Palin remarks lead to further media coverage and Colbert Report inspired vandalism
A so-far undisputed portrait of Paul Revere (1768)
As reported in last week's "In the news", recent remarks by US politician Sarah Palin about Paul Revere (a historical figure during the American Revolution) drew criticism for being historically inaccurate, which in turn moved her supporters to modify the article about Revere, to better suit her version of the events. At first, both the media coverage and the editing activity was rather limited, but the incident was soon taken up from Little Green Footballs blog by other media.
In a piece about the gaffe on the Monday broadcast of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert told his viewership:
Unfortunately, the hard-core fact addicts at Wikipedia have undone the changes and locked Paul Revere's page. [Instead,] I want all of you to go to the Wikipedia page for bells and make sure it reads "Bells, used by Paul Revere to warn the British that, hey, you're not going to succeed in taking our guns. USA! USA!"
- "Paul Revere's Famous Ride". Colbert Nation.
The Colbert Report appears to be popular among Wikipedia administrators: as of 03:41, 7 June 2011, six pre-emptive page protections were issued, four to the same page (User:RoyBoy, User:Fran Rogers, User:Gfoley4, and User:IronGargoyle protected Bells, User:Fran Rogers protected Bell, and User:Grandmasterka protected Bell (instrument)), and User:Blelbach had reported Bell (instrument) to WP:RFP. As the vandalism rolled in, it spread out to other pages yet to be protected, resulting in much activity at WP:RFP (). Between 3:50 and 4:28, nineteen reactive page protections were issued, the first to Warning shot, the last to Bell Orchestre. On the user talk page of an anti-vandalism patroller, the scene was described at 03:58 as "things are crazy out there".
A report on Tuesday by NBC Nightly News (video) featured footage from the Wikimedia Foundation's office in San Francisco, including an interview with Steven Walling, who later observed that "we tried to explain that it was mostly business as usual editorially, but unfortunately even though they said Wikipedians are volunteers, their B roll seemed to imply that we actually edit articles from the office."
A later article by The New York Times' Noam Cohen ("Shedding hazy light on a midnight ride") was clearer on the issue. Other coverage included ReadWriteWeb ("Wikipedia in tug-of-war over Palin's version of revolutionary War") and TIME magazine's "Techland" blog ("How attempts to rewrite history on Wikipedia get quashed").
Unsurprisingly, Conservapedia appears to have been more welcome to Palin's supporters, where the article on Paul Revere currently cites a reference supporting her interpretation of the events.
British PR professional "cleanses" Wikipedia articles
A string of UK senior business figures and a Saudi tycoon have had their Wikipedia entries "polished" by an anonymous "reputation cleanser", believed to be a senior figure in the British public relations industry. The industry's magazine PRWeek has reported how an unnamed senior figure from a London PR company has been removing unflattering content from his clients' Wikipedia articles. Among the clients mentioned are Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, Von Essen Group chairman Andrew Davis, British property developer David Rowland, and billionaire Saudi tycoon Maan Al-Sanea. The story was picked up by British newspapers; The Independent reported that the edits took place from an anonymous IP address in Clerkenwell and were quickly countered by Wikipedia patrollers. The Daily Mail carried the story, but subsequently removed it from its website.
Carl Chinn during the interview
- On 12 June, Wikipedia editor Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing) was interviewed by BBC presenter Carl Chinn on his BBC WM radio show, discussing the Birmingham 3 meet-up and Wikipedia in general. During the interview, Mabbett took a photograph of Chinn. He uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons and used it to illustrate the article on Chinn, all within an hour. Chinn then referred to this having been done, near the end of his programme. The interview is on iPlayer, and will remain there until 19 June. Mabbett has written a blog post about the interview.
- Wikinodes iPad app for Wikipedia. WikiNodes, a new app for the iPad, displays Wikipedia articles in a "futuristic way" by breaking articles down into a net of nodes that can be traversed, each with a piece of the article. It was developed by the non-profit Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement, which says the app has been received positively. Project Manager Michael Douma said "our intent is to enable people to easily jump between pieces of information without having to read long passages of text". When users want to slow down and read in detail, WikiNodes offers a traditional full-page view that displays complete Wikipedia pages. (press release)
- xkcd on Wikipedia – again: The June 13 episode of the webcomic xkcd features Wikipedia in connection with the educational children's book and TV series The Magic School Bus, following two earlier recent episodes about Wikipedia (see the June 6 and May 30 "In the news".)
- Wikipedia files: Chicago public radio station WBEZ resumed their "Wikipedia files" series – video interviews in which celebrities comment on the Wikipedia article about them – with former baseball player Frank Thomas ("The Big Hurt").
- Basketball vandalism: US website SportsGrid.com reported on a vandalism edit in the article about basketball player Dirk Nowitzki.
- Jimmy Wales in James Bond spoof: As reported by TechCrunch and Écrans, at the recent "Founders Forum", an annual meeting of European startups CEOs, a short film was made with participants in the form of a James Bond parody. Jimmy Wales plays CIA agent Felix Leiter, in one brief scene appearing just in time to save Bond from the villain ("But how did you know?" – "We're the CIA, we have access to all kind of information... and Wikipedia").