Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Luis Villa: “I wanted to be an Internet lawyer”

Around legal circles, the Wikimedia Foundation is often seen as a curiosity. With a fraction of the staff of other top ten websites, the Foundation arguably does more with less. The core of this complex apparatus consists of two indispensable parts − a strong volunteer community and an equally dedicated legal staff.

Luis Villa

As deputy general counsel, Luis Villa is at the forefront of this eclectic mix that combines traditional legal counsel with community advocacy that stretches across 700+ communities. With a year under his belt at the Wikimedia Foundation, he feels that he’s doing what he always wanted to do. “Out of law school I told someone at my summer job that I wanted to be an Internet lawyer,” says Villa. “He basically said there’s no such thing, but now I have that job!”

Luis’ interest in law and technology go as far back as high school, recalling the United States vs. Microsoft court proceedings as a moment that ignited a curiosity in him for politics and technology. Embracing his passions, he pursued a degree in Political Science and Computer Science at Duke University. “When I started studying computer science and political science in 1996, those were two separate things,” Villa explains. “I was interested in political philosophy and I was interested in computers and I didn’t really think the two had much overlap.” It wasn’t until he read Lawrence Lessig’sCode and other Laws of Cyberspace” that he realized how much overlap there was between the two.

His first job was in quality assurance for Ximian, scoping out bugs and figuring out why things were crashing. While at Ximain he worked extensively on the GNOME open source project doing quality assurance − eventually becoming a board member. He went on to work at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society as a “geek in residence” at Harvard. After a comprehensive search into a variety of institutions with a strong intellectual law faculty, he enrolled at Columbia Law School, graduating in 2009. Before working at a law firm, he spent a year at Mozilla, leading the project to revise the Mozilla Public License. Luis later joined Greenberg Traurig, participating heavily in the Google Oracle lawsuit. While at Greenberg he became an outside counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. With a background well tailored to the Foundation’s goals and needs, Luis eventually made the decision to join the Foundation full-time as deputy general counsel.

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Katherine Maher joins the Wikimedia Foundation as Chief Communications Officer

Katherine Maher

We’re happy to announce that Katherine Maher has joined the Wikimedia Foundation as Chief Communications Officer. She officially stepped into her new role as head of WMF communications on April 14, reporting to the Executive Director.

In her role as CCO, Katherine will work to ensure fast, easy information flow about Wikimedia in multiple languages, both internally within the movement and outside of it. She’ll also work to provide vital communications support to WMF’s various departments and programs, as well as the broader Wikimedia movement.

Katherine comes to us from Washington D.C., where she was most recently Advocacy Director for Access, a global digital rights organization. At Access, she was responsible for media and communications, including communications between the organization and its 350,000 members. She handled urgent global threats to digital rights and participated in the organization’s strategic planning. In addition, she was deeply involved with the production of RightsCon—a conference series convening key stakeholders and influential voices on the issue of preserving a free and open internet that supports digital rights and free expression.

Katherine’s experiences advocating for the rights of ordinary internet users and engaging with a large global community make her an exceptional fit for this new role. We are thrilled to have her aboard.

Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation

Agile and Trello: The planning cycle

This blog series will focus on how the Wikipedia App Team uses Trello for their day to day, week to week, and sprint to sprint development cycle. In its early days, the Wikipedia App was an experimental project that needed flexibility for its evolution. The team looked at a number of tools like Bugzilla, Mingle, and Trello to wrangle our ever-growing to-do list. We found that most imposed a structure that was stifling rather than empowering, cumbersome rather than fun, and was generally overkill for what we needed.

Trello looked attractive as it took no more than a couple of minutes to see its moving parts, was available on multiple platforms, and was simple to customize. We experimented with it and quickly found that we could make it do most of what we wanted.

For those unfamiliar with Trello, it’s a list of lists at its basic level and it functions incredibly well within an Agile framework. Trello uses the concepts of boards, lists, items, and subitems. Boards contain lists which contain items which in turn contain subitems.

