area or set of articles to track. The Dashboard has some flexible features around scoping — you can track a large set of articles by category, talk page template, or by putting together a PetScan query or PagePile — but these scoping features aren’t intuitive or discoverable enough. I plan to work on both aspects — providing more namespace flexibility, and improving the user interface to make it easier set up a program that tracks a specific set of articles.

After that, the next two top priorites were a bit of a surprise to me: more detailed Wikipedia statistics, and more detailed Wikidata statistics. For Wikipedia statistics, this partly overlaps with the need to track specific namespaces, but I need to talk with users to learn more about what kinds of additional statistics they have in mind. For Wikidata statistics, the Dashboard has some tools for analyzing Wikidata edits to count the number of claims added, claims changed, descriptions added, and so on. These features aren’t readily available on Programs & Events Dashboard yet, but I knew that users running Wikidata projects wanted them; what surprised me is just how many survey respondents consider Wikidata statistics a high priority. Wiki Education’s Wikidata Program Manager, Will Kent, and I are hoping to mentor an Outreachy intern in December (and possibly another intern in mid-2022) to make advanced Wikidata stats available.

Other areas for future work

Some of the other more popular priorities will be part of the roadmap, but we probably won’t tackle them in 2021-2022:

  • Alerts for on-wiki problems. These are already present for English Wikipedia, but they don’t function yet for most other languages, and they aren’t discoverable enough.
  • Enabling more language-specific features. Related to the alerts for on-wiki problems, some other features — like Authorship Highlighting — are limited to one or a few languages. We’ll continue rolling out support as we can; in most cases, this will depend on adding support for additional languages on the ORES and WikiWho services.
  • Better support for education programs. I’m not sure exactly what features are the most important right now for education programs, but there are key features that Wiki Education uses on — like the assignment wizard for creating a course timeline based on a series of choices from the instructor — that would be useful for education program organizers. The challenge here will be to ensure that each program can create their own blueprints for what a standard course timeline looks like.
  • More training module translations. This one is ready for anyone to add translations. The Programs & Events Dashboard training modules all have source pages on Meta; some are already set up for translations, and others will need to be marked for translation first. (If you are interested in translating existing modules, or adding new ones, let me know, and I can guide you through the process.)
  • Creating accounts for new users. This is a feature that is already available, allowing users to request their desired username, and allowing organizers to review the requests and create all the requested accounts with a single click (which automatically adds them as participants). However, the account request feature must be enabled for each program and may not be discoverable enough.
  • Support for judging editing competitions. A substantial number of program organizers have used the Dashboard to support editing competitions, but so far there are no dedicated features for judging competitions or tracking the particular metrics that a given competition is focused on. We may try to improve support for competitions at some point, but it will be a big project.
  • Adding video tutorials & Improving written documentation. While these were the least popular priorities from the survey, they were still ranked highly by quite a few respondents (with more people interested in video tutorials than written documentation). Video tutorials — focused on how to set up a particular type of program on the Dashboard and make the most of the available features — may be a good way for organizers to discover existing features. Working on video tutorials (and perhaps written documentation as well) could make a good internship project.

Common pain points

Many users have run into problems with the Dashboard. The most common one — statistics not getting updated quickly enough — was a major issue in late 2020 and early 2021 (and was closely connected to the problem of downtime). The Dashboard’s infrastructure was stretched too thin, and was being overwhelmed by a few long-running programs tracking extremely active editors, and the system’s single server on Wikimedia Cloud just couldn’t keep up. Since then, we’ve made major strides — both in making the Dashboard’s statistics update process more efficient and adding more server capacity. (Dashboard programs get sorted in different update queues based on how resource-intensive they are. Currently, about 4/5ths of the ~550 active programs are in the fast queue, getting updates approximately every 20 minutes. Most of the rest are in the middle queue, with updates every hour or so. The 10 most resource-intensive programs — typically long-running ones that track hundreds of thousands of edits — are in the slow queue, getting updates every 3 hours.)

