Wikimedia Foundation elections/2021/Candidates/CandidateQ&A/Question10/az

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What are your thoughts on the future of Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity and other smaller Wikimedia projects? And how can the Wikimedia Foundation support them?

Question received from a community member on Meta

Gerard Meijssen (GerardM)

We operate by what is considered a consensus but there is fallout that is often negative for small projects. Only providing hosting and basic MediaWiki functionality is a support we can continue to provide. When there is a public for its information/data or a use for it, we should find ways to realise the necessary functionality.

Dariusz Jemielniak (Pundit)

All projects start small :) I think that it is ok that some do not evolve as fast or as big as the others. I think that the Foundation should support the smaller projects, too - especially since there is a possibility to cross-pollinate ideas and communities. People bored with one project transition to another, that is good (as otherwise we'd lose them). So I think that what is key is making sure that we are able to distinguish universal functions (e.g. visual editing) and local functions/needs. The local functions/needs can be based in a specific project or in a specific language. Support for these functions should not be just proportionate to the number of users. All in all, as I write in my statement, we will need to embrace new formats of knowledge presentation anyway - so it may, actually, turn out that what currently is "small" will prove "big" and indispensable with time. Pundit (talk) 12:43, 9 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Lionel Scheepmans (Lionel Scheepmans)

To limit myself to the mentioned projects, I would say that the future of these projects strongly depends on the existence of other projects on the Web that do the same work. At the Wikispecies level, I think for example of the Encyclopédie de la Vie which is more accomplished, at the Wikinew level, there is the AgoraVox site which is more active in French, and at the Wikiversité level there is Zeste de savoir, which is very comparable at the level of course production. So I wonder if a collaboration between Wikimedia projects and similar non-Wikimedia projects is not possible in order to centralize the information and to dynamize the volunteer community. But it all depends on the will of the contributors within the Wikimedia projects since they are autonomous and also maybe on their ability to develop things differently in order to distinguish themselves from other similar projects and attract new contributors. The Wikijournal is a good example. Being very active on the en.wikiversity level, this is a subject that is very close to my heart.

Reda Kerbouche (Reda Kerbouche)

No response yet.

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight (Rosiestep)

Smaller WikiProjects have the potential to become bigger WikiProjects. I wish them every opportunity to grow. This requires patience and resources. Many community members shift their areas of attention between sister projects. In time, with patience, more community members may become more involved with a project that is small today. Given enough resources, to include developer time and so forth, the Wikimedia Foundation can play a key role in supporting smaller Wikiprojects.

Mike Peel (Mike Peel)

I think we need to take a step back and assess the future of these projects. The current status quo of existing-but-neglected isn’t good. Either (as a community) we should decide to close them, or we should decide to keep them. If the latter, then WMF should invest in them properly to make sure they become successes - finding ways to bring new editors into them, to improve their technical setup to make sure it’s suitable for the specific tasks the project is accomplishing, and making sure that their existence is well known amongst potential users of them. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 11:57, 11 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Adam Wight (Adamw)

We got lucky with English Wikipedia, it emerged at the right time to become the canonical, global project for encyclopedic writing. But a project like Wikispecies is the uncomfortable position of being pitted against iNaturalist (and Wikipedia itself!), and Wikiversity must be compared to specialized open educational resources such as Moodle, and repositories run by schools like MIT.

We've never given the non-Wikipedia projects the direct technical support they need to thrive. Commons is doing well despite the lacking software support for search, galleries, interactive content and so on. Wikidata is an example of how targeted software development can drive usage and adoption. I would reach for a similar approach to the smaller projects, but I'm afraid the cost might be prohibitive.

As for the software we already have, the recent community wishlist vote for "translatable templates" is a great example of how the resources of large projects might be shared to help smaller ones, but this is more useful for the multiple languages of a given project, and maybe not as easy to reuse across different projects.

