Chronicling the Bottom Up
Connection Revolution

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Katherine Maher-- Wikipedia And Counterrevolution, Dark Spaces, and Ways to Tap and ENable the Power of Wikipedia


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Broadcast 1/14/2016 at 21:23:23 (1 Listens, 0 Downloads, 0 Itunes)
The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast

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Katherine Maher is the Chief Communications Officer for the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization behind Wikipedia, the largest free knowledge project in human history and one of the world's most popular websites. She is an expert on the intersection of technology, human rights, democracy, and international development.

Prior to joining Wikimedia, Katherine was Advocacy Director for the international digital rights organization Access. She has worked with the World Bank, National Democratic Institute, and UNICEF on technology and programmatic innovation,

Very Rough interview notes-- aimed at motivating you to LISTEN to the audio of the radio show.

Rob: at Personal Democracy forum, you were on a panel: Confronting the Counterrevolution: How Civic Actors Can Hold Their Own in Global Affairs

Let's start there. Your talk was about Circumvention of Official State Narrative. What was that about?

I've worked with activists all around the world where information is scarce and controlled by people in power, in control of official state channels, with an official state narrative. You end up with a world where there's one accounting for events and message. it's hard to find information that contradicts that official state narrative.

What is it that civil society groups, actors, activists are doing to organize and be effective in the changing tech.

circumvention tools-- the idea that within a place there is an official narrative. People can get organized and get around state narrative-- outside the bounds of what is officially approved.

In the days leading up to Iran's Islamic revolution they did it with audio cassettes to get the message that was outside the bounds of the official lines.

Today we do have social media-- twitter, facebook-- was popular five years ago, in Egypt, Tunisia-- even more currently people are using What's App, what are being referred to as the dark social web-- affords people greater privacy.

Rob: Talk more about the dark social web

it's a new sort of phenomenon.

What'sApp is used by millions of people around the world.

Publishers are getting all sorts of traffic referrals from whatsapp.

Nobody is watching it in public

Could be snap chat. In Asia

This increasingly hybrid public space-- it is owned by a private company where we can have private conversations that government can't observe. It has the possibility to change the way we understand social movements.

Rob: and one of the reasons the dark spaces are being developed is because Twitter and Facebook are being exploited by the government powers.

Egypt-- group of generals created a Facebook page.

states and governments can pressure platforms to take information down. If they want you to take something down, they can. We've seen this on youtube,

Rob: That just happened with Wikipedia.

Not exactly. Are you referring to Russia. There was a page on the Russian wikipedia about a form of hashish-- a judge said that it was illegal, so the page was illegal.

We use HTTPS-- that prevents people from seeing what specific article you're looking at. What it means is, if a govt tries to block one article, it's difficult, so they issued a blocking notice. Russian Wikipedians-- improved the article, the Russians decided not to . Wikipedia does not take down".

Rob: so if Russia had ordered to block it what would have happened.

it would have been blocked. But Russian wikipedia editors also posted a warning that it might be blocked and how to circumvent the block. they

Rob: What's the difference between wikipedia, wikimedia, wikifoundation

Wikipedia is the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit and millions of people do, founded by Jimmy Wales in 2001. We're going to turn 15 on Jan 15th next year.

Two years after wikipedia was created, editors said, "we really need a way to come together, to think about ways to go beyond text. So wikimedia was born-- which refers to all the free knowledge projects" wikimedia commons,

wikidata wikisource-- freely licensed sources. Original text of 12 years a slave is part of source.

Wikimedia foundation is a non-profit foundation that supports and runs the sites and supports the community members. I work with community members around the around.

Free Knowledge is our mission, what brings us together

Rob: Talk about free knowledge:

There's an old expression "Free as in speech and free as in beer."

No restrictions on what you can say. Then there are things that are given to you freely. Wikipedia is free, will be free in perpetuity. We want to eliminate the cost barriers for people to learn.

Knowledge itself should be free and shouldn't be owned by anyone.

We use a form of licensing-- creative commons. Anybody can use an article, an image, as long as they attribute it back to the creator.

Rob: And the beer part is about sharing.

we work with mobile phone companies around the world to waive the cost of wikipedia.

Rob: You said, "wikimedia is an asymptotic goal. What's that mean?

our mission and vision statement this idea that imagine a world in which every human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. Huge amounts of data, of information. English wikipedia is about to have 5 million articles. But that is nowhere close to the sum of all knowledge-- that is yet to be recorded, yet to be shared, breakthroughs. When we get closer and closer to our goal but will never actually reach it.

Rob: Tell us about the different aspects of the world of wiki and wikipedia-- the basics, etc. I love wikiquotes.

