News and notes
Wikimedians and London 2012; WMF budget – staffing, engineering, editor retention effort, the global South; Telegraph's cheap shot at WP and the first Punjabi Wikipedia Workshop
Wikimedians work with Olympic and Paralympic photography restrictions
The license-contested photograph of Usain Bolt
by Richard Giles, taken seconds after Bolt's 100 m victory at Beijing Olympics 2008. Giles released the image under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license on Flickr so it can be used on Wikipedia.
The 2012 Summer Olympics
under way in London are the focus of discussions about how they should be covered on Wikimedia projects in the face of tight restrictions on photography. These restrictions became an issue during the Beijing Olympics
in 2008 (Signpost coverage
) due to legal threats
from the International Olympic Committee
(IOC) against Richard Giles. The photographer licensed his Flickr image of Usain Bolt
– taken seconds after the Jamaican sprinter broke the world record – under the free Creative Commons licenses
so it could be used on Wikipedia. Responding to discussions over volunteer photographer accreditation to the games in 2012 on the Wikimedia mailing list, Richard Symonds
of Wikimedia UK said
his chapter has pursued the matter of allowing more flexibility for Commons licensing, only to receive a resounding 'no' from all corners
, even from the UK government.
However, Wikimedia Germany supported a community effort to produce photos for Wikimedia articles on members of the German Olympic team, by piggybacking on the press event at which the team's clothing for London 2012 was presented to the public. Five volunteers managed to take several hundred pictures of the team and the event.
The summer Paralympics, which will start shortly after the finish of the able-bodied Olympics, is locked into the same restrictions on photography and licensing. However, Wikimedia Australia has been working closely with the Australian Paralympic Committee to enable Wikinews coverage by two Wikimedians, Laura Hale and Hawkeye7, the only Wikimedians to have been granted press accreditation at the 2012 Paralympics. This will give them access to Paralympians and other personnel after they finish their events, to ask questions during press conferences, and to conduct interviews. But Wikimedians have to accept that the Olympics are now among the most highly commercialised events in the world. Laura Hale told the Signpost that "rights holders, the ones that pay big money, get the first chance to interview people. Then we're granted a few minutes for interviews if the athletes are amenable." One small hope is to photograph athletes outside the village, she says, which is allowable without commercial restrictions on licensing.
Hale said this is a great opportunity to improve women's content on both Wikipedia and Wikinews, and coverage of people with disabilities, particularly Asian and African Paralympians. She and Hawkeye7 will be working to take and upload pictures under the non-commercial licenses used by Wikinews – which is in line with the International Paralympic Committee's regulations. Non-commercial licenses are incompatible with the licensing policy of Commons. The Australian Paralympic Committee will upload some of their own images under a Creative Commons license, specifically to make them easier for use on Wikinews; however, these images face the same problems as those that will be taken by Laura Hale and Hawkeye7. While images and video are a problem, there are no such restrictions for audio files, which means interviews can be uploaded to Commons under a compatible license.
WMF annual plan
The Wikimedia Foundation has published its 2012–13 Annual Plan, focusing on technical improvements, editor retention, and structural reforms over the coming year. The movement's total revenue, including almost all chapter funding, is slated to rise by 35%, from $34.2 million to $46.1 million, and global spending to more than $42.1 million, although both figures overstate the real increases, since the recent financial reforms now include all financial categories in these figures. The foundation's own core spending will grow by 15% to $30.2 million in 2012–13.
Due to the new financial structure of the movement, $11.4 million of the volunteer-run Funds Dissemination Committee's (FDC) awards and grants – mainly to go to Wikimedia chapters – are part of the WMF's annual plan for the first time. The foundation plans to request $4.5 million of the FDC's $11.4 million allocation to finance non-core activities, which will include the Wikimedia grant program, a GAC allocation doubled to $600k, global education, and education programs in the Arabic-speaking world, Brazil, and India. The movement's overall revenue is projected to grow by 35%, from $34.2M to $46.1M, while continuing to use the less aggressive annual fundraiser methods deployed in 2011–12 with fewer days and fewer "Jimmy Days". Jimmy Wales's image was displayed in the annual fundraiser banners on 12 of the 46 days in 2011, compared with 36 of 50 days in 2010.
