Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wikimania 2016


Wikimania Goes Outdoors
 (please never again)
Thanks to the kind support of Wikimedia Israel, I attended Wikimania 2016 in the alpine village of  Esino Lario located in the Lombardy region of northen Italy. I was also able to attend the Hackathon event.  Compared to other Wikimedia conferences which I have attended this was a challenging event.

The Wikimedia foundation has undergone a management crisis with the result of staff leaving in droves. For this Wikimania, the number of scholarships for staff has been restricted so attendance by staff developers was much less with many development teams not being represented.  This has had two outcomes one is that it is unclear what is being developed by WMF these days but the upside is that community projects and developers got more emphasis.

The Kiwix Ecosystem

Kiwix - the offline wikipedia reader
Two such projects are Kiwix and the "community wishlist". Kiwix is the brainchild of Emmanuel Engelhart (User:Kelson) and this Wikimania was preceded by a week-long hackathon focused on Kiwix. The Kiwix software  is an interesting project in many ways its main focus is an offline version fo Wikipedia which might at first seem unnecessary in a highly connected world. It is not a WMF project though it has gotten some support from the foundation. The Kiwix hackathon has included a couple of similar projects which distribute content like Open Street Map, Khan academy and even Ted talks for consumption on location without internet connectivity. These include schools and colleges in China, India, and Africa. Other types of communities the use offline Wikipedias some are prisoners which do not have access to online materials and a second are people living under less enlighted regimes which persecute political activists and which do not tolerate freedom of speech. Kiwix is translated using translate wiki created by Niklas Laxström (User:Nikerabbit) by Wikipedia's translator's community.

Medical Wikipedia (Offline)

Yet another related project built on Kiwix is "Medical Wikipedia" android app. This is a version of Kiwix for android Another which comes bundled with a cherry-picked collection of medical content from Wikipedia. Medical Wikipedia is a curated collection is high-quality materials with are being expanded and  translated into more and more languages. The translations are done by Wikipedia volunteers and may often be the only available medical material in the target language and as such may have very high impact on a population that has not been reachable due to a double threat of low connectivity with high communication cost and a more troubling language barrier.

Growing focus on medicine

Over the last two years, I have only attended local events organised by my local chapter.  During this time I have noticed on the social networks that more and more of my associates have been shifting their focus to medicine. On one or two occasions I even found myself volunteering at editing sessions coordinated and run by Shani Evenstein on medical subjects. This reinforces my belief that long-time Wikimedians will gravitate from their initial areas of interest to more high impact areas. This Wikimania had a large number of medicine-related talks, I take this opportunity to highlight these videos:

1. Wikipedia's coverage of medical topics by Lane Raspberry, Fred Totter




This talk underscores that a number of interesting points:

  • If "Attention is the new currency" then Wikipedia is the most requested, published, accessed and consulted source of health and information in the world.
  •  success and even the "best model of sharing" for medical information are not yet understood.
  • Wikipedia is open for partnership with  individuals and organizations, so long as they follow Wikipedia's guidelines.
  • looked at research - By Doc Helman JM West AG Wikimedia and medicine
2. Medical topics by James Heilman



3. Wikimania 2016 - Wikiversity Journal of Medicine by Mikael Haggestrom



4. Wikimania 2016 - Wikipedia Addiction and it's Comorbidites by Kritzolina




This talk confirmed a number of things:

  • You got to be nuts to edit this Wikipedia thing :-) and it is definitely habit forming.
  • If people do not respond to policy try appealing at an emotional level.
  • If that does not work - they may not be "sane" at the moment



Further reading:



  1. To read more about Kiwix and it founder look at this blog post: Emmanuel Engelhart, Inventor of Kiwix: the Offline Wikipedia Browser.
  2. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine
  3. Heilman JM, West AG (2015). "Wikipedia and medicine: quantifying readership, editors, and the significance of natural language". J. Med. Internet Res. 17 (3): e62. doi:10.2196/jmir.4069. PMID 25739399.