Here is how we use it:

Each idea starts out as a narrative or user story on our backlog board. Most of our stories are written in a “As a …, I want to …, So that …” format. This allows us to have a narrative justification for a unit of work rather than a list of technical requirements. Stories begin their life in the “In analysis” column where the product manager (who acts as the product owner) vets the idea with other stakeholders, involves the Design team, and generally incubates the story. Anyone is welcome to add a story to this column.

When the product owner feels that a story has matured enough, they place it in the “ready for prioritization” column with any required design assets. As these stories increase in number, we begin to see the next sprint forming.

Within a couple of days, the team meets and the product manager discusses the theme of the upcoming sprint. A new sprint board is created and the product manager moves the most important 3−5 stories for a deeper analysis by the whole team. The team meets and collectively refines the story cards to have a clear set of acceptance criteria under the checklist column, flags stories that need additional design, and prioritizes them in top down order.

Within a week’s time, the team meets again, but this time their goal is to estimate and do a final pass on each story card. We use a combination of Scrum for Trello and hat.jit.su to facilitate the estimation process. Once all stories have been estimated, the product manager re-prioritizes, checks against our sprint velocity, and the sprint is ready to start.

Thus at any point we have three active boards:

  • Backlog – where all stories start
  • Current Sprint – what developers are working on
  • Next Sprint – what’s coming up next

Next time we’ll see what happens from the developers’ standpoint during a sprint.

Tomasz Finc, Director of Mobile

In memoriam of Cynthia Ashley-Nelson

Cynthia Ashley-Nelson

Cynthia Ashley-Nelson passed away Friday, April 11th. She was attending the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin as an AffCom member, and on Thursday had participated on her first annual AffCom meeting. The news about her death has surprised and shocked the people at the conference. I realize there are many people who might not be familiar with her, so I wanted to write a few words about the impact she made on those who knew her.

In my role as Board liaison to the Affiliations Committee, I had seen Cindy, as her friends called her, apply to become a member – and ultimately elected to the committee. She had such a solid background, so relevant to the work AffCom does, she was such a strong candidate, it was a no brainer for AffCom to elect her. They were not disappointed. Cindy was participative, incredibly engaged from day one, always looking ahead and trying to improve existing processes and expand AffCom’s role. She had wonderful ideas and a refreshing perspective regarding movement roles and the role of AffCom. One that I especially liked was her desire to implement a thorough Affiliate Development Program, to help guide new affiliates and teach them relevant skills so they could not only be better equipped to survive, but to thrive and have a bigger impact in a shorter period of time.

I got to know Cindy a bit beyond that, for she wanted to test ideas and potential directions in which to take the movement. We would send each other long emails about movement roles and how to move forward with the movement. And as it usually happens, conversations turned from the more formal to the informal, eventually including little snippets of our every day lives, the good things that happened to us and the not so good. When we met for the first time face to face several days ago, we gave each other a big hug. In the session we had during the AffCom meeting she once again showed her passion and commitment to help re-imagine the role of AffCom and how to help new affiliates. At the end of that session, she was confirmed as the new vice-chair of AffCom. That speaks to the impact she made on the committee in such a short time. I think our last interaction was about getting together at some moment during the conference to just hang out and talk. She had a great smile.

As far as we know, Cindy died peacefully and in her sleep. When the tragic news came in on Friday night during dinner, so out of the blue, I was shocked. Literally shocked. She had missed the meeting between AffCom and the Board, which was very surprising, and it hadn’t been possible to contact her, but it didn’t necessarily make one think something bad had occurred. When the Board was notified of what had happened, we wanted to be very respectful of the fact that the priority had to be to contact the next of kin before any kind of public announcement was released. But AffCom had to be told. I had been an AffCom member before joining the Board. Breaking the news to them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We went to a room to deal with the shock and the reactions. Nobody wanted to be alone.

