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Ex-WMF board member James Heilman
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Knowledge Engine

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A slide show on Discovery, published last November
Sue Gardner, the former Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director
A search engine for open content on the Internet, accessing a mix of Wikimedia content and content from other sources, with output vectors including OEM products such as the Amazon Kindle remodelled
The Amazon Kindle includes a factory-installed Wikipedia look-up function
Google includes content from open sources on its search engine results pages
Lila Tretikov, the Wikimedia Foundation's Executive Director

Andreas Kolbe has been a Wikipedia contributor since 2006. He is a member of the Signpost's editorial board. The views expressed in this editorial are his alone and do not reflect any official opinions of this publication. Responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments section.

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  • This is yet another piece of work that WMF have invested in that is pretty much news to me. Time and again, project after project, we see the WMF taking some unilateral action that affects, or has the potential to affect, enwiki without this community being consulted. But this is telling:
    "However, I was too afraid of engaging the community early on.
    Why do you think that was?"
The enwiki community seems, in my view, to have become incredibly conservative when it comes to embracing new ideas, and often expresses that conservatism in bitey ways that often involve ganging up on WMF staff and verge on incivility. It's little wonder the WMF are afraid to engage with the community at the inception of these projects; we, the enwiki community, make it incredibly hard for them, especially when a concept isn't yet fully formed (which is exactly when it's most important that the engagement takes place).
I'm not making excuses for the WMF's lack of engagement with the community over projects like this, Gather, and others. But I do appreciate that engaging with us lot has become a daunting task and if we want WMF to engage more, we as a community need to be a bit more receptive to new ideas and welcome that engagement when it comes. WaggersTALK 09:45, 9 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • I am not sure that it is limited only to verging on incivility. MPS1992 (talk) 19:09, 9 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • Some like the Community Tech team[1] however do an excellent job intereacting with the wider movement. Our communities realize that we have issues and have many ideas regarding how to improve things. The EN community does not wish to stay exactly the same but contains the knowledge of what has been tried previously and some of the reasons why other things may not have succeeded. Other communities contain similar knowledge basis. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 17:44, 9 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
Lila Tretikov asking "Why do you think that was?" is a bit 'rich' as in 'poor', given that everybody is shoutingly asking: "why did you think that?". -DePiep (talk) 00:02, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
agree--Ozzie10aaaa (talk) 11:39, 11 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • The WMF I think knows that we don't need them. Ms. Tretikov is hesitant to address the community and well she should be, because she knows she's an interloper diverting funds raised by our work. Chris Troutman (talk) 05:28, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • I sincerely applaud that you are defending Lila Tretikov, Waggers. It is easy to be too harsh in criticizing both her & the Foundation for their recent actions. However, I must point out that it is the paid job of the CEO or ED of a corporate body to do hard things. Going to the volunteer communities to sell the Knowledge Engine, on a scale of 1 to 10, is about a 5: while there will be a lot of volunteers who will criticize it properly for not being what the majority considers a top priority, there are also a lot of volunteers who could be convinced to let her do it -- if she made the effort to reach out. And if she is skittish about talking to the community about something that is a challenge -- but not a serious one -- how is she going to handle a real challenge? Standing up to Jimmy Wales when he is wrong about something is easily a 9. (And yes, Wales has been known to be wrong. More than once.) If she admits that she can't do hard tasks, then maybe she should find somewhere else to earn her paycheck. -- llywrch (talk) 06:25, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • On the point about James Heilman shepherding the first Wikipedia article through peer review in an academic journal, I agree, it's a very significant milestone.
Those interested in the idea of Wikipedia publishing reliable versions of our articles should also be aware of Daniel Mietchen's achievements. Among his many roles, Daniel is the editor of PLOS Computational Biology's "Topic Pages", where topics not covered (or just stubs) on en. Wikipedia are written up as articles, submitted to the journal for peer review and published under a Wikipedia-compatible license, like "Inferring Horizontal Gene Transfer". The peer-reviewed version is then pasted into Wikipedia with attribution like this: Inferring horizontal gene transfer. So, Daniel's model is the reverse of James's - Daniel's begins with a journal article that is then republished in Wikipedia, James's with a Wikipedia article that is then republished in a journal. But both have the same very valuable result: a version of the article hosted on Wikipedia that is a Wikipedia:Reliable source.
All articles like these, that have a version that meets en.Wikipedia's reliable sources guideline, should be celebrated, and should have a prominent badge at the top, linking the reader to the peer-reviewed version (either off-wiki, or in the article's revision history). --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 13:13, 9 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • Signpost advised "This (Lila Tretikov post about Knowledge Engine) is worth reading in full". I took it.
I heartily agree that when in June 2015 one thinks "I had begun visualizing open knowledge existing in the shape of a universe" (the shape of a universe?!), with a "rocket": That is not suitable for an open discussion. Instead, I say, someone should call a doctor at that point. (It does serve great as a claim for 'I invented', though). Surprisingly, without being tested in any way, that universe + rocket visualisation already had materialised in a serious multi-staged project funding. "This work is fundamental and core to our longterm progress" says Jimbo Wales. This all written in hindsight.
Then, enters the Doctor we asked for! (James Heilman, to be precise). Itchingly, Lila Tretikov stops her (post-time) description of her thinking/acting process right when James entered the Board. Six months not thinking/acting, James leaves the Board, and uppa: thinking/acting again.
In short: the personal-only talk (Jimmy Wales supports) is missing six months. Exactly those with & about James Heilman. What a lousy piece. I feel abused. -DePiep (talk) 00:38, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
I think there is an argument of "you can't compete with google or other corporations", but open source field has many successful examples before us. I mean firefox vs. IE, Linux vs. Windows... I just don't understand why people get so pessimistic and insist to have the grant to use elsewhere... --Liang (WMTW) (talk) 11:03, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
We can definitely can compete with Google, look at Google Knol. We just cannot compete with Google using the same methods as Google (ie we cannot compete with Google without the direct and sometimes messy involvement of all of us) Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 17:32, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • I have to admit, even having followed this issue intently for a while, I've been having an exceedingly difficult time deciding--once we put the aggravating transparency issues, which are a concern unto themselves, to the side--if this is a matter we should all be deeply concerned about or just a great deal of unnecessary hand-wringing. But I will say this much: what worries me most is the suggestion that there is serious investigation of whether or not to alter the core function of the domain. The Knowledge Engine in itself is an interesting concept, assuming the reading above is essentially accurate--I certainly take a similar view away from the slides and the other scant communicated details. But where I can see it as a potentially powerful tool in the Wikimedia hierarchy, occupying a role a parallel to (and somewhat between) Wikipedia and Wikidata, the notion that it might be merged with (some might even say, supplant) the current project that sits in that space today, with profound implications for the encyclopedia, its community of contributors and the movement at large is a disorienting enough idea that there's no way even initial investigation into the technical mechanics should have been explored before vetting the general concept with the community.
I'm usually a staunch defender of the WMF's pereogative on these sorts of matters, and their need to lead an innovate to some degree. But I'm starting to be won over by the critics here; there seems to be fundamental change in the outlook of the foundation taking place, and I really hope some efforts can be made fast to arrest the growing gulf between it and the community of volunteers. Jimbo, as always, seems to be the man to take the lead here; I for one have not been disabused of the notion that he is genuinely dedicated to transparency and to avoiding anything that even resembles a commercialized model for WMF projects, but at present, not nearly enough is being done to get us all on to the same page as to how we further adapt the project without jettisoning some of the fundamental concepts that have gotten us where we are today. I'm a little unnerved about where this might all go. Snow let's rap 21:48, 11 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]

