Florence, SC, city officials say they are watching Wikipedia for untruths
An article by John Sweeney published on 22 April 2013 on scnow.com, the website of the Florence, South CarolinaMorning News, reported that Florence city officials have taken to monitoring and correcting the Wikipedia article on their city.
"We hit save and it's done ... Until somebody comes behind me and undoes it."
—Robby Hill, Florence city council member
The reason: the Wikipedia article on their city has repeatedly contained untruths, city officials say. Sweeney gives examples—at one point Wikipedia apparently said that the mayor of Florence could veto ordinances passed by the council, but such an action could be overridden with two-thirds of the council. Apparently, it's the first time anyone in Florence has heard about that, and there is no such rule in the city's ordinances; a Florence city council member simply responded: "This is crazy". Sweeney attributes the damage to Wikipedia's policy of open editing: "What makes Wikipedia so unique is the fact anyone can change information in, or add information to, a particular article. Want to move Florence to India? It can be done. Make it a center for mangrove farming? Check. You can do that, too."
At one point, Sweeney says, false information in Florence's Wikipedia article almost caused a business deal to fall through that was of vital importance to the city's economy:
Florence almost lost a multi-million business just last year thanks to misinformation on Wikipedia. Shortly after Otis Elevator closed a $40 million investment deal to move into the old Maytag plant just off I-95 in August 2012, bringing 360 jobs to the area, some Otis officials noticed a Wikipedia entry detailing Florence’s skyrocketing crime rate. Coupled with some other events, those troubling stats nearly brought the deal to a screeching halt, says Joe W. King, executive director of the Florence County Economic Development Corporation. [...]
Wikipedia reported that Florence had the 10th highest crime rate in the United States. "That’s just not true," Hill said. According to statistics released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Florence County doesn't even rank in the state's top 10 when it comes to crime rate (it's 23rd) [...] by no measure, say local law enforcement officials, is the city 10th nationally.
City officials explain that they are not trying to act as censors, but are simply removing false information that undermines the city's economic development, given Wikipedia's reach and its potential to spread misinformation "like wildfire, and tarnish the reputation of a person, company or—in Florence’s case—a city."
Wikipedia Live Monitor app for breaking news coverage on Wikipedia
"Is Wikipedia better for breaking news than Twitter?" This was the question Jason Koebler asked in US News on 15 April 2013. The article focused on the Wikipedia Live Monitor, a web app designed by Google engineer Thomas Steiner, based on the observation that important breaking news is generally covered very quickly on Wikipedia:
Steiner says the classic example of this is when Michael Jackson died—within seconds, the King of Pop's Wikipedia page was flooded with users attempting to edit his page with new information about his death. When Russia was hit with a meteor earlier this year, dozens of pages were created on Wikipedia with new information, which showed up on Steiner's tool.
By monitoring the number of editors and edits on any given page within a short amount of time, Wikipedia Live Monitor is able to point out a number of "breaking news candidates," which Steiner says might be more reliable than a Twitter feed.
"The main motivation of using Wikipedia instead of social media is you get a lot of events in one place—almost everything relevant in a breaking news sense has a Wikipedia page," Steiner says.
How Wikipedia covered Margaret Thatcher's death: Alex Hern, writing in the New Statesman on 9 April 2013, chronicled the development of Margaret Thatcher's Wikipedia biography on the day of her death.
10 tips for managing a brand’s Wikipedia page: Marcia W. DiStaso, an assistant professor of public relations at Pennsylvania State University, published tips for PR professionals in PR News on 16 April 2013, advising them to follow the "bright-line rule" of not directly editing the Wikipedia pages for their company or client. (DiStaso is no stranger to Signpost coverage; almost exactly one year ago, a study of hers was the subject of this investigative report.)
Wikipedia's "dubious ad company articles": Jack Marshall on Digiday.com, a website for digital media and PR professionals, complained on 19 April 2013 that Wikipedia's articles on ad agencies were particularly self-promotional. He listed several examples of allegedly biased articles, and asked readers to send in more.
Catalan Wikipedia reaches 400,000 article milestone: Also on 19 April 2013, Cristina Simón and Dani Easton of Global Voices Onlinereported on the Catalan Wikipedia's growth, saying the Catalan Wikipedia stands at no. 15 in terms of article count, and at no. 1 in the List of Wikipedias by sample of articles, which measures the encyclopedic quality of core articles every Wikipedia should have.
New visitor record for Wikimedia sites: Tech website Web Pro News reported on 19 April 2013 that "Wikimedia sites, which include Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikimedia Commons, Wikiquote, and nearly a dozen more, now see over 500 million unique visitors a month. The previous high was set in May of 2012, when Wikimedia Foundation sites saw 492 million uniques. In March, the family of sites saw an astounding 517 million unique visitors."
Lua: from Brazil to Wikipedia: On 21 April 2013, Foreign Affairs published a piece on Wikimedia's adoption of the Lua programming language. The author, Yuri Takhteyev, wondered, "How did a programming language from the global South manage to make it into one of the world’s most popular web sites? Lua’s story, as it turns out, tells a lot about the globalization of software development and the difficulties faced by innovators in developing countries."