October 09, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Supporting access to mass digitization collections

We feel that the Copyright Office’s conception of mass digitization is misguided. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, in the public domain.

The Wikimedia Foundation, in coordination with Creative Commons and the Internet Archive, urges the U.S. Copyright Office not to propose a pilot program that inhibits fair use or undermines freely accessible mass digitization projects. The program aims to make copyright policy less of a burden on institutions that make digital versions of their collections available. While this is an admirable goal, we feel that the Copyright Office’s pilot program is limited, and will unnecessarily restrict access to digitized collections.

We have submitted comments to the Copyright Office today criticizing the Office’s proposed mass digitization pilot program. Creative Commons and the Internet Archive also submitted their own comments today.

The Copyright Office’s program would allow institutions to licence their entire digital collections without having to secure an individual copyright license for each work in the collection. The program is based on a system of extended collective licensing (ECL), similar to existing ECL systems in Europe.

We feel that the Copyright Office’s conception of mass digitization is misguided. The program is based on the model of Google Books, where one institution does all of the digitizing. However, the framework does not allow for decentralized mass digitization projects like Wikisource and Wikimedia Commons that have individual contributors all over the world. The program also applies only to books (“literary works”) and photographs, excluding sound and video recordings. The Wikimedia projects are examples of the future of mass digitization, but the Copyright Office’s program is not designed to facilitate projects like them.

The Copyright Office is also considering additional limitations in the pilot program that would severely restrict access to digitized collections. In its request for comments, the Copyright Office indicated that access to the collections may be limited to users affiliated with the digitizing institutions, and possibly only to users using on-site terminals. For example, a user may only be able to view the content in the collection if they were using a computer at the digitizing institution, such as a library. In addition, the pilot program will likely require digital collections to have “security measures” (also known as digital rights management, or DRM) that would make it difficult or impossible for users to make authorized uses of works, including downloading and remixing content in the collections. Because the Wikimedia movement believes everyone should have unlimited access to the sum of all knowledge, we oppose all of these restrictions in our comments. We are particularly concerned with the possibility that these restrictions would apply to public domain or freely licensed works in digital collections, and not just non-free copyrighted works.

Though the program will not directly apply to the Wikimedia projects, we fear that it will have unintended consequences for projects that, like the Wikimedia projects, provide open access to their collections and have a decentralized group of contributors.

The submission of these comments is part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s ongoing public policy efforts. You can learn more about those efforts at Wikimedia’s public policy site, which we launched last month.

Charles M. Roslof, Intellectual Property & Internet Law Fellow
Yana Welinder, Legal Director

by Yana Welinder and Charles M. Roslof at October 09, 2015 10:13 PM

WikipediansSpeak: Telugu-language library catalog project helps Wikipedia grow

Viswanadh B.K. was the second Telugu Wikimedian to be given an Individual Engagement Grant. Photo by విశ్వనాధ్.బి.కె., freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

In 2013, the interview project “WikipediansSpeak” was launched in response to observations that many noteworthy Wikimedians were being underrepresented both locally and globally. Not just them personally—their work, and the communities they represent, were also unknown to the Wikimedia community and the outside world. The Wikimedia Foundation’s fundraising campaigns were the biggest inspiration for the project. From video-only interviews, this is an attempt at different ways of interviews, and is the first interview showcasing a Telugu Wikimedian: Viswanadh B.K., who was an Individual Engagement (IEG) Grantee last year and has continued to be active in outreach.

Recently, you attended a Telugu Wikipedia workshop for the Botany-major undergraduate students at Andhra Loyola College, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. Would you like to talk a little bit about your participation, how the program was designed, the activities there and the output? How are you planning to mentor the students in the future?

The staff and students are quite enthusiastic, and the students are dedicating considerable time to learning, and reflecting their learning, while editing the Telugu Wikipedia. However, they need more training on basics of Wikipedia, as well as on policies and guidelines. Without that, they might end up creating low quality articles that the community will face problems cleaning up. Centre for Internet and Society’s Access To Knowledge program (CIS-A2K), that has been organizing these sessions in the college, should seek out more support from the Telugu Wikimedia community so that the experienced editors could mentor these students. I feel it would be a good idea to award the students and faculty with certificates. These small little things often motivate many.

What part should the community and CIS-A2K be playing in the Wikimedia movement? What could and should we do for the Telugu community?

Many in our community do not know how programs like CIS-A2K work. Maybe there is a need to provide some kind of orientation for them which will help them to understand how they could approach CIS asking for support. This process could also help the community understand CIS’s activities and its programmatic implementation. More collaboration, and understanding of the program among the community, will improve involvement in CIS’s activities as well as CIS’s understanding of the community.

You were the second Telugu Wikipedian to be awarded with an Individual Engagement Grant (IEG). How did it go, and what did you achieve? Based on your own experience, how are you planning to groom this year’s applicants from Telugu and other Indian language Wikimedia communities?

This IEG was my dream come true! Back in 2009, I blogged about the potential of opening up library catalogs on the Internet for people to search for books. It took shape with my grant project: “Digitization of Important Libraries Book Catalog in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana”. I worked on an extensive project, digitizing the catalogs of five libraries—a total of 300,000 books—in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. I learned a lot, and documented part of my learning, which talks about the ways one should go about partnering with Indian institutions. I believe, my interaction with fellow Wikimedians must have helped them to better their grants applications this year. And I am hoping that I will continue to support more friend from my community and country in the future.

What drove you, over the years, to work on a project like this digitizing library catalogs? Were there any additional learning and benefits from this project?

In this digital age, people searching for books on the Internet might have developed the notion that if a book is not available online, it doesn’t exist. I have been experiencing this very issue while looking for evidence notability and citations on the Telugu Wikipedia. Many Wikipedia editors argue for citing at least the name of the book when the book is not available online. This pushed me to create a central catalog that will benefit Wikipedians, researchers, and readers. In the process of creating the catalog, I also managed to develop strong relations with several cultural organizations. These include Kathanilayam, a dedicated organization collecting every Telugu story; the Annamayya Library, which developed into a great cultural center in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh; and the Suryaraya Vidyananda Library, whose collection is enriched with rare manuscripts and important books. I touch based with them then, and they are slowly becoming household names for other Wikimedians for their library-related needs. We can see the potential of strong partnerships and synergy with these libraries.

Subhashish Panigrahi, Programme Officer
Access To Knowledge, Centre for Internet and Society

by Subhashish Panigrahi at October 09, 2015 09:44 PM

Content Translation Update

October 8 CX Update: Suggestions in New Languages, Fixes in Interlanguage Links and RTL Images, and More

This week we were mostly working on new capabilities in the Suggestions feature, and we also fixed a few bugs:

  • When translating from a language written left-to-right to a language written right-to-left, images with explicit alignment were aligned incorrectly in the published article. This was fixed. (bug report)
  • Long names of languages could sometimes be badly displayed. This is improved now, even for smaller screens. (bug report)
  • The language and page selector was hidden when the window was resized. This is fixed now. (bug report)
  • The “interlanguage links” to pages that are not translated to these languages yet are supposed to appear in the gray color. This worked correctly in the Vector skin, but they appeared as red in Monobook and Modern skins. They now appear as gray in all three skins. (bug report)
  • We were still getting errors related to interlanguage links entry point updates, but they should be fixed now, such as appearance of irrelevant language variants (like Brazilian Portuguese) or broken gadgets. (bug report)
  • The second that you selected the language in the filter at the top of the dashboard, you had to click it twice. This was fixed. (bug report)

The suggestions feature was deployed to new languages: From English to Afrikaans, Asturian, Bengali, Galician, Gujarati, Malayalam, Tamil and Ukrainian, from Catalan to Occitan, and from Bulgarian to Macedonian.

by aharoni at October 09, 2015 08:02 PM

Weekly OSM

weekly 272


quarterly project 2015 which is about Nature Reserves

UK quarterly project “Nature Reserves” [1]

About us

  • thefive wrote a dedicated content-managment system especially designed for the needs of Wochennotiz and weeklyOSM. This system ensures that the English version of weeklyOSM may appear immediately after the German Wochennotiz.


  • [1] Mappers in the UK have started their last quarterly project 2015 which is about Nature Reserves. The call for the project is supported by a map, user SK53 has made for this purpose. The National Nature Reserves are shown in red, Local ones in blue.
  • GPS is to be jammed in Scotland during the Nato war games. Please be careful with tracks from this period, and  do not upload them to osm.org without exact examination!
  • User naoliv has used the Mapbox Distance API for quality assurance. With this approach, he found out that Parintins (Brazil) was isolated from the rest of the world.
  • jorgemendozatorres asks the Mexican community to start mapping the “monumental flags“.
  • Martijn van Exel presents a JOSM plugin to find “missingRoads” based on aggregated, processed GPS data points. Some first comments on the data can be found on the American mailing list.
  • The French QA tool Osmose has now a Mapillary integration as well.
  • User toc-rox reports about a perl script, which can download all OSM-Notes for a selectable bounding box and for saving the result as a CSV file.


OpenStreetMap Foundation


  • From September 30 to October 4 the State of the Map Scotland was held in Edinburgh. Unedited videos are partly already online on YouTube. Read the tweets at # sotms15.
  • On 17. and 18. October there will be an OSM hackweekend at Geofabrik in Karlsruhe, Germany. More information about the hackweekend and about registration can be found at OSM wiki.

Humanitarian OSM


  • The Belgian artist Hans Hack makes art based on building outlines found in OpenStreetMap.
  • On OpenStreetMap.org tomhughes has integrated the Mapzen routing engine. (via github)
  • Real estate portal Trulia made maps of the noisiest neighborhoods in Seattle, San Francisco, New York City using Stamen tiles, OSM data and CartoDB. (via Geekwire)


Open Data

  • The Northern Ireland Ordnance Survey (OSNI) published the “OSNI Large Scale Boundaries – Town Country dataset”, exactly 15 days after the mapper StephenCoAntrim has mapped with Syunshin the last townland in Northern Ireland.
  • Pieter Colpaert of Open Knowledge Belgium informs the Belgian OSM mailing list, that the GRB will become open data in January 2016. He asks how it can be used in OpenStreetMap, but is also interested to learn about the difficulties to integrate this data into OpenStreetMap. The data contains all information about buildings, parcels, roads and road infrastructure, road networks, as well as railroads and waterways. (discussion partly in English and Dutch (Niederländisch))
  • Mapbox announces new aireal imagery for New Zealand.



  • On September 30th 2015 GeoServer version 2.8 was released.
  • The Directions API of GraphHopper now supports motorcycles, mountain bikes and road bikes. The well-known Web application Graph Hopper Maps benefits as well from that. The carried out performance optimizations with Graph Hopper 0.5 reduced the hardware requirements such that more profiles can be offered with the same server hardware of GraphHopper Directions API.
  • On October 1st, 2015 MapFactor Navigator Free version 2 was released.
  • Apparently, most OsmAnd maps are updated only once a month instead of as hitherto approximately three times per month. Torsten Bronger wrote about it in OsmAnd-Google Group. We recommend to produce your maps on your own with OsmAndMapCreator.
  • A new navigation app for Android systems Pocket Maps based on Mapsforge (offline vector maps) and GraphHopper (routing) is available. Attention: in PlayStore there are two apps with the same name.
  • The source code of MAPS.ME has been published under Apache License at Github. The Russian OSM blog reports about it. MAPS.ME is an offline map application based on Qt5 framwork for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux. Teams of Wochennotiz and weeklyOSM are looking for someone who wants to blog at our blog about a hands-on of MAPS.ME and comparison with other OSM-bases offline map applications. Some users at the OsmAnd Google Group think that the rendering engine of MAPS.ME is superior to the OsmAnd rendering engine.
  • Cartodb published the data visualization tool Torque.js under an open source license.

Did you know …

  • … the JOSM map styles and object templates for Finnish traffic sign? The Dutch community has created its own version.

Other “geo” things

  • Claus Rinner describes how to print 3D maps. (via Twitter)
  • Eric Gundersen, CEO and Tom MacWright are answering for MapBox in an #AMA (Ask Me Anything) the questions of the community. Tom expresses the future of the old MapBox Studio (Classic). We’ll barely spend time on this tool, but will ensure that it will run on new versions of OS X.
  • Remember kids, Google Maps is better than OpenStreetMap because any prankster can edit OpenStreetMap. 😉
  • Beijing is already surrounded by six ring roads, [… ] but the seventh will be 940 kilometers long. How many are 940 km for example along a circle, as the Circular Highway of Milan? The blog shows how blogger can create web maps to represent their “articles”.
  • Mapillary is blogging about a big update of their iOS App.
  • You are looking where Google Maps has a map error? Why don’t you search for “Fehlerbereich” (German for “area with an error”)? You will get to the city center of Dresden, Germany. Do you want to go to Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales? Don’t trust Google! According to BBC, you’ll get to London.
  • Can you identify these world cities from their street plans alone?
  • Air pollution in the World in real time.
  • Mapillary is now being used to map model railways.
  • “NOSOLOSIG” is a free monthly magazin (PDF format) which reports from the field of geographic information technology. Here, the main focus is on reports about free software, events, tutorials in the geographic area. (Spanisch)
  • Kristian blogs about on the relevance problem of walking trails.
  • Mapillary also made some improvements to their web based map-browser.


weeklyOSM is brought to you by … 

by weeklyteam at October 09, 2015 04:46 PM

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

Panel: How can you write an open access encyclopedia in a closed access world?

Wikipedia and Open Access: A good fit? (Logo montage licensed CC BY-SA. Wikipedia logo by Nohat (concept by Paullusmagnus); Wikimedia.

Wikipedia & Open Access:
A good fit?

(Logo montage licensed CC BY-SA. Wikipedia logo by Nohat (concept by Paullusmagnus); Wikimedia.)

Advance registration to attend the Oct. 21 28th panel discussion in person is required.
Registration to view live stream is optional, but recommended.

Much knowledge has always been locked away, throughout history. It’s inaccessible — or expensive to access — for all but a privileged few.

Two Internet-era social movements have sought to change that: Wikipedia, which invites any and all to participate in constructing a comprehensive encyclopedia; and the Open Access movement, which maintains that academic research — especially when funded by the public — should be readily accessible to the public, ideally under free licenses that permit virtually unrestricted redistribution.

The goals, tactics, and even communities of both movements overlap strongly. But on occasion, conflicts arise. Last month, Open Access advocate Michael Eisen took issue with the activities of The Wikipedia Library, a project which aims to help Wikipedia’s volunteer editors read and consult otherwise inaccessible publications (typically, academic journals). His critiques were covered in Ars Technica, and various blog posts and social media postings ensued.

Conflicting views on how to engage with closed-access publishers present an opportunity to discuss the goals and visions of both movements. With that in mind, we invite you to attend (either in person or via webinar) a panel discussion on Wednesday, October 28 21. (Belatedly celebrating Open Access Week!) We will delve deeper into these issues, and invite discussion and commentary.


  • Michael Eisen: Associate Professor, UC Berkeley; founder, PLoS family of open access journals
  • Jake Orlowitz: founder, Wikipedia Library program
  • Rich Schneider: Associate Professor, UCSF School of Medicine; Author of UCSC’s and University of California systems’ Open Access policies
  • Pete Forsyth (moderator): longtime Wikipedia contributor; founder, Wiki Strategies training & consulting company


  • If you plan to attend in person, you must register by midnight October 27, and bring photo ID.
  • If you plan to watch the live stream, we encourage you to register, so we can send you updates.
  • Where: Wikimedia Foundation offices, 149 New Montgomery St., San Francisco
  • When: 5:30pm Pacific Time, Wednesday, October 28, 2015. Doors open at 5:00; must arrive by 6:00, when the program begins. (Please note, this is a new date and new time!)
  • No cost to attend.
  • We will serve beverages and light snacks.

This blog post is licensed CC o; please reuse/reshare freely.

by Pete Forsyth at October 09, 2015 03:00 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

It’s here! WikiConference USA

It’s time! WikiConference 2015 is this weekend at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Wiki Education Foundation staff are proud to be presenting several presentations this weekend, and a host of others will be led by participants in our programs. We’ve selected just a few most relevant to higher education to share below!


You can watch the National Archive’s livestream from the McGowan Room on Friday here.

  • Wiki Education Foundation in a Flash is a fast-paced overview of Wiki Ed’s programs and initiatives. In just 30 minutes, you’ll have a quick overview of who we are and what we do. (More). 12:30 p.m., McGowan Theater.
  • College Writing with Wikipedia explores the benefits of teaching with Wikipedia, particularly in regards to college-level writing. Zach McDowell, an instructor at UMass-Amherst, will discuss getting started with Wikipedia in a classroom. (More). 3:30 p.m., Washington Room.
  • Teaching Research & Critical Thinking Skills Through Wikipedia will discuss how Wikipedia can be used to teach research and critical thinking skills. Chanitra Bishop, a librarian at Hunter College, will share several assignment ideas for students. (More). 4 p.m., McGowan Theater.
  • Wikifying Science Fiction’s “Grand Dame” Octavia E. Butler: The LaGuardia Community College WikiProject, led by Ximena Gallardo C., Professor of English, and Ann Matsuuchi, Instructional Technology Librarian/Associate Professor, will share their experiences working to improve science fiction articles on Wikipedia through writing assignments at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY. The talk will also explore ways to integrate librarians involved in information/digital literacy in the instructional process. (More). 4:00 p.m., Washington Room.
  • Making 2016 the Year of Science will explore an initiative to improve science content on Wikipedia by engaging institutions, editors, and academics in a focused, year-long editing campaign. The presentation is hosted by Andrew Lih, Ian Ramjohn, and Ryan McGrady. (More). 4:00 p.m., Jefferson Room.
  • Here Comes (a Significant Fraction of) Everybody presents Wiki Education Foundation Content Expert Adam Hyland’s research into student editors’ substantial proportions of active editors on Wikipedia. (More). 4:30 p.m., McGowan Theater.


You can watch the National Archive’s livestream from the McGowan Room on Saturday here.

  • Working with Academic Experts in a Feminism Distributed Editing Project will present a project that taps the expertise of academics who specialize in feminist studies to develop a protocol for doing editing work in a distributed fashion. Rather than teaching academics to edit, the project asks them to analyze content gaps on Wikipedia in their areas of specialization, and makes suggestions that can then be taken up for future editors. This presentation is presented by Monika Sengul-Jones of UC San Diego and the University of Washington, and Sage Ross of the Wiki Education Foundation. (More). 12:15, McGowan Theater.
  • Addressing the Gender Gap: Wiki Edu Projects for Digital Humanities explores opportunities for academics to promote learning in the digital humanities and increase representation of marginalized topics and identities in Wikipedia. Matthew Vetter’s will share his experience using Wikipedia in courses at Ohio University. (More). 12:45 p.m., McGowan Theater.
  • Thinking (and Contributing) Outside the Editing Box: Alternative Ways to Engage Subject-Matter Experts asks, “How can we engage academics and other knowledge professionals in ways that allow them to contribute expertise without requiring them to edit articles directly?” Led by American University instructor Andrew Lih, and the Wiki Education Foundation’s Sage Ross and Ryan McGrady, the discussion will explore alternative contribution models for experts. (More). 2:15 p.m., Washington Room.

Times may change, so be sure to reference the WikiConference USA schedule for updates and the full list of talks, workshops, and keynotes.

The event is co-organized by the National Archives and Records Administration, the Wiki Education Foundation, Wikimedia District of Columbia, and Wikimedia New York City.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Photo: “GLAMcamp DC 2012 – National Archives building 2” by Jarek TuszynskiOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.


by Eryk Salvaggio at October 09, 2015 12:30 PM

Wikimedia Suomi (WMFI - English)

Henrik Summanen & Swedish Wikipedians in residence

henrik summanen

Henrik Summanen

Last week I participated Wikidata event on Yle’s Iso paja. After the long and very interesting day I had a chance to make a very quick video interview with one of our Swedish guests. Henrik Summanen works as a development manager at Swedish National Heritage Board and he was very satisfied with the Wikipedian in residence project they did 3 years ago. So this is to encourage you GLAMs – go and start! Read more about WIR projects.


by Johanna Janhonen at October 09, 2015 07:00 AM

October 08, 2015

Gerard Meijssen

#FREEBASSEL: Free culture advocate who built 3D renderings of Palmyra missing in Syria

When the Wikimedia Foundation asks on its blog to campaign for a Wikipedian who has gone missing.. How can I not express my regret that this is necessary and how can I not mourn the destruction that is happening in Syria.

Free Bassel Khartabil !!

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at October 08, 2015 05:42 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

#FREEBASSEL: Free culture advocate who built 3D renderings of Palmyra missing in Syria

Open-source advocate and Wikipedian Bassel Khartabil has been taken from a Syrian prison and brought to an unknown location. Photo by Christopher Lee Adams, public domain.

The ancient city of Palmyra in Syria has been targeted for destruction by the extremist group ISIL (or ISIS). Bassel Khartabil, an open-source advocate and Wikipedian who was determined to digitally preserve the city for future generations, has been detained by the Syrian government for three years. He was recently moved out of the prison where he was being held; his current location is unknown, and his friends and family fear for his safety.

Palmyra has been described as “one of the most renowned archaeological sites in the world,” and “home to some of the world’s most magnificent remnants of antiquity.” Recognized as a World Heritage Site since 1980, artifacts found at this desert oasis have been dated to as far back as the Neolithic period, about 9,500 years ago. As a crossroads along a main east-west trade route, the city played an outsized regional role for many years, dating to the third century BCE. Many of the city’s ruins remain unexcavated, but archaeological digs have been halted since the onset of the Syrian Civil War.

In May 2015, the ancient city was taken by ISIL, which is notable not only for its conquest of large swathes of Syria and Iraq but also for their destruction of cultural heritage. While the group initially stated it would spare much of the site, destroying only monuments that they found “polytheistic,” they have subsequently razed even ruins without religious significance. A Roman amphitheater has been used for executions, and an eminent Syrian archaeologist known as “Mr. Palmyra” was beheaded in August following a month of torture. On October 6, it was confirmed that ISIL had destroyed the Arch of Triumph—a triple arch constructed by the Romans in the second century CE to commemorate a victory over Persian forces.

Years before these events, Bassel was working to digitally capture Palmyra’s splendor and heritage, as part of his commitment to sharing freely with the world. In 2008, Bassel started a project that joined existing satellite photos and other resources into a single “world” file, rendering the city’s magnificent monuments and ruins in 3D. His efforts have gone unfinished since his incarceration: only sixteen photos from his efforts are available on the Internet Archive, though more data will be released into the public domain on newpalmyra.org on October 15 by Bassel’s friend and collaborator, Jon Phillips.

When Bassel was not busy sharing his country’s cultural treasures, he is a software developer known for being instrumental in the development of the open-source movement in the Arabic-speaking world. He was an early and frequent, if anonymous, contributor to Arabic Wikipedia. He built and led the Creative Commons (CC) Syria project, becoming an advocate for not just CC but for Ubuntu, Wikipedia, and the free web in general. The now-former CC chief Catherine Casserly wrote in 2013 that Bassel “worked tirelessly to build knowledge of digital literacy, educating people about online media and open-source tools.” At the launch of CC’s Arabic-language CC licenses, he was credited with playing a “pivotal role” in their adoption.

Bassel was also a major contributor to open-source initiatives such as Mozilla and Openclipart; Bassel’s Aiki Framework still powers the latter. He co-founded the web design company Fabricatorz with Jon Phillips, and  helped found Aiki Lab, a community technology and cultural space in Damascus that hosted thought leaders and luminaries from open culture, including Mitchell Baker, Chairwoman and CEO of Mozilla. Many young people in Damascus learned about sharing and open culture through Aiki Lab, and Bassel could often be found there at all hours of the day, as it had faster Internet than he had at home.

On March 15, 2012, Bassel disappeared while traveling to the Mazzeh district of Damascus. It was the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the country’s civil uprising and just weeks before he planned to marry his fiance, human rights lawyer Noura Ghazi. It is unclear how he was identified and what circumstances led to his detention.

For the past three years, Bassel has been held in the city’s Adra prison, accused of harming state security. The United Nations found (PDF, p. 75) that the many allegations of Bassel’s torture, ill-treatment, and lack of access to a lawyer amounted to a violation of his basic human rights. A recent opinion from the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also found that his “deprivation of liberty” had an “arbitrary character.” Although circumstances of his imprisonment had been difficult—Adra has been characterized as “infamous” by the Washington Post—it was at least located in Damascus, near Bassel’s friends and family. Bassel and Noura were married in January 2013, with the groom still behind bars.

According to Noura, Bassel was told on October 3rd by military police to pack his belongings for departure under a “sealed order from the field court.” Fearing his fate, he gave his wedding ring to a friend and fellow prisoner before leaving. His family has no further information about his current status or location.

Bassel’s close friend and former coordinator for Creative Commons in the Arab world, Donatella Della Ratta, says that she and Noura are very worried about Bassel. They fear that he is facing a summary trial with no legal representation. “We need to know where he is,” said Donatella, “and we call for his immediate release from detention.” On Facebook, Noura wondered, “how many times should I go back to feel the same terror, worry, and fear from the unknown?”

At the Wikimedia Foundation, we celebrate Bassel’s commitment to free knowledge and open culture. As a member of the global Wikimedia community, we are concerned about his safety and support efforts to see him free again soon.

