Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts by Maryana Pinchuk

Announcing the official Commons app for iOS and Android

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Login screen on the Commons app for Android.

Login screen on the Commons app for Android.

Love taking photos on your smartphone? Now you don’t need to wait to get home to upload your high quality educational photos to Wikimedia Commons, the free image repository used by Wikipedia and many other projects.

The official Wikimedia Commons app for iOS and Android allows you to quickly and easily upload your photos to Commons. You can also upload multiple files and add categories (Android only so far) and share your uploads through your favorite image sharing sites. Your contributions to Commons can help illustrate the world’s largest encyclopedia and make knowledge come to life for millions of readers around the globe.

The "my uploads" view on the Commons app for iOS.

The “my uploads” view on the Commons app for iOS.

In the future, we hope to add more features and make it easier to browse and discover all the great content Commons has to offer. We also look forward to being able to run more campaigns like Wiki Loves Monuments, encouraging expert Commons users and people new to Wikimedia projects alike to contribute to high-need content areas.

As always, we need your help and input to make these apps better. Take the apps for a test drive and let us know if you encounter bugs, or if you have great ideas for features we should add in the future.

And if you don’t have an iOS or Android device, don’t feel left out! Uploads to Commons for a wider selection of phones and browsers are supported on the mobile version of all Wikimedia projects.

Maryana Pinchuk, Associate Product Manager, Wikimedia Foundation


Help illustrate Wikipedia: uploads now live on mobile web

Uploaded via mobile.

The Nardis Waterfall (Cascate Nardis) in Trentino, Italy, uploaded via mobile.

Wikipedia isn’t just the encyclopedia anyone can edit—it’s also the encyclopedia anyone can illustrate. Starting this week, logged in users browsing the mobile web on smartphones with upload capability will see a new feature: the ability to add images to articles that lack them.

In one easy step, you can upload an image from your phone’s camera or image library and add it directly to an article that has no images. You can also donate images for use on articles that already have images but may need more.

Images enhance the visual appeal of Wikipedia and its sister projects and help bring our content to life, but they’re also a powerful educational tool. There’s no better way to describe a notable building or landmark than with a current photo. Not only will you be illustrating knowledge, you’ll also be sharing your photographs with billions of people around the globe.

An example of an article lacking images on the mobile English Wikipedia.

An example of an article lacking images on the mobile English Wikipedia.

For example, a quick snapshot from your smart phone’s camera can showcase the beauty of the Nardis Waterfall in Trentino to Wikipedia readers who have never set foot in Northern Italy. With millions of articles on Wikipedia, no matter where you are, it’s likely that you have an important piece of knowledge to illustrate right in your backyard.

Smartphones with cameras are becoming increasingly prevalent, and more mobile sites and apps are focused on getting people to explore and photograph the world around them, so it made sense for our mobile web team to bring this feature to Wikipedia.

Unlike many other image sharing sites on the web, images donated via Wikimedia mobile are released under a free license and can be shared and reused by anyone, anywhere, for free. When you donate images to Wikimedia projects, you’re not just sharing photos with your friends, you’re sharing them with everyone in the world.

Help make Wikipedia more beautiful, vibrant and educational for all our readers! Log in or create an account on any one of the over 280 language Wikipedias or sister projects to try out this feature. And stay tuned for more opportunities to contribute via the mobile web, coming soon.

Maryana Pinchuk, Associate Product Manager
Mobile Web

Follow your favorite Wikipedia pages on the mobile web

Screenshot of the mobile watchlist "modified" view on English Wikipedia.

Screenshot of the mobile watchlist “modified” view on English Wikipedia.

Have you ever wondered how millions of Wikipedia articles stay accurate, up to date, and vandalism-free? It all starts with the watchlist, a feature available to everyone who signs up for a free account on any Wikimedia project. This week, the Wikimedia mobile web team is releasing the ability to log in or create an account and view or add pages to your watchlist—all from the comfort of your mobile device. We’re hoping this simple but powerful feature will empower existing users and entice new users to sign up and start contributing.

