Interviewed in The World According to Wikipedia

A week ago, I was interviewed for the podcast The World According to Wikipedia about Wikidata. We talked about what Wikidata is, why it has grown so fast, and what role it might play in the future. And of course I had to mention Wikimedians for Sustainable Development and Govdirectory.

Listen to the episode here: https://headstuffpodcasts.com/episode/s02e09-stanning-wikidata

Thanks to Rebecca O’Neill for a lovely chat!

Building a Govdirectory

Which Swedish municipalities have YouTube accounts?

Sometime in 2016 I got the idea of building a website that would display all the social media channels for all Swedish public agencies. The idea popped in my mind as I was learning the flexibility and power of Wikidata. But my confidence in the more advanced tooling to edit it was low, so I put this in the backlog to revisit later since it felt like a huge task.

Unlocking the idea

Five years, almost 50 live streams of editing Wikidata, a won contest, and about 70 Wikidata meetups later, when the announcement of the Unlock accelerator by Wikimedia Deutschland flew into my Twitter feed, not only did I feel more confident, I also had a potential collaborator. So I pitched the idea to Albin Larsson, my co-host of the live streams, but this time on a global scale, not only for Sweden. The idea at this stage was bold and simple:

a global directory of all government agencies and their online presences

We now also knew that by using Wikidata, we could show even more information than only social media. The accelerator program is unusual in that it doesn’t aim to create a startup and make a profit, instead it aims to enable a social impact on the world. The theme this year, (Re)building trust in the digital age, felt really fitting. We worked on an application and short thereafter we were accepted and in a sprint. The first sprint was really great, with the help of our coach Fabian Gampp we took our somewhat technical idea into a purpose driven project by forming a vision and a mission that extended way beyond the technology. Even though we had some ideas of what this could be used for when writing the application, it was still somewhat fleeting in our minds. Our ambitions became these:

Vision

Our vision is a world where people are empowered to engage with their government to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

Mission

We will enable a community powered directory where the online presence of every public organization is easily findable, queryable and trustworthy.

Early days

We are still in the midst of the accelerator program, and just published the midterm report. If you want to give us feedback on our early version at govdirectory.org it would be valuable to us. If you would like to help us even further, check our contributing file on GitHub for improvements on the website and our project page on Wikidata for improving the data displayed in it.

My Wikimania 2021 contributions

Last Friday to Tuesday Wikimania 2021 took place and after being totally cancelled last year it was now virtual. I was a bit worried that the experience would not be anything that a real one, but I was positively surprised. Sure, it’s not the same feeling that got me to return to every one since I first tried it, but among virtual four day conferences, it was pretty good.

Despite the heavily critiqued use of proprietary software, where Linux users got a big red warning that their system was unsupported when they joined the conference or “changed buildings” in it, the platforms still provided a surprisingly nice user experience. It would be great if the Wikimedia Foundation would invest in putting the available open source solutions together to mimic that. The pieces exist, Wikimedia Foundation presumably have the resources to do it, but is there a will?

Unlike the last Wikimania in Stockholm, I had no official role in the organization of the conference in general, but instead helped provide some content, which I’ll list below in chronological order.

Getting started on Govdirectory

In the Hackathon, Albin Larsson and I presented our Govdirectory project. There were more people attending than expected and many good questions, although most of them with a viewpoint of the data rather than the tool.

Govdirectory user research

We also did some user research, where we tried to find out how we best can support the Wikidata community who are interested in curating data in our topic. It was enlightening to get the views from more power users of Wikidata.

Community Village – Wikimedians for Sustainable Development

The user group Wikimedians for Sustainable Development had a table in the community village. There we showed some basic information about us and listed related sessions. In the platform it was also a point where we in the group regularly connected, and we also got a few curious visitors to chat with.

Wikimedians for Sustainable Development social meetup

For the first time, we in the user group came together in a pure social meeting. In all our previous meetings since we formed, we have had an agenda. It was nice to just have a chat.

Wikimedians for Sustainable Development User Group: Looking at Sustainability Through Wikimedia Lenses

This was a session with short glimpses of what the people in the user group do on the wikis. I presented the Climate Lexeme Week I organized in the spring.

Video of Wikimedians for Sustainable Development User Group: Looking at Sustainability Through Wikimedia Lenses

Shortcutting the Identify topics for impact recommendation by reusing free content

This was a lightning talk by me where I argue that we should use the Sustainable Development Goals as the marker for what topics have impact on the world instead of trying to come up with our own idea of it.

The talk on Wikimedia Commons has subtitles in English in Swedish.

Wikimedia and Sustainability – Selecting topics for impact

This was a workshop organized by Daniel Mietchen and me. Despite the platform making it hard to communicate with the audience, we managed to get quite good engagement and many good ideas. You may need to skip a lot in the video since we’re working in silence in some parts.

Video of Wikimedia and Sustainability – Selecting topics for impact

Documenting

I also continuously planned and documented my attendance in detail on my user page, and I encourage anyone to do the same for all their Wikimedia conferences.