Grants:IEG/Understanding Wikidata

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

status: not selected

Individual Engagement Grants
Individual Engagement Grants
Review grant submissions
grant submissions
Visit IdeaLab submissions
IdeaLab submissions
eligibility and selection criteria


Understanding Wikidata

project contact:



grantees: Ziko van Dijk


Understanding Wikidata (with a kind of manual, how-to, popular introduction) for more and better participation

engagement target:


strategic priority:

Increasing Participation

total amount requested:

12,900 €

2013 round 2

Project idea[edit]

Wikidata needs explanation to reach its goals

Wikidata, the new free database, will have a huge impact on the other Wikimedia projects (wikis) such as Wikipedia. Every person who edits Wikipedia or uploads to Wikimedia Commons or starts something new on Wikisource might soon be involved in Wikidata.

Interestingly, long time Wikipedia editors are now newbies again and have to find their way in Wikidata. Similar to Wikipedia, it is relatively easy to make a simple edit in Wikidata. Participating in Wikipedia and Wikidata on a higher level is much more complicated. In Wikipedia, the difficulty for new participants is at least a basic understanding of an encyclopedia (content scope, style), the wiki principle and free knowledge. For Wikidata, the challenge is the following:

  • Participants need to know about how a wiki works; even for experienced Wikipedians this can be a challenge in a new environment (what are the name spaces Wikidata uses, and how?).
  • Information scientists use a lot of technical terms like ‘ontology’.
  • Wikidata is already a rather complex wiki with the intention to provide a lot of functionality. It is easy to lose overview.
  • Wikis develop a culture of their own; think of Wikipedia folkore such as ‘ignore all rules’, the ‘village pump’ (the central discussion forum) or the ‘wiki gnomes’. It will be interesting to see this turn out on Wikidata, but it will be also a treshold for newbies.

The Wikidata development team wishes the community to write the 'documentation'. This happens rather slowly and bit by bit. The current help pages are still not very elaborate, and the texts are difficult to understand for people without a background in information science or even without much wiki experience. (There has already been an inconclusive Request for Comment with regard to the help pages.)

Understanding Wikidata has the goal to provide the movement with a popular introduction and a manual. It might be the first time that in an early stage an attempt is made to come up with a comprehensive manual for a Wikimedia project.

Project goals[edit]

Make participation easier (or even possible)

The product of Understanding Wikidata will be texts that explain Wikidata to Wikipedians and to non Wikipedians (see more about those texts below). Such a ‘documentation’ will help Wikipedians to get involved in Wikidata and make their engagement easier and more productive. In other words, Understanding Wikidata is supposed to increase participation primarily of people who already are Wikimedians, and to improve quality by giving more insight about the Wikidata content and the ways to produce and improve it.

Possible or most likely deliverables:

  • Popular introduction, possibly with a short history of Wikidata and its role in the Wikimedia movement
  • Hand book / manual; usable as a basis for help pages if the community likes to
  • Glossary

(Other deliverables can be considered if the target group is interested and if they make sence, e.g. an anthology of relevant texts from the Wikidata history).)

The content should be usable at least for the following 2-3 years, and even after that it will be possible to expend it with the new features Wikidata will (likely) provide then. They will be written and presented in a way that makes translation easy.

No goals or no primary goals of Understanding Wikidata are:

  • It is the community that writes the Wikidata help pages. So, Understanding Wikidata will not improve the existing help pages instantly or directly (it may happen occasionally). But the community may want to take over pieces of text and incorporate them into the help pages, or base the help pages in other ways on these texts.
  • It is not the goal to change Wikidata as such, that is a task best left the current Wikidata development team and the community. But it is likely that in the process of Understanding Wikidata some ideas will come up about how to improve Wikidata. Those ideas will be transferred to the team and community.
  • Outreach for Wikidata outside the Wikimedia movement would require a different approach; at the moment it is most important to activate and support the existing Wikimedians.

Part 2: The Project Plan[edit]

Understanding Wikidata: listen, think and write down. And, listen again and rewrite.

