October 25, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Wikipedia assignments as active learning

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has declared today “Active Learning Day.” As passionate advocates of active learning in higher education, we couldn’t be more excited! You could say that we’re participating in an Active Learning year.

After all, teaching with Wikipedia is the very definition of an active learning experience. As defined by OSTP, Active Learning means:

  • Authentic scientific research or engineering or software design in the classroom to help students understand the practice of science, technology, and engineering and promote deep learning of the subject matter;
  • Interactive computer activities to support students’ exposure to trial-and-error and promote deep learning;
  • Discussions to encourage collaboration and idea exchange among students; and
  • Writing to generate original ideas and solidify knowledge.

Let’s look at how Wikipedia assignments fit in.

Authentic scientific research

Writing for Wikipedia follows the same practices as academic publishing, on an open-access scale. Students dive into libraries to explore the background of a topic, compiling a bibliography that reflects careful thinking about the reliability of sources. Students build what is equivalent to a literature review for an academic research paper, and then share that background context with Wikipedia. That writing is even peer reviewed — either by their peers in the classroom, or by their peers in the volunteer Wikipedia community.

The process is an introduction to the rigors of writing for academia, in a way that many students wouldn’t be able to achieve in an undergraduate year. They learn how the consensus around accepted knowledge is build (and even how to critique that consensus). It’s a window into the practice of science.

Promoting deep learning

Of course, writing for Wikipedia helps students develop computer skills. But the value of a Wikipedia assignment goes far beyond that. It asks students to adapt their learning to a variety of new, engaging activities, strengthening that knowledge by testing it in novel contexts. They read existing articles, comparing what’s presented with what they know. They fact check, they look for absences and gaps in knowledge, and they think about the resources they have at hand that could fix those gaps. At every twist and turn, they are comparing and contrasting knowledge in new and meaningful ways. And then, they’re thinking about how to communicate that knowledge — and where it came from.

Collaboration and exchange

When students edit Wikipedia, they can’t simply point to their textbook and say, “because it says so.” They need to closely consider the source of their knowledge and think about what makes it important. But they also have to think about how to convey that to others. Students will collaborate with their peers in the classroom, but they’ll also be called into discussions with Wikipedia’s volunteers, who reflect a different perspective from those of a college student. In many cases, all of these groups develop an understanding of how to move forward and improve an article on Wikipedia. It’s a collaboration that transcends the classroom, and it creates knowledge that transcends the classroom, too.

Solidifying knowledge

Writing for Wikipedia calls upon students to write in their own words. That means developing their own understanding of the material they’re going to share. It demands a solid understanding of the topic at hand, shared in a way that others can understand, too.

Get involved!

We’d love to help you get started with this powerful active learning opportunity. Wiki Ed has online and print resources that empower students to start making meaningful contributions right away. You keep full control over your course content, and our staff, tools and resources help students navigate Wikipedia.

Intrigued? We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Learning is Hanging Out by Alan Levine, CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr.

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 25, 2016 04:00 PM

October 24, 2016


It is open acess week

Open access week runs from the 24th of October to the 30th. That is why the featured picture of the day on the English wikipedia comes from PLOS ONE.

Open access material appears to have fallen of the wikimedia radar a bit in the last year perhaps because a lot of it is rather hard to use. Probably the biggest issue is that a lot of papers cover a very narrow area within which wikipedia doesn’t even have a general article. Some of this is simply because wikipedia is weak in certain areas but others look suspiciously like publication padding. There are various strategies to deal with this but most of them run into the next problem.

The is a lot of junk in the databases. Sure if you stick to PLOS ONE most papers will meet a certain minimum standard. Beyond that things get interesting. Anyone can start an open access journal and while there are many decent attempts to do so there are also a lot of scammers and cranks out there. Scammers target the pay to publish model (which a lot of open access follows) by setting up a legitimate looking website and then accepting everything sent to them where the author pays the relevant fee. Cranks just want somewhere to publish their cold fusion and free energy papers that looks legitimate. Checking against Beall’s list provides a degree of protection but well, it is big, new journals pop up all the time and it doesn’t list the journal responsible for this paper arguing that the old Venera images show lifeforms on the surface of Venus.

So if want to add open access content to wikipedia how to go about it. I’m sure the are various methods but this is mine. Firstly I’ll identify journals that publish a lot of papers that can be used for sourcing wikipedia articles. Archaeology, astronomy and history are generally good choices here but there are others. I’ll search for these through DOJA Secondly I’ll see if I understand them. The European Geosciences Union publishes some great journals and the ones covering space science are a good source of things to cite but you need some serious physics to understand a lot of them. Thirdly I’ll make a judgement as to their reliability. I tend to do this by checking who they are affiliated with (if anyone) and if I trust them. I’ll also check them against Beall’s List and just by poking around the site a bit to see what they have published before. After that its just a matter of checking them every few months to see if they have published anything new of interest. Examples of journals I do this for are Internet archaeology and the Journal of Lithic Studies.

Another approach is to get personal recommendations from people active in the field. An example of this would be Polar Research.


by geniice at October 24, 2016 08:41 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Under the sea

Millions of people use Wikipedia to find out quick facts about nearly everything. Sea life is no exception. Wikipedia, “the Internet’s favorite website,” has a greater share of mobile traffic than CNN, Fox News, and USA Today combined. It’s an unprecedentedly powerful public resource and science communications opportunity.

Students from Millersville University of Pennsylvania’s Seminar in Marine Biology course, led by Dr. Jean Boal, know that: their course contributions to Wikipedia have been seen 315,000 times so far.

Take the Pygmy Killer Whale, for example. The article had been untouched since 2008. The article was pretty good, but student editors added content related to cool stuff like echolocation, conservation, and distinguishing the whale from dolphins.

Other species with articles improved by these students include the White Marlin, the Smooth Butterfly Ray, and the Clearnose skate. But they also improved information about sea life that has a less positive impact on aquatic habitats, such as the red-tide-inducing unicellular Ceratium.

This is science communication in its most direct form. Students are putting knowledge about undersea species into the hands of thousands of curious people around the world. With so many species, there’s still lots of room left to contribute to the public’s understanding of living creatures and their habitats.

As part of our Year of Science outreach, we’ve created editing guides offered for free to your students when they improve Wikipedia assignments for their coursework. These include guides specifically aimed at species articles, or articles in environmental sciences or ecology.

If you’d like to extend a powerful science communications lesson that puts your students’ knowledge into the hands of thousands of readers, we’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us at contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Modified from Pygmy killer whale size by Chris huh, CC BY-SA 3.0

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 24, 2016 04:00 PM


We are a Movement – Together

I recently visited San Diego for a Wiki[m|p]edia conference. I was able to attend this very special event, thanks to WIkimedia Sverige (Sweden). During my visit I were able to put face together with old names I’ve previously collaborated with over the net.

It is empowering to feel that you are not alone in this movement of our, but instead that we are a collective with the same principles and goals. It is easy to forget, when we are sitting in our bedrooms with our laptops in bed, that it isn’t just you doing it, but a whole bunch of other nerds people doing the exact same thing, but on another side of the planet.

We might not share the same languge, and we might not share the same political or social beleives, but we do believe in a movement to provide the sum of all human knowledge, to everyone, no matter the former stated differences we, or they, might have.

Not all project, movement, or groups of people are as interconnected and caring towards each other as we are. I was able to travel roughly 14 hours away from home, to meet mostly strangers at a conference I’d never attended before – and yet I was able to connect and be included amongst these people.

I just wanted to say that I love every single one of you who are working to make others lifes better or easier. Either by providing more information by writing or translating, or if you help develop new software which will help new users feel included, or make a tool more accessible towards blind people. As I’ve said, no matter what you do, you should always now: We are in this together! We are united towards the same goal, and only together can we reach it. #WikiLove

by Jonatan Svensson Glad (Josve05a; @JonatanGlad) at October 24, 2016 12:47 PM


Moving Plants

All humans move plants, most often by accident and sometimes with intent. Humans, unfortunately, are only rarely moved by plants. 

The history of plant movements have often been difficult to establish. In the past the only way to tell a plant's homeland was to look for the number of related species in a region to provide clues on origin. This idea was firmly established by Nikolai Vavilov before being sent off to his unfortunate death in Siberia. Today, genetic relatedness of plants can be examined by comparing the similarity of chosen DNA sequences and among individuals of a species those sequence locations that are most variable. Some recent studies on individual plants and their relatedness have provided some very interesting glimpses into human history. A study on baobabs in India and their geographical origins in East Africa established by a study in 2015 and that of coconuts in 2011 are hopefully just the beginnings. These demonstrate ancient human movements which have never received much attention in story-tellings of history. 

Unfortunately there are a lot of older crank ideas that can be difficult for untrained readers to separate. I recently stumbled on a book by Grafton Elliot Smith, a Fullerian professor who succeeded J.B.S.Haldane but descended into crankdom. The book "Elephants and Ethnologists" (1924) can be found online and it is just one among several similar works by Smith. It appears that Smith used a skewed and misapplied cousin of Dollo's Law. According to him, cultural innovation tended to occur only once and that they were then carried on with human migrations. Smith was subsequently labelled a "hyperdiffusionist", a disparaging term used by ethnologists. When he saw illustrations of Mayan sculpture he envisioned an elephant where others saw at best a stylized tapir. Not only were they elephants, they were Asian elephants, complete with mahouts and Indian-style goads and he saw this as definite evidence for an ancient connection between India and the Americas! An idea that would please some modern-day cranks and zealots.

Smith's idea of the elephant as emphasised by him.
The actual Stela in question
 "Fanciful" is the current consensus view on most of Smith's ideas, but let's get back to plants. 

I happened to visit Chikmagalur recently and revisited the beautiful temples of Belur on the way. The "Archaeological Survey of India-approved" guide at the temple did not flinch when he described an object in one of the hands of a carving as being maize. He said maize was a symbol of prosperity. Now maize is a crop that was imported to India and by most accounts only after the Portuguese sea incursions into India in 1492. In the late 1990s, a Swedish researcher identified similar  carvings (actually another one at Somnathpur) from 12th century temples in Karnataka as being maize cobs. It was subsequently debunked by several Indian researchers from IARI and from the University of Agricultural Sciences where I was then studying. An alternate view is that the object is a mukthaphala, an imaginary fruit made up of pearls.
Somnathpur carvings. The figures to the
left and right hold the puported cobs.
(Photo: G41rn8)

The pre-Columbian oceanic trade ideas however do not end with these two cases from India. The third story (and historically the first, from 1879) is that of the sitaphal or custard apple. The founder of the Archaeological Survey of India, Alexander Cunningham, described a fruit in one of the carvings from Bharhut, a fruit that he identified as custard-apple. The custard-apple and its relatives are all from the New World. The Bharhut Stupa is dated to 200 BC and the custard-apple, as quickly pointed out by others, could only have been in India post-1492. The Hobson-Jobson has a long entry on the custard apple that covers the situation well. In 2009, a study raised the possibility of custard apples in ancient India. The ancient carbonized evidence is hard to evaluate unless one has examined all the possible plant seeds and what remains of their microstructure. The researchers however establish a date of about 2000 B.C. for the carbonized remains and attempt to demonstrate that it looks like the seeds of sitaphal. The jury is still out.
I was quite surprised that there are not many writings that synthesize and comment on the history of these ideas on the Internet and somewhat oddly I found no mention of these three cases in the relevant Wikipedia article (naturally, fixed now with an entire new section) - pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact theories

There seems to be value for someone to put together a collation of plant introductions to India along with sources, dates and locations of introduction. Some of the old specimens of introduced plants may well be worthy of further study.

Introduction dates
  • Pithecollobium dulce - Portuguese introduction from Mexico to Philippines and India on the way in the 15th or 16th century. The species was described from specimens taken from the Coromandel region (ie type locality outside native range) by William Roxburgh.
  • Eucalyptus globulus? - There are some claims that Tipu planted the first of these (See my post on this topic).  It appears that the first person to move eucalyptus plants (probably E. globulosum) out of Australia was  Jacques Labillardière. Labillardiere was surprized by the size of the trees in Tasmania. The lowest branches were 60 m above the ground and the trunks were 9 m in diameter (27 m circumference). He saw flowers through a telescope and had some flowering branches shot down with guns! (original source in French) His ship was seized by the British in Java and that was around 1795 or so and released in 1796. All subsequent movements seem to have been post 1800 (ie after Tipu's death). If Tipu Sultan did indeed plant the Eucalyptus here he must have got it via the French through the Labillardière shipment.  The Nilgiris were apparently planted up starting with the work of Captain Frederick Cotton (Madras Engineers) at Gayton Park(?)/Woodcote Estate in 1843.
  • Muntingia calabura
  • Delonix regia 
  • In 1857, Mr New from Kew was made Superintendent of Lalbagh and he introduced in the following years several Australian plants from Kew including Araucaria, Eucalyptus, Grevillea, Dalbergia and Casuarina. Mulberry plant varieties were introduced in 1862 by Signor de Vicchy. The Hebbal Butts plantation was establised around 1886 by Cameron along with Mr Rickets, Conservator of Forests, who became Superintendent of Lalbagh after New's death - rain trees, ceara rubber (Manihot glaziovii), and shingle trees(?). Apparently Rickets was also involved in introducing a variety of potato (kidney variety) which got named as "Ricket". -from Krumbiegel's introduction to "Report on the progress of Agriculture in Mysore" (1939) 

Further reading
  • Johannessen, Carl L.; Parker, Anne Z. (1989). "Maize ears sculptured in 12th and 13th century A.D. India as indicators of pre-columbian diffusion". Economic Botany 43 (2): 164–180.
  • Payak, M.M.; Sachan, J.K.S (1993). "Maize ears not sculpted in 13th century Somnathpur temple in India". Economic Botany 47 (2): 202–205. 
  • Pokharia, Anil Kumar; Sekar, B.; Pal, Jagannath; Srivastava, Alka (2009). "Possible evidence of pre-Columbian transoceaic voyages based on conventional LSC and AMS 14C dating of associated charcoal and a carbonized seed of custard apple (Annona squamosa L.)" Radiocarbon 51 (3): 923–930.
  • Veena, T.; Sigamani, N. (1991). "Do objects in friezes of Somnathpur temple (1286 AD) in South India represent maize ears?". Current Science 61 (6): 395–397.

by Shyamal L. (noreply@blogger.com) at October 24, 2016 03:35 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #43, 2016 (October 24, 2016)

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October 24, 2016 12:00 AM

October 23, 2016

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

No, Congresswoman: WikiLeaks has nothing to do with Wikipedia

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas. Photo public domain, courtesy of U.S. Congress.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas. Photo public domain, courtesy of U.S. Congress.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston is the latest prominent figure to confuse Wikipedia with WikiLeaks. This confusion goes back many years; it often flares up when WikiLeaks releases capture the public’s attention. In 2010, for instance, when WikiLeaks released a string of controversial documents and video, journalists including Charlie Rose turned to Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales for commentary — only to learn, sometimes on live camera, that Wales and Wikimedia have nothing to do with WikiLeaks.

But the mistake is an important and troubling one, especially when made by a public official. Wikipedia and WikiLeaks do not merely lack institutional ties; they also reflect profoundly divergent philosophies about the public’s role in information stewardship.

Wikipedia invites everybody in the world to participate in nearly every decision.

WikiLeaks, while it might solicit key information from anybody who has it, is completely opaque and centrally driven in its decisions; founder Julian Assange may be the sole decision-maker (or perhaps there is a small inner circle he consults).

Any member of Congress should care about the public’s role in information management and dissemination. And anybody who cares about that topic should know, as a basic point of literacy in 2016, that Wikipedia and WikiLeaks are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Read more on the differences here: WikiLeaks is not part of Wikipedia


by Pete Forsyth at October 23, 2016 10:18 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

A passion for hurricanes and video games: Brenden Moses

Photo by Evan-Amos, public domain.

Photo by Evan-Amos, public domain.

Before his death in 2015, Satoru Iwata was the CEO of Nintendo, the well-known video game electronics and software company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. He was also a well-known game developer and a gamer himself. He helped introduce innovations into video gaming like the Wii and popular games like Pokémon. But he meant more for his gamer fans.

For many, Iwata was the video game enthusiast who helped change the face of the video gaming industry. He helped to shift the focus to entertaining content rather than just providing new consoles with better performance every year.

Iwata’s article on Wikipedia, mainly developed by Wikipedian Brenden Moses (also known by his username Cyclonebiskit), captures several milestones in his prolific career. It took Moses over three months of hard work and research to transform the rough, small entry into a featured article, the highest level of quality on Wikipedia.

“This article is the pride and joy of my work thus far,” Moses told us. “It was the first time I felt pain from the death of someone I’ve never met. I wanted to honor his life in my own way and decided that I would chronicle his legacy on Wikipedia so that my tribute could be shared and enjoyed by many, many people.”

Photo via Brenden Moses.

Photo via Brenden Moses.

This is but one of 177 articles Moses has expanded and improved to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards for “featured” and “good articles,” the small share representing Wikipedia’s best content.

As his username on Wikipedia suggests, Cyclonebiskit is also interested in writing about hurricanes. His passion about the weather dates back to his early childhood. He started applying his interest in weather on Wikipedia as early as the seventh grade.

“Meteorology has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. My mom always tells people that even when I was 2 years old, I would sit outside in the freezing cold and snow and take it all in, until I was almost turning blue and she had to drag me back inside,” Moses recalls.

His obsession for weather grew into adulthood. Moses looked for a place where he could “talk about storms endlessly and share information about them with countless people.” That was when he first heard about Wikipedia. “My teachers started mentioning it rather often, with the warning, ‘but don’t use Wikipedia as a source for your assignments.’ I got curious about the website and started reading random articles,” he recalls.

Raised in New York and now living in Florida, Moses has had the opportunity to witness and gain inspiration from the weather phenomena he writes about. He was in the area when the Westchester County tornado hit, which inspired his first featured article on Wikipedia:

This one hit very close to home, literally. The tornado hit an area about 15 minutes from my house and caused immense damage to the local forests. Seeing the damage through my own eyes rather than through a computer is incredibly humbling as it truly gives you a sense of the power of nature.

Moses is particularly interested in improving an article’s quality in the first place. He aims to provide a good reference on the topic of tropical cyclones. “I take pride in the work I do maintaining and updating information on tropical cyclones, as I know many people check Wikipedia for statistics on these events,” he says.

Moses has not let a single month go by without editing in the past nine years. He has hit the edit button on Wikipedia over 50,000 times. In addition to editing Wikipedia and studying, Moses (unsurprisingly) works for the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

Samir Elsharbaty
Digital Content Intern, Wikimedia Foundation

by Samir Elsharbaty at October 23, 2016 01:58 PM

Gerard Meijssen

Kigeli V, Mwami of Rwanda

Kigeli was the last ruling Mwami of Rwanda. He died October 16.

When a last ruler dies, it follows that there are previous rulers and, there is a lot that is of interest in the history of the mwamis. His father for instance was deposed because he refused to become catholic.

I have added the rule of several mwamis to Wikidata because such basic information is often lacking. Wikipedia articles are often stubs at best and sources are often absent.

Typically a monarch is part of a dynasty. With a new dynasty it represents often a new family but certainly a change that makes for it to be recognised as such. The article on the kingdom of Rwanda describes the role of the mothers of a king. They are yet unknown to us and consequently a lot of relevant information is missing.

When you see all those red links, it is obvious that significant red links exist in any language. When they are linked to Wikidata, information like the follow up as ruler and who is related to who becomes a task that can be done once and be done well. It is one way to emancipate information that has been of little concern to Wikipedias.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at October 23, 2016 08:51 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Research Newsletter, September 2016

“Wikipedia Dispute Index” detects high-conflict countries

Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny

The 2011 study Content Disputes in Wikipedia Reflect Geopolitical Instability[1] was referenced in a recent article on Ozy. The study (not previously reviewed in this research report) ) considers whether Wikipedia’s metadata may be used to glean insights into global phenomena. (Various online predictors have been associated with events. For instance, Google searches can be used to monitor the spread of infectious diseases.) The authors attempted to test whether Wikipedia content disputes can be used to understand real-life conflicts. They analyzed all pages linking to articles about a given country that had the “NPOV dispute” tag, though they note that only about a quarter (138 of 497) countries had a sufficient number of conflicts to allow further analysis. (This reviewer wonders why the authors chose the “what links here” tool rather than the more precise category of WikiProject template groups of articles; a cursory look at the 100+ articles linked to Poland, for example, suggests that only ~20% are clearly related to that country.)

They then created a “Wikipedia Dispute Index” (downloadable image of the index heat map), which measures whether a country has more or fewer than average disputes linking to it. The authors note that their index roughly matches the “1996–2008 World Bank Policy Research Aggregate Governance Indicators” and the “Economist Intelligence Unit 2009 Political Instability Index” (downloadable image of the correlation plots between those indexes – not bad, given the underlying problem of using “what links here” as a dataset). The results indicate that “the most disputed are parts of the middle east followed by other regions such as Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina and North Korea …, countries in North America and Western Europe are the least disputed, with most other countries occupying a middle range.” With regards to the type of conflicts, they observe that “the biggest contributors to the indicator tend to be disputes over current or historical events or individuals that vary according to different political views.”

Though the authors present no convincing arguments about why exactly their index would be more or less useful then the existing ones, they write that it can be seen as a supplementary tool validating other indexes, and conclude that Wikipedia’s data and metadata can be used to generate other useful indexes and metrics – something that this reviewer certainly agrees with.

Wikipedians may find the following page created for this project useful (for the next few years until it inevitably goes down as it stops being maintained – perhaps someone could contact the authors about moving it to the Toolserver/Labs?: http://www.disputeindex.org/ which displays the (gray and white) heatmap and lists Wikipedia articles that are being analyzed – a nice visual gadget for our internal cleanup purposes).

Emergent Role Behaviours in Wikipedia – The “How” and “Why”

Reviewed by Morten Warncke-Wang

The roles that contributors play in Wikipedia (e.g. “copyeditor” or “vandal fighter”) are informal and fluent, in contrast to other areas where roles are assigned and static. These types of roles are referred to as “emergent roles” in the literature, and a paper titled “On the “How” and “Why” of Emergent Role Behaviors in Wikipedia”[2] at the 2017 CSCW conference looks at the extent to which contributors move between roles, and if so, why they do it.

This paper builds upon work by some of the same authors at the 2015 CSCW conference,[supp 1] in which they studied functional roles, which are defined by access levels in the system. In the upcoming paper, they use a similar approach and dataset in order to quantify roles and whether contributors take on multiple roles. Using a perspective of roles and articles, the authors identify four classes of contributors:

  1. Role-Article samplers: contributors who enact a particular role in a single article
  2. Role embracers: contributors who enact a particular role but across multiple articles
  3. Article embracers: contributors who enact multiple roles in a single article
  4. Role-Article polymaths: contributors who enact multiple roles across multiple articles

When it comes to longevity, the Role-Article polymaths (7.4% of the contributor pool) are those who continue to stay active in the system for the longest time, with 4% of them being active for at least seven years. Role embracers also sustain participation over multiple years, provided they move on to a second article.

To learn more about how contributor motivation affects role behaviour, a survey of a stratified sample of contributors was performed, with 175 valid responses. These surveys aimed at understanding contributor motivations across four dimensions: fun, forming friendships, gaining reputation, and peer approval. The results reveal striking differences in motivation between the classes, for instance Role-Article samplers are low across all four dimensions, while Article Embracers are the opposite, high across all four dimensions. Using Role-Article samplers as a baseline, transitioning to other classes are motivated as follows:

  1. Role embracers: friendship
  2. Article embracers: reputation, peer approval
  3. Role-Article polymaths: fun and reputation

The paper then discusses these findings, proposing that each of the four behaviours plays a distinct role in how content is created in Wikipedia. For instance, the fact that some motivations are associated with role-transitioning behaviour while other motivations lead to transitioning between articles, means the other contributors can respond differently to those who display this type of behaviour in order to foster continued participation.


Conferences and events

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

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.

  • “The Impact and Evolution of Group Diversity in Online Open Collaboration”[3] From the abstract: “we examine 648 WikiProjects to understand (1) how tenure disparity and interest variety affect group productivity and member withdrawal and (2) how the two types of diversity evolve over time. Our results show a curvilinear effect of tenure disparity, which increases productivity and decreases member withdrawal, up to a point. Beyond that point, productivity slightly decreases, and members are more likely to withdraw.”
  • “Helping Wikipedia versus Helping a WikiProject: Subgroup Dynamics, Member Contribution and Turnover in Online Production Communities”‘[4] From the abstract: “we analyze data from 648 WikiProjects and the archived behaviors of 14,464 member editors … Our results reveal two critical trade-offs in managing online production communities. First, a number of factors that increase member contribution such as tenure dissimilarity and past contribution also increase one’s likelihood of leaving the community, perhaps due to conflict or feelings of “mission accomplished” or “burnout”. Second, individual membership in multiple projects has mixed and largely negative effects. It decreases the amount of work editors contribute to both the individual projects and Wikipedia as a whole. It reduces one’s likelihood of leaving individual project yet increases the likelihood of leaving Wikipedia as a whole.”
  • “Transforming Wikipedia into an Ontology-based Information Retrieval Search Engine for Local Experts using a Third-Party Taxonomy”[5] From the abstract: “Using a third-party taxonomy, independent from Wikipedia’s category hierarchy, we index information connected to our local experts, present in their activity reports, and we re-index Wikipedia content using the same taxonomy. … A Wikipedia gadget (or plugin) activated by the interested user, accesses the endpoint as each Wikipedia page is accessed. An additional tab on the Wikipedia page [developed using ResourceLoader allows the user to open up a list of teams of local experts associated with the subject matter in the Wikipedia page. “
  • “‘An Encyclopedia, Not an Experiment in Democracy’: Wikipedia Biographies, Authorship, and the Wikipedia Subject”[6] Abstract: “Wikipedia biography is a culturally significant, yet overlooked form of digital life narrative. Through an examination of Wikipedia’s policies and discussion forums, and a number of its most popular and controversial biographies, this essay explores the politics of biographical practice and representation on the site.”
  • “Networked knowledge : approaches to analyzing dynamic networks of knowledge in wikis for mass collaboration”[7] From the abstract: “[This] work builds on a theoretical consideration of collaborative learning and knowledge building stemming from the interdisciplinary learning sciences and research on computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) in particular. … A complex systems perspective is used to explain knowledge as an emergent phenomenon … Based on these conceptualizations, the present dissertation empirically examines large real-life data sets from the online communities Wikipedia and Wikiversity. Knowledge is captured as a network of interconnected articles in different knowledge domains.”
  • “Wikipedia and conceptions of knowledge in encyclopaedism”[8] From the “Methodology” section: “Wikipedia [is] broken down genealogically, historically and structurally. [Then,] we study more specific epistemological aspects and problems within Wikipedia. The workings of Wikipedia will be confronted with different epistemological and hermeneutic interpretations of what knowledge is, how it works and how it is organised. … Before concluding, the previous findings will be used to judge the effect of Wikipedia upon its cultural surroundings.”


