Fast Company interviews Sue Gardner
Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner has been profiled and interviewed by Karen Valby in an article for the April edition of Fast Company. The article describes Gardner's family background and the reasons she got involved in Wikipedia as well as listing a few of the challenges that lay ahead for the Foundation including opening the office in India, recruiting more women editors (see m:Gender gap), reversing the dropping number of regular editors overall and trying to resolve "a growing sense of insularity among seasoned editors who can set a punitive, unwelcoming tone for newcomers".
Gardner praises what she sees as idealistic younger editors meeting at Wikimania: "Everybody would stay up all night and then they would go and stand on this bridge in Gdansk and watch the sun come up. When I was that young, I would not have had the scope to think about a place halfway around the world. I would not be contributing to a global endeavor. If I stayed up all night, I would've been getting drunk. These are not ordinary kids; these are extraordinary people who are doing something awesome." (On his personal blog, User:Steven Walling remarked: "I remember that bridge.")
While lauding Gardner's success at helping to raise $16 million in the 2010–2011 funding drive, the article raises the age-old question about whether Wikipedia should take advertising or sponsorship. Erik Möller responded: "It would be ridiculous for us to say to the community, 'Hey, thanks for all your free labor. Now we're going to just change the business model under your feet. Sorry.' Our nonprofit would have clearly broken its covenant with its contributors. And Sue has never questioned that."
The magazine asked "Whatever Happened to Jimmy Wales?". The answer? He spends his days on the road, "spreading the gospel of the openly editable encyclopedia–sometimes charging top dollar". Sometimes–not always, as it goes on to make clear: many of the lectures and talks are done for free or at cost. Sue Gardner is then quoted: "I consider myself and the foundation really lucky that he’s willing to evangelize on behalf of the organization".
BBC News covers Wikipedians at Imperial College
The BBC News website published an article this week profiling the launch of Wikipedians at Imperial College, a new student society at one of London's scientific research universities. The founder of the group, Vinesh Patel (User:Vinnypatel) was interviewed and rebutted a number of the criticisms of Wikipedia frequently raised by the academic community, including concerns over plagiarism. The article also covers an upcoming conference – the London Wikipedia Academy – organised by the society which hopes to raise awareness of the issues around academic involvement in Wikipedia.
The formation of the Imperial College society (Signpost mention) was recently formally approved. It has been supported by Wikimedia UK chapter members and two on-campus recruitment drives were held in February at Imperial's central London campus (Signpost coverage). These were supported by the Contribution Team. In addition to getting sign-ups for the society, leaflets about how to edit Wikipedia were handed out as well as badges and T-shirts.
The story was also covered on Sify.com, an Indian news website, and the popular weblog Boing Boing.
Indian media highlight Wikimedia projects in local languages
The Hindu profiled "Malayalam's Wiki warrior" – User:Santhosh.thottingal, a developer of free software in Indian languages, in particular for the 2010 release of the Malayalam Wikipedia CD. Last month, he became "the only Indian" in the Wikimedia Foundation's newly expanded 16-member m:language committee". In another article, the paper covered the launch of the Sanskrit Wikisource.
The Indian magazine OPEN noted Wikipedia's commitment to Indian languages: "It’s not just Hindi and Tamil. The online encyclopaedia is serious about Wiki versions in Sanskrit, Pali and forgotten languages like Angika too". It quotes numerous Wikimedians who contribute to the Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi versions of Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks and Wikisource, and describes how new projects are started under the auspices of the Foundation's language committee.
- Indian gender gap: In an article titled "Wiki wants women", The Hindustan Times reported on efforts in India to narrow Wikipedia's gender gap, including recent "Womens's Wikipedia Workshops" in several cities. Having attended one of them in Kolkata, the paper quotes, among others, admin User:Tinucherian and Trustee Bishakha Datta (who pointed to the discussion page Talk:Woman, which contains debates on what image to use as that article's lead illustration).
- Introducing Wikipedia: In the Kids section of The Hindu, Murali N. Krishnaswamy explained the "Encyclopaedia on the web", mentioning other Wikimedia projects and the Wikimedia India chapter. The Bellingham Herald from Bellingham in Washington State presented an article explaining what Wikipedia is and describing how to contribute.
- "Powerful lessons" from WMF strategic planning process: An article titled "Reinventing your business, Wikipedia-style" by Fortune online described the strategic planning process that resulted in the Foundation's 2010–15 plan, particularly the ways in which it invited participation from the Wikimedia community (Signpost coverage: "The challenges of strategic planning in a volunteer community", "Strategic planning update"). The article quotes the Foundation's Philippe Beaudette, who said that "collaborating with the Wikimedia community on strategic planning was originally the idea of Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation - "The Wikimedia community would have hung us by our toenails if we tried to develop a strategic plan any other way". Among the key lessons, the article lists that Linus' law ("Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow") "even holds true for strategic planning". One criticism from community members was acknowledged: "Even Beaudette at Wikimedia readily admits they could have done a better job planning for what they would do next after receiving the initial barrage of proposals (a fact the community reminded him of mercilessly)." Nevertheless, Fortune asserts that "the unique process used to craft that vision contains powerful lessons for leaders and organizations of all types." An article by Barry Newstead and Laura Lanzerotti in the October issue of the Harvard Business Review had presented a similar perspective, cf. Signpost coverage: "Foundation's strategic planning process as a model for companies?".
