This Month in GLAM: November 2019

14:05, Tuesday, 10 2019 December UTC

At a time of growing polarization, misinformation, and limits placed on freedom of speech, assembly, and privacy, as well as ongoing conflict—understanding our human rights is a critical part of our daily lives. It dictates everything from how we gather in our communities and speak about the issues and causes we care about, to how to pursue freedom and prosperity.

But much of the knowledge about these rights is hidden within institutional systems or specialized publications that make it hard to access and understand them.

To address this challenge, this International Human Rights Day, Wikipedia volunteers, the Wikimedia Foundation, and UN Human Rights are collaborating on a global campaign — #WikiForHumanRights — to improve and add articles about human rights on Wikipedia. The campaign will make knowledge of human rights more accessible for all. It will launch today, on 10 December, timed with the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and run through 30 January. Everyone is invited to participate.


To exercise our own human rights and stand up for those of others, we have to first understand them. As a top website viewed by hundreds of millions of people every month, Wikipedia provides a free, trusted, and multilingual resource to help make this information more easily accessible to the world.

“At Wikimedia, we know that free access to knowledge is a fundamental human right—that anyone, anywhere should have the ability to learn more about the world around them. When we have greater access to knowledge, our societies are more informed, just, and equitable,” said Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The #WikiForHumanRights campaign builds on this commitment to make knowledge about human rights more easily accessible for everyone to learn about their basic human rights and how to uphold them. The campaign focuses on improving, adding, and translating Wikipedia articles about two key topics—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document outlining everyone’s fundamental rights, and youth activism, the young people who stand up for human rights every day and the issues they defend.

“To ensure that everyone has access to fundamental human rights, it’s critical that people first know their rights. By teaming up with Wikimedia, we are making critical knowledge about human rights available in as many languages as possible,” said Laurent Sauveur, Director of External Relations at the UN Human Rights.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born out of World War II, in recognition of the need to protect and uphold freedom and equality for everyone, everywhere. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It universalized human rights for the first time, holding that all people are entitled to these rights, regardless of country or government. It also placed on every human being the responsibility to stand up for others when abuses of these rights occur. Volunteer editors will be creating and translating the article about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Wikipedia throughout the campaign.

Today there are 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 years globally, accounting for one out of every six people worldwide. There are more adolescents and young people alive today than at any time in human history. With the rise of such transformational young leaders as Greta Thunberg and  Malala Yousafzai, youth have been major drivers of political, economic, and social change.

There is still so much more knowledge to add, improve, and translate about human rights. We need your help to make more knowledge about this critical topic available.

How to get involved

If you’re interested in getting involved in the campaign, there are several ways you can participate:

  • Join an edit-a-thon

Check out this page to learn about local events near you and online edit-a-thons to add and improve articles about human rights. Many events will provide support with learning how to edit if you’re a newbie and will also provide lists of topics needing articles on Wikipedia. New events are still being added, so please continue to check!

Want to host your own event? Learn how with the event toolkit.

  • Share human rights topics that should have articles on Wikipedia

Tell us which human rights topics are not represented in your local language Wikipedia, and add them to the campaign list of topics.

  • Tell us why human rights are important to you

Help us amplify the campaign from now through the 30th of January on social media using the hashtag #WikiForHumanRights. Tell your followers and the world why you think getting to know your human rights is important. You can also re-tweet messages from @Wikipedia and @Wikimedia throughout the week.

  • Share photos of your events

Have photos of an edit-a-thon you ran with your community? Consider uploading them to Wikimedia Commons or sharing them on social media. Be sure to tag @Wikipedia and use the hashtag #WikiForHumanRights and we’ll share your stories!

This campaign is part of a new partnership between the Wikimedia Foundation and UN Human Rights to expand the availability of knowledge about human rights online. It builds on the impactful work of Wikimedia Argentina, the local Wikimedia chapter dedicated to supporting the Wikimedia projects and mission in the country, and their WikiDerechosHumanos project. Working with partners such as the UN, the project has been expanding Wikimedia’s human rights-related content for several years now through a series of edit-a-thons and events. Wikimedia Argentina is playing a leading role in the #WikiForHumanRights campaign and in facilitating this wider partnership to take shape on a global scale.

By partnering with the UN’s Human Rights Office, we hope to support Wikimedians from around the world to create, improve, and expand content about human rights in all Wikimedia projects and across the nearly 300 languages of Wikipedia.

Follow us on @Wikipedia and @Wikimedia for event details and updates as the campaign continues through the 30th of January and check back for updates on the event page. You can also follow our collaborators @UNHumanRights to learn more about human rights and the campaign!

Jorge Vargas is Senior Partnerships Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation. Follow them on Twitter at @jorgevargas.

Alex Stinson is a Senior Strategist on Community Programs at the Wikimedia Foundation. Follow them on Twitter at @sadads.

Students of foreign literature improve Wikipedia

19:54, Monday, 09 2019 December UTC

Literature can take us to to worlds filled with fantasies and aliens. But it can also take us to times and locations in our own world that we may have never seen or experienced or before. Students in Dr. Joan McRae’s Foreign Literature in Translation class at Middle Tennessee State University took this journey last spring and created six new Wikipedia pages about novels released outside of the United States.

Two of the new pages are about novels originally published in French: one from Canada and the other from France. The first, Suzanne, was published in 2015 by Canadian author Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. The work is a biographical novel of the author’s grandmother Suzanne Meloche, a poet and painter who interacted with many French-Canadian artists and historical events. Much of the information is based on the findings of a private investigator hired by Barbeau-Lavalette. It was a bestseller in Quebec and other French-speaking areas, particularly France, and won the Prix des libraires du Québec. The second novel, Incest was published in 1999 by French author Christine Angot. This work is a fictionalized biography, or autofiction, where the author and the protagonist share the same name and occasionally the same experiences. The story follows an anxious, depressed woman named Christine as she works through emotional turmoil following the end of her relationship with her lover and first lesbian partner Marie-Christine. Christine conveys her thoughts in a very disconnected manner as she discusses with readers the complicated relationships with her ex-lover, her ex-husband, her young daughter, and her father, who instigated an incestuous relationship with Christine when she was a teenager. Angot received criticism for the close resemblance between her characters and those related to her, creating a debate regarding the role of fiction in regards to public action, as well as the responsibility of an author to control the implications created by their works. This criticism would prove to be an ongoing issue for the author, as in 2013 Angot was successfully sued by her lover’s ex-partner for defamation of her character in Angot’s novel Les Petits.

Another two pages focused on Spanish language works. Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin’s 2014 horror novel Fever Dream has elements of psychological fiction and takes inspiration from the environmental problems in Argentina. The novel follows its protagonist Amanda as she struggles to piece together the events that led her to wake up disoriented in a clinic. However as she regains her memories and tells her story to David, a young boy also in the clinic, Amanda begins to realize that David is more integral to the story – as well as to the possible location of her daughter Nina. The Transmigration of Bodies is a 2013 post-apocalyptic noir fiction novel by Mexican author Yuri Herrera. Set in an unidentified Mexican city, the book focuses on an underworld fixer who tries to arrange a peaceful exchange of bodies between two rival criminal gangs in a corrupt city that is in the midst of an epidemic. It is also the second book in a trilogy, however the final book in the series was actually the first to be published in the United States and the first book the last.

For some, Wikipedia is the easiest way to learn about a new concept or topic, which is why additions from students and instructors using the site as an educational tool can make such a big difference in the world. If you would like to include Wikipedia editing as a learning tool with your class, visit and gain access to our free tools, online trainings, and printed materials.

Header image by Heffloaf, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

While I was off on strike I was able to spend some time finishing a project I’ve been working on for a couple of months; editing the Wikipedia page for Dunfermline College of Physical Education.  I was inspired to update the existing page by the recent Body Language exhibition at the University of Edinburgh Library which delved into the archives of Dunfermline College and the influential dance pioneer Margaret Morris, to explore Scotland’s significant contributions to movement and dance education. And the reason I was so keen to improve this page, which was little more than a stub when I started editing, is that my mother was a student at Dunfermline College from 1953 – 1956, and when she died in 2011 my sister and I inherited her old college photograph album.  

My mother was not a typical Dunfermline student. Unlike many of her fellow students, who were privately educated and went straight to the college on leaving school, my mother was educated at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, and after leaving school she took an office job while working her way through the Civil Service exams.  She’d been working a year or so when the college came to the island to interview prospective students, and her father suggested she apply.  Her interview was successful, and she was awarded a place and a bursary to attend the college, which at that time was in Aberdeen.  Having experienced a degree of independence before going to Dunfermline, my mother chaffed at the rigid discipline of the residential college, which expected certain standards of decorum from its “girls”.  She didn’t take too kindly to the arbitrary rules, and it’s perhaps no surprise that her motto in the college year book was “Laws were made to be broken”.  She did however make many life-long friends at college and she went on to have a long and active teaching career.

My mother worked as a PE teaching on the Isle of Lewis, first as a travelling teacher working in tiny rural schools across the island, and later in the Nicolson Institute.  She passionately believed that all children should be able to enjoy physical education, regardless of aptitude or ability, and she vehemently opposed the idea that the primary role of PE teachers was to spot and nurture “talent”.  Her real interest was movement and dance and many of the children she taught in the small rural schools where convinced she was really just a big playmate who came to play with them once a week.  Sporting facilities were pretty much non-existent in rural schools in the Western Isles the 1970s. Few schools had a gyms or playing field, so she often organised games and sports days on the machair by the beaches. The first swimming pool in the islands didn’t open until the mid 1970s and prior to that she taught children to swim in the sea, on the rare occasions it was sufficiently calm and warm.  None of the schools she taught in had AV facilities of any kind and I vividly remember the little portable tape recorded that she carried around with her for music and movement lessons.  She retired from teaching in 1987, not long after the acrimonious national teachers pay dispute.  Despite being rather scunnered with the education system by the time she retired, it’s clear that the years she spent at Dunfermline played a formative role in shaping not just in her career, but also her personal relationships and her approach to teaching. Typically, she was proud to be known as the rule breaker of her “set” and I think she’d appreciate the irony of her old pictures appearing on the college Wikipedia page. 

[See image gallery at] In order to add these images to Commons, I’m having to go through the rather baroque OTRS procedure, and I’d like to thank Michael Maggs, former Chair of Board of Wikimedia UK, for his invaluable support in guiding me through the process.  Thanks are also due to colleagues at the Centre for Research Collections, which holds the college archive, for helping me access some of the sources I’ve cited. 

One last thing….when I was producing our OER Service Autumn newsletter I made this GIF to illustrate a short news item about the Body Language exhibition. 

Garden Dance GIF

Garden Dance, CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

The gif is part of a beautiful 1950s film featuring students from Dunfermline College called Garden Dance, which was released under open licence by the Centre of Research Collections.  The film is described as “Dance set in unidentified garden grounds, possibly in Dunfermline” however when I was looking through my mother’s college album I found this picture of the very same garden, so it appears it was filmed in Aberdeen. If you click through to the film, you can clearly see the same monkey puzzle tree in the background. It was obviously something of a landmark!  I wonder if my mother is one of the dancers? 


Tech News issue #50, 2019 (December 9, 2019)

00:00, Monday, 09 2019 December UTC
TriangleArrow-Left.svgprevious 2019, week 50 (Monday 09 December 2019) nextTriangleArrow-Right.svg
Other languages:
Bahasa Indonesia • ‎Deutsch • ‎English • ‎español • ‎français • ‎italiano • ‎lietuvių • ‎polski • ‎português • ‎suomi • ‎svenska • ‎čeština • ‎русский • ‎српски / srpski • ‎українська • ‎עברית • ‎العربية • ‎فارسی • ‎ไทย • ‎中文 • ‎日本語

weeklyOSM 489

14:02, Sunday, 08 2019 December UTC


lead picture

Babykarte by Sören Reinecke aka ValorNaram 1 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

About us

  • Trying to identify @anonymaps? You can exclude the weeklyOSM proofreaders from your list of suspects. As they rightly pointed out, OpenRailWayMap development isn’t discussed in the rails_dev list. Rails is a web framework that powers, amongst others, the website. If you’d rather help create a world-wide, open, up-to-date and detailed map of the railway network, based on OpenStreetMap, then you’ll find them on the OpenRailWayMap mail list.


  • Graeme Fitzpatrick noted, in the Tagging discussion list, the creation of a wiki page to discuss the addition of a tag for a type of barrier called berm.
  • Voting has started on the mimics=* proposal. The mimics tag is designed to record what a mobile phone mast or tower has been disguised as.
  • The South African NGO Code for Africa started a project using drones to map the floating slums in Makoto, in the Nigerian capital. The resulting data will be uploaded to OpenStreetMap.
  • Nick Jones has posted an article explaining a methodology to identify gaps in OpenStreetMap coverage using machine learning tools.
  • PoliMappers is going to propose, for the third year in a row, the #PoliMappersAdventure, a daily mapping challenge for the month of December 2019. You can follow the PoliMappers challenge on Facebook and Twitter and on the wiki at the page. This year the challenge can also be followed in a telegram channel.
  • Road data in the RapiD editor are now available for all countries of South America and Africa. The new release is fully integrated with Microsoft building footprints (>150M unmapped buildings in US, Tanzania and Uganda).
  • One user’s campaign to get the world to speak Esperanto triggered (de) (automatic translation) debate in the forums. The question of what name to use for international objects spilled over into the OSM-talk mail list.
  • The Russian OSM community decided (automatic translation) to complete the import (ru) of theatres which started back in 2017. By the way, 2019 in Russia has been declared the “year of theatres”.
  • In a Twitter Moment, Dabo Hamda reported (fr) (automatic translation) that the Guinea community had a two day training and capacity building session, at the Digital Campus of Francophonie in Conakry, for geomatics students and community members in open digital mapping and GIS. On the agenda was: introduction and awareness of OSM and its tools, discovery and knowledge of the local community, data collection with Kobo and OSMTracker, and finally the reuse of OSM data in QGIS and OsmAnd.


