Wikipedia

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Dan and I, back in third year, wrote up our Australian constitutional law case summaries as Wikipedia articles as we were studying them: click here for a list of case summaries. (We didn’t quite finish though: the red links link to pages that don’t exist.)

01 Sep 2009 | No comments

I got an email half an hour ago that said this:

Dear Enochlau,

We notice you haven’t edited Wikipedia for some time. Perhaps you grew disillusioned with the project after seeing the corruption and bureaucracy at every level? If so, why not help us to help you. We are currently expanding our portfolio of administrator accounts, and as yours remains dormant perhaps you could consider donating it to us – to do so will take you only two minutes: change the password (if desired) and then reply to this email with your login details. We’ll do the rest!

Thank you for your time and consideration, and naturally do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Kind Regards,

The Wikipedia Freedom Fighters

It was apparently sent by sent by user “The C for WF” on the English Wikipedia: no user page, but yes there is an account.

What on earth is going on? (And no, I’m definitely not going to give them my account even if I haven’t edited for a while.)

I’ve contributed many of my photos to the Wikimedia Commons, and I’m pleased to see that some of them have spread beyond the Wikimedia world.

But the fact that someone turned something mundane like this:

into something like this:

blows me away. It reminds me why I contribute: to add to the global commons, the global cultural melting pot where others can express themselves, by using and re-using, free from concerns about intellectual property rights.

Original work | Derivative work (search for Enoch Lau about halfway down)

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Wikipedia: built on cooperation and collaboration

Wikipedia depends on collaboration for success (18 September 2008, Daily Trojan)

Professor Robert E. Kraut of Carnegie Mellon University discussed the factors that are involved in the success of online communities, and his own research into the coordination techniques of Wikipedia. Success in an online community can be defined in a number of ways, he said, but to succeed, online communities need to overcome challenges such as a lack of response to posts, recruiting members and welcoming newcomers. Focusing on Wikipedia, Kraut said that Wikipedia articles require “an awful lot of substantial coordination”, for example, in planning the article or dealing with disputes. There is explicit coordination (such as through planning and discussing) and implicit coordination (such as through structuring), he said, and the coordination work lies beneath the surface of the article.

Other mentions

Other recent mentions in the online media include:

  • Defining the Bush Doctrine: Not as Simple as it Sounds (15 September 2008, The Wall Street Journal blogs)
    Sarah Palin’s gaffe focuses attention on the Bush Doctrine article.
  • Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales on wiki success and failure (11 September 2008, ZDNet blogs)
    Listen to a podcast where Jimmy Wales discusses the factors that lead to success or failure for a wiki, such as critical mass.
  • Wikipedia Sleuths Win Journalism Award for Wired.com (10 September 2008, Wired.com blogs)
    A Wired.com blog won an award for combining a voting widget with the WikiScanner application to let readers highlight self-interested edits to Wikipedia.
  • Vernon Kay shocked at death by Wikipedia (15 September 2008, TechRadar UK)
    Television host Vernon Kay has had his Wikipedia biography vandalised to say that he had died in a yachting accident, when he is perfectly well and alive.
  • Knol, the Wikipedia Maybe-Fork? (19 September 2008, Slashdot)
    The author of this article suggests that Google Knol accept CC-BY-SA contributions, so that once the GFDL is compatible with CC-BY-SA, copying to Knol will be completely above board; this will facilitate the creation of, effectively, flagged revisions of Wikipedia articles, supported by people’s reputations.
  • How Wikipedia Works (19 September 2008, Kansas City infoZine)
    This is a book review of the book How Wikipedia Works, written by a number of prominent Wikipedians.

From the Wikipedia Signpost.

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Wikimedia: maturing and professionalising

Wikimedia pegs future on education, not profit (24 August 2008, San Francisco Chronicle)

Sue Gardner, Wikimedia’s executive director, expresses surprise at the misunderstandings that people have about Wikimedia. As a charity, Wikimedia is not seeking to profit from the billions of dollars that some say could be earned from placing advertisements on its projects’ websites. Recently, Wikimedia moved its headquarters to San Francisco, and the move, Gardner says, was because of the area’s “tech talent”; the organisation’s core staff has now increased to 21. Jimmy Wales credits Gardner with professionalising Wikimedia, instituting competent and sound management. Gardner’s goals for the future include increasing participation, improving quality and making Wikipedia available in a variety of formats. On the other hand, Ed Chi, the creator of WikiDashboard, says that there has been a decline in interest in editing that does not bode well for the community.

US Vice-Presidential candidates with groomed articles

McCain camp touts Biden praise ahead of speech (27 August 2008, TheHill.com)

Bloggers have noticed changes to Joseph Biden’s Wikipedia article as news of his Vice-Presidential nomination was leaking out. For instance, bloggers say that the section about his involvement in the 2004 presidential campaign was deleted. Also, details of Biden’s undergraduate studies and allegations of plagiarism were said to have disappeared from his Wikipedia biography. The article raises the question of whether Barrack Obama’s campaign or the Democratic National Committee changed the article, given the timing of the edits.

