News and notes
French million, controversial content, Citizendium charter, Pending changes, and more
French-language Wikipedia reaches a million articles
The growth in the number of articles on the French Wikipedia
The French-language Wikipedia celebrated its millionth article with the creation of the article Louis Babel on September 21. The French-language Wikipedia is the third to cross this threshold, after the German (with 1.1 million) and English Wikipedias (with 3.4), having grown at a steady rate since its formation in 2001. It has more than 60 million individual edits and 300,000 active contributors; article creation at WP.fr spiked in 2005–06, driven by the addition of some 36,000 geographical stubs, then stabilized to a present rate of 300–400 new articles a day, as well as 800 active contributor registrations per month.
The milestone was also announced on Wikimedia France's Twitter feed. Because of lag on the Wikipedia page lists, the milestone was expected to be hit two days later, on September 23; following a flurry of page creations, the developers revealed that the milestone had been hit with the creation of Louis Babel, two days prior to the expected date.
The next Wikipedias likely to break the threshold are the Polish (now at 729,000 articles) and the Italian (728,000).
Draft of controversial content recommendations published
Part Two of three installments of the 2010 Wikimedia Study of Controversial Content has been released (see earlier Signpost coverage: "Board resolution on offensive content", "Study on controversial content"). Authored by consultants Robert Harris and Dory Carr-Harris, it sets out 11 recommendations for discussion, to be presented to the Board in October, among them that:
- the status quo be maintained for dealing with controversial text within the Foundation's projects;
- the creation of a "WikiJunior" version of the Wikipedias aimed at under-12s be considered;
- the application of the existing Commons policy on educational scope be reviewed with a view to deleting images of nudity in Commons where breasts, genital areas or buttocks are clearly visible, and the intent of the image, to a reasonable person, is merely to arouse, not to educate;
- historical, ethnographic and art images be excluded from such a review in virtually all cases;
- policies of active curation be considered for sexual, violent, or sacred images deemed controversial, which would allow for restriction of the numbers of images in a category, active commissioning of images deemed needed; (Harris gave an example: "We counted more than 1,000 images of penises in Commons, and unless we missed one, they were all white. A curated Commons might actively try to correct this imbalance, to make the collection more representative");
- a user-selected optional "regime" (“under 12 button” or “NSFW” button) be established within all WMF projects, but that this feature should only be able to delay (not deny) access for the reader;
- Wikimedians should decide what is filterable, and that tagging regimes that would allow third parties to do so be restricted; and
- the “principle of least astonishment” be elevated to policy status as a fundamental principle governing relationships with readers. (The term "Principle of least astonishment" has been used earlier in such debates, for example by Jimmy Wales in his intervention earlier this year on the German Wikipedia when that project featured an explicit image on its main page – see Signpost coverage.)
Part Three will contain a "rough catalogue" of existing sexual images on Commons.
Citizendium adopts charter, Larry Sanger's leading role ends
After a deliberation process lasting more than a year, the free wiki-based online encyclopedia Citizendium has adopted a charter (consisting of 55 articles laying a constitution-like foundation for the project's governance). This was announced last week by its founder Larry Sanger, whose role as editor-in-chief ended with the charter's ratification.
Plans for a charter had already been mentioned in Citizendium's initial press release in October 2006, but the drafting process did not start until a July 2009 statement by Sanger, in which he announced his intention to step down as editor-in-chief, partly to fulfill his pledge to do so two or three years after Citizendium's inception, and partly due to his inactivity on the project.
