Here is my candidacy for group contact of the Wikibase Community User Group.
I’m Envel Le Hir, a data architect, working part time for a major IT Company in France (unrelated to any work about Wikibase and the Wikimedia movement). I’m an active Wikimedian since 2015, with nearly 400K edits on Wikidata.
In the Wikidata community:
- I contributed mostly about biographies (French politicians, French National Library, family names, etc.).
- I developed Denelezh, a tool that provides statistics about the gender gap in the content of Wikimedia projects. Its replacement by Humaniki is in progress, result of the collaboration of several Wikimedians on this topic.
- I organized and took part in several presentations and workshops about Wikidata, from my local group to international conferences.
- I built the ice breaker of WikidataCon 2019 🙂
I’ve also been involved in the “meta” of the Wikimedia Movement. For instance, I helped solving the crisis that shook Wikimédia France in 2017, by starting the legal process to hold an anticipated general assembly, by representing the chapter at Wikimania 2017 and by being a member of the electoral committee during the most complicated assembly in the history of the chapter.
I have no conflict of interest (to be completely transparent, I worked a few months in a wiki-related startup more than three years ago). I am a member of Wikimédia France, the French Wikimedia chapter, and of April, a French non-profit organization promoting free software.
Involvement in Wikibase and in the Wikibase Community User Group
Specifically on the Wikibase Community User Group:
- I organized two online meetings of the user group (2020-02-20 and 2021-06-09).
- I started, wrote the largest part, involved the community to its writing, and submitted the 2019 annual report of the user group.
- I started and contributed to the 2020 and 2021 annual reports of the user group.
- I improved the structure of the pages about the user group on Meta (automatic discussions archival, navigation box, etc.).
- I’m involved in the main communication channels of the user group.
Plan as a group contact of the Wikibase Community User Group
Here are the topics I would like to work on as a group contact of the Wikibase Community User Group:
- Clarify the roles of the two affiliates, the Wikibase Community User Group and Wikimedia Deutschland.
- The current position of Wikimedia Deutschland is confusing. At the same time, they state that they don’t want to be involved in the organization of the user group and they also organize meetings in the name of the user group. In my opinion, this leads to less engagement of the Wikibase community in the organization of the user group (for instance, people are less likely to write reports about events they didn’t organize). To my knowledge, the Wikimedia Foundation informally advised Wikimedia Deutschland to stop using the name of the Wikibase Community User Group, and Wikimedia Deutschland chose to ignore this advice.
- A solution could be the signing of a formal agreement between the user group and Wikimedia Deutschland. The goal is to have a real and mutual collaboration between the two affiliates, not a hierarchical relationship.
- Organize meetings of the user group, in a more inclusive and collaborative way.
- Open community decision for the recurrent schedule (the choice of the WLS schedule is an excellent example of the survivorship bias).
- Open community agenda, not something:
- made up by a single person who states they don’t want to be involved in the organization of the user group,
- announced three days in advance.
- Free the mailing-list.
- Take back the control of the mailing-list from its inactive founders.
- Make it more active. For instance, by:
- making its existence known to the Wikibase community,
- forwarding some discussions that take place only on the Wikidata mailing list.
- Share its management with Wikimedia Deutschland if they are interested.
- Restart the Wikibase Registry.
- At the moment, it is managed by a Wikimedia Deutschland employee on their free time. As a consequence, it takes time to solve issues, like this one (I can’t access my account because I lost my password and emails are broken).
- A technical upgrade would be welcome so the Wikibase Registry could be used to showcase Wikibase features. This could maybe be done with WBStack?
- Promote the service so more people register their Wikibase projects. The proactive approach used by Paul-Olivier Dehaye at WikidataCon 2019 was excellent and should be reproduced.
- As a Wikimedia affiliate, strengthen the link between the Wikimedia movement and the Wikibase Community User Group, especially because the Wikibase community is essentially composed of institutions outside the Wikimedia movement.
Some of these actions can be done without being a group contact and I hope to work on them, regardless of the outcome of the election.
