May 27, 2016

Jeroen De Dauw

Maps 3.6 for MediaWiki released

I’m happy to announce the immediate availability of Maps 3.6. This feature release brings marker clustering enhancements and a number of fixes.

These parameters where added to the display_map parser function, to allow for greater control over marker clustering. They are only supported together with Google Maps.

  • clustergridsize: The grid size of a cluster in pixels
  • clustermaxzoom: The maximum zoom level that a marker can be part of a cluster
  • clusterzoomonclick: If the default behavior of clicking on a cluster is to zoom in on it
  • clusteraveragecenter: If the cluster location should be the average of all its markers
  • clusterminsize: The minimum number of markers required to form a cluster


  • Fixed missing marker cluster images for Google Maps
  • Fixed duplicate markers in OpenLayers maps
  • Fixed URL support in the icon parameter


Many thanks to Peter Grassberger, who made the listed fixes and added the new clustering parameters. Thanks also go to Karsten Hoffmeyer for miscellaneous support and to TranslateWiki for providing translations.


Since this is a feature release, there are no breaking changes, and you can simply run composer update, or replace the old files with the new ones.

There are, however, compatibility changes to keep in mind. As of this version, Maps requires PHP 5.5 or later and MediaWiki 1.23 or later. composer update will not give you a version of Maps incompatible with your version of PHP, though it is presently not checking your MediaWiki version. Fun fact: this is the first bump in minimum requirements since the release of Maps 2.0, way back in 2012.



by Jeroen at May 27, 2016 07:19 AM

May 26, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed visits Brown, Northeastern Universities

In March, Wikipedia Content Expert Adam Hyland and I were honored to join faculty at Brown University and Northeastern University to encourage them to join the Wikipedia Year of Science.

At Brown, we discussed the impact students can make by writing Wikipedia articles. Our host, Jim McGrath (pictured above), organized a group of faculty from several disciplines to hear how they can integrate Wikipedia can into any course to achieve their student learning objectives.

We spoke with faculty intrigued by the idea of sponsoring a Visiting Scholar. Visiting Scholars are experienced Wikipedia editors who have proven records of improving Wikipedia. When a host institution offers access to university resources, scholars use those resources to identify and write articles within a topic area that need improvement. This program is a high-impact, low-stakes way for faculty, librarians, or university departments to improve Wikipedia.

At Northeastern, Dr. Cecelia Musselman and Amanda Rust joined us for a hands-on workshop about teaching science communication through Wikipedia. Instructors from the Biology and English departments came to hear and share ideas about incorporating a Wikipedia assignment into their classrooms.

Whether students are studying biology or literature, editing Wikipedia helps them do in-depth research and to build communication skills required for any discipline or career.

Thanks to our hosts for bringing us to their campuses to share Wiki Ed’s programs and the Wikipedia Year of Science!

by Jami Mathewson at May 26, 2016 04:00 PM

Jeroen De Dauw

Is Pair Programming worth it?

Every now and then I get asked how to convince ones team members that Pair Programming is worthwhile. Often the person asking, or people I did pair programming with, while obviously enthusiastic about the practice, and willing to give it plenty of chance, are themselves not really convinced that it actually is worth the time. In this short post I share how I look at it, in the hope it is useful to you personally, and in convincing others.

Extreme Programming

The cost of Pair Programming

Suppose you are new to the practice and doing it very badly. You have one person hogging the keyboard and not sharing their thoughts, with the other paying more attention to twitter than to the development work. In this case you basically spend twice the time for the same output. In other words, the development cost is multiplied by two.

Personally I find it tempting to think about Pair Programming as doubling the cost, even though I know better. How much more total developer time you need is unclear, and really depends on the task. The more complex the task, the less overhead Pair Programming will cause. What is clear, is that when your execution of the practice is not pathologically bad, and when the task is more complicated than something you could trivially automate, the cost multiplication is well below two. An article on c2 wiki suggests 10-15% more total developer time, with the time elapsed being about 55% compared to solo development.

If these are all the cost implications you think about with regards to Pair Programming, it’s easy to see how you will have a hard time to justify it. Let’s look at what makes the practice actually worthwhile.

The cost of not Pair Programming

If you do Pair Programming, you do not need a dedicated code review step. This is because Pair Programming is a continuous application of review. Not only do you not have to put time into a dedicated review step, the quality of the review goes up, as communication is much easier. The involved feedback loops are shortened. With dedicated review, the reviewer will often have a hard time understanding all the relevant context and intent. Questions get asked and issues get pointed out. Some time later the author of the change, who in the meanwhile has been working on something else, needs to get back to the reviewer, presumably forcing two mental context switches. When you are used to such a process, it becomes easy to become blind to this kind of waste when not paying deliberate attention to it. Pair Programming eliminates this waste.

The shorter feedback loops and enhanced documentation also help you with design questions. You have a fellow developer sitting next to you who you can bounce ideas off and they are even up to speed with what you are doing. How great is that? Pair Programming can be a lot of fun.

The above two points make Pair Programming pay more than for itself in my opinion, though it offers a number of additional benefits. You gain true collective ownership, and build shared commitment. There is knowledge transfer and Pair Programming is an excellent way of onboarding new developers. You gain higher quality, both internal in the form of better design, and external, in the form of fewer defects. While those benefits are easy to state, they are by no means insignificant, and deserve thorough consideration.

Give Pair Programming a try

As with most practices there is a reasonable learning curve, which will slow you down at first. Such investments are needed to become a better programmer and contribute more to your team.

Many programmers are more introverted and find the notion of having to pair program rather daunting. My advice when starting is to begin with short sessions. Find a colleague you get along with reasonably well and sit down together for an hour. Don’t focus too much on how much you got done. Rather than setting some performance goal with an arbitrary deadline, focus on creating a habit such as doing one hour of Pair Programming every two days. You will automatically get better at it over time.

If you are looking for instructions on how to Pair Program, there is plenty of google-able material out there. You can start by reading the Wikipedia page. I recommend paying particular attention to the listed non-performance indicators. There are also many videos, be it conference tasks, or dedicated explanations of the basics.

Such disclaimer

I should note that while I have some experience with Pair Programming, I am very much a novice compared to those who have done it full time for multiple years, and can only guess at the sage incantations these mythical creatures would send your way.

Extreme Pair Programming

Extreme Pair Programming

by Jeroen at May 26, 2016 03:04 PM

May 25, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed discusses women and Wikipedia at Bryn Mawr

At Wikipedia workshops, I often talk about Wikipedia’s gender gap, in which far more men contribute than women. In fact, at least 80% of those who contribute content to Wikipedia are men.

When I joined Dr. Monica Mercado, Director of the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, for a workshop at Bryn Mawr College, instructors were shocked to hear the numbers. Together, we looked at how the gender gap affects the world’s most-accessed educational resource.

Attendees were disappointed in Wikipedia’s lack of diversity, but I think our discussion inspired them. The aha moment came when they realized how much students can improve Wikipedia’s representation of women. When instructors at a women’s liberal arts college like Bryn Mawr take on a Wikipedia writing assignment, they help bring women’s voices to Wikipedia. While students may choose to expand content related to women, they also curb Wikipedia’s systemic bias.

Today in the United States, women outnumber men in universities. Encouraging university classrooms to contribute to Wikipedia includes more women in the project. That’s one of the most compelling reasons for new instructors to participate.

In the fall 2015 term, after a year of partnering with the National Women’s Studies Association, we wanted to know just how many of our student Wikipedians were women. In the end-of-term survey to instructors, we got an answer. 97% of instructors surveyed said half of their students were women. 52% of respondents said 75% or more of their students were women.

That’s a powerful impact, especially on a website where more than 80% of contributors are men. I’m excited to see how our students continue impacting Wikipedia, and I hope our future work includes the instructors I met at Bryn Mawr. Thank you to Dr. Mercado for also inviting me into her history class to speak to students about how they can change herstory with Wikipedia.


Photo: Wiki Ed at Bryn Mawr College by Jami (Wiki Ed)Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

by Jami Mathewson at May 25, 2016 04:00 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikidata - Kerala MLA constituencies

Kerala is one of the states of India and like all the others has its own legislative assembly. Like in Great Britain politicians are elected from constituencies. There are many as you can see on the map.

When there are elections, things change. New people become a representative, some remain a representative and others no longer have relevance in that way. At Wikidata, the current list of people who are "Member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly" is a bit of a mess. There are many items without a name in English, there are people who are only known in English and probably there are a lot of doubles. 

There are even representatives who are known to have an article on the English Wikipedia but do not (yet) have an item. This is all because of this big push to write articles on Indian representatives.

As more work is done for this big push to get the data complete, the data will become more informative. What we hope to achieve is:
  • associate MLA's with constituencies
  • have labels in both English and Malayalam for all of them
  • merge all the possible duplicates
Obviously there is more that might be done. We could add the dates when people became a MLA. This will allow us to create queries that shows who was a MLA at what time. When all this is done for Kerala, there are 28 other Indian states and there are many other countries that could do with a little bit of TLC.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at May 25, 2016 10:48 AM

Wikimedia Foundation

Why I write about battleships

Painting by Hugo Graf, restoration by Adam Cureden, public domain/CC0.

Painting by Hugo Graf, restoration by Adam Cureden, public domain/CC0.

I came to edit Wikipedia by way of a presentation I was preparing on Bolivia, back in mid-2006. In doing my research, I stumbled onto the Wikipedia article, and while reading it, I noticed several typographical and grammatical errors, presumably from an author who was not a native speaker of English. I saw the “edit” button, so I decided to fix the sections where I noticed problems—I was hooked, and I created an account shortly thereafter. From there, I started exploring the site, and I drifted toward interests I’ve had since childhood: military history, and war at sea in particular. For the most part, I dabbled with a variety of articles, but did not try my hand at major writing projects.

Fast forward to May 2007, and I stumbled onto a very short article with only three sentences, the topic of which was the Brandenburg­-class of battleships that had been built by Germany in the 19th century. At the time, the article intrigued me: I knew nothing about the navy of the German Empire and was surprised to find out that Germany had at one point the second-largest fleet in the world. Given the poor condition of the article, I decided I should try to improve it. From there, I slowly started expanding or creating articles on the ships of Germany’s Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy).

Photo from the Library of Congress, restored by Adam Cuerden, public domain/CC0.

A Brandenburg-class battleship—or for Ott, a rabbit hole. Painting by Hugo Graf, restored by Adam Cuerden, public domain/CC0.

It wasn’t until mid-2008, when I helped a new editor steer an article he had been working on through the Good Article review process, that I decided to try to do the same with articles I had written. The article I chose, a guinea pig both for me and for the navy that built the ship itself, was SMS Von der Tann, the first German battlecruiser. After months of acquiring sources and writing, the article was in good enough shape to begin the review process. My eventual success at the Featured Article review process, a mark that signifies the best articles Wikipedia has to offer, gave me the goal to write articles on every major warship of the Kaiserliche Marine—an objective I have not yet reached.

So far, I’ve written articles on all of the various German battleships and cruisers from the 1860s to the end of World War II, ships that were expressions of German expansionism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—something that put Germany on a collision course with Great Britain and helped produce World War I. By dividing these ships into smaller sub-topics, first by ship classes and then types, I was able to create a series of manageably small projects that kept the overall plan from being overwhelming. Germany’s sailing vessels of the mid-19th century are yet to be tackled.

Along the way, I’ve branched out into the warships of other national navies, including Italy’s and Austria-Hungary’s. There’s something particularly fulfilling about writing articles on these obscure ships, very few of which have received much coverage in English-language publications. Some of these include vessels that were ground-breaking in their time or took part in major naval battles, but nevertheless did not yet have articles. For example, I recently wrote the article on SMS Erzherzog Ferdinand Max, an early ironclad warship that served as Wilhem von Tegetthoff’s flagship at the Battle of Lissa in 1866—the first major clash between modern ironclad warships.

Photo from the German Federal Archives, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

Ott has also written biographies, including one on Franz von Hipper, seen here at center.Photo from the German Federal Archives, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

Photo from the Library of Congress, public domain/CC0.

Von der Tann, the subject of Ott’s first featured article. Photo from the Library of Congress, public domain/CC0.

Several years ago, the portion of my personal project that dealt with capital ships was rolled into a much larger project to cover all articles related to battleships and battlecruisers, which was given the code name Operation Majestic Titan. In the course of working on the project, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with several other editors who share similar interests. Working with these editors over the years has been hugely motivational. Groups of editors with complementary libraries or access to different sources can write comprehensive articles much easier than one could do alone. And though I lack the time to keep up with the most prolific of my colleagues, their productivity has inspired me to write as much as I am able.

Nate Ott
English Wikipedia administrator

“Why I …” is a new ongoing series for the Wikimedia Blog, and we want to hear what motivates you to contribute to Wikimedia sites. Send us an email at blogteam[at]wikimedia[dot]org if you want to share your story about what gets you to write articles, take photographs, proofread transcriptions, and beyond.

by Nate Ott at May 25, 2016 05:05 AM

May 24, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Meet the Wikimedia Foundation’s two newest trustees: Christophe Henner and Nataliia Tymkiv

Photos (left, right) by Niccolò Caranti, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photos (left, right) by Niccolò Caranti, CC BY-SA 3.0.

On May 8, the results of year’s affiliate-selected board seat election were announced. Christophe Henner and Nataliia Tymkiv, of Wikimedia France and Ukraine (respectively), have been selected for three-year seats on the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

40 of the 42 Wikimedia movement affiliates, independent organizations that work to advance the Wikimedia movement, voted in what was a record number of participants. Ten candidates ran for the two open trustee positions. Their activities include supervising the Foundation’s executive director, approving the budget and major financial decisions, and setting policies and directives to further the Foundation’s mission.

Election winner Tymkiv, a member of Wikimedia Ukraine’s board, said that the selection by her peers meant quite a lot to her. “I am really honoured that I was selected by affiliates to be recommended as a prospective member of Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. For me personally, that means responsibility and trust, and a need to learn and understand a lot of things. As I mentioned in my electoral statement, I am going to focus on improving how the Foundation Board operates, our accountability, and our support of the community and affiliates.”

Henner, a former chair of Wikimedia France, told us: “I have been a part of the Wikimedia movement for more than a third of my life, so being recommended for the Foundation’s Board is both humbling and thrilling. Our next challenge is to finally become a global and unified movement that makes the world a better place, and I believe I can help move us in that direction. My expertise is with steering organizations, so that is where my focus will be for my term—I will dedicate my time to make sure we have the organization and movement we want and need so we can keep spreading free knowledge for the years to come.”

Chris Keating, one of three facilitators of the election, believes that “these two trustees will join the Wikimedia Foundation at a critical time as it begins looking for a new Executive Director, and will play a vital role in both the WMF and the wider Wikimedia movement during their terms.”

The election was the closest-ever affiliate-board election. While the final round showed a clear victor, Keating said, “the top five candidates were within five votes of each other on the first count, and the second- to fifth-placed candidates within two votes of each other, with third and fourth tied.”

Participants in the election used the Single Transferable Vote system. Henner received a majority of the votes in the first round, and became the first selection of the two candidates. The second candidate was selected after eight additional rounds of transferred votes, and in the final round Tymkiv (16.09) was selected over Siska Doviana of Wikimedia Indonesia (9.91).

The candidates selected have been sent to the Board of Trustees to be formally appointed at their annual meeting at this year’s Wikimania in Esino Lario, Italy.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

by Ed Erhart at May 24, 2016 08:36 PM

Jeroen De Dauw

I T.A.K.E. 2016

Last week I attended the I T.A.K.E. unconference in Bucharest. This unconference is about software development, and has tracks such as code quality, DevOps, craftsmanship, microservices and leadership. In this post I share my overall impressions as well as the notes I took during the uncoference.

Conference impression

itakeThis was my first attendance of I T.A.K.E, and I had not researched in high detail what the setup would look like, so I did not really know what to expect. What surprised me is that most of the unconference is actually pretty much a regular conference. For the majority of the two days, there where several tracks in parallel, with talks on various topics. The unconference part is limited to two hours each day during which there is an open space.

Overall I enjoyed the conference and learned some interesting new things. Some talks were a bit underwhelming quality wise, with speakers not properly using the microphone, code on slides in such a quantity that no one can read it, and speakers looking at their slides the whole time and not connecting to the audience. The parts I enjoyed most were the open space, conversations during coffee breaks, and a little pair programming. I liked I T.A.K.E more than the recent CraftConf, though less than SoCraTes, which perhaps is a high standard to set.

Keynote: Scaling Agile

Day one started with a keynote by James Shore (who you might know from Let’s Code: Test-Driven JavaScript) on how to apply agile methods when growing beyond a single team.

The first half of the talk focused on how to divide work amongst developers, be it between multiple teams, or within a team using “lanes”. The main point that was made is that one wants to minimize dependencies between groups of developers (so people don’t get blocked by things outside of their control), and therefore the split should happen along feature boundaries, not within features themselves. This of course builds on the premise that the whole team picks up a story, and not some subset or even individuals.


A point that caught my interest is that while collective ownership of code within teams is desired, sharing responsibility between teams is more problematic. The reason for this being that supposedly people will not clean up after themselves enough, as it’s not their code, and rather resort to finger-pointing to the other team(s). As James eloquently put it:

My TL;DR for this talk is basically: low coupling, high cohesion 🙂

Mutation Testing to the rescue of your Tests

During this talk, one of the first things the speaker said is that the only goal of tests is to make sure there are no bugs in production. This very much goes against my point of view, as I think the primary value is that they allow refactoring with confidence, without which code quality suffers greatly. Additionally, tests provide plenty of other advantages, such as documenting what the system does, and forcing you to pay a minimal amount of attention to certain aspects of software design.

The speaker continued to ask about who uses test coverage, and had a quote from Uncle Bob on needing 100% test coverage. After another few minutes of build up to the inevitable denunciation of chasing test coverage as being a good idea, I left to go find a more interesting talk.

Afterwards during one of the coffee breaks I talked with some people that had joined the talk 10 minutes or so after it started and had actually found it interesting. Apparently the speaker got to the actual topic of the talk; mutation testing, and presented it as a superior metric. I did not know about mutation testing before and recommend you have a look at the Wikipedia page about it if you do not know what it is. It automates an approximation of what you do in trying to determine which tests are valuable to write. As with code coverage, one should not focus on the metric though, and merely use it as the tool that it is.

Interesting related posts:

Raising The Bar

A talk on Software Craftsmanship that made me add The Coding Dojo Handbook to my to-read list.

Metrics For Good Developers

  • Metrics are for developers, not for management.
  • Developers should be able to choose the metrics.
  • Metrics to get a real measure of quality, not just “it feels like we’re doing well”
  • Measuring the number of production defects.
  • Make metrics visible.
  • Sometimes it is good to have metrics for individuals and not the whole team.
  • They can be a feedback mechanism for self improvement.

Open Space

The Open Space is a two hour slot which puts the “un” in unconference. It starts by having a market place, where people propose sessions on topics of their interest. These sessions are typically highly interactive, in the form of self-organized discussions.

Open Space: Leadership

This session started by people writing down things they associate with good leadership, and then discussing those points.

Two books where mentioned, the first being The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

The second book was Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership.

Open Space: Maintenance work: bad and good

This session was about finding reasons to dislike doing maintenance work, and then finding out how to look at it more positively. My input here was that a lot of the negative things, such as having to deal with crufty legacy code, can also be positive, in that they provide technical challenges absent in greenfield projects, and that you can refactor a mess into something nice.

I did not stay in this session until the very end, and unfortunately cannot find any pictures of the whiteboard.

Open Space: Coaching dojo

I had misheard what this was about and thought the topic was “Coding Dojo“. Instead we did a coaching exercise focused on asking open ended questions.

Are your Mocks Mocking at You?

This session was spread over two time slots, and I only attended the first part, as during the second one I had some pair programming scheduled. One of the first things covered in this talk was an explanation of the different types of Test Doubles, much like in my recent post 5 ways to write better mocks. The speakers also covered the differences between inside-out and outside-in TDD, and ended (the first time slot) with JavaScript peculiarities.

Never Develop Alone : always with a partner

In this talk, the speaker, who has been doing full-time pair programming for several years, outlined the primary benefits provided by, and challenges encountered during, pair programming.

Benefits: more focus / less distractions, more confidence, rapid feedback, knowledge sharing, fun, helps on-boarding, continuous improvement, less blaming.

Challenges: synchronization / communication, keyboard hogging


  • Ping-Pong TDD
  • Time boxing
  • Multiple keyboards
  • Pay attention and remind your pair if they don’t
  • Share your thoughts
  • Be open to new ideas and accept feedback
  • Mob programming

Live coding: Easier To Change Code

In this session the presenter walked us through some typical legacy code, and then demonstrated how one can start refactoring (relatively) safely. The code made me think of the Gilded Rose kata, though it was more elaborate/interesting. The presenter started by adding a safety net in the form of golden master tests and then proceeded with incremental refactoring.

Is management dead?WMDE management

Uncle Abraham certainly is most of the time! (Though when he is not, he approves of the below list.)

  • Many books on Agile, few on Agile management
  • Most common reasons for failure of Agile projects are management related
  • The Agile Manifesto includes two management principles
  • Intrinsic motivation via Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose and Connection
  • Self-organization: fully engaged, making own choices, taking responsibility
  • Needed for self-organization: skills, T-shaped, team players, collocation, long-lived team
  • Amplify and dampen voices
  • Lean more towards delegation to foster self-organization (levels of delegation)


Visualizing codebases

This talk was about how to extract and visualize metrics from codebases. I was hoping it would include various code quality related metrics, but alas, the talk only included file level details and simple line counts.

by Jeroen at May 24, 2016 04:58 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

What can Wikipedia assignments do that this adorable pygmy goat can’t?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But reptiles are, for most beholders, not quite as cute as a pygmy goat. This human gravitation toward fuzzy, baby-eyed animals is actually a big problem for environmentalists struggling to preserve endangered and threatened species.

Call it the “tyranny of the cute.” When it comes to conservation of habitats and species, the cute have an advantage. Darwin may not have factored “fundraising potential” into his survival of the fittest, but charismatic critters sell more calendars and raise more money.

This is a big deal for reptiles. Reptiles are almost a third of invertebrates on the planet, but don’t make it to their fair share of conservation lists. The World Wildlife Fund only identifies two reptiles (and they’re turtles, which are adorable). We also know less about them.

The Komodo Dragon is the most popular reptile on Wikipedia. (Photo by GambitMG at English Wikipedia, Public Domain)

In a recent paper from Oxford and Tel Aviv Universities published in the journal Biological Conservation, we have a good sense of how this plays out on Wikipedia. After all, Wikipedia reflects the passions and interests of those who write it. In 2014, those writers had tackled 10,002 reptiles species. Across all languages, those pages were viewed 55 million times.

Curiously, the researchers found that two thirds of reptile species were missing articles on the English Wikipedia. For academic experts specializing in zoology, ecology, environmental sciences, and a slew of other fields, this gap in public knowledge presents an enormous science communications opportunity.

After all, Wikipedia is “the Internet’s favorite website,” with a greater share of mobile traffic than CNN, Fox News, and USA Today combined. It’s an unprecedentedly powerful public resource.

Of course, not every expert has the time to create or review 6,000 reptile articles (or any other species, for that matter). But consider the learning experience this presents to students in higher education.

By stepping in and filling in information about those neglected species, these students become familiar with an underrepresented creature, its habitat, and the challenges it faces. But they also contribute greater knowledge about these neglected species to the rest of the English-speaking world.

That means people have better access to information they can use to guide a range of decisions. It can impact the conservation efforts they support. It can change the way people view land use in their communities.

For students, it gives them an opportunity to become an expert on a topic. The student who writes an article about a reptile species is probably going to be the top Google search result for that species. Imagine the impact that has on motivating student writing and research!

The Wiki Education Foundation has seen enormous success with classes that tackle flora and fauna articles on Wikipedia. Dr. Joan Strassmann’s course at Washington University in St. Louis is just one example. Students in her fall 2015 course created or expanded a whopping 362 articles about bee species.

The success of classes like these inspired us to create guidebooks, such as “Editing Wikipedia articles on species” and “Editing Wikipedia articles about ecology.” For higher ed instructors who participate in our program, we can send print copies for each participating student, free of charge. Participants also gain access to tools that make editing Wikipedia simple for students, and help instructors track student contributions to Wikipedia articles.

Our Wikipedia Year of Science initiative is underway. It’s based on the idea that students, with access to academic resources and guided by experts in the field, are the best bet for improving and expanding science topics on Wikipedia. Putting that knowledge at the fingertips of millions is an enormous driver for improving the public’s understanding of endangered and threatened species that are just as important, but perhaps not quite as cute, as pygmy goats.

