Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement


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.


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

New grantees bring fresh perspectives on research, mobile, and community-building

Individual Engagement Grants to unlock 12 new projects

A new group of Individual Engagement Grantees will be starting to experiment soon, boldly piloting new ideas aimed at improving Wikimedia’s projects and online communities.

This round, the Wikimedia Foundation is supporting 12 projects led by 16 grantees with countless volunteer participants from around the world. For the first time, Individual Engagement Grants are funding mobile app development, Wikipedia research, and projects aimed at improving Wikivoyage and Wiktionary. And we’re excited to learn something new from each new initiative.

Our grantees are excited to begin these new projects too!  As grantee Paul Weiss put it, “Having the support of the community makes me even more motivated to do the research. And feeling accountable for delivering useful results back to the community is a positive thing for me. I expected to be happy if the proposal got funded, but, frankly, I am kind of surprised at how much the news is affecting me!”

For the rest of this year, grantees will be building new tools and strategies for engaging contributors in Wikisource, Wiktionary and Wikivoyage, and surfacing more reference materials for English and Telugu Wikipedians. They’re creating mobile apps aimed at engaging new readers and long-time editors of Wikipedia, and researching Wikipedia’s gender gap and category systems. They’ll aim to grow communities around senior centers and multilingual medical content, and pioneer new ways to encourage Wikipedians to mentor the next generation of editors. And they’ll be sharing their findings on meta-wiki over the coming months, so that we can all follow along.

User:I JethroBT, grantee for Reimagining Mentorship

Introducing Wikimedia’s round 1 2014 Individual Engagement Grantees:

  • Making Telugu Content Accessible, led by Santhosh, funded at 104,000 Rupees.  Santhosh will be creating an online catalog for the Digital Library of India’s collection of Telugu books and making it available to editors of Telugu Wikipedia in search of new sources.
  • Medicine Translation Community Organizing, led by CFCF, funded at $10,000. The project aims to improve volunteer systems and build sustainable community processes for integrating translated medical content into Wikipedia’s various language versions.
  • Open Access Reader, led by Edward Saperia, funded at $6550. This project will experiment with easier workflows for Wikipedia editors to access relevant open access research for use in articles.
  • Optimizing Wikimedia Category Systems, led by Paul J. Weiss, funded at $9750. The researcher will use quantitative analysis and user studies to investigate English Wikipedia’s category systems, providing the community with data to shape future improvements.
  • Promoting Wikivoyage, led by Tammy Bennert, funded at $600. Tammy’s project is our first foray into funding Wikivoyage; she’ll be experimenting with effective and sustainable strategies for engaging tourism bureaus to contribute to English Wikivoyage.


Tracker software: Efficiently track grant expenses and support volunteer activity

Thanks to our tracker, we are able to avoid the accountant's nightmare depicted in the image.

Thanks to our tracker, we are able to avoid the accountant’s nightmare depicted in the image.

To ease the administrative burden of tracking grant expenses and to support a higher volume of volunteer activity, the Czech Wikimedia chapter (WM Czech Republic) created their own “tracker” – a lightweight expense tracking system that can be adopted by any organization.

WM Czech Republic has been utilizing this software since 2011 to implement our Mediagrant and Presentation&Outreach programs. These are two of the three Project and Event Grants that our chapter operates under – Mediagrant supports free media creation (see this or this blog post), while Presentation&Outreach deals with promotional activities of our chapter.  Having no executive employees, we needed to develop a procedure to make sure that all receipts are filed, approved, and catalogued. This requires a simple way of controlling the flow of money.

Petr Novák (Che), a member of our chapter, took initiative and looked at the options. First, he considered building the tracker upon a pre-made piece of software, such as Bugzilla. Then, he decided to start from the beginning and develop a completely new and lightweight tracking system. The result is freely accessible online and now includes hundreds of grant expenses. “I have spent about 70 days working on it over the three years – but I never killed the whole day with it”, says Petr Novák when I ask him about the tracker. He adds humbly: “It is a trivial app written in Python using the Django framework. Its sole purpose is to store information about tickets.”

