Structured Data on Commons (SDC) is a three-year software development project funded by the Sloan Foundation to provide the infrastructure for Wikimedia Commons volunteers to organize data about media files in a consistent, linked manner. The goals of the project are to make contributing to Commons easier by providing new ways to edit, curate, and write software for Commons, and to make general use of Commons easier by expanding capabilities in search and reuse. These goals will be served by improved support for multilingual content and ways of working on Commons. This is the first in a blog series that will document the different parts of implementing SDC, starting with this introduction to the project and brief outlines of the software involved in making it happen, each to be covered more in-depth later.
Part One – an introduction to the software
Commons is built on MediaWiki, the same software used by the other Wikimedia projects. MediaWiki was primarily developed to host text. Because of this, information about files on Commons is stored in plain-text descriptions (wikitext, templates) and categories. The information includes at least the uploader, author, source, date, and license of a file, with many other optional items. These pieces of data are usually only available in one language—mostly English—and, most importantly, not structured in a way that software developers can consistently write programs to understand the data that is stored in file pages. Data that is structured in a consistent, understandable way is called “machine-readable,” and having machine-readable data is a primary goal for the Structured Data on Commons project.
In order to provide this consistent, machine-readable data, the information needs to be stored in a database instead of plain-text in MediaWiki. Wikibase is the software solution for that need. Wikibase is the software that enables MediaWiki to store structured data or access data that is stored in a structured data repository, developed by Wikimedia Deutschland to support Wikidata. The project needed a way to use Wikibase on other wikis and connect the information back to Wikidata, a feature which had recently been developed. Called Federated Wikibase, this software is crucial to organizing media information on Commons.
The next piece of software needed was Multi-Content Revisions (MCR). MCR is a way of putting a wiki page together that needs to pull information from different places with different ways of storage—in other words, MCR can assemble information from both MediaWiki and Wikibase to be displayed and managed together. More information about Federated Wikibase and MCR will be covered in a future post in this series.
Once Federated Wikibase and MCR were ready for release, the Structured Data on Commons team produced the first user-facing feature to use the new underlying software: multilingual file captions. Captions—stored in Wikibase—have a similar function to the description template used on file pages, which is stored in MediaWiki; they both are supposed to say what is in the file. However, descriptions are not limited in length, they may contain extra detail not necessary to finding the file including wikilinks and external links, and while the template supports adding extra languages, the process is not necessarily easy. Captions support an easier way to add other languages and captions are limited in length and should describe the file only in a short, factual way. This makes files with captions easier to find in search in a structured, multilingual way for both humans and software programs alike.
After releasing Wikibase and MCR to Commons with captions to make sure it all worked, the development team put out support for the first structured statement type, “depicts.” Depicts statements make simple, factual claims about the content of a file and link to their matching concept on Wikidata. To further develop depicts statements, support for qualifiers was released as well. Qualifiers allow depicts statements to have more information about what is being depicted. So for example, a picture of a black house cat can have the structured statement depicts: house cat[color:black]. Depicts statements are on a new tab that was introduced to the file page, “Structured data.” Aside from captions, all structured data is on this tab.
After this short introduction, the SDC blog series will have further information about depicts and qualifiers, as well as support for making other types of statements about files.
We’re so excited to invite you to explore Wikimedia Space with us through a new category just for Education. We’ll be piloting the use of this category to centralize communications about Wikimedia & Education, share active discussions, and announce events on the centralized map and calendar. You’ll still be able to find static information and resources on Outreach Wiki, with more dynamic information living on Wikimedia Space.
Wikimedia Space is a new platform introduced by the Wikimedia Foundation which aims to become a point of centralization and redistribution of news and conversations. The Space is also a place where anyone can ask any question related to Wikimedia and find answers. Wikimedia Space has a variety of multilingual features that are currently being expanded, and can already host resources and conversations in multiple languages. As the Wikimedia Space is still a prototype, together we can explore different opportunities and collaborations.
Some of the future possibilities include adding lesson plans, publishing event reports, sharing news, and even fostering mentorship in closed groups. Let’s brainstorm together on what we want for our Education category!
The Growth team‘s objective is to work on software changes that help retain new contributors in mid-size Wikimedia projects.
Opening Growth features to more wikis
The Growth team has existed for about one year. During that time, we have developed several features that we think can help increase retention. Though we are still gathering data to detect scientifically whether the features increase retention, we think that some of the features are ready to be deployed on more wikis that want to experiment with them.
Then, go through the checklist to start the process of getting these features:
Help panel: allow newcomers to find help and ask questions while they edit.
Welcome survey: learn what topics and types of edits newcomers are interested in.
EditorJourney: learn what workflows newcomers go through on their first day.
