October 14th–Wikipedia discussion in Brookline, Mass.

Boston area Wikipedia meetup hosted by Wiki Strategies, EchoDitto, and TheftyJack in 2013. Photo by Pete Forsyth, CC BY license.

Boston area Wikipedia meetup hosted by Wiki Strategies, EchoDitto, and TheftyJack in 2013. Photo by Pete Forsyth, CC BY license.

Are you in the Boston area? Interested in Wikipedia, knowledge, the Internet? How about tea, or a cocktail?

Please join us this evening (Tuesday, October 14) at 7pm at the Golden Temple, Washington Square, Brookline. Wiki Strategies founder Pete Forsyth and his colleagues look forward to chatting with you about Wikipedia and its past, present, and future. No host bar.

See here for further details and to RSVP.

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When the PR industry does PR for itself

Summary of the four principles committed to by top PR industries in June 2014

Summary of the four principles committed to by top PR industries in June 2014

This week, several major Public Relations firms issued an announcement about their intentions toward Wikipedia. The headlines capture the spirit of the announcement nicely:

There’s just one problem: all these headlines got the facts of the announcement dead wrong. (So did about half of the two-dozen-plus articles I’ve seen on this.) Continue reading

Posted in Statements of Ethics, Terms of Use, wiki, Wikimedia Foundation | 15 Comments

Wikidata: Why it matters, how to get started

Wikidata is a new member of the Wikimedia family, and helps many language editions of Wikipedia share structured information.

Wikidata is a new member of the Wikimedia family, and helps many language editions of Wikipedia share structured information.

Have you heard of Wikidata? It’s a (fairly) new Wikimedia project, designed to support Wikipedia in all language editions, Wikimedia Commons, and the rest of the Wikimedia family of wikis. It collects information — like the information in Wikipedia articles, for instance — in a structured way, that makes it easy to share that information across languages and across projects. And best of all, it’s based on a (heavily customized) wiki — so if you’ve edited Wikipedia before, it should be pretty easy to get started on Wikidata!

My colleague Tom Morris, a London-based Wikipedian, announced a nice way to get to know Wikidata the other day, in an email to the Wikipedia gender gap email list. Continue reading

Posted in Beginner how-to, gender, systemic bias, wiki, Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons | 5 Comments

Wikimedia Commons: An evolving community; far from “ethically broken”

This week, an email list discussion I took part in ballooned to 70 messages. It started with concerns about an image of a pile of corpses, featured on the front page of Wikimedia Commons; but it turned into an argument about whether (as some have phrased it in recent years) the leadership in the Commons community is “ethically broken.” My colleague Kevin Gorman stated:

“…the fact Commons’ has a history of not wanting to comply with WMF board resolutions…”

That assertion is false, and statements like it — especially from people in leadership positions — are damaging to the collaborative spirit which drives the Wikimedia movement. Leaders in our movement have even falsely accused specific elected administrators of aiming to get as much pornography or objectionable content as possible onto Commons; seemingly, with no awareness that those specific administrators have deleted hundreds or thousands of objectionable images from Commons, or that one image (considered objectionable by some) might be more in line with Commons’ educational mission, or with its responsibilities toward various parties, than another.

There are, to be sure, sometimes problems with decisions made at Commons; when a web site hosts more than 16 million freely sharable files, there are bound to be a few disagreements. But those disagreements do not result from any lack of integrity on the part of the community that curates the collection. To accuse these dedicated volunteers of being “ethically broken” is wrong. It’s damaging to the collaborative spirit that has allowed us to amass this collection of free media.

There are many reasons why disagreements arise: Continue reading

Posted in Free licenses, government, wiki, Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation | 7 Comments

Damian Lillard’s amazing shot: will we see it on Wikipedia?

Portland's Damian Lillard. Photo by Mikalan Moiso, licensed CC BY-SA.

Portland’s Damian Lillard. Photo by Mikalan Moiso, licensed CC BY-SA.

Are you a basketball fan? If so, you’ve probably seen the incredible shot Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers just hit, with under one second of playing time remaining, to win the first seven-game series of the NBA 2014 playoffs. But if not, you may find this interesting anyway — I’d like to talk about an important standard Wikipedia applies to including historic video footage. (Here’s a little background if you’re just catching up.)

The NBA, of course, provides amazing and historic footage of this feat (the first video clip below — I’ll come back to the other two in a moment.) But you will never see that footage on Wikipedia articles like 2014 NBA Playoffs, Damian Lillard2013-14 Portland Trail Blazers season, or History of the Portland Trail Blazers.

