News and notes
Pending changes poll, Public policy classes, Payment schemes debate, and more
Straw poll begins after end of "pending changes" trial
The two-month trial of pending changes is now over. (See also earlier Signpost coverage: "Pending changes" trial to start on June 14, Pending changes goes live) Pending changes makes use of the FlaggedRevs extension to add a new kind of protection to articles, allowing them to be edited as usual but displaying to readers only the most recent version edited or confirmed by a trusted user. Flagged revisions was praised by some users as a way to guard against vandalism on high-profile articles, and criticized by others as a contradiction of Wikipedia's "open editing" model.
A straw poll is ongoing to decide whether the feature should be disabled, retained in its current form (in which 1409 pages have received protection), gradually added to a limit of 10k articles in the mainspace, or expanded to include all Biographies of living people (BLP) articles, an area notorious for the impact vandalism has beyond Wikipedia. As of 15:56 (UTC), 24 August 2010, there are 197 votes to keep and 111 votes to close, approximately a 65/35 ratio. Because the three support groups have been put under one section, consensus is not entirely clear; Sceptre has suggested that the poll be restarted, and that a preferential voting system be used instead. In addition, Us441 has suggested at the village pump that all Featured articles be placed on Pending changes.
A detailed preliminary analysis of the trial's impact can be found here. One of the stated goals of Pending changes is to open up semi-protected pages to editing by anons, but data indicates 84% of the articles under pending changes received an average of less than one anon edit daily. On the other hand, the most heavily edited pages under Pending changes have had over 50% of their anon edits reverted; the highest article by revert rate, Alvin Greene, stands at 88%. In addition a working summary of the pros and cons of the system can be found on the closure page.
Group picture of the first generation of Campus Ambassadors
Public policy initiative announces participating classes
The Wikimedia Foundation's Public Policy Initiative has announced the names of the universities participating in its pilot program to bring Wikipedia editing into public policy classes. The initiative is a project aiming to include Wikipedia editing in the college classroom environment (see earlier Signpost article: Introducing the Public Policy Initiative). Five US universities are included in the trial:
- Georgetown University – Dr. Rochelle Davis is incorporating Wikipedia editing into two of her courses, "Introduction to the Study of the Arab World" and "Theorizing Culture and Politics."
- George Washington University – four professors will participate in the Public Policy Initiative by including editing in their courses.
- Harvard University – Nicco Mele is placing editing in his fall graduate course, "Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age."
- Indiana University – lecturer Dr. Barry Rubin's graduate course "Seminar in Urban Economic Development" will involve the initiative.
- Syracuse University – Carol Dwyer will be teaching the "Policy Research & Publications" course within the initiative.
The "Wikipedia Ambassador" logo
As part of the program, Campus Ambassadors have been selected to facilitate the courses (see earlier Signpost coverage). The initiative is still recruiting more Online Ambassadors, which are being coordinated by Sage Ross.
In related news, students at the University of Michigan have formed the first Wikipedia student club in the US (as mentioned in last week's Signpost). Started by Cheryl Moy, a chemistry major, the club has already reached 25 members, according to a post on the Foundation's blog. Although it is the first Wikipedia club in the US, it is not the first Wikipedia club ever created; a McGill University club was formed last year in Canada, and students at James Madison University in Virginia are in the process of forming their own group as well. Several free culture groups already exist in various universities.
German Wikipedia debates payment schemes
Has earned its photographer 2.50 euros ($3.20) in Flattr donations so far: Close-up of an elephant's eye
The German Wikipedia recently discussed ideas for using the "social payment" system Flattr to enable readers to donate to Wikipedia authors, or to Wikimedia.
Flattr is a start-up co-founded earlier this year by Peter Sunde (known for his involvement with filesharing site The Pirate Bay). Web surfers can open an account and load it with a fixed monthly amount, which is distributed at the end of each month among those of the participating sites where the surfer has chosen to reward pages by clicking on the embedded Flattr buttons. So far, it is most widespread in Germany, where it is used by many high-profile blogs and on the web sites of two daily newspapers – one of them, die tageszeitung, earned €1420 via Flattr in July. Since this month, Flattr is also being used by Wikileaks. Similar micro-donation systems include Kachingle.
