In the news
Jimbo Wales interviewed and parodied; Wikipedia in politics
Jimbo Wales on Wikipedia and WikiLeaks (again)
BBC News weekly technology programme Click interviewed Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales this week on a variety of topics, including Wikipedia's early days, Wikipedia and censorship, and WikiLeaks (earlier coverage). Wales also spoke about the possible future of the project.
In the interview, Wales recalled the strategy Wikipedia could have taken in its early days, in the wake of the dot-com bubble burst, "had we had $10 million in funding". Wales said that there were suggestions at the time that Wikipedia could have "ended up with a system that requires 500 paid moderators monitoring everything", and reflected on how Wikipedia adopted the current system of having administrators and community-based rules.
On being filtered, Wales stated that "we will never compromise on or participate in censorship ... we've faced a lot of problems in China, for example" (Signpost coverage from 2006). However, on the existence of WikiLeaks, Wales repeated his previously reported comments that WikiLeaks could "put innocent lives at risk". Telling the BBC he favoured a concept that there should be "avenues in society for whistleblowing", he warned WikiLeaks that "there is no reason to dump everything on the Internet all the time".
Wales made similar remarks in a separate interview this week on Charlie Rose, summarised here by TechCrunch. Wales said he was "a little" acquainted with WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, having previously corresponded via email, mostly about domain names relating to WikiLeaks that are currently still registered to Wikia (an issue that he clarified at WP:WIKILEAKS last month). However, when asked if he therefore had the power to stop WikiLeaks, Wales pointed out that the word "wiki" was a generic term, and that he "wouldn't necessarily want to stop" Assange.
Earlier in that interview, Wales spoke about the upcoming 10th anniversary of the foundation of Wikipedia, the upcoming opening of a Wikimedia Foundation office in India (earlier coverage), and Wikipedia's relationship with museums (earlier coverage).
After the official start of the Wikimedia Foundation's fundraiser on November 15 (see last week's News and notes), the near-ubiquitous presence of photos of Jimmy Wales on Wikimedia sites, accompanying his personal appeal to donors (the ad form which had proven by far the most effective in testing) continued to provoke amused and annoyed reactions, including numerous parodies. The Wikimedia Foundation reacted in good humor, collecting a "list of the best, or rather the most amusing, tidbits" from news and social media in a November 16 blog post (some of them already mentioned in last week's "In the news"). A few days later, William Beutler (User:WWB) also collected some media coverage on his "The Wikipedian" blog.
Other reactions included the release of a helpful browser extension for Google Chrome, enabling the surfer to see a banner with Jimmy Wales on every website instead of only those of the Wikimedia Foundation, a visual comparison of Wales' gaze with that of puppies, and a Faking News report that "the begging mafia in Delhi" was exploiting the success of the fundraiser for their advantage: "After using pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses to extract money from the believers, beggars are now using pictures of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and swindling money from internet savvy residents". Bill Forman, writing in a blog for the Colorado Springs Independent ("The Seven Faces of Wikipedia"), joked about the different pictures of Jimmy Wales featured across the seven versions of the fundraising banner.
However, a more serious article on Philantrophy.com ("Wikipedia Puts New Fund-Raising Model to the Test") quoted Philippe Beaudette, the head of the fundraising team, as saying that "we tested another banner from a young woman in Jakarta, Indonesia, and her banner did almost as well [as those featuring Jimmy Wales]. She had one memorable line, 'If you have knowledge, you must share it' ". According to the banner history page on Meta, such banners featuring Wikipedian Kartika (example: ) were tested on some projects on November 15, but otherwise, the Jimmy Wales banners appear to have been used almost exclusively.
