In the news
Billionaire trying to sue Wikipedians; "Critical Point of View" book published; World Bank contest; brief news
US billionaire obtains UK court order to reveal Wikipedians' identity
As reported by The Guardian ("US billionaire wins high court order over Wikipedia 'defamation'"), Louis Bacon, a US national who is a hedge fund manager and a billionaire (as estimated by Forbes magazine) has obtained court orders in the UK against three US website service providers, the Wikimedia Foundation, WordPress and the Denver Post, "to disclose the identities of online commenters alleged to have defamed him." According to the Guardian, "Bacon wants to launch defamation proceedings against a number of online commenters – all of whom use sobriquets like 'gotbacon' and 'TCasey82' – alleged to have posted libellous material about him on these websites." A Wikipedian using the latter name received a BLP warning in March (as the first and so far only message on his/her user talk page): "You seem quite obsessed with editing Mr. Bacon's article and I must ask you to focus your efforts elsewhere. You clearly have a bias against him ...", after OTRS complaints. The user then stopped editing the article, at least under this account.
The Guardian reports that on May 9th, High Court Justice Michael Tugendhat "granted Bacon's application to serve a court order – known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) – by email against these websites. However, legal experts have told the Guardian that the US-based companies could legally ignore or refuse to comply with the orders," and that Tugendhat had said that "the Wikimedia Foundation had told Bacon's solicitors, Schillings, that it would hand over details of the commenters if it was served with a court order – but later said that it would have to be a US subpoena, as opposed to a NPO brought in a UK court." After the "Video Professor incident" at the end of 2007, where users had protested against the Foundation's release of their IP data to a company aiming to sue them for defamation, the WMF's policies were updated to state that it keeps only the minimal amount of users' personal information as required for the functioning of the projects, and that users would be notified if possible whenever the WMF is required to release it to other parties (Signpost coverage).
Possibly in an effort to counter the interpretation of Bacon's choice to pursue the matter in the UK instead of the US as a case of libel tourism, a representative of his solicitors said that the reason was that in 2010 Bacon had brought, and subsequently dropped, a similar case against the UK-based company justhost.com.
(See also related recent Signpost coverage: "Company sues IP editors for defamation", "Administrators removing material that violates UK legal injunctions")
"Critical Point of View" book of Wikipedia research published
Third CPOV conference in Leipzig (September 2010)
The Amsterdam-based Institute of Network Cultures last week published "Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader", a 386 page book compiling research and essays about Wikipedia "with an emphasis on theoretical reflection, cultural difference and indeed, critique". Edited by Geert Lovink and Nathaniel Tkacz, it contains 26 contributions mainly from presenters of the three conferences held last year in Bangalore, Amsterdam, and Leipzig by the "Critical Point of View" (CPOV) Wikipedia research initiative. The introduction notes the diversity of viewpoints of the contributions: "Some are more critical than others; some are penned by active Wikipedians, others by people who want nothing to do with the project. Famous Wikipedia critics,... such as Jon Awbrey and Gregory Kohs, who initially participated in the CPOV discussion mailing list, were approached to contribute to this reader but declined the invitation". The whole book is under a CC-BY-SA license and available both as a hardcopy and as a freely downloadable PDF. A separate publication in German, supported by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education and focusing on the Leipzig conference, is in preparation. (See also the Signpost interview with Tkacz and Johanna Niesyto from the CPOV initiative.)
The World Bank Water Wikipedia writing contest
Registration for "The World Bank’s Second Water Sector Writing Contest on Wikipedia" is closing this Friday (May 13), with submissions due in June. Open to students enrolled at participating universities worldwide, the competition calls for contributions in English, Spanish or French regarding water-related articles, either by starting new entries, by writing a "comparative analysis ... comparing a group of notes on water topics ... using the resources from the Wikipedia notes created by the World Bank", or by improving multiple existing entries. Participants are required to adhere to Wikipedia's Manual of Style and are reminded of its policies about citing sources and avoiding original research. The first-placed contestants will win "week-long paid trips to join a World Bank team on a working mission in a country TBD". Similarly, the prize in the inaugural version of the contest had been the opportunity to participate in a World Bank event in Washington DC, which one of the winners, User:Jcherlet from Ghent University, described as an experience "definitely worth the effort of writing a Wikipedia article from scratch – but the fact that the article is online now and thousands might find it useful, is just as rewarding."
