Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-01-21/2007 in review
Special: 2007 in Review, Part II
- See also Part I.
Last month marked the end of 2007, and the end of the biggest year (and perhaps the most controversial year) that Wikipedia has seen. Over the last year, the Wikimedia Foundation's reach and influence grew, both through the Board and the office. Along the way, Wikipedia's reliability was examined, organizations were disbanded, and a death was "predicted" on Wikipedia in an "awful coincidence". This week, the Wikipedia Signpost continues to take a look back at the year that was 2007 in Wikipedia.
In perhaps the most notable vandalism incident in Wikipedia's history, an anonymous editor edited the page of wrestler Chris Benoit to state that his wife had died, nearly fourteen hours before the bodies of Benoit and his wife and son were found. The edit in question, on Chris Benoit, indicated that he had missed an event on Saturday because of the death of his wife, Nancy Benoit. The edit was made just after midnight on June 25th, between thirteen and fourteen hours before the deaths were discovered by Atlanta Police in Fayetteville, an Atlanta suburb.
The vandalism received much attention in the press, with Wikinews reporting the story first, after it was mentioned by Lid on the Administrators' noticeboard. Fox News then carried the story, copying part of the story verbatim from the Wikinews site, and citing it to "Wikipedia.org". As a result of the widespread coverage and speculation, investigators announced that they were going to be looking into possible connections between text messages that Benoit sent to his coworkers and friends, and the edit to Wikipedia. News talk shows such as Bill O'Reilly (with guest Geraldo Rivera) made suppositions on their show, with Rivera saying it was "wildly improbable", and an "unthinkable coincidence" that the unidentified editor would get it right without knowing the truth. Greta Van Susteren suggested that the post might indicate that someone else was on site before the police were, and the existence of the posting opened up the possibility of a 'triple murder'. John Gibson referred to the edits as "a brand new Wikipedia shocker", and "spooky". Nancy Grace and her guests suggested it was possible that Benoit may even have made the edit himself, and discussed the possibility that he told someone who then posted it, instead of reporting it to authorities.
On the 29th, in the wake of the media coverage, a post was made to the talk post of Wikinews coverage of the Wikipedia posting. This post, coming from the same Stamford IP as the initial post on the Benoit page, declared, "Last weekend, I had heard about Chris Benoit no showing ... because of a family emergency, and I had heard rumors about why that was. I was reading rumors and speculation about this matter online, and one of them included that his wife may have passed away, and I did the wrong thing by posting it on wikipedia to spite (sic) there being no evidence." Further acknowledging the issues that were brought up, he admitted "I feel terrible about the mainstream coverage this has received...hearing about my message becoming a huge part of the Benoit slayings made me feel terrible as everyone believes that it is connected to the tragedy, but it was just an awful coincidence."
He added, "Like I said it was just a major coincidence, and I will never vandalize anything on wikipedia or post wrongful information."
The 2007 Board of Trustees elections were held in June and July 2007. The elections were the first to be held on an outside server (that of Software in the Public Interest), after a leak in the 2006 elections generated controversy. With three seats up for grabs, incumbents Erik Möller and Kat Walsh finished first and second, respectively, with Frieda Brioschi edging out incumbent Oscar van Dillen by just 20 votes for the final spot.
First announced in the Signpost, Jimbo Wales selected six new arbitrators in late December:
For the 2007 ArbCom elections, I am making the following appointments and shifts:
- Newyorkbrad - Tranche Alpha
- FT2 - Tranche Alpha
- FayssalF - Tranche Alpha
- Sam Blacketer - Tranche Alpha
- Deskana - Tranche Alpha
This fills the 5 vacancies in Tranche Alpha.
Then I am removing Flcelloguy from Tranche Gamma for inactivity, with the understanding that if he chooses to return to active service, he may claim a (perhaps temporary) expansion seat in Tranche Gamma. This is intended to be the same situation as Mindspillage and Filiocht have in Tranche Beta.
Into Flcelloguy's seat, I am moving FloNight. This effectively extends her term by 1 year, moving her from Tranche Beta to Tranche Gamma.
And then finally I am appointing Thebainer into FloNight's old seat in Tranche Beta. This unfortunately gives him only a 1 year term, but he did come in 6th.
Finally, I want to announce a desire that the ArbCom should institute some informal notions of a required level of activity, and that I will gladly act upon the advice and consent of the ArbCom at mid-term to make replacement appointments (June-ish - July-ish) for any Arbs who unfortunately have found themselves unable to live up to the time commitments of the position.
I will gladly leave the choice of those mid-term appointments up to the Arbcom (or, at their desire, make the tough decision myself), but will have a strong preference at that time for appointments (based on the election results) from this list of runner-ups: Raul654, Rebecca, Manning Bartlett, Giano II, David Fuchs, Shell Kinney, MastCell.
I am particularly interested that the community work to heal what appears to me to be perceived rifts between various factions, and encourage everyone to work within our existing frameworks and institutions for positive change with a minimum of drama. We are all here to build an encyclopedia and should understand that there are very often complex judgment calls in which we may not personally agree with every result - our first obligation is to pay attention to making sure that our _processes_ are as just, open, participatory, and transparent as possible consistent with our mission.
Also in late December, new stewards were elected; in all, twelve users were selected for stewardship: Spacebirdy, Jusjih, .anaconda, Dungodung, Wpedzich, Thogo, Lar, Zirland, Millosh, Andre Engels, DerHexer, and Nick1915.
Next week, the Signpost's 2007 in review continues, with more Foundation news, technical features, organizations for deletion, bureaucracy, private correspondence, corporate editing, and Signpost interviews yet to come.
- Thespian. "IP unwittingly predicts death: 'Awful coincidence'", July 2, 2007.
- Authorities Probe Benoit Wikipedia Entry
- Lexis-Nexis Transcript: SHOW: THE BIG STORY WITH JOHN GIBSON 5:00 PM EST
- Nancy Grace Transcript: Aired June 28, 2007 - 20:00:00 ET
- Michael Snow. "Leak last year likely to produce changes for handling next board election", April 9, 2007.
- Ral315 (quote by Jimbo Wales). "Wales appoints six arbitrators", December 26, 2007.
- Ral315. "News and notes: Steward elections complete, awaiting results", December 26, 2007.
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