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Russian Wikipedia shuts down to fight censorship threat; E3 team and new tools; Wikitravel proposal bogged down

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By Jan eissfeldt, Tony1, and The ed17
Visitors to the Russian Wikipedia face a 24-hour shutdown in protest at a draconian internet censorship bill before the Duma. The Russian word for Wikipedia is crossed out in this banner.

Russian Wikipedia blacked out

In news that has come in just as we publish this week's edition, the Russian Wikipedia has been blacked out for 24 hours until 20:00 UTC Tuesday as a protest against a bill currently before the Duma (the Russian parliament) that proposes mechanisms to block IP addresses and DNS records. Visitors to the Russian Wikipedia are confronted by the sign above in protest at a bill before the parliament that appears to enable significant internet censorship. The Russian word for Wikipedia is crossed out in this banner, and the text says: "Imagine a world without free knowledge. The State Duma is currently conducting the second reading of a bill to amend the "Law on Information", which has the potential to lead to the creation of extra-judicial censorship of the Internet in Russia, including the closure of access to the Russian Wikipedia. Today, the Wikipedia community protests against censorship as a threat to free knowledge that is open to all mankind. We ask that you oppose this bill."

The action by the Russian Wikipedia echoes the worldwide blacking-out of the English Wikipedia on 18 January as a protest against two bills before the US Congress (see previous Signpost coverage and Wikipedia initiative). The head of Wikimedia Russia, Vladimir Medeyko (User:Drbug), told the Signpost that in practice this will probably give the government authority to take action against internet websites—potentially including Wikipedia—and it could be delegated to police officers and intelligence operatives without due diligence. "Although the draft legislation allows for judicial appeal, in Russia this is typically a very lengthy process that is likely to lead to significant harm to internet freedom."

A post on Wikimedia Russia's Meta blog states (translated by the Signpost):

Medeyko says the second reading of the bill is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, Moscow time. "What makes it so dangerous is that the decision to ban an address may be issued by any 'duly authorised' agency, with unexplained procedures for providing evidence to the 'registry'. The very vagueness of this wording is most concerning. The Russian Wikipedia community moved quickly with a proposal for the black-out—it was voted on in only one day—and implemented with 292 in support, 22 for posting a banner only, and 74 against any action. The decision was that no one would edit the project during the blackout, although administrators are technically still able to do so."

The Russian minister for information, Nikolay Nikiforov, has made several tweets that suggest the government may not force the law through in the short term, including: "I am sure that this law will still be accepted, to the 2nd of reading only a few managed to avoid controversial positions and extend up to 1 Nov." and "the idea of combatting child pornography on the web is correct. But in general, the Internet should remain a free environment".

Two feature updates and a new experiment

Average edit-count at 30 days since the activation of MoodBar for MoodBar users (green) vs non-MoodBar users (orange).

The Wikimedia Foundation's efforts regarding editor engagement having recently focused on achieving three results: the rollout of version 5 of the article feedback tool; research into the effectiveness of the existing MoodBar extension; and the creation of the LastModified extension, representing the first feature experiment completed by the new editor engagement experiments (E3) team, founded in April 2012.

The fifth incarnation of the article feedback tool, AFT5, started in August 2010 as part of the public policy initiative. The feature empowers readers, who otherwise wouldn't participate in the discourse on an article, leaving publicly displayed feedback at the bottom. A prominent example is Higgs boson, on a topic that is at the center of public attention over the CERN experimental results. The article feedback tool received 400 responses, ranging from praise to editorial suggestions and trolling, so far. While SPat, an author of the article, praised the tool, there remains the question of how to handle the display or removal of inappropriate input. The tool is due for deployment in some 10% of English Wikipedia articles by July 17, and issues surrounding its use are still open for community debate.

Another project inherited by E3, the MoodBar, started in June 2011; the tool aims to improve the interaction between new editors and the established community. Results published over the past month suggest that while new users who use MoodBar tend to be more active than the average new editor, "there is only mild and circumstantial evidence that the reported mood is associated with a higher or lower edit count".

In May 2012, E3 undertook a timestamp experiment to test whether making the article history more prominent would result in its wider usage, and thereby an article more transparent to its readers (see also this week's Technology report). Results based on a sample of about 20,000 English Wikipedia articles show that IP editors and readers clicked on the normal "View history" tab more than twice as often when the prominent timestamp was present.

While the timestamp experiment has now closed and the AFT and MoodBar will continue to be tested (see the main research page for more information), the specifications of the new post-edit feedback tool and the long-awaited new RC tool, under development since March 2012 as a monitor of newly created pages, have yet to be finalized.

