Thank you Cindy

I’m emotionally crushed.  For the second time this week, I had to write an obituary about a female Wikimedian involved in addressing the movement’s gender gap.  Wikimedian Cindy Ashley-Nelson died at the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin early yesterday morning.  Her death follows that of Wikimedian activist Adrianne Wadewitz who died earlier in the week after a rock climbing accident on March 29.

Both women were inspiring in terms of their leadership, their contributions to Wikipedia while being active behind the scenes in movement governance, and their dedication.  Like myself, both believed that contributing to Wikimedia projects could change the world, and that knowledge is power.  Their individual contributions embody that.

While I did not have personal relationships with either, they served as role models in the community and brought attention to issues in the community as insiders that would not have otherwise been possible.  They participated in an environment that can at times be incredibly hostile towards women while being very successful.  I cannot easily see how the holes they left will be filled. 😦

I am thankful that in their lives, they spent time contributing.  I hope they can continue to live on forever in the collective community memory.

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Sochi Return on Investment Analysis

Return on investment analyses is really easy: ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100. The problem with doing this for the Sochi Paralympics is I did not make money. I knew going in I was going to lose money. This is more about understanding the relative performance metrics of what I did when trying to assess the value of doing other reporting on my own dime (or with grant money on some one else’s dime) and the potential outcomes.

Based on my previous blog post exploring Sochi costs, the total was €551.05 / US$766.18.

The actual ROI becomes complicated as it is a question of what my expected return is. This is actually a difficult question, especially when it comes to measuring media impact because it isn’t just page views that matter: there are a large variety of factors that play into the effectiveness of media story telling and measuring ROI.

For the moment, let’s assume pure costs against pure page views is all I care about: 10 articles producing 14,078 views from March 1 to March 23 puts the cost per view at €0.039 a view.

Let’s make this a little more complex. In order to get to Sochi, I did a fair amount of reporting. There were 18 other articles mentioning the Winter Paralympics, including 11 from Copper Mountain, 2 right before I left for Sochi, 2 from La Molina, 3 internet based articles a few months before the Games. Let’s weight these a bit assuming the Sochi costs are born out for these articles based on the Sochi period (because they probably got page views they would not have had otherwise). The Sochi articles account for about 75% of all 2014 Winter Paralympics news coverage during that march period, and the other articles account for about 25% of all traffic. In this instance, total views Sochi value goes down to €0.029 a view and the non-Sochi value is €0.069. The bump while much smaller pays off more by having large volumes of news stories in the archives. On an average views per article, it goes from average total views per article for non-weighted for Sochi at €2.554 to €3.406 for weighted, versus non-in person Sochi €0.457 to €0.811. The €0.039 number views seems the most rationale in this case.

Let’s assume that pure production is the number that is cared about. Total cost per article is €55.105 an article for each article published while I was in Sochi.

While in Sochi, I wrote one blog post the day I left, seven while there and so far two after that excluding this one. I’ve written effectively 19 blog articles about preparing for, going and the follow up to the Sochi Paralympics. For me, this was an important part of my reporting and it complimented my reporting. It talked more about the process and the experience in a way that my pure sport reporting in a journalistic style did not. These ten articles had 8,496 views, syndicated and to my blog, between March 1 to March 23. The value of each individual view is €0.084. While I had the same number of blog entries, I had a lot fewer views.

From a pure money aspect, if only counting blog entries, it cost me €78.72 per blog post. Expensive. Let’s assume for a moment equal weighting of blogs and news articles. I produced 17 pieces of long form content. Each piece cost me €32.414 to write. If I combine the page views across both my blog and the published Wikinews articles, the average cost per total view is €0.024. Cheaper and cheaper per view. Combined views, this is not bad.

These numbers feel fine, but they are rather non-compelling. Yawn yawn.

There are other metrics to assess ROI in this case. The official English Wikinews account on Facebook linked to every article published from Sochi. These posts for the Sochi reporting combined were views 7,636 times. Seems pretty good. Of the ten articles, there were 25 times where they were linked to on Twitter. Twitter reach for these links exceeds 100,000 twitter accounts. The links were seen by a lot of people, the views were decent both to the blog and the news articles.

ROI might have been stronger had there been more Wikipedia work and Commons. Wikipedia allows no original reporting, and is thus useless in an original reporting context. (Journalists should not be going places as Wikipedians reporting for Wikipedia.) Commons was also off limits, because of two factors: The agreement as a member of the press is none of your photos can be uploaded commercially. This meant no event pictures could be uploaded to Commons. Second, Russia has no freedom of panorama. I tried to upload a photo anyway, and it got nominated for deletion. In this particular context, Commons content creation is not a factor in ROI.

