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Year: 2011  Week: 38  Number: 128 BIS        


An independent internal news bulletin 
for the members of the Wikimedia community


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  • [Name] - Working title of this edition is "Wikizine Talk Edition" because we didn't have better idea. Send us suggestions for the name!


  • Editorial
  • Personal perspective
  • In the news
  • From Wikipedia



As you could read in Wikizine 127 [1], I took initiative and began a Wikizine revival. You may notice some changes and I can say that there will be more changes, as such changes keep all of us alive.

Editorial is one of those changes and it will have two main parts: (1) presentation of one of the Wikizine feature and (2) analysis of the most important event from the previous week or two. Opinion or Talk Edition of Wikizine will be published on Friday and “previous week” means approximately Friday-Thursday time frame.

Last week had begun with such intensity, I thought I could close this edition by Monday.

[1] http://en.wikizine.org/2011/09/year-2011-week-36-number-126.html

(Un)acceptible Foundation influence on chapters


On August 27th, almost 20 days before the conclusion of this edition, CasteloBranco, a member of the initiative for Wikimedia Brazil, sent an email to foundation-l [1] with the description of agreement inside of Brazilian Wikimedian community about chapter creation. That was the main obstacle toward formalizing the chapter, as Brazilian Wikimedians didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of having a formal organization.

That day five more Wikimedians discussed the outlines of this agreement on foundation-l, including a note from Ray Saintonge that it’s not the best idea to have a Wikimedia Foundation appointee in chapter’s Board (as suggested by WM Brazil’s agreement).

For five days discussion was dead, when Jimmy Wales said that having a WMF appointee is, actually, a good idea. That sparked long discussions on both foundation-l and internal-l (the latter one is a non-public list of the core of Wikimedia movement). A number of chapters representatives felt offended by the idea of having a WMF appointee on their boards.

[1] http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/wiki/foundation/246958

Image filter retrospective (from spring 2008 to early 2011)


For those who have forgotten what’s behind the image filter “referendum”, here is a retrospective.

The initial point of the drama started on 7 May 2008 [4]. Because of religion, of course. US-based “social conservative” site WorldNetDaily reported Wikipedia [5] because of the cover art for the Scorpions’ album Virgin Killer [6]. According to Concerned Women of America, another “social conservative” group, “Wikipedia is helping to further facilitate perversion and pedophilia.”

On 5 December 2008, in the moment of madness, worthy of the best of surreal poetry, Internet Watch Foundaiton (IWF) [7], the association of UK internet providers, listed Wikipedia as a child pornography site [8] because of the same album cover [6]. It seems that IWF needed just four days to find someone who knows what Wikipedia is. IWF reversed their blacklisting on 9 December.

In a moment of desperate need for self-promotion, Larry Sanger [9], known because he didn’t believe that his project (Wikipedia, for which has sometimes been described as a co-founder), would succeed and not so known because of a number of failed projects, reported Wikipedia to the FBI [10] on 10 April 2010 because, of course, “child pornography”.

Just a short 17 days later, Fox News discovered the hot news and published it [11] in a well known form of spreading FUD to everything which doesn’t fit to their retarded worldview.

The action of the IWF prompted discussions on Wikimedia Commons in 2008. However, just after the Commons community declined to change well defined policy toward images, which are handled based on their quality, not the biased opinion on content, on May 6th, 2010 Jimmy Wales started to delete not just poor quality Second Life animated pornography, but artworks, as well. That sparked a huge revolt among editors [13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]. At the other side, the action was praised by Fox News, of course [21].

Between May 6th and May 9th, the most striking event was the fact that smart people from the Board were talking nonsense just to stand behind Jimmy’s irrational behavior.

The Board’s statement from May 7th [22] was actually quite good. Note that part of the statement says “In saying this, we don't intend to create new policy, but rather to reaffirm and support policy that already exists.” Yet as it could be seen, in around one month the same Board changed their mind and pushed development with the aim to implement new policy.

After that the Kafkaesque parody started. Jan-Bart de Vreede, a Board member, interpreted Board’s statement as supporting Jimmy’s deletion of artworks [23]. Ting Chen, Board chair, also supported deletion of artworks [24]. Stuart West thinks that some deleted artworks are “hardcore pornography”, as well [25].

Digression about artworks for the complete picture. Jimmy deleted [28], among others, the next images:

  • Painting [27] by Édouard-Henri Avril, a 19th and early 20th century French painter [28].
  • Graphics [29] by Franz von Bayros, a late 19th and early 20th century Austrian illustrator [30].
  • Graphics [31] by Félicien Rops, a 19th century Belgian artist [32].

