A Wikimedian in Residence (or some variant, such as Wikimedian-in-residence, WiR, or Wikipedian) is a professional role in communications for an organization to share its knowledge within the Wikimedia platform, measure the impact of the same, and promote Wikipedia through training, education, and edit-a-thons. In the same way that organizations such as universities, nonprofit organizations, NGOs, research institutes, libraries, and museums may post information to their websites and social media, these organizations may also promote the integration of their expertise in Wikipedia, Wikidata, and the Wikimedia platform.
The Wikimedia community distinguishes branding and marketing from expertise and knowledge. In this context, there is a custom that Wikimedians in Residence do not edit about their institution, but rather share the knowledge of their institution. Wikimedia projects seek to present the best available information from the most authoritative sources, and any organization which is willing to share its information in that context is welcome to appoint a Wikimedian in Residence to facilitate this.
Wikimedian in Residence programs began in the early 2010s with experimental professional positions in university classrooms, nonprofit organizations, and museums. Now the culture and practice of these roles is more developed through organizations including the Wikimedians in Residence Exchange Network which provides peer to peer support for organizations and individuals engaged sharing open knowledge in the Wikimedia platform.
Contract employee (e.g. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis project, year 2)
Full time employee (e.g. National Archive Full time Wikipedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh Wikimedian in Residence)
Published job offer through official recruitment process (e.g. NARA) [could add Chapter rep. to interview panel if necessary].
Outsource recruitment to local Wikimedia Chapter (e.g. Versailles project)
Informal recruitment through existing social media connection (e.g. Indianapolis Museum of Art)
Identify existing Wikipedia community leader in relevant field (e.g. Israeli Museum)
Self-initiated contact from a Wikimedian/pedian to the institution (e.g. British Museum, Bundesdenkmalamt)
Wikipedia, Wikidata, and the Wikimedia platform is a digitally native platform which has consistently reached a massive audience for a generation. Since 2005 Wikipedia has been the single most consulted source of information on most topics where people are using Internet search to seek knowledge for which Wikipedia has an article. Organizations which have authority in a field for which there is a Wikipedia article can consider engagement with Wikipedia to share that information. Posting content to the Wikimedia platform achieves distribution and dissemination to the world's largest available and most targeted audience, which are the individuals who are specifically seeking general reference information and authoritative sources on very specific topics.
In the usual way that organizations track the number of visitors to their websites, followers in their social media accounts, and the engagements of users who click to react, the Wikimedia platform has its own suite of communication metrics that demonstrate posting content on Wikipedia reaches the audiences seeking the kind of information which organizations in all fields curate to share. The Wikimedia platform reaches 1 billion unique visitors per year, content from the Wikimedia platform circulates even more broadly, and everyone should take for granted that all journalists, students, commentators, investors, officials, and interested persons will check the Wikipedia article and Wikimedia collections when doing introductory research on any topic. Organizations who want their knowledge represented in this context engage or hire Wikimedians in Residence to achieve that.
Hiring a Wikimedian in Residence is comparable to hiring a website content developer, a Facebook and Twitter post manager, a YouTube video director, or any of the other more common new media publishing roles that serve the purpose of sharing an organization's knowledge with the public in popular media channels. Various media channels have their own rules and community norms, and for organizations that share general reference information, integrating content into the Wikimedia platform is a high-impact, low-cost strategy to reach the global readership of Wikipedia.
There are no special permissions or editorial appointments available in the Wikimedia platform. Organizations that appoint Wikimedians in Residence do so from the same position as anyone else on the Internet creating a Wikipedia user account. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and a Wikimedian in Residence enters the role equal to anyone else with no special recognition or consideration of their institutional affiliation. While the Wikimedia community is favorable to institutional partnerships because the Wikimedia community respects knowledge organizations, all organizations engaged in sharing information should comply with the community rules, participate in social discourse, make some commitment to the Wikimedia mission and values, and expect that their Wikimedian in Residence will be a liaison between the Wikimedia community and their own host organization.
Wikimedians in Residence enter their appointments with some skill set. Usually that skill set is Wikimedia editing experience including an understanding of community norms in performing test edits, seeking program review, communicating in the open with Wikimedia community stakeholders in a knowledge or media sector, and being conscious of when to request or offer the favor of time and labor collaborations with the Wikimedia community volunteer base. Not all Wikimedians in Residence heavily engage in Wikimedia community culture, though. In Wikidata as the structured data collection of the Wikimedia platform, a Wikimedian in Residence may be a data management professional who processes and manages dataset uploads with more technical engagement and less community conversation than what is the norm in Wikipedia. In Wikimedia Commons, the image and non-text media repository, the Wikimedian in Residence may have a skill set in digital access and might promote the circulation of the images and archival documents of cultural institutions in the Linked Open Web.
Any individual seeking a Wikimedian in Residence appointment or career path should grow their familiarity with how other wiki professionals have found success, but also note that jobs and funding come from institutions. People seeking a Wikimedian in Residence job ultimately must find an organization ready to hire them, and must explain the value of what they do in the context of that organization's overall digital publishing and communication goals.
Organizations which hire a Wikimedian in Residence should expect this person to identify and describe trends in new media to the leadership of the organization. It is not necessary that organizations change themselves or their culture to engage in Wikimedia projects, but engagement in Wikimedia does require more conversation and planning than publishing in platforms entirely under the control of the host platform. Some necessary topics of discussion are how sharing content on the open web invites global response to the content, what balance organizations can design for sharing content to reach more people versus restricting access so that fewer people control a complicated discourse, how to manage copyright, and what it means to be in a public media commons.
