Projects and the Board?
The Board should clarify that it is not a bottleneck to providing better support for the needs and requests of current and new projects. There is no lack of suggestions and ideas for new Wikimedia domains and initiatives, or for improvements to existing projects that would make them more useful or more friendly to contributors to similar projects elsewhere online.
New project proposals
The community needs to define a clear process for handling requests for new projects, and we must let these friends and potential partners know how to proceed.
In the case of useful free knowledge projects that the Foundation cannot or does not yet wish to include under its umbrella, we should be able to offer other types of advice and support -- they are also pursuing the Foundation's mission in their own way.
Of the major new projects, Rodovid and Wikikids are the most significant projects with active sites up already in multiple languages. They have both asked for Wikimedia support in the past, and received no real reply. The Board is seen as the bottleneck here; though my impression is that the Board doesn't want to handle what it sees as a content issue and wants to see an effective mechanism for vetting new Projects come from the community. Historically, new projects have been heralded by enormous discussions, polls, and !votes... a more steady approach and less heroic barrier to entry may be appropriate, especially when functioning projects already exist - we can apply what has been learned from the incubator, for instance.
Other project ideas
The future direction of the projects is not something for the Board or Foundation to decide -- but the community must, or they will fade in time. A confusion about who should be thinking about long-term Project planning has led recently to stagnation - something we need to recover from.
Wikipedia & Commons
Wikipedia gets the bulk of the attention from developers and planners, and has the largest community to advocate for changes. It still lacks a regular review of interfaces and major feature updates (see suggested feature requests elsewhere on this wiki). It is the primary target of the recent Usability initiative, and gets regular specific attention from the Board.
Commons, like Wikipedia, is getting an interface improvement through a specific dedicated grant, and has active editors who develop their own extensions and tools.
Most of the other sister projects need more usability attention, promotion, and general discussion.
Wiktionary has both a large community and some of the lowest-hanging improvements. Its technical and effort-multiplying needs are well known (starting with sharing one array of translations of a definition across languages). To the extent that the community understands what improvements are needed, this should be a priority. There is much to be learned from m:OmegaWiki (started and run by Wikimedians), Wordnik (run by a former Advisory Board member), and other large online dictionaries.
- This should be the canonical multilingual reference for translators everywhere. That would attract the large body of freelance translators to Wikimedia projects, where they may find new and interesting projects for their spare time.
- Wiktionary is also in a position to create the first public m:translation memory, which would further attract new translators...
Wikisource has people and groups interested in using it for large-scale inclusion of OCR and original scans of page-images, for correcting and translating OCR transcriptions. If the community is interested in accepting that sort of use, there are databases of hundreds of thousands of works which could be mined for notable works to add to it.
- This could be the default place for librarians, digitizers, and graduate students in Literary subjects to look for the best free source images of book pages, and the best transcriptions; along with free translations. Many classes could contribute directly to the novel work of transcribing, correcting, and translating/annotating.
- I have posted my transcript from a recent 'Wikipedia portal workshop' (so called by its organizers at Tufts) discussing how to provide primary source texts in a way useful to Wikisource and Wikipedia.
Wikibooks represents the hottest area of free knowledge over the past six months, with the state of California and even the US President stating their financial and moral support for using free texts to make education more affordable and accessible to all. It does not contain wiki versions of most freely-licensed texts, and has not attracted authors who are deeply committed to free knowledge to edit or actively upload to it. Despite this, there is a growing interest in using wikis -- or similar public, versioned tools -- as a medium for book creation, revision, and translation. We have a number of Advisory Board members who are working on related projects - we should ask them to work explicitly on making import/export to wikibooks function on their own projects (w:CK-12 is an obvious candidate - it uses MediaWiki as part of its backend, but has yet to export any work to Wikibooks).
- People might visit Wikibooks for the best neutral list of free and editable texts, and it should at least be one of the canonical places to edit and update those texts -- synchronized with any similar projects, or at least sharing notifications with one another when a shared work is updated (one can imagine two free projects that choose to maintain different versions of a text on a subject).
- Authors such as Benjamin Crowell make whole series of books freely available; getting just one of them to contribute directly to wikibooks, or to support our import of their works, would be a great step forward.
Wikiversity is similarly of very broad interest, and the body of freely-licensed digital learning materials has been growing extremely rapidly, but has no other obvious place for public discussion, review, and editing/merging/splitting of them. To the extent that WV can identify where it needs help and technical or outreach support, other projects and the foundation as a whole should provide it.
- There are over a million learning materials online; most of them notable in some fashion. Every one could at least be linked to from the appropriate Wikiversity topic(s), and many should directly have entries on wv where they are modified, discussed, and incorporated into course/project/lab descriptions.
Wikispecies has strong natural affinities with the Encyclopedia of Life project, and should investigate ways to collaborate. EOL was dreamed up with WP as a model The latter was conceived of with Wikipedia as a model, and uses a variety of free licenses, encouraging Public Domain when there is no other restriction on reuse. Their text appears to be PD and they clearly label all media with CC licenses to ease reuse. Yet we are not actively synchronizing our databases, or suggesting new images to them from those used on species: and in commons (they have a time-consuming Flickr-group process for suggesting new photos, which should tell you how far their community uploading has scaled).
- There have been private discussions between EOL representatives and members of the Foundation or Board; but since this is a content partnership, it is precisely the sort of discussion that should be taking place among and with community members, in public where possible. EOL updates slowly, and doesn't have a strong preference for 'more free' images. Wikispecies could be the place for rapid updates and changes, and for organizing suggestions for better and more diverse media - organizing the community input in a way that the EOL team currently does not know how to do. and WS can already borrow from the elegant design and firehose of data that EOL is steadily importing.
Wikinews has great potential both as an outlet for interest among Wikipedia readers in investigating breaking events, and as a way of inspiring a more collaborative sphere of community journalism (which has grown steadily for years but remained a largely solo activity). It has managed to get a few software changes implemented, but could use easier ways to exchange stories and collaborate with other community news bodies.
- David S has a good take on what Wikinews could become. There is no question that citizen journalism is the wave of the future for news and breaking media of all kinds; WN could easily be part of it -- and should be recognized for how much fun, and how instructive, it can be.
Wikiquote is occasionally maligned as being a legal liability; something which should be publicly recanted (assuming this is not true) or remedied (in cases where it is). This is an assessment that the Board is in a position to make.