10 years in education program technology

16:23, Wednesday, 21 2020 October UTC

This fall, we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Wikipedia Student Program with a series of blog posts telling the story of the program in the United States and Canada.

Ten years ago when I joined the team that started what became the Wikipedia Student Program, we didn’t have any specialized software to organize classroom assignments and keep track of what student editors were doing. We had to work with what the good Ward gave us: the near-infinite palimpsest of wiki pages.

Several years before joining Wikimedia Foundation, I had attended a talk by longtime Wikimedian Erik Möller that really stuck with me. Erik laid out his vision of the wiki as a technology that empowers users to become technologists themselves — to use the flexibility of wikitext and templates to build the tools they need. I found this idea beautiful and powerful. As an historian with no background in programming, I had never thought of myself as a technologist before. But that sense of being able to make whatever you needed for the encyclopedia — that this technology wasn’t magic, but text — is I think what pulled me into Wikipedia in the first place.

For the first several terms of the education program, wiki tools did much of what we needed. We built templates to provide some structure to wiki course pages, and to give instructors a clear workflow for signing up and getting started. We manually collected usernames, to make sure we knew who the student editors were for each course. For my part, I dove deeper than I ever had into templates, building a set of training modules for introducing instructors and students to the Wikipedia basics. But as the number of courses grew, we strained the limits of what was practical with just wikitext and templates. We needed more powerful and specialized software.

Course: Oblivion

In 2012, Wikipedia assignments went — perhaps a little too boldly — where none had gone before: to a new MediaWiki extension built just for the purpose of supporting course projects. The initial debut of this software created a new namespace on Wikipedia, “Course:”. Unfortunately, deploying this new namespace inadvertently wiped out an article about an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the auspiciously titled “Course: Oblivion“. It had to be turned off immediately, and the joke after that among Wikimedia staff was “whatever you do, don’t piss off the Star Trek editors”. (Looking over the discussions today, everyone seems to have been quite nice about it.)

The aftermath of that deployment is when I first started getting involved with software development. I was tasked to work with the editing community and the developers to find a way forward so that the extension could be re-enabled. My impression at the time was that everything seems so complicated, it’s a wonder that any software ever gets better or that anyone ever understands how it works. But a few months after the initially deployment, I organized a Request for Comment to redeploy the extension in time for the Fall term.

With the extension up and running again, I started compiling an ever-growing list of ways to make this new course management system better — to make work more smoothly with the rest of Wikipedia, to fix the parts that new instructors and students would get stuck on. I also started looking into the code myself. With an enormous amount of help from a new Wikimedia engineer, Andrew Russell Green, I managed to add a new feature to the education program extension, an API for listing all the students in a course and all the articles they were assigned.

The combination of a functional (if buggy) course page system and a whole lot of wiki templates gave the education program a chance to develop over the next few years, becoming an accepted (if occasionally controversial) part of English Wikipedia. It took root in a growing number of other languages as well, as the education team at Wikimedia worked to foster similar programs around the globe. Unfortunately, the extension was increasingly viewed as a technological dead end by the Wikimedia tech team — in fact, one they were eager to turn off because of how much work it took to keep it up and running through each new version of the core wiki software.

The Dashboard

2014 marked a major change for education programs in the Wikimedia community, and a new direction for the technology that supports it. That year, part of the education team at Wikimedia Foundation spun off into a new independent nonprofit focused on English Wikipedia and North America: Wiki Education. I joined as Product Manager, and my first task was to hire a software agency to build a whole new suite of tools to power Wikipedia assignments going forward.

We started out with a web app, the Assignment Design Wizard, that gave instructors a series of choices about how to implement a Wikipedia assignment. At the end, it would translate those choices into a set of templates for a course page and then post them to Wikipedia, integrating with the education program extension. The next term (Spring 2015) we took it much further, launching the first version of the Wiki Education Dashboard. Built with Ruby on Rails and the JavaScript framework React, the Dashboard has been the main focus of our technology efforts ever since.

My role gradually shifted, as I took an increasingly active hand in developing the Dashboard. At first, I learned how to save changes so that I could update instructions and adjust the content of automated wiki edits. From there, I began diving into the Ruby programming language, and was soon adjusting the system’s logic and fixing bugs. By 2016, we were scaling back our budget for software development, but I was also starting to become comfortable enough with the Dashboard code to push things forward myself, developing small new features and doing a large amounts of “refactoring” — rewriting code to make it simpler, more understandable, and easier to extend.

New wikis, new challenges

The Dashboard gave us a platform we could continually extend and adjust to meet the needs of a growing Wikipedia Student Program. With a heroic effort from Wikimedia engineer (and Ruby enthusiast) Adam Wight, we also began taking what we’d built and making into a possible replacement for the MediaWiki education program extension more generally. Wiki Education stopped using the extension when we launched the Dashboard, but it was still being used widely by other Wikipedia education programs globally. To make the Dashboard work for the rest of the Wikimedia movement, we needed it to be compatible with every language version of Wikipedia (and any Wikimedia project). This meant internationalizing the interface, but also integrating the concept of multiple independent wikis throughout the system. The result, after months of work, was the launch of Programs & Events Dashboard in June 2016.

In the years since, the shared Dashboard codebase (which powers both Wiki Education Dashboard and Programs & Events Dashboard) has become a critical piece of infrastructure for not just the Wikipedia Education Program, but a whole host of efforts to bring new contributors to Wikimedia projects. As of October 2020, Programs & Events Dashboard has been used by more than 53,000 people across more than 250 wikis. It has provided a new home for Wikipedia classroom assignments around the world — allowing the MediaWiki education program extension to be retired in 2018.

One of the biggest challenges since 2016 has been keeping up with the scale at which the Dashboard is being used. I’ve had to learn a lot about software architecture and system administration, optimizing the code and finding creative ways to handle the load of tens of thousands of editors, millions of articles, and tens of millions of edits. Another big challenge has been adapting the Dashboard’s user experience to the wide variety of ways people are using, or want to use, it. Initially, it was designed around Wiki Education’s Student Program — college students working on English Wikipedia, with support from Wiki Education staff. Since then, it’s been used for: edit-a-thon series, Wikipedia writing contests, Wikimedian-in-Residence and Visiting Scholar projects, Wikidata curation drives; Wiki Education’s Scholars & Scientists program, and much more. We’ve made it more flexible, added new features to support specific types of programs, and found ways for program organizers and Wiki Education staff to do more with less time.

A big part of the Dashboard story is the interns and volunteers who’ve built new features, fixed bugs, and generally made it better over the years. More than 130 people have contributed since 2015, across nearly 14,000 changes (“commits”). I’m grateful for everyone whose been part of this technology journey with me (both through the Dashboard project, and elsewise), and I can’t wait to see what — and whom — the future brings.

Image credit: Ralf Roletschek, GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

A solid foundation for Wikidata

16:06, Tuesday, 20 2020 October UTC

Heidi Raatz is Owner and Consultant at Collections Management Solutions, LLC. She recently took the Wikidata Training course through Wiki Education and reflects on her experience with the Wikimedia community in this guest blog post.

Heidi Raatz
Heidi Raatz. Photo © 2020 Ana Taylor, Ana Taylor Photography, Used with Permission, All Rights Reserved.

In September I had the opportunity to take the three-week Wikidata training course offered through Wiki Education. What an amazing experience. I especially want to thank Will Kent and Ian Ramjohn for leading the course instruction. Will in particular was incredibly helpful with participant questions, weaving these into the course sessions and offering additional guidance, suggesting approaches, and recommending helpful tools.

The course offered a solid foundation for understanding Wikidata and the capacity for collaborative approaches to linked open data and information sharing. Experiencing Wikidata as someone with an extensive professional background in the cultural heritage sector, it was great to see so many GLAM Wiki projects already in place, bringing various communities and institutions into a position to both contribute to and benefit from this powerful shared knowledge base. I was inspired to see how many GLAMs have come to recognize and appreciate Wikidata as a truly valuable repository of linked data. It was abundantly clear through the coursework that Wikidata can have an impact on collection visibility and enrichment via connecting institutional data with other related linked data sets, and that Wikidata is further strengthened through GLAM contributions by supporting, expanding and amending Wikidata items with additional authoritative data. The potential and promise of Wikidata is that there is a ready case for using Wikidata to enrich collections data for GLAMs.

Another vital issue addressed during the course is the mining of Wikidata as a readily available linked data set for training AI, and the use of Wikidata information as a knowledge base. Critically, the structure of Wikidata has this great capacity to make it easier to identify and address gaps in the knowledge record, especially in areas of language. There is so much potential to reach new communities of participants and expand the information available in Wikidata, and because Wikidata is the centralized data repository for all Wikimedia projects, to use Wikidata to expand and address issues of representation in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. It is vitally important to identify and address these gaps in our shared knowledge resources; to be cognizant of what is not included and expand knowledge bases such as Wikidata so that they preset a more whole picture. As an information professional I view this as an opportunity to engage new communities and expand our knowledge resources for peoples, expressions, beliefs and ways of being which are currently under represented in Wikidata and Wikipedia, and one way to begin to address the systemic bias existing in our knowledge resources. This is also an area I view as promising for my current professional practice as a freelancer in the cultural heritage sector. It gives me the opportunity to introduce Wikidata and the concepts of linked open data to communities lacking the funding or resources more readily available to established cultural heritage institutions.

The course met my expectations and then some; there was so much information to try to absorb. There are so many different tools and angles of approach to editing in Wikidata. From working on individual items, to doing batch editing work; from using tools to expand existing items or find gaps and fill in existing data. It is a little daunting to think of where to begin, especially if one is not affiliated with a particular institutional collection or working on a well-defined cataloging project. It can be challenging to identify one’s focus, identify a project, and fix on where you can best contribute. But the course has been an experience of great knowledge sharing; it has been a brain expansion and definitely gives me a lot to build on.

The course covered a lot of material in a condensed amount of time, so I will no doubt be returning to the course dashboard and my notes to refresh, review, and reflect on what I learned. The course afforded me hands-on opportunities to gain invaluable confidence in editing Wikidata items and using various tools. The course also deepened my understanding of the processes for expanding, amending, and creating new Wikidata items, taught me how to create and leverage queries, and overall expanded my knowledge of Wikidata tools, projects and opportunities. I have gained capacity to share what I have learned to better assist individuals, communities, and institutions in contributing to and benefitting from this powerful shared knowledge base. As an individual Wikidata editor, I plan to use this new expertise to continue to work on improving Wikidata items and properties and engaging with the Wikidata community on future projects. I cannot recommend the Wikidata training course through Wiki Education highly enough. Thank you again for the opportunity.

Interested in taking a course like the one Heidi took? Visit wikiedu.org/wikidata to see current course offerings.

Some little-known bird books from India - M.R.N. Holmer

13:38, Tuesday, 20 2020 October UTC
A fair number of books have been written on the birds of India. Many colonial-era books have been taken out of the clutches of antique book sellers and wealthy hoarders and made available to researchers at large by the Biodiversity Heritage Library but there are still many extremely rare books that few have read or written about. Here is a small sampling of them which I hope to produce as a series of short entries.

One of these is by M.R.N. Homer (Mary Rebekah Norris Holmer - 6 June 1875 - 2 September 1957) - a professor of physiology at Lady Hardinge Medical College who was also the first woman board member in the Senate of Punjab University - a first for a woman in any university in India. Educated at Cambridge and Dublin University she worked in India from 1915 to 1922 and then returned to England. She wrote several bits on the methods of teaching nature study, and seems to have been very particular about these ideas. From a small fragment, it would appear that she emphasized the use of local and easily available plants as teaching aids and she deplored the use of the word "weed". Her sole book on birds was first published in 1923 as Indian Bird Life and then revised in 1926 as Bird Study in India. The second edition includes very neat black-and-white  illustrations by Kay Nixon, a very talented artist who illustrated some Enid Blyton books and apparently designed posters for the Indian Railways.

A rather sparse Wikipedia entry has been created at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.R.N._Holmer - more information is welcome!

A scanned version of her bird book can now be found on the Internet Archive - https://archive.org/details/Holmer Holmer came from a Christian Sunday School approach to natural history which shows up in places in the book. Her book includes many literary references, several especially to R.L.S. (R.L.Stevenson). In another part of the series we will look at more "evangelical" bird books.

John Stephenson, the writer of the preface, was a zoologist and a specialist on the oligochaetes. He wrote the Fauna of British India volume on the oligochaetes and was the series editor for the Fauna of British India from 1927 following the death of the editor A.E. Shipley.

10 years of learning to engage experts

16:48, Monday, 19 2020 October UTC

This fall, we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Wikipedia Student Program with a series of blog posts telling the story of the program in the United States and Canada.

Saying that Wikipedia has changed a lot over the past ten years is an understatement. One of the ways that Wikipedia has changed the most is a need for expert knowledge and engagement with expert communities. One of Wikipedia’s enduring strengths is that it is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. This democratizing feature is what has made the Wikipedia community what it is. It doesn’t mean, however, that Wikipedia is averse to having experts contribute to it. There are essential roles for amateurs and experts alike to have on Wikipedia. Wiki Education’s programs have engaged experts over the last 10 years and, we’ll share what we have learned from this engagement.

The Student Program

Pursuing experts does not mean excluding non-experts, amateurs, or newcomers. The emphasis on non-experts contributing to Wikipedia is one of its enduring strengths. At the same time it is also a reason why institutions of expertise have tension with Wikipedia. Academia used to frown upon Wikipedia. The rift still exists, but experts are beginning to embrace Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Student Program helps to bridge that. Experts should feel compelled contribute to Wikipedia because it is where people go for information. Cultivating responsibility for experts to share their knowledge is not currently built into academic systems. It is our hope that programs like this can advocate for that responsibility, space, and time for experts to contribute.

The Student Program promotes students as experts. Although students make the contributions, they are doing this under the guidance of their professors. As the facilitators of these courses, professors are able to identify references, share articles for improvement, and help with phrasing in the articles. Students are able to become experts as they evaluate sources, draft articles, and synthesize them for Wikipedia. Writing for a wide audience also instils a sense of responsibility that a research papers, only read by a professor and maybe a TA, would not. As a result, this gives students editing Wikipedia a chance to feel like an expert and be an expert.

The title of expert can be shared by both the instructor and student. Redefining what being an expert means places a particular emphasis on the privilege of access — access to information behind paywalls, access to time, and access to resources to edit, which encourages the sharing of expertise with the world and not just keeping it in colleges and universities. Take a look at these articles, ranging from a common topic like, sand to a newsworthy topic like Refugees of the Syrian Civil wars in Lebanon to see their impact.

This makes Wikipedia into a space where experts feel compelled to contribute. Everyone benefits from higher quality content on Wikipedia. Having concepts that are part of experts’ research be well represented will only help educate and courage more research in those areas.

The Scholars and Scientists Program

The Scholars and Scientists Program began as a way to more directly engage with experts and expert knowledge. The notion that Wikipedia is hostile to experts is now a dated view. Everyone goes to Wikipedia to learn about things — for voting, for self diagnosing, for school, for curiosities. Wikipedia’s popularity backs up the consensus that this is true. In spite of this, contributing is not without its challenges. Lack of time, transitioning from academic prose to Wikipedia-style writing, conflict of interest (wanting to write about their areas of expertise), verifiability not truth, and no original research work against the structure that a lot of academics are used to. Having no direct benefit for their career — not part of tenure or easily to include on a CV, lack of time — defines contributing to Wikipedia as a volunteer experience. So Wiki Education created a formal space in which experts can work, be recognized for their work, and improve Wikipedia in the process. The program began in 2018 with 100 people applying for 9 slots: It was clear that there was interest.

An example like inhomogeneous cosmology demonstrates how expert knowledge can contribute to a complex topic that only a small community of people may know about. Having articles like this allow others to learn about a topic that would otherwise be less accessible. Similarly, the article for the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution demonstrates how expert knowledge can elevate an accessible topic from an average article to a Good Article. Ultimately this program serves as a funnel for WikiProjects, creating alumni groups, and drawing more attention to professional organizations themselves.

A different side of the same Scholars and Scientists’ coin is the newer Wikidata program. Starting in 2019, this program works to build off the engagement model that both of these other programs use. As Wikipedia has changed over the last ten years, the Wikimedia movement has also grown. In an effort to unite Wikipedia’s 300+ languages though structured data, Wikidata serves a unique purpose in the Wikimedia landscape. Working with structured or linked data requires a different set of skills than editing Wikipedia does. The two are, however, united through the community experience and that they are projects that anyone can edit.

