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Open letter for free access to Wikipedia on mobile in South Africa

Monday, November 11th, 2013

This post was originally published on the blog of the Wikimedia Foundation

In November 2012, the students of Sinenjongo High School penned an open letter on Facebook, encouraging cellphone carriers to waive data charges for accessing Wikipedia so they can do their homework. In May 2013, filmmaker Charlene Music and I asked them to read their open letter on camera. Below is the video of their letter:

The cost of data is a major obstacle to accessing the free knowledge on Wikipedia for hundreds of millions of people. These students want their cellphone carriers to sign up to Wikipedia Zero, a partnership program organized by the Wikimedia Foundation to enable mobile access to Wikipedia – free of data charges – in developing countries.

We will be sharing the longer documentary about the class as soon as it’s ready. While we are still editing the longer documentary, we’re looking for:

1.) A few skilled volunteers who can help to translate captions to accompany the video above and the longer documentary. There are currently eleven official languages in South Africa alone. We need volunteers to create captions for all those languages, and as many other languages as possible.
2.) A motion graphics or digital artist who could help us design and animate a few titles, maps and statistics for the documentary. If you are interested, feel free to email me: vgrigas@wikimedia.org or get in touch with me on my talk page User:Vgrigas.
3.) If you agree with these students, please share the video above.

Victor Grigas
Visual Storyteller, Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia: Learning by sharing knowledge

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Librarians collaborated with Wikipedians old and new to improve articles related to Multnomah County, Oregon.

This post was written by Martin Poulter. You can read the original here.

Billions of people around the world crave education, but lack the resources we take for granted. Adequate libraries and current textbooks are out of their reach, but they are increasingly getting internet access. Meanwhile, every day in universities and schools, talented students are writing essays, then handing them in to be read by a tutor who already knows the topic, to be marked and eventually thrown away. If only that student work could be put into a free, multilingual, knowledge-sharing space.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, is part of a charitable project to give everyone on the planet free access to the sum of all human knowledge. This takes enormous effort from tens of thousands of volunteer editors, and after thirteen years it is still very much a work in progress. In many areas, Wikipedia has a real need for decent, well-written content.

In writing an online encyclopedia, the Wikipedia community needs people to:

  • choose and evaluate sources
  • represent sources with the right amount of relative weight;
  • structure information clearly to convey what is known about that topic;
  • write neutrally without bringing in subjective interpretations and opinions;
  • write in an original way to avoid plagiarism;
  • write accessibly for the widest audience;
  • check grammar and wording;
  • illustrate by finding, creating, or adapting images;
  • review articles against quality criteria;
  • and to discuss and justify these choices with people who may have a different perspective.

So there are research, textual, social and even legal skills involved in being a Wikipedian. Users do not need all these skills from the outset, but can start small and develop them by interacting with the community.

These look very like the skills that we try to develop and sharpen in degree-level education. That is why, in education systems around the world, hundreds of academics have set their students to improve, critique, translate, or illustrate Wikipedia articles. Articles such as Dictator novelImplicit self-esteem and Nuclear energy policy in the United States have become rich and informative through student involvement.

Writing for the world, rather than just for one’s tutor, is potentially very motivating. It also risks ‘stage fright’. The course and assessment need to be structured to ensure learners are comfortable with Wikipedia’s norms and prepared to make the right sort of contributions.

Many lecturers and teachers are still suspicious of Wikipedia and (in vain) tell students to avoid it altogether. They see it purely as a reference resource. Seeing it as an educational process or as a knowledge-sharing community gives a different perspective: A poor Wikipedia article offers an opportunity to create active – and in some cases extremely rewarding – experiences for learners, while improving the world’s access to free educational material.

The US-based Wikimedia Foundation  has some case studies from educators and here in the UK there is an index of education projects that may provide inspiration and guidance.

Royal Opera House to host an editathon

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London

The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London

As Wembley is to football and CERN is to particle physics, so the Royal Opera House in London is to ballet. Home to both The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, the opera house is located in London’s Covent Garden. So it’s with great excitement that Wikimedia UK is supporting a ballet-themed editathon at this world-famous venue on Saturday 22 June.

