Spin doctors spin Jimmy's "bright line"
The Public Relations Society of America, which owns and runs the scholarly Public Relations Journal
, presents a workshop to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, December 2007
It began on 17 April with a misleadingly titled report
on the newswise
site, "Survey finds most Wikipedia entries contain factual errors". This was reprinted on the same day by the online research news site Science Daily
("Most Wikipedia entries about companies contain factual errors, study finds"
). Within days it had gone viral on internet news sites all over the world. The story was picked up by the American ABC news blog
("Wikipedia: public relations people, editors differ over entries"), The Telegraph
in the UK ("Six out of 10 Wikipedia business entries contain factual errors"), the Indian edition of NYDailyNews
("Wikipedia entries full of factual errors, says researcher"), and The Register
, a British technology news and opinion website ("Let promoters edit clients' Wikipedia entries"). One outlet, the Business2Community
, went so far as to announce that "a new study published in the Public Relations Journal
shows that a stunning 60 percent of articles about specific companies contained factual errors."
At the centre of the hubbub are a set of research results that their author, Pennsylvania State University's Marcia W. DiStaso, claims "will help establish a baseline of understanding for how public relations professionals work with Wikipedia editors to achieve accuracy in their clients' entries". The study involved a survey of nearly 1300 public relations and communications professionals to analyse how they work with the English Wikipedia. Funded by Penn State's Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication and recently published in Public Relations Journal, the paper goes by the title "Measuring public relations Wikipedia engagement: how bright is the rule?", a play on Jimmy Wales's "bright line" – a reference to the boundary he advocates people with a conflict of interest in a topic should not cross by never editing articles directly.
The results, which have cast a shadow over the English Wikipedia's company articles, have relevance to the ongoing debate about whether paid editing should be officially permitted on Wikipedia. "Public relations professionals have their hands tied," DiStaso told ABC. "They can only make comments on discussion pages suggesting corrections, and wait for the public to reply.” She believes that while waiting for a reply, a company may be caught in a crisis of public image: “In today’s fast-paced society, five days is a long time.”
Scrutinising the 60% claim
The claim that 60% of Wikipedia's articles contain factual inaccuracies, however, doesn't stand up to basic scrutiny. We have bulleted the quotation for ease of reading:
- "When asked if there are currently factual errors on their company or client’s Wikipedia articles,
- 32% said that there were (n=406),
- 25% said that they don’t know (n=310),
- 22% said no (n=273), and
- 22% said that their company or client does not have a Wikipedia article (n=271).
- In other words, 60% of the Wikipedia articles for respondents who were familiar with their company or recent client’s article contained factual errors." (our underlining)
The problem is hidden in the underlined clause. This cleverly allows DiStaso to exclude from the sample the 25% of respondents who ticked "don't know". DiStaso told The Signpost, "if all respondents were familiar with their articles this could go either way – more 'yes' answers would make it a higher % and more 'no' answers would make it lower." But although it's valid to exclude respondents whose companies have no article (the last bullet), excluding the don't knows, which boosts the factual error rate to 60% (406 / [406 + 273]) raises difficult issues. Including the don't knows would yield 41% (406 / [406 + 310 + 273]). This problematic calculation was independently pointed out by Tilman Bayer (HaeB) of Wikimedia's communications team, who has postgraduate degrees in mathematics and co-edits the Wikimedia Research Newsletter. The true percentage is almost certainly not 60.
One of the problems with the way in which the findings have been disseminated is the omission of the critical clause from most news reports. Most news journalists have apparently not grasped that the "60%" claim represents a relatively narrow statistical artefact. They can hardly be blamed when the press release by Dick Jones Communications – the PR company that represents her college – started that ball rolling ("Survey finds majority of Wikipedia entries contain factual errors").
"I think it's a mistake to give their nonsense any attention whatsoever. Wikipedia is not for sale."
Bayer also identified that two statistical biases are not accounted for in DiStaso's results. "Companies which note errors in the WP article about them," he told us, "would seem more likely to pay PR professionals to devote attention to that article". Then there's participation bias
: "PR professionals who are called on to solve such problems," he says, "would seem more likely to feel motivated and informed enough to participate in such a survey than those who have not encountered such problems." And the “call for action” text while soliciting respondents here
risks being regarded as a significant contaminating influence on participation.
In addition, a list of categories of errors were presented to respondents, mixing the more political and subjective "Criticisms" with more objective criteria such as dates, board membership, and even spelling in the article text. Indeed, more than one in five respondents ticked "incorrect spelling" as a category of inaccuracy, which suggests the possible scenario in which one US spelling in an article about a British company might be enough to classify a whole article as inaccurate. DiStaso told us, "I suppose it is possible but probably unlikely that [such a spelling inconsistency] would be considered a 'factual error' [but] there could be other words that if misspelled could be considered factual errors such as the misspelling of a product name." We wonder whether this distinction was clear to respondents.
Another potential flaw in the methodology was that respondents were not asked to read the article on their company or client and identify the errors as they saw them; this would have enabled reliable verification of what the perceived errors were, and the extent to which they could be considered to be errors.
"The survey was self selected. It wasn't sampled research. This does pull into question the results. I'm a Founding Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research, and our Research Head, recommends all fellows don't only conduct online surveys."
