Scholarships/Feedback

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To help future Wikimania scholarship committee and the Wikimedia Foundation, please leave any feedback you have regarding the scholarship process, selection criteria, communication or any other related topics here. There have been some strong views expressed in recent days after this year scholarship result has been announced, here is the place to make sure your comments are noted and heard.

Thank you and please sign your comments.

Financial circumstances

Originally posted at Talk:Scholarships#Financial circumstances and copied here -- KTC (talk) 10:34, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
  • I got a rejection letter shortly after I posted this, and sincerely hope that need is a more considered factor in future years than it was this year. Although I don't know anyone who has gotten accepted who I don't think rightfully belongs at Wikimania, it is a bit disturbing to me that I know of at least a couple people who have gotten scholarships who hold fulltime jobs related to the movement, make more than I do in a year in a month related to the movement, and still wound up with scholarships. People in such positions could pretty easily go to Wikimania on their own dime if they decided it was important enough to: I simply can't. Kevin Gorman (talk) 05:04, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
I empathize as I've been in the same boat myself. There was a clear note in the FAQ, as well as as on the application form, stating to be considerate to others needs before applying for a scholarship, and we hope the vast majority of applicants did so. Taking into account financial circumstances is a route we could go down in future years, but it will open up a big can of worms, which is why we haven't gone in that direction before now.
I could go into elaborate detail on the potential problems, but I don't think this is the time and place. The WMF will be holding a public discussion on the future of scholarships once the dust has settled, and I would encourage everyone involved in scholarships this year to participate. This issue would be a good topic to discuss along with many others, and I will add it to an existing list of issues which need review for next year. CT Cooper · talk 18:59, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
I also empathise, having met an attendee who literally had nothing to eat except the provided conference meals. However, "need" is a vague concept, and when I read the paragraph on 'consider others' I proceeded after determining that, although I strictly could attend without a scholarship, I simply wouldn't. I can't spend an amount on a hobby of mine on which the whole family could go on holiday for two weeks.
I trust there are not too many millionaires attending on a scholarship. They wouldn't want to sleep in 12-bed rooms like we did in Washington, wouldn't feed on stale buffets like in Hong Kong, and they wouldn't fly economy class. Despite, "can of worms" is actually an understatement. Who would be willing to lay open their financial situation, who would check that disclosure, and what do we do with editors from countries where it actually is dangerous to publish what you've got? I think we'll have to live with the possibility of some well-off people eating donor money, at least I cannot think of any viable alternative. --Pgallert (talk) 19:18, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that would be my conclusion as well. CT Cooper · talk 12:44, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Many other nonprofits that provide scholarships take need in to account in a meaningful way; I would suspect there's a standard set of guidelines for nonprofits floating around somewhere about how to do so. Though I'm unaware of a scholarship recipient who I don't think is fully deserving of being at WMLondon, more than a few of the scholarship decisions I'm aware of are a bit disappointing to me; repeat recipients with movement related work who could afford to attend if they chose to, vs never recipients doing important movement related work with little or no funding, etc, but who dedicate a hell of a lot of time to Wikimedia and produce valuable results for the movement. (I'm also not ecstatic about the quota system, but that's something I'll get in to when I haven't recently had a concussion, heh.) Kevin Gorman (talk) 09:04, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

I don't think the scholarship committee should consider the financial situation for allocating scholarships. First, I don't think this is something that the committee can handle correctly. To consider this, we should request a lot of information for the applicants, most of them really private, and that is really difficult to compare. Economic situation is very different from country to country... does someone earning 1,000 USD monthly in South Africa should be prioritized over someone earning USD 3,000 per month on the United States with three children? And second, I think that we should prioritize first people that are valuable for our movement. I think it is already difficult to evaluate the 1,000 applications so adding a new consideration will make the process much more difficult.

