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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 edu​ca​tion​.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 edu​ca​tion​.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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The Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post is call­ing for authors for the tutori­al series that we have been run­ning as we have used up our cur­rent pool of tutori­als! This is your oppor­tun­ity to write for Wikipedia’s com­munity news­pa­per, and con­trib­ute to a grow­ing col­lec­tion of tutori­al art­icles cur­rently ran­ging from fun­da­ment­als of edit­ing to image maps and Wiki­pe­dia policy. We have a num­ber of excit­ing top­ics just wait­ing to be writ­ten about, but if you are pas­sion­ate or have exper­i­ence in anoth­er area, you can come up with a new top­ic and write about that too! Regard­less of what you write about, your tutori­al con­tri­bu­tion will allow edit­ors — new and old — to edit Wiki­pe­dia more effect­ively.

See Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/​Tutorial series if you would like to con­trib­ute to the Sign­post tutori­al series.

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You may know that I write for the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post, and recently, I wrote an art­icle for it on the com­par­is­on between Wiki­pe­dia and Google Knol. In the end, the art­icle I wrote was sub­stan­tially over­hauled by the edit­or because it was an opin­ion piece biased towards one view — inten­tion­ally. Although opin­ion some­times does make it into the Sign­post, the edit­or felt that was not the time nor place for it, and so he rewrote most of it in a more object­ive style. So it’s old news, but instead of wast­ing (some­what) good prose, here it is:

Google usu­ally makes a noisy entry wherever it dares to tread, and this week’s announce­ment of Knol, a site that will host user-gen­er­ated art­icles was no dif­fer­ent. Wiki­pe­di­ans, how­ever, should have noth­ing to fear.

Knol, which is cur­rently only access­ible to a select few who have been invited, will be a site that hosts user-gen­er­ated con­tent on a wide range of sub­jects. The term knol was coined by Google to mean a unit of know­ledge, and refers to the entire pro­ject as well as indi­vidu­al art­icles. While the jury is still out on wheth­er Knol will be suc­cess­ful, or wheth­er it will even make it to a pub­lic launch, the obvi­ous com­par­is­on that has sparked the Inter­net alight is with Wiki­pe­dia.

There are some imme­di­ately appar­ent dif­fer­ences between Knol and Wiki­pe­dia. The most import­ant one is that Knol is not a wiki. Con­tent pages will be owned by a single author and that sole author has the respons­ib­il­ity of main­tain­ing its con­tent; users can par­ti­cip­ate by sug­gest­ing edits, or by rat­ing or com­ment­ing on the art­icle, but that’s about it. There is no Wiki­pe­dia-style col­lab­or­a­tion mod­el; in fact, it is dif­fi­cult to see how there can be much of a strong com­munity. The single author approach admit­tedly has its attrac­tions, though; an author’s repu­ta­tion lives and dies by his or her words, and this builds trust into the equa­tion. How­ever, as many have noted, this denies Knol one of the more valu­able aspects of Wiki­pe­dia art­icles, that con­tro­ver­sial art­icles are likely to have been edited by a vari­ety of users who have had to com­prom­ise to pro­duce a rel­at­ively neut­ral and bal­anced piece of work. The com­pet­i­tion between dif­fer­ent Knol pages will not neces­sar­ily res­ult in great­er util­ity for the end user.

This com­pet­i­tion is what will define Knol, and this fur­ther dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from Wiki­pe­dia. Writers of Knol con­tent will have the abil­ity to insert Google advert­ising into their pages and earn a cut of the res­ult­ing rev­en­ue. Wiki­pe­dia, on the oth­er hand, is advert­ising-free, and the com­pet­i­tion on this site, if you can call it that, is one more akin to a friendly mer­ito­cracy than the harsh world of chas­ing advert­ising dol­lars. Knol, from its very found­a­tions, does not seem con­du­cive to a com­munity spir­it, some­thing that may keep edit­ors on Wiki­pe­dia.

But maybe Google doesn’t need a sense of com­munity. Cyn­ic­ally, all it needs is for people to link to Knol art­icles, have the pages appear close to the top of its widely-used search res­ults and then have its advert­ising cash registers chink­ing; by com­par­is­on, send­ing people to Wiki­pe­dia does Google no dir­ect fin­an­cial favours. Wiki­pe­dia could lose out by hav­ing less incom­ing traffic, and there­fore less expos­ure to new, poten­tial edit­ors.

Knol is an inter­est­ing idea that will surely stim­u­late debate about how the face of user-gen­er­ated con­tent should pro­ceed. It cur­rently appears as neither friend nor foe, but as anoth­er choice for users that will prob­ably sat­is­fy its own niche.

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The SUITS sem­in­ar series aims to provide a cas­u­al lunch­time chat about inter­est­ing top­ics and cut­ting-edge research, and I had the priv­ilege of tak­ing the first one… and I took the chance to talk about Wiki­pe­dia, everyone’s favour­ite wiki. The audi­ence is inten­ded to be under­gradu­ate level, but there weren’t any under­gradu­ates there…

I gave a brief insider’s look at Wiki­pe­dia, show­ing off some of the admin­is­trat­or tools that ordin­ary users can­not see. I went over some of the parts of the web­site (com­munity portals, the Sign­post, policy pages, spe­cial pages) that are import­ant tools for reg­u­lar con­trib­ut­ors, espe­cially in keep­ing track of van­dal­ism. I also men­tioned the efforts under way to form the loc­al chapter of the Wiki­me­dia Found­a­tion.

Because if I talk for too long, people might die from bore­dom (!!) so I brought along some light enter­tain­ment. I played a bit of Eben Moglen’s lec­ture on GPLv3 — the part about the arith­met­ic shop. I was going to play video from Wiki­mania 2007, but the lazy bug­gers haven’t put up any­thing yet, so I had to be con­tent with 2006 stuff — but it turned out to be a good choice. Lawrence Lessig is a fant­ast­ic speak­er — he speaks with con­vic­tion and there’s no one who can match his slides. Finally, I played a bit of audio from the Wiki­pe­dia Weekly, broad­cast­ing from Taiwan dur­ing the con­fer­ence.

Some of the ques­tions I hadn’t really pre­pared for — e.g. a ques­tion on pat­ents. I should know more than what I man­aged to mumble out… and no, I still haven’t learnt that present­ing without much sleep isn’t good.

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