From May 23rd to 25th, Wikimedia France organised a hackathon near Lyon. 250 members of a community with millions of volunteer contributors got together to improve the sharing of knowledge.
Lyon, special envoy
Technology was given a real place of honour on that Whit Sunday in Lyon. While the Hack my church event was taking place in a church in the town centre, hundreds of coder contributors were gathering at Valpré, structure of the Assumptionists religious community, for a Wikimedia hackathon organised by Wikimedia France. The objective: make the collaborative project progress and why not, convert newcomers.
In the jargon, Wikimedia France is a chapter, a local association affiliated with the Foundation that oversees the Wikipedia project and its derivatives. A global movement the mission of which is to share knowledge for free throughout the world.
Wikidata, Wikispecies, Wikitravel…
If the Wikipedia masterpiece is known to all, the projects gravitating around the Wikimedia galaxy are less famous: Wiktionary and its definitions, Wikisource and its books fallen into the public domain (or rather “elevated” to put it right), Wikidata and its database, Wikispecies and its list of living species and even Wikitravel, a travel guide subject to debate in the community.
This week-end, 250 wikimedians from 22 nationalities had made the trip to the municipality in the west of Lyon, even Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia foundation, who will celebrate her first year of taking office on June the 1st, 2015.
And evidently, they are keen on debates. One talks about license, digital divide, contribution of cultural actors, gender gap and competition with paying services. One also talks, of course, about the reliability of Wikipedia information. Even though wikimedians seem a bit bored by the discussion, it nevertheless remains central. Reflections are in fact taking place to have Wikipedia accepted by the scientific community, explains Benoit Prieur, from the Lyon Wikemedia association. This could be achieved for example by making “university lecturers contribute more”.
Tools to measure the quality and reliability of Wikipedia
On the other side of the garden, in the room where developers and other coders in the making get together, they are trying to improve the credibility and attractiveness of the encyclopaedia. Ansgar Grüne, a German developer, is attempting to develop a tool to measure the quality of authors’ contributions. “The tool will calculate the number of editions and how long they last in order to establish a measure of quality.” Each publisher would thus have a user form and a rating. “You could become very good in your field, be recognised for your contributions, and maybe, for example, find a job. You would no longer participate for altruistic reasons only.” In another corner, a group of newcomers, recruited from Epitech, a computer science school, is counting on a tool that allows you to check the correct syntax of contributions.
Add Open Street Map to Wikipedia
Improve, but also correct. Friday, on the first day of the hackathon, a discussion was held on the theme: Why does Tool Lab, the library of tools available to the army of volunteer developers who maintain the Wikipedia network, suck?” It’s a tool that was built years ago by the community, explains Giuseppe Lavagetto, one of the 270 employees of the Wikipedia Foundation. The platform is a bit unstable and there are lots of limitations.”
Another group is attempting to enhance the Wikipedia project by adding to it Open Street Map. “It is a functionality largely requested by the community, assures Yuri Astrakhan, also employed by the Foundation. It is a very high quality map and one fifth of the subjects of the encyclopaedia are on the ground. We already have the GPS data, but we can do so much more” he says with enthusiasm before showing us the tools already integrated (including the discreet button “map”).
Not all the projects of the week-end will be taken on by Wikimedia. The hackathon will at least have allowed the 70 employees working in situ to keep their ears open to the demands of the volunteer community. “They talk to us about their needs, their projects, says happily Moyz Syed, interaction designer at the Foundation. For instance we discussed about the accessibility of the platform for handicapped users or users speaking another language.”