My Wikimedia Universe/.

For the time I have been contributing to Wikipedia, I would say most of the time has been spent learning how stuff works and I can say that it is only now that I can make very meaning full contributions. By no means am I implying that the simple typo corrections or Wikignome work is useless, every contribution is definitely important and very welcome. I have been thinking of how long the time ticks away for folks to learn without compromising any fundamentals like the copyvio laws and other aspects of Wikipedia contributions.

Africa‘s coverage is minimal or quite low because of lack of awareness of Wikimedia in this part of the world. And the ones aware of it are lost on where to start or how to proceed. To increase coverage from this part of the world we need contributors who cannot just edit an article but those that can do much more advanced stuff like create templates, nav boxes, category trees, advice on Coypvios, answer OTRS queues, offer support in Wikiprojects and so on. I would propose this project be undertaken under the English Wikipedia since it is well mature with all the structures in shape. After users get to know the mechanisms and structures there, then they can move on to other Wikipedia languages that serve African languages.

I once had the privilege to give a talk to librarians and professors in Tanzania in 2011. At first I thought 2 hours was a lot to give the talk, it later spilled on to have Wikipedia sessions for the whole day and the participants were still begging for more in the evening. The talk involved hands on sessions with practicals and it was quite an enjoyable experience for me and the attendees. I was later sent the report of the whole workshop and the Wikipedia day was voted the best of the sessions. ‘..From then I discovered that it is possible to summarize work done on 4 million articles in just a day:-)..’ I have a copy of the report from the organizers and I cannot upload it to commons since am not certain of its license 😦

Wikipedia in itself does not work alone but it depends on other projects like Wikimedia commons, meta wiki and the other Wikimedia projects.

There is a lot to learn in this ‘Wikimedia universe’. I have tried to break down most of the stuff into the packages as below;

  • All Wikimedia projects with an incline on the most important/popular/most used
  • Editing — GOCE, Wikification, Wikignomes, Wikimark-up
  • Programming — JS scripts, mediawiki extensions, CSS, Bots
  • Internet based tools — IRCs, Mailing lists (Public and Private lists), QR Pedia,
  • Law — Copyrights, Creatice commons, BLP policies
  • Librarians — Categorization and other info organization methods
  • Translations — The multilingual Wikimedia projects are, the closer we get to “..Sum of all human knowledge in a language at least everyone can understand..”
  • Media — Commons, WLM, Wikipedia Takes Cities
  • AGF — The cornerstone of Wikimedia
  • The chapters — WCA, Governance
  • Wikipedia tools – STiki, Wikipedia Cleaner, Huggle, AWB, Igloo to mention but just a few
  • The Wikipedia interface
  • Wikipedia structures – Wikiprojects, Templates, Essays,

I believe approaching Wikipedia in this manner  will bring more contributors on board and make the existing from this part of the world more productive.

My opinion anyway.

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4 MILLION!

Woot Woot! We are at 4 million articles in the quest to compile the sum of all human knowledge. Wikipedia is in  deed an idealized perfection bringing togetW letterher so many and so diverse to built it. Having been founded in 2001 by Jimmy Whales and Larry Sanger, it is now the largest on-line collaborative work in progress. With 4 million articles, we are in deed getting closer to the sum of all human knowledge mark. This milestone came during this years Wikimania and it gave the Wikipedia editors that nice and blissful feeling of having pressed the [[edit]] button and even better for those who pressed it for their first time at Wikimania! Most eyes were on new pages log trying to catch the 4 millionth entry and when it clocked it was all ululations at Wikimania in Washington DC. This time the lucky article was Izbat Al Burj which was authored by User:Meno25.

I cannot forget the previous millions from previous years; 1M articles (Jordanhill railway station) on March 1, 2006,, 2M articles (El Hormiguero) on September 13, 2007 and 3M articles (Beate Eriksen) on August 17, 2009. The next question is which Wikipedia language out of the 282 shall be next to achieve their next million?

 

Meet the bots!

The sum to all human knowledge is still 110 million articles short to be anywhere close to completion. It is a work in progress with 100K contributors who make >5 edits per month which is a good number of contributors though not enough-especially from the so called global south. These computer robots are used to run some automated tasks on articles to avoid redundaMeet the bots!nt work on Wikipedia. As much as they make work easier, their judgement is nowhere close to that of the humans’. There are about 1600 bots which do quite a lot of work because some have more than 4 million edits on Wikipedia which is a nice job.