The focus of the event is Sir Frederick Ashton, The Royal Ballet’s founding choreographer and one of the most prominent figures in 20th century ballet. The Wikipedia article about him exists in 14 languages but is somewhat neglected, while only around 15% of his ballets have articles at all.

The Royal Opera House will be sharing lots of books and other materials to use as sources and there are still some places available at the event.

The editathon is being organised by Rose Vickridge of the Royal Opera House and Andrew Gray, an experienced Wikimedian.

You can learn more, and sign up for the event, here.

“One is most amused” – Queen Victoria’s Journals editathon

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

This post was written by Liz McCarthy, Communications and Social Media Officer for the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford

‘This book, Mamma gave me, that I might write the journal of my journey to Wales in it.’ So began the young Victoria in 1832, beginning a lifelong habit – and providing fodder for researchers around the world.

As Communications and Social Media Officer for the Bodleian Libraries , it was my job to find ways to get the word out and help our audiences engage with the Queen Victoria’s Journals project. The project, a collaborative effort between the Bodleian Libraries, the Royal Archives and information  company ProQuest, has made Queen Victoria’s diaries available online.

The Bodleian Libraries communications team had already begun to consider how we might create stronger links with the Wikipedia community – we’ve been chatting to Wikipedians in Residence and working with local editors to improve collection-related content. Engaging with the Wikipedia community seemed like a great way to put the Journals material to use as well as to help us develop relationships with Wikipedians in the area, and we decided to run a Queen Victoria’s Journals editathon to coincide with the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birthday on 24 May.

The project’s timing meant that we had a very short window in which to organise an event, but we went ahead. We quickly pulled together some promotional material and got curators lined up for the day, then spent about two and half weeks promoting the event. The help of Wikimedia UK was crucial in getting the word out and making sure everything was set up correctly, but we also advertised within the University and to various Victorian research groups.

We ended up with 14 participants (5 virtual, using IRC to ask questions) as well as curators and staff who came by to answer questions and facilitate. We were lucky enough to have Wikimedia trainers Charles Matthews and Doug Taylor join us, and they provided one-to-one support to the new editors – including the Director of Records for the Royal Household, who was roped into making his first ever edit! Our curators began with a quick intro to Queen Victoria’s journals and the Journals website, and then we dived right in.

The day was a success in terms of articles edited (38, including 3 new ones); Wikipedia is now the 2nd-highest referring site to the Journals website. It was also a relaxed opportunity to engage with the Wikipedia community and to introduce new ways of exploring our collections to those who know most about them. We look forward to hosting another event in the autumn – next time, with kids!

WMUK Conference – Mediawiki for OER and Learning Analytics

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

The below was originally published by Simon Knight. You can read the original here.

On Saturday I spoke in Lincoln at the WikimediaUK Conference on Mediawiki for OER and Learning Analytics – slides (with audio) here, video (I think) available on the conference link some time later this week.

I’d met a group of the people last year at EduWiki 2012 (and my thoughts at: EduWiki 2012), and my talk built a lot on the work I did at Cambridge on the ORBIT project – creating a platform for OER on interactive teaching particularly in STEM subject, as well as more recent work related to my PhD.  In particular I was talking about some stuff I’ve covered in blogs on:

I was particularly happy to hear talks from education organiser Toni Sant, WMUK Associate (and a big contributor to education outreach) Martin Poulter, and communications organiser (and someone I’ve talked to a bit about Digital Disruption‘s work) Stevie Benton.

I’ve put some thoughts below on particular aspects of the event, in the long run I think there are some interesting questions around how wikimedia meets its targets (and what those are), one thing I was thinking about yesterday was whether we need to start thinking about the mediawiki platform as a classroom tool in the same way as google has pushed google docs – it’s a good way to encourage brand affiliation, and familiarise people with your tools (and get them off microsoft’s – who of course do exactly the same thing).  It may be that tools like mediawiki – particularly given that they are open source, very flexible, and allow a lot of interesting pedagogic and analytic things to happen, might be particularly amenable to the sort of ‘technology for pedagogy‘ things I talked about not so long ago.

