Eleven public relations agencies have declared their intention to follow "ethical engagement practices" in Wikipedia editing. William Beutler, who has edited the site since 2006, kicked off the initiative by hosting a closed-door meeting at the Donovan House in Washington DC with several PR professionals and Wikipedians. The results were published last Tuesday: a joint statement from the participating PR agencies—representing five of the top ten global agencies and all but one of the top ten in the United States—clarifying their views and practices with regards to the Wikimedia projects. They committed themselves:
To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
To act in accordance with Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, particularly those related to "conflict of interest."
To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.
Beutler told the Signpost in a separate interview this week that "It's a challenge to communicate best practices through an entire agency, particularly on a topic relatively niche as Wikipedia. But it's important that they're now making an effort to do so."
But what caused them to issue such a statement? PR agencies have had a rocky history with Wikipedia, beginning with Gregory Kohs, who founded a company (MyWikiBiz) with the express purpose of creating and editing Wikipedia articles on behalf of paying corporations. He was promptly blocked by Jimmy Wales, the site's co-founder.
For their part, Beutler and his compatriots recognize that they have a long way to go to obtain the Wikimedia community's trust: "I'm very happy with the attention we've had this week, but I hope no one thinks that anything has been solved":
The purpose of this statement was to show that Wikipedia and communications professionals are not so far apart as either side might have thought before.
There is a very long road ahead, where a difficult conversation must take place. I do expect that disagreements will occur, and even the companies who have signed onto this will not be able to keep everyone in line just yet.
Likewise, I am optimistic that Wikipedians are ready to put community resources toward answering the challenges that will come about from outside interests asking Wikipedia why certain articles say things they don't think are accurate or up-to-date—and will help address these issues.
FDC and staff in November 2013: nominations for four appointed members close midnight end of Sunday 15 June.
FDC: still time to nominate, but only just: In 2013, there was a community election for three spots on the critical nine-member WMF volunteer Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC). The next stage in the evolution of its membership, in accordance with the FDC's "framework" document, is for the WMF board to appoint four committee members to replace those whose two-year terms will end in July. Nominations opened almost two weeks ago, and will close at midnight UTC on Sunday 15 June, just a day after this edition of the Signpost is published. Candidates will need to have sufficient time and dedication: concentrated reviewing of substantial applications is required before the in-person meetings in San Francisco, twice yearly. The membership criteria and expectations are set out on the nomination page on Meta. A Q&A page for community–candidate discourse is now live, and expected to become active after the close of nominations. Eleven Wikimedians have put their names forward, mostly in a last-minute wave—a pattern very familiar onwiki. As if in an attempt to outdo the onwiki gender gap, the eleven candidates thus far comprise ten men and one woman.
Does Wikipedia think Linnaeus is more important than Jesus or Hitler?: Researchers from the University of Toulouse have taken on 24 different language versions of Wikipedia and tried to rank the most important people, as measured by the number of incoming links. Carl Linnaeus beat out all of the overall competitors—but it appears that the authors did not control for the effect of the thousands of species articles that link back to him. On the English Wikipedia, Linnaeus came in third, behind Napoleon and Barack Obama.
Bangladesh chapter registered: Wikimedia Bangladesh, which has been recognized as an official national chapter since October 2011, has finally been recognized in its home country. The multi-year process was marked by several pitfalls. Thanks to the need for a security clearance, only about 5% of non-governmental organizations' applications succeed; those problems are separate from multiple demands for bribes to allow the application to move forward. One commenter on Wikimedia-l called it "unprecedented" that a "foreign-affiliated Internet technology organization mostly run by younger people who have a relationship to a major Internet property" were able to do so without a bribe.
Education programs: Wikimedia in education news came on two fronts this week: Serbia and Israel. The former country will be integrating "wiki tools" into the university curriculum for aspiring secondary schoolteachers, while Israel will collaborate with the country's national Wikimedia chapter to train existing teachers in showing their students how to edit Wikipedia.
Longest disambiguation pages: Slate has published an article on the longest disambiguation pages on the English Wikipedia. Trends includes Persian towns, which were largely the work of one editor, and churches.
An earlier version of the Media Viewer.
Foundation initiative in trouble: The brand-new media viewer has run into strong headwinds on the English Wikipedia, with only two total users supporting it in any way at the time of publication. Complaints about it are wide-ranging: Ahechtnoted that "There is no obvious way to get to the image page from the lightbox, there is no obvious way to disable it ..., it is confusing as it initially presents a blurry image before downloading a higher resolution one, and it makes browsing difficult on touch-screen devices that use pinch-to-zoom, many of the buttons contain cryptic icons, and their function can only be revealed by hovering over them assuming your device has a mouse. It becomes almost unusably slow on older slower machines or machines on a slow connection. It doesn't allow zooming and scrolling within the image." The Foundation has been working to address the problems, even delaying higher-priority projects to do so, but is still under fire for the proposed changes, which include the addition of tooltips so "users can tell what each button will do."
Summer of Monuments: Wikimedia DC has selected Leo Zimmerman to head "Summer of Monuments", which aims to improve Wikimedia Commons' photographic coverage of historic sites in ten southern US states and "demonstrate how Wikimedia Commons can be a valuable ally for historians". Zimmerman hopes that the vanguard of the program will comprise historians, librarians, photographers, and amateur enthusiasts. Prizes will be awarded on an individual and institutional basis.