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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts Tagged ‘Volunteer Response Team’

Wikipedia ranks first in ACSI customer satisfaction survey for fourth straight year.

Wikipedia has scored number one for the fourth straight year in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for “Internet Social Media” websites. Wikipedia maintained its score of 78 out of 100 for the third year in a row; the average score in the category dropped 1.4 percent from last year down to 68. Wikipedia has ranked number one all four years that the ACSI has been tracking the “Internet Social Media” category.

OTRS Wikimedia.svg

What makes Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects unique in this category is how emails are tracked and responded compared to other websites in the rankings. While most people know by now that Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects are created and maintained by volunteers, what many still do not know is that the same is true for email response. All emails sent to Wikipedia are processed by volunteers.

The Volunteer response team, known as “OTRS” after the open-source software we use to receive and process emails, began as a small project in 2004 to handle press inquiries by volunteers.

Since its inception, the focus of OTRS has grown to all manner of general questions in over thirty language-oriented queues, ranging from general questions about Wikipedia content and licensing, to reporting errors or problems seen in content, to releasing images under a free license for all to reuse from Wikimedia Commons. We receive well over a thousand emails a week across those thirty languages, and almost all of these emails are sorted and read by a few hundred active volunteers. In addition, OTRS also receives emails for Wikimedia’s other free knowledge projects created and curated by volunteers and hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Volunteering for OTRS is hosted on Meta-wiki and is restricted to a small subset of Wikimedians who are active and expected to be familiar with policies and guidelines, as well as general community knowledge related to their home-wiki. They should demonstrate the ability to explain how something works around a project to a complete stranger in a simple and even-tempered way, and some are entrusted with access to private data.

With such a small group of volunteers handling so many inquiries, we are very proud to once again be ranked as providing the best customer support in our category. Working “behind the scenes” is a pretty thankless task for Wikimedians, but we labor to provide the public with the most informative and courteous service possible.

Keegan Peterzell, Volunteer Response Team

The incredible work of the Wikimedia Volunteer Response Team

The English Wikipedia and its other language and sister projects are some of the most popular websites in the world, created, edited and sustained by volunteers. So you might not be surprised to learn that volunteers handle all the emails and inquiries about the sites, what is called Wikimedia’s Open-source Ticket Request System (OTRS), powered by the Volunteer Response Team. We’re very proud of the work the teams handle. This past July, Wikipedia was ranked first in the American Consumer Satisfaction Index for the third straight year.

The tireless contributor barnstar, awarded for the amazing work of the OTRS volunteers

The tireless contributor barnstar, awarded for the amazing work of the OTRS volunteers

For the first time we have compiled a statistical report of general activity of emails sent to our OTRS system for 2012. Emails sent to OTRS are assigned “queues” based upon the nature of the request, the language of the request, and the Wikimedia project it might represent. This report reflects queues that are not related to the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia Chapters, GLAM, or any other project that may share space on OTRS. It also does not reflect spam and irrelevant email processing.

Emails are processed as “successful,” meaning that the response was satisfactory to the email; “unsuccessful,” meaning that there was no resolution to the email; or “no response needed,” meaning that the email did not merit a reply as part of processing. In total the information queues received 39,729 emails that were relevant to subject, and 34,799 of those were closed as successful, with 4,357 closed unsuccessful and 573 as no response needed.

This report provides an interesting look at only a fraction of what processing emails to Wikimedia involves. Before being answered, the mail has to be in the right place, in the right language, and relevant to Wikimedia projects. Volunteers come from all background on Wikimedia projects and like with editing, volunteers are free to choose their assignments.

While we take pride in our accomplishments so far, we look forward future statistical reports to help us learn and develop our customer service further. For more information or to get involved, please see this link:

Keegan Peterzell, Volunteer Response Team

A passion for encyclopedias: interview with Italian Wikipedia editor Elitre

This post is available in 2 languages: English 7% • Italiano 100%


“When I was a child I was already very passionate about encyclopedias: the idea of discovering new things every day was very appealing to me. My neighbours had an encyclopedia, which was way bigger and newer than mine, and I went often to their house to read it.” Elitre, a long time Wikipedian and an administrator on Italian Wikipedia, told me this and elaborated on her story recently in front of a cup of hot cappuccino.

How did you begin to edit Wikipedia?

Italian Wikipedia editor Elitre

It was in late 2004. One day I read a page with the wrong information and I left a comment on the talk page, and someone told me that I could correct it by myself. When you understand that it works on a volunteer basis, you’re in.

And then what happened?

The real beginning was in 2006; I worked mostly on fixing copyright violations. After a couple of months I joined the OTRS team, the volunteer system used to handle information requests, complaints and comments about Wikipedia and related websites. These OTRS concerns are sent to the official e-mail addresses of the Wikimedia Foundation. I then became an administrator on Italian Wikipedia. After my administrator election I worked on several help and policy pages, making them easier to understand and keeping an eye on them. To me, an encyclopedia is a starting point, not an end point–it’s a very important tool– and this is why I like working to provide an easy understanding of the rules for the newcomers.

Lately I have been working on the rewriting of the pages about OTRS to better direct the destination of the requests. Since we’ve done it, life is much easier!

What led you to this kind of work?

