Friends' Newsletter/2014/Issue 03

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Wikimedia UK Friends' Newsletter

Message from a Trustee: Carol Campbell

Carol Campbell at the office

I have been a trustee for Wikimedia UK since October last year, and am one of the board members recruited for their independent expertise, not because of my editing or techie expertise. My biggest challenge so far has been learning 'the wiki way' and eight months in I still feel very new.

I was co-opted onto the board for my expertise in running charities and I have had chief executive jobs in organisations as diverse as a hospice and a cathedral. I joined the board because I think that the open knowledge agenda is very important for the future of the 'world', giving people from all countries access to the same information and hopefully supporting education in areas where traditional textbooks are hard to find.

Despite having this overarching blue-sky vision my work for Wikimedia UK is focused around the areas that I have either knowledge or expertise in. At the moment I am working 'off the board' in three main areas.

I am a member of and currently chair the Audit and Risk Committee that reviews accounts, risk assessments, financial policies and procedures etc before they go to the full board.

I am also a member of the Technology Committee which is a group a volunteers who look after the tech side of Wikimedia UK, including software, hardware, bug filing, spam blocking etc. This committee is looking at two big projects at the moment, firstly a project to help develop the software to support quantitative data analysis to enable us to monitor the quality aspects of our strategic plan and reporting to the foundation. The second project is one that I am trying to champion, and that is accessibility of the websites. I am myself visually impaired, and struggle with Wikimedia UK's wiki. Having commented on this I quickly found the project residing with me. Although it is easy to think that making a website accessible is only for the blind there are many other disabilities which mean that people need help to access what many consider basic information – for example dyslexics who need to be able to change text size and colour, epileptics who can't cope with lots of flashing adverts etc on the screen, people with dexterity problems who need large clear buttons.

The final area I am involved in is helping Katie support the volunteers without whom Wikimedia UK could not function. The strategy recently developed and approved by the board of trustees is very clear that Wikimedia UK is and will remain a volunteer led organisation. I have had a lot of experience in working with volunteers but it is very different working with the cathedral flower guild compared to working with the Wikimedia UK volunteers. We currently have a small working group but we would like to expand this to include more of our current volunteers, so if anyone would like to help please contact either Katie or me.

Carol can be contacted by email to

Run-up to Wikimania

Barbican Foyer Area

Find out what is happening in preparation for Wikimania

Wikimania 2014 is being held in London and we're making sure that the opportunity this brings is not wasted. Wikimania 2014 is not just about what happens at the main festival in August - throughout June and July there is a series of events in the run up to the main festival:

We shall also be running an event for Wikimedian volunteers on Saturday 12th July. This will be a great opportunity for you to participate in shaping Wikimedia UK's contribution to Wikimania 2014 and help make it a true community event. There are also plenty of opportunities for Wikimedians to get involved organising fringe events just before and after the main Wikimania Festival.

Please get in touch with Katie if you would like more information about volunteering, and Wikimedia UK's Wikimania Support Team at the office if you would like us to help with Fringe events.

Chance to checkout the Barbican

If you want a chance to have a look round the Barbican, a group of Wikimedians will be taking an informal tour on Sunday 8th June, before taking a short stroll down to the London Meet Up: check out more details here.

Review: Zürich Hackathon

Group photo of the attendees of the 2014 Wikimedia Hackathon in Zürich

Two attendees report on their experience of the Wikimedia's annual development community meet-up

Reminiscence of Stwalkerster

The Wikimedia Hackathon is an annual event which this year found itself in Zurich, Switzerland. The Hackathon is a yearly event for the developer community (and non-developers!) to get together and learn, develop, and generally build some really cool stuff for the projects. Organised by Wikimedia CH, many other chapters including Wikimedia UK helped with the travel and accommodation costs of the attendees, allowing more people to go who otherwise would not be able to.

Most of the attendees were developers, a large portion were Wikimedia staff, but everyone had a laptop and was working on something cool. While there were a lot of people from the US attending, there were people from all over the world. One of the best things about having so many people from different backgrounds there means you get involved in discussions on many, many different topics – from the future of code review tools to the design of the new icons for Huggle.

With a wide array of workshops and tutorials, there's a lot to be learnt, and there's always the opportunity to wander across to another area and just ask someone for help! A lot of people will spend time working on their own projects, but it's a great opportunity to introduce other people to your work, and get them interested in helping you out with it. Likewise, it's a great opportunity to get an introduction to other projects that you find interesting, or even get a general idea of how something like Wikidata works and the sort of things that can be done with the machine-readable data. One example that I saw was pulling a Game of Thrones family tree from Wikidata, essentially revealing an entire plot line!

Another large focus seemed to be on maps this year, with a good number of people either interested in or actively involved with mapping technologies, open maps, and integrating this into MediaWiki – and an extension which added a map-template namespace with a visual editor too for placemarks appeared, allowing locations, paths and areas to be edited within MediaWiki and transcluded onto other pages.

Being able to meet so many new people, and catch up with those I've previously met, as well as putting nicknames to faces is one of the best things about the Hackathon. So much experience and knowledge is pooled in one place, just ready to be shared!