The other most common problems cluster on tracking the relevant edits (and only the relevant edits), and on creating accounts and joining events. We have some clear areas to work on for both adding tracking options that don’t exist right now and for making the existing options more user friendly. For creating accounts and joining programs, I think the core features work smoothly, but it’s not a simple enough user experience to enable and use those features.

What do Wikimedians use the Dashboard for, and what problems do they face?

For this survey, we worked with the Wikimedia Foundation’s new Campaigns team to add some questions focused on what people use the Dashboard for, and what the biggest challenges are for program organizing in general.

The survey responses highlight the variety of ways program organizers use the Dashboard. A large portion of respondents (77%) have used it to organize edit-a-thons, and many use it for editing contests (48%), education programs (41%), and a wide mix of other things like workshops, hackathons, WikiProjects, or tracking the activity of a group of interns or affiliate staff members.

The target audience for programs is quite wide:

The most common “other” target audience is educators.

Here’s what survey respondents see as the biggest challenges with organizing editing events and programs:

That’s a big list of challenges — some are core challenges of the whole Wikimedia movement, in fact — but I’m excited to do what I can to tackle them. I’m hopeful that between Wiki Education’s work on the Dashboard and the new tools the WMF Campaigns team will be building, we can make a lot of progress in the coming year and beyond.

Image credit: Dmitry Barsky, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly before the summer recess, MEPs at the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee concocted close to 1200 amendments to the Digital Markets Act, a proposal construing the category of a gatekeeper and a set of obligations for internet services that qualify as one. Let’s take a look at what the Shadow Rapporteurs, the most important people in the process, proposed and how Rapporteur Andreas Schwab tackled their proposals to date if it comes to expanding users’ choice and autonomy over their data through the DMA.

Who’s talking?

As customary in committee work, each political group designated a representative to debate the DMA report. With Adreas Schwab (EPP, DE) at the helm, the Shadow Rapporteurs are: Evelyne Gebhardt (S&D, DE); Andrus Ansip (RE, EE); Virginie Joron (ID, FR), Martin Schirdewan (GUE, DE), Marcel Kolaja  (Greens, CZ), and Adam Bielan (ECR, PL). Each of them, either individually or with colleagues, filed amendments to the DMA.

Contributions span from reinforcing the autonomy of users, through supporting businesses making use of platforms’ intermediation, to supporting platforms themselves. There is no surprise in the fact that the more left of the political spectrum we look, the more important users’ rights are. Having said that, almost each Rapporteur has an interesting proposal on how to make our life on the platforms easier.

Who is in the scope?

With the exception of ECR’s Adam Bielan, all Shadows want to expand the scope of services that could become gatekeepers. Voice assistants, for which the market is highly concentrated, are on everyone’s list, except Kolaja’s. The Green’s Shadow wants to add connected TV and embedded digital services in vehicles, which include those enabling access to audio-visual content. MEPs Gebhardt and Schirdewan expand on the audio-visual, adding services providing audio and video on demand and streaming services respectively.

Web browsers are another popular addition (Gebhardt, Ansip, Kolaja, Schirdewan), along with cloud services (Gebhardt, Ansip, Kolaja). These are also ideas that seem to respond to MEPs’ special interests, such as mobile payment services (Gebhardt), so called number-independent interpersonal communication services that include messaging apps (Ansip). Kolaja adds collaborative economy services to the mix.

It seems that the Shadows would like to see the scope of the regulation expand to an array of services and applications that either already reach the required thresholds or have a potential to do so. Rapporteur Schwab, however, included only virtual (voice) assistants in his draft compromise (as seen on September 28).

“Without portability users cannot exercise any sort of ownership of the data. If interoperability is expanded, they will not be able to meaningfully benefit from it.”

How to become a gatekeeper?

Generally the Shadows don’t seem to be satisfied with the thresholds that the Commission had proposed in its initial draft. MEP Gebhardt takes the whole idea even further: a service becomes a gatekeeper if it meets one of the specified thresholds (two for MEP Schirdewan to qualify), without the need to designate it so by the European Commission. She also proposes to lower the annual EEA turnover threshold from 6,5 to 5 billion euro, an idea seconded by MEP Kolaja. They would also see the threshold of monthly active end users lowered to 23 and 30 million, respectively.  