This may seem strange — after all, this video clip is all over Facebook, Twitter, sports blogs, TV coverage, etc. So why wouldn’t Wikipedia — which aims to document historic events — publish it? Continue reading

Posted in Beginner how-to, Free licenses, wiki | 2 Comments

Breaking: Wikimedia Foundation announces new Executive Director

Lila Tretikov, April 2014, by Lane Hartwell. CC BY-SA 3.0

Lila Tretikov, April 2014, by Lane Hartwell. CC BY-SA 3.0

Lila Tretikov, formerly of SugarCRM, will be the new Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Outgoing Executive Director Sue Gardner will stay for a month; June 1, 2014 is her last day. She will remain involved in an advisory capacity. Thank you to Sue for seven strong years, and especially for radically increasing the financial and technical underpinnings of Wikipedia! For context, I wrote about the Executive Director transition in USA Today and (more thoroughly) on Zocalo Public Square a month ago.

The following links may be of interest; updating regularly. Continue reading

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Wikipedia and education: what’s the right fit?

I just submitted a talk and an edit-a-thon session, along with my colleague Sara Frank Bristow, for the upcoming Open Education Conference in Washinton DC. We plan to explore the best fit between Wikipedia and academia, drawing on our experience with the Wikipedia Education Program, Communicate OER, and a variety of case studies. Below are the session descriptions we submitted:

Wikipedia: Love it or hate it, it’s here. What to do?

Pete Forsyth presenting on Wikipedia. Photo by Sage Ross, CC BY-SA

Pete Forsyth presenting on Wikipedia. Photo by Sage Ross, CC BY-SA

Wikipedia’s central value to academia & learning lies more in in its processes than in its content.

In 2007, Wikipedia was banned as a citable source by the history department of Middlebury College, drawing much attention from the media, the public, and academia. This debate over Wikipedia as a trusted source has continued to rage ever since; but many professors and students have found that Wikipedia actually does have a place in academia, entirely independent of its value as an academic source. Continue reading

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Wikimedia’s proposed Terms of Use update

We could have cages, so diners are protected from each other. Who knows what they might do, sitting there with knives? That isn’t a good way to design a restaurant, to live our lives in society. --Jimmy Wales, 2005 Image (c) Nicholas Boudreau, used with permission.

“We could have cages, to protect diners from each other. What might they do with their knives? No- that isn’t a good way to design a restaurant, or to live our lives in society.
paraphrase of Jimmy Wales, 2005
Image (c) Nicholas Boudreau, used with permission.

In February, I argued in a Wikipedia Signpost op-ed that a proposed change to Wikimedia’s Terms of Use (TOU) was less than ideal. The proposal would require of all editors of Wikipedia, and all other Wikimedia projects, that they disclose any paid conflict of interest in at least one of three ways. This is, of course, a practice that Wiki Strategies has always supported (at least, respecting Wikipedia); but the specific amendment is problematic in several ways.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees will be considering it this week. The amendment’s passage may be inevitable, given the strong community support (837-286). [UPDATE: Please see the insights offered below by Nemo, who questions the appearance of community support] I still think it would be a mistake; Continue reading

Posted in Statements of Ethics, Terms of Use, wiki, Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedian in Residence | 5 Comments

Five things a Wikipedian in Residence can do

Are you a Wikipedian? Do you want to help a museum, a library, a university, or other organization explore ways to engage with Wikipedia? Great – you should offer your expertise as a Wikipedian in Residence!

If you find yourself in such a role, you will have opportunities to help your host organization contribute to the sharing of knowledge in new and exciting ways; and to help Wikipedia readers and editors around the world benefit directly from the expertise and institutional knowledge your host possesses. Ideally, your role is that of a connector and a facilitator; you should aim to empower those around you (both the staff of your host organization, and Wikipedia volunteers who share the organization’s interests).

So what can you do to get off to a good start? Below are a few ideas, drawn from past Wikipedian in Residence programs. (It may also be helpful to review the assessment of a program that many felt was not planned effectively: Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence program)

1. Chat it up on Wikipedia!

A great Wikipedian in Residence convenes discussion among Wikipedians and the host organization's people, both online and in person. ©Lettera 27, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0.

A great Wikipedian in Residence will convene discussion among Wikipedians and the host organization’s people, both online and in person. ©Lettera 27, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wikipedia’s talk pages can be drama machines – or they can be ghostly silent. But when all is going well, they can be incredible forums for processing complex information, and determining the best way to clearly and neutrally guide a reader’s learning process.

What makes discussions on Wikipedia work well? Continue reading

Posted in edit-a-thon, wiki, Wikipedian in Residence | 3 Comments

Is Wikipedia better than other encyclopedias?

I recently encountered the question: “Has Wikipedia surpassed the quality of traditional encyclopedias?” Here’s my answer:

Absolutely, yes. Wikipedia has established ways of thinking about encyclopedic “quality” that never existed before. Oh, a few ideas off the top of my head — before Wikipedia, nobody would have ever thought it might be possible to find, in a single general interest encyclopedia: Continue reading

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