I am Karen, a member of the University of Edinburghadministrative staff. I spotted a new open learning experience for staff and students in Creative Learning Week 2018 with ‘no experience needed’ – Wikipedia edit-a-thon for Vote100 centenary anniversary of (some) women’s right to vote .
learn from great teachers, with cakes and coffee on hand,
be part of a community of (mainly) women making a difference ,
access a range of research, references, materials to hand, discussions and sharing.
Wikimedians Ewan McAndrew from the University and Alice White from Wellcome Library made it all so easy!
Now with a bit of an ‘addiction’ to editing Wikipedia (for women, especially for the amazingly brave suffragettes), I have been known to
wear ‘We can edit’ T-shirt, sport a ‘Deeds not Words’ sticker on the laptop,
meet, share ideas with Wikimedian Roger, co-founder of ‘Women In Red‘,
repeat the ‘refresher’ training, but never feel inadequate in my skills,
find constant support as a volunteer and aware of joining a global effort,
listen to a University archivist sharing the history of our University,
see an original letter to Christabel Pankhurst in prison, from one of University of Edinburgh’s few female students,
read the handwritten register of the University Womens’ Education Group from an era when ‘we’ could study but couldn’t graduate .
A joyful open learning community is truly collegial and uplifting, and even has cute messages of support.
== A cupcake for you! ==Many thanks for coming to our International Women’s Day editathon today, Karen.
Vote 100 Editathon, CC BY, Karen Bowman
A hobby for life
Processions Karen & Suzanne, CC BY SA, Kaybeesquared, Wikimedia Commons
Now I am proud to tell family and friends of my new (though limited) editing skills, made so easy in VisualEdit and with great Wikimedians there to help!
So I re-joined the University Library and local City Library to track down secondary sources to cite on our suffragists and suffragettes, joined events on the topic and was part of the Processions 2018 artwork with thousands of women acknowledging the success and the suffering and sheer persistence of notable (and less known) women who led the way and as a result now have my own picture in Wikimedia Commons, and a hobby for life!
Open Learning from history
Open Learning has helped me enjoy learning from the past and creating materials again to acknowledge the women who made it possible for me to march, to have a political voice, complete graduate education, and have a long, varied and satisfying professional life.
Karen Bowman is Joint Director of Procurement at the University of Edinburgh, FCIPS, now part-retired. A former NHS Scotland procurement leader and hospice pain research nurse, she started and led the University staff/student Fair Trade steering group and was awarded the Principal’s Medal for outstanding service in 2011. She has continued to learn throughout her life including with Dame Cecily Saunders, OM, DBE; with Harriet Lamb CBE and since joining in Open Learning events and with ‘Women in Red’ is now starting to wiki-edit (a little).
Creating new role models on Wikipedia to encourage the next generation of #ImmodestWomen
By Siobhan O’Connor, Dr. Alice White, Dr. Sara Thomas and Ewan McAndrew.
Wikipedia, the free, online, multilingual encyclopaedia is building the largest open knowledge resource in human history. Now aged eighteen years old, its English language version receives over 500 million views per month, from 1.4 billion unique devices, and has over 130,000 active users collaboratively writing and editing millions of articles online. As topics on Wikipedia become more visible on Google, they receive more press coverage and become better known amongst the public.
Yet while English Wikipedia has significant reach and influence as the go-to source of information around the world, it also has significant gaps in its coverage of topics, articles in other languages and the diversity of its editors. Less than 18 per cent of biographies on English Wikipedia are about women, while most editors on the platform are white men.
This disproportionate gap on Wikipedia silences women’s contribution to science which continues their marginalisation in public life, a vicious circle that leads to more women being lost to careers in STEM. This gender imbalance mirrors the 2017 findings of the WISE campaign with women making up just 23% of those in core STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the UK and 24% of those working in core STEM industries. Only 17% of physicists worldwide are women and studies have shown that it will take approximately 258 years for equality in physics. The rate of progress is even starker for the fields of computer science (280 years) .
“Our research shows that scientists are using Wikipedia and that it is influencing how they write about the science that they are doing… Wikipedia isn’t just a record of what’s going on in science, it’s actually helping to shape science.” – Professor Neil C. Thompson
The randomised controlled trial the researchers undertook evidenced a profound causal impact that, as one of the most accessed websites in the world, incorporating ideas into Wikipedia leads to those ideas being used more in the scientific literature.
Chemistry graduates were asked to create forty-three new Wikipedia entries about topics in chemistry, with half being posted on Wikipedia while the rest were held back. Two years later, the chemistry entries created on Wikipedia had collectively over 2 million views. Analysing the text of publications from fifty high-impact chemistry journals during this period, showed words in the publications were influenced by content from the new Wikipedia entries.
For example, the ‘History of Chemistry’ entry on Wikipedia features over 200 men but only mentions 4 women and is missing notable female chemists such as Nobel Prize winning biochemist Gerty Cori and Professor Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist and one of the pioneers of a new breakthrough genetic engineering technology called CRISPR.
Another example of the gender imbalance can be seen in the entry for ‘Benzene’ on Wikipedia. There are several paragraphs describing many male scientists who tried to discover the structure of this chemical compound in the 1800’s. However, only one single sentence in the same Wikipedia article acknowledges the female scientist, Kathleen Lonsdale, who finally confirmed the structure of benzene in 1929.