More information is available on freebassel.org, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, FreeBasselSafadi on Facebook, and @freebassel on Twitter. Tweets can be tagged with #freebassel, and you can sign a solidarity petition to express your support on Change.org.

Katherine Maher, Chief Communications Officer
Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation


by Katherine Maher and Ed Erhart at October 08, 2015 04:32 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Wikipedia’s “Bum Rap” on American RadioWorks

Dr. Diana Strassmann
Dr. Diana Strassmann

The Wiki Education Foundation’s board chair, Dr. Diana Strassmann, spoke with American RadioWorks host Steven Smith about her experiences as an instructor teaching with Wikipedia. Dr. Strassmann is the Carolyn and Fred McManis Distinguished Professor in the Practice at Rice University. In the interview, she discusses the merits of Wikipedia assignments, and the value her students find in making information available to a global audience.

You can listen to that interview here, or stream it below.

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 08, 2015 01:00 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

News on Wikipedia: FIFA president suspended, and more

Sepp Blatter has found himself under renewed calls to step down from his position. Photo by the International Students’ Committee, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

FIFA, the world’s organising body overseeing association football all over the world, has spent much of this year battling with corruption claims. Police in several countries have launched investigations into accusations that some of their highest-ranked officials may have been involved in bribery.

This month, FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter was urged by four major sponsors of the federation to immediately step down from his position. Today, Blatter was suspended for ninety days by the federation’s ethics committee.

He had previously won re-election just two days after police arrested fourteen people, including seven officials, on corruption charges in May.

An article on these arrests, “2015 FIFA corruption case”, was drafted hours after they were made. The original author was Gareth Kegg, who has been editing Wikipedia for more than ten years and has, at the time of writing, created 1,564 articles on the site. The first draft was fairly modest: based on one rolling news story from British newspaper The Guardian, it named nine of the highest-profile arrests as well as the background leading up to the leadership vote on May 28–29.

Since its creation, the article has grown from just a few paragraphs to an article documenting the history of the allegations—from even before the May arrests which brought the story to front pages worldwide—which now contains a total of 83 references, as well as a link to the court papers on the United States Department of Justice.

The article’s attracted 534 edits since its creation—an average of around four edits per day—by more than 200 users from all over the world. Arguably the world’s most popular sport, it’s not surprising that football is a popular topic on Wikipedia: WikiProject Football, one of many editor taskforces on Wikipedia, considers more than a quarter of a million articles to be under its scope, and has 400 editors signed up as members.

The article now covers international reaction to the indictments, FIFA’s suspension of the World Cup bidding process, and Blatter’s decision to step down ahead of an extraordinary FIFA Congress in 2016.

For the four sponsors, however—Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Visa, and Budweiser—Blatter’s decision is not enough. They this week called for him to immediately leave his post as President of FIFA, following reports last week that he had made “disloyal payments” to the head of the European confederation of FIFA in 2011. The four companies provide a large part of the estimated $1.62 billion FIFA takes in every four years in World Cup sponsorship. Blatter denies wrongdoing, and refuses to respond to the sponsors’ demands.

Today, members of the FIFA ethics committee suspended Blatter, as well as two other officials, for 90 days in relation to the suspect payments. This decision was reflected swiftly on Wikipedia.

South Carolina National Guard Prepares for Hurricane Joaquin.jpg
The South Carolina National Guard provided locals with sandbags in preparation for the storms. Photo by the South Carolina National Guard, in the public domain.

Also in the news this week was Hurricane Joaquin, which this week battered the Caribbean with winds peaking at 155 mph (250 km/h). It was the strongest Atlantic hurricane since 2010’s Hurricane Igor, and caused extensive damage to the Bahamas and Bermuda. It is thought to have caused the deaths of at least 50 people, the majority of them crew on missing cargo ship SS El Faro, presumed to have sunk following widespread searching.

Joaquin contributed to the October 2015 North American storm complex affecting the eastern United States, in particular the states of North and South Carolina. The storm, known locally as a “nor’easter”, has caused catastrophic flash flooding since September 29, ongoing in areas of South Carolina.

At least 18 deaths have been attributed to the storm, the majority of them in South Carolina. The flooding is thought to have caused billions of dollars worth of damage to homes in the regions worst hit. Parts of South Carolina have been declared disaster areas, and more than 1,300 National Guard soldiers have been mobilised.

In the early hours of October 3, the United States Air Force bombed a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing twenty-two people and injuring more than 30 more. The United States and NATO have launched investigations into the incident, condemned as a violation of international humanitarian law by MSF.

The hospital was the only active medical facility in the area, reported The Atlantic, and has been essentially shut down. Critical patients were referred to other providers and MSF staff were evacuated from Kunduz. US President Barack Obama gave his “deepest condolences” in a statement made following the attack, while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, demanded an independent investigation.

Joe Sutherland, Communications Intern, Wikimedia Foundation

by Joe Sutherland at October 08, 2015 01:01 AM

October 07, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

I am ask.wikiedu.org. Ask me anything.

Sage Ross in the Presidio
Sage Ross

This week, we’re unveiling ask.wikiedu.org, a question-and-answer platform to support Wiki Education Foundation’s programs.

Wikipedia has detailed help pages on just about any Wikipedia-related topic you can think of. That’s the problem ask.wikiedu.org is trying to solve. With so much help text written over the years, it’s hard for new editors to find specific answers.

Ask focuses on common questions about our programs, in a format tailored to questions-and-answers. We invite experienced community members, and new editors participating in our programs, to ask and answer new questions.

As with dashboard.wikiedu.org, users sign in with their Wikipedia accounts. Ask is already useful for organizing our Frequently Asked Questions list, as it provides quick answers to common questions. We’re interested to see if it becomes a viable platform for other questions related to Wikipedia and Wiki Ed’s programs.

Ask proudly uses Askbot, a free software Q&A platform similar to Quora and StackExchange. We worked with designers at WINTR and with lead Askbot developer Evgeny Fadeev to customize Askbot for our needs, including a design that complements the Wiki Ed Dashboard, and MediaWiki OAuth integration for one-click sign-in via a Wikipedia account.

Sage Ross
Product Manager, Digital Services

by Sage Ross at October 07, 2015 04:00 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Research Newsletter, September 2015

Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Wikimedia Research Newsletter Logo.png

Vol: 5 • Issue: 9 • September 2015 [contribute] [archives] Syndicate the Wikimedia Research Newsletter feed

Wiktionary special; newbies, conflict and tolerance; Is Wikipedia’s search function inferior?

With contributions by: Federico Leva, Panda10, Piotr Konieczny, Trey Jones and Tilman Bayer

“Teaching Philosophy by Designing a Wikipedia Page”

Wikipedia research still is not often seen in the book form. Here’s one of the rare exceptions: a book chapter on “Teaching Philosophy by Designing a Wikipedia Page”.[1] It is an essay in which the author describes his experiences in teaching a class with a “write a Wikipedia article” assignment; specifically starting the Collective intentionality page. The students worked in teams, each tasked with improving a different part of the article (from separate parts of the literature review to ensuring that the article conforms to different elements of Wikipedia’s manual of style). The end result was quite successful: a well-written new Wikipedia entry (see here revision as of the time the article was last edited by the instructor in January 2013) and the students seemed to have expressed positive assessments, particularly with regards to having an impact on the real world (i.e. creating a publicly visible Wikipedia article). The author concludes that the students benefit both from contributing to public knowledge, and by learning how public knowledge is created.

Unfortunately, it appears that (as is still too often the case) the author (Graham Hubbs of the University of Idaho, presumably User:Phil(contribs)) was not aware of the Wikipedia:Education Program, as no entry for the course was created at the Wikipedia:School and university projects. It may therefore be wise for the editors associated with the Wiki Education Foundation (some of whom, I hope, are reading this) to pursue this and contact the author – as someone who was quite happy with his first experiment in teaching with Wikipedia, he may be happy to learn we offer extensive support for this (at least, as far the US goes). On a final note, I do observe, sadly, that neither the instructor, nor any of the students seem to have kept editing Wikipedia after the course was over (outside a single edit here), which seems to be a too-common case with educational assignments in general.

Wikipedia Search Isn’t Necessarily Third BESt

How tall is Claudia Schiffer? And how to find out on Wikipedia?

Review by Trey Jones (WMF Discovery department)

What’s the best way to use Wikipedia to answer questions like, “How tall is Claudia Schiffer?” or “Who has Tom Cruise been married to?”—and what tools can make this easier?

In their paper, “Expressivity and Accuracy of By-Example Structured Queries on Wikipedia,”[2] Atzori and Zaniolo seek to compare their query-answering system—“the ‘’By-Example Structured (BESt) Query’’ paradigm implemented on the SWiPE system through the Wikipedia interface”—against “Xser, a state-of-the-art Question Answering system”, and against “plain keyword search provided by the Wikipedia Search Engine.” Their results on a standard set of question answering tasks from QALD put SWiPE on top, with F-measure scores for SWiPE, Xser, and Wikipedia at 0.88, 0.72, and a dismal 0.18, respectively.

Their approach is based on transforming Wikipedia infoboxes into editable templates that serve as a front end for SPARQL queries run against RDF triples (subject–predicate–object expressions) stored in DBpedia. It is a novel approach that suggests a number of other avenues for improving search and discovery on Wikipedia and elsewhere. However, their methods and results are incommensurable both to Xser and to Wikipedia’s native keyword search.

In an earlier paper on SWiPE,[supp 1] the authors describe the need for custom (“page-dependent”) mappings from any given infobox element to the appropriate internal representations for mapping to SPARQL/RDF. These mappings appear to have all been created manually. Given these behind-the-scenes mappings from infoboxes to RDF elements, a user, working by analogy from an existing infobox, maps query concepts to the appropriate infobox element.

BESt/SWiPE thus pushes much of the language and conceptual processing—tasks at which humans excel—into the human user: the human chooses an existing Wikipedia entry on an appropriate analogous topic, pulls out relevant entities and relationships from the text of the query, and maps them to appropriate infobox components. These tasks can be non-trival. Answering a question like “Who has Tom Cruise been married to?”, for example, requires mapping “Tom Cruise” to the relevant category of, say, actor, finding another actor to use as a template, and mapping the “married to” relationship in the query to the “Spouse(s)” element of the infobox.

Contrast this with Xser,[3] which uses natural language processing to automatically parse a given query and convert it into a structured format, which is then automatically mapped to a structured query (e.g. SPARQL) against a knowledge base (e.g., DBpedia)—all independent of any human posing or reading a given query or mapping to KB elements. The comparison is thus more properly between BESt/SWiPE + a human and Xser, in which case it is less surprising that BESt/SWiPE comes out on top.

The comparison to the “plain keyword search provided by the Wikipedia Search Engine” is similarly disingenuous. The authors extracted search terms from the set of queries they investigated, apparently manually, but without the level of insight into natural language (or Wikipedia!) that is required in the BESt/SWiPE workflow, given the mappings of infobox elements to conceptual categories and the parsing of queries to map them to infobox elements.

The authors’ translation of questions into keywords for Wikipedia queries is sophisticated from a language processing point of view, but naive from a search point of view. “How tall is Claudia Schiffer?” became search terms (Claudia Schiffer, tall), though any sophisticated searcher should know that height is usually listed under “height”, not “tall”. (The query still works because it gets to the Claudia Schiffer wiki page, despite the distractor term “tall”.) They drop the word “produce” from a question about where beer is produced, but leave it in for a producer (but don’t use “producer”, which is the expected specific title to be found on that person’s wiki page).

More generally, when searching Wikipedia, the authors fail to note when a question is fundamentally about the basic properties of a given entity, and so any search terms other than the name of that entity is a distraction in that search. (E.g., “How tall is Claudia Schiffer?” is about Claudia Schiffer, “Which river does the Brooklyn Bridge cross?” is about the Brooklyn Bridge, “In which U.S. state is Mount McKinley located?” is about Mount McKinley.) No human user familiar with Wikipedia (or even a dead-tree encyclopedia) would search for “Claudia Schiffer, tall” when asked to find out how tall she is.

The authors also fail to take advantage of any knowledge about the typical structure and content of Wikipedia, and so don’t search for the obvious “list of X” articles that often answer the questions with sortable tables that any frequent user of Wikipedia (much less a editor and contributor) would be very familiar with. As an example, mapping the question “Which U.S. state has the highest population density?” to the search “list of U.S. states by population density” is natural—and it happens to be an exact match to a page I’d never seen before, but surmised was likely to exist).

The authors do afford considerable sophistication to their hypothetical BESt/SWiPE user, who knows, for example, to model the query to answer “Which books by Kerouac were published by Viking Press?” on a book, rather than on an author. It makes sense in retrospect, considering the information available in a book infobox, but my first inclination was that this was a question about an author, and an author infobox is insufficient for this question.

Again, the results attained by Wikipedia + naively extracted queries and BESt/SWiPE + a sophisticated human are incommensurate. A sophisticated Wikipedian + Wikipedia would fair much better than the poor 18% F-measure reported by Atzori & Zaniolo. And, it seems likely that a relatively sophisticated Wikipedian is easier to come by than someone who can map queries to example entities and their infobox components after having mapped infobox components to RDF entities and relationships.

To be fair, keyword searches on Wikipedia can’t readily answer questions that do not appear on a single page in Wikipedia. Some answers would be very tedious indeed to determine, such as “Give me all people that were born in Vienna and died in Berlin”, because they require collating information across many pages. But that’s exactly the kind of information about relationships between entities—and even chains of relationships among different kinds of entities—that one expects to be extracted via SPARQL from RDF triples in a data store such as DBpedia or Wikidata.

Finding ways for users to productively access such structured information—be it through natural language processing as with Xser, through structured by-example queries as with BESt/SWiPE, or other approaches—is a worthy goal; but it is only fair to compare approaches that operate in the same general realm in terms of available automation and necessary user sophistication.

More newbies mean more conflict, but extreme tolerance can still achieve eternal peace

An article titled “Modeling social dynamics in a collaborative environment”,[4] published last year in the Data Science section of the European Physical Journal, describes a simplified numerical model for how Wikipedia’s coverage of contentious topics may develop over time. It presents evidence that this model matches some aspects of real-life edit wars and debates.

The opinions of editors on a particular issue are modeled as a one-dimensional variable: “In the Liancourt Rocks territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan|, for example, the values x=0,1 represent the extreme position of favoring sovereignty of the islets for a particular country”. Somewhat contrary to Wikipedia’s neutral point of view (NPOV) policy, which is never mentioned in the paper, the authors assert that an article’s coverage of such a topic always expresses a particular opinion too, likewise modeled as a point on this scale.

The paper first considers pairwise encounters between editors (“agents”) where “people with very different opinions simply do not pay attention to each other, but similar agents debate and converge their views” by a certain amount that is governed by a parameter describing how “stubborn” opinions are. This is a well-studied model of opinion dynamics, known as “bounded confidence” (for the “confidence” or “tolerance” parameter that describes the limit until which agents are similar enough to still influence each other). It also matches the description of inelastic collisions of two particles in certain kinds of gases in statistical physics.

To describe the interaction of an editor (“agent”) with an article (“medium”), a second kind of dynamic is introduced in the model. Here, the equations state that editors will change an article if it differs too much from their own opinion (as defined by a second tolerance parameter), but will change their opinion towards the article’s if they already have a similar opinion.

Temporal evolution of the opinions of editors (green) and the article (red) for different values of the tolerance and stubbornness parameters, assuming a fixed community of editors

The numerical simulation of an article’s history consists of discrete steps combining both dynamics: interactions between editors (for example on talk pages) and an edit made by an editor to the article.

For a “fixed agent pool” where no editors join or leave, it can be shown that “the dynamics always reaches a peaceful state where all agents’ opinions lie within the tolerance of the medium”. The authors note that this “contrasts drastically with the behavior of the bounded confidence mechanism alone, where consensus is never attained” (unless the tolerance parameter is large). In other words, the interaction on the article as the shared medium sets Wikipedia apart from systems that only support discussion (Usenet flamewars come to mind).

However, depending on the values of the tolerance and stubbornness parameters, this eventual “peaceful state” can take a long time to reach, with various possible dynamics – see the figure from the authors’ simulations on the right. They note that “Quite surprisingly, the final consensual opinion [does not need to lie in the middle, or match] that of the initial mainstream group, but [can sometimes be] some intermediate value closer to the extremist groups at the boundaries.”

More newbies mean more conflict (right hand side), but eternal peace can still be achieved if editors tolerance for leaving differing opinions in the article is high enough (top).

Going beyond the simplified “fixed agent pool” assumption, the authors note that “in real WP articles the pool of editors tends to change frequently … Such feature of agent renewal during the process or writing an article may destroy consensus and lead to a steady state of alternating conflict and consensus phases, which we take into account by introducing thermal noise in the model.” Whether permanent consensus is still eventually reached, or how long it lasts before it is interrupted by periods of conflict, depends on the parameters, including the rate at which newbies enter the community.

Distribution of the length of “peace periods” in the history of three articles (square dots) and in the paper’s theoretical simulations (lines)

In the last part of the paper, the authors compare their theoretical model with actual revision histories of articles on the English Wikipedia. They use a numerical measure of an article’s “controversiality”, introduced by some of the group in an earlier paper (see review: “Dynamics of edit wars“). It basically counts reverts, but weighs reverts between experienced editors higher. The development of this number over time describes periods of conflict and peace in the article. The authors state that using this metric, almost all controversial articles can be classified by three scenarios:

(i) Single war to consensus: In most cases controversial articles can be included in this category. A single edit war emerges and reaches consensus after a while, stabilizing quickly. If the topic of the article is not particularly dynamic, the reached consensus holds for a long period of time [… Example: Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy]
(ii) Multiple war-peace cycles: In cases where the topic of the article is dynamic but the rate of new events (or production of new information) is not higher than the pace to reach consensus, multiple cycles of war and peace may appear [… Example: Iran].
(iii) Never-ending wars: Finally, when the topic of the article is greatly contested in the real world and there is a constant stream of new events associated with the subject, the article tends not to reach a consensus [… Example: Barack Obama]

For their theoretical agent/medium model, the authors define an equivalent of this controversiality measure, and find that it “closely reproduce[s its] qualitative behavior […] for different war scenarios” in numerical simulations.

A preprint letter with the same title involving the same authors, announcing some of the paper’s results, was covered in our July 2012 issue.

Predicting Wikimedia pageviews with 2% accuracy

A graph of Wikimedia pageviews since April 2015 (mobile vs. all, using the new page view definition data that was not yet available to the authors)

A 2014 conference paper[5], recently republished as part of a dissertation in computer science, analyzed more than five years of hourly traffic data published by the Wikimedia Foundation, as part of an effort to develop methods for better predicting workloads of web servers. The authors call it “the longest server workload study we are aware of”. From the abstract:

“With descriptive statistics, time-series analysis, and polynomial splines, we study the trend and seasonality of [Wikimedia traffic], its evolution over the years, and also investigate patterns in page popularity.
Our results indicate that the workload is highly predictable with a strong seasonality. Our short term prediction algorithm [one week ahead] is able to predict the workload with a Mean Absolute Percentage Error of around 2%.”

The study decomposed the time series of pageview numbers into several components:

  • a seasonality component with daily and weekly periods (without yearly parts in the presented example, as it covered only a little over a month), estimated by fitting cubic splines
  • a trend line approximated with a piecewise linear function
  • and a remainder modeled with an ARIMA (Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average) model using the R forecast software package.

(Readers might also be interested in a recently announced online traffic forecast application by the WMF Research and Data team, which likewise uses an ARIMA model, and allows predicting traffic for individual projects, but is based on coarser monthly time series.)

The study acknowledges that both the website’s content and its server setup changed a lot over the examined timespan (May 2008 – October 2013), with the number of Wikipedia articles roughly tripling, and e.g. the main hosting site moving from Florida to Virginia and a separate server site in Korea closing. The authors also observe that traffic “dynamics changed tremendously during the period studied with visible steps, e.g., at the end of 2012 and early 2013” (where their diagram – Figure 2(a) on p III.4 – shows large upwards spikes), which “suggests a change in the underlying process of the workload. In this case trying to build a single global model can be deceiving and inaccurate. Instead of building a single global model, we modeled smaller periods of the workload where there was no significant step.” This makes the work somewhat less interesting for those who are interested in longer-term strategic predictions rather than short-term allocation of server resources. On the other hand, such deviations from a prediction model could potentially be used in reverse to identify such “a change in the underlying process” (e.g. software changes affecting reader experience or a web censorship effort), or provide evidence for its impact on traffic. The authors’ own use case requires such detection for the case of short-term upward outliers (those that increase server load), enabling a quick change of the prediction model.

The paper discusses two examples of such unexpected spikes, the 2009 death of Michael Jackson that overloaded WMF servers, and the Super Bowl XLV in 2010.

Another chapter concerns the list of the 500 most popular pages. The authors found that it is highly volatile, with “41.58% of the top 500 pages joining and leaving the top 500 list every hour, 87.7% of them staying in the top 500 list for 24 hours or less and 95.24% of the top-pages staying in the top 500 list for a week or less.”

The freely available traffic data from the Wikimedia Foundation also features prominently in a draft publication included in the same dissertation as “Paper VI”[6] which examines the performance of algorithms that automatically scale server resources to changing traffic, “using 796 distinct real workload traces from projects hosted on the Wikimedia foundations’ servers”. Having found in that paper that “it is not possible to design an autoscaler with good performance for all workloads and all scenarios”, another draft publication (included as “Paper VII” in the dissertation)[7] “proposes WAC, a Workload Analysis and Classification tool for automatic selection of a number of implemented cloud auto-scaling methods.” Using machine learning methods, this classifier is trained on several datasets including again “798 workloads to different Wikimedia foundation projects” (mentioning the French “Wikitionary” [sic] as one example). The authors remarks that “we have performed a correlation analysis on the selected [Wikimedia] workloads, and we found that they are practically not correlated”.

The dissertation was defended this week at Umeå University in Sweden. A startup has been founded based on the research results, which has also patented some of them.

Wiktionary special

Wiktionary logo
Wiktionary logo

While most of the research featured in this newsletter examines Wikipedia, other Wikimedia Foundation projects have attracted researcher attention too. Below we present a roundup of recent research about Wiktionary, plus one older paper. See also our earlier coverage of Wiktionary-related research.

“Online dictionaries in Web 2.0 platform – Wikiszótár and Wiktionary”

This Hungarian-language paper[8] (with an English abstract) was published in December 2010 in the “Review” section of the Journal of Hungarian Terminology. Its aim is to provide an introduction to online collaborative dictionaries, Web 2.0, and the wiki platform using the Hungarian and English Wiktionary as an example. In the section that discusses dictionary criticism, the author notes that a systematic, generally agreed upon set of criteria for evaluating online dictionaries has yet to be developed, so he conducts the evaluation based on methods originally designed for printed dictionaries. The article describes the elements of Wiktionary’s structure and content in detail, and compares the two Wiktionaries to each other and to printed dictionaries. This can be useful information for someone who is not familiar with online collaborative dictionaries and specifically with Wiktionary. Some of the menu items have changed in the past five years, and a huge amount of content was added, but the overall structure – while more refined – is still the same.

The detailed analysis include: the megastructure (the navigation menu items, each listed and briefly explained); the macrostructure (the arrangement of words, finding an entry by search or by browsing categories or by clicking hyperlinks); the microstructure (the composition of a lemma entry, the sections within the entry, the quality and content of each section); the mesostructure (the system of hyperlinks, internal and external references, as perhaps the most important advantages of an online dictionary). Two screen shots are provided: one for the Hungarian word “ablak” (“window”) from the Hungarian Wiktionary, and one for the English word “window” from the English Wiktionary. The examples chosen are similar in their level of detail to make the comparison valid.

The paper states that the biggest challenge of online collaborative dictionaries is the reliability of information. The content of printed dictionaries is created and reviewed by professionals. Online collaborative dictionaries can be edited by anyone. It is added, however, that even printed dictionaries contain inaccuracies, not to mention that the addition of new terminology can take years.

The conclusion is that the innovative nature of online dictionaries compared to traditional dictionaries is epoch-making, and their practical value is indisputable. Not necessarily in content (although the quantity of processed information is enormous), but more in the hyperlinks (including audio files and images), ease of use, wide availability, and free access. Compared to printed dictionaries, they are dynamic. Their content can be increased theoretically without limit and the information can be updated any time.

“GLAWI, a free XML-encoded Machine-Readable Dictionary built from the French Wiktionary”

The paper[9] recaps some previous publications of the same authors and reports on the publication of yet another dataset extracted from Wiktionary, but one of unusual size. The authors, across six years, mapped six thousand templates of the French Wiktionary (Wiktionnaire) and implemented various mechanisms to standardize its content, which, together with some manual correction, allowed them to produce a machine-readable dictionary of over 1.3 million entries under free license.

According to the authors, the dataset can be used to easily produce specialised lexicons and thesauri superior not only to the rather neglected French WordNet but even to a monstre sacré like the digital Trésor de la langue française. In fact, they report that Wiktionnaire contains only sixty-five entries with contradictory irreconcilable information. According to the authors, Wiktionary editors may want to adopt some of their standardizations and corrections, but need not be pushed to do so, because Wiktionary serves its purpose well by having little constraints and maximising participation, while standardization can be performed downstream.

