July 28, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Community digest: I moved to Germany to help organize the Wikimedia Conference

Teele Vaalma of Wikimedia Estonia recalls her time in Germany and her work in helping to organize the annual Wikimedia Conference.

by Teele Vaalma at July 28, 2016 08:03 PM

Android app now offers new ways to browse Wikipedia and find trending, recommended articles

The updated Wikipedia app for Android features a completely redesigned home screen, now including the explore feed, in addition to other new features and improvements.

by Dmitry Brant at July 28, 2016 04:26 PM

Joseph Reagle

'Calculability, quantification, datafication'

I recently noted that datafication has a Wikipedia article. This is another term for a phenomenon I usually speak of as quantification, following Ritzer and Rescher. I figured I should start keeping a list of related terms and uses; if you’ve encounter a similar term, please leave it in the comments. If nothing else, this could be used to improve the Wikipedia articles.

For enlightenment, anything which does not conform to the standard of calculability and utility must be viewed with suspicion. (AdornoHorkheimer 1979, p. 3)

Calculability or quantity rather than quality: Quality is notoriously difficult to evaluate. How do we assess the quality of a hamburger, or physician, or a student? Instead of even trying, in an increasing number of cases, a rational society seeks to develop a series of quantifiable measures that it takes as surrogates for quality. This urge to quantify has given great impetus to the development of the computer and has, in turn, been spurred by the widespread use and increasing sophistication of the computer. (Ritzer 1983, p. 103)

Synopsis: (1) Measurement is more than a matter of mere quantification; only in special cases do quantities actually measure something. (2) Quantification in and of itself is no guarantor of objectivity. And actual measurements, though indeed sufficient for objectivity, is certainly not necessary to it. Objectivity, after all, does not require quantification. (Rescher 1997, “Objectivity”, p. 75)

The Regime of Computation, then, provides a narrative that accounts for the evolution of the universe, life, mind, and mind reflecting on mind by connecting these emergences with computational processes that operate both in human-created simulations and in the universe understood as software running on the “Universal Computer” we call reality. This is the larger context in which code aquires special, indeed universal, significance. In the Regime of Computation, code is understood as the discourse system that mirrors what happens in nature and that generates nature itself. (Hayles 2005, “My Mother Was a Computer”, p. 27)

This book is not about computers. It is instead about a set of widespread contemporary beliefs about computers [computationaism]—beliefs that can be hard to see as such because of their ubiquity and because of the power of computers themselves. More specifically, it is about the methods computers use to operate, methods referred to generally as computation. Computation—as metaphor, method, and organizing fram—occupies a privileged and under-analyzed role in our culture. Influential new concepts often emerge alongside technological shifts—they emerged alongside the shifts to steam power, electricity, and television, for example (see, e.g., Marvin 1988). (Golumbia 2009, p. 1)

Given this massive scale, it is tempting to understand big data solely in terms of size. But that would be misleading. Big data is also characterized by the ability to render into data many aspects of the world that have never been quantified before; call it “datafication.” For example, location has been datafied, first with the invention of longitude and latitude, and more recently with GPS satellite systems. Words are treated as data when computers mine centuries’ worth of books. Even friendships and “likes” are datafied, via Facebook. (CukierMayer-Schoenberger2013rbd)

However compelling some examples of applied Big Data research, the ideology of dataism shows characteristics of a widespread belief in the objective quantification and potential tracking of all kinds of human behavior and sociality through online media technologies. Besides, dataism also involves trust in the (institutional) agents that collect, interpret, and share (meta)data culled from social media, internet platforms, and other communication technologies. (VanDijk2014ddd, p. 198)

by Joseph Reagle at July 28, 2016 04:00 AM

July 27, 2016

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Wikipedia seeks to speak your language

Wikipedia readers speak many languages, so it's not a surprise that sometimes they search for phrases not in the language of the wiki that they’re currently reading. We're changing that by adding language detection to Wikipedia's search engine.

by Deborah Tankersley at July 27, 2016 07:43 PM

In a world filling with artificial intelligence, how will our laws and society adapt?

Artificial intelligence is something that already impacts our day-to-day lives, and it even reaches hoary professions like law. Four panelists met at the Wikimedia Foundation's offices on July 19 to discuss the law and emerging technologies, like driverless cars and lethal autonomous weapons.

by Stanton Kidd at July 27, 2016 07:05 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

New online orientation helps instructors find articles for assignments

Wikipedia Content Expert, Ian Ramjohn
Wikipedia Content Expert in the Sciences, Ian Ramjohn

Picking the right Wikipedia article for student editors is an exciting, but challenging, task. Topics for term papers can be re-used every year, because only the instructor reads them. The social and instructional benefit of a Wikipedia project come from the thousands of people can read— and benefit from—what students have written.

This means finding articles for each class. These articles should be high impact in a field, but not well-developed on Wikipedia. Of course, article selection will differ based on the goals of your assignment. A writing course may allow students to work on any topic that interests them. A fungal diversity course may have a narrower set of options.

So, where is an instructor to begin? We’re here to help. We’ve created a new online orientation that helps instructors find articles to work on. It offers helpful ideas for navigating Wikipedia’s quality rankings, categories, and WikiProjects.

Typically, good articles for students to improve are:

1. Rated low-quality but high-importance by a WikiProject. That’s a group of Wikipedians who share an interest in a specific topic on Wikipedia. Often, these volunteers make lists of articles that need attention.

2. Covered in some depth by two or more independent, fact-checked or peer-reviewed sources.

3. Not controversial. Students should avoid heated discussions that might stir a lot of passions. Choose articles where a first-timer can make a meaningful contribution from the start.

I hope this new orientation module helps both new and experienced instructors find articles for students to improve. Wiki Ed’s Wikipedia Content Experts (Adam Hyland and I) are always on hand to answer questions. We can let you know about articles in your academic area that need improvement.

If you’re already teaching with Wikipedia, I hope this helps streamline your article selection process. If you haven’t taught with us yet, I hope you’ll see the impact your course can have on Wikipedia.

You can always reach out to learn more about teaching with Wikipedia. Send us an e-mail: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Searching, by Strevo. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

by Ian Ramjohn at July 27, 2016 04:00 PM

WMF Release Engineering

Sponsored Phabricator Improvements

In T135327, the WMF Technical Collaboration team collected a list of Phabricator bugs and feature requests from the Wikimedia Developer Community. After identifying the most promising requests from the community, these were presented to Phacility (the organization that builds and maintains Phabricator) for sponsored prioritization.

I am very pleased to report that we are already seeing the benefits of this initiative. Several sponsored improvements have landed on https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/ over the past few weeks. For an overview of what's landed recently, read on!


The following tasks are now resolved:

Notice three of those have task numbers lower than 2000. Those long-standing tasks date from the first months of WMF's Phabricator evaluation and RFC period. When those tasks were originally filled, Phabricator was just a test install running in WMF Labs. For me, It's especially satisfying to close so many long-standing issues that have effected many of us for more than a year.

Work in Progress

Several more issues were identified for sponsorship which are still awaiting a complete solution. Some of these are at least partially fixed and some are still pending. You can find out more details by reading the comments on each task linked below.

Other recent changes

Besides the sponsored features and bug fixes, there are several other recent improvements which are worth mentioning.

Milestones now include Next / Previous navigation

Recurring calendar events also gained next / previous navigation

New feature for Maniphest tasks: dependency graph

This very helpful feature displays a graphical representation of a task's Parents and Subtasks.

Initially there was an issue with this feature that made tasks with many relationships unable to load. This was exacerbated by the historical use of "tracking tasks" in the Wikimedia Bugzilla context. Thankfully after a quick patch from @epriestley (the primary author of Phabricator) and lots of help and testing from @Danny_B and @Paladox, @mmodell was able to deploy a fix for the issue a little over 24 hours after it was discovered.

Here's to yet more fruitful collaborations with upstream Phabricator!

by mmodell (Mukunda Modell) at July 27, 2016 03:25 PM

July 26, 2016

Magnus Manske

WDQ, obsolete?

Since a few years, I run the WikiData Query tool (WDQ) to provide a query functionality to Wikidata. Nowadays, the (confusingly similarly named) SPARQL-based WDQS is the “official” way to query Wikidata. WDQS has been improving a lot, and while some of my tools still support WDQ, I deliberately left that option out of new tools like PetScan. But before I shut down WDQ, and the tools that use it, for good, I wanted to know if it is still used, and if SPARQL could take over.

I therefore added a query logger to Autolist1 and Autolist2. The logs contain all WDQ queries run through those tools. I will monitor the results for a while, but here is what I saw so far. I will comment on translating the query to SPARQL using WDQ2SPARQL, the general ability for such queries, and the performance of WDQS. “OK” means the query could be converted automatically to SPARQL, runs, and produces a similar (as in, equal or more up-to-date) result.

WDQ Comment
CLAIM[279:13219666]  OK
BETWEEN[569,1016-1,1016-12]  BETWEEN not implemented in WDQS, but manual translation feasible
(CLAIM[1435:10387684] OR CLAIM[1435:10387575]) AND NOCLAIM[380] AND NOCLAIM[481]  OK
BETWEEN[569,1359-1,1359-12]  BETWEEN not implemented in WDQS, but manual translation feasible
CLAIM[31:5]  All humans ~3.2M humans on Wikidata. Not really a useful query in these tools.
Q22686  Single item. Doesn’t really need a query?
Q22686  Single item. Doesn’t really need a query?
CLAIM[106:170790] AND CLAIM[27:35]  OK
CLAIM[195:842858]  OK
Gustav III  What the hell?
claim[17]  All items with “country”. Not really a useful query in these tools.
claim[31]  All items with “instance of”. Not really a useful query in these tools.
claim[106:82955] and claim[509:(tree[12078][][279])]  OK
claim[31:5]   All humans ~3.2M humans on Wikidata. Not really a useful query in these tools.
claim[31:5]   All humans ~3.2M humans on Wikidata. Not really a useful query in these tools.
claim[21]  All items with gender. Not really a useful query in these tools.
LINK[lvwiki] AND CLAIM[31:5]  OK
LINK[lvwiki] AND CLAIM[31:5]  OK
claim[27] and noclaim[21]  OK
LINK[lvwiki] AND CLAIM[31:56061]  OK
LINK[lvwiki] AND tree[56061][150][17,279]  OK
claim[31:(tree[16521][][279])]  OK

As far as I can tell, SPARQL could take over for WDQ immediately.

by Magnus at July 26, 2016 02:03 PM

Gerard Meijssen

Have #Wikipedia share the sum of available #knowledge

If Wikipedia is to succeed in sharing the sum of all knowledge, it has to first share the sum of available knowledge. To do this Wikipedians have to become more inclusive. They have to realise that Wikipedia is not about them but about its readers.

Typically the question "What do readers want" is answered by what readers find. This answer has one flaw. It assumes that Wikipedia includes what people seek and it forgets what people seek and do not find. This is a lost opportunity on many levels. To start with, Wikipedia is not singular and a subject may exist in another language. As we do not know what is missed, we do not know what to write to satisfy an existing demand. Finally more and more available information does not even have a Wikipedia article but its information is available in other projects.

A partial solution to these issues was around for a long time. It extends search by adding results from Wikidata. It allows you to find data in any script from any project. If there was no article, it shows information using the Reasonator. It is relatively easy to revive this and it will make even more sense when it results are included as positive results.

Once Wikipedians consider Wikidata as a tool, they will find that both red links and wiki links may link to Wikidata items. Typically they are the same links for the same subject in any language. This is relevant to editors because it is one way to clarify what links exist to an article and, it is only one step away to annotate them as statements in Wikidata and thereby document such links. They will find a lot of erroneous links and it will improve overall quality.

The good news, the links between wiki links and Wikidata items already exist. What is lacking is a verification process that these wiki links are good. Adding links to statements for red links is technically not that hard. It will add some turmoil at the Wikidata end; many items will be added and will have to be merged eventually. One benefit of this approach is that it is not necessary for everyone to collaborate but it will benefit the people that matter most; all the readers of all the Wikipedias.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 26, 2016 09:20 AM

July 25, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Why I contribute to Wikisource

Hrishikes Sen has nearly 30,000 edits across the Wikimedia projects, most of them made on Wikisource. Here, he discusses the motivations behind his work and what Wikisource can bring to the world.

by Hrishikes Sen at July 25, 2016 09:10 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Whistleblowing

Wikipedia assignments have always cultivated a critique of where information comes from. Analyzing who writes Wikipedia, and the impact that has on what it covers, is a compelling lesson in media literacy.

Students in Naniette Coleman’s Sociology of Mass Media course at UMass Lowell are thinking about information in a different way. Many of those students are developing Wikipedia’s coverage of the theory, history, and practice of whistleblowing.

That includes contributions to a wide-view article on whistleblower laws in the United States. That article was marked as needing attention since January. Thanks to a student in the course, it finally got it.

They also focused on narrower applications of whistleblowing protections.

Another student editor’s article on nuclear whistleblowers discusses nuclear engineers who have flagged safety concerns. The article was expanded with information on the curious case of the Crystal River 3 plant. Concerns about the safety of that plant lead to a kind of hostile takeover bid, where shares of the company were purchased in order to force a shareholder’s resolution to close the plant down.

Students in this class are still working on finalizing their contributions, but we’re excited to see the impact they’ve already had on articles that explore legal protections and controversies around whistleblowing.

Photo: Whistle by adil113, CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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


Artistic impressions

Art in black and white is something that is always striking. In early times, when printing technology was still underdeveloped, the woodcut was the choice for illustration. Particularly interesting are the early illustrations of animals and plants. One of the earliest and best known examples of animal illustration printed using the woodcut technique was that of Albrecht Dürer. His rhinoceros of 1515 is something that has been widely written about. First done in ink (facing left) it was converted by the printmaking technique of the woodcut into a classic image (facing right due to the process by which it is made).

The BBC has a nice piece on the history of this rhinoceros and its significance.

