Friends' Newsletter/2014/Issue 02

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Wikimedia UK Friends' Newsletter

Upcoming: Wikimania Fringe - Social Machines Hack

Wikimedia Hackathon 2013
“Once upon a time 'machines' were programmed by programmers and used by users...” - Nigel Shadbolt et al.

Wikimania is coming to the UK in August, and as part of the run up to the main event, the organising team and members from the wider Wikimedia community are running a series of fringe events. The pre-Wikimania Hackathons is a series of informal two-day events on Wikimedia or open knowledge related topics. All of the pre-Wikimania Hackathons will be held at The Barbican Centre, the same venue where Wikimania will take place.

Social Machines Hack will take place on the weekend of 24–25 May. The topic of the weekend will be online communities and user experience. Whether you are a sociologist, virtual community designer, collaboration designer, social media theorist, online community manger, or simply have some idea on how to make online communities function well, you are invited to attend.

Amongst the live participants already signed up, the event will see live teleconferences with Wikimedia Foundation's Philippe Beaudette, Director of Community Advocacy; Brandon Harris, Senior Designer; Fabrice Florin, Product Manager; and Jessie Wild, Senior Manager of Global Learning. If you are interested in attending, add yourself to the attendee list.

Thoughts on the Wikimedia Conference

Graphic resume of the Wikimedia Conference 2014
Reflection by Stevie Benton, Wikimedia UK Head of External Relations

As I write it's the final day of the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin. It's been a very busy but incredibly worthwhile few days. It is my first time attending a Wikimedia Conference and having also never attended Wikimania I wasn't at all sure what to expect.

The reality of the conference is that it's hard work. From the outside looking in this may not be obvious but I can promise you this is the case.

The conference featured a very full programme of presentations, workshops and discussions alongside plenty of opportunities to meet with people from across the chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation. I was fortunate enough to be personally involved in the delivery of one of the sessions, a panel about advocacy. This proved to be a very helpful session and there was a strong consensus that achieving favourable reform to copyright should remain a focus of movement advocacy.

It was extremely useful to meet with so many people that I have worked with for the last couple of years that I've only encountered online. I was very encouraged by the diversity of the conference and its very international nature. There are so many intelligent and motivated people, both volunteers and staff, working to share the sum of all human knowledge and I was inspired by them all.

Our movement is in great shape. The progress made by chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation would be difficult to overstate. Wikimedia UK is no exception to this. There is admiration for the progress our chapter has made in terms of governance, strategy and measuring our impact and the lessons that we have learned are being widely shared across the movement.

The strongest message I have taken away from the conference is that the future looks very bright indeed, albeit with much work to be done. I'd like to say a huge thank you to the volunteers and staff that made this conference such a success – they did a remarkable job of keeping things organised, helping people get to where they needed to be and welcoming so many people to their office. Without their efforts the conference wouldn't have been such a productive, useful and enjoyable experience.

Upcoming: Queen Street Mill Museum editathon

Queen Street Mill

An editathon and site tour of Queen Street Mill will be held on Saturday 10 May. Queen Street Mill operated between 1894 and 1982, at its height operating over one thousand looms. The world's only surviving steam-driven weaving shed, the building is a Grade I listed building, and recipient of the Engineering Heritage Award in 2010.

Admission charge to the museum for participants will be waived, with lunch and refreshments provided. Editors of all abilities are welcome to attend. Advice and help will be available for those who have not edited or uploaded media before. Places are limited, so booking is essential. To reserve a place, email or telephone 01282 412555.

Wikimania submission deadline expires with a blaze of proposals

Wikimania 2014 logo
Wikimania volunteer Matthew Wood tells us about the many submissions received

As many will no doubt be aware of by now, Wikimania, the annual global conference of the Wikimedia movement, arrives in London for this summer. The conference, hosted at The Barbican, Europe’s largest conference venue, with the main body of events running over a long weekend from the 8th - 10th August and activities happening from the 4th – 11th August.

Over the month of March, Wikimania 2014 has been inundated with open session proposals related to several tracks as detailed by the conference organisers. These proposals, workshops, presentation and talks from people connected to the Wikimedia movement, revolve around and incorporate the following themes:

  • Wikiculture and community
  • Social machines
  • Legal and Free Culture
  • GLAM outreach
  • Education outreach
  • Open scholarship
  • Open Data

The deadline for submission for these exciting topics expired 31st March. Everyone involved in Wikimania would like to thank all of those who took the time to submit proposals for Wikimania 2014 in London. It is with great pleasure that we can announce the reception of 514 unique and exceptional proposals, all of which will be scrutinized thoroughly and intensely.

Difficult choices will be made in order to refine the sessions for acceptance to be presented in a variety of ways at the conference itself in August. We wish you all the best throughout the assessment process and thank you once again for your eagerness to contribute to Wikimania and the Wikimedia community.

Wikimedians in the European Parliament

Wikimedia volunteers posing for a group photo in the European Parliament

In February, fifty Wikimedia volunteers from nine countries covering nineteen languages spent four days at the European Parliament in Strasbourg during its plenary sessions photographing and filming Members of the European Parliament with the aim of improving the multimedia content available on Wikimedia Commons, and hence usable by anyone, including the MEPs themselves.

Volunteers were temporarily granted press accreditation for the duration of the event, which was a new experience for many of the participants. As a result of the project, over 1,000 high quality photographs of MEPs were taken along with over 100 videos of MEPs introducing themselves in any languages they are comfortable speaking in. Other outcomes from the project include a Featured Article report on Wikinews and increased classroom use of Wikinews at university, with journalism students from the University of Southern Indiana contributing to Wikinews for course credit.

