Friends' Newsletter/2016/Issue 01

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Wikimedia UK Friends' Newsletter

Open Sesame![edit | edit source]


Welcome back from John, our new Communications Coordinator

Hello friends. We're sorry it's been a while but as you can appreciate, our communications have been on the back burner as we've not had a comms person for the last six months. I've been in post since the start of April as the new Communications Co-ordinator and I'll be concentrating on helping to promote WMUK's work, communicating our goals, supporting our amazing volunteers and showcasing the valuable work of our Wikimedians in Residence.

Our social media channels will be refreshed and you'll see us communicating much more on Facebook and Twitter, and I hope to be producing a lot more content and materials for people who want to engage with our projects, whether as editors, trainers, teachers or institutions. If you have ideas for Wikimedia projects you'd like to see realised or existing ones which could be promoted more with our help, please don't hesitate to talk to me about them.

Wikimedia UK wants be a central pillar of the Open Knowledge movement around the world. Two of the UK's greatest resources are its educational and cultural sectors, and by helping to make them more open and accessible to everyone no matter their social or financial situation, we can add value to the UK economy and make sure the world benefits at the same time.

It's a really exciting journey to be starting with WMUK and I hope you will join us and get involved.

John Lubbock, Communications Coordinator

The Radically Open Society[edit | edit source]

Old books on a shelf
Countries implicated in the Panama Papers leaks

As society and culture become increasingly complex, openness is becoming the new norm. By John Lubbock

One of the best things about open source software is that you know it has been peer-reviewed. Anyone can look at its code, ensure that it works and that there are no vulnerabilities or backdoors inserted by a devious company or government. The UK government’s current Investigatory Powers Bill envisages the power to serve orders on Communications Service Providers like BT and Whatsapp to provide access to their users information. If you use open source software, however, there is no company which a government can compel to modify their code.

As we create bigger and bigger stores of data, that data becomes more and more vulnerable to attack. Governments themselves need strong encryption and software which ensures the highest standards of data protection for the records they hold. It is a fundamental mistake for security services to believe that they can create vulnerabilities in software which only they can exploit.

Slowly the value of government openness is becoming clearer. A lack of openness creates a lack of public trust. Last week David Cameron moved from saying his tax affairs were a private matter to publishing his tax return within 5 days. This insistence on more government openness can only be a good thing. Just because we pride ourselves on having greater government transparency than North Korea, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t improve.

One thing I learned studying international politics and human rights is that all rights are interdependent. It is not enough to just have freedom of speech if access to that speech is unequal. To make freedom of speech work well, we need freedom of information. That’s why I’m proud to have joined Wikimedia UK, because the drive for open knowledge is an important part of making society more equal, reducing barriers to accessing services, information, software and other educational tools.

We are still at the dawn of a truly Open Society and we have a long way to go. Writing The Open Society and its Enemies in 1945, Karl Popper was mainly concerned to support the idea of Liberal Democracy against the authoritarianism of fascism and communism.

“this civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth — the transition from the tribal or "enclosed society," with its submission to magical forces, to the 'open society' which sets free the critical powers of man.” - Karl Popper

Now that Liberal Democracy has become the dominant sociopolitical system in the world, it is not time for us to rest on our laurels. This kind of system can still produce authoritarianism and corruption, and that is why we must entrench the ideal of openness in the DNA of our public and private institutions, and show them that far from being a threat, open knowledge is a positive-sum good which can benefit everyone.

Teaching with Wikipedia[edit | edit source]

A Wikipedia workshop at UC Davis in the US

By Ewan McAndrew - Wikipedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh

A recent survey by Yougov found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.

One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.

As the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.

Some years ago, I read the University of Huddersfield’s 'Engaging the Xbox Generation of Learners’ in Higher Education where they describe the concept of students ‘powering down’ or disengaging from learning because “their preferred technologies and the technological skills they have acquired are not provided for…”

Empowering learning is therefore the opposite scenario where the technologies students “use effectively outside the classroom in their personal learning and leisure are used to enhance learning in the curriculum.”

As the Wikimedian at the University of Edinburgh, my year-long residency is to further both the university’s commitment to digital literacy as well as the quantity & quality of open knowledge. More practically, this will involve delivering skills-training sessions which will fit in with and enhance, the learning & teaching within the curriculum.

Poster for a recent Art+Feminism Wikipedia editathon

Wikipedia editing sessions will be a large part of this, and we’ve just had a terrifically successful History of Medicine editathon for Innovative Learning Week which you can learn more about here: Storify - story of History of Medicine Wikipedia editathon as well as more recent editathons for Art+Feminism as part of Women’s History Month 2016.

However, the residency isn’t just about Wikipedia and there are numerous ways where staff & students can get involved & directly contribute their knowledge & expertise to develop Wikimedia UK’s diverse range of projects. More details of these projects can be found on my blog here: A smorgasbord of Wikimedia projects to choose from

Wikipedia is much more straightforward using the new Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia now as easy as using Microsoft Word. Students can be taught how to edit in up to 60mins and thereafter can research & write, with academic rigour, brand new Wikipedia articles.

Some recent examples of approaches to teaching with Wikipedia are detailed here:

  1. Teaching with Wikipedia (University of Edinburgh examples)
  2. How to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool
  3. Wikipedia Education Program - Case Studies

If you would like to know more about how Wikipedia fits in with academia then these recent articles make very compelling reading:

  1. Wikipedia 15 and education
  2. Wikipedia the digital gateway to academic research

The project page for the residency with details on upcoming events is located [Https:// of Edinburgh here].