The goal of the Wikidata courses is to engage data stewards and experts across several fields — museums, libraries, cultural heritage institutions, government organizations, non-profits — to teach them how to contribute meaningfully to Wikidata. Again newcomers and experts alike both play essential roles in Wikidata. Reaching out and encouraging more expert use builds the community not only in a people-oriented sense, but also access to more data. As of September 2020, this program has engaged with just under 200 experts who have edited more than 17,000 items on Wikidata. You can see more statistics here.

wikidata visualization
Wikidata plays an important role in the internet’s linked data ecosystem. (Image credit: https://lod-cloud.net/, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

In being both human and machine readable, part of Wikidata’s influence is obscured by the role is plays with digital assistants, AI, and its increasing structural on in the internet. Having expertise present on Wikidata will not only improve data quality for other Wikimedia projects to take advantage of, but it will also help enrich the internet’s linked data content by having more institutions regularly contribute their data.

As we look forward to ten more years of all of these programs engaging with all kinds of audiences, we continue to actively explore new ways to engage with subject matter experts. These ways include, always testing out new curricula, delivery options, presenting at conferences on our results, and expanding programming into other Wikimedia projects. As we explore these new avenues for deeper and higher quality engagement, we hope that you will continue to participate in our programs and tell others about them. It is because of our active community that all of this is successful. We couldn’t do it without you and we’re eager to keep going.

This blog post drew heavily from the presentation Engaging Experts Three Ways: How Wiki Education is building a bridge between Wikipedia and Subject-Matter Experts by Blumenthal, Kent, and McGrady. Click Day 1, Session 3 32-155, Wiki Conference North America 2019 in the link to view.

A buggy history

14:17, Monday, 19 2020 October UTC
—I suppose you are an entomologist?—I said with a note of interrogation.
—Not quite so ambitious as that, sir. I should like to put my eyes on the individual entitled to that name! A society may call itself an Entomological Society, but the man who arrogates such a broad title as that to himself, in the present state of science, is a pretender, sir, a dilettante, an impostor! No man can be truly called an entomologist, sir; the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp.
The Poet at the Breakfast Table (1872) by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. 
A collection of biographies
with surprising gaps (ex. A.D. Imms)
The history of Indian interest in insects has been approached by many writers and there are several bits and pieces available in journals and various insights distributed across books. There are numerous ways of looking at how people viewed insects over time. One of these is a collection of biographies, some of which includes uncited verbatim (and not even within quotation marks) accounts  from obituaries. This collation by B.R. Subba Rao who also provides a few historical supporting material to thread together the biographies. Keeping Indian expectations in view, bot Subba Rao and the agricultural entomologist M.A. Husain play to the crowd in their versions. Husain wrote in pre-Independence times where there was a need for Indians to assert themselves in their conflict with colonial masters. They begin with mentions of insects in ancient Indian texts and as can be expected there are mentions of honey, shellac, bees, ants, and a few nuisance insects. Husain takes the fact that the term Satpada षट्पद or six-legs existed in the 1st century Amarakosa to make the claim that Indians were far ahead of time because Latreille's Hexapoda, the supposed analogy, was proposed only in 1825. Such one-up-manship misses the fact that science is not just about terms but  also about structures and one can only assume that they failed to find the development of such structured ideas in the ancient texts that they examined. The identification of species in old texts also leave one wondering about the accuracy of translations. For instance K.N. Dave translates a verse from the Atharva-veda and suggests an early date for knowledge of shellac. This interpretation looks dubious and sure enough, Dave has been critiqued by an entomologist, Mahdihassan. One organism named in the texts as the indragopa (Indra's cowherd) is supposedly something that appears after the rains. Some Sanskrit scholars have, remarkably enough, identified it with a confidence that no coccidologist ever had as the cochineal insect (the species Dactylopius coccus is South American!), while others identify it as a lac insect, a firefly(!) or as Trombidium (red velvet mites) - the last for matching the blood red colour mentioned in a text attributed to Susrutha. To be fair, ambiguities in translation are not limited to those dealing with Indian writing. Dikairon (Δικαιρον), supposedly a highly-valued and potent poison from India was mentioned in the work Indika by Ctesias 398 - 397 BC. One writer said it was the droppings of a bird. Valentine Ball thought it was derived from a scarab beetle. Jeffrey Lockwood claimed that it came from the rove beetles Paederus sp. And finally a Spanish scholar states that all this was a misunderstanding and that Dikairon was not a poison, and - believe it or not - was a masticated mix of betel leaves, arecanut, and lime! 
One gets a far more reliable idea of ancient knowledge and traditions from practitioners, forest dwellers, the traditional honey-harvesting tribes, and similar people that have been gathering materials such as shellac and beeswax. Unfortunately, many of these traditions and their practitioners are threatened by modern laws, economics, and cultural prejudice. These practitioners are being driven out of the forests where they live, and their knowledge was hardly ever captured in writing. The writers of the ancient Sanskrit texts were probably associated with temple-towns and other semi-urban clusters and it seems like the knowledge of forest dwellers was never considered merit-worthy.

A more meaningful overview of entomology may be gained by reading and synthesizing a large number of historical bits, and of which there are a growing number. The 1973 book published by the Annual Reviews Inc. should be of some interest. I have appended a selection of sources that I have found useful in adding bits and pieces to form a historic view of entomology in India. It helps however to have a broader skeleton on which to attach these bits and minutiae. Here, there area also truly verbose and terminology-filled systems developed by historians of science (for example, see ANT). I prefer an approach that is free of a jargon overload and like to look at entomology and its growth along three lines of action - cataloguing with the main product being collection of artefacts and the assignment of names, communication and vocabulary-building are social actions involving groups of interested people who work together with the products being scholarly societies and journals, and pattern-finding where hypotheses are made, and predictions tested. I like to think that anyone learning entomology also goes through these activities, often in this sequence. With professionalization there appears to be a need for people to step faster and faster into the pattern-finding way which also means that less time is spent on the other two streams of activity. The fast stepping often is achieved by having comprehensive texts, keys, identification guides and manuals. The skills involved in the production of those works - ways to prepare specimens, observe, illustrate, or describe are often not captured by the books themselves.


The cataloguing phase of knowledge gathering, especially of the (larger and more conspicuous) insect species of India grew rapidly thanks to the craze for natural history cabinets of the wealthy (made socially meritorious by the idea that appreciating the works of the Creator was as good as attending church)  in Britain and Europe and their ability to tap into networks of collectors working within the colonial enterprise. The cataloguing phase can be divided into the non-scientific cabinet-of-curiosity style especially followed before Darwin and the more scientific forms. The idea that insects could be preserved by drying and kept for reference by pinning, [See Barnard 2018] the system of binomial names, the idea of designating type specimens that could be inspected by anyone describing new species, the system of priority in assigning names were some of the innovations and cultural rules created to aid cataloguing. These rules were enforced by scholarly societies, their members (which would later lead to such things as codes of nomenclature suggested by rule makers like Strickland, now dealt with by committees that oversee the  ICZN Code) and their journals. It would be wrong to assume that the cataloguing phase is purely historic and no longer needed. It is a phase that is constantly involved in the creation of new knowledge. Labels, catalogues, and referencing whether in science or librarianship are essential for all subsequent work to be discovered and are essential to science based on building on the work of others, climbing the shoulders of giants to see further. Cataloguing was probably what the physicists derided as "stamp-collecting".

Communication and vocabulary building

The other phase involves social activities, the creation of specialist language, groups, and "culture". The methods and tools adopted by specialists also helps in producing associations and the identification of boundaries that could spawn new associations. The formation of groups of people based on interests is something that ethnographers and sociologists have examined in the context of science. Textbooks, taxonomic monographs, and major syntheses also help in building community - they make it possible for new entrants to rapidly move on to joining the earlier formed groups of experts. Whereas some of the early learned societies were spawned by people with wealth and leisure, some of the later societies have had other economic forces in their support.

Like species, interest groups too specialize and split to cover more specific niches, such as those that deal with applied areas such as agriculture, medicine, veterinary science and forensics. There can also be interest in behaviour, and evolution which, though having applications, are often do not find economic support.

Pattern finding
Eleanor Ormerod, an unexpected influence
in the rise of economic entomology in India

The pattern finding phase when reached allows a field to become professional - with paid services offered by practitioners. It is the phase in which science flexes its muscle, specialists gain social status, and are able to make livelihoods out of their interest. Lefroy (1904) cites economic entomology as starting with E.C. Cotes [Cotes' career in entomology was short, after marrying the famous Canadian journalist Sara Duncan in 1889 he too moved to writing] in the Indian Museum in 1888. But he surprisingly does not mention any earlier attempts, and one finds that Edward Balfour, that encyclopaedic-surgeon of Madras collated a list of insect pests in 1887 and drew inspiration from Eleanor Ormerod who hints at the idea of getting government support, noting that it would cost very little given that she herself worked with no remuneration to provide a service for agriculture in England. Her letters were also forwarded to the Secretary of State for India and it is quite possible that Cotes' appointment was a result.

As can be imagined, economics, society, and the way science is supported - royal patronage, family, state, "free markets", crowd-sourcing, or mixes of these - impact the way an individual or a field progresses. Entomology was among the first fields of zoology that managed to gain economic value with the possibility of paid employment. David Lack, who later became an influential ornithologist, was wisely guided by his father to pursue entomology as it was the only field of zoology where jobs existed. Lack however found his apprenticeship (in Germany, 1929!) involving pinning specimens "extremely boring".

Indian reflections on the history of entomology

Kunhikannan died at the rather young age of 47
A rather interesting analysis of Indian science is made by the first native Indian entomologist to work with the official title of "entomologist" in the state of Mysore - K. Kunhikannan. Kunhikannan was deputed to pursue a Ph.D. at Stanford (for some unknown reason many of the pre-Independence Indian entomologists trained in Stanford rather than England - see postscript) through his superior Leslie Coleman. At Stanford, Kunhikannan gave a talk on Science in India. He noted in his 1923 talk :

In the field of natural sciences the Hindus did not make any progress. The classifications of animals and plants are very crude. It seems to me possible that this singular lack of interest in this branch of knowledge was due to the love of animal life. It is difficult for Westerners to realise how deep it is among Indians. The observant traveller will come across people trailing sugar as they walk along streets so that ants may have a supply, and there are priests in certain sects who veil that face while reading sacred books that they may avoid drawing in with their breath and killing any small unwary insects. [Note: Salim Ali expressed a similar view ]
He then examines science sponsored by state institutions, by universities and then by individuals. About the last he writes:
Though I deal with it last it is the first in importance. Under it has to be included all the work done by individuals who are not in Government employment or who being government servants devote their leisure hours to science. A number of missionaries come under this category. They have done considerable work mainly in the natural sciences. There are also medical men who devote their leisure hours to science. The discovery of the transmission of malaria was made not during the course of Government work. These men have not received much encouragement for research or reward for research, but they deserve the highest praise., European officials in other walks of life have made signal contributions to science. The fascinating volumes of E. H. Aitken and Douglas Dewar are the result of observations made in the field of natural history in the course of official duties. Men like these have formed themselves into an association, and a journal is published by the Bombay Natural History Association[sic], in which valuable observations are recorded from time to time. That publication has been running for over a quarter of a century, and its volumes are a mine of interesting information with regard to the natural history of India.
This then is a brief survey of the work done in India. As you will see it is very little, regard being had to the extent of the country and the size of her population. I have tried to explain why Indians' contribution is as yet so little, how education has been defective and how opportunities have been few. Men do not go after scientific research when reward is so little and facilities so few. But there are those who will say that science must be pursued for its own sake. That view is narrow and does not take into account the origin and course of scientific research. Men began to pursue science for the sake of material progress. The Arab alchemists started chemistry in the hope of discovering a method of making gold. So it has been all along and even now in the 20th century the cry is often heard that scientific research is pursued with too little regard for its immediate usefulness to man. The passion for science for its own sake has developed largely as a result of the enormous growth of each of the sciences beyond the grasp of individual minds so that a division between pure and applied science has become necessary. The charge therefore that Indians have failed to pursue science for its own sake is not justified. Science flourishes where the application of its results makes possible the advancement of the individual and the community as a whole. It requires a leisured class free from anxieties of obtaining livelihood or capable of appreciating the value of scientific work. Such a class does not exist in India. The leisured classes in India are not yet educated sufficiently to honour scientific men.
It is interesting that leisure is noted as important for scientific advance. Edward Balfour, mentioned earlier, also made a similar comment that Indians were "too close to subsistence to reflect accurately on their environment!"  (apparently in The Vydian and the Hakim, what do they know of medicine? (1875) which unfortunately is not available online)

Kunhikannan may be among the few Indian scientists who dabbled in cultural history, and political theorizing. He wrote two rather interesting books The West (1927) and A Civilization at Bay (1931, posthumously published) which defended Indian cultural norms while also suggesting areas for reform. While reading these works one has to remind oneself that he was working under and with Europeans and may not have been able to have many conversations on such topics with Indians. An anonymous writer who penned the memoir of his life in his posthumous work notes that he was reserved and had only a small number of people to talk to outside of his professional work.
Entomologists meeting at Pusa in 1919
Third row: C.C. Ghosh (assistant entomologist), Ram Saran ("field man"), Gupta, P.V. Isaac, Y. Ramachandra Rao, Afzal Husain, Ojha, A. Haq
Second row: M. Zaharuddin, C.S. Misra, D. Naoroji, Harchand Singh, G.R. Dutt (Personal Assistant to the Imperial Entomologist), E.S. David (Entomological Assistant, United Provinces), K. Kunhi Kannan, Ramrao S. Kasergode (Assistant Professor of Entomology, Poona), J.L.Khare (lecturer in entomology, Nagpur), T.N. Jhaveri (assistant entomologist, Bombay), V.G.Deshpande, R. Madhavan Pillai (Entomological Assistant, Travancore), Patel, Ahmad Mujtaba (head fieldman), P.C. Sen
First row: Capt. Froilano de Mello, W Robertson-Brown (agricultural officer, NWFP), S. Higginbotham, C.M. Inglis, C.F.C. Beeson, Dr Lewis Henry Gough (entomologist in Egypt), Bainbrigge Fletcher, Bentley, Senior-White, T.V. Rama Krishna Ayyar, C.M. Hutchinson, Andrews, H.L.Dutt

Enotmologists meeting at Pusa in 1923
Fifth row (standing) Mukerjee, G.D.Ojha, Bashir, Torabaz Khan, D.P. Singh
Fourth row (standing) M.O.T. Iyengar (a malariologist), R.N. Singh, S. Sultan Ahmad, G.D. Misra, Sharma, Ahmad Mujtaba, Mohammad Shaffi
Third row (standing) Rao Sahib Y Rama Chandra Rao, D Naoroji, G.R.Dutt, Rai Bahadur C.S. Misra, SCJ Bennett (bacteriologist, Muktesar), P.V. Isaac, T.M. Timoney, Harchand Singh, S.K.Sen
Second row (seated) Mr M. Afzal Husain, Major RWG Hingston, Dr C F C Beeson, T. Bainbrigge Fletcher, P.B. Richards, J.T. Edwards, Major J.A. Sinton
First row (seated) Rai Sahib PN Das, B B Bose, Ram Saran, R.V. Pillai, M.B. Menon, V.R. Phadke (veterinary college, Bombay)

Note: As usual, these notes are spin-offs from researching and writing Wikipedia entries, in this case on several pioneering Indian entomologists. It is remarkable that even some people in high offices, such as P.V. Isaac, the last Imperial Entomologist, and grandfather of noted writer Arundhati Roy, are largely unknown (except as the near-fictional Pappachi in Roy's God of Small Things)

Further reading
An index to entomologists who worked in India or described a significant number of species from India - with links to Wikipedia (where possible - the gaps in coverage of entomologists in general are too many)
(woefully incomplete - feel free to let me know of additional candidates)

Carl Linnaeus - Johan Christian Fabricius - Edward Donovan - John Gerard Koenig - John Obadiah Westwood - Frederick William Hope - George Alexander James Rothney - Thomas de Grey Walsingham - Henry John Elwes - Victor Motschulsky - Charles Swinhoe - John William Yerbury - Edward Yerbury Watson - Peter Cameron - Charles George Nurse - H.C. Tytler - Arthur Henry Eyre Mosse - W.H. Evans - Frederic Moore - John Henry Leech - Charles Augustus de Niceville - Thomas Nelson Annandale - R.C. WroughtonT.R.D. Bell - Francis Buchanan-Hamilton - James Wood-Mason - Frederic Charles Fraser  - R.W. Hingston - Auguste Forel - James Davidson - E.H. Aitken -  O.C. Ollenbach - Frank Hannyngton - Martin Ephraim Mosley - Hamilton J. Druce  - Thomas Vincent Campbell - Gilbert Edward James Nixon - Malcolm Cameron - G.F. Hampson - Martin Jacoby - W.F. Kirby - W.L. DistantC.T. Bingham - G.J. Arrow - Claude Morley - Malcolm Burr - Samarendra Maulik - Guy Marshall
Edward Percy Stebbing - T.B. Fletcher - Edward Ernest Green - E.C. Cotes - Harold Maxwell Lefroy - Frank Milburn Howlett - S.R. Christophers - Leslie C. Coleman - T.V. Ramakrishna Ayyar - Yelsetti Ramachandra Rao - Magadi Puttarudriah - Hem Singh Pruthi - Shyam Sunder Lal Pradhan - James Molesworth Gardner - Vakittur Prabhakar Rao - D.N. Raychoudhary - C.F.W. Muesebeck  - Mithan Lal Roonwal - Ennapada S. Narayanan - M.S. Mani - T.N. Ananthakrishnan - Muhammad Afzal Husain

Not included by Rao -   F.H. Gravely - P.V. Isaac - M. Afzal Husain - A.D. Imms - C.F.C. Beeson
 - C. Brooke Worth - Kumar Krishna - M.O.T. Iyengar - K. Kunhikannan

PS: Thanks to Prof C.A. Viraktamath, I became aware of a new book-  Gunathilagaraj, K.; Chitra, N.; Kuttalam, S.; Ramaraju, K. (2018). Dr. T.V. Ramakrishna Ayyar: The Entomologist. Coimbatore: Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. - this suggests that TVRA went to Stanford at the suggestion of Kunhikannan.

