Grants:APG/Simple/Site visits/Wikimedia Taiwan

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Report on WMF site visit to Wikimedia Taiwan 25 - 30 August, 2017

Winifred Olliff, Senior Program Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation, came to Taipei to meet with the board and staff Wikimedia Taiwan, and with members of the Taiwanese Wikimedia communities in Taipei. This visit took place over several days in late August 2017, and staff member Reke Wang and board member Liang-chih Shang Kuan were primarily responsible for drafting the agenda and organizing the visit.

Many thanks to Reke and Liang-chih and all of the staff, board members and community members who participated in the visit and made it a success! We hope this report is a good opportunity to discuss and recognize your work.

During this visit, Winifred learned a lot about the Taiwanese communities and the work of Wikimedia Taiwan. Wikimedia Taiwan is at an important stage in its development, as the chapter is being revitalized after a period of several years of inactivity, and they are discovering ways to engage more new and existing contributors with their work, and trying to establish an effective organizational structure that can be a foundation for this work.

Here are some elements that are part of every site visit:

  1. A detailed financial review with board and staff.
  2. Time to get to know board members and staff.
  3. Meetings with partners, and visits to working locations.
  4. Opportunities to interact with local communities.

Well, in Taipei, we did it all and more!

  1. A nice informal lunch on the first day where we could talk about what was on our minds.
  2. Visiting National Taiwan University, and meeting board members involved with the education and medical translation work there. Learning about the history of WMTW.
  3. Visits to the WMTW coworking space, “Custard Cream”, and the Mozilla Space.
  4. Spending nearly a full day on the financial review.
  5. Attending the Medical Translation Edit-a-thon at the Mozilla Space.
  6. All the rice you can eat curry dinner with almost the entire board of WMTW.
  7. A meeting with the Awakening Foundation, a feminist organization in Taipei.
  8. Attending the WikiWomen meetup in Taipei.
  9. Visiting the National Palace Museum, together with WMTW volunteers.
  10. A very long but very useful closing meeting, to talk about some of the main themes of the visit.


Here are some of the main themes we identified:

  1. Diversity & inclusion. WMTW is cultivating an inclusive atmosphere that supports diversity at its events, and diversity (gender, LGBTQI+, and minority languages) is the major focus of their programming, with partnership opportunities on the horizon.
  2. Good balance of proven approaches & experimentation. WMTW is doing a good job of adapting programs with existing infrastructure to the Taiwanese context, through the very successful medical translation work. This provides them with a good balance of approaches that are proven successful, with opportunities to experiment and adapt in their context.
  3. Volunteer-run education program. WMTW’s education program is very special! It is run entirely by volunteers, and requires very little staff support. This makes the program very efficient and very grassroots, but also makes it difficult to sustain work in the long term. This brings out a key challenge of understanding how to involve and motivate people who want to do work online and want to do work offline, and help them work together toward the same goals.
  4. The importance of translation. In the Taiwanese context, translation is of particular importance. Volunteers are interested in translating articles from English and other languages to Chinese, and there may be opportunities for ongoing work in this area. This is also part of a broader cultural context in Taiwan.
  5. Effective but non-traditional staffing model. WMTW has a staffing model that works well for the chapter at this stage. While the chapter has been able to secure some external funding in the past and plans to do so in the future, SAPG support has been critical in enabling the chapter to stabilize and provide more consistent support to communities.
  6. Building a more diverse and engaged board. One of WMTW’s main upcoming challenges will be building a board that reflects the diversity of the communities they are trying to build (different genders, ethnic groups), and also brings skills from areas outside of the open source communities they have historically looked to for support.
  7. Language and communication. Communication continues to be a challenge for communities in Taiwan, because many volunteers do not speak enough English to communicate easily with the international community. This imposes a significant additional burden on the chapter when integrating with the international community.

If you want more details about what we discussed together during the visit, they are available here. You can also contact Winifred or Liang-chih if you have more questions about the information included in the report!


