Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement


A gift of visualization on Wikipedia’s birthday

Earlier today the Washington D.C. based creative agency JESS3 posted the video above, and an informative web case study, – a follow-up to another recent case study they did on another big idea, the Internet. JESS3 (also donors to the Wikimedia Foundation) folks Leslie Bradshaw and Becca Colbaugh on the inspiration for the work:

In a collaborative effort to capture a historic moment in time for Wikipedia, we announced this morning “The State of Wikipedia,” a digital short aimed at teaching the layperson Wikipedia’s initial concept and consequent evolution into becoming one of the most visited web sites across the globe.

We look forward to see what the next 10 years hold for Wikipedia and how it will continue to help add contours, diversity and permanency to information the world over.

They were supported by long-time Wikipedian William Beutler, and the voice you might recognize is none other than the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. The video is CC-BY-SA (it can be downloaded from Vimeo – Commons link as soon as we have it), which means anyone around the world can use, re-use, and share this great work that tells the story of our project and our movement.

A big thanks to JESS3 for taking the considerable time to put this story together. We think it will make a big difference in helping people talk about our big projects and the complex world of the Wikimedia movement. A great Wikipedia 10 birthday gift!

Jay Walsh, Communications

Encyclopedia of Life curates Wikipedia’s species articles

There are more than 1.9 million animals, plants, and other forms of life on Earth. In May 2007, some of the world’s leading scientists announced the development of the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) to document them all. Inspired by biologist E. O. Wilson’s TED Wish and supported by more than $25 million in funding, the project aggregates and makes accessible information about species ranging from 19th century journals to modern online databases.

See the page about Solanum lycopersicum, the garden tomato, as an example. Much of the information comes from Solanaceae Source, a specialized source of  names lists, species descriptions, specimen collections and publication lists for the genus Solanum. The Biodiversity Heritage Library provides historical public domain texts about the species from various published journals. Many other specialized and general resources contribute to the overall species page.

A Wikipedia article included in an Encyclopedia of Life species page. The yellow background indicates that no curator has reviewed the content yet. Click the image to enlarge.

You’ll also find a “Wikipedia” entry in the table of contents. It reveals a copy of the Wikipedia article about tomatoes. As of this writing, the article text has a yellow background.

This means that an Encyclopedia of Life curator has not yet reviewed the content for inclusion in EOL. An EOL species page can have one or more curators who select and validate information added to EOL pages. Wikipedia articles, where they exist, are included by default.

Once the article has been validated by a curator, the yellow background is removed. The information for curators and curation standards pages on EOL give some additional background on the curation process, which applies to all content objects in EOL. Specific guidelines have been written for curation of content from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. We’re particularly pleased that EOL encourages its curators to improve Wikipedia directly if errors or omissions are found.

So far, more than 200 Wikipedia articles have been reviewed through this process. Reviewers classify the information as follows:

  • ‘trusted’ – reviewed by curator and not deemed to contain substantially incorrect information
  • ‘untrusted’ – reviewed by curator and deemed to include incorrect or unverifiable information
  • ‘inappropriate’ – reviewed by curator and deemed to not be eligible for inclusion in EOL for other reasons (e.g. too short to add value)

EOL makes the entirety of all review information (who reviewed what when, with what outcome) available through an Atom feed. This means that Wikipedians, and others, can use this information easily in the development of new applications.

The book creator tool makes it possible to order a printed and bound book from any Wikipedia article selection. A custom cover can be chosen. Nautilus photograph by Lee Berger, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. (Click to enlarge.)

A proof-of-concept for expert reviews

Magnus Manske is a biochemist and programmer at the Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom. He is also a long-time Wikimedia volunteer, and wrote the first version of the PHP software used by Wikipedia, which later became MediaWiki. As a scientist, Magnus has advocated for the scientific community to use and improve Wikipedia, most recently as co-author of the paper Ten Simple Rules for Editing Wikipedia.

I informed Magnus about the new EOL review information, and suggested that we might want to explore using this information to generated printed books or PDF collections of reviewed articles. The software for exporting Wikipedia articles into books already exists, so it was just a matter of putting two and two together.

So, Magnus used the available data feed to create an automated tool that creates a list of all EOL-reviewed article versions in a form that can be used by Wikipedia’s book tool.

This makes it possible to download a PDF file or order a printed book that only contains EOL-reviewed versions of Wikipedia species articles.

