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WikiGuida - Wikimedia Commons

I think Wikimedia Italia is not in the English Wikimedia ‘planet’ (although they are on identi.ca), so lest anyone miss this, I thought I must post it – it’s a video explaining and showing Wikimedia Commons (it has English subtitles):

This is so well done! Bravo WMIT. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to plan the text and choose the images. The text is nicely concise, doesn’t belabour any points, and is quite comprehensive – from OTRS to Meet our photographers … I thought it was quite funny at first, seeing the narrator in the menu on the left, but it is a nice way to see him and also see lots of colourful images. :)

There is information about it in Italian on the Wikimedia Italia site.

Ben fatto, Wikimedia Italia!

05 October, 2010 • , ,

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Closing a door

FYI… Last week I resigned as Wikimedia Australia president.
Thanks to those who have given me their support this week and over the past two years. It’s not necessary to beg me to stay or inquire after my health.

See you at Gdansk?

17 May, 2010 • ,

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Thinking about chapters and WIGs

So, since at least the chapters meeting in April, and especially at Wikimania, I have been Thinking about Chapters. What is a chapter, what should a chapter do, how should it operate, all that fun stuff. What I realised during my chapters panel is that we for one thing, we have a dearth of terminology. So here are some modest steps towards clearer definitions.

A Wikimedia interest group (WIG) — any group, with a common characteristic or theme, that aims to further the Wikimedia mission.

Now, borrowing the idea of features from linguistics, we can start to map out some identifiable WIGs.

Features are also typically arranged into sets of features. The first set should be geographic.

V W R C S

V: Virtual
W: Whole world
R: Region covering multiple nations
C: Country
S: (Sub-national) region

So typically a WIG would only have one of these features… so possibly they are all a single feature? Normally features are binary.

Another set of features could be scope of interest.

P L T

P: Project (a single project, such as Wikibooks)
L: Language
T: Theme (e.g. linguistics)

A third set of features could be characteristics, or functions. My initial guess is that these are only relevant for non-virtual WIGs.

LB F M O P L

LB: Legal body
F: Performs fundraising
M: Organises meet-ups or community-oriented events
O: Performs outreach events
P: Partners with other organisations or groups
L: Performs political lobbying

So a typical national chapter, would look like this:

Geographic 
V W R C S
- - - + -
Interest
P L T
- - - 

(This means, rather than being focused on a single project, language or theme, they are at least nominally interested in all/many of them. While in practice some countries tend towards monolingualism, so it may appear that some chapters are focused on a single language. But that is generally not an explicit part of their being.)

Functions
LB F M O P L
 + + + + + +

So these sets of features are not independent… a value in the geographic features will have implications for the other sets. But that is OK I think.

A typical mailing list/project community (say, French Wikibooks) could also be defined thus:

Geographic 
V W R C S
+ - - - -
Interest
P L T
+ + - 
Functions
LB F M O P L
 - - - - - -

So… what features am I missing so far? Have I listed any that are redundant? I’m sure I’m not thinking enough outside the box just yet.

14 September, 2009 • ,

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Taking a WikiExpedition


A Wikimedian at work. By Krzysztof Maria Różański, released under the CC-BY-SA-3.0 license.

I really like this idea. Wikizine briefly covered it thus:

[The] Polish community has had its first annual WikiExpedition. The ten-day journey to the Polish region of Podlasie (northeastern part), focusing on collecting material that would be used to enrich Wikimedia project content with photographs, has brought gigabytes of photos and tons of material.

More:

Between July 10tth and 20th, well, actually 21st, in the territory of Polish Podlaskie voivideship a group of Wikimedians (Wikipedians being a majority part of the group) photographed whatever there was to be photographed in the area, as well as collected materials related to the places and sights of the region, while all the time contacting the local people, bringing them news of Wikipedia and Wikimedia in general. The expedition was sponsored by Wikimedia Polska Association.

The idea of organising a WikiExpedition came up over a year ago as a derivative of a few factors. My wife (Wikimedia user Pleple2000) and myself roamed through the north-eastern regions of Slovakia in the August of 2008. We could say that those were our ordinary holidays, if not for the fact that in order to fight our Wiki-addiction we took our camera… While on our way back home an idea came up that we ought to take a larger group of Wikimedians to our next journey and organise the whole thing a bit better. Polish Wikipedia sported spontaneous ideas such as “a weekend with a photo camera”, however their results are not widely known, since nobody reported the outcomes of such endeavours, even the number of photographs taken on such weekends. However we assumed that in spite of a relatively low number of active Wikimedians in Poland we will be able to construct a 15-person adventurer group.

