In the news
Wikipedia page used in Facebook hack
The Guardian last week observed that a hacker who gained access to a page for fans of Mark Zuckerberg on the social networking site Facebook and left comments about how the website should become a "social business" included a shortened link to the Wikipedia article on social business (clicked over 50,000 times as of January 31, according to bit.ly/fs6rT3+).
Before the incident, an anonymous contributor had edited that article to add a link to the website of a company offering "total web consulting", based in Pickerington, Ohio. However, two minutes after posting the link in the article, the same IP removed the link. The website appears to have since been taken offline, and an HTTP 404 ("not found" error) message is displayed.
Then, a link to an old ID of the article was posted on the Facebook fan page through Mark Zuckerberg's personal account, with comments about the way the social networking site is run. "If facebook needs money, instead of going to the banks, why doesn't Facebook let its user [sic] invest in Facebook in a social way?" Why, he questions, does Zuckerberg not "transform Facebook into a 'social business'" in the way Nobel Prize winner "Muhammad Yunus described it?"
A whois check on the IP address used to make the edits shows the edits were made from a United States Department of Defense computer in Williamsburg. Although this could indicate the edits—and, indeed, the identity of the Facebook page hacker— could have been the actions of a member of the U.S. military, The Guardian points out the edits could be made using a proxy server from outside the military base.
Wikipedia's gender gap
An article on the January 31 front page of the The New York Times ("Define gender gap? Look up Wikipedia’s contributor list") concerned the gender gap in Wikipedia's editor base and how it is affecting article quality. Written by Noam Cohen, it gives examples of how subjects dear to girls and women tend to be short while those dear to boys and men are voluminous. It points out that the entry on friendship bracelets, likely to be of interest to teenage girls, is limited to only four paragraphs, whereas the article on baseball cards, a topic more likely to be followed by boys, is voluminous and includes a detailed chronological history of the subject. The entry on TV series Sex and the City includes only a brief summary of each episode while the one on The Sopranos includes lengthy, detailed articles on each episode. The New York Times quotes Sue Gardner as saying how she has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25 percent by 2015 from its present 13%, but "that for now she was trying to use subtle persuasion and outreach through her foundation to welcome all newcomers to Wikipedia, rather than advocate for women-specific remedies like recruitment or quotas", being wary of triggering the "strong feelings" of many people for whom gender is "a huge hot-button issue". Wikimedia Board member Kat Walsh (User:Mindspillage), who was also quoted by the NYT, reacted to the article by publishing a draft essay on "Women on Wikipedia" disagreeing with the statement "that Wikipedia has a culture that is unfriendly to women ... I think the disproportionate lack of women in the community isn't about gender so much as it is about a culture that rewards certain traits and discourages others. And we're not getting people who don't have those other traits, male or female; more of the people who do fit the current culture are male. But the focus should be on becoming more open and diverse in general--becoming more inclusive to everyone, which will naturally bring in more women."
A paper titled "Imagining the Wikipedia community: What do Wikipedia authors mean when they write about their 'community'?" was published last month in "New Media Society" (doi:10.1177/1461444810378364, paywalled) by Christian Pentzold, a doctoral student at Chemnitz University of Technology. Led by the question "What particular meaning do the Wikipedia editors attach to the term 'community'?", the paper examines postings on Wikipedia-l, the oldest Wikipedia mailing list, from its founding on January 22, 2001 until the end of 2007 (the author notes that the list has "lost traffic" to other lists). Of the 30,500 postings during that time, 3105 contained the word "community", used in 5563 passages. A part of them was coded using grounded theory procedures, using a set of standardized questions such as "Q7. In which activities can people partake?" (in the "community" referred to in that particular passage) or "Q10. What are prohibitions?". The author arrived at four "categories representing particular phenomena", labeled "ethos-community" (defined by a shared ethos, i.e. a set of norms and standards such as NPOV), "language community" (e.g. the Finnish Wikipedia community), "technical community" (limited to "a core group of technical rights access holders", e.g. developers) and "expert community" (a group "contributing their special knowledge to the encyclopedia"). Further axial coding led to elevate the "ethos-community" category to a "core category" and reformulate it as "ethos-action community", i.e. its members are not only defined by sharing the ethos, but also by adhering to it "apparent and assessable in their performances". The second part of the analysis elaborated on the connections between various subcategories to "narratively" lay out "an empirical theory of the 'Wikipedia community'".
