Friends' Newsletter/2018/Issue 01

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Welcome to the 2018's Spring Newsletter!

Since the end of last year, we've had a few staff changes and additions, and we have been preparing for some important new projects which are coming up. Our Chief Executive Lucy Crompton-Reid has gone on maternity leave, with interim Chief Executive Sandy Balfour filling in until October. Long time Programme Coodinator Richard Nevell has gone for a one year sabbatical at Historic England, and we have hired Hannah Evans to take over this role. Hannah wrote an introductory note for our blog which you can read here.

We are looking forward to a big project in May in partnership with Amnesty International and their global community, which will be linking up with Wikimedia chapters to help write more articles on women human rights defenders around the world, to give them the recognition they deserve and to close the gender gap. The Celtic Knot minority language conference is also coming up in July, and there are so many other events going on over the summer that there's no time to list them all.

A Message from Interim Chief Executive Sandy Balfour

By Sandy Balfour, Interim Chief Executive

Since I started standing in for Lucy as CEO of Wikimedia UK, I have been doing some highly unscientific sampling of attitudes to the Wikimedia projects, and specifically of attitudes to Wikipedia. My sampling draws on the various groups with whom I interact in other parts of my life, which is to say people of a certain age who play tennis or bridge or who do crosswords or who have an abiding interest in Russia.

Sandy Balfour on Bering Island

Two things were immediately obvious. The first is the usage. Everyone – a total of twenty-three people – has at some point in the past month had occasion to refer to Wikipedia. All had found the experience satisfactory. All found what they were looking for, and none read more than a few lines. Most liked the slightly old-fashioned look of the pages. All found it easy to use. They wanted a date, a definition, a potted biography. They wanted it – and they got it – quickly, and then they moved on. The second is participation. Not one of those to whom I spoke had ever created or edited a Wikipedia page. None, in fact, had even thought to – not even those who have pages of their own. “It never occurred to me,” they would say. And when pressed: “It’s not that important to me.”

“But you use it?” I replied.

Well, yes, they did. But, they argued, if it wasn’t there they would use something else. And anyway, it seems like a lot of hard work. “What’s in it for me?”

Curiously only one the answer to the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question had traction. It was not that they could doctor their own entries or burnish their own reputations. It was the sheer fun and excitement of participating in something as extraordinary, and big, and immediate as Wikipedia. I doubt any are recruits to the cause – but then again… one evening last week I sat on the platform at King’s Cross with a very eminent scholar as he waited for his train to Cambridge. He looked in wonder as the minor edit we made to a page on which he is an expert went live. Ten days later the edit remains. “Extraordinary,” he said on the phone. “Quite extraordinary.”

It’s the right word. The Wikimedia project is something quite out of the ordinary, and I am delighted to play a part in it. It’s about time. I have been a heavy ‘user’ for years, but it occurred to me only recently that I should do more than use it. I should help create it. There is, after all, so much in it for me.

Welsh Wikipedia reaches 100,000 articles

Wikipedia Session Cardiff Univ 10.jpg

Wicipedia Cymraeg, the Welsh Wikipedia has reached 100,000 articles. Welsh Wikipedians have been working hard over the past year to reach this target, which is a big achievement for a minority language Wikipedia. Wikimedia UK is committed to diversifying Wikimedia’s content and contributors and supporting the Celtic British languages, and reaching this milestone demonstrates the impact this work has had.

Wikimedia UK’s Programme Co-ordinator in Wales, Robin Owain, has been a driving force behind the growing strength of the Welsh Wikipedia, along with National Wikimedian at the National Library of Wales, Jason Evans, and the many tireless contributors to Wicipedia. It’s been a long journey since the birth of Wicipedia in 2003, and you can see the most important milestones in this journey in our Welsh Wikipedia timeline video:

Welsh Wikimedians have also recently established a Community User Group in Wales, Grŵp Defnyddwyr Cymuned Wicimedia Cymru. This will be a separate entity to Wikimedia UK, but will work in close partnership with us. Robin Owain will continue to develop and manage Wikimedia UK’s programme in Wales, working with external partners and the community to help deliver our strategy with a focus on Wales and the Welsh language. As part of this role he will work closely with the User Group as to support and develop the Wikimedia community in Wales, facilitating and delivering partnership events and activities and acting as the key contact point between the User Group and the Wikimedia UK Chapter.