During the “Where? Where to? How?” (GDJ on Meta-Wiki) Wikipedia meetup in Poznań in September 2008 I outlined what such an expedition could be like. After initial reconnaissance I decided on the region of Podlasie – there were but several active Wikipedians in that region opposed to a rather large number of towns and villages described in Polish Wikipedia in the form of bot-created stubs. Although the idea was welcomed warmly – we were discussing the ways to spend Wikimedia Polska’s donations which came from the people donating 1% of their income tax – I had difficulty convincing the Association’s decision-makers that we needed e.g. better cars (preferably off- road) while creating the plan for the expedition. At the same time a group of Wolin-based (which is rather a long-distance) group of people contacted us and expressed their will to join us if we only covered the cost of the fuel. I had to modify the plans in order to make driving around in cars belonging to the Wikipedians possible – I couldn’t locate any off-road car owners. Starting in the autumn of 2008 first candidates for the expedition signed up. The only thing which we had to deal with was the timing, enabling the explorers to synchronise their holiday plans. We decided on setting out in July.

In the spring of 2009 part of the proposed route has been plotted and the photos illustrating relevant Wikipedia articles have been analysed. Together with the volunteers we decided to place the expedition between July 10th and 20th. Because the planned route of the expedition led along the eastern border, through areas where national and landscape parks are located, I also assumed visiting those, in order to photograph some plant and animal life. Additionally, a month before setting out we contacted a number of local institutions (such as city halls, local authorities, park management, forest administration), as well as some media – including local. We forecast the costs of the expedition at about 30 000 PLN [US$10,100], however after looking at the structure of the expenses we considered 16 000 PLN [US$5,390] to be just enough.

Almost until Day One it was unknown how many participants will actually show up, which complicated organising overnight stays at agricultural tourism points. What was more surprising was the fact that the plan, detailed to the last speck of dust (vide The Cathedral and the Bazaar) proved to be worth none or very little, when considering the solutions brought up on the spot. Of course, putting aside the fact that we did not prepare a printed copy of the expedition plan and one of us (Polimerek) printed two copies (some tens of pages each) practically strapping his rucksack on his way out of his home. It wouldn’t have been necessary if we had Internet access, but that was a problematic issue as well. We acquired maps late – on the second day of the journey. Instead of the planned 4 cars we had 3, one of which broke down after a single day of adventuring, and one had difficulty navigating the dirt roads. Luckily we had a few bicycles and roof racks on the cars. Instead of the planned 15 participants there were 13, four of which had to return to their homes earlier; all in all the participant count was rather high. Additionally, for three days of the expedition we were accompanied by local volunteers, helping us as guides. Our e-mails were answered by few institutions and local associations, but those who did contact us surprised us very positively. We also were in touch with the local media during a few points of our journey.

Despite these and more adventures we managed to take a few thousand photos in a few hundred towns and villages. In mid-August we edited, selected and uploaded to Commons 1000 photos. We bought and were presented with tens of books, which make up the Association’s library. The final costs of the expedition came up to 10 000 PLN [US$3,350].

How cool is that? I don’t speak Polish so I can’t figure out precisely which Wikipedia articles were improved, but the 1000+ photos taken speak for themselves.

It also picked up a decent amount of media coverage.

WMPL are the consistent quiet achievers of the chapters, I think. :) They are hosting Wikimania 2010 who knows what great adventures they will cook up for us?

17 August, 2009 •

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Wikimedia Argentina holds its first Wikipedia Academy


Jimmy Wales speaking at Wikimedia Argentina’s Academia de Wikipedia. Photo © Beatrice Murch (licensed CC-BY-2.0).

I heard yesterday from the vice-treasurer of Wikimedia Argentina, Fajro, that they had just held their first Wikipedia Academy event, Academia de Wikipedia (es) (en). Jimmy gave a talk in English, which was simultaneously interpreted into Spanish. It was a free one-day event aimed at the general public, with talks, panel discussions and howto workshops on editing Wikipedia and using Wikimedia Commons. (Interestingly Spanish Wikipedia is by far the largest Wikimedia project to have turned off local uploads, relying solely on Wikimedia Commons for images and other media files.) They had an attendance of 270, which is really impressive. Well done WMAR! I am sure they will be pleased at the success of the event, as a small “practice run” for hosting Wikimania in Buenos Aires next year.

More info: Flickr, brief report by Beatrice Murch.


WMSE Wikipedia Academy poster.

Wikipedia Academy is an interesting chapters tradition that began with Wikimedia Germany in 2006, repeated again in 2007 and 2008. The concept originates with Frank Schulenberg, who was first a board member with WMDE and since July this year has been the Wikimedia Foundation’s Head of Public Outreach.

I think the concept is more or less this: free event open to academics and/or the general public, intended to provide a practical primer as to how the projects (especially Wikipedia) work. Often hosted with a library or university.

