July 06, 2015

Tech News

Tech News issue #28, 2015 (July 6, 2015)

This document has a planned publication deadline (link leads to timeanddate.com).
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July 06, 2015 12:00 AM

July 05, 2015


Wikipedia – Daily Update July 5, 2015

This is my first daily update about my time on Wikipedia, so I apologize if it is not that appealing to read. This update is more of a rant than a diary, so please read it with a grain of salt or something.

Today started of with me noticing a malfunctioning bot.
The bot in question is run by an editor by the name of Cyberpower678, and the bot is named Cyberbot II. The editor is currently up for adminship, but not for needing administrative tools, or to perform any administrative actions. The editor is about to receive these tools for one reason alone. No, it’s not what you think, that the editor writes a lot of articles, since that seems to please voters, no. This editor is about to be sysops’ed for being great at programming bots and tools. Tools and bot which seems to be malfunctioning very often.

This time the bot repeatedly added a message on hundreds of talk pages about it having removed a spam link-tempate from the article. Normally this would be great however, this time it didn’t remove anything. It just kept on adding the message on talk page every hour or so, spamming hundreds of talk pages. Kinda ironical, if you think about it.

xTools, maintained by this user is also constantly broken, almost every single time you want to use them. Consistently demanding the tools be written in a terrible language, PHP, especially if it is used in shared environments. That is one of the reasons the tools never work, because maintainers do not want to work with this language, and therefore noone fixes problems. Still, the user keeps on using it.

Anyway, my point is that the operator of the bot and editor doesn’t seem to have any reasons for being granted adminship more than what I’ve just disproved.

Please for the love of – not God, since there are non – but for the love of Jimbo,  please look at the user with a grain of salt. The user might do a lot, but not anything good. He doesn’t need the mop, what he needs is a wake up call.

by Jonatan Svensson Glad (Josve05a; @JonatanGlad) at July 05, 2015 11:01 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - #verifiability

Verifiability for Wikidata is different from verifiability for Wikipedia. One sentence like "Mr X was born on 7-5-1959 in Zwaag, he became known for activities in Y" contain multiple statements and Wikipedia could use one source while Wikidata needs the same source multiple times. The sources for Wikipedia are nice out of the way and for Wikidata they are in your face.

Yet again there is a discussion about verifiability and to be honest, it is boring. On a typical day the vast majority of new statements come without any sources. To be brutally honest, I have never added sources and I do not intent to either. I do remove sources when I update information that is wrong and is sourced.

Wikidata is hardly the only source of linked data and it is relatively easy to compare databases. This is when the idiosyncrasies come out. It is where you have to  map data from one database to another. Once this is done, you can compare multiple sources and find how they match and mismatch.

Arguably this is more powerful as individual sources because there is little interest in adding missing sources per statement.  There is a lot more interest in finding out why there are differences between the data in databases. It leads to a finetuning of the mapping or it leads to changes in the data on either end.

Wikipedia does need sources for each Wikidata statement. What it needs is confidence. Confidence in best practices that ensure the data is as good as we can make it.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 05, 2015 09:11 AM

#Wikidata - Dr B.R. Barwale, winner of the World Food Prize

The English article on the World Food Prize mentions that Dr B.R. Barwale is the 1998 recipient of that award. Google has it that Mr Barwale was born in 1931 in India.

Because Wikipedia does not know that Mr Barwale was born in 1931, he is not in a category "Born in 1931" and consequently Wikidata did not know that Mr Barwale was a human and therefore he was not automatically awarded the World Food Prize.. This was added by hand.

The World Food Prize has a website, it mentions Mr Barwale in plenty of detail. Arguably, as a source the website of the World Food Prize provides many details for its laureates. It is however like Wikipedia not a source that makes for easy automated comparisons.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 05, 2015 09:10 AM


Class struggle and the July 2015 reddit Blackout

As a paid professional who is employed to encourage volunteers to donate their labor so that Wikipedia can be developed with their crowdsourcing, I feel that I have expert insight into the relationship between staff and volunteers in online collaboration. This is a niche field and the relationships between staff and volunteers are broadly misunderstood, because there is little precedent in any community, company, or social organization in which these kinds of relationships can exist. In the case of Wikipedia, or in the reddit (spelled “r”) case on which I am about to comment, the nature of the relationship is as follows: there is a media outlet which is a valuable resource, either Wikipedia the encyclopedia or reddit the community discussion forum, which came to be popular. Its popularity could not have been predicted, and its “creators” were less architects of success than among the few who tried new ideas on the Internet and among the tens of thousands of bright minds who tried something and had the same ideas simultaneously, these were the first popular instances of that idea to work. At present these popular media outlets exist as places which a community of volunteers indisputably contributes not less than 99% of the value, work, and success of the projects, and paid staff who somehow receive pay associated with the project might guide the community a bit in some directions but overall, the success of the website is the result of the community’s presence. No valuable patents, unique resources, or special insight are offered by the website or staff hosting the community, except that the host has an attractive brand and attractive real estate where people are currently meeting.

It is nice when the people who get the majority of benefits from this arrangement – the website hosts – acknowledge that their success in life is because a lot of volunteers donate their labor to the enrichment of their hosts. In the case of Wikipedia, this acknowledgement is made with gestures including Wikipedia’s nonprofit status, the staff taking salaries lower than they might get at commercial companies, having half the board of trustees elected by the community, and making staff of the Wikimedia Foundation available as targets to be terrorized by loony Wikipedia community volunteers in all sorts of absurd and unreasonable ways. All of these things are friendly deprecating signs of submission on the part of the paid staff to the community of volunteers, and do a little to make up for the unfairness that all contributors to Wikimedia projects (staff and volunteer) experience in all that they do.

In the case of reddit, a commercial enterprise of Conde Nast and some very wealthy Internet entrepreneurs, there is heightened tension because the staff at reddit does less kowtowing. Reddit is a cheap platform and yet one of the most successful media channels in history in terms of audience size, audience engagement, and ability to attract star talent to provide media content. It is not entirely true to say that the creators, founders, and developers of reddit contributed nothing to its success, but it is mostly true. Obviously the person who should be given most of the credit for reddit’s creation and success is Aaron Swartz, because he is the person who most understood, embodied, and stood for the rights of community volunteers when no one else associated with the website is really associated with that kind of spirit. The history books should attribute all of reddit’s successes to Aaron Swartz and all of its shortcomings to others.

Victoria Taylor (/u/chooter) used to be associated with reddit, she had that Aaron Swartz spirit, and she advocated for reddit community interests. She was fired from her position 2 July, and in response, the volunteer moderators of reddit shut down most of reddit 3 July. Already I am saying something that few traditional media outlets could understand, and I am not going to explain all of reddit here, but to summarize: reddit’s content is presented by volunteers and some of the forums published in reddit have millions of subscribers and tens of millions of daily readers, and could be shut down at any time by certain volunteer contributors who operate semi-anonymously in their free time for fun. Outsiders might not understand what is happening here, because they might not understand the nature of the relationship between paid staff and volunteers in community crowdsourcing projects, but this sort of situation is nature to me because I get paid to do Wikipedia. I hardly knew Victoria, and I do not know other reddit staff, but I know Wikipedia and I know these kinds of relationships as well as anyone else. I read the sources covering the reddit blackout. The New York Times, Forbes, BBC, Hindustan Times, Gawker, Gizmodo, and as best as I can tell with translators Le Monde, Die Zeit, and Italian, Vietnamese, Spanish, and other language news outlets are all saying the same things and missing the point of the blackout. They fail to cover the issue because they preferentially report comments from reddit’s paid staff and less understand what the volunteers are doing, because in a crowdsourced semi-anonymous volunteer community there is no spokesperson or leader to consult for a news comment. The reason for the blackout was not Victoria’s firing, but that reddit fired the only employee they had who advocated for the community of volunteers and directly brought benefits to the volunteer community. This happened in the context of all other reddit staff continually seeking short-term business advancement even when it increased the work burden on the volunteers who contribute all the work that makes reddit successful. The community went really wild when Alexis, an executive at reddit, insulted the volunteers for complaining even while expecting them to continue to donate their time.

Victoria’s job was to facilitate AMA interviews. “AMA” means “ask me anything”, and the interviews take the format where someone says “I am (whoever), AMA”. The two most popular interviews reddit hosted were Barack Obama and an interview of a guy with two penises. Beyond that, I think the majority of newsworthy English-speaking celebrities have presented on reddit in the past few years. Professionals in all fields even when not celebrities have also presented on reddit, for example, when any science discovery is made often that will get a 1-minute mention on mainstream news or a paragraph in a newspaper but then the scientist will come to reddit and talk for hours answering every question asked and creating a public record of comments. Victoria’s particular role in this included that she would verify the identity of the interviewee – this sounds trivial, but is actually a real pain for volunteers and a huge help that often means the difference between having the interview or not. For big celebrities, she would also manage the interview by being on hand for technical support, or sometimes even reading questions and typing their responses so that they would not need to learn the reddit interface. As a special benefit to reddit’s moderators, she would also provide audience and impact metrics. I support Victoria because she is such a big help to /u/nallen (Nate), a moderator of /r/science who for years has brought a scientist to give an AMA every day. Nate is one of the greatest interviewers ever and one of the most important journalists ever, even though he does nothing more than facilitate a crowdsourced conversation and not actually do journalism or interviews himself. The body of interviews which he has produced is a treasure of civilization. Whenever a science story is published in academic journals, and when it is hot, he invites the scientist to reddit to present their research. The record of conversation that is created is one of the most amazing scientific and cultural outputs ever in any context and is unprecedented in its scope, candor, accessibility, and level of engagement between professional scientists and the general public. Victoria used to provide Nate with the metrics that he used as evidence to convince scientists that giving presentations in reddit was a legitimate way to bring scientific discourse to the public. Nate probably has facilitated more and deeper conversations between scientists and the public than anyone else, and he has done it as a volunteer. Just like everyone else on reddit, Nate depends on other people who volunteer their labor in giving and participating in discussions, but Nate is a volunteer in facilitating these things, and considering that reddit makes a lot of money because it hosts content like this it is nice when reddit makes investments in the infrastructure which allows Nate to proceed with his activities with minimal hassle. When reddit fired Victoria, they disrupted Nate’s routine activities on reddit and left him in a state of uncertainty about whether he would get the support he needed to do his routine. Nate was just one reddit volunteer contributor of many who depended on Victoria as a cornerstone of community support. He only needs a light touch and a little help in some places, only a fraction of Victoria’s working time, but with that little support he has been able to encourage great things that were much bigger than what any individual could have produced.

The most hurtful part of Victoria’s firing was that it was done with malice to reddit’s community of volunteers. When she was fired, it was under reddit staff presumption that her role in reddit’s workings were insignificant to reddit’s success, because more pointedly, the reddit staff assumption that reddit’s volunteer contributions were insignificant to reddit’s success and therefore did not need staff support. The core premise was that reddit was successful because of the assets held by it as a commercial entity, and because of the merits of its paid staff, and that the volunteer community contributed their labor and volunteer time to reddit because they recognized reddit as a superior and worthy recipient for their free labor and time. These are mistaken notions and the height of hubris and arrogance; the reality is that the community of contributors to reddit would much prefer that any nonprofit entity duplicate what reddit does and present the same location that reddit does but in a more ethical and less exploitative way.

At Victoria’s firing, there were immediate objections from people who had AMA interviews scheduled. They were profoundly disrupted and given no recourse from reddit staff, which was confusing because a lot of community volunteers were depending on the interviews going forward. This confusion could have been prevented by any reddit staff taking the time to assume Victoria’s duties and assist the volunteers in doing their interviews. This could have been 3-4 hours of labor, at most, but it was not offered by reddit staff. When the volunteer moderators realized that their volunteer participation was being disrupted over reddit staffs’ petty refusal to help them with their interviews, they became indignant that a wealthy commercial enterprise like reddit would fail to acknowledge the routine needs of its most committed and generous contributors. The situation became more intense when innocently, Victoria offered to help the volunteers in a volunteer role herself – she was fired, but still could donate her time for reddit like anyone else, and was going to do some of what was formerly her paid work duties as a community member until reddit corporate sorted out a paid staff replacement for her.

One of reddit’s founders then began to insult reddit’s moderators, which are key volunteers on the website. They manage the workings of individual subreddits (forums) and sometimes take on roles of community leaders. Alexis Ohanian said several rude things, but the triggering phrase was “popcorn tastes good”.

screencap of a reddit conversation

Alexis Ohanian says “popcorn tastes good” with intent to insult reddit’s volunteers for participating in the website

He said this when one of the moderators closed a subreddit, knowing that the moderator had closed it in response to Victoria being fired without respect for the community volunteers who needed Victoria to help with their routine volunteering. Victoria could have been fired with someone else filling in with her, and if that had happened, there would have been no protest. If no one was available to fill in for her, then at least reddit staff could have avoided conflict by saying, “Thanks for being moderators. I am sorry that we are unable to provide support for you now. We will replace Victoria as soon as possible so that you can have good assistance. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Instead, Alexis immediately turned blame on the volunteer moderators by saying it was unfortunate that they began to protest. It is unprecedented on reddit for there to be mass protests, and he trivialized the feedback he was getting that volunteers were being hurt by his actions. When he said “popcorn tastes good”, he meant that he acknowledged that reddit volunteers did all the labor that made him a multimillionaire, and that he knew that firing Victoria harmed these volunteers by burdening them all with a lot more volunteer work than they wished to commit to do, and that it embarrassed the volunteers in the eyes of the audience that read their content and the interviewees that were appearing that day to speak, and that the unnecessary pain that the volunteers were experiencing as they labored for his enrichment was so futile and seemed so entertaining to him that he intended to eat popcorn while listening to their cries, much as he would eat popcorn during an entertaining movie. It was like saying “let them eat cake.” The reddit community wanted him dismissed for being so ungrateful, and with CEO Ellen Pao defending and condoning his behavior, the reddit community sees both of these as traitors to community goodwill. There is never a good reason in crowdsourcing to ridicule the volunteers for contributing constructively to the project, and treating them as fools for volunteering to develop your product. Many volunteers felt a very personal offense to this. The emotion would be comparable to having a demographic called with an insulting epithet based on race or gender or sexuality or other hot social issue – what happened was felt as the maximal dehumanizing insult. Forgiveness could come, but the price would be a sincere apology and something on the order of a public commitment to attend 1-2 years of weekly anger management classes and therapy along with public speaking in opposition to harassment and discrimination.

What happened was a class struggle, in which wealthy people who had been made rich because of volunteer donations spoke badly of their donors. They acted like slaveholders, because it is human instinct that when people get extremely wealthy they start to think that they are better than the people who serve them, and start to imagine that those in their service respect their lordship. In the case of reddit, the servants (volunteer contributors) are much less bound to their masters (reddit staff), and much more able to voice resentment. Reddit staff were not at the focus of reddit’s money because of their own merit or hard work, but because they were in the right place at the right time to benefit from community volunteer labor. The people with money were very proud of themselves, which was permissible, but they crossed the line when they started to insult the people who voluntarily served them. In The New York Times, CEO Pao says, “the most virulent detractors on the site are a vocal minority, and that the vast majority of Reddit users are uninterested in what unfolded over the past 48 hours”. That vocal minority are the moderators who facilitate most of the content contribution, and not the readers who just enjoy the benefits. She also said, “We should have informed our community moderators about the transition and worked through it with them” – this is not sincere. The firing of Victoria was not the major issue – the major issue was that Alexis as executive staff did the firing while taunting the community that because they are less empowered individuals, reddit’s volunteers would willingly humiliate themselves by tolerating the hostile treatment of wealthy reddit staff.

It is very sad when rich people leverage their wealth to position themselves to harm less fortunate people. I started the Wikipedia article “Victoria Taylor” because contributing to Wikipedia is what I do when I feel like sharing information and I feel that it complies with Wikipedia’s inclusion guidelines.

by bluerasberry at July 05, 2015 02:27 AM

July 04, 2015


A manipulated picture, a manipulated competition?

Frühjahr im Dorumer Moor (Spring at the Dorum Bog), by Herbert Rohde CC-BY-SA 3.0.

An unpleasant finding: It seems that a winning picture of Wiki Loves Earth was manipulated in a inappropriate way. A Wikipedia user noticed some unusual elements of the picture winning 5th rank.

At the talk page of the ‘Kurier’ of German Wikipedia, user:Sitacuisses presented his thoughts on a picture called ‘Frühjahr im Dorumer Moor’. A nice landscape photo, but with geese flying suspiciously low over the bog. Two storks sit in the bog looking overly perfect. The sun is shining bright, but does not have to do much with the shadows of the trees.

These elements were likely photoshopped into the frame, although the terms of participation prohibit strong photo editing.

The problem of such a photo competition is that we want a lot of (new) people to come to a Wikimedia wiki (Wikimedia Commons) and contribute in their way. All pictures are contest contributions and have to be examined by the jury. A lot of work, and obviously sometimes a frame slips through that shouldn’t have.

The users of German Wikipedia discuss now what the consequences might be, also for the WLE competition of next year.

by Ziko van Dijk at July 04, 2015 09:50 PM

Weekly OSM

During July and August weeklyOSM will be taking a short summer holiday, providing monthly summaries for July (in early August) and for August (in early September).

by Madalina at July 04, 2015 02:54 PM

weekly 258 23.06.-29.06.2015


Säulendiagramm des Spendenaufkommens, eine Säule pro Tag

Donations during the fundraising campaign to finance new hardware for OSM. Chart: Nakaner – data: Frederik Ramm. [1]

About us

  • The WeeklyOSM team sends greetings to our new Brazilian OSM friends (Brasilianisches Portugisisch), who joined the weeklyOSM team: Bemvindo – or in English “Welcome”, dear friends from the country of CapoeiraCopacabanaCaipirinhaJorge Amadao e Oskar Niemeyer: Vitor, Alexandre and John, sejam bemvindo 😉
  • During July and August weeklyOSM will be taking a short summer holiday, providing monthly summaries for July (in early August) and for August (in early September).


  • Imagico.de provides images for remote mapping in OSM for areas where MapBox or Bing have no or poor images. An overview can be procured in the browser and then embed the image service in JOSM.
  • Fernando Trebien starts a controversial discussion regarding the difficulty of understanding and using relations in OSM for novice mappers using current editors..
  • Ture Pålsson stumbles over a common misinterpretation of the Layer tag.


OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • The fundraising goal for new server hardware has been achieved and even exceeded. The Operations Working Group OWG says thank you! Frederik Ramm has compiled some interesting data.


  • Facts and figures on SotM US 2015.
  • From September 30 to October 04 the SotM Scotland will take place in Edinburgh. The program is already partially online.
  • User Gowin reported on an OSM workshop, which recently took place in Manila in the FEU Institute of Technology.
  • In a cooperation between geoimagina and the Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia the following series of events will take place in Quito: July 09 – Introduction to OSM; July 21 – Creating geoportals using free software; July 28 – Producing Goestatistics with R; August 20 – risk scenarios for the threat from tsunamis. (Spanisch)
  • Frederik Ramm is looking for volunteers from Austria, which would assist in the planning and implementation of FOSSGIS 2016.

Humanitarian OSM

  • The Humanitarian OSM Team is recruiting a short-term research post for two months. Application deadline is July 03.
  • User dkunce has completed a first three hours “office hours” question and answer session for HOT. He sums up three important questions that were put to him.


Open Data

  • The British Ministry of Environment has announced the release of 8000 UK datasets under a free license. (via @DefraGovUK)


  • A possible side effect of omitting attribution – prevention of vandalism?
  • Jan Erik Solem has questions about ODbL because Mapillary would like to use OSM data increasingly.


  • Using the OSMroute plugin it is possible to calculate routes through openroutservice.org in QGIS.
  • The Wall Street Journal published a JavaScript library for easily creating maps with just a few clicks.
  • OsmAnd is five years old. WeeklyOSM congratulates the app, which is considered by many non-mappers as the OpenStreetMap app for Android.
  • A recent demonstration of OpenSfM to understand the smooth transition of Mapillary photos. (more but older examples in Mapillary’s blog).
  • MapBox ‘OpenGL-based map now supports a perspective view.
  • Richard Fairhurst has created Tilemaker a tool to generate vector tiles from PBF extracts.
  • Michael Zangl released a beta version of its OpenGL MapViews for JOSM, which he programmed in the context of his Google Summer of Code project.

Did you know …

Other “geo” things

by Madalina at July 04, 2015 02:36 PM

Yuvi Panda


Exactly what is this ‘Freedom of Panorama’?

It is exactly what it sounds like, a freedom. A freedom to be allowed to take photographs in public, such as panorama photos of ones surrounding.

If you want to snap a photo of a building or a nice statue permanently placed in public, you are allowed to do so, and share it however you want. Nobody, such as the architect or artist of said statue, can sue you for intellectual property infringement, nor can they claim copyright of the images which you have taken. Those are yours alone, free to do what you want with.

Some countries, such as the UK and Sweden allow such freedoms, while a few such as Itally disallows it, limiting ones freedoms. Which side of history do you want to be on? The one which forbids photography, or allow it?

by Jonatan Svensson Glad (Josve05a; @JonatanGlad) at July 04, 2015 11:21 AM

July 02, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Growing the Wikimedia blog

Much has happened on the Wikimedia blog in the past six months. Here’s an update on our goals, accomplishments, lessons learned — and new features under development, as shown in this design mockup. Photo by Ralf Roletschek, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

For the past six months, I have had the honor to manage and edit the Wikimedia blog with the Wikimedia Foundation’s (WMF) Communications team. During that time, we kept growing the blog as an important communications channel for the Wikimedia movement.

