Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-04-02/SPV

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Volume 3, Issue 14 2 April 2007 About the Signpost

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Poll finds people think Wikipedia "somewhat reliable" Wikipedia biographical errors attract more attention
Association of Members' Advocates nominated for deletion Reference desk work leads to New York Times correction
WikiWorld comic: "Charles Lane" News and notes: Alexa, Version 0.5, attribution poll
Wikipedia in the news Features and admins
Bugs, Repairs, and Internal Operational News The Report on Lengthy Litigation

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Poll finds 46% of people think Wikipedia "somewhat reliable"

By Michael Snow, 2 April, 2007

Despite widespread recent news coverage of such mistakes as erroneously reporting Sinbad's death, people seem more likely than not to consider Wikipedia reliable, based on a recent poll conducted in the United States.

This information was part of a report produced by U.S. polling firm Rasmussen Reports. It addressed questions of reliability, how many people actually edit, and how favorably they view the project. The report was based on a survey of 1,000 adults conducted on March 24 and March 25, with a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.

On the question of reliability, 46 percent found Wikipedia "at least somewhat reliable", with 16% disagreeing and the rest not sure. One-quarter of people who have visited the site said they had found something they knew was wrong, but only 9% indicated they had actually edited Wikipedia. The last figure corresponds roughly to the rule of thumb for participatory internet communities that about one in ten people will contribute instead of simply observing, and of those contributors about one in ten will be highly active. This type of "participation inequality" was studied with respect to Wikipedia last year by Jakob Nielsen and called the 90-9-1 Rule.

The percentage of people who had a favorable opinion of Wikipedia was the same as the percentage who found it reliable, 46 percent. Breaking things down by demographics, men under age 40 were especially well-disposed to the project, with a 68% favorable rating. Meanwhile, 20 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Wikipedia. Commenting on this, the report noted that based on some other recent Rasmussen surveys, "Wikipedia is not as well received as companies like Walmart and major auto manufacturers." (Interestingly, debates over the reception given Wal-Mart in its Wikipedia article have themselves received some attention in the past.)

While it is true that all four companies mentioned (Wal-Mart and the "Big Three" U.S. automakers, GM, Ford, and Chrysler) had higher favorable ratings than Wikipedia, all of them also had higher unfavorable ratings. In terms of favorable/unfavorable ratios, some did better than Wikipedia and some did worse. The only generalization this clearly supports is that each of these companies is better-known than Wikipedia, for good or ill. And in fact, it appears more than a third of people still don't know enough about Wikipedia to have an opinion about it.

Wikipedia biographical errors attract more attention

By Michael Snow, 2 April, 2007

Problems with a biography put Jimmy Wales in a difficult position during a recent media appearance, in another case of publicity for Wikipedia errors. Wikipedia also became caught up in an ongoing British-Zimbabwean diplomatic squabble, although its role in this incident was more muddled. Both events served to illustrate the challenges of maintaining accurate information about living persons in the encyclopedia.

In a post to the English Wikipedia mailing list, Wales complained of "getting hammered" in an interview with Ellen Fanning, an Australian television host. Fanning pointed out a mistake in her own biography, which erroneously identified her as the sister of musician Bernard Fanning.

Although the information did not cast Fanning (either of them, really) in a negative light, Wales pointed out that it was still not positive for Wikipedia. A lengthy discussion ensued about the incident's implications and how to address them. Stan Shebs highlighted the curious point that media personalities so often complain about the articles on themselves, rather than criticizing inaccuracies elsewhere.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Office minister Ian McCartney was caught in a public misstatement, partly on account of misinformation in Wikipedia. The incident arose because of long-running diplomatic issues with the nation of Zimbabwe, including a European Union ban on travel by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and some of his family. In a House of Commons debate, MP James Duddridge asked McCartney about a report that Mugabe's daughter was studying at the London School of Economics, which McCartney confirmed, prompting also a suggestion that the ban should be extended to her.

The Foreign Office subsequently indicated that McCartney had misrecollected a briefing. The same claim had been present in the Wikipedia article on Mugabe from 4 November 2006 to 15 March 2007. It was added by an unregistered user, ostensibly citing the school's student directory as a source. The school has denied that she ever attended or was listed in the directory, and an IP address assigned to the school was used to remove the claim. Duddridge was apparently aware that the information had been both added and removed from Wikipedia, while having also received a separate report making this claim through a newspaper.