Looking at the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in the 1840s gives one a good idea of how intricate the art of the woodcut had become by then. Print makers had moved from wood to limestone - using the technique of lithography. With colour washes and multiple impressions on paper they were able to produce colour prints or chromolithographs. The black areas were covered with wax or oil and the uncovered areas were treated with weak acid causing the areas to be depressed. The block was then painted using flat rollers and then pressed on to paper (once for black and white and multiple times for colour) to produce the prints. The process sometimes involved the use of a delineator, a colorist and a printer. One could argue about who among the three is the actual copyright owner here ! The process was expensive but the results were spectacular. The expense meant that journals like the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London had options for subscribers to opt for versions with or without the plates. One of the downsides of the technique was in the representation of molluscs and crabs which are often not bilaterally symmetric. Most snail shells, for instance, are coiled so that when the apex is above the aperture opens to the right - so called dextral and only the rare few have left-handed coils  (termed sinistral from which is derived the word sinister). Mirrored images aside, the masters of the art produced works that continue to have a life-like glow. Modern exponents like Robert Gillmor continue to produce such amazing works with modifications to this basic technique such as the Linocut.

Here is a sampling from the 19th century. Click on the images for viewing them in better resolution.

G. H. Ford
Ford seems to have specialized in black and white illustrations of reptiles and amphibians.

W. Mitchell

John Gerrard Keulemans (1842 - 1912)

Thriponax kalinowskii

Spilornis cheela pallidus

Calyptomena hosii

W. Purkiss

Ornithoptera victoriae

Joseph Wolf (1820 - 1899)

Anathana elliotti

Joseph Smit (1836 – 1929)
Note: Smit (and possibly his son Pierre) was responsible for many of the woodcuts that are used in the Fauna of British India (edition 1) and reused in the Fauna of British India (edition 2) as well as in Ali & Ripley's "Handbook".


Testudo trimeni

Frederic Moore (1830 - 1907)

Moore's greatest contribution to India was the Lepidoptera Indica, a work that he did not live to see to completion. Those who have seen the images in this work will not fail to be impressed. Most of the illustrations here were made by his son F. C. Moore. Moore senior also appears to have been artist, but it appears that considerable care is needed in identifying the works of the two. More than two hundred years later, the butterflies in his tomes seem almost ready to fly out of the pages.

All of the above images (and more by Gould, Richter, Hewitson, Westwood) are on the Wikimedia Commons image repository and being in public domain are ready for reuse in yet another century.

7 June 2011 - Found out that Frederic Moore's son was F. C. Moore
and the Biodiversity Heritage Library has completed the scanning of Lepidoptera Indica
The original scans are linked below
Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 (copy of 3)
Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6 Volume 7
Volume 8 Volume 9 Volume 10

1 November 2011 - All the images from Lepidoptera Indica volumes 1 to 10 have been extracted and can be found under the following category on Wikimedia Commons

Further reading
* Allmon, WD (2007) The evolution of accuracy in natural history illustration. Archives of natural history 34 (1): 174–191.
* Terms and techniques

by Shyamal L. (noreply@blogger.com) at July 25, 2016 09:41 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #30, 2016 (July 25, 2016)

This document has a planned publication deadline (link leads to timeanddate.com).
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July 25, 2016 12:00 AM

July 24, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

A change of perspective is needed in Wikimedia-GLAM cooperation

Barbara Fischer, the GLAM coordinator at Wikimedia Germany, believes that the movement is at a turning point in GLAM activities and that a change of perspective is needed.

by Barbara Fischer at July 24, 2016 09:39 AM

Wikimedia Research Newsletter, June 2016

Using deep learning to predict article quality; search engine helps school kids navigate Chinese Wikipedia; talk page sentiment With contributions by: Morten Warncke-Wang, Liang (WMTW), Tsung-Ho Liang and Tilman Bayer

by Tilman Bayer at July 24, 2016 03:38 AM

July 23, 2016

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

Baseball in a Wikidojo

A dojo is a great place to prepare to write a wiki page! Photo licensed CC BY 2.0, Flickr user "superwebdeveloper".

A dojo is a great place to prepare to write a wiki page! Photo by Flickr user “superwebdeveloper”, licensed CC BY 2.0.

When we started the monthly Bay Area WikiSalon meetups a few months back, I was eager to try out a newly-invented way for a group to build a wiki page together. The purpose of a Wikidojo, as the event is called, is twofold. Of course, it’s a way to quickly build a page. But much more importantly to me, and to the purpose of the WikiSalon series, is that everybody involved learns something from seeing how other people approach the task. How does an experienced editor add a footnote? Where does a new editor stumble? How do you add a photo? What’s up with categories and talk pages, anyway? Watching somebody at work, and hearing them describe what they’re doing and why, can be tremendously informative and inspiring.

So at our June event, I proposed that we try out a Wikidojo, and write a Wikipedia article together. It was a delightful experience, though as you’ll see below, it didn’t go exactly as I had expected!

Eugene and Ben got the article started.

Eugene and Ben got the article started. If you look closely in the background, you can see the article growing…

Peter and Andrea continue the fun...

…Peter and Andrea continued the fun…

...Wayne, an experienced Wikimedian, showed Mike how to add a photo to the article. Photos by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, licensed CC BY-SA.

…Wayne, an experienced Wikimedian, showed Mike how to add a photo to the article. Photos by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, licensed CC BY-SA.

I offered the group a few suggested topics, and was pleased that they preferred my first pick. We wrote about the Ghost Town Royals, a little league baseball team (and league) founded a decade ago in Oakland, with the aim of offering kids an alternative to the street life all too many get drawn into. It’s a topic close to my heart: the league is in my neighborhood, and presents opportunities to kids with big needs. The topic passes Wikipedia’s rigorous notability standard, in that it’s been covered in several news articles; but it’s something most people would have a hard time learning about even if they knew what they were looking for, because much of the news coverage doesn’t easily show up in a web search. (You can see the results of our work at the link above.)

The Wikidojo model was invented by Nikola Kalchev, inspired by  Vassia Atanassova’s 2014 talk about educational approaches with wiki; and it has been conducted in many places around the world. I learned about it from my friend Asaf Bartov, and was immediately drawn to the seductively simple idea: everybody takes a seven minute turn at building a wiki page, as the “pilot.” Every pilot has a “copilot,” who engages them in discussion during their shift. And everybody else gets to listen and absorb what’s going on.

Asaf (and various online writeups and videos) had warned me of the common pitfalls. Above all, I was supposed to be rigid on one point…ensure that the audience keeps quiet! That’s necessary, I was assured, to permit the “magic” to develop between the pilot and the copilot, and to permit each team to approach the task in their own way without too much interference or distraction.

Well, there’s only one thing to say on that point: I failed. After the very first round, I was seduced by an eager participant to mix it up. Our second copilot wanted to act as a facilitator, moving around the room with the microphone, to take suggestions and comments from the audience. To be honest, I didn’t want to do that — I knew this was just the thing Asaf had warned me about. But I’m a sucker for enthusiasm, and our copilot had it in spades. So we gave that a shot. To my eye, it made it more difficult for the pilot, who had a cacophony of ideas coming from multiple sources, making it difficult to chart his own course — which is the main thing Wikidojo is designed to showcase. It was also difficult to get back to the original format, as the audience enthusiasm for voicing suggestions lasted into the later rounds. But, my preferences aside, a show of hands afterward (9 to 7 vote?) indicated it was actually the preferred approach. So, this might be a variant to be explored further. As I see it, there’s so much experimentation built into the activity to begin with, that changing the format midstream is disorienting. I’d advise anyone trying a Wikidojo for the first time to be clear about the rules from the beginning (one way or another), and stick with them throughout the event.

This photo was already stored on Wikimedia Commons, making it accessible for inclusion in an article. Photo by Flickr user "wildernice," licensed CC BY 2.0.

This photo was already stored on Wikimedia Commons, making it accessible for inclusion in an article. Photo by Flickr user “wildernice,” licensed CC BY 2.0.

Another factor that made it tough to stick to the original format was…me. I wasn’t so great at following my own rules! Several times, I jumped in with suggestions for the pilot and copilot. I tried to restrain myself, but in some cases I think it was the right thing to do. For instance, the topic we had chosen has only sparse media coverage, and because I had researched it prior to the event, I knew some approaches to searching that would prove to be time-consuming dead ends. I didn’t think having a team take up most of their seven minutes in a fruitless search would be very satisfying, so I intervened. And at another point, a new wiki editor suggested adding an image to the article. He wasn’t worried about it being perfect for the article, as he was mainly interested in learning the process; the pair seemed poised to run a time-consuming search for an image which, at best, would have yielded a photo under copyright, and complications that couldn’t be resolved in the allotted time. I again jumped in, to suggest adding an unrelated photo of a child playing baseball. I think it was a good suggestion, as it permitted them to successfully post a picture in the time allotted.

Overall, I had a lot of fun, and am looking forward to trying it out again. Before encountering the Wikidojo model, I have often wanted to engage a larger group in improving an article in person, but I didn’t see any effective way to do it. Edit-a-thons tend to follow a less formal structure than Wikidojo; at an edit-a-thon, smaller groups typically form. That’s a great approach too, but can limit cross-pollination of ideas. Wikidojo is much better suited to a shared experience and shared learning.

The informal feedback I heard was positive; participants enjoyed watching each other work, and a number of people learned new wiki skills. There were some good suggestions, as well; I have collected more detailed notes and feedback on this wiki page. The next time I do it, I think I’d choose a less esoteric topic, that’s easier to research, and that the audience already knows to some degree. But even with a few unexpected twists and turns, it was a lot of fun, and it stimulated some great discussion about how different people approach wiki.

Our June event also featured an informative and fun presentation by staff of the San Francisco Public Library and OCLC; watch the video here. And this month, we look forward to a meetup at San Francisco hacker space Noisebridge, in which we’ll focus on the Wikipedia article on basic income.

by Pete Forsyth at July 23, 2016 07:09 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikipedia - #GMO controversy as a red herring

#Wikipedia has/had a big discussion on the safety of GMO food. When you read from what the Signpost has to say; it is only about the safety for people to eat this stuff.

The problem is that many promises have been made and this is only one issue, not even the most relevant issue. Read the article "20 years of failure" by Greenpeace or reads its rebuttal to what some Nobel Prize winners had to say.

The question if it is safe to eat is only one. The question if it will do us any good is more relevant. It does not bring us a more reliable food supply. It will not bring us more resiliency against climate change and it is very much in doubt that "golden rice" actually brings additional vitamins while a balanced diet does.

The important point of Greenpeace is that it backs its assertions with science. It is not in it for the money and its aim? A world that we can live in.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 23, 2016 06:50 AM

July 22, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia edit-a-thon, 72 hours long, is recognized with a Guinness World Record

Wikimedia Mexico and Museo Soumaya partnered for the event, named #72HorasConRodin for the "progenitor of modern sculpture."

by Andrés Cruz y Corro and María Fernanda López at July 22, 2016 08:10 PM

Santhosh Thottingal

A short story of one lakh Wikipedia articles

At Wikimedia Foundation, I am working on a project to help people translate articles from one language to another. The project started in 2014 and went to production in 2015.

Over the last one year, a total of 100,000 new artcles were created across many languages. A new article get translated in every five minutes, 2000+ articles translated per week.

The 100000th Wikipedia page created with Content Translation is in Spanish, for the song ‘Crying, Waiting, Hoping

I designed the technical architecture and continue to be the main developer. I am so proud to be part of a project that contributed this much for free knowledge.

Related blog posts in Wikimedia blog:

Content translation tool hits milestone with one hundred thousand articles

Wikipedia’s coverage of essential vaccines is expanding

Content Translation tool has now been used for 50,000 articles

Semi-automated content translation is coming to Scandinavian Wikipedias

Naradanews Malayalam published a note on this

ഓരോ അഞ്ച് മിനിറ്റിലും പുതിയ ലേഖനം; വിക്കിപീഡിയ ബഹുഭാഷാ സാന്നിധ്യം വർദ്ധിപ്പിക്കുന്നു

by Santhosh Thottingal at July 22, 2016 02:21 PM

July 21, 2016

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 313



Graphhopper is seeking help for coding as well as for translations [1]


  • A discussion (Deutsch) is ongoing on the German mailing list whether mobile shops (e.g. a mobile takeway) should be mapped on OpenStreetMap or not. If yes, then how can such shops be tagged. (automatic translation)
  • The government of Ecuador has made available a TMS layer of aerial imagery for OpenStreetMap mappers so that they can use it to improve OSM’s data. (Spanisch)
  • #MapatonxGuapi generates geographical open data to control Malaria. Please join and start mapping. The project focuses on the layout of buildings, validation and creation of a complete transport network (roads) and identification of waterways and lakes of the Municipal head of Guapi, Cauca, Colombia. (Spanisch)
  • The tagging proposal for “education 2.0” by user Keder (as we reported in an earlier edition) is now open for voting.
  • Maarten Deen wonders about the newly emerged tag waterway=fairway.
  • Manohar Erikipati had a detailed look at the changes made by Maps.Me users and came to a conclusion that there are many edits which are constructive.


  • User Ziltoidium asked a question on behalf of a Spanish user in the German forum regarding the Berlin Wall. Subsequent activities revived the largely vanished Wall.
  • Build your own OpenStreetMap Tile Server in Ubuntu 16.04, a step by step guide by Xiao Guoan.
  • Marcos Costales publishes an introduction on how to setup your own tileserver (for Europe) with only 120GB of disc space.
  • Our editor Jinal Foflia from weeklyOSM was interviewed as the “Mapper in the Spotlight”.
  • Just in case anyone had forgotten – Field mapping is so much fun!
  • As Pokémon Go is played in the real world, some were wondering about the source for the map data. Anita Lankinen asked about it on Spatineo’s blog and concludes it’s definitely not OSM based.
    Also in the OSM Talk mailing list, Pokémon Go and its consequences for OSM are the subject of discussion. One thing should be obvious though: Please don’t add Pokémon spots to OSM, unless you can add actually useful information about the POI itself.
  • Since the OSM Forum admin, Lambertus has been very hard to reach, people in the community are wondering if there’s another forum admin who can be contacted instead of him?
  • [1] Graphhopper is seeking help for coding as well as for translations.