Consequently, the Wikipedia community has established numerous initiatives to address this acknowledged systemic gender bias as they are committed to diversity and inclusivity to ensure knowledge equity. One such initiative, “WikiProject Women in Red (WiR)”, aims to crowdsource turning dormant red links for biography articles that do not yet exist into clickable blue ones which do, directing readers to female biographies and works by women on the platform.
New articles recently created by Women in Red volunteer editors from around the world include: Zheng Pingru, a spy whose life inspired a film; Bridget Jones (academic), a pioneer in the field of Caribbean literature studies; and Paquita Sauquillo, a campaigner in defence of democratic freedom. Entries recently improved by Women in Red editors include: Ruth Schmidt, an award winning American geologist; and Wilma Mankiller, an activist and social worker who was the first woman elected as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
As a result of targeted Wikipedia editing events, or ‘edit-a-thons’, there are also now entire series of articles for the Edinburgh Seven, the first female students to matriculate at a British university, and the nineteen pioneering women chemists who, in 1904, petitioned the Chemistry Society (later to become the Royal Society of Chemistry) for the admission of women as Fellows of the Society.
“These were a group of extraordinary women who had done chemistry to degree and postgraduate level at a time when you couldn’t do that… and they had extraordinary stories and they did extraordinary chemistry.” – Dr. Michael Seery, Director of Teaching at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry.
Often if articles are not missing entirely, the contributions of women in science are reduced to bit part status as an addendum on the Wikipedia articles of their husbands or male contemporaries. Marie Curie’s Wikipedia article reportedly started out shared with her husband. That was, until someone pointed out that her scientific contributions might just warrant an article of her own. There is also a new article for Scottish physical scientist, Katherine Clerk Maxwell, whose contribution to measurements of gaseous viscosity was recorded by her husband, James, and is associated with his paper “On the Dynamical Theory of Gases”, where he states that Katherine “did all the real work of the kinetic theory” and that she was now “…engaged in other researches. When she is done I will let you know her answer to your inquiry.”
The achievements of extraordinary pioneering women are recorded in various sources, however no one has chosen to write their stories on Wikipedia. Focused attention in themed editing events means more articles are being created all the time.
Surveys have indicated that only 8.5–16% of Wikipedia editors are female. One particular 2011 survey suggested that on English Wikipedia around 91% of editors were male, and typically formally educated, in white-collar jobs (or students) and living in the Global North. The same survey found that fewer than 1% of editors self-identified as transsexual or transgender.
“if there is a typical Wikipedia editor, he has a college degree, is 30- years-old, is computer savvy but not necessarily a programmer, doesn’t actually spend much time playing games, and lives in US or Europe.”
This means that articles within Wikipedia typically reflect these gender, socioeconomic and cultural biases. Among the findings of the 2016 research article, Women through the glass ceiling: gender asymmetries in Wikipedia, were that women in Wikipedia were more notable than men; that there was linguistic gender bias manifest in family-, gender-, and relationship-related topics being more present in biographies about women; and there was also linguistic gender bias in positive terms being used more frequently in the biographies of men while negative terms appeared more frequently in the biographies of women. The authors also found structural differences in terms of the metadata and hyperlinks, which had consequences for information-seeking activities. Wikipedia is only ever as good as the diversity of editors who engage with it, with many articles reflecting the perspective of white male English speakers in the northern hemisphere, and many of the topics covered reflect the interests of this relatively small group of editors. Wikipedia therefore needs a diverse community of editors to bring a range of perspectives and interests that truly represent human knowledge.
Awareness of this systemic gender bias has prompted the development of a tool called the Concept Replacer which simply highlights the gendered nouns and pronouns in the text of an article and temporarily shows you how a biography article of a notable woman would read if it was written instead as a biography for a man (and vice versa). This easy to use tool is useful for editors and article readers alike in order to help identify instances of unconscious bias at a glance. For instance, exposing why the marital status is included in the first lines about some biographies, and not others.
Wikipedia is also a community that operates with certain expectations and social norms in mind. Sometimes new editors can have a less than positive experience when they are not fully aware of this. As mentioned previously, there are over 130,000 regular contributors to Wikipedia. Of these, only 3,541 are considered ‘very active‘. That’s the population of a small village like Pitlochry in Scotland trying to curate the world’s knowledge.
There is a need to increase both the diversity and number of Wikipedia editors. One way to do that is to run ‘edit-a-thons’ and other facilitated activities that introduces some of the norms and expectations of the online platform while at the same time learning how to technically edit Wikipedia pages and create high quality content.
Despite this global campaign and investment to encourage more female editors and the creation of content related specifically to women, progress is slow. Since 2014, WikiProject Women in Red’s volunteer editors regularly help create in the region of 1000-2000 new articles every month. As a result, this has increased the proportion of biographies on women from 15% to 17.83% of the total. It has been estimated that it will take until 2050 or later until gender parity is achieved on Wikipedia.
Tackling this bias online requires collective responsibility. A number of actions at an individual, organisational and national level can be taken to bring about positive change.
“Women in STEM are under-represented and maybe the lack of role models is one reason why. Also biographies of women in STEM on Wikipedia are much fewer than they should be and maybe if we can change that, we can change the way future generations look at science and technology as a career path”
Firstly, those of all genders everywhere could commit time and energy to becoming dedicated Wikipedians, who regularly create female scientific biographies and other content related to women in science. Those who do so tend to benefit from a sense of reciprocity and altruism which results from the direct impact that Wikipedia has worldwide.