Wiktionary-- free dictionary, very popular with smaller languages-- people love to use wiktionary to document and preserve their language

Wikivoyage-- for travel

Wikimedia commons-- is actually just starting tomorrow-- Wiki Loves Monuments-- people contribute to wiki loves monuments-- local places-- church, historic building, statues to Stonehenge-- Every country chooses their top ten.

Rob: Can you talk about some of the less obvious ways that wikipedia and wikimedia are bottom-up.

Created and completely governed by the people who edit it. Editors make decisions on what should and shouldn't be on the site, resolve conflicts, are involved in the way funding happens.

Rob: I'd like to create a wikipedia page for a notable person who does not have a page. What are the criteria. How do I do it?

I often get questions on how one can create one's own wikipedia page. The answer is one probably shouldn't. First question is "Is this notable?" Has this person o r event or phenomenon been documented over time in mainstream sources. news, academic journals, published books. Once you've got that, ask, can I write this in a way that is verifiable.

accuracy and neutrality.

If you look at the article on Barack Obama, the density of citations is truly remarkable.

Rob: How does someone become a beginning Wikipedian?

choose an article that you're interested in-- probably not about yourself or your employer. At top of the page there are a number of buttons:

Talk, edit, history

Click on the talk button. Talk page tells you how the article has been created. Conversations on the article. How to address controversy.

One of my favorite pages-- English language page for City of Paris-- notable places in Paris. Louvre, Arche de Triomphe-- thousands of comments on whether pic should only include images of old or newer parts as well.

Spend time reading and browsing-- see what people care about.

Rob: That's the talk tab, then there's the edit and history tab.

so, you're ready for your first edit.

Best way is with a citation

Rob: You want to sign up and sign in,

people do edit without an account-- anonymous editing-- but we encourage you to create an account. which gives you access to a whole world

Rob: you say add a citation, but there's formatting involved. How do you learn the formatting?

It looks a bit like software code, specific to wiki-- traditionally people learn it by experimenting with it. It's definitely a learning curve.

The really exciting news if you create an account, instead of wiki code, there's a what you see is what you get-- it looks exactly like the article. it's brand new-- for people creating a new account.

Rob: What are the biggest criticisms of the world of wikipedia-- and your responses?

The biggest criticism-- it isn't necessarily balanced in terms of gender or global representation. Most history has been written by white, European men.

Wikipedia tend to be more male, to come from wealthier countries"

The concern is, what are the biases that wikipedia is not aware of.

Rob: What about criticism from academics or journalists

criticisms tend to focus on accuracy. Should you trust wikipedia. The answer is maybe-- same with NYTimes and research studies.

check the citations, learn more, if you see something is wrong, by all means update.

Rob: What about the way some wikipedians run the show--like the Monsanto page.

there might be a section on controversy-- the wikipedia article, because it's meant to be neutral won't take a position which side of the controversy is right.

Jimmy Wales talks about wikipedia articles and how they are like diamonds-- carbon turns into diamonds under pressure.

Rob: What does Wikipedia want?

wants to be the world's most comprehensive, free source of information, to be the knowledge engine for the world.

Rob: How can the average person connect with and help wikipedia?

Many ways-- just by reading wikipedia with us you are connecting with us. The more eyes-- the stronger it becomes. Contribute a donation is an easy way to do that. More than 90% of our donations an average of $15 a person.

If you want to really contribute is to try to edit. Take that first step and click on that button.

If you are at a university talk about hosting an editathon and how to make your content freely licensed.

Rob: What's an editathon

a way of teaching people how to edit wikipedia. One of the biggest is the art and feminism editathon.

Rob There's a wikimedia conference coming soon, in the DC area. Please tell us about it.

Wikiconference USA is happening in the first week in October-- at the National Archive.

There will be an editathon-- learn about how organizations are using wikipedia in education, in outreach.

Rob: if you want to get a new page started.

The teahouse-- as a new editor, you can sign up and say you are new editor and a mentor will help you. Or you can write a draft article and submit it for feedback from a more experienced wikipedian.

Rob: What are some of the numbers?

80,000 active editors per month-- more than five edits per month. Over time we know on English wikimedia alone more than six million people have edited.

Wikipedia is viewed by more than half a billion people every month, from every continent on earth. There are more than 290 different language versions. It's enormous and al because of volunteers.

Size: 30,911,632 -- 1 hrs, 4 min, 22 sec


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Rob Kall is the host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360, where he discusses how the bottom up mind and bottom up revolution are reaching different areas of the world, of life, of politics, business, society and anywhere else.

Rob is founder and site architect of (more...)

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