If you’d like to participate, check out our Year of Science page, or send us an email: contact@wikiedu.org.

Photo: Kitz Zwergziege by 4028mdk09Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


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

May 23, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Monthly Report for April 2016


  • The Wiki Education Foundation officially announced our new partnership with the American Chemical Society (ACS). The ACS mission demonstrates how aligned our organizations are in sharing knowledge: “To advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” We are excited about working with chemistry instructors and students to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of this topic.
  • Wiki Ed launched a new online survey tool, allowing us to create flexible and adaptive question- naires based on what’s already known about our program participants. Our new tool will allow us to focus on specific data collection questions and evaluation needs moving forward, while minimizing the impact on instructor’s time required to complete our surveys.


In April,Wiki Ed’s Programs leadership shifted some responsibilities. Dr.Tanya I. Garcia took on a new role as the Director of Research and Academic Engagement. LiAnna Davis stepped into the role of Deputy Director. LiAnna’s responsibilities include overseeing both the Core Programs and Program Support departments and staff.

Educational Partnerships & Outreach

Wikipedia facilitators at CCCC.
Wikipedia facilitators at CCCC.

Early in the month,Wiki Ed staff attended the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego to recruit new participants for the Year of Science. The conference connected more than 14,000 scientists from six academic associations. Wiki Ed joined Simons Foundation staff for their Wikipedia edit-a-thon, an opportunity for experts to improve biology content on Wikipedia. During that event, we discussed further avenues of participation for experts, such as assigning students to write articles through our Classroom Program.While in town, we presented to faculty at both the University of San Diego and the University of California, San Diego.We met with more than 100 college and university instructors who expressed interest in joining Wiki Ed’s programs.

We were also excited to attend the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Houston this month. That conference brings together faculty who teach composition courses. Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson joined a panel of college and university faculty with experience integrating Wikipedia into the classroom to improve writing skills. That panel included: Dr. Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Dr. Amy Carleton, and Greta Kuriger Suiter, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. Cecelia Musselman and Amanda Rust from Northeastern University.

Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson returned to the nearby University of California, Berkeley for a workshop geared toward librarians and instructors interested in either the Classroom Program or hosting a Visiting Scholar. Samantha presented to 28 excited academics.

In April, we were excited to announce a new partnership with the American Chemical Society. For the Year of Science and beyond, we’ll work together with ACS instructors to increase public access to reliable scientific research.

Classroom Program

Status of the Classroom Program for Spring 2016 in numbers, as of April 30:

  • 212 Wiki Ed-supported courses were in progress (93, or 43%, were led by returning instructors)
  • 4,006 student editors were enrolled
  • 45% were up-to-date with the student training
  • Students edited 3,970 articles and created 288 new entries.

As the spring 2016 term begins to wrap up, we’re reflecting on what has been our most successful term to date. This term, we’ve supported our largest number of courses (212) since the program began, up from 117 courses in spring 2015 and 162 courses in Fall 2015. We’re proud of this rapid growth, which expands the number of students having a valuable learning experience as well as the number of articles being created or improved on Wikipedia.

Many of our courses are participating in the Wikipedia Year of Science. More than half of our courses are in the Year of Science cohort (115) and more than half of our students (2,102). So far this group of courses in the STEM and Social Sciences have contributed almost 1.5 million words to Wikipedia and edited almost 2,000 articles.

Our Year of Science students are improving content on Wikipedia ranging from the history of Cold War science to neurobiology and from sociology to food science. We’re supporting a larger number of courses this term on the quarter system, so we can expect student contributions to continue through June.

As the program expands, quality continues to be our primary focus. Despite our record number of classes, our students’ work is being challenged less frequently on Wikipedia. That’s due to a variety of technological innovations that help Content Experts, Adam Hyland and Ian Ramjohn, catch problematic work before it goes live. Our new training modules and our growing number of discipline-specific handouts are also providing students with targeted and timely support. Finally, we’re making sure that all the classes we support are set up for success from the outset. Classroom Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal carefully reviews all courses submitted through the Dashboard to make sure that the proposed assignment follows best practices for teaching with Wikipedia.

Though the spring 2016 term is still going strong, we’re already looking toward fall 2016. Helaine, along with Jami and Samantha, are working together to build on the successes from spring 2016. Our goal is to bring new instructors to theYear of Science, and to make sure that current instructors work with Wikipedia again. Though quiet in the past, we’re expecting the summer term to be busier than before.While most of the instructors we support will (hopefully) be enjoying their summer vacations, we’ll be working with our summer cohort and gearing up for an even larger fall term.

Student work highlights:

  • Frances “Fanny” Erskine Inglis‘s Life in Mexico, an early and influential travel narrative, was her most well known work. So when Cmartlover from David Sartorius’s Travel Writing in the Americas decided to expand her article, most of the focus was on the work itself. So much so that she decided to build a brand new article for Life in Mexico and summarize that article to expand Inglis’s. Biographies and bibliographies of women expanded at the same time. Well done!
  • Ever wonder why some plants will flower, set seed, and die in a single year while others keep going, sometimes for centuries? A student in Kasey Fowler-Finn’s Advanced Evolution class created a new article which looks at this big question: annual vs. perennial plant evolution. We generally think of fermentation as something that happens when oxygen is absent, but certain yeasts convert sugars to alcohol even when oxygen is present, provided that sugars are abundant, a phenomenon known as the Crabtree effect. The evolution of this phenomenon is the subject of an article created by another student in this class, the evolution of aerobic fermentation. Other articles created or greatly expanded by students in this class in April includeEnchenopa binotata complex, a complicated group of closely-related treehopper species and Nothonotus which is either a genus or subgenus of darters found in the southeastern US. Wikipedia does a pretty good job both with big topics likeevolution and with small granular topics like individual species or organs; mid-level topics are harder to write about, and are generally less well covered.
  • For a biologist who studies plants or animals, discovering a new species often involves a visit to remote locales. As students in Cameron Thrush’s Prokaryotic Diversity have shown, discoveries of new bacterial species can come from far more mundane sites. Nitrospira moscoviensis was discovered in samples taken from a rusty pipe in Moscow, while Desulfobulbus propionicus was discovered from samples taken from the mud at the bottom of a ditch, the mud at the bottom of a pond and coastal mud flat, all in the German state of Lower Saxony. Azotobacter salinestris was discovered surface soil in Canada and Egypt, Haladaptatus paucihalophilus was discovered in a spring in Oklahoma, and Thermotoga elfii was discovered in an oil well. But even prokaryotic species can be discovered in exotic locations – Methanocaldococcus sp. FS406-22 and Thermoplasma volcanium were discovered in water collected from hydrothermal vents. Of course, we mostly associate bacteria with disease, and students also created and expanded articles about disease-causing organisms: Leptospira noguchii is discovered in the aftermath of an outbreak of fever in Fort Bragg in 1942 Treponema socranskii was discovered in the gums of people with periodontal disease, and Mycobacterium elephantis was discovered in the lungs of an elephant which had died of chronic respiratory disease.
  • Dustin Hamalainen’s Money and Banking course created or expanded several articles on schools of economic thought, financial and credit mechanisms as well as credit events. These areas are characterized by relatively sparse literature available online and (like many other academic areas) considerably better coverage in trade and discipline specific journals. This is the same course which added a solid article on an overlooked bit of banking legislation, so it is good to see a category like this being filled out.
  • If you’re taking a neurobiology class, you might be curious about the type of scientist who actually studies this field. Students in Michelle Mynlieff’s Neurobiology class expanded Wikipedia’s short neuroscientist article, adding information about the history of the field, the nature of the job, current areas of research, and notable neuroscientists. Other students expanded articles ranging from SLC7A11, a gene which encodes a glutamate transporter to camptocormia, also known as ‘bent spine syndrome’, a condition often seen in elderly people. The SLC7A11 was expanded from a short stub into a substantial article discussing the role it may play in drug addiction, schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative diseases; the camptocormia article was expanded from a three-sentence article to discuss the history of the disease, the ways it is diagnosed, and some of the causes, treatments and current areas of research. Other major articles expanded by students in this class include caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, Adipsia (the lack of a sensation of being thirsty), dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumour (a benign brain tumor) and the Sympathoadrenal system.
  • German dialects and local groupings are all the rage for Monica Macaulay’s Language Endangerment and Revitalization course. Her students have added to the Cimbrian language, a variety of German spoken in northern Italy; Walser German, a grouping of German dialects spoken in Switzerland; and created a new article, Wisconsin German on dialects spoken in, well…Wisconsin. Beyond historical coverage, the students have added phonology and orthography tables and information for these and many other languages, looking to existing linguistics articles (some created by past students!) for guidance.
  • Students in Peter Barker’s Cold War Science took Wikipedia on a tour of some of the stranger elements of the nuclear arms race during the Cold War. One new article detailed Green Light Teams, US Special Forces teams who were trained to deliver backpack-sized nuclear weapons behind enemy lines and detonate them under conditions that led them to be considered probable suicide missions. Another new article discussed the 69-year history of Soviet rocketry. Students also expandedOperation Hardtack I which discussed a series of 35 nuclear weapons tests conducted primarily in the Marshall Islands and RDS-37, the Soviet Union’s first two-stage hydrogen bomb.

Community Engagement

Adrianne Wadewitz
Adrianne Wadewitz

We’re happy to announce that Whittier College is joining the Visiting Scholars program. The college’s Digital Liberal Arts Center is sponsoring a position named after Adrianne Wadewitz, a feminist scholar and noted Wikipedian who died in April 2014. Adrianne was known for her work on Wikipedia’s gender-related challenges, and Whittier’s primary interest in sponsoring a Visiting Scholar is to improve coverage of women in the encyclopedia. Adrianne was also a champion of Wikipedia in education, served on Wiki Ed’s Board of Directors, and was set to start a full-time position at Whittier in the summer of 2014.

Current Scholars continue to produce great work. Gary Greenbaum,Visiting Scholar at George Mason University, brought two articles to Featured Article status this month. First, Huguenot-Walloon half dollar was promoted on April 14.The article about the 1924 commemorative coin had gone through the Good Article process back in October. Second was the renowned children’s novel The Phantom Tollbooth, promoted on April 23. Current Scholars have added almost 40,000 words to more than 350 articles viewed 27.3 million times.

Community Engagement Manager Ryan McGrady has been fostering relationships with several other prospective Visiting Scholars sponsors at various stages in the onboarding process. He also spent time in April starting a database of potential Scholars for recruitment purposes, and began an outreach campaign to some of the site’s most experienced editors.

Program Support

LiAnna Davis attended the Wikimedia Conference, an annual gathering of staff and board members of global Wikimedia organizations. She participated in the track on program impact, presenting on Wiki Ed’s Classroom Program viewed through the lens of a logic model.While at the conference, LiAnna advocated for the use of Wiki Ed’s Dashboard software by other Wikimedia organizations, and exchanged learnings about education programs with program leaders from other countries.


Communications Manager Eryk Salvaggio has been developing materials to strengthen our resources in the Fall term. This includes a re-evaluation of existing materials, and a coordination with staff to design new ones, based on outcomes from the end of the Spring 2016 term. Eryk also worked with Product Manager, Digital Services, Sage Ross to create the online survey for instructors.

Blog posts:

External Press:

Digital Infrastructure

In April, we rolled out the Wiki Ed Dashboard’s survey features, and kicked off the Spring 2016 instructor survey.The Dashboard’s integrated survey tool gives us the opportunity to ask questions based on the specific details of each course, such as the set of articles edited by the students.We’ll also be sending out invitations to take the survey based on the dates of the course, so that each instructor is invited to take the survey soon after their course ends.

Alongside our work on surveys, we made several improvements to the user experience for instructors. Instructors now receive an automatic confirmation email when they submit a course, which clarifies the next steps and identifies the Wiki Ed staff who will be supporting them. The Articles tab, which summarizes student work for a class, has been adjusted to present the data in a more useful order by highlighting the most active articles first. The Students tab can now be sorted by students’ real names (for the instructor only).

Finance & Administration / Fundraising

Finance & Administration

Expenses April
Wiki Education Foundation Expenses, April 2016

For the month of April expenses were $229,354 versus the plan of $309,556. Our earlier decision to hold off on expanding our office space and growing our staff continues to be the main cause of our monthly variance.

Expenses YTD to April
Wiki Education Foundation Expenses, YTD to April 2016

Our Year-To-Date expenses are $2,453,035 versus the plan of $3,090,833, resulting in a variance of $638k.The decision to hold back planned expenditures until long-term funding is secured accounts for 95% of the variance. The remaining variance is a result of the timing of expenses.  Our spending level over the last 3 months has remained steady at 79% of our planned budget.


April began with a whirlwind of follow up related to our March 28 event in the Presidio.Wiki Education staff have conducted engagement meetings with prospective funders and connectors. As a direct result of this campaign, Wiki Ed received its first major gift pledge from an individual, Franklin “Pitch” Johnson, Jr.

This gift will qualify for the current Stanton matching campaign, because Mr. Johnson was introduced to us by Board Member and Presidio event co-host Lorraine Hariton.This means that this significant gift will have twice the impact for our organization.

Also in April,Tom Porter began soliciting proposals from communications firms for a planned major donor communication and activation campaign. The campaign, which is scheduled to begin in July 2016, will more clearly define the Wiki Education Foundation value proposition and illuminate pathways to prospective donors. The overall goal is to create lasting and measurable support for Wiki Ed. To learn more, view the request for proposals here.

The simplicity and tranquility of the place serves focused work and thorough reflection.
The simplicity and tranquility of the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center serves focused work and thorough reflection.

Office of the ED

Current priorities:

  • Overseeing the annual planning and budgeting process for fiscal year 2016–17
  • Supporting the fundraising team in securing funding
The three-day retreat at the Zen Center enabled us to create alignment around the annual plan for next year.
The three-day retreat at the Zen Center enabled us to create alignment around the annual plan for next year.

April was dominated by the senior leadership team’s work on the annual plan of budget for fiscal year 2016–17. As part of the work, LiAnna, Tanya, Bill, Tom, and Frank spent three days at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center north of San Francisco.The meeting created a shared understanding of the key initiatives for the upcoming fiscal year. It also offered the opportunity to reflect on this year’s achievements and to engage in discussions around the culture of our organization.

As a result of the meeting and the subsequent work, we were able to send the first draft of next year’s plan and budget to the board on April 29.

Also in April, Frank had meetings with potential individual donors and people who could connect us to contacts in their network. Frank also met with members of Wikimedia’s development team in order to coordinate efforts in the area of major donor fundraising.


Visitors and guests

  • Sasha Johnson, DFT-VTB Aurora

by Eryk Salvaggio at May 23, 2016 10:50 PM

The Roundup: Deep breaths

Wikipedia is the top source of health information on the internet. While that fact has been the cause of great consternation over the years, it’s also an opportunity (some say an obligation) to provide reliable health information to the public.

Of course, time is in short supply for trained medical experts. Some do find the time to volunteer, and WikiProject Medicine is doing fantastic things. But another way to improve these articles is through medical students, under expert guidance.

Here’s an example from Saint Louis University’s SLU Biology 4970 course, led by Dr. Judy Ogilvie. That course is an independent study with student editors majoring in Biology and Neuroscience.

Respiratory arrest describes the loss of breath after lungs stop functioning, which can lead to a lack of oxygen to the brain, and a loss of consciousness. It’s a medical emergency that can lead to death in three minutes or less.

Since 2004, the respiratory arrest article ran a mere five sentences and a few bullet points. After this student Wikipedian tackled it, it’s blossomed into ten informative sections, some of which are the length of the original article. The respiratory arrest article now describes the symptoms and signs, diagnosis, and various treatments. It includes 17 references to a variety of reliable sources, such as medical journals.

The article is a powerful example of what a student can achieve on Wikipedia. That article has had 20,000 views since this student editor took it on. That’s 20,000 people with better information about health and biology. And it’s not just laypeople. Wikipedia is often the first point of reference for healthcare professionals.

This is just one example of many that show what the Wikipedia Year of Science campaign can achieve. We’re still getting ready for fall. We’re seeking instructors to share this powerful science writing, research and communications opportunity with students. If you’re interested, visit our Year of Science resources page or send an e-mail to contact@wikiedu.org.


Photo: Modified from Untitled by Koreana, CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr.

by Eryk Salvaggio at May 23, 2016 04:00 PM

Tech News

Tech News issue #21, 2016 (May 23, 2016)

TriangleArrow-Left.svgprevious 2016, week 21 (Monday 23 May 2016) nextTriangleArrow-Right.svg
Other languages:
čeština • ‎Deutsch • ‎English • ‎español • ‎suomi • ‎français • ‎עברית • ‎italiano • ‎Ripoarisch • ‎norsk bokmål • ‎português do Brasil • ‎русский • ‎svenska • ‎українська • ‎Tiếng Việt • ‎中文

May 23, 2016 12:00 AM

May 21, 2016

Amir E. Aharoni

Wikipedia, a Jamaican Jew, and Yak Shaving

For me, writing in Wikipedia is very often a story, within a story, within a story.

I am a member of the Language committee, which examines and approves the creation of editions of Wikipedia in new languages.

Recently we approved the new edition in the Jamaican language—an English-based creole commonly heard in reggae, in which books were published, and into which “the usual suspects” were translated: The New Testament, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Little Prince—and now, Wikipedia.

Since the draft “incubator” Wikipedia in this language conformed to the requirements for creating a full-fledged new domain, I supported the domain’s creation. My work as a language committee member could end here—and I’m a volunteer there to begin with—but I nonetheless decided to shave a yak.


Normal people, when they need a sweater, buy one in a store. I consider shaving a yak.

Some time after a Wikipedia in a new language is created, all the draft articles from the incubator are imported. When that is completed, I go over the list of imported articles and try to see whether there are any that aren’t linked to their counterparts in other languages. With some topics it’s easy by guessing the name of the topic or by looking at the images, and with some others it’s hard. With an English-based creole it’s of course very easy.

And that’s how the Jamaican Wikipedia ended up with only one article that doesn’t have a version in any other language: Aizak Mendiz Belisario.

It was easy enough to understand that this was a Jewish artist who lived in Jamaica in the 19th century. He was already mentioned a couple of times in the English Wikipedia, but there was no whole article about him. So I thought: Jamaican is similar enough to English and I can understand what most of the article is about, and the artist seems notable enough for an encyclopedia, because he was one of the pioneers of art in Jamaica, and because an anthology about him was published recently. And, of course, I am in a team that develops Content Translation—a translation tool for Wikipedia articles. So I decided to translate it to English.

As soon as I started the translation process, I noticed a bug. So I filed it, and because it was so easy to fix, I just fixed it.

Then I started actually translating the article. On the way I learned about the John Canoe festival, and added another spelling variant to the article about it in English; I verified that the book about the artist was actually published (you know, hoaxes happen), and googled for some more information about the artist with the hope of improving the English article further.


Normal people could just say “Fine, that language looks legit, let’s start a Wikipedia in it”. But I actually had to read all the articles in it, and then write a new one, improve another one, fix a bug, and write a blog post about all of it.

So here you go: Isaac Mendes Belisario, in English.

There is a story like this one behind every one of the millions and millions of articles in Wikipedia in all of its languages.

Filed under: Jews, Wikipedia Tagged: Jamaica

by aharoni at May 21, 2016 09:30 PM

May 20, 2016

William Beutler

Wikipedia is Not Therapy, but it Has its Benefits

That Wikipedia can be a toxic environment is not lost on many editors who’ve stuck around awhile, and likely even fewer who decide to walk away from the project. Wikipedia has rules—mandatory policies, even—requiring civility and prohibiting harassment, but in a community that prizes free speech and values second chances, these admonitions to good behavior are rarely taken seriously.

The impact this can have on the mental health of key contributors became a heated topic this week, so in the spirit of contributing to a better environment, The Wikipedian is running this guest post—not our first, but it’s been awhile!—from friend of the blog and The Wikipedia Library founder Jake Orlowitz, in this memoir-commentary about the other half of the equation, Wikipedia’s ability to uplift:

♦     ♦     ♦

Journey of a Wikipedian

There’s no one moment when you go insane;

not when

you find yourself crying into a phone behind a closet door

or tapping your foot to neutralize thoughts you can’t handle

or sleeping on a bed of worn clothes on a hard floor

or when the police officer pulls you over again for driving

up and back the same stretch of highway, six times

and not when you physically crack the monitor in a dark room for no reason even though it was the only light left in a night’s center as you tap away at keys throughout the silence

But you occasionally get a glimpse of someone else realizing that, “you’ve lost it”.

It was probably fall 2010. My dad turned the knob on the attic bathroom door in the house where I had grown up, and the reaction on his face was devastated. He didn’t know that no other room in the house, or the country, felt safe to me, that the warm water soothed and wetted the dry, frigid air, that my laptop was balanced purposefully so that it would fall backwards onto the tile rather than into the hip-high water, and that I had chosen the back wall of the tub for its ergonomic watchlist-monitoring suitability.

He didn’t know that. He just saw his 27-year old son, feverishly tinkering with electronics on the edge of a full bath, completely nude, oblivious to anything else, or anything wrong. He also didn’t know that I was helping lead the Egyptian revolution.

That too sounds insane, but as the calendar flipped into January 2011, the new year brought millions to Egypt’s streets. A boy had gone missing, turned up in a morgue clearly beaten beyond breath by police. Facebook pages organized gatherings that filled immense public squares. Protests turned into uprising turned into revolution.

And I, alongside 4 exceptionally dedicated editors from 3 different continents, monitored the 2011 Egyptian Revolution Wikipedia article 24-hours-a-day with equipoise and fervor. We yearned for Mubarak to fall, but in the newsroom which the article’s talkpage had become, we were vigilantly checking multiple independent reports before inputting any new words onto the growing page, scouring the article for flourishes of revolutionary support. The world would come here to find the facts; those that would dispassionately drive understanding without embellishment or motivation, for the hundreds of thousands of people reading that page each day. And I would make sure of it. From my bathtub.

There’s also no one time when sanity returns, if there is such a defined state. But suffice to say that it builds upon moments.

Like the moment when you start chatting off-channel to a Wikipedian on irc-help, just to talk to someone again. Or when you put on a suit for the first time in 6 years, to give a talk on conflict-of-interest to a gathering of pr folks at a posh downtown bar. Or when you step into the hostel at Wikimania in 2012 in D.C. and meet Stu Geiger, your coincidental bunkmate, and instantly recognize his familiar, Wikipedian-ite, eclectic genius.

The moments gather momentum though. Soon you are calling up major media companies to ask for donations. Not as Jake, or that guy who lost a decade in his 20’s, or the model teenager who lapsed into dysfunction and veered ‘off course’. But calling rather, as a piece-of-Wikipedia… Do you know what doors that opens?

The drama of recovery shouldn’t be overly simplified into highlights. It was just as much my psychiatrist’s expert balancing — seeking of psychic neutrality — with a fine and formidable mix of anxiolytics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and sleep aids. Not too high, not too low. Not too moody, not too flat. Every pill presented a trade-off, but we found a consensus pharmacology that worked.

My parents made sure that my rock bottom was somewhere safe.

My friends’ surprise visits reminded me that there was fun yet to be had.

The diagnoses I received were varied and all increasingly off-the mark. I was bipolar, but generally calm through even the grittiest edit wars. I was agoraphobic and socially anxious, but traveling to Hong Kong and Quebec and Berlin for meetups with strangers from myriad countries. I was depressed, but could not control an urge to improve a bit of Wikipedia, every day, most of the day.

They say that Wikipedia is NotTherapy. It’s a serious place to write an encyclopedia, not to iron out one’s mental kinks or cracks. But I think that’s wrong. No one knew me on Wikipedia, except for my words, the wisdom of my input, and the value of my contributions. They couldn’t care less if I was manic, phobic, delusional, or hysterical. It just didn’t matter. They didn’t see that part of me.

So I got to build my identity, my confidence, my vocation — with longwinded eloquent analyses, meticulous bibliographies, and copious rewrites of difficult subjects.

They also say that Wikipedia is Not a social network, but that’s wrong too. In the 8 years since I started editing, first in my car outside a Starbucks, and then throughout the dull shifts of a mountain-town Staples store where I squatted for wifi, and then still more through 3 years back at home under blankets between dusk and dawn, I met hundreds of people with whom I shared the same passion. I received, quite marvelously, 49 barnstars from peers, friends, and fans. There wasn’t a bigger or better sense of validation.

Jake OrlowitzI received two incomparable partners, to build a Wikipedia Library that I created and had become the head of. I received a job offer, with wellness benefits. I also received, in the grand sense of things, an irrepressible, stunning and brilliant girlfriend and her exuberant 5-year old daughter into my life.