The contests form part of the World Bank's "Wikipedia Project", initiated in December 2006 and described as "an innovative approach for sharing World Bank knowledge by defining the status of the water sector in Latin American and Caribbean countries on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. The project covers sectors such as water resources management, water supply and sanitation, irrigation and integrated urban water management".
- Wikipedia the most popular source of student plagiarism?: An article published in Washington Post ("8 top sites for potential plagiarism") said in a study of 40 million student papers, Wikipedia was the website found most frequently as the source of "unoriginal content" - i.e., of potential plagiarism (but also counting cases where it was quoted but properly cited).
- Grande Guide to Wikipedia for marketers: Eloqua, a US-based marketing automation company, published the "Grande Guide to Wikipedia", a brochure explaining the inner workings of Wikipedia to marketing professionals, as part of Eloqua's "Grande Guide" series of e-books. It was authored by Wikipedian William Beutler (User:WWB, who gave some background on the book on his "The Wikipedian" blog): "Because Eloqua’s audience is marketers, they are also the focus of this guide. One of the first (rhetorical) questions raised in this guide is this: “Is Wikipedia a marketing opportunity?” The answer, more or less, is: “No, but…” While trying to use Wikipedia as a marketing tool is one of the surest ways to find yourself in trouble with Wikipedia editors, there are times where it is appropriate for someone who works with or for a company to make positive suggestions and even some non-controversial edits."
- Wikipedia used in "poison pen" campaign against rival: As reported by The Daily Telegraph (and earlier in a print-only article in the Evening Standard), London art dealer Philip Mould has been the victim of a "poison pen" campaign by a rival art dealer (said to have been jealous of his professional success), who inserted mention of a fabricated extramarital affair into his Wikipedia article (where it was removed at first), and then sent press releases about the affair to tabloid newspapers, whereafter the Daily Mail printed the allegations and was in turn cited in the Wikipedia article. As conjectured in a chronicle of the edits on the blog of a longtime Wikipedia critic, Mould may have been involved in editing it himself. On the talk page of Jimbo Wales, the case triggered an extended discussion, with some users going as far as suggesting that the websites of tabloids should be put on the URL blacklist to prevent them from being cited in BLPs.
- Jimmy Wales on Hollywood and Wikipedia: On the occasion of his keynote speech at the "Digital Hollywood Content Summit", Jimmy Wales was interviewed by Hollywood Today, discussing the wiki model and "how his vision of Wikipedia and Wikia.com fit into the Hollywood landscape", talking at length about fan-based documentation of productions such as Lost (Lostpedia). Asked about the relationship between Wikipedia and truth, Wales said that "when it works well", the discussion process on Wikipedia resembles the film 12 Angry Men, where a lone dissenting juror's fact-based approach manages to sway the entire jury, initially decided against the defendant, to vote "not guilty".
- Wales on Al Jazeera's The Stream: Jimmy Wales appeared in the May 4 episode of Al Jazeera's new media show The Stream, discussing YouTube comedy about the Arab world and Cuba's pressure on bloggers. He also answered viewers' questions about Wikipedia.
- Daily work of a WMF communications intern: On the blog of the Communication Studies Department at the University of San Francisco, a student described her work as a communications intern at the Wikimedia Foundation (current job opening), which involved checking Google Alerts each morning with search terms that are "related to projects or people affiliated with the foundation", and compiling "media reports filled with news articles, blogs and press releases that are about the Foundation or its projects (for example, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, etc.). To keep a permanent record of the news coverage, I convert these files into pdfs and upload them to a folder. I also keep track of journalists who write about the foundation. In particular, I keep a spreadsheet of Indian journalists because a new Wikimedia office recently opened in India last January. From time to time I also have projects which mostly consists of research and copy editing.” Among the things that the internship had taught her, she named the importance of transparency and a sense of humor in the work world.
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