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Wikimedians in Residence: a journey of discovery

GLAM-WIKI 2013 attendees

A bit of background

In April of 2014 I found myself digging deep into analytics in search of possible improvements and insight into what we do as a chapter. What brought me there? One of our most renowned programs, Wikimedians in Residence. A Wikimedian in Residence (WIR) is a person who, as a Wikimedia contributor, accepts a placement within an institution to facilitate open knowledge in a close working relationship between the Wikimedia movement and the institution. They work to facilitate content improvements on Wikimedia projects, but more importantly serve as ambassadors for open knowledge within the host organization.

Wikimedia UK has been involved with WiR in the UK with varying degrees of support and supervision. Since the creation of the chapter, we always felt that the program was worth running, seeing it as one of the key ways we can engage with external organizations. However, I never knew for sure, if that was just a feeling. Toward the end of 2013 we decided to explore these notions.

Why and how to evaluate

As I focused on my questions about program impact, I embarked on a review process of the program, which eventually included: a questionnaire for all the key parties, online surveys, meetings, group discussions, the analysis of existing materials (e.g. residents’ reports) and creation of a review document.

In January of this year I planned to survey the Residents and host institutions about their views on the program. Since I wasn’t sure what to ask, I reached out to the Program Evaluation and Design team for help.

Their stringent approach was worth it. We boiled down the issues around what I actually wanted to find out from the survey. Doing that before creating the questions was a revelation to me. The questionnaire went much deeper than I had originally anticipated. This meant that when we worked on creating the survey questions, every point was there for a specific reason and in a sensible order. With their help, I developed three surveys: for residents, residency hosts  and another for community member input.

I was impressed with the amount of feedback that was shared. The Residents were clearly committed to the project and keen on telling me what could make the program more successful. At the same time I ran interviews with the host institutions. By that stage I was deeply entrenched in the review process. Discovering more about the program increased my appetite for a deeper analysis. This culminated in an April brainstorming meeting aimed at completing an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) of our Wikipedian in Residence program.

With the data collection completed, I then examined all the reports and case studies produced by the residents and summarized them in terms of the impact made to Wikimedia projects. (Click here to read Overview of the residencies.)
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The First ever Creative Commons event in Telugu: Ten Telugu Books Re-released Under CC

Event flyer, User:రహ్మానుద్దీన్, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Telugu is one of the 22 scheduled languages of the Republic of India (Bhārat Gaṇarājya) and is the official language of the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and the Union Territory district of Yanam. In India alone Telugu is spoken by 100 million people and is estimated to have 180 million speakers around the world. The government of India declared Telugu a Classical language in 2008.

Telugu Wikipedia has been in existence for more than 10 years and has 57,000 articles. Telugu Wikisource is one of the sister projects that has more than 9,400 pages. Several Telugu books are being typed and proofread using Proofread extension. Since Telugu is one of the complex Indic scripts, computing in Telugu came much later. Many books that were published (or are being published) are not in Unicode. Telugu Wikisource has now emerged as the largest searchable online book repository in Telugu. Telugu Wikisourcerers, despite being a small community, did a great job of digitizing many prominent Telugu literary works. Attempts have been made to convince contemporary writers to re-release their books in CC-BY-SA 3.0 license. Such an effort was made a year ago by bringing in a translation of the Quran in Telugu. Recently, 10 Telugu books by a single author were re-released under the Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA 3.0) on June 22, 2014 at The Golden Threshold, an off-campus annex of the University of HyderabadCIS-A2K played an instrumental role in getting this content donated. This is one of the first instances in an Indian languages where a single author re-released such a large collection of books under the CC license. These books are being uploaded on Telugu Wikisource using Unicode converters.

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Victory in Italy: Court rules Wikipedia “a service based on the freedom of the users”

This post is available in 2 languages:
English Italiano

English

Last week, the Wikimedia community obtained a resounding victory in Italian court. For more than four years, the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Italia [1] had been involved in a lawsuit initiated by Italian politician Antonio Angelucci and his son, Giampaolo. The Angeluccis were seeking €20,000,000 from the Wikimedia Foundation over allegedly defamatory statements appearing on two Italian-language Wikipedia pages.

The Roman Civil Tribunal handed down its ruling [in Italian] on 9 July, 2014 with respect to the Wikimedia Foundation, dismissing the lawsuit and declaring that the Foundation is not legally responsible for content that users freely upload onto the Wikimedia projects. The victory, however, runs deeper than the case at hand. The judgment is the first full consideration of Wikimedia’s standing in Italy,[2] and the ruling itself paves the way for more robust free speech protections on the Internet under Italian law.