The case prompted some debate about whether existing policies are adequate to deal with the problems demonstrated. As Dan Tobias observed, "this is the sort of thing that can easily survive a superficial look, even under a regime requiring strict sourcing of negative information on living persons."

Wales indicated that even if it had been accurate, the change would have violated the prohibition on original research: "This was in no way an appropriate external source." Some pointed to the distinction between primary and secondary sources, with the latter being important to demonstrate that a particular fact warrants mentioning in an encyclopedia. Others defended the usefulness of primary sources, tying the problem instead to the dishonesty involved in misrepresenting the contents of a source.

Association of Members' Advocates nominated for deletion

By KnightLago, 2 April 2007

Following a comment by kingboyk and discussion on the administrators' noticeboard regarding an editor who was "challenging" the closure of an articles for deletion debate through the Association of Members' Advocates, the Association was subsequently nominated for deletion.

The controversy began when the article List of multiracial people was nominated for deletion on 6 March 2007 by Gadavis, who wrote that the article "is offensive, has no place on Wikipedia, has no value as a resource, and could contain a plethoric amount of names." Following a lively discussion in which eleven people voted in favor of deletion, while two opposed, the debate was closed in favor of deletion on 10 March by kingboyk. While explaining his decision to delete the article, kingboyk wrote that he was "closing a little early as the consensus is already evident and the continued presence of this article is rather odorous."

On 15 March, five days after the deletion of the article, Jalabi99 commented on kingboyk's discussion page questioning his handling of the situation and a number of other factors. Kingboyk responded by explaining that as an administrator his task was to determine consensus. He continued writing that Jalabi99 could appeal the deletion of the article at deletion review, but he would be amazed if the deletion was overturned.

Instead of appealing the deletion of the article to deletion review as kingboyk mentioned, Jalabi99 turned to the Association of Members' Advocates, opening a case on 21 March. The Association of Members' Advocates (AMA) is an organization that is "devoted to advocating, counseling, and protecting Wikipedians in need." This is done by guiding users through the dispute resolution process with special focus placed on assisting at the mediation and arbitration stages. While their stated goals are beneficial, their actions in the dispute resolution process have sometimes proven to be controversial due to conflicts with administrators and the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom). Keith D. Tyler, an AMA member, expressed his opinion on the conflict between the groups:

The whole point of an advocate (okay, [in my opinion]) is to provide assistance to a regular member, particularly with navigating the sometimes complicated, unclear, and underavailable WP:DR process, but [in my opinion] especially where they face an uphill climb versus an administrator bringing an action or up against the pro-admin tendency of the ArbCom. It is not to play parent or admonisher, but to support the member, aid them through the process, and aid with presenting their side of the matter. Otherwise, we may as well just dissolve into WP:ADOPT or something. Bottom line is, [with all due respect], I really don't think ArbCom is the best group for determining what sort of help a member needs when there's a case brought against them. The goal of advocacy is not to set the user straight, but to help them acheive (sic) a good outcome from the DR process.

Like it or not, ArbCom proceedings in particular, with all the deliberations, accusations, questioning, demand for evidence in particular formats, and etcetera trappings, are an awful lot like judicial proceedings. The only thing that tends to be lacking -- because the ArbCom vilifies it with the pejoratively-used term "wikilawyering" -- are arguments of merit on policy, or about misconstruction of statements or actions, whether actions are within policies and guidelines or warranted by circumstances... etc., etc. But unfortunately, ArbCom proceedings are not about whether the accused was right, or justified; they are about who the ArbCom likes more. A little rule of law would be a Very Good Thing. Alas. I joined AMA because it was a group of advocates, not a group of reeducators.

Responding to a suggestion that an AMA-ArbCom Team be formed, Arbitrator Raul654 expressed the Arbitration Committee's position on the Association of Members' Advocates:

For the sake of brevity, and the fact that we are now rehashing discussions that have already occurred multiple times, I'm going to cut right to the chase - The AMA has not shown itself to be useful at all during arbitration. The arbcom has no desire to add more work for itself, so we will not be doing anything jointly with the AMA. Much as they may fancy themselves to be part of the arbitration process, the AMA has no official status in arbitration. Prove yourselves useful using the process as is, and we may change our minds, but until then, kindly leave us alone.