- Speed of light hinders participation in India: Adding to media coverage of Jimmy Wales' visit to a Wikipedian meetup in Mumbai last month (see November 1 "In the news"), technology blog OnlyGizmos last week published a summary of his talk at the meetup, combined with an interview. Wales explained a technical problem that he said is "part of what we need to solve in order to increase participation" in India, namely that while reading Wikipedia is fast for Indian Internet users, editing it is slow. According to Wales, the reason is that "when you are reading you are actually pulling a page typically from our [caching] servers in Amsterdam, which is closer. When you are editing you have to change the core databases in Florida, so you have to go all the way to Florida ... the speed of light actually matters, it's a small piece of the overall puzzle, but it is a piece of the puzzle." For solving this issue, Wales said that "one of the simplest things to do, potentially, is to move the Indian languages database, as a separate database, into servers that are closer [to India]". Responding to another interview question, Wales explained how Wikipedia is dealing with racism and bias in its community.
- Wikipedia censoring truth about Obama?: American conservative commentator Diana West, writing in The Washington Examiner ("Obama's paltry paper trail raises serious questions"), questioned the decision taken on Wikipedia to redirect Terrence L. Lakin (and earlier Terry Lakin) to the article on Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories. Both articles were redirected after being nominated for deletion (first AFD; second AFD).
West charged that "unknown, unknowable site authorities" removed the article through a memory hole; which she quoted from the Wikipedia article on the subject as being a "mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records ... particularly as part of an attempt to give the impression that something never happened", and said the decision to remove the article reflected Wikipedia's point of view that Obama was born in the United States (and is therefore eligible for president). For the record, the first AFD was closed and the original article redirected by User:Courcelles in September, with the second closed and the subsequent article redirected by User:NawlinWiki on November 12.
- Michael Moore asks readers to edit PR firm's Wikipedia article: In a Huffington Post article titled "How Corporate America Is Pushing Us All Off a Cliff", US filmmaker Michael Moore discussed the recent revelation that in 2007, the health insurance industry's PR firm APCO Worldwide had internally described possible efforts to counter the impact of his film Sicko as "Pushing Michael Moore off a cliff". In a PS to the article, he asked his readers to add that fact to the Wikipedia article about the company: "I'm asking everyone interested to write something up that meets Wikipedia's guidelines and help bring the APCO Worldwide entry up to date."
- Gawker defends itself with Wikipedia article: Gawker, which this week published excerpts from Sarah Palin's new book America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, defended itself against accusations made by Palin and the book's publisher HarperCollins that they had breached copyright by linking to the Wikipedia article on fair use.
- BLP cited in Philippine House debate: According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer ("Citing Wikipedia, Google, Golez says visiting US doctor an ‘abortionist’"), Roilo Golez, a Philippine Representative from Parañaque, cited his research from Wikipedia and Google regarding Malcolm Potts, a visiting American doctor, to say that Potts "should be deported outright" from the Philippines for being an "abortionist".
- Advice for parents: Responding to a concerned parent whose "son got a D on a paper because he used only Wikipedia as a source", the Detroit Free Press relayed advice of the founder of the "Internet librarian" site findingDulcinea, who said that "while Wikipedia can be useful for pre-research, Wikipedia itself says it should not be relied upon for a school paper."
- Student vandalism failed: In a light-hearted article for student newspaper University Observer ("Notes on a Vandal") Irish economics student Cormac Duffy described his attempt "to bring [Wikipedia] down with vandalism", including joining a friend in "a game of my recent invention: Forrest Gump. The rules are simple – insert yourself into as many historical situations as possible before they block your account". However, each of his vandalism edits was reverted, although for some it took "several hours". Nevertheless, Duffy concluded that "it struck me as weird how quickly people respond and repair the damage you’ve done. ... My crusade against Wikipedia has failed."
- TEDx talk by Sue Gardner: It has been announced that the Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner will give a presentation titled "The People’s Encyclopedia" at a TEDx event in Dubai on December 4th.
- Trip to "culture of sharing": Irina Gendelman, an Assistant Professor at Saint Martin's University tasked with advising other staff members about teaching tools, wrote a blog post ("Trip to Wikimedia - the culture of sharing") about attending a meeting at the Foundation's offices "to discuss ways that wiki-folks might support professors and students in creating public projects to be shared through the Wikimedia platform", such as those currently being explored in the Public Policy Initiative.
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