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News and notes

Anniversary celebrations; Foundation reports; local language problems; brief news

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By Tilman Bayer
The "Wikipedia 10" design
(commissioned by the WMF for the anniversary)
A January 13 snapshot of the worldwide anniversary events

Wikipedians worldwide celebrate Wikipedia's 10th anniversary

The 10th anniversary logo appeared on each Wikipedia page on January 15
January 15 – Wikipedia Day – marked the 10th anniversary of the start of Wikipedia. On the English Wikipedia, as on many other Wikimedia projects, the Wikipedia logo was replaced by a special anniversary logo on January 15. The main page marked the occasion by "showcasing content not normally featured on the main page", namely a featured list, a featured topic and a featured sound in lieu of "Today's featured article". The picture of the day showed Jimmy Wales.

The anniversary was celebrated in birthday parties worldwide, coordinated at the Wikimedia Foundation's anniversary wiki, which lists 291 events for January 15 alone (and some that are still to come), and was announced to Wikipedia readers by banners following those of the recently completed fundraiser. Preparations for the anniversary had started around April 2010, when the WikiX-l mailing list was set up, and intensified around November (see Signpost coverage: "Preparations for Wikipedia's tenth anniversary gearing up").

In several places, small conferences with Wikipedia-related presentations were organized on the occasion. The Birthday Bash miniconference in New York City was covered on the Huffington Post. In San Francisco, the West Coast WikiConference 2011 featured keynotes by Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the wiki, and Kevin Kelly. Ziko reports that in Amsterdam, several events joined Wikimedians and GLAM representatives for presentations and discussions, where the Amsterdam Museum "surprised the crowd with a special birthday present: a usb stick with the entire pictorial collection of the museum, meaning 50,000 new files for Wikimedia Commons", and a Hack-a-ton brought developers together (see this week's Technology report). In the UK, two "key events" featured Jimmy Wales, who gave presentations in Bristol on January 13 (see also this week's "In the news"; the 650 free tickets for the event were gone by November), and at a birthday party in London not listed on the anniversary wiki but featured in a Reuters news video, attended by writer Cory Doctorow and musician Peter Gabriel who both expressed their support for Wikipedia to Reuters.

The anniversary wiki contains a photo gallery of Wikipedia birthday cakes. As reported by Sj, one of the puzzles of the annual MIT Mystery Hunt, released on January 15, was based on Wikipedia, as were some MIT hacks adorning the institution's buildings at the same time, such as a 3D version of the Wikipedia globe hung from the ceiling of the largest lobby on campus.

Celebrating in Tabriz, Iran.
Participants of the West Coast WikiConference in San Francisco hold up 10 fingers to celebrate the anniversary.

Messages from the Foundation and community members

Jimmy Wales' anniversary address (transcript)

On the Wikimedia Foundation's blog, Jimmy Wales wrote about "A decade of thanks!", accompanied by a video message (that had been published on Vimeo last month and was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons last week, where users provided subtitles in many languages using the new Universal Subtitles function.)

On her personal blog, the Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner said that on the anniversary "we celebrate all the people who built this extraordinary thing. The engineers who made the code. The people who write the articles, fix the typos, smooth the text, localize the software, answer readers’ mail, and fight off vandals and POV-pushers. The donors, who pay the bills."

Both in Wales' video message and in Gardner's blog posting, as well as in the Foundation's press release on January 12, it was said that the first edit to Wikipedia had been made by Wales, typing in "Hello World!". However, according to the recently discovered archive of Wikipedia's early revision history (Signpost coverage), the first edit read "This is the new WikiPedia!" (starting the page HomePage), as pointed out by Wikipedia researcher Joseph Reagle [1] and developer Tim Starling [2]. Starling said that Wales might have been recalling the first edit to an earlier test wiki that was set up on the domain on January 10, 2001 and was later deleted.

In Nairobi, the anniversary coincided with the launch of a project to provide offline access to Wikipedia via CDs and USB sticks in Kenya's schools. The launch event took place at Strathmore University and was attended by more than 100 people, as reported by Wikimedian Jon Harald Søby. Ting Chen, Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation, gave a speech (draft, repeated at another Kenyan university) on the occasion, telling his African audience that "we are still far far away from our goal. And we are so far far away, among others, because we need you to help us. Without your help we will never fulfill our mission".

Wikipedia researcher Felipe Ortega (User:GlimmerPhoenix) called Wikipedia "a new digital incarnation of the commendable spirit" of the Three Musketeers, citing their motto: "One for all, and all for one". Having been interviewed on national radio show La Ventana together with admin Raystorm of the Spanish Wikipedia, Ortega recounted two stories from callers on how Wikipedia had changed their life.

WiseWoman from the German Wikipedia (an American expat who is a professor at Berlin's HTW) recalled various personal anecdotes about the history of the project, such as how she attended the founding meeting of Wikimedia Germany in 2004, first as an anonymous observer, but then signing up as a founding member after her former student Erik Möller recognized and welcomed her, and that her attempts to get Jimmy Wales invited as a guest professor at her school failed because "German Rules got in the way, there was no way we could get it sorted out."

One of many Wikipedia birthday cakes, in Yerevan, Armenia
Flying a Wikipedia kite in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The Wikimedia Foundation published three of its monthly reports last week, for October, November and December 2010, clearing out a recent backlog (the May and June reports are still to come). Apart from many items previously covered in the Signpost, they also contain new information.