The watchlist is the backbone of Wikipedia’s quality. Most people don’t realize that the articles they read are constantly being modified, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times, by volunteer contributors from all over the world. Wikipedia users who have an account can keep track of these changes by adding pages they care about to their watchlist; this way, they can monitor their favorite articles for vandalism or spam. It is in part through this process of collaboration that one-sentence article stubs evolve into high quality encyclopedic content and malicious or joke edits disappear as quickly as they were added.

With the steady growth of mobile traffic—three billion mobile page views to our projects last month alone—we want to provide important features like these for users on their Internet-enabled device of choice. Unlike the desktop view, however, on mobile we’re showing the watchlist star to all users, as an incentive for long-time editors and curious newcomers alike to log in.

Visualization of edits to the English Wikipedia article on the 2011 Egyptian revolution, via WikiTrip.

Visualization of edits to the English Wikipedia article on the 2011 Egyptian revolution, via WikiTrip.

We hope that this simple feature will draw in new users, who may not even be aware that Wikipedia can be edited, and educate them about the constantly evolving nature of our content. To make viewing the watchlist more newbie-friendly, we’ve included a full view of all pages you’ve starred, which also functions like a reading list. This can be toggled to show the “modified” view, with pages that have recently been modified, as well as the changes that were made to them.

Enabling account login and creation on the mobile web also opens the door for additional types of mobile contribution. Our next step will be building and releasing features that allow anyone to add photos to articles, make small edits, and more. If you’re interested in staying up to date and giving feedback on new features, subscribe to our mailing list and lend your voice to our current and future work on mobile web and apps.

Maryana Pinchuck, Associate product manager

Mobile Beta: a sandbox for new experimental features

The Ellora Caves in India – uploaded via mobile!

In the fall of 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation’s mobile team released a new interface to Wikimedia mobile sites, adding a navigation layer that allows for easy opting-in to our experimental Beta site.

We created the Beta site as a prototyping area to house early work on features that could help us meet our goals for 2012–2013, which are to get 1,000 mobile users to upload a file to a Wikimedia project every month, and to explore mobile editing and other contributions to the encyclopedia. The Beta site is giving us room to unleash the full creativity of our engineers and designers without disrupting the user experience for millions of readers.

Since the release of the new interface, the number of users opting into Beta has increased dramatically—we now have over 100,000 Beta users and climbing! If you’re one of our Beta users and you’ve signed up for a free account on Wikipedia or a sister project, you’ll see the following prototypes live and ready for testing:

  1. Photo uploads. With the help of volunteer developers at the Bangalore hackathon and inspired by the Wiki Loves Monuments initiative, we’ve made it fast and easy to add an image to a Wikipedia article directly from your image library or the camera on your mobile device. Just look for the call to action at the top of articles that lack images in the lead section. Not only will you be illustrating the encyclopedia, you’ll also be donating your image to Wikimedia Commons under a free license, where it can be shared and reused by anyone in the world for free.
  1. Editing. Our goal for editing on mobile this year was to begin experimenting with a mobile editing interface for small, on-the-go contributions, like correcting typos or removing vandalism, and we’ve released a section-level editor on Beta that allows for that. In the future, we’ll be working to make editing more fine-grained, as well as optimizing the interface, so that it’s easier to input text on a smaller screen.
  1. Watchlists. The watchlist—a feed of recent changes to articles that a user chooses to “watch”—is vital to the health of Wikipedia content. It’s how experienced editors track changes to the pages and discussions they care about, and it helps keep vandalism and spam at bay. We’re trying out ways to serve this need for our current editors on mobile. We’re also experimenting with a watchlist view for new editors who may not be familiar with the feature, which presents the user with an engaging entry point into articles and highlights their continually evolving nature.

