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April 12, 2014

Wikimedian Cindy Ashley-Nelson dies at conference in Berlin

Wikimedian Cindy Ashley-Nelson dies at conference in Berlin

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

File photo of Cynthia Ashley-Nelson from 2006
Image: Cynthia Ashley-Nelson.

Cynthia Ashley-Nelson died the night before last while attending the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin, Germany. She was very active in the Wikimedia movement, and was named the vice-chair of Wikimedia’s Affiliations Committee on Thursday, the day prior to her death, after only having joined the Committee earlier this year. The day before she died, she spent a lot of time talking to a number of the event’s attendees and spent time with several members of the Affiliations Committee.

An announcement regarding her death was made on the main Wikimedia mailing list this morning by Bence Dakamos, a conference attendee and the previous chair of the Affiliations Committee. In part, the e-mail announcement said, “We are sad beyond words and so is everyone who came to Berlin to participate in the Wikimedia Conference. Her passing is a great loss for everyone in the Wikimedia movement. This morning all the conference attendees gathered together to grieve and talk about the loss of Cindy. We decided that all of us at the Wikimedia Conference could choose to continue the conversations about the future of the movement Cindy cared so much about, as well as spending our time here to remember and celebrate her. She will be greatly missed.”

Fellow Affiliations Committee member Gregory Varnum said, “The Lord giveth, and The Lord taketh away. While the passage of time may allow us to forgive whatever greater presence you may believe in for taking her away, the passage of time will not result in us forgetting the amazing person she was, her passion for our movement, or the brilliance she brought to her volunteer work.”

Wikimedia Foundation board member María Sefidari said in her part on her personal blog, “I got to know Cindy a bit beyond that, for she wanted to test ideas and potential directions in which to take the movement. We would send each other long emails about movement roles and how to move forward with the movement. And as it usually happens, conversations turned from the more formal to the informal, eventually including little snippets of our every day lives, the good things that happened to us and the not so good. When we met for the first time face to face two days ago, we gave each other a big hug. In the session we had during the AffCom meeting she once again showed her passion and commitment to help reimagine the role of AffCom and how to help emerging and new affiliates. And at the end of that session, she was confirmed as the new vice-chair of AffCom. That speaks to the impact she made inside the committee in such a short time. I think our last interaction was about getting together at some moment during the conference to just hang out and talk. She had a great smile.”

Ashley-Nelson was actively involved in many parts of the Wikimedia community beyond her position on the Affiliations Committee. She served as a moderator on the Wikimedia Foundation’s gendergap mailing list, a list dedicated to addressing the under representation of women as contributors. She became an Open-source Ticket Request System agent, handling requests from Wikimedia users who had problems they needed assistance with issues like copyright. She was an administrator on English Wikipedia. She had previously been a member of Wikimedia’s Grant Advisory Committee, where she assisted in reviewing grant applications submitted by members of the Wikimedia community. She was involved with Wikimedia’s Global Education Program, assisting students and professors with improving articles about global and United States public policy. She was also involved in the education program as an Online Ambassador, a member of the Ambassador Selection Team and Wikipedia Ambassador Steering Committee.

An active Wikipedia contributor since 2007, she made over 30,000 contributions to English Wikipedia. She wrote eight Did You Knows that appeared on the front page of the project, and contributed to two Good Articles, the Washington: A Life article and the Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 10th Earl of Shaftesbury article. The day prior to her death, she welcomed a number of new users to the project and did other editing tasks like removing copyright violations and cleaning up promotional language found in articles.

A Washington state resident, she was the founder and Executive Director of Catalyst Resource Network, having started the organization in December 2006. During the course of her professional career, she also worked for the Sycamore Street Review as a staff writer, Hookers for Jesus as the organization’s Vice President, the Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council for the State of Washington, and several other roles for the State of Washington. She was honored several times in connection with her work.

Members of the Affiliations Committee got together for a breakfast before heading to the conference. A grief counselor was available at the conference. A brief tribute was held at the start of today’s proceedings, which Sefidari described as “touching”.



Related news

  • “Wikimedian activist Adrianne Wadewitz dies” — Wikinews, April 10, 2014

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April 10, 2014

Wikimedian activist Adrianne Wadewitz dies

Wikimedian activist Adrianne Wadewitz dies

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

A video from 2012 where Wadewitz discusses the impact of Wikipedia
Image: Vgrigas.

News broke early this morning on Facebook that Wikipedian Adrianne Wadewitz died while rock climbing recently. Wadewitz was well known in the Wikimedia community for her activism drawing attention to the lack of female contributors on Wikipedia. She was also very involved in the Wiki Education Foundation, serving as a member of its board of directors.