Beyond just the technical limitations, we should ask ourselves if the projects' scope makes sense. For example, there is an organic community of practice made up of fish veterinarians. They might occasionally contribute sourced text about a specific family or species of fish on Wikipedia or Wikispecies, but their everyday work is more about techniques, diagnoses, and maybe deeper questions about fish consciousness. If we were to provide a dedicated public wiki for fish veterinarians to organize, discuss, and share material, they might be much more active than if they are constrained by existing rules about original research and so on.

I'm in favor of many more small projects with no barriers to entry.

Vinicius Siqueira (Vini 175)

Knowledge exists in many shapes, so it makes sense to have many wikiprojects, including small projects. To thrive, these projects must have a healthy and engaged community. We need a better roadmap about what to do when projects claudicate --which basically means projects in which community disengagement is high--, as this could either mean that some sort of process to increase engagement is needed or that the project might not be needed anymore. --Vinicius Siqueira (talk) 17:50, 7 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Yao Eliane Dominique (Yasield)

These small projects as we call them are the future of our movement. With the rise of online courses accentuated by the health crisis for example, we would benefit from working more on positioning Wikiversity to make it an essential platform for educational resources and online courses. The Foundation should think more about the status of these small projects.

Douglas Ian Scott (Discott)

It is important that the Wikimedia Foundation continue to support smaller Wikimedia projects and support the creation of new projects should there be demand for the creation of those new projects. I feel that each project has the potential to evolve into something big so long as there is a need for it and/or there is a community of volunteers to develop it.

This extends to small language versions of Wikipedia as well. That is why I opposed the closure of isiXhosa language Wikipedia when it was proposed that it be closed in 2013. In that case a small project had not yet had time to fully develop even though there was a large community of eight million language speakers who might benefit from it. I acted as a community member who feels strongly that so long as there is a need or a community to support the growth of a small project Wiki we should support its continuation as they need time, many years, to have a chance.

The best way that the Wikimedia Foundation can support these projects is to:

  • Keep them active
  • Support the growth of their respective communities
  • Enhance community health
  • Most importantly: seek guidance from that community on what their needs might be and how to best assist them.

Each project has its own unique set of needs and challenges and the community of that project has the best insight into what those are and the best likely way to tackle them. --Discott (talk) 15:55, 21 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Pascale Camus-Walter (Waltercolor)

Compared to the giant Wikipedia, when we think of Wikiprojects, we always think small. Be bold ! Why not set up a new project with a new category of contributors in the field of free knowledge ? We have learned a lot from the successes but also from the failures of Wikipedia. There is also a large field which is not covered in the free knowledge space and would deserve new contributions in a great wiki : peer-reviewed free online publications. There is actually a crisis in the scientific publications, with the appearing of deficient peer reviewed publications while the access to quality papers is hindered by expensive private payable access to studies, despite the fact that these studies have already been paid by public taxes.

There is a movement of researchers to prevent cheating in scientific papers and promote free access to scientific knowledge. There is another important change in the production of knowledge : in recent years, an enormous amount of archives and datas went on the internet where the public now gets free access to billions of quality documents. On another hand, there is a decrease in the printed publications of secondary sources. In the XIXth and XXth century, brilliant scholars, authors, journalists, but also a lot of simple citizens grouped in learned societies contributed massively to thousands of local, regional or thematic journals, revues, bulletins, and books. With the Internet, a consequent part of these kinds of printed publications didn’t last and they were not replaced on the Internet by new quality publications of original research. This leads to a serious drop in the availability of contemporary quality sources as parallely fake news, conspiracy theories and poor quality writings flourish online. According to Article II of the bylaws of the Wikimedia Foundation, we can empower and engage people around the world not only to collect, but also to develop educational content under a free license.

So I believe the time is coming for us to respond to a new demand : creating free content to develop free knowledge. I am conscious that this is an iconoclast proposition as breaking the taboo of WP:NOR is a challenge. But in fact, it will not be Wikipedia. It will be a completely different and separate project, something like “Wikipeers” with strong procedures of peer reviewing before publication.