What is interesting with all of those artists is that they belong to the Decadent movement in art [33]. Which, by the way, says that you can create the most important educational resource in the history, but not be able to make distinction between pornography and art. And no matter of your ignorance, you would be supported by your fellow Board members,.

On May 9th, 2010, by concluding his regular behavioral iteration -- first makes a problem, then does the right thing to fix it --, Jimmy abandoned his permissions [34].

But, of course, that wasn’t the end of the drama. On June 24th, 2010 Board commissioned the Executive Director to find a way to satisfy Fox News and those who take Fox News seriously. [35]

I had personal conversation with Robert Harris, the person employed by the WMF to “solve” the problem. It was a very surprising discussion. During the first iteration of our communication, at the time when he presented some facts, including a perspective of one Canadian librarian [36], which clearly stated that libraries do not mark “objectionable” content in any particular way, it was a real pleasure to hear his insights.

But a month or two later it was clear that he wasn’t employed to make a decent suggestion, based on our values. He was employed to make a decision which would satisfy Fox News adherents. Instead of mentioning anywhere that it is not usual to mark sexually explicit content, instead of giving a multicultural perspective by adding at least Muhammad depictions to the list, he just produced a conclusion to please those to whom it is much more problematic that their daughter educate herself in sexual hygiene and contraception, then to see her pregnant at the age of 15. Of course, by mentioning “multiculturalism” just when it is in favor of those, exclusively American right-wing views [37].

Then the Censorship workgroup [not able to find public link; it was likely announced on internal-l] was created. The task of the group was to articulate what the censorship would look like. I offered, hesitantly, to participate in it, as a part of the responsibility which I had as one of the most vocal opponents of that task. Not unexpectedly, all of us were happy without me on the workgroup.

After a period of workgroup work, it presented the design of censorship software [38]. To be honest, it is not bad at all. People are able to click on “show image”, nothing is cemented. In an ideal world, such an image filter would be a very good option. However, we don’t live in an ideal world.

I’ll describe current events (the second part of 2011) after enough time passes and some distance from the current events would be created.

[1] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image_filter_referendum
[2] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Controversial_content
[3] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image_filter_referendum/Results/en
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Killer#Internet_censorship
[5] http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=63722
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Killer
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Watch_Foundation
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Watch_Foundation_and_Wikipedia
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Sanger
[10] http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/04/11/018255/Larry-Sanger-Tells-FBI-Wikipedia-Distributes-Child-Pornography
[11] http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/27/wikipedia-child-porn-larry-sanger-fbi/
[12] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons_talk:Sexual_content/Archive_1
[13] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons_talk:Sexual_content/Archive_3
[14] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons_talk:Sexual_content/Village_pump/2010-5-6
[15] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons_talk:Sexual_content/Village_pump/2010-5-7
[16] http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2010-May/057789.html
[17] http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2010-May/057791.html
[18] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/Remove_Founder_flag
[19] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Petition_to_Jimbo
[20] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Undeletion_requests/Archive/2010-05
[21] http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/05/07/wikipedia-purges-porn/
[22] http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaannounce-l/2010-May/000008.html
[23] http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2010-May/057795.html
[24] http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2010-May/057827.html
[25] http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2010-May/058026.html
[26] http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ALog&type=delete&user=Jimbo+Wales&page=&year=&month=-1&tagfilter=
[27] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%C3%89douard-Henri_Avril_%2827%29.jpg
[28] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89douard-Henri_Avril
[29] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Franz_von_Bayros_016.jpg
[30] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_von_Bayros
[31] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:F%C3%A9licien_Rops_-_Sainte-Th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se.png
[32] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%A9licien_Rops
[33] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decadent_movement
[34] http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/wiki/foundation/195612
[35] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Commissioning_Recommendations_from_the_Executive_Director
[36] http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:2010_Wikimedia_Study_of_Controversial_Content&ldid=2103910#The_Librarians.27s_Perspective
[37] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/2010_Wikimedia_Study_of_Controversial_Content:_Part_Three
[38] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image_filter_referendum/en#What_will_the_image_hider_look_like.3F

Song of the week


For the end of the editorial, here is the song of the week: http://tinyurl.com/6vaxls


Personal perspective


This week we have personal perspective from Salmaan Haroon, User:Theo10011 [1].

Theo is from India. He is originally from English Wikipedia but mostly active on Meta these days. He worked extensively on the WMF strategic plan on Strategy Wiki [2] a couple of years ago. He has been involved in Movement roles since early this year. He wrote for the Signpost briefly.

He worked for WMF for 3 months last year during the fundraiser, and got the chance to interact with chapters and see the fundraising issue from different perspectives.