Here’s an update on our goals for the blog, what we achieved and learned in 2015, and the next steps for the blog, which the team is considering for the rest of the year.

Our goals

The Wikimedia blog provides a unique service for our movement, by informing and connecting our communities through the stories we publish. These aim to:

  • Inform people about Wikipedia, its sister sites, the WMF, and our movement.
  • Connect our communities around a shared narrative, and amplify their voices.
  • Convert casual visitors into supporters: readers, editors, donors.

What we achieved

To serve these goals, we published 150 blog posts in the first half of 2015 on a wide range of topics: community news, tech reports, research studies, and foundation announcements. About half of these posts were from or about community members, while the rest were written by foundation staff or affiliates. Many were translated in a variety of languages. Over ten stories were new content experiments.

Here were our top five stories for the first half of 2015:

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 9.25.25 AM
Activity on the Wikimedia blog fluctuates based on the popularity of stories we publish, as shown in this graph of monthly views and visitors from August 2014 to June 2015. Traffic surged in March, due to the announcement of our NSA lawsuit; traffic in June was more typical, as highlighted in orange. This graph was automatically generated by WordPress, and is public domain.

Altogether, the Wikimedia blog received about 626,000 pageviews from January 1 to June 30, 2015—an average of 4,175 views per post. The first quarter of the year (January–March) was particularly active, with 356,000 pageviews, or twice as many views as the previous year’s first quarter. This was largely due to our NSA lawsuit announcement in March 2015, which recieved over 66,000 views in that month. Other months had less activity, and we ended the second quarter with about 98,000 monthly views and 61,000 unique visitors, which is about average for our blog traffic this year (see above graph).

For more blog metrics, take a look at these 2015 research slides.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 9.25.50 AM
A recent survey of Wikimedia blog readers shows a strong interest in community and movement news, as well as technology reports. Graph automatically generated by Survey Monkey, public domain.

What we learned

This year, our team ran a number of research studies to learn about the impact of the stories we publish on the blog and make more informed decisions about our content strategy.

To hear what our users think of the blog, we ran a survey in February–March 2015. A majority of survey participants told us that they find the Wikimedia blog useful, but many said they only visit it about once a month, relying on emails, social media, and web links to draw them in.

Participants preferred content quality over quantity, with an interest in more depth and relevance, and asked for more reports from community members translated in more languages. They wanted easier ways to find stories they are interested in and more visibility on popular sites where they are active, from wiki projects to social networks. For more details, read our full survey report.

We also ran a comparative study to evaluate the user experience on other blogs in related media, technology and nonprofit organizations. This helped us identify new trends and ideas for improving our site.

Our recommendations

Based on this research, we have recommended three main areas of improvements for the blog in 2015:

  • Better content: Focus on quality, experiment with new ideas.
  • Better experience: Improve the blog’s discovery, visibility, and presentation.
  • New tools: Provide email subscriptions, as well as tools for editing and translating blog posts.

These recommendations are outlined one at a time below, and described in these Wikimedia blog slides, with more details and illustrations for each goal.

The blog’s editorial team is experimenting with new content ideas to better serve our community. Here are featured images from three different stories cited below. Wikipedia Picks image by James E. Buttersworth, Public domain. Philae news image by Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt, CC BY 3.0 Germany. World music photo by Dalbera, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Better content

In the past six months, we focused on content quality, rather than quantity—aiming for more depth and relevance, as suggested by many survey respondents. We covered topics we know are popular among blog readers, such as stories about our community, Wikipedia, and technology reports.

We also started experimenting with new formats to increase engagement and relevancy around content, and are now testing these three ideas:

Wikipedia Picks
This proposed blog series has two versions. The first invites Wikipedia community members to recommend articles, images, or other content that they find interesting and share their views on why they’re important or how they were created. The second is an in-depth interview with a Wikipedia editor on the articles they’ve written.

Here are our first examples:

In the news
This proposed series features top news stories of the week and shows how they are covered on Wikipedia and Wikimedia sites, informing our readers and surfacing those articles at the same time.

Here are some recent examples we’re now evaluating:

Multimedia Spotlight
This proposed series features compelling images, videos or sounds from Wikimedia Commons, through daily social posts and special blog roundups on familiar themes and popular events.

Here are some of our first blog examples:

What do you think of these new content ideas? How could they be improved? Do you have other suggestions for new experiments? Your feedback is most welcome in the comments below. Learn more here.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 9.27.00 AM
This design mockup for the blog’s home page shows some of the proposed improvements to the blog’s user experience, such as a clearer navigation bar, updated typography and more prominent social media buttons. Blog design by Exygy and Wikimedia Foundation, CC-BY-SA 3.0. >Photo by Kabelleger, CC BY-SA 3.0.

A better experience

To improve the Wikimedia blog’s user experience, we are developing new features and upgrading our site in three main areas:

Yesterday, we released a first round of improvements towards these goals. The blog now has an improved layout, with a clearer navigation bar featuring our top categories, as well as updated typography to make text easier to read. Special thanks go to our colleague Kaity Hammerstein for creating this design, in collaboration with Heather Walls—and to our development partners at Exygy for implementing it and extending it forward.

Later this month, the team plans to release updated sidebars and more prominent social media buttons, to provide a more pleasant and productive experience. We welcome your comments on any of these first improvements. Learn more here.

New tools

Yesterday, we released our first new tool for the blog this year: you can now subscribe to daily or weekly email updates, to find out when new stories are posted on the Wikimedia blog.

To get started, simply type your email address at the top of any page on the blog (or quickly sign up on this page).

An example of the weekly mailing list email. Design by Exygy and Wikimedia Foundation, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Painting by James E. Buttersworth, public domain.

Daily email updates are sent at 12pm PT (19:00 UTC), and weekly updates are sent every Thursday at 12pm PT (19:00 UTC). You can change your email preferences at any time by clicking ‘Update your preferences’ at the bottom of any email.

Nearly half of survey respondents told us they needed a way to be notified when new content is published on our site, and email subscriptions was one of the most frequent requests.

We hope you too will find this service useful: it’s a great way to keep up with the latest Wikimedia news!  Learn more in this blog announcement.

Going forward, the team is looking to raise awareness for the blog on Wikipedia and its sister projects, where our communities spend much of their time. Possible features could include an on-wiki newsletter delivered to your talk page; or links to the blog in sidebars and community portals; or a widget that could embed blog stories or lists on wiki pages.

And we started to discuss new tools to increase diversity on the blog, both in terms of content and participation. For example, new blog forms could help community members suggest or edit stories on the blog, as well as translate them into more languages, as described here.

What do you think of these ideas? Your feedback is welcome in the comments below.

Sharing the stories of our movement

For those of us who have managed this process on a daily basis, the Wikimedia blog is not just a publication—it works as a powerful community engagement tool. The stories we share on the blog bring together readers and contributors from around the world and helps share knowledge across diverse cultures. In my six months editing the blog, I collaborated with hundreds of community and team members, most of which said they enjoyed the experience of sharing their stories and discussing them with others.

This may be my most important insight from this assignment: creating quality content on channels like the Wikimedia blog has the potential to bring our communities closer to each other. By collaboratively editing and publishing each other’s stories, we learn to understand one another: this helps build empathy and trust between us — which is good for our whole movement.

Group photo of the Wikimedia Foundation’s communications team. Pictured from left to right: Jing Liong, Haoting Zhang, Heather Walls, Fabrice Florin, Katherine Maher, Andrew Sherman, Samantha Lien, Michael Guss, Dhvanil Patel and Juliet Barbara. (Remote workers Ed Erhart, Victor Grigas and Joe Sutherland are shown in a separate insert.) Group photo by Adam Roses Wight, CC BY-SA 3.0.

A wonderful team

Over the past few months, we assembled a world-class team to carry on this work and grow the blog into a global communications channel for the Wikimedia movement.

Going forward, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Juliet Barbara will manage the Wikimedia blog, in close collaboration with Ed Erhart, former editor-in-chief of the Wikipedia Signpost. They will work with many of our talented team members, including Victor Grigas, Heather Walls, Michael Guss, Samantha Lien, Joe Sutherland, Andrew Sherman, Jing Liong, Dhvanil Patel and Haoting Zhang (many of whom are working with us as summer interns), and former Communications team member Tilman Bayer. I helped recruit and mentor several of them and am really impressed with how quickly they have come together as a team: I am confident they will keep doing amazing work to take the blog to the next level.

As for me, the time has come to say goodbye, after three great years at the Wikimedia Foundation; this is my last post as a WMF employee. Starting today, I look forward to spending more time with my family, focusing on personal art projects and consulting part-time on other worthy causes. I also plan to remain involved as a community volunteer, to contribute some of my multimedia libraries to Wikimedia projects.


I would like to thank all the community and team members I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. It has been an honor to serve our movement together and to help our contributors share free knowledge with each other and the world.

I’m particularly grateful to Katherine Maher and our entire Communications team for being such wonderful collaborators. I really enjoyed working with you all to manage and edit the Wikimedia blog, helping grow our team and publish some great stories together.

Serving the Wikimedia movement for nearly four years has been an incredible experience for me, and I am grateful for all that I have learned from so many of you. I have high hopes for the free knowledge movement, and can’t wait to see it grow to new heights in coming years.


Fabrice Florin
Movement Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation

by Fabrice Florin at July 02, 2015 08:34 PM

Wikimedia UK

What would London look like without Freedom of Panorama? A letter to MEPs

The letter below was sent to all UK MEPs on 2 July signed by Michael Maggs, Chair of Wikimedia UK

© User:Colin Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

What would London look like without Freedom of Panorama?

Who would you need to seek permission from before photographing the skyline?

Dear MEP

I’m writing from Wikimedia UK, the leading UK charity dedicated to providing free knowledge for all and to supporting Wikipedia. I want to ask for your support in protecting the right of photographers and film makers to take pictures of buildings and sculptures in public spaces, and to do what they like with their own images without having to seek permission from any third party copyright owner. This is known as Freedom of Panorama, and it has been a fundamental freedom we in the UK have enjoyed for over a century – a freedom first enshrined in the 1911 Copyright Act.

Freedom of Panorama rights are enjoyed in the majority of EU states, but in a few such as France, Italy and Belgium photographers and film makers have to obtain third party copyright licences and pay fees before they can work in public areas. I want to bring to your attention an attempt by some of your fellow MEPs to harmonise European law to a French-style system of royalties on public spaces. These royalties create funding streams for certain local and regional copyright fee collection societies who are supporting this attempt.

In her own-initiative report on copyright harmonisation, Julia Reda sensibly proposed harmonising full Freedom of Panorama across all EU states. Unfortunately, her proposal has been utterly subverted by M Cavada’s AM 421:

16. Considers that the commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them

This amendment would be disastrous. Although its proponents argue that ordinary citizens are non-commercial and would not need to seek licences, that is incorrect. Many citizens use Facebook, Tumblr and other commercial social media sites, and uploads to such sites would put photographers at legal risk, even if no money changes hands.

Non-commercial is not the same as non-profit, and large numbers of educational, charity and academic sites would be affected, including Wikipedia. On Wikipedia alone, huge numbers of existing freely-licensed educational images illustrating the modern built environment would have to be deleted. It’s difficult to estimate numbers, but most probably several hundred thousand.

All EU citizens should be free to document, share and discuss their public architectural heritage.

Full freedom of panorama facilitates the free movement of professional photographers and film makers throughout the EU, as well as attracting international film makers who will otherwise prefer to work in less legally-restrictive countries. Full freedom provides an open market and level playing field for commercial photographic and film activities to take place anywhere, bringing income and employment benefits to local populations.

Architects and sculptors do not want or need the special pleading of the AM 421 wording. They normally work on a commission basis, and where they are designing for a building or sculpture intended for a public place, they know that in advance and can and do negotiate their fee accordingly. Any high-quality building or sculpture in a public place will inevitably attract photographers and film makers, and the fee paid for the commission allows for that. There is no need for special national rules to provide additional payments to architects and sculptors who have already been paid a fair fee for their public works.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is against the proposals.

In a letter to the Times (‘Photo bombshell’, 27 June), Chris Wheeldon, a Film Location Manager, pointed out that

“Both domestic and international film makers may justifiably consider it too much of a risk that any building inadvertently overlooked, or so distant as to be almost unrecognisable, could hold the right to prevent the finished film from being seen or hold a financial gun to their heads”.

Italian movie makers have actually left for Spain because of the restrictive copyright rules in their home country.

177,000 people have already signed a petition on Change.org against these restrictions.

Fortunately, a positive AM has recently been proposed by Marietje Schaake & the ALDE group:

Recognises the right to use photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in public places


Your help is needed now. I hope that you will agree to protect photographers’ freedoms and will:

  • Vote to accept the AM by Marietje Schaake and the ALDE group
  • Vote to delete M Cavada’s AM 421


  • Vote to harmonise full Freedom of Panorama
  • Vote against any limitation to ‘non-commercial’ or similar


In a world in which we communicate by taking pictures, Freedom of Panorama is like freedom of speech. Please support those freedoms.

With thanks and best regards

Michael Maggs

Chair, Wikimedia UK


by Richard Nevell at July 02, 2015 06:45 PM

Joseph Reagle

My first Aspiration facilitated conference

I participated in my first Aspiration-facilitated conference this week and found it to be fun and productive. As a working group and classroom facilitator, I found the Agenda:Hacking and Group Exercises (including spectrogram, farmer's market, and universe of ideas) most interesting. I also liked the concluding circle of appreciation (or "love bomb") and wrap-up activity of each participant putting three post-it notes on the wall: "I will ...", "We should ...", and "Don't forgot ...".

by Joseph Reagle at July 02, 2015 04:00 AM

July 01, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

New Wiki Ed brochure helps instructors teach Wikipedia through a theoretical lens

Theories_coverthumbWikipedia articles are one of the world’s most turned-to resources on Earth. But it’s also a treasure trove for those with deep questions about knowledge production.

Theories: Wikipedia and the production of knowledge is a new collection from the Wiki Education Foundation. In it, four instructors share how they’ve used Wikipedia’s model of knowledge production to probe deeper into politics of access and representation, questions of authorship, and the study of ideology. The instructors also share reading lists that can inform a better understanding of Wikipedia related to their lines of inquiry.

Wikipedia, as an ongoing democratic project dedicated to the production of knowledge, is a useful site for engaging on these topics. Our brochure can help frame deeper thinking on the subject and even includes thoughtful discussion questions to drive students into a deeper analysis of what Wikipedia is, does, and means.

Theories: Wikipedia and the production of knowledge is a useful complement to the Case Studies brochure for classes with a more theoretical approach to questions of representation, participation, rhetoric, or the politics of information access. It’s available online as a .pdf, with print copies available upon request.

by Eryk Salvaggio at July 01, 2015 11:20 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

ACLU files amended complaint on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation

Blind Justice stands with scales aloft over the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Photo by Tim Evanson, CC BY-SA 2.0.

In March, the Wikimedia Foundation filed suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the United States.[1] The lawsuit challenged one of the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, specifically the large-scale search and seizure of internet communications known as “upstream” surveillance. Our aim in filing this suit is to end this mass surveillance program in order to protect the rights of our users around the world. We are joined by eight other organizations and are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Today, we’re pleased to provide a brief update on the progress of Wikimedia v. NSA. After we filed our original suit, the United States government filed its anticipated motion to dismiss our suit on May 29. This is a basic procedural hurdle common to most lawsuits in the United States. On June 19, our lawyers at the ACLU filed an amended version of the original complaint in response to the government’s motion. Filing an amended complaint is an automatic right under federal court rules and a common step in United States lawsuits, allowing us to further reinforce our claims. This version of the complaint includes additional information, such as a more detailed explanation of the operations of the Wikimedia projects.

As it now stands, both sides will present their arguments at a hearing currently scheduled for September 25. In the meantime, the government’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint is due August 6, our response is due September 3, and the government’s reply is due September 17.

Spread the word about inappropriate surveillance. Art by Rich Black, CC BY 3.0.

Headquartered in New York City, the exceptionally strong ACLU team representing us in this case has a broad range of experience in national security issues. They recently won an important victory at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in ACLU v. Clapper, a case dealing with government surveillance of telephone metadata. In addition, they have taken a strong stand on the recent passage of the USA FREEDOM Act. We are grateful that they have chosen to represent the Wikimedia Foundation pro bono.

During the last few months, the Wikimedia Foundation has been very involved in preparing court documents and confirming various points of legal research; this required intense focus from our legal team. To reduce the workload on our staff and better assist the ACLU, we decided to ask Cooley LLP, our litigation law firm, to provide some reinforcement. Cooley’s hard work has enabled us to support the ACLU’s time-sensitive needs. Cooley had generously agreed to charge us their reduced fee rate for these last few months, and we are thrilled about their recent decision to represent us pro bono as we enter the upcoming fiscal year. We are extremely grateful for their continued support of the movement and mission.

We have always expected a particularly difficult fight, but with the ACLU and Cooley, we are committed to seeing this through and presenting the strongest case possible.

We look forward to putting our claims before the Court. As the case proceeds, we will continue to post brief updates to keep the community informed. To read the pleadings that have been filed to date, please click here.

Michelle Paulson, Senior Legal Counsel
Geoff Brigham, General Counsel

Special thanks to all who are supporting our efforts in this matter in a variety of ways, including Patrick Toomey (ACLU), Jameel Jaffer (ACLU), Alex Abdo (ACLU), Ashley Gorski (ACLU), Aarti Reddy (Cooley), Amanda Levendowski (Cooley), Patrick Gunn (Cooley), Ben Kleine (Cooley), Aeryn Palmer, Jim Buatti, Mehtab Khan, Lexie Perloff-Giles, James Alexander, Philippe Beaudette, Oliver Keyes, Kevin Leduc, Faidon Liambotis, Andrew Otto, Dan Andreescu, Aaron Halfaker, and Erik Zachte.


  1. Other defendants include: Michael Rogers, in his official capacity as Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service; Office of the Director of National Intelligence; James Clapper, in his official capacity as Director of National Intelligence; and Loretta Lynch , in her official capacity as Attorney General of the United States.

by Michelle Paulson and Geoff Brigham at July 01, 2015 06:35 PM

Andy Mabbett (User:Pigsonthewing)

HLF licensing requirement considered harmful

This morning I attended a very interesting presentation on the availability, in the United Kingdom, of grant funding from the (HLF), for digital heritage projects. I’ve previously worked as Wikipedian in Residence or as a Wikipedia consultant on HLF-funded projects*, helping to disseminate knowledge and content generated by those projects via Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons and via Wikidata.

Badge reads 'Birmingham Socialist A.R.P. Canteen fund' and has a drawing of ARP wardens being served at a mobile canteen

This fantastic image of a World War II badge was taken by Sasha Taylor during a Wikipedia editathon I ran as part of my HLF-funded residency at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. Because Sasha was a volunteer, he’s not bound by HLF rules, so was able to use a CC BY-SA licence, and I was then able to add the image to Wikipedia articles. With an NC restriction, I couldn’t have done so.

As part of the presentation, it was proudly pointed out that the HLF’s current terms of funding include:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) for the life of your contract with HLF, unless we have agreed otherwise

However, I’m really irked by this. I’ve written previously about what this means and why Wikipedia and its sister projects require content to be under a less restrictive licence, allowing for commercial reuse (briefly: people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situations, for example in newspapers, or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices). Others — have — written about why the NC restriction can be harmful.

Of course, mechanical copies of out-of-copyright works should be marked as such, and no attempt to claim copyright over them should be made.

In response to my question, it was confirmed that the terms prohibit less-restrictive licences, even if those doing the work wish to use them.

[Admittedly there is a work-around, which is to dual licence as both CC BY-NC and a less-restrictive version; which technically meets the letter of HLF’s requirement, but is actually nonsensical.]

I can see no earthly reason why HLF would insist on prohibiting a less restrictive licence, if the bodies they are funding choose to use one. If I’ve missed something, I’d be grateful for an explanation.

The phrase “for the life of your contract with HLF” is also nonsensical, since such licences are both indefinite and irrevocable.

I would like to see the above wording changed, to something like:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) or a less restrictive licence (e.g. CC BY, CC BY-SA, or CC0), unless we have agreed otherwise

Better sill, HLF could mandate an open licence, unless agreed otherwise.

How about it, HLF?

* If you’re bidding for HLF funding and would like advice about including a Wikipedia component, please drop me a line#.

# That might lead to someone paying me. Some would argue that that means I can’t use a NC-restricted image on this page.

by Andy Mabbett at July 01, 2015 01:45 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Student groups and Wikipedia: Some findings

Samantha Erickson
Samantha Erickson

Our Classroom Program has produced high-quality content working with student editors through classroom assignments. Since student editors have been shown to add high-quality content to Wikipedia through class-based assignments, we were interested in seeing if we can replicate that model outside of the classroom. We wanted to know if students would edit in their free time and, if so, would they keep pace with the quality we’ve seen from the Classroom Program? In November 2014, we launched a pilot program to find out.

Throughout the course of the pilot we worked with six student groups:

  • The Berkeley Water Group Idea Lab at the University of California, Berkeley (2 workshop sessions, 1 one-day field trip): 12 attendees total (Read more).
  • The GeoClub at the University of Arizona (1 workshop session, 1 half-day field trip): 13 attendees total (Read more).
  • The Art, Design, & Architecture Museum Club at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1 workshop session, 1 half-day field trip planned, but not executed): 11 attendees total (Read more).
  • Lambda Pi Eta communication honor society at Portland State University (1 workshop session, no field trip): 2 attendees total
  • The Hydrophiles at Oregon State University (1 workshop session, no field trip): 4 attendees total
  • Pi Alpha Xi horticulture honor society at Oregon State University (1 workshop session, no field trip): 4 attendees total

Students in these clubs hosted Wiki Ed staff at one to two of their meetings and received training on how to contribute illustrations and text to Wikipedia articles. Two groups engaged in a group field trip and editing project. As you might have observed in the list above, student participation was significantly higher when editing workshops were paired with field trips, which is a key finding of our pilot.

