Friends' Newsletter/2017/Issue 01
Full steam ahead 2017![edit | edit source]
Welcome to our first newsletter of 2017. The world may be weathering some stormy political seas at the moment, but we are ploughing on with our important work to democratise information and allow the world to educate itself for free.
At the end of 2016, we were delighted to partner with the BBC for #100wikiwomen. Women make up fewer than 17% of biographies on Wikipedia and our partnership with the BBC’s 100 Women series aimed to raise awareness of the gender gap, encourage more people to edit and improve coverage of women. You can read our Chief Executive’s blog post about this project here.
Whilst we continue our drive to tackle the gender gap on the English Wikipedia - with our first editathon of the year at Senate House with the Women’s Classical Committee - the Welsh Wikipedia recently passed a very significant landmark. As of December 2016, its biographies are roughly evenly split between men and women, which is a fantastic achievement that we are very proud of. Wicipedia Cymraeg is the largest Wikipedia to achieve gender balance and we hope this sets a wonderful precedent for others (including the English Wikipedia!)
We are pleased to announce the appointment of our new Membership, Fundraising and Operations Assistant, Nicola Furness, and our new part time Finance Assistant, Richard Matthews, plus the first ever Scottish Gaelic Wikimedian in Residence, which you can read more about below. We are looking forward to an important year ahead for the Wikimedia community, as we gear up for the Education Summit at Middlesex University, the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin, and of course Wikimania 2017.
Wikimedia movement strategy to 2030[edit | edit source]
By Lucy Crompton-Reid, Chief Executive, Wikimedia UK
For 16 years, Wikimedians have worked together to build the largest free knowledge resource in human history, growing from a small group of editors to a diverse network of editors, developers, affiliates, readers, donors, and partners. Today, Wikimedia is more than a group of websites but a movement rooted in values and a powerful vision.
This year the Wikimedia Foundation is facilitating the development of a new long term strategy for the global Wikimedia movement, and is currently recruiting for a number of paid, part-time posts for existing members of the Wikimedia community to support the strategy development process. These are advertised on the Foundation's website here under Community Engagement.
As part of the global steering committee shaping the design of the community strategy consultation, I’m excited about the discussions that will be taking place this year to inform a new strategic direction for the Wikimedia movement. There will be multiple ways to participate including on-wiki, in private spaces, and in-person meetings, with an online consultation scheduled to be launched in March. I will be highlighting key dates via the UK mailing list but you may also want to watch the movement strategy page. In the meantime, many thanks to those of you who responded to my request for input into the process last autumn, which I fed back to the Foundation and which has informed their thinking. I look forward to further rich conversations with people both within and outside of the Wikimedia movement in the UK over the next few months.
Women in Classics editathon with the Women’s Classical Committee[edit | edit source]
On Monday 23rd of January we held an editathon at Senate House, London, in partnership with the Women’s Classical Committee. Founded in 2015, the Committee aims to support women in Classics and promote feminist approaches to classical studies.
The event was organised after following an earlier event organised by Claire Millington of King’s College London with the Institute of Classical Studies in 2014. Last year, Claire was invited to talk about the initiative to the newly formed Women's Classical Committee as a way to improve awareness of women in classics. The WCC was excited by the idea of working with Wikimedia projects and a group of them decided to get the ball rolling.
Working with a group of academics who know their subject and are experienced researchers made for a very successful event, and we managed to significantly increase the percentage of biographies of classicists of women.
“For me the most valuable part of the day was seeing academics enthusiastically and rapidly gaining confidence in editing the encyclopedia, and how this translates into improving one of the worlds most widely-used reference sources", said Claire Millington, a doctoral student at KCL.
"As academics we're keenly aware of the need to evaluate the sources we and our students use. Getting involved in Wikipedia editing is a great way of ensuring that the most publicly accessible material about our disciplines is factually correct, well referenced, and represents our subjects in an up to date and reliable way. It's also a lot of fun."
The Women’s Classical Committee now plans to take their editing further: "We're holding monthly editing sessions online - add Women’s Classical Committee to your watchlist for details!"
Asking librarians to edit Wikipedia: #1Lib1Ref[edit | edit source]
Wikipedia uses references to make sure the information on its pages is verifiable. Want to know more about something or double check for yourself? You can click on the footnote for more details. But not everything on Wikipedia has a reference, so in January and February we have been asking librarians to take 5 minutes to edit Wikipedia.