Two MEPs would rather see the thresholds raised. Adam Bielan would set the bar at 8 billion of annual EEA turnover with the equivalent market value erased from the list. This turnover increase is supported by Rapporteur Schwab in his compromise, who would prefer the equivalent fair market value to be raised to 80 billion over 2 financial years.

A couple of Shadows offer additional criteria that the EC should consider when designing a gatekeeper: MEP Ansip suggests including a degree of multi-homing among business users and active end users into the assessment. MEP Kolaja proposes taking into account any intended concentration notified to the EC.

Users’ data across services

The DMA tackles excessive aggregation of information on end users across various services of a gatekeeper, a business move that sets the platforms at a competitive advantage over other businesses that cannot infer business decisions from such a wide sweep of data. It is of course also good for end users that their activity across multiple services wouldn’t be aggregated to modify their future online behaviour. 

In that case both the Greens and GUE want to curb the aggregation, with Marcel Kolaja suggesting that such a combination cannot be done even if the user has been presented with such a choice and gave consent. GUE’s Schirdewan wants to permit it provided that it does not subvert or impair consumers’ autonomy, decision-making, or choice. 

Contrary to the Greens and siding with GUE, Rapporteur Schwab proposes that combining the data should be possible if the end user has been presented with the specific choice in an explicit and clear manner. Alternatively the gatekeeper can fall back on GDPR provisions on consent, but combining the data cannot be justified by general rules such as legitimate interest or performance of a contract. 

“There is a risk that users may be scared into not acting on the new functionalities because of the alarmist messages or user experience design making them cumbersome or hardly accessible.”

Bundled subscriptions

Another ongoing issue is that a decision to use one of the services is often connected to involuntary subscription to a bunch of others offered by the same platform (remember how one day users of Google products found themselves subscribed to its bizarre social network, Google+?). There is also an issue of conditioning access to a service with a use of another service by that same company, for example bundling a Youtube account with a Google account. The DMA proposal would forbid such bundles and conditioning of access. 

MEPs Gebhardt and Kolaja think the bundling should no longer be possible across any services by one platform, and not only those that meet the high threshold of 45 million monthly active users. MEP Gebhard makes it clear that it shouldn’t be introduced through a backdoor of product design either. Rapporteur Schwab sides with her on both in his proposed compromise. 

Removal of preinstalled apps

Many of us get a new device and discover that it comes with multiple preinstalled apps that not only take up drive space but also cannot be uninstalled. The good news is that the DMA draft mandates that all preinstalled apps can be uninstalled by the end user unless they are necessary for the operating system to properly function. 

Shadow Rapporteurs at IMCO like this provision and provide suggestions on how to make it stronger. MEPs form the groups on the left posit that this provision is sufficiently self-explanatory to be moved into the core set of obligations of gatekeepers (article 5) from article 6 containing those obligations that need to be further specified by delegated acts. Rapporteur Schwab sides with that idea in his draft compromise. MEP Ansip clarifies that removal of apps should also result in removal of accompanying collected and stored data, which is a good idea and it should be taken up as well. 


Interoperability that enables users to connect through various messaging apps, social media platforms or providers of access to platforms (for example ensuring greater privacy and protection from surveillance) would be a great win reshaping the way online ecosystem works. 

The MEPs on the left joined by MEP Ansip believe that interoperability should be accessible to end users and not only businesses, bringing in a hope that enough pressure could be created to include this in the final IMCO report. So far, however, the Rapporteur sticks to his guns and (as laid out in his draft report) does not want to expand interoperability requirements to end users.

MEP Bielan is of a similar opinion. He wants to strengthen platforms by specifying that interoperability is only required as long as it does not present a disproportionate technical obstacle nor impedes legitimate product development, the quality of the product, etc. These discretionary clauses would give platforms an easy workaround out of providing real interoperability to businesses.

Portability of data

Portability of data is another major benefit for end users and DMA provides that gatekeeper services should enable it. Without it and without access in real time, users cannot exercise any sort of ownership of the data, and should the interoperability be expanded, they would not be able to meaningfully benefit from it without being able to get their data for a transfer. 