Where next for Welsh Wikipedia?

Welsh Wikipedia is already the most visited site in Welsh online, it is close to gender parity in its biographical articles, and it is highly integrated with Wikidata, so what is the next goal for the Wicipedia community? Jason Evans, National Wikimedian at the National Library of Wales, says that the focus will be on growing the Welsh-language editor community, securing partnerships with the education sector and existing producers of relevant Welsh language content.

“Not only is the Welsh Wici growing but the community of editors is growing. The National library of Wales will continue to support and encourage editors through events and training sessions and by sharing its own data openly for use on Wicipedia and beyond”, Evans said.

Elsewhere in the growth of language Wikipedias, the Chinese (Mandarin) and Portugese Wikipedias are both about to pass 1 million articles, while English Wikipedia is over 5.6 million articles. Many people who speak English as a second language work on the English Wikipedia, meaning that it has far more regular editors than other languages. Wikimedia UK strongly encourages people who speak another language than English to help translate and improve articles into the other languages they speak so that people who do not speak English can access the same quality of encyclopaedic content that is available in English.

Wikimedia UK is now looking forward to the Celtic Knot conference, taking place at the National Library of Wales in July. This conference aims to bring together people working on smaller language Wikipedias, especially the Celtic languages of the UK, but also indigenous languages from other parts of Europe, to discuss how to improve and promote Wikipedia as an educational tool for minority language communities. If you’re interested in taking part, why not get in touch?

Why Non-Commercial licenses aren't useful

License image of the BY-NC-SA Non-Commercial license.

By John Lubbock, Owen Blacker, Stuart Prior

The other day, a friend of Wikimedia UK contacted us, asking if there was a simple explanation anywhere of why Non-Commercial (NC) licenses aren’t useful. He was trying to persuade a group who had released photos of their members on an NC license that they should make them fully Open Licensed. They were worried, he said, that someone could reprint, sell and profit from their photographs.

This fear of content being used in a way that the holder doesn’t agree with is a very common one, but largely illusory. It was something I encountered when asking the City of London Corporation for permission to go inside Bunhill Fields cemetery to take photos. I was refused because they could be used for ‘controversial articles about death’. It’s a conversation which often takes some time for the rights holder to understand why fully Open Licenses are better.

Unfortunately, some big funding bodies still advise their grantees to make the product of their work available on NC licenses, so here is a general guide for why NC licenses aren’t very useful, expanding on some of the points Creative Commons make on their wiki.

The debate on NC licenses on Wikipedia goes back almost to the beginning of the site; you can see one thread discussing the issue in 2004. Wikimedia passed a resolution prohibiting the use of NC licenses in 2007 as being non-compatible with the definition of a Free License, which allows content to be used for any purpose.

The first problem to note is the ambiguity of the term ‘Commercial’. If you run a website that has advertising on it, you could not use an NC image on it, because it would be part of a commercial site. When people think that they want to prevent someone else making money out of their work, they probably imagine that person simply reprinting and distributing the work without attribution to the creator, but this would already be breaking the attribution clause of a completely Free License like CC BY-SA 4.0 or CC BY 4.0.

In reality, if someone is making a piece of content Freely Licensed, it’s unlikely that others will be able to commercialise it. If it’s on a ShareAlike license, the resulting content should also be on that license, and so would be hard to profit from. The other thing license holders should consider is whether it would matter to them if someone tried to monetise their content. Say you took a photo of a bridge in Wales that ended up on a calendar being made in China. Would it matter to you?

