Friends' Newsletter/2017/Issue 02

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Wikimedia UK Friends' Newsletter
Wales Manager Robin Owain and other participants at the Llen Natur event in Wales, May 2017


Welcome to the May Newsletter, our quarterly round up of what we’ve been doing over the past few months and a look forward to what lies ahead. It’s been a busy time, both in the UK with our participation in events like the Wikimedia UK Education Summit (#WMUKED17) and Open Educational Resources Conference (#OER17) and internationally, with Wikimedia’s involvement in public debates on 'fake news', reliable sources, and the blocking of Wikipedia in Turkey.

Our work to promote reliable information, increase digital literacy and expand the involvement of people from diverse backgrounds in our projects has never been more urgent. As we look forward to the summer and Wikimania 2017 in Montreal, here’s our roundup of recent projects and what's coming up that you can get involved with.

Train the Trainers course

Wikimedia UK educators workshop event

Our Train the Trainers course for people who want to learn how to train others to use Wikimedia projects is taking place on 4 - 5th July in Edinburgh (just before the Celtic Knot conference on 6th which is also taking place in Edinburgh).

This free course led by an external training consultancy is for volunteers who want to take a leading role as a trainer in the Wikimedia movement. We will be supporting UK-based participants by covering delegate costs as well as travel, so register your interest here and we can let you know whether we are able to offer you a place.

The two day course is a chance for you to:

  • Become an accredited trainer and receive detailed feedback about your presenting and training skills
  • Develop your training skills and share your skills with others
  • Increase your knowledge and understanding of designing and delivering training events for Wikimedia UK

Core Contest: win prizes for improving core articles

The Core Contest returns on May 15 until June 30. According to the organisers 'the aim of the contest is to encourage a short, sharp burst of activity and article improvement in the vital or core articles.' Click on the links to see lists of the vital and core articles which you can improve. Organisers say the priority is to improve those core articles in the worst state of disrepair. When you've improved an article, you can submit a diff to the Entries page.

For more information, see the Core Contest page.

Call for Grant Applications

Do you have an idea for a project? Is there a rare book you need for your Wikipedia article research? Perhaps you would like to run an editing or photography competition like the Awaken the Dragon competition held last year, or maybe you would like to digitise a collection of photos? There are many ways that Wikimedia UK can help, so please get in touch. Wikimedia UK’s small grants enable volunteers to deliver activities which support the charity's strategic goals to promote open knowledge, increase the diversity of Wikimedia's content and contributors and to mainstream Wikimedia projects in education and learning.

Visit our Project Grants application page for more information. 

2016/2017 Impact Report

An informal meeting at the WMUK office

Wikimedia UK receives about half our funding from the Wikimedia Foundation, based in the United States. We regularly report on our work to the Foundation and recently published our 2016-2017 impact report Highlights of our achievements against the Foundation's global metrics include:

  • The number of editors actively involved was over 600, compared to a target of 200
  • There were over 900 newly registered editors, compared to a target of 300
  • There were over 4000 individuals involved; more than double the result for 2015/16
  • Nearly half a million articles were improved or created against a target of 10,000
  • Nearly 1.5 billion bytes were added or deleted, compared to a target of 6 million

Highlights of our other quantitative indicators include:

  • Over 45,000 images/media were added to Commons
  • Our total reach for the year was over 70,000 people, including attendance at events, presentations and social media followers
  • We were supported by over 200 lead volunteers - and a total of 20,000 volunteer hours compared to a target of 4600
  • We exceeded our advocacy targets in terms of responses to consultations and evidence taken into consideration
  • According to the recent Volunteers Survey, 82% of volunteers who participated felt valued by Wikimedia UK, compared to 70% in 2015/16 and a target this year of 80%

We have made good advances in the past year in participating in sector-wide advocacy work and developing outreach events that have attracted media coverage and increased our profile. This includes the partnership with BBC 100 Women in December 2016.

Our Wikimedian in Residence programme continues to grow in scope and scale, with a number of new appointments in Scotland, Cornwall, Oxford and London during 2016. The Welsh Wikipedia has increased in size considerably and we have begun to assist in the improvement of the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia through our appointment of a Gaelic Wikimedian in Residence. We have also worked with a number of universities and organised many editathons which have helped to recruit and train new editors, improve articles on Wikipedia, reduce the gender gap and mainstream the use of Wikimedia projects in academia.

Thank you to all our volunteers and donors, without whom the achievements of the past year would not have been possible.

