Hacklab Belgrade

•May 6, 2013 • Comments Off

If you read my blog, you are probably a Wikimedian or someone close to the Wikimedia movement. So I suppose you probably know that I have become a candidate for the WMF Board. Within this one and my future blog posts I will introduce myself and my program in more detail.

My first post will be a personal story, a story about a great place and community which I have been devoted to for about more than a year. The place I am talking about is Hacklab Belgrade (hklbgd).

Even though its official date of creation is March 2012, the story of hklbgd starts in 2005. The Wikimedian community, which created Wikimedia of Serbia and Montenegro (today Wikimedia Serbia) at the end of the same year, at the time already had its regular meetings at Belgrade’s Youth Cultural Center. As we were the only free content group with a place for meetings, naturally we were willing to share it with other similar organizations.

It wasn’t long before the Linux User Group Belgrade appeared (it evolved into the group Skill Share — Razmena vestina). And so, on a number of occasions the Wikimedian community and LUG shared a large room for their meetings.

I met Marko Djordjevic, LUG’s leader, and we soon became friends. Whether it was localizing Creative Commons licenses, organizing local and regional events or participating in a feminist organization, during the past years we cooperated closely on a number of occasions.

But there was one thing missing: a hackerspace. I knew that Wikimedia Serbia would get an office eventually, but time was passing and it wasn’t happening.

That’s when we benefited from our extensive networking. During the summer of 2011 Désirée Miloshevic, former (and future?) Internet Society Board member, approached our friend Aleksandar Blagojevic, the leader of the Serbian Pirate movement, with the idea to create a hackerspace and donate her flat for it.

Aleksandar and Marko got in touch and then Desiree and Marko spent the fall and winter adapting the interior and exterior of Desiree’s apartment for the future hacklab. (Note that Hacklab opened more than half a year before Wikimedia Serbia got their offices. During that time the Wikinews editors and the WMRS Board had regular meetings in hklbgd.)

And this is where the main part of the story begins…

Marko and I spent a lot of time discussing how we wanted to build our hackerspace and how we did not.

We knew what some hackerspaces were like. And we concluded a couple of things:

  • We didn’t want to have a space reserved exclusively for geeks. We didn’t want to create a self-sufficient space, where the most interesting talks would be about arcade games, D&D characters, and programming in bf. We wanted a lively place, where people from other fields, interested technically and/or ideologically in free content movements, would be willing to come and participate.
  • Marko and I are feminists and we know how empty spaces can be without women. An important goal for us was to create a place where women would feel safe, a place where they would be able to participate equally.
  • A community filled with people of a similar age is a dead community. It is important to make it open and attractive to newer generations.

I owe you a detailed story about the goings-on during the past year: which stories turned out to be successful, which ones did not; which things fall within general truths and which ones come as a result of the social circumstances in Belgrade. (In the meantime, you can read Maximillian’s report from his visit to hklbgd.) But now I would like to return to the present.

Hacklab Belgrade is a non-formal and a non-hierarchical community. There isn’t a formal membership and active people can have more influence than the inactive ones, a rule which doesn’t exclude even the people who founded it. The membership fee is not mandatory, but those of us with good salaries usually participate with 10-20 euros per month.

Our program varies. Some ideas last, some of them reduce, some expand. Presently, this is what our week looks like:

  • Monday evening: Pirate movement meetings.
  • Tuesday afternoon to evening: PHP workshop consisting of a self-organized group, an initiative made by women.
  • Wednesday evening: Python.
  • Thursday: Drupal (has’t been too active for the last few months, but was once the most regular workshop)
  • Friday early afternoon: GNU/Linux administration workshop, lead by me.
  • Friday evening: Web frameworks in Python.
  • Sarturday afternoon: Electronics.
  • Saturday evening: Movie night.
  • Sunday afternoon: Computer science workshop.

A year after it was founded, after a lot of involvement from dozens of people, Hacklab Belgrade has become an extraordinary place. We have people from hacker spaces from neighbouring countries asking us: What’s the catch? How have you managed to make such a good hackerspace?

The answers are simple and written above: welcoming people who are just willing to be introduced to internet technologies and free content ideologies; women in the hackerspace; and a wide range of generations.

During the last year, the members of our community have become close friends. We support each other, teach and learn, go to parks and enjoy night life together. And we adopt every new member as a close friend, too.