So using pure page views, the answer is each view costs less than €0.10 each. The articles averaged €32.414 to write. I’m not actually sure how much more this ROI analysis adds. There really needs to be a formula to better figure this out.

Actual Sochi Paralympic budget

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Armenian team at the Opening Ceremonies.

Before going to Sochi, I tried to budget and discussed this more in depth than people probably cared to know.  Budgeting is very important when you’re doing citizen journalism and you want to possibly get money to support your efforts.

Transportation involved two trips on the Russian metro at 40 rubles each, airport express train at 640 rubles, and a round trip train ticket from Moscow to Sochi at AU$125.  I got zapped with 116 RUBs for the train twice for sheets. Plane tickets were bought using frequent flier miles.  Retail price is showing me US$331. Do some converting: €0.78 + €12.59 + €81.12  + €4.564 + €238.06 = €337.11.  Not bad. About €100 if you subtract the plane ticket part out.

Hotel expense was €33 a night for five nights.  That equals €165.  Food was… That’s a bit harder to calculate.  I took with me €200 that I converted to rubles with no commission at €1 to 40 RUB.  la la la la.  Let’s go with €160 on for food and postage, with about €25 of that at the airport on the last day, including a breakfast that was 760 RuB / €14.87 from Burger King that included lots of stuff I did not want including a disgusting breakfast roll thing with a tomato in it.  Sbarros for lunch was much cheaper at 220 RUB / €4.328 which included two slices of pizza and a very large drink. Two bottles of Pepsi each ran 70 RUB / €1.377.

IMG_5223I screwed up and converted USD to RUB and did not convert it before I left Russia.  Ooops.  Add US$75.

All told, assuming actual cost of airline tickets, going to Sochi cost me €551.05 / US$766.18.  That isn’t that much.  Going to the London Paralympics, the cost was around AUD$7,500.  Costs were lower because I did not fly to Sochi, because I did not attend the whole games, because I missed meals, because I bought fewer souvenirs.   (It was AUD$15,000 for two people. This included everything from airfare to food to internet.)

What did this get me? Page views for all 2014 Winter Paralympics articles from 1 March to 14 March 2014 on English Wikinews total 14,685 views.  To be fair, I produced only 10 articles while in Sochi.

In London, myself and my fellow report produced around 50 to 60 total articles. That’s a huge volume.  My reporting partners in Sochi were Ukrainians, who were primarily writing in Ukrainian and doing their own work.  It wasn’t so much a partnership of working together to support each other’s English Wikinews reporting.  The page views for London original reporting around the Paralympic period total 78,943 views.  That’s about 5 times as many views.  The costs for London were 17 times higher: €9734.25 / €551.05 = 17.  I think reporting wise, I got my money’s worth here.

I think, when I do a better metric analysis, some of the breakdowns will be interesting.  Where this reporting project fell down was background research and background writing for English Wikipedia… but I think the Ukrainian project will demonstrate why that matters and how useful that particular aspect can be.  I know that they had zero articles about the Paralympics before 1 March 2014 on Ukrainian Wikipedia.  They now have 53 pages with 23,803 total views from 1 March to 14 March, the fifth most visited Wikipedia for articles about the 2014 Winter Paralympics found in that category.  But that’s another analysis to look at Return of Investment for another time.

 

And then oops, I took a train through the Ukraine

Ukrainian passport stamps

Ukrainian passport stamps

Because I needed to travel this weekend, I needed to leave the 2014 Sochi Paralympics early.  Given my budget issues, I took the train from Moscow to Sochi, because it was cheaper than flying to Sochi from Madrid.  I had an enjoyable train ride from Moscow to Sochi.  It was one of those interesting experiences, and I had a grand time that involved Russian train passengers I was traveling with giving me alcohol for dinner and breakfast.  Fun times.  Great views.  Not a bad night’s sleep.

When booking my return to coincide with my flight, I opted for a slightly longer 36 hour return that involved two nights on the train.  My guess at the time was this train just made more stops.  I know on the way down that we didn’t stop at every station.  I also figured there would be less needs for express trains from Sochi to Moscow during the actual Paralympic Games.

Live and learn.  I had a lovely unexpected 12 hour train ride through the Ukraine.  Okay, not so lovely.  You know those moments where you think in blind panic, “ZOMG! I’ve fucked up! Eeek!” Yeah, it was one of those when the train car steward said something to me in Russian, then said to me in English “Passport control.”  I stared blankly at him like he lost his mind.  The other guy in my section said, “Ukraine.”  I looked out the window and sure enough, passport control.