    Education booklet – Imperial College London

    13:45, Monday, 19 2020 October UTC

    Extract from the Education booklet case study, written by Wikimedia UK and University of Edinburgh.

    Earlier this year we produced a booklet with the University of Edinburgh, bringing together a collection of case studies from across the UK in order to provide insight into the use of the Wikimedia projects in education. It is our belief that the Wikimedia projects are a valuable tool for education, and that engagement with those projects is an activity which enriches the student experience as much as it does the open web itself. As such we have a number of education projects, and have managed to introduce Wikimedia teaching as a part of the Welsh baccalaureate. You can find what we’ve blogged about these projects in the education tag.

    Educators worldwide are using Wikimedia in the curriculum – teaching students key skills in information literacy, collaboration, writing as public outreach, information synthesis, source evaluation and data science. Engaging with projects like Wikipedia – particularly through becoming a contributor – enables learners to understand, navigate and critically evaluate information as well as develop an appreciation for the role and importance of open education. Once published, material produced by students becomes immediately accessible by a global audience, giving students the satisfaction of knowing that their work can be seen by many more people than just their tutor.

    As individuals working in the open web in the twenty-first century it is incumbent upon us to embrace innovative learning, embedding into our practice those tools which equip our students to work collaboratively, be skilled digitally, and think critically.

    Of our 13 examples, 12 pertain to Higher Education, and one to Secondary; but although this work has thus far been more common in Universities than schools or colleges of Further Education, it is far from being restricted solely to them. This resource has been designed for anyone involved in education, and will be of particular interest to those teachers, lecturers and learning technologists involved in open pedagogy and course design, or who have an interest in innovative learning, working on the open web, co-creation, collaborative working, or digital skills.

    Feedback from both students and course leaders, at the University of Edinburgh and beyond, has consistently highlighted:

    • Student-led creation of academic quality content, available to be shared and used by wide audiences
    • Students and course leaders having the opportunity to examine their subject area reflectively through a global, publicly engaged perspective
    • Students having the opportunity to learn and practice beginner-level coding skills and increase their digital competencies

    Wikimedia and Skills development

    The Wikimedia projects are more than just Wikipedia.  There are 13 projects in all, four which are of particular interest here: Wikipedia, Wikidata, Wiki Commons, and Wikibooks.  

    Wikimedia UK has produced a report mapping engagement with the projects to existing digital skills frameworks in the UK, which can be read on Wikimedia UK’s website. and a report on The Potentials of Wikimedia Projects in Digital, Information and Data Literacy Development in the UK context. 

    The skills which can be enhanced through engagement with the Wikimedia Projects include:

    Wikipedia  the online encyclopedia

    • Computer and internet literacy, from opening an account to searching and critically evaluating information online.
    • Creating, preparing (digitizing, editing, converting), uploading, categorising, translating information and digital content
    • Collaboration, communication and consensus building in an online environment
    • Understanding reliable, verifiable sources, licences, consents, and copyright
    • Encyclopedic writing in the public domain, using citation softwares and referencing

    WikiData an open database and central storage for structured data

    • Understanding data concepts, data types, data functions and data characteristics
    • Importing, exporting, linking, reusing, and combining datasets
    • Understanding of Creative Commons database rights 
    • Engaging with the development of data models, exploring and visualising your data 
    • Collaborative data management 

    Wiki Commons a host of media files and their metadata

    • Understanding of free digital file types and formats
    • Understanding organisation of information and discoverability
    • Understanding of the educational value of different types of content
    • Content reuse skills, including editing and improving images

    Wikibooks a collaborative, instructional non-fiction book authoring website

    • Wring in Wikitext or in a combination of Wikitext, HTML, and CSS 
    • Content creation, collaborative editing, translation
    • Editing skills (like spelling and grammar or formatting errors) 
    • Understanding of licensing (GFDL and Creative Commons)

    Here’s one of the case studies included in the booklet…

    Life Sciences BSc degrees, Science Communication, Imperial College London

    File:Eimeria stidae infection rabbit liver. Taken by Sofia Amin on 15/03/2017 at Imperial College London.

    Final year Biochemistry and Biological Sciences BSc students at Imperial College London selected and improved Wikipedia articles within their Science Communication module by adding content to existing pages, including adding their own illustrations.

    Course leaders: Prof. Stephen Curry, professor of Structural Biology, and Dr. Steven Cook, Principal Teaching Fellow in the Department of Life Sciences.

    Class size: 30 students.

    Course duration: 1 academic term, featuring a 3-hour workshop introducing Wikimedia, Creative Commons, and practising Wiki mark-up language.

    Learning outcomes

    • Developing writing skills suited for a public audience.
    • Increasing critical thinking, information and digital literacy.
    • Introducing basic illustration and graphic design skills.
    • Introducing collaborative writing, useful for future academic and work-based projects.

    Further support and resources used

    • Wikimedia UK’s Programmes team.
    • The Wikipedia Manual of Style guidelines.
    • Science communication and illustration workshops run by staff on the Science Communication module.
    • Wikimedia Commons and the RCSB Protein Data Bank.
    • User:Polypompholyx’s Wikipedia page includes guidance for students.

    Impact beyond the classroom

    • 100 articles improved since 2012.
    • Several illustrations and photographs were created and uploaded to Wikipedia pages to support the relevant compound’s Wikipedia page.
    • Contributed to the growing Wiki culture and community within the University.

    “There are plenty of incomplete and missing articles on Wikipedia, and it would be great to get students involved in editing articles much earlier in their Careers.”

    “The articles have to be on a scientific topic, and they typically choose life science topics, as that is their expertise (biology and biochemistry students). Some articles are created from scratch, others take existing articles and improve them. This is typically by rewriting the text to make it clearer, more complete and more up to date. Most articles end up with new sections, updated references, and additional media: either from Commons, or media they create and CC license themselves.” Dr. Steven Cook, Course Leader

    For more of the education booklet case studies, take a look at the free digital copy here. For more information on our education projects, follow the blog tag, sign up for our newsletter, or get in touch with us. To support Wikimedia UK projects like this one, please consider donating or becoming a member today.

    Tech News issue #43, 2020 (October 19, 2020)

    00:00, Monday, 19 2020 October UTC
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    weeklyOSM 534

    09:54, Sunday, 18 2020 October UTC


    lead picture

    Visualization public transport traffic flow (VBZ), Zurich, Switzerland 1 | © Stadt Zürich Open Data – map data © OpenStreetMap contributors


    • GIScience Heidelberg and HeiGIT have created a new land use map, initially for all the EU member states, by combining satellite images from Sentinel with OpenStreetMap using machine learning. It is available on OSMlanduse.org. The quality of the new version of OSMlanduse is being validated in an online campaign. You can participate in the Landsense Mapathon. There are different topics, such as nature, urban, agriculture and expert. The validation campaign is supported within the framework of the EU regions week.
    • The UK quarterly project for Q4 has been selected as defibrillators.
    • Sarah Hoffmann (aka lonvia) informs us, in her blog post, how Nominatim can be used to search for addresses and how Nominatim also now uses the addr:* tags recorded in OSM to determine addresses precisely.
    • Diego Cruz proposed the new tag landuse=dehesa to describe a type of man-made land use that has existed for centuries in the Southwestern quarter of the Iberian Peninsula and which is a sparsely-treed forest (Quercus species) in which the ground is cultivated or used as pasture for grazing animals.
    • Voting started on 12 October on Andrew Harvey’s proposed tag shelter_type=rock_shelter to mark the difference between the already existing natural=cave_entrance and a shallow cave-like opening at the base of a bluff or cliff, which may be used to shelter from the weather.


    • k_zoar is a Japanese mapper and lets us take part in reviewing his 10 years of contributing to OSM. For years, he was one of only two mappers to publish the Japanese version of weeklyOSM.
    • Thomas Skowron has submitted an interim report for his OSMF Microgrants project focused on the OpenStreetMap Calendar, documenting his progress at the halfway mark.
    • Richard Fairhurst complained about an undercover change of the Mapbox GL licence.

    OpenStreetMap Foundation

    • The minutes of the OSMF virtual board meeting on 2 and 3 October have been published. The minutes of the agenda item on a possible move to the European Union, where the OSM database enjoys legal protection, have also been published.
    • Ilya Zverev shared (ru) > en his thoughts about recent large-scale payments made by OSMF Board.
    • Simon Poole has left the OMSF’s Licensing Working Group. The team at weeklyOSM would like to thank Simon for his hard work over the years.

    Local chapter news

    • Minh Nguyen wrote about OpenStreetMap US becoming a local chapter of the OSMF.


    • There will be a GIS track at the 18th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM 2021). You can submit a full paper until 6 December, while short and practitioner papers can be submitted until 31 January 2021.
    • The next CH Open Business Lunch will take (de) > en place in Basel 26 November, from 11 AM with Stefan Keller and the topic ‘The innovation potential of OpenStreetMap and Wikidata/Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons’. Language: (de), Slides: (en).
    • Stefan Keller (Switzerland) reports (de) > en that this year’s DINAcon 2020 will take place on Friday 23 October 2020. (This time, as the name suggests, online and not at Well7 in Bern.)
    • The keynote speakers for SotM Japan 2020 (ja) > en , which will be held online on 7 November, have been announced (ja). And registration (ja) has also started (ja).
    • The programme (ja) > en for the FOSS4G Japan 2020 Online core day to be held on 8 November has been announced (ja).
    • Speakers from HOT, YouthMappers, Facebook, and Microsoft are coming together at the UN World Data Forum on 19 October, 4:00 PM UTC. Find the programme here, and register for your free participation in the online event.

    Humanitarian OSM

    • In collaboration with the Deltares institute and with funding from German International Cooperation Agency, OpenMap Development Tanzania was able to collect accurate and precise river cross-section surveys using an innovative, low-cost technique. This information will help in improving existing flood risk models and prevention.


    • Hartmut Holzgräfe was happy to report that his MapOSMatic instance has rendered 130,000 maps and also announced email conversion and style upgrades.
    • Curvature is a programme that analyses the geometry of OSM roads and generates a map of the most twisty roads, colour-coded by how many curves they have.
    • Bloomberg described a building resembling Taiwan’s Presidential Office found in the military training base of Zurohe, which is in Inner Mongolia, China. Supaplex writes that you could compare the outline of both buildings on OpenStreetMap.

    Open Data

    • [1] 15 projects have made it on the DINAcon Awards 2020 shortlist (de) > en . Winners in the five categories will be honoured at the Digital Awards Ceremony on 23 October at the online held Conference for Digital Sustainability (DINAcon, register here). Among the finalists are the NeTEx Converter plugin for JOSM, the geo-admin map viewer, and a traffic flow (de) > en visualisation from Zurich.
    • The Norwegian Mapping Authority ‘Kartverket’ was awarded (nl) > en ‘National Geospatial Agency of The Year’ by Geospatial Media in the Netherlands. The jury especially noted its international efforts in humanitarian projects, the UN and sea charts. Kartverket has had a significant impact in OSM in Norway due to the large quantity of open data, including high quality orthophotos, which has been most useful, along with import projects related to land cover and road networks.


    • Nuno Caldeira complained about the incorrect attribution of OpenStreetMap by Mapbox.


    • CyclOSM has released its new 0.3.7 version, including many rendering improvements.
    • 15 years ago, Immanuel Scholz proudly announced a beta for JOSM, his Java OpenStreetMap Editor. At that time, the software was only capable of reading and saving a local GPX-file, but already had a homepage, wiki and bugtracker!
    • A new version of MapComplete has been released by Pietervdvn. This simple editor now has an easy-to-use opening hours selection and a richer selection of background options. In order to celebrate this, an editable map with shops was created through which you can send opening hours directly to OSM. Furthermore, we remind everyone that anyone can easily make their own custom preset (or theme). Yopaseopor figured out how to and has already created ten such themes, which can be found on his wiki.

    Did you know …

    • … that the website ‘Map of the Week’ recently featured the best map-related manhole covers?
    • … the twitch channel of Martijn van Exel as the curious mapper? Martijn is a former member of the OSM US and OSMF Board of Directors and the author of MapRoulette.

    OSM in the media

    • The Daily Star featured female mappers from YouthMappers Dhaka University Chapter and YouthMappers Regional Ambassador Maliha Mohiuddin to recognise inclusive mapping on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child.
    • The Information reported on an antitrust battle against Google. ‘Credit for that goes to Mapbox’ and further ‘A congressional report on Tuesday, which made antitrust claims against four major tech companies, included a little-noticed allegation that Google Maps abused its market power and harmed its customers’ by not allowing apps using Google’s location data and other providers’ maps or geographical services at the same time.

    Other “geo” things

    • The European Commission has opened a position for a trainee to explore synergies between INSPIRE and the OpenStreetMap data ecosystems and assess the potential of OSM for the creation and updating of identified high-value datasets.
    • The publishers of the decorative atlas Mad Maps (fr) have also published a serious game, teaching the basic elements of cartography. You can download it for Windows, Mac and Linux, or play online – but unfortunately it is only available in French.
    • Search engine DuckDuckGo now allows route planning in their map service, based on maps from Apple’s Mapkit JS framework. As Golem.de reports (de) > en , the location query should be particularly secure because location data is transferred separately from personal information and is deleted after the query.
    • dmontagne presented (fr) > en the results of their effort to georeference and superimpose historical maps on to current ones using the French platform Navigae.

    Upcoming Events

    Where What When Country
    Cobb Virtual Academy OSMUK AGM plus presentations 2020-10-17 united kingdom
    Cologne Bonn Airport 132. Bonner OSM-Stammtisch (Online) 2020-10-20 germany
    Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen 2020-10-20 germany
    Berlin OSM-Verkehrswende #16 (Online) 2020-10-20 germany
    Nottingham Nottingham pub meetup 2020-10-20 united kingdom
    Lyon Rencontre mensuelle pour tous 2020-10-20 france
    Žilina Missing Maps Mapathon Žilina #9 (Online) 2020-10-22 slovakia
    Bremen Bremer Stammtisch 2020-10-26 germany
    Arlon Réunion des contributeurs OpenStreetMap 2020-10-26 belgium
    Salt Lake City / Virtual OpenStreetMap Utah Map Night 2020-10-27 united states
    Düsseldorf Düsseldorfer OSM-Stammtisch 2020-10-28 germany
    Salt Lake City / Virtual OpenStreetMap Utah Map Night 2020-10-29 united states
    London Missing Maps London Mapathon 2020-11-03 united kingdom
    Stuttgart Stuttgarter Stammtisch (online) 2020-11-04 germany
    Dresden Dresdner OSM-Stammtisch 2020-11-05 germany
    Online 2020 Pista ng Mapa 2020-11-13-2020-11-27 philippines
    Online FOSS4G SotM Oceania 2020 2020-11-20 oceania

    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 appropriate.

    This weeklyOSM was produced by AnisKoutsi, Lejun, MatthiasMatthias, Nordpfeil, NunoMASAzevedo, Polyglot, Rogehm, Guillaume Rischard (Stereo), TheSwavu, YoViajo, alesarrett, derFred, k_zoar, osmapman, richter_fn.

    Amarílis Corrêa is a librarian at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo. She enrolled in Wiki Education’s introductory Wikidata course to learn more about how to apply linked data practices to her work.

    Amarílis Corrêa
    Amarílis Corrêa (image courtesy Amarílis Corrêa, all rights reseved.)