John Cass, CREWE Facebook page discussion
According to Science Daily
, DiStaso says "what is surprising ... is that 25 percent of survey respondents indicated they are not familiar with the Wikipedia articles for their company or clients. At some point most, if not all, companies will determine they need to change something in their Wikipedia entries. Without clear, consistent rules from Wikipedia regarding how factual corrections can be made this will be a very difficult learning process for public relations professionals."
A key claim in interpreting the data is that public relations professionals find responses to their talk-page requests for changes to articles either slow or non-existent (nearly a quarter reported no response at all, and 12% said it took "weeks" to get a response). However, the data appear to disregard the size, age, quality, and hit-rates of articles on which the data was based.
The data also led to the claim that PR professionals have little understanding of Wikipedia's rules for editing and the protocol for contacting editors to have facts altered – but just how a lack of understanding interacts with political considerations was not made clear: "Only 35 percent of respondents were able to engage with Wikipedia, either by using its "Talk" pages to converse with editors or through direct editing of a client's entry. Respondents indicated this figure is low partly because some fear media backlash over making edits to clients' entries. ... Twenty-nine percent said their interactions with Wikipedia editors were 'never productive'."
This lack of understanding by PR professionals of how to use Wikipedia's infrastructure, some of it explicitly set up for them, sits oddly with the article's strident argument that Wikipedia's policies needs to be changed. Unusually for a scholastic journal, the key "findings" of the paper are displayed on the download site in a larger-than-life ad-like infographic, which is now appearing elsewhere on the internet.
Facebook lobby group
"It's exactly this disregard for the facts and the advocacy for erroneous conclusions that give Wikipedians (or any logical thinker) pause about how public relations coexists with the public interest. ... Those who created the erroneous headlines need to be held accountable for it, not the news outlets that repeated them."
Andrew Lih, Wikimedian author and journalism academic
DiStaso is closely allied with the newly established Facebook group Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement
(CREWE). One of the aims
of the group is to get Jimmy Wales to change his opinion about paid editors directly editing articles.
There have been claims that Wales is or has been a member of CREWE. He told The Signpost in no uncertain terms: "(1) I am not a member of CREWE. I do not approve of their attempt to forcibly change Wikipedia policy by off-site coordination of paid advocates in a facebook group; and (2) I think it's a mistake to give their nonsense any attention whatsoever. Wikipedia is not for sale."
Phil Gomes, who launched CREWE and has played a major part in recruiting its members, responded to Wales's remarks: "CREWE is about exploring where company communicators and Wikipedians can work together towards the mutual objective of accurate entries. The primary outputs of this group have looked at the best ways that we can educate PR people to do right by Wikipedia. ... To characterize this is as an 'attempt to forcibly change Wikipedia policy by off-site coordination of paid advocates in a Facebook group' is inaccurate and a bit exaggerated. No one is forcing anyone to do anything. Our most passionate contributors even describe themselves as Wikipedians, not PR people. Evidently, the "public shaming" approach to past bad PR behavior is not a deterrent. We're trying to be proactive by educating instead. If someone considers any of this to be 'nonsense', then that's a shame."
Andrew Lih, author of The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia, an associate professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, has taken DiStaso's work to task on the CREWE page itself. "I will state the question again, which has been avoided. Can you in good conscience and as a good academic use that report to stand by the words "60% of Wikipedia articles had factual errors" (these are DiStaso's own words to accompany the announcement of the report). Or stand by the PRSA headline: "Survey finds majority of Wikipedia entries contain factual errors" (PRSA's words to announce the report). These two statements must be strongly rejected, or there is no chance to see eye to eye on having PR folks to edit Wikipedia."
Science Daily reports DiStaso as saying that "the status quo can't continue. A high amount of factual errors doesn't work for anyone, especially the public, which relies on Wikipedia for accurate, balanced information. ... If errors are found or if public relations professionals believe content needs to be added or changed, they should refer to the [CREWE] Wikipedia Engagement Flowchart, available on Wikimedia Commons, for guidance on requesting edits." The flowchart, first posted to Commons on 2 April, is due to be finalised by the end of June. The Signpost notes that among other advice, the flowchart says that if an issue raised at the COI noticeboard has not been addressed within 48 hours, "you are now entitled to complain about Wikipedia in any forum you want."
Jay Walsh, director of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, as conceding that DiStaso has a point about the slow responses by Wikipedians to requests for corrections to company articles.
Help-space revamp, WikiTravel RfC, and Justin Knapp scores a million edits
Peter Coombe, new Wikimedia community fellow
The community is now increasingly aware of the urgent need to present a more welcoming environment for new editors; this was underlined by executive director Sue Gardner’s statements about editor retention to The Signpost in January ("we are having serious difficulty retaining good-faith new editors, and that will cause our community to dwindle if we don’t fix the problem"). Over the years, the English Wikipedia's help system has evolved into a huge resource ranging from introductions for beginners to advanced technical documentation, and is widely regarded as a critical part of inducting and retaining new editors.
Anouncement. The Wikimedia Foundation has announced that Peter Coombe (User:The wub) will take up a six-month full-time community fellowship over the next six months to improve help documentation on the English Wikipedia. Based on an original fellowship proposal on meta by former Signpost managing editor Ragesoss, the fellowship is a fresh approach that could turn out to be an important part of solving the editor retention crisis. For some idea of the scale of the problem, Pete points out that the central help page – Help:Contents – gets a staggering 10,000 hits a day. Despite a number of revisions over the years, he says “anecdotal evidence suggests that its current form is not proving very useful, either to new or experienced editors”.
