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Avsnitt 267

Inspelningsdatum: 20 april 2024

Publiceringsdatum: 6 maj 2024


Extern länk:


Programledare är Jan Ainali.

Special episode

This is the seventh episode in a series of short interviews recorded at the Wikimedia Summit 2024 in Berlin. Here we meet Lane Rasberry from Wikimedia Medicine.


This is the seventh episode in a series of interviews at the Wikimedia Summit in Berlin 2024. In the first episode we heard about the Wikimedia Summit itself and in the second episode about the movement charter. In this and the next episode we will hear the perspectives from affiliates at the Summit.

Hello and welcome to Wikipediapodden. This is a special episode recorded at the Wikimedia Summit in Berlin, 21st of April, 2024. I'm your host Jan Ainali and I'm here with Lane Rasberry from Wikimedia Medicine. Hello Lane, nice to meet you.

Thanks for having me, Jan.

So you can sort of hear something in the title of the affiliate name, what you're doing, but can you tell me a little bit about what is it that the thematic organization is doing and what your purpose is?

Wikimedia Medicine is the Wikimedia community organization that develops content on health issues. This includes medicine, drugs, pharmaceutical interventions that's very popular, also diseases, medical conditions. It also does things like fitness, exercise, diet, some social issues related to these things. Occasionally we also develop social infrastructure like hospital systems in different countries or biographies of different physicians. Something very popular that we address that's a bit out of scope is also alternative medicine, things like dietary supplements or even things like acupuncture, chiropractic. It's very popular for people to come to Wikipedia to try to get information about these things. Besides what we do for developing Wikipedia content, we also support people outside of the virtual platform go to medical schools or universities, help students to edit these kinds of things. And also if there's a content dispute or a conflict, we can arrange for subject matter experts, either doctors or medical researchers, to give comment to help settle disputes among Wikipedia editors.

That's a really useful service really to the community. How did you personally get involved in this thematic organization?

I got involved in the way that many people get involved. I started by editing Wikipedia articles that were interesting to me. I didn't join the organization first and then started editing medical topics. Actually the very first time I created a Wikipedia article, this was in 2008, my first Wikipedia article was about a particular vaccine. I read about it in a popular science magazine and then I found scientific papers describing this vaccine and I made a Wikipedia article about it. And after I created that Wikipedia article, I asked other Wikipedians for feedback. I was a very new editor at this time and I came to know that there was an entire community of people who would support anyone who was developing medical content in Wikipedia. Over the years I kept participating. It's because I kept editing these articles because of my own personal interest and after some time I decided to join the group and support other people who were in my situation when I was new.

And now here at the Wikimedia Summit you're a representative for the group. What do you do when you're not here in the group? How do you like to contribute to the organization?

There's a few things that I can say. About the Wiki Medicine group or any Wiki group, it's 95% people who know nothing about community organizations. They edit Wikipedia and then besides the Wikipedia editors there's a hundred times that number of people who will read Wikipedia but who will never edit. So when you actually come down to who participates in the Medicine group, I would say there's in a given year, and we've been operating for about 10 years, about a hundred people give some kind of comment or do some kind of participation in governance or community organization. This means things like saying, developing strategy, saying let's develop, have all of us coordinate to develop this kind of medical content this year or let's accomplish this goal. Let's do this kind of thing. Besides that the Wiki Medicine group, there's a hundred people who will participate in governance but maybe 500 people will sign their name on as members of the organization, will read our newsletters, or will just be aware of what the group is doing. 500 is quite a large and healthy group according to Wikipedia standards. We have a lot of members who participate year after year. It's one of the simpler groups to be involved in, supposing someone even cares about medicine because something unusual about medicine as compared to other kinds of Wiki activity, we often have less debates. We look at the scientific literature of very established things. There's really not as many arguments or conflicts or social disputes in medicine as there might be in other things. But here at the summit, part of the reason why I'm here is that there are some challenges that are too big for our group to address and that require international attention and I'll explain a very simple one, the issue of translating medical content. There's many issues in Wikipedia such as developing the arts or developing cultural sites that it's okay if we wait a few years to do these kinds of things. Of course everybody needs access to information about the arts but whether that happens in two years or five years or ten years or fifteen years, maybe it's okay to wait a while. When it comes to issues of health and medicine, we know that many readers are going to Wikipedia for this kind of information and depending on what language a person uses, they may not have other options on the internet. Sometimes Wikipedia is their only option. So in Wiki Medicine, we consider, we look at the traffic to these articles. We see that there's very high traffic and we know that the information quality is too low. So we need to coordinate translation. It needs to happen really immediately but as soon as possible and it's a matter of public health and urgency for so many different communities. Wiki Medicine cannot coordinate this translation by itself so I come to this summit meeting people from different countries, different language and cultural communities and advocate if they have any capacity to coordinate medical translation and it's not just translating out from say English and German and the more developed languages into minority languages. There's also a great many health issues where the minority languages can inform English and German. The translation does need to go both ways but it takes conversations o decide how this should happen.

So you already sort of answered the question that I had about your group's perspective on the meeting but you've also been around the movement for a very long time and taking an interest in these kind of organizational matters. As a Wikimedian, what's your perspective on how the summit is going now? We're sort of like on the last stretch we have a half day left. What are your hopes for this?