    Before talking about my experience with Wiki Education’s Wikidata Institute course, allow me to present you a brief context of how I discovered Wikidata and its potential to cultural heritage and scientific collections held by libraries and the enriching contributions librarians can bring.

    At the beginning of 2020, one of my assignments was to bring back to life a referential database of articles (published in Brazilian magazines and academic journals) that had crashed a couple of years ago due to technological and hardware failure. This would be the chance to convert the MARC records into more searchable, visible, and connected to other collections. However, what were the options?

    I’m a researcher on digital preservation, so I had heard of linked data and linked open data for this purpose, but I hadn’t dug into that until the COVID-19 pandemic crisis arrived in Brazil in March and I started working from home. Many conferences happened virtually – like LIBER2020 and LD4, much easier to attend especially when free of charge – and I had the chance to join meetings and workshops, to meet professionals from other countries, and to get to know their projects, listen to their experiences, challenges, and accomplishments. In the course of a week or two, linked open data appeared several times, more than ever before, in talks with Brazilian colleagues and from other countries. One of the approaches to Wikidata came from getting to know one of the coordinators of Wiki Movement Brazil User Group through a close librarian at the university.

    When I registered for the Wikidata Institute-September course I had a vague idea of what Wikidata was, I had had the chance to add a few references to statements, and I had experienced some frustrating attempts to run queries. Just by reading the first article suggested by Will Kent – one of our very patient and attentive instructors, the other was Ian Ramjohn – and doing the first assignments I realized how broad Wikidata is: it aggregates from fantastic creatures and imaginary worlds to asteroids, species of flowers, rock bands, historic buildings, scientific articles, calendar years, and so on. It can really be the place to represent as structured data everything that exists.

    During the course, one of the most popular subjects on our meetings was the way of representing items. As librarians and cataloguers many of us were concerned about standards and data models: how is the best way to describe this or that? What values or references are most appropriate? Is there a recommended good practice? We also had a classmate always raising questions about semantics because it’s her expertise and she saw different values being used as synonyms. The one-hour meetings weren’t usually enough for debating, commenting on our experiments during the week, presenting doubts, and receiving new concepts and tools demos from Will’s presentations. That’s why the Slack channel was always so hectic.

    A three-week course about Wikidata is a good introduction, because it’s a long learning curve until one can feel confident in editing and exploring the potential offered by Wikidata. Even though instance of (P31) still makes me think a lot of the best value to use – one more general or more specific, or several values – and queries represent quite a challenge, I guess after this course I feel I can guide other beginners through the basics of Wikidata and to plan how to adopt it as the environment to share library collections as data.

    Besides the practice of editing (that makes time fly because a “simple” statement leads to another item that presents another statement that may need edition or even the creation of a new item), there are many tools to be familiar with, of course you don’t need to use them all; nevertheless, some of them can be useful to create items, to identify languages missing in descriptions and/or labels, to create data visualization, to present an item in a more user-friendly interface like Reasonator. There are also many WikiProjects to check when looking for those that may be related to your professional practice (or personal interest), in which you can participate as well as adapt to your institution or collection.

    My first use of the knowledge developed will be working on the GLAM-Wiki I’m helping to implement for libraries of the University of São Paulo (GLAM Bibliotecas da USP), aiming to open data of scientific and artistic productions of the scholars, bibliographic data of the journals published by the university, and its cultural and scientific heritage collections. I intend to stay in touch and keep learning through the conferences and collaborative spaces recommended during the course and others (like IFLA Wikidata Working Group), as well as to share the achievements of this GLAM.

    Undoubtedly, I’ll give credit to this great experience I had thanks to Wikidata Institute, the instructors Will and Ian, and all the classmates.

    Interested in taking a course like the one Amarílis took? Visit wikiedu.org/wikidata to see current course offerings.


    Lingthusiasm Episode 49: How translators approach a text

    Before even starting to translate a work, a translator needs to make several important macro-level decisions, such as whether to more closely follow the literal structure of the text or to adapt more freely, especially if the original text does things that are unfamiliar to readers in the destination language but would be familiar to readers in the original language. 

    In this episode of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about the relationship of the translator and the text. We talk about the new, updated translation of Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley (affectionately known as the “bro” translation), reading the Tale of Genji in multiple translations, translating conlangs in fiction, and mistranslation on the Scots Wikipedia. 


    We’re coming up on Lingthusiasm’s fourth anniversary! In celebration, we’re asking you to help people who would totally enjoy listening to fun conversations about linguistics, they just don’t realize it exists yet! Most people still find podcasts through word of mouth, and we’ve seen a significant bump in listens each November when we ask you to help share the show, so we know this works. If you tag us @lingthusiasm on social media in your recommendation post, we will like/retweet/reshare/thank you as appropriate, or if you send a recommendation to a specific person, we won’t know about it but you can still feel a warm glow of satisfaction at helping out (and feel free to still tell us about it on social media if you’d like to be thanked!). Trying to think of what to say? One option is to pick a particular episode that you liked and share a link to that. 

    This month’s bonus episode was about honorifics, words like titles and forms of “you” that express when you’re trying to be extra polite to someone (and which can also be subverted to be rude or intimate). Get access to this and 43 other bonus episodes at patreon.com/lingthusiasm.

    This is also a good time to start thinking about linguistics merch and other potential gift ideas (paperback copies of Because Internet, anyone?), in time for them to arrive via the internet, if you’re ordering for the holiday season. Check out the Lingthusiasm merch store at lingthusiasm.com/merch.  

    Here are the links mentioned in this episode:

    You can listen to this episode via Lingthusiasm.com, Soundcloud, RSS, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also download an mp3 via the Soundcloud page for offline listening, and stay tuned for a transcript of this episode on the Lingthusiasm website. To receive an email whenever a new episode drops, sign up for the Lingthusiasm mailing list.

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    Lingthusiasm is created by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne. Our senior producer is Claire Gawne, our editorial producer is Sarah Dopierala, and our music is ‘Ancient City’ by The Triangles

    When I first created Wikipedia back in 2001, the internet was a very different place. Only seven percent of people worldwide had a broadband connection, and more people spent time building personal websites than getting their news online. I knew what I wanted to create: a free encyclopedia, written by volunteers, for everyone in the world. But I wasn’t sure I knew how to do it.

    I always joke that I’m a pathological optimist, so I was excited that this was almost a ridiculously big concept. And it worked. All these years later, the Wikimedia community of volunteers has created the largest collection of open knowledge in human history.

    Today, Wikipedia has over 50 million articles (51.6 million to be precise — we love precision as Wikimedians) written by more than 250,000 volunteer editors around the world. This grand experiment has expanded in ways that I never thought possible. Wikipedia, Wikidata, Wiktionary and our other free knowledge projects host information on virtually every topic, and invite everyone to share what they know.

    “All these years later, the Wikimedia community of volunteers has created the largest collection of open knowledge in human history.”

    These projects have become trusted sources of knowledge, from who won the football match last week to understanding how a global pandemic is shaping our lives. All of this information — from the types of trains in India to the most popular British children’s books — is made possible by volunteer editors. Volunteers who contribute their time, research, writing skills, and more to make sure everyone has access to trusted information.

    Oftentimes, being a volunteer Wikipedia editor is an invisible role. Few people will look at the talk page for an article, to learn more about the people who built it. But volunteers keep doing it anyway, because they believe in free knowledge, and they believe in contributing something to the benefit of the collective good.

    The Wikimedian of the Year award is one small way I can say thank you, and recognize the time, effort, and resources it takes to keep Wikimedia projects up-to-date, neutral, and reliable. It is how I celebrate those volunteers who go above and beyond to fulfill our mission of free knowledge for the world.

    I first started the Wikimedian of the Year award in 2011, in order to appreciate one of our standout volunteers for their achievements and their work on behalf of free knowledge. At that time it felt like a small thing to do at our annual conference — and over the years it has gotten bigger and bigger as people outside our movement are inspired by the individual stories behind the award.

    I’m excited to announce that this year’s Wikimedian of the year is Sandister Tei, user: Sandiooses. Sandister helped pioneer the development of our volunteer communities in sub-Saharan Africa. She was one of the founding members of the Wikimedia Ghana User Group, the local Wikimedia affiliate group in Ghana, and has been very involved with the community there. This year, as the pandemic forced the user group to cancel in person events and gatherings, Sandister helped her community stay connected and informed. Through research and local sources, she contributed heavily to the Wikipedia articles about the pandemic’s effects in Ghana, ensuring the public record included Ghana in the story of how the COVID-19 pandemic is shaping the world.

    “In a community dedicated to free knowledge, Wikimedians of the Year are the closest things we have to celebrity.”

    A few weeks ago, I joined a Zoom call to surprise Sandister and tell her about the award. It was the first time we had met, in what passes for “in person” this year. She was shocked by the news, and it was incredibly fun to see her reaction as she learned about receiving this award.

    In a community dedicated to free knowledge, Wikimedians of the Year are the closest things we have to celebrity. They are sometimes prolific editors; other times they are movement organizers, photographers, and knowledge activists. They create communities, initiate partnerships, welcome new people, and commit themselves to the work of building the sum of all knowledge. They usually come to my attention because they are recognized by their peers for their contributions.

    But the Wikimedian of the Year is about more than an award — it’s a recognition of the role that volunteers play in this huge, sprawling global movement. There would be no Wikipedia, no Commons, no Wikidata without our volunteers. They write the words you read, upload the images you see; they build the knowledge that informs our world. The Wikimedian of the Year is a celebration of our volunteers because they are what make our projects and this movement possible.

    As Wikipedia approaches its 20th birthday this coming January, the world looks different than it did in 2001. In many ways, it’s harder to be a Wikimedian. Misinformation is spreading at unprecedented rates, and there are fewer and fewer neutral places on the internet. It is because of people like Sandister and other leaders in the Wikimedia movement that Wikipedia will stay useful and relevant for years to come. It makes me incredibly excited for what the next 20 years for Wikipedia will hold, and who else will join us along the way.

    “The Wikimedian of the Year is about more than an award — it’s a recognition of the role that volunteers play in this huge, sprawling global movement.”

    In any other year, I would join Wikimedians from around the world at our international conference, Wikimania, to celebrate this amazing news. While we can’t be together in person this year, I’m thrilled to recognize Sandister in a virtual celebration. And here’s to hoping I will see you in person next year!

    Learn more about Sandister and her work here.

    Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia. You can follow him on Twitter at @jimmy_wales.

    How we helped voters get neutral information

    15:53, Thursday, 15 2020 October UTC

    The 2020 elections are fast approaching in the United States, and as people prepare to vote (often from home, by mail) they’re looking for information that can help them make up their minds.

    At first glance that seems surprising: Surely almost everyone has made up their minds about whether they support Donald Trump or Joe Biden? While the sliver of voters who are still undecided about the presidential elections is small, there’s more to the US election than just the presidency. This year, 35 seats in the US Senate and all 435 seats in the US House are up for election. In addition, state legislatures, state ballot initiatives, and a host of other races (including school board members and county drain commissioners in some states) are up for elections.

    Coverage of state-level elections is spotty on Wikipedia. The coverage of some states in some years is excellent, but most lack even the most basic set of information about the election. Like everything else, the articles that get written are those catch the interest of Wikipedia’s volunteer editor base. In August, to try to get better information relevant to voters in the 2020 elections, we ran our Informing Citizens Wiki Scholars class.

    Several participants in the course focused on state-level election pages. New articles were created about the 2020 Tennessee Elections and 2020 Kansas Elections, while a new article about the 2020 Colorado Elections was created jointly by a class participant and another Wikipedian (in the serendipitous way that collaborations sometimes work on Wikipedia). Other people focused on specific issues, like improving the Oakland Unified School District or the 2020 California Proposition 14 article. Given the relevance of climate change to voters decisions, another participant decided to improve the volcanic gas article to make it clear that the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes is small compared to anthropogenic emissions.

    Courses like these are important ways to encourage subject matter experts to contribute their research skills and knowledge to Wikipedia, ahead of when these pages will be most important as voters seek neutral, fact-based information. To see a current list of course offerings, visit learn.wikiedu.org.

    10 years of helping close Wikipedia’s gender gap

    18:30, Wednesday, 14 2020 October UTC

    This fall, we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Wikipedia Student Program with a series of blog posts telling the story of the program in the United States and Canada.

    I was reflecting on how Wikipedia’s gender gap has changed over the past 10 years when I heard the news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. It was sort of apropos, as I think Justice Ginsburg’s fight against discrimination on the basis of sex resonates with those of us who have spent 10 or even 20 years (almost!) fighting for better gender representation on Wikipedia.

    Like the broader fight for gender equity in the United States, it can feel especially degrading to read constantly about the poor state of gender parity on Wikipedia, especially when you know so many people working hard to bring women’s voices and knowledge to the masses through the encyclopedia. Over the last few years, journalists have written about Wikipedia’s egregious gender gap in the New York TimesThe AtlanticMs. Magazinethe Washington Post, and so many other media outlets. The story is usually the same: English Wikipedia’s volunteer editors largely (at least 85%!) identify as men; women experience bad harassment when they try to participate; where are all the women?! And occasionally, you get an inspirational anecdote about one person or group working to upend the gender imbalance on Wikipedia.

    None of this is inaccurate. As far as we know, our community hasn’t made major progress in attracting more regular editors who identify as women over the last 10 years, at least not in a way that begins to ensure women’s history is even close to being “complete.” With the barrage of reporting on Wikipedia’s gender gap, it’s easy to think we’ve made no progress over the last 10 years. But for those of us in the community, who constantly critically evaluate Wikipedia content, processes, and editors, we know there have been some inspirational leaps forward to make this website more representative of human knowledge. And like Notorious RBG’s many victories for human rights, we have so many successes to celebrate, and I don’t think we talk about them enough. Now that we have run our flagship program for 10 years, I’d like to highlight some major successes, both from within the general Wikipedia community and from Wiki Education’s program participants.

    First: What is the Wikipedia gender gap?

    According to various studies, only 9–16% of Wikipedia’s editors identify as women. In 2011, the Wikimedia Foundation—the non-profit that powers Wikipedia—set a lofty goal for its 5-year strategy: increase participation on Wikipedia to 25% women. Spoiler alert: we’re still not there, nearly a decade later. But our community has embraced that the gender gap is, in fact, a problem, and several people, groups, and organizations have taken the initiative to build a more inclusive encyclopedia.

    Student editors help close the gender gap

    One of the most powerful aspects of our Student Program, which we’ve been running for 10 years, is that Wikipedia assignments bring new editors who may never have contributed content on their own. In the spring 2020 term, roughly 60% of our students identified as women. Of the 7,500 students we supported, that means approximately 4,500 women came to Wikipedia over a four-month span thanks to their instructors’ choice to incorporate a Wikipedia assignment into their curriculum. While they may not have come of their own volition, they quickly learned how much they have to offer thanks to their studies, their lived experiences, and their access to academic publications through the university library.

    And of course what makes this so important is not just that they participated in building Wikipedia but what knowledge they shared with millions of readers. Take Dr. Nadine Changfoot’s fall 2019 student at Trent University in Ontario, who expanded the article about reproductive justice. This student added a section about coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women in Canada, which happened as recently as 2018 but was not previously covered on a page that skews heavily toward the United States. Approximately 2,000 readers access that article each month, and thanks to this student, they now have a more global understanding of reproductive justice and injustice.

    Another student in Dr. Jo Ann Griffin’s fall 2019 course at the University of Louisville worked on the article about transgender health care. Specifically, they added a section about mental health, citing studies reporting high suicide rates in the transgender community. Perhaps more importantly, they cited reports that mental health struggles decrease when transgender individuals transition—either socially and/or medically—to their identified gender. This information about mental health problems (and potential solutions!) was previously missing from a page that reaches 1,500 readers per month. Some of those readers are likely transgender themselves, and I’m incredibly proud that one of our students had the opportunity to summarize and share this scientific literature with the world thanks to their university assignment.

    Our community is better thanks to community organizing

    If you are new to Wikipedia, you may not know that we consider ourselves a community. I’ve spoken with thousands of people over the years about Wikipedia, and I feel like I’ve heard it all: Where does content come from?So who approves changes?Are Wikipedia pages imported from other encyclopedias? But our incredible community of volunteers makes the entire project possible, including more than 6 million articles on English Wikipedia alone. So how does a relatively small percentage of the population keep it up? Largely through community organizing—either on-wiki or offline.

    Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a ton of community groups form to help curb Wikipedia’s gender gap. In July 2015, a small group of Wikipedians founded Women in Red after assessing Wikipedia’s biographies (anyone from scientists to musicians to cricket players) and realizing only 15.53% of the total biographies were of women. This group has grown to hundreds of active members who work each day to recognize women and their achievements. We’ve seen the percentage of women’s biographies increase to 18.58%, and, as I like to joke, that’s without mass deleting biographies of men. This dedicated group of volunteers builds lists of missing women, creates new biographies, runs virtual and in-person events, lends a helping hand to new editors like our students, and presents at Wikipedia conferences to raise awareness about their project and the need to add more women into the encyclopedia.

    A like-minded group, Art + Feminism, launched a campaign in 2014 to add women artists to Wikipedia during community-led edit-a-thons (events where experienced Wikipedians guide newbies through their first contributions). Their initiative has expanded into a non-profit organization that works to counter the gender gap in the arts on Wikipedia, and their participants have improved more than 84,000 biographies on various language Wikipedias, Wikidata, and other ally projects.

    Another group that emerged in 2015, AfroCROWD, regularly hosts edit-a-thons in partnership with GLAM institutions to add Black culture and history to Wikipedia. I’d be remiss to ignore how intersectional feminism is and that, for example, in order to support women on Wikipedia, one must support Black women on Wikipedia. The editors at AfroCROWD have done phenomenal work over the past 5 years not only to raise awareness about content gaps on Wikipedia, but to facilitate as experienced and new editors work to close those content gaps.

    These are just a few of the groups working hard to make Wikipedia more representative of the sum of all human knowledge, and it’s one of the most impactful changes we’ve seen to the gender gap over the past decade. Wikipedia is only as good as its community members, and its community only becomes more inclusive as it reaches out a purposeful hand to guide new editors excited to lend their voice to our projects.

    Strategic partnerships and targeted content

    One of the approaches to diversifying Wikipedia that we’ve taken at Wiki Education is to form strategic partnerships. In 2014, we partnered with the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) to launch a Wikipedia initiative for their members, who teach in Women and Gender Studies (WGS) departments in colleges and universities. At this time, NWSA actively asked their members to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool, and they regularly gave Wiki Education a platform to share why this experience is so meaningful to students. We have since supported more than 400 WGS courses with nearly 9,000 students in our Student Program. They’ve added a staggering 6 million words to Wikipedia, or more than 4 volumes of the last print edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. Students in these courses have shared knowledge with the world about so many topics related to gender and intersectional feminism: from disability studies, to LGBT rights in Nepal, to Black feminism, to countless biographies of notable women.

    Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson at SFP’s annual meeting.

    And for Wiki Education, as so much has changed over the last decade, one of the most significant is the way we partner with mission-aligned institutions. Now, with our Scholars & Scientists program, we’re able to partner with institutions who are eager to improve a specific topic area and directly train their members, faculty, or other stakeholders how to lend their expertise to relevant topics. Thanks to this program, we’ve partnered with the Society of Family Planning to train more than 40 medical practitioners and scholars how to fill in content gaps on Wikipedia related to women’s health. This work has given the public better access to information about women’s health in Ugandatelehealth and medical abortion access during a pandemic, and tubal ligation and other common medical procedures.

    Through our collaboration with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), we facilitated as historians and archivists rewrote the Wikipedia article about the 19th Amendment. Before these scholars got to work as a part of our course, the article documenting the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited governments from discriminating against voters on the basis of sex, not only centered the narrative on white people, but on white men. The Wiki Scholars added crucial information about how this amendment did not enfranchise women of color. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to work with subject-matter experts who are eager to join the Wikipedia community but are not ready to do so on their own.

    The next 10 years

    2030 has been a hot topic in the Wikipedia community for the last several years, as our global community has worked together to envision what our projects might look like in 2030. I’m certain we’ll have made progress in ways I can’t even imagine at this stage. What I can imagine is that we’ll finally make changes within the community that will invite more women, non-binary people, and other currently underrepresented groups to participate, both in knowledge production and as subjects of Wikipedia articles. I envision an encyclopedia more inclusive of oral histories and less restrictive of notability. One that treasures educators as much as military leaders. I’m certain university students will still be finding and fixing missing, inaccurate, or misrepresented information, and our community will still work best when organizing to make Wikipedia and the world a better place. I’m hopeful we’ll create systems outside of Wikipedia that better support women, creating more “free time” to build an encyclopedia. When I’m asked when there will be enough women on Wikipedia, and my answer is “when there are 90% women editors,” people are shocked. But there’d been 90% men, and it took a decade for anyone to ever raise a question about that.* **

    Adapted from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous quote about the gender imbalance of the Supreme Court.
    ** This is a joke.

    Wikimedia’s CDN

    16:55, Wednesday, 14 2020 October UTC

    By Emanuele Rocca, Staff Site Reliability Engineer, The Wikimedia Foundation

    The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia and other well known wiki-based projects, operates websites and services that are high volume and rank in the world’s top 20. We serve about 21 Billion read requests per month and sustain 55 Million edits to our articles. On a normal day over 90% of these read requests are served by our caching solution, our own Content Delivery Network (CDN). Like other parts of our technology stack, the CDN is based on Open Source software and is constantly evolving. During the last couple of years, we have performed various changes in terms of on-disk HTTP caching and request routing.

    This 3 part series of articles will describe some of the changes, which included replacing Varnish with Apache Traffic Server (ATS) as the on-disk HTTP cache component of the CDN. ATS allowed us to significantly simplify the CDN architecture, increase our uptime, and accelerate the procedure to switch between our two primary data centers in Virginia and Texas.

    Data centers, Timo Tijhof, CC BY-SA 4.0

    Wikimedia serves its content from 2 main data centers (DC) and 3 caching-only points of presence (PoP). The two main data centers run all stateful services such as databases, job queues, application servers, and the like, as well as load balancers and HTTP caches. Instead, PoPs only run HTTP caches and the load balancers required to route traffic among them. The two main DCs are located in the United States, specifically in Virginia (short DC name: eqiad) and Texas (short DC name: codfw). The eqiad data center is the one normally serving cache misses, while codfw is a hot standby. Caching-only PoPs are available in Amsterdam (esams), Singapore (eqsin), and California (ulsfo).

    Traffic patterns of Wikimedia DCs, Emanuele Rocca, CC BY-SA 4.0

    Our work is done in the open, and dashboards are no exception. See, for instance, the traffic patterns of Wikimedia DCs shown above. The CDN serves up to 150K requests per second.

    Back to 2018: Varnish and IPSec

    CDN architecture up to 2018, Emanuele Rocca, CC BY-SA 4.0

    The diagram depicts the CDN architecture up to 2018. We omitted the Singapore PoP for clarity, but it works fundamentally as the California PoP.

    Users are routed via GeoDNS to the PoP geographically closest to them. Their request results in a cache lookup, and in case of a cache hit the HTTP response is sent from the PoP straight back to the user, with no further processing required. In case of cache miss, instead, the request is sent further through the CDN to the next caching PoP as shown by the arrows. In case of cache misses all the way down, the request ultimately makes its way to the main primary DC.

    The response goes back through the CDN (getting stored in the caches it traverses if allowed by Cache-Control and similar response headers) and finally reaches the user. To preserve the privacy of our users, HTTP requests between PoPs need to be sent encrypted. We chose to use IPSec to encrypt traffic due to the lack of outgoing HTTPS support in Varnish.  Green arrows show the standard request flow through the CDN, while white paths represent IPSec connections in stand-by, to be used in case a given PoP needs to be taken down for operational reasons.

    Looking more closely at what happens inside a PoP, we can see that each cache node runs three different HTTP servers: one instance of NGINX for TLS termination, one in-memory instance of Varnish for caching in RAM, and one instance of Varnish for on-disk caching. NGINX is necessary to serve HTTPS traffic given that Varnish does not support incoming HTTPS either, but can otherwise be ignored for the purposes of this article.

    What happens inside a PoP, Emanuele Rocca, CC BY-SA 4.0

    Requests are served following this simplified 4 steps model:

    1. Frontend cache selection
    2. Local backend cache selection
    3. Remote backend cache selection
    4. Request to the origin

    (1) The load balancer picks a cache node by applying consistent hashing to the client IP. In case of a cache hit on the in-memory Varnish, the HTTP response is sent back directly to the user. As an optimization, the response goes back to the user without going through the load balancer. This technique is known as Direct Routing and is particularly useful for HTTP traffic, which features comparatively small requests and large responses. Cache misses are further processed by the CDN.

    (2) The in-memory Varnish applies consistent hashing on the request URL to pick another cache node within the PoP (local backend) and sends the HTTP request to the on-disk Varnish instance of the node so chosen. In case of a further cache miss, request processing continues at the on-disk Varnish level in another pop (remote backend).

    (3) The request is sent to another on-disk Varnish running in the next PoP. In the example above, the request goes from esams (EU, Netherlands) to eqiad (US, Virginia). The request is sent over an IPSec tunnel. In case of yet another cache miss on the remote, on-disk Varnish, the request is sent to the next remote PoP (if any), or it reaches the origin server.

    (4) The origin server processes the request, and in our example, the HTTP response goes back via the remote on-disk Varnish in Virginia, the local on-disk Varnish in Amsterdam, the in-memory Varnish in Amsterdam, and finally reaches the user. If cacheable, the response is stored on the various caches it traverses, so that any later request for this object can be served from the caches instead.

    Issues and the road ahead

    The architecture described so far served us well for a while, though we did encounter various problems and identify areas for improvement. 

    Generally speaking, the hit rates on remote on-disk Varnish instances have always been very low (around 1%). Step (3) as detailed earlier in this post was there simply as a workaround for lack of TLS support in Varnish and could be avoided using an HTTPS-capable caching proxy instead.

    Furthermore, the on-disk cache instances were affected by serious scalability and reliability issues. Varnish supports various types of storage backends for its cache contents. Up to version 3, the persistent storage backend was our backend of choice and worked very well in our usage scenario: it worked reliably and allowed us to store cache objects on disk. Further, the cache was persistent, in the sense that we could restart Varnish without losing the cache.

    The persistent storage backend was deprecated in Varnish version 4, and replaced in the proprietary version of Varnish by a storage backend with similar features and called Massive Storage Engine.   FOSS users were thus left with the option of using the file storage backend, which had two major drawbacks: (1) no support for persistence (2) scalability issues.

    The second problem, in particular, was occurring after a few days of production use: a sizable number of requests would result in 503 errors, and normal operation could be resumed only by restarting Varnish. As a bandaid, we introduced a cron-job restarting Varnish on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this frequency of restarts did not prove to be sufficient, and we had to resort to restarting Varnish twice a week to reduce the frequency of user-facing outages. The issue turned out to be a known architectural limitation of the file storage engine. After several debugging sessions we concluded that it was time to start looking for alternatives.

    As a viable replacement for Varnish we identified Apache Traffic Server: an Apache Software Foundation project used and developed by many large organizations including Apple, Verizon, Linkedin, and Comcast. A migration to ATS would solve our two major pain points with Varnish: it supports persistent storage on-disk reliably, as well as incoming and outgoing HTTPS. 

    In the next post, we will describe the architectural changes made possible by migrating the on-disk component of our CDN to Apache Traffic Server.

    About this post

    Featured image credit: North America from low orbiting satellite Suomi NPP, NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring, Public Domain

    Ada Lovelace Day: Dr Isabel Gal

    15:33, Wednesday, 14 2020 October UTC

    This year for Ada Lovelace day, I wrote a new Wikipedia page about Dr Isabel Gal, a Hungarian paediatrician and Holocaust Survivor who, in 1967,  was responsible for establishing a link between use of the hormonal pregnancy test Primodos and severe congenital birth defects.  I came across Gal quite by chance via the @OnThisDayShe twitter account, which aims to “Put women back into history, one day at a time.”  

    A quick google showed that while there were Wikipedia entries for Primodos and for Baroness Cumberlege who led a review into the drug, there was no entry for Gal herself.  Which is all the more astonishing given the extraordinary and tenacious life she led.  Gal, a Hungarian Jew, survived the Holocaust after being interred in Auschwitz along with her mother and two sisters, all of whom survived.  Her father however died in Mauthausen concentration camp.  After the war, Gal studied to become a paediatrician at the University of Budapest and married mathematician Endre Gal.  During the Hungarian revolution of 1956, Gal and her family fled to the UK, after being smuggled out of Hungary into Austria.  What I didn’t know when I started writing the article was that Gal re-qualified as a doctor at the University of Edinburgh.  According to her daughter-in-law, who wrote her obituary for the Guardian, she found Scottish accents easier to understand than London ones.  I haven’t been able to find any information online about Gal’s time in Edinburgh, but I’ll be contacting the University’s Centre for Research Collections as soon as I get back from leave, to see what they can dig up. 

    In 1967, while working at St Mary’s Children’s Hospital in Surrey, Gal published a short article in Nature magazine highlighting a link between Primodos, a hormonal pregnancy test marketed by the German drug company Shering AG, and serious congenital birth defects.  She also pointed out that the test used the same components as oral contraceptive pills.  Despite taking her findings to the Department of Health,  the Committee on Safety of Medicines, and the government’s Senior Medical Officer, Bill Inman, her warnings were ignored, partially as a result of concerns that they would discourage women from taking oral contraception.  Primodos was banned in several European countries in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1975 that a warning was added to Primodos in UK, and it was only withdrawn from the market in 1978, for commercial reasons.  A long running campaign by the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, and the discovery of documents revealing that Shering had concealed information relating to the dangers of the drug, eventually resulted in a government review that found that there was no causal association between Primodos and birth defects.  However Theresa May, who was then prime minister, ordered a second review led by Baroness Cumberlege, which published its findings earlier this year and concluded that there was indeed a link and that the drug should have been withdrawn from use in 1967. 

    Gal believed she was blacklisted as a result of her campaign and after being repeatedly turned down for senior positions, she eventually left the medical profession. She died in London in 2017 at the age of 92, two years before the Cumberlege review vindicated her findings. 

    Interviewed about the review’s findings, Theresa May said she believed that sexism had been partially responsible for the authorities failure to act. 

    “I almost felt it was sort of women being patted on the head and being told ‘there there dear’, don’t worry. You’re imagining it. You don’t know. We know better than you do….I think this is a very sad example of a situation where people were badly affected, not just by the physical and mental aspect of what Primodos actually did, but by the fact that nobody then listened to them…”

    A Skye News investigation in 2017  revealed that Inman, who had originally stonewalled Gal’s efforts to have the drug withdrawn, and whose own research showed an increased risk of birth defects among women who had used hormone pregnancy tests, had destroyed his research data, “to prevent individual claims being based on his material”.   

    Dr Gal’s story, and her omission from Wikipedia, are sadly typical of many women scientists whose contributions have been stifled, stonewalled, ignored, elided and written out of history.  It’s very telling that while Gal didn’t even have a red link, Inman has an extensive and glowing Wikipedia entry, which makes no mention of his role in the Primodos scandal or the fact that he destroyed evidence relating to the case.  However with the publication of the Cumberlege  Review and a new Sky documentary, Bitter Pill: Primodos, there has been increased interest in Gal’s role in highlighting the dangers of hormonal pregnancy tests.  I hope her new Wikipedia entry will help others to discover Dr Isabel Gal’s amazing story, and bring her the recognition she deserves. 

    Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day with Wikipedia

    18:46, Tuesday, 13 2020 October UTC

    Today is Ada Lovelace Day, honoring women in STEM. Named after Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who is widely considered to be one of the first computer programmers. Improving Wikipedia’s coverage of women in STEM has been an ongoing theme around Ada Lovelace Day.

    In the 10 years we’ve been supporting student editors through our Wikipedia Student Program, many courses have focused on improving biographies of women in science. In particular, the University of Calgary’s Glenn Dolphin has taught four geology classes focused on improving biographies of women geologists, with a fifth course planned for next term. And Colorado College’s Rebecca Barnes has taught seven courses focused in improving underrepresented scientists, many of whom are women. Saint Mary’s College’s Kathryn Haas has taught three courses improving biographies of women in STEM. Many other faculty have encouraged students to help close this gender gap as part of Wiki Education’s Communicating Science initiative.

    Many of our Scholars & Scientists courses also focus on improving biographies of women in STEM. In the last year, we have collaborated with the organization 500 Women Scientists to run two courses on improving biographies of women in science. The course in spring 2020 resulted in 11 new biographies of women scientists, with dozens more expanded. We are in the middle of a second class which we expect will also add more quality biographies. A course sponsored by the American Physical Society that we also ran this spring added biographies of underrepresented physicists, many of whom were women. We’re also in the middle of a second course with APS.

    If you’re inspired by Ada Lovelace Day and are interested in hosting a similar course for your organization, visit wikiedu.org/partnerships for more information.

