From June to September 2019, Francophone Wikimedians have been invited to take part in community conversations within the frame of the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy Process. On the village pumps of all Wikimedia projects, as well as on other channels like Twitter or Telegram, not forgetting a dozen in-person Strategy Salons happening in Africa and Europe, a total of about two hundred Francophone Wikimedians have shared numerous ideas, perceptions and suggestions about the present and future of the Wikimedia Movement.
The content from these discussions was captured in a number of detailed monthly reports and Strategy Salon reports, and today this Top 5 draws up a non-exhaustive list of the most recurring ideas. We are all looking forward to seeing the values and concepts behind these topics reflected in the strategic recommendations, so we can all take action as a global community. Until then, this is an occasion to collect dispersed conversations and put them into perspective!
More communication between online and offline communities
Though the frontier between online and offline engagement is far from being clear-cut in the Wikimedia Movement, the Francophone community has nevertheless noticed a certain distance between, on the one hand, people who exclusively contribute online, and on the other, people who participate in offline activities in relation with Wikimedia Movement Affiliates. The two worlds are like parallel cultures that, while sharing a lot (tools, values), sometimes struggle to understand each other.
The good news is: both sides regret this disconnection and hope that deeper interactions could take place, for example at the occasion of GLAM partnerships or other common projects. People participating in discussions also underlined the utility of liaison-roles, who are perceived as a solution to bridge the distance. Others also suggested that the Wikimedia Movement should have a broader and more transparent communication about its own functioning (eg. videos explaining what are the Foundation, the Affiliates, Wikimania, etc.).
More User-Friendly Platforms
Platform design is a topic of interest for Wikimedians around the world, and Francophones make no exception!
Both during online and offline discussions, Wikimedians have come up with plenty of suggestions: improve the mobile version, integrate all the diverse tools into one fluid contribution experience, align our software with web standards, overcome our community’s “geeky bias” to allow for a more diverse population to contribute to our projects. Overall, people hope for a more user-friendly experience, even mentioning gamification.
The subject was also discussed in regard to Sister Projects, which are particularly active in the Francophone Wikimedian world, especially with users from the Wiktionary and Wikisource. While they have similar hopes of more user-friendliness for their projects, they observe that their software tend to fall behind in terms of development, and often wish they just had basic functional tools (e.g. “visual editor for all”) along with dedicated professional developers who could fix daily bugs and develop specific features.
Access to diverse quality sources
Access to quality sources is an issue for anyone contributing to Wikimedia projects. But it becomes all the more pressing in regions or knowledge areas where sources are rare, or even non-written. Thus the question of collecting and using oral sources in Africa came up a lot in discussions about the Diversity thematic area, because without these sources, it becomes physically impossible to document a whole section of the knowledge related to this continent.
As all contributors agree that sources should remain of high quality, there seems to be a consensus on using oral sources as long as their origin can be retraced. In this perspective, Francophone contributors from Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Benin or Congo, hope they can count on support from the broader Wikimedia Movement in order to set up partnerships or projects that would allow them to collect or access solid sources on which to base their work.
A positive atmosphere on projects
Another topic was repeatedly discussed: the necessity to create a better atmosphere on Wikimedia projects. From welcoming newcomers to discuss on talk pages, interactions between Wikimedians can sometimes be rough. Among Francophone projects, the French Wikipedia is often described as being a harsh environment, especially for newcomers, as opposed to smaller projects like Wikidata or the French Wiktionary, where the atmosphere is more welcoming.
Thus, members from the French-speaking community have suggested a range of solutions, both at the technical level – adding “like” buttons to foster positivity, “signal” buttons in case of insulting or discriminatory message – and at a more human level – for example training administrators about conflict management and harassment situations, along with clarifying and strengthening codes of conducts and incident procedures.
WikiFranca as a future hub of shared governance
One of the specificities of the Francophone Wikimedian world is the strong discrepancy between Western countries which are well developed (including in terms of internet access and digital literacy) and African countries which are structurally underprivileged. These inequalities are reflected in Wikimedia organizations, with European (and Canadian) associations which have a Chapter status with annual funding, while African User Groups have precarious status and funding.
This reality was echoed in discussions, and from Conakry to Brussels, Paris to Parakou or Algiers people generally stood in favor of fostering mutual aid and resource sharing, in particular through WikiFranca, the international collaboration between Francophone Affiliates. Indeed, the Francophone community wishes that WikiFranca would become a more global hub whose missions could be, for example, to help Affiliates structure towards a chapter status, to be a resource hub both at the financial and human level, with peer-to-peer learning, common projects, etc. All this within the frame of a shared governance.
And here is the end of this Top 5 hopes from the Francophone Wikimedia community for 2030! Of course the list could have been longer, but this selection nevertheless gathers the most prominent ideas discussed during these last few months. Do they echo your own experience? Would you like to add anything? How do you think you can help bringing these ideas to life? Please join in the comments to discuss! 😉
By Diane Ranville, Strategy Liaison for the francophone community