Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2020-11-01/News and notes
Portuguese Wikipedia bans IP editing
Disclosure: the authoractively participated in the discussions on ptwiki
In early October ptwiki banned editing by unregistered editors, who are often called anonymous or IP editors. The ban is already being implemented.
The issue has been debated many times since the beginning of Portuguese Wikipedia and has always been very controversial. In recent years the ptwiki community came to an unofficial common understanding that vandalism by IP editors was out of control. IPs were responsible for 85% of vandalism. Despite all the anti-vandalism systems being used, from Huggle to dozens of editing filters, vandalism was no longer being effectively controlled.
The project routinely received complaints that vandalism remained in articles not just for days or months, but for years. It was rare to see IP editors making useful edits within the rules. The community discussed the topic and decided to vote on the subject. More than 70% of voters were in favor of preventing edits from IPs in the main domain and 82% were in favor of preventing article creation by IPs.
This was one of the largest and most decisive votes in the project's history: 169 votes in favor, 69 votes against. The community then contacted the WMF Board of Trustees to argue in favor of the new rule. The WMF has not responded so far, but neither have they interfered. It is not necessary for the WMF to take action, as IP edits are being prohibited through edit filters and IP range blocks.
One community concern is that there could be other interference from people outside the community, who might not listen to their concerns. Such interference has happened before with the developers community, which simply said that banning IP editors was impossible - "this isn't going to happen." Can someone with no experience on ptwiki say "it is simply not possible to ban IPs"? Since the ban was carried out, there has been a substantial increase in creation of accounts and vandalism rates have decreased significantly, allowing editors to spend their energies creating and referencing articles. – É
Government of Tatarstan paying for editing
The government of the Republic of Tatarstan, part of the Russian Federation, will be paying for articles on the Russian Wikipedia, which will then be translated for inclusion on the Tatar Wikipedia and the English Wikipedia, according to reports on Russian Wikinews. Farhad Fatkullin, 2018 Wikipedian of the Year, helped organize the tender with the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency (TIDA) which was won by Anna Biryukova. According to Fatkullin, "TIDA is interested to have Tatarstan-related materials available also in at least 8 more languages, which are German, French, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean."
Vladimir Medeyko, director of Wikimedia RU, said that the chapter assisted in the tender "to help formulate its conditions in the most correct way. In my opinion, this has been achieved, and I am grateful to Farhad." However, they did not place a bid. "We studied the issue of participation in it. I must say that in general we were wary of this in connection with possible reputational risks."
The contract, which has not yet been signed, covers 51 articles, or sections of articles, on ruwiki, plus the translations for tawiki and enwiki, with payment expected to be 990,000 rubles (about $12,500).
Biryukova is a well known commercial paid editor on ruwiki, according to Ymblanter, and declares her paid status on her enwiki user page. According to that page she's worked as a paid editor on 7 articles.
Ymblanter compared the project to Gibraltarpedia, a troubled project paid for by the Gibraltar government which worked with a former board chairman of Wikimedia UK to increase tourism. Ymblanter says "I am not sure why this project should turn out any differently."
He continued "The government of Tatarstan is not the most democratic institution in the world. I expect that most edits would be uncontroversial, but some probably would not be, and we might very well be in a situation when a user is being paid to add POV to articles. In the English Wikipedia, these articles are poorly monitored, and users prefer not to deal with Eastern European topics which have a well-deserved reputation of … POV pushing and edit-warring."
The Signpost asked Fatkullin about concerns that accepting money from the government to write Wikipedia articles had ominous overtones. He responded, in part:
I love the fact that Wikipedia … is seen by many as the place where people manage to find consensus around phrasing their differences in a civil manner & that diversity of views present benefit its readers, promoting the mission of free knowledge. I would clearly like to see institutions and individuals from around the world contributing to and otherwise supporting as many Wikimedia projects in as many languages as they find attractive. … Our main safeguards against "officially approved" government, private, NGO or individually-pushed POV is in following m:Founding principles and WP:5P, whilst democracy without pluralism is indeed the road to hell paved by good intentions.
Biryukova replied to our questions by saying: "The work doesn't imply any influence on the text on the part of the customer. Wikipedia rules are always more important." She added that the work was not profitable from her point of view. "The authors, whom I have involved in this project, understand and accept this fact. From their side, [the] work is more like volunteering". – SNotes:
- Email – October 30, 2020
- Email – October 29, 2020
Mandatory IP masking
- See today's Op-Ed for the WMF's view on this issue.
Mandatory IP masking is coming to Wikipedia; it's not a question of if, but only of how and when. The Wikimedia Foundation has told all communities that its counsel has determined that displaying IP addresses of logged-out editors can not be permitted,[a] and a technical solution is being sought that would stop short of disallowing logged-out editing altogether (see prior Signpost coverage). The technical solution would show "a human-readable identifier instead of the IP address", aka IP masking.
