Wikimedia Clinics/004

This is a digest (a processed, edited summary) of the online conference call Wikimedia Clinic #004, held on June 28rd 2020. It sacrifices fidelity to people's exact words in favor of clarity, brevity, and digestibility.

Except for the introduction, the topics are brought up by volunteers participating in the calls.

The call was attended by 7 members of Wikimedia Foundation staff and 11 volunteers.

Topic 1: IntroductionEdit

quick principlesEdit

  • listen with patience and respect.
  • share your experience, but remember others' contexts are very diverse, and may not match yours.
  • be of service to others on the call.

These calls are a Friendly Space.

Purpose of Wikimedia ClinicsEdit

  • provide a channel to ask questions and collect feedback on one's own work and context
  • help direct people to appropriate resources across the Foundation and broader Wikimedia movement

If we can't answer your questions during the call, we (WMF) are committed to finding who can, and connecting you (this may happen after the call)

Examples of things the Clinics are not the place for:

  • complaints about interpersonal behavior - there are appropriate channels for this on-wiki, and there is the Trust and Safety team.
  • content or policy disputes on specific wikis. But it is okay to seek advice on how to better present one's positions.

Topic 2: Community friction in outreach on Turkish WikipediaEdit

Presentation of topicEdit

After a difficult time when Wikipedia had been blocked in Turkey (for 2.5 years), the Wikimedia Community User Group Turkey resumed outreach activities, focused on recruiting new editors, and increasing their diversity. We feel the broader Turkish community is not very open to it. There is an idea that "small is better". Newcomers' contributions are constantly challenged on ground of notability. Everyone is frustrated: veteran community members, the newcomers, and we in the user group attempting the outreach.

Are we making mistakes? What can we do better?

DiscussionEdit

  • volunteer: It is a very usual issue, I'd say. Helping other people to grow is not that easy for volunteers. I sometimes feel that outreach creates burden on existing volunteers in my community — so it is important not to do it alone (you won't be able to be everywhere to support the newcomers) and important to pace the speed of outreach, so as not to overwhelm the community with too many newbies and too much cleanup at any one time.
  • Asaf (WMF): There is no magic solution, but I can offer some tips from my and others' experience with this problem, which is indeed common:
    • One angle to improve is the training of newcomers:
      • make sure you cover the principles and attitudes necessary to successfully integrate as a contributor to Wikimedia, which are often not taught, or not given enough time, in outreach and training. These are much more important, and much harder to understand on one's own, than the technical skills of how to link or how to add an image. Make sure you have solid modules on core concepts such as Neutral Point of View (NPOV) and your wiki's Notability criteria. Here are modules I developed about English Wikipedia, when I was delivering some training in Africa: NPOV; Verifiability and Notability.
      • Another suggestion that many program leaders found useful is to specifically encourage newcomers to first improve existing articles, rather than creating new articles. This generally effectively sidesteps any notability issues, and allows the newcomers to practice NPOV writing, wiki syntax, and collaborating with others on talk pages. Creating new articles can be a later step, for those who become comfortable with improving existing articles.
      • It is also advisable to track participants in your outreach programs, using a platform such as Event Metrics or Programs & Events Dashboard. In addition to easing the collection of statistics, those platforms allow you to notice when the new contributors are running into friction around their contributions.
    • another angle is better communication with the broader experienced community: spell out why you are doing the outreach you're doing. Remind people wikis need new contributors, not just to grow, but even to maintain current size of editor pool, since people also quit, or leave due to changed life circumstances, and even die. Express any particular value you see in the specific outreach you do. For example:
      • "I'm conducting this Education program at the Faculty of Law in the University of X, and as you know, currently our coverage of law is spotty and mediocre. With a little effort and patience to support the newcomers, by the end of this semester we would have dozens of expert-reviewed, good-quality articles relying on up-to-date sources! And who know? Maybe a handful of those students would like editing enough to stick around and become regular editors! I think it's worth the effort of supporting them."
  • SPoore (WMF): I would look to other groups or thematic organizations, devoted to a special theme: they have expertise across the movement. For example, some topics tend to be picked by students year after year, and experienced volunteers may be tired of "cleaning up" after low-quality contributions to the same popular articles again and again.
  • volunteer: Unlike ENWP which is very developed, in our smaller Turkish Wikipedia, there are great content gaps. For example, about modern art, there are content gaps and issues on notability of any and all topics in that field!
  • Asaf (WMF): You don't want to throw newbies into that situation. You need to discuss this with the community and establish some notability criteria for that broad topic. You can probably agree on some bar, however high, for covering some modern art topics. You can take inspiration from some of the exisiting policies on other projects. Once you agree on some criteria within the existing community, then you can have newbies edit in those subject areas.
  • another volunteer: it feels tempting to think that we should tackle content and editor gaps at once. This may mean you should choose between content and contributor: which one you focus on at each point in time. This does mean you will go forward more slowly, but perhaps with less friction. Modern art also has specialized sources, which may make meeting general notability criteria difficult. It makes sense to focus on agreeing on at least a handful of those specialized sources being reliable, so that at least those can be used to establish notability.
  • SPoore (WMF): Recruiting newbies is easier with online support of experienced contributors, even if they don't (or can't) participate in the actual outreach sessions. Experienced volunteers sympathetic to the outreach project can monitor the newbie contributions and step in to help them.

