New edits-by-mail option will "revolutionize" Wikipedia and its editor base: 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.
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
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WMF pivots north: As part of a flurry of moves made as the Signpost was going to press, the Wikimedia Foundation has announced a series of initiatives aimed at underserved user populations. Despite the fact that Global North white male editors comprise some 90% of the Wikipedia user base, they have traditionally been ignored in Foundation outreach efforts. Editathons and other programs will now be geared towards this demographic, with the aim of eventually increasing the number of featured articles about hurricanes, warships, video games, and male pop-stars. The WMF will additionally encourage the community to create male-only "noticeboards", where policy and behavioral matters can be discussed. G
Commons legal defense fund: To increase the representation of scantily clad women on Commons—a core component of its "educational media content"—the WMF will now provide legal protection for the photographers operating in this area. G
Sister projects: The WMF's tech department announced today that they would begin supporting the long-suffering Wikimedia sister projects on a level equal with Wikipedia. Wikisorcerers were joyful, expressing hope that their lengthy job queues would be wiped out. Even so, the tech department warned that many of their desired tools may not be forthcoming. E
Office wiki: In a surprise move, the WMF cut off all edits to its official wiki this morning to suppress its community's edits. Each editor received an email plainly stating that "administrator access by the accounts of those who are neither staff nor board will be disabled, effective immediately." E
Time travel guide: Wikivoyage has created a guide for travelers sailing on the waves of time. Among other helpful advice, "Be aware of applicable import restrictions. In the 21st century, an amphora bought on a Roman market or even a typical flag from 1930s Germany will likely land you in trouble."
Financial rescue package: Wikimedia Germany has announced that it will be taking over all continental European chapters. Board chair Tim Moritz Hector told the Signpost that overspending by several chapters is becoming a chronic problem, and must be resolved for the sake of the Wikimedia movement as a whole. European integration is an obvious option, he said; among the savings will be those from merging the activities of the current German, Austrian, and Swiss chapters, which all serve the same WMF German-language sites. According to Hector, the new European chapter, run from Berlin, will finally be able to stand up to the Foundation through sheer size. Negotiations with the UK chapter are ongoing, prompted by that organisation's recent budgetary problems. A WMUK spokesperson told us bluntly: "No way, they can butt out. We won the war two–nil, right?" The Signpost understands that the affiliate-in-waiting, Wikimedia Greece, will be excluded from the super-chapter. Wikimedia France did not return our calls. T