Siko Bouterse, the Foundation's Head of Community Fellowships, says what really attracted the foundation's interest was Pete’s experience in "breaking down complex topics into clear written information". He has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Science degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. He's an experienced editor on the English Wikipedia and an active member of Wikimedia UK. He's created online teaching and learning modules on advanced materials science and engineering topics at Cambridge and has worked for a publisher to create books that teach senior citizens how to use computers.
Aims and challenges. Among the aims of the fellowship are to identify opportunities to improve current help pages and critical use cases that should be addressed by help pages, coordinate community discussion, generate new content and/or designs for a number of key help pages, and perform usability testing of old and new pages. Pete told The Signpost that one of the biggest challenges is trying to see things from the perspective of a new user.
“Over time a lot of Wikipedia's workings and jargon become second nature, and it's so easy to forget what it must be like for someone totally new to the site and looking for help. That's why I've been studying a lot the types of questions newbies currently ask, and where they're getting stuck. My aim is to improve the help pages to be less daunting and better at helping users to find what they need.
“Certainly the length of some of our help pages is an issue, especially where they’re attempting to cover topics from the perspective of both newbies and experienced users. I think many help pages would benefit from being shorter, with improved navigation between them. Personally I'm a fan of using a more personal and informal style where appropriate, as currently seen in some of the tutorials. Ideally, though, we want to try multiple approaches and see what works. Looking at what they do in other languages and projects is certainly on my to-do list."
Data-driven approach. Pete explains that "since my time is limited, I really want to focus on making changes where they will have a significant impact. There are a huge number of existing help pages, and page view statistics are one (admittedly crude) way of highlighting important ones. The testing methodology to use is something I'm very much still thinking about. The article feedback tool can hopefully be easily adapted for other namespace pages, and I've been in contact with the people working on that. Projects like the warning templates research have already done some great work comparing user statistics and activity levels, the plan is to do something similar here."
Interwiki opportunities. We asked whether the fellowship will involve forging ties with editors who know their help page systems in other language Wikipedias or Commons. "The plan is mainly for my work to focus on the English Wikipedia – that's the project I'm most familiar with, and sadly the only language I'm fluent in! However we should hopefully learn a lot from that about what works in help pages, and definitely want to share those lessons with other projects. Once we start getting results I'll be reaching out other communities with our findings. One of the things my initial research has highlighted is how often images are troublesome for newbies. So if we decide to focus on addressing that, there will obviously be some overlap with Commons."
How will he build on the work done by Oliver Keyes (WMF Community Liaison, Product Development)? “Oliver's done some investigation into the current help pages, including an impressive (and quite intimidating) map showing how a lot of them are linked together. That's really been helping me get to grips with the current system. He's also done some statistical analysis of readability scores for the pages, and has been advising me on that front.”
The project page mentions usability testing; what kind? "The Foundation has done usability testing in the past, for example when working on the Vector skin, the revised edit box toolbar, and the Commons upload wizard. The idea is really to get some 'outsiders' using the pages, setting them tasks or questions, and seeing how they cope and what problems they run into. All quite informal stuff."
Pete sees the fellowship primarily as a collaborative effort with the community; in particular, it will support the existing Help Project and WikiProject Usability, both of which he describes as excellent. He encourages editors who have ideas and comments, even at this early stage, to post on the project’s talk page.
April 18 marked a new stage in the ongoing debates on whether to integrate WikiTravel and comparable projects like Wikivoyage as to create an open travel guide project as a new member of the Wikimedia universe (Signpost coverage).
After weeks of largely constructive discussions, Doc James started a request for comment on meta, asking the community to confirm that the foundation should consider allocating sufficient resources to carry out the required technical aspects of establishing a Wikimedia travel guide project. More than 20 users have already contributed, and so far the proposal is unopposed.
The move comes after a broad preliminary agreement was reached on the basic principles. The five pillars of the new project would state that it must be a fair and free travel guide that anyone can edit, use, modify and distribute in a respectful and civil manner without firm rules for user actions and interactions.
The WMF is open to the idea and is following the progress closely, stating that the basic question of whether to create such a project is up to the community to decide.
WikiWomen's History Month wrap-up
A parody of the famous "We Can Do It!
" poster but with the words "Do It" replaced with a MediaWiki-style section edit link.
The final report on the WikiWomen's History Month in March (Signpost coverage) was published on April 17 and covers the results of edit-a-thon events on four continents and online projects.
The result is the creation or expansion of more than 100 new articles and the uploading of 55 files. While half of all in-person events were in the US and focused on a wide range of topics, a meetup in Canberra, organized by Laura Hale, worked on women's softball. An event in Girona improved the biography of the Catalan artist Ángeles Santos Torroella in cooperation with the Museu de l'Empordà. Netha Hussain organized a google hangout-based event to allow participants from across India to discuss and refine the article of Sarojini Naidu.
The report concludes that handling real life-events can be improved by better coordination with Wikimedia entities, and enhanced outreach to potentially interested WikiProjects and external organizations in the field.