I wasn’t avoiding the Ukraine: I just had no intention of going there.  The United States government specifically advises Americans not to go there right now, especially the eastern parts. There was no reason for me to go to the Ukraine.  Besides which, how would I get there anyway? Well, by train by not understanding things.  So while not avoiding the Ukraine but having no intention of going there, I ended up there.

More Russian passport stamps.  One can never have enough Russian and Ukrainian passport stamps.  They compliment my 22 Australian ones.

More Russian passport stamps. One can never have enough Russian and Ukrainian passport stamps. They compliment my 22 Australian ones.

The Russians appeared just as confused as me as to why I was there.  There were five of them I dealt with.  Journalists are not high on their list of people they love at the border, and I tried to make clear: I was not in Russia to write about politics but about sport.   Sport.  Sport.  Also, I was leaving Moscow the day my train arrived in Moscow.  Also, the train ticket SEE! LOOK! does not say UKRAINE! anywhere on it.  Also, when I went Moscow to Sochi, I did not not go through the Ukraine! I was there for the Paralympics!  It was hard to babble when they spoke no English and I spoke no Russian.  I showed them my papers.  They photographed everything, including my return ticket.  They used special glasses to look closely at my accreditation. They radioed a guy, who spoke English, who talked to me.  Apparently, foreigners do what I do occasionally and it was not a big issue.

The Ukrainians were not that fussed because I was not getting off the train.  They were more concerned about the guy in my compartment bringing camera equipment and a television.  Besides which, there were only two. And unlike the Russian side, the border guys had few guns and less overall personnel.

So onwards intrepid reporter who plans poorly. Did I mention I was a bit hungry? When going through security in at the Olympic Park Train Station in Sochi, they took my fuet. They also took my can of corn. I bought ramen in the train station, which was fortunate on my part. Unlike my trip to Sochi via train, this train had pretty much no food for sale. My bottle of coke I had leftover from lunch, a bottle of water from my bag, and tea made on the train was all I had to drink. Food was ramen, Oreo cookies and store band Starburst candies. woot woot. 36 hours on the train.

Anyway, while in the Ukraine, I kept looking for Russian flags.  My perception from the news was this area had become defacto Russia.  Russian nationalism should be on display.  There should be a feeling of tenseness in the Ukraine that I should feel having accidentally wandered through it.

Except there was none of that. Ukraine along the eastern rail line I took felt poorer than the Russian parts I had traveled on. The trains on the Ukrainian side appeared to be older, and more rusted. People appeared to be going about their business, riding bicycles here and there, carrying bags of what looked like groceries and other supplies. The towns felt empty, but no emptier than other small towns in the USA I have taken the rail through. There were no Russian flags, but at the same time, there were very few Ukrainian flags. I saw them occasionally at what appeared to be government buildings. Sometimes, I saw blue and yellow painted poles that looked more like store advertising (and no real Russian colour equivalent). No one on the train seemed overly concerned. The Russian Railways staff seemed not that concerned. There were people of all ages and genders trying to sell stuff on the train in the Ukraine, which did not happen on the Russian side. There were fewer passengers, a lot fewer, than in Russia but that was it. A bad part of me wondered, “Why does Russia want this part of the Ukraine that feels so poor compared to the Russian side?”

Traveling in Ukraine, I was taking train.

Traveling in Ukraine, I was taking train.

Near as I can tell, the train entered Ukraine close to Donetsk and left around Kharkiv.

Going back into Russia, again a repeat of accidentally leaving Russia. This time, no English speaker at all and this time, every single page of my passport was photographed.  No problems getting through customs, but a bit scary nonetheless when your government is telling you not to go there and the news says they are on the brink of war there.

By the way, did you know that Russia is amassing troops on the border with Ukraine? Before hitting immigration control, I saw a train with at least 15 tanks and at least 15 troop carrier trucks. If I had to make a stupid mistake, I am glad I made it Wednesday and not later.

Welcome to some of the surreal and weird experiences I have had thanks to my involvement with Wikimedia.  I think this tops what I have gotten myself into on my own.

And we’re go for Sochi :D :D

It looks like the accreditation for the Ukrainian Wikinewsies has arrived in Kiev.  Despite paying €48 for expedited mail, it arrived two weeks after it was sent.  (This doesn’t mean the Ukrainians have the accreditation, merely that the accreditation got off the plane.) The accreditation arrived today. The Ukrainians got a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation to cover their Sochi expenses.  They have their travel arranged.

