“India is of crucial importance”: An interview with Jimmy Wales



Photo by Niccolò Caranti, CC BY-SA 4.0.

With 16 successful years of Wikipedia and its sister projects, what do you foresee in the future of these projects over the next two decades?

I remain very excited about the future—we’ve done a lot already, but there is still a lot left to do.  I’m particularly interested in helping Wikipedia grow both in size and in quality in the languages where we are currently small, and in the languages which are just now coming online in big numbers.

One of the things we are seeing today is that our work is being reused in new ways—for example to answer questions with voice-activated speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home.  On the one hand this is wonderful—another form of fulfillment of our longterm vision of free knowledge for everyone.  On the other hand it provides us with some challenges if the public doesn’t understand who to thank for looking after all this knowledge!

There has been a lot of discussion about Wikimedia’s gender gap and “Gender bias on Wikipedia”. While we’ve made strikes with leading women editors from many countries, including many developing countries, what is your view on it?

I think it is a real issue and one that we should all be thoughtful about.  I think it is clear that people with different backgrounds and perspectives bring strengths and interests to Wikipedia so that diversity is important to the quality of the work.

One of the main things we can do in our community is work to make sure that we have a friendly and welcoming environment for all kinds of newcomers.

What are your observations on the role of Wikimedia chapters across the world?

The chapters have done and continue to do great work.  I’d call out a couple of key things that have worked really well and another that I think remains an elusive opportunity.

First of all, the chapters are really the front line in terms of global communications—interacting with the media to explain what Wikipedia is.  This often has a strong local dimension to highlight achievements or handle problems that come up all around the world.  The team in San Francisco can’t really do this; it requires significant local knowledge.

Second, the chapters have been incredible at forging local GLAM partnerships and supporting things like Wikipedian-in-residence programs.  Again this is something that requires significant local understanding and contacts, and therefore something that should be done locally.

And then I’d say there’s an elusive opportunity: how can the chapters act to increase the quantity and quality of editing.  Many things have been tried and some are more successful than others.  I think we should see more experimentation leading to more sharing of best practice in this area—how can chapters help the editing community to grow?  It seems easy but it has proven to be very hard to actually track what works and what doesn’t.

I don’t mean this last point in a negative way, I just mean: I think there’s something big here that we collectively haven’t fully figured out yet!

Of all the countries in the world, India has 23 live Wikipedia language projects and 17 incubator projects. How do you see the future of Wikipedia projects in India?

India is of crucial importance.  It is as big and diverse as Europe, and yet it is still one nation.  There is a steady rise in access to the Internet in India, but there are obviously still difficult challenges around access and educational attainment.   Through Hindi and English, the different language communities of India have a strong ability to collaborate with each other and this is an opportunity for sharing best practices, for engaging a wider community, etc.

One misconception that I find with people who don’t know India is that “most people in India speak English.” This isn’t true.  So while English provides a powerful way for the educationally elite of India to communicate with the world, Indian Wikipedians may face the problem that lots of people just assume that English Wikipedia is somehow “more important”—it isn’t, not in a fundamental sense.  All the languages of India are important, because most people do not speak English, and especially those who are most in need of free knowledge!

While Wikipedia has been able to develop in about 300 languages, some of the other Wikimedia projects like Wikisource have not been able independently develop beyond 65 languages. How do you see the future of the movement’s non-Wikipedia sites?

I think it is very hard to say.  What I hope is that we find ways of growing our communities globally so that more volunteers are available to work on non-Wikipedia projects.

What message would you like to share with Wikimedians across the globe about their volunteering efforts and the valuable outcomes seen by the success of these projects?

These are difficult times politically.  In just about every part of the world we are seeing something that feels very counter to the values of our movement—an increase in rhetoric against foreigners or “others” of all kinds.  I am not making any comment on real political issues such as “what should immigration policy be in various countries?”, other than to say that those decisions should be made in a context of factual argument rather than arguments that appeal to fear and hatred.

Wikipedia can be a powerful force for peace, if we remain a powerful force for facts and free knowledge.

Interview by Syed Muzammiluddin, Wikimedia Community Volunteer

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Victory at the Fourth Circuit: Court of Appeals allows Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA to proceed



Photo by Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0.

Today, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, handed down its decision in Wikimedia Foundation v. National Security Agency, holding that the Wikimedia Foundation may further pursue our claims against the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and other defendants. This marks an important victory for the privacy and free expression rights of Wikimedia users.

We joined eight co-plaintiffs in filing this lawsuit in March 2015, to challenge government mass surveillance and stand up for the privacy and free expression rights of Wikimedia users. The lawsuit specifically targets the NSA’s Upstream surveillance practices, which capture communications crossing the internet backbone. The free exchange of knowledge is threatened when Wikimedia users fear being watched as they search, read, or edit the Wikimedia projects.

Back in October 2015, Judge T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed the case for lack of standing, a legal concept referring to a plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate that they have suffered an injury that the courts can redress. We promptly appealed the case to the Fourth Circuit.