- Justin Knapp scores a million contributions: Justin Anthony Knapp (User:Koavf) performed his millionth edit on April 15 – the first Wikipedian ever to reach this mark. Joining the celebrations of this Indiana resident and long-standing editor of Western Sahara articles, Jimbo Wales declared April 20 the Justin Knapp Day as a new Wikipedia holiday.
- FDC Advisory Group formed: The body to draft recommendations (Signpost coverage) on the design of the Funds Dissemination Committee (Signpost coverage) has been announced on Meta on April 23.
- WMDE assembly approves chapters association: A general assembly of Wikimedia Germany voted in favor of joining the organization agreed on at the Berlin conference last month (Signpost coverage).
- Ting Chen, the current chair of the WMF board of trustees, announced that he will not rerun for a seat on the board in 2013.
- New Chair of Wikimedia UK: On April 17 the chair of the Wikimedia UK, Roger Bamkin (User:Victuallers), announced in the chapters's blog that he will step down as chair, and that Ashley van Haeften (User:Fæ) will replace him.
- New England Wikimedia General Meeting: On April 22, Wikimedians in New England met at the Boston Public Library to discuss the future of the local community, public outreach projects and discuss the possibility of forming a new Wikimedia chapter. The minutes of the event are published.
- Milestones: The following Wikimedia projects reached milestones this week: The Burmese Wikipedia has reached 15,000 articles; the Breton Wiktionary reached its 20,000th entry, and Ilokano Wikipedia its 5000th. The Gujarati Wikisource has reached 200 text units, the Oriya Wiktionary 100 entries, and both the Lezgian and Zulu Wikipedias have reached 500 articles.
Skeptics and Believers: WikiProject The X-Files
This week's monster of the week is WikiProject The X-Files. Started in April 2008, this child of WikiProject Television has focused on improving articles about the X-Files franchise. The project has accumulated 121 Good Articles and one A-class Article out of a mere 624 pages total. In addition to improving articles about seasons, episodes, major characters, spinoff series, and movies, the project's members cull fancruft, shorten lengthy plot synopses, and integrate trivia sections into prose. We interviewed Glimmer721, Gen. Quon, and Grapple X.
What motivated you to join WikiProject The X-Files? Which of the project's articles do you spend the most time developing and maintaining? Do you edit articles for any other television shows or media franchises?
- Glimmer721: Grapple X invited me after he saw me doing some minor work (I remember adding reviews to a few episodes after I watched them). In fact, I started watching the series after seeing some of the articles brought to my attention on the GAN backlog, and it looked like a show I'd like. I have experience editing TV episode articles as my main focus is Doctor Who episode articles. Since I don't have many sources I typically add online reviews to the reception sections of episodes, copyedit, and I've also began working on the article for one of the main characters (Scully).
- Gen. Quon: Igordebraga asked me if I would be interested in working on the project after I made a few minor copy-edits and added additional information that I found. I just started watching The X-Files religiously this last year; in fact, when I was younger, the show was absolutely terrifying! I've got a lot of respect for the series now and I believe it is truly a phenomenal cultural landmark. Currently, I've been helping to get many of the episode articles expanded and up to GA status. I have a soft spot in my heart for seasons six and seven (which is odd for an X-Files fan, many fans dislike those seasons), and that's where I've been focusing most of my energy. In addition to the X-Files project, I've also spent time promoting several episode of The Office to good article status.
- Grapple X: The majority of edits by project members really seem to have focussed on individual episode articles. The Good Article process has been a real driving force for this, as it gives both a goal to strive for (the assessment and validation of an editor's work) and offers a sense of fulfilment as well. Personally, I've been working to organise article expansion in terms of prospective Good Topic work, with one topic passed and another currently nominated—to me the GT process seems like an additional level of fulfilment and reward for editors, as it offers a reason to "complete the set" as it were. Without it, I doubt that articles such as The X-Files (season 1) or The X-Files Mythology, Volume 1 – Abduction would have been high priorities for expansion. As for the other parts of the question, I'm not sure what led me to join the project to be honest. It had lain dormant for some time before I signed up to Wikipedia, and the majority of my early edits as a new member were to my favourite film, rather than in television topics, but I think I just gravitated towards it as a fan. I do some occasional work for other television series, such as Twin Peaks and Miami Vice, but none to the same level as those included in WP:TXF's scope.
The X-Files and its spinoffs have been on hiatus for years. How has the project continued to grow long after the shows and films ended? What has been the source of the project's newest articles? What can the projects for other dormant television shows like Lost, Firefly, and Heroes learn from WikiProject The X-Files?
US audiences for the first five seasons (plotted in millions of viewers)
- Glimmer721: A lot of sources used are print sources like production books. I think projects for older shows (like The Twilight Zone for example, or even classic Doctor Who) could get a lot of important info from print sources. Of course, they can be harder to find and may have to be purchased if not at they local library. DVD commentaries and featurettes are always welcome, too.
- Gen. Quon: As Glimmer721 mentioned, the project has been using a vast number of production books that were published during the show's original run. These manuals have proved invaluable for citing production information as well as ratings and reception. In addition, many fans and critics of the series have started to release books with personal reviews of the series. Recently, with the explosion of episode reviews on the internet, we've started to add more and more internet-based articles that have helped to flesh-out various people's perspectives on the X-Files universe. Other projects about dormant shows can take away the idea that sometimes, information requires time. I spent many hours looking through online databases as well as interlibrary loaning books about The X-Files. I'm happy to say that it has truly paid off.
