Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

WikiWomen

In memoriam of Cynthia Ashley-Nelson

Cynthia Ashley-Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

María Sefidari, WMF Board of Trustees member

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

Remembering Adrianne Wadewitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rod Dunican
Director, Global Education

Wikipedia Education Program

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

Celebrating women and change in IP

Picture of presenters and the audience at WIPLA’s IP Year in Review: Trends and Developments of 2013 conference.

An official holiday in over 25 countries, International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8th with Wikipedia edit-a-thons focused on expanding articles on women, statements from United Nations organizations, conferences and even a Google Doodle.

In conjunction with the holiday, The Women’s Intellectual Property Lawyers Association (“WIPLA”) hosted a timely panel of impressive female attorneys from some of the most influential organizations in Silicon Valley to discuss the latest developments in intellectual property law. WIPLA’s mission is aligned with the goals of International Women’s Day as the organization focuses on supporting and empowering female lawyers within the often male-dominated intellectual property field, [1]

Intellectual property law is a dynamic field that is constantly changing as courts and lawmakers work their way around new technologies and scientific breakthroughs. The panel discussed an array of the most significant topics in the areas of trademark law, patent law and trade secrets law. One of the women on the panel was Wikimedia’s Legal Counsel, Yana Welinder, who presented on trademark developments. Below are some highlights from the panel’s presentations.

Recent Developments in Trademark Law: ICANN releases new top level domains

Trademark holders are facing new challenges with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) approval of new top level domains. [2] So now, instead of being restricted to only 22 generic top-level domains (gTLDs) like .org or .com, you will be able to register your site with up to an additional 1400 gTLDs like .book, or .ninja, once they are issued. ICANN hopes to enhance competition and communication on the Internet with the introduction of these new gTLDs. But the introduction of 1400 new gTLDs brings with it a greater potential of cybersquatting, forcing trademark holders to buy the gTLDs related to their trademarks, regardless of whether they ever plan to use them.

(more…)

Celebrating Women’s Day, the Wiki way

Participants editing articles about women in science.

How many Indian women scientists can you name? Go on! Think about this one. Think really hard. How many can you name, now? One? Two? Three?

I wrote this blog post at a co-working space for tech startups in the Southern Indian city of Kochi. I was surrounded by science students. None of them could think of a single woman scientist from India. Pretty shameful, isn’t it? And, there was nobody to burst our sexist bubble, except, Wikipedia. This page lists 15 women scientists from India. While I am grateful for this archive, it is hardly comprehensive. 15 women scientists from a country of 1.2 billion people.

India is currently Asia’s third largest economy and it prides itself on making many ancient discoveries. Given this context, it is unbefitting for us to come up with such a tiny list. (By the way, If you know of a more detailed website on this subject, please send me the link on Twitter – which you can find at the bottom of this page). Could there be women whose contribution to science have slipped out of popular culture?

Wikipedia has organized edit-a-thons for the entire month of March to address these glaring gaps in our knowledge. The goal of these edit-a-thons is to celebrate International’s Women’s Day that fell on March 8. During this month, we would like to enhance the quantity and quality of Wikipedia articles on gender and sexuality and translate English articles into other Indic languages. Anyone can join the celebrations as editors, translators, bloggers, event managers or enthusiasts.

We encourage more South Asian women to use this opportunity- right now 9 out of 10 Wikipedians are men. There are many subjects that may be of interest or value to women that are not covered in traditional encyclopaedias because the majority of knowledge-producers are men. Let us make sure that Wikipedia is diverse and voices from all sections of  society are represented.

We have kick-started the event with weekend edit-a-thons. We will provide specific topics and links to editors to write or expand upon. This month the focus is on women parliamentarians and scientists.

So come on over, put your editing skills to use, make some new friends and last but not the least, learn more about women scientist from India!

- Diksha Madhok, Wikipedian

Indian Wikimedia community coordinates Women’s History Month

The Indian Wikimedia community is pleased to invite you to participate in Women’s History Month events, 2014. We started off with a pre-event Wikipedia workshop at Roshni Nilaya School of Social Work, in Mangalore on the 26th of February. We have planned events all through this month. They aim at creating new articles, expanding the existing stubs and translating English articles to various Indic languages.The schedule includes Wikipedia workshops, online edit-a-thons and wikiparties. You could edit articles, translate them, blog about the events or even be an enthusiast. Visit this page to learn more about getting involved.

