William Beutler on Wikipedia

Posts Tagged ‘Montreal’

What You Missed at Wikimania 2017

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on August 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

N.B. At the end of this post I’ve embedded a Spotify playlist for the delightful 2006 album “Trompe-l’oeil” by the Francophone Montreal indie rock band Malajube. It’s what I was listening to as I arrived at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport last week, and I think it would make a nice soundtrack for reading this post.

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Wikimania 2017, the thirteenth annual global meeting of Wikipedia editors and the larger Wikimedia movement, was held in Montreal last weekend. For the fifth time overall, and the first time in two years, I was there. I’ve covered previously attended Wikimanias, sometimes glancingly, and sometimes day-by-day, and this time I’ll do something a little different as well.

One nice thing about a conference for a project focused on the internet: many of the presentations can be found on the internet! Some but not all were recorded and streamed; some but not all have slides available to revisit. The second half of this post is a roundup of presentations I attended, or wished I attended, with media available so you can follow up at your own pace.

But first, a note on a major theme of the conference: implicitly if not specifically called “Wikimedia 2030”, and a draft of a “strategic direction” document circulating by stapled printout from the conference start, later addressed specifically in a presentation by Wikimedia Foundation executive director Katherine Maher and board chair Christophe Henner. It’s available to read here, and I recommend it as a straightforward and clearly-described (if detail-deficient) summary of how Wikimedians understand their project, and where its most dedicated members want to take it.

Draft strategic direction at Wikimania 2017As one would expect, the memo acknowledges the many types of contributors and contributions, brought together by a belief in the power of freely shared knowledge, and a committment to helping organize it. It also focuses on developing infrastructure, building relationships, and strengthening networks. One thing it doesn’t talk much about is Wikipedia, which might be surprising to some. After all, Wikipedia is arguably more important to the movement than the iPhone is to Apple: Wikipedia receives 97.5% of all WMF site traffic, while the iPhone accounts for “only” 70% of Apple’s revenues.

I don’t wish to belabor the Apple analogy much, because there are too many divergences to be useful in a global analysis, but both were revolutionary within their markets, upset competitors, created a whole new participatory ecosystem in their wake, and each grew exponentially until they didn’t. Now the stewards of each are looking beyond the cash cow for new areas of growth. For Apple, it’s cloud-based Services revenue. For the WMF, it’s not quite as easily summarized. But the answer is also partly about building in the cloud, at least figuratively. Although both Wikipedia and the iPhone will remain the most publicly visible manifestations of each organization for the foreseeable future, the leadership of each is focused on what other services they enable, and how they can even make the core product more valuable.

I see two main themes in the memo, about how the Wikimedia movement can better develop that broad ecosystem beyond Wikimedia’s existing base, and how it can improve its underlying systems within movement technology and governance. The former is too big a subject to grapple with here, and I’ll share just a single thought about the latter.

One thing the document concerns itself with at least as much as with Wikipedia is “data structures”—and this nods to Wikidata, which has been the new hotness for awhile, but whose centrality to the larger project is becoming clearer all the time. Take just one easily overlooked line, about how most Wikimedia content is “long-text, unstructured articles”. You know, those lo-fi Wikipedia entries that remain so enduringly popular. They lack structure now, but they might not always. Imagine a future where Wikidata provides information not just to infoboxes (although that is a tricky subject) but also to boring old Wikipedia itself. Forget “red links”: every plain text noun in the whole project may be connected to its “Q number”. Using AI and machine learning, entire concepts can be quickly linked in a way that once required many lifetimes.

At present, Wikipedia is the closest thing we have to the “sum of all human knowledge” but in the future, it may only be the default user interface. Now more than ever, the real action is happening behind the scenes.

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Birth of Bias: implicit bias’ permanence on Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a project by and for human beings, and necessarily carries the implicit biases of those human beings, whether they’re mindful of the fact or not. This presentation, offered by San Francisco State visiting scholar Jackie Koerner, focused on how to recognize this and think about what to do about it. Slides are accessible by clicking on the image below, and notes from the presentation are here.

Koerner Implicit Bias Wikimania 2017

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Readership metrics: Trends and stories from our global traffic data

How much do people around the world look at Wikipedia? How much do they look at it on desktop vs. mobile device? How have things changed over time? All of this and more is found in this presentation from Tilman Bayer, accessible by clicking through the image below.

Readership metrics. Trends and stories from our global traffic data (Wikimania 2017 presentation)

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The Internet Archive and Wikimedia – Common Knowledge Goals

The Internet Archive is not a Wikimedia project, but it is a fellow nonprofit with a similar outlook, complementary mission and, over time, increasing synergy between the two institutions. Every serious Wikimedian should know about the Internet Archive. I didn’t attend the presentation by Wendy Hanamura and Mark Graham, but there’s a lot to be gleaned from the slides embedded below, and session notes here.

