|Volume 2, Issue 44||30 October 2006||About the Signpost|
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Wales resigns chair position as reorganization in progress
The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees has moved forward with a step in restructuring the organization by reorganizing itself. Following a planning retreat in Frankfurt, Jimmy Wales stepped down as Chair of the board, and Florence Nibart-Devouard was chosen to replace him.
The board met with representatives of local chapters and a few others from October 20 to October 22. After the retreat, Wales nominated Devouard to take his place as Chair, and the board unanimously approved her for that position. The remaining official roles on the board were also filled at this time, with Tim Shell chosen as Vice-Chair, Erik Möller as Executive Secretary, and Michael E. Davis as Treasurer.
Devouard was elected to the Board as a member representative in 2004 and holds one of the two board seats elected by the Wikimedia community, along with Möller. She has been a strong supporter of the multilingual nature of the Wikimedia projects.
Wales, meanwhile, will continue to serve on the board and assume the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus. He will remain active in Wikimedia projects, but chose to pass on the responsibility of heading the board, due in part to his commitments to outside projects.
This action is part of an ongoing reorganization of the Wikimedia Foundation, which effectively began with the hiring of Brad Patrick earlier this year as legal counsel and Executive Director (see archived story). Patrick is filling the latter position only on an interim basis, and the Wikimedia Foundation plans to start a formal search process for a permanent Executive Director.
Hypothetical valuation of Wikipedia scrutinized
A thought exercise on Wikipedia's potential value as a business prompted debate last week, bringing the issue of advertising back into view as well. Valuation estimates tossed about ranged from half a billion dollars (all figures US$) up to five billion. In the end, however, the entire discussion remains strictly theoretical.
The valuation analysis
This all began with a post on Thursday by Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, the operator of a blog network. He wrote up an analysis of the potential value of Wikipedia, "strictly for entertainment purposes", as if it were an advertising-supported business instead of a non-profit organization. (Switching from non-profit to for-profit is not normally allowed—or as Brad Patrick recently put it to Telegraph reporter Mick Brown, it would be "like selling Greenpeace".)
As the business model for this hypothetical for-profit, Karbasfrooshan focused primarily on advertising. He calculated that Wikipedia could bring in $2.8 million every month from display advertising. This was done using publicly available estimates of unique visitors (for example, Wikimedia Foundation projects collectively ranked as the sixth-most-visited network of sites in the world for September according to comScore), although such numbers vary according to who does the reporting, and questions have been raised about the methodologies used to produce them. To this he added more than $750,000 as income from paid search results.
Even without any growth, the revenue projection came out to $42 million per year. With relatively low operating costs, Karbasfrooshan assumed that most of the revenue would be profit and settled on an annual figure of $35 million. Converting the profit calculation into a value of the overall "business", he obtained estimates of $560 million and $600 million using two different methods. He noted that this range was quite similar to the sum paid for the parent company of MySpace.
The question of advertising
The analysis prompted a follow-up from Jason Calacanis, another blogging entrepreneur who now runs AOL's Netscape.com site. Calacanis added a controversial appeal for Wikipedia to accept such advertising, relating that he had proposed this earlier to Jimmy Wales and been turned down. Calacanis called Karbasfrooshan's study a "very, very conservative valuation" and said that Wikipedia would be worth $5 billion as a private company. He argued that a single leaderboard of ads on Wikipedia would bring in more than $100 million annually. (Karbasfrooshan used assumptions based on one leaderboard, or banner ad, plus a smaller "island" billboard. He also expected that the large inventory meant that some ad space would go unsold.)
Karbasfrooshan responded by criticizing the $5 billion valuation as "nonsense", arguing that Wikipedia lacks the track record as a business that investors would look for. He gave his opinion that Wikipedia was better off for now raising funds from donations, and while he thought licensing could help bring in revenue, he doubted that advertising would ever be used. A key concern was the inability to account for a possible "mutiny" by contributors, a real risk given Wikipedia history (the Spanish Wikipedia community divided in 2002 and the Enciclopedia Libre was created as a fork, partly over fears about advertising).
Calacanis's post received considerable attention from other bloggers and was featured on digg as well. Alex Halavais, whose 2004 experiment with inserting false information into Wikipedia was recently exhumed by The Chronicle of Higher Education, called the decision not to advertise "a good stance both ethically and practically." Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist who had brought the valuation exercise to Calacanis's attention, defended the notion of advertising, saying, "Ads are content just like everything else." He thought it would be easy for Wikipedia to have relevant and targeted ads.