  1. Apic, Gordana; Betts, Matthew J.; Russell, Robert B. (2011-06-22). “Content Disputes in Wikipedia Reflect Geopolitical Instability”. PLOS ONE 6 (6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020902. ISSN 1932-6203. 
  2. Arazy, Ofer; Lifshitz-Assaf, Hila; Nov, Oded; Daxenberger, Johannes; Balestra, Martina; Cheshire, Coye. “On the “How” and “Why” of Emergent Role Behaviors in Wikipedia” (PDF). Proceedings of the 20th ACMConference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing. CSCW ’17. New York, NY, USA: ACM. 
  3. Ren, Yuqing; Chen, Jilin; Riedl, John (2015-08-28). “The Impact and Evolution of Group Diversity in Online Open Collaboration”. Management Science. doi:10.1287/mnsc.2015.2178. ISSN 0025-1909.  Closed access
  4. Ren, Yuqing; Riedl, John. Helping Wikipedia versus Helping a WikiProject: Subgroup Dynamics, Member Contribution and Turnover in Online Production Communities (PDF). University of Minnesota. p. 32.  (working paper)
  5. Grefenstette, Gregory; Rafes, Karima (2016-05-23). Transforming Wikipedia into an Ontology-based Information Retrieval Search Engine for Local Experts using a Third-Party Taxonomy. Joint Second Workshop on Language and Ontology & Terminology and Knowledge Structures (LangOnto2 + TermiKS) LO2TKS. 
  6. Graham, Pamela (2015). An Encyclopedia, Not an Experiment in Democracy’: Wikipedia Biographies, Authorship, and the Wikipedia Subject”. Biography 38 (2): 222–244. doi:10.1353/bio.2015.0023. ISSN 1529-1456.  Closed access
  7. Halatchliyski, Iassen (2015). “Networked knowledge : approaches to analyzing dynamic networks of knowledge in wikis for mass collaboration”. doi:10.15496/publikation-6005.  (dissertation at the University of Tübingen)
  8. Hastings Ruiz, David Robert (2015). “Wikipedia and conceptions of knowledge in encyclopaedism”.  (dissertation)
Supplementary references and notes:
  1. Arazy, Ofer; Ortega, Felipe; Nov, Oded; Yeo, Lisa; Balila, Adam (2015). “Functional Roles and Career Paths in Wikipedia”. Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing. CSCW ’15. New York, NY, USA: ACM. pp. 1092–1105. doi:10.1145/2675133.2675257. ISBN 978-1-4503-2922-4.  Closed access / author copy 1, author copy 2

Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Vol: 6 • Issue: 9 • September 2016
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 October 23, 2016 02:38 AM

October 22, 2016

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 326


Example of a baking oven

Example of a baking oven that might be tagable in the near future 1 | Image by Peter Schmelzle under CC-BY-SA 3.0

About us

  • Procuram-se editores! Se é leitor do weeklyOSM ajude a traduzi-lo para português recolhendo também notícias de Portugal e Brasil relativas ao OSM. Ajude a relançar o idioma neste semanário. (Portugiesisch)


  • Lorenzo Mastrogiacomi publishes a proposal for adding the racetrack tag for motor vehicles to OpenStreetMap.
  • [1] Yvan asks for opinions on the tagging mailing list about his proposal amenity=baking_oven. At the same time he wants to establish the tag amenity=bakehouse.
  • AJ Ashton explains how to tag complicated buildings and add 3D information to them. This information can now also be viewed on Mapbox Streets and Mapbox GL JS.
  • Basstoelpel starts a discussion about a mechanical edit to convert type into leaf_type for natural=tree in the German forum (automatic translation).
  • Ilya Zverik, who works for MAPS.ME, blogged about the history of editing the name tag using this simple editor, and the challenges of offering simple tag editing functions.


  • OSM forum moves to a new server on Saturday the 22nd of October.
  • A huge mapping party held at the town of Böblingen witnessed 850 people from (Germany) working together to capture wheelchair accessibility data in Böblingen county, using wheelmap. (Deutsch) (automatic translation)
  • Escada declares Sus as the Belgian Mapper of the month. WeeklyOSM admires his impressive performance. Escada also wonders whether François is the oldest mapper ever.


  • On the Spanish Talk-es mailing list, a discussion (Spanisch) about an import of taxi ranks has started. There is also a wiki page for this import.
  • Statistics Canada, the national statistical office, started a crowdsourcing project in collaboration with the local OSM community on Monday to collect information such as geometry, height etc. for non-residential buildings using a modified iD editor. Before and during the launch, three users imported buildings and addresses in Ottawa, but sadly failed to comply with the import guidelines, debated enforcement of it, and engaged in edit warring. John Whelan summarized the project itself.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Simone Cortesi, treasurer of the Italian OSMF Chapter (Wikimedia Italia), signed a memorandum of understanding with the Club Alpino Italiano, the national alpine association. They plan to collaborate on improving data about hiking routes and facilities. (Italienisch) (automatic translation)


Humanitarian OSM

  • Two competing humanitarian mapping organizations are currently operating in Haiti – on the one hand the American HOT US Inc., on the other hand a group of French-speaking mappers, called Projet EOF. The latter one has built up, according to their own statements, a local community for the last six years and has contact to the local government.HOT US Inc. and the francophone community have been in conflict for a while. Pierre Beland reminds that HOT US is blocking postings on the HOT mailing list.Projet EOF runs it’s own tasking manager. Read here what happened as well and conceive your own opinion.
  • Severin Menard initiates a discussion about necessary improvements to the Tasking Manager to combat the problem of “crappy newbie edits” of humanitarian mappers. A suggestion by John Whelan to disable the connection between the Tasking Manager and the iD editor for difficult tasks is not met with disapproval. The quality issue has stuck with the OSM humanitarian community since the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and has been reoccurring.
  • Tyler Radford announces the publication of HOT’s 2015 Annual Report that includes statistics and information about HOT’s community achievements over the last year.
  • The disastermappers group at the GIScience department of Heidelberg University extracted all the information related to the Missing Maps project from the HOT Tasking Manager and published it on a map.
  • John Whelan is looking for experienced JOSM mappers to improve data in Africa. In his email, he describes the procedure.
  • Raw drone images captured in Jérémie are made available. Mappers are welcome to use these images to map the disaster struck areas in Haiti.


  • SIASAR the platform for the management, planning and monitoring of Water and Sanitation in Rural Areas including the governments of Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Oaxaca (Mexico), Peru, Ceará (Brazil) and Bolivia are using (automatic translation) OSM in the new version. The importance of this project is that, it allows user to analyze the current situation, expose the shortcomings and give governments the tools that help them to invest.
  • The first mention of a commercial use of OSM was ten years ago.

Open Data

  • Lisbon Town Hall publishes (Portugiesisch) (automatic translation) its GIS data under public domain. Since February 2016, it has issued updates at least twice a month.


  • Gamereactor reports that Aerosoft Flight Simulator X-Plane 11 will be published in 2016. The road maps were obtained from OSM data.
  • Have you always wanted your OSM appointments on your phone? Christoph, aka TheFive (the spiritual father of weekly’s Content Management System) published the OSM calendar in his blog and is looking for ß-testers. The list of available event calendars on OSMCAL is impressive.
  • OsmAnd introduces a new topographic map style.
  • MapQuest announces the decommissioning of the Xapi API and recommends the users of Xapi to move to Overpass API service. The Xapi open API service will be retired on October 31, 2016.


  • Bill Morris explains how to process spatial data in parallel using GNU Parallel by reprojecting a bunch of shape files.
  • mmd has released a prototype for downloading OSM data in PBF format through the dev instance of Overpass. The first reaction from Pierre is very positive.
  • Mapbox now offers its vector tiles “style optimized”. Users can add the style to the request. The Server removes the tags from the vector tile that are not used by the users.
  • Mapzen has updated its House styles. There are improvements on label priority and positioning.
  • After the successful completion of Ilya’s paid challenge to add subscription to diary comments, Mikel announces notifications listing as the second challenge.
  • Starting with version 0.5.5, CGImap, the C++ implementation of OSM API, calculates the usage limits based on the sent OAuth tokens instead of IP address of the editor who sends the token. CGImap also supports the /changesets/#{id} API call now.
  • OSM Scout Server is a free server for Sailfish OS and Linux, which delivers tiles, calculates routes and contains a search function. It is based on the libosmscout library. User rinigus presents the server in his user diary.


Software Version Release date Comment
Naviki Android * 3.49 2016-10-11 Layout revised, better bluetooth support, bugs fixed.
GeoServer 2.9.2 2016-10-12 Better Mac OS support, 30 bugs fixed, many improvements.
Locus Map Free * 3.19.0 2016-10-12 New maps and some fixes.
OpenStreetMap Carto Style 2.44.1 2016-10-12 Please read info.
Komoot Android * var 2016-10-13 Adjustments and performance enhancements for Android 7
Mapbox GL JS v0.26.0 2016-10-13 Six new functions, better performance and some bugs fixed.
Vespucci 0.9.8r1204 2016-10-13 No informations.
SQLite 3.15.0 2016-10-14 Eight extensions and five bugs fixes.
Mapzen Lost 2..1.0 2016-10-17 Four new functions, four bugs fixed.

Provided by the OSM Software Watchlist.

(*) unfree software. See freesoftware.

Did you know …

  • …the figures and business targets of Mapbox, a company headquartered in Washington, D.C.? Presented by Desina A. Lopez on equites.com.
  • … the Unterkunftskarte (accommodation map)?

OSM in the media

  • San Francisco Chronicle reports the efforts taken by the residents of few villages in Palestine, who wish to see their villages on Google or Apple Maps. The report also includes inputs from Harry Wood, an OpenStreetMap contributor, on how OSM maps such areas.

Other “geo” things

  • Google announces the open source release of Cartographer – a library for real time simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) in 2D and 3D.
  • Google will turn off Panoramio on November 4th. Mapillary welcomes former Panoramio users to switch to its service.
  • Haitians and American Haitians criticize foreign organizations and especially the American Red Cross (which is also involved in humanitarian mapping within OSM). According to the article these foreign organizations would use their donations in an ineffective way, have no local knowledge and do not want to get the locals to help themselves (to preserve their colonial dependency).

Upcoming Events

Where What When Country
Espoo OSM kahvit 20/10/2016 finland
Colorado Humanitarian Mapathon University of Northern Colorado, Greeley 20/10/2016 us
Maastricht Mapping the new Arriva Busses 20/10/2016 the netherlands
Helsinki OSM kahvit 20/10/2016 finland
Tampere OSM kahvit 21/10/2016 finland
Nara マッピングパーティ奈良2016・西大寺 22/10/2016 japan
Graz Stammtisch 24/10/2016 austria
Antwerp Missing Maps @ IPIS 26/10/2016 belgium
Colorado Humanitarian Mapathon Colorado State University, Fort Collins 27/10/2016 us
France Missing Maps Mapathon Paris 8, Saint-Denis 27/10/2016
Albergaria-a-Velha 1st Meetup OSGeo-PT 27/10/2016 portugal
Omihachiman 近江八幡漫遊マップづくり 第2回諸国・浪漫マッピングパーティー 29/10/2016 japan
Karlsruhe Hack Weekend 29/10/2016-30/10/2016 germany
Donostia Mapathon Hirikalabs – Missing Maps 29/10/2016 spain
Taipei Taipei Meetup, Mozilla Community Space 31/10/2016 taiwan
Wien Hack Evening (58. Wiener Stammtisch) 03/11/2016 austria
Levoča Mapping party Levoča 04/11/2016-06/11/2016 slovakia
Numazu ラブライブ!サンシャイン マッピングパーティ2 05/11/2016 japan
Rennes Découverte d’OpenStreetMap pour l’humanitaire 06/11/2016 france
Lyon Rencontre mensuelle mappeurs 08/11/2016 france

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

This weekly was produced by Harry Wood, Laura Barroso, Nakaner, Peda, Rogehm, Spec80, SrrReal, TheFive, YoViajo, derFred, escada, giovand, jinalfoflia, sabas88, seumas, wambacher.

by weeklyteam at October 22, 2016 10:09 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - statements are doing fine

In September there are more Wikidata items with 10 or more statements than items with no statements. Wikidata is growing up.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at October 22, 2016 06:10 AM

October 20, 2016

Wikimedia UK

Changing the way stories are told – Ada Lovelace Day outcomes


Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

By Ewan McAndrew (reposted with permission from Ewan’s blog)

Wikipedia has a problem with representation. Its mission is to be “the sum of all human knowledge” yet it only covers, by very rough estimates, only 5% of the number of articles that it needs to. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done. However, that it has amassed over 40 million articles in 300 languages in its short existence is quite incredible and is a testament to the dedication of its community of volunteers.

Yet the fact Wikipedia is human-curated means that it reflects the editors that engages with it. The late Adrianne Wadewitz, wrote an article on why teachers should engage with Wikipedia:

“Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit but not everyone does. You and your students can dramatically affect the most popular and important reference work in the world.

If you want your students to learn about how a small community is influenced by demographics and how they can change that community by participating in it, Wikipedia is the place to go.

Google takes information from Wikipedia, as do many other sites, because it is licensed through a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. Those little boxes on the left-hand side of your screen when you do a Google search? From Wikipedia. The information that is on Wikipedia spreads across the internet. What is right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the entire internet.” (Teaching with Wikipedia: the why, what and how” HASTAC Blog February 21, 2014)

Since I began my residency in January 2016, the figure we have cited in terms of female editorship of Wikipedia is 15%. Better than the 10% of 2014 but still shamefully low. This lack of female representation also skews the content in much the same way; resulting in only 15% of biographies on Wikipedia being about notable females.

According to figures from Equate Scotland, Women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) represent similarly low percentages (only 14-18%) of the STEM workforce. If Scottish education & industry is serious about becoming a realistic competitor in STEM sectors and Wikipedia is serious about attaining the sum of all human knowledge then both need to take action to become more inclusive spaces; and both have an important role in highlighting success stories in providing role models for young & old women alike so they can see a career in STEM as viable.

With this in mind, the university held an Ada Lovelace Day event on Tuesday 11th October 2016 which incorporated guest talks, fun technology activities and a Wikipedia editathon which created 9 brand new articles on Women in STEM and improved 9 others. The event was enthusiastically received by its attendees and attracted the attention of STV News.


Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

Articles created

  • Sheila May Edmonds – British mathematician, a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, and Vice-Principal of Newnham College from 1960 to 1981.
  • Ann Katharine Mitchell – Decrypted messages encoded in the German Enigma cypher at Bletchley Park. Wrote several academic books about the psychological effects of divorce on children. Won a place to study maths at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford (1940–1943). At the time relatively few women went to Oxford and even fewer studied maths. There were only 5 women in Ann Williamson’s year at Oxford and she remarked that the men coming to university had been taught maths much better at school than the girls. Indeed, it was suggested to her by the headmistress of her school that studying maths was “unladylike” and her parents had to overrule her school to allow her to take up her place at Oxford. Returned to university in 1970s to study social policy and in 1980 she graduated with a Master of Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh.
  • Margaret Marrs – Senior Operator of the original Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Computer (EDSAC). EDSAC was an early British computer constructed at the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory in England, and the second electronic digital stored-program computer to go into regular service.
  • Code First: Girls – Not for Profit Social Enterprise that works exclusively with women in Britain to develop coding skills. The organisation promotes gender diversity and female participation in the technology sector by offering free and paid training and courses for students and professional women. It also supports businesses to train staff and develop talent management policies. As of June 2016, Code First: Girls is reported to have provided in excess of £1.5 million worth of free coding courses to more than 1,500 women since 2013.
  • PLUS another 5 Wikipedia articles were translated from English Wikipedia to Portuguese Wikipedia using Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool.
  1. Tamar Ziegler translated to Tamar Ziegler here. Ziegler is an Israeli mathematician known for her work in ergodic theory and arithmetic combinatorics. Much of her work has focused on arithmetic progressions, in particular extensions of the Green–Tao theorem.
  2. Vyjayanthi Chari translated to Vyjayanthi Chari here. Chari is an Indian–American professor of mathematics at the University of California, Riverside, known for her research in representation theory and quantum algebra. In 2015 she was elected as a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
  3. Stefanie Petermichl translated to Stefanie Petermichl here. German mathematical analyst who works as a professor at the University of Toulouse, in France. Topics of her research include harmonic analysis, several complex variables, stochastic control, and elliptic partial differential equations. She became a member of the Institut Universitaire de France in 2013.
  4. Cornelia Druțu translated to Cornelia Druțu here. Romanian mathematician working in the areas of geometric group theory, topology, and ergodic theory and its applications to number theory. She is a fellow and a tutor in pure mathematics at Exeter College, and lecturer in the Oxford University’s mathematical institute.
  5. Mildred Sanderson translated to Mildred Sanderson here. American mathematician, best known for her mathematical theorem concerning modular invariants. She is mentioned in the book Pioneering women in American mathematics. A Mildred L. Sanderson prize for excellence in mathematics was established in her honor in 1939 at Mount Holyoke College.

Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

Articles improved

  • Place of education data (University of Edinburgh) was added to Mary Fergusson (Q37215) and a new improved Histropedia timeline of female graduates of University of Edinburgh working in mathematics and engineering was created.
  • A summary infobox and additional information was added to the early life and academic career sections of Nora Calderwood‘s page.
  • Links, references & formatting were all fixed in Margaret Rock‘s page – Rock was an English cryptoanalyst who worked as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II.
  • The size of the Athena SWAN page was doubled.
  • Links were improved from Joan Robinson (British economist well known for her work on monetary economics) linked to John Eatwell (British economist and the current President of Queens’ College, Cambridge) and then Nicholas Kaldor(Cambridge economist in the post-war period) linked to Joan Robinson. Text has been drafted in sandbox to improve the Cathie Marsh page. Marsh was a sociologist and statistician who lectured at the University of Cambridge and University of Manchester. The Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMIST) at the University of Manchester was named following her early death from breast cancer, aged 41.
  • Spelling mistake fixed on the Sue Black (computer scientist) page.
  • Hut 6 linked to Ann Katharine Mitchell‘s page.
  • Our editors learnt ab

    Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

    out Wikidata and improved the Wikidata list on female mathematicians. They also identified sources to create the Katherine Clerk Maxwell page.

  • The ‘Sweden‘ section in the Elizabeth Blackwell (illustrator) page which covers the fact that Blackwell has a genus of plants named after her.
  • Entrepreneur First page was improved by making a link to Code First: Girls

Highlighting female success stories like these is massively important soWikiProject Women in Red (the second most active WikiProject out of 2000 or so WikiProjects) hold 5 editathons every month on and gets editors from all over the world to turn those red-linked articles on Wikipedia (i.e. ones that don’t yet exist) into blue clickable links that do; whether it be Women in Art, Women Writers, Women in Nursing, Women in Religion or Women in STEM.

To date they have been very successful, averaging 1-3000 articles a month and shifting the balance from 15% of biographies on female to 16.52%. Still a long way to go but it is important for projects like these to write women back into history.

by John Lubbock at October 20, 2016 04:01 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Four career skills students develop from Wikipedia assignments

One of our favorite stories comes from Dr. Alex Webb, a geologist who was teaching with Wikipedia at Louisiana State University. In his first class, one of his students wrote an article about tectonic subsidence, an important issue related to sea level change and land loss in Louisiana.

“It really communicated the core things you needed to know to consider some problems of tectonic subsidence,” Alex recalled about the article. “Anyway, he went off to work as a geologist. A year and a half later, he and his boss were trying to solve a problem, and ended up on the tectonic subsidence page on Wikipedia. That student was able to tell his boss, ‘Hey, I made that page.'”

We love stories like this, because they’re a concrete illustration of the impact that Wikipedia assignments have on a student’s career. Writing Wikipedia articles in the sciences is clearly a stepping stone to better science communication. Students take complex scientific concepts, break them into articles, and focus on articulating those concepts clearly for the general public. The boon for future scientists is great: They’re not just learning about STEM and science fields, they’re also cultivating the skills required to communicate that knowledge.

But Wikipedia assignments can go even further in preparing students for a future in the workforce. Wikipedia assignments tackle some of the most in-demand skills called for by employers. Last year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers released a report about the attributes employers are looking for.

Those skills broke down like this: Leadership (80%), Ability to work in a team (78.9%), Written communication skills (70.2%) and Problem-solving skills (70.2%). We think writing for Wikipedia can help train and refine these skills in students. Here’s how.

1. Leadership.

Students are used to the passive acceptance of knowledge. But there’s an enormous value in encouraging students to look at the knowledge presented to them, and apply their own knowledge to independently identify their weaknesses. That’s the real meaning of thought leadership. It’s the confidence that comes from identifying and communicating how things could be better.

That’s the difference between an employee who does what they’re told, and a leader who can bring new concepts to the forefront. But students are also required to be persuasive in their arguments: in other words, building a case for the change they like to see, and persuading others based on that evidence.

2. Teamwork.

Group coordination in a Wikipedia assignment is a novel cooperative project not just between students, but between students and an existing community with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

Sometimes, that requires working with other editors to make a case and build consensus for the change. After all, Wikipedia is a team project: articles are written by a variety of editors they may have to coordinate with. At the very least, they’ll rely on, and offer, peer review to other students working on articles. Students learn to adapt their work in response to feedback or criticism, a key skill they’ll need to develop regardless of the career path they choose.

3. Writing.

Writing was named the skill “most lacking” in recent college graduates by 44% of managers in 2016, according to a survey by Payscale and Money Magazine. Wikipedia writing is one way to bridge that gap.

When something is missing on Wikipedia, it isn’t as simple as just correcting the error. A student will weigh the evidence they have against the evidence presented, and work to communicate it factually, accurately, and without bias. They’ll have to carefully articulate their knowledge to do all this while it’s also understood by a lay audience of readers.

It’s the audience that makes Wikipedia assignments unique. A student knows that their article may be the first access point for people curious about their topic. That’s a responsibility that encourages students to think more deeply about what they say, and how they say it.

4. Problem-solving.

Employers consider problem-solving a major need in the workforce. However, 60% of employers in that Payscale/Money Magazine survey said it was lacking in new college graduates. That’s an incredible opportunity.

Writing a Wikipedia article for a class is a critical thinking exercise. Articles are often lacking information, or presented with bias. But identifying and articulating what the problems are, and then taking steps to correct those flaws, is a problem solving task that applies a student’s real knowledge and creativity. They have to identify the information that’s lacking, think about where to find it, and then determine how to best share that knowledge. This is critical thinking applied to a real writing and research task.

Get involved!

We’d love to help your students develop the meaningful, real-world communications experiences that they can carry into their future careers. We provide online and print materials to prepare your students to dive into Wikipedia and make practical contributions that connect their knowledge to the rest of the world. It’s an assignment that motivates students while making a difference for the type of information others can use. Start a conversation with us: contact@wikiedu.org.

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 20, 2016 04:00 PM

October 19, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Battle of Mosul: Wikipedians around the globe are updating the article as the news unfolds

Yezidi fighter in Mosul, March 2016. Photo by Kurdishstruggle, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Kurdish fighter in Mosul, March 2016. Photo by Kurdishstruggle, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq, fell into the hands of ISIL over two years ago. That forced over 500,000 people, nearly a third of the city’s population, to flee their homes seeking security away from the Jihadist group. Today, the city is considered ISIL’s last bastion in the country.

On Monday, Iraqi-led forces began a military operation to retake the city from ISIL. The forces include allied militias, Kurdistan and international forces in the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Nine hundred civilians fled the city during the first 2 days of the battle with escalating fears that the roads might be booby-trapped and civilians might be used as human shields by ISIL.

Wikimandia, a Wikipedia editor from California, was following the news about the battle when it started. She was watching the live streaming of the battle on the internet and reading the comments from around the world on social media websites when she decided to join the news-making process by creating an article about the battle on Wikipedia. This was her first time writing an article about a military operation since joining Wikipedia 10 years ago.

“It was late at night for me on Sunday/early Monday when it started, and I was so drawn in I stayed up all night,” says Wikimandia.

Nearby observers and soldiers started posting the news of what was happening in front of them on social media, but user Wikimandia had to wait until some reliable sources were available. The first confirmed news for her was a tweet from the Iraqi prime minister announcing that the battle had begun.