The charter's 55 articles are in seven sections ("Citizenship and editorship", "Content and style", "Organization and offices", "Community policy", "Behavior and dispute resolution", "Administrative matters", and "Transitional measures"). A nomination process has now begun to fill governance roles set out in the charter: A five-member Management Council, a seven-member Editorial Council, a Managing Editor, and an Ombudsman. The preamble to the charter describes Citizendium as "a collaborative effort to collect, structure, and cultivate knowledge and to render it conveniently accessible to the public for free", without mentioning the word "encyclopedia". There were concerns about ambiguous statements and a lack of copy-editing in the final version (there are typos such as "Managament Council"). Sanger himself, who was not directly involved in the drafting process, had objected to the wording of several articles, including those mentioning original research and advertising, and to the absence from the charter of "anything like a bill of rights enumerating the rights of Citizens against unfair procedures and punishments". In last week's announcement, Sanger also criticized the charter's "lack of any requirement that articles be family-friendly" (as in Citizendium's current family-friendly policy), and added that "there is some seriously twisted stuff on Wikipedia that has no business in a resource calling itself an 'encyclopedia'" (cf. Signpost coverage of his earlier allegations against Wikimedia Commons). On the other hand, he expressed hope that the charter would make it easier to exclude problematic contributors from Citizendium, which he said suffered from the presence of "ideologues" and "cranks" (the project has been criticized for being over-lenient towards advocates of topics such as homeopathy or chiropractic).
Despite the criticism of the final version, it was overwhelmingly approved, by 65 of 72 participating members. (In each of the past two months, there were around 100 active Citizendium users, i.e. accounts that had made at least one edit, according to Citizendium's statistics.) Half of the eight-member Charter Drafting Committee had "dropped out" before the vote, and one of the remaining committee members (also the Secretary of Citizendium's Editorial Council) justified the decision not to delay the process further: "Citizendium is on intensive care life support. I think it has a chance to recover with an imperfect charter".
In his announcement, Sanger dismissed "hopeful, mean-spirited reports of our impending demise", observing that "our traffic has been steadily growing, and I've observed new people continuing to get involved". However, he warned that "the funds available to pay for the Citizendium servers are running low" and advised the community to think about funding options and cheaper hosting (see also July 26 Signpost coverage).
Interim poll on pending changes ends
The interim poll on the use of Pending changes on Wikipedia has closed. After the two-month Pending changes trial, an earlier straw poll had produced 407 in favor, 217 opposed, plus 44 other responses. Jimbo Wales then asked the Wikimedia Foundation to keep the tool running until there had been further discourse (see Signpost story).
The interim poll, from September 20–27, was run to decide whether the system should be kept in place until the release of a new version, projected for November 9, that is expected to address some concerns. It closed with 289 votes for temporary continuation and 199 for temporary removal.
A trial that would apply Pending changes to WP:MEDS articles has been proposed, to gather additional data. Testing has been centralized, and the poll has received a large amount of debate on its talk page.
- Article feedback launched: As first announced in an earlier Signpost article, a trial of the Article feedback tool was launched on September 22. This is one of several changes being tested as part of the Public Policy Initiative. It aims to "capture article feedback from readers". The feedback tool, which consists of several "thermometer-like" bars at the bottom of an article, allows any reader to quickly judge an article by the quality of its sourcing, completeness, neutrality, and readability, on a scale of one to five. The pilot covers around 450 articles under the scope of WikiProject United States Public Policy. Besides offering a new way to seek the input of readers regarding Wikipedia quality, the Public Policy also experiments with the conventional system of editors' feedback, implementing a variation of the widely used Wikipedia 1.0 assessment system. A signup list for its Assessment Team has been started.
"Username," the first video in the series.
- Introductory video clips: The Wikimedia Foundation has published a four-part video clip series on Wikipedia, directed by Jelly Helm. In order, they are called "Username", "Nice people", "Edit button," and "Great Feeling." The clips were created as a presentable "short" for future meetings and presentations, and were shot at Wikimania 2010 in Gdańsk, Poland. They are also distributed on Facebook, Identi.ca, YouTube, Vimeo. Overall 35 people were interviewed. Among those who appear in the videos are Bücherwürmlein, Wittylama, cbrown1023, Henna, Steven Walling, Theo10011, Mstislavl, Chomsky1, Lyzzy, Waldir, Jdforrester, Church of emacs, notafish and Abbasjnr. The videos had been previewed at the Wiki-Conference NYC last month, see Signpost coverage.