Every „ticket“ (expense) has a catalogue number and includes one or more receipts. Routine tickets, such as minor travel expenses for Mediagrant photographers, are usually filed after the pictures are uploaded to Commons. For major expenses, tickets are written in advance and sent to our grant committee for review and approval.  The ticket page includes a description, list of expenses, a place to upload scanned receipts, and a link to the photos uploaded on Commons. The receipt is the only part of tracker that is not accessible to everyone on the Web since it might contain personal information.

Tickets also track cash flow. They can be marked as ‘draft’, ‘filed’, ‘approved’, ‘catalogued for reimbursement’, and finally ‘reimbursed’. All receipts are handed over to our part-time grant administrator who catalogues them for the accountant to archive. Most importantly, the time period between request for reimbursement and actually transferring the money is usually very short, making it an easy process for our volunteers.

Our tracker includes more than 500 tickets and the number grows on an average of about 5 per week. 76 people, both chapter members and collaborators, have registered in the tracker system and 43 have filed a ticket. A free software released on GitHub, anyone can install Tracker. Alternatively, you can contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Petr Novák who is willing to install the tracker for any Wikimedia organization on their server.

Tracker has allowed our chapter to support an increasing amount of volunteer activity and improve our administrative processes. It’s simple, easy, and will help your community and programs grow!

Vojtěch Dostál is a board member of Wikimedia Czech Republic. He would like to express his gratitude to Alexandra Wang from the WMF Grantmaking team for her immense help with the draft of this post.

Ten years of the Lebewesen portal

This post is available in 2 languages:
English  • German



The editorial teams of German Wikipedia bring together Wikipedia volunteers from different subject areas. The oldest editorial team of the German Wikipedia is Redaktion Biologie, which originated from the Lebewesen portal [which literally means “living beings” portal and roughly corresponds to the English Wikipedia’s Animals portal, whereas the Redaktion Biologie has similarities to the English Wikpedia's WikiProject Biology]. This editorial team supervises Wikipedia articles on biology related subjects such as animals, plants and other life forms.

Redaktion Biologie has always been one of Wikipedia’s most active editorial teams. It has made numerous decisions that have profoundly shaped the appearance of the German edition of Wikipedia well beyond the area of biology. The influence exerted by these editors has contributed significantly to Wikipedia enjoying an excellent reputation in German-speaking countries today.

In Kurier, the Wikipedia Signpost of the German Wikipedia community, Achim Raschka recently posted a retrospective account of the first ten years since the Lebewesen portal was founded. We are pleased to include a lightly-edited version of this text here in the Wikimedia blog.

Dirk Franke, Wikimedia Deutschland

On January 1, Wikipedia’s Portal:Lebewesen and the Redaktion:Biologie editorial team celebrated their tenth birthday. A lot has happened in past ten years. On January 1, 2004, the Lebewesen portal was founded and with it came a core team of Wikipedians working together in this area. Since then, the editorial team has evolved; it has influenced and been influenced by other areas; and most important of all, it has relentlessly continued its work. Today, we oversee approximately 40,000 articles – that’s about as many as the entire German Wikipedia had when it first started – as well as countless additional articles from many other areas of biology.

The Lebewesen portal has always been the main hub of the editorial team, and even today its main focus is on biodiversity – with no end in sight. However, looking at the earliest versions of the portal, then still clothed in a shade of unappealing off-pink, you can tell how much groundwork was needed at the start. Articles [posted on January 3, 2004, for example, included new entries on crocodiles and ammonites, and even one on Bacillus anthracis, while the list of unwritten articles still included many major category entries. In the Plants area, the “Lilies project” was particularly popular at the time. In the Animals area, basic structures were being established across the board. Articles on micro-organisms and fungi were being added sporadically.

Basic groundwork

Lilium carniolicum from the Tscheppa Gorge, Austria.