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State of Video in the Wikimedia Movement

You don’t watch a lot of video on Wikipedia, do you? It’s not for lack of interest on the part of Wikipedians. It’s for lack of media availability under appropriate licenses, technology and infrastructure to deliver it, and even community agreement about what kinds of videos would help Wikipedia’s mission. It’s an issue Andrew Lih has focused on for several years, and his slides are highly readable on the subject.

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The Keilana Effect: Visualizing the closing coverage gaps with ORES

As covered in this blog’s roundup of 2016’s biggest Wikipedia stories, one of Wikipedia’s more recent mini-celebrities is a twentysomething medical student named Emily Temple-Wood, who goes by the nom-de-wiki Keilana. Her response to each experienced instance of gender-based harassment on the internet was to create a new biographical article about another woman scientist on Wikipedia. But it’s not just an inspiring story greenlit by countless news editors in the last couple years: WikiProject Women Scientists, founded by Temple-Wood and Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, dramatically transformed the number and quality of articles within this subject area, taking them from a slight lag relative to the average article to dramatically outpacing them. Aaron Halfaker, a research scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation, crunched the numbers using the new-ish machine learning article quality evaluation tool ORES. Halfaker presented his findings, with Temple-Wood onstage to add context, on Wikimania’s final day. More than just a victory lap, the question they asked: can it be done again? Only Wikipedia’s contributors can answer that question.

The slides can be accessed by clicking through the image below, notes taken live can be found here, and for the academically inclined, you can also read Halfaker’s research paper: Interpolating Quality Dynamics in Wikipedia and Demonstrating the Keilana Effect.

Keilana Effect (Wikimania 2017)

That was fun! Let’s do this again next year.

Update: Looking for more slides and notes? There’s an “All Session Notes” page on the Wikimania site for your edification.

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A Note on Wikimania 2016, and a Small Request

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on June 21, 2016 at 2:52 pm
View from the road to Esino Lario. (Ed Erhart, CC-BY-SA-4.0)

View from the road to Esino Lario. (Ed Erhart, CC-BY-SA-4.0)

At this very moment, Wikimedians are traveling from all over the world to attend Wikimania, the annual conference for Wikipedia and its sister projects. When the main conference kicks off this weekend, for the first time in five years, I won’t be among them. The controversial selection of Esino Lario, a tiny Italian village in the Alps 40 miles outside of Milan, certainly figured into it, but for me it’s also a very busy summer, and one with plenty of other travel. I regret having to bail on it but, having heard about the touch-and-go logistics from the few I know who are following through, I can’t really say I regret the decision.

The biggest reason why I might is because a presentation I’d submitted was accepted. My absence interrupts what would have been a hat trick of delivering a presentation about the complicated matter of “paid editing”[1]To use just one several inadequate summary phrases for this multifaceted topic. at consecutive Wikimanias. Fortunately, it remains on the schedule, because my co-presenter, Andrew Lih, is committed to making the heroic journey to the Lake Como region of Italy.[2]I understand this is mostly to maintain his perfect Wikimania attendance, but it’s as good a reason as any. It is called “Found in Translation: Comparing paid editing policies in the top Wikipedia language editions” and if you are attending this Wikimania, I think that you should go see it!

You can read more about it at the link above, but the gist is this: the “conflict of interest” guideline on the English Wikipedia has been a matter of controversy and debate for at least a decade. When the self-reference averse Wikipedia actually has a long article on the topic, you know it’s a big deal. However, much less has been said about this issue on Wikipedia’s many other language editions, which are smaller and less prominent, but sometimes still deal with these issues. Since 2015, we have been reaching out to Wikipedians involved in the top 30 language editions of Wikipedia to find out: what official rules does each edition have about paid editing? What are the community norms? Have there been similar controversies?

As it turns out, this qualitative research is much harder to pull off than we’d first hoped. Whereas we had hoped to present our findings at this conference, instead we will be using this Wikimania to draw additional attention to the topic. And that is what this blog post seeks to do as well. If you are interested in helping us understand better how the multivarious Wikipedia communities approach this thorny topic, and you contribute to one of the top 30 language editions,[3]Besides English, of course. To see if yours is one, click here and sort by Active users. then please consider taking the survey here. And if you have any questions about the project overall, hit me up using the contact link above.

That’s all from me! Alas, my non-attendance at Wikimania means I am unlikely to write a summary post like I have in past years. Instead I’ll aim to stay part of the conversation on Twitter via @thewikipedian, and I’ll look forward to seeing you next year in Montreal.

Notes   [ + ]

1. To use just one several inadequate summary phrases for this multifaceted topic.
2. I understand this is mostly to maintain his perfect Wikimania attendance, but it’s as good a reason as any.
3. Besides English, of course. To see if yours is one, click here and sort by Active users.