To be honest, I don't think most of the appplicants are able or willing to attend Wikimania by their own means, probably only those leaving nearby the host city or those that are very rich. There might be people that can pay their ticket but it is not a priority for them and would prefer to spend that money in other things (as Pgallert). In some places, especially in the so-called Global South, it is practically impossible to attend unless you have a scholarships; I don't see anyone from those places able to spent 2,000 or 3,000 USD (which is several times the average monthly salary in those countries) just to attend a conference, so it would be useless to evaluate the financial situation of the applicants. --B1mbo (talk) 12:18, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

Repeat recipients

Split from #Financial circumstances above, as while related, this issue deserves its own thread. CT Cooper · talk 12:44, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

One viable alternative that does not address this issue but would have the same end result is tracking who has received scholarships in previous years and then giving them a lower assessment than equivalent applicants who have never received a scholarship. I talk with some people in other countries, and there is murmuring that some Wikimedia chapters are exclusive organizations or that people most associated with a chapter continually get scholarships every year, while newer volunteers who are heavily engaged get rejected despite being as active as anyone else during the past year. User:Kevin Gorman, would that be a step toward addressing your concern? Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:22, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

I believe this is already done, at least for the direct WMF scholarships. Previous scholarships count in a negative way. --Pgallert (talk) 12:42, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
I am not sure. Something seems odd. Perhaps next year I would like to join the scholarship committee myself. Blue Rasberry (talk) 13:49, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
You're right. The pressure of time this year meant that such penalties didn't end-up being applied this year, though from what I've seen, the vast majority of recipients are first timers. In fact compared to previous years, the final result this year was far more based on phase two scores alone i.e. the highest scoring recipients get the scholarships, while in previous years far more adjustments were made to favour new recipients and also to give better country-by-country diversity on the recipient and waiting lists. When I first joined the Scholarship Committee, I looked into introducing fixed penalties to phase two scores (something like 10% off) for repeat recipients. However, it was found in practice that competition in some regions was so tight, that any meaningful penalty would be an automatic disqualification in practice, and so the intention was to continue doing it "manually" and on a case-by-case basis.
The big three advantages of this year's method is that it's simple and straightforward, reduces the risk of accusations of "fixed results", and also reduces complaints of poorly qualified applicants getting a scholarship because they were the only phase two applicant from country X etc. However, I would argue some of those situations are avoidable anyway and that such advantages are counterweighted by some big disadvantages. These include, an increase in situations where someone repeatedly gets a scholarship every year, leading to discontent from other candidates who keep being denied (I've had a few complaints of this nature this year.). Furthermore, it can also lead to poorer diversity among recipients – with one country often becoming dominant within a region, not to mention phase two scores are far from infallible.
I've served two years on the Scholarship Committee, and I intend to step down at the end of this year's process, so new members will be needed. However, joining is not a decision to be taken lightly – it's stressful hard work with very little reward. CT Cooper · talk 12:44, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Thank you a lot for volunteering. I appreciate what you did and how you did it.
It sounds like an international approach was taken, so that people from various countries competed with each other. At the country level though the complaint I have heard is that established contributors who have gotten scholarships before were awarded again, and of course after having gone to multiple conferences they will perpetually be more qualified for future scholarships than people who have never gone.
I would favor absolutely disqualifying people who got scholarships the previous year, and probably greatly downgrading all applications for any previous years, just because I feel that the movement needs new leaders more than it needs to solidify those leadership roles which already exist.
I have two people in mind who did fundraising independent of the WMF to bring not less than USD $20,000 into the Wikimedia community in the past year. Perhaps other candidates did more but doing fundraising, even if it is for their own managed projects, is above the bar that I would have imagined for being able to get a scholarship and give a presentation. I would not want new leaders dismissed just for being new when they show promise.
Again, thanks user:CT Cooper, you did an awesome job that I appreciate. And if being a scholarship grader is a mega commitment then perhaps I would like to join to help design ways to get more graders and lower the barriers to participate in grading. Blue Rasberry (talk) 11:28, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for your kind words. I do appreciate them. I don't decide who joins the Scholarship Committee but you seem to have the right attitude and want to join for the right reasons. I look forward to seeing your name on the committee membership list next year.
I'm open minded about taking a more decisive approach with repeat recipients. My only concerns about automatically disqualifying a potential repeat recipient is that in some cases there may only be one person from a particular country who is qualified to receive a scholarship, and that giving that person a scholarship multiple times can be justified to ensure good country-by-country diversity. Scholarships represent a significant investment in someone and I would argue there should always be a minimum standard before a person should be awarded a scholarship in any circumstance – a minimum score of five for Wikimedia contributions and five overall is a good starting point. Regardless, we would have to be open about a potential repeat recipient's chances so people don't waste time making applications they have no chance of getting. Finally, one will have to bear in mind that any such rules imposed by the Scholarship Committee or WMF would only be binding on WMF scholarships, so there is a good chance of chapters "picking-up" potential repeat recipients and giving them scholarships. CT Cooper · talk 16:40, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
I don't agree with the idea of penalizing or disqualifying people that attended or got a scholarship on past Wikimanias. For me, the most important thing is to gather valuable people for our movement in general. And some of those that have attended Wikimania in the past usually have been very important for the event sharing their experiences, presenting the results of their projects or proposing new ideas for our movement. Disqualifying them (which in practice happens with some penalty) will be very bad for the event and probably a lot of people will complain.
However, I agree that we should increase the number of new people attending Wikimania. If we want to make this event worthy, we need to stop the idea that the same people attend every year. I'm thinking that we can set some kind of quota for new members where we assure at least 20% of the scholarship recipients haven't attended before (the number is just an idea, we can discuss it certainly). So this way we are not penalizing those that participated before but we are sure there will be some renovation in the attendance. --B1mbo (talk) 12:48, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

