|Volume 4, Issue 31||28 July 2008||About the Signpost|
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Wikimania 2008 wrap-up
Wikimania 2008, the fourth annual conference of the Wikimedia Foundation, was held in Alexandria, Egypt from July 17-19. The conference was held in the conference center of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, or new Library of Alexandria.
Nearly 600 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina along with WikiHow, the Open Society Institute, Cisco Egypt, Hewlett Packard Middle East, Raya Corporation, Advanced Computer Technology, Kaltura, Microsoft Egypt, Intel Egypt, Sun Microsystems, Onkosh, eSpace, and Wikia.
The first day's opening ceremony featured speeches from Dr. Ahmed Darwish, the Egyptian Minister of State for Administrative Development, who welcomed attendees all to Egypt on behalf of the Prime Minister of Egypt, Florence Devouard, outgoing Wikimedia Foundation Board Chair, for the Foundation, and Mohamed Ibrahim for the organizing team. Next were speeches by Dr. Hoda Baraka, the First Deputy to Minister of Communications and Information Technology, who talked about education and IT, and Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, who spoke broadly of the need for communication and education.
As in previous years, the rest of the program featured reports from Wikimedians about their projects, academic talks and analysis of the projects, reports on related work, and community discussion. The program also featured a panel with the Wikimedia Foundation board members, where it was announced that Michael Snow had been elected the next Board Chair, replacing Florence Devouard.
A copy of the program may be found here; some of the presentations have been posted here. All sessions were recorded, and the videos are available for download on the mirror of the Internet Archive at BA. Archived webcast sessions are also available.
Special features of the program included tours of the Bibliotheca for all participants, as the conference was actually in an adjacent, joined building to the library itself. On the tours, participants learned about the library's many outreach activities, including digitization efforts using OCR software for Arabic that was developed by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. This is one of the only digitization projects for Arabic-language materials currently; some of the library's digitized materials can be viewed online at the library's website as well as the Digital Assets Repository, DAR
The closing ceremony featured a short speech from Sue Gardner, executive director of the Foundation, and recognition of the many volunteers and staff who worked on the conference. The closing ceremony also featured an invitation, including a short video and a speech from Patricio Lorente, the lead organizer, to Wikimania 2009, which will be held in Buenos Aires.
Finally, on the last night a party was held for all the participants in an outdoor garden setting at a private club. The party featured live entertainment, dinner, and a DJ.
The conference was covered by both mainstream and community media. WikipediaWeekly produced a series of daily podcasts about the conference, which may be downloaded here. Wikinews reported on the conference, while Noam Cohen of the New York Times blogged about the conference. Links to more press coverage may be found on the conference wiki.
WikiWorld: "Terry Gross"
- This comic originally appeared on August 6, 2007.
News and notes
Chinese Wikipedia (mostly) unblocked
The Chinese Wikipedia has been unblocked within most, if not all, of China, along with other websites such as the BBC, likely in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics, which begin on August 8. Sensitive topics, such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, remain blocked, however.
On August 1, the top ten Wikipedias in the Wikipedia.org portal were reorganized, following a poll on Meta. It used to be arranged by the number of articles a Wikipedia has, but is now arranged according to the number of visitors each Wikipedia has.
This led to quite a few changes within the top ten Wikipedias themselves, but only one language was actually replaced among the ten; the Dutch Wikipedia (467,000 articles) was replaced by the newly-unblocked Chinese Wikipedia (200,000 articles).
The result of the third question in the poll concerns whether or not there should be some kind of clue about the visitor’s preferred language (as “determined by the browser, OS or IP”), and if so, how that should be implemented. The poll was definitely in favour of having some sort of clue, but the type of clue has not yet been determined. The type that got the most votes was the one about replacing the last language of the top ten with the language of the local user.
- NASA and the Internet Archive, in a combined effort, opened NASA Images, a repository for public domain satellite images.
- David Shankbone posted a blog entry detailing the process he used to obtain photographs and interviews with famous article subjects, including Al Sharpton and Augusten Burroughs.
