In the news
Wikipedia leads in customer satisfaction, Google Translate and India, Citizendium transition, Jimbo's media accolade
High Wikipedia customer satisfaction explained by user interface stability and non-profit nature
The American Customer Satisfaction Index, a monthly report by a Michigan-based company that measures customer satisfaction scores on a scale of 0 to 100 for many companies in the U.S., included Wikipedia.org for the first time in its survey. The results have just been published: Wikipedia scored 77 out of 100, the highest among the four sites in its category of "Internet Social Media", while YouTube was second with a score of 73. Against entries from the "Internet News & Information" category – which may have been a better categorization for Wikipedia – we also do well, tying for second place with USAToday.com. First place for informational websites was FoxNews.com, with 82 points, five more than Wikipedia. Each result is based on 250 telephone interviews with customers in the U.S.
In a commentary on the results, Claes Fornell, a professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan and the founder of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, explained Wikipedia's good result ("more satisfying than most of the ACSI-measured news and information websites") as follows:
- Like Google, Wikipedia’s user interface has remained very consistent over the years, and its nonprofit standing means that it has not been impacted by commercialization and marketing unlike many other social media sites.
Fornell contrasted this with the poor results for the bottom two in the social media category, Facebook and Myspace, which he said are due to "controversies over privacy issues, frequent changes to user interfaces, and increasing commercialization" on these sites.
The logo of the Bengali Wikipedia
Wikipedia, Google Translate and Wikimedia's India strategy
As reported in last week's News and notes, the recent Wikimania conference saw a presentation by Google that described the company's effort to increase the content in various smaller Wikipedia versions – "Arabic, Indic languages, and Swahili" – mostly using its Google Translate machine translation service.
In addition to the coverage and reactions mentioned last week, by CNet, The New York Times and a Wikipedian from the Tamil Wikipedia, the topic was examined at length in a front-page story in Indian newspaper The Telegraph, titled Wiki learns a lesson in Bengali. The paper focused on the reaction of the Bengali Wikipedia, which "took great umbrage and deleted Google-generated content because the translated material simply did not meet its standards." It cited two of the project's administrators (Ragib and Jayantanth) and Bishakha Datta, the Foundation's Board member from India.
Muddyb Blast Producer, admin and bureaucrat on the Swahili Wikipedia
The logo of the Swahili Wikipedia
Another recent blog post "What happened on the Google Challenge @ the Swahili Wikipedia", by Muddyb Blast Producer, a bureaucrat on the Swahili Wikipedia who is based in Tanzania, looked back at the company's "Kiswahili Wikipedia Challenge", in which university students were awarded prizes for submitting articles written using Google Translate (see earlier Signpost coverage). Muddyb appreciated the intentions behind the contest and its quantitative success ("we’ve got a huge number of [new] articles"), but had concerns about the quality of the added content which were quite similar to those of the Bengali and Tamil Wikipedians. He expressed disappointment that the contestants hadn't turned into sustained contributors, and were not responding when asked to help in correcting their articles:
- Nearly all of them are gone now and left a lot of articles which often are not really state of the art formally and also linguistically ... they don’t care because they were there for laptops and other prizes (no need to be rude, but it hurts me pretty bad).
Such concerns about Google's and other projects assisted by machine translation was briefly mentioned in an article titled "The state of the Wiki in India" (a guest post on GerardM's blog last week), by Salmaan Haroon, another Wikipedian from India who had also recently attended Wikimania: "India currently provides the fourth largest traffic to Wikipedia according to Alexa.com, behind United States, Japan and Germany", with much more potential as "India is poised for exponential growth in terms of internet users". Based on a description of the country's language diversity and the role of English as a "lingua franca", he argued that the Wikimedia Foundation should aim at "establishing a strong user base first and getting a high visibility rate in India" (which might involve the English language Wikipedia more than those in smaller languages) "before a diverse base could be nurtured".