I have a very particular benefit, as well. Some of you may have noticed how my English got better. Thanks to Milijana :)

Do you know where I am from?

•August 25, 2011 • 1 Comment

(The event below happened in February 2011. I didn’t want to spread this as it sounds a bit embarrassing. But, anonymized it could pass.)

It was about chapters. And here are brief points from emails:

  • Someone from WMF: “Hello, we want to make IRC meeting of Asian chapters.” — representatives of chapters on the list, visible from the extensions of their emails or from their names: Hong Kong, Ukraine, <Chinese name with Gmail account>, myself, Macedonia, Philippines, Indonesia.
  • Indonesian: “Sorry, we are too busy and have some internal issues, so we won’t be able to attend the meeting.”
  • Filipino: “It will be too late for us, but I’ll try to manage to attend.”
  • <Chinese name>: “On which channel the meeting would be?”
  • Someone from WMF: “As nobody except you said anything, it is likely that it will be on #wikimedia-hk.” — this time email was sent to me and to <Chinese name>. Note that I didn’t say anything.
  • <Chinese name>: “My chapter is Wikimedia Taiwan.”

Consequently, I concluded that I am from Hong Kong. I didn’t know that before, but I am always open for self-insights.

Political opinions on Wikimania

•August 11, 2011 • Comments Off

(Don’t worry, this anecdote is not about Israeli-Palestinian relations.)

  • French: I am an anarchist, but I vote for Greens.
  • German: I vote for Greens, as well.
  • Austrian: I vote for Greens, too.
  • Serbian: I am an anarchist and I don’t vote. […] Political mainstream in Serbia is fully corrupted and the only “alternative” is for American-style capitalism.
  • Canadian: What a choice! You can vote for corrupted politicians or for morons.

My interview to Gerard Meijssen

•June 6, 2011 • Comments Off

I’ve given an interview to Gerard Meijssen.

Answers to the User:Alecmconroy questions for WMF Board candidates

•May 27, 2011 • Comments Off

Alec M. Conroy has made the list of questions for Wikimedia Board candidates. Here are my answers.

Appetizers

  • Is Wikimedia most like a library, a school, a museum?  something else?

Wikimedia is a movement in its early stages of development.

  • Of the other candidates, who do you most support?

Kat. Other candidates have their own virtues, but I wouldn’t be able to say so surely who should be the third one, counting that I would be elected. If Sj is more active, I would be sure. I like Ting personally, but he has changed considerably during the past year or two: from community advocate he has become more authoritarian and more elitist. Gerard Meijssen is my friend, he is often hard for communication, but he is good worker. Patricio Lorente is a good guy, but I would like to hear from him more broader positions. James Forester and especially Lodewijk Gelauff are young enough that they will be Board members in the future, for sure — if they wouldn’t abandon that idea.

I don’t know other candidates well to have precise opinion about them.

  • Do you have a favorite article (or more) that illustrates the ‘best’ of Wikipedia?  Favorite on other projects?

No, but I like to edit articles related to Antarctica.  Long time passed since I edited those articles last time, but it is likely that I will continue with it.

  • Of the current board members, who do you think is our most effective leader / who do you look to as a role model?

Kat has her own place inside of the Board as guardian of the core values, but she is too quiet to be effective leader. Jimmy wants to be a leader, he has his own virtues, but he is not effective leader. Other Board members do their job, but they are not effective leaders. Sj could be if he devotes more time to Wikimedia. Sue and Erik are more leader-type than any of Board member. None of the Board members is my role model.

  • What’s your Myers-Briggs type– here’s a test if needed.  (I can’t imagine the answer themselves directly affecting any votes– but it’s sorta fun and might help people understand your other responses)

Extraverted 22%, Intuitive 88%, Feeling 12%, Judging 1%; that gives the type ENFJ.

WM in Politics/Activism/Law

  • Should WMF have an advocacy role in any circumstances? If so, broadly speaking, how do we decide what issues to take a position on?

All advocacy roles should be movement-wide, not WMF-specific. Speaking about movement, I think that it should have advocacy roles, but the movement itself should define it.

  • Does the WM Movement have a role to play in local, national and international politics?  If so, what does that role look like in the future?

Yes, but moving toward such position should be made carefully and in coordination with the movement as a whole.

Our first influence is promoting free knowledge and surrounding areas. The second one is international cooperation. While building a framework for its own work, Wikimedia entity is being necessarily involved in politics on appropriate level. At some point it wouldn’t be possible to avoid it, and it is better to be prepared for that role.