The Fourth Circuit’s decision is complex: the Court vacated the lower court’s ruling with respect to the Wikimedia Foundation, and remanded the case back to the District of Maryland for further proceedings. A 2-1 majority found that the Wikimedia Foundation demonstrated standing in the case, but that the other plaintiffs did not. The dissenting judge would have found that all nine plaintiffs had standing. We, our co-plaintiffs, and our counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), will carefully review the opinion and determine the next steps for our case.

This marks an important step forward in Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA, and a victory for upholding the rights of privacy and free expression for Wikimedia users. We stand ready to continue this fight. A more detailed blog post, with further information about the case and opinion is forthcoming, and we will keep members of the Wikimedia communities updated on the lawsuit. For more information about mass surveillance, Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA, and our other efforts to protect user privacy, please see our resources page about the case, or visit the ACLU.

Jim Buatti, Legal Counsel
Aeryn Palmer, Legal Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

Special thanks to all who have supported us in this litigation, including the ACLU’s Patrick Toomey, Alex Abdo, and Ashley Gorski; and Aarti Reddy, Patrick Gunn, and Ben Kleine of our pro bono counsel Cooley, LLP; and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Zhou Zhou.

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Copyright for Australia that makes sense. That’s fair.



Photo by Thennicke, CC BY-SA 4.0.


Imagine a land in which everything was outlawed,
except for the things that were specifically allowed.
Our laws are based on principles rather than prescriptions.
Except for copyright.  –Peter Martin


Have you ever done one or more of these?

  • Shared photos you didn’t take on social media?
  • Re-posted or create memes?
  • Backed-up your DVDs?
  • Forwarded an email?
  • Photographed graffiti or a mural?
  • Quoted from an article or book on your blog?

All these actions copy other people’s copyright material. In Australia, none of these common practices are allowed under copyright law without permission.

With this in mind, volunteer Wikipedians in Australia are highlighting the need for the introduction of fair use in Australia through a banner on the English Wikipedia. In doing so, they add their voices to six government reports since 1998 which have recommended introducing fair use to bring balance to copyright rules. You can visit FairCopyrightOz to learn about how Wikipedia does, and Australia could, benefit from fair use.

In Australia all copying requires permission unless you are only using an insubstantial part of a copyrighted work (which is typically very hard to judge), or the Copyright Act provides a specific exception. The most important exceptions, the fair dealing exceptions, cover research, study, criticism, review, parody, satire, reporting the news, and professional advice as long as the use is “fair”. Any use not for one of these purposes will be illegal, no matter how fair or reasonable it is, unless the government introduces a specific exception for it. This means Australian copyright law cannot keep pace with change, as every new technology or activity requires its own new exception. This takes time and a lot of advocacy. Using a VCR at home to tape television programs was illegal until the legislation was amended in 2006, over 30 years after their invention.

Fair use would fix this. The United States’ fair use law judges each instance on whether it is fair, guided by four fairness factors:

  • purpose and character of the use;
  • nature of the copyright material;
  • amount and substantiality of the part used; and
  • effect upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyright material.

In concentrating on what is fair, it adds flexibility to the law, allowing it to keep up with changes in technology and society. Any Wikipedian who has ever uploaded a fair use file will be familiar with the “fairness” test and the thorough analysis it requires.

Without fair use, Australian copyright law will always lag behind common practice. The lack of flexibility to allow socially beneficial uses—like non-commercial private uses or incidental and technical uses—greatly limits people’s ability to interact with their own culture. The difficulty, or often impossibility, of getting permission means that groups like schools, libraries, archives and technology companies are limited in what they can do, even when their activities aren’t harming copyright owners. It also means Australian schools end up paying millions of dollars each year to use publicly accessible online content on websites that you use at home for free. No one is asking to be paid for using these websites, and the money rarely makes it to the copyright owner. Just as importantly, the use is transformative and socially beneficial. But because the Act doesn’t say such uses are allowed, payment still has to be made.

Wikipedia is one place where Australians regularly notice the benefits of fair use. Around 10% of Wikipedia pages in English have some form of fair use content—that’s over 500,000 articles quoting from a book or an article; showing a company or sports team logo that contains an artistic work; including an audio-sample or album cover; or referencing a book or film title image.

Imagine reading the Wikipedia article on Australian Markus Zusak’s classic The Book Thief, without seeing its front cover, or reading about the classic song Land Down Under by Men At Work without hearing a short clip from it. That’s what Australians would have if Wikipedia’s users could not upload files under the principles of fair use. On the English Wikipedia, copyright rules are based on US fair use guidelines that support the values of the free culture movement. Australian users in Australia should have the benefit of the same principles.

Starting this week, banners will appear to Australians accessing English language Wikipedia articles over the next few weeks. It is rare for Wikipedia editors to place banners across articles. It is even rarer to draw attention to a legislative issue. Wikipedia prides itself on its neutral point of view, after all. However, in a discussion among Australian editors on whether to take action in support of the recent Productivity Commission report, two things became abundantly clear.

  1. Australian Wikipedians strongly felt that it was important to our mission of public education—that the general public should know that we, as volunteers, are already benefitting every day from fair use in Wikipedia articles. Consequently, Wikipedia’s readers do too.
  1. There are misconceptions about what fair use means in practice which we are in a position to dispel. Some Australian Wikipedians commented that they thought Fair Use already is Australian law, which goes to show just how far common practice differs from the law.