This could have been my candidacy. However, I don’t think I’m a suitable candidate for this position and I will not run for it. I hope the chosen representatives will adopt some of my ideas.
Wikibase logo by H. Snater, CC BY-SA 3.0.
This post is only a short summary, that does not mean to be perfect, and is part of a series, yet to be written. See also Another history of Denelezh.
The User Group
The Wikibase Community User Group is an organization, founded by Laura Hale and Miguel Paraz, to support Wikibase outside of Wikidata. For instance, its members created the Wikibase mailing list and the first Wikibase group on Telegram. The Wikibase Community User Group is independent from Wikimedia Deutschland, the organization that develops Wikibase, and was formed when Wikimedia Deutschland was not really promoting Wikibase outside of Wikidata.
The Wikibase Community User Group is a recognized affiliate of the Wikimedia Foundation, which gives several rights, like using the logos of the Wikimedia movement, applying for specific grants, taking part in strategic discussions of the Wikimedia Foundation with other affiliates, or voting for the affiliate-selected board seats of the Wikimedia Foundation.
In 2019, the Wikibase Community User Group was inactive. The founders of the user group seemed no longer active in the Wikimedia movement (one did not edit Wikimedia projects for years, and the other one deleted their Wikimedia account). As I believe in the usefulness to have an active Wikibase community user group, that can be a complement to Wikimedia Deutschland, I tried to revive it. For instance, I wrote a large part of the 2019 report, invited the community to improve it and submitted it. I also applied to represent the user group at the Wikimedia Summit.
Wikimedia Summit 2020
The Wikimedia Summit is the annual conference of the Wikimedia Foundation affiliates. While it is organized by Wikimedia Deutschland, it is fully funded by the Wikimedia Foundation. The conference has strict eligibility criteria for participants, for instance up to one representative per user group.
Designation of a representative
There was immediately an issue with my application: two people applied as the representative of the Wikibase Community User Group. After discussing with the other one, it seemed that, while they had no interested in Wikibase, they were given the slot by the founders of the user group. They stated that they had no intention to leave it. I notified the community, who promptly reacted, starting a public vote to “untie the knot”.
Simultaneously, I also notified Lydia Pintscher and Léa Lacroix, as they were, at that time, the people I knew at Wikimedia Deutschland interacting with the Wikibase community, and shared with them the discussions I had with the other candidate. Léa Lacroix immediately came to chat with me, explaining that Wikimedia Deutschland “had tensions” with the founders of the Wikibase Community User Group, detailing some of the issues, and clearly showing that they were supporting my application.
The other candidate quickly withdrew their participation after the public vote started. However, this led to a harsh comment from María Sefidari (at that time chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees), who is personally linked to one of the founders of the Wikibase Community User Group.
The Wikibase community started to discuss the organization of the user group and what it can achieve. I proposed to organize a meeting on the topic. The idea was publicly endorsed by Lydia Pintscher, who also thanked the community for its actions on this case and the fact that we had “proper representation” at the Wikimedia Summit.
Even with a satisfactory outcome, this episode was intense and very stressful for me.
I took the time to read a lot of documentation and to contact several people, like experienced Wikimedians, to better understand how the issue could be solved permanently and what the community could achieve with the user group.
Preparation of the Summit
A month later, I contacted Samantha Alípio, Lydia Pintscher and Léa Lacroix (Jens Ohlig was immediately added to the conversation) to pursue the discussions and to prepare the first meeting of the user group and the Wikimedia Summit. I wanted to discuss several things, including:
- I explained my intention to start a public vote to elect the group contacts of the Wikibase Community User Group.
- During previous discussions, Wikimedia Deutschland told me that the founders of the user group kept control of some tools, like the Wikibase mailing list, and asked a list of these tools. I stated that, in my opinion, as for the Telegram group, their management should be shared with Wikimedia Deutschland and that Wikimedia Deutschland is more reliable than volunteers to keep the keys of such tool and to grant permissions to volunteers when needed.