And we have a lot of things to give to all levels of human society. Free knowledge, cooperation, deep knowledge of different cultures are just the top of the iceberg of our possible contributions to any society.

  • What can we do to help those directly-affected by ‘The Arab Spring’?  What can the WM movement do collectively do for those nations? What can the WMF foundation do? What can individual wikimedians do?

Speaking about the present moment of Wikimedia movement, we should keep our work on free knowledge.

Personally but not officially, I would encourage people to help any democratic movement which doesn’t diverge from the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Officially, I would encourage Wikimedians to help other Wikimedians living in countries with political problems.

  • If it were feasible, should the foundation promote ‘internet freedom’– that is, advocate for or active provide unfiltered internet access to citizens of repressive regimes?

We have to be careful in such situations. The main reason is very obvious fact that even the Western societies don’t have consensus about what is acceptable and what isn’t on Internet. At least significant minority (but likely majority of general Western population) think that we shouldn’t have depictions of sexual acts even they are for educational purposes.

Thus, if one population doesn’t have visibly expressed will of at least significant minority toward less censored information, we shouldn’t interfere.

Summarized, I would put our role inside of helping particular persons (and movements like Arab spring is; but note that it’s particularly clear case, not comparable with a lot of contemporary history events), but outside of political activism.

Primary role of Wikimedia movement is to create and deliver knowledge. We should be able to deliver knowledge to the people under repressive regimes and we can’t do that if we are involved in political activism.

  • If it were feasible, should the foundation promote ‘universal internet access’– that is, advocating for or actually providing computer&internet access to impoverished peoples?

Yes. Without internet access we are not able to deliver knowledge in full scale.

  • Should the WMF promote “Net Neutrality” in the US?

Yes. Unlike activism in countries with repressive regimes, we are fully able to deliver knowledge in US, which means that we should strive there to other goals compatible with our ideals.

  • Should WMF advocate any position on copyright reform?

Yes. Our movement is based on free content. Ideally, we don’t want copyright to exist.

Movement Vision, Scope

  • What’s our Big Purpose?  What’s our Mission?  Jimmy Wales famously said “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”  Without quoting or paraphrasing, how would you say it?

Creating and delivering knowledge to every single person is the goal of Wikipedia and we are doing very good job.

However, Wikimedia movement purpose is not just that. The purpose is to participate in building new world based on principles of cooperation. (I wrote a text about it.)

  • What is the “big new exciting amazing thing” that the Wikimedia Movement could potentially accomplish in the next five years?

Regaining younger generations. At this moment that’s the most important thing which we have to do.

That process includes many “big new exciting amazing things” and, if elected, I would encourage Wikimedians to propose new projects, of which we would choose the best, the biggest, the most exciting and the most amazing.

  • Can WM host a ‘non-educational’ project if we want to?  For example, suppose there was a multiplayer online game targeted at Israeli and Palestinian children, in the hopes that this childhood experience will promote future peace.   If there’s a broad consensus that the non-educational project would bring good in a clear way,  could we host it if we wanted to?

Likely not during the next two years, but I think that the time will come when it would become completely acceptable and feasible.

  • Should promoting “free culture” a goal in and of itself for the WM movement?

I would say that we should promote free society, not just “free culture”.

By the way, I have a problem with the phrase “free culture”. The phrase is oxymoronic or nonsense buzzword at best. Culture by itself is a set of rules, which makes it impossible to be “free”.

It is possible to have “non-violent culture” or “tolerant culture”, as it implies that specific [non-written] rules define culture as non-violent or tolerant. However, culture can’t be defined as “free”. Thus, phrase “culture of freedom” or “freedom culture” would be more appropriate, but I don’t think that that’s the meaning of the buzzword “free culture”.

That’s unlike software or knowledge, where “free” means specifically “freely accessible”. The phrase which connects free software, knowledge, art works is “free content”.

  • WM content has generally been described using terms like “knowledge” and “educational”.  Do you think WM has a role in hosting non-notable art, fiction, music, and other works of open-culture?  As hosting expenses naturally approach zero due to ever-dropping technology cost, should WM host increasingly more diverse content, or should we stick to the domains we currently focus on– namely, factual, notable, instructional content of the kind that might be found in an encyclopedia or textbook.

The most of human works could be useful for educational and informational purposes. If they are free and we are able to host them, why not?

