Grants:Project/Giantflightlessbirds/New Zealand Wikipedian at Large/Midpoint

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proposal people timeline & progress finances midpoint report final report

Report accepted
This midpoint report for a Project Grant approved in FY 2017-18 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Welcome to this project's midpoint report! This report shares progress and learning from the grantee's first 6 months.


  • I've been a Wikipedian-in-Residence (or consulting Wikipedian) for numerous organisations: museums, libraries, archives, research labs, magazines, and conservation groups.
  • I've run numerous volunteer events: edit-a-thons, meetups, Wikidrinks, Wikibrunches, and Wikiblitzes.
  • I've given presentations to community groups, international conferences, and everything in between.
  • I've been on radio and in the press as a public face for Wikimedia in New Zealand.

Methods and activities[edit]

I'm halfway through this WIki-tour of New Zealand; in April I move to Dunedin

The goal for this one-year project has been twofold: to educate institutions about engaging with Wikimedia, and to recruit and support new editors and editing groups. Based on past presentations and workshops I've run at the National Digital Forum, most institutions don't understand Wikipedia and Commons, and know almost nothing about Wikidata. Based on past community editing events I've run, there is a nucleus of editors in each of New Zealand's main cities, but no regular meetups or support for newcomers.

In the first six months of the Wikipedian at Large project I've been based in Auckland and Wellington, in the North Island of New Zealand. In Auckland I was based as a Wikipedian in Residence with three institutions; in Wellington I've been working with several organisations and community groups simultaneously as a Wikipedian at Large.

  • One-month residency at Auckland Museum, arranging staff training, working on uploading collection photos, and developing a Wikipedia strategy
  • One-month residency at New Zealand Geographic, helping test referrals to their website from Wikipedia citations and running staff training
  • One-month residency at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, uploading photos from the collection and running public events
  • Side trips to Northland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Melbourne (Australia) to run specific events or give presentations
  • Three months based in Wellington, including a two-week residency at Wellington City Archives and a month based at the Robert Stout Research Centre at Victoria University, running community meetups (Wikibrunches and Wikidrinks) as well as edit-a-thons.

There are more details in the monthly reports for July, August, September, October, November, and December.

Midpoint outcomes[edit]

  • At Auckland Museum, I worked with the photography team to upload several hundred brand-new photographs of land vertebrates, and ran a Commons editing event in the Museum library to start adding them to Wikipedia pages. This was my first time using Pattypan; the difficulties I ran into prompted me to suggest collaborating with its author to develop training materials, an idea endorsed by Asaf Bartov during his visit to NZ.
  • While at New Zealand Geographic, as part of a tie-in with a recent cover story on the disease kauri dieback, we ran a Wikiblitz (a new format defined in this learning pattern) to improve its Wikipedia article – a great success, and a new model for public editing events.
  • At Landcare Research, I uploaded over 1000 illustrations by the artist Des Helmore to Commons, created a Wikipedia article for Des, and visited him in his retirement in Hawkes Bay to take an infobox photo and interview him for a New Zealand Geographic article highlighting his life and work (and illustrated with the Commons drawings)
  • In Wellington I partnered with the group Antistatic to run five Edit for Equity edit-a-thons to commemorate the 125th year of women's suffrage in New Zealand. These recruited numerous new editors, almost all women, with a retention rate of 35%.
  • Conference presentations and workshops at the Conservation Communicators' Hui, SPNHC, the New Zealand Ecological Society, and the National Digital Forum.
  • Numerous presentations to the public and organisations, including Melbourne Museum, BRANZ, Forest and Bird, Otago Museum, Hamilton Junior Naturalists, University of Auckland, magazine publishers Bauer Media, Horizons Regional Council, and Archives New Zealand.
  • Significant media coverage of Wikipedia and my role, including a New York Times profile, and two articles in Wellington's Dominion Post on issues of Wikipedia notability.
  • The mailing list for the Wikipedian at Large project has grown to 119, and the Wikipedia New Zealand Facebook page now has 105 members.
  • Events 14
    Participants 85
    New editors 53
    7-day retention 19
    Pages created 20
    Pages improved 223
    Files uploaded 186
    Files in use 27
    Wikidata items created 25
    Wikidata items improved 161
  • Kauri dieback Wikiblitz, Galbraith's Alehouse, Auckland, Aug 2018
  • A giant moa Dinornis robustus skull in Auckland Museum


NZ Comics and Cartoons square banner.png

The project is roughly within budget, with some savings in living expenses and a small overage in conference registration fees.

  • Living Expenses: the budget has been adequate, and expenses in the remainder of the Wellington residency and in the South Island will be lower, with some accommodation being provided for free. Although the amount requested has been sufficient, if I were applying again I would have asked for more for living expenses; I've been lucky with supportive friends, and a book advance and literary prize have helped defray costs.
  • Travel: There are still two return road trips to Dunedin and back to complete, but no more air travel. The major vehicle expenses have already been paid.
  • Conference registration: Two large conferences (National Digital Forum and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections) used the entire registration budget and then some; these were large international meetings and I was invited to present at both. Subsequently I've been approaching conferences offering to be a "Conference Wikipedian-in-Residence", with registration covered; one group took me up on this offer, one refused. With no funds remaining for meetings this will be the only arrangement under which I'll be attending conferences from now on.
  • Swag: Some prizes and giveaways have been purchased from the WMF store; the shipping charges to NZ tend to be very high, so I'm looking at printing giveaway stickers here.


