Several discussions are the genesis of this ticket. Off line editing will enable people with limited or intermittent access to the internet to contribute to wiki projects more effectively.
Offline reading of Wikimedia projects is a significant and relatively well-supported use case. However, full access requires not just the ability to read but the ability to edit. This distinction is not particularly significant when we consider, for example, a Canadian user who reads Wikipedia offline during a backpacking vacation in South America and retrieves her ability to edit the articles she reads as soon as she flies back home. But it does become significant when we consider, for example, a Congolese refugee who has lived in a Burundian refugee camp since 2012.
This has two major aspects (which might be filed as blocking tasks).
- Technical: Offline editing means that a user makes changes to a local copy of a wiki and, at some later date, their client synchronizes the changes to Wikimedia's servers. This is a significant challenge, but would share much of the technical work necessary for T3898.
- Community: Provide adequate documentation targeted specifically to Global South users and facilitators. Define particular tasks (like translation of global language content into local languages) which these users are well suited to undertake. Find projects which are interested in receiving such contributions and editors who are interested in helping with the process.
Details of the use case
Offline: The changes would be synchronized a low-bandwidth, unreliable internet connection (perhaps once a day) or by a sneakernet made up of development staff (perhaps once a month).
Facilitated: This task focuses on the case of a physical community of local users (likely with low digital literacy) supported by a facilitator or teacher who is more digitally literate but probably does not have specific Wikimedia experience.
Other projects to consider
- MikMik, an abandoned OLPC project for distributed wikis
- WikiToLearn offline extension, a proof of concept to allow an offline editor
This task originated from a request posed by the French development group Bibliothèques Sans Frontières at the Wikimedia Hackathon 2015. BSF has developed the Ideas Box, a portable media center designed as a kit that fits on two pallets and can be installed in less than 20 minutes. The box creates a cultural space covering 330 sq ft and includes a Koombook server running open-source Python software which serves as an autonomous and ultra-portable digital library. The device creates a Wi-Fi hotspot which gives connected devices access to locally stored content from Wikipedia, Khan Academy, TEDtalks, a curated selection from the Gutenberg Library, and thousands of other documents and videos. The KoomBook creates a WiFi hotspot that users can connect to with a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Up to 20 simultaneous users can download or upload content that will automatically update when the KoomBook has access to the internet.
BSF's challenge to Wikipedia users:
Wikipedia offline is one of the most popular resources in the Ideas Box and Koombook. But it risks becoming yet another source of content created in the Global North and dumped in the Global South. We are working with Wikimedia on training our users on contributing to Wikipedia. But that currently cannot be done in many of our projects as internet is highly unreliable and/or extremely expensive. And these are some of the richest context in terms of uniqueness of contribution (language, topics etc.). Can we come up together with a solution for asynchronous contribution for low connectivity contexts?
Bibliothèques Sans Frontières
The French development group Bibliothèques Sans Frontières has created the Ideas Box, a portable media center which, among other things, offers access to offline educational materials including Wikipedia over Wi-Fi. Up to 20 simultaneous users can upload or download content that will automatically update when the server has access to the internet.
BSF has installed Ideas Boxes in places like refugee camps in Burundi, many of which have only sporadic, low-quality internet access or none at all. Sites with sporadic access might be able to synchronize once a day; sites with none would only be able to synchronize by sneakernet, perhaps once a month.
BSF considers it an ethical imperative to offer Wikipedia editing alongside Wikipedia reading: "Wikipedia offline is one of the most popular resources in the Ideas Box...But it risks becoming yet another source of content created in the Global North and dumped in the Global South."
For more information about BSF's use case, you can contact Barbara Schack, director of development, at email@example.com.
See how an article looks like with offline access (no edit button at all):