Opinion: Why copyright laws in Europe need revising

Decentralised cooperation, many-to-many, wiki
Wikimedia UK volunteer Emily Sørensen argues for copyright reform

We live in a unified Europe (i.e. EU) that is part of a global economy. We do business with organisations, companies, and people from all over the world. We use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and many other social media which connect people from all over the world. We don’t need obstacles that get in the way of these developments. We need rules that complement our needs and make interactions and transactions run as smoothly and fairly as possible to reduce the likelihood of complicating the technological and scientific developments that are already complex as it is. Times change and so do our needs. So what has this got to do with copyright laws?

Firstly, many people ignore the legality of their online behaviour because we are used to being served what we want at the point of a simple Google or Bing search. Downloads are a useful example.. It’s copyright infringement to download many films, songs, books, and so on for free, but that’s not stopping many (usually) lawful citizens from doing it anyway. Why? Because the availability of information online has increased expectations for what we can have for free. This is not a trend that can likely be reversed, or should be reversed. It’s a change of mindset that seems to be here to stay, and the proof of this is the way companies have changed their business models over the last 15 or so years. Many entrepreneurs and start-ups, for example, market themselves initially providing free services and products in order to generate sales leads. Even well-known companies such as Spotify lure potential customers into paying monthly fees by giving them a free subscription month initially. It works, because those companies have found ways to make it work, taking into consideration the tendencies and needs people reflect online.

What hasn’t changed in line with developments brought about by the internet, however, is the copyright legislation in the EU. For example, some EU countries have taken a more liberal approach to rightsholdership of photos taken in public. In the UK and Germany, there is freedom of panorama, meaning that any photos taken in public spaces can be freely used and shared as desired. In France, Italy, and Iceland, however, there is no freedom of panorama, meaning you can’t use photographs taken in public spaces for anything other than private displays (not Facebook, mind you).

The lack of uniformity of copyright rules across European countries is confusing to people and can cause unnecessary financial harm to snappers who infringe on laws they didn’t know even existed. According to one review, 73% of UK users are perplexed by the copyright rules in Europe. This is a consequence of vast variations of copyright laws within countries instead of a unified law across Europe. If only we had the same legislation applicable in all countries of the EU, we would have greater clarity regarding what we are allowed to do, resulting in a much higher level of adherence to the law that we have now. Boundaries are blurred between countries with the presence of the internet, so legislative differences between countries are only going to complicate matters in creative and information sectors rather than help potential copyright holders.

Another area that needs improving is the public domain status of publicly funded works. Cultural and scientific works funded by the taxpayer do not currently belong to the public by default across all of Europe. In effect, this means that if you need to use or investigate sources of information relevant to your field of research or industry, you may have to pay to access it, even if the public has financed the research already for the sake of “benefiting the public” (i.e. you). Such “benefit” is limited only to the few who can access the content freely. Some of this content may lead to societal improvements – some of it may not. If it was freely distributable, however, we would more rapidly develop our public knowledge base, ultimately supporting the potential of more fluid societal improvements. Knowledge should not be for the privileged few. It should be for all, because as anyone in the creative or scientific professions knows, progress tends to happen sporadically and sometimes where you least expect it. If you set information free into the public sphere, you may find that people from corners of our society where you least expect it may use to information in ways that can truly make a difference to our lives. But obstruction of access to culture and knowledge most certainly won’t aid this development. On the contrary, it may be making us ignorant to changes that could have happened in a Europe with more liberal copyright laws.

At Wikimedia UK, we have gathered support from four political parties (Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Labour, and the Scottish National Party) for our arguments for the harmonisation of copyright laws in the EU. You can make a difference too by contributing to the online debate about our copyright rules in the EU. All public debate in this area is currently laying the foundation for potential legislative changes in the EU, so your voice can make a real difference. You can also contact your local MEP to ask them for their views on copyright reform and encourage them to support change.

Quick updates

Community Chat

Wikimedia Community Logo

The Wikimedia Foundation have released Hovercards as a Beta Feature on all Wikimedia wikis. Inspired by the popular Navigation Popups gadget, Hovercards present the lead paragraph and first image of any article when a user hovers over the link to the article in question.

The Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimédia France, Wikimedia Norge, and The Centre for Internet and Society have submitted Round 2 proposals to the Funds Dissemination Committee as part of its annual plan grant process.

Along with many other websites on the internet. The Wikimedia Foundation wikis were affected by the Heartbleed vulnerability discovered within the widely used cryptography library OpenSSL. It has published a blog post detailing its response and recommendation for users.

Voting by Wikimedia affiliates for the two affiliate-selected board seats on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees is open. The Wikimedia UK board invites comments from the Wikimedia UK community on the four candidates standing, before casting its preference in the election.

In memoriam of two Wikimedians


Two well known Wikimedia editors and movement activists sadly passed away in April.

Adrianne Wadewitz was well known in the Wikimedia community for among other things her activism in tackling the gender gap on Wikipedia, and her work on the Wikipedia Education Program, serving as a board member of Wiki Education Foundation. Adrianne first edited Wikipedia in 2004, and had significantly contributed to over 35 featured articles on the English Wikipedia. She served as one of the first Campus Ambassadors for the Wikipedia Education Program, and had taught two classes on collaborative work on the English Wikipedia.

Cynthia Ashley-Nelson was an administrator on the English Wikipedia, and a day before her passing had been elected vice-chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Affiliations Committee. During her time in the Wikimedia movement Cynthia had also served as a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Grant Advisory Committee and as an OTRS agent answering email queries sent in by the public. With around 33,000 edits on the English Wikipedia, she contributed significantly to biographies and articles on contemporary writing, and non-profit organisations.