It will allow thousands of people in the world to write, alone or in collectives, about a lot of subjects which would never have benefited from an article or a research. They deserve it. --Waltercolor (talk) 10:33, 9 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Iván Martínez (ProtoplasmaKid)

I think they are very valuable projects, although some of them need a strong investment both in their operation and in recruiting people to collaborate. The affiliate strategies themselves are currently still focused on Wikipedia. There is a lot to do in convincing our community that together we can make the projects a bit bigger.

Victoria Doronina (Victoria)

These are valuable entities in the Wikiverse. However, they suffer from the problems of smaller projects. They are often a project of one person, and there's only so much one person can do. As a result, many people, including the wikimedians themselves, don't know much about these projects.

I think that having dedicated promotion campaigns would help. For example, a "Wikiversity month" with "The best course competition" analogous to the Best Image.

A virtual worldwide conference for (as an example) Wiktionaries with sections for other projects is another example of a supporting initiative. But it would be essential to consult the communities (even if they are a one-man band) first before doing anything (see question 9).--Victoria (talk) 07:59, 8 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Lorenzo Losa (Laurentius)

The first and most important point to keep in mind is that Wikimedia is more than just Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is more than English Wikipedia. We have a number of project that address different aspects of knowledge, and each project has its own peculiarities: rules and software that are designed for Wikipedia may not necessarily fit them.

For this reason, I liked the decision to focus the Community Wishlist Survey 2020 only on projects different from Wikipedia, Wikidata and Commons. It is a good effort to listen to the needs of the communities of the sister projects that are not usually in the spotlight. Working with the volunteers active on the projects to understand what is needed is the way to go.

Clearly, we cannot expect all project to grow to the size and the visibility of Wikipedia. Some of them may even outshine Wikipedia (maybe Wikidata will?), but most will not. This is not necessarily a problem: there is space for different kinds of projects. For instance, most people look more often for encyclopedic information than for quotes; therefore we can't expect Wikiquote to become as big as Wikipedia, but it still does its job in providing us sourced quotes when we look for them.

When a project is created, it is difficult to foresee how successful will it be. Recently, the Board of Trustees has approved the creation of a new project called Wikifunctions: it is a very interesting concept, but will it be successful? How will it be in 10 years time? Nobody knows. We need to accept that it may work or not. We need to try and, if at the end we realize that it doesn't work, we need to stop it. I hope that in the future we will be braver in experimenting with new ideas, starting new initiatives and closing them if they don't work, and experimenting.

Raavi Mohanty (Raavimohantydelhi)

There are a plethora of opportunities, what is interesting is that with each new technological innovation the opportunities increase. Since the lockdown people have realized the importance and reach of technology. We can now reach in places and target segments we never would have thought of even ten years ago. IT revolution gives us an opportunity to revolutionize global education. Access to knowledge will no longer be a monopoly of the rich, especially in the developed countries. We can ensure that every person on the planet can have access to the free flow of ideas and information. And all the projects under the umbrella of the WMF have a major role to play in this.

The effects of Global warming and its effect on the planet have taken a turn for the worse. It is a grim reality that has become more tangible in the past five years, even the most ardent cynics can no longer deny the effects of global warming and its effect on the species of flora and fauna. Wikispecies needs to do a lot more in highlighting the rapid annihilation of species. More awareness campaigns need to be run in collaboration with scientists and environment-related NGOs and prominent citizens. Even small acts by individuals can go a long way in protecting the environment.

Various specialized projects can be set up, for example, wiki sciences, wiki history, wiki culture, wiki arts, etc. WMF has the reach and resources to induce the scientific and historical communities to share their ideas research with a larger audience, and with sound mechanics of peer reviews, that will ensure the authenticity of their research. Concomitantly make groups focusing a specific section of social groups that focus on educating underprivileged children, this would be different from a group focusing on school-going children from affluent families (as their needs would be entirely different). There could be groups on adult education, that would use different methods for education than others. The use of technological innovations like Augmented Reality and AI should be increased.

WMF can provide a knowledge platform for all sections of society and anyone who wants to access it and learn for free. Raavimohantydelhi (talk) 13:29, 10 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Ashwin Baindur (AshLin)

The entire set of Wikimedia projects are a valuable suite for use by communities across the world as per their requirements. We are already aware of how Wikipedias have displaced commercial encyclopedias and provided an environment where any community can host an encyclopedia in their language. We are also aware of how Wikimedia Commons serves as a global libre multimedia repository, and how Wikidata is working to connect data within not only Wikimedia projects but for the whole world.

