Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement


Ram Prasad Joshi: Writing Wikipedia from the western hills of Nepal

Ram Prasad Joshi

Ram Prasad Joshi doesn’t have a computer. His village may be beautiful but there is no electricity. It’s a three-hour walk to the nearest road. In spite of all this, Joshi has accumulated more than 6,000 edits to the Nepali Wikipedia using nothing more than a feature phone.

An image shot by Ram Prasad Joshi on his feature phone: Devotees paying homage to the Thama Mai Temple (replica of Badimalika, Bajura) in Dailekh

“On Wikipedia I write about geography, history and culture of my surroundings,” he said. “I am a Hindu so I write about the Hindu religion and Hindu culture. I edit and write new articles on the Sanskrit, Hindi, Fijian, Bhojpuri and Gujrati Wikipedias, as well as in Nepali. I can introduce my village, my locality and my culture to the world.”

An image shot by Ram Prasad Joshi on his feature phone: Stone script of Damupal near Kartikhamba in Dailekh established by King Prithivi Malla B.S. 1038 (981 A.D.). It is claimed to be the first stone script in the Nepali Language.

In addition to his writing, Joshi has contributed almost a hundred photographs to Wikimedia Commons. He took part in Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 and his images of archaeological monuments in his area won him the prize for best mobile contributor.

Due to its remote geography, his contributions may be the only representation his village will get online. “No newspapers, no magazines, nothing arrives here,” he explains. “In my village there are many people who have never seen a television. Now the mobile phone emerged, villagers watch videos on mobile, but no-one owns a television.”

For Joshi, his initial introduction to editing began on a somber note four years ago. While living and working in Haridwar, a small city in northeast India, his mother became seriously ill and passed away. “According to Hindu culture, all children should perform the rituals; they have to sit isolated for thirteen days in mourning,” he explained. “I was grieved greatly by her loss. My eyes still become wet when I remember her death. Parents are regarded as the almighty and holy in my culture.”

“I had to find ways to divert my thoughts from the memories of mom. As a way to vent my grief, I began to surf mobile internet more which helped me a lot. I explored the Nepali Wikipedia. I also saw the edit button in each article and the sub heading too. I then learned that I could edit these encyclopedia entries. When I remember my mom, I open Wikipedia and read or edit,” he added.

Fortunately, Joshi might no longer be alone in his editing endeavors; soon others will be able to benefit just as he did. Wikipedia Zero’s partnership with Nepali GSM mobile operator Ncell has given more people the opportunity to learn what Wikipedia is and how they can contribute to Wikimedia projects. “I have conveyed to my family and my villagers about Wikipedia,” said Joshi. “But for most people the Internet is out of reach, so it is a vague topic for them. After Ncell announced [their partnership with] Wikipedia Zero, some have given concern to it. Earlier when I started talking about Wikipedia they treated me as if I had gone mad.”

“Ncell broadcast advertisements for Wikipedia Zero through local radio. Many people now understand that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia of knowledge.”

Ncell’s partnership is ideal for those looking to access and contribute to Wikipedia from a mobile phone, in the same way Joshi has for so long.

Happy Birthday, Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki

Interview with Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki.
View directly on Wikimedia Commons with subtitles (click “CC” in the player), which are editable on this wiki page
Also view here on and here on

I’m convinced that Ward Cunningham will go down in history as one of the greatest programmers of all time. He invented the wiki, based on an offline HyperCard system that he had developed to track ideas as they flowed through his company.

According to Cunningham (in the video above), “A wiki is collaborative software. It’s software – I made it on the web and allowed people to come to a website and create something. I think what’s really turned out is that people discovered that they can create something with other people that they don’t even know, but they come to trust and they make something that surprises all of them in terms of its value.”

The Wiki-Wiki bus

He named his invention the WikiWikiWeb after he took a ride on an airport shuttle in the Honolulu airport called Wiki-Wiki:

“It was my first Hawaiian word that I learned as they were trying to direct me to the Wiki-Wiki bus between terminals. ‘Wiki’ is an Hawaiian word that means quick and so ‘Wiki-Wiki’ means very quick so (the WikiWikiWeb) is the very quick web.”

