IRC office hours/Office hours 2012-05-17

Session Start: Thursday May 17 16:00 UTC
<StevenW> Alright, looks like KulZero and akapoor are both here. We can probably get started.
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<StevenW> Hi Seddon

  • Seddon stumbles into the room

<KulZero> wooohooo
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<aude> hi
<Seddon> Hey StevenW :)
<KulZero> Seddon: too many late night pints?
<Seddon> KulZero: Too few, there is too much blood in my alchohol stream
<StevenW> Ha.
 This is what we get for holding it at this time.
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  • aude enjoying yet another german holiday

<tommorris> what, it's 5pm in London. if Seddon isn't already pissed out of his mind by now, he evidently hasn't been trying hard enough

  • KulZero wants german cake

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<StevenW> Well, I figure we should probably start with whether anyone listening in doesn't know what Wikipedia Zero is?
<KulZero> by the way, do people know Amit?
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<StevenW> Unless mobile is boring and we want to talk about European holidays. Which I'm totally cool with. ;)
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<aude> think i met amit when we visited in october
<tommorris> well, I have one little clarifactory question about Wikipedia Zero: does it cover anything other than Wikipedia?
<KulZero> He's been with WMF for ten months now and has been instrumental in getting our "Free Mobile Access to Wikipedia" off the ground…which includes Zero
<tommorris> specifically Wikinews, Wikibooks, Wikiquote, Wiktionary and so on
<KulZero> tommorris: for now, no
<tommorris> 'cos, you know, they are kinda useful
<Amgine> KulZero: Wiktionary Mobile app.
<KulZero> I agree with you
<aude> there are no mobile apps for those yet (except witionary)
<tommorris> and surely it doesn't require the use of the apps?
<aude> wiktionary
<KulZero> but we're starting with Wikipedia
<tommorris> 'cos there's a lot of people on a lot of not-quite-so-smart-phones that won't be on the apps thing
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<StevenW> The Wiktionary app is coming along pretty nicely. But I think the easiest first sell is Wikipedia. Correct?
<aude> tommorris: perhaps not
<KulZero> that's exactly correct
<tommorris> does Wikipedia Zero require use of apps or can they just use the web version?
 that is the mobile web version like
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<Amgine> Problem with that model, StevenW: the wikipedia app results in lots of wikipedia-context-only in the framework.
<KulZero> so, for now, we only have a mobile web version
 Amit can talk about our app strategy
<StevenW> Yeah let's cover why web vs. apps
<tommorris> mobile web is good. universal access is more important than perfect user experience
<akapoor> Yes, it is only the mobile web version for now. We've been looking at adding apps as well, but it's difficult to make their data access free.
 Mobile web is the most universal and most scalable for now.
<StevenW> Yeah I think it's clear that people use apps/smartphones less in the areas we're covering first with the partnerships too?
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<KulZero> we've had discussions with some carriers and they prefer apps b/c it's easier to market it to their customers that way, so we're looking into it but we're focused on mobile web for now
<iloverain> really, there's an app for wiktionary?>
<tommorris> is there a list of Wikipedia Zero partnerships and countries?
<StevenW> Yeah, a volunteer adapted the Android app into one for Wiktionary
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<akapoor> The list of partnerships is here:
<KulZero> there are several in our development pipeline as well
<tommorris> I guess there is one big question which is how does this affect Wikimedia Foundation's commitment (if any) to the principle of net neutrality
<KulZero> to be honest with you, I don't have a great answer for that
<tommorris> 'cos the cynic might quite reasonably say "look you are all for net neutrality when it is about not charging different rates to different commercial providers, but when it comes to providing access to Wikipedia for free, you'll happily throw the towel in"
 there's a seeming double standard there that is slightly scary
<KulZero> you can argue that we shouldn't do this if we believe in net neutrality, however, there are more access barriers on mobile
<iloverain> hm
<StevenW> Like almost no carriers having unlimited data charges *grumble grumble*
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<tommorris> as if the telcos and networks will happily let Ugandans read Wikipedia in return for basically undermining the argument for net neutrality in the US and Europe
<SoapX> I dont know what youre all talking about anymore
 I'll just listen so I dont make a problem of myself
<KulZero> so our position is that they should be making more and more services available for free
<StevenW> Heh. It's a tangent Soap. If you have a question, feel free to speak up. :)
<KulZero> and we're using Wikipedia as a starting point
<StevenW> It's interesting... the other day there was that Vodafone India add which featured Wikipedia in it. I wonder if carriers are going to use the free Wikipedia access as a selling point? Have they talked about it at all?
<SoapX> hm?
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<StevenW> ad, not add *
<SoapX> Wikipedia Zero is a project to get free access to Wikipedia even on phone plans that dont otherwise have it?
<akapoor> Yes, they will be, which is good for us overall to raise awareness. We encourage it, but we'll also have a say in the approval process of how they promote it.
<SoapX> i.e. it wont count against the data plan?
