Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Communications

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

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.”

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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.

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Wikimedia Foundation sends cease and desist letter to WikiPR

On October 21, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) issued a statement from Sue Gardner, our executive director, condemning the black hat practice of paid advocacy editing and sockpuppeting on Wikipedia. The statement followed widespread press coverage of an investigation undertaken by Wikipedia’s volunteer editor community into more than 300 sockpuppet accounts that were alleged to belong to a public relations firm. In Gardner’s statement, she noted that the “Wikimedia Foundation is closely monitoring this ongoing investigation and we are currently assessing all the options at our disposal.”

To assist in the assessment, the WMF retained Cooley LLP to review and investigate allegations that a company named Wiki-PR has been engaging in paid advocacy editing, in contravention of the Wikimedia Foundation’s website Terms of Use. While the WMF and Cooley were investigating this question, the Wikimedia community banned Wiki-PR and anyone receiving financial benefits from Wiki-PR from editing until certain conditions were met.

Today, Cooley LLP, on behalf of the WMF, sent the cease and desist letter below to the CEO of Wiki-PR, demanding that Wiki-PR “cease and desist from further editing the Wikipedia website unless and until [they] have fully complied with the terms and conditions outlined by the Wikimedia Community.”

We will continue to closely monitor this situation and provide further updates in the coming weeks.

Matthew Roth
Spokesperson, Wikimedia Foundation

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Open letter for free access to Wikipedia on mobile in South Africa

This post is available in 8 languages: English Afrikaans العربية •  Español German • Français עברית • Nederlands • Português • русский • isiXhosa

English

In November 2012, the students of Sinenjongo High School penned an open letter on Facebook, encouraging cellphone carriers to waive data charges for accessing Wikipedia so they can do their homework. In May 2013, filmmaker Charlene Music and I asked them to read their open letter on camera. Below is the video of their letter:

The cost of data is a major obstacle to accessing the free knowledge on Wikipedia for hundreds of millions of people. These students want their cellphone carriers to sign up to Wikipedia Zero, a partnership program organized by the Wikimedia Foundation to enable mobile access to Wikipedia – free of data charges – in developing countries.

We will be sharing the longer documentary about the class as soon as it’s ready. While we are still editing the longer documentary, we’re looking for:

1.) A few skilled volunteers who can help to translate captions to accompany the video above and the longer documentary. There are currently eleven official languages in South Africa alone. We need volunteers to create captions for all those languages, and as many other languages as possible.

2.) A motion graphics or digital artist who could help us design and animate a few titles, maps and statistics for the documentary. If you are interested, feel free to email me: vgrigas at wikimedia.org or get in touch with me on my talk page User:Vgrigas.

3.) If you agree with these students, please share the video above.

Victor Grigas
Visual Storyteller, Wikimedia Foundation

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Wikipedia editor profile: Tony the Marine

Antonio “Tony the Marine” Santiago

In 2004, Antonio Santiago, aka Tony the Marine, began editing Wikipedia by expanding upon the work that his son started on the free encyclopedia. Since then, he has become a passionate researcher, broadening and polishing articles about Puerto Rican military history. Six years after his initial edit, then Puerto Rican Secretary of State Kenneth D. McClintock called Santiago the Commonwealth’s foremost military historian.

Santiago, a Vietnam veteran, father of three, and loving husband of 40 years, said his contributions are a direct product of his background. Born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican immigrants, he credited his perspective on history to his experience growing up Latino in the United States. In 1969 he was accepted into Columbia University, but chose to join the Marines, where he served until 1975. Though he grew up in New York City, Santiago said his abiding interest is in his parent’s homeland of Puerto Rico. His time in the military made him revaluate the role of Latinos in the United States, which, in turn, led him to view American politics towards Puerto Rico differently.

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Emily Temple-Wood: A cool Wikipedian on a big mission

Emily at Wiki Boot Camp DC 2013

A self-professed geek, Emily Temple-Wood was 12 years old when she waded into the world of Wikipedia. Bullied in school, as geeks often are, Temple-Wood found Wikipedia to be an outlet where she could be judged by what she contributed. Having read a children’s encyclopedia from cover to cover at the age of five, it was only natural to go from consuming the knowledge in encyclopedias to creating it. “I love to collect information, and I love that I get to share that information with the world,” Temple-Wood said.

