WIKIMOVE/Podcast/Transcript Episode 1

Nicole: Welcome to our first episode of WIKIMOVE. This is a new podcast where we discuss the future of the Wikimedia Movement. I am Nicole Eber and with me today is Niki Zeuner. We are both working for Wikimedia Deutschland in the Movement Strategy and global relations team.

Nikki: This episode was recorded at 2 p.m. CET on April 1st, 2022. Things may have changed since we recorded this, but what hasn't changed and what we still know..

Nicole: …is that by 2030, Wikimedia will become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge. And anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us. How do we actually get there? We have to move. To WIKIMOVE. WIKIMOVE is a forum for open and frank conversations about topics related to Movement Strategy. It is not so much about having all the answers, but it's about exploring questions together. It's about thinking together, on stage and on air. These topics, they can be derived either from the strategic direction, from the recommendations, the principles, the initiatives, or from even larger issues from our knowledge ecosystem and issues that are relevant to the transformation of the Wikimedia Movement. What we hope is that this space will create opportunities to participate, to contribute and to provide feedback. And our home is not only the audio and video podcast, but we also have a meta page. Just go to HTTPS column.

Nikki: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, okay. It's on meta people, so you can just find it.

Nicole: Okay, you will find all the relevant links and descriptions in the show notes and on meta.

Nikki: So what's the culture and the mood of this podcast? We want this to be a space for respectful exchange and mutual support. We wanna look into the future with optimism rather than complaining about the past. And we wanna still pay respect to the old Movement, but at the same time, critically question like the systems that we've built, which may be somewhat colonial, which may be inequitable structures, narratives, habits that we've had. So this will be a show where we question those things. We want to shine a light on those people who try new things and develop innovations, people succeed and people who fail while doing so. Duration, ambiguity, uncertainty are welcome in this show. And we especially welcome people with questions and we don't expect ready-made solutions. So it's a forum for conversation. The audience is anyone in the Wikimedia Movement, of course, who's interested in the strategic direction or in how we're going to get there. And we'll also do a little bit ‘latest talk of the town’ stuff. So we'll have some fun here. Our guests are people who are working on 2030 initiatives or are participating in governance reform or people who come from underrepresented communities. Also people from other movements and those who have experiences and innovations to share. We want to strengthen mutuality and solidarity in our Movement and we want to show that there are people inside and outside of our Movement that have already developed solutions. So Nicole, can you tell us about today's show, please?

Nicole: On today's show, we'll be talking about knowledge as a service. What does it mean and how can we actually bring it to life? This knowledge as a service is one of the two pillars in the strategic direction. And we feel that it has not been discussed that much since 2017. Or has it? So we want to take a deeper dive into this field. And of course, we are not alone here. We will be having two wonderful guests with us today. Guillaume Paumier, who will shed light on the origin story and Tochi Precious, who will share ideas on the future. You'll hear from them soon. But first, we will start with the latest news from the Movement.

Nikki: Let's just jump right in and look at what's happening in our Movement right now. I want to first start with a sad and disturbing item, which is the war in Ukraine and the war in Europe. But our Movement has really stepped up to the plate and we've collected some really helpful resources for both people who are trying to be informed on the war. People who are affected by it. So refugees and people in Ukraine and people in Russia. There's a meta page on the Russian invasion in Ukraine. So please go there, see what you can do to help our colleagues and folks who are affected by this war and see what you can do to contribute to good information about this. And we'll talk a little bit at the bottom of the show about our role in disinformation and misinformation combat. So what else is going on?

Nicole: And there's a photo contest actually going on. Wiki loves Africa. It's actually a photo, video and audio contest and this year's theme is home and habitat. Get your camera and take photos of your Africa and it's running until 15th of April. But I'm also sure you might be asking yourselves what's actually going on with the governance reform in our Movement.

