So you want to get your message out. Where do you turn?
- Editor's note: This article uses an experimental typographical layout that we are currently soliciting feedback on. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on the talk page!
Outgoing Wikimedia Blog manager Fabrice Florin this week published a meta-post to the Wikimedia Blog highlighting its recent progress and future trajectory. As he explains, the Wikimedia Blog is a half-and-half mixture of communiqués from the Wikimedia Foundation (or its affiliates) and from the community, one which aims to "inform people about Wikipedia ... connect our communities around a shared narrative, and amplify their voices ... [and] convert casual visitors into supporters". The occasion of Fabrice's departure (and the tidbits he has shared with the community about the health of the blog) seems like a good time to discuss the various communications channels available to community members.
Talk us through what you mean
The first avenue of communication in the Wikimedian community is one that I expect most of our readers are rather too much familiar with at this point: talkpages. They have been around from the very beginning, but having never really substantially improved in almost a decade and a half they are today often regarded as something of a technical black sheep. There's already been one failed initiative to replace them, LiquidThreads, and another effort, Flow, has now been underway for some time, with a small number of pages currently serving as testbeds on the English Wikipedia and elsewhere. Communication using talk-pages is conceptually easy, if often messy in execution. Yet few talkpages are widely watched, and therefore, read, and so despite efforts like feedback request service there remain only a couple of on-wiki discussion points with an audience wide enough to get a point across: the village pumps come to mind, as does Jimmy Wales' talk page.
The greatest advantage of the talk pages is the fact that, being the basic venue for inter-user communication, they are accessible to all Wikipedians. The greatest disadvantage is one of presentation: lengthy posts are quickly snowballed by other lengthy posts in response, some of which are insightful, many of which are not. The lack of a visual distinction between the original author of the post and replies thereof, the blowback of the community's antiquated discussion model, causes talk page discussions to quickly degenerate into unreadability. The first and last few replies in a comment chain are far and away the most important ones, no matter the weight of their actual content, for little reason more than that they are what is most immediately read.
The first channel of expression available to Wikimedians in the community outside the talkpages on Wikipedia itself were the mailing lists. The tone of the early mailing lists closely matched that of the early movement: several of the first wiki project's paper trails end with Brion Vibber having created them for no apparently stronger reason than "someone on the mailing list asked for one" and Jimbo Wales freely intermingled with community volunteers and bestowed on several editors mock holidays as an award for the work they'd done (the most recent Brion Vibber Day passed just this June 1—the Signpost took note). A good example of the tone of this halcyon era is a personal favorite post, "I am Danny", dealing with early "office" actions.
Today the Wikipedia mailing lists are a miasma of overlapping board and sub-boards and sub-sub-boards: over 370 of them. Not all of the lists are active or even open, but most are or pretend to be one or both, and mailing list contributors seeking to find which one will best suit the needs of their particular communiqué are left to their own devices. Outside private mailings for boards (the English Arbitration Committee, for instance, maintains its own mailing list—which, yes, the Signpost has scooped—important discussions generally take place in one of a few high-volume places: the busiest and by far most-subscribed of them is the flagship Wikimedia-l. The trouble is that the mailing lists don't have much appeal to anyone aside from hardcore Wikipedians: subscribing to lists not meant explicitly for announcements only is like attaching a fire hose directly into your inbox, and the "digest" feature meant to make reading the lists easier is in variable states of repair. Nor is there any easy way, currently, to reply to an email in a mailing list to which one is not already subscribed. Nor are the lists intended for long-form content (though linking to a piece hosted elsewhere is an easy way to drive discussion).
Another medium with very similar strengths and weaknesses is the community IRC channels. They're like mailing lists, except more temporal: conversations are had and then forgotten, as many channels are not logged and most logs are never read. IRC provides a quick way of accessing one particular group of Wikipedians in particular—technicians—who, in fact, seemingly always been present on IRC, are far and away the most easily reachable of all the Foundation staff.