Report by Addshore

This year the Wikimedia Hackathon was held in Zürich, Switzerland in 2014 from May 9-11 2014. The organization of the event was great. From lanyards and badges that included a USB memory stick to a city map and a ticket for public transport, Wikimedia Switzerland had prepared a fantastic hackathon.

More than 150 developers, engineers, sysadmins, and technology enthusiasts gathered coming from more than 30 countries aiming to share knowledge about new and existing technologies, fix bugs, come up with new ideas and work together on tools and systems relating to the Wikimedia movement.

As the name suggests a lot of time at a hackathon is spent 'hacking' (coding and such). There are also workshops available on all days. This year these workshops and talks included multiple sessions on 'Vagrant' working toward a production like development system, 'Open data' looking at Wikidata and government open data as well as sessions of 'Phabricator' and 'Jenkins'.

Hackathons are not just a place to hack, but they provide people with a crucial time to allow people with different specialisms and interests to meet each other in person, put faces to names and names to pseudonyms, to build relationships and in turn build the movement.

Have a look at photos from the hackathon here

Social Machines Weekend

Day one of the Social Machines weekend, featuring a teleconference with Philippe Beaudette, Director of Community Advocacy at the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Wikimania 2014 fringe programme kicked off with a successful first event on the 24 and 25 of May when the Barbican Centre played host to a weekend of discussion about Social Machines.

Social machines are the interaction between humans and machines that produce output that would not be possible without both of them - Wikipedia is a large example. Discussions at the largely free-form event ranged over a broad variety of topics and included the granularity of Wikimedia projects and how both the whole and several portions can each be regarded as a social machine.

Also discussed were the many emergent aspects of Wikipedia - things that have organically grown up within and around the encyclopaedia rather than being planned. Examples include WikiProjects, the Signpost internal newspaper, chapters and thematic organisations, edit counters, Wikimedian associations such as inclusionists and deletionists, the various WikiFauna like trolls, gnomes and giants and real-word meetups.

Structure to the event was provided by the teleconferences with several key people in the Wikimedia Foundation:

The thing that most sticks in my mind from the event came from Philippe's introduction to his Community Advocacy department when he noted that they deal with around 60 threats from people to harm either themselves or others. While most of those are fortunately blatantly false, Wikipedia is responsible for directly and indirectly saving lives.

The rest of the fringe programme should be just as good, if not better, than this event so come along and get involved.

Falling to pieces: Wikipedia and history

Smoke coming out of Krak des Chevaliers in 2013

Article originally written by Richard Nevell, Wikimedia UK's Assistant Office Manager

Ruins are fascinating. From the columns of ancient Greece to the shattered remains of Coventry Cathedral, they evoke all sorts of emotions. Wonder, incredulity, nostalgia, reverence. During the 18th and 19th centuries they helped inspire romanticism. There's been an exhibition about them at Tate Britain: Ruin Lust. However, the descent into ruin is a traumatic event.

In March 2014 the BBC reported on the damage suffered by Krak des Chevaliers, a 13th-century crusader castle in Syria and a World Heritage Site. The damage inflicted during the Syrian civil war contrasted with the view of T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, more than a century earlier, who described it as "perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world". Reasonable praise from a man who wrote a dissertation on the subject and got a First from Oxford.

While the castle still stands, one of the most important historic sites in Syria, and a piece of international history, did not escape unscathed. The BBC report shows the damage on the Hall of the Knights, a building of elegance and finery in what appears from the outside an emphatically military complex. Wikipedia has an excellent photo of the hall and it contrasts with the present state. It's one of nine pictures on Commons of the hall, images which have gained importance as historic documents because of the changes the site has since undergone. That picture, taken in 2009 by User:High Contrast and uploaded four years later as part of Wiki Loves Monuments. Without that competition, the image may never have come to light, but now is a valuable addition to the collection of free images.

As one of the most famous castles in the world, Krak des Chevaliers is well documented in English, and much better in French. But what about less celebrated sites? In May 2012 two earthquakes struck northern Italy. Included in the damaged caused as the Rocca Estense. The Italian Wikipedia naturally has an article on the 14th-century castle, but sadly no other Wikipedias do. However, Commons hosts nine pictures of the castle, six in its state before the earthquake. Three of those images were uploaded as a result of Wiki Loves Monuments, two of them documenting the castle pre-2012.

War and earthquakes may seem a world away from the UK, but our environment is always changing. High-profile historic sites are curated and maintained, but the sheer number means that many fall into disrepair. There are more than 1,000 entries on English Heritage's buildings at risk register. While archaeological groups may perform photographic surveys, Wikimedia Commons offers the chance for heritage to be preserved in a way everyone can share.

Next time you're out with you're out with your camera, maybe you can help preserve a piece of history.

Wikimania volunteering opportunities

Your Wikimania needs you!

Help make Wikimania a great conference!