  • Twelve candidates are running for the four vacancies on the OSMF Board of Directors: Nuno Caldeira, Steve Coast, Jinal Foflia, Gregory Marler, Mikel Maron, Rory McCann, Michal Migurski, Allan Mustard, Guillaume Rischard, Dietmar Seifert, Clifford Snow, and Eugene Alvin Villar. Read their answers to the following questions: OSM activities, Why join board, Being board member, Board diversity, Your time, Conflict of Interest, Treasurer, F2F meeting, Board and WGs, Communication, What would you do, and OSM 2030 vision. The candidates’ manifestos can be read on the wiki.
  • Martin Borsje makes (nl) (automatic translation) some interesting points about imports: “OSM is not, and never will be, a 100% reflection of all government data; OSM is not a backup database for the government. If governments use OSM for whatever, it is entirely at their own risk; after all, at any time OSM can be updated.” That’s why he says: “Go outside, grab your bike, survey and map!” He’s had widespread support in the forum.
  • Jessica Sena wrote that the State Of the Map Latam took place in the city of Encarnación (Paraguay) on 14 to 16 November. There, people from different parts of the world (although mainly from Latin America) met to answer the question: What world do your maps reveal? This being the central topic of this year’s meeting.
  • The Survey of India is undertaking a project to re-map India at a scale of 1:500. Srishti Choudhary’s article gives an overview of the current state of mapping in India and includes Naveen P. Francis’ description of the frustrations faced by OSM mappers in India, with closed geospatial data.


  • Henry Bush wonders whether it would be feasible to import SSSI data for the UK using something like Natural England’s API. His collected notes are at SSSIBot.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Dorothea Kazazi writes in detail about the mechanics of voting in the OSMF board election (for example, make sure you have Javascript enabled!)
  • Steve Friedl gave his recommendations for the upcoming OSMF Board election. Comments from various people followed (including Mikel Maron, who is a candidate).
  • Christoph Hormann wrote a detailed analysis on the candidates’ statements and made his election recommendations.
  • The statements of the candidates are shown in tabular overview by westnordost.


  • The Baltic GIS conference will be held in Riga (Latvia) on 6 March 2020. One of the sections of the conference will be dedicated to OSM. The organisers have asked for presentations and are looking for partners.
  • The organisers of the mini-conference “15 years of OSM”, which took place in Saint Petersburg (Russia) on 16 November 2019, posted presentations (Google Drive) (ru) and videos (ru) of speeches.

Humanitarian OSM

  • Missing Maps is five years old. A number of blog posts celebrate this event. Missing Maps themselves summarise some of the highlights of the past five years and announce, for next year, monthly postings on their blog. Melanie Eckle also offers congratulations.
  • On the HOT mailing list, Rachel VanNice announced that planning for their next summit has started.
  • Tommy Charles, coordinator of OSM in Sierra Leone, wants to use donations to revive the mapping community in the West African country.
  • On 15 November, the Uganda Red Cross Society organised a mapping training session in the country, which had been hit by severe flooding. The training was attended by 60 volunteers.


  • A new version of is now online. It’s now much prettier than before, and has moved from WordPress to Github, which has made it much easier to contribute.


  • Recently we reported that Strava has again allowed the use of its data in OSM. However, Ilya Zverev believes (ru) (automatic translation) that the community did not understand the Strava developers’ answer correctly and in fact the data is still ‘restricted’ by the licence.


  • Leonardo Gutierrez has released “BusBoy” (es) to help navigate public transport in Boyaca. This app has been developed entirely with OpenStreetMap data collected (automatic translation) by the community of Boyaca, Colombia.
  • Tianyi Ren and Monica Brandeis reported on their QA tool Map Quality Measurement (MQM). They describe how they examined the quality of OSM data in 51 cities in the USA and ranked them.
  • Linuxinsider reports on Version 13.0 of the OSGeoLive GIS software collection.


  • Fabian Kowatsch described some new features of the “ohsome” platform.
  • Sven Geggus is looking for a Cantonese transcription library (preferably in C++ or python) to be used in Hong Kong and Macau.
  • The portal has recently published a tutorial (es) (automatic translation) on how to create a GeoPDF using QGIS. This is a recently added feature of QGIS 3.10.
  • Kirill Rubinstein, a Russian programmer, wrote (ru) (automatic translation) an article on how he chose a mapping service for his software product. He compared in detail different mapping services and eventually started working with OSM.


Did you know …

  • Babykarte? Version 3.0 has been released, featuring a new design, improved performance and – thanks to FOSSGIS – now on an server.
  • … about FactsMap? FactsMap is a comprehensive collection of thought provoking and analytical maps, charts, facts, statistics and graphs.
  • … about OpenTripMap, a service that shows tourist attractions?

Other “geo” things

  • The BBC is reporting that Apple has met Russia’s demands to show Crimea as Russia when viewed from Russia. In a discussion on Hacker News, Richard Fairhurst points out that this kind of local change is common everywhere in the world in any major map except on OpenStreetMap.In 2018, the Data Working Group responded to a mapper appeal based on the on-the-ground rule by deciding to map Crimea as Russia. This was later overruled by the OSM Foundation board, a few days before the 2018 board election.Many of the candidates for the 2019 board election mention Crimea in their manifestos and answers. On one hand, Allan, Eugene, Guillaume and Rory are in favour of clear rules and following the on-the-ground principle. On the other, Mikel, who was “part of the decision to overrule the DWG decision on Crimea”, justifies his decision to make an exception through “community harmony”.
  • The UK has a national election approaching, and the UK’s Electoral Reform Society (who are in favour of the people in parliament fairly representing the votes cast) have created an animation that shows how “gerrymandering” political boundaries (modifying them for the benefit of one party) can dramatically affect election results. Dr Bob Barr’s comments explain exactly how it works.
  • The World Settlement Footprint 2015, a global map of human settlements at a 10 m resolution, has been created by a team from the German Aerospace Center, Google, and MindEarth. The map was created using radar data from Sentinel-1 and optical data from Landsat-8. The results were validated against 900,000 samples labelled by crowdsourced photo interpretation of very high-resolution Google Earth imagery. Details are outlined in the team’s paper (pdf) on arXiv.
  • Mapillary launched a dashcam that’s been customised for mapping purposes. The dashcam collects and uploads images automatically and is aimed at equipping delivery fleets, so map data can be generated in real time.
  • Stanford medical student Hannah Wild traveled to the Omo River Valley in Ethiopia to survey the health of the nomadic Nyangatom who live there. Jody Berger explained how Hannah was assisted with mapping produced by Stace Maples, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, DigitalGlobe, and ravenous goats.
  • The New York Times has created a wonderful interactive article on the New York Subway Map. The article follows the history of the development of the map and highlights some of the quirks and features people may not have noticed.

Upcoming Events

Where What When Country
Alice PoliMappers Adventures 2019 2019-12-01-2019-12-31 everywhere
Belgrade OSM Serbia Meetup 2019-12-07 serbia
AoA and other changes Voting on OSMF board elections 2019-12-07-2019-12-14 world
Grande Região Nordeste Mapeia Nordeste 2019-12-07 brazil
Taipei OSM x Wikidata #11 2019-12-09 taiwan
Zurich 112. OSM Meetup Zurich (Fondue!) 2019-12-09 switzerland
Lyon Rencontre mensuelle pour tous 2019-12-10 france
Salt Lake City SLC Mappy Hour 2019-12-10 united states
Hamburg Hamburger Mappertreffen 2019-12-10 germany
Viersen OSM Stammtisch Viersen 2019-12-10 germany
Mannheim Mannheimer Mapathons 2019-12-12 germany
Munich Münchner Stammtisch 2019-12-12 germany
Nantes Réunion mensuelle 2019-12-12 france
Berlin 138. Berlin-Brandenburg Stammtisch 2019-12-13 germany
Berlin DB Open Data XMAS Hack 2019-12-13-2019-12-14 germany
Helsinki OSM Mapathon @ Mapbox 2019-12-13 finland
San Juan OpenStreetMap Workshop for Metro Manila Bikers 2019-12-14 philippines
Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen 2019-12-17 germany
Nottingham Nottingham pub meetup 2019-12-17 united kingdom
Digne-les-Bains HÉRuDi : l’Histoire Étonnante des Rues de Digne 2019-12-17 france
Biella Incontro Mensile 2019-12-21 italy
Düsseldorf Stammtisch 2019-12-27 germany
hosted by Chaos Communication Congress 36C3 OpenStreetMap assembly 2019-12-27-2019-12-30 germany
Cape Town State of the Map 2020 2020-07-03-2020-07-05 south africa

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, Kleper, Polyglot, Rogehm, SK53, Silka123, SomeoneElse, Guillaume Rischard (Stereo), TheSwavu, YoViajo, derFred, geologist, jinalfoflia.

To throw or not to throw, that is the question

00:00, Sunday, 08 2019 December UTC

What are namespaces and special pages on Wikipedia? Why do we accept invalid data? And, at what layer should we reject it?

These are stories from bug hunts and incident investigations at Wikipedia.


One day, our server monitoring was reporting a high frequency of fatal errors from web servers. Over 10,000 an hour. The majority shared a single root cause – The program attempted to find the discussion space of a page that doesn’t support discussions.

Why was the program trying to do this? And how should the software behave when asked to do something it cannot?


Namespaces and Special pages

The MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia has a concept of titles and namespaces. Every article (or “wiki page”) has a title. And every title can belong to one of several namespaces.

The pages that contain the encyclopaedic content you’re familiar with, exist under the Article namespace. These are accessed via URLs such as /wiki/Some_subject.

Each Article also has an associated wiki page under the so-called “Talk” namespace. For example, Talk:Some_subject. This is a place where conversations about the article take place. (Questions, concerns, and other discussion threads.)

Beyond this, there are many more namespaces. “File” pages represent an uploaded multimedia file, “User” pages represent profiles of user accounts, and so on. Each of these has an associated talk space as well (“File talk”, “User talk”, etc.).

Lastly, there is the “Special” namespace of pages. These do not represent things that users can create or edit. Instead, it is reserved for software features. For example, the sign up page is a “special” page (at Special:Create_account). These don’t have one-to-one associated discussion spaces. That is, there is no “Special talk” or some such.


The special page we’ll take a closer look at today is “User contributions” (at Special:Contributions). This is where you can see the contribution history of a specific editor. Besides the mandatory username field, there are date filters, and namespace filters. The namespace filter also allows one to search through any associated namespaces.

Because the “Special” namespace does not contain wiki pages, it is not listed in this namespace filter.

The Special:Contributions form contains a "Namespace" dropdown menu with options such as "Article", "Talk", "User", and "File". It also has a checkbox for "Include associated namespace".

The Problem

Some users browsed URLs to Special:Contributions with the namespace ID of “Special” selected. While this wasn’t an option in the user interface, the request handler did not reject it. After all, it is a valid namespace. Just one that contains no user contributions.

By itself, such query would actually succeed. In so far, that it simply yields no results. It works as well as could be expected.

Where it went wrong is if one would also tick the “Include associated namespace” checkbox.

This forced the software to filter the query to one of two possible namespace IDs. The ID of the “Special” namespace, and the ID of its associated namespace. Except, there is no associated namespace for Special! The code in charge of associating namespaces had no choice but to abort. The question it was asked demanded a specific answer, but it could not give any.

Users were shown an "Internal error" page, stating a fatal exception had ocurred, with an Error Code next to it.

The error code is used to look up the trace report, which looks like this:

getAssociated() is not valid for Special namespace.

at Namespace.php: Namespace::isMethodValidFor()
at pagers/ContribsPager.php: Namespace::getAssociated()
at pagers/ContribsPager.php: ContribsPager->getNamespaceCond()
at MediaWiki.php: SpecialContributions->execute()
at index.php: MediaWiki->run()

The Investigation

Accepting invalid data

Do we need to change anything, or is the already program good enough? There are no contributions under the Special namespace. And, there is also no talk space for discussions about these non-existent contributions. The desired outcome isn’t for there to be results, as there can’t be any.

But, we also can’t prevent our editors (or their apps) from asking for results. Perhaps an older app listed “Special” as option, or a mistake elsewhere in the system opens this form the wrong way. Or, someone is intentionally trying to abuse the system. It can happen. And when it does, the server has to respond in some way.

So far, the server was responding by crashing… If that happens a lot, alarm bells will ring about a potential outage being underway. When we crash without explanation, end-users (or developers working on an app) can’t tell what’s wrong. Were our servers malfunctioning? Or did the user do something wrong?

Rejecting invalid data

I sometimes think about software as an onion. At its outer layer, anything can happen. We don’t control what end-users and external systems try to do. If we encounter invalid input, we should respond clearly. For example, by explaining the nature of the problem so that users may correct it, and carry on.

In the outer layer, bad input is not unexpected and should not cause our software to crash. We need a way to distinguish end-user mistakes from real bugs in our code. When crashes happen, it means there is a mistake in the program. It can still be interesting to measure when end-user mistakes happen. For example, it might mean that our user-interface is confusing users. But, that is separate from the technical question of whether the system is in full working order.

Who is in charge, and who is responsible?

Once past the outer layer, there are many more layers to our “onion”. Each layer gets closer to core business logic.

A question like “What are recent edits by user X?” is subdivided into many smaller commands and questions (or “functions”). One such function will answer to “What is the talk namespace for a given title?”. This would answer “Talk” for “Article”, and “File_talk” for “File”.

The “Associated namespaces” option on Special:Contributions, uses that function.

If one of your edits is for a page that has no discussion namespace, what should we do? Show no edits at all? Skip that one edit and tell the user “1 edit was hidden”? Or show it anyway, but without the “talk” portion? This is a decision the inner layer cannot make. All it knows is the small question being asked. It should not be aware of what the outer layer wants to do. The outer layer has to decide how to handle this problem. If the outer layer believes this kind of edit should never show up under normal conditions, then it could show an error message. Something like “Error: Unsupported namespace selection.

Or, the outer layer can avoid the error by asking a different question. A question that cannot fail. A question that leaves room for unexpected outcomes. Such as “Does namespace X have a talk space?”, instead of “I need the talk space of X, what is it?”. The outer layer then recognises that the question can be answered with “No”, and could then have logic for displaying those edits in a different way.

This article was inspired by Task #150324 (resolved in February 2019).

Tomorrow, may be sooner than you think

00:00, Saturday, 07 2019 December UTC

These are stories from bug hunts and incident investigations at Wikipedia.


After developers submit code to Gerrit, they eagerly await the result from Jenkins, an automated test runner.

Every day during the 15 minute window before 5 PM in San Francisco, code changes submitted for code review would have mysteriously failing tests. Jenkins would wrongly inform developers that their proposed changes cause a problem with the MergeHistory feature of MediaWiki.


The test in question assumed that it would finish by “tomorrow”. At first glance, it seems fair to assume that by tomorrow, a given test will have finished. We know our our test suite generally only take a few minutes to run (with a time limit of 30 minutes, to ensure tests report back even if they are stuck).


Unfortunately…, the programming utility strtotime in PHP, does not interpret “tomorrow” as “this time tomorrow”.

Instead, it takes it to mean “the start of tomorrow”. In other words, the next strike of midnight!

For example, on 14 August 23:59:59, strtotime("tomorrow") would evaluate to a timestamp merely one second into the future — 15 August 00:00:00.