I'm a brand new contributor, as in, I have just created this account today. I can tell you guys for a fact that the reason I have not contributed thus far is because I don't agree or enjoy the fact that all this information is being collected from me. I know it's something that's agreed to upon choosing to use the site. I am one of the few determined dorks that still reads the entire pricy policy and EULA for all the products that I use. (although, you ought to really make those a little bit easier to understand, no one appreciates purposeful lawyer jargon) I'm aware of what's happening, (at least now I am) It's still a bit uncomfortable to take in. Here's the thing, at first I don't know if it was my imagination or what, but it felt like these articles changed so rapidly, or the content was so efficiently user data generated, the site had a mind of it's own. If I come on a site to do research and to learn something new, I want to do just that. I personally want to put the work into it. I don't what the site itself trying to over convenience my search because then I might miss out on stumbling upon something else that's extra fascinating. When I do come on to wikipedia, I no longer use is as a source of reference because it is inherently distracting I can't even stay on the same topic for more than 5 minutes without it demonstrating 6 degrees of separation in terms of content. I use it to keep myself occupied, but I don't use it as a stable trusted resource. I think it's getting out of hand. What's even crazier to me is how finely pinpointed data driven ads have become now too not just in the realm of wikipedia. I swear on my life, when data triggered capabilities were becoming newly implemented, I thought someone was playing a cruel joke on me my phone would be so creepily specific. I was sure when of my more intelligent friends was getting the better half of me. Either that, or my phone computer and other devices had suddenly become sentient. All of these new ideas seem backed by the nobel cause never ending pursuit of knowledge. I'm completely for that! But knowledge doesn't come from my computer or tablet. It doesn't come from what I click on my tablet, or what I've been recorded saying or doing. Sure, you can breach my privacy and learn 'stuff' about me. But stuff and knowledge isn't the same guys. Computers will always lack the most wonderful parts of the living, human, cognitive process. Tech will always lack the flaws, the creativity, the vulnerability, the emotion. It just simply doesn't translate right and never will, we're meant to learn form each other. The internet was absolute wonderful for bringing us closer than ever as a global society, but when you let the machines do all of the work, they just butt in and further the widen.