A new quarter of the year has started, and the team has set our goals for the next three months. The most important goals are:
Newcomer homepage: increase activity through a task recommendations module. Now that we have seen several weeks of positive activity on the newcomer homepage, we think that the most important thing to add is a way for newcomers to find tasks to work on. The challenge will be recommending the right kind of tasks at the right point of their journey.
Newcomer homepage: increase feature discovery rate by 100%. Right now, only 20% – 30% of newcomers ever visit their homepage. We want to double that number by making sure all newcomers know how to find it.
Help panel: increase usefulness through improvements to affordance, search, and UX flow. We have looked closely at data and anecdotes from the usage of the help panel, and we plan to pursue specific improvements to increase its effectiveness (see accompanying image of a feature that helps newcomers find responses to their questions).
Wikimania is coming up next month, which includes a “Community Growth” space. We hope to see people from all communities there to talk about how to bring newcomers into our movement.
We have started to deploy features to our team’s fourth target wiki: Arabic Wikipedia. That wiki is the biggest one we target, it has a high percentage of mobile users, and also is our first right-to-left language. This will help us make sure that our features are valuable for as many types of users as possible.
Mobile homepage and early analysis
The mobile version of the newcomer homepage was deployed to Czech, Korean, and Vietnamese Wikipedias. Now, newcomers can access their homepage from both desktop and mobile devices.
We have published our first set of data about the performance of the newcomer homepage. In summary, we are happy with the homepage’s performance so far. We see about half of visitors clicking on something, and the majority of them returning to the homepage multiple times.
Because we see positive usage of the homepage, we will deploy several small features in the next two weeks that help more newcomers discover their homepage (see accompanying image of a feature that helps newcomers discover their homepage from their empty Contributions page).
As listed in our goals above, we’ll be starting to focus on adding task recommendations to the newcomer homepage. We’ll be publishing early thoughts on this feature so that community members can give their thoughts and advice.
This process wouldn’t have been possible without communities’ participation, and we want to thank each of you for taking the time away from doing your favorite thing on the wikis to comment on our organization’s plan for the next 5 years. This new process, which we implemented for the first time this year, allows us to plan for a longer time frame. It also gives us a more flexible structure for annual planning that allows us to incorporate recommendations from the movement strategy.
Today, we are publishing both the Wikimedia Foundation’s Medium-term Plan and our annual budget and plan for the fiscal year 2019-20. This 2019-20 plan is the first instance in this new planning process, and over the next 5 years, we will continue to create plans that focus on the priorities we identified. We will review the progress towards our annual goals on a quarterly basis, and continue to share these reports publicly.
We hope to continue these conversations and collaboration as we work towards our strategic direction.
In Guinea, the Wikimedia community is just starting out. Internet access is uncertain, computer equipment is rare, few people even know that Wikipedia is editable… Despite these challenges, a small community of committed volunteers has developed in the country in order to enrich the encyclopedia’s articles about Guinea-Conakry, until it finally got recognized as “User Group” by the Wikimedia Foundation in november 2018.
Now officialy affiliated, Wikimedians from Guinea have been invited to join in strategic discussions inside the Wikimedia Movement. The purpose of these discussions? Answering this truly ambitious question: how can we reach our ideal of universal sharing of human knowledge?
“Knowledge equity” has been defined by the Wikimedian community as one of two main goals to reach by 2030. What does it mean exactly? In short, that we want social inequalities to have as little influence as possible on access and contribution to our projects.
This goal takes on its full meaning in the Guinean context. Here, contributing to Wikipedia is a real privilege. Even among the educated population, few people own a computer. “And contributing on a phone is complicated. You really need to be an enthusiast!” says Aboubacar Keita, student in sociology and president of Wikimedia Guinea.
Plus, few people know that Wikimedia projects are collaborative. Aboubacar Keita explains: “I often ask students or university teachers if they know they can modify and improve Wikipedia. They say “No, it that possible??” When I say yes, they are immediately interested in learning.” But Conakry has little resources, which doesn’t allow them to feed this nascent interest. “If we are not able to offer trainings or workshops, these persons will just forget the idea of contributing.”
National Strategy Salon in Conakry
This is the context in which Guinea-Conakry’s National Strategy Salon
C’est dans ce contexte qu’a été organisé le Salon Stratégique National de Guinée-Conakry, le 23 juin dernier à l’Université Kofi Annan de Guinée.
With financial support from the Wikimedia Foundation, this event gathered fourteen volunteers in order to reflect about two thematic areas: “Roles and responsibilities in the Wikimedia Movement” and “Capacity Building”.
These themes were chosen by the group and are representative of local concerns. Guineans especially underlined the lack of stable organizations in Africa: indeed, there is only one Chapter on the whole continent, only one to benefit from annual funding. They would like to see this imbalance corrected by 2030.