In April, a simple MediaWiki extension was written that allows the embedding of Flattr buttons on sites running MediaWiki. It does not appear to be in use on any Wikimedia Foundation wiki. However, instead of the one-click donation via the embedded button, it is also possible to donate on a corresponding page on the Flattr site, which can be linked using a normal weblink.
On Wikimedia Commons, such Flattr links have already appeared on image description pages, inviting a donation to the photographer of the image. Two of them were added in June  by AlexanderKlink (after he had asked on the Village pump whether the community would find this acceptable and had received no objections). He told The Signpost that the more popular of the two photos had received 9 Flattr clicks in June, corresponding to €2 in earnings, and 3 clicks in July resulting in €0.50. However, he noted that a large proportion of the clicks appeared to have come from the Flattr site itself (which displays a list of flattr-able web pages), rather than from the Flattr link on Commons.
On August 1, Mathias Schindler (a project manager at Wikimedia Deutschland) published some "unsorted observations" (in German) on his private blog, musing the idea of having a Flattr button in every Wikipedia article. He listed several issues that would arise, among them:
- Collaboration: Assuming that the money would go to Wikipedians, instead of the WMF: How should the Flattr donations for an article with many different contributors be distributed?
- Cannibalization: The average donation per Flattr click is far smaller than the average donation via the "Donate to Wikipedia" link, so (in the case where the WMF would be the recipient of Flattr donations) the overall revenue might actually be reduced.
- Commission size: Currently, Flattr imposes a 10% fee on donations, which might be seen as too high.
A straw poll started on the German Wikipedia on August 16 to evaluate support for two proposals, both of which tried to avoid the "collaboration" issue:
- Enabling Flattr buttons on user pages, such that surfers could decide to reward a particular author
- Enabling Flattr buttons in articles, for donations to the WMF
After one week, a large majority has voted against both proposals.
In 2008 and 2009, the German Wikipedia saw prolonged debates about the possible use of a different system for a financial remuneration of authors. In 2007, the German collecting society VG Wort had set up a system called "METIS" to pay royalties to authors of web pages. The money – an estimated €15 million in 2008 – comes from fees imposed on the sale of CD and DVD burners in Germany. The rationale for including web pages is that, according to consumer surveys, around half of the copyrighted texts that are copied using these devices have been downloaded from the Internet. To be eligible, the web page has to be registered with METIS and usually needs to carry a web bug from their server (the payments are based on page impressions). METIS had indicated that the system might include the German Wikipedia, too; its free license notwithstanding (apparently it is assumed that enough copies would not satisfy the terms of the GFDL/CC-BY-SA 3.0. The latter's "legal code" contains clauses about "non-waivable" and "waivable" compulsory license schemes). The German Wikimedia chapter was in contact with METIS, but stated that some legal issues required evaluation and a commmunity decision would be needed after that. Several German Wikipedians advocated using METIS, but others objected, often on the grounds that a fair distribution between authors and non-authors – such as those doing administrative work or software development – would be difficult.
- The Wikimedia Foundation has announced three new job openings:
- The proceedings for last month's WikiSym conference are now downloadable without charge from the conference wiki, after having been published earlier on the (paywalled) ACM portal. There was some concern among participants because ACM had refused to allow contributions to be released under a free license (in addition to the cost-free download option). The contribution of User:guillom was not included in the proceedings because he felt that his research should be reusable by the Wikimedia community.
- Several new WMF projects have been created: the Korean Wikinews, Macedonian Wikimedia, and Frasch Wikipedia are all live.
- Wikimedia Nederland have published their chapter report for May–July 2010. The report announces "Wiki loves Bieb", a library translation program, "Wiki loves Monuments", a photo scavenger hunt, the release of another 6000 images on Commons from the Tropenmuseum, a second General Assembly in June, the filing of a grant request with the Wikimedia Foundation, a new design for the chapter website, and participation in a fundraising summit organized by Wikimedia UK in Bristol.
- A study on Controversial Content in Wikimedia projects by Robert Harris, a consultant hired by the Foundation, is ongoing, with recommendations to the Board of Trustees due in October (see also earlier Signpost coverage: Board resolution on offensive content). Following earlier questions to the community that focused on potentially objectionable images, Harris has now invited feedback on a second set of questions that extend the discussion to other content areas such as text. The first question asks whether existing policies and guidelines such as NPOV and Verifiability need to be supplemented by additional ones to help in dealing with controversial content.