- Grapple X: I would probably describe the project's growth as upwards, rather than outwards—articles are being expanded and promoted through the GA process, but beyond the creation of, say, episode or character articles that had previously been redirects, there is little creation of articles outside of this. I've seen the James Bond project create wonderfully-written articles on that franchise's motifs and inspirations; I can see future growth for the project following a similar path to this. There does seem to be a definite "end game" scenario, though, in the eventual promotion of all viable articles to some degree of recognition (GA/FL/FA, etc), but beyond this I'm not sure.
Does the project deal with a lot of fancruft? Have you needed to trim the weeds from articles due to notability or sourcing issues?
- Gen. Quon: For the most part, the project tries to cut down on fancruft. I believe we have a very decent policy of "if it isn't sourced (within reason) it should be removed". I, along with User:Grapple X (who has also promoted a number of X-Files articles to GA status), have gone through many, if not most, of the episode articles and attempted to add reliable citations. In my opinion, fancruft is great for a fan site or The X-Files wikia, but not Wikipedia itself.
- Grapple X: To be honest, not really. Editors working for the project several years ago, before it went dormant around 2009–10, had already cleared a lot of this stuff out. Trivia sections and the like had been expunged pretty much entirely and articles without secondary sourcing had largely been merged and redirected. I've been wary of cruft building up, as I can see the creation of articles on, say, minor characters, being challenged as unnecessary. Generally I handle this by not creating or spinning out an article without first having worked on a draft either in my sandbox or on my hard drive offline, generally aiming for, at the very least, something that could make a viable Did You Know hook with the aim of gradually working it up to GA-Class as sources are found. However, I'm proud of how we've coped with cruft—for instance, even several DVD releases have found themselves expanded properly, which is something I hope we'll be able to do with all of the esoteric articles we've got in our scope.
When dealing with a media franchise, many of the images needed for articles are copyrighted material. How has the project handled procuring images? What kind of free images can be used to illustrate articles about a media franchise like The X-Files?
A fan cosplaying
Gillian Anderson's character Dana Scully in The X-Files
- Gen. Quon: For many of the articles that deal with episode, I like to have an important screenshot in the infobox. Although these pictures are copyrighted, we try to find images that are either important to understanding the plot of the story or the special effects being used, or are directly commented on by reviewers. Free images are much easier to deal with, and we use them plentifully. Many episode are based around historical events, novels, or other ideas. For instance, the seventh season episode, "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati" was based partially around the novel The Last Temptation of Christ. Thus, we placed a free picture of Nikos Kazantzakis in the articles section about production.--Gen. Quon (talk) 00:34, 5 April 2012 (UTC)
- Grapple X: I think that the success of the series has been a boon for us here, as the prolific nature of its stars since has given us a lot of free images of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, William B. Davis, Lance Henriksen and such to work with. I've been working on some Millennium episodes lately and I've generally only illustrated these with relevant free content ("Gehenna with an image of the valley of Gehenna, for example). Aside from this kind of thing, I'm not sure what kind of thing can be freely procured outside of perhaps contacting copyright holders about releasing image rights for some of their older promotional material, which is something I'll admit I haven't much of a clue about.
Do you ever collaborate with other projects? How does the project interact with its parent and sister projects? How can Wikipedia's assortment of media franchise projects better coordinate and share resources?
- Grapple X: Although the first X-Files article to reach GA status was actually the Simpsons crossover "The Springfield Files", I think the "project", unfortunately using the term loosely, with which we collaborate most would be with Ruby2010's Fringe efforts (plug). We've traded links to relevant sources online if we've turned anything up, and are generally quick to help each out with article reviews, etc. Aside from that (admittedly tenuous) link, I'm not really sure what collaboration we have done or can do in the immediate future; though I might look into collaborating with music-related projects on the various albums that have been released—especially given that the film's soundtrack contains several pop songs which would fall under other projects, such as "Walking After You" or "Hunter". Some of cast and crew have moved on to other shows as well, and interviews done for those series might help to build their biographies—off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Laurie Holden in The Walking Dead or Vince Gilligan creating Breaking Bad. Both our project and the editors working in those fields would benefit from that kind of resource pooling, I guess.
- Gen. Quon: I've personally helped review Fringe and Doctor Who articles. Considering that they are all very sci-fi-y and similar to The X-Files (Fringe especially), I've always felt that collaboration made sense. Bouncing off two projects is a great way to coordinate resources. A good example of this symbiosis: this article analyzed and compared various Fringe episodes with X-Files episodes. It was thus both beneficial for the X-Files project as well as the Fringe project.--Gen. Quon (talk) 00:49, 5 April 2012 (UTC)
What are the project's most pressing needs? How can a new contributor help today?
