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New edits-by-mail option will "revolutionize" Wikipedia and its editor base

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By The ed17, Gamaliel, and Tony1
A new WMF initiative will allow edits sent in through your local post office, no matter where you are located.
Postal services will deliver the edits by next-day air to the WMF's offices in San Francisco, which will process and save the changes.
At one time, mail was transported by train and shipped across the continents. Now, advances in airmail will allow the WMF to open up editing to an even greater number of people.

The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) will announce later today that it will begin accepting edits by mail for all of the projects under its scope, including Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Commons. They believe that this move, coming as part of a long-held goal to open up editing to anyone, will "revolutionize" the site by opening up the Wikimedia sites to more potential editors. The initiative will begin on the English Wikipedia, with others to follow soon after.

Details of how this edits by mail initiative will be implemented were not fully revealed as of publishing time, but the WMF's tech ambassador Pennaninn Quell told the Signpost that it will involve post-office boxes posted in many major countries around the world. Letters sent to them will be forwarded to the WMF's San Francisco office by next-day airmail, paid by the organization. "Mail has the disadvantage of taking days rather than seconds," Quell wrote. "We want to limit this competitive disadvantage where possible, and we are easily in a financial position to fully commit to this project." Edits will be processed by a newly created WMF department, which will be given its own C-level head. As a significant demand for this service is expected, a high number of new staff members is expected.

The WMF hopes that this new system will open editing of the world's largest encyclopedia to over 90% of the world's population, and estimated that edits could jump by 10% or more: spokesperson Rowland Hill told the Signpost that "mail has the potential to reshape the 21st century." These numbers are a welcome boost to the quantitative-heavy metrics frequently cited by the WMF, and are in part based in survey results that show that more people have more familiarity with Esperanto than wikimarkup, which is currently the only way to edit the English Wikipedia without knowing how to manipulate user preferences.

Hill noted that using the familiar mail system will allow people to sidestep learning the complicated syntax, a significant portion of which has been in use since the site's inception in 2001—a time when the concept of social media did not exist, Altavista and Lycos were actually popular, and the World Trade Center still adorned the New York skyline. The vision is to reverse Wikipedia's long-declining pool of active editors.

The WMF went on to emphasize that as an intended side-benefit, sending in edits by mail will provide greater security for its users. They believe that this arrangement has the potential to open up a paradigm shift in the WMF's relationship with the US National Security Agency, which the WMF has accused of snooping on its employees and users' communications. "Submitting edits by mail would force the NSA to physically open thousands or millions of letters each day," Hill said. "Analog mail will provide greater security against their 'dragnet' surveillance practices than the current digital system."

As of publishing time, editors of the English Wikipedia have created a request for comment, which looks certain to oppose the proposed new policy. "The barbarians are already at our doors," stated one user without apparent irony. "They will compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia."

In related news, to present the best face to these newly enfranchised editors, the WMF has announced plans to fundamentally redesign the English Wikipedia's main page. As of publishing time, English-language Wikipedians have mobilized in force against this attempt to modernize the main page for the first time in nine years, as they have done several times previously. One editor opposed the measure by calling it a "vanity project": "we don't need readers to read us anyway," forgetting why they originally joined the site in 2004. E

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the author's, and do not reflect the official opinion of this publication. Responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments.