This meant that whenever a test started running shortly before midnight, it would fail. The test server uses UTC as its timezone. As such, a test suite that started less than 15 minutes before 5 PM in San Francisco (which is midnight in UTC), it would mysteriously fail!

Task #201976

Changeset 452873

Note: I originally wrote about this bug in the September 2018 edition of the Production Excellence newsletter for Wikipedia’s Engineering department. This article is an expanded version of that.

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

04:24, Friday, 06 2019 December 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 at Lady Hardinge Medical College who was also the first woman board member in the Senate of Punjab University and perhaps a first for any university in India. Educated at Cambridge and Dublin University she worked in India from 1915 to 1922 and then returned to England. 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 also made illustration for Enid Blyton books and apparently the Indian Railways.

A Wikipedia entry on the author could be created if more information was forthcoming - as of now a draft here. A scanned version of this book can now be found on the Internet Archive - Holmer came from a Christian Sunday School approach to natural history which shows up in places in the book. She also makes many literary references such as to R.L.S. (R.L.Stevenson). In another part of the series we will look at more "evangelical" bird books.

These are stories from bug hunts and incident investigations at Wikipedia.

New database partition

A user reported a timeout error for certain queries from the Public log viewer on

Database administrator Manuel Aróstegui investigated the underlying query and found that it was slow (and timing out) due to one of the database replicas having an unpartitioned logging table.


Our database servers carry labels that the MediaWiki application can ask for along with a query. This allows replicas to be finely tuned to specific kinds of of queries. In particular, when two useful optimisations strategies are mutually exclusive. The labelling system allows both strategies to be applied, on different database servers. MediaWiki then decides which one is most important for that query.

Partioning the MediaWiki logging table is one such optimisation strategy. For queries in the Public logs that focus on actions by a specific user, we route the query to replicas where the logging table is partioned by user ID. This is in addition to a regular index on the user ID column for that table, which we have on all replicas.


As first response, the faulty server was taken out of rotation. Re-partitioning was completed later that day.

Task #199790

Mystery of Disappearing Audio Players

Routine triaging of PHP errors led to discovery of the following:

[PHP Notice] Undefined index: 'c9ndx98du2.ogg'
at mediawiki/extensions/Score/includes/Score.php:L507


The Score extension for MediaWiki provides a way to produce image and audio files from music notation (backed by LilyPond). The extension registers a wikitext tag that allows editors to create and embed music on Wikipedia pages.

The “Undefined index” warning from PHP happens when code tries to access a non-existent key from an associative array. For example: $x = array( 'foo' => 1 ); return $x['bar'];. When this happens, no exception or run-time errors ocurrs. Instead, the PHP engine implicitly returns the null value. PHP also emits a notice to the error log channel. We feed that into Logstash and Kibana.

“PHP Notice” errors are not uncommon and can sometimes even cause (by accident) the correct behaviour. For example, if the code involves a condition like if ($x['bar']) { … } else { … }. Our error will produce the null value, which casts to false, and we proceed to the else branch. If the bar key is meant to be optional here, and if the else branch correctly handles the scenario for when it is not set, then this code might already behave correctly. A simple fix would then be to expand the condition to first assert that the key exists. Thus preventing the warning message, but otherwise behaving the same.


Back to our investigation; The response was led by volunteer @Ebe123 who is also the lead maintainer of the Score extension.

First, we did some exploratory testing to see if there were any defects we could find with the feature. On the various Wikipedia articles we tested it on, the audio players seemed to work fine.

Back to the error we found on the backend, we traced it to the code responsible for adding the “duration” metadata (used by the audio player). The code for computing this duration stores it in an array, and other code later tries to access it. However, these two functions were not using the same logic to create their array key. As such, it was unable to find the duration and did not add it to the audio player. While this is bad, it appeared to not affect the audio player. It worked and even displayed the correct duration!

Ebe123 wrote a patch that corrects the key string logic anyway. The duratation value would then be found in the array and passed on as the code originally intended.

During code review, we also looked at why this code existed in the first place (because the player appeared to work fine without it). The (broken) code was introduced several years ago in an attempt to fix a bug where the player loaded very slowly for some users. The story is that our multimedia framework needs the duration information before it can start playing back audio. And, for most file types, the framework is able to compute this on its own in the backend and hand it to the audio player ahead of time. However, the framework does not support computing durations for files with the audio/ogg MIME-type (which the Score extension used).

When no duration is given ahead of time, web browsers have a fallback strategy. They attempt to download the track regardless, wait for it to fully arrive, then look at how many seconds it contains audio for, and use that as the duration value. This means the audio would not start playing until after it was fully downloaded. No streaming!

In our isolated testing we were playing relatively short audio clips using a high-bandwidth connection. Thus, the issue was not obvious to us.

We also found a separate bug report from a few months earlier where several users reported that when pressing “Play” the player would dissappear for 5-20 seconds before audio starts playing.

It all started to make sense.

Task #200835, Task #192550

Losing packets on the way to Logstash

I noticed that for recent bug reports with Error IDs, I was unable to find the associated error report in Logstash. I could also reproduce this for bugs I had reported myself.


In the event of an internal server error, the MediaWiki web server sends a detailed error report to Logstash. MediaWiki then displays an error page to the user, where it mentions the “Error ID”.


Tim Starling (Platform architect at Wikimedia) started investigating. He created a new Grafana dashboard and the culprit was quickly identified. Over 3000 UDP packets were being dropped at the Logstash servers, every second. That’s over 90% of its total packets – lost!

As first mitigation, he rebooted the server, quadrupled the default receive buffer size (net.core.rmem_default in the Linux kernel) to 4MB, and rebooted it again.

Rate of succesfull Logstash packet reception increased from 50 pps to 300 pps Rate of Logstash packet loss decreased from 1200 pps to 950 pps.

The first reboot significantly improved throughput (from 10% success, to 25% success), but the receive buffer change didn’t have any positive effect and we were still dropping the remaining 75% of packets.

To recap, the buffer was now large enough to accomodate 3 seconds worth of messages which should be enough margin for Logstash to process it. Short spikes aside, it’s unlikely that allowing more stalling would help, because new packets are constantly added to the buffer as well.

Filippo Giunchedi (Site Reliability Engineering team) jumped in and noticed that the workers.pipeline setting was explicitly set to 1, thus allowing Logstash to only use a single thread to process all the messages. This was configured several years earlier (commit) to workaround a problem with the Logstash Multiline plugin; This plugin wasn’t thread-safe and would corrupt logs if active in multiple threads.

Filippo determined we no longer needed this plugin, disabled it, and allowed the default workers.pipeline setting to take effect - which is to use the number of available CPU cores as the number of threads.

This, together with the 4MB receive buffer Kernel setting, let the packet loss rate drop to zero.

Task #200960, Grafana dashboard: Logstash

Note: I originally wrote about these incidents in the August 2018 edition of the Production Excellence newsletter for Wikipedia’s Engineering department. This article is an expanded version of that, with additional background information to make the stories suitable for a wider audience.

What is it about Jess Wade?

08:44, Thursday, 05 2019 December UTC
It is not only that Jess writes Wikipedia articles. Others do as well. It is not only that she engages girls with science; it is why she enthuses about female (STEM) scientists. Others do as well. It is not that only that her tweets engage us with for instance the #PhotoHour, that she wants us to read the (fabulous) books by Angela Saini, she also organises for schools to have Inferior in their library for girls to read and become a scientist as well.. What makes her special is that she engages people to be part of what she communicates so well.

Take me for instance, Jess is on Twitter and I read her daily new article. For the person she writes about I enrich the information on Wikidata and ensure that the "authority control" is set in the Wikipedia article. What I add is award information, authorities, employment and education info. I often add awards and depending on how interesting an award is to me I add other recipients as well.

It is not only me, there are many more people inspired by Jess who get involved, they read the books she champions, donate so that more girls read Inferior, follow her on Twitter, write articles and also get involved, are involved. It all happens because of the enthusiasm that Jess brings to us all. This enthusiasm, the involvement is what I so cherish. When the inevitable naysayers come along it dampens the positivity, the sense that we are making a difference.

When you want to know how important the women she writes about can be, consider Joy Lawn she tweets really effectively as well... It shows how women scientists really effectively communicate the relevance of science. It is vitally important for us to know about the science, the subjects they champion. At that it may be our Jess but actually, it is Dr Jess Wade, she is a scientists first, she promotes science and Wikipedia is a vehicle to get the message out.

Now that we’re in December looking back, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the amazing work that our program participants have accomplished this year. The support of our community is vital in making their success possible. If you’re able to support a cause this Giving Tuesday, consider supporting free and universal access to information; improving students’ abilities to discern credible information; and knowledge equity. Consider donating to Wiki Education.

Our Student Program

Medical students fight the spread of misinformation.

Before Derek Smith edited the Wikipedia page about vaccination in Dr. Amin Azzam’s course through our Student Program, it didn’t have a section about safety. “The most significant concern expressed by the anti-vaccine community is regarding safety,” Derek wrote in a guest blog for us. “It’s a challenge for healthcare professionals to quell the concerns of those who are anti-vaccine because of the burden of having to disprove all the false claims while boiling down decades of research and medical innovation into something both consumable and enlightening for the public.” That’s where Wikipedia comes in. Read more…

Humanities students save local history from erasure.

Jason Todd’s students at Xavier University of Louisiana dramatically improved the Wikipedia article of their local town, helping save the area from erasure in cultural memory. “The students were intrigued by the possibility of using Wikipedia as a tool for ensuring knowledge equity,” Dr. Todd wrote on our blog. “We were going to use Wikipedia to change the way the world thinks about our neglected neighbors.” Read more…

STEM students learn about possible career paths while also closing Wikipedia’s gender gap.

Dr. Rebecca Barnes’ student at the University of Colorado wrote a new Wikipedia biography for paleoclimatologist Andrea Dutton. A few months later, when Dr. Dutton was announced as a MacArthur ‘Genius’ grant recipient, the public could read up on her already well-documented career. Read more…

Our Wikipedia & Wikidata training courses

Experts make public history representative of all.

Before the scholars we trained began working on the Wikipedia page about the US 19th Amendment, it left out that women of color didn’t get the right to vote when it passed. In our Wikipedia training course, scholars learned the mechanics necessary to fix that and they did! The page is now on its way to becoming categorized as one of the highest-quality entries on English Wikipedia. Read more…

Scientists add up-to-date research to highly-consulted medical pages.

One OB/GYN in our Wikipedia training course with the Society of Family Planning fixed a Wikipedia article about a medical procedure she performs on a weekly basis, providing more accurate information to the 500 readers that visit the page every single day. Read more…

Scholars help represent trans identities on Wikipedia accurately.

Cassius Adair discovered that the Wikipedia biography about a prominent trans author didn’t feature an up-to-date photo. He went about changing that. Read more… 

Faculty are equipped with the “Wikipedia literacy” to prepare students for changing digital landscapes.

When faculty understand the inner-workings of Wikipedia, they can teach their students how to adequately interact with the ubiquitous (and somewhat infamous) resource. That’s why groups like the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries and UMass Lowell set up courses with us to train their members and faculty in the behind-the-scenes.

Metadata experts help ensure that digital assistants give you the right information.

Wikidata (Wikipedia’s sister site for linked, structured data) houses information in a format that digital assistants like Siri and Alexa can understand. That means when you ask your smartphone a question, it likely pulls from Wikidata instead of Wikipedia. That’s one of the many reasons why involving more and more people in adding information to Wikidata is so important. Our training courses are one of the few resources that prepare newcomers to improve the site and ultimately improve the public’s access to information through digital assistants and AI.

If you’d like to help us continue this important work, consider donating online at If you do, we encourage you to let your friends on social media know by posting “Join me in supporting @WikiEducation on #GivingTuesday.

Wiki Education is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization who publishes our financials online to demonstrate our commitment to strong fiscal practices and transparency. Please make your gift today.

The child of a monkey holds on to its mother tightly. A lone straw bale stands in a field prior to being collected. A few rays of sunlight filter into a dark, foreboding cave filled with clear blue water.

These are a mere three of the imagination-fueling winners from the international Wiki Loves Earth photography competition, whose results were announced today. The overall winner, seen above, shows a banded demoiselle hovering near a dandelion’s seedhead. It was praised by the contest’s selection committee for its composition, sharpness, and colors; one member called out the extraordinary detail visible on the damselfly’s wings.

Wiki Loves Earth focuses on “protected” areas, referring to places like nature reserves, landscape conservation areas, national parks—the unique locations that make up a large proportion of the world’s natural heritage. The contest asks photographers to contribute their work to Wikimedia Commons, a media repository which holds many of the photos used on Wikipedia and the Wikimedia ecosystem. All of the content on Commons is freely licensed, meaning that it can be used by anyone, for any purpose, often with only a minimum of restrictions.[1]

Organized since 2013, this year’s rendition of Wiki Loves Earth inspired over 95,000 photo uploads from thirty-seven countries, including at least one from every continent in the world (except Antarctica). All of the entries were judged by juries organized on the national level, and the winners from these were forwarded to an international jury/committee of experts which selected the images that you see above and below. You can read the report they produced over on Commons, or see past winners from 2018 and 2017.


• • •

Second place: A group of people walking through Hoggar National Park, Assekrem, Tamanrasset, Algeria. The members of the contest’s international journey called out this photo’s “magnificent color,” adding that capturing “the line of people versus the line of rock” was “very powerful.” This location was also featured in the fourth-place winner from Wiki Loves Earth 2018. Photo by Aboubakrhadnine, CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Third place: A hillside full of flowers in Ukraine’s Carpathian National Park. One jury member stated that this was a “classical” image, while another pointed out that the positioning of the flowers leads a viewer’s eyes straight into the mountains behind. Photo by Mykhailo Remeniuk, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Fourth place: According to Wikipedia, the mountain Ai-Petri is “one of the windiest places in Crimea.” On this day, though, the wind could not blow away a swath of low-lying clouds, which gave photographer Dmytro Balkhovitin the perfect opportunity to capture this dawn-lit image. The jury was effusive in their praise for this image, with one calling it “magical,” and another marveling at the difficulty involved in getting to this particular location. Photo by Dmytro Balkhovitin, CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Fifth place: This is the formidable exit from Ha Gorge, a fissure that reaches a depth of about a thousand meters, or over three thousand feet, making it one of the largest in the world. It’s located on Crete, an island off the south coast of Greece. Photo by Andreas Loukakis (Andloukakis), CC BY-SA 4.0.