Measuring enthusiasm

Students during a Wikipedia workshop at the University of Arizona.
Students during a Wikipedia workshop at the University of Arizona.

By the end of the pilot, students had edited 46 Wikipedia articles. While that’s lower than we’d expected, the quality of edits was quite high.

Again, field trips played a role in driving edits. It seems that involving a field trip, or at least an opportunity for active participation, will not only increase the number of attendees but also the students’ engagement level.

In a survey, 10 of the 17 student respondents claimed they had continued to edit articles. Our data shows that only five students kept editing – though students may have changed usernames or edited anonymously.

When asked what keeps them from editing, the majority of those students who stopped editing told us they were “too busy.” When asked what would stop them from making contributions in the future, the answer was more or less the same: students didn’t think they would have the time to contribute. (The full results of this survey is included in the report as appendix 2).


The student outreach pilot started with the goal of answering some key questions about student editing.

  1. Will students contribute high-quality content in their extracurricular time?
  2. Will their enthusiasm for the project match our own?
  3. How will their production compare to the Classroom Program?

We found that some students can and will make high-quality contributions when working as part of a student group outside of class hours, but that while some students seemed to embrace Wikipedia, the majority of students showed enthusiasm only when staff was around. After the workshops, the majority of student editors stopped editing. In general, a few students contributed really great content. The rest of the students only edited at the workshop and under staff’s direct supervision.

It seems that the best student edits come when students have incentives – with either a grade or a field trip. We think that involving honor societies and academic associations who have sanctioned Wikipedia editing for students and instructors as part of their community service requirements has the potential to lead to quality student contributions in the future. Our major learning from this term is that with an incentive (a grade, a field trip, a push from their national honor society, or a visit from a Wiki Ed staff member), students will contribute content in their spare time. But without these incentives, students are unlikely to contribute content in their extracurricular time.

The full report is available on Meta.

by Samantha Erickson at July 01, 2015 12:18 AM

June 30, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

These Texans are on a quest to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of their state’s revolution

The Alamo at Night, San Antonio, Texas (2014-12-12 23.00.05 by Nan Palmero).jpg
The Alamo became a symbol for all Texans after most or all of its defenders were killed by the Mexican army. Photo by Nan Palmero, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 2.0.

Students in the United States and Mexico are often required to learn about the history of the Texas Revolution, the outcome of which foreshadowed a much larger war and the loss of a significant portion of Mexico’s territory in what is today the American Southwest. The tales of individual actions and the Battle of the Alamo—the symbolically pivotal event in the conflict—have persevered in the nearly 180 years since the conflict.

For those less familiar with this narrative, a hurriedly assembled rebel army was able to separate themselves from Mexico in large part due to the crucial Battle of San Jacinto, where they captured the President of Mexico. They used this advantage to force an end to the war.

Wikipedia editor Karanacs grew up in Texas and is therefore well-acquainted with this tradition. “During a family vacation to see the Alamo Mission in San Antonio when I was 10, we watched the film Alamo: The Price of Freedom,” she says. “For the first time, I understood the impact that war had on ordinary people. I cried for a little boy who lost his father in a battle fought 150 years before I was born.” Two decades later, this interest manifested itself on Wikipedia. Like many editors of the world’s largest encyclopedia, she was browsing the site’s articles and found that they were of relatively poor quality—and that the traditional narrative she’d learned was not necessarily accurate.

Sam Houston by Mathew Brady.jpg
Sam Houston was a general in the revolution and, later, the president of the fledgling republic. Photo by Mathew Brady, public domain.

The real descent down the rabbit hole, however, began when a group of volunteer editors called for collaborators to rewrite the article on Texas A&M University, Karanacs’ alma mater. She joined them “even though I had no idea what they were talking about.” It wasn’t long before this snowball grew larger: she was soon “in love with Wikipedia—the research, the writing, the teamwork, the satisfaction of knowing that something I helped create would help assuage someone else’s curiosity, and hopefully dispelling some of their misunderstandings of the topic.”

Between 2006 and 2010, Karanacs wrote 23 featured articles, the highest article rating on the site and only reached after a rigorous peer review process. She branched out from Texas history at times with articles like Irish Thoroughbred, Nora Roberts’ first romance novel, or Gumbo, a Louisianan soup. Still, the grand majority focused on her home state, such as the French colonization of Texas, and its revolution against Mexico, like the Grass Fight or the Battle of the Alamo. She was “most fascinated by the human elements,” she says, “and the people on both sides who made decisions that cumulatively led to the place I live.”

Still, the challenges proved daunting. The host of editors who enticed her to join Wikipedia in 2006 had dwindled by 2011 to just her. When combined with the amount of work required and three young children at home, Karanacs made the difficult decision to quit the site. “My Wikipedia time turned into ‘chase-the-toddler’ time,” she said.

More than three years went by before Karanacs was tempted back to the site by an email from fellow native Texan editor Maile66, who started editing Texas-related articles in 2006. She alerted Karanacs to an enticing offer: the History Channel‘s then-upcoming Texas Rising wanted the article on the Texas Revolution to run on the English Wikipedia’s main page on the day of the show’s premiere. In return, the channel would point viewers and interested fans to the page for more information.

The Battle of San Jacinto (1895).jpg
The last major battle of the revolution was fought near San Jacinto. Painting by Henry Arthur McArdle, public domain.

Karanacs’ reaction was two-fold: she was intrigued by the opportunity, which offered outside interest and a long deadline, but cautious. Readers of Wikipedia may not be aware of the struggle of writing wide-scope articles; many editors are quick to espouse that articles on a war, for instance, are more difficult to write than articles on the individual battles and skirmishes that occurred during that war. Karanacs told me that her research for these battle articles would require reading three to four books on the general topic—the war, in our running example—and anywhere from five to twenty articles on the battle itself. The actual writing could take anywhere from twenty to forty hours and could be done alone.

A big picture article, on the other hand, requires a great deal more effort and people. “I have been researching the Texas Revolution off and on for seven years,” Karanacs said. “There have been literally thousands of books written on that topic, and I likely spent more than eighty hours just identifying appropriate sources to consult.” The actual reading of these sources took a good deal longer—and most didn’t make it into the article. Karanacs believes that covering these works was important, if only to “establish scholarly consensus and ensure that I wasn’t missing any of the more focused angles scholars delved into.”

And there were a lot of them. Karanacs recalls that many of the books she could acquire were written by American and Mexican scholars, as one would expect, but there was also one written by a German (albeit translated into English) and one by a Scottish researcher. Her local librarians were an invaluable resource, as they were able to point out monographs that she missed and put in dozens of inter-library loan requests, as was the relatively new Wikipedia Library, which helps connect editors to outline journal and reference databases that Wikipedia editors can cite. Karanacs called the latter a “tremendous resource”—”I am blown away by how much easier it is now to do some of the research.”

Karanacs also undertook a physical journey to several of the areas where significant events occurred. “It made it all just a little more real,” she told me. “Both sides fought for something they believed was important, and it was important to me to present each of their perspectives fairly and with respect.”

Santa Anna—the commander of the Mexican forces—surrenders. Painting by William Henry Huddle, in the public domain.

Over a three-month span, Karanacs and Maile66 worked together to develop the Texas Revolution article itself. Their plan of attack included scrapping the entire existing article, all 5,243 words of it, and starting anew. This allowed them to not worry about where existing content had come from and instead concentrate on including facts and views from the principal sources on the topic. They had to decide how much weight each view should receive, similar to when an academic historian evaluates a topic’s place in historiography. This differs from primary source research in that it evaluates historical narratives that have emerged from the event. Using the Texas Revolution as an example, historians once portrayed the Texans as white, from the US, and universally in support of the rebellion. Contributions from Tejanos (native-born Texans of Spanish or Mexican heritage) were overlooked. Time often plays a significant role in historiography, and this is no different: here, the revolution’s traditional narrative, upheld by many of the television and film productions of the last fifty years, has since been been superseded with the recognition that a good percentage of Texans actually supported the Mexican government, not the rebel side, and that Tejanos featured in many significant roles.

National narratives came into play as well. Supporters of the revolution portrayed themselves as fighting for a just cause against an oppressive overlord, while Mexicans, after the Mexican–American War of 1845, thought that the region was stolen from them by the United States. After their initial assessments, Karanacs and Maile identified areas that required more research and each returned to the library.

When satisfied the article was comprehensive and balanced, Karanacs and Maile nominated Texas Revolution for featured status. Having already received comments from three editors, ten more editors commented during the review period. “It really did take a village,” Karanacs told me, and estimated that she personally spent an estimated three hundred hours on the article, underlining just how difficult it can be to write these sorts of big-picture articles. Finally, Texas Revolution became a featured article on April 18—more than a month before the deadline requested by the History Channel.

The History Channel’s historians suggested only minor changes in the article’s wording; overall, they were very pleased with the article, which has now doubled in size to over 10,000 words. It ran on Wikipedia’s main page on May 25, and about 54,000 people read the article over a four-day period—and possibly thanks to the popularity of Texas Rising, more than a thousand people per day viewed it for nearly all of the first half of June.

For Karanacs’ part, she told me that “I am extremely proud of this project. First, that we created one of the best short(ish) yet still comprehensive overviews of this topic that exists anywhere on the web, in my opinion. Second, that we brought an article that is on a broader topic—an entire war, rather than a single battle—to featured status. Third, that real paid historians thought we did a good job, and fourth, that we achieved this through a collaboration, rather than as individual editors.” When asked why they are so important in the greater context of North American history, she replied:

“In the nineteenth century, the Texas Revolution fit neatly into the United States philosophy of manifest destiny. According to that narrative, Americans went to what was then Mexico to show a poor, backwards group of people a better way to live. Of course, they chose to break free of their shackles and embrace freedom—interpreted as annexation to the US. Texian independence and subsequent annexation to the United States directly led to the Mexican-American War and Mexico’s loss of half of its territory to the United States. In Mexico, focus was placed more on the Mexican-American War, and the Texas Revolution, when discussed, was often framed as American intervention in Mexican affairs.

“The Texas Revolution is also a very compelling story of a small group of underdogs defeating a quasi-established power. Logically, the Texians should not have won that war, yet they did. Even the Texian defeats were romanticized; from almost the moment that the Alamo fell to the Mexican Army, the battle was compared to the Greek Battle of Thermopylae. A small group of men deliberately turned down the chance to retreat, knowing they faced annihilation, in order to defend their homeland against a larger invading force. Historians have shown that this narrative is inaccurate, but the general public does not accept that new interpretation.”

Perhaps most importantly, Karanacs’ interest in Wikipedia is now rekindled—and it’s for the “same reasons” from her the first time around: “pride in a job well done, the joy of teamwork, and pure nerdiness.” Maile has already started a new collaboration with Karanacs with the Battle of San Jacinto, although the former is taking the lead role this time. They hope to have all thirteen Texas Revolution-related articles at featured status by next year.

Karanacs and Maile wish to thank the many editors who helped them get this article featured, including—but not limited to—Mike Christie, Dank, P.S. Burton, and Iridescent.

Ed Erhart
Editorial Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

Karanacs as drawn by one of her young children. Photo from Karanacs, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 4.0.

by Ed Erhart at June 30, 2015 11:58 PM

Wikimedia Israel’s annual conference focuses on Wikipedia in education

Seventh Wikipedia Academy (52).JPG
Lila Tretikov’s lecture at WMIL’s 7th Wiki Academy conference. Photo by אוראל כהן, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Teachers and other key figures from the fields of education and academia gathered in Herzliya, Israel, on June 1 to attend the Wikipedia Academy annual conference, which took place at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

Focusing on the issue of integrating Wikipedia into the education system, the conference was attended by Lila Tretikov, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation; Katherine Maher, Chief Communications Officer; and Tighe Flanagan, Middle East & Africa Education Fund Program Manager.

It was the seventh conference held by Wikimedia Israel (WMIL), the country’s national Wikimedia chapter. WMIL selects a different topic for each annual conference, and this year the conference concentrated on integrating Wikipedia into Israel’s national education system. It was an opportunity to showcase the diverse educational projects that took place over the past year, including online training for teachers on the use of Wikipedia, editing workshops for students, development of tutorials, self-study courseware for Wikipedia editing, a brochure for teachers, and academic courses that can offer credit for Wikipedia editing assignments.

Experiencing the game NaraView at the Wiki academy conferece. Photo by אוראל כהן, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The keynote speech was delivered by Lila, who explained why Wikipedia belongs in education. She spoke of Generation Z, which is characterized by new learning patterns that are independent and based on content sharing. Lila noted that while educators of this generation face remarkable challenges, Wikipedia presents them with a particularly effective tool: through the online encyclopedia, their students develop a wide range of skills and abilities that help students gain confidence and make a meaningful contribution to society.

Dr. Zvia Elgali presented research indicating extensive use of Wikipedia among teachers from all corners of Israeli society. Over three quarters of teachers surveyed said they had used at least one Wikipedia-based task in classes, and 87% of them agreed that such tasks contribute to the achievement meeting the required standards. Afterwards, a fascinating discussion was held with a representative from the Israeli Ministry of Education, a teacher, a researcher, and the audience.

The showcase of the educational game NaraView, a digital version of the WikiRace game, was received particularly well. NaraView was developed by Ben-Amotz and Breslev, two participants of a teachers’ online training course led by Wikimedia Israel. Using a specialized application, students play the game while their teacher visualises their race routes through articles in real time. It also allows for additional elements to be included to enhance the learning process.

Another highlight was the debut of interactive courseware for Wikipedia editing. This software allows users to learn the editing process step-by-step, and is accompanied by a frame narrative presented by two cartoon characters.

Wikimedia Israel education team meets Tighe Flanagan. Photo by Deror avi, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The conference also offered lectures reviewing the educational activities of Wikimedia chapters worldwide, as well as the current educational projects in Israel. The closing session consisted of a series of lightning talks about groundbreaking Israeli projects combining technology and education.

Meanwhile, Tighe’s arrival in Israel coincided with WMIL’s educational activities and efforts to strengthen the collaboration between the Foundation and the chapter in educational matters. He met with volunteers who carry out a variety of education and training initiatives for WMIL, and visited different university campuses to meet with students and professors who participate in these projects. One of the most interesting meetings came from Arabic Wikipedia editing and included Dr. Sharon Halevi, the head of the Gender Studies Program at the University of Haifa, as well as Hana Yariv, who provides voluntary assistance to their WMIL project and Arabic-speaking female students of the program.

Tighe’s knowledge in the field of the Arabic Wikipedia was a major boon for the meeting, and he used his ties with Arabic-speaking Wikipedians to help interested students connect with them to provide support for editing articles there. We are now forming a monthly gathering to help foster new editors for the Arabic Wikipedia.

Shai Katz
Education Coordinator
Wikimedia Israel

by Shai Katz at June 30, 2015 11:19 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Get email updates from the Wikimedia blog


Find out when new stories are posted on the Wikimedia blog: subscribe to our new email updates. Design by Exygy and Wikimedia Foundation, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Painting by James E. Buttersworth, Public domain.

Today, we’re happy to announce a new email service for the Wikimedia blog: you can now subscribe to our email updates, to find out when new stories are posted on the blog.

To get started, simply type your email address at the top of any page on the blog (or quickly sign up on this page). Select either a daily or weekly update, then click on ‘Subscribe’, as shown below.

Screenshot of email subscription panel from the right sidebar.

To complete your subscription, just click the link in your confirmation email. Daily email updates are sent at 12pm PT (7pm UTC), and weekly updates are sent every Thursday at 12pm PT (7pm UTC).

You can change your email preferences at any time by clicking ‘Update your preferences’ at the bottom of any email — or on ‘Unsubscribe’, if you wish to no longer receive these emails.

Why are we doing this?
Earlier this year, we ran a blog survey to learn what our users think of the blog. A majority of respondents told us they find the Wikimedia Blog useful, but that they only visit it about once a month — relying on emails, social media and web links to draw them in.

As a result, nearly half of respondents said they would like to be notified when new content is posted on the blog. One participant said: “I forget to go to the blog”, and another told us: “I need to be reminded it exists.” The most popular notification methods were Facebook (34%), Twitter (31%) — and a blog email list (30%).

Based on this feedback, we concluded that email updates would improve the blog experience and its visibility, by making it easier for our community to know when new stories are published on the blog.

How does this work?
All email updates include the lead image from each new story, a short summary and a link to the full story on the blog. The updates include all the blog posts that were published that day or week. If there are no new stories for that day or for that week, no emails will be sent. The emails are sent with the popular WordPress and MailChimp platforms, which are used for the Wikimedia blog.

To respect your privacy, the Wikimedia blog sends emails only to individuals who explicitly subscribe to this service. For more information, check out this special privacy policy for the Wikimedia blog.

We hope you will find this new service useful: it’s a great way to keep up with the latest Wikimedia news! We like to think of it as getting the Wikimedia blog in your inbox, so you never miss another important blog post. Enjoy!

Fabrice FlorinMovement Communications ManagerWikimedia Foundation

by Fabrice Florin at June 30, 2015 09:35 PM

Alice Wiegand

Thoughts about Board renewal

The community election results for the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees are already published and it’s great to see DariuszJames and Denny adding their expertise and skills to the Board soon. The result also includes that we lose María, Phoebe and Sam, which means to lose three markedly dedicated, experienced members. And Jan-Bart and Stu are going to finish their long terms at the end of this year.

That’s a huge turnover within only a few months and quite a challenge for group dynamics, working capacity and transfer of knowledge. And it does not only effect our Board’s internal relationships but also the relationship to our ED Lila and to our staff.

There are good reasons to be worried about the situation. There certainly will be some loss in stability and institutional knowledge which probably cause one or another difficulty and confusion. And there will be a lot of things to explain, to discuss and to agree upon. We will find ourselves in a situation where we can’t (and shouldn’t) fall back on our own history, because there won’t be anybody who was actual part of that history. But we won’t find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, since whereever we need to follow legal or organizational requirements we can rely on our dedicated staff and their experience and support.

And there is more than just challenges, there is the chance to fuel ourself with the positive spirit which comes with such a change – the motivation of new members, the innovation capability and the critical reflection of our established habits, methods and procedures. Yes, we have a huge opportunity to renew and update in its best sense. We can take the Board to a next level of supporting the ED and the community. We have to work on it, and we will. So rather than being anxious I’m curious and excited. And I hope you are as well.

by Alice Wiegand at June 30, 2015 06:51 PM


European Parliament: “You like photography? Jokes on you!”

For a long time now photography has been one of the biggest art form out there. Everybody photographs. For private use, Instagram, Facebook, or other usage. Now imagine if there were a law forbidding you from photographing outside of your home. Forbidding you to photograph buildings and forbidding you to shares such images. That is the reality in some countries, such as in Italy today.

One politician in the European Parliament wanted to help people in countries such Italy in the EU, however this got some nasty backlash. Instead of making photography in the European Union less restrictive, now a motion to make it even harsher in the entire European Union has been filed.

This will forbid you and I to photograph buildings and structures such as the London Eye in London and The Little Mermaid in Denmark.

Please help out and tell the politicians in your country to do something to stop this, and remember to sign the petition! Links are below.

by Jonatan Svensson Glad (Josve05a; @JonatanGlad) at June 30, 2015 05:33 PM

Wikimedia UK

The Freedom to Photograph must be upheld – letters to The Times

Photo of the London skyline during the daytime with the London Eye blacked out.

If we lose freedom of panorama, Wikipedia could lose images of iconic landmarks such as the London Eye.

Last week there were two  letters to The Times newspaper on the issue of copyright reform and freedom of panorama. These were published on Friday 26 June. One was signed by Michael Maggs as Wikimedia UK Chair, the was signed by several organisations supporting the protection of freedom of panorama. The letters are published below.


Sir, The freedom to take a photograph in a public place, and to do you what like with your own image without having to seek permission from the building’s owner or other rights holder, has been a fundamental part of UK law for more than a century.

It has been suggested that restricting “commercial use” would be acceptable, as that would affect only professional photographers and film makers, but that is not the case. Any private individual who uploads personal photographs to a social media website will be affected, as most sites require users to warrant that their uploads do not not infringe the intellectual property rights of any third party. Anybody using social media to share even private photographs that include a modern building or streetscape within the view will be at significant legal risk.

Before this recent negative proposal, Julia Reda, MEP, had sought to persuade the European Parliament to retain existing freedom of panorama, and to extend it to those European countries that do not currently enjoy those rights. Her original proposal is to be applauded and should be restored.

Michael Maggs
Chairman, Wikimedia UK


Sir, We agree that moves to restrict the freedom to photograph buildings and artworks in public places, currently permitted under section 62 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, should give rise to the greatest concern (leader, June 24).

If such a measure is adopted in the future, most websites and most photographers would instantly become copyright infringers with any photo of any public space which features at least one structure designed by a person that is either alive, or died fewer than 70 years ago.

The prohibition would dramatically affect the way we share knowledge, culture and current events, as well as our everyday lives. Tourists would not be able to promote our country with their photographs on commercial websites such as Facebook or Flickr; Wikipedia, which is designed to be free for any use, would not be able to describe our landmarks; and professional photographers would need to contact dozens of rightsholders for any photo they shoot in public spaces, spending more money on paperwork than they can possibly earn with the outcome. Even blogs which have advertising would be affected.

