News and notes
Wikimania a success; board letter controversial; and evidence showing bitten newbies don't stay
Wikimania draws to a close
Wikimania's official logo
From 4 to 7 August, Wikimedians congregated in Haifa, Israel for this year's Wikimania conference, which also included preliminary events on 2 and 3 August. Unofficial estimates put the number of attendees at around 1,000 when both locals and visitors from 54 other countries around the world are included. The full schedule included some 125 sessions available for attendees, a large number of which were filmed and will be put on both Commons and Wikimedia Israel's own YouTube channel, which already includes shorter teaser videos of highlights from the conference. See also the dedicated coverage of some of the most important sessions in this Signpost issue.
Whereas previous conferences have struggled to make sufficient Wi-Fi coverage available to the hundreds of Wikimedians who attend each year, attendee Christophe Henner tweeted that Wikimania 2011 included "fully working wifi", helping to make hands-on sessions during the event run more smoothly.
The first registration slots for Wikimania 2012, to be held in Washington D.C., are expected to become available later this month. Suggestions for what makes a successful Wikimania are already coming in. Adam Hyland, who attended Wikimania 2011, commented that "diversity made this conference a success", while more mundane suggestions include the designation of a 24-hour lounge area and the creation of a space accessible to curious members of the public.
Further coverage of Wikimania is available from the Wikipedia Weekly podcast, which returned from a two year hiatus to publish three recordings from the conference (44 minutes, 39 minutes and a 20-minutes interview with Liam Wyatt about GLAM outreach). A summary of coverage relating to the technical side of Wikimedia can be found in this week's "Technology report".
Board officers announced, letter on chapter funding
Ting Chen, who retains the post of Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees for another year
During a board meeting coinciding with the seventh annual Wikimania conference, in Haifa, Israel, the Wikimedia Board of Trustees announced the allocation of roles and responsibilities for the 2011–12 board members, the composition of which was confirmed after board elections held earlier this year. According to the posting, Chinese Wikimedian Ting Chen retains the post of Board Chair, which he has held since July 2008, and Dutch Wikimedian Jan-Bart de Vreede regains the post of Vice-Chair that was briefly held by financial expert Stuart West from 2010 to 2011. According to the blog post, West will remain the Foundation's Treasurer and Phoebe Ayers will take responsibility for secretarial matters. The four officers share the board with Samuel Klein, Bishakha Datta, Matt Halprin, Arne Klempert, Kat Walsh and Jimmy Wales (in his "Founder" role). In unrelated news, the new Secretary was responsible for posting a summary of the Board's activities in May and June this year.
As expected, the Board of Trustees took the opportunity to discuss possible adjustments to the method for allocating funding between chapters—in particular, the utility of direct, automatic allocations to chapters of funds donated from within their countries was discussed. Justified by what it described as "its legal and financial obligations to safeguard money" given by donors, the group released a joint letter calling for greater restrictions to this funding channel (the Foundation also offers project-driven grants to chapters). Coming just weeks after the latest round of Foundation–chapter fundraising agreements were signed, the letter's publication has provoked consternation in some quarters. John Vandenberg of Wikimedia Australia said that imposing what he sees as an arbitrary condition (tax deductibility) on eligibility for direct donations so soon after negotiations finished "is not how you do change management". However, overall there was general consensus among commentators that the accountability of chapters needs to be improved; Chris Keating of Wikimedia UK stated that "Chapters' performance in terms of reporting and accountability has not been great on the whole". MZMcBride suggested that it should not be out of the question "to ask for some of the money back" from last year's fundraiser if it had not been used. Phoebe Ayers defended the letter's publication, adding that with the 2011 fundraiser approaching, the Board was "short on time" if it sought to improve practices.
New WMF research substantiates link between newbie retention and rejection of their first contributions
Researcher Aaron Halfaker (User:EpochFail) of the Wikimedia Foundation's Summer of Research has discovered a strong predictor of new editor retention – the rejection they experience when first trying to edit the encyclopedia.
As a response to recent results that point to a decline in new editors retention since 2007, Aaron examined the work that new editors perform in their first few editing sessions and the community's reaction to that work, in order to build a model for retention. The results suggest that rejection of newbies' first few edits plays a strong role in newcomer retention. Moreover, the amount of initial investment (edits in the first session) exhibited by a new user exacerbates the effect.
"Wikipedia's climate has changed since the early days before and during the exponential growth. Back then, the community was driven toward building content. More recently, with popular articles becoming longer and more elaborate, a shift seems to have occurred for quality over quantity. I suspected it has become much more difficult for newbies to make edits that wouldn't be immediately rejected and that this would has an effect on their motivation to continue editing. I wanted to look for such an effect and find out how much it matters with respect to the decline in new editor retention."
The changing average length of articles new editors edit. See the write-up
Aaron's work on the length of an articles the newbies are editing provided him with evidence that editors are editing longer articles, and that this is a strong predictor of being reverted,  presumably because of Wikipedia's increasingly stringent quality control mechanisms.