    ImageFile:Ada Lovelace portrait.jpgScience Museum Group, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

    This Month in GLAM: September 2020

    02:49, Tuesday, 13 2020 October UTC
    • Brazil report: Wikidata birthday celebrations, Wiki Loves Monuments, new partnerships and more!
    • Colombia report: GLAM and virtual education
    • France report: AAF training course; Workshops in Strasbourg; European Heritage Days: Rennes; Wiki Loves Monuments
    • Germany report: Ahoy! Wikipedians set sail to document the reality of modern seafaring
    • Indonesia report: New GLAM partnerships on data donation; Commons structured data edit-a-thon
    • Norway report: Students taking on GLAM Wiki women in red
    • Sweden report: Musikverket: more folk music and photos; Hack for Heritage 2020; Wiki Loves Monuments; Wikipedia in the libraries; Digital Book Fair on Wikipedia
    • UK report: National Lottery; Khalili Collections
    • USA report: Virtual events MetFashion, 19SuffrageStories, WikiCari Festival and more
    • Open Access report: New publication about access to digitised cultural heritage
    • WMF GLAM report: Launching Wikisource Pagelist Widget
    • Calendar: ctober’s GLAM events

    This fall, we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Wikipedia Student Program with a series of blog posts telling the story of the program in the United States and Canada.

    After a decade of running the Wikipedia Student Program, we know why so many instructors are drawn to this novel assignment and why they return to it over and over again. At its core, the assignment allows students to have an immediate, real world impact on a site that is accessed daily by millions around the globe. There are few projects that can claim that type of reach and scope, and the pride our students and instructors experience is infectious and palpable. While pride and satisfaction are some of the highlights of the Wikipedia assignment, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Like Wikipedia itself, the pedagogical value of the Wikipedia assignment has evolved since the program’s inception in 2010, and indeed, the skills students learn from contributing to Wikipedia are more important than ever.

    Digital literacy and digital citizenship

    When I joined Wiki Education in 2014, the program had already been running for four years, and I was excited to support a program that helped students develop critical digital literacy skills. To be sure, most of the students who participate in our program “are tech savvy” and can fluidly navigate between different social media platforms. Tech savvy and digitally literate, however, are not one and the same, and the Wikipedia assignment is often the first time students truly learn how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information.

    For years the overwhelming majority of our instructors — well over 90% — had regularly indicated that the Wikipedia assignment facilitated the learning of digital literacy skills among their students, but in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and the rise of fake news, this statistic took on new meaning. Digital literacy has taken on a new sense of urgency, and it is no longer a “nice to have” for today’s students. Wikipedia is only as reliable as its sources, so learning to critically evaluate sources is a key component of the Wikipedia assignment. In a nutshell, students quickly learn that not all sources of information are created equally. They begin to question not only a source’s content, but its origin, its author, and its connection to the subject at hand. More importantly, they begin to realize how easy it is to disseminate unreliable information and how quickly misinformation spreads. As one of our students remarked, “It raises an awareness of what is good information, what is bad information … you have much more of a questioning mentality and you’re a lot more conscious of the validity of the information that you read.”

    At last year’s WikiConference North America, a speaker declared that digital literacy is a human right. More than that though, digital literacy is a key component to developing a strong and lasting sense of digital citizenship — i.e., as members of an increasingly complex digital community, we all share responsibility for maintaining the health and well-being of the community and all of its participants. And this, more than anything else, has come to represent one of the shining beacons of the Wikipedia assignment.

    More than 90% of our instructors remark that the Wikipedia assignment helped their students to develop a sense of digital citizenship. In short, when students learn to contribute to Wikipedia, they not only learn how to discern between reliable and unreliable sources of information, but they learn that they have an obligation to share information that is reliable and call out information that is untrustworthy and misleading.

    Social and cultural competence

    Wikipedians like to talk a lot about “content gaps” and how to address them. In essence, a content gap on Wikipedia is just missing information on a given subject; but not all content gaps are created equally. Because Wikipedia is edited by volunteers and that volunteer base is largely composed of males from the West, Wikipedia has some glaring content gaps, most notably around subjects related to women and other historically marginalized populations. One doesn’t have to dig too deep to find examples of these inequities. Only slightly more than 18% of Wikipedia’s biographies are of women — a reality that groups like WikiProject: Women in Red are attempting to remedy. The fact remains though that despite its more than 6 million articles, Wikipedia still has a long way to go when it comes to issues of equity.

    Wiki Education has long since been committed to helping fill in Wikipedia’s equity gaps, and we know that our students play an important role in this endeavor. We know that through our students Wikipedia now has coverage of topics that were previously missing or underdeveloped. Whether it’s writing about female scientists whose contributions to their fields have been left out of the historical record or the cultures of indigenous communities, the impact to Wikipedia is evident. More elusive though is how this work has affected our students.

    A few terms back, we began asking instructors whether the Wikipedia assignment has improved the social and cultural awareness of their students, and the majority agreed that it did. In essence, like their growing sense of digital citizenship, students, especially those who focus on equity gaps, begin to learn how to discern bias both in knowledge production and consumption. They begin to understand how knowledge inequities arise and how they can be remedied. They start to identify why certain types of information are regularly missing and how bias can pervade every part of the knowledge production process from sources to the final product. As one instructor wrote, “The project also increased their understanding of representation — who is included, who is not, and whose absence we notice.”

    As the program has developed, we’ve adapted our materials to get all students thinking about these issues, not just those directly tackling issues related to equity and bias. It’s our hope that all students will think about bias at some point during their Wikipedia assignment, whether they’re contributing in the field of plant biology or gender studies.

    Research and evaluation

    It’s not uncommon for our instructors to report that their students step foot into their university’s library for the first time to complete their Wikipedia assignment. While this might look different during the COVID era, the sentiment holds true. A key part of learning to discern reliable sources of information from the unreliable is knowing how and where to find those sources. It is no surprise then that librarians play a critical role in many of our courses.

    Learning how to contribute to Wikipedia is inherently an enterprise in learning how to search for information. Students learn how to comb databases, examine archives, identify leading journals in a variety of fields, as well as how to approach their librarians for help. They might even pick up a physical book or two in the process. In Spring 2020, one of our instructors relayed the following anecdote: “Because of the pandemic, our university library was slower than usual. One student, frustrated that one of the books she wanted to read for the Wikipedia assignment was not immediately available at our university library, got on a bicycle and went to borrow a book in a city library in her town. I’ve never seen a student do that.”

    While we may speak about the skills students obtain from learning how to contribute to Wikipedia as distinct items, they are all bound up together. Library fluency and digital literacy are, in many ways, two sides of the same coin, and students are developing both skills simultaneously. Similarly, as students are learning how to search for and identify reliable sources of information, they’re also learning how to critically evaluate that information so they can ultimately apply it to their Wikipedia contribution.


    There are very few professional paths in which people are not expected to work collaboratively to complete a project. Yet, most academic assignments undertaken at the college level are solo endeavors. Whether or not anyone comments on your contribution or alters it in any way, contributing to Wikipedia is inherently an act of collaboration and cooperation with a community of dedicated volunteers. It can often be nerve-racking for students to receive feedback or have their work edited by another user, but they ultimately learn how to accept and offer feedback as well as how to work with others to improve the final product. According to one instructor, “My students learned important lessons from the feedback they received from the Wikipedia community. I try to teach these lessons, but there is nothing quite like the experience to make an impact.”

    Students are often very proud of their Wikipedia contributions. They regularly show them to family and friends and feel a great deal of satisfaction about their work. They also know, though, that next time they look, their contribution might be altered or gone all together and to accept that outcome as ok. Collaboration doesn’t mean making sure that your ideas stick, but rather, that your ideas and hard work guide and inspire others.

    In fact, based on current research around the impact our students have on Wikipedia, we know that page viewership for the articles our students edit are higher and as a result, these articles are more likely to be edited and updated in turn. The collaborative element of the Wikipedia assignment is immediate, but it’s also a long term dialogue that continues well after our students finish out the term. Their edits contribute to an article’s trajectory, and this longevity teaches our students that collaboration is an ongoing process.

    Empowerment and community building

    In the past several years, a growing number of instructors have remarked on the empowering nature of the Wikipedia assignment. They describe it as a service-learning project or as an act of social change. Students are in an incredibly privileged position vis-a-vis knowledge and their access to expertise, and many institutions and instructors are beginning to recognize that mastery of that knowledge isn’t enough. Today’s students need to use that knowledge to bring about change both on their college campuses and the communities in which they’ll ultimately live and participate.

    Even if it’s just for a single term, the Wikipedia assignment often makes students feel like experts capable of providing the world with reliable and important information in a given field. They can do something their professors can do — namely, publish work for the world to see — and indeed, their contributions are often viewed more widely than any material published in an academic journal. They are empowered to trust in their own abilities, and they know that the information they share may empower someone else in turn.

    To edit Wikipedia is to know that you have the power and the know-how to make a real difference. As one of our former students wrote, “To have some concrete thing that I feel like I can really do right now has made me really feel more confident that I can find other ways to create change going forward. I call my senators, I vote, I donate to the ACLU, and now, I edit Wikipedia.”

    One assignment, many outcomes

    In 2016, Wiki Education sponsored a study to evaluate the learning outcomes of the Wikipedia assignment. Based on a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the thousands of students participating in the program in Fall 2016, we learned that the learning outcomes of the Wikipedia assignment were indeed myriad. What sets the Wikipedia assignment apart though is not the individual skills that students develop as a result of contributing to Wikipedia, but the fact that they learn so many distinct skills at once. As one instructor remarked, “There are few assignments that incorporate all of MY course goals (teaching critical thinking, practicing research skills, writing intensive work, facilitating collaboration between students, teaching practical skills, and incorporating equity work) in a succinct manner. The cherry on top was the degree to which students engaged with the project and created thoughtful and significant edits (which in many cases either significantly improved/changed the Wikipedia pages or created totally new and original content).”

    As the Wikipedia Student Program enters its second decade of operation, the project will continue to evolve, but we’re confident that students will continue to develop a wealth of academic, professional, and personal skills as a result of their involvement — even if only briefly — with Wikipedia and its editing community.

    Tech News issue #42, 2020 (October 12, 2020)

    00:00, Monday, 12 2020 October UTC
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    weeklyOSM 533

    11:54, Sunday, 11 2020 October UTC


    lead picture

    Water Map – refill your bottle 1 | © European Water Project – map data © OpenStreetMap contributors


    • lukas64 proposed the new tag electricity:source=* (renewable, solar, wind, etc.) to define the source of the available electricity as renewable or from other sources. The proposal is open for comments.
    • reDoubleYou proposes the new tag shop=direct_marketing to describe a place where privately produced products can be purchased. The proposal is open for comments now.
    • Voting is under way until 19 October for the proposed tag amenity=drinks, for a place which sells bubble tea, milk tea, milk, juice, and other similar beverages.


    • User naveenpf explained to us his way of contributing to building a successful OSM community.
    • The Italian user Cascafico described his attempts to put the Italian schools ‘in their place’, an exercise, in his opinion, almost desperate, given the uneven situation of OSM civic numbers in Italy and given the (for the moment) poor flexibility of the Nominatim geocoder. It remains an exercise because we are waiting to clarify the licence (IODL) of the source data.
    • Last Wednesday Map For Future, an active group of OSM contributors in Italy held (it) an online Volunteering Workshop – Mapathon.
      They mapped housing settlements and interconnecting infrastructure in the city of Wajaale in Somaliland using OpenStreetMap, to contribute to the development of the area and help local and international NGOs in their action in the field.
    • The Italian OSM community gathered last Wednesday in a virtual meetup organised by Lorenzo Stucchi, the Lombardy OSM Coordinator for Wikimedia Italia. Several short OSM presentations were held during the meetup.

    Local chapter news

    • The minutes of the OpenStreetMap France Board of Directors meeting of 6 October are available (fr) > en
    • The new Local Chapter OpenStreetMap US wants to redesign its website. Suggestions are being sought.


    • Next Geomob event, a forum to learn and exchange ideas about any interesting services and projects that deal with location, will take place online on 14 October and will be open to up to 100 participants. Videos of the talks will be published after the event.
    • The Australian Surveying & Spatial Science Institute (SSSI) is organising a mapathon to be held on 31 October, focusing on mapping water infrastructure (dams, water tanks, etc.) in preparation for summer 2020/2021. The updated information will be used in the Growing Data Foundation’s FireWater web app to provide real-time water source data to on-the-ground fire crews.

    Humanitarian OSM

    • User feyeandal reported about HOT-Philippines’ completion of remote mapping and validation for Pampanga.
    • HOT’s 2020 Summit will be held online on 4 December, in conjunction with the Understanding Risk conference. Four of HOT’s staff members reflected on how they have learned, connected, and been inspired at Understanding Risk conferences in the past.


    • The Federal German Office of Cartography and Geodesy and the Federal German Institute for Population Research presented (de) a demographic and cartographic journey through 30 years of German unity and diversity.
    • LEO-BW, the regional information system for Baden-Wuerttemberg, presented (de) > en a new orthophoto of the state made by digitising aerial photographs taken in 1968. You can view the changes that have taken place since then in a side-by-side view.
    • The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has made data from OpenStreetMap available through the Pacific Environment Portal to enable users to directly download OSM data.



    • Katharina Przybill showed how to carry out complex analyses using ohsome’s magical filter parameter by investigating Heidelberg’s cycling infrastructure.
    • The Prototype Fund, a funding program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), is supporting (de) > en the further development of StreetComplete.Other projects (de) > en are also worth a look – including, for example, Grandine (de) > en for vectorising OpenStreetMap maps or the GeoHub (de) > en for adding new geodata to OpenStreetMap and many more!


    • Thérèse Quy Thy Truong, Guillaume Touya and Cyril De Runz, members of LaSTIG (IGN), presented a new approach to detecting vandalism in OSM based on deep learning and the use of random forest classifiers. This new method, along with the associated scripts, is called OSMWatchman. This work has also been the subject of a PhD thesis completed by Thérèse Quy Thy Truong, which reports on the different forms of vandalism and the detection methods that can be implemented accordingly. The OSMWatchman source code is available on github.


    • Version 17084 of JOSM was released on 5 October.
    • GeoServer, a Java-based software server that enables users to display and edit geodata, is now available in version 2.18.0.
    • Version 2.0 of the open source GraphHopper routing engine has been released.

    Did you know …

    • …[1] the NGO European Water Project ‘Water-Map’? Created in 2019, it shows places where you can fill your water bottle free of charge and encourages people to contribute to the map. Menus are available in nine different languages, unfortunately without permalinks (you have to reselect the language every time you return to the website).
    • Unroll, the latest tool from the Jungle Bus team? Use it to display the details of public transport routes: attributes, trips, timetables, stops, shapes, etc.
    • … about OpenStreetMap US Mappy Hours, the virtual hangouts for the US community? Recordings of most past events are available on YouTube.
    • … what to do when you find OSM maps used without attribution? There is a wiki page listing websites that are using OSM data without correct attribution. The page also describes the steps to follow if you discover another example of missing attribution. We note that the list is getting longer and longer, which raises the question whether there should be a formal body to follow these up?

    OSM in the media

    • Antônio Heleno Caldas Laranjeira outlined (pt) > en good reasons to talk about open maps.

    Other “geo” things

    • Apple Maps has launched (de) > en more detailed maps for Europe starting with Great Britain. The added details range from vegetation to street coverage and buildings; the ‘Look Around’ function, an alternative to Google’s Streetview, is currently only available for London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.
    • We reported that Grant Slater announced that there is, finally, a free RTK / NTRIP caster (RTK base station) in London. Adrian 2 has tried it and concluded that the position is approximately aligned with WGS 84. This contrasts with the other stations on Grant’s list, which are aligned with the European datum ETRS. Adrian 2 also describes the Centipede (fr) > en project in France, which has set up an independent network of RTK base stations (fr) > en . No password is needed to receive corrections from the NTRIP caster. If you are setting up an RTK base station, he describes in the second half of a diary entry how you can obtain the position to within one or two centimetres using free online services.
    • pocketnavigation.de compared (de) > en two navigation devices in detail: the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus and the TwoNav Cross.
    • This new simulation game (we reported earlier) allows you to redesign the streets of Seattle and study the effects.