Allowing fair use images in Wikipedia is a matter of editorial policy determined by each language community. Wikipedia editors take great care to ensure that all content is free for other people to use in as many circumstances as possible. We want other people to improve and share Wikipedia’s educational resources far and wide. The inclusion of fair use material in Wikipedia reduces the ability for it to be re-used by those who live in countries without this exception. However, Wikipedians for the English-language Wikipedia have determined that the benefits of having these materials available outweigh the concerns that fair use might not be open enough.

The Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) and Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) have long championed fair use for Australia and were happy to help support Wikipedians in raising awareness of this issue. Parallel to the Wikipedia banner campaign, on Monday they launched faircopyright.org.au where citizens can learn more, and take action by writing to their member of Parliament—encouraging the government to accept the fair use recommendation made by the recent Productivity Commission Report and other enquiries. As Peter Martin has written in his article about this fair use campaign, this is a first for the Australian Wikipedia community. Wikipedians have also written a new article on the History of fair use proposals in Australia to help increase the level of verifiable and neutral information available to the public on this matter of public policy.

To learn more, visit FairCopyrightOz on Meta-Wiki, or visit the campaign site set up by the ADA/EFA: faircopyright.org.au.

Liam Wyatt, Wikimedia community member
Stephen LaPorte, Senior Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation

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Community digest: WikiDonne helps document the unknown histories of women; news in brief



Photo by Beatrice, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Did you know that the screen icon Hedy Lamarr was also the scientist who invented spread spectrum technology? That the La Blouse Roumaine artist Henri Matisse was inspired not only by traditional Romanian clothing, but also the beloved celebrities Elvira Popescu, Martha Bibescu, Anna de Noailles and Elena Văcărescu? That a crater on Venus bears the name Montessori in honor of Maria Montessori, a pedagogue and the first Italian woman to graduate with a degree in medicine?

Italian Wikipedians wanted to give everyone access to obscure or little known information like this about women by holding The Women You Have Never Met (In Spanish: Las Mujeres Que Nunca Conociste) editing contest.

This initiative, started on the Spanish Wikipedia by the Iberocoop cooperative group and adopted in Italy by the Wikimedia user group WikiDonne, is a translation and writing biography contest that aims to improve and expand female biographies on Wikipedia, especially in the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese languages.

Since 2015 the project has helped organize edit-a-thons (editing workshops) in several cities that resulted in the creation and improvement of over 1,700 articles.

The writing project took place between 25 March and 3 April 2017. The event ended with the announcement of the winners on Saturday, 8 April, 2017 at the MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art Rome. The initiative was promoted by Roma Capitale, Department of Cultural Growth – Provincial Capitol for Cultural Heritage and was sponsored by the Roma Simple Team.

WikiDonne, which works to bridge the gender gap on Wikipedia, partnered with CoderDojo Roma, an association that promotes creative programming and responsible use of the internet for girls, children and their families, the Rosa Digitale association (Equal Opportunities for Technology and Computer Science), La Sapienza (University of Rome) and Common Spaces to organize the writing project.

The competition was open for two participant levels: Wikipedian experts and new users which helps encourage newbies and older participants simultaneously.

Fourteen participants from Italy wrote 73 new biographies and edited 477 others.

The Best Article prize was awarded to the English biography translation of Rose Cecil O’Neill (1874 – 1944), a comic stripteaser, writer and illustrator from the United States who owes her international fame to the creation of the comic book character Kewpie in 1909. Her Wikipedia article tells us that she was the first comic book author in the United States.

The rest of the prizes were Amazon vouchers awarded to:

  • First place for user FloraFlavia, who earned 1002 points.
  • Second place for user Mickey83, who earned 357 points.
  • In addition, the Best Article prize was awarded to user Demostene119.

We look forward to next year’s competition!

Camelia Boban, WikiDonne user group

In brief

FDC members meet in Warsaw: Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) is a diverse group of Wikimedia community members that gives recommendations on the annual grants program of the Wikimedia Foundation. The Committee meets twice every year to review and give recommendations on the grant proposals. On 12–14 May, the Committee gathered in Warsaw, Poland where they discussed four new grant proposals and provided their feedback on the Foundation Annual Plan.

Wikimania update: This year, 110 applicants to the Wikimania Scholarship Program were offered and accepted a full or partial scholarship to attend Wikimania 2017, the annual conference of the movement which will be held this year on 9–13 August in Montréal, Québec, Canada. In addition to that, the program committee has finished their review of the program submissions. Applicants for submissions are expected to receive a notification of acceptance or rejection on their email by the end of this week. The conference program is expected to be announced by the end of this month. More updates on registration and accommodation can be found on Wikimedia-l.

Vietnamese Wikipedian Lê Thy passes away: Thy was an editor and administrator on the Vietnamese Wikipedia with over 12,000 edits mainly about Vietnam’s history. Thy struggled with cancer for long time before his death. Wikipedians are leaving tribute messages on his talk page.