Commercialisation fears unaddressed in Wikitravel proposal

The Wikitravel proposal, launched in April 2012 (Signpost coverage on April 16 and 23) is still live after nearly three months. On July 6, the RfC entered its second round having been promoted in a site notice from April 18 after weeks of debate on Meta as to whether Wikimedia should host a travel guide project.

The move came after weeks without substantial progress on Meta, while the German NGO that hosts Wikivoyage, a second project that forked away from WikiTravel in 2006, is applying to join the proposal, in effect using a migration to the WMF umbrella to merge back with WikiTravel. Wikimedian Doc James, who is strongly supportive of the Wikitravel proposal, forwarded the Wikivoyage proposal to WMF board trustee Samuel Klein and WMF executive director Sue Gardner on May 27.

It has been claimed that the stalling, despite wider community support for the experiment in the RfC, suggests a broken innovation process on Meta and the responsible committee has yet to sort out its own formal framework, the WMF board is scheduled to look at the application during its meeting at Wikimania in Washington DC this week. Volunteers interested in the proposal are due to meet at the conference on July 12.

The Signpost notes that the WikiTravel site currently hosts sidebars of direct Google travel-related advertising, although WikiVoyage site does not. While there would be no direct advertising for information from a travel site migrated to the foundation, the nature of consumer tourism does expose the WMF's narrative text to unseen pressure to mention and describe commercial operators, which will in itself represent a highly effective form of product placement under the foundation's authoritative logo.

In brief

This logo by Planemad is the current frontrunner in the logo contest.
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  • As opposed to the overreaction against SOPA, this Russian legislation actually is dangerous and is a bald-faced attempt to curtail free speech that the Kremlin doesn't like. Kudos to ru.wp for the blackout. Magog the Ogre (talk) 12:08, 10 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • It's difficult to understand another country's politics. And the sentence "In an echo of the worldwide blacking-out of the English Wikipedia on 18 January as a protest against two bills before the US Congress ... the proposed new law introduces a mechanism to block IP-addresses and DNS records." looks like it's garbling together two different ideas. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 13:21, 10 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • I hope it's fixed now; thanks for pointing out poor sentence construction, Seth. The breaking news was put together mighty fast to make the publication deadline. Tony (talk) 15:04, 10 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • All WMF project deal to some extend with commercialization (for example articles on companies or medications on Wikipedia). A travel guide will be no different. There are some commercial links that are important and some that are simple spam and it takes common sense to distinguish between the two. Wikitravel is also currently without the benefits of the many tools we at Wikipedia have to help us try to achieve an appropriate balance. As mentioned I see this as a great opportunity for the Wikimedia movement not only to expand our numbers but to play a role in bringing two communities of editors back together.Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (please reply on my talk page) 13:26, 10 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Interesting report. Regarding the Wikidata logo, to avoid giving any hint of preference to one logo, I would have preferred that the Signpost include all of the logos or none of them. The Signpost could have included a single image with icon-sized versions of each of the logos. Pine 19:37, 10 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • "Commercialization fears unaddressed"?? Did anyone attempt to raise these "fears" with the community before splashing them all over the Signpost and pretty much stating that they're being ignored? Powers T 20:57, 10 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • I would like to say that it is not a 'Wikitravel proposal', but rather a proposal for a travel guide. As you mention correctly, Wikivoyage is free from any form of advertising. This will also be the case for the new travel guide, in fact, as is holds true for any other Wikimedia project.--Aschmidt (talk) 00:42, 11 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • I was a bit surprised with the titles about the travel guide proposal, since I didn’t see major concerns in the proposal as these titles suggest it (speaking as a non-native speaker, when you see "down" or "fears" you expect very bad news). ~ Seb35 [^_^] [fr] 07:29, 11 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • The reason it's being called the "Wikitravel proposal" is because it is a proposal for the WMF to support a duplicative fork of an existing, functional and hugely successful Wiki: And that fork would be not just a duplication of all Wikitravel content, but a wholesale shanghai of the entire existing administrator community, who (understandably or not) would prefer to work under the auspices of the WMF umbrella, whether or not that turns out to be to the benefit of the WMF, the seven million monthly Wikitravel users, or the admins themselves. Thus this proposal is the farthest thing from the creation of a new travel wiki; it is the forking and fracturing of (talk) 22:39, 11 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • How surprising that the "community manager" at Internet Brands would say such a thing. The Wikitravel folks didn't just get up one day and decide they wanted to join the WMF, it's the result of a long period of neglect and inattention from IB. Lankiveil (speak to me) 09:32, 13 July 2012 (UTC).[reply]


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