Sadly, it’s hard to assess the added value provided by this effort, as the paper features no comparison to other efforts and proposals, such as DBpedia Wiktionary or Wikidata’s own proposal for a Wiktionary data mapping. However, it’s useful as confirmation of (the French) Wiktionary’s quality and as promotion/redistribution of its content.

“IWNLP: Inverse Wiktionary for Natural Language Processing”

This conference paper[10] reports on the more engineering-oriented IWNLP free software project. It is an XML dump parser which is in earlier stages of development than GLAWI, and specifically focused on the German Wiktionary (unlike a predecessor, the “Java Wiktionary Library” known as JWKTL). From 400k entries of the 2015-04 dump, 74k words and 281k word forms were extracted, reaching higher accuracy than previous resources for the lemmatization of nouns but low accuracy for adjectives and verbs; a thesaurus was not created yet. Interestingly, the authors made 200 edits to German Wiktionary entries in the process.

“knoWitiary: A Machine Readable Incarnation of Wiktionary”

This paper (pre-print?)[11] presents another attempt at producing an XML dump parser for Wiktionary superior to JWKTL. This effort focuses on a 2014 dump of the English Wiktionary, from which about 530k words and 550k meanings are extracted for Italian, about 580k and 700k respectively for English. However, there is no mention of code or dataset release, nor of whether the parser was an improvement on previous ones; DBpedia Wiktionary is not mentioned at all. The English WordNet is shown to cover only half of said terms, with lower comprehensiveness and small overlap. Wiktionary offers some unique strengths which allow novel applications: in particular information on etymology, compounding and word derivation.

In short, unclear reusability but one more point in the long list of papers showing that Wiktionary is a mature or superior competitor for most expert-built dictionaries, lexicons, thesauri etc.

“Zmorge: A German Morphological Lexicon Extracted from Wiktionary”

This conference paper[12] again features an extraction from the German Wiktionary. This time the objective is a German lexicon/finite state morphology analyser to replace Morphisto, an unfree German resource built on SMOR. Building upon an existing module (SLES), a fully automated extraction produces a SMOR grammar lexicon with about 70 thousands entries; quality is higher than in past work, which was based on raw text, because Wiktionary features information like part-of-speech, stem, gender or case. The lexicon’s results are assessed against a manually annotated resource and succeed in overcoming the Morphisto lexicon, while the Stuttgart lexicon is still better by a few percentage points.

The precision achieved is 1.3 percentage points higher than it would be with a dump 15 months older and most errors are simply caused by the lack of a certain word in the German Wiktionary; this suggests such a Wiktionary-based approach will soon overcome its unfree competitors in yet another field of linguistic resources. Datasets and code are published.

“Dbnary: Wiktionary as Linked Data for 12 Language Editions with Enhanced Translation Relations”

This conference paper[13] presents a free software (LGPL) tool[supp 2] to extract a lexical ontology from Wiktionary.[note 1] (See also our 2012 coverage of an earlier paper about the project: “Generating a lexical network from Wiktionary”)

Non-inflected terms in twelve languages are extracted from the respective Wiktionaries and linked by their relation (being a translation one of the other, being a synonym etc.). The authors claim their parsing is general enough to work in those twelve languages and resist to changes in markup, but it’s not clearly explained how and quality was not assessed at all.[note 2] The work can be considered a conversion from wikitext format to RDF of the most basic linguistic information in Wiktionary, interesting insofar extensible to all languages, but the resulting dataset is not usable as is without further research.

“Observing Online Dictionary Users: Studies Using Wiktionary Log Files”

This paper[14] is based on the familiar pageviews data used by stats.grok.se (see FAQ) for the German Wiktionary, possibly the only general-purpose dictionary for which such data is publicly available. Out of 350k entries, of which 200k were classified as German words, authors work on a set of 56k which satisfy several criteria: being lemmas of the German corpus DeReKo, having more than 11 monthly visits and a sufficient definition. The excluded entries were checked and found to be mostly inflected forms, geographic and proper names and terminological nouns. High frequency in the corpus is confirmed to be associated to high pageviews/look-ups; a set of entries selected by corpus frequency is found to have more pageviews than a set of random entries (quite a weak finding).

This method tells us little about Wiktionary, as we’re not even told what portion of pageviews is covered by the set of entries in question. However, it’s useful to confirm some assumptions used in compiling traditional dictionaries. Conversely, Wiktionary covers nearly all the words a traditional dictionary would. The only useful finding for Wiktionary is that dozens of words of the basic German vocabulary (as compiled by the Goethe-Institut for B1[supp 3]) are still missing from this Wiktionary set. The list of red links should be placed on wiki.

The authors then attempt to prove that entries with more than one definition (“polysemic“) are more visited that entries with a single definition (“monosemic”), by noting that in groups of words with similar corpus frequency the “polysemic” entries are on average more visited than the “monosemic” entries. This reviewer‘s statistical knowledge is insufficient to determine whether normalizing pageviews by corpus frequency would have been more reliable than this “parallelization strategy”. However, it’s natural for entries to grow in size and number of definitions proportionally to their number of visits, whatever the merit of such a growth, so this “result” is dubious.

Finally, authors unsurprisingly show that some entries have bursts of visits far beyond their trend, linked to events and news.

In brief

“Multilingual Open Relation Extraction Using Cross-lingual Projection”

Short paper[15] on the extraction of semantic statements à la Wikidata (like “Ottawa”, “is capital of”, “Canada”) from free text, or open domain relation extraction. Text is translated from the source language to English, then existing English parsers for the purpose are used; Wikipedia in French, Hindi and Russian was used as example source and the results manually annotated to verify accuracy: 82, 64 and 64 % respectively. It’s not reported how wikitext was transformed into plain text. A dataset of samples in 60 languages was released under free license, but accuracy is still far from Wikidata’s AI ingester, Kian (arguably a closed domain extractor hence “easier”).

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.

  • “Methods in collaborative dictionaries”[16] Based on an examination of English and German Wiktionary. From the abstract: “We are particularly interested in the question to what extent they differ from the methods of expert lexicographers and how editorial dictionaries can leverage the user-generated data. …. For collaborative dictionaries, it is […] essential to encourage discussion, define transparent decision workflows, and continually motivate the authors. The large user communities provide a high coverage of language varieties, translations, neologisms, as well as personal and spoken language, which often lack corpus evidence. […] we see great potential in the cooperation between expert lexicographers and collaborative user communities.”
  • “How news media trigger searches and edits in Wikipedia”[17]
  • “Adding High-Precision Links to Wikipedia”[18] From the abstract: “… we study how to augment Wikipedia with additional high-precision links. We present 3W, a system that identifies concept mentions in Wikipedia text, and links each mention to its referent page. … Our experiments demonstrate that 3W can add an average of seven new links to each Wikipedia article, at a precision of 0.98.”
  • “Editorial Bias in Crowd-Sourced Political Information”[19] From the abstract: “By randomly assigning factually true but either positive or negative and cited or uncited information to the Wikipedia pages of U.S. senators, we uncover substantial evidence of an editorial bias toward positivity on Wikipedia: Negative facts are 36% more likely to be removed by Wikipedia editors than positive facts within 12 hours and 29% more likely within 3 days. Although citations substantially increase an edit’s survival time, the editorial bias toward positivity is not eliminated by inclusion of a citation. We replicate this study on the Wikipedia pages of deceased as well as recently retired but living senators and find no evidence of an editorial bias in either. Our results demonstrate that crowd-sourced information is subject to an editorial bias that favors the politically active.” (See also comments on the Wiki-research-l mailing list)


  1. Graham Hubbs: “Teaching Philosophy by Designing a Wikipedia Page” book chapter of Experiential Learning in Philosophy, edited by Julinna Oxley, Ramona Ile, Routledge 2015, ISBN 9781138927391, 222-227
  2. Maurizio Atzori and Carlo Zaniolo (2015). “Expressivity and Accuracy of By-Example Structured Queries on Wikipedia“. Enabling Technologies: Infrastructure for Collaborative Enterprises (WETICE), 2015 IEEE 24th International Conference on: 239-244. 
  3. Kun Xu, Yansong Feng, and Dongyan Zhao (2014). “Xser@QALD-4: Answering Natural Language Questions via Phrasal Semantic Parsing“. CLEF2014 Working Notes: 1260-1274. 
  4. Iñiguez, Gerardo; János Török, Taha Yasseri, Kimmo Kaski, János Kertész (2014-09-24). “Modeling social dynamics in a collaborative environment“. EPJ Data Science 3 (1): 1-20. doi:10.1140/epjds/s13688-014-0007-z. ISSN 2193-1127.  Open access
  5. A. Ali-Eldin, A. Rezaie, A. Mehta, S. Razroevy, S. Sj ̈ostedt-de Luna, O. Seleznjev, J. Tordsson, and E. Elmroth. How will your workload look like in 6 years? analyzing wikimedia’s workload. In: Proceedings of the 2014 IEEE International Conference on Cloud Engineering (IC2E), pages 349-354, IEEE Computer Society, 2014. Reproduced in: Ahmed Ali-Eldin Hassan. Workload Characterization, Controller Design and Performance Evaluation for Cloud Capacity Autoscaling. PhD thesis, 2015, Department of Computing Science, Umea University. PDF, p.77
  6. A. Papadopoulos, A. Ali-Eldin, J. Tordsson, K.E. Arźen, and E.Elmroth. PEAS: A Performance Evaluation framework for Auto-Scaling strategies in cloud applications. “Submitted for Journal Publication.” Reproduced in: Ahmed Ali-Eldin Hassan. Workload Characterization, Controller Design and Performance Evaluation for Cloud Capacity Autoscaling. PhD thesis, 2015, Department of Computing Science Umea University PDF
  7. A. Ali-Eldin, J. Tordsson, E. Elmroth, and M. Kihl. WAC: A Workload analysis and classification tool for automatic selection of cloud auto-scaling methods. “To be submitted”. Reproduced in: Ahmed Ali-Eldin Hassan. Workload Characterization, Controller Design and Performance Evaluation for Cloud Capacity Autoscaling. PhD thesis, 2015, Department of Computing Science Umea University PDF
  8. Gaál, Péter (2010-12-21). “Online szótárak a Web 2.0 platformon – A Wikiszótár és a Wiktionary”. Magyar Terminológia (Journal of Hungarian Terminology) 3 (2): 251–268. doi:10.1556/MaTerm.3.2010.2.7. ISSN 2060-2774. 
  9. Franck Sajous and Nabil Hathout: GLAWI, a free XML-encoded Machine-Readable Dictionary built from the French Wiktionary https://elex.link/elex2015/proceedings/eLex_2015_27_Sajous+Hathout.pdf http://redac.univ-tlse2.fr/lexicons/glawi.html
  10. Matthias Liebeck and Stefan Conrad: IWNLP: Inverse Wiktionary for Natural Language Processing. Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 7th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Short Papers), pages 414–418, Beijing, China, July 26-31, 2015. PDF
  11. Vivi Nastase and Carlo Strapparava. “knoWitiary: A Machine Readable Incarnation of Wiktionary“. FBK-irst, Trento, Italy. 
  12. Rico Sennrich, Beat Kunz. “Zmorge: A German Morphological Lexicon Extracted from Wiktionary“.  dataset and code
  13. Gilles Serasset, Andon Tchechmedjiev. Dbnary: Wiktionary as Linked Data for 12 Language Editions with Enhanced Translation Relations. 3rd Workshop on Linked Data in Linguistics: Multilingual Knowledge Resources and Natural Language Processing, May 2014, Reyjkjavik, Iceland. https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00990876/document
  14. Müller-Spitzer, Carolin; Sascha Wolfer, Alexander Koplenig (2015-02-10). “Observing Online Dictionary Users: Studies Using Wiktionary Log Files“. International Journal of Lexicography: 029. doi:10.1093/ijl/ecu029. ISSN 0950-3846. 
  15. Manaal Faruqui and Shankar Kumar (2015). “Multilingual Open Relation Extraction Using Cross-lingual Projection“. Proceedings of NAACL. , also blog.
  16. Meyer, Christian M.; Iryna Gurevych (2014). “Methoden bei kollaborativen Wörterbüchern [Methods in collaborative dictionaries / Méthodes dans le domaine des dictionnaires collaboratifs]”. Lexicographica 30 (1): 187-212. doi:10.1515/lexi-2014-0007. ISSN 1865-9403.  Closed access (in German, with English abstract)
  17. Stefan Geiß, Melanie Leidecker, and Thomas Roessing: The interplay between media-for-monitoring and media-for-searching: How news media trigger searches and edits in Wikipedia. New Media & Society 1461444815600281, first published on August 21, 2015 DOI:10.1177/1461444815600281 Closed access
  18. Thanapon Noraset, Chandra Bhagavatula, Doug Downey: Adding High-Precision Links to Wikipedia. Proceedings of the 2014 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP), pages 651–656, October 25-29, 2014, Doha, Qatar. PDF
  19. Kalla JL, Aronow PM (2015) Editorial Bias in Crowd-Sourced Political Information. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0136327.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136327
Supplementary references and notes:
  1. Maurizio Atzori and Carlo Zaniolo (2012). “SWiPE: Searching Wikipedia by Example“. Proceedings of the 21st World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2012, Lyon, France, April 16-20, 2012 (Companion Volume): 309–312. 
  2. https://forge.imag.fr/projects/dbnary
  3. http://www.goethe.de/lhr/pro/daz/dfz/dtz_Wortliste.pdf
Remarks and annotations:
  1. The wikitext in the XML dumps is accessed with the Bliki engine and parsed by dbnary to produce a LMF structure stored in RDF.
  2. Wiktionary interwikis, used by the authors, don’t give any information on words: they merely link entries with identical titles i.e. homographs.

Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Vol: 5 • Issue: 9 • September 2015
This newletter is brought to you by the Wikimedia Research Committee and The Signpost
Subscribe: Syndicate the Wikimedia Research Newsletter feed Email WikiResearch on Twitter[archives] [signpost edition] [contribute] [research index]

by Tilman Bayer at October 07, 2015 06:56 AM

October 06, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

Wehwalt is George Mason University’s Wikipedia Visiting Scholar

I am pleased to announce Gary Greenbaum (User:Wehwalt) as George Mason University’s Wikipedia Visiting Scholar.

The Wikipedia Visiting Scholars program connects an experienced Wikipedia editor to a sponsoring research library. The library provides access to tools and special collections, and the scholar uses those resources to contribute content to Wikipedia.

User:Wehwalt. Wehwalt the centurion” by Brianboulton – Photograph in London. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

Gary initially teamed up with George Mason University for the Visiting Scholars pilot, and will continue editing on historical topics. Last year, he brought a staggering 17 articles to Featured Article status, including high-traffic subjects such as Babe Ruth, William H. Seward, and James A. Garfield.

Though he says he has many history-related articles he’d like to work on, he’s looking forward to using George Mason’s resources to improve articles about coinage.

“I have the standard references on the subject, but access through GMU to Congressional ProQuest has allowed me to fill in many of the blanks in their histories by allowing me to see the legislative history and discussions.”

His primary interest in the area is commemorative coins, which he explains “honor such subjects as the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Oregon Trail, and the Monroe Doctrine,” and are “microcosms of our past.”

Last term, Gary was especially proud of his work on Judah Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State and U.S. senator who later became an English barrister.

“A brilliant lawyer, Benjamin was one of the most competent men to follow the Confederate cause, but what had interested me was that he was a Jew, as am I,” Gary told us. “Benjamin isn’t the most written-about man in history, partially because of his ambiguity, and because he left few papers behind him. When my GMU partnership began, I soon thought of him.”

Gary’s ability to research Benjamin’s life is an early example from the Visiting Scholars pilot that brought home the value of making these connections.

“The challenge was finding enough sources on Benjamin to make the broad treatment I like to have possible,” Gary said. “With the new access, I was able to secure some online sources that were helpful.”

With those new materials in hand, Gary was able to pick out more historical details to inform Benjamin’s biography.

“I’ve written my share of articles on which the subject matter was so dull I had to force myself to finish. Benjamin wasn’t one of them. The article was a bit tedious to write because of the scantiness of sources on Benjamin, but it was great fun too, to write of his career, from self-made lawyer to plantation owner to U.S. senator to Confederate cabinet member … culminating in his escape from Union forces, and hazardous journey to Britain, where he reprised his legal success. Obviously some of the choices he made would not be popular today, but his career is an adventure story.”

Mills Kelly, a Professor of History and long-time proponent of Wikipedia’s value in higher education, is Gary’s GMU sponsor. As far back as 2006, he was working with students to find and improve articles they cared about.

“George Mason University is committed to doing what it can to advance knowledge and understanding of our world,” Mills told us. “Helping our Wikipedia Fellow improve entries in the encyclopedia is one of the many, many ways we accomplish this goal. We’re happy Gary is able to use our resources, and enjoy working with him very much.”

For information about sponsoring or becoming a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar, see our Visiting Scholars page.

Photo: “An aerial view of the Johnson Center at dawn.” by Nicolas Tan/Creative Services/George Mason University – Photo Services | George Mason University. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

by Ryan McGrady at October 06, 2015 05:00 PM

October 05, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

Summer Seminar pilot final evaluation available

As part of our partnership with the Association for Psychological Sciences, we took on a small pilot this summer to encourage instructors to edit Wikipedia.

While we’ve successfully encouraged students to edit through our Classroom Program, their instructors tend to only improve student-written articles, rather than writing their own articles. One of the goals of the APS Wikipedia Initiative is to encourage faculty members to add psychology content. We designed this month-long pilot course for APS members to teach them how to edit Wikipedia.

The dashboard for the Summer Seminar in Psychology (click to enlarge)

The Summer Seminar in Psychology began in late July, and wrapped up at the end of August. While 20 psychology instructors were interested enough to sign up, only five made mainspace contributions. Four of those five had edited Wikipedia in the past. All told, the participants added slightly less than the equivalent of six printed pages of content to Wikipedia.

The contributions participants made were well-written, cited reliable sources, and were formatted correctly. Nonetheless, the amount of output generated by this pilot does not justify the input in terms of cost and staff time.

The Wiki Education Foundation considers this a successful pilot. We answered our research question: Would a structured, month-long class in the summer activate instructors to edit Wikipedia? As an organization, we believe in trying experimental pilot programs like this to see if something works. While we found that this program did not work, it has given us ideas for an alternative engagement strategy with instructors to improve Wikipedia, such as an “ask-an-expert” program, which we’d like to pilot in the future.

We’d like to extend significant thanks to the Association for Psychological Science for piloting this program with us, and an especially large thank-you to the five participants who made great mainspace contributions, improving Wikipedia’s coverage of psychology topics with their expertise.

A longer description of the inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes, as well as a longer conclusion section, are available in our final program evaluation report of the Summer Seminar pilot.


by LiAnna Davis at October 05, 2015 10:38 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Join us for #Wikinobel 2015

Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, outside.jpg
Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. Photo by Astrid Carlsen, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

On October 9, 2014, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway screened the announcement of the two winners of the annual Nobel Peace Prize made by the Nobel Committee. One, Malala Yousafzai, was and is well-known around the world for her activism in her native Pakistan for human rights and female education. The other, Kailash Satyarthi—an Indian children’s rights advocate—was far less known and had not been thought of as a favorite for the prize. To find out about Satyarthi, many people turned to Wikipedia, where an article was created within minutes of the announcement.

In part, this was thanks to a unique partnership between the Nobel Peace Center, Wikimedia Norge (Norway), and the Wikimedia community. Last year, the Peace Center invited several Wikipedia editors to their live video screening, and the success of that event has led to a second invitation this year.

“The Nobel Peace Center is the museum about the Nobel Peace Prize, the laureates and their work. By inviting Wikimedia to the Nobel Peace Center on the day the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 will be announced, we invite anyone interested, no matter where they are, to get immersed in a fascinating topic and participate in #wikinobel,” said Bente Erichsen, the director of the Center.

Our aim is to update as many Wikipedias as possible after the announcement of this year’s Peace Prize laureate(s) on October 9 by the Nobel Committee at 11:00 (UTC+1). The staff at the Nobel Peace Center will try to provide us with information and books about potential laureate(s), but they themselves won’t know who the laureate(s) are until the announcement. In other words, we will be nearly in the next room from where the announcement is screened at the Nobel Peace Center, updating relevant articles as fast as we can.

For this to be a truly global event, we invite anyone who’s interested to join us in the IRC channel #wikinobel on October 9, where we’ll be talking and coordinating the effort to update Wikipedias and other Wikimedia projects as the event unfolds. We’ll also try to live-tweet the event and take photos using the hashtag #wikinobel. Photos will of course also be uploaded to Commons in the category Nobel Peace Prize 2015, and we have been promised that the former and new directors of the Peace Center will stop by to see the impressive work we accomplish!

Please join in!

Astrid Carlsen
Wikimedia Norge

by Astrid Carlsen at October 05, 2015 07:09 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: A swarm of bees

From Washington University in St. Louis’ Behavioral Ecology, Biology 472 course led by Dr. Joan Strassmann, we’re seeing a hive of activity focused on articles about bees.

Here’s just a few of many noteworthy examples of what student editors have contributed to Wikipedia’s coverage of bees:

Thanks to Dr. Joan Strassmann and all of the student editors who are increasing Wikipedia’s coverage of species information about bees.


Photo: “Zinnia elegans with Bombus 01” by Simon KoopmannOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Wikimedia Commons.

by Eryk Salvaggio at October 05, 2015 04:00 PM

Tech News

Tech News issue #41, 2015 (October 5, 2015)

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October 05, 2015 12:00 AM

October 03, 2015

Luis Villa

Software that liberates people: feels about FSF@30 and OSFeels@1

tl;dr: I want to liberate people; software is a (critical) tool to that end. There is a conference this weekend that understands that, but I worry it isn’t FSF’s.

Feelings are facts, by wrote, CC BY 2.0

This morning, social network chatter reminded me of FSF‘s 30th birthday celebration. These travel messages were from friends who I have a great deal of love and respect for, and represent a movement to which I essentially owe my adult life.

Despite that, I had lots of mixed feels about the event. I had a hard time capturing why, though.

While I was still processing these feelings, late tonight, Twitter reminded me of a new conference also going on this weekend, appropriately called Open Source and Feelings. (I badly wanted to submit a talk for it, but a prior commitment kept me from both it and FSF@30.)

I saw the OSFeels agenda for the first time tonight. It includes:

  • Design and empathy (learning to build open software that empowers all users, not just the technically sophisticated)
  • Inclusive development (multiple talks about this, including non-English, family, and people of color) (so that the whole planet can access, and participate in developing, open software)
  • Documentation (so that users understand open software)
  • Communications skills (so that people feel welcome and engaged to help develop open software)

This is an agenda focused on liberating human beings by developing software that serves their needs, and engaging them in the creation of that software. That is incredibly exciting. I’ve long thought (following Sen and Nussbaum’s capability approach) that it is not sufficient to free people; they must be empowered to actually enjoy the benefits of that freedom. This is a conference that seems to get that, and I can’t wait to go (and hopefully speak!) next year.

The Free Software Foundation event’s agenda:

  • licenses
  • crypto
  • boot firmware
  • federation

These are important topics. But there is clearly a difference in focus here — technology first, not people. No mention of community, or of design.

This difference in focus is where this morning’s conflicted feels came from. On the one hand, I support FSF, because they’ve done an incredible amount to make the world a better place. (OSFeels can take open development for granted precisely because FSF fought so many battles about source code.) But precisely because I support FSF, I’d challenge it, in the next 15 years, to become more clearly and forcefully dedicated to liberating people. In this world, FSF would talk about design, accessibility, and inclusion as much as licensing, and talk about community-building protocols as much as communication protocols. This is not impossible: LibrePlanet had at least some people-focused talks (e.g.), and inclusion and accessibility are a genuine concern of staff, even if they didn’t rise to today’s agenda. But it would still be a big change, because at the deepest level, it would require FSF to see source code as just one of many requirements for freedom, rather than “the point of free software“.

At the same time, OSFeels is clearly filled with people who see the world through a broad, thoughtful ethical lens. It is a sad sign, both for FSF and how it is perceived, that such a group uses the deliberately apolitical language of openness rather than the language of a (hopefully) aligned ethical movement — free software. I’ll look forward to the day (maybe FSF’s 45th (or 31st!) birthday) that both groups can speak and work together about their real shared concern: software that liberates people. I’d certainly have no conflicted feelings about signing up for a conference on that :)

by Luis Villa at October 03, 2015 06:22 AM

October 02, 2015

Andrew Gray

Taking pictures with flying government lasers

Well, sort of.

A few weeks ago, the Environment Agency released the first tranche of their LIDAR survey data. This covers (most of) England, at varying resolution from 2m to 25cm, made via LIDAR airborne survey.

It’s great fun. After a bit of back-and-forth (and hastily figuring out how to use QGIS), here’s two rendered images I made of Durham, one with buildings and one without, now on Commons:

The first is shown with buildings, the second without. Both are at 1m resolution, the best currently available for the area. Note in particular the very striking embankment and cutting for the railway viaduct (top left). These look like they could be very useful things to produce for Commons, especially since it’s – effectively – very recent, openly licensed, aerial imagery…

1. Selecting a suitable area

Generating these was, on the whole, fairly easy. First, install QGIS (simplicity itself on a linux machine, probably not too much hassle elsewhere). Then, go to the main data page and find the area you’re interested in. It’s arranged on an Ordnance Survey grid – click anywhere on the map to select a grid square. Major grid squares (Durham is NZ24) are 10km by 10km, and all data will be downloaded in a zip file containing tiles for that particular region.

