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IEG round 2 funding rewards diverse ambitions

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By Tony1 and The ed17
Automatically calculated "bounding boxes" for the Wikimaps Atlas project, one of seven successful applications for individual engagement grant funding.

A significant move by the Wikimedia Foundation has been the broadening of the types of activities it funds. To this end, the Foundation has developed several quite different forums for allocating that funding, setting up volunteer committees that conduct initial assessments of competitive applications. The most recent of these programs was the individual engagement grants (IEG) scheme, launched last January. The scheme awards funds to individuals or teams of up to four people to produce high-impact outcomes for the WMF's online projects. The IEG scheme favours innovative approaches to solving critical issues in the movement. This arm of WMF grantmaking is different from the Funds Dissemination Committee, which started more than a year ago and judges applications for annual operating grants by eligible afilliated organisations.

The IEG committee has just announced the results of its second twice-yearly round. There are seven successful applications for projects that are striking for their reach and diversity, underlining the complex and multidimensional nature of the Wikimedia movement. The allocations—some of them based on applications of impressive quality—involve on-the-ground social, cultural, and technical innovations. Individuals from Cameroon, Uganda, India, Israel, France, Italy, Germany, and the US will begin their projects in the new year, most of which will run from January to June.

Increasing participation and engagement

IEG recipient Emily Temple-Wood is interviewed by Wikimedia Germany on the challenges of editing Wikipedia experienced by women generally, and female scientists in particular.
Keilana (Emilie Temple-Wood), an undergraduate student in Chicago studying molecular biology, Arabic, and Islamic studies, will lead a Women Scientists Workshop Development project, funded at more than US$9K. The project will encourage college-aged women to become part of the editing community and to use high-quality content to combat systemic bias. Temple-Wood wrote: "One-time edit-a-thons have a very low retention rate for creating new editors and may not be worth the time and effort it takes to put them on." Instead, her model will involve regular edit-a-thon sessions supported by outreach and the creation of a new kit; this is likely to be the basis of a kit for other groups to use.

A surprisingly large proportion of our editors are under 18, according to Temple-Wood. She and Jake Orlowitz (Ocaasi) have also been provisionally funded to pilot a week-long summer conference, Generation Wikipedia, for young Wikipedians and Wikimedians from around the globe to connect, share skills and build leadership and community capacity among the youngest generation of editors. The conference, for which $20K may be allocated, would stress the particular needs of minors for safety, privacy, and liability protection in such an environment.

Paul Kiguba and the house that will be the new Wikipedia e-learning centre in rural Uganda

The Mbazzi Village writes Wikipedia has its origins in the meeting of two people from very different countries who crossed paths in an exchange program for their students: Paul Kiguba, deputy head at a primary school on a small peninsula that juts into the massive Lake Victoria in Uganda; and Dan Frendin, a teacher in Sweden. Together, they founded the Luganda Wikipedia to serve the local language. An empty house owned by Paul Kiguba in the village of Mbazzi will become a new Wikipedia centre, emphasising the writing of articles on health and agriculture. The project, funded at nearly $3K, will be assisted by Sophie Österberg, who was the WMF's Global Education Manager.

The nation of Cameroon (green)
A pilot project in the west African nation of Cameroon will be conducted to develop novel communication tools to promote an international conversation on WMF projects and the sharing of free knowledge. This will follow on from WikiAfrica Cameroon, supported by several institutions, and the French chapter's dynamic Afripédia program, which promotes French-language initiatives in the African WMF world. The centrepieces of the pilot project will be the production of a video and a series of comics, by video-makers, designers, writers, and artists in Cameroon. It will be led by Marilyn Douala Bell and Iolanda Pensa with collaboration from Michael Epacka, with funding of €15K.

Technical innovations

A further three projects involve technical innovations. Wikimaps Atlas is designed to address a problem many editors are aware of: creating maps for WMF online projects is a labour-intensive process that fails to meet the demand for accuracy and updating. The current system has left us with a large messy pool of locator and other base maps with varying styles, accuracy, and formats. The project will automate the creation of SVG base maps in a well-researched cartographic style using the latest and most accurate open geographic data. Put simply, it will systematically generate a free atlas of the world with well coded SVG files. Arun Ganesh, Hugo Lopez and collaborators will receive $12.5K to achieve this.

VisualEditor, the system of WYSIWYG editing in display mode, has had a controversial start, but will be an inevitable feature of editing on WMF projects. A key challenge is to create a centralised register of all gadgets, with a programmatic understanding of how each relates to editing and an assessment of its popularity across projects. Grantees Eran Roz and Ravid Ziv, have received $4.5K to accomplish this preparatory task and on that basis to integrate high-priority gadgets into VisEd.

Wikidata Toolkit, proposed by Markus Krötzsch, a researcher at the University of Oxford and data architect for the Wikidata project, has been awarded $30K, the highest amount in this round. He will lead a small team of researchers and students at Dresden University of Technology to address a key problem surrounding Wikidata. Wikidata, a relatively new project largely supported by Wikimedia Germany, aims to create a free knowledge base about the world—names, dates, coordinates, relationships, URLs, and references—that can be read and edited by humans and machines alike. However, in Krötzsch's words, "understanding this data requires technical means for querying and analysis that are not currently available. Even skilled developers have hardly any basis for working with Wikidata." The goal is to develop technical components to simplify "query answering" of Wikidata data; in technical terms, a robust and flexible query backend will be created to provide an API for running a variety of queries. The two main outcomes will be a Wikidata toolkit and a query web service.

The next round of IEG proposals will open on 1 March 2014.

In brief

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