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Grants:Simple/Applications/Wikimedia Espana/2020/Online sessions

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Online sessions
(Learning story)



After the declaration of the state of alarm, and the consequent confinement for almost three months, Wikimedia Spain cancelled all its face-to-face activity and launched the campaign #QuédateEnTuCasaYEditaWikipedia, which sought to propose different activities and proposals for the community to edit from home.

As part of this campaign, a set of online sessions were proposed, both internal and open to the public, in order to raise awareness of some of the projects such as Wikipedia, Commons, Wikidata, Wiktionary, Wikivoyage and Wikisource, tools, initiatives and other aspects of Wikimedia that encourage participation and collaborative work for free knowledge.


One of the online sessions

Until then, Wikimedia Spain had never organized an online session. Our work had always been developed in the face-to-face environment, and the online activity had been limited to members or board meetings through IRC, apart from editathons, contests or similar activities linked to Wikimedia projects.

However, the circumstances caused by the pandemic and the confinement led us to consider the organization of a set of online sessions that would not only provide interesting content but also serve as a means of contact between the community, since we would not be able to see each other in person for months.

In order to carry them out, at that time there were a number of applications that were having some success, but following the prevailing spirit of our movement, we decided to use Jitsi, an open source and free software application. In order to get to know its functionalities and test it, the first session was internal to Wikimedia Spain. In this one and the following sessions everything went smoothly and we were happy with the application and how the sessions were developing.

One of them we decided to dedicate to the staff of GLAM institutions, as a way to motivate them and introduce them to the possibilities of collaboration with Wikipedia. The session was scheduled for May 14 at 11:00 am. An invitation had previously been sent to all our contacts in this thematic area. When the time came, the session started with 58 people in attendance. We were very happy with the reception of the proposal. However, a few minutes after the start of the presentation, a person began to play several audios of inappropriate content, which disturbed the follow up of the session, and went on for several minutes. After that, he began to expel from the call those responsible for Wikimedia Spain and the speaker himself (Jitsi did not have a moderation or access control system, so anyone could take control of the room). The situation was extremely uncomfortable, generating tension and anxiety given how complicated it was to stop his actions, and finally thanks to the collaboration of other people attending the session it was possible to avoid his presence.

The session had been ruined, and in fact the speaker did not realize at the time that he had been expelled and only re-entered at the end of his presentation and was aware that he was off the call. This situation caused us concern, both because of the discomfort caused to the institutions and because it was a situation that could happen again, given the program of sessions we had planned for the following weeks.



Once the sabotaged session was over, we began to discuss and work to find an application that could replace Jisti to hold the sessions. The situation had been very uncomfortable, very stressful, and we did not consider risking suffering it again at the hands of another troll. After evaluating different applications, asking other people for their opinions, we decided to sign up for a Zoom Pro account. We were convinced by the possibility of moderating calls, banning a person, having a waiting room or password access: all security measures that would prevent such an unpleasant event from happening again. In fact, we reconvened the session for GLAM institutions, which took place on May 21, and this time without problems and a great success, with 63 people attending.

Another measure we adopted was to wait until the day of a session to publish the link to the Zoom call, as a way to avoid possible programmed attacks. Until then, the link to Jitsi was always publicly exposed on the Wikipedia page where we reported on the sessions.

Since then, and for any event, we take measures such as avoiding publishing the link in advance or always keeping the waiting room active on the call, to control who enters. It was a quick learning process, forced by circumstances, but since then we have acquired enough experience to ensure the security of a participatory tool, such as the online sessions, which have become a regular feature within the association.