Project plan[edit]


Scope and activities[edit]

To find out what Wikidata users and other members of the Wikimedia movement really need, it will be necessary to talk to a large group of people:

  • primarily, Wikipedians and Wikidata contributors
  • the Wikidata development team
  • users from other Wikimedia projects
  • people in the Wikimedia organisations
  • maybe others who might be interested in using Wikidata

Possible time schedule:

  • Months 1 and 2: learning about Wikidata and from the people mentioned above; making outlines for the deliverables. With a visit to the Wikidata team in Berlin and visits to Wikipedians in Germany and the Netherlands
  • Months 3 and 4: writing draft versions of the deliverables
  • Months 5 and 6: bringing the target groups in touch with the deliverables, incorporate feedback, write improved versions, prepare the deliverables for final presentation and for possible implementation. Visits / meetings for face to face feedback.


Total amount requested[edit]

12,900 € (ca. 18,060 $)

Budget breakdown[edit]

I request this funding so that I may manage and execute this project on a part-time basis for the six-month grant period, January 1 to July 1, 2014.

  • project leader / documentator: 10,000 €
  • travel expenses (two visits to Berlin, travels to places in DE and NL): 2300 €
  • incentives, other: 600 €

= 12,900 €

Intended impact:[edit]

Target audience[edit]

The primary target are Wikipedians: they are the people who are currently editing Wikidata, or will start to do so in the nearby future. Second, other people in the movement such as staff members of WMF and chapters will benefit from having a basic unterstanding. Third, if possible, people from outside the movement should have easier access than now.

Fit with strategy[edit]

At the moment, Wikidata tries to implement features that need the contributions of experienced Wikipedians (infoboxes, for example). So the primary goal is to make it easier for Wikipedians to contribute, to increase their participation or make their participation on Wikidata easier or possible.

It is most likely that in future Wikipedia trainings will include a short introduction to Wikidata (as it is already customs for Wikimedia Commons). In this way, the results of Understanding Wikidata might have an influence also on the recruitment of new Wikipedians or members of the Wikimedia community in general.

As Wikidata is supposed to improve the quality of the information provided in Wikipedia and other sister projects, Understanding Wikidata would automatically support this goal.


The texts will be written in a way that they are not dated soon. Adjustments will be possible, and if Wikidata contributors will indeed include content in their help pages, the community will be able to go on with it in the long run. On the other hand, the texts produced in 2014 will be a remaining historical snapshot of the situation in 2014.

Measures of success[edit]

Feedback from the primary target group will be of highest importance: if Understanding Wikidata does not meet the needs of Wikidata contributors, it will have failed. Asking for feedback will be an element of the whole process. A small survey at the end of the project might give some insight in the happiness of the target group (mirrored to some sort of evaluation of editor opinions at the beginning). A good sign for acceptance will be also the aspired incorporation or adaptation of the content in the Wikidata help pages.

As Wikidata is still evolving and will likely grow anyway, it will be difficult to determine how much of that growth will be accountable to Understanding Wikidata. But maybe it will foster, for example, more participation in the Wikidata forum.


I am a historian (MA, PhD) and Wikipedian since 2003, mainly in German Wikipedia, and wrote articles such as de:Enzyklopädie. I wrote a Wikipedia text book for a German publisher and also a text book on Wikibooks. In the Education Program of Wikimedia Deutschland I have been involved to present and teach Wikipedia, which I have also done in the Netherlands and Belgium. This was also the topic of my Wikimania presentation in Hong Kong. I have contributed to help pages in German and Esperanto Wikipedia and largely also to those in German Wikivoyage. Since 2011 I serve as chair of Wikimedia Nederland. I teach about Wikipedia related subjects at the university of Dortmund (DE).

Outside the Wikimedia world I have been interested in interlinguistics and writing local or small scale historiography and reorganized a specialist library. Although I have no formal education in information science (I have studied political history and German language) I have made the experience that I can appropriate necessary background knowledge quickly.


Community Notification:[edit]

I have informed the Wikidata community by a note in the Wikidata forum (Project chat), have approached individuals and consider to do more of that. I had contact with the Wikidata team and feel encouraged to present this proposal.


Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. Other feedback, questions or concerns from community members are also highly valued, but please post them on the talk page of this proposal.

