A Glimpse into Wikimedia Estonia’s Journey: An interview with the face of Wikimedia Estonia, Ivo Kruusamägi

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In the dynamic realm of Wikimedia, where knowledge converges from all corners of the world, local chapters play a pivotal role in fostering growth and inclusivity. I am Asmah Federico, a Malaysian Wikimedian who aspire to study the history, evolution, and functionality of Wikimedia from various countries. Wikimedia Estonia was the first country that I have visited and received the opportunity to interview the face of Wikimedia Estonia and learned further about this Chapter’s movement from him. In my interview with Ivo Kruusamägi, we dive into the story of Wikimedia Estonia, a Chapter that is making significant strides in promoting the use of Wikipedia and contributing to the global movement. He has guided this interview with resourceful feedback and depicts how he becomes an instrumental figure in the chapter’s evolution.

  1. Meet the driving force on the journey of Wikimedia Estonia.

Question: Can you introduce yourself and share your responsibilities, experiences, and involvement in Wikimedia Estonia or the CEE?

Answer: Ivo Kruusamägi started editing Wikipedia in 2006, and since the beginning of 2008, he has been an administrator in the Estonian Wikipedia. His second most active project is Wikimedia Commons, where he has added 10k images. But outside of editing, he has also been even more active in promoting Wikimedia projects. Kruusamägi, which is also his Wiki username, started a Wikimedia chapter in Estonia in 2010, focusing on education and photography-related work. As of now, he is the executive director of Wikimedia Eesti and has contributed to Wikimedia for almost 18 years.

  1. Wikimedia Estonia’s role in the global Wikimedia movement

Question: Can you provide an overview of Wikimedia Estonia’s mission and its role within the broader Wikimedia movement and Wikimedia Chapter?

Answer: The main role of the local Wikimedia chapter in Estonia is mainly to promote the use of Wikipedia and ensure people know how to contribute. It is there to grow the movement. Estonia, being a small country, may never become big in numbers, but they can be large in their influence. Wikimedia Estonia’s role is to help ensure that Wikimedia can reach out to everyone, beyond their borders, and provide something for the world at large.

  1. Genesis and goals of Wikimedia Estonia

Question: How did Wikimedia Estonia come into existence, and what are its main goals and initiatives?

Answer: One of the driving motivations was the slowdown of new users. Kruusamägi emphasized the need to grow the base of contributors. Their approach has been to be active in many fields to attract potential contributors. From education to photography, the aim was to develop diverse initiatives. An example is the Wiki Science Competition, starting as a local contest and growing into a global competition. They have also initiated the CEE spring article competition and are increasingly focusing on GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) collaborations which became a big part of collaboration for Wikimedia Estonia.

  1. Impact on the locals and global Wikimedia spheres

Question: How has Wikimedia Estonia contributed to the local community and the global Wikimedia movement? Can you share examples of successful projects or initiatives that have made a significant impact at both local and global levels?

Answer: While Wikimedia Estonia has focused their main efforts for the locals, some projects have left a global imprint. The Wiki Science Competition, born as a local initiative and revived by Kruusamägi, has expanded globally such as in Malaysia itself with over 1,000 science related photos being submitted annually by participants of the competition. They have also initiated the CEE spring article competition, held annually since spring 2015. Currently, Wikimedia Estonia are delving into GLAM collaborations, aiming for more significant global projects in the years to come.

  1.  Fostering the spirit of Wikimedia Estonia community

Question: How does Wikimedia Estonia engage with its local community and Wikimedia contributors? What strategies or initiatives have proven effective in fostering a sense of community and encouraging participation?

Answer: Engaging the predominantly introverted Wikimedians in Estonia was one of their biggest challenges. However, Wikimedia Estonia has devised ingenious strategies to nurture a sense of community through celebrations like the Wikimedia Estonia and global Wikimedia birthdays, Christmas meetups, and photography expeditions and it has provided opportunities for  Wikimedians to come together. The flagship event, Wikimedia Summer Days meetup since 2009, plays a pivotal role in fostering teamwork and camaraderie of their annual gathering. Physical gatherings aim to transcend the digital realm, allowing contributors to know each other beyond the virtual edit and allows everyone to understand the personalities of their fellow co-volunteers off screen.