Sixth place: The Pulangi River is the fifth-largest river in the Philippines (and drains into the second largest). Here, though, you can barely see its size in this dimly lit underground cavern, named “Blue Water Cave” for reasons that this photo makes crystal clear. Photo by Glenn Palacio (Theglennpalacio), CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Seventh place: The Ratargul Swamp Forest is the only flooded forest in Bangladesh, and these boats are likely used to bring tourists in to view it. Photo by Abdul Momin (Abdulmominbd), CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Eight place: The Grey Glacier is located in southern Chile. In 1996, it could boast of being about 270 square kilometers in size (approximately 100 miles), but it has shrunk in the years since then, including one major split in 2017. One jury member praised how this photographer utilized the large “empty spaces.” Photo by Pablo A. Cumillaf, CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Ninth place: Looking like something out of Star Wars, this foggy morning at Ķemeri National Park in Latvia helps showcase the area’s bogs and forests as well as the man-made infrastructure that allows tourists to access it. One jury member commented that this photograph featured “a lovely mix of misty subdued colours with natural and man-made objects—making this a thought-provoking piece of art and not just a picture.” Photo by Volodya Voronin, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Tenth place: Two features dominate this drone-captured photo of Russia’s Teberda Nature Reserve: a furious river in the upper third, and the road’s switchbacks in the bottom two-thirds. One teasing comment from the jury suggested that this image could have benefited from a passing car—”perhaps a red Ferrari or a cattle truck on the first curve?”, they asked with an accompanying smile. Photo by Andrey Belavin (Ted.ns), CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Eleventh place: Ostensibly, the subject of this photo is the gnarled old juniper tree located in the Zakaznik Novyi Svit nature reserve in Crimea. What brings this photo over the top, however, was the inclusion of the Milky Way in the background, complete with a shooting star or satellite in the upper central portion. Photo by Vladimir Voychuk (Войчук Владимир), CC BY-SA 4.0.

Twelfth place: Doi Inthanon National Park is named for Thailand’s largest mountain, and the scene captured here shows water flowing down that mountain. This is not this photographer’s first winning photos in a contest like this; Atirattanachai previously won first and ninth place in the 2017 Wiki Loves Monuments photo competition. This time around, the jury commended Atirattanachai for this “well thought out and executed piece of art.” Photo by Janepop Atirattanachai (BerryJ), CC BY-SA 4.0.

Thirteenth place: Surprise! Two long-eared owls are staring at the photographer who may have just disturbed them but managed to snap this spontaneous capture nonetheless. “Slightly comical,” said one jury member. Photo by Volodymyr Burdiak (Byrdyak), CC BY-SA 4.0.

Fourteenth place: The toque macaque baby seen here is very aware of the photograph and their camera. However, according to the photographer, this adorable scene has a dark side. “Nature always belongs to those who nurture, care and protect it,” Senthilverl said. “But the humans have forcefully claimed it theirs and are on a path of destruction: destroying jungles, waterways and evicting the rightful owners, the wild animals. The Toque macaque (Macaca sinica) loves to traverse on trees and to be as one with the nature. But this click depicts their current plight. It was heartbreaking to see the mother with her child foraging on the hard ground at Katagamuwa Sanctuary [in] Sri Lanka.” Photo by Senthi Aathavan Senthilverl, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Fifteenth place (tied): These stalactite caves in Taiwan’s Shoushan National Park are beautifully backlit by the sun peeking in through the opening at the top. One jury member wrote that they particularly enjoyed the sunlight falling upon the young plant growing in the center of the image. Photo by 陳李銜 (Wargash107), CC BY-SA 4.0. 

Fifteenth place (tied): This solitary straw bale was captured in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has been the frequent subject of art ranging from Renaissance paintings to the film Gladiator. The jury praised the image for its “great juxtaposition of textures, colours and hues.” Photo by JP Vets, CC BY-SA 4.0. 

• • •

Ed Erhart, Senior Editorial Associate, Communications
Wikimedia Foundation

Editor’s note, 3 December 2019: Due to an editing error, the photos above originally ran out of order. Fourth and fifth place have been swapped, and eleventh, twelfth, and fifteenth places have been shuffled. We regret and apologize for the mistakes.


  1. Please make sure to follow each image’s copyright tag. All of the images above, for instance, are available under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license, meaning that you are free to share them for any reason so long as you give credit to the photographer and release any derivative images under the same copyright license.

weeklyOSM 488

11:54, Monday, 02 2019 December UTC


lead picture

Every single year – The map of the season 1 | © OpenStreetBrowser – Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors


  • kreuzschnabel suspects (de) (automatic translation) that the OSM wiki for the key bridge=yes/no is recommending tagging for the renderer, as it suggests adding the bridge name as name= rather than the name of the road on the bridge. However, it appears this usage was documented in 2012 and man_made=bridge, to which the name= tag belongs, in his opinion, was added 2013.


  • The GeoChicas project celebrated its third birthday on 26 November. A map shows a growing trend for the group, which seeks to raise awareness about gender gaps in the OpenStreetMap community.
  • The Latin American OpenStreetMap community has published (es) videos of the SotM Latam conference recently held in Encarnacion, Paraguay.
  • With the closure of Belarus-based ride-share company Juno, Ilya Zverev and other developers are now employed by OSMF Corporate Member Lyft. This has resulted in suspension (ru) (automatic translation) of posting on Ilya’s blog WHATOSM. As Ilya explains Lyft’s employment contract restricts personal blogging without company permission. Hopefully, this will be a short-term problem.

OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • In her OSM diary post Heather Leson summarises her experiences as part of the OSMF board during the past two years. The blog post focuses on governance, strategic planning in the OSM ecosystem, or the lack of it, and community health and toxic masculinity.
  • Imagico decided to repeat last year’s analysis of the OSMF membership by country using the ratio of OSMF members to daily active editors. The pattern was similar to 2018 with English-speaking countries and others in Western Europe having the highest ratios. There were some trends towards greater diversity. Imagico hopes that the proposed membership waiver approach will accelerate this.The data were provided by the Membership Working Group and Pascal Neis’s OSM Stats.


  • SotM Africa 2019 tweeted their opening video.
  • Kleper has published (es) (automatic translation) in his OSM blog a brief summary about the SOTM Latam 2019 that was held in the city of Encarnación, Paraguay, between 14 and 16 November.
  • The 6th Vienna Geo Meetup will take place (automatic translation) on 9 December 2019 with a talk about the vector data at and reports about SotM 2019 in Heidelberg; and a Mapathon, organised by Doctors without Borders.
  • GeoNews reports (ja) (automatic translation) on the second meetup between OSM mappers and The next meetup is planned for 4 December.

Humanitarian OSM

  • Under the slogan #MaptheDifference HOT kicks off the Microgrants for 2020 by raising funds for six specific projects and the general fund.


  • Terence Eden has posted a guide, in his blog, on how to create a map using OpenLayers, with emphasis on the South with the Peters projection.


  • Like many other sports and outdoor apps or portals, Polar Flow now also uses OpenStreetMap and mentions as reasons for the choice, among others, “more detailed outdoors data” and “better paths”.


  • Guillaume Rischard warns that 308 imagery or map sources in the Editor Layer Index, an index for potential imagery and raster data background layers for OSM editors such as iD and JOSM, have no known licence. Can you help find some of them?



  • Provided that everything went well the servers for MapOSMatic have been updated. The main reason for this upgrade is that this will bring in Mapnik version 3.0.22, which will mean SVG vector patterns will now finally be included into rendered PDF maps as true vector data, instead of converting them into rather low resolution bitmaps first.
  • On 17 November 2019 the Release 1.6.0 of Leaflet was published. There were some minor enhancements and some fixes.

Did you know …

  • … that the OpenStreetBrowser map displays Christmas-related features such as Christmas Trees or Christmas Markets?
  • … the Soup Map that shows which soups can be found in different parts of Europe?
  • … that the list of services that make use of OSM data has been updated on the OpenStreetMap wiki. An example is the multilingual Historic Place.
  • OpenRailwayMap? This OpenStreetMap-based site is actively discussed in the rails_dev discussion list.
  • OsmInEdit, the editor dedicated to indoor mapping? The JavaScript based editor was subject of a talk during the last SotM in Heidelberg.

OSM in the media

  • “Projects like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap and the world of open source software are the kinds of constructive tools that I hoped would flow from the web”, writes Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

Other “geo” things

  • Geoff Boeing, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has developed the open source software package OSMnx. This supports city planners in the creation of maps. The tools use OpenstreetMap as the basis of their data.
  • Minecraft Earth, the OSM-based augmented reality game, is now also available in Western Europe as an early access version.
  • According to a new study, emergency responders could cut costs and save time by using near-real-time satellite data along with other decision-making tools after a flood disaster.

Upcoming Events

Where What When Country
Alice PoliMappers Adventures 2019 2019-12-01-2019-12-31 everywhere
Toronto Toronto Mappy Hour 2019-12-02 canada
Žilina Missing Maps Mapathon Žilina #7 2019-12-02 slovakia
Budapest OSM Hungary Knowledge Sharing Meeting 2019-12-02 hungary
London Missing Maps London 2019-12-03 united kingdom
Stuttgart Stuttgarter Stammtisch 2019-12-04 germany
Stuttgart Stuttgarter Stammtisch 2019-12-04 germany
Bochum Mappertreffen 2019-12-05 germany
San José Civic Hack & Map Night 2019-12-05 united states
Ulmer Alb Stammtisch Ulmer Alb 2019-12-05 germany
Dortmund Mappertreffen 2019-12-05 germany
Digne-les-Bains Soirée spéciale OpenStreetMap 2019-12-05 france
Montrouge Réunion des contributrices et contributeurs de Montrouge et alentours 2019-12-05 france
Belgrade OSM Serbia Meetup 2019-12-07 serbia
AoA and other changes Voting on OSMF board elections 2019-12-07-2019-12-14 world
Grande Região Nordeste Mapeia Nordeste 2019-12-07 brazil
Taipei OSM x Wikidata #11 2019-12-09 taiwan
Zurich 112. OSM Meetup Zurich (Fondue!) 2019-12-09 switzerland
Lyon Rencontre mensuelle pour tous 2019-12-10 france
Salt Lake City SLC Mappy Hour 2019-12-10 united states
Hamburg Hamburger Mappertreffen 2019-12-10 germany
Viersen OSM Stammtisch Viersen 2019-12-10 germany
Mannheim Mannheimer Mapathons 2019-12-12 germany
Munich Münchner Stammtisch 2019-12-12 germany
Nantes Réunion mensuelle 2019-12-12 france
Berlin 138. Berlin-Brandenburg Stammtisch 2019-12-13 germany
Berlin DB Open Data XMAS Hack 2019-12-13-2019-12-14 germany
San Juan OpenStreetMap Workshop for Metro Manila Bikers 2019-12-14 philippines
Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen 2019-12-17 germany
Nottingham Nottingham pub meetup 2019-12-17 united kingdom
Digne-les-Bains HÉRuDi : l’Histoire Étonnante des Rues de Digne 2019-12-17 france
Biella Incontro Mensile 2019-12-21 italy
Cape Town State of the Map 2020 2020-07-03-2020-07-05 south africa

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 PierZen, Polyglot, Rogehm, SK53, Guillaume Rischard (Stereo), SunCobalt, TheSwavu, YoViajo, derFred, geologist, jinalfoflia, keithonearth.

Tech News issue #49, 2019 (December 2, 2019)

00:00, Monday, 02 2019 December UTC
TriangleArrow-Left.svgprevious 2019, week 49 (Monday 02 December 2019) nextTriangleArrow-Right.svg
Other languages:
Deutsch • ‎English • ‎español • ‎français • ‎lietuvių • ‎polski • ‎português • ‎português do Brasil • ‎suomi • ‎svenska • ‎čeština • ‎русский • ‎српски / srpski • ‎українська • ‎עברית • ‎العربية • ‎فارسی • ‎ไทย • ‎中文 • ‎日本語

Bias in @Wikidata and a SMART approach

05:42, Friday, 29 2019 November UTC
When at the WikidataCon quality was presented, it was rated from 1 to 5. This approach has its own bias because it does not consider what may not be there. What is not there can be made visible using assumptions like: "a university has more than one employee" (employee includes professors) and, every country has at least one university..

The bias in Wikidata starts with the way it is mostly used and consequently how it is taught. People are shown what Wikidata looks like, immediately followed up with training in the use of query and the use of tools. At every level it takes considerable skills to make a use of Wikidata. The first hurdle to overcome is to understand the data in a single item. When your language is not English you are toast. This is Cape Town in Newari and this is a useful presentation using Reasonator. With Reasonator the information is easy to digest and adding missing labels is just one click away.

The second hurdle is knowing what bias it is you want to remedy. For a known bias like the gender gap, the Women in Red have lists of missing Wikipedia articles. A Wikidata gap is expressed by the absense of data. Listeria lists are great at that.. These are all the universities of Africa.. If you do not get the extend of what we miss, you have some thinking to do. When you apply this principle to the science of Africa, you find a lot of lists and the biggest issue remains; missing lists.

When you tackle a missing subject like I did for the "Affiliates of the African Academy of Sciences", you will find a source as a reference for the group and a reference on every affiliate. To ensure that the data is relevant and actionable, I added all of them, linked them to ORCiD and/or Google Scholar enabling SourceMD to link them to their papers. I added nationality because this may trigger inclusion on the Women in Red lists and when it was obvious, I added employers so that they may be included as a scholar on African University lists..

When we as a movement want to fight bias, we have to consider the use of lists and particularly Listeria list to show the developments of a subject. With lists available on many Wikipedias, it becomes possible to gain traction on what we miss. This approach is distinctly different as it acknowledges the need for more support for item based editing and it makes the point that missing data is a quality issue that needs to be addressed as a fundamental issue.

It is not a list when it is the result of a query

05:41, Friday, 29 2019 November UTC
A list is a presentation of data. When a list is maintained manually, the list IS the data, when the data is the result of a query, it REPRESENTS the data.

The difference is quite important. Changing the information in a query is in the definition of the query, changing the data is a matter of re-running the query. Changing the information in a list is a lot of work and therefore there is no integrity in the data itself, it is always potluck what quality the data is.

In the Wikipedia world, Listeria is king of the queried lists. For some its use is controversial but things are changing for the better. Projects like Women in Red use Listeria a lot, their work is possible because people add notable women in Wikidata. The queries work on the basis of awards, professions, nationality enabling volunteers to write the articles they care to write. This works because once an article is written they are automagically removed from the lists.

On the English Wikipedia consensus has it that manual lists are to be preferred. However, emperically the quality of automated lists perform better {{REF}} and as data in Wikidata does not suffer from "false friends" even the support for "red links" is vastly superior.

There is no point in anecdotal evidence who is best. When the English Wikipedia has a black link for Stephen Fleming on its page for the Spearman medal first, it is an obvious start for a new item on Wikidata that is more than just a person who won the Spearman medal. It then becomes a target for lists of the special interest groups who aim to cover "their" subject matter well.