Colombo workshop: Mohammed Galib Hasan attended a Global Young Leaders Peace Camp conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka from May 4–8. He gave a talk on Wikipedia, Wikimedia, and how they fit into global education. 43 people from 14 countries attended. More information is available on Meta.

New free research accounts added to the Wikipedia Library: This month, new research accounts were added to the Wikipedia Library and other accounts were extended. The Wikipedia Library helps editors access reliable sources to improve Wikipedia and helps knowledge professionals share their collections with the public.

Wikimedia Affiliations update: This month, the Wikimedia Affiliations Committee (AffCom) recognized the Wikivoyage Association User Group. The group plans to support Wikivoyage in various ways, including fundraising, promotion, and technical development. In addition to Wikivoyage Association, AffCom recognized the Commons Photographers User Group. The group is an international cooperative of photography enthusiasts who publish their images under free licenses, with the goal of transcribing the world visually and having others benefit from their work through Wikipedia and other projects.

Women in Red in France collaborate with German Wikipedians in a GLAM tour: Participants of WikiProject Women in Red in France, met with German Wikipedians early this month in a GLAM tour followed by an editing event for the anniversary of Johannes Gutenberg’s death.

Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern
Wikimedia Foundation

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Results from the 2017 Board of Trustees elections



The results from this year’s community selection of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees are in! Congratulations to María Sefidari (User:Raystorm), Dariusz Jemielniak (User:pundit), and James Heilman (User:Doc James) for receiving the most community support. They will begin the three-year terms being filled through this process after they are officially appointed by the current trustees, which will occur at their August meeting at Wikimania 2017.

This year, 5,120 community members from over 170 home wikis participated—very close to the record setting 2015 total of 5,167, and with a voting period 24 hours shorter. The votes have been reviewed, counted, and certified by the Wikimedia Foundation elections committee, the Foundation staff advisors to the committee, and the Board of Trustees. More detailed results are currently available on Meta-Wiki and additional statistics on the elections will soon be available as well.

Thank you to everyone who voted! You helped make this one of the most representative elections that the Wikimedia Foundation has held. Thank you as well to all of the candidates—who put in a lot of time and offered even more of their time and talent to the movement. Finally, thank you to the dozens of volunteers and Foundation staff who have been working over the past couple of months to prepare the election.

The selection process for the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) and FDC Ombudsperson are now underway, with nominations and questions being accepted until May 28 (23:59 UTC). Voting for the five open seats on the FDC and open Ombudsperson position will begin on June 3 and conclude on June 11 (23:59 UTC). More information is available on Meta-Wiki.

Once again, congratulations to María, Dariusz, and James on receiving the community’s support to serve on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.

Katie Chan, Chair, Wikimedia Foundation Elections Committee
Joe Sutherland, Community Advocate, Wikimedia Foundation

Photo credits, clockwise from top left (1, 2, 3), by Ruby Mizrahi, Victor Grigas, and Victor Grigas, all with the Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0Logo by Neolux, later revised by the Wikimedia Foundation, CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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What impact can Wikimedia have in the world by 2030?



Photo by Mohannad Khatib, CC BY 2.0.

Building a strategy is hard. Imaging building a shared strategy across a movement of hundreds of thousands of stakeholders, with no direct lines of communication with most of them, no predetermined outcome, and while rebuilding trust and good faith that have been eroded in the past. Imagine building a collaborative strategy from the ground up, in true Wikimedian fashion, through a dialogue happening around the world in dozens of languages.

That’s what we’re doing.

Over the past two months, people across the Wikimedia movement have participated in over 100 strategy discussions and shared over 1,800 thematic statements in response to the question: “What do we want to build or achieve together over the next 15 years?”

Answering this question was the first of several discussions we are undertaking to begin to define Wikimedia’s future role in the world and develop a collaborative strategy to fulfill that role. The discussions have taken place on-wiki, online, and in person, stretching across more than 70 countries and involving people from many different stakeholder groups. The largest in-person discussion took place at the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin, where over 350 community leaders converged to participate in small-group discussions about the future of our movement. On-wiki, more than 50 volunteers and groups helped coordinate discussions with their communities, and more than 85 affiliate groups have held multilingual strategy discussions to talk about the long-term strategic direction of Wikimedia.

The goal of these many conversations was to generate new ideas around potential directions that we can go in the next 15 years. We wanted to build a collective understanding of the key trends that matter to our many stakeholders.

Finding common ground

Over the past few weeks, the movement strategy team grouped the comments into five initial themes that emerged consistently across the conversations. Each of them now has a page on Meta-Wiki[1] with more details and information about how to participate in the relevant discussion:

It’s now time for us to consider, debate and weigh each of those. The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. What impact would we have on the world if we focused on one of these themes? Which ones go together? We can’t do everything, so what do we have to leave behind? What can we not afford not to do? Who do we need to work with to make this happen?

These are the kinds of questions we must now answer. Strategy is ultimately about making choices and trade-offs, which means that we must decide what goals take precedence over others. This will inevitably lead to some disappointment. Now is the time to make your voice heard about what matters most. Join the online and offline discussions taking place on the five themes, and read up on the research currently being conducted to better understand those not yet in the conversation. Both the discussions and the research will be essential in determining where we focus our attention as a movement through 2030.

