News and notes
Funding for the Wikipedia Library and six other projects; April Fool's Day ructions
An individual engagement grant (IEG) barnstar.
The first round of individual engagement grants (IEGs) have been awarded to seven applicants.
The IEG program was introduced in January 2013 to empower individual or small teams of volunteers to tackle long-term on-wiki problems; it covers tasks largely outside the scope of other WMF programs like entity-focused FDC or GAC procedures. The Foundation reaches its final funding decisions based on community input and a volunteer committee's recommendations. The first round of proposals were reviewed in a community consultation period and assessed by the volunteer committee.
This round's grants covered a wide range of topics, including building awareness in China, art schools' contributions to Wikimedia sites, Wikisource–Wikimedia integration, developing a way to browse Wikipedia's structured data, a visual diff system an educational game (the Wikipedia Adventure), and a system that allows editors to browse multiple research archives at once (The Wikipedia Library). The largest amount disbursed was US$15k (€11.6k) for the structured data viewing, followed closely by $13k (€10k) for the Wikisource project; in total, roughly $55.6k (€43k) was awarded.
The Signpost asked Ocaasi, the editor behind the Wikipedia Adventure and Wikipedia Library proposals, about his thoughts on the IEG process and his idea to open paywalled online research archives for Wikipedians.
On the subject of the IEG project itself, Ocaasi called attention to the interface and the design of the page (created by WMF staffer Heather Walls), both of which are highly user-friendly. In his estimation, "the pages don't feel like they're made with markup."
In addition, the individuals involved in the grant selection process itself, including Siko Bouterse—the Foundation's head of IEG grants—and the volunteer committee—which Ocaasi joined but recused from, due to his proposal—were able to help him craft, shape, and refine his proposal. In particular, these individuals were the key to ensuring that his proposal could be run completely independent of the Foundation; this is one of the major differences between IEG and the discontinued Wikimedia Fellowship program.
Ocaasi told the Signpost that after the committee recommended funding his proposal, he was faced with a period of intricate questioning that challenged and/or focused on the weakest parts of his proposal. This "frank" discussion was something that he credited with keeping his expectations pragmatic and his budget conservative. On his project to open paywalled archives to Wikipedians, named the Wikipedia Library, Ocaasi said that the idea came from the news archives of HighBeam Research:
||My spark of inspiration came while researching an article on an alternative medicine figure. In a compulsive quest to exhaust the resources [available on them], I realized that I didn't have access to some news archives that HighBeam Reference did have. So I signed up for a free trial and added around 15 new references. I realized I'd regret not having the same ability in the future, so I had a wild idea to call up HighBeam and ask them for a free account as a Wikipedia editor. And, then the wheels started churning, and I thought, If I'm going to get one for me, why not ask for some more? HighBeam's response blew me away: "How about 1000?" That right there got me hooked—the ability of Wikipedia to open doors with other organizations in a way that can come around to benefit Wikipedians en masse.
These accounts are typically extremely expensive for the partner institutions; giving them away, especially with a medium-term goal of 2,000 accounts and a long-term goal of 10,000, is likely to represent a significant loss in revenue. What do they gain or ask from these agreements? Ocassi illuminated the reasoning behind such moves, saying that it has been "both altruistic and mutually beneficial". The altruism aspect is clear, as giving away free accounts to the dominate internet reference site furthers the information available to the world.
The mutually beneficial aspect is not so obvious. The site allows Wikipedians to discover and add information they may not have otherwise found. The donating institutions, on the other hand, "gain increased visibility of their site in our community through the account sign-up process, some positive publicity in blog mentions and the social media, and their site may be linked in article references." However, Ocassi told us that in the latter case, full bibliographic information needs to be used so that editors and readers are given a chance to find a free copy, should they not have access to the archive.
Where do the GLAM-Wiki movement and regular Wikipedians fit in with the "Wikipedia Library" plan? While Ocaasi told us he believes the Library and GLAM-Wiki are "natural partners", he said it is very different from a GLAM project in the traditional sense, since it is not about "having institutions freely license content or learn how to edit articles about their collections ... we're looking for material donations to proprietary databases and resources." As for Wikipedians, they could play a central role in forming the planned central website for Wikipedians to log in and access multiple archives at once: "In a later phase of the project it would likely be necessary to have a staff person with library information management expertise and/or an expert in security authorization (OpenID, SAML) to contribute. A drastically effective shortcut would be piggy-backing on an existing University Library's system so that we could gain access through that portal and not have to individually configure every donor ourselves." He asks that people contact him if they have a connection to someone like this at a university, research institution, or major public library.
Beyond that, he says what Wikipedians can do most to help is simple: sign up and use these resources. This will show potential partner institutions that that there is demand for such a project, a project whose final goal is far-reaching: "I want the most active Wikipedia editors to have free and full access to as many or even more resources than the finest research libraries and universities in the world."
April Fool's Day controversy
of the Wikipedia logo created in 2005 for the supposed takeover
of the Wikimedia Foundation and its projects by the Encyclopædia Britannica
The English Wikipedia's April Fool's Day main page was the subject of controversy this week, as editors opposed the addition of non-serious content.