The #1Lib1Ref campaign kicked off on 15th January (Wikipedia’s 16th birthday). Since then librarians including that at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, and Leeds have helped improve Wikipedia. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, the Scottish Library and Information Council, and Research Libraries UK have all shared the campaign on social media. Once someone makes an edit, they then share it on social media.
Campaigns like #1Lib1Ref are important to mainstream the idea of including Wikipedia editing as part of the everyday workflow of information professionals like librarians and archivists. People who work in education, academic and knowledge or information production more generally make ideal editors because of the wealth of knowledge they have access to and the skills they've learned. A book that sits on a shelf is important for those who can access it physically, but referencing the content of that book on Wikipedia makes its information more easily discoverable to those who are digitally connected, meaning that it can reach and benefit many more people.
#1Lib1Ref is an international project and runs until the end of 3rd February. So far 800 people have made more than 4,000 edits across 15 languages. That’s an incredible effort!
Wondering what all the fuss is about? The University of Edinburgh’s Wikimedian in Residence prepared this video showing how to take part.
Why copyright is not made for non-profit charities[edit | edit source]
By John Lubbock and Stuart Prior, Communications Coordinator and Project Coordinator
A few months ago I was introduced to one of the managers of the Rio Cinema in Dalston, one of London’s few remaining independent and socially conscious cinemas.
The cinema has a collection of around 10,000 colour slides of photos taken by local Hackney school children between about 1980 and the early 1990s. These slides have sat unused in their filing cabinets since then collecting dust.
Of course, as an independent cinema they never considered the commercial implications of copyright, and never asked the children to sign release forms, assuming that the cinema would be able to use them however they liked.
When we started talking to the Rio about the possibility of digitising this archive and uploading it to Commons, it quickly became clear that copyright would be an issue.
I emailed with a contact at the Intellectual Property Office, who advised me to make an orphan works application. To apply for an Orphan Work license costs £20 for one item, and £80 for 30 items. I didn’t think that making 10,000 Orphan Works applications would be cost effective.
So here we are, an archive of important historical documents taken by children over 25 years ago cannot be used in the public interest because we cannot find the original authors and we cannot apply for 10,000 orphan works licenses.
Copyright law in its current form works for large rightsholders organisations, but doesn’t work for individual creators and users of creative works.
Orphan works are an area where potential financial interests are strongly protected. However there is little or no evidence showing that this remunerates the creators or acts as an incentive for them to create at all.
Our natural desire to share images, for no other reason than their potential interest to others, like we all do online on a daily basis, is often at odds with a law that hasn’t caught up with the public’s expectations.
So there isn’t a question over the Rio’s right to display a collection of images that have been sitting, forgotten in a cardboard box for decades, if they genuinely can’t find the authors. But the arbitrary costs associated with doing so mean that it is impossible to do, and keeps valuable social history about an area from its own residents.
We obviously have a lot of work to do to mainstream the idea of Open Licenses and to show their potential social value. Unfortunately, this value is hard to quantify monetarily, and it remains difficult to get a hearing for our ideas in a world dominated by large corporations.
Adding a Stone to the Cairn - Building Wikipedia in Scottish Gaelic[edit | edit source]
By Dr Susan Ross, Gaelic Wikimedian in Residence - User:Susan.nls
This month I started the newly-created post of Scottish Gaelic Wikipedian at the National Library of Scotland, following in the footsteps of the Wikimedian-in-Residence post based here in 2013. Having been a Wikipedian editor for several years, the possibilities for growing participation and content on Uicipeid, the Scottish Gaelic language Wikipedia, are hugely exciting.
Back in 2010, I was doing a reading class for students who’d recently started learning Scottish Gaelic. Searching for some simple biographies that the students could work with, I first came across Gaelic Wikipedia. Starting on the page for the Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, I fell down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole familiar to many. That lead to other questions: which people had Gaelic Wiki entries? Who didn’t? Why not? The answer being, of course, to be bold and start editing.
In fact, Uicipeid, the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia had been slowly taking shape for six years prior to that, with editors around the world contributing system translations, structure and content. I’ve contributed over 2,000 edits since I first dipped my toe in, often related to my PhD studies and covering Gaelic authors and texts, with the occasional digressions into birdlife or Yugoslavian writers. Each time I contribute content, I get an instant gratification hit that I have put another clach air a’ chàrn, another stone on the cairn. It also allows me to exercise my writing skills in Gaelic when other opportunities come and go; particularly when trying to cover topics outwith my everyday Gaelic situations.
