Friends' Newsletter/2017/Issue 03

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Welcome to the end of summer newsletter![edit | edit source]

Welcome to the third newsletter of the year. Summers are usually a quieter time in terms of the number of events, but things have been quite busy for us. We have just come back from Wikimania 2017 in Montreal, and have now moved office from near Old Street to behind the Tate Modern on the South Bank. Our new address is:

Office 1, Ground Floor, 5-11 Lavington Street, London SE1 0NZ

We have lots of events arranged for the next few months, and are about to start the month long Wiki Loves Monuments competition throughout September, with various related events taking place. Read on and find out about everything that’s going on!

Wikimania 2017 in Montreal[edit | edit source]

Wikimania 2017 hackathon group photo.

Members of Wikimedia UK’s board and staff team, and many others from the UK, attended the annual Wikimedia conference from 9-13th August in Montreal. Wikimania is always a fantastic opportunity to catch up with others in the global movement, learn about developments on the projects and remind ourselves why Wikimedia and its community are so important.

It’s clear that the Wikimedia Foundation is looking to the future, as it presented a draft strategic direction for the global movement, looking forward to 2030 (see the video here). The strategic direction is a general statement of intent, which ends by saying ‘By 2030, we won’t yet reach “the sum of all knowledge”, but we will make it possible for anyone to join us in this effort.’ This direction ‘is meant to be ambitious, with a broad arc that offers plenty of room for aspiration and creativity. It should give guidance on the long term, but leave the goal setting up to interpretation.’

We agree with the draft strategic direction that healthy, motivated communities are key to achieving the overarching goal of access to the sum of human knowledge, and we are working particularly on increasing the diversity of those communities in our context. The draft strategic direction increases the movement’s commitment to advocating for free, open knowledge, and places emphasis on working with individuals and institutions to share knowledge.

UK Wikimedians in Residence at Wikimania 2017

There were many talks at Wikimania about the work that chapters and other groups are undertaking with the cultural sector, which helped to provide useful examples of projects that succeeded and those that weren’t as successful. These included Melissa Highton and Ewan McAndrew from the University of Edinburgh presenting a discussion on 'The Value of a Wikimedian in Residence' which illustrated the impact a resident has made, and continues to make, on teaching and learning at the University.

The Gender Gap also received a significant amount of attention, with WikiWomeninRed presenting a panel about reducing the Gender Gap in biographies on Wikipedia.

One of the biggest projects the development team at the Foundation are working on is Structured Data on Commons, which they received a $3m grant for earlier in the year. It’s hoped that this restructuring of Commons will enable the Foundation to solve basic issues with uploading, searching and making use of the media on Commons. The Wikidata team at Wikimedia Deutschland are also working on a structured version of Wiktionary.

One exciting related development is that Commons will soon allow .mp3 files, which should make it much easier to do projects to add audio clips to Commons. See the Phabricator discussion here. You can also watch a presentation on some of the issues with video files on Commons here.

In community news, Wikimedians paid tribute to Bassel Khartabil, head of Creative Commons Syria, who was recently revealed to have been killed by the Syrian regime in 2015. Creative Commons announced a Free Culture Fellowship in his honour at Wikimania.

It was also announced that Ghanaian Wikimedian Felix Nartey, organiser of Wiki Indaba, was named as Wikimedian of the Year, the first person from a Global South country to win the award.

Parallax animation based on Basel Khartabil image.

As always there are too many talks and people at Wikimania to see and talk to everyone, but the conference is a useful experience for Wikimedians to find out what is going on in other parts of our wide community and share their experiences and make friendships with people from across the world. It’s truly inspiring to meet many of these people working to expand open knowledge in some of the most politically problematic situations, and they help remind us why we are doing this; so that everybody in the world can have access to information and education free from bias and censorship.

Next year Wikimania goes to South Africa. See you there!