The next stage of the acceptance of lists relies on the realisation that "consensus" does not serve us well particularly when it trumps established facts. It will serve us well in politics and, in what Wikimedia projects could be.

WBStack – November review

22:22, Wednesday, 27 2019 November UTC

It’s been roughly 1 month since WBStack appeared online, and it’s time for a quick review of what has been happening in the first month. If you don’t already know what WBStack is, then head to my introduction post.

The number of users and wikis has slowly been increasing. In my last post I stated ” 20 users on the project with 30 Wikibase installs”. 3 weeks after that post WBStack now sits at roughly 38 users with roughly 65 wikibases. Many of these wikibases are primarily users test wikis, but that’s great, the barrier to trying out Wikibase is definitely lowered.

If you would like an invite code to try WBStack, or have any related thoughts of ideas, then please get in touch.

What’s changed

As WBStack is a shared platform, all changes mentioned in this blog post are immediately visible on all hosted Wikibases. In the future there will be various options to turn things on and off, but at this early stage things are being kept simple.

Shape Expressions

EntitySchema is a MediaWiki extension developed for Wikibase that allows storing of Shape Expressions on wiki pages, currently using ShExC syntax, as well as validating entities against those Schemas using an online validator.

You can find the page to create a new Schema in the ‘Wikibase’ sidebar. If you want to find out more about this topic area, you probably want to talk to the Schemas WikiProject on Wikidata.

Queryservice Examples

Thanks to some recent changes in the Queryservice UI code, example pages can now be loaded without needing to setup a parsoid service, which WBStack doesn’t currently have.

The queryservice UI on WBStack now correctly links to a page on your wiki which it will try to load examples from, currently Project:SPARQL/examples. You can redirect this page to wherever you actually want your queries to be located.

With some simple wikitext:


===Select All Triples===

SELECT * WHERE { ?a ?b ?c }

Your queryservice UI will start to render query examples:

There are still some bugs to fix here, note the [edit] appearing where it should not (phabricator). You’ll also notice the large empty space that contains the tag cloud for the Wikidata query service.

Miscellaneous small changes

  • Sped up load times for MediaWiki after a wiki is first created
  • General stability improvements
  • “Project” is now the default meta namespace name
  • 3x Query service UI XSS fixes
  • 2x Endpoints added to the query service federation whitelist

The post WBStack – November review appeared first on Addshore.

Turning a composition course into public scholarship

22:14, Wednesday, 27 2019 November UTC

Learning how to write effectively is an integral part of the college experience, yet many students dread the general composition course. The writing assignments can be restrictively narrow in scope, necessitating students write about subjects that bore them. Hours of research and writing go into drafting a paper that only the instructor will read. With the Wikipedia assignment, however, students in Dr. Amy Carleton’s Interdisciplinary Advanced Writing in the Disciplines course at Northeastern University had something different: Options and an audience.

Altogether, students edited 39 articles, creating 13 brand new entries for one of the world’s largest websites, Wikipedia. The articles created and expanded reflect the diverse interests of Dr. Carleton’s students.

A beergarden in Munich, which now illustrates the new article Craft beer tourism.
Image by Martin Falbisoner, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
  • While there’s been an article about enotourism (wine tourism) for over a decade, it was only in October that Wikipedia gained an article for craft beer tourism—a student creation that is extensively illustrated and supported with 28 unique references!
  • Silicon Valley is known as one of the tech meccas of the US, leading to a crunch in affordable housing. A student wrote a new article for access to affordable housing in the Silicon Valley, exploring the number of homes available, the costs of these homes, and the incomes needed to purchase an available home.
  • True crime stories are popular in television and podcasts, and as it turns out, Wikipedia. Since a student created the article Murder of Angie Dodge, it has been viewed more than 500 times! Ultimately the same familial searching technology famously used to catch the Golden State Killer was used in this crime as well, leading to the arrest of a suspect in the case.
The Procuress by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which is a newly created article.
Image in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Traditional college students of today have grown up on the internet. When they edit Wikipedia, they bring a unique perspective steeped in online culture. A student’s edits brought VSCO girl, a Gen Z subculture, to the encyclopedia, racking up a staggering 200,000 views in the last month alone!
  • Some students wrote about topics a little older than VSCO girl—more than 500 years older in one case! A student wrote a new article about The Procuress, a 1548 oil-on-oil painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder. In a 1994 heist the painting was stolen from the Georgian National Museum, only to make a triumphant return a decade later.

By selecting their own topics, students were able to choose ones they were passionate about, likely investing more time and effort in their research and writing. Knowing that their work will reach a global audience empowers students to know that their voices matter. The process of how content appears on Wikipedia is also demystified, giving students a greater understanding of the site’s mechanisms and helping them read with a more critical eye. With over 41,000 words added to Wikipedia, which have been viewed nearly a million times, the impact and audience of the students’ work is undeniable.

Interested in incorporating a Wikipedia writing assignment into an upcoming course? Visit for access to our free assignment templates, management tool, and staff support.

Please let us support #Science at @Wikidata

08:50, Wednesday, 27 2019 November UTC
When the BBC informs us about reforestation in Ethiopia.. It is Dr Tewolde-Berahan who informs BBC's Justin Rowlatt about the work that is done in preparation of planting trees.

It is a humorous piece of information that gets the message across; you can plant where trees were absent for generations and make the (local) climate change.

Consider; you now want to seriously know more about reforestation in Ethiopia. Where do you go to? Wikipedia, in all its magnificence, is rooted in its articles and thereby dated. Through its references however, there are links to its authors, to many more authors and their publications. Every article has in this way its concept cloud and it could be translated in a Scholia for an article.

The current Scholias are itself already a rabbit hole that leads in many directions and a Scholia for an article would be something different again. The article links to subjects, has its papers and by inference authors, they may link to newer papers, more papers, contradicting papers. They may lead to scientists who research similar notions for another locality.. Why not reforest Spain in France? When reforestation is possible in Ethiopia, what would be different to make this unfeasible in Europe?

And all this becomes possible when you consider Wikipedia as the jumping off point in any and all directions, not just within Wikipedia..

NB I know there are two fellows of the Ethiopian Academy of Science related to this subject. Who are they and how are they connected to Dr Tewolde-Berahan?

“I started to see each Wikipedia page as less of a monolith and more as a creative, patchwork monster that perhaps hundreds of people were working on.”

In an inter-institutional training course with the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries (referred to henceforth as “the Alliance”), librarians have had the opportunity to collaborate closely with peers across the state. Over 12 weeks, they’ve learned how to use Wikimedia projects as tools in their work to preserve and share knowledge with the public. By embedding Wikipedia know-how within their institutions, these Wiki Scholars can enrich their educational and preservation efforts long after the course ends.

This is the story of how and why this group joined the Wikipedia movement, and how other organizations can make that happen for their faculty, staff, or members.

Why did librarians join a Wikipedia “how-to” course?

Information Services & Reference Librarian Melissa Huang.
Image by Mshuang2, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Melissa Huang is an Information Services & Reference Librarian at Western Colorado University and participated in the course after being asked to join by her supervisor. “I readily accepted because I wanted to get more insights into Wikipedia,” Melissa shared. “As a librarian, I had already used it as an information literacy exercise with students.” Learning more about the behind-the-scenes world of the site would help for future curricula, as well as satisfy a personal curiosity about how the site’s information lives and breathes.

Like most of us, Melissa had had plenty of experience using Wikipedia as a jumping off point in her own research or to answer a quick question. “But it was really as a graduate student that I started to see a lot of the cracks.”

So often, subject-matter experts can quickly spot something in a Wikipedia page that needs correction, but they either don’t make the change, or it doesn’t stick when they do. Our courses equip them with the Wikipedia know-how to contribute their valuable perspective to these pages.

Understanding the back end of knowledge production on the site prepares professionals to pass on digital literacy skills to students. Instead of discouraging the use of Wikipedia altogether, instructors increasingly find it’s more impactful to equip students with the analytical skills to make sense of what they find there.

“My perspective changed a great deal throughout the course,” Melissa shared. “I started to see each Wikipedia page as less of a monolith and more as a creative, patchwork monster that perhaps hundreds of people were working on, and that these were all works-in-progress. Maybe the biggest change was in seeing the discussions behind each topic and the fullness of the community responsible for those changes. It seems silly now, but I hadn’t really considered the fact that Wikipedia is really a community of people, and as with any large group of people, there are different factions and conflicting beliefs on the ‘right’ way to go about anything.”

What did the course look like?

Scholars & Scientists Program Manager Ryan McGrady and Senior Wikipedia Expert Ian Ramjohn met with the cohort of Alliance members once a week for 12 weeks. In these virtual, synchronous sessions, Ryan and Ian demystified the inner-workings of Wikipedia, created space for these newcomers to make successful contributions, and helped answer any questions that arose throughout the process. They led discussions on the philosophy of an open community producing knowledge, what content gaps that inevitably leaves, and why it can be so difficult as a newcomer to enter that space.

In general, our courses prepare experts from a wide variety of fields to contribute content to the most-read Wikipedia pages relevant to their area of study. These personalized courses have plenty of space to help participants think beyond the course, too. Some incorporate what they’ve learned into curricula, taking advantage of the free resources for a Wikipedia writing assignment that we offer through our Student Program. The assignment is a great opportunity for students to engage with (and help create!) open educational resources. Other course alumni present at conferences about the power of this public scholarship. And still others may develop research related to the online encyclopedia. Whatever the goals of our participants, we can help.

What it means to partner with Wiki Education around a training course

Our Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson works personally with organizations like the Alliance to set up Wikipedia training courses that align with their mission. In conversations with the Alliance’s Executive Director, George Machovec, as well as Dustin Fife of Western Colorado University, Jami identified what Wiki Education could help their members achieve and worked with other Wiki Education staff to build the course and ensure it would be an excellent learning experience for the Alliance’s participating members.

“The Alliance’s members are research libraries, and their faculty are often interested in running Wikipedia-related events or supporting Wikipedia assignments in the classroom,” Jami shared. “We decided to run this Wiki Scholars course to train librarians who would build their new skills and Wikipedia expertise into their professional roles within the libraries.”

The Alliance’s interest in collaboration and open access, as well as its commitment to helping member libraries “stay ahead in the rapidly changing world of information management” made a Wikipedia training course an attractive fit for its members. Involvement in Wikipedia presents an interesting opportunity to fulfill these goals. The site is an important player in the modern information landscape. So when libraries participate in its inner-workings, they position themselves within evolving discussions around information access in the 21st century.

“After working with these faculty for 3 months, we’re thrilled to see the excellent work they have done on Wikipedia, and we look forward to learning more about how their skills benefit their professional lives,” Jami shared.

Course successes

Participating librarians noted in a post-course survey that one of the biggest benefits of the online sessions was the opportunity to hear from and collaborate with other teachers and with our Wikipedia expert staff. This positive course outcome speaks to the Alliance’s belief* (and Wikipedia’s self-stated purpose) that information leaders can multiply their influence and better the world by working collaboratively.

Not only did participants benefit each other by working together, but they did some great work on Wikipedia itself! Among many pages that the Alliance Wiki Scholars worked on, they:

  • added information about the history and development of web archiving to its page (which has been viewed 11,460 times since);
  • added the definition of a research question to its page, as well as the process for constructing one (which has been viewed 28,966 times since);
  • and expanded the philosophy section of the Black Girl Magic movement page and added information about its appearance in popular culture (11,766 views since).

“I had a great time and felt I learned a lot in this course,” Melissa shared. “It was really interesting to get into the weeds of what kind of editing you can or should do, the etiquette involved with corrections, and so on.”

What comes next?

“I would like to continue editing articles and adding to my areas of interest,” said Melissa. “And I definitely think that I will be able to use the information gathered in this course in my own instruction sessions about Wikipedia.”

As a Teaching and Learning Librarian put it in their post-course survey, “The experience was significant to me in a number of ways: as a teacher, it gave me the opportunity to imagine the experience of a learner working with Wikipedia. As a scholar, it gave me the opportunity to author in a different voice and for a broader audience. As a digital citizen committed to the commons, it gave me the opportunity to be active in tangible ways and to take advantage of my information privilege.”

This project is sponsored by the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, especially with the hard work of George Machovec and Dustin Fife. The Alliance has sponsored 12 seats since June 2019. Participation for accepted members is free. If you’re interested in buying out a customized professional development course for members or staff of your organization or institution, contact Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson at

weeklyOSM 487

02:03, Monday, 25 2019 November UTC


lead picture

State of the Map Asia 2019 – Dhaka, Bangladesh 1 | © NN


  • SelfishSeahorse’s proposal to tag lanes on roads which are explicitly marked for pedestrians, in open for voting.
  • Clifford Snow opened voting for his proposal footway=access_aisle, intended to tag marked footways to parking lots in parking areas.
  • SelfishSeahorse’s proposal to use footway=link to connect stairs or sidewalks with roads has been changed to the status “proposed”.
  • Eric Theise proposes a way to describe whether communication masts or towers are disguised as something else. The suggested key is mimics= with values being the type of object being mimicked, and the proposal has been started.
  • Strava permits OSM tracing from Strava’s heatmap, which is based on the uploaded GPS tracks of activities of its users. The service claims that users upload approximately 8 million activities each week.
  • A new key marker, which was the subject of a recent proposal and associated discussions, has been approved. The key is meant for all kinds of utility markers and is suggested to replace usage such as pipeline=marker. However, not everyone is happy with deprecating tags with widespread usage.


  • Michael Reichert presented (automatic translation) a draft (automatic translation) of a joint declaration of the German OSM community with demands for the future development of iD editors for discussion in the German forum and on the mailing list Talk-de (automatic translation).
  • OpenStreetMap reported on Twitter that teachers from some European towns met in Saarburg, Germany for a training session in humanitarian mapping and a hackathon, to kick off a two year Erasmus+ project.
  • The milpa digital project dedicated their 14th edition (es) (automatic translation) to OpenStreetMap.
  • Long-time Russian user Zkir has been interviewed in depth (ru) (automatic translation) on Habr. He has created a YouTube channel “OpenStreetMap and not only“, where he reviews various services and applications related to OSM, such as Sight Safari, OsmBuildings, and so on.
  • OSM Community index is one of the resources which allows the community to add the different communication channels that they use for communications. This list is now visualised and all the community channels are just a click away.


OpenStreetMap Foundation

  • Michael Collinson announced the official questions for the candidates of the upcoming OSMF board election.
  • On GitHub, Ian Dees suggests introducing API keys for the OSMF tile servers and proposes code written by himself. His motivation seems to be the overload of the tile caches in some regions where the OSMF lacks hardware donations. Tom Hughes, one of the sysadmins, points out that the software Ian developed is not directly suitable for our setup, which has more than 40 cache servers.


