Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement


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

Individual Engagement Grants demonstrate their potential for impact

This post is available in 3 languages: English  • Zh-hant 正體中文 Zh-hans 简体中文

Round 1 IEG projects


A year ago, Wikipedia didn’t have a social media presence in China. With the support of a $350 Individual Engagement Grant, today 10,000 Chinese readers follow the Wikipedia account on Weibo, China’s most active social networking site. Chinese Wikipedians are able to use the channel to share Wikipedia’s knowledge and organize events in China like Wiki Loves Monuments. A year ago, there were no guarantees that a few one-off donated accounts to paywall journals could be grown into a digital hub providing free access to reliable sources for Wikipedians and pioneering new models of collaboration between Wikipedia and libraries. With the support of a $7500 Individual Engagement Grant, today 1500 Wikipedia editors have access to 3700 free accounts and The Wikipedia Library is laying plans to go global. Grantees like Addis Wang and Jake Orlowitz were clear about their goals, eager to engage with the community to understand their needs and priorities and willing to take risks and experiment in search of pragmatic and scalable solutions. They incorporated experts and mentors into their process to build platforms that are larger than any one individual.

The Individual Engagement Grants program was launched a year ago with the idea of supporting individual Wikimedians like Addis and Jake to lead projects focused on experiments driving online improvements. This program, too, began as experiment with some risks and no guarantees. And so as the first round of grants come to a close, with the help of an assessment by WMF’s Grantmaking Learning & Evaluation team, we’re taking a look at the impact of these projects and what we’ve learned so far.

Early indicators of impact

The first round of IEG funding distributed about US $60,000 to support eight experimental projects led by community members in six different countries. Half were focused on online community organizing, the rest either built tools or conducted offline outreach. More time is needed to determine the full impact of these grants on their target wikis or as scaled programs across wikis, but early indicators suggest that these grants can have a direct impact on the strategic goals of the Wikimedia movement.


New Individual Engagement Grantees to engage community with tools and outreach

Today we’re announcing the second round of Individual Engagement Grantees!

These grants from the Wikimedia Foundation support individuals and small teams of Wikimedians to experiment with new ideas aimed at having online impact on Wikimedia projects. We’ve learned a lot from the first round of IEG grantees over the past 6 months, and are delighted to see what this next group will share with the world.

Mbazzi Village writes Wikipedia: Paul Kiguba and Mbazzi villagers

7 projects have been recommended by an IEG committee of volunteers and approved by WMF for this round. These selections represent a broad range of projects focusing on activities from outreach to tool-building and are all aimed at connecting and supporting community. Grantees are trying out new ways of engaging with women and young Wikipedians, fostering participation in Africa, and supporting cartographers, researchers and developers to better engage with projects like Commons, Wikidata, and Wikipedia.

The selected projects for 2013 round 2 are:

  • Wikimaps Atlas, led by Arun Ganesh and Hugo Lopez, funded at $12,500.  Hugo and Arun will be building a system to automate the creation of maps in standardized cartographic style using the latest open geographic data. With new workflows and scripts, they aim to make it easier for Wikimedia’s cartographers to generate and update maps for use in Commons, Wikipedia, and beyond.
  • Mbazzi Village writes Wikipedia, led by Paul Kikuba with collaboration from Dan Frendin, funded at $2880.  This project is a collaboration between Mbazzi villagers, Wikimedia Sweden, and the Wikimedia Foundation to build a Wikipedia center in Uganda where volunteers can to contribute to Luganda Wikipedia, particularly focusing on articles related to sustainable development. (more…)

Wikipedians go to Open Help Conference

Ocaasi, Valeriej, and the wub sprinting at Open Help Conference 2013

What do thoughtful, well-designed, engaging community help systems look like for Wikipedia? What do our help systems have in common with other open source projects, and how do they differ?

In June the Wikimedia Foundation sent a team of four Wikimedians to the Open Help Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio to find out. Ocaasi, the wub, Valeriej, and Seeeko spent a week speaking and listening to helpers from open source projects like Mozilla, Ubuntu, GNOME, WordPress, Drupal and RedHat.