Other useful Wikimania links:

  • You can see a lot of videos of different sessions on the Wikimedia Foundation YouTube channel,
  • Learn about some of the Coolest Projects of the Wikimedia Movement from this presentation.
  • The Wiki Research team presented on some of the interesting academic research on Wikimedia related things. Here's a discussion of research on Fake News.
  • See all the photos and videos WMUK have uploaded so far on Commons here.
  • What I learned at Wikimania 2017 by Srishti Sethi via
Wikimania 2017 video by Wikimedia UK

Wiki Loves Monuments 2017 begins this week![edit | edit source]

On 1 September, the world’s largest photo competition, Wiki Loves Monuments (WLM) begins. WLM is one of the Wikimedia movement’s most successful projects and often attracts thousands of new people to contribute to photographic content on Commons.

There are prizes for the top 10 photographs in the UK competition with the top photograph winning a £250 cheque for its creator. The top 10 will go on to be considered for the overall global award.

In 2016, nearly 11,000 people from 42 countries around the world uploaded a total of 277,406 images. Photos uploaded during the 2016 competition have received over 13 million views in the past year.

This total did not quite reach the 2012 peak which saw WLM achieve the Guinness World Record for the largest photographic competition.

The competition is held annually to encourage more people to share photos of their local heritage and contribute photographs to Wikimedia Commons. All the content on Wikipedia and its sister projects are hosted on Open Licenses, such as Creative Commons Sharealike Attribution 4.0. Longstanding Wikimedian volunteer, developer and contributor Magnus Manske has been developing a new tool for people to upload WLM photos, which you can take a look at here.

Photos can be taken at any time but must be uploaded during the month of September. Instructions on how to enter can be found here.


Statistics from WLM 2016

2016 global and national winners

Updated Wiki Loves Monuments tool makes uploading to Commons easier[edit | edit source]

Wikimedia developer Magnus Manske has released a new tool to upload Wiki Loves Monuments photos to Commons easier.

The Wiki Loves Monuments UK tool is on WMFLabs now. The tool allows you to search for Wikidata items for listed monuments in a chosen area so you can plan to take photos of places that currently don’t have Commons photos associated with them.

The tool allows you to upload photos of specific places and automatically associates the photo with the Wikidata item and suggests categories and GPS coordinates which you can add to the photo.

Happy uploading!

War memorials, Wikipedia, and why you should care[edit | edit source]

By Harry Mitchell

The First World War caused carnage on a scale not seen before or since. In its aftermath, thousands of memorials were erected in Britain as in the other countries involved. They started as a way for communities to mourn their dead, given that the vast majority of bodies were never repatriated, and became a focal point for local remembrance ceremonies which continue a century on.

I have been editing Wikipedia since 2009 with a particular interest in military history. About two years ago, I was looking for a project related to the First World War centenary and noticed that Wikipedia's coverage of war memorials was patchy. I decided to start with the works of Edwin Lutyens.

Lutyens is probably best known today for his country houses, but the war profoundly affected him and much of his work from 1914 onwards focused on commemorating the casualties. He designed around 50 memorials in towns, cities, and villages across England as well as one in Wales and dozens of memorials and cemeteries in France and Belgium. His most famous memorial in Britain is the Cenotaph on London's Whitehall and this served as the model for many of his other works, including memorials in Southampton, Rochdale, and Manchester. I began by creating articles for those of Lutyens' memorials that didn't already have one, starting with the Gerrards Cross Memorial Building.

Gerrards Cross Memorial Building

I started there because I’d been to Gerrards Cross with a friend and fellow Wikipedian Chris McKenna and because it’s an anomaly among Lutyens’ memorials (it was the only war memorial he designed with a functional purpose). Being a perfectionist and having a full-time job, it took me a few months but all 43 of Lutyens’ free-standing war memorials in Britain now have a Wikipedia article and I’m working my way through those that already had articles. These are taking longer because they tend to be big city centre monuments with a lot of detail to cover. So far I’ve taken five war memorial articles (Northampton, Devon County, Spalding, North Eastern Railway, and York City) to featured article status, the highest level of recognition an article can be granted by the community, which comes after months of detailed review and criticism. Eventually, I’m hoping that those will be joined by several more and that these can be showcased on Wikipedia’s main page, hopefully on major anniversaries.

Town and County War Memorial, Northampton

So how can you get involved?