- Public Policy Initiative: The Public Policy Initiative is featured in an article for Brandchannel. Two Foundation representatives are quoted, Rodney Dunican and LiAnna Davis. Davis said of the Initiative: "Students are learning a lot about media literacy, assessing sources and practicing neutral points of view through our Public Policy Initiative. And we are getting an increase in accurate content through student work."
- Beautifying Wikipedia: Observing that Wikipedia's "utilitarian design does the trick, but it doesn’t exactly look inviting", technology news website NewsGrange featured "Wikipedia Beautifier", a browser extension for Chrome that "fades out all the extra crud around the text and allows you to fully focus on the article itself", also changing the font and applying automatic hyphenation. Navigational content such as the Sidebar becomes visible when moused over; the license notice in the footer remains visible. (Many of the user-submitted Wikipedia styles on userstyles.org, as well as Wikipedia versions for mobile devices, likewise remove or hide such content.)
- Newspapers losing "first draft of history": A comment in The Post and Courier, a local newspaper in South Carolina worried that Wikipedia might replace newspapers as "the first draft of history": "As I peer into the future of information, the thing I fear most is the loss of credibility." Techdirt highlighted a related but different observation by Wikipedian David Gerard about the New York Times' new paywall, arguing it "means the NY Times will be cited a lot less on Wikipedia, thereby handing over the 'first draft of history' to other publications like The Guardian and the BBC." Gerard and another commenter cited by Techdirt also questioned a moral argument for the paywall, that newspapers were entitled to payments for the aggregation and condensation of "their" content elsewhere (as an example, Gerard quoted from a 2009 article about Wikipedia by The New York Times's Noam Cohen: "Many Wikipedia articles are another way that the work of news publications is quickly condensed and reused without compensation"). Gerard retorted: "Every journalist I've spoken to since 2006 uses Wikipedia as their handy universal backgrounder. Funnily enough, there's a distinct lack of donations to the Wikimedia Foundation from newspapers and media organisations. How much did the New York Times donate in the fundraiser?"
- Karl Rove's political campaigning group Crossroads GPS launched a site called "Wikicountability" and compared it to Wikipedia. The site is intended to contain the result of Freedom of Information Act requests that shine a negative light on the Obama administration. It is hosted on MediaWiki software, but requires participants to send an e-mail to the administrators to get an account.
- Wikipedia as an exercise in democracy: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on a talk by Jimmy Wales at Washington University: "Founder sees Wikipedia as an exercise in global democracy". As quoted by the university's student newspaper, Wales also highlighted the different levels of interest some topics are getting in different language versions of Wikipedia: "The Germans are the most interested in geography. Just saying. ... Sex is in the top topics in every language here except for in French and Spanish, and I thought this was kind of puzzling until someone explained to me that it’s because the French and Spanish are actually having sex, and everyone else is just reading about it."
- Local newspaper traces down vandalism: The Bolton News reports on the discovery of vandalism of articles related to the UK town of Bolton. After tracing IP addresses, they have discovered that some of it comes from the offices of the social landlord Bolton At Home.
- AT&T ad features Wikipedia: In a new advert for AT&T's iPhone service, guess which reference source is used to look up the release date of Whoomp! (There It Is)? No prizes for guessing Wikipedia.
- Politically charged list entry "roiling township council meetings"': The New Jersey Jewish Standard investigated why the article on Teaneck, New Jersey claimed the town was twinned with Beit Yatir on the Israeli West Bank, an error that "has been roiling Teaneck township council meetings." A local "who describes himself as a Jewish anti-Zionist activist" had asked the mayor and others about the politically charged twinship, only to find out that no one knew about it. The newspaper's "investigation of the editing history of the Wikipedia article about Beit Yatir shows that the reference to a twinning with Teaneck was inserted by a Canadian editor who goes by the name 'Shuki'", and notes that this user "has been heavily involved in the disputes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian editors that make articles on topics as apparently neutral as hummus deeply contentious. In December, he was banned from editing Wikipedia for six months, for allegedly using a false account to vote on the deletion of controversial articles concerning Israelis and Palestinians." As an explanation for the error, the paper pointed out that Beit Yatir had indeed long been twinned with a synagogue in Teaneck, instead of the town itself.
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