Lincoln Cathedral

Learning Analytics for Learning Wikipedia

There are interesting times ahead with the development of a wikimedia VLE for training, and the wikipedia adventure (also for training).  One thing I was keen to suggest was that if VLE training modules had learning outcomes that could be operationalised into activities within a wiki (either a training environment on the VLE or linked to wikipedia contributions themselves) then we could engage in some learning analytics on that data, and perhaps even develop a badging system.  That’d be cool because, for example, we might see what sorts of pages a user interacts with – perhaps primarily ‘commons’, or maybe ‘articles’ in the main wikipedia, etc. – and what sorts of activities they’re doing (minor edits, updating references, adding media, etc.) and build on that resource knowledge and user knowledge to make suggestions for further training, areas of strength, areas of weakness.  The primary target for this sort of thing is noobs, but if we want genuinely user contributed stuff I think engaging more experienced wikipedians as users is crucial too.  But if they come in and think “oh, well I can do this and that” or try modules and find they’re bored, the fatigue dropout will be high.  So much the better if people could be “pre-accredited” not from completing the modules on the VLE, but by checking the learning outcomes for particular modules (granularity will matter) against their user contributions.  This might also encourage more experienced users to learn new skills (for example, I’m a competent contributor, but I know nothing about templates – perhaps I should learn), and could flag some things where people think they have the skill, but their editing suggests they might actually be missing something.

Learning Analytics for Learning in Wikipedia

Of course, I’m also interested in how we can develop learning analytics for learning in wikipedia (or, at least, mediawiki environments) and I’m starting to think about how we could set up some experimental environments to teach some critical evaluation skills, and explore people’s epistemic commitments in both mediawiki and more structured (e.g. EvidenceHub) environments.  More  on that another time though! Exciting times ahead.

Italian Wikipedia surpasses one million articles

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Scouts from Portugal at the opening of the 21st World Scout Jamboree

This is a guest post from Maurizio Codogno, Wikimedia Italia, and was initially posted on the Wikimedia Foundation blog where you can also see the post in Italian and Spanish

On 9 September 2005, the article Choisy-le-Roi, a French town near Paris, was created on the Italian Wikipedia. On 3 October 2008, the article Placca indiana, one of the tectonic plates in the lithosphere of the Earth, was also created. What can these articles ever have in common? Simple. they are, respectively, the 100,000th and the 500,000th article on it.wikipedia.org.

On January 22, at 4:50 am (Rome and Zurich timezone), the millionth article was created! Given the creation and deletion of articles that routinely happens on Wikipedia, it is not exactly clear which one is the actual millionth article. The two most likely candidates are 8mm (a California-based band) and Scautismo e guidismo in Portogallo (Scouting and Guiding in Portugal).The Italian edition of Wikipedia is the fifth to have reached this milestone. In addition to the English language edition, which had its millionth article on March 1st, 2006 and now has well over four million entries, the “millionaire club” currently includes the Wikipedias in German (since 27 December 2009), French (since 21 September 2010) and Dutch (since 17 December 2011). The editions in Spanish, Russian and Polish are also approaching the milestone.

Surely, in August 2001, when the first Italian article was created, no one would even have dreamed of witnessing the millionth one. In the discussion about the creation of article number 100,000, some people jokingly wrote that they were getting ready for when the half a million goal was reached, a figure which seemed unattainable.

To tell the truth, the first two articles mentioned at the beginning of this post have something else in common. The links above show how the items appeared at their creation, but if you consult them today (respectively here and here), we can see that in these years the content of both articles has been greatly expanded. This is probably the best answer to those who believe that having too many articles is useless, if not harmful, for the encyclopedia: The structure of Wikipedia allows and even encourages the growth of knowledge, because even a slight improvement, when added to many others, can make a difference.