Let’s say we want to try Cambridge. The TL45 square neatly cuts off North Cambridge but most of the city is there. If we look at the bottom part of the screen, it offers “Digital Terrain Model” at 2m and 1m resolution, and “Digital Surface Model” likewise. The DTM is the version just showing the terrain (no buildings, trees, etc) while the DSM has all the surface features included. Let’s try the DSM, as Cambridge is not exactly mountainous. The “on/off” slider will show exactly what the DSM covers in this area, though in Cambridge it’s more or less “everything”.

While this is downloading, let’s pick our target area. Zooming in a little further will show thinner blue lines and occasional superimposed blue digits; these define the smaller squares, 1 km by 1 km. For those who don’t remember learning to read OS maps, the number on the left and the number on the bottom, taken together, define the square. So the sector containing all the colleges along the river (a dense clump of black-outlined buildings) is TL4458.

2. Rendering a single tile

Now your zip file has downloaded, drop all the files into a directory somewhere. Note that they’re all named something like tl4356_DSM_1m.asc. Unsurprisingly, this means the 1m DSM data for square TL4356.

Fire up QGIS, go to Layer > Add raster layer, and select your tile – in this case, TL4458. You’ll get a crude-looking monochrome image, immediately recognisable by a broken white line running down the middle. This is the Cam. If you’re seeing this, great, everything’s working so far. (This step is very helpful to check you are looking at the right area)

Now, let’s make the image. Project > New to blank everything (no need to save). Then Raster > Analysis > DEM (terrain models). In the first box, select your chosen input file. In the next box, the output filename – with a .tif suffix. (Caution, linux users: make sure to enter or select a path here, otherwise it seems to default to home). Leave everything else as default – all unticked and mode: hillshade. Click OK, and a few seconds later it’ll give a completed message; cancel out of the dialogue box at this point. It’ll be displaying something like this:

Congratulations! Your first LIDAR rendering. You can quit out of QGIS (you can close without saving, your converted file is saved already) and open this up as a normal TIFF file now; it’ll be about 1MB and cover an area 1km by 1km. If you look closely, you can see some surprisingly subtle details despite the low resolution – the low walls outside Kings College, for example, or cars on the Queen’s Road – Madingley Road roundabout by the top left.

3. Rendering several tiles

Rendering multiple squares is a little trickier. Let’s try doing Barton, which conveniently fits into two squares – TL4055 and TL4155. Open QGIS up, and render TL4055 as above, through Raster > Analysis > DEM (terrain models). Then, with the dialogue window still open, select TL4155 (and a new output filename) and run it again. Do this for as many files as you need.

After all the tiles are prepared, clear the screen by starting a new project (again, no need to save) and go to Raster > Miscellaneous > Merge. In “Input files”, select the two exports you’ve just done. In “Output file”, pick a suitable filename (again ending in .tif). Hit OK, let it process, then close the dialog. You can again close QGIS without saving, as the export’s complete.

The rendering system embeds coordinates in the files, which means that when they’re assembled and merged they’ll automatically slot together in the correct position and orientation – no need to manually tile them. The result should look like this:

The odd black bit in the top right is the edge of the flight track – there’s not quite comprehensive coverage. This is a mainly agricultural area, and you can see field markings – some quite detailed, and a few bits on the bottom of the right-hand tile that might be traces of old buildings.

So… go forth! Make LIDAR images! See what you can spot…

4. Command-line rendering in bulk

Richard Symonds (who started me down this rabbit-hole) points out this very useful post, which explains how to do the rendering and merging via the command line. Let’s try the entire Durham area; 88 files in NZ24, all dumped into a single directory –

for i in `ls *.asc` ; do gdaldem hillshade -compute_edges $i $i.tif ; done

gdal_merge.py -o NZ24-area.tif *.tif

rm *.asc.tif

In order, that a) runs the hillshade program on each individual source file ; b) assembles them into a single giant image file; c) removes the intermediate images (optional, but may as well tidy up). The -compute_edges flag helpfully removes the thin black lines between sectors – I should have turned it on in the earlier sections!

by Andrew at October 02, 2015 08:38 PM

Weekly OSM

weekly 271

22/09/2015 – 28/09/2015

A tutorial

A tutorial “how o to create a T-shirt” with Mapbox Studio [1]


  • Users glibbertorsten describes how the tag addr:housname can be abused to achieve better results in OsmAnd. The abuse is also pointed out in the comments.
  • User baditaflorinhas created a nice graphic comparing the average node distance on highways between continents.
  • User Malenki is not amused about his “useless survey” in Wales.
  • KSUToeBee was looking for shooting ranges in the iD presets, but was surprised to see the results. 😉
  • Marc Zoutendijk describes a problem with the use of the hamlet tag in Taiwan. This might be caused by difficulties with the translation of English tags into Chinese.
  • Marc Farra and Dylan Moriarty created a tool named Planet Stream that combines augmented diffs of Overpass API with the metadata from OSM-meta-util. The tool allows for a wide variety of real-time data analysis. As an example they built an OSM hashtag leader board.
  • On talk-at it has been recommended to switch to basemap.at when the geoimage.at server stops serving imagery.


  • User noordfiets complains on the Dutch forum that bicycle infrastructure is becoming less visible with some of the recent changes to the main map style. There is an impression in the Dutch community that a few key players can push the style in a certain direction without bothering too much about community input. He also posted his griefs to the talk-mailing list.
  • Mappa Mercia blogs about the reopening of the railway station in Birmingham after its extension and development. They are looking for experts in public transport, indoor and 3D mapping to help them plan the proper mapping of the station.
  • The OpenCage Data Blog published an interview  with Javin Ochieng about OpenStreetMap in Kenya.
  • Jonwit talks about his experiences, to familiarize with the help of a small test project using OpenStreetMap and Overpass Turbo.
  • André Pirard launches the idea for a tag that would open a pop-up in the editors and ask for confirmation to edit the tag or object. The purpose is to protect data from accidental edits.


  • Jonah Adkins reported the successful completion of an import in York County (Virginia, USA).
  • Yuichiro Nishimura informs of an intended import of roads and buildings in the Japanese city Tondabayashi.


Humanitarian OSM

  • In Missing Maps project Mapillary will be used. The Voice of America reported.
  • A case study illustrates the experiences of the American Red Cross with Missing Maps projects.


  • [1] Lukas Martinelli explains in a tutorial how to create a “map T-shirt” with Mapbox Studio.
  • In the US there are many large and smaller no-fly zones. These are particularly important for the growing number of drone pilots. The Directions Magazine shows a compilation of available online maps.
  • The company Urbica developed new map styles for the MAPS.ME app. The procedure is described in detail on medium.com.
  • Mapping Berlin” … some of the finest cartographical representations of the city of Berlin, by Laura Harker.




Did you know …

  • … the Irish community’s project to map all townlands. A townland is a small geographical division of land. According to the wiki page for the project there are about 61,000 townlands. Mapping progress can be seen on townlands.ie. Out-of-copyright maps are made available via Map Warper. A significant part of the messages on the Irish mailing list are requests to make new sheets available on the website.
  • … the new wiki page with a collection of time-lapse videos of OSM mappings?
  • … the “complete” feature in the developer version of the Overpass API?
  • … about the possibility to present the development of OSM in the past 10 years in your region?
  • … that QMapShack is the the successor product of QLandkarte GT?

other “geo” things


weeklyOSM is brought to you by … 

by weeklyteam at October 02, 2015 08:35 PM

Brion Vibber

Popcorn Maker is dead, long live Popcorn Editor

One of the really cool ‘web maker’ projects that Mozilla sponsored in the last few years was Popcorn Maker, an in-browser video editor that could take direct video clips or videos from Youtube etc and let you remix to your heart’s content.

Obviously this capability is very attractive for the future of video on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites! (See Ben’s blog post from July and Mike’s presentation on Air Mozilla)

Unfortunately Mozilla has to shuffle priorities, and Popcorn Maker is on the outs.

Fortunately, there’s enough interest in the Wikimedia video world that we’re helping to pick it up!

Popcorn Editor is a standalone version of the Popcorn Maker editor tool, and I’m going to be helping with integrating that into MediaWiki. We’ve got a milestone in the bug tracker and everything. :)

If you’re interested in helping out, we’re going to have some work sprints at WikiConference USA next weekend in Washington, DC. Please come and help out!


by brion at October 02, 2015 07:02 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Foundation welcomes Boryana Dineva as Vice President of Human Resources

Boryana joins the Wikimedia Foundation from Tesla Motors, where she led the Human Resources Analytics, Information Systems, and Operation groups. Photo by Myleen Hollero, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Wikimedia Foundation is pleased to announce that Boryana Dineva has joined the organization as Vice President of Human Resources. In this role, Boryana will lead development, recruiting, and support for Wikimedia Foundation staff in support of the Wikimedia mission.

As of 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation has grown to around 200 employees, supporting a community of around 80,000 active Wikipedia and Wikimedia contributors and a global readership of nearly 500 million people per month. Every Foundation employee currently supports nearly 2.5 million Wikimedia users, and with a mission to engage every single human on the planet in the sum of all knowledge we have billions more people to reach. Human Resources is a critical partner in building a team of talented, passionate people to support this ambitious mission.

Boryana joins the Wikimedia Foundation from Tesla Motors, where she led the Human Resources Analytics, Information Systems, and Operation groups. At Tesla, Boryana worked in close partnership with staff and management to design and develop programs to advance strategy and achieve organizational goals. She was instrumental in building the company’s people analytics capacity and developing a data-driven organizational design to support growth.

Boryana believes that a strong and purposeful culture is essential for an organization to be truly transformative, particularly for mission-driven organizations such as the Wikimedia Foundation. “Culture is the sum of the actions of each individual,” Boryana said. “Each employee can be a partner in creating a fulfilling and inspiring work environment. I’m thrilled to be joining the Wikimedia Foundation for the opportunity to advance an organizational culture rooted in the Wikimedia values of transparency, stewardship, and openness.”

As Vice President of Human Resources, Boryana will oversee the Wikimedia Foundation’s talent and culture function, including talent acquisition, organizational training and development, and talent management and people analytics. She will design and drive initiatives around workplace culture and well-being, including diversity, respect, and implement new processes and tools to support Foundation staff and stewardship. Boryana will report to Wikimedia Foundation Chief Operating Officer Terence Gilbey.

“Boryana has the right combination of experience and sensibility to help the organization do what we do best: support the Wikimedia free knowledge mission,” said Gilbey. “I look forward to working with her as she gets to know the Wikimedia world and starts to build creative, mission-aligned strategies to help us achieve our goals.”

Boryana has a degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. Outside of work, she has been described as a global nomad. She was born and lived in Bulgaria, and has lived and studied in Russia, Austria, Germany, and the United States. She is a student of people and cultures, an area she relies on when defining organizational strategy.

Terence GilbeyChief Operations Officer
Wikimedia Foundation

by Terence Gilbey at October 02, 2015 06:09 PM

Content Translation Update

October 1 CX Update: Translating From Any Namespace, Suggestions, Links and RTL Fixes, and more

There are a lot of updates in ContentTranslation this week!

The Suggestions feature is now enabled in more language pairs: from English to Arabic, Esperanto, Hindi, Dutch and Vietnamese, and also from Swedish to Danish. More languages coming soon! (task description)

In the languages in which the Suggestions feature is enabled, the suggestion list now has “infinite scroll”: as you scroll to its end, more suggestions will be deployed. (bug report)

The scrolling of the dashboard is now smoother and less jumpy when it has many items. This was especially relevant for the Suggestions tab, which is usually long. (bug report)

Though Content Translation is supposed to be able to translate wiki pages from any namespace and not just articles, it was sometimes impossible to load a page if it was not in the main namespace. For example, if you would try translate a page in the User namespace in the English Wikipedia to Spanish, the source page wouldn’t be loaded. This is now fixed and you really can translate pages from any namespace. In particular, this should be useful for translating help pages and policy pages in Help and Wikipedia namespaces, and also to the Medical Translation Project, in which particular stable versions of pages that are recommended for translation are kept in the Wikipedia space. (bug report)

The Universal Language Selector is now used for selecting the language of the source and the target languages filter in the dashboard. Several issues with the suggestions feature were fixed as well, such as the “null” language that sometimes appeared in the language selector in the suggestions list. (bug report)

Translations in progress couldn’t be deleted in some cases, in particular if several people worked on the same title. This is now fixed. (bug report)

The graphs in the Content Translation statistics page are now grouped by topic, to make reading the page shorter and easier to read. The different data graphs are now accessible using tabs on the top of the charts. (bug report)

While translating, links in the source column pointed to incorrect target: a page with the same title in the target wiki. Now they point correctly to a page in the source wiki. (bug report)

Some paragraph alignment issues were fixed. (bug report)

In wikis in languages written from right to left the top personal menu was displaying in the reverse direction. This was fixed. (bug report)


by aharoni at October 02, 2015 02:38 PM

October 01, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia awareness programs drive Bangla Wikipedia usage

Students of Chittagong Agrabad Government Colony High School showing ‘W’ sign at the Program. Photo by Motiur Rahman Oni, Wikimedia Commons, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

As part of the legacy of the Bangla Wikipedia’s expansive ten-year anniversary celebrations, the Bengla (or Bengali) Wikimedia community and Wikimedia Bangladesh—a local chapter—has been hosting Wikipedia awareness programs in schools around the country.

Participants from Rajshahi collegiate school. Photo by Nahid Sultan, Wikimedia Commons, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Out of nine programs, three were held in Dhaka, four in Chittagong, one in Patgram Upazila, and one in Rajshahi. Local Wikipedians, school teachers, cultural clubs helped to organize the events, which were each attended by an average of seventy students from ninth to twelfth grade. The events received press coverage from around the country, including newspapers like Prothom Alo.[1]

Surveys conducted before each event confirmed previous anecdotes, showing that about half of the participants did not know what Wikipedia actually is, and a further fifth believed that it is a sister project to Google. A tenth thought it was sponsored by a government, and only one tenth knew that it was an encyclopedia, with the remainder taken up by non-responses and miscellaneous answers. Given these results, it should be unsurprising that only a bare minimum of the attendees knew that Wikipedia was publicly editable.

Participants in Patgram event. Photo by Nahid Sultan, Wikimedia Commons, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

With those in mind, we started each event with a brief introduction to Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects, the importance of these sites relative to their studies, and how to use them to effectively get information—vital knowledge for the thousands of Bangladeshi students who are now getting wide access to the Internet through government-built computer labs in schools around the country. Furthermore, we emphasized that there was more than just the English Wikipedia—the Bangla Wikipedia is expanding every day in their own language.

Participants from Agrabad Government Colony High School (Girls’ Section). Photo by Motiur Rahman Oni, Wikimedia Commons, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

These school programs directly help increase readership among students—a major goal of Wikimedia Bangladesh, as we believe that to increase our total number of editors, we have to increase our readership. Most of the Bangla Wikipedia’s contributors come from students in school or university, but a majority of the current student population does not use Wikipdia.

We already have one tangible result: a Wikipedia club has already been formed at the Shaheed Police Smrity School. It is moderated by a teacher and is filled by interested students from all grades. Our hope is that these sorts of school programs will entice students to use Wikipedia for their benefit, and bring in teachers that can expand the program and sustain it over the next several years.

Nahid Sultan
Community Outreach Director
Wikimedia Bangladesh

  1. Events were held at the Shaheed Police Smrity School, Motijheel Government Boys’ High School, Agrabad Government Colony High School (Boys’ & Girls’ Section), Chittagong Collegiate School and College, Government Muslim High School, Government Science College Attached High School, and Rajshahi Collegiate School. Patgram’s event was held at the municipality community center in the Patgram upazila in Rangpur. Participants of this event were selected through a Wikipedia related quiz contest by Wikipedians from Patgram. A total of 120 students from six different institutes attended the final workshop. See also school program images on Commons.

by Nahid Sultan at October 01, 2015 07:45 PM

Making Chinese Wikipedia more ethnologically diverse

Amis Folk Center Art of Taiwan Cobblestones Taiwan
Wikimedia Taiwan collaborated with National Cheng-Chi University to improve the Chinese Wikipedia’s coverage of ethnology. Photo by Lord Koxinga, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Students in Taiwan are making the Chinese Wikipedia more ethnologically diverse though a collaborative program with Wikimedia Taiwan, an affiliate organization of the Wikimedia movement, and National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taipei.

Professor Ji-ping Huang of NCCU has worked with this program since February. For her course “Global Ethnography”, she created a list of topics related to ethnic minorities that either did not have an article in the Chinese Wikipedia or had a very short article. Her students were assigned to work on one each, choosing their assignment by drawing lots.

The students learned how to edit through a lecture by Tze-wen Wang, the secretariat of Wikimedia Taiwan, at the beginning of the course. Students edited the ethnological content on their own sandboxes and had oral presentations to outline their articles and share their progress. Students were allowed to use translated information from the English Wikipedia but had to improve it to meet academic standards.

The course ended on June 23, and the final results—after many revisions—came just last month. About 40 articles were judged as good enough to become proper articles on the Chinese Wikipedia; leaving out students who dropped the course, only two failed to attain this hurdle.

In short, readers of the Chinese Wikipedia now have 40 new articles on ethnic minorities to learn from, ranging from the Flemish (en), Mongo (en), and Bemba (en) peoples.

You can read more about this project.

Reke Wang, Wikimedia Taiwan
Liang-chih Shang Kuan, Wikimedia Taiwan

by Reke Wang and Liang-chih Shang Kuan at October 01, 2015 07:13 PM

September 29, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

News on Wikipedia: Elections in Catalonia, supermoon, and more

Montage for News on Wikipedia - Sep29.jpg

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

Catalonia votes

Artur mas signant convocatòria eleccions al Parlament de Catalunya 2015.jpgJunts pel Sí, led by the incumbent President of Catalonia Artur Mas, won most of the seats. Image by Generalitat de Catalunya, in the public domain.

Catalonia, an autonomous community in the east of Spain, held its regional parliamentary elections on September 27. The election was announced by President of Catalonia Artur Mas in January, with the intention being to focus the vote on the community’s independence aspirations. Together for Yes, headed by Mas, finished the day with 62 seats, six short of a majority; they are likely to form a coalition with the left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy. The result, though not conclusive, is likely to put pressure on the Spanish general election scheduled for December.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Catalonian parliamentary election, 2015

Volkswagen in emissions scandal

Martin Winterkorn 2015-03-13 001.jpgVolkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn, resigned in the wake of the announcement. Image by Volkswagen AG, in the public domain.

German car maker Volkswagen (VW) was last week found to have used software designed to circumvent emissions tests in the United States. Around 11 million cars were carrying software which could detect when they were undergoing emissions tests, and activate pollution controls which were otherwise dormant. CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned from the company in the wake of the announcement, and VW stocks fell 20% the day after news broke. VW announced plans to spend $7.3 billion to cover the costs of the scandal on September 22.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Volkswagen emissions testing scandal

Pope Francis tours the United States

Pope Francis and President Obama.jpg
Pope Francis met US President Barack Obama during his time in the country. Image by the White House, in the public domain.

Following a trip to Cuba last week, Pope Francis visited the United States between September 22 and 27. It was the seventh papal visit to the country since it established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1984. During his trip, he made appearances in Washington, DC; New York City, including the United Nations headquarters; and Philadelphia. In a speech delivered to Congress, he discussed a range of issues including immigration, protection for persecuted religious groups including Christians, poverty, capital punishment, and climate change.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Pope Francis’ visit to the United States

Stampede at the Hajj kills hundreds

A stampede at the annual Hajj, a mandatory pilgrimage forming one of the pillars of Islam, resulted in the deaths of at least 1,100 people in Mina, Saudi Arabia. It follows a crane collapse on September 11, which killed 111. It is the deadliest such incident since a stampede in 1990, which resulted in 1,426 deaths. The root cause of the stampede is unclear, but it coincides with multiple obstacles including the hottest temperatures recorded in Mecca for twenty years. Almost a thousand further people are thought to have been injured, while more than a thousand others are as yet unaccounted for.

Learn more in these related Wikipedia articles: 2015 Mina stampede, Hajj

“Supermoon” lunar eclipse

September 2015 Lunar Eclipse (as seen from Marin County, CA).jpgThe moon typically appeared red in the sky thanks to Rayleigh scattering. Image by Frank Schulenburg, in the public domain.

A total lunar eclipse took place between September 27 and 28, seen over the Americas, Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. It coincided with a “supermoon“; mid-eclipse, the moon was just 59 minutes past its closest approach to Earth in 2015. The moon appeared up to 12.9% larger in some areas, as well as taking on a red hue due to Rayleigh scattering and the refraction of that light by Earth’s atmosphere into its umbra. It was the final in a tetrad, or four lunar eclipses in a series; the next such eclipse will take place in 2033.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: September 2015 lunar eclipse

Photo montage credits: Image by Frank Schulenburg, in the public domain; Image by the White House, in the public domain; Image by Volkswagen AG, in the public domain; Image by Generalitat de Catalunya, in the public domain. Collage by Andrew Sherman

To see how other news events are covered on the English Wikipedia, check out the ‘In the news’ section on its main page.

Joe SutherlandCommunications Intern Wikimedia Foundation

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

What I Learned: Wikipedia Education Program in Argentina

Editatón en el Museo del Bicentenario 3.jpg

Building bridges between digital, scholar and open culture: Educational editathon at the Museo del Bicentenario. Photo by Giselle Bordoy WMAR, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Delia Vazquez, a teacher trainer and a high school teacher, always considered that she was lacking a theoretical foundation that allowed her to defend and argue for Wikipedia’s use in the classroom—something that would allow her to “move away from the prejudices that are common among my colleagues.” With this feedback in mind, and a formed idea of the audience we wanted to address, we designed an education program for Wikimedia Argentina, which has aimed to change the perceptions of Wikipedia in educational contexts, and emphasize the key role open culture has in education.

As digital culture is already a topic in the education agenda—Argentina mandates the inclusion of technology in the classroom—our first strategy was to articulate skills and values related to collaborative production and open licenses. To this end, we designed teacher training workshops (online and in-person). Mario Cwi, a high school teacher and a coordinator of education technology area in his school, defied his own preconceptions about Wikipedia when he took part our training. By exploring the matrix and understanding Wikipedia from behind the scenes, such as looking at article edit histories and reading discussion pages, he and his colleagues dared to publish their own content and open them for discussion with other editors. “This is how we discovered something wonderful that we missed: Wikipedia is much, much more than a giant online encyclopedia. Wikipedia is a space that promotes the development of collective intelligence and participatory culture,” Mario told us.

We also interacted with students through edit-a-thons and WikiWorkshops, getting them to edit and participate in editing several Wikimedia projects—not just Wikipedia.

We focused our efforts on creating a unified approach among the digital and scholarly cultures, related to the free culture, as we found a gap in knowledge around what free licenses mean—a gap that was also linked to a general ignorance about Wikipedia as a platform that goes far beyond the collaborative construction of knowledge. This is a point that even today has not found traction in educational contexts.

Shared lesson: Build a common foundation to collaborate

Educational editathon at Colegio Nacional Rafael Hernández. Photo by Giselle Bordoy WMAR, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

We began with favorable circumstances, as Argentina’s technology in education policy meant that each student was issued a netbook. However, digital access does not always equate with real access—we found gaps in actual knowledge, competencies, and practices.

Unfortunately, having a pro-digital political climate does not necessarily mean that the distributed laptops will be connected to the Internet, will be used for critical or creative purposes, or used in any sort of educational sense. Argentina’s policy had, in practice, been altered to mere material access to technological tools. Moreover, we faced strong misconceptions and negative opinions about the use of technology in general, and specifically about Wikipedia. This made it hard to forge a unified foundation of digital experiences from which to build on with our education program.

Where do we go from here?

In-person teacher training course on free culture. Photo by Giselle Bordoy WMAR, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

This context made us reconsider the activities we wanted to bring to the classroom. After the first experience, we focused on listening to what other involved actors had to say about their discourses and experiences.

We took a step back and started on a more elementary stage, including (among other things) considering that many times there is no Internet connection. In a scene like this, it is difficult to talk about digital practices, like editing Wikipedia; we were often forced to use cellphones and alternative ways to connect. At the same time, we had to deconstruct negative discourses by using the mainstream media and addressing problematical situations as users, like getting edits reverted with no further explanation of why.

Given these difficulties, the program took far longer to complete than when we first envisioned the program. Still, once we implemented the new strategies, the ownership, reflections, and interests of participants became genuine, and the teachers we worked with became motivating agents, or as we like to call them: Wiki Ambassadors.

Melina Masnatta, Education Coordinator, Wikimedia Argentina
María Cruz, Learning & Evaluation Communications Coordinator, Wikimedia Foundation

Find this and other shared lessons on Wikimedia Argentina’s progress report.