Wikimandia and many other Wikipedians have worked hard during the past two days to keep the article updated with the most recent news. She told us about that experience:

I’ve been continuously working on the article over the past day because I do feel some responsibility for it to be as up to date as possible—I would hate for it to be tagged with templates on issues that need to be improved, since this makes the article less credible for people looking for information. I also noticed that within hours, several other Wikipedia articles on the Battle of Mosul were popping up in other languages—French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, etc. Often the editors creating the articles in other languages will just translate the original article to get them started as quickly as possible (particularly in current events/breaking news articles) and I wanted to have as much information as possible to help these other editors make their articles great resources for speakers of those languages.

In addition to the hard work to update the article, Wikimandia has applied her skills in graphic design to create a map showing the initial positions of the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga. “I’m going to further edit it to show the areas of ISIS/Iraqi/Kurdish control at the start of the battle,” Wikimandia explains. “This is really time consuming, but I think it is worth it. The downside of Wikipedia is that nearly all news photos and graphics are off limits to us since they are copyrighted.”

In two days, more than 50 Wikipedians, including Wikimandia, strove to provide the most up-to-date information on the Battle of Mosul, which is expected to last for 2 to 3 months. Wikipedia has also been the favored source for many news seekers.

“Wikipedia can be edited in real time and editors can work together to make sure it has the most reliable recent information. Even online newspapers cannot compete with a crowd-sourced Wikipedia article when it comes to providing the latest information,” Wikimandia notes.

Samir Elsharbaty
Digital Content Intern, Wikimedia Foundation

by Samir Elsharbaty at October 19, 2016 11:02 PM

Wikimedia Foundation files petition against decision to extend the ‘right to be forgotten’ globally

Photo by KatieTheBeau, CC BY 2.0.

If links to relevant information are removed from search results around the world, history will end up with missing pieces. Photo by KatieTheBeau, CC BY 2.0.

On Thursday, October 20, 2016, the Wikimedia Foundation filed a petition with the French Supreme Court in support of access to knowledge. In May 2015, the French data protection authority (CNIL) decided that Google must remove information globally from its search results when requested appropriately by French citizens. Since that time, Google and the CNIL have disagreed about how extensive such removals must be.

Although the CNIL’s case is directed towards Google, the gradual disappearance of Wikimedia pages from Google search results around the world ultimately impacts the public’s ability to find the invaluable knowledge contained within the Wikimedia projects. Search engines have played an important role in the quest for knowledge — roughly half of Wikipedia visits originate from search engines.

The CNIL’s most recent order, if upheld, threatens the capacity to write and share important information about history, public figures, and more. It undermines the public’s ability to find relevant and neutral information on the internet, and would make it exceedingly difficult for projects like Wikimedia’s to provide information that is important for society.

The current case is the latest in a series of concerning developments that began with the European Court of Justice decision in Google Spain v. AEPD and Mario Costeja González in May 2014. The case resulted in a right to be forgotten—the idea that people may demand to have truthful information about themselves selectively removed (or “delisted”) from search engine results.

The Wikimedia Foundation has expressed its strong disagreement with the judgment and outlined its risks for the free knowledge movement in an earlier post.

Additionally, as part of our efforts to bring more transparency to these requests, when we receive notice that a Wikipedia article was removed from a search engine due to a “right to be forgotten” delisting request, we publish the notice in a public index for the Wikimedia community’s reference. Unfortunately, these notices are frustratingly vague, and many search engines are less than transparent about their delisting process.

In response to the Google Spain case, Google started honoring delisting requests by removing material from search results that were accessible via French domains. On May 21, 2015, the CNIL ordered Google to remove search results from all of its domains, accessible to anyone around the world. Google requested a reconsideration of this decision, but the CNIL rejected this request in September 2015. This would have significantly expanded the impact of a delisting request, and meant that requests considered under solely French law would limit accessibility to that information globally. Google chose not to comply with the CNIL’s overbroad order and offered a compromise that would limit the impact of such requests to people in France.

The CNIL rejected this compromise and demanded that Google pay a fine for non-compliance with its order. Google still implemented its proposed compromise, and is now challenging the CNIL’s order before the Conseil d’État, the French Supreme Court. In our petition, we request permission to intervene in the case to ask the Conseil d’État to uphold Google’s appeal. We believe that Google should not be required under one country’s laws to remove lawful content from search results around the world.

Our filing demonstrates how the Wikimedia projects will be directly impacted by the CNIL order

First, roughly half of Wikipedia visits typically originate from search engines. Delisting links to articles, therefore, will make it more difficult for people find and access Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

Second, the very concept underlying delisting is contrary to the Wikimedia movement’s goal of promoting access to free knowledge. While the Foundation aims to make knowledge easier to access, delisting runs counter to this goal by making some important information harder to find.

Third, the CNIL’s order would limit access to knowledge to people around the world, not just in France. Access to neutral, truthful, and valuable information should not be blocked globally based on a single country’s decision.

Allowing the CNIL to apply its rules globally could encourage other countries to apply their laws outside their borders, and delist or delete information based on their own interpretation of what constitutes the public interest. Diverse countries and cultures have different values and laws, and we believe those differences should be respected. We fear that rules like this will make it more difficult to discuss and remember subjects that are important to society, such as human rights abuses or dissenting political opinions.

No single nation should attempt to control what information the entire world may access. This case would fundamentally undermine the Wikimedia vision of a world where every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

We hope that the Conseil d’État will allow our intervention in the matter, and find that the scope of the CNIL’s order was unjustified.

Aeryn Palmer, Legal Counsel*

* Special thanks to Claire Rameix-Séguin and François Gilbert of SCP Baraduc-Duhamel- Rameix for their representation of the Wikimedia Foundation in this case, as well as Jacob Rogers, Stephen LaPorte, Jan Gerlach, Tarun Krishnakumar and Michelle Paulson of the Wikimedia Foundation.


by Aeryn Palmer at October 19, 2016 10:05 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed visits UCSD

Last Tuesday, Director of Programs LiAnna Davis and I visited the University of California, San Diego. We spoke with librarians and faculty about how they can bring their work to Wikipedia.

When students contribute to Wikipedia as part of a class assignment, everybody benefits. Students bring the power of their libraries to Wikipedia by adding peer-reviewed, academic research to topics related to the course. Instructors bring the power of Wikipedia to their classrooms by taking students behind the scenes to understand the pieces that make it work.

At our UCSD workshop, we asked attendees whether they were inspired to collaborate on Wikipedia because of the opportunity to share knowledge with the world or because of the skills students develop through the process. Unsurprisingly, most people saw value in both outcomes. That’s what makes a Wikipedia assignment so special: students give knowledge to the world while gaining skills they need to thrive in it.

Librarians at UCSD see how Wikipedia enhances the work they do with students, which is why they continue organizing to improve Wikipedia. They have hosted Art + Feminism Edit-a-thons for the last two years to document the achievements of women in art. They have hosted edit-a-thons to add Asian and Asian American Pacific art to Wikipedia. And now, they’re serving as a gateway to bringing more faculty and students into the Classroom Program.

Thank you to hosts Gayatri Singh and Lia Friedman for hosting us in the beautiful Geisel Library. If you’re a faculty member interested in joining our initiative to bring quality information to Wikipedia and meaningful learning experiences to students, send an email to contact@wikiedu.org

by Jami Mathewson at October 19, 2016 04:27 PM

Brion Vibber

Testing in-browser video transcoding with MediaRecorder

A few months ago I made a quick test transcoding video from MP4 (or whatever else the browser can play) into WebM using the in-browser MediaRecorder API.

I’ve updated it to work in Chrome, using a <canvas> element as an intermediary recording surface as captureStream() isn’t available on <video> elements yet there.

Live demo: https://brionv.com/misc/browser-transcode-test/capture.html

There are a couple advantages of re-encoding a file this way versus trying to do all the encoding in JavaScript, but also some disadvantages…


  • actual encoding should use much less CPU than JavaScript cross-compile
  • less code to maintain!
  • don’t have to jump through hoops to get at raw video or audio data


  • MediaRecorder is realtime-oriented:
    • will never decode or encode faster than realtime
    • if encoding is slower than realtime, lots of frames are dropped
    • on my MacBook Pro, realtime encoding tops out around 720p30, but eg phone camera videos will often be 1080p30 these days.
  • browser must actually support WebM encoding or it won’t work (eg, won’t work in Edge unless they add it in future, and no support at all in Safari)
  • Firefox and Chrome both seem to be missing Vorbis audio recording needed for base-level WebM (but do let you mix Opus with VP8, which works…)

So to get frame-rate-accurate transcoding, and to support higher resolutions, it may be necessary to jump through further hoops and try JS encoding.

I know this can be done — there are some projects compiling the entire ffmpeg  package in emscripten and wrapping it in a converter tool — but we’d have to avoid shipping an H.264 or AAC decoder for patent reasons.

So we’d have to draw the source <video> to a <canvas>, pull the RGB bits out, convert to YUV, and run through lower-level encoding and muxing… oh did I forget to mention audio? Audio data can be pulled via Web Audio, but only in realtime.

So it may be necessary to do separate audio (realtime) and video (non-realtime) capture/encode passes, then combine into a muxed stream.

by brion at October 19, 2016 10:19 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

Community digest: Indian flora windfall for Commons, news in brief

Photo by Jeevan Jose, CC BY-SA 4.0.

One of Jose’s images (seen here) is likely to have played an important role in identifying a new species. Photo by Jeevan Jose, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Thousands of new images are now available on Wikimedia Commons thanks to recent work from numerous Indian field biologists. What began as the pet project of V.R. Vinayaraj, who took pictures of Indian flora on the weekends and used Facebook groups to help identify the plants, has exploded into a wave of uploads from citizen scientists, photographers, and botanists throughout the subcontinent.

The Signpost spoke to two Wikimedians who have uploaded images: David Raju and Jeevan Jose.

Raju, a self-taught naturalist who has co-written a book on dragonflies, is motivated to contribute his work so that others may see what he has learned and he can contribute to global knowledge. “I love to share whatever I have. I believe the only way we can gain more knowledge is to share our knowledge,” he says.

Raju hopes to upload images of a thousand different species of dragonflies, and he happily reports that he is well on his way.

Jose became involved in uploading images to Wikimedia Commons in 2010 after friends invited him to share his freely licensed images from Flickr more broadly. He takes great joy in learning more about insects and herbs, his two primary categories of uploads, and views Wikimedia Commons as an outlet to do just that. He shares that he has connected with prominent scientists to help identify species in photos he has taken … in one case, a photo Jose captured could not be identified and may be a new species of crane fly.

For Jose, the motivation is intrinsic: “Every time when I photograph and share a work, I’m learning something new from the experts who commented on it. It can be a new record from my place or an interesting behavior documentation of an existing one”, he says. “My experience is the more I’m willing to disseminate my works, the more my opportunity to get such friends and learn from them.”

In the future, Jose hopes to establish a fund to help procure equipment for aspiring photographers to contribute images to Wikimedia Commons. His equipment came from a Wikimedia India grant. Jose also would like to see a partnership between Wikimedia and India’s forestry agency to facilitate collaboration in identifying and documenting native species.

To get involved or see more work from the collaboration, check out the WikiProject that has formed on Commons.

Go Phightins!Signpost contributor

This post was originally published in the Signpost, a community-written news journal about the Wikimedia movement. It was slightly edited for publication on the Wikimedia blog. Any views expressed are not necessarily those of the Wikimedia Foundation; responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments section below.

You can read more about Jeevan Jose in this blog’s profile of him.

In brief

Social media award goes to Wikimedia Sweden: Wikimedia Sweden, the independent chapter organization that works to advance the Wikimedia movement in that country, has won an award for 100,000 krona—a bit under 12,000 US dollars. The award is given annually by the city and University of Borås to individuals or groups who have made “significant contributions in social media viewed from a societal perspective.” Wikimedia Sweden was honored because of how it “innovatively collects and presents user-generated knowledge in the digital landscape.” Anna Troberg, the chapter’s executive director, said in a press release that “knowledge creates new opportunities, but often the knowledge is not particularly accessible to people. The more knowledge that is free and available online, the more doors open for people.” How to use the money is a question being left to the community via the comments section on their official blog post. Troberg will officially accept the award on 19 October.

Wiki Education Brazil starts fact-checkingWikimedia Community User Group Brasil‘s education program has entered into a fact-checking partnership with Agência Lupa. Their first edit-a-thon was held on 7–9 October in São Paulo.

Africa Destubathon: This impressively neologized contest aims to improve the English Wikipedia’s articles related to the African continent. It runs through 27 November, and there will be “significant prizes” for those who can improve (“destub”) the most articles on geography and wildlife, and/or the most improved or created about women. The contest is related to the 10,000 Challenge, a broader effort.

New Signpost out: In addition to the story republished above, seven sections of the Signpost were published on 14 October. It included a discussion report about the Wikimedia Foundation’s Leadership Development dialogue and a technology report on upcoming tech projects in 2017.

Terms of use update: There is a community consultation on “upgrading the default copyright license for Wikimedia to Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0.” You can read more on Meta, and question the Wikimedia Foundation about it in an IRC office hour at 14:00 UTC on 19 October.

Community Wishlist Survey status update: The Wikimedia Foundation’s Danny Horn has posted a status update on the Community Wishlist Survey, where the Wikimedia community can submit ideas on things they would like to see fixed. A quick run-down is available on Wikimedia-l.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

by Go Phightins! and Ed Erhart at October 19, 2016 04:36 AM

October 18, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Welcome, Robert Fernandez!

A key facet of Wiki Ed’s Classroom Program is the work of our Wikipedia Content Experts — experienced Wikipedia editors who are available to support students as they navigate editing Wikipedia for the first time. I’m pleased to announce Robert Fernandez has joined Wiki Ed on a short-term contract to provide additional support to student editors in the fall 2016 term.

Robert Fernandez
Robert Fernandez

As User:Gamaliel, Rob has been active editing Wikipedia since 2004, with a special focus on arts, library science, and history topics. He’s volunteered to serve Wikipedia in numerous roles, including as co-editor-in-chief of the community newspaper theSignpost, a coordinator for the Wikipedia Library, an administrator, a board member for Wikimedia D.C., and recently lead organizer and communications chair for WikiConference North America 2016.

Outside his Wikipedia work, Rob is a university librarian who has many years of experience supporting student research and teaching media literacy to students. His unique combination of university library work and Wikipedia experience make him a great fit for helping answer student questions, provide feedback on student drafts, and otherwise support student editors in our Classroom Program as a Wikipedia Content Expert. Rob can be reached at his user page on Wikipedia at User:Rob (Wiki Ed).

by LiAnna Davis at October 18, 2016 05:59 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Arctic temperatures are no match for this retiree and his camera

Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A walrus rests on a Svalbard beach. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Arctic is cold. Really cold.

Wikipedia tells us that the average summer temperature in Svalbard, a Norwegian island located along roughly the same latitude as northern Greenland, ranges between 4 to 6 °C (39 to 43 °F). Winter (January) averages at −16 to −12 °C (3 to 10 °F). Thanks to the West Spitsbergen Current, those temperatures are actually on the warm side. Similarly placed regions elsewhere can be up to 20 °C (36 °F) less.

In any case, these sorts of temperatures heavily affect what can live and grow there. Only certain types of plants and animals can live there, much less thrive, and human habitation is made far more difficult.

That’s why Wikimedia Commons photographer Andreas Weith head north as much as he can to capture the wildlife of the great white region. “I am no doubt infected by the arctic virus,” he wrote on his personal user page. “I just can’t resist using every chance to go north … the only region of this earth where man’s influence is not really obvious and where nature still rules over everything else.”

A Siberian husky sled dog with heterochromia eyes. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A Siberian husky sled dog with heterochromia eyes. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A native of southern Germany, Wieth has a PhD in biology and put it to use in several jobs before retiring. However, his work schedule meant that he was unable to travel to all of the goals he set for himself: the Galapagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, South America’s rainforests, and the Arctic. He was over sixty years old before he reached the fourth goal, and he’s clearly been infected.

Weith’s animal imagery, however, is not easy to capture. To get to the Arctic, Weith books passage on Arctic cruises, which have strict rules about interfering with the environment; photographers usually have to employ a long-focus lens or super telezoom.

Perhaps the largest problem is that this is wildlife—they’re not encumbered by the needs of good photo angles and telegenic appearances. As Weith told me, “you need to know that nature will present you with very short-lived situations that will never come back.”

Here’s some of Weith’s work, his personal descriptions of the shot, and what equipment and setups he used to capture these moments.

A curious seal comes out to see the photographer's boat. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A curious seal comes out to see the photographer’s boat. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

“This photo was shot on a very sunny day at Magdalen Fjord while we were cruising with a zodiac. There were six of us on the boat, plus one of the arctic nature guides. After a very pleasant visit at the glacier front of the Waggonwaybreen, taking several wonderful photos of it and the icebergs in front, we noticed some wildlife in the distance, in the shade of one of the huge mountains around the fjord.

“We approached the place slowly, with a minimal use of the outboard motor and producing almost no noise. About 200 meters from the shady place, we could survey the scenery: there were about 15 seals either resting on small and flat rocks just above the waterline or swimming around them.

“We stayed at a distance for about 30 minutes, not knowing whether the animals would escape or not if we approached them—but they had a very low flight initiation distance. The one I could photograph was curious enough to approach us until it was maybe 8-10 meters away, and in the photo you can actually see a mirror image of our Zodiac in its eyes.  My lucky chance was that I noticed its approach very early; I could assume a position very near the water surface (despite my 3 kg camera and tele lens!) and take the photo as if I was any of its pals. I guess that’s the charm of the photo. I took only some 10 to 15 photos of the animal approaching the boat; after about 10 seconds, the seal dove away silently. It re-emerged several times but the scenery wasn’t as attractive as in that first instance.

“As to the settings of my camera, I guess every wildlife photographer does the same when assumingly approaching an attractive spot:

  • Realize what lighting conditions you will have.
    • Good light means low ISO values—100 to 500—short shutter time, and if you have the option of semi-automatic programmes on your camera, a useful programme for high apertures, such as f12 to f16).
    • Shade, evening mood, or rainy conditions would mean a higher ISO, i.e. 2000 to 5000 on my camera in order to allow for short shutter speeds and still high apertures. That creates photos without motion blur and sufficient depth of field.
  • Always make sure you know you carry a very, very long focal length which can easily induce substantial camera shake! After the first few photos you should check the quality of your initial images on the camera monitor and continue with changed settings to adjust the camera to the actual conditions.”
A polar bear and her cub. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A polar bear and her cub. Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Andreas Weith, CC BY-SA 4.0.

“The polar bear female was shot from the ships’ deck during our cruise through Hinlopen Strait, a large sound in the northeast of Spitsbergen, while there was still very dense drift ice in the strait. It is not certain that you will spot polar bears during an expedition that lasts only a short time, so we were lucky enough to watch nine bears within a period of two weeks. It was always a competition between the ships’ crew, the guides, and us photographers to see who would spot a bear first. This one resided with its cub on a very large ice floe; we recognized them using our magnifying glasses when we were at a distance of about 2-3 kilometers. They obviously slept, little one on top of ma’s belly.

“We approached them slowly, taking 30 or 40 minutes to get to be about 150m away. We had to keep in mind that a relatively large vessel might constitute a mighty enemy for those creatures.  They woke up and got to their feet when we were about 300 meters away. Indeed, after being relaxed and calm and even somewhat curious for the first 10 minutes, they showed signs of shakiness at first and later on even fear, drinking salt water, showing their black tongues,  and eating crushed ice from the floe. This perception made us turn away from them after about 15 to 20 minutes of intense admiration and observation.

“I took exactly 329 photos of the scenario from the bow of the vessel, about five of which I deemed presentable to sophisticated spectators, showing some very characteristic behavior of the amazing, impressive and beautiful animals.

“As to the camera setup in this situation, you can imagine that when lurking along on the decks of and expedition vessel, you are always prepared for something interesting coming up in the distance. So the setup again is: tele or telezoom lens with as long a focus as possible and the camera settings according to that. That means maximal possible shutter speed at the appropriate ISO value and an aperture that allows for the desired depth of field. In the case of the approach to the polar bear mama and her kid it was ISO 250 (nice and sunny weather), shutter at 1/640 sec (tricky, as it can be prone to some camera shake at 600mm focal length)  allowing for an aperture of f10 to f16.”

The photographer himself. Photo courtesy of Andreas Weith.

The photographer himself. Photo courtesy of Andreas Weith.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

by Ed Erhart at October 18, 2016 12:47 PM

Wiki Loves Monuments

Cultural Heritage Laws & Freedom of Panorama

The annual Wiki Loves Monuments (“WLM”) photography contest, the world’s largest photography competition, is an opportunity for people around the world to share images of their country’s most beautiful and important monuments with the global community. However, its organisation in some EU countries is difficult or even impossible. In this blogpost, Dimitar Dimitrov and Aeryn Palmer will share some experiences from various countries with legislative barriers in organising Wiki Loves Monuments across Europe.

In many European countries, copyright and ancillary rights are designed to limit access to works that may be part of a country’s cultural heritage. While sculptors and architects rightfully hold moral and economic rights on their creations, these rights can interfere with efforts to educate and share knowledge. The question is how to strike a fair and practically applicable balance between particular economic rights and the public interest.

One of the main goals of Wiki Loves Monuments is to collect images under free licenses – and we would like to share some examples of how we’re hindered in that effort by legislative barriers. In some countries collecting and publishing photographs of national heritage is only possible if the creator of the architectural and cultural work has been dead for longer than 70 years. In others, there is an exception allowing for photographing newer works, however only if one is standing on the street, not, for example, from the rooftop across the street. Again other countries allow only photos of architecture, but no longer when public artwork gets in the picture. And what about graffiti? Managing a competition in every EU country, theoretically part of a single market, turns out to be harder than one would expect.

Italy – Whac-a-mole-style Efforts to Comply with the Law

The Colosseum is one of the most famous monuments in Rome.  Photo by Dror Feitelson

The Colosseum is one of the most famous monuments in Rome. Photo by Dror Feitelson

In 2011, WLM could not yet be organised in Italy. The contest was prevented by the “Codice Urbani”, an Italian cultural heritage law, and the absence of Freedom of Panorama. The law prohibits the publication of photos of cultural heritage items for commercial purposes. In order to publish such images, authorization must be sought from the local office of the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage.

The organisers of the 2011 WLM contest in Italy reached out to the relevant officials, worked with them, and were eventually assured that they would be provided a list of monuments that could be photographed for the project. However, no such list was forthcoming, and Italy was unable to participate in the 2011 contest.

For 2012, they attempted again to include Italian sites and objects in Wiki Loves Monuments. Wikimedia Italia worked with the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage to negotiate an agreement that would allow them to participate in the photography contest. In addition, Wikimedia Italia’s project manager began contacting individual institutions that had jurisdiction over certain monuments, and requesting permission for them to be included in the contest. This required extensive outreach, potentially involving “8000+ different municipalities, endless cultural institutions, countless churches. … We [sic] let you imagine the complexity of the landscape that was opening in front of us: it was a nightmare, but at least it could give us some ‘free’ monuments.”

The individual outreach effort met with some success. In addition, an agreement was at last reached with the Ministry, which allows for photographs of all monuments that fall under their control to be submitted for the contest. The agreement calls for a disclaimer to be attached to the pictures, and it requires no fee to be paid to the owner of the respective monuments if the photographer does not intend to use the images for commercial purposes.

Additionally, the Ministry acknowledged that having images of Italian heritage sites on the Wikimedia Projects is useful for promoting knowledge of Italian culture. This statement is absolutely correct; a 2012 study found that the addition of an image to a Wikipedia page created a “significant boost in traffic”. Adding photographs of monuments to the Projects can increase the number of readers who view the associated articles, stimulating further interest and perhaps even tourism.

Note, however, that securing the permission to post these images has required a great deal of work. A less organized or well-resourced group, or perhaps a single individual creator, might never have attempted to contact the individual rightsholders, or been able to negotiate with the Ministry.

Bulgaria & Greece – Tedious Beginnings

Unlike Italy, Bulgaria has some form of Freedom of Panorama. However it is restricted to non-commercial uses only. As free licenses accepted on free & open projects generally allow commercial re-use, this restriction de facto renders the exception useless from an online free knowledge perspective.

For many years the Wikimedian and volunteer photographer community in Bulgaria, after consulting various lawyers and law firms, decided that holding such a contest in the country would be too risky. Only older monuments could be photographed, but how to explain this to the participating public? It took five years of preparation and legal analysis to finally attempt organising a local edition of Wiki Loves Monuments in Bulgaria. For this to work, lists of registered national and local monuments had to be obtained and then filtered to exclude the newer (copyrighted) works. After that, a special working group of volunteers had to be assembled to disqualify images of monuments that were still fully protected. Bulgarian law not only prevented the digitisation and popularisation of a considerable amount of Bulgaria’s architectural and sculptural heritage but also locked up valuable volunteer resources in time-consuming, rather than constructive activities.

Our Greek community had to work around all the challenges that the Bulgarian community mastered, but had one more obstacle to clear. In Greece a so-called antiquity law adds an additional protection on all archeological monuments and sites in the country. Meaning in practice that anyone who would like to take a photograph of ancient Greek sites and re-use these freely has to get a license from the Greek government and pay the set fees.

Slovenia and Lithuania – no Wiki Loves Monuments

Some communities from countries with prohibitive copyright provisions simply aren’t able to find legal patches for inexistent cultural exceptions. They don’t have the necessary resources to work around the extra administrative burden in finding and providing patches for the administrative. Among EU countries, this includes Slovenia and Lithuania.