You see, Wikipedia brings people together. It brought me together. It just takes some time for everyone to get their heads on straight, before they can see that their lives too have a mission, and an [edit] button.

■     ■     ■

A few thoughts to remember, for online collaborators, or any collaborator, really:

  1. We are a community of very real people with deep emotions and human complexities.
  2. We are deeply invested in our project, so much so it hurts us at times even if it is also a passion or refuge for many.
  3. You never know what someone has been through, or is going through.
  4. We all need help at some point. There is no shame in needing help, asking for help, or receiving help.
  5. If you are ever feeling completely hopeless: Wait. Things really can get better. Talk to someone about it.
  6. Mental health carries a powerful stigma. The more we are open about it, the less that weighs all of us down.
  7. If we listen, we can learn from each other.
  8. We need to be kind. This is a higher calling than civility, and entirely compatible with achieving our goals.
  9. Our movement depends on its people. We are our most valuable resource.
  10. We are not finished products. With time, space, support, and practice — people can, and do, grow and change.

If you ever see someone in need of help, or are seeking it yourself, please contact one of many available 24-hour emergency hotlines, or just dial the local emergency number for your area.

— Jake Orlowitz, User:Ocaasi, @JakeOrlowitz

This text is licensed CC-BY-SA 4.0. It can be shared or reposted without permission under the terms of the Creative Commons license, which requires only attribution and that reusers keep the same license.

Orlowitz post originally published in a slightly different form on Medium.

Image by Christopher Schwarzkopf via Wikimedia Commons.

by William Beutler at May 20, 2016 08:20 PM

Wikimedia Foundation

Freely licensed magic at Eurovision

Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.Jamala of Ukraine, the eventual winner with “1944.” The photo was one of more than one hundred
captured by Albin Olsson during Jamala’s performance, although he only uploaded
six of the best. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.

At Eurovision, the dazzling international music contest that annually rocks much of the world, credentialed photographers jockey for space, providing copyrighted photos to the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images, and more.

For three of the past four years, Albin Olsson has been right there with them, capturing dramatic images of singers from around the world. But Olsson is credentialed by Wikimedia Sweden, his photos’ destination is Wikimedia Commons, and they’re freely licensed—anyone can use them, for any purpose, as long as they give Olsson credit and share them under the same stipulation.

This year’s Eurovision was held in Stockholm, Sweden with over 200 million people from around the world watching; the winner was Jamala of Ukraine, with the song “1944.” The contest was started by the European Broadcasting Unions a way of bringing war-torn countries together around a “light entertainment program.” To this day, many of the contest’s participants come from union members. To compete, these artists have to sing an original song to a live audience; they typically go through a national selection process to be nominated. At the contest itself, countries are allowed to vote for any singer except their own; the one with the most points is named the winner.  Past contestant-winners have included ABBA, one of the most successful bands of all time, and Celine Dion.

On Wikipedia, the second screen effect was again apparent: over six million people came to Wikipedia to read about this year’s contest, including nearly 1.8 million in Russian and 1.4 million in English. Another one million came to view the article on Jamala, the winner of the contest over Australia and Russia (which placed in second and third, respectively).

Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.Highway of Montenegro. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.

We spoke with Olsson about his remarkable photographs, all of which can be used by anyone, anywhere. He told us that he got the idea for the project when Eurovision was coming to Sweden in 2013 and he could not find many freely licensed images of previous events. “Many people turn to Wikipedia to find information about [Eurovision], and there are articles in so many languages about every year’s contest, the artists, and the songs,” he said—”but there were not many photos. Almost none.”

To change this, Olsson applied for and received press accreditation for both that event and Eurovision 2014, which was held in nearby Denmark. Wikimedia Austria continued Olsson’s project in 2015.

As Sweden won Eurovision 2015, the contest returned to Olsson’s home country in 2016, giving him the chance to cover it for a third time. This was, however, not a sure thing. As Olsson recounted to us: “I applied for an accreditation again, but my application was denied. I tried to make them change their minds, but it was hard to contact the right people. … When I had almost given up hope, I got an email on Wednesday morning, 27 April, saying that my application was approved. The following Sunday I took the train to Stockholm and uploaded the first photos on Monday.”

We asked what photos were his favorites. Olsson could not pick just one, but he singled out those where he was able to capture people laughing—photos where “you can look at the photos and feel the genuine joy.” He also pointed at his photos of Justs, the entry from Latvia (and the third photo below).

Will Olsson attend a future Eurovision? “Maybe. This year I came to a point where I felt ‘I am never doing this again,’ but I know that I will probably change my mind in about six months or so. It takes a lot of time and energy but is really fun. When I started the project, I wanted Wikipedians in other countries to continue my project, so I hope some Ukrainians will take great photos next year.”

“But who knows? Maybe I’ll join them in Ukraine.”

Check out more fantastic photos from Eurovision 2016 with Albin Olsson below and on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.Greta Salóme, singing for Iceland. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.


Nina Kraljić, representing Croatia. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.Nina Kraljić, representing Croatia. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.


Justs of Latvia. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.Justs of Latvia. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.


 Dami Im from Australia. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0. Dami Im from Australia. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.


Part of the interval act during the final. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.Lordi, part of the interval act during the final. Photo by Albin Olsson, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Ed Erhart, Editorial Associate
Wikimedia Foundation

by Ed Erhart at May 20, 2016 07:01 PM

May 19, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

“Taking Action” in composition and communication courses

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

I recently attended the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Houston for a workshop about “Taking Action.”

I joined a panel of instructors with experience integrating Wikipedia into their classrooms: Dr. Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Dr. Amy Carleton, and Greta Kuriger Suiter, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Dr. Cecelia Musselman and Amanda Rust from Northeastern University.

These experts agreed that CCCC was a great environment for new instructors to learn about Wiki Ed’s programs. The organization’s Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments has identified several overlaps with a Wikipedia assignment:

Courses that engage students in writing digitally may have many features, but all of them should:

  1. introduce students to the epistemic (knowledge-constructing) characteristics of information technology, some of which are generic to information technology and some of which are specific to the fields in which the information technology is used;
  2. provide students with opportunities to apply digital technologies to solve substantial problems common to the academic, professional, civic, and/or personal realm of their lives;
  3. include much hands-on use of technologies;
  4. engage students in the critical evaluation of information, and …
  5. prepare students to be reflective practitioners.
Wikipedia facilitators at CCCC

Wikipedia assignments bake knowledge construction in, raising questions about who speaks for whom. It raises questions about the online environment specifically, but opens the door to broader questions about knowledge.

Wikipedia assignments are a direct application of digital technology to address problems in academic and civic spheres. By contributing to information from their field that would otherwise be absent, students make an immediate, real impact on public knowledge.

As Dr. Musselman and other instructors have said before, Wikipedia assignments are a hands-on way for students to think about writing in the world rather than the classroom. In a Wikipedia assignment, we ask students to respond to the needs of a real-world community, document their research with citations, and become digital citizens.

The assignment also encourages the evaluation of the knowledge available not only on Wikipedia, but in the sources they draw from to build their own articles. Dr. Carleton found the Wikipedia assignment taught students to cite sources not just to avoid plagiarism, but to become fluent in the literature of their field. By developing a literature review and then expanding their Wikipedia article, students fill in missing pieces of the story and history for the greater community, transforming them into knowledge producers.

That final step connects students to reflect on their own practices when it comes to producing and consuming knowledge.

Thank you to this insightful panel and our workshop attendees for making this year’s CCCC conference a great place to discuss Wikipedia’s value in communication assignments!

Photo: Houston TX by Katie HauglandFlickr, CC BY 2.0

by Jami Mathewson at May 19, 2016 04:00 PM

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 304


The “Import Project INEGI National Geostatistical Framework” finished [1] | go to the blogl


  • The German forum started a large discussion about bi-lingual names in Sorben (Germany) (automatic translation).
  • Mapbox extends its geocoder by supporting of Wikidata information.
  • Martijn van Exel descibes updates to ImproveOSM JOSM plugin for better usability.
  • The planned server outage and the relocation of the OSM servers lead to slow upload speeds and downtimes of the wiki server. As of now, everything is expected to return to normal.


  • The OpenCage Data blog interviews Laura Barroso (an active member of weeklyOSM and the woman in charge of the Spanish edition) about OSM in Cuba.
  • Presentation of the Importation Project: MGN (National Geostatistical Framework) of INEGI in Mexico by members of Telenav: Miriam Gonzalez and Andres Ortiz. Read more here.
  • In his series Mapper in the Spotlight, Escada interviewed Pete Masters from Scotland, a pioneer of Missing Maps.
  • Johnattan Rupire informed weeklyOSM about a professionally made video showing many aspects of OSM. Subtitles are availabe in French and English.


  • Andy Townsend published on the import mailing list a communication by Kate Learmonth (UNICEF Office of the Pacific Iceland Countries) with the DWG for imports after cyclone Winston on the Fiji Islands.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • The OpenStreetMap Foundation is hiring an administrative assistant. Applications can be sent in until June 3rd.


  • SotM 2016 Brüssel – important date Saturday May 21st
  • The SotM US program is online.
  • The 6th International Conference on Cartography & GIS will be held on 13th-17th of June 2016 in Albena, Bulgaria.
  • On 10th – 12th June 2016 the Geocaching GIGA-Event Project Glück Auf 2016 will be held at UNESCO’s World Heritage Zollverein. More than 10000 Geocachers are expected to join the event that features many workshops and guided tours.
  • A report to this year’s FOSS4G NA in Raleigh, NC, USA. Interesting is the communication on the Portable OSM (portable OSM server) for mobile-use in disaster areas. Read more here.

Humanitarian OSM

  • HOT is activating to map for support of the relief efforts in Sri Lanka. The first task is already up.
  • Blake Girardot compiles a list of suggestions for improvements to OSM web editor iD. The goal is to help satisfy the needs of the HOT and Missing Maps communities. He is asking for input from the community.
  • Missing Maps in London decided to put more focus on using JOSM.
  • Aline Rosset from the University of Central Asia reported, in a guest post, about “OSM workshops with teachers and high school children of 10 rural villages in Kyrgyzstan” to map the Tien Shan mountains.
  • Blake Girardot searches for an expert in admin boundaries and OSM relations for helping to synchronize data and possibly importing it to OSM.


  • MapContrib is a site similar to uMap that allows a simple generating of your own map. Example maps include fire hydrants, mail boxes andr bicycle parking.
  • Laura Barroso, the weeklyOSM correspondent in Cuba, built the app MapaDCuba for her employer (we reported here). The app is rated recently as the best Cuban map app by a blogger in Cuba, but read it yourself.

Open Data

  • Geolode is a catalog to collect open geodata around the world.


  • Aleks Buczkowski from Geoawesomeness explains the legal situations with maps when published on the web.
  • Tarun Vijay, member of the Indian government got interviewed by The Wire about the new draft bill regarding map data. The Times of India publishes a portrait of Mumbai regarding this topic.


  • TrailBehind publishes DeepOSM, a deep learning net to use satellite imagery and OpenStreetMap data to learn classify and to detect features in imagery.
  • Mapzen’s routing software Valhalla now offers multi-modal public transport routing. A blog post introduces the product (for customers), a second blog post explains the technical background.
  • Tom MacWright explains why CartoCSS is defective and how it’s successor is much better for creating maps.


Software Version Release Date Comment
PostgreSQL 9.5.3 ff 2016-05-12 Update releases fixing a number of issues
Mapillary for iOS 4.3.1 2016-05-15 Added Portuguese and Estonian, added descriptions for new users
Locus Map Free 3.17.0 2016-05-16 Offline search of addresses and more

provided by the OSM Software Watchlist

Did you know …

Other “geo” things

  • Google adds new features and detailed maps of the venues to Google Maps to catch up with OpenStreetMap for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Upcoming Events

Where What When Country
Milano ”’State of the Map Italy 2016”’ 20.05.2016-21.05.2016 italy
Rapperswil 7. Micro Mapping Party 20.05.2016 switzerland
Clermont-Ferrand ”’State of the Map France 2016”’ 20.05.2016-22.05.2016 france
Los Angeles L.A. County building import mapathon 21.05.2016 united states
Sax Sax (Alicante) – micro Mapping Party 21.05.2016 spain
Brno ”’State of the Map CZ+SK 2016”’ 21.05.2016 czech republic
Clermont-Ferrand Missing Maps mapathon at SOTM France 2016 22.05.2016 france
Grenoble Rencontre mensuelle mappeurs 23.05.2016 france
Graz Stammtisch 23.05.2016 austria
Toulouse Missing Maps mapathon in Toulouse 24.05.2016 france
Derby Derby 24.05.2016 united kingdom
Cusco Semana de Accesibilidad Cusco 2016 25.05.2016 peru
Mantova 2016 Mapping party a Volta mantovana 04.06.2016 italy
Brussels Missing Maps Mapathon @Doctors without borders/Handicap international 06.06.2016 belgium
Trentino Besenello @ library 14:00. With support of Portobeseno and the Besenello Municipality 11.06.2016 italy
Edinburgh Edinburgh 14.06.2016 united kingdom
Lyon Rencontre mensuelle mappeurs 14.06.2016 france
Nottingham Nottingham 21.06.2016 united kingdom
Rapperswil Swiss PG Day 2016 24.06.2016 switzerland
Salzburg ”’FOSSGIS 2016”’ 04.07.2016-06.07.2016 austria
Salzburg AGIT 2016 06.07.2016-08.07.2016 austria
Seattle ”’State of The Map US 2016”’ 23.07.2016-25.07.2016 united states
Bonn FOSS4G 2016 Code Sprint 20.08.2016-22.08.2016 germany
Bonn Workshops at FOSS4G 2016 22.08.2016-23.08.2016 germany
Derby Derby 23.08.2016 united kingdom
Bonn ”’FOSS4G 2016”’ 24.08.2016-26.08.2016 germany
Bonn FOSS4G 2016 Code Sprint Part II 27.08.2016-28.08.2016 germany
Brussels ”’State of the Map 2016”’ 23.09.2016-26.09.2016 belgium
Metro Manila ”’State of the Map Asia”’ 01.10.2016-02.10.2016 philippines
Berlin Hack Weekend 15.10.2016-16.10.2016 germany
Karlsruhe Hack Weekend 29.10.2016-30.10.2016 germany

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

This weekly was produced by Hakuch, Laura Barroso, Peda, Rogehm, derFred, jinalfoflia, mgehling, wambacher, widedangel.

by weeklyteam at May 19, 2016 01:57 PM

May 17, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia Highlights, April 2016

See story for photo credits.

See signature for photo credits.

Here are the highlights from the Wikimedia blog in April 2016.

Find, Prioritize, and Recommend: An article recommendation system to fill knowledge gaps across Wikipedia

Map by Markus Krötzsch, TU Dresden, public domain/CC0.

Map by Markus Krötzsch, TU Dresden, public domain/CC0.

The Wikimedia Research team has designed a system that finds, ranks, and recommends missing articles to be created across different language versions of Wikipedia. It takes into account editor interests (extracted from their public contribution history), proficiency across languages, and the projected popularity of an article in the target language, if it were to be created. One controlled test of these results show that recommendations tripled the rate at which editors create articles, while maintaining the same level of article quality.

The tool comes with an API, currently integrated into the Content Translation tool. Over the coming months, the Wikimedia Research team will be monitoring the tool closely to learn more about how it’s being used by editors and how it can be further improved. If you try out the article recommendation tool, you can provide the Research team with feedback on our discussion page.

First-ever Wikimedia Hackathon at Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee

Participants fixing bugs. Image by Saurabh Jain, public domain.

Participants fixing bugs. Image by Saurabh Jain, public domain.

The Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee hosted a one-day session to help students understand the working of the MediaWiki community. The day-long hackathon included every aspect of MediaWiki, from installing the software, setting up the environment to fixing some easy bugs, and submitting the patches for review. It was attended by 20 students, who were given certain pre-requisites and were selected based upon the fulfillment of these, thereby making certain that all the attendees were at the same phase. At the end of the day, we had 15 successful patch submissions (pushed) to the core. Additionally, 5 more changes have been committed locally and are to be pushed (as of now).

A strike against freedom of panorama: Swedish court rules against Wikimedia Sverige

Photo by Jacob Truedson Demitz and KJacobsen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Jacob Truedson Demitz and KJacobsen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Supreme Court of Sweden has ruled against Wikimedia Sverige (Sweden) in a case involving freedom of panorama in the country. The Court decided that Swedish copyright law does not allow Wikimedia Sverige to post images in its online database offentligkonst.se (a website / database covering publicly placed art) without permission from the artist.

The Wikimedia Foundation respectfully disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision to erode the freedom of panorama that is a fundamental part of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and artistic expression. As we read it, the Swedish copyright law in question only limits the production of three-dimensional copies of sculptures, and cannot be interpreted as placing limits on pictures of public art being published on the internet. The fact that the copyright law allows images of public art on postcards, even for profit and without the artist’s consent, demonstrates this intent and, in our opinion, is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law.

In brief

TED is partnering with the Wikimedia community to add “ideas worth spreading” to Wikimedia projects: In a new partnership with Wikimedia community members, TED has donated the massive amount of metadata behind more than 2,000 talks, many of which have been transcribed and translated by a worldwide network of TED volunteers. By adding TED metadata to Wikidata, Wikimedians Jane Darnell and Andy Mabbett are documenting what knowledge is available from TED talks and making it easier for that information to be found and used across Wikimedia projects.
Europeana Art History Challenge begins: With 40 languages, 30 countries, and hundreds of artworks, the Europeana Art History Challenge has now begun—the largest ever GLAM-Wiki competition and the first to highlight Wikidata. The project is “based” on Wikidata, and improving the quality of the metadata there about these works, their artists, genres etc. is just as much a part of this competition as are the translations on Wikipedia.
He reaches across continents: editing the Urdu Wikipedia from the Czech Republic: Over the past seven years, Jiří attained a remarkable command of the Urdu language, which is the official language of Pakistan and six states in India, and has written or expanded a number of articles in the language’s Wikipedia. Jiří likes to contribute articles especially on historical, biological and pharmacological topics. He is especially proud of his contributions on Czech history, although he would like to focus on articles about medicinal plants in the near future.

Andrew Sherman, Digital Communications Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

Photo Montage: “Sunset over Lake Mälar with 1854 statue of Carl XIV John of Sweden removed” by Jacob Truedson Demitz and KJacobsen, CC BY-SA 4.0; “Wmhack-5” by Saurabh Jain, public domain; “Wikidata English map” by Markus Krötzsch, TU Dresden, public domain/CC0. Collage by Andrew Sherman.

Information For versions in other languages, please check the wiki version of this report, or add your own translation there!

by Andrew Sherman at May 17, 2016 06:22 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The slow, necessary death of the research paper

Timothy Henningsen is an Assistant Professor of English at the College of DuPage. He’s run Wikipedia assignments in about a dozen courses, and has talked about the experience elsewhere. In this post, “The Slow, Necessary Death of the Research Paper (And How Wikipedia Can Revive Composition Instruction)” he discusses the benefit of Wikipedia writing assignments compared to traditional term papers.

In March, the Wiki Education Foundation posted a blog that articulates “5 reasons a Wikipedia assignment is better than a term paper.” In it, Wiki Ed’s Eryk Salvaggio addresses common misconceptions about Wikipedia, and argues why it affords students and teachers an energetic alternative to the traditional research paper. In conclusion, he asks academics to take up his call.

For the last 4 semesters, I have.

Before this, however, I was among a large contingent of writing instructors that would’ve harrumphed at Wiki Ed’s post. After all, the research paper has been the uncontested pedagogical paragon in the college composition classroom for nearly a century. The research paper offers student writers an opportunity to practice deeply engaged, sustained writing; it teaches research skills, source evaluation, critical analysis, argumentation, revision, referencing, and, perhaps the most important of all: discourse engagement.

And it would seem that ― despite debate over the value of this genre ― given the sales figures of books like Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, the research paper might remain a staple in academia for another 100 years.

Graff’s little book, which I’ve used in my own writing classrooms for the last decade, does an impeccable job at showing writing students how to crack the code that is academicspeak. Graff’s method is genius in its simplicity, its stated goal to “demystify academic writing” by helping students become “active participants in the important conversations of the academic world and the wider public sphere” (xviii-xix).

Graff is one in a long line of academics who have touted the research paper as a means of teaching students how to engage in discourse communities. Writing is inherently conversational, and the research paper thereby allows students to participate in academic debate.

Only that it doesn’t.

The research paper does have its redeeming qualities, but writing instructors are kidding themselves if they believe the traditional research paper is the best method of getting students actively engaged in the various discourse communities that constitute scholarship.

Ask any undergraduate who produces a research paper to what extent their paper will actually affect discourse and they’ll likely look at you cross-eyed. Students are smart enough to know that while the paper itself might invoke the discourse, they themselves don’t engage with it.

Sure, students consult sources and respond to a variety of arguments and ideas related to their topic, but those responses rarely go beyond the margins of paper. Instead, students are keen enough to know that when they hand their paper to their professor upon completion, that paper is likely on a one-way street to the recycling bin. Read only by one reader, the sole consequence being a letter grade.

The prospects of audience theory challenges this problem in requiring students write term papers which will have a real, tangible audience beyond the instructor. But even still, this doesn’t address the slog that students feel when told they have to write a research paper. In my experience, students immediately go into ‘zombie-mode’: they at first groan, then mundanely begin the process of collecting a bunch of sources, then pull sleepless nights, writing about those sources in a way they think their professor wants to hear. As soon as those students hit ‘print’ on their computer, that paper becomes dead to them.

Which is why, I believe, that teaching with Wikipedia addresses these problems by offering the same outcomes that a research paper assignment does, with added benefits. If one of the main motives of assigning a research paper is to have students engage a discourse and speak to an audience, then unless that audience is real and tangible, the activity is inherently counterfeit. It might be good practice, but it’s nothing like playing a real game. Which is where Wikipedia comes in.

Much thanks to the Wiki Education Foundation, its staff, and the resources they’ve produced, I have replaced the traditional research paper assignment with one that asks students to enhance or create a Wikipedia article of their choice. Not only has it injected a new lifeblood into my composition classes, but I believe it’s turned my students into better writers and researchers.

From the outset, students are intrigued by the prospect of this assignment, having been told throughout their academic lives that Wikipedia ― in academic contexts ― is taboo. And yet those students are also somewhat intimidated, knowing that their audience for an assignment like this potentially grows from one (i.e., me), to hundreds, if not thousands, or more.

Like the research paper, working on a Wikipedia article allows students to develop their writing (but publicly). It teaches research skills, source evaluation, and referencing (as all Wikipedia contributions require documented evidence). It requires critical analysis, forcing students to evaluate an article, and determine whether the information on a given subject is comprehensive, faulty, or perhaps incomplete. And unlike the research paper, contributing to Wikipedia offers real discourse engagement.

My students are often quite astonished when they study the various talk pages on Wikipedia (they usually begin with the presumption that any internet discussion inevitably dissolves into pedantic name-calling). In seeing the collegial, engaged discussions that often take place, students quickly realize that the dissemination of knowledge is not only passionate, but collaborative.

Since instituting this assignment, I’ve had students contribute to a plethora of Wikipedia articles. Instead of rigidly requiring students to limit their research to academic databases, they must employ critical research methods to be able determine where the best place to go to find credible, substantial information on whatever their topic might be (my students have investigated everything from the wanted poster to historic villages in Afghanistan; rock and roll side projects to globe-trotting basketball players; local, historic places to groundbreaking athletes).

Beyond that, academic traditionalists might assume that student contributions to Wikipedia lack the argumentative aspects offered by the research paper. And on the surface, it would seem so: Wikipedia requires all articles to be written in a neutral point of view. Students thus cannot flex their persuasive muscles.

But they can.

The challenge for students completing a Wikipedia assignment is persuading their Wikipedia audience that the information they’ve added to an article is topically-relevant and noteworthy enough to be included in that article’s subject matter. For example, when in 2011 it was reported that Apple software was regularly tracking the whereabouts of its iPhone customers, the news quickly made its way to the Wikipedia article on the iPhone. But a student of mine evaluated the “secret tracking” section of the article last semester and felt that while the news was noteworthy, it didn’t provide users with the actual means of turning off this tracking feature. At risk of turning an encyclopedia article into a tutorial, this student had to determine how to craft text that would not only fit with the overall tone of the article, but also provide readers an immediate means of fixing this issue on their own phones if they were reading about this tracking feature for the very first time.

The student thus decoded the discourse of the iPhone article, shaped his own text to fit that discourse, and thus contributed to the discourse. That student surely wouldn’t have gotten this experience with the traditional research paper.