Well, war memorials are everywhere. Even tiny rural villages often have a war memorial and in my opinion these are often more poignant than many of the memorials in big cities - in some cases, you can see more names on the memorial than houses in the village, which truly shows the scale of the First World War. The simplest and easiest way to get involved is to take a photo of your local war memorial or any other war memorial you pass. The good news is that many of them are listed buildings and Historic England are listing more throughout the centenary, which means you can enter photos of them into the Wiki Loves Monuments Competition. It is the world’s largest photography competition, and was started to share images of our heritage. If you add your photos of war memorials near you, you are helping the whole world share in this important part of history.

For the more adventurous, many of the listed memorials will be notable enough that you can write a Wikipedia article about them. Memorials in big cities or by famous architects will probably already have an article but there might be new information you can add. There are over 1500 memorials currently listed and Historic England are aiming to list another 1000 - there will presumably be dozens or hundreds more in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland - so the chances are you won’t have to look far from home for inspiration.

Updates on Wikimedia projects around the UK[edit | edit source]

  • The CADW database of 30,000 listed buildings, uploaded at the beginning of 2017, was subsequently improved and tidied, ready for Wiki Loves Monuments.
  • The Welsh Music Wicipop project also ended in at the start of 2017, but with the thematic focus given by this project we have continued work in this area. Bangor University agreed to release their encyclopedia of Welsh Music - about 5000 well written articles - and we will be working on making this happen in near future. Welsh music label Sain records also agreed to release 7,500 audio clips and 500 album covers on open licenses which are now being inserted in Wikipedia articles.
  • Wici Mon’s full time Welsh language Wikipedian - appointed earlier in the Spring - visited secondary schools instructing pupils on editing Welsh Wicipedia. 100 new articles were created, and a development plan drawn up which included regular editing training at Llangefni Library, training the local community to record and upload of c. 1,200 village and town names pronounced by Welsh speakers. Following in the footsteps of Wici Mon, a group in Cardiff has been running editathons, supported by our Wales Manager, with both these projects linked to the cultural festival Eisteddfod.
  • Jason's post at the National Library of Wales was made permanent (as a ‘National Wikimedian’). This has required substantial internal advocacy, and also marks an important point in the NLW’s journey towards open knowledge (something we recently recognised at our AGM, awarding the Library our Partnership of the Year title). The post is launched with a specific 8 month Wiki Health (WiciIechyd) project supported by the Welsh Government, focusing on community engagement, machine translation and increasing access to existing health content. A final report of his 2-year residency is here.
  • The Celtic Knot conference was held in Edinburgh in July. You can see videos of the talks here.
  • The recent focus of Dr Susan Ross, the Scottish Gaelic Wikimedian in Residence, has been on establishing links with language communities and building engagement with the project, with events such as the Gaelic festival in Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce and a local Gaelic Day by Perth & Kinross Council. There are also plans to participate in several upcoming events, and contacts have been made with Historic Environment Scotland and the University of Aberdeen’s Celtic Department. This work is challenging but we’ve had success with linking to the Celtic Post-Graduate Students Training at the University of Glasgow, where we engaged with doctoral students working in Celtic studies from across the UK about writing for Wikipedia (Welsh, Irish, Dutch, Frisian, Scottish Gaelic and English).
  • The Gaelic project is struggling against limitations of its Wikipedia which is missing many of the technical features of larger languages. However, as a result of working with Basque Wikimedians User Group and a Uicipeid admin at the Celtic Knot conference, a biography infobox autogenerated by Wikidata was created for Uicipeid, and has has been implemented in almost 500 pages.
  • Our work with researchers and academics as another way into university engagement continues to be successful, particularly via the WIR project at the Bodleian. A key focus of this stage of the residency has been helping academics use the Wikimedia projects for outreach and impact, and using Wikidata to share information. This has resulted in some interesting and high-profile projects such as supporting the Atlas of Hillforts (covered by the BBC, Guardian, Financial Times, Independent and History Scotland. Being able to visualise data to make it accessible is an important skill of any researcher. Dr Martin Poulter, the Bodleian Wikimedian focused on this aspect by delivering workshops for researchers on Wikidata, data visualisations, and Wikipedia for public engagement.