What DID inspire me to contribute to the post today specifically, was the (only slightly) larger presence of clear concise information you all have presented about your ideas, where the sites going, etc. I've probably found a couple dozen other open dialogs around here that are similar, but everyone sure likes to tiptoe around the issue. I, like many others, truly appreciate honesty and transparency. I think that even though this can be a tough and scary conversation, that people will form their negative or positive opinions regardless once they finally figure it out. And I feel that you're a big enough enough company that you'll do what you want anyway. Theres no reason to hide or dodge it. It's more respectful to engage your users and allow them to more easily know your ambitions and intentions as a company. If people are anything like me, they'll dig and find out what they need to know anyway.

I just have one more thing to say, although my response today may have come off a bit hypercritical, I want to say don't think the sites ambitions are a bad thing. I think that your actions are justified. I still don't necessarily agree with the concept personally, but I still always like maintain an open mind. I would love to hear some more from you guys! How does the grant work, anyhow? I would really love some more information on that too. I apologize for the length, I had so much to say. Hopefully this at least gives you some valuable insight.

W00ptangs (talk) 16:04, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]

What we could do with search and discovery

One of the causes of tension between the WMF and the community is that instead of investing in the IT changes we think we want the WMF invests in software that they think we want. Hence the despair of anyone like myself who has tried to make suggestions through phabricator and bugzilla. There are a bunch of search related software investments that I think the community would welcome:

  1. The Geograph cracked locality years ago. Their site includes tabs for things like "more images nearby", it would be great if Wikimedia Commons, WikiTravel and yes maybe even Wikipedia had this at least as an option.
  2. I talked recently to some Georgian wikipedians who have problems with the way search engines don't include their version of Wikipedia. I think they need something like redirects to articles written in Georgian for people typing Georgian terms with Latin or Cyrillic alphabets; But I'm sure whatever their IT needs some direct dialogue with the WMF and some programmer time would be welcome.
  3. I've tried to interest the WMF in some presentations I've attended here in the UK on image recognition software. Imagine how much more effective categorisation would be on Commons if you could search for images that look like the one in front of you.
  4. Along with users Leutha and Rich Farmbrough I have been working on image adding both as a new newbie activity and to digest the vast amount of imagery coming from programs such as GLAM. Search and discovery could make a huge difference here.

If the Knowledge Engine is merely a concept in search of some concrete suggestions then I'd like to offer those four as a starter for things that search and discovery could do. If however there are some concrete but not yet disclosed suggestions as to what the Knowledge engine will mean then the sooner they are revealed the less additional anger in the community. ϢereSpielChequers 16:32, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Jimbo Wales should clean up his language

I hope that was just a conversation which was intended to be private (but nothing on Wikipedia really is) and not an official statement.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 20:56, 10 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Grant Paperwork

Grant paperwork is only relevant if this is a WMF initiated project. To me it sounds like it is an externally initiated project, which can only be realized in a WMF context. I surmise therefore that some external entities has approached the WMF with this project and the money to pay for it. In which case grant paperwork is not relevant. Jan Pedersen (talk) 14:27, 11 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Per the paperwork below this was a WMF initiated project. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 21:43, 11 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]

The grant agreement has now been published


Mailing list announcement: [2] --Andreas JN466 21:02, 11 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]


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