Wadewitz was one of the most visible women in the media on the under-representation of women amongst contributors to Wikipedia, talking to media organizations like the BBC, the Huffington Post and non-English publications like Greek-language magazine LIFO. Some estimates put female participation rates at around 10% of contributors and there is a body of academic work talking about systemic bias against topics featuring women on Wikipedia.

She was involved in organizing several edit-a-thons aimed at encouraging greater female participation and improving content about women, including Wikipedia Takes America: Los Angeles, FemTech Edit-a-thon, Wikipedia Loves Eagle Rock, Wikipedia Loves WeHo, and Feminists Engage Wikipedia. Wadewitz’s own work to address systemic bias as an article contributor included improving English Wikipedia articles relating to women, including:

Cquote1.svg Adrianne embodied brilliance, determination, and enthusiasm in everything she did Cquote2.svg

—Tribute by a fellow Wikimedian

  • Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Thoughts on the Education of Daughters
  • Mary: A Fiction
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman
  • Timeline of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Fanny Imlay
  • Mary Shelley
  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld
  • Sarah Trimmer
  • Mary Martha Sherwood

The funerary arrangement picture decorating the top of Wadewitz’s Wikipedia talk page.
Image: Mogens Engelund.

She started contributing to English Wikipedia in July 2004. She had taught two classes on collaborative work on the project, and was involved with FemTechNet Wikistorming, an academic effort to encourage more women involved in academia to contribute to Wikipedia. In the past month, she had written several blog entries on HASTAC, an online collaborative platform dedicated to changing the way people learn, about how to write about academics on Wikipedia.

Fellow activist Sarah Stierch said in a public post on Facebook, “My heart hurts. Adrianne was a leading voice – and her legacy still is – in the work we have been doing to get more women and more diverse peoples contributing to Wikipedia. Two days ago she was quoted in the BBC, for godsake.” Stierch went on to say, “A sarcastic, feminist, smart, brilliant, to the point delivery type of academic genius who held an honest love life for all to see and a life in LA that was becoming one she owned.”

At the time of her death, she was a Mellon Digital Scholarship Fellow at Occidental College. In 2011, she earned her PhD from Indiana University.

Wikimedians are memorializing her on her Wikipedia talk page, which is adorned with a picture of a funerary arrangement of flowers. A notice at the top of the page invites condolences, which have been arriving in their dozens. “This is a crushing loss, for the Wikipedia community and the world. There was no one else like her.” wrote one contributor. Another noted “Adrianne embodied brilliance, determination, and enthusiasm in everything she did.”



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March 23, 2012

Wikimania 2012 announces Mary Gardiner as keynote speaker

Wikimania 2012 announces Mary Gardiner as keynote speaker

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Friday, March 23, 2012

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Mary Gardiner will give the opening keynote at Wikimania 2012
Image: Andrew Bennetts.

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The planning committee for Wikimania 2012, the international conference for Wikimedia, announced on March 22 that Australian women’s open source advocate and computer programmer Mary Gardiner will be the keynote speaker for the opening session of the conference on Thursday, July 12, 2012. This will make Gardiner the first woman to keynote at Wikimania.

Gardiner is the co-founder of the Ada Initiative, a non-profit organization devoted to improving support for women in open source tech and communities, including Wikipedia. Based in Sydney, Australia, she founded AussieChix, the first and largest open source organization for women in Australia. AussieChix eventually moved into the broader Oceania area, and has since been renamed as Oceania Women of Open Technology. Gardiner is also highly active in the Australian Linux community, having served as program chair of linux.conf.au and as a council member for Linux Australia. For her service to the Australian Linux community, Gardiner was awarded Linux Australia’s 2011 Rusty Wrench award. As an activist, she has provided a voice for women in open source, and through the Ada Initiative she works to fight against “the social norms and beliefs of a minority of contributors who are not interested in women as colleagues or who do not believe women have the capability to successfully contribute”.

“Mary has been a strong advocate for open source and has worked extensively to elevate the role of women and increase their participation in open source and open culture,” stated James Hare, Wikimania 2012 coordinator. The decision for Gardiner to keynote coincides with the Wikimedia Foundation’s goals to close the gender gap in Wikipedia, by encouraging the participation of and retaining women editors. Gardiner’s appearance will coincide with AdaCamp, an unconference planned by the Ada Initiative which aims to bring women in open source tech from around the world to Washington, D.C. to work together to build community and dicuss women’s issues in the world of open source.