  • “Welcome To Germany – Building Bridges” is the motto of the FOSS4G in Bonn from August 24th till 26th. Please register before August 12th to get early bird advantages.
  • The International Open Data Conference, where the global community will discuss and debate about the future of open data, will happen in Madrid, Spain on October 6th and 7th, 2016. Pre-registration is open.

Humanitarian OSM

  • If you want to help HOT mapping efforts by preprocessing aerial imagery while you’re on the road, you can now use Mapswipe, so mappers can focus on the areas where there are actual features to map and where the imagery is useful (no clouds, sufficient resolution). You can download data beforehand and work with it while offline. The tutorial shows some examples, so that the “mapping”, as it is called there, too, can be carried out correctly.


  • Gnome Maps suffers from the shutdown of MapQuest-Open. They are searching for alternatives which isn’t that easy as they have hardcoded URLs and they’d like to use maps that have English labels worldwide.


  • Inspired by Pokémon Go John Oram describes how to create a map in Pokémon Go style with Tangram.
  • Mapillary and Mapzen both report about their collaborative effort to match Mapillary data with OpenStreetMap with their tool called Meili. However, neither article evaluates the license-wise occurring problems due to OSM’s share-alike.
  • Nicola introduced the EU supported project i-locate which is dedicated to develop open standards and tools for indoor tracking, mapping and routing. It thereby tries to closely cooperate with OpenStreetMap.


Software Version Release date Comment
QGIS 2.16.0 2016-07-08 No infos
OpenStreetMap Carto Style 2.41.0 2016-07-12 No infos
Mapbox GL JS v0.21.0 2016-07-13 11 new features & improvements, 10 bug fixes
Naviki iOS 3.45 2016-07-13 Some improvements
Komoot iOS 8.2 2016-07-14 Some extensions and improvements
QMapShack Lin/Mac/Win 1.6.3 2016-07-15 No infos
Cruiser for Android 1.4.9 2016-07-16 SVG Graphics
Cruiser for Desktop 1.2.8 2016-07-16 No infos
Locus Map Free 3.18.4 2016-07-16 Bugfix release
osm2pgsql 0.90.1 2016-07-16 Maintainance release without new features
iD 1.9.7 2016-07-17 No infos
Mapillary iOS 4.4.3 2016-07-17 Some fixes
Naviki Android 3.45 2016-07-18 Some improvements

provided by the OSM Software Watchlist

Did you know …

  • … that Kartotherian is a vector tile server based on open-source Mapbox stack, developed by Wikimedia Foundation for use on Wikipedia.

Other “geo” things

  • Bicycling presents a new bike option from the German startup COBI for offline navigation using OpenStreetMap data.
  • The “Spiegel” reports (automatic translation) about changes of border rivers and the implications for the affected states.
  • SuperGIS with its latest version helps the user to integrate free online maps like OpenStreetMap.
  • Ian Grasshoff offers maps for 3D printing on Shapeways.
  • The Faroe Islands would like to get Google StreetView, too. So they started a petition and their own SheepView.

Upcoming Events

Dónde Qué Fecha País
Buenos Aires Geobirras en Bellagamba 22/07/2016 argentina
Seattle ”’State of The Map US 2016”’ 23/07/2016-25/07/2016 united states
Cerro de Pasco Mapping Raymi en Oxapampa 26/07/2016 perú
Tokyo ”’State of The Map Japan 2016”’ 06/08/2016 japan
Ballerup OpenStreetMap 12th Anniversary 13/08/2016 danmark

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

This weekly was produced by Hakuch, Laura Barroso, Nakaner, Peda, Polyglot, Rogehm, SrrReal, TheFive, derFred, escada, jinalfoflia, malenki, stephan75, widedangel.

by weeklyteam at July 21, 2016 07:27 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Monthly Report for June 2016


  • The first half of the Year of Science is complete. More than 2,000 students in 116 classrooms contributed 2.2 million words to Wikipedia’s STEM and social sciences topics.
  • Wiki Education Foundation staff presented at and attended several events, including the Festival of Learning in British Columbia, the Wiki Diversity Conference in Washington, D.C., the American Astronomical Society conference in San Diego, and Wikimania 2016 in Italy. These events help strengthen our outreach to academics in the sciences as well as to the Wikipedia community as a whole.
  • We’ve produced a streamlined Editing Wikipedia handbook for student editors participating in our Classroom Program. The new guide integrates and reinforces Wiki Ed’s online training resources, and includes information specific to Wiki Education supported courses.


Educational Partnerships

 Dr. Rose Redfield leads a presentation on teaching with Wikipedia at the Festival of Learning in British Columbia.
Dr. Rosie Redfield leads a presentation on teaching with Wikipedia at the Festival of Learning in British Columbia.

In June, Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson presented at the Festival of Learning conference in Burnaby, British Columbia. She joined Classroom Program instructors Dr. Judy Chan and Dr. Rosie Redfield of the University of British Columbia to share student learning outcomes and the impact students can make to Wikipedia during an assignment.

Wikipedia Content Expert Adam Hyland attended the Wiki Diversity conference in Washington, DC. Patti Provance joined Adam to represent the National Women’s Studies Association. The two shared the successes of our partnership and the impact women’s studies students are having on Wikipedia, bolstered by analytics from Kevin Shiroo (see below).

Jami Mathewson guides an instructor at the American Astronomical Society edit-a-thon in San Diego, CA.

Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson and Jami attended the American Astronomical Society’s conference in San Diego, CA. They joined Wikipedia editor Emily Temple-Wood and Greg Boustead of the Simons Foundation to coordinate an edit-a-thon with astronomers at the meeting. Fifty-five people attended the event to learn more about editing within their field, and we started 28 new articles about women in astronomy!

Jami remotely joined Dr. Alexandria Lockett of Spelman College and Dr. Jamila Lyn of Morehouse College for their symposium about integrating Wikipedia into writing-intensive courses. The event was funded by the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) and brought together faculty from ACS institutions. Dr. Lockett and Dr. Lyn used this great opportunity to expose faculty to the diversity problems facing Wikipedia and to set a plan for empowering students to become a part of Wikipedia’s community. Samantha also gave a video presentation to a group of instructional technologists at Connecticut College. Read more about their efforts to engage instructors and diversify Wikipedia here.

Classroom Program

The Spring 2016 term’s numbers alone are cause to celebrate (more than 4,000 students from 215 courses), but is also a success based in quality and impact. Our students contributed almost 4 million words to Wikipedia during the Spring 2016 term. As a direct result of their work, the world now has better access to information ranging from political science to women and film and from biogeochemistry to the history of travel writing.

Though we supported the largest number of classes and students yet, the term ran seamlessly. Classroom Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal, Samantha and Wikipedia Content Experts Adam Hyland and Ian Ramjohn coordinated their efforts to ensure that instructors and students alike received timely, relevant, and effective support.

The end of the Spring 2016 term also marked the first half of the Wikipedia Year of Science. Well over half of the content our students added this term was part of that initiative. More than 2,000 students from 116 courses contributed over 2.2 million words to Wikipedia in the STEM and social sciences. Not only did roughly half of our students learn how to communicate scientific knowledge in a meaningful and impactful way, but Wikipedia now has better coverage of topics such as Cold War Science, Sociology, Paleontology, and Endangered Languages.

We look toward the Fall 2016 term. We’re excited to continue the auspicious work of the Year of Science and see the Classroom Program continue to grow and exceed our expectations. The Spring term has shown us though that we’re prepared for this growth, and excited to embrace it.

New features in the Dashboard made it possible to track the work of a student in Topics in Occupational Safety and Health who created Perda auditiva ocupacional on the Portuguese Wikipedia, a translation of the wikipedia:Occupational hearing loss article. Other students in the class expanded existing Noise and Occupational hazard articles.

Student work

  • Students in Paul Sereno’s Dinosaur Science class did good work expanding articles about groups of dinosaurs that shared a common ancestor, otherwise known as clades. The Marginocephalia were a clade of dinosaurs that included the well-known Triceratops. Wikipedia had a Marginocephalia article since 2005, but it was only a single paragraph and two ancestral diagrams (cladograms) before a student editor from the class expanded it, adding seven paragraphs. Sections detail feeding, social behavior, sexual dimorphism, and locomotion. The Ankylosauridae were a dinosaur family whose best-known member was probably Ankylosaurus. A student editor in the class expanded the article substantially, expanding the anatomy and phylogeny sections and adding sections detailing locomotion, biogeography, variation, and lifestyle. Much like the Marginocephalia article, the Neosauropoda consisted of a single paragraph and a cladogram. A student editor in the class expanded the article, adding sections about the anatomy, evolution, and the history of discovery of fossils in the clade, and also added two cladograms. Other students in the class similarly expanded articles about the Dicraeosauridae, Eusauropoda, Stegosauridae, Saltasauridae, Megalosauridae, BrachiosauridaeProtoceratopsid, Genasauria, Tetanurae, Ankylopollexia, and Majungasaurinae during the month of June.

Community Engagement

We’ve reached the end of the first year for the Visiting Scholars program. Community Engagement Manager Ryan McGrady spent time this month collecting, verifying, updating, and organizing data about the program and its contributions. He will collate that data for a first-year program review report.

A year’s worth of work produced by Scholars shows the impact that even a small number of experienced Wikipedians can have on public knowledge when they’re empowered by educational institutions and resources. June was our Scholars’ most productive month yet. That’s in part due to Rollins College Visiting Scholar User:M2545. In just under 3 weeks, she’s created 12 new articles and improved 36 others. She has also uploaded an impressive 226 new images to Wikimedia Commons, with several appearing in Wikipedia articles. You can read more about User:M2545 in the announcement of her position on our blog.

Gary Greenbaum at George Mason University had three articles appear in the “Did You Know?” section of the Main Page:

  • “[Did you know] that although the fictional bartender Mr. Dooley was a very popular political commentator in his time, he is almost forgotten today?”
  • “[Did you know] that, in numismatics, it was said that “the age of innocence” ended with the Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar?”
  • “[Did you know] that, with the issuance of the Alabama Centennial half dollar, Alabama Governor Thomas Kilby became the first living person to be depicted on a U.S. coin?”

We highlighted the work of Visiting Scholar Barbara Page in a recent blog post, UPitt Visiting Scholar is opening access to women’s health information. It discusses the work she’s contributed over the past year to improve women’s health articles through the University of Pittsburgh’s resources.

The Visiting Scholars positions for Barbara Page and Casey Monaghan at the University of Pittsburgh officially ended in May. However, we’re pleased to share that all parties have agreed to continue their relationship for at least another term.

Program Support


In June, Wiki Ed launched its completely revamped Editing Wikipedia handbook. It’s a step-by-step guide for students assigned to write or expand a Wikipedia article with our program. Previously, we’d mailed copies of a handbook intended for a general audience of new editors. This guide focuses explicitly on what students need to know, heading off the challenges we know students typically face. It also complements Wiki Ed’s online training tools, directing students to appropriate training modules for each step of the assignment.

Communications Manager Eryk Salvaggio also set up an interview with the Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey for an article, “The surprising reason some college professors are telling students to use Wikipedia in class.” This was a major media piece which was picked up and republished in many markets, including the LA Times, NY Post, and more.

Blog posts:

External Media:

Digital Infrastructure

Our main focus for digital infrastructure this month has been to clean up and consolidate the style standards of the Dashboard. We’ll begin a “living style guide” to standardize the common design elements. This will make it easier for new developers to begin contributing to the Dashboard, and it will help us to maintain design consistency as we build features. We’ve also fixed a slew of bugs and design inconsistencies, and improved the reliability of the Dashboard’s automated tests.

With financial support from Wikimedia Foundation, Product Manager, Digital Services Sage Ross and WINTR developer Matt Fordham built two new Dashboard features: Available Articles and the Universal Language Selector. The Available Articles feature — accessible from the ‘Articles’ tab of a course page — lets instructors compile a list of Wikipedia articles without assigning them to individual students. This will make it easier for instructors who create a list of recommended topics for students to choose from. A student can click an article from the list to select it as their assignment. The Universal Language Selector — a feature that is now available on the Programs & Events Dashboard alpha test site — lets users select their preferred language using the same well-tested interface as on Wikipedia.

Sage attended Wikimania 2016 at the end of the month. Wikimania provided a chance to collaborate in person with many of the global volunteers and Wikimedia Foundation staff who are interested in using and building our Dashboard system.

The end of June also marked the end of our contract with Seattle design and development firm WINTR; for the next fiscal year, we’ll be primarily be developing new Dashboard features project-by-project as funding becomes available. We’ll be working throughout the summer to update the dDshboard assignment creator and training content for the fall 2016 term.

Research and Academic Engagement

Women’s studies

This month, we looked at how much content Wiki Ed has contributed to Women’s studies articles. We wanted to see if our NWSA partnership has made an impact on those contributions. To measure it, we defined “women’s studies” as a set of WikiProjects. Those are groups of volunteers who share an interest in improving a common topic area. We identified the pages those “women’s studies” associated WikiProjects considered within their scope.

From those pages, we tabulated the number of positive bytes being added over time to the subject area. That included both Wiki Ed students and general editors. We saw that the partnership has had a real impact. The amount of content Wiki Ed students added to women’s studies topics increased by 36%. (That’s comparing Fall 2014 to Fall 2015.)

Among all women’s studies content added to Wikipedia, the portion contributed by Wiki Ed’s students grew by 8%. That went from 4.0% of overall contributions to 4.3%. That was due to a 25.7% increase in general editor activity during the same time. So our students contributed more content, but so did the general volunteer base. That’s a positive signal for the gender gap. It shows that there’s increased coverage coming from Wiki Ed, but also outside of it.

Training drop

Between Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, we noticed a significant drop in students’ online training completion rates. The share of students who completed the training dropped from ~75% to ~45%.

