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.

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.

 

Thoughts before leaving Sochi Paralympics: Reporting issues and Paralympic news

Look! I'm media! So cool!

Look! I’m media! So cool!

I leave the Sochi Paralympics today. As a reporter, I met my publishing goals that I set before I left. I need to remember that: 1 article a day is a lot on many levels, and anything else was just bonus. Also, I’m not getting paid to be here, I’m a citizen journalist writing articles for a Wikimedia project. I do not have to answer to an editor “back home” or justify the expense of going to Sochi.

But at the same time, I would have liked to have done more. One of the inherent problems with not being able to dedicate yourself to the craft of journalism is there is a lack of contacts, sometimes a lack of knowledge, and a lack of practice. Reporting relies on contacts. Reporting also relies on boldness. Be bold. Ask the questions. Go where things are. I do not have the contacts, and I can get only 2/3rds of the way there on boldness. (I might have gotten more had I done more research.)

A selfie from the cross country on Sunday

A selfie from the cross country on Sunday

This is why at times I am frustrated by my reporting here: For a few things I wrote, I feel like 70% of what I wrote came from information sheets journalist are given, 25% from pictures I took on a journalist (not photography) accreditation. The color feels hard to come through when my knowledge of things like curling fails me. Plus, I feel like I should write about all four curling sheets, all four matches… not just one. One well placed rock in one end that does not appear like it had a result on the outcome. How do you write that well?

In the afternoon match of wheelchair curling, the United States threw some really bad rocks, weren’t playing aggressively to win initially against the Russians. They went to an 8th end down by three rocks. My understanding is after the 7th end, if you do not think you can win, no 8th end required. The United States wheelchair curlers played the final end much more aggressively. They were assisted in the 8th end by some bad Russian stones which shot the gap between US stones and left the scoring area. This could only be banked on so much, and the Russians did not always misplace rocks. Despite much better playing and having three stones in the scoring area with 2 rocks to go, Russia managed to place a stone the USA could not get out. The United States ended up short, scoring only two of the three points they needed in the 8th end. Unlike the game Canada was playing against Norway on the sheet next to them, there was no forcing an extra end.

Having done so much writing for Wikipedia at times, I struggle with how to write neutrally. I second guess and end up neuturing things. That felt like the case here.

When I get back somewhere (Spain or the USA), I will write more on some of

The United States enters during the Opening Ceremony

The United States enters during the Opening Ceremony

the issues involved with Sochi, better planning thoughts, how to be more successful at this sort of thing, and the metrics at the end of the day.

Let’s move on to other news agencies coverage of the Paralympics. In London during the Paralympics, the Associated Press was not to be found. I read the news often, and I rarely if ever any coverage of the Paralympics. I did not see any reporters on the ground. Here in Sochi, it is a different case. There are USA journalists, several of whom are based up in the mountains. There is media coverage. There is television coverage. (Though I have been told NBC has few people here, with most of the NBC people using OBS feeds and as a consequence being based in the USA.)

I’m not entirely certain I am happy with other United States coverage that I have seen. It appears to take three forms: 1) Ukraine. 2) Oscar Pistorious. 3) Crashes.

I feel tremendous sympathy for the Ukraine. That situation has to a degree impacted my ability to do my reporting here. It is horrible what is going on in the Ukraine, and I cannot imagine the additional stress on the Ukrainian athletes and officials. But some of the reporting appears to hugely political. Craig Spence and Philip Craven were right about things being about sport. So when journalists appear to use the Paralympics as a throwaway line to make a political point about Putin while ignoring the broader issues of inclusion and the elite sport going on, it gets annoying. This is especially annoying when the Paralympics are not contextualized and most USAians have no idea what the Paralympics are about. Many of these sportspeople here get little news coverage outside the Paralympic period, so taking away their moment in the sun by making their participation part of some political disalogue gets annoying. Did I mention annoying? Perhaps I would find this news coverage about the Ukraine aspect less annoying if for every mention of the Ukraine in a Paralympic context, there was a sports articles about the performance of sportspeople… you know, like the Olympics.

The other thing that is annoying is the Oscar Pistorious thing. I don’t know whether I should be blaming the IPC here or the media. Everything is fundamentally political on some level in decision making. The IPC embracing of Vladmir Putin was political. The IPC embracing Oscar Pistorious and chosing to highlight his accomplishments on the big screen was a political decision of sorts. The IPC is chosing to align itself with a man who killed a woman (murdered is to be determined, killed is not disputed), who allegedly cheated on another woman and who liked to play with guns. The IPC chose to align with some one who, after winning silver in the London Paralympics, protested that the person who won gold had an unfair competitive advantage because of his blade. This was a guy who went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to say his own blades did not give a competitive advantage. Hypocrisy, thy name is…

Anyway, back to Oscar and the media. The Associated Press was asking sportspeople about that. You’re a Ukrainian Paralympian. Your race ends. You have won a medal. A United States journalist asks you about… OSCAR PISTRIOUS! You are an American Paralympic medalist and your race ends and a United States journalist asks you about OSCAR PISTORIOUS! ZOMG. So awesome. Where was this during the Olympics? During the Olympics, I did not see a single Associated Press article where, following a person winning their medal in Sochi, the winner was asked, “Are you following the Oscar Pistrious situation? How does his actions impact your Olympic experience? How do you feel as an Olympian being connected to Oscar?” This feels like lazy journalism. Bold to be sure, but lazy. Maybe I have been too inside the movement, but I think the key to Paralympic success and disability access being improve is to focus on the sports. These are elite athletes. They train really hard. They give up a lot to be where they are. When their moment in the sun comes, when they become the best in their field, they get asked about Oscar. Their own accomplishments are ignored.

The last thing I have seen involves crashes and hospitalizations. That make news. I have a harder time faulting this one, though I would like to see more emphasis on success. Great Bitain can do that. Why can’t the USA media?

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.

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.