Wikimania 2012 takes place July 12-14, 2012, in Washington, D.C.



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June 30, 2011

Wikinews interviews US National Archives Wikipedian in Residence

Wikinews interviews US National Archives Wikipedian in Residence

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Dominic McDevitt-Parks speaks during a January 2011 Wikipedia Campus Ambassador training event.
Image: Sage Ross.

The National Archives at College Park, Maryland, known informally as Archives II, was built due to space constraints at the main building in Washington, D.C..
Image: National Archives and Records Administration.

Dominic McDevitt-Parks, a prolific contributor to Wikipedia and a graduate student in history and archives management, agreed to answer a few questions about his new role as “Wikipedian in Residence” at the US National Archives and Records Administration.

“Wikipedians in Residence” are volunteers placed with institutions, such as museums and libraries, to facilitate use of those institutions’ resources on Wikipedia.

According to a Pew Internet report, 42 percent of Americans use Wikipedia as an online source of information. The online, collaborative encyclopedia boasts more than 3.5 million articles in English and versions in over 250 languages. Given the website’s vast readership, the Archivist of the United States has proclaimed himself “a big fan of Wikipedia” and emphasizes the need for the National Archives to work with the project. The Archives posted the internship listing in March, expressing its desire for an employee who “will work as a community coordinator and strengthen the relationship between the Archives and the Wikipedian community through a range of activities”.

McDevitt-Parks, who describes himself as a “history buff, a word nerd, a news junkie and an occasional pedant,” is a 24-year-old graduate student at Simmons College in Boston. On Wikipedia, he has contributed for more than seven years under the username “Dominic”, his work focusing mostly on Latin American history.

He began his work at the Archives in late May, and since then he has undertaken numerous projects, including uploading onto Wikipedia 200 photos taken by Ansel Adams for the National Park Service. Although those photos have always remained in the public domain, accessing their high-definition versions could be problematic. Researchers who wanted to view the files had to visit the Archives facilities in College Park, Maryland.

McDevitt-Parks is also preparing a “Today’s Document challenge” on Wikipedia, where works featured as “Today’s Document” on the Archives’ website are also the main focus of newly written or expanded encyclopedia articles displayed on Wikipedia’s home page. The first — and so far only — winner of the challenge was the Wikipedia article “Desegregation in the United States Marine Corps“, which incorporated an Archives-held photo of the first African-American recruit to the US Marine Corps. Before the challenge, according to McDevitt-Parks, “a thorough history of desegregation in the U.S. Marines didn’t exist in Wikipedia’s knowledge ecosystem. The topic wasn’t totally ignored, but simply split among related entries; a devoted, focused article never existed solely in its own right.”

The “Wikipedian in Residence” position falls within the Archives’ social media staff within the Open Government division of Information Services, since the institution’s goal is to distribute as much content to the widest audience possible. The internship is 40 hours per week from mid-May to late August.

Interview

The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, has been very supportive of Wikipedia. He is shown here welcoming Wikipedians to the Archives to celebrate the project’s tenth birthday.
Image: Sarah Stierch.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Before you started your internship, how close of a relationship did the National Archives have with Wikipedia?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDominic McDevitt-ParksWikinews waves Right.pngThere was no official relationship, however the National Archives has long been supportive of Wikipedia. Earlier this year, for instance, the National Archives hosted a meetup in the main DC location in honor of Wikipedia’s tenth anniversary. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, is incredibly friendly to Wikipedia, as are many of the National Archives’ staff. As he wrote after WikiXDC, “As an agency, I look forward to our staff learning more about the fabric and culture of Wikipedia and how to get involved.” He also penned a letter to the Wikimedia Foundation offering support from the National Archives for the successful Washington D.C. bid for Wikimania 2012. In all likelihood, this is not a relationship that will end after this summer, either.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Why is it important that institutions like the National Archives foster this sort of relationship with Wikipedia?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngArchives and other such institutions preserve our cultural heritage not just for the sake of keeping them, but so that we may access and use them. In the 21st century, accessibility is about more than just having exhibitions or a public research room; it is about having a digital presence and proactively delivering content to people with an information need, whether or not they were looking for a particular document from an institution’s holding. Wikipedia and its sister projects are perfectly suited for this purpose in a number of ways. The most obvious is visibility. There is no institutional web site in the world that is more popular among general web users than Wikipedia, which is one of the top 10 ranked web sites according to volume of traffic. Its article on a given topic will nearly always rank higher in search engine results than any institution’s page, even one about a document actually held by that institution. In general, Wikipedia is the first and often only place online searchers will go to learn about the issues and items in which an institution might specialize. This means that there is no better way to reach the public than Wikipedia, and there is no better way to make one’s holdings accessible and—just as important—discoverable than by making it directly available on Wikipedia. The pervasiveness of Wikipedia also means that work to improve it will have much more impact than many other education and outreach programs.