- Gen. Quon: As of today, I feel that the most pressing needs are the project's character articles. Both the articles for Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are rated at a C-class, which I believe we'd all like to raise. I'm happy to say that many of the episode articles have been promoted to GA class. In particular, season 1 and 6 are (for all intents and purposes; three of season 6's articles still need to pass peer review) completely finished.--Gen. Quon (talk) 00:34, 5 April 2012 (UTC)
- Grapple X: Maybe not all that pressing, but I think the article's main failings are in its cast and crew biographies; articles on stars and recurring actors are generally in the Stub-to-C range. It's maybe not the most glamorous work but I suppose a quick and dirty way to jump in might be to pick one of those stubs and try to tease out a DYK nominations (unsourced biographies don't need to be expanded as much to count, so that can be a boon for that kind of thing). Probably the more enjoyable way to get stuck in, though, would be for any fan to pick their favourite episode, or character, and just get started! There's a lot of information available online, and myself and other project members have access to a lot of print sources which we're happy to share. There's also a number of articles waiting at WP:GAN that have been expanded by Gen. Quon, a prolific project editor, and reviewing one might be a gateway into the series for someone unfamiliar with it—Glimmer721 joined us that way, and it's the reason I started watching a similar series, Fringe. If you're a bit curious about the show, don't be afraid to just leap in and have a look around. The truth is in there.
Next week, we'll chart a new course to explore undiscovered lands. Until then, check your bearings in the archive
A mirror (or seventeen) on this week's featured content
A new featured picture depicting C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy)
, also known as Comet Lovejoy, passing Earth in 2011.
Six featured articles were promoted this week:
- Ahalya (nom) by Redtigerxyz. In Hindu mythology, Ahalya is wife of the sage Gautama Maharishi. Many Hindu scriptures say she was seduced by Indra (king of the gods), cursed by her husband for infidelity, and liberated from the curse by Rama (an avatar of the god Vishnu). Created by the god Brahma as the most beautiful of woman, Ahalya was married to the much older Gautama. In the earliest full narrative, when Indra comes disguised as her husband, Ahalya sees through his disguise but nevertheless accepts his advances. Later sources often absolve her of all guilt, saying she falls prey to Indra's trickery, or is raped.
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire (nom) by DrNegative. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a 2001 American animated film created by Walt Disney Feature Animation – the first science fiction film in Disney's animated features canon and the 41st overall. Set in 1914, the film tells the story of a young man who gains possession of a sacred book, which he believes will guide him and a crew of adventurers to the lost city of Atlantis. At the time of its release, the film had made greater use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) than any of Disney's previous animated features; today it remains one of the few to have been shot in anamorphic format.
- Bal des Ardents (nom) by Truthkeeper88. Bal des Ardents (Ball of the Burning Men) was held on 28 January 1393. Charles VI of France performed in a dance with five members of the French nobility. Four of the dancers were killed in a fire caused by a torch brought in by a spectator; Charles' brother Louis, Duke of Orléans—Charles and another of the dancers survived. The ball was one of a number of events intended to entertain the young king, who the previous summer had suffered the first in a series of life-long attacks of insanity. The ball undermined confidence in Charles' capacity to rule; Parisians considered it proof of courtly decadence and threatened to rebel against the more powerful members of the nobility.
- John Francis Jackson (nom) by Ian Rose. John Francis Jackson DFC (1908–1942) was an Australian fighter ace. Called up for active service in 1939, Jackson served with No. 23 Squadron in Australia, then posted to the Middle East in 1940 where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. Posted to the South West Pacific theatre, he was promoted to squadron leader in March 1942 and given command of No. 75 Squadron at Port Moresby. He was credited with eight aerial victories, and led No. 75 Squadron during the Battle of Port Moresby in 1942, earning praise for his leadership before his death in combat on 28 April. Described as "rugged, simple" and "true as steel", Jackson was nicknamed "Old John" in affectionate tribute.
- Dan Leno (nom) by Cassianto and Ssilvers. Dan Leno (1860–1904), was a leading English music hall comedian and musical theatre actor during the late Victorian era. He was also known for his dame roles in the annual Christmas pantomime spectacles that were popular at London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane from 1888 to 1904. Leno also appeared in burlesque and in musical comedies and his own music hall routines until 1902, although he suffered increasingly from alcoholism. This, together with his long association with dame and low comedy roles, prevented him from being taken seriously as a dramatic actor.
- Ficus obliqua (nom) by Casliber. Ficus obliqua, commonly known as the small-leaved fig, is a tree in the family Moraceae native to eastern Australia, New Guinea, eastern Indonesia to Sulawesi and islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Previously known for many years as Ficus eugenioides, it is a banyan of the genus Ficus, which contains around 750 species worldwide in warm climates, including the edible fig (Ficus carica). Beginning life as a seedling, which grows on other plants (epiphyte) or on rocks (lithophyte), F. obliqua can grow to 60 m (200 ft) high and nearly as wide with a pale grey buttressed trunk, and glossy green leaves. It is used as a shade tree in parks and public spaces, and is well-suited for use as an indoor plant or in bonsai
Three featured lists were promoted this week:
- List of accolades received by The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (nom) by Ruby2010 and Glimmer721. The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is a series of epic fantasy-drama films, based on J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings, and directed by Peter Jackson. The three films, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, were released serially worldwide between December 2001 and 2003 to widespread critical acclaim. The films won many awards, both in acting and in various technical categories, including those in editing, sound mixing, and visual effects.
