How did the relationship between you and Wikipedia start? At the beginning I met Bachounda, who manages the Wikimedia community in Algeria, through my photography club, we often organize events around photography where the Wiki Loves Africa competitions or Wiki loves monuments are represented with exhibitions. Our relationship quickly becomes friendly, and we work together to ensure that our projects are linked, I quickly become a jury for these contests and here I am participating in my first community meeting in Tunis in 2018, WikiIndaba!!
And how about you a photography? I decided to become a professional photographer in 2010, I left my job and I created a photography club with friends, then I trained, participated in competitions, internships, workshops and I became a trainer in this field, event organizer, I also worked with the national and international press, I was head of photo workshop for 3 years in Algiers and often asked to be a jury in competitions or represent brands known in the photo field. I most consider myself as an artist, loving meeting people and telling their stories through my work. Two years ago, I started F-EYE Agency which is my own photo services agency, we mainly offer training, but also shootings, event covers…
What do you do most as a volunteer on Wikipedia? As a photographer, I contribute mainly on Commons, but above all, I set up projects linking photography to Wikimedia, in fact in 2018 I created the WikiNomad project that I realize the same year with the help of a grant that I ask from the foundation, it is about organizing a discovery expedition with contributors, going to explore a region in Algeria and coming back with lots of articles, photos on different subjects, gastronomy, flora and fauna, geography, music…
What are the languages you contribute in, as you speak a few? As I said before, I contribute more in image, so in a universal language, I speak French and English, Algerian Arabic is my mother tongue, and I start to learn Spanish but I confess not being a big contributor in articles.
Is Wikipedia popular among your community? Wikipedia is very popular in Algeria, it is even a reference, it is most of the time, the first site on search engines. The problem, as raised during our conference in Tunis is the contribution, the concept of volunteering is not so popular with us, at least in the field of written contributions (articles, correction…) it is precisely on this problematic that I looked into when writing WikiNomad which offers contributors an opportunity to travel, discover their country, but in return, they write articles, take photos and upload them.
Your greeting to all the people, who will read this interview? I would like to sincerely thank Justine for this interview, it really honors me, the whole WikiDZ community who accompanied me and encouraged me to join the movement, Bachounda, Reda, Ahmed… But also all the friends whom I knew during the meetings, Anès, Emna, Zeineb, Farah, Shola, Alex, Felix and the others. All this to tell readers that my experience in the community seems to me to be a real human adventure.
Wow, I started back in 2004. I don’t recall exactly what motivated me to start. I remember the amazing feeling to be able to write articles with other people as a team. I don’t know everything but together we can cover a vast array of knowledge. Some know what to write, some know how to format the text and how to illustrate, and so on; in the end we produce something better than what anyone would have done alone. Everyone bring a little drop but together we make an ocean!
This is really exciting and also addictive. 16 year later, I still enjoy it a lot, even more maybe.
Now you do much more Wikidata – tell us about this „love“ a bit more 🙂
I do love Wikidata. This is a fantastic project, the multilingual aspect and the pure logic of data are very appealing to me. You can focus on the essence of information and then make things around it.
Wikidata is multilingual, you have the power of a wiki but multiplied by 400+ languages!
There is also a lot of tools to help edition and correction of Wikidata data. With the query service in SPARQL, you can make lists or check the quality of the data to locate the area to improve. With OpenRefine you can import in batch data from external sources to create new items or improve existing one.
I work on a lot of different data but especially around data about monuments and heritage sites, it’s very important to have a dataset complete and updated. It’s useful for Wikipedia articles and also for Wiki Loves Monuments, the annual international photographic competition to take pictures of monuments each September.
Your favorite Wiki projects and the once you are involved most?
Wikisource is my favourite Wikimedia projects. I mostly transcribe texts but there is also curation, organisation of books around a same subject to ease the reader navigation. Transcription is turning an image into a text, it is very important as text offer many opportunities, it makes the document easier to read, to search (with ctrl+f or with more elaborate text mining tool), to make it more discoverable for external search engine or to export and transfer to other devices (mobile phone, tablet and e-reader).