Wikimedia’s projects can do more than just reach people, though. It’s not merely a content host or a forum, like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Wikimedia is a community with an intellectual mission. It will not only make holdings findable, but it will add value to them. They write encyclopedia articles related to the holdings of cultural institutions, or to subjects for which holdings are valuable source material or illustrations; they organize, categorize, and even sometimes digitally restore images; they transcribe and proofread textual documents. They are doing this for their personal fulfillment, nearly always without the knowledge and cooperation of associated cultural institutions. Indeed, thousands of Wikimedians are already engaged in their own little projects which donated content or expertise can help along; both parties are interested in adding value to their work by partnering with the other.

Finally, Wikimedia is unique among the major online fora and hosts for cultural content in that it shares cultural institutions’ commitment to open access and public education. Wikipedia is a non-profit, and creating free public knowledge is its sole purpose. All original content is released under a free copyright license so that it can be widely disseminated without permission or fee. In fact, its commitment to freedom of information is so strong that it often cannot even accept works from some cultural institutions which restrict their use in some way (such as by disallowing derivative works or requiring non-commercial use), and making institutions truly free and compatible with Wikipedia is one of the jobs of Wikipedans in Residence. Wikipedia is not just a venue for presenting our cultural heritage, it is an active ally for all institutions that seek to do so.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What aspect of having a Wikipedian in Residence is seen as most valuable to the National Archives? What would you, personally, say is the greatest benefit to any cultural institution from engaging with the Wikimedia community?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngFor the National Archives, all of the above apply. This is about public outreach and increasing access and use. NARA wants to find users where they are, not just wait for them to visit, and the people are on Wikipedia. According to David Ferriero, the National Archives would like this collaboration with Wikipedia to exemplify their “commitment to the Open Government principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration.” Wikimedia partnerships are so promising because they can be extensions of any institution’s mission in a number of conceivable ways.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png You have already told The Washington Post that other institutions have hired Wikipedians in residence, including the British Museum, the Museu Picasso, and the Archives of American Art. Do you know of any other institutions that may develop similar relationships with Wikipedia in the near future?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngYou can see a listing of other Wikipedian residencies here. There have been several, but still less than ten, and each situation has been unique. I can’t really speak to any specific future collaborations being worked on, as I am not privy to those negotiations. However, I will say more generally that these relationships are only going to become more common. Wikimedians and chapters around the world have been in touch with various institutions interested in working with us. I saw and met many of these people firsthand at GLAMcamp NYC, which was attended by dozens of excited representatives from cultural institutions attracted by the prospect of a relationship with Wikipedia and just as many incredibly motivated Wikimedians who are involved in reaching out to these institutions.

The National Archives is reaching out to other crowdsourced projects for scanning and transcription. During a program on citizen archivists, Jessica Zelt (North American Bird Phenology Program), Matthew Knutzen (New York Public Library), and Darla Adams (Ancestry.com) are shown with moderator Meredith Stewart (National Archives).
Image: National Archives and Records Administration.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are there other — non-Wikimedia — opportunities online you feel the National Archives should look for?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngThe goal of cataloging, describing, digitizing, and transcribing the entire holdings of the National Archives is an impossible one using traditional methods and within traditional budget constraints. Cultural institutions need to engage the interested public to become active partners in preserving cultural heritage, rather than simply consumers. The work with Wikimedia is an important aspect of that new thinking, but there are all sorts of allied projects out there that would also make good partners. This includes similar crowdsourced projects for scanning and transcription, which the National Archives is already seeking out, as well as other specialized groups interested in digital history or particular topic areas.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How have your experiences — both in school and in Wikipedia — prepared you for this job?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngI am a history geek and an archivist-in-training. In my life off of Wikipedia, I have an undergraduate history degree, have worked in library/archive settings before, and am currently pursuing master’s degrees in both history and library science (archives management). I think these real-life experiences in their field are one of the main reasons that the National Archives was comfortable letting me on to their staff. I hope to be able to relate to the people and the practices here on a higher level than the average Wikimedian. I believe strongly in the work and the mission of the National Archives completely apart from how it syncs up with Wikipedia.

