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Avsnitt 268

Inspelningsdatum: 20 april 2024

Publiceringsdatum: 7 maj 2024


Extern länk:


Programledare är Jan Ainali.

Special episode

This is the eight and final episode in a series of short interviews recorded at the Wikimedia Summit 2024 in Berlin. Here we meet SJ Klein from Wikimedians for offline wikis.


This is the eighth and final episode in a series of interviews from the Wikimedia Summit 2024. In the first episode we heard about the Wikimedia Summit itself and in the second episode about the movement charter and in the other episodes the perspectives from six different affiliates attending the Wikimedia Summit. You can find all of the interviews at the tag wikimedia-summit-2024 on the podcast website.

Hello and welcome to Wikipediapodden and 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 SJ Klein from the Wikimedia for offline wikis. Hello SJ.

Hi Jan, great to be here.

Yeah nice to meet you here too. So one can sort of a little bit hear it in the name but could you tell a little bit about the user group what to do and what the purpose is?

Definitely. We're a group of developers and the people deploying offline wikis in the field who are making connections with communities that have slow internet or expensive internet or are sometimes sporadically off the internet because they have natural disasters or maybe the infrastructure is dependent on some variable power infrastructure and they want reliable access to information. So they're very interested in having Wikipedia and educational materials and the user group has been around for a long time and it has increasingly done work with Kiwix. Kiwix also now has their own user group but most of our deployments are using Kiwix as the mechanism for getting an offline wiki and then what they do with it depends on who they are. Some of them are clinics, some of them are schools, some of them are just people who are supporting their family or their boat or their community and everyone starts with reading their offline wikis but many people are also, especially depending on how long they're offline, they might also be adding things. So one of the interesting threads over time is figuring out how we can re-aggregate the kinds of things that people add into global references.

That's just very interesting and probably a little bit technical challenge as well. All right, fun. How come you become active in this user group?

Well, I worked on the One Laptop Per Child project and we ended up deploying about two and a half million laptops to students and schools around the world and they all shipped with a copy of Wikipedia which was one of the more popular applications on the laptops and the schools also often had their own material like the country would have produced educational material that they would package and put onto the machines but people really liked the idea of wikis. It was encouraging, a hackable ecosystem, you can open your hardware, you should be able to read all of your source code. So there was a persistent enthusiasm in that community of schools which stayed in touch after the program and some of the deployers who had deployed them to schools, who went on to work with other schools, to keep that workflow alive. We had something called a school server and people kept deploying school servers after they were no longer distributing those particular laptops and so there was one group of people who was just maintaining that sort of offline content repository which these days is working on a project called Internet in a Box. The school server project merged with an existing project called Internet in a Box and we had always been working with Kiwix. The wiki that shipped on the laptops was not a Kiwix instance. Kiwix didn't exist at the time when we first started shipping but as that developed it was clearly an excellent and very functional way to have all kinds of modular things in your offline reader. So all these projects migrated towards using Kiwix. So that community led by a bunch of wikipedians and some of these educators in a bunch of countries around the world slowly started working more frequently together and it made sense to have a user group in the wiki verse to complement this hardware and traveling technical community which was mostly working in the fields and they were you know for the most part they're Wikipedia readers and they're they might be wiki users but they aren't as often wiki editors or media wiki developers but we've in the last couple of years we've started to have more of them show up on Phabricator and file tickets and maybe you've seen Tim Moody around he's been advocating for getting Our World in Data visualizations under the projects and working more closely with Wikimed so the communities are starting to cross-pollinate.

Oh, some really nice collaboration going on. So you're here at the wiki media summit as a representative of the user group. What is your role in the user group on a day-to-day basis? Like, what do you like to do and contribute to the to the group?

Recently, I've mainly been trying to help get data visualizations like the the Our World in Data visualizations that are distributed across these kinds of projects talking with Doc James and Tim Moody about what those integrations might look like now we have a couple of language wikipedias who are who are trying to implement it locally because they can implement gadgets even if there is no internal adoption of of the process and Florence and I are the were the contacts for the group so we try to make sure that someone is present at at events like this to find more enthusiastic communities who want to want to work here I think I've already met a half dozen people here in communities where they said of course we work with groups that have very expensive internet and it would be great if they didn't have to spend their data just to read wikipedia so they're very interested in figuring out how they can get involved it always helps to have the point of contact be an editor themselves because the questions are often is the snapshot in the Kiwix catalogue good enough and it's nice to have someone who really cares about the freshness of their wiki snaps I was like oh actually it's not someone needs to update the you know the Ibo wiki snapshot and it might turn out that there is some there's some subtle detail of how templates are now deployed on that on that project that made the an existing scraper fail.