Wikimedia chapters council [3] is his proposal.

[1] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Theo10011
[2] http://strategy.wikimedia.org/
[3] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_chapters_council

I was invited to write about my perspective on the recent chapter and fundraising issues that have been doing the rounds. Let me first start out by making this disclosure- I am not affiliated with any chapter beyond a regular membership acquired a few weeks ago, I never sat on a chapter board, attended a general meeting, and neither do I plan on starting any time soon. Given a different set of circumstance, I am not sure if my perspective would be deemed completely neutral in the following matter.

Previously, as an outsider to the internal working of Wikimedia and chapter relations, I viewed the idea of chapters as a regular unaffiliated community member would i.e. with a mix of ignorance and skepticism. Chapters are viewed in some circles as legal organizations formed in different countries by a handful of people who then use Wikimedia trademarks and fundraising to raise funds to just exist and occasionally serve as a local outreach point. Somewhere during the last year, I actually started meeting some of these people. I began to see the other side, how chapters perceive themselves and each other. True, there is an entire spectrum where each chapter falls and how close they actually are to what they want to be. Some of these people became my friends, I started seeing things from their perspective.

Over the last year, I saw chapters organize and take on activities like Wiki Loves Monuments, something the foundation never tried to do. I saw them do local GLAM outreach and activities in Germany and France, again, something that the foundation could not take on directly. They all do their own thing individually in their part of the world whether it be some open-license lobbying to their local institutions or outreach to a local exhibition. I can not in good conscience accept that our movement would be any better off without them being independent. They are completely decentralized, and do their own thing independently, I love that model. A few dozen organizations doing their own things in tandem in different parts of the world is an unmatched model when it comes to productivity.

Lately however, there have been overtures that this model might be under threat. The distance and the relation between the foundation and the chapters has been getting more and more strained. The fundraising issue and the board letter that started the recent debate at the core placed concerns, that really no one disagreed with. I am yet to talk to a single person who thinks that most of those concerns aren't legitimate or there isn't a need for a sustained model of accountability. Almost every chapter in private and public, agrees that the issues are serious and require some action on everyones part.

The biggest issue is however how these concerns are being addressed. Some of the foundation's recent actions are being perceived as a heavy-handed towards chapters and the community at large. The conceptual directives have been coming from the board, perceptually overlooking an important distinction someone else made earlier- the board is the Wikimedia Foundation's board, not the chapter's, certainly not the movement's, the larger community is even less inclined to agree.

When the questions about the fundraising issue started, there were 2 large concerns that took over after the board's announcement. One, if the chapters that already agreed to participate in the fundraiser being allowed to continue, and second, if new half-a-dozen chapters that wanted to participate would be able to do so. The timing as others pointed out was less than ideal, having the staff and the board in person at Wikimania didn't help and instead compounded the problems. The cross-talk between the board and staff at that stage seemed minimal. Sue gave a lengthy explanation about the issues and the board's concern, as did several board members who offered their perspective, staff members however seemed to be on a different page. Instead of giving any time to discuss and coordinate on how to address these issues, the entire fundraising model was taken away in what some perceive as a knee-jerk reaction and being replaced quietly by a grants-only model.

In hindsight, effective planning, and better timing might have avoided the initial confusion. But springing such an important change on chapters so close to the fundraiser, even after chapters attended an entire 'fundraising summit' just a few weeks prior could not have gone well. Chapters were told how to participate in the fundraiser by WMF staff that attended the aforementioned 'summit'. They were now being told to re-evaluate it all, and forget about fundraising and focus on a grants-based model. With all the arguments and the questions that ensued, the staff hasn't addressed most of the issues publicly.

Delphine pointed out facts about WMDE, how the ideal independent chapter, the only one who would be allowed to fundraise came to be. How its independence, and the ability to stand on its own two feet made WMDE an example to follow for others. The notion that independent fundraising by chapters wouldn't affect the money needed by the movement is a fallacy. The movement as a whole would lose millions every year, if the chapters are not allowed to do this locally. At some point, we have to realize - a one size fits all, global solution doesn't work. Our movement is decentralized, I think it's only logical that the fundraising be decentralized as well.

There is also a general sense of questioning the ownership of the fundraiser among the larger community. There are people who believe that it is the foundation's prerogative to only allow anyone it wants to fundraise or not, since it is the sole entity in charge of everything related to the movement. This would inevitably lead to more questions about ownership of the projects, and who is entitled to raise money in the name of Wikipedia?