Nikki: What governance reform? Oh, just kidding. So there's a recommendation four that in the Movement Strategy Recommendations it says there should be a Charter written that defines how a Movement is governed and run in the future. Well, there's people actually dedicated volunteers that are working on that right now. And that group is also known as the MCDC, the Movement Charter Drafting Committee. Here a virtual big round of applause for those folks who have agreed to spend a lot of their time learning about how international movements are governed, how they are run, and who want to write something that is up to date for us and works for our Movement. You can find out what they're doing. They're doing all this in a very transparent way and there's a page on Meta. So Nicole, you're sort of the event queen. What is going on around events in the Movement?

Nicole: Events, events, events. Yeah, there have been a couple of announcements in the recent weeks and there will be more coming up. So the first one is the Wikimedia Hackathon, which is happening in May. It's going to be an online event, but there are grants available for hosting regional or local events for community members. So maybe also knowledge as a service might be a topic there. And then the huge event of the Movement, Wikimania is going to happen again this year in August. It will also be, no, it will be a hybrid event with the main event being online, but also with support being available for regional or local events. And then we also have some big news to share. Wikimedia Deutschland is going to host the Wikimedia Summit again this year in September also as a hybrid event for Wikimedia affiliates and the Wikimedia Foundation. And the participation will be on site here in Berlin, but also of course remotely. And the focus will be on implementation of Movement Strategy, the governance reform and the programmatic work. So please go to our Meta page and let us know what we should mention or announce in this section of the show.

Nikki: Thanks Nicole! So we have another section which is called “Is this hope I’m feeling?” and in this section, I wanted to ask you Nicole since I was gone for a bit. Did you hear any news lately from the Hub frenzy lately, people are creating Hubs and I wonder what you think right now. Who’s going to create the coolest Hub?

Nicole: Yeah, I might be a little bit biased here, so I'm not going to state the obvious, but what I want to say is for me, the really the coolest hub can be the Central and Eastern European hub, the CEE Hub. This group or this collection of affiliates in the Central and Eastern European region, they have been working together for so very long. They have hosted regional events. We both have been to their events and have enjoyed it a lot. And they have explored how they can work together and support each other. And now the form basically follows these functions and they are getting closer to actually founding this hub and they have even written a grant request and asked the foundation for support so if you want to know more about hubs and how they are built then check out that example.

Nikki: So, with that, speaking of non-european, we’ll turn to our guests and our topics today. So we want to talk about knowledge as a service and what this means in its original intent and what it means as a value and as a call for action.

Nicole: We are very excited to have Guillaume Paumier with us. Guillaume was instrumental in the earlier stage, phase one of Movement Strategy Development, to write the strategic direction. Where will our Movement go as we move towards 2030? And Guillaume is also an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation since 2009 and has been a Wikimedian since 2005. We verified that with him. And I personally feel that we have known each other forever, if not forever. So, hi Guillaume!

Nikki: Our other guest today is Tochi. Tochi Precious is the co-founder and program coordinator for Igbo Wikimedians user group. And as a Wikipedian in residence at the Moleskin Foundation has been working on developing and improving the creativity of young African editors and increasing the number of African language Wikipedias. Hey guys, thanks so much for sharing your time and wisdom with us today. And welcome to the inaugural episode of WIKIMOVE.

Nicole: Yeah, Guillaume, without further ado, can you tell us more about your involvement and your experience in the Movement Strategy Process?

Guillaume: Yes. Hi. I'm very glad to be here with you today. So as you've explained, we've been on this journey for Movement Strategy for four to five years now. And the first phase was to get some alignment as a movement on where we wanted to go. And I was a lead architect for the first phase when we all came together as a Movement and tried to discuss our future and what the world around us looked like and what our place in it was. And as you've explained, we had a lot of discussions, a lot of research, and then we pulled all of that together into a distillation of our hopes and dreams, which was the Strategic Direction. And we talk a lot about the direction as the main outcome of the first phase. But I think all those discussions, all that process of trying to figure out a common future. Another outcome that is at least as important as the direction is the trust that we rebuilt and the fact that we now agree that we should pull together in the same direction. And I think that is at least as important. And I think the last thing I want to say is that even though we have those two pillars of knowledge as a service and knowledge equity, and we say that, you know, it's related to the fact that we're a social and technical Movement, it's not just that knowledge as a service is tech stuff and knowledge equity is people stuff. It's all intermingled and there are components of both technology and humans in both. And yeah, I think it's just something to remember that it's all meshed together.

