News and notes
Wikipedia Library finding success in matching contributors with sources
This week, the Signpost caught up with the Wikipedia Library (TWL), which aims to connect reference resources with Wikipedia editors who can use them to improve articles. Funded through the Wikimedia Foundation's Individual Engagement Grants program,[A] TWL has several initiatives coming up (including "visiting scholars" and an Arabic Wikipedia microgrants program). It declares on its Wikipedia page that it has five "big goals" to accomplish:
- Connect editors with their local library and freely accessible resources
- Partner to provide free access to paywalled publications, databases, universities, and libraries
- Build relationships among our community of editors, libraries, and librarians
- Facilitate research for Wikipedians, helping editors to find and use sources
- Promote broader open access in publishing and research
The program relates to GLAM-Wiki—galleries, libraries, archives, and museums—by focusing on the libraries, which Jake Orlowitz (Ocaasi), the overall coordinator of TWL, sees as the outlier in the original GLAM model (libraries are not cultural institutions with extensive collections): "It's totally complimentary and the lines are not well-defined. Where we get editors access to a university library's collections, they can improve articles, possibly in the area of that library's expertise". He continued:
||It was GLAM Bootcamp that steeped me in the basic spiel, that cultural institutions and Wikipedians are seeking to fulfill the same mission of sharing knowledge with the same audience of the general public—so it makes sense to work together with those institutions as partners. The same case can be made for aggregators or databases of reliable sources, and with university libraries. It's another area where missions align and we can do good work together. GLAM-Wiki started all of this, and I'm just adding focus to a piece.
TWL's recent priorities were influenced in large part due to a December 2013 survey that was sent out to 1500 TWL recipients. Out of the 200 responses, Ocaasi told the Signpost that out of thirteen proposed areas for growth, an "overwhelming" amount asked for access to additional research—particularly the voluminous publications held behind JSTOR's paywalls. While TWL has a program in place with JSTOR, it only opened up 100 free accounts. This left around 200 still waiting on the list, with the potential for far more—TWL's Questia partnership had over 400 applicants, while HighBeam gave out about 1000 accounts. This has resulted in, as of publishing time, 7052 links to Questia and even more to HighBeam. Ocaasi remarked that "it's clear our pilot program has only whetted the appetites of editors for more", and "we are working very hard to expand that offering."
TWL is also in talks with the New York Times, EBSCO, Proquest, the Oxford University Press, MIT Press, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and Science, among others, to open up their archives to Wikipedians. They narrowly missed out with LexisNexis, even having a meeting with eight department executives, but they were unable to sort out a host of legal issues. This isn't unusual, as Ocaasi noted: "It's part of the process that we have hits and misses, both in arranging partners, and finding resources the community really wants and needs."
Beyond free accounts, what does the future look like for the Wikipedia Library? A new "visiting scholars" program affiliated with TWL offers a promising alternative: it is a pilot that will see Wikipedia editors paired with university libraries to gain access to their collections and reference resources. Ocaasi told the Signpost that such scholars would be unpaid but official staffers of the university, with remote access to the library's offerings.
||Wikipedia Visiting Scholars is a mashup of two great traditions: one is our Wikipedian-in-Residence model, which places paid Wikipedians onsite at cultural institutions to help improve the visibility of their collections and improve articles around those areas of content; the second is the visiting scholar or ‘research affiliate' tradition in academia, where schools or departments within schools will grant generally unpaid but official research status to a qualified scholar so that they have a home to work on their research and publishing. ... It's both a way to crack the 'access' problem, and it's a neat model for building ties between Wikipedia and university libraries. That's the other piece of the puzzle that we want to connect, the full circle of research and dissemination, if you will, and it requires not only connecting editors to sources, and readers to sources, but also source experts (libraries) to editors.
TWL has already contacted 150 libraries, with 40 responses and 5–10 seriously interested in participating. The first visiting scholars position will be with George Mason University's Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.
Additionally, TWL—which is, fundamentally, still an English-language pilot—is planning to expand into other languages. Its Meta timeline lists three upcoming launch dates for Wikipedia Libraries in other languages, including Arabic on 15 March. The largest amount of TWL-related criticism came from non-English-language Wikimedians, who asked why the program was concentrating only on English-language sources. Unfortunately, despite some cross-wiki participation, the program at the time "definitely lived on the English Wikipedia", said Ocaasi.
[The Arabic TWL] is a source access approach TWL hasn't tried before, in book purchases. It's also a true collaboration between a WMF-identified project and a community led program in TWL. WMF has a lot of knowledge about non-English community and helped translate and frame the consultation with Arabic Wikipedia. Now TWL gets to use its established 'account coordinator' model to expand programs into other communities.
—Jake Orlowitz ( Ocaasi)
To remedy this deficiency, TWL will be creating "satellites" on three other Wikipedias (Arabic, Spanish, German) that will be operated by the local communities. By partnering with the Wikimedia Foundation's Siko Bouterse, the organization's head of Individual Engagement Grants and Travel and Participation Support, TWL is supporting a pilot project that will award microgrants to Arabic-language Wikipedians who need funds to access sources for their article writing. Interestingly, despite a wide variety of grantmaking processes, microgrants are not something the Foundation has tried before. These grants, for a maximum of US$200 each and a total of $7000, will directly fund book purchases with minimal bureaucracy after-the-fact: editors will only have to write one sentence, including links to the article(s) improved, within three months.
TWL is founded by a WMF Individual Engagement Grant. While the original TWL grant, awarded in March 2013, was "experimental" (according to Ocaasi), the concept's success led to the grant's renewal in January for six more months for three times as much as the original US$7500. The extra funds allow for three paid contractors, including full-time coordinator Ocaasi, part-time coordinator Patrick Earley (The Interior), and technical consultant Nischay Nahata.
- ^ The IEG program was introduced in January 2013 to empower individual or small teams of volunteers to tackle long-term on-wiki problems; it covers tasks largely outside the scope of other WMF programs like entity-focused FDC or GAC procedures. The Foundation reaches its final funding decisions based on community input and a volunteer committee's recommendations.
- STiki: The English Wikipedia's vandalism reversion tool STiki has reached a milestone of 500,000 reverts. According to the tool's creator West.andrew.g, STiki "is an intelligent routing tool that directs human users to potential vandalism for definitive classification."
- Individual Engagement Grants: The Wikimedia Foundation has reminded the community that applications for this round's IEGs will close on 31 March. Siko Bouterse, the program's head, wrote that IEGs "support individuals and small teams to organize projects for 6 months. You can get funding to turn your idea for improving Wikimedia projects into action, with a grant for online community organizing, outreach and partnerships, tool-building, or research. Funding is available for a few hundred dollars up to $30,000." In addition, three clinics will be hosted in the month of March via Google Plus.
- Two new quarterly reviews: The Foundation has published the results of two new quarterly reviews with its projects, Wikipedia Zero and its Growth team. Quarterly reviews are aimed to ensure accountability and allow senior Foundation staff to offer specific guidance to their proliferous and diverse initiatives. Wikipedia Zero is partnering with mobile providers in developing countries to give free mobile access to Wikipedia articles, and the Growth team, formerly known as "Editor Engagement Experiments", focuses on methods to add contributors to the various Wikimedia projects.
- Wiki Education Foundation: The Education Foundation's first monthly report, covering the month of February, has been published.
- Bot editing examined: MIT Technology Review took a look into Wikipedia's bot editors in February.