Improved situation in Belgium

Finally on Wikipedia: the European Commission 'Berlaymont' building. Photo by 'Nieuw'

Finally on Wikipedia: the European Commission ‘Berlaymont’ building. Photo by ‘Nieuw’

For years Belgium has been going through the same trouble as Bulgaria and Greece: excluding monuments from lists and deleting hundreds of images and disqualifying participants each year. Still, the successful competition helped raise awareness of the problem. In 2016 the Belgian federal parliament adopted a full Freedom of Panorama exception. This not only means thousands of Belgian monuments can now be digitised by means of photography, but also that precious volunteer time is spent where it belongs – creating free knowledge rather than sweating legal codes.

The balance found in Belgium might prove to be applicable elsewhere. Visual artists’ works are still protected. Images thereof can only be used without permission if the piece of art has been installed permanently in a public square or street. In these situations the sculptor is paid, either by the municipality or the initiative committee sponsoring the project. Façades can now freely be photographed and images thereof freely shared online, but architects can still rest assured that no one is allowed to just copy the design by rebuilding the same building elsewhere. Their private interests are protected and the public can fully enjoy its cultural heritage public spaces.

The struggle continues

Wikimedia continues to work on including an European-wide Freedom of Panorma in the EU copyright reform, which is currently in the European Parliament. If you would like to help us with this initiative you can send an email or call an MEP from your country explaining why you believe this is important. If you have any questions or have other ideas how to help, please get in touch with our coordinator in Brussels.

(This blogpost was contributed by Dimitar Parvanov, the ‘Wikimedian in Brussels’ – available under CC BY-SA. The top photo is a blacked out European Parliament in Strassbourg, photographed by Ralf Roletschek.)

by Lodewijk at October 18, 2016 11:11 AM

October 17, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA update: appeal hearing scheduled

Photo by Droid Gingerbread, CC BY 2.0..

Photo by Droid Gingerbread, CC BY 2.0..

Today, we are pleased to bring you a brief update in our case against the United States National Security Agency and others over the US government’s Upstream surveillance practices. The next hearing will take place on December 8, 2016, at the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

We filed this case in March 2015, to challenge mass surveillance practices that violate the privacy and free expression rights of internet users. Our case was dismissed on October 23, 2015, when Judge T.S. Ellis, III, ruled that the Wikimedia Foundation and our co-plaintiffs lacked legal standing to bring the challenge. In February 2016, we filed an appeal with the Fourth Circuit. We look forward to presenting our arguments before the Court in December.

In addition, our attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have notified the Court about a recent relevant ruling in Schuchardt v. President of the United States. In Schuhardt, the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that there was legal standing to challenge PRISM collection, a type of mass surveillance conducted under the same alleged authority as Upstream. Although the Third Circuit’s decision is not binding on the Fourth Circuit, we hope that the Fourth Circuit will consider it to be persuasive precedent.

We will continue to keep the members of the Wikimedia communities updated on this lawsuit, which is an important aspect of our dedication to protect user privacy. For more information on this case and government surveillance in general, please see our landing page on Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA.

Jim Buatti, Legal Fellow
Aeryn Palmer, Legal Counsel

Special thanks to all who have supported us in this litigation, including the ACLU’s Patrick Toomey, Jameel Jaffer, Alex Abdo, and Ashley Gorski; and Aarti Reddy, Patrick Gunn, and Ben Kleine of our pro bono counsel Cooley, LLP; and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Michelle Paulson and Zhou Zhou.


by Jim Buatti and Aeryn Palmer at October 17, 2016 05:31 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Sock it to me

One of the great joys of Wikipedia is just how comprehensive it can be. Sometimes, you want to know about the Arab Spring. Sometimes you want to know about hepatitis.

And sometimes, you just have a question about socks.

Case in point: When, exactly, should you wear a compression stocking? And where did compression stockings come from, anyway?

One student editor has you covered.

Students in Timothy Henningsen’s Composition course at the College of DuPage have been busy this summer, adding to pages on topics such as chocolate makers and Milton Glaser, designer of the iconic “I ♥ NY” logo.

Composition courses often offer students a chance to work on a wide range of articles. They think deeply about the content that’s on Wikipedia already, assessing it and weighing it against the knowledge they find. They add sourced information and improve the writing. Dr. Henningsen wrote an excellent blog post telling us why:

“If one of the main motives of assigning a research paper is to have students engage a discourse and speak to an audience, then unless that audience is real and tangible, the activity is inherently counterfeit. It might be good practice, but it’s nothing like playing a real game. Which is where Wikipedia comes in.”

So, what does this have to do with socks? It may not be initially obvious. But this student’s work on compression stockings has been seen more than 47,000 times since they took it on. And frankly, the article is fascinating.

It describes the stocking’s context within an entire history of compression therapy, starting as early as 5,000 BC. We even get a sense of how compression stockings are represented in art, where we see them on paintings of soldiers.

Crucially, the article provides a sense of when these stockings are medically necessary, how they work, and when they’re recommended for treatment. All of which was improved by this student.

One of the great revelations of Wikipedia is that there’s a fascinating history behind everything, and a value to the smallest details of the human experience. Student editors can help uncover that hidden history for the world by sharing it on Wikipedia. Meanwhile, this student has made an impact for 47,000 readers around the world, who can now access more information about what strike them, initially, as a curious form of therapy.

Want to tap into your students’ curiosity, and help them translate that for thousands of readers around the world? Get in touch with us about our free support for teaching with Wikipedia. Send us an e-mail: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Gold Leaf Socks by Sand and Sky, CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 17, 2016 04:00 PM

Tech News

Tech News issue #42, 2016 (October 17, 2016)

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October 17, 2016 12:00 AM

October 14, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation supports anonymous online speech in letter to California Supreme Court

Photo by Adam Engelhart, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo by Adam Engelhart, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Wikimedia Foundation filed a letter on Friday urging the Supreme Court of California to review the recent lower court decision in Glassdoor v. eGumball and uphold the public’s right to anonymous online speech.

The case began when eGumball, Inc., a California-based search marketing provider, filed a lawsuit against two named defendants and ten anonymous “Doe” defendants—legal stand-ins for defendants whose identities are not yet known—over several allegedly defamatory reviews of their company. The reviews appeared on Glassdoor, a website that hosts anonymous employee reviews of companies. Anonymity is a critical part of Glassdoor’s business model, because it allows reviewers to speak candidly about their employers or former employers without fear of retaliation.

eGumball served a subpoena on Glassdoor seeking the identities of the anonymous defendants. However, it also made a broader demand for information leading to the identities of the authors of “similar” reviews. In addition, it went even further in asking for the identities of any Glassdoor users who posted reviews about eGumball using the same IP addresses as the authors of one of the allegedly defamatory reviews or reviews “similar” to it. Glassdoor initially refused the subpoena, but a trial court upheld eGumball’s request and ordered Glassdoor to produce information about the identities in question. Glassdoor appealed, and has asked the California Supreme Court to review the case.

The Wikimedia movement places enormous value on user privacy and anonymous expression. Users are less likely to create and share information, including information about controversial topics, if they feel that doing so might subject them to the risk of possible scrutiny or retaliation. This is why the Wikimedia projects allow contributors to create and edit content anonymously. You do not need to create an account to use Wikimedia sites, and if you do create an account, you do not need to provide your legal name or other personally identifying information. Additionally, the Wikimedia Foundation retains the limited information it collects for a short period of time, and generally requires valid and enforceable legal process before disclosing nonpublic personally identifying information to a third party in response to a request for such information.

We find the lower court’s ruling in Glassdoor v. eGumball troubling for two reasons. First, the plaintiff’s request for information about anonymous reviewers is unjustifiably broad. While the court found that there was a valid reason to identify the authors of specific allegedly defamatory reviews, the same cannot be said of the authors of unspecified “similar” reviews that were not examined by the court for potential defamatory content. A plaintiff who sincerely believes that their reputation is being harmed by speech should have no difficulty identifying beforehand the specific speech that they believe is causing harm. And courts should carefully evaluate any allegedly unlawful speech before allowing its anonymous authors to be revealed—such review did not happen in this case. Attempting to unmask anonymous authors of “similar” reviews before allowing the court to evaluate their actual speech amounts to a kind of fishing expedition, and anonymous online speakers, especially those who rely on anonymity to discuss difficult subjects, deserve greater protection from courts before their identities are uncovered.

Second, we respectfully disagree with the trial court’s decision to reveal the identities of anonymous reviewers on Glassdoor using the same IP address as the authors of one of the reviews and any “similar” reviews. This is problematic because IP addresses are dynamic and often do not correspond to specific individuals. A single person may ultimately have several IP addresses over time. Similarly, multiple people may use the same IP address, especially where they are accessing the internet through the same device, such as at a library, school, or workplace. An order that applies to all anonymous speakers associated with a particular IP address is thus very likely to expose the identities of users who have nothing to do with the allegedly unlawful speech at issue in the case. This result is particularly harmful to educational sites, like the Wikimedia projects, which are often accessed through such public computers.

Privacy is a complex issue, and in some circumstances where there is a legitimate legal reason to do so, courts may decide to unmask anonymous online speakers. However, unmasking should only be done after a careful review of specific evidence of illegal activity. It must also be done in a way that respects the expectations of users who contributed to shared knowledge, whether it be on Wikimedia projects, Glassdoor, or elsewhere, under the belief that they would remain anonymous, and whose speech has not been examined by the court. We hope the California Supreme Court will agree to review this case, and in doing so, keep these important principles in mind.

Jim Buatti, Legal Fellow
Aeryn Palmer, Legal Counsel

by Jim Buatti and Aeryn Palmer at October 14, 2016 09:12 PM

Wikimedia Foundation advises Canadian Supreme Court to support freedom of expression worldwide in intervention filing for Google v. Equustek

Painting by Udo Keppler via the Library of Congress, public domain/CC0.

Painting by Udo Keppler via the Library of Congress, public domain/CC0.

The Google v. Equustek case originally concerned defendants who were found to be selling counterfeit products based on potentially stolen trade secrets owned by Equustek. Because Equustek was having trouble locating and stopping the defendants from making new infringing websites to sell the products, they petitioned a Canadian court for an order asking Google to delist any websites from that defendant. The court ruled that Google needed to do this, and not just in Canada but on every Google domain worldwide. Google then appealed the case, which has now reached the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Wikimedia Foundation requested permission from the Supreme Court of Canada to file an intervention (similar to an amicus brief in the United States) in order to inform the Court of the issues that an order with worldwide effect could create for the Wikimedia movement, explain why we think it’s a bad idea, and urge the court to create a test to consider the full range of freedom of expression issues when considering future takedown orders.

Our brief highlights two major points for the Court’s consideration. First, we highlight that under international norms and Canadian law, freedom of expression includes not only the right to publish information, but also the right to receive it. When content removal requests limit access to information, they impact the free expression of any individual looking for related information and provide them with a distorted view of reality. This is particularly important in a worldwide context, as different countries have very different standards about what information is and is not legal to publish and for citizens to search for online. An order requiring a company to remove content worldwide might mean that the free expression rights of people searching for information in a jurisdiction where that information is completely legal would be unfairly impacted.

Our second point focuses on the importance of international relations and a concept called comity. Comity is when courts, out of respect for the laws of other nations, decline to make certain rulings even if it is legally possible for them to do so. For example, courts in the United States sometimes won’t make their ruling based on U.S. law if the people in a lawsuit come from different countries and agreed in a contract that they would use the law of some other country.

In this case, comity comes up because there is a question of how other nations would view an international court order from Canada. If the Canadian courts insist on an order like this, there’s a good chance that courts from other nations might do the same thing, and a risk that countries with much stricter publication laws than Canada or the United States might try to force their laws on people around the world. This could have a negative impact on everyone’s free expression rights, and so we think the Court should decline to issue such an order even if it finds that legally it would be allowed to do so. We hope that the Canadian Supreme Court will articulate a clear and principled approach to this important issue which will stand as an example for other countries.

With our intervention submitted, we are now waiting to hear if the Court will also permit us to offer an oral argument briefly during the case, and we will then look forward to the Court’s ruling in spring 2017.

Jacob Rogers, Legal Counsel

We would like to extend our gratitude to McInnes Cooper, specifically to David Fraser and Jane O’Neill, who assisted the Foundation by researching Canadian law and drafting the intervention brief.


by Jacob Rogers at October 14, 2016 05:15 PM

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 325


Mapping bike by Stéphane Péneau

The new mapping bike of Stéphane Péneau 1 | Image by Stéphane Péneau under CC-BY-SA

About us

  • This year’s OSM donation drive is still running. weeklyOSM says thank you to: Peter Karich (Graphhopper) for 1000 Euro, Florian Schenk (500 Euro), Viktar Shcherb (OsmAnd team) for 300 Euro, Andreas Geyer-Schulz, Markus Hallermann, Henri Geist and Julian Hollingbery each for 200 Euro and all the other donors to OSMF.


  • Last week Mexico launched (automatic translation) their first cableway for public transportation: the ‘Mexicable’. The importance of the Mexicable is that it will be able to transport people from the poor neighborhoods of the suburbs of the capital. @federicomena asked (automatic translation) OSMers in Mexico to help map the stations. A week later the stations were mapped on OSM.
  • Ziltoidium asks (Deutsch) in the German Forum, whether one can exert influence on bicycle routing by means of special tagging. (automatic translation)
  • Claudio Cossio reported about photomapping in Cuba on the occasion of the International Free Software Conference .
  • The weekly roundup by Krishna Nammala (Mapbox) about suspicious changes that were commented or reverted.


  • ImreSamu has written a diary entry after reading Michal Migurski’s blog post that talked about robot mapping. Influenced by Sadya Nadella’s “laws of robotics” (which was of course influenced by Asimov), ImreSamu suggests what rules robot mappers should have to adhere to.
  • OSM Mexico participated in and gave talks at the Latin American Geospatial Forum 2016 (one of the most prestigious annual conferences organized in Latin America).
  • User SK53 has done some experiments with topological skeletons of water surfaces and reported about it.
  • There’s discussion in the DE forum about the tone and etiquette used in discussions, including changeset comment discussions, with reference to the draft community code of conduct that has lain ignored in the wiki for some years (including a suggestion, perhaps not entirely serious, for a “Ministry of Truth Working Group”). There’s also been discussion of codes of conduct elsewhere, such as for OSM website and “Standard” map style development.
  • Guillaume is looking for documentation for uMap in English. As a basis for a new one, commentors suggest (Französisch) the French version.
  • Christoph Hormann shares his views about the OSM Awards in his OSM diary.
  • [1] Stéphane Péneau presents his new mapping bike. Stephane explains the system here: Part1 and Part2
  • The Swiss SOSM updated their installation of uMap to the latest version.
  • On Spreadshirt.com you can order your T-shirt with the Craftmapper design as it was distributed at SotM.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Skrill.com, a payment service you have to use if you use Flattr, owes the OSMF £ 500 and refuses to pay its debts.


  • Harry Wood published a recap of this year’s SotM in the OSM blog.
  • Daniel and Victor reminds about this year’s SotM LatAm (Latin America) that takes place in São Paulo from 25 to 27 November (Brazilian Portuguese).
  • In Tuscany (in the area of Alta Versilia) a hiking mapping party took place (Italian) from September 30 until October 02.

Humanitarian OSM


  • Anton of Transit wrote a very detailed and quite interesting explanation of how they autogenerate their transit maps for their supported cities worldwide.
  • Srikanth Lakshmanan reported that he has installed a language selection for 12 languages for India openstreetmap.in.

Open Data

  • DigitalGlobe delivered the latest satellite imagery after Hurricane Matthew’s catastrophe in Haiti under a CC BY license for humanitarian organizations such as HOT and the American Red Cross. Many of the images are also now available in OpenAerialMap, both for download and as map services.


  • Klokan Technologies (known for their OSM2VectorTiles) started OSMNames, a new project that features basic place search functionality.
  • Mapzen published a new API called Libpostal to expand address data into component parts (like house number, street, city etc.).
  • Kepta, a GSoC intern, summarizes his contribution over the summer. He worked on building a lane editor for iD.


Software Version Release date Comment
Grass Gis 7.0.5 2016-10-02 150 stability fixes and manual improvements
OSRM Backend 5.4.0 2016-10-04 Improved guidance and lane support, many other changes
Traccar Client iOS 3.1 2016-10-04 Build against iOS 10 SDK.
Osmose Backend v1.0-2016-10-06 2016-10-06 No info
Komoot Android * var 2016-10-10 No info
Mapillary iOS * 4.4.17 2016-10-08 Two bugs fixed while transfering Images.

Provided by the OSM Software Watchlist.

Did you know …

  • … that you can use BBBike to extract an area from Planet.osm and convert it into one of many supported formats?
  • WhirlyGlobes Maply, a toolkit for Android and iOS that provides visualizations in OpenGL ES for maps with many features?
  • …. about the smallest street in Nottingham which Alex covers in details in his report?

OSM in the media

  • Spanish newspaper, Las Provincias reported in the group “Geovoluntariado” of Polytechnic University of Valencia who organized a mapathon to update the areas affected by hurricane Matthew.
  • The University of Gijon held an experimental workshop (automatic translation) within the framework of the INCUNA VIII Conference in which free use technologies are used to collect data of all kinds, visible and invisible, on buildings. The underlying intention (apart from practicing with OSM) is to extract useful information about the potential and use of public space.

Other “geo” things

  • One year after the historic agreement in the border conflicts between India and Bangladesh the Indian-Bangladeshi enclaves are still in Google Maps.
  • Wendy Lee from the San Francisco Chronicle reported from the Google Summit in California, where Jen Filzpatrick (Head of Google Maps) talks about the challenge of creating maps for self-driving cars. The competition like Mapillary is mentioned. The OSM-based Trulia website is also mentioned in relation to the limits of Google Maps’ timeliness.
  • Google has published Cartographer, a library running on ROS for building SLAM applications.
  • TanDEM-X, from the German Aerospace Agency, makes available a “seamless 3-dimensional world map of unprecedented accuracy“.

Upcoming Events

Where What When Country
Berlin 100. Berlin-Brandenburg Stammtisch 10/14/2016 germany
Bouaké State of the Map West Africa (étape Côte d’Ivoire), Anphithéâtre B, Université Alassane Ouattara 10/15/2016 ivory coast
Nantes Initiation à OpenStreetMap, Fête de la Science 10/15/2016-10/16/2016 france
Berlin Hack Weekend 10/15/2016-10/16/2016 germany
Tokyo 東京!街歩き!マッピングパーティ:第1回 哲学堂公園 10/15/2016 japan
Favara Mapping party dei vicoli, cortili, scalinate, archi e orti del centro antico di Favara, Organizzato dalla Molitec, Farm Cultural Park e Tivissima 10/16/2016 italy
Bonn Bonner Stammtisch 10/18/2016 germany
Nottingham Nottingham 10/18/2016 united kingdom
Scotland Edinburgh 10/18/2016 united kingdom
Brussels Meetup at Café de Markten 10/18/2016 belgium
Lüneburg Mappertreffen Lüneburg 10/18/2016 germany
Elda Mapping Party Elda 10/19/2016 spain
Karlsruhe Stammtisch 10/19/2016 germany
Espoo OSM kahvit 10/20/2016 finland
Colorado Humanitarian Mapathon University of Northern Colorado, Greeley 10/20/2016 us
Maastricht Mapping the new Arriva Busses 10/20/2016 the netherlands
Tampere OSM kahvit 10/21/2016 finland
Essen Stammtisch 10/21/2016 germany
Nara マッピングパーティ奈良2016・西大寺 10/22/2016 japan
Graz Stammtisch 10/24/2016 austria
Bremen Bremer Mappertreffen 10/24/2016 germany
Urspring Stammtisch Ulmer Alb 10/25/2016 germany
Düsseldorf Stammtisch 10/26/2016 germany
Antwerp Missing Maps @ IPIS 10/26/2016 belgium
Colorado Humanitarian Mapathon Colorado State University, Fort Collins 10/27/2016 us
Omihachiman 近江八幡漫遊マップづくり 第2回諸国・浪漫マッピングパーティー 10/29/2016 japan
Karlsruhe Hack Weekend 10/29/2016-10/30/2016 germany
Taipei Taipei Meetup, Mozilla Community Space 10/31/2016 taiwan
Rostock OSM Stammtisch Rostock 11/01/2016 germany
Stuttgart Stammtisch 11/02/2016 germany
Dresden Stammtisch 11/03/2016 germany
Wien Hack Evening (58. Wiener Stammtisch) 11/03/2016 austria
Levoča Mapping party Levoča 11/04/2016-11/06/2016 slovakia

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

This weekly was produced by Laura Barroso, Nakaner, Peda, Polyglot, Rogehm, SomeoneElse, YoViajo, derFred, giovand, jinalfoflia, seumas.

by weeklyteam at October 14, 2016 08:34 AM

October 13, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Working Wikipedia assignments into English classrooms

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with community college instructors in the Puente Program, which provides support for underprivileged students as they transfer from community colleges to complete 4-year degrees. Students enrolled in the program have access to academic support, college counselors, and specialized writing programs to prepare them for college.

Puente Program courses aim to increase students’ writing and research skills. A Wikipedia project is a great fit because it requires students to read academic scholarship, understand it well enough to summarize in their own words, and communicate their findings to a general audience. Students revise, peer review, and iterate. In other words, they develop their writing and research skills.

One instructor wanted to know more about instituting assignments like this in English classes, where course texts often recur term after term. Is it possible to run out of topics for students to improve on Wikipedia?

While students typically update articles about authors whose texts they’ve read in class or the works themselves, great student contributions come from allowing students to explore their own interests. Do your students have an interest in anime, science fiction, nonfiction, or poetry? Consider an assignment where they are allowed to select articles related to these topics, particularly if the course focuses on composition rather than the primary literature.

For example, in a spring 2016 course on Creative Nonfiction, students updated articles across a range of topics. One student expanded the article about young-adult fiction author Marie Lu. One started a new article about Maria Venegas. Another student improved the article about poet and writer Aida Cartagena Portalatin by adding an image and expanding on her involvement in the “poesía sorprendida” movement.

Join our program!

If you’re an English instructor and want to know how best to incorporate a Wikipedia project into your next course, email contact@wikiedu.org to brainstorm pedagogically sound assignments and practices for your students.

by Samantha Weald at October 13, 2016 10:19 PM

Lorna M Campbell

Ada Lovelace Day Highlights

This week we celebrated Ada Lovelace Day at the University of Edinburgh with a fabulously eclectic and fun range of activities and a Wikipedia Editathon to enhance to coverage of women in STEM. Here’s a few few highlights from the day 🙂

I got to meet the real live Lego Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage <3 Thank you Stewart Cromar for brining them along.

Lego Lovelace

Lego Ada Lovelace & Charles Babbage

We made musical fruit with BBC micro:bits.  Okay “musical” might be a bit of a stretch but we did get the banana to make noises.

Musical Fruit

Stewart Cromar, Susan Greig and the “Musical” Fruit

Mairi Walker from Maths showed us how to built Lego calculators

Mairi Walker

Building Lego Calculators

We coloured in Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, inspiration for the University of Edinburgh’s media asset management system MediaHopper.

Grace Hopper colour in

Colouring in the inspirational Grace Hopper

We played played Metadata Games, which I won!  Anne Marie Scott beat me last year but I was determined to win this year.  Looks like metadata is the only thing I get really competitive about :} Here I am with my prize – Ada’s emo teenage boyfriend.

Lorna Campbell

Me and my prize by Stewart Cromar

And most importantly, we created 4 new Wikimedia articles, translated 5 into Portuguese, and improved 9 more articles all about women in STEM.  You can read more about the days outputs of the day Ada Lovelace Day Wikipedia Outputs.

by admin at October 13, 2016 08:58 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia’s hurricane hunters

Les Cayes, Haiti. Photo by Julien Mulliez/DFID, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Les Cayes, Haiti. Photo by Julien Mulliez/DFID, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Less than three weeks ago, a little tropical wave came into view off the West African shores. This seemingly harmless front rapidly grew into a category 5 hurricane traveling across the Atlantic, reaching the speed of 160 mph (260 km/h) under the name of Hurricane Matthew.

With massive damage dealt to four countries and over a thousand dead in Haiti alone, Matthew was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Stan in 2005. Many Haitian people lost their homes and sources of income, and “some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map,” as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described it.

Tropical cyclones are not always considered disastrous storms. Many weather and natural phenomena enthusiasts follow the news and development of tropical cyclones with great interest, including many Wikipedia editors.

“The uncertainty in meteorology is what makes it so intriguing for me,” says Wikipedia editor with the username United States Man. “It changes by the hour, sometimes by the minute, and the excitement comes from not knowing what will happen next. Of course, everyone would love to see the strongest Category 5 hurricane ever strike, provided it stays safely out to sea as a ‘fish storm’.”

United States Man is a member of WikiProject Tropical Cyclones, a big group of Wikipedians who coordinate their efforts to improve the Wikipedia content related to this topic. The group doesn’t usually assign any member to do a specific job, but sometimes the work is unintendedly divided between them according to everyone’s personal interest.

“In most cases, one person will tackle an entire article by themselves and another person will quality and fact check it during the Good Article Nomination process down the road,” explains Brenden Moses, better known on Wikipedia by his username Cyclonebiskit and another active member of the project. He continued:

We’ve tried tackling big storms together, such as Hurricane Camille, but the sheer amount of work involved to get these historic events to the quality they should be at is mind-boggling. Storms like Camille could easily take half a year or more of research and writing on their own. But that’s where the love of the subject comes into play. Most, if not all, of the members of the Tropical Cyclones WikiProject edit on Wikipedia out of their passion for weather.

Greenville, NC, USA after Hurricane Matthew Photo by The ed17, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Greenville, NC, USA after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Ed Erhart, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Cyclonebiskit and some other Wikipedians work on creating track maps for every tropical cyclone article. They use the tracking data from the National Hurricane Center and other sources to visualize the storm track. “These were made by the now-retired Wikipedian jdorje in 2005 as a means to provide free track maps for the entire site,” he notes.