Typo

It's "Please", not "Plase". Liz (talk) 21:18, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

I fixed it. --Dan Garry, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 01:03, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

invitation

hello

you should know that the visa formalities for GB are too long for some countries

I recommend the committee to award must issue such invitations wikimania for 2014 before the end of the month, depending on demand

and inform them of the date of issue of this paper; is to help them plan their efforts to come to londre

--Bachounda (talk) 20:11, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying. If you're talking about releasing scholarship results earlier, then yes I would agree, though I can only see that being achievable by starting the process earlier – which would mean opening and closing dates for scholarship applications. That wouldn't be popular with everyone. As it is now, visa applications for the UK can be done up to three months in advance and it takes up to three weeks to get a decision, which should leave sufficient time for recipients to make their plans. CT Cooper · talk 20:49, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
the procedure is for the scholarship is good but after the announcement of results of scholarships
I explain I just had a scholarship to wikimania 2014. to deposit the visa; GB consulate request a letter of invitation from wikimedia. some countries have needs that letter to deposit the visa --Bachounda (talk) 21:01, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
Supporting letters are being provided by Wikimedia UK. Please contact visas@wikimedia.org for one. CT Cooper · talk 21:35, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
thank you - I'll send my application to this contact --Bachounda (talk) 15:30, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

Quota/percentages

Bouncing off of Kevin above (we've discussed this off-wiki with others, and I can't claim credit for the majority of this idea), the quota system is rather odd. 10% of the scholarships are devoted to North Americans, while Europe, for instance, gets 20% (including a handful from Central Asia). That's in addition to the 65 scholarships given out by WMDE, WMAT, and WMCH (side note: WMCH should have been commended for aiming at countries without a chapter ... except they attached language restrictions that basically limited it to only European countries that already have a chapter), plus an unknown number of scholarships handed out by WMUK, WMNL, WMFR, and Amical Wikimedia. All of that, of course, is not accounting for the significantly lower travel costs for Europeans vis a vis editors from other continents for this conference. It also severely disenfranchises active Wikimedians from North America, which is where, alongside Europe, the Wikimedia projects currently draw the majority of their users from. Yes, I'm aware of and support the Global South focus, but I do believe that there is room for improvement. The ed17 (talk) 08:43, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

Sixteen scholarships were offered to North American applicants. One could debate whether it should have been more or less, but I wouldn't say that's disastrous. Also, on the travel costs, the quota has remained consistent while Wikimania has moved around – which should at least partially compensate for that. It has after all been hosted twice within the United States. The chapter scholarships are a factor which is difficult to manage as many chapters don't announce until late that they're offering scholarships, and it's up to chapters to decide how they'll distribute them. I do think it's a good idea for well funded chapters to set aside a few scholarships for outside their area and languages – Wikimedia Poland, Wikimedia France, and Wikimedia UK have all done this in the past in some form. CT Cooper · talk 17:07, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
Transparency. Could the organisers please inform us of the extent to which the notion of individual privacy will be used to withhold stats on scholarship allocations? As far as I can see, all sources come from WMF donors and are beholden to the trademark agreement with the WMF. The global south and gender participation are two priorities of the Board of Trustee. A lot of people would be keen to judge the allocations against these priorities; in other words, by country, gender, and other geographical and demographic criteria that would indicate opportunity and costs of travel—accessibility, if you like. This would allow transparency in the panel's application of the criteria and the WMF's global priorities. It's hard to see that such data would be hanging anyone's identity out on the clothes line.