The discussions will take place between now and June 12. You can participate in as many discussions as you’d like, and also sign up for regular updates. Your comments will help us all better understand these themes, their implications, and the collective impact we can have on the world depending on what we focus on. By Wikimania, which will be held in Montreal in August 2017, we hope to reach agreement around a strategic direction for our future.

Building a strategy is hard, but we are a movement of smart, passionate people obsessed with facts, citations, and intellectual integrity. We have in common a passion for free knowledge and a commitment to serving all human beings.

If anyone can build a collaborative strategy, we can.

Guillaume Paumier, Co-lead architect, Core strategy team
Wikimedia Foundation


[1] We’ve received very helpful feedback from members of the community on translating and framing these themes so they make more sense to more people. As such, we are working on some slight wording changes to help make each theme description easier to understand and translate across languages. Those changes will be on Meta-Wiki within the week.

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Building collaboration into Annual Planning: An experimental new approach



Photo by Kristen Lans/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Collaboration is something near and dear to our hearts at the Wikimedia Foundation. It is the secret ingredient that brings life to our projects; it allows us to draw on the diverse wisdom of everyone involved so that we can get closer to our vision of a world where everyone has access to the sum of all knowledge. It is so important to us that it is enshrined in the organization’s values.

Given that, we at the Foundation decided to approach our Annual Planning—the process where we hash out the work we anticipate doing in the coming year—a little differently this time around, by making it much more collaborative. Many more stakeholders across the organization were involved, and we designed the process with the intention of supporting different parts of the organization to share as much information as possible, discover where plans were competing or overlapping, and generally bring us all closer to shared understanding and alignment of our programmatic plans.

As we have done the past few years, we also involved the Wikimedia community through the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC). Feedback from the FDC on the upcoming year’s plans was published on May 15. In addition to helping the organization plan its annual budgets, this process also allows us to communicate and validate our high-level plans with our stakeholders outside of the Foundation.

Traditionally, defining an annual plan for an organization happens amongst the highest levels of leadership and is handed down to the rest of the organization to execute. But the Foundation is not a traditional organization, and we wanted to see what would happen if we expressed our values through how we approached our planning. We knew it would be difficult – as anyone involved in our projects knows, collaboration is rarely easy. But our hypothesis was that we would end up with a better, richer annual plan that was better understood by our staff and stakeholders, and more coherently aligned across the organization.


The cornerstone of our effort to make annual the planning process more collaborative was the Annual Plan Collaboration Jam (nicknamed “The Collab Jam”). The Collab Jam was a three-day event in late February organized and facilitated by Kristen Lans and Arthur Richards with additional support from the Team Practices Group.

According to the English Wikipedia article on “Jam session”, “to ‘jam’ is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements … [jam sessions] are often used by musicians to develop new material (music) and find suitable arrangements.” This is precisely what we hoped to achieve with our plans, rather than with music. Our goals for the Collab Jam were to:

  • Develop shared understanding between program leads of all the proposed annual plans
  • Identify where there’s thematic overlap and/or divergence between programs
  • Identify interdepartmental dependencies across all programs

In addition to these goals, the event offered participants an opportunity to learn about new ways to flex their collaborative muscles through experiencing a variety of participation formats and activities designed to support collaboration.

The event was timed early in the overall planning process when plans were in an initial draft form. We did this with the hope of identifying where there might be overlap and/or divergence in plans, as well as interdependencies, early on in the process before people spent a lot of time developing plans that would later need to be reworked to account for these things. The downside to timing it this way was that there was some important information that was not yet available to those responsible for their department’s planning. However, we hoped these early conversations would set the stage for ongoing coordination between departments as new information came to light and plans took shape during the course of the planning process. Representatives from each Foundation department engaging in programmatic planning (Legal, Communications, Advancement, Product, Technology, and Community Engagement) attended the in-person event.

On the first day of the Collab Jam, we organized a “trade show” activity, where each department had a station where they would present their draft plans. At timed intervals, the participants in the event would rotate to a station to listen to departmental plans, ask questions, and share any information they had that might be of value to the presenting department. This gave everyone a chance to hear the initial plans of each department and provide meaningful feedback and information that might make the plans clearer, more realistic, and aligned.

On the second day of the Collab Jam, the representatives from each department reviewed the feedback and information they received on Day One to get clear on what they might need from other departments, as well as what other departments might need from them relating to their plans. This served as preparation for the third and final day of the Jam, where the goal was to identify  interdepartmental dependencies to support better decision-making throughout the remainder of the annual planning timeline.

For the third day, we set up “MegaGrid”—a large Kanban board where everyone would be able to track all of the conversations they needed to have. Participants populated the board with post-it notes describing the conversation they needed to have and with whom. As the day went on, participants would move the post-it notes along the board depending on the current status of the conversation: to-do, doing, done. This gave visibility to everyone about what work was left to be done, and helped people identify which conversations they should try to have next. We also added a competitive element to the day by saying that departments that resolved the most conversations would win the Collab Jam (congratulations to the Foundation’s Legal team!).

