In the news
Uproar over Italian shutdown, the varying reception of BLP mischief, and Wikipedia's doctor-evangelist
Media storm for Italian Wikipedia shutdown
Following the announcement and discussion covered in last week's Signpost, Italian Wikipedia was shut down for three days in protest against a proposed law that could have held bloggers, web site owners and possibly even Wikipedians liable for posting corrections to content within 48 hours or facing a stiff fine.
The Wikimedia Foundation rapidly endorsed the shutdown with a blog post entitled Regarding recent events on Italian Wikipedia; the endorsement was reported on by Business Insider. The shutdown was widely covered by the media with articles posted on the websites of BBC News, The Independent, The Atlantic, Euronews, The Register, TechCrunch, Ars Technica, Techdirt and CNETA News. An Associated Press report was published on a number of sites including Forbes.
Cynthia Wong posted an entry on the blog for the Center for Democracy and Technology claimed that the Wikipedia shut down shows that if passed the law "would, in effect, shut Italy out of the global community of Wikipedia users".
During the shutdown, Jimmy Wales weighed in through an interview posted on the International Journalism Festival website. In the interview, Wales claimed: "The decision was taken by the Italian community in part because they felt that there was no genuine avenue for protest in the mainstream media without a bold action."
As the Nieman Journalism Lab blog reports, during the shutdown a hashtag appeared on social media website Twitter called #graziewikipedia, with users of the microblogging service showing support and solidarity for the shutdown. Cory Doctorow blogged about the story for BoingBoing describing the proposed law as "punitive" and "batshit". News aggregation sites Reddit and Hacker News both had lively discussions of the protest.
On Thursday (October 6), as AFP reports, Italian Wikipedia reopened following an announcement that the law would be amended to only cover traditional news media sites. The Wall Street Journal's TechEurope blog reported the amendment following the strike as "in the short-term at least... a victory for Wikipedia".
Canadian doctor-editor recruits colleagues in the lecture theatre
Wikimedia Canada president Dr. James Heilman (User:Jmh649
), physician and Wikipedia evangelist
TheSpec and Physorg both covered the Wikipedia evangelism of Wikimedia Canada president Dr James Heilman (better-known hereabouts as User:Jmh649) at McMaster University. Heilman was there to beseech the academic community to engage with the encyclopaedia, entreating that "We know it is extensively read and we know the quality of information is hit and miss. Some is good. Some is poor. We want to provide high quality medical information to everyone around the world and to do that we are going to need the help of our colleagues." Citing the high usage rate of Wikipedia's medical articles by both patients and physicians (of whom between 60% and 70% consult the site according to surveys cited by Heilman) as evidence for the importance of improving coverage of medical-related topics, and recounting his own experience as a contributor, Heilman called on faculty to incorporate Wikipedia editing into university assignments. It was, he asserted, a "huge missed opportunity when you have these very intelligent people doing research papers and learning all about an issue just to have the paper sit on a shelf ... we can leverage the knowledge to improve everyone's knowledge about health-care subjects. We all have an interest in making sure good information is available". The event attracted 30 participants. Last month, Heilman had published an article in a medical journal explaining to his colleagues "Why we should all edit Wikipedia" (Signpost coverage), and Wikimedia Canada is currently offering a C$1000 scholarship to the Canadian student who makes "the most significant contribution to Wikipedia's medical content."
- Kindle Touches only Wikipedia: In an upset to Amazon Kindle fans used to availing themselves of its free boundless Internet – but perhaps a marker of Wikipedia's commercially friendly ubiquity – PC Mag reports that the new Kindle Touch 3G eReader will permit users to access only the Kindle Store and the online encyclopaedia without charge. Time's Techland column derisively remarked "Where can the Kindle Touch go? Try the Kindle Store, no surprise, and—wait for it—Wikipedia, that fount of immaculate, always-reliable and scholarly information, and encyclopedic repository for whoever your favorite celebrities are dating."
, prominent Malayalam Wikipedian joins Wikimedia Foundation in India as Consultant, Indic languages
- Indian outreach projects advance: The Deccan Chronicle and Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi hailed the appointment of Malayalam Wikipedian Shiju Alex as consultant for the Wikimedia Foundation's India Programs, whose office opened in South Delhi – the first outside the United States. In acknowledging his appointment, Alex emphasised the importance of getting Wikipedia into Indian schools, and getting Indian students into Wikipedia: "The most significant project would be Wikipedia's entry into school curriculum. A project would be developed in association with education departments and students will be asked to create Wikipedia articles as part of the internal tests." Elsewhere, the Indian Daily News & Analysis website hailed the "rise of the Wikimedians", in reference to the forthcoming WikiConference India 2011, scheduled for 18–20 November in Mumbai.
- Congressman and hockey star BLPs targeted: The LA Weekly picked up on unseemly editing related to the race for the redrawn 30th congressional district of California. Sitting Democratic congressman Brad Sherman's entry was altered to include allegations that he was a recovering alcoholic and aficionado of the company of men, who had abandoned his Jewish faith to become a Scientologist. The paper found that the IP address responsible for the edits geolocated, mysteriously, to Narberth, Pennsylvania. The Chicago Sun-Times unearthed mischievous edits to the biography of ice hockey star Dave Bolland which contended among other things that "if he gets an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, he grins maliciously to the sin bin". Unlike most targets of unencyclopaedic editing, Bolland appeared appreciative of the efforts, remarking of them that "Whoever does them is pretty good ... It's funny. It's awesome seeing that stuff."
- Science wars rage on: Evolution News, a project run by the Discovery Institute (advocates of intelligent design and critics of Darwinism), took issue with the article on evidence of common descent, offering a point-by-point critique of the page's assertions. Meanwhile, USA Today's ScienceFair column reported accusations by the Deep Climate blog against prominent statisticians Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said of plagiarising Wikipedia in their academic papers. Last year, several uncredited passages in another text by Wegman, Said and one other author—the influential Wegman report for the U.S. Congress that questioned the validity of climate change research—were found to have likely been plagiarised from Wikipedia (Signpost coverage: "Report on climate change for the U.S. Congress plagiarised Wikipedia and other sources").
- Foundation acquires new servers: The Comms-Express noted the acquisition this week by the Wikimedia Foundation of three new server racks, thereby doubling its application-server capacity.
- Reliability of Wikipedia explained to kids: Teen Kids News, a US TV news magazine aimed at young viewers, asked: "Is Wikipedia Trustworthy?" The four minute segment features a young Wikipedia admin and User:Pharos from Wikimedia New York City, and quotes the 2005 Nature study that had found the reliability of Wikipedia to be comparable to that of Encyclopædia Britannica.