For instance, Dr. Jess Wade, a physicist and postdoctoral researcher in electronics at Imperial College London, attended a Wellcome Library editathon and was horrified to learn about the gender gap on Wikipedia.
“The majority of editors are men. The majority of editors are white men. So representation of people of colour, of LGBTQ+ people is really, really bad. So many young people use [Wikipedia] as the sole source of their information. They don’t use textbooks anymore. They go to Wikipedia first when they’re looking something up. And I don’t want that to be an incredibly biased view of the world… you could be looking up some kind of new solar material, you could be looking up a cathedral in Florence [but] the people that you read about will be men. And that really frightened me… So I just thought I’d start off by doing one a day. And yeah it’s really fun.”
Secondly, organisations in these fields could provide training for staff at all levels via edit-a-thons to build capacity for an inclusive, global, online community. Investing in a Wikimedian, an in-house expert that is dedicated to educating and supporting an organisation to contribute to Wikipedia, would enable larger institutions to permanently embed gender equality within their organisational culture.
Institutions that currently host, or have hosted, a Wikipedian in Residence include libraries (e.g. the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Wellcome Library), charities, museums, archives, the Royal Society of Chemistry, heritage organisations (eg. Museums Galleries Scotland), UNESCO and universities (University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford).
At the University of Edinburgh, discussion around meeting the information literacy and digital skills needs of staff and students, and how to better meet the university’s commitment to Athena SWAN led to working with Wikimedia UK. Research by Professor Allison Littlejohn at the Open University validated that running editathons at the University contributed to the formation of networks of practice and development of social capital.
“Editathons, if run well, can develop not just technical knowledge but also workplace cultural capital and networks. These are the things women need in STEM (science, technology, mathematics and engineering) workplaces. ” – Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal at the University of Edinburgh.
Participants also saw it as an important part of their professional development and felt that editing was a form of knowledge activism which helped generate important discussions about how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and how Wikipedia editors can positively impact on the knowledge available to people all around the world and addressing those knowledge gaps.
“It’s an emotional connection… Within, I’d say, less than 2 hours of me putting her page in place it was the top hit that came back in Google when I Googled it and I just thought that’s it, that’s impact right there!” Anita – editathon participant.
Thirdly, national policies across education, research and workforce development could put the spotlight on the powerful impact online platforms like Wikipedia have on women in science and recommend strategies to capitalise on them. For its part the University of Edinburgh has recommended that Wikipedia Women in Red editing forms part of its new four year action plan for meeting its commitment to the Athena SWAN charter by surfacing role models in ten academic disciplines; to encourage and inspire the next generation of immodest women.
“Search is the way we live now”
According to 2011 figures in the book “Google and the Culture of Search”, Google processed over 91% of searches internationally. Google’s ranking algorithm also narrows the sources clicked upon 90% of the time to just the first page of results.
American feminist scholar of 18th-century British literature, and a noted Wikipedian, Adrienne Wadewitz noted the important role in addressing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia and Google could have:
“Google takes information from Wikipedia, as do many other sites, because it is licensed through aCreative Commons Share-Alike license. Those little boxes on the left-hand side of your screen when you do a Google search? From Wikipedia. The information that is on Wikipedia spreads across the internet. What is right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the entire internet.”
More recently, researchers at the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University have underlined the substantial interdependence of Wikipedia and Google. The results of two deception studies, whose goal was to better demonstrate the relationship between Wikipedia and Google, demonstrated Google depends on Wikipedia and vice versa. Click through rate decreased by 80% if Wikipedia links were removed. Wikipedia was shown to depend on Google. 84.5% of visits to Wikipedia were noted to being attributable to Google.
This means that addressing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia will surface the knowledge to Google’s top results, help populate and power Google’s ‘Knowledge graph’ (presented as a box to the right of search results) and increase visibility, click through and knowledge-sharing. Wikipedia editing can be seen as a form of activism in the democratisation of access to information.
A powerful reminder of the impact Wikipedia can have can be seen among young women and girls, who often lack easily identifiable female role models to follow. Bringing female role models to the fore beyond the world of celebrity and reality television is something that both Girlguiding UK and psychologist Penelope Lockwood noted was necessary for female students to feel that success is possible in order to broaden their future career aspirations.
Last Summer, schoolgirls from across London were invited by the Mayor of London’s office to take part in a editathon at Bloomberg for London Tech Week to redress the gender balance on Wikipedia through adding new entries on women CEOs, editors, entrepreneurs, lawyers and artists. The hope is this will kickstart further editathons across London and the UK; to further empower students up and down the country that their contributions are valued and that there are inspirational people out there achieving success in fields they just might aspire to join.