MEP Gebhardt would like to see this provision strengthened by clarifying that gatekeepers must implement appropriate technical and organisational measures for ensuring effective portability of data. MEPs Kolaja and Schwab have a different take. They seek to strengthen portability by ensuring that the provision includes personal data generated through end user’s activity on the platform. MEP Bielan is an outlier here as much as in the case of interoperability, as he doesn’t believe that continuous, real-time access is necessary to ensure that portability works for end users.


If there is anything we learned living our online life intermediated by platforms is that they are experts in nudging or scaring us into making choices that serve them and not necessarily us. For example, switching off access to certain functions of an app, be it location for photos or access to the address book for a game, results in a warning that the app won’t function properly even though it is clear that the switched off functions aren’t essential to its functioning. There is a risk then that with all possible gains from DMA, users may be scared into not acting on them because of the alarmist messages or user experience design making these new functionalities cumbersome or hardly accessible. 

MEP Kolaja proposes that article 11 include a ban on circumvention by product design, structure, function or manner of operation capable of influencing user choice and autonomy. MEP Schirdewan is of a similar view and adds through a change in article 5.1.e that gatekeepers should not use “non-technical tactics” to restrict end users to switch between and subscribe to different apps. MEP Gebhardt has similar suggestions. Sadly, the Rapporteur doesn’t see the need for strengthening these provisions.

Who has the right to be heard?

The DMA proposal provides that gatekeepers have the right to be heard on preliminary findings as well as the measures the EC intends to take in a number of cases, including whenever the European Commission deals with assessing the compliance efforts, granting suspensions of gatekeeper status or obligations, decisions on exemptions for public interest, market investigations for designation of gatekeepers and systematic non-compliance, imposing interim measures, accepting gatekeepers’ commitments, making decisions related to non-compliance, and imposing fines and payment conditions. 

These decisions and processes could benefit enormously from the input of concerned third parties: other businesses, users and their organisations, researchers of the platform ecosystem or experts. Some MEPs agree that the right to be heard should be expanded. MEPs Gebhardt wants to simply include all third parties with legitimate interest. MEP Kolaja adds that if legal and natural persons show sufficient interest, their applications should be granted. MEP Schirdewan follows a slightly different approach focusing on adding third parties affected by the conduct of the gatekeeper concerned. Unfortunately, the Rapporteur hasn’t picked up any of these suggestions so far.

“If we want the internet to work for the users and not just for the platforms, interoperability for end users should be on Rapporteur Schwab’s shortlist.”

Unfinished work

Looking at just a handful of nearly 1 200 amendments it seems that the Shadows themselves provide many good ideas to make sure that the DMA brings concrete solutions to end users. Sadly, Rapporteur Schwab seems to mostly stick to his vision presented in his draft report. Fortunately there is still time for the Shadows to pressure him into greater inclusion of clarifications on obligations and especially expanding the scope of interoperability to end users. 

Regarding the latter, he may face pressure not only from the left side of the political spectrum but also from the liberals. Looking at his work in detailing and strengthening the obligations regarding combining data, unbundling subscriptions, providing the uninstalling options and data portability, it is puzzling why interoperability for end users is not on MEP Schwab’s shortlist. And it should be, if we want the internet to work for the users and not just for the platforms.

Notes on histories

06:27, Wednesday, 06 2021 October UTC

I have been doing a variety of history reading of late, but have not had time to properly synthesize them. They keep coming up in conversation, though, so I wanted to write down some bullet points I could refer to. I hope they are interesting and/or provocative in a good way to someone.

Resemblance to the history of open source was rarely why I read these books. (In fact at least one was read deliberately to get away from open source thinking.) And yet the parallels — around power, mindshare, “territory”, autonomy, empowerment, innovation—keep coming back to me. I leave conclusions, for the most part, for now, to the reader.

Final disclaimer: in the interest of finally publishing a damn thing (I read Ober years ago!), this post will necessarily condense and butcher thousands of pages of scholarship. Please read with that in mind — errors and oversights are almost certainly mine and not the fault of the original authors.