In brief

The Global North pivot will aim at the countries shaded above.
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April Fools doesn't really work internationally - some editors will read this in timezones whree it's March 31. -- Aronzak (talk) 02:45, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Besides, it is far too silly. Gamaliel (talk) 02:49, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Yep. Utterly inane. - Sitush (talk) 02:50, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
I don't know why we bother with the AFDay stuff, it's never funny.--ukexpat (talk) 03:01, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Yep. Utterly inane. - Sitush (talk) 02:50, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Both the edit-by-mail and focusing on its core userbase are actually good, viable ideas. Kinda sad, really, when focusing, or really having any focus, on the 90% (e.g., those without Internet access, or being a European male on a European language website with a traditional STEM focus) can be seen as no other than an obvious joke. Int21h (talk) 03:13, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Why just introduce edits by mail? There's also the more "modern" methods of sending edits by telex, telegram and Morse code. Some far islands may also contribute using ham radio (DXing and QSLs anybody?) or possibly use birds to send their edits to Wikipedia head office. werldwayd (talk) 03:19, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Because mail doesn't require a hydroelectric dam and electrical distribution network, or the extremely, extremely rare pigeon relays (which are probably mostly a European male interest). Sorry to ruin your quip with serious debate. Int21h (talk) 03:39, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Due to an on-wiki ban Int21h had to submit that comment by mail, just an FYI everyone—this system really is quick. ResMar 03:45, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I thought the reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center was particularly classy. And it's not too early to start thinking about which mass murder you want to make jokes about NEXT year. Neutron (talk) 04:09, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Although, having now read the main page I realize I should not single out the Signpost. After all, in one column we have a joke about a WW2 battle in which, by some estimates, more than 250,000 people died, and another joke about a U.S. Civil War battle in which more than 3,000 people died. Happy April 1. Neutron (talk) 04:30, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
@Neutron: Yeah. Very different. We mention the World Trade Center as part of a larger piece of satire. OTD thinks that Okinawa is steel rain. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 04:40, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
@The ed17:Just to be clear, I don't think either are appropriate. But I know I am swimming against the tide on this whole April Fool's thing. I do note that the Okinawa "joke" was removed from the main page, but the Civil War "joke" is still there. I guess the "line" is somewhere between deaths in the four digits and deaths in the six digits. Neutron (talk) 23:10, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
"Comedy is tragedy plus time." Gamaliel (talk) 23:26, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I found the Financial rescue package 'joke' by User:Tony1 to be not only boring and unfunny but pretty offensive too, to be frank. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 06:56, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • I naturally defer to the current Chairman. However as a non-chapter member and previous Chair with relatives that were imprisoned during the war, my frank view is meh. -- (talk) 07:52, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
      • Like many jokes, that "in brief" entry contains shards of truth within a humorous vein. I think that is what has riled these UK chapter people; but it is April Fool's Day, right? It is indeed delicious when referents within a joke decide to react angrily, and to voice that publicly. Thrilling, actually, to know that it worked. Tony (talk) 14:03, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
        • A casual and lazy reference to stereotypical Germans does not an April Fool's joke make. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 16:00, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
          • In all honesty, I found the article to be funny, but not as hilarious as the reaction from the Brits among the audience! I find it ironic that its Germans who have a reputation for lacking in a sense of humour, but I guess it's only to be expected for Brits to get upset at this April Fool's joke – they have always been Monty Pythonesque when the subject is them being dominated by Germans. ;-) -- Ohc ¡digame! 17:21, 2 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • The support team deals with letters that are scanned by Chapters for instance. So if you know elderly people, tell them to address the letter to the local chapter which forward it to the support team. --Sargoth (talk) 07:21, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • The aggregation of the German speaking chapters is really unrealistic because the Swiss chapter is not a German speaking chapter. It speaks English in the administrative tasks, French and Italian and Rumantsch in half territory and the same "German speakers" don't speak German but Schweizerdeutsch. Hochdeutsch is used as "foreign" language. To write an "efficient" April fool more well documented people are needed. It could be a lesson for next time. --Ilario (talk) 12:54, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    I'm perfectly well aware of the linguistic profile of Switzerland: almost two-thirds of the residents (and some 73% of the citizens) are native speakers of German, of whatever variety, and like other speakers of German-language varieties, they do Hochdeutsch too. But more importantly, if you had read the joke properly, there was no implication that the Swiss chapter serves the German-language sites exclusively. So there are lessons here for you in terms of "efficient" commentary. I'm unsure what you mean by "well documented people". Tony (talk) 14:03, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    Nope, less than 1 million of the permanent residents use German language at home [1]. 63% are German and Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch) speakers (so less than 73%) but ~60% of the overall permanent residents uses Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch) at home, it means that only a 3% of the Swiss inhabitants can be considered "real" German speakers. --Ilario (talk) 17:09, 1 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    The WMF's stats indicate that a huge proportion of people in Switzerland who edit and read WP do so on the German WP. Not a Swiss variety of it. And if you have updates on the language figures, please edit the en.WP article on that country. Tony (talk) 00:35, 2 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • The German joke ruined the whole thing for me as well. I was reading this on my laptop which I threw to the floor and screamed out to my wife "THE SWISS DON'T SPEAK GERMAN. WHO THE F*CK WRITES THIS THING?"--Milowenthasspoken 03:04, 2 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Hahahaha on "Wikimedia France did not return our calls"! And for the record, the Signpost is ill informed. European Wikimedia hegemony will actually happen from France, but they're just not saying, on account of their legendary best-friendedness with Germany. notafish (talk) 07:51, 2 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I'm reading this on April 2nd so the timing seems off and the mail idea was too old-fashioned to be plausible. What I'm actually expecting from the strategic emphasis on mobile use is a voice interface for Wikipedia which will enable anyone to make voice-edits of Wikipedia. This will make the Visual Editor seem comparatively staid and safe... Andrew D. (talk) 12:47, 2 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • «Fact that Global North white male editors comprise some 90% of the Wikipedia user base». Sad but true. ---Zemant (talk) 17:11, 4 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • So why was Poland excluded from the Global North in the diagram? I suspect I'm not in on a joke... -- llywrch (talk) 07:21, 5 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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