Feedback about the event from surveyed participants highlighted learning, fun, and the usefulness of the format as strengths. Areas for improvement largely focused on making sure that the right people are in attendance, and that the event occurs at the right stage of the overall annual planning process. We expect that this year’s retrospective on the overall annual planning process will provide more feedback on the learning, value, and overall utility of the event for annual planning at the Foundation.

Arthur Richards, Senior Agile Coach: Organizational Collaboration, Team Practices
Kristen Lans, Director, Team Practices
Wikimedia Foundation

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Wikimedia Foundation welcomes Eileen Hershenov as General Counsel



Photo by Zack McCune, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Wikimedia Foundation is pleased to announce that Eileen Hershenov has joined the organization as General Counsel. Eileen brings nearly 30 years of experience in media and intellectual property law, civil rights and civil liberties law, not-for-profit law and governance, and privacy and cyber-security. Throughout her career, she has worked with mission-driven organizations to promote equality, free expression, and openness.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization that supports Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects. Together, Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects are visited by more than a billion unique devices every month. The Wikimedia Foundation is driven by its mission to build a world in which every single person can freely share in the sum of all human knowledge.

As General Counsel, Eileen will lead an experienced team of attorneys and public policy experts to defend the Wikimedia projects, communities, and Foundation. She will be responsible for maintaining and developing the legal infrastructure, policy, and relevant legal defenses for the Wikimedia Foundation. She will also advise the Foundation on ethical and policy positions around access to knowledge, freedom of speech, privacy, copyright, and other issues relevant to the Wikimedia movement.

“Eileen is deeply committed to the values that make the Wikimedia movement possible: free expression, access to knowledge, and a secure, open internet,” said Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “Her knowledge, passion, and leadership make her an excellent addition to the Wikimedia Foundation and our global community.”

Previously, Eileen served as the founding general counsel for Consumers Union, the not-for-profit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine and ConsumerReports.org. In that role, in addition to defending against legal attacks on the organization’s product reviews and investigative journalism, she was part of the executive leadership team charged with rethinking the organization’s approach to public policy and advocacy. Eileen supported the work of tens of thousands of volunteers who advocated for healthcare reform and net neutrality, among other issues. She also played a lead role in developing and implementing Consumer Reports’ evolving business policies, which are designed to ensure and protect the organization’s independence from commercial influence and special interests.

Prior to joining Consumers Union, Eileen spent 11 years at the Open Society Foundations, where she served as General Counsel to the global foundation network. In this position, Eileen led the development of an in-house legal counsel department, overseeing the legal work of the foundations in more than 30 countries. Her work with the Open Society Foundations supported the efforts of local advocates in the former Soviet Union, Central Europe, as well as in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. During her time at the Open Society Foundations, Eileen also served as the founding general counsel for Central European University, the first U.S.-accredited liberal arts university located in a former communist country.

“Wikimedia is a shining example of what’s possible when the values of the free and open internet are preserved,” Eileen said. “I’ve spent much of my career supporting many of the same principles that have allowed Wikipedia to flourish. I’m thrilled to join a global movement of people who are committed to these values.”

Eileen began her career in public interest as an organizer and advocate for victims of toxic substances who were denied court access to seek restitution. Her legal work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) marked the start of her passion for supporting free expression, free access, and freedom of association. She currently serves on the boards of a number of public interest justice organizations, including the advisory board of the Future of Privacy Forum, and the governing board of the Appleseed Foundation.

Eileen received her BA in Economics from Yale College, and graduated from Yale Law School. She currently lives in the state of New York with her family, and will be relocating to the Bay Area this summer.

You can read a press release of this announcement on the Wikimedia Foundation’s website.

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What do you call a homepage? Incorporating indigenous knowledge into Wikipedia



Workshop at Otapi High School, Manawan (Atikamekw First Nation, Canada). Photo by Pierre Coulombe, CC BY-SA 4.0.

A First Nation in Canada may soon have a Wikipedia to call their own.

The Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation, located in central Quebec, is one of the few aboriginal peoples in Canada where virtually the entire population still speaks the language, making it among the most vibrant among the First Nations.

An ongoing project, the first of its kind in Canada, is working with the Atikamekw community to develop Wikipedia content in their own language. The initiative’s goal is to one day have the Atikamekw Wikipedia, currently in the Wikimedia incubator join one of the hundreds of extant Wikipedias.

“It is a way to pass on ancestral knowledge using computers and it allows to preserve traditional practices,” project member Nehirowisiw says. “It is an educational tool for all.”


Funded by the Wikimedia Foundation, Atikamekw knowledge, culture and language in Wikimedia projects has several other goals. It is expanding information about the nation on the French Wikipedia; uploading photos, archival documents, and maps to Wikimedia Commons; and is raising awareness among the Wikimedia community about the unique features of indigenous knowledge and languages. The final report will propose recommendations about how to better include indigenous content in Wikimedia projects.

This one-year pilot project (Fall 2016 to Summer 2017) follows a 2013–14 initiative conducted in in Manawan (Québec, Canada) by a linguist from Leipzig University, a high school computer teacher, and an Atikamekw language keeper.