And while Brenden is trying to visualize the tropical storm track, United States Man is more concerned about the order of events in the timeline and updating advisories; still other Wikipedians will be editing other parts of the articles.

Both Moses and United States Man agree that Wikipedia articles about weather shouldn’t be referred to when the reader wants to decide what to do, especially in a disaster scenario. Instead, disclaimers will sometimes refer the reader to local weather service providers and government websites.

“Wikipedia is probably the best place to find the most comprehensive information on an event, even if current,” United States Man explains. “Many people use it since it is easy to access, and not everyone can make sense of the [United States’] National Hurricane Center’s page, where they have to read through many pages to get information. I think it is very important to keep that information up-to-date for people, but we still have to point people in the NHC’s direction for the most official and updated information.”

There is a very large group of Wikipedia editors who share the excitement when writing about tropical storms. They like providing the most up-to-date information to the public, and they share the pain too when it comes to dangerous weather events.

“In the case of Matthew,” Cyclonebiskit remarked, “it’s been incredibly heartbreaking reading about the catastrophe in Haiti. Meteorologists knew days in advance that Matthew would bring devastation to the impoverished nation, and watching the storm approach and make landfall there was gut wrenching. But the feeling really hits once you see the images of devastation on the ground.”

Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

by Samir Elsharbaty at October 13, 2016 06:52 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Monthly Report: September 2016


  • With 226 courses on board by the end of September, Wiki Ed’s Classroom Program will have its largest term ever in Fall 2016. We’re supporting a wide range of courses, including 132 so far this term as part of the Year of Science.
  • The LA Times ran a feature article on Wiki Ed’s work and the impact of the Year of Science in late September.
  • Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson and Executive Director Frank Schulenburg visited the University of Mississippi to encourage campus faculty to use Wikipedia in the classroom. In addition to a faculty luncheon about how students can close content gaps on Wikipedia, Frank and Jami hosted a workshop to answer questions about Wikipedia and joined Dr. Bob Cummings’ class about “Writing with Wikipedia.”
  • The Simons Foundation awarded Wiki Ed a two-year, $480,000 grant for ongoing support for the Classroom Program’s science courses.


Educational Partnerships

Students in Dr. Robert Cummings' "Writing with Wikipedia" class discuss their assignment during a campus visit to Ole Miss.
Students in Dr. Robert Cummings’ “Writing with Wikipedia” class discuss their assignment during a campus visit to Ole Miss.

In September, Outreach Manager Samantha Weald advised new instructors in the Classroom Program as they designed Wikipedia assignments for the fall 2016 term. By the end of the month, she was consulting with more than 200 instructors to answer questions about Wiki Ed’s support resources, preparing instructors both for the current term and for spring 2017. Samantha’s customized support aids instructors as they set up their courses, and her expertise is instrumental in expanding the Classroom Program. As of September 30, Wiki Ed is supporting 112 courses taught by new instructors, and 63 of these courses are participating in the Year of Science, largely thanks to the work the Educational Partnerships team has done over the last year to recruit new science instructors.

Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson and Executive Director Frank Schulenburg visited the University of Mississippi in late September to encourage campus faculty to use Wikipedia in the classroom. Thank you to Wiki Ed board member Dr. Robert Cummings for hosting Wiki Ed on campus. In addition to a faculty luncheon about how students can close content gaps on Wikipedia, Frank and Jami hosted a workshop to answer questions about Wikipedia and joined Dr. Cummings’ class about “Writing with Wikipedia.”

Earlier this month, Samantha and Jami collaborated with Dr. Amin Azzam and Dr. Tina Brock to record videos about the benefits of bringing academia to Wikipedia. Program participants frequently invite us to campus for presentations, and we’re excited for these videos to aid them when we are unable to join.

Classroom Program

Status of the Classroom Program for Fall 2016 in numbers, as of September 30:

  • 226 Wiki Ed-supported courses were in progress (113, or 50%, were led by returning instructors)
  • 3,293 student editors were enrolled
  • 64% of our students were up-to-date with the student training
  • Students edited 966 articles and created 28 new entries.

The Fall 2016 term is well under way, and students are in the beginning stages of their Wikipedia assignments. With 225 courses in progress, we’re supporting our largest cohort of courses to date. In Spring 2016, we supported 215 and in Fall 2015, 162. That means in just one year, the Classroom Program has grown by almost 40%. This rapid growth shows that more students are having the chance to engage in public scholarship while improving the quality of Wikipedia.

This term, Classroom Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal is running a series of webinars to help our instructors navigate the ins and outs of Wikipedia-based assignments. The first one, entitled “Making the Most of Your Wiki Ed Support,” was held on September 30. The program was made available to instructors teaching with Wikipedia in Fall 2016, and 36 were in attendance. Co-presenters Samantha and Wikipedia Content Experts Adam Hyland and Ian Ramjohn ensured that our participants in the Classroom Program are making full use of all that Wiki Ed has to offer.

The Year of Science is still going strong. In all, we’ve supported 262 courses in the Social Sciences and STEM fields with 132 of those courses taking place in Fall 2016 so far. Since January, our Year of Science courses have contributed almost 2.5 million words to Wikipedia and contributed to almost 3,000 articles. Together, the work of our Year of Science students has been viewed over 83 million times, and our Fall courses have hardly begun. This term, our Year of Science cohort is tackling subjects ranging from Vertibrate Anatomy to Women in STEM and from African Archaeology to Mammalogy.

We saw some great work from several courses:

  • Students in the fall term are hard at work expanding Wikipedia’s coverage of the world. Students in Catherine Lee’s Language in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific course expanded more than a dozen articles on languages, including Kove language, which was essentially unchanged from its creation as a tiny stub 5 years ago. Students also added considerably to Wikipedia’s articles on the Kedang and Kankanaey languages. There are many more language articles to expand, and instructors looking to tackle linguistics on Wikipedia can use our subject specific handout, Editing Wikipedia articles on Linguistics to get started!
  • Francesca Rivera’s students in University of San Francisco’s Music and Social History course are also filling in crucial parts of Wikipedia. Students in that class have made small expansions to 18 articles on little known musical instruments, adding context, references and information where before all Wikipedia “knew” about the subject was that it existed. Compare Fiðla to how it looked for seven years – a short stub. In most cases, including on Duhulla, these articles were completely unreferenced for many years until the students added to them.
  • Megan Peiser from the University of Missouri is expanding coverage of Missouri Women on Wikipedia – their students are expanding several articles and have already created a few, including on Irene Taylor, a journalist known for her work during the Spanish Civil War and World War II and on Annie Fisher, a cook and entrepreneur. Both articles are sourced from newspapers and historical journals (among other sources) which are difficult for editors without university access to find. These students had access and a course focused on local history – their digging and researching has been well rewarded.
  • Articles related to computing have received a major boost in September thanks to two classes run by Ed Gehringer: Object Oriented Design and Development and Architecture of Parallel Computers. Students in the first class created articles related to JavaScript tools likegulp.js and Grunt, expanded articles about Apache Hive and eRuby and created an article about the Hoshen–Kopelman algorithm. Students in the latter class created articles about concepts like thread block, which relates to the way in which groups of threads—small sequences of programming instructions—can be executed by a computer processor. They also made major expansions to other articles related to the way computers process information including loop-level parallelism, gang scheduling, and data parallelism.
  • The fact that people often miss small changes in the background of scenes they are viewing is an aspect of a phenomenon called change blindness. This topic has real-world consequences in areas like eyewitness testimony and distracted driving. Students in Greta Munger’s Cognitive Psychology class are expanding and improving the change blindness article by supplying missing references and adding sections on topics like countering change blindness and the existence of the phenomenon in other species. Other students in the class are improving other related articles, including notable expansions to the memory span and biological motion.
  • Despite the ongoing efforts of dedicated Wikipedians, the coverage of women scientists on Wikipedia lags behind that of men. Students in Kathryn Haas’ Women in STEM class are working to fill some of those gaps. Julia Lermontova was the first Russian woman (and the third woman in Europe) to earn a doctorate in chemistry. Despite that, her biography consisted of just one short paragraph. This article has been expanded greatly by a student in the class who added information about Lermontova’s life, education, and contribution to science. Hope Hibbard, an American zoologist and advocate for women in science had only a one-line biography. This has also been expanded substantially by a student editor who added information about her life, education, contribution to science and advocacy for women in science. Kathleen Culhane Lathbury was a British biochemist whose biography was created by a student in the class. Although the article does not engage in advocacy, it does an excellent job of demonstrating the way that sexism can waste human talent.

Community Engagement

This month we are happy to announce a new opportunity for a Visiting Scholar at San Francisco State University, through the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability. Associate Director Emily Smith Beitiks noted that while Wikipedia articles about disability do a good job of covering the medical aspect, they often neglect social, cultural, historical, economic, and political aspects. Working with a Wikipedian is a way to support the Institute’s mission by helping to improve public knowledge about disability on Wikipedia, using the rich resources collected at the university to build well-rounded multidisciplinary articles. Read more about the position in our blog post from September 29.

Community Engagement Manager Ryan McGrady is focused on recruiting experienced Wikipedians for the open Visiting Scholars positions. Three positions have been filled and are ready to start pending university administrative action. He also continued to work with several prospective and current sponsors at different stages of the onboarding and recruitment processes.

The current Visiting Scholars continued to create and improve high-quality articles. User:M2545, Visiting Scholar at Rollins College, has been particularly prolific, continuously improving dozens of timeline articles (M2545 is responsible for most of the timelines of city histories on Wikipedia). Examples from this month include Memphis, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia, and Havana, Cuba. Gary Greenbaum ofGeorge Mason University brought his article about the United States Senator from Idaho, William Borah, to Featured Article status, while his Cleveland Centennial half dollar article is currently a Featured Article candidate. Meanwhile, McMaster University Visiting Scholar Danielle Robichaud made substantial improvements to the article on the Canadian Indian residential school system, working toward a possible Good Article nomination. The article is about a system of government-funded boarding schools, operating from 1876–1996, intended to assimilate Indigenous Canadian children into the dominant Canadian culture.

Program Support


On September 20, the LA Times published an extensive story chronicling the work of Wiki Ed’s program participants during the Wikipedia Year of Science.

Communications Manager Eryk Salvaggio drafted material for a subject-specific handbook for students editing topics in political science courses. Eryk also crafted changes to Wiki Ed’s student training modules, particularly improving the training for student editors who add images to Wikipedia articles for their class assignments.

Eryk left Wiki Ed in mid-September, but thanks to his hard work on crafting a stockpile of great posts, his byline will continue to appear on our blog over the next several months. We thank Eryk for all his excellent contributions to Wiki Ed’s materials over the last two years.

Blog posts:

External Press:

Digital Infrastructure

In September, we had an uptick in contributions from outside developers, including the first major Dashboard improvement by Wikimedia’s Community Tech team, which is supporting the global Programs & Events Dashboard (outreachdashboard.wmflabs.org) instance of the dashboard system. With guidance from Product Manager Sage Ross, the Wikimedia Community Tech team updated the Dashboard to allow specific start and end times for a program. This will allow users running edit-a-thons, in particular, to generate dashboard statistics for just the exact time period of an in-person event.

In preparing for Fall 2016 instructor surveys alongside the ongoing Student Learning Survey, Sage improved on the survey administration tools so that Wiki Ed staff can easily create and update custom survey invitation messages for each new survey.

We continued fixing a few of the most pressing usability problems for new instructors, including some significant improvements to the way the Dashboard handles course dates. Sage also launched our first experimental tool for visualizing the development of articles over time: Structural Completeness graphs.

In October, we’ll continue to work with the Community Tech team at Wikimedia to build out features for organizing Campaigns on the Dashboard. This will let Wiki Ed more easily provide custom course and event templates for partnerships, event series, and experiments with new assignment types. We also plan to upgrade the Dashboard’s application framework (Ruby on Rails) to the latest version, which will help us maintain the software in the long term.

Research and Academic Engagement

In September, we continued to roll out Phase I of the research. After feedback from Wiki Ed board member John Willinsky and survey experts, we decided to to add an Amazon gift card drawing to incentivize student participation, which was approved by the University of Massachusetts IRB. Research Fellow Zach McDowell continued to work on improving the survey tools, and oat the end of the month submitted the final tools as a protocol update to IRB.

Sage and Zach worked together to assemble the final instructor survey tools, ensuring that the information gleaned for the research was separate from the Wiki Ed retention and advertising questions, as requested by the IRB.

In rolling out the focus group phase of the research, Zach identified fifteen courses within a few hours’ drive of his location in Massachusetts. He has contacted them and is scheduling focus groups for October through December, depending on the end of the course.

Finally, Zach has continued to plan out the dissemination of the research. Zach submitted a talk to the SoTL (Scholarship on Teaching and Learning) Commons Conference, and is partnering with Matthew Vetter on a co-authored paper intended for the Composition, Rhetoric, and English disciplines.

Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration

For the month of September, expenses were $111,345 versus our approved spending of $169,955. The variance of $59k was primarily due staff vacancies ($31k); the timing of professional services ($15k); cutbacks and savings in travel and marketing ($10k) expenses.

Our year-to-date expenses are $447,117 versus our planned expenditures of $606,631. Much like the monthly variance, the year-to-date variance of $159k is also the result of staff vacancies ($46k); the timing and deferral of professional services ($64k); and the cutbacks and savings in other expenses including travel and marketing ($49k).
Wiki Ed Expenses 2016-09.png
Wiki Ed Expenses 2016-09 YTD.png


  • The Simons Foundation has awarded the Wiki Education Foundation a two-year, $480,000 grant in ongoing support for the Wiki Education Foundation and the Year of Science initiative. This grant will support our core operations along with outreach for the Year of Science. The Simons Foundation’s Education & Outreach programs seek to stimulate a deeper interest in and understanding of science among the public.
  • Director of Development Tom Porter is executing a plan to increase the number of institutional funding prospects with both private and corporate foundations. The primary objective is to secure invitations to request new support for Q3 2016 and Q1 2017.
  • Tom has also been working with Frank to monitor and track the performance of an ongoing, in-house major donor acquisition campaign.
  • On September 28, Tom Porter attended the Development Executives Roundtable panel discussion “Beyond the Application: Building Corporate Partnerships.” The panel consisted of three Bay Area corporate social responsibility leaders.

Office of the ED

Current priorities:

  • Securing funding
  • Preparing for the strategic planning process
  • In August, Frank supported Wiki Ed’s fundraising efforts by reaching out to potential major donors, researching additional development opportunities, and reviewing grant proposals and reports. With two institutional donors committing to support our organization with multi-year grants and an increasing number of new relationships with prospects we’re on a good path toward ensuring financial stability for this fiscal year.
  • Frank also continued to prepare for the upcoming strategic planning exercise, doing extensive research about how to potentially position our organization with regards to trends in our external environment.
  • Finally, at the end of the month, Frank joined Jami on her trip to the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Although the main purpose for this trip was to not getting out of touch with “what’s happening on the ground”, Frank also used the opportunity to meet with Chancellor Jeff Vitter, Senior Associate Provost Noel Wilkin, Corporate & Foundation Relations Officer Katie Morrison, and members of Ole Miss’ Career Services team. The meetings focused on ways to deepen Wiki Ed’s relationship with Ole Miss and on how to showcase employability skills that students gain through taking a Wikipedia assignment. Together with Jami, Frank presented at a luncheon attended by about 50 faculty members and engaged in a presentation with the title “I’m a Wikipedian, ask me anything”.

by LiAnna Davis at October 13, 2016 04:17 PM

This month in GLAM

This Month in GLAM: September 2016

by Admin at October 13, 2016 03:05 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia on rational ignorance and Brazilian elections

Photo by Eurico Zimbres, CC BY-SA 2.5.

Photo by Eurico Zimbres, CC BY-SA 2.5.

Do you remember who you voted for in the last election? And the last two elections? What about your candidate for the House of Representatives and the city council?

Recent research conducted in Brazil has shown that one month after an election, 40% of voters were unable to name the person they had voted for in elections for the House of Representatives. More broadly, there is evidence (what is referred to in political science as “rational ignorance”) to support the claim that voters do not usually remember who their candidates were in former elections, including the previous election, or the specific circumstances of these elections, especially in younger democracies.

The lack of political memory and information is associated with a low quality of political participation and of a democratic culture.

Wikipedia can provide information on elections that is easy-to-read and of good quality. This was the general motto of a Wikipedia Education Program at an introductory seminar on Political Science at Faculdade Cásper Líbero, in São Paulo, Brazil. Seventy one undergraduate students majoring in Audiovisual Communications developed a project that has resulted in creating entries on Wikipedia in Portuguese on the 2012 municipal elections in Brazil, especially cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants in the State of São Paulo. A foundational claim of this educational project —that was more formally presented at the Brazilian Communications Science Congress, in September, 2016— was that Wikipedia information is possibly information at no cost (it is after all one of the most visited websites of the world!) that can potentially be of high quality and eventually trigger a more conscious attitude towards voting, at least hoping that a good account of the 2012 elections might inform a vote of better quality in the 2016 elections, in October.

During this project, students improved the quality of dozens of entries in Portuguese about elections in Brazil, such as articles on Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court and political propaganda, and eventually created their own articles. The project, which was coordinated via an Education Extension page, had the support of volunteers from the Wikimedia Community User Group Brasil, who acted as online ambassadors and provided training sections. Entries that were created included the 2012 municipal elections in 69 cities. A template was used to provide a sense of unity in this project.

In class, the project has engaged students to discuss and learn hands-on how elections are organized in Brazil: how multiparty coalitions are formed, how debates work, how public and private funding is controlled, how much an electoral campaign costs, how majority systems differ from proportional systems, and more. Students developed editing and research skills, and they mostly fed the expectation that this class project could actually have some impact on improving the quality of voting in the 2016 municipal elections and that by providing good-quality information that is easy to read they might have had an impact on improving the functioning of the Brazilian democracy. In the aggregate entries on 2012 municipal elections in Brazil were viewed 59,921 times in the three days that preceded the 2016 voting day, in October 2.

João Alexandre Peschanski, Professor
Faculdade Cásper Líbero

A slightly modified version of this text is available in Portuguese on the blog of Wikimedia Community User Group Brasil.

by João Alexandre Peschanski at October 13, 2016 07:38 AM

October 12, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

A fascination with exploration: the polar pioneers of Wikipedia

Photoby Sergey Tarasenko, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Sergey Tarasenko, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In 1845, two warships in Britain’s Royal Navy—Terror and Erebus—were sent to explore the possibility of a navigable sea route around the northern end of Canada. The vessels were crewed by 129 men and were led by Captain John Franklin, an experienced Arctic explorer.

Franklin’s expedition left Britain in 1845 and were last sighted by a British ship near Baffin Bay that July. According to documents found years later, the expedition wintered on Beechey Island and continued onward in the following year before their ships were trapped by pack ice off King William’s Island in September 1846—which in itself was not necessarily a bad thing, as they had been refitted with iron sides for this circumstance.

Unfortunately for the crew, however, the ships were never able to break free of the ice. A year and a half (and two winters) later, the remaining members of the expedition left King William’s Island and eventually perished.

Last month, Terror was rediscovered, and the wreck is reportedly sitting on the seafloor in “excellent” condition. If so, it was possibly preserved by the cold water in a way similar to the Swedish warship Vasa, which we wrote about a few weeks ago.

Wikipedia editor Patar knight has volunteered his time to document Terror‘s history on Wikipedia. About the discovery, he said:

The discovery of Terror should make historians question the traditional narrative of the Franklin expedition, which is that the ships were trapped in ice and the crew died trying to make a trek to the mainland. Its position far from where it was expected to be and the presence of a rope through the ship’s deck means that the crew may have used an anchor after re-manning it and trying to return home. The wreck is in good condition and there’s potential for recovery of other artifacts … that could provide more clues as to their fate.

The find, along with Erebus in 2014, garnered much media attention from outlets like the Guardian and the New Yorker, who wrote that Canada was rediscovering the “Franklin mythology.” Patar knight would agree, as he pointed to the expedition’s continuing legacy in Canadian history and culture, including an appearance in the second line of what he called the country’s “unofficial” national anthem: “Northwest Passage,” by Stan Rogers.

Canadians, however, were not the only ones enthralled with the idea of polar explorers. These singular individuals embarked on voyages of discovery, a notion that has fascinated much of humanity at varying points in all of history, and often became celebrities at home if they returned.

Queen Victoria visiting a ship returned from the Arctic. Art by William Sampson, restored by Adam Cuerden, public domain/CC0.

Queen Victoria visits a returned Arctic ship. Art by William Sampson, restored by Adam Cuerden, public domain/CC0.

Brian Boulton, another Wikipedia editor, knows this fascination all too well. He has written a good number of Wikipedia’s featured-class polar exploration articles, which are “considered to be the best articles Wikipedia has to offer.” His research interests focus on the so-called “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration,” a period where several high-profile southern expeditions were launched. Boulton told me:

Roald Amundsen. Photo via the Library of Congress, restored by Durova, public domain/CC0.

Roald Amundsen. Photo via the Library of Congress, restored by Durova, public domain/CC0.

Stories of endurance in the face of extreme hardship and danger will always fascinate people. This is apparent in the way that each new generation seems to rediscover and relish these stories.

The explorers were in an entirely unknown and hostile environment, and had to learn everything from scratch to ensure their survival. They had to develop methods of travel, clothing, diet, and learn how to adapt the few available natural resources to their purposes. There were many costly errors, the fate of the Franklin Expedition and HMS Terror being a case in point.

The “heroic age” was named after the fact, by people who wanted to recognize this adversarial environment that the explorers conquered. Seventeen expeditions from nine total countries were mounted in this period, which is now defined as beginning in 1897 and and ending in 1922. Underlying the personal danger inherent in these projects, nineteen died.

At the time, the polar explorers were lauded for their ability to reach easily recognizable achievements, like going further south than anyone before, finding new (to the west) islands and land masses, and reaching the poles. But their legacy to us today, Boulton says, was the “vast amount of scientific data they produced in the fields of magnetism, hydrography, meteorology, oceanography, biology and zoology. These findings greatly added to our knowledge of the physical and natural world.”

Boulton’s interest in polar exploration was inspired by his father, an amateur mountaineer who was friends with the leader of the British Mount Everest Expedition of 1953, and his father’s collection of books relating to mountaineering and exploration. “I read the books and eventually inherited them,” he says, “so I had an excellent [base of research] from which to construct articles on polar history and exploration.” Boulton’s father “particularly revered Scott and Shackleton from the Heroic Age,” and it appears that this interest was passed down from father to son: Boulton wrote the Wikipedia articles about both men.

Robert Scott's ill-fated expedition at the South Pole. Photo by Henry Bowers, public domain/CC0.

Robert Scott’s ill-fated expedition at the South Pole. Photo by Henry Bowers, public domain/CC0.

Over the years, Boulton has added more recent monographs to that library, and over a fifth of his 101 total featured articles are related to polar exploration, including:

Fridtjof Nansen. Photo via the Library of Congress, public domain/CC0.

Fridtjof Nansen. Photo via the Library of Congress, public domain/CC0.

Boulton is one of three editors on the English Wikipedia with over one hundred featured articles to his credit. The non-polar articles he has written focus on music, literature, and political or social history. He also has an affinity for, as he calls it, “English eccentrics” like Harold Davidson and Horatio Bottomley.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

by Ed Erhart at October 12, 2016 08:53 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

A man with a giraffe walks into the Art Institute of Chicago…

Jackie Mann, like many of today’s college students, grew up using Wikipedia. But she’d never really thought about contributing.

“Wikipedia was a source of knowledge outside of school,” she said. That changed when she got to DePaul University. One of her favorite professors, Dr. Morag Kersel, announced that she’d be using Wikipedia in her Anthropology course.

“After years of nearly every teacher forbidding students from using Wikipedia,” Jackie said, “I was excited to find out: would this change the rules about using Wikipedia for school?”

It turns out the assignment didn’t just change the rules. By bringing her classwork out into the real world, it opened doors that just don’t open with a regular writing assignment.

Dr. Kersel assigned students to choose an “old world” object (one from Europe, Asia, or Africa) that had somehow arrived in Chicago. Then, the students would create a Wikipedia page for it.

“Other students chose things like a piece of the Berlin wall, which is now in a train station,” Jackie said. “Ethiopian bread and Swedish painted horses were interesting and creative choices, and when presentation week came around, I was genuinely fascinated.”

Jackie, a senior studying Anthropology and Art History, was interested in a mosaic fragment she’d found at the Art Institute of Chicago. That fragment depicts a man with a giraffe, and probably dates back to Syria or Lebanon during the 5th century. She said it reflected her interest in the difference between the original purpose of these artworks and their current role as museum objects.

“My mosaic was created as an art piece for an upper-class family to decorate their home with,” Jackie explained. “Now it’s in the Art Institute of Chicago, a wealthy institution. This, in a way, helps my object retain its past identity as a symbol of success and wealth.”

Jackie started a Wikipedia article on the fragment, drawing on Wiki Ed’s trainings to get through the more complicated parts. After that, she said, it got to be pretty simple. She drew on academic databases, thinking carefully about the quality of the sources she found.

“I also had an entire university library at my fingertips, which came in handy,” she added.

A few months later, Jackie was approached by Dr. John Shanahan, an Associate Dean of DePaul, to act as a student docent at the Art Institute of Chicago. She was asked to talk to the public about the very piece she’d written about on Wikipedia. It’s part of a partnership with the Art Institute that provides students with free entry to the museum and held special events highlighting the partnership.

“On the night of the event, I claimed my name tag and made my way down the museum corridors to the gallery my mosaic called home. There, I shared my thoughts and research with a few curious visitors and offered to answer questions as people walked by.”