A new Open Access book on Gender Equality in higher education, EqualBite, asserts that the problem is persuading girls to consider and apply for STEM courses in the first place when they could apply for any number of courses, given that girls outperform boys at school including in STEM subjects. Recognising women’s achievements and contributions through creating and editing Wikipedia articles can encourage the next generation to take up careers in science. This could help address workforce shortages across many STEM fields and generate significant amounts of economic growth through diversifying innovation and entrepreneurship. Beyond this, we need to look at how improving the visibility of women role models in the online world can better shape our physical environments. The University of Edinburgh Student Association has recently worked on a project to improve diversity in student spaces through replacing the all-male portraits on the walls with more diverse group of portraits to encourage a greater sense of belonging. Similarly, a project in Hertford College, Oxford to mark 40 years of women at the college specially commissioned photograph portraits of women graduates, staff and students to replace the all-male portraits on the walls. By increasing awareness of female achievements online, we can create more inclusive, more diverse, more representative, more empowering physical environments to help breed confidence and undo the negative impact this lack of representation engenders.
“Meanings are projected not just by the buildings themselves, but by how they are furnished and decorated. And where almost every image –portrait, photograph, statue – of academic achievement and leadership is masculine (and nearly always white middle-aged), the meaning is clear: to be a successful leader, gender and ethnicity matter.”
The benefits are clear but the scale of the challenge is massive. It has taken Women in Red editors two years to move the percentage of biographies of women on Wikipedia up by 2%. Looking to the future, Artificial Intelligence may prove one method to help address the gender gap. The software tool, Quicksilver, developed by San Francisco startup Primer has been created to help address the blind-spots on Wikipedia, with women in science a particular focus. Using machine-learning algorithms, Quicksilver searches the internet for news entries, links to sources, scientific citations and helps pull all this information together to auto-generate fully-sourced draft Wikipedia entries. This has since been tested at an editathon in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History.
“Maria Strangas, the museum researcher who organized the event, says it helped the 25 first-time editors update the pages for roughly 70 women scientists in just two hours. “It magnified the effect that event had on Wikipedia,” Strangas says.”
So far, over 40,000 summaries have been generated by the Quicksilver method. These entries then need proofread by Wikipedia editors before they can be added to Wikipedia’s livespace. Given that the number of ‘very active’ Wikipedia editors on English Wikipedia remains low at around 3,541 (the population of a small village) the importance of encouraging and empowering a diversity of editors to engage with Wikipedia editing is crucial in terms of increasing the visibility of inspirational female role models online to, in turn, encourage and empower the next generation of women in STEM whose scientific breakthroughs can continue to shape our world for the better.
It’s a little over a month until Ada Lovelace Day 2018 so do pop it in your calendar now and we’ll announce further details about the University’s plans on our Ada Lovelace Day website shortly.
This year the event will have a particular focus on Contemporary Women in STEM and #ALD2018 is to be hosted at the JCMB building (subject to room confirmation) with a evening networking event in the social space at the Joseph Black building (wine and nibbles supplied by the Royal Society of Chemistry).
There will be a range of guest speakers in the morning followed by fun STEM activities in the afternoon (see below for details). Full Wikipedia editing training will be given at 2-3pm. Thereafter the afternoon’s edit-a-thon will focus on improving the quality of Wikipedia articles related to ContemporaryWomen in STEM! This year we will also be hosting a Women in STEM data hackathon.
Following on from last year’s panel discussion, to close the day there will be a more informal discussion and networking event. Five guest speakers from a variety of career stages have been invited to say a few words to promote discussion inc. Dr. Jenni Garden, Christina Miller Research Fellow at the School of Chemistry and Professor Lesley Yellowlees.
All three events (morning, afternoon and evening) will be free and open to all so taking part in Ada Lovelace Day is as as easy as 1,2,3.
You can book to attend one session, two sessions or all three and booking will open very soon. Watch this space.
Who is your STEM heroine?
A regular activity for Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) at the University of Edinburgh is the Wikipedia editing event or editathon. This year the focus is contemporary women in STEM who do not currently have Wikipedia pages.
Nominate your contemporary STEM heroine for consideration at the Wikipedia editathon Tuesday 9th October. This should only take 5-10 minutes and it will really help us to create new role models for young and old alike on the world’s go-to source for information, Wikipedia.
Housekeeping and welcome from Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director or Learning, Teaching & Web Services.
Women in High Performance Computing (HPC) – Athina Frantzana
Introduction to the Gender and Equality Images Internship – Francesca Vavotici. This 10-minute talk will explore the role of the Gender and Equality Images Intern and will offer an overview of the Library and University collections. With such wealth of fascinating materials available, the talk will provide insight into the research process and share some of the highlights so far.
Women in STEM Society – Charlie and Yvonne.
Wellcomm Kings – Rosie and Izzy
Knitting Ada – Find out about how Madeleine Shepherd hacked her knitting machine to create a portrait of Ada Lovelace in yarn.
University of Edinburgh Physics Society – Olivia Jackson.
The morning session will close with elevator pitches for the drop-in activities in the afternoon.
Activities 12:30pm-5:30pm: Activities
Chaired by Stewart Cromar and James Slack (Information Services)
Edinburgh University hosts the UK national supercomputer, ARCHER, and many other machines available to Edinburgh researchers. This hands-on session will explain what High Performance Computing (HPC )is, what a supercomputer is, how to use it and what you can get out of it. We have run similar workshops previously under the “Women in HPC” initiative in UK and abroad and are keen to repeat the workshop for a local audience.
Edinburgh University Women in STEM Society Committee members: Yvonne Anderson, Charlie Simms, Sarah Aitkin, Lyndsey Scott, Serene Messai
Aim: To allow students to share and discuss their experiences at university, particularly women in STEM.
