WikiCon 2013 in Karlsruhe: rushing from session to session

From 22 to 24 November 2013, the German-speaking Wikimedians were invited to South Germany’s minor metropole Karlsruhe. Under the denominator “WikiCon” people (finally) met offline, exchanged ideas, and left with a lot of tasks for the nearby future. Sue Gardner called Wikimania a place for practitioners, well, that’s exactly what WikiCon is all about. Seeing it, who could ever complain about a lack of cooperation between the Germanophone Wikimedia organizations?

A little more than 200 participants came together at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, with a surprisingly weak wi-fi. My contributions were an “Entzücklopädischer Abend”, a kind of late night show; a lecture about wiki theory (called “Popular myths about Wikipedia”, to attract some listeners); an introduction to the wiki:team session; and I have been asked to lead a discussion about the so-called “Botpedia”, the mass creation of Wikipedia articles with bots (automatic programmes).

Most memorable: the presentation of two KIT collaborators about academic writing for the technical student. Students of the sciences and mathematics don’t like writing or even reading, he KIT writing trainers said, and probably they have chosen those subjects so that they never have to write again. Then, when the final thesis approaches, they see themselves in big trouble. I learned about different writing styles in different disciplines and will try to keep that in mind when I meet a different taste in Wikipedia.

A team of volunteers has taken over the responsibility just a few months before, and we are all very grateful. We do ask to consider putting more time into the timetable of the next WikiCon to get from session to another.

Berlin diary

Instead of blogging I finally wrote down my impressions on the Wikimedia Conference 2012 in the literary form of a diary. The Berlin diary informs you about ‘movement roles’ (new entities in the movement), the Wikimedia Chapters Association and other subjects now important to the movement.

Personal image filter: nein!

For a while some Wikipedians are protesting against the personal image filter the Wikimedia Foundation wants to introduce. Based on the Harris report of 2010, the Foundation thinks that individuals should have an easy tool to hide pictures they find disturbing, for example pictures with sexual content or violence.

Although the filter is a purely individual choice and can be turned off immediately, the protesters cry out ‘censorship!’ and claim that the filter is intended to please religious extremists in the USA. The protest seems to rise high especially in Germany. A poll among the German Wikipedians showed a strong contra vote, and at the WikiCon in Nuremberg in September one head-hot yelled at Foundation president Ting Chen.

Today in Hannover the members of Wikimedia Deutschland gathered to elect a new board and decide on some propositions. One of the accepted propositions was: “Position concerning the image filter in Wikimedia projects” by Achim Raschka. WMDE should not support or defend the introduction of the image filter. The filter is in violation of the basic principles of encyclopedic enlightenment. Inappropiate content (pictorial or other) should be treated in the usual way of community discussions. The board of WMDE had supported the Raschka proposal in advance.


Newsletter of Wikimedia Deutschland

Nice: the national Wikimedia organization of Germany introduced a newsletter. After I had suggested that more than two years ago. Now in August and September 2011, there has been a lot of commodity around the image filter in Germany. Some people complained on the German organization mailinglist that there had been few information on the image filter, and that in general they felt insufficiently about what is going on in the global Wikimedia universe. Especially people without thorough English knowledge (/ English Wikimedia jargon knowledge) had difficulties to keep up.

Germanophone WikiConvention established?

Wikimedia Deutschland presents itself

On September 9-11, 2011, Wikimedians from the three major German speaking countries gathered. More than 170 participants shared their knowledge about Wikipedia, Wikimedia and other wikis at the first ‘WikiConvention‘.

Nurenberg was chosen because it is situated much closer to Austria and Switzerland than Lüneburg in Northern Germany, where in 2010 a similar convention took place (‘Skillshare’). The Bildungszentrum (folk high school) proved to be a perfect place, close to the central station and spacious enough for a huge number of sessions (more than 60).

The WikiConvention was supported by the national Wikimedia organizations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Especially the German organization made use of the occasion to present itself and its staff. A number of journalists were present, and the media coverage in general was quite nice.

Among the presentations and sessions: Become a plagiarism hunter in 60 minutes; the election of featured articles; is Wikipedia an encyclopedia; city wiki; the Support Team (OTRS); Wikimedia and Open Access; OpenStreetMap and OpenSeaMap; are women the better encyclopedists; Wikipedias in regional languages; … and as a special evening contribution: ‘Sexipedia – Reloaded’.