We had shifted from a longer, all-inclusive training to a training that staggered modules throughout the term, teaching specific content when students needed it most.

After extensive analysis, we determined that there were multiple causes behind the drop. First, the change in our tracking design caused a change in measurement. That produced deceptively low completion rates. When we considered module assignments individually, completion rates are at 65%, much closer to previous figures.

The majority of assigned modules are completed. However, we do observe a negative relationship between a modules position in the course timeline and the likelihood of the module being completed. Those that take place later in the term are less likely to be finished.

Completion frequency by average days from first training, Spring 2016
Completion frequency by average days from first training, Spring 2016

This relationship persists even after controlling for students who drop the course. The graph above plots the average due date for a given module against the frequency that the module is completed. The size of the circle represents the number of students’ assigned a module. This shows a clear negative relationship over time. These insights are leading to changes in how we assign training modules.

Article labeling

This month, we started work on a tool that will identify articles as being related to either pop culture or academia. Our end goal for this tool is to filter articles and reveal deeper insights into Wiki Ed’s role within the larger Wikipedia community. We think students are making large contributions to academic content areas (rather than pop cultural ones), but in order to validate that we have be able to sort through the work contributed by the general community more effectively.

So we’re building a labelled data set of articles using Wikipedia’s labelling infrastructure. This data set will then be fed into a machine-learning algorithm and, after appropriate evaluation, we’ll use it to apply labels to unknown pages. Then, we’ll be able to measure our impact on academic articles compared to pop culture articles.

Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration

Expenses June 2016
Expenses for June 2016

For the month of June, expenses were $266,775 versus the plan of $285,007. The variance of $18k is mainly due to our decision to hold off on expanding staff and office space.

Year to Date expenses
Year to Date expenses

The preliminary expenditures for FY 2015-16 were $2,940,255 versus the approved plan of $3,679,246, resulting in a variance of $739k. Approximately 93% of the variance is due to our decision during the year to hold back on planned expenditures until we had a clearer picture of what our long-term funding would be. The remaining 7% was a result of savings due to unused funds or prudent spending.

Our expenditures for the year were approximately at 80% of our planned budget.

As June is our year-end, these numbers are preliminary and pre-audit. Although no major adjustments are expected, ongoing year-end analysis and audit preparation will likely have some effect on these numbers.


June kicked off with the Wiki Education Foundation Board meeting in Houston. The Development team planned a breakfast to leverage the Board’s strong Houston presence and contacts. Board Chair Diana Strassmann, along with Board members Karen Twitchell and Karen George, invited their Houston contacts, who attended the June 3 breakfast along with Executive Director Frank Schulenburg and Senior Manager of Development Tom Porter. The cultivation event resulted in several gifts of support and netted one new Classroom Program participant, who will teach in the spring 2017 term. The small, intimate setting of the breakfast proved a highly successful cultivation tool. As a result, we are optimistic about the possibility for building a strong base of support in Houston.

Gifts earned at the Houston event were matched by the Stanton Foundation as a dollar-for-dollar challenge grant. In total, the Stanton Foundation generously donated $34,154 as part of the match program during the month of June.

Tom also attended the American Astrological Society (AAS) Conference in San Diego in June, with Greg Boustead from the Simons Foundation.

Office of the ED

Wiki Ed Board Meeting, June 2016
Wiki Ed Board Meeting, June 2016
  • Current priorities:
    • Preparing performance reviews for fiscal year 2015–16
    • Getting the organization ready for next fiscal year
    • Supporting the fundraising team in securing funding

In June, Frank attended the board meeting in Houston, presented the annual plan and budget for next fiscal year, and engaged with the board in conversations about the current status of the organization and the time ahead. After the meeting, Frank followed up with attendees of the Houston fundraising breakfast, and discussed opportunities for supporting Wiki Education Foundation’s work.

Frank also worked on different aspects of the upcoming all-staff meeting in July. He engaged with an external consultant to provide team-development measures, started to work collaboratively with Director of Programs LiAnna on the agenda for the meeting, and developed a plan for team activities around the topics “leadership across all levels” and “resilient organization”.

Also this month, Frank created a new “Executive Director’s Summary Report” that will increase the senior leadership team’s effectiveness in keeping track of organizational performance indicators on a monthly level.

Frank engaged with the board on his own performance review for the past year, including a self-evaluation and feedback from the other members of the Wiki Education Foundation’s leadership team. Furthermore, Frank set up an improved hiring process that will allow us to better track and document each step along the way.

Frank met with board candidate Ted Yang, introduced him to staff, and discussed the current status and the future of the Wiki Education Foundation.

Visitors and guests

  • Shoshana Grammer and Craig Hightower, Campbell & Co.
  • Haitham Shammaa, Wikimedia Foundation
  • Ted Yang, Media Crossing Inc
  • Dolores Volkert, Technical University of Munich, North America Office

by Eryk Salvaggio at July 21, 2016 06:55 PM

University of North Carolina seeks psychology Visiting Scholar

Ryan McGrady
Ryan McGrady

There’s a new opportunity for a Wikipedia Visiting Scholar at the University of North Carolina (UNC), with the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience.

Through the Wikipedia Visiting Scholars program, educational institutions grant Wikipedia editors access to high-quality research materials, empowering them to write even better content in areas of mutual interest.

Wikipedians get access to sources to write about topics they’re already interested in, and institutions increase the impact of their holdings while making a contribution to public knowledge in a particular field.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded in 1789, making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. One of the original Public Ivies, it consistently ranks among the best universities. It is committed to making the best quality education and information available to the widest audience possible. Visiting Scholars is one way to make that possible. The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is rated as one of the nation’s best, with the Clinical Psychology program in particular ranked #2 by U.S. News and World Report for 2017.

UNC is looking to work with an experienced Wikipedian to improve the quality of articles about clinical psychological science, with a possible emphasis on evidence-based assessment articles (especially open access or public domain tools). The Scholar will receive access to the library system’s electronic resources, including databases and ebooks, as well as the department’s collection of meta-analyses and systematic reviews relevant to the focus area.

Supporting this position at UNC is Eric Youngstrom, a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Psychiatry who sees Visiting Scholars as a way to improve public access to accurate information about psychological assessment. “We are passionate about putting the best information where the most people will benefit. People are not helped when their problems are misdiagnosed, and may be hurt due to side effects, the expense and burden of inappropriate treatment, and delays in getting helpful treatment.”

This Visiting Scholars opportunity is an extension of UNC’s project to improve public knowledge about evidence-based assessment. There may be optional opportunities to get involved in the project in other ways if the Scholar is interested.

For more information, see the Visiting Scholars section of our website, or apply here.

Photo: UNC Bell Tower in front of a sunset, by BirdinterestingOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

by Ryan McGrady at July 21, 2016 04:00 PM


Moving Plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Shyamal L. (noreply@blogger.com) at July 21, 2016 02:07 PM

July 20, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Illustrating the 1968 Democratic National Convention—48 years later

Wikipedia articles about historic events can sometimes host amazing photography and video, sometimes not; it can take a bit of dedication by Wikipedia editors to illustrate articles on news events well.

by Victor Grigas at July 20, 2016 06:59 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

7 ways the Year of Science is already making a difference

The Wikipedia Year of Science is a massive effort to mobilize students, instructors, and libraries from higher educational institutions to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of science. We’ve met countless scientists and supported the work of thousands of students in the USA and Canada. With the Year of Science entering the second round, we wanted to look back on the impact we’ve seen so far.

1. Millions of people have access to better science information.

Students worked on Wikipedia articles seen 163 million times. That’s millions of people finding scientific information that’s been written by students, drawing from reliable academic sources, contributed under the eye of an expert (the instructor), and shared with the world — and we’re only six months into the year.

2. Thousands of students practiced real science communication.

More than 4,000 students developed science communication skills by writing for one of the most-read websites. That’s experience communicating research to the public in a meaningful way. Consider Wikipedia’s article on Geobiology, which was scant when Caltech student Alice Michel took it on as an assignment. She worked to make the article actually express what her field is and does. Now, she’s the author of one of the top-three sources of information about Geobiology on Google. And she’s just one of the 4,000 stories we could tell.

An image created by Wiki Ed for a post about women in science.
Read: Why Wikipedia matters to women in science

3. More women are contributing to Wikipedia.

More women are contributing to Wikipedia’s science articles. While Wikipedia’s volunteer editor base is estimated to be 90% male, Wiki Ed students are about 68% women.

When higher ed courses edit Wikipedia, it means more women are contributing. That leads to better coverage of women scientists, women’s health, and women’s interests that are otherwise neglected. It’s also a chance for young women scientists to flex their knowledge in public. That’s an empowering experience.

4. We boosted Wikipedia with reliable, quality science content. 

Student editors added more science content to Wikipedia than any other group of Wikipedians. A full 6% of science coverage contributed at the end of the spring term came from our student editors. That’s six percent of new science content on the largest volunteer-written project on the planet.

These students contributed three times as much content as the average Wikipedian. And they did it in fields that are often neglected on Wikipedia: Students improved access to information on science topics ranging from biology to environmental sciences to geography to the history of science and beyond.

5. Notable women scientists are being recognized on Wikipedia. 

We’ve seen incredible articles about women scientists that may otherwise have never seen the light of day. That includes women such as Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko, who saved lives while imprisoned in a Nazi Concentration camp. It includes Eugenie Clark, “The Shark Lady,” who helped to promote marine conservation. It includes Mercy Jackson, one of the first women to earn a medical degree. These women are among others who are better represented on Wikipedia, where they can serve to inspire a next generation of doctors and scientists. We’re helping to bring women to Wikipedia, and we’re helping improve science articles about women on Wikipedia.

Dr. Amin Azzam discusses his use of Wikipedia to students in 2005.
Read: On Wikipedia, the Doctor is in … class

6. We’re improving Wikipedia’s articles about health.

Students made medical articles on Wikipedia more reliable. More people turn to Wikipedia for health information than any other website. That’s a source of panic for some, but others, such as Dr. Amin Azzam at UCSF, see an obligation to make sure the information is accurate. Medical students have access to medical journals and supervision from a healthcare professional. They’re contributing solid, verifiable knowledge about health to the public. That ranges from medical conditions to health policies.

7. We’ve created a suite of resources for students, for now and the future.

To help empower students to write better science articles on Wikipedia, Wiki Ed has produced printed guides. These guides help students create or improve articles on biology and chemistry, genetics, and environmental sciences. They’re available digitally too, for anyone interested in improving science articles on Wikipedia. Printed copies are available for students participating in our Classroom Program.

Finally: An impact on Wiki Ed. 

Of course, the Year of Science has had an impact on Wiki Ed, too. The first term of the Year of Science has been the largest set of students we’ve ever supported. We’ve scaled our support and developed tools to sustain further growth, without compromising the standards of quality that Wikipedia requires. New online and printed tools for classrooms, stronger staff support, and a deeper connection to the science community have made Wikipedia’s support for STEM projects better than they have ever been. Topic areas outside of STEM and the social sciences are benefiting from those resources as well.

Won’t you join us? If you’d like to work with us to expand the Year of Science, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re a higher education instructor looking to bring Wikipedia into your course, a librarian looking to expand access to your special collections with a Visiting Scholar, or you’re interested in offering financial support, reach out to us: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Learning is hanging out (cropped) by Alan Levine. CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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

Magnus Manske


Wikipedia has language editions, Wikidata has labels, aliases, descriptions, and some properties in multiple languages. This a great resource, to get the world’s knowledge in your language! But looking at the technical site, things become a little dim. Wikimedia sites have their interface translated in many languages, but beyond that, English rules supreme. Despite many requests, only few tools on Labs have a translatable (and translated) interface.

One exception is PetScan, which uses the i18n mechanism from its predecessor CatScan, namely a single wiki page on meta, which contains all interface translations. This works in principle, as the many translations there show, but it has several disadvantages, ranging from bespoke wikitext parsing, over load/rendering times on meta, to the fact that there is no easy way to answer the question “which of these keys have not been translated into Italian”? New software features require new interface strings, so the situation gets worse over time.

The answer I got when asking about good ways to translate interfaces is usually “just use TranslateWiki“, which IIRC is used for the official Wikimedia sites. This is a great project, with powerful applications, but I was looking for something more light-weight, both on the “add a translation” side, and the “how to use this in my tool” side.

ToolTranslateIf you know me or my blog, then by this point, you will already have guessed what happened next: I rolled my own (for more detailed information, see the manual page).

ToolTranslate is a tool that allows everyone (after the usual OAuth ceremony) to provide translations for interface texts, in almost 300 languages. I even made a video demonstrating how easy it is to add translations (ToolTranslate uses its own mechanism, so the demo edit shows up live in the interface). You can even also your own tool, without having to jump through bureaucratic hurdles, just with the press of a button!

On the tool-author side, you will have to change your HTML, from <div>My text</div> to <div tt=”mytext”></div>, and then add “My text” as a translation for the “mytext” key. Just use the language(s) you know, anyone can add translations in other languages later.I experienced this myself; after I uploaded the demo video, User:Geraki added Greek translations to the interface, before this blog post, or any other instructions, were available. Just, suddenly, as if by magic, Greek appeared as an interface option… You will also need to include a JavaScript file I provide, and add a single line of code (two, if you want to have a drop-down to switch languages live).

There is a simplistic demo page, mainly intended for tool authors, to see how it works in practice. Besides ToolTranslate itself, I also used it on my WikiLovesMonuments tool, to show that it is feasible to retrofit an existing tool. This took less than 10 minutes.

I do provide the necessary JavaScript code to convert HTML/JS-based tools. I will be working on a PHP class next, if there is demand. All translations are also provided as JSON files online, so you can, in turn, “roll your own” code if you want. And if you have existing translations for your tool and want to switch to ToolTranslate, let me know, and I can import your existing translations.

by Magnus at July 20, 2016 12:55 PM

July 18, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikivacation contest in Poland offers opportunities for tourists and locals alike

The new contest will allow participants to submit their beautiful shots of monuments, nature, and art located in public space, along with small urban architecture of historical value. You can also write new articles where these pictures can be used.

by Natalia Szafran-Kozakowska and Wojciech Pędzich at July 18, 2016 09:36 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Behind a glass of water

Many California restaurants won’t automatically bring water to your table. Signs dot college campuses apologizing for brown grass. It’s all part of a plan to tackle California’s historic drought.