  • Marcel Reinmuth from the Heidelberg University’s GIScience Research Group will give (de) (automatic translation) a talk about his internship at Uganda’s HOT team. The talk is scheduled for 28 November in Heidelberg, Germany.
  • Presentations and videos from local State of the Map CZ+SK 2019 conference in Brno are available.
  • Yeni IRM-RV described her impressions of the State of the Map Asia 2019 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in a illustrated article in her OSM user diary.

Humanitarian OSM

  • Felix Delattre informed the users of HOT’s tasking manager about the unstable state of the tool after a maintenance procedure. The issue came during the worst possible time at the GeoWeek with many planned mapathons. The system was back online some hours later.


  • Facebook provides datasets with roads under the MIT license, which have been detected with their machine learning technology and OSM data – or missing OSM road data to be precise. Rory McCann asks, on the mailing list, if these records fall under the ODbL’s share-alike clause.


  • Jungle Bus announces its new editor: Busy Hours, a web editor for transport line schedules. It allows setting operating hours, peak and off-peak times, and service frequencies at these times. It is based on the tags of the proposal that was voted on last December. Help is needed to make it available in other languages.
  • The routing app Ski Nav has launched on iOS and Android, with a browser-based demo also available. User jancellor wrote a diary entry about how OSM data is processed and combined with NASA elevation data to make routing possible and to produce 3D piste maps, with a perspective similar to the official paper maps.
  • RustProof Labs, a Colorado-based IT consulting firm, published PgOSM on GitHub, a tool under MIT licence that aims to make access to open source spatial data easier by providing a simple way to load *.pbf files into PostGIS.
  • Inga Pöting reviewed (automatic translation) the navigation app Magic Earth from the perspective of its respect for user privacy. As General Magic goes to great efforts to respect the privacy of its users, Magic Earth can be recommend without restrictions.
  • A Russian programmer Maxim Ilyukovich has developed a mobile app Wander (so far Android only (ru)), which allows you to build interesting tourist routes in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The app is based on OSM data. Maxim also tells (ru) (automatic translation) in detail how he worked on the app.


  • A new article was published on Habr by the user provotor, where he shared (ru) (automatic translation) his experience of importing data from OSM.


  • After more than three years (9 June 2016) a new version of Merkaartor has been released. This is “only” a bugfix-release with some adjustments but at least they are still working on it. Thanks to Krakonoš.
  • The OsmAnd team has announced the release of version 3.5 of its Android navigation software. The application, profile settings, and the map download dialogs have been updated and the basemap offers a more detailed road network. For people planning to ski during the winter, the app now provides ski routing.
  • Missing Maps produced a video that promotes the use of KoBo by providing a brief introduction into the usage of the KoBo collection app and pointing to the advantages of mapping one’s own neighbourhood. The video also links to a summarising one-pager.

Did you know …

  • … that you can access the map features that have been extracted by Mapillary from its streetside imagery from iD? Mapillary announced the new layer, which you can find in iD’s map data tab.
  • … of MyWay (automatic translation), a website allowing you to find a convenient itinerary on the subway in Moscow? The service is developed by the Russian company NextGIS.
  • … about the various validators (ru) (automatic translation) created by the Russian user Cupivan? The service provides some unusual validations such as hazards, building entrances and helipads.
  • …Wowik’s Validator (automatic translation)? The validator can find potential problems with the mapping of roads and missing places, mainly in Russia and surrounding countries but also for other countries such as Nepal and Germany. In addition the tool offers the Polygon files required to cut OSM extracts into smaller pieces.

OSM in the media

  • Before the SotM LATAM 2019, the NGO TEDIC has published (es) (automatic translation) an article about OpenStreetMap and the role mapping plays in our perception of the space around us.

Other “geo” things

  • Dan Cookson has used nearly 10 years’ worth of open data on UK postcodes to drive an animation of the creation of new postcodes, which are a good proxy for the location of new housing developments.
  • Joaquin Beltran tweeted an animation of military situation maps from the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944 through to VE day in May 1945.
  • The deadline for submitting a paper to the 17th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM 2020) is 6 December 2019. ISCRAM 2020 will be held at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia USA, on 24 to 27 May 2020.
  • The High Moselle Bridge, formerly the largest bridge construction project in Europe and currently Germany’s second highest bridge, has finally been completed and opened to traffic, after 8 years of construction. Thousands of citizens celebrated this at the airy height of 160 m above the Moselle valley. The bridge now creates a direct road connection between the Rhine-Main area and the Benelux countries. OSM is, of course, one of the first (automatic translation) to show this new route.
  • Swinburne University, Australia featured an article about research that investigated whether using photos of landmarks in mobile navigation apps helped in wayfinding. The research shows that such images can, to some extent, compensate for the lower spatial knowledge that users of mobile maps have compared to paper map users.
  • QuoVadis has released their follow up to QV7, QuoVadis X (QVX). QVX is a route planning tool which can be used to create and manage routes for uploading to your GPS device.
  • Ciarán Staunton discovered an archival TV clip from 1985 describing early computerisation of map making in Ireland.
  • Joe Morrison thinks that mature, open source alternatives are not disrupting Esri’s core business and explains the reasons for his conclusion in a comprehensive article at
  • StrelkaMag published an interactive map “The history of Moscow housing(ru). The map shows during which era houses in Moscow were built. Even without understanding Russian, you can watch the growth of the City of Moscow in both housing numbers and the spatial extent, over different periods such as the Lenin or Stalin eras.
  • About a year ago Yandex, a kind of Russian Google, launched (ru) (automatic translation) a service similar to Mapillary – a collection of panoramic images from users, mainly taken with dashcams. Now these images are available on Yandex.Maps in the “Zerkala” (Mirrors) section.

Upcoming Events

Where What When Country
Salt Lake City OSM Utah Mapping Night 2019-11-26 united states
Rémire-Montjoly Réunion mensuelle OSM Guyane 2019-11-26 france
Zurich Missing Maps Mapathon Zürich 2019-11-27 switzerland
Düsseldorf Stammtisch 2019-11-27 germany
Singen Stammtisch Bodensee 2019-11-27 germany
Kilkenny Kilkenny Mapping Event 2019-11-30 ireland
Nantes Participation à « Nantes en sciences » 2019-11-30 france
Ivrea Incontro Mensile 2019-11-30 italy
Toronto Toronto Mappy Hour 2019-12-02 canada
Žilina Missing Maps Mapathon Žilina #7 2019-12-02 slovakia
Budapest OSM Hungary Knowledge Sharing Meeting 2019-12-02 hungary
London Missing Maps London 2019-12-03 united kingdom
Stuttgart Stuttgarter Stammtisch 2019-12-04 germany
Stuttgart Stuttgarter Stammtisch 2019-12-04 germany
Bochum Mappertreffen 2019-12-05 germany
San José Civic Hack & Map Night 2019-12-05 united states
Ulmer Alb Stammtisch Ulmer Alb 2019-12-05 germany
Dortmund Mappertreffen 2019-12-05 germany
Digne-les-Bains Soirée spéciale OpenStreetMap 2019-12-05 france
Belgrade OSM Serbia Meetup 2019-12-07 serbia
AoA and other changes Voting on OSMF board elections 2019-12-07-2019-12-14 world
Grande Região Nordeste Mapeia Nordeste 2019-12-07 brazil
Taipei OSM x Wikidata #11 2019-12-09 taiwan
Salt Lake City SLC Mappy Hour 2019-12-10 united states
Hamburg Hamburger Mappertreffen 2019-12-10 germany
Viersen OSM Stammtisch Viersen 2019-12-10 germany
Mannheim Mannheimer Mapathons 2019-12-12 germany
Munich Münchner Stammtisch 2019-12-12 germany
Nantes Réunion mensuelle 2019-12-12 france
Berlin 138. Berlin-Brandenburg Stammtisch 2019-12-13 germany
Berlin DB Open Data XMAS Hack 2019-12-13-2019-12-14 germany
Lüneburg Lüneburger Mappertreffen 2019-12-17 germany
Nottingham Nottingham pub meetup 2019-12-17 united kingdom
Cape Town State of the Map 2020 2020-07-03-2020-07-05 south africa

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, Nakaner, NunoMASAzevedo, Polyglot, Rogehm, SK53, Silka123, Guillaume Rischard (Stereo), SunCobalt, TheSwavu, YoViajo, derFred.

Tech News issue #48, 2019 (November 25, 2019)

00:00, Monday, 25 2019 November UTC
TriangleArrow-Left.svgprevious 2019, week 48 (Monday 25 November 2019) nextTriangleArrow-Right.svg
Other languages:
Bahasa Indonesia • ‎Deutsch • ‎English • ‎español • ‎français • ‎lietuvių • ‎magyar • ‎polski • ‎português do Brasil • ‎suomi • ‎svenska • ‎čeština • ‎русский • ‎српски / srpski • ‎українська • ‎עברית • ‎اردو • ‎العربية • ‎فارسی • ‎हिन्दी • ‎ไทย • ‎中文 • ‎日本語

In Changes and improvements to PHPUnit testing in MediaWiki, I wrote about efforts to help speed up PHPUnit code coverage generation for local development.[0] While this improves code coverage generation time for local development, it could be better.

As the Manual:PHP unit testing/Code coverage page advises, adjusting the whitelist in the PHPUnit XML configuration can speed things up dramatically. The problem is, adjusting that file is a manual process and a little cumbersome, so I usually didn't do it. And then because code coverage generation reports were slow locally[1], I ended up not running them while working on a patch. True, you will get feedback on code coverage metrics from CI, but it would be nicer if you could quickly get this information in your local environment first.

This was the motivation to add a Composer script in MediaWiki core that will help you adjust the PHPUnit coverage whitelist quickly while you're working on a patch for an extension or skin.

You can run it with composer phpunit:coverage-edit -- extensions/$EXT_NAME, e.g. composer phpunit:coverage-edit -- extensions/GrowthExperiments.

The ComposerPhpunitXmlCoverageEdit.php script copies the phpunit.xml.dist file to phpunit.xml (not version controlled), and modifies the whitelist to add directories for that extension/skin. vendor/bin/phpunit then reads phpunit.xml instead of the phpunit.xml.dist file. Tip: Make sure "Edit configurations" in your IDE (PhpStorm in my case) is using vendor/bin/phpunit and phpunit.xml, not phpunit.xml.dist, when executing the tests.

generating phpunit.xml and running code coverage in phpstorm

When you want to reset your configuration, you can rm phpunit.xml and vendor/bin/phpunit will read from phpunit.xml.dist again.

Further improvements to the script could include:

  • Reading the extension.json file to determine which directories to add to the whitelist, rather than using a hardcoded list (T235029)
  • Allow passing arbitrary directories/filenames, e.g. for working with subsections of core or of a larger extension (T235030)
  • Adding a flag for flipping the addUncoveredFilesFromWhitelist property, so that in the integration/config repo could be removed in favor of the Composer script (T235031)

Thanks to @Mainframe98 and @Krinkle for review of the patch and to @AnneT for reviewing this post. Happy hacking!

[0] One patch changed <whitelist addUncoveredFilesFromWhitelist="true"> to false to help speed up PHPUnit code coverage generation, the second patch flipped the flag back to true in CI for generating complete coverage reports.
[1] For GrowthExperiments, generating coverage reports without a customized whitelist takes ~17 seconds. With a custom whitelist, it takes ~1 second. While 17 seconds is arguably not a lot of time, the near-instant feedback with a customized whitelist means one is less likely to face interruptions to their flow or concentration while working on a patch.

A buggy history

10:40, Saturday, 23 2019 November 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 interest in Indian insects has been approached by many writers and there are several bits and pieces available in journals and there are various insights distributed across books. There are numerous ways of looking at how people historically viewed insects. One attempt is a collection of biographies, some of which are uncited verbatim (and not even within quotation marks) accounts  from obituaries, by B.R. Subba Rao who also provides something of a historical thread connecting the biographies. Keeping Indian expectations in view, Subba Rao and M.A. Husain play to the crowd. Husain was writing in pre-Independence times where there was a genuine conflict between Indian intellectuals and their colonial masters. They begin with interpretations of mentions of insects in old Indian writings. As can be expected there are mentions of honey, shellac, bees, ants, and a few nuisance insects in old texts. Husain takes the fact that the term Satpada षट्पद or six-legs existed in the 1st century Amarakosa to suggest that Indians were far ahead of time because Latreille's Hexapoda, the supposed analogy, was proposed only in 1825. Such histories gloss over the structures on which science and one can only assume that they failed to find the development of such structures in the ancient texts that they examined. The identification of species mentioned in old texts are often based on ambiguous translations should leave one wondering what the value of claiming Indian priority in identifying a few insects is. 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 Mahdihassan.  The indragopa (Indra's cowherd) is supposedly something that appears after the rains. Sanskrit scholars have identified it variously as the cochineal insect (the species Dactylopius coccus is South American!), the lac insect, a firefly(!) and as Trombidium (red velvet mite) - the last matches the blood red colour mentioned in a text attributed to Susrutha. To be fair, ambiguities resulting from translation are not limited to those that deal 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 culture. 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 not considered merit-worthy.

A more meaningful overview of entomology may be gained by reading and synthesizing a large number of historical bits, 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 would not have been able to have many conversations on these 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

Entmologists 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, 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)

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 - K. Kunhikannan - 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 -

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 on the suggestion of Kunhikannan.

    Wiki Loves Monuments Winners

    12:20, Friday, 22 2019 November UTC

    The winners of the 2019 Wiki Loves Monuments competition were announced a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to see four entries from Scotland among the winners. The overall winner for the UK is this gorgeous shot by MHoser of Kilchurn Castle, the stronghold of the Campbells of Glen Orchy.

    Kilchurn Castle at sunrise, CC BY-SA 4.0, MHoser.

    Of all the prize winning images, the one that I really love is this image of Arnol Blackhouse by Castlehunter (David C. Weinczok), which won the prize for best image of an interior. Arnol Blackhouse on the Isle of Lewis is a site I know well and have visited many times and this shot really captures the unique atmosphere of the house. It’s a really evocative image for me as I spent a lot of my childhood playing in the roofless ruins of houses like this. Just about every croft had the remains of an “old house”, which was pressed into service as a barn or a byre, a place to pen ewes with sickly lambs, store rusting rolls of old fencing wire, or just left to fall quietly into disrepair.