There is this other bunch of bots that I have been encountering everytime I create a new article. They have been nominating my articles for deletion! While citing various reasons that to me seem silly and unfounded- be it ‘Notability’, ‘sounds like an advertisement’, ‘doesn’t meet the GNG‘ and so many more. Some mis informedly post on my talk page advising me as if I just created my account, I should visit the start page for newbies. I have more than 2000 edits in all Wikimedia projects and it is because am strong hearted to the extent that I have been taking kahawa tungu (bitter coffee) with the bots for 11 months or so. If it sounds like an advertisement, then there is the COE team who can do the necessary to ensure the language is encyclopedic and I will learn from it.

Most newbies have cited these deletions as the major reason of quiting or retiring from editing the English Wikipedia. Mostly, when you start to write about a Kenyan/African story it is not notable – on the contrary – I have been working on the backlog category of articles lacking description on the template person data and from what I see some articles are on Wikipedia for all the wrong reasons according to me.But thinking on giving it a second thought, that person could be notable in Mexico as a country or whenever he hails from.  While articles about the Nyayo House, Bring Zack Back Home and the List of places Moi opened are not notable.

It costs me a fortune in this part of the world to be connected on the Internet and people here do not have the willingness to invest their money doing free non-paid work. They prefer to tweet or facebook because no one will never delete the noise or party pictures they  post there.

Or can we have a en.wikipedia.org.ke! where we write about our country?

39th Chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation

Today we find ourselves today in the midst of an exciting time. Discussions of the precedences that will affect the future of our chapter are on the table. Ensuring the strength of that future is a tremendous responsibility and one that should never be taken lightly.

IMO, Our chapter has served the greater part of the East Africa region and a little bit of the Southern Africa region yet it is a small army of volunteers whose journey started at the Java house 565 days ago.

Since the Kiswahili Wikipedia Challenge that was the inception of the chapter, Wikimedia Kenya managed to undertake various successful projects with the blessings of the Wikimedia Foundation. The Wikipedia for schools which was a distribution of offline Wikipedia to schools in Nyeri, Mombasa and Kakamagega. 30 schools are now enjoying the fruits of the work of the great volunteers at Wikimedia Kenya. The chapter has also undertaken various outreach crusades across the country and region. The Strathmore ICT conference, Kabarak University ICT open Day, Tanzainia ITOCA workshop, Setswana Wikipedia Challenge.

This weekend, as we come together, we ought to pay tribute to all of those who have made incalculable contributions to the formation of the 39th Chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation. Each of these men and women contributions go far beyond their actual accomplishments. Contributions that were no doubt made possible, in part, by their common roots to share free knowledge.

You know this saying, “a dog wags its tail with its heart” – well, I am like that dog today. I want to say so much, but I can hardly find the words.

Am looking forward to meeting you on the Weekend at this meet-up.

Sihami

I think it is safaricom vs the rest, they are playing a home match!

IMO, Safaricom has played it smart and well. While they were busy slashing down the prices, Safaricom was busy improving its services and introducing new ones as well.

I would rather pay for a service that exists, rather than live by a promise of free services that I can’t even access. Be it calling, SMS or the internet access. If they were that good I think they would never be free.

Sometime back I used to roam nationally by having to migrate across networks for the reason they were cheaper and appeared better, as depicted from the adverts. Some of my friends had four mobile numbers on which they could reach me. I remember one time a friend asked me “kwani wewe ni mwizi? Hizi number zote ni za nini” (Are you a thief, what are all these phone numbers for?)

Remember the Ideos? The offer made the dream of many Kenyans to own a smart phone true. It was first introduced at what I would call ‘bei ya kupewa’ (a throw away price) of KES 8,499 plus KES 1,000 airtime and 600mb of data. When you do the mathematics right the net price was coming to KES 6,500!

Later came in the sambaza bonga points service. Some traded them for money with colleagues while some sambazad them for free and then there was this bunch that used to steal them. But again Safaricom came in with the PIN protection of the same.

The SafaricomCloud is an addition to the list.

The twitter customer care is awe-inspiring and cannot be matched with any other I know of.

The new M-PESA visa card is even better. Since almost everyone is going the mobile apps way, then the visa comes in convenient, either to pay for the app to be hosted in the respective markets or to buy an app. Online shopping is also setting foot and this shall require this Visa card that is easily topped up via M-PESA.

Keep up Safaricom!

I am a very contented customer for the services that safaricom offers me.

On other hand, the limit for internet speeds while on the unlimited tariff averts me from giving the entire 3 points for a home win.

