Friends' Newsletter/2017/Issue 02

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Wikimedia UK Friends' Newsletter
Wales Manager Robin Owain and other participants at the Llen Natur event in Wales, May 2017


Welcome to the May Newsletter, our quarterly round up of what we’ve been doing over the past few months and a look forward to what lies ahead. It’s been a busy time, both in the UK with our participation in and organisation of a number of projects like the #WMUKED17 and #OER17 conferences, and internationally, with Wikimedia’s involvement in public debates on Fake News, reliable sources, and the blocking of Wikipedia in Turkey.

Our mission to promote reliable information, to drive digital literacy and expand the involvement of people from diverse backgrounds in our projects has never been more urgent. As we look forward to the summer and Wikimania 2017 in Montreal, here’s our roundup of recent projects what's coming up that you can get involved with.

Train the Trainers course

Our regular Train the Trainers course for people who want to learn how to train others to use Wikimedia projects is taking place in Edinburgh just before the Celtic Knot conference on Thursday 6th July.

This event is for volunteers who want to take a leading role as a trainer in the Wikimedia movement. We will be supporting the UK participants with cost of the course and attendance.

The workshop is a chance for you to:

  • Get accredited and receive detailed feedback about your presenting and training skills
  • Get general trainer skills which you can then apply when delivering specific Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons workshops etc.
  • Share your skills with others
  • Develop the ability to help design a training programme that serves Wikimedia UK in the long term

Register your interest here.

Call for Grant Applications

Do you have an idea for a project? Is there a rare book you need for your Wikipedia article research? A location that you need to get to for a vital piece of information or an organisation you want to work with? An essential piece of equipment you need for your Wikimedia activities? We might be able to help.

Perhaps you would also like to run an editing or photography competition like the Awaken the Dragon competition held last year. Or maybe you would like to digitise a collection of photos? There are many ways we can help, so get in touch. Wikimedia UK’s volunteer grants support volunteers to complete activities which benefit our strategic goals, which are to promote Open Knowledge, increase the diversity of Wikimedia's content and contributors and to mainstream Wikimedia projects in education and learning. 

Check out our Project Grants application page for more information. 

2016/17 Impact Report

We recently released out 2016-2017 impact report. The statistics for our projects show that we are exceeding expectations and becoming more effective in the work we do. Highlights include:

  • The number of editors actively involved was over 600, compared to a target of 200
  • There were over 900 newly registered editors, compared to a target of 300
  • There were over 4000 individuals involved; more than double the result for 2015/16
  • Nearly half a million articles were improved or created against a target of 10,000
  • Nearly 1.5 billion bytes were added or deleted, compared to a target of 6 million

Highlights of our other quantitative indicators include:

  • Over 45,000 images/media were added to Commons
  • Our total reach for the year was over 70,000 people, including attendance at events, presentations and social media followers
  • We were supported by over 200 lead volunteers - and a total of 20,000 volunteer hours compared to a target of 4600
  • We exceeded our advocacy targets in terms of responses to consultations and evidence taken into consideration
  • According to the recent Volunteers Survey, 82% of volunteers who participated felt valued by Wikimedia UK, compared to 70% in 2015/16 and a target this year of 80%

We have made good advances in the past year in attracting media coverage and doing sector-wide advocacy work which has increased our profile, such as the BBC 100 Women event in December 2016.

Our Wikimedian in Residence programmes have come on leaps and bounds, with a number of new appointments in Scotland, Cornwall, Oxford and London. The Welsh Wikipedia has increased in size considerably and we have begun to assist in the improvement of Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia through our appointment of a Gaelic Wikimedian in Residence.

We have worked with a number of universities and organised many editathons which have helped to reduce the gender gap and mainstream the use of Wikimedia projects in academia.

This year we hope to go from strength to strength. Thank you to our volunteers and donors who make it possible for us to do our work and we hope to see many of you at our events in the coming year.

