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14 November 2011

News and notes
ArbCom nominations open, participation grants finalized, survey results on perceptions on Wikipedia released
In the news
Fundraising vs ads redux, WikiConference India nigh, a world lit up with articles
WikiProject report
Having a Conference with WikiProject India
Featured content
Writing featured content: Advice from Sturmvogel 66; Sports, sports, sports!
Arbitration report
Abortion and Betacommand 3 in evidence phase, three case requests outstanding
Technology report
Coding Challenge results; Wikimedians to wait and see if Athena really does represent "wisdom, courage and inspiration"
 

2011-11-14

ArbCom nominations open, participation grants finalized, survey results on perceptions on Wikipedia released

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By Resident Mario, Crisco 1492 and Skomorokh

Call for candidates in the ArbCom elections

Nominations for the ninth annual elections to the Arbitration Committee have now opened, and will remain so for approximately a week (closing 23:59 UTC Monday, 21 November). Any editor is eligible to run as a candidate provided they meet the requirements for voters (at least 150 mainspace edits with their registered account by 1 November 2011), are in good standing and not subject to active blocks or site-bans, meet the Wikimedia Foundation's criteria for access to non-public data, and are prepared to identify to the Foundation if elected, and disclose any alternate accounts (barring those which have been declared to the Arbitration Committee prior to the close of nominations) in their nomination statements. At the time of writing, four eligible candidates have stepped forward, two of whom have served multiple terms on the Committee: AGK, Coren, Hersfold, and Kirill Lokshin.

The elections are run by the community independent of the Committee and its clerks; editors interested in helping to organise the elections are encouraged to sign up as volunteer coordinators. Election pages have been created, incorporating nomination statements, a guide to the candidates, questions for those running, links to individual voter guides and discussion pages. The 10-day nomination period (12–21 November) will be followed by five "fallow" days (up from two last year) to ensure all election pages are complete and accurate, to configure the SecurePoll voting interface, and to allow voters additional time to research, discuss and pose questions to candidates.

The voting period will last 14 days (27 November – 10 December), up from 10 days last year. The vote will then be audited for up to a week by independent scrutineers drawn from the ranks of non-native stewards, to ensure the election is free of double-voting, sockpuppetting, and other irregularities. The results will be announced on the election page. Jimbo Wales is expected to ceremonially announce the appointments shortly after.

A well-attended community RfC established the Committee's numbers as 15 (down from 18 in 2011 and 2010), with a uniform two-year term for incoming arbitrators. Due to an extraordinary last-minute motion by the Committee to remove a sitting arbitrator, Iridescent, for inactivity, eight arbitrators are due to continue their service in 2012 without re-election. Seven vacant seats are expected to be filled by this year's election, with terms starting on 1 January 2012.

The RfC determined that the minimum level of support necessary for a successful candidacy will be 50%, and that a shortfall in successful candidacies would be acceptable, opening the door to the possibility that the Committee will begin the new year with fewer than 15 arbitrators. Another conclusion of the RfC was that that unlike last year's election, there will be no limit on the number of questions voters may ask of candidates (although replying is not mandatory), and that any serious voter guide will merit inclusion in the election navigational template.

The Arbitration Committee is a critical institution of the English Wikipedia; experienced and committed editors are urged to seriously consider standing for election.

Wikimedia Participation Grants finalized

Asaf Bartov, head of Global South Relationships, announced the finalization of a Wikimedia Participation Grants Program this week. In his post, Bartov explained that "Wikipedians can often make additional progress toward our vision of free knowledge freely available for everyone in the world, by participating in physical meetings, events, or conferences. Such participation often entails travel costs, and sometimes accommodation, visa, and other costs too. These costs are often prohibitively expensive for a volunteer’s personal budget, who is already donating valuable time and effort."

The new program, funded jointly by the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Germany (see the German chapter's post), aims to alleviate this cost by providing Participation Grants for community members to "cover travel, accommodation, registration, and other costs associated with participating in an event or activity, in furtherance of the Wikimedia Mission." Other self-sustaining Wikimedia chapters (ie. not funded by the Foundation) are also invited to contribute to the community "pool."