Non-profits around the world use a decentralized model similar to the one we might have. The current structure looks identical to theirs. if someone were to visit Oxfam.com, they would be directed to the nearest office in their region where they can donate to the cause. In our case, the biggest identity would be our projects, a banner could serve the same purpose locally. Why do we then question the same model that already exist and work elsewhere?

Around the time these discussions were going on, I recalled something that we talked about during the Chapters conference in Berlin. An idea about a Chapters council, composed of all individual chapters to say "We, the chapters...." - The community itself is large enough that it can never completely agree on any point together, an important distinctions that chapters might not suffer from. The number of chapters are not large, and some of the issues are so central that a single unanimous voice is not hard to form. There are and have been several iterations of this body, over the years and there is a clear need for it now than ever before. I have no idea if it can bridge the gap and address some of the concerns everyone has, but I do believe, it is worth trying, now more than ever.

Chapters, should ideally be the face of the movement- young, hard-working, active and mostly unpaid volunteers that take the good-nature and ethos of our movement, offline. Be it some small project in their backyard, outreach to a local library or museum or a small exhibition in their city, they should be given freedom to decide what works for them locally and then the ability to do so. The foundation should ideally, do its best to support and decentralize this model as much as possible. When chapters work, they work excellently.

In the news


From Wikipedia

  • [Fenian raids] - The Fenian raids of the Fenian Brotherhood based in the United States on British army forts, customs posts and other targets in Canada were fought in order to bring pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland, between 1866 and 1871.
  • [Monte Cristo, Washington] - Monte Cristo is a ghost town northwest of Monte Cristo Peak, in eastern Snohomish County in western Washington. Prospecting in the region began in the Skykomish River drainage with the Old Cady Trail used for access. In 1882 Elisha Hubbard improved the trail up the North Fork Skykomish, from Index to Galena, then north up the tributary Silver Creek. A boom shortly followed at Mineral City. The mineral belt was traced in various directions, including north over the divide between the Skykomish and Sauk River drainages. ...
  • [Persin] - Persin is a fungicidal toxin present in the avocado. It is generally harmless to humans, but when consumed by domestic animals in large quantities it is dangerous. It has been suggested as a treatment for breast cancer.
  • [Progress trap] - A progress trap is the condition human societies experience when, in pursuing progress through human ingenuity, they inadvertently introduce problems they do not have the resources or political will to solve, for fear of short-term losses in status, stability or quality of life. This prevents further progress and sometimes leads to collapse.
  • [Phosphene] - A phosphene is an entoptic phenomenon characterized by the experience of seeing light without light actually entering the eye. The word phosphene comes from the Greek words phos (light) and phainein (to show). Phosphenes are flashes of light, often associated with optic neuritis, induced by movement or sound.
  • [HD 85512 b] - HD 85512 b is an extrasolar planet orbiting the star HD 85512 approximately 36 light-years away in the constellation of Vela. The planet was discovered by the scientists at University of Geneva, Switzerland, led by the Swiss astronomer Stéphane Udry of the GTO program of High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a high-precision echelle spectrograph installed on ESO's 3.6 m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. HD 85512 b is one of the smallest exo-planets discovered to be in the habitable zone. HD 85512 b is considered to be the best candidate for habitability as of August 25, 2011.
  • [Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin] - Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (May 10, 1900 – December 7, 1979) was an English-American astronomer who in 1925 was first to show that the Sun is mainly composed of hydrogen, contradicting accepted wisdom at the time.
  • [List of people claimed to be Jesus] - John Nichols Thom (1799–1838), Cornish tax rebel who claimed to be the "saviour of the world" and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and his body temple of the Holy Ghost[citation needed] in 1834. He was killed by British soldiers at the Battle of Bossenden Wood, on May 31, 1838 in Kent, England. Arnold Potter (1804–1872), Schismatic Latter Day Saint leader; he claimed the spirit of Jesus Christ entered into his body and he became "Potter Christ" Son of the living God, he died in an attempt to "ascend into heaven" by jumping off a cliff.[citation needed] His body was later retrieved and buried by his followers. Bahá'u'lláh (1817–1892), born Shiite, adopted Bábism later in 1844, he claimed to be the prophesized fulfilment and Promised One of all the major religions. He founded the Bahá'í Faith in 1866. Followers of the Bahá'í Faith believe that the fulfillment of the prophecies of the second coming of Jesus, as well as the prophecies of the 5th Buddha Maitreya and many other religious prophecies, were begun by the Báb in 1844 and then by Bahá'u'lláh. They commonly compare the fulfillment of Christian prophecies to Jesus' fulfillment of Jewish prophecies, where in both cases people were expecting the literal fulfillment of apocalyptic statements. ...

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