<KulZero> SoapX: don't hesitate even if you think you have basic questions. ask away
<SoapX> I just came in because someone linked this room from #en
<KulZero> it won't count against a data plan
<SoapX> I didnt read about Wikipedia Zero before
 So how does that work?
<tommorris> has there been any issue with filtering? I know in the UK, mobile data providers have to put adult content controls on my default.
<Amgine> StevenW: add to /topic?
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<StevenW> Let's take Soap's question first :)
<SoapX> * A) Some partners will zero-rate the full mobile version of Wikipedia (located at along with a lightweight, text-only version (at
     * B) Others will only zero-rate the lightweight, text-only version (located at
<KulZero> tommorris: so far, no issues…but I expect it will eventually come up. We're going into a lot of countries where they handle UGC and information differently so we'll have to deal with it on a case-by-case basis
<SoapX> So basically the cellphone carrier agrees to provide free access in the hopes that that will convince more people to sign up? Or, is the Wikimedia Foundation going to pay the carriers to do that?
<KulZero> we're not paying carriers for anything
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<SoapX> ok
<akapoor> SoapX: they do it for several reasons. Attracting customers is one of them, but many of them are in it for the social good just as much.
<KulZero> they're doing it b/c they are completely altruistic ;)
 he he
 and as akapoor mentioned, we do make a business case for it as well
<SoapX> ok
 well, Amazon in the United States is still providing unlimited access for owners of certain Kindle versions
 that seems to help them sell Kindles
<KulZero> however, the business case alone is not strong enough for them to give away free data so we work with their Corporate Social Responsibility folks and other within the companies that believe in what we're doing
 SoapX: true
<tommorris> SoapX: damn straight, free international 3G is so useful. Used it when in Brussels to look up tram routes on Wikipedia. ;-)
<StevenW> So how is the text-only gateway,, coming along?
<SoapX> oh, it works worldwide?
 i thought it was just the USA on AT&T
<tommorris> SoapX: the 3G does. used it in Israel, France, Netherlands and UK
<SoapX> well this is a very interesting project
<akapoor> StevenW: It's close, in beta. The url works now so you can see the experience.
<KulZero> we're really focused on implementation and testing to get all the bugs worked out but as soon as more get up and running we'll be able to post more public info about it and get more feedback on things we should improve
<Amgine> Query: The wikipedia-only approach (for MobileFrontend) has resulted in additional work. (see Should a generic Mediawiki development model be pursued?
<KulZero> Amgine: it has resulted in additional work but shouldn't affect general Mediawiki development
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<Amgine> Agreed, but since it's costing more in development time to do the specific one than to do a general one, why do it that way?
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<StevenW> It seems like this is also a very specialized case: I can't really imagine individuals needing the specialized text-only gateway to deliver their personal MediaWiki installation free of data charges
 Unlike MobileFrontEnd, which is supposed to be very reusable.
<tommorris> so, is Wikipedia Zero being restricted to just Wikipedia a result of the Foundation not attempting to convince the networks to do it for all the WMF sites, or attempting but being rejected?
<KulZero> Amgine: I believe you're asking a question that relates to general mobile dev and not specifically to Zero as works off existing mobile UX
 tommorris: it's a little bit of both. We're trying to execute well on Wikipedia first and most carriers are only interested in Wikipedia right now. If we can show that this works then we can move on to other projects
<aude> if wiki travel guide becomes a wikimedia project, an app for that would be super awesome, maybe mixed with some wikipedia content
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<KulZero> personally I'd like to see as many of these services available for free but let's see how far we get with this program
<MaxSem> aude, are things that serious?
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<aude> and
<KulZero> and just so you know, we're also looking at making Wikipedia available on USSD and SMS because most people in developing countries can't use the mobile web due to infrastructure constraints or they don't even have data capable phones
<StevenW> Those features are particularly cool I think
<KulZero> MaxSem has done a lot of API work so we can make Wikipedia content available that way :)
<StevenW> Being able to text a title of a Wikipedia article and get the intro back over SMS is sweet, even when I have an app.
<SoapX> hm
 I didnt know that was possible
 I dont text
<StevenW> It's in beta, correct?
<SoapX> so it's an automated response
<tommorris> that'd actually be useful in the UK too - you get SMS coverage in a lot of places you don't get 3G coverage
<wctaiwan> 150 characters doesn't sound very useful, though.
<tommorris> plus unlimited texts
 perhaps we ought to have a special template for an SMS sized caption summary
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<KulZero> SoapX: in some countries, anywhere from 50 to upwards to 90% of the population would only be able to access Wikipedia via USSD or SMS
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<SoapX> Because they dont have computers, you mean?
<aude> KulZero: text only is great also for accessibility (e.g. blind users with voice over)
<MaxSem> serious reading this way is hard, but just looking up a definition is much easier
