Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2009-09-28/In the news

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Stunting of growth, Polanski protected and more

Wikipedia's growth stunted, Time reports

A story published this week in Time entitled "Is Wikipedia a Victim of its Own Success" profiles the work of Ed Chi (see story this issue; previous in the news report) and the slowing growth of the English Wikipedia. The report offers "a benign explanation for Wikipedia's slackening pace: the site has simply hit the natural limit of knowledge expansion." Describing the majority of the work left to do completing the encyclopedia as "esoteric", Time asserts the reason for Wikipedia attracting 'fewer participants [is] because the only editing jobs left are "janitorial"'. Chi is quoted as arguing that the growing number of rules and the need to understand these to make edits stick is discouraging to new editors: "People begin to wonder, 'Why should I contribute anymore?'" The report concludes:

Wikipedia's troubles suggest the limits of Web 2.0—that when an idealized community gets too big, it starts becoming dysfunctional. Just like every other human organization.

Several other news outlets picked up the story, including NPR's "Talk of the Nation".

The Telegraph reports on the page protection of Roman Polanski article

In the Daily Telegraph's "Roman Polanski's Wikipedia page frozen after 'edit war' over child sex charges", the newspaper covers the recent protection of the article after an edit war. Opening the story by noting that Wikipedia "styles itself as the encyclopedia anyone can edit", the report explained why the article had been protected: 'an "edit war" broke out between contributors after news of the director's detention in Switzerland emerged on Sunday morning.' The report also made a brief mention of other events on Wikipedia this year, namely the banning of members of the Church of Scientology "from editing articles about their church".

The report contacted the UK chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, erroneously describing the independent organization as being part of the body which oversees Wikipedia. The chairman of the UK chapter, Mike Peel, outlined the way Flagged Revisions will help in such cases once it is enabled:

Flagged protection would let people continue to edit this article, but their changes would not be made visible to all until they had been checked by another editor.

For more details on Flagged Revisions, see the Signpost article from the 31 August issue.