The reaction led Calacanis to back down from some of his initial language and proclaim his admiration for Wikipedia contributors. As a revised proposal, he suggested that readers should be given the option to turn off advertising or select different options of how many ads to view. He did not estimate how much money such a system would generate. Another proposal Calacanis offered afterward was to add a function to search the web (not just Wikipedia); his estimate for this revenue was similar to that of Karbasfrooshan.
The figure Calacanis cited as potential advertising revenue, $100 million, coincidentally was the same as the amount Wales mentioned in asking what copyrighted material people would most want to have freely licensed (see archived story). This confused some people into thinking the two ideas were related. In reality, the effort Wales contemplated to spend such a sum freeing up proprietary content has no connection to any advertising, and there are no plans in the works to place advertising on Wikipedia.
Work underway to purge plagiarized text from articles
Wikipedia editors launched an effort last week to clean up a number of articles, following a report that found a significant amount of plagiarism in biographical articles. Most of the affected articles needed to have the plagiarized text removed and several were deleted entirely, although in a few instances the source was in the public domain and the problem could be solved simply with a correct attribution.
The report -- posted at wikipedia-watch.org/psamples.html -- was produced by Daniel Brandt, a critic of Wikipedia over the past year who previously played a role in the Seigenthaler incident. Focusing this time on deceased persons, instead of the living whose articles have become subject to heightened scrutiny since that incident, he reviewed a number of articles for people born before 1900. He claimed that about one percent of his sample contained indications of plagiarism, and concluded that the actual rate would be higher because of limitations in his methodology.
The focus of the analysis was plagiarism, rather than copyright infringement, although most of the cases qualify as examples of both. Brandt explained that he took sentences from Wikipedia articles and ran a Google search on them to see if other sites appeared in the results, while removing cases where attribution was already present in the Wikipedia article. He also attempted to exclude sites that mirror Wikipedia, although he conceded that in a very few cases, the text might have been copied from Wikipedia rather than the other way round.
Citing sources has long been Wikipedia policy, which also declares that there is "no tolerance for copyright violations". Existing processes help to ferret out possible copyright problems as cases are reported, and previous larger-scale problems have led to coordinated responses, such as that of the German Wikipedia last year after text copied from several print reference works was found (see archived story).
Reaction on Wikipedia
The appearance of the report prompted considerable activity and discussion. W.marsh began compiling a list as people reviewed the articles, to keep track of which editors were identified as being responsible for the plagiarism. This allowed others to go back and review the contributions of these editors in case any were serial plagiarists. While most have turned out to be one-time offenders several individuals have contributed a number of copyright violations. So far around 100 articles have been cleaned of plagiarized text, in addition to the 142 originally reported by Brandt. The most egregious offender is User:RJNeb2 who has inserted dozens of film-related biographies apparently plagiarized from an offline source.
In one case, a well-established contributor and administrator, Olivier, had added copyrighted content to a number of articles. He was apparently the victim of a deception, however, because an outside site, www.nobel-winners.com, had copied its content from the Encyclopædia Britannica. The site included a notice that "All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License", although it did not include or even link to the text of the license, and the site's boilerplate ended with a copyright notice saying "All Rights Reserved."
Work remains ongoing to clear out the problems in these articles and locate others that have not yet been identified. As W.marsh pointed out, even the deleted articles are generally valid subjects for articles, but a number of those have yet to be re-created.
Librarian creates video course about Wikipedia
The course, entitled "Why Wiki?", was created earlier this month by John Hubbard, a librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Note: the course is not being offered for credit at the university—it is more in the nature of a training workshop.) For the most part, the course is not instructional in the sense of teaching people how to actually edit Wikipedia. Rather, it deals with how to approach and evaluate Wikipedia as a resource, subjects that are naturally of interest to librarians.
The form of the course is essentially a narrated screencast in which Hubbard navigates through various examples of the concepts he discusses. Among the many Wikipedia articles looked at, he mentions in passing Heavy metal umlaut, the subject of perhaps the first-ever Wikipedia screencast (see archived story).
Many of the examples serve to illustrate general points or summarize Wikipedia's history, so they remain applicable despite the constant flux of wiki editing, but there is one interesting exception. While discussing disambiguation and naming conventions, Hubbard notes how the "University of Wisconsin" article is dedicated to a single campus, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The matter is of some personal significance to him as an employee at a different campus in the University of Wisconsin System. The situation has been changed in the past month, however, so that "University of Wisconsin" is now a disambiguation page.
The course is in four parts, beginning with an introduction to wikis and Wikipedia. The second part focuses on the various challenges facing Wikipedia and controversies surrounding it. The third section is devoted to comparisons with other sources, but appears to have been posted incomplete. Finally, the last section explores the remaining Wikimedia projects along with other wiki sites. The entire video lasts for approximately one-and-a-half hours.
Although suitable for a wider audience, the course occasionally touches on matters of specialized interest and targets librarians specifically. Hubbard cites a poll of librarians that was roughly evenly split on whether they would refer patrons to Wikipedia. While not advocating a particular stance regarding Wikipedia, he suggests that librarians should be more active in this new technology generally. He also recommends the LISWiki, a wiki dedicated to library and information science.
Report from the Japanese Wikipedia
Status and community news
As of 23 October, 2006, the Japanese Wikipedia contained about 275,800 articles, making it the 5th largest Wikipedia. Of these, 77 articles have been selected as 秀逸な記事 (Brilliant/Excellent articles), based on the English Wikipedia's Featured articles selection system. Articles are now added and removed from the list by users' vote.
The Japanese Wikipedia does not have featured pictures, but a selection of new articles and pictures of the month is made. Those of September are カジキ (Marlin), 守護請 (Shugo uke; Contraction of collection tribute by Shugo), 九十九王子の旧蹟 (田辺市本宮町) (Historical spots at the Jinja at Kujuku Oji), 富士山の噴火史 (History of the eruption of Mount Fuji), 誤用 (Misuse), エジプト中王国 (Middle Kingdom of Egypt) (Articles) and Tateno Bridige (photo).
The Japanese Wikipedia has about 89,200 registered users, 51 administrators, and 5 bureaucrats.
Just two recent notable reports from a flux of various media coverage.
An article by Yasuda Tomooki was published on July 29, 2006 in Asahi Shimbun, one of the top 5 Japanese newspapers. The article had a positive tone and presented the Japanese Wikipedia in a favourable light. Aphaia and Tangotango informed the Wikipedia community about it.
On September 4 2006, NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation TV station, featured Wikipedia in Close-up Gendai (クローズアップ現代), a current affairs program portraying the project as an example of Web 2.0 websites.
The media tend to treat Wikipedia as a computer fad, but an increasing number of Wikipedians have been interviewed. Recent interviews were included on asahi.com on 20 October, in the November issue of "Windows 100%", and the issue of "Weekly ASCII"（週刊アスキー） for 31 October. In each recent case, a Japanese Wikipedia administrator was interviewed and in fact few non-administrator editors have been interviewed.
Reports from participants of Wikimania 2006
Last month, we had two meetings, the first in Tokyo on September 2 and the second in Osaka on September 9. Japanese Wikipedians who participated in Wikimania 2006 were invited to talk about their experiences at the conference, and this was the main topic of both meetings. The meet-ups also served as excellent opportunities to meet fellow Wikipedians who live locally, as offline meetings between Japanese Wikipedians have not been held very frequently.
There are a Japanese-language Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikisource, and Wikinews. The Japanese Wiktionary recently reached 10,000 articles, and Wikisource has reached 1,000 articles. Wikibooks has about 760 articles, while Wikinews has about 5,500 articles.
Wikinews and Wiktionary are the most active sister projects. In Wiktionary, similar to Wikipedia, the contributors typically work alone, with little interaction with other contributors. Wikinews is more interactive, involving teamwork between writers. Wikinews recently began a Short Report (短信), Wikinews edition of current event. The Japanese Wikiquote and Wikisource have few active users, and it is common for only one or two users to make edits on any given day.
News and notes
Commemorative mosaic started
A project to develop a logo mosaic was started to commemorate the upcoming one millionth file upload on Wikimedia Commons. The mosaic, which will comprise 1200 individual images, will combine to form the logo of the Wikimedia Foundation. People from all projects are invited to help develop the mosaic by placing more images.
Votes to conclude on proposed logos
Voting to choose replacement logos on Wikibooks, Wikiversity, and Wiktionary will close this week, on Tuesday October 31. The vote concludes the process of choosing new logos for each of the three projects.
- The Occitan Wiktionary has reached 100 entries.
- The Thai Wikipedia has reached 13,000 registered users.
- The Portuguese Wikisource has reached 5,000 text units.
- The Indonesian Wikipedia has reached 40,000 articles.
- The Marathi Wikipedia has reached 36,000 edits.
- The Hungarian Wikipedia has reached 10,000 registered users.
- The Vietnamese Wikisource has reached 50 registered users.
- The Russian Wikipedia has reached 30,000 registered users.
- The Turkish Wikipedia has reached 40,000 registered users.
- The Ligurian Wikipedia has reached 1,000 articles.
- The Wikipedia of Ripuarian languages has reached 5,000 articles.
- The Romanian Wikipedia has reached 40,000 articles.
Features and admins
Ten articles were promoted to featured status last week: Natalie Clifford Barney (nom), 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) (nom), Barnard's Star (nom), Pixies (band) (nom), Amchitka (nom), Battle of Ceresole (nom), 1933 Atlantic hurricane season (nom), Edward III of England (nom), Gliding (nom), and John W. Johnston (nom)
Four lists were featured last week: Timeline of peptic ulcer disease and Helicobacter pylori, List of HIV-positive people, List of Sweden international footballers, and List of Liverpool F.C. players.
The following featured articles were displayed last week on the Main Page as Today's featured article: Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Rugby World Cup, 0.999..., The Relapse, Compact Cassette, Bricker Amendment, and Hydrogen.
The following featured pictures were displayed last week on the Main Page as picture of the day: Isometric projection, Wakizashi, Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, Symmetry group, Hebe, Sun and Earth, and Water.
Fourteen pictures were featured last week:
(Photo by) Gordon Parks
The Report On Lengthy Litigation
The Arbitration Committee opened one case this week, and closed two cases.
- Giano: A case involving the actions of Giano, Tony Sidaway and others, in which Sidaway blocked Giano for making "inflammatory" comments regarding the behaviour of the ArbCom and the Wikimedia Foundation. The block was subsequently overturned after discussion on WP:AN/I. When closed, remedies came into effect formalising the relinquishing of sysop access by former clerk Tony Sidaway and former arbitrator Kelly Martin, but thanking her for her "long and honourable service", and reminding Jdforrester "to maintain decorum appropriate for an arbitrator".
- Pat8722: A case involving the actions of Pat8722. BorgHunter has accused Pat8722 of edit-warring. Pat8722 has requested that the ArbCom stay the case while he pursues 6 pro se cases in the American courts, and has agreed not to edit Wikipedia in the interim. As a result of the case, Pat8722 was placed on probation for one year from when he returns to Wikipedia. A motion establishing the principle of a continuance, and extending it to Pat8722 was proposed by Fred Bauder, but was defeated.
- Bowling for Columbine: A case involving the actions of Schrodinger82 and others on the Bowling for Columbine article, and in particular his disputed removal of some criticism of the film.
- Gundagai editors: A case involving the actions of several anon IPs (possibly operated by one person), on Gundagai-related pages.
- Protecting children's privacy: A case involving a policy proposal on the Wikipedia:Protecting children's privacy page. The committee is being asked to make a ruling as to the consensus requirements for the adoption of new policy.
- Ulritz: A case involving the actions of Ulritz and Rex. Rex alleges that Ulritz has engaged in a variety of disruptive behaviour, and shows a strong German nationalist bias. Various other editors allege that Rex has also engaged in a certain amount of disruption, and shows a certain Dutch nationalist bias.
- Non-Notability: A case regarding actions on Wikipedia:Non-notability (not to be confused with Wikipedia:Notability).
- Pseudoscience: A case involving the actions of ScienceApologist, Ian Tresman and others, involving the insertion and removal of so-called "pseudoscience" on various articles.
- Jean-Thierry Boisseau: A case involving the actions of Jean-Thierry Boisseau on List of major opera composers. Various users accuse him of "a course of bullying, personal attacks, and generally making things awful for all contributors". He strenuously denies the allegations. Fred Bauder has proposed remedies banning Boisseau and others attributed with Musik Fabrik from editing articles relating to their work, and placing Boisseau on probation.
- Rachel Marsden: A case involving the actions of Arthur Ellis, Rachel Marsden, Bucketsofg and others on the Rachel Marsden page. Marsden and Ellis allege that the page contains inaccurate and libellous material, and that this has been protected on the page by various admins. In response, others allege that Ellis has engaged in edit warring on the page. Fred Bauder has proposed remedies banning Arthur Ellis for one day, permitting articles relating to Rachel Marsden to be stubbified, as well as other measures.
- GreekWarrior: GreekWarrior, an admitted Greek nationalist extremist, received a community ban for "repeated, blatant ethnic insults and hate speech", but, owing to what Tony Sidaway described as his "great willingness to contribute", has asked that it be lifted or restricted to a finite period. Remedies had been proposed, suspending the ban or replacing it with probation, but in the light of recent evidence of a suspected sockpuppet, a remedy imposing a year ban has been proposed and has the support of three arbitrators.
- Vivaldi: A case involving the actions of Vivaldi on Jack Hyles and related articles. Arbustoo alleges that Vivaldi has removed "cited criticism" from the article, as well as harassment, incivility and edit warring. However, an anon IP, 22.214.171.124 accuses Arbustoo of removing comments from AfDs. Remedies proposed by Fred Bauder, and supported by Neutrality, would place various articles edited by Vivaldi and Arbustoo on article probation, with the intention of removing poorly sourced material, and warn both contributors against edit-warring.