To understand whether this increased rejection could explain the decline in editor retention, Aaron used a logistic regression model to explore factors that predict whether a new editor will survive or not. He found that the proportion of an editor's edits that are rejected by being deleted or reverted in their first three edit sessions is a strong negative predictor of survival. This confirms the hypothesis that if a newbie's first experience editing Wikipedia is full of rejection, he or she would be unlikely to continue working in the project. It turns out that this effect has existed throughout the history of Wikipedia and has been increasing over time, though it has decreased somewhat in recent years. What's more, while editors who show a high initial investment in the community (by making many edits in their first edit session) are more likely to survive in general, these highly invested new editors suffer even more from having their work rejected than editors who express a lower investment.
Total and surviving new editors by year of first edit.
These findings suggest that it is precisely the kind of newbies that Wikipedia needs – highly invested and prolific editors – who are being turned away by reverts and deletion.
The proportion of new editors making more than 5 edits in their first session plotted over time.
However, it is also evident that the characteristics of newcomers are changing. Newcomers are expressing less initial investment, making fewer edits than they used to. This could be explained by an early/late adopter effect, or some other external factor.
A WMF report suggests that the number of editors who make acceptable contributions to the encyclopedia is still very high, but a more thorough analysis is needed to determine how much the increase in rejection can be attributed to changes in the quality of new editors' first contributions.
- ^ The Editor Trends study 
- ^ Suh et al., The singularity is not near: slowing growth of Wikipedia. WikiSym'09 http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1641322
- ^ Dalip et al., Automatic quality assessment of content created collaboratively by web communities: a case study of Wikipedia, JCDL'09 
- ^ Blumenstock, Size matters: word count as a measure of quality on Wikipedia, WWW'08 
- ^ Stvilia et al., Information Quality: Discussions in Wikipedia. ICKM'05 
- ^ An edit session is defined as a sequence of edits saved in the encyclopedia separated by less than an hour. It's assumed that by grouping edits together this way, the amount and type of work an editor does in one editing session on Wikipedia can be analyzed.
News in brief
- Personal image referendum set to begin: reminders have been sent out regarding a movement-wide referendum over the possible introduction of an opt-in image filter set to begin on 12 August. Details are available, as are Frequently Asked Questions. The proposal is the result of a previous study into controversial content on Wikimedia sites.
- Foundation secures cybersquatting domain: after filing a complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) in June, the Wikimedia Foundation was granted the domain name "WebhostingWikipedia.com", which had been registered by a British company. The July 27 decision by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center found that the domain name was "confusingly similar" to the Foundation's "Wikipedia" trademark and hence an infringement of Wikimedia's rights. (Although the Wikimedia Foundation promotes open policies on copyright, it considers trademark protection necessary to preserve the integrity of the movement in the long term. To this end, it registered the "Wikipedia" trademark in 2006, allowing it to pursue cases of infringement more easily.) Wikimedia has so far filed nine cases with the arbiters and has thus far lost none.
- WikiHistories – Tagalog Wikipedia: One of the Foundation's WikiHistories summer fellows reported for a second time on her field trip to the Philippines to study the local Wikipedia and Wikimedia community. (See prior Signpost coverage). She interviewed Eric Andrada-Calica, Tagalog Wikipedia’s first active editor.
- New edition of GLAM newsletter: The seventh edition of This Month in GLAM, a newsletter produced to help keep track of collaboration between Wikimedia projects and galleries, libraries, archives and museums, has been published on the Wikimedia Foundation's Outreach Wiki. The issue is the first to be divided into individual country reports; the USA, UK, France, Spain and Germany were all represented.
- Good articles monthly round-up: In July 2011, the number of good articles rose to 12,442. The monthly increase of 205 is the highest since April 2011, and outpaced the percentage growth of the total number of articles. This means that a record proportion of more than one in 300 Wikipedia articles have been assessed as passing the good article criteria. These criteria came under debate at the end of July, with calls to make checks for copyright violation part of the assessment process. The discussion continues. Elsewhere, a proposal has been made to introduce a slot for good articles on Wikipedia's Main Page, by making newly promoted good articles eligible for the Did you know section for a one-month trial period. An earlier poll in 2010 failed to reach a consensus on the issue.
- The Hindi Wiktionary increased from 50,000 entries to over 100,000 entries this week, as VibhijainBot creates thousands of entries about cities in India.
- The Esperanto Wikipedia has reached 150,000 articles, with the article about the Brazilian municipality, Contenda.
- The Azerbaijani Wikipedia has reached 80,000 articles.
- The Tajik Wiktionary has reached 500 entries.
- The Sanskrit Wikipedia reached 5,000 articles as did the Hill Mari-language Wikipedia.
- The Malagasy Wiktionary has reached 100,000 words in the Malagasy language.