Wikimedia presence at OER17

The Open Educational Resources 2017 conference took place on April 5-6 at Resource for London. The conference provided the chance 'for open practitioners, activists, educators and policy makers to come together as a community to reflect on ‘The Politics of Open’', and Wikimedia UK Chief Executive Lucy Crompton-Reid gave one of the keynote speeches, which you can watch here

Sketch made by visual artist Bryan Mathers of a thought from Lucy Compton-Reid, Wikimedia UK, when she gave her key note at the conference #OER17 on April 6 2017. "The greatest open learning project".

The conference involved a number of other people who are involved with Wikimedia projects:

You can read more about each of these presentations on Ewan McAndrew's University of Edinburgh blog.

Wikimedia Strategy planning: what would we like to achieve by 2030?

The Wikimedia Foundation is currently leading a movement wide strategic planning process, the first phase of which involves three cycles and aims to identify a coherent strategic direction for the movement, which will be launched at Wikimania 2017 in August . The second cycle of the process was launched recently and asks people to reflect on and respond to the key themes that were generated in the first cycle.

Wikimedia UK is facilitating online and in person conversations about the strategy process and there will be a strategy session at the AGM on 15th July. If you have ideas about what the Wikimedia movement should be aiming to achieve by 2030 and are interested in participating in one of these discussions, please email Otherwise, we would encourage you to respond online following the links above.

Using Wikisource to digitise PhDs at Edinburgh University

Gavin Willshaw at the Samhuinn editathon at University of Edinburgh

By Gavin Willshaw, Digital Curator and digitisation project manager at Edinburgh University Libraries

As part of the Library’s efforts to explore new channels of engagement with digitised collections, we recently uploaded a digitised PhD to Wikisource. The intention for doing so was to try out the platform, assess its ease of use and potential for engagement, assess the quality of its OCR functionality, and explore whether a thesis’ presence in Wikisource increased its visibility and use.

We selected Thomas Jehu’s PhD, 'Some problems in variation and heredity' from 1902, which met all of our selection criteria: notable author; typed (suitable for OCR); short (fewer than 50 pages); available on a CC BY licence.

There was a little bit of work to be done to upload the thesis but once this was done, the process of transcription was straightforward. There is good guidance available, although this could be brought together into a one-page cheat sheet, and although there were many shortcuts in the editor I did occasionally have to go into the code to make edits, especially when underlining text (there was no ‘underline’ shortcut).

Editing was easy but a little bit monotonous: I didn’t feel the same sense of engagement as when researching articles for Wikipedia or using the Citation Hunt tool. It would work better if a group collaborated on a text together.

The OCR quality was very good. Although not quite as accurate as Abbyy software, the Tesseract software used has the advantage of being open source and therefore does not require payment of subscription fees.

It was interesting to compare downloads from our repository with pageviews on Wikisource. The thesis has been downloaded 9 times from our repository since it was added to Wikisource, whereas the Wikisource page has had 50 views in that time. It’s difficult to assess the value and quality of these interactions but it certainly implies that having something on Wikisource increases use and access of an item, even if this doesn’t translate to greater downloads from the home repository.

Uploading Jehu’s thesis to Wikisource was an interesting experiment, and one I’d be keen to try again.

Llên Natur event in Wales

Robin Owain at the Llên Natur event

On Saturday 6th May, Wales Manager Robin Owain organised an event with Llên Natur.

Llên Natur is the digital branch of Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd, a society which was formed in 1978 to study, publicise and conserve the fauna, geology and climate of Wales. Together with Uned Technolegau Iaith (Language Technology Unit) at Bangor University they have produced a Dictionary of Species in Welsh, Latin and English. By working with Wikimedia UK, the dictionary has now become an illustrated dictionary of species named ‘Bywiadur’, with over 10,000 images and 200 audio clips automatically taken from Wikimedia Commons via Wikidata.

Attendees at the Llên Natur event

50 attendees convened at Plas Tan y Bwlch, a country manor in the hills of Snowdonia National Park, built by a slate-mining family in the 19th century. Speakers included Robin Owain himself, Gareth Morlais Chief Specialist and Advisor to the Welsh government, Bruce Griffith, curator of the Welsh Translator’s Dictionary, Professor Cathryn Charnell-White, and Jason Evans, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales.