- The Chinese Wikipedia has reached 200,000 articles.
- The Norwegian Wiktionary has reached 10,000 articles.
Dispatches: Find reliable sources online
Finding sources that meet the requirements of Wikipedia's policy on reliable sources is one of the most challenging parts of writing a featured article. Whether you are conducting research before writing or searching for sources to back up claims that are already in an article, your chances of finding an excellent source increase if you search scholarly databases.
The June 26, 2008 dispatch discussed how reliable sources figure into the featured content processes and how featured content reviewers assess sources. The June 30, 2008 dispatch discussed finding sources in biology and medicine. This dispatch discusses using a variety of research databases, including Google Scholar, to find general sources for a variety of topics, including popular culture topics.
Most research databases can be accessed through subscription-based web sites. Public libraries and school libraries usually maintain subscriptions to these databases, making research possible for anyone who has physical or internet access to a library.
If you visit a library in person, you can typically access research databases from computers in the library that act as "portals" to the databases. When you browse a given database, the library computer passes on the library's subscription credentials (sometimes known as a proxy) and gives you full access to the database. If your library has a web site, you may be able to access research databases by browsing the library web site from any internet-enabled location. This type of access is less common for public libraries but standard for university libraries. If you are a university student, you most likely have access to research databases using your student credentials. When accessing research databases this way, your university credentials (login/password) are usually requested when you begin searching. If you are researching from a public library web site, the library may provide public-access credentials by request.
If you do not have access to any of these databases but discover through other means, such as Google Scholar, that you need articles from them, you can request that other Wikipedia editors obtain the articles for you at the Resource Exchange. Some WikiProjects, such as the Military History WikiProject, have set up lists of editors who have access to these databases for their members.
Choosing a database
The type of source you are looking for determines the database in which you search. Some databases are generalized and contain many kinds of sources and some are quite specialized. A librarian can assist you in choosing a research database, searching for sources, and viewing or printing sources. Depending on your topic, you may wish to seek out a specialist librarian such as a science or music librarian.
This article focuses on a few general databases where you will have the best chance doing wide searches on your topic, assuming you are not searching for a specific article.
- EBSCOhost provides a set of full text databases which are available via subscription. Its Academic Search databases index thousands of scholarly publications, many of them peer-reviewed, covering a wide range of subject areas. The quality and range of the indexing depends on the publication.
- Access World News indexes full-text newspapers from all over the world.
- Gale General OneFile focuses on magazines and periodicals dating back to 1980. The database includes over 11,000 titles, and is a good place to search if your topic is in popular culture (music, film, video games, etc.)
- JSTOR is a database containing scans of print journals in thirty distinct arts, humanities, and social science disciplines.
- LexisNexis Academic indexes many newspapers, trade publications, legal periodicals, and scholarly journals.
- The MLA International Bibliography is an indispensable database for articles about literature, modern language, folklore, and linguistics.
While these generalized databases are helpful for the first stages of your research, you should aim to become familiar with the specialized databases in the areas which you typically research. For example, there are numerous databases dedicated to primary source materials, such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online, and there are specialized online encyclopedias, such as the Grove Dictionary of Music, and there are specialized databases that bring together secondary and primary sources, such as the Victorian Popular Culture collection. The riches are endless and a good librarian can help you find what is appropriate for the article on which you are working.
The search process for the aforementioned databases and most others is to search fields like "full text", "keyword", or "title". Full-text searches are the most powerful but will also return the most results if not used precisely. The more specific your search, the better your results. For example, if you are writing an article about a musical group, performing a full text search will return all articles in the database that mention the band. Full-text searches are often helpful when you are researching an obscure topic. If there is little published research on your topic or it does not have a keyword in the database, for example, full-text searches can help you find scattered references to the topic that you might not otherwise have found. Keyword searches return a list of articles where the database host entered your search term as a keyword. For example, if you perform a keyword search on "peanuts", you will get a list of articles that are at least partially about peanuts. Title searches return a list of articles whose titles contain one or more of your search terms.