<KulZero> computers and don't have data-enabled phones
<tommorris> Template:SMS summary
 wos USSD?
<KulZero> aude: yes, IVR is a possible option as well
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<aude> wikidata on sms :)
<MaxSem> it's USSD;)
<aude> little facts
<Amgine> Could USSD/SMS benefit from community-based support like TomMorris is suggesting?
<akapoor> wctaiwan: we're working through that experience. It would be multiple SMS, up to 5, and then the person would select whether they want to receive 5 more if they haven't gotten the answer they're looking for.
<tommorris> oh, wow, that's pretty low level
<wctaiwan> Oh, nice :)
<KulZero> I'm thinking of doing a follow-up office hours specifically on USSD and SMS
<aude> google does sms and it's somewhat useful
<tommorris> for the SMS stuff, it would be pretty useful for things like sports statistics
<MaxSem> Amgine, since these things will not be used much in countries most editors come from, manual summaries will always be neglected
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<SoapX> There was an app that let you load webpages over SMS, and then it saved the texts to an HTML file and loaded the webpage
<MaxSem> thus a fully-automated way is what I chose
<tommorris> how bout wikipedia over email?
<wctaiwan> their phones would not be HTML-capable, though.
<SoapX> right, I know
 it only worked on Android
<Amgine> MaxSem: <grin> Like section0 in most wikis, eh?
<SoapX> it was for people who just didnt want to pay for a higher data plan
<tommorris> I'm sure some providers probably do free email as a gimmick
<MaxSem> Amgine, you can actually choose a section to read
<tommorris> it'd be cool to be able to do Wikinews SMS updates
<KulZero> that would be cool
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<aude> translation via sms is cool
<KulZero> yesterday we were discussing how we could do Indic languages on USSD/SMS…and it's something we'd like to do
<Amgine> MaxSem: if wikis arbitrarily forced section0 < 750 char, would that be useful?
<StevenW> That would be useful for readability in general...
 Though it might conflict with infoboxes
<MaxSem> Amgine, wikitext chars don't correspond directly to rendered HTML and text extract chars, so there's no point
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<SoapX> true
<Amgine> <nods thoughtfully>
<KulZero> the Praekelt Foundation (we're working with them on the USSD/SMS testing) has done mhealth delivery in Swahili. Indic languages are more challenging but it's something we plan to try
<tommorris> is SMS not UTF-8?
<MaxSem> depends on carrier and phone
<tommorris> also, mobile web + webfonts ftw
<KulZero> web fonts, yeah, but depends on the character set
<aude> it's common to do arabic sms with latin characters
<StevenW> So before we have to wrap up...
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<StevenW> what are your plans for the future KulZero and akapoor?
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<KulZero> I'm going to open up a restaurant that serves miniaturized food
<aude> :)
<KulZero> oh, you mean for mobile?
<StevenW> Yes :P
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<KulZero> our main goal…philosophically speaking, is to reduce all the barriers to access free knowledge on mobile
 and we break that into two categories: 1) cost and 2) delivery
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<akapoor> We have companies in 28 countries signed up so far. We'd like to get that to over 50.
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<KulZero> by lowering the cost and increasing the way people can access Wikipedia
<StevenW> Does anybody have any final questions?
<KulZero> so, as you know, we already have Orange and Telenor signed up which covers huge areas of Africa, Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe
 and we're looking at expanding to more countries and to more carriers within those countries
<SoapX> oh cool
 so this is already happening
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<KulZero> hey, somebody just emailed me this 2 minutes ago
<akapoor> SoapX: yes, is rolling out now. 2 countries have it up already, and more will in the next month.
<Amgine> Do we have any statistics on project usage in the markets we already have agreements in?
<wctaiwan> KulZero: yes, well, we can't see that :P
<aude> KulZero: can't see
<KulZero> sorry…I'll post it later
 a friend of mine is on the ground in Kampala
<Amgine> <more as a 'cool!' factor than anything else.>
<KulZero> where there are ads running about free access to Wikipedia on mobile
 they just went up this week
<MaxSem> KulZero, speaking of Eastern Europe, don't waste your time on Zero with Russian operators, they, as experience shows, tend to cancel such programs after a while to make people use their non-free data plans
<akapoor> Amgine: Yes, we have basic mobile page view numbers by country (are working to get those on stats.wikimedia incidentally). So, we'll be able to track growth in those markets as this rolls out.
<KulZero> MaxSem: yes, I know…I already spent half a year negotiating with a couple of them
 I did get to walk through Red Square to go to my meeting though :)
<MaxSem> all 3 major Russian operators are corporate jerks and petty thieves
<aude> MaxSem: evil!
<KulZero> MaxSem: we'll circle back and try again though…I can be quite relentless
 we can't give up!
<StevenW> Well, it's probably about time to wrap up.
 Would people be interested in a followup office hours about USSD and SMS access, like Kul suggested?
<KulZero> we're hoping to do our pilot launch in June or July
 would it be better to do it before or after?

  • aude is interested

<aude> will there be demos at wikimania?
<KulZero> we could do a simulation
<aude> cool
<StevenW> Alright, thanks for coming everyone.
<KulZero> thanks everyone!
<akapoor> thanks!