External video
Mike Dickison: A Wikipedian at Large
(Lightning presentation at the National Digital Forum, Nov 2018)
The 2000 unveiling of the Kupe statue in Wellington, part of a series of previously-undigitised photos in Wellington City Archives.

What I've learned is summarised in the National Digital Forum presentation I gave: A Wikipedian At Large (and six lessons I've learnt so far)

  1. "So you'll fix our Wiki page?": most GLAM organisations assumed I was there to create content for them, and improve their own organisational WIkipedia presence; I often had to remind them of their institutional mission statement.
  2. Build Wikipedia into exhibitions: Wikipedians need to work alongside developers in the research and exhibition process, not come along afterwards to try to properly negotiate licenses and track down citations.
  3. People show up to fix inequality and unfairness: correcting Wikipedia's gender imbalance or properly covering New Zealand culture and geography in a US-centred encyclopaedia is a powerful motivator, and a reasonable percentage of those new editors can be converted into regular contributors.
  4. Have a strategy for bulk uploads: simply dumping thousands of files into Commons isn't enough – institutions and Wikipedians need to organise press releases to announce this, public editing events that make use of the files, corresponding Wikipedia pages for image creators, and publications or merchandise that feature the images.
  5. Almost nobody understands Creative Commons, even in GLAM institutions, and many use an NC license for no very good reason (this got a round of applause at NDF)
  6. Take Wikidata seriously: over the last six months I've realised how central Wikidata will be to the future of Wikipedia and Commons, and have been building it into public editing events and my advice to institutions.
  7. A Wikipedian in Residence needs: about 6 months, Wikimedia champions inside the organisation, and a commitment from the leadership team to change an institution's direction and Wikimedia strategy.

What are the challenges[edit]

  • Editor retention rates have been good, but publicising events and motivating people to come have been difficult. I'm switching to running events in conjunction with organisations that can provide space and have a well-organised publicity machine.
  • The goal for the year has been to build community capacity through forming self-sustaining editing communities, with regular meetups and assistance for new editors. This seems to be on the verge of happening in Wellington, but Auckland was too near the beginning of the residency and too short (at only three months) for much planning and organisation, so the situation with the editing community there has only improved a little.
  • It's clear that a one-month residency in an organisation is too short to convince them to engage with Wikimedia. What's been more successful has been presentations to numerous organisations, with a follow-up meeting or workshop if staff (and management) are obviously keen to take things further. This has worked with BRANZ and Archives New Zealand, who weren't even on my initial list of organisations to approach about a residency.

What is working well[edit]

Next steps and opportunities[edit]

Plans and maps in the Wellington City Archives
  • Resolving the "macron debate", a long and virulent discussion on changing the style guide for New Zealand English to show this diacritical mark on words of Māori origin (a recent change in NZ usage that should be reflected in Wikipedia).
  • Organising a mass upload of thousands of Department of Conservation photos of the Subantarctic Islands, and a meticulous well-publicised upload of 65 George Raper watercolours with the National Library.
  • Arranging the upload to Commons of 17,000 natural history photographs taken by the late Phil Bendle, currently available only under a CC BY-NC-ND license.
  • Meetings with Māori around the country and collaborating with them on a position paper for Wikimedians wanting to work with indigenous people.
  • Being based in the Digital Humanities section of the University of Canterbury and working with academics interested in implementing Wiki Education in New Zealand for the first time.
  • Working with iNaturalist NZ to negotiate the changing or rollback of the NC condition on hundreds of thousands of natural history photos.
  • Forming a New Zealand Wikimedia User Group.

Grantee reflection[edit]

The "On The Air" light at Te Hiku Media

The unexpected high point of the Wikipedian-at-Large project so far has been the day I spent in Kaitaia, working with the Māori-language radio station Te Hiku Media to record 150 words in Te Reo Māori. These were professionally recorded by a radio presenter using excellent equipment, and he released them under an open licence for use in Wikipedia articles (he recited the licence text in both English and Māori for the recording). I had been apprehensive about sitting down with Māori and discussing the problems and opportunities of working with Wikimedia: the philosophies of knowledge of the two groups are in some ways very different. But I was welcomed into the radio station, bringing lots of baked goods (a very important part of Māori protocol!), and we had a long a challenging discussion about the project. We came to an agreement about what would and wouldn't be appropriate to release into Commons, and the Te Hiku crew looked at and rewrote my list of suggested words (local Northland place names, plants, animals, and commons Māori words used in New Zealand English). The recording took over an hour, but the speaker was meticulous and took great pains to make sure all pronunciations were correct. The resulting words will be turned into individual sound files and uploaded to Commons by volunteers, then added as pronunciations to individual Wikipedia articles. The whole process was so rewarding I am keen to try similar collaborations in the Year of Indigenous Languages.