This morning after the next of kin had been located and notified, we all got together for breakfast and went together to the venue where a grief counsellor was available. There was a brief but touching tribute at the beginning of the conference. AffCom then prepared a public statement about Cindy’s death. I felt my place was with them, helping them word it. As the schedule was reorganized, I missed the Meet the Board session which was moved to the morning, which I deeply regret, but I did want to be with AffCom in these moments. I want people to know I will be available for anyone who wants to ask me anything about the Board or the movement at the venue. I just couldn’t make it that morning. Before ending this post, I would like to take a moment to thank the people of WMDE, who were incredible in such difficult circumstances and who set up a special room to grieve for her and write in a book of condolences, particularly Pavel, and WMF staff, especially Anasuya, Garfield and Asaf. The support of Board members was deeply appreciated as well, not only by me but by AffCom as well.

This post is perhaps a bit cathartic for me. Cindy, you made an impact in those who knew you and you will be remembered. My thoughts are with the family and friends. Rest in peace.

María Sefidari, WMF Board of Trustees member

  • See Cynthia’s user page on English Wikipedia.
  • Wikimedians have begun to share their memories and condolences about Cynthia on her user talk page.
  • Memorial post by Asaf Bartov, Head of WMF Grants and Global South Partnerships.
  • Announcement by Carlos Colina and Bence Damokos from the Wikimedia Affiliations Committee
  • Wikinews story on the passing of Cynthia Ashley-Nelson.

A GLAMorous romance

This post is available in 2 languages:
English  • Català

English

QR codes at Joan Miró Foundation, 2011

One of the most fruitful collaborations between the community of Catalan-speaking Wikipedians and the GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) is taking place at the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona. Let’s peer into this little love story between GLAMwiki pioneers.

The first rendez-vous occurred in September 2011, when the Foundation was preparing the exhibition “Joan Miró and the Scale of Evasion” using QRpedia to offer the visitors QR codes linking to Wikipedia articles. A wikimarathon followed by a translation campaign was organized by wikiGLAM volunteers in order to assure complete articles translated in several languages for the seventeen most remarkable works in the exhibition. The participation in this first experience consisted mostly of core editors who worked on the initial seventeen articles and created fifty more. All these articles, originally written in Catalan, were completed with a range of two to fifty translations. Their effort resulted in more than 12,000 readings of QR codes during the period of the exhibition.

This was the beginning of a great friendship; the GLAMwiki experiment proved that a community of motivated volunteers and the good predisposition from a welcoming institution could bring good results. However, after this first experience together, the volunteers and the institution each followed their own paths.

Miró Editathon, 2013

The next rendezvous would come two years later, in 2013. Espai 13, a space within the Joan Miró Foundation devoted to exhibit works of young and emerging artists, was celebrating its 35th anniversary. Wikipedia volunteers and the institution thought that this was a good occasion to work together again. They ran another wikimarathon together, the longest organized in Catalonia so far, lasting 35 hours, topped by the coincidence of creating the 400,000th article of Catalan Wikipedia during the event.

This time, core Wikipedia editors mingled with a legion of new users who came from universities and the fine arts scene. They created 121 articles (in Catalan, Spanish, English, and even French) about artists and commissioners involved with Espai 13 during its thirty-five-year history. The romance between Wikipedia and the Joan Miró Foundation made clear steps forward. The names of the viquipedistes were listed in the acknowledgments section of the exhibition, and a plaque was hung in the main room to remember the wikimarathon that created Wikipedia articles for all the featured artists.

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Supporting innovation beyond the traditional IP regime: Using Wikipedia as a model

Michigan State College of Law Professor Sean Paper responds to comments on his presentation during the “Cultural Production Without IP” panel.

