On October 26, 2011, Representative Lamar S. Smith introduced the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) in the United States House of Representatives. The bill would give the U.S. Department of Justice the power to more closely pursue online copyright infringement, allowing them to bar Internet-based services such as PayPal from working with websites accused of infringement, blocking search engine results for these sites, and requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to the sites completely; it may even make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a felony. The proposed bill has met with protests from a significant number of major websites, while drawing support from the Hollywood production houses whose works are being infringed. The Washington Postdepicted the bill as a battle between the old media and new.
Discussions on the proposed bill raged across Wikipedia this week. Jimbo Wales's talk page was flooded by editors arguing over the bill after he seemingly proposed a server lockdown, similar to the Italian lockdown in October over a similar bill that was circulating in their parliament. A straw poll at the Village pump in support of the idea failed to gain traction and was quickly closed.
So far, the Wikipedia community has only achieved consensus to do something, with suggestions ranging from standing by, to shutting down Wikipedia for a day, to replacing the Main Page with an anti-SOPA demonstration notice. In a post on the foundation-l mailing list, Kat Walsh (mindspillage) crystallized the Wikimedian position on the issue, saying:
Wikimedia projects are organizing and summarizing and collecting the world's knowledge. We're putting it in context, and showing people how to make sense of it. But that knowledge has to be published somewhere for anyone to find and use it. Where it can be censored without due process, it hurts the speaker, the public, and Wikimedia. Where you can only speak if you have sufficient resources to fight legal challenges, or if your views are pre-approved by someone who does, the same narrow set of ideas already popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to.
General Counsel Geoff Brigham has posted a legal overview of the law on the Wikimedia Foundation's blog, as well as a rough schedule of the Congressional process of considering the bill.
In an IRC office meeting on December 15, Brigham and Sue Gardner discussed the Wikimedia Foundation's stance on the issue (summarized here), stating: "The official position of the Wikimedia Foundation is that we are opposed to SOPA ... [but] we believe that the community should make up its own mind about whether to take any kind of on-wiki action." Gardner said the Wikimedia Foundation will follow community consensus in any actions against the proposed bill while doing its best to provide legal interpretation and guidance. Meanwhile, community action has shifted over to the new SOPA initiative page, a workshop to explore the various actions that the community could take in opposition to the bill, and the Wikimedia Foundation has routed all of its updates on the bill there.
Wikimedia Foundation publishes the 2010–11 annual report
Community activity in India: Although only 7% of the Indian population has Internet access, this translates into 81 million people—the fourth largest Internet population in the world. Only around 2,000 Indian editors have contributed to date, a small number relative to its population, but the Wikimedia Foundation has been making waves in the region.
Wikipedia Education Program: the United States Education Program (USEP), part of the Wikimedia Foundation's global Wikipedia Education Program, is an ambitious program whose pilot program obtained the participation of professors from 27 universities. The USEP's 17 month pilot project, the "Public Policy Initiative", was led by "Campus Ambassadors" and resulted in 800 students contributing the equivalent of 5,800 pages of text, increasing the quality of the articles they contributed to by an average of 64 percent, as measured by a new quality metric developed for the project. As the Annual Report details, "Research from the pilot program found that students are much more motivated by a Wikipedia assignment than they were by a traditional term paper because it was a useful assignment."
Technology marches forward: With more than 3.8 million English-language Wikipedia articles, 10 million Commons files, and a billion edits, maintaining and improving the Wikimedia software is a laborious task. Changes this year include the Resource Loader system that speeds up page loading, a new UploadWizard to make media contributions more fluid, the Article Feedback Tool to "engage readers in quality assessment", a new volunteer-development coordinator and a bugmeister to better handle code improvement backlogs, six students participating on behalf of Wikimedia in the Google Summer of Code, and an upgraded data center in Virginia.
Wikipedia's mobile growth: "The mobile web is growing faster than the desktop Internet around the world, and most new users from the Global South will come online via cell phones." The Wikimedia Foundation is working to enhance its mobile coverage, and is "striving to develop partnerships with network providers in key regions of the Global South to provide [its] customers with no or low-cost access to Wikipedia on a range of devices."
10th anniversary marked: Wikipedia's tenth anniversary this year, "a decade that changed the world," saw more than 450 celebratory events in 120 countries.
Arab Spring and Wikimedia: The Middle East has been a "priority area" for the Foundation since 2010, and this year marked the Arab Spring, the series of mass protests on the North African continent that touched off several revolutions. With image donations from Al Jazeera and thousands of edits by Wikipedians with first-hand experience of the events, "the repository of articles and photos about the Arab Spring already stands as a living example of how people around the world increasingly see Wikipedia as a vital channel for telling the most important stories of our time."
Other case stories include QRpedia, the recognition of Wikipedians as officially accredited photographers, and a breakdown of financials from the audit earlier this year. The report is available in six language versions—Arabic, Japanese, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish—which reportedly "took some serious coordination to time translation, design, production and wiki publishing." Printed copies will be available in the Foundation headquarters within the week.
Community: The Malayalam and Tamil languages have the healthiest Wikipedian communities, while the communities of Marathi and Bengali, "large languages with massive potential," have increased a sizable amount. Overall, however, Shiju felt that "the total number of new editors coming to new Indic Wikipedias is low", and that the focus needs to be "on bringing new editors to wiki and the retaining [of] existing users."
Article quality: The Tamil and Sanskrit Wikipedias show the greatest growth; the Sanskrit language version's growth is particularly impressive as it has a very small speaker base. In addition, the Malayalam has the highest edits per article average, a good indicator of quality. With over 100,000 articles, the Hindi Wikipedia continues to lead the Indic languages in size, but both article growth and edits per article have dropped; Shiju speculates this was caused by a low active editor population and an emphasis on quantity over quality in reaching the 100,000 milestone. The Pali, Bishnupirya Manipuri, Newari, Bhojpuri and Sindhi Wikipedias have all been largely inactive.
Readership: With the largest speaker base, Hindi continues to reach the greatest number of readers at 8.7 million times a month; Marathi, also large, has been accessed 5.9 million times. WikiConference India coverage in Marathi Wikipedia has helped increase the language version's readership. Shiju points out that despite a total of 43 million readers and 12 million new readers in October alone, editor population growth has been disappointing.
Article Feedback version 5 rolled out: Version 5 of the Article Feedback tool was rolled out this week (for full coverage, see this week's "Technology report"). The update replaces the existing "Rate this page" mechanism with one of four randomly selected comments-based systems, of which one will eventually be selected for ongoing use. The Article Feedback team also held an office hours session on the tool on the 16 December (logs), shortly before the launch.
Milestones: The Malagasy Wiktionary has reached 900,000 total pages, the Limburgian Wiktionary has reached 80,000 entries, and the French Wiktionary has reached 10,000,000 page edits this week. In local news, the combined figure for quality articles (FA, FL, and GA) has passed .5% of the encyclopaedia, at a combined total of 19,210 articles (about 1 in 200).
New administrators: No new administrators were promoted this week.