News and notes
Update on Global Development, Wikipedia Day NYC is a success, JFK audio on Commons
Global Development midyear report
Wikipedia on a smartphone; readers are using their phones to browse content now more than ever.
The Global Development team has released its midyear report for 2011–2012. The Global Development department is a part of the Wikimedia Foundation that is tasked with Mobile and Offline development, as well as the Foundation's global and regional strategy. Overall, "the global development team continues to make progress in building our team; however, we are moving more slowly than would be preferred in some areas." Highlighted in the report are the two most active sectors of development: mobile development and attempts at stimulating editor growth.
In terms of mobile development, the Foundation is making progress on meeting a target of 2 billion monthly page views and partnerships with mobile operators to reach 500 million subscribers by later this year. December 2011 saw 1.534 billion mobile page views across all Wikipedias, as compared to 802 million in June of that year (see previous Signpost coverage here, here, and here). Current prospective mobile partnerships are being developed in Latin America, Asia, Middle East and Africa, Turkey and Russia, which could affect up to 700 million mobile users. Not all deals are expected to stick, but those that will will offer, in most cases, free Wikipedia access to their subscribers. A much-improved web portal was designed and launched in September of this year, results from the Mobile Readers Survey 2011 are being analyzed, and the results of mobile research in India and Brazil have already been published. Work on an Android app for Wikipedia, a major gap in mobile coverage, was concluded this week with the publication of the new free Wikipedia App designed by the mobile team.
Progress on editor growth has been much more arduous. Active editor populations have been slipping downwards for the last few years, a trend that executive director Sue Gardner has called "the holy shit slide" (see related Signpost interview). As the report summarizes, "We are behind in getting pilot initiatives deployed to really understand the potential for direct impact on editor growth" in reference to its self-described "primary effort", the Global Education Program, whose Pune Pilot in India it deemed a failure (see next story for more). An analysis of the Portuguese Wikipedian community is also underway, as is planning, supported by the Qatar Computing Research Institute, for a program for the Arabic Wikipedia sometime in the coming months. More information on and the summation of the Pune Project proceedings can be found below.
Verdict delivered on the India Education Program
A report commissioned by the Wikimedia Foundation from consultant Tory Read has been published on the India Education Program's pilot scheme. The Pune pilot project recruited over a thousand university students, but ended in disrepute, having quickly ran aground on editorial inexperience and blatant disregard for copyright (as documented in the Signpost's special report). According to a quantitative analysis conducted in tandem with the report, only 21% of total content added by the students survived cleanup to date.
The Read report gives an overview and blow-by-blow history of the project's travails, chronicling early failures of project management to engage with the English Wikipedia community, the recruitment of unseasoned students as ambassadors with two days' training and a disregard for assigned tasks, and the enlisting of vast numbers of students in the scheme (the vaunted American predecessor involved a mere 200), the decision to make Wikipedia editing mandatory for all students in contravention of professors' wishes, the decision not to enlist volunteer online ambassadors from the beginning, the impact on global editors of the students' problematic missives and early efforts by the Foundation consultants to combat it, the English Wikipedia community's exasperation and decisive action after communication lapses, and the cleanup effort and fallout that resulted. The report outlined the positive experience of some of the students and their professors' frustration, and the statistical outcome of its study, which indicated that "the pilot yielded a high percentage of low-quality content being added to English Wikipedia".
In assessing the project, the report cited inadequate planning, poor communication and lack of due diligence on the part of the Wikimedia Foundation for its failure, but also declared that the "global Wikipedia community and the Wikipedia community in India must also take responsibility", for having responded in uncivil and hurtful ways; Read concluded "there is no cause for bashing and mocking people on talk pages and email lists, particularly when so many people are working hard with good intent toward a common goal". The termination of employment of those involved was judged premature. The response from the Wikimedia Foundation, which included the report's commission, was described favourably; whether this is justified may be seen in the fortunes of the nascent Cairo education program. The recommendations for the future of such initiatives covered predictable ground; including a key role for the global editing community in the planning process, capitalising on the talent which has emerged from previous initiatives, building "capacities and relationships" between pilots, a system for the early detection of copyright violations and an overhaul of the editing interface.