If the object is to disseminate the content more widely, it may not matter if someone did try to use it for a commercial purpose. In one example, we encouraged the UK Black Tech group to release their stock images of black people in tech on open licenses — the object was to get more images of black people in the tech sector online, so using open licenses even serves their purpose better.

If a record label wanted to release a photo of an artist that others could use for promotion or in news articles, it’s unlikely that someone would take that photo and try to sell it, when it already exists for free online. In the case of music labels, they already send the press photos of their artists to use in commercial publications — so why not release a photo of that artist on an Open License? One good quality image on an Open License would likely be widely used, and therefore give the music label some control over the photo many people would see of their artist.

We are not suggesting that a company should release the best quality or most commercialisable image of a particular person or thing, but music labels especially would be well advised to release a sample photo of each of their artists on an Open License so it can be used on their Wikipedia article. One way that the rights holder could prevent inappropriate reuse would be to release only a low-resolution version of the image, which would be good enough for a web page but not to be printed on a canvas. For Creative Commons’ The Power of Open, film-maker Nicolás Alcalá described using precisely that model for Riot Cinema:

We assume that if you are a movie theater, an on-demand platform, a newspaper, or TV, you will need the high-quality version and reach an agreement with us. But if you’re a small amateur cineclub or a theater in a third world country and you don’t have the money to showcase the film, you can do it with the low-quality version for commercial purposes.

One of the problems with the protectionist thinking of some rights-holders is the ‘lost sale fallacy’, that using free content equates to a loss of sales. However, it has been demonstrated that filesharers spend more money on purchasing music and film — because they are exposed to things they would not have otherwise discovered. Likewise, more information about artists being available on Wikipedia leads to people visiting galleries to see their works or buying books to find out more about information about artists.

Mike Masnick has written at length about the economics of abundance, with Cory Doctorow probably the most prominent of authors who release their work under Creative Commons licenses — as Tim O’Reilly put it, “the problem for artists isn't piracy – it's obscurity”. Similarly Melinda Lee talked about using Creative Commons dual-licensing to that end with Uncensored Interview after having realised, when working at MTV, that opportunities had been missed due to lack of content rights. Their stock of interviews with bands and celebrities are available under conventional TV licenses but also under CC-BY, allowing reuse and remixing by anyone and the Share-Alike provisions have allowed Uncensored Interview to benefit from those resulting remixes.

And, of course, even if a rights-holder forbids commercial reuse, that cannot prohibit fair use or fair dealing exemptions from allowing someone to quote, satirise, parody or report on their works — in a commercial context or otherwise — with monopoly “intellectual property” rights having no ability to prevent that.

There are always going to be occasions where some works don't make sense to allow for commercial reuse. Hollywood is not going to release the next blockbuster film on CC BY anytime soon. But that doesn't mean you should pick a non-commercial license off the bat either. Like any decision involving technology, consider your threat analysis before defending against those threats — think about what you're trying to achieve.

If you want to publicise your art, for example, perhaps a lower-resolution screen-worthy version can be spread far and wide without impacting your ability to make a living from selling hardcopies. If you're writing an essay for a collection, will it harm your income to loosen those restrictions a little — or might it mean that you get volunteer translations, for example, as Doctorow has seen.

Think about what you are trying to achieve and how different licensing models can best help you achieve that while still leaving open the options for other people to build upon your work — just as we've all built upon the work of those who came before us.

Wikimedia UK Chief Executive Lucy Crompton-Reid has been published in a new book on Feminism and Museums by Museums Etc.

Lucy’s chapter is on Wikimedia and the Gender Gap and is is featured in Volume 2 of Feminism and Museums: Intervention, Disruption and Change. Under an agreement with the publisher, we are allowed to share the chapter with you on our blog

How the music industry should engage with Wikipedia

By John Lubbock

If I was a music industry promoter, I would make sure the artists I worked with had accurate Wikipedia pages, because those pages will come at the top of the Google rankings when you search for the artist’s name. In practice, this doesn’t happen, largely because they don’t understand how Wikipedia works or what its rules are. A lot of people do not understand Wikipedia’s notability guidelines. These guidelines specify different notability standards for different professions. Here are the notability guidelines for musicians to have a Wikipedia page:

Musicians or ensembles (this category includes bands, singers, rappers, orchestras, DJs, musical theatre groups, instrumentalists, etc.) may be notable if they meet at least one of the following criteria.