12-year old Temple-Wood made her first mark on Wikipedia by editing an entry for an album released by Taiwanese singer Angela Chang titled “Flower in the Wonderland”, which she admits was a “random” selection to get her feet wet with. Since then, Temple-Wood, now 19, has been more selective about the content she edits. Over the years, she has edited or initiated articles on a wide-range of subjects; from genetic diseases to endangered languages. Two of her first big projects included Cannon and History of Timekeeping Devices, which were both promoted as featured articles. Her article on Birt-Hogg-Dubé Syndrome, became her first good article in the area of Medicine, with which she credits helped establish members of WikiProject Medicine . Her eclectic range of interests are exemplified in her academic choices. A sophomore at Loyola University in her hometown of Chicago, Temple-Wood is majoring in molecular biology with an additional three minors— Arabic Language and Culture, Islamic World Studies, and Women and Gender Studies; plus, she works in a developmental biology lab.

Despite all her academic commitments, Temple-Wood has made it her mission to ensure that female scientists get their due recognition on Wikipedia. She co-founded the WikiProject Women Scientists last November after coming across WikiProject Women’s History-Ada Lovelace Day 2012, which exposed a significant gender bias across Wikipedia’s science domain. A substantial number of female fellows belonging to the prestigious Royal Society, a sort of who’s who in the world of science, had no Wikipedia articles written about them. “I got pissed and wrote an article that night,” Temple-Wood said. “I literally sat in the hallway in the dorm until 2am writing that article.”
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“Good Pictures do Matter” – Miha Grmek

Panorama of Lake Bled in northwestern Slovenia

5 years ago Miha Grmek began uploading his photographs to Wikimedia Commons. By doing so, he hopes to have allowed countless others to travel vicariously through his images.

Grmek loves to travel. Before every trip he uses Wikipedia as a tool to learn as much about his destination as possible. It was during one of these pre-departure research sessions of Scotland that he realized the pictures in his own collection were of higher quality than some of those he came across on Wikipedia. In many instances, Gremek explains, “The beautiful places I had visited did not have any pictures at all.” That’s when he understood just how much of a positive impact he could have by sharing his photos.

Grmek bought his first SLR when he was 18 years old and he credits the camera with helping him begin to take photography more seriously. In 2008, he acquired a Nikon D200 DSLR, which he jokingly refers to as a “dinosaur,” due to its relative age. It was with this dinosaur that he placed sixth in the 2012 Wikimedia Commons Photo of the Year competition with his panoramic photo of Kranjska Gora in Slovenia (below).

When he’s not taking photos, Grmek spends his time working for a company that specializes in railway engineering and surveying. “I’m not a professional photographer,” he admits. “It’s more of a hobby. I just love to take pictures when the time allows. It is nice to break up the routine of daily work.”

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Wikimedia Commons, “a step towards equality and freedom”

The Tivoli Bridge in Sète

A year is not a long time, but it’s been more than enough for Christian Ferrer to develop into a well-practiced photographer.

Hailing from Sète, a small town in the region of Hérault on the south coast of France, Ferrer does not need to go far to find the breathtaking scenery that attracts so many tourists to the area. His photography exhibits these stunning vistas with precise composition and excellent color balance, bringing to life the picturesque nature that Southern France is so famous for.

His favorite photograph is not of the famous landscape, however, but of a rusted bridge not far from his house. Ferrer explains, “I prefer the countryside to the city, but my region is full of tourists during the summer and I avoid taking the car on the weekend.” He adds, “I looked for subjects near my home and I thought of this bridge. I tried to exploit the wide angle. I am rather satisfied with the result.”

Crique de l’Anau, a cove in Sète

A 36-year-old truck driver and goods handler, Ferrer is perhaps not what most people would imagine when they think of a photographer with his ability. Possibly because of these potential misconceptions, Ferrer remains modest in the face of his talent. “I began to contribute principally to have the possibility to share my photos,” Ferrer says. “My motivation is to share my images and confront my work to the criticism of others. I don’t think that I’m gifted enough or experimented enough to give a lot of advice to others.”

The critique he has received from other Wikimedia Commons photographers has been a terrific teacher. Since his first upload in January of this year, his technique has steadily improved. In his nine months of activity on Commons, Ferrer has had eleven of his photos selected as Featured Pictures and dozens more of his images have received various accolades on the website.

“Almost all that I know about photography, I learned by contributing on Wikimedia and by listening to the advice and criticisms of the other contributors,” he explains. “I try to obtain the best technical quality on subjects which I find encyclopedic, while bringing a small artistic touch in the composition.”

Ferrer’s experience with Commons has clearly had an impact on him. He calls the platform “a great opportunity” for budding photographers, thanks mostly to the community of quality photographers. The repository’s end goal is also something he agrees with. “I like collecting beautiful photos, it is what gave me the desire to practice photography.”

He adds, “When I find a beautiful one on the Internet, I despair when it has a low resolution. It is essential to establish a suitable multimedia database which is free of copyright and within the reach of all…it is a step towards equality and freedom.”

(View more of Ferrer’s photos on his Wikimedia Commons user page.)

Profile by Joe Sutherland
Wikimedia Foundation Communications volunteer