All participants are given postcards on which they can write a good or bad experience they have had during university to do with equality and diversity.We will have a whiteboard split into good and bad and will get people to put their postcard on the side that applies to them.
Outcome: Bringing up subjects such as unconscious bias and making people aware that sexism is a current problem within stem subjects. Focusing on positive stories but also ways of addressing the negative ones.
Chaired by Dr. Michael Seery, Director of Teaching at the School of Chemistry.
Venue: Social area at the School of Chemistry in Joseph Black building.
Following on from last year’s panel discussion, this will be a more informal discussion and networking event. Five guest speakers from a variety of career stages have been invited to say a few words to promote discussion inc. Dr. Jenni Garden, Christina Miller Research Fellow at the School of Chemistry and Professor Lesley Yellowlees.
Wine and nibbles provided by the Royal Society of Chemistry,
Previous Women in STEM editathons
Review the Wikipedia articles improved and created at previous ALD editathons:
In celebration of International Women’s Day (#IWD2018) watch footage from Ada Lovelace Day 2017 at the University of Edinburgh. Via Media Hopper Create you can watch and download a Creative Commons licenced (CC BY-SA) full HD version for sharing/repurposing/remixing!
The annual conference celebrating Wikipedia and its sister projects was held in the alpine town of Esino Lario in the province of Lecco, Northern Italy, this year.
It was my first but I am led to believe that this year’s venue, and this year’s conference in general, was quite different from the ones in years gone by; certainly the rural location was quite different from the Hilton Hotel in Mexico City in 2015 and the Barbican in London in 2014.
There was another gathering going on the day I left for the conference however: the EU referendum vote. Given that I was due to catch a 7.45am flight from Glasgow Airport on the day of the EU referendum, I left my vote in the hands of my girlfriend to vote on my behalf. (The thunder storms that delayed the flight from landing at London Heathrow should have been a portent for the political turmoil to come.)
However, I was in good spirits despite the delay and, even when the consequence of the London storm was that I missed my bus connection from Milan airport to Esino Lario, I was busy contemplating how it might be nice to spend a bit more time travelling by train from Milan Central to Varenna-Esino. Fortunately, I found myself in the same boat as Lucy Crompton-Reid, CEO of Wikimedia UK, who had been on the same flight. A quick chat with a terrifically pleasant Italian gentlemen at the Wikimania greeters’ table at the airport and a taxi was arranged to take us both the rest of the way to Esino Lario.
While we waited, and our charming Italian saviour checked our names off his list of expected delegates, we were told the sad tale of one particular delegate who earlier in the day had been told that his name definitely wasn’t on the list and would he mind checking the FIVE pages of names on the list himself to see that was the case. Perplexed, the man had taken one long look at the list and replied, “But I’m Jimmy Wales.” (Needless to say, I think he probably made it back to Esino Lario okay after that, especially after a few selfies were taken with the volunteers from the local high school.)
A picturesque drive through Alpine country to Esino Lario in the company of Lucy’s incredibly entertaining, but incredibly dark, sense of humour and I got settled into the family-run hotel I was to spend the next four nights in. Once registered, I was able to wind my way through the narrow cobbled side streets to meet with my fellow Wikimaniacs at the central reception area.
The experience of the first night’s good-humoured chats were typical of the whole conference; here were Wikimaniacs from all over the world ostensibly divided by different backgrounds, languages & cultures but who were all united by their passion for working collaboratively & sharing open knowledge through Wikimedia’s projects.
So it was with some shock that I discovered the next morning that the referendum result had been that the UK had chosen to turn its back on working together as part of the EU. It just ran contrary to everything that Wikimania, and Wikimedia in general, was all about. Consequently, Jimmy Wales in his keynote address at the opening ceremony could not help but address this seismic decision back home in Britain. Clearly emotional, Jimmy Wales referenced the murder of his friend Jo Cox MP, the EU referendum & Donald Trump, when he asserted that Wikipedia was not about the rhetoric of hate or division or of building walls but rather was about building bridges. Wikipedia was instead a “force for knowledge and knowledge is a force for peace and understanding.”
The focus of the programme for Wikimania 2016, therefore, was on Wikipedia as a ‘driver for change’.
Of course, I couldn’t get in to see the keynote in person. The venue, the Gym Palace, could only hold around six hundred people and with around 1200 Wikimaniacs, plus curious townspeople attending too, the venue and the wi-fi soon because saturated. Hence, a great many people, myself included, got turned away to watch the keynote opening ceremony via the live stream at a nearby hall. Unfortunately, the one thing that everyone had been worried about prior to the conference occurred; the wi-fi couldn’t cope and we were left with a pixelated image of the opening ceremony that got stuck in buffering limbo. Little wonder then that a massive cheer went up when the young Esino Lario volunteers put on a Youtube clip of ‘Cool cats doing crazy things’to keep the audience entertained while they desperately tried to fix the live stream.
The town of Esino Lario itself only has a population of around 760 inhabitants so the people of Esino Lario really did invite the 1000+ Wikimaniacs into their homes and I can honestly say that we were treated extremely well by our hosts. The hope is that the experience of hosting Wikimania in such a small town will have an enormous impact on the local economy & a legacy such that their young people, who worked as volunteers to help run the events and made sure we were well looked after in terms of espresso & soft drinks while we walked in the heat of the afternoon sun from venue to venue, may hopefully look to careers in tech and become the next generation of Wikimedians.