    Upcoming Events

    Where What When Country
    Berlin 148. Berlin-Brandenburg Stammtisch (Online) 2020-10-09 germany
    Michigan Michigan Online Meetup 2020-10-12 usa
    Bonnclos_fabric.txt 132. Bonner OSM-Stammtisch (Online) 2020-10-13 germany
    Munich Münchner Stammtisch 2020-10-13 germany
    Salt Lake City / Virtual OpenStreetMap Utah Map Night 2020-10-13 united states
    Cobb Virtual Academy OSMUK AGM plus presentations 2020-10-17 united kingdom
    Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen 2020-10-20 germany
    Berlin OSM-Verkehrswende #16 (Online) 2020-10-20 germany
    Nottingham Nottingham pub meetup 2020-10-20 united kingdom
    Bremen Bremer Stammtisch 2020-10-26 germany
    Arlon Réunion des contributeurs OpenStreetMap 2020-10-26 belgium
    Salt Lake City / Virtual OpenStreetMap Utah Map Night 2020-10-27 united states
    Düsseldorf Düsseldorfer OSM-Stammtisch 2020-10-28 germany
    Salt Lake City / Virtual OpenStreetMap Utah Map Night 2020-10-29 united states
    Online 2020 Pista ng Mapa 2020-11-13-2020-11-27 philippines
    Online FOSS4G SotM Oceania 2020 2020-11-20 oceania

    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 appropriate.

    This weeklyOSM was produced by AnisKoutsi, Anne Ghisla, MatthiasMatthias, MichaelFS, Nordpfeil, PierZen, Rogehm, SK53, TheSwavu, richter_fn.

    Civilization V cross-play is dead

    01:30, Friday, 09 2020 October UTC

    PSA for Civilization V aficionados: the Windows and Mac versions are no longer compatible for online multiplayer.

    It seems the game’s online state management is probably based on passing raw game structures, and some types differ between 32-bit and 64-bit versions: the Windows version of the game is 32-bit, but the Mac version was updated to 64-bit last year to allow it to run on recent versions of macOS that dropped 32-bit support.

    It’s unclear whether updating the Windows version to 64 bit would resolve the incompatibility, as macOS and Windows have some different types at 64-bit as well.


    This was an avoidable problem, by either using device independent serializations or device independent core representations. And it was exacerbated by Apple dropping 32-bit compatibility and forcing developers to make rushed decisions about supporting or abandoning legacy products.

    10 years of impact to Wikipedia’s content

    16:16, Thursday, 08 2020 October UTC

    This fall, we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Wikipedia Education Program with a series of blog posts telling the story of the program in the United States and Canada.

    Since its inception in 2010, the program now known as the Wikipedia Student Program has added 66 million words to 90,000 articles. In 2018 the program hit the milestone of having added as many words as the final print issue of Encyclopedia Britannica — a total of 44 million words. Two years later, we’re at 1.5 Britannicas. In a decade in which the pool of active contributors to Wikipedia declined sharply before leveling off, the efforts by student editors to contribute content to Wikipedia have become an increasingly important part of the project to write the world’s largest and most inclusive encyclopedia.

    But the simple ability of students to add content to Wikipedia is neither positive nor negative. Bad content, after all, imposes a cost to the project by putting demands on volunteer time (Wikipedia’s most limited resource) to clean things up and remove bad work. So it’s not only important that students add content, it’s important that they add good content.

    A student created the Euglossa imperialis article in 2015; today, 91% of the content comes from the student’s work.

    Across an extremely wide swath of topics, student editors have been able to make substantial improvements to the quality of content on Wikipedia. Sometimes, like with the Euglossa imperialis article shown in the image at right, the article created by the student tends to stay pretty much as is. Although this article was created in 2015, 91% of the article text remains the work of the student editor who created it; most subsequent edits have been WikiGnoming of one sort or another. In other cases though, student edits act as a catalyst for further development of the article.

    At the start of 2016 the article about Kalief Browder — an African American boy who was imprisoned in Riker’s Island for three years without trial for the crime of allegedly stealing a backpack — was about 380 words long. In spring term that year, a student editor in Fabian Neuner’s Black Lives and Deaths class worked on Browder’s biography and expanded it to more than 5,500 words. The difference in this case is that the article has continued to attract edits since the class ended. In the remainder of 2016, after the class ended, the article received 135 edits, almost precisely the same number of edits (133) as it had received in the previous two years. Not only that, the article has continued to develop as other editors have tweaked and modified the article. At the end of the class, 82% of the article was the work of one student editor; today it’s only 53%. The article about the short life and tragic death of Kalief Browder hasn’t gotten much longer, but its overall quality has continued to improve.

    In 2016, a student in George Waldbusser’s Biogeochemical Earth class created the Boring Billion article about the roughly 1 billion-year long period in Earth’s history in which not a whole lot seems to have happened. By the time the class was done working on that article, they had turned a redirect into a well-written, well-referenced, well-illustrated article. Three years later, another Wikipedian, User:Dunkleosteus77, improved the article and had it promoted to Good Article status. Although Dunkleosteus77 restructured and rewrote most of the article (to the point where they are now responsible for 66% of the article text), they had something that was fairly substantial to work from.

    The increased editing could be attributed to a number of causes. Kalief Browder’s biography received may have attracted edits due to the increased awareness of his imprisonment and suicide after his release set against the slow rise in attention paid to the Black Lives Matter movement between 2016 and early 2020. It’s possible that User:Dunkleosteus77 would have created the Boring Billion article themselves if it hadn’t been created by students. But it’s also possible that these articles attracted efforts to improve them because they existed and because they already had a substantial amount of good content.

    It’s very difficult to generalize from individual examples like this. It seems likely, but each individual story may just be an outlier, an unusual case. But a recent study by Kai Zhu and colleagues showed that articles improved by student editors in Wiki Education-supported classes attracted more page views and edits than did a paired set of similar articles that students hadn’t edited. They were able to show that in the six months following the expansion of articles by students in our program, other Wikipedians continued to edit these articles at higher rates than they did before the student editors expanded them. This may reflect the fact that student editors play an outsized role in the early development of articles related to academic topic areas.

    It’s important to recognize that the process of content creation over the past ten years has been a partnership between Wiki Education and a growing group of dedicated instructors who bring their students back to Wikipedia year after year. For the instructors that do this, there’s a possibility for their students to make a major impact on the way an area of knowledge is portrayed on Wikipedia — or whether it’s present at all. In 2013, Erik Herzog brought the Wikipedia assignment to his chronobiology class for the first time, and they’re returned every other Spring. When three chronobiologists shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2017, the world rushed to Wikipedia to discover who these people were. And they read biographies that had been written by students in different iterations of the class. When instructors bring their students back to the same general area, year after year, as some have, a true corpus of knowledge is added to Wikipedia; beginning in 2012, Joan Strassmann’s behavioral ecology classes have added almost 1.5 million words to Wikipedia in articles about bees, wasps, and flies.

    When student editors contribute in areas that are outside of the subjects that Wikipedia’s volunteer community tends to favor, they aren’t just adding content. They’re also encouraging other Wikipedians to also edit in these topic areas, expanding the coverage of underrepresented topics even more than their individual editing can. When you combine the cumulative impact of a decade of student contributions to Wikipedia with the contributions of other Wikipedians who built off their contributions, the cumulative impacts to open knowledge are immense.

    How a Wiki Scholar improved a Nobel laureate’s biography

    18:57, Wednesday, 07 2020 October UTC

    We awoke this morning to the exciting news that the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded today to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work on CRISPR. It’s exciting to see this amazing discovery recognized, and it’s great to see the prize go to women, but I was especially pleased that a participant in one of our courses had made such a major impact on the Wikipedia biography of one of these Nobel laureates.

    highlighted contributions to article from Wiki Education participant
    Laura Hoopes’ additions (highlighted in purple) to Jennifer Doudna’s Wikipedia biography still dominates the article two years after the class.

    Two years ago, Dr. Laura Hoopes, as a participant in one of our Wiki Scholars classes, improved Dr. Doudna’s biography on Wikipedia. Before Dr. Hoopes started working on the article, Dr. Doudna’s work on CRISPR was discussed in a four-sentence paragraph which described it as “a new discovery that would reduce the time and work needed to edit genomic DNA”. Thanks to Dr. Hoopes’ additions, the article explains the revolutionary potential of CRISPR and the role played by Dr. Doudna and her team. Had she not added this content, readers who arrived at Dr. Doudna’s Wikipedia biography to understand why she was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize might have left none the wiser.

    There’s more to this story too. As I wrote in a blog post in 2018:

    If you read Dr. Doudna’s biography at the start of August, you would you have read about her career as Jack W. Szostak‘s student at Harvard Medical School, as Thomas Cech‘s postdoc at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the way her graduate student (and now, husband) helped her elucidate the three-dimensional folding structure of the Tetrahymena Group I ribozyme. And, below that, four sentences on her contribution to gene editing, including the all-important TED talk. If you read Dr. Doudna’s biography as it stood at the start of August, you would read the biography of a remarkable woman, told in relation to the major men in her life.

    Far too often, the women’s achievements are told in relation to men. It’s almost like they are interpreted for “normal readers” through the context of the men in their lives. This is so commonplace, so normal, that it almost becomes invisible. By reframing these sentences just a little, to bring the focus to Dr. Doudna (who is, after all, the central character in her life’s story) Dr. Hoopes was able to eliminate some of the unconscious bias that pervades the way we write about, and see, women’s achievements.

    Three years ago, when the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was announced, participants in Wiki Education’s Student Program were major contributors to the biographies of the three winners. Two years ago when Dr. Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize for Physics, her absence from Wikipedia was a major embarrassment. Because most Wikipedia articles are written by volunteers who write about what interests them, what’s covered depends on who shows up to write.

    If you can, please find a way to show up. To see our current course offerings, visit learn.wikiedu.org.

    Image of Dr. Jennifer Doudna: Jussi Puikkonen/KNAW / CC BY


    Ornithologists in cartoons

    11:19, Tuesday, 06 2020 October UTC
    From: The Graphic. 25 April 1874.
    It is said that the modern version of badminton evolved from a game played in Poona (some sources name the game itself as Poona). When I saw this picture from 1874 about five years ago, I gave little thought to it. Revisiting it after five years after some research on one of A.O. Hume's ornithological collaborators, I have a strong hunch that one of the people depicted in the picture is recognizable although it is not going to be easy to confirm this.

    I recently created a Wikipedia entry for a British administrator who worked in the Bombay Presidency, G.W. Vidal, when I came across a genealogy website (whose maintainer unfortunately was uncontactable by email) with notes on his life that included a photograph in profile and a cartoon. The photograph was apparently taken by Vidal himself, a keen amateur photographer apart from being a snake and bird enthusiast. Like naturalists of that epoch, many of his specimens were shot, skinned or pickled and sent off to museums or specialists. He was an active collaborator of Hume and contributed a long note in Stray Feathers on the birds of Ratnagiri District, where he was a senior ICS official. He continued to contribute notes after the ornithological exit of Hume, to the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. This gives further support for an idea I have suggested before that a key stimulus for the formation of the BNHS was the end of Stray Feathers. Vidal's mother has the claim for being the first women novelist of Australia. Interestingly one of his daughters, Norah, married Major Robert Mitchell Betham (2 May 1864 – 14 March 1940), another keen amateur ornithologist born in Dapoli, who is well-known in Bangalore birding circles for being the first to note Lesser Floricans in the region. Now Vidal was involved in popularizing badminton in India, apparently creating some of the rules that allowed matches to be played. The man at the left in the sketch in the 1874 edition of The Graphic looks quite like Vidal, but who knows! What do you think?

    PS: Vidal sent bird specimens to Hume, and at least two subspecies have been named from his specimens after him - Perdicula asiatica vidali and Todiramphus chloris vidali.

    For more information on Vidal, do take a look at the Wikipedia entry. More information from readers is welcome as usual.

    PS: 26-July-2020: It would appear that an old Fives court (Fives was something like squash played with the bare hand) near Sholapur was also of some ornithological interest [on lesser florican]:
    I think I can safely say that there is only one place in India where this bird has been shot, and where I have shot it during every month in the year, and that is Sholapur. There was a grass and baubul jungle near the old Fives court on the Bijapur Road which always contained florican. - "Felix" (1906). Recollections of a Bison & Tiger Hunter. London:J.M. Dent & Co. p. 183.

    Bot or Not? Identifying ”fake” traffic on Wikipedia

    18:17, Monday, 05 2020 October UTC

    By Nuria Ruiz, Joseph Allemandou, Leila Zia, and MusikAnimal, Wikimedia Analytics and Research

    Wikipedia, one of the largest websites in the world, gets a lot of traffic. At peak times, Wikipedia might serve as much as 10,000 pageviews per second, and as you would expect, most of these pageviews come from people reading articles to find information. Many other pageviews (about 25% of total) are from entities that we refer to as “Bots.” 

    “Bot” is a very overloaded term nowadays. It is used to talk about fraudulent accounts on social networks, the crawler technology that Google uses to “read” and index websites, and in the wiki world, the “bot” term is used frequently to describe automated scripts with different levels of ability that “watch” and edit Wikipedia pages. The work of these scripts is needed to fight vandalism by reverting edits that are harmful in intent, like edits that might remove most of the content of a page.

    These “helpful scripts” are what we refer to as “good bots” (the word “good” here just means that they actually do meaningful work). The bots we are going to talk about in this article are you guessed it not so helpful, and while they are not sophisticated, they can cause some damage.

    For a very innocuous example of the “damage” one of these bots can cause, take a look at the top pageview list for English Wikipedia for March 2020 right when the COVID pandemic is expanding in Europe.

    Pageview list for English Wikipedia for March 2020, Own work

    See anything strange on that list? There are more than 100 million pageviews for the “United States Senate” page, a glaring anomaly in a list that is mostly about COVID. So, what’s going on here? Well, someone is spamming Wikipedia requesting the “United States Senate” page over and over; that much is obvious. But, why? The answer is that we have no idea. 

    As it is often the case with big data, we can tell what is happening but not why. One possibility is that it could be someone testing their botnet by pulling a Wikipedia page. Our overall request rate metrics are public, and it might be very tempting to try to move those for some bad actors. Botnets are cheap to run nowadays and an experiment like requesting the “United States Senate” page a hundred million times might only cost a very modest amount. 

    Another possibility is that these are “keep-alive” requests: an application requesting some URL over and over to make sure it is online.

    Other examples of pages that get quite a lot of traffic at times are the planet  Venus and the List of Australian stand-up comedians. The latter has hundreds of millions of pageviews

    We call these types of actors “bot spammers.” They are actors that, while not totally legitimate, cause little harm. 

    The second category of bot traffic that we worry about is not so harmless.

    Here’s a  list of the top pageview pages from Hungarian Wikipedia in October 2019. While the list is in Hungarian it is probably easy for an English speaker to identify what stands out:

    Top pageview pages from Hungarian Wikipedia in October 2019, Own work

    See it? There are quite a few sex and drug-related terms for starters. Not only that; the number of pageviews for those ‘questionable’ terms is very close, hovering around 200,000 for all of them. These are what we call “bot vandals.” The intent is pretty clear: vandalize the list of the top articles of a small Wikipedia. Vandals do try to do the same with larger Wikipedias like Spanish or English, but the number of requests required to get in the top 20 is a lot larger. 

    We have been working this past year to better identify and tag the “bot spam” traffic so we can produce top pageview lists that (mostly) do not require manual curation. 

    Up to April 2020, our classification for pageviews included only two types of actors: “users” and “spiders” (self-identified crawlers like Googlebot). Since all traffic not self-identified as “bot” was identified as “user,” quite a significant percentage of “bot spam” traffic was tagged as “user” traffic. This simple classification distorted our pageview numbers, as it made it seem that there was more user traffic than there really was. For example, we estimated that in 2019 between 5 to 8% of desktop pageviews in English Wikipedia tagged as “user” traffic was actually coming from “bot spammers/vandals.” That number could be as high as 800 pageviews a second. We continue processing and cataloging these requests, and from April 2020 onwards the traffic we identify as coming from spammers is tagged with the label “automated.” You can see here that it represents about 5% of total traffic. 

    It is interesting to notice that the effect of “bot spam” in the traffic data is not distributed equally across sites, wikis like Japanese Wikipedia seem hardly affected by spammers.

    The tagging of automatic traffic is far from perfect. Some automated traffic is still being labeled as “user” pageviews and a very small percentage of user traffic might be labeled as “automated.” 

    This happens because classifying traffic as automated is a less trivial problem to solve than it might seem at first instance—for two reasons: data volume and semantics. The volume of data you need to comb through to “weed out” the bad requests are huge; it could be in the terabytes range for just 1 day. Also, from our example above, it is by no means obvious to a machine that the “United States Senate” page should not be in a list that mostly contains pandemic related pages as in the regular (non-pandemic) times, the Top 20 list for Wikipedia contains pages about many different topics, so outliers might not be so apparent. We decided that for our first take at the problem we would focus on computing “content agnostic features,” like ratios of requests and number of pages requested per actor per “session” to see if, with this simpler set of dimensions, we could detect the bulk of the bot spam traffic.