Real-life Wikipedia workshops will be conducted in different parts of India. Two online edit-a-thons have been planned. The first one on the 8th & 9th of March focuses on women parliamentarians and the second one on the 15th & 16th will be looking to expand the work done during the last year events on women scientists from India. Participants of the Women’s History Month events in India are requested to fill up this opt in form to help the organizers evaluate the quantum and quality of the edits made. Centre for Internet and Society (Access to Knowledge) has extended their support to the Women’s History Month events in India this year.

The Indian events are being conducted as a part of the global event supported by the Wikiwomen’s Collaborative. We look forward to welcoming all participants at this year’s event.

By, Jeph Paul and Netha Hussain, Wikimedians

Wikipedia’s Art & Feminism Edit-A-Thon and the Gender Gap

the Art & Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, at the John M. Flaxman Library at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago on February 1, 2014

Lending a hand at the Wikipedia Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon, at Eyebeam in New York City

The Wikimedia Foundation’s mission to realize a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge represents an ongoing challenge to staff and volunteers alike. We must find ways to make information more accessible, increase the breadth of information in each language, and close gaps in editor demographics. Most importantly, we must recognize that so long as there are disparities in information, such as the representation of women and Feminism on Wikipedia, we have yet to realize our goal of truly sharing in the sum of all human knowledge.

On February 1st, 2014, the Wikipedia Community addressed Wikipedia’s gender gap by organizing the Art & Feminism Edit-a-thon, encouraging editors — female or male, novice or experienced — to contribute to pages about art, feminism, and women of all walks of life. The purpose of this event was not only to spread interest in topics needing real visibility on the encyclopedia, but also to empower women to become more involved in the community by providing a supportive framework for their contributions. With over 30 satellite Edit-a-thons running simultaneously across 4 continents and an estimated 600 attendees, this event brought us a small step closer to realizing a truly diverse user base.

Dating back to a study done in 2010 which found the Wikipedia community was comprised of only 13% women, the Foundation has worked with chapter and user groups to provide outreach to women. These Edit-a-thons offer a partial solution to one of the barriers to new editors: it’s intimidating to edit an article if you don’t really know Wikipedian policies, practices, syntax, etiquette, and topical needs. Experienced community members can model and teach best practices as well as support new editors. Some of the satellite Edit-a-thons, like the one hosted by Wikimedia NYC, saw around 150 attendees and therefore approached this learning experience by hosting hourly training sessions, while other, smaller events took advantage of the intimate setting to give participants one-on-one support.

Sharon Cogdill works with a recent University of Minnesota graduate during the Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota

One such iteration of the Art & Feminism Edit-a-thon was hosted in the library at St. Cloud State University by librarian Rachel Wexelbaum, with a total of 10 participants, 9 of whom were women. Under the guidance of Rachel and Professor Sharon Cogdill, the group discussed the various imbalances on Wikipedia, including the gender imbalance. Sharon, sensing the wavering interest in the room and worried that the newcomers present felt left out by the “they” who edit Wikipedia, moved the Edit-a-thon into action by helping everyone create their very own Wikipedia usernames; “they” began to look more like “we.”

Creating an account doesn’t suddenly endow a new user with confidence, to which Sharon can attest from experience (full disclosure: Sharon is my aunt). A professor of Victorian literature and Digital Humanities, she first became an active editor in 2011 when she made a small edit to an article about The Emerald Isle, a 19th century comic opera. Her edit contained a small error, and the owner of the article contacted her on her talk page and explained which Wikipedia policies made the original better. Reflecting on their working relationship, Sharon says, “I have a great mentor, Ssilvers, who has really encouraged me, often by suggesting a Wikipedia page to read on policies or help on some other topic he thinks I’m ready for.”

During the Edit-A-Thon, Sharon published her very first new article on Arthur Collins, which Ssilvers “pushed me to get out there 2 years before I finally did.” The article is about a man, because in Sharon’s words, “this event gave me the environment I needed to let go of it, and besides, women writing about men isn’t not feminist.”

(more…)

FOSS Outreach Program for Women: success and new round

Rachel Thomas at work.

Round 6 of the Free and Open Source Software Outreach Program for Women (OPW) has been successfully completed. Our intern, Rachel Thomas worked remotely from Boston (MA, USA) on Browser Test Automation for VisualEditor in a full-time Summer internship. For more detail on her work, check her wrap-up blog post, her project reports and her code contributions.

In total, 37 women took part in this OPW round, working with 16 open source projects including the Linux Kernel, Mozilla and WordPress.

There was only one Wikimedia intern in this round, but only because seven others were also participating in parallel in Google Summer of Code (GSoC). There were 6 interns in the previous editions and we plan (tentatively) to fund 8 positions in the next round, expected to start at the beginning of 2014.