In 2011, former Wikimedia Foundation staffer Matthew Roth and I had a chance to interview Ward on camera in the Wikimedia Foundation office in San Francisco. We were in a mad dash to find inspiring stories for the 2011 Wikimedia fundraiser (out of the dozens and dozens of interviews we conducted, Ward’s would be one of the thirteen stories that made it into the fundraising campaign). Given a chance to capture a first-hand account of the very early history of wikis, we had decided to move some tables around and record the interview on video. At the time, there was no need to use his video interview for fundraising purposes, so I archived the footage and moved on.

My apologies to Ward that it’s taken so long to get his interview published. It is full of fascinating insights about the nature of online collaboration. Some excerpts:

On anonymous editing
“I encouraged people not to sign their words [on the wiki]. I thought: Your words, your ideas are a gift to the community and you shouldn’t be claiming credit for it, because then nobody else is going to improve it: They are going to feel it’s yours. So I discouraged that.
I used that a lot myself. I did probably 80% of my editing anonymously, (more…)

Wiki Loves Earth Goes International

Wikimedia Ukraine is organizing an international photo contest with a natural heritage theme, Wiki Loves Earth 2014. This is the second year of the competition. Last year, Ukraine was the only participant, but now the contest encompasses 14 countries!

The contest is being held from May 1 to May 31, 2014 in the large majority of participating countries, although some (Germany, Ghana, the Netherlands) are going to conduct it in May and June. Serbia will join us in June.

Elephants in Mole National Park, Ghana. Author: Dieu-Donné Gameli

Currently the contest is in its middle stages, so we’re able to draw our first observations.

Wiki Loves Earth is not only a great opportunity to show the charms of nature, but also a chance to draw public attention to environmental problems and Wikipedian activities. The focus is not only on sites of national importance, but also on the areas protected on the regional level and on the widest variety of natural sites possible: forests, parks, gardens, rocks, caves and whatever is protected within the participating countries. This means that most users will be able to find several natural heritage sites close to them.

More than 20 countries were ready to organize Wiki Loves Earth. There is: Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Iraq, FYR Macedonia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Mud volcanoe in Azerbaijan. Gobustan Rayon, Azerbaijan. Author: Interfase

However, only 13 of them were ready to start on May 1st. The reasons varied, from lack of time to governmental bureaucracy (in some countries it was too hard to gain the lists of natural heritage sites from public authorities).

Nevertheless, Wiki Loves Earth is successfully reaching 13 countries: Andorra&Spain, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Estonia, Germany, Ghana, Macedonia, Nepal, the Netherlands and Ukraine. A few days ago India joined the international contest.


Donating His Estate to the Wikimedia Foundation: The Story of Jim Pacha

Jim Pacha – Legacy Donor, Wikimedia Foundation


As he reflected on his life in a video interview with the Wikimedia Foundation on April 29, Jim Pacha beamed and smiled a lot. During the talk, Pacha was reminded of all the remarkable things that happened to him, including highlights in learning and career advancement. Pacha became a senior software engineer at a prestigious aerospace company, even though he never graduated from college. He entered his profession at one of its lowest ranks and through the years mastered the necessary skills through study and hard work.

“The thing I’m proudest of,” Pacha said, “is that I’m essentially self-educated. I got started as an assembler. I worked my way through as a technician, and then as a junior engineer.”

An illness prompted Pacha to consider how to give back to the world, and he decided to donate much of his estate to the Wikimedia Foundation, to support our vision of bringing the sum of human knowledge to people everywhere. Pacha wanted others to benefit the way that he benefited, and he believed Wikipedia — with 30 million free articles on every subject imaginable — embodied his highest ideals. Prior to his legacy gift, Pacha made regular donations to the Wikimedia Foundation.

“Educating the world and getting everybody on the same playing field — I think it’s great,” he said. “And the fact that it’s done with no advertising is a big thing, because I really don’t like what’s happening in the world today, with corporate involvement in everything. And I like the fact that Wikipedia is on the World Wide Web, so basically the whole world can access it.”

Pacha passed away on May 7 at age 66. He accomplished much in his life. Growing up in Illinois, he wanted to see as much of the United States as possible. He visited 45 states. He loved playing golf, even though the game turned into “flog” when he was on the course, he joked. “My handicap would probably be in the 30s and 40s,” he said laughing. Pacha came from a long line of determined people, he said. His father, Harold Pacha, fought for the United States in World War II, and retired as a Brigadier General. Pacha’s last name, which is pronounced like “pay-shuh,” is rooted in family that came to the United States in the 1840s from central Europe. “When they came to Ellis Island, the spelling was something like Pdeskja. It’s one of those names — you hear it, you can’t spell it, you see it, you can’t say it.”

At Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, located in Boulder, Colorado, Pacha designed, developed, integrated, tested and maintained instrument sensor and spacecraft simulations. It was a key position for a company that has helped support such operations as the Hubble Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and NASA’s CloudSat observation satellite. Pacha began using Wikipedia in 2006. “It was in conjunction with doing research for a project I was working on,” he said. “It was on propulsion systems or something along that nature.” Pacha went on disability in October of 2011 due to his illness, and made arrangements to make his legacy gift to Wikimedia in April 2014, after his health took a turn for the worse.

His illness, Pacha said, reminded him of what was important in life. “The vision of the Wikimedia Foundation is quite altruistic, and that’s basically my take on the world as well,” he said. “That would include medicine as well as education, in terms of everybody should have access to it. I realize that’s a pretty big dollop, and if we can get to the information part of it, that will help.”

Pacha’s gift to the Wikimedia Foundation is the largest legacy gift in our history. We’re extremely grateful for his generous donation, and we offer our most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. Thank you, Jim. Thank you for everything that you did in your life.

Caitlin Virtue, Development Outreach Manager, Wikimedia Foundation

If you’re inspired by Jim Pacha’s gift and would like to to learn more about legacy giving, please visit:

Announcing our new Executive Director: Lila Tretikov

On behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees I am delighted to announce that the new Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation will be Lila Tretikov. Lila is a widely respected Bay Area technology leader, most recently with SugarCRM.

Photo of incoming WMF Executive Director Lila Tretikov

Lila was born in the Soviet Union and moved to the United States as a teenager. She’s been working for technology companies, primarily in open source, in the Bay Area for the past 15 years. In 1999 she started her career at Sun Microsystems. Shortly afterwards she founded GrokDigital, a technology marketing company. She spent three years as senior director of development at Telespree, a company that provides cloud-based wireless data services for mobile carriers. For the past eight years, she was at SugarCRM, where she held positions of increasing responsibility as the organization grew, including being in charge of internal IT, marketing, customer support and professional services, engineering, and product development. She has a stellar reputation as a leader who is highly skilled, collaborative, open, passionate and curious.

The Executive Director Transition Team, chaired by me, has unanimously recommended Lila to the Board to be our next ED, and the Board has unanimously approved the recommendation. We believe she will be an excellent leader in the Wikimedia movement. She strikes us all as smart, brave and unpretentious, and we believe she has the skills the Foundation needs.

Lila is going to spend the next few weeks in learning-and-listening mode, and will take over the ED position on June 1, 2014. Her first priority will be to immerse herself in deepening her understanding of the Wikimedia projects.

I want to close this post with a heartfelt and deeply appreciative thanks to Sue Gardner, who has been the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation for the past seven years. Sue’s leadership has built the Foundation into an effective, well-funded and well-managed organisation with integrity and a clear sense of purpose, and her steady and committed presence throughout the search process was integral in helping us come to this excellent result. We will be forever grateful for her leadership and vision, and I hope we can continue to rely on her support in the months and years ahead.

In June Sue will move into a new role as a special advisor to me and Lila. She’ll also take a well-earned holiday, and maybe even a bit of a wiki-break, before beginning to think about what she’s going to do next. Many of us will get a chance to see her in London, at Wikimania, in August.

The Wikimedia Foundation is delighted to have reached such a successful outcome to the search. My thanks to Lisa Grossman of m/Oppenheim for helping us with it, and I ask you to please join me in extending a warm welcome to Lila Tretikov, our new ED.

Jan-Bart de Vreede, Chair, Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees

The sixteen-wheeled Wikipedia machine

The Spokes team, just before setting off from California.

For most people, a cross-country bike ride sounds like a daunting prospect, but for Ethan Sherbondy, a computer science senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was a welcomed challenge.

Last summer, he and seven other students, under the moniker of Spokes, set off from California, cycling through Washington D.C. and visiting twelve major cities along the way to teach local kids about science and project-based learning.

“Two summers ago, a friend of mine named Turner proposed this idea of doing a bicycling trip, initially just as a fun thing,” Sherbondy explained. “Then we started thinking, maybe we could use the bike trips as an opportunity to help people, and maybe learn some things about the state of this country that we live in.”