25 August: Notes from discussion on Day 1[edit]

  • It was very useful to plan an informal lunch on this first day with a key board member and employee, because it gave us lots of time to talk freely about the issues that were on the top of our minds, and set a good tone for the site visit.
  • We covered a lot of ground during these discussions, including the reasons for doing the site visit now and how WMTW’s work is fitting into a larger plan. We (at WMF) are thinking hard about how we can better support activities happening outside of Europe. We’re working to correct the imbalance in funding now by providing more openings for chapters outside of Europe through programs like Rapid Grants and Simple APG. For example, we are working to get WMID in the FDC process, and perhaps WMTW can be there too in a few years. Many organizations in Eastern Europe are already making this transition, and more and more organizations outside of Europe are joining APG or receiving their first rapid grants. WMTW is an important part of this, as one of the few Asian chapters in APG right now.
  • We want to balance growth with wisdom, and an appropriate level of caution. Organizations are made up of volunteers and staff people, and we know these people are precious. When things go wrong, it can hurt volunteers and take organizations and communities a long time to recover (if they can at all). So we want to avoid growing too fast, or being in a situation where the organization is set up to fail. That’s why we want to go through all of the appropriate steps and follow good practices as the organization grows.
  • Still the reality is that organizations outside of Europe may need to be very prepared to explain the most important things about their context, and to have a top quality application. This allows us to make a good impression right out of the gate — then they can’t say no!
  • We discussed some of the current development on Chinese Wikipedia, including interactions between different groups of editors.
  • We talked through how one person or two people can often do a lot to develop a chapter into a more sustainable organization. At earlier stages, it is sometimes normal for a chapter to be very reliant on 1-2 people, but before funding and responsibilities increase (as in, entering the FDC process), this needs to change. Organizations in the FDC process are expected to be able to continue, even with major changes in leadership, because they have strong boards and governance structures in place. Right now the organization may be relying a lot on Liang-chih and Reke, but we can work to build a strong organization around this. We have many positive examples of chapters where this has happened or is happening (WMID, WMAM, WMCZ, WMES); as well as other examples where boards continue to struggle with relying on one or two people, with a high risk of burn out.
  • We briefly touched on collaboration among the different Asian groups, which is something Winifred and Liang had also discussed at Wikimania. Winifred brought up the idea of ways to facilitate more collaboration among Taiwan, Indonesia, and Korea, because this may be very fruitful. Indonesia is the most developed and Korea is the least, but there may be a lot of useful ideas to exchange. Jessie has a connection to the Korean community, and Rinto from WMID is also living in Taiwan right now. We may be able to find additional funding for this type of targeted collaboration, through conference grants, in case the Pan-Asian conference is not funded.
  • Liang recently wrote a message to the SAPG committee list about non-ED staffing models. It may be useful to convene a group of board members & staff that work together in a non-ED staffing model, perhaps during next WikiCon. There are many interesting examples, with staff members and board members playing different roles: Amical, WMES, WMRS, WMUA, to name a few, as well as chapters that started with non-ED models and have recently moved towards having an ED (WMAM, WMCZ).
  • We talked about the two models for having an ED under Taiwanese law — one in which the position has strategic oversight and one in which they work under the direction of the board. We talked about what the responsibilities of an ED could be in different contexts.

25 August: Visit to NTU with Liang and Chang Yuan and LiYun[edit]

  • We took a nice tour of the university campus, and learned about its history.

Winifred learned about the historic link between NTU and the Taiwanese chapter. The first student club was established here way back in 2006 by Chang Yuan. At this time, Jimmy Wales came to visit Taiwan, leading up to Wikimania in 2007. The club consisted of a small group of people meeting every two weeks to discuss Wikipedia.

  • The club at NTU has been revived in recent years, thanks to a handful of active Wikipedians and volunteers. It is a struggle to keep the club sustainable, since students eventually matriculate and leave the club dormant. Some members are very good at doing their Wikipedia / education program work, but we also need people there who want to inspire and recruit new people.
  • In this case, one user was a member of the star trek club, and these people were influential in the student club system, and could help them to do the paperwork. Then they discovered that the old club already existed and could be revived!
  • The club at NTU is not a traditional “student club” that focuses on getting together and editing. Instead, volunteers in Taiwan are working within schools to promote use of Wikipedia in the classroom. They are very dedicated in pursuing this work, and very passionate about explaining it to the instructors. They also put in a great deal of time, even during final exams, to support students that are doing assignments, even when they are doing so at the last minute.
  • Right now, the chapter provides financial support for the semester events for the club, including refreshments and bringing in subject matter experts. For example, a recent edit-a-thon featured a Vietnamese interpreter and Cambodian interpreter, to give some local perspectives on the editing topic, which was towns in southeast asia.
  • We talked about ways for the chapter and the club to work together. Is organizing and movement building an area where the chapter can offer the club members some support? Can the chapter help them think through ways to promote membership, and bring new people into the Wikipedia cause? It’s a challenge because current members are busy and also focused on the work that they like doing, which is not necessarily outreach. But we need to find a way to involve more people to keep the club going, while also respecting what motivates the existing volunteers to be involved.
  • Perhaps there are two types of volunteers — those who like being active online, and those who like doing offline work. They are usually not the same people, in this community. How can we help both work together? We need both. Wikipedians who want to organize & organizers who want to contribute to Wikipedia.
  • It’s a challenge to get the people who are active online involved with the chapter in other ways. But sometimes the chapter can connect them to opportunities — one example is a volunteer who was interested in joining the AffCom. Even Liang-chih was not interested in being involved with the chapter when he was only working online. How can we get people with high potential to be effective in the chapter to get more involved? It is a challenge!
  • Survey -- 80% of people on chinese wikipedia would like a paper certificate, proof that you join extra-curricular events. Trying to get an idea together for a grant. (The chapter can help cultivate these opportunities.)

W*ho is the typical Wikipedian? Example, user who doesn’t want to show his face but is really active in text communication.

  • Why aren’t the biweekly meetups more successful? People don’t feel they are learning enough in the meetups. Perhaps there aren’t the right people in the meeting.
  • Are there things that could make working with the club more appealing? For example, providing more refreshments at regular meetings might be a simple way to attract more participants.
  • The student club may provide the chapter with another kind of pipeline to engage people in the long term. The chapter also has to think about sustainability.

25 August: Dinner with LiYun and Chang Yuan[edit]

  • LiYun shared some more background about her involvement with the board. She came onto the board as a result of medical translation work. WMTW does direct outreach on facebook to potential participants in their medical translation work, based on their resumes there, and she was targeted through this method. Then she became involved with the translation efforts, because she is a graduate student in medicine. After this she was invited to join the board.
  • LiYun brings some interesting perspectives because she has lived in Eastern Taiwan, Central Taiwan, and Taipei. She will be studying abroad in Japan for the next 6 months.
  • LiYun had an interesting experience starting a student club at her university in central Taiwan. Here they have a very closed system for clubs, and students are required to participate in 2-3 clubs or they can’t graduate. So people are very resentful about the clubs and also less willing to particiapte in volunteer activities. This meant getting a successful student club going was really difficult.
  • Chang Yuan has been involved with the Taiwanese chapter since the beginning. He has been studying or teaching at NTU for fifteen years, receiving hi undergraduate, masters, and PhD there. He also works for Wikia for his day job.

25 August: Meetup at the Mozilla Space[edit]

  • Here we met several other board members, including Aaron, Andy, and Daniel, who are also involved with the Mozilla Space. They are getting ready for the medical edit-a-thon, which will happen tomorrow.
  • Winifred had some time to chat with Daniel and here more about his history with the organization and his engagement of the board. He is currently one of 3 supervisors, who are 3 members of the board that oversee an internal audit process. This is required for some organizations under Taiwanese law and is included in the bylaws.
  • Daniel also served as Secretary General before Reke was in that position. It was difficult to fulfill all those duties since WMTW couldn’t offer a full salary at that time and Daniel has a very engaging day job as a technical writer. Having staff is a responsibility, we need to be making sure they are getting paid.
  • Daniel says that he is continuing to serve on the board because he really cares about Wikipedia, and the open movement in Taiwan.
  • Many board members are motivated by their involvement in the open source community more generally, lots of connections among these communities.
  • It was a challenge to get new members when the chapter was restarting, we needed to reach out to other open source allies to make it happen.
  • It was good to learn more about the collaboration with Mozilla community, use of the space. This is a very nice space to be able to host larger events.

26 August: Financial review[edit]

  • On this day, we conducted a detailed financial review, which included gaining more understanding of WMTW’s financial processes and governance. A separate report has been sent to the chapter to document the results of the review.
  • This review is not required for those receiving SAPGs. It’s entirely voluntary, but it’s a great tool to help chapters identify and fill gaps early on.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE from follow up discussions: You can’t regrant money to china from a WMF funding source, ever.

27 August: Medical translation edit-a-thon[edit]

  • On this day, Winifred joined WMTW’s medical translation edit-a-thon, where she had the chance to spend time with community members and learn more about the medical translation project and the people involved.
  • The medical translation project has resulted in more than 300 articles translated so far, making Chinese translations second place next to Odia (apparently there is one retired doctor who does all of the Odia translations himself, all day long). The cohort is about 700 articles.
  • WMTW got the idea for the project when they heard about work in the international community in the area of medical translation. James Heilman also came to Taiwan to work with the community on this.
  • It was good to see how WMTW is using a highly structured program, adapting to the context. Nice to see the mix of people involved. What WMTW is doing with this work is unique, and they are achieving a lot in terms of motivating their community, learning and adapting.
  • There was a diverse group present at the event, which was well attended. This included about an equal gender distribution and also a range of ages. Some of the youngest participants were in high school (age 17), and were making significant contributions.
  • Winifred noticed there was good energy in the community space. For example, the atmosphere at the beginning was quiet and serious but pleasant. Later over lunch, people were interacting a lot, having fun. So it was fun, but there was a lot of serious work being done.
  • The group included people with expertise in medical fields (like Andy or LiYun), but also included others without any medical knowledge who were interested in helping with the translations for other reasons.
  • One nice thing about the project is that it is so well-structured, so a local community like the one here in Taiwan, can just plug into the project. It’s also easy to measure and understand the results, which we looked at at the end of the meetup.
  • Aaron was leading the meetup and giving brief talks and demonstrations to help the participants.
  • We got to hear more from LiYun about how she got involved with WMTW through the medical translation project, and about why this project was so meaningful in Taiwan. It is very common for medical professionals and lay people alike to reference *English* Wikipedia when they need medical information. Now we are improving the content available in the Chinese language.
  • For one thing, translation from English to Chinese and Chinese to English is a trending topic in Taiwan. There is also a dearth of good tools available to actually do this. The community is experimenting with different tools to help them with the translation. They use the translation tools and then copy and paste the results onto Chinese Wikipedia.
  • The group at the meetup included a mix of very experienced users and newer users who were excited to learn about the project.
  • WMTW felt the event was a big success! It was helpful to have a schedule in advance, and know what was planned. Roles were designed really well to make the event a success. For example, it was good to see how Aaron was running the event and keeping it structured, also logistics were well taken care of.

= 27 August: Meetings with translation professors from NTU[edit]

  • Later in the afternoon, we took a break from the edit-a-thon, to meet with two professors at National Taiwan University.
  • This was a meeting to introduce Liang and LiYun to the professors, so we weren’t sure what to expect.
  • They were very enthusiastic, not only about collaborating in their expertise area of translation memory, but about getting their school and students more involved with Wikipedia in other ways.
  • One of the professors made plans with Liang to set up a workshop at the school, and is strategizing for how we can get more young people involved with Wikipedia.
  • We had a very in-depth discussion about some of the challenges with Chinese English English Chinese translation, including comparisons of different tools and gadgets available on Wikipedia and through other sites.
  • We talked about the difference between machine translation, which is improving every year, and translation memory, which has the ability to reference previous human translations rather than relying solely on algorithms.
  • The professor was looking for a data set that would help him build his library of translation memory. In general, WP is not a very good match for this, but translations through the medical translation project are an exception because they are well-documented and also not very likely to undergo major changes on WP once they are published.
  • We talked about how the project could benefit Wikipedia, and also ways to seek funding for the work through a project grant or a rapid grant.
  • It’s a challenge to balance the enthusiasm of potential partners like this with the many priorities of the chapter!

27 August: Dinner with the board[edit]

  • We organized a dinner for all of the board members that were able to attend. This occurred on the same day as the medical translation event.

The dinner was very well-attended, and it was a nice opportunity for Winifred to get to know some of the board members who attended. Board members shared the different ways they became involved with Wikimedia Taiwan and the what motivates them to keep contributing.

  • Some of the current board members were founding members, or have been on the board for many, many years. It was impressive to see so many people who stayed involved over many years. (Shoichi, Ted, Alex, Jason…)
  • One thing Winifred learned was that there are many strong connections among the WMTW and the open source community, since many are dedicated to other open causes, such as Mozilla. WMTW draws heavily on other open source communities to recruit board leadership, which has been a good way to sustain the organization, especially following a long period of inactivity. But now may be a good time to start looking beyond these familiar communities to recruit a more diverse board, and also a board with a more diverse skillset.
  • We also continued some lively discussions about what was happening on Chinese Wikipedia.

28 August: Meeting at Awakening Foundation[edit]

  • It was a special opportunity to join this meeting with the Awakening Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization with a long history of promoting women’s rights in Taiwan. Wikimedia Taiwan is in the first stages of establishing a partnership with this organization.
  • Several staff people at the foundation joined us for the meeting, where we discussed some ways that the foundation could integrate Wikimedia into their work. *They were very eager to improve content in areas that are relevant to their work, for example writing about legal issues that affect women in Taiwan.
  • The staff shared some of their legal expertise, and explained some of the context of the work they had done on different legal issues, and also how some of this coverage could be improved on Wikipedia.
  • It was a great opportunity to see Reke in action, and better understand this part of his role! He very patiently walked through some different options for how to best structure an editing event for the foundation staff, talking through some of the pros and cons of different approaches based on what WMTW has learned doing similar events. He was very well-prepared with several event templates on hand, knowledge of how to teach. Reke brings lots of experience from doing regular meetups and adding structure to them.
  • At the end of the meeting, everyone was excited to be exploring more opportunities for collaboration, and seemed confident in carrying the work forward.
  • The partners were willing to collaborate, had a lot of expertise. There is a connection with the WIkiWomen meetup, one very motivated person who attends that meetup and is staff and this organization. This could be a backbone for more serious gender work. As with minority language programs, we want to work with the organizations that already have the knowledge of how to work with those communities.

28 August: WikiWomen Meetup[edit]

  • Winifred was able to join a WikiWomen meetup that was taking place in Taipei during the visit days. At this meetup, Jessie gave a lively presentation about her experience at Wikimania in Montreal.
  • There was a diverse group of participants present, bringing in knowledge from diverse fields. Winifred was very impressed with the number of people attending and the quality of the people, who all seemed very eager to learn more about Wikimedia and start contributing. These included, architects, lawyers, engineers, and more!
  • It was great to see Jessie in a leadership role at the meetup, and hear her speak so passionately about her experience and her work in her own language.
  • The atmosphere at the meetup was very inclusive. It can be a big relief to be in a room with other women when you are learning about something new. There was a nice sense of community there, with new people working alongside those who had attended several meetups in the past.
  • The space provided at the cafe was warm and welcoming.

29 August: Topics from closing meeting not covered elsewhere in the report[edit]

  • Emphasis on communicating, making international information relevant to the local community local language. This is a major challenge for Wikimedia Taiwan, but we are rising to this challenge. This should be highly valued in the movement.
  • This is actually something Liang is doing that is unique in the movement, and we want to think about ways to help people in the international movement understand this and why it is important. What is the relevant information. How to embody these values in our movement Example, Jessie at Wikimania.
  • May be important to have more infrastructure for storytelling in their own language.
  • Inclusiveness. Feeling at the meetups. Understanding of gender work and different roles, willingness to learn. This theme is so important in our movement right now. This is something WMTW does well. We are the friendly borg.

Political stress on chinese wikipedia is real.

Some areas we identified as important but didn’t have a chance to cover in depth during the visit:[edit]

  • Conflicts of interest. Developing a policy for the chapter and also applying this concept to partnerships.
  • Revenue strategy for 2018, where to look for other funding sources and what to look for from APG.
  • Ideas for which projects to feature and how to frame WMTW’s work in the next application.

Site visit feedback: ideas for improvement[edit]

  • We want even more time to have questions and discussions. We found the financial review very useful. It was useful to have to reply to some of these questions (the “excruciating process”). It was important to help everyone get on the same page about why this was important.

Needs more clarity about exactly what expenses are covered and how, so that there isn’t confusion when it comes time to pay or gather receipts. This can be more smooth in future visits!

  • Consider the idea of an interpreter, this might take some of the burden off of Liang-chih to translate the entire time and allow him to participate more (and also have some rest).
  • The opening lunch and closing meeting were both extremely useful, and not emphasized enough in the original agenda.

Even adding extra days, it was tough to cover everything that was on the agenda! Hopefully this will get easier in future visits, since WMF will have more context for understanding WMTW’s work and WMTW will have more experience organizing a visit.