Nikki: Okay, that makes sense. So I'm hoping that in this conversation, we can get a little closer to what it actually means. And I think Tochi is here to help us with that. So Tochi, when did you hear first about this?

Tochi: One of the challenges my community is facing is accessibility. First of all, internet is quite expensive when it comes to Africa, because having had programs in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, I've tried to compare the, should I say, the price of internet in all of these countries and even coming down to Nigeria. So one of them is the internet, which is making accessibility also very much difficult and challenging for the community. So if like I'm aware of some communities or some Wiki, should I say Affiliates and user groups that are trying to make Wikipedia available offline like using the WikiFundi, or I don't know if I'm pronouncing the name of the project very well. And another thing too is when it comes to contribution, when you have people who would want to contribute, this also is of contribution, it's kind of a challenge for people from my community. So let's take, for example, this notability issue. Someone from Africa or let me bring it down to Nigeria, you feel, or we know here that this person is very notable in Nigeria. And then you try to put up a biography of this person with supporting verifiable resources on as references. And then you see someone from another part of the world, probably not even from Africa, not even from Nigeria, who says that this content is not, this person is not notable enough. So that ease of contribution makes it way difficult for people or let's say even the young people were bringing it to keep contributing. Because, for example, if I put up my first article on Wikipedia and then it gets deleted, it's this, should I call it, is demoralizing, is still and this passion and enthusiasm I used to go into, it just starts going down. So this has become a problem for us. Sometimes some of them just even get blocked at just creating at the point of just creating the accounts. I was training some students some time ago at the African Leadership Academy. And before we could even finish creating accounts and say Jack Robinson, we got an IP block. So it was very, very like, it was demoralizing. Like there was this chaos everywhere. The students that had this zeal to tell the African story, to share free knowledge about Africa and also about other people in African languages. Like before we knew what was happening, GoodSea was already going down. So this accessibility problem, this ease of contribution problem has become a whole lot of challenge for us. Sometimes it's even the user interface, because for me, I've been trying as much as possible to see if I can get maybe any community or anyone that would help to change the Igbo Wikipedia interface is really not even welcoming at all.

Nikki: But I'm wondering if we need more than sort of individual addressing individual administrators, but also maybe we need some structural systemic regulatory policy, whatever changes that balance out or even out these inequalities that your communities are particularly facing, which goes to show what Guillaume said. It's not just about technology. It's about people, and it's about a cultural shift that needs to happen. So, Tochi, the Strategic Direction also means that it says we will build the technical infrastructure that enables us to collect free knowledge in all forms and languages. I want to come to a little bit to that topic of languages. And there's been a lot of talk when we talk about languages, what do we call them, minority languages now? Small languages? No, there's languages that are spoken by millions of people that are not represented on our projects. So you initiated the launch of the, I'm gonna butcher this, Makhuwa Language Wikipedia, which Makhuwa is an African language with over 7 million speakers, but no digital footprint. So can you tell us a little bit more about that project?

Tochi: So Mozambique was one of the places where we had the series of events and that was last year, September, 2021. When we got to the community, the Mozambique, we realized that the language of the people we wanted to work with, which is Mapua, is a language of over 7 million people. But then when we're trying to look for, when I was trying to look for their language Wikipedia, I couldn't find it. And I had to reach out to Amir from the language team to assist in setting the language up on the incubator. And when he was like telling me to also get some, should I say books, online, blogs, or anything that is written in this language particularly, so we can know how the language is written, just like, for example, Arabic left to right, all of those. I started looking for, I contacted the community and they said they had not. Even something like a Facebook page where maybe a business does, someone does this kind of business, maybe translations, there was actually nothing like that existing. So it was even more frustrating that I couldn't speak Portuguese. So it was more like I was limited to talking to a number of people. But these people were very well-grounded professors from the Rovuma University. And then we realized that this language had no digital footprint. And then they have a whole lot of speakers, but they really wanted to tell their story. They wanted to resurrect this language. They wanted to digitize the language so it doesn't just go down like that. So that was how we got into getting the language into the incubator, we got speakers of the language and also translators of the language, both teachers to translate, to start the MediaWiki translation. And they started to article and we're aiming at 300, at least 300, so we'll be able to get the language out of the incubator. So that has actually been the story with the Makhuwa language.

