The Signpost


An unforgettable year we might wish to forget

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By Smallbones

2020 was a year of torturous tragedy, seemingly drawn out in order to inflict the most pain. It was also a year of potential triumph. But for Wikipedia, much of it was a story of overcoming adversity. This article draws from stories in The Signpost, the mainstream press, and from Wikipedia itself to describe Wikipedia's experience of 2020.

The year began in triumph as the English-language Wikipedia celebrated its 6 millionth article on January 23. While it's impossible to determine exactly which article was the 6 millionth, Maria Elise Turner Lauder, created by Rosiestep, was chosen by consensus to symbolize the achievement. Rosie's status as an internet icon was confirmed and extended. The article, already a hefty 483 words by the end of the 23rd, has now almost doubled in size to 845 words. The English Wikipedia continues to grow and now has 6,216,138 articles.

Just eight days before the six millionth article, Wikipedia celebrated its 19th birthday. Nineteen days from now, we'll be celebrating our 20th birthday.

But in early January the painful future had already appeared. The article on the Donald Trump 2020 presidential campaign was created in February 2017 and Black Lives Matter had been created in 2015. The COVID-19 pandemic, then known as the 2019-2020 China pneumonia outbreak, was created on January 5, 2020.

By the week of January 26 to February 1 the article on the coronavirus was already the second most-viewed article on the English Wikipedia, and 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, as the COVID-19 pandemic article was known by then, was the fourth most viewed.

The March 1 issue of The Signpost marks the end of the pre-pandemic days, as the World Health Organization issued its statement that the outbreak was a pandemic on March 11. Perhaps the most joyful story in the issue was the announcement by the Smithsonian Institution that they were releasing 2.8 million high quality photographs into the public domain. Yet in the same "In the media" article, we reviewed Omer Benjakob's amazingly prescient February 9 article on how "On Wikipedia, a fight is raging over coronavirus disinformation". Newer press articles on the quality and importance of Wikipedia's coverage of the pandemic were repeated dozens of times over the next several months. It still bears repeating however – thank you to all those Wikipedia editors who contributed to dozens of articles in many languages about the pandemic.

By our March 29 issue, the pandemic was essentially The only thing that matters in the world. Seven stories in that issue covered the pandemic. In the "News from the WMF" column WMF CEO Katherine Maher explained that Amid COVID-19, Wikimedia Foundation offers full pay for reduced hours, mobilizes all staff to work remote, and waives sick time.

Only five COVID-19 stories appeared in the April issue, and there was even space for Denny Vrandečić to propose a new Wikipedia project, a wiki for functions then known as Wikilambda, which has now been approved by the Board of Trustees and recently renamed "Wikifunctions".

By May politics had started to heat up. Atsme opined in an Op-ed that mainstream news media were leading our editors astray, away from our bedrock position of sticking with a neutral point of view, but by late November Newslinger was opining that Wikipedians were simply following what reliable sources were saying, and rejecting non-reliable sources.

The article on the killing of George Floyd was created on May 26, the day after the killing and the first mention of it in The Signpost was five days later. Like many people, we were caught unaware of the depth of the problem of violence by the police against minorities.

By June the WMF had issued a statement of principle We stand for racial justice. WikiProject Black Lives Matter had been organized and interviewed by The Signpost and we also published a photo essay about the following protests, After the killing of George Floyd.

Problems with a couple of the smaller Wikipedia projects showed up in August with the Scots Wikipedia and in September with the Malagasy Wiktionary. The main administrator on the Scots Wikipedia turns out to have very limited knowledge of the Scots language. A clean-up project was started almost immediately. The Malagasy Wiktionary had 6,103,961 entries, mostly automatically translated by a bot. The cleanup there has now reduced the number of entries to less than 2,000,000.