The purpose of this partnership is to develop both the Bywiadur, closing the bird gap on Wikidata and enhancing articles on all living species on the Welsh Wikipedia. Professor Cathryn Charnell-White talked about text and illustrations in Medieval Welsh literature, while Jason Evans from the National Library followed with digitised images of some of those species. Duncan Brown’s talk was on how tagging images already on Wikimedia Commons, has closed the ‘birds with no images’ by about a thousand in the last year, mostly by members of the Llen Natur organisation. Only around 200 soundfiles are linked as ‘Statements’ on Wikidata, although there are over 2,000, many uncategorised on Commons.

The Welsh Wikipedia has only around 120 regular editors, and has 91,000 articles, therefore the automation of changing facts such as taxonomies and species names makes the wiki cleaner, crisper and up to date! Over 9,600 bird articles have a live feed from Wikidata, ensuring that the information is changed within hours of uploading a new database onto Wikidata. For example, when the internationally recognised IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is amended, the Welsh Wikipedia articles change within 24 hours. Many others need to be done manually - a process which takes months (if not years) on the English Wikipedia.

As in all good partnerships, both sides have gained, but more importantly, so have the readers, with both content improved in both English and Welsh Wikipedias.

Celtic Knot Conference in Edinburgh

Join us in Edinburgh!

The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK are delighted to invite you to join us at the ‘Celtic Knot’ – Wikipedia Language Conference taking place Thursday 6 July 2017 at the University of Edinburgh Business School.  This event is focused on showcasing innovative approaches to open education, open knowledge and open data that support and grow Celtic and Indigenous language communities.

Announcing our keynote speakers

Confirmed speakers also include:

The main objective for Celtic Knot 2017 is the coming together of practitioners in the same room at same time; strengthening the bonds of those working to support language communities into a 'knot' and leading into action. We welcome diverse attendees and presenters working in Celtic and Indigenous languages ranging from Wikimedians, educators, researchers, information professionals, media professionals, linguists, translators, learning technologists and more coming together to share good practice and find fruitful new collaborations to support language communities as a result of the event.

It promises to be a great event – including a panel on the Politics of Language Online, excellent papers, workshops and discussion spaces. Please feel free to forward this event to interested colleagues in your network. copyright reform campaign

Copyright (Simple English) Wikibook header.png

Wikimedia UK is supporting COMMINIA’s campaign, advocating for better copyright laws for education.

They are asking educators throughout Europe to sign the petition on their website. We agree that copyright laws, which have not changed for 15 years, are increasingly inapplicable in our digital age, and they are affecting teachers’ ability to use content without breaking the law.

The same rules should apply to all teachers throughout the EU and the law should allow teachers to embrace the new opportunities offered by digital technology. This law should recognise galleries, libraries, archives and museums as having an educational function so that they are able to organise educational programmes in the same way as a school or university.

Teachers should not have to ask permission from rights holders to show their students content which enriches their teaching. Allowing educators greater access to information will help them tell stories in a more objective way without being limited to public domain content which often only tells half the story.

The campaign has been supported by Creative Commons, BoingBoing, EAVI media literacy, and Netzpolitik. Wikimedia UK is a signatory to the campaign and we encourage you to do the same.

Wikipedia Blocked in Turkey

By John Lubbock, Communications Coordinator

The Atatürk museum in Adana, taken by the author.

I happened to be in Turkey a couple of weeks ago when the government decided to put a block on the domain, covering all language versions of Wikipedia (but not the other Wikimedia projects).

This didn’t come as much of a surprise given similar responses over the past few years by the Turkish government to content it doesn’t like on other websites. It regularly asks Twitter to block accounts it doesn’t like for Turkish IP addresses, and imprisons more journalists than any other country.

The Turkish government has supposedly asked Wikimedia to open an office in Turkey, abide by local laws, apply court decisions and refrain from ‘humiliating’ Turkey.

Wikipedia is not very well developed in Turkish. Turkish is the 29th biggest language Wikipedia, with 292,000 articles. Given the size of the Turkish speaking community, it could be much bigger with a bit of effort. The problem is that the unstable political climate in the country makes it hard to form a user group, and without that, it’s hard for the foundation to direct money to improving Turkish Wikipedia.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan with Obama in 2009

A Turkish court subsequently rejected an appeal from Wikimedia to unblock the site in Turkey, and it is not clear what the next steps are. Clearly, the Foundation cannot censor individual pages at the request of the Turkish government, as it has refused to do this in the past at the request of the Chinese government. It would obviously be against a core principle of the site for the Foundation to voluntarily censor content.

