News and notes
Last-minute candidates for ArbCom, the Sue Gardner European Tour hits London
ArbCom election: 18 editors step forward
Nominations for the annual elections to the Arbitration Committee are now closed. There are 18 candidates, vying for a maximum of seven vacancies (sitting arbitrators are marked with an asterisk):
AGK, *Coren, Courcelles, DeltaQuad, Eluchil404, Geni, Hersfold, Hot Stop, *Jclemens, *Kirill Lokshin, Kww, Maxim, NWA.Rep, Panyd, *Risker, *Roger Davies, SilkTork and Worm That Turned.
These community-run elections involve candidates' nomination statements, a guide to the candidates, questions for those running, links to individual voter guides, and discussion pages; all are accessible through this template. The five "fallow" days for voters to further question and discuss candidates have begun. Voters can view candidates' responses to a set of common general questions, and to specific questions that editors have posted. These specific questions have included queries about a candidate's statement, requests to comment on scenarios involving problematic editors, questions on individual ArbCom cases, and issues concerning real-world legal threats.
The election, via the SecurePoll voting interface, will go live from 27 November to 10 December. MediaWiki sysadmin Tim Starling will assist with the setting up and troubleshooting of the SecurePoll interface. Three WMF-identified editors—Happy-melon, Tznkai, and Skomorokh—have offered to be election administrators. They will oversee the election, including the SecurePoll voting system.
The vote will then be audited by three independent scrutineers drawn from the ranks of non-native stewards, to ensure the election is free of double-voting, sockpuppetting, and other irregularities, and to tally the results and announce it on the election page. The stewards will be Bencmq (originally from the Chinese Wikipedia), Trijnstel (originally from the Dutch Wikipedia), and Vituzzu (originally from the Italian Wikipedia). All community editors will be invited to scrutinise the list of those who have voted as the election proceeds, using their knowledge and intuition to help ensure that all votes are legitimate.
The results will be announced on the election page. Successful candidates will start their two-year terms on 1 January 2012.
Sue Gardner at Imperial College, London
Sue Gardner presents a graph showing the number of views to information-sharing websites (Wikipedia is the blue line).
As part of her annual European travel, Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, spoke at Imperial College, London last Sunday 13 November on the participation of female editors on Wikipedia and its sister projects.
More than 40 people attended, including around half a dozen students. Gardner opened the address with an introduction to Wikimedia projects, the slides of which talk are available on the Foundation wiki. She suggested that attendees watch with the intention of giving the same talk themselves someday. The introduction focused on the remarkable popularity of Wikipedia, which dwarfed that of conventional informational outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, BBC and so on.
The gender imbalance of editing on Wikipedia was first brought to the attention of the public after an article on the topic was published in The New York Times in January of this year.
Gardner addressed the reasons put forth to explain the gender gap, substantially recapping her landmark February blog post Nine Reasons Why Women Don't Edit Wikipedia (in their own words). She referred frequently to data to support her analysis, citing amongst other studies the 2011 Women and Wikimedia Survey. The first – and simplest – reason she gave was that MediaWiki markup is "a pain" to learn. She said that a WYSIWYG editor is in the works and will help all editors to contribute. She used several direct references to opinions from women who had been quoted in the survey results; one woman had stated that she was "not thick-skinned enough for Wikipedia" – an opinion Gardner endorsed. "Many of the editors," she said, "used the heated discussion as a form of intellectual sparring" and that it's "not necessarily as serious as it seemed."
One female Wikimedian had also voiced the worry that "[Female YA author(s)] are not notable, meanwhile 1-Book, Nobody Dude's Wikipedia page is 14 printable pages long!" Gardner agreed that topics of interest to female editors were often less well-developed than articles on areas of interest to men, citing hairstyles as an example. The issue of Wikimedia culture being sexualised also arose, as she recounted a problem she herself had come across where she was surfing Wikipedia articles and had arrived on an article on garment necklines of shirts. The article was illustrated with an image of a woman wearing a round necked shirt, and while the content of the image itself was fine, the file was denoted by a "less than satisfactory name: it was called Boobies.jpg". Although the file was renamed during the talk, the notion was a cause for concern; a culture which produced such decisions as well as phenomena like userpage galleries of sexualised depictions of women lent weight to the conclusion that "Wikimedia can seem like a smutty mens' locker room at times". Another worry highlighted by female editors was that, in some language projects where words are gendered, female editors have been addressed by the male version of the word "user" – "the software called me male!".
Gardner elaborated on "what it took to be a Wikipedian", describing a conversion funnel which begins with being literate, proceeded through requirements as having access to the Internet, having spare time (however little), being reasonably tech-literate and thick-skinned and being pedantic and emphasised the importance of having a topic you love. She made the remarkable admission that despite their keen appreciation of the significance and causes of the gender gap, Foundation staff had no plans to specifically combat it, but were instead relying on existing outreach efforts such as the Global Education Program to attract a more balanced gender distribution than that of the existing editing community. The talk ended with a brief question-and-answer session and a presentation of gifts to the speaker by Wikimedia UK volunteers.
- How many Britannicas?: According to Wikipedia:Size in volumes, the encyclopaedia has now surpassed 1,600 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in size.
- Education on the Foundation blog: Last week saw two posts on the Wikimedia Foundation's blog about the Wikipedia Education Program. The first was an overview of statistics and metrics. It examined gender representation and how the program had grown since the fall semester last year. The second was a story from a professor about how the Wikipedia Education Program helped him learn to love Wikipedia.
- Reasons to donate and protest: Also posted on the Foundation's blog were 5 Reasons to Donate – which included the fact that Wikipedia was both free of ads and cost-free – and a declaration of support for American Censorship Day, highlighting the issue of the Internet Blacklist Bill. The English Wikipedia community, in contrast, decided against officially supporting the day of protest (see "Discussion report").
- AFT team in office hours: The last four IRC office hours sessions (October 27, November 3, November 10 and November 18) have featured the Wikimedia Foundation staff tasked with developing the next iterations of the Article Feedback Tool, including Howie Fung, Fabrice Florin, Brandon Harris, Dario Taraborelli and Oliver Keyes. A report on the progress of the tool's development is expected soon.
- Autowikiography: In what is perhaps a first, a spoken version of the Chris Nunn article was recorded by the subject himself (ogv).
- Wikipedia Loves Libraries: Atlanta: Wikipedians in Atlanta gathered for a Wikipedia Loves Libraries meetup on Saturday, November 19 at the Atlanta-Fulton Central Library, having been invited by librarian Jillian Barnes. Wikipedian Ganeshk gave an introduction to the site, fellow editor Katie Filbert discussed GLAM collaborations, the campus ambassadors program, and staff gave a tour of the library's special collections. The group also discussed the possibility of making Wikipedia meetups at the library a regular occurrence.
- Milestones: The following Wikipedia projects reached milestones this week: The Breton Wikipedia reached 40,000 articles; the Estonian Wikipedia reached 90,000 articles in a week that also saw the winners announced in its Wiki Loves Monuments contest; the Thai Wikipedia reached 70,000 articles; the Afrikaans Wikipedia reached 20,000 articles; the Buginese Wikipedia reached 10,000 articles; and lastly the Serbo-Croatian Wikipedia reached 50,000 articles. In addition, the Catalan Wikipedia celebrated its 100,000th registered editor.
- RfA drought: No editors were made administrators this week, and at the time of writing there were no extant Requests for Adminship.