Ultimately, this is where the Wikipedia project goes far beyond the confines of the traditional research paper: students realize that they can personally participate in the dissemination of knowledge. Whereas students often feel like outsiders to academic discourse (this is the whole premise of Graff’s aforementioned text), students quickly realize that scholars are not the sole arbiters of knowledge production; adding content to Wikipedia gives developing writers agency in their own research and writing. For example, Jeffrey Ringbloom, a second-year student in my Fall 2015 composition class, reported the following:

“… my perception of authority in an academic sense has changed after working within Wikipedia. I now realize that publications of academic work [are] not relegated to those holding doctorate degrees. Obviously, this [might] be needed for an article in a … peer-reviewed journal, but in something like Wikipedia it is different. On Wikipedia, anyone who is passionate about a subject and willing to put in the time and effort, can publish … credible and substantial work … Content is developed in a collaborative effort with other users. Then the information is available … all over the Internet.”

Another student, Navgeet Sandhu, who began the project with a certain skepticism, learned to embrace the “communal vibe” that went along with collaborating with other Wikipedia users:

“I went into this assignment with the negative mindset and the notion that all Wikipedia articles have no place in the world of academia, and am coming out with a newfound respect and reverence for those who go through and take the time to research, and prepare, and edit, and create the Wikipedia that we know today; the up to date and constantly evolving sum of human experience. In conclusion Wikipedia is responsible for the democratization of knowledge and the handing it back to the people it belongs to by the people who create it, and although people will disagree and harrumph in contempt, Wikipedia represents what academia should be: unbiased and uninhibited knowledge given to all who ask for it (and it’s free too).”

As that very writing instructor who once used to arrogantly harrumph in contempt at the thought of promoting Wikipedia in the classroom, my entire pedagogical worldview has since changed thanks to this assignment.

If you happen to teach writing or research, you should give it a thought. You’re more than welcome to join us.


Graff, Gerald, Cathy Birkenstein, & Russel Durst. They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, 3rd Edition w/ Readings. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2015.

Photo: ‘198 Ways’ Notes by Dom Pates, CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr.


by Guest Contributor at May 17, 2016 05:50 PM

Wikimedia India

Equipment Lending and Community Support: How it retained long-term users from declining activity

Started as “Infrastructure Scholarship program” back on December 2014, the program has been successfully serving the community for more than a year now. Ever since the program was started, it quickly gained momentum and is now been striving to become an impactful community-support program. It is the first community-aiding program ever structured by Wikimedia India chapter. The agenda of the program as postulated in their project page states that:

“This [Equipment Lending and Community Support] is mainly intended at removing limitations in contributing for user groups like students, unemployed and others facing financial constraints.”

From observation, they have been working hard to keep their works in accordance with their agenda.

Indic Wikimedian’s community is a colossal body, among which a small amount of user group suffers from financial impediments which include students and unemployeds. A small number of long-term users from this user group were considered eligible for scholarships. And by scrutinization, it is found that the procedure of selecting grantees are transparent; through community endorsement and evaluation of past their contributions.

After surveying with the grantees, we perceived that at least four long-term experienced editors, who had to decrease their Wikimedia-related activity due to technical limitation (lack of device or due to no internet access) were helped by Equipment Lending and Community Support program. As a result, their Wikimedia-associated contributions increased again.

Although it is an infrastructure scholarship program, according to their project page:

“Some purchases may remain community / chapter owned so it can be used by many contributors if one goes inactive.”

-which is an important aspect of the program.

As of January 2016, Equipment Lending and Community Support project had accepted 7 grant requests from long-term users including, User:Satdeep Gill, User:Titodutta, User:Bodhisattwa, User:Info-farmer, User:Pranayraj1985 and User:Jim Carter. All this editors work in different Indic language Wiki projects and at some point have had faced problematic situtions in real life which inclined them to use Equipment Lending and Community Support program.

A Punjabi language article which was improved using the one of the books

Satdeep Gill, an experienced administrator at Punjabi Wikipedia, on March 2015, requested for a grant of INR 4,449 (US dollar $65.4891) to obtain three Punjabi language books to improve the integrity, verifiability and reliability of many articles on Punjabi language Wikipedia. In January 2016, we found that the books helped them to create or significantly improve over 45 articles (See the list of articles here and here). In an online interview of the grant receiver, Satdeep, told us that “[...] the books have been helpful” to them. However, Satdeep noted, “We have not been able to make the best use of the books as of now.” He further said that “We are planning some in-house edit-a-thons from March [2016] during which a bunch of editors will sit for one-two days once a week [sic] or a fortnight. We hope to put references in around 50 articles everytime we have an edit-a-thon.” He assured us that more articles would be started soon using those books.

Gill also concluded that Equipment Lending and Community Support program, “indeed is making a good impact”, nevertheless, he suggested that “the grantees need to make sure they know the exact way they will be using the grants.”

Few of the books uploaded by Bodhisattwa

Compare the difference between Bodhisattwa's past and present activity on WikiSource

We also interviewed, Bodhisattwa Mandal, a sysop on Bengali Wikipedia and Bengali Wikisource, who had requested for a grant to pay for the internet connection bills monthly. Living in a remote location where ethernet connection is unavailable, he was solely dependent on costly 3G dongle internet network connections. He received the grant from December 2015 onwards. Following that, his activity increased a lot, he started contributing on Wikimedia Commons with his full strength. As of January 2016, he has uploaded 67+ Books on Wikimedia Commons using the new data connection. Since he received the grant recently enough, “it is too early to declare any significant contributions from me”, he told us. But over time he assured us about quality contributions.

Info-farmer's editing statistics on Wikimedia Commons

Info-farmer's activity on Telegu Wikipedia

Infofarmer's Tamil Wikipedia activity.

We also contacted User:Info-farmer, who is an admin on tamil Wikipedia and on tamil Wiktionary. His response was not much different than the others. His outreach activity for the grant, which is a laptop, has increased very much. And from the statistics, it is evidenced that Info-farmer’s online activity has increased a lot.

Compare the activity of Pranay on Telegu Wikipedia from April 2015 and before April 2015

Compare the difference in activity on Wikimedia Commmons before and after receiving the grant

User:Pranayraj1985′s activity boomed just after they received the grant on April 2015. According to the statistics more than 70% of his total 68,611 edits were made only after he received the grant.

by Jim Carter at May 17, 2016 10:41 AM

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

French Wikipedians discuss conflict of interest, paid editing

Editor’s note: Readers of this blog may be familiar with the ongoing controversies around paid editing on the English language Wikipedia. (See here for our past writings on the topic.) Wikipedia editors struggle with a number of issues around paid editing: conflict of interest, maintaining neutrality in our writing, tensions between volunteers committed to Wikipedia’s success and those primarily focused on their company’s interests, etc. These issues are of course not confined to the English language edition, or to the USA; but parallel discussions taking place across the ocean and in other languages can be difficult to track.

It was recently revealed that Racosh Sàrl, a public relations agency engaged in undisclosed and ethically questionable Wikipedia editing, was closely linked to the Swiss chapter of Wikimedia. In this post, we are pleased to present Gabriel Thullen, a Swiss Wikipedian who contributes primarily to the French language edition of Wikipedia, and one of the Wikimedia Switzerland board members who is not involved with the paid editing agency. Here, he describes the discussions among French Wikipedians that resulted brought the paid editing out into the open. Readers may also be interested in Gariel’s op-ed piece in the English Wikipedia’s Signpost.

French-speaking readers interested in the topic may wish to participate in a vote that is currently underway on the French Wikipedia.

Discussions on the French Wikipedia

by Gabriel Thullen

Gabriel Thullen, Swiss Wikipedian and board member of Wikimedia Switzerland. Photo CC BY-SA, Ludovic Péron.

Gabriel Thullen, Swiss Wikipedian and board member of Wikimedia Switzerland. Photo CC BY-SA, Ludovic Péron.

In February 2016, Jules78120 (an administrator on the French language Wikipedia) learned from a fellow Wikipedian, Nattes à chat, about the paid editing activities of a trio of experienced Swiss contributors operating through the PR company Racosch Sàrl. Their web site states:

Wikipedia by Wikipedians

Racosch is a Swiss boutique consulting firm specialised in editing Wikipedia articles.

Our clients are companies as much as high-profile individuals, as well as other Public Relations specialists who want to update or add factual information, correct inaccuracies or address the presence of unsightly banners at the top of articles.

On April 6, 2016, Jules wrote a piece on the Bistro (a central Wikipedia page for French-language community discussion) detailing the way he unsuccessfully tried to deal with these paid editing activities. He starts out by describing some very suspicious edits that occurred on one of the client’s article:

  • The article was proposed for deletion on December 9, 2015. This is standard procedure since an admissibility banner had been placed on the article in January 2015 (in fact, it was Manoillon who had placed the banner).
  • Manoillon votes to delete the article on December 9 saying that there was a lack of sources to determine whether the company is notable.
  • A few days later on December 15, Pplc (who was then called Leo Fischer) shows up on the article and adds references (sources). He points that out on the deletion discussion page on December 16, and 10 minutes later Manoillon transforms his negative vote into neutral saying that references (sources) had been added to the article.
  • These additional references (sources) convinced three other contributors to vote in favor of keeping the article.

Jules suggests that the company contacted Racosch, or more likely Racosch contacted the company when the article was up for deletion and this led up to being paid. Jules finds it problematic that only Leo Fischer/Pplc indicates that he had been paid for the article, and neither he nor Manoillon indicate that they work for the same consulting company.

Jules went on to describe a few other instances of collaboration among these editors on the articles of their clients (Debiopharm and Groupe Pictet). The Leo Fischer/Pplc account, as well as the third partner (Wicodric), are also active on the English language Wikipedia. They had not indicated that they were partners in a consulting firm and that they were sometimes coordinating their edits on articles.

Jules then asked Kimdime, another longtime administrator, for advice. Kimdime suggested that he contact the contributors by email. Jules started exchanging emails with them at the end of February, but the discussion eventually petered out. Feeling that the situation was still contrary to Wikimedia Foundation rules, and was not satisfactory in regard to transparency or to the spirit of the recommendations for paid editing, Jules went public with this affair, with his post on the Bistro, and asked community members for their opinion.

The discussion that followed was quite long, and I will try to summarize it. Jules pointed out that:

  1. The paid editors did not list all the articles they were involved with on behalf of their clients (which violates Wikipedia’s Terms of Use).
  2. The paid editors did not mention the name of their employer (which violates Wikipedia’s Terms of Use).
  3. The paid editors did not say that their contributions were linked every time they work for the same client (which violates widely accepted views (French, English) of what is appropriate).

One of the first items of concern was that these were longtime experienced wikipedians who could not claim that they did not know the rules on paid editing. It was especially disturbing to find out that they were working together without disclosing it.

After a while, the consensus was that these three contributors were acting in good faith, considering the depth of their knowledge concerning the inner workings of Wikipedia. One contributor even contended that, since the Wikipedians involved were very experienced, we should be satisfied that they didn’t take even greater steps to obscure their actions!

A day later, Jules posts again trying to recenter the discussion on his concerns, mainly the reluctance with which the three contributors were conforming to the Wikimedia TOU. Only one of the three had mentioned Racosch on their user page. After answering certain comments made by other contributors, he concludes by saying that after reading certain comments he had the impression of hearing “circulez, il n’y a rien à voir”. (“Move along, nothing to see here.”)

The discussion then shifted to finding ways of “avoiding this in the future”, at which point the Swiss paid editors joined in. One contributor proposed to improve the help page on paid editing, and provide them with tools to help them do their job right. A few other contributors were quite in favor of strict rules concerning paid editing, and are worried that this activity undermines Wikipedia with the risk that  the encyclopedia’s credibility will be even less than that of a politician.

A different discussion thread started out by suggesting that the articles written by the paid contributors be nominated for deletion, then let the community decide what to do with them. That discussion went on for a while, but came to no clear conclusions except for suggesting that contributors involved in paid editing of any sort (freelance, PR company, Wikipedian in residence, WMF staff …) should have a separate, clearly disclosed account for their “professional” contributions.

All in all, although important topics were discussed at length, there is no clear resolution to the issue on the French language Wikipedia.

by Gabriel Thullen at May 17, 2016 03:54 AM

May 16, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: The little things that fuel everything

The Year of Science is all about the big stuff: Thousands of students working on thousands of Wikipedia articles, bringing better information to millions of readers. Today we’re going to look at students who focused on the small stuff.

A “Prokaryote” is one of a diverse group of single-cell organisms, once commonly synonymous with “bacteria.” There are millions of species of these prokaryotes on our planet, if not trillions. They’re everywhere from our guts to our skin, from the edge of space to miles into the Earth. Understanding them is an essential part of understanding a wide range of sciences, from genetics to medicine to environmental studies. Their role in breaking down and releasing nutrients for plants has made them essential to life on this planet.

Understanding the many variety of prokaryotes in any given environment is a key piece of understanding that environment. Disrupting a set of interactions between them can have big impacts. But just as importantly, understanding them is crucial to the production of pharmaceuticals and other products.

Dr. Cameron Thrash’s Prokaryotic Diversity course at Louisiana State University (also onTwitter) focuses on these tiny nutrient liberators. They’ve created 15 articles that give anyone who encounters one of these species a brief overview of what’s known about them.

One article illustrates the importance of prokaryotes quite well. In 1942, 40 swimmers complained of a mysterious outbreak of malaise. All had been swimming in lakes near Fort Bragg, and a mysterious rash appeared on them four days later. Researchers came to investigate “Fort Bragg Fever.” It took two years to discover how the pathogen spread, and nine years to identify the offending prokaryotic species as Leptospira noguchii.

These include:

  • Treponema socranskii, which is tied to periodontitis and gingivitis. Students created this article.
  • Azotobacter salinestris, once used in agricultural processes but found to cause birth defects in humans. Likewise, understanding it has also helped to prevent them.
  • Desulfobulbus propionicus can be used as a biocatalyst in microbial fuel cells.
  • Haladaptatus paucihalophilus, which is interesting in its ability to survive in very highand very low salt concentrations. That makes it useful in lab studies.
  • Thermoplasma volcanium, found in various hydrothermal vents.
  • Thermotoga elfii, which helps prevent corrosion in oil pipelines.
  • Macromonas bipunctata, indirectly associated with the discovery of antibiotics in moonmilk (the creamy precipitate found in limestone caves).

This small handful of student work from Thrash’s course tackles prokaryotes in fields such as dentistry, agriculture, health, industry and energy, research science, and geology. These student editors’ work helps people in those fields learn a little bit more about the science behind their work, even if they don’t have experience in biology.

That’s the beauty of the Wikipedia Year of Science. Students who are learning one field contribute that learning to fill in blank spaces, and make the picture more complete in all sorts of ways. The information is accurate, from reliable sources, and reinforces Wikipedia’s value as the web’s go-to place for information.

Thanks to these students, and Dr. Thrash, for helping us understand the tiniest details of our world! If you’d like to get involved in bringing science information to millions of readers through Wikipedia, check out our Wikipedia Year of Science initiative, or send us an e-mail: contact@wikiedu.org

Photo: Glass Beach Fort Bragg 2, by Jef Poskanzer – originally posted to Flickr as Glass Beach / wave, CC-BY-2.0.

by Eryk Salvaggio at May 16, 2016 04:00 PM

The Roundup: The little things that fuel everything

The Year of Science is all about the big stuff: Thousands of students working on thousands of Wikipedia articles, bringing better information to millions of readers. Today we’re going to look at students who focused on the small stuff.

A prokaryote is one of a diverse group of single-cell organisms, once commonly synonymous with “bacteria.” There are millions of species of these prokaryotes on our planet, if not trillions. They’re everywhere from our guts to our skin, from the edge of space to miles into the Earth. Understanding them is an essential part of understanding a wide range of sciences, from genetics to medicine to environmental studies. Their role in breaking down and releasing nutrients for plants has made them essential to life on this planet.

Understanding the many variety of prokaryotes in any given environment is a key piece of understanding that environment. Disrupting a set of interactions between them can have big impacts. But just as importantly, understanding them is crucial to the production of pharmaceuticals and other products.

Dr. Cameron Thrash’s Prokaryotic Diversity course at Louisiana State University (also on Twitter) focuses on these tiny nutrient liberators. They’ve created 15 articles that give anyone who encounters one of these species a brief overview of what’s known about them.

One article illustrates the importance of prokaryotes quite well. In 1942, 40 swimmers complained of a mysterious outbreak of malaise. All had been swimming in lakes near Fort Bragg, and a mysterious rash appeared on them four days later. Researchers came to investigate “Fort Bragg Fever.” It took two years to discover how the pathogen spread, and nine years to identify the offending prokaryotic species as Leptospira noguchii.

These include:

  • Treponema socranskii, which is tied to periodontitis and gingivitis. Students created this article.
  • Azotobacter salinestris, once used in agricultural processes but found to cause birth defects in humans. Likewise, understanding it has also helped to prevent them.
  • Desulfobulbus propionicus can be used as a biocatalyst in microbial fuel cells.
  • Haladaptatus paucihalophilus, which is interesting in its ability to survive in very high and very low salt concentrations. That makes it useful in lab studies.
  • Thermoplasma volcanium, found in various hydrothermal vents.
  • Thermotoga elfii, which helps prevent corrosion in oil pipelines.
  • Macromonas bipunctata, indirectly associated with the discovery of antibiotics in moonmilk (the creamy precipitate found in limestone caves).

This small handful of student work from Thrash’s course tackles prokaryotes in fields such as dentistry, agriculture, health, industry and energy, research science, and geology. These student editors’ work helps people in those fields learn a little bit more about the science behind their work, even if they don’t have experience in biology.

That’s the beauty of the Wikipedia Year of Science. Students who are learning one field contribute that learning to fill in blank spaces, and make the picture more complete in all sorts of ways. The information is accurate, from reliable sources, and reinforces Wikipedia’s value as the web’s go-to place for information.

Thanks to these students, and Dr. Thrash, for helping us understand the tiniest details of our world! If you’d like to get involved in bringing science information to millions of readers through Wikipedia, check out our Wikipedia Year of Science initiative, or send us an e-mail: contact@wikiedu.org

Photo: Glass Beach Fort Bragg 2, by Jef Poskanzer – originally posted to Flickr as Glass Beach / wave, CC-BY-2.0.

by Eryk Salvaggio at May 16, 2016 04:00 PM

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

Public relations for Wikipedia

How to move the dial to “notable”

Companies often want to put something on Wikipedia that has no independent, reliable sources to back it up. For Wikipedia, that’s a non-starter; no matter how many press releases or social media posts you issue, Wikipedia policy is unmoved. Sources must be independent to carry weight; and no, publishing a story on a content farm like Business Insider or the Examiner won’t work any better. So if there is important information about your company that you want covered, you need to do exactly what you would have done before the Internet existed: persuade qualified news reporters that it’s important enough to cover.

Executing a public relations campaign to support an article on Wikipedia is a very different practice from most current public relations strategies. Today, the field relies heavily on a social media componentmentions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, relevant blogs and so on. Yet social media “mentions” are of little use when attempting to meet the notability standards of Wikipedia, either to begin a new article on Wikipedia or to add information to an existing one. Wikipedia standards demand that information to be included in an article must be published by third party, noteworthy media.  In a sense, the strategy is a back-to-basics public relations plan that targets newspapers, magazines and television networks.

One would assume that start-up ventures would have the most difficulty meeting notability standards. While that is often the case, we  have worked with clients who have been successfully operating a business for a decade or more, and whose significance is well established, but have nevertheless had their attempts at creating  a Wikipedia article rebuffed by volunteer editors who tell them they are “not notable.”  When they ask us how that can be, we do a media audit of the coverage the company has received. Inevitably, our research shows that these companies have earned little coverage in traditional, respected media outlets. As far as Wikipedia is concerned, they are not notable, no matter how many millions of widgets they have sold, or how many scores of satisfied customers have sung their praises.

These companies have had the Wikipedia “Ah-HA! moment.” In their early days, earning media coverage was a low priority; they understood their niche, and successfully built their business accordingly. They were succeeding without earned media. But once years have passed, thin media coverage becomes a problem; a more mature company has a legitimate interest in having a lasting record of its impact. Difficulty in getting a comprehensive Wikipedia article can be the most significant manifestation of this deeper problem, and can be what brings it to light. If your business isn’t on Wikipedia, customers, staff, potential investors and business partners may wonder what is wrong with the company. Certain businesses can get away with ignoring earned media for a while, but over time, it becomes a problem.

To move the dial from “not notable” to “notable,” a company must earn media coverage of  a certain type. Wikipedia public relations is not slick, and not particularly excitingbut it’s important. If a company has already made an impact, it may be time to get started generating news coverage:

  • Determine what basic information a Wikipedia entry would ideally include. For a corporation, this might include headquarters and satellite office locations, year founded, key events in company history, current leadership, and products and services offered.
  • Ensure that those bits of information are liberally scattered throughout all company content: press releases, videos, speeches by executives, website content, etc. Following this practice consistently will tend to lead to those facts being included in news coverage.
  • Ensure that the written materials, and the way key executives talk about the company, its products, services and mission, are consistent and include, whenever possible, the basic information to be found in a good Wikipedia article.

The time-honored press release offers an excellent platform for working on consistent Wikipedia article supporting messaging. Here are some press release basics for supporting a Wikipedia article:

  • It must be written in AP style and crafted so that when a reporter copies and pastes portions of it, the content can stand alone as a story as though a reporter had written it. It must have a strong lead paragraph, followed by the important information that it is intended to impart, and it must include quotes from one or two high-level company executives.
  • Quotes from company executives must say something that adds to the content. No throw-away quotes; make sure they advance the article.
  • The quotes should also include specific, relevant details about the company. For instance: “As an employer of 500 people that provides medical care, we are concerned about the pending legislation.” This quote, if a news outlet fact-checks it and includes it in an article, will offer a potential Wikipedia citation for the company’s size, number of employees and industry segment.
  • The press release needs a boilerplate description at the bottom with the subhead: About [company name]. It should explain, in layman’s terms, what the company does again, including specific facts. If this is too jargony, the reporter will not use it.
  • International, national, and local, and industry-specific versions: If the news release includes information intended for various regional audiences, the releases should include different information  and quotes in order to maximize the amount of information that a single piece of news can generate toward citations for a Wikipedia article.

A Wikipedia public relations campaign is, in a way, nothing newit’s basic Public Relations. A press release needs to include the “who what when where and how” that reporters were once mercilessly schooled on by grizzled editors. In this day of high-tech PR fueled by the latest social media platforms designed to make something out of nothing, basic PR techniques are often skipped. But Wikipedia’s unbending and shamelessly old-school standards keep the techniques relevant. If you want something on Wikipedia, it must first be in traditional media.

So if it’s notability you lack, and notability you want, you could do worse than follow the rigid discipline of TV’s fictional police detective, Sgt. Friday. In each episode of Dragnet, the poker-faced Friday would advise a potential witness, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” The facts are what you need to establish, if you want to move the dial to “notable” and get your business mentioned on Wikipedia.

by Dan Cook at May 16, 2016 03:34 PM

Tech News

Tech News issue #20, 2016 (May 16, 2016)

TriangleArrow-Left.svgprevious 2016, week 20 (Monday 16 May 2016) nextTriangleArrow-Right.svg
Other languages:
العربية • ‎čeština • ‎Deutsch • ‎Ελληνικά • ‎English • ‎español • ‎suomi • ‎עברית • ‎हिन्दी • ‎italiano • ‎日本語 • ‎Ripoarisch • ‎norsk bokmål • ‎português do Brasil • ‎русский • ‎svenska • ‎ไทย • ‎українська • ‎Tiếng Việt • ‎中文

May 16, 2016 12:00 AM

May 14, 2016

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

Future of Text 2015

Here is my 10 minute presentation at the Future of Text symposium in December 2015:

The future of text should support individual agency. These capabilities are important:

  1. perceive that something has changed
  2. perceive what changed
  3. perceive who changed it
  4. perceive why the person wanted to make the change
  5. address the person who changed it: comments, concerns, questions.
  6. undo the changes of others
  7. make changes of one’s own.

Two relevant blog posts, to explore these ideas further:


by Pete Forsyth at May 14, 2016 05:19 PM


Geospatial search for Wikidata Query Service

Geospatial search is up and running for the Wikidata Query Service! This allows you to search for items with coordinates that are located within a certain radius or within a bounding box.

Along side the the map that can be used to display results for the query service this really is a great tool for quickly visualizing coverage.

Search around a point

The below query selects all items that are within a 100km radius circle of Berlin. Checkout the in-line comments to see exactly that is happening.