Throughout the trip, the group was often unable to access Wikipedia due to poor signal coverage over remote areas of the United States. “The idea of not having access to Wikipedia actually horrified me,” he said, “because I’m one of those sorts of people that is just constantly reading articles and learning things through Wikipedia.”

Thankfully, the team was armed with Kiwix, an offline version of Wikipedia. With the software, they held “learning festivals” in schools and community centers, teaching local children about engineering and computers.

“Something that consistently surprised me was that there was almost a stigma against science and engineering. Or even if there wasn’t a stigma, there was just kind of this vacuum, like an absence of understanding of what this whole chunk of society does from day-to-day.”


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.


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

How a teenage student from Malaysia set a high Wikipedia standard for editing

In 2009, when she was 15 years old, Evangeline Han began contributing to Wikipedia from her home computer. Evangeline was being home-schooled, and her computer — and Wikipedia — were a gateway to sharing knowledge with others who were also learning outside the classroom. Evangeline has since made close to 10,000 edits — among the most edits for anyone her age from Malaysia.

Evangeline Han

“I think it’s important,” she says, “that young people edit Wikipedia.”

But Evangeline’s advice is tempered by her own reality: In Malaysia, she had to get her parents’ permission to become a Wikipedian. And the rule in her household was: home-schooling first, Wikipedia second. “They were fine with me editing,” Evangeline says of her parents, “as long as I did my schoolwork and I didn’t do Wikipedia during my school time.”

Evangeline’s love of Wikipedia dovetailed from her love of books and reading. She has been an avid reader since early childhood (her favorite book is Pride and Prejudice), and she started a book blog in 2010, where she writes reviews, interviews authors, and lays out her thoughts on the written word. When she doesn’t have too much homework, Evangeline, who’s a speed-reader, will finish one book per day. “When growing up, my parents encouraged me to read classic books, especially those books that won awards,” she says. “And I had this curriculum based solely on books. That’s why I grew up with a love for reading.”

Evangeline became so adept at editing Wikipedia that she was a Wikipedia Ambassador — a position that has volunteer mentors advise university students who are editing Wikipedia in the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Education Program. “I will check through all the articles,” she says, “and make sure they are reliably sourced and give students advice if they need help and also review their articles.”


The Winner of Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 Is…


1st prize winner: Picture of a locomotive with a push-pull train crossing the monumental Wiesener Viaduct over the Landwasser river in Graubünden, Switzerland.

Guest post by Lodewijk Gelauff. You can read the original post on the Wiki Loves Monuments blog. Lodewijk “Effeietsanders” Gelauff has been an active member of the Wikimedia community since 2005; over the years, he helped out as a steward and an administrator of several wikis as well as a board member of Wikimedia Nederland, member of the Chapters Committee and organiser of various internal Wikimedia activities.

Wiki Loves Monuments is over. And after a photo competition, there should be a winner. Through the month September, photos were uploaded of monuments in more than 50 countries and in October national juries decided which pictures were the best for each of the 51 competitions. They submitted up to 10 pictures to the international finale, which resulted in a pool of 503 magnificent and diverse images of cultural heritage.

The 2013 competition was in many ways a unique experience. Not only was it once again the largest photography competition (more than 365,000 submissions!), but there were also more countries participating in Wiki Loves Monuments than ever before: 52 countries in 51 competitions. Those countries were not only larger in number, but also more spread over the continents and cultures. For the first time we had Arabic countries participating, many Latin-American and Asian countries joined for the first time, and we also accepted images from Antarctica!

A jury of six members was set to the task to judge the finalists, and they did so with great care. You will find their process and deliberations described in the jury report linked at the bottom of this blog post. That jury report also includes the Special Awards we announced earlier and more background information about the monuments.

It is about time to announce the winners of the finale of Wiki Loves Monuments 2013! In this blog post I will only mention the top-10 pictures, but you can find more pictures and more details of the top-41 in the jury report.

The first prize (you can see it at the top of this blog post) is a picture of a locomotive with a push-pull train crossing the monumental Wiesener Viaduct over the Landwasser river in Graubünden, Switzerland. It represents a nice harmony between monument, human and nature, while the red train draws attention to the middle of the picture. The picture was submitted by David Gubler, who is also active on a Swiss website dedicated to photos of trains.

The second prize (below) goes to a wonderful photo of the 19th century Shi family abode in Lukang, Taiwan. The picture gives great attention to detail and captures the imagery, history, tradition and narration all in one photograph. The picture was submitted by Husky221, who submitted several other photos to the competition.