Intellectual property (IP) rights like copyrights, patents and trademarks are given to scientists and authors to reward them for their contributions to the arts and sciences. These exclusive rights allow them to monetize their work. But piracy and the sale of goods that infringe IP rights are steadily increasing. From 2000 to 2007, trade in counterfeit and pirated products increased 7.6% among all globally-traded commodities – and this number excludes all electronic piracy.[1] In the European Union alone, customs agents intercepted almost 40 million infringing articles trying to be imported into the member states in 2012.[2] Yet, despite the profit loss that undoubtedly comes with infringement, scientists and artists continue to create signalling that (1) economic incentives are not the only driving force behind innovation, and (2) laws outside IP are supporting this innovation.

On Sunday, March 30th, the Information Society Project (ISP) [4] at Yale Law School hosted the Innovation Law Beyond IP conference to explore these issues. The event brought together some of the most reputable scholars in IP to discuss how the law can be used to promote innovation outside the context of private IP rights. The discussion centered around the trends of innovation already occurring without IP protection and looked to develop areas of law that can play a positive role in supporting innovation beyond the domain of IP law. Wikimedia Legal Fellow Manprit Brar followed this discussion to think about what lessons can be learned for Wikimedia’s legal work.

Yale Law School Professor Amy Kapczynski opened the conference by framing the discussion of innovation law as having no one focus. She discussed the many alternative areas of law to IP that are used to help sustain and encourage innovation, including:

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Remembering Adrianne Wadewitz

Portrait of Adrianne Wadewitz at Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC.

Each of us on the Wikipedia Education Program team is saddened today by the news of Adrianne Wadewitz’s passing. We know we share this sadness with everyone at the Wikimedia Foundation and so many in the Wikimedia and education communities. Our hearts go out to all of you, her family and friends. Today is a time for mourning and remembering.

Adrianne served as one of the first Campus Ambassadors for the Wikipedia Education Program (then known as the Public Policy Initiative). In this role, she consulted with professors, demonstrated Wikipedia editing and helped students collaborate with Wikipedia community members to successfully write articles. As an Educational Curriculum Advisor to the team, Adrianne blended her unique Wikipedia insight and teaching experience to help us develop Wikipedia assignments, lesson plans and our initial sample syllabus. Her work served as a base for helping university professors throughout the United States, and the world, use Wikipedia effectively in their classes.

Adrianne was also one of the very active voices in the Wikimedia community urging participation and awareness among women to tackle the project’s well-known gender gap. She was an articulate, kind, and energetic face for Wikipedia, and many know that her work helped bring new Wikipedians to the project. The Foundation produced a video exploring Adrianne’s work within the Wikipedia community in 2012.

Many in the Wikimedia community knew her from her exceptional and varied contributions, especially in the areas of gender and 18th-century British literature – in which she received a PhD last year from Indiana University, before becoming a Mellon Digital Scholarship Fellow at Occidental College. Since July of 2004, she had written 36 featured articles (the highest honor for quality on Wikipedia) and started over 100 articles – the latest being on rock climber Steph Davis.

Adrianne touched many lives as she freely shared her knowledge, expertise and passions with Wikipedia, her students, colleagues, friends and family. She will be deeply missed by all of us. Our condolences go out to her family during these very difficult times.

Rod Dunican
Director, Global Education

Wikipedia Education Program

  • See Adrianne’s user page on the English Wikipedia, her Twitter account, her home page and her blog at HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory)
  • Wikipedians have begun to share their memories and condolences about Adrianne on her user talk page.
  • The leadership of the Wiki Education Foundation, where Adrianne was a board member, have also expressed their condolences.
  • Memorial post from HASTAC Co-founder Cathy Davidson.
  • Wikinews story on the passing of Adrianne Wadewitz.

Wikimedia’s response to the “Heartbleed” security vulnerability

English

Logo for the Heartbleed bug

On April 7th, a widespread issue in a central component of Internet security (OpenSSL) was disclosed. The vulnerability has now been fixed on all Wikimedia wikis. If you only read Wikipedia without creating an account, nothing is required from you. If you have a user account on any Wikimedia wiki, you will need to re-login the next time you use your account.