What Wikimania sorely needs is speakers of non-European languages. The Swiss chapter's eligibility requirement is bizarre—that a recipient speak one of Romansche (spoken only in Switzerland, by a tiny group) or three other western European languages. Recipients can't live in any the countries that contain almost all of those speakers (with the exception of French-language contributors in Africa and Quebec, and I suppose Beligium). I can't see anyone but francophone Africans who would be helped in terms of our global south priority.

These scholarships eat up vast amounts of donors' cash. So can we have some data for this program—from all WMF donor-money sources, please? We need to see the big picture. Tony1 (talk) 09:20, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

Ultimately it is the Foundation who will decide what stats are officially released, and I cannot speak for them. However, the only things that are completely off limits without the permission of applications is specific information about who applied, the contents of applications, and who got a scholarship. I've received reports that the latter will eventually be released on an opt-in basis. General stats should be fine, unless it would enable individuals to be identified easily, and some have been released in the past, such as meta:Wikimania/Scholarships/2013. CT Cooper · talk 17:07, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

Scholarship for Signpost reporter

Split-off from #Quota/percentages above as this now covering a far more specific issue. CT Cooper · talk 10:30, 22 May 2014 (UTC)

I strongly oppose the quota system as it currently stands. I'll have more detailed comments in a few days (still rather concussed,) but for now, I'd like to point out a couple of things. This year, I launched an innovative project with significant impact that had not previously happened. My reports for that will be forthcoming, and I would have liked to have presented them at Wikimania. Unfortunately, I accepted that project on an amount of money that doesn't even cover my own living expenses because I thought it could create a new important pathway for cultural instituitions to collaborate with Wikimedia. And it has. Because I funded myself, in large part, out of my own pocket, there's about zero chance I'll be able to present at Wikimania if my submission is accepted. Eddie is the chief editor of the Signpost, by far the most widely read community newspaper throughout the Wikimedia projects. He recently finished his undergrad, and like myself, is unable to finance his own trip to London - so unless something comes up, it's likely neither of us will be going. Although my submission hasn't been accepted yet, it has enough interested attendees that I'd guess it would be - but even barring that, inperson crosspollination with other educators and GLAM people would be hugely valuable for me. More than the decision about me, I question the decision about Eddie. (And to be clear, for both of us, this isn't a "going to London would restrict my eating out budget thing," it's a "We simply can't afford to go.)

Can anyone articulate a reason why not having the editor in chief of what is by far our most widely read community newspaper present at our largest annual conference (nor, from what I understand, any regular Signpost correspondents present) is in the interests of the movement? :/ I also strongly agree with Tony's desire for complete transparency about all movement funds spent on scholarships to Wikimania. Kevin Gorman (talk) 06:50, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