Over two days of talks and three days of work sprints, attendees explored and improved a wide set of systems for helping contributors and growing communities of users and helpers. The WordPress team embarked on a large project to decouple their help pages for developers from their help pages for users. Jorge Castro of Ubuntu considered the ways that different kinds of communication tools support different kinds of conversations online: forums facilitating water-cooler discussion, Q&A boards that promote sharing answers efficiently, mailing lists with their ongoing arguments about top-vs-bottom posting. The Gnome crew grappled with the decision of whether improving an ever-growing number of existing pages was better than just starting fresh with new pages. Mozilla’s Janet Swisher shared how she gathers contributors together in “doc sprints” (edit-a-thons for documentation) to collaboratively write help documentation and build community connections. Michael Verdi spoke about Mozilla’s “Army of Awesome,” which helps hundreds of Firefox users per day on Twitter.

Team Wikimedia was excited to learn about the challenges that these other open source projects also face. As Wikipedians, we have coordinated edit-a-thons, organized help documentation to better support different types of users, set up a Q&A forum with wikimarkup, and answered many OTRS emails; we also appreciate the work that goes into well-orchestrated help systems. The results of these explorations at Open Help for Wikimedia projects include the development of a few new documents to support the thoughtful design and growth of Wikipedia and MediaWiki’s help systems.

The wub and Ocaasi focused on the Help Project, the WikiProject that creates and organizes thousands of help pages on English Wikipedia. Starting with a talk titled “Wikipedia:Too much documentation,” the wub addressed Wikipedia’s ballooning number of help pages and the lack of consistency between them. As a 2012 Wikimedia Community Fellow, the wub had already spent time redesigning the most-used pages in the help system, but his learnings from that effort had not yet been distilled into a clear statement of design principles to help guide future volunteers.

During the Open Help sprint days, the team updated the Help Project’s pages to better engage helpers. Ocaasi and the wub crafted a best practices guideline for improving Wikipedia’s help pages. In clear and simple language, the guidelines set goals like “focus on users and use case,” “keep pages simple,” and “make navigation clear and apparent.” The wub also developed quality and importance scales and templates for assessing help pages mapped to the guidelines. In the coming weeks, the Help Project will start a regular collaboration drive to increase participation, beginning with assessing all help pages according to the criteria developed in the sprints.

Another area the team focused on was the Teahouse, Wikipedia’s many-to-many support space for new editors. In their talk, “Can Help Be Fun? Wikipedia Experiments with social help,” Seeeko and Ocaasi introduced a collection of techniques for creating supportive spaces that build community in playful ways. They emphasized playful design, surfacing people, the power of invitation, a welcoming tone, social mobility, and acknowledgement as important elements for a “Fun is serious business” approach that has worked well for the Teahouse. They also noted that this approach has influenced the Grants:IdeaLab and an upcoming grant-funded game The Wikipedia Adventure.

Seeeko and Ocaasi applied many of these principles to a new Teahouse document that sets out design guidelines for contributors aiming to make improvements to the Teahouse. The guidelines distill goals and practices that have made the Teahouse successful from the start, like “build for new editors” and “show recent activity,” and encourage volunteers to make data-driven decisions to grow the project and keep with its spirit. Valeriej and Seeko also paired up to improve the workflow for requesting and creating new features in the Teahouse. Playing with the theme of a wishing well that users might find in the Teahouse garden, they defined attributes and workflows for “wishing” and “granting wishes” (requesting and developing features), they created a build plan, and they worked on a module to make identifying key information easier. The Teahouse’s new Wishing Well is the initial result of that work.

Valeriej also devoted time to considering improvements to help contributors who are new to MediaWiki. Focusing on a Starter Kit, she decided to begin with a survey of MediaWiki contributors to determine the effectiveness of the project’s current help documentation. She plans to use the results of the survey to refine and focus the documents used to orient new contributors to MediaWiki over the coming months.

The team was inspired by learning from other open source communities and it hopes that gathering together to improve the design of our own community’s help systems will encourage more efforts like it. Travel for three of the team members was funded by the Participation Support Program. Wikimedians looking to share wiki-learning by participating at conferences or other convenings like this one are encouraged to apply.

(Many thanks to WordPress attendee Siobhan McKeown for blogging her amazing notes from the talks!)