Understanding local water supplies is more important than ever. That’s why we’re so impressed by the work of students in Dr. Julian Fulton’s ENVS 110 Course at California State University, Sacramento. As part of our Year of Science initiative, Dr. Fulton assigned students to write Wikipedia articles about California’s water systems.

One of the impacts is a better understanding of the politics of water management in California. These students literally wrote the article on California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The article summarizes the several bills included in the 2014 act, which sought to improve the management of groundwater supplies sustainably through 2042. Somewhat unbelievably, this important topic didn’t have a Wikipedia article until students took it on.

For historical political context, student editors also created an article on the first attempt to regulate California’s water supplies, the Water Commission Act of 1913.

The students also created an article offering context about California’s policies and practices regarding water reuse. That article explores the technology, and the social and economic challenges.

They didn’t stop at the policy level. They also created resources to better understand local water supplies. That includes better information about the American River. The Maidu people relied on it for thousands of years, and it was a favored destination of the gold-digging miners in the California gold rush. Today, it’s a source of water for Sacramento. Students wrote about the American River’s neighboring bodies of water, too, such as the artificial Bushy Lake.

The nearby Sacramento River got attention too. Students expanded an article about an initiative, California Water Fix and Eco Restore, which would channel water from Sacramento to two points 30 miles away. It’s a bid to restore the surrounding ecosystem while still tapping into the river as a source of water. The article explores how water is currently carried from the site, and explores some of the controversies and politics behind the initiative.

Students in the class worked on 74 articles, contributing more than 86,000 words about California’s water to Wikipedia. These articles are coming up in Google searches, answering questions about important issues tied to California’s conservation. So far, the articles they’ve worked on have been served up more than 1 million times.

It includes better information about dams, such as the Isabella Dam and the Keswick Dam. They’ve created an article focused on mercury contamination in California’s waterways.

This knowledge is crucial for shaping the appreciation of a natural resource. These students did a brilliant job inspiring an appreciation of the role of water in California’s recreation, power, politics, and ecology.

It’s one of the reasons science matters: to be better informed about the way we live and the decisions we make. Thanks to Dr. Fulton’s course, we can all be better informed about the water we rely on to live.

Interested in seeing what your own students can do on Wikipedia? We’re still looking for courses to join our Year of Science campaign. Check out our resources, or send us an email to brainstorm ways this assignment can complement your own course goals: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: North Fork of American River, by Light showOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0

by Eryk Salvaggio at July 18, 2016 04:00 PM

Magnus Manske

First image, good image?

For a while now, Wikimedia pages (usually, Wikipedia articles) have a “page image”, an image from that page used as a thumbnail in article previews, e.g. in the mobile app. While it is not entirely clear to me how this is image is chosen, it appears to be the first image of the article in most cases, probably excluding some icons.

Wikidata is doing something similar with the “image” property (P18), however, this needs to be an image of the item’s subject, not “something related to the item”. Wikipedia’s “page image” often turns out to be a painting made by the article’s subject, or a map, or something related to an event. This discrepancy prevent an automated import of the “page image” into Wikidata. However, exceptions aside, the “page item” presents a highly specific resource for P18-suitable images.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.38.02So I added a new function to my WD_FIST tool, to help facilitate the import of suitable images from that rich source into Wikidata. As a first step, a bot checks several large Wikipedias on a daily basis, and retrieves “page images” where the associated Wikidata item has none, and the “page image” is stored on Commons. It also skips “non-subject” pages like list articles. In a second stage, images (excluding PNG, GIF, and SVG) that are used as a “page image” on at least three Wikipedias for the same subject are put into a main candidate list. The image must also not be on the tool-internal “ignore” list. Even after all this filtering, >32K candidates remain in the current list.

dewiki 346,204
enwiki 700,832
frwiki 255,527
itwiki 148,041
nowiki 73,508
plwiki 181,323
svwiki 109,349
Combined 32,137

I will likely add more Wikipedias to this list (es and pt will show up tomorrow), and eventually lower the inclusion threshold, as candidates are added to Wikidata, or to the “ignore” list.

As the candidate list is already heavily filtered, I am not applying some of the usual WD-FIST filters. This also helps with retrieving a candidate set of 50 very quickly. In this mode, the tool also lends itself well to mobile usage.

by Magnus at July 18, 2016 09:41 AM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikipedia - Dr Mary Meeker and SOI testing

Mrs Meeker and her husband Robert Meeker worked on a system used in education. She is known for applying Guilford's Structure of Intellect theory ("SI") to creating assessments and curriculum materials for use in teaching children and adults. The premise of SI is that intelligence comprises many underlying mental abilities or factors, organized along three dimensions—Operations (e.g., comprehension), Content (e.g., semantic), and Products (e.g., relations). When you are interested, read the article.

The article compared her work to the debunked Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This is something we should not do. The article on Mrs Laurie Helgoe provides all the arguments needed to restrict information on that indicator to that article. It is not best practice to use tools that are ambiguous in its results and therefore using it in comparison is not in the interest of our readers.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 18, 2016 06:40 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #29, 2016 (July 18, 2016)

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July 18, 2016 12:00 AM

July 17, 2016

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikipedia - notability of Mrs Laurie Helgoe

When popular knowledge gets debunked, it makes for notability. Mrs Helgoe debunked the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. It is used a lot even by those who should know better to classify human personality traits.

It is quite something when research shows how much popular methods are wrong. Instead of representing a 25-30% of the population, introverts make up 57% of the population. It means that Myer Briggs is off by 100%.

The critique of the article for Mrs Helgoe has it that it is an orphan; no articles link to it. Having read the article, it is more valid to find fault at the Myers Briggs article; it does state that the method is not valid but it more less glosses over that fact.

The problem with the Myers Briggs article is that it attempts to explain the method used, a method that is invalid.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 17, 2016 01:03 PM

#Reasonator - the perspecive on #Wikidata people do no get

#Wikidata is where Wikimedia data lives. It started with a big service to Wikipedia; It centralised its interwiki data and this was a huge step forward in its quality. There is still a lot of work done on improving it even further because many of the problems left need a different perspective.

The next official challenge is to provide data to infoboxes. This problem is utterly different from the challenge replacing interwikilinks. It is impossible to import all the data from infoboxes all at once and start improving. The quality of the data in infoboxes is worse but that is not the problem.

So people have imported oodles of data and the quality is as expected; poor but improving. One problem is that all the work is happening at Wikidata and it does not transfer to Wikipedia. There is not even an official way to have a good look at the data available at Wikidata. The unofficial tool is Reasonator, it is currently broken and it is why I am reflecting.

Reasonator provides an intelligible perspective on the data of an item. It makes many problems "obvious". It shows imported statements and it shows all the references to the item that is shown. It allows you to see all (with a maximum of 500) statements that share common properties.

With a functional Reasonator, many people work on data from Wikipedia with a Wikidata perspective. When Wikidata is to fulfil its promise of improving the quality of data of Wikipedia considerably, the first thing to do is change objectives and perspective. The perspective could be Wikipedia based and the objective is not replacing data in infoboxes but quality. The good thing is that it is actually possible to achieve this.

A few observations; all wikilinks are in effect links between Wikidata items. Many of the links indicate that an article "needs" to be in a category and consequently this can be automated.

Why do this? When people look at all the wikilinks with a Wikidata perspective, it will make a lot of faulty links obvious. A painter of the 16th century did not receive a 20th century award for instance. Quality will improve.  As more statements and possibly items are created, it will affect every article about the same and related topics.

It needs only one thing, a Reasonator like view of the data from a Wikipedia point of view.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 17, 2016 08:51 AM

July 16, 2016


Gay artwork said to not be gay

Since visiting Italy and seeing Ancient Greek art, Roman art, and Renaissance art I have been thinking about gay art. Classical artwork contains a lot of nude imagery, and so does Renaissance artwork. Western culture since classical times has avoided discussing sexuality, and consequently, there has been a disconnect between high art and the values of Western society. Access to high art has been continuous in Western society from at least since the Renaissance, so typical people in big cities in Western countries have known that sculptures and paintings of nude sexy people are being produced in their communities. At the same time, there seems to be a longstanding tradition in Western culture of depicting nude sexy males then denying that the work is erotica. This raise a few issues –

  1. Why is there a Western tradition of saying that gay erotic art from before LGBT liberation is not gay?
  2. To what extent is it possible that artists and art purchasers collaborated to produce gay art without intending for the art to be gay?
  3. Do contemporary perspectives call certain art erotica, when in times past no one would have thought the work to be erotic?
  4. What historical records, if any, exist in the arts for establishing that any given historical art was intended to be for a gay audience?

an erotic image of Saint Sebastian

by Guido Reni, 1615

As an example, consider Guido Reni‘s Saint Sebastian painted 1615 and now in the Capitoline Museums. The painting is of a cute guy, healthy and fit is always attractive, wearing a loin cloth which is falling off, well old enough to have body hair but seemingly shaved everywhere including pubic hair and underarms, in an open body pose, shot with arrows but not having any response that introduces negativity to the work. In contemporary times, any photo taken of a person like that in any similar pose and dress would only be taken for the purpose of producing male erotica for a male audience. There are lots of similar depictions of Saint Sebastian, so this is representative of depictions of that Saint. There are lots of other historical artworks like this in other contexts. So far as I know, there is no history of saying that such artwork is gay. There might have been times when such things were said to be too exciting or prurient in general, but not any history of saying that there is a gay culture with works produced in a style that meets the demands of that culture.

In Italy I saw classical and Renaissance sculptures and paintings. Some were obviously gay and sexy. I just checked the Wikipedia article on Saint Sebastian, who is traditionally depicted as gay erotica. There seems to be some doubt that gay erotica produced as art is actually gay erotica, and that instead it might be some kind of symbolic artistic game which communicates deeper meaning through artistic conventions.

While I was in Italy I bought a 60-page booklet on Caravaggio which mentions sexual themes in his art on several pages. The book denies that Caravaggio ever intended his work to be gay erotica. It is silly to say so, since his work looks similar to that intentionally produced for the gay erotica marketplace. If the gender were switched, and females instead of males were posed as his figures, then there would be no doubt that the works were erotica. I think this is because of a double standard, and a dated presumption that male erotica targeted at males is not possible to produce. One of the image captions in the book says, “the splayed legs hark back to a symbolic code also used by Michaelangelo to signify resurrection, victory, and triumph” when describing the Amor Vincit Omnia. There are any number of other books and critiques which say similar things about similar works by any artists, and suggest that in the contemporary time of the work no one imagined eroticism. I think this is total bunk, and is the culture of another time in which everyone was under some pressure to believe unreasonable things about sexuality. Anyone who wants to read lots of essays about a single artist producing gay erotica can read about Caravaggio, because it seems like the academic consensus of his work is that it is not gay, which is a silly conclusion.

For considering subject matter by many artists which is said to not be gay erotica, check reviews about Saint Sebastian. The Wikipedia article on Saint Sebastian currently has almost no coverage of the gay interest of the figure as a gay icon. Nowadays, I think public taste for gay erotica is better established, because there is an open marketplace for defining the genre, and settling the taste for such art. When people are free and encouraged to produce gay erotica, they produce art that looks like traditional depictions of Saint Sebastian. Traditional depictions of Saint Sebastian did not influence taste for gay erotica, but rather, they both draw from deeper desires for this kind of imagery. Despite centuries of denying that Saint Sebastian icons are gay art, they are, and instead of believing the weird rationalizations of non-gay art scholars over the centuries, the reasonable thing to do is consider the views of communities which can say and express themselves without restriction or social pressure. In the case when an art critique might include addressing a taboo topic, I put more value on contemporary art critiques than those made before the advent of Internet. People who are under no social pressure can freely say that sexy Saint Sebastian icons would only be produced in a sexy way by someone who intended to make sexy art. It is a cultural curiosity that there are so many critiques of Saint Sebastian depictions which do not recognize, accept, and comment on this.