Already million of books has been transcribed, enough to read for a long time and for every taste.
Wikisource has also a very special pace and ambiance. It’s more quiet, almost zen; after doing mind-consuming tasks on Wikipedia I love come to „relax“ on Wikisource.
Not a Wikimedia project but I also love the “#100wikidays” is a personal challenge. The goal is to create an article each and every day. I finished it 2 times already and I’m currently doing it for the third time. I do translation from English to French of articles about Irish Women (doing my part to close the gender gap) with the help of Rebecca O’Neill, who is also doing the #100wikidays on the same article but in English a few days earlier. Again, a good example of how people can work together. My objective this year is to more than 100 days, maybe 1000 days, who knows?
What is special about French community among the wikipedians?
The french-speaking community is quite diverse, French is spoken all around the globe. The Wikimedian French community is strong and mostly nice. Like everywhere, there is troll and less kind people but I think that overall this is a good and friendly community. Some people can be stubborn and at first say „no“ to new things or tools but even if the community resist a bit at first, on the long run, a lot of new tools are adopted. For instance, it took time but now Wikidata is strongly interconnected to the French Wikipedia or Wikisource and it’s a win-win.
Your invite for the people who still do not contribute?
Just try it yourself! You don’t have to start big or to commit to edit every day, every little bit is welcome. There is so much to do on Wikimedia projects I’m sure you’ll find something you will enjoy.
And don’t forget to have fun, Wiki is serious but also seriously fun 😉
Please tell us your story, your way to meet Wikipedia?
I discovered Wikipedia sometime between 2004 and 2008. It was particularly beneficial thanks to its interlanguage links, which are now stored on Wikidata – I used to search & read articles either in English or Russian, and then switching the language. It was an efficient way to get an overview of the field and related terminology in two languages. I discovered Tatar Wikipedia articles sometime in the first half of 2008, made first edits around Christmas 2009 & came back for good at the end of February 2012.You are Wikimedian of the Year for 2018 – what does it mean?
You can read Wikipedia page about the term here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikimedian_of_the_Year.
I would say, it’s a recognition of efforts undertaken by some group of volunteers active around Wikimedia projects, but specific initiatives and related individuals are marked as a symbol. During last Wikimania, I was happy and honored to meet Rosie of U.S., who carried this torch back in 2016 & is since playing an important role in various volunteer support functions in the Wikimedia movement (File:Rosie & Farkhad at Wikimania 2019 Learning Days jeh.jpg) & later my other colleagues with whom we even started a WOTY club https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedians_of_the_Year.
Wikimedia projects document diverse cultural heritage of our planet and make it available in a multitude of languages – Jimmy somehow came up with an idea how to celebrate individuals, acknowledge groups and energize other volunteers, and he does that annually at the closing of Wikimania conference. I assume that efforts of multilingual Wikimedians from Russia deserved praise, and my contribution into cross-cultural and inter-language communication in somehow got on his radar & was identified as a worthy example.
And how this changed your life and attitude towards Wikipedia?
This didn’t affect my attitude towards Wikipedia, but clearly added some new roles and responsibilities within the movement – which decreased the amount of time I could continue dedicating to the tasks I was previously concentrating on. Local stakeholders in the Republic of Tatarstan wanted to learn more and engage with Wikimedia-offered opportunities & my colleagues throughout the Russian Federation wanted me to capitalize on this public interest. I am now concentrating on communicating public engagement with Wikimedia projects through various Smart Region initiatives, such as the one on municipal level (w.wiki/EfH) or cultural heritage promotion bodies, etc.
Tell us, as volunteer, what are the most common things you do for your Wikipedia?
I treat all 300+ Wikipedia language version as „mine“ – I believe that all languages and cultures of this world belong to all of us, as this is our common heritage.
