Friends' Newsletter/2014/Issue 05
A look back at Wikimania London
A success in many different ways - a personal perspective from Chris McKenna
In May I began working for Wikimedia UK alongside Fabian Tompsett and John Cummings, with the remit of delivering Wikimania 2014 - making sure that it was the best it could be and that the UK Wikimedia community was at the heart of it. As I write this it is now early September and difficult as it is to believe, Wikimania is a month behind us. This is not a formal report on behalf of our team, but a personal reflection of those few days at the start of August from just one of its members.
Looking back now, my overwhelming feeling is one of achievement and a job well done. Indeed the highly sceptical Wikipedia Signpost that had written off the conference months in advance summed it up as "Not too bad, actually". Since the main event ended, I have spent time reading the many blogs that have been written about Wikimania, and almost every single one has positive things to say about the time the author spent at the conference, and most of them highlight different things. Whether it is the successful education pre-conference that emerged out of the "Future of Education" fringe event in June, the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere of the Barbican conservatory during the editathon, the many and varied sessions, the biggest community village ever or simply the opportunity to meet people in person you have only interacted with online. There was also the chance to renew old friendships - I met several Wikimedians for the first time since the very first Wikimania Frankfurt back in 2005 (we had a small reunion with a group photograph on the Saturday).
While I didn't get to all the sessions that I would have liked to - partly as there were so many, and partly through being responsible for behind the scenes things as well - but there was not a single bad one that I attended. Stand-outs were Katie Chan's session on transgender issues, the WMF legal team's presentation about some of the crazy copyright challenges they have received and the very fun discussion about 10 years of Wikimania. I also made far too many new friends to list them all, but it was especially nice to finally meet Erica Litrenta who I worked especially closely with on the VisualEditor feedback last summer.
Overall I have so many memories that it is hard to pick out just one to highlight as the best, but possibly it was the "Concert of Traditional British Music" after the opening ceremony. The hackathon had been going well for two days, the registration process had handled hundreds of people without melting, the volunteers were showing up and being their brilliant selves, and the opening ceremony was over without a hitch. Then seeing international Wikimedians enthusiastically dancing to music that was right up my street - it was the first time that I was confident it was going to go well.
So in conclusion, this conference was both a job well done for me professionally and a thoroughly good time for me personally. If you get the opportunity to go to Wikimania 2015 in Mexico City then jump at the chance - you won't regret it.
Wiki Loves Monuments returns
Ever thought of seeing your own photos on Wikipedia?
September is your chance to take part in our annual photography competition to improve Wikipedia. The encyclopaedia is visited by more than 500 million people every month, and needs you to help improve its photos.
Wiki Loves Monuments UK is aimed at the UK's listed buildings and ancient monuments, and started on Monday 1st September. The contest is supported by the Royal Photographic Society, English Heritage, and Wikimedia UK.
We've got lots of pictures of Tower Bridge and Stonehenge, but there's so much more of the country's heritage to celebrate. There are tens of thousands of eligible sites, so check out the UK competition website and see what's nearby. As well as prizes for the best image, we have a special prize this year for the best image of a listed building on one of the 'At Risk' registers.
It doesn't matter when your photos are taken so long as they're uploaded during September 2014. If you took some stunning pictures back in April, or five years ago, you can still upload them.
In line with the charitable and educational aims of the contest, you'll need to agree to release your entries under a free licence allowing them to be freely used by anyone for any purpose, including Wikipedia. You retain copyright, and can require anyone using your images to attribute them to you as photographer.
Help us show off your local history!
Review: Open Knowledge Festival 2014
Stuart Lawson report on this year's OKFest
In July I travelled to Berlin for the Open Knowledge Festival (OKFest) 2014. Along with Wikimania and Mozfest, this is one the largest global gatherings of the open movement. For three days over 1,000 people working in open data, open government, open research, open culture, and a range of other areas of open knowledge, met up to share their insights and take projects forward. It was a very stimulating environment to be in because everyone I spoke to was actively working to open up the world's knowledge.
Aside from the morning keynotes, all sessions were participatory sessions facilitated by members of the community. The first one I attended was run by Penny Andrews, who also received a scholarship from Wikimedia UK to attend, called Enabling Reliable Narrators: Opening up Openness beyond the Usual Suspects. This was a stimulating discussion about how and why the open movement needs to embrace the diversity within it and enable participation from people who might be marginalised, such as people with disabilities. As always with events like this there were many interesting sessions running at once so I wasn't able to attend Building the open coalition - developing a wider community of open, but it certainly generated a positive response (as with all sessions, notes are available on an etherpad).
One of the joys of an event covering such a wider range of topics is that it's possible to discover new areas of interest that you might not be exposed to otherwise. I attended an Open Design Definition workshop, and while design is not an area I know much about it was fascinating to see how designers approach the notion of 'openness'. They have a strong emphasis on the process of design and rigorously documenting it - much like Wikimedia projects, where the thought processes demonstrated in talk pages and edit histories are an important part of the projects themselves.