Upcoming events![edit | edit source]

We have a photography workshop coming up in London on September 2, a photo walk on the 9th in Lambeth as part of Lambeth’s heritage month, as well as a Lambeth editathon on the 23rd. Both of the Lambeth events are led by Kelly Foster, one of the UK Wikimedians of the Year 2017.

There is a meetup in Cambridge on the 3rd September which will have a training session on ContentMine and Wikidata by Charles Matthews, followed by a National Science Heritage editathon on the 28th. The London meetup will be on the 10th and there will be an editathon at Swansea University on the 28th.

There are also training events organised at the National Library of Wales and Edinburgh University, but these are for staff only.

See the full list here.

Josie Fraser appointed Chair of Wikimedia UK's Board of Trustees at 2017 AGM[edit | edit source]

Josie Fraser (right) at the Wikimedia UK AGM in July

The Wikimedia UK AGM took place in July at the University of London's Senate House in Bloomsbury. The day included talks by Fabian Tompsett, Harry Mitchell and Edward Hand, a photography workshop using the recently updated Wikimedia Commons mobile app, and a discussion about the Wikimedia Movement Strategy.

We awarded our Wikimedian of the Year prize jointly to Kelly Foster (Afrocrowd UK) and Ewan McAndrew (University of Edinburgh Wikimedian in Residence). Both did a lot of work to organise events and bring Wikipedia to new audiences, and we look forward to continue working with them both as important contributors to the Wikimedia community in the UK.

Finally, we said a huge thank you to Michael Maggs, who stepped down as Chair of our Board of Trustees after four years. Josie Fraser has taken over the role, alongside her job as part of the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). You can read her blog about the appointment here and why not follow her on Twitter too?

See all our photos from the AGM here.

UK Parliamentary Digital Service released photos of politicians on Open Licenses[edit | edit source]

Official Parliamentary portrait of Jeremy Corbyn.

We were very pleased that the Parliamentary Digital Service decided to release versions of all of the official parliamentary photos of MPs on Open Licenses in July. Politicians had their photos taken after their swearing in following the June election, and these professional photos were all transferred onto Wikimedia Commons.

Official portrait of Amber Rudd

Wikimedia UK and other open advocates have had an ongoing relationship with the PDS for some time. We held an editathon in Parliament at the end of 2016, and Wikimedians such as Ed Saperia, Andrew Gray and Andy Mabbett have continued to advocate for Parliament to open up more of their data.

Many other Wikimedia chapters and user groups have probably had these kind of ongoing conversations with their own governments who have content that could be used on Wikipedia. It seems that there is no magic trick to convincing governments to make this data open. The organisation has to be willing to open up digitally and to understand the implications of Open Licenses, and this can take some time.

Ed Saperia says that parliaments with digital departments ‘want their stuff to be seen too. If they have a website, they want people to look at it. They publish things so that they can be seen; you just say ‘well, you can also put stuff on Wikipedia’.’

Andy Mabbett commented: 'I called for official portraits of politicians and others to be made available under open licence in my February 2012 blog post "Politician pin ups – open-licensed pictures, please" - I'm pleased to see this has now happened, and the PDS have been very cooperative as the process unfolded. But we need more public bodies - such as councils, NHS trusts, fire and police, to release images of their senior staff, and the promotional images related to their work, which they already happily share on social media and with the press."

Similar projects undertaken by Wikimedians, like Wikipedians in the European Parliament in 2014 showed the value of taking photos of elected officials for the Wikimedia projects. Getting institutions to understand the value of Open Licensed content is an ongoing process, and one which we hope can be repeated by chapters and user groups in other countries.

There is not a simple answer to how to achieve content releases like the one undertaken by Parliamentary Digital Service. Discussion and advocacy for the value of open knowledge has to be continuous so that political institutions internalise the process and value of it. If you are trying to achieve something like this, we would suggest that you ask other Wikimedians in your country for support to achieve this critical mass of advocacy for open knowledge.

New Wikimedian in Residence at Scottish Libraries and Information Council[edit | edit source]

We were very pleased to announce at the start of August that Sara Thomas, our former Wikimedian in Residence at Museums Galleries Scotland, has been appointed as WiR at the Scottish Libraries and Information Council.