Once you obtain a list of results, you have to determine if the database owns a "full text" version of the article. If the full text is available, you can usually view it, save it, or print it from your computer. Some databases only store abstracts of some sources—in those cases, record the title, author, journal, and other information, and see the next section. Most databases allow you to email this information to yourself.
It is worth mentioning that each database has its own quirks and the search techniques that work in one database might not work as well in another database. The first time you search a database, the experience might not be fruitful and it might even be a tad frustrating. However, if you keep trying, you will become an expert searcher. Librarians often know these quirks well and can offer hints for searching in particular databases.
Searching for known articles
If you already have information on one or more articles you want to use as sources but don't know where to find them, Ulrich's Periodicals Directory is where you should start looking for electronic versions of the article. Ulrich's keeps an index of almost every magazine, journal, and newspaper in existence. For example, if you want to use a specific article that was printed in Omni Magazine, you can look up the magazine in Ulrich's and discover which databases electronically index back issues of the magazine. If your library has access to that database, you can find an electronic copy of your article.
Using Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a powerful searching tool to which everyone has access. However, for most copyrighted works, it only has "limited preview"—that is, you cannot read the entire work. Usually, however, you can read enough to determine if the work will be helpful and sometimes you only need to read a few pages and therefore the limited preview is sufficient.
Here is an example of how a query might work with Google Scholar. Suppose you are interested in the history of daylight saving time. As of 2008-07-03 at about 20:00 UTC, the Google Scholar query history of daylight saving time returns about 30,300 sources; in the first page listing ten sources, only three are relevant. The better query history daylight-saving returns only 2,400 sources, but this time only one of the first ten sources are relevant. Clicking on "Recent articles" narrows the search's results to 470 total articles published in the last five years, where four of the first ten sources are relevant. Of these four sources, two are books and are not freely readable; one is freely readable and on the net; the other is also freely readable but you'll need a further web search to find it.
Often, narrowing the search parameters using the "advanced scholar search" can help increase the relevance of your results. Selecting a subject area or a range of years for publication is often helpful. For example, after narrowing our search of "history daylight saving" to the "Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences" category, we receive slightly better results. It is also sometimes helpful to click on "related articles" and "cited by" under the more promising entries. This will help you generate a research bibliography.
However, you should not rely solely on search engines to find sources, because they often miss sources. A good strategy is to find a few recent high-quality sources, and then follow their citations to see what your search engine missed.
WikiProject Report: Military history
This week we chose to interview the lead co-ordinator of the Military History WikiProject, Roger Davies. (For those who are unfamiliar with the lead of the project process as demonstrated here, the lead co-ordinator bears overall responsibility for all tasks undertaken by the Project and the other Coordinators are assigned to specific areas.) Initiated from humble beginnings as a small project aimed towards improving Wikipedia's coverage on battles in October 2002, the Project has developed and expanded immensely in the time since then; now covering many aspects of military and significant events in modern history — some examples of what the project covers are: Maritime warfare, the American Civil War, War films, Intelligence and the more obvious such as the First and Second World Wars. The Project represents an appreciable and noteworthy proportion of featured content, whether they be articles, lists, portals, topics, pictures or sounds. It has numerous departments, with each assigned different tasks that help with the overall (momentous) task of overseeing the content marked under the Project's scope.
Can you describe what the project is? What is its history?
At its simplest, it is an informal association of editors, with the aim of improving collaboration for military history articles. The project has its origins in three wikiprojects – Battles, Military and Wars – formed between October 2002 and January 2004. The first task force, covering Canadian military history, was set up in January 2006 and the first coordinators were elected a month later. Much of the infrastructure was heavily influenced by Kirill Lokshin, who was the project's first lead coordinator, in post from February 2006 to February this year.
How effectively do you think the co-ordinatoring program works within the project?
