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Executive Director travels; DMCA takedowns; fellowship clarifications; brief news

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By Tilman Bayer

Executive Director's travel report: enlightenment in Dubai and meditation in India

Sue Gardner has published an "Executive director trip report: Stockholm, London, Dubai, Delhi", describing her activities and personal impressions while travelling to these cities on Wikimedia-related business from November 20 to December 6, and also including a subsequent three-week vacation with a 10-day silent meditation retreat organized by the Indian Dhamma Institute ("the McDonald’s of Buddhist meditation retreats"), her first extended holiday since being hired by the Foundation in 2007. "I chose to vacation to India because it’s a strategic priority for the Wikimedia Foundation, and I wanted to get a little more exposure to the country and its people."

Sue Gardner giving her keynote at the London GLAM-WIKI conference

In Stockholm, Gardner gave the keynote at the Swedish chapter's "Wikipedia Academy" and in London at the GLAM-WIKI conference (Signpost coverage). In Dubai she was a speaker at the local TEDx event, and as in the other cities, met with local Wikipedians, which meant their first-ever meetup (Signpost coverage). Gardner remarked that she found it "always interesting to get a sense of how Wikipedia is being received/understood in different parts of the world", e.g. "Wikipedia has always seemed to me best-loved and most-accepted in Germany", comparing media attitudes toward Wikipedia in particular (with UK journalists being the least friendly). She related an observation from her talk in the United Arab Emirates (a region which had been considered for a possible expansion of the Wikimedia Foundation, after India):

Videos from the TEDx event are currently being uploaded, with Gardner's talk not yet available at the time of writing.

DMCA take-down notices

The Wikimedia Foundation acted on two separate DMCA take-down notifications this month, in both cases removing images from Commons where apparently an image creator or purported rights holder had withdrawn or amended a previous permission for usage. (DMCA takedown notices are legal procedures under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, whereby a copyright owner notifies an online service provider such as the WMF of an alleged infringement on its servers, and the provider can retain immunity from copyright violations committed by its users if they remove the allegedly infringing material promptly. Last year, the Foundation's former legal counsel Mike Godwin stated that "I typically get only one or two true take-down notices a year. I always thought I would get more, but our community is very good at removing infringing material before a copyright owner complains to us.")

The first take-down notice concerned a multitude of coat of arms images on Wikimedia Commons (example image description page in Google's cache) uploaded by a user who later had tried to impose an additional reuse restriction on them (discussions about the case include [1] before and [2], [3] after he took legal action), and is now blocked.

The second DMCA notice was issued against the Wikimedia Foundation by classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, concerning an official portrait photo of the singer Placido Domingo. It appears to have been the same photo as one used by DG on the tenor's Facebook page, where it celebrated his 70th birthday on the day the undated take-down notice was enacted (January 21st). According to the image description page as still available in Google's cache, the photo had been uploaded "with permission from the company that owns and holds the rights for the photo", as documented in an OTRS ticket dated September 2008. However, in November 2009 the uploader already requested the removal of the image, saying it had been "received with written consent from Mr. Domingo's PR, who are also incharge of his website ( I have just received e-mail from his PR asking me to remove "File:DomingoJ1.jpg" from Wiki. It is a request from Sheila Rock. Could you please remove it as soon as possible? (I think partly because it is not entirely belong to Sheila Rock, the photo was taken for Deutshe Grammophon)".

A third DMCA take-down notice was also made available on the Foundation wiki this month, dating back to November and concerning the specification for the PCI bus, an article that was already subject to an office action.

Wikimedia fellowships discussed and clarified

Achal Prabhala, new Wikimedia Foundation Fellow
As reported earlier ("New Wikimedia fellow to research sourcing problems in local languages"), Achal Prabhala recently became a "Wikimedia Foundation fellow" for a project to conduct field research in South Africa and India on how Wikipedias in local languages might deal with the lack of printed sources in many such languages. Since then, the brief announcement by Chief Community Officer Zack Exley was complemented by additional information about Prabhala's project and his previous Wikimedia-related work, in a discussion thread on Foundation-l which included postings by several senior Wikimedia people, and clarifications about Wikimedia fellowships in general.

WMF Deputy Director Erik Möller explained that (unlike previous fellowships announced by the Community Department) the project is being funded by a Wikimedia grant (of $21,500, approved on December 17) and will result in the creation of a video documentary:

Exley and former Wikimedia chair Anthere (Florence Devouard) stressed that the Foundation's Advisory Board indeed has a purely advisory role and holds no powers within the organization, i.e. that there is no conflict of interest if an Advisory Board member is receiving a grant or being hired by Wikimedia (Prabhala had been an Advisory Board member since its inception and among the original members "has probably been the most active in the past years", according to Devouard). Likewise, to alleviate such concerns, Indian Board of Trustees member Bishaka Datta described the process that led to her appointment as a Trustee in March 2010, which involved interviews with five senior Wikimedians but not with Prabhala, who however mentored her and did "some serious handholding in the first three months" after her appointment. The Foundation's Chief Global Development Officer Barry Newstead also expressed his appreciation for Prabhala's help in launching Wikimedia in India, and other issues: "I, personally, have found him to be an excellent advisor and not someone who expects anything in return."