In the heyday of the blogosphere, many longer and more thoughtful ideas found expression on private users' blogs. The Foundation launched an RSS accumulator for such blogs in 2007, and called it Planet Wikimedia, which is now in its second iteration. Some blogs even run onwiki—the Bradblog comes to mind. For the most part, however, these posts do have difficulty finding a wider readership, since personal blogs are both relatively rare and somewhat detached from the movement; the impactful ones get re-posted to other channels or garner impact by appearing somewhere they can’t be ignored—like, for instance,
Andrew Lih's recent op-ed in The New York Times. Essays were originally meant to try and bring some of this traffic back on-wiki. A few have garnered an impact, but most have remained thoroughly unread.
When Wikipedians from Commons, GLAM, and elsewhere came together to raise community awareness about an impending vote on anti-freedom of panorama
laws in Europe, they chose to publish their appeal
in the Signpost
. The bill just was just defeated this week—an outcome you can read about in our report
True neutral, lawful good, chaotic evil
The Signpost is where most community essays ought to try to garner publication. The Signpost, which you're reading now, is a community-oriented and -run periodical that has been published on a regular weekly basis since its foundation in 2005. As one of the three bullet points in our recently formulated statement of purpose explains, the Signpost actively solicits articles, op-eds, and special reports from the community (subject the approval of the editors-in-chief), and can immediately provide an audience to all of those essays that would otherwise continue to collect dust in the Wikipedia-space. We field a wide variety of such reports: outreach pieces by Foundation teams and directed at the community, research reports on article traffic, community announcements, and long-form organizational strategy analysis have all recently been aired here. The pages of the Signpost are easily the most widely read and distributed of the medias available to Wikimedians, and we accept and encourage a wide variety of material. It’s usually a better way to be heard than publishing something in your personal blog, but an important point must be made that the Signpost publishes pieces, not ramblings—it's a form of communication which requires a large investment of time on the part of the writer.
Another publication that accepts pieces of a similar caliber is the Foundation's Wikimedia Blog, which has experienced rapid growth in past year or so. The Blog's name was recently updated from the "Wikimedia Foundation Blog" to just the "Wikimedia Blog", and after renovations last year now solicits community posts from all parties. Nonetheless, the results of surveys both by the Blog and by the Signpost indicate the Blog's lower-than-expected penetration of the community—in terms of readership in the movement, the Signpost has the Blog beat by miles. There's a limited population of people interested enough in the day-to-day activities of the community to subscribe to a news source about the same, and the Signpost, being far-older and independently community-organized, has far more heritage to draw from.
Then there's the critical but mostly unacknowledged problem that the Wikimedia Blog is essentially a corporate blog. This fact blesses it with a small secondary audience of news hawks (and journalists) interested in current events divorced from the movement itself, but also curses it with the weight of carrying those same burdensome press releases and official reports "from the teams". They're not page-turners, frankly. Corporate blogs are first and foremost engineered for minimum controversy, in that corporate communications way; they usually lack critical analysis, often lack context, and will never publish truly critical material. While it's true that the Blog is now accepting community input, this must still satisfy the Foundation’s requirements for healthy communications, raising what appears to have become a fear of negativity: for all of its presumed openness, an essay like our recent one titled "What made Wikipedia lose its reputation?" could not possibly ever appear on the WM Blog of today.
Then there's the troubling strain of self-promotion in the blog's content: for Wikimedia teams and community organizations increasingly under pressure to deliver results, to publish a post to the WM Blog is to be able to say that you’ve "made it". So though as an overall platform the Blog has quite some merit, as a writer trying to get a message across you must be aware of how closely you must hew to the movement banner; and you need to be aware that the Blog is a general-interest publication written for an explicitly external audience assumed to have little knowledge of the particularities of contributing. Because the Signpost voluntarily republishes posts we like as a part of our own "Blog" section, if you feel that your piece is sufficiently topical and has the requisite feel-good texture to it, there's no reason not to submit it to the WM Blog and take advantage of their far greater (paid) editorial resources. But it doesn't accept critical commentary or dissent, which remains within the Signpost's scope.