The Sovereign State and Its Competitors, Hendrik Spruyt

This book attempts to understand how Europe got from feudalism to the modern nation-state. It’s explicitly an argument against a view of history where nation-states were inevitable, instead trying to show that there were other possible paths during the late Middle Ages. (The book is very Euro-centric without acknowledging that, which is a shame since I think the book would be well-complemented by an analysis of how European nation-states interacted in colonial settings with non-nation-states, about which more later.)

The core argument goes something like this:

  • what is feudalism anyway? at some level, it means “no entity has a monopoly on power in a territory”, because feudal lords, the church, tribal-like kinship relationships, etc., all overlap and interact in complicated ways.
  • you get out of feudalism, and into nation-states by:
  • punctuated-equilibrium-style evolution: a major shock to existing system (in Spruyt’s analysis, massive economic growth starting in c. 1000) which creates new power centers (bourgeoisie and new cities), which destabilizes feudalism and …
  • creates a diverse set of post-feudal options: wealthy, powerful city-states in Italy; leagues of cities in Germany; something like the modern nation-state in France. (It is this diversity which Spruyt says a lot of historians ignore, and certainly which American high-school history completely ignores.) But…
  • that situation (with a lot of different, competing options) is unstable even if each individual solution makes sense for that place/time (i.e., “city-states were stable in/good for Italy” and “city-states were not stable in/fit for Europe” can both be very true), so then…
  • competition and conscious self-selection leaves you with modern nation-states on top, for a variety of reasons, including simply that nation states prefer negotiating with other nation-states; i.e., hard for France to make treaties with a loose coalition (league) of cities, so it partners with (and therefore empowers) other units like it.

I would love to see a similar analysis for the history of various corporate forms or industries. I’ve seen it suggested, for example, that the combination of the telegraph and the railroad made multi-jurisdiction limited-liability corporations the dominant form in the US, but there was nearly simultaneously a huge explosion in experimentation around cooperatives—should we complicate the “telegraphs → big companies” narrative in the same way Spruyt is attempting to complicate it here for the transition from feudal society to nation-states?

The mapping to open source is probably pretty obvious: internet-enabled development (and then internet-enabled distribution) delivered a shock to the existing software business ecosystem; for a time we had a flourishing of institutional/organizational forms. There is certainly a narrative (perhaps correct? perhaps not?) that we are settling into a new equilibrium with a smaller number of forms. What might this history tell us about where we’re going (and what questions we should ask about the narrative of where we’re going?)

Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, Pekka Hämäläinen

US history books rarely show Native American tribes as entities with agency—the world acts on them, but not vice-versa. This book aims to be an antidote to that, showing over a course of roughly 200 years how the Lakota acted, learned, and changed in response to the world around them (including, but definitely not limited to, the US).

I definitely did not read this with the intent of “oh, this will make me think about open source”; I figured it was about as far away as I could get, and yet as I read I couldn’t help but think about parallels.

I think it’s important to be clear: by drawing parallels here I definitely don’t want to suggest that changes in open source are in any way morally/ethically comparable to genocide; if (free?)/open source culture vanished altogether tomorrow that would be a genuine tragedy, but an extremely minor tragedy compared to the very deliberate genocide that occurred occurred in North America.

But it’s hard not to see parallels in the gradual encirclement and disruption of one culture by another very different culture. Some other thoughts:

  • In one of the many ways in which the book thoughtfully gives the Lakota agency, the author writes of that “[t]hey had welcomed America’s merchandize but not its paternal embrace; they had accepted the Americans as traders and potential allies, but not as their sovereigns. They had, in other words, refused to be ‘discovered’ by [Lewis and Clark]”.
  • Just like in Spruyt’s Sovereign State, much is made of the simply different notions of “territory” between the nation-state and its competitors; in this case, between the Lakota whose governing style the book describes as “ranging widely but ruling lightly… a malleable, forever transmuting regime”, with little attention to borders or even ultimately to control, and the Americans who “were content with a cartographic proof of.. sovereignty”, needing (and imputing power to) lines on a map.
  • Technology is a small but significant undercurrent in the book: first guns, then horses, then ultimately the railroad. The first of these two were enthusiastically adopted by the Lakota, and indeed powered much of their imperial expansion in the 1800s. But they could not adopt the railroad in the same way. Nor was writing, though he does say that “[a] key element of Lakotas’ diplomatic prowess was the fact that they had so many literate allies who interpreted and explained [American] documents for them.”
  • “Contemporary Americans saw the Powder River country as an Indigenous retreat, an insular world intentionally cut off from the rapidly expanding American empire of cities, railroads, settlers, farms, ranches, and capitalism—a perception that has dominated outsider views of the Lakotas ever since. In reality, the Powder River country under the Lakota rule was a safe and dynamic cosmopolitan world of its own where transnational commercial circuits converged, where Indians enjoyed many comforts and advantages of the industrial age, and where new ideas about being in the world were constantly debated. Lakotas knew full well that they lived in a transitional period of innovation, quickening change, and questioning of old conventions. But contrary to the tired old stereotype of obstinate, tradition-bound Indians, they embraced this radical regeneration of their world.”

Additional selected Kindle highlights from my read are here.

Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, Josiah Ober

Ober is a data-driven classicist, focused on Athens and how it fit into the broader milieu of classical Greece. In my distant recollection, this book (or perhaps often just my takeaway from it) argues that:

  • Since you have literally a thousand Greek city states, you’re running a real experiment you can draw real conclusions from. And Athens, in a real material sense (backed by a variety of interesting data sets) “won” this experiment. (This has some parallels to Spruyt, arguing that in essence there was a flourishing of alternatives and then a winnowing.)
  • This greatness was in large part predicated on Athen’s ability as a democracy (relative to its neighbors, at any rate) to create and synthesize effective knowledge. In other words, it was better at being a government specifically because it was a democracy, using “local”/small-group/individual knowledge to make itself more effective.
  • Athens then ultimately failed (after nearly 200 years) in part because neighboring oligarchic governments took its good ideas, and re-implemented them. (This issue is also explored in Ober’s Rise and Fall of Classical Greece.)

I do wish I still had my original notes from reading this a decade or so ago; both it and Rise and Fall are deep and rich books that stirred my political theory bones in a great way.

5 October 2021, San Francisco, CA, USA — China today blocked the Wikimedia Foundation’s bid for observer status at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the second time after the Foundation’s initial application in 2020. 

WIPO is the United Nations (UN) organization that develops international treaties on copyright, patents, trademarks and related issues. China was again the only country to object to the accreditation of the Wikimedia Foundation as an official observer. The Foundation will reapply for official observer status in 2022, but it will only be admitted by WIPO if China decides to lift its blockade.

WIPO’s work, which shapes international rules that affect the sharing of free knowledge, impacts Wikipedia’s ability to provide hundreds of millions of people with information in their own languages. “The Wikimedia Foundation’s absence from these meetings deprives our communities of an opportunity to participate in this process,” says Amanda Keton, General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation. 

As in 2020, China’s statement falsely suggested that the Wikimedia Foundation was spreading disinformation via the independent, volunteer-led Wikimedia Taiwan chapter. The United States and the group of industrialized countries at WIPO — which also includes many European Union member states, Australia, Canada, the Holy See, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom — expressed their support for the Foundation’s application. Since WIPO is generally run by consensus, any one country may veto accreditation requests by non-governmental organizations. 

A wide range of international and non-profit organizations as well as private companies are official observers of WIPO proceedings and debates. These outside groups offer technical expertise, on-the-ground experience, and diversity of opinions to help WIPO carry out its global mandate. Many of these organizations have members, partners, or affiliates in Taiwan. 

“The Wikimedia Foundation operates Wikipedia, one of the most popular sources of information for people around the world. The Foundation’s exclusion sets a worrying precedent for other organizations – nonprofits and for-profits – that are committed to promoting access to information, culture, and education,” adds Keton. “We renew our call to WIPO members, including China, to approve our application. The international community must ensure meaningful civil society participation in UN fora.”