Nikki: That's so awesome and I wish I spoke that language because now I want to read those articles and figure out what knowledge we're not getting from it because all we can do is consume English and German Wikipedia.

Nicole: So we talked about what's behind the term and also about potential steps to implementation, but what's actually in front of us? Let's look at this. So Guillaume, do you have any specific thoughts on how knowledge as a service could actually manifest?

Guillaume: Yes, many! I think the most obvious thing that comes to mind when we talk about knowledge as a service in the Movement is access and dissemination of free knowledge and possibly contribution. And it's about making sure that free knowledge from Wikimedia sites can reach as far as possible around the world. But I think that that's sort of the easy part, not easy in actually implementing, but easy in terms of imagining this as a manifestation of knowledge as a service. And so I think I want to try to open our minds to all the possibilities of what else knowledge as a service could be, even if that means projecting ourselves a little more into future imagination and all that. And, you know, I think about all the knowledge, either free or not yet free, that exists in places and organizations that are culturally aligned with us. So, you know, maybe museums and archives and memory institutions, they might want to use Wikimedia products or software for their collection management. And that could then be linked to Wikipedia and other sites. And it could improve the discoverability in both directions. It would offer a different path for readers to just walk the path of free knowledge, like outside and inside of Wikimedia. And, you know, we could think about federated Wikibase instances between Wikidata and Commons and maybe museums who use Wikibase for their collection management and all of that. I know that there's a lot of information in the field of bioinformatics and medicine with Wiki projects that are active around genes and proteins and all of that. I think there's a lot of potential for connection between all of those silos of knowledge.

Nikki; Guillaume has mentioned a bunch of things, but what are some of the things maybe that would work particularly well to address some of those challenges that you talked about?

Tochi: Okay. So, first as a community, knowledge as a service means a way to facilitate access to tangible knowledge. So for example, best practices. So if we're going to be contributing to Wikipedia, just like I was giving the examples previously, and then we just try to create the account that just put up an article and it just gets deleted within seconds, what are the best practices? So this is what it means to us. Now how to lose. That's also another one, another example. How do we do this? How do we go about doing this and all of that? Another thing is also templates, procedures. This is what it means to us, having access to all these tangible knowledge.

Nikki: So, are you thinking about templates or best practices that already exists or are you saying we should develop those?

Tochi: So both the ones that already exist and those that need to be developed they would be really, they are all very helpful.

Nikki: Yeah, because what I'm thinking is some of the best practices that we've developed in the global north over the last couple of decades may not be adaptable or may not be meaningful for a different context. So I really think also that communities like yours or the ones that you work with need to step up and develop their own best practices and really create new tools and new templates and new ways to work. Also be willing to throw out the ones that we've developed here if they don't work.

Guillaume: I think we have a role to play in developing the infrastructure and the tools and also the social processes to make up for some of that, whether it is to figure out ways to document oral knowledge or to make up for some of the lack of traditional scholarship, whether that's peer reviewed research, or journalism, or books, or trying to make up all those gaps so that it is easier to support knowledge equity with knowledge as a service as well. And when we talk about knowledge as a service, it's usually to discuss technology. But I think that technology is not the only service that we can offer, and it may not even be the main one. Because in 10, 15, 20 years, I don't know if we will still have websites, but I do hope that we will still have Wikimedia. And especially in a world where there is so much misleading information and so many efforts to try and bend the truth and bend the facts. I think that as a Movement, our main value may be in our expertise and skill in sorting facts from fiction. And weighing the relevance of facts and the trustworthiness and that whole capacity for sense-making, for figuring out the reliable facts, that could also be a service. We could have people or organizations reaching out to us to help them figure this out, which they sort of do, but not officially. But that could be a whole other thing. And when you think about it, it is still about our mission. It's just a different way of achieving the mission. And I think the last thing I would want to say on this topic is sometimes I try to think about what could go wrong if everything worked well. And, you know, when we, you know, what happens if we win in a way? And I wrote a scenario about this a few years ago where basically if we manage too well to disappear in the, you know, behind the scenes where everyone uses our Wikimedia knowledge, but no one knows that they do, then we might be in a situation where we have trouble sustaining our Movement and our technical and social infrastructure. So I think it's also important to make sure that we still have ways of showing who we are and what we stand for and how to keep those feedback loops of contributions and sustainability.