  • Radio Sweden reports "Wikipedia Falsified from Parliament Computers". The story discusses a Swedish television channel TV8 report which focussed on the origin of edits to Wikipedia. Tracking the IP addresses, the programme concluded that "55 edits" had been made "by either members of parliament or their staff ... during working hours".
  • In Saturday's edition of The Guardian, an interview with Peter Reid saw the former Sunderland and Manchester City manager describe a claim in his article as "bollocks", clarifying that contrary to the article (statement since removed) he never registered to become a football agent during his time out of work.
  • MSNBC offers up its "15 biggest Wikipedia blunders"
+ Add a commentDiscuss this story
  • The MSNBC "15 biggest Wikipedia blunders" article is pretty stupid, it just gives fifteen random run of the mill vandalisms that were probably reverted in seconds with vaguely humorous commentary. It deserves the 1.5/5 stars average it is holding. Icewedge (talk) 02:12, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Stunted? Dysfunctional? More like growing up. "In fact, the two most prolific classes of editors (100-999 and 1000+) account for only about 1% of the population, but they contribute about 55% of edits": it's nice to see that the Pareto principle still works: .83=.512, .23=.008 ;) Paradoctor (talk) 02:36, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Just to set the record straight: the Telegraph didn't contact me, I contacted them. Sadly the grammar describing Wikimedia UK isn't unambiguous: I chose to interpret "chairman of UK chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation which oversees Wikipedia" as "[...] Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia". It's always difficult to get this information across succinctly and accurately. Mike Peel (talk) 08:52, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
  • This is an e-mail I sent out to TIME on September 28, 2009 regarding their bias toward Wikipedia:
    To whom it may concern:
    As one of the top 1000 editors (ranked #426 by Wikipedia:List of Wikipedians by number of edits as of September 9, 2009) who wields power over what readers see in Wikipedia (User: Miller17CU94, member since May 2006), I find your article to be biased in the sense that you did not discuss this with any of these Top 1000 editors, myself included.
    Like any organizations that is experiencing growing pains, Wikipedia is undergoing them. This includes editors leaving and the quantity of articles dropping since March 2007, Most editors I work with spend time on the articles I do which most Americans see only at the Summer or Winter Olympics, care about expanding articles both in quality and quantity with the main focus being on quality. Like other editors, I have to make certain the sources I use are accurate for a concept (Thermal death time), a person (Barrack Obama), a location (Covington, Georgia), a building (Empire State Building), a battle (Battle of Stalingrad), or a sporting event (Canoeing at the 1972 Summer Olympics - Men's C-2 1000 metres). In fact, I used a source from your website pages regarding Sergio Zardini, a bobsleigh two-man silver medalist for Italy at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, who later emigrated to Canada. Zardini was killed during the North American Bobsleigh Championships at the then-bobsleigh track at Lake Placid, New York in February 1966 ("The Deadly Zig-Zag" March 4, 1966 TIME). The TIME link was one of the articles I used for Zardini's articles in Wikipedia.
    Dr. Ed Chi's assertion on the demise of Wikipedia follows the same lines in December 2005 that Wikipedia will collapse in five years. Wikipedia is not dead, just going through some growing pains though the biggest threat I see is the call for "Net Neutrality" which is the Internet version of the "Fairness Doctrine" which is being used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to shut down talk radio thanks to its "diversity" czar Mark Lloyd. It is also despite that fact FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's praise of Wikipedia during a Brookings Institution speech earlier this month for the website's neutrality on a variety of issues.
    Speaking of dysfunctional organization, when was the time Farhad Manjoo, the article's author, checked over the organizational function of TIME's parent company, Time Warner. Since Time Warner merged with America On Line (AOL) in 2001, the sale of all three of the Atlanta sports teams it owned (NBA Hawks and NHL Thrashers in 2003, MLB Braves in 2007), CNN's lead as the cable news leader has now been surpassed by FOX News and later MSNBC, the sale of World Championship Wrestling in 2001, the sale of Warner Music Group, the sale of its share of Comedy Central to Viacom, the sale of Time Warner Book Group in 2006, the sale of 18 publications in 2007 to Bonnier Magazine Group in Sweden, including Popular Science, Field & Stream, Parenting, and Yachting; the divestiture of Time Warner Cable earlier this year as a spin-off, and the loss of respect among the average viewer, not just at CNN, but also TBS, TNT, and Cartoon Network; and the failure of the company to get itself out of its financial duress.
    The quality of content still matters both to Wikipedia and TIME. Wikipedia has it. This article about Wikipedia makes me wonder about TIME's and Time Warner's in general.
    Chris (talk) 15:19, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
  • About the slowing growth: perhaps its due to both causes, not one or the other? While I can think of dozens of topics which need articles (for example, there's half a dozen biographies of 19th-century Ethiopians which need writing), new topics are increasingly of the type which require determined research to create more than a short stub -- & creating stubs is increasingly discouraged for various reasons, both good & bad. Add to the difficulty of creating new articles the increasing demand for sources for articles -- quick, name a book that defines all of the varieties of wood-working tools, their history, & their different uses -- & no wonder fewer new articles are written.

    On the other hand, what exactly is the problem here: do we want a Wikipedia which is accurate, or one which anyone can add anything to? And must we choose between these two options? -- llywrch (talk) 17:42, 29 September 2009 (UTC)

  • This is a good book about wood. Lampman (talk) 11:11, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
  • Hmm. The material he is examining looks an awful lot like the bamboo flooring in my new house, so it's possible that it wasn't wood in his hand. Unless bamboo is now considered wood. (That similarity puts an interesting spin on the picture for me.) -- llywrch (talk) 20:00, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
  • According to the graphs, the number of active editors and new editors has dropped back to 2006 levels. However, there are more structural things on Wikipedia than ever before, especially in comparison to 2006. Maybe it's time to see whether some of these are hindering more than helping. YellowMonkey (bananabucket) 04:35, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
  • As the secondhand bookshop shelf was labelled 'History continues' - there will always be developments/expansion of information.

Possibly - some of the 'creativity' is now directed at other wikis, which exist in sufficient numbers and variety to suit most tastes': if they were considered collectively the picture would be rather different. To what extent do Wikipedians broaden out their activities into other wikis 'or websites of a similar nature'? Should WPians be encouraged to pursue topics in greater depth on WP itself, or on other websites with due links? Jackiespeel (talk) 15:15, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

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