In the news
Wikipedia's tenth anniversary already being celebrated in the media
As Wikipedians prepare to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Wikipedia on January 15 (see this week's News and notes), numerous media outlets worldwide have already started to cover it, many by publishing interviews and opinion articles about the project.
Bloomberg Businessweek has published a historical assessment of the first ten years, produced under a loose interpretation of Wikipedia's own collaborative principles. It was drafted by journalist Drake Bennett, after which it was rewritten, corrected, and commented upon by a team of guest editors – Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Robert Dale McHenry, editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica 1992–1997; Benjamin Mako Hill, MIT Researcher, Wikipedia editor and member of the Wikimedia Foundation advisory board and Mike Schroepfer, Developer of the Firefox open source browser and now Vice President of Engineering at Facebook.
On January 5, Jon Stewart started his interview with Jimmy Wales on The Daily Show by wishing him a happy anniversary. (video recording, alternative link – both may not work in all geographical areas) During the program, Stewart joked about vandalizing Britannica (by drawing penises on its margins), and questioned why Wikipedia had chosen the jurisdiction of Florida for its servers ("maybe our nation's silliest state").
On January 9, The Hindu wished "Happy birthday, Wikipedia!", noting that it is going to be celebrated in 35 cities in India.
Commenting for The Independent, British comedian and writer Natalie Haynes asserted that Wikipedia shows the internet at its best, defending it against critics ("Plenty of people dislike Wiki in principle.... In my experience, those people rarely visit the site, dismissing it entirely because they once found a ropey article") despite recalling some unencyclopedic content in early revisions of the article about herself some years ago. She also mentioned Wikipedia's upcoming 10th anniversary and the recent successful fundraiser (claiming it had become known as "Operation JimboStare").
The US National Public Radio (NPR) current-affairs program All Things Considered featured a brief interview with Jimmy Wales on January 10. For the frequently asked question whether the reliability of Wikipedia suffered from Wikipedians not revealing their real names, the host interestingly chose the recent false reports that US politician Gabrielle Giffords had been killed (instead of merely being injured) in the recent 2011 Tucson shooting – a misinformation that had originated on NPR itself and made its way in the Wikipedia article briefly ("as we were getting it wrong, you were getting it wrong").
Wired UK opened a Wikipedia week on January 10 ("a series of articles, interviews, retrospective musings and podcasts about the web's most frequented encyclopaedia"), starting with one article based on an interview with Sue Gardner and one about "The battle to make Wikipedia more welcoming".
The readers of the Nashua Telegraph, a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, US, have been asked to help extending a new article about Greeley Park, a local park, to celebrate Wikipedia's upcoming anniversary. The newspaper's staff writer David Brooks (also a Wikipedia admin as User:DavidWBrooks) started the page as a 32-character stub ("Greeley Park is in Nashua."), which was quickly expanded by various registered and anonymous editors. ("Greater Nashua residents asked to help edit Wikipedia’s ‘Greeley Park’ entry")
The BBC World Service has scheduled a feature programme titled "Wikipedia at 10" to be broadcast on air and online from Friday 14 January (times here).
Oxford University Press VP: Wikipedia "a necessary layer in the Internet knowledge system"
In an article for the The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled "Wikipedia comes of age", Casper Grathwohl, vice president and publisher of digital and reference content for Oxford University Press, offered an eloquent defense of Wikipedia's value on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, recalling how his own opinion of it "has radically evolved over time ... Not long ago, publishers like myself would groan when someone talked about how Wikipedia was effectively replacing reference publishing, especially for students". He presented a perspective of the Internet's knowledge system as being divided into "layers of information authority", and argued that Wikipedia is a "necessary layer" in this structure:
||The bottom layers (the most ubiquitous, whose sources are the most ephemeral, and with the least amount of validation) lead to layers with greater dependability, all the way to the highest layers, made up mostly of academic resources maintained and validated by academic publishers that use multiple peer reviews, trained editors, and scholarly reviewers. When the system is effective, the layers serve to reinforce one another through clear pathways that allow queries to move from one layer to another with little resistance. ... Wikipedia ... is not the bottom layer of authority, nor the top, but in fact the highest layer without formal vetting. In this unique role, it therefore serves as an ideal bridge between the validated and unvalidated Web.
As an example, Grathwohl described how in 2006, "a tenfold increase in Wikipedia-referred traffic on [OUP's] music-research site Grove Music Online" had alerted him to a project that academic musicologists had started to improve Wikipedia's music coverage. "Research that began on Wikipedia led to (the more advanced and peer-validated) Grove Music, for researchers who were going on to do in-depth scholarly work."
In a 2008 interview, Grathwohl had already argued that Wikipedia was "great", as a source of a "'good enough' answer", and challenged the "myth that before user-generated web content everyone slavishly referred to trusted reference authorities for their quick information" – instead, most people would just have asked a friend, which was "absolutely not" more reliable than Wikipedia today.