Despite having such an interesting programme it was the conversations in between that really made the festival special. Meeting people who I previously knew only from their Twitter handle or Wikipedia username is always a pleasure! Many an hour was spent discussing future projects, and several of us met up again a couple of days later at Wikimania's Open Scholarship Weekend in London to start work on a project to import citation data into Wikidata - to be continued at the Wikimania Hackathon and beyond.
Working with GLAMs, Working with Wikimedia
In early June a slightly different kind of GLAM:Wiki workshop was held in Edinburgh. No new content was uploaded, no new user accounts were created, and no articles were edited throughout the entirety of a four-hour event. Part symposium, part open forum, this event was focused instead on introducing GLAMs to the ins and outs of collaborating with Wikimedia in a more direct and dialogic approach. It is a type of event that I would encourage other Wikimedians in Residence, or Ambassadors, or Wikimedians in any capacity, to replicate. This is especially true if you happen to be located in an 'outpost' community within your local chapter, where awareness is not nearly as high. This was certainly the case in Scotland until relatively recently.
Having now been in position as Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland for a year, I have come to expect that a significant part of the job involves reaching out to other GLAM organisations, particularly in Scotland where outreach has been much less expansive, and introducing them to the prospect of a collaboration with Wikimedia, and what that might look like. It's a conversation that I've had so frequently, I have been able to identify certain trends that emerge: general enthusiasm, certain anxiety, and ultimately, the almost unpredictable result of action or inaction on the part of the GLAM. Encouraging collaboration is one thing; making it happen is another, and unfortunately enthusiasm only translates into tangible collaboration a fraction of the time.
This workshop, then, aimed to capitalise on the enthusiasm to build towards more GLAM:Wiki collaborations in Scotland. The workshop was announced through mailing lists, social media, and established GLAM contacts, and generated a good deal of interest. Though most ScotWiki events tend to be on the smaller side, for this workshop the 11 participants (representing nine different organisations, mostly from around Glasgow and Edinburgh) demonstrated a solid interest, and many more contacts expressed regret that they could not attend.
After the usual introduction to GLAM:Wiki collaborations – what it is, what it has achieved, what the various benefits have been and can be – the workshop spent some time outlining the existing GLAM:Wiki event arsenal. Attendees were introduced to what exactly an Edit-a-thon was, how it differed from a backstage pass or a photographic expedition, and what was involved in putting together each type of event. What was most important about this workshop, though, is that this was not at all the focus of the day.
Far more important were the open discussions and breakout groups that were held throughout the rest of the afternoon. Fuelled by tea, coffee, and (of course) ample biscuits, participants were challenged to answer questions as well: what was motivating them, not only with regards to their interest in Wikimedia but in their jobs, more generally? What were they trying to achieve, and where might Wikimedia fit within that goal? Knowing more about the type of events typically run in collaboration with Wikimedia, what potential concerns or barriers did they see arising from an attempt to run such an event? The discussion provoked by these questions centred largely on workload and concerns about support, both from Wikimedia UK and from within the organisation, but the dominant point of view seemed overwhelmingly to be that it was an avenue worth pursuing, and that getting the information to the right people was a shared central goal on both parts. But definitely the most valuable aspect of the workshop, from my perspective as the organiser, were the breakout groups and the discussion that followed them.
In smaller groups, the participants were asked to brainstorm ways that their organisation could collaborate with Wikimedia – not only through the usual methods, but in any way they could think of – to sketch out best- and worst-case scenarios, and to outline a plan to make sure that collaboration happened. In addition to incorporating Wikimedia events into existing exhibition plans or scheduled events, one participant proposed collaborating with Wikidata as part of an initiative to improve collections metadata internally. Another wondered whether it would be possible to use Wikimedia Commons as a place to record multimedia responses to exhibitions or events, capturing the cultural moment in a much more vivid and intimate medium than is usually offered by programmes, reviews, or exhibition catalogues.
This discussion only further underlined the importance of conceptualising GLAM:Wiki collaborations as a mutual partnership. In a job that often focuses on numbers and metrics – how many images uploaded, how many new users, how many articles improved, what was the measurable benefit for the organisation and what was the measurable benefit for Wikimedia – it can be easy to overlook the importance of developing relationships with GLAM organisations that go beyond an exchange of content for increased web traffic. Wikimedia opens up a whole new prospect for GLAMs not only in terms of dissemination of their content, but in its generation and its conservation. It can provide a whole new cultural context not previously available. Likewise, GLAMs can offer Wikimedia new insight into the types of information that it can (and should?) make available, part of a continuous re-imagining of what we mean when we talk about 'the sum of all human knowledge'.