WMUK Chief Exec Lucy Crompton-Reid gives keynote speech at OER17

Wikimedia UK Chief Exec Lucy Crompton-Reid

The Open Educational Resources 2017 conference took place on April 5-6 at Resource for London. The conference provided the chance 'for open practitioners, activists, educators and policy makers to come together as a community to reflect on ‘The Politics of Open’', and Wikimedia UK Chief Exec Lucy Crompton-Reid gave one of the keynote addresses, which you can watch here

The conference involved a number of other people who are involved with Wikimedia projects:

You can read more about each of these presentations on Ewan McAndrew's University of Edinburgh blog.

Wikimedia Strategy planning: what would we like to achieve by 2030?

The Wikimedia Foundation is currently leading a movement wide strategic planning process, the first phase of which runs until Wikimania 2017 in August. The first phase consists of three separate cycles and is focused on developing a coherent strategic direction for the movement.

There are four tracks for the movement strategy, each representing different audiences. We are primarily going to be concerned with Track A (organised groups) and Track B (individual contributors); although we anticipate drawing on our contacts and relationships to deliver Track C (partners in ‘higher awareness regions’).

Doug Taylor is facilitating a discussion at the Oxford Meetup in May as part of Track B, and we will also be organising a discussion in Scotland in June.

Wikimedia UK staff met on Monday 11 April to talk about our strategy for the next 15 years and the things we would like to achieve. We came up with a number of thematic statements about what we would like to do, including:

  1. We should encourage diversity of open knowledge by empowering communities to share their cultural heritage with the rest of the world
  2. Wikimedia should push for all governments to be public domain by default
  3. We should endeavour to accelerate and innovate the process of learning aided by technological advances
  4. We should be guided by collaboration with like-minded organisation to increase resources and overcome hurdles to the creation of and access to free knowledge
  5. We should aim to beat fake news and promote evidence based, democratic decision making

If you have ideas about what we should be aiming to achieve by 2030 and what we should concentrate on over that period of time, please get in touch and let us know.

Using Wikisource to digitise PhDs at Edinburgh University

By Gavin Willshaw, Digital Curator and digitisation project manager at Edinburgh University Libraries

As part of the Library’s efforts to explore new channels of engagement with digitised collections, we recently uploaded a digitised PhD to Wikisource. The intention for doing so was to try out the platform, assess its ease of use and potential for engagement, assess the quality of its OCR functionality, and explore whether a thesis’ presence in Wikisource increased its visibility and use.

We selected Thomas Jehu’s PhD Some problems in variation and heredity from 1902, which met all of our selection criteria: notable author; typed (suitable for OCR); short (fewer than 50 pages); available on a CC BY licence.

There was a little bit of work to be done to upload the thesis but once this was done, the process of transcription was straightforward. There is good guidance available, although this could be brought together into a one-page cheat sheet, and although there were many shortcuts in the editor I did occasionally have to go into the code to make edits, especially when underlining text (there was no ‘underline’ shortcut).

Editing was easy but a little bit monotonous: I didn’t feel the same sense of engagement as when researching articles for Wikipedia or using the Citation Hunt tool. It would work better if a group collaborated on a text together.

The OCR quality was very good. Although not quite as accurate as Abbyy software, the Tesseract software used has the advantage of being open source and therefore does not require payment of subscription fees.

It was interesting to compare downloads from our repository with pageviews on Wikisource. The thesis has been downloaded 9 times from our repository since it was added to Wikisource, whereas the Wikisource page has had 50 views in that time. It’s difficult to assess the value and quality of these interactions but it certainly implies that having something on Wikisource increases use and access of an item, even if this doesn’t translate to greater downloads from the home repository.

Uploading Jehu’s thesis to Wikisource was an interesting experiment, and one I’d be keen to try again.

Llên Natur event in Wales

Robin Owain at the Llên Natur event

On Saturday 6th May, Wales Manager Robin Owain organised an event with Llên Natur.

Llên Natur is the digital branch of Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd, a society which was formed in 1978 to study, publicise and conserve the fauna, geology and climate of Wales. Together with Uned Technolegau Iaith (Language Technology Unit) at Bangor University they have produced a Dictionary of Species in Welsh, Latin and English. By working with Wikimedia UK, the dictionary has now become an illustrated dictionary of species named ‘Bywiadur’, with over 10,000 images and 200 audio clips automatically taken from Wikimedia Commons via Wikidata.