Other claims stand out from their report, such as support for training local trainers, or regular funding in order to be able to have a venue with computer equipment and a decent internet access.
A second salon for youth
“The event was a success”, says Aboubacar Keita. “Everyone could share their thoughts freely, and several of our members had the opportunity to better understand how the Wikimedia Movement works.” Only drawback, “equal gender participation is complicated to obtain” in a country where gender inequalities are deep rooted in society. But two women could anyway join the group, out of fourteen participants.
The leader of the group is otherwise very happy to have shared this moment with other free knowledge lovers. “I liked my role as a guide and I look forward to extending the discussion beyond Conakry. That is why on July 20th we will go 300km away from the capital city, to Kamsar, for another Strategy Salon aimed at Youth.”
This second event will focus on the two same thematic areas and should allow youth’s specific concerns to stand out. More broadly, it will also be an occasion to raise awareness about free knowledge among this generation, whose representatives will be the primary stakeholders of the Wikimedia Movement by 2030.
All members of the Wikimedia community are invited to take part in strategic discussions. Share your perspective and suggestions by answering to the survey conceived by the working groups:answer the survey.
You can also organize your own local or thematic strategy salons. Please contact: kstinerowe[at]wikimedia.org
Usability improvements: This project will make the mobile visual editor easier to use. The goal is to let contributors stay focused on editing and to feel more confident in the editing tools.
Wikimania: Several members of the Editing Team will be attending Wikimania in August 2019. They will lead a session about mobile editing in the Community Growth space. Talk to them about how editing can be improved.
Talk Pages: In the coming months, the Editing Team will begin improving talk pages and communication on the wikis.
The VisualEditor on mobile project page is a good place to learn more about the projects we are working on. The team wants to talk with you about anything related to editing. If you have something to say or ask, please leave a message at Talk:VisualEditor on mobile.
A critical part of Space’s mission is to offer a welcoming and accessible place for all movement contributors. And how can you be welcoming, accessible and monolingual, you ask? Great question. You can’t.
Today, we officially embarked on the (long and winding) journey toward making Space a fully-functioning multilingual forum.
Your language preference can now be set in your interface preferences. Anonymous users will have their language automatically set from their web browser’s language headers.
When using another language you’ll notice that, while Discourse software’s content is translated to varying degrees, all of the content that we have customized in our theme (like the header menu, for example) remains in English. Our next step is to add localizable strings to our theme components to make the UI smoother across languages.
As said, this is just the beginning, and even Discourse translations are far from complete. Notice something missing in your language? You can contribute!
To support translators, both in the context of Space and in the Wikimedia projects in general, we are also opening a new category in Space, Translations. Translators have been a cornerstone of our movement, doing the difficult but critical work of making Wikimedia content accessible across the globe. This category will serve as a hub for translators to connect, collaborate and support one another. Have a look around the new category, and change your notifications settings to “Watching” to stay up to date on all conversations within it.
The Education team at the Wikimedia Foundation have been holding Office Hours for the past 11 months, and have engaged with more than 40 Wikimedians during that time. We’ve enjoyed chatting about topics ranging from the usefulness of Wikiversity to how best to support students who edit on mobile phones. Though Office Hours have been reasonably well attended, we’ve noticed that it may be more useful to slightly restructure this time. From July, we’ll be hosting only one open Office Hours event, while experimenting with a way to deep dive with individuals who need more 1:1 consulting.
While the monthly Office Hours event will remain the same, we are excited to introduce Office Space. Our goal for Office Space is to provide 1:1 consultation to Wikimedians involved in education activities. As a result of Office Space, we hope individuals and groups interested in Wikimedia in education will have better capacity to make their initiatives strong, results oriented and scalable.
Office Hours will be an open platform for The Wikimedia Foundation Education Team to hear from the community, share what we’re doing and answer questions in an open forum where we can learn from each other. The platform provides an opportunity to share your work with others and learn from them, get updates from activities happening around the movement and look for opportunities to collaborate.
Office Space will be a platform where you can schedule a 1:1 consultation with one or more members of the education team. We’re setting aside 4.5 hours of team time a month for ½ hour or 1 hour consultations. This will help you get answers to specific questions, and tap into the various expertise of the Wikimedia Foundation Education Team. We will start hosting Office Space events from the month of August. We will triage incoming requests based on when they were received, and the nature of the request. We hope that through this mechanism our support to the community is fair and productive.
From August, the Education Team will host one Office Hours and one Office Space each month for the Wikimedians involved in education activities or are interested in them. We will be announcing Office Hours events on the Wikimedia Space and will update the Office Hours events and the minutes of meeting there.
You can sign up for a 1:1 Office Space consultation for August by filling out this form.