  1. Has been the subject of multiple, non-trivial, published works appearing in sources that are reliable, not self-published, and are independent of the musician or ensemble itself.
    • This criterion includes published works in all forms, such as newspaper articles, books, magazine articles, online versions of print media, and television documentaries except for the following:
    • Any reprints of press releases, other publications where the musician or ensemble talks about themselves, and all advertising that mentions the musician or ensemble, including manufacturers' advertising.
    • Works consisting merely of trivial coverage, such as articles that simply report performance dates, release information or track listings, or the publications of contact and booking details in directories.
    • Articles in a school or university newspaper (or similar), in most cases.
  2. Has had a single or album on any country's national music chart.
  3. Has had a record certified gold or higher in at least one country.
  4. Has received non-trivial coverage in independent reliable sources of an international concert tour, or a national concert tour in at least one sovereign country.
  5. Has released two or more albums on a major record label or on one of the more important indie labels (i.e., an independent label with a history of more than a few years, and with a roster of performers, many of whom are independently notable).
  6. Is an ensemble that contains two or more independently notable musicians, or is a musician who has been a reasonably prominent member of two or more independently notable ensembles. This should be adapted appropriately for musical genre; for example, having performed two lead roles at major opera houses. Note that this criterion needs to be interpreted with caution, as there have been instances where this criterion was cited in a WP:CIRCULAR manner to create a self-fulfilling notability loop (e.g. musicians who were "notable" only for having been in two bands, of which one or both were "notable" only because those musicians had been in them.)
  7. Has become one of the most prominent representatives of a notable style or the most prominent of the local scene of a city; note that the subject must still meet all ordinary Wikipedia standards, including verifiability.
  8. Has won or been nominated for a major music award, such as a Grammy, Juno, Mercury, Choice or Grammis award.
  9. Has won first, second or third place in a major music competition.
  10. Has performed music for a work of media that is notable, e.g., a theme for a network television show, performance in a television show or notable film, inclusion on a notable compilation album, etc. (But if this is the only claim, it is probably more appropriate to have a mention in the main article and redirect to that article. Read WP:BLP1E and WP:BIO1E for further clarifications)
  11. Has been placed in rotation nationally by a major radio or music television network.
  12. Has been a featured subject of a substantial broadcast segment across a national radio or TV network.


An artist who may not have met the criteria for inclusion years ago may have since passed the threshold. The rapper Frisco, a member of the important UK Grime label BBK, had his article repeatedly deleted between 2008-2010 because editors did not feel that he met the above criteria. His page was then locked from being re-created. Since then, UK Grime and the label he is on have become much more culturally important, and he has also released a number of albums, meaning he now meets the notability criteria. Because the page is locked for re-creation, an administrator will need to unlock it so it can now be made.

Fiona Apps, a longtime admin I asked for help, told me she previously advised music labels who didn’t understand how to engage with Wikipedia.

“They don't understand what makes a musician 'notable' under Wikipedia's standards but more importantly there's a complete misunderstanding of both what neutrality is on Wikipedia and WHY neutrality is on Wikipedia”, she said.

“Things that are very much important in a musician's career simply aren't appropriate for Wikipedia and success is measured in reports from reliable secondary sources that are chosen by precise criteria that are separate from the music business. Wikipedia is written in language that is just foreign to the industry.”

Apps also said that she would like artists not to send their fans to their Wikipedia page to ‘fix it’, as that would likely make the problem worse, and result in the page being locked. Instead, she advised music companies to ask Wikimedia UK for training.