Broadly, very well. The theory is that – as most people tend to assume that someone else will do whatever needs doing – it is better to designate editors specifically to look after the necessary. The bulk of coordinator work is wiki-gnome stuff – routine housekeeping and maintenance – keeping our announcements up to date and our members informed of various reviews. As the project has grown the need for more coordinators – to provide sufficient cover during wiki-breaks – has grown with it. We currently have ten coordinators, including me, bringing very different skills, styles and experience to the table. Many major initiatives originate on the coordinators' talk page, where any editor is welcome to contribute, and fine details are usually hammered out before being put to the project at large. This brings a useful early focus to the wider project discussions and makes them more fruitful.
What were your emotions whilst undertaking elections for the lead co-ordinator position?
I had previously served as an assistant coordinator and unexpectedly found myself up for the lead role when Kirill, who had been lead coordinator for the previous two years, decided to withdraw. My initial reaction was to wonder what I let myself in for but the other coordinators are so very supportive that it has all turned out very well. Despite his semi-retirement, Kirill provided a huge amount of invaluable help, so much so that we handcuffed him to the project shortly afterwards by making him an emeritus coordinator.
Is there any future coverage possible for articles related to Military History?
The most important area for development is probably our A-Class review. It is invariably the last step before articles are nominated for featured article status. Funnily enough this is one of the few areas where coordinators are actually written into the process, as only coordinators can close the review. We are currently exploring ways of making the review more rigorous so that a Milhist A-Class article becomes coverted in its own right, rather than just the final step before FAC. For this, we are dependent on quality reviewers and copy-editors, who are always in limited supply.
Are there specific roles for each member, for example, like those laid out for the co-ordinator?
No. It's unstructured and informal and, despite the project's scope, about as far away from a military set up as you could imagine. My own role as lead is largely titular: I'm not very keen on hierarchical structures and prefer devolution to centralisation. This has resonance in the project's structure, where each task force has a high degree of autonomy, using the project's systems mostly for logistical support. Our biggest contribution is probably in producing high quality articles. Typically, the project has around 100 articles a year promoted to featured content status. Last month, for instance, we had as many articles going through FAC as we had undergoing peer reviews.
How are the tasks delegated to each co-ordinator? Are they mainly based on interests, for example? There's not really that much to delegate. The unwritten principles are that any coordinator can do any task, and that the first coordinator to come across a task needing attention deals with it. Other than that, with fifty task forces, it is very useful for coordinators to act as liaison between the task forces and the project and so we have all "adopted" task forces that interest us. The idea is to ensure that each task force has someone who knows their way around the project acting as designated point-of-contact and that there's an effective communication channel for problems.
As one of the largest WikiProjects on Wikipedia, do you feel there is a problem with the 'recruitment' of new members or do they somehow find it through the massive scope of the project?
No, we have a healthy influx of new members, typically around 15–20 a month. They are usually attracted either by their interest in the specific areas covered by our task forces or by participation in our drives. The coordinators have an important role to play here, welcoming newcomers to the project and helping them with any questions. We find that, despite the project's apparent complexity, most people quickly find their feet.
Features and admins
Five users were granted admin status via the Requests for Adminship process this week: Okiefromokla (nom), Stevenfruitsmaak (nom), J.delanoy (nom), Good Olfactory (nom), and L'Aquatique (nom). One user was granted bureaucrat status via the Requests for Burueaucratship process this week: Rlevse.
Eleven bots or bot tasks were approved to begin operating this week: AdminStatsBot (task request), TinucherianBot (task request), AmeliorationBot (task request), Xenobot (task request), Xenobot (task request), WASDbot (task request), Ptbotgourou (task request), TestEditBot (task request), Polbot (task request), SlakrBot (task request), and RockfangBot (task request).
Twelve articles were promoted to featured status this week: Lions (album) (nom), Flood (Halo) (nom), Nuthatch (nom), Ian Johnson (cricketer) (nom), United Airlines Flight 93 (nom), Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory (nom), History of evolutionary thought (nom), Michael Jackson (nom), Planets beyond Neptune (nom), Pendle witch trials (nom), Battle of Tory Island (nom), and Washington, D.C. (nom).