«What I learned» is a blog series that seeks to capture and share lessons learned in different Wikimedia communities over the world. This knowledge stems from the practice of Wikimedia programs, a series of programmatic activities that have a shared, global component, and a singular, local aspect. Every month, we will share a new story for shared learning from a different community. If you want to feature a lesson you learned, reach out!.

by Melina Masnatta and María Cruz at September 29, 2015 07:29 PM

September 28, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia v. NSA update: first hearing

gavel public domain
The first hearing in
Wikimedia v. NSA was held on Friday. Image by Joe Gratz, public domain.

On Friday, September 25, 2015, the first hearing in Wikimedia v. NSA took place in Alexandria, Virginia. Both sides presented oral arguments regarding the government’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit against Upstream mass surveillance.

The arguments focused on the plaintiffs’ standing to bring the case. The Judge asked several questions of both sides. The plaintiffs were represented by Patrick Toomey of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who argued that WMF and our fellow plaintiffs have demonstrated that we have standing and that the case should proceed. The government suggested that our allegations are “speculative” because the true scope and operation of the Upstream program remain classified. The Judge did not rule at the hearing, but we will provide another update when the ruling is announced.

We would like to thank the Wikimedia community for its support, and our excellent pro bono counsel at the ACLU and Cooley, LLP for all their hard work on behalf of the Wikimedia movement. Regardless of the outcome of this particular hearing, we are at the beginning of a long road, and we are proud to walk it in defense of the fundamental right to privacy and free expression.

Jim Buatti, Legal Fellow
Aeryn Palmer, Legal Fellow
Wikimedia Foundation

Special thanks to all who are supporting our efforts in this matter in a variety of ways, including Patrick Toomey (ACLU), Jameel Jaffer (ACLU), Alex Abdo (ACLU), Ashley Gorski (ACLU), Aarti Reddy (Cooley), Amanda Levendowski (Cooley), Patrick Gunn (Cooley), Ben Kleine (Cooley), and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Victoria Baranetsky, Zhou Zhou, Oliver Keyes, Kevin Leduc, Faidon Liambotis, Andrew Otto, Dan Andreescu, Grace Gellerman, Dario Taraborelli, and, of course, Legal Director Michelle Paulson and General Counsel Geoff Brigham.

by Aeryn Palmer and Jim Buatti at September 28, 2015 07:46 PM

Reimagining the Wikimedia Foundation’s grants

Participation from over 200 community members in the Reimagining WMF grants consultation led to planned changes to WMF’s grants programs illustrated by the above graphic. Image by Chris Schilling, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 4.0

Last month, the Wikimedia Community Resources team offered an idea for restructuring the WMF’s grant programs. The existing system for distributing community resources was at times difficult to explain, understand, maintain or engage with, and so we suggested an idea for improving grants as a whole. Through multiple channels, the team gathered 245 responses during the consultation between 17 August and 7 September 2015. The team took some time to understand the concerns, endorsements, and suggestions the community provided, and made important changes to the idea accordingly. There is also much to share about effectively running consultations more generally, a topic that will be featured in an upcoming blog post.

The consultation featured an idea for restructuring the grant programs that included three funding types with several options within each funding type: Event Grants (with the Large Event, Small Event, and Travel Support options); Project Grants (with the Seed and Growth options); and Annual Plan Grants (with the Full Process and Simple Process options). The consultation also included a survey that asked people with experience with grants about their experiences and priorities. The final report contains information about the methodology, analysis, findings, and material changes to the grants programs. In this post, will outline some key findings from the final report.

Key findings

Overall, respondents liked the idea, the funding types offered, and the ways they could use the funding. On the other hand, most respondents expressed at least a few concerns or had useful suggestions about how the idea could be improved. A few of the major concerns brought up are around specific aspects of the idea not being clear enough, like the distinctions between grant types and what exactly they covered. Respondents are understandably concerned that the new structure not take up too much time from volunteers, and offered many concerns and suggestions about limiting the time volunteers would need to spend learning or engaging with the new structure. There were more than 60 specific suggestions during the consultation, as well as several ideas for different structures we might consider!

We used all of this information to improve the idea by enhancing the things people liked, addressing concerns, and implementing suggestions. For instance, participants expressed concern that there were too many options in the idea, which may be confusing for applicants. As a result, we simplified Project grants into a single structure rather than two separate options. Also, participants favored the idea of small and accessible grants up to $500 that were originally grouped as an “Event Grant.” We increased that limit to $2000 and created a separate category for these funds called Rapid Grants, which can be used both for events and projects.

Since the consultation included a survey as well as a place to respond in the IdeaLab, the team got some interesting insights into how people experience grants. This was some good information for understanding better the priorities of respondents. For example, we discovered that respondents rated achieving impact as very important, along with speed in the application process and simplicity in the application process. Respondents rated these much more highly than community participation. This led us to some concrete ideas about what we should prioritize in the new structure, since we realized we needed to focus community participation more on the biggest and most complex grants and have simple and speedy options for other grant types and options.

Another major theme is around supporting applicants and grantees better. There are the greatest number of suggestions about applicant support, and especially around providing more personalized support and being able to direct applicants to the right grant type for them through tools like a wizard. There was also a question specifically about the types of non-monetary support that are important to them. Connections, budget guidelines, and online resources are seen as most important, and the need for more targeted support for specific topics is also emphasized.

The team is glad to know that most grantees (about 51%) found the grants experience overall easy and 55% described the grants experience as above average or excellent. Below you can see some aspects of the grants process that people rated specifically, to get an idea of where some of the pain points are. While getting grants processed is ranked as easy, reporting and collecting global metrics are ranked as more difficult. These areas may need to be improved, or may need more support.

Reimagining WMF Grants - Ease-Difficulty.png Chart showing ratings of ease and difficulty for different aspects of the grants process. Image by Winifred Olliff, released into the public domain.

Next steps

Since respondents liked the idea but had a few concerns, we made substantive changes to the original proposal on IdeaLab to enhance what people liked about the idea and fix what didn’t work (see the top graphic):

  • Rapid Grants. To provide quick support for opportunities throughout the year. Up to $2000 for low-risk experiments and standard needs (meetups, etc) that don’t need broad review to get started.
  • Project Grants. To promote experiments and sustain ideas that work. Up to $100,000 for 12 months. There will be different guidelines and support systems for experiments (seed) and established projects (growth), but one application process.
  • Annual Plan Grants. To support organizations in developing and sustaining effective programs. Up to $100,000 for 12 months through a simple process, and full process for larger or unrestricted grants.
  • Conference and Travel Support. To support organizers and travelers attending conferences. Travel, kits and guidance, funds and merchandise, to foster community connections and learning.

This new structure and the development of related plans around the grants process will proceed gradually over the next year, according the following timeline:

  • 1 October 2015: Open applications for Simple Process Annual Plan Grants pilot (applications due 1 November for grants starting 1 January)
  • March 2016: Preliminary evaluation of Simple Process Annual Plan Grants based on first application phase
  • March – June 2016: Finalize changes to Full Process Annual Plan Grants based on simple process pilot and consultation feedback
  • July 2016: Implement changes to Full Process Annual Plan Grants for round 1 2016/2017 applicants
  • July – September 2016: Transition Individual Engagement Grants + Project and Event Grants to Project Grants and Rapid Grants
  • March 2017: Evaluate Simple Process Annual Plan Grants pilot with data from first round of grant reports


The Reimagining WMF grants consultation was a success: participants offered a lot of thoughtful feedback that has reshaped the grant programs into something better, which better reflects the ideas and priorities of the people who use grants. As this new structure is implemented over the next year, we will continue to develop plans with communities. We hope this outcome will lead to improved experiences for grantees and applicants, and that this structure will better address the needs of contributors. On top of that, as an added value, this consultation has been a great learning experience. Several best practices and lessons about consultations with communities have emerged over the last month that we will be sharing soon on this blog, and may help Wikimedia organizations run consultations with their local communities.

I want to express my gratitude to everyone who took the time to provide feedback and ideas, and who engaged in a conversation with us about how we can best serve communities through grants.

If you have questions about this report, conclusions, or the methods of this consultation, please ask them on the report talk page or in the comment section below.

Chris Schilling
Community Organizer
Wikimedia Foundation

by ijethrobot at September 28, 2015 06:09 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - ten questions about #Kian

The quality and quantity of Wikidata relies heavily on technology. When the people who develop their tools collaborate, the results increase exponentially. Amir has made his mark in the pywikibot environment and now he spreads his wings with Kian.

I have mentioned Kian before and I am happy that Amir was willing to answer some questions now that has over 82,000 edits.

What is Kian
Kian right now is a tool that can give probability of having certain statement based on categories but the goal is to become a general AI system to serve Wikidata.
Why did you write Kian
Huge number of items without statement always bothered me and I thought I should write something that can analyse articles and take out some data out of articles.
How is Kian different from other bots
It uses AI to extract data, I have never seen something like this in Wikipedia before. The main advantage of using AI is adaptability. I can now run Kian on languages that I have no idea about them. 
Another advantage of using AI is having probability which can be useful in lots of cases such as generating list of mismatches between Wikipedia and Wikidata that shows possible mistakes in Wikidata or Wikipedia.
Is there a point in using Kian iteratively
With each run of Kian Wikidata becomes better. After a while we would have so much certainty in data that we can assure Wikipedia and other third party users using our data is a good thing
What can Kian do other bots cannot do
First is generating possible mistakes and building a quality assurance workflow. 
Another one is adaptability of adding broad range of statements with high accuracy.
What can Kian do for data from Wikipedias in "other" languages
We can build a system to create these articles in languages such as English since using Kian now we have data about those articles.
Let me give you an example: Maybe there is an article in Hindi Wikipedia, we can't read this article but Kian can extract several statements out of that article. Then using resonator or other tools we can write articles in English Wikipedia or other languages.
What question did I fail to ask
Plans about Kian. What I'm doing to make Kian better. Hopefully we would have a suggesting tool using Kian very soon.
What does it take for me to use Kian
We have a instruction in github you only need an account in Wikimedia Labs
Does Kian use other tools
Yes, right now it uses autolist which makes it up-to-date.
What is your favourite tool that is not a bot
Autolist, Wikidata can't go on without this tool.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at September 28, 2015 11:19 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #40, 2015 (September 28, 2015)

TriangleArrow-Left.svgprevious 2015, week 40 (Monday 28 September 2015) nextTriangleArrow-Right.svg
Other languages:
čeština • ‎English • ‎español • ‎suomi • ‎français • ‎עברית • ‎Bahasa Indonesia • ‎italiano • ‎Ripoarisch • ‎português • ‎português do Brasil • ‎română • ‎русский • ‎svenska • ‎українська • ‎Tiếng Việt • ‎中文

September 28, 2015 12:00 AM

September 27, 2015

Weekly OSM

weekly 270 – 15.09.2015-21.09.2015


Night life map developed by Lisa Stolz in her Bachelor thesis. [1]

Night life map developed by Lisa Stolz in her Bachelor thesis. [1]



  • GaiaGPS wrote a tutorial on how to upload GPS traces and use them to improve the data. In a previous blog post they explained how and why you should create an account.
  • Elliott Plack reports about some vandalism (deletions and fictional data from a TV series) in Baltimore, USA. The user got blocked by the DWG, but returned under another login and continued vandalising (twice).
  • Daniel Koć proposes a totally different idea to distinguish between the different types of “footways” in order to make  better rendering possible.
  • Python Argentina “Argentina en Python” collected so much data with OSMTracker for Android, that they cannot process all data by themselves. They set up a website and Dropbox account and are asking the community to help  map the data from the GPS tracks, audio notes and videos they collected.


  • Imre Samu presents his findings to recognise strange imports with the help of taginfo .


Humanitarian OSM


  • [1] Lisa Stolz designed a map specifically for nightlife as part of her bachelor thesis at Hochschule Karlsruhe in collaboration with Geofabrik. Geofabrik provides a temporary map of the new style, but is looking for someone who wants to operate and maintain the new style in the long term.
  • Wikimedia Maps, a tile service of the Wikimedia Foundation has arrived in beta status. It is a basic map style for the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation (eg Wikipedia, Commons, …). Technically it is the vector and raster-tile server of Karthotherian, various Mapbox-components and Mapnik3.


  • Strava switched from  Google Maps (incl. Street View) to Mapbox. Some premium subscribers “remain frustrated“. Many of the complaints, however, have little to do with OSM itself. Often poorer satellite images and the lack of Street View is the problem. We would like to remind you that this was similar to the change of Geocaching.com from Google Maps to OSM.


  • Timo Thalmann hopes to start a discussion about the definition of public tasks in the field of state GIS data. (automatic translation)


  • OSM Buildings speaks WebGL. (Demo)
  • The new Mapbox Studio, currently still in the closed beta, is designed for experts and beginners as well. The map elements can now be easily changed via point and click.
  • Basecamp for Windows  4.5.2 is released.
  • OSRM  version 4.8.0 released – Bugfix release 4.8.1 on September 20.
  • Proj4Leaflet which provides support for projections not contained within Leaflet itself, now has its own project page.(via @liedman)

Did you know …

  • osmservices, the slightly different link collection of Mathis Rinke? Bet you also find something new from the OSM world. 😉
  • [map] BBCode to create some simple BBCode annotated maps?  The JavaScript library can be integrated into popular form. You can test [map] BBCode here and see an example here.

other “geo” things

  • It seems that Apple continues to invest in map technologies.
  • Google Home View was yesterday – today the vacuum cleaner robot Roomba 980 is mapping the apartment “passing by“.
  • Steve Coast starts a project to collect machine readable spatial data. I would be nice to read something about the license of the collected data.
  • The earth’s surface is increasingly under surveillance. More and more start-ups rush into space with their own photo-satellites. Geoawsomeness talks about it.
  • You have a city trip in mind? You should always take along a weather dependent map.
  • Mashable reports about the effects of climate change. The melting of the continental ice and the resulting rise of the oceans.

weeklyOSM is brought to you by …

by weeklyteam at September 27, 2015 01:08 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - primary sources tool statistics

It is a good thing that there are statistics for the primary sources tool. It is a dashboard that shows the current state only.

Given the discussion on the usefulness of this tool, this is not really helpful. It does not help any argument because everyone will be given different numbers at a different time.

Compare this with useful statistics for Wikidata. Here values are available that show trends over time. Consequently action can be undertaken based on the numbers. It would be really welcome that as part of the creation of these statistics, current numbers for the primary sources tool would be included.

Either way, success or failure, statistics help when people agree that numbers are relevant.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at September 27, 2015 11:22 AM

#Wikidata - #Freebase atrophies in the Primary sources status

It is a good thing that there are statistics for the primary sources status. It demonstrates clearly how dysfunctional it is. Only 18K statements have been approved. After all the time that the tool exists, it is not even one percent.

For a "serious" power user it is quite possible to do add this number of statements in a day to Wikidata any day. The sad thing is there is every reason to believe that the quality of a power user is just as good as anything that is in this dump in the first place.

Mathematics show that it is easy to check and verify the data that is in Wikidata with other sources. When such a process is well designed, it is iterative and consequently adding data that is deemed useful for inclusion in Wikidata will be processed in every iteration.

These sad statistics demonstrate one thing and one thing only; the failure that is in this approach. It would be wise to abandon it and concentrate on workflows instead that leverage the value that is in the huge community that may serve fixing issues.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at September 27, 2015 11:19 AM

September 26, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Mon Dieu! Why a French novelist gave an entire year’s royalties to Wikipedia

Antoine Bello is a well-known French author; his donation is the first time an author has donated an entire year’s royalties to the Wikimedia Foundation. Photo from Antoine Bello, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 3.0.

In Antoine Bello’s 2009 French-language novel Les Éclaireurs, a secret agent from Iceland named Sliv Dartunghuver works for a global organization that is planting fake stories in newspapers, infiltrating the United Nations, and helping support a terrorist organization based in the Middle East.

Praised by French reviewers—Le Monde said the book had “vitality” and “imagination”—the novel was also noteworthy for its unique dedication to Wikipedia. Bello says that the encyclopedia deserved his highest praise because he relied on it to understand real-life doings that form the backdrop to Les Éclaireurs.

This month, Bello took his praise of Wikipedia one step farther: he donated all of his literary earnings from the previous year to Wikipedia. Bello’s gift of $50,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation is the first time in Wikipedia’s history that an author has given us a year’s royalties.

Bello says he is only returning the favor—that Wikipedia astonishes him whenever he looks for information there.

“Every time I use it, I think of the people who have taken the time and devoted long evenings doing that,” Bello says of Wikipedia’s articles. “And I wonder, ‘Who are these people? Why did they do it? What an appetite for knowledge and for sharing it they must have.’  And I feel blessed that people do that.”

Bello, who was born and raised in France and now lives in New York state, has been writing fiction for 20 years. Les Éclaireurs, which translates into English as The Pathfinders, is part of a trilogy of novels that helped burnish Bello’s literary reputation. The trilogy’s last book, Les Producteurs, was published in 2015, and Bello once again used Wikipedia to flesh out historical facts that anchor the novel’s passages. In fact, using Wikipedia changed Bello’s perspective about a subject that Les Producteurs addresses as a subplot: epidemics around the world. Wikipedia documents the full history of infectious diseases, including those in China that killed tens of millions of people during the Middle Ages.

“I was thinking, obviously, about Ebola and AIDS and the Great Plague in Europe in the 14th century, but then you go to Wikipedia, and you see a number of pages about hundreds of other epidemics,” Bello says. “Suddenly, the world looks different. It’s no longer only about Europe and the United States. It’s no longer only about the past 20 years. It’s no longer about Christianity. Suddenly, you realize the world is much, much bigger than you thought. And at the same time, it’s all at your fingertips, thanks to Wikipedia.”

Authors around the world use Wikipedia for research, and many have publicly thanked Wikipedia for its depth of knowledge. In 2013, for example, Seattle writer Aubry Kae Andersen acknowledged Wikipedia in the dedication of her debut novel, Isaac the Fortunate: The Winter. And in 2012, the author Jasha M. Levi praised Wikipedia in the acknowledgements of his nonfiction work, Requiem for a Country: A History Lesson, which describes the 20th-century dissolution of Sephardic life in Bosnia. “Without access to its information,” Levi wrote of Wikipedia, “it would not have been possible for me to make clear to my readers many little-known facts of Yugoslav, European, and World War II history.”

Antoine Bello. Photo from Antoine Bello, freely licensed under CC-by-SA 3.0.

Best-selling romance novelist Nora Roberts, through her Nora Roberts Foundation, has donated to the Wikimedia Foundation. And on social media sites in the past few years, authors have acknowledged their financial contributions to the Wikimedia Foundation with such shout-outs as, “I just donated to #Wikipedia,” hoping that their tweet and hashtag inspire other people to make a similar donation. Bello hopes that his new donation motivates other people—especially other authors—to give back to an online resource whose entire budget is funded by contributions.

Bello says it’s “mind-boggling” that the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation can operate Wikipedia with a staff of 240 and a budget that pales to those of other top websites. “I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to it, because I think people are benefiting from this miracle, and they don’t realize it’s a miracle,” Bello says. “Nobody’s getting paid for it. There’s no advertising. You’re not harvesting my data. And it’s very up to date. I follow tennis, for instance, and when Roger Federer wins a match, five seconds later, it’s in his page. With this donation, and whenever I can, I try to evangelize and tell people how great it is.”   

As someone who has lived in different countries, including Japan, and considers himself “a citizen of the world,” Bello says he appreciates Wikipedia’s depth and breadth. The encyclopedia is in more than 250 languages. About 70,000 active volunteer editors, and thousands of other volunteer contributors, ensure that Wikipedia’s 36 million articles stay current for the site’s 400 million readers.

“I obviously share a lot of the values of the Wikimedia Foundation – the plurality of languages, the tolerance, the openness, universal access to language,” says Bello. “Those are all subjects that are very dear to my heart.”

Bello now writes a new book almost every year. When he’s in the middle of researching one, “I can literally spend hours on Wikipedia, jumping from one subject to the next,” he says. “I will want to write on, say, the recent economic depression, and I will start on one article and then I will see a link to another aspect, like the sub-prime (mortgage crisis), and then inside the sub-prime, I will see something that will catch my eye. And then after a few hours, I’ve noticed that I’ve bookmarked 25 pages. And that I have the substance for 1-2-3 chapters of my book. Of course, then there’s the job of the novelist in making sense of all of that – providing a vision of the world, the unique prism of the artist and the writer. But the material, the raw material, is all there in Wikipedia. And I love it. And I feel so grateful.”

The Wikimedia Foundation is very grateful to Antoine Bello for his spirit of giving. In the world of letters, writers start with a blank page. It takes inspiration to fill the page with meaning. It take inspiration to donate to Wikipedia in an entirely new way.

Jonathan Curiel
Development Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation

by Jonathan Curiel at September 26, 2015 12:12 AM

September 25, 2015

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Wikipedia’s very active editor numbers have stabilized—delve into the data with us

Very active graph
Very active editor numbers (>100 edits per month) since the English Wikipedia’s launch in 2001. The thick red line symbolises a five-month moving average. Graph by Joe Sutherland, in the public domain.

The English Wikipedia’s population of very active editors—registered contributors with more than 100 edits per month—appears to have stabilized after a period of decline. We’re seeing some of the same trends globally on other language Wikipedias.

On a month-to-month comparison of 2014 to 2015 on the English Wikipedia, very active editor numbers have been consistently higher this year than last year. August’s very active editor total of 3,458 was the highest since March 2011. Globally, five of the last eight months have had more than 10,000 very active editors per month—the first time we’ve seen that consistently since July 2013. Broadly speaking, it appears the number of very active editors has recovered from a mid-2013 drop and, for the moment, is continuing upward aseasonally.

This trend is intriguing and raises several questions.

For example, active editor numbers—those with more than five edits per month—appear to be flat, both on the English Wikipedia and globally. Why are they not rising alongside the number of very active editors? And where are the new very active editors coming from? Are existing editors editing more? Are inactive editors returning?

Today, we are releasing a new dataset (documentation) to invite  community members and researchers to join us in analyzing this trend.  Some potential directions of investigation include:

  • Existing editors could be editing more
  • Fewer editors could be leaving
  • More editors could be coming back
  • The community could be reaching its new carrying capacity
  • Faster editing as a result of  December 2014’s performance improvements  (“How we made editing Wikipedia twice as fast“) could be enabling more edits
  • A temporary resurgence, known more colorfully as a ‘dead cat bounce


Please let us know what you find.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Aaron Halfaker, Senior Research Scientist
Wikimedia Foundation

Active editor numbers (>5 edits per month) since the English Wikipedia’s launch in 2001. The thick blue line symbolises a five-month moving average. Graph by Joe Sutherland, in the public domain.

by Ed Erhart and Aaron Halfaker at September 25, 2015 05:15 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

University of Pittsburgh welcomes two Visiting Scholars

The Wikipedia Visiting Scholars program connects experienced Wikipedia editors with research libraries. Together, they find Wikipedia articles to improve using the library’s digital resources.

I’m pleased to announce that, in light of a strong applicant pool, the University of Pittsburgh has decided to sponsor two Visiting Scholars: Barbara Page (User:Bfpage) and Casey Monaghan (User:Seattle).

"Bfpafe small selfie.JPG" by Bfpage - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.
Barbara Page (User:Bfpage) —Bfpafe small selfie.JPG” by BfpageOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.

Barbara will focus on editing medicine-related topics. She said she was frustrated by her lack of access to information about more obscure diseases that don’t yet have articles, and points out that only 61 of 30,000 articles on medical subjects are Featured Articles (Wikipedia’s highest level of quality). For contrast, there are 815 military history Featured Articles and 193 on video games. She’ll improve those figures using sources provided by the University of Pittsburgh.

Casey will focus on Pittsburgh history. In addition to using academic literature, he plans to utilize the library’s media and data collections.

“As a first step, I would like to upload public domain images of former Pittsburgh mayors from Historic Pittsburgh’s ‘Politics’ collection,” he said. He would use those images to improve articles such as Magnus Miller Murray, which includes maps, but no photographs. “I’m also looking forward to using other University-hosted materials, such as Pitt’s collection of 19th-century Pittsburgh census data.”

"Self photograph" by Seattle - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Self_photograph.JPG#/media/File:Self_photograph.JPG
Casey Monaghan (User:Seattle)Self photograph” by SeattleOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.

The Scholars will be working with Ed Galloway, Head of the University of Pittsburgh’s Archives Service Center.

“The University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh is eager to join this program after having started down a similar path with history student internships two years ago,” Galloway said. “It was a great experience working with Pitt students to improve Wikipedia articles with an eye toward connecting users to the unique collections we have at Pitt. But the bar is raised when considering the opportunity to work with seasoned Wikipedians, who are trusted agents in the Wikipedia world, and know their way around the massive resource. Since much research is serendipity when just clicking from one linked article to the next, we’d like to be in that mix.”

He said that, since more and more students start their research using Wikipedia, the University would like to become part of that ‘research stream,’ which he hopes will guide students to their archival and manuscript collections and encourage those students to ask more in-depth questions.

For information about sponsoring or becoming a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar, see our Visiting Scholars page.

Photo: “University of Pittsburgh tablet2” original photo by Piotrus, edited/uploaded by Crazypaco at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Shizhao using CommonsHelper. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

by Ryan McGrady at September 25, 2015 04:40 PM

Content Translation Update

September 24 CX Update: Suggestions in New Languages, Fixes in Statistics and Link Adaptation, and More

We are getting to the end of the quarter and it comes with a big bunch of updates and bug fixes.