    Arnol Blackhouse, CC BY-SA 4.0, David C. Weinczok

    I was also quietly chuffed that two of my own photographs made it onto the long lost. I really enjoy taking part in Wiki Loves Monuments, but I’m definitely not in it or the prizes, in fact as a Wikimedia UK Board member I can’t be shortlisted.  I just really enjoy knowing that my amateurish snaps are making a positive contribution to the Commons, and in some cases are providing a visual record of sites and monuments that would otherwise be unrepresented. Both my long listed images are of the interior of Glasgow City Chambers and show the stunning Carrara Marble staircase. I’ve taken a few picture of the City Chambers before and some of my pictures already appears on the Wikipedia pages for both the Chambers and Carrara Marble.

    Glasgow City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, CC BY-SA 4.0, LornaMCampbell

    And in case you’re thinking that Wiki Loves Monuments is just for experienced photographers with fancy cameras, it’s worth noting that both my long listed images, and Castlehunter’s stunning photograph of Arnol Blackhouse, were taken with smart phones. So when Wiki Loves Monuments comes around next September, why not head out with your phone in your pocket and snap some pictures.  You never know, you might win a prize too! 

    Meeting your patients where they are: on Wikipedia

    17:27, Thursday, 21 2019 November UTC

    “Our patients are using Wikipedia for their health questions, so the more health professionals we have editing, the better and safer information they get.”*

    What would the world look like if everyone had unfettered access to knowledge? Free knowledge resources like Wikipedia provide an opportunity to put power into the hands of everyone. The Society of Family Planning (SFP) agrees, so they’ve sponsored Wikipedia training courses for their members to help improve the quality of abortion and contraception content on Wikipedia. Two cohorts of these in-depth trainings have now taken place (each spanning 12 weeks) and participating scholars have had great success bringing their expertise and professional experience into Wikipedia.

    The training course

    Wiki Education’s staff of Wikipedia experts facilitated online group sessions for participating SFP members, providing them with a space to ask questions, collaborate with each other, and receive hands-on support and technical training. Participants are now equipped with the Wikipedia know-how to contribute high-quality content to some of the site’s most-read pages about family planning.

    Beyond the course

    Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson and Customer Success Manager Samantha Weald were thrilled to join many of these participating members, as well as SFP staff, at SFP’s annual meeting in October. Jami joined course participants Colleen Denny, Bhavik Kumar, Anne Davis, and Grace Ferguson on a panel about public scholarship through Wikipedia. The group responded to curious and enthusiastic attendees with overwhelmingly positive remarks about their experience in our course and the fulfillment they felt successfully adding to Wikipedia. The passion these scholars have for providing the public with up-to-date, accurate medical information was evident. Gaining knowledge and tools to more successfully contribute to Wikipedia is a great outcome of this course.

    Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson joined course participants on a panel at SFP’s annual meeting this October.


    Among the many successes of this course, a few stand out.

    Doulas play an important support role in many people’s health-related experiences, and the Wikipedia page about these professionals receives more than 1,000 views every day. The page was substantially expanded and improved by an SFP scholar, who rewrote the introduction and added multiple sections, including ones about training and certification. Previously, the page only referenced doulas in relation to childbirth. Now the new summary paragraphs reflect that doulas are involved in other capacities, as well, including with miscarriage, abortion, and end-of-life care. The SFP scholar is now responsible for more than half of the current entry.

    The doula page was significantly improved by a Society of Family Planning scholar.
    Image by Senado Federal, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

    The page for vaginal bleeding saw impressive growth, with a scholar adding more than 2,500 words. They are responsible for half of this page, which is considered of “top importance” among Wikipedia pages related to women’s health. The section on vaginal bleeding in premenopausal women is dramatically expanded, with detailed and specific information conditions that can cause vaginal bleeding. 200 people consult this page every day.

    The osmotic dilators page was a short stub with some outdated citations before an SFP scholar updated it and more than doubled its content. And because they have access to the tool in their professional work, the scholar even took some photos and uploaded them, as the page previously lacked any illustrations.

    Tubal ligation, the surgical procedure commonly known as having one’s “tubes tied,” is one of the most popular forms of contraception. The page on tubal ligation receives more than 550 pageviews every day. It was significantly expanded and improved by a course participant, who is now responsible for 89% of the page. That participant shared why she thinks medical professionals should be involved in Wikipedia editing in one of our previous blog posts.

    Menstrual suppression is the use of hormonal management to stop or reduce menstrual bleeding. Surprisingly, Wikipedia did not have a page about this topic before an SFP scholar created it.

    The page about medical abortion (or medication abortion) describes the use of pills to bring about an abortion. It is another high-impact Wikipedia page, with 450 people checking it each day. A health professional in one of the SFP courses made a wide range of improvements, including reworking the introduction, expanding content, adding references, and replacing references with up-to-date research.

    Another scholar improved the page on reproductive rights, with a focus on expanding the human rights section.

    Given that most people who add content to the English Wikipedia live in the Global North, content about other countries is either underdeveloped or is told from an outsider’s perspective. One SFP scholar from Uganda went about telling the story of family planning in Uganda in their own words. Read more in our blog post.

    The unintended pregnancy page has also been improved. The scholar who tackled it refined the definition, improved statistical information, added up-to-date references, and contributed content about other factors associated with unintended pregnancy.

    An abortion fund is a non-profit that provides assistance to low-income women who cannot afford the costs of an abortion. The abortion fund page was expanded, many parts rewritten, and many sources added or replaced by an SFP scholar.

    Other scholars fixed errors, updated statistics, expanded sections, or improved citations in the pages on emergency contraception, reproductive coercion, dilation and evacuation, late termination of pregnancy, mifepristone, and the main abortion page.

    This project is sponsored by the Society of Family Planning (SFP) with the hard work of Amanda Dennis, Jenny O’Donnell, and other staff members. SFP has sponsored 32 seats since June 2019. Participation for accepted SFP members is free. If you’re interested in buying out a customized professional development course for members or staff of your organization or institution, contact Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson at

    Transcript and slides from my keynote at the Open all Ours event at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

    This talk covers a broad overview of the domain of open education before going on to provide examples of how we support engagement with open education and OER at the University of Edinburgh. Hopefully this will provide inspiration by highlighting the many different ways you can integrate different aspects of open education and OER into your teaching practice.

    So what is open education?

    Open education is many things to many people.

    • A practice?
    • A philosophy?
    • A movement?
    • A human right?
    • A licensing issue?
    • A buzz word?
    • A way to save money?

    Cape Town Declaration

    The principles of the open education were outlined in the 2008 Cape Town Declaration, one of the first initiatives to lay the foundations of the “emerging open education movement”. The Declaration advocates that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, and redistribute educational resources without constraint, in order to nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need. The Cape Town Declaration is still an influential document and it was updated last year on its 10th anniversary as Capetown +10, and I can highly recommend having a look at this if you want a broad overview of the principles of open education.

    Aspects of Open Education

    Although there’s no one hard and fast definition of open education, one description of the open education movement that I particularly like is from the not for profit organization OER Commons…

    “The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation.”

    Open education is highly contextual and encompasses many different things. These are just some of the aspects of open education

    • Open online courses
    • Open pedagogy
    • Open practice
    • Open assessment practices
    • Open textbooks
    • Open licensing
    • Open data
    • MOOCs
    • Open Access scholarly works
    • Open educational resources (OER)


    Though Open Education can encompass many different things, open educational resources, or OER, are central to any understanding of this domain.

    UNESCO define open educational resources as

    “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”

    UNESCO Policy Instruments

    And the reason I’ve chosen this definition is that UNESCO is one of a number of international agencies that actively supports the global adoption of open educational resources. In 2012 UNESCO released the Paris OER Declaration which encourages governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds, in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment. And in 2017 UNESCO brought together 111 member states for the 2nd OER World Congress in Slovenia, the main output of which was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan. Central to the OER Action plan is the acknowledgement of the role that OER can play in achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 and support quality education that is equitable, inclusive, open and participatory.

    In his summing up at the end of the congress UNESCO Assistant Director for Education Qian Tang said

    “to meet the education challenges, we can’t use the traditional way. In remote and developing areas, particularly for girls and women, OER are a crucial, crucial means to reach SDGs. OER are the key.”

    The Action Plan acknowledges that open education and OER provide a strategic opportunity to improve knowledge sharing, capacity building and universal access to quality learning and teaching resources. And, when coupled with collaborative learning, and supported by sound pedagogical practice, OER has the transformative potential to increase access to education, opening up opportunities to create and share an array of educational resources to accommodate greater diversity of educator and learner needs.

    Open Education at the University of Edinburgh

    At the University of Edinburgh we believe that open education and OER are strongly in line with our institutional mission to deliver impact for society, discover, develop and share knowledge, and make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the Scotland, the UK and the world.

    OER Vision

    The University has a vision for OER which has three strands, building on our excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment and the university’s civic mission. These are:

    • For the common good – encompassing every day teaching and learning materials.
    • Edinburgh at its best – high quality resources produced by a range of projects and initiatives.
    • Edinburgh’s Treasures – content from our world class cultural heritage collections.

    OER Policy

    This vision is backed up by an OER Policy, approved by our Learning and Teaching Committee, which encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience. This OER Policy is itself CC licensed and is adapted from an OER Policy that has already been adopted by a number of other institutions in the UK. The fact that this policy was approved by the Learning and Teaching Committee, rather than by the Knowledge Strategy Committee is significant because it places open education and OER squarely in the domain of teaching and learning. The University’s vision for OER is very much the brain child of Melissa Highton, Assisstant Principal Online Learning and Director of Learning and Teaching Web Services. EUSA, the student union were also instrumental in encouraging the University to adopt an OER policy, and we continue to see student engagement and co-creation as being fundamental aspects of open education.

    OER Service

    But of course policy is nothing without support, so we also have an OER Service that provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER and engaging with open education. We run a wide range of digital skills workshops for staff and students focused on copyright literacy, open licencing, OER and playful engagement. the OER Service places openness at the centre of the university’s strategic initiatives by embedding digital skills training and support in the institution’s strategic initiatives including lecture recording, academic blogging, VLE foundations, MOOCs and distance learning at scale, in order to build sustainability and minimise the risk of technical debt.

    And we also provide a one stop shop that provides access to open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university. We don’t have a single centralized OER repository at the university, instead we encourage colleagues to share resources where they can be easily managed and found. To this end, we maintain Open.Ed accounts on a number of channels including Media Hopper Create, our media asset management platform, Flickr, Sketchfab, and TES Resources. And we aggregate a show case of resources on the Open.Ed website, which is built on the WordPress open source platform.

    In addition to working closely with our students, the OER Service also hosts Open Content Creation student interns every summer, and I’ll say a little more about our interns later.

    Okay so that’s the big picture vision, but what I want to do now is highlight some of the benefits of engaging with OER and Open Education, highlighted by examples of innovative open education initiatives that are going on across our university.

    Access to Resources

    Creating and using open educational resources is an important way to ensure longevity of access to course materials, and this can benefit staff, students, and the university itself. It’s very common to think of OER as primarily being of benefit to those outwith the institution, however open licenses also help to ensure that we can continue to use and reuse the resources that we ourselves have created. I’m sure you’ll all have come across projects that created great content only for those resources to become inaccessible once the project ends, or great teaching and learning materials belonging to a colleague who has subsequently retired or moved on, and nobody quite knows if they can still be used or not. Unless teaching and learning resources carry a clear and unambiguous licence statement, it is difficult to know whether and in what context they can be reused. This is a phenomenon that my colleague Melissa Highton has referred to as copyright debt. If you don’t get the licensing right first time round it will cost you to fix it further down the line, and the cost and reputational risk to the university could be significant if copyright is breached. And this is one of the best strategic reasons for investing in open educational resources at the institutional level. We need to ensure that we have the right use, adapt, and reuse, the educational resources we have invested in.

    In the context of online distance learning, using open licensed resources means that students can continue to access and use these resources after they have graduated. And this is an issue that is becoming increasingly pressing as there have been a number of critical press reports recently about postgraduate students who have lost access to resources after the taught component of their courses has finished but before they have submitted all their course work.

    MOOCs and Open Online Courses

    Continued access to educational resources can be particularly problematic when it comes to MOOCs. Educational content often gets locked into commercial MOOC platforms, regardless of whether or not it is openly licensed, and some platforms are now time limiting access to content. Clearly this is not helpful for students and, given how costly high-quality online teaching and learning resources are to produce, it also represents a poor return on investment for the University. So one of the ways that we’re addressing this at the University of Edinburgh is by ensuring that all the content we have produced for our MOOCs is also freely available to download under open licence from the Open Media Bank channel on our media asset management platform Media Hopper Create. We now have over 500 MOOC videos which are available to re-use under Creative Commons licence, covering topics as diverse as music theory, mental health, clinical psychology, programing, the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle, astrobiology and the Scottish independence referendum. And some of these resources are now being re-used for campus based teaching.


    We’re extending our commitment to providing open access to high quality online learning opportunities by launching a new programme of MicroMasters in partnership with EdX. These micro credentials are flexible, open to all, and provide a stepping stone from open to formal accreditation. Openness has informed our approach to this initiative at every step of that way: edX was chosen as a not for profit organisation built on an open source platform; the technology and policies that drive our new pedagogical approaches at scale, are open and shared; and inline our OER policy, we’re building openness into the creation of all teaching materials. Our first MicroMasters in Predictive Analytics for Business Applications was launched in September, and course materials will be released under open licence following the first run of the course.

    Diversifying the Curriculum

    OER can also make a significant contribution to diversifying the curriculum.

    This collaborative project worked with undergraduate students, to develop a suite of resources covering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health. Although knowledge of LGBT health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors, these issues are not well-covered in the Medical curricula. Using materials from the commons, this project sought to address the lack of teaching on LGBT health through OER. The project remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio, and then contributed these resources back to the commons as Creative Commons licensed OER. New open resources including digital stories recorded from patient interviews and resources for Secondary School children of all ages were also created and released as OER.

    Digital Skills

    OER can also help to improve digital skills for both staff and students.

    23 Things for Digital Knowledge is an award winning, open online course run by my colleague Stephanie Farley. 23 Things, was adapted from an open course developed by the University of Oxford and based a project from Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, and it is designed to encourage digital literacy by exposing learners to a wide range of digital tools for personal and professional development. Learners spend a little time each week, building up and expanding their digital skills and are encouraged to share their experiences with others. All course content and materials are licensed under a CC BY licence and the University actively encourages others to take and adapt the course. The course has already been used by many individuals and organisations outwith Edinburgh and it has recently been adapted for use by the Scottish Social Services Council as 23 digital capabilities to support practice and learning in social services.


    OER can engage students in the co-creation of their own learning experiences, and to my mind, this is one of the most powerful affordances of open education.

    One initiative that does this is the School of Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course. Over two semesters, students undertake an outreach project that communicates an element of GeoSciences outside the university community. Students have the opportunity to work with schools, museums, outdoor centres and community groups to create a wide range of resources for science engagement including classroom teaching materials, leaflets, websites, and smartphone/tablet applications. Students gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while working in new and challenging environments and developing a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability.