If you don’t have a Wikipedia account, create one on desktop or mobile and give these features a try! Just be aware that, as with all things Beta, features are prone to rapid change as we work to fix bugs and optimize the user experience.

In the coming months, we’ll be running user tests and collecting data on feature usage to help us figure out what’s working and what’s not. Ultimately, we aim to identify and promote the most promising experiments to the main mobile gateway and/or create apps that focus on specific contribution funnels. Our goal for the long term is to give potential and new editors the opportunity not just to read Wikipedia, but to take an active part in its continued growth.

Maryana Pinchuk, Associate Product Manager

Wikipedia Mobile gets a new look

Design changes to the Wikipedia mobile site include new navigation and updated typography.

This week you’ll see some changes to the look and feel of Wikipedia on your phone, as the mobile team moves features that were tested on our experimental Beta site onto our mobile gateway. The updated mobile site will include a navigation system that makes it easier to explore our content, as well as visual improvements aimed at increasing the readability of articles.1

The new navigation system is designed to make mobile features and settings more discoverable, paving the way for the addition of new features. In the coming months, the mobile team will continue to experiment with and build contributory features. Whether it’s uploading a photo (as with the Wiki Loves Monuments Android app), watching changes to articles, or even editing, we want anyone to be able to pitch in and help make Wikipedia even better.

If you’re just browsing articles, the first thing you’ll notice is the change to layout and typography. We chose these new fonts for improved device compatibility, ease of scannability and reading, and, more generally, to better fit the high quality standards to which all Wikimedia projects strive.2 Our designers will continue to focus on typography going forward, since text is the primary way readers and editors interact with the site.3

Improving how we serve content on the mobile web is crucial for reaching our goal of 4 billion pageviews per month by June 2013, and for providing Wikipedia to more readers in countries where mobile is the primary form of Internet access.

But we’re not done improving the mobile experience—please help us by providing feedback on the new look of the mobile site! You can also become a Wikipedia Beta tester by signing up to receive updates and test new experimental features before they go live.

Maryana Pinchuk, Associate Product Manager

1. The most recent set of updates will be available for users of our mobile website (such as the English Wikipedia on mobile).

2. Studies have shown that certain fonts can influence the perception of content in terms of quality and reliability.

3. The current set of changes are for Latin scripts. Readability improvements for non-Latin scripts will be carried out in cooperation with our localization team.

Enticing Wikipedians back… with bacn

Sorry, we don’t mean this kind of bacon.

Bacn. If you have an account on any of the most popular websites on the Internet, you’ve probably seen it – it’s the Internet jargon for those periodic emails you receive whenever your activity on a website wanes, reminding you to come back and see what you’ve missed. There’s a Wikipedia article about it, naturally.

Unlike many other major community sites, Wikipedia doesn’t send any unsolicited reminders to its editors… but what if it did? What if a large chunk of the recent decline in editor numbers is simply due to people not being actively encouraged to come back and contribute again, like they are on virtually all other websites where people freely give their time and effort?

Our experiment

To test this hypothesis, we here at the editor engagement experiments team decided to send some bacn to former highly active Wikipedians who had stopped editing. We dubbed this experiment Necromancy. (Hat tip on the name goes to Jeff Atwood of StackExchange fame, who introduced us to Stackoverflow’s necromancy badge for reviving dead topics.)

Though we chose not to go with our data analyst’s literal necromancy-themed email idea of encouraging lapsed users to “fight the dark armies of ignorance once more!”, we did do our best to sound friendly and informal in these messages, and we addressed them from members of our team who have Wikipedia editing experience. While many Wikipedia users may be accustomed to receiving emails from automated mailer systems, we figured that sending from a person who could be directly replied to would increase our chances of not being marked as spam.

Since there is no single metric for when a Wikipedian has finally left the project, we contacted three different types of editors: those who hadn’t edited articles for one year, a second group that had been gone for three months, and a third that stopped editing for just 30 days.