I do think it's past time to give the quota a detailed review, though it is has proved a sensitive subject, even within the Scholarship Committee, which has perhaps played a part on why it hasn't change for a long time.
I've had multiple comments, and in some cases, outright abuse, from people asking why themselves or Person X didn't get a scholarship. My answer is the same every time: there is not unlimited funding for scholarships, and it is not possible to fund every person who needs or deserves one. I'm not discussing the merits of individual applicants here or in any other public space. I will however provide applicant's with their scores and some feedback on their application if they request it by e-mail. CT Cooper · talk 17:07, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
CT, I think it's not the number of scholarships those people are complaining about, but that they were bumped in favour of others. So, if you could keep us abreast of moves to make available the big-picture data, that would be appreciated. Tony1 (talk) 03:54, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
I'll look into it. CT Cooper · talk 06:17, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
To echo what Tony said, I don't think anyone is complaining about the absolute number of scholarships - we all understand that there is a limited pool of money. I'm using Eddie again because he's a really good example: he's the primary person behind the Signpost, which is by *far* the most widely read Wikimedia-movement produced publication. Outside journalists literally regularly check the Signpost for potential stories of interest. I can imagine no possible set of circumstances where it makes any degree of sense to not give a scholarship to at least one regular contributor to the Signpost - it just seems like insanity to me.
As a movement that values transparency, I think that it would absolutely be appropriate to explain why the scholarship committee decided it would be a good idea not to fund any regular Signposter's attendance to Wikimania. I'm sure plenty of attendees will blog about their experiences, but none of those will receive anywhere near the viewership that a well-written Signpost report would (and although it could be done as a guest special, a regular Signposter is much more likely to write a solid piece.) The fact that there is a limited pool of money is the exact reason that Eddie or another regular Signposter should receive a scholarship - it would greatly increase the number of Wikimedians who actually benefit from Wikimania!
I think arguments about individual privacy preventing an explanation of why no regular correspondent from our largest community publication were given travel funding is a red herring, and think that an answer - even if it has to be genericized or presented with Eddie's consent (which I'm positive he would provide) is owed. Not providing one doesn't come off as trying to protect personal privacy - it comes off as worrying that the community wouldn't agree with the decision. Sorry for the agressive tone of this post, this just isn't a situation that makes very much sense to me (and to many others.) Kevin Gorman (talk) 20:46, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
The non-disclosure agreement I made with the Wikimedia Foundation is clear, and I will not be deviating from it. Even if a candidate does give written permission for their application to be disclosed here, I will not do so, as this is a general feedback page to make suggestions on how to improve the process, and having it overrun with discussion on the result of one applicant is inappropriate.
I will make a few general points, however. Firstly, if an applicant failed to get a scholarship, it was almost always because they got a lower score than another candidate, which could happen for many different reasons. I can't give specific explanations on why any particular candidate didn't get a scholarship even if I wanted to, as such an explanations don't exist, and there are far to many applicants for the Committee to write-up justifications for every decision. I think it also needs to emphasized that the final decisions and ultimate responsibility for scholarship funding lies with the Wikimedia Foundation. The Scholarship Committee are a group of volunteers that do the background work for little to no award, and the reality of such a limited budget is that setting out to be popular with the community is a fools errand. So, if the Signpost thinks it is entitled to funding to send someone to Wikimania, a representative for them can write to the Foundation and make their case. CT Cooper · talk 22:54, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
So treat it as a general question, instead of one about Ed in particular. Did the scholarship committee consider the benefit of having a member of the movements de facto press corps present at the movement's largest conference? If they did consider the benefits, can you provide a generic, non-applicant specific explanation as to why the benefits were not considered to be worth the costs? And if the scholarship committee didn't consider the question this year, I would highly suggest that the scholarship committee do so in future years. (Which is a direct suggestion on how to improve the scholarship process in future years - which, as you have pointed out, is the purpose of this page. It's not possible to do a thorough review of how to improve a process without examining how the process has worked in the past, and sometimes that involves examining specific cases. It's probably a good idea to split signpost related discussion off of the section related to quota related discussion, but I wholeheartedly reject the idea that discussing individual scenarios where I believe the process performed sub-optimally is inappropriate.)Kevin Gorman (talk) 23:38, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
I will happily discuss the general issue of having a Signpost scholarship or the like; just not individual applicants or results for this year's process. As I've already tried to make clear, the issue of giving a scholarship to a Signpost reporter was not discussed by the Scholarship Committee because nobody either internally or externally brought it up, and we had plenty of things to do as it was. The Scholarship Committee for next year, for which I won't be on as I've done my two years, may well happily leave one scholarship for a Singpost volunteer, but that doesn't mean the Foundation will accept it, and the message the Committee got this year is that the scores determine the result, with little room for other factors. Furthermore, I think they'll be more than few people who will question the idea of the Singpost being reserved a scholarship. CT Cooper · talk 10:39, 22 May 2014 (UTC)

Wiki Onlin - Wiki Offline

Hello, just to inform people about my post on MetaWiki. A Essay and report concerning wikimania London 2014. The title Wiki Onlin - Wiki Offline.

A nice day for everyone, Lionel Scheepmans Wiki ou eMail 21:48, 5 January 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for sharing, though I note that scholarships are only mentioned once. I would suggest posting it at Blogs, where more general reflections are listed. Some Wikimania reports are on Meta, though myself and others have put them on the Wikimania 2014 wiki instead. CT Cooper · talk 21:55, 5 January 2015 (UTC)