There's one last channel of communication for criticisms too bellicose for publication in the Signpost: Wikipediocracy. It's a cesspool of bile, full of bitter trolls and their coat-tail riders; yet many serious Wikimedians seem to read it regardless—members of groups including community administrators, arbitrators, Foundation community teamsters, and even Signpost editorial board members. The problem is that as Wikipedia editors we're all implicitly supporters, and so Wikipediocracy's indulgences—its rants, triviality, and personal nastiness—are reluctantly tolerated for the sake of gleaning a sense of the magnitude of the issues facing the projects. It’s well-acknowledged that sometimes Wikipediocracy has a point; and as the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In terms of material accepted, Wikipediocracy is a Chaotic Evil to the WM Blog's Lawful Good: as long as your post is sufficiently negative, it will be accepted. Better and less speculative writings ought be tried in the Signpost first, though, since it, being a publisher with some repute in the community, would not make your writing immediately suspicious by its choice of venue.
- Resident Mario is a Wikipedia editor and news hound who serves as associate editor at the Signpost.
- The views expressed in this op-ed are those of the author alone; responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments. Editors wishing to submit their own op-ed should use our opinion desk.
Wikimedia Foundation annual plan released, news in brief
Wikimedia Foundation publishes annual plan
Executive director Lila Tretikov this week posted an email to the wikimedia-l mailing list announcing the final publication of the Wikimedia Foundation's 2015 annual plan. It contained a succinct summary of her organizational thinking at the moment, and so is worthy of being replicated below:
I want to provide an update on the Annual Plan. I am happy to let you know
that the Board of Trustees has approved the proposed 2015-16 Wikimedia
Foundation annual plan. Thank you for your patience as we have worked to
incorporate your feedback and review with the Board.
The approved plan includes $68.2 million in revenue, with $65 million of
spending and $3.2 million for the reserve. In addition, we will raise $5
million for our endowment, which will help secure long-term support for our
mission. In total, this accounts for a 17% growth in total budget. The plan
also includes a stretch goal of exceeding the fundraising target by 20% to
contribute additional funds to the reserve. The approved and updated plan
is now available here
In our last Metrics Meeting, I presented an emerging strategy for the
Wikimedia Foundation that focused on building a strong core in the
near-term, allowing for innovation in the long-term toward our mission of
ubiquitous shared knowledge. Strengthening our core has been our focus over
this past year. We published the Call to Action
which refocused us on community and technology, introducing new thinking
and skills to the WMF, and improved products for the world.
We have made significant changes this past year that are showing early
results. But this is just a start. The world is changing rapidly in areas
like mobile, user behavior, media formats, and access to knowledge. In
order to make free knowledge available for generations to come, we need to
continually improve our work and challenge our thinking. The Annual Plan
for this year is focused on building our capabilities as a springboard for
In this year's plan, budget adjustments are designed to fill in the gaps in
current user needs, in particular in the areas of community (including
affiliates and partners), technology, and communication. The plan builds on
the foundational work from this past year, when we set up team structures
and introduced new focus to align our organization with communities and
demands for knowledge. For the first time, this year's plan also introduces
a Quarterly Metrics Scorecard to track our progress on delivering on our
commitments. We will use both top-level and departmental metrics to measure
our progress and report back.
I also want to acknowledge some of the issues with this year's Annual Plan
process. We shared the first draft with you late, giving you limited time
to provide feedback. We introduced a new, lighter weight format in the
first iteration that left some of you with questions about proposed
changes. This final, approved version has been updated to clarify our
rationale, incorporate the feedback we did receive, link our plans to
success metrics, and orient the next year within a broader strategy. As
always, we continue to iterate toward a better process. Going forward we
plan to have an extended window for your review and comments so we can
refine our plan with your valuable feedback in mind.
Thank you. I look forward to working together as we continue to strengthen
our core capabilities to support our mission and prepare for our emerging
For a fuller Signpost report see our coverage of the release of the draft version of this plan two months ago—the final version is broadly the same, with minor differences and addendums. For further details refer to our summary of the comprehensive State of the WMF report published earlier this year. It is worth highlighting the contrast between this year's slim 13-page brief metrics with last year's effort, which the Signpost reported at the time as being "indigestible"; most of the non-monetary and non-metric content of these reports has been spun off into the State of the WMF report.
- Wikisource needs your input: In a blog post this week, the members of the Wikisource Community User Group are asking for input on a survey they are now distributing, from which they hope to glean insights into the future of the project.