The results

We had some pretty interesting results from our three rounds of email. The percentage of people who opened our emails was about 27-28 percent, slightly higher than the standard figure cited by most non-profits, about 20 percent, and definitely higher than the 5 percent open rate of marketing/sales emails. The number of people who clicked through to the login screen was about half that, and in our most successful round, we generated a return-to-editing rate of 5 percent.

Though the open rates stayed more or less the same among the 1-year, 3-month, and 1-month lapsed editors, rates of return to editing were higher for those who had been gone for less time. Wikipedians who haven’t edited for a year are probably gone for good, but those who were only gone for a month may just need a small reminder to jump back in again.

Conclusions and future work

So, what does this mean for editor retention? Well, we’re probably not going to start sending everyone who has ever made an edit to Wikipedia daily reminders to contribute. But, if we can expect that one email to recently lapsed editors will bring back about 5 percent and get them to edit again, and we can predict from current editor trends that about 5,000 Wikipedians will stop editing over the course of this year, this means that a little bit of bacn will prevent 250 of those Wikipedians from disappearing for good. It may not be the silver bullet that reverses editor decline, but it’s a pretty good start.

Another step toward encouraging editors to return via email has already been enabled. Unrelated to our tests, community members have worked to ensure that an editor on any Wikimedia project can opt in to receiving emails when a page on their watchlist is changed.

If you’d like to know more about our current and planned experiments, check out our documentation on Meta, feel free to comment below, or ping us on our freenode IRC channel – #wikimedia-e3

Maryana Pinchuk and Steven Walling,
on behalf of the Editor Engagement Experiments team at the Wikimedia Foundation

† As reported by the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study.

Building a better encyclopedia, one topic at a time

(This is the first in a series of profiles of editors who we have recently thanked for reaching their 1,000th edit to articles on English Wikipedia.)

Kawah Putih Lake in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. (Image courtesy user Amelia guo, cc-by-sa-3.0)

Indonesia is the third largest developing country (behind China and India) and the fourth most populous country in the world – but many English-speaking people don’t know that, or anything about the country itself. This is in part because, according to Wikipedia editor Peter McCawley, Indonesia “does not explain itself to the outside world very well.” He believes that many Indonesians don’t feel comfortable contributing to the English Wikipedia, and the few articles that do exist are still too short or have gaps that should be filled. That’s what Peter is trying to change.

Peter was born in Australia but got interested in Indonesia in the 1970s. In 1972, he completed his PhD on Indonesian economics and now works as an economic adviser in Indonesia. He also volunteers for an Australian NGO that promotes the development of very poor areas in the country. He started editing Wikipedia in 2010 because he saw gaps in information that, with his expertise, could fill in.

“When I see useful text that seems to need improvement, I’m inclined to see if I can edit it a little,” he said.

“Wikipedia is an important source of information for many people. Good information is a public good. Part of my job as a university scholar and teacher is to contribute to information in areas where I have expertise,” Peter said when asked why he contributes to Wikipedia. “Further, I have personally benefitted greatly myself from the global public good that is ‘information and learning.’ I have, in a broad sense, a debt to the world of information and learning. I should repay my debt!”

Peter has improved and expanded many articles on Indonesian people, places, organizations. He has also created two new articles: Widjojo Nitisastro, an Indonesian economist, and Kawah Putih (pictured above), a volcanic crater lake on the island of Java. Other volunteer editors have come along and expanded those articles even further, adding references, copyediting, and bringing in images from Wikimedia Commons.

“It’s important to add to information on Wikipedia because lots of key people (scholars, policy makers, students, journalists, and so on) look for information on the web, and they often look at Wikipedia. It’s a pity when the information on Wikipedia is wrong or incomplete or poorly presented,” said Peter. “The world in general is likely to be a better place in all sorts of ways if people are well-informed.”