Siko Bouterse, Seeeko, Wikimedia Foundation
Jake Orlowitz, Ocaasi, Wikipedia editor

What we learned from the English Wikipedia new editor pilot in the Philippines

English Wikipedia’s contributors are scattered across the globe, and this diversity of geographic representation gives us hope that we’ll someday fully realize our vision of making the sum of all human knowledge available to everyone.

People from some regions are editing the encyclopedia more than others, however. The majority of editors to English Wikipedia today are from Europe, North America and Australia. Contributors in Anglophone Global South countries like India, Kenya, and the Philippines are underrepresented, compared to the total number of English speakers and English Wikipedia page views from these countries. Looking for simple ways we might boost contributions from a country like the Philippines, a small team of staff from the Wikimedia Foundation’s Grantmaking and Learning group recently decided to run an experiment to attract new editors.

The pilot was not a success – there are no more active editors from the Philippines than when we started – but the team learned several things that may be useful for future experiments. In the spirit of fearless (and humanly imperfect, and interesting) experimentation, and because we think that there is just as much value in talking about what doesn’t work as what does, we offer here some highlights of what we learned.

Banner aimed at readers from the Philippines

Philippines pilot landing page, getting started with articles

The team selected the Philippines for this pilot because English education is high and there is a large readership of English Wikipedia (93,200 page views/hour) compared to other language versions. Editors from the region are underrepresented on English Wikipedia (less than 400 active editors/month). We also picked it because we understand that online communities tend to grow best when they can build upon themselves, with new people being supported by experienced editors, and English Wikipedia already has a small but active community of editors from the Philippines to build upon, including a WikiProject Tambayan Philippines.

The team started with some background research: A quick survey of readers from the Philippines showed that 81 percent of readers know that they can edit Wikipedia; 86 percent rate their English proficiency to be more than “good,” but only 36 percent of readers had actually attempted to edit Wikipedia. The most common reason given for not editing was that they didn’t know what to edit (38 percent) and the most common request for support given was having specific, easy tasks to do on Wikipedia (63 percent).

Philippines pilot landing page, getting started with user page

Based on this, we hypothesized that having a call to action that asked people in the Philippines to help improve content related to their country might encourage more editing. We ran banners encouraging Filipino readers to get involved by creating an account and a user page identifying themselves as part of the project. We then directed them to a list of stubs (short articles in need of more information) on various topics related to the Philippines that had been collected by WikiProject Tambayan Philippines. For new editors in need of extra support, we offered links to Wikipedia’s help documentation and to the Teahouse, but we otherwise did not interfere with the standard new-editor experience on Wikipedia.


Photographing Czech Jewish monuments for Wikimedia projects

Jewish cemetery at Rabí Castle

The Jewish Monuments grant project aims to gather freely licensed photos of all existing Czech Jewish monuments, with particular focus on synagogues and cemeteries, whether those are still in religious use or are used for different purposes. The grant is part of Wikimedia Czech Republic’s Mediagrant project (see earlier blog post). It was launched in August 2011 and was inspired by projects documenting Czech municipalities, protected Natural Areas and Memorable Trees throughout the Czech Republic.

When we started planning, there was a wiki page containing a list of Czech Jewish cemeteries, some of which had articles about them; there were also several articles on major Czech synagogues and the portal of Judaism (Hebraistika). However, no records about the buildings of Czech synagogues were available for the photographers to check when planning a trip. Therefore it proved essential to put together all Czech Jewish monuments to show which had been documented sufficiently and which of them were still lacking any photographic documentation.

The first step was to make lists of the monuments by region, including the names of each (e.g. Synagogue in Slatina), the town and district they were situated in, their GPS location, a brief description commenting on the position, availability and usage of the building these days, and any photos already taken. When the 2012 Wiki Loves Monuments competition was about to start, and lists of Czech cultural monuments were being put together, the charts became a useful source of information on available photos. Logically, one of the grant rules is to fill in any newly photographed places in the charts to keep the information current and ready-to-use by other photographers.