The rest of the conference brought no further technical problems and everyone seemed to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, and stunning views of the surrounding Alpine mountains, to learn & share both in formal presentations and informal discussions in-between times. There was also a preponderance of egalitarian community discussions to determine how each project should move forward which were recorded on Etherpad discussion pages (I made good use of these during the few days I was at the conference to follow real-time discussions at several venues at once.)
The ticketing system for meal times was a hit too as it meant you were allocated to a certain venue at a certain time so that you couldn’t stay in the same clique & always encountered new people to chat to over a delicious plate of pasta. The evening events – chocolate tasting, cheese & wine, evening hikes, line dancing, a live band, a falcon playing a theremin – all allowed for further discussions and it was a real pleasure to be able to learn through ‘play’ in such relaxed surroundings.
In terms of content, Wikidata proved its growing importance in the Wikimedia movement with a number of sessions threading through the conference and I was also pleased to see Open Street Map and Wikisource, the free content library, garnering greater attention & affection. The additional focus on education, especially higher education, with sessions on Wikipedia’s verifiability, the state of research on Wikipedia and the tidying up of citations was terrific to see. Overall though, it was great to see further focus on translation between Wikipedias and on areas of under-representation: on the gender gap and on the Global South in particular. As one session put it, there is only one international language: translation.
In a nutshell, the weather was hot, the espresso was hot and the whole town was a hotbed of ideas with people on every street corner discussing the projects they were working on or wanted to find out more about. #Brexit was the hot topic of conversation too but it felt a million miles away; completely unreal & counter-intuitive when the fruits of cross-border collaboration were there for all to see at every turn. People I had encountered only in the online world I was finally able to meet in the flesh and warmly discuss past, present & future collaborations. It was especially pleasing to be able to meet the Wikipedia Library’s Alex Stinson and my Edinburgh Spy Week: Women in Espionage editathon collaborator, Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight from WikiProject Women in Red, who deservingly had just been made Wikipedian of the Year for the work WikiWomeninRed had done in helping to address the gender gap. Warm hugs and warm handshakes about working together was what Wikimania meant to me.
Boarding the bus for the airport home on the Monday morning, I was able to listen in on Andrew Lih’s (author of ‘The Wikipedia Revolution’) roundtable discussion with the Wikimedia Foundation’s James Forrester and Cambridge University’s Wikimedian, Deryck Chan, about their reflections on Wikimania 2016 (as it was recorded as a podcast on the bus at the table of seats nearby).
Listening to their summary of proceedings while I looked out the window at the rolling Alpine foothills & waterfalls proved a nice full-stop to proceedings as it confirmed what UNESCO Wikimedian in Residence, John Cummings, had told me first and many, many others had said since… this was the best Wikimania ever.
Edinburgh Spy Week returned for a third year with an exciting programme of events exploring the secret worlds of spies and espionage in fiction and in fact. If you didn’t attend, here’s what you missed!
Click here to view the story of Spy Week 2016 in pics and tweets.
Spy Week was organised by the University of Edinburgh, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, the National Library of Scotland, and Edinburgh Filmhouse, and Blackwell’s Bookshop.
Women in Espionage
What was new for this year’s Spy Week was that the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services and Wikimedia UK organised a Wikipedia edit-a-thon focused on Women in Espionage on the afternoons of 13-14 April 2016 with Penny Fielding, Grierson Chair of English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, as our guest speaker.
The edit-a-thon then continued as a worldwide virtual event in collaboration with WikiProject Women in Red as, approximately, only 16% of the biographies on Wikipedia relate to notable women and WikiProject Women in Red’s aim is to add to and improve the coverage of individuals, events and resources related to women on Wikipedia. The aim of our edit-a-thon therefore was to do this with a focus on women in espionage.
5 new pages were created and 15 pages were edited by our attendees over the two afternoons on 13th & 14th April which was mightily impressive for two short afternoons’ work. It was great to see our editors uncover the incredible lives of these extraordinary women. It was also terrific to be able to use Wikipedia’s Content Translation tool to translate articles in other languages.
What was truly amazing was the volume of work that Wikiproject Women in Red achieved over the next week running the Women in Espionage edit-a-thon (from 13th April until the 20th of April) alongside their pre-planned events for April on Women Writers and Welsh Women.
An incredible 828 pages edited and 155 new pages created.*
*The figures include all Wikiproject Women in Red events for 13-20th April.
Here are the new articles created related to Women in Espionage.
Some truly fascinating stories:
Eileen Burgoyne – a Cold War Spy who worked for the British Government after the Second World War. Information about Eileen Burgoyne’s life as a spy emerged only after her death when weapons were found by builders at her former home sparked a bomb scare leading to an evacuation of her street. Police later found possessions and documents which revealed her involvement in the intelligence services.
Jessie Jordan – a Scottish hairdresser who was found guilty of spying for the German Abwehr on the eve of World War II.
Rozanne Colchester – joined Bletchley Park as a decoder. Post war she held an undisclosed role with the Secret Intelligence Service. Serving in Cairo and Istanbul where she helped investigate the double agent Kim Philby.
Marie Meyer – an American linguist and spy who worked for the National Security Agency from 1943-60. She was assigned to the Venona project and is credited with making some of the first recoveries of the Venona codebook. She studied eight foreign languages and was the first person to receive the NSA’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award.