One example I saw recently of an artist making all these mistakes provides a useful case study. Complaining on Twitter that @Wikipedia should allow his edits to his own page, the artist clearly did not understand how Wikipedia works. Sure enough, his page was a total mess of terrible PR speak. I have attempted to anonymise it as far as possible because this type of thing is not uncommon and he does not deserve to be singled out for ridicule.

Example of non NPoV editing of a Wikipedia music page.png


Obviously, the copy in this article is a huge violation of rules against non-Neutral Point of View (NPoV). This is why Wikipedia’s rules discourage people from editing articles about themselves or their employer. Editing pages of artists you promote and getting caught doing it is likely to get the page deleted or the edits simply removed. Instead, what Wikimedia UK would recommend is working with our editor community and collaborating to achieve consensus based on concrete facts with good references. You can also work with Wikimedia UK to organise training sessions that fans could come to, to learn how to make sure the pages of artists they like are as good as possible. We are here to support Wikipedia andwork with the community of volunteers, so please work with us!

For the past two years, I’ve tried to engage the MOBO awards on Twitter to encourage them to take an interest in the fact that many of the artists they nominate for awards have no Wikipedia articles, and when they do, they are often quite bad, many without photos of the artists. I talked to a couple of smaller music labels last year about the problem of artist photos, and the problem seems to be that labels have photographers who allow them to use their photos, but the label itself doesn’t own the photos, and a photographer is unlikely to want to publish a photo they can sell on an Open License.

We desperately need more content by and about non-white people on Wikipedia. If you’re not of European descent, you’re much less likely to be adequately represented on Wikipedia. This is partly because the editors themselves are not particularly diverse. So the issue we have is how to engage new audiences to become Wikipedia editors?

One way to do this could be through music. Wikimedia UK can ask for press passes to musical events so that photographers can go to events for free in exchange for Open Licensed photos of artists who are performing there. As Fiona Apps mentioned above, we can also engage with the music industry to provide training for them to understand how to use Wikipedia.

It’s important that artists who meet the notability criteria are adequately represented on Wikipedia, and if they are from a minority ethnic background, they’re much less likely to be. So we call on our community members to generate more content on artists whose pages lack photos, and on the music industry itself to engage with our community. Please check out the WikiProject Black British Music for suggestions on pages that need to be created. There are mutual benefits to be achieved which can help all of us, and expand the amount of free, open knowledge about notable artists.

Sara Thomas appointed Scotland Programme Coordinator

By Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Coordinator

On the way to Inverclyde to deliver training...

The Scotland Programme Coordinator is a new role at Wikimedia UK, one which I was very happy to see advertised, and am absolutely delighted to be taking on. It's a significant investment by WMUK in Scotland, and I’m excited to get started!

Since becoming Wikimedian in Residence at Museums Galleries Scotland in 2015, and then going on to hold the same role at the Scottish Library and Information Council last year, I’ve had both the pleasure and privilege to watch Scotland’s Wikimedia community grow and develop. Ewan’s residency at the University of Edinburgh is now full-time, and Susan has just recently completed her residency with the National Library of Scotland as Gaelic Wikimedian. My residency with SLIC is now at a point where we have the first public library services across Scotland starting to run editathons, and I’ve had recent meetings with both further and higher education institutions who want to know more about using Wikipedia in the classroom. It’s been obvious to me for a while that there’s a good deal of demand in Scotland for this kind of work, as well as significant scope for increasing volunteer engagement.

The role of the Scotland Programme Coordinator will be to support and encourage volunteer involvement in Scotland, as well as to support existing Wikimedians in Residence and partnerships, and pursue new relationships with partner organisations. I’m hoping to grow our network – particularly outwith the central belt – and encourage not only further participation in Wikimedia projects in Scotland, but to help to further the representation of Scotland in Wikimedia projects. I know that there are Scottish women who aren’t on Wikipedia who should be, and having worked in events and heritage – and travelled all over Scotland to do so – I’m keenly aware of the incredible store of knowledge that's held in Scotland's cultural and heritage institutions. I want to see more of it openly available, and I’m going to do everything I can to encourage its release.