The translation suggestions feature was deployed to more language pairs:

A sea beach, with green hills in the back
Vatersay is an island in Scotland, and it’s the subject of the 3,000th published translation in the Catalan Wikipedia
  • English → French
  • English → Spanish
  • English → Russian
  • English → Chinese
  • English → Turkish
  • English → Japanese
  • English → Italian
  • Spanish → Catalan
  • Spanish → English
  • French → English

These pairs are based on the most popular pairs of languages for translation based on Content Translation statistics. There are still several issues with the translation suggestion feature, such as better selection of default languages, changing the selected languages, and others, which we plan to address very soon.

Two issues were addressed in the statistics page:

  1. If there were no translations to a language in the previous week, the statistics page would show a growth trend of “NaN%” (“NaN” means “not a number”). This was caused by a division-by-zero bug, and now it’s fixed and the number is shown correctly. (bug report)
  2. The titles and the labels of the charts on the Content Translation Statistics page, which was recently revamped, were updated to be more descriptive. Please update their translations to your language. (bug report)

Other notable updates:

  • Clicking a link in the source language for which there is no corresponding page in the target language was adding a useless link to the translation. This was fixed. (bug report)
  • When using Content Translation in Norwegian Bokmål, the “Find articles missing in your language” (“Finn sider som mangler på språket ditt”) tool was broken because it used a wrong language code. Now it works correctly. (bug report)
  • The issue of the server requests that Content Translation makes when loading an article for reading should be solved now (bug report), and it’s not causing irrelevant gray links.

Finally, we congratulate the Catalan Wikipedia upon publishing the 3,000th translated page: Vatersay, an island in Scotland.

by aharoni at September 25, 2015 01:04 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

“It’s addicting, editing Wikipedia. It’s just something I love to do”: Paulina Sanchez

Paulina Sanchez started out by becoming a volunteer for the 2015 Wikimania in Mexico City. Today, she’s a die-hard Wikipedia editor and outreach event organizer. Photograph by Victor Grigas, Wikimedia Foundation, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Paulina Sanchez’s beginnings with the Wikimedia movement are far from ordinary. Having been first invited to help organize Wikimania 2015 in Mexico City by a friend, she started out by joining editatonas, which are women-only edit-a-thons run by Mexican Wikimedia volunteers. After just a month, she gave her first workshop on how to edit Wikipedia. Today, in addition to running workshops, she contributes and improves articles on films, literature, female biologists and Chicana feminism in the United States.

Paulina credits her first steps on Wikipedia with Andres “Andy” Cruz y Corro, an environmental engineer and a fellow Wikimania organizer: “After being invited to help organize Wikimania by Andy, I dived right into editing, and about a month after I started editing Wikipedia, I gave my first workshop on how to edit. I didn’t know everything about it, but quickly found that the best way to learn is to teach,” she recalls.

A medical bioscience Ph.D. student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Paulina admits to being attracted to Wikipedia due to the gap in coverage of female biologists. “There are articles on female scientists such as Marie Curie and all these women who are excellent and very well known, but when I looked for more, for example on [female] biologists on the Spanish Wikipedia, there were just three or so articles, and they were very short. It didn’t measure with the English Wikipedia, which had about 20 articles, but there’s still a gap there, too,” she says.


A video report from the second Editatona held at the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City in March 2015. Editatonas are women-only edit-a-thons hosted by Mexican Wikimedians that aim to increase gender diversity on Wikipedia. Video by Ivan Martínez, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Aside from her personal interest as a scientist, this gap has affected Paulina on a personal level, too. “This also comes back as a huge social problem, when young women here in Mexico think they can’t be scientists because women scientists are not represented,” she continues. “I have a younger sister … so she says: ‘I have to be an actress or a painter, or something like that.’ And to that I say: ‘No, you can be whatever you want to be.’ “

A graduate of Scripps College in Claremont California, Paulina uses her experience to run editatonas, which she describes as providing a “safe space for women who are either new to the world of technology or new to Wikipedia and who are passionate about feminism—or any other specific subject—and who want to edit. We also bring in other people who know a lot about a particular topic, even if they don’t know anything about Wikipedia, and have them teach us how to approach subjects that can be controversial or delicate for some people.”

Organizing editatonas is also essential in creating a sense of community. “Besides editing, we also have breaks for food: we bring food or order something together, and take breaks from everything, and talk, and see how everything is going,” Paulina reveals. “The word that I like more than ‘community’ is ‘camaraderie’ — not just in person, but also on-line, like on Facebook, Twitter, mailing lists or on Wikipedia itself.”

As part of her work on improving Wikipedia’s coverage of female scientists, Paulina also contributes to Wikimedia Commons, the shared repository of free media. “For some articles, it’s really hard actually finding the person. If they’re alive, … I can contact them to get a picture of their work or of themselves; if they’re no longer here, and their picture is copyrighted, then some time has to pass before we can use those images—that’s a big problem,” she describes.

This leads Paulina to the often complicated relationship between Wikipedia and the scientific community. “It’s a situation where I think us scientists don’t know everything. We don’t know how Wikipedia works, how it’s all checked to make sure that everything has a reference or a good picture, how it’s open and—you know—correct,” she says. “I think it’s really interesting that we have this bias in the science field when people don’t use Wikipedia because it’s not a ‘right’ source. And I think it would be great if we could reach out to a scientific congress and say: hey, use Wikipedia. We have all these resources, and you could help us spread the word.”

When asked about other subjects she edits about on Wikipedia, Paulina openly admits her love of reading. “I also do a lot of editing on books and literature. I love to read, so I make edits on anything Margaret Atwood or Chuck Palahniuk,” she says.

“It’s addicting, editing Wikipedia. It’s just something I love to do.”

Interview by Jonathan Curiel, Development Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation
Profile by Tomasz W. Kozlowski, Wikimedia community volunteer

by Tomasz Kozlowski and Jonathan Curiel at September 25, 2015 01:26 AM

September 24, 2015

Magnus Manske


Wikipedians love lists. Thus, my list-generating bot is now active on over a dozen wikis, most of then upon request by users, who have set up quite a variety of lists to generate and update.

However, a few issues with this approach have emerged. Some of them are technical; lists get too long for wikitext, some desired functions are hard to implement, and using templates to set up parameters is awkward. Some issues are social; while several wikis have no problems with bot-generated lists in the article namespace, some (OK, one) communities have concerns, ranging from the data quality of Wikidata, over style issues, to the fact that the list can only be edited via Wikidata, and not directly on the respective wiki.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 16.07.01A proposed solution is to implement Wikidata lists as a tool. This solves the “social issues” by moving the lists outside the wikis, while releasing storage and display options from the limitations of MediaWiki. So, for the impatient: Dynamic Wikidata  Lists.

In this tool, everyone can view lists, and change options like language, columns, and sections on-the-fly; to create your own lists, use your trusted WiDaR login. Lists consist of two parts: The items resulting from a Wikidata Query (there could be other data sources down the line), which is stored in the tool, and updated every six hours, or on demand; and the data in the columns, which is loaded on-the-fly, directly from Wikidata. This is a trade-off; no need to store large amounts of data in the tool, and getting the latest data straight from the source, in exchange for a few seconds of waiting time for large lists. Once a list is loaded, the display can be changed with little or no need to load more data. However, even my largest list with over 4,300 items loads the items in ~10sec, and the labels for the column values in another ~5sec, on my machine.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 16.38.43The “>” icon on top of the list opens the display options, and there are quite a few of those. Seven columns types, three sections types, multiple (sub-)section levels, an option to display the top-level section as tabs, arbitrary precision when using dates as sections (e.g. force birth dates into decades), options to override column titles per language, etc.

Links go the the Wikipedia article in the current language, or to Wikidata by default; columns with links to specific wikis are possible. Preferred statements are shown if present, normal ranks otherwise. Columns can be sorted by clicking on the column header (there is no default sort, as the labels to sort on are loaded after the table is created).

A list, once created, can only be changed by the person who created it; but anyone with a WiDaR login can create a new list based on an existing one, and change it in any way desired. List and default language can be specified in the URL, so you can link to a list from Wikipedia in the local language.

There are, undoubtedly, things left to do; the next big one will be to allow Wikidata editing directly from within the tool. I hope this tool will, in addition to the bot, give everyone the power and flexibility to create and manage Wikidata-based lists, help improve Wikidata statements, and maybe even convert the occasional Wikidata nay-sayer :-)

by Magnus at September 24, 2015 03:42 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia project milestones: Swedish Wikipedia hits 2 million articles

Antidorcas marsupialis, female (Etosha, 2012).jpg
The featured image when the Swedish Wikipedia hit two million articles—a springbok. Image by Yathin S Krishnappa, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

This blog post is the first in a series celebrating milestones across all Wikimedia projects.

The Swedish Wikipedia hit two million articles on September 5, only the second language edition of Wikipedia to reach this milestone. The final stretch was celebrated with a custom-made globe icon, as has become something of a Wikipedia tradition. The two millionth article was “Iro (mountain)“, one of many bot-created articles created in the weeks leading up to the milestone; it documents a 1061m-tall mountain in South Sudan.

Jan Ainali, of Wikimedia Sverige, says that the community is aware of the role of bots in getting to this milestone, but that it is still to be celebrated. “The community is aware of the special case that [the Swedish Wikipedia] is,” he says. “That being said, most are quite happy that the Swedish version is able to serve so much content, and that the feat that Lsj [the creator of Lsjbot] has achieved is huge.”

The Urdu Wikipedia community made serious headway on its goal of 100,000 articles, reaching the 80,000 article milestone on September 9. The Armenian Wiktionary has doubled in size in just five months, and is now at over 90,000 entries.

You can read all of the Wikimedia project milestones, and get more information, on the Wikimedia News page on Meta-Wiki.

Other selected milestones

September 22
The Swahili Wikipedia has reached 30,000 articles.

September 19
The Armenian Wiktionary has reached 90,000 entries, having doubled in size since April of this year.

September 17
The Oriya Wikisource has reached 200 text units.
The wiki for Wikimedia Estonia has been moved from et.wikimedia.org to ee.wikimedia.org.

September 14
The Cantonese Wikipedia has reached 40,000 articles.

September 10
The Serbian Wiktionary has reached 30,000 entries.

September 9
The Urdu Wikipedia has reached 80,000 articles.

September 7
The Kyrgyz Wikipedia has reached 40,000 articles.
The Serbian Wiktionary has reached 20,000 entries.

September 6
The Malayalam Wikipedia has reached 40,000 articles.

September 5
The Swedish Wikipedia has reached 2,000,000 articles.

September 3
A new interwiki prefix, policy:, has been added to the interwiki map, for linking to the new Wikimedia Public Policy website.

September 2
The Min Nan Wikipedia has reached 40,000 articles.

Joe Sutherland, Communications intern, Wikimedia Foundation

by Joe Sutherland at September 24, 2015 01:54 AM

September 22, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

News on Wikipedia: Japan shocks the rugby world, an earthquake strikes Chile, and more

New on Wikipedia September 21 lead image.jpg

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

Syriza wins new Greek mandate

EPP Summit, Brussels, July 2015 (19444614659).jpgVangelis Meimarakis, standing against Alexis Tsipras‘s party, conceded defeat. Image by Tm, freely licensed under CC-BY 2.0.

Following Alexis Tsipras‘s resignation as Prime Minister of Greece in August, his party Syriza won in a snap election on Sunday. His party retained its majority, but was six seats short of an absolute majority; it was instead able to reedit its coalition government with the Independent Greeks. Turnout was the lowest seen in Greece since democracy was restored in 1974 at 56.6 percent, which analysts blamed on voter apathy and fatigue. It was the third national vote this year, following a scheduled election in January and a referendum on a European Union bailout in July.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Greek legislative election, September 2015

Japan re-allows military force

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan (9092387608).jpgShinzō Abe, pictured in 2013, cited the Islamic State group’s activities as partial cause for the legislation. Image by Chatham House, freely licensed under CC-BY 2.0.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Monday promoted legislation that will allow Japan to enter into foreign conflict. It reinterprets passages in the Japanese constitution relating to attacking in self-defence, instead allowing the military to provide “collective self-defense” abroad for the first time since World War II. Abe cited the beheading of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State group as reasoning for the legislation. However, it is not without its critics; surveys of experts found the majority of them believed the move was unconstitutional.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: 2015 Japanese military legislation

Earthquake strikes in Chile

Mandataria recorrió borde costero escuchando a afectados por el terremoto (21503021501).jpgThe resultant tsunamis led to widespread flooding and damage to hundreds of buildings. Image by Gobierno de Chile, freely licensed under CC-BY 2.0.

An earthquake with a moment magnitude of 8.3 struck off the coast of Chile at almost 8pm local time on September 16. The quake lasted for at least three minutes, and sparked tsunami warnings in various countries both near and far from the epicenter, including the United States, Ecuador, New Zealand, and Japan. The shock was felt as far away as São Paulo in Brazil, and immediately resulted in blackouts in nearby Chilean cities. Tsunami waves up to 15 feet (4.5 m) high were reported along the coast, and resulted in severe damage to areas near the cities of Coquimbo, Tongoy and Concón. A state of emergency was soon declared in Coquimbo, where large fishing boats were swept into the streets.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: 2015 Illapel earthquake

Coup d’état in Burkina Faso

Burkinabe Col. Gilbert Diendéré, 2010.jpgGilbert Diendéré, pictured in 2010, led the coup. Image by Master Sgt. Jeremiah Erickson, U.S. Air Force, freely licensed under public domain.

Burkina Faso‘s transitional president, Michel Kafando, and incumbent prime minister, Yacouba Isaac Zida, were detained in a coup d’état on September 16. The coup was staged by the Regiment of Presidential Security, led by Gilbert Diendéré to form a temporary military dictatorship in the country. It comes in the wake of last year’s Burkinabé uprising, where a populist movement overthrew long-time president Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré himself came into power in a 1987 coup. In spite of the coup, elections are planned for October.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: 2015 Burkinabe coup d’état

Japan claims historic rugby union win

Goromaru crop.jpgFullback Ayumu Goromaru scored 24 of Japan’s points during the upset. Image by , freely licensed under CC-BY 4.0.

Japan’s national rugby union team, then ranked thirteenth in the world, defeated two-time Rugby World Cup champions South Africa 34–32 on September 19, a result the BBC labelled “arguably the biggest upset in rugby union history”. Ayumu Goromaru scored 24 of Japan’s 34 points throughout the game to guide them to their first World Cup win, and their first win over a southern hemisphere team, since 1991. It is South Africa’s first opening-day loss in a World Cup for twenty years, and had only ever lost World Cup games to New Zealand, Australia, and England before Japan’s win.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Japan national rugby union team

Photo montage credits: “Mandataria_recorrió_borde_costero_escuchando_a_afectados_por_el_terremoto_(21503021501).jpg” by Gobierno de Chile, CC BY 2.0.; “Burkinabe Col. Gilbert Diendéré, 2010.jpg” by Master Sgt. Jeremiah Erickson, public domain; “Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan (9092387608).jpg” by Chatham House, CC BY 2.0.; “EPP_Summit,_Brussels,_July_2015_(19444614659).jpg” by EPP, CC BY 2.0.; “Goromaru crop.jpg” by 埊, CC BY 4.0. Collage by Andrew Sherman.

To see how other news events are covered on the English Wikipedia, check out the ‘In the news’ section on its main page.

Joe SutherlandCommunications InternWikimedia Foundation

by Joe Sutherland at September 22, 2015 07:38 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed staff, University of San Francisco faculty share Wikipedia experiences

Last week, Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson and I joined instructors at the University of San Francisco for a faculty luncheon. We discussed how to bring Wikipedia into a classroom and the many benefits of the assignment.

Dr. Jonathan Hunt, an instructor in the Rhetoric and Language department, told us that the online training seemed like a great way to introduce students to the community behind Wikipedia. He compared Wikipedia’s community to any other community his students might join, even temporarily. He remarked that he would never take students into a physical community without first explaining the community’s norms and expectations. He would also advise students to respect those community values and best practices, especially if they wished to be treated as a part of that community. Likewise, we know students fare better on Wikipedia when they have been exposed to and strive to follow Wikipedia’s cultural norms.

In a discussion about student learning and motivations, we heard from Dr. David Silver, who teaches interdisciplinary courses in Environmental Studies, Media Studies, and Urban Agriculture. This term, his students are improving Wikipedia articles about San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Dr. Silver’s course is a first-year seminar, and at first, students were hesitant to admit they’d even used Wikipedia. Now, after studying Golden Gate Park for weeks and comparing their learning to existing Wikipedia content, the students are excited to engage in public scholarship about a park that is (literally) in their back yard. While learning about Wikipedia’s neutrality policies, students identified biases in existing articles, often in ways that surprised their instructor.

The discussion and interest proved yet again that a Wikipedia assignment can be a great fit for any academic topic. Attendees at the luncheon represented a range of disciplines and departments at USF. That included Rhetoric and Language, Modern Languages, Psychology, International Studies, Media Studies, Chemistry, Art History and Museum Studies, and the university library.

Wikipedia serves as a tool to achieve comprehension in any topic, while cultivating media literacy, critical thinking skills, writing development, and collaboration among peers and other editors. Wiki Ed can help instructors design and implement such an assignment.

With insightful instructors like Jonathan and David leading the charge, we can’t wait to see our programs grow at the University of San Francisco!


by Jami Mathewson at September 22, 2015 06:24 PM

Content Translation Update

Wrong Gray Interlanguage Links Bug Is Fixed

Last week we deployed a change that reduced the number of server requests that Content Translation makes when loading an article for reading (bug report). This introduced another bug, however: in some cases incorrect gray links with language codes such as “en-us” appeared in the list. This change was reverted, so wrong links don’t appear any longer, but the extra request is back as well. This should be fixed soon, hopefully without breaking other things.

by aharoni at September 22, 2015 05:03 PM

September 21, 2015

Wiki Education Foundation

Monthly Report for August 2015


  • Executive Director Frank Schulenburg and Senior Manager of Development Tom Porter discussed Open Educational Practices and the upcoming Wikipedia Year of Science with the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. They also met with representatives of the National Science Foundation.
  • We have formally announced our partnership with the American Society of Plant Biologists, a professional society dedicated to advancing the plant sciences. Our work with ASPB will increase public access to plant biology research, and create positive learning experiences for their university students.


Educational Partnerships

Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson represents the Wiki Education Foundation at ASPB 2015

Wiki Ed formed a partnership with the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), which will bring more science students to Wikipedia during 2016’s Year of Science. We’ve engaged several plant biologists to teach in our Classroom Program for upcoming terms. These plant scientists and their students will add important research to Wikipedia, making information available to people outside of the discipline.

Wikipedia Content Expert Adam Hyland attended the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) national meeting in Boston. He and Dr. Ye Li, University of Michigan’s Chemistry Librarian, presented the benefits of Wikipedia as a teaching tool during a symposium on Wikipedia, collaboration, and education. That symposium attracted speakers from the Wikipedia community, academia, and government. We’re working with ACS to expand our impact on chemistry articles in the Year of Science.

Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson and Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson have been recruiting instructors for our Classroom Program. This term, 47 instructors have joined through educational partnerships, conference presentations, or targeted outreach, compared to 26 instructors last term.

Classroom Program

Status of the Classroom Program for the Fall 2015 term in numbers, as of September 1:

  • 84 Wiki Ed-supported courses had Course Pages (33, or 39%, were led by returning instructors)
  • 493 student editors were enrolled
  • 281 students successfully completed the online training
  • Students edited 85 articles

This month has been busy, as we’re bringing new courses in through our improved course dashboard. By simplifying the course creation and tracking process, we can better support our oncoming courses. We’re already pleased to see that in less than a month, more than half of enrolled students have already completed the online training. We think that’s a result of the dashboard’s tracking features, which allows instructors to easily track students as they complete the training.

Though most students haven’t started editing Wikipedia, Content Experts Adam Hyland and Ian Ramjohn have been helping instructors choose articles for their students to work on. They’re also helping Classroom Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal review assignments to ensure that each class follows our best practices.

Student work highlights:

We saw good work from Growing Up Girl at Michigan State University. By focusing on female film-makers of color and their films, students in this summer course helped to expand underrepresented subjects on Wikipedia.

  • Caucasia (Novel) was expanded from 868 to 2109 words.
  • Connie Porter was expanded from 232 to 1172 words.
  • Students created the new article A Map of Home consisting of 660 words. They did a particularly good job of avoiding original synthesis, which can be challenging for articles on books and films.
  • In addition to expanding Red Doors from 385 to 585 words, students added sourcing where the article had none.
  • Jean Kwok was expanded from 356 to 745 words.

Community Engagement

Community Engagement Manager Ryan McGrady spent August researching potential Visiting Scholars sponsors, and working with Jami and Samantha to develop outreach strategies tied to the Year of Science.

There has been good news from sponsor institutions throughout the month. In light of a strong applicant pool, the University of Pittsburgh has decided to sponsor two Visiting Scholars. These Scholars will work with the University’s Archives Service Center, Special Collections and Center for American Music to develop articles related to Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania history, including Pittsburgh-focused articles related to urban renewal, childhood during the industrial era, music composers, theater, or significant literary figures; Colonial American history; historic American songs; or Philosophy of Science.

Meanwhile, George Mason University, a 2014–15 pilot program participant, will sponsor its scholar for another year. Sponsors of the other four open positions are at various stages of the selection process, which is going smoothly.

Program Innovation, Analytics, and Research

Summer Seminar pilot

With the Summer Seminar in Psychology complete, we’re evaluating the program with an eye to future pilots. Twenty psychology experts enrolled in the course, and 13 completed the student training. In three weekly sessions, Ian and Helaine reviewed the basics of editing Wikipedia. They discussed particular challenges of editing in the psychology field. We’re awaiting responses to the survey distributed to participants to guide our final report.

Participants created eight articles and edited 24 in August. User:Glorytohypnotoad added 260 words to Self Expansion Model as part of the seminar. We appreciate the enthusiasm and input from participants in the course!

Summer Fellowship

Andrew Lih wrapped up his summer fellowship at Wiki Ed’s office in late August. While in San Francisco, Andrew helped us determine a strategy for collaboration with galleries, libraries, archives, and museums on university campuses to improve Wikipedia’s coverage. Andrew’s expertise in teaching, universities, museum collaborations, and Wikipedia provided much insight to staff discussions. We’re also excited to collaborate with Andrew in the coming months on a proposedpanel session at WikiConference USA. Thank you to Andrew for the hard work this summer!

OpenSym 2015 evening reception and poster session

Wiki Ed’s Adam Hyland talks with OpenSym 2015 attendees during a poster session and evening reception held at the offices.

As part of OpenSym 2015, Wiki Ed hosted a reception and poster session at our offices on Wednesday, August 19. Attendees showcased six posters and one live demo in our house, with more than 60 attendees enjoying hors-d’œuvres, drinks, and interesting discussions about open collaboration, wikis, Wikipedia, education, and more.

Program Support


Communications Manager Eryk Salvaggio created a final plan for restructuring the Wiki Education Foundation website this month. The new site will serve as a more intuitive portal with added context around each of our programs, and offers new pages for fundraising, partnerships, and support.

Eryk has also compiled and shared preliminary text for a new guidebook, Editing Wikipedia articles: Biographies, which has been posted to Wikipedia for input from Wikipedia editors. Feedback will be compiled into the final draft.

Blog posts:

Digital Infrastructure

As instructors and students put the new dashboard system through its paces, Wiki Ed’s Product Manager, Digital Services Sage Ross and the WINTR development team have been fixing bugs and user experience problems.

We started work on a new ‘just-in-time help’ feature. That feature, testing now, will highlight student work that needs attention. The first iteration identifies drafts that may be eligible for Wikipedia’s Did You Know process. Planned features include: identifying articles that are ready to move into mainspace; flagging suspected plagiarism; and providing content experts and instructors a way to send help material to editors whose work needs attention.

We’re planning a new system of training modules that will integrate into the dashboards. That tool would replace the on-wiki student training. Eryk completed a report that outlines needs and improvements for that system, based on staff feedback and instructor surveys.

Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration

For the month of August, expenses were $235,920 versus the plan of $234,472. The slight overage was primarily due to catching up on expenditures that had been budgeted for the previous month.

Year-To-Date expenses are $499,942 versus the plan of $525,891. The $26K variance is the result of savings in “Promotional Items” ($7K), our “All Staff Meeting” ($4K) and timing delays on “Audit” fees ($10K) and “Staff Development” ($7.5K).

Our current spending level is averaging at 95% of planned.

Wiki Ed Expenses August 2015
Wiki Ed YTD Expenses August 2015
Wiki Ed YTD Expenses August 2015


Frank and Tom at the West Wing of the White House on August 20, 2015
Frank and Tom at the West Wing of the White House on August 20, 2015
  • In late August, Frank and Tom met with Dipayan Gosh, Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) of the White House. During our visit at the White House, we discussed Wiki Ed’s role in Open Educational Practice and the how the White House could support the upcoming Wikipedia Year of Science. Later that day, Frank and Tom met with representatives of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington to discuss future funding opportunities.
  • During the month of August, Tom and Development Associate Victoria Hinshaw developed numerous internal processes that leverage the functionality of Wiki Education Foundation Salesforce fundraising module. Use of this technology will help the fundraising staff gage effectiveness as the fundraising team’s work continues to develop a sustainable funding base.
  • Also in August, the development team planned the first Wikipedia Year of Science awareness-building event, currently scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. in early October. Several Wiki Education Foundation board members are now actively engaged in fundraising activities.


