News and notes
Oral citations; the state of global development; a gentler Huggle; brief news
Unsourced in India: film explores possibility of oral citations in Wikipedia
Verifiability and No original research are two of Wikipedia's core content policies. The core idea is that noteworthy information will have at least some source that Wikipedia articles can cite, and if not, then the information isn't noteworthy. While this might hold for the Western world, local information is rarely written down in areas like India and South Africa; there, knowledge exists predominantly as the spoken word. In the UK, for example, one book is published for every 372 citizens each year; but the ratio in South Africa is roughly 20 times smaller, and in India as much as 30 times smaller, with one book per 11,000 citizens each year. This raises an important question: how can there be a balance between local knowledge and global knowledge in Wikipedia if local knowledge is all but non-existent in the written world?
People are Knowledge, a CC-BY-SA film published a few days ago, offers an answer: instead of written citations, Wikipedia language versions like Hindi, Malayalam and Sepedi could use oral citations. Interviews and recordings could serve as a source of knowledge for Wikipedia. The team which tried this did experience problems early on, as documented in the 45-minute film: two residents of a small village described a local children's game differently. The team's solution seems to fit the mindset at Wikipedia: present both sides in the Wikipedia article.
People are Knowledge has been supported by the Wikimedia Foundation and the Centre for Internet and Society in India (blog post). It is part of a Wikimedia research project on oral citations. (Cf. earlier Signpost coverage "New Wikimedia fellow to research sourcing problems in local languages")
Catching up with Global Development
One year into his role as Chief Global Development Officer, Barry Newstead published a report on his experiences and those of his colleagues in the Global Development team, which is tasked with expanding Wikimedia's reach in parts of the world where the editor community is underdeveloped. Highlights of this initial year have included the first global and systematic survey of the editor community, the India catalyst initiative, and the Wikipedia 10th anniversary celebrations. However, there were disappointments for Newstead, including the postponement of the launch of an online merchandising store and the slow pace of progress in mobile development.
Initiatives for the coming year include a search for partnerships with mobile operators (particularly those willing to provide free access to Wikipedia for their customers), the doubling of the grants scheme to $600,000, and the expansion of the pioneering Public Policy Initiative into a Global Education program to promote university outreach worldwide. Newstead emphasised that reversing the decline in editors and expanding the movement's mobile presence are the key priorities for the year ahead.
As part of a continuing analysis of the April 2011 editors' survey (see previous Signpost coverage), Newstead's colleague, Head of Global Development Research Mani Pande has written a report on what the results reveal about female editors of the project. A mere 8.5% of the participants in the global survey identified as female, and these editors were found to be significantly less likely than their male counterparts to make large numbers (5,000+) of edits during their lifetime as an editor. The Foundation aspires to increase the project's female editor count from 9,000 (as of spring 2011) to 11,700 by spring 2012, through initiatives such as simplifying the editing interface and engaging in outreach programs.
News in brief
Brazilian Wikimedians at WikiSampa8 in June 2011
- Huggle experiments with gentler, more instructive warnings: The Foundation's Community Department has announced an experiment to improve Huggle first-contact with new editors, by testing "warning templates that are explicitly more personalized and set out to teach new editors more directly, rather than simply pointing them to policy and asking them not to do something". The investigation is part of the Wikimedia Summer of Research (see also this week's "Recent research" article).
- Brazil Catalyst Project advances: In June 2011, Wikimedia Foundation staff members visited Brazil as part of the Brazil Catalyst Project, an initiative for the Foundation's strategic priority of supporting the development of the Brazilian Wikimedia community.
- Language committee to allow "simple" projects: As announced earlier (Signpost coverage) and now confirmed in its June report, the Foundation's Language committee (volunteers charged with overseeing new language projects) has declared that "simple" language projects (primarily aimed at children and newcomers to a language) are "likely be allowed under certain conditions". The report also announced a new draft language proposal policy and the Board of Trustees' approval of the closing projects policy (earlier Signpost coverage: "Closing projects policy to become official").
