News and notes
The English Wikipedia's second featured-article centurion; wiki inventor interviewed on video
One hundred featured articles for Casliber
His ninth featured article was the top-importance lion
Grus (constellation) (upper left)
marks Casliber's 100th featured article. Most of the other constellations visible in this image were also brought to featured status by him.
With the promotion to featured article (FA) of Grus (constellation) on 17 May, Casliber became Wikipedia's second featured-article centurion, following Wehwalt's groundbreaking achievement last December. Cas's first FA, Banksia integrifolia, a group effort, was promoted on 16 November 2006. His first solo project, Diplodocus, followed in January 2007; he has rarely been off the FAC page since. Quite apart from his regular and meticulous content work, Cas has contributed to many other aspects of the Wikipedia project – I'm always seeing his name, contributing, helping, leading. I caught up with him recently, and he graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions.
First, many congratulations on achieving the rare feat of 100 featured articles, an awesome accomplishment. Without wishing to breach your anonymity, can you reveal a little bit about yourself?
- I am a psychiatrist from Sydney and have always been interested in birdwatching and native (Australian) plants. Sadly I have a brown thumb.
When did you begin editing WP, and what brought you here in the first place?
- I first started reading it in around 2005, and began editing in May 2006 – mainly to improve my trivia knowledge, as I had been in a few trivia competitions and gameshows and won prizes. The first fact that I learned this way that I then got asked about was the name of the third book of the Old Testament. As an atheist, I'd never known this before. Sadly, on TV I was beaten to the buzzer, but was still chuffed that I had only learnt it the night before. I went on The Einstein Factor, where a contestant had to pick an esoteric subject to be quizzed on. I was on three times – first time I chose horned dinosaurs, which is why a lot my early edits were on these. Second time I went on I chose poisonous mushrooms.
Yes, I've been studying your featured article log; a fascinating medley: the predominant subjects are flora, fauna and (more recently) constellations, but occasionally, oddities turn up – a dinosaur, a novel (The Historian), a medical article. You clearly have a wide panorama of interests; do you have any specific method for choosing your subjects, or, like me, do you tend to follow your instincts?
- Enthusiasm plays a huge part, one really needs the drive and interest with any particular topic to "take it all the way". I loved The Historian and enjoyed working on it, but its main driver was Wadewitz (talk · contribs), and I was a happy sidecar-rider really. I have written a lot on plants and animals local to my area, and have been meaning to do some Australia towns and cities (as well as football teams) but never gotten round to it. Medical articles are important, but they are...well, they are a bit like work really. I encourage everyone to do a big, broad article that can be a real Odyssey – some of my most enjoyable (and proud) moments are watching articles like vampire, lion and white stork grow and become something really grand to read. Betelgeuse was a surprise here too, I was buffing it when along came Sadalsuud (talk · contribs) who was a real juggernaut in finding and adding material.
I see you mentioned Wadewitz there, sadly no longer with us – I, too, enjoyed working with her in my early WP years. We never formally co-produced an article, though we talked of it from time to time. Are there other editors who particularly helped you in your early days, that you'd like to acknowledge now?
- Hesperian (talk · contribs) and Gnangarra (talk · contribs) have been great with banksia editing, and were the first folks to welcome me. Along the way, Jimfbleak (talk · contribs) has been there for lots of bird collaboration, Sasata (talk · contribs) for fungi collaboration, and is always a thorough and eternally good-natured reviewer. There have been loads of friendly folks at the dinosaur, birds, fungi and astronomy wikiprojects (too many to mention but all members can consider themselves acknowledged here!).
I started a year or so after you, and I think FAC has changed a lot since then. I think standards have risen considerably – it takes me far longer than it used to to put an FA together. What differences in the FAC procedure have you experienced? Do you agree that FA standards have risen?
- I joined just as inline cites were really becoming obligatory (which I think was a very good thing). FAC has become more rigorous overall; I recall there being many more simple supports, with no extended comments, which makes one wonder how detailed a look-over was done. I do worry about low numbers of reviewers, and miss some of the thorough goings-over that I think are essential to keeping standards high.
Now, writing featured content is only a part of your overall WP contribution. You are an active reviewer, an admin, you've been an arbcom and, of course, you are the prime mover behind the annual core contest (which I've been happy to judge from time to time). Which of these various roles have you found most rewarding?
- Writing content really – it's definitely the most relaxing to do in downtime. Reading really good prose is also enjoyable. Nutting out conclusions to things can be good as well – I tried to do that on arbcom, punt content discussion back to the community such as hopefully playing role in giving a shove for West Bank naming and Abortion advocacy movement coverage to reach a conclusion.
How do you see your contribution to WP over the next few years? More generally, how do you see Wikipedia developing? Are there any basic changes that you would like to see implemented?
- I see Wikipedia at a crossroads. The novelty of being newfangled is wearing off, as evidenced by dropoff in new editors (I think the increasing rigour of editing rules is partly responsible for this, but this is essential in the evolution of the 'pedia). I have tried with the Core Contest to kick-start improvement of broad subject articles, but their sheer size and breadth, and greater likelihood of conflicting opinions, makes getting these to featured standard exponentially harder. I saw the core contest as a means of improving our "core portfolio" of articles. Also, I wonder whether we should worry more about article maintenance, and perhaps use semi-protection more liberally? Generally, we need more reviewers, but I am unsure how best we do this. I feel that carrots are better than sticks, which is why I have been coming up with ideas for contests – I think they've been good for engagement and collaboration too. And folks should keep an eye on Stub contest to improve stubby bits – fluffy stubs with a few too many words to be easily expanded for DYK, but really need some tidying ...
Well, I see that you have plenty of ideas, and it is refreshing to see someone who has kept their enthusiasm and is still thinking ahead. It has been a pleasure to talk to you, Cas, and I'm sure all your fellow editors join me in hoping that we'll see and hear plenty more from you in the future.
List of Casliber's featured articles
List of Casliber's featured articles
Inventor of the wiki turns 65
Howard G. ("Ward") Cunningham, who turned 65 last week, has special distinction in these realms as the developer of the first wiki. An American computer programmer, his profound innovation was first installed on the Internet in March 1995. Cunningham remains a dynamic professional force: after a career in the corporate sector, since 2011 he has been "Co-Creation Czar" for CitizenGlobal, an innovative video and photo crowdsourcing platform that enables organizations to easily collect and analyze eyewitness media and data. He is also Nike's first Code for a Better World Fellow.
One of Cunningham's memorable quips is: "the best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it's to post the wrong answer," which has come to be known as Cunningham's law. Its author is reported to have said: "Wikipedia may be the most well-known demonstration of this law."
As part of his birthday celebrations, WMF's Victor Grigas published an interview with Cunningham originally recorded in 2011. The following quotes are drawn from the significant statements he makes in the video:
||There’s a couple of things that Wikipedia did right, that didn’t even occur to me – for example, getting the licensing right. I was careless about licensing and I think that saying: "this has to be the licensed this way, here’s the ownership, here’s the guarantees going forward” is important, and I just wasn't interested in that stuff, so I just didn’t do that right. … I was open, but there was no guarantee that [the licensing] was open. There was no agreement when somebody submitted – there was an expectation, but it wasn’t written down. And in fact I think when I finally did write it down, it said, "I own it, you have the right to use it, but you can’t keep it." – and that’s not really open. But I think Jimmy Wales’ relationship to [software freedom activist] Richard Stallman got that right.
The other thing ... I thought would be too hard [for a wiki] was being international. ... that international aspect is profound, in terms of having the opportunity of bringing the world together, Wikipedia is probably one of the strongest forces ... for creating peace in the world. That's fabulous, [that] it could be done in every language, when you find yourself reading an encyclopedia that is about the things you care about, because it was written by people just like you, talking about what they care about, and that caring becomes so important to you, you trust this. The fact that that same sort of interaction is happening in a lot of different cultures. ... it makes you part of one world – one world of ideas – and the idea that every language is important, just as every person is important.”
Tim Moritz Hector, new chair of Wikimedia Germany's board – overseeing more than 50 staff and an annual budget in the region of $10 million.
- Changing of the guard at Wikimedia Germany: Last week we covered the tumultuous events before and during the 14th general assembly of chapter members, including the impending departure of long-standing executive director Pavel Richter, and the resignation of the board's chair, Nikolas Becker, and another board member, Robin Tech. In a meeting the following day (Monday), the board elected as the new chair one of the two deputy chairs, Tim Moritz Hector (Buecherwuermlein, translated as "Little Bookworm"). Sebastian Wallroth was elected second deputy chairman to fill Hector's vacated position. The meeting made six amendments to the chapter's constitution, among them that the terms of board members will in future be two years, not one.
, WMF legal counsel for trademarks and Wikipedia Zero
: the Chilean decision, she says, is an example of net neutrality "poorly implemented".
- Wikipedia Zero: forward one step, back two?: Just as the Foundation announced that the telecom Airtel will be partnering with the WMF to provide access to Wikipedia page-visits throughout Nigeria, it became clear that the Chilean government is to end the practice of offering zero ratings to data downloaded from large Internet organisations, including the Foundation. According to the online news outline Quartz, the government has decided that zero rating breaches the country's net neutrality laws. This resonated with a message to the WM-list by Jens Best, who holds the portfolio of politics and society as a member of the Wikimedia Germany's board; he had written only days before to the WM-list thread on the new Nigerian access that zero rating "is a clever way to undermine net neutrality, even when it comes as such a noble service to give free knowledge to the people." In a subsequent message, he described this as "a dilemma" for the Wikimedia movement. WMF legal counsel Yana Welinder, whose portfolio covers trademarks and Wikipedia Zero, wrote "the decision in Chile is very unfortunate. It's an example of when net neutrality – which is an important principle for the free and open internet – is poorly implemented to prevent free dissemination of knowledge. Although Wikipedia Zero is not yet available in Chile, it is a country of interest for the program, so we are thinking about what options are available in light of this decision." She emphasised that the Foundation "does *not* pay carriers to zero-rate Wikipedia under Wikipedia Zero. Carriers zero-rate the sites because they want to make a commitment to access to knowledge as a corporate social responsibility," Welinder wrote, linking to the English Wikipedia article Corporate social responsibility.
- Three new administrators for the English Wikipedia: Three editors have survived the RFA process to become new administrators over the past month—none of them receiving a single oppose vote. They are MusikAnimal, "a prolific vandal hunter and writer"; Anne Delong, a top contributor to WP:AFC and highly knowledgeable in Speedy deletions; and Go Phightins!, who is active in WP:AFD and WP:CSD.