In fact, on the Italian Wikipedia, relative to other editions, the automated creation of pages is strictly limited to the cases where it’s tightly checked by humans and it encourages editor engagement, and has been almost non-existing in last years. Even more noteworthy is the fact that the 500,000th article was created by an unregistered user (a permission removed on the English Wikipedia in 2005), another confirmation of the practical philosophy of Wikipedia, which prefers authority of the text to authority of the writer.

The article Scautismo e guidismo in Portogallo is a product of Progetto:Scout, the combined effort of Wikipedia editors interested in developing and maintaining articles about scouting. The article itself, while entered by User:Lou_Crazy, is the result of a combined effort, in pure wiki style. Its contents come from the article Scouting and guiding in Portugal in the English language Wikipedia, which received contributions from at least ten different users since it was created in 2007. On the English Wikipedia there is WikiProject Scouting, which is analogous to Progetto:Scout. The text was translated by Lou Crazy, and it was adapted using templates written by members of Progetto:Scout to help in this effort. So, despite being only 2175 bytes long at its creation, this article already has a long history behind it, and it has already grown almost twice in size, including the addition of a photo.

Lou Crazy, who volunteers most of his free time as a scout leader, says that he started working on this article a few days ago, because it was missing, and he wants Wikipedia to be a great resource for scouts and guides who want to know more about their brother scouts and guides across the world. He had also prepared an article about Federação Escotista de Portugal, one of the scout associations in Portugal. So, when the counter was close to 1 million, he sent both articles and crossed his fingers.

The second candidate article, 8mm, was written by Nungalpiriggal, a fairly novice Wikipedian, who was awake and online that night, looking at the page counter with the mouse ready to press the Save Page button for the historical moment.

Why that article? First of all, Nungalpiriggal is a fan of that band and that page was missing. Second, he felt the millionth article should have respected Wikilove, thus, no controversial topics or discussed personalities, no football players or politicians, nothing that may cause any disagreement and confusion. So, the choice went to an international band that most people in Italy did not even know about (maybe, now that this article has been published, somebody else in Italy will listen to their music). And, last but not least, as a cameo in this page there is a link to Grey’s Anatomy, the article mostly viewed on the Italian Wiki in 2012.

Of course, no one plans to rest on our laurels and there are at least two new challenges for the encyclopedia. We need to increase the number of active contributors on Italian Wikipedia, which has stayed more or less constant for many months at around 8,000 people. Anyone can lend a hand, even just correcting a typo.

Of course we then have to improve the quality of individual items too. Today there are only 800 entries which are stated featured or good: it is true that the criteria for inclusion in those lists are very strict, but it is certainly possible to do much more. Finally, for those who feared that we are running out of items to be created, no worry! There is a page dedicated precisely to the requests for creating articles on topics not yet covered. Collaboration means that too!

Maurizio Codogno, Wikimedia Italia

New editor training in “the finest stone town in England”

Thursday, December 20th, 2012
The training event in Stamford, Lincolnshire

The training event in Stamford, Lincolnshire

That’s how poet Sir John Betjeman once famously described the picturesque town of Stamford, Lincolnshire. Wikimedians recently had the chance to put that claim to the test.

Wikimedia UK received an email a short while ago from Dave Sones of the Stamford Civic Society expressing an interest in learning how to edit Wikipedia. Dave’s idea, along with the Civic Society, was to get together to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Stamford while creating a digital archive of notable encyclopaedic resources, such as historical documents and images. This drive was given impetus by the recent closure of the local museum and there was a real sense of enthusiasm around the town to share the wonderful resources on their doorstep.

That’s how on Monday 17 December some staff and volunteers from Wikimedia UK arrived at the local college to train a diverse group of local residents, including a sizeable contingent from the Civic Society, on the finer points of what it takes to create and edit content for the largest reference work ever created.

After a light lunch, trainers Katie, Edward and Tom took the group through topics including a background to Wikipedia and its sister projects, how to write and edit content, how to include references, creating user accounts, talk pages and how to add images.

