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Africa’s first Regional Conference gathers Wikimedians in Johannesburg

Wiki Indaba 2014

Group photo

Conference memorabilia

This past June, Wikimedia South Africa hosted more than 35 Wikimedians in Johannesburg for the first ever Wiki Indaba Regional Conference. All four regions of Africa were represented by at least one country, with West Africa having the lion’s share. For three days we talked about the challenges and possible solutions for initiating Wikipedia editing communities in the continent, in an effort to fulfill our vision of sharing the sum of all human knowledge with the world.

We left the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and a united goal to create Wikipedia editing communities in our respective countries through clear communication channels and co-operation plans, even though we were well reminded that we don’t have a magic wand to accomplish this overnight.

The first day was spent listening to delegates recounting community efforts in their home countries, the unique challenges they face as well as their future plans. We learned how group dynamics and diversity helped Tunisia acquire their status as a newly recognized African user group. From Egypt we heard about how universities are responding to Wikipedia. From Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon we learned of local efforts from WiR at the Africa Centre and how they are linking up with local academic and art institutions to expose the public to Wikipedia. We learned of grass root efforts in Ghana and Nigeria where they’ve actively reached out to schools and the general public. We heard how difficult it is to arrange events without the approval of local authorities. From Cameroon we learned how Wiki Loves Monuments improved acceptance of Wikipedia. From Ethiopia we learned about the dangers faced by bloggers and how Wikipedia is often mistaken for Wikileaks. We learned how some Wikipedians have actually been incarcerated for blogging. Representatives from Malawi and Tanzania discussed how Wikipedians are fusing their entrepreneurial skills with open knowledge. From Kenya we learned of efforts to regroup and pursue chapter status. We learned of the efforts of university students to build a community in Botswana. Namibia highlighted its renewed effort to experiment on oral citations as a way to create acceptance of local and indigenous knowledge through Wikipedia. We explored the efforts made in South Africa, which still is the only chapter in the continent. At the end of the day, we reviewed statistics of African language Wikipedias and gathered as many insights as possible. The day was completed with a presentation on the Wikimedia Foundation’s global south strategy and how it is poised to assist communities throughout the continent.

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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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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

Update: We received notification on 23 July 2014 that the same court has rejected the Angeluccis’ claims against Wikimedia Italia and has awarded the chapter €17,000 in expenses. The court further ruled that Wikimedia Italia has no corporate relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation, nor does it own or manage the Wikimedia sites. We congratulate Wikimedia Italia on this well-earned victory.

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.

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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Introducing Wikipedia Summer of Monuments

The logo for Wikipedia Summer of Monuments, a project carried out by Wikimedia District of Columbia.

This is a syndicated post from Wikimedia DC, with a few alterations. The original post can be found here.

Hello friends,

As Americans across the United States kick off the 4th of July weekend, the “Summer of Monuments” campaign has launched an exciting photo contest focusing especially on Southern states whose history is underrepresented on Wikimedia Commons. These are a contiguous block of states extending from the East Coast to the middle of the country: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas.

At the forefront of this effort will be local historians, librarians, photographers and anyone else working passionately to preserve and analyze our culture. We are pleased that we can offer prizes to the best photographers and to the institution that contributes the most valuable collection. We also hope to demonstrate how Wikimedia Commons can be a valuable ally for historians—an amazing free resource for sharing and preserving their materials.

If all goes well, we can use our Monument momentum to develop Wikipedia even further in some of these less-digitized areas. We are seeking communities (be they interested in a specific location or in a theme, such as the civil rights movement) that we can support in their use of Wikipedia to catalogue and preserve the resources and information they value.

We are also calling all Wikipedians who live and work in these ten Southern states to join us in this project and to share with us their ideas for creatively expanding our collective encyclopedic project.

Summer of Monuments 2014 was made possible with the help of a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation. For more information visit the Summer of Monuments homepage.

Happy summer, everybody!

Leo Zimmermann, Project Manager for Wikipedia Summer of Monuments, Wikimedia DC
(leo.zimmermann@wikimediadc.org)

Wiki Loves Monuments heads to Pakistan for the first time

Wikimedia Pakistan logo.