Wikisource preserves and makes text from public domain books available. It serves as a means of preserving heritage, in conjunction with other projects, such as Commons. Wiktionary and Wikiquote provide access to meanings, definitions and quotes to a variety of users. Wikibooks allows free-license books to be created and hosted, and has potential for providing a useful ecosystem for textbooks and other instructional resources. Wikivoyage and Wikinews can provide a travelogue and news repository in every language. Wikiversity can provide a free infrastructure on which an online educational system could be based. Wikispecies meets the need for free structured information on scientific taxonomy of living creatures.

In the English language world, these other projects get dwarfed by Wikipedia, Commons and Wikidata. In addition, there are many legacy and modern analogues in the vast English language internet for these projects. Hence, the need for these projects in the English language world is less. As the majority of discourse is in English and the English language world frames the world for so many of us, these projects are considered to have less utility, and consequently, are far from our attention, thought, innovation or vision. This view of the restricted value of other projects in English language gets conflated to their value being limited in all other languages in the world as well.

This is compounded by the fact, that the gateway for any language community into the world of Wikimedia projects is through Wikipedia. Accordingly, every language in the Wikimedia world would have a Wikipedia, but the other projects would be available in a few languages only. These would come about only if a particular language community makes a special push to get it, and there would be less volunteers, effort, resources, help, expertise and priority available than for the Wikipedia of that language.

To emerging communities, the relative need for these projects is very different from that for major established languages. For example, a language community in a remote area without a formally established orthography would need Commons and Commons alone to save its language and heritage. Similarly, to another community, the need to preserve its dying language and culture would need Wikisource, Commons and Wikidata (for preserving lexicography). Even a minor language with established orthography would need all the other Wikimedia projects more than a Wikipedia to preserve and nourish their language and culture.

Accordingly, it is necessary for us to recognise the significance and utility of the “other” Wikimedia projects to the world and give them attention, resources, aid, and to include them as valuable and necessary adjuncts in the development of the Wikimedia movement of the world.

In fact, in my opinion, all Wikimedia projects with the exception of WP, Commons & WD, are part of the “Global South” of the Wikimedia movement, and they deserve to developed, nourished and cared for, just like Wikipedia etc. These projects are an important priority for me in my work, should I be elected by the Community for the Board of Trustees, and I pledge to work to give them and their due importance in the scheme of things.

AshLin (talk) 11:23, 13 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Pavan Santhosh Surampudi (Pavan santhosh.s)

No response yet.

Ravishankar Ayyakkannu (Ravidreams)

The foundation should play a more active role in supporting smaller wikis by allocating more resources for technical help. Though all projects run on Mediawiki software, their needs for extensions and tools are specific.

Sister projects like Wikisource, Wikidata, Commons are key to improving the Wikipedia experience. They should be given more attention in terms of funding too.

Also, the terms of funding should also be redefined for these projects. Unlike Wikipedia where paid engagement can introduce bias, transcribing a Wikisource pdf is manual, mechanical, and boring work. We should look at automating or incentivizing such work instead of wasting precious and talented volunteer hours in mundane work. Either they will waste their precious time or the work will never get done. My home community, that is the Tamil Wikisource, has a collaboration of such nature with another NGO, and it has helped to grow the Tamil Wikisource project. The Bengali and Tamil Wikisource projects added more than a million pages by using OCR tools. Not all communities will have the technical know-how to execute such automation. The foundation can encourage knowledge exchange and training in such cases so the best practices in one community are available for all.

Farah Jack Mustaklem (Fjmustak)

Smaller projects should be given a chance to thrive just as much as bigger ones. On the other hand, as wikis are edited by volunteers, and volunteer time is limited, it is important to also help in building communities for these wikis. --Fjmustak (talk) 00:24, 1 August 2021 (UTC)[reply]