Early November's issue brought political news, including disinformation from the Trump campaign that said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was promoting an assassination plot against President Trump. Wikipedia's efforts to stop disinformation were examined in Noam Cohen’s Wired article. Other press stories wondered why it took so long for Theresa Greenfield, the Democratic candidate for Iowa's senate seat to have an article on Wikipedia.

By late November The Signpost reviewed the election news. Voters and COVID-19 scientists had been faithfully served by Wikipedia articles. There have been lots of challenges this year, but Wikipedians should be proud at how well we've met them.

In this issue
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I'll give no guarantee of accuracy in my figures that follow, I'm no statistician, but COVID-19 might uncover a lot about the expenditure that volunteer users have taken for granted as being necessary - in 2006 when I joined, there were five employees for 1,560,000 articles (in the English Wikipedia) and about $2.7 million in revenue, today there are only 4 times more articles but now over 450 employees and the WMF is still hiring.[2]. The Wikimedia Foundation's total revenue for fiscal year 2018-2019 was US $118.6 million, an increase of 4296.30%.
The number of (theoretically) WMF owned projects may have grown considerably, and the number of articles from volunteer contributions in the encyclopedias may have increased (but no longer exponentially), forcing an increase in the server capacity (and the many costly moves and locations of its data centres) but if by 2019 13% ($15,418,000) of the funds go on 'Administration and governance', [3][4]
All I can suggest is that some of the savings brought about by COVID-19 could be carried over and put to better use for the direct support of the volunteers than heretofore. Like - just for example - making the next Wikimania the biggest and best ever for the volunteers - and getting it right for once. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 01:06, 29 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Hey Mr. Kudpung, do you really really think that any Wikimania world meeting of some hundreds/thousand priviliged people to party for Wikipedia's sake makes any difference at all? You are a most critical guy as for WMF but in misjudging of all things a Wikimania as deserving the highest grades of luxury (really?) you are certainly underperforming. Try again with another approach? -- Well you 're right we have a WMF that has got more fundraised millions than good ideas to spend it for community quality developments. And just like the WMF Bingo table states: it's a shame when there could be actually WMF staff members that have no clue in community needs b/c not having any own editing stats and no own conflict experiences with vandals and with own referencing problems. Not one of them should be hired without at least 2000 edits of good quality and at least one year of continuously editing a chosen field of serious wikipedia cooperation works verification before application for employment. The focus of WMF staff members should be supporting the basis workers and to do this they need to know the field work and the practical problems that occur there. Of course, most of them might be personally quite nice persons, no doubt. But if they don't focus on being "Service staff" but instead dream of becoming managers, rich and powerful like in any other corporations we can't afford those career sluggards. That's a strategic mission of 2021: How to win back and repower WMF managements 'grip on reality' /'road adherence' about Wikipedia basic workers' needs? No Wikimania will help anything for that goal. Just parties for international upper-class offsprings who can afford the flight expenses. Serious staff members who visit local basis work meetings are a much better idea. --Just N. (talk) 00:26, 1 January 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Perhaps try again in your native German, Herr Nussbaum, because your first three sentences don't make any sense to me. (Don't worry, my German is as good as yours). Frohes neues Jahr!🙂 Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 05:26, 1 January 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Rosefeather of WindClan (talk) 01:19, 30 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Hooray! That most bitter Covid burdened year 2020 is gone, gone, is past now! But the Covid pandemia blues is still with us as the restrictions will remain. I long for some life quality provided by live concerts and theatre performances to become possible again. And no way that online music shows etc could be an adequate replacement. Wikipedia editing sometimes helps to forget about the low cultural quality of life for a short while. Corona Blues you are the ugly ghost of 2020! And we still can't get rid of you except in our most private relationships. --Just N. (talk) 00:26, 1 January 2021 (UTC)[reply]


  1. ^ Timeout
  2. ^ WMF (vague and which raises more questions than it answers)
  3. ^ WMF support, I see a discrepancy, but I'm not an expert in such things.
  4. ^ Bingo!


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