Wikimedia Outreach

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This is a proposal for the setup of a central, multilingual portal at outreach.wikimedia.org. Similar to efforts like spreadfirefox.com, the purpose of this portal would be to allow Wikimedians to come together and discuss ways to

  • inform the general public about Wikimedia projects
  • pursue more specific outreach efforts, such as schools, libraries and academia
  • maintain a list of speakers about Wikimedia-related topics
  • address concerns and questions
  • generally think of clever ideas for marketing and promotion.

This portal, like spreadfirefox.com, would emphatically _not_ be aimed at the general public, but at Wikimedians eager to help raise awareness and spread ideas. We would make a whitelist of actions that can be performed without permission (such as offering to visit a school or university to talk about Wikipedia), and a process for requesting permissions when needed (such as broader use of the logo or trademarks).

Requests for permissions would generally go to the ED for now, but we'd probably want to delegate this to the Marketing subcommittee if we deem it sufficiently functional. The chapters, in the long run, could perhaps also give permission for certain uses.

I see a very strong role of the chapters when it comes to coordinating speakers for events, and other regional actions. While outreach.wikimedia.org would be a public database of such speakers where anyone can offer to talk, the chapters would maintain their own private database of speakers they trust. The interface for third parties to request a speaker would be, first and foremost, with the chapters, not with outreach.wikimedia.org.

The advantage of this approach is that we get a large number of volunteers, but at the same time each chapter can come up with its own strategy to identify trusted individuals. Insofar as private databases are maintained for this, sharing code and data across chapters should of course be encouraged.

Time for some Q&A:

Q: What's a typical outreach effort exactly?

One of the most important feats we must accomplish is getting traditional institutions of education to understand how our projects work, and how they can make responsible use of them. Visiting a school and giving a workshop about Wikipedia is an example.

Q: Why not just use meta.wikimedia.org?

A: Like we don't just use one wiki for educational content, I don't think it makes sense to have only one wiki for Wikimedia-related activities and information. Having a dedicated wiki allows us to promote this effort independently, to structure it in a more user-friendly way, to monitor changes more systematically, and so on. It makes it more likely that a dedicated community will arise specifically for Wikimedia Outreach.

Q: Won't this just encourage random people to abuse our trademarks and do things in Wikimedia's name?

A: Actually, hopefully it will accomplish the opposite: the development of a standard framework of pages and policies for people to pursue activities that are clearly beneficial to us. Things might be a bit chaotic initially, which is why we should make it clear (perhaps even in the sitenotice) that everything requires explicit permission from the ED for now.

Q: What would be the relation between the marketing committee and this effort?

A: In my view, committees are given explicit organizational authority to act with in their given scope. They are the source of "official" activities from the Foundation, and as such, they are highly restricted in terms of membership. But unless and until an effort is official, there is really no need for it to be limited to a committee.

Q: I still don't see why we should open this up to the chaotic wiki process -- an organization is not a wiki!

A: There are literally thousands of groups we want to work with in our global strategy to spread free knowledge. This cannot be handled by a small committee or the staff of a chapter; it needs the support of a global community of volunteers. If these volunteers are restrained clearly in their actions, and must pursue proper processes of authorization for certain projects, then hopefully, the activities that result from this will be well coordinated with chapters and the Foundation.