Grants talk:IEG/Mapping History: Revision History Visualizer and Improvement Suggester using Geo-Spatial Technologies

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This project has not been selected for an Individual Engagement Grant at this time.

We love that you took the chance to creatively improve the Wikimedia movement. The committee has reviewed this proposal and not recommended it for funding, but we hope you'll continue to engage in the program. Please drop by the IdeaLab to share and refine future ideas!

Comments regarding this decision:
Thanks for sharing this interesting proposal - we hope to see more of your ideas in the future.

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Aggregated feedback from the committee for Mapping History: Revision History Visualizer and Improvement Suggester using Geo-Spatial Technologies[edit]

Scoring criteria (see the rubric for background) Score
1=weakest 5=strongest
Potential for impact
(A) The project fits with the Wikimedia movement's strategic priorities 2
(B) The project has the potential to lead to significant online impact. 3
(C) The impact of the project can be sustained after the grant ends. 4
(D) The project has potential to be scaled or adapted for other languages or projects. 4
Ability to execute
(E) The project has demonstrated interest from a community it aims to serve. 2
(F) The project can be completed as scoped within 6 months with the requested funds. 3
(G) The budget is reasonable and an efficient use of funds. 2
(H) The individual(s) proposing the project have the required skills and experience needed to complete it. 4
Fostering innovation and learning
(I) The project has innovative potential to add new strategies and knowledge for solving important issues in the movement. 3
(J) The risk involved in the project's size and approach is appropriately balanced with its potential gain in terms of impact. 2
(K) The proposed measures of success are useful for evaluating whether or not the project was successful. 3
(L) The project supports or grows the diversity of the Wikimedia movement. 2
Comments from the committee:
  • This could be a good tool for researchers and would be interesting to see visualized.
  • Project has potential but the scenarios presented appear to be unrealistic.
  • Direct impact on editors and readers is likely to be small, and the prospect is further diluted due to Wikipedia's privacy policy which limits the input data to anonymous edits only.
  • Budget seems very high considering the proposer's experience and anticipated impact.
  • Would like to see more familiarity and significant involvement in the Wikimedia community from the project proposers.


Hello. Has the privacy policy been taken into account? I doubt the WMF will release information about specific (logged-in) editors' locations, but they would probably consider it if there are enough users that it's not obvious what any specific logged-in editors' locations are. (If there's only one editor of a page, you would be able to see where that user is from). This is a great idea, but please be careful not to violate user privacy! Thanks, πr2 (t • c) 03:59, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Addressing privacy concerns[edit]

Thanks for raising this point. This is an important issue which needs to be addressed thoroughly with community inputs.

The visualizer tool will not be displaying any personal information about any editors. All it does is get the the geographical location (not even the exact locations, but a rough information about editor location(at a state/country level)) and displays it on a map. NO identification of any editors will be done at any level of the tool (front or back-end). All it does is collect revision history and get the IP addresses using MediaWiki API and render some non-private details such as:

  1. how many edits have occurred from a region (may be at a state/country level)?
  2. what are the nature of these edits (major/minor)?

and other non-personal info which can be retrieved using the API.

We see 3 possible ways of deploying the tool:

  1. Part of Wiki core code: Out of the project scope. Depends on WMF engineering team.
  2. As a MediaWiki Gadget: This can be a good place to deploy this application. Here, we may have access to the IPs of registered users using MediaWiki APIs.
  3. As a standalone tool: Here, the IP address of non-registered users (anonymous IPs) are recorded in the history page publicly. But the IPs of registered users are not shared publicly (hidden IPs). We would like inputs from the community if it is possible to access these hidden IPs without violating the privacy terms.

The source code of the tool will be published under a license compatible with the WMF licensing terms. Again, we would like to categorically state that no privacy violations of any kind will occur during the development of this tool.


Basil. 15:00, February 16, 2013 (UTC)

I'm speaking on my personal behalf, not as an employee.
A logged in user's geographical location is personal information. In my case, I have chosen to reveal it, but that doesn't mean other logged in editors have to. The privacy policy is quite clear that the IPs of logged in users (and related information) are carefully protected, used and released under very limited circumstances, and deleted after a short period of time. The below are relevant excerpts from the privacy policy:
"When a page is edited by a logged-in editor, the server confidentially stores related IP information for a limited period of time. This information is automatically deleted after a set period. [...] Logging in with a registered username allows for better preservation of privacy." Note that it says "related IP information". I think the state and country derived from the IP certainly qualifies as related.
"Logged in users do not expose their IP address to the public except in cases of abuse, including vandalism of a wiki page by the user or by another user with the same IP address. A user's IP address is stored on the wiki servers for a period of time, during which it can be seen by server administrators and by users who have been granted CheckUser access. IP address information, and its connection to any usernames that share it, may be released under certain circumstances (see below)." Note that it says "IP address information", not just "the user's IP address". The circumstances do not include correlating editors' locations to revision history.
"Editors who have not logged in may be identified by network IP address. Depending on one's connection, this IP address may be traceable to a large Internet service provider or more specifically to a school, place of business or home." Note that it is quite clear that this public IP geolocation should only be possible for logged out users.
There are technical misconceptions as well. Gadgets do not have any special access that a regular user script does not. Gadgets are just JavaScript and CSS. As far as I know, no gadget has ever been approved that permanentsly records the IP of logged in users (or information derived from that IP). To answer your question above, I do not believe it would be compliant to share an IP of a logged in user with a third party for this purpose, without their opt-in permission. It is not one of the six reasons listed here
In summary, this is fine for logged out users (third parties can already do it). It is not okay for logged in/registered users, unless they opt in. Superm401 | Talk 20:44, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for valuable inputs on the tricky issue of privacy. If there is no way of obtaining the IPs of registered users from history page, then we propose a few changes to the project idea:
* Support the visualizer app only to those pages having large number of edits so that cross-referencing users with geographical locations become difficult.
* Use only those IPs which are publicly available (unregistered editor IPs & registered editor IPs who have chosen to make them public).
Though these changes may dilute the overall project idea, we still consider the implementation of this project helpful for future geo-spatial research and development of Wikimedia projects. The source code of this project may help in the implementation of many other projects that may require rendering and analysis of information on maps etc.
Thanks. Basil. 17:15, February 17, 2013 (UTC)

Difficult to implement[edit]

It is an interesting idea, but given the limitations of privacy policy, and that Mediawiki API does not give any option to obtain IPs, it will be difficult to implement this idea. The tool will be far less useful if only limited to use IP edits, as mentioned above. --Haithams (talk) 18:59, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

Project duration and community notification[edit]

Hi, I see you have started the project from mid February, how are you doing that? I mean without knowing about the grant approval, how are you managing going forward? And could you please provide the links to the relevant community discussions? Thanks. -- ɑηsuмaη ʈ ᶏ ɭ Ϟ 19:32, 21 February 2013 (UTC)

In Phase 0, as was mentioned in the proposal, we try to conduct community as well as internal discussions about the idea with our peers to understand the various challenges that we may face during the implementation. But the actual coding work involved will only be started once the project is approved. The wikitech-l discussions happening over this proposal can be seen here. Thanks.
Basil. 10:25, 22 February 2013 (UTC)