The issue, called Heartbleed, would allow attackers to gain access to privileged information on any site running a vulnerable version of that software. Wikis hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation were potentially affected by this vulnerability for several hours after it was disclosed. However, we have no evidence of any actual compromise to our systems or our users’ information, and because of the particular way our servers are configured, it would have been very difficult for an attacker to exploit the vulnerability in order to harvest users’ wiki passwords.

After we were made aware of the issue, we began upgrading all of our systems with patched versions of the software in question. We then began replacing critical user-facing SSL certificates and resetting all user session tokens. See the full timeline of our response below.

All logged-in users send a secret session token with each request to the site. If a nefarious person were able to intercept that token, they could impersonate other users. Resetting the tokens for all users has the benefit of making all users reconnect to our servers using the updated and fixed version of the OpenSSL software, thus removing this potential attack.

We recommend changing your password as a standard precautionary measure, but we do not currently intend to enforce a password change for all users. Again, there has been no evidence that Wikimedia Foundation users were targeted by this attack, but we want all of our users to be as safe as possible.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Greg Grossmeier, on behalf of the WMF Operations and Platform teams

Timeline of Wikimedia’s response

(Times are in UTC)

April 7th:

April 8th:

April 9th:

April 10th:

Frequently Asked Questions

(This section will be expanded as needed.)

  • Why hasn’t the “not valid before” date on your SSL certificate changed if you have already replaced it?
    Our SSL certificate provider keeps the original “not valid before” date (sometimes incorrectly referred to as an “issued on” date) in any replaced certificates. This is not an uncommon practice. Aside from looking at the change to the .pem files linked above in the Timeline, the other way of verifying that the replacement took place is to compare the fingerprint of our new certificate with our previous one.

You can translate this blog post.


 

Deutsch

Wikimedias Reaktion auf die „Heartbleed“-Sicherheitslücke

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MediaWiki localization file format changed from PHP to JSON

Translations of MediaWiki’s user interface are now stored in a new file format—JSON. This change won’t have a direct effect on readers and editors of Wikimedia projects, but it makes MediaWiki more robust and open to change and reuse.

MediaWiki is one of the most internationalized open source projects. MediaWiki localization includes translating over 3,000 messages (interface strings) for MediaWiki core and an additional 20,000 messages for MediaWiki extensions and related mobile applications.

User interface messages originally in English and their translations have been historically stored in PHP files along with MediaWiki code. New messages and documentation were added in English and these messages were translated on translatewiki.net to over 300 languages. These translations were then pulled from MediaWiki websites using LocalisationUpdate, an extension MediaWiki sites use to receive translation updates.

So why change the file format?

The motivation to change the file format was driven by the need to provide more security, reduce localization file sizes and support interoperability.

Security: PHP files are executable code, so the risk of malicious code being injected is significant. In contrast, JSON files are only data which minimizes this risk.

Reducing file size: Some of the larger extensions have had multi-megabyte data files. Editing those files was becoming a management nightmare for developers, so these were reduced to one file per language instead of storing all languages in large sized files.

Interoperability: The new format increases interoperability by allowing features like VisualEditor and Universal Language Selector to be decoupled from MediaWiki because it allows using JSON formats without MediaWiki. This was earlier demonstrated for the jquery.18n library. This library, developed by Wikimedia’s Language Engineering team in 2012, had internationalization features that are very similar to what MediaWiki offers, but it was written fully in JavaScript, and stored messages and message translations using JSON format. With LocalisationUpdate’s modernization, MediaWiki localization files are now compatible with those used by jquery.i18n.

An RFC on this topic was compiled and accepted by the developer community. In late 2013, developers from the Language Engineering and VisualEditor teams at Wikimedia collaborated to figure out how MediaWiki could best be able to process messages from JSON files. They wrote a script for converting PHP to JSON, made sure that MediaWiki’s localization cache worked with JSON, updated the LocalisationUpdate extension for JSON support.