I thought that we had some communication problems. I don’t like the idea that the person who blocked a user is the same person who will reply to his or her e-mail with requests for an explanation or an unblock. Furthermore, the OTRS system was always jammed…

And I know that you are also involved in outreach activities…

For a long time I had a blog where I tried to share what was going on in Wikipedia, but now I’m not able to follow it anymore, and I mostly use Twitter and Facebook. I try to work in this part of Wikipedia because it’s something necessary, and there are very few people doing it! I dream about an internet where Wikipedia is always the aim of our actions, and never the means: if you edit Wikipedia you have to do it for the good of Wikipedia, not for personal benefit.

Interview by Ginevra Sanvitale, Wikimedia Italia

Workshop of the German support team

Wikipedia Support Team meeting in the office of Wikimedia Germany

Over the first weekend of December, the German-language support team met in Berlin for their second workshop of 2012. Commonly referred to as the “volunteer response team” (or formerly “OTRS team” after the software it uses, the ”Open-source Ticket Request System”), the team handles a wide range of emails from Wikimedia users and the public, including complaints about Wikipedia articles, inquiries about the Wikimedia projects in general, and statements of permission for images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Originally established in 2008, the workshops have since become an integral part of our efforts to improve coordination and enhance understanding of legal as well as technical aspects of our work.

This time, the workshop was hosted by Wikimedia Deutschland, the German chapter. Our thanks go specifically to Christoph Jackel of their Team Communitys, who organized all we needed, be it accommodation for participants or the set-up of the venue at the chapter′s office. We are also, as always, very grateful to Wikimedia Deutschland for reimbursement of transportation and accommodation costs.

The weekend started out with a dinner on Friday evening, attended by about 15 team members. Even though the team is relatively small in size and collaborates smoothly online most of time, it is always a great pleasure to meet in real life, especially for new team members.

On Saturday, the workshop began with a short presentation by Jan Engelmann, head of the Politics & Society department of Wikimedia Deutschland, about a proposed European Union data privacy law designed to implement a “right to be forgotten” for EU citizens, and the potential implications of such legislation for the Wikimedia movement. Following this, Dr. Ansgar Koreng of JBB Rechtsanwälte, a Berlin-based law firm advising the German chapter, talked about issues related to personality rights and copyright that regularly come up on Wikipedia and as part of our work. As the de facto primary point of contact for complaints related to personality rights, we have always found it important to be able to properly react to such issues and support people affected by violations against Wikipedia′s policy on biographies of living persons. As a side effect, this also helps to avoid legal disputes before they have a chance to arise. Dr. Koreng stood ready for numerous questions from our side.

Throughout the entire event, we documented our discussions in real time using a private Etherpad. This also enabled those team members to participate who could not spare the time to come to Berlin.

Later on Saturday, Alice Wiegand, Board of Trustees member since 2012 and a long-time member of our team, talked about developments within the Wikimedia movement and their link to our work in the support team. On the initiative of one team member who gave a short introductory talk, we proceeded to discuss the potential of using flowcharts to document processes commonly employed when handling specific types of requests. Martin Edenhofer, the inventor of the OTRS software, who was scheduled to give a talk about tweaks of the system and recommendations on its use, unfortunately could not attend for personal reasons, but we very much hope to be able to welcome him at a future workshop.

Sunday was mostly devoted to internal processes. We first spent about two hours on a number of questions we had collected in the months preceding the workshop. After lunch, we went on to fill in the details of a member’s proposal to rename and modify response templates we use for very common or difficult-to-respond-to requests. Both topics of the day were aimed particularly at improving the quality of our responses and the efficiency of our handling thereof. Many of the issues that came up had previously been attempted to be addressed online but could not be resolved—showing yet again how productive it can be to discuss face-to-face. The event ended at 2 p.m. on Sunday, leaving time for participants to wade through a snow-covered Berlin and make their way home.

Raimond Spekking

Volunteer response team

Wikipedia ranks first in customer satisfaction for third straight year

For the third year in a row Wikipedia has been ranked first in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for “Internet Social Media” websites. The results for 2012 rated Wikipedia at 78 out of 100, the same score we achieved last year and well above the average score in our category of 69. Each result is based on 250 telephone interviews with customers in the U.S.

This is a great achievement and one we’re happy to receive, but it’s more remarkable when you consider how we do it.

What many people do not realize is that emails sent to Wikipedia and its sister projects are processed entirely by volunteers. Almost every email is read and acted on by an actual person across dozens of languages. The questions we receive range from general queries about content and reuse, to questions or concerns about articles or files, permission for free use of media, and press and journalist inquiries.

The Volunteer Response Team, also known as “OTRS” after the open-source software system we use, began in 2004 to aid volunteer press contacts in several languages. This quickly developed into general information and image processing in many languages. Currently the Volunteer Response team is still hosted on Meta-wiki and has information queues for around thirty languages, as well as support for other Wikimedia projects and chapters.

Volunteers apply on Meta and are expected to be long-term contributors to one or more Wikimedia projects. They are expected to be familiar with policies and guidelines, as well as general community knowledge related to their home-wiki. They should demonstrate the ability to explain how something works around a project to a complete stranger in a simple and even-tempered way, and some are entrusted with access to private data.

This small team works very hard to process more than one thousand emails a week sent to Wikipedia and other projects in all of its languages, and we are proud to once again be at the top of the list. We are all happy to be of help to Wikipedia “behind the scenes,” and the team will continue to support what our other volunteers write and contribute on Wikipedia.

Keegan Peterzell, Volunteer Response Team