I’ve got my transportation booked.  I should have a “lovely” train ride across Russia, (30 hours, third class seat) but the experience should still be awesome.  I’ve got a hotel booked.  I’m seriously thinking about packing.  I’m working on a todo list and remember this fact list.

Remember:

1. Before getting on the train, I will need to go to the ticket desk and exchange my internet ticket for a paper ticket for the train.
2.  Meals on the train cost about €15.
3. Train bathrooms apparently get dirty quickly after leaving the station.
4. The fare on the express train on the route Domodedovo – Paveletskiy station, Vnukovo is about 640 rubles round trip.

To do list:
1. Print out basic Russian phrases for pointing at to get service.
2. Figure out where my seats on the train actually are.
3. Buy bottled water before getting on the train.  Bring snacks for the train.  Food options are limited.
4. Pack some baby-tissues, toothpaste and toothbrush.

Outside of that, I’ve updated Wikinews:Sochi Paralympic Games, and posted on the watercooler for Wikinews to let potential reviewers know what is going on.  I’m also trying to work on a copyright notice for all my pictures for Wikinews.  I am having some problems with the template.  Any assistance in fixing this would be appreciated.

Scholar and Feminist Conference at Barnard College was awesome

Opening presentationYesterday morning, I returned to Madrid from Locations of Learning: Transnational Feminist Practices , Scholar and Feminist Conference at Barnard College, New York City where I was a panelist.  It was a truly fantastic and wonderful experience.  I cannot thank the organizers enough for inviting me.

The session I took part in was one where people in the field of feminist activism shared their experiences.  Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh talked about her experiences producing on demand television for Zanan TV.  Tamura A. Lomax is associated with the Virginia Commonwealth University and is the co-founder of The Feminist Wire. Maria Belén Ordóñez is very involved with FemTechNet.  We all had a great deal experience in our chosen areas, and very different experiences.

One theme in our session was finding the balance when engaged in these activities.  For Lomax, it was doing The Feminist Wire on top of all her other obligations as a full time academic.  The process for the site involves a multi-tiered peer review process and working with a diverse group of people joined by a common feminist goal to write around the same topic.  For Abbasgholizadeh, it was dealing with the time issues when needing to constantly produce.  Europe, the Americas and Asia all are awake at different times.

Privacy was also discussed.  I think one of my points was that Wikipedia has conflicting definitions of privacy.  As an academic, no one can add your birthdate to the article about you including you unless you have a reliable source.  On the other hand, as a contributor, people can share your birthday and use sites not considered for Wikipedia text as much as they want on the talk pages.

From what I gather on Twitter, the takeaway from my comments during the panel was that Wikipedia is important for knowledge formation.  It isn’t always as easy as “who reads this article and how do they act in response to it” but who reads this article and shares knowledge with others based on this article.  This is actually something that Gavin Reynolds from the National Sports Information Centre at the Australian Institute of Sport made me really pause to think about.  “Where does our knowledge come from?”

While not everything I wanted to say got said, I think the presentation overall went very, very well.  (I would like to have mentioned the issues with a preference for English language sources making it hard for women’s voices in other languages to be heard on English Wikipedia.)  The feedback I got right after the session and at the mixer later was all good. 🙂

The organizers were very keen that we should tweet about the sessions we attended, and I tried my best because I really enjoyed myself and the company.  I found the whole thing incredibly motivating as a Wikimedia contributor to keep going.  I’ll repost and add to a few of my Facebook and Twitter comments to give a broader view of what happened. 🙂

Tate's session

discussion about New Caledonia at #sflocations was awesome. 😀 😀

Tate LeFevre presented on New Caledonia.  For me, this was awesome.  My PhD is Australian.  I have lived in Micronesia.  Seeing Oceania the focus of research makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  On some level, her work was a critique of French governmental practices regarding the definition of culture in France, and the idea that all should be working towards the same goal. Indigenous identity is not really culturally allowed in the French colony of New Caledonia because french policy says everyone should be working towards the same goals of supporting the state, not as different groups working towards getting along.  The leadership of the indigenous movement are willing to support a status quo that devalues women if it means getting what they want: the issue of current and ongoing abuses towards women is something that the leadership sees as something to revisit at a later date following greater independence.

#sflocations speaker talking about how south asian domestic workers become muslim as a complement to their work, not in opposition to it.

This was one of those presentations I found really interesting, but wasn’t always sure I was understanding correctly.  The gist of it appeared to be that female South Asian domestic workers were not coerced into becoming Muslims.  Instead, as an extension of their labor and the subservience it called for, they embraced Islam by choice because of the subservience vein interwoven into the faith.

