In the media
Wikipedia on 60 Minutes, Kickstarter, and in the classroom
60 Minutes profiles Wikipedia
A segment called "Wikimania" on the April 5th episode of the venerable CBS news program 60 Minutes profiled Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community. The segment attempted to answer for viewers unfamiliar with Wikipedia or Wikipedia editors the questions "Who are they? And how does it all work?" Correspondent Morley Safer interviewed Jimmy Wales and former and current Wikimedia Foundation executive directors Sue Gardner and Lila Tretikov and visited Wikimania 2014 in London.
Much of the segment was focused on the personalities of Wikipedia editors, with numerous crowd shots from Wikimania. Safer focused on their eccentricities, at one point describing them by saying "Some are buttoned-down. Some are rock and roll." He asked Gardner about who edited Wikipedia:
||Gardner: It's about 100,000 people around the world, every political persuasion, every religion, no religion. You know, from seven years old to 75 years old. The one characteristic all Wikipedians have in common is that they are all incredibly smart. They are really, really smart.
Safer: Smart and passionate.
Gardner: Yeah, and persnickety, right? They're fussy people. They are a little OCD. They're careful and they're cautious and they're serious. And it matters to them that things are right. They're persnickety people.
The segment also focused on two individual editors. Amanda Levendowski (Levendowski), a lawyer and a vice-president of Wikimedia NYC, told Safer that the "reward" for editing Wikipedia was that "You have the satisfaction of feeling like you've participated in some thing, but for Wikipedia in particular there's another whole benefit because you have the opportunity to help other people find information about stuff you're into." 60 Minutes also spoke with Dumisani Ndubane (Thuvack), former President of Wikimedia South Africa, and discussed his work editing articles on South African history and his efforts to encouraged students to translate Wikipedia articles into native African languages.
60 Minutes also visited the San Francisco headquarters of the Wikimedia Foundation, with Safer describing it as a "typically laid-back techie style" workplace. Safer delved into Wales' background, even showing the infamous photo of Wales and a pair of Bomis models, and expressed surprise that Wales wasn't an "Internet zillionaire". He told Wales "You created one of the most successful websites in the world and yet you chose to make it the least profitable." Wales replied:
||It just felt right that we should be a charity, free knowledge for everyone. So that's always been our philosophy...If we were ad supported, we would always be thinking about, well, gee, look at all these people reading about Elizabethan poetry. There's nothing to sell them. Let's try to get them to read about hotels in Las Vegas, or something like this. And we don't. We just don't care.
Other Wikipedia issues were briefly mentioned, such as fact-checking and vandalism. Wales brought up the controversy over the article Wedding dress of Kate Middleton while discussing gender bias on Wikipedia. He also noted
||Our biggest problem with bias, and things that are wrong that stay for a long time are actually on very obscure topics. You know, a topic that not many people are interested in and not many people are looking at. And so if something's wrong, it can persist for quite some time.
Wikipedians would quibble about some vague quantitative claims or the description of Gardner as Wales' "lieutenant", but the overall depiction of the movement was positive. On the Wikimedia-l mailing list, Wikimedia Foundation employees suggested sending messages of thanks to CBS, Safer, and producer Jonathan Schienberg.
At ScienceBlogs, David Gorski discussed what he called a "Quack Attack on Wikipedia" (April 7). Gorksi highlights a campaign on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter by Mike Bundrant, co-founder of the iNLP Center, a training center for practitioners of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Bundrant is seeking $67,100 to publish a book called Unbiased: The Truth about the Healing Arts on Wikipedia, to be created by Bundrant and a paid "PhD level research team".
According to Bundrant, "Wikipedia is on a misinformation campaign against alternative health and the healing arts...Natural health deserves fair representation." Bundrant highlights a number of Wikipedia articles he claims contain "flagrant bias and academic errors or omissions", such as the articles for homeopathy, naturopathy, and NLP, all of which are identified as pseudosciences. Alternative medicine advocates have long complained about how Wikipedia represents such topics, complaining that it violates the neutral point of view policy. Community editing practices involving these topics conform with the 2006 Pseudoscience arbitration case, which found that NPOV "requires fair representation of significant alternatives to scientific orthodoxy. Significant alternatives, in this case, refers to legitimate scientific disagreement, as opposed to pseudoscience." Many alternative medicine practices are deemed to fall in the latter category, such as NLP. Gorski writes "The last 40 years have taught us...that NLP is pseudoscience that has failed every test of its core precepts."
In March 2014, Jimmy Wales responded to a petition from alternative medicine advocates by writing
||Wikipedia's policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals—that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn't.
Academics on Wikipedia in the classroom
The Harvard Crimson examines (April 2) changing attitudes among Harvard University faculty concerning Wikipedia. Professor Sean Gilsdorf said "My attitude has turned into one [of], rather than complaining about it, why don’t we try to do good things with it." For his course "Charlemagne: Histories, Stories, Myths", he has students edit Wikipedia articles "on some theme, place, or individual critical to Carolingian society", such as Emma of Normandy, Adeliza of Louvain, and Pepin the Hunchback. In The Conversation, College of the Holy Cross Professor Ellis Jones discusses (April 3) his use of Wikipedia in the classroom by having his students "adopt a Wikipedia page" of a notable sociological theorist, such as Max Horkheimer.
Another victim of notability?
On his blog, journalist Glenn Fleishman wrote that he was "Not Notable Enough For Wikipedia" (April 7). Fleishman, a veteran journalist who wrote a 2013 article for The Economist about the encyclopedia, had a Wikipedia article since June 2005. Fleishman's article was deleted on April 5 following a deletion discussion. Another blogger, Andy Baio, tweeted "I guess publishing a magazine, writing 20+ books, and winning Jeopardy twice doesn't make you 'notable'." At the time of its deletion, Fleishman's article had about 200 words and ten references, though only one was to a third-party secondary source. Fleishman wrote:
||My entry was deleted ostensibly because there weren't enough references to stuff I've done that weren't things on my site or that I've written about stuff I've done. But Wikipedia prohibits one from editing one's own entry, so I can't improve it. You're ostensibly not supposed to recruit people you know. So you have to be "important" enough that unrelated third parties find you interesting enough to research and footnote your accomplishments.
He did note in the comments that "A couple of Wikipedians who I don't really know are annoyed enough that I was deleted that they are going to re-source and get me restored. The system works!"
Fleishman, a critic of Gamergate, claimed on Twitter that "my article was targeted for deletion b/c of my outspokenness on online harassment", linking to a March 22 thread on the Reddit forum r/WikiInAction, a pro-Gamergate forum about "the corruption and issues with Wikipedia". The thread claimed that Fleishman had created and edited his own Wikipedia article. That same day, a Wikipedia editor active on the Gamergate article submitted the article for deletion.