On the downside, the plan acknowledges that the foundation has been unable to significantly increase the diversity of its communities – including female participation, which remains at a strikingly low 9% – or to turn the tide on the slight decline of project participation, down in March 2012 to 85,000 regular users (more than five edits a month) from 89,000 a year earlier. This contrasts with last year's goal to increase participation to 95,000 regular users by June 2012. The new Visual Editor was expected to be ready for deployment by June 2012, a target that has now been put back a year to mid-2013. On the other hand, the readership growth goals – to reach a billion people by 2015 – are on track due to increasing mobile page views of 2,008M in April 2012, up a remarkable 187% from 726M a year earlier. The combined Wikipedias, scheduled to reach 50 million articles by 2015, had 22.3 million entries in March 2012, up from 18.8 million over the past year.
According to the plan, the foundation will "redouble" its work to reverse the decreasing participation trend. The document also recognises and describes other key risks, including that:
- movement tensions will detract from programmatic work (such as the image filter controversy);
- there could be negative shifts in the international legal context (such as SOPA/PIPA and recent legislative moves in several countries); and
- revenue targets are not met (for example, if the perception of a large budgetary increase due to the improved visibility of non-WMF budgets suppresses people's willingness to donate).
To address these challenges and the related content-goals, the foundation will increase its support for efforts in strategic key areas such as the Arabic-speaking world, Brazil, and India; the WMF will promote new models of community self-organization (Signpost coverage). Boosting technical capacity will secure the launch of the Visual Editor and new multimedia tools, and will improve mobile access to Wikimedia sites. The foundation's engineering department will be the main focus for staff recruitment: up to 30 engineering jobs will boost numbers by nearly 50%, in an overall staffing increase of 55 for the foundation, bringing numbers to 174.
Chapter growth in spending (blue) compared with that of the WMF (green) 2009–13)
Total spending allocations for the movement, according to the 2012–13 annual plan. Left: projections 2011–12; right, plan for 2012–13. Chapters (yellow); then clockwise FDC/GAC; WMF management and governance, WMF legal, finance, and admin; WMF fundraising; WMF engineering; WMF other programs; and WMF HR, finance and admin
Daily Telegraph's cheap shot at Wikipedia
The UK Telegraph has just published a story apparently sparked by the site-ban of the chair of the WMUK board by the English Wikipedia's ArbCom last week. Written by technology correspondent Christopher Williams under the title "Chairman of Wikipedia charity banned after pornography row", the article attempts to link Fæ's "punishment" with what it calls "a deep rift among Wikipedia contributors over the mass of explicit material in the online encyclopedia", and with the UK government's proposed new controls "to protect children online ... potentially limiting access to Wikipedia".
However, Williams provides no evidence for connecting the complex issues underlying Fæ's ban with the community's protracted discussion of controversial content; nor does his article – complete with a large photograph of Fæ – back up the implication that Wikipedia's policies and practices concerning such content might be caught up by the government's proposed rules. He wrongly confuses the English Wikipedia's rules for controversial content with those of Commons, writing somewhat boldly that "Wikimedia Commons makes massive volumes of pornography freely available to any Wikipedia visitor."
In response to the announcement of ArbCom's sanctions on Fæ, the board of Wikimedia UK had released a statement on 26 July.
The Board is united in the view that this decision does not affect [Fæ's] role as a Trustee of the charity. His work at Wikimedia UK has always been enthusiastic and diligent. In particular, his knowledge of charity governance, and his ability to bring about consensus at WMUK's board meetings, have been particularly valuable. The Board points out that the editing issues were fully public before, and during, the recent elections to the board, and were openly and publicly discussed. Our membership placed their trust in him by electing him as a Trustee. He was then elected unanimously as Chair of the Board. He continues to have the full support of the Board.