  • Looking far forward, beyond the next few years.  Should each Wikimedia-named projects have to adhere to the same basic set of values we, as a community, currently hold here in the existing projects? (Namely, valuing the free distribution of factual knowledge).  Or will falling hosting costs eventually mean that Wikimedia’s projects will eventually become more diverse in their values, methodologies, and purposes?

All Wikipedias should follow the same set of the rules. That means that I think that we should have one set of rules (or values) per project type.

However, we can decide to create some new project type which would allow us to host diverse types of content. Besides that, Commons has very wide scope.

But, anyway, we should keep our scientific nature. I don’t think — and I would oppose strongly — if Wikiversity creates course in, let’s say, astrology.

Innovation

  • How can we empower our developers and other programmers to “be bold” in trying to create ‘the next big Wikimedia thing’ that will do good for humanity?

We should create autonomous or separate organization which would care about MediaWiki; and leave it to developers. (Of course, WMF should guarantee financial stability of newly formed organization.)

They should explore their own paths and the rest of the community shouldn’t be able to make pressure as it is able now.

But, when developers create some good thing, the rest of the community, including the Board, should be able to recognize it and implement on Wikimedia projects.

The other similar approach is to really encourage innovation. Let’s say, by making an open call for ideas and pay for development of the best ones.

  • How do we fix the “MediaWiki Problem”, namely, an over-reliance on a single software platform?

First, we need clean Parser. Brion is working on that (finally! end of the world tomorrow!). After that, other programmers would be able to implement it in any other programming language and in any other software. That would be our obvious exit method if MediaWiki development comes into really big problems.

  • If it were technically feasible and of negligible cost, should we someday empower trusted users the “be bold” and create new projects on their own initiative, ala Wikia?

Yes, but just inside of our scope. For example, project for bibliographic data would be good idea. But, some more fun ways of editing Wikimedia projects would be good to have.

At the other side, it would be good to leave projects like Star Trek wiki to other entities, like Wikia is.

  • On projects like Wikipedia, how do we fix the quality problem?  (some of our articles aren’t very good and don’t necessarily seem to be improving with time)

We need systemic cooperation with academic institutions. That should be risen to the WMF level, not just to the personal initiatives.

Such cooperation would change academic institutions, too; and make them more receptive for open collaborative projects, like Wikimedia projects are. On the long run, that would bring more experts to edit Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

I like the idea and I would like to see it working. That would make Wikimedia projects content safe in computer age.

1.3 billion of humans don’t have Wikipedia in their native language

•May 22, 2011 • 2 Comments

UPDATE: If you want to contribute, see page Missing Wikipedias at Wikimedia Strategy wiki.

I am preparing document for Wikimania. Presently, I am in process of analyzing data (SIL [1], Ethnologue [2], Wikimedia projects). I am using Ethnologue data for population estimates.

Before I started this task, I thought that the situation is not so bad (or good, if it is about possibility for development). I thought that we are around the end of languages with more than 1M of speakers. However, this is far from being true.

There are no Wikipedias in ~240 languages with more than 1M of speakers. Of those, more than 20 have more than 10M of speakers.

The biggest language without any Wikimedia project is Jin Chinese, with 45 millions of speakers.

Around 1 billion of people belong to the group of big languages without Wikipedia (or any Wikimedia project) in their language. Of those, 480 millions have test projects, but 550 millions don’t have even test project; including:

  • Jin Chinese, 45M, China
  • Haryanvi, 38M, India, incubator
  • Xiang Chinese, 36, China, incubator
  • Maithili, 34M, India, incubator
  • Nigerian Pidgin, 30M, Nigeria, incubator
  • Filipino, 25M, Philippines, incubator
  • Chhattisgarhi, 17.5M, India, incubator
  • Rangpuri, 15M, Bangladesh
  • Seraiki, 13.8M, Pakistan, incubator
  • Madura, 13.6M, Indonesia, incubator
  • Haryanvi, 13M, India
  • Deccan, 12.8M, India
  • Malvi, 10.4M, India
  • Min Bei Chinese, 10.3M, China, incubator
  • Sylheti, 10.3M, Bangladesh

Around 300 millions of people are using languages with less than 1M of speakers which don’t have Wikipedia editions.

Note that for all languages in the world Ethnologue gives the number of 6.15 billion, which is pretty accurate, counting that current estimate (according to Wikipedia [3]) is 6.92 billion and that counting speakers is very different from counting official population statistics.