Over 50% of my edits are in Tatar Wikipedia where I started, but since 2015 I am also taking care of all https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedias_in_the_languages_of_Russia (about 30 Mainspace versions in languages that have official status somewhere within the Federation, and 45 others in Wikimedia Incubator (see recent report in English https://ru.wikinews.org/?curid=531219) plus those in Turkic languages. Since Fall 2019 I started helping Northern Sami Wikipedia as well.
In Tatar Wikipedia I started with developing articles around my hobbies (History, Holidays and Observances, various socio-economic topics) and interests of my kids (Cartoon characters, Animals, etc.), later on moved to various service tasks, such as developing Help pages and Guidelines, Categorization, interlinking etc. I later started teaching others both online and offline, and still do.
How do you involve and encourage new people to join and volunteer as you do?
Volunteering is about being conscious of the benefits, seeing positive results of one’s actions and feeling empowered to do something bigger. So I don’t waste my time trying to involve anyone – just sharing about the benefits I’ve seen in the area of person’s interests & demonstrating examples of positive results. If the person recognizes the value and is interested to try getting something done – I am ready to help them develop the necessary Wiki-skills. Since I keep learning the Wiki-world myself, I allow myself to periodically share new pertinent examples with people that have shown sincere initial interest.
What is the most inspiring thing for you, related with Wikipedia?
Wikipedia gives all of us the tools to edit the world. It’s about sharing your knowledge with others to simplify collaborative molding of our global society.
No other website in Top-10 can be edited as easily as Wikipedia!
No other business, NGO, government or intergovernmental institution website trusts and empowers its visitors in a similar fashion.
Your greeting to all who will read this interview?
No matter where you are, what languages you speak or cultural background you are from – we are part of one humankind. Wikipedia is just one of the most effective tools available to us today to make our common world brighter, richer and more joyous. I am grateful to each and every one that makes my planet better & promise to make everything possible to take care of yours from wherever I am.
Моля, разкажи ни историята си. Как разбра за Wikipedia?
Открих Wikipedia в периода между 2004 и 2008. Беше особено полезен благодарение на линковете за промяна на езика, които сега се съхраняват в Wikidata – търсех и четях статии на английски или на руски, сменяйки езика по този начин. Беше ефективен начин да придобия общи познания в дадената област, както и свързана терминология и на двата езика. Открих статии в Wikipedia на татарски в първата половина на 2008 година, направих първите редакции около Коледа през 2009 и се върнах окончателно в края на февруари 2012.
Ти си носител на наградата Wikimedian of the Year за 2018 – какво означава това?
Можете да прочетете на тази страница на Wikipedia какво означава термина. Бих казал, че това е признание за усилията на групи от доброволци, които се занимават активно с проекти на Wikimedia, но конкретни инициативи и свързаните с тях личности са отличени. По време на последната Wikimania, имах щастието и честта да се срещна с Роузи от САЩ, която стана носителка на тази титла през 2016, след което играеше и важна роля в различни доброволчески и подкрепящи инициативи в движението на Wikimedia и по-късно и с моите колеги, с които дори стартирахме клуб WOTY (бел. ред. Wikimedians of the Year).
Проектите на Wikimedia документират културното разнообразие и наследство на нашата планета и го правят достъпно на много езици – на Джими някак му хрумна идея как да възхваляваме индивидуалността, да изразим благодарност към групите и да вдъхновим доброволците – той прави това ежегодно на закриващата конференция на Wikimania. Предполагам, че усилията на полиглотите от Русия, които са в Wikimedia, заслужават похвала и моят принос в кроскултурната и междуезичната комуникация някак е бил забелязан от него и признат като стойностен пример.
А как това промени живота ти и отношението ти към Wikipedia?
