A short history of the Wikibase Community User Group

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 The founders of the user group seemed no longer active in the Wikimedia movement (one did not edit Wikimedia projects for years, and the other one deleted their Wikimedia account).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 (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:

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 (and 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 for instance also this one).

The Wikimedia Summit was later cancelled because of the pandemic.

Aftermath

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.

Another history of Denelezh

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.

Events

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

The overlaps

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:

In practice, even with different methodologies, the tools provide roughly the same kinds of statistics.

The features

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.

Issues

While starting to develop 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:

As a consequence, they durably undermined community work about the study of the gender gap in the content of Wikimedia projects.

Solving Project Euler problems with SPARQL and Wikidata

Founded in 2001, Project Euler is a website offering a series of more than 700 mathematical problems that you can solve with the programming language of your choice. Unsurprisingly, Python, C/C++, and Java are the most popular languages used by visitors of the website. I wanted to know if it was possible to use Wikidata and its SPARQL endpoint to solve these problems.

Spoiler: this post gives the solution of the first problem and discusses how to solve the second. Don’t hesitate to first go to Project Euler and to find the solutions by yourself.

Problem 1

The objective of the first problem is to find the sum of all the multiples of 3 or 5 below 1,000.

Let’s find all natural numbers in Wikidata, with their numerical values:

SELECT ?item ?value {
  ?item wdt:P31 wd:Q21199 ; wdt:P1181 ?value .
}
ORDER BY ?value

As you can see, Wikidata has more than 10,000 items about natural numbers. Some values are duplicated, like Q199 (the number 1) and Q713113 (the number 0.999… which is equal to 1).

Let’s remove the duplicates and filter the numbers to keep only the ones below 1,000:

SELECT DISTINCT ?value {
  ?item wdt:P31 wd:Q21199 ; wdt:P1181 ?value .
  FILTER (?value < 1000) .
}
ORDER BY ?value

There are exactly 999 numbers between 1 and 999, so none is missing.

Let’s keep only the numbers that are the multiples of 3 or 5, by checking that their division by 3 or 5 has no remainder:

SELECT DISTINCT ?value {
  ?item wdt:P31 wd:Q21199 ; wdt:P1181 ?value .
  FILTER (?value < 1000 && (floor(?value / 3) = (?value / 3) || floor(?value / 5) = (?value / 5))) .
}
ORDER BY ?value

Here are the results.

Now, we just have to sum the numbers:

SELECT (SUM(DISTINCT ?value) AS ?sum) {
  ?item wdt:P31 wd:Q21199 ; wdt:P1181 ?value .
  FILTER (?value < 1000 && (floor(?value / 3) = (?value / 3) || floor(?value / 5) = (?value / 5))) .
}

And Wikidata gives us the solution of the problem!

Problem 2

The objective of the second problem is to find the sum of even Fibonacci numbers below 4,000,000.

Let’s find Fibonacci numbers available in Wikidata:

SELECT ?value {
  ?item wdt:P31 wd:Q47577 ; wdt:P1181 ?value .
}
ORDER BY ?value

Only the twenty first ones, below 10,000, are known in Wikidata. As a general-purpose database, Wikidata is certainly not made to store every existing numbers under 4,000,000. It makes the method previously used in the first problem not applicable here.

At the moment, I don’t see any simple solution to solve this second problem using Wikidata’s SPARQL endpoint, and probably neither to the following ones. Maybe you can do it?

For your information, more complex problems, not related to Project Euler, have been solved using SPARQL, outside of Wikidata’s endpoint, like Sudoku (for instance here or there).