- I also asked to be involved in the preparation of the the Wikimedia Summit when it was related to Wikibase, as they started to organize a Wikibase meetup, without even notifying me, even though the meetups are normally designed for the participants of the Summit.
The only person who replied (the one who explained that Wikimedia Deutschland “had tensions” with the founders of the user group) was this time hostile and undermined the conversation.
As we were going nowhere, I tried to have a direct chat with them to solve the issue. At that point, I was told that the Wikibase Community User Group had no legitimacy and was accused of wanting to control the actions of Wikimedia Deutschland.
As a volunteer, this was starting to be really upsetting. However, I sent another email to everyone to ease the tensions, reminding them of the previous discussions, explaining again my intentions, and making clear that I wanted us to work together on these events. I had no reply.
In a separate conversation, while she at first recognized that her behavior was inappropriate (this was later publicly retracted), Léa Lacroix added more fuel to the fire and also made it clear that they would not help.
Given the situation, I realized that I would not have any constructive collaboration with Wikimedia Deutschland about the meeting and asked Andra Waagmeester to finish its preparation. During the meeting, Wikimedia Deutschland only stated that they did not want to be involved in the Wikibase Community User Group.
Disgusted by what happened (at the same time, they were personally asking for my help for one of their projects, as they did several times in the past years) and unable to see how I could attend the Wikimedia Summit with such hostility, I withdrew my participation to the event. I notified the community, stating publicly that it was “for personal reasons” to avoid drama.
Franziska Heine from Wikimedia Deutschland contacted me a few days later, proposing a call. I thanked her, but declined, as I did no longer see how to work with them after all that happened (there was this episode, but also this one and others…).
The Wikimedia Summit was later cancelled because of the pandemic.
Andra tried to pursue the efforts to organize the Wikibase Community User Group. Sadly, he received no real help and eventually gave up.
A few months later, Wikimedia Deutschland effectively took over the Wikibase Community User Group. They now organize its monthly meetings, reusing the format that I put in place. Unlike the meeting organized by volunteers, they fully promote theirs, using all their network.
Their 2020 development plan specifies the organization of “Wikibase community calls”, unrelated to the user group. When Wikimedia Deutschland could have organized separate meetings, consistently with their position of being only “bystander” of the user group, they jumped at the chance to take it over. At the same time, they publicly state that the Wikibase Community User Group is a “community initiative” that is “self-organized and that is independent of the structures within WMDE”. If Wikimedia Deutschland were consistent with their statement, they wouldn’t organize the meetings of the user group and would have set up the Wikibase Live Sessions outside the user group.
In my opinion, the strategy of Wikimedia Deutschland is to maintain the confusion between the Wikibase community and the Wikibase Community User Group (as the confusion that can exist between a project like the French Wikipédia and a chapter like Wikimédia France). I also think that they hoped that nobody would notice nor would be interested to solve the risk of derecognition of the user group (they waited for the point to be raised by a volunteer to discuss it, when they could have immediately incited the community to work on the issue). Thus, they would no longer be bothered by an official structure that they consider to be concurrent. If I’m wrong, I would be happy to read a consistent clarification from Wikimedia Deutschland about their position towards the Wikibase Community User Group.
To be clear, I’m happy that Wikimedia Deutschland finally got involved in the Wikibase Community User Group and I would be happy to work with them. However, this can only be done in a safe environment, where everyone treats others with respect and plainly take responsibility for their actions and positions.
This post is only a short summary and is part of a series, yet to be written. See also A short history of Denelezh and A short history of the Wikibase Community User Group.
In 2014, Maximilian Klein built Wikidata Human Gender Indicators (WHGI), a tool that provided statistics about the gender gap in the content of Wikipedia.
In 2017, after a few weeks of work on my free time, I released a proof of concept, the first version of Denelezh, a tool that provides statistics about the gender gap in the content of Wikidata and Wikimedia projects. One of the innovations of my tool was the ability to combine several dimensions to gather specific statistics (for instance country of citizenship + occupation = French politicians), which required a completely different architecture from WHGI. Wikimedia Deutschland was aware of Denelezh, as they cited it at Wikimania 2017 and WikidataCon 2017.