- French GLAM conference: Wikimédia France has announced a two-day "GLAMWIKI:FR" conference on "cultural heritage and collaborative web" (the first part of a projected "Les Rencontres Wikimédia" series). It focuses on outreach to the cultural sector, including museum curators, librarians, archivists, art historians, subject specialists and associated professions (subsumed as GLAM on Wikimedia projects). This will be the third meeting of its kind, following an Australian one in 2009 and an upcoming British one on November 26–27 (see earlier Signpost coverage). It will be held on December 3 and 4 at the Palais Bourbon in Paris. In related news, the French city of Toulouse announced that it had become the first to sign a collaboration with Wikimedia France, about providing photos from its museum and archives on Commons. And the Europeana GLAM conference on October 14/15 in Amsterdam will feature a keynote by Liam Wyatt (User:Wittylama), titled "Peace, Love & Metadata: a cultural collaboration with Wikipedia".
- Account participation initiative: The Wikimedia Foundation has begun the Account Creation Improvement Project, noting that "account creation is not welcoming, it often looks complicated, it is overwhelming, and there is no follow-up. It is not clear what the benefits of account creation are." Only around 31% of new users on Wikipedia ever make a single edit (based on logs extracted from the toolserver in August). The initiative is currently brainstorming ideas and gathering participants and data.
- Wikimedia movement roles project: The Wikimedia Foundation's "movement roles" project was officially announced last week (see earlier Signpost coverage: September 13, September 6). It is a year-long effort, commissioned by the Board of Trustees and centered around a working group, aiming to "clarify the roles of various stakeholders in the movement" (such as chapters). The goal is to create a "Wikimedia Charter" – a document where the roles and responsibilities of various members of the Foundation (such as chapters) are clearly defined -, and to put forward a plan for organizational development.
- Wikimedia UK appoints "Office Manager": Charles Matthews was appointed Office Manager for Wikimedia UK last week. The position had been announced last month, as the first paid employee of the chapter since its foundation two years ago. The appointment is an interim position meant to "provide the chapter with administrative support and in particular with the annual fundraiser." Matthews has been an active contributor on Wikipedia since 2003, and an administrator since 2004.
- Wikimedia Italia board: The Italian Wikimedia chapter elected a new board last week; Frieda Brioschi (m:User:Frieda), who has served as the chapter's president since its foundation in 2005, will continue her role.
- Featured articles for the blind: Wikimedia Deutschland has announced (English summary by Ziko) that the German Central Library for the Blind (DZB) is producing audio versions of all 31 "Articles of the Day" that are to appear on the German Wikipedia's main page in October. The DZB (which was founded in 1894 and is based in Leipzig) contracts over 50 professional speakers for audio books and other productions, some of whom will read the Wikipedia articles.
- Essay series on Wikimedia: Eugene Eric Kim (User:Eekim), who was the Program Manager for the Wikimedia Foundation's Strategic Planning project, has published the second in a series of four blog posts about the Wikimedia movement and its challenges, on the website of his consultancy firm "Blue Oxen Associates": Wikimedia: Power, Leadership, and Movement Roles - topics which he says were not discussed enough in the Strategy Project. (See also Eekim's Signpost article "The challenges of strategic planning in a volunteer community")
- Chapter grants: The WMF has published an update on its grants program: "Fifteen Global Chapter Grants Supported by Wikimedia Foundation".
- Wikipedia book: Wikimedia Board member Samuel Klein (User:SJ) has published a brief review of the book "Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia" by Joseph Reagle, which was released last week. In related news, the Foundation's executive director Sue Gardner has written two blog posts (, ) about a Quaker clerking workshop she attended together with Board member Phoebe Ayers (User:Phoebe), saying that as a non-quaker, she had become interested in "the similarities between Quaker and Wikimedian decision-making practices" from reading Reagle's book. (The Signpost will publish a review by Staeiou soon.)