Siebrand Mazeland converted all the extensions to the new format. This project was completed in early April 2014, when MediaWiki core switched over to processing JSON, creating the largest MediaWiki patch ever in terms of lines of code. The localization formats are documented in mediawiki.org, and MediaWiki’s general localization guidelines have been updated as well.

As a side effect, code analyzers like Ohloh no longer report skewed numbers for lines of PHP code, making metrics like comment ratio comparable with other projects.

Work is in progress on migrating other localized strings, such as namespace names and MediaWiki magic words. These will be addressed in a future RFC.

This migration project exemplifies collaboration at its best between many MediaWiki engineers contributing to this project. I would like to specially mention Adam Wight, Antoine Musso, David Chan, Ed Sanders, Federico Leva, James Forrester, Jon Robson, Kartik Mistry, Niklas Laxström, Raimond Spekking, Roan Kattouw, Rob Moen, Sam Reed, Santhosh Thottingal, Siebrand Mazeland and Timo Tijhof.

Amir Aharoni, Interim PO and Software Engineer, Wikimedia Language Engineering Team

Europeana Fashion Handbook to Bring Wiki and GLAMs Together

In an effort to improve fashion knowledge on the web, Europeana Fashion has organized a series of edit-a-thons with Wikimedia volunteers and fashion institutions around Europe. The experience and knowledge gained from these events are now compiled in one handbook, The Europeana Fashion Edit-a-thon Handbook for GLAMs.

Fashion Edit-a-thon Logo.png

What is fashion? Fashion is vanity, fashion is business, fashion is art. Fashion can mean many things to many people, but what is certain, is that it has enormous cultural significance. Every item of clothing has its roots in history and carries a symbolic meaning in the present.

2013-05-13 Europeana Fashion Editathon, Centraal Museum Utrecht 39.jpg

An edit-a-thon around fashion in collaboration with Wikimedia Netherlands and Fashion Muse. May 13, 2013. 

Take, for example, the most basic of garments, the T-shirt. It was originally designed as an undergarment in the American army in the early 20th century. In the 1950s it became part of the uniform of rebellious youth culture and was seen on the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean. Nowadays, the T-shirt is worn everywhere with everything, even under a suit. From underwear, to act of rebellion to formal, fashion objects can be considered artifacts of past and present.

That is why there are public and private institutions collecting fashion. Europeana Fashion aims to bring all these collections together in one online portal and improve knowledge around these collections.

The best way to improve knowledge online is through Wikipedia. It’s open, free and one of the most visited websites. In an effort to get communities and institutions involved, Europeana Fashion hosted multiple Wiki edit-a-thons.

Badge Fashion Editathon.jpg

Fashion badge Edit-a-thon Europeana. Museum of Decorative Arts (Paris), March 22, 2014. 

After setting up seven edit-a-thons in five countries in one year’s time, the project bundled its experiences in a handbook for organizing fashion edit-a-thons. It is directed towards galleries, libraries, archives and museums, or in short: GLAMs. The handbook is available online and open to improvement from the community.

Engaging Fashionistas

Fashion carries with it very relevant cultural, historical and symbolic meaning. However, despite its social significance, fashion’s presence on Wikipedia is not as comprehensive as it should be. This encouraged Europeana Fashion to partner with Wikimedia volunteers in an effort increase fashion knowledge and open multimedia in the Wiki world.

Twenty-two partners from twelve European countries work together on the Europeana Fashion portal. Together, these institutions collect and make available thousands of historical dresses, accessories, photographs, posters, drawings, sketches, videos and fashion catalogues. At the same time, it makes these items findable through Europe’s online cultural hub Europeana. Europeana Fashion invited its partners to make available their collections on Wikimedia Commons and welcomed users to write about their collections. The aim: to enrich and share the knowledge about these objects and improve the existing knowledge about fashion’s history, origins and trajectory on Wikipedia.
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