This program is similar to the general grant program, which funded 44 projects in 2010–2011 totaling $300,000. To receive a Community Grant, members must apply at Grants:Participation by creating a subpage with a description of their planned participation, background information about themselves, and the expected impact of their participation. The submissions are evaluated on a weekly basis by a special committee; in addition to the open process outlined on the page, participants must also send an e-mail to participation at wikimedia dot org with their full legal name. If their request is accepted, participants are also expected to write an open report describing their experiences with the program. A list of current and closed requests, from when the process was still in the works, can be found here.

Reader survey results on article quality released

Quality Perception Indexes (or QPI) for several countries, as well as the overall average

In a continuation of its analysis of this year's Readers Survey, the Wikimedia Foundation has posted its results on reader perceptions of quality on Wikipedia. The overall quality of Wikipedia was graded based on five individual measures on a 10-point scale:

These results were then compiled into a Quality Perception Index, shown above. The global QPI average (the survey was administered in 16 countries) is 7.92 out of 10. Readers in predominantly English-speaking countries (US, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia and India), where 94% or more of respondents used the English Wikipedia, were above average with an 8.02; as compared to other areas, with 7.85. Japan "was a definite exception, with only 16% of the readers reporting similar ratings." How readers compared Wikipedia to other top websites is next on the agenda.

Brief notes

2011-11-14

Fundraising vs ads redux, WikiConference India nigh, a world lit up with articles

Wikipedia: stop begging and embrace ads

A 2011 fundraising banner featuring an appeal for donations by Jimmy Wales on an anti-advertising platform.

Stephen Chapman, a search engine optimization and internet marketing expert and a self-professed Wikipedia fan, has written a piece for ZDnet, where he suggests that Wikipedia run ads to support itself instead of relying on donations. The article focuses on Jimbo Wales' personal appeal, about which he says "it just seems ridiculous to me that he’s so adamant about not implementing ads". Chapman decries Wales' aversion as "an extremely misplaced endeavor" in the light of the ability of popular sites to monetise their userbase and the significant costs of running a popular site. He proposed that it is not immoral to generate revenue from providing a facility useful to the public, and rejects the notion that running ads is necessarily at odds with a non-profit website's mission of providing free access to information, or with Wales' stated desire to keep the Wikimedia Foundation "lean and tight".

The “free encyclopedia”, ... is only really free to the people who don’t donate.

— Stephen Chapman

He dismisses the backlash that the introduction of ads might provoke as the short-lived and overwrought posturings of a loud minority. Arguing that ads need not be intrusive or a major annoyance to users, to fulfill the needs of revenue generation, Chapman argues "there is so much flexibility with ads these days, it’s crazy to continue writing them off". Those diehards who would fiercely object to seeing ads, he reasons, could easily employ blocking software such as the Adblock Plus browser extension.

So powerful does Chapman believe the site's hold is over its audience, he maintains it would not need to collaborate with advertising middlemen such as Google AdSense; companies would be queuing up to advertise directly on-site. Chapman takes Wales to task for the precociousness of the declaration that "Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others". In Chapman's view, this takes for granted the project's position; if Wikipedia ran into financial difficulty, he says, it could be easily copied, improved on and dramatically monetised by others with more sustainable business plans. He concludes:

The article has been somewhat poorly received. In the first day after publication the article received three comments in favor of Chapman's proposal and 15 critical of it. The official launch of the 2011 Fundraiser is expected some time this week.

WikiConference India heralded

A world lit up with articles

A world map of nearly 700,000 geolocated English Wikipedia articles, each represented by a single yellow dot.

On the Zero Geography blog, Dr. Mark Graham, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute revealed the latest attempt to map the geographic distribution of Wikipedia's coverage. The maps created by the Institute's researchers show every geotagged article in the November 2011 versions of the Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, Persian, and Swahili Wikipedias. The map of the English Wikipedia, which had nearly 700,000 geotagged articles, is visible to the right.

Of the varying emphases on different parts of the globe in each of the language versions, Graham commented: "...if your primary free source of information about the world is the Persian or Arabic or Hebrew Wikipedia, then the world inevitably looks very different to you than if you were accessing knowledge through the English Wikipedia. There are far more absences and many parts of the world simply don't exist in the representations that are available to you." The post was picked up by The Guardian's Datablog, where it attracted much commentary, as well as by Gizmodo and The Huffington Post.