We urge all UK MEPs to vote not to let the current paragraph 16 go through unamended during the vote in the plenary session in Strasbourg on July 9, and to defend our right to make and use photos of public spaces.

Paul Herrmann, chairman, British Photographic Council; Jeff Moore, chairman, British Press Photographers’ Association; Denise Swanson, British Institute of Professional Photographers; Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia; Nigel Atherton, editor, Amateur Photographer; Stewart Gibson, Bureau of Freelance Photographers; Dominic Cooper, general secretary, Chartered Institute of Journalists; Alastair McCapra, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Public Relations; Jim Killock, executive director, Open Rights Group

by Stevie Benton at June 30, 2015 10:20 AM

Weekly OSM

weekly 257 16.06.–22.06.2015


Mapping of Cambridge University under criticism

Mapping at Cambridge University provokes controversy [1]

Fundraising campaign for new server hardware

  • Goal reached. :)
  • The largest single donations apart from the premium sponsors MapBox and Mapzen are: 500 Euros (Matthias Eilers, Küstenschmiede), 500 USD (Robert Cheetham), 250 Euros (Klaus Tockloth, Freizeitkarte), 256 USD (Ian Dees), 250 USD (Nelson Minar ), Pierre Boizot (200 CHF) and 200 Euros from an unknown donor. Many Thanks to you all. Every little helped.


  • JOSM has a Mapillary-Integration now. (see this Twitter feed)
  • Martin Simon asks how to map ” railway expansion devices” (a piece of equipment on railway tracks which compensates for changes in length as a result of temperature variations).
  • A Mapillary-App for Firefox OS is under development. (see posting here)
  • Jóhannes Birgir Jensson blogs a plea for remote mapping (via @OpenCageData).
  • Students report on a mapping week in Germany during their stay in Saarburg for a Comenius school project.
  • While conducting a research, a user in Belgium has changed numerous maxspeed values for roads using multiple accounts without prior communication with the community. The changes resulted in maxspeed values  which were far from reality. The Data Working Group has already taken action. In the comments, Jost Schouppe alleged that a student from Ghent did it as part of his master’s thesis.
  • User sbagroy986 informs the community on his progress so far on  Moderation Queue project as a part of this year’s Google Summer of Code. He developed a “Report” button to for osm.org, used for User Diaries (spam, insults, …) and changesets. It was also created a dashboard for the administrators and moderators, a management system for the Data Working Group.
  • No one is faster than OSM, right? Especially regarding Edward Snowden Square in Dresden…


OpenStreetMap Foundation


  • Sam Matthews talks about his views on OpenStreetMap using his experience in the US SOTM 2015.

Humanitarian OSM

  • PhD student Martin Dittus examines the activity of HOT-beginners.
  • Pierre Béland and Dale Kunce published their campaign speeches for the HOT-board elections.



  • search.ch uses now partly OSM data.
  • The German Railways Company (Deutsche Bahn) uses an OpenStreetMap map to display traffic information about the railway project VDE8 (German Unity Transport Project No. 8).


  • The Environment Agency announces the release of their LIDAR data, covering 72% of the land in England, under the Open Government License.
  • Open Data is now firmly established in the city of Zurich, Switzerland. Their stated aim is to provide all relevant information  (urban statistics, municipal data) using the best means to do it.
  • The Austrian Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying has released a record of the administrative boundaries under a CC-BY-SA license incompatible with OSM. Was this deliberate? 😉 (via talk-at)


  • OsmAnd 2.1 is released.
  • With help from Geolicious OSM routing has been made available as a new OpenRouteService plugin within Quantum GIS.
  • Simon Poole announced version 0.9.6 of Vespucci, which is now available on Google Play. Before upgrading unposted changes must be uploaded as Changeset for OSM API, because the format of unposted changes, has been changed.
  • GeoServer 2.7.1 was released on May 21.
  • Simon blogs about the dangers of open technology when it is driven only by a single company and he mentions as an example MapBox and vector rendering.
  • GeoExt reports the results of a three-days codesprint.
  • Daniel Koć asks on josm-dev why editors do their own thing in the tagging templates. The responses implied that as other editors are younger than JOSM the question should be why don’t they use the JOSM infrastructure.
  • Christoph writes about the necessary work when dealing with all kinds of elevation data.
  • OpenLayers Release 3.6.0 is from June 07.
  • SQLite Release dates from May 20.

Did you know …

Other “geo” things

  • Techcrunch.com and bizjournals.com reported that the US company MapBox could collect about 52 million US dollars from investors.
  • It looks like … Audi, BMW, Mercedes are favorites to win bid for Nokia HERE maps
  • As part of a project, over 500 British diary entries from the first half of the 20th century were geographically assigned and visualized on a map. Although the map resembles maps from this period, it uses data from OSM, Ordnance Survey and Natural Earth.
  • The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) has set up a Priority Programme: “Volunteered Geographic Information: Interpretation, Visualization and Social Computing.”  A call for proposals runs until October 29.
  • Max Roser illustrates how common projections affect the outline of a head.
  • “ESA trumpeted the launch of a new earth observation satellite.” Christop Hormann reflects on the usefulness of the data and the public relations of the ESA.

by weeklyteam at June 30, 2015 12:13 AM

June 29, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation’s “Got Your Back” when it comes to user privacy

Privacy is a core tenant of the Wikimedia movement. Photo by Owen Moore, freely licensed under CC BY 2.0.

We are proud to announce that the Wikimedia Foundation received perfect marks in all five categories in the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)’s Who’s Got Your Back? report.

The annual report, released on June 17, grades technology companies on how well they protect users’ rights and how transparent they are about their policies and activities. As the EFF points out, in an era in which the law is slow to keep pace with technical developments, it is the responsibility of technology companies to enact the strongest possible policies and practices to protect user rights.

This year, the Wikimedia Foundation earned five stars in all five categories:

  1. follows industry-accepted best practices;
  2. tells users about government data demands;
  3. discloses policies on data retention;
  4. discloses government content removal requests; and
  5. pro-user public policy: opposes backdoors.

Noting that we have adopted all of EFF’s recommended best practices, the report praised the Wikimedia Foundation for our “strong stance regarding user rights, transparency, and privacy.”

Wikimedia’s five-star rating reflects the lengths we go to for transparency and privacy. Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel, freely licensed under CC-0 1.0.

Industry-accepted best practices: The Wikimedia Foundation occasionally receives requests from governments and organizations to release nonpublic user data or remove content from the Wikimedia projects. Compared to other technology companies, we receive relatively few requests like these, in part because we collect little nonpublic information about our users and retain that information only for a limited time. When we do receive a request, we carefully scrutinize it to ensure that it meets our requirements prior to considering release of any nonpublic user information. As we state in our law enforcement guidelines, we require a valid, enforceable warrant before releasing any content to law enforcement. We also explain in those guidelines how we respond to data demands, and publish a transparency report that documents the requests we receive and how we responded.

Government data demands: We promise to give users prompt notice of government demands for nonpublic user information. When we receive a request, we seek to notify the affected user and provide a copy of the request at least 10 calendar days before we release the information. We will contact the user provided that we have the user’s contact information, that disclosing the request will not threaten life or limb, and that we are not otherwise prohibited by law from doing so. The notified user can then attempt to quash or legally challenge the request. If we are prevented from notifying users for one of the above reasons, we will provide information about the request to affected users after the threat or legal restriction has ended. Additionally, we may, and reserve the right to, challenge a request on behalf of any affected user, whether or not the user chooses to pursue his or her own legal challenge.

Data retention policies. We publish detailed information about our data retention policies.

Content removal requests: In our transparency report, we disclose government requests to remove user content or accounts, as well as information about how often we comply.

Pro-user public policy: We oppose “backdoors” that introduce security vulnerabilities for the government’s use.

As part of our commitment to supporting the free sharing of knowledge, we strive to do our utmost to protect our users’ privacy and we are honored to be recognized as industry leaders. We invite you to learn more about our efforts to protect user privacy  and promote transparency at https://transparency.wikimedia.org/.

Geoff Brigham, Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel*

• *Our commitment to privacy is an organization-wide effort, and we thank all who are involved in upholding that commitment, including the Foundation’s Analytics, Operations, Design, Community Engagement, Communications, and Legal teams, as well as many others. Our special thanks go to Lexie Perloff-Giles for her assistance with this blog post.

by Geoff Brigham at June 29, 2015 09:03 PM



The website FindArticles.com was a great website which was functional until late 2012. It archived journal articles, newspapers and books of all sorts. At this pont in time Wikipedia has over 20 000 links to FindArticles.com, most of the as sources and references. The only downsides is that the website is dead. Most times when a link dies they are archived on other websites such as arhvie.org (the Wayback machine), and this website was, until September 2012. At that time the websites robot.txt was changed, and all archived copies on websites which follows web etiquette was deleted. The website isn’t marked as 404 either, which makes it hard for tools to mark the links as dead too.

Most of the links from Wikipedia to FindArticles are for journal articles, which most likely has doi’s or pmid’s, but not mentioned in the articles. Thes casues some problems. Either remove all links to FindArticles.com with any though of the consequences, or look at each article one-by-one and try to find another copy of the journal online or identification numbers and then remove the links.

Normally you could run the bot Citation bot on incompleat citation and have it fill out and find information which is not already in the reference, however the bot is currently blocked due to Wikimedia’s decition to change to https without real consideration of how it would break all tools currently in place for day-to-day operatons.

by Jonatan Svensson Glad (Josve05a; @JonatanGlad) at June 29, 2015 08:36 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The more you Noh: Bilingual student editor brings Japanese resources to English Wikipedia


Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit, and thousands of people around the world do just that. But all too often, cultural knowledge is locked behind a language barrier. Haruki Ikeda is an example of a student working to break down that wall, and he’s opening up knowledge about a rich cultural tradition in the process.

Haruki (User:Decafespresso) is a student in Dr. Amy Hughes’ two-term theater history course at Brooklyn College. While he was interested enough to create an account on Wikipedia in 2009, he hadn’t made an edit until he started the course. Since then, he worked on two articles over two terms, contributing to the article on Noh, a traditional Japanese theater form that was rated a Good Article. Then, he began working on the article for the Broadway League.

In his first round, the Noh article, Haruki drew from Japanese sources that weren’t available in English. He was born in Tokyo, and Japanese is his first language.

“It has really helped in my coursework because I was able to use Japanese sources for the Noh article, in addition to English sources,” he said. “I think it was a very meaningful contribution that I was able to make to the Wikipedia community.”

For Noh, Haruki helped edit as the article expanded from 8 sources to 41, with at least three Japanese-only texts. The article was named a Good Article three months after Haruki helped expand it (with very few additional edits in between).

“The reviews were very constructive, and I think going beyond expectations of the class assignment really helped me in solidifying my knowledge of Noh. It is very gratifying to know that others care about what I’ve done and the subject I care about.”

His second article required a completely different approach.

“It was interesting to edit two articles,” Haruki said. “Noh is a very traditional, historic genre with many reliable sources in the form of books and journal articles, but I had to work mostly with newspaper articles for the Broadway League article.”

For that article, Haruki added over 20 sources about the Broadway League, a trade association for theater actors on Broadway. Haruki added information about strikes and the political activity of the organization dating back to the 1940s.

Haruki said he hopes to spend more time translating Japanese articles and sources for the English Wikipedia. After all, that’s in line with his long-term goals: He wants to bring more awareness of contemporary Japanese performances to the West.

“Traditional Japanese theatre forms such as Noh and Kabuki have become known in the Western world, but there are so many talented Japanese contemporary artists and plays that are completely unknown in the rest of the world. Japanese works haven’t been able to reach audiences abroad partly because of the language barrier,” he said. “I think I can change that situation with my English and knowledge of the American theatre industry.”

Haruki’s work is an example of what’s possible when a bilingual student, already fluent in English and another language, tackles a classroom assignment. Students who are still mastering a language, however, can also make meaningful contributions to Wikipedia through translation assignments. By working with articles in their target language and translating it into their native language, students can unlock knowledge from other language Wikipedias and share it with the English-speaking world. (You can read more about translation assignments here).

Thanks to Haruki Ikeda for his wonderful contributions to Wikipedia.

Photo of Haruki Ikeda By Decafespresso (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Mask photo, “Three pictures of the same noh ‘hawk mask’ showing how the expression changes with a tilting of the head” by WmpearlOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

by Eryk Salvaggio at June 29, 2015 06:09 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

World Camera Day 2015: What’s your favorite camera?

Piper Orchard three apples.jpg
Wealthy apples in Piper Orchard, Seattle, Washington taken with a Leica CL. Photo by Dennis Bratland, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Today, June 29th, is World Camera Day 2015! To celebrate, upload or check out photos taken with different cameras on Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons do a great job of not only providing an article for reference and more info, but also images and examples of photos taken with different cameras.

The best part is that Wikimedia Commons photos are freely licensed under Creative Commons’ CC BY-SA (example). This means that you can freely reuse these wonderful images, taken with fantastic and high quality cameras, as long as you reshare them under a similar license and attribute the photographer.

Find out more about cameras on Wikipedia and see photos taken by specific cameras on Wikimedia Commons.

The below text is adapted from Wikipedia; it was written by various contributors and is freely licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 License and GFDL. Authorship information can be found in each article’s “history” tab.

Kodak Brownie

Kodak Brownie Flash III.jpg

Kodak Brownie Flash III camera. Photo by NotFromUtrecht, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Brownie is the name of a long-running popular series of simple and inexpensive cameras made by Eastman Kodak. The Brownie popularized low-cost photography and introduced the concept of the snapshot. The first Brownie, introduced in February 1900, was a very basic cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that took 2¼-inch square pictures on 117 rollfilm. With its simple controls and initial price of $1, it was intended to be a camera that anyone could afford and use, hence the slogan, “You push the button, we do the rest.” The camera was named after the popular cartoons created by Palmer Cox. Consumers responded, and over 150,000 Brownie cameras were shipped in the first year of production. An improved model, called No. 2 Brownie came in 1901, which produced larger photos and cost $2. It was also very popular.

Taken with a Kodak Brownie

Leica CL

Leica CL with 40mm Summicron-C.jpeg
Leica CL with 40mm Summicron-C. Photo by JamesPFisherIII, freely licensed under CC BY 3.0.

The Leica CL is a 35 mm compact rangefinder camera with interchangeable lenses in the Leica M-mount. It was developed in collaboration with Minolta who manufactured it. It first appeared in April 1973 and was released in the Japanese market in November 1973 as the Leitz Minolta CL. Both the Leica CL and Leitz Minolta CL were manufactured in a new Minolta factory in Portugal.

Taken with a Leica CL

Nikon D40x

Nikon D40 with Nikkor 50 f1.8 AF.jpg
Nikon D40 with Nikkor 50 f1.8 AF (whose autofocus doesn’t work with this camera). Photo by Phiarc, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The D40 is a now-discontinued Nikon F-mount entry-level digital SLR, announced November 16, 2006. Compared to its predecessor, the D50, the D40 had several features removed, a few added, and a lower price: US$499.95 ESP as of November 2009 with the 18–55 mm G-II kit lens, positioning it as an entry-level model compared to the D80. The D40x (released March 6, 2007) has a 10-megapixel maximum resolution, up from 6 megapixels of the D50.

Taken with a Nikon D40x

Sony DSLR-A700

The front of a Sony Alpha A700 DSLR. Photo by Evan-Amos, Public domain.

Sony α 700 (DSLR-A700) was the second model launched in the Sony α series of digital single-lens reflex cameras. This model appeared to reuse some technology of the former Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D. On March 8, 2007, at the PMA Trade Show, Sony announced two new α cameras, both positioned to be “above” the α100 in the Alpha line-up. One model was referred to as a “high amateur” model, with a release date of late 2007. The A700 was discontinued, and its successor, the A77 (SLT-A77), was announced on August 24, 2011, with availability from October 2011.

Taken with Sony DSLR-A700

Canon EOS-1D X

2012 Canon EOS 1D X 2013 CP+.jpg

2012 Canon EOS 1D X. Photo by Morio, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Canon EOS-1D X is the professional flagship digital SLR camera body by Canon Inc. It succeeded the company’s previous flagship Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. It was announced on 18 October 2011. It was released in March 2012 with a suggested retail price of $6,799.00 (body only) and a suggested retail price of £5,299 in the United Kingdom. The camera is supplemented by the Canon EOS-1D C, a movie-oriented camera that shares most of its still photographic features with the 1D X. The 1D C was announced in April 2012 and released in March 2013.

Taken with Canon EOS-1D X

Andrew Sherman
Digital Communications Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

by Andrew Sherman at June 29, 2015 04:55 PM

Wikimedia Research Newsletter, June 2015

Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Wikimedia Research Newsletter Logo.png

Vol: 5 • Issue: 6 • June 2015 [contribute] [archives] Syndicate the Wikimedia Research Newsletter feed

How Wikipedia built governance capability; readability of plastic surgery articles

With contributions by: Piotr Konieczny, Leeza Rodriguez and Tilman Bayer

How Wikipedia built governance capability, 2001–2009

This paper[1] looks at the topic of Wikipedia governance in the context of online social production, which is contrasted with traditional, contract-bound, hierarchical production models that characterize most organizational settings. Building on the dynamic capabilities theory, the authors introduce a new concept, “collective governance capability”, which they define as “the capability of a collective arrangement to steer a production process and an associated interaction system”. The authors ask the research question, “How does a collective governance capability to create and maintain value emerge and evolve in online social production?”

Figure from the paper: “The number of monthly contributors and the number of contributor clusters in the English Wikipedia from January 2001 to December 2009.”

  1. Quantitative analysis: The authors processed a dump of the full history of the English Wikipedia’s first nine years. For each of the 108 months from January 2001 to December 2009 and each editor, that editor’s activity was described by the following numbers: “the number of edits and pages edited, median [Levenshtein] edit distance and article length change, the number of reverted edits, and reverts done […., in] four namespaces: encyclopedia articles, article talk pages, policies and guidelines, and policies and guidelines talk pages”. A cluster analysis is then performed for each month to group editors into sets of similar editing behavior. The authors report:
    “we identify a slow initiation period followed by a period of extremely rapid growth, and, finally, levelling out and a slight decline. In the first phase, there is only a minimal differentiation of contributors into clusters. The second phase of exponential growth is characterized by increasing differentiation of contributors, while the number of clusters stabilizes in the third phase. The statistics provide only a very rough depiction of a complex system, but they certainly suggest that, whatever governance mechanisms have been in place, they have had to deal with dramatically different circumstances over the years.”
  2. qualitative analysis: Building on these three phases identified via descriptive statistics, the authors construct “theoretical narrative … [using] a highly selective representation of empirical material that advances the plot of capability-building”, including discussion of the history of policies, processes and events including IAR, 3RR, FAR, bot policy, flagged revisions, the 2005 Nature study comparing Wikipedia’s quality with Britannica’s, the Seigenthaler affair the same year, etc.

The researchers note that Wikipedia governance has changed significantly over the years, becoming less open and more codified, which they seem to acknowledge as a positive change. The authors’ main conclusion stresses, first, that governance could itself be a dynamic, evolving process. Second, that new kinds of governance mechanisms make it possible to create significant value by harnessing knowledge resources that would be very difficult to seize through a market or corporate system. Third, that the lack of a contractually sanctioned governance framework means that people have to learn to deal directly with each other through peer-based interaction and informal agreements, which in turn creates opportunities for self-improvement through learning. Fourth, the authors note that the new type of governance models are constantly evolving and changing, meaning they have a very fluid structure that is difficult to describe, and may be better understood instead as changing combinations of different, semi-independent governance mechanisms that complement one another. Finally, they stress the importance of technology in making those new models of governance possible.

Readability of plastic surgery articles examined

The subject of readability of online patient materials for Plastic Surgery topics was recently assessed by teams from Beth Israel Medical Center at the Harvard Medical School. Readability scores are generally expressed as a grade level: Higher grade levels indicate that that content is more difficult to read. According to the authors, “nearly half of American adults have poor or marginal health literacy skills and the NIH (National Institute of Health) and AMA (American Medical Association) have recommended that patient information should be written at the sixth grade level”. The aim of their research was to calculate readability scores for the most popular web pages displaying procedure information and compare the results to the sixth grade reading level recommendation.


The core author group published two papers, “Online Patient Resources for Liposuction”[2], in Annals of Plastic Surgery , and “Assessment of Online Patient Materials for Breast Reconstruction”[3], in Journal of Surgical Research. The authors concentrated on the topics of “liposuction” and “tattoo information” in one paper, and focused solely on the topic of “breast reconstruction” in the second paper. Readability scores were accessed in both papers, but the breast reconstruction paper added an analysis of ‘complexity’ and ‘suitability’ to more comprehensively evaluate reading level.

For each procedure term topic, websites selected for analysis were based on the top 10 links resulting from the Google search query. The top 10 links were identified as the 10 most common websites for that search term.

Illustration from the liposuction article

Results and conclusions

The authors concluded that the readability of online patient information for ‘liposuction’ and ‘breast reconstruction’ is ‘too difficult’ for many patients as the readability scores of all 20 websites (10 each) far exceeds that of a 6th-grade reading level. The average score for the most popular ‘liposuction’ websites was determined equal to 13.6-grade level. As a comparison ‘tattoo information’ scored at the 7.8-grade level.

Health care information available at the most popular websites for ‘breast reconstruction’ had an average readability score of 13.4, with 100% of the top 10 websites providing content far above the recommended 6th grade reading level . Wikipedia.org readability scores aligned at the higher readability range for both terms, with scores above the 14 grade level for ‘liposuction’, and above grade 15 for ‘breast reconstruction’.