- Advertising: It was announced this week that the Foundation will receive free AdWords advertising courtesy of a Google grant. [Background: AdWords, Google's flagship advertising product, places sponsored links next to search results, netting the company tens of billions of dollars a year (foundation-l mailing list).]
- Mobile viewing: Head of Global Development Research for the Foundation, Mani Pande, blogged about how the Foundation were planning to meet their target of increasing pageviews from mobile devices to two billion. The post include results from a recent survey about the desirable characteristics of any mobile platform.
- Interwiki image suggester: Bulwersator of the Polish Wikipedia has developed a bot that makes suggestions for articles lacking infobox images by checking for images in other language versions of those articles. A trial of this functionality is available for viewing at User:Bulwersator/Echo/Images/Mountains. Similar functionality is provided by Magnus Manske's Free Image Search Tool (FIST) (see Signpost coverage).
- Citizen's Information portal proposed: Several Meta editors have advanced the idea of Civipedia, envisioned as "a wiki-based Citizens' Information portal for every state in the world". Early discussion has focused on existing nation-specific resources of this kind, and how a wiki-based project of global scope might improve on them.
GLAM Baltimore Meetup at the Walters Art Museum
- GLAM Baltimore Meetup: On Friday, July 22, approximately 25 Baltimore Young Preservationists and Wikipedians turned out for a happy hour and to hear Sarah Stierch speak about her experience as Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Archives of American Art. The second part of the meetup, organized by Baltimore Heritage and hosted by the Walters Art Museum on Saturday, July 23, drew nearly 20 attendees. Katie Filbert presented about WikiDC, Sarah Stierch about GLAM-Wiki, and Dylan Kinnett on digitization and the museum's new web platform. As the Walters collections are owned by the City of Baltimore and do not include modern art, they are considered to be in the public domain; digital images will be made available on Wikimedia Commons in the next few months. There were also discussions about potential future collaborations between Wikimedians and cultural institutions in Baltimore, and plans for a "Wikis Take Baltimore" event in November.
- Bureaucrat, oversight ranks up: This week saw a rare event in contemporary site politics – the successful request for bureaucratship of Hersfold, an administrator, checkuser, and former member of the Arbitration Committee. It was only the second RfB this year, following Maxim's attempt, also successful, last month. Another former arbitrator, FloNight, who is currently serving on the Ombudsman commission, has resumed her role as a local Oversighter.
- New administrator: The Signpost welcomes Tyrol5 (nom) as our newest admin with unanimous support. Tyrol5's primary areas of expertise are medicine and molecular biology, with more than 30 articles contributed at Wikinews. At the time of publication, there were three open RfAs: Qwyrxian, due to finish Tuesday; Reaper Eternal, due to finish Thursday; and Richardcavell, due to finish Sunday.
The following Wikipedia projects reached milestones in the past fortnight:
- As the shrinking of the Malagasy Wiktionary comes to a halt (currently at 536,677 entries), its Wikipedia sister project continues to grow, reaching 20,000 articles and 200,000 page edits.
- The Spanish Wikipedia has reached 800,000 articles.
- The Lak Wikipedia (in a language spoken in Dagestan, a republic officially autonomous within the Russian Federation) has reached 1,000 articles.
- The Occitan Wikipedia (for a collection of related Romance-language dialects spoken in southern France, Italy, and Spain) has reached 30,000 articles.
- The Mingrelian Wikipedia (in a language spoken in Georgia in the Caucasus) opened for editing, and has reached 500 articles and 1,000 pages.
- The Kazakh Wikipedia has reached 60,000 articles.
- The Faroese Wikipedia (in a Scandinavian language spoken in the Faroe Islands) reached 5,000 articles with ídnaðarland by Niceley.
In other news, the Incubator wiki celebrates its 10,000th registered editor. This site is where potential Wikimedia project wikis in new language versions of Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiversity, Wikiquote and Wiktionary can be arranged, written, tested, and proven worthy of being hosted by the Foundation.
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