Decennial ABC: T as in Teachers

Teachers are possibly the target group number one for encyclopedias. It is teachers who consult about knowledge acquisition, and they were likely to have an encyclopedia in their home. One third of the buyers of Der Große Brockhaus in the 1950s were teachers.[1]

Harvey Einbinder mentioned already in the good old times the gap between the image and the actual content of Encyclopaedia Britannica:

‘Some teachers and professors believe it is not a reliable source of information and caution their students against blindly reproducing its material in their reports and term papers. This warning, however, has not been widely publicized. As a result, some students who obtain the set may be disappointed when they discover it does not live up to their expectations.'[2]

When I talk to teachers about Wikipedia I am amazed about the trust I meet. Many don’t hesitate to find Wikipedia very reliable, such as the previous printed encyclopedias. When we had a meeting of our Schulprojekt of Wikimedia Deutschland, we accidentally met a couple of student teachers. According to my notes, they wanted to know or answered:

  • How reliable is the information?
  • References: very very important for us. Also interesting for further reading.
  • We don’t want pupils to use Wikipedia as source because the paper would then be more or less complete already (if the article is good).
  • What about controversial issues, e.g. about bioethics? Who is writing an article, maybe someone from a company?
  • I don’t know about copyright and Wikipedia.
  • Only very few teachers check the quality in other languages.
  • Brockhaus: well… Maybe if you have guests you can show off with it. But it plays no role when it comes to acquire information.
  • Sexuality-related articles: we don’t let pupils do research about such subjects via the internet. Not suitable. They could be distracted too easily.

Nando Stöcklin in his book Wikipedia clever nutzen – in Schule und Beruf describes a future school of 2025 where pupils have a display on their internet glasses and type on a virtual keyboard. A teacher sees a pupil who is studying books. ‘Are you already finished with reading up on your subject?’ The pupil says no. The teacher: ‘But you should before starting to read books. Have an overview first, for example via Wikipedia. Otherwise you’ll drown in details.'[3]


Previously: A as in Advertisement, … S as in Sister Projects


[1] Thomas Keiderling: F. A. Brockhaus 1905 – 2005. Brockhaus in der Wissensmedia. Leipzig, Mannheim 2005, p. 247.

[2] Harvey Einbinder: The Myth of the Britannica. MacGibbon & Kee, London 1964. Reprint: Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York, London 1972, p. 72.

[3] Nando Stöcklin: Wikipedia clever nutzen – in Schule und Beruf. orell füssli Verlag AG, Zürich 2010, p. 10.

Mini conference in Utrecht


Arnoud Engelfriet at Wikiminiconferentie 2010

What are you allowed to do with pictures, how to draw colleagues to Wikipedia, and what tools to use when dealing with windmills – if you have such questions in mind, the Wikiminiconferentie in Utrecht would have been a great opportunity for you.

It replaces a ‘real’ conference as it was hold by Wikimedia Nederland for the last time in 2008. The main event was the presentation of the winners of ‘Wiki loves monuments‘, the photo contest that brought us more than 12,000 pictures.

Some 30 or (late the day) 35 participants came to a city cut from the railway transport system by a fire in an operator building the previous day. On the Wikipedia organization page 50 had registered.

‘I could have asked Arnoud Engelfriet like two hundred questions’, a Wikimedian later said. Engelfriet is an internet lawyer who explained some tricky things about copyright. For example, Dutch law allows you to take a picture of famous Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam ‘as it stands there’. If you photoshop distracting buildings in the background away, or alter the appearance of the bridge, you no longer present the bridge as it stands there, so you would infringe the copyright (or, more exactly, the ”auteursrecht’) of the architect.

Erik Zachte, chief analyst of Wikimedia Foundation, presented figures, facts and flaws around Wikipedia statistics and what some people make of it. Sebastiaan ter Burg is a photographer publishing under a Creative Commons licence, André Kopal wrote a tool for the Wikipedia windmill project, Josq talked about how to talk your colleagues in to Wikipedia, and I presented what Wikimedia Deutschland is doing with schools.