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in Wikimania; we will need volunteers in the run-up to the conference and to help with the smooth running of Wikimania itself. For most tasks you don't need to be a Wikipedia editor and you don't need any experience - just a willingness to help! We need volunteers to:

  • Talk to the public about Wikipedia
  • Teach people to edit Wikipedia
  • Moderate sessions (making sure the sessions run smoothly)
  • Tweet about the day's events and spread the word via other social media
  • Video sessions and help with any technical issues
  • Direct people to and around the venue and to be on-hand in the hotels
  • Meet and greet speakers
  • Assist attendees as they arrive into the UK
  • Talk to the media
  • Staff the registration desk
  • And other general tasks to help with the smooth-running of the conference.

If you're based in the UK, or you're a British citizen living abroad, and you would like financial support to attend Wikimania, Wikimedia UK may be able to provide you with a scholarship to help with your registration fee, or with the costs of travel and/or accommodation. Applications are open until 15 June. For more details, including how to apply, please see this section on the water cooler or contact Katie at

What happens when you release photos on Wikimedia Commons?

Seagulls nesting at Conwy Castle used by Nature Cymru

Written by Mike Peel and originally published on the Wikimedia UK blog

I started making my photographs available on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons licence in 2006. Since then, I have uploaded over 3,500 photos to Commons, and I plan to upload many thousands more in the future. The main reason I started to upload my photos was to illustrate Wikipedia articles, and that's still a big reason why I have continued doing so. However, only 16% of the images I've uploaded are currently used on the Wikimedia projects. So, why am I continuing to upload so many images?

My hope is that, in the long run, my photos will help preserve history. I hope that they will provide a record of the state of things today to others looking back at this time in the future, in a similar way to how we look at 50-year-old photos today. I want to make sure that those looking back on our history don't have to worry about the copyright of those images, but can freely use them in their own projects.

However, there is a great shorter-term outcome that keeps me motivated to continue uploading my photographs: how people have been making use of my photos today in ways I never anticipated when uploading them. Some examples of this (amongst many others) include:

  • In December 2007 I took a photo of the London Eye; I uploaded it to Commons a month later. I was taken aback in August 2008 when I got an email out of the blue from a couple who had recently gotten engaged on the London Eye – they'd found my photo and loved it so much that they had it printed on canvas. Due to a mistake by the delivery company, they accidentally received two copies of it – so they got in touch with me and sent me the extra copy! To this day this print acts as a focal point for my flat.
  • At Science Online London 2011, which took place at the British Library, I took a photo of Michael Nielsen. The photo was subsequently published by the New York Times, with Michael Nielsen letting me know that this had happened.
  • More recently, I was contacted by Nature Cymru who wanted to let me know that they had used one of my photos in their latest edition – a picture of seagulls nesting in Conwy Castle. I uploaded this photo as part of a series of photos I took of Conwy Castle, and this was the photo I expected to be of least use – but it turned out to be the first of this set of photos to be reused.

One of the lessons I've learnt throughout this is that, realistically, no-one respects the licence that your photo is licensed under – they'll simply use it for their purposes. If you try to keep full copyright of your photo and deny people the use of the image, then you'll be ignored – but if you release it under a free license then you'll be able to reasonably ask for proper attribution. Also, people will generally go out of their way to let you know that they are using your image under a free license, if you ask them to, but if you restrict the use of the image then they'll simply use it without letting you know.

Quick updates

Community Chat

Wikimedia Community Logo

The Wikimedia Foundation has announced the selection of the CyrusOne facility in Dallas/Carrollton as the location for its new data center following a public request for proposals last year. CyrusOne will serve as the Wikimedia Foundation's secondary data center and the fallback in case of unavailability of its primary data center in Ashburn, Virginia.

A new privacy policy has been approved by the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees, following a call for input last year. The new privacy policy will come into force on Friday 6 June.

A request for proposals is ongoing for an individual or organisation to manage the release of MediaWiki for third-party non-Wikimedia Foundation users. The deadline for proposals is Friday 13 June.

Swedish Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons volunteer Albin Olsson has written about his experience filming and photographing at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. Using equipment from Wikimedia Sveriges technology pool, Albin was able to record all competing artists ahead of the final ensuring that there were photos and a video presentation of the winner on Wikimedia Commons no matter who had won in the end.

Wikimedia Foundation and Creative Commons announce new chiefs

Lila Tretikov, April 2014

Lila Tretikov has been named as the new Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, taking over from Sue Gardner on 1 June. Born in the Soviet Union before emigrating to the United States of America as a teenager, Lila attended the Lomonosov Moscow State University and University of California, Berkeley. Most recently, Lila worked as Chief Product Officer of SugarCRM, Inc., a company that develops customer relationship management software. Before SugarCRM, she founded a company call GrokDigital, and worked for Sun Microsystems and Telespree.

Creative Commons new Chief Executive Officer is to be Ryan Merkley, previously chief operating officer of the Mozilla Foundation. Creative Commons is the organisation behind the popular Creative Commons licenses used by many organisations, individuals, and projects worldwide including Wikipedia. Founded in 2001, Creative Commons is based in Mountain View, California.