From the Wikipedia article on ‘Censorship of Wikipedia’:

“Since June 2015, all Wikipedias redirect HTTP requests to the corresponding HTTPS addresses, thereby making encryption mandatory for all users. As a result, Chinese censors cannot see which specific pages an individual is viewing, and therefore cannot block a specific subset of pages (such as Ai Weiwei or Tiananmen Square) as they did in past years. As a result, Beijing chose to block the whole Chinese Wikipedia;[23] as of June 2015, both encrypted and un-encrypted Chinese-language Wikipedia are blocked.[24]

The most that the Foundation could offer to the Turkish government under these circumstances is to put more effort into creating edit filters and and bots that would catch vandalism and malicious editing. It is against the rules of the site to vandalise articles such as that of President Erdogan by calling him a dictator or the 4Chan trolls who supposedly replaced his photo with that of a cockroach. It’s unfortunate that these kinds of malicious edits get so much press coverage, because they exaggerate how much of a Wild West Wikipedia is. On smaller language Wikipedias like Turkish, the lower number of users does mean vandalism takes longer to catch, and that is why the Foundation should look at ways to invest in improving Turkish Wikipedia. The worry is that the continued political instability and censorship by the government will make this all the harder.

Wellcome Library residency update

The Wellcome Library

Alice White, our Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Collection has been busy organising training events and doing outreach with various groups and organisations.

In February she helped organise editathons with the Liverpool Medical Institution and Royal College of Nursing. She delivered training for members of the Centre for Research Excellence, Support and Training (CREST), the Wellcome Trust, The Hub, the British Society for the History of Medicine and historians at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. 86 people attended these sessions, and 67 people signed up as new editors, and on average about 70% of those attending were women.

Alice attended the OCLC Research Library Partnership meeting at the British Library on the 8th March and the Health Archives & Records Group (HARG) meeting at Bethlem Museum of the Mind, where she gave a talk about the Residency to the gathered archivists and librarians.

On 15th March, Alice spoke to the Royal College of Psychiatrists History of Psychiatry Special Interest Group (HoPSIG) Spring Meeting, talking about the Residency, the opportunities for communicating research online and open knowledge, and invited participants to consider running or attending training and editathons. A representative of the British Psychological Society is now in touch and making plans for an event as a result.

Alice wrote a Case Study, based on the People's History of the NHS Editathon, to support Wikimedians in advocating for the use of Wikipedia as part of an academic impact and engagement strategy.

On 27th April, Alice had the opportunity to present on the Residency so far at a staff meeting for all Wellcome Trust staff. Her email inbox indicates that this generated more interest in the Residency and opportunities for further activities in the future!

Alice presented at OER17, taking a drop-in "Ask a Wikimedian" session for participants to learn about hosting a Wikimedian in Residence or running a Wiki-event. She also wrote a blogpost for the Royal College of Nursing about International Women’s Day, and the History of Nursing Society featured the RCN editathon in their newsletter too.

Planning also continues for several other projects which have not yet got firm dates.

Hackathons aim to improve users' experience of Wikimedia sites

By John Lubbock, WMUK Communications Coordinator

Wikimedia prehackathon in Prague, 12 May 2017

Two hackathons are being held this May in Prague (12-14th) and Vienna (18-21st) to work on the software that supports the Wikimedia sites. A prehackathon currently in progress in Prague is concentrating on improving the Commons Uploader application, which was started by the Wikimedia Foundation around 2012 but later abandoned to concentrate on the Wikipedia application.

It has been a source of frustration for some time that the user experience when uploading files to Commons is not the best thing in the world. You can upload a maximum of 50 files with the browser based upload wizard, and filling out categories is fiddly, with a lot of obvious features missing. Hopefully, once the Commons Uploader application is improved, you will be able to walk around a location with your phone and see what geolocated data exists nearby, and then upload photos which are missing for Wikidata items and Wikipedia pages.

The following weekend, many more developers are coming together with Wikimedia staff for a bigger hackathon with a wider remit. I will also be attending the Vienna event, so you can follow our Twitter feed for updates.

Wiki Loves Monuments 2017

Wiki Loves Monuments UK will be running from 1 to 30 September. Anyone can take part in the photography competition - all you need to do is take a photograph of a listed building or scheduled monument and upload it to Wikimedia Commons during the competition. Full details will be on the competition website. You can take photos at any time as long as it's uploaded in September, so you can get a head-start now If you want to help organise Wiki Loves Monuments UK, please join the competition mailing list and say hello.