Това не промени отношението ми към Wikipedia, но със сигурност добави някои нови роли и отговорности в движението – което намали количеството време, което можех да продължа да посвещавам на задачи, върху които се бях фокусирал преди. Местни заинтересовани лица в Република Татарстан искаха да научат повече и да се ангажират с възможностите, които предлага Wikimedia, и моите колеги в Руската федерация искаха аз да се възползвам от този публичен интерес. В момента се фокусирам върху това да комуникирам публична ангажираност чрез проекти на Wikimedia през различни инициативи на Smart Region, като една от тях е на ниво общини (w.wiki/EfH) или организации за популяризиране на културно наследство и т.н.
Разкажи ни, като доброволец, с какво най-често се занимаваш във вашата Wikipedia?
Гледам на всичките 300+ езикови версии на Wikipedia като „мои“ – вярвам, че всички езици и култури на света принадлежат на всеки един от нас и това е нашето общо наследство.
Над 50% от моите редакции са в татарската Wikipedia, откъдето започнах, но от 2015 се грижа и за Wikipedia на езиците в Русия (около 30 Mainspace версии на езици, които са с официален статут във Федерацията, както и 45 други в Wikimedia Incubator – вижте скорошен доклад на английски език тук) плюс тези на тюркски езици. От есента на 2019 започнах да помагам и на Wikipedia на северносаамски език (бел. ред. – един от езиците в северна Скандинавия).
В татарската Wikipedia започнах с писане на статии, свързани с моите хобита (история, празници и чествания, различни социално-икономически теми) и интересите на децата ми (анимационни герои, животни и т.н.). По-късно преминах и към различни задачи по поддръжка като развиване на страници Помощ и Ръководства, Категоризация, взаимосвързване и т.н. По-късно започнах и да обучавам други хора онлайн и офлайн и все още го правя.
Как включваш и насърчаваш нови хора да се присъединят и да доброволстват като теб?
Доброволчеството означава да знаеш какви са ползите, да виждаш позитивните резултати от нечии действия и да се чувстваш способен да направиш нещо голямо. Затова и не губя време да се опитвам да включвам когото и да било – само споделям ползите, които съм виждал в област, от която се интересува даден човек, и показвам примери за позитивни резултати. Ако човек вижда стойност и иска да опита да направи сам нещо – готов съм да помогна да развият нужните Wiki-умения. Тъй като аз самият все още изучавам Wiki-светът, си позволявам периодично да споделям нови релевантни примери с хора, които са показали искрен интерес.
Кое е най-вдъхновяващото нещо за теб, свързано с Wikipedia?
Wikipedia дава на всички нас инструментите да променяме света. Това означава да споделяш знанията си с други, за да опростиш процеса на съвместно формиране на нашето глобално общество. Никой друг уеб сайт в Топ 10 не може да се редактира така лесно както Wikipedia! Никой друг сайт на бизнес, НПО, правителство или междуправителствен сайт не се доверява и не упълномощава по такъв начин своите посетители.
Какво е твоето послание към всички, които ще прочетат това интервю?
Без значение къде се намирате, какви езици говорите или културната среда, от която произлизате – ние сме част от един човешки вид. Wikipedia просто е един от най-ефективните инструменти, достъпни за нас в днешни дни, който може да направи обикновения ни свят по-ярък, обогатен и радостен. Благодарен съм на всеки един, който прави моята планета по-добро място и обещавам да направя всичко възможно и аз да се грижа за вашата планета, където и да съм. 🙂
How you did discover Wikipedia and became wikipedian?
I have discovered Wikipedia as most of humans: By Googling subjects that I did not know much about and started to get the same page “Wikipedia” in most of my results. This was the situation for many years, where I was approaching Wikipedia as any classical encyclopedia: You read the information and go back to your life. In fact, I have always been interested in encyclopedias and used to read many of them when I was young (back to when we did not have internet and TV was not broadcasting at night). But all these books or CDs presented the characteristic that they were not editable and were written by experts and professors: They are here to be read and used in our research and studies. This was the main reason why I approached Wikipedia the same way, until the day I found a mistake in article and found out that I could actually edit and correct. I did it, it worked, and I was hooked!