While GSoC interns are paid by Google, in OPW the funds come mainly from the organizations participating in the program. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we’re starting to work on the next round. We consider that OPW is playing an important role in bridging the gender gap in our technical community. In the previous seven years, only one woman got a GSoC internship at Wikimedia. This year, more than a third of our interns were women (8 out of 21).

To make sure that this becomes a trend and not just an exception, we need your help!

  • Spread the news about the program, and encourage your tech friends to join when applications open. Remember that, in many cases, we have to break well-established social inertia: many more women will do the first step if they receive a personal invitation.
  • Propose a technical project, even if it’s a rough idea. We will help you polish it.
  • Volunteer as a technical mentor. Women are welcome! We want to close the gender gap at the mentorship level as well.
  • Fund an intern. Chapters and other organizations willing to pool resources with the Wikimedia Foundation are welcome.

We also welcome ideas to promote other profiles typically underrepresented or discriminated against in technical projects. We strive for equal opportunities, and we believe that diversity will make our community stronger and our projects better. If you agree, get a head start by exploring how to contribute! It will increase your chances of being selected when you apply.

Quim Gil, Technical Contributor Coordinator, Wikimedia Foundation

Creating opportunities for learning by expanding Wikipedia in Armenian

Susanna Mkrtchyan

Susanna Mkrtchyan is a grandmother on a mission: She’s working to give Armenian students the same educational opportunities as students who live in Europe and the United States. And she’s using Wikipedia to do it.

Myrtchyan is a professor of Technical Sciences in the field of database and system research. Two years ago, she started using the English she learned as a student to translate English Wikipedia into Armenian and Russian. On Armenian Wikipedia, she focuses on Armenian history and education.

“I want that our young people to have high education because after the collapse of Soviet Union, our education collapsed, too, a little. That’s why I want to take wiki projects into universities and schools,” says Mkrtchyan.

Mkrtchyan was busy in her field of governance of science when she realized Wikipedia could create an environment for scientists inside Armenia and abroad to collaborate and resolve problems. She attended Wikimania 2011 in Haifa and talked with Wikimedia Foundation representatives about starting a chapter in Armenia.

Soon after, Mkrtchyan began organizing activities to meet with Armenian Wikipedia administrators and editors. Not only did she help found the Wikipedia Armenia chapter, she is its first president. “Now we have a more or less active group and we all help each other to make Armenian Wikipedia better.”

From the capital city Yerevan, Mkrtchyan incorporates editing Wikipedia in her life, finding time between her professional life and taking care of her family. “When I’m not stirring the soup, I’m working on Wikipedia.” Her twin grandsons used to bring her articles about basketball to edit on Wikipedia, so she told them, “create an account and edit yourself.” And grandma was the perfect teacher to show them the ropes of editing.

“Wikipedia, editing in Wikipedia helps you to better organize your speech,” says Mkrtchyan. She also believes it teaches tolerance for other people.

At a time in life when many people start to slow down, Mkrtchyan has moved into overdrive. She hopes more people will consider offering their talents to Armenian Wikipedia.

“If grandmothers, mothers edit in Wikipedia, they feel how important the work they do is and how important it is to make a heritage for future generations,” she said.

Profile by Donna Peterson, Communications Volunteer, Wikimedia Foundation
Interview by Victor Grigas, Visual Storyteller, Wikimedia Foundation

Inspiring and defining my life with Wikipedia: Aliona Bogdonova

This post is available in 2 languages: На русском языке 7% • English 100%

English

Muscovite Aliona Bogdanova’s path to editing Wikipedia came circuitously through her vegetarian diet, a diet, she said, that was at odds with the way most Russians view nutrition.

“When I was a child, I found out that where meat comes from. I decided that it’s not fair to kill animals to get meat,” she said. Her decision was not viewed favorably. “My family, they wouldn’t let me not eat meat because in Russia, people generally believe that it’s impossible not to eat meat and if you stop eating meat, you die!”

Aliona Bogdonova and her son

When she was 20, Bogdanova researched online how to create a proper vegetarian diet and became a vegetarian. She has, however, met resistance along the way, especially when she started her family.

“When I got pregnant, lots of people asked me questions, how can you possibly carry a child and not eat meat because you’re pregnant and you must eat meat?” said Bogdanova. “So I had a breastfeeding consultant who advised me to eat a little piece of meat at least once a week. I didn’t do it because I would, you know, poison myself.”

Bogdanova said she was able to find useful information in Russian about vegetarianism and animal rights on sites like Wikipedia, but, “there’s in general very little information about breastfeeding in Russia, and that has to do with the Soviet school stopping with how people have thought about this.”