In brief

2011-11-14

Having a Conference with WikiProject India

WikiProject news
News in brief
Submit your project's news and announcements for next week's WikiProject Report at the Signpost's WikiProject Desk.

WikiProject India is a ginormous project, started in July 2006 by Ganeshk. It has 55 FAs and 162 GAs under its scope. The project was featured in one of the WikiProject Report's earliest issues, so be sure to take a look at our 2007 article for a brief overview of the project's structure. With the recent surge in activity regarding India, from the creation of a Wikimedia Chapter in India earlier this year to the 2011 WikiConference India being held this weekend (see "In the news"), we felt this would be a nice time to revisit the project. We interviewed RegentsPark and AshLin.

First, tell us a bit about yourself and your role in WikiProject India.

  • RegentsPark: WikiProject India doesn't have a formal structure and there are no well defined roles within the project. There is a great deal of diversity amongst members of this project, cultural and ethnic diversity, of course, because India itself is diverse, but also diversity in terms of editing styles, points of view, etc. The role of any individual in this project is by definition limited, so I see mine as being one of restoring sanity and helping steer a course that conforms to the mission and policies of Wikipedia.
  • AshLin: Like RegentsPark said, there are no defined roles here. I'm just an ordinary editor who contributes mostly on natural history, military history and whatever catches my fancy such as philately.

When did you first join WikiProject India? What are some of the challenges that the project has met since you joined, and how were they dealt with?

  • RegentsPark: Around the third week of my active Wikipedia editing experience. I'm sure this is the experience of most editors, but I ended up on Wikipedia by accident. Saw something that I felt needed changing and the darn thing took over my life! The challenge for this project has always been the diversity of opinion that different editors bring to the table and the lack of adequate reliable sources to back up those opinions. In the past, this was dealt with in a straightforward way, editors with outre ideas would be quickly banned and a couple of strong admins kept the project under control. In particular, Nichalp was particularly good at managing the progress of the project in those earlier times. In recent years though the number of editors with an interest in India related topics has multiplied, the strong admins have left the project, and Wikipedia itself has changed making this a harder task. However, we do have a strong core group of editors, many who live in India and who understand India well but also a few who live outside India, who do a great job building quality articles by looking for sources and by politely engaging with other editors. In my opinion, the key to building a successful encyclopedia lies in understanding that even editors with strong pov missions bring something to the table and that polite engagement with these editors can be productive.
  • AshLin: I have been informally part of the WikiProject for many years being on the South Asian task force of WikiProject Military History but I added the WikiProject India userbox formally on my page as late as April 2011, so that may also be considered as an entry point. In reality, I have been editing articles about India right from the time I became a Wikipedian in 2006. Our challenges, aside from the ones highlighted by RegentsPark above, include large size of subject area, with literally tens of thousands of articles, and these are only the ones tagged as such. There may be as many or even more without the relevant talk page tag. The large number of states, languages, terrains, cultures, communities, tribes, biodiversity etc all add to the quantity and complexity of issues that fall within scope of the Project and that means the talk pages of the Project have tremendous variety. The number of editors? I dont have the figures, but I'm sure they would number in the hundreds, if not thousands. Now, these editors come with widely varying levels of skills, knowledge and attitudes. So, dealing with any issue is usually harder. The educational experience of the majority is not up to Western standards and in my humble opinion there is tremendous need for evangelism on citation, verifiability, copyright violations, paraphrasing, referencing and related topics. Another problem is the paucity of reliable sources. All these are basically challenges of scale - India is a big country with many issues and problems, and it reflects on Wikipedia.

What aspects of the project do you consider to be particularly successful? Has the project developed any unusual innovations, or uniquely adopted any common approaches?