Topic 3: Announcement about Celtic Knot 2020 Conference (Virtual)Edit

The Celtic Knot 2020 conference, devoted to multilingualism in Wikimedia, will take place online, July 9-10 2020. Some sessions will be pre-recorded, and some live. Videos should soon start appearing in the program.

There will be space to discuss the pre-recorded talks. There will be some online sessions too.

There are also satellite events before and after the main conference days. Check out the program in the link above.

Topic 4: Consultations between the WMF and the meta CommunityEdit

Presentation of topicEdit

volunteer: I am concerned about the variable quality of consultations between the Foundation and the Community.

I would say the Talk Pages consultation is the gold standard for good consultations. (and the Growth team's current work is good as well.)

But some consultations are just set up poorly to begin with (e.g. not multilingual). Other times, there's a very active staff member (usually a liaison) engaging on the wiki, receiving clear negative feedback from the community, but not being able to concede any points, because they are not empowered to do so, being only liaisons to decision-makers more senior to them. Those decision-makers are not showing up on the wiki themselves. (The IP Masking is a good example of that dynamic.)

DiscussionEdit

  • another volunteer: good point - we don't want to have the same situation soon again. It is sad that we are in this situation again. It's better to have guidelines on having such practices.
  • Asaf (WMF): I agree with you. Some consulations were not done well. In fact, the Foundation as a whole agrees with you! The Foundation recently had an internal process to try to get better shared understanding of consulations across the organization (When we consult; when do we not consult; how to frame consultations; how to respond to feedback; how to determine and share outcomes; etc.) and to improve discipline in adhering to good practices when doing consultations.
    Staff members with more community experience (including me) collaborated and produced a guidebook. I am hoping all or most of that guide book will be published online, too, as the principles are not secret, but rather are well-understood ideas just insufficiently inculcated across the organization. This issue has been recognized as a weakness and is being addressed. This codified wisdom in the form of this guidebook will hopefully help us run consultations according to a standard procedure and using best principles of community collaboration, rather than relying only on a manager's instincts and whatever community experience happens to be available on the team. As with everything else, I encourage you to judge the Foundation by our deeds and not only our words. The burden of proof is on us to show we are finally learning these lessons we should have learned long ago.
  • another volunteer: How to decide what meets the threshold for a consultation? No need to consult about everything, but must identify the most important concerns.
  • GIngersoll (WMF): I'm new to the WMF; I'm curious to hear the asker's (and others') opinions as to what are the attributes of the successful consultations?
  • volunteer: Engaging with quality: staff members openly answering questions on talk pages throughout, not just at end of each stage. Ability to engage in multiple languages makes results more reliable and inclusive to non-English speakers. Also, careful attention to framing: How much of an impact can this consultation have? Is it the community just choosing from a set of options? Is the community empowered to add options? Are ideas actually solicited from the community to begin with?
  • Asaf (WMF): Yes. And this must be considered before starting a consultation, to determine whether there should be a consultation at all. And if there should, how should we frame it? What do we want to know? Who will be making the final decision? Are we beginning with a clear proposed decision and just inviting review and feedback (and if so, might we change our minds?), or are we starting with no particularly strong leaning to any one option, and are open to whatever the community would express a preference for? How are we planning and resourcing to ensure inclusivity? After a consultation, the outcome must be clearly communicated, including what (if any) of the community's feedback had impact on the decision, and what has not (ideally with some rationale). Above all, false consultations, and even the appearance of a consultation being a false one, must be avoided.
  • SPoore (WMF): Thinking as a longtime volunteer, I think there has not been a good way to get together and talk to WMF in a duly-representative voice from the community's side. There have been efforts where affiliates tried, but never really had an impact. We see ad-hoc efforts still happening even now, e.g. Affiliates getting together for Branding discussions. A lot of people feel they don't have power or that WMF is powerful. We need to make it even. I certainly feel that power and see that the terms aren't equal. We need to recognize that there is a power dynamic between the WMF & volunteers. As a volunteer, I wouldn't want to waste volunteer time if it would not be taken into account.
  • volunteer: That's an interesting trade-off. There is a similar power dynamic when an affiliate is created, because to the unaffiliated editor, that means an even bigger loss of power, because now there's a primary body the WMF would prefer to communicate with (because it's smaller and more responsive) in the region/topic. I have been concerned about this; I have heard WMF considering reaching out to affiliates and this reduces my ability to spell out my opinions, as this requires me to reach out to affiliates to be heard, as WMF spends time communicating with affiliates.
  • SPoore (WMF): Everyone would like a chance to participate in the consultation. It is important to have all the right people in the consultation. It's our wiki way to restart discussions if we don't like how things are going. We should try to figure out a better way of consulting with affiliates, and not only with affiliates.
  • Asaf (WMF): Some of the demands by community members to have a say in certain issues are inappropriate and misguided (e.g. to have a say in WMF's spending on office furniture), but it seems to me it is motivated by a strong sense of emergency, that something is so profoundly wrong at the Foundation, that community members just have to step in to help prevent disaster. This is obviously an unhealthy situation, caused in large part by our squandering community trust on multiple occasions. If we attempt to rebuild trust (and have the discipline that would ensure success, because in my experience the community is in fact very forgiving, when it has the impression of genuine apologies and genuine change in behavior), we will be trusted again, and most community members won't feel that urgent need to be there to save the Foundation from making wrong decisions. I do hope WMF manages to regain trust, so we can focus on the formidable problems our mission poses, rather than on the problems created by operating under the current low-trust conditions.
  • volunteer: I think that's a good point
  • another volunteer: I agree on that trust statement
  • another volunteer: I have the impression that WMF documents sometimes don't have the quality of content that they should have before being put to the community in a consultation. They are sometimes like an alpha version, rather than a beta version. Not thought through enough; so why should I invest my time in that discussion?

