Itzik Edri : “We teach Arab schools to edit in Wikipedia.”

Tel Aviv Promenade panoramics
 (Wikipedia CC BY 4.0)
Tel Aviv Promenade panoramics (Wikipedia CC BY 4.0)

Itzik Edri oversees Wikipedia & Wikimedia activities in  Israel. 

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, origins, studies, experience in Politics?
I’m Itzik Edri, I’m 31-years-old. I worked as a digital adviser and deputy spokesman of Tzipi Livni during her time as the head of the opposition. During this time I also did my BA in government, diplomacy and strategic (interdisciplinary center in herzliya ). Around politics I also worked with President Shimon Peres and President Reuven Rivlin where I managed their social media profiles.

What is exactly your role in Debby Communications ?
I’m VP of Debby & Ron Digital, a digital company which is part of Debby Communication group. In my role I develop, advise and manage digital presence and digital campaigns of the firm’s strategic clients (such as the President of Israel, Strauss group, Lurpak, Delek group and others).

You are the spokesperson of Wikimedia in Israel, are you facing a more challenging mission since all the controversies the country is facing on the international scene?
Just a correction – I’m the chairperson and the spokesperson.
In general – no. Our work in Wikimedia Israel is to support our volunteers, extend the volunteers community by maintain a strong relationship with the current volunteers and creating new partnership with organization and education institutes in order to create more articles and educated new potential volunteers. We don’t involve in the content itself, this is done absolutely by the volunteer community. I’m as the spokesperson is here to increase the voice of Wikipedia and support the volunteers when have projects and issues that they want to bring them into public attention. From time to time we have some issues with articles which were deleted or have been vandalized – but usually it’s around general articles. The main problem of the controversies is in English Wikipedia, which I’m not related to.

How do you analyse the shut down of Turkish Wikipedia ? Is there a way to make it continue abroad, are you ready to help them to purchase their work?
Wikipedia is a global source of neutral, reliable information in hundreds of languages. If it remains, this block will result in millions of people in Turkey losing access to free knowledge about their country and the world around them. We believe knowledge is a fundamental human right, and urged the Turkish government to remove this block.
Right now, we don’t have any progress on this issue. We made an offline copy of Turkish Wikipedia which people can download, in order to continue and access this knowledge and we continue to look for ways to open Wikipedia back in Turkey.

For Larry Sanger, founder of Nupedia, Wikipedia has a problem of sound governance. what do you think of the interview he gave us?
I don’t know to which governance problem he refers to. What I know is that the Wikimedia movement is an amazing organization which I welcome many other to look and learn this unique model. Hundreds of volunteers in dozens of organizations boards, together with communities of volunteers for 15 years have created the most important online knowledge place. Every decision is made by the community. It’s not always easy to pass decision, and some of the members can be hard, but at the end they do it in order to protect our mission and or movement. I’m also member of the FDC (Funds Dissemination Committee), a committee which consists only volunteers and in charge of evaluating and allocating the annual budget for Wikimedia organizations around the world, as well as to review the foundation proposal and budget. Where in the world have you seen a group of nine volunteers reviewing 70M$ budget? And it’s a real pleasure to work with this amazing volunteers which everyone of them come from a different background and together they are a group of people who do a very professional work. And this is only one example, we have many committees who oversee the governance of this movement.

Justin Knapp is the record contributor in the US and Polmars in France. Who is the israeli champion of editions?
David Shay, one of the first contributor and a person which many of the Wikipedians call him the “father of the Hebrew Wikipedia is the biggest one. He has edited more than 267,410 times until now. Deror Avi is the leading articles creator. He has written 4,943 articles until now.

Is there automatically a close relationship between the Arab and the Hebrew edition to complete the work of sourcing the information. Do you have any interesting souvenirs of major war in edition around political subjects that shocked the media?
No there is not. Every edition has its own autonomy. It’s up to the editor who works on the article to decide from where he will take the information. It makes sense that editors in Arabic Wikipedia can relay on Hebrew’s articles – but there is no automatic contention.
One of Wikimedia Israel’s strategic project in the Arab Education Initiative, where we work with Arab schools in Israel and teach them how to edit in Wikipedia in order to create new articles in Arabic Wikipedia. We do the same for over three years in Hebrew schools and this year we started a pilot to work also with the Arabic society. The students work with both Hebrew and English Wikipedia in order to collect information and sources for their work.

About the Author
Alexandre Gilbert is the director of the Chappe gallery.