This is a digest (a processed, edited summary) of the online conference call Wikimedia Clinic #001, conducted June 15th 2020. It sacrifices fidelity to people's exact words in favor of clarity, brevity, and digestibility.
Except for the introduction, the topics are brought up by volunteers participating in the calls.
Topic 1: Introduction
- listen with patience and respect
- share your experience, but remember others' contexts are very diverse, and may not match yours.
- be of service
These calls are a Friendly Space.
Purpose of Wikimedia Clinics
- provide a channel to ask questions and collect feedback on one's own work and context
- help direct people to appropriate resources across the Foundation and broader Wikimedia movement
If we can't answer your questions during the call, we (WMF) are committed to finding who can, and connecting you (this may happen after the call)
Examples of things the Clinics are not the place for:
- complaints about interpersonal behavior - there are appropriate channels for this on-wiki, and there is the Trust and Safety team.
- content or policy disputes on specific wikis. But it is okay to seek advice on how to better present one's positions.
Topic 2: Universal Code of Conduct
Presenting the topic
Dutch Wikipedia has a conversation about UCoC.
What are other communities doing? What is the status of draft development, committee formation? Will this code be imposed on Wikimedia projects? Will there be a vote from the community? Curious to see if other communities have questions about the Code of Conduct.
- (no volunteer offered a response to the question)
- Asaf (WMF), Community Development team, provided background: WMF Board of Trustees published a resolution that directs the Foundation to design a Universal Code of Conduct (abbreviated UCoC from now on) in collaboration with the Wikimedia communities. That draft will be presented to the Board for ratification or revision. After it is ratified, it will become the binding minimum code of conduct across all Wikimedia projects and spaces. It will be the base minimum. The communities will no doubt have additional norms, but they will have to adhere to, and enforce, the guidelines listed in the document as minimal expectations.
To the question at hand: The content of the UCoC is not drafted yet. Based on the words in the board statement, it is expected to have stronger recommendations about harassment and personal attacks. The precise content of the UCoC will be developed in collaboration with the communities. The Timeline for the UCoC project has just been published.
A Drafting Committee is going to be appointed by the Wikimedia Foundation. Some of the materials that will be used as input for the drafting committee are these consultation results
- a volunteer pointed out the Foundation actually imposes relatively few rules on the participants on the platforms, compared to other large platform providers.
- Best location for further information and to discuss further: the UCoC page on Meta and its talk page.
Topic 3: The wiki-specific nature of some of our challenges
Presenting the topic
Harassment and other problems on the wikis are partially due to factors common with other platforms (human nature, bigotry, etc.). But there may be some wiki-specific aspects to the problems we encounter, and it may be worthwhile to try to identify them and address them by changing these wiki-specific mechanisms.
For example, if a person is contributing on a wiki in a way most of their peers think is not productive, it is difficult to stop that person from contributing, or to force their contributions to become more productive. People sometimes resort to harassment to drive that person out. It is possible that some wiki norms, such as tolerance of pseudonymity, may be allowing that. What do others think are other examples of such phenomena?
- (no volunteer offered thoughts on the question)
- Asaf (WMF): I think we can separate your hypothesis from the need to combat harassment. Even assuming we keep all the current wiki mechanisms, we can and should do better in addressing user conduct. To your question: I think it may be good to experiment. Experimenting with core wiki policies is very difficult to organize and get consensus for, so instead we may look for "natural experiments". For example, there are some wikis where by cultural norm, pseudonymity or anonymity are extremely uncommon; perhaps we can manage to meaningfully compare such a wiki to one with high rates of pseudonymity, specifically in the lens of perpetrating or suffering from harassment.
- Best location for further information and to discuss further: Research portal on Meta; The wiki-research-l mailing list.
Topic 4: Notability by country
Presentation of the topic
A South African volunteer shared that contributing to English Wikipedia on South African topics, they encounter situations where contributors from other parts of the world question the notability of the article subjects, in cases where the speaker feels familiarity with the local context would have made the notability clear.
Therefore, they ask whether it could not be left to contributors from particular geographies to judge the notability of article subjects pertaining to those geographies.
- another volunteer asks: How would that work on different languages? For example, are there enough Swedish-speaking South Africans?
- another volunteer offers an example from Belgium: When a local language group in the national parliament feels its language is in danger, they use a formal signal, which initiates a special procedure to resovle the problem. Perhaps we could consider implementing such a mechanism where these perspectives are needed around deletion actions. We could have a mechanism that in a deletion discussion we want to hear the voice of e.g. WikiProject South Africa.
- Asaf (WMF): I'd like to offer a perspective based on current Wikipedia policies. The idea of giving "jurisdiction" over articles "about" a certain country to people from that country makes some intuitive sense at first glance, but if analyzed carefully, turns out to be completely impractical, and also difficult to reconcile with our principles of openness. Some difficulties for example: how to determine which country an article subject "belongs to" for people who lived in more than one country? Or for wars between two countries?
Fortunately, English Wikipedia's current notability policies sidestep all these difficulties, and do not require anyone to have local context to assess an article's notability. Instead, the policy is that the article itself should express its subject's notability, right in the intro (first) section, and it should establish that notability using explicit references to reliable sources. That way, anyone at all, without local context, can read the intro section and understand why there is an article about this subject, and they can verify it by referring to the listed sources, and we don't depend on anyone's subjective feeling about the subject's notability.
So it is possible that people were correctly questioning your article's subject's notability, because you did not state it clearly in the article, or did not provide reliable sources.
A related but separate problem significantly impeding contributing about African topics is that it is difficult to find reliable sources on a lot of African topics, and further that there is sometimes disagreement on which sources can be considered reliable on African topics. This is indeed a difficulty where local context matters, and where some bias may be present in editors lacking the local context. This is where you can turn to help from other Wikipedians to help support your case for the reliability of the sources you cited (or to help you see that they are indeed not reliable). Networks of editors with local context, using on-wiki task forces or WikiProjects (such as WikiProject South Africa), mailing lists, social media groups, can all help collaborate toward consensus on what are reliable sources for these topics. There is a current effort to collect African sources.
- a volunteer adds: we have a certain divide, between people comfortable in only one language, and people comfortable in more than one. Multilingual people often have a different mindset.
Bonus topic: introducing a new campaign: Wikipedia Pages Wanting Photos
Presentation of the topic
The goal is to encourage more integration of images already available in Wikimedia Commons with articles needing photos on Wikipedia, or Wikidata items missing images, and also to involve new people in contribution to Wikimedia projects.
Isaac Olatunde, from WCUG Nigeria, project manager of the campaign, added that the image-integration gap has existed for a long time. Contributors to media campaigns like Wiki Loves Africa often want to see their pictures used on Wikipedia and elsewhere. The campaign will take place in July.
Topic #6: Feedback on Clinic
We already plan additional meetings in different time-zones and days of the week, occasionally including weekends, and hope to host Clinics in other widely-spoken languages if we can find committed moderators.
This is an experiment, so feedback would be very welcome on what worked and what didn't. If you did find the call worthwhile, we ask that you tell your colleagues and help spread the word.
Summary of feedback provided
- Other languages would be very useful. (Spanish in this person's case.)
- It would be good to learn more about how the Foundation works. Despite contributing for years, I don't know much about what the Foundation does or how to work with it. I also feel lost on Meta. I work on education projects, and only last year discovered the Foundation could help me with that.
- maybe we could have short introductions of all participants next time?
- I would like to be connected to the education team. (this is now done)
- It's been great listening to the different perspectives and discussion.
- I appreciate that the meeting happened and people showed up. It helps people feel welcome and part of the movement.