Nicole: I have the feeling we could do a show on each of those topics that you mentioned. And of course, also that Tochi mentioned, we could like so dive deep into these things. Sense-making as a service, for example, I find that super interesting to further explore. And also like, okay, of course, if we at one point become the essential infrastructure.

Nikki: Well, nobody sees the infrastructure anymore. I mean, we've talked about that during the strategy process, too, that if, like you said, if people use our knowledge, but it's not visible as coming from a Wikimedia project, then we may lose our funding. We may lose our support and ultimately lose our relevance in the world. And our visibility, so what do we do to stay in people's faces and say, look, we're providing this service? And the other thing that I sort of picked up from what you said was, it seems like we go into this future, this strategic direction, with a bunch of baggage from the past almost, or a bunch of rules and things that made sense when we made them. But now, like notability for Wikipedians from Africa, or some of the things that we do don't make sense anymore. Even maybe, you know, focusing this much on an encyclopedic format of knowledge dissemination might not be what we need in the future. I'm also thinking maybe we should infiltrate social media more with our knowledge. I mean, we have social media accounts, but just creating pieces of knowledge that are accessible through social media platforms and channels to counterbalance, actively counterbalance the stuff that's being spread there.

Guillaume: So my thinking is, trying to find the balance between playing our role as a champion of free knowledge and also providing a safe environment for everyone in our Movement. I think that, I mean, when you see how many governments want to block Wikimedia sites, even when there isn't an invasion going on, you know that free knowledge by itself is a radical thing. And so even if we just keep doing what we do, we will still be at risk and we will still continue to find this information every day. But also, since we're talking about, we talked about knowledge as a service, I think that our role is to provide the infrastructure and the tools and the social processes that keep that sense-making machine going. And that enables everyone around the world to contribute to the best of their ability in a safe environment, safe from other zealous administrators and safe from authoritarian governments. It's all about keeping that machine going and doing what he does well, even if we don't always understand.

Nikki: Those are wonderful last words, looking into the future. And I think that wraps it up really well. So that's a wrap for the first episode of WIKIMOVE Thanks for listening. As you can tell, we touched upon many, many things today that may or may not be topics for future episodes. So we scratched on stuff like governance, reform hubs, revenues, the Movement Charter. We didn't scratch on capacity building, but I want us to at some point. And many other topics we'll touch on in further episodes.

Nicole: WIKIMOVE is a production of Wikimedia Deutschland and our team, the Movement Strategy and Global Relations team. We thank Eva Martin who pulls all the strings in the background and makes sure technology runs smoothly so that we can create excellent content here. Our music was composed by Rory Gregory and it is available under a CC BY SA license not only on Meta but especially on Wikimedia Commons. And of course we thank our wonderful guests Guillaume and Tochii. It's been a great pleasure having you with us on the show. So new episodes of the show will be released every month. And we hope that new ideas will actually be born from the conversations here on stage and that collaborations that we feature here in WIKIMOVE can be kickstarted. And please visit our Meta page, our WIKIMOVE Meta page, to react to our podcast, to connect also with our listeners, and to subscribe to always be notified of new episode releases and also to post your questions that we can then feature in the show. And we also have an email address, not only a meta page, it's And you can continue the conversation with us here and suggest topics for new episodes. So that's it. Ciao for now and tschussi from Berlin.