When other metrics such as ‘complexity’ and ‘suitability’ were applied to the Breast Reconstruction websites, the content appeared to be more friendly towards less educated readers. Complexity analysis using PMOSE/iKIRSCH yielded an average score of 8th–12th grade level. In a testament to how images and topography enhance user readability, the breast reconstruction paper also employed the SAM ‘suitability’ formula. This metric concluded that 50% of the websites were ‘adequate’. The SAM formula gives weight to the contribution that images, bulleted lists, subheadings, and video make to the readability of content. Wikipedia.org was found to be ‘unsuitable’ along with Komen.org, BreastReconstruction.com, WebMD.com, and MedicineNet.com.

In conjunction with the ‘readability score’, the PMOSE and SAM metric helped to achieve a more comprehensive view of a patient’s ability to read and comprehend the breast reconstruction material.

Liposuction paper methodology

After articles from the 10 websites with liposuction content were stripped of images and videos, the plain text content was analyzed using ten established readability formulas. These included Coleman–Liau, Flesch–Kincaid, Flesch reading ease, FORCAST, Fry graph, Gunning fog, New Dale–Chall, New Fog count, Raygor estimate, and SMOG. All readability formulas in this paper relied on some combination of word length, syllable count, word complexity, and sentence length. Longer word lengths and sentence lengths compute to higher reading levels. Similarly, words of three or more syllables increase the grade level readability scores. These text-based readability scores do not include the impact that images or graphics have on readers.

In an effort to compare readability scores for a procedure ‘similar’ to liposuction, the authors performed the same type of analysis on the term ‘tattoo information’. Not surprisingly, the query for ‘tattoo information’, a simpler procedure, yielded content with average readability scores of 7.8-grade level.

Based on this wide gap of 5.8 grade levels in readability scores between ‘liposuction’ and ‘tattoo’ literature, the authors pose the question , “So why is this (tattoo) information significantly easier to read than liposuction?” The authors do present good example strategies for rewriting some liposuction content at lower reading levels. However, the authors do not convincingly clarify why the two procedures should have similar low readability levels. The average education levels of the target audience for “liposuction” and “tattoo information” is not well documented in the paper, and it is questionable if they are equal.

According to ASPS statistics, 50% of liposuction patients are over 40 years old. Are 50% of the people seeking tattoos over age 40? While age does not equal reading level, it may certainly give a hint.

Furthermore, the authors downplay the complexity of the liposuction procedure in comparison to tattooing. Liposuction is an invasive procedure performed by a credentialed surgeon and anesthesiologist under IV or General Anesthesia in an accredited outpatient surgery center. The tools, equipment, and anesthetics used in the technique are not simple, common words.

Unlike surgeons, tattoos artists do not require any type of formal medical training or certification. The tattoo procedure does not involve the complexities of pre-operative clearance, fat extraction , fluid and electrolyte regulation, anesthesia administration , or vital sign monitoring. Likewise, the liposuction procedure description is destined to be longer, more technical, and likely requires higher readability levels than tattooing.

Top 10 Google links used in methodology

One consideration which is not discussed by these and other published authors evaluating online content readability, is the fact that Google uses the Dale-Chall and Flesch Kincaid readability formulas in its Penguin algorithm. However, rather than punish high (difficult) readability scores, the algorithm is thought to punish low grade level readability scores. In 2013, the UK analytics company MathSight determined[supp 1] that the Penguin algorithm penalized websites with low grade level readability scores. After the MathSight finding, many SEO experts concluded that Google favors content written at a higher educational level.

In light of this, and regarding the typical methodology of obtaining the data set from Google’s top 10 links, one must question if Google would ever rank a medical content website with a grade 6 readability score higher than a website with a grade 13 readability score. Perhaps even more importantly, most website publishers want what Google wants. Competition is fierce for a spot in the top 10 links. Therefore, as long as online content publishers believe that Google favors well written, well researched, sophisticated content, it might be a tough sell to persuade medical content publishers to oversimplify their content to a sixth grade reading level.


Fukushima discussions in the English and Japanese Wikipedias

Similar to several other pieces of research, this paper[4] looks at social production of knowledge in the context of a single, controversial Wikipedia topic, this time, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The authors compare the discussions in the English and Japanese Wikipedias, noting that (as we would expect) the English one attracts more global audience. Both communities were primarily focused on writing an encyclopedic article, though, contrary to the authors’ expectation, it was the English Wikipedia editors who were more likely to raise topics not directly related to the creation of the article. Overall, the paper is primarily descriptive, and does not provide much discussion to enhance existing social theories.

Other recent publications

A list of other recent publications that could not be covered in time for this issue – contributions are always welcome for reviewing or summarizing newly published research.

  • “Wikipedia and medicine: quantifying readership, editors, and the significance of natural language”[5]
  • “One-shot Wikipedia: An edit-sprint toward information literacy”[6] From the abstract: “In this case study, a Wikipedia-editing activity was incorporated into two-hour one-shot instruction sessions. … While a great deal of attention has been paid to teaching with multi-week Wikipedia assignments and coursework, evidence from this project suggests that Wikipedia-related activities can be used effectively within much narrower time constraints.”
  • “Unsupervised biographical event extraction using Wikipedia traffic”[7] From the introduction: “We hypothesise that when a notable event happens to a person, traffic to their Wikipedia page peaks abruptly, and an edit is made to their page describing the event. To explore this hypothesis, a simple outlier-based method is applied to extract peaks (short periods of sudden activity) from Wikipedia page traffic data, which are used to locate page edits which align to sentences contributing to the notability of the page subject.”
  • “The Internet School of Medicine: use of electronic resources by medical trainees and the reliability of those resources”[8] (blog summary: [1])
  • “Wikipedia knowledge community modeling”[9] (book chapter / reference work entry)
  • “Domain-specific semantic relatedness from Wikipedia structure: a case study in biomedical text”[10] (book chapter)
  • “Wikipedia – challenges and new horizons in enhancing medical education”[11]
  • “Coverage of European parties in European language Wikipedia editions”[12]
  • “Context-aware detection of sneaky vandalism on Wikipedia across multiple languages”[13]
  • “Google and Wikipedia in the professional translation process: a qualitative work”[14] (related paper by the same author)
  • “Coordination and efficiency in decentralized collaboration”[15] (conference paper submitted to ICWSM 2015). From the abstract: “we consider the trade-offs inherent in coordination in [decentralized on-line collaboration environments], balancing the benefits to collaboration with the cost in effort that could be spent in other ways. We consider two diverse domains that each contain a wide range of collaborations taking place simultaneously – Wikipedia and GitHub – allowing us to study how coordination varies across different projects. We analyze trade-offs in coordination along two main dimensions, finding similar effects in both our domains of study: first we show that, in aggregate, high-status projects on these sites manage the coordination trade-off at a different level than typical projects; and second, we show that projects use a different balance of coordination when they are “crowded”, with relatively small size but many participants.”


  1. (2015-06-09) “Building Governance Capability in Online Social Production: Insights from Wikipedia“. Organization Studies: 0170840615584459. doi:10.1177/0170840615584459. ISSN 1741-3044. 
  2. (February 2015) “Online Patient Resources for Liposuction: A Comparative Analysis of Readability“. Annals of Plastic Surgery: 1. doi:10.1097/SAP.0000000000000438. ISSN 0148-7043.  Closed access / freely available authors’ copy
  3. Assessment of Online Patient Materials for Breast Reconstruction“. Journal of Surgical Research. doi:10.1016/j.jss.2015.04.072. ISSN 0022-4804.  Closed access
  4. (2015-05-19) “Social construction of knowledge in Wikipedia“. First Monday 20 (6). doi:10.5210/fm.v20i6.5869. ISSN 13960466. 
  5. (2015-03-04) “Wikipedia and Medicine: Quantifying Readership, Editors, and the Significance of Natural Language“. Journal of Medical Internet Research 17 (3): –62. doi:10.2196/jmir.4069. ISSN 1438-8871. 
  6. John Thomas Oliver (2015-02-09). “One-shot Wikipedia: an edit-sprint toward information literacy“. Reference Services Review. doi:10.1108/RSR-10-2014-0043. ISSN 0090-7324.  Closed access
  7. Alexander Hogue, Joel Nothman and James R. Curran. 2014. Unsupervised biographical event extraction using wikipedia traffic. In Proceedings of Australasian Language Technology Association Workshop, pages 41–49. http://www.aclweb.org/anthology/U14-1006
  8. (April 2015) “The Internet School of Medicine: Use of electronic resources by medical trainees and the reliability of those resources”. Journal of Surgical Education 72 (2): 316–320. doi:10.1016/j.jsurg.2014.08.005. ISSN 1878-7452. PMID 25487347.  Closed access
  9. Jankowski-Lorek, Michal; Ostrowski, Lukasz; Turek, Piotr; Wierzbicki, Adam (2014). “Wikipedia knowledge community modeling”. In Professor Reda Alhajj, Professor Jon Rokne (eds.). Encyclopedia of Social Network Analysis and Mining. Springer New York. pp. 2410–2420. ISBN 978-1-4614-6169-2. http://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-1-4614-6170-8_269.  Closed access
  10. Sajadi, Armin; Milios, Evangelos E.; KeÅ¡elj, Vlado; Janssen, Jeannette C. M. (2015). “Domain-specific semantic relatedness from Wikipedia structure: a case study in biomedical text”. In Alexander Gelbukh (ed.). Computational Linguistics and Intelligent Text Processing. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer International Publishing. pp. 347–360. ISBN 978-3-319-18110-3. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-18111-0_26.  Closed access
  11. (2015-03-06) “Wikipedia – challenges and new horizons in enhancing medical education“. BMC Medical Education 15 (1): 32. doi:10.1186/s12909-015-0309-2. ISSN 1472-6920. 
  12. Yasseri, Taha. Coverage of European parties in European language Wikipedia editions. Can social data be used to predict elections?.
  13. Tran, Khoi-Nguyen; Christen, Peter; Sanner, Scott; Xie, Lexing (2015-05-19). “Context-aware detection of sneaky vandalism on Wikipedia across multiple languages”. In Tru Cao, Ee-Peng Lim, Zhi-Hua Zhou, Tu-Bao Ho, David Cheung, Hiroshi Motoda (eds.). Advances in Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer International Publishing. pp. 380–391. ISBN 978-3-319-18037-3. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-18038-0_30.  Closed access
  14. Alonso, Elisa (2015-02-13). “Google and Wikipedia in the professional translation process: a qualitative work“. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 173: 312–317. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.02.071. ISSN 1877-0428. 
  15. (2015-03-25) “Coordination and efficiency in decentralized collaboration“. arXiv:1503.07431 [physics]. 
Supplementary references and notes:

Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Vol: 5 • Issue: 6 • June 2015
This newletter is brought to you by the Wikimedia Research Committee and The Signpost
Subscribe: Syndicate the Wikimedia Research Newsletter feed Email WikiResearch on Twitter[archives] [signpost edition] [contribute] [research index]

by Tilman Bayer at June 29, 2015 06:59 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - كيفين بيكن and the #Syrian #refugees

When you consider the size of the camps where Syrian refugees are kept, the people lose their face, are no longer seen as individuals. But exactly because of the size, there must be professors, engineers, soccer stars and actors among them. Seen in that light Mr كيفين بيكن is not that far away from any of them.

I am sure that for all them it is a "significant event" to be in such a camp. Would it make a difference when we knew for many refugees how "near" they are to Mr Bacon? Would it convince you that these people need food, drink, shelter and schooling for their children?

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 29, 2015 12:59 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #27, 2015 (June 29, 2015)

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June 29, 2015 12:00 AM

June 28, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

“My community’s goals drive me”: Tahir Mahmood

Tahir Mahmood.jpg

Tahir Mahmood spent much of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, but is now the most prolific editor on the Urdu Wikipedia. Photo by Tahir Mahmood, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

“I am trying to help the Urdu Wikipedia reach the community-set goal of 100,000 articles. In the process, I crossed the 100,000 edits milestone. This makes me happy.”

This statement highlights the intensely-spirited approach of Tahir Mahmood Qureshi, who has become the first Urdu Wikipedian to surpass 100,000 edits. Though originally from Pakistan, Tahir spent most of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, and attended university in Cyprus. His background means he is familiar and comfortable speaking English, Arabic, and Greek. When it came to Wikipedia, though, Tahir chose to contribute mainly in Urdu.

As one of his colleagues on the Urdu Wikipedia, I congratulated him on his remarkable feat. I then took the opportunity to ask some questions to the man behind the username.

I was surprised to learn that he works in a well-respected Saudi Arabian company, and is in charge of networking and operations. Yet Tahir still finds the time to edit the Urdu Wikipedia with great enthusiasm and dedication.

He credits his achievement to his family support, as well as the general atmosphere of the Urdu Wikipedia. The community is friendly and free from conflict. He started editing on the English Wikipedia as early as 2009, but switched to the Urdu-language Wikipedia in 2012 when he discovered the project in his native language. Adding knowledge in Urdu, that was freely usable by others, was a thrilling and satisfying experience.

Soon, Tahir became a prolific contributor. He was eventually granted administrator and bureaucrat rights by the community, allowing him to perform more technical maintenance tasks. Tahir has an excellent track record of sustaining Urdu content and supporting users, enthusiastically helping to improve templates and categories, guiding new users, fixing missing links, and engaging in other admin tasks – on top of creating and editing new content for the project.

But Tahir’s strongest attributes are his vision and his team spirit. He points out that Urdu Wikipedia is currently ranked 61st in terms of article numbers, bettering its status from 90th last year, as a result of collective effort. It boasts the 14th-highest “article depth” of all Wikipedia projects. The community, however, is far from complacent. Rather, they are working on ways to add even more content, and to improve the encyclopedia’s quality.

“I personally compare the Urdu Wikipedia with the Arabic, Persian and Hindi Wikipedias,” he says. “I believe that we still have a long way to go.”

Tahir spoke about his efforts in reaching the community-set goal of 100,000 articles on the Urdu Wikipedia. As result of his untiring involvement in the process, Tahir surpassed 100,000 edits, becoming the first Urdu Wikipedian to do so.

As something of a team leader, Tahir notes he is just one of many contributors to the Urdu Wikipedia helping to reach this lofty goal. He speaks particularly highly of Mohammed Shoaib’s technical expertise, Obaid Raza’s linguistic knowledge, and Ameen Akbar’s great all-round ability. Tahir also mentioned thirteen other very active Wikipedians, including many with good knowledge of other languages, as being excellent colleagues to work alongside.

Tahir recalled his participation in the Urdu Wikipedia community group call reported on Wikimedia blog last year. He also spoke of the success of Wikipedia meetup events in Karachi, Pakistan, some years ago, and suggests that planning similar meetups in the near future could help to enlist new editors for the Urdu Wikipedia.

Urdu is under no threat of extinction, as it is the national language of Pakistan, and there are good number of Urdu publications in the subcontinent. Tahir is, however, disappointed that the use of Urdu, especially on digital and social media, is poor. “Many well-known media outlets make basic mistakes in spelling and grammar,” he says.

Tahir believes these mistakes are coming from the new generation of “Roman Urdu” users, who write traditional Urdu using the Latin alphabet to get around the relative lack of support for Urdu characters. He urges these Urdu speakers to instead acquaint themselves with Urdu keyboard, and to write in traditional Urdu script. He sees Urdu Wikipedia as the most appropriate platform on which to learn and use these skills.

Syed MuzammiluddinIndian Wikimedian

by Syed Muzammiluddin at June 28, 2015 04:59 PM

New French partners for The Wikipedia Library

The Wikipedia Library aims to connect writers with high-quality sources. Photo by JHistory, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Earlier this month, we were happy to launch a new French-language branch of the Wikipedia Library with donations from three new publishers of French and English sources.

The Wikipedia Library aims to connect experienced Wikipedia editors with the quality sources and references that they need to author more content and spread the sum of human knowledge. One strategy for this access is our publisher donation program, which offer free subscriptions to contributors who meet a modest selection criteria. To learn more about the Wikipedia Library, check out our earlier blog posts about it or a 2014 Signpost feature.

As part of the new French-language Wikipedia Library branch, 3 new donor partners join the ranks of dozens of already established partnerships. The new French-language partnerships include:

  • Cairn.info is a site for the publication and dissemination of humanities and social science journals from several publishers. This project offers publications on several subjects: law, economics, geography, history, literature and linguistics, philosophy, psychology, education science, information science, political science, sociology and society and sport. The Wikipedia Library has 100 free accounts for CAIRN.info, French and English.
  • Érudit is a non-profit organization in Quebec whose primary mission is the dissemination and promotion of results of scholarly research in the humanities and social sciences. The platform also includes some journals in the hard sciences and the environment. The Wikipedia Library offers 50 free accounts.
  • L’Harmattan is a French publishing house founded in 1975. It has 27,000 titles in the social sciences and humanities, rare or out of print books, videos and magazines that are available online via the digital platform. The Wikipedia Library has 100 free accounts for L’Harmattan, in French only.

Through its partnerships, the Wikipedia Library aims that experienced contributors may have access to high-caliber sources to reference and increase the quality of Wikipedia articles. For our partners, the benefits are numerous: due to the high traffic and visibility of Wikipedia, readers learn where to find the best databases and collections.

Wikipedia Library Owl. Logo by Heather Walls, CC BY-SA 3.0.

It is very exciting to see the international team of the Wikipedia Library expand to create partnerships with other providers of newspapers, journals and databases, and in more languages. Our full list of partner journals is located on the English Wikipedia, and editors are invited to list the paywalled resources they need access to on our Meta requests page. We will do our best to make inroads with them.

Additionally, we would like to widen this scope and encourage more Wikimedia communities to consider launching Wikipedia Library branches in their own language. These programs operate as local-language research hubs through various strategies and best practices identified in other language communities. For more information about setting up new branches, check out our new Branch Guide. If you would like to support established Wikipedia Library branches, let us know!

Benoit Rochon and Sylvain Machefert, coordinators of the francophone branch of TWL for WikiFranca.

by Benoit Rochon and Sylvain Machefert at June 28, 2015 10:46 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - #Vara and the J.B. Broekszprize

Awards are funny. They are presented with a lot of fanfare. They show the relevance of a subject; the reason why the award is presented and the person who the person is presented to. However, it takes effort and money to maintain an award and often the needed stamina simply disappears.

The J.B. Broekszprize was awarded by the VARA at least until 1996. The award was given to people and organisations who "humanised society". It is obvious that this effort was recognised at the time and, to understand the relevance of people and organisations it is great to know about awards like this.

At Wikidata we can and do recognise awards. People are added just because they received an award. Sometimes, it seems obvious that a person like Rob Hof is the 1995 winner of the award. But it needed some research to make sure that he was. Not even the Beeld en Geluid Wiki knew about Mr Hof..

Awards point to the legacy of people and organisations. They add relevance to both and they help in understanding an era that has come and gone.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 28, 2015 08:23 AM


Reflections on health media and Consumer Reports at the Spotlight Health 2015

I attended Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health from Thursday 25 June – Sunday 28 June. It was educational, pleasant, and insightful for me.

The most striking characteristic of this conference to me was the frequent talk of entrepreneurship and market forces. In most of the conferences which I attend there is a lot of community participation, whereas the attendee roster for this conference was mostly innovators and policymakers. I was able to attend because Consumer Reports was a sponsor of the conference. I asked how we had the money for this, because sponsorship is expensive. Consumer Reports got a deal because it is a nonprofit organization with a nice reputation and expertise closely related to many of the talks of this year’s programming.

In the talks, speakers frequently referred to addressing social determinants of disease as a way to improve health. Providing health care to people who need treatment is expensive and complicated, but if certain social issues can be addressed, then fewer people will need health care and when they get it, they can have better outcomes. Some social determinants of a person’s health include poverty status, having access to whatever health information is necessary to make health decisions, and having whatever is necessary to encourage a person to eat a healthy diet and exercise. Consumer Reports frequently talks about these things and tries to empower layman consumers to recognize when they can make health care decisions with their doctors, and I was pleased to hear in several talks the speakers spoke the ideas which Consumer Reports promotes. Sometimes inside Consumer Reports I wonder how aligned we are with popular thought in the consumer, health care, government, and nonprofit sectors. It made me feel proud to come to this event where everyone was representing the ideas of whatever organization was backing them, and they were saying the things that Consumer Reports has been saying. I read as much as I can in health policy and education, and I know that Consumer Reports routinely adopts advocacy positions before they are popular. I like getting the feedback that Consumer Reports’ campaigns are at the start of social trends.

a row of people sitting on a stage

Panel titled “Getting it right: Health in the Media” at Spotlight Health Aspen Ideas Festival 2015. From left to right Jackie Judd, Jason Beaubien, Jonathan LaPook, Neal Baer, Joanne Kenen, and Sarah Kliff

There was a panel called “Getting it Right: Health in the Media”. Participants in the panel were some popular health care journalists from respectable organizations. Everyone on the panel does terrific work in their media channels and ought to be praised. What surprised me is how fragile their legitimacy is. I supposed that the best health care journalists are well backed with resources for fact checking and access to expert views. Definitely everyone on the panel had access to a lot of resources, but I was struck to learn that they did not have as much support as I imagined. I imagined that leading health care writers did perfect work, and now that I think about it, of course they cannot. They have deadlines, they have big social networks but still not perfect connections to everyone, they have to prioritize their energy, and they rely a lot on their own journalistic instincts as all journalists do. Since moving to New York and meeting so many people in media I have gained a new respect for journalism as a profession, because journalists really can acquire the skill to do something magic to write about the heart of an issue even if they themselves are much less knowledgeable about the issue as the people engaged in it. These journalists are not doctors, but they interview doctors and somehow report the health issues in a better way than doctors could. Still – they talked about how sometimes they get their information from chance encounters or sometimes they get things wrong because it is the nature of journalists to consume information around them and report it as best they can, even if it is not perfect. This made me think about the health journalism process at Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is in a privileged place in its reporting because I know now that we have much better access to fact checking, expert opinions, and the time to get things right before making our reports. Some of the people on this panel were backed by very big companies or organizations – I did not until now realize that Consumer Reports’ prioritization of accuracy is unusual and not the norm. It also makes me wonder if Consumer Reports ought to be spending extra resources for extra accuracy – to give example numbers, should we pay for expensive 98% accuracy when other media outlets seem to have happy audiences for their 80-90% accurate content which is less expensive. Do we really get that much extra accuracy from all the extra fact checking that we do, or is a good try from a health journalist enough to replace on-hand advice from actual physicians?