From the outset, the Lebewesen portal was less about producing large numbers of articles than about providing a platform for collaborative work on the Lebewesen articles. The contributors, who like to describe themselves as “Lebewesenikis,” would hold virtual meetings on the discussion page to work out the nuts and bolts of their area; the issue of species notability, for example, was sorted out very quickly by simply declaring all biological species to be relevant (according to the Wikipedia article on species diversity, there are around two million living species in existence today, not to mention countless extinct species). Instead of getting caught up in theoretical nitpicking, the team was more interested in establishing basic quality guidelines. In order to implement these, a portal-specific quality assurance procedure was set up. New articles undergo an input control check, and for several years now, quality assurance has been actively supplemented by bot-generated maintenance lists. The Portal:Biologie evolved as a parallel project for more foundational articles and unfortunately has never received as much attention as it deserves.


A comprehensive evaluation of Wikimedia contributors for recognition

KLRWP Awardees who were felicitated during Telugu Wiki decennial celebrations on 16-17 Feb 2014 (from L to R: Veeven, Sasi, Ravichandra, JVRK Prasad, Ahmed Nisar, Palagiri, & Bhaskarnaidu ; Chaduvari, M Pradeep, and Chava kiran could not make it to the function.) Photo: Pavan Santhosh S

The Telugu Wikipedia (Tewiki) community has recognized prolific contributors to Wikimedia projects with a special award called “Komarraju Lakshmana Rao Wikimedia Puraskaram” (KLRWP) on the tenth anniversary of Telugu Wikipedia on December 10th, 2013. The award is named after Komarraju Lakshmana Rao, the first modern encyclopedist in Telugu, perhaps the first among Indian languages (c.1912-13). It is a fitting tribute to honor Lakshmana Rao in the centennial anniversary of such a pioneering effort. Each award carried a citation and cash prize of 10,000 Indian Rupees (equaling about 166 USD as of April 2014). This blog post gives details about the process, its implementation and lessons learned from it.

Recognition on wiki projects is usually done by awarding barnstars to editors by peer contributors; when an editor crosses a significant edit count or makes substantial contributions to a project. Other approaches that have been tried include gift coupons for books, travel and accommodation, scholarships for events, and cash prizes for winning essays by students. There have been no monetary prizes for the people who have been contributing, for several years. WMDE started Zedler-Preis für Freies Wissen (Zedler Prize for Free Knowledge) in 2012. The award categories include best article, best community project and best external project. The awards are in the form of scholarships for events or in cash for external entities.

For the Telugu Wikipedia community the disadvantages that were observed with the traditional approaches were as follows: The recognition process was dependent on a single person as opposed to a group. This led to an opinion that recognitions are dependent on number of edits, partiality, and incomplete quantitative analysis of all factors. Person dependency also led to a delay in recognizing the right candidates. Competitions only attracted new people who most often did not turn out to be active editors. Very few Wikimedians are getting recognized with scholarships for Wikimania or national conferences. Competitions also have a tendency to make people support fellow Wikimedians less.


Are you the next Wikipedia Visiting Scholar?

Wikipedia Visiting Scholars gain full university library access.

Many Wikipedia editors are limited by the sources they have access to. The Wikipedia Visiting Scholars (WVS) program is a novel approach that aims to connect Wikipedia editors with reference resources at top research universities. The WVS program adapts an existing model at academic institutions, that of the “visiting scholar” or “affiliate researcher,” to offer an individual full university staff credentials so they can extend the reach of their research.

The WVS program is coordinated through the Wikimedia Foundation’s Individual Engagement Grant-funded project The Wikipedia Library, and offers university staff status to an active editor so they can remotely access all of a university library’s online holdings for free to help write more and better Wikipedia articles. These positions are unpaid and do not require relocation or even physical proximity to the institution.

GMU Takes on the First Wikipedia Visiting Scholar

The Wikipedia Library partnered with leading library cooperative OCLC and took full advantage of the phenomenal outreach abilities of OCLC library researcher Merrilee Proffitt. Through a series of presentations, webinars and emails, we reached out to 150 institutions about the WVS program.

GMU WVS editor Wehwalt plans to focus on history topics such as William Jennings Bryant.

In the fall of 2013, the first WVS position was proposed by THATCamp leader Amanda French at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. French describes the original idea:

One of the main things that attracted me to the Visiting Scholar model is that I immediately saw how it would fit into existing university structures and practices. It’s a very common thing indeed for a researcher to go spend some time at another university or research center in order to use their resources and contribute to their intellectual mission, so I understood at once how it would work.