In the English language, there’s an idiom that says a picture is worth a thousand words; but for the active organizers of the first ever Wiki Loves Monuments Pakistan, pictures are worth so much more. Set to begin this September, the recently-recognized Wikimedia Community User Group Pakistan, led by Wikivoyage administrator Saqib Qayyum (User:Saqib) – who was featured in a prior blog post back in February about his journey across Pakistan - , Samar Min Allah (User:Samar), Rabia Zafar (User: Rzafar) and Karthik Nadar (User:Karthikndr) are part of the international, month-long photo-gathering event that document monuments from across the globe, Wiki Loves Monuments. The goal is to upload these photographs – freely-licensed – onto Wikimedia Commons and subsequently Wikipedia. This year, Pakistan has the opportunity to participate in this multi-national competition. The primary organizers of WLM Pakistan have varied interests, yet share similar goals of preserving the proud cultural heritage of Pakistan for future generations. Samar and Rabia both recall how they first got involved with organizing WLM Pakistan. “Saqib,” Samar begins, “contacted me about it and we have been planning it since 2012. We wanted to organize this in the past year, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, we could not. We just got our user group recognition approved this year and we thought that it would be a very good opportunity to have this competition as a first event.” As for Rabia, Saqib contacted and asked her if she would be interested in working on Wiki Loves Monuments Pakistan. “So basically, I initially started editing the lists that were going to be used for the photographs, and I slowly moved on to helping them work on the project itself.” Both women are determined to preserve Pakistan’s culture digitally and make the first Wikimedia Loves Monuments Pakistan a tremendous success. Samar credits Saqib as the founder and the glue that keeps the user group together. “He is dealing mostly getting finances, getting resources and keeping us all together.” Being more technical, it is Samar’s role to create lists and pages on Wikipedia. Rabia is credited with dealing with media relations ( i.e. communications and public relations liaison and Facebook page moderator for WLM Pakistan). Karthik, as part of the International Wiki Loves Monuments team, has brought his experience over from Wikimedia India, fostering a bilateral collaboration between – traditionally – two rival countries. (more…)

Translatewiki.net in the Swedish spotlight

This post is available in 2 languages:
English  • Svenska

English

Translatewiki.net’s logo.

Most Swedes have a basic understanding of English, but many of them are far from being fluent. Hence, it is important that different computer programs are localized so that they can also work in Swedish and other languages. This helps people avoid mistakes and makes the users work faster and more efficienttly. But how is this done?

First and foremost, the different messages in the software need to be translated separately. To get the translation just right and to make sure that the language is consistent requires a lot of thought. In open source software, this work is often done by volunteers who double check each other’s work. This allows for the program to be translated into hundreds of different languages, including minority languages that commercial operators usually do not focus on. As an example, the MediaWiki software that is used in all Wikimedia projects (such as Wikipedia), is translated in this way. As MediaWiki is developed at a rapid pace, with a large amount of new messages each month, it is important for us that we have a large and active community of translators. This way we make sure that everything works in all languages as fast as possible. But what could the Wikimedia movement do to help build this translator community?

We are happy to announce that Wikimedia Sverige is about to start a new project with support from Internetfonden (.Se) (the Internet Fund). The Internet Fund supports projects that improve the Internet’s infrastructure. The idea of translating open software to help build the translator community is in line with their goals. We gave the project a zingy name: “Expanding the translatewiki.net – ‘Improved Swedish localization of open source, for easier online participation’.” This is the first time that Wikimedia Sverige has had a project that focuses on this important element of the user experience. Here we will learn many new things that we will try to share with the wider community while aiming to improve the basic infrastructure on translatewiki.net. The translation platform translatewiki.net currently has 27 programs ready to be translated into 213 languages by more than 6,400 volunteers from around the world.

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Wikimedia Bangladesh completes its local registration after a five-year journey

Annual Wikigathering on 21st February in front of Ekushey Book Fair.

On 10th June 2014, Wikimedia Bangladesh finally completed the exhaustingly long bureaucratic process of local registration when treasurer Ali Haidar Khan collected the registration certificate from the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies & Firms office. This marked another big step towards the creation of a Wikimedia Chapter in Bangladesh. The formal public launching of the chapter is the last task, which we will be doing very shortly.

The idea of having a Bangladesh chapter began in 2009. Since then, Bangladeshi Wikimedians have been hosting regular offline activities for the purposes of realizing this goal. We formally submitted our bylaws to the Chapters Committee (now AffCom) in April 2011. Final approval from the Wikimedia Board of trustees came a few months later on October 3, 2011. We were the 39th chapter to be approved by the Wikimedia Foundation board. After getting the approval from the WMF, the biggest challenge for us was to find a lawyer who would complete the legal formalities of registration at a low cost. Most of the lawyers we approached turned down our proposal because, according to them, getting registration as a non-profit ‘society’ was very difficult since applicants require a security clearance from the National Security Intelligence (NSI) of Bangladesh. We finally found a lawyer who agreed to help us with the condition that we collect the security clearance from NSI on our own. After accepting the condition, we submitted our application for local registration with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies & Firms on May of 2012. We knew that the registration might take some time but we never imagined it will be such a long process that would take so long. We had to wait more than two years before finally receiving the certificate of registration on June 10th, 2014.
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