My best answers to the questions above are –

  1. Homophobia in society made it taboo to identify any nice artwork or respectable artist as having produced homoerotic work. Since it was not an option to say that any good art was gay, all that is left is communication which says other than that.
  2. I do not think that it could have been possible to produce homoerotic work or purchase homoerotic work continually over time without realizing the theme. For artists, I would expect that anyone who was more likely to produce male nudes was someone more likely to commit more time of their life to working with nude male models, and who had their own taste. I doubt that any artist was compelled to make male nudes for lack of artistic commissions to do otherwise.
  3. It is often said in older critiques that attitudes on nudity used to be different, and that more often, males were more visible nude in public more than today. The idea is that there are new modern privacy customs, and looking back, the lack of privacy might be viewed as a flirt instead of just daily life. Sometimes such explanations might be true, but also, these kinds of explanations should be considered in the context of being all that could be said. When there was more to say, like homoerotic intent, those parts had to be left out. Even historical critiques giving correct information are dubious for not being able to tell the whole story.
  4. Gay culture has not been developed yet and it is still uncertain what historical records exist. Cataloging what exists would be useful before drawing conclusions. As of right now, there are not clear authorities to be found among LGBT books. Something like “Survey of Male Erotic Art before 1930” probably has not been written. There ought to be research on this topic for every culture just to providing supporting evidence of norms.

by bluerasberry at July 16, 2016 03:07 PM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Content translation tool hits milestone with one hundred thousand articles

Since its introduction in January 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation's content translation tool has been used to translate 100,000 new Wikipedia articles. We asked some users to share their experiences on how this tool helped them.

by Runa Bhattacharjee at July 16, 2016 12:21 PM

July 15, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

There is now freedom of panorama in Belgium

Thanks to synchronised interplay between our EU-level policy initiative and the steady work of our Belgian community, a new copyright exception allowing for thousands of new images on Wikimedia projects is now in place. But how exactly did this public policy ping pong work out?

by Dimitar Dimitrov at July 15, 2016 09:42 PM

Community digest—First-ever Wikipedian-in-residence in Brazil; First women in science edit-a-thon in Venezuela

The position will stimulate the use of Wikipedia as a means of scientific dissemination; twenty-one women scientists now have articles on the Spanish Wikipedia.

by João Alexandre Peschanski, Cristhian Da Silva and Ed Erhart at July 15, 2016 07:30 PM

All-new notifications page helps Wikimedians focus on what matters most

A redesigned notifications page and a raft of new features make it easier than ever to manage and monitor your messages.

by Joe Matazzoni at July 15, 2016 06:03 PM

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 312



MapQuest Tiles shutdown as off July 11 2016 1 | © MapQuest


  • Bryce Nesbitt asks for comments on a proposal to use a mechanical edit to change the tagging of pit latrines.
  • Edits of some employees of Mentz in Düsseldorf cause trouble (Deutsch) at the German Forum.
  • User mueschel detected some SEO-trash in OSM and wonders, what to do with it. The garbage he found is recognisable through Tags like Keywords=* and payment options=* (sic!).
  • Since July 09 the new version of MapRoulette is available. The tasks (challenges) from the old MapRoulette must be transferred to the new MapRoulette when the tasks should be continued. Attention: Martijn van Exel also wrote up two tutorials for Challenge Creator: Part1 and Part2. So if you are new at creating challenges, give it a try.
  • Tijmen Stam proposes some changes to the public_transport scheme.
  • On the talk-de list, Tom Pfeifer “complains” (translation) that many statues in parks don’t have toilets for disabled people – never mind statues in general don’t have any other toilets either.


  • A large American geo company suffers a sense of humour failure over a “What 3 Words” parody (warning – thread may not be considered safe for work). Another delightful suggestion to the problem of cross-cultural addressing was suggested on the talk list.
  • A group of mappers challenge the mechanical edit policy as they feel treated wrong by the DWG.


  • David MacNeil describes a building import he’s done in a part of Canada and hopes to get a permission and not a revert even though he did not follow the import guidelines.
  • Lisa Mastaler from Geographic Institute of University of Heidelberg wants to import sidewalk information (by adding tags to streets) in Heidelberg. See also the discussion (Deutsch) at Talk-de mailing list. (automatic translation)

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • OpenCage Data has joined the OSMF as a corporate member.
  • The OSMF devised a FOSS guideline (FOSS = Free and Open Source Software).
  • Ilya Zverev wants to award special achievements and is therefore collecting ideas in our Wiki.

Humanitarian OSM

  • Doctors without Borders reports about their current cooperation with Missing Maps on Idjwi, the island in the Kivu lake of DR Congo.
  • An Article of Doctors without Borders exemplifies the usefulness of Remote Mapping for the work they do on site.


  • MapQuest Open has been shut down on July 11th. More information can be found at their error tiles, on the Talk mailing list and at a tweet by Richard Fairhurst.
  • HistOSM is a new map which visualizes historic data that is present in the OSM database.
  • Geraldine Sarmiento plays with “sphere mapping” and tests it with different textures.
  • In their OSM diary, tyr_asd showcases an updated map visualisation of how OSM node density has changed over the last 2 years.


Open Data

  • Aquaterra (a Belgian geographical services company) has updated its portfolio of digital maps to include some free OSM ones in vector format. (via mapshop_be).


  • Node 4294967296 is the first node beyond unsigned 32 bit integer. It has been uploaded at the beginning of final match of European Football Championship.


Software Version Release date Comment
QMapShack 1.6.2 2016-07-03 no infos
Traccar Server 3.6 2016-07-09 Added Geofencing
Mapillary iOS 4.4.1 2016-07-10 some fixes
ODL Studio 1.3.4 2016-07-11 Many new features in the route calculation

provided by the OSM Software Watchlist

Did you know …

  • … the musical map map of Canada? Programmed by 15 year old Laef Kucheron.
  • OSM2VectorTiles? A set of vector tiles with world coverage which is easy to use and extend and with a size that fits on an usb stick. (via sfkeller)

Other “geo” things

  • CartoDB has changed its name to CARTO. Please don’t confuse it with CartoCSS or OpenStreetMap Carto!
  • geocacher.de presents Garmin’s newest outdoor devices, the Oregon 700 and the Oregon 750t. The Oregon 750t comes with an OSM map preinstalled. Both devices can be connected to a smartphone to fetch data from the internet (Weather information, Geocaches).
  • The Technical University of Darmstadt develops a project named “Ui! Traffic” a smartphone app that helps, to regulate ones driving speed such, that one can keep driving through a sequence of green lights. The browser map uses OpenStreetMap as background.
  • Toyota announced that they’ll start creating their own high precision maps with on-board camera and GPS only.
  • Here is a Wikidata query to fetch all buildings that span borders between countries Wikidata has data on. To achieve the same with OSM data would involve downloading all borders and buildings nearby to it using Overpass API, then use another tool to figure out which ones intersect with those borders, unless you have all OSM data in PostGIS, then you can do a spatial query directly.

Upcoming Events

Dónde Qué Fecha País
Trentino Presentation of a hiking map done using OpenStreetMap data, Storo 15/07/2016 italy
Kyoto 京都国宝・浪漫マッピングパーティ:第1回 北野天満宮 16/07/2016 japan
Kyoto 京都オープンデータソン2016 vol.1(青蓮院、円山公園、粟田神社) 18/07/2016 japan
Nottingham Nottingham 19/07/2016 united kingdom
Seattle ”’State of The Map US 2016”’ 23/07/2016-25/07/2016 united states
Tokyo ”’State of The Map Japan 2016”’ 06/08/2016 japan

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

This weekly was produced by Hakuch, Laura Barroso, Nakaner, Peda, Polyglot, Rogehm, SomeoneElse, derFred, escada, jinalfoflia, mgehling.

by weeklyteam at July 15, 2016 12:06 PM

July 14, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Pokémon Go is Wikipedia’s most-popular article, with traffic up over 10,000 percent

Millions of readers are flocking to Wikipedia, looking to learn more about the new game, while Wikipedia's editors are jumping in to improve the article.

by Ed Erhart at July 14, 2016 05:02 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Virginia Berninger; Samuel Torrey Orton award 2015

The Samuel Torrey Orton award is conferred by the International Dyslexia Association. It is named after Samuel Orton who was a pioneer in the field of dyslexia.

Mrs Berninger was added to Wikidata because she is the 2015 recipient of the award. It is my intent that Wikidata slowly but surely knows about the more recent award winners, one at a time. It so happened that two of my projects intersected; adding information about female psychologists and awards. Mrs Margaret J. Snowling received the award and this bit of data was added.

My notion of quality for Wikidata is that items need their statements and that more links are better. This allows for all kinds of statements. linking awards to the conferring organisation, the website of an award or an organisation, other awardees.

The funny thing is that adding Mrs Berninger may encourage Wikipedians to write an article about her or at least add her to the list of award winners :)

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 14, 2016 08:05 AM

This month in GLAM

This Month in GLAM: June 2016

by Admin at July 14, 2016 02:06 AM

July 13, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Wikipedia’s role in science communication for genetics courses

Start talking about genetics in public and see what happens. Genetics is often a confounding science. The public often lacks context for research that yields genetic breakthroughs, even as knowledge within the field of molecular biology and genomics is expanding.

How can the public make informed decisions on policies that advance such research? And how can educators foster a culture of communication to the public within their classrooms?

We think Wikipedia assignments are one possible way. When students in higher education courses write about genetics for Wikipedia, they’re sharing knowledge with the world. That can go a long way to empowering the public. But it’s also crucial for students to think about how they describe this knowledge to the public. Writing for Wikipedia means writing for real people, not just an instructor who already knows what the student knows. Students still have to make sure they’re accurate; but with Wikipedia, they also have to make sure they’re understood.

Ideal Wikipedia articles provide an overview that a layperson can understand, with details relevant to experts.

Let’s take the topic of gene maps. A gene map reveals the arrangement of genes on a chromosome. Genes carry slices of the code that builds a protein, and chromosomes hold hundreds (or thousands) of them. The arrangement of these genes determines the appearance of genetic traits. Red hair, for example, is the result of a specific arrangements of genes. Gene maps help us understand where these genes appear in a chromosome. When we understand that, we can better understand how these traits appear.

If you looked for gene maps a while ago, you may not have come away with a good sense of what they do. The article was two sentences long. Here they are:

“A gene map is the descriptive representation of the structure of a single gene. It includes the DNA sequence of a gene with introns and exons, 3′ or 5′ transcribed-untranslated regions, termination (poly-adenylation) signal, regulatory elements such as promoters, enhancers and it may include known mutations defining alternative alleles of the same gene.”

Accurate? Sure. But certainly not friendly. A curious searcher would likely have their understanding thwarted. That’s why student work on the clarity of science coverage is so crucial to the Wikipedia project.

Here’s how a student in Tom Haffie’s “Advanced Genetics” course at Western University course tackled the start of the same (improved) article:

“Gene maps help describe the spatial arrangement of genes on a chromosome. Genes are designated to a specific location on a chromosome known as the locus and can be used as molecular markers to find the distance between other genes on a chromosome. Maps provide researchers with the opportunity to predict the inheritance patterns of specific traits, which can eventually lead to a better understanding of disease-linked traits.”

Clearer. The reader walks away knowing why it matters.

Of course, reading about a gene map on Wikipedia won’t create a legion of armchair geneticists overnight. But consider the thinking behind writing that article from a student’s perspective. The question shifts from “what do I know?” to “how can I express what I know?” That’s science communication, and an important question for researchers and academics alike. Good practice is hard to come by, but there it is.

When students tackle these articles on Wikipedia, they’re improving the most-accessed source of information on Earth. Articles on science topics typically appear in the top five Google search results. At the tail end of the first term of our Year of Science, students contributed 6% of that month’s new science content to Wikipedia. Over time, that has the potential to transform Wikipedia into a comprehensive and comprehensible source of information about genetics and biology.

We’re still looking to help courses in genetics, molecular biology and others sciences get started. We can even send your students our guide to Editing Wikipedia articles on genes and proteins. (Like all of our resources, print copies are provided, completely free, to participants). If you’re curious about bringing the benefits of this assignment to your students (and your field), we’d love to talk. Reach out to us: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: DNA by Miki Yoshihito, CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr.

by Eryk Salvaggio at July 13, 2016 04:00 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Editing Wikipedia as self-care activism

Editing Wikipedia is a way I take care of myself and help this world become a more equal place.

by Veronica Erb at July 13, 2016 04:01 AM

Joseph Reagle

Speech recognition 2016

In my twenty years of using speeching recognition I've had a number of setups. I began at MIT's Accessibility Lab with discrete speech—articulating ... every ... single ... word ... discretely. IBM's ViaVoice was the first that allowed me to dictate in phrases—much less of a strain—and ran on Linux for a brief time. Sadly, IBM handed this off to Scansoft, which buried it, and they were then bought my Nuance. This meant that at the start of the naughts, Nuance's NaturallySpeaking was the only game in town. In 2003, I used NaturallySpeaking alongside Linux by running it on a headless or virtual machine. This was the approach I then used for the next 13 years.

In the past year, I've been impressed by Google's speech recognition. Big data and new machine learning techniques have advanced the state of the art. Sadly, you can't customize Google speech for your particular vocabulary, nor can you use it to control your desktop. Still, mainstream mobile applications (and voice assistants) have revitalized the speech recognition field. This doesn't immediately serve the accessibility market, but it gives me hope that there will be spillover.

The need to eventually upgrade my OS (from Kubuntu 14.04) and the news that Simon/KDESpeech was discontinued led me to the conclusion that it was time for a change. I want simple, native desktop dictation. As intriguing as Windows Bash is, I decided MacOS offered the best potential for a Unix desktop with speech recognition. Apple is behind others in the accuracy of their speech recognition—not nearly as good as Google—but their enhanced dictation provides useful control of the desktop, and Nuance's Dictate runs on MacOS as well. Unfortunately, Dictate 5 is a disaster on El Capitan: it crashes right out of the box.

So, I'm still using NaturallySpeaking in a virtual machine. But I have two hopes. First, I hope Nuance's Dictate, which is very accurate and permits custom vocabularies, will eventually run well on MacOS. Second, I hope Apple's Enhanced Dictation will permit customization and improve in quality. Both of these are much more likely than seeing speech recognition on a Linux Desktop.

Which brings me to my current setup. I continue to use the Kinesis Advantage keyboard; I'd be screwed without it. I continue to use the Plantronics Savi W440 wireless headset, seen in the back, for most of my dictation in the Windows virtual machine. If I need to transcribe notes or interviews, or intensively write or edit, this provides the best recognition. The new bit of hardware is the Buddy 7G FlamingoMic, which I use as the Mac's microphone: I use it for desktop control and dictating short emails.

The first thing I did upon getting the iMac was cover the webcam and microphone with electrical tape—masking tape won't completely silent the microphone. As this was my first PC that's fully USB3, I also learned that USB3 and wireless headsets don't work well together. So the webcam, headset transmitter, and Flamingo mic are all plugged in to a small USB2 hub with individual power switches and LEDs for each device, making it easy to disable each. The Buddy 7G microphones, like the SpeechWare ones, are not general purpose mics: they won't be good for music, for instance. They have circuitry built in for filtering out noise and picking up voices. I bought the Buddy 7G because I suspect it is as nearly good as the SpeechWares. I bought the Flamingo because it is portable and much cheaper than the version with the built in base. The USB2 hub I'm using cost $6 and is easily mounted to the desk using double sided tape; desktop units cost hundreds more though they offer no more functionality than a hub.

Finally, here's the accuracy of dictating the rainbow passage using the two microphones and Mac Enhanced Diction and Nuance Speech Recognition.