Now in the post of Uicipeidiche or Gaelic Wikipedian, I hope to encourage many others to find the same satisfaction of creating, curating and sharing content in Gaelic - whether they wish to share knowledge about Gaelic heritage and culture, or about science, politics or literature of the world through the medium of Gaelic. There are other Gaelic-language resources out there, but knowing they exist or finding them isn’t always easy and there is huge potential for Uicipeid to be a hub and a gateway to connect them. Although my ‘home’ will be at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, with funding from the National Library, Wikimedia UK, and Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the agency responsible for promoting Gaelic language throughout Scotland), I will be working with Gaelic speakers all over Scotland and the rest of the world (at least virtually!).
Uicipeid has faced a number of challenges familiar to other small-language wikis. There has been great dedication and effort on the part of the small band of editors and admins to not only generate over 14,000 pages of content but also deal with all the system translations, updates, mentoring new editors, and keeping the content organised. However, there is still a lot to do and in this role I can support development which means editors can have more time to do what most of them love to do - add more articles.
I expect my first few weeks to be busy working with the Uicipeid community to set out the precise project goals and agreeing on what can be achieved with a part-time, year-long project. Then I expect to be developing training materials, updating editing guidance on the wiki itself, and agreeing and planning themes and projects for edit-a-thons. Then there will be the exciting stage of getting out and about, showing off our little wiki and hopefully signing up new recruits from the 38,000 or so people with Gaelic writing skills in Scotland! There’s a lot of room for growth and the possibilities are endless.
Hypatia's Wikipedia Women Project[edit | edit source]
By Tehmina Goskar, Wikimedian In Residence at the Hypatia Trust - User:ElizabethTreffry
The Hypatia Trust is an educational charity based in Penzance, Cornwall whose remit is to document and increase access to the work and achievements of women in a global context. For the last 20 years Hypatia has done this by collecting and distributing libraries of books and documents on a range of subjects to public collections, such as at the University of Exeter, Falmouth University, University of Bonn and University of Barcelona. We operate as a loose collective of self-starters with a common ideal and common aim: to promote and raise the profile of women and women’s works in their communities.
Here in Cornwall, Hypatia has been building up a library dedicated to women's works in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It is called the Elizabeth Treffry Collection, after a legendary noble woman who was reputed to have repelled French pirates harrying the Cornish coast in the 15th century. The collection had limited access until March 2015 when Hypatia endowed a public reading room in an up-cycled old school in Redruth called Krowji - the Cornish word for workshop or shed. We share the building with a host of creative industries and artist studios.
A successful public engagement campaign in 2013, called History 51 (reminding people that women make up 51% of the population), that worked with volunteers to organise events across Cornwall to re-engage communities with their notable women led us to notice that the knowledge and wisdom held in our books was of limited value, even if people could freely access them. We wanted the world to know more about our women's deeds and achievements and where better to aim than the English-language Wikipedia--one of the world's most influential sources of information.
Hypatia's Wikipedia Women's Project finally started in September 2016, based in the Elizabeth Treffry Reading Room. Since then I have been working one day a week on developing the project, raising awareness and planning for positive outcomes to address the worrying gender gap addressed in the content and editorship of Wikipedia. Thanks to a conversation with fellow WIR Jason Evans at the National Library of Wales, I began working with Daria Cybulska to develop the project into a partnership that could be supported by Wikimedia UK which we formally launched in November.
The local press coverage was amazing and I was interviewed by BBC Radio Cornwall about the challenges of closing the gender gap and also increasing and balancing the (male-dominated) content on Cornwall and Cornish people on Wikipedia. There will shortly also be a full feature on the project in Cornwall Today, a glossy mag with a 70k+ circulation.
The Cornish context is important. The UK Government's formal recognition of the Cornish as a National Minority, like the Welsh, Scots and Irish, in 2014 has charged cultural organisations to work harder to ensure that Cornish identity is well supported and represented in all our work.
As a result of the press publicity we have recruited six budding Wikimedians and we meet for our first event on 6 February. We will be analysing interest areas, skills and prioritising the priority list of women's biographies we want to work on. WMUK is helping us with training and we look forward to welcoming them to Cornwall soon.
Everyone at the Hypatia Trust is very proud to be hosting and funding the development of what we hope will set a long-term trend and interest in women's biographies on Wikipedia. If we can go some way to reducing the number of searches resulting in "X does not exist" and provide access to writing and editing skills to new people in the process, we will have done our job.
Update: Wikimedia residency at the University of Edinburgh[edit | edit source]
By Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh
Since January 2016, Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh partnered to host a Wikimedian in Residence for 12 months. While previous residencies have focussed on releasing collections openly from GLAM institutions (galleries, libraries, archives & museums), the Edinburgh residency marks the first in the UK in supporting the whole university with a focus on skills development & furthering knowledge exchange.