Other twitter and Facebook comments I made:

  •  #sflocations speaker talking about a feminist who created a model for better understanding Islam in context of the west.
  • #sflocations is an eye opener on the behind scenes perspective on USA academic hiring practices I had little knowledge of. ZOMG.
  • #sflocations comment just made me glad I did the Australian research PhD experience.
  • #sflocations one speaker said that attempts to do politically neutral fact based research is often a way of reasserting male hegemonic thought.
  • #sflocations Realizing I need to read http://t.co/ZYEIjPUsSo .
  • Listening to #sflocations discussing of understanding feminist outside own understanding, I see parallels with issues with Wikipedia models
  • Transnational feminism has issues because the type of critique of feminism can be so out of scope of models used that it makes it difficult to approach. #sflocations on a Wikipedia level, i can see this in the anglocentric view on sourcing and sources of knowledge and derived notability .
  • #sflocations some more recent Chinese and Japanese feminist academics to examine if taught belief that male feminists in both countries actually created liberal feminism there. They found this narrative not to be true. Turns out women shared feminist thought via sharing diaries and journals, and critiquing European models of feminism
  • #sflocations interesting critique of politics. Condemned non-profits as being political in the sense of being business and entertainment. Focused exclusively on profits, taking political movements and undermining them by individualized them and the narrative around the individual.
  • #sflocations is now talking about the history and evolution of transnational feminism. Interesting because the pair of speakers that are there touched upon that I have heard regarding the superiority of one American/European based typed of feminism.
  • #sflocations started. For someone with little knowledge of the history of feminist scholarship, this is interesting perspective on practice

Overall, the conference made me feel leery about the potential for joining the USA academic world. The system discussed was made to feel very closed, one in which research was difficult to conduct, where one question asker openly said being an adjunct professor was tantamount to slavery, and where PhD students were not given a realistic expectation regarding the job market and job expectations.  These were questions I asked my supervisors in Australia about early on.  While I do not think I have a completely clear grasp on the Australian perspective and I do know it has its faults, overall the Australian and New Zealand academic opportunities seem more ideal for me.  (Certainly the PhD process has been.  I wouldn’t change my university, my supervisors and my academic experience at the University of Canberra for anything.  It has been fabulous.)

The conference was also interesting because of the connections I could see between research being done, and either how Wikipedia works or how the research the people at the conference were doing could be incorporated into Wikipedia articles as sources that would overall provide more information regarding the global status of women.  It was also fantastic because as a Wikipedia contributor, I feel I could talk about that experience.  Too often it feels like the experiences of myself and other women who are contributors are either mediated through the press or by academics, sometimes without any request for input on our experiences.  It also helped me feel less isolated and less alone in the contributor process because here were a bunch of other women (and men) going through somewhat similar processes in academia.

I’d like to (again) thank the organizers for their fantastic job in organizing the conference, and bringing together a diverse group of academics who spoke on a wide array of topics.  It was just an awesome conference, and well worth the trip from Madrid.

My concerns about the Wikimedia Foundation’s proposed changes on the Terms of Use

There is a conversation going on on meta about changes to the Wikimedia Foundation terms of use.  One of my comments in that discussion is pasted below.

I too have concerns, not just for professors but for the religious, for members of the armed forces and for anyone who receives an income. As the proposal stands, it creates a climate where contributors are actively encouraged to violate Assume Good Faith, and ascribing motivations to edits and encouraging contributors to make accusations of bad faith, COI editing. This creates a highly toxic editing climate, which we can see from the Chelsea Manning case that went to ArbCom and the related controversy. Advocates of certain positions had people seek out personal details on their lives. The type of information sought out would not be allowed in a Wikipedia article about the individual, but could be used to discredit the user. Accusations of a financial incentive to promote a certain position took place during the Chelsea Manning case with the implication that members of the military were acting as spokespeople to promote a government position. (Similar accusations were also made about people on the opposing side of the issue, with related COI complaints.) Others face similar accusations on a regular basis while editing English Wikipedia, with the text of the edit not being examined for its alignment with local policies regarding acceptable content on Wikipedia. Instead, accusations of COI editing are used to undermine the body of their work. This proposal should include Terms of use/Harassment and outing amendment which details about what non-personally disclosed details about a user may be shared by other contributors on pages hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, methods for dealing with disclosure of non-public information (such as employment details) on Wikimedia projects that would actively discourage people from refusal to interact with just the text, and details about how the WMF will support its user base who comply with this policy while making edits that comply with pillars on Wikipedia and BLP but are targeted for harassment by Wikipedia users.