In any case, I was surprised to hear that many health journalists are not better supported with resources, and that Consumer Reports is actually very well equipped. Being at Consumer Reports and not knowing anything else, I had not realized how different we were. I could be mistaken about the actual difference in accuracy, but I think I am not, because they reported a difference in quality control. I will have to think about what they said.

by bluerasberry at June 28, 2015 01:57 AM

Lazy workers in Aspen

The “Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health” conference is over. It is late Sunday afternoon and I am having tea at a restaurant listening into the conversation at a table nearby. A table of four people are talking about how their employees fake job injuries so that they can get payments from employers while enjoying time being lazy when they ought to be working. The consensus at the table is that laborers are sneaky thieving cheats and that employers are continually the victims of fraud and conspiracies of employees. The nature of the cheating may be completely fabricated injuries or can be actual broken bones or serious injuries which are less fake but then the lazy employees take extra time in recovery. They are saying that employees who can sit on a couch at home can sit around at work, even if they are injured. They are saying that the law favors cheating employees over honest employers. They are saying that a good way to defend oneself is to hire a lawyer to request papers from lazy fake injury workers because employees are too stupid to be able to complete papers – they say nothing about the power differential of them having lawyers and the laborers presumably not having them. When an employee gets an

I have been listening to this for about 30 minutes and all four people at the table continually say how awful workers are.

Aspen is one of the most expensive places to live. The people here are either rich or they are here to serve the rich – there is no industry or work here except to serve the people who are passing time in leisure. The Aspen Institute hosts a conference, but with tickets being $2500 for their main 3-day event, it is an exclusive gathering for select people. I attended a less expensive pre-conference for people in health policy, but still, it was a luxurious conference.

It is beautiful here for sure and the weather is nice.

I dislike the attitude that the rich sometimes have when they spend time in isolation among themselves and come to resent people without money. I favor government infrastructure which promotes equality of wealth distribution such that at least everyone’s basic needs are met.

I do not recognize a tendency of workers to fake injuries. I feel that human nature is to take pride in one’s work and to be productive when their needs are met and they feel secure in their lives. I feel like it is the duty of people with money to promote health and well-being among those whom they employ, and for so long as poverty and ill-health exists, it is the responsibility of the government and regulators to be more aggressive in taking wealth from the rich to uplift the status of their workers.

People who are able to live in Aspen and employ workers are elite and wealthy. They ought not be in conflict with workers at all. I dislike that inequality has made some rich people antagonistic toward people with less means.

by bluerasberry at June 28, 2015 01:54 AM

June 27, 2015

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Developers gather in France for the 2015 Wikimedia Hackathon

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 12.10.35 PM
Wikimedia developers from around the world met last month in Lyon, France, for the Wikimedia Hackathon 2015. To meet a few of them, watch this short video.

On May 23, public transportation workers were on strike in Lyon, France. But it would have taken a lot more to discourage our coders from around the world, gathered here to develop tools for the Wikimedia projects! They were invited by Wikimédia France for our annual Wikimedia Hackathon, which took place at Écully, a small town just outside of Lyon.

A traditional group photo. Photo by Pierre Selim, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

But why a hackathon … and why in Lyon?

The Wikimedia Hackathon is an annual gathering of coders from across the Wikimedia movement. Many of the tools you use every day on Wikipedia and other projects are developed during hackathons like this one.

This year’s event was held in Valpré, a major conference and training center near Lyon, in France’s second-largest metropolitan area. Lodging and work rooms were in the same location, and participants had access to a wide range of services to make their stay more comfortable: a daycare, a restaurant, a large playing field—and five meeting rooms available to developers night and day.

The 2015 Wikimedia Hackathon was a real success, with over 200 participants from 20 different countries! This year’s programs were carefully designed to welcome new contributors: 66 new participants joined us in the convention center’s crowded amphitheater, for the hackathon’s opening session, on May 23, 2015 at 9am.

We had a full house at the opening ceremony. Photo by Jean-Philippe Kmiec, CC-BY-SA 4.0

How does it work?

For three days, developers worked on software and tools related to Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, MediaWiki and many other projects. In total, 62 meetings and workshops took place during the event. Participants had the choice of working in one of five meeting rooms, so they could code around the clock to develop better software.

We also organized a number of public lectures, to encourage interactions with newcomers, and to introduce them to the Wikimedia movement, to Wikimédia France and other wiki projects. It was a great opportunity to spotlight our local group in Lyon and discuss their many initiatives in the region.

A project showcase

No fewer than 33 projects were presented at the closing ceremony on Monday, May 25 at 4pm. We saw cool new features, like Wikipedia on Apple Watch, and an ultra minimalist version of the free encyclopedia: La découvrir! More technological projects were also shown, such as a tool which generates complex search queries using sentences written in natural language.

A media event

The Wikimedia Hackathon was covered by a dozen regional and national publications, and it was a great opportunity to spread the word about our association and the Wikimedia projects.

Thanks to all our attendees, and see you at next year’s Hackathon in Jerusalem!

Jean-Philippe KmiecManager of Communications and EventsWikimédia France

Infographic by Jean-Philippe Kmiec, CC-BY-SA 4.0

From the editors: This story was originally published in French on the Wikimédia France blog and on Planet Wikimedia. It was translated into English by Fabrice Florin.

by Jean-Philippe Kmiec at June 27, 2015 01:46 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - #Hillary Rodham Clinton II

Mrs Clinton has been the recipient of many awards. The current count at Wikidata is at 23 and, it is quite an impressive list.

There is one funny bit in there, you have to know Dutch to spot this loonie. Mrs Clinton has been awarded several honorary doctorates. The screen shot shows nicely that there are two items for the same thing. You may see one for the University of St Andrews and one for Yale University.

Obviously the two could be merged. One reason why I won't is because Reasonator does not show redirects nicely and I do not want to lose all that information.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 27, 2015 06:40 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia Picks: disaster, trial by battle, and more

Welcome to our first installment of ‘Wikipedia Picks’, a new content experiment for the Wikimedia blog. This proposed weekly feature would invite one Wikipedia community member to curate a list of five articles, images, or other content that they find interesting or important — in collaboration with our blog editors.

This week’s guest host is Gary Greenbaum (Wehwalt), who has written or collaborated on 127 featured articles on the English Wikipedia—more than anyone else on the site. Over the past ten years, he has made nearly 100,000 edits. He has written about everything from politics (American, British, Canadian, and Australian), architecture, numismatics, law, musicals, royalty, sports, and a train crash. Offline, Greenbaum works as a lawyer in Fairfax, Virginia, and is George Mason University’s Wikipedia affiliate for 2014–2015. For this week’s Wikipedia Picks, he selected five featured articles, three of which he personally worked on; the comments below are his.

Lost at sea

Wreck of the U.S.M. steam ship "Arctic" (one-third-size).png
The SS Arctic was an early Titanic-like disaster. Painting by James E. Buttersworth, Public domain.

I was quite interested in the Girl Pat article about a 1935 trawler, successfully brought to “Featured Article Candidate” (FAC) status by my colleague Brianboulton. Its unauthorized transatlantic voyage in 1936 was a rather strange incident which got much public attention at the time, and is almost completely forgotten today. Britain watched with fascination as this small ship was searched for, amid all sorts of rumors, and eventually found off the north coast of South America. If anything, it’s a reminder that the past was not a sepia photograph, that the people of the past were just as likely as us to focus on unusual things. The only difference being that things didn’t move with the speed of the Internet in the 1930s.

The SS Arctic disaster article, brought to “Featured Article” (FA) status by Brianboulton, was another notorious incident where a passenger ship sank during a trip across the Atlantic; all of the women and children and most of the crew died. Put in today’s context, it was like the Titanic disaster, but worse. Enough said. I think Brian took some quiet glee in asking me to review it, since he knows that I sometimes go on passenger ships, when I can put time and money together. The obvious thing to say is that this could not happen in the age of the ever-vigilant cell phone camera, but then, the captain of the Costa Concordia seemed to get quite a head start on his passengers …

A politician

Senator Joseph B. Foraker.png
Joseph B. Foraker. Photo, Public domain.

Fierce-looking fellow, isn’t he? And quite the speaker, in a time when politics, not baseball, was the national sport. Joseph B. Foraker is one of those figures who was talked about for president for a while at the turn of the 20th century, but never quite made it. He was governor of (and senator from) Ohio, a Republican — and a lawyer who took money from corporations, while he was in the Senate, which at the time was legal. But he also had a regard for human equality that caused him to sacrifice his career over the Brownsville affair, in which President Theodore Roosevelt unjustly fired a group of African American soldiers. It shows that nothing is quite black or white in a time of political polarization.

A horse trainer and … newspaper publisher

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Al-Marah horses from Tankersley’s ranch were used in her son’s Arabian Nights dinner show. Photo by Rob Bixby, freely licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Another article that I found interesting was about Ruth ‘Bazy’ Tankersley, an American breeder of Arabian horses and a newspaper publisher; it was successfully brought to “Featured Article Candidate” status by my colleague Montanabw. Tankersley’s involvement with Arabian horses is well known; her political history, and her involvement in political controversies of the 1950s less so. I was able to help out by getting old committee hearings transcripts, through Congressional ProQuest, a database to which I have access through being George Mason University’s Wikipedia affiliate. It will be difficult to do without these resources when my term expires at the end of August; they have proven useful to me and to other editors who aren’t students or academics. While the Wikimedia Foundation and volunteer coordinators have done good work in establishing these positions, there needs to be more of them. Sometimes the hardest thing about contributing content is getting access to the sources to begin with.

A pioneer … and writer

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Ezra Meeker. Photo, Public domain.

Another gentleman with spectacular facial hair! Ezra Meeker was, for about 20 years—his last twenty—a very well-known figure in the U.S., from about 1906 to 1928. He went west by wagon trail in his 20s, in 1852. He lived quite a life: a settler of the west, he made a fortune growing and selling hops for brewing, lost it all, and went to the Klondike as a gold miner. When that didn’t pan out, he reinvented himself as a sort of professional living history pioneer, promoting the Oregon Trail and was quite successful at it. He did this into his late 90s. If not for an inconvenient illness at age 97, he’d probably still be doing it today.

Legally sanctioned … trial by battle

Gerichtskampf mair.jpg
Legal trials by battle were once much more common. Artwork by Jörg Breu d. Jüngere and Paulus Hector Mair, public domain.

Let me impose once more with an article on which I did much work. Ashford v Thornton was a case that I looked up in the library, like many law students. It’s probably easier to find it now. Ashford was the last ruling to uphold a right to trial by battle. That this could survive until 1818, at least in theory, seems hard to believe. And yet it did, and it was only abolished when the antiquated procedures surrounding it began to be invoked too often. Behind this case is a very human story that disrupted many lives. I don’t write much about law—it’s too much like work—but I enjoyed this one.

Gary Greenbaum (Wehwalt)
English Wikipedia editor

This story is part of an ongoing content experiment to produce more interesting stories for you, the reader of the Wikimedia blog. Please leave comments below on how we can improve this proposed feature.

by Gary Greenbaum at June 27, 2015 02:44 AM

June 26, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Developing a Songhay Wikipedia from scratch: Mohomodou Houssouba

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Mohomodou Houssouba has strong ties to his native Mali and its languages and culture. Photo by Mohomodou Houssouba, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Mohomodou Houssouba is intimately tied to his home country of Mali and the Songhay languages spoken by around six percent of his country’s population, spread over a vast area in the central and northern regions of the country. He has spent the last two years working on a plan to build a Songhay Wikipedia that may help bring free knowledge to the people of west Africa.

Houssouba was born and raised in Gao, a city in the northeastern region of Mali on the Niger River. Historically, Gao was the capital of the Songhay Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries, and the language—Songhay and its various idioms—has become a lingua franca in the northern part of the country, especially along the Niger River. It remains an important cross-border vehicular language, spoken in five countries (Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger), with enclaves in Sudan and sizable diasporas across west Africa.

Houssouba studied English at the national teacher-training college in Mali’s capital, Bamako, and wrote his Bachelor’s thesis on traditional Songhay poetic expression. “I started writing French or English, and tried to write in Songhay, but mostly in poetry,” he says. “I think that is how my interest in the language grew up. My interest in creating other things in the language, like translating software into the language, that came twenty years later.”

Indeed, he played a key role in localizing Mozilla‘s Firefox 4 browser for use in the language. He is also a co-founder of Songhay.org, an online resource providing information on the Songhay language and culture. He is now a literary scholar at the Univeristy of Basel in Switzerland.

Much of Houssouba’s interest in history and language stems from his father. Though his father could not read, he possessed an incredible memory for events and stories in his past, including his experience of French colonial rule.

“He came of age during the colonial period, where people lived under French colonization with all kinds of restrictions. There was a labor regime in which he had to participate when he was very young,” Houssouba says. “I recorded a lot of him telling different stories of the genealogy of my family, or the village, or the whole region going back hundreds of miles. When you try to transcribe it, it is really linear, really something you just have to write down.”

Houssouba’s father was a historian—a “local, traditional historian”—whose stories, passed down the family line, served as a public record of life in Gao. He was also highly skilled in the Songhay tongue. “He was really a master of that language,” Houssouba says. “I always got fascinated by how many nuances [there] are in this seemingly simple [language]. Seemingly short words are fairly simple to write and pronounce, but one word can have so many interpretations and so many connotations.”

On Wikipedia, Houssouba’s goals involve moving on with a Songhay-language version of Wikipedia. He began work on translating the MediaWiki interface into Songhay in 2011, but says he only found time to devote to the project at the end of 2013. Now, the translation is complete.

“The second phase is to collect articles and publish them,” he explains. “A mid- to long-term [goal] is to have a Songhay Wikipedia domain, where we could have hundreds, thousands of articles that people publish [in the Songhay language] on Wikipedia.”

He envisions the project as providing cultural information in Songhay relating to the culture and history of the region. Houssouba does, however, concede that it is difficult to define Songhay as a language in its own right, since many of its dialects are so wildly varied. “It is sometimes put in one category of languages, other times taken as an isolated [language],” he says.

While Mali has introduced Songhay in schools in the Gao region, there are a lack of well-trained teachers and adequate teaching material in the language. “This is an important aspect,” he explains, “since the Internet is not readily available in that part of the world. The encyclopedia idea is to have a platform in which a lot of knowledge—traditional and modern—can be collected and translated into Songhay. This can be made available online, but also accessible offline for those who do not have access to the Internet, which is mostly the case for those parts of Mali.

“For us, it is very important to have the production of knowledge by people who speak the language. Articles and text that have been well translated, and those that have been produced directly in the language. These are the two aspects that we hope are complementing each other,” he adds.

“To have a Wikipedia in Songhay, with Songhay content, that could be made available offline… that would be major for us.”

Joe Sutherland, Wikimedia Foundation Communications Intern
Victor Grigas, Wikimedia Foundation Storyteller

by Joe Sutherland and Victor Grigas at June 26, 2015 09:17 PM

Ian Gilfillan (greenman)

June 2015 African Language Wikipedia Update

I recommend that anybody new to Wikipedia editing starts, if possible, with one of the smaller Wikipedias. It’s far more fun, contributions will probably be openly welcomed, and there’s less likelihood of experiencing some sort of bureaucratic nightmare. An example fresh in my mind is the OpenCart article, which doesn’t exist. Anyone attempting to create it will be faced with this page, and need to persuade the administrator who locked it (due to previous abuse) that they should be permitted to do so, and who therefore holds veto power over its creation. A bridge too far for most new editors!

While the English Wikipedia makes the news due to the declining number of editors, and has a particularly bad reputation (as can be seen in the mailing lists) amongst African editors who’ve had experience with some of its trigger-happy bureaucrats, how are the African language Wikipedias themselves faring?

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 29/10/2014 26/6/2015
Malagasy 3,806 36,767 45,361 47,144 47,061 79,329
Afrikaans 17,002 22,115 26,752 31,756 33,392 35,856
Yoruba 12,174 29,894 30,585 30,910 30,989 31,068
Swahili 21,244 23,481 25,265 26,349 27,021 29,127
Egyptian Arabic   8,433 10,379 12,440 12,934 14,192
Amharic 6,738 11,572 12,360 15,968 16,229 12,950
Somali 1,639 2,354 2,757 3,646 3,680 3,446
Shona     1,421 2,077 2,091 2,321
Kabyle     1,503 1,876 1,967 2,296
Lingala 1,394 1,816 2,025 2,077 2,087 2,062
Kinyarwanda   1,501 1,817 1,832 1,834 1,780
Hausa 1,386 1,345
Wolof 1,116 1,814 1,161 1,201 1,148 1,023
Igbo 1,017 1,019
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 966 1,000

Malagasy has shot up, but it’s always been an outlier – a language for which, due to its unusual characteristics, there’s always been a great deal of outside interest. Afrikaans continues to grow steadily, albeit at a slightly slower pace than before. Swahili, in 4th place, is growing at a faster pace than Yoruba in 3rd. Yoruba had a huge burst from 2011-2012, but has only been slowly growing since then.

Egyptian Arabic is also growing steadily, but after that there are some interesting figures. Amharic has lost over three thousand articles. Articles being deleted is not uncommon. Spam gets removed, articles get merged and so on. Losing so many articles simply means the growth before was mostly made up of these kinds of articles, and that there’s little growth outside of that.

With the exception of Kabyle, most of the languages that follow share a similar fate, or are static. Wolof has even fallen to lower than its 2011 level. The one noteworthy milestone is that Northern Sotho has (just) joined the 1000 club.

So, barring Malagasy, while the only fireworks amongst the top African language Wikipedias are of the going out kind, and there are no trigger-happy bureaucrats to blame this time, are things in the far south looking any better? What about the South African language Wikipedias specifically?

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 29/10/2014 26/6/2015
Afrikaans 20,042 22,115 26,754 31,756 33,392 35,856
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 966 1,000
Zulu 256 483 579 630 686 683
Tswana 240 490 495 510 513 503
Swati 359 361 364 400 408 410
Xhosa 125 136 148 333 380 356
Tsonga 192 193 240 303 309 266
Sotho 132 145 188 197 202 223
Venda 193 190 204 209 208 151

So while Afrikaans continues steadily, Northern Sotho makes it to 1000 articles (albeit with the energy of an athlete somewhere near the back of the pack crawling over the finish line at the end of the Comrades marathon) and Sotho has managed to haul itself off the bottom, all the other languages are static or have shrunk.

The Xhosa deletion log, for example, gives an idea of the kind of articles being deleted, while the latest article to be created at the time of writing, Star Wars, is just blank, and probably also not long for this world.

Northern Sotho is an interesting case, as for a long time it sat in the Incubator, but the experience seems to have helped, as in spite of having less native speakers than both Xhosa and Zulu, it sits well above them in articles created.

Hopefully there’ll be some fireworks to report in the next update!

Related articles

Image from Wikimedia Commons

by Ian Gilfillan at June 26, 2015 09:15 PM

June 25, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Documenting the world’s biological diversity, one insect at a time: Jeevan Jose

Danaus chrysippus, also known as the plain tiger or African monarch, is a butterfly widespread in Africa and Asia. This rare and hard to reproduce picture, shows the butterfly’s hair-pencil. Photo by Jeevan Jose, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

When asked who he is, Jeevan Jose responds—in his typically unassuming way— “not a notable person.” Yet his story of evolution from a long-term Wikipedia reader to an active contributor remains an inspiring example for many of his fellow volunteers.

Born to a family of traditional farmers in the small village of Kadavoor, Kerala, Jeevan—or Jee for short—is an entrepreneur, a volunteer photographer, and a Flickr user-turned-Wikimedian. Jee has observed a wide variety of plants and animals from a young age; Kadavoor is located on the border of Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity in the world. His passion for the local flora and fauna shows through his many excellent contributions.

A male Blue Bush Dart (Copera vittata) trying to mate with a female Pseudagrion indicum. Photo by Jeevan Jose, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
A female Ascalaphus sinister, a species of owlfly. Photo by Jeevan Jose, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

When Jee purchased his first hybrid camera in 2009, he started photographing Kerala’s varied plants and bugs, publishing his work at Flickr. Recalling that period, he says that he found Wikipedia to be a useful resource to improve his knowledge on the subjects he photographed. When a Wikimedia Commons volunteer asked Jee to share his pictures under a free license so that they could be uploaded to Commons, Jee did not hesitate. “I believed it to be a small expression of gratitude on my side given that I had used Wikipedia a lot,” he remembers.

Jee’s beginnings with Wikimedia did not go very smoothly. “Even though I started uploading images to Commons, I didn’t understand it much,” he admits. After another of his pictures had been successfully nominated for quality image status by someone else, however, Jee was hooked. “I started nominating my pictures for quality image and featured picture status myself, and soon became addicted to it,” he adds with laughter.