- Discussion of interest: A discussion occurred on the Wikimedia-l mailing list this week when a user pointed out confusion as to the presence of the Waray-Waray and Cebuano Wikipedias in the top ten Wikipedias by article count. Naturally, the Signpost has ample to say about it: see previous coverage here, here, and here. You can help make Signpost stories more obvious and accessible by contributing to our tagging initiative.
- Image manipulation in photo-competitions?: A blog post this week titled "A manipulated picture, a manipulated competition?", points to a discussion on the talk page of the German Wikipedia's Kurier about possible photo-manipulation in one of the ranking (fifth place) images from last year's Wiki Loves Earth competition.
- Wiki Edu outreach pilot concludes The Wiki Education Foundation this week published the outcomes report for their outreach pilot, an experiment in collaboration with students and Wikipedia outside the classroom. Attendees to sessions hosted by the organization ranged from 13 to 2 people, with the conclusion, perhaps expected, that "The greatest challenge in targeting extracurricular editing was the absence of external incentives ... with a grade, field trip, or staff visit, students contribute to Wikipedia. Without those incentives, they contribute significantly less, or not at all." As this approach is not reasonably scalable, the pilot has now concluded.
- Wikipedian in residence for gender equity at West Virginia University: West Virginia University has announced its new position of Wikipedian in Residence for gender equity, funded by an Inspire Campaign Grant. Wikimedians with experience in GLAM-Wiki, the Education Program, working on the gender gap and other related projects, are invited to apply for the position.
Wikimania warning; Wikipedia "mystery" easily solved
Mayor of Esino Lario warns Wikimania 2016 "at risk of disappearing"
Image from the Wikimania 2016 bid for Esino Lario
A week before the start of the 2015 Wikimania conference in Mexico City comes troubling news about next year's conference. Esino Lario, a small village of only 750 people in northern Italy, was selected earlier this year as the site of the 2016 Wikimania conference, to the surprise of many (see previous Signpost coverage). To host the event, the town needed hundreds of thousands of Euros from the Wikimedia Foundation and the Fondazione Cariplo, significant improvements to infrastructure, including buildings and internet connectivity, and the labor of a raft of volunteers. Despite this, the mayor of the town, Pietro Pensa, warns The Local Italy that the event is "at risk of disappearing".
At issue is a new group of migrants the town has been ordered to absorb. The European Union is currently struggling with a huge influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East—a 149% increase in numbers from last year. Many are fleeing armed conflicts in Syria and the Libyan crisis. Due to its ample coastline and location in the Mediterranean, Italy is one of the European countries most affected by being the destination of numerous maritime asylum seekers. The largest influx of people seeking asylum in Italy come from Eritrea then Somalia, Nigeria and Syria.
The new group of refugees located in Esino Lario numbers 60, adding to the population of 41 refugees already living there. Their numbers are small, but altogether would become more than ten percent of the town's population. Pensa worries that the volunteers needed for Wikimedia will instead be diverted to assist the new arrivals. He said, "They are not so independent and need a lot of help. Each migrant will have a volunteer with them for two or three hours a day." Pensa also complained that a nearby town, Lecco, with a population 100 times as large, has absorbed no migrants.
Whether this is a legitimate concern that threatens Wikimania or merely a way to complain about an unfavorable decision remains to be seen. However, Pensa promised the town will still try to make Wikimania a success. "We'll do everything we can to host the convention. We want to show everybody how great Esino is by hosting the best and craziest Wikimania convention possible." (June 8)
"Wikipedia's greatest mystery" is anything but
This bird was photographed on March 27. Coincidence?