Jewish cemetery in Klatovy

Obtaining the GPS data proved to be one of the most difficult columns to complete, as some cemeteries and synagogues were hardly ever mentioned in online or printed materials. As a result, their position often had to be checked with the local authorities. Some municipal officers were so helpful they offered to provide pictures of their own or even take new ones. Unfortunately, some of the monuments still lack exact positioning.

Several photographers expressed surprise at seeing how the original purpose of many buildings had changed over the years. While some former synagogues are used as concert halls and museums, other synagogues, in particular those in rural areas, have been turned into houses, fire stations, shops or even discos. Many of the cemeteries have also been long forgotten, so that even some locals have no idea of their existence; others are looked after well, with caretakers routinely restoring the fallen gravestones and remodeling the stone fences. Alas, there are some cemeteries that do not get any attention at all, presenting the lonely visitor with a scene of broken gravestones scattered all over the place, nettles flourishing in places where gravestones have been stolen, and unpruned trees casting shadows on the pebbles that visitors had placed on the tombs long before.

Announcing the first Wikimedia Individual Engagement Grantees

Individual Engagement Grant Barnstar

Today we’re announcing the first round of Individual Engagement Grantees. The Wikimedia Foundation makes a variety of types of grants, many of which focus on groups and organizations. Individual Engagement Grants exemplify our commitment to increase support to individual contributors to Wikimedia projects, with a particular focus on making online improvements. These grants will support eight Wikimedians working individually and in small teams for 6 months to complete projects that benefit the Wikimedia movement, serve our mission and strengthen our communities.

For this pilot round, which began in February 2013, Wikimedians submitted over 50 ideas and drafts from around the world. WMF grantmaking staff narrowed these down to 22 complete proposals meeting the eligibility criteria for review.

18 Wikimedians formed a volunteer committee, with participants from 12 countries and from Wikimedia projects in 14 languages. Committee members reviewed each proposal carefully, scoring them against a rubric of pre-defined selection criteria and making recommendations based on available funding for this round. WMF grantmaking staff shared aggregated scores and comments with the community, while the committee continued its deliberations to finalize a recommendation to WMF to fund eight projects in total.

All eight projects have been approved for funding by the WMF. In examining the recommendations, we were struck by how varied these projects are in terms of grant size, project methodology and engagement targets. A central aim of Individual Engagement Grants is to foster innovation, with a particular focus on online impact. We think that innovative ideas and the skills that various contributors bring to Wikimedia projects can lead to better online environments for everyone, and we hope to learn a lot from these grantees about how we can support more of this across the movement.

The round 1 selected projects are:

Build an effective method of publicity in PRChina, led by Chinese Wikipedian User:AddisWang, funded at $350. Addis and a small team of volunteers based in mainland China will be experimenting with social media campaigns to grow awareness of Wikipedia in China.

Replay Edits, led by User:Jeph paul, funded at $500. Jeph is building a MediaWiki gadget that creates a visual playback of the edit history of a Wikipedia article, allowing users to see an article changing over time.

The Wikipedia Library, funded at $7500 and The Wikipedia Adventure, funded at $10,000, both led by User:Ocaasi. For the Wikipedia Library, Ocaasi will be building and consolidating partnerships with reference providers donating access to reliable sources for Wikipedia editors, and improving the systems for managing these programs. The Wikipedia Adventure is an on-wiki game that will be piloted on English Wikipedia using the Guided Tours extension to determine whether this type of interactive learning is an effective engagement strategy for new editors.

Consolidate wikiArS to involve art schools, led by Catalan Wikimedian User:Dvdgmz, funded at 7810 Euros. The WikiArS outreach program builds partnerships with art and design schools to teach students to create images for donation to Wikimedia Commons and for use in Wikipedia articles. This grant will support focused experimentation in the existing Catalan program’s models that can allow the initiative to scale and to be sustained as an international program.

Elaborate Wikisource strategic vision, led by Catalan Wikisource User:Micru and Italian Wikisource User:Aubrey, funded at 10,000 Euros. This project brings together the global Wikisource community and other stakeholders to define a vision for the project’s future. They’ll begin work on near-term goals that can be accomplished by volunteers on-wiki, and investigate paths forward for longer-term improvements to Wikisource.

MediaWiki data browser, led by User:Yaron K, partially funded at $15,000 in order to pilot the initial concept. Yaron’s project will create a framework to allow any user to easily generate apps or websites to browse sets of structured data that exist on Wikipedia and other projects running on MediaWiki.