Bogdanova has taken passionately to sharing what she’s learned about health and parenting with people seeking information on Russian Wikipedia.

“I wrote several articles about food, about vegetarianism. I edited some articles about parenting, natural parenting,” she said. “But I remember, my first big article is about marzipan because I’m a fan of marzipan. There was only a few words about it and maybe no article at all, and I just knew what I should write.”

To fill the time while at home during her pregnancy, Bogdanova took up soap making as a hobby. Before long it turned into a business. “When you make soap, eventually you end up making too much and eventually comes a point where…you can’t possibly use so much and you can’t find enough friends who you could give it as a gift,” she said. “I use Wikipedia as a research tool (it has so many useful links) and I share things that I learn from my business on Wikipedia, so that everyone can learn.”

Bogdanova is also translating a book about homeschooling, the Teenage Liberation Handbook, into Russian. It’s her first serious translation effort.

Natural curiosity and research drew her to Wikipedia years ago and she credits her upbringing with keeping her in the community of contributors.

“I can’t, you know, pass by something that I can improve,” she said. “Because I grew up in the family of teachers, I was raised on the idea that talking like an encyclopedia is an important scholarly work, and so when I wrote in Wikipedia, I had the sense that I had contributed to this.”

She added, “Once in a while, I find out that somebody has come across this article that I have created about homeschooling, for example, and then I am really proud.”

Profile by Donna Peterson, Communications Volunteer, Wikimedia Foundation

(more…)

WikiWomen Love Libraries: Italian edition

This post is available in 3 languages: Español  •  Italiano  • English

English

What happens when a WikiWoman meets a WikiLibrarian? An editathon on women’s biographies, of course! Or at least this is what happened on May 4th at Biblioteca Salaborsa, one of the most well-known libraries in Bologna, Italy.

Editathon WMI 4 maggio 2013 1.jpg

Wikimedia Italia organized its first event at Biblioteca Salaborsa on April 20th, an introductory workshop led by wikipedian Piero Grandesso. Thanks to the work of the librarian and wikimedian Virginia Gentilini, it was possible to renew the collaboration and organize a second event.

We had thirteen participants, some of whom came after attending the first workshop. We created five new articles and improved two existing pages, paying homage in this way to seven amazing Italian women (and also a French one!) who didn’t have the space they deserved on Wikipedia.

It is always a little shocking to discover how many relevant women are missing from Wikipedia. Amongst the pages we created was one about Hortensia, a late Roman Republic orator and one of the very few women who at that time challenged men’s authority by giving a speech in the Forum. She lived during the civil war that took place after Julius Caesar’s assasination, a period when the Roman Republic was struggling with many war expenses. Hortensia debated in the Roman Forum against a tax imposed on wealthy Roman women, arguing that it was not legitimate to demand that women’s properties finance a war in which they had no active role. Eventually the number of women affected by the tax was reduced.

As one can imagine, we study a lot of Ancient Roman history in Italy. Latin literature and language are also compulsory teachings in some secondary schools. But Hortensia’s page, already in other language versions, was not yet on Italian Wikipedia.

Beside the creation of content on Wikipedia, the editathon was also an occasion to put together and share the different skills and competencies of the organizers. The team was composed of Virginia Gentilini, Wikimedia Italia member Ginevra Sanvitale and Commons and Italian Wikipedia sysop Elitre, who worked together, each one according to her area of expertise. We also had a chance to learn and confront a number of related Wikimedia topics.

Finally, the role played by Salaborsa as a center of cultural creation and knowledge circulation was very important.

In 2012, Wikimedia Italia reached out to Italian librarians and libraries for the first time, discovering many possible ways of collaboration. Wikipedia workshops for patrons of libraries are one of these, and they are particularly interesting because of their cultural and social implications. Working on Wikipedia in libraries can bridge the gap between print, traditional resources of information and the lively and active community of Wikipedians. But it can contribute to bridge the Wikipedia Gender Gap too: public libraries in Italy are traditionally used by women more than men, and they can therefore be a perfect place to find women interested in connecting their love of reading to a more participative and empowering way to enrich their cultural life. More women attended the editathon indeed, showing enthusiam and asking for further opportunities to work in this direction.

Librarians in Italy are traditionally mostly women too. It will be interesting to see how many successful ways of collaboration we’ll manage to find, both working directly with patrons inside the libraries, and at a more general level of interaction between bibliographic data held by National Libraries and Wiki Projects. There is such a large amount of useful work to do!

Ginevra Sanvitale, Wikimedia Italia. With the collaboration of Virginia Gentilini
(more…)