News and notes
Finally, a new CTO; trustee joins Quora; copyright upgrade impending
Wikimedia Foundation fills long-vacant CTO position
The Wikimedia Foundation has hired Victoria Coleman to serve as its chief technology officer (CTO). (blog post; press release; email list announcement). The CTO role, widely seen as vital to an organization for which technology has always been the central focus, has been vacant since Danese Cooper left the organization in July 2011. Several former and current WMF staff, however, noted that various others have played the role of CTO in the interim, to some degree, without adopting the formal title. According to the announcement, Coleman "will be responsible for setting the vision and strategy for technology and operations behind the Wikimedia projects, in cooperation with the global communities of volunteer contributors, users, and researchers."
Coleman’s resume includes roles with Technicolor, Harman, Yahoo, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Intel, and SRI International. She also worked on security-related projects, including authoring a report on creation of a legal framework for the safety of programmable electronic systems procurement in the UK, and the establishment of a cybersecurity research center in the US.
Executive director Katherine Maher said in the announcement: "Victoria brings the right combination of deep technical knowledge, operational expertise, and the steady hand that is needed in this unique role."
One message from an email list participant, inquiring into Coleman’s perspective on a user privacy issue that may intersect with her past work, prompted an extended response from Maher. Maher emphasized the importance of having a diversity of backgrounds represented among staff, and the value of Coleman’s security experience in the government IT sector.
Coleman will take up the role on November 7. PF
Foundation trustee to join Quora as finance officer
Foundation trustee Kelly Battles announced that she has taken a position as chief financial officer (CFO) for Quora. The announcement, which addresses the possibility of a legal conflict of interest arising from the new position, appears to be Battles' first public communication since her brief introductory statement on joining the Board of Trustees in January 2016. Battles was Bracket Computing’s CFO when she assumed the unpaid WMF Board position.
Quora, a for-profit company, runs a question-and-answer website that has drawn frequent comparisons to Wikipedia since its launch in 2010 (past Signpost coverage). Quora co-founder Adam D'Angelo noted the influence of Wikipedia on the site's design in a TechCrunch article, and computer scientist Seb Paquet addressed the connection in the popular article "Why Quora is not Wikipedia" for Quora Review, both in 2011. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales describes himself as “an advisor to and (very small) investor in Quora,” and has answered some 864 questions on the site. Quora itself features many questions and answers related to the connections between the two sites.
Some discussion about the potential for COI in Battles’ new role ensued on the email list.PF
- Editorial note: Wiki Strategies, the company owned by editor Pete Forsyth, advised the Quora team prior to the site’s 2010 launch.
Creative Commons 4.0: first copyright upgrade in seven years
For the 4.0 version, released in 2013, Creative Commons prioritized creating a “more global license,” consulting with hundreds of volunteers around the world to improve the fit with various legal jurisdictions, and to simplify and translate the legal code and the simpler “deeds,” or summaries for non-lawyers, into many languages. In addition, the 4.0 version for the first time presents a unified CC BY-SA license for various legal jurisdictions, rather than separate “ported” versions designed specifically for each country’s laws.
Two changes noted in the discussions to date are database rights and the process whereby reusers who violate the license can correct their actions within a 30-day window. Database rights have been assuming ever-greater online importance, with significant implications for the way societies deal with the ongoing explosion in structured information. While most jurisdictions still lack database copyright law—in which compiling a database apparently confers copyright, whether online or in hard copy—uploaders in jurisdictions that do have database copyright law must satisfy both the local law and the provisions of the Creative Commons license. For this reason, the WMF's adoption of the new version is planned to present a waiver of potential database rights, which, according to that link target on Meta Wiki, gives permission to use material that is ineligible for copyright protection, but is eligible for protection as part of a database. The proposal intends "that the rights in Wikimedia content are internationally consistent and consistent with Wikipedia's past rights in contributions under version 3.0 of the license." Wikidata, however, will not be transitioning to a new license under the proposal; it has used, and will continue to use, the CC0 public domain dedication rather than CC BY-SA. T
- WikiCite conference: WikiCite is an effort built around creating a bibliographic database in Wikidata to serve all Wikimedia projects. Its first annual conference was held in Berlin in May 2016. It has now launched the WikiCite Newsletter, which will be published quarterly. Note: Those interested in citations shouldn’t miss this edition's feature.
- Shortlist for Wikipedia Women in Red: Wikipedia Women In Red has been shortlisted for for the 2016 United Nations GEM-TECH Awards.
- Wikidata celebrated its fourth birthday with events on four continents.
- CIS newsletter: The September issue of the India-based Centre for Internet and Society – Access to Knowledge Newsletter reported on learnings about Wikipedia’s gender gap, a campaign to freely license copyrighted books in the Telegu language, and more.
- Long-standing WMF staffer departs: Rob Lanphier, the WMF director of architecture, has left the organization. Lanphier, hired in 2010, was one of the WMF’s longest-tenured staff members, and recently reached a 15-year milestone as a Wikipedia editor.
- Signpost co-editor in chief departs: We at the Signpost will miss the guidance and contributions of Andreas Kolbe, our co-editor-in-chief since May 2016. To mark his departure, Andreas wrote:
"At present, I simply don't have the time required to do all the necessary reading to stay abreast of Wikimedia affairs, and to pull my weight in writing articles and preparing Signpost issues for publication. As a result, I've decided to resign as co-editor-in-chief of the Signpost. I don't want to do so without taking the opportunity to thank all my past and present Signpost colleagues. Particular thanks go to Tony, Ed and Gamaliel for the kind welcome they extended to me (markworthy to me because I did most of my early writing about Wikipedia as a Wikipedia critic, lambasting the project for its flaws). I'm happy to have met all of them in person—they're great company and have been splendid colleagues to work with, and I'm proud of the work we did together. My main regret is that I did not have more time to share the task of managing the Signpost with Pete, something I was looking forward to, and that my absence has added to his workload. But I hope to be able to return as a Signpost contributor at some point in the future, so this is good-bye rather than adieu."
Check back for the next Signpost on January 27.