The Angeluccis argued that the Wikipedia pages for Antonio Angelucci and for the Italian-language newspaper Il Riformista contained false statements that supposedly harmed their reputations according to their claims. Generally, the European Union’s E-Commerce Directive limits the liability of hosting providers for content that users upload; however, the Angeluccis asserted that Wikimedia Foundation’s activities were more akin to a content provider and that no exemption of liability according to the Directive would apply or at least Wikipedia should be deemed as an “online journal” and thus the Foundation should be liable under the stricter standards that apply to the Italian press.

The Italian court rejected this argument, stating that while the Directive does not directly apply to the Wikimedia Foundation as a non-EU-based organization, the basic principles of the Directive apply. In compliance with such principles, Wikimedia must be recognized to be a hosting provider, as opposed to a content provider, and thus it can be liable for user generated content only if it gets explicit notice of illicit information by the competent authority and fails to remove it.

The court stated that Wikipedia “offers a service which is based on the freedom of the users to draft the various pages of the encyclopedia; it is such freedom that excludes any [obligation to guarantee the absence of offensive content on its sites] and which finds its balance in the possibility for anybody to modify contents and ask for their removal.” The court went on to state that the Foundation was very clear in its disclaimers about its neutral role in the creation and maintenance of content, further noting that anyone, even the Angeluccis themselves, could have modified the articles in question.

Lively discussions and even disagreements about content are a natural outgrowth of creating the world’s largest free encyclopedia. However, the vast majority of these editorial debates can be and are resolved every day through processes established and run by dedicated members of the Wikimedia community. We strongly encourage those who have concerns about content on the Wikimedia projects to explore these community procedures rather than resorting to litigation.

Attempts to impose liability upon neutral hosting platforms — our modern day public forums — threaten the very existence of those platforms, and stifle innovation and free speech along the way. When the need arises, the Wikimedia Foundation will not hesitate to defend the world’s largest repository of human knowledge against those who challenge the Wikimedia community’s right to speak, create, and share freely.[3]

Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel

Geoff Brigham, General Counsel

The Wikimedia Foundation would like to express its immense appreciation towards the incredibly talented attorneys at Hogan Lovells, who represented the Foundation in this matter, particularly Marco Berliri, Marta Staccioli, and Massimiliano Masnada. Special thanks also goes to Joseph Jung (Legal Intern), who assisted with this blog post.

Note: While this decision represents important progress towards protecting hosting providers like the Wikimedia Foundation, it is equally important to remember that every individual is legally responsible for his or her actions both online and off. For your own protection, you should exercise caution and avoid contributing any content to the Wikimedia projects that may result in criminal or civil liability under the laws of the United States or any country that may claim jurisdiction over you. For more information, please see our Terms of Use and Legal Policies.

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Recovering the shared history editing Wikipedia in Argentina, Mexico and Spain

This post is available in 3 languages:
English  •  Spanish Catalan

English

The Spanish Republican Exile forced thousands of Spanish citizens to leave their country after the Spanish Civil War and the aftermath of persecutions by the Francisco Franco dictatorship. Nearly 220,000 supporters of the Second Republic left Spain to other countries like Argentina and Mexico.

Attendants at the edit-a-thon

To mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Sinaia vessel to the Mexican port of Veracruz, the Wikimedia chapters in Argentina, Spain and Mexico ran ​​the First Spanish Republican Exile Edit-a-thon of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource on historical facts, biographies and testimonials related to these events.

The coordination of this event was conducted by the Iberocoop initiative. The event in Mexico City was held at the Space X of Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico. This edit-a-thon was curated by Guiomar López Acevedo, historian of the Spanish Ateneo of Mexico, who contributed sources and reviews for the activity. At the opening, Macarena Pérez, staff of the Cultural Center of Spain, said that the Spanish exile is a prolific theme and many more working sessions will be needed to retrieve all available evidence.

At around 2 pm local time in Mexico, Santiago Navarro Sanz, member of the board of Wikimedia Spain, joined in a videoconference from Vila-real and saluted the participants and noted that he was happy that a hard episode in Spanish history is a positive reason to gather Wikipedians in three countries and contribute to the growth of information on Wikimedia projects.