After collecting applications in late 2013, GMU selected a Wikipedian to become their new Wikipedia Affiliate. Their choice was veteran featured article writer Wehwalt, a prolific contributor who lacked home access to the academic and journal databases available through GMU Libraries. French describes:


VisualEditor gadgets

This post was written by two recipients of Individual Engagement Grants. These grants are awarded by the Wikimedia Foundation and aim to support Wikimedians in completing projects that benefit the Wikimedia movement. The grantees of this project work independently from the Foundation in the creation of their project.

Directionality tool. An example for useful site specific additional button to VE, which adds RTL mark

Many gadgets and scripts have been created by volunteers across Wikimedia projects. Many of them are intended for an improved editing experience. For the past few months there has been a new VisualEditor interface for editing articles. The interface is still in “beta,” so Wikipedians have not yet adapted it in a large scale. We believe there are many missing features, that if incorporated, can expand the VisualEditor user base. The known non-supported features are core features and extension features (such as timelines), but there are many unknown non-supported features – gadgets. Gadgets can extend and customize the visual editor and introduce new functionalities: to let more advanced users use more features (such as timeline), to introduce work-flows that are project specific (such as deletion proposals), or to easily insert popular templates such as those for citing sources. Since there is no central repository for gadgets, there is no easy way to tell what gadgets exist across all wikis.

Our project aims to organize this mess: improve gadgets sharing among communities and help push gadgets improvements for edit interface to VisualEditor. As part of this project we already:

  • Mapped all the gadgets (in any language) and created a list of all the gadgets in various projects, with popularity rating across projects.
  • Based on this list we selected key gadgets, and rewrote them to support the new VisualEditor:
    • Spell checker (Rechtschreibpruefung) – Spell checking for common errors. Spelling mistakes are highlighted in red while writing!
    • Reftoolbar – helps editors add citation templates to articles.
    • Directionality tool – Adds button to add RTL mark useful in RTL languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.
    • Common summaries – Added two new drop-down boxes below the edit summary box in save dialog with some useful default summaries.
  • Based on our experience with writing VE gadgets, we created a guide for VE gadgets writers, which should help them extend the VisualEditor with custom features. We hope it helps develop support for Visual Editor by making it more integrated with existing tools.



Call for Individual Engagement Grant proposals: community experiments wanted

IEG barnstar

Do you have an idea for a project that could improve Wikipedia or another Wikimedia community?

The Wikimedia Foundation and the Individual Engagement Grants Committee are seeking proposals for community-led experiments to have online impact in the Wikimedia movement. Individual Engagement Grants support individuals and small teams of Wikimedians to lead projects for 6 months. You can get funding to turn your idea into action with a grant for online community organizing, outreach and partnerships, tool-building, or research. Proposals are due by 31 March 2014.

Past grantees have been testing new ways to encourage women to edit Wikipedia, improve workflows for Wikimedia’s cartographers, raise awareness of Wikipedia in China and Africa, coordinate a global Wikisource strategy, increase free access to reliable sources for Wikipedians, and more. Proposals for up to $30,000 are considered; most grantees are awarded between $300 and $15,000 to support a wide range of activities and expenses, including project management, consultants, materials, and travel.

Grantees say that participating in the program has helped them build confidence and expertise in experimental setup and execution of community projects. As a grantee from the first round put it, “IEG gave me the opportunity to work in a more professional way on projects I really like, and in the end it gave me more expertise and experience and hope that issues can be solved. It offered solutions, and it taught me that solutions can be built, if you work on them.”

What’s new for 2014

The Individual Engagement Grants program is now available in more languages thanks to the efforts of volunteer translators! To celebrate this broader global reach, and in honor of WikiWomen’s history month, we hope you’ll share even more ideas for projects aimed at increasing diversity in the movement.

Ideas for all new projects are always welcome in the IdeaLab, and throughout the month of March, we’ll be hosting proposal clinic Hangouts to help you turn your idea into a grant proposal in real time. Please stop by to say hello, ask a question, or share some advice during these IdeaLab Hangout hours. We look forward to seeing your proposal by March 31st.

Siko Bouterse, Head of Individual Engagement Grants