Another Wikipedia Academy was held in 2007 in South Africa, sponsored not by a Wikimedia chapter but by iCommons. (There is a video from the event, also put together by Frank Schulenberg.)

It looks like Wikimedia Sverige (Sweden, WMSE) was just pipped at the post to host the first non-German Wikipedia Academy this year by WMAR, as theirs is scheduled from November 12-13 — just a few days. But given all the interesting things I have been hearing from WMSE lately I am sure it will be a success, and I’ll look forward to hearing the reports from that one too.

08 November, 2008 •

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Wikimedia chapter reports

I was working busily this week on writing a monthly activity report for Wikimedia Australia. This is an idea that came out of a May 2008 chapters meeting in the Netherlands (which WMAU did not attend). In fact I don’t think I was even aware of the idea until it was revived again recently in inter-chapter discussion. It seems well on its way to becoming an institution now, seeing as it has a meta page and a mailing list, which is great, because I think it will be really interesting and helpful for chapters to learn from one another and also for prospective chapter-founders to get a sense of what is possible.

Since it was WMAU’s first report, I wrote a bit more background and goings-on for the previous few months rather than just the one. Thus, you can now read the August to October report. As always I welcome comments and feedback.

07 November, 2008 • ,

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Wikimedia Australia finally exists!

I am very happy to relay the news that Wikimedia Australia is finally 100% official. woo-hoo!

What happened was, on March 1, the Wikimedia Foundation board approved our existence based on our draft rules. On April 20, we held our incorporation meeting, where the “members” formally decided to incorporate.

We tried to submit our rules to Consumer Affairs Victoria (the relevant government body), but they rebuffed our Statement of Purpose (SoP) as too short and not explicit enough about member benefits. What a let-down! We had actually deliberately chosen a brief and simple one, to make it as easy as possible for everyone to agree on it. So reworking the SoP was no simple task, and we lost momentum a few times. Finally we pushed up to something everyone could agree on (including the Chapters Committee), sent our wonderful Public Officer back off to CAV, and crossed our fingers and held our breath. News came back today that all is well. Hurrah!

Thankyou to everyone who helped make this happen, including all the Wikimedians who gave input in any form, and Chapcom who provided encouragement and prompt feedback. Now the fun really begins: taking members, organising our first AGM to set our first elected committee, setting up our website/s… and seeing what we are really capable of.

(With any luck we will soon set up a blog, and I won’t talk much about WMAU here.)

08 August, 2008 • ,

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CCau "Building an Australasian Commons" conference notes

The week before last I zipped up to Brisbane to attend the Building an Australasian Commons conference hosted by Creative Commons Australia. There were presentations from government, commercial projects, public broadcaster, educators and musicians. (The “music” roundtable was most amusing for an apparent stoush between the APRA guy and, well, everyone else.) Overall, I was just so impressed that there was so much going on that I’d never heard about before. Not like I hear about everything, but my ears tend to perk up at “Creative Commons”. That there was so much I hadn’t heard about seems a sign that CC is gaining some serious momentum in Australia.

They deserve to, I might add. Throughout the day I reflected on the similarities and differences between the Creative Commons movement and the Wikimedia movement. Both are non-profits with broadly similar goals, and were founded around a similar time (2001ish). Both now have US-based “parents” with region-based “chapters” (WMF) or “jurisdictions” (CC).

Where CC began life with some serious clout (and cash) behind it, Wikipedia was built on nothing much more than enthusiasm. Those divergent beginnings carry through to today, where WMF has only very recently “professionalised” and the chapters are still largely grassroots affairs; on the other hand CC jurisdictions tend to be staffed by paid professionals and housed in universities. This is not too surprising for CC, as their major task is “porting” the licenses to local laws. Their role is more of an enabling one, compared to Wikimedia which still feels itself to be a very hands-on, creating one. CC has jurisdictions so the licenses are adapted to local law. Wikimedia has chapters so its local members may belong. In this view there is no need for chapters to be “professionalised”.

Nonetheless, what can we learn from how CC conducts itself? I can’t speak for the other jurisdictions, but the Australian one is damn impressive. They do an incredible amount of gently-gently lobbying for the adoption of free content licenses and open access policies in a general sense, without only pushing their own licenses. They educate government, cultural and educational institutions about what CC is and how to use it. The Australian clinic started the Case studies project, which is a brilliant way of showcasing their successes and “normalising” the use of CC for organisations who are hesitant to jump on board. With this kind of index, they can easily find a similar-enough group that has already made the leap and make an assessment of how successful it was for them.