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Wiki Loves Pride 2014 and Adding Diversity to Wikipedia

Logo for the proposed user group Wikimedia LGBT

Since Wikipedia’s gender gap first came to light in late 2010, Wikipedians have taken the issue to heart, developing projects with a focus on inclusivity in content, editorship and the learning environments relevant to new editors. 

Wiki Loves Pride started from conversations among Wikipedians editing LGBT topics in a variety of fields, including history, popular culture, politics and medicine, and supporters of Wikimedia LGBT - a proposed user group which promotes the development of LGBT-related content on Wikimedia projects in all languages and encourages LGBT organizations to adopt the values of free culture and open access. The group has slowly been building momentum for the past few years, but had not yet executed a major outreach initiative. Wiki Loves Pride helped kickstart the group’s efforts to gather international supporters and expand its language coverage.

Pride Edit-a-Thons and Photo Campaigns Held Internationally

We decided to run a campaign in June (LGBT Pride Month in the United States), culminating with a multi-city edit-a-thon on June 21. We first committed to hosting events in New York City and Portland, Oregon (our cities of residence), hoping others would follow. We also gave individuals the option to contribute remotely, either by improving articles online or by uploading images related to LGBT culture and history. This was of particular importance for users who live in regions of the world less tolerant of LGBT communities, or where it may be dangerous to organize LGBT meetups.

San Francisco Pride (2014)

In addition to New York City and Portland, offline events were held in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., with online activities in Houston, Seattle, Seoul, South Africa, Vancouver, Vienna and Warsaw. Events will be held in Bangalore and New Delhi later this month as part of the Centre for Internet and Society’s (CIS) Access to Knowledge (A2K) program. Other Wikimedia chapters have expressed interest in hosting LGBT edit-a-thons in the future.

Campaign Results

The campaign’s “Results” page lists 90 LGBT-related articles which were created on English Wikipedia and links to more than 750 images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Also listed are new categories, templates and article drafts, along with “Did you know” (DYK) hooks that appeared on the Main Page and policy proposals which may be of interest to the global LGBT community.

WikiProject Report: Indigenous Peoples of North America

A Zuni girl with a pottery jar on her head, photographed in 1909. Most Zuni live in Zuni Pueblo in southern New Mexico.

Wikipedia’s community-written newsletter, The Signpost, recently talked to a number of participants in WikiProject Indigenous Peoples of North America. Encompassing more than 7,000 articles, the project currently boasts sixteen featured articles—articles that have gone through a thorough vetting process and are considered some of the best on the encyclopedia—as well as 63 WikiProject good articles, which have been through a similar, though less rigorous, process. The WikiProject aims to improve and maintain overall coverage of the indigenous peoples of North America on Wikipedia.

Members CJLippert, Djembayz, RadioKAOS, Maunus and Montanabw were asked for their thoughts on various aspects of the project. All five have a strong interest in the topic, though not all have direct ties to the indigenous peoples of North America. CJLippert, who works for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, a federally recognized American Indian tribe in Minnesota, comes pretty close. “Minnesota is a cross-road of where the Indian Removal Policy ended and Reservation Policy began and where the old and small Reserve system and the new and large Reservation system intersect,” he explains.

He adds, “As I work for a Native American tribal government, though not Native but also not ‘White’, I have the privilege of participating as the third party between the two. This also means I get to see both the strengths and weaknesses of both in regards to the relations between the Native Americans and the majority population. As that third party, trying to help to close some gaps in understanding is what led me to participate in Wikipedia and then to join the WikiProject.”

Maunus, a linguist and anthropologist, focuses on Mexican indigenous groups, which he feels is an underrepresented topic area on Wikipedia. “I am one of the only people doing dedicated work on these groups, but I have been focusing on languages and I agree that Mexican indigenous people require improved coverage compared to their Northern neighbors,” he says. “There are some articles on the Spanish Wikipedia of very high quality, mainly because of the work of one editor, but likewise other articles that are of very poor quality, with either romanticizing or discriminatory undertones. They also tend to use very low quality sources.”

Coding da Vinci: Results of the first German Culture Hackathon

Mnemosyne, goddess of memory

From the Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, © public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The weather was almost as hot as it was in Hong Kong one year ago. But whereas on that occasion a time machine had to catapult the audience ten years into the future, at the event held on Sunday, July 6 at the Jewish Museum Berlin, the future had already arrived.