Backed by the research that went into writing the Wikipedia article on the fragment, Jackie was able to expand her own thinking about the object with the people she talked to. She was able to incorporate her research into her own ideas about the way time can change the context and understanding of art.

“I focused on not just what the mosaic was when it was created or how it got to the museum, but also how the 1,500 years it had existed since its creation had changed it, and what this meant in the wider context of the art world.”

She says that Wikipedia was an important part of her own educational goals. She wants to bring more knowledge about the art world to the public. Thanks to the Wikipedia assignment, she could practice this kind of public outreach and engagement online and in a museum.

“Education is, or at least should be, an accessible resource for all to use and enjoy,” she told us. “By creating a Wikipedia page and then presenting my research in a semi-public place, I felt as though my work had reached more people than ever before.”

Jackie is now earning her MA in art history at the University of Texas at Austin, with a focus on Byzantine/medieval art. She hopes to eventually work in museum curation or archives, preserving artifacts for future use.

Get involved!

We love hearing about how Wikipedia assignments can open doors to public engagement. If you have an inspiring story from your assignment, or want to start teaching with Wikipedia to start creating inspiring stories, reach out to us: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Mosaic Fragment with Man Leading a Giraffe, by Jackiemann12Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 12, 2016 04:00 PM

Lorna M Campbell

Gaelic Wikimedian Opportunity – Tha sin direach sgoinneal!

The National Library of Scotland and Wikimedia UK yesterday announce that they are recruiting a Gaelic Wikimedian to promote the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia, Uicipeid.  The Gaelic Wikimedian will work throughout Scotland to promote the Gaelic language by training people to improve or create resources on Uicipeid.  This will include deliver training and events in the Western Isles, Highlands and central Scotland.

Uicipeid logoThe Gaelic Wikipedian will be responsible for designing and delivering a range of activities which will encourage young Gaels to improve their language skills through editing Uicipedia. They will deliver events and workshops and work with Gaelic organisations and communities to increase knowledge about Uicipedia and increase its size and usage. They will support the development of open knowledge and open licenses and prepare progress reports to assess the impact of their work on the development of Uicipeid.

~ WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian

As a Gael, a member of the Wikimedia UK Board and an advocate of open education this is a project that is very close to my heart.  I was born and brought up in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides but sadly I have very little Gaelic.  I can talk fluently to sheepdogs and very small children, but that’s about it!  I am typical of a generation whose parents and grandparents thought there was little point in passing on their language to us.  My father and my granny spoke a lot of Gaelic to me until I was about five but once I started school the Gaelic stopped, and during the 1970’s and early 80’s there was very little provision for Gaelic medium education in the Hebrides. I did one year of Gaelic in secondary school but that was it.

I now have a daughter of my own and as soon as she was old enough to start nursery I decided I wanted her to have the Gaelic medium education that was not available to me.  She is now in in her sixth year at Gaelic school, fluent in the language, and loving every minute of her education.  She also rolls her eyes in embarrassment at my woeful language skills but I can live with that.

Like many school kids, whenever my daughter is doing research for her school projects, Wikipedia is her first port of call, which obviously is something I encourage. She finds the information and references she needs and then carefully translates what she has learned into Gaelic.  It’s a bonus to find an article written in Gaelic in the first place.   It goes without saying that if Uicipeid could be expanded it would be an enormously important resource for Gaelic medium education, not just for primary school children to find facts, but for older students to gain valuable digital literacy skills.

Not only is this a wonderful opportunity for a Gaelic speaker to get involved with Wikimedia and the open knowledge community, the project also promises to be of enormous value to Gaelic teachers and learners and, perhaps most importantly, the future generations of young Gaels.

You can find out more about the post from Wikimedia UK, WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian and Obraichean Gàidhlig, Gaelic Wikipedian.

And here’s my own little contribution to Uicipeid, a photograph of Stornoway, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and  tagged in Gaelic 🙂

Stornoway Harbour

Steòrnabhagh, Eilean Leòdhais

by admin at October 12, 2016 02:16 PM

October 11, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

People all over the world have yet to discover Wikipedia. We went to them to find out why.

Photo by Zachary McCune, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Zachary McCune, CC BY-SA 4.0.

One hour west of Chennai, India, a young biology teacher updates her course materials often. While she relied on books at school, her own students use the internet.  “In 2009, library articles were more helpful because I had no knowledge on how to use the internet [and] no internet at home,” she explains. “However, in 2016, updating is essential.”

Like an estimated 462 million Indians, the biology teacher turns to online sources for information. She uses search engines to find images, texts, and animations to help explain things to her students.

She has heard of Wikipedia but cannot cite the last time she used it. “I find everything I need on Google—I don’t ever have to search on Wikipedia.”


In a recent study of more than 11,000 people in Mexico, India, and Nigeria, the Wikimedia Foundation explored current information seeking and internet access patterns. The goal of this research was to better understand and serve potential “new readers” of Wikipedia– people who are not actively using Wikipedia or might not be aware that it exists.

The three countries examined represent more than 20% of the world’s population. They are also areas of rapid Internet access growth. Internet access is increasing 7% annually in Mexico, 13% in India, and 16% in Nigeria.  But despite this increased connectivity, Wikipedia usage remains low. While more than 239 million unique devices from the US visited English Wikipedia in September, just 3.1 million from Nigeria did the same.

Toby Negrin, Head of Reading at the Foundation said, “This kind of research is fundamental to our mission. Although Wikipedia is used by hundreds of millions of people, billions of other people still don’t use this resource. The New Readers project provides us with valuable insights about how the rest of the planet can benefit from the content created by our communities.”

The six-month research project combined 11,000 phone surveys with six weeks of ethnographic interviews across Nigeria, India, and Mexico. Phone surveys were offered in multiple languages:

  • Spanish and English for 2,500 participants in Mexico
  • English, Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba for 2,500 participants in Nigeria
  • Assamese, Kannada, Bengali, Malayalam, English, Marathi, Gujarati, Odia, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu for 6,000 participants in 7 regions of India

The ethnographic research offered insights on the detailed internet behaviors and information needs of Nigerians, Indians, and Mexicans. In two-week sprints per country, Foundation staff and researchers from Reboot interviewed 175 people, often observing internet use.

The findings portray internet cultures dominated by mobile devices, limited connectivity, task-oriented browsing, and trust in the search bar over specific web properties. The research also showed information seeking patterns that prize urgency and utility over deep context and brand-name information sourcing.

In total, the project returned 24 findings. Key details include:

Wikipedia brand recognition and awareness were less than 50% of surveyed participants in all three countries. In India and Nigeria, over 75% of participants said they had never heard of Wikipedia.

Among those who did recognize Wikipedia, there was widespread confusion: some participants explained Wikipedia as a search engine or as a social network. Some participants who were observed using Wikipedia did not know the name of the site or recognize the word Wikipedia.

“To expand the reach of free knowledge around the world, it’s crucial for us to learn from the users we are trying to serve in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America,” said Adele Vrana, Director of Strategic Partnerships – Global Reach. “We need to have a deep understanding of our users’ needs and common challenges so that we can partner with people and organizations to better reach them.”

Photo by Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Over six weeks in Mexico City and Puebla, Lagos and Benin City, Delhi and Chennai, Wikimedia Foundation researchers had not only met potential Wikipedia readers, but also the very people who make Wikipedia possible. With more than 80,000 active volunteers who edit every month, Wikipedia remains a global community of free knowledge creators.

Wikipedians in Mexico City, for example, recently completed the world’s longest consecutive edit-a-thon, or collective content-creating event. It was 72 hours long and 60% of participants were women.

In Nigeria, a small but dedicated user group is adding photographs of Nigerian national parks to Wikipedia, and contributing new articles on the country’s prominent female leaders.

Just minutes away from the young biology teacher, Tamil Wikipedia is now approaching 90,000 articles thanks to the dedicated work of Tamil Wikipedians across Tamil Nadu. There is an estimated one Wikipedian per million Indians today, but they making a daily difference as they work across 23 Indic languages.

Now, the Wikimedia Foundation is exploring pilots with product,messaging and partnerships to better suit the needs of new readers. There is work to be done on succinctly explaining Wikipedia to those who might not be familiar, and raising awareness for the site’s value. Alongside community efforts like Kiwix, the Reading team is also beginning to look at online/offline features to aid Wikipedia reading in low or inconsistent internet access areas.

There are millions of potential Wikipedia readers in places like Mexico, India, and Nigeria—our challenge is to better serve them. We’re excited to start exploring new ways to do this.

Zachary McCune, Global Audiences
Wikimedia Foundation

The New Readers team is a cross-disciplinary project of the Wikimedia Foundation. It includes Abbey Ripstra  from Design Research; Toby Negrin and Anne Gomez from Reading; Adele Vrana, Dan Foy , Jack Rabah, Jorge Vargas, and  Smriti Gupta from Global Reach;  Kacie Harold and Joe Sutherland from Community Engagement; and Zachary McCune from Communications.

by Zachary McCune at October 11, 2016 06:49 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Collaborating with the Association for Women in Science in honor of Ada Lovelace Day

Ada LovelaceToday is Ada Lovelace Day, an initiative that honors the contributions of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, and encourages women to participate in STEM fields. Wiki Ed’s Wikipedia Year of Science initiative’s goal is to improve coverage of science topics, especially women scientists. To connect these two initiatives this year, Wiki Ed is supporting a project with the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). AWIS is encouraging its members and chapters to organize Wikipedia edit-a-thons to write women back into science history. AWIS chapters will convene in their communities during the month of October to honor Ada Lovelace, who is highly regarded in both the scientific and feminist communities.

Wikipedia’s gender gap—in which at least 80% of the online encyclopedia’s contributors are men—is well-covered in the press. The resulting systemic bias and content gender gap is problematic for reasons evidenced here, here, here, and here. Wikipedia’s gender disparity is reflected in the available content, and only 16.48% of biographies are of women.

The frequent press coverage can be daunting for those of us working to curb the content gender gap. On the other hand, the publicity increases the problem’s visibility, which inspires groups to pitch in and help in any way they can.

Take Jon Cawthorne, Dean of Libraries at West Virginia University. In 2014, Cawthorne saw an inspirational video about the late Adrianne Wadewitz and her advocacy for women on Wikipedia. The next year, Cawthorne hosted a panel of Wikipedians, including me and Wiki Ed Executive Director Frank Schulenburg, to share insights about the content gender gap and how people can help. Dean Cawthorne’s passion for helping with Wikipedia’s gender disparity led West Virginia University to hire Kelly Doyleas a Wikipedian in Residence for Gender Equity.

As part of Doyle’s campus outreach, she worked with Dr. Amy Keesee during WVU’s 125th anniversary of the first woman to graduate from the university. Dr. Keesee, who is also president of the West Virginia Chapter of the Association for Women in Science, became inspired to join in the efforts to add women into Wikipedia and science history. She has worked with other AWIS members and leaders to coordinate a series of Wikipedia edit-a-thons on women in science. So far, the following groups have signed up to participate in the initiative:

  • AWIS-Northern California Chapters
  • University of Illinois at Chicago, Women in Computer Science
  • Seattle AWIS
  • AWIS-West Virginia Chapter

I’m thrilled to support the initiative as a part of the Year of Science. We at Wiki Ed think women belong on Wikipedia, and we’re excited to begin this collaboration. Wiki Ed sees supporting these women in science edit-a-thons as part of the Year of Science as a great opportunity to identify faculty members who share our goal of increasing Wikipedia’s coverage of women scientists, and who might want to participate in our Classroom Program. You can see the impact of them grow by viewing the AWIS cohorton our Dashboard software.

Jami Mathewson
Educational Partnerships Manager

Photo: Wikimedia UK Ada Lovelace Day editathon 6
by Daria Cybulska, CC BY-SA 3.0

by Jami Mathewson at October 11, 2016 06:14 PM

Wikimedia UK

WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian


Wikimedia UK and the National Library of Scotland are advertising for a Gaelic Wikipedian to help promote the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia, Uicipeid.

Following a successful funding application to Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the department of the Scottish government which promotes Gaelic, we will be appointing a Gaelic Wikimedian who will work throughout Scotland to promote the Gaelic language by training people to improve or create resources on Uicipeid, the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia.

This will require the Wikipedian to deliver training and events in the Western Isles, Highlands and central Scotland. The role will allow the Wikipedian flexibility in where they are based, though they will be able to work from the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh if they choose to.

Wikimedia UK launched the first Wikimedian-in-Residence programme in Scotland with the National Library of Scotland in 2013. The programme aimed to build links between the Wikimedia community and the National Library of Scotland and was followed by residencies at Museums Galleries Scotland and the University of Edinburgh. These projects are enabling us to mainstream the idea of open knowledge and open licenses within the cultural heritage and education sector, and we now want to create open educational resources to support people learning Gaelic.

A map of Scots Gaelic speakers – CC BY-SA 3.0. By Skate Tier

If you search for ‘Scots Gaelic’ or ‘Scottish Gaelic’ on Google, the Wikipedia page for Scottish Gaelic is the top link. The 2011 national census showed that 87,056 people had some ability with Gaelic compared to 93,282 people in 2001, a decline of 6,226. However, the number of speakers of the language under age 20 has increased, and this is why Wikipedia can be such an important tool to make sure that young people continue to develop their proficiency in speaking Gaelic.

The Gaelic Wikipedian will be responsible for designing and delivering a range of activities which will encourage young Gaels to improve their language skills through editing Uicipedia. They will deliver events and workshops and work with Gaelic organisations and communities to increase knowledge about Uicipedia and increase its size and usage. They will support the development of open knowledge and open licenses and prepare progress reports to assess the impact of their work on the development of Uicipedia.

Wikimedia UK is committed to improving digital access to knowledge, culture and educational resources throughout the UK and we understand how important it is that people outside of London and other big cities can benefit from the opportunities Wikimedia projects provide. The UK is a diverse place with many cultures and languages which we are committed to supporting and representing online, so if you have a good knowledge of Gaelic and a passion for improving access to Gaelic resources, please consider applying.

To apply:

Please complete the application form at and include your current CV, a statement on why you think you are suited to the role of Gaelic Wikipedian including your level of spoken and written Scottish Gaelic, experience in designing and leading workshops or events and experience as a Wikipedia editor and your Wikipedia username if you have one.


by John Lubbock at October 11, 2016 02:04 PM

Wiki Loves Monuments

What’s next?

In most countries, submissions for Wiki Loves Monuments have been closed (with the exception of Albania, Bulgaria, and Israel), and it’s time to give a quick update on what the next steps are. During the month of October, the national juries are deliberating about what the best images from their country are. Depending on the country, the outcomes from the national competitions will be announced immediately online or at an announcement event. Check out the national competition pages in the coming month for more information about this!

By the end of October, the national juries are allowed to submit up to ten pictures to the international finale. This will result in a total pool of 300-450 images, which is the starting point of the international jury process. The international jury then selects the best images from this pool, before discussing and voting which images should win the competition in the end! This whole process on the international level will take up to a month, and we expect to announce the international winning pictures in the first two weeks of December.

Keep an eye on this site for updates on the finalists, and we look forward to all amazing images of heritage around the world.

(Top photo: Olympiastadion, Berlin (Germany) by Jan Künzel, CC BY-SA)

by Lodewijk at October 11, 2016 01:35 PM

Brion Vibber

Canvas, Web Audio, MediaStream oh my!

I’ve often wished that for ogv.js I could send my raw video and audio output directly to a “real” <video> element for rendering instead of drawing on a <canvas> and playing sound separately to a Web Audio context.

In particular, things I want:

  • Not having to convert YUV to RGB myself
  • Not having to replicate the behavior of a <video> element’s sizing!
  • The warm fuzzy feeling of semantic correctness
  • Making use of browser extensions like control buttons for an active video element
  • Being able to use browser extensions like sending output to ChromeCast or AirPlay
  • Disabling screen dimming/lock during playback

This last is especially important for videos of non-trivial length, especially on phones which often have very aggressive screen dimming timeouts.

Well, in some browsers (Chrome and Firefox) now you can do at least some of this. 🙂

I’ve done a quick experiment using the <canvas> element’s captureStream() method to capture the video output — plus a capture node on the Web Audio graph — combining the two separate streams into a single MediaStream, and then piping that into a <video> for playback. Still have to do YUV to RGB conversion myself, but final output goes into an honest-to-gosh <video> element.

To my great pleasure it works! Though in Firefox I have some flickering that may be a bug, I’ll have to track it down.

Some issues:

  • Flickering on Firefox. Might just be my GPU, might be something else.
  • The <video> doesn’t have insight to things like duration, seeking, etc, so can’t rely on native controls or API of the <video> alone acting like a native <video> with a file source.
  • Pretty sure there are inefficiencies. Have not tested performance or checked if there’s double YUV->RGB->YUV->RGB going on.

Of course, Chrome and Firefox are the browsers I don’t need ogv.js for for Wikipedia’s current usage, since they play WebM and Ogg natively already. But if Safari and Edge adopt the necessary interfaces and WebRTC-related infrastructure for MediaStreams, it might become possible to use Safari’s full screen view, AirPlay mirroring, and picture-in-picture with ogv.js-driven playback of Ogg, WebM, and potentially other custom or legacy or niche formats.

Unfortunately I can’t test whether casting to a ChromeCast works in Chrome as I’m traveling and don’t have one handy just now. Hoping to find out soon! 😀

by brion at October 11, 2016 06:37 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

No internet? No problem! Kiwix celebrates ten years of offline Wikipedia reading

Photo by Zack McCune, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Zack McCune, CC BY-SA 4.0.

When your goal is to make the sum of all human knowledge available to everyone, how do you ensure that people can actually access it? For many Wikipedia readers around the world, the problem may be that internet access is either slow, censored, or even non-existent—and those with a limited phone plan know that using too much data can really hurt their monthly bill.

These are exactly the kind of situations that Kiwix was meant to address: an open-source software that allows people to access a full copy of Wikipedia for offline reading. Wherever you are, wherever you go, you can have Wikipedia with you.

Kiwix was created exactly 10 years ago in Switzerland, with the support of Wikimedia CH (Switzerland). It was initially intended to burn the information onto DVDs. At the time, the alternative for offline knowledge was generally limited to Microsoft Encarta. Times and technologies have changed—Encarta, for instance, was discontinued in 2009)—but Kiwix has endured and prospered. Every year, more than a million people worldwide download and use it to access Wikipedia (in more than 100 languages), other Wikimedia projects like Wiktionary or Wikivoyage, educational videos like TED talks, or play with educative science simulations like PhET.

Connectivity in many places around the world is not exactly simple, something demonstrated recently when Google released a new Lite mode for some of its Android products to lighten the amount of data transferred, arguing that in countries like India 2G networks still are the norm. With Kiwix, the only limitation is the initial download, which is usually done on a USB flash drive or microSD card, then copied and circulated offline. After that, people are free to go and carry a piece of internet with them.

We have also developed a Raspberry plug that creates its own local network for up to 25 to 30 users at the same time: nothing to transfer, just bring your wifi-enabled computer or smartphone and access free knowledge like you were sitting in Zurich or San Francisco. These are already very much in demand in West- and Southern-African schools, and we’re looking forward to rolling them out in refugee camps across the Middle East.

Photo by Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 FR.

Photo by Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 FR.

Last but not least, we’ve also started to adapt to the growth of mobile by releasing Kiwix for iOS and Android. For the latter, we went one step further and started making smaller dedicated apps: Wikivoyage has become a fully portable travel book, and we released an app that contains every medical article on Wikipedia—in English as well as half a dozen other languages—with the volunteers at Wikiproject Medicine. We’re told that physicians on the Indian subcontinent love it.

After fifteen years of existence, approximately 500 million unique visitors visit Wikipedia every month to learn about pretty much anything, thanks to the work of thousands of volunteer editors. But four billion people out there still do not have a reliable access to internet and cannot benefit from this accumulated wealth. Kiwix turns ten today, and it has already gone a long way to bridging that gap. We’re looking forward to doing better over the next ten years.

Stéphane Coillet-Matillon
Kiwix and Wikimedia CH (Switzerland)

by Stéphane Coillet-Matillon at October 11, 2016 05:48 AM

October 10, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Sharing stories of women in science

In the early 1930s, you’d have some difficulty finding women in medical courses. It would be near impossible to find women teaching at them.

Yet, that’s just one of the notable accomplishments of Dr. Mary Bernheim. She was a British biochemist who, in her work at Cambridge, discovered an enzyme now known as monoamine oxidase (MAO). The discovery of this enzyme would revolutionize the way we treat schizophrenia and depression, but also Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Without it, we wouldn’t have drugs such as Prozac, which work to inhibit monoamine oxidase’s breakdown of serotonin.

Her discovery revolutionized the role of biochemistry in treating these disorders. Likewise, Dr. Bernheim revolutionized the role of women in biochemistry.

She was among the first women to teach at Duke University in the 1930s. Her tenure there saw a slow incline in women enrolled there, from one or two to half of the graduating class. When she died in 1997, she was the oldest member of the original faculty of Duke’s medical school.

Despite all these accomplishments, one distinction continued to elude her. Her Wikipedia article was woefully inadequate at matching the impact of her life. Just four short sentences.

That’s when a student in Dr. Heather Tienson’s Chem 153A Honors class at UCLA began working on it. The student contributed a substantial expansion, adding information about the importance of Bernheim’s discovery, and adding additional information about her career at Duke Medical School.

When it comes to Wikipedia articles about women scientists, they’re too often short, poor, or nonexistent altogether. A 2011 study showed that Wikipedia has a disproportionate number of biographical articles about men, and a more recent study showed that women with articles on Wikipedia often have to accomplish more to be included than men.

We’re proud of the impact that Wiki Ed’s Year of Science is having on the creation of articles about women scientists. As we’ve talked about before, knowing that women not only “can be” scientists, but that they are and were, reduces the impacts of stereotype threat for young women in science. We think that can help the next generation of women scientists stick with the careers they study.

We’d love to help your higher ed classroom share the inspiring stories of women scientists. Our Year of Science initiative has a special focus on biographies of women this year. Think your class has some potential to get involved, and bring more role models to young scientists in your classroom (and beyond)? Get in touch with us! We’d love to help you get started: contact@wikiedu.org.

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 10, 2016 04:00 PM

Tech News

Tech News issue #41, 2016 (October 10, 2016)

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October 10, 2016 12:00 AM

October 07, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Community digest—Estonian president-elect’s article now in thirty languages; news in brief

Photo by Ireen Trummer, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Ireen Trummer, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The value of Wikipedia in the news was proved in Estonia last month during the country’s presidential election.

Estonia, a country bordering the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe, has a indirect system of voting for their president, who has little formal executive power. This year’s election, however, proved contentious—no candidate received the required number of votes in the first through fifth rounds of balloting in the country’s Parliament.

After the fifth round of voting, the three leading candidates (Allar Jõks, Siim Kallas, and Marina Kaljurand) dropped out, with one arguing that “new candidates were needed.” Instead, the executives in each major political party gathered to nominate a consensus candidate. They settled on Kersti Kaljulaid, the country’s auditor in the European Court of Auditors.

And this is where Wikipedia came in, as as Kaarel Vaidla of Wikimedia Estonia (Eesti) related. “Although she had been working on a high position in European Court of Auditors and had hosted and participated in well known radio shows,” he told us, “she was rather unknown for wider public.”

This was born out by her Wikipedia article, which topped out at just 1,421 bytes long. On the day Kaljulaid was proposed as a candidate, however, that length doubled. By the time she was officially nominated, it was nearly 10,000 bytes long.

The quick action of the Estonian Wikipedia community, Vaidla said, “created a relevant source of information for incoming traffic” and made sure it was there when it was needed. We might normally calculate a percentage increase in pageviews on Kaljulaid’s Estonian Wikipedia article, but it’s difficult to appropriately contextualize a rise in pageviews from two (on 21 September) to 19,123 (on 3 October). Instead, we’ll just say that 68,768 pageviews were recorded on Kaljulaid’s article between 21 September and 6 October, a total that is over 5% of the total population of Estonia.

Estonian Wikipedians fluent in multiple languages took this base article and translated it into several languages; through their efforts and those of others, there are (as of publishing time) articles about Kersti Kaljulaid in 30 languages—anywhere from English to Ukrainian to Arabic.

As Vaidla said, “Of course, a major reason behind this growth is the sudden notability of the person—but on the other hand, it also shows the work of Estonian Wikipedians, who rapidly gathered information in Estonian, provided a translation, and contributed it not only in English, but also in other languages. As a result, the information is there when people need to consult it, increasing [the] credibility of Wikipedia.”

In brief

Photo by Slowking4, GFDL 1.2.

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight. Photo by Slowking4, GFDL 1.2.

Wikipedia IFTTT: The Wikipedia channel on IFTTT received a few hat-tips early this week on Twitter. The tool executes free, time-saving automation services. For example, after editing an article, Wikipedians can automatically send a tweet about the updated page as soon as they hit Save. (The channel was created by the Foundation’s Stephen LaPorte in his unpaid/non-work/volunteer time.)