- Medical Wikipedians issue "Call to Action" to their peers: In the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22 members of WikiProject Medicine have published a viewpoint article titled "Wikipedia: A Key Tool for Global Public Health Promotion". After an introduction to Wikipedia's model, a section on its prominence as a source of health information, and a survey of empirical studies on Wikipedia's medical content, the authors issue a "Call to Action", inviting the medical community to join in editing Wikipedia, with the goal of providing people with free access to reliable, understandable, and up-to-date health information.
- Robot reader of Wikipedia articles: Several news outlets noted the launch of Qwiki, a multimedia website which features a robotic reader of text drawn from Wikipedia's article on a chosen subject. The website adds still and moving pictures drawn from various web sources that attempt to synchronise with the text as it is read, to construct an audio-visual presentation of the subject. The site uses a text summariser to condense an article-reading to around one minute, with most text coming from the introduction. This story was reported at PC Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, WebProNews, Mashable, among other sources. The announcement of Qwiki a few months ago and a first demo had also attracted media attention (Signpost mention).
- Jimmy Wales on voting and the Tea Party: The New Statesman published the transcript of a long interview with Jimmy Wales. Topics included controversial images such as in the 2008 Virgin Killer affair, NPOV (Wales recalled a recent conversation with Tony Blair about the topic, who is currently working on inter-faith dialogue), voting (Wales said that he was currently not voting because "In Florida in order to vote you have to register with your real, actual address, and for security reasons, for the safety of my family -- because there are many, many lunatics -- I can't register to vote with my real address"), the US Tea Party movement ("I'm intrigued and interested"), Sarah Palin's influence on it ("hijacked by lunatics") and other political topics, and Wikipedia as "an example of the 'Big Society' in action" (a policy concept used by the UK Conservative Party).
- Sue Gardner on India, Middle East and iPad: Dubai-based newspaper Gulf News asked "Five questions to Sue Gardner", about the Foundation's plans for India and the Middle East, and about her news reading habits (Gardner remarked that she was not fond of Apple's iPad since it was "designed for consuming corporate-made media" only, as opposed to normal computers that allow producing and sharing own material, too).
- Wikipedia advice for local governments: UKGovcamp, an informal event "for government types with an interest in how the public sector uses technology" held in the UK on January 22, featured a session on "the use of Flickr, Wikipedia and Open Streetmap for local authorities", summarized in a blog post. Participants learned about reuse of Wikipedia content, and were advised that "authorities should be keeping an eye on content in Wikipedia relating to them and making sure that they accurately represent their organisation" and "ensure links back to main website from Wikipedia are healthy and relevant".
- Swiss award for Jimmy Wales: As announced a few weeks ago (Signpost coverage), Jimmy Wales received the Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize from the eponymous Swiss think tank on January 26. Cf. article and interview in English on swissinfo.ch, list of coverage on Swiss media (in German), with national TV SF1 featuring the award in its news programme SF Tagesschau and a report that included footage from the Foundation's office in San Francisco and a few soundbites by Wikimedia spokesman Jay Walsh (from 3:30). A video of Wales' speech and a Q&A afterwards is available (in English). Asked about a typical week in his life, Wales said that he was "on the road probably 250 days a year", although he was trying to reduce this time, while focusing more on travelling in India, and hoped that the prize money awarded to him (100,000 Swiss francs; around $106,000) would allow him to spend more time in the country.
- Brockhaus revival?: In 2008/09, the editorial staff of Brockhaus Enzyklopädie (roughly Germany's equivalent of Encyclopaedia Britannica) was sacked and the rights were sold to Bertelsmann, a move that was widely interpreted as the end of the printed Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, caused by the competition of Internet-based reference works such as Wikipedia. However, according to a new interview in German book publishing trade magazine Buchreport (English summary by Ziko), the new owner is planning a further edition, possibly including a version for tablet PCs and print-on-demand products.
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