Those are preliminary results. We have two chapters (and strategic focus) in countries of the list above. Inside of the longer list, which should be verified, we have more chapters. I noted that there are even two languages of Germany without Wikipedia, but with more than million of speakers: Mainfränkisch and Upper Saxon (the later one without test Wikipedia).

The list of countries with languages with more than 1M of speakers and without Wikipedia is: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, India, Indonesia (Java and Bali), Indonesia (Kalimantan), Indonesia (Nusa Tenggara), Indonesia (Sulawesi), Indonesia (Sumatra), Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia (Peninsular), Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey (Asia), Uganda, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Why we need radical approaches and bold ideas

•May 21, 2011 • Comments Off

Back to 2001, Internet was a bit different. Email and a couple of instant messaging systems were the dominant way of Internet interaction between people. It was the time when Internet was becoming really useful. More and more people were starting to use it. Forums started to replace Usenet newsgroups. Google was becoming more and more relevant. The first free software CMS-es appeared. Wikipedia was born.

Back to the present, Internet is a bit different. We still use email, different IM systems tend to merge into the XMPP network(s), but we have a couple of more ways to express ourselves. Personal sites are now known as blogs and it is not anymore hard to maintain them; if we are not able to interact with some content — at least to leave a comment there or to “like” it — we think that it is about outdated site; thanks to Facebook, we already met the most of our old friends; we communicate through various social networks, like Twitter and Facebook are; games are not anymore exclusively places for young males without good enough social skills — they are now places for socialization, actually.

Wikipedia has become the biggest encyclopedia in the human history. Worldwide Wikimedian movement was born. Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia chapters are getting more money every year. We are able to do more things to spread free knowledge. We grew up. We’ve built impressive monument of our generation.

But, is our goal to build a monument? Or we want something different? If we want, what is that?

Wikipedia has already changed the world. Wisdom of the millions is now accessible to anyone who has Internet connection, but also to those who have just computers. We will print all Wikipedias at some point of time, for sure. Those who want to learn about other cultures are able to learn it now, no matter if they have good local library or not. It is possible to meet the world by reading content of one site.

If that’s our goal, we’ve almost achieved it. Maintaining knowledge repository, adding up to date information and even translating them — that’s comparable with maintaining a huge library. We don’t need a movement to maintain a library, no matter how huge it is. We need just librarians.

But, there is something more which we want. We wouldn’t build a movement if we don’t want something more. We want to build community with people all over the world who share our ideals. We want to have alive culture, not dead monument of our generation.

To stay alive, one culture has to have new generations to learn from previous ones. To reach new generations, to make our culture attractive to them, it has to be as exciting to them as it was to us while we’ve been building it. And that’s the hardest job which we have before us.

If we want to see how Wikipedia looks to those who are growing up with Wikipedia, we should ask ourselves are we excited when we see or use a car. No, we are not. We grew up in the era of cars. Some of us are, actually, sometimes annoyed by cars. If Wikipedia becomes not just a monument, but a commodity like cars are, we will have users, we will have manufacturers, we will have passionate fans, but we won’t have neither movement, neither culture.

If our goals are just about making knowledge accessible, it would be fair to say that our reach should be stabilized at the level of commodity. However, neither our goals, neither our responsibility is about making a commodity.

We are the best chance of humanity now. Maybe ever.

Community created around Wikipedia, Wikimedian community, outgrew Wikipedia itself. We’ve shown that million of clever people all around the world are able to cooperate together while building knowledge for billions. That never happened before!

We’ve changed history with Wikipedia and now it is about Wikimedia movement to change history.

But, without new generations we are doomed on impressive monument or commodity at best.

We have to continue with our primary job — to build and spread free knowledge — but we have to find ways how to attract new generations. To do that, we have to stay fresh, we have to give them the same feeling which we had: creating history in high tech environment. And wiki is not anymore high tech, as Internet is not, too. Internet, email, blogs, wikis — all of them are commodities for new generations, like cars are for us.

We have to think what new generations want. We know that, actually. Social networks are common place which we missed five years ago. But, it is not just about what they want now. We have to think what even younger generations would like. We have to think as visionaries, because for a long time that will be our ticket for the future. Because, for a long time that will be the ticket of the humankind for the future.

Inside of our Strategic Plan it is written that we should encourage innovation. I would like to see that it isn’t just an empty word, no matter if I would be elected or not.

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.