To date, the residency has delivered 34 training sessions and run 12 editathons. From the outset, the editathon model proved to be a great vehicle for students, staff & members of the public from all different disciplines to come together to learn how to edit Wikipedia and to share knowledge openly.
The university also has a commitment to the Athena SWAN Charter, so one key focus from this year has been addressing the gender gap on Wikipedia. While the gender gap is still very real, it is enormously encouraging that 65% of our 437 attendees last year were female and that, through editathons focused on targeted themes (Women in Espionage, Women in STEM, Women in Art, Women and Religion) and the incredible work of WikiProject Women in Red, the number of biographies of notable females on Wikipedia is moving in the right direction, up from just over 15% to almost 16.83% as of 29th January 2017. (Call me ambitious but I’d like us to aim for 20.18% in 2018).
The residency was always going to be as much about people as process and the collaborations we have achieved this year have come about organically through one successful collaboration begetting another. Over the course of the last twelve months, I have met with a great many course leaders across the university’s three teaching colleges and the conversations have been extremely fruitful in terms of understanding what each side needs to ensure a successful Wikipedia in the Classroom assignment and for lowering the threshold for engagement with Wikipedia.
With this in mind, we have piloted three Wikipedia components in online courses (the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, the Online History MSc and the Intellectual Humility MOOC) and supported three Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments which have now been written up as case studies:
- Translation Studies MSc – 28 students have completed the translation of a Wikipedia article of not less than 4000 words into a different language Wikipedia last semester using Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool as part of the Independent Study module of their programme. The students are to repeat the assignment this semester, improving their practise from last semester & reversing the language direction so that it really is a two-way knowledge exchange.
- World Christianity MSc students undertook an 11 week Wikipedia assignment as part of the Selected Themes in the Study of World Christianity class. This core course offers candidates the opportunity to study in depth Christian history, thought and practice in and from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The assignment comprised of writing a new article, following a literature review, on a World Christianity term hitherto unrepresented on Wikipedia. The course is a relatively new one but it has already gone some way to redressing the balance in a field that has often been dominated by Western perspectives.
- Reproductive Biology Honours students in September 2015 researched, synthesised and developed a first-rate Wikipedia entry of a previously unpublished medical term: Neuroangiogenesis. The case study is detailed here. The following September, the next iteration was more ambitious and a larger cohort of 38 students undertook a group research project on terms from reproductive medicine that were not yet represented on Wikipedia. All thirty-eight students were trained to edit Wikipedia and they worked collaboratively to research and produce the finished written articles.
All three assignments gave the students meaningful publication experience; developing their information literacy, digital literacy, collaborative working, academic writing & referencing. Rather than their work being viewed by one person, their tutor, this published work has now been viewed in excess of 15,000 times since last semester; adding well-researched scholarly research to the global open knowledge community which can be built on, updated & expanded indefinitely.
The response from the students and course leaders we have worked with this year has been extremely positive. Collaborations have been formed all over the university. The over-riding message being that Wikipedia does indeed belong in education; that it does indeed deliver on the 21st century skills that our higher education institutions would have its students learn.
It is also encouraging that through positive experiences and word-of-mouth, our collaborations last year are leading to further take-up and interesting projects are now being proposed by students as much as staff: History of Medicine at the Surgeons’ Hall Museum; Veterinary Medicine editathon; The Edinburgh University Student Translation Society translation project; an International Development Wikipedia project; ‘Bragging Writes’ - Women Writers editathon for International Women’s Day; and an African alumni and Swahili translate-a-thon for Gather Festival.
Beyond ensuring Wikipedia editing training is embedded in regular digital skills workshops and examining how it can support future teacher training, twelve members of staff from all different disciplines have now been trained to become Wikimedia Ambassadors in order to support academic colleagues in the longer term beyond the life of the residency.
Finally, a core focus of the residency has been to demystify Wikipedia and its sister projects, Wikidata and Wikisource in particular, and many resources, video tutorials, lesson plans, case studies, video interviews and exemplars have been created in order to lower the threshold for staff and students to be able to engage at the institution and to sharing this knowledge with other institutions.
Time and motivation are the two most frequent cited barriers to uptake. Happily, my experience is that the merits of engagement and an understanding of how Wikipedia assignments and edit-a-thons operate have overcome any such concerns in practice.