Last Editathon 2011

An edittathon is a small event that is organized by a group of editors who come together in a common course to do some collaborative editing, for this case they shall be editing the largest online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. This event is being hosted at the Strathmore University which is populous for its unique dress code. After travelling for two hours I finally get to the place on time and we start waiting for the rest of the team prior to the editing goes live. The first glitch I discern after powering on my laptop is that there is no decent Wi-Fi connectivity which would, if truth be told render our mission here useless. After deliberations with the host and some other members we come to a decision to raise some money so that we can buy our own internet that shall be shared using the connectify software. Not again, the safaricom service that we ought to use to buy airtime, M-Pesa is experiencing delays! We decide to buy scratch cards then later withdraw the money from M-Pesa and reimburse the volunteers who give their cash. All the anticipated attendants finally arrive and we start out edittathon. Some are newbies and they do not even have user accounts, so first step is to create user accounts then the rest follows. Something worth noting is, while they were creating user accounts there were some notifications about the usernames, For instance, “Username closely resembles another on the Wikipedia, please choose another”…..and so on and so forth. I think that the Media-wiki system should offer some suggestions like other mail clients do every time you choose a username that is already taken. This way the newbie will be saved the trouble of thinking of new names and making the process easier and enjoyable. Some newbies might even decide to quit and not give it a second look let alone the try.
Our internet is not that good as we are depending on

one of the volunteer’s laptops as the server, or is it someone who has not paused their torrent downloads?
We work on some articles that had been put on the agenda as we learn from each other good editing practices. My lesson, Wikipedia is so huge that only those passionate about it go the extra mile to dig more. But in a few words, No original writing, Information on Wikipedia should be verifiable, Articles should be of notable topics and they should be written from a neutral point of view.

 

You can view the photos HERE.

Mission Dar Es Salaam

From the speakers overhead the air hostess broadcasts that we are now beginning our descent to Dar Es Salaam and I have not even finished munching my beef burger. I force it hurriedly down my throat so that I do not miss any bit of the landing meme that goes with the aircrafts. After 15 minutes the runway was in view and now the remaining part was the landing. We landed safely at around 0630pm. After being cleared by the immigration and the yellow fever inspectors I went ahead to collect my other luggage, the Wikipedia banner that was waiting for me up front. Next the cabs. The drivers are only waiting for you to find them at their designated desks and they had no rush like their NBO counterparts who barely wait for you to get out of the luggage bay.

I boarded a cab and headed to Akubu Hotel that is located at Kariakor area. There was an immediate change of plans due to some short on my budget courtesy of the ever fluctuating exchange rate of our Kshs against the dollar.  But scratch that, it is not much of a problem for now. As we drove to my hotel the driver told me “sijui kama tutapata foleni kule mbele”—Foleni?? Ooh you mean a traffic jam. Surely Swahili is such a technical language. I got to my hotel at around 900pm tired and worn out and the next thing was sleep.

At the reception at the hotel where I was staying

Reception at my hotel

I woke up on the following 30th November and did my finals on what my mission entailed.

Downloaded some new PowerPoint themes and tried them out on my slide to make them look nice and from abroad 😉 I rushed to the venue of the meeting using a cab some minutes before it started and took my seat. Guys were wondering who this Steve is. Then to their surprise it was me a young man of 22! I took to the podium after an introduction by Pamela Marinda, PHD..BTW, she was not the MC but an organizer.I set up my slides and the Wikipedia show went live. There were wow moments all through my presentation and what wowed the crowd the most is to learn there exist a Swahili Wikipedia!!

Giving the talk at the workshop

Then the real editing started where the users had to create Wikipedia user accounts.

Offering assistance to the attendees

  Wait, we had a holdup while creating these user accounts as the Mediawiki platform detected this as an attempt to hit the servers with so many requests to crash it. The effect, we could only create 6 accounts per IP. After checking with Oscar who is a Wikipedian and had faced the same problem while doing an outreach in Botswana, he recommended me to try opening accounts in the numerous languages – it by some means worked for some of the usersI pinged guys at the WMF about this and it was sorted in 10 minutes. During this time I had some time for a glass of water. After the guys opened the accounts, I had the chance to show them some editing stuff in the sandbox. Many guys had this great feeling of increasing African presence online and one way of doing this is through Wikipedia. To be specific one librarian told me that even professors in African universities only have their works documented offline and thus the need of programs like the Wikipedia Education program to have this work published online. In a nutshell I told them

“Wikipedia is not an arbiter or the repository of all human knowledge; it is a good point to start in the journey of knowledge.”  I also touched on the truth in numbers philosophy in relation to Wikipedia and its projects.

A key thing that I insisted on is the articles on Wikipedia should not and never be original content; such information does not belong to Wikipedia. As I winded up the talk, I gave the attendees some swags that included T-Shirt, Badges, lanyards and some laptop stick

ers.

After this very long day I was invited for dinner by the organizers at the high-status Peacock hotel after which I had my fair share of Dar Es Salaam at night 😉

The other facilitators of the Workshop. From Left Dr. Chisenga, Mrs. Gracian and the Husband (Host), Pamela Marinda PHD and Stephen Wanjau

The report card is next on my next post…..