Magda Fontanges – also known as Madeleine Coraboeuf, was a French actress, journalist and a spy for the Germany Secret Service between 1940 and 1943. Fontanges was found guilty of shooting Count Charles de Chambrun, the then French Ambassador to Rome, at the Gare du Nord on March 17. Fontanges accused the Comte De Chambrun of compromising her situation by revealing the details of her love affair with Mussolini to the then secretary of the French Embassy in Rome, M. Garnier. She was fined 100 Francs (1 Great British Pound), and given a suspended sentence due to having no previous criminal record.
Ginette Jullian: a French spy during the Second World War, she trained for the SOE, learning parachuting, security, and wireless operation.
Sarah Helm – a British journalist and non-fiction writer. She worked for The Sunday Times and The Independent in the 1980s and 1990s. Her first book, A Life in Secrets detailing the life of the secret agent Vera Atkins, was published in 2005.
Melissa Boyle Mahle – a writer and former Central Intelligence Agency officer in the Middle East. Her books include Denial and Deception: An Insider’s View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11. She acted as a consultant for the film Salt.
Minnie M. Kenny – served as a cryptanalyst, educator and equal opportunity activist who worked at the National Security Agency.
Astrid Dövle Dollis Dahlgren – nicknamed the “Scandinavian ‘Mata Hari'” was a Norwegian dentist and property dealer. After she became Swedish by marriage she worked for Nazi Germany during World War II.
Juliana Mickwitz – She was employed with the American military and later National Security Agency as a translator, linguist and cryptanalyst. She was inducted into the Cryptologic Hall of Honor in 2012.
Dorothy Blum – an American computer scientist and cryptanalyst. She wrote computer software for the NSA and spearheaded the effort to teach NSA employees to write cryptanalytic programs. She was using the Fortran programming language three years before its public release in 1957. Blum “significantly changed the way NSA did cryptanalysis”. She was also elected one of the top 100 “most outstanding women in the federal government”.
Dorothy T Blum 1924 1980
Josette Bruce – a French novelist of Polish origin. She is remembered for taking over the literary series OSS 117 about secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath after the death of her husband Jean Bruce, creator of the series.
Leslie Silbert – an American writer who has worked as a private investigator. In 2004, she published her first novel The Intelligience, a spy story based on an incident in the life of the British 16th-century author Christopher Marlowe.
Ruth A. David – an American electrical engineer. While at the CIA, David was responsible for encouraging the agency to pursue partnerships with the private sector and designed a proposal to procure technology at the stage of development from the private sector. She has been awarded the CIA Director’s Award, the Defense Intelligence Agency Director’s Award, the CIA Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the National Reconnaissance Officer’s Award for Distinguished Service, and the National Security Agency Distinguished Service Medal.
Ruth Mitchell – a reporter who was the only American woman to serve with the Serbian anti-Axis Chetnik guerrillas under Draža Mihailović in World War II. She was captured by the Gestapo and spent a year as a prisoner of war, later writing a book about her experiences. She also wrote a book about one of her brothers, General Billy Mitchell, who is regarded as the founder of the U.S. Air Force.
Grace Banker – a telephone operator who served during World War I (1917-1918) as Chief Operator of telephones of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. She was the leader of 33 women telephone operators known popularly as Hello Girls who were assigned from New York to travel to France and work at the war front in Paris, Chaumont to operate the telephone switch boards at the First Army headquarters. About her work in the war front she said that “the secrecy surrounding their operations gave it an aura of romance and set it apart from the civilian work.”
Stella Rimington – a British author and former Director General of MI5, a position she held from 1992 to 1996. She was the first female DG of MI5, and the first DG whose name was publicised on appointment.
Lise de Baissac – a heroine of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, a special agent who risked her life running her own operations; she was awarded several gallantry awards after the war.
Kim Philby – a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a double agent before defecting to the Soviet Union in 1963. He served as both an NKVD and KGB operative.
Pearl Witherington – a World War II Special Operations Executive agent. Given the code name “Marie”, Witherington was dropped by parachute into occupied France in September 1943, where she joined Maurice Southgate, leader of the Stationer Network. Over the next eight months, she worked as Southgate’s courier. After the Gestapo arrested Southgate in May 1944 who was subsequently deported to Buchenwald, she became leader of the new Wrestler Network, under a new code-name “Pauline”. Her story has been cited as the inspiration for the Sebastian Faulks novel Charlotte Gray.
Marie Christine Chilver also known by the codename Agent Fifi, was a British secret agent in World War II. Originally recruited after escaping the Nazis and helping a British airman return to England, she worked for the Special Operations Executive assessing and testing the security awareness of trainee secret agents.
Agent 355 – the code name of a female spy during the American Revolution, part of the Culper Ring. Agent 355 is one of the first spies for the United States, but her real identity is unknown. Agent 355 is thought to have played a major role in exposing Benedict Arnold and the arrest of Major John Andre.
Overall, the outcome of the edit-a-thon was really pleasing given that, potentially, sources could have been hard to find for these secretive but extremely notable women. But the feeling is we have hit a rich vein that could see us continue in future edit-a-thon sessions.
What is MORE pleasing is that, two weeks on, Wikipedia editors are continuing to create new pages using our event page’s hitlist of articles, even as late as yesterday, from all round the world; from locations as near as Northern England and as far away as continental Europe, Asia, Australia and the USA.