In 2018, I discovered that Wikimedia Deutschland was building another tool, WDCM Biases Dashboard, on the same topic, with a full team involved. At that time, I paused the development of my tool, published an overview of my plans, and contacted Wikimedia Deutschland, looking for information about their project, worried by the overlaps in the features of our tools.
At first, Wikimedia Deutschland blamed their external consultant, Goran S. Milovanović from DataKolektiv. They then provided inconsistent answers, for instance alternatively stating that their project was finished and then that it was still under active development. I took the time to explain several times to Wikimedia Deutschland that I wanted to apply for a Wikimedia grant for Denelezh and that I did not want our tools to unnecessarily overlap, pointing out that it was already the case. Lydia Pintscher, Product Manager for Wikidata, and Léa Lacroix, Project Manager Community Communication for Wikidata, both promised to come back to me. Despite several reminders, they never did.
After five months of confusion, considering that it was not possible as a volunteer to maintain my tool (building a proof of concept and maintaining it are two different things), that Wikimedia Deutschland was actively developing an equivalent of it and was refusing to communicate their intentions, and that it was too risky to devote time and to apply for a Wikimedia grant as features of the tools were overlapping, I decided to discontinue mine.
The community started to ask questions. DataKolektiv quickly replied, recognizing the overlaps between the tools, providing useful explanations and asking Wikimedia Deutschland for guidance. They then removed their message. Wikimedia Deutschland contradicted DataKolektiv, denying that the features of the tools overlap. Then, while Wikimedia Deutschland has refused to communicate for several months, they denied their responsibility on the outcome, expressed fake compassion, and trolled me, stating that one can apply for a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation if needed and that they can offer their help in that matter. I did not feed the troll. Because of the situation, the opportunity of an application for a Wikimedia grant was missed in November 2018.
In the meantime, Wikimédia France contacted me to help with Denelezh. Thanks to them, Denelezh was back online a few months later.
In 2019, Maximilian Klein and I decided to merge our tools (WHGI and Denelezh), sharing our efforts and relying on our experience in the domain. This led to the project Humaniki, with a grant application in February 2020. DataKolektiv endorsed the application, Wikimedia Deutschland did not.
About the tools
Wikimedia Deutschland states that “the two projects [Denelezh and WDCM Biases Dashboard] are quite different”. It is true that the tools rely on slightly different methodologies. However:
- Anthere, an experienced volunteer working on the gender gap, noticed the overlaps.
- DataKolektiv, the data scientist working on WDCM, recognized the overlaps.
- In June 2020, Martin Gerlach, Research Scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation, produced a state of the art on the metrics for quantifying the gender content gap in Wikimedia projects. He was unable to notice the difference of methodology between the tools.
In practice, even with different methodologies, the tools provide roughly the same kinds of statistics.
Except for a small part, the tool made by DataKolektiv and Wikimedia Deutschland is only a subset of the features provided by Denelezh. Particularly, you can’t combine dimensions with WDCM (for instance, the analysis country of citizenship + occupation = French politicians is not possible).
Wikimedia Deutschland stated that their tool was based on a request made by a volunteer. This volunteer wrote to me that WDCM Biases Dashboard does not cover their needs.
While starting to develop a tool:
- DataKolektiv did not study the state of the art on the subject, as they should have done in their role of data scientist.
- Wikimedia Deutschland did not involve the community:
- the people likely to use the tool,
- the people experienced to build such a tool.
As a consequence, they took one year with a lot of resources to develop a tool that provides only few original and useful features and that does not cover the needs of the community.
When the community reached them:
- DataKolektiv and Wikimedia Deutschland made inconsistent declarations.
- Wikimedia Deutschland made promises they did not keep.
- Wikimedia Deutschland did not take responsibility for their decisions and actions.
- Wikimedia Deutschland did not provide any practical help, nor tried to fix the “mess” they created.
As a consequence, they durably undermined community work about the study of the gender gap in the content of Wikimedia projects.