As Wikipedia:April Fools notes, "every year [on 1 April], some editors decide to pull a few pranks on Wikipedia. It is traditional to have a mischievous Main Page on this day." "Mischievous" has ranged from blatant hoaxes (like the infamous announcement that the Encyclopædia Britannica was going to take over the Wikimedia Foundation and its projects), to the layouts seen today (typically strangely worded yet true statements), and the bizarre (like the gigantic question mark for the day's featured article).
Most of the main page's sections participate, but "In the news" (ITN) has been alone in rejecting it, only carrying one item in 2011 and none in 2012 or 2013. Opposition to including foolish-day-centric content at ITN included the time sensitivity of the regular, serious news. Opposition to having a foolish main page, however, coalesces around the usual serious nature of the Wikipedia site as a whole, as contrasted what was seen as the immaturity of April Fool's Day jokes. HiLo48 took a rather combative tone, decrying the changed nature of Wikipedia on the day: "The point is that we are not at all important. That's why everything here is sourced to someone or something else. Everything, that is, except the April Fool's garbage created by self-appointed fiction writers (otherwise known as editors). By creating April Fool's jokes you are declaring yourself to be important, and you're not." Those against such jokes made statements such as calling on Wikipedians to "not damage the WMF trademark, remembering that many native English-speakers could give a dump about April Fool's Day, and most non-natives don't know about it."
There was also a proposal to abandon any April Fool's jokes for 2014, with a chance to assess whether that practice should be continued after 1 April, but it was quickly opposed. Given a chance to expound on his views, the proposer declined to comment, saying that he had gone through enough vitriol in the aftermath of his proposal.
The Signpost talked with two editors who participated in April Fool's Day discussions. Crisco 1492, the author of the day's featured article (and the subject of a related interview in this week's "featured content") told us:
||From a purely practical standpoint, Wikipedia's editors are capital for the project. Like any business or organisation, without capital Wikipedia cannot grow and propagate. ... without capital (writers), the project will die. ... we should recognise that most people edit Wikipedia as a hobby, a way to pass the time, while still having a life outside of the encyclopedia. Like any hobby, the ultimately goal is to find a sense of pleasure, to find some fulfillment. ... Having an April Fool's page gives writers (and readers) something to look forward to, and lets them let steam free without resulting to personal attacks or vandalism. I read a comment by someone which really resonated with me: it's better to have a day of foolishness for fun than the three or four months of foolishness veiled as serious work.
He went on to express support for the "misleading, yet accurate" stories Wikipedia has run since 2007, and gave a four-point summary of his personal opinion:
- Keep it factual
- Keep it out of article space (the Main Page excluded)
- If reverted, do not edit war
- Keep an open mind.
On the issue of what makes Wikipedia different from other major online presences, like Google, who conduct elaborate April Fool's Day jokes, Allen3 told us:
||Wikipedia is a loose collection of volunteers while the other organizations generally have strict corporate control structures. At a newspaper, an editor can direct a team of individuals to work on a single coordinated effort. The newspaper's management can at the same time ensure that no other part of the organization disrupts this effort or attempts to engage in alternative April Fool's efforts. This level of cooperation and coordination is not possible on Wikipedia. If one person does not agree with a course of action there is little stopping them for branching out and starting a competing effort.
How much of the traditional humor, which is based around perceived dirty words (like this year's "Did you know... that Polish girls are getting wet and spanked today, but will have their revenge tomorrow?", could be improved to satisfy the complaints of some editors? Allen3's answer was complex: to get 'good' humor, one must provide incentives for it, like "preferential times and placements". Such humor, though, can be difficult to find; often "creating a quick article with a dirty word in the title" is far easier than crafting a "truth is stranger than fiction" article.
The Signpost invites readers' views on the talk page.
- English Wikipedia
- Birth date format: There is an open request for comment (RfC) on the proper date format when disambiguating articles.
- Quarterly update: The first of four short updates on all of the changes made in Wikipedia content policies in the first quarter of 2013 is available for reading.
- Paid editing: A BP employee's participation in rewriting the company's Wikipedia article—and the accompanying debate—has received press attention in two articles from Violet Blue on cnet and sdnet. The information is now included in the company's article, although some editors disagree on its notability.
- New administrator and bureaucrat: The English Wikipedia has a new administrator, Nthep, who passed with only one oppose. The beginning of 2013 has been the most successful three-month-period for the requests for adminship process since early 2010. Also, in a rare sight, Wizardman has become a bureaucrat with 175 in support to five opposed. He is the first to pass a request for bureaucratship since August 2012.
- XKCD supports WMF: The popular webcomic XKCD has generated more than US$45k for the Wikimedia Foundation through a link embedded at the bottom of its 1 April comic.
- Political party affiliations on Wikipedia: The Los Angeles Times has reported on a study suggesting that politically active people can and do overcome their normal partisan affiliations if they are collaborating and communicating in a common cause with others from the political spectrum.
- Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences: A new "Wikipedian in Academy" position has been created to foster a collaboration between the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Wikipedia. The Wikipedian in Academy, Arild Vågen, wrote for the Wikimedia blog that "Swedish universities have three statutory responsibilities—research, education, and science outreach ... Contributing to Wikipedia is of course the single most effective way to achieve science outreach (fulfill the third task) in higher education; there is simply no other platform which allows you to reach so many readers."