# Select the ItemId, label and coordinate location
SELECT ?place ?placeLabel ?location WHERE {
 # Select the coordinate location(P625) of Berlin(Q64) as the centeral coordinate ?mainLoc
 wd:Q64 wdt:P625 ?mainLoc . 
 # Use the around service
 SERVICE wikibase:around { 
 # Looking for items with coordinate locations(P625)
 ?place wdt:P625 ?location . 
 # That are in a circle with a centre of ?mainLoc(The coordinate location of Berlin)
 bd:serviceParam wikibase:center ?mainLoc . 
 # Where the circle has a radius of 100km
 bd:serviceParam wikibase:radius "100" . 
 # Use the label service to get the English label
 SERVICE wikibase:label {
 bd:serviceParam wikibase:language "en" . 

This query currently matches 9468 results and when the results are rendered on the built in map for the query service they look like this.

WDQS Geospatial Query 100km of Berlin

Of course you can build a more complex query to refine the result further, for example to only show airports within the circle. The extra code along with the resulting image can be seen below.

# Is an airport
  ?place wdt:P31/wdt:P279* wd:Q1248784

WDQS Geospatial Query Airports 100km of Berlin

Search within a bounding box

The below query selects all items between San Jose, CA and Sacramento, CA using a bounding box.

  # Select the two corners for the box, San Jose & Sacramento
  wd:Q16553 wdt:P625 ?SJloc .
  wd:Q18013 wdt:P625 ?SCloc .
  # Use the box service
  SERVICE wikibase:box {
      # Looking for items with coordinate locations(P625)
      ?place wdt:P625 ?location .
      # Set the south west and north east corners of the box
      bd:serviceParam wikibase:cornerSouthWest ?SJloc .
      bd:serviceParam wikibase:cornerNorthEast ?SCloc .

All of the items from within this box can be seen in the image below, but similarly with the circle you can add more to the query to refine the results.

WDQS Geospatial Query CA box

You can find more details about the Geospatial queries on the mediawiki.org help page @ https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Wikidata_query_service/User_Manual#Geospatial _search

by addshore at May 14, 2016 03:30 PM

Wikidata Map May 2016 (Belarus & Uganda)

I originally posted about the Wikidata maps back in early 2015 and have followed up with a few posts since looking at interesting developments. This is another one of those posts covering the changes since the last post, so late 2015, to now, May 2016.

The new maps look very similar to the naked eye and the new ‘big’ map can be seen below.

So while at the 2016 Wikimedia Hackathon in Jerusalem I teamed up with @valhallasw to generate some diffs of these maps, in a slightly more programatic way to my posts following up the 2015 Wikimania!

In the image below all pixels that are red represent Wikidata items with coordinate locations and pixels that are yellow represent items added between October 27, 2015 and April 2, 2016 with coordinate locations. Click the image to see it full size.

The area in eastern Europe with many new items is Belarus and the area in eastern Africa is Uganda. Some other smaller clusters of yellow pixels can also be seen in the image.

All of the generated images from April 2016 can be found on Wikimedia Commons at the links below:

by addshore at May 14, 2016 01:55 PM

May 13, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

The “world’s first gif”, a horse, and a ditch: The English Wikipedia’s ten shortest featured articles

River Street in downtown Ontonagon, Michigan—part of U.S. Route 45. Photo by TimK MSI, CC BY-SA 2.5

The English Wikipedia has more than 4,700 featured articles at the time of writing—fewer than 0.1 percent of all articles. Featured articles, known in the community as “FAs”, must undergo a rigorous assessment process where their compatibility with several criteria is checked and scrutinised. In exchange, they’re adorned with a little bronze star and used as an example of the best articles Wikipedia has to offer.

Recently, we took a look at the longest of these articles, most of which were on controversial topics such as politicians, evolution, and entertainers. Now, we’re going to look at the other side of the coin—the English Wikipedia’s shortest featured articles.

These are short for a number of reasons. Sometimes there simply isn’t a lot to say about the topic, and it can be thoroughly explored in only a few hundred words.

#10: Nico Ditch

Yes, there is a Wikipedia article on a six-mile-long artificial ditch in northern England. Promoted to featured status in 2009, it documents an earthwork between the towns of Ashton-under-Lyne and Stretford in Greater Manchester. The ditch was crafted at some time between the 5th and 11th centuries, and today is only barely visible due to the heavy weathering over hundreds of years of exposure.

#9: Samuel Merrill Woodbridge

Woodbridge was a clergyman, theologian, author, and college professor from New York, active in the nineteenth century. He was a professor of “metaphysics and philosophy of the human mind” at what is now Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, for seven years. He published three books covering various aspects of the Christian faith and theology, among other things. At just 774 words, his article is one of the shortest to ever meet the featured article criteria on the English Wikipedia.

#8: U.S. Route 45 in Michigan

Roads in the United States are a topic of niche interest, but one of perhaps disproportionately high-quality on Wikipedia. This article, on the route from Mobile, Alabama, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is one such article. Its 766 words discuss the road’s history—including the mystery of the supposedly-paranormal Paulding Light—and its major intersections in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties.

#7: 2005 Azores subtropical storm

The first of two featured articles on this list to be about weather systems, this article discusses the nineteenth nameable storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. This storm was unusual in that it wasn’t given a name; indeed, it was only classified as a subtropical storm during the National Hurricane Center’s annual review of the season.

#6: How Brown Saw the Baseball Game

Siegmund Lubin, whose company produced the film. Photo by an uncredited author, public domain/CC0.

The shortest article by raw prose size is one of four based on obscure films on this list. This film was a short comedy produced in 1907 involving trick photography, simulating a baseball game in reverse—the “Brown” in question was so drunk, that’s how he saw the game. It’s not known if the film actually survived through to today, but reviews published in film journals at the time insist the movie was “truly funny”. We’ll have to take their word for that.

#5: Gagak Item

Gagak Item (Vernacular Malay for “Black Raven”) is a bandit film released in 1939 in the Dutch East Indies—now Indonesia. “Gagak Item” is a masked bandit in a similar vein to Zorro, and the film’s plot revolved around his relationship with a girl in rural Buitenzorg (now Bogor). Though the film is likely lost—it was shot on highly flammable nitrate film, and is thought to have been in a warehouse which burned down in 1952—it was a reasonable critical and commercial success at the time.

#4: Miss Meyers

A racing horse active in the 1950s, Miss Meyers was the 1953 World Champion Quarter Running Horse. She won $28,725 (about $254,000 today) as well as 17 races. The article’s 686 words succinctly document the horse’s three-year career, as well as her legacy and not-quite-as-successful offspring. She was, however, the mother of the first American Quarter Horse Association Supreme Champion, Kid Meyers.

#3: Katsudō Shashin

This article may be short, but it documents an important subject—potentially the oldest work of animation in Japan, a country now well-known for the quality of its animation output. This particular film (whose title translates to “moving picture”, fittingly enough) was made at some point between 1907 and 1911, and was discovered by chance in a home projector in the city of Kyoto. The film is a total of three seconds long, and was fastened in a way that would continuously loop the film—so, really, this was the world’s first gif.

#2: Si Ronda

The second film from the former Dutch East Indies on this list, this one is a silent release from 1930. Its name refers to the protagonist, a bandit who acts much like Robin Hood—stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. It is a martial arts film, making prominent use of silat, traditional Malay martial arts. The film received little coverage in national press, but still encouraged its director and producer duo to work on a further three films. Much like #5 on this list, the film is presumably lost. At 638 words, the article is a leisurely two-minute read.

#1: Tropical Depression Ten (2005)

Photo by NASA, public domain

Photo by NASA, public domain/CC0.

Wikipedia’s coverage of hurricanes and tropical weather systems is remarkably extensive. Indeed, WikiProject Tropical cyclones—the volunteer-run taskforce dedicated to these articles—counts more than 7,000 articles under its remit. Tropical Depression Ten, one of the weakest tropical cyclones of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, lasted all of a day, was never named, and its strongest recorded winds were 35 mph. Its remnants, however, partially contributed to Tropical Depression Twelve—which would later become Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes in American history.

Since this Depression was so short, its article barely stretches to 609 words; it was promoted to featured article status in 2009 by prolific writer Juliancolton, who has over 30 other such articles to his name. “Though at first it appears rather insignificant, I feel it’s a fairly substantial storm—at least as far as tropical depressions go,” he wrote in the nomination.

Joe Sutherland, Communications Fellow
Wikimedia Foundation

This is the second piece of a two-part series. You can read about the longest featured articles on the English Wikipedia in part one.

by Joe Sutherland at May 13, 2016 08:58 PM

At Berlin conference, affiliates, staff, and board work side by side

Photo by Jeff Elder, public domain/CC0.

Wikimedia Foundation interim Executive Director Katherine Maher, community member Reda Benkhadra, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in April in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Jeff Elder, public domain/CC0.

Reda Benkhadra, 17, traveled from Morocco to Germany in April, where he stood side by side with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and Wikimedia Foundation interim Executive Director Katherine Maher.

At the Wikimedia Conference, community members like Reda (an editor since age 13), board members like Jimmy, and Foundation staff like Katherine were all Wikimedians working together on the future of the movement.

Foundation staff joined nearly 100 recognized and active movement affiliates from around the world for the annual conference, hosted by Wikimedia Deutschland (Germany). Together they discussed building communications within the movement, and growing to reach new audiences outside Wikimedia’s current reach.

Nearly the entire Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees attended, and met to discuss the search for a permanent Executive Director, the vacancies on the Board, and the Foundation’s plans for the upcoming year. The Trustees in attendance also hosted a question-and-answer session, and discussed with community members how the Foundation can better support affiliates.

Photo by Jason Krüger, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Jason Krüger, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Affiliations Committee, comprised of volunteers and Foundation advisors, held their annual meeting, led a discussion with affiliates, and met with the interim Executive Director. Members of the Funds Dissemination Committee, volunteers who work with the Foundation’s largest grants, collected feedback on the Foundation’s annual plan—which was recently submitted to their committee for review.

The Foundation’s interim Executive Director, Katherine Maher, attended the Board meeting and main conference. Katherine hosted a question-and-answer session with members of the Foundation’s leadership team, and led a presentation on the Foundation’s strategy process and annual plan. She met with executive directors and staff of Wikimedia movement affiliates, and community members from around the world.

“Sitting with community members from around the world is one of my favorite ways to spend time,” said Katherine. “We discuss, debate, listen, and plan for our shared future. We connect on our shared values and learn from our different cultures and contexts. And we play Wikidojo, which is definitely an experience worth scaling!”

With the support and cooperation of several community members, the Foundation’s Program Capacity and Learning team and the Community Resources team led two “learning days” prior to the conference attended by 51 affiliates. The group learned about designing effective programs, engaging volunteers, communicating about movement work and impact, “and ways to bring their new knowledge back home,” said senior strategist Jaime Anstee, who organized the learning days. The CE department staff also led sessions on community listening, the grants program restructuring, outcome mapping, and a review and retrospective on global metrics during the main conference. “The pre-conference learning days were really helpful,” said Edgar Rosero Villacís from the Wikimedistas de Ecuador user group. They “let us see ourselves in a new perspective and be more bold about our own growth.”

The Foundation’s Community Tech team, part of the Product department, collaborated with Wikimedia Deutschland’s Technical Wishes team on a presentation about community-centered software development, “talking about what we’ve learned from the Community Wishlist process, answering questions, and getting feedback,” said product manager Danny Horn. The coworking was so productive that Danny and engineering manager Ryan Kaldari stayed in Berlin for two extra days, working with the Wikimedia Deutschland team on a project that ranked high on both the German wishlist and the Foundation’s international wishlist. They also held an in-depth discussion about Wikisource, answered technology questions for chapters, and learned more about GLAM needs.

The Communications department led sessions during the learning days and main program, and met with affiliates to help them better chronicle the work of Wikimedia’s volunteers. Communications staff introduced the Communications Resource Center, new efforts on social media including a new Facebook group for the community, and ongoing Wikipedia 15 efforts. The team met with affiliates about the New Readers research project, and the development of tools to support advocacy and public policy work by affiliates.

The Foundation’s Legal department answered questions about the department’s work and met with community members on policy issues such as the freedom of panorama. “What a great time to connect with dedicated community members taking the lead on so many exciting projects,” said Geoff Brigham, the Foundation’s general counsel.

Other Foundation teams also took part:

  • The Foundation’s Advancement team discussed with affiliates how to improve collaborations and communications, and how to pursue strategic partnerships with groups outside Wikimedia.
  • Members of the strategic partnerships team discussed the Wikipedia Zero program, and ways to expand the reach and diversity of Wikimedia projects.
  • The Resources team helped to lead the pre-conference learning days, led a variety of sessions at the conference, and met with numerous recipients of Foundation grants and committee members. They explained recent changes to the grants program, and collected feedback on conferences in Wikimedia.

Wikimedia Foundation leadership and staff wish to thank Wikimedia Deutschland for hosting a conference that provides so many opportunities to engage with the affiliates and community leaders on the important work they are doing.

Community member Pepe Flores agreed. “It’s always nice to meet new people from around the world, especially when they share the same passion for knowledge,” said the University of the Americas professor who works with Wikimedia Mexico. “It was so inspiring!”

You can engage in conversations with the Foundation during upcoming office hours with our interim Executive Director, and of course at this year’s Wikimania in Italy.

Jeff Elder, Digital Communications Manager
Gregory Varnum, Communications Strategist
Wikimedia Foundation

Photo by Jeff Elder, public domain/CC0.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Zach McCune photographs Wikipedia volunteer editors in a park in Berlin during the conference. Photo by Jeff Elder, public domain/CC0.

by Jeff Elder and Greg Varnum at May 13, 2016 06:21 PM

Wikimedia Foundation at the Yale Freedom of Expression Scholars Conference

Photo by Jacob Rogers, public domain/CC0.

Photo by Jacob Rogers, public domain/CC0.

The topic of free expression is a critical one for the spread of knowledge around the world. If people are not able to talk about important issues and to share their knowledge with others, everyone is poorer for it. To help us learn about the important issues confronting free expression in the world today, we have cultivated a relationship with our friends at the Yale Information Society Project and I attended their annual conference on the topic, the Freedom of Expression Scholars conference.

The conference ran for 2 days, Saturday April 30th and Sunday May 1st. The format is split into multiple small group discussions in which a group of interested attendees workshop papers with their authors and a person designated to carefully read the paper and lead the discussion.

Day 1

For the first panel, we workshopped a paper titled “Search Engines and Free Speech Coverage” by Heather Whitney and Mark Simpson. The paper critically examined the issue of whether search engines take on a role of editor for their search results similar to the way that a newspaper editor determines what content the paper’s readers see. The answer to this question has broad implications such as whether the government would be allowed to pass laws regulating what search results are shown to users. The paper did not reach a definite conclusion, however, but rather suggested that trying to simply compare a search engine algorithm to existing forms of publishing is too simple and instead judges should try to understand the purpose behind different types of regulation. As one example, we discussed during the talk that it might make sense at some point to pass regulation ensuring that search engines don’t allow for, say, a politician to spend a lot of money to bias the results.

For the second panel, we discussed a paper by Margot Kaminski entitled “Privacy and the Right to Record.” This paper tried to analyze the tension between a right of any individual to make recordings and the rights of other individuals to their personal privacy. The paper suggested that we can reasonably come up with spaces that are understood to be private (such as a bedroom or a bathroom) and therefore permission is needed to explicitly make recordings. On the other hand, other spaces such as the public and especially public places with public figures such as police officers and government officials, likely do not have an expectation of privacy and could be recorded even when they do not wish to be.

The third panel of the day was a large lunchtime group that presented 4 different papers all discussing with each other. The general topic was trying to come up with different theories behind free expression, especially to distinguish between the expression of individuals and the expression of corporations or other group entities. The panel discussed whether free expression is merely a protection from government overreach or based more on the need for individuals to express themselves in order to thrive.

The afternoon had two panels. For the first, we looked at a paper by James Weinstein that looked at principles of free expression and asked whether allowing hate speech so long as hateful conduct was regulated (and any speech that was clearly directed at harassing a specific person was still prohibited) might allow for people to feel more justified in obeying the law. For the second, we looked at a paper by Amy Gadja about what she called “The Right to be Forgotten in the United States,” which focused on existing U.S. privacy laws and suggested that the U.S. has a long history of protecting people’s private information but does not extend that privacy as far as the current EU version of the Right to be Forgotten.

Day 2

Day 2 had fewer panels than the first day, as the conference ended in the mid-afternoon. For the first panel in the morning, we went over a paper by Alexander Tsesis called “Terrorist Speech and Social Media.” This paper took a strong view about the dangers of terrorism and suggested that free expression principles could be consistent with the regulation of terrorist speech on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

For the second panel, I acted as the lead discussant on a paper by Chris Fei Shen entitled “Asian Values and Internet Freedom” that used an empirical survey of many countries throughout Asia to try to understand how people’s culture impacted their views on free expression and censorship on the Internet. The survey found that people with some views such as a strong respect for authority and a belief that the group was more important than the individual were generally less supportive of free expression on the Internet than others, and noted in general that people in areas where many people had Internet access were more support of principles of free expression than people elsewhere.

The lunch talk on day 2 focused specifically on the role of Internet intermediaries (like WMF) and how they could or could not be legally involved in the regulation of speech. Similar to the first day, there were multiple papers presented and discussed, with some taking the stance that intermediaries could be responsible for monitoring their users (if not always, then when they got large enough to have the technical capability to do so), while others thought that the government even working with intermediaries would be impermissible under U.S. law and potentially the law of other nations that guarantee free speech and free expression to their citizens. Of particular note, Emma Llanso and Rita Cant from the Center for Democracy and Technology presented a paper called “Internet Referral Units : Co-option of Private Content Moderation Systems for Extralegal Government Censorship” that looked at how governments are using the terms of use of many websites to report content that the government finds distasteful and get it removed, even though the government has no legal right to remove the content directly. Llanso and Cant argued that even though websites are free to set their own terms of use, pressure to censor content by governments could constitute illegal state censorship.

The last talk of the conference was a paper by Victoria Baranetsky, one of Wikimedia’s former legal counsel, who argued in her paper that encryption should be protected in the U.S. under the press clause of the First Amendment because it is a tool that enables people to safely gather information and report on it without being spied on by the government.

We believe that free expression is one of the foundational principles that allows people all around the world to develop and share knowledge with each other. Conferences like this one help us to stay current with the issues and theories around free expression doctrine and connected with the people who are developing the leading theories in this important area of law. This, in turn, helps us to best protect Wikimedians all around the world.

Jacob Rogers, Legal Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

by Jacob Rogers at May 13, 2016 05:03 PM

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 303


Logo Geospatial Information Regulation Bill tries to regulate a lot more than Indian bounderies.
[1] | read the FAQs


  • User bdiscoe was curious to know about the “urban mappers” in India where there a number of accounts which all edit in the same places, the very largest cities in India (New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, etc.). He then discovered that there is a team of 60+ mappers from the Zipper team, who are democratising maps for digital India.
  • Bryan Housel writes guidelines about the newly improved imagery offset tool in the iD editor, built by Kushan which helps in aligning the background imagery perfectly with the map data.
  • Mapping Day UNAM and OpenStreetMap Mexico are inviting people to a mapping event on Saturday, May 14 from 9:30 to 15:00 at the “Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)”.
  • Oindrila Gupta from Mapbox writes a blog about the progress made by the data team in mapping highway exit numbers on OpenStreetMap.
  • Roman Yepishev describes his OSM obsession.
  • Federico Mena Quintero (co-founder of Gnome) has mapped a lot in OSM. In a tweet he compares the official map of Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía of Mexico with the OSM map. If you look closely, you can see that the official map is significantly outdated.
  • Simon’s WhoDidIt service has a new changeset filter for the used editor software. This can be useful for some users who are concerned about possibly duplicated POIs from apps like Osmand or maps.me when the available offline maps have become significantly outdated.
  • Rory McCann wrote a proposal on how to map boundaries in disputed Territories.


  • A workshop was conducted in CIT University, Tumkur. It focused on introducing students to OpenStreetMap, iD editor, the OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager, and Mapbox Studio.
  • A masters student working under the supervision of Dr. Peter Johnson in the Department of Geography and
    Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo asked for volunteers from the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community to participate in a study that focuses on the impact of game elements on motivations to contribute to OSM. The web questionnaire is available online.
  • [1] The Ministry of Home Affairs in India published a bill that controls the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information in and outside India. The proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill prevents any individual or organisation in India from using satellite or aerial imagery; it also blocks the use of assisted equipment to collect geospatial information and the possession of such data.
  • Following the announcement in the former OSM weekly there is another blog posting from user dekstop about the tool named OSM Analytics.
  • Open Cage data, the blog of Open Cage Geocoder published an interview with Brian Prangle and Rob Nickerson in which they talk about the last quarterly mapping challenge “Mapping schools in the UK”.
  • The page mainz.radwende.de has just started. The project of the city of Mainz, Germany, intended to increase the use of bicycle routes in Mainz and aid town planning. There’s an app available for Android and iOS for tracking routes. The routes are displayed immediately after uploading them to an OSM heat map. Comment by geowas: “Works well and is probably used abundantly, already more than 4,000 kilometers were detected in only two weeks.”
  • Christian Ledermann has built an application to enable a quick overview (schools in the UK) and import of existing open data into OpenStreetMap.
  • We had to refrain form uploading data to OSM early this week because of the activation of this new hardware.
  • Steve Coast named 1 of 5 most influential people in Geo Industry!


  • Maning Sambale wrote an update on the LA County building import.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Here you can read the results of the HOT board elections 2016. Congratulations to all from the weeklyOSM team.


  • The GeoIoT World will take place on 25th-26th May in Brussels. Roland Wagner and Axel Sommer talk about “indoor-mapping” on OSM basis and OpenStationMap.
  • The program of SotM France 2016 Clermont-Ferrand in the period from 20/05/2016-22/05/2016 is published. For more information about place one on the website. (automatic translation)
  • On May the 20th and the 21st the Italian OSM Confernenz OSMIT 2016 will take place in Milan. Simone Cortesi told us that during this event, there will be the inauguration of the OpenStreetMap Italy office (a shared space with the Wikimedia Italia office). Here is the location.
  • Last week, an event called “Wikimuseums” with around 120 attendees took place in the Museum Villa Pignatelli, in Naples, Italy. Simone Cortesi told weeklyOSM that the focus of the meeting has benn GLAM initiatives, Open Data and of course both involving OpenStreetMap as well as two four hour sessions on editing. See more pictures from the event.

Humanitarian OSM

  • The newpaper El Telégrafo reported about the ongoing mapping activities in Ecuador.
  • The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific announced the “Winners of the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge”. One of the winners is HOT. The price of AU$ 2 million (about 1.3 Mio € or 1.5 Mio US$) will be shared between 5 organizations. weeklyOSM wishes to congratulate the HOT team.
  • Nick Bumbarger reported in developmentSEED’s blog about drone images from the disaster area in Ecuador, which are set available in OpenArerialMap.



Open Data

  • Nathaniel Slaughter announced on the Mapbox blog the open source Map Icon Set “Maki 3”.