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight shortlisted for award: Stephenson-Goodknight, better known to the Wikimedia movement by her username Rosiestep, has been shortlisted for the 2016 ITU/UN Women GEM-TECH award in the “Apply Technology for Women’s Empowerment and Digital Inclusion” category. Stephenson-Goodknight, who is already one of the two co-Wikipedians of the Year thanks to her work in addressing Wikipedia’s gender gap, is going up against four others for the award; the winner will be announced on 15 November 2016.
Wikimedia CEE meeting location announced: The 2017 iteration of the annual conference, which brings together people from all over Central and Eastern Europe, will be held in Warsaw, Poland.
FDC proposals open for community comment: Eleven Wikimedia affiliates are requesting funds in this year’s first FDC round. The FDC, or Funds Dissemination Committee, advises the Wikimedia Foundation’s board on how to allocate funds to the largest and most-organized organizations in the movement.
September metrics meeting: The Wikimedia Foundation’s monthly metrics meeting is available for viewing on YouTube and Commons; the related slide deck is also on Commons.
Project Grants begins: Six community-led projects have been funded by the Wikimedia Foundation in the first iteration of a new grants process.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

by Ed Erhart at October 07, 2016 09:21 PM

Editing Wikipedia for a decade: Gareth Owen


Photo via Gareth Owen

Gareth Owen is one of the earliest contributors to Wikipedia—his user ID is 151, and his first edit was to create the “Hobbits” article in March 2001.

He has seen Wikipedia grow “in just a couple of years from a sparse website to something where you could look something up with a reasonable chance of getting a non-terrible response.” As described in his own voice.

Owen, a native of North West England who now lives just outside Manchester in the United Kingdom, has been using the internet when he was a student in the early 90s. He discovered Wikipedia in its earliest days, when the site was just a “silly little spin-off” from a less-collaborative wiki called Nupedia. Owen was most active during Wikipedia’s first few years. Collaborating with people from different places on providing information to the public about topics of interest to him was his motivating force.

“I enjoyed doing research on my favourite topics,” Owen explains. “I enjoyed the collaborative process and watching people devote their time to something really worthwhile—essentially altruistically—and expecting little in return.”

So far, Owen has edited Wikipedia over 6,000 times and has created 113 new articles. He has been most interested in editing articles about music, sports and mathematics, his field of study. He has started some important articles about music, covering bands like The Beatles and The Velvet Underground, and he has rewritten articles about  Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, and The Rolling Stones.

The sports category on Wikipedia is rich with many articles first written by Owen, such as Manchester United F.C., Rugby World Cup and expanding the existing article on the Summer Olympic Games to include details about the history of the Olympic Games from the beginning until Sydney 2000. These are just a few examples.

“Everything was up for grabs back then and there was so much to be done,” Owen elaborated. “If you started working on an area, you could expand an entry with a few token sentences to something with a larger overview of a big subject. And if you did a good job, Larry Sanger or Jimmy Wales would add your article to the “Brilliant Prose” list, which was a pretty good feeling.”

The Wikipedia quality standards have changed over the years. The  “brilliant prose” selection system has since been replaced with new criteria for selecting Wikipedia’s best articles, which are now called “featured articles.” Some of Owen’s articles that were cited in the “brilliant prose” list in the early 2000s now appear as featured articles, thanks to the efforts of other Wikipedians. Some examples include The Beatles, Sandy Koufax and Babe Ruth.

During this time, Wikipedia was very quiet with a minimal rate of spam and edit wars. Owen remembers that “the rate of editing was slow enough that only a few people would keep an eye on anon edits and correct the most egregious damage manually. Jimmy Wales would arbitrate anything that ran on too long. Obviously that didn’t scale very well, and extra layers of administrative oversight came in by the mid-2000s.”

“The George W. Bush article was a battleground even then, but I shudder to think how much admin time has been devoted to trying to impose a neutral point of view on articles about the Clinton/Trump presidential race,” he adds.

A couple of years ago, Owen and his family were surprised by a show host who quoted Owen on BBC Radio 4. The show had been discussing Wikipedia when the host John Lloyd closed by saying, “In the words of an original Wikipedian, Gareth Owen, ‘The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice; in theory it’s a total disaster.’” The quote has been used several times, including once by the New York Times.

“This remark has cropped up in a number of articles and features (sometimes credited to me, sometimes others). I wonder if in 100 years it’ll be the only trace of me left on the internet.”

Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

“The decade” is a new blog series that profiles Wikipedians who have spent ten years or more editing Wikipedia. If you know of a long-time editor who we should talk to, send us an email at blogteam[at]wikimedia.org.

by Samir Elsharbaty at October 07, 2016 07:31 PM

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 324


Banner OSMF-Spendenkampagne 2016

The OpenStreetMap Foundation ask for donations. 1

SotM 2016

  • Geofabrik has published a blog entry about State of the Map in Brussels.
  • User Escada shares his experience of attending State of the Map conference in Brussels.
  • Mikel Maron reported on the “Local Chapter meeting” in Brussels and presented the notes.

About us

  • [1] OSM Foundation asks you to donate to help preserve OpenStreetMap’s continued independence as a project.
  • Happy to announce that weeklyOSM now appears in Italian language as well thanks to sabas88 and Martin Koppenhöfer. Both are still looking for collaborators.


  • Miami Herald reports on mapping activities on Havana for local mappers and the Mapillary executive Cossio.
  • Ever been confused about using amenity=bar vs amenity=pub vs amenity=restaurant? Check out the latest discussion on the talk-US list.
  • Mapaton Xalapa 2016 is a series of coordinated events mapping public transport routes in Xalapa, Mexico. The project has an android app MapMap also available for download.
  • The user rdacardenas provides detailed progress report mapping in Arequipa, Peru.
  • Helge Fahrnberger opened a proposal Piste:type=connection that would allow you to connect ski lifts to ski pistes.
  • At the end of September the summer Quarterly Project “farmyards” came to an end and Mappa Mercia summarized the results. On the mailing list Talk-GB the quarterly project for the autumn will be presented: Mapping using the UK Food Hygiene Ratings dataset.
  • People on the German OSM users forum discuss whether a bunker below the city centre of Dortmund, which is partially secret and cannot be accessed, should be deleted. (Deutsch) (automatic translation)
  • Aun Johnsen makes the argument that highway=road is an annoyance, why editors and presets should remove it, and why the wiki should warn about its use.
  • The Swiss OSM Association has purchased aerial imagery of canton of Aargau as it happens every second year. Simon Poole asks (Deutsch) at Talk-ch mailing list for donations to cover the expenses. (automatic translation)


  • Mapbox is looking for an English teacher to hire for their data team in Ayacucho, Peru. In return, he/she will learn how to map.
  • After a remark on the problems with addresses in Brussels by Sarah Hoffmann, Glenn Plas developed a tool to detect those problems, i.e. mismatch between addr:street and name due to the bilingual names of the streets
  • Walter (wambacher), is looking for a new server for the international project Boundaries Map FOSSGIS probably pays a rented server. He asked unsuccessfully for four months for donations. Restrictions per IP address and per user will be established.
  • The UK community ask for final comments on their proposed Articles of Association following review by pro bono lawyers.
  • Maning compared some cities in Asia with regard to their node count and made some observations in these graphs.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • In 2014, the OSMF approved a program for people who have difficulty paying the annual membership fee, to allow them to be members for free, but this has never been implemented. If you are interested in helping to define the rules of this program, please contact the Membership Working Group
  • Simon Poole announced the new privacy policy of the OSMF. In another post he gives a round up of future work of the License Working Group due to changes in EU-data privacy laws.
  • Following Simon Poole’s suggestion on the Osmf-talk mailing list to ‘spend some money’ to increase development activity on OpenStreetMap’s core website, there was a discussion on possible next steps.

Humanitarian OSM

  • HOT is going to activate and update map data in Haiti and Jamaica following Hurricane Matthew. Start mapping and spread the word about these high priority projects.
  • HOT is hiring a part-time Operations Coordinator. The deadline for applying is October 11th, 2016.


  • monochome.com is now selling pillows, skirts, and tablecloths with self-selectable map excerpts.

Open Data

  • Linda Poon (Atlantic-CITYLAB) reported about Mapbox’s new “mentor program” for American cities to integrate OpenData via OSM into appropriate urban platforms.


  • User eis_kalt has released a first version of his 3D world model android app UtyMap.
  • Sebastian Kürten introduces a new open source desktop viewer: Jeography is Java GIS toolkit with a focus on OpenStreetMap data. The main GUI is for browsing the map and performing some geo data related tasks.
  • mmd presents a test instance of OverpassAPI previewing of some experimental material


  • On January 31st, 2017, Mapbox will end support for some of its products such as TileMill, Mapbox.com/editor and the v3 endpoint of the Mapbox GeoCoding API.
  • Ilya has offered a EUR 100 reward for the first person to implement a service to subscribe to OSM diary post comments. Mikel Maron and user Stereo added a EUR 100 each.


Software Version Release date Comment
PostGIS 2.3.0 2016-09-26 Support parallel processing when using PostgreSQL 9.6
Komoot Android * var 2016-09-28 Swipe-to-pause gesture and minor improvements.
Komoot iOS * 8.4 2016-09-28 Modifications for iOS 10
Mapillary iOS * 4.4.15 2016-09-28 Two bugs fixed.
Maps.me Android * var 2016-09-28 Height profiles for pedestrians and cyclists, improvement of search and map editor.
Maps.me iOS * 6.4.3 2016-09-28 Height profiles for pedestrians and cyclists, improvement of search and map editor.
Vespucci 0.9.8r1200 2016-09-28 No information.
PostgreSQL 9.6.0 2016-09-29 Highliht: Parallel support, please read release info.
BRouter 1.4.6 2016-09-30 Improved memory footprint, tweaked recalculation timeout logic.
Leaflet 1.0.1 2016-09-30 Completely revised version, please read release information.
Magic Earth * 2016-09-30 No specific information.
Mapbox GL JS v0.25.1 2016-09-30 Bug fix of the currently released version v0.25.0
Traccar Client Android ? 3.12 2016-10-01 Fix some small issues.
Mapillary Android * 2.42 2016-10-03 Bug fixes with login, signup and camera when receiving calls.

Provided by the OSM Software Watchlist.

(*) unfree software. See freesoftware.

Did you know …

  • … the Android library Lost by Mapzen? It is a free replacement for the proprietary Location APIs which are part of Google Play Services.

Other “geo” things

  • Thomas Skowron had a look at Apple Maps on iOS 10 from the point of view of an active OSM contributor.
  • The popular weather forecast application Dark Sky has re-launched its web version, previously known as forecast.io, with dynamic maps which are using OpenStreetMap data in the background.
  • How open is Mapillary? Richlv poses the question on the Mapillary forum.
  • Mapillary started to use semantic segmentation on its image dataset. This technology makes it possible to partition an image into different regions which get a label (e.g. road, sky, building, vehicle).
  • Pokemon Go players are using an overpass turbo link to collect information on where Pokemon creatures are likely to “spawn” locally. As reported previously there is some evidence Niantic may be using OSM data to decide on spawn points. (Originally from Reddit)
  • EE Times Automotive reported that navigation provider TomTom cooperates with graphics chip vendor NVIDIA to develop a third open cloud-based platform for autonomous driving.
  • Joost Schouppe explains how to use OSM data to improve government data.

Upcoming Events

Dónde Qué Fecha País
Cagliari Archeofoss 2016 07/10/2016-09/10/2016 italy
Lyon Rencontre mensuelle mappeurs 11/10/2016 france
Moscow Schemotechnica 06 12/10/2016 russia
Tokyo 東京!街歩き!マッピングパーティ:第1回 哲学堂公園 15/10/2016 japan
Nantes Initiation à OpenStreetMap, Fête de la Science 15/10/2016-16/10/2016 france
Favara Mapping party dei vicoli, cortili, scalinate, archi e orti del centro antico di Favara, Organizzato dalla Molitec, Farm Cultural Park e Tivissima 16/10/2016 italy
Nottingham Nottingham 18/10/2016 united kingdom
Scotland Edinburgh 18/10/2016 united kingdom
Brussels Meetup at Café de Markten 18/10/2016 belgium
Colorado Humanitarian Mapathon University of Northern Colorado, Greeley 20/10/2016 us
Tampere OSM kahvit 21/10/2016 finland
Antwerp Missing Maps @ IPIS 26/10/2016 belgium
Omihachiman 近江八幡漫遊マップづくり 第2回諸国・浪漫マッピングパーティー 29/10/2016 japan
Karlsruhe Hack Weekend 29/10/2016-30/10/2016 germany

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

This weekly was produced by Harry Wood, Laura Barroso, Nakaner, Peda, Polyglot, RobJN, Rogehm, SrrReal, TheFive, YoViajo, derFred, escada, jinalfoflia, mgehling, muramototomoya, sabas88, seumas, wambacher.

by weeklyteam at October 07, 2016 06:51 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

New grants program will fund six community-led projects

The mission of public libraries and librarians align closely with that of the Wikimedia movement. The Online Computer Library Center will train 500 librarians to support offline training and outreach activities in public libraries across the USA. Photo by Ken Figlioli, CC BY-SA 2.0.
The mission of public libraries and librarians align closely with that of the Wikimedia movement. The Online Computer Library Center will train 500 librarians to support offline training and outreach activities in public libraries across the USA. Photo by Ken Figlioli, CC BY-SA 2.0.

We are excited to announce the successful grantees from the first round of the Wikimedia Foundation’s new Project Grants program.

Project Grants support individuals, groups and organizations to implement new experiments and proven ideas, whether focused on building a new tool or gadget, organizing a better process on your wiki, researching an important issue, coordinating an editathon series or providing other support for community-building.

The Project Grants committee will score three rounds of grant proposals this fiscal year year according to specified selection criteria. The original pilot was to accept proposals quarterly, but this schedule is proving to be too compressed, especially considering the upcoming Movement Strategy work. We have also found that the new Rapid Grants program, which has a rolling submission deadline, is fulfilling a large part of the community’s funding needs. We are continuing to assess the new grants programs and how they meet the needs of the community and align with Foundation’s resources and capacity.

Our volunteer committee is made up of 17 Wikimedians who come from over 13 different wikis and collectively speak over 15 languages. Outside of our Project Grant committee work, members edit, review, and translate content; help govern local chapters; write software; organize off-wiki events; facilitate workshops; work as sysops and bureaucrats; verify copyright and licensing permissions; draft and discuss project policies; and recruit and welcome new users to Wikimedia projects. Many members also serve as advisors to new grantees, helping to answer questions, connect them to relevant resources, and comment on monthly and midpoint reports.

In this latest round, a total of 12 eligible proposals were submitted for the committee’s review. The committee recommended that six projects be funded to receive $180,396, divided into three themes: software, offline outreach, and research.

Software: three projects funded

Wikidata Module will create a more user-friendly interface to help integrate Wikidata facts with Wikipedia infoboxes. Screenshot, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wikidata Module will create a more user-friendly interface to help integrate Wikidata facts with Wikipedia infoboxes. Screenshot, CC BY-SA 3.0.

  • Librarybase: an online reference library: Improving the citation ecosystem for Wikipedia so editors can more easily look up relevant sources could greatly improve their productivity and ease of editing. This grant supports the development of Librarybase, a project to develop structured bibliographic data around citations. There are numerous benefits to creating this structure, especially for hard-to-model books, including the generation of source recommendations for specific topic areas or WikiProjects, migration of notable references to Wikidata, and more.
  • Wikidata Module: One of the biggest challenges in using Wikidata content on Wikipedia is having a simple, user-friendly integration tool and workflow for editors. User:Putnik’s Wikidata module is currently used by over a million articles on Russian Wikipedia to add information from Wikidata to article infoboxes. Through this project, Putnik will improve the Lua module to make it easier to install, easy to integrate with infoboxes without knowledge of Lua, configurable for the most common use cases, and extendable.
  • WikiFactMine: Contentmine software helps turn peer-reviewed literature into Wikidata-based facts.  It can crawl up to 10,000 articles per day sourcing information and making it available for integration into the database.  This project will build infrastructure to connect ContentMine to Wikidata, creating an accelerated conduit to populate Wikidata with new datasets.  It will also place a Wikipedian in Residence at Cambridge University to coordinate human curation of data extracted from WikiFactMine.

Offline outreach: two projects funded

Photo by Kusychicago, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A Wikipedian-in-Residence to engage 500 librarians and their communities will support offline training and outreach activities in public libraries. Photo by Kusychicago, CC BY-SA 4.0.

  • A Wikipedian-in-residence to engage 500 librarians and their communities: Public libraries and librarians are natural partners for the Wikimedia movement, sharing a commitment to free access to knowledge. A leader in the library field, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) has secured funding from the Knight Foundation to capitalize on this synergy and create a national training program for 500 public librarians to build skills in editing Wikipedia and implement Wikimedia programming for their local community members. This grant funds a Wikipedian-in-Residence at OCLC to serve as the content expert in developing training materials, understanding Wikimedia community norms, and mentoring librarians.
  • Why women don’t edit Wikipedia: Wikimedia Community User Group Greece will partner with two Greek women’s organizations, SheSharp and Telesilla, to better understand the challenges faced by Greek women in participating in the Wikimedia projects. They will utilize their collective networks to build awareness about editing Wikipedia, conduct trainings, and provide mentorship based on their learnings.

Research: one project funded

Strengthening indigenous-language Wikipedias in Latin America seeks to establish best practices for engaging indigenous language communities with Wikimedia Projects. Photo by User:Barrioflores, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Strengthening indigenous-language Wikipedias in Latin America seeks to establish best practices for engaging indigenous language communities with Wikimedia Projects. Photo by User:Barrioflores, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

  • Strengthening indigenous-language Wikipedias in Latin America: Previous attempts to engage indigenous language communities in developing new Wikipedias have been been met with many challenges and varying degrees of success. Global Voices, a nonprofit focused on digital activism and with deep networks in Latin America, will work with Wikimedia affiliates in the region to review the existing active and incubator Wikipedia projects in the indigenous languages of Latin America. By mapping successes and challenges, the team will develop best practices and guidelines for how to support communities that are interested in developing their indigenous language community and important learnings for both WMF and the Wikimedia community on if and how we can best support them.

Analysis of trends

The first round of the Project Grants program saw some new trends, some that reflect the unique potential of this new program, and others that carry forward themes we’ve seen in many previous rounds.

When we launched Project Grants, we experimented with a new funding ceiling of $100,000 USD.  This is a significant increase from the programs that Project Grants replaced: Individual Engagements Grants previously had a ceiling of $30,000, while Project and Event Grants did not have a cap but typically were in the $5,000-$30,000 range.

The new, higher threshold ushered in projects at a scale higher than we’ve seen before, with strong potential to have larger impact on central problems of the Wikimedia movement.  For example, A Wikipedian-in-residence to engage 500 librarians and their communities, funded at $70,000, aims to equip 500 public libraries with training and infrastructure to support Wikimedia programming.  This reflects a powerful leap in the scale of outreach since it targets not just individuals but organizations embedded in local communities across the United States.

Likewise, WikiFactMine promises to have a much greater scale of impact than most software grants we’ve awarded in the past.  If successful, it will powerfully accelerate the process by which new datasets are integrated into Wikidata over time, at a scale that simply wouldn’t be possible without the innovative technology this project enables.

This round, all three funded software proposals will engage in improving or expanding Wikidata.  Through our interviews with applicants and consultations with experts, we encountered a great deal of excitement about Wikidata’s potential both to support other Wikimedia projects and to serve as a landmark project in its own right, capable of attracting an increasingly broad audience of dedicated users as its capacity is realized.  Given the promising use cases under development for Wikidata–such as WikiCite, for example, we are delighted to be able to support experimentation around new tools that can help this project continue to expand.

We continue to see our applicants demonstrate a longstanding priority for expanding the diversity and inclusiveness of Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Foundation celebrates and supports this trend. This round, we will fund two relevant projects.  Why women don’t edit Wikipedia will raise awareness about how sexism impacts Wikipedia and increase female participation in Greece.  Strengthening indigenous-language Wikipedias in Latin America will take a deeper diver into understanding how our projects might be able to engage small language communities. As language extinction advances around the globe, we are eager to see what Global Voices’ research will discover about applications for Wikimedia projects in their work in language revitalization activism.

We received many compelling proposals this year that the committee decided not to fund. We encourage applicants who were not successful in this round of funding to refine and resubmit their proposals in upcoming rounds. Return proposals that have been revised in response to community and committee feedback are warmly welcomed. The open call for Project Grants Round Two is currently underway, with applications due October 11.

We look forward to reviewing your suggestions and future submissions, but for now we say congratulations to the successful grantees and encourage you to follow their progress as they begin work in the coming weeks.

Alex Wang, Senior Project Manager
Marti Johnson, Program Officer, Individual Grants
Wikimedia Foundation

by Alex Wang and Marti Johnson at October 07, 2016 04:39 AM

Wiki Education Foundation

Education a focus at WikiConference North America

Wiki Education Foundation staff, board members, and program participants are descending on San Diego, California, October 7–10 for WikiConference North America. The conference was grown out of the successful WikiConference USA, which was supported by Wiki Ed in 2015. Wikipedia editors, instructors who’ve taught with Wikipedia, and cultural institution partners will come together to share learnings, present research, and form new ideas for projects.

New this year is a peer-reviewed academic track, run by Wiki Education Foundation board member Dr. Robert Cummings of the University of Mississippi. The academic track is designed to launch the new Wiki Studies journal, a peer-reviewed academic journal edited by Dr. Cummings highlighting academic research related to Wikipedia. Not only is the academic track full of insight into Wiki Ed’s pedagogical benefits as presented by program participants, but Wiki Ed staff are also presenting their learnings. Education-related sessions include:

Wiki Ed looks forward to collaborating with attendees! Register today to attend the event this weekend!

by LiAnna Davis at October 07, 2016 12:13 AM

October 06, 2016


Google Assistant & Wikipedia

googleassistant-wikipedia1The Google Assistant is essentially a chat bot that you can talk too within the new Allo chat app. The assistant is also baked into some new Google hardware, such as the pixel phones. During a quick test of the assistant, I noticed that if you ask it to “tell me an interesting fact” sometimes it will respond with facts from Wikipedia.

As can be seen in the image, when chatting to the bot you can ask for an interesting fact. The bot then responds and a collection of suggested tiles are placed at the bottom of the chat window. One of these tiles suggests looking at the source. Clicking this will prompt you to open https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August in a browser or in the Wikipedia app.

Once open a quick scan of the article will reveal:

August is the month with highest birth rate in the United States.

by addshore at October 06, 2016 03:03 PM

October 05, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Drawing 100 heroic women in 100 days

ctdz3l2umaabtuDrawing courtesy of Rori.

Rori, an artist in St. Louis, received a Facebook message from someone she doesn’t know a few weeks ago. The note urged her to draw a portrait of someone named Azucena Villaflor.

Rori, a hip, shy woman in her 30s, turned to Villaflor’s Wikipedia article. As she read it, tears came to her eyes as she felt a mix of emotions – sadness, anger, and most of all determination.

Azucena Villaflor was a social activist in Argentina in the 1970s. She helped found the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group that looked for desaparecidos, the “disappeared.” critics of the government who vanished from their daily lives. Human rights groups say the desaparecidos were often kidnapped by government forces, flown in a plane over the Atlantic Ocean, and pushed out.

Villaflor and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo refused to let the young men be forgotten. They gathered in the Plaza de Mayo, the main square of central Buenos Aires, and held signs and chanted and refused to go away.

And then, Villaflor herself disappeared. In 1977 she was taken by armed forces from her home. Her body was identified by a forensics team 28 years later.

Her death was not the only thing that struck Rori. Despite Villaflor’s notable contribution to the world, her English-language Wikipedia article had no photo of her.

Through 40 years, through her disappearance, through an absence from much of history, into that shadowy biography of heroism and pain, Rori reached out her hand, as an artist and, as a historian.

On September 23, two weeks after she received the Facebook message, Rori tweeted a portrait of Villaflor with a link to her Wikipedia article, and thanked the stranger, Geraldine Potter, for her suggestion that Rori draw her.

“I’m sure she’s well-known in Argentina, but I had never heard of her before,” Rori said in a phone interview. “The group she helped found changed Argentine politics. Maybe somebody else will find this interesting and important, and flesh out their Wikipedia article.”

(The Spanish-language Wikipedia article for Villaflor is a bit more detailed, but it too does not have a photo.)

Self-portrait, courtesy of Rori.
Self-portrait, courtesy of Rori.

Rori is drawing 100 women in 100 days in an attempt to celebrate heroines such as Villaflor, who might otherwise disappear from history. She tweets her portraits, often with their Wikipedia article, which is sometimes also lacking in detail. Some of her subjects have just a “stub,” the beginning of an article, or none at all.

It is an all-too-common problem: the articles about women on Wikipedia are outmanned by more well-known figures of history. In August, the United Nations hosted an editathon in concert with sites around the world focused on increasing articles on women. The 2016 Wikipedians of the Year, volunteer editors Rosie Stephenson-Goodnight and Emily Temple-Wood, were both honored for their efforts to address issues of gender imbalance and harassment on Wikipedia.

WikiProject Women in Red, a project whose members have created more than 34,000 new articles about notable women in the past two years, has supported Rori’s work on Twitter and by improving articles about her subjects.

“We’re thrilled to have an artist putting a face on such deserving articles,” said  Stephenson-Goodknight, cofounder of Women in Red. “We are in the same fight for recognition of women on Wikipedia and elsewhere.”

For Rori, recognition of unsung women came early.  “I remember when I was a kid looking through an art book and there was one picture of a Minoan fresco. There were women jumping over a bull. I remember wondering, ‘who are those women?’”

There is “an undercurrent of history,” she said, beneath the familiar, often male names we hear that mark traditional views of civilization. “In history there is a linear narrative to progress, and a lot of stuff gets cut out of that. When you find the stuff that’s been cut out of history, you see it’s a lot more messy. That’s both wonderful and terrifying.”

The people who have been cut out include “Stagecoach Mary” Fields, the Montana mail carrier and saloon keeper who stood 6 feet (182 cm) tall and weighed about 200 lbs (90 kg), liked to smoke cigars, and “usually had a pistol strapped under her apron and a jug of whiskey by her side,” according to her Wikipedia article.

Discovering Fields—and many of her subjects—compelled Rori to action. “I liked this person,” she said. “I can’t not draw her.”