Working together, they created “Wikipetia Project“, an educational project involving students from Otapi secondary school in Manawan to create articles on Wikipedia written in Atikamekw. By the end of this project, the students had created more than 160 articles.

Partners of the current project, “Atikamekw knowledge, culture and language in Wikimedia projects“, include Manawan Otapi secondary school, Conseil Atikamekw de Manawan, Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw (CNA), Wikimedia Canada, Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), and the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS, Urbanisation, Culture, Société Research Center) with the collaboration of several members of the Atikamekw community.

A guardian of the Atikamekw language and his successor. Photo by Seeris, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The project is divided into three parts: training, pedagogical project and research project. The first includes training sessions with the Atikamekw community given by volunteers from Wikimedia Canada with the goal to make the community autonomous in their work on Wikimedia projects. An initial training took place at the Otapi secondary school in Manawan on October 24, 2016, and another was held with the CNA in La Tuque on November 28, 2016. In May 2017 there will be a session of photographic documentation within the Atikamekw community. The pedagogic project is taking place at the Otapi school from November 2016 to May 2017. In their computer class, students are writing articles in the Wikipetia Atikamekw Nehiromowin.

The research component is intended to document the pilot project with the aim to create a toolkit and a set of recommendations that could be used in other similar initiatives. It builds on discussions with community representatives about the best ways to share traditional knowledge on Wikimedia platforms. The issue of compatibility between free licenses and the principles of ethical research OCAPTM (ownership, control, access and possession), set out by Canadian First Nations, was also addressed during a research seminar. Representatives from the First Nations Information Governance Center and the Quebec National Archives and Library joined the discussion. This conversation will help to better understand the conditions that facilitate the creation of Native content in Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and to raise awareness among the wikimedia community about the specificities of indigenous knowledge.

The project will conclude with a panel at the Wikimania Montréal conference in August 2017. A longer-term goal is to replicate similar projects with other Canadian Aboriginal communities, or elsewhere in the world, and broadly share this experience with the international Wikimedia movement.


On the technical side, members of the community are working with the Institut linguistique Atikamekw (ILA) and techno-linguists of the Nation are working to create new words and to standardize the language to create an Atikamekw version of the MediaWiki interface.

For example, they need to invent new terms to translate “homepage”, “free license,” or “upload”. Instead of translating literally, they prefer to mobilize traditional references, often linked to the ancestral territory, because this allows the culture to appropriate technical modernity while transmitting its specific cultural imagination. It is also up to the community to define its own rules for the use of the encyclopedia: acceptance of oral sources, notoriety criteria for article topics that are open to indigenous realities, protection of sensitive information. It is a process of reflecting on the best ways to take advantage of this tool while adapting it to the Atikamekw epistemology.

Among the questions raised by translation is that of the classes of names: the Atikamekw language does not distinguish between the masculine and the feminine, but it distinguishes between animate and inanimate things. Is Wikipedia animated? The participants decided that it is.

Wikimedia Canada’s mission is to educate Canadian communities about the development of free and open knowledge in all languages, including Aboriginal languages. The objective of this strategy is to collaborate with Aboriginal communities in Canada and to introduce Aboriginal language speakers to Wikipedia with the goal that they become autonomous contributors in the development of content in their languages. It is in line with Article 13 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which establishes the right to preserve, revitalize and develop indigenous languages—all integral parts of Canadian culture.

Manawan Sipi river. Photo by Kinew1975, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The next phase of the project is to organize a photographic hunting on the Nitaskinan, the Atikamekw’s ancestral homeland. This will take place in the Atikamekw communities of Manawan, Opitciwan and Wemotaci, as well as the towns of La Tuque and Joliette.

Before the beginning of this project, there were only a dozen free photos representing the atikamekw community in Wikimedia Commons. All dated back to the 1970s. The goal of this photographic expedition is to better reflect the current vitality of the community by photographing not only buildings but also people, traditional activities, lakes and rivers, animals, and the territory in general.

The photographic hunting will take place from April 26 to May 31 2017. An upload workshop will be organized on the last day of the photographic hunt to help the participants populate the Atikamekw category in Commons.

Benoit Rochon, President, Wikimedia Canada
Jean-Philippe Béland, Vice President, Wikimedia Canada
Nathalie Casemajor, Professor, INRS-UCS

Members of the project include: Jean-Philippe Béland (vice-president, Wikimedia Canada), Nathalie Casemajor (professor, Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre, INRS), Christian Coocoo (coordinator of cultural services, CNA), Jeanette Coocoo (retired teacher, Wemotaci), Antony Dubé (computer science teacher, Otapi school), Annette Dubé-Vollant (coordinator of pedagogic services, Atikamekw Council of Manawan), Jean-Paul Échaquan (language keeper, Manawan), Karine Gentelet (professor in indigenous studies, UQO), Nastasia Herold (PhD candidate in linguistics, Leipzig University), Thérèse Ottawa (administrative agent, Atikamekw Council of Manawan), Sakay Ottawa (director, Otapi school), Luc Patin (computer science teacher, Otapi school), Nicole Petiquay (Atikamekw Language Institute), André Quitich (former Chief of the nation), Céline Quitich (elected representative, Atikamekw Council of Manawan), Benoit Rochon (president, Wikimedia Canada), as well as several other precious collaborators from the Atikamekw community.

