News and notes
Bot-created Wikipedia articles covered in the Wall Street Journal, push Cebuano over one million articles
The Philippines has over 120 languages
The Swedish Wikipedia's prolific Lsjbot, which has created a significant proportion of the site's 1.7 million articles and has nearly single-handedly pushed it to being the fourth-largest Wikipedia, was covered in the Wall Street Journal this week.
In its front page article, the US newspaper reported that the bot has created 2.7 million articles, which is apparently a reference to the Waray-Waray and Cebuano Wikipedias (where Lsjbot is also active), and that "on a good day", it creates 10,000 articles.
The Wall Street Journal's article comes as the Cebuano Wikipedia is now the twelfth Wikipedia to cross the million article mark, almost entirely from the boost of these formulaic articles. Of these, over 40% (Swedish, Waray-Waray, Cebuano, Vietnamese, and Dutch) have received significant help from automated article creation scripts. The highest depth of these five is Vietnamese, with 18; Swedish follows with 11, and the others are all under ten. By comparison, the German Wikipedia has a depth of 90.
The process of bot-created articles has proved controversial among Wikimedians; by way of commenting, German Wikipedian Achim Raschka pointed the Signpost to an entry Denis Diderot wrote for the Encyclopédie, titled "Aguaxima". Diderot lamented that all they knew about the Aguaxima was that it was a plant in Brazil, yet he still had to describe it: "If all the same I mention this plant here, along with several others that are described just as poorly, then it is out of consideration for certain readers who prefer to find nothing in a dictionary article or even to find something stupid than to find no article at all."
Disagreement with these edits even led to a proposal last year that would have banned the overuse of bot-created articles on Wikimedia projects.
Still, they are not the first Wikipedias to utilize bots to augment human article creators: in 2007, Volapük and Lombard were expanded by over 100,000 bot articles each; Tagalog saw a similar rise. Lombard editors later placed a moratorium on new automated articles and deleted most of them; the Lombard Wikipedia currently has around 31,000 articles. Volapük is hovering around 120,000, and the Tagalog Wikipedia has close to 63,000.
Waray-Waray, Cebuano, and Tagalog are three of the largest languages of the Philippines. Volapük is a 19th-century constructed language from Germany, and Lombard is a Romance language from northern Italy. Vietnamese is primarily limited to Vietnam, while Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname.
- Haifa students edit for credit: University students in Haifa, Israel, are writing Wikipedia articles for class credit, reports This Month in Education. The project stems from shortly after Wikimania 2011, when Wikimedia Israel and the University of Haifa launched a humanities project that would engage with Wikipedia. Since that time, 167 new articles have been added to the Hebrew Wikipedia, coming from students in classes on world history, archaeology, Hebrew literature, Middle Eastern history, Israeli history, and Jewish history.
- Printed books to disappear: PediaPress, who published book versions of Wikipedia articles for a fee, has informed the WMF that they will no longer offer this service. According to the WMF's deputy director Erik Möller, "[t]hey've sold about 15K books over that time period, not enough to break even, and the support/maintenance burden for the service is no longer worth it for them." The ability to download Wikipedia articles in PDF form will remain.
- New England Wikimedians: The relatively new usergroup has launched a new website.
- Wiki Loves Earth—Brazil: The conclusion of the Brazilian Wiki Loves Earth has seen nearly 7000 eligible images uploaded. More surprisingly, the contest, which cost the movement R$23,000, induced 895 individuals to create an account. The winners will be exhibited in Rio de Janeiro at an international photography event, Paraty em Foco, and published in Fotografe Melhor, which event organizer Rodrigo Padula says is a photo magazine that has the highest circulation in its genre in Brazil.
- Live tweeting politician's edits: There are two new Twitter accounts that automatically tweet the anonymous edits made from US Congressional and UK Parliamentary IP addresses: @congressedits and @parliamentedits. According to ArsTechnica, @congressedits has not caught any "scandalous" edits yet, but it did catch a staffer editing the Wikipedia page on horse head masks to include Barack Obama's handshake on 8 July.