Office of the ED

  • Current priorities:
    • Securing funding for upcoming major programmatic initiatives
    • Filling the Director of Programs position
  • Supported by m/Oppenheim, a local nonprofit executive search firm, we narrowed down the list of potential candidates for our Director of Programs position. As a result, the interview process will begin in early September and we expect the position to be filled within the next two months.
Delegation of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research led by State Secretary Cornelia Quennet-Thielen (second from right) visiting Wiki Education Foundation's office in the Presidio
Delegation of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research led by State Secretary Cornelia Quennet-Thielen (second from right) visiting Wiki Education Foundation’s office in the Presidio
  • Also in late August, a delegation of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research led by State Secretary Cornelia Quennet-Thielen visited Wiki Education Foundation’s office in the Presidio. Frank gave a presentation outlining the current and future work of Wiki Ed and answered questions about Wikipedia and open licenses. Subsequently, Frank attended a evening reception at the German Consulate General and connected with high-ranking officials in German research, university administration, and science policy.

Visitors and guests

  • Andrew Lih, associate professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication in Washington D.C. and Wiki Education Foundation Summer Research Fellow
  • Haitham Shammaa, Wikimedia Foundation
  • Dirk Riehle, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Open Source Research Group, Applied Software Engineering, and about 60 OpenSym conference attendees
  • Cornelia Quennet-Thielen, State Secretary and Department Head at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
  • Frank Petrikowski, Unit International Exchange in Higher Education, German Federal Ministry for Education and Research
  • Karsten Hess, Science & Technology Attaché, German Embassy, Washington D.C.
  • Antje Metz, German Consulate General San Francisco

by Eryk Salvaggio at September 21, 2015 11:11 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Should I pay for a Wikipedia article?

There are specific rules for when you can edit the English Wikipedia for money. Image by Erik Zachte, freely licensed under CC-by-3.0.

At the end of August, volunteer editors on the English Wikipedia blocked 381 user accounts for so-called “black hat” editing—or more specifically, undisclosed paid advocacy. As the Wikimedia Foundation’s blog post defined it, undisclosed paid advocacy is “the practice of accepting or charging money to promote external interests on Wikipedia without revealing their affiliation, in violation of Wikimedia’s Terms of Use.” Other news accounts have added allegations of an “extortion scam,” as the Guardian described it.

This question and answer-style piece comes from one of the English Wikipedia’s administrators, Robert Fernandez. It details what individuals can and should know about paid editing on Wikipedia. These guidelines apply only to the English Wikipedia and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Who is in charge of Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a free, open access encyclopedia written and operated by volunteer editors. These volunteers do much more than create and edit articles—they also make sure that the site remains reliable, neutral, and accurate by enforcing Wikipedia policies and guidelines. The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization which supports the technology and people behind Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Foundation does not set editorial policy for Wikipedia.

I received an email from Wikipedia offering to create and monitor my article for a monthly fee. What should I do?

Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation should never send you an email advertising paid editing services. The Wikimedia Foundation does not offer Wikipedia editing services of any kind in exchange for fees, although it does seek charitable donations to keep Wikipedia running. Although some individual editors may engage in editing services in exchange for money, they must follow Wikipedia’s rules (more on that below), and their activity is not endorsed by the community of volunteer Wikipedia editors or the Wikimedia Foundation.

As Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, told the Guardian, “If anybody emails you asking for money pretending to be Wikipedia, alarm bells should ring … Everything about Wikipedia is free.”

If you receive an email fraudulently soliciting services purporting to be from Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation, please forward it to the Wikimedia volunteer team at info@wikipedia.org.

What are Wikipedia’s rules for paid editing?

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use, covering Wikipedia and all other projects supported by the Foundation, require that all paid editing be disclosed. That disclosure must take the form of statements on the editor’s user page, accompanying all paid contributions in the edit summary, or a disclosure on the article’s talk page.

English Wikipedia policies also require that all content, paid or otherwise, be neutral, not promotional, not violate rules about living individuals, and be supported by reliable sources, such as reputable newspapers, magazines, or academic literature.

Should I hire a paid editor who does not disclose their paid editing activity on Wikipedia?


Disclosure is required by Wikimedia’s Terms of Use, so if you choose to hire someone to edit Wikipedia and that person does not disclose this fact, they are violating the Terms of Use. Breaking the rules can result in a paid editor being banned from Wikipedia, and the article you paid for might be deleted.

Many prominent public relations firms have reaffirmed their organizations’ commitment to following our Terms of Use. In 2013, eleven major PR agencies committed to an agreement to follow “ethical engagement practices,” including disclosure, when editing Wikipedia. In 2014, the president of the United Kingdom’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) said that “there is zero gain to be had for any public relations firms or their clients in subverting the rules of any online community” such as Wikipedia.

Failing to properly disclose paid editing can have other negative consequences for the subject of a Wikipedia article. When violators of the Terms of Use are found and blocked, it often results in significant negative media coverage. For example, when the major PR firm Sunshine Sachs was discovered editing Wikipedia without appropriate disclosure, media coverage focused on specific edits they made to articles removing negative information, proving embarrassing to Sunshine Sachs clients like Naomi Campbell and Mia Farrow.

Someone told me it was better not to disclose, saying that sometimes Wikipedia “targets” paid articles.

Not disclosing paid editing will not prevent others from editing an article about you or your business. Regardless of whether or not you pay for a Wikipedia article or for “monitoring” services, other people are going to edit the article in question. That’s how Wikipedia works. It’s an open, collaborative project that anyone can contribute to.

While Wikipedians are generally committed to useful and positive interactions, “assuming good faith” of other editors’ motives, sometimes individual editors disagree. Such encounters may be a negative experience—especially for people who are unfamiliar with how Wikipedia works. Assuming good faith is an important means of reducing conflict, although some friction is a part of the normal give and take of editorial collaboration.

Should there be a Wikipedia article about me or my company?

Maybe, maybe not.

It may be tempting to want a Wikipedia article about you or your company due to the prominent placement of Wikipedia articles in search engine results. But Wikipedia is first and foremost an encyclopedia, and not every person or business in the world will or should appear in an encyclopedia.

What goes in—and what stays out—of the English Wikipedia depends on a Wikipedia guideline known as “Notability.”  Sometimes people take offense at the word “notability,” thinking that Wikipedia is saying that they or their business are not important to their field or community, but that’s not what Wikipedia editors mean. To an editor, it is just a way of measuring whether or not a particular subject belongs in an encyclopedia, and Wikipedia editors have developed benchmarks for notability in particular fields, such as actors or athletes. If you wish to have a Wikipedia article, please review both the general and specific notability guidelines first.

A major factor in notability on Wikipedia is coverage from reliable secondary sources. Your own webpage, or another publication you created or paid for, is considered a primary source. If there are no secondary sources about you or your business, Wikipedia guidelines and policies currently indicate you should not have a Wikipedia article.

You should also consider that a Wikipedia article may not be the most efficient use of your advertising budget. Are potential customers for a hardware store, consulting business, or restaurant, for example, going to be searching an encyclopedia for these goods and services? Or will it be more effective to focus on a sector-specific resource, such as Yelp, Facebook, or Urbanspoon?

Wikipedia is, after all, an encyclopedia—not a commercial directory.

Robert Fernandez
English Wikipedia administrator

The views expressed in this post are not necessarily those of the Wikimedia Foundation or Wikipedia; responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments section below.

by Robert Fernandez at September 21, 2015 05:14 PM

Priyanka Nag

A lot can happen over coffee....only if you are allowed to sit at a CCD outlet!

Cafe Coffee Day is no more a new name for the youngsters in India. For a warm cup of coffee at an affordable price, thats where we generally go to! But more than the cup of coffee, its the atmosphere of Café Coffee Days which attracts all of us. An informal setup...good beverage and snacks...soothing music (most of the time)...complimentary wi-fi (at many outlets)...well, CCD always had a lot to offer its customers.

Photo source - https://www.zomato.com/pune/cafe-coffee-day-2-koregaon-park

For Siddhartha, coffee always used to be an experience to be offered...not just beans to be grown. I have had my job interview conducted at a CCD outlet. I have hosted and attended several community meetups at different CCD outlets across the country. I have even had my coffee dates at CCDs. Well, truely, a lot has happened in my life over coffee...at different CCD outlets.

Once, Siddhartha himself had spent his new year's eve, serving customers at a Café Coffee Day (CCD) outlet near Calcutta’s Woodburn Street and was surprised by the way a few customers never returned a smile or thanked him for the service! I had totally admired Siddhartha while reading his journey of building CCD.

Then what has suddenly changed so much for CCDs? Is it the pressure of competition from other growing coffee outlets or is it the pride of success? Why has CCD's service suddenly declined so much?

A few of us were sitting at Koregaon Park CCD this weekend. We have been hosting our community meetups at this outlet since 2011. We met at 10am, for our monthly meeting. The place was completely empty. Well, Saturday morning, 10am...we didn't expect much crowd at the CCD outlet anyway. It all began when one of us went up to the counter, to ask for the direction to the washroom. As already stated, we have been hosting our meetings at this venue for the last four years, so we knew for sure that there was a washroom, behind the building. But, to our surprise, the lady at the counter (her name was Laxmi Yalla), just rudely denied the existence of any washroom at that outlet. Surprised, my friend asked her specifically about the one behind the outlet. She replied that it was leaking and thus was closed. There is no issue about a washroom not being available or being closed. The issue was with the way she was talking to us. Using a washroom at a CCD outlet is not a crime, as far as my legal knowledge goes! So, I don't see much reason for someone needing to be rude about being asked the direction to a washroom.

We had not even spent our initial 10 minutes at the outlet when the same lady walked up to our table and in a very rude voice asked us to place the order or leave the place. I was shocked! Never have we been treated this way at any coffee outlets before. Well, we were anyway planning to get a few cups of coffee so we went ahead and placed our orders.

In the middle of our discussion, one of our team members decided to take some notes of the ongoing discussion. He went up to the counter to ask for a tissue paper. Laxmi, drove him away, saying she didn't have tissue papers! Wait, this was now getting a little uncomfortable. The way she was behaving with us, we were starting to get frustrated. No tissue paper at a CCD outlet, you want us to believe that? Well, we still didn't react and went on with our meeting.

It was not even 20 minutes since we had completed out coffees, when the lady came back and this time she screamed at us to leave the place. She said it was a rule that we cannot sit for more than an hour at a CCD outlet and cannot use this place for our meetings. This time it was too much! We all decided to leave the place immediately and never use another CCD outlet for our meetings.

This incident made me wonder, if it was just this one person or if CCD was coming up with these new rules? Was customer service taking a back seat over business? What could be a valid reason for chasing customers away from an empty outlet?

Well, not sure if all of my questions can be answered. But for sure, for a while now, I will not be visiting another CCD outlet and nor will I be able to convince the rest of my community members to visit one! Good experiences are easily forgotten...but a bad experience is tough to wipe out of memory!

by Priyanka Nag (noreply@blogger.com) at September 21, 2015 09:21 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #39, 2015 (September 21, 2015)

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September 21, 2015 12:00 AM

September 18, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

The first smile and photobomb ever photographed

'Willy' smiling. Mary Dillwyn Col. 1853.jpg


The omnipresent smile in today’s photographs has its roots here. Photo from the National Library of Wales, public domain.

The photograph is simply labeled “Willy.” It features a young man with close-cropped hair and dressed in fine clothing, including a collared shirt and jacket. Willy is looking at something amusing off to his right, and the photograph captured just the hint of a smile from him—the first ever recorded, according to experts at the National Library of Wales.

Willy’s portrait was taken in 1853, when he was 18. He was captured on film because he was born into the Dillwyn family from Swansea in Wales, whose photography hobby was inspired by relative-by-marriage Henry Fox Talbot, who invented salt print and the Calotype. Two members of the family were particularly notable: Willy’s father, John Dillwyn Llewelyn, was a botanist who took the earliest-ever photographs of Wales.

This particular photograph, however, was taken by John’s sister Mary, who is important in her own right for being one of the first female Welsh photographers. She was among the first to avoid the formal photography used during that time, favoring smaller cameras with short exposure times that could capture informal moments. With this method, she took photos of Willy smiling, the first-ever pictured snowman, and the famous “peeping” girl—perhaps the world’s first photobomb (see photo, bottom of this page).

This image is just one of 4,500 that the National Library of Wales has released onto the Wikimedia Commons, free for anyone in the world to use. The library’s Jason Evans asserts that these images “are hugely significant to the history of Wales and photography in general. Not only do they highlight Wales’ mid-19th century status as one of the most innovative, industrialized, and technologically advanced countries in the world, but they provide a rare snapshot of life at that time.”

Willy’s smiling image, part of a collection from Mary Dillwyn, “are particularly valuable as such images are so rare from that time. … images like the ‘smile’ and the ‘snowman’ are the first of their kind and that means they will always inspire and capture the imagination,” says Evans. He doesn’t seem to be far off the mark: their images have already been viewed more than six million times.

File:National Library of Wales Wikimedian in Residence project presentation 2015.webm

Six months into the Wikimedian-in-Residence, plenty more than smiles and snowmen have been uploaded. Video by the National Library of Wales, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Evans’ six-month tenure as the library’s Wikimedian-in-Residence, specialized positions that place Wikimedia editors in culture heritage institutions, has been aided by its commitment to open access—the first priority in their 2014–17 strategy document, titled Knowledge for All (pdf), is “access,” including a goal to “further enhance the interfaces that make it possible for users to access and benefit from these materials.” Releasing content on Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons segues nicely with this plan.

These images have been selected by Evans with an eye towards displaying aspects of the library’s collections and illustrating Wikipedia articles. This has resulted in, as Evans told me, “images that span more than a thousand years of history. These range from “family snaps to formal portraits and photo journalism … early illuminated manuscripts, including a sequence of miniatures portraying the battles of Alexander the Great … [and] maps, paintings and early Welsh newspapers.” These will be joined by extracted illustrations from digitized Welsh newspapers, for which a specialized automated tool is being developed.

Once this content is properly categorized, described, and added to articles, it becomes an “educational tool,” Evans says, for teaching about Wales and photography. He’s personally used it to bring in people for training sessions and edit-a-thons at the library, resulting in new or improved articles on topics like Y Wladfa, the Welsh colony in Patagonia (the far southern region of South America).

Look for more of the National Library of Wales’ content—which includes six million books, periodicals and newspapers, 25,000 manuscripts, and nearly one million visual pieces; Evans calls it “one of the great libraries of the world”—on Wikimedia sites over the next six months. Evans is open to collaborating with other institutions and editors; get in touch with him on Wikipedia.

Evans’ position is jointly coordinated between the National Library and Wikimedia UK, an independent organization that supports the Wikimedia movement in the United Kingdom.

Ed Erhart
Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

Sally and Mrs Reed (4095065677).jpg
What was perhaps the world’s first-ever photobomb was captured on film by photographer Mary Dillwyn. Photo from the National Library of Wales, public domain.

by Ed Erhart at September 18, 2015 08:48 PM

Drone photography of Versailles: Lionel Allorge

File:Drone Photography of Versailles - Lionel Allorge.webm

“When you see the gardens from above… it truly reveals all the intricacy, all the details of that work.” Video by Victor Grigas and Reetta Kemppi, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

With a plethora of images available online, it’s easy to think that sharing and using those photos ends with just a click and a save. But using licensed photos without going through the proper procedures can land you in hot water, especially with many images requiring permission or even payment every time they are used.

That’s why Lionel Allorge, a photographer and programmer from France, began to release his photography under free licenses to Wikimedia Commons.

Unlike conventionally copyrighted images, images released under Creative Commons licenses do not require permission with every use. In fact, anyone is allowed to share the images or videos freely, as long as the terms of the license are met.

Allorge, a member of Wikimedia France, became interested in licensing his pictures in this way because he was intrigued by the concept of free licensing. He says he had became frustrated by the tedious process of obtaining permission to use photos he’d found online.

He began to upload his pictures to Wikimedia Commons, and has since provided photos of his hometown as well as of monuments around France.

“I took pictures for Wiki Loves Monuments (WLM), a yearly event where people try to take pictures of places that are of historical interest,” says Allorge. “In France, we are pretty rich with these monuments, so it became kind of like a game to try to take a picture of all of them.”

The Palace of Versailles in Paris is just one example of the numerous Allorge photographed for WLM. In fact, many of the monuments are much lesser known, and photographing them has proved to be a unique challenge.

One of Allorge’s favorite and more recent endeavors involved working with the ToucanWings team to shoot Versailles from the air. Aerial photographs of the palace exist, but those photos were not free to use.

Allorge, along with the ToucanWings team, took many aerial shots of the Palace of Versailles in Paris. Photo by ToucanWings, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

“Everybody was pleased with what we did, especially the people [who run the Palace of Versailles],” he says. “Before, they had to pay to use photos from the sky taken by professionals. Now, because the photos [we took] have a free license, they can reuse it whenever they want.”

Allorge has more recently become involved with “GLAM” projects, where he films and photographs those who work in museums.

“We are working with ceramic factory called Sèvres near Paris, well known for their traditional French ceramics,” explains Allorge. “We are filming the people making those ceramics so we can save that knowledge for future generations.”

He says being able to contribute to Wikipedia in an area that is not a part of his profession has been refreshing. What’s even more exciting for Allorge is how wildly perceptions of Wikipedia have changed over time.

“At first, everyone was suspicious about Wikipedia, not knowing whether it is truthful. But now most people I know trust it as the first place to go when you want to find out about something,” he says.

Because Wikipedia has actively dealt with vandalism on its pages and continues to run without running advertisements, Allorge says his trust in Wikipedia has grown stronger. He adds that it is remarkable that so many, including himself, are dedicated to growing Wikipedia into a accessible and diverse source of knowledge.

“I think the main success factor of Wikipedia is really that it is free as in beer and free as in freedom,” he adds.

Profile by Yoona Ha and Joe Sutherland
Interview by Victor Grigas, Wikimedia Foundation Storyteller

by Yoona Ha, Joe Sutherland and Victor Grigas at September 18, 2015 05:20 PM

September 17, 2015

Content Translation Update

September 17 CX Update: Translation Suggestions and Improved Statistics Page

Several major Content Translation software updates were deployed this week.

The first version of the new article suggestions feature is deployed on the Portuguese Wikipedia. It shows a “Suggestions” button in the translation dashboard, in addition to “In progress” and “Published”. In this first version, clicking the Suggestions button will show a list of featured articles in the English Wikipedia that don’t yet have a version in Portuguese. We plan to add more languages and more types of suggestions in the near future.

Several major updates were done to the Content Translation Statistics special page:

  • The number of pages that were published and later deleted is now shown. (task description)
  • The trend of translations per week is now shown in addition to the all-time tally. (task description)
  • The numbers of published translations and translations in progress were shown in separate charts. This was taking too much space, so now they are shown in one chart in different colors. (code change)
  • The numbers of translations to the current wiki’s language and to all languages were shown in the same chart, which made understanding the number for the current language hard, because by now it’s usually much smaller than the tally for all languages (you are translating a lot! It’s great!). Now these charts are separated, so you can clearly see the growth for your language separately. (code change)
  • Language names in the bar charts were sometimes overflowing on other chart elements. The display was adjusted so that now this shouldn’t happen. (bug report)

Another issue of note: Every time an article was loaded for reading, Content Translation was loading extra information from the server in order to display the gray interlanguage link that help you translate an article to your language. It is now possible to display this link without making this request, so we removed it and Content Translation will waste less time and bandwidth. Thanks to the tireless technical contributor Derk-Jan “TheDJ” Hartman for noticing this. This, however, introduced another problem: in some cases incorrect gray links with language codes such as “en-us” may appear in the list. We hope to fix this soon.

by aharoni at September 17, 2015 10:44 PM

September 16, 2015

Wikimedia Foundation

Writing an open-access encyclopedia in a closed-access world

We’re committed to the open access movement. Photo designed at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, and JakobVoss, public domain.

On Friday, Elsevier, one of the world’s largest academic publishers, announced its recent partnership with the Wikipedia Library—a program that helps editors access reliable sources to improve Wikipedia. The collaboration gave 45 ScienceDirect accounts to Wikipedia volunteers, to use the database’s scholarly literature for research when writing and editing the encyclopedia. The announcement led to a valuable and constructive conversation about open access and the Wikimedia movement.

Wikipedia editors receive free access to content through more than 40 partnerships with publishers in many different fields through a program called the Wikipedia Library. These partnerships allow editors to use otherwise restricted content to improve Wikipedia and to share that knowledge with the public. In order to make this possible, the Wikipedia Library often partners with organizations that haven’t fully embraced the open access movement, and Wikipedia’s editors then add links to their restricted content. As part of a movement committed to open knowledge, why does the Wikipedia Library do this?

First, in the short term, the Wikipedia Library has to serve our readers and editors as best we can, and that means giving them as much access as possible to the best research today. Collaboration with publishers is a compromise: editors summarize paywalled content for our readers, sharing information on Wikipedia that may otherwise never be represented. Citations to these resources do create greater visibility for those publishers, but Wikipedia editors are in no way required to cite them and are encouraged to use open-access sources as well.

While we eagerly await the day when all of the world’s knowledge is truly free, Wikipedia’s volunteer editors need a foundation of high-quality research to create and curate articles for the site’s hundreds of millions of readers each month, even if if that research is sometimes behind a paywall. Editors have received nearly 5,000 accounts from the Wikipedia Library’s partners, and have enriched thousands of articles with their content. Having access to good sources, regardless of whether they are open access, provides an essential tool for ensuring Wikipedia reflects the most current and accurate information.

Whenever an editor cites a partner’s paywalled source, we expect that they include thorough original citation information, including an indicator of any access restrictions, and a link to the version of the content on the partner’s site. These citations allow a reader to track down the version that is most accessible to them.

Unfortunately limited or restricted access is common in today’s research climate. The best research materials may be behind paywalled online holdings or in expensive print journals and monographs. Wikipedia editors will use closed access materials if they are the best sources for advancing our mission of sharing knowledge. As Wikipedian Martin Poulter explained: Wikipedia aims to be an open-access summary of all reliable knowledge—not a summary of only open-access knowledge.

Second, in the long term, we believe that the Wikipedia Library’s work with publishers encourages the publishing community to explore more open-access strategies that share their content with the world. It’s a gradual opening, but citations on Wikipedia bring public attention to paywalled sources, raising demand for easier public access.

Some of our partners have asked us to support access opportunities tied to their donations as well. Newspapers.com encouraged Wikipedia editors to use their “clippings” function, which allows subscribers to turn articles into fair-use, free-to-read webpages, so that they are available to readers without an account. Another partner, Newspaperarchive.com, followed their example by building a similar tool. These changes grow out of the significant pressure that the open-access and scholarly communities have placed on publishers to improve accessibility.

We contribute to this evolution by actively seeking collaboration and support from the open knowledge movement’s biggest advocates: universities, libraries, archives, and the network of organizations that support open-access efforts. Our collaborations with OCLC, SPARC, OA Button, CrossRef, Internet Archive, and Digital Public Library of America allow us to further the dissemination of library and open resources. Using our growing network we help communicate the important shift towards open-access resources.

We will continue raising the profile of open-access projects. The efforts of the Wikipedia Library advance our common mission, and are complementary to the vision of full open access that we also wholeheartedly support.

Third, we’re still looking for ways to improve the ways in which we share free and open information with the world. Wikipedia is a work in progress and needs the help of a diverse community of collaborators to take further action. We have ideas about improving the impact of open access on Wikipedia, but we need your help to realize them:

  • Wikipedia can better communicate to editors the importance of open access (OA) as a way for editors to access reliable and scholarly sources while improving the experience of sharing knowledge for readers.
  • Wikipedia editors need more support in finding and identifying OA sources, pointing out the availability of OA within donated publisher resources, providing links to pre-publication or open repository versions of published research where available, or including ‘see also’ links for closely related OA works.
  • Scholars can create more research initiatives that measure the dynamics between Wikipedia and peer-reviewed literature in terms of impact on editors and readers.
  • Developers can experiment with new tools for Wikipedia readers to find the latest OA research for Wikipedia entries on emerging topics and incorporate full-text discovery services like the Open Access Button, even integrating them as a search tool next to each paywalled reference.
  • The Wikipedia Library can try to arrange free access for all incoming Wikipedia traffic to paywalled articles, or at least an extended preview or open access excerpts for the versions we cite.
  • There are likely many more opportunities, and we need you to share those ideas with the community (please do so through email, or on Wikipedia).

This October, we’ll be co-hosting a global virtual editathon with SPARC to improve our coverage of open access topics on Wikipedia. We would love that you participate. We want more collaborations that engage the community in exploring these issues together with us.

Open-access content on Wikipedia is very important to us, because Wikipedia itself is an open knowledge project. For the longevity and sustainability of Wikipedia, it’s important that the public engage in debates around open access and have a nuanced understanding of the evolving state of access to knowledge. Today we have an encyclopedia to write, but as open access is increasingly embraced we are and will be advocating for it right alongside you.