Opinion: Does Wikimania save lives?
Fabian Tompsett reminisces over Wikimania
I was just coming to the end of a four-month stint working for Wikimedia UK helping to deliver Wikimania 2014 at London's Barbican Centre. It was all quite exciting and as The Signpost put it was "not too bad, actually". In the whirl of events seeing dozens of hackers bringing hacking home to Hackney, hunched over their laptops, while other devotees were busy tweeting, it became all too easy to miss some key aspects of the event, and so to fail to recognise that Wikimania contributed to saving lives.
Wikipedia is not just a website, it is also a somewhat heterogeneous international community which thrives on face-to-face encounters in meatspace. For myself my involvement gained an extra dimension when I started attending the regular London Meetups six years ago. It was meeting other human beings rather than tapping away while staring at a computer screen which made it interesting.
So, this August the London Meetup page modestly subsumes Wikimania within its calendar of monthly events, within an expansion to a three day event with between 2,000 and 4,000 attendees (so much for "British understatement"). But in essence it is the face-to-face interactions outside the formal sessions which make Wikimania such a powerful event. I don't want to be dismissive about the formal sessions and all the hard work which went into them, it is just that I want to focus on the other aspects and use this to show why I believe Wikimania saves lives.
A couple of weeks after Wikimania a discussion opened up on the Wikimedia Ghana list which spoke of an initiative by Carl Fredrik Sjöland of the Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine who have teamed up with Translators Without Borders to set up a translation taskforce. As they explained a couple of years ago "We believe that all people deserve high quality healthcare content in their own language." Faced with the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa the focus of these activities has shifted to finding people to translate information about Ebola into the relevant indigenous languages. There is something similar happening through the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team who have also been very active developing mapping resources for the medics on the ground.
I had hoped to make it to the OpenStreetMap 10th Birthday Party (the London celebrations were held nearby, to coincide with Wikimania) but I got caught up in other things and only arrived after most of the people had left. But that was precisely what Wikimania was like: you find out more and more about it in the aftermath.
Another aspect I found out afterwards was Denny's comments on A new metric for Wikimedia where he discusses the availability of Wikipedia in different languages. Considering the recent Ebola outbreak above, this is not just a "nice idea", but something which requires support now. Often it is not so much getting hold of finances, but finding a way in which those people with the relevant language skills can be linked up with and given the resources to make things happen.
An important aspect of this is that the speakers of these languages are not just passive recipients of knowledge generated in the geographical north. They can also contribute their own knowledge. This also touches on the notion of cognitive justice as developed by Shiv Visvanathan in The search for cognitive justice
Cognitive justice is not a lazy kind of insistence that every knowledge survives as is, where is. It is an idea which is actually more playful in the sense the Dutch historian Johann Huizinga suggested when he said play transcends the opposition of the serious and the non-serious. Play seeks encounters, the possibilities of dialogue, of thought experiments, a conversation of cosmologies and epistemologies. A historical model that comes to mind is the dialogue of medical systems, where doctors once swapped not just their theologies but their cures. As A. L. Basham put it, the dialogue of medicines, each based on a different cosmology, was never communal or fundamentalist. It recognized incommensurability but allowed for translation.
This is a viewpoint which has been taken up in what is called Open ICT for Development, where "openness" is understood to include the the participation of communities in the governance of their own lives.
So what I found out in the aftermath of Wikimania is the question: Does Wikimania save lives? Can it help people get together and come up with practical methods by which people get in touch and existing initiatives can find that they are taken to a higher level? Will it have an affect in this example and save lives? So in this sense Wikimania is not over. It's legacy depends on what action people take in its aftermath.
So I am writing this post because I want you to see if there is something you can do to help either the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team or the Translation taskforce find more support for their projects in fighting Ebola.
The GLAM-Wiki Revolution
During Wikimania 2014, we were lucky enough to be able to screen our documentary about the GLAM-Wiki programme in the UK. The film brings together interviews with some of the Wikimedians in Residence from institutions across the country – and with Wikimedia UK staff. We want it to function as an outreach tool – as a way of teaching people about the GLAM programme, but also as a celebration of the work of so many volunteers and paid Wikimedians in Residence.
Over the coming weeks we will be sharing additional content from this project, written interviews and shorter videos which will also be published through Wikimedia UK’s channels. We will also be releasing some of the source footage on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
Training the Trainers programme
Interested in teaching others how to edit?
As a part of Wikimedia UK's remit to support Wikimedia outreach projects and develop volunteer skills, we deliver a series of workshops as part of our Train the Trainers programme where volunteer Wikimedians are taught to deliver effective training. Whether you are new to delivering training, or are already delivering professional-quality training, there is something for you to gain from attending this. All we ask for is a credible commitment to support training at future Wikimedia UK events.