The Wikimedia Foundation provides the essential infrastructure for free knowledge and advocates for a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

October marks the start of Black History Month, in the UK and Ireland. At the Wikimedia Foundation, this month is an exciting opportunity to honor the lived experiences, stories, and contributions of Black people, Africans, and Africans in the diaspora around the world. 

We are also digging deeper into the meaning of representation — exploring the challenges, the opportunities, and the incredible work already underway to ensure our movement reflects the full, rich diversity of all humanity, not just this month, but all year long. 

The challenges in representation in our movement are real.

When it comes to contributors on Wikimedia projects, the majority (61%) are based in Europe and Northern America.

Only 1.6% of contributors are based in Africa, although people in Africa comprise 17% of the world’s population. In the US specifically, fewer than 1% of Wikipedia’s editors base identify as Black or African American.

When it comes to content, there are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than most countries in Africa. Africa has almost twice the population of Europe, and yet only 15 percent the number of articles.

We also know that women, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, as well as LGBTQ+ people often face increased scrutiny, pressure, or outright harassment on our projects — a disheartening reality we aim to address with a new Universal Code of Conduct.

The Wikimedia Foundation recently launched the Open the Knowledge initiative to raise awareness of the biases, under-representation, and inequities in our movement that continue to close Wikimedia projects to much of the world’s people and knowledge. We are inviting all who support our mission and participate in our movement to help open the knowledge — making it more diverse, more equitable, accessible and inclusive.

It’s with these data and challenges in mind that we ask ourselves: 

What does it really mean to be represented on Wikimedia projects (such as Wikipedia), and within the movement of volunteers who create it?

Is it reaching a certain percentage point, creating more Wikipedia articles, increasing the number of contributors? Or is it more than numbers on a screen?

We believe it is more, so much more. 

Representation is a construct, one that has layers — one that exists not just in data points but in how people feel. That means real representation comes from a range of approaches on Wikimedia projects: From having articles in your language, seeing images of people who are part of your history, attending events where you feel welcomed, and more.

There are several There are several community-led initiatives already making important progress toward knowledge equity — a pillar of our movement strategy that calls us to make Wikimedia projects more welcoming and representative of communities that have been overlooked and oppressed by systems of power and privilege.

Groups such as Black Lunch Table, AfroCrowd, and WhoseKnowledge? focus on adding knowledge about Black history and people of African descent to our projects. The AfroCine project, Africa Wiki Challenge, and Wiki Loves Africa photography campaign aim to increase information on our projects from African countries. These groups are just some of many working to improve diversity and participation across the Wikimedia ecosystem.

Drawing inspiration from these initiatives, and in an effort to elevate them and different views on representation, each week this month, we will highlight a project that works to improve the representation of Black people, Africans, and Africans in the diaspora in our movement.

Check back every week for a new video and profile that celebrates Wikimedia movement initiatives strengthening representation and participation in Wikimedia projects — getting us closer and closer to making knowledge equity a reality. 

Week 1: Nigerian Language Oral History Documentation Project

Did you know that more than 6,000 languages are spoken in the world, and over 500 are spoken in Nigeria? This is approximately 8.3% of the total languages spoken worldwide. However, many of these smaller, Indigenous languages face extinction, as they have little documentation, and are not written down or taught in schools.

Enter the Nigerian Language Oral History Documentation Project: an initiative by the Wikimedia Nigeria Foundation Inc., supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, that is working to enrich Wikimedia projects with freely licensed audiovisual files documenting spoken languages and dialects in Nigeria.

Olaniyan Olushola, president of Wikimedia User Group Nigeria, says of the project’s importance:

“I perceive representation on Wikimedia projects as one of the ways of protecting the diversities of Africa and its people, the richness in our culture and traditions, and providing a level playing ground to accommodate our views on relevant discussions in and about the movement. … I am excited that this project will preserve at least over 50 languages that are bound to face extinction.”

So far, the project has produced and documented 52 audiovisuals, which have been used on over 150 related Wikipedia articles in over 20 languages. 

Week 2: Stay tuned! 

Week 3: Stay tuned!

Week 4: Stay tuned!