News and notes
"Pending changes" trial, Chief hires, British Museum prizes, Interwiki debate, and more
Revision history for an article under 'pending changes'
"Pending changes" trial to start on June 14
According to a post by William Pietri, project manager for the Flagged Revisions Deployment Project, the flaggedrevs extension will be deployed on the English Wikipedia on June 14.
Unlike other projects such as the German Wikipedia (where the extension has been live since 2008), the English Wikipedia will make use of only the "flagged protection" feature, which has been renamed "pending changes" following extensive discussion on the mailing list Foundation-l and the terminology subpage. It allows administrators to apply a new kind of protection to a page, under which it can still be edited by every user, but the change will not be visible (in the default view) to unregistered users unless it has been made or confirmed by a trusted user.
The feature will be activated only for a trial, which is expected to last two months and will be limited to a maximum of 2,000 pages. The trial is likely to generate considerable media attention, given the fact that its mere announcement last August has already received coverage (see Signpost story).
A new help page, with which Pietri has requested assistance, is here. Some diagrams explaining the terminology are here. The feature can be tested out before deployment on the flaggedrevs test wiki.
There was some debate in a recent RfC on whether or not the trial configuration should involve the separate "Reviewers" user rights group or use the existing "Autoconfirmed" group as the trusted users group. Some technical details of the deployment are still being hammered out.
The following table summarizes permissions under current settings for the trial (more details here):
Interaction of Wikipedia user groups and page protection levels
||Unregistered or Newly registered
||Pending changes reviewer
(See also: Wikipedia:Protection policy)
||normal editing (can edit; changes go live immediately)
"Go live" means the changes become visible to readers who are not logged in to Wikipedia. In all cases throughout this table, changes are immediately visible to readers who are logged in.
|The vast majority of pages
||can edit but changes don't go live until reviewer acceptance
||normal editing but if there are previous pending changes, no changes go live until the pending changes have been reviewed
and can accept pending changes
|Infrequently edited articles with high levels of vandalism or BLP violations from unregistered and new users
||Articles with high levels of vandalism or edit warring from unregistered and new users; some highly visible templates & modules
||Specific topic areas authorized by Arbcom; pages subject to persistent disruption that semi-protection has failed to stop
||cannot edit (unless Template editor, in which case normal editing)
||High-risk templates & modules
||Articles with persistent vandalism or edit warring from (auto)confirmed accounts; critical templates & modules
|* When an Administrator or Pending Changes Reviewer edits an article that has pending changes awaiting review, they must review the pending changes before their own edit goes live.
** This row assumes that a Pending changes reviewer is also Extended confirmed. (A Pending changes reviewer needs the separate Extended confirmed right to edit through Extended confirmed protection; in practice nearly all Pending changes reviewers will have the Extended confirmed right.)
See also the Signpost's backgrounder on the history of the extension (An extended look at how we got to flagged protection and patrolled revisions, August 2009) and other Signpost coverage dating back to 2006.
Foundation hires two new chief officers
The Wikimedia Foundation has hired two new employees: Zack Exley will be Wikimedia's new Chief Community Officer, and Barry Newstead will be the Chief Global Development Officer. According to an FAQ about the positions Exley will be in charge of programs, including Fundraising, Reader relations, Public outreach, and volunteer coordination; Newstead will be in charge of Communications and Business Development.
Zack Exley has worked in high-profile positions organizing fundraising and volunteer activities for MoveOn.org, the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign of John Kerry, and the UK Labour Party's 2005 election campaign. In recent years he has advised other organizations on similar issues, including the ACLU, Amnesty International, the NAACP, the International Rescue Committee and Greenpeace USA. He also ran the parody website gwbush.com.
Barry Newstead is currently a partner at the strategy consultancy firm The Bridgespan Group, where he has been leading the team assisting the Foundation in the Strategic Planning process since last year. Newstead has written a series of blog postings about the process on the web site of the Harvard Business Review. In one of his first postings, Newstead expressed concern that the inner Wikipedia community might not be "open to more radical strategic options that might advance the vision", citing the "near-taboo" of advertising as one possible example. However, in a later posting, Newstead offered huge praise for the contributions of Wikipedia volunteers to the strategy process.
Originally, the Foundation had set out to hire a Chief Development Officer, responsible for fundraising (a common position in non-profits) and a Chief Global Program Officer (responsible for relations with Wikipedians and readers). According to a Q&A and a separate announcement to the community by the Foundation's executive director Sue Gardner, the CDO role was expanded to that of a Chief Community Officer, at the suggestion of Exley, who argued that donors should be regarded as part of the same community as editors and readers, instead of being treated separately.
According to Gardner, filling these positions is the result of a search process of "many months", and "completes the C-level hiring, with the exception of the Chief Human Resources Officer", which is expected to be announced within six weeks. (The other two C-level posts are the Chief Financial and Operating Officer, filled by Véronique Kessler since 2008, and the Chief Technical Officer, for which Danese Cooper was hired earlier this year – see Signpost coverage – following the departure of Brion Vibber.)