After the opening of the case, kingboyk discussed on the administrators' noticeboard the role of the AMA and how he felt that by opening a case with the Association the editor was seeking to "personalise an administrative issue and [avoid] the correct forum (WP:DRV)." He went on writing "I was not notified of this "case" (I found it when looking at "what links here" for my user page), and the "advocates" dealing with it have responded to the "case" as though they are lawyers who have already judged me "guilty"."

It was quickly pointed out to kingboyk by TheronJ that in this case the Association had provided sound advice, such as referring the user to deletion review, suggesting that Jalabi99 ask for a copy of the content be restored to a userpage, or simply drop the issue. While kingboyk quickly acknowledged the usefulness of the Association when put into context, following continued discussion on the administrators' noticeboard the Association of Members' Advocates was nominated for deletion by Consumed Crustacean on 29 March. In proposing deletion Consumed Crustacean wrote that the deletion of the Association "was suggested by multiple people on [the administrators' noticeboard]. Specific reasons include the bureaucratic and lawyering nature of the AMA, and that the most useful of its functions can be served by the help desk. The AMA tends to be more divisive than anything."

This nomination for deletion comes in light of the recent deletion debate and decentralization of Esperanza (see archived story). So far, many comments have been added, many arguing for judgments including its deletion, keeping the article, and marking it {{historical}}, similar to the solution enacted in the case of Esperanza.

The debate over the future of Association of Members' Advocates continues this week.

Reference desk work leads to New York Times correction

By Michael Snow, 2 April, 2007

Editors on the reference desk discovered an error in the New York Times last week, leading to a correction of the offending article and also prompting the paper to explain how it handles the publication of corrections.

The mistake appeared in the paper's March 27 Personal Health column, "You Are Also What You Drink". The column focused on a report from a group of health and nutrition experts that looked at the relationship between beverage consumption and health. Among the points mentioned in the report, and appearing at the very end of the New York Times article, was "that soy milk cannot be legally fortified with vitamin D and provides only 75 percent of the calcium the body obtains from cow's milk."

This point was brought to the reference desk by Toytoy, who wondered, "What's going on in the United States that you don't have the freedom to make your soy milk more nutritious?" Some quick research indicated that the claim was cited to a journal article published in 1971. Whether or not it was true then that soy milk could not be legally fortified, it certainly is not true today—fortification is common and specifically recommended by the federal Food and Nutrition Service.

Among those responding was Jfarber, who called the mistake to the attention of Times editors. This ultimately produced the following correction posted March 31: "The Personal Health column in Science Times on Tuesday about healthful beverages included incorrect information from the Beverage Guidance Panel about soy milk. It can indeed be legally fortified with vitamin D."

The process followed by the Times, in which the online version of the article was initially altered without any notice that the content had been changed, led to some further attention. Farber wondered about this procedure and reported his concerns to Boing Boing, which published them to a wider audience.

As explained by Times senior editor Greg Brock, the paper immediately updates online articles as soon as the error is confirmed. However, formal corrections such as the one quoted above run in the print edition of the paper, and the Times has a policy not to run them until the reporter or editor who made the error can be contacted. Once this is done, the correction is also appended to the online version, which in this case had already been "corrected" by simply ending the article's final paragraph prior to the erroneous passage.

WikiWorld comic: "Charles Lane"

By Greg Williams, 2 April 2007; Text excerpted from the Wikipedia article Charles Lane (actor).

WikiWorld is a weekly comic, carried by the Signpost, that highlights a few of the fascinating but little-known articles in the vast Wikipedia archives. The text for each comic is excerpted from one or more existing Wikipedia articles. WikiWorld offers visual interpretations on a wide range of topics: offbeat cultural references and personality profiles, obscure moments in history and unlikely slices of everyday life - as well as "mainstream" subjects with humorous potential.

Cartoonist Greg Williams developed the WikiWorld project in cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation, and is releasing the comics under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license for use on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

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News and notes

By Ral315 and Michael Snow, 2 April, 2007

Wikipedia officially a top ten site, according to Alexa

For the first time, Wikipedia has become a top ten-ranked website over a three-month period, according to Wikipedia has in recent months hovered around the daily rank of 9 during the week, and 10 or 11 on weekends, but Wikipedia remained at a three-month rank of 11 until this week.