Software Version Release Date Comment
iD 1.9.4 2016-05-03
JOSM 10168 2016-05-03
BRouter 1.4.1 2016-05-09 Turning Instructions
OSRM Backend 5.1.0 2016-05-09 Bug fix release

provided by the OSM Software Watchlist

Did you know …

Other “geo” things

  • How is OSM different than Wikimapia? Read the answers on reddit.
  • Very interesting way to show statistics interactively along a bus-line in Zurich. Nicolas Kayser Bril called the presentation a “geo-line”.
  • Maps.me hires in Moscow. (automatic translation)

Upcoming Events

Dónde Qué Fecha País
Pokhara Mapping With Kathmandu Living Labs @ Learning House 13.05.2016 nepal
Marseille Missing Maps mapathon in Marseille 13/05/2016 france
Sosnowiec OSM Poland AGM and mappers meeting 14/05/2016 poland
Kyoto 京都世界遺産マッピングパーティ:第13回 特別編 延暦寺(西塔、横川)(再) 14/05/2016 japan
Taipei OpenStreetMap Taipei Meetup, Mozilla Community Space 16/05/2016 taiwan
Rennes Missing Maps mapathon in Rennes 17/05/2016 france
Geneva Missing Maps mapathon with MSF-CH 18/05/2016 switzerland
Grenoble Missing Maps Mai 18/05/2016 france
Clermont-Ferrand ”’State of the Map France 2016”’ 20/05/2016-22/05/2016 france
Milano ”’State of the Map Italy 2016”’ 20/05/2016-21/05/2016 italy
Rapperswil 7. Micro Mapping Party 20/05/2016 switzerland
Brno ”’State of the Map CZ+SK 2016”’ 21/05/2016 czech republic
Sax Sax (Alicante) – micro Mapping Party 21/05/2016 spain
Clermont-Ferrand Missing Maps mapathon at SOTM France 2016 22/05/2016 france
Grenoble Rencontre mensuelle mappeurs 23/05/2016 france
Toulouse Missing Maps mapathon in Toulouse 24/05/2016 france
Cusco Semana de Accesibilidad Cusco 2016 25/05/2016 peru
Brussels Missing Maps Mapathon @Doctors without borders/Handicap international 06/06/2016 belgium
Trentino Besenello @ library 14:00. With support of Portobeseno and the Besenello Municipality 11/06/2016 italy
Edinburgh Edinburgh 14/06/2016 united kingdom
Nottingham Nottingham 21/06/2016 united kingdom
Salzburg ”’FOSSGIS 2016”’ 04/07/2016-06/07/2016 austria
Salzburg AGIT 2016 06/07/2016-08/07/2016 austria
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
Bonn FOSS4G 2016 Code Sprint 20/08/2016-22/08/2016 germany
Bonn Workshops at FOSS4G 2016 22/08/2016-23/08/2016 germany
Derby Derby 23/08/2016 united kingdom
Bonn ”’FOSS4G 2016”’ 24/08/2016-26/08/2016 germany
Bonn FOSS4G 2016 Code Sprint Part II 27/08/2016-28/08/2016 germany
Brussels ”’State of the Map 2016”’ 23/09/2016-26/09/2016 belgium
Metro Manila ”’State of the Map Asia”’ 01/10/2016-02/10/2016 philippines

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, Rogehm, derFred, escada, jinalfoflia, malenki, mgehling, seumas, stephan75, wambacher.

by weeklyteam at May 13, 2016 10:27 AM

Jeroen De Dauw

5 ways to write better mocks

In this post I share 5 easy ways to write better mocks that I picked up over the years. These will help you write tests that break less, are easier to read, are more IDE friendly, and are easier to refactor. The focus is on PHPUnit and PHP, yet most of the techniques used, and principles touched upon, are also applicable when using different languages and testing frameworks.

Before we get down to it, some terminology needs to be agreed upon. This post is about Test Doubles, which are commonly referred to as Mocks. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Mock has become the common name, as it also is a specific type of Test Double. I will use the following, more precise, terminology for the rest of the post:

  • Test Double: General term for test code that stands in for production code
  • Stub: A Test Double that does nothing except for returning hardcoded values
  • Fake: A Test Double that has real behavior in it, though does not make any assertions
  • Spy: A Test Double that records calls to its methods, though does not make assertions
  • Mock: A Test Double that makes assertions

1. Reference classes using ::class

This one is really simple. Instead of calling

$this->getMock( 'KittenRepository' )
, use the ::class keyword added in PHP 5.5:
$this->getMock( KittenRepository::class )
. This avoids your tests getting broken when renaming or moving your class using decent editors. Typos are immediately apparent, and navigating to the class or interface becomes easier.

2. Don’t bind to method names when you don’t have to

Imagine you are testing some code that uses a PSR-3 compliant logger. This logger has a general log method that takes a log level, and a specific method for each of the log levels, such as warning and info. Even in case where you want to test the specific log level being used, the code under test can use either log or the more specific method. Which one is used is an internal implementation detail of the production code, and something the test preferably does not know about. Consider this Mock:

$logger->expects( $this->never() )->method( 'log' );

If your production code changes to use a more specific method, the test will no longer be correct. In this case you might not even notice, as the test does not further rely on behavior of the created Test Double. Another cost to consider is that you have a string reference to a method name, which amongst other things, breaks refactoring.

In a number of cases this is easily avoided using the not so well known anything PHPUnit method. Want to verify your logger is never invoked in a given situation?

$logger->expects( $this->never() )->method( $this->anything() );

Want to test what happens when the repository your code uses throws an exception?

$repository->expects( $this->any() )->method( $this->anything() )
	->willThrowException( new RuntimeException() );

This approach only works in some situations. In others you will either need to bear the cost of binding to implementation details, change your test to be state based, or resort to more complicated workarounds.

3. Don’t bind to call count when you don’t have to

When constructing a Stub or a Fake, it’s easy to turn it into a Mock as well. This is very similar to binding to method calls: your test becomes aware of implementation details.

The previous code snippet shows you a very simple Stub. It’s a logger that always throws an exception. Note the use of the any method, as opposed to the once method in this snippet:

$repository->expects( $this->once() )->method( $this->anything() )
	->willThrowException( new RuntimeException() );

If you are not intentionally creating a Mock, then don’t make assertions about the call count. It’s easy to add the assertion in nearly all cases, yet it does not come for free.

4. Encapsulate your Test Double creation

When constructing a Test Double via the PHPUnit Test Double API, you get back an instance of PHPUnit_Framework_MockObject_MockObject. While you know that it is also an instance of the class or interface that you fed into the Mock API, tools need a little help (before they are able to help you in return). One way of doing this is extracting the Test Double creation into its own method, and using a return type hint. If you are still using PHP 5.x, you can add a DocBlock with @return KittenRepository to achieve the same effect.

private function newThrowingRepository(): KittenRepository {
    $repository = $this->getMock( KittenRepository::class );

    $repository->expects( $this->once() )->method( $this->anything() )
        ->willThrowException( new RuntimeException() );

    return $repository;

Now tools will stop complaining that you are giving a MockObject to code expecting a KittenRepository.

This extraction has two additional benefits. Firstly, you hide the details of Test Double construction from your actual test method, which now no longer knows about the mocking framework. Secondly, your test method becomes more readable, as it is no longer polluted by details on the wrong level of abstraction. That brings us to clean functions and test methods in general, which is out of scope for this particular blog post.

5. Create your own Test Doubles

While often it’s great to use the PHPUnit Test Double API, there are plenty of cases where creating your own Test Doubles yields significant advantages.

To create your own Test Doubles, simply implement the interface as you would do in production code. For stubs, there is not much to do, just return the stub value. Some tools even allow you to automatically create these. Spies are also quite simple, just create a field of type array to store the calls to a method, and provide a getter.

Remember how we do not want to bind to our production code’s choice of logger method? If we want to assert something different than no calls being made, the PHPUnit Test Double API is not of much help. It is however easy to create a simple Spy.

class LoggerSpy extends \Psr\Log\AbstractLogger {
	private $logCalls = [];

	public function log( $level, $message, array $context = [] ) {
		$this->logCalls[] = [ $level, $message, $context ];

	public function getLogCalls(): array {
		return $this->logCalls;

Since AbstractLogger provides the specific logging methods such as warning and info and has them call log, all calls end up looking the same to the test using the Spy.

The test that uses the Spy needs to make its own assertions on the spied upon method calls. If certain assertions are common, you can place them in your Spy. Since the Spy itself does not invoke these assertions, it remains a Spy and does not become a Mock. You can even use PHPUnit to do the actual assertions.

class MailerSpy implements Mailer {
	private $testCase;
	private $sendMailCalls = [];

	public function __construct( PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase $testCase ) {
		$this->testCase = $testCase;

	public function sendMail( EmailAddress $recipient, array $templateArguments = [] ) {
		$this->sendMailCalls[] = func_get_args();

	public function assertMailerCalledOnceWith( EmailAddress $expectedEmail, array $expectedArguments ) {
		$this->testCase->assertCount( 1, $this->sendMailCalls, 'Mailer should be called exactly once' );


Creating your own Test Doubles completely sidesteps the problem of referencing method names using strings. I’ve yet to see a tool that understands the Test Doubles created by PHPUnit. Your IDE won’t find them when you search for all implementors of an interface, making refactoring, discovery and navigation harder.

A related advantage is that lack of magic not only makes the code easier to understand to tools, but also to developers. You do not need knowledge of the PHPUnit Test Double API to understand and modify your own Test Doubles.

In my projects I put Test Doubles into tests/Fixtures. Since I have a dedicated class for each Test Double, it’s easy to reuse them. And the tests in which I use them focus on what they want to test, without being polluted with Test Double creation code.

Wrapping up

Treat your tests as first class code. Avoid not needed dependencies, respect encapsulation as much as you can, try not to use magic, and keep things simple. The ::class keyword, the any and anything methods, encapsulated Test Double construction, and creating your own Test Doubles, are all things that can help with this.

by Jeroen at May 13, 2016 08:36 AM

Wikimedia Tech Blog

Cross-wiki notifications unite a world of messages in one window

Photo by TheDasherz, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by TheDasherz, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Anyone who contributes to more than one Wikimedia project or across multiple languages has had an experience like this: you’re deep into uploading images on Commons and someone pings you on Wikipedia with a time-sensitive message. Since you’re on Commons, you don’t see the notification until hours later.

The missed message leads to lost time and productivity, especially if you then chose to keep close watch over your notifications across multiple projects or wikis—although that assumes that you saw these messages in any reasonable length of time, as users have found unread messages from years ago.

To address this concern, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Collaboration team has developed cross-wiki notifications, a new feature that, as of today, is enabled by default for all logged-in editors on all Wikimedia projects.

Cross-wiki notifications will simplify the editing experience for Wikimedia users by allowing them to get updates from all of the projects they contribute to, whether that’s Wikimedia Commons, the Vietnamese Wiktionary, English Wikisource, Arabic Wikipedia, or the hundreds of others. Messages and notifications on one wiki will no longer go lost, and we hope that it will help bring the various communities that edit and maintain these sites closer together.

If you decide you don’t need the tool, you may turn off incoming cross-wiki notifications at individual wikis.[1]

Screenshot, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Screenshot, CC BY-SA 3.0.

For more information, see the documentation on mediawiki.org, with mostly complete translations in 13 languages at the time of this writing. To make this feature even more useful, please share your feedback.

Feature background  

For over a decade, the Wikimedia community has been asking for ways to be notified about activity on other wikis. Long before the introduction of the current notifications system (in 2013), users have been shown a notice when they had a message on their user talk page. A bug asking for this notice to be shown when there’s a message on another wiki was filed in 2004. It was requested again after the introduction of Single User Login in 2008, and again when the new notification system was introduced.

Only when the SUL finalization project was finished in 2015 did cross-wiki notifications become technically feasible. The Collaboration team started working on it in late 2015, borrowing architectural ideas from crosswatch, a tool on tool labs that provides a cross-wiki watchlist. Kunal Mehta, who designed the back-end for cross-wiki notifications, also mentored the crosswatch project for Google Summer of Code. While the technical underpinnings were being planned out, we did user research to evaluate how well our ideas met the community’s needs.

After an initial roll-out to a small set of wikis in February 2016,[2] we made cross-wiki notifications available as a beta feature on all wikis in March. Today, the feature graduated out of beta and was enabled by default for all users.

During the beta phase, the cross-wiki notifications feature was enabled on more than 22,000 accounts across more than 400 wikis, with over 7,500 of them coming from the English Wikipedia alone.

How you can help

Notifications support a diversity of on-wiki activities and we want to make sure the feature works for different cases. We also want to incorporate your feedback to keep improving the feature.

So give it a try and let us know your thoughts on the feedback page, or file bugs or feature requests in Phabricator. We’d love to hear from you!

Roan Kattouw, Principal Software Engineer
Wikimedia Foundation


[1] Since preferences aren’t shared across wikis, disabling the feature on one wiki doesn’t automatically disable it on other wikis.

[2] All French wikis, all Hebrew wikis, Commons, Wikidata and mediawiki.org.

by Roan Kattouw at May 13, 2016 01:20 AM

May 12, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Get ready to rock ‘n’ scroll: Here are the English Wikipedia’s ten longest featured articles

Elvis Presley

Photo by MGM, public domain/CC0.

The English Wikipedia has more than 4,700 featured articles at the time of writing—fewer than 0.1 percent of all articles. Featured articles, known in the community as “FAs”, must undergo a rigorous assessment process where their compatibility with several criteria is checked and scrutinised. In exchange, they’re adorned with a little bronze star and used as an example of the best articles Wikipedia has to offer.

Two of the major criteria that featured articles must meet are to be “comprehensive” and “well-researched”—for most articles, this means not leaving any holes in the exploration of the topic, and covering everything in all available sources.

Some articles, it seems, require more research than others. Here are the ten longest featured articles on the English Wikipedia as of today, ranked by their respective word counts.

#10: Spanish conquest of Petén

The Spanish conquest of Petén took place in the 1600s in Petén, now a region of Guatemala, and was part of the Spanish colonisation of the Americas. The Spanish came up against a sizeable network of Maya populations in the basin, which were spread over the basin and rainforest which comprises the region. The conquest came to an end following the capture of Nojpetén, the island capital of the Itza kingdom, by Martín de Ursúa y Arizmendi in around 1697.

The article weighs in at a hefty 14,825 words, its Wikipedia article has been assessed as one of the best on the project (and, curiously, is one of two articles related to the Maya on this list).

#9: Air raids on Japan

Early on this list is the first of many articles falling under the remit of WikiProject Military history, a task force dedicated to improving articles on, well, military history. This particular article documents air raids undertaken on Japan by allied forces during World War II in the three years following the attack on Pearl Harbour. Estimates suggest between 241,000 and 900,000 Japanese were killed in the attacks.

At 14,956 words, the article goes into detail on some major operations (such as Operation Matterhorn, which also has its own article), as well as in depth on attacks on smaller cities. The article was passed as featured quality in April 2012.

#8: Maya civilization

The Maya civilization is one of the most well-known civilizations in history. Developed in central America, it is noted for creating the only known fully-developed writing system of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, and astronomical system.

While a lot of the information covered in the base article has been split into more specific, in-depth articles, this base article still clocks in at a fairly gargantuan 15,083 words.

#7: Michael Jackson

Fans leave tributes to Michael Jackson following his death in 2009. Photo by Taty2007, freely licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Dubbed the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson lead an eclectic life both musically and personally. Beginning as a child singer and key member of The Jackson 5, he worked his way into a solo career and found considerable critical and commercial success. Over his lifetime he released ten studio albums as a solo artist, five of which were number ones in America. His article also discusses his death and the suspicion surrounding the circumstances.

Michael Jackson’s article appears on 177 language editions of Wikipedia, and is featured-quality on eight of them. At 15,270 words, the English version would require 32 pages if, for some reason, one wanted to print it sans images.

#6: Byzantine navy

The Byzantine navy, the naval force of the Byzantine (or East Roman) Empire between 330 and 1453, had a long and colorful history while it was active. The 15,422-word article is mostly focused on the operational history of the navy, including its conquests in and around its home base of Constantinople in what is now Turkey. Historians have often said the navy was vital to the Roman Empire’s existence in the east.

Another article by WikiProject Military history, “Byzantine navy” was promoted to featured article status at the second time of asking, back in 2009.

#5: Pope Pius XII

The 260th Pope, Pius XII was announced on the onset of the Second World War. Born Eugenio Pacelli in Rome, he was an outspoken critic of Nazism before the war. He lobbied world leaders to avoid conflict and, during his papacy, issued Summi Pontificatus, criticizing the invasion of Poland. Despite the Vatican’s official neutral stance, Pius XII maintained links to the Resistance in Germany and continued to lobby for peace. He was eventually made a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II in 1990, and declared Venerable in 2009.

His eventful life has resulted in a featured article some 16,684 words long, making his the second-longest featured biography on the site. It was promoted some time ago—back in 2006, almost ten years ago.

#4: Military history of Puerto Rico

Image by Dominic D’Andrea, public domain/CC0.

Puerto Rico‘s military history is a topic well-documented on Wikipedia, primarily by prolific editor “Tony the Marine” (whom we profiled on this very blog in 2013). This article provides a very thorough overview of the US territory’s military past, including its spell as a part of the Spanish Empire. Since becoming a US territory, Puerto Ricans have participated in every major conflict from World War I onward, including the Korean and Vietnam wars.

At 16,729 words, the article is nothing if not detailed. But with so much history to cover, it should come as little surprise that the article stretches quite this far.

#3: Manhattan Project

One of the most famous research and development projects of all time, the Manhattan Project played a key role in the Second World War. Led by the United States, it resulted in the first nuclear weapons of the war (which were later, infamously, dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). It was active between 1942 and 1946, and disbanded in 1947.

While the R&D process takes up the majority of the article, there is also discussion of the project’s impact and legacy stretching on after the war.

Another output from the military history WikiProject, “Manhattan Project” was promoted to featured article status in August 2011. At 17,215 words, it is the third-longest featured article on the English Wikipedia, and perhaps one of the more controversial.

#2: History of Poland (1945–89)

Poland, like all countries, has an incredibly long history full of twists and turns. And, like many countries’ history articles, Poland’s is split into several parts. This, the second-most recent period in Polish history, is a featured article following a successful candidacy back in 2005—and, at 17,266 words long, is the longest such article on the English Wikipedia.

Discussing Poland’s fling with Soviet communism following the end of the Second World War, the article breaks down the 44-year period into chunks and explores them in depth. It discusses the rise of Stalinism in the country, as well as economical depression and social unrest. The period culminated with the collapse of the Polish People’s Republic in 1989, and trade unionist (and electrician) Lech Wałęsa‘s election as the second President of the Republic of Poland in 1990.

Unsurprisingly, the article has an exceptionally long equivalent on the Polish Wikipedia. The English article would take the average person more than an hour to read silently.

#1: Elvis Presley

Photo by MGM, public domain/CC0.

Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, but Elvis Presley was simply “the King”. Born in Mississippi, Presley’s twenty-four studio albums, released between 1956 and 1977, received critical acclaim, and he remains a cultural icon in the United States to this day. He helped to popularize “rockabilly” music—an uptempo spin-off of country music—and achieved great success with songs like “Heartbreak Hotel” and a cover of “Blue Suede Shoes” in the 50s. He won three Grammy Awards, including an award for Lifetime Achievement aged just 36.

His article is comprehensive, and at 17,659 words, comfortably takes top spot on this list. It was promoted on its fourth nomination, back in 2010.

Joe Sutherland, Communications Fellow
Wikimedia Foundation

This is the first piece of a two-part series. You can read about the shortest featured articles on the English Wikipedia in part two.

by Joe Sutherland at May 12, 2016 08:25 PM

May 11, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Annette Campbell-White named to the Wikimedia Endowment Advisory Board

Photo by Lane Hartwell/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Lane Hartwell/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Annette Campbell-White, a successful venture capitalist and longtime supporter of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, is joining the new Wikimedia Endowment Advisory Board as its second founding member after Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

“Wikipedia stands alone in the online world, providing information and knowledge to anyone, anywhere, without cost. As a reference and educational tool, it has no peer,” Annette said. “I hope that the Wikimedia Endowment will allow Wikipedia’s activities to continue in perpetuity.”

Annette, recognized as a pioneer for women in the often male-dominated world of venture capital investment, joins the Advisory Board to help shepherd the Wikimedia Endowment. The Wikimedia Endowment will be a permanent source of funding for the Wikimedia movement that was announced as part of Wikipedia’s 15th birthday earlier this year.

“Annette has demonstrated a longstanding passion and commitment to supporting essential public institutions,” said Katherine Maher, interim Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects are a shared public trust, and her involvement will help ensure that they remain so in perpetuity. We are thrilled she joins us today.”

Prior to retiring in 2015, Annette served as Founder and Senior Managing Partner of MedVenture Associates, a biomedical venture capital firm that invests in life-improving medical devices. Before that, Annette was the first biotechnology analyst on Wall Street and the first female partner at Hambrecht & Quist, a leading international banking firm. Annette has received prominent recognition for her business achievements, including being named on Forbes Midas List from 2005-2007.

Beyond her professional work, Annette has also served on the boards of several performing arts associations, including the San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances, a major presenter of the performing arts at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1997, Annette established the Kia Ora Foundation to assist New Zealand students in postgraduate study in the fields of musical performance, science and engineering. In addition to scholarships, the Foundation funds special projects, which support activities involving New Zealand artists. Additionally, Annette has been an active annual donor to the Wikimedia Foundation since 2010.

Annette is a native of New Zealand. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She is fluent in German and proficient in French and lives with her husband in Oakland, California. She is a committed bibliophile and has a renowned collection of first edition literature, which she has collected over many years.

Lisa GruwellChief Advancement Officer
Wikimedia Foundation

by Lisa Gruwell at May 11, 2016 11:38 PM

Greg Sabino Mullane

MediaWiki extension EmailDiff: notification emails improved

One of the nice things about MediaWiki is the ability to use extensions to extend the core functionality in many ways. I've just released a new version of an extension I wrote called EmailDiff that helps provide a much needed function. When one is using a MediaWiki site, and a page is on your watchlist - or your username is inside the 'UsersNotifiedOnAllChanges' array - you will receive an email whenever a page is changed. However, this email simply gives you the editor's summary and states "the page has been changed, here's some links if you want to see exactly what". With the EmailDiff extension enabled, a full diff of what exactly has changed is sent in the email itself. This is extremely valuable because you can quickly see exactly what has changed, without leaving your email client to open a browser (and potentially have to login), and without breaking your flow.

Normally, a MediaWiki notification email for a page change will look something like this:

Subject: MediaWiki page Project:Sandbox requirements has been changed by Zimmerman

Dear Turnstep,

The MediaWiki page Project:Sandbox requirements has been changed on
16 November 2015 by Zimmerman, see
https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Project:Sandbox for the
current revision. 

to view this change.

for all changes since your last visit.

Editor's summary: important thoughts

Contact the editor:
mail: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Special:EmailUser/Zimmerman
wiki: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/User:Zimmerman

There will be no other notifications in case of further activity unless
you visit this page while logged in. You could also reset the
notification flags for all your watched pages on your watchlist.

Your friendly MediaWiki notification system

To change your email notification settings, visit

To change your watchlist settings, visit

To delete the page from your watchlist, visit

Feedback and further assistance:

The above is the default email message for page changes on mediawiki.org. As you can see, it is very wordy, but conveys little actual information. In contrast, here is the EmailDiff extension, along with the suggested changes in the notification email template mentioned below:

Subject: MediaWiki page Project:Sandbox requirements has been changed by Zimmerman (diff)

Page: Project:Sandbox
Summary: important thoughts
User: Zimmerman  Time: 11 November 2015

Version differences:
@@ -846,5 +887,3 @@
 In cattle, temperament can affect production traits such as carcass and meat 
 quality or milk yield as well as affecting the animal's overall health and 
-reproduction. Cattle temperament is defined as "the consistent behavioral and physiological 
-difference observed between individuals in response to a stressor or environmental 
+reproduction. If you succeed in tipping a cow only partway, such that only one 
+of its feet is still on the ground, you have created lean beef. Such a feat is 
+well done. Naturally, being outside, the cow is unstable. When it falls over, 
+it becomes ground beef. Cattle temperament is defined as "the consistent behavioral 
+and physiological difference observed between individuals in response to a stressor or environmental 
 challenge and is used to describe the relatively stable difference in the behavioral 
 predisposition of an animal, which can be related to psychobiological mechanisms.

That is so much better: short, sweet, and showing exactly the information you need. The lack of a diff has long been a pet peeve of mine, so much so that I wrote this functionality a long time ago as some hacks to the core code. Now, however, everything is bottled up into one neat extension.

This extension works by use of the great hook system of MediaWiki. In particular, it uses the SendPersonaliedNotificationEmail hook. It is not yet included in MediaWiki, but I am hoping it will get included for version 1.27. The hook fires just before the normal notification email is about to be sent. The extension generates the diff, and sticks it inside the email body. It will also append the string '(diff)' to the subject line, but that is configurable (see below).

The extension has changed a lot over the years, moving forward along with MediaWiki, whose support of extensions gets better all the time. The current version of the EmailDiff extension, 1.7, requires a MediaWiki version of 1.25 or better, as it uses the new extension.json format.