There is strong opposition to IP masking from administrators and others involved in combating vandalism. At a discussion on Meta, states that admins need better tools to combat abusive edits. Removing a simple tool like an IP address will have generaly negative and unpredictable effects for fighting vandalism. says that "Unregistered users can either affirmatively consent to public logging of their IP addresses, or register an account. Let's not pursue complex, expensive and divisive solutions when a very simple solution is readily available." notes that non-admins also help in fighting vandalism, and is "concerned at the fact that non-administrators weren’t seemingly taken into account with the report, and I would vehemently urge the team involved to keep us plebs in mind going forward with any decisions made." and 6 other editors insisted that vandal fighting tools should be greatly improved before the IP masking issue is considered.
As of 21 October, WMF has tentatively proposed technical changes and a new user right:
- The vast majority of people who access our wikis would see the IPs fully masked.
- All admins could see them partially masked (the first three octets of an IP address being visible).[b] This could be helpful to see patterns even if they don’t have the new user right. Partially masking them reduces the privacy risk for the unregistered user.
- The new user right – in addition to checkusers and stewards – would have access to the unmasked IP.
Existing edit histories would retain the full IP address as currently implemented. – BNotes:
- Their actual words were
If the Legal department tells us we have to do something for legal reasons – which they unfortunately can't explain publicly in more detail without risk to the projects – we have to take this and do the best we can within the bounds we've been given: the status quo can't remain, and we have to do something about the ways we handle IPs for non-registered users.
- WMF engineering stated "parts of an IP address" in the original, apparently not considering IPv6 addresses.
The WMF announced a postponement of its branding initiative, on September 30. The initiative was expected to include the word "Wikipedia" in the foundation's name, perhaps as the "Wikipedia Foundation". COVID-19 and a Community open letter on renaming were cited as reasons for the pause. The open letter which requested the pause was signed by 970 individual Wikipedians and over 70 affiliate organizations. An ad hoc subcommittee of the Board of Trustees, consisting of James Heilman, Raju Narisetti, and Shani Evenstein Sigalov, will discuss the initiative with WMF staff until 2021, at which time the initiative will resume, perhaps in a different form. – S
There's a birthday coming up
On January 15, 2021 Wikipedia will mark its 20th birthday. The October publication of the book Wikipedia @ 20 starts the celebration by covering almost every aspect of the encyclopedia in its 22 chapters. The book's publication is covered in The Signpost with an interview with the editors, Joseph Reagle and Jackie Koerner. Reagle's chapter on "The many (reported) deaths of Wikipedia" is published here and a book review. Coincidentally, the billionth edit on enwiki will likely occur in December or January.
- Winner of MediaWiki logo vote announced: After a second round of voting, the outcome of the selection process of a new logo for MediaWiki was announced. The winning logo, created by User:Serhio Magpie, continues to evoke the sunflower featured in the old logo, but drops the square brackets (symbolizing wikilinks), while the accompanying wordmark still uses camel case in a reference to a linking syntax used in early wikis. As explained in the original proposal for changing the logo, the main concerns about the old logo included its large "number of colors and shades that make it hardly usable for applications like t-shirts or other swag", and the "too realistic" details of the photo-based sunflower image that don't render well in small sizes. The new logo is still undergoing review by the Foundation's legal team.
- The WMF Transparency Report for January–June 2020 was released this month.
- New user-groups: The Affiliations Committee announced the approval of this week's newest Wikimedia movement affiliates, the Indic MediaWiki Developers User Group which has 16 members and designers; and the Kurdish Wikimedians User Group with 11 members.
- New administrator: We congratulate Wikipedia's newest administrator, .
- New functionaries announced: Arbitration Committee expanded the functionary team membership as follows. Anarchyte was appointed as an Oversighter; EdJohnston, Oshwah, and Yamla were appointed as CheckUser.
- Forced logout: Another defensive forced logout for every Wiki user (see prior Signpost coverage) was announced on October 1. Some discussion occurred at Village Pump: Technical over whether it should have been more clearly announced on enwiki.
- Code repositories to move from Gerrit to GitLab: Following a developer community consultation, the Wikimedia Foundation's Release Engineering team announced that the code repositories for MediaWiki and associated software parts will at some point in the future move to a self-hosted GitLab instance. Many details still need to be worked out, but the team plans "to have a GitLab installation ready with a few self-contained repositories moved to it by this coming June ". Gerrit, an open source code review tool developed and maintained at Google, has been used for MediaWiki since the 2012 switch from Subversion to Git. According to a summary of the consultation, "the overall sentiment was mostly neutral with serious and discerning discussion", with enthusiasm about moving to GitLab's more intuitive user interface (Gerrit has long been criticized for being hard to use), but "concerns about the impact of moving to a PR/MR methodology" and the general disruption that is to be expected from such a platform switch. It is especially hoped that GitLab's interface will make it easier to become involved in MediaWiki development, although several discussion participants cautioned that the most important barriers to code contributions by newcomers are likely to be social instead, in particular the code review process (where commits or pull requests have to be inspected and approved by senior developers, often WMF employees).