Buddy 75 Savi W440

Naturally Speaking 13



Enhanced Dictation El Capitan



You can see that the Buddy 7G desk mic is quite good, but not as good as a headset, and that El Capitan's Enhanced Dictation is okay but frustrating for serious use.

by Joseph Reagle at July 13, 2016 04:00 AM

July 12, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Misuse of Creative Commons-licensed photo leads to public apology

Niccolò Caranti hopes that this "will help clarify that 'free license' is not the same thing as 'public domain'; it does not mean 'you can do whatever you want without conditions.' "

by Ed Erhart at July 12, 2016 11:51 PM

Semantic MediaWiki

Semantic MediaWiki 2.4 released

Semantic MediaWiki 2.4 released

July 9 2016. Semantic MediaWiki 2.4, the next feature version after 2.3, has now been released. This new version brings many enhancements and new features such as substantial improvements on how to handle multilingual content, providing more control on what data values may be stored validly (based on patterns) and on how data values may be displayed and formatted (e.g. units, precision). Also the maintenance scripts were extended to provide more features easing the work of the system administrators. Other improvements allow to select pages via ranges or with single values using comparators and placeholders. See also the release page for information on further improvements and new features. Additionally this version fixes a lot of bugs and brings stability and performance improvements. Automated software testing was further expanded to assure software stability. See the page Installation for details on how to install and upgrade.

Semantic MediaWiki 2.4 released en

by Kghbln at July 12, 2016 10:35 PM

William Beutler

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned Editing Wikipedia


Ten years ago today, I created a Wikipedia account for the very first time, and made a few small edits that I probably would not make exactly the same way in 2016. For those who know about my Wikipedia participation over the past decade, you may not be surprised to learn that my initial series of edits was made at the request of my boss. As it happens, my very first edit was in fact to a discussion page, explaining my rationale. In retrospect, this instinct served me well later on, in ways I couldn’t have known at the time.

But anyway, I came back the day after, and a few days after that, and started making edits based on my own interests. At the time these included: Michael Mann, The Crow (1994 film), Mike Bellotti, The Postal Service, Truthiness, and Ratfucking. So: action movies, college football, indie rock, and amusing political jargon. I have more interests today than I did when I started editing in my mid-20s—relatively late, compared to some editors I know—but I’m still interested in all of the above, even if some of the specific topics aren’t quite as relevant. I continued making small edits over the next two years, learning more as I went, until finally building up the confidence to create my very first article, about legendary Portland, Oregon retailer and TV pitchman Tom Peterson.

Looking back on these ten years, my contributions are rather modest compared with many, many other editors whom I’ve come to know. But here is a short recounting, both on-wiki and off: I’ve attended four Wikimania conferences and two WikiConference USAs; appeared as a speaker at four combined; made several thousand edits across primary and secondary accounts; created dozens and improved hundreds of articles; launched a business initially predicated on helping companies and organizations with COI compliance; and helped put the world’s largest PR companies on the record about following Wikipedia’s rules. Oh, and I started this blog, now more than seven years old.

To say that Wikipedia has changed me far more than I have changed it would be an understatement. I owe a great deal of this decade to Wikipedia and everyone there, and this put me in mind of what, specifically, I have learned from it. Dare I say, to finally invoke the title of this piece, all I really needed to know I learned editing Wikipedia.

♦     ♦     ♦

The following is an entirely non-comprehensive list of life principles as elucidated by the principles of Wikipedia as I’ve come to understand them. I’d love to hear feedback, whether you agree or disagree, and especially if you can think of any others:

  • Let’s first dispense with the obvious: there are many lifetimes worth of knowledge to be found in the 5.2 million entries on the English Wikipedia. In a very literal and obvious sense, of course it contains everything you need to know, especially if you need to know about footballers.
  • More to the point, Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, and the lessons one can learn from interactions with Wikipedia’s editors, are extremely useful if you’re willing to think about them and apply them to your own life. I can think of several… (WP:POLICYLIST)
  • Finding a balance between giving others benefit of the doubt while also being judicious in whom you trust is one of the most challenging tasks facing everyone, and making the right call can have a profound influence on what we believe and how we act upon these beliefs. (WP:AGF, WP:RELIABLE)
  • Building on the last one: be prepared to investigate your own opinions and beliefs. Just because you think something is true, there’s a decent chance you may be wrong, and the best way to handle any challenges is to soberly consider the evidence and determine if your conclusions hold up. (WP:VERIFY)
  • Sometimes the best way to understand what a thing is is to observe what it is not. By process of exclusion, one can arrive at more a objective assessment about the practical nature of a thing by determining first what it isn’t, than by trying to understand it solely for itself. (WP:NOT)
  • Not all principles should be accorded the same weight, and forming a coherent and defensible hierarchy for which values supersede others is necessary to conduct oneself morally. Rules should in general be followed, but well-intentioned rules can lead to bad outcomes if you don’t pay attention to the totality of their implications. (WP:GUIDES, WP:IGNORE)
  • Respect others’ intellectual contributions as you would their physical property. If you got a good idea from someone, give them fair credit. You’d want the same, and if you don’t there’s a very good chance it will catch up with you, especially on the Internet where everything is searchable. (WP:COPYVIO, WP:IUP)
  • Don’t be a jerk, don’t violate others’ space, and don’t cause anyone grief to make a point, even if you have one. It’s possible to disagree reasonably and with appropriate emphasis while upholding your dignity and allowing others’ theirs. Just be cool, OK? (WP:CIVIL, WP:PERSONAL, WP:BADGER)
  • If you want to get along with others and coexist in a world where there are many differences of opinion and belief, it’s important to have a good sense of how others came to those conclusions, be able to assess other opinions neutrally, and know not only when to give them their due but also how far is too far in polite society. (WP:NPOV, WP:UNDUE)
  • You can’t make rules for everything, and some degree of flexibility based on your surroundings will be necessary to thrive in surroundings you cannot control. Not every community will have the same standards, so it’s in your best interest to be alert for these differences and conduct oneself accordingly. (WP:CONSENSUS)
  • Finally, no matter how worthy the principles you decide to live by, it’s simply a fact that not everyone you’ll come across will agree to them, or act the same even if they voice agreement with them. When you’re dealing with human beings who have their own objectives, passions, prejudices and prerogatives, a certain comfortability with uncertainty and disagreement is as necessary as any of the rules preceding this one.

♦     ♦     ♦

So, does all this mean Wikipedia is perfect? Heck, no! What I mean is that it’s an excellent place not just to soak up the sum of all human knowledge, but also to learn how to conduct oneself in a society riven with conflict and ambiguity, where might sometimes seems to make right and in the end all one can really be certain about having the power to safeguard is one’s own integrity. Maybe that’s a dim view of the world, but when you consider all the bad things that happen every day, you know, getting into (and out of) an edit war on Wikipedia is a relatively safe and surprisingly practical way to learn some key lessons about life. In another ten years’ time, I’m sure I’ll have learned some more.

by William Beutler at July 12, 2016 07:33 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed’s Year of Science is on the road this summer

When the world searches for knowledge, it often ends up on Wikipedia. For college and university students, learning how to think critically about the information they find is a crucial skill. But what if they could have a hand in improving the information the public finds when it searches for the knowledge these students are already learning in your classroom?

That’s the idea behind our Year of Science. This summer, the Wiki Education Foundation will be hitting the road as a part of the Wikipedia Year of Science. We’ll be sharing information about the Classroom Program and our Visiting Scholars Program.

As the fall 2016 term approaches, science instructors have an opportunity to participate. We’re looking for instructors to ask students to research and write a Wikipedia article instead of a term paper. That makes Wikipedia’s science content more comprehensive and comprehensible. Ars Technica, Motherboard, and The Washington Post have covered our campaign, which so far has involved 2,180 science students who have contributed 2 million words to Wikipedia in the spring 2016 term alone.

We’ve asked instructors why more of their colleagues don’t teach with Wikipedia. After all, pairing a real-world writing assignment that motivates students to make a difference outside of their classroom seems like a win-win. Many of our participants agree, and up to 92% of them said they’d use Wikipedia as a teaching tool again. They told us that people don’t know they can use Wikipedia as a powerful pedagogical tool. We’re coming to academic conferences to spread the word, and show academics how easy it can be. We offer staff support, online tools, printed guides, and Wikipedia expertise.

Curious? Here’s 5 reasons why Wikipedia assignments are better than a term paper.

If you or someone you know is headed to one of these annual meetings, please send them our way. If you’re in the Orlando, Chicago, Savannah, Columbus, or Fort Lauderdale areas, we’re always excited to use this rare opportunity to meet face-to-face for assignment design. We’d love to brainstorm ways we can collaborate in the upcoming term. Join us and help make the Wikipedia Year of Science a huge success! For more information, email contact@wikiedu.org.

Allied Genetics Conference

Educational Partnerships Manager, Jami Mathewson
Educational Partnerships Manager, Jami Mathewson

Next week, I’ll head to Orlando for the Allied Genetics Conference. The meeting brings together geneticists from different areas of research and will be a great opportunity to tackle Wikipedia’s content gaps within the discipline. For conference attendees interested in learning about how Wikipedia assignments benefit student learning, please stop by the exhibit hall and the Wiki Education Foundation booth. I’ll be there during the following times:

  • Wednesday, July 13th, 9:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 14th, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Friday, July 15th, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 16th, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

I’m looking forward to empowering geneticists and their students to participate in our programs to make Wikipedia better. Editing articles about genes and proteins may seem tricky to newcomers, which is why Wiki Ed has developed a handbook with tips on creating or expanding genetics articles. If you’re attending the conference, stop by my booth for a copy and to design an assignment that’s a great fit for you and your students.

Joint Statistics Meeting

Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson
Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson

In late July, Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson heads to Chicago for the Joint Statistics Meeting. More than 6,000 statisticians will represent everything from statistical applications to methodology to data science. Wikipedia articles about these topics can use a refresher, and instructors may even be interested in assigning their students to use Wikipedia’s open data for a research project. Samantha is excited to think about new ways we can engage statistics students on Wikipedia. Please stop by the Wiki Education Foundation booth for more information:

  • Sunday, July 31st, 1:00 – 4:30 p.m., 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Monday, August 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 2nd, 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 3rd, 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Botany 2016

I’ll head to the beautiful city of Savannah for the Botanical Society of America’s conference. We work closely with the American Society of Plant Biologists, and we’ve found plant science students have a lot to contribute to Wikipedia. Stop by at the following times to learn more about how Wiki Ed supports instructors and students:

  • Sunday, July 31st, 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
  • Monday, August 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 2nd, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 3rd, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


LiAnna Davis
Director of Programs, LiAnna Davis

Director of Programs LiAnna Davis will join me at the Mathematical Association of America’s conference in Columbus. We’ll join mathematicians to celebrate math—and to highlight how complex math articles are on Wikipedia. Students can make articles more understandable to novice mathematicians through a Wikipedia assignment, and LiAnna and I will help instructors design impactful assignments.

  • Wednesday, August 3rd, 6:00–8:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 4th, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Friday, August 5th, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 6th, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting

Educational Partnerships Manager, Jami Mathewson, and Outreach Manager, Samantha Erickson
Educational Partnerships Manager, Jami Mathewson, and Outreach Manager, Samantha Erickson

Finally, Samantha and I will meet in Fort Lauderdale to evangelize the benefits of a Wikipedia assignment at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting. We’ve already had so many ecology courses participate in the Classroom Program that we created a guideline for editing ecology articles. We can’t wait to bring the experience to even more students this coming fall.

  • Monday, August 8th—Thursday, August 11th
  • 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., 3:00 – 6:30 p.m., daily

We’d love to see you there!

Photo: Sunflowers by Sue Reynolds, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

by Jami Mathewson at July 12, 2016 04:10 PM

Wikidata (WMDE - English)

From Damascus to Berlin: A very special internship at Wikimedia Deutschland

German summary: Alaa Mustafa hat gerade 6 Wochen Praktikum in der Software-Entwicklung bei Wikimedia Deutschland hinter sich. Der syrische IT-Spezialist flüchtete letzten Sommer vor dem Bürgerkrieg in Syrien nach Deutschland. Während er auf die Mühlen der Bürokratie wartete, bewarb er sich um ein Praktikum bei der Entwicklung von Wikidata. Wir haben ihn zum Ende seines Praktikums zu seinen Erfahrungen befragt. Das Interview fand auf Englisch statt, der Sprache, die Alaa auch in der täglichen Arbeit bei Wikimedia Deutschland benutzte.

Alaa Mustafa just finished six weeks of an internship at the software development department at Wikimedia Deutschland. The Syrian IT specialist came to Germany last summer, fleeing from the war. While he was stuck in bureaucracy, he applied for an internship to become part of the Wikidata team. We asked him about his experience at Wikimedia Deutschland in a short interview as his internship came to an end.

Can you tell me something about your background?

My name is Alaa Mustafa. I was born in Damascus and I am 28 years old. First, I studied in an institute for computer engineering for two years. Then I moved to university and studied for four years, with a major in information technology. Actually, after graduation, I didn’t work in that field. Rather, I was working in a company which sold consumer electronics – pretty much like Media Markt or Saturn here. There I worked in sales, in marketing, and in the business development team.

And then you came to Germany?

Yes, I came to Germany last summer, one year ago.

And what made you apply for an internship at Wikimedia Deutschland?

I’m a newcomer here, so I was looking for ways to integrate – Germany is a new country for me. I searched on websites for jobs in English and there I came across Wikimedia Deutschland. I reached out, got an interview, and then Lydia (product manager of Wikidata) accepted me.

Right now, you’re still waiting for the bureaucracy to sort out everything. Are you allowed to work now?

I may work, but it took a long time to get an approval from the Ausländerbehörde. The Agentur für Arbeit supports me, but right now I’m not allowed to make money through my work.

All in all, did you like the few weeks that you spent with us?

I liked it very much. Back in Syria, I had already heard of Wikimedia, a big organization and a great source for knowledge. I only worked here a bit over a month, for 45 days, but I feel really proud that I was part of this organization.