  • RegentsPark: I would say that the two parts of the project that work well are the Assessment department and the India noticeboard. In particular, the noticeboard is an active place where editors bring issues that need a centralized discussion. It can also be an acrimonious place, but isn't that the nature of productive discussion?
  • AshLin:To be honest, I have not really surveyed this aspect well, though I have asked people from time to time. Islands of excellence abide amidst a wide expanse of run-of-the-mill articles. Indian biodiversity articles are doing fairly well, especially birds (a lot of credit to WikiProject Birds also), but with such a tremendous fauna and flora, even there we are just at the tip of the iceberg. One can see editors fighting lone epic battles to improve articles, or to even retain the highest quality of featured articles, such as India.

Have any major initiatives by the project ended unsuccessfully? What lessons have you learned from them?

  • RegentsPark: It is important to understand that while there is a WP:Wikiproject India, there really is no formal project. There have been a few, very limited, initiatives in the past, I can't recall any directed push to improve one part of our India wikispace or another. The most recent effort that I can recall is the assessment drive organized by Ncmvocalist and that was in 2008. One look at the collaboration department history makes it clear that editors here go there own way. That is not a bad thing and is reflective, to some extent, to the nature of the country. Indians have a peculiar mix of a simultaneous respect and disdain of authority and both tend to do their own thing as well as respect the rights of others to do their own thing. So, everyone picks their area of interest and chugs away at filling the gaps.
  • AshLin: As such, small groups of editors team up for a while and deal with a few articles of common interest. Besides that, I'm not aware of any online initiative.

What experiences have you had with the WikiProjects whose scopes overlap with yours? Has your project developed particularly close relationships with any other projects?

  • AshLin:Not really. In a sense, WikiProject India is a behemoth which overlaps most projects in some way or another. Editors working on articles in many other WikiProjects inadvertently help develop the articles of that WikiProject concerning India. I'd like to thank all these editors and WikiProjects.
  • RegentsPark: Can't think of any active projects that I'm involved with whose scope overlaps with WikiProject India. I'm involved with WikiProject Burma and WikiProject Novels, but, sadly, both projects are best described as moribund.

What is your vision for the project? How do you see the project itself, as well as the articles within its scope, developing over the next years and future India-related findings, creations and news?

  • RegentsPark: I'd really like to see more articles of popular interest. On TV serials, local celebrities, that sort of thing. One of the things that distinguishes Wikipedia from other encyclopedias is the breadth of what we can cover and I think that the current focus (of the project members) on history, caste and the main India article is unnecessary. To use the term satisficing coined by Herbert Simon, these areas are more than adequately covered. Dotting every i and crossing every t, searching for the perfect sentence structure, or seeking perfect balance is a chimerical objective that is never going to be achieved but that's what we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on. Our coverage of Bollywood topics is phenomenal, and I'd like to see that kind of coverage on other cultural issues as well.
  • AshLin: A small beginning has been made to develop an Indian offline version of Wikipedia. It is a large and difficult task to select the articles and also to improve them to any identified level of quality. I hope that in the next few years, this initiative will help us develop all the major topics in India reach upto near GA level. The Wikipedian communities in India's cities and towns are slowly growing. Many members of WikiProject:India play constructive roles in Indic language Wikimedia projects, usually of their native language or mother-tongue. I'd really like to see a synergy develop between these Indic language communities and WikiProject India articles where content creation in English Wikipedia on Indian topics spurs on creation in the Indic language Wikipedias and vice versa.

Are you planning to attend WikiConference India? Do you plan to discuss the WikiProject at the conference? How well do members of WikiProject India stay connected on and off the wiki?

  • RegentsPark: No. I find that I enjoy the anonymity of Wikipedia too much to show my face at a conference!
  • AshLin Yes. I am looking forward to the WikiConference and along with other volunteer Indian Wikipedians, I am helping the Mumbai Community to organise the Conference. We hope to have a great time next week. I will be presenting a three minute update on state of WikiProject India. Besides this many issues will be discussed which will impact the WikiProject articles. It would be appropriate to say that most Indian editors of English Wikipedia consider themselves members of WikiProject India even if they have not overtly joined up or participated - so we all like to meet and interact with others. Now with the Wikimedia India Chapter coming into existence, city communities of Wikimedians slowly forming and Wikimedia's office opened up in New Delhi, we are hoping to see more events, meetings, visits and other chances to interact in 2012 than we had in 2011. AshLin (talk) 17:47, 9 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Anything else you'd like to add?