Jake Orlowitz and Alex Stinson
The Wikipedia Library (email, Twitter)
Wikimedia Foundation

by Jake Orlowitz and Alex Stinson at September 16, 2015 08:04 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

A new wave of Wikipedia scholarship

Ruqin Ren. Photo: “Ruqin” by Ruqin RenOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Ruqin Ren had always seen Wikipedia as a great starting point for her homework. She knew it was popular, and innovative, but had never paid it much thought. It wasn’t until 2012 — after she’d earned her BA degree in Beijing and began her master’s degree at Georgetown University — that she had good reason to take a closer look.

Dr. Adel Iskandar’s course, “New Media: Dissidence, Innovation, Community” required students to contribute Wikipedia articles about war and violence journalism.

“As part of the class assignment, we needed to really learn how to edit wiki articles and participate in the online conversation around each topic,” Ruqin told us. “That gave me a great opportunity to closely observe and think about how collaboration or conflict resolution works in an online knowledge community.”

She liked the material she was studying, but she was more drawn to the dynamics of the community.

“People learn to collaborate or resolve conflicts in the process of making a piece of a good article,” she said. She watched Wikipedians discuss topics and make decisions with fascination. That’s when she decided, in her own words, that “Wikipedia is not only a platform — it is the subject.”

Ruqin decided to write an empirical piece examining the collaboration structure of Wikipedia, and how it influences the performance of the community as a whole: “It’s the editors’ interactive social relations that collectively shaped Wikipedia into what it is now.”

That paper ended up becoming her writing sample when she began applying for PhD programs. She was admitted to several prestigious communications schools, and is currently attending the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications.

We met Ruqin when she was taping a poster to our wall as part of OpenSym 2015, and discussing her research, “The Evolution of Knowledge Creation Online: Wikipedia and Knowledge Processes.”

“My research is still in studying online community network dynamics, collective knowledge production, using social network analysis, semantic analysis and other computational techniques,” she told us. “So it all started with that class!”

Ruqin hopes her research will have a practical impact on how people understand networks, and how to engage conversations in online communities. One area she’s exploring is applying what she’s learned from the Wikipedia experience to other learning practices.

Ruqin says she’s likely to use a Wikipedia assignment in her own syllabus designs.

“We learned to strategically plan before writing; how to collaborate with fellow students in the same article; conflict resolution — how to politely review and modify others’ works. Additionally, students feel a sense of contribution.”

We’re always excited by academics embracing Wikipedia as a topic of study. But we’re especially pleased to see the benefits of Wikipedia assignments taking root in a new generation of academic researchers and thought leaders in education.

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

Joseph Reagle

Selfies and Acceptance?

Like many people, I've often thought of selfies as artifacts of the immature or self-obsessed. Granted, we all have pictures of ourselves, including some taken at arms length. Similarly, we are all somewhat preoccupied with ourselves and our appearance. But those who complain of selfies are speaking of the daily posting of self-portraits to social media. I don't get too upset about them; I've never been tempted to write a screed or shame anyone because of them. I agree with some of the articles in a recent IJoC that we seem to be in the midst of a media-generated moral panic. Ultimately, I find them relatively harmless; as people mature they seem to replace them with pictures of babies or pets! (That's true of me.)

Recently, Val and Noah, two folks I respect and who often challenge my thinking, defended selfies as a type of self-acceptance. I've also been watching YouTube beauty videos from atypically beautiful people including Princess Joules, Stef Sanjati, and Lizzie Velasquez. I think "good for them," even if I cringe a tiny bit at the cosmetically-dependent notions of femininity.

I am sympathetic to some of the selfie defenses. In my article on Fake Geek Girls, I followed Kristina Busse in noting how women's and girls' expressions of geekiness is often policed by men. I don't know if empirically women are more likely to post selfies, but that seems to be the presumption. Accordingly, Se Smith argues that selfie policing is another example of the discounting of women's activities. Similarly, some argue the selfies are often low tech, and those who criticize them do so from the privileged position of a high(er)-brow culture. I'm happy when more women are behind the lens, even if they remain in front of it too.

I'm especially sympathetic to calls for self-acceptance given my own manifold insecurities. I've never considered myself near the circle of the "beautiful people." Even so, if we accept that selfie shaming is a gendered type of policing, does that mean we must condone all selfies? Aren't some selfies still a reflection of a narcissistic or celebrity obsessed culture? Also, aren't they still kind of annoying when they dominate our feeds? And aesthetically, many are blurry and dull. This led Aanand Prasad to argue we should "take better selfies"; "Also, take more of them. But better." While I sometimes appreciate a selfie, I've never wished my feed had more of them. And to say we need more selfies only heightens the complaint most people have with them.

If I simply took my own portrait, people might think it odd, but that's about it. Selfies are controversial because their posting is a social act. Maybe the poster is asking for some type of acceptance, validation, or support? But when does this cross the line into fishing for flattery? We should be cautious of selves built upon flattery. The poster also might be seeking to make others envious? I'm comfortable with the policing of nakedly vain or invidious displays. Another theory is that the poster seeks to transcend acceptance. In posting a selfie, they are saying: this is me, deal with it. I think my punk styling was a bit like that: I'm going to dress in a way that is comfortable for me but freaky to you, and I don't care what you think anyway. However, I accepted the weakness of this argument when a friend asked me if I'd still have a mohawk if I lived on a deserted island. No, I probably wouldn't. The palm trees wouldn't care if I was different, so I doubt I'd bother. I do care what people think, even if it's only to tell them I'm trying not to care.

In short, the self-acceptance argument could be understood as: we accept the importance of appearance, but we want to diversify or queer the standard of what is celebrated. The counter-argument is that we should move beyond appearance all-together.

I'm continuing to reconsider my (largely uninformed) view on selfies, but I'm not yet convinced that they are all wonderful manifestations of self-acceptance. As Senft and Baym wrote, "celebrating all selfies as empowering makes as little sense as denigrating them all as disempowering."

by Joseph Reagle at September 16, 2015 04:00 AM

September 15, 2015


Consumer Reports’ place in nonprofit media

I work for Consumer Reports. Of course I cannot speak for the organization, but I am at Consumer Reports because I care about nonprofit media, and I wish to share some of my thoughts about the state of nonprofit publishing including Consumer Reports’ position among its peers in nonprofit media.

This week Rubert Murdoch purchased media assets of the National Geographic Society, a highly respected nonprofit organization best known for anthropology, nature, and animal journalism. The purchase includes their magazine and video documentary trademarks. Commentators are talking about how National Geographic is no longer a nonprofit publication, for example at The Guardian.

Consumer Reports is one of the few popular media outlets left standing. I wish that being popular and nonprofit were a bigger part of the Consumer Reports brand, because there are only a few big nonprofits out there, and I would call Consumer Reports big. In my opinion, Consumer Reports has until the present made the public relations decision to be modest, and trusted that the relevant audience would recognize their authority without the organization doing much to describe itself. Even right now, it might be the most popular paid-subscription publication in the United States. I do not have the internal Consumer Reports’ numbers at hand, but at its height, I think we had about 8 million combined subscribers to the print and online editions. Right now numbers have dropped, but I am fairly sure that we have not fewer than 3 million print subscribes and 3 million subscribers to the online edition. There are a few things odd happening here – one is that many publications combine subscriptions to print and paper, and if CR did that, then we could claim 6 million subscribers. We have separate subscription lists – almost no publications do that – but in my view, we could and should because the information published is almost the same. If we did any kind of subsciption disclosure, then we could appear in lists like [http://auditedmedia.com/news/blog/2014/february/us-snapshot.aspx this industry report of the most popular American magazines] or Wikipedia’s article for “List of magazines by circulation“. It might be the case that from about 1950-1990 that Consumer Reports was the most popular magazine in the United States, and maybe even the world (unless there was some magazine in India or China with national distribution), but in my time at Consumer Reports I have never seen the subscription numbers framed in that way. It just has not been a priority for the organization. I regret that CR does not appear at all in rankings of magazines by popularity, because I feel that Consumer Reports is losing authority as people in newer generations forget the reputation that it held among older generations. Even with the current number of subscribers, Consumer Reports still might be the most popular subscription publication in the United States. The other contenders for that title have dubious counting systems – the AARP magazine mostly comes with membership to the organization, and not by an explicit request to subscribe. The Game Informer magazine is mostly distributed to anyone making a video game purchase at Game Stop, and again, not by a person making a subscription purchase. Better Homes and Gardens subscriptions are mostly at a discount (cheap or free) because that magazine’s source of revenue is mostly ads and not subscriber request. So if a magazine subscription is defined as someone paying full price for a subscription to a magazine, and not getting on a mailing list as part of some package promotion, then more people purchase Consumer Reports subscriptions than any other magazine. Or perhaps I am wrong or missing data – even with me working at Consumer Reports sometimes it is hard for me to understand our place in the industry, and perhaps I am misunderstanding something, but I think not.

Regarding other nonprofit media outlets – for media companies, both PBS and NPR are experiencing major corporate changes particularly as fewer people support their affiliate system and more people want to access their content online. Switching to online has been a major disruption for them, because people who would give to their local PBS/NPR affiliate during fundraisers no longer are doing that. This profoundly disrupts their operating model and content creation network. Nonprofit public broadcasting has a troubled future without major changes. The stability of PBS is important because it is the only major nonprofit television organization in the United States, and NPR is the only major nonprofit radio organization. I feel that Consumer Reports is comparable to these two as it is the major nonprofit magazine.

As a reminder – there are almost no noncommercial websites which get a lot of traffic. Among the top 500 websites by traffic as currently listed by Alexa Internet, only a few are at least somewhat noncommercial. Wikipedia and Archive.org are the true nonprofits, BBC, NIH.gov (National Institutes of Health), and the US Postal Service are government websites, IKEA and WikiHow purport to be commercial assets of charitably managed organizations. Nonprofit representation online is almost dead already, and what remains will shrink to make room for commercial interests before it will have a chance to grow again. Consumer Reports holds an Alexa rank of 1600, which is a success in some ways. The Pareto Principle says that for any group, 20% of the members will get 80% of the attention, and the other 80% of the member will get the bottom 20% of the attention. Wikipedia is the only nonprofit website getting any of that 80% attention share, and all other nonprofit websites will compete for that bottom 20% of public attention. I wish that online there could be nonprofit media synergy in which all the major media outlets – Wikipedia, PBS, NPR, and Consumer Reports – could collaborate somehow to mutual benefit in all media.

It is possible to be more popular only be being popular and I wonder if Consumer Reports has something to leverage. From some perspectives, Consumer Reports seems less popular, but phrased in other ways, Consumer Reports has a compelling background. Now that National Geographic is for profit, Consumer Reports is almost certainly America’s most popular nonprofit subscription magazine. It might also be the world’s most popular nonprofit subscription publication.

These are just thoughts. I am not sure.

by bluerasberry at September 15, 2015 09:37 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

News on Wikipedia: Australian leadership switch, crane collapse at Mecca, and more

Montage for News on Wikipedia - September 15.jpg

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

Turnbull usurps Australian Prime Ministership

Malcolm Turnbull 2014.jpg
Malcolm Turnbull bested current Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, in a leadership election yesterday. Image by Veni Markovski, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The ruling Liberal Party of Australia, led until yesterday by Tony Abbott, had a surprise leadership spill on September 14. The spill, or snap leadership election, was proposed by Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications under Abbott. In a vote, his party elected him their new leader, and thus Prime Minister of Australia, by 54 votes to 44. It follows weeks of rumours and speculation in the Australian press, with Turnbull refusing to rule out a move to oust Abbott during that time. In a press conference following the result’s announcement, Turnbull affirmed his government would uphold much of Abbott’s policies, ruling out an early election. Turnbull’s success means that Australia will have had four Prime Ministers in just three years.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Liberal Party of Australia leadership spill, September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull

Crane collapses at Grand Mosque

Masjid al-Haram.jpg
The Masjid al-Haram, or the Great Mosque of Mecca, attracts millions every year. Image by XXXshatha, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

A mobile crawler crane collapsed at the Masjid al-Haram, or the Great Mosque of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on September 11 at around 5:30pm local time. The crane collapsed into the roof of the mosque during powerful winds. 111 people in total were killed in the incident, the majority of them pilgrims; the mosque was and still is preparing for the annual Hajj, an essential pilgrimage for Muslims requiring a visit to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. A further 394 people from all over the world were injured in the incident. Saudi Arabian King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud confirmed an investigation would be made into the incident and that the results would be made public. Some onlookers criticised the very presence of the cranes for putting pilgrims’ lives in danger and for “damaging history” through redevelopment of holy sites.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Mecca crane collapse

EU countries temporarily pull out of Schengen

Wien - Völkerwanderung am 5 Sep 2015, Westbahnhof.JPG
Refugees fleeing Syria flooded a train station in Vienna. Image by Bwag, freely licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

As the European migrant crisis worsens, several European Union member states temporarily established border countries to “limit the current inflows” of migrants into the countries. Several countries had in recent weeks defied the Dublin Regulation, which states that migrants registered in one country moving onto another illegally would be returned. On September 13, following a surge of 13,000 migrants into Munich, Germany established border controls along the border with Austria, forcing the Czech Republic to bump up security along their border with Austria. The following day, Austria did the same along their border with Hungary. Though rare, the Schengen agreement allows for such moves, which have previously been applied by Estonia and Malta in lieu of high-profile visits.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: European migrant crisis

Leftist Corbyn becomes leader of opposition

Jeremy Corbyn No More War.jpg
Jeremy Corbyn, initially the outsider for the role, is now the leader of the British Labour party. Image by Garry Knight, freely licensed under CC-BY 2.0.

The Labour Party, the United Kingdom’s second-largest party and the Official Opposition, announced the results of its leadership election on September 12. Standing were Labour MPs Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, and Liz Kendall. Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary was for a long period of time the favourite to win, while Corbyn, the most left-wing of the four candidates, was the outsider. However, a surge of support in August propelled Corbyn into the lead and, despite arguments that voters were registering for membership of the party simply to vote for him, he emerged as the comfortable winner with almost 60 percent of the vote. After his appointment, Prime Minister David Cameron called the party “a threat to our national security, to our economic security and to the security of your family”, while others compared his win to the surge of the Scottish National Party.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party leadership campaign, 2015, Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 2015

New genus of human discovered in South Africa

Homo naledi.jpg
Photos of the holotype of Homo naledi‘s jaw and head. Image by Berger, et al., freely licensed under CC-BY 4.0.

Paleontologists working in the Rising Star Cave system in the “Cradle of Humankind” site in South Africa unearthed fifteen sets of hominid remains, provisionally assigned to the genus Homo—which also comprises humans. Their cranial shape is thought to be similar to early Homo species, and their hands are thought to be better equiped for object manipulation than those species in the Australopithecus genus. Their bodies are thought to have been deliberately disposed of in the cave system upon their deaths. which provides some insight into their behaviour. The fossils have not yet been dated, and some experts argue further analysis is needed before they can be definitively placed into the Homo genus.

Learn more in the related Wikipedia article: Homo naledi

Photo montage credits: “Wien – Völkerwanderung am 5 Sep 2015, Westbahnhof.JPG” by Bwag, CC-BY-SA 4.0; “Homo naledi.jpg” by Berger, et al., CC-BY 4.0; “Jeremy Corbyn No More War.jpg” by Garry Knight, CC-BY 2.0; “Malcolm Turnbull 2014.jpg” by Veni Markovski, CC BY-SA 4.0; “Masjid al-Haram.jpg” by XXXshatha, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Collage by Joe Sutherland

To see how other news events are covered on the English Wikipedia, check out the ‘In the news’ section on its main page.

Joe SutherlandCommunications InternWikimedia Foundation

by Joe Sutherland at September 15, 2015 06:51 PM

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

If Wikipedia required Open Access sources, it would be a lot less useful

On this blog, I use freely licensed images whenever practical. But if I treated that as a rigid policy, I would not be able to show you this sketch, published by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge in 2002, of the proposed casino location.

On this blog, I use freely licensed images whenever practical. But if that were a rigid policy, I’d be unable to show you this sketch, published by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge in 2002, of the proposed casino location.

Starting in 2008 I wrote a Wikipedia article on a proposed casino, to be built in the Columbia River Gorge. I wrote the article because I believed it was an important topic (and an Oregonian reporter and a Harvard scholar agreed); but according to an argument by Michael Eisen, advanced yesterday in the Ars Technica article “WikiGate” raises questions about Wikipedia’s commitment to open access, it “should be difficult” for me to write an article like that.


Today, the article I started has 17 footnotes; and in spite of my deep personal commitment to open (freely licensed) content, not a single one of the articles I cited was published under a free license. Many are not even available online without a paid subscription. In other words, none of them is an instance of what’s known as “open access (OA) publishing,” in which the publisher permits republication with minimal copyright restrictions.

Is it strange that I should write an article that cites non-OA articles? I don’t think so. In choosing the topic, I — like many Wikipedians — was making a conscious effort to counter what is known as FUTON (FUll Text On the ’Net) bias. I was specifically trying to shed some light on a topic that was opaque to many stakeholders (in this case, the citizens of Oregon and Washington). A great deal of the information about this important topic was unavailable on the open web; my purpose in writing the Wikipedia article was to bring that information out into the open. Indeed, the result — intentionally — was a freely licensed article published on the open web. In other words, an “open access” article, rooted in non-OA sources.

FUTON bias is a fact of the modern world. If some information can be easily found by a Google or Bing search, while other information requires a subscription and, therefore, a more focused search, the openly available information will be easier to find. Wikipedia, a project whose central vision is explicitly devoted to “the sum of all knowledge,” should resist this kind of bias at every opportunity.

Eisen’s position is rooted in the long-term effects of using OA or non-OA sources. He was distressed to find that Wikipedia was working with publisher Elsevier, to help them give 45 Wikipedia volunteers free access to otherwise non-free scholarly articles. To be fair, Eisen did not argue that Wikipedia editors should never use proprietary databases, or that we should avoid citing copyrighted source materials altogether. Rather, his position is that Wikipedia as an institution should not endorse free access for Wikipedians to such databases, and that Wikipedia as a publication should not include links to articles that are unavailable on the open web.

But even this position overlooks Wikipedia’s core purpose. Although Wikipedia values openness and free licensing in both its editorial culture and its policies, the very first policy states that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia; as such, Wikipedia is devoted to all knowledge — not merely knowledge whose expression meets a certain criterion of openness.

When I discussed this with Eisen on Twitter, it turned out his position was rooted in a concern that access would be given out in consideration of how much Wikipedians link directly to Elsevier’s articles. But that is not the case. The page outlining the conditions for gaining access explicitly states that Wikipedians “must follow scholarly and/or Wikipedia best practices when using those source (sic) for their work“.

Furthermore, access to the free accounts is approved not by an Elsevier or even a Wikimedia Foundation employee, (correction: in the Elsevier case she does work for the Foundation, unlike some other access partnerships) but by a longtime Wikipedia volunteer. I asked her; she affirmed that she considers only the stated requirements when giving out the accounts.

All in all, I think Wikipedians and OA advocates alike can agree that the discussion prompted by the article was worthwhile and healthy. But the outcome, I believe, illustrates that when Wikipedians take on a project that could conflict with closely held values, they have usually thought it through. That’s not to say Wikipedians always get it right, or that there’s no room for debate; but on licensing issues in particular, I think Wikipedia usually does a good job of balancing complex, and sometimes competing, concerns.

by Pete Forsyth at September 15, 2015 04:03 PM

Content Translation Update

Pellegrino Turri is the 20,000th Article Created Using Content Translation

The article Pellegrino Turri, translated from English to Italian by user MassimoGuarnieri, is the 20,000th page published using Content Translation since the tool was first enabled as a beta feature in January 2015.

Turri was a 19th-century Italian inventor best known for building one of the first typewriters, which he made for a blind friend of his, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano. Their story also inspired a novel, The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace.

About 1200 articles have been published every week in all languages since the the Content Translation beta feature was enabled in Wikipedia in all languages in early July.

We are enormously thankful to each and every one of the many hundreds of people who are participating in this: new editors and veteran Wikipedians who translate articles, help others make translations better, report constructive bugs, write translation guides adapted to their home wikis, making useful feature suggestions, and fixing technical issues in their wikis that breaks ContentTranslation. We are humbled to see that our work is helping the editors community to fulfill Wikimedia’s famous mission statement—a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Stay tuned, as we are going to announce more updates that will make the translators’ and the editors’ work even more efficient and comfortable.

by aharoni at September 15, 2015 01:07 PM

September 14, 2015

Weekly OSM

weekly 268


Marble Maps for Android

Marble Maps for Android [1]


  • User maning reminds us of “passive data sources” for mapping.
  • The discussion on this User Diary entry by deejoe confirms that the Great Lakes of North America are best mapped with “natural=coastline”.
  • Orthophoto littorale V2, a collection of aerial images for the French coast, is available since some weeks. They will soon be available for use in JOSM. The benefits of this imagery is that it gives a consistent view of the coast, taken at low tide and the same meteorologic conditions. (via talk-fr)
  • The aerial layer of Mapbox, which is available for mapping on OpenStreetMap for quite some time, includes now new, high resolution imagery of New Zealand.
  • Mapbox advertises its “OSM QA Tiles” as a basis for parallelised data analysis with turf.js. The tiles are available for download on osmlab.github.io or can be produced with the help of Minjur and tippecanoe. The German Wochennotiz  recommends the use of it 😉
  • Brian Prangle (of Mappa Merica) describes a new project that will run in collaboration with the Birmingham City Council : an Urban Traffic Monitoring SystemHe is looking for input on the proposed wikipage.
  • Joachim (Jojo4u) asks the tagging mailing list for input on the Site relation proposal, which he tries to revive.
  • A suggestion from Trimble for a tuck tuck vehicle as a mapping mobile for OpenStreetMap .
  • The discussion about deleting abandoned railroads (we reported on several occasions) is a never ending story. Russ Nelson complained to the talk list that motivated potential rail road mapper will be scared.
  • Jakob Mühldorfer asks how one should map the Oktoberfest in Munich.


  • Ilya Zverev complains that Xxzme still makes rogue edits in the wiki after his ban of 3 months.
  • Math1985 created a wiki page with all chains of shops in Netherlands. The list is discussed on the Dutch forum. In the past he worked on the wiki for retail chains in Great-Britain which was initially created by SK53.
  • Christian Rogel asks the French community to map more outreach facilities (“groupe de service communautaire” and “agent de proximité” in French). He states that a lot of places operated by e.g. “Secours catholique”, “Croix-Rouge” (non-medical facilities) and “Armée du Salut” are missing.
  • Tristam Gräbener, who works for a train-booking company, wants to make a nice map of railways. He knows the transport style from Andy Allan, but thinks that the local lines are too much emphasized. He asks for help. 
  • The GraphHopper blog has moved.
  • DEBIGC reports about the MapLesotho-Mapillary Challenge.
  • Peter Karich and Stefan Schröder the developers behind the open source projects GraphHopper and jsprit received one of the five main awards in the “start-up competition – ICT Innovation” of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy on Friday, September 9th at the Internationale Funkausstellung in Berlin for their business idea “Graph Hopper Directions API“. The award is endowed with 30,000 Euros. Congratulations!


  • Albin Larsson has deleted the two largest multipolygons of CLC06 land use Import in Finland. They were 80 x 120 km across and most of the time they were broken. He now records slowly and by hand the new areas, meanwhile, the map retains bright spots.
  • Sander Deryckere updates the database behind the tool for the address import in Flanders with the latest information from AGIV CRAB. In case you are interested, the approved procedure for the import can be found on the wiki.


Humanitarian OSM

  • HOT announces the alpha release of their export tool.
  • A one-day “open mapping workshop” was organised in Castries, St. Lucia and Kingston, Jamaica as part of the World Bank-DFID cooperation for Open Data Support in the Caribbean.
  • The President of Tanzania visited personally the Africa Open Data Conference. (via @RamaniHuria)
  • Tyler Radford tweeted about mapping at #africaopendata for flood resilience.
  • Raimondiand calls for mapping Syrian refugee camps. He has started to map one in Iraq.


  • Under the auspices of the White House an open-source map of the United States has been published along with source code.
  • Marta Poblet describes OpenStreetMap as a figurehead in an article about the importance of spatial data.
  • Open Knowledge Ireland has visualized together with the OSM community waiting lists of hospitals.
  • With Map On Shirt you can print T-shirts or pillows with an OSM map section of your choice.


Other “geo” things

  • An article on MarketWatch.com for using indoor positioning in shopping malls and why techniques like iBeacons from Apple are not as successful as initially thought.
  • Google “tracks your every move“.  See your moves in your timeline. Did you know that? Do you like it? If you don’t like it, you can deactivate tracking on the timeline link above.
  • The Israeli company PhantomAlert has accused the Google subsidiary Waze, which determines the flow of traffic on roads by crowdsourcing, of having unlawfully used POI data from PhantomAlert. Easter Eggs are mentioned as evidence. VICE reported and Spatially Adjusted describes the Easter Eggs and cite the OSM Wiki.
  • Competition works. Google introduced a new pricing plan. Maybe a result of Foursquare’s switch2OSM. :)
  • Lisa Gutermuth gives a presentation on their research regarding Privacy in the use of satellite imagery in agriculture.

by weeklyteam at September 14, 2015 04:09 PM