So and now when we're at the Wikimedia Summit what are your expectations from sort of like from your user group perspective of what we're doing here?

It feels like a very successful cross-section of communities of different sizes and the people who are here by virtue of being here they're usually well connected so they know lots of lots of different parts of their home community not just on the wikis and that's a real benefit it's that that's a harder thing to find just by communicating with a few hundred editors on the wikis so that seems like one of the potential successes of gatherings like this is not just that you have representatives who happen to know something about the workings of each of the wiki communities but they're also potentially hubs in their broader social community from a governance perspective that helps Wikimedia as a as an educational movement ground itself in the governance and the educational systems of every part of the world and also socially it encourages finding thematic partnerships not just financial or glam partnerships so we have such a wide range of things that people do in the movement and you know the wiki loves butterflies organizer is here which I am delighted by and you are a lepidopterist and you want to meet other people and you realize that you have some of the world's most respected scholars in that discipline who might not have anything to do with collaborative technical knowledge that's actually great if we can amplify how good our community is for that sort of connection forming that brings back one of the early joyful promises of the web.

And if we switch perspective a little bit. You've been a wikimedian for a very long time and been on a lot of different meetings, what are your hopes that we can achieve with a movement charter here during the summit?

At its best the wiki spirit is about learning how to do things and fix things yourself you see something you want to happen in the world you can do it and most of the people here are here because they want they want to be more involved in directing how the movement prioritizes what it does prioritizes how it allocates time software development funds and of course we can do that we can all learn to do that in all of our local contexts a charter is a nice conduit for saying for describing that thing we're going to do together together I think the parallel in inside the wikis was the initial short essay that said we're going to see if we can write a thousand articles so I i think a good charter is something that's like that it's like we're going to see if we can put together a functional 100 organization 100 country governing body that can efficiently direct what the movement does and then that's us learning how to do what lots of international NGOs start out doing in the wiki spirit we'd probably try to find a way to do it in a very federated and decentralized and editable way and learning how to do that making sure that we have people who have become great at that in the movement will just make us better allies and collaborators with other structures like that in the world and I think some of those include organizations that are fixing the gaps in power and wealth and control of other parts of the ecosystem in the way that we are trying to maintain collaborative community involvement in the knowledge ecosystem we had this extraordinary opening keynote talking about what that feels like from an organization dedicated to remediating the wealth inequality in the world and that's that is a fine aspiration for us I really appreciated Amitabh being here as a peer saying I am here if people want to talk about how this could work we have our own problems trying to become like we're starting as a as a larger organization that is considered to be a leader in bridging some of these societal gaps and now we're trying to be more grassroots you're starting being fully grassroots and trying to figure out how to redistribute control of a certain part of the movement that was great we just have to live up to that

And I think that one was recorded so I'm going to link to the talk in the show notes. And then, finally, what are some things that your user group are planning to do in the future and how would you like people listening to this to get excited by oh offline wikis how can they help you?

Anyone excited by offline wikis or planning to be somewhere where they might not have a fast cheap internet is encouraged to download a copy of Kiwix and experiment with it visit the Kiwix catalog and see what sorts of wikis already have a snapshot see if they can add to the catalog just by making a snapshot of the wikis that they use and there are even complete builds of one of these offline boxes that you can that you can download if you have a Raspberry Pi or there are some models where you can print your own little box and I would encourage people to start by trying it and then once you have once you have an instance of an offline copy that you're using for something then you can start to help with the infrastructure of how you may maintain updates you know one of the ongoing projects is trying to figure out how to synchronize updates without having to fully download an entire new snapshot and another is how to integrate this internet in a box model with other offline boxes like the butter box which is more of an app-based offline system for people who are like most most users of these boxes will access them for their phones anyway so in addition to this browser experience some of these boxes ship a tiny store they ship a copy of Fdroid which is free software app store with a bunch of apps and those also need curation and people need to identify types of knowledge that they would need in a disaster when they're offline and then there are people around who can help you make an app of that if you know if you've never done that so likewise there are people who can help you make a Kiwix bundle if you have a wiki but you've never made a bundle and there's a mailing list we have an offline mailing list on wikimedia offline-l, offline hyphen l, so please sign up say hello introduce yourself and you'll generally receive a warm welcome.

Thank you very much SJ for taking the time to talk to me and good luck with the rest of the conference.

Anytime thanks yeah.

This was the last of the special episodes from the Wikimedia Summit in Berlin 2024. You can find all of the episodes under the tag wikimedia summit 2024 on the website and there you can also subscribe to only the English episodes of the podcast. Hear you soon!