Photo by Nidhal Jarrar, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Literature, music, visual arts, cuisine, traditions and monuments of Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa regions (MENA) were the topic of Bridges across Cultures, a recent and new writing competition on Wikipedia.

Wikipedians from Latin America worked around the clock for an entire month to enrich Wikipedia’s content about the MENA region in Spanish and Portuguese. Simultaneously, Wikipedians from the MENA region were tirelessly editing about Latin America in Arabic, Turkish and Persian.

832 Wikipedia articles were created or improved by 206 participants from 21 Latin American and 24 Middle East and North African countries.

“Communicating with Latin American art and culture, which is similar to the Middle East, is valuable to the people of both regions,” says Mohamed Reza, an active editor on the Persian and Mazandarani Wikipedias and winner of the first prize for the MENA region in the contest. He continues:

I look at Wikipedia as a way of fighting the hard conditions of the Middle East. A tool to eliminate ignorance and boost the culture of tolerance. In the Middle East, schools are [sometimes] weak and work in [support of] the government’s ideology. We need an alternative school that can compensate these deficiencies. I’m trying to be part of this global school.

Reza has been editing Wikipedia in Persian since July 2009, in addition to Mazandarani language where he is currently an administrator. He joined the Bridges across Cultures competition with hope to use knowledge sharing as a tool to strengthen the ties that connect both nations.

“There is very little public information about the Latin American culture among Farsi speakers,” Reza notes. “For example, when someone does not know what is the Aztec culture and where it was, how should they write about one of the Aztec gods?”

Like Mohamed, Luís Almeida is a Wikipedia editor and administrator with a passion for knowledge sharing and enthusiasm for other cultures. He has been editing the Portuguese Wikipedia for four years, where he has created over 2,000 new articles and translated nearly 90 featured and good articles (the highest quality markers on Wikipedia) before joining the Bridges across Cultures competition.

In his day job, Almeida is responsible for defending the Portuguese airspace as a senior airman in the air force. By night, he spends much of his free time sharing the culture of his nation with the entire world and bringing other cultures to Wikipedia readers in Portuguese.

“I participated in this competition for two main reasons,” Almeida told us. “To show the global Wikipedia community a good example of the Portuguese editing efforts, and to enrich the portuguese wikipedia with articles about other cultures.”

The first edition of the Bridges across Cultures Competition was held from 15 October to 15 November 2017, and both communities are looking forward to repeating the experience next year. “Familiarity with other cultures and the outside world is essential for our people,” says Reza. “Art and culture are stronger than anything else at the time of challenges.”

In brief

Wikimedia Communities and Contributors survey is back: Community Engagement Insights is a systemic approach by the Foundation to consolidate previous survey efforts, and to improve the way it supports communities overall. It’s a joint effort from teams across the organization to design a survey that allows us to connect better with Wikimedians, build trust, and foster collaboration. Wikimedia Communities and Contributors survey is to be sent to participants around the world this week. If you see an invitation to take the survey on your talk page, please take the time to share your views.

Since 2018 marks only the second iteration of the Wikimedia Communities and Contributors survey, its findings will be particularly valuable, in that it will be the first set of data that can be compared to previous results.

Wikipedian Gangadhar Bhadani passes away: In February, the Wikipedia community lost one of its most prolific contributors. Bhadani, native of India was a long time Wikipedian and one of Wikipedia’s top ten contributors for several months. Bhadani recorded his biography in his “Choice in Chaos,” book subtitled “A Wikipedian’s autobiography.” Fellow Wikipedians left dozens of farewell messages on his talk page and on Wikimedia-l. “May it be a sleep of peace and comfort, my friend,” wrote Anasuya Sengupta, former Wikimedia Foundation head of grantmaking department and current Whose Knowledge campaign leader. “I’m sure you kept your promises; I know you exemplified generosity, dedication, and patience as a Wikipedian. Thank you for all you did.”

GLAM-Wiki 2018 conference is now open for submissions: GLAM-Wiki is the conference for the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums and the Wikimedia movement. Tel Aviv, Israel, will be hosting this years event in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque from 3 to 5 November 2018. The conference program is now open for submissions till the end of April. Also, applications for scholarships are open till 15 May. More information about the conference on Meta.

Update on the shortage of water in Wikimania host city: Cape Town, South Africa, which will be hosting Wikimania, the annual conference of the Wikimedia movement this year, has been suffering from a severe drought that resulted in a water crisis in Cape Town. Fortunately the conference occurs during the rainiest season (July), however that is no guarantee the water crisis will be over. The organizing team has been actively in touch with the conference venue, hotel and tourism officials to stay briefed on the situation. The team is advising the conference attendees to take some measurements to help conserve water and to keep an eye on Wikimania wiki for updates about this issue.

Photo by Jason Krüger – Wikimedia Deutschland e.V., CC BY-SA 4.0.

Wikimedia Germany releases a three-year report on organizing the Wikimedia Conference: Wikimedia Germany (Deutschland), the independent chapter that supports the Wikimedia movement in the country has published a three-year report on the learnings from organizing the Wikimedia Conference from 2015 to 2017. The Wikimedia Conference is an annual gathering of the Wikimedia organizations and affiliates. The report is available on meta and Wikimedia Commons.

Samir Elsharbaty, Writer, Communications
Wikimedia Foundation