Sara Thomas at an editathon for Art & Feminism 2016 at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

Sara wrote in her blog last week that ‘The SLIC residency feels like a very natural progression from that at MGS, as a networked residency working across an entire sector.  Here, again, my primary focus will be on advocacy and training.  We’re aiming to establish public libraries as quality content creators in the digital sphere, and to provide open access to freely usable content about Scottish culture, derived from our rich library collections.’

SLIC were inspired to appoint their own Wikimedian in Residence as a result of seeing the benefits of Sara’s work with Museums Galleries Scotland. SLIC say their goal is to ‘drive innovation in libraries for the benefit of society’, and make sure that libraries offer services that keep them relevent for a 21st century audience. Sara’s appointment certainly fits in with this goal.

Scottish Libraries already have digital champions who attend events such as Scotland's largest gaming festival to promote the cutting edge technology that they are working with. They reported on their blog that:

'Over the course of the three-day event, Digital Champions from public libraries all over the country demonstrated devices - such as 3D printers, robots and microbits - and promoted libraries' diverse range of digital skills programmes, with a particular focus on our Code Clubs for young people.'

Wikimedia UK strongly believes in the value of public libraries as public institutions which can not only encourage reading but important digital skills that will prepare people for the economy of the future. Wikimedia UK can have a role in this through encouraging educational technology both in academia and the wider information technology sector, and we look forward seeing the outcomes of Sara's residency.

WikiFactMine at Wikimania 2017[edit | edit source]

WikiFactMine is a ContenMine project which searches scientific literature to extract facts and citations which can semi-automatically enrich Wikidata. The WFM grant application states that:

‘CM is currently focused on extracting facts with inherently embedded citations at scale from the open and closed literature on a daily basis and releasing them into the public domain as open data. We take advantage of a UK copyright exception for text and data mining and work jointly with librarians at the University of Cambridge. This offers a solution to the access problem but we now wish to address importing those facts to Wikidata and allowing Wikidata curators and Wikipedia editors to access them in a useful form to enrich Wikimedia content with quality, peer-reviewed information and citations.’

Tom Arrow, who leads the project, was at Wikimania along with Charles Matthews to let the community know how the project had been progressing.

Toms talk on the second day of Wikimania attracted an audience of about 45, and the discussion afterwards clarified that "fact" means a mention of a search term in a scientific paper. Charles Matthews also manned a stall in the Community Village, promoting the message of "Scientific Content Mining for All".

ContentMine technology depends on custom "dictionaries", which are lists of search terms that are used in a multiply parallel way. They are now built from Wikidata with SPARQL queries, and a workshop is being run in Cambridge on 3 September.

Tom Arrow at Wikimania Hackathon 2017 15.jpg

Watch Tom Arrow’s talk from WikiCite2017 about the project.


[1] User:T_Arrow

[2] User:Charles_Matthews

[3] Grants:Project/ContentMine/WikiFactMine


[5] Logo created at the Hackathon, and the whole ContentMine category on Commons

[6] Meetup/Cambridge/35

[7] WikiFactMine documentation on Wikidata.

Wikifying Westminster event with mySociety[edit | edit source]

Wikifying Westminster event at Newspeak House

On August 19th, mySociety and Wikimedia UK ran the “Wikifying Westminster” workshop, a day-long event mostly focused on UK political data. By the end of the day, we had seen lots of new data added, from dates of birth, academic degrees, to the entire list of Northern Ireland Members of Legislative Assembly going back to the inception of the Assembly itself. Also, several interesting queries are now getting a little closer to being answered:

See the mySociety blogpost to learn more and see graphic representations of those queries. MySociety says on the blog that the vision of the project is that 'one day, complex investigations which currently take researchers a lot of time, such as “how many MPs are descended from people who were also MPs” or “how many people named X were MPs in year Y”, will be answerable with data from Wikidata using a single SPARQL query'.

We hope to be able to support more Wikidata events in the UK to give people an introduction in how to work with this powerful project and show them what kind of interesting questions they can answer with the data available, such as this one:

Number of Johns vs number of women in the UK parliament since 1920