The lessons for Wikimedia from here are pretty obvious. Wikimedians could do a lot worse than evangelise the use of wikis in a generic manner just as CC evangelises the use of free licenses. Educating people about how wikis work in a generic way, their social norms and technical features, etc, helps to get people used to the idea in general. They will then be more predisposed to accept the use of Wikimedia wikis in particular. At the moment the only wiki cheerleader I really see is Stewart Mader, and he does an excellent job, but he is rather more focused on intranet-style wikis than generic community-content-building wikis.

Wikimedians may be loath to say, “Wikis are great, and yeah, feel free to use whichever wiki engine and whichever organisation host you like”. But I think we will be better off in the long run with larger numbers of people understanding wikis themselves, rather than smaller numbers understanding specifically our wikis.

The second lesson is: case study collection. Great idea. We totally need one. That’s a duh-case.

I was also thinking about the consequences of jurisdiction that begins life in a university department vs a chapter that begins life in Wikimedians’ cafes and talk pages. It seems to me CC(au) is much better prepared to deal with institutional involvement. Maybe it is just practice. By comparison, Wikimedians tend to be very focused on individuals’ contributions. They probably look very messy and “mob-rule”. That’s one way of looking at it that’s true, but I think there are others too, that we might do well to emphasise to different audiences.

When Wikimedia Australia is struggling a little to shape dozens of enthusiastic volunteers into something acceptable to Consumer Affairs, Creative Commons Australia is thriving with a handful of paid staff. If I sound a bit jealous of the perks of “officialness”, the office and giant printer, well, yeah, I am. Only a tiny bit though. I love that Wikimedia is filled with chemists and students and office workers and nurses, from 15 to 65(+), who have the boldness to believe that everyone can participate in the writing of the history books. We can observe what works for others and borrow all their best ideas (we all believe in a sharing culture, right ;)).

We’re slow to get going, but hey, we’re in it for the long haul.

06 July, 2008 • , , ,

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Online/offline

Poor blog. For the past week I have been relatively occupied with “real life” stuff. Also, the cycle of my tolerance for mailing lists, in particular, has dipped from “a necessary evil that still produces the occasional gem” back to “tedious”. Probably the tenor is always much the same and it is only my reaction that varies. Nonetheless, I suppose this cycle reinforces my energy for “real life” stuff.

On Sunday Wikimedia Australia had its incorporation meeting. Thanks to a last minute offer we even had a proper conference call. Besides Melbourne we also had people participate from Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart, as well as a decent number of people participating via proxy votes. The enthusiasm is contagious.

A tangent: It seems alternately disappointing and thankful, but always true, that a “real life” factor – in fact, even a voice factor – leads people to self-discipline, or self-censor. It’s good where it stops people being belligerent, but bad where it leads people to not voice real concerns they have. Whether that be for fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, or fear of speaking out of turn, and whether those concerns are grounded or not… if they are grounded, then the group is worse off for not hearing them and thus having the chance to contemplate them. If they are not grounded, that individual is worse off for not feeling they have an opportunity to air them. So, how do you encourage the tentative but discourage the testy… a perennial question.

21 April, 2008 •

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Ten possibly provoking thoughts about improving the quality of Swedish Wikipedia

This is the name of an excellent essay by Lennart Guldbrandsson, chair of Wikimedia Sverige (Sweden). You can read the original Swedish or a translated English.

Some of the points are provocative indeed (like point 1, “delete the bad articles”). It is well worth reading to see the perspective of a smaller project, and new ideas on how chapter activities can positively reinforce the online efforts towards greater quality.

10 March, 2008 • ,

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Bits & bobs/is shared vision more important than a specific license?

Heather Ford recently posted an update on iCommons which led to a Declaration on Open Education. She made this comment:

The fact that the first, great draft of the ‘Cape Town Open Education Declaration’ has already been circulated, the fact that its impact was not ‘watered down’ by this “dispute” [about NC or not NC], and the fact that this group has recognised that standing together in our shared vision of what education should look like in the future is more important than the (important but less important) differences of opinion about copyright licences. This is a conclusion that I had long ago but didn’t know how to express: this movement has very little to do with copyright and everything to do with people; it has very little to do with being free to share content and everything to do with sharing perspectives and fellowship.

Hmmm. I don’t know how to feel about this. I would like to be convinced on this point. But currently each time I see some cool new project launched under CC-BY-NC my heart sinks a little. I don’t see a way around the conclusion that the Creative Commons NC clause especially creates a divide among content that maybe could have been avoided. If CC educated people more about how damaging a NC clause can be. If CC helped let individuals see their place in a long and evolved tradition of free culture. Maybe if CC didn’t offer it at all in the first place….

And when I read about someone who wants to release a ‘free software library’ under BY-ND terms I really think, someone missed the boat here… how did we let that happen?

23 October, 2007 • , , , ,

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