    A key element of the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused and disseminated by other communities and organisations. Each summer the OER Service employs Open Content Creation student interns, who take the materials created by the Geoscience students, make sure everything in those resources can be released under open license and then share them on TES Resources along with Curriculum for Excellence learning objectives and outcomes, so they could be found and reused by other teachers and learners.

    For example this resource on sea level variation is designed for students learning Geography at third and fourth level of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and it can be downloaded under a CC BY Share alike license from Open.Ed and TES.

    Wikipedia in the Classroom

    Another way we can create open knowledge and embed open education in the curriculum is by engaging with the world’s biggest open educational resource, Wikipedia. At Edinburgh we have our very own Wikipedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, who works to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, through skills training sessions, editathons, Wikipedia in the classroom initiatives and Wikidata projects, in order to increase the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital and information literacy skills for both staff and students. And one of the ways that Ewan does this is by working with academic colleagues to develop Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments. Creating Wikipedia entries enables students to demonstrate the relevance of their field of study and share their scholarship in a real-world context and at the same time, contribute to the global pool of open knowledge.

    To date, 11 course programmes across the University have developed Wikipedia assignments, some of which are now in their second or third iteration, these include Translation Studies MSc, World Christianity, and the MScs in Global and Public Health.

    Reproductive Biomedicine have been successfully running Wikipedia assignments as part of their honours course since 2015. As part of her assignment in 2016, honours student Aine Kavanagh created a new Wikipedia article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer. This article, including over sixty references and open-licensed diagrams created by Áine herself, has now been viewed over 80,000 times since it was published in September 2016, it’s hard to imagine many other student assignments having this kind of impact. Not only has Aine contributed valuable health information to the global Open Knowledge community, she has also created a resource that other students and global health experts can add to and improve over time. Creating resources that will live on on the open web, and that make a real contribution to global open knowledge, has proved to be a powerful motivator for the students taking part in these assignments.

    You can find out more about our Wikimdia projects here and if you’re interested in exploring how you can engage with Wikimedia in the Classroom you can contact Wikimedia UK, the UK’s national Wikimedia chapter, who employ a dedicated Scotland projects coordinator, Sara Thomas.

    OER Creation Assignments

    In addition to the Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments, there are also other examples of open assessment practices from around the University, including assessed blogging assignments and OER creation assignments. So for example, these resources on patient centered care and classical Japanese orthography were created by students for an assignment as part of the Digital Education module for the Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Academic Practice. And OER creation assignments also form an integral part of the Digital Futures for Learning course which is part of the MSc in Digital Education. Commenting on this OER creation assignment in a recent blog post, Jen Ross who runs this course said

    “Experiencing first-hand what it means to engage in open educational practice gives student an appetite to learn and think more. The creation of OERs provides a platform for students to share their learning. In this way, these assignments can have ongoing, tangible value for students and for the people who encounter their work.”

    And the University has recently acknowledged the importance of open educational resources not only for excellence in student education but also for academic career progression. After undertaking a review of processes and incentives for recognition and reward in academic careers paths, a set of revised Principles and Exemplars of Excellence has been created. The Exemplars highlight the level and extent of achievement in teaching-related activities that might be used by staff seeking promotion at different grade levels. As an example of “Dissemination of excellence in student education” the Exemplars include the creation and maintenance of online materials for student education that are used beyond the University “including Open Educational Resources.”

    Open Access Research

    OER can also help to promote engagement with the outputs of open research.

    Open access makes research outputs freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and has the potential to increase use and understanding of research by business, government, charities and the wider public3. However it is not always easy for those outwith academia to know how to access these outputs, even though they are freely and openly available.

    In order to address this issue and to foster technology transfer and innovation, we’ve created a series of open educational resources in the form of video interviews, case studies and learning materials called Innovating with Open Knowledge. These resources are aimed at creative individuals, private researchers, entrepreneurs and small to medium enterprises to provide guidance on how to find and access the open outputs of Higher Education. The resources focus on developing digital and data literacy skills and search strategies and feature case study interviews with creative individuals and entrepreneurs engaging with the University’s research outputs. All these resources are released under open licence and the videos can be downloaded for reuse from this url.

    Building Community

    Engaging with open education is a really effective way to build community and collegiality among your peers and students and one great way to do that is through academic blogging. Last year we set up a new centrally supported academic blogging service, which provides staff and students with a range of different blogging platforms, including a centrally supported WordPress service, to support professional development and learning, teaching and research activities. To complement the service, we provide digital skills resources and workshops, including this open licensed workshop on Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile. We have lots of examples of collaborative groups blogs across the University including The Nursing Blog where staff and students from across Nursing Studies can share their achievements, research, and work. And another nice example of community blogging is Stories from Vet School which features blogs posts written by current undergraduate veterinary medicine students. One thing both these blogs have in common is that they both carry a Creative Commons open licence, which means that the posts themselves are open educational resources that can be reused by other teachers and learners.

    Engaging with content and collections

    OER can also enhance engagement with content and collections.

    This rather obscure 17th century map of Iceland was digitized by the University’s Centre for Research Collections and because it was released under open licence, one of our colleagues was able to add it to the Wikipedia page about Iceland. Now Iceland’s Wikipedia page normally gets about 15,000 hits a day, however in June 2016 Iceland’s page got over 300,000 hits in a single day. That was the day that Iceland put England out of the Euro 2016 championship qualifiers, so 300,000 people saw our obscure 17th century map because of a game of football. This story was subsequently picked up by Creative Commons who included a little feature on the map in their 2016 State of the Commons report, resulting in further engagement with this historical gem.

    And some of you may have seen recent news reports about a project that mapped the place of residence of 3,141 accused Scottish witches. Place names recorded in the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database, were uploaded into Wikidata, as linked open data and further enriched with the location of detentions, trials, place of death, etc. Student intern, Emma Carroll, worked with Wikimedian in Residence Ewan McAndrew, to Geolocate these place names and produce maps and timelines. This open data project really caught the public imagination and was reported everywhere from the Press and Journal to the New York Times, though I don’t think they’ve made it into the Stornoway gazette yet. In a Scotsman interview Ewan explained

    “The tragedy is that Scotland had five times the number of executions of women. The idea of being able to plot these on a map really brings it home. These places are near everyone. There does seem to be a growing movement that we need to be remembering these women, remembering what happened and understanding what happened.”


    These are just some of the ways that open education and OER is being embedded and supported across the University of Edinburgh and some of the benefits that can bring. I hope this will give you some ideas as to how open education and OER can benefit your teaching practice here at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

    I want to finish with a quote from one of our Open Content Curation Student interns. This is former undergraduate Physics student Martin Tasker talking about the value of open education

    “Open education has played such an integral part of my life so far, and has given me access to knowledge that would otherwise have been totally inaccessible to me. It has genuinely changed my life, and likely the lives of many others. This freedom of knowledge can allow us to tear down the barriers that hold people back from getting a world class education – be those barriers class, gender or race. Open education is the future, and I am both proud of my university for embracing it, and glad that I can contribute even in a small way. Because every resource we release could be a life changed. And that makes it all worth it.”

    Learning and sharing at WikiConference North America

    22:04, Wednesday, 20 2019 November UTC

    This post was collaboratively written by Wiki Education staff members Helaine Blumenthal, LiAnna Davis, Will Kent, Ryan McGrady, Ian Ramjohn, Sage Ross, Shalor Toncray, and Elysia Webb.

    Last weekend, Wiki Education staff attended WikiConference North America, an annual gathering of Wikimedians from around North America. This year’s event was hosted at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and focused around the theme of reliability — an element that also runs through Wiki Education’s work to make Wikipedia and Wikidata more representative, accurate, and complete.

    Wiki Education staff presented at several sessions, as did our program participants. This extensive list of presentations indicates just how intertwined Wiki Education’s work is to the broader outreach happening in North America!

    • Senior Wikipedia Expert Ian Ramjohn joined other contributors to the forthcoming Wikipedia@20 book as a featured panelist for the opening keynote. Two of our instructors, Joseph Reagle and Amy Carleton, were also on the panel, as was former Visiting Scholar Jackie Koerner.
    • Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson joined Judith Davidson, Sara Marks, and June Lemen from the University of Massachusetts Lowell to talk about the university’s Women in Red at UMass Lowell initiative. The session comes in the middle of a Wiki Scholars course Wiki Education is running with university faculty and staff.
    • Wiki Education Board Member Carwil Bjork-James gave an excellent talk on knowledge equity beyond gap-filling, talking about how to think more about the sources we use and how we frame discussions of knowledge to be more equitable.
    Wiki Education Board Member Carwil Bjork-James
    Image by Victor Grigas, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
    • Wiki Education Board Member Richard Knipel and former Wiki Education staff member Rob Fernandez showed off “Mbabel”, a system for using Wikidata to preload an infobox and recommended section headings for missing articles, which they’ve been using at thematic edit-a-thons as a practical way to let new editors dive quickly into article writing.
    • Chief Technology Officer Sage Ross joined a session led by the Wikimedia Foundation’s developer advocacy team to discuss best practices and advice for software development internships and mentoring.
    • Sarah Mojarad and Helen Choi from the University of Southern California presented on some of the challenges instructors still face in adopting the Wikipedia assignment and lingering misconceptions about Wikipedia in higher education. They discussed how they’re both using Wikipedia assignments to help engineering and science students learn how to communicate their subject-matter expertise to the greater public.
    • Wikipedia Student Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal presented alongside Amanda Kaufman of Wake Forest University, Trudi Jacobson of the University of Albany, and Darrin Griffin of the University of Alabama and focused on how instructors can use the Wikipedia assignment to impart critical digital and information literacy skills to today’s students.
    Trudi Jacobson, Helaine Blumenthal, Amanda Kaufman, and Darrin Griffin.
    Image by Victor Grigas, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
    • Ximena Gallardo from LaGuardia Community College and Ian Ramjohn from Wiki Education helped lead the Wikimedians of the Caribbean/AfroCROWD translate-a-thon, which focused on translating articles into languages used in the Caribbean. LaGuardia CC has been running these translate-a-thons in April for a few years. Sherry Antoine (of AfroCROWD and WikiCari) and Ximena taught participants how to use the translation tool. Participants worked in Spanish, French, and Dutch, the major non-English languages of the Caribbean.
    • Elizabeth Che from CUNY’s Graduate Center discussed how she and fellow faculty are using the Wikipedia assignment to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of women psychologists. We enjoyed hearing about the survey results from her students before and after completing the Wikipedia assignment. It was especially gratifying to note that 76.7% of students said that Wikipedia was more reliable than they previously thought, and 80% felt empowered by publishing an article!
    • Colleen D. Hartung and Polly Hamlen spoke on the 1000 Women in Religion WikiProject, which is aimed at improving Wikipedia’s coverage of women in religion, thus helping to narrow the gender gap on Wikipedia. The following day Wiki Education Wikipedia Expert Shalor Toncray spent some quality time with Colleen and Polly assisting them with their event Dashboard and discussing their mutual interests in religious studies and improving Wikipedia.
    • Helaine, along with Wikidata Program Manager Will Kent and Scholars & Scientists Program Manager Ryan McGrady, discussed how Wiki Education is seeking to bridge the gap between subject-matter experts and Wikipedia through its Student and Wikipedia Scholars and Scientists programs.
    • After listening to a riveting discussion on teaching intellectual property law with Wikipedia by Kit Heintzman, Shalor Toncray was able to talk with a law instructor who was interested in teaching with Wiki Education — and was later able to connect him with a law instructor who has taught with Wiki Education and could give him advice and guidance.
    • Will Kent led a session about developing a curriculum for Wikidata. In the question and answer session, a great conversation developed around the difference between documentation and a curriculum, as well as tips for teaching different aspects of Wikidata to different audiences.
    • Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight is Visiting Scholar at Northeastern University, improving Wikipedia’s coverage of women writers. In addition to helping to organize WikiCon, she shared her recent efforts to bring structured data about women writers, as well as other information like reviews and readership of their works, into Wikidata to enable new kinds of research and analysis.
    • Ian Ramjohn and MIT librarian Kai Alexis Smith joined other members of Wikimedians of the Caribbean to present the results of a multi-language survey of Wikipedians in the Caribbean. The survey demonstrated real interest by people in the Caribbean for tools and trainings to contribute to Wikipedia. Special cases discussed included that of Cuba, where the population is highly educated, but lacks affordable internet access, and the struggle for people to see Caribbean creole languages as legitimate (with examples raised from Haiti, Jamaica, and the French Caribbean).
    The Caribbean user group received an award later on at WikiCon for most interesting new affiliate in North America.
    Image by Ruben Rodriguez, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
    • Ximena Gallardo from LaGuardia Community College discussed her ongoing work with her writing students around Wikipedia-based projects. They’re currently working on taking advantage of LaGuardia’s rich diversity to promote translation projects and on forming an alumni group of students who’ve participated in Wikipedia assignments.
    • Malavika Shetty from Boston University demonstrated how her students are drawing on their cultural heritage to improve Wikipedia content while enhancing their research and writing skills.

    Of course, while sessions offer an opportunity to hear from featured speakers, one of the key values to conferences like this is our opportunity to connect with other Wikimedians and wiki enthusiasts from across North America. Numerous hallway conversations fueled lots of interesting thoughts and connections, and Wiki Education staff are excited to take these insights forward into our work in the coming months. We are deeply grateful to the organizing committee for all their hard work, and our fellow collaborators in the open knowledge space for sharing their expertise with us.

    Header/thumbnail image by Victor Grigas, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

    As of late, we have received several questions about the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia’s affiliation with WT:Social. The recently launched WT:Social is related to WikiTribune, a venture independently initiated by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

    Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation are separate and independent from WT:Social. We have no connection to the social networking site.

    The Wikimedia Foundation hosts and runs 11 free knowledge projects for anyone to learn from and contribute to, including Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, the collection of freely-licensed images, videos, and audio files, Wikidata, an open structured free knowledge database, and more.

    Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia and continues to serve on the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. He has several other businesses and projects he’s started since founding Wikipedia, including WikiTribune, a for-profit collaborative news platform. Most recently, he relaunched WikiTribune as WT:Social—a paid social networking site based off the collaborative WikiTribune model. You can read more about WT:Social on the WikiTribune website. These projects are not overseen or affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation, which strictly runs nonprofit, free knowledge projects.

    The word “wiki” refers to a website built using collaborative editing software. Hundreds of organizations and projects with no affiliation with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation also use the term, including wikiHow, Wikileaks, and WikiEducator.

    Read more about how the Wikimedia Foundation supports Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

    Older blog entries