  • RegentsPark: One of the most difficult issues for the India project is access to sources. Unlike most Western countries, Indian newspapers haven't migrated their archives online. Historical documents are in text form and often scattered across multiple physical libraries. In the unlikely event that a reader of this article finds an interesting source for historical documents and images, please let us know at WT:IN. Other than that, feel free to stop by, copy edit random pages, or just help out.
  • AshLin: I would like to thank the many editors of WikiProject India articles for their hard work and contributions. They are doing great work. I do know that many of them feel stressed out, frustrated and impatient at times. I earnestly request them to hang on in there - the best is yet to come.

We thank this week's interviewees for taking the time out of their day to answer our questions. Next week, we'll work on our literature review. Until then, browse for articles in the archive.

Reader comments

2011-11-14

Writing featured content: Advice from Sturmvogel 66; Sports, sports, sports!

This issue covers featured content promoted between Sunday, 6 November 2011 and Saturday, 12 November 2011.
HMS Eagle in the 1930s, from the new featured article of the same name. The article's creator gives some suggestions for writing featured content below

To give our readers a "sporting" chance at writing featured content, here are some suggestions from Sturmvogel 66, who has written or co-written 16 pieces of featured content and 28 A-class articles, including this week's HMS Eagle (below), since becoming a Wikipedian in 2007.

  • Make friends with a really good copyeditor; he or she will save you endless aggravation regarding your prose.
  • Before nominating, participate in several FACs to get a feel for the process and to learn what most of the reviewers look for. Then carefully dissect all the comments and try to figure out why they were made.
  • Be prepared to grow a thick skin; just because you can't see the value of a reviewer's comment doesn't mean that it doesn't have one. If you don't understand a comment, ask for clarification, but be prepared to address the issue. I found this one of the hardest things to do when I first began going through the process, as many of the requested changes seemed pointless.
  • Don't sweat stupid little mistakes being discovered at FAC; no reviewer is sniggering to himself about what a moron you are for x and y mistakes. They're embarrassing, but get over it as those sorts of things are sometimes the hardest things to catch.
  • Learn to value consistency; that's one of the first things that reviewers will notice about your citation style, bibliography, or whatever. You'll save yourself a lot of time and effort if you do it, whatever it is, consistently as you're writing.
  • Learn the basics about image licensing; just because it's on Commons doesn't mean that it has a valid license or is out of copyright.
  • Let someone else look at your article before you submit it to FAC.
  • Submit your article to a Good Article nomination or, if your project has them, an A-class review; they're unlikely to catch everything, but they should be able to identify major problems.

Featured articles

Medieval graffiti at St Nicholas, Blakeney, a new featured article. Graffiti such as this led to the article's creation and development

This week, five featured articles were promoted:

Featured pictures

No featured pictures were promoted this week. Readers interested in participating are invited to acquaint themselves with the featured picture criteria and join the discussion at the candidates page.

Featured lists

This week was a good week for sports fans everywhere. Of the nine featured lists promoted this week, eight were sports-related, involving college football, association football, county cricket, and Major League Baseball. The sole non-sports list promoted this week, however, really took root in the brains of the the Featured List reviewers.

Robinson Tejeda, one of 88 Philadelphia Phillies players in the new featured list

2011-11-14

Abortion and Betacommand 3 in evidence phase, three case requests outstanding

This week by the numbers; edits and page views.

Two cases remain open:

  • Abortion, which examines behavior related to what was mostly a naming dispute over pro-life and pro-choice articles. Now in its fourteenth week.
  • Betacommand 3, a review of the named editor's sanctions. Now in its second week.

Three requests for cases are also outstanding:

  • Russavia, Biophys, etc. – allegations of incivility between several editors who have previously been arbitrated on which grew out of a request for amendment.
  • Rich Farmbrough – it is alleged that he had been uncommunicative about his automated editing.
  • Unblocks and enabling – dispute over an unblock and if there is a "first mover" advantage for admin actions.

However at this time it looks like all of them will be declined. No clarification or amendment requests were finalized this week, with the possible exception of the Russavia-Biophys request that has been refiled as request for case.

This week also saw the opening of nominations in the ninth annual elections to the Arbitration Committee (see "News and notes").