To try it out, visit the page for Magnus’ example book. Click “Download PDF” to generate the (very large) PDF file that contains all the species articles, or “order printed book” to preview or order a printed book from PediaPress (which, as of this month, also offers books in color and hardcover format). If you want to remix or play with the book further, you can click “Open book creator”.

We’re very pleased with this first proof-of-concept, and are grateful to the Encyclopedia of Life team for engaging its community in the curation of Wikipedia articles. Both parties benefit: The Encyclopedia of Life enriches its species pages using the often well-developed Wikipedia content. Wikipedia benefits because EOL’s trusted reviewers add their stamp of approval to Wikipedia articles, which helps Wikipedia readers and editors alike. Where EOL reviewers do not approve, they are encouraged to edit the Wikipedia article.
I asked Bob Corrigan, EOL Product Manager and Acting Deputy Director, to give his take on this project. He writes: “This is definitely a win-win partnership. EOL is focused on providing very deep, structured access to trusted biodiversity information from our network of content partners and curators, and vetted Wikipedia articles can be a terrific gateway to this information. We see a closer relationship with Wikimedia as an important way to expand access to global knowledge about life on Earth.”

Hardcover book made from curated Wikipedia articles. Photo credit: Guillaume Paumier; Nautilus photograph by Lee Berger. Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0

Example page from the book. Photo credit: Guillaume Paumier; Nautilus photograph by Lee Berger. Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0

A replicable model

Magnus’ implementation was already created with an eye to future extensibility. If you’re inclined to take a closer technical look, check out Magnus’ “Sifter-Books” script which generates the book data, and can potentially support multiple partner institutions/organizations providing article reviews. As of the time of this writing, Magnus has already added two additional groups who review Wikipedia articles, Rfam and Pfam, databases of RNA and protein families.

Moreover, Magnus has written a small proof-of–concept script which makes the existence of reviews visible on Wikipedia itself. You need to create a user account on the English Wikipedia and follow the installation instructions to use the script. Once installed, a “Reviews” tab will indicate available article reviews.

We look forward to exploring similar partnerships with subject-matter experts in institutions (like universities and libraries), scientific associations, and specialized knowledge communities. If you’re interested in this model, drop me a note (erik at wikimedia dot org).

Erik Moeller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation
Representative of Wikimedia in the Encyclopedia of Life Institutional Council

Wikipedia hard-cover editions now available

This week our friends over at Pediapress announced that custom-printable books containing Wikipedia articles are now also being offered in attractive hard cover, bound editions – and in color. Previously customers could order softcover editions of books containing a customizable list of Wikipedia articles in any configuration. The new hardcover editions even contain a silk bookmark and stitched bindings.

The Pediapress MediaWiki extension on Wikipedia allows users to collect any number of articles or categories into a single PDF file or OpenOffice text file, which can then be downloaded for off-line viewing or local printing, or through Pediapress’ on-demand printing technologies the document can be turned into a bound book and shipped right to you. To start creating a book, look for the Create a book link under Print/Export on the lefthand Wikipedia menu. Some incredibly unique and inspired Wikipedia books have been created since Pediapress kicked off.

Now is your chance to get your very favorite lists of Wikipedia articles bound in a bookshelf-friendly format. Offline versions of Wikipedia are an important part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission to spread free knowledge to everyone on the planet, so we’re happy to see the options and quality of this format expand.

Jay Walsh, Head of Communications

Musopen: Returning music to the public domain

One might think that a recording of Beethoven’s or Schumann’s music is in the public domain, free for anyone to share and enjoy, but that’s only the case if the recording artists decide to make their specific performance freely available. Most recordings of classical music are, in fact, copyrighted, and can’t be used without permission. Musopen is an independent charitable organization that’s recording music in the public domain, and making the recordings freely available as public domain works as well.

Now, Musopen is raising funds via the Kickstarter platform: Set Music Free. They’ve exceeded their $10,000 goal, but chipping in additional funds can only help. They are also looking for votes in the Pepsi Refresh Project, which could get them a $25,000 grant.

Wikimedia and other free culture projects benefit from these recordings: There are already more than 100 Musopen recordings of public domain music in Wikimedia Commons, used in more than 45 different Wikimedia projects. We wish Musopen success. Their work will help keep classical music alive.