Don’t Like Palin’s Wikipedia Story? Change It (31 August 2008, The New York Times)

A Wikipedia user called YoungTrigg made a number of edits to Sarah Palin’s article before the announcement of her nomination as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate; the username is a reference to her infant son Trig. The edits, which added compelling stories about her upbringing and positive comments about her political career, were in fact rewarded with a Barnstar, and the editor made contact with other Wikipedia editors. In particular, YoungTrigg asked an anonymous editor where he or she had heard about Palin being McCain’s choice, possibly because, as the article suggests, YoungTrigg had an interest in whether the news had leaked already. However, later, another user came along to tone down the additions that seem biased. Ultimately, YoungTrigg, who denied relation to the Palin family, has now retired from Wikipedia.

Other mentions

Other recent mentions in the online press include:

From the Wikipedia Signpost.

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Jimbo writes about the freedom that Wikipedia brings

The wisdom of crowds – Wikipedia’s founder writes about what he sees as the fruits of the change inspired by Wikipedia. Although humans can be portrayed as “irrational captives to their background and identity”, Wales argues that it is possible for objective collaboration to occur if the lens of irrationality and conflict is abandoned and we accept non-initiation of force as a fundamental principle. He believes that rationality will prevail, thereby preserving the best aspects of our culture and permitting participation to thrive in the developing world. The open processes of Wikipedia, where you are likely to be challenged if there are flaws in your argument, epitomise the “virtue of the marketplace of ideas”, he says.

Other mentions

Other recent mentions in the online media include:

From the Wikipedia Signpost.

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Naked short selling drama retold

Wikipedia kills Greatest Show On Earth – “[T]here was an Wikinvestigation. And a Wikicourtcase. Like we said, Wikimadness.” Patrick Byrne has been waging a battle against naked short selling for some years, and together with Judd Bagley, he has accused financial journalist Gary Weiss of gaming Wikipedia to discredit his views on naked shorting. Bagley has been banned from editing, but Byrne and Bagley have accused Weiss of editing Wikipedia under various accounts. When there was “significant evidence that tied these accounts to a real-life identity”, there was an investigation, and after further sockpuppetry, the madness was put to an end.

Other mentions

Other recent mentions in the online media include:

From the Wikipedia Signpost.

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Wikis knocking on the iron gates of Oxford

Andrew Keen on New Media – Recently, Internet commentator Andrew Keen was at Oxford University together with Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger to debate whether “the internet is the future of knowledge”. Keen notes that it was ironic for the discussion – including discussion of whether the internet was democratising the creation and distribution of knowledge – to have occurred at Oxford, a representative of the “ivory tower business model for knowledge”. He notes that establishment of Oxford University by a wealthy landowner contrasts with the origins of Wikipedia, and sites like Wikipedia and Citizendium are driving the adoption of wikis, podcasts and blogs, even by traditional knowledge companies. Keen found the response of Oxford faculty and students to the democratic potential of the internet enthusiastic and “anything but snooty”.

Other mentions

Other recent mentions in online media include:

From the Wikipedia Signpost.

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High-school students study course on Wikipedia

HSC students to get Wikipedia course – As of next year, the English curriculum for students sitting for the Higher School Certificate, which is taken in New South Wales, Australia, will incorporate an elective called “Global Village”, which will include the option of studying Wikipedia. Explaining the choice of Wikipedia, the English inspector at the Board of Studies, which oversees the HSC, said that Wikipedia reflects “notions of the global village”, and that the course will allow students to examine communications on a global scale. There has been a positive response from education.au, a not-for-profit educational organisation that brought Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales to Australia on a speaking engagement last year. The CEO of education.au, Greg Black, said that young people need to learn how to understand and contextualise the information they gather on the Internet and to determine “whether there’s an alternative view”.

Other mentions

Other recent mentions in the online press include:

  • Clinton’s entry in Wikipedia has a watchdog – One of the editors watching over Hillary Clinton’s Wikipedia biography has been brought unexpected celebrity and is profiled by this article.
  • The Wiki business plan – Sue Gardner and Kul Wadhwa talk about growth plans for Wikimedia, the business side of the foundation, and future opportunities.
  • REPN TRI to the FULLEST!!! – “[A]s a model of discourse, it’s a killjoy”; this author believes that the style of the prose on Wikipedia is apt to lead students to believe that intellectual discourse is “leaden” and “spiritless”.


As published in the Wikipedia Signpost

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(As you may know, I write the “In the news” section for the Wikipedia Signpost. From this week onwards, I’ll be posting up the ITN section on my blog as well as having it published in the Signpost.)

Professor says Wikipedia crowds out expert knowledge

Wikipedia breeds ‘unwitting trust’ says IT professor – Deakin University associate professor Sharman Lichtenstein believes that the increasing use of Wikipedia creates blind trust in information, to the detriment of valuable knowledge and expert opinion. She says that Australians already disrespect intellectuals and academics, but she asks us to consider whether we would use a trained brain surgeon or a student who has just read Wikipedia for brain surgery. She notes that Wikipedia prides itself on being built by groups of lay citizens, and experts are unlikely to contribute anyway because they would expect to be paid. Credibility of Wikipedia articles is questioned because of the formation of “elite” editors and administrators, a trend that has caused growing dissatisfaction with Wikipedia’s editorial process, leading others to create competitors to Wikipedia.

Other mentions

Other recent mentions in the online media include:

  • Wikipedia’s Zealots – An editor who receives personal communication about a scientist’s views on global warming edits Wikipedia to include these communications but is reverted by other editors.
  • Scientific citations in Wikipedia – The pattern of citations on Wikipedia is compared with the Journal Citation Reports, which counts journal citations; Wikipedia is increasingly using structured citation markup.

[As published in the Wikipedia Signpost]

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