Reader comments

2011-11-14

Coding Challenge results; Wikimedians to wait and see if Athena really does represent "wisdom, courage and inspiration"

Athena skin designs unveiled

A mockup of the Athena skin, designed to break the traditional "graceful degradation" model of designing for a mobile platform

This week saw the unveiling of some preliminary designs for Athena (named after the Greek goddess of "wisdom, courage [and] inspiration"), a new skin likely to sit at the heart of the revamped mobile site, but with possible connotations for the desktop site as well.

With the new mobile site rapidly becoming as feature rich as the desktop versions, there was a need for a design that could accommodate them in a usable fashion; the existing Vector skin, designed primarily with high resolution screens in mind, is largely unsuitable for this application. It is on this basis that Athena was created; if successful, it may even prove a successor to Vector on the desktop too.

The slick design (illustrated right) aims to pare down the number of features immediately offered to users in order to creating a page with a high usability factor on smaller screen sizes. When a device signals it has some additional capability, such as a larger screen, the design will then automatically adjust to provide a more useful display: a process being described as "graceful enabling" in contrast to the traditional model of "graceful degradation".

The new design for the mobile site would therefore follow an increasing trend among websites (such as YouTube) and programs (such as Mozilla Firefox) to group important actions together whilst hiding lesser used actions by default, particularly on mobile devices. The design, which is likely to be revised on the basis of user comments in the coming weeks, also aims to give greater visual focus to the edit button to encourage contributions.

Coding Challenge: submissions made public

The coding challenge logo

With submissions closing on 9 November, the results of the first Wikimedia Coding Challenge (see previous Signpost coverage) are in. Five submissions met the submission requirements for the mobile uploading challenge; ten entries were accepted for "making Wikipedia appear more alive" challenge; and eight for the slideshow challenge. A further three submissions were rejected solely on the grounds of not providing enough supporting evidence in the form of a readme (full list of accepted submissions).

Reporting on the submissions, Erik Möller noted that there were "definitely a few that are worth a closer look". Nonetheless, there will no doubt be at least a little feeling of anticlimax about the contest, which had seen 500 potential entrants sign up within the first 24 hours. Even among submissions, quality varied, and there were a handful that looked as if little or no development work had been done to tailor standard code to the intricacies of the competition requirements. Nonetheless, developers and non-developers alike will take heart from both the high quality of a number of submissions, and the fact that so many potential coders signalled an interest, yielding many possible contacts when it came to expanding the developer base in future.

In brief

Not all fixes may have gone live to WMF sites at the time of writing; some may not be scheduled to go live for many weeks.

  • Page view stats now hourly: Following a request from the maintainers of a number of websites that report Wikimedia trends, page view statistics will now be made directly available on an hourly basis. The new setting effectively recreates the setup that had previously existed on an informal, indirect basis by way of the personal website of system admin Domas Mituzas (wikitech-l mailing list).
  • Saving lifetimes: Data analyst Erik Zachte this week used a post on his blog to emphasise the practical impact of having Wikipedia run fast and efficiently, given that it is now viewed so many times per year. "With over 15 billion page views each month, each 1/10 second which is shaved off from page loading time saves humanity 1.5 billion seconds each month, which is very close to the waking hours spent by a 70 year old person... So the awesome dedication of the small Wikimedia operations team (staff AND volunteers) [does] not only save Wikimedia tons of hardware. It saves tens to hundreds lifetimes a year".
  • 1.18 nears release: Developers are currently working to resolve the last few bugs blocking the 1.18 release; some will be fixed whilst others will be rescheduled to be fixed in the next release (wikitech-l mailing list). In related news, there was also a discussion about whether or not to increase the version of PHP required for MediaWiki installation.
  • Malayalam (+92%): really?: As noted by Gerard Meijssen, the combined pageview statistics for October 2011 continue to show substantial gains for a number of projects, even after some packet loss was noted and fixed. One such project was the Malayalam Wikipedia, which appears to have recorded an unprecedented 5.4 million views in October, up 92% on September's 2.8 million. "[If] these numbers prove to be correct, it will be really interesting to learn what triggered this" wrote WMF internationalisation team member Meijssen.

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