See also: EFF coverage

Update on Translation Toolkit

Earlier today the folks over at Google provided an update on their progress using Translation Toolkit with volunteers and translators to improve the article count in smaller language versions of Wikipedia, including Arabic, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Swahili, Tamil and Telugu.  Google is a passionate believer in the need to translate and bring more high quality works of text to less-represented languages on the web.

Michael Galvez, a Product Manager from Google, presented the recent findings of these efforts at this year’s Wikimania in Gdańsk – which wrapped up on Sunday, July 11 of this year.

From Michael’s post:

We believe that translation is key to our mission of making information useful to everyone. For example, Wikipedia is a phenomenal source of knowledge, especially for speakers of common languages such as English, German and French where there are hundreds of thousands—or millions—of articles available. For many smaller languages, however, Wikipedia doesn’t yet have anywhere near the same amount of content available.

Google is reporting an increase of about 16 million words so far due to the efforts of local volunteers and translators using the Translation Toolkit.  In Hindi Wikipedia these efforts have resulted in an increase in size of about 20 per cent. They continue their work directly with volunteers from these language projects, and continue to expand the capabilities of the translation toolkit in new languages.

A big thanks for the ongoing efforts of the volunteers and translators, and to Google for continuing to invest time and resources in this great translation system.

Jay Walsh, Communications

WikiDashboard Revisited

Ed Chi, Principal Scientist, Area Manager of Augmented Social Cognition(ASC) at Palo Alto Research Center is a prominent pioneer in social computing and a prolific researcher in the underlying mechanisms in online social systems such as Wikipedia and social tagging sites. Ed gave the keynote talk on Modeling Social Media at the Hypertext 2010 conference a few days ago.

Last October, I had the privilege to share the panel with Ed at BayCHI, where he presented the findings from his joint research, “The Singularity is Not Near: Slowing Growth of Wikipedia”. In addition to the discussion about the possible reasons behind the slow growth, Ed described Wikipedia as “knowledge-ware”, “people-ware” and “tool-ware” in his presentation. This prompted me to reflect on the focus beyond the Wikipedia Usability Initiative. The objective of the Wikipedia Usability Initiative supported by Stanton Foundation was to improve the usability of the editing tools for novice editors.

I had been struggling with competing priorities. Often times investing in future opportunities was postponed due to immediate problems. When the Stanton Wikipedia Usability Initiative approached its project end, I visited Ed with Erik Zachte and Howie Fung to discuss the next user experience endeavor of how to make Wikipedia a more social place. Ed shared his wisdom and suggested to focus on optimizing resources rather than focusing on growth. Growth cannot be expected when resources are not optimized. We also need to know how resources are allocated before optimizing them.

was developed by the ASC team almost three years ago. It is a great tool to provide dynamic visualization of Wikipedia editing activities. For example, you can see the editing activity of the relatively new article about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, by editor and number of edits over time, at a glance. You can also find out about edit activities by a certain editor by clicking the editors’ user name. Wikidashboard’s social transparency helps readers to see who is writing what, and editors can discover the most active contributors visually before diving into the details listed in the history page.

WikiDashboard in a Wikipedia article

Facebook implemented Community Pages, a concept of using articles as catalysts to connect people. Community Pages embed Wikipedia articles from the publicly available MediaWiki API into Facebook to connect people to their interests, and they create links inside the user’s profile. Facebook users can discover people with common interests whether they are in their friends network or not.

Wikimedia projects draw over 375 million unique visitors and roughly 100,000 editors edit articles more than five times monthly. Detailed monthly reports can be found here. This huge gap indicates that we are not succeeding in converting visitors to editors. It requires certain skills to write an encyclopedia article, so connecting people over the same interests can be a first step to introduce new contributors into the existing Wikimedia editor community.

Wikimedia projects are about collecting knowledge to share with everyone on the planet. Connecting people with similar interests can help enrich both the reading and the editing experience of this process.

Naoko Komura, Head of User Experience Programs

More Ways to Share

Notice a new feature on the left-hand sidebar today? Now, you can “create a book” and take English Wikipedia with you wherever you go, thanks to the good work of our partner, PediaPress. First launched last year for German language Wikipedia, the feature has been extended to a number of languages, now including English. Initially, this feature was available to logged-in users due to scalability issues, but today, everyone using English Wikipedia can assemble any articles of their choosing into a printed book, a PDF file, or an OpenDocument file for word processing.

