In the media
Amazon Echo; EU freedom of panorama; Bluebeard's Castle
Amazon Echo provides Wikipedia access
Technology media outlets are abuzz after the November 6 unveiling of the Amazon Echo, an Internet-connected voice command device. Amazon.com's new device has numerous features: it plays music, news, and weather, keeps reminders and shopping lists, provides information like Wikipedia articles and answers to basic queries. These features are activated by speaking the "wake word", Alexa. It is not clear how exactly the Echo provides information from Wikipedia, such as whether or not it reads the whole article or just parts like the introduction, or how it will navigate disambiguation pages. The Wikipedia function is not demonstrated in Amazon's video about the Echo, though it is listed on its display of sample voice commands through the example "Wikipedia Abraham Lincoln". The Wall Street Journal quips "Guess that means Wikipedia is officially a verb now."
EU restrictions on freedom of panorama affect Wikipedia
The EUobserver talks (November 4) with Dimitar Dimitrov (User:Dimi z) about the lack of freedom of panorama in some European Union countries and its implications for Wikimedia projects. The copyright for photographs taken of the exteriors of buildings in some EU countries like Belgium, France, and Italy resides with the rights holders, such as the architect or the owner of the building. This means, for example, that there are no photographs of the Atomium in Brussels on Wikipedia. Wikipedia editors have resorted to using a model of the building in Austria or a censored version of a photograph of the Atomium. Photographs of the Eiffel Tower taken during the day are not restricted because the copyright of Gustave Eiffel, who died in 1923, has long since expired. The more recently installed lights on the Tower mean, however, that photographs taken at night fall under these copyright restrictions. Despite this, there are 328 images in the Wikimedia Commons category Eiffel Tower at night.
Storming Bluebeard's Castle
Scott Cantrell, classical music critic for the Dallas Morning News, recounts (November 11) efforts to verify an uncited claim in the Wikipedia article for the Béla Bartók opera Bluebeard's Castle. According to the claim, first inserted into the article in 2009, "The opera was first performed in the United States in a student production at Southern Methodist University in 1946." SMU is a school in the Dallas, Texas, area. Pamela E. Pagels, music librarian at the Hamon Arts Library of Southern Methodist University, extensively researched this claim and writes:
||I found no evidence that the work was ever performed in Dallas in 1946, much less at Southern Methodist University as a student production. In addition to The Dallas Morning News, I searched the entire contents of our SMU Campus student newspaper for 1946 and our university archivist searched extant concert programs from the School of Music. We found no documented performances of Bluebeard at Southern Methodist University in that year. Furthermore, I find it very hard to believe that this would have been performed as a student production. It is famously difficult to sing (in its original Hungarian language as well as in German and English translations) and requires a very large orchestra consisting of doubled woodwind and brass sections, expanded percussion, full strings and organ. SMU would not have had those forces available for performance.
Pagels discovered that the US premiere was actually three years later, on January 9, 1949, when it was performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The claim about SMU was removed from Wikipedia following the publication of Cantrell's article.
Blog complains about being considered an unreliable source on Wikipedia
The conservative blog TruthRevolt complained on November 8 about being labeled an unreliable source by a Wikipedia editor, User:Grayfell, on the talk page for the article about the actress, writer, and director Lena Dunham. Dunham threatened legal action against TruthRevolt after it labeled an instance of childhood genital play recounted in her recent book Not That Kind of Girl as sexual abuse. It is unlikely that TruthRevolt will meet the reliable source policy's requirement for having "a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy." Its editor-in-chief, Ben Shapiro, wrote an article in Breitbart citing unattributed claims that United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had received campaign contributions from a nonexistent group called "Friends of Hamas" which purportedly represented the Palestinian terrorist organization. Breitbart was recently in the news for attacking African-American Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch for her supposed involvement in the Whitewater controversy. The allegations were false and Breitbart had confused her with a white lawyer of the same name.
- The A.V. Club discovers (November 11) that NBC has incorporated text from Wikipedia in its onscreen graphics on Sunday Night Football
- The Grand Forks Herald reports (November 10) that two North Dakota State University students who pled guilty to misdemeanor charges following an attempted prank on the campus of the University of North Dakota were sentenced to write an essay on the topic "Why UND is a good school". The judge instructed them to not "paste off some Wikipedia page," but despite this the Herald noted some similarities between their essays and Wikipedia articles.
- JOE.ie complains (November 10) that spoilers for the season five finale of the Irish crime drama Love/Hate were added to the article of actor Peter Coonan. The edit has since been reverted.
- In Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow highlights (November 9) Wikipedia:Deleted articles with freaky titles.
- Neil Turner discusses (November 9) how a photo of himself was once used as an example in the Wikipedia article for chav, a derogatory British epithet.
- Zara Rahman discusses (November 9) her efforts to improve the article for inventor and actress Hedy Lamarr on the occasion of Lamarr's 100th birthday.
- Newsweek interviews (November 7) the two anonymous bloggers who accused journalists Benny Johnson and Fareed Zakaria of plagiarizing Wikipedia and other sources. (See previous Signpost coverage.) In a blog post (November 11), they allege that IP edits to Zakaria's article deleting information about the plagiarism allegations originated from Zakaria himself.
- The Poynter Institute discusses (November 7) the WikiWash tool developed by Metro Canada to "track Wikipedia edits in real time".
- The Asia Sentinel criticizes (November 6) the Indonesian Wikipedia for its coverage of people and events in recent Indonesian history. The Sentinel calls that Wikipedia's treatment "one-sided", "distorted", and "propaganda". Among the articles cited as inaccurate or incomplete are ones for retired General A. M. Hendropriyono, former Governor of Jakarta Sutiyoso, the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and the Free Papua Movement.
- Northern Virginia Daily profiles (November 6) User:Neutralhomer and his work getting the article for his town of Stephens City, Virginia to featured article status.
Note to readers
We want "In the Media" to be as comprehensive as possible, but we need your help. Even if you can only contribute one or two short items occasionally, that would help immensely. Editors familiar with languages other than English and Spanish are especially sought-after. Please contact Gamaliel if you wish to contribute.
Check back for the next Signpost on October 30.