The reception of the report at the time of writing has been complimentary though not universally credulous, with several commenters sharing the sentiment of Hut 8.5 that it seemed "an attempt to find a way for the program to continue rather than to honestly evaluate whether it should". Much of the discussion, which involved many of the editors who bore the brunt of the cleanup efforts, has been solution-oriented, indicating the potential for reconciliation and future productive co-operation.
Wikipedia Day NYC
Over 100 people packed into New York University's Tisch School of the Arts ITP department on Saturday, January 28 for Wikipedia Day NYC, which featured panels, lightning talks, open space sessions, plenty of food and fun. The event was organized by Wikimedia NYC, Free Culture NYU, and Free Culture Alliance NYC.
The morning panel session covered Wikipedia Loves Libraries and Wikimedia library and archives outreach initiatives. Among the presentations, Dominic reflected on his 8-month long experience as Wikipedian-in-Residence at the National Archives and Records Administration, the New York Public Library's Lauren Lampasone talked about digital initiatives and Wikipedia outreach, and DGG discussed the role of libraries and how they can help Wikipedians improve sourcing. The afternoon panel session featured discussion of university outreach initiatives. During the open space sessions, Sarah Stierch talked about GLAM-Wiki collaborations and opportunities for Wikimedians and about the gender gap, and a planning session was held to discuss Wiki Loves Monuments 2012 in the United States. New York Times journalist Noam Cohen gave a lightning talk about his experiences in covering Wikipedia. The day ended with Courcelles winning a game of The Price Is Right, with Mitchazenia as game show host.
JFK assassination audio released on Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has released two audio reel recordings of conversations between Air Force One pilots and crew and personnel on the ground, following the JFK assassination in 1963. The recordings are 2 hours and 22 minutes in length. David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, explains that the audio "provides additional documentation concerning the immediate response of the U.S. Government on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination." User:Dominic was provided with a 1.4 GB raw audio file, converted it to Ogg format and had it uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, at just about the same time that NARA publicly announced this release.
The Raab Collection, a Philadelphia-area dealer of autographs, historical documents and manuscripts, discovered the audio reels. Raab had the audio "professionally digitized" and a copy donated to the National Archives. The audio was discovered among papers and materials in the collections of senior Kennedy military aide and Army General Chester "Ted" Clifton, Jr. Raab is selling the original audio reels for US$500,000.
Air Force One audio, following the JFK assassination. Reel 1 of 2.
Air Force One audio, reel 2 of 2.
- Board of Trustees sets the agenda: The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees is planning their first session of 2012, to take place next week. An agenda has been posted; topics include the WMF's annual planning for 2012/2013, fundraising and fund distribution scenarios for the WMF and Chapters, the movement roles process, and the issue of paid editing.
- Global fundraising mechanisms discussed: Earlier this month, WMF executive director Sue Gardner began publicly drafting recommendations to the Board on the future of movement fundraising. Last week, responses, research, and alternate suggestions were published by Wikimedia Deutschland (on "Wikimedia's culture of sharing") and by Wikimedia UK (a "statement of principles").
- Call for moderators: The Wikimedia Foundation has issued a call for moderators for a new mailing list devoted to the involvement of the Wikimedia movement in advocacy. Interested parties are invited to email head of reader relations Philippe Beaudette at
- Feedback on article feedback tool: The Article Feedback Team held office hours on 27 January of this week (log), with product developer Fabrice Florin and community liaison of product development Okeyes (better known as Ironholds) presiding. See this week's "In the news" for more on Florin and the AFT.
- Chapters Committee seeks new members: The Chapters Committee has put out a call for candidates. The committee seeks five new members to help review new chapter applications and help guide volunteers who want to setup a chapter.
- New administrator: The Signpost welcomes MikeLynch, our newest administrator. As nominator Rsrikanth05 summarized, "He's an admin and a bureaucrat on the Sanskrit Wikipedia, a member of the Wikimedia OTRS team, member of the U.S. and Global Education Program's Ambassador Steering Committee and a Wikipedia Online Ambassador."
- Project milestones: Recent project milestones include the Hawaiian Wikipedia reaching 50,000 page edits, the Dutch Wiktionary reaching 150,000 entries, the Mongolian Wikipedia reaching 20,000 total pages, and the Malagasy Wiktionary reaching 1,000,000 entries.
- ^ A previous version of this article inaccurately stated the number of students involved as 2,000. According to the Read report, there were 1,014 students involved in the program, 665 of whom edited the article namespace.