Version 0.5

Version 0.5, a DVD release of 1,964 Wikipedia articles, will be released this week at The release date has been pushed back, most recently due to an issue involving a banking system; its current release date is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3.

Checkuser access

The Arbitration Committee put up a page last week inviting contributors to apply for checkuser access. In three days, 44 people expressed interest, but the page was shut down again with the comment, "The Arbitration Committee has concluded that this is the wrong approach to finding checkuser candidates."

Attribution vote

The possible merger of the Verifiability and No original research policies into Wikipedia:Attribution is the subject of a one-week poll scheduled to end April 6.

Community enforceable mediation

An experimental dispute resolution process called community enforceable mediation, which would allow established editors involved in disputes to agree to enforceable remedies in mediation, has started a 90-day trial period.

Record month for featured articles

The number of featured articles showed a record increase in the month of March, with a net gain of 70 articles (88 were selected and 18 removed). The last two months have reversed, at least temporarily, the steady decline in featured articles as a proportion of the total number of articles. Although at one point more than 1 in 1000 articles was featured, the ratio is currently well below that threshold, partly because increasing standards mean that older selections no longer satisfy the criteria and may be removed after a review process.


In the news

By Lumos3, Tariqabjotu, and Zanimum, 2 April, 2007


The launch of Citizendium as a serious rival to Wikipedia created a lot of media interest. Some news media continued their scepticism that Wikipedia’s open door policy can be made to work and looked forward to a tighter regime in its rival. Others focused on the rivalry between Wikipedia’s Jimbo Wales and Citizendium’s Larry Sanger. The significance of Sanger’s part in the creation of Wikipedia was played up by him to be an equal co-partner and played down by Wales, to be one of 20 others involved. See

April Fool's on Wikipedia

For the first time the world's eyes are turned on Wikipedia for its April Fool's jokes. Wikipedia came out classy by featuring the confusing-at-first-read-yet-totally-true George Washington (inventor). The main page read:

This choice was too staid and verifiable to make April Fool's Day coverage in any media outlets, as were the DYK facts. One of the bullets read "..that Rush Limbaugh was a U.S. ambassador to India?" and "...that Richard de Southchurch, Sheriff of Essex, planned to attack London with burning cocks?"

Everything else Wikipedia

You think Net is all true? You've been punk'd, Orlando Sentinel, March 30, 2007.
Columnist stunned that Wikipedia can be edited by anybody, and at that matter surprised anyone would ever bother to look up, let alone edit the profile of Sinbad.
Wikipedia is more useful, and credible, than you think, The Northerner, March 28, 2007.
Rebuke of recent criticisms in a letter to the editor.
Wikipedia encyclopedia is banned at some colleges, The Chronicle, March 28, 2007.
Duke University students and faculty discuss the concept of using Wikipedia as a source after other universities, including the University of California, Los Angeles, ban the practice.

Everything else encyclopedia

Everything else wiki

IBM developing wiki how-to tool, ZDNet, March 29, 2007.
Described as being wiki-based software, all "Koala" does is continuously create a profile of you, to fill out forms and click links.

Features and admins

By CBDunkerson, 2 April 2007


Five users were granted admin status via the Requests for Adminship process this week: WJBscribe (nom), Casliber (nom), Waggers (nom), Ais523 (nom), and Anthony.bradbury (nom).

Featured content

Thirty-one articles were promoted to featured status last week: Homer's Phobia (nom), George B. McClellan (nom), Angel of Death (song) (nom), Campbell's Soup Cans (nom), Simeon I of Bulgaria (nom), Durian (nom), Western Chalukya Empire (nom), Coeliac disease (nom), Tornado (nom), History of Minnesota (nom), Devil May Cry 2 (nom), William Monahan (nom), Tom Pryce (nom), Ridge Route (nom), Metabolism (nom), Actions along the Matanikau (nom), FairTax (nom), Archaeopteryx (nom), Kansas Turnpike (nom), Norte Chico civilization (nom), Freak Out! (nom), Andrew Van De Kamp (nom), Ipswich Town F.C. (nom), Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (nom), Characters of Final Fantasy VIII (nom), Armament of the Iowa class battleship (nom), Cholangiocarcinoma (nom), George Washington (inventor) (nom), Final Fantasy XII (nom), Mayan languages (nom) and Central Coast Mariners FC (nom).