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You can now add automatically generated citations to millions of books on Wikipedia



Automatically generated citations to a world of books can now be utilized by any editor on Wikipedia. Photo via the National Library of Ireland, no known copyright restrictions.

It is no stretch to say that without books, Wikipedia would not exist.

The free encyclopedia relies on citations to ensure the information you find on Wikipedia is verifiable and based in reliable sources.  Even in the digital age, many of the highest-quality sources are the books available in your local library.

Yet despite their importance, adding references to Wikipedia has been difficult at times, requiring at minimum a basic knowledge of wikicode. Steady improvements have been made over the years to make it easier to add citations, including through the cite tool on Wikimedia’s visual editing interface. However, adding citations to books on Wikipedia is about to get a lot easier.


A new partnership between the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Library and OCLC, a global nonprofit library cooperative, will allow editors to easily generate citations to millions of books on Wikipedia using OCLC’s WorldCat—the largest database of books in the world, spanning the collections of more than 72,000 libraries.

The WorldCat database will be integrated into the cite tool so that an editor can type in an ISBN, an identifier available inside hundreds of millions of published books since the 1970s, and get back a Wikipedia-ready book citation, including authors, titles, and publishers.

“Wikipedia and its editors worldwide collaborate to create one of the most popular global resources on the Web,” said Chip Nilges, OCLC Vice President, Business Development. “OCLC and its member libraries collaborate to make WorldCat the premier global resource for discovery of library collections. Through this partnership, dedicated editors and librarians worldwide are working together to make Wikipedia a richer research experience, and readers are finding supporting material they want through links to libraries.”

James Forrester, Product Manager for Editing at the Wikimedia Foundation, said:

We are driven by our desire to help our volunteer editors make the Wikimedia projects be the best they can be. We are building collaborative, inclusive tools for creating and editing free knowledge. That knowledge is underpinned by facts—referenced, organised, clear, and checkable facts.

Easily adding more references to Wikimedia wikis via ISBNs is a great boon to our editors and readers. It will help them double-check articles in their library, see further context, and find more knowledge to share. I’m very excited that we are partnering with OCLC and to see their wonderful WorldCat resource harnessed towards our shared mission.

A detailed step-by-step process on how to use this feature is below. It expands upon Wikipedia’s current method of citation auto-filling, which allows editors to generate a citation from a single online identifier, like a web address (URL) or digital object identifier (DOI).


How to use the cite tool

1) Click “edit” in the bar at the top of your page.

2) Switch to the visual editor

3) Use the visual editor’s cite function

4) Enter any ISBN

5) Cite tool automatically generates a citation using WorldCat’s ISBN data

6) The rich citation is added to Wikipedia

Boris., Juh, (2007-01-01), Sveto pismo zvočnica, Mladinska knjiga Založba, ISBN 9788611177434, OCLC 781329324

More information on this is available on Mediawiki.org.


Wikipedia Library–OCLC partnership

This collaboration between the Wikipedia Library and OCLC deepens an already strong relationship between OCLC and the Wikimedia movement. In 2012, OCLC worked with a Wikipedian in Residence, Max Klein, to explore ways that library metadata could contribute to Wikipedia. The result of their work was a Wikipedia bot that adds VIAF authority control numbers (Virtual International Authority File) to Wikipedia infoboxes—in cataloguing-speak, adding numbers that easily and consistently identify people. Long-time Wikipedian and librarian Merrilee Proffitt, who works at OCLC Research, spearheaded the VIAF initiative. She was joined by Cindy Aden (née Cunningham) in a later collaboration with the Wikipedia Library; together, they pioneered the Wikipedia Visiting Scholar position and established positions at five universities.

Merrilee Proffitt said of the new WorldCat initiative, “Quality sources​ are at the heart of every Wikipedia article, be it a stub or a feature level article. We want adding citations to be as easy as possible, and it makes sense to harness identifiers to ease the burden. Thanks to the hard work of the thousands of catalogers and the contribution of OCLC member libraries, WorldCat contains ISBNs which​ can help when a source is a monograph. As an added bonus, the resulting citation helps lead end users to libraries where they can find those trusted sources and others like them—for free.”

At library conferences like American Library Association Annual, the Wikipedia Library and OCLC have often worked together to share information about each organization to interested librarians, and Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President and Chief Strategist of OCLC,has spoken progressively about Wikipedia’s growing role in the research ecosystem of library users. In March 2017, OCLC announced that they were hiring Monika Sengul-Jones as a Wikipedian-in-Residence, a position funded by a project grant from the Wikimedia Foundation, to facilitate their Wikipedia + Libraries: Better Together project. In 2016, OCLC was a winner of the Knight News Challenge for a project to promote participation of public librarians on Wikipedia.

This partnership empowers Wikipedia editors and readers to harness the impact of full and accurate citations. With improved access to references that back up the facts, Wikipedia becomes a better, richer free knowledge resource for all.

Jake Orlowitz, Head of the Wikipedia Library
Wikimedia Foundation

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