Installation is pretty straightforward with four steps. First, visit the official extension page at mediawiki.org, download the tarball, and untar it into your extensions directory. Second, add this line to your LocalSettings.php file:

wfLoadExtension( 'EmailDiff' );

If you need to change any of the configuration settings, add them to LocalSettings.php right below the wfLoadExtension line. Currently, the only two configuration items are:

  • $wgEmailDiffSubjectSuffix This is a string that gets added to the end of any notification emails that contain a diff. Defaults to (diff).
  • $wgEmailDiffCommand This is the command used to execute the diff. It should not need to be changed for most systems. Defaults to "/usr/bin/diff -u OLDFILE NEWFILE | /usr/bin/tail --lines=+3 > DIFFFILE"

As mentioned above, this extension requires the SendPersonaliedNotificationEmail hook to exist. For the third step, you need to add the hook in if it does not exist by editing the includes/mail/EmailNotification.php file. Insert this line at the bottom of the sendPersonalized function, just before the final return:

Hooks::run( 'SendPersonalizedNotificationEmail',
    [ $watchingUser, $this->oldid, $this->title, &$headers, &$this->subject, &$body ] );

The final step is to modify the template used to send the notification emails. You can find it by editing this page on your wiki: MediaWiki::Enotif_body, and adding the string $PAGEDIFF where you want the diff to appear. I recommend cleaning up the template while you are in there. Here is my preferred template:


Once installed, you will need to activate the email diffs for one or more users. A new user preference that allows emailing of diffs has been added. It is off by default; to turn it on, a user should visit their "Preferences" link, go to the "User profile" section, and look inside the "Email options" for a new checkbox that says "Send a diff of changes" (or the same but in a different language, if the localization has been set up). The checkbox will look like this:

Just check the box, click the "Save" button, and your notification emails become much more awesome. To enable email diffs for everyone on your wiki, add this line to your LocalSettings.php file:

$wgDefaultUserOptions['enotifshowdiff'] = true;

There are some limitations to this extension that should be mentioned. As each page edit will potentially cause three files to be created on the operating system as well as invoking an external diff command, large and extremely busy wikis may see a performance impact. However, file creations are cheap and the diff command is fast, so unless you are Wikipedia, it's probably worth at least testing out to see if the impact is meaningful.

I also like these emails as a kind of audit trail for the wiki. On that note, email notifications do NOT get sent to changes you have made yourself! Well, they do for me, but that has required some hacking of the core MediaWiki code. Maybe someday I will attempt to make that into a user preference and/or extension as well. :)

by Greg Sabino Mullane (noreply@blogger.com) at May 11, 2016 01:48 AM

May 10, 2016

Wiki Education Foundation

Wiki Ed coming to San Francisco State University

Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson
Outreach Manager Samantha Erickson

On Wednesday, May 11, Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson and I will visit San Francisco State University. We’ll discuss why Wikipedia writing assignments are a great way to engage students in college and university writing classes.

In English and writing classes, this assignment is a natural fit. Students take on a research and writing project, just like they would for a standard term paper. But while developing a literature review, they can take that learning to create or improve a Wikipedia page.

There’s also an alignment with science courses. It can add an instant science communication angle to any assignment. In our blog last month, we covered the “Five reasons a Wikipedia assignment is better than a term paper.” In our presentation, we’ll discuss these, and a few more.

Wikipedia writing assignments are for instructors in all disciplines. They provide students with real-life writing experience in their field of study. Are your Chemistry students reading published studies in their field? Or perhaps you have Political Science students studying policy trends? A Wikipedia assignment gives their learning a place to live. It brings their learning out of the classroom and onto Wikipedia.

Any instructors at San Francisco State who want to learn about this unique assignment, I hope to see you Wednesday!

  • Using Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool
  • Wednesday, May 11
  • 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • HUM 485 (Humanities building)

Photo: SFSU Campus Overview by Webbi1987Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

by Samantha Erickson at May 10, 2016 06:35 PM

This month in GLAM

This Month in GLAM: April 2016

by Admin at May 10, 2016 12:57 PM


mediawiki-api-base 2.0.0

Roughly a year and a half ago I started writing a collection of PHP libraries to make interaction with the Mediawiki API and extension APIs super easy. The base library has just made it to 2.0.0!

The new release really only uses the new version of the Guzzle HTTP library which makes use of PSR-7 and adds async get and post methods using the Guzzle promise library.

This library is the first of the addwiki collection that has actually reached 1.0.0 let alone 2.0.0! All of the other libraries, including wikibase-api and mediawiki-api are still a work in progress with lots to be added. The next likely to be released will be the wikibase-api library once I try to also add async functionality there!

A snippet of the async functionality added in mediawiki-api-base can be seen below:

// Get an API object and login
$api = MediawikiApi::newFromPage( 'https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin' );
$api->login( new ApiUser( 'username', 'password' ) );

// Initiate each request but do not block
$requestPromises = array(
    'Page1' => $api->postRequest( FluentRequest::factory()->setAction( 'purge' )->setParam( 'titles', 'Page1' ) ),
    'Page2' => $api->postRequest( FluentRequest::factory()->setAction( 'purge' )->setParam( 'titles', 'Page2' ) ),
    'Page3' => $api->postRequest( FluentRequest::factory()->setAction( 'purge' )->setParam( 'titles', 'Page3' ) ),

// Wait on all of the requests to complete.
$results = Promise\unwrap( $requestPromises );

// You can access each result using the key provided to the unwrap function.
print_r( $results['Page1'], $results['Page2'], $results['Page3'] )


by addshore at May 10, 2016 09:56 AM

The break in Wikidata edits on 28 Jan 2016

On the 28th of January 2016 all Wikimedia MediaWiki APIs had 2 short outages. The outage is documented on Wikitech here.

The outage didn’t have much of an impact on most projects hosted by Wikimedia. However due to most Wikidata editing happening through the API, even when using the UI, the project basically stopped for roughly 30 minutes.

Interestingly there is an unusual increase in the edit rate 30 minutes after recovery.

I wonder if this is everything that would have happened in the gap?

by addshore at May 10, 2016 09:54 AM

Building applications around Wikidata (a beer example)

Wikidata provides free and open access to entities representing real world concepts. Of course Wikidata is not meant to contain every kind of data, for example beer reviews or product reviews would probably never make it into Wikidata items. However creating an app that is powered by Wikidata & Wikibase to contain beer reviews should be rather easy.

A base data set

I’m going to take the example of beer as mentioned above. I’m sure there are thousands if not millions of beers that Wikidata is currently missing, but at the time of writing this there are 958 contained in the database. These can be found using the simple query below:

PREFIX wd: <http://www.wikidata.org/entity/>
PREFIX wdt: <http://www.wikidata.org/prop/direct/>

   ?i wdt:P31/wdt:P279* wd:Q44 .

Any application can use data stored within Wikidata, in the case of beers this includes labels and descriptions in multiple different languages, mappings to wikipedia articles and external databases for even more information, potential images of said beer, the type of beer and much more. Remember the Wikidata dataset is ever evolving and the IDs are persistent.

Application specific data

Lets say that you want to review the beers! You could set up another Wikibase installation and SPARQL endpoint to store and query review and rating information. Wikibase provides an amazingly flexible structure meaning this is easily possible. Reviews and ratings could be stored as a new entity type, linking to an item on Wikibase or an item could be created mapping to a Wikidata item containing statements of review or rating data. Right now documentation is probably lacking but this is all possible.

Of course I am shouting about Wikibase first as Wikidata is powered by it and thus integration should be easier, however there is no reason that you couldn’t use any other database mapping your application specific information to Wikibase item Ids. MusicBrainz is already doing something like this and I am sure there are other applications out there too!

Sharing of knowledge

Knowledge is power, Wikipedia has proven that free and open knowledge is an amazing resource in an  unstructured text form. Wikidata is a step up providing structured data. Imagine a world in which applications share basic world information building a dataset for a common worldwide goal. In the example above, add an image of a beer in one application, have it instantly available in another application, translate a description for one user and have it benefit millions.

Lets see what we can do in the next 10 years!

by addshore at May 10, 2016 09:54 AM

Myanmar coordinates on Wikidata by Lockal & Widar

In a recent blog post I showed the amazing apparent effect that Wikimania’s location had on the coordinate location data in Mexico on Wikidata. A comment on the post by Finn Årup Nielsen pointed out a massive increase in data in the Myanmar (Burma). I had previously spotted this increase but chosen not to mention it in the post. But now after a quick look at some items and edit histories I have found who we have to thank!

The increase in geo coordinate information around the region can clearly be seen in the image above. As with the Mexico comparison this shows the difference between June and October 2015.

Finding the source of the new data

So I knew that the new data was focused around Q836 (Myanmar) but starting from that item wasn’t really going to help. So instead I zoomed in on a regular map and found a small subdivision of Myanmar called Q7961116 (Wakema). Unfortunately the history of this item showed its coordinate was added prior to the dates of the image above.

I decided to look at what linked to the item, and found that there used to be another item about the same place which now remains as a redirect Q13076630. This item was created by Sk!dbot but did not have any coordinate information before being merged, so still no luck for me.

Bots generally create items in bulk meaning it was highly likely the new items either side of Q13076630 would also be about the same topic. Loading Q13076629 (the previous item) revealed that it was also in Myanmar. Looking at the history of this item then revealed that coordinate information was added by Lockal using Widar!

Estimating how much was added

So with a few quick DB queries we can find out how many claims were created for items stating that they were in Myanmar as well as roughly how many coordinates were added:

SELECT count(*) AS count
FROM revision
WHERE rev_user = 53290
  AND rev_timestamp > 2015062401201
  AND rev_comment LIKE "%wbcreateclaim-create%"
  AND rev_comment LIKE "%Q836%"

SELECT count(*) AS count
FROM revision
WHERE rev_user = 53290
  AND rev_timestamp > 2015062401201
  AND rev_comment LIKE "%wbcreateclaim-create%"
  AND rev_comment LIKE "%P625%"

Roughly 16,000 new country statements and 19,000 new coordinates. All imported from Burmese Wikipedia.

Many thanks Lockal!

by addshore at May 10, 2016 09:54 AM

Language usage on Wikidata

the Wikidata LogoWikidata is a multilingual project, but due to the size of the project it is hard to get a view on the usage of languages.

For some time now the Wikidata dashboards have existed on the Wikimedia grafana install. These dashboards contain data about the language content of the data model by looking at terms (labels, descriptions and aliases) as well as data about the language distribution of the active community.

For reference the dashboard used are:

All data below was retrieved on 1 February 2016

Active user language coverage

Active users here is defined as users that have made 1 edit or more in the last 30 days.

A single user can have multiple languages (in the case that they use a babel box). If the user does not have a babel box then the user interface language is used.

18190 users are represented below with 317 languages shown as covered 27660 times.

The primary active user language is shown as English, this is likely due to the fact that the default user interface language is English and only 2905 users have babel boxes.

On average a user that has a babel box has 3.3 languages defined in it.

Term language coverage

Across all Wikidata entities 410 languages are used (including variants).

This leaves a gap of roughly 93 languages between those used in terms and those viewed by active editors currently.

The distributions per term type can be seem below.

Of course all of the numbers above are constantly changing and the dashboards should be referred to for up to date data.

by addshore at May 10, 2016 09:49 AM

May 09, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

Reply filed in Wikimedia v. NSA appeal

Photo by Woody Hibbard, CC BY 2.0.

Photo by Woody Hibbard, CC BY 2.0.

On Friday, May 6, our lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took the next step in our appeal of Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA, filing a reply brief answering the government’s response to our opening brief. This lawsuit, filed in March, 2015, challenges the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA)’s Upstream mass surveillance practices. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, III, dismissed the case last October; we filed our appeal with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.

In this filing, we squarely address the government’s arguments, explaining in detail why we and our co-plaintiffs have standing to bring these claims. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled, but will likely take place in the fall. We will continue to publish updates on this important fight to protect the privacy and free expression rights of Wikimedia users.

For more information about mass surveillance and Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA, please visit our resources page on the case.

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

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

by Jim Buatti and Aeryn Palmer at May 09, 2016 07:40 PM

Wiki Education Foundation

The Roundup: Drugs and drug policies

Wikipedia has nearly 8,000 pharmacology articles, and these are accessed 40 million times per month. In the US alone, Wikipedia’s health-related searches outnumber those leading to websites such as the NIH, WebMD, and Mayo Clinic.

While information on health information can always be improved, we’re intrigued by Dr. Ye Li’s course at the University of Michigan, “22 ways to think about drugs.” This class focuses on the context of pharmaceuticals and the pharmaceutical industry, “the science and technology that stands behind important aspects of chemistry such as drug development, materials, and new energy sources.”

The work of these students has been viewed 148,000 times since they started working on Wikipedia. Students worked on 19 articles that help the public make sense of drugs in a variety of forms.

For example, students nearly doubled the article on Vaccination policies, which explores the various strategies nations can employ regarding vaccinations. The article explains the relevance of herd immunity and outlines the strategies of 13 countries.

The article on Drug recalls was just 14 words when students tackled it. It now stands at 2,983 words, offering examples of recalls and a description of the policy mechanisms at work in the United States.

Finally, students created an article about the Drug policies of Michigan. It outlines specific, local policies on cannabis, alcohol, and heroin and opiates. It also includes an outline of Michigan’s “drug-free workplace” and “Per se” laws, cited to specific legislation from the Michigan state government. Thanks to these students, Michigan is one of the six states with its own drug policy page on Wikipedia.

It’s important that people find reliable, trustworthy information online, especially when it comes to medicine. While we’ve supported the work of medical editing in advanced medical school courses, there are plenty of opportunities for undergraduates to develop content around the legal, political and social aspects of pharmaceuticals.

Thanks to these students for contributing their knowledge to Wikipedia. This is exactly the kind of work we were hoping the Year of Science would bring forward!

Photo: Various Pills by MorgueFile, CC BY-SA 3.0.

by Eryk Salvaggio at May 09, 2016 04:00 PM

Wikimedia UK

2016 Strategy Consultation

Volunteer strategy gathering, Brimingham, 2014 – CC BY 3.0 Brian McNeil

Over the past year we’ve gone through a number of changes in the way we work and are organised. We want this process to be as open as possible to input from our members and volunteers. Following a board meeting to plan the strategy and business model for the charity over the next three years, we would appreciate any input from our community on whether the direction the board is proposing is acceptable to you.

Please take a look at the page for the 2016 Strategy Consultation and the linked documents laying out the draft plan and accompanying notes from the board. If you have any suggestions, criticisms, advice or any feedback at all, please respond to the suggested questions on the talk page or by emailing our Chief Executive on the email provided.

by John Lubbock at May 09, 2016 02:10 PM

Frank Schulenburg

A Wikipedia Photographer in Yellowstone (2): Do’s and dont’s of wildlife photography in a national park

After having spent some time in Yellowstone, I’d like to offer some advice to fellow photographers who are planning to visit the park. Do’s Get up early: The best time to shoot is early in the day. That’s when most of the animals are active because they’re feeding. Also, early in the morning is when […]

by Frank Schulenburg at May 09, 2016 12:50 AM

Tech News

Tech News issue #19, 2016 (May 9, 2016)

TriangleArrow-Left.svgprevious 2016, week 19 (Monday 09 May 2016) nextTriangleArrow-Right.svg
Other languages:
čeština • ‎Deutsch • ‎Ελληνικά • ‎English • ‎español • ‎suomi • ‎français • ‎עברית • ‎italiano • ‎日本語 • ‎Ripoarisch • ‎norsk bokmål • ‎русский • ‎українська • ‎Tiếng Việt • ‎中文

May 09, 2016 12:00 AM

May 06, 2016


Mediawiki Developer Summit 2016

The Wikimedia Developer Summit is an event with an emphasis on the evolution of the MediaWiki architecture and the Wikimedia Engineering goals for 2016. Last year the event was called the MediaWiki Developer Summit.

As with last year the event took place in the Mission Bay Center, San Francisco, California. The event was slightly earlier this year, positioned at the beginning of January instead of the end. The event format changed slightly compared with the previous year and also included a 3rd day of general discussion and hacking in the WMF offices. Many thanks to everyone that helped to organise the event!

I have an extremely long list of things todo that spawned from discussions at the summit, but as a summary of what happened below are some of the more notable scheduled discussion moments:

T119032 & T114320 – Code-review migration to Differential

Apparently this may mostly be complete in the next 6 months? Or at least migration will be well on the way. The Differential workflow is rather different to that which we have be forced into using with Gerrit. Personally I think the change will be a good one, and I also can not wait to be rid of git-review!

T119403 – Open meeting between the MediaWiki Stakeholders Group and the Wikimedia Foundation

There was lots of discussion during this session, although lots of things were repeated that have previously been said at other events. Toward the end of the session it was again proposed that a Mediawiki Foundation of some description might be the right way to go and it looks as if this might start moving forward in the next months / year (see the notes).

Over the past years Mediawiki core development has been rather disjointed due to the WMF assigning a core team, dissolving said core team and thus responsibilities have been scattered and generally unknown. Having a single organization to concentrate on the software, covering use cases the WMF doesn’t care about could be a great step forward to Mediawiki.

T119022 – Content Format

The notes for this session can be found here and covered many RFCs such as multi-content revisions, balanced templates and general evolution of content format. Lots of super interesting things discussed here and all pushing Mediawiki in the right direction (in my opinion).

T113210 – How should Wikimedia software support non-Wikimedia deployments of its software?

Notes can be found here. Interesting points include:

  • “Does MediaWiki need a governance structure outside of Wikimedia?” which ties in with the stakeholders discussion above and a potential Mediawiki foundation.
  • “How can we make extension compatibility work between versions?”. Over the past year or so some work has gone into this and progress is slowly being made with extension registration in Mediawiki and advances in the ExtensionDistribution extension. Still a long way to go.
  • “Should Wikimedia fork MediaWiki?”. Sounds like this could get ugly :/
  • “Do we need to stick with a LAMP stack? Could we decide that some version in the not distant future will be the last “pure PHP” implementation?”. I can see lots of the user base being lost if this were to happen..

#Source-Metadata meetup

Lots of cool stuff is going to be happening with DOIs and Wikidata! (Well more than just DOIs, but DOIs to start). Watch this space!

by addshore at May 06, 2016 12:10 PM

Wikidata references from Microdata

Recently some articles appeared on the English Wikipedia Signpost about Wikidata (1, 2, 3). Reading these articles, especially the second and third, pushed me to try to make a dent in the ‘problem’ of references on Wikidata. It turns out that this is actually not that hard!

Script overview

I have written a script as part of my addwiki libraries and the ‘aww’ command line tool (still to be fully released). The main code for the this specific command in its current version can be found here.

The script can be passed either a single Item ID or some SPARQL matchers as shown below:

aww wm:wd:ref --item Q464933


aww wm:wd:ref --sparql P31:Q11424 --sparql P161:?

The script will then either act on a single item if passed or perform a SPARQL query and retrieve a list of Item IDs.

Each Item is then loaded and its type is checked (using instance of) against a list of configured values, currently Q5 (human) and Q11424 (film) which are in turn mapped to the schema.org types Person and Movie. For each type there is then a further mapping of Wikidata properties to schema.org properties, for example P19(place of birth) to ‘birthPlace’ for humans and P57(director) to ‘director’ for films. These mappings can be used to check microdata on webpages against the data contained in Wikidata.

Microdata is collected by loading all of the external links used on all of the Wikipedia articles for the loaded Item and parsing the HTML. When all of the checks succeed and the data on Wikidata matches the microdata a reference is added.

Example command line output

As you can see the total references added for the three items shown in the example above was 55, the diffs are linked below.


Further development

  • More types: As explained above the script currently only works for people and films, but both Wikidata and schema.org cover far more data than this so the script could likely be easily expanded in this areas.
  • More property maps: Currently there are still many properties on both schema.org and Wikidata for the enabled types that lack a mapping.
  • Better sourcing of microdata: The current approach of finding microdata is simply load all Wikipedia external links and hope that some of them will have some microdata. This is network intensive and currently the slowest part of the script. It is currently possible to create custom Google search engines to match a specific schema.org type, for example films and search the web for pages containing microdata. However there is not actually any ‘nice’ API for search queries like this (hint hint Google).
  • Why stop at microdata: Other standards of structured data in webpages exist, so others could also be covered?

Other thoughts

This is another step in the right direction in terms of fixing things on a large scale. This is the beauty of having machine-readable data in Wikidata and the larger web.

Being able to add references on mass has reminded me how much duplicate information the current reference system includes. For example, a single Item could have 100 statements each which can be referenced to a single web page. This reference data must then be included 100 times!


by addshore at May 06, 2016 12:10 PM

Reducing packet count to Statsd using Mediawiki

Recently I have been spending lots of time looking at the Wikimedia graphite set-up due to working on Grafana dashboards. In exchange for what some people had been doing for me I decided to take a quick look down the list of open Graphite tickets and found T116031. Sometimes it is great when such a small fix can have such a big impact!

After digging through all of the code I eventually discovered the method which sends Mediawiki metrics to Statsd is SamplingStatsdClient::send. This method is an overridden version of StatsdClient::send which is provided by liuggio/statsd-php-client. However a bug has existed in the sampling client ever since its creation!

The fix for the bug can be found on gerrit and only a +10 -4 line change (only 2 of those lines were actually code).

// Before
$data = $this->sampleData( $data );
$messages = array_map( 'strval', $data );
$data = $this->reduceCount( $data );
$this->send( $messages );

$data = $this->sampleData( $data );
$data = array_map( 'strval', $data );
$data = $this->reduceCount( $data );
$this->send( $data );

The result of deploying this fix on the Wikimedia cluster can be seen below.

Decrease in packets when deploying fixed Mediawiki Statsd client

You can see a reduction from roughly 85kpps to 25kpps at the point of deployment. This is over a 50% decrease!

Decrease in bytes in after Mediawiki Statsd client fix deployment

A decrease in bytes received can also be seen, even though the same number of metrics are being sent. This is due to the reduction in packet overhead, a drop of roughly 1MBps at deployment.

The little things really are great. Now to see if we can reduce that packet count even more!

by addshore at May 06, 2016 12:10 PM

Submitting a patch to Mediawiki on Gerrit

I remember when I first submitted a patch to Mediawiki on Gerrit. It was a +12 -4 line patch and it probably took me at least half a day to figure everything out and get my change up! There is a tutorial on mediawiki.org but it is far too wordy and over complicated. In this post I try to explain things as basically as possible. Enjoy!


In order to be able to submit a patch to Gerrit you need to have Git installed!

If your on a linux system you can install this using your package manager, eg. “apt-get install git”. If you are on another system such as Windows you can just use a build from git-scm. Basically just get git from https://git-scm.com/downloads!

Once you have downloaded Git you need to configure it!

git config --global user.email "example@example.com"
 git config --global user.name "example"


Next you need to create an account for Gerrit. To do this navigate to gerrit.wikimedia.org, and click on the Register link in the top right. This will then take you to wikitech.wikimedia.org where you must create your account!

Once you have created an account and logged in you must add an SSH key. Go to your settings (again in the top right) and navigate to “SSH Public Keys“.

To generate a key do the following on your machine:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -C "example@example.com"

You should then be able to get your key from “~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub” (or the location you chose) and then add it to Gerrit.

Getting the code

Now that you have git and you have added your SSH key to gerrit you can use ssh to clone the code repository onto your local machine. Again you can read docs for this on the git-scm website.

git clone ssh://<USERNAME>@gerrit.wikimedia.org:29418/mediawiki/core

When logged in you can see the command at https://gerrit.wikimedia.org/r/#/admin/projects/mediawiki/core

Making a commit

Now you have the code cloned locally you can go ahead and change the files!

Once you have made your changes you should be able to review them using the follow command:

git diff

You can then add ALL changed files to a commit by doing the following:

git commit -a

A text editor should then load where you should enter a commit message, for example:

Fixing issue with unset new article flag

Some extra description can go here, but you
should try and keep your lines short!
A bug number can be linked at the bottom of
the commit as shown.

Bug: T12345

Once you have saved the text you will have make your commit! Now to try and push it as a change set to Gerrit (although it’s your first time so this will fail)!

You should get a message saying that you are missing a Change-Id in the commit message footer! This lovely message also contains the command that you need to run in order to fix the issue!

gitdir=$(git rev-parse --git-dir); scp -p -P 29418 <username>@gerrit.wikimedia.org:hooks/commit-msg ${gitdir}/hooks/

This created a hook file in your .git directory for this repo that will automatically add the Change-Id in the future! To get the Change-Id in your current commit message run:

git commit -a --amend --no-edit

And now you are ready to actually push your commit for review!

git push origin HEAD:refs/publish/master

You change should now be on Gerrit!

Your master branch is now 1 commit ahead of where master actually is, so to clean up and reset your local repo to the same state as the remote just run:

git reset --hard origin/master

You can always get back to your commit by using the hash of the commit with the “git checkout” command. Or you can copy the remote checkout command from the Gerrit UI, it looks something like the below:

git fetch https://gerrit.wikimedia.org/r/mediawiki/core refs/changes/74/257074/1 && git checkout FETCH_HEAD

Amending your change

If people comment on your commit on Gerrit you many want to change it, fixing the issues that people have pointed out.

To do this checkout your change again as described above, either using the hash locally the fetch & checkout command you can copy from the Gerrit UI.

git checkout d50ca328033702ced91947e60939e3550ca0212a
git fetch https://gerrit.wikimedia.org/r/mediawiki/core refs/changes/74/257074/1 && git checkout FETCH_HEAD

Make your changes to the files.