50 attendees convened at Plas Tan y Bwlch, a country manor in the hills of Snowdonia National Park, built by a slate-mining family in the 19th century. Speakers included Robin Owain himself, Gareth Morlais Chief Specialist and Advisor to the Welsh government, Bruce Griffith, curator of the Welsh Translator’s Dictionary, Professor Cathryn Charnell-White, and Jason Evans, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales.

Attendees at the Llên Natur event

The purpose of this partnership is to develop both the Bywiadur, closing the bird gap on Wikidata and enhancing articles on all living species on the Welsh Wikipedia. Professor Cathryn Charnell-White talked about text and illustrations in Medieval Welsh literature, while Jason Evans from the National Library followed with digitised images of some of those species. Duncan Brown’s talk was on how tagging images already on Wikimedia Commons, has closed the ‘birds with no images’ by about a thousand in the last year, mostly by members of the Llen Natur organisation. Only around 200 soundfiles are linked as ‘Statements’ on Wikidata, although there are over 2,000, many uncategorised on Commons.

The Welsh Wikipedia has only around 120 regular editors, and has 91,000 articles, therefore the automation of changing facts such as taxonomies and species names makes the wiki cleaner, crisper and up to date! Over 9,600 bird articles have a live feed from Wikidata, ensuring that the information is changed within hours of uploading a new database onto Wikidata. For example, when the internationally recognised IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is amended, the Welsh Wikipedia articles change within 24 hours. Many others need to be done manually - a process which takes months (if not years) on the English Wikipedia.

As in all good partnerships, both sides have gained, but more importantly, so have the readers, with both websites in total harmony, sharing information and improving content in both English and Welsh.

Celtic Knot Conference in Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK are delighted to invite you to join us at the ‘Celtic Knot’ – Wikipedia Language Conference taking place Thursday 6 July 2017 at the University of Edinburgh Business School.  This event is focused on showcasing innovative approaches to open education, open knowledge and open data that support and grow Celtic and Indigenous language communities.

Announcing our keynote speakers

Confirmed speakers also include:

The main objective for Celtic Knot 2017 is the coming together of practitioners in the same room at same time; strengthening the bonds of those working to support language communities into a 'knot' and leading into action. We welcome diverse attendees and presenters working in Celtic and Indigenous languages ranging from Wikimedians, educators, researchers, information professionals, media professionals, linguists, translators, learning technologists and more coming together to share good practice and find fruitful new collaborations to support language communities as a result of the event.

It promises to be a great event – including a panel on the Politics of Language Online, excellent papers, workshops and discussion spaces. Please feel free to forward this event to interested colleagues in your network. copyright reform campaign

Copyright (Simple English) Wikibook header.png

Wikimedia UK is supporting COMMINIA’s campaign, advocating for better copyright laws for education.

They are asking educators throughout Europe to sign the petition on their website. We agree that copyright laws, which have not changed for 15 years, are increasingly inapplicable in our digital age, and they are affecting teachers’ ability to use content without breaking the law.

The same rules should apply to all teachers throughout the EU and the law should allow teachers to embrace the new opportunities offered by digital technology. This law should recognise galleries, libraries, archives and museums as having an educational function so that they are able to organise educational programmes in the same way as a school or university.

Teachers should not have to ask permission from rights holders to show their students content which enriches their teaching. Allowing educators greater access to information will help them tell stories in a more objective way without being limited to public domain content which often only tells half the story.

The campaign has been supported by Creative Commons, BoingBoing, EAVI media literacy, and Netzpolitik. Wikimedia UK is a signatory to the campaign and we encourage you to do the same.

Wikipedia Blocked in Turkey

By John Lubbock, Communications Coordinator

The Atatürk museum in Adana, taken by the author.

I happened to be in Turkey a couple of weeks ago when the government decided to put a block on the domain, covering all language versions of Wikipedia (but not the other Wikimedia projects).