Wikipedia turned 16 a few weeks ago on January 15th, and it is time to articulate that Wikipedia does indeed belong in education and that it plays an important role in our understanding and disseminating of the world’s knowledge. With Oxford University now also hosting their own Wikimedian in Residence on a university-wide remit, it is time also to articulate that this conversation is not going away.
Far from it, current events only highlight that understanding how knowledge is created, curated and disseminated and by whom has never been more important.
The best thing we can do as educators and information professionals is step up and engage with these issues, articulate our Open Education vision as a core part of the university’s mission and give our senior managers something they can say ‘Yes’ to.
Following a successful multidisciplinary approach, the residency is to be extended into a second year and expanded into a full-time post until January 2018.
How does Wikipedia stay reliable?[edit | edit source]
By John Lubbock, Communications Coordinator
The satirical site Clickhole, which parodies websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy, reported in 2015 on a fictional man who ‘has edited over 50,000 Wikipedia articles to end with the phrase “And them’s the facts!”’
Looking at the articles they mention as having been edited, the malicious edits in question appear to have been done mostly from anonymous IP addresses, with the edits reverted within a few minutes.
The silly nature of the story aside, it does bring up some important issues about how vandalism is reduced and how bad edits are peer reviewed.
Wikipedia has a variety of defenses against vandalism, including:
- Bots: ClueBot NG etc.
- Edit filters
- Patrollers, esp. semi-auto. patrolling via e.g. Huggle
And finally, your everyday Wikipedian watching an article or stumbling across it
The fact that most of these edits were done from anonymous IP addresses suggests that the automated processes which Wikipedia has for preventing malicious editing are quite effective at preventing deliberate vandalism.
While Wikipedia is 'The encyclopaedia that anyone can edit', that doesn't mean that they can edit anything they like, in any way they like. Systematic vandalism by unregistered IP addresses is likely to result in a ban for that entire IP address, which makes life hard even for very organised groups seeking to introduce bias into Wikipedia.
Clickhole and similar websites make money from not taking things seriously. However, many of us who edit the Wikimedia projects do take them seriously. Wikipedia is probably the biggest collaborative project humanity has undertaken in terms of man hours, and it has an immeasurable benefit on the educational potential of millions of people around the world. That’s why it’s important to keep it non-commercial and to police vandalism and biased editing as much as possible.
So articles like those in Clickhole and the endless stream of lazy journalism along the lines of ‘The 50 most outrageous Wikipedia hacks’ are frustrating because they send the message that Wikipedia is unreliable and shouldn’t be trusted. They are a barrier to people properly understanding and using Wikimedia projects.
These articles never explain that Wikipedia has strict rules that must be adhered to and that edits which do not follow them will be quickly reverted. There is simply no way that anybody could maliciously edit 50,000 articles to include the phrase ‘And them’s the facts’, because their account or IP would be blocked, and an edit filter would be introduced to flag and delete that phrase for not being in ‘encyclopedic’ language.
We take pride in the reliability of Wikipedia, and the ingenious ways our community has developed to police that reliability, such as the various bots who continuously monitor important IP ranges (i.e. Parliament, House of Commons, US Senate) as well as our lovely vandalism bot on Twitter - which have stamped out many attempts at underhanded government PR.
In extreme cases, pages that receive too much vandalism are protected from editing by anybody without a certain level of privileges within the community. You are welcome to try to edit the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict article, but you won’t get very far.
So please, clickbait journalists, it’s not clever to edit silly things into Wikipedia articles so you can write about how someone’s page got ‘hacked’. That’s not even journalism, it’s just reporting your own vandalism of reliable information as news.
We take this seriously because we know that Wikipedia benefits millions of people in developing countries who can’t afford textbooks, because medical professionals rely on our services, and because we are one of the best places to find good information on breaking news stories. Get involved and find out how the site works, but try not to frustrate the thousands of editors who give up their free time to try to improve the world’s access to free, unbiased knowledge.
Volunteering with Wikimedia UK[edit | edit source]
Wikimedia UK has recently purchased some new volunteer equipment including:
- Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS Lens for Canon
- 70-300mm f/5.6 Canon lens
- SD cards (and card holders)
- MicroSD cards (and card holders)
- Camera shoulder rig
We also have a Canon 60D and a Sony Handicam available to lend to members of Wikimedia UK for your projects. You can find a full list of our equipment here.
We encourage our members to talk to us about their ideas for Wikimedia related projects and discuss making an application for a small project grant to support them. Please see the project grants page for more details.
We have also recently started to update our volunteer information on the Volunteer Portal, and have published a video with some of our community suggesting ways to get involved.