Amend the commit (you can add –no-edit if you do not want to edit the commit message):

git commit -a --amend

And push the patch again!

git push origin HEAD:refs/publish/master


This post covers the bare necessities for submitting a patch to Gerrit and responding to comments. There are many things it does not cover such as Git, re-basing, drafts, cherry-picks, merge resolution etc.

Also I should point out that Gerrit is going to be disappearing very soon in favour of Diffuision so there may have been little point in me writing this, but someone asked!

If you do not want to use git-review to contribute to Wikimedia or Gerrit projects then the most important thing to raw from this post is the under advertised “git push HEAD:refs/publish/master” command!

by addshore at May 06, 2016 12:10 PM

Weekly OSM

weeklyOSM 302



  • Pascal Neis gibt in seinem Blog bekannt, dass man mit seiner Anwendung OSM Changesets nicht nur Änderungssatz-Kommentare, sondern alle Tags aller Änderungssätze nach einer beliebigen Zeichenkette durchsuchen kann.

  • Mapbox hat bei Digital Globe aktuelle Satellitenbilder für drei Millionen Quadratkilometer gekauft. Nach einer Übersicht, um welche Gebiete es sich handle, hat Simon Poole auf Twitter gefragt. Sie käme noch, lautet die Antwort darauf.

  • Am 9. und 10. Mai finden Server-Wartungsarbeiten statt. Während dieser Zeit wird die OSM-API read-only geschaltet, sodass OSM während dieser Zeit nicht editiert werden kann. Weiter Informationen und Aktualisierungen im OSM-Wiki.


OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Das Protokoll der Vorstandstelekonferenz vom März wurde abgesegnet.

  • Der OSMF-Vorstand sucht Freiwillige zur Gründung einer Membership Working Group, welche die Mitgliederverwaltung (bislang Vorstandssache) übernehmen soll.

  • Der OSMF-Finanzvorstand Frederik Ramm hat den Finanzplan (PDF) für das Jahr 2016 vorgelegt. Die OSMF wird Verlust machen und ihr wird spätestens Ende 2017 das Geld ausgehen, wenn die Einnahmen nicht steigen. Das hätte u.a. Server-Abschaltung zur Folge. Simon Poole warnt deshalb davor, dass ein Schadensfall (z.B. Feuer) der OSMF die Unabhängigkeit kosten würde.

  • Wem OSM nützt, der soll auch etwas (Geld) zurückgeben. Dazu möchte der OSMF-Vorstand das Angebot an Unternehmensmitgliedschaften ausbauen. Er hat dazu seinen Entwurf vorgestellt; dieser wird auf der OSMF-Talk-Mailingliste intensiv diskutiert. Künftig soll es weitere, höherpreisige Stufen geben, damit sich auch für große Unternehmen eine Mitgliedschaft lohnt. Man will damit die Einnahmensituation der OSMF verbessern. Die Motivation und die Absichten erläutert Frederik Ramm in einem Beitrag auf OSMF-Talk.


  • In Havanna, Cuba hat vom 25. bis zum 27. April eine Konferenz mit Workshops zu OSM und zugehörigen Themen (JOSM, Mapillary, usw.) stattgefunden. Anwesend waren u.a. Wille von MapBox, Julio von Fundecorg, Mauri from OSGeo and Ivan von MedialabUIO-CIESPAL aus Ecuador. (automatic translation)

  • Die Anmeldung für die State of the Map in Brüssel (23. bis 25. September) ist ab jetzt möglich. Die Frühbucherpreise betragen 75€ für aktive Community-Mitglieder und 180€ für alle anderen. Auch Sponsoren werden noch gesucht.

Humanitarian OSM

  • [1] Martin Raifer aka tyrasd, Entwickler des Overpass-Turbo, hat im Auftrag von HOT das Werkzeug OpenStreetMap Analytics entwickelt. Martin sagte der Wochennotiz dazu: "Der Hauptfokus bei unserer Arbeit ist darauf gerichtet, ein intuitiv benutzbares Tool zu erstellen, mit dem auch Nichtmapper einen Einblick hinter die Erstellung von OSM-Daten erhalten können." Die Knight Foundation, die die finanzielle Förderung übernommen hatte, meint zu OpenStreetMap Analytics auf ihrer Seite: … eine "Hilfe für Journalisten, humanitäre Organisationen, Wissenschaftler, Regierungsbeamte und andere, um die Qualität der Daten in der OpenStreetMap-Datenbank für einen benutzerdefinierten Bereich und zu einem auszuwählenden Thema zu bestimmen". Der Quellcode ist auf GitHub verfügbar.

  • Update zum Beben in Ecuador

  • Berichte zu OSM im Zusammenhang mit dem Beben in Ecuador:

  • Die von Pascal Neis bereitgestellte Auswertung zu Mapping Ecuador zeigt beeindruckende Zahlen: mehr als 2300 Mapper, nahezu 300.000 "buildings" und fast 3.000.000 Einträge in die Datenbank. Mhairi O’Hara hat die Aktionen in Ecuador wieder zusammengefasst.

  • Noah DMello beschreibt in der Computerworld fünf humanitäre Krisen der letzten Jahre, die durch Open-Source-Projekte Stabilität und Hilfe für die betroffenen Menschen brachte.

  • Im "Neuen Deutschland " erschien ein lesenswerter Bericht von Kerstin Ewald und Noah Wintzer mit der schönen Überschrift "Die digitale Neuvermessung der Welt". Sie beschreiben anschaulich, wie Nama Budhathoki mit seinem Verein Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL) in Nepal mit Hilfe von OSM zur Bewältigung der Folgen des Erdbebens 2015 beigetragen hat. Wirklich lesenwert und das auch für Einsteiger!

  • Zukünftige Journalisten mappen unter Anleitung in Ecuador und lernen dabei die Bedeutung von OSM für die Rettungskräfte richtig einzuschätzen. (automatische Übersetzung)


  • Die Historic Place Map wurde erweitert. Lutz konnte ein Routing und Meßwerkzeuge (entwickelt von Netzwolf) integrieren sowie verschiedene Denkmal-Layer. Auf besonderen Wunsch von Christian wird jetzt ein s/w Mapnik-Background Layer angeboten, um die historischen Tags und die dazugehörigen Symbole noch klarer hervorzuheben.


  • Simone Cortesi weist darauf hin, dass in Mediawiki über die künftigen Karten aus OSM-Datenbasis diskutiert wird.


  • Die Deutsche Bahn hat das Verbot von Aufnahmen ihrer Infrastruktur aus dem Führerstand heraus wieder aufgehoben. (Fotoerlaubnis als PDF, wir berichteten)

  • Die Schweizerischen Bundesbahnen haben jetzt auch ein Open-Data-Portal (die Daten gab es teilweise schon vorher unter derselben Lizenz). Die Lizenz ist jedoch ganz und gar nicht mit gebräuchlichen Open-Data-Lizenzen (und erst recht nicht mit OSM) kompatibel.

  • Das Open Data Barometer 3rd Edition der WWW-Foundation vergleicht in einem Ranking das Open-Data Angebot vieler Länder der Welt. Deutschland teilt sich mit Finnland den 11. Rang.

  • Der Open-Data- und Informationsfreiheitsaktivist Tom Steinberg fordert auf civichall.org, dass die Open-Data-Bewegung von ihrem Schmusekurs mit den Regierungen hin zu einer härteren Gangart wechseln sollte, wenn sie etwas erreichen wolle.

  • Javler Carranza Tresoldi philosophiert im Geoawesomeness-Blog über die ansteckende Evangelisation der OpenStreetMap in Latein- und Mittelamerika.


  • Die OSM-basierte Android-App Velociraptor zeigt in Navi-Apps wie Waze oder HERE die aktuelle und die Höchstgeschwindigkeit an. Die Alarmierung, wenn schneller gefahren wird, lässt sich einstellen.

  • Cheap Ruler (deutsch: billiges Lineal) von Mapbox ist eine Sammlung (JavaScript) an Methoden zur Längen-, Flächen- und Winkelberechnung. Sie ist "billig", weil sie nicht auf dem Ellipsoid, sondern mit Näherungsformeln rechnet. Der Code ist freie Software.


  • Die OSM bezogenen Projekte beim diesjährigen Google Summer of Code sind online.


Kennst du schon …

Weitere Themen mit Geo-Bezug

  • Es gibt anscheinend Leute, die sich für die Online-Routenplanung in eine Abofalle locken lassen.

  • Null Island ist nicht nur in OpenStreetMap bekannt.

  • Indien hat den siebten und somit letzten Satelliten ihres eigenen GNSS-Systems gestartet, der in rund einem Monat einsatzbereit sein soll.

  • In einer Liste an Firmen, die von der Risiko-Kapitalgesellschaft In-Q-Tel des US-amerikanischen Geheimdiensts CIA Geld bekommen haben, wird die Firma Mapbox aufgeführt. Vielleicht ist der CIA aber auch einfach nur ein Kunde von Mapbox?

  • Der Blog Map of the Week macht auf die Website Zora Plays aufmerksam. Die Website wird von Michael Froehlich betrieben, der mit seiner Tochter Zora zahlreiche Spielplätze in Philadelphia erkundet und kartographiert hat.

  • Sandsteinblogger, ein Outdoor-Blog für die Sächsische Schweiz, berichtet über den Kartographen Rolf Böhm, der immer noch von Hand Wanderkarten der Sächsischen Schweiz zeichnet. Seine Daten erhebt er vor Ort und er kartographiert auch "verbotene" Wege.

  • Justin O’Beirne hat untersucht, wie sich das Verhältnis von Straßen und Beschriftungen auf Google Maps über die Zeit geändert hat.


Diese Wochennotiz wurde erstellt von Laura Barroso, Michael Reichert, Peda, rogehm, Manfred Reiter, malenki, Marc, wambacher.

by weeklyteam at May 06, 2016 08:27 AM

May 05, 2016

Wikimedia Tech Blog

“It pays itself back in dividends”: NASA and MediaWiki, a natural pairing

Photo by Eva Cranford, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Photo by Eva Cranford, CC-BY-SA-3.0

James Montalvo, Daren Welsh, and Scott Wray are NASA engineers based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Their team works on spacewalks—also known as extravehicular activities (EVAs), or activities performed by astronauts or cosmonauts outside spacecraft.

The team’s work requires the collection and organisation of a plethora of information and details which can be stored in one of many locations on- or offline. These details are imperative to the EVA team’s missions, and having to trawl through several sources of information proved a sizable timesink.

“We had a major knowledge capture issue within our group,” James says. “We had stuff spread out between just file share [drives]… It was spread out all over the place. None of them really had version control, [so] we had this issue of ‘what’s the latest version’, or ‘are you working on that thing right now’, things getting accidentally deleted.”

Previous attempts to build wiki-like functionality into the teams’ workflows through other paid software and web resources proved “inflexible” and couldn’t provide them the functionality required for smooth running of operations. They came across MediaWiki, the open-source software that projects like Wikipedia are based on, out of this need to keep everything in one, extensible and adaptable, place—so the trio set to work developing a wiki for their team.

Daren has been a long-time advocate of MediaWiki as a platform. In late 2011, he persuaded James to “covertly” implement a wiki on a web server, and the team began quietly populating pages as something of a test case. They were wary of publicising the wiki throughout the organisation, fearful that it might be dismissed by a management skeptical of the wiki framework.

“It’s these strange stigmas,” James explains, “We actually … referred to our wiki as the ‘EVA Library’ instead of the EVA Wiki. There was such a stigma to the word ‘wiki’ in this environment that we didn’t want to call it a wiki. I don’t know what the stigma is but it’s definitely there.”

“Even today, we get people saying that we need to protect it just in case people vandalize it,” he adds, “and we’re like, seriously, who is going to vandalize it? It’s not open to the Internet. Everybody here is a paid employee, working at NASA, they’ve had some level of background check… They’re probably not a lunatic.”

Daren soon found that as more information was added and data became easier to quickly locate, this “underground guerilla project” caught on.

“There was this period of time at [the] end of 2012 where management got on board, and it kind of overnight changed from ‘we don’t know if we are going to do this thing’ to ‘we are going to go all out wiki’,” Daren says. “There was just this tipping point somewhere.”

James explains that there were two separate such “tipping points”. The first occurred when the team built a “critical mass of content” on the internal wiki, as colleagues realised it allowed for more efficient access to information.

“If the first tipping point was a transition from unofficial to accepted, then tipping point number two was the transition from accepted to being the primary knowledge capture resource for EVA,” he says. “The word ‘wiki’ started being [used] many times in every meeting. People were always talking about how this content was on the wiki, or that content should be added to the wiki.”

The wiki’s importance to the EVA team became clear on one day in particular as the unthinkable happened—the team’s server crashed. It was then, James says, that the group realised how fundamental this wiki project, launched by the three engineers and grown by countless others, had become in their daily routines.

Indeed, now as well as the EVA team, more than ten wikis exist for additional teams. James, Daren and Scott set many of these up. Generally, they found that providing a “critical mass” of starting material—derived from existing documents, or webpages containing large amounts of information—is needed to really get a team committed to a project. They also provide briefers on the more fiddly aspects of MediaWiki, such as ‘wikitext’ and template syntax. “It’s grown into people’s daily work methods,” Daren adds.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 4.26.44 PM

Early in the development of the EVA team’s wiki, James and Daren created an extension allowing meeting minutes to be stored and linked automatically to relevant articles, making it easier for the team to locate background information on a current project. Another tool colours pages depending on how many colleagues are monitoring them—helping to quantify the accountability of the information covered on each page.

In 2014 and 2015, both James and Daren attended two small semantic MediaWiki conferences in St. Louis, Missouri, and Vienna, Austria, to help them understand how best to make use of the software they’d persuaded others to jump on. They were also at the 2015 MediaWiki Hackathon, held in Lyon, France, which for both was their first hackathon.

“I had expected to go to this having my nose in a computer the whole time, furiously working on software,” James says. “It ended up being a really good mixture of that and meeting people and kind of just learning more about what everybody is working on.”

While in Lyon, Daren and James spoke with developers about offline sync of the data contained by their wiki for potential use on the International Space Station. Right now, Daren explains that a connection to their wiki at JSC would be too slow and too patchy to be of much use.

“At the hackathon, one of the presentations was by Libraries Without Borders, talking about how they take a flight case with some computers and server equipment into a very disconnected community, and basically give them the ability to create videos and use Wikipedia,” Daren continues. “It kind of was nice to see that we’re not the only ones thinking about the offline sync thing.”

“It’s also kinda humbling to think, hey, we’re thinking about using it on the space station for astronauts,” he adds, “but really, there’s all these other people who really need it more than we do.”

* * *

The MediaWiki development used by the EVA team at NASA, James notes, resembles Wikipedia quite strongly. He says working with MediaWiki websites in enterprise situations can perhaps make people more aware of Wikipedia as a collaborative tool.

“I think that’s probably one of the biggest places where enterprise use can kind of give back,” he explains. “It’s just simply educating more people. Right now they’d think, ‘I’m not editing Wikipedia, I don’t have anything to say, I don’t know how to use it…’

“If they get in the habit of, ‘oh there’s a typo I want to fix that’, when they get onto Wikipedia and they see something that’s grammatically incorrect or whatever… They’re gonna go ahead and make those changes.”

Of course, there’s more to life on the EVA team at NASA than building wikis. To re-enact spacewalks, the engineers perform tests in the neutral buoyancy lab, which James calls “by far the best part of our job”. Getting prepared for these runs, however, can be strenuous. “The worst part of doing a run … is getting into the suit. Then the second worst part about the suit is getting out at the end of the day.”

“It’s kind of a weird thing,” adds Daren, “being in a position where you want to also work on implementing wikis. We find ourselves asking ourselves, well, we’re already doing a fun, rewarding, and cool job, and here we are trying to do something completely different, building a wiki.”

“It’s just that we’re trying to do our job better, and using a wiki … It pays itself back in dividends. It makes it easier for us to do our job, and makes us more efficient.”

Profile by Joe Sutherland, Communications Fellow
Interview by Victor Grigas, Storyteller and Video Producer
Wikimedia Foundation

The MediaWiki Stakeholders user group is interested in hearing about other big institutional MediaWiki users. If you know about one, please email Brion Vibber at bvibber[at]wikimedia[dot]org.

by Joe Sutherland and Victor Grigas at May 05, 2016 07:28 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikimedia - [[citation needed]]

Our articles in any #Wikipedia can be trusted when an effort has gone into providing sources. Sources or citations are very much needed because help us distinguish fact from fiction. Finding sources exposes an origin and it helps us debunk fiction. The result of this continued effort is content that can be trusted as a sincere attempt to achieve a neutral point of view.

There are very practical problems. Sources are not always easy to find and they do not exist in every language. Sources are often behind a "pay wall” making access to the body of knowledge is very much restricted. Sources, particularly sources on the web do not exist forever. The consequence is that sources are problematic and, not everybody is equally able to help us with sources for the content we have.

When we are to improve the current, unsatisfactory situation we have to address multiple problems.
  • Once sources are lost we rely on the internet archive for an historic view. It has policies that allow for the removal of content and this is often the content that is controversial and removal is often intended to rewrite history. What to do?
  • Access to restricted sources is provided to the privileged few who have access to libraries. The WMF has a program that enables some of our editors access to a few pay-walled sources.
  • When this proves insufficient, it is great to know that  Sci-hub among others provides “illegal” access to any and all sources.
Open access to sources is very much what we as a community care for. One of our own died in the struggle for this access so I do not think we should be deferential to an industry that is despicable. We should teach people how to find sources and ignore licensing as much as possible.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at May 05, 2016 08:23 AM

May 04, 2016

Wikimedia Foundation

News on Wikipedia: Leicester City win historic Premier League title

Leicester City FC - Southampton FC 03-Apr-2016, King Power Stadium 01.jpg

Photo by Ungry Young Man, CC BY 2.0

On Monday, one of the strangest and most romantic stories in sport came to its fairytale conclusion. Leicester City, an association football team whose top-division status hung in the balance just over a year ago, won the Premier League title to become champions of English football.

Seen as long shots at the beginning of the season, Leicester—known as “the Foxes”—were mathematically confirmed as champions after their closest rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, could only manage a 2–2 draw with London neighbours Chelsea.

It’s Leicester’s first ever Premier League win—the highest they had ever finished in England’s top division was second, in 1929. For some bookmakers, these are the longest odds they have ever paid out across any sport; in August, at the beginning of the season, the Foxes attracted fractional odds of 5,000/1.

To underline how long those odds are, some other scenarios bookmakers offered shorter odds on in August 2015 (as collated by BBC Newsbeat):

As their triumph became obvious, news spread on social media. “Stupendous. Glorious. Life affirming,” comedian Danny Baker wrote. “In many ways revenge for the years of fat cat money domination of the people’s game.”

Gary Lineker, a former Leicester player himself, joked in December that he would host football show Match of the Day in just his underwear if the Foxes won. “Leicester City have won the Premier League,” he wrote. “The biggest sporting shock of my lifetime, and it’s only my team.”

Many flocked to the Wikipedia article for a club that before this season had been on the fringes of top flight football.

On May 2, the club’s article attracted almost 200,000 visits on the English Wikipedia, and more than 530,000 across all languages. That’s ten times the average daily view count, even across a season this eventful for the side.

Curiously, second-most read was the Italian Wikipedia—the native tongue of Leicester City’s manager, Claudio Ranieri. Thai was disproportionately high in the list, at number thirteen, which mirrors their sudden popularity in the country over the course of the season. (Leicester is chaired by Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.)

Edits to the English article have been fairly erratic since its creation back in August 2003. Edits to club’s articles tend to peak at the end of a season regardless, but it is likely this will produce the most extensive period of editing on the article in its history.

Joe Sutherland, Communications Fellow
Wikimedia Foundation

by Joe Sutherland at May 04, 2016 08:30 PM


Refactoring around WatchedItem in MediaWiki

The refactoring started as part of [RFC] Expiring watch list entries. After an initial draft patch was made touching all of the necessary areas it was decided refactoring first would be a good idea as the change initially spanned many files. It is always good to do things properly ® instead of pushing forward in a hacky way increasing technical debt.

The idea of a WatchedItemStore was created that would remove lots of logic from the WatchedItem class as well as other watchlist database related code that was dotted around the code base such as in API modules and special pages.

The main patches can be seen here.

Moving the logic

Firstly logic was removed from WatchedItem with backward compatible fallbacks left behind wrapping the logic in WatchedItemStore. This essentially turned WatchedItem into a value object.

During this stage it was discovered that most of the logic from the class did not actually need access to a full Title object (the kitchen sink of MediaWiki). Recently a TitleValue object had been introduced and this much smaller class provided everything that was needed, but although the two classes have several methods in common, they did not implement a shared interface, thus LinkTarget was introduced.

Secondly queries and logic were extracted from other classes and brought into WatchedItemStore to be shared, but to start with this only included code that exclusively dealt with the watchlist. Code that combines the watchlist and recent changes for example will likely end up living in a different class.


Testing is important and of course was one of the targets of the refactoring. Prior to the refactoring there was essentially 0% test coverage for watchlist related code. After the refactoring line coverage was roughly 95% with a combination of unit and integration phpunit tests that have been clearly separated.




This test coverage has been achieved by injecting all services through the constructor of the WatchedItemStore which allows them to be mocked during tests.

Injecting a LoadBalancer instance allows mock Database services to be used and thus during unit tests all DB calls can be asserted while not calling a real DB. This is new and has not really been done in mediawiki core before and a test strategy such as this only really works if integration tests are also in place.

As can be seen in the image above 2 callbacks are also defined in the constructor. These are callbacks to static methods which are hard to mock. For these two static methods the production code calls the callback defined in the class. Phpunit tests can call a method to override this callback with a custom function allowing testing.

Using the ServiceLocator

Recently a ServiceLocator was introduced in MediaWiki. WatchedItemStore will be one of the first classes to use this locator once services can be overridden within tests. This will allow the removal of the singleton pattern from within WatchedItemStore.

Caching review

Basic in-process caching was added to WatchedItemStore as some of the logic extracted from the User class included caching. As a result the importance of this caching is now being investigated and the actuall use of the current caching can be seen at https://grafana.wikimedia.org/dashboard/db/mediawiki-watcheditemstore

Currently roughly 15% to 20% of calls to getWatchedItem result in a cached item being retrieved with the other ~80% causing db hits.

The low number of cache hits is likely due to the fact the cache is currently only a per request cache. More advanced caching would be needed to use a longer term caching allowing tagging of cache items / keys to enable purging.


The review process worked well throughout all related patches. Generally 2 people created the patches and then a mixture of people put the patches through a few rounds of review before later being merged by one of 3 or 4 people. The review was likely so smooth as the changes generally were just refactoring.

One issue that was run into a few times was TitleValue doing a strict check to make sure that the namespace ID that it is constructed with is an int. The MediaWiki DB abstraction layer will return int columns as strings, thus this caused exceptions in initial versions before int casts were added.

Also while trying to add more advanced caching MediaWiki’s lack of common cache interfaces caused a bit of pain and as a result and RFC has been started about a common interface or potentially using PSR-6. https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T130528

A similar method of refactoring could probably be applied for much of MediaWiki, particular storage areas.

by addshore at May 04, 2016 07:50 PM

David Gerard

Podcast with me on “Neoreaction A Basilisk.”

Eruditorum Presscast: David Gerard (Neoreaction a Basilisk 1). In which Phil Sandifer and I talk for seventy-five minutes on the wonders of Eliezer Yudkowsky, Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land, the end of the world and the monster lurking in the labyrinth of every philosophy. I dispute that I was “reading neoreactionaries before it was cool” — life is too short to read Moldbug. Phil read him so you don’t have to. Go order a book, it’s really good.

by David Gerard at May 04, 2016 05:26 PM

Gerard Meijssen

#Wikipedia / #Commons - Brigadeer General Loree K. Sutton

Mrs Sutton is psychiatrist who is a specialist on PTSD. When you read her CV, it is impressive. She no longer works for the US Army, she works for the City of New York.

When you read the article on Wikipedia, you find her picture. It is marked as Public Domain and it is not on Commons. Given that Wikidata is working towards the point where copyright and license information one can only hope that images like this can be easily shared based on the license.

When Commons started, it was intended as a repository that prevented the same file to be uploaded to all the Wikipedias. As such it served its purpose remarkably well. With Wikidata it becomes trivial to share images like the one of Mrs Sutton.

I fear that for some this reads as frightening. It undermines the one thing they love. It actually does not need remove the need for Commons as a platform. Quite the opposite; it will bring new tools to finally leverage all the data on images. It may bring this image of Mrs Sutton to Wikidata for starters.

by Gerard Meijssen (noreply@blogger.com) at May 04, 2016 07:14 AM