Wikipedia:Meetup/NYC/January 2008

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The 5th New York City Meetup event was held on Sunday January 13, 2008 in the Columbia University area. This was the second of the meetups with a session dedicated to discussing meta:Wikimedia New York City issues. After the session, most of the participants had dinner at The Symposium, a local restaurant.

What, Where, When, and How?[edit]

There will be one public meeting in the afternoon at Columbia's Pupin Hall, where we can take further steps to organize the Wikimedia New York City local chapter.

Additionally, there will be optional post-meeting social activities at a local restaurant and (providing weather is OK) an observing session with telescopes on the roof of Pupin Hall.

Watch this space for future possible changes. And please watchlist this page.

Main public meeting (to discuss Wikipedia issues and chapter formation):

  • 1402 Pupin Hall, Columbia University. Take the elevator to the 13th floor and then walk up one flight of stairs. Meeting to be held in the library at the east end of the hall. 2:30 PM - 5:00PM

Optional post-meeting meetup[edit]

  • Meetup at Pupin Hall, and then walk together to The Symposium Restaurant. After the restaurant, we can return to Pupin Hall for an observing session with the telescopes on the roof weather permitting. 5:00 PM onwards.

By overwhelming majority, the group has decided to have dinner at The Symposium Restaurant, a Greek cuisine eatery at 544 West 113th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. The reservation has been made for 5:30 pm under the name "Wikimedia New York City". The owner of the restaurant has asked that at 5:00 pm we call him at (212) 865-1011 with a head-count of attendees so that they can prepare for the onslaught. If there are roughly 20 people we may be seated around the Symposium table. If there are more, the owner has volunteered to open up the heated back garden for us to use.

Sezz Midi Backroom
The Symposium table
Tom's Restaurant
Restaurant choice: An anonymous blogger wrote: "This restaurant is managed very poorly. The manager does a terrible job booking and servicing customers, and he is incapable of handling a large party. He is very rude. I was embarrassed to bring my guests to this establishment. Do yourself a favor and eat elsewhere since the food will not compensate for the poor service." I have no idea if this is true, but I can visit the restaurant to check. Or I can recommend another restaurant. There's a sushi place on 72nd Street where (1) I've eaten dozens of times, (2) service is superb, and (3) management has agreed to let up to 30 Wikipedians take it over and "edit the table arrangements" for a nice long meeting. --Uncle Ed (talk) 16:11, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Ouch! Well, I've eaten at Sezz at least a dozen times in large groups and never really had a problem. ScienceApologist (talk) 04:30, 17 December 2007 (UTC)
If you say so, I trust you. Let's eat at Sezz. --Uncle Ed (talk) 21:40, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

I suggest a Greek place called "The Symposium" on 113 Street between Broadway and Amsterdam (closer to Broadway). It is inexpensive and has a nice atmosphere for a discussion, with a very large cental table suggesting its name. It also has pretty good Greek food, with plenty of choices for timid palates, vegetarians and everyone.

I second the motion for "The Symposium." It is worth it for the flaming cheese dish alone. Horvendile (talk) 23:44, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
I.e. saganaki? ScienceApologist (talk) 04:28, 17 December 2007 (UTC)
Tom's Restaurant? --Sharkface217 03:22, 17 December 2007 (UTC)
Another possibility, but that place is usually quite crowded and full of tourists. ScienceApologist (talk) 04:28, 17 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't think Tom's is a good choice - it's cramped and Noisy. The Symposium is spacious, uncrowded and has a large central "symposium table" that we should reserve. Best regards, -- Ssilvers (talk) 18:06, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Although I've not eaten at any of the four places mentioned so far, I visually checked Tom's out and think it's too crowded also. In addition, I would rather not encourage tourists. Symposium or Sezz sounds like the best in Morningside Heights so far. — Becksguy (talk) 16:01, 28 December 2007 (UTC)
As you can see from the image of Tom's, it's cramped, and all seats are the booth type, thus limiting discussion except for very small groups (on the other hand, maybe that's desirable). — Becksguy (talk) 14:15, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

If you don't mind my input, I've eaten at the Symposium and it's quite excellent. -- BlastOButter42 See Hear Speak 06:37, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

I've also eaten at the Symposium. The prices are reasonable and the food is good. It's not very big, but there is a big symposium table. --Scottandrewhutchins (talk) 15:22, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

I just ate at Sezz Medi last night (1-4-08). They have a back room (a real separate back room) that's available for up to 40 people, set up in two groups of 20. The Pizza was OK (a bit doughy for my preference), not as good as the famous John's Pizzeria or John's of Bleecker Street, but better than many of the pizza joints I've eaten in. No beer on tap, but a selection of bottled beer, domestic and imported (including my favorite Pilsner Urquell). Pizza was $13 (plain $11), imported beers each $6. Wine list also. If I go again, I'll try something else. Very easy walking distance from/to Columbia U. Zagat Survey rates (scale 0 to 30): 20 for food, 15 for decor, 17 for service and avg. price of $31, which is about right, since mine was $32 (Pizza, two beers, and tip). I forgot to ask about separate checks, but apparently 20% is added for large groups. Reopens for dinner at 5 PM. — Becksguy (talk) 08:05, 5 January 2008 (UTC) I included a photo of the back room at Sezz Midi. — Becksguy (talk) 14:15, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

I just ate at The Symposium last night (1-6-08). The food was quite good, the prices are cheaper than Sezz Midi (e.g. imported beer $4.50 vs $6, check the menu) and the place seemed more friendly and more comfortable. Limited wine list, seem to be all Greek (which makes sense). A small selection of domestic and imported bottle beers, including Greek. I had the Avgolemono Soup (chicken, rice and lemon soup) for $3.50 and the Spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) for $9.95. There may not be a service charge, unless we prefer it to make calculating easier. The center table can hold 20 people (with several more by pushing tables together). The only drawback is that other diners will also be in the same room, therefore not as quiet as a separate back room. However, I didn't notice a loud level, unlike some places where the sound travels and reverberates. I included a photo of the center table. Also very easy walking distance from/to Columbia. — Becksguy (talk) 14:15, 7 January 2008 (UTC) PS- Zagat Survey rates (scale 0 to 30): 20 for food, 13 for decor, 20 for service and avg. price of $24. — Becksguy (talk) 06:02, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

I hereby award Becksguy the SYMPOSIUM TABLE of AMAZING MEETUP ORIGINAL RESEARCH for his astonishing and timely legwork. I also hereby award him the CAMERA of MIGHTY RESTAURANT PHOTOGRAPHY!  :) --Ssilvers (talk) 05:06, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
Aww Shucks.... Thanks, Ssilvers. (Are those new barnstars?) Just trying to be helpful. Now we should decide on which place to go within a day or two, so that someone can make reservations. We will probably be happy with either place — both have pros and cons. I assume we have effectively decided against Tom's, right?. Like everything else here, consensus rulez. — Becksguy (talk) 06:02, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
I love Greek wine!! So cheap and robust and flavorful. I can tell you what to wine order (and I can guarantee you Agne27 has written excellent articles about the grapes in question).--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back (talk) 04:28, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Let's make it official

I'm charged with making the reservations for us, so let's make it official. We'll do this via voting and everyone including anonymous voters, sockpuppets, and canvassed supporters is enfranchised. Voting irregularities and election fraud are encouraged as that would be really amusing in this instance. Please vote for whichever restaurant you would like to eat at given the information provided above and your own personal prejudices. The prevailing restaurant will be called first for the reservation. If a reservation cannot be obtained at the winning restaurant, the runner-up restaurant will be called thus making this entire process pointless. Voting ends 24 hours after this timestamp (because I said so). ScienceApologist (talk) 17:19, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

The polls have closed. Symposium is the clear winner. ScienceApologist (talk) 17:31, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Sezz Medi
  1. Uncle Ed (talk) 17:43, 8 January 2008 (UTC) or whatever restaurant Joshua picks; he has my proxy. --Uncle Ed (talk) 17:43, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  2. Axis of Coaches (talk) 20:04, 8 January 2008 (UTC) or whatever restaurant Ed Poor (talk · contribs) picks; he has my proxy. -- Axis of Coaches (talk) 20:04, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  1. If you don't vote for this place you just want to suffer. Stakhanov (talk) 17:41, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  2. Seems like the better choice. Nightscream (talk) 17:48, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  3. --ragesoss (talk) 18:08, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  4. Sezz Medi seems to get poor reviews. I went to the Symposium last Easter. It's a bit cramped, but it's good.--Scottandrewhutchins (talk) 18:18, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  5. Let the Symposium begin. -- Ssilvers (talk) 18:34, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  6. Bring on the feta --Broadwaygal (talk) 18:36, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  7. The Symposium for a symposium. The food and ambiance seemed better, although with less room for a large group. — Becksguy (talk) 08:36, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
  8. If we can get that big table that was mentioned, it'll be worth it. Otherwise, it's down to whichever place will lay out the largest space for everyone that attends. - Taospark (talk) 17:03, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
  9. Being vegan, I think greek food is usually a pretty good bet. Falafels with tahini sauce are delicious. -- MacAddct  1984 (talk &#149; contribs) 21:34, 9 January 2008 (UTC) <-- put in after voting ended, oh well!
Largely indifferent
  1. I will go where the majority decides... • Freechild'sup? 18:18, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  2. ditto DGG (talk) 19:56, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  3. Anywhere with food is good!. MBisanz talk 20:44, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  4. Not sure I'm actually going to stick around for the restaurant, so don't have a strong preference. JoshuaZ (talk) 23:20, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
  5. All of my sockpuppets are in animated disagreement. I'm so confused… Gosgood (talk) 10:21, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Voting is evil
  1. [Obligatory boring rant about the downfall of Wikipedia goes here] — Omegatron 00:18, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
  2. "It's a conspiracy." - Nick Yemana from the TV show Barney Miller (1975-82)

Late arrival info and Transportation[edit]

If you plan on arriving late for the restaurant or the possible observing session, and would like to find out where the group has wound up, you can drop your mobile phone number ahead of time at Special:Emailuser/Pharos (e-mail will not be able to be checked during the actual meetup time, leave requests ahead of time).

Nearby subway stations:

Other possibilities[edit]

There is a possibility of other activities being planned for the period before the main meeting at Pupin Hall, Columbia University at 2:30 PM. Specifically, we may visit the American Museum of Natural History on a special guided tour arranged with the help of User:ScienceApologist, or we may be able to go on a Wikipedian-oriented tour of the Columbia University libraries. Or, if these fall through, we may make an informal visit to the American Museum of Natural History on our own.

None of these 'other possibilities' are confirmed as of now. Please check back for further updates.

I just confirmed with a graduate student who works in the astrophysics division of the AMNH that Wikipedians can get a "behind the scenes tour" of sorts before the meeting. For example, you can see some of the clean-room labs where instruments are assembled. Please contact me on my talk page if you have suggestions about times or things you'd like to see, and stay tuned here for more info on how this tour will happen. ScienceApologist (talk) 19:10, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

AMNH tour sign-up[edit]

We need to get a rough head-count for the AMNH "behind the scenes" tour happening before the meeting. If you would like to come, please meet at the entrance to the Rose Center for Earth and Space on the northern side of the museum on 81st Street near Central Park West at 11:30 (I strongly suggest choosing a specific time, as the entrance is not an ideal place to congregate Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, Chair of Astrophysics, AMNH). Our host will meet us and let us in for a free "behind the scenes" tour. Sign-up below.

K5S1N2 (talk) 17:57, 11 January 2008 (UTC) I'm the fellow organizing the tickets for the tour. I've found that I have to get these today (Friday the 11th). From the list below I see 25 people attending. The tickets will also allow you to schedule a space show seat (the planetarium thing). The space shows run every half hour on the half hour.

K5S1N2 (talk) 22:46, 11 January 2008 (UTC): So while the office-type areas of the behind the scenes bit of the Rose Center is possible, we can't get into the sort-of exciting lab. As consolation space shows and the Water=Life special exhibit are included in the tickets I've arranged.


Bring your own ideas!

Report on the Meet-up[edit]


Partial video of the meeting can be viewed here.

Attendees of record[edit]

From the sign-up sheet etc., but this may be incomplete. A couple of people without accounts also joined us.

Chapter formation and election of chapter president[edit]

An update was presented on the discussions with the Wikimedia Chapters Committee, and it was agreed that the form proposed (an informal group with a chosen representative to the Wikimedia Foundation, with authority to make agreements with local organizations on content projects) was a good one. This was especially considered useful in terms of approaching large local institutions.

There was some discussion about the distinction between a local Wikimedia chapter and WikiProject New York City; general opinion was that there should be no direct relationship between the two, but that the WikiProject would help process and integrate the products of content projects.

There was also some discussion of fundraising for the Wikimedia Foundation, and the possibility of promotional calendars using Featured pictures.

User:Pharos was elected president of a NYC chapter to be formed, and will write a letter to the Chapters Committee on behalf of the group suggesting a course of action.

Content projects[edit]

The CYCO Yiddish Encyclopedia project will probably be done by the Open Content Alliance; we still have to help CYCO set up an account to accept online donations (the project should cost ~$500).

Some good initial discussions have been started with a representative from the Brooklyn Museum about a free-content photography contest, but before raising the issue formally, they want to wait until their collection catalog is digitized (which should happen in the summer).

It was suggested that we might approach Brian Lehrer's local public radio program to see if they would be receptive to some sort of user-contributed project with us (as they have collaborated with other groups in the past).

Educational outreach[edit]

There was some discussion about cooperation with libraries, and in particular the Science, Industry and Business Library where we could sign up to teach a course; it's also a library that could be considered underutilized as a whole, and so maybe more open to innovative forms of collaboration.

Someone suggested that rather than libraries, we teach classes at computer centers.

The educational potential of using the different language editions of Wikipedia in language instruction was also raised.

User:DGG is a librarian, and will be giving a lecture to a group of fellow librarians on the subject of Wikipedia in the near future.

Next Meet-up[edit]

It was generally agreed that Columbia was a convenient location, and that the meeting room was a comfortable and accommodating space. It was decided that, if possible, we might settle upon this location as a "regular" meeting place for most future meet-ups.

The next meet-up was tentatively scheduled for a Sunday in the middle of March, 2008. There was some discussion about a tour of the Columbia medical library.

Discussion of Pseudoscience on Wikipedia[edit]

Crystal cam.png
Video of the pseudoscience discussion, preserved at the Internet Archive
Pseudoscience on Wikipedia PDF: the slideshow that accompanied that presentation

At the meetup, User:ScienceApologist, an astronomy teacher and researcher, gave a presentation, "Pseudoscience on Wikipedia."

ScienceApologist discovered Wikipedia when he was teaching at a community college. "I noticed student papers all had a similar structure." They weren't using the same text, but they had the same ideas. It turned out they were all using Wikipedia as their first source.

ScienceApologist comes to Wikipedia as a scientist, and often clashes with non-scientists. "It gets very intense very quickly," he said. "I have been blocked 4 times, and had 10 arbitrations." In one case, he was blocked for 72 hours for saying that someone was a "POV pusher."

"I have been encouraging my fellow academics to pay more attention to Wikipedia," said ScienceApologist, and he has been developing this presentation for them. He explained the reasons why they should pay attention to Wikipedia, the problems with Wikipedia, and how he and others have been trying to fix those problems.

Academics ask, "Why should we care?" Wikipedia has high visibility on the Internet, said ScienceApologist. In Google, most Wikipedia articles appear in the top 10 hits. Students use Wikipedia, said ScienceApologist. "There is no other one-stop resource at all levels of popular to technical." A comparison in Nature found Wikipedia as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica, said ScienceApologist. (An analysis of some scientific Wikipedia articles has found that when they are wrong, they are usually wrong from the beginning, said ScienceApologist.)

But, said ScienceApologist, "There are those who would promote pseudoscience and fringe theories on Wikipedia as fact." Wikipedia has "quandaries" that must be resolved, said ScienceApologist:

  • Do we have reliably vetted articles, or do we accommodate pseudoscience?
  • Does mainstream academia own the subject it studies?
  • What is the role of amateur speculation?

Among the problems with Wikipedia are:

  • "An obscure and cumbersome editing process," said ScienceApologist. Academics who try to edit Wikipedia can't figure out how to use it, both because of technical difficulties with the wikitext markup language and cultural attitudes (see next item).
  • "Anti-elitism and anonymous editing," said ScienceApologist. "It's not important in most cases." It is in a few cases.

Academics complain, "How can I edit Wikipedia and not have my edits reverted?" For example, creationism. You have disputes between evolutionists and creationists. Some of the articles become focused on the back-and-forth debates, to the extent that an ordinary reader who comes to Wikipedia for basic knowledge on the subject can't understand it.

Wikipedia is supposed to deal with pseudoscience and undue accommodation to fringe ideas, with the principles of NPOV and undue weight. But in actual application, "that's tricky," said ScienceApologist. Wikipedia has principles that we can use to fight pseudoscience: NPOV, undue weight, sourcing and research, NOR, verifiability, reliability, attribution, WP:FRINGE.

What is pseudoscience? This is something that we deal with extensively in in science courses for non-science majors. The demarcation between science and pseudoscience can get fuzzy. Is psychology a science? Some people don't think so. What about scientists who study the paranormal? "Skeptics debunk pseudoscience," said ScienceApologist. "Wikipedia reports pseudoscience."

Who are the POV pushers? ScienceApologist displayed a very busy slide, divided into several major categories. Some are religious-based. There are conspiracy theories, like the Apollo moon hoax. Spontaneous human combustion. Alternative history, such as Holocaust denial. Alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, vitalism, and acupuncture (although treatments keep moving in and out of that category, such as chiropractic). Autodidact theorists. Spritualism/paranormal. Cryptozoologists, such as the people who believe in the Loch Ness monster. Perpetual motion. (See the slide show for the full list presented.)

Wikipedia has resources for dealing with pseudoscience, said ScienceApologist. First is the talk pages. Then there is WikiProject Rational Skepticism, Fringe theories/noticeboard, deletion requests, and dispute resolution.

ScienceApologist gave several case studies of articles he had been involved with.

  • The Big Bang. In mid-2004, the WP article was "riddled with criticism" of the Big Bang, based on theories by Halton Arp. By 2005 it was a featured article. It's now locked, and 2 editors are not allowed to edit it, because of conflict of interest.
  • Red shift. The article listed 7 different causes of red shift. Astronomers recognize only 3. 4 causes were relegated to a footnote.
  • Electric universe. This is Velekovskian-based pseudoscience. They believe for example that electricity is stronger than gravity. It took 2 years to get it deleted. (AFDs: Electric Universe model (no consensus), Electric Universe concept (no consensus), Electric universe (concept) (delete).)
  • Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This book is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory: the authors of the book are allegedly "Learned Elders of Zion" who propose means by which the Jews and Freemasons can achieve world domination. It has been discredited, yet there are people around the world who believe that it's true. Why do people believe it? The article was developed into a featured article. When it was posted on the Wikipedia home page, it got complaints – from Wikipedia readers, including some Jews, who argued that Wikipedia shouldn't give it attention. (For example, see Who are the Idiots who decided to make this a featured article?, Why IS THIS NOTEWORTHY???)

Submitted by Nbauman (talk) 20:53, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

Wikipedia in the Classroom[edit]

ragesoss informally described his experience with using Wikipedia in the classroom. For a history of science class, instead of assigning papers, he assigned his students to write a Wikipedia article. They usually found an interesting stub that they wanted to expand. He would review it to make sure they weren't undertaking something more difficult than they realized.

They wrote articles about the Romantic movement in science, covering for example Frankenstein. One student wrote about the journal Nature.

It worked very well. Students enjoyed writing something that would be read widely, rather than only by a teacher.

The only change he would make is that he assigned papers and posted them to Wikipedia himself. Next time, he'll have his students post them directly.

Post-Meetup Dinner[edit]

Most of the meet-up participants walked to The Symposium for a casual dinner. The restaurant seated us in the enclosed rear garden room, which we had entirely to ourselves. Something should be done to encourage the participation of more female editors, as only one of the participants at the dinner (and none at the meeting) was female.


By ragesoss[edit]

By Nightscream[edit]