British Museum gives "backstage pass" to Wikipedians, announces prizes
The British Museum's An Van Camp shows Wikimedians a print block by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528).
A decorated 7th-century Merovingian
battle-axe head on display in the British Museum, photographed during the Backstage Pass tour
Last week, User:Witty lama
(Liam Wyatt) began his five-week stay at the British Museum
as volunteer Wikipedian in Residence
(see earlier Signpost coverage
). Representing the largest ever wikimeetup in the UK, 40 Wikimedians joined him last Friday for a Backstage Pass
event, consisting of private tours of some of the museum's public and non-public areas, followed by discussions and on-wiki collaboration with the staff (cf. Signpost coverage
of the announcement).
In an article titled Venerable British Museum Enlists in the Wikipedia Revolution, The New York Times covered the event at length, explaining that the British Museum's motivation to collaborate with Wikipedia is "to help ensure that the museum’s expertise and notable artifacts are reflected in that digital reference’s pages". The article noted that museums and Wikipedia have as their common interest "educating the public: one has the artifacts and expertise, and the other has the online audience", but also mentioned possible conflicts, recalling the legal threats issued last year by the National Portrait Gallery, but not subsequently pursued, against a Commons user who had uploaded high-resolution scans of public domain images from the Gallery's collection (see Signpost coverage). Regarding the Wikimedia side, the NYT quoted Wyatt's objection to what he saw as free culture "extremism": "‘Content liberation’ is the phrase that has been used within the Wikimedia community, and I hate that: they see them as a repository of images that haven’t been nicked yet." (The term "content liberation" has been used in the past by German Wikipedian Mathias Schindler, now project manager at Wikimedia Germany, who had negotiated large scale image donations from Bundesarchiv and Deutsche Fotothek.)
Among the results of the tour are photos and new articles (including several DYK nominations) about the British Museum's artefacts. Unknown to Wyatt, one participant also started the article Wikipedian in Residence.
The Signpost is delighted to report the announcement of the British Museum's Featured Article Prize: five prizes of £100 (≈$140/€120) at their shop/bookshop for new Featured Articles on topics related to the British Museum in any Wikipedia language edition. Ideally, the topics will be articles about collection items.
Hiding of interlanguage links debated
The rollout of the new user interface on May 13 brought some controversial changes, among them the relocation of the search box, some of the modifications to the Wikipedia logo (see Signpost coverage) and making Wikipedia inaccessible for some rare browsers (on Blackberry and PS3). The controversy about another change culminated only recently, raising fundamental questions about the relationship between volunteer and paid developers, or more generally the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia foundation.
Many users objected to this, and Bug 23497 was filed. On June 3, a volunteer developer made the requested change and restored the old behavior, only to be reverted by a developer from the usability experience (UX) team which had developed the new user interface in a 16-month effort:
- "This goes against an intentional design decision. To discuss that decision further and submit proposals to change this design please contact Howie Fung <firstname.lastname@example.org> or visit http://usability.wikimedia.org"
Howie Fung later explained the background of the team's decision as follows:
- "... we measured the click behavior for two groups of English Wikipedia users, Monobook and Vector (Vector users are primarily those who participated in the beta). Of Monobook and Vector users, 0.95% and 0.28% clicked on the language links (out of 126,180 and 180,873 total clicks), respectively. We felt that fewer than 1% of Monobook clicks was a reasonable threshold for hiding the Language links, especially when taken in the context of the above design principle [that one should avoid the sheer number of language links making users "numb" to the list] and the implementation (state persists after expanding)."
On the Foundation-l mailing list and on the usability wiki, numerous users still questioned the decision. Sue Gardner defended the usability team, arguing that "[t]he folks here on foundation-l are not representative of readers."
Erik Möller, Deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation, summarized some of the objections as follows:
- "It has been legitimately argued that the language links are essential for many users, even if the click rate is lower than that of some other elements, and that they are also key to surfacing our value of language diversity. The reasonable hypothesis has also been presented that the click rates are higher in other languages than English."
Möller and Fung outlined a compromise approach, where only a limited number of language links would be shown per default, and the rest would be hidden under a "see other languages" link. Various ideas were discussed on how to generate a selection that is likely to contain the languages that are most useful to the user (e.g. based on browser language preference). The influence of different configurations on users' clicking behavior will be evaluated.
Altogether, the issue generated more than 160 postings on the Foundation-l mailing list within a few days (although a good part of this was a sub-thread, started by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, about racial, intercultural and gender issues – at one point readers of the list were educated on the origin of the term lynching in the American Revolution.)
In a subsequent post titled Community, collaboration, and cognitive biases, Erik Möller observed that "the massive thread regarding the default sidebar language link expansion state has surfaced a number of fundamental and significant questions regarding the working relationship between the Wikimedia Foundation and the larger Wikimedia volunteer community". He offered a number of general thoughts which he summarized as follows:
- "I believe that the transparency of Wikimedia's engineering processes, and the general quality of these processes, has significantly improved over the last year. At the same time, I agree with those who are observing a widening gap between staff and volunteer contributions, and I think we need to work together to close this gap in full awareness of the cognitive biases present in all of us."
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