Topic 5: Translation of the {{Cite Q|...}} from English to Spanish?Edit

  • volunteer: I translated a Wikipedia article from French into English. I'd like to translate it into Spanish, too, but it's just too clumsy for me to want to do that without a Spanish-language equivalent of {{Cite Q|...}}.
  • Asaf (WMF): this is a template on English Wikipedia which is a convenient way to cite a source described by a Wikidata item using its Wikidata QID. The question is whether there is an equivalent on Spanish WIkipedia. I don't personally know, but I will get you an answer.
  • Postfactum reply from Amir E. Aharoni: I am not aware of any reason why {{Cite Q|...}} doesn't exist in the Spanish Wikipedia. Quite likely, it's simply because no one bothered to create it there. Maybe it can be imported there from a Wikipedia in another language. As far as I know, the Spanish Wikipedia is relatively open to using data from Wikidata, so if you import it there, it's not very likely that it will be deleted, but even though I can read Spanish, I am not actually deeply familiar with the Spanish community, so just to be on the safe side, it may be a good idea to ask somebody who is an experienced editor in the Spanish Wikipedia or at the Village Pump there.

Topic 6: International conflict observatoryEdit

  • volunteer: It might be interesting to consider a joint project of Wikipedia and other groups interested in non-violent and civil discourse. I thought of the name "International Conflict Observatory". I have some content ready and would like to connect with WMF reps to work on this:
  • Asaf (WMF): Thank you, that sounds very interesting. It could be possibly be an angle relevant to our Strategy. We can find intersections with other organizations interested in non-violent communication and conflict engagement, and potentially create partnerships. I will share this with my colleagues.
  • voluteer: Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Foundation are two non-profits that have already advertised interest in finding ways to reduce level of conflict in the body politic.

Topic 7: Can you recall a great talk or presentation outside Wikimedia that really inspired your Wikimedia work?Edit

  • Asaf (WMF): Can you recall a great talk or presentation outside Wikimedia that really inspired your Wikimedia work?
  • volunteer: Hearing a talk by a leading economist named Stephanie Kelton, I wanted to add her picture to the Wikipedia article, but the rules of Wikimedia Commons made it difficult as it required that the pictures be taken by me. [this is not accurate --ed.] But it motivated me to figure out the process and contribute more.
  • another volunteer: In a conference, two sociologists presented about museums and the way museums signal openness/closedness. For example, when someone visits the museum with their kids, and see a designated spot marked "child strollers", they get a signal that they're welcome and that it's appropriate to visit with kids. When leaflets have small fonts, sometimes it's hard for the elderly or vision-impaired to read, and that sends an exclusionary signal. What signals are we sending in our wiki sites? Whom do we make feel "this is directed at me", "I am welcome here"? Whom do we signal away?
  • volunteer: which is why we need "Wiki Loves Women" and "Wiki loves Africa"
  • SPoore (WMF): Florence Nightingale inspired me greatly. She made me think about myself and the way I thought about information and how I could potentially help people learn more. The fact that I wanted to share what I knew as a nurse, is the reason I joined Wikipedia. She really inspired me to do this.

FeedbackEdit

Asaf (WMF) asked for feedback on this Wikipedia Clinic program, positive or negative.

  • Fiona Romeo: It was just great for me to see how you hosted and facilitated the meeting. It will help me organize my own office hours better.
  • volunteer: I think this session has been very valuable.