In just over five years of documenting the biodiversity of Kerala, Jee has uploaded over 1,100 pictures to Wikimedia Commons; almost 150 are now classified as being of quality image standard, with close to 40 of them being awarded featured picture status by the Commons community. In addition to submitting pictures, Jee has been spending his time helping other Commons contributors at the help desk, the Village Pump, and as a member of the volunteer response team, OTRS. When asked about his motivation to contribute, Jee says simply: “I like the idea of collecting and preserving knowledge and making it freely available to anyone who needs it.”

As I query him about his plans for the future, Jee makes sure to mention his crowdfunding campaign that was funded earlier this year. In about a month, the campaign raised $3,150 that will allow Jee to upgrade his photo equipment and take more high quality pictures of Kerala’s plants and animals. “I’m very happy to see the success of the campaign and I’m eager to get back in the field,” he says. “I wish everyone could get such support; it would guarantee an abundant flow of free knowledge.”

Answering my question about his views on the future of the Wikimedia movement, Jee says: “I hope Wikimedia will remain the main source of free knowledge.” In a true Wikimedian spirit, he quickly describes areas worth improving. “But to be able to do that, it must be more democratic and willing to change or update its technical side according to people’s needs. It would be nice if we could identify potential contributors and help them by making available the required infrastructure; a good camera or a computer for a youngster from the third world could do wonders.”

Tomasz W. Kozlowski 
Wikimedia community volunteer

by Tomasz Kozlowski at June 25, 2015 07:38 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - #Hillary Rodham Clinton

Mrs Clinton will obviously be a topic of many conversations. It is probably the best annotated USA presidential candidate on Wikidata. It is best looking at it from a Reasonator perspective because there is so much that you would drown in all of it on Wikidata itself.

When you look at the screenprint, you see a lot of text that was generated based on the currently available data. When you look at it, you may find that she received a Grammy award as well. I am certain that even though the information is extended, it is not complete. There are even technical issues to be found that need to be sorted in Wikidata itself.

When you complete all the data and all the interconnections to Mrs Clinton, one thing is sure. Many more people will be that much closer to Kevin Bacon. It would be interesting to learn how Mrs Clinton compares to the other candidates. Who will bring more people closer to Mr Bacon?

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 25, 2015 10:27 AM

#Wikidata - #Amnesty International and the Dr. J.P. van Praag-award

Amnesty is one of the organisations I consider essential in this world. It is known for its work on human rights and it will tell any country where it fails in its commitments or in its actions. It is a participatory organisation and it is up to anyone to choose their levels of commitment.

Organisations are awarded for their work and I have added several of them spurred on by a friend who added the Dr J.P van Praag award to Amnesty. Typically I only add awards to people. It is easier and there are fewer false positives.

Reading the Dutch article, the question arose if Amnesty was indeed the beneficiary of this award. The text says in Dutch.. "Amnesty International (afdeling Nederland) voor haar werk voor gewetensgevangenen.". It says that it is the Dutch chapter who was awarded the award.

Given that other Amnesty chapters have items in Wikidata, it was easy to add one for the Dutch chapter and make it the recipient for the award. It follows that people tagged as member of Amnesty are actually member of the local chapter ... :)

NB I would not be surprised when more awards have been given to Amnesty, much of this may be found in articles in languages I do not read.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 25, 2015 12:39 AM

June 24, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Train the Trainer: Running effective outreach activities in India

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February’s Train the Trainer program—which aims to increase the number of new editors and ‘ambassadors’ for the movement at large—proved a rewarding experience for attendees. Photo by U.B. Pavanaja, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

It is heartening to report that many Wikimedia projects in Indian languages have sustained, and even experienced an upward trend in, editor engagement. However, in terms of content creation, the majority of these projects are still facing grave challenges that put their very existence at risk.

Pageview statistics for Indian-language Wikipedias are pleasantly surprising. Almost all exceed one million unique views every month—but despite these positive readership figures, very few of these readers become actively involved in the project’s communities. There is almost no increase in the number of active and very active editors on a month-to-month basis.

These statistics are alarming. They suggest a very real possibility of volunteer burnout, a dearth of second-generation editors who might continue established work, and, perhaps most importantly, the projects losing their reputation as frequently-updated and reliable encyclopedias.

The most realistic way of dealing with this problem is to bring in new volunteers who will be guided by more experienced users. They would, eventually, fill the shoes of senior Wikimedians and continue to fight for free and open knowledge.

The Centre for Internet and Society – Access to Knowledge (CIS-A2K)—a campaign to promote the fundamental principles of justice, freedom, and economic development—realised as part of its needs-assessment program that although outreach activities are being conducted to attract more volunteers to Wikipedia, they had not been as successful as expected.

To address this problem, CIS-A2K came up with the ‘Train the Trainer’ program (TTT). The program is designed to teach volunteers essential skills and abilities to, in turn, train the general public on all things Wikipedia.

These volunteers, or “trainers,” develop key competencies that will allow them to conduct a successful outreach workshop, such as public speaking, presentation skills, peer-to-peer learning, effective communication, reporting, and followup strategies.

To take part in the TTT program, it is imperative that participants be active Wikipedians. CIS-A2K is angling TTT as both a skill-building initiative amongst Indian-language Wikimedians, as well as a platform where Indian-language Wikipedians can meet and greet each other in-person. This allows participants to interact with Wikimedians from many different communities, to understand their nature of engagement, and share the challenges they have faced and overcome.

The contextual learning and exchange of ideas at these events, similar to editathons, are very special. They help participants feel like they are a part of both their linguistic community and a greater Indian-language community, opening up new opportunities of collaboration, project development, and friendship.

TTT intends to train Indian-language Wikimedians into effective ambassadors of the movement—keen and able to spread the goals and mission of the open knowledge movement. The program also strives to combine best practices from all over the world, taking cues from various chapters, user groups, and thematic organisations. It builds bridges between communities in terms of communication, encouraging partnerships and collaborations that can result in long term rewards.

Tanveer HasanProgramme OfficerCIS-A2K

by Wikimedia Blog at June 24, 2015 09:20 PM

Magnus Manske


While I do occasionally write Wikimedia tools “to order”, I wrote quite a few of them because I required (or just enjoyed) the functionality myself. One thing I like to do is adding images to Wikidata, using WD-FIST. Recently, I started to focus on a specific list, people with awards (of any kind). People with awards are, in general, more likely to have an image; also, it can be satisfying to see a “job list” shrink over time. So for this one, I logged some data points:

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 11.24.54Over the last 2-3 weeks, even my sporadic use of the tool has reduced the list by 1/4 (note the plateau when Labs was offline!). Some thoughts along the way:

  • The list of item candidates is re-calculated on every page load, and is not stable. As awards are more likely to be added to than removed from items, the total list of people with awards is likely to be longer today than it was at the beginning of this exercise.
  • I cannot take credit for all of this reduction; images that were added to Wikidata independently, but to items on this list by chance, likewise reduce the number of items on the list.
  • Not all of the items I “dealt with” now have an image; many had their candidate images suppressed thanks to a recently implemented function, where all the Wikipedia candidate images for a person are not depicting the person, but either a navbox icon, or something associated with the person (a sculpture made by the person, a house the person lived in, etc.)
  • Many items were “dealt with” by setting a “grave image”. These seem to be surprisingly (to me at least) popular on Wikipedia, especially for people from the former Soviet Union, for some reason.
  • I skipped many items where either the item label or the image name are in non-Latin characters. Oddly enough, I can match images to items quite well if both are in the same (non-Latin) script, by visual comparison 😉
  • I also skipped many items where a candidate item has multiple people. I tried my hand on generating cropped images for specific people with the excellent CropTool, but that remains quite slow compared to the usual WD-FIST actions. Maybe if I can find a way to pre-fill the CropTool values (e.g. “create new image with this name”).
  • Based on a gut feeling, the “low-hanging fruit” will probably run out at ~10-15K items.
  • A sore point for me are statues of people; sometimes, I use close-ups of statues as an image of the person, when no proper image is available. I’m not sure if that is the right thing to do; it often seems to cover the likeness of the person (at least, better than “no image”), but somehow it feels like cheating…
  • There should be a “pictures of people” project somewhere, making prioritized lists of people to get an image for, then systematically “hunt them down” (e.g. ask these people or their heirs for free images, check other free image sources in print and online, group them by “likely event” where they could show up in the future, etc.).
  • I could really use some help for the “Cyrillic people”, towards the end of the list.

by Magnus at June 24, 2015 10:54 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - #OSA The Optical Society

In a previous post I wrote that I wanted to have all the awards of the Optical Society in Wikidata. I now admit that I failed.

The Optical Society has many awards and only some of them are known to Wikidata at this point. The funny part is that Wikidata knows about one more award than English Wikipedia does. It is an award conferred both by the Optical Society and the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft.

I did add most of the people who received an award but given that so many did not have an article it was not of interest to me to add all the missing ones. Maybe it is of interest to the Optical Society to complete information about itself and its awards..

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 24, 2015 08:12 AM


Talking about antibiotic resistant superbugs at Aspen Ideas Festival 2015

Right now I am on a plane from New York to Colorado going to the Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health, which is a medical spin off of the Aspen Institute conference. A team of us from Consumer Reports are coordinated to present and promote some Consumer Reports projects, including education about unnecessary health care and especially on preventing the development of bacterial “superbugs”. A superbug is bacteria which is antibiotic resistant. Consumer Reports has three major complaints about the use of antibiotics: in routine family health practice, physicians provide antibiotics to patients when they are not indicated; in livestock industry, the meat industry feeds huge amounts of antibiotics to livestock to boost meat production; and in the pharmaceutical industry, the company leaders who ought to be stewards for protecting antibiotics instead deny responsibility and maliciously promote the use of antibiotics in circumstances in which everyone agrees that they ought not be used for the sake of meager short term profit. In the short term, Consumer Reports is concerned with restricting the use of antibiotics by individual consumers to whenever there is a medical indication for them to use them; in other words, antibiotics should be used when a family doctor knows that they should be used. In the longer term Consumer Reports is concerned with curbing the evolution of superbugs, which are brought into existence by patient overuse and use in meat production. This is a big issue for me and I have come to have personal concern about this, even though I remember 1-2 years ago when this issue was presented to me I did not feel as strongly.

At Consumer Reports I am employed to share information on Wikipedia. The nonprofit mission of Consumer Reports is to empower the public to make informed decisions in the marketplace. Coming here from Seattle I already had adopted the relatively unusual perspectives of Cascadia activist culture. After having lived in New York, I have become aware that in the Pacific Northwest more people have time and interest to consider the relationship between individuals and corporations, and how when individuals and businesses have differing goals each one wants their own benefit. This is a trivial notion, but in practice has complicated implications in that the public creates an environment in which business is supposed to operate to benefit the world, but actually businesses frequently behave badly to their own end. There is a range of political discussion about the best way to govern society and the marketplace, and the problem which I address in my work is how to most efficiently deliver information so that better and more production discussion can happen among the public for the benefit of individuals whenever a business is promoting a product or service which is not good for a consumer to purchase.

In a capitalist marketplace the market will correct itself so that the best value products and services become more common. The problem is that this takes time, and as the products and services being offered continually change, corporations continually make offerings which no one should take. Corporations are aware that they do this, but because they have invested capital in outdated systems, they are entrenched in sustaining outdated marketplaces which harm all consumers and they invest in advertising and propaganda to manipulate consumer demand with intent to harm the public in exchange for profit and the promise of continued dominance in the marketplace.

I regret that in the case of misuse of antibiotics, too much of the blame is placed on consumers, when I feel that the responsibility for addressing the problem should more heavily lie on the more powerful and informed players in the chain of antibiotics delivery. The chain is pharma companies and government regulation at the top, then branches to livestock production on to consumers who eat meat, and in another branch to doctors on to consumers of personal antibiotics.

Most of the narrative about antibiotics in the meat industry is that consumers need meat and livestock producers should serve this consumer demand. All things being equal, I would leave this sector to its own, but actually, there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that antibiotic use in livestock production is quickly (over 40 years or so) producing superbugs. The financial value of the entire meat industry is relatively small compared to the global healthcare value of antibiotics in health care, and the cost of producing new antibiotics is extremely high and not an option, so I feel that the economic value of protecting antibiotics outweighs the financial interest of the meat sector. I see it as a natural conclusion that antibiotic use should be regulated in the meat industry because there is no reason to expect that any market forces in that industry would make the stakeholders in that industry examine their impact on the domestic and global health market. The routine and intensive use of antibiotics in livestock production is not a sustainable practice. 70% of all antibiotics are used in meat production. The antibiotics are fed to healthy animals as a growth stimulant and as a counter to the diseases which breed in cheap, filthy conditions. Antibiotic use needs to be curbed in this sector. As an alternative, animals can take longer to grow naturally, they can be given more space and cleaner living conditions, and the price of meat can go up. I think that the public would enjoy learning more about antibiotic use in meat production and not enough media resources are presenting this social issue to people who wish to learn more about it.

In personal health care, Consumer Reports has campaigned that patients talk more with doctors about whether they really need antibiotics, and for doctors to not prescribe antibiotics when they know that they are not supposed to do this. There is a problem that patients perceive antibiotics to be safe and without side effects, when actually they carry risks which are uncommon in individuals but within society happen a lot because antibiotics are cheap and commonly prescribed. When patients have health problems which would not be improved with antibiotic treatment, they often still want antibiotics, and many doctors are comfortable giving antibiotics to patients because when they do not, that makes patients unhappy. The global effect of this is that excessive use of antibiotics creates or at least speeds the diminished efficacy of antibiotics.

We have been talking about how to explain antibiotic resistance more effectively to the public. It is a concept which a person has to consider for a while, and when they understand it, they begin to take it for granted. If I were to explain it I would say “evolution based on LD-50 natural selection” but I am not sure that is effective to create passion in others like I have it.

by bluerasberry at June 24, 2015 01:48 AM

June 23, 2015

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - the Michael S. Feld Biophotonics Award

When you, like me, had never heard of biophotonics, you would never have heard about the Michael S. Feld Biophotonics Award. As it is an award by the Optical Society and I wanted its list of awards to be complete I added yet another award.

The subject must be rather new because there is no image on the biophotonics article. The award linked to Mr Feld so there is room for improvement on English Wikipedia.

What I have done is add all the current winners of the award on Wikidata and Mr Tromberg, the winner for 2015. was the only one with an article. Yes, the award is still missing on the article.

NB As I complete more awards, the results of the Kevin Bacon challenge will change. It is fun.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 23, 2015 09:04 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

News on Wikipedia: Charleston church shooting, Pakistan heat wave, Danish elections, and more

Suggested alternative image for Charleston: [1]

Here are some of the global news stories covered on Wikipedia this week:

by Joe Sutherland at June 23, 2015 08:29 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikipedia - business as usual is not an option

The New York Times featured an article titled: "Can Wikipedia Survive?" by Andrew Lih. It is a good article in that it describes the current state of Wikipedia. It raises several important points and the main one is that because of smartphones and tablets many people do not contribute as much as they used to.

Articles like that describe the status quo. The issues that seem important based on the old understanding of what Wikipedia is about. The older understanding was: "To share the sum of all knowledge" the current situation is that there are 280+ Wikipedias and each is on its own to do its own thing using the MediaWiki software. There are other projects that contribute to the old motto but they were outside of the scope of the article.

When you reflect on the original objective, all Wikipedias fail. Every Wikipedia has its own content and is distinct in what it has to say. Consequently they do not share the sum of all knowledge; they are not even aware of the knowledge that is available elsewhere.

When you analyse Wikipedia, it has several components; there are accumulations of text and there are accumulations of data. There have been experiments that show clearly that it is not always necessary for a person to write the text. The experience from several Wikipedias is that bot generated content leads to more readers and more editors. This is quite counter intuitive but hey, why dispute the facts? If there is one draw back, it is with updating said texts when need be.

We know that once enough data is available for a subject information may be gleaned from raw data. Wikidata provides raw data and Reasonator among others transforms it into information. This may finally be accepted when the overly long awaited Wikidata Query engine will become available.

What this may do is several things.
  • people will want to add items and statements to Wikidata
  • results will pop up everywhere once the facts are in
  • more software will be written to produce texts based on Wikidata data
  • articles generated in this way may be cached without saving the text
  • generated articles will change once more facts are known
This is not rocket science. It has been done before. The only question is does sufficient motivation to accept changes to Wikipedia exist. As Andrew Lih so eloquently asks "Can Wikipedia Surive?" the answer seems obvious. Wikipedia has to change in order to survive. This approach will help us improve content in any language.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 23, 2015 04:03 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

New subject specific brochures from Wiki Ed!

When students edit Wikipedia, their approach can be as diverse as their topics. How do you organize a specific article? How do you find the best sources related to your field?

To help students answer these questions, Wiki Ed has published subject-specific advice for students editing Wikipedia articles in a variety of academic fields. Now, we’ve added two more brochures to help edit articles on women’s studies topics and ecology.

For women’s studies, we explore editing Wikipedia articles related specifically to women and gender. Ecology focuses on writing articles about biomes, and other aspects of natural habitats.

They join a suite of subject-specific brochures for classrooms, which already includes advice on editing medicine, psychology, and sociology topics. We have seen that tying specific advice to students in their area of expertise helps them make even stronger contributions to Wikipedia.

We’ve also recently expanded our Case Studies brochure with four new pages. The new content includes ideas for using Wikipedia in translation assignments, museums and archives work, and understanding knowledge production. We’ve also made smaller revisions and improvements to other print materials in our catalog to keep them accurate and up to date.

These brochures are available online as printable .pdfs, or as print copies for classrooms who teach Wikipedia assignments through the Wiki Education Foundation.


by Eryk Salvaggio at June 23, 2015 03:30 PM

June 22, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

Now hiring: Director of Programs

LiAnna Davis
LiAnna Davis

Sharp-eyed followers of our website may have noticed a new job on our careers page today for the Director of Programs, a title I’ve held since August. So what does it mean that we’re hiring for what seems to be my job?

It means we’re splitting my job into two director-level positions. As Wiki Ed grows, so do our responsibilities, and we’ve reached a point where it’s too large a job for one person. So while I’ll continue to oversee communications, technology, and Wikipedia content support as the Director of Program Support, Wiki Ed is hiring a new Director of Programs.

That position will oversee our core programmatic work: the Classroom Program, Community Engagement, and Educational Partnerships. In the Classroom Program, university instructors assign their students to contribute content to Wikipedia as part of a class activity. Our community engagement work supports Wikipedia editors by providing access to helpful university resources. Our educational partnerships work establishes relationships with associations, universities, and other organizations that bring in new program participants.

We’re looking for a Director of Programs who can innovate and shepherd the scaling of these programs, while maintaining their excellent quality.

And, of course, I’ll be working closely with the new Director of Programs, as my team provides support for these roles. I will oversee our communications work, such as developing new support materials for program participants; our digital infrastructure work, including technical product development; and our Wikipedia content support, including help and feedback for all program participants. I look forward to collaborating with the new Director of Programs as we work to scale Wiki Ed’s impact.

If you’re interested in the Director of Programs position or know someone who is, please see the job description, and reach out to m/Oppenheim (the firm who is helping us recruit for this position) for more details.

by LiAnna Davis at June 22, 2015 09:45 PM

Monthly report for May 2015


  • Wiki Ed welcomed two new staff in May, bringing our total to 13. Tom Porter has been hired as the Senior Manager of Development. Tom is responsible for securing financial support for our programmatic activities. We also officially welcomed Ryan McGrady, who had been serving as our interim Classroom Program Manager while Helaine Blumenthal was on maternity leave. Upon Helaine’s return, Ryan officially joined the staff in a new role as Community Engagement Manager, running programs that connect Wikipedia community members to academic resources for their editing work.
  • The Spring 2015 term is nearly over, with students editing nearly 3,500 articles this term. After a few quarter system schools wrap up their work in June, we’ll have a complete report on the spring term. Our Outreach to High Achieving Students Pilot also wrapped up this month, and a final report is underway.
  • Executive Assistant to the ED Renée Levesque secured the support of the National Archives in Washington, DC, for WikiConference USA. In this annual conference, Wikimedia community members, librarians, instructors, museum professionals, and others gather to share knowledge and experiences and build networks. The conference will take place on October 9–11.


Educational Partnerships

Wiki Education Foundation and National Women Studies Association staff
Wiki Education Foundation and National Women Studies Association staff

The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) officially announced the partnership to their membership. Since then, 11 new instructors have contacted us about teaching with Wikipedia in women’s and gender studies courses.

West Virginia University’s libraries hosted a webinar featuring Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson and Dr. Adeline Koh. Jami presented Wikipedia’s gender gap and ways students can improve Wikipedia through classroom assignments. Adeline shared her experiences teaching with Wikipedia, and some resources for instructors. More than 100 people participated online and in person.

In New York, Jami and Community Engagement Manager Ryan McGrady joined Association for Psychological Science (APS) staff at their annual convention. The partnership focuses on improving psychological content on Wikipedia. APS and Wiki Ed have identified types of courses whose students are a good fit for Wikipedia assignments.

These include:

  • graduate-level courses
  • 400-level or capstone courses
  • assignments for Honors students
  • non-biomedical courses

At the APS conference, Jami and Ryan announced a new project, the “Wiki Ed Summer Seminar.” This low-stakes online series will introduce psychologists to Wikipedia. We’ll walk experts through the steps of contributing content to articles about psychology topics, discuss policies for biomedical editing (MEDRS), and explain potential conflicts of interest. We’ll also review how to identify psychology content gaps.

Classroom Program

Classroom Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal returned from maternity leave in early May. Interim Classroom Program Manager Ryan McGrady came to San Francisco to get Helaine up to date on the work he’d done in her absence. We welcome back Helaine and thank Ryan for his excellent work this term.