- List of Liverpool F.C. players (25–99 appearances) (nom) by NapHit. Liverpool Football Club is an English association football club based in Liverpool, Merseyside. It was formed in 1892 and won the First Division title for the first time in 1901; the club has won a further 17 league titles, and seven FA Cups and Football League Cups each. More than 700 players have appeared in competitive first-team matches for the club, many of whom have played between 25 and 99 matches (including substitute appearances). Out of the players still at the club, English defender Glen Johnson is the closest to 100 appearances; he has played 94 matches for Liverpool.
- LCD Soundsystem discography (nom) by What a pro. The discography of American dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem consists of three studio albums, three extended plays (EP), two remix albums, one live album, eighteen singles, and fourteen music videos. Their music is a mix of dance music and punk, with disco influences. The band first gained attention when they released the single "Losing My Edge" on DFA Records, which became a well-known indie song in 2002. LCD Soundsystem released their third and final studio album, This Is Happening in May 2008, the first of their albums to debut in the top ten of the Billboard 200. The band officially disbanded in 2011.
Six featured articles were promoted this week:
- Hall of Mirrors (Palace of Versailles) (nom; related article), created by Myrabella and nominated by Crisco 1492. The Hall of Mirrors, the central gallery in the the Palace of Versailles, France, was built between 1678 and 1684. The room is most famous for the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows overlooking the palace gardens.
- Comet Lovejoy (nom; related article), created by Dan Burbank and nominated by Brandmeister. C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy), better known as Comet Lovejoy, was discovered in 2011 by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. The new featured image was taken from aboard the International Space Station; the comet is not expected to return until sometime between 2550 and 2600.
- Durdle Door from above (nom; related article), created by Saffron Blaze and nominated by Mahahahaneapneap. Durdle Door is a limestone arch in Dorset, England. Although it is privately owned, it is open to the public. Reviewer PaleCloudedWhite described the image as having "good composition" and showing "an iconic piece of coastline".
- Australian Shelduck male (nom; related article) by JJ Harrison. The Australian Shelduck is a shelduck from southern Australia and Tasmania; a photograph of a female was promoted last week. The specimen was photographed in Perth, Australia.
- White-headed Stilt (nom; related article) by JJ Harrison. The White-headed Stilt (Himantopus himantopus leucocephalus or Himantopus leucocephalus) is a bird that has been classified both as a unique species and subspecies of the Black-winged Stilt. This specimen was photographed at Lake Joondalup, Perth, Australia.
- Wheat Field with Cypresses (MET) (nom; related article), created by Vincent van Gogh and nominated by Crisco 1492. This painting, by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, is one of three similar paintings with the same title. The promoted version is currently held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; another is held at the National Gallery in London, and the last is in a private collection.
Evidence submissions close in Rich Farmbrough case, vote on proposed decision in R&I Review
The Arbitration Committee opened no cases this week, keeping the number of open cases still at two.
This case – concerning alleged disruptive editing of Rich Farmbrough, especially in regard to his handling of the bot policy – saw a final round of additional new evidence and its analysis in the related workshop by several parties. The opportunity to offer new evidence ended on April 18.
Arbitrator Newyorkbrad will draft the judgement.
The Race and intelligence review, following a case closed back in 2010, continued with voting by arbitrators on the proposed decision this week. While the draft, authored by Roger Davies, have gained majorities on most of the proposed findings of fact, arbitrators are divided on the remedies.
Other requests and committee action
- The committee has continued voting on a series of proposals to change the limits for evidence submissions in cases. At the time of publication, one motion, limiting the length of submitted evidence by named parties to 1000 words and by third parties to 500 words, has passed.
Wikimedia Labs: soon to be at the cutting edge of MediaWiki development?
What is: Wikimedia Labs?
Like writing the encyclopedia itself, MediaWiki development is collaborative; so, for a long time, was the fine-tuning of Wikimedia's technical setup, with volunteers routinely being added to the list of system administrators. As the Wikimedia family grew, however, so the ability to break whole Wikimedia sites through the omission of a single semicolon began to depress both volunteer interest in the role and institutional willingness to give out the requisite permissions. It is reversing this trend by "opening up" infrastructure development to the wider community that forms the primary aim of the relatively new Wikimedia Labs project, wrote Operations Engineer Ryan Lane in a recent blogpost.
Therefore, at a fundamental level Wikimedia Labs approximates a large collection of (virtual) sandboxes, with complex virtualisation techniques allowing swathes of users to try out new server setups without affecting the underlying configuration. Of course, the value that administrators like Lane see in Labs is its potential to put server administration on a par with software development in terms of ease of collaboration – not a bad thing, considering the detailed and often highly specialised nature of the different parts of system administration that come together to form a top-ten website.
The potential doesn't stop there, however: once the virtual environments have been established, they can then be put to use by their respective projects (of which there are now some 79). Each project reflects a real world initiative; Lane uses the example of "testing and developing MediaWiki extensions for Incubator", but others abound. Other high profile projects include support for several major bots, the central development centre for a "web based version of Huggle" and emulators useful for testing MediaWiki versions before release. Unlike with a normal (non-virtual) server setup, new projects are quick (and hence cheap) to establish and dissolve. Nevertheless, with the project still in its early stages, it is as yet unclear what the full implication of the creation of a WMF-hosted "Labs" environment on development practices will be.
