What new I learned in the Wikimedia movement at Wikimania’17

An essential component of a successful online community is meeting in-person often, and Wikimedia is a great example of a community thriving on these practices. The movement is that big, diverse and spread out; I knew very little about it until my first Wikimania.

By Victor Hamilton Grigas — CC BY-SA 4.0

Following are some of the interesting topics that I learned about:

Wikipedia in Education There are a lot of content improvement & learning initiatives around Wikipedia led by educational organizations: 1) University professors experimenting with MOOCs (e.g. WikiMOOC) on how to edit Wikipedia 2) encourage use of Wikipedia as a teaching tool in the classroom 3) WikiEd’s year of science initiative supporting instructors and students with materials on how to edit Wikipedia on various topics.

Focus on furthering involvement and representation of emerging communities There are quite a significant number of user groups, chapters, and initiatives focusing on furthering representation of their communities in the movement and getting their members involved in Wikimedia projects in particular with a vision to document the missing information on Wikipedia about their culture, language, biographies, art, tradition, etc. For example, AfroCROWD focuses on increasing people of African descent to the movement, while Punjabi Wikimedians are dedicated to promoting their language in wiki projects.

Research on Wikipedia highlights important themes and interesting revelations:

  • Gender gap in participation and content — Trend in articles published on English Wikipedia shows that women editors are not focused on female biographies only. A study conducted on German Wikipedia indicates that most of the pages about professions have male-dominated content even when a profession is female-dominated.
  • Substantial interdependence of Wikipedia and Google — Through a study conducted via a browser extension (that removed Wikipedia content which appears in Google’s knowledge graph display) showed that: 1) Removing Wikipedia links decreases click-through rate by 80% 2) 84.5% visit to Wikipedia were attributable to Google 3) Removing knowledge graph elements increased Wikipedia visits rate.
  • Wikipedia and the World — Incidents worldwide impact the articles that get accessed and edited on Wikipedia. For example: unemployment in European countries increased use of articles related to tourism, Snowden’s revelation about the NSA increased awareness on the related topic, etc.

Language preservation A few initiatives are attempting to preserve languages by maintaining their archive in the digital space. LinguaLibre is associated with Wikimedia France and is a library of sound recordings that gets uploaded to Commons and leveraged to enrich wiki projects like Wiktionary, Wikipedia, etc. Wikitongues is a similar initiative.

Something simple, yet a powerful idea that I gathered from a woman participant who said: “When edits get reverted, it’s not the end of the world, focus on creating reliable sources online, right? That should be easy”

In ❤ with the movement that works so much in the open, is committed to providing access to educational content to the world, and appreciates volunteering efforts of its free knowledge advocates.