It was not only virtual results that were presented at the award ceremony for the culture hackathon Coding da Vinci in Berlin. Image from Marius Förster © cc-by-sa 3.0

At the final event of the programming competition Coding da Vinci, seventeen projects were presented to both a critical jury and the public audience in a packed room. Five winners emerged, three of whom used datasets from Wikimedia projects. This result signals that the predictions put forward by Dirk Franke in Hong Kong have already become a reality: that in the future more and more apps will use the content of Wikimedia projects and that the undiscerning online user will barely notice where the data actually comes from. There is a clear trend towards providing information in a multimedia-based and entertaining way. That’s the meta level, but the source of the knowledge is still clear: Wikipedia.

The aims of Coding da Vinci

The new project format used by Wikimedia Deutschland (WMDE) for the first time this year ended successfully. Coding da Vinci is a culture hackathon organized by WMDE in strategic partnership with the German Digital Library, the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany and the Service Center Digitization Berlin. Unlike a standard hackathon, the programmers, designers and developers were given ten weeks to turn their ideas into finished apps. Most of the 16 participating cultural institutions had made their digital cultural assets publicly available and reusable under a free license especially for the programming competition. With the public award ceremony on July 6 at the Jewish Museum, we wanted to show not just these cultural institutions but also what “hackers” can do with their cultural data. We hope that this will persuade more cultural institutions to freely license their digitized collections. Already this year, 20 cultural data sets have been made available for use in Wikimedia projects.

Exciting til the very end

It was an exciting event for us four organizers, as we waited with baited breath to see what the community of programmers and developers would produce at the end. Of course, not all the projects were winners. One of the projects that did not emerge as a winner, but that I would nevertheless like to give a special mention, was Mnemosyne – an ambitious website that took the goddess of memory as its patron. We are surely all familiar with those wonderful moments of clarity as we link-hop our way through various Wikipedia pages, so who would say no to being guided through the expanse of associative thought by a polymath as they stroll through a museum?

The polymath as a way of life died out in the end of the 19th century, according to Wikipedia – a fact that the Mnemosyne project seeks to address by using a combination of random algorithms to make finding and leafing through complex archive collections a simpler and more pleasurable activity. In spite of some minor blips during the on-stage presentation, the potential of the cast concrete Mnemosyne was plain to see. Hopefully work will continue on this project and the developers will find a museum association that wants to use Mnemosyne to make their complex collections available for visitors to browse.

The five winners

After two hours of presentations and a one-hour lunch break, the winners were selected in the five categories and were awarded their prizes by the jury.

Out of Competition: The zzZwitscherwecker (chirping alarm clock) really impressed both the audience and the jury. It’s a great solution for anyone who finds it difficult to be an early bird in the morning. That’s because you can only stop the alarm if you’re able to correctly match a bird to its birdsong. You’re sure to be wide awake after such a lively brain game.

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Wikimedia Foundation offers assistance to Wikipedia editors named in U.S. defamation suit

Since posting, we have learned that Mr. Barry’s attorney has requested to withdraw their complaint without prejudice and their request has been granted by the court. Mr. Barry’s attorney has further indicated that Mr. Barry intends to file an amended complaint some unspecified time in the future.

Wikipedia’s content is not the work of one, ten, or even a thousand people. The information on Wikipedia is the combined product of contributions made by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. By volunteering their time and knowledge, these people have helped build Wikipedia into a project that provides information to millions every day.

With many different voices come many different perspectives. Resolving them requires open editorial debate and collaboration with and among the volunteer community of editors and writers. Disagreements about content are settled through this approach on a daily basis. On extremely rare occasions, editorial disputes escalate to litigation.

This past month, four users of English Wikipedia were targeted in a defamation lawsuit brought by Canadian-born musician, businessman, and philanthropist Yank Barry. In the complaint, Mr. Barry claims that the editors, along with 50 unnamed users, have acted in conspiracy to harm his reputation by posting false and damaging statements onto Wikipedia concerning many facets of his life, including his business, philanthropy, music career, and legal history.

However, the specific statements Mr. Barry apparently finds objectionable are on the article’s talk page, rather than in the article itself. The editors included in the lawsuit were named because of their involvement in discussions focused on maintaining the quality of the article, specifically addressing whether certain contentious material was well-sourced enough to be included, and whether inclusion of the material would conform with Wikipedia’s policies on biographies of living persons.

