News and notes
For several hours on Thursday of this week, 10,000 experienced editors and 30,000 new contributors were exposed to a CentralNotice message advertising a 25-minute survey of Wikimedia participants. Put together by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and Sciences Po in Paris, the study, aimed to "better understand the dynamics of interactions and behavior in online social spaces", was sanctioned by the Wikimedia Foundation, and had been on the CentralNotice calendar for the past month.
Nonetheless, as Wikimedia Foundation Senior Research Analyst Dario Taraborelli explained on the foundation-l mailing list, the banner was poorly received by Wikimedians, who found it confusing and reminiscent of a commercial venture. It was taken down hours later, having incited much discussion at the Administrators' noticeboard, the village pump, foundation-l and internal-l mailing lists, and even an RfC.
The study's research team first approached the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedians in January 2010, proposing to post messages on user talk pages; editors suggested they scrap the method, and make a minimally invasive CentralNotice banner to registered editors instead. The proposal went through a review by the Wikimedia Research Committee in July of this year, which resulted in the project's current parameters, namely, only for logged in users, only on the English Wikipedia, and only for at most a week.
Soon after, the Wikimedia Foundation invested in added functionality for the CentralNotice extension; the new backend now extends to editor databases, allowing its users to target specific subsets of users. Using this functionality, the banner was created, put on the CentralNotice calendar a month ahead of launch, and finally launched on 8 December at 11:00 UTC, garnering 800 responses before being shut down.
While the notice was live, it garnered both negative and positive response from the Wikipedia community. According to ErrantX, "One of the criticisms was the lack of discussion/input the English Wikipedia community was granted – and the lack of notification prior to the launch. Feedback on the mailing lists seems to suggest that the Foundation and various committees are not aware of the communities preferences regarding Central Notices, partly because it has not been discussed before."
As explained by Taraborelli, "We realize that despite an extensive review, the launch of this project was not fully advertised on community forums. We plan to shortly resume the campaign ...after a full redesign of the recruitment protocol in order to address the concerns raised by many of you over the last 24 hours." The Foundation is now moving to provide better information on the project, by creating an FAQ and linking to the study directly from the banner, redesign the banner to be less "ad-like", and make privacy terms more transparent, as participants were not aware that they were sharing their usernames, edit counts, and user privileges with the study team.
Lori Phillips, the WMF's new United States Cultural Partnership Coordinator, pictured 2010
- US Cultural Partnership Coordinator announced: The Wikimedia Foundation has announced the hiring of Lori Byrd Phillips as United States Cultural Partnership Coordinator for 2012. With this new position within the Global Development department, Phillips will "lead the charge" in building the infrastructure and support needed to accommodate growing interest in Wikimedia partnerships among cultural institutions in the United States; her ultimate goal is to make the process self-sustaining by 2013.
Phillips had previously served as the Wikipedian in Residence at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis since August 2010, as part of the GLAM-wiki initiative; cultural partnerships between Wikimedia and cultural institutions have generated much interest in the United States, most significantly a dedicated panel discussion at the upcoming American Association of Museums annual conference and Museum Expo.
- Call for Wikimedia Fellowships open: The Wikimedia Foundation is now seeking applicants and ideas for its Wikimedia Fellowships program. The program is open to all members of the Wikimedia community, and applicants are encouraged "to focus on the theme of improving editor retention and increasing participation in Wikimedia Projects." Applications for Spring 2012 are open through the 15 January deadline. Those selected as fellows will receive financial and logistical support from the Foundation towards their projects.
- Wikimedia Foundation Report for November published: The Wikimedia Foundation has published its report for November, 2011, covering all of the activities of the Foundation for the month. "Highlights" (linked to relevant Signpost articles) include the WikiConference and Hackathon in Mumbai, India, the new Feedback dashboard, the ongoing annual fundraiser, and Sue Gardner's annual European trip.
- New administrators: The Signpost welcomes The Blade of the Northern Lights to the ranks of Wikipedian administrators.
- Milestones: The following Wikimedia projects reached milestones this week: the Russian Wikipedia has reached 800,000 articles with Постолюк, Александр Павлович, the Afrikaans Wiktionary has reached 100,000 page edits, the Hebrew Wikiquote has reached 100,000 page edits, and the Dutch Wikipedia has reached 900,000 entries.