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Asking Wikimedians To Support Advocacy

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

Many people in the Wikimedia community are passionate about policy and legal issues that allow us to create and share knowledge freely.

If you want to ask the Wikimedia community to join an advocacy campaign, we recommend following this short guide. This is not a formal policy, and it is not complete either—you will have to Be Bold and make sure to follow Wikipedia's policies and guidelines.

Things to know about us


Wikimedians believe in collaborative production of knowledge and in consensus through discussion. To the outside, this may look slow and it can be frustrating when you are passionate about a particular political issue and want everyone to share your vision. Be aware of this when thinking about how to approach Wikimedians.

  1. How do Wikimedians engage in advocacy? "Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion" (WP:SOAP) and we generally are not fans of using the projects to promote specific projects or ideas in a non-neutral way.
    • Political advocacy usually shouldn't be about introducing a point of view in articles.
    • Some Wikimedia Chapters have also been involved in policy campaigns on a country level, for instance Wikimedia Germany has been involved in copyright policy discussions for many years. The Wikimedia Foundation has publicly spoken out against government action that hurts free knowledge and joined coalitions that support it. If you have something that may be interesting, send an email to Jan Gerlach, or ping us at @wikimediapolicy.
  2. How do Wikimedians make decisions? "Consensus is ... accepted as the best way to achieve our goals" (WP:CON) so we generally decide tough questions by talking it out. This means that any decision developed through conversation and argumentation will stand on a solid base once consensus is reached.
    • This process will often take time and it can also look slow, indecisive, or risk-averse. So the earlier you approach us with a request for Wikimedia’s support, the better.
  3. How long does Wikimedia take to decide? Wikipedia, its sister projects, and the Wikimedia community were built patiently, deliberatively, and to large extents through volunteer work. In many cases, "there is no deadline" (WP:TIND) and in accordance with this mode of work and collaboration, we tend to take a very long view.
    • It will be better if you start the conversation as early as you can.

Who to talk to


Because there are tens of thousands of active editors, and many projects, it can be tough to figure out who to talk to when you want to "talk with Wikimedia". Despite that, there are probably lots of people who may sympathize and be able to help if you have particular questions about how the process works. These are some of the groups you can talk to when you're planning your proposal:

  1. Public Policy mailing list: The public policy mailing list is a place where Wikimedians gather to talk about advocacy and policy issues. It can be a good place to try out your idea before you make wider pleas for assistance—they can give feedback and may have suggestions on who else to talk to.
  2. Relevant Wikiprojects: Your particular issue may have a group of people who are particularly interested in the issue, typically called a Wikiproject. These folks may be able to help you out. You can often find them by going to the talk pages for relevant issues and looking to see what projects have commented on a topic. But be careful how you phrase this - remember that people who edit a topic may be more strenuously neutral than you are, and will may be offended if you ask them to change a Wikipedia article unless you bring very good citations to the table.
  3. Wikimedia Groups: The Wikimedia movement is built by many self-organized chapters and user groups. If you have a concern of national or maybe regional nature, talking to a local chapter or user group first will probably be a pragmatic way to engage the Wikimedia community, and it may also be most effective and fastest way forward for you. Chapters and individual members of the community are often involved in national policy work and may be interested in hearing about your ideas or concerns.
  4. Wikimedia Foundation: The Foundation's legal team includes people with strong ties to a variety of internet advocacy groups. You can reach out to Jan Gerlach, or ping us at @wikimediapolicy.

Topics of interest


For your proposal to resonate with Wikimedia, it should relate very clearly to the interests of our community and our mission. The plea that you would present to average citizens, or even average netizens, may not work here. Wikimedians generally have very specific interests, and explaining clearly how your proposal ties to those interests is pretty much a requirement.

  • Core interests include the following fields of policy that the Wikimedia Foundation has identified as the most important ones for free knowledge like encyclopedias:
    • access to knowledge
    • copyright (reform)
    • censorship
    • intermediary liability
    • privacy
  • Other interests include:
    • free culture
    • innovation policy
    • internet governance issues
    • telecommunications policy

The more these issues directly foster or threaten the core Wikimedian goals of building and sharing free knowledge, the more likely a proposal in that area is to succeed.

Your proposal


Finally, chances of a successful inquiry for Wikimedia’s support of advocacy can also depend on a couple of criteria that should ideally be satisfied:

  1. Cost-benefit ratio: As detailed after SOPA, doing site-wide banners or blackouts has a significant costs for our projects. If you can, consider some creative alternative actions that may also be of positive impact, like proposing a guest post on the Wikimedia blog or collaboratively drafting statements (example). Another option would be to work with a WikiProject to neutrally improve articles about your area of interest (example).
  2. International dimension: The Wikimedia community, and many individual Wikimedia projects (including English Wikipedia), are deeply international. So nation-specific proposals tend not to go very far. To help in this, strongly consider:
    1. Demonstrating the international dimension of the problem: for example, when discussing a government problem, discuss the actions of governments/agencies other than “just” your own country’s.
    2. Having an international call to action: for example, ask people to call their MEPs, not just US members of Congress.
  3. Targeting the right audience: If the problem is not international, consider asking relevant specific projects rather than Wikimedia as a whole. At the same time, be aware that some Wikimedia projects that you may assume are national, particularly English Wikipedia, are also international projects.
  4. Participate in the community process: Your proposal will be discussed by a very skeptical audience. This can be tough to watch, but the best solution to this is to participate! Don't sit back and watch—engage and explain your situation. We realize this involves dealing with our weird discussion system (talk pages), but we promise it isn't as intimidating as it looks as first. We have training available to explain talk pages, and you probably have someone in your movement with experience in it. (We also try not to bite the newcomers.)