Indonesia isn’t just a place for Peter. “Indonesia is fascinating in just about every way that one might mention – society, politics, culture, economics, religion, environment, international relations, and so on,” he said. “Across the world today, around five billion people or more have decided that they don’t want to be poor any more – they want to have decent standards of living, and they want their countries to grow and to modernize. For me, Indonesia is a prism onto this remarkable change in human life on the planet. And if I can explain just a little of all of this on Wikipedia, that seems to me to be a useful thing to do.”

To get involved in improving Indonesia-related content on English Wikipedia, please visit WikiProject Indonesia, or browse all articles on Indonesia and pitch in where you can.

Maryana Pinchuk, Community Organizer, Wikimedia Foundation

Beam me up, Jimmy: an experiment in thanking Wikipedians

The most important question currently facing the Wikimedia movement is how we can continue to grow our communities by attracting new editors, while helping current editors stay engaged. With all this talk of stagnating community growth, however, one thing that we haven’t focused on as much is the remarkable fact that every single day, tons of amazing volunteers are still working away on the projects, unseen and often unrecognized.

Should we use this image in our next fundraising banner? (We kid.)

We’ve decided to remedy this lack of recognition by finding and personally thanking Wikipedians who make their 1,000th edit to articles on the project. This may not be their 1,000th edit overall, but we feel that such a milestone merits a barnstar that recognizes their contributions to free knowledge.

The overwhelming size and diversity of the Wikipedia community today means that it’s harder than ever for other contributors to notice and congratulate each other. Many of these editors probably aren’t even aware they’ve made they’ve passed such a milestone, partially due to our community’s (entirely admirable) distaste for “editcountitis“.

Our first step in the process of recognizing these editors depends on the analytical wizardry of Ryan Faulkner, formerly a data analyst for the fundraiser and now part of the team working on editor retention. Using a mirror of the live English Wikipedia database, we built a system of logging every time an editor makes his or her 1,000th edit to the article space.

Another way we’ve described this conundrum — where there’s lots of work being done but not nearly enough recognition for good editors — is that we need more Kirk and less Spock. At the Foundation, we took this somewhat literally, as we decided to mark each 1,000 edit milestone that we log by playing the transporter sound effect from Star Trek in the sixth floor of our San Francisco office. As far as work interruptions go, getting an extremely loud (and yes, nerdy) reminder that people are donating so much of their time and energy to the encyclopedia is a great one.

This experiment likely won’t last forever or work for all 280 languages of Wikipedia. But it’s important for us as staff members to stay connected to our communities, and we have a not-so-secret hope of making this kind of appreciation something that every Wikimedia project does for itself. Look out for future announcements about how community members can take charge of this list of accomplished editors.

Maryana Pinchuk and Steven Walling
Community Organizers, Wikimedia Foundation

P.S. A special thanks to R. Stuart Geiger for helping build our logging system, and Zack Exley for inspiring and supporting this idea.

Traveling to Brazil to meet Brazilian Wikipedians

This post is available in 2 languages: Português 7% • English 100%

Em Português:

A Wikipédia lusófona é um dos dez maiores projetos da Wikipédia em número de artigos, e o Brasil, lar do maior número de editores em português da Wikipédia, é uma das principais regiões estratégicas na mira do departamento de Desenvolvimento Global. Mas, enquanto o afluxo de novos colaboradores e membros da comunidade de núcleo manteve-se relativamente estável ao longo dos anos, o número de wikipedistas novos muito ativos no projeto experimentou um declínio preocupante.

Brazilian Wikipedians at a meetup in São Paulo. Photo: Victor Grigas, CC-BY-SA

No início de março, funcionários do Departamento de Comunidades da Fundação Wikimedia viajaram ao Brasil para aprender mais sobre os desafios de projetar o crescimento e começar a discutir soluções que possam ser realizadas pela comunidade. A eles juntou-se Oona Castro, recém-contratada Diretora Nacional de Programas da Fundação Wikimedia no país.