An article about Wikimania published by The Indian Express (Wikipedia, growing local) made a similar recommendation. The author, Gautam John, is involved in the process to establish an Indian Wikimedia chapter (which was already approved last month by the Foundation). He wrote that "the emphasis needs to be on boosting contributions in all Indian languages, including English – rather than just an 'Indic languages vs English' paradigm". Apart from the presentations about Google's translation projects, the article reported on Wikimania talks relevant for India, including Jimmy Wales' keynote and a presentation by Achal Prabhala, a Wikimedia advisory board member from Bangalore.
Citizendium still in transition after one year
An article in the Times Higher Education (THE) last week (University may be given the keys to Citizendium) reported that Larry Sanger, the sole founder of the free online encyclopedia Citizendium, was considering "handing the reins to a university or a scholarly press" as "one possible future model for governing the project" after his planned departure as its editor-in-chief. Sanger reported "interest from major universities in both the US and the UK", but also mused on the possibility of a department within a university or a non-profit think-tank as Citizendium's "sponsoring or parent organisation".
Around the time of the project's inception in 2006, Sanger had announced that he would step down after two or three years. In July 2009, after he had become largely inactive as editor-in-chief, Sanger recalled that promise and reiterated his intention to step down after a sustainable governance structure was set up. This prompted a journalist from The Financial Times to declare "Citizendium founder ready to jump ship", and to report that Sanger was "looking for a suitable institution to take over management of his pet project" at that time already.
According to the recent THE article, Sanger's "executive committee [is] in the process of finalising a charter for how to proceed." The THE also mentioned criticism of Citizendium, from claims that "the site had progressed too slowly" to "suggestions that the articles are less scholarly than they purport to be"; however, Sanger said he believed it is "just a matter of time before we become a leading online community and reference work". (See also earlier Signpost coverage: Role of experts on Wikipedia and Citizendium examined)
The article prompted Wikimedia Board member Samuel Klein (User:Sj) to reflect in a blog post (Citizendium: failure to thrive, in search of peace) on Citizendium's difficulties, while still expressing "hope for a proliferation of cousin projects, all competing to find the best way to spur collaboration around free knowledge". In particular, Sj wrote about the problem of article verification (called "approval" on Citizendium), asking whether full academic qualifications should be demanded from reviewers, or whether the academic field of Law in the U.S. could provide inspiration, where "the most distinguished reviewed publications" are law reviews that are run by students without degrees, instead of being peer reviewed.
Larry Sanger had last made headlines after reporting the Wikimedia Foundation to the FBI and to his political representatives for "knowingly distributing child pornography" (see Signpost coverage).
Jimbo: the 47th most powerful person in media
Jimbo named as 47th most powerful person in media
British newspaper The Guardian last Monday named Jimbo Wales, founder of Wikipedia, to be the 47th most influential person in media in 2010 in their annual MediaGuardian 100 list, for which a panel of judges pick the 100 most influential media personalities of the year.
"Rather than writing about Wales we could simply point you to his Wikipedia entry – but beware of using the website as a single source. Its great strength – that its articles can be written and updated by anyone – can also be its weakness, although inaccuracies, both accidental and deliberate, tend not to last for long. Alabama-born Wales, who made his fortune as a Chicago futures trader, described Wikipedia as a 'charitable humanitarian effort to create and distribute a free high quality encyclopedia to every single person on the planet', one in which 'any reasonable person can join us in writing and editing entries on any topic'".
- In a satirical blog post, Gary Marshall of Techradar joked that several movies were to be made regarding Internet sites, one of them Wikipedia. "Written, directed and acted entirely by volunteers, the Wikipedia movie is an incomprehensible pile of old tosh featuring bearded men arguing", the post read.
- In a post on sync-blog.com, freelance journalist Marc Saltzman stated why he does not trust Wikipedia: "Consider it a communal work-in-progress project that blurs the lines between surfer and publisher. As such, many teachers and professors won’t allow Wikipedia to be cited as a source for essays, book reports or other assignments. Despite that, many students frequent the site for quick, easy-to-read explanations on a wide range of subjects.... with so many millions of Wikipedia.org visitors, many of whom make slight alterations and tweaks on entries, it could be argued the information is whittled down to the 'truth' over time."