I went on holiday to Skye at the end of March so forgive my tardiness in relating how March’s Art & Feminism Wikipedia editathons went.
March saw Wikipedia editathon events for Women’s History Month which coincided with a number of other International Women’s Day events in Edinburgh & around the world as part of Wikipedia’s Women in Red project on Saturday 5th March and International Women’s Day on the 8th of March.
WikiProject Women in Red’s objective is to turn “redlinks” into blue ones within the project scope. The project scope includes women -real and fictional- their biographies and their works, broadly construed. From their webpage:
“Did you know that only 16.08% of the English Wikipedia’s biographies are about women? Not impressed? “Content gender gap” is a form of systemic bias, and Women in Red addresses it in a positive way. We do this by hosting edit-a-thons on various topics, and socializing the scope and objective via social media. We invite you to participate whenever you wish. There is no requirement to participate in everything we do, or to even sign up. If the objective and scope of our project interest you, please join in the discussion on our talkpage or jump in and create articles. You might like to start by participating in this April’s editathon on Women Writers. We warmly welcome you.”
However, the focus of Wikiproject Women in Redfor March was Women in Art as part of a worldwide series of events themed on Art & Feminism. Happily, out of the 45 female artists featured in the National Galleries of Scotland’s Modern Scottish Womenexhibition (which is on until June and well worth a visit) almost all are now recognised with a Wikipedia article (which certainly wasn’t the case when the exhibition opened in January) through the efforts of Sara Thomas and the Wiki editors who attended the three editathons we staged on this theme. The final six articles were worked on by our editors in the library and remotely on International Women’s Day itself with just one still awaiting completion.*
As mentioned earlier, if you would like to learn more about working with Wikipedia and find out how easy it is to edit using the new Visual Editor interface (which makes it more akin to utilising Microsoft Word or WordPress blogs these days) then I am running training sessions at the Main Library and the Edinburgh College of Art on 26th and 28th April (bookable through Event Booking).
You can also keep up with the residency at the Wikipedia Project Page:
The report on the successful editathon at the University of Pittsburgh, 4 months in the planning resulting in collaborations with Google Women and a full house of 80 participants, is included here: Report on Art & Feminism editathon at Pitt.
Our latest Wikipedia editathon event is for Spy Week 2016 in collaboration with Penny Fielding, (Grierson Professor of English Literature at the University of Edinburgh), Marco Polvara, Alice Kelly, Eugenia Twomey and our liaison librarians, Shenxiao Tong and Angela Nicholson).
The week begins with Dame Stella Rimington in Conversation with Prof Penny Fielding Date and time: Monday 11 April, 5.30pm-7pm Venue: 50 George Square Lecture Theatre What roles have women played in spy fiction, and how do they compare to the realities of women’s role in the history of espionage? Dame Stella Rimington, the first female director general of MI5 and author of the acclaimed Liz Carlisle spy fiction series, will discuss the questions in conversation with Professor Penny Fielding, Grierson Chair of English at the University of Edinburgh.
The week concludes with: Writing Spy Lives (A Panel Discussion with Jeremy Duns and Ben MacIntyre) Date and time: Friday 15 April, 5.30pm-7pm Venue: Project Room, 50 George Square How to write the biography of a spy – a subject who, by profession, must often conceal a true identity and fabricate fake ones in the line of duty? What challenges and opportunities are there for biographers seeking to uncover the story of the lives of spies involved in secret, and politically sensitive, international affairs? These and other questions raised by writing spy lives will be explored by spy novelist and biographer Jeremy Duns (Dead Drop: The True Story of Oleg Penkovsky and the Cold War’s Most Dangerous Operation (2013)), and historian, journalist and biographer Ben MacIntyre (Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal (2014)).
For the full programme of Spy Week guest speakers and activities please click here: http://www.spyweek.llc.ed.ac.uk/
Most events (aside from the films) are free, but ticketed via Eventbrite (see the event pages on the above website).
Wikipedia editathon for Spy Week 2016: Women in Espionage and Spy Fiction
For this particular event, the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services and Wikimedia UK are organising an editathon focused on Women in Espionage to celebrate Spy Week 2016 on 13-14 April 2016 near the other Spy Week venues in Teaching Studio LG.07, David Hume Tower Building, George Square, Edinburgh.Click here for Google Maps.
You can attend on one day or both days. Full training will be provided both days so new editors are very welcome to attend. If you have had Wikipedia training before, feel free to either start editing immediately on arrival or arriving a little later to skip the training portion of the afternoon. If you’d like to take part in the virtual event hosted by Women in Red. You can sign up here to participate.
This Wikimedia event forms part of Spy Week 2016 as a day of celebration which helps people learn about the achievements of women in espionage, inspiring others and creating new role models for young and old alike. Did you know that approximately only 16% of the biographies on Wikipedia relate to notable women? The aim of our editathon is to add to and improve the coverage of individuals, events and resources related to women in espionage.
Helpful updates could be as simple as: Making sure reference links are still appropriate and functional; Adding new inline citations/references; Adding a photo; Adding an infobox; Adding data to more fields in an existing infobox; Creating headings; Adding categories; etc.
The following is a small sample of topics and women to work on, with thanks to Megalibrarygirl for getting the ball rolling.