Visitamos quatro cidades: São Paulo e Rio de Janeiro, onde já havia uma cultura extensa de encontros, e também Curitiba e Natal, onde encontros nunca tinham acontecido antes. No decorrer de duas semanas, reunimos dezenas de editores para troca de conhecimento, discussões e debates.

Os wikipedistas que participaram desses encontros representam todas as esferas de nossa comunidade, desde novos colaboradores que acabaram de fazer sua primeira edição até veteranos que ajudaram a comunidade a crescer desde os primeiros dias de sua existência. Nossos participantes incluíram estudantes universitários animados em usar a Wikipédia em sala de aula, acadêmicos que se envolveram recentemente em edição, autores de milhares de artigos, desenvolvedores de interwikis e militantes antivandalismo, e até mesmo o detentor do recorde mundial da maior coleção de garrafas de cachaça! Muitos nunca tinham ido a um encontro ou conhecido outros wikipedistas.

Discutimos temas que são importantes para todas as comunidades Wikipédia, incluindo como acolher e orientar os recém-chegados sem perder qualidade, como equilibrar política e transparência e como resolver conflitos tanto no âmbito individual quanto em nível de projeto. Também abordamos as coisas que tornam a Wikipédia lusófona única, como ter editores de todos os países lusófonos (e não apenas o Brasil) e como localizar melhor tecnologia e documentação. Nossas anotações de todos os encontros, em português e inglês, podem ser encontradas na Esplanada, o principal espaço de discussão da comunidade da Wikipédia lusófona. Ao disponibilizar as anotações para toda a comunidade, esperamos desencadear mais discussões na internet e fora dela sobre o bem-estar da comunidade e melhorias lideradas por editores da Wikipédia lusófona.

Queremos agradecer a todos que nos ajudaram a organizar estes encontros e àqueles que vieram compartilhar seus pensamentos e ideias conosco e com seus colegas editores! Vocês fizeram desta a série de encontros de editores de maior sucesso da história do Brasil, e nós esperamos que mantenham esta tradição viva.

You have new messages: improving communication on Wikipedia

You have new messages
Every month, hundreds of thousands of people press the edit button on Wikipedia for the very first time. And for many of these new users, the first (and sometimes only) message that appears on their user talk page is a template rather than a human response. This is especially true on our larger, older projects.

User talk page templates were developed by the community because of the tremendous volume of contributions that began pouring in as Wikipedia grew more and more popular. Today, with the focus of our movement shifting to openness and attracting new editors, it’s time to rethink the message we’re sending via templates.

That’s why Steven Walling and I have started a project to A/B test many of the template messages received by new users, such as warnings and deletion notices. In collaboration with over 20 members of the Wikimedia community, including the English and Portuguese Wikipedias so far, we’ve designed a number of experiments that will give us tangible data to improve communication on the projects.

How it works

With the help of tools developed by our summer researchers, different messages we want to test are randomly delivered to different groups of users. Tracking the data from these two groups, we can assess the efficacy of different kinds of messages, based on whether users continue to edit constructively after receiving them.

Our working hypothesis, which we are continuing to test and refine, is that making templates more personal will help retain the good-faith editors who receive them, while continuing to detract vandals, spammers, and other bad-faith editors. For both groups, showing them that the encyclopedia is built through the hard work of other people like them is key.

What you can do

There are thousands of different user talk page templates on Wikimedia projects. We need your help to construct and carry out more tests, especially in non-English communities!

Please visit our task force page on English Wikipedia or our interlanguage hub on Meta and sign up. You can add your project to the list if you’re interested in starting new tests.

This is the first time that the Wikimedia Foundation has devoted resources to helping test and improve the template infrastructure the community uses every day to function. We hope that together, we can significantly improve the way Wikimedia projects communicate with editors.

Thank you,
Maryana Pinchuk and Steven Walling