Wikimedia Education Event[edit | edit source]

Going open (education) - Cover page.jpg

‘The future of learning is free and open.’ - New York Times

Wikimedia UK in partnership with the Learning and Work Institute is hosting a half-day Education Event in Leicester on May 21st. The event is designed to take open education forward across the schools, further education, higher education and adult education sectors

This free event is for existing Wikimedia volunteers and educators who are interested in finding out how Wikimedia projects can support learning and learners in schools, FE, HE or Adult education. Participants at the event will have the opportunity to help shape Wikimedia UK’s future direction in relation to education and learning. In particular, we are interested in expanding our work with higher education partners, and exploring the potential for pilot activities within formal education.

The event will include presentations and workshops, and is open to anyone in the education sector who would like to explore the possibility of developing pilot projects with Wikimedia UK. Wikimedians with an interest in education are also very welcome. If you'd like to attend, register on the Eventbrite page.

Awaken the Dragon![edit | edit source]

Awaken the Dragon Eng Card.jpg

We are running contests to add articles about Wales to Wikipedia throughout April. There are weekly and overall prizes for the most number of core articles expanded and stubs filled out.

Please have a look at the project page for Awaken the Dragon to see an overview of the project.

You can find stub articles to edit here, core articles here, and more information about our Welsh projects on the blog.

There will be an editathon at the National Library of Wales on April 22nd run by our Wikimedian in Residence, Jason Evans who is based at the Library.

New Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Library[edit | edit source]

A plant with green leaves and a yellow flower.
Interior of the Wellcome Library

Alice White will be starting work as Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Library in May. The Wellcome Library is one of the world’s major sources for the study of medical history. According to the Wellcome Library,

“Our collections cover so much more than the history of medicine – essentially life, death and everything in between, so there’s huge potential for improving the content on Wikipedia. We’ll also be looking at enriching other Wikimedia projects.”

Alice White knows and loves the Wellcome as a researcher (she has recently completed an AHRC-funded PhD in the history of human science in Second World War Britain). Her involvement with Wikipedia was sparked by an editathon at a Swansea conference, since which she has contributed pages and edits on psychiatrists that she wished had existed when starting out in her research.

Alice says "I’m thrilled to be taking on the role of Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome – it’s a great opportunity to help bring the Wellcome’s incredible materials to an even wider audience via Wikipedia, which is so widely known and loved."

24,000 images uploaded to Commons[edit | edit source]

User:Nilfanion has uploaded a massive cache of 24,000 images of various UK sites across 35 counties with the help of User:KTC. Please get involved and help us add them to articles on Wikipedia.

Wikimedia's projects all link up. They're like a giant brain where connections are made between different parts of the whole. Wikidata now links Wikipedia articles together so we can answer questions like 'What are the 10 largest cities with female mayors?'


It is now possible to create Wikipedia articles generated automatically from Wikidata content. Wikisource texts become richer through linking to Wikipedia articles about subjects they mention. Creating this kind of interlinked network will be vital for growing Wikimedia's projects in future, so we encourage you to get involved and help us to link Wikimedia Commons files like the ones linked to above to articles on Wikipedia.

The richness of these network links will help to improve Wikipedia's reputation for reliability and quality, as well as showing its power as a media and publishing tool. Items like data and photography will not have to be duplicated in other languages and therefore help smaller language Wikipedias progress faster. This is all important in helping to show that the Open Knowledge movement can be one of the greatest achievements of the digital age, second only to lolcats, obviously.

Volunteer Survey[edit | edit source]

Wikimedia UK 2015 Birthday panorama

WMUK ran its 2015 volunteer survey in January this year, which reported in March. The responses from volunteers and the demographic information about our community will be helpful as we try to better understand how we can communicate and assist our volunteers in their work. It’s clear from the survey that some of the organisational changes last year had an impact on our engagement with volunteers, however this is a priority for us in the future; and we were encouraged that 80% of those who responded plan to continue volunteering with WMUK. You can see the recommendations that came out of the report here, and we hope that over the course of 2016 we can positively address many of the issues raised by volunteers. Thank you to all those who participated.

Art + Feminism[edit | edit source]

ArtAndFeminism edithathon, Tate Britain, March 2016 (2)

This project, now in its third year and going from strength to strength, fell on the first weekend of March. WMUK supported six editathons around the country, at Tate Britain, the ICA, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Leeds Central Library, Goldsmiths University and the National Library of Wales. These events attracted a highly motivated audience of women of all ages, including many experts in the field of visual arts. With over 150 events in 33 countries, this initiative is an example of how tapping into an existing enthusiasm and working with a network of committed organisations, can bring non-editors to Wikimedia events and Wikipedia. At Wikimedia UK, we aim to follow up with more events with the Tate in the summer.

#FreeBassell[edit | edit source]

Events were held around the globe in support of Wikipedian Bassel Khartabil who was imprisoned in Syria in 2012 and disappeared in October 2015. The Jimmy Wales Foundation has helped organise a global campaign to find out what happened to him. They note that,

MissingBassel - Wikidata as a tool.pdf

“The #NEWPALMYRA project, co-founded by Bassel, is an online community platform and data repository dedicated to the capture, preservation, sharing and creative reuse of data about the ancient city of Palmyra.”

Palmyra has recently been recaptured by President Assad's military forces who are responsible for Bassel's disappearance, and that makes it even more ironic that Bassel's data can now be used to assess the level of damage there.

Please help to support the campaign by Tweeting with the hashtag #FreeBassel, writing about the issue to your MP using the website TheyWorkForYou and talking to anyone who might be interested about the appalling level of human rights abuses, civilian deaths and destruction of Syrian heritage which has been a product of Assad's refusal to reform his dictatorship.

Other News[edit | edit source]

Dates for the diary[edit | edit source]

You can see our full events list here.