New inclusionist alternative project announced
A project to "create an avowedly inclusionist complement to Wikipedia, launching in 2011", codenamed Infinithree ("∞³"), was introduced at the beginning of January by Gordon Mohr (User:Gojomo, Chief Technologist at the Internet Archive's web archive projects). Mohr said that the endeavour was motivated by his belief that "deletionism erases true & useful reference knowledge, drives away contributors, and surrenders key topics to cynical spammy web content mills". He noted that "Infinithree is not a fork and won’t simply redeploy MediaWiki software with inclusionist groundrules. That’s been tried a few times, and has been moribund each time. Negative allelopathy from Wikipedia itself dooms any almost-but-not-quite-Wikipedia; a new effort must set down its roots farther afield." Mohr added that Infinitithree would differ from Deletionpedia and Everything2 by the aspiration "to be an expansive postencyclopedic reference work". Mike Linksvayer (User:Mike Linksvayer, Vice President of Creative Commons) wrote on his personal blog that he was "confident in Gordon’s ability to make [Infinithree] non-vapor and extremely interesting", having co-founded collaborative media cataloguing website Bitzi together with Mohr ten years ago. In the posting, Linksvayer also mused about inclusionism, deletionism and notability in general, on the occasion of an ongoing deletion request for the article about himself (which he "would strongly advocate deleting if I were a deletionist" – "I am either somewhat questionable as an English Wikipedia article subject [or] unquestionably non-notable").
- Sue Gardner interview: Following the closing of the annual fundraiser, the Wikimedia Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner was interviewed by The Guardian (audio, starts 13:15). She commented on the brand confusion between Wikimedia, Mediawiki and Wikipedia, efforts to make MediaWiki more usable (the problem being that it is a free software project, which are typically bad at usability), "confidence" as a defining characteristic that differentiates the core editing community from mere readers, systemic bias on Wikipedia and in traditional media like Gardner's previous employer CBC, outreach efforts ("one of the things that surprised and really interested us was that more than half of the people that raised their hands on campuses to help [as Campus Ambassadors ] were women"), the fundraiser, chapters, Wikileaks, the global effect of Wikimedia on societies and power structures, and reuse of the project's contents.
- Xkcd dreams of mandatory Wikipedia reads: Web comic Xkcd wistfully imagined an alternative universe where "by law and custom", middle school students are required to read through the Wikipedia article List of common misconceptions once a year.
- AfDs visualized: On Notabilia.net, researchers Moritz Stefaner, Dario Taraborelli (also a member of the Wikimedia Foundation's Research Committee) and Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia present graphical representations of AfD (Articles for Deletion) discussions, representing votes for deletion or keeping by a line turning right or left. Two images combine the graphs for the 100 longest AfDs that, respectively, resulted in deleting or keeping the article. (A dataset with the 500 longest AfDs has been made freely available.) The researchers also provided statistical analyses based on a sample of 200,000 AfDs from between November 2002 and July 2010, e.g. suggesting "a typical discussion consists of only three or four recommendations", and about the distribution of duration (in seconds) and editor activity rates.
- How many articles did Nupedia have?: Wikipedia researcher Joseph Reagle asked "How many articles did Nupedia have?!?", fact-checking the often repeated claim that Wikipedia's predecessor reached 24 complete articles in its lifetime, and explaining why in his own book about Wikipedia ("Good Faith Collaboration"), he chose to cite the Wikipedia article Nupedia for this number, rather than the reference cited by that article itself (a 2004 Forbes piece).
- Article about service awards: A recent essay titled "Awarding the self in Wikipedia: Identity work and the disclosure of knowledge" in First Monday by David Ashton (a senior lecturer in media and cultural studies at Bath Spa University) argued that service awards (user boxes that Wikipedians can award themselves based on edit count and account age, e.g. "Journeyman Editor" or "Veteran Editor IV") "highlight that identity work is rooted in the structures and processes of the context" and that it is closely connected to "disclosure of knowledge".
- Pageview stats of shooting victim: On his blog, economist J. Bradford DeLong noted that the pageview numbers for the article about US politician Gabrielle Giffords showed a significant rise in the days before she became a victim of an apparent assassination attempt on January 7. DeLong asked his readers to "please give me an explanation of this so that I can stop being a nutbar conspiracy theorist...", which several of them tried to do.
- Wikipedia files: Chicago public radio station WBEZ continued their "Wikipedia files" series – video interviews in which celebrities comment on the Wikipedia article about them – with former basketball player Stacey King.
- Webcast of January 13 Jimbo Wales speech: A speech by Jimmy Wales at the University of Bristol on 13 January 2011, about Wikipedia’s development and future plans, will be webcast live.
- High school student defends Wikipedia: In The Charleston Gazette, a local newspaper in West Virginia, US, a student of St. Albans High School argued that Wikipedia "too often is demonized and used as a scapegoat for misinformation" ("In defense of Wikipedia").
- Wikipedia student assignments in history courses: In a recent article for the International Society for Technology in Education's "Learning and Leading" magazine (What? Wikipedia in history class?), Jeremy Boggs (User:JeremyBoggs) from George Mason University's Center for History and New Media reported that requiring his students to "research and write an article for Wikipedia to become more responsible digital citizens ... is consistently one of my most successful assignments" and described how to carry this out.
- "Wikipedia in the classroom" webinar: The recordings for a January 5 webinar titled "Wikipedia in the classroom: changing the way teachers and students use Wikipedia" have been published, featuring Annie Lin (User:Alin (Public Policy)) from the Wikimedia Foundation's Public Policy Initiative and Yonatan Moskowitz from Georgetown University.