On January 27, The Hindu published a portrait of Prabhala ("One among the clan of Wikipedians"), where he described how he was introduced to Wikipedia by Angela Beesley and Erik Möller ("they looked like college students") in 2005 while working as an activist against restrictive copyright and for affordable school textbooks in South Africa, recalled "making nervous, anonymous edits to the entries of obscure sci-fi writers who I thought deserved more attention" and attending the first Wikimania in Germany. He said that after moving back to Bangalore, Wikipedians became one of the reasons for him to like the city (which has an active Wikipedian meetup and is the seat of the recently incorporated Wikimedia chapter): "... hundreds of encounters with Wikipedians later, I'm kind of excited about being home. I've been witness to some extraordinary, selfless, tireless and downright funny instances of community work, and I've seen people turn Wikipedia into something local and lovable."

About the fellowship program in general, Möller said that while it was being scaled up, "it would be good to have more open conversations about the criteria and process through which fellowships (but also Wikimedia Foundation grants) are awarded. ... I do think it's important to give the community more of a voice in both proposing and selecting individuals and projects, perhaps through some form of review committee which makes a preliminary recommendation, and which strongly interfaces with WMF to align the program with our strategic priorities." Newstead agreed that there was "room for improvement in our processes at WMF": "we have used the title of Fellowship for different types of activities e.g., hiring someone on a contract for general staff-like purposes, providing a grant to someone for a specific activity. We should figure out how to distinguish between these (and other roles) more clearly."

On the Foundation's wiki, a page about fellows was subsequently created. Human Resources Manager Daniel Phelps clarified that the "Community" in "Community fellow" was "a misnomer, Achal isn't specifically a Community fellow and as the fellowship program expands this will likely contain fellows from multiple departments" and said that unlike the other five fellows, Steven Walling "is on payroll and is set to work in the office during the duration of his fellowship as a staff member. We have to process each Fellowship currently based on several criteria as to how we engage with them. Much of this is based on HR [Human Resources] law." At the time of its introduction in September (Signpost coverage), the program - where community members were to "lead intensive, time-limited projects focused on key areas of risk and opportunity" with some of them possibly joining the permanent WMF staff later - had been called the "Community Fellowship program"; it followed the Community Department's earlier "Community hiring" call (Signpost coverage).

Newstead also announced that he was "planning on introducing a community input mechanism into the grant process for 2011/12."


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I find it kinda weird that the information about Czech Wikipedia was not added to the "Czech Wikipedia" page in the first place. Priorities, guys... Lorem Ip (talk) 01:46, 1 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Yes, everyone has different ones, you know. And it's a lot easier to report about a news item than it is to incorporate the facts in that item into running text. Powers T 22:01, 1 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, I know; e.g., for some, the priority is to read wikipedia and bitch about how sad it is. As for "a lot easier", the only thing "a lot easier" is simply mention the fact, rather than to detail it. But just the same, the "easy text" may be even more easily cut-and-pasted to a more important place (here I assume that creation of encyclopedia is declared to be of utmost importance for the project). No disrespect to the writer of the signpost page; they did a part of job by digging the facts, and I intentionally wrote in passive voice "was not added". The unpleasantly surprizing (for my tastes) part was that nobody else cared about wikipedia's own history to be well-documented by wikipedia. Lorem Ip (talk) 22:55, 1 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Well, not to be flippant, but {{sofixit}}. I'd start with a note on the article's talk page. Powers T 23:45, 1 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Well, that's what I actually did first thing after reading Signpost; I added the reference in question into the article, and only then proceeded with bitching. Lorem Ip (talk) 17:03, 4 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I don't think the effort that is made to create Wikipedia in local or minor languages is worth it. The value that is placed upon having a native language version is overemphasised. How knowledge is conveyed is infinitely less important than what knowledge is conveyed. The foundation should stop wasting money on developing local language Wikipedias for now. - Shiftchange (talk) 11:24, 6 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Sure, let them Bantu learn to speak a civilized language; e.g., Chinese, if they hate French. Lorem Ip (talk) 02:49, 8 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Considering that most languages have a very limited distribution and that the number of languages has been declining for centuries (see Our planet's languages are dying) would that be so bad? - Shiftchange (talk) 11:28, 11 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I don't think wikimedia spends more than 0.01% of resources in dying languages compared to efforts in fighting vandals in English. Lorem Ip (talk) 22:00, 11 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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