So about this summit, one way to look at it is it's about distribution of resources. Something unusual about Wikipedia, there's many unusual things about Wikipedia but one thing that I'll name is that it's a extremely popular global media platform. We're one of the largest, most privileged media companies in the world in that Wikipedia has international recognition as a trusted information source and when I'm talking about sharing medical information in Wikipedia, medical communication is it's a hundred billion dollar industry, many hundreds of billions of dollars. Every country in the world has different ways of communicating health issues and a lot of money is spent on this. It's a huge communication sector but if people post information in Wikipedia, there's the labor cost to that but it's not a marketing cost, it's not an advertising cost. Wikipedia is supremely privileged among all media houses in the world that it can deliver health information to people who want it when they want it in their language very easy and it gets gets trust. So there's that very unusual position that Wiki Medicine has and I'm at the summit to draw recognition that we have this privilege now. We're in an age of artificial intelligence and other kinds of technological developments. We may not always have this privilege and we should take advantage of it as much as we can this generation. Something else unusual about Wikipedia that we have to discuss at this summit is that we're financially fortunate. When we're planning strategy in the Wikimedia movement, there's very generous donors around the world and strategy is planned in the Wikimedia movement on the order of one billion US dollars and we collect that much money from donations and other sources about every six to eight years and since a strategy can be from five to ten years, whatever is decided at a summit like this, it's going to be part of a billion dollar plan. There's many NGOs and non-profit organizations around the world that are doing good things but they don't have the position of being an international global media powerhouse and also, however popular they may be, they may not have a billion dollars to enact their plans and at this summit we have 100-150 Wikipedians all representing different groups, many of them representing countries, some of them representing different topics and the arts and culture and sports and whatever the case may be. I'm representing medicine and we've got to look at this billion dollars and there's a slice of the pie cut out and we have to further slice that pie to say your project gets this amount of resources and your project gets this amount of resources. I'm here to advocate that medicine gets its fair share of the resources so that's what I'm doing here at the summit and in the Wikimedia movement.

And we're also by the end now, do you already have some sort of like highlights from the discussions or either in the meetings in the groups and working groups or in between because there's a lot of things going on over lunch and at the breaks?

A summit like this, it's typical for bureaucracy, it's typical for politics, I'll say it's friendly in that there's anarchist values, community values, we very much value democracy and participatory decision making, that's what it's like to be in the Wikimedia movement. But some things that I like about this summit is that we're coming together, I feel like we're very good administrators, we're very good bureaucrats, we're very good negotiators and I think people are coming here, everybody's got a wish, everybody's got something that they want, we're dividing up these scarce resources and I think people are leaving happy with what they've been able to negotiate for themselves. I don't hear anyone upset, I don't hear anyone who's saying, I'm coming to this and my needs are not being met. People are coming with nothing and they're leaving with something, that's my experience of being here. At the same time, the people who are making the requests are the people who are physically here and we're all with Wikipedia, we're all with a website and a virtual community. So who's not represented here are, for example, the people who are developing the medical articles but who don't participate in offline meetups in person, people who don't enjoy looking at budgets and grant reporting. So that's more than 99% of our community, they're content creators, they're happy to go to Wikipedia and do some article editing and participate online but most people just will not leave the computer and actually go to a meetup and that's fine, the content creators are what we need. But all of us here, we do talk about how can we better represent the people who are not in this room with us, how do we get the right amount of engagement from online people. If people don't want to comment, they don't want to participate, that's fine, but there's plenty of people who would give their comment and have something to say if somehow we can ask them, we can survey them, we can invite them to participate online more so that their needs are known to us and then we can get them the resources they need. And I and a lot of other people, I'm doing my best to represent the people that I know online but at the same time, it's never enough and it's hard to know if I'm doing the right thing. That is a hard question.

And finally, as a last question, if someone now hears this and didn't know about Wikimedia Medicine, like how should they get involved and what can they sort of contribute to the user group besides keep on editing articles about medicine?

So to participate in Wikimedia Medicine, one thing a person can do is they can go to any of the documented web pages and say hello to the existing community members. We have monthly meetings. If a person asks, they can join other kinds of chats and the kind of chat that's available differs from language to language. I participate in English language chats but there's also German and French and Spanish. And then in other languages, the communities are smaller but if asked, people will join and groups will form and these kinds of things can happen. I'll also say, and this is unusual to Wikipedia, another unusual aspect of Wikipedia, and it's something that makes Wikipedia work when many other medical communication projects have failed. A common idea in medicine, so Wikipedia, people criticize the quality. They say anyone can edit so surely the medical information wouldn't be as good. And over the years, I've seen professors, universities, people with money, foundations say we're going to make medical Wikipedia except instead of letting anyone edit, it's only going to be doctors and physicians and experts can edit and every one of these projects fail. Something special about Wikipedia is that if you are trying to edit a medical topic but you have some challenge, maybe you want library support, maybe you want to request help from an expert, maybe you need some, have some question about what is it like to participate in a conversation on the internet, which is something that people have to learn and people may not be familiar with. If you have an expert-only website with only medical authorities, many of these people, they do not want to talk about internet culture, they don't want to help with the library, they want to stay on topic with medicine. Whereas in Wikipedia, if you need help with medicine, you don't need to just ask the medicine people. You can go to the art community, you can go to the community that likes to edit articles about trains, you can go to the people who are talking about gardening, sports, anything whatsoever and if you ask for help, all of these people know how to use library services, all of these people know how to recruit an editor for you. So a big part of why Wikipedia works is if you have a question, you don't just need to go to the medical group, you can just go to Wikipedia in general and everybody's going to be friendly and everybody's going to help you. There's humans available all the time, you don't need to read the documentation, you don't need to learn the rules first, you can come to Wikipedia, ask a question and guaranteed a human will be friendly and respond to you and help you.

That's some great advice. Thank you, Lane, for taking the time with this podcast and good luck with the rest of the conference.

Hey, thanks for having me here.

In the next and last episode of this series, we will talk to S.J. Klein from the Wikimedians for Offline Wikis and hear his perspectives on the Wikimedia Summit and on the Movement Charter.