Wikibase Community User Group/Reports/2018
Wikibase Community User Group was officially recognized on 2 February 2018. The community has been slowly growing since then as it seeks to create and support a developer and user community around the Wikibase software. This reports documents the history of the group, as it moves towards creating a supporting broader community of Wikibase adopters.
As Wikibase Community User Group is a technical software support group, our working spaces were online. Initially, this space was largely on Slack as the groups founders had been using Slack in the year preceding the founding of the group. Because Slack resulted in a barrier to access through the need to register with Slack and be invited to the channel, Slack stopped being the primary communication tool around November 2018. At this time, multiple other avenues to try to communicate were also tried, including IRC, a mailing list and Telegram. The greatest adoption rate was on Telegram, where a large and growing community of Wikibase users (42 on March 2019) regularly discusses Wikibase, installation and upgrade issues, issues around data acquisition and input, and conference where other Wikibase enthusiasts are in attendance.
- March 2018
- Reached out to a writer on The Conversation about using ParaSport Data and its query engine to write about 2018 Winter Paralympics. Created a number of queries with interesting results to demonstrate why this tool is so valuable. They were unable to write anything because of other commitments that came up.
- Using data imported from Ayuntamiento de Madrid, pitched to several newspapers in Spain a project about using disability data to better understand disability in Madrid. Despite repeated e-mails in Spanish to these papers data journalism folks, did not hear back. This was eventually published on ParaSport News.
- Requested creation of a mailing list for the group.
- Created a specific channel on Slack for Wikibase Community User Group.
- Created a basic guide for writing a simple query using Wikibase query engine.
- Reached out to someone via e-mail at suggestion of another developer about federating queries for Wikibase installs.
- Laura wrote some queries, found on her user page on Wikidata for a group doing a project related to streets named after women in Spain.
- Posted to Facebook about issues with inability to user characters like  in urls when adding them on a Wikibase install. Had discussion on Slack about potential workarounds to this issue. No easy solution as Wikibase does not allow these characters via upload or basic input. See image example of error, and image of potential fix that needs automating for bulk upload tool.
- Miguel developed a fix for the issue of special characters using the bulk upload tool he created. This means that, using the tool, special characters like  and spaces can be included in URLs without causing problems .
- Discussed issues around exporting Wikidata geographic coordinates, how these are backwards and re-importing causes problems as a result. Wikidata exports as Long, Lat, not as Lat, Long. Unsure of solutions because this problem is very specific.
- April 2018
- Wikibase Workshop on Research Monitoring and Evaluation in collaboration with the European Research Council. More details on Wikidata.
- July 2018
- Proposed presentations for two tech conferences in Australia.
- October 2018
- Gave a small presentation to two academics an INCIO at the University of Salamanca explaining how Wikibase and its query engine works, discussing the pros and cons of the software and how it compares to other software options.
- Participated in a discussion remotely with a Wikidata birthday celebration about Wikibase software.
- Published a Gap Analysis created during a Postdoc competed in October and released it in order to give others considering using Wikibase a higher level perspective of some of the issues involving Wikibase usage for large scale projects.
- November 2018
- Posted to Mediawiki with list of questions about upgrading Wikibase as there appears to be a lack of technical documentation for how to do this. Also posted to the Wikibase Community User Group mailing list about this.
- Offered feedback on Talk:Wikitrace regarding Wikibase related issues.
- Had a conference call with WM-DE's Cornelius and Jens about current status of Wikibase Community User Group.
- Updated ParaSports Data Project on Research Gate with information about ParaSports Data and Wikibase Community User Group.
- Discussed work flow issues around upgrading Wikibase, things that need to be done with Wikibase around future development with intention of writing both general overview of scope for what should be done to make Wikibase more broadly usable by academics and those with technical expertise to support Wikibase.
- Registered #wikibase-cug on freenode IRC to have a more accessible location to discuss Wikibase with broader community in real time that does not require people to use invite only slack channel.
- Created a Wikibase Community User Group on Telegram. Sent invite to people on the mailing list. Group had 12 members within first 24 hours of creation.
- Created a theoretical Wikibase Upgrade Workflow document as first stage of a December 2018 project to develop more extended technical documentation on this process. This is critical work towards making Wikibase usable in the future by more organizations, as the software becomes less functional and less desirable for use by others if it cannot be upgraded. It is viewed by WCUG leadership as the most critical aspect for getting greater adoption of the software.
Wikibase User Group has had several challenges that it faced during the year. One was an issue of geography and funding. The group's founders live on opposite sites of the planet, making it difficult to coordinate with each other to organize in person events. Intersectionality with other affiliates happened around Wikidata as a model for data input and re-use, and around writing queries to access data. This complicated developing relationships with local groups who have less of a focus on these areas. Running independent events that were organized by one of the founders in their own area or attending events that were geographically further away was hampered because of personal and work related situations that made it impossible to accept any WMF funding. The lack of being able to travel as a result of funding issues impeded our ability to network within the broader movement, and gave the appearance to some outsiders that we were impossible to reach out to. These two factors also made it difficult when it came to trying to work with chapters and others who were interested in the software, and people's experiences with it. Inability to travel and work commitments prevented further software evangelism, but we remained interested in trying to work with other affiliates as our community expands.
Another challenge was that in the year and a half preceding the founding of the group, the founders were ahead of the curve when it come to developing tools for use on Wikibase, for installing Wikibase, for running a local query engine on Wikibase and trying to push the boundaries of the software. This situation continued for the first nine months or so of the Wikibase Community User Group's recognition by AffComm. Being ahead of the curve meant there was no community to turn to. The original Wikibase creators - not the user group founders - had often forgotten some of the things they had done with the software or were unavailable for questions. There just was no community to reach out to to get answers to basic questions. Consequently, this meant the founders turned a bit inwards to seek our own solutions and found a limited audience to share them. A real community around the software only began to develop in late 2018 and early 2019 thanks to the Telegram group, with people now beginning to run into similar challenges that we had when we first started using the software.
The last biggest challenge was time. The August holidays, the winter holidays, travel commitments and work commitments have at times made it difficult to stay as engaged with the community as we would like. These time challenges have also meant at times that it is difficult to restart after long breaks. As of March 2019, the plan is to start to re-engage again more regularly following the April 2019 national elections in Spain, when the local funding situation and ability to access local resources should be easier and when the group's founders have more time to commit to the group.