Jon Davies, chief executive of WMUK, responded to Williams' piece at the chapter's blog-site: "The Daily Telegraph has chosen its headline to create maximum impact. The reality is far, far more complex." The blog reprinted the board's statement of support, with a link to the publicly available minutes of the board meeting at which it was endorsed.
Wikimania scholarship reform
On July 25, the WMF launched a discussion of how the award of Wikimania scholarships should be reformed. The volunteer committee that reviews scholarship applications for Wikimania has experienced capacity problems, and its structure will be reviewed.
Among the more than 150 scholarships awarded in 2012 – partly with the support of chapters and other entities – the committee approved 130 from applicants in 57 countries. The cost of the scholarship scheme amounts to several hundred thousand dollars. The committee examined some 1,100 confidential applications, with supporting staff aiming to balance factors such as geography, WMF project, and whether applicants had been awarded scholarships for previous Wikimanias. Cost estimates for foundation Wikimania 2012 scholarships are graphed here, based on estimated flights to and from Washington DC from representative airports and assuming a 300 euro award for partial scholars.
Editors are welcome to participate in the discussion on Meta, which is determining how to improve transparency, efficiency and coordination, and alignment with the movement's strategic priorities and the role of qualification standards. The current design of the process is in the handbook.
Wikipedia Punjabi completes 10 years. Organizes 1st workshop at Ludhiana, Punjab India
Wikipedia organized the first ever Punjabi Wikipedia workshop in Punjab at Ludhiana City on 28th July, 2012. Ludhiana, an industrial city of Punjab, saw a decent turnout of 20 people for this open for all workshop. The workshop started with the basic presentation aimed at spreading awareness about Punjabi Wikipedia, educating users on editing techniques, contributing articles and encouraging users to propagate their native language and share their knowledge with the world.
Many women editors for the First Punjabi Workshop
What was amazing though, is the large number of women attendants. So far, Punjabi Wikipedia, that completes ten years, had only two editors and very few articles. After the workshop, we saw an addition of fifteen new editors of which thirteen are women. We also got four new administrators: Tow, Tari Buttar, Guglani and Surinder Wadhawan. Two of the new sysops, Guglani and Surinder Wadhawan were present at the workshop and addressed the students’ queries and motivated them.
The workshop also got coverage by Punjabi media praising this effort from Wikipedia. This includes the Ajit, Punjab Tribune and Hindustan Times. Let's hope that this workshop will kick-start the series of many more workshops across the state and thus many more editors and many more Punjabi articles.
- Nominations open for FDC: Nominations for the seven volunteer FDC positions and the related position of ombudsperson are open at Meta until August 15. At the time of writing, there are nine candidates for FDC positions and one for ombudsperson. Membership, which will be decided by the foundation's Board of Trustees, does not require affiliation with a Wikimedia entity. Editors are welcome to ask questions of candidates at a Q&A page.
- Computational biology article competition: The International Society for Computational Biology has announced an article competition on the English Wikipedia, aiming at improving articles on computational biology, bioinformatics, and computational systems biology. Project coordination takes place at WikiProject Computational Biology and more than 60 users have already signed up for the contest.
- Mediation Committee reform: The mediation committee's procedures are under review. A discussion with poll is hosted on the committee's talk page.
- Spanish Wikinews protests against ACTA: The Spanish Wikinews project protests against the Mexican government's move on July 12 to sign the ACTA-agreement. A banner informing readers has been displayed since July 25. The Spanish Wikipedia is considering the case and possible responses.
- Queering Wikipedia: On 22 July, a small group of mostly new editors traveled to the Tom of Finland Foundation for the second annual "Queering Wikipedia" edit-a-thon in Los Angeles.
- Changes to the WMF's Indian Catalyst: On July 30, the foundation announced that its India program team will be moved to the Indian research-oriented NGO CIS, which has supported Wikimedia's mission in India in the past and will receive a WMF grant. Sunil Abraham, the executive director of CIS, told the Signpost that an approved budget and project proposal will be published in early August.
- New administrators: The Signpost welcomes our new administrators, SarahStierch and Berean Hunter.
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