Finally, we’ve provisionally approved an 8th project — MediaWiki and Javanese script, led by User:Bennylin, funded at $3000 — provided that a couple of dependencies can be satisfied. This project will provide technical support using a “train-the-trainers” model that teaches volunteers how to use Javanese script online, facilitating the transcription of Javanese texts to projects like Javanese Wikisource. The newly developed Universal Language Selector extension for MediaWiki makes the use of this script online increasingly possible.

The new grantees will begin work on their projects in the coming weeks and they’ll be sharing progress and learnings with us all along the way. Please visit their project pages for complete project information and updates.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this round!  We look forward to seeing even more of your ideas and input in preparation for round 2, which begins on August 1st.

Siko Bouterse, Head of Individual Engagement Grants, on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation and the IEG committee

Wikimedia IdeaLab is an experiment in user-friendly grantmaking

Applying for a grant can be an intimidating process. There are forms to fill out, rationales and explanations to give, project plans and budgets to lay out. This process can be particularly intimidating for individuals who may have great ideas for exciting new projects that can improve Wikipedia or her sister sites, but who may not necessarily have lots of experience with project planning or grant proposals.

We want to find ways that make it easy to get started in the proposal process in a friendly, collaborative learning environment. We also want to create more opportunities to ask what might be the most important question for grantmakers in the Wikimedia movement. That question is not “what is the best way to spend this money,” but rather “what are the best ideas and what support is needed to turn them into action?”

IdeaLab is a new space we’ve built to help answer this question by crowdsourcing ideas, connecting projects with potential collaborators, and offering a pathway to funding in cases where financial support is needed to turn ideas into action. In the IdeaLab, Wikimedians are invited to introduce themselves and offer up their skills and interests as collaborators, to share new ideas, and to help each other turn good ideas into project plans and grant proposals.

Do you have an idea for a project that might be eligible for an Individual Engagement Grant? Need help turning it into a grant proposal? Or do you just want to help other’s ideas succeed? Wikimedia grantmaking staff are present in the IdeaLab, as are volunteers from around the world. Come visit us and let’s turn ideas into action.

The Wikimedia Foundation is currently accepting proposals for Individual Engagement Grants, due February 15th.

Siko Bouterse, Head of Individual Engagement Grants

New grants available from the Wikimedia Foundation for individual Wikimedians

This week the Wikimedia Foundation launched a new grantmaking program called Individual Engagement Grants. These grants support individual Wikimedians or small teams to complete projects that benefit the Wikimedia movement, lead to online impact, and serve our mission, community and strategic priorities.

In recent years, the Wikimedia Foundation has been expanding its grantmaking activities. We want to ensure that the donations made by people who rely on Wikipedia for information serve the Wikimedia movement wherever it is most needed. Most of the grants we’ve made to this point have gone to organizations – Wikimedia chapters around the world, or smaller groups hosting workshops or running editing contests and so forth – and we’ll be continuing to grow our capacity to support these organizations in the future.

But much of Wikipedia and its sister sites run off of the amazing work that volunteers do individually. Thousands of people sit at their computers each day, writing articles, fighting vandalism, teaching new editors how to get started, organizing features for the main page, resolving disputes, answering emails from readers and more. These individuals make Wikipedia work, and many of them have ideas for innovative new projects that can make Wikipedia work even better. Many of these ideas can be and are accomplished by volunteers alone – volunteerism is, after all, the wonderful core of Wikimedia’s sites. But sometimes funding for time and expenses is needed to get an initiative up and running, and this is where Individual Engagement Grants can help. These grants are intended for projects that go beyond content contribution to innovate something that benefits the community and when funding is needed to to turn good ideas into action.

We’re accepting a first round of proposals for Individual Engagement Grants from now until February 15th. We’re also seeking volunteers to serve on a committee to help select the first round of grantees. You can get involved by sharing a project idea, submitting a proposal, or joining the committee – we’re looking forward to having your participation and to announcing the first Individual Engagement grantees in March!

Siko Bouterse, Head of Individual Engagement Grants, Wikimedia Foundation