In 2013, I created my account and became more and more active as I discovered the importance of writing about subjects from my region, that other people want to know about but cannot find information on the Internet. Working alone (and online) is a part of the Wikimedian life, so I sought to meet other people participating in this effort, and went to my first conference, which was WikiArabia 2015 in Monastir, Tunisia. By attending, I learned about the existence of WMF, the different projects and communities. In October 2015, motivated by what we learned, we founded Wikimedia Morocco User group (that will organize WikiArabia 2019 in Marrakesh). Since then I am balancing between online and offline work. It is a difficult and challenging exercise, but I believe in the importance of both in our work for a world where knowledge is free.
In which languages do you contribute most and on which topics / areas, if such?
I contribute mostly in the Arabic language because of the lack of information available in this language, even if it is one of the biggest in the world. There is in fact a challenging situation in our countries related to the fact that many contributors write in foreign languages such as French or English as most of the sources and references are available in them. I believe that as Africans, our duty is to empower our languages and to give it the importance it deserves. If you are not going to write in your language and your local context, nobody will write about it, especially if your region is not in a power position on the global level.
I write occasionally in foreign languages such as English, French, Spanish and Swedish when I feel that it can be relevant, especially on our local content or people. I do not have a specific area of contribution as I can prioritize my work depending on the situation, but I do always try to identify areas lacking articles and enrich them as much as I can. Examples of areas I worked on are traditional Moroccan singers or historical events that might not been present on Internet.
Tell us more about Wikipedian projects / communities in the Arab world and how Wikipedia is accepted and developed in your region?
The Arabic speaking world is not a homogenous entity as it counts 22 countries spread from Mauritania to Iraq and Comoros. This heterogeneity means that different regions have reached different levels of maturity. While some areas have User Groups (6 currently: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Levant, Morocco, Tunisia) and have a number of regular activities, we will barely find active members in other countries. In general, Arabic Wikipedia is rich and has a big depth in comparison with the number of articles, but the fact that it is a language spoken brings several challenges, especially when opinions are different about a given subject.
However, it is also a big advantage to speak the same language. Whenever a successful project happens in one of these countries, all the others can quickly learn from it. An example is the Wiki MOOC project from our colleagues in Algeria that was followed by more than 10.000 people in the world. Community members are in general helpful and guide each other towards answers or solutions (the Wiki Spirit), so being a member of a big community is very enriching. My hope is that this community grows even bigger especially in countries where there are few contributors due to several reasons.
You are volunteer and how do you attract / invite more people to follow you?
This is a challenging question!
To be honest with you, one of the difficulties we have in our region is to attract volunteers for obvious reasons. Volunteering is not a priority when people have other important issues going on in their lives and need to secure some necessities. Sometimes, being a volunteer is seen as a luxury: Luxury of having time, of having mood, and of having knowledge, because it is not obvious for all!
In our volunteering work, advocacy is a central part first to raise awareness about Wikimedia, and second to enlarge the community with new members. Despite the challenges that I mentioned earlier, there are different strategies to attract new volunteers. One of them is to target subjects that they love: Encouraging people to write about their neighborhood, city, region, language, preferred football club or singer are all very good hooks to tempt young and less young people to participate in the Wikimedia projects. In short, try to find out what a person loves and tell them that they can write about it with one condition: That the information is correct and has sources!
Your favourite Wiki project?
I do not really rank Wikimedia projects because each of them has a specific role and way of use, and they do all complete each other. However, I must admit that I am more active in some more than others. I find it for example simple to upload important pictures on commons, during different travels or visits, especially when articles do already exist. The same applies to Wikidata, where I can very quickly add information or translate different titles. Both as fast and efficient!
I am most active in Wikipedia, as I feel that it is at the heart of the movement, and that the other projects roam around it, but it takes sometimes a considerable amount of time to write a well-sourced article. The reward comes later when you see the number of people reading these articles, and that you feel that you have contributed with your small drop in the infinite ocean of knowledge!