A talk page is not an article. It is not immediately available to the readers of the encyclopedia. Its purpose is not to provide information, but a forum for discussion and editorial review. If users are unable to discuss improvements to an article without fear of legal action, they will be discouraged from partaking in discussion at all. While some individuals may find questions about their past disagreeable and even uncomfortable, discussions about these topics are necessary for establishing accurate and up-to-date information. Without discussion, articles will not improve.

In our opinion, this lawsuit is an effort to try and chill free speech on the Wikimedia projects. Since Wikipedia editors do not carve out facts based on bias or promotion this lawsuit is rooted in a deep misinterpretation of the free-form truth-seeking conversations and analysis that is part of the editorial review process that establishes validity and accuracy of historical and biographical information. As such, we have offered the four named users assistance through our Defense of Contributors policy. Three of the users have accepted our offer and obtained representation through the Cooley law firm. We thank Cooley for its assistance in the vigorous representation of our users. The fourth user is being represented by the California Anti-SLAPP Project and is working closely with the Wikimedia Foundation and Cooley.

Lawsuits against Wikipedia editors are extremely rare — we do not know of of any prior cases where a user has been sued for commenting on a talk page. The Wikipedia community has established a number of dispute resolution procedures and venues to discuss content issues that are available for anyone to use. Most content disputes are resolved through these processes. We are unaware of Mr. Barry taking advantage of these processes to work directly with the editors involved in this lawsuit or the greater Wikipedia community to address these issues.

Wikipedia’s mission is to provide the world with the sum of all human information for free and we will always strongly defend its volunteer editors and their right to free speech.

Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel

Creating Safe Spaces

This morning I read an article entitled Ride like a girl. In it, the author describes how being a cyclist in a city is like being a woman: Welcome to being vulnerable to the people around you. Welcome to being the exception, not the rule. Welcome to not being in charge. The analogy may not be a perfect fit, but reading these words made me think of a tweet I favorited several weeks ago when #YesAllWomen was trending. A user who goes by the handle @Saradujour wrote: “If you don’t understand why safe spaces are important, the world is probably one big safe space to you.” As I continue interviewing women who edit Wikipedia and as I read through the latest threads on the Gendergap mailing list, I keep asking myself, “How can a community that values transparency create safe spaces? How can we talk about Wikipedia’s gender gap without alienating dissenting voices and potential allies?”

Ride like a girl?

Wikipedia’s gender gap has been widely publicized and documented both on and off Wiki (and on this blog since 1 February 2011). One of the reasons I was drawn to working on the gender gap as a research project was that, despite the generation of a great deal of conversation, there seem to be very few solutions. It is, what Rittel and Webber would call, a “wicked problem.” Even in the midst of the ongoing work of volunteers who spearhead and contribute to endeavors like WikiProject Women scientists, WikiWomen’s History Month, WikiProject Women’s sport and Meetup/ArtandFeminism (to name only a few), the gender gap is a wicked problem a lot of community members–even those dedicated to the topic–seem tired of discussing.

The Women and Wikipedia IEG project is designed to collect and then provide the Wikimedia community with aggregate qualitative and quantitative data that can be used to assess existing efforts to address the gender gap. This data may also be used to guide the design of future interventions or technology enhancements that seek to address the gap. The data may include but not be limited to:

Digging for Data: How to Research Beyond Wikimetrics

The next virtual meet-up will point out research tools. Join!!

For Learning & Evaluation, Wikimetrics is a powerful tool for pulling data for wiki project user cohorts, such as edit counts, pages created and bytes added or removed. However, you may still have a variety of other questions, for instance:

How many members of WikiProject Medicine have edited a medicine-related article in the past three months?
How many new editors have played The Wikipedia Adventure?
What are the most-viewed and most-edited articles about Women Scientists?

Questions like these and many others regarding the content of Wikimedia projects and the activities of editors and readers can be answered using tools developed by Wikimedians all over the world. These gadgets, based on publicly available data, rely on databases and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). They are maintained by volunteers and staff within our movement.

On July 16, Jonathan Morgan, research strategist for the Learning and Evaluation team and wiki-research veteran, will begin a three-part series to explore some of the different routes to accessing Wikimedia data. Building off several recent workshops including the Wiki Research Hackathon and a series of Community Data Science Workshops developed at the University of Washington, in Beyond Wikimetrics, Jonathan will guide participants on how to expand their wiki-research capabilities by accessing data directly through these tools.

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