    The community has been hard at work finding the characteristics of spammy traffic by hand for a while. For example,  a key factor in distinguishing “automated” versus “real user traffic” was assessing whether pages had similar pageview numbers in the desktop and mobile versions. If a page had millions of “only desktop” pageviews it was not included in any of the top lists that were curated by hand. After a few tries, we concluded that dimensions that did not consider the nature of the page and just focused on request ratios (a.k.a “content agnostic”) were sufficient for the first iteration of the system we rolled it out in April this year. We did a careful study of how the bot spam traffic affects the most popular wikis and if you are interested, there are many plots and details in our public technical docs. For questions and comments, you can drop us a line to analytics@lists.wikimedia.org.

    About this post

    Featured image credit: Unknown Chinese Maker Tin Wind Up Radar Robot Front, D J Shin, CC BY-SA 3.0

    Between 1560 and 1689, there were some 1,100 parishes in Scotland, each one served by a minister who, ideally, preached sermons once or twice a week, offered communion at least once a year, visited the sick and dying, oversaw the behaviour and morality of his neighbours, alongside a host of other responsibilities. As the Protestant Reformation in Scotland progressed, these men (and their families) became increasingly central to how religious change was experienced at a local level. Despite this prominence, we know remarkably little about them.

    The project Mapping the Scottish Reformation is an attempt to track all of Scotland’s ministers between the Reformation Parliament in 1560 and the Glorious Revolution in 1689. And by ‘track’, I mean that the project seeks to trace their movements: the big milestones in clerical careers, where and when they lived, and where they moved, where they were educated, who they married, and what happened to their children. The end result will be a weather map of sorts, that will allow us to observe ministers’ movements and the process of religious change.

    How do we find out about these people? We rely on surviving documents that were made at the time, usually by Church courts known as presbyteries. These documents are all housed in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, must be searched by most users on site, and must be transcribed by each visitor. There are no real indexes to help. Here’s an example of a two-page spread, typical of the manuscripts we use:

    NRS, CH2/185, 5, Haddington Presbytery Book, ff. 268-9

    To date, as part of our first case study, we have parsed around 3,500 pages of manuscript material like this, extracting twenty-two different data points: including ministers’ names, the parishes they served, the dates when they were appointed, the dates they transferred to other parishes, where they were educated, the locations to which they moved, when they were disciplined, when they died, etc.

    Most of the individuals we have found are obviously relatively obscure and have no item entry in Wikidata. Some were captured as part of the recent project the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, but most remained unknown to Wikidata. As such, we have created around one thousand new items over the last two months, all of which serve as a framework to record the key parameters of a cleric’s career.

    To ensure our data entry was as quick and reliable as possible, it was essential that we structured each new cleric on Wikidata by using existing properties. We followed the structure for most ‘human’ (Q5) entries to Wikidata, but then added ‘occupation’ and ‘residence’ properties. We added ‘start time’ and ‘end time’ qualifiers to ‘residence’ so we could track precisely when a minister arrived and left his parish.

    To capture the complexity of clerical careers in early modern Scotland, we made use of the ‘Significant Event’ property (P793). We had to get a little creative here, because some of the specialist terminology relating to the Church did not exist in Wikidata’s reams of items. As such, we created the following items that can be classified as ‘significant events’:

    In some rather more fruity cases, we made use of existing items such as ‘illness’, ‘repentance’, and even ‘execution’, as other ways to capture significant events. Coupled with the ‘point in time’ qualifier, we were able to record this information in quite a detailed way.

    One of the essential parts of this project is that we need to meticulously record where we obtained our information. As such, we had to devise a method to record manuscript information in Wikidata’s referencing system. Again, after lengthy consideration, we made use of existing properties already on Wikidata to capture the information we required. Incredibly, when used together, the properties ‘collection’, ‘inventory number’, and ‘folio(s)’ allowed us to recreate an academically robust system to reference manuscripts in their complexity. Here is an example:

    An example of referencing manuscripts with existing Wikidata properties. Taken from the entry for Henry Aickinhead, Q91915309

    In summary, Wikidata’s existing menu of properties and items provides significant amounts of flexibility in designing schema that can capture the messy and complex world of the early modern cleric. Indeed, the scope of Wikidata’s flexibility could accommodate a range of projects that gather data from manuscript sources. During the several months we have been working with Wikidata, we have successfully ported over thousands of data points from manuscripts kept under lock and key at the National Records of Scotland, traced the careers of over 900 clerics and started, tentatively to manipulate this data through the Wikidata Query Service. Keep watching our website mappingthescottishreformation.org and our Twitter account, @MappingScotsRef to see how our project, and our integration with Wikidata, develops.

    Chris R. Langley is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at Newman University, Birmingham. Mapping the Scottish Reformation is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Strathmartine Trust.

    Tech News issue #41, 2020 (October 5, 2020)

    00:00, Monday, 05 2020 October UTC
    previous 2020, week 41 (Monday 05 October 2020) next
    Other languages:
    Bahasa Indonesia • ‎British English • ‎Deutsch • ‎English • ‎Nederlands • ‎español • ‎français • ‎italiano • ‎magyar • ‎polski • ‎português do Brasil • ‎suomi • ‎svenska • ‎čeština • ‎русский • ‎українська • ‎עברית • ‎العربية • ‎ગુજરાતી • ‎ไทย • ‎中文 • ‎日本語 • ‎한국어

    Local Media Support for Wikibase

    00:00, Monday, 05 2020 October UTC

    You can now use media files from your wiki inside of Wikibase.

    We created a new data type for Wikibase that enables working with media files defined on your wiki. Previously Wikibase only supported working with media files from Wikimedia Commons. The new data type, called "Media file" works exactly like "Commons media file", but then for your local media files. The "Media file" data type is available via our new extension Wikibase Local Media.

    Wikibase Local Media was developed for, and funded by, Rhizome. It is available as free open source software and can be installed on any Wikibase wiki that runs Wikibase version 1.34 or 1.35. A huge thanks to Rhizome for funding this key functionality.


    Download and Installation

    View the installation instructions and documentation.

    We provide professional Wikibase services, including managed Wikibase hosting, Wikibase setup and Wikibase software development. Contact us for more information.


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    Production Excellence #11: May 2019

    22:05, Sunday, 04 2020 October UTC

    How’d we do in our strive for operational excellence last month? Read on to find out!

    📊 Month in numbers
    • 6 documented incidents. [1]
    • 41 new Wikimedia-prod-error tasks created. [2]
    • 36 Wikimedia-prod-error tasks closed. [3]

    The number of incidents in May of this year was comparable to previous years (6 in May 2019, 2 in May 2018, 5 in May 2017), and previous months (6 in May, 8 in April, 8 in March) – comparisons at CodePen.

    To read more about these incidents, their investigations, and pending actionables; check wikitech.wikimedia.org/wiki/Incident_documentation#2019.

    As of writing, there are 201 open Wikimedia-prod-error tasks (up from 186 last month). [4]

    📉 Current problems

    Take a look at the workboard and look for tasks that might need your help. The workboard lists known issues, grouped by the month in which they were first observed.


    Or help someone that’s already started with their patch:
    Open prod-error tasks with a Patch-For-Review

    Breakdown of recent months (past two weeks not included):

    • November: 2 issues left (unchanged).
    • December: 1 issue got fixed. 3 issues left (down from 4).
    • January: 1 issue left (unchanged).
    • February: 2 issues left (unchanged).
    • March: 1 issue got fixed. 4 issues remaining (down from 5).
    • April: 2 issues got fixed. 12 issues remain unresolved (down from 14).
    • May: 10 new issues found last month survived the month of May, and remain unresolved.

    By steward and software component, unresolved issues from April and May:

    • Wikidata / Lexeme (API query fatal): T223995
    • Wikidata / WikibaseRepo (API Fatal hasSlot): T225104
    • Wikidata / WikibaseRepo (Diff link fatal): T224270
    • Wikidata / WikibaseRepo (Edit undo fatal): T224030
    • Growth / Echo (Notification storage): T217079
    • Growth / Flow (Topic link fatal): T224098
    • Growth / Page deletion (File pages): T222691
    • Multimedia or CPT / API (Image info fatal): T221812
    • CPT / PHP7 refactoring (File descriptions): T223728
    • CPT / Title refactor (Block log fatal): T224811
    • CPT / Title refactor (Pageview fatals): T224814
    • (Unstewarded) Page renaming: T223175, T205675
    💡Ideas: To suggest an investigation to write about in a future edition, contact me by e-mail, or private message on IRC.

    🎉 Thanks!

    Thank you to everyone who has helped by reporting, investigating, or resolving problems in Wikimedia production.

    Until next time,

    – Timo Tijhof

    🎙“It’s not too shabby is it?


    [1] Incidents. –

    [2] Tasks created. –

    [3] Tasks closed. –

    [4] Open tasks. –

    weeklyOSM 532

    10:08, Sunday, 04 2020 October UTC


    lead picture

    Interactive Map for Environmental Emergency Management 1 | © Gobierno de Missiones CC-BY-SA map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    About us

    • The number of local chapters recognised by the OSM Foundation is increasing. For this reason from issue #533, weeklyOSM will have a new category ‘Local Chapter News’. Here every local chapter will have the opportunity to post articles using our guest mode. The local chapter can also decide in which language(s) the article should be published.


    • OSM contributor bkil proposed a scheme for tagging auditory signals, which are often used at pedestrian lights.
    • User Vollis proposed the tag amenity=chapel_of_rest for a room or building where families and friends can come and view someone who has died before their funeral.


    • Mateusz Konieczny recommended the following links as good instructions for 100% beginners in JOSM: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/JOSM,
      https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/JOSM/Guide and https://learnosm.org/en/josm/. Mikel Maron also suggested the instructions on the Mapbox website.
    • Lukasz Kruk laments the lack of mapping quality in some regions and explains his view on causes and possible remedies.
    • The idea to create a French newsletter (we reported) is discussed (fr) > en on loomio.
    • Map maintenance with StreetComplete is the first of the 12 projects funded by the first OSMF microgrant to submit a final report.
    • OpenStreetMap US published the 11th issue (September 2020) of its newsletter.
    • A (draft) wiki page concerning limitations on mapping private information has been set up. It states where mapping efforts should stop, for example not adding the names of inhabitants of dwellings or limiting the mapping of personal possessions (like TV sets, numbers of livestock or washing machines) to only those for communal use.


    • Pieter (user: pcmill) would like to start a project to import around 160,000 trees in the city of Utrecht, The Netherlands, and asks for comments.
    • The wiki page ‘Friesland Hydranten Import’ describes (de) > en a procedure to import an official and complete list of fire_hydrants=* (only two were mapped before in OSM); user osmcux asked (de) > en for support to avoid duplication in a more complex scenario.

    OpenStreetMap Foundation

    • The OSMF Board approved two new local chapters during their September monthly meeting: USA and Kosovo.
    • The Board is considering forming a personnel committee to have a structured way to support people working with the OSMF nearly full time. Mikel Maron is now asking for input to the discussion draft.

    Humanitarian OSM

    • The Forecast-based Financing Programme blogged on the work of the HOT-OSM community and ‘Missing Maps’ of the American Red Cross in the interest of cooperation through worldwide mapping to combat the COVID-19 epidemic.
    • HOT reported on the progress of mapping in Liberia in connection with financial support through a microgrant from the COVID-19 Rapid Response programme.
    • Can Unen reports that BİMTAŞ A.Ş. and HOT partner Yer Çizenler are working together to put the Istanbul Planning Agency campus on OpenStreetMap.


    • Michael Schultz reports on a contiguous high resolution OSM landuse map of the European Union made by combining Copernicus data and OpenStreetMap.
    • Robert Goedl, Head of Linux Bibel Österreich (de) > en , in the past has presented (de) > en Marble as a Linux alternative to Google Earth; now he describes (de) > en how to use Marble for navigation, based on OpenStreetMap data.



    • A company using OSM data passed on complaints (es) > en about outdated OSM data in Mexico and asked for help.
    • Adam Franco found his contributions to OSM on maps being used by a college in the USA and asked if he should follow the path described in the wiki for missing attribution.


    • MRVDH launched BuDongSang, a real estate idle game based on OpenStreetMap data. It is still in early development on GitHub; feel free to leave feedback and suggestions.
    • Jochen Topf reported the launch of the new osm2pgsql.org website, the first visible result of the support by the OSMF for osm2pgsql development.
    • Sven Geggus, maintainer of the German Style OSM Carto fork, explained why the development of the fork of the OSM Carto Style is currently stuck.


    • HeiGIT presents version 6.3.0 of openrouteservice, with an improved technique to speed up the calculation of isochrones (a map area that can be reached from a starting point within a given time or distance limit). By taking advantage of the topological properties of a road network, network cells connected to other cells by very few roads can be identified; with this technique, called partitioning, it is possible to drastically reduce the computational time required to find all roads that can be reached within a given time limit.

    Did you know …

    • … that the JOSM plugin Gridify will generate a grid of ways (as blocks or lines) from any four nodes? It may be useful for creating repeating features, such as individual parking spaces.
    • Mapping with OpenStreetMap? This website, hosted by MapBox, provides multiple resources to help learn how to map, from novice level to power user.
    • … that OpenStreetMap India has a YouTube channel?
    • … the ‘Europe map with countries and their capitals‘? The English menu navigation has some unexpected Cyrillic submenu entries. There is still some room for improvement.

    Other “geo” things

    • Matthias Schwindt reviewed (de) > es the new Garmin ‘TOPO Switzerland V2 PRO’ map, which brings together government and commercial data sources. His conclusion was: ‘It would only be worth the price to me if I were touring the Swiss mountains very often. Otherwise, the free OSM maps are also very suitable for mountain biking’.
    • SuperMap, a China based GIS platform developer, displayed at the GIS Technology at 2020 GIS Software Technology Conference.
    • Heise reported (de) > en about projects that rethink unethical ‘Smart City’ concepts for the common good. Among the linked projects are works against surveillance, projects that benefit citizens, and a conference held with an interesting schedule.
    • Garmin launched their first GPS devices with multi-band GNSS receivers. Previously, accuracy has been improved by better antennas and multiple GNSS satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo). Now Garmin has added a new GNSS receiver chip that can evaluate both frequency bands.
    • On 23 September 2020, Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment entered into a contract with Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) and its partners, to provide universal access to high-resolution satellite monitoring of the tropics in order to support efforts to stop the destruction of the world’s rainforests.
    • The mathematics learning website Mathigon uses different map projections to sum up their lesson about spheres, cones, and cylinders. The interactive map projection animation is worth a try – not only for kids.
    • Kate Behncken, Vice President and Lead of Microsoft Philanthropies, reported on their planned expansion of programmes to support underserved refugee camps. Over the past two years, the company has worked with non-profit and humanitarian organisations to help address global humanitarian issues, such as disaster relief by improving open mapping of vulnerable areas with Bing and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).
    • Beginning this week, Google Maps will show, after an update, how prevalent COVID-19 is in a geographic area (we reported earlier). For an area, seven-day averages of daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people will be shown using colours together with shadings, and labels will show whether cases are increasing or decreasing.
    • Understanding the risks associated with COVID-19 outbreaks in British universities requires navigating many datasets, and a deep understanding of the arcane administrative geographies of the United Kingdom and their inter-relationships. David Kernohan provides a useful guide in a post on the WonkHE blog.
    • Michael Prodger shared his insights about maps and landscape painting in the 16th century.

    Upcoming Events

    Where What When Country
    Taipei OSM x Wikidata #21 2020-10-05 taiwan
    London Missing Maps London Mapathon 2020-10-06 united kingdom
    Montrouge Rencontre des contributeurs de Montrouge et alentours 2020-10-07 france
    Stuttgart Stuttgarter Stammtisch 2020-10-07 germany
    Berlin 148. Berlin-Brandenburg Stammtisch (Online) 2020-10-09 germany
    Michigan Michigan Online Meetup 2020-10-12 usa
    Cologne Bonn Airport 132. Bonner OSM-Stammtisch (Online) 2020-10-13 germany
    Munich Münchner Stammtisch 2020-10-13 germany
    Salt Lake City / Virtual OpenStreetMap Utah Map Night 2020-10-13 united states
    Cobb Virtual Academy OSMUK AGM plus presentations 2020-10-17 united kingdom
    Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen 2020-10-20 germany
    Berlin OSM-Verkehrswende #16 (Online) 2020-10-20 germany
    Nottingham Nottingham pub meetup 2020-10-20 united kingdom
    Online 2020 Pista ng Mapa 2020-11-13-2020-11-27 philippines
    Online FOSS4G SotM Oceania 2020 2020-11-20 oceania

    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 appropriate.

    This weeklyOSM was produced by Elizabete, Climate_Ben, Lejun, MatthiasMatthias, MichaelFS, Nordpfeil, PierZen, Polyglot, Rogehm, TheSwavu, richter_fn.