Twenty two lists were promoted to featured status last week: List of Academy Award-winning foreign language films (nom), List of operas by Mozart (nom), Virginia Tech Hokies football seasons (nom), WWE No Way Out (nom), NBA Coach of the Year Award (nom), List of tallest buildings in Hong Kong (nom), List of Arkansas Razorbacks in the NFL Draft (nom), List of tallest buildings in Washington, D.C. (nom), List of Vancouver Canucks head coaches (nom), List of Miami Dolphins first-round draft picks (nom), NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award (nom), List of Boston Bruins head coaches (nom), List of Arctic Monkeys awards (nom), List of Arcade Fire awards (nom), Sugababes discography (nom), List of Linkin Park awards (nom), List of Norah Jones awards (nom), List of submissions for the 73rd Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (nom), New Orleans Hornets draft history (nom), 2000 Summer Olympics medal count (nom), Minnesota Timberwolves draft history (nom), and Cannibal Corpse discography (nom).
No topics were promoted to featured status this week.
No portals were promoted to featured status this week.
The following featured articles were displayed this week on the Main Page as Today's featured article: The Power of Nightmares, SS Christopher Columbus, Exmoor, William Gibson, History of Solidarity, T206 Honus Wagner, and Glorious First of June.
Former featured pages
No lists were delisted this week.
No topics were delisted this week.
The following featured pictures were displayed this week on the Main Page as picture of the day: Spinning wheel, J'accuse (letter), Yeoman (F), Welcome Swallow, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Gulf War, and Vanessa atalanta.
No sounds were featured this week.
Six pictures were promoted to featured status this week and are shown below.
Bugs, Repairs, and Internal Operational News
This is a summary of recent technology and site configuration changes that affect the English Wikipedia. Note that not all changes described here are necessarily live as of press time; the English Wikipedia is currently running version 1.30.0-wmf.19 (8ed47bf), and changes to the software with a version number higher than that will not yet be active. Configuration changes and changes to interface messages, however, become active immediately.
- The new double-redirect-fixing feature now correctly fixes redirects to sections of a moved page. (r37999, bug 14904)
- Setting an explicit limit=50 on Special:Recentchanges now gives 50 entries, rather than taking the number of entries set in the reader's preferences. (r38036, bug 14659)
- Double redirects (redirects which redirect to another redirect) created by new pagemoves are now fixed automatically by the software; edits made by such fixing are attributed to User:Redirect fixer, which operates much like a bot (although as a software feature, it only has bot abilities when operated by the MediaWiki software and no special powers when operated by anyone else), in that it works by making edits and does not operate instantly (but rather when it gets round to fixing the redirect). See this message for more details. (Note that the feature has changed slightly since that message; in order to prevent a double redirect being fixed, you now need to place __STATICREDIRECT__ on the double redirect page). (r37928, bug 4578)
- New magic words __INDEX__ and __NOINDEX__ control whether a page can be indexed by search engines (although note that Wikimedia's robots.txt, which excludes things like AfD subpages, takes precedence over this). The keywords do nothing in "content namespaces" ― which means the main namespace on the English Wikipedia, but other sites may have additional content namespaces. (r37973, bug 8068)
- Internationalisation has been continuing as normal; help is always appreciated! See mw:Localisation statistics for how complete the translations of languages you know are, and post any updates to bugzilla or use Betawiki.
The Report on Lengthy Litigation
The Arbitration Committee opened one case this week, and did not close any, leaving three currently open.
- SlimVirgin-Lar: A case brought by Thatcher, asking the committee to review the use of checkuser by Lar, in the light of comments by SlimVirgin (here, inter alia), alleging that he misused the tool. Evidence is to be submitted privately to the committee by e-mail.
- Geogre-William M. Connolley: A case involving wheel warring between Geogre and William M. Connolley. William M. Connolley inappropriately extended a block on Giano II, while Geogre inappropriately reversed the block, and reversed page protection on Giano's talk page. The case is currently in the voting phase; proposed remedies include:
- Four different versions of a remedy modifying or removing remedy 2.2 in IRC. All versions are supported by three to five arbitrators, and opposed by one to two arbitrators.
- Currently passing is a remedy prohibiting Geogre and Connolley from taking any administrative action with respect to Giano II.