On a sad note, taking up this role has meant that I’ve had to resign my position at SLIC. I’ve loved working on this project and I’m very proud of where we’ve gotten to so far. But I’m really very happy to be handing over the residency to my replacement, who’ll be starting in just a couple of weeks!

More

  • Read more about the SLIC residency here
  • The University of Edinburgh residency here
  • Sign up to the Scot-wiki mailing list here.
  • Read more about volunteering with Wikimedia UK here.

When not involved with Wikimedia-related projects, Dr Sara Thomas has been/is a music venue manager, fundraiser, trainer, Event Coordinator for the Beltane Fire Society, Volunteer Coordinator for Mugstock Festival, Project Officer for Dig It! 2017, storyteller, writer, and Chair of a Community Arts charity.

Giving back to the Digital Commons

By John Lubbock

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie at a protest in Parliament Square.

With the Cambridge Analytica scandal continuing to swirl in the background, both YouTube and Facebook have recently announced that they will start using Wikipedia content as background information about publishers and controversial videos on their platforms. TechCrunch noted that,

‘Of course, this isn’t the first time Google has utilized the work of Wikipedia’s army of devoted contributors and editors — and the company is hardly alone here. In recent years, the site’s vast wealth of peer-edited knowledge has, for better or worse, become the backbone of a number of wildly used services — including, notably, smart assistants. Ask Alexa, Assistant or Siri who the Queen of England is, and they’ll all pull that information from the same place.’

Breitbart News, the far-right website run by ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon, is especially unhappy about this, because their Wikipedia page announces the fact that they have published material considered to be racist and misogynistic, and that ‘The site has published a number of falsehoods, conspiracy theories, and intentionally misleading stories.’ In response, Breitbart’s fans have been trying to remove content from the page that they disagree with, and the page has been semi-protected. This seems to be an example of the fear expressed by some Wikimedians that big platforms like Facebook are abdicating responsibility for the problems with their systems and trying to make Wikipedia the arbiter of truth online.

Looking at the largest donors in the 2017-18 financial year, Google is the biggest donor with a contribution of ‘more than $1m’, around double Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s $500,000 donation but smaller than the previous year’s grant of $3m from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation. These are not huge sums of money for a website that has the 5th biggest amount of traffic online. Google itself posted a revenue of £110.8bn in 2017 despite being fined $2.7bn for privileging its own content in searches.

Transparent Google logo

If these big companies are not going to give back financially for the use they make of the Open Licensed content Wikipedia provides, there are other ways that they could help grow the Digital Commons, provide more transparency, and create more trust with their users by allowing them some choice over the license that content on their platforms is published under. I no longer upload any of my own photos to Facebook, because this gives the company a license to do whatever they like with my content. If Facebook allowed me to publish photos on a Creative Commons license so that others could use them as well as Facebook, I would be much more tempted to use the platform to share photos again. Flickr does this already, and I know from talking to an ex-Facebook and Instagram developer that both companies have built the functionality to allow this, but have not implemented it.

What is the reason for this? Apparently they think it might confuse users who already struggle with the complexity of the privacy and security settings. I think a more likely reason is that telling users what rights they are giving away every time they want to publish something would likely reduce the total amount of content those users share on the platform. But this is happening anyway. Facebook has been aware for years that organic engagement and on their site has been in steady decline, reducing by 20% in 2017 alone.

As promoters of open knowledge, I think the Wikimedia community has something to teach Facebook and other commercial platforms about how they can win back the public's trust by being more Open and transparent with their users about what their rights are when sharing content. There is clearly a tension between making money and being trusted by users, but it feels like this is an issue that Facebook and other sites can no longer ignore, now that the conversation about how data is used (or abused) has become mainstream with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Data is derived from the Latin word 'datum', that which is given. Commercial platforms have a public duty to give their users information about how their data is used and what rights they have, otherwise the data they collect is not really being freely given. The consensual nature of this transaction, and the nature of the social (media) contract between the platform and users is something we all should think about more carefully.