Vocativ reports on what it calls "Wikipedia's greatest mystery", namely why the article March 27 lists more births and deaths than any of the other articles on other dates on the calendar. Vocativ consulted "12 scholars" who mostly dismissed the matter, though one noted "the gaps between maximum and next maximum in both your series [of dates for births and deaths] suggest that this coincidence does have some deeper, though mysterious explanation." The explanation is not mysterious, nor is it a "loophole", as Vocativ describes it. Lists of births and deaths in these articles are not assembled from data taken from Wikipedia or Wikidata, they are created manually by editors, and thus any data taken from these articles will be skewed by the biases and interests (or disinterests) of those editors. The data spike for March 27 can be attributed to the edits of a single editor, 18.104.22.168. Wikimedia Foundation data analyst Erik Zachte explained to Vocativ that "Maybe that person was born on March 27, and took pleasure in finding many famous people with some link to that date." A similar spike for March 4 can be attributed to Acumen76, who for the last several years seems to have mostly edited only that article, and mostly only during the month of March. (June 7)
- Hacking Team can't hack Wikipedia: WikiLeaks published a searchable collection of emails from the Hacking Team that were revealed in a June 5 data breach. The Hacking Team is an Italian IT company which has been criticized for selling surveillance capabilities and technology to oppressive governments. In one email, CEO David Vincenzetti asked "Can we change this abominable Hacking Team description at WikipediA? [sic]" An employee replied "This is not easy as you might think, but there may be a way. The problem is that WP distrusts companies in general and has a policy against taking changes from them. Still there are errors of fact in the HT article, so we'll see what we can do." There do not appear to be any significant changes to the article as a result of this exchange. (June 9)
- The red link blues: In an interview with the Brandon Sun regarding his upcoming debut EP, teenage Canadian singer Francesco Yates was asked about the fact that he has no Wikipedia article yet. Yates replied "When the time is right, the Wikipedia will come. I will summon the Wikipeople." So watch for that red link to turn blue soon. (July 8)
- The red ink blues: Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger announced that Infobitt has "run out of money" and no longer will pay staff, but he writes that "I’ll still be contributing, and I hope you will too." Infobitt is a crowdsourced news website he founded last year that promised to be a "Wikipedia for news" (see previous Signpost coverage). (July 8)
- Wikipedia Zero in the UAE: Emirates 24/7 reports that United Arab Emirates-based telecommunications company Etisalat will now be offering Wikipedia access free of data charges as part of the Wikipedia Zero initiative. (July 8)
- Is there life before Wikipedia?: In The New Yorker, Elias Muhanna, professor of comparative literature at Brown University, writes about his experience teaching a class called "Before Wikipedia", about the history of encyclopedic writing. (July 7)
- Addressing gender issues in Residence: WBOY-TV reports that beginning in September there will be a new Wikipedian in Residence at West Virginia University who will "research and create new posts about some of the state’s most successful and influential women". While the Wikipedian in Residence program has been around since 2010, this will be the first WIR position created to specifically address gender issues. (July 6)
- Danny who?: Search Engine Roundtable complains about the deletion discussion regarding the article for Danny Sullivan. The discussion was closed and the article kept following publication. SER writes that Sullivan "basically invented the industry" of search engine optimization, though as of this writing Sullivan's article does not appear to make this claim for his notability clearly. (July 6)
- Is this the Tragedy of Macbeth?: The letter columns of the Marianas Variety feature an argument between two correspondents about allegations of plagiarizing Wikipedia, specifically the article on Shakespeare's Macbeth. (July 6)
- Calling Bangalore: The Times of India reports on the lack of editors on the Kannada Wikipedia. Kannada has about 38 million native speakers but only eight editors are actively contributing to the Kannada-language encyclopedia. (July 5)
- Vandals: In the wake of the Nehru vandalism (see last week's ITM), The Times of India takes a look at Wikipedia's susceptibility to vandalism and manipulation. (July 4)
Next week's Signpost will feature a Special Report on the European Union freedom of panorama issue.
Do you want to contribute to "In the media" by writing a story or even just an "in brief" item? Edit next week's edition in the Newsroom or contact the editor.Reader comments
The Empire lobs back
It's July 4 weekend and on this list that means only one thing: Wimbledon. Sure, the American Independence Day gets noticed too, but it can't hold a candle to that staggeringly British sporting event. This week, however, Wimbledon had to share the glory with two other major sporting events: the Copa America and the FIFA Women's World Cup, both of which reached their finals.
For the full top-25 list, see WP:TOP25. See this section for an explanation of any exclusions. For a list of the most edited articles of the week, see here.