MediaWiki releases edge forward
New diff styles are the feature of 1.20wmf1 most likely to be noticed as it goes live to Wikipedias this week, following on from successful deployments to sister wikis on April 16 and 18.
In deployments across April 16 and 18, MediaWiki 1.20wmf1 went live on Wikimedia Commons and all other non-Wikipedia wikis (i.e. Wiktionaries, Wikisources, Wikinewses, Wikibookses, Wikiquotes, Wikiversities, and other miscellaneous wikis). Although several issues were reported, none has yet proved major enough to cause the deployments to halt (one individual change – to IRC formatting – was reverted on the grounds that its cost was like to be greater than its benefit). As of time of writing, the deployment to the English Wikipedia has just been completed; other Wikipedias will follow on April 25. As noted earlier this month (see previous Signpost coverage) the deployment's importance does not lie with radical changes to the look and feel of the site; indeed, with the notable exception of diff colours (which have already begun to divide opinion) and a handful of other minor tweaks, the success of the deployment is likely to be measured in terms of how inconspicuous the whole process ends up being.
Elsewhere, with the resolution of bug #34885 (correcting bad fallback behaviour in Internet Explorer 7 and the compatibility modes of later versions), Wikimedia developers are now ready to begin the process for releasing MediaWiki 1.19 to external wikis this week (wikitech-l mailing list). The update went live to Wikimedia wikis in February, but has since had to take a back seat during the turmoil of the Git switchover and, more recently, the 1.20wmf1 release. A final version of MediaWiki 1.20 (including not just the contents of 1.20wmf1 but also of subsequent WMF deployments) is unlikely to be released to external wikis before August or September.
Not all fixes may have gone live to WMF sites at the time of writing; some may not be scheduled to go live for many weeks.
- Sorry! We could not process your edit due to a loss of session data: A number of Wikimedia editors experienced far higher than usual rates of session expiry this week. The phenomenon, indicated on the English Wikipedia by a "Sorry! We could not process your edit due to a loss of session data" and by similar messages on other Wikimedia wikis, is a usual part of website security; this week, however, some users managed to trigger it five or more times in the same hour – when compared to the usual ability of users to go hours without receiving the message, a clearly abnormal rate. As of time of writing, the problem is thought to have been related to an individual malfunctioning server, since fixed.
- MathJax enabled on MediaWiki.org: MathJax, a system designed to render mathematics-related TEX (most familiar to Wikimedians as the content of
<math>...</math>) without resorting to PNG conversion, has now been enabled as a <math>-rendering preference on MediaWiki.org for testing purposes (wikitech-l mailing list). The move follows years of on-off discussion and development of alternative options to the current PNG-based system (including a MathJax-based user script). Among other features MathJax boasts a lightbox-style facility, selectable equations and perfect typographical clarity at all zoom levels. Users are encouraged to try it out on MediaWiki.org, ahead of a wider rollout.
- Google Summer of Code participants named: Shortly before publication of this issue of the Signpost, the names of those students who have successfully gained a place on the WMF-hosted part of this year's Google Summer of Code programme were officially announced: Ankur Anand, Harry Burt, Akshay Chugh, Ashish Dubey, Suhas HS, Nischay Nahata, Aaron Pramana, Robin Pepermans, and Platonides will all work on Google-funded MediaWiki projects over the summer. Accordingly, next week's issue will try to probe at the projects and what they might mean for both the Wikimedia and broader MediaWiki-using communities.
- Old contributions, history pages fixed: With the resolution of bug #34981, history and contributions pages now display the correct change in the number of characters between revisions made in the period October 2007 to April 2008 and the previous revision of the page. The character change numbers were introduced with MediaWiki 1.19 to put history and contributions pages on a par with watchlists and Special:RecentChanges; a glitch had caused those numbers, soon hidden, to be wrong for many of thirty-eight million revisions made during the six month period in the question. Projects other than the English Wikipedia were unaffected by the problem.
- More new staff join the Foundation: Following on from the double hiring of technical staff covered in last week's "Technology report", this week also saw two additions to the WMF engineering department: Florida-based Tauhida Parveen, who joins as an "independent consultant specializing in software testing and quality assurance", and San Francisco-based Chris Steipp, who joins as a Software Security Engineer. Both are slated as bottleneck reducers: Parveen will be (at least initially) working on testing the controversial TimedMediaHandler (all-round video improvement) extension, whilst Steipp's broader remit will effectively double the number of members of staff routinely undertaking security reviews of new code to two. In addition, Steipp will also be devoting time to "improved HTTPS support, better/different authentication features, and other [features relating to the] handling of sensitive data", said Director of Platform Engineering Rob Lanphier (wikitech-l: 1, 2).
- Hackathon update: The number of places still available for registration at this year's Berlin Hackathon (to be held in the German capital in early June) is rapidly approaching zero, it was announced this week. Registration is free, and gives attendees the option of applying for a Wikimedia Foundation scholarship to assist with travel and accommodation costs. In related news, a new Bangalore Hackathon has also been announced; the Indian city will host the smaller-scale event on 19 May.
- One bot approved: 1 BRfA was recently approved for use on the English Wikipedia:
- HostBot, performing clerking tasks and updating the invitee list at the Teahouse.
- At the time of this writing, 9 BRfAs are active. As always, community input is encouraged.
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