  1.  Collaborations and partnerships the Chapter is involved with.

Question: How does Wikimedia Estonia collaborate with other organizations, both within and outside the Wikimedia movement? Are there any notable partnerships that have enhanced the organization’s ability to achieve its goals?

Answer: Collaboration is at the heart of Wikimedia Estonia’s strategy. As an active member of the CEE network, the organization collaborates with Wikimedia movements globally. They are currently exploring opportunities of partnerships with Nordic networks through dedicated get-togethers further expanding their reach. Wikimedia Estonia also maintains a strong presence in Wikimedia movement committees and empowers users with a voice in crucial structures of the platforms. Furthermore, Wikimedia Estonia has active partnerships with education institutions, GLAM sectors, and state sectors to ensure relevance and visibility of this organization. Noteworthy collaborations include the University of Tartu, a key player in promoting Wikimedia to the public, and the Ministry of Education and Research of Estonia, offering financial support and amplifying the impact of Wikimedia Estonia’s activities. With this ongoing effort on collaborations and partnerships expansion, Wikimedia Estonia is on the pedestal of expanding their outreach with Estonians who can assist to contribute in the Wikimedia platforms.

  1.  Wikimedia Estonia’s strategies on navigating challenges 

Question: What challenges has Wikimedia Estonia faced in its efforts, and how have these challenges been addressed or overcome?

Answer: One significant challenge lies in finding active and capable contributors, a universal struggle echoed in many countries, including Estonia. The limited number of active individuals within the Estonia Chapter poses an ongoing challenge, urging continuous improvement. Thus to address this, Wikimedia Estonia seeks innovative ways to keep members active and reach out to new users, not just for Wikipedia but also for the Chapter. The quest for sustained engagement remains a pivotal aspect of overcoming challenges and ensuring the chapter’s longevity.

  1.  Lessons learned from previous and best practices to be followed

Question: Are there lessons learned or best practices that other Wikimedia chapters, including Malaysia, could benefit from?

Answer: Wikimedia Estonia’s experience offers a nuanced perspective on best practices. According to Kruusamägi, there are no one-size-fits-all lessons applicable to all chapters. Instead, the advice is to observe the activities of different Wikimedia movements globally, evaluate their effectiveness, and consider whether similar initiatives could be feasible for the Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia (WCUGM). Emphasizing the importance of practical experience over theoretical knowledge, Kruusamägi notes that what works in theory may not always translate seamlessly into practice. Each chapter should tailor its approach based on its unique circumstances and community dynamics.

  1.  Technology and the Wikimedia Estonia Mission

Question: Since Estonia is a country with emerging and advancement in the IT sector, how has technology and the IT systems played a role in advancing the Wikimedia Estonia mission? Are there specific technological innovations or tools that have proven particularly effective to enhance the number of edits and such for the organization?

Answer: Despite Estonia’s reputation for a booming IT sector, Wikimedia Estonia faces an interesting dynamic. While the country’s IT sector is advanced, there are surprisingly few Wikipedians with technical backgrounds. This poses a challenge, as the abundance of opportunities in the IT field may divert potential contributors from engaging with Wikipedia. Kruusamägi shares an example of an article writing competition in the IT subject that struggled to attract IT professionals. On a positive note, the competition inspired a university course requiring students to contribute to Wikipedia as part of the subject requirement, resulting in over 1,400 lengthy articles. This innovative approach demonstrates Wikimedia Estonia’s adaptability in leveraging technology to fulfill its mission, even in the face of unexpected challenges.

To sum up the interview, I have witnessed how Wikimedia Estonia stands as a testament to the profound impact a dedicated community can have on the dissemination of knowledge through their diverse initiatives and a commitment to inclusivity. This chapter not only enriches its local community but also leaves an indelible mark on the broader Wikimedia movement, showcasing the power of collaborative efforts in the pursuit of shared knowledge. 

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