As prepared by Serendipodous, for the week of June 28 to July 4, 2015, the 10 most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the report of the most viewed pages, were:
||This film marks the fourth attempt in 12 years to restart the dormant Terminator franchise without the aid of its creator, James Cameron. To date, if Metacritic and IMDb are anything to go by, the only remotely successful of these resuscitations was the hugely underrated TV series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. One wonders if audiences are wishing they'd made that a hit when they had the chance, because the numbers for this film's opening weekend are bad. Really bad. As in, "made as much in its first five days as Terminator Salvation made in its first weekend" bad. And Salvation, mind you, was the black sheep of the series until now. All this is rather perplexing, since the two things that usually drive movies up this list are box office and controversy, and so far the only controversy over this film is from the few scattered critics who don't consider it utterly terrible. Perhaps it was the presence of Emilia Clarke (currently the second Game of Thrones star to take on the role of Sarah Connor). Or perhaps, if this aging Terminator fan could be wistful for a moment, the critics are wrong when they say the Millennial generation has no love for this franchise. Perhaps they rushed to their tablets incensed at the terrible reviews; determined to learn who and what was responsible for vandalising the legacy of this landmark work of science fiction. Or perhaps it means nothing at all. Who am I to guess?
||Independence Day (United States)
||The American celebration of its Declaration of Independence from Britain on July 4, 1776 (although technically American independence was declared on July 2, by which time the American Revolutionary War had already been going for more than a year, and not actually attained until February 3, 1783) is arguably the biggest summer festival in the English-speaking world, with the possible exception of Christmas in Australia. Numbers are up 50 percent on last year, but still not near 2013. Perhaps a slight surge of patriotism ahead of next year's election?
||Flags of the Confederate States of America
||It took the horrific act of the Charleston church shooting on June 17 to refocus the attention of South Carolina politicians and public at large to the fact that South Carolina was still flying the battle flag of the Confederate States of America at their state capitol. This flag causes a lot of controversy in the United States, though its general modern use as a symbol of racist oppression of blacks is undeniable. Will the flag of ISIS/ISIL be similarly used in the Middle East one hundred years hence? In any event, on June 22, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and other politicians called for the flag to be taken down, so it appears that the flag will be officially lowered soon.
||In this era of dueling gargantuas, when Hollywood risks $200 million budgets on a whim and triple-digit opening weekends are a seasonal event, the financial achievements of the first Jurassic Park can seem somewhat pallid. And yet, it was for a time the most successful film ever made, and more importantly, formed the prototype for the modern blockbuster; massive, frontloaded opening weekend, brushfire earnings, and supercharged ancillaries. And now, after Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron made substantial dents in the US GDP, Jurassic World has arrived to show that its aging franchise is perfectly capable of holding its own in today's hostile environment. Its $208 million opening weekend was the biggest of all time, though at just $1 million above the previous record set by Marvel's The Avengers back in 2012, it wasn't exactly a killing blow. Still, it managed to claim the highest second weekend gross of all time as well, showing that it may well be on the way to repeating the performance of its ancestor. Today, the Jurassic franchise is just one monster among many, but it has shown that it still has the right to reign.
||2015 Copa América
||This week saw The final of South America's quadrennial international soccer competition, in which Chile beat Argentina in a penalty shoot out.
||Dustin Brown (tennis)
||This German tennis player shocked pretty much everyone when he beat 14-times champion Rafael Nadal at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, only to be knocked out in straight sets by Viktor Troicki.
||The Australian model and actress has been in the media thanks to her role in the new series of Orange is the New Black and her public challenging of traditional gender roles. She came out as a lesbian at the age of 12 and identifies as genderfluid. Her androgynous appearance has led many straight women to declare an attraction to her, which has angered some gay activists, who argue that homosexuality is not a choice.
||Deaths in 2015
||The viewing figures for this article have been remarkably constant; fluctuating week to week between 450 and 550,000, apparently heedless of who actually died.
||2015 FIFA Women's World Cup
||The final of this increasingly popular competition was held this week, and saw the United States clinch its third title (something their male equivalent has never managed even once) in a stomping 5-2 victory over holders Japan. Meanwhile, the English side clinched third place by beating arch-rivals Germany, something the home crowd may consider better than actually winning.
||It's a rare athlete, let alone tennis player, who enters this list on a loss, but the British no 1's grueling 3-set defeat to Serena Williams may well have been a career-defining moment. She held firm against the world no. 1, pushing her against the wall, until finally caving in a 7-5 slugfest.
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