In October, the operating revenue amounted to $3.2M, vastly exceeding the planned amount of $750K, due largely to an "anonymous $2M gift and several hundred thousand dollars of revenue related to community gifts as a result of pre-fundraiser testing." The October report offers some additional information about the most recent physical meeting of the Board of Trustees (whose minutes have not been published yet). In addition to the resolutions and votes recorded on the Foundation wiki, it mentions a vote to approve the final version of the 2010–15 strategic plan in advance. In December, the plan was "going through final copy and fact checking before publication".

At the October meeting, the board held a discussion about "community health", including developing "a policy prohibiting both on- and off-wiki harassment of Wikimedia project participants, and responding to it it with global locking-out from the projects". A draft for such policy, to be "available for the board to review in early November", was to be developed by Board member Phoebe Ayers and Steven Walling from the Foundation's Community Department, whose work on a project "supporting the Board in thinking about harassment policies" had already been mentioned in the September report.

Following Mike Godwin's sudden departure as General Counsel, the October report notes the temporary hiring of Alisa Key as interim General Counsel, working with Michelle Paulson ("Michelle is running our daily triage and more tactical engagements, and Alisa is overseeing Michelle and determining our interim strategy, as well as taking care of any legal challenges during this interim timeframe"), and the start of the search for a successor, which included a reworking of the job description.

The report for November records that a representative of the Stanton Foundation was "very happy" with the then state of the Public Policy Initiative (which it is funding with $1.2 million): "This is exactly what we expected from the initiative. This is what we wanted. Keep going." Also noted are the development of an offline strategy ("to approach those without Internet access primarily through offline computer-based programs via education channels", see draft analysis of the "target market" and a historical overview of offline Wikimedia projects), the first interim report on the Brazil Catalyst Project (which "aims to develop open and collaborative approaches by which the Wikimedia Foundation can support the Wikimedia community in Brazil") and beginning efforts to formulate an "online webstore strategy" for the WMF.

The December report includes details about the "India technology fact-finding trip" undertaken by CTO Danese Cooper, Alolita Sharma and Deputy Director Erik Möller, who met with the Ministry of Communications and IT and many other organizations, IT companies and community members. A lease with a co-location facility for hosting the new Virginia Data Center was signed, and work was ongoing to restart the failed data dumps, an issue which also affected "our ability to generate various statistics, such as editing activity."

Also in December, finalist candidates for the position of National Program Director for India, who will head the new Wikimedia office in the country, were interviewed. The report noted upcoming keynotes by CTO Danese Cooper "at a regional FBI conference in Oakland, and at a conference for the State Department in Washington, DC." On the social side, the Foundation's "first white elephant/baby/puppy party" was recorded. Finally, the report mentions that "Sue Gardner took a three-week vacation, her first extended vacation since her hiring as Executive Director [in 2007]."

New Wikimedia fellow to research sourcing problems in local languages

Achal Prabhala (at Wikimania 2009)

Achal Prabhala (User:Aprabhala) has been announced as the newest "Wikimedia Foundation fellow" by the Foundation's Community department. Prabhala, a Bangalore based writer and researcher, has been a member of the WMF advisory board since its inception in 2007. Chief Community Officer Zack Exley said that he "will be conducting field research in rural South Africa and India with Wikipedians and non-Wikipedians across three languages to explore ways to compensate for the gap in published/printed sources in many local languages." Prabhala explained that the project is about "a problem that bedevils everyone working in local languages in Asia and Africa, and it’s something we have no control over: the lack of published scholarly resources in these languages."

In the Community fellowship program, started in September (Signpost coverage), community members are employed full-time for a limited amount of time by the Foundation's Community Department to work on specific problems. See also last week's "News and notes": "Foundation announces fourth Community Fellow"


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Vanishing cultural biodiversity

As time passes, the world is seeing the extinction of languages and cultures. It is gratifying to note that indigenous language Wikipedias have a possible role in delaying or preventing this from happening. Development of sources and references would be a positive contribution in this direction. Achal's results are eagerly awaited. AshLin (talk) 03:31, 19 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

While I hope and believe that one day there will be a single language spoken by every human being, I do agree that as a repository of functional examples of languages, local language Wikipedias are a rare and to-be-treasured resource. I also hasten to add that places like Wikisource and to a degree Wikibooks offer the services of an internet repository for other documents in 'dying' languages. Sven Manguard Wha? 06:09, 19 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]
While I hope and believe that one day there will be a single language spoken by every human being - Jeez I sincerely hope not! How boring would it be if we all spoke the same language? – ukexpat (talk) 15:37, 19 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Certainly there would be options for learning the old languages, and irregardless no one would understand what the New Yorkers were saying, but improved communication between all the peoples of the world would be a good thing, the social, economic, and political benefits would be huge. Besides, if you want dozens of competing languages that have overzealous followings, will never work well with one another, and have deep mistrust of each other, you can always get into coding. Sven Manguard Wha? 16:01, 19 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]
It would be great if someone used a combination of WikiProjects to attempt to save the vanishing culture of a community. Is that too much to wish for? AshLin (talk) 16:04, 19 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Main Page

So I guess Jimbo Wales is officially our god... —innotata 16:23, 19 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I like Jimbo as much as the next guy, but we've just seen his picture every day for two months at the top of our screens. Did we really need to have it again as the POTD? How about video of Wikipedians typing away in a big room like the infinite number of monkeys? Or something like this:  :-) -- Ssilvers (talk) 01:31, 20 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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