The training was well received and there was a definite determination to put some energy into the freshly-updated project, which you can see here. WMUK will continue working with the Stamford team into the new year. We’re looking forward to seeing the content evolve over the coming months.

And as for Betjeman’s claims? Perhaps you should pay Stamford a visit and judge for yourself!

Manchester Girl Geeks help to share the world’s knowledge

Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Manchester Girl Geeks Editing Day 2012

Manchester Girl Geeks Editing Day 2012

This post was written by Daria Cybulska, Wikimedia UK’s Events Organiser

“It’s easier than you think!” “We can do it!” It’s self regulating and doesn’t need interventions from a site owner.”

Those are just a few comments from a Manchester Girl Geeks Wikipedia training event held on Sunday 25 November, very kindly hosted by MadLabs. The event brought together experienced Wikipedia editors and 12 Girl Geeks with two aims: to learn how to edit Wikipedia and to improve articles about female scientists, building on the progress made during our Ada Lovelace Day event.

Over the course of the afternoon, many articles were improved and lots of tea enjoyed. There was a really exciting feeling that everyone in the room was learning something new, trainers included. We’re confident that many of the people who attended will continue editing Wikipedia and make valuable contributions to the encyclopaedia. A lot of the participants were also keen to look at future opportunities to work with us, so I am sure we will be taking some exciting co-operations further.

If you’re interested in hosting a Wikipedia training and editing session, or want to help at any future events, please email Daria Cybulska – daria.cybulska-at-wikimedia.org.uk

In response to today’s news articles in The Times and The Daily Telegraph about PR editing of Wikipedia

Monday, November 12th, 2012

This morning The Times ran a story about how staff at the public relations firm RLM Finsbury edited the Wikipedia article on Alisher Usmanov, including removing negative material. The Daily Telegraph also ran with the story online.

Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and as such its articles should be written with a neutral point of view. To maintain this neutrality we recommend that anyone with a conflict of interest, such as PR professionals, follows the guidelines we created with the CIPR. When PR professionals engage with the volunteer community via talk pages, we almost always see good results. If you need to seek an urgent correction, you can email info-at-wikimedia.org for assistance – there is a volunteer team on hand 24/7 to help.

We are pleased The Times notes that, while it took more than a month for the Wikipedia community to initially spot the changes and undo them, once they were changed again it only took seconds for this to be picked up on and undone once more. This shows that the Wikipedia community is active and that protecting articles from this kind of editing is taken seriously. This is important for Wikipedia’s credibility and for its readers and editors.

We also welcome the CIPR response to these reports. It is clear that the majority of PR professionals are willing to work with the Wikipedia community and to follow the community’s guidelines. Problems arise when PR professionals try to “fix” articles by directly editing them, as this story shows.

Wikimedia UK is always happy to engage with anyone, including PR professionals, about how Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects work. You can contact us by emailing info-at-wikimedia.org.uk or by calling our office on  020 7065 0993.

We’re looking for Wikipedians in Residence!

Thursday, November 1st, 2012
Some happy Wikipedians in Residence

Some happy Wikipedians in Residence

The Wikimedia UK GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) working group is now ready to find UK institutions willing to work with us by creating Wikipedian in Residence posts.

Our budget is limited but there is enormous scope to be flexible. These posts could be for one day a week, they could limited term posts, based at home – or full time positions at an institution, like the British Library post. We will of course be pleased to see applications from institutions with whom we have already begun a positive relationship – but please do note that the applications have to be from the institutions, rather than individual volunteers.

Time is very short so we need bids to be received by 5pm on November 15th. Please send your completed form to daria.cybulska – at – wikimedia.org.uk Daria will be convening a panel to make the decisions that will be recommended to the board, hopefully at the meeting of November 17/18. Please also feel free to contact us for more information by emailing Daria or calling our office on  020 7065 0990. If you are having trouble accessing the form please email stevie.benton -at- wikimedia.org.uk

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