People in support[edit]

  1. By following talks and workshop on Wikidata at Wikimania 2013, I have learned a lot about the project, and upon the return to my home country I quickly found out that I was the most knowledgeable member of my local chapter. Most Czech Wikipedians mind their business and do not explore Wikidata, and those few who do mostly have only incomplete understanding of it and their expectations are often not realistic. Ziko has done a good job by providing a textbook about Wikipedia for the Esperanto community and as a fellow activist in there I can confirm that many community members worldwide have successfully used it to get their first insight about the encyclopedia. Therefore, I am convinced that he would do a good job by writing a manual about Wikidata as well, and that there is a public that would profit from reading it. Blahma (talk) 14:14, 24 September 2013 (UTC)
  2. I'd be one of the interested participants, eager to learn more about Wikidata and how to use it (apart from the obvious interwiki-linking) --Manuel Schneider(bla) (+/-) 14:08, 24 September 2013 (UTC)
  3. Joining the list of participants, I endorse the project proposed which I think the Wikimedia movement will profit from quite a lot. Wikidata is still quite a new project we still have to understand by doing some very fundamental research and thought. I would especially like to dwell on the critical aspects of Wikidata, i.e. problems and misconceptions and how to overcome them.--Aschmidt (talk) 20:11, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
  4. The Wikidata development team will support this project. Making Wikidata more understandable is still one of the biggest hurdles of the project and we'd be happy to see Ziko tackle this. --Lydia Pintscher (WMDE) (talk) 22:01, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
  5. I endorse this project. Jane023 (talk) 10:33, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
  6. Ziko usually delivers excellent results, therefore I appreciate this proposal. --UV (talk) 17:07, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
  7. Read his book about Wikipedia. Having something similiar for Wikidata would be great. --Flominator (talk) 17:16, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
  8. This project will be very necessary for the use of Wikidata so I endorse the project. --Projekt ANA (talk) 21:32, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
    If you wish, I can help you in reviewing the document, and providing you with an Italian translation. --Sannita - not just another sysop 11:06, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
    After what Sven wrote, I'm rethinking my position. Still I think it'd be interesting, but probably it'd be better to wait for the end of deployment of the last changes needed. Otherwise, we'll need a second edition after just a year, which will differ sensitively from the first one. It's not an oppose, but I'm just retiring my support for now. --Sannita - not just another sysop 16:56, 4 November 2013 (UTC)
  9. Strong support: Wikidata is fascinating but can be intimidating to newcomers. Even moderately experienced editors need to sort through dozens of discussion pages before understanding what should be done. A regularly-updated Wikidata primer will enhance the quality of contributions from newcomers and veterans alike. JFG (talk) 16:36, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

People in opposition[edit]

  1. Oppose Contra: Delivering about a theme Ziko has no real knowledge. --Succu (talk) 21:52, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
  2. You think the people contributing to Wikimedia projects are stupid and need a class room with one or more teachers like kids at school? Editing Wikidata is much easier than editing any other project. If you would make this proposal on any other project you would have more chance, though most projects have excellent namespaces for this goal like Help:, online fora, all practically free and nobody needs to leave their safe house  Klaas|Z4␟V:  07:35, 5 October 2013 (UTC)
  3. I am uncomfortable with using grant money to essentially pay someone's wages to create Wikidata help pages (in book form). Aside from that broader issue, there are several issues with the proposal in specific. First of all, the statement "The texts will be written in a way that they are not dated soon" in sustainability is a pipe dream. There are a lot of major (breaking) changes that will be happening between now and the end of 2014, especially in regards to the not currently deployed queries system, and unless Ziko pushes back the entire timeline, so that he's only starting research towards the end of 2014, the work is going to be outdated weeks after it comes out. Second of all, I think that the format he is proposing isn't useful. We don't need a handbook with a formal introduction and a glossary, we need the help pages to be updated, and perhaps we need some tweaks to the glossary that we already have. I say this because people interested in contributing are going to go to help pages, they're not going to pick up a textbook. Third, I don't see how the community is getting value for this investment. We'd be paying 10,000 Euros for someone to write a book, when the community is already (albeit not as quickly) doing the same work, for free, in help pages. We'd be paying for someone to travel Europe to speak to people, but Ziko has not described anything that couldn't be handled by phone calls. Finally, he has a line item called 'incentives', which goes unexplained. Incentives for who? For what? I don't mean to portray Ziko as unethical, but I certainly do mean to say that what he's asking to do doesn't seem in line with community values on how donation money is spent. Sven Manguard (talk) 15:43, 4 November 2013 (UTC)