Let’s talk a bit about what you did here as an intern. I understand that you mostly helped Lydia?

Actually, I was working as an assistent for Lydia. There are many things on Wikidata pages that take a lot of time that Lydia doesn’t always have to do herself – things like updates on events or new features, so I did that.

But I was also asked about the website from the point of view of a user – not as a developer, but as an ordinary user: how does the website look like when a user opens Wikidata for the first time. We talked about possible improvements to the interface. Our UX team at Wikimedia Deutschland is currently working on the user experience and I was able to support them.

Last week you invited your colleagues for Arabic food for dinner. How did that go?

I wanted to have an opportunity to talk to everyone personally. Here, in the office, we always talk about work, but having dinner together gave us a chance to get to know each other personally. It was a very friendly dinner and that evening made me very happy.

I cooked something called Hummus (حُمُّص‎‎) and some rice with chicken. Typical Arabic food – two kinds of Hummus and chicken rice. It’s delicious! But you need to learn how to eat it correctly: with your hands, using bread to scoop it up.

So many people from Syria are now in Germany, I think we’ll soon see high quality Syrian food over here. You can already find good Hummus around Hermannplatz, so it’s a start.

Would you say that there are huge cultural differences regarding the work you did in Damascus and the work here? Or is work in IT the same all over the world?

The management side is definitely different. In Syria, even if your manager is wrong, you should go with him.

Here I feel that everyone can discuss everything freely and is listened to. We have a daily standup meeting where everyone has a chance to say something. I was only here for a little more than a month and I could give an honest critique about aspects of the product and Lydia never told me that I shouldn’t criticize things – rather, she appreciated it and took it as input.

Yes, things are different here. Discussion is very much valued. That makes the work very motivating. Everyone can discuss everything with everyone and it’s a very friendly atmosphere.

Anything else you would like to say? What comes next for you?

I now feel that these 45 days were… how should I say… I’d call it my “golden days” in Germany.

Within the next 10 days, I will start learning German at a school. I already studied German on my own with books, so I’m in a good position, but I really should go to school and take a proper course. That will take about 6 months, 4 hours every day.

After that I will search for work. Let’s see if Wikimedia Deutschland will have openings. But in any case, I’m proud that I was part of this organization and I will always try to keep in touch with you.

by Jens Ohlig at July 12, 2016 11:35 AM

July 11, 2016

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Wikimedia Foundation intervenes in Canada to protect online free expression

Photo by Taxiarchos228, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Taxiarchos228, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Today, the Wikimedia Foundation filed a motion to intervene in Equustek v. Google, a case currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. We took this step because we believe the Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision could have serious implications for freedom of expression and access to information online. Other organizations expected to intervene include the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

This case began when the networking device manufacturer Equustek Solutions filed a lawsuit in Canada against Datalink Technologies, a competitor. Equustek argued that Datalink had infringed Equustek’s intellectual property, and a British Columbia Court ordered Datalink to cease selling certain products.

When Datalink disobeyed the Court by continuing sales of its allegedly infringing products, the Court ordered Google, an uninvolved non-party to the dispute between the two companies, to indefinitely remove or cease indexing the entirety of Datalink’s websites—and several third-party web pages that referred to Datalink as well. In effect, the Court ordered Google to erase Datalink from Google’s search results. Further, the Court ordered that this removal be made effective globally across all of Google’s domains; not just on Google.ca in Canada, but on Google.com, Google.cn, and Google.fr and others as well. Google appealed the order, and the case is now before Canada’s highest Court.

An order of this kind threatens the free flow of information on the internet. Not only does it lack geographic or temporal limits—it is indefinite, and worldwide—but it was issued against an organization that was uninvolved in the underlying dispute and that was not accused of any wrongdoing. It is questionable whether such orders would be appropriate under any circumstances, but if considered, courts should take far greater care to safeguard free expression.

Removal orders such as those in Equustek could significantly impact the Wikimedia movement in several ways and ultimately pose a threat to online free expression and access to information, two of Wikimedia’s guiding values. To begin, the Wikimedia projects receive approximately 50% of their traffic from search engines such as Google. A global, indefinite order to de-index Wikimedia content would therefore impact a major source of Wikimedia’s readership.

In addition, the decision allows Canadian courts to order the worldwide removal or de-indexing of whole pages or even entire websites based on a small amount of allegedly infringing content. The Foundation believes that such broad removals would inevitably sweep up vastly more non-infringing expression than offending content. The overbreadth of such orders is a particular threat to Wikimedia projects such as Wikipedia, which contain countless external hyperlinks. These links often serve as necessary references for the Wikimedia movement’s free educational content. Under the lower Court’s reasoning, a single link to allegedly infringing content could result in the de-indexing of entire articles full of valuable, non-infringing educational information. We worry that such sweeping orders could create a chilling effect for editors, who might avoid inserting needed references for fear that those references could lead to an article’s complete erasure from search results.

We are similarly concerned about the extraterritorial application of the lower Court’s decision. It allows Canadian plaintiffs to use Canadian law to dictate the content that users in other countries may access, even if the offending content is perfectly legal in those countries. It could also set a troubling precedent for the reverse: foreign courts controlling the content that Canadians may view, even content that is legal in Canada.

Lastly, we are troubled that the lower Court’s decision has the potential to deputize search engines, like Google, or other organizations (who may not have the same resources as Google to sustain ongoing litigation) unrelated to underlying disputes to enforce private rights.

Therefore, we believe we must speak up in this case, with the hope that the Canadian Supreme Court will see the far-reaching impact such orders can have upon free speech, access to knowledge, and the internet at large. If the Supreme Court grants us leave to intervene, we will have eight weeks to submit a formal brief. We will keep the communities apprised of any developments in the case.

Michelle Paulson, Legal Director*
Wikimedia Foundation

*Special thanks to Jim Buatti, WMF Legal Fellow, and Steven Pong, WMF Privacy Fellow, for their assistance on this case, and to Kris Borg-Olivier and Andrew Lokan of Paliare Roland for their representation of the Foundation.

by Michelle Paulson at July 11, 2016 10:43 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: The life of plants

Somewhere near the North Pole, deep within a frozen sandstone mountain, is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The vault has some doomsday overtones: It’s intended to house a wide variety of plant seeds for use in the event of a global crisis.

That vault may seem like the lair of some James Bond supervillain. But it the wake of disaster, it may just save Earth’s biodiversity. The site is part of a broader conservation strategy known as “ex situ conservation,” or “off-site conservation.”

Students in Dr. Jeremie Fant and Dr. Stuart Wagenius’ Conservation Genetics course at Northwestern University expanded that article as it relates to plants. Together, the class outlined a few forms of ex situ conservation.

Such forms include freezing seeds in liquid nitrogen (cryopreservation), or allowing seeds to bloom and propagate in a restricted environment.

Preserving seeds in this way creates a kind of living library, and so it serves as an appropriate metaphor for Wikipedia. Students in plant biology and botany courses have developed a wealth of knowledge for current and future generations.

For example, the world has a better understanding of how plants gravitate toward sunlight, or at least, away from shade. That’s thanks to students at the University of Washington, Seattle’s Plant Behavior course, led by Dr. Liz Van Volkenburgh.

Student editors expanded the article’s coverage to better explain how plants sense shade. It includes the fascinating tidbit that plants can tell the difference between a shadow cast by an inanimate object and the shade of other plants. The spectrum of a plant’s shadow reveals this information, which helps make plants aware of local competitors.

Finally, students helped understand the use of seeds when they aren’t being locked up in a frozen tundra. One group created the article on Peri-urban agriculture, that is, growing food on the fringes of cities. They outlined the benefits and challenges of the practice. For example: It can help capture carbon in the air around cities and provide much-needed green space. On the other hand, not all agriculture is pleasant for neighbors, and resources need to be carefully allocated. In any event, the world now has a well-rounded understanding of the practice thanks to students in Dr. Cecelia Musselman’s “Advanced Writing for Environmental Science” course at Northeastern University.

The possibilities for expanding and improving information about plants, agriculture, and botany on Wikipedia are clear. And our Year of Science initiative is a great way to get involved. If you’d like to find out how your class can get started editing Wikipedia articles on similar topics, reach out! Send a message to contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Global Seed Vault, by MiksuOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0

by Eryk Salvaggio at July 11, 2016 04:00 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Margaret D. Foster - a #female #scientist

I was asked to blog about Mrs Foster. The argument was: "This article missed all the points why Mrs Foster is notable". One great feature of the improved article is a picture that was lovingly restored by Adam Cuerden.

Well, to be honest, I remember a presentation by Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight where she argued that the first step to get some gender balance is to write an article warts and all. It does not have to be perfect, the least it does is be there and invite scorn and improvements.

This sentiment is part of the original Wikipedia ethos; it is good to have stubs and red links. It is good to have a start to improve upon. In this sentimental spirit I improved the data on Mrs Foster on Wikidata a bit. I used Autolist to add the content of a few categories and, I added some universities she had attended.

So yes, the article has improved and it is exactly why both Wikipedia and Rosie are a success.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 11, 2016 07:57 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #28, 2016 (July 11, 2016)

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July 11, 2016 12:00 AM

July 09, 2016

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Bródy Sándor-díj

When #Wikidata has really succeeded, it includes all the data of all the Wikipedias. The Sándor Bródy Prize is known on three Wikipedias and it is reasonable that the Hungarian Wikipedia has the most information.

The last known winner, Gábor Kálmán, won the prize in 2012. Currently it is a red link. There is no information about who won in later years and my Hungarian is not enough to find out more if the prize was conferred.

All this transpired from a recent idea that in order to improve the quality of Wikidata for awards, we should add all the winners of awards for 2015. Lydia suggested asking on Twitter for a query and both Magnus and Wikidatafacts provided a SPARQL query. For the Sándor Bródy Prize no winners were known, this was remedied with the "Linked Items" tool. As the objective was to only add the last winner, Mr Kálmán and the date for 2012 were added. There are some 13,881 awards known without a 2015 winner..

The objective for the Sándor Bródy Prize has not been achieved. However, the quality of the data has improved considerably. To make it as good as the information on the Hungarian Wikipedia, dates have to be added and two items have to be added to fill in for existing red links.

The point of all this is that it is possible to quantify a lack of data in Wikidata and by inference a lack of quality. As time goes by, people can use these queries as a tool to make improvements or people will just add data and as a consequence the quality will improve. Either way it is obvious that it takes time and effort to get the desired quality. However on a micro level, it is possible for Wikidata to be better than any of the other projects because its data for a specific award is better. For the the Sándor Bródy Prize all it takes is two items and a few dates.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 09, 2016 07:05 AM

July 08, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed coming to the American Society of Plant Biologists’ conference

Educational Partnerships Manager, Jami Mathewson, and Outreach Manager, Samantha Erickson
Educational Partnerships Manager, Jami Mathewson, and Outreach Manager, Samantha Erickson

This weekend, Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson and I will attend the American Society of Plant Biologists’ annual meeting in Austin, Texas. As a part of Wiki Ed’s partnership with ASPB, we will be on hand to help plant scientists to incorporate Wikipedia into their classroom assignments. Instructors can empower students to make an impact on the knowledge of millions of readers, while students develop critical thinking, media literacy, research, and writing skills.

If you’re attending the ASPB conference, here are details for how to learn more about our initiative to expand Wikipedia’s coverage of plant science.

Join us at the Wiki Ed exhibit booth

Come speak to me or Samantha to design your Wikipedia assignment, learn about the ASPB partnership, or find out why Wikipedia could be a great fit for your course.

  • Where: Austin Convention Center, Education booths
  • When:
    • Saturday, July 9th: 6:30 – 7:45 p.m.
    • Sunday, July 10th: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
    • Monday, July 11th: 11:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.
    • Tuesday, July 12th: 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Edit Wikipedia!

Join us for our Wikipedia edit-a-thon.

No experience required! You’ll walk away with a better understanding of how to start a Wikipedia article, view a page’s history, and properly cite content so it makes the encyclopedia more reliable. Bring a Wi-Fi enabled device. Light refreshments provided.

  • Where: Room 13A
  • When: Monday, July 11th, 12:00–3:00pm

Join our Workshop: 

Writing Science: Inspire Careful Thinking and Useful Discourse

This workshop explores how writing about science is a critical skill for students. Dr. Sarah Wyatt will present. She has assigned her students to edit Wikipedia during the Year of Science, and she’s the ASPB Education Committee Chair. We’ll join her to show how Wikipedia can be used as a tool to achieve science-writing goals.

  • Where: Ballroom F
  • When: Sunday, July 10th, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

We hope to see you there!

Photo: Texas Bluebonnets by Jeffrey Pang, CC BY 2.0,

by Jami Mathewson at July 08, 2016 04:00 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - making a statement

#Statistics are powerful particularly when they tell the whole story like the ones produced by Magnus. They are a set of statistics and they indicate the progress of Wikidata. The most relevant statistics are included; they indicate the number of statements, the number of labels and the number of links over time.

There is more to the statistics. For some references or better still, the lack of references is why some people oppose the use of Wikidata. Specially for them there are five statistics that indicate progress made. The good news is that more and more items have referenced statements (62.64%). This growth can be understood because a lot of effort has been going into providing tools to add sources and many people do add them.

Improving the quality of Wikidata is complex. There are many factors that make a difference. Personally I care most about rich annotations with statements for each and every item. Others care more about references. It is important that improvements are made in every way. This is why Wikidata becomes increasingly relevant and why new ways open up to improve its quality even further.

As Wikidata matures, its quality becomes increasingly obvious. When more Wikimedia projects use its data, it will grow the number of people who are involved and Wikidata will evolve into a rich and trustworthy source of data.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at July 08, 2016 09:21 AM

Resident Mario

July 07, 2016

Wikimedia Tech Blog

How MediaWiki is streamlining San Francisco’s new Museum of Modern Art

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is experimenting with MediaWiki as a hub for curated information for hundreds of complex artworks.

by Aubrie Johnson at July 07, 2016 11:27 PM