The course focuses on enabling the participants to develop and deliver high quality training which draws on their own skills and expertise. You can then apply these skills whenever you run a training session. Note that this is about training, not presenting, so we will not be focusing on developing content of presentations on any particular Wikimedia project. By the end of the course the participants will be able to:
- Set training objectives and structure a session with appropriate material to meet those objectives
- Present information clearly to different audiences and use visual aids effectively
- Identify ways to make the sessions interactive and participative and deal with questions.
As a part of the course you will also be receiving an hour long 1:1 telephone feedback session. This provides the opportunity to discuss your performance and reactions to the course privately. It promotes intense reflection and rounded learning. The participants will also be able to:
- Recognise the importance of diversity in the training context
- Respond appropriately to the needs of volunteer trainers
- Understand the impact of different learning and communication styles when designing and delivering training
- Use active listening to guide their interaction with participants
- Give effective and appropriate feedback to other participants.
More details and sign up can be found at Training the Trainers/November 2014 event
A revamped mobile app for Wikipedia is now live for iOS and Android. Though considered an upgrade on the previous versions by the App Store, the revamped app was rewritten from scratch with a complete redesign. The most notable change is the ability to edit Wikipedia directly through the app, allowing changes to be made quickly.
The Wikimedia Foundation has released its first transparency report. The report detailed requests to the Wikimedia Foundation for content alteration, user data, and DMCA takedown notices, including highlighting a number of specific requests that were received.
As part of its grantmaking program for individuals or small teams, the Wikimedia Foundation has open calls for proposal for its Individual Engagement Grants program. Proposals must be from either an individual or team of up to 4 individuals, for a project scoped to 6 months renewable for 6 more, for a maximum of $30,000 aimed at improving one or more of Wikimedia's existing websites.
Annual General Meeting
The 2014 Annual General Meeting of Wikimedia UK took place at the Barbican Centre in London on Saturday 9 August. At the AGM, a review of the charity's activities over the last year were presented, as well as a number of resolutions proposed and voted on. The members present and by proxy approved two special resolutions proposed by the board, the first to simplify paragraph 16.3 of the charity's Articles without a change in its meaning, and the second fixing an upper time limit of six years for continuous trustee service. In addition to the two special resolutions, five ordinary resolutions were proposed by the board:
- A motion to enact Article 30 relating to charity registration in Scotland
- Appointments of elected candidates to the Board of Trustees
- Noting of the charity's annual report and accounts
- Maintaining of membership fees at its current level of £5 per year for individual members and £100 per year for members organisations
- Reappointment of Messrs UHY Hacker Young as auditors of the charitable company until the conclusion of the next AGM
were also approved. A final motion proposed by a member of the charity failed to receive a majority.
Wikimedia UK annual awards
The UK Wikimedian of the Year is an annual award given by Wikimedia UK to thank those in the UK or abroad who have helped the UK Wikimedia movement. The 2014 winners were announced by Jimmy Wales during the Wikimania 2014 closing ceremony at the Barbican Centre.
Two Honourable Mention awards were presented this year. The first one to the British Library for the release at the end of last year of over a million images of 17th, 18th, and 19th century books that were digitised in a partnership with Microsoft in 2008. Andy Mabbett received the second award in recognition of his many Wikimedia contribution including the founding of the Voice Intro Project – a project to make audio recordings in which Wikipedia subjects speak their name and introduce themselves.
The Educational Institution of the Year is the University of Portsmouth. Last year Professor Humphrey Southall who worked on the Vision of Britain project, a gazetteer pulling together a collection of historical sources and statistics on British geography, ran a course in which first year students each chose a short article on a village in northern England and expanded it.
The National Library of Scotland received the GLAM of the Year award for launching the first ever Wikimedian-in-Residence programme in Scotland. The Residency has established a self-sustaining and long-lasting relationship between the Library and the Wikimedia community, and has encouraged the growth of the Wikimedia community in Scotland more generally.
Wikimania 2014's Conference Director Ed Saperia was award the overall UK Wikimedian of the Year award for his work bringing together dozens of organisations and hundreds of volunteers to make Wikimania in London a reality.
In the next week, the chapter will be conducting a very short survey to get a snapshot into why you may or may not be currently volunteering for Wikimedia UK, how the chapter can better support its existing volunteers, and what we can do to recruit more people into volunteering.
Wikimedia UK is a charity driven by volunteers, who run and support initiatives in furtherance of our goals, who represent the chapter to the public, and who give their time contributing to discussions and consultations about the work of the chapter. Without you, our volunteers, we would not be here. There are always ways for us to do better in how we support you, and we want to know how you think we should do that.
That's why this survey is so important. It will take two minutes of your time but over the coming months the results will make the service volunteers receive better, and hopefully keep people more involved in a way that is personalised and productive for them. You will receive a separate email inviting you to participate next week - do give it your attention and take the time to have your say about how the charity should better serve you in the future.