In the media
Wiki Education; medical content; PR firms
Wiki Education Foundation course: building ties to academia
Wiki Education Foundation logo
The Los Angeles Times highlighted a recent Wiki Education Foundation (WEF) course at Pomona College in their article "Wikipedia pops up in bibliographies, and even college curricula". We interviewed Char Booth, the campus ambassador for the course, for additional details.
The article discussed the changing attitudes among academia toward Wikipedia, characterizing academia's earlier sentiments of Wikipedia as "the bane of teachers ... amateurish, peppered with errors and too open to nasty online spats over content." The article cites Wikipedia's early anti-establishment user base for the initial rejection of degreed academics and quotes Kevin Gorman, himself a WEF Regional Ambassador and Wikipedian in Residence at University of California, Berkeley, speaking about the ongoing need to diversify beyond the "basically techno, libertarian, white dudes" so prevalent since the early years of Wikipedia.
The course, Poli3, came to Wikipedia through a working relationship between Booth, a WEF campus ambassador and librarian in the Claremont Colleges consortium (of which Pomona College is the founding member), with a fellow Claremont librarian, Sara Lowe. Booth, a self-described champion of "the pedagogical use of Wikipedia" needed an interested faculty member to host the program. Lowe introduced Booth to Professor Hollis-Brusky in the summer of 2011. After hours of conversations and many e-mails the course's first entrance to Wikipedia happened in the Spring of 2012 and has become an annual event since. The practice of sending students to create a new Wikipedia article or develop a stub for a grade rather than writing a traditional research paper is a cornerstone of the collaboration. The LA Times article quoted Professor Hollis-Brusky: "Even the best research papers get buried in a drawer somewhere... [t]hese make a real contribution to the public discourse."
The Times mentioned four of the articles assigned, namely First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, Federalist No. 70, FairVote, and Clean Diamond Trade Act. Because the class was comprised of 28 students, articles were assigned as group projects. Each student group developed their collective work in stages from outlines to drafts in order to refine the scope of the project and eliminate redundancy. Although each student had registered their own Wikipedia account, much of the editing was performed in sandboxes by single-purpose accounts both to protect student privacy and to reflect each student group's consensus product. Booth says that the end results were some very student-focused articles and that the effort "has been successful beyond my wildest expectations." Not only does she expect the annual Poli3 course to continue its association with Wikipedia but she also expects another political science class and perhaps three others in the near future.
The LA Times posits, again quoting Kevin Gorman, that Wikipedia "has essentially become too large to ignore." The Times mentions recent initiatives from both the American Sociological Association and the Association for Psychological Science to bring academic editing into Wikipedia to ensure the reliability of what the general public reads. It also mentions the recent series of edit-a-thons in the LA-metro area organized by East of Borneo, a Cal-Arts sponsored online magazine, as proof that industry professionals are increasingly reaching out to contribute in a cooperative manner. The article further mentions that the Wiki Education Foundation coordinated with more than 150 different courses across the US and Canada in the Spring Semester of 2014, including classes at Carnegie Mellon University, University of California, San Francisco, and Boston College.
When asked about her role as a campus ambassador while also employed as a librarian, Booth replied that it's a "really natural relationship." She sees her role as a librarian as a function of developing student information literacy skills as well as bringing them to resources. She says that Wikipedia is a public resource and everyone who enjoys what she calls "information privilege" should consider their responsibilities toward informing that resource. Though she does not consider herself a Wikipedia editor she identifies as an "educator who uses Wikipedia" seeking to improve the public knowledge base.
Ongoing media debates about Wikipedia's medical content
The relationship between the United States Food and Drug Administration
and Wikipedia's mission has been the topic of a number of recent news articles looking at both the reliability of Wikipedia's medical content and the role the FDA and pharmaceutical companies should play in improving it
A study published in the June 26, 2014 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that Wikipedia articles often fail to reflect the latest FDA guidance. As reported by CBS News, the study's authors:
||[...] looked at 22 drug safety warnings regarding prescription medications that the FDA issued over a two-year period between 2011 and 2012. The warnings covered drugs used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, hepatitis C and leukemia.
Starting 60 days prior to each FDA warning and continuing until 60 days afterward, the study authors assessed the informational accuracy of Wikipedia entries related to each drug. [...]
Overall, 41 percent of the relevant Wikipedia entries had been updated within two weeks following an FDA safety warning. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) took more than two weeks to update, while more than a third (36 percent) still didn't reference the FDA warning a year after it was issued, the study authors said.
The authors suggested that the FDA should take a more active role in Wikipedia curation, stating that "our findings also suggest that there may be a benefit to enabling the FDA to update or automatically feed new safety communications to Wikipedia pages, as it does with WebMD." The study attracted coverage from CNN, US News & World Report and more specialist publications such as Medical Marketing & Media.
On a closely related matter, The Wall Street Journal (June 17, 2014), The National Law Review (June 23, 2014) and others covered the recent publication of the FDA's draft social media guidance for companies producing prescription drugs and medical devices. The draft guidance suggests that companies should feel free to correct misinformation in sites such as Wikipedia themselves, or alternatively could contact an article's author to advise them of any errors. Comments on the FDA's draft guidance are invited before the finalized version will be released.
Also on June 23, the online news blog of the Cochrane Collaboration published a piece written by members of WikiProject Medicine, titled "Is Wikipedia’s medical content really 90% wrong?". The piece critiques a study published in May 2014 by The Journal of the American Osteopathy Association, which concluded that nine out of ten Wikipedia articles on the costliest medical conditions had factual errors, leading to numerous news headlines such as "9 out of 10 health entries on Wikipedia are inaccurate" (see previous Signpost coverage). Health IT Outcomes published a brief report on the same topic (June 30, 2014).
PR firms pledge not to game Wikipedia
||Public relations firms and Wikipedia’s team of volunteer editors reached a truce Tuesday in their ongoing battle over who has the right to edit entries in the online encyclopedia. In a statement today, 11 large PR and advertising agencies vowed to abide by Wikipedia’s rules, which ban ad teams from editing articles for pay or trying to influence the tone of articles without disclosing their affiliation with a client.
The statement can be viewed on Wikipedia.
- Junior civil servant sacked for offensive Wikipedia edits: A civil servant in the UK was removed from his job after they made "offensive" Wikipedia edits. The incident received wide coverage in the country, such as the Telegraph (who broke the story), the BBC, and the Guardian, among others. Efforts to find other staffers involved have been to no avail. (Fuzheado, The ed17)
Meet Carl Linnaeus, the man who researchers believe was the most influential figure on Wikipedia
||The most influential historical figure on Wikipedia, per a recent paper by researchers at several European universities, is none other than the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus—a.k.a., the guy who invented the system we use to classify plants and animals."
- Adrianne: Adrianne Wadewitz (1977 – 2014) "was an American feminist scholar of 18th-century British literature, and a noted Wikipedian and commenter upon Wikipedia, particularly focusing on gender issues." On the Wikimedia projects, Adrianne was known as User:Wadewitz; she perished last April while rock climbing. On 18 May, PBS NewsHour posthumously broadcast a news story that covered Wikipedia's gender gap. The story includes footage with Wadewitz. See the full clip on YouTube.
- Singapore MP calls for legal action over Wikipedia vandalism: The Straits Times of Singapore reported (June 13, 2014) that Baey Yam Keng, an MP representing the Tampines Group Representation Constituency in the Parliament of Singapore, has called for legal action by his People's Action Party following "vicious" vandalism of the Party's Wikipedia article. Starting on June 11, two new accounts as well as an IP address from Singapore vandalized the article to insert a rant against the PAP, renaming it the "Party Against People". Another new account inserted a pro-PAP message in response, presumably the party's own efforts to edit the article mentioned by The Straits Times. The article was semi-protected on June 13. A lawyer quoted by the newspaper doubted that Singapore's Vandalism Act applied to Wikipedia edits. (Gamaliel)
The photo used to illustrate Wikipedia's article on grinding
- Grinding article attracts press attention: Wikipedia's article on the dance grinding has gotten an unusual amount of attention lately because of its lead picture, which features a woman grinding on a man in a funny hat who bears a striking resemblance to the film character McLovin. The picture was posted to Flickr by photographer Jason Rollison in 2008 with the description "hands down the greatest picture I've ever taken". The picture was found there in 2012 by Guerillero, who uploaded it to the Wikimedia Commons and added it to the Wikipedia article on grinding. In January of this year, traffic to the grinding article spiked to nearly 10,000 page views a day after the photo appeared as number 21 on the Buzzfeed list "36 White People Who Need To Be Stopped", where the couple in the photo were described as "The goofy hat-wearing people pictured in the Wikipedia page for 'Grinding'". Traffic to the article increased again in June when the photo was again featured on Buzzfeed on 13 June, this time in an article called "The Definitive Oral History Of The Wikipedia Photo For 'Grinding'". The mock oral history by Katie Notopoulos quotes Rollison, Guerillero, and the compilers of the "36 White People" list in an examination of "a truly an important piece of Internet History worthy of deep scrutiny." (Gamaliel)
- Yank Barry sues Wikipedia editors for defamation: News outlets are reporting that Canadian businessman Yank Barry has filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against four Wikipedia editors, including User:Richfife, User:NatGertler, and User:Nagle, on 11 June in the Ventura County Superior Court. These editors previously reported on Wikipedia:Administrator's noticeboard/Incidents that they received letters from Los Angeles attorney Philip D. Dapeer which they characterized as "legal threats". Editing on the Yank Barry article has long been contentious, featuring editing conflicts with numerous new accounts that some editors charge were SPAs associated with Barry and charges that the article unduly focuses on negative aspects of Barry's business dealings. (Gamaliel)
The National Archives logo
- US National Archives announce collaboration with Wikimedia Commons: As reported in TechCrunch (and first reported by the Signpost), the National Archives and Records Administration recently announced that it would soon begin to automatically upload all images that are being digitized onto Wikimedia Commons. An effort was made in 2010 to upload images in this manner, although it was hampered by the lack of an efficient way to mass-upload images. According to Wikipedian in Residence Dominic McDevitt-Parks, they are working on a Python script which will help to do this more efficiently. (Kevin Rutherford)
- An ethnography of Wikipedia: Forbes featured a review by George Anders (30 June, 2014) of Dariusz Jemielniak's recently published book Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia.
||Jemielniak provides a wry, brave analysis of his adventures since November 2006, when he decided to infiltrate Wikipedia’s editor/administrator communities. Much of the time, he was a star, rising to become a steward (top dog) within the Polish Wikipedia community, and winning significant status in the English-speaking version of Wikipedia, too. But he also got in some nasty spats with other Wikipedians.
Jemielniak nods briefly to the standard portrayal of Wikipedia as a collaborative place where the tyranny of experts has been broken down. In this version, everything is in good hands, thanks to a giant, crowd-sourced dynamic that is gently self-correcting and incredibly productive. But as an insider, Jemielniak offers a spicier account of the site in action. [...]
Overall, Jemielniak portrays himself as an optimistic critic—appreciative of Wikipedia’s strengths and hopeful that the flaws can be sorted out. He calls Wikipedia "an insanely ambitious project to compile all human knowledge," adding that its social organization is "fascinating, unique and inspiring."
- A piece by Dariusz Jemielniak himself, "Wikipedians wallow in creating norms", appeared on South Africa's Independent Online news website (June 28, 2014). Another book that discusses Wikipedia and internet culture in general, Virtual Unreality by Charles Seife, was reviewed in The New York Times on 1 July. (Andreas Kolbe)