The portraits gaze at the viewer from a Pinterest board Rori shares with the Wikimedia Foundation, a gallery of unsung heroines who will not be disappeared.

Her subjects include Elizabeth Peratrovich, also a suggestion from someone on social media. Peratrovich advocated for the first U.S. anti-discrimination legislation in Alaska in 1945. The hearings were not welcoming of her beliefs. “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?” a senator asked.

Peratrovich raised her hand and asked to testify. “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights,” she said from the podium, according to the Congressional Record.

Peratrovich described Inuit children seeing signs in restaurants that said “no dogs or natives.” She talked of landlords denying families housing because of the color of their skin. When she finished, the gallery was silent for a moment.

Then it exploded in applause. The legislation passed, giving Alaska the nation’s full equal-access first civil rights law.

The Congressional Record notes that Peratrovich and her husband Roy, also a civil rights activist, celebrated passage of the law at the Baranof Hotel, one of Juneau’s finest. A line of the Congressional Record item gleams with hope and elegant strength, like Peratrovich’s gaze in Rori’s portrait.

“They danced in a place where the day before they were not welcome.”

Jeff Elder, Digital Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation

This post was originally published with embedded tweets on Medium.

by Jeff Elder at October 05, 2016 11:56 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed is joining faculty to share learning benefits of a Wikipedia assignment

Tomorrow, I head to Sacramento to speak with instructors and counselors who support students in the Puente Program. The program aims to increase “the number of educationally disadvantaged students who enroll in four-year colleges” by preparing students to transfer schools. Co-sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley and the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, students involved in the program have access to mentorship, college counseling, and specialized English courses where they are asked to write for real world audiences.

I’m excited to speak with instructors in the Puente Program about the benefits a Wikipedia project could bring to these students. During the assignment, students naturally identify their target audience because of their familiarity with Wikipedia. They consciously write for the public rather than their instructor, which builds communication skills that are imperative for life in and after college.

If you or an instructor you know is interested in learning more about how Wikipedia assignments can enhance your student learning, please email us at contact@wikiedu.org. We’d love to set up a call, run a workshop, or schedule a webinar for interested faculty.

by Samantha Weald at October 05, 2016 06:37 PM

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

ACTRIAL: Wikipedia volunteer leadership should be recognized

The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) is inviting commentary on how to recognize and encourage informal leadership in the volunteer community. (The consultation runs from September 20 through October 16, 2016.) This is a welcome initiative; the Wikimedia movement has not done well, over the years, at capturing stories of volunteers who successfully focus attention on important areas, and who do good work building consensus and forging and executing plans.

There are exceptions. The announcement linked above hails achievements by Liam Wyatt and Vassia Atanassova; and the WMF has consistently highlighted successful volunteer-driven projects on its blog and elsewhere. Still, many who have taken on big challenges and risks to advance our shared values and vision go unheralded.

Below, I consider an important 2011 initiative and conflict, known informally as ACTRIAL (short for “Article Creation Trial”). I learned of it many months after it took place; I had to jump through jargon-filled discussions in multiple venues before I began to understand what had happened. It’s an important story, though. In recent years, WMF staff have often asserted that Wikipedia’s volunteers are “change averse,” and incapable of generating or agreeing on new ideas. But the characterization is neither fair nor accurate, and is typically asserted out of mere political convenience.

ACTRIAL, however, provides a clear and valuable counterexample, in which Wikipedians self-organized to advocate for change, and WMF staff blocked the effort. This post highlights an important piece of Wikimedia history, and offers a little recognition to unsung heroes.

The Blade of the Northern Lights, a Wikipedia volunteer, wanted to address a persistent problem that irks many regular Wikipedians: brand new Wikipedia volunteers who write articles that are far from meeting Wikipedia’s content standards.

The Blade proposed that the creation of new articles be restricted to users with a bit of experience (“autoconfirmed”: 4 days, 10 edits), and then guided more than 500 English Wikipedia volunteers in considering and ultimately approving the proposal.

ACTRIAL was designed as a six-month experiment rather than a definitive policy change. That point is an important one; the WMF often encourages volunteers and affiliate organizations to test hypotheses before making long-term commitments. Volunteer Rich Farmbrough, in spite of his skepticism about the proposed change, praised ACTRIAL’s design as an experiment in 2014, and explained the significance:

I am against preventing article creation by IPs let alone non-autoconfirmed users. But this trial might well have provided compelling evidence one way or the other.

Once the English Wikipedia community had agreed to move forward with ACTRIAL, Scottywong, another Wikipedia volunteer, formally requested a necessary technical change. In a haphazard discussion driven by WMF staffers, the request was denied. Apparently ignoring the extensive deliberation that had involved hundreds of volunteers, one WMF employee stated: “this entire idea doesn’t appear to have been thought through.” Several seemed to agree that the proposal was at odds with the strategic goal of improving editor retention, though no clear argument supporting that position was advanced.

To date, the WMF has not explained this extraordinary rejection of a good-faith, volunteer-driven initiative. The closest approximation to an explanation was a mailing list discussion in 2014. In that discussion, then-WMF staffer Philippe Beaudette asserted that the WMF had ultimately solved the underlying problem in another way:

What I remember was that a pretty good number (~500) of [English Wikipedia] community members came together and agreed on a problem, and one plan for how to fix it and asked the WMF to implement it. The WMF evaluated it, and saw a threat to a basic project value. WMF then asked “what’s the problem you’re actually trying to solve?”, and proposed and built a set of tools to directly address that problem without compromising the core value of openness. And it seems to have worked out pretty well because I haven’t heard a ton of complaints about that problem since.

However, Beaudette’s statement had several problems (edited: see note below):

  • If there was indeed an evaluation, it was never made public.
  • While several individuals argued that a “basic project value” was at risk, no decisive case was made, nor any formal conclusion presented. Others disagreed, and the matter was never resolved decisively.
  • If the WMF had asked “what’s the problem you’re actually trying to solve?”, the question was not (as far as I can tell) posed in a public venue.
  • It’s unclear what “set of tools” were developed; but regardless of what that was referring to, any claim that it “worked out pretty well” should have been evaluated by a more robust process than listening for complaints. As volunteer Todd Allen said: “You haven’t heard more complaints, because the complaint was pointless the first time and took a massive effort to produce.”

When I requested clarification, Beaudette did not respond; but James Alexander, another WMF staff member, did step in. Alexander speculated that the software inspired by ACTRIAL was the Page Curation tool. He may have been correct, but no other staff member confirmed it in that email thread; and neither the page on Page Curation nor its parent page on the Article Creation Workflow make any mention of the discussion of the 500+ volunteers that may or may not have have inspired them.

The sequence of events around ACTRIAL has not been publicly documented by the Foundation – and accordingly, five years later, the leadership shown by the volunteers who guided the discussion remains unrecognized. The initial reactions of WMF staff, therefore, loom large in volunteers’ memory. As Rich Farmbrough opined: “The dismissal as a ‘we know better’ was a bad thing.”

Now that the Foundation seeks to explore stories of leadership in the Wikimedia movement, it would do well to look into the story of The Blade of the Northern Lights and Scottywong. These two played important roles in guiding the English Wikipedia community to define a problem, and to map out a viable (if unimplemented) way to explore a solution. Moreover, if any Wikimedia Foundation staff worked with the volunteer community to make something worthwhile out of those deliberations, their leadership merits recognition as well.

Note: This blog post does not cover the role of Erik Moeller, then the Deputy Director of the WMF. He made a couple of substantive comments in the discussion. Some of them speak to Beaudette’s points, and the extent to which the WMF engaged with the problem surfaced in the volunteer community. I will update this post or follow it up with more detail when I have time. -Pete

by Pete Forsyth at October 05, 2016 06:04 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Blurry on copyright? Three tips for students and educators

Subhashish Panigrahi (@subhapa) is an India-based educator, author, blogger, Wikimedian, language activist and free knowledge evangelist, currently at the Centre for Internet and Society‘s Access To Knowledge program. In this guest post, he covers some guidelines about copyright that will be useful to students and educators working on Wikipedia assignments. 

Copyright is a really complicated topic, and when it comes to online use of creative works, accidentally crossing the line between fair use and a copyright violation is easy. How do you know what is copyrighted? Recently Frederico Morando (Creative Commons, Italy) and I presented a training session on understanding copyright policies at Wikimania 2016, which was originally proposed by Wikipedian User:Jim Carter. We covered topics such as fundamentals of copyright, exclusive rights, Berne convention, copyleft, Creative Commons licenses, Public Domain, fair use, and copyfraud.

In this article, I’ll look at three copyright tips to keep in mind when you’re thinking about using content you find online (even for academic purposes).

1. Most of what you find on the Internet is copyrighted.

Except content that clearly indicates the work is released under a free license, or that the copyright has lapsed and the work is in the Public Domain, you can assume content is not freely/liberally licensed. A few popular free and open licenses include GNU General Public License (GPL), BSD licenses, Apache License, Mozilla Public License, and SIL Open Font License. If a work mentions the license, usually the license is explained or links to terms for using the work. Spending a little time to find out what license the work is under beats spending time and money on a copyright infringement case later.

2. Fair use can be your friend, but not always.

Fair use means you might be permitted to make limited use of a copyrighted work without prior permission from the copyright holder. The fair use policy varies from country to country. As explained in the Stanford University Libraries site, commentary/quotes and criticism, and parody are cases that often fall under fair use.

Wikipedia article images related to recent music albums, movies, and even people who are deceased are used under fair use policy. Click on a recent movie posterappearing in a Wikipedia article and check the copyright section for an example explanation of why the use on Wikipedia qualifies as fair use.

Example Wikipedia explanation for fair use of an image.
Example: Wikipedia explanation for fair use of an image.

Fair use also gives some freedom to scholars to use copyrighted work for academic research. To be in a safe side if you are not sure your use falls under “fair use,” reach out to the copyright holder and get formal permission before using their work.

3. search.creativecommons.org helps streamline Creative Commons content searches.

Where do you go to search for images, illustrations, and other content with Creative Commons licensing? Most images turned up using a search engine are copyrighted and not licensed liberally, for example. A better way to search is using search.creativecommons.org.

Searching with search.creativecommons.org

You can choose Creative Commons-licensed content from several sites, such as Flickr, Google Images, Wikimedia Commons, and Europeana. You can also specify whether you want to use the content for commercial purposes, or to modify, adapt, and build upon work.

Squirrel image cc by 2.0
Image credit likeaduck. CC BY 2.0 
Note that you still will need to check which Creative Commons license the content uses. As explained in an article by Richard Fontana:

The Creative Commons suite includes licenses that implement various policies. Some, like CC BY and CC BY-SA, are normatively consistent with corresponding permissive and copyleft families of free software licenses. Others, however, particularly its “NC” (no commercial use) and “ND” (no derivative works) licenses, are in conflict with basic principles of free software and free culture. I am not alone in lamenting the application of the Creative Commons umbrella brand to cover licenses with such disparate qualities. One consequence has been a general confusing dilution of the meaning of “openness” in the context of cultural works. A more specific problem is the evidence of confusion on the part of content authors interested in applying Creative Commons licenses to their works, and resulting confusion by those interested in making use of such works. Too often a work is labeled as being licensed under “a Creative Commons license”, without specifying accurately, or specifying at all, which free or non-free policy the author sought to apply.

If you still cannot find content—images, for example—with free licenses, but you find copyrighted content that fits your academic need, you can reach out to the content creator or copyright holder for permission. Often copyright holders allow usage of their work for non-commercial purposes, such as academic research and publication.

This article was originally published on opensource.com under the title “3 copyright tips for students and educators,” Subhashish Panigrahi, CC BY-SA 4.0.

by Guest Contributor at October 05, 2016 04:00 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

When the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is announced, Wikipedia editors will be there to document them

Photo by Linda meelin, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Linda Meelin, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Update: this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate is Juan Manuel Santos, the current President of Columbia. Wikipedians are updating articles in 51 languages.

On Friday, October 7, this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced. At the same time, Wikipedians around the world will gather for #Wikinobel 2016—a collaborative effort to ensure that as many Wikipedias as possible have an article on this year’s Peace Prize laureate.

The Peace Prize has been awarded annually in most years since December 1901, given to people who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Wikimedia Norway will be on hand at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo to help live-tweet and photograph the announcement from @WikimediaNorge.

“The Nobel Peace Center is the museum dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize, but we are also an information hub,” said Liv Tørres, the Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Center. “Our building in Oslo and our employees are full of facts and information about the Nobel Peace Prize, the Peace Prize Laureates, and their work.  Our mission is to spread this knowledge, both to our visitors and to the world around us.”

“With its widespread range and idea of sharing knowledge, Wikipedia is a perfect partner for us in that mission. That is why it is such a pleasure for us, for the third year in a row, to welcome Wikimedia to us on the most important day in the Nobel year: the announcement of the new Nobel Peace Prize laureate.”

Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a group of organizations—unknown to many in the west—that were central in the attempts to build a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. Within one hour of the announcement last year, 15 Wikipedia articles were written. Today, there is an article in 46 languages.

The 2016 Peace Prize announcement will be made at 11am in Oslo (2:30pm Indian, 5pm Hong Kong, 2am Pacific, 5am Eastern, 9am UTC) on October 7. Join #Wikinobel and, as Tørres puts it, “get immersed in the fascinating topic of the world’s most prestigious prize.”

Liv Tørres, Executive Director, Nobel Peace Center
Astrid Carlsen, Executive Director, Wikimedia Norway
Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate, Wikimedia Foundation

by Liv Tørres, Astrid Carlsen and Ed Erhart at October 05, 2016 12:20 PM

October 04, 2016

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Supporting the future of Wikidata

The Wikidata team at the ODI Awards. Photo by Open Data Institute Knowledge for Everyone, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Wikidata team at the ODI Awards. Photo by Open Data Institute Knowledge for Everyone, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Four years into its existence, Wikidata is one of the youngest and largest members of the Wikimedia family. As of August 2016, the free database has been edited by more than 16,000 users from all over the world. Today, Wikidata features 24 million items. Its data is being used 266 million times in its fellow sister projects. Today, we’re excited to let you know that the Wikimedia Foundation will now directly support future development of Wikidata in a new agreement with Wikimedia Germany (Deutschland), an independent non-profit chapter that works to advance the Wikimedia movement.

Wikimedia Germany has built the software that powers Wikidata since the project’s beginning, along with contributions from volunteers around the world. Like other Wikimedia projects, the site itself is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation. Over the years, engineers in San Francisco and Berlin have worked together to improve Wikidata and build a shared roadmap to further integrate structured data in the Wikimedia projects.

In the spirit of these joint efforts, the Wikimedia Foundation will now directly fund basic expenses for Wikidata software development. This replaces the previous model of receiving funding for Wikidata through the the Funds Dissemination Committee, per that committee’s recommendations in both 2014–15 and 2015–16. As with all projects funded by the Wikimedia Foundation, funding for Wikidata will be determined on a year-by-year basis. This will both streamline the planning process for Wikimedia projects and allow grant funding to be allocated towards new projects and experiments.

All software development of Wikidata will continue to be led by engineers at Wikimedia Germany, and importantly, with the community of developers who contribute to Wikidata’s software. Development of Wikidata has always been community-driven – a fact that has allowed it to grow exponentially in such a short period of time. In order to achieve both technical and social sustainability, the product management for Wikidata has been rooted from the beginning in public roadmaps and the input of its users. This is not only a cornerstone of agile engineering in general, but has been a key element of Wikidata’s quickly growing user base and of the substantial role it is already playing in the family of Wikimedia projects.

Wikidata remains a positive example of community-driven development. We look forward to partnering to support the project’s future.

Wes Moran, Vice President of Product, Wikimedia Foundation
Abraham Taherivand, Head of Software Development, Wikimedia Germany (Deutschland)

by Wes Moran and Abraham Taherivand at October 04, 2016 09:22 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed showcases open educational practices at Ole Miss

Dr. Robert Cummings discusses the Wikipedia assignment with one of his students.
Dr. Robert Cummings discusses the Wikipedia assignment with one of his students.

Last week, Executive Director Frank Schulenburg and I visited the University of Mississippi, hosted by Dr. Robert Cummings (also a Wiki Ed board member) and the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

We presented to faculty at a luncheon about why Wikipedia matters to students and instructors alike. Frank recalled growing up without access to printed encyclopedias and his joy when he discovered Wikipedia. Frank, like so many people eager to expand their minds, now has access to a wealth of information beyond his childhood dreams. Our students are often motivated by this opportunity to reach the inquisitive who may not have the physical access or required skills to understand academic research. Since students are writing about important topics already, they find meaning in bringing this knowledge to others through open educational practices.

Attendees were most interested in the content gaps plaguing Wikipedia and its readers. Their students—whether in a Biology, History, or Women’s Studies classroom—fill these gaps, making Wikipedia more complete and equitable. Take the spring 2016 students, who added over 3.73 million words to Wikipedia. During the busiest month in the program, students added 4.6% of academic content to English Wikipedia. That’s a significant impact, and faculty are excited to engage their students in such a productive open educational practice.

Students are cognizant of the value their contributions bring to the world. At Ole Miss, we had the pleasure of joining Dr. Cummings in his “Writing for Wikipedia” course. At this point in the term, students have collaborated to expand a stub article. They shared their observations about the value they’re adding to the world, and one student feels a duty to catalog information for readers, even if she’s not interested in the topic herself. Higher education can be reserved for a privileged few, and these students want to help others overcome those barriers and document knowledge on an accessible platform.

At this stage in Dr. Cummings’ process, students are selecting individual topics to research and expand. I shared my own story about why I’m interested in improving Wikipedia’s coverage of women and women’s studies, and I encouraged students to explore topics that engage them outside of the classroom. I rarely have the opportunity to observe our students at work, and I’m elated to see the work these bright students add to the encyclopedia by the end of the term.

by Jami Mathewson at October 04, 2016 04:52 PM

October 03, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Life in Mexico

In 1839, the Scottish explorer Frances “Fanny” Erskine Inglis, later known as Fanny Calderón, took a somewhat controversial road trip.

Her travels through Mexico, which she documented through letters collected in her 1843 book, Life in Mexico, formed one of the earliest and most influential European travel narratives about Latin America. The book, the only narrative at the time written by a woman, was controversial in Mexico. Erskine ended up a consultant of sorts with the US government ahead of the Mexican-American war.

The controversy over the book was twofold. Her writing deployed a somewhat proto-feminist critique of Mexico’s male elite, and the violence of the revolution. But it was also decried as imperialist, because her writing takes the position that Spain was essential to Mexico’s existence.

It’s a fascinating story and discussion, contextualizing some of the themes running through our political discourse today. Thanks to User:Cmartlover, from David Sartorius’s Travel Writing in the Americas course at the University of Maryland, College Park, the world has a deeper understanding of those who shaped the United States’ view of Mexico. That student expanded Calderón’s biography to cover the book in greater depth, and then built a brand new article for Life in Mexico with all of the resources she found.

This is just one great example of the kinds of work students can do that deepen Wikipedia’s coverage of history, literature, and women’s lives. We’re looking to create more great examples! If you’d like to inspire your students and expand the horizons of open knowledge, we’d love to hear from you. Start a conversation by emailing us: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Mexico in 1838 by DigbyDaltonOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 03, 2016 04:00 PM

William Beutler

Gene Weingarten Proves Wikipedia Still Needs a Better Way to Deal With Feedback

Wikipedia has two kinds of problems. The first category includes problems it recognizes and realizes how to fix, sometimes through a policy change but more often, in recent years especially, by administrative actions or PR activities led by the Wikimedia Foundation. For example, educators once warned students away from Wikipedia, but now editing Wikipedia is an increasingly common pedagogical tool, for which a great deal of credit is owed to the Wiki Education Foundation.

The second type of problem comprises those issues it cannot or will not fix, for reasons as diverse as the problems themselves. This past week brings us another example, highlighted by a September 29 column in the Washington Post Magazine by Gene Weingarten, titled “Dear Wikipedia: Please change my photo!” This comes more than four years after Philip Roth published “An Open Letter to Wikipedia” online at The New Yorker. In each case, both men found fault with their biographical entries on Wikipedia, and used their access to the mainstream media to call attention to the changes.

The problem we are highlighting is that anyone who is written about in a Wikipedia entry typically has no idea what they can or cannot do if they have a problem with said entry. There is some awareness that editing one’s own biography is fraught with peril—“(One is evidently not allowed to alter one’s own entry.)” Weingarten explains in an aside that is effectively true, technically false, and debatable as a matter of Wikipedia guidelines, so who can blame him—but there is little understanding of what one is supposed to do instead:

I tried asking Wikipedia to change or delete this picture. No answer. So I did what any user can do, and deleted it myself, on seven occasions — which, yes, was in blatant and shameful contravention of all Wikimedia Commons policies blah, blah, blah.

Absent a clear path to offering feedback, Weingarten and Roth did they only thing they could imagine: they tried editing the “encyclopedia anyone can edit”. Oddly enough, this didn’t work. Looking at Weingarten’s edits, it’s not hard to see why his attempts to remove the photo were overturned: more than once he simply deleted the entire infobox. He might have been successful if he’d just removed the actual image link (but then again maybe not) however it stands to reason a middle-aged newspaper humor columnist might not be the most adept with markup languages. In Roth’s case, he asked his biographer to make the changes for him, which were overturned because available news sources contravened Roth’s preferred version.

New photo for Gene Weingarten's photo, via Simona Combi on Flickr. Whether it's actually an improvement is a matter on which reasonable people can disagree.

New photo for Gene Weingarten’s photo, via Simona Combi on Flickr. Whether it’s actually an improvement is a matter on which reasonable people can disagree.

When editing Wikipedia didn’t work, each finally turned their media access to their benefit, and this time they got results. Within hours of Weingarten’s article becoming available, Wikipedia editors gathered on the discussion page of his biography to determine what could or should be done about his plight. Meanwhile on Twitter, longtime Wikipedia contributor (and DC-based journalism professor) Andrew Lih engaged Weingarten in a conversation, trying to get a better photo for him, and explaining why his Washington Post headshot could not be used. Soon, another photo satisfying Wikipedia’s arcane image use policies was identified and added to the article, although it doesn’t seem Weingarten isn’t especially happy with it, either. Lih had previously invited Weingarten out to lunch and a quick photo shoot, and it sounds like this may still happen.

In Roth’s case, it was a more complicated matter: several book reviews had identified a character in Roth’s The Human Stain as “allegedly inspired by” a writer whom Roth denies was the character’s inspiration. In the short term, Roth’s objection was noted, but sometime after the entire matter was relocated to a subsection of the novel’s Wikipedia entry as “Anatole Broyard controversy”, explaining the matter more fully. This seems like the right outcome.

So, everything worked itself out, right? That’s just how Wikipedia works? Mostly, and yes, and this is nevertheless somewhat regrettable. The fact is Weingarten and Roth are both able to command a major media audience via a “reliable source” platform that the vast majority of people (and bands, brands, teams, companies, nonprofits, &c.) do not. The method they used to get action not only doesn’t scale, it rarely happens at all due to most article subjects’ fear of a “Streisand effect” bringing undue attention to their article. As Weingarten writes in his piece:

[I]it is also possible that this column will serve as a clarion call to every smart aleck and wisenheimer and cyber-vandal out there. Anyone can make ephemeral changes to my Wikipedia page, any time.

Fortunately, that hasn’t happened, but it isn’t an unreasonable worry. Fortunately for Weingarten, as a white male whose writing doesn’t really take sides on controversial issues, he’s not much of a target for the Internet’s troll armies and political agitators.

The causes of this failure are many. We can assign some blame to Wikipedia’s strict policies regarding copyrights and reliance on crowdsourced images which has made its often-poor celebrity headshots both a source of angst and amusement. We can assign some to Wikipedia’s confusing discussion pages, which are forbidding; a project was once in development to overhaul them, only to be mothballed after facing community critcism. We can assign some as well to the contradictory message of Wikipedia as the encyclopedia anyone can edit—just not when the subject is the one you know about best, yourself. And we cannot let Wikipedia’s editing community escape blameless; even as they are not an organized (or organizable) thing, the culture is generally hostile to outsiders, unless of course said outsiders can get their criticism of Wikipedia into a periodical they’ve heard of before.

In the four years since the Roth episode, Wikipedia has had time to come up with a process for accepting, reviewing, and responding to feedback. I’ve argued previously for placing a button on each entry to solicit feedback, feeding into a public queue for editorial review. The reasons not to do this are obvious: most of it would be noise, and there wouldn’t be enough editor time to respond even to those requests which might be actionable.

I still think the feedback button is a good idea, but I recognize it is not sufficient: it would also needs an ombuds committee set up to triage this feedback. Perhaps this could be community-run, but this seems too important to be left up to volunteers. This work could be performed by WMF staff even if, for complicated reasons every Wikipedia editor understands but would need a lengthy paragraph to explain, they could not implement them outright. And it’s not just a matter of making sure Wikipedia is accurate—though you’d think that would be enough!—it’s also a matter of making sure Wikipedia is responsible and responsive to legitimate criticism.

Of course, Wikipedia already operates on this very model, in a way: it solicits edits from its readership, and then also spends a lot of time reverting unhelpful edits, and the difference between bad edits with good intentions and bad edits with bad intentions is often impossible to tell. Providing a clear option for expressing a specific concern rather than forcing the expression of that problem to be an edit rather than a request is something Wikipedians should think about again. When someone is unhappy with their Wikipedia entry, that they have no idea what can be done about it isn’t really their fault. Ultimately, it’s Wikipedia’s. And it’s not just an abstract information asymmetry problem—it’s a PR problem, too.

by William Beutler at October 03, 2016 03:23 PM