This didn’t come as much of a surprise given similar responses over the past few years by the Turkish government to content it doesn’t like on other websites. It regularly asks Twitter to block accounts it doesn’t like for Turkish IP addresses, and imprisons more journalists than any other country.

The Turkish government has supposedly asked Wikimedia to open an office in Turkey, abide by local laws, apply court decisions and refrain from ‘humiliating’ Turkey.

Wikipedia is not very well developed in Turkish. Turkish is the 29th biggest language Wikipedia, with 292,000 articles. Given the size of the Turkish speaking community, it could be much bigger with a bit of effort. The problem is that the unstable political climate in the country makes it hard to form a user group, and without that, it’s hard for the foundation to direct money to improving Turkish Wikipedia.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan with Obama in 2009

A Turkish court subsequently rejected an appeal from Wikimedia to unblock the site in Turkey, and it is not clear what the next steps are. Clearly, the Foundation cannot censor individual pages at the request of the Turkish government, as it has refused to do this in the past at the request of the Chinese government. It would obviously be against a core principle of the site for the Foundation to voluntarily censor content.

From the Wikipedia article on ‘Censorship of Wikipedia’:

“Since June 2015, all Wikipedias redirect HTTP requests to the corresponding HTTPS addresses, thereby making encryption mandatory for all users. As a result, Chinese censors cannot see which specific pages an individual is viewing, and therefore cannot block a specific subset of pages (such as Ai Weiwei or Tiananmen Square) as they did in past years. As a result, Beijing chose to block the whole Chinese Wikipedia;[23] as of June 2015, both encrypted and un-encrypted Chinese-language Wikipedia are blocked.[24]”

The most that the Foundation could offer to the Turkish government under these circumstances is to put more effort into creating edit filters and and bots that would catch vandalism and malicious editing. It is against the rules of the site to vandalise articles such as that of President Erdogan by calling him a dictator or the 4Chan trolls who supposedly replaced his photo with that of a cockroach.

It’s unfortunate that these kinds of malicious edits get so much press coverage, because they exaggerate how much of a Wild West Wikipedia is. On smaller language Wikipedias like Turkish, the lower number of users does mean vandalism takes longer to catch, and that is why the Foundation should look at ways to invest in improving Turkish Wikipedia. The worry is that the continued political instability and censorship by the government will make the Foundation give up on the Turkish market.

Wellcome Library residency update

The Wellcome Library

Alice White, our Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Collection has been busy organising training events and doing outreach with various groups and organisations.

In February she helped organise editathons with the Liverpool Medical Institution and Royal College of Nursing. She delivered training for members of the Centre for Research Excellence, Support and Training (CREST), the Wellcome Trust, The Hub, the British Society for the History of Medicine and historians at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. 86 people attended these sessions, and 67 people signed up as new editors, and on average about 70% of those attending were women.

Alice attended the OCLC Research Library Partnership meeting at the British Library on the 8th March and the Health Archives & Records Group (HARG) meeting at Bethlem Museum of the Mind, where she gave a talk about the Residency to the gathered archivists and librarians.

On 15th March, Alice spoke to the Royal College of Psychiatrists History of Psychiatry Special Interest Group (HoPSIG) Spring Meeting, talking about the Residency, the opportunities for communicating research online and open knowledge, and invited participants to consider running or attending training and editathons. A representative of the British Psychological Society is now in touch and making plans for an event as a result.

Alice wrote a Case Study, based on the People's History of the NHS Editathon, to support Wikimedians in advocating for the use of Wikipedia as part of an academic impact and engagement strategy.

On 27th April, Alice had the opportunity to present on the Residency so far at a staff meeting for all Wellcome Trust staff. Her email inbox indicates that this generated more interest in the Residency and opportunities for further activities in the future!

Alice presented at OER17, taking a drop-in "Ask a Wikimedian" session for participants to learn about hosting a Wikimedian in Residence or running a Wiki-event. She also wrote a blogpost for the Royal College of Nursing about International Women’s Day, and the History of Nursing Society featured the RCN editathon in their newsletter too.

Planning also continues for several other projects which have not yet got firm dates.