Status of the Classroom Program for Spring term 2015 in numbers, as of May 31:

  • 117 Wiki Ed-supported courses had Course Pages
  • 55, or 47%, were led by returning instructors
  • 2276 student editors were enrolled
  • 1186 students successfully completed the online training
  • 3429 articles were edited and 409 were created

The majority of classes for the spring 2015 term have wrapped up, and we are already gearing up for 6 summer courses and planning for the fall 2015 term!

At the beginning of the term, Wiki Ed created a course on-boarding checklist to ensure that all the classes we support have the potential to contribute quality work to Wikipedia. With the help of the checklist, the assignment design wizard, the course dashboard, and the hard work of Adam, Ian, Ryan, and Helaine, the term was a smooth one. We also attribute the success of the term to the high percentage of students (52 percent) who completed the online training. We made a strong push for students to complete the training, and made it easy for instructors to track whether students completed the training through the dashboard.

We’ve also redesigned our instructor survey to find the resources and support our instructors and students need most. The survey went out on June 1, and we’re eagerly awaiting the results.

Student work highlights

Community Engagement

May 2015 saw the creation of our new Community Engagement program, and with it the hire of Ryan McGrady as Community Engagement Manager.

This program will develop initiatives that build on Wiki Ed’s relationships with universities to empower the Wikipedia community build and develop Wikipedia’s content.

Ryan spent the first two weeks conducting research and engaging in conversations with the Wikipedia community. These conversations will help identify needs in the community. That needs-finding research will guide our development of additional programs and activities in the following months.


Revised editions of the Case Studies, Instructor Basics, Evaluating Wikipedia and Editing Wikipedia brochures are now available online and in print from Wiki Ed.

In May, Wiki Ed finished a review and update to the vast majority of its print materials.

As part of that endeavor, we’ve expanded our Case Studies brochure from 16 to 20 pages with new course ideas, such as using Wikipedia for translation assignments, museums and archives work, and understanding knowledge production. We’ve made smaller revisions and improvements to other print materials in our catalog to keep them accurate, make them easier to understand, and keep images and screen shots up to date.

We’ve published two new subject-specific brochures this month, too. These brochures are specifically designed for students editing articles on women’s studies topics, and ecology. These articles join our roster of subject-specific brochures, which had already included advice on editing Medicine, Psychology, and Sociology topics. All of these brochures are intended to help students understand how to edit Wikipedia in their own fields of expertise, using the language of their field and directing them to the specific resources and direction they’re most likely to use as they complete an assignment.

Two new subject-specific brochures, covering ecology and women’s studies, are now available from Wiki Ed.

Work is underway on a Theories brochure, which will include academics who focus on Wikipedia as a way of exploring theoretical topics tied to knowledge production topics. That brochure will be published in June.

Redesigns weren’t limited to our print materials. In late May, we redesigned our website to keep up a similar look across our online projects, such as Wiki Ed’s blog, landing pages, and online tools. The first iteration of that project is now live! The new theme, designed and implemented by WINTR, will evolve a bit more in the next couple of weeks as we finish off a few rough edges of the new design. The code for this new WordPress theme, based on the Sage starter theme, is available on GitHub.

Blog posts:

Digital Infrastructure

In May, Product Manager Sage Ross and the development team at WINTR made major progress on Wiki Ed’s new course page infrastructure, which will extend the dashboard to handle all the key aspects of creating, managing, and participating in a course. The new course creation system is live on our testing server. Just log in and click “Create course” to give it a try. You’ll also see our latest design refinements and new course monitoring features, including an “Activity” view that shows the latest edits for a course.

The basic functionality of this new course system — our “minimum viable product” — will be ready by mid-June, when we’ll start doing intensive user-testing to make sure the system works well for instructors and students. Contact Sage (sage@wikiedu.org) if you’re interested in helping to beta-test the new course page features.

We also started a project to customize our Salesforce setup. We expect this to make it easier for Wiki Ed staff to keep accurate and complete records of the growing numbers of courses and instructors that are working with us or want to do so.

Research and development

Outreach to high-achieving students

UCSB's Art, Design, and Architecture Museum Club test out wiki markup.
UCSB’s Art, Design, and Architecture Museum Club test out wiki markup.

In May, Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson traveled to Santa Barbara to meet with the Art, Design & Architecture Museum Club at the University of California Santa Barbara, and to Oregon to meet with Portland State’s Lambda Pi Eta club, and Oregon State’s Hydrophiles and Pi Alpha Xi student clubs. She met with 20 new student editors and introduced them to wiki markup, Wikimedia Commons, and more. The trips aimed to educate students about Wikipedia editing and encourage student Wikipedia projects.

The Outreach to High Achieving Students Pilot wrapped up at the end of May. This term, we worked with 44 student editors, saw 44 articles edited, 1 article created, and 21 images uploaded by students. This data and more will be explored in our upcoming final report.

Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration


For the month of May, expenses were $216,245 versus the plan of $178,730. As was the case last month, the majority of the $38k excess in spending is attributed to new digital infrastructure projects associated with additional funding.


Year-To-Date expenses are $1,660,144 versus the plan of $1,774,890. In an effort to reduce our year-to-date variance, we have advanced the timeline for some of our projects. As a result, we have reduced our year-to-date variance from $152k to 115k. A majority of this variance continues to be the ongoing savings from the timing of staff hires and vacancies ($100k).


Tom Porter
Tom Porter

Wiki Ed is pleased to welcome Tom Porter to the position of Senior Manager of Development. Tom is responsible for ensuring continued financial support for the Foundation’s new and existing programs. As part of the onboarding process, Tom met individually with all Wiki Education Foundation staff to develop a deep understanding of the roles and programs within the organization. Initial goals were established for FY14/15 year-end, and work has begun on annual reports for both of Wiki Ed’s grants.

Tom is developing a comprehensive fundraising plan for FY15/16 and will focus on three key prospect groups: foundations, corporations, and major gifts from individuals. Additionally, Tom is working with Wiki Ed staff to explore fundraising opportunities for WikiConference USA, scheduled for fall 2015.

Office of the ED

New staff member Tom Porter during a planning session.
New staff member Tom Porter during a planning session.

Current priorities:

  • Creating alignment within the Leadership Team around the plan for next fiscal year
  • Finalizing the first version of the annual plan and budget for FY 2015–16

Exploration of fundraising opportunities for major programmatic initiatives in 2016

Our main focus in May was the work on the annual plan and budget for FY 2015–16. Based on the outcome of the strategic planning process, Director of Programs LiAnna Davis, Director of Finance and Administration Bill Gong, Tom, and Executive Director Frank Schulenburg created the basic outline for next year. They also reviewed the outcomes of Wiki Ed’s current work, and developed a report that will be included in the Annual Plan & Budget document sent to the board in June.

The first leadership retreat took place at the Green Gulch Zen Center end of May
The first leadership retreat took place at the Green Gulch Zen Center end of May

As part of the work on the annual plan and budget for FY 2015–16, the leadership team gathered for a 3-day retreat at the Green Gulch Zen Center in Marin. The team agreed on the details of the plan for next year, and collaborated on the Annual Plan & Budget document. Furthermore, the team engaged in activities to discuss what’s working and what isn’t in our organization and build relationships.

Renée successfully secured the support of the National Archives in Washington, DC, for the WikiConference USA in October 2015.

Frank started to explore fundraising opportunities for major programmatic initiatives in 2016. As a result, a fundraising pitch has been sent to a potential major donor and is ready for further deployment to other fundraising prospects.

Visitors and guests

  • Pavel Richter, Open Knowledge
  • Katie McFadden, Swift River Consulting
  • David Peters, Exbrook Inc.

by Eryk Salvaggio at June 22, 2015 08:46 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Annual Wikimania conference comes to Mexico City

The annual Wikimania conference will be coming to Mexico City on July 15-19, gathering volunteers and digital rights leaders to discuss access to knowledge, participation in the Wikimedia projects, and the role of Wikipedia in education. Photo by Ralf Roletschek, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wikimania 2015, the annual conference celebrating Wikipedia and its sister projects, will take place in Mexico City from July 15-19. Digital rights leaders and hundreds of volunteer editors will come together at the Hilton Mexico City Reforma to discuss issues at the heart of the Wikimedia movement, including the state of free knowledge, the role of Wikipedia in education, international privacy issues, and using technology to grow participation.

Wikimania focuses on the Wikimedia vision: to make the sum of all knowledge available to everyone on the planet. Unfortunately, access to knowledge around the world is not equal. In some places, people do not have Internet access or cannot afford access. In Mexico, for example, only 40% of the population have access to the Internet. In other areas of the globe, access to knowledge is censored or constrained. These issues, which directly impact our ability to fulfill the Wikimedia mission, will be at the center of conversations at the conference.

This year’s conference—which is co-organized by the local Wikimedia affiliate, Wikimedia Mexico, and the Wikimedia Foundation—will feature a special focus on efforts from Latin America, Spain, and Portugal to improve access to knowledge and increase the amount of quality content on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

“People across Mexico read 44 million Wikipedia articles every month. While we have made great strides in making knowledge available, we have a long way to go to achieve our mission,” says Iván Martinez, president and founder of Wikimedia Mexico. “Wikimedia communities in Latin America and other countries are increasingly finding solutions for growing quality information on Wikimedia projects, including through partnerships with educational, government, cultural, and civil associations. Wikimania is a chance for us to share these kinds of experiences with each other to make Wikipedia and its sister projects stronger.”

This year’s speakers and workshops include:

With more than 35 million articles in 288 languages, Wikipedia is the largest shared knowledge resource in human history. Nearly half a billion people turn to Wikipedia every month for everything from preserving cultural heritage, to improving cancer detection, to researching homework. This remarkable scope and scale was recognized this month by the prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, awarded by the Princess of Asturias Foundation in Spain. The jury recognized Wikipedia as an “important example of international, democratic, open and participatory cooperation—to which thousands of people of all nationalities contribute selflessly.”

“Wikimedians collaborate digitally with each other from far corners of our planet all of the time,” says executive director Lila Tretikov. “Once a year we have a chance to gather in person and we are so excited to meet this year in Mexico City, and share our passion, knowledge, and experiences.”

The Wikimania conference has been organized globally for the last 10 years, to make it easier for anyone to access, share and contribute to free knowledge.

Registration for Wikimania 2015 is now open here.

Juliet Barbara, Senior Communication Manager, Wikimedia Foundation
Samantha Lien, Communications Intern, Wikimedia Foundation
Joe Sutherland, Communications Intern, Wikimedia Foundation

by Juliet Barbara, Samantha Lien and Joe Sutherland at June 22, 2015 08:01 PM

Weekly OSM

weekly 256 – 09.06.–15.06.2015


Banner Spendenkampagne für neue OSMF-Serverhardware 2015

A growing OpenStreetMap needs bigger servers – the OpenStreetMap server hardware fundraising campaign in 2015 [1]

Fundraising campaign for new server hardware

  • Have you already donated? For over a week, the fundraising campaign of the OpenStreetMap Foundation for new server hardware running. At present, only four-fifths of the required sum of £56,000 (about €78,100 or $89.000 US) has been achieved. The largest single donations so far have come from Mapbox and Mapzen, who have both donated $20,000 each (about £12,900 or €17,800). Every little bit helps.


  • Joost Schouppe reports about power editing with Level0 editor and Overpass turbo.
  • Frederik Ramm launched an escalating discussion on the pros and cons of armchair mapping, particularly in connection with HOT / Missing Maps.
  • Richard Welty suggests the tag README=* should be used to display a warning if an object carries this tag. README=* should contain a warning if the aerial photos are outdated locally (eg new buildings, demolished buildings).


  • Frederik Ramm asks who else has received “research project” mail about a “VGI in land administration” project.
  • Pascal Neis’ side of changeset discussions can now filter by country (see his tweet).



  • User “maning” reports on a mapping party held in Iloilo City in May.
  • The Call for Papers for WhereCamp in November 2015 in Berlin runs until September 26.
  • See all future events in the OSM Event Calendar.

Humanitarian OSM

  • Milo van der Linden has set up a meetbot in HOT-IRC that logs the chat at meetings.



Did you know…

  • … there’s a sandbox that you can use for testing and playing around with the raw data from OSM? Here you can can create and delete things and try something and do all you want, without breaking anything.

Other “geo” things

by weeklyteam at June 22, 2015 09:48 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - #People who died in 2015

I stopped registering the dead of 2015. I am happy with the result so far. People still die in 2015 and the number of people who are still waiting to be killed of has not increased that much.

The stress I felt to work on Wikidata is gone. I do more work in the house and when I work on Wikidata it is on things I actually enjoy.

Thanks to everyone who now registers the deaths of 2015 you make me feel happy.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 22, 2015 07:46 AM

#Wikidata - #IEEE Cledo Brunetti Award

The IEEE or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is an organisation that confers many different awards. One of them is the IEEE Cledo Brunetti Award

Adding the known Wikipedia articles is easy, they have their Wikidata item, it is just a matter of linking the two. Making a complete list is not as easy. According to the article, the data from 1986 to 2001 is missing and, only one of the winners after 2001 is linked to an article.

Mr Hiroshi Iwai is the winner for 2015 and, to make sure that he is on the list, I searched for him. Before I added him to Wikidata, I disambiguated another using Google translate to learn the date of death of one of the Mr Iwai's

The missing data is available; it is on the official website in a PDF. It is easy to make a list of all the people who have been awarded this prize

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at June 22, 2015 07:08 AM


Vegan philosophy and The Seed 2015

On June 20 I went to a conference in New York called The Seed. It is organized by a consortium of activists and nonprofit organizations who promote the vegan lifestyle, and this annual conference is a special event to complement a monthly vegan market and meetup which they group also hosts. At their events they have caterers selling vegan food, and educators sharing vegan philosophy, and then physicians talking about diet and health. Doctors who publish books and papers like Neal Barnard and T Campbell present at these events. When I go I feel humbled that so many people are so eager to ask for health information, because I hear them asking for the kind of information which I share with Consumer Reports. It makes me a little sad that so many people seem so eager to ask questions about their health, and it seems so awkward to me that the doctors who present at these things have the public asking them intimate questions about health problems that one would only wish people would have time to discuss with their personal physician.

At The Seed the focus is on people avoiding the consumption of animal products for a range of reasons especially on the basis of compassion for animals, but in the health talks, the conversation turns to avoiding eating animal products for personal health reasons. Doctors will say there that patients present with health problems, and the problem is caused by eating animal products, and by switching to a vegan diet the person’s condition improves.

I have looked at these issues on Wikipedia, and I know that Wikipedia articles on diet and nutrition are among the more popularly consulted health topics. People have a lot of questions in this space and there are not ready answers. There are a range of reasons why there is not good information. In my opinion, a major contributing factor in the lack of good information in this space the tendency of grassroots nonprofit activists to conflate a range of ideas and lower the respectability of all of a set of differing social movements such that the worst aspects of each one tend to taint all of the others.

As an example, there is an organization called PETA which seeks to promote compassion for animals. PETA was founded in ??? and has a public image for doing shocking things, including showing gruesome pictures of industrial animal processing, running a campaign called “I would rather be naked than wear fur”, and encouraging its activists to throw red paint as a representation of blood on wealthy people who wear luxury furs. Nowadays all of these behaviors are just considered to be expected behavior from PETA. From one perspective PETA has a victory because their brand and mission is known and people are broadly aware of their positions. From another perspective, PETA’s brand influences all conversation on the use of animal products, and people who wish to share any opinion on consuming animal products will be judged based on the public perception of PETA.

It might be fair to say that PETA is the leading promoter of the vegan diet in the United States. Because of this, PETA led the narrative of activism for the vegan diet to focus on compassion for the feelings of animals. That is a worthy cause, but it is not a convincing justification to all people, and in my opinion, not the most persuasive justification. Other reasons for promoting a vegan lifestyle include environmental conservation; reduction of global resource consumption; protection of antibiotics as livestock production increases antibiotic resistance; social equality in that in unregulated market, meat is a luxury product and ought to be more expensive than vegetables; and personal health.

After reading what I can in the medical literature I am not convinced that eating animal products is unhealthy, especially in moderation. I am more convinced that almost no one who eats animal products does so in moderation, so the idea that meat and animal products is healthy is more of a theory than something that is practical to live. I think that people who had their diets managed by a dietician could eat meat and be healthy, but in the United States, consumption of animal products seems to me to be the most obvious cause of obesity and obesity is the most serious health problem in the United States. From my perspective, the best reason for an individual to adopt a vegan philosophy is because by being conscious that eating more plant based food is the easiest way to avoid eating too many calories. Of course in this scheme, there is the problem that vegan food offerings in the marketplace are trending to become increasingly unhealthy. The most common vegan diet includes too much oil, too much sugar, and a lot of processed food with little nutrition. Still, I think the vegan philosophy is the most likely path to raising consciousness about obesity, protecting the health of individuals, and increasing public health by overall encouraging societal weight loss. It is wonderful that we live in a time when people have enough to eat and I recognize that we got to this point because in the past, there was a healthy way to consume animal products and it was in a more ethical context without industrial animal production.

A second argument which makes me support a vegan lifestyle is that industrial livestock production creates antibiotic resistant superbacteria, or “superbugs”. Almost all antibiotics are created and sold to be fed to animals because they boost meat production. For well-understood reasons in the theory of antibiotic resistance, this leads to bacteria evolving to become resistant to those antibiotics. The bacteria that become resistant in this way then can infect humans, and subsequently, the cheap and safe medicines which used to treat humans are becoming less effective. It is extremely expensive to develop new antibiotics and we need to protect the ones we have. Future generations will despair at how casually we mistreated our antibiotics through meat production, and good stewardship of antibiotics means that it is profoundly unethical for pharmaceutical companies to produce antibiotics for the purpose of providing them to industrial meat production.

While editing Wikipedia I have done my best to find apologies or explanations from either the pharmaceutical industry or the meat production industry about how they justify the intensive use of antibiotics in meat production. So far as I have been able to determine in searching Google, Google Scholar, PubMed, books on Amazon, and meat industry trade group websites, there is no published statement anywhere by anyone that the use of antibiotics in meat production is a sustainable practice. There are many prominent scientists which call for stopping this kind of use. Based on all the information I have been able to find, the driving force behind continued use is that the pharmaceutical industry does not feel responsible for regulating how antibiotics are used and simply seeks to provide them to meet market demand. On the meat industry side, they are concerned by profit, which is regrettable because meat production is not a high profit market sector for investors and not a high value market sector for consumers. The meat industry in the United States is heavily subsidized in a range of ways because of legacy lobbying from a time when Americans wanted greater food security. Nowadays there is enough food generally but not enough healthy food, and having inexpensive meat on the market causes strange market pressure in which animal products, although resource intensive to produce and unhealthy to eat in large quantities, is affordable in the marketplace to the poor; while vegetables, although less resource intensive to produce and healthy to be diet staples, are relatively expensive and even a financial burden for the middle class to consistently have.

I would like farming subsidy law at the government level to be reformed to reduce tax breaks for the production of animal products. I think this should be done with intent to improve the health of individuals by overall allowing the free market to decide the price of animal products, probably leading to a doubling of the price of meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. It should also be done to be mindful of protecting antibiotics. If the prices of animal products rise then I think people will naturally reconsider their diets and shift to healthier eating as a response. Farming subsidies can shift to providing more vegetables to more people, and regarding the poor – we have enough wealth in America and beyond to provide everyone with vegetable staples so that everyone should have enough to eat even if they are otherwise in poverty. The changes that big data are bringing to supply chain management ought to bring huge efficiencies in verifying that everyone has enough healthy food to eat.

I regret that PETA’s narrative of animal rights overshadows these arguments. I also think that PETA supporters have a reputation for being an unreasonable fringe, which they really are. PETA makes some indefensible statements, like prohibiting the use of animals in medical research while simultaneously not saying anything reasonable about how medical research can be accomplished without using some animals in testing. I want ethical use of animals in research and compassion for animals. Frankly, animals in research are tortured, and I want them less tortured and treated with respect, and used in a controlled, regulated, and minimal way, but I am not prepared to say that an animal life is equally valued to a human life as PETA’s organization statements say. Medical research cannot be done in computer models or only in humans as it is inconceivable for a range of reasons that medical research could be reasonably effective with any amount of reform, except maybe human slavery and torture of the sort that is currently used on animals. Unethical human research already happens enough.

PETA done an excellent job of making themselves known and most people in the United States who reflect on the use of animal products eventually find PETA educational materials. Most people who continue to reflect on the issue come to the conclusion that PETA is a nutty organization with outdated ideas, but I respect its successful strategy for bringing people into the conversation. Perhaps it is best that PETA attempts to draw people in with unreasonable ideas, and a mark of success for the organization that people consider what they are saying, reject it, then go on to more moderate and practical positions after putting personal thought into the issue.

It intrigues me that there could be such a thing as activist outreach which begins with presenting ideas that necessarily have to be rejected, on the assumption that from that point people will do their own research and come to deeper understanding. Part of the Consumer Reports strategy is to provide enough information on topics to permit people to make informed decisions, ask questions, and do more research as they like. When I share Consumer Reports ideas on Wikipedia, I often find that when I list advocacy perspectives on Wikipedia I am remixing information in ways that neither Consumer Reports nor anyone else is doing.

As an example of this, I develop articles on antibiotic misuse. Consumer Reports advocates that antibiotics use in livestock production is excessive and should be moderated with regulation based on scientific consensus rather than meat industry decision. Consumer Reports takes no position on the vegan diet, but there is overlap in what I heard at this vegan conference and Consumer Reports’ interest in protecting antibiotics.

by bluerasberry at June 22, 2015 01:51 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #26, 2015 (June 22, 2015)

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June 22, 2015 12:00 AM