As a Wikimedian, I have been deeply immersed in various aspects of the project for many years now. I first started back in 2004, and have been an administrator since 2005. Along the way, I served as arbitrator, CheckUser, oversighter, and OTRSer, gaining a useful perspective on some of the project’s inner workings and (for lack of a better word) governance. I’ve also done outreach to real people as a Wikipedia Campus Ambassador for university students in Boston. I am cross-project Wikimedian, having also been very involved in Wiktionary over the years, where I am also an administrator. I have written content ranging from dictionary definitions of modern colloquialisms to articles on Chilean revolutionaries. But, most importantly, I hope that my familiarity with the culture and practices of Wikimedians will help facilitate this National Archives collaboration.

This photo, taken by Ansel Adams at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, was provided by the National Archives as part of its partnership with Wikipedia
Image: Ansel Adams.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Having worked in the National Archives for a few weeks now, has your approach to or perception of your work in Wikipedia or the National Archives changed in any way?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngI really wasn’t sure what to expect when I got here. The staff have all been exceedingly welcoming and cooperative which is a major relief. The real work has been figuring out what I can do and where best to spend my time. Most of the National Archives’ documents are not digitized, and possibly not even cataloged on the item-level. Those certainly include some items that Wikimedians would like to use for their projects, but it remains to be seen how much I can realistically do in one summer with those documents. I do want to get as much digital content as possible on Commons, but aside from the technological challenges we face at Commons in trying to figure out how to do mass uploads, the situation with the National Archives’ scan files is just as much of a barrier. They are often confusingly named, difficult to locate, or incomplete. I hit the ground running with the upload of an important batch of Ansel Adams photographs, but it turns out that that was actually the lowest-possible hanging fruit.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What challenges do you foresee having to face in your work?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngThe real challenges are about organization, both of documents—as I mentioned—and of people.

One of the biggest challenges is that we need Wikimedians to get on board with the project in a big way. This is an incredible opportunity for us as a project, but it requires a special community effort to take full advantage of it. We need volunteers to tag articles, to categorize media, to help with templates and coding tools, to write related article content, to transcribe and proofread texts, to add new images to articles, to digitally restore images, and so on. I can personally serve as the point of contact between the National Archives and Wikimedia, but it needs to be much more than that to be a successful project. At this point, the project spaces I am creating on-wiki are my attempt to create an inviting and useful infrastructure to serve as a hub for this effort, but they are not organically grown like most Wikimedia projects. I, and various helpers with templates and coding, have magicked them into existence in the last few weeks. They need participants to sign up and adopt them as their own so we can really get the ball rolling.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The New York Times reported in January that less than fifteen percent of Wikipedia’s contributors are women. The article raised concerns that this gender gap has affected the relative emphasis of topics covered on the encyclopedia. In what ways would this problem affect your own efforts to organize the Wikipedia community, and how do you plan to address it?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngThis is an issue that I care strongly about. (And somewhat relatedly, I served, and will continue to serve, as Campus Ambassador at a women’s college, and it was a wonderful experience.) The problem is really about more than gender imbalance; it’s about having a community that represents a diversity of backgrounds, viewpoints, and personalities. Those of us who work in the humanities can also sometimes feel like a minority on Wikipedia, as one would expect from a male-dominated culture. There is a lot of room for improvement on Wikipedia of articles related to women’s history—as well as the history of minority and non-Western peoples—and the National Archives has some incredible resources for these topics. One of the things that I would like to be able to do at the National Archives is to tap their existing pool of volunteers and funnel them towards NARA-related volunteerism on Wikimedia projects. As a national organization with various facilities and presidential libraries throughout the country, there is a lot of potential for various local volunteer communities to get involved. Institutions like the National Archives have volunteers eager to help their cause, but who would otherwise not get involved in Wikipedia, and this group of people likely has a very different demographic makeup than Wikipedia as a whole. I can attest that the library/archives community is certainly not male-dominated. The National Archives is interested in collaborating with Wikipedia not because it wants to lay work at the feet of the Wikipedia community specifically, but because it wants Wikipedia to be a platform for the public at large to be able to become active participants in preserving and interpreting their cultural heritage. This plan also means organizing a corresponding corps of Wikipedian volunteers to welcome and mentor such new editors.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Which aspects of this particular internship attracted you more than any other job opportunity you could have obtained?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDMPWikinews waves Right.pngI am a longtime, obsessive Wikimedian with a passion for history who is studying to become an archivist. Every aspect of the opportunity attracted me as soon as I learned about it. 🙂

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