To create your book, you can start by clicking on the “create a book” button found on the left-hand sidebar under the “print/export” section. From there, you can add any articles you like while browsing through millions of Wikipedia articles. When you’ve completed your selection, you can further customize your book by creating chapters and a title, choosing a photo for the cover and including an author or editor’s name.

Making Wikipedia available to as many people as possible and providing ways for our volunteer community to enjoy the work that they’ve done is central to our mission here at the Foundation. This is an exciting way to share more.

Moka Pantages


Open Video Alliance Launches “Video on Wikipedia” Campaign

Today, our friends at the Open Video Alliance launched an important advocacy project (see their announcement), called “Let’s Get Video on Wikipedia“. The project aims to motivate more people to take and upload relevant educational video content to Wikimedia’s media repository, Wikimedia Commons.

Video can play an important role in an encyclopedia and in other learning resources. Whether it’s clips of animals, speeches, interviews, excerpts from important films, explanatory animations, footage of historical events, or even collaboratively created documentaries exploring complex topics — video can enrich our learning experience. There are about 4,500 video files in our media repository today, a tiny number. We don’t expect that Wikipedia will turn into “Wikitube” anytime soon, but we do hope that thousands more relevant educational videos will find their way into articles in our projects.

The Wikimedia Foundation also believes that two things need to change for video on the web: it needs to break out of the Flash container used for most video on the web so that developers can build smarter and richer applications, and it needs to be shared in a free format so that anyone can shoot and broadcast video without paying fees. That’s why we use an open video standard for all our videos. The “Let’s get video on Wikipedia how-to” provides simple instructions to convert video into a free and open format and upload it. And, of course, all video content on Wikimedia Commons can be re-used by anyone for any purpose: we’re open all the way.

The campaign is being co-organized by Mozilla Drumbeat, Wikimedia New York City, and the Participatory Culture Foundation, makers of the open source Miro video player and downloader.  It’s also a trial-by-fire for some of the new video technology we’ve been working on in partnership with Kaltura. In short, it’s a demonstration of the power of building alliances. If you’re a video maker or a web developer, we hope that you’ll join us in supporting open standards and free educational video content.

Wikipedia volunteer TheDJ provides some further under-the-hood information in his blog summary.

Erik Moeller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Google’s Grant is good news for Wikimedia!

Earlier today we announced a generous $2 million (USD) grant to the Wikimedia Foundation from the Google Inc. Charity Fund at the Tides Foundation.  This is the first gift to the Wikimedia Foundation from Google, and as an unrestricted gift we’ll be able to support operations for Wikipedia and our other free knowledge projects across multiple priorities.

The news has rung out across outlets in the U.S. and abroad, and microbloggers (prompted by a tweet from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales) have been actively sharing the announcement.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has called Wikipedia “one of the greatest triumphs of the internet,” and considering the impact and mission of Google, we’re in good company.  Many have speculated as to the relationship between our organizations before, but with this news we’re pleased to clarify their great role as a philanthropic supporter for the Foundation.

Thanks to the good folks at Google for making this possible!

Jay Walsh, Communications

Happy birthday, GNU!

Happy Birthday to the GNU project, which turned 25 today and is celebrating with a video of English humorist Stephen Fry. In September 1983, Richard Stallman first announced the plan to develop a free software operating system called GNU. Today, in combination with the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux is a completely free operating system running on many millions of computers world-wide. You are using GNU/Linux every day when surfing the web, as it’s one of the most popular operating systems to power web servers, database servers, and the other infrastructure that makes the web work.

As a desktop operating system, GNU/Linux is also making inroads. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we use free software developed by the GNU projects and other communities for servers and clients. For example, we use the Apache web server, the MySQL database server, the Squid proxy server, the PHP scripting language, and the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution on our servers. But even our phone systems are built on top of free software, and we use important open standards like Ogg Theora and Ogg Vorbis on Wikipedia. For day-to-day office work, we use the Firefox web browser, the Thunderbird e-mail client, for word processing and presentations, and so on. An increasing number of staff members are also using Ubuntu GNU/Linux as a desktop operating system (including Sue Gardner, the Executive Director).

And, of course, Wikipedia itself is given away under legal code developed by the GNU project: the GNU Free Documentation License. So, we owe an enormous debt to the GNU project and to the Free Software Foundation, as pioneers and leaders of a movement for sharing code freely, so that it cannot be used to coerce and restrict users, and so that it can be improved upon by others. That idea is one of the key inspirations for Wikipedia itself.

Happy birthday, GNU!

Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation<