Grants:IEG/Medicine Translation Project Community Organizing/Midpoint

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Welcome to this project's midpoint report! This report shares progress and learnings from the Individual Engagement Grantee's first 3 months.


In a few short sentences or bullet points, give the main highlights of what happened with your project so far.

  • Analyzing the situation

The main point of the project has been to get the ball rolling with the community. We have translators and we have content, what we more than anything need is more people getting involved in the project from Wikipedia's side.

To do that it has been necessary to analyze what needs doing in the project, and then looking into how to best teach people how to get involved in the project.

The past 3 months have meant:

  • Finding problems/barriers involved in:
  1. Assessing content
  2. Integrating translations
  3. Templates
  4. etc.
  • Working on solutions by:
  1. Teaching and informing people about the project
  2. Making pages easier to edit
  3. Creating guides

As the project will continue after the 6 month period focus has also been placing on:

  • Preparing for future technical solutions:
  1. Automatic template fixing
  2. Automatic link fixing
  3. Automatic tracking

The last points are not necessarily possible to automate completely, but by at least looking into the specifics we can tell what needs work from people and what we could try to solve technically.

Methods and activities[edit]

How have you setup your project, and what work has been completed so far?

Describe how you've setup your experiment or pilot, sharing your key focuses so far and including links to any background research or past learning that has guided your decisions. List and describe the activities you've undertaken as part of your project to this point.

  • Getting community engagement

Starting off I got in touch with a number of the communities where integration of translated articles onto target Wikis had been slow. Through discussion and providing some basic tracking structure on for example Polish and Dutch Wikipedias the ball got rolling.

  • Guides

One of the big issues identified was how difficult it was for a new user to get involved with the project. As with any complex project it takes time to get oriented, and I realised there was too little material that would help. For this reason I started building guides for Community organzing, Assessing content, Integration, Template installation, and more. The goal was not to create anything that perfectly gives advice on how to proceed on certain Wikis, but more general guides, that in turn can be expanded & translated by others that come along.

  • Solutions

The guides required significant research, both finding and trying to solve problems before I could write anything. To do this I had to go through a number of Wikipedias and find both unique and general issues (of which there were many). Some of them had simple solutions, while others required new approaches, and getting the help of programmers Pl template bot (very much in alpha) or template designers: Simplified infobox who contributed to the project in various ways.

  • Census

Efforts have also been made to census the editors and has resulted in a list of all editors who have made more than 10 edits on any medical article, in any language. This list will be used to try and recruit new editors to the project.

With the solutions and the material that has been produced so far I hope to user the following 3-4 months to get rid of all the articles that were stuck in the pipeline, as well as trying to engage new editors in the project by spreading the guides and introducing new editors to the project.

Midpoint outcomes[edit]

What are the results of your project or any experiments you’ve worked on so far?

  • We've decreased failed integrations, and are moving towards more community engagement in Wikis where we've had trouble before.
  • New focus area - Simplified articles The project has increased in scope by focusing on short 4 paragraph articles in many different languages. This has greatly benefited from work to ensure template and citations can be easily imported to small Wikis.

Please discuss anything you have created or changed (organized, built, grown, etc) as a result of your project to date.

  • Ebola translations in 60 languages - Infrastructure built through this project has allowed us to increase the translation force and get articles in over 60 languages, many of them underserved African ones out there!
  • The Medical Translation home page has been through an extensive over-haul and is hopefully easier to navigate and more accessible.
  • Roles - It should be easier for an editor to find something within the project they can help out with. While not perfect, it should be possible to help both with the technical side as well as the knowledgable side.
  • We're currently working, and are some way along in moving our progress pages off Wiki to something more managable. As the project has expanded it is no longer possible to use Wikipedia for spreadsheets. With a few thousands of links, and no very easy way to automate this it will take a little while, but will bear fruit in being much easier to edit and maintain.


Please take some time to update the table in your project finances page. Check that you’ve listed all approved and actual expenditures as instructed. If there are differences between the planned and actual use of funds, please use the column provided there to explain them.

Then, answer the following question here: Have you spent your funds according to plan so far? Please briefly describe any major changes to budget or expenditures that you anticipate for the second half of your project. Funds were spent very close to what was planned.

We're slightly under budget for when it comes to material, other expenditures have followed projections.

Expense Approved amount Actual funds spent Difference
Community coordinator $4500 $4500
Promotional materials $500 $250 -$250
Total $5000 $4750 -$250

With focus the following months on increasing community engagement the difference will likely come to use.


The best thing about trying something new is that you learn from it. We want to follow in your footsteps and learn along with you, and we want to know that you are taking enough risks to learn something really interesting! Please use the below sections to describe what is working and what you plan to change for the second half of your project.

What are the challenges[edit]

What challenges or obstacles have you encountered? What will you do differently going forward? Please list these as short bullet points.

  • Too few editors

This is the major problem in the project, and the one we're trying to solve. It isn't as straight forward as simply asking new people to join, and in many languages there isn't a shortage of willing volunteers either. The problem is that for an editor to join the project they've needed to fix everything from templates to tracking to disambiguating medical terms – to find someone who will do all that is a very rare breed of editor.

At the time I joined the project there were very few editors working on a global scale – James Heilman was and is still the one doing most of the work. There are dedicated editors and numerous examples of good community engagement, (for example the Persian Wikipedia's). So we know it is possible in other languages as well to find editors who see the project as more than a one off job. Previously many editors only did one or two articles before getting tired due to the work-load.

I've identified the following problems that might have caused the lack of editors.

  • Steep learning curve

I've spent significant time working to improve the learning curve, with guides as well as roles. With the guides it is possible to get a good idea of what is needed, and by signing up for roles it is possible to choose to help with what you are best at, instead of stumbling along when someone else knows how to solve the issue faster and simpler.

  • Misinformation & community opposition

One of the causes of community opposition lies in the failure of previous translation efforts. Previous translation projects have utilized both machine translation as well as little to no quality control pre- and post-translation. This means it takes concentrated effort to get information about our project out there, and it requires being humble and accepting that it may take a while until editors jump on board.

Certain communities have opposed translation on principle. While an easy way to solve this would be do simply forgo translating into these languages it rarely seems to be what is best for the community as a whole. Often we've found a vocal minority expressing strongly worded and loud dislike of translations; trumping a greater number of users who are very happy and willing to collaborate on a larger project.

What we've done differently that needs to be spread is how our goal is not to replace previous content or to align all the content on Wikipedia to what we deem appropriate. Instead we aim to provide various Wikis with quality content that they may do as they wish with. For this reason it's very important we increase or editor numbers, and also get our editors who are familiar with other langauge Wikipedias and can engage in discussions with the community.

  • Keeping the global perspective

Focusing on the single difficult Wikipedias with many issues is very time-consuming, and building guides for single Wikis may not yield the results that working with community engagement in 10 other projects would. We may be forced to move away from certain Wikipedias if integration progress is very slow or otherwise cumbersome.

What is working well[edit]

Getting people interested in the project is easy, and allocating precise tasks they know they can handle has proven successful over the past months. One of the best ways to get new editors involved has been by looking for interested community organizers. Working together with the Wikimedia Foundation Chapters has proven very successful, as they have previous experience or community organization and are also happy to get involved with the project.

Certain language groups are working very well, and have a large community and many editors working on the content, while others work less well. A system is being devised which separates the different languages into groups, where different approaches can be applied. Languages with strong communities have previously requested articles, such as for Spanish, and this has proven very successful.

In essense a Wikipedia may fall into one of three groups:

1. A Wikipedia with a large community and editors which write a large portion of


Russian, Dutch, German, French, Polish, Spanish, Bulgarian

To back a project in these languages is needed either a dedicated individual who is willing to take on integration of single articles or a larger community that stands behind the translation process. Examples of good groups are Italian, Spanish and Persian Wikipedias, where a large community has been able to serve out a lot of content.

We need a strong community support to ensure that translated content lives up to the quality standards put forth by the community. Other languages may also be placed in this group for various reasons pertaining to difficulty getting involved. For example the Polish Wikipedia is very difficult to edit for a non-Polish speaker or someone unaccustomed to their specific style of mark-up and requires community help.

2. Wikipedias of medium size have sizable share of de novo content creation, but it is very unlikely the content will be comparable to translations. For full functionality integrators are needed here, mainly to fix wiki-links, link to and from the articles and fix formatting. This is preferably done by a local-language Wikipedian, but can to some degree be performed by a Wikipedian who does not speak the language in question.

Examples here may be: Croatian, Czech, Norwedgian

3. Small Wikipedias which have little to no medical content. While having dedicated integrators in these languages is the best solution, getting content out there is prioritized as it may be difficult to find integrators. Only fixes to formatting and templates as well as blantant errors are prioritized.

Examples here include most incubator languages and many South-east Asian and African languages.

Next steps and opportunities[edit]

What are the next steps and opportunities you’ll be focusing on for the second half of your project? Please list these as short bullet points. If you're considering applying for a 6-month renewal of this IEG at the end of your project, please also mention this here.

  • Creating a simple messaging system for new and old users
  • Active user engagement
  • Chapter outreach
  • Creating clear programming tasks

My hope is that I can expand upon what I've done in the past 6 months and to continue and expand the outreach work I've done. We need to get more editors, and I think we have a platform now that allows us to do so. We also need to get users to start looking through the guides and seeing what needs work.

The project will continue after this 6-month period, and my hope is to be able to continue contributing next year as well. I will likely have less time to manage the project on a daily basis, though it may still be necessary. More than anything we will need to get programmers involved in creating simple to use tools that automate or simplify steps involved in the project.

Parts of the coming months will focus on delivering strategies for different size Wikipedias. For larger Wikipedias translations have been done on a per request basis, but the languages where this system has existed have been chosen more or less arbitrarily, or only with regards to real size, without consideration of Wikipedia-project size. A definitive list is in the making

Grantee reflection[edit]

We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how the experience of being an IEGrantee has been so far. What is one thing that surprised you, or that you particularly enjoyed from the past 3 months?