The Wikimedia community are a subset of people, mostly activist minded, who advocate for universal access to some educational information, some media which encourages good citizenship, and enough knowledge to inform decisions for quality of life. Various works of journalism and research describe this Wikimedia culture, and understanding this culture and its goals are more important to the success of most projects than entering with a particular skill set. Briefly, people in this community and culture can recognize each other, and they can recognize outsiders. In the same way that fans of opera, or a particular sport, or in a niche professional sector can identify who is and who is not like them, there are a few million people in the Open Movement who share a system of values and they have high compatibility with each other and common intuition on matters of ethics. Organizations which hire a Wikimedian in Residence should expect to bring some amount of this culture in their practices, and gain the shared history of the many shared successes and failures of how to effectively do communication in Wikimedia projects in this still new digital age.
The most common strategic planning activity among Wikimedians in Residence is collecting audience engagement metrics from the Wikimedia platform to generate a report of communication impact. This includes measuring how many readers have viewed Wikimedia content which an organization finds relevant to its interest, including audience in its field of expertise and audience to the content it has posted. The most common and easiest to collect reports are from the Programs & Events Dashboard, Traffic reporting tools such as Pageviews Analysis, and specialized reports through the Wikidata Query Service.
Since its establishment in 2001, Wikipedia has become a foundation of the human experience. Wikipedia is an everyday presence in all cultures where people use Internet resources. All countries have Wikimedia editors in all languages where people engage with digital tools. Posting text knowledge and citations into relevant Wikipedia articles is still the best way to deliver general reference information to the people who want it. Any Wikimedian in Residence will either have at least minimal experience in editing Wikipedia, or otherwise they should start editing a little and regularly over time because Wikipedia is the center of most people's experience of the Wikimedia platform.
Whereas the most common way to edit the Wikimedia platform is one Wikipedia article at a time, Wikidata offers the promise of sharing facts as structured data at scale to the knowledge environment of any topic in every language. Perhaps the best way to describe the possibilities with sharing data is in looking to the field of data science, which seeks to collect data, analyze it, secure data pipelines for quality control and updating, engineer visualizations to make it understandable, and invest in ethics to promote good and minimize the harm from doing massive low cost publishing which gets massive viewership and engagement.
Some Wikimedians in Residence spend much of their time engaged in Wikidata. A beginner in Wikidata can assist an organization in structuring their knowledge to be FAIR data, which enables magnitudes of additional crowdsourced engagement. An person experienced in managing data will almost always be preparing an organization to engage in the next generation of online publishing. An organization's investment in data curation need not be for Wikidata specifically, and instead a Wikidata project can be a practical live attempt among an organization's broader plans to integrate into the Semantic Web. Compared to competing options, Wikidata is a low-cost, low-commitment, high-impact path for growing a culture which can imagine the advent of next generation data-based applications.
Museums and libraries traditionally measured engagement by counting humans who physically walked into their brick and mortar buildings. The Wikimedia platform offers options for museums to present their collections online through Wikipedia articles, media galleries in Commons, structured metadata in Wikidata, archives in Wikisource, and the rest.
A common museum activity is selecting some media, such as images, to integrate into Wikipedia. After posting this content the museum tracks the audience engagement with it through the Wikimedia audience measurement tools. The organization then considers the relative value of having people use its online collections versus in-person. A common general conclusion is that all organizations need a balance of investment of online versus in-person engagement, and that Wikipedia provides an excellent value for achieving and demonstrating online usefulness.
There is a culture in the Wikimedia community of presenting online and in-person community events in partnership with organizations. In these events, called "wiki parties" or "edit-a-thons", a group of people meet to engage with the media resources of a host institution. These people, perhaps community members in open invitation, or students from a university, or online participants who want to join but cannot physically come to the organization, take a media source of information from the host organization and then share and cite that source in the Wikimedia platforms.
Wikimedians in Residence have organized thousands of these events globally. People enjoy them. They achieve knowledge sharing and produce metrics as supporting evidence to demonstrate their impact.
Summary of first 2 years of WiR activities (2010-2011)
In 2006 user:llywrch published "Wikipedian-in-residence, a proposal" articulating in print the concept of an liaison between Wikimedia projects and external organizations with domain expertise. Following that proposal in the early 2010s various Wikimedian in Residence programs flourished in different regions. Early experiments were in the United States, particularly in the Cascadia region based on llywrch's advocacy, where the United States Public Policy Initiative trained and professionalized persons at universities to collaborate with Wikimedia projects. In the college town of Pune in India a parallel experiment with the Indian Wikipedia Education program inspired many students to become highly engaged Wikipedia editors, leading to the convening of several large Wikimedia conferences in India and many of the students from that program to join regional volunteer administration in the Wikimedia India chapter. In Europe the culture leaned more to seeking museum partnerships after the model of a community outreach and events program manager. These regions each set some precedents, but the true story of the early history is the sum of all the experiments which happened globally in the first 10 years. Probably the most stable outcome of the Wikimedian in Residence experiments is the establishment of the Wiki Education Foundation, which correctly identified that universities have the best funding, the best access to highly motivated student editors, and the best knowledge resources to justify creating paid professional appointments to Wikimedians in Residence.
As of 2019, probably most of the funding which has gone into Wikimedian in Residence programs has come from encouraging public health and medical education. Probably the most common characteristic of Wikimedian in Residence programs is that they have a relationship to a university, either by the university hosting the position or the university being an essential partner in achieving the goals of the appointment. One of the most popular types of Wikimedian in Residence activity is a wiki editing event in the arts, which have a global history of drawing large crowds of first-time and beginning editors who will edit at an in-person social event and gathering.
Below is a table of current and previous Wikimedians in residence according to their Wikidata entries. Wikimedians without are not included. To see the full table without needing to scroll, or instructions on adding new rows, see this page.