Five articles were de-featured last week: Wigwag (railroad), Markup language, London congestion charge, Richard O'Connor and ATLAS experiment.

No lists were promoted to featured status last week.

No sounds were promoted to featured status last week.

No topics were promoted to featured status last week.

One portal was promoted to featured status this week: Portal:Alternative music.

The following featured articles were displayed last week on the Main Page as Today's featured article: Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, Pashtun people, Cleveland, Ohio, Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria, New Carissa, George Washington (inventor) and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

The following featured pictures were displayed last week on the Main Page as picture of the day: Rope trick effect, Australian Pelican, Hypermarket, B-25 Mitchell, Internet map, Agassiz statue and Cliff Palace.

Seven pictures were promoted to featured status last week:

Bugs, Repairs, and Internal Operational News

By Mets501, 2 April, 2007

Please keep in mind that features listed here may not be live on the English Wikipedia yet. Also, in general, features that do not affect the English Wikipedia, such as new extensions that are not enabled here, are not listed.

This page covers revisions up to r20946.

New features

Fixed bugs

  • The block log will now show expanded text instead of abbreviations for the block flags (i.e. "anonymous users only" instead of "anononly", "account creation disabled" instead of "nocreate", etc.) (r20583)


Internationalization help is always appreciated! See m:Localization statistics for how complete the translations of languages you know are, and post any updates to bugzilla.

The Report on Lengthy Litigation

By Ral315, 2 April, 2007

The Arbitration Committee opened one case this week, and closed two cases.

Closed cases

  • Barrett v. Rosenthal: A case brought by Peter M. Dodge involving the actions of Ilena and Fyslee. According to Dodge, Ilena was initially reported to AN/I for "posting links to sites that some considered to be attack sites". Various users attempted to assist Ilena, but "This was sabotaged...when Fyslee posted a link to a site that attacked Ilena in a personal manner". The title of the case refers to Barrett v. Rosenthal, a decision of the Supreme Court of California, which ruled that internet users and providers were not liable for the republication of defamatory statements, which some editors believe provides protection for Wikipedia. It has been alleged that some editors were involved in the real-life litigation of the case. As a result of the case, Ilena was banned for one year, and indefinitely banned from editing articles relating to alternative medicine.

New case

  • Betacommand: A case involving the actions of Betacommand. Some of Betacommand's blocks have been questioned, and his bot-related actions have led to his removal from the bot approvals group. Betacommand has noted that he makes numerous username-related blocks, and that most of his blocks were appropriate.

Evidence phase

  • Freedom skies: A case involving the actions of Freedom skies. JFD and others allege that he has edit warred to push his point of view. He denies the allegations.
  • Falun Gong: A case regarding the conduct of various editors on the Falun Gong article. Olaf Stephanos and Asdfg12345 allege that Samuel Luo has edit-warred in removing pro-Falun Gong material from the article, while Luo, Tomananda and others allege that Stephanos, Asdfg and others have edit-warred (including page blanking) in removing anti-Falun Gong material.

Voting phase

  • Darwinek: A case involving the actions of Darwinek. Thatcher131 alleges that he has misused blocks and rollback, and has edit warred and been incivil. Darwinek promises that "I will never abuse that powers (sic) again in the future." A remedy proposed by Paul August would result in Darwinek's desysopping; no other arbitrators have voted on the case.
  • Lukas19-LSLM: A case involving the conduct of Lukas19 and LSLM. Both parties allege incivility. Remedies supported by five users would ban both parties for one year.
  • Armenia-Azerbaijan: A case, brought by ex-arbitrator Dmcdevit, regarding a dispute between Armenian and Azerbaijani editors on a large number of articles. Remedies supported by 4 to 5 arbitrators would impose a variety of bans and paroles on various editors.

Motion to close

  • InShaneee: A case involving the actions of Inshaneee. (formerly Worldtraveller) alleges that InShaneee inappropriately